Are you in the Mood?

I need to talk about my new favorite thing. Okay, well, it’s not really a new concept, but it is to me.

Anyway…I’ve started making mood boards for each of my books. It helps me get a better picture of the story, the characters, and the overall vibe of the story itself. I started making them in 2020 when I wrote A Lockdown Love Affair, and I never stopped. At some point, I’d like to go back and make some for my previous historical romances, but I just don’t have the time to do that at the moment. Put it on my never ending list of things to do.

Here are my mood boards so far. Let me know if one catches your eye…

What do you think? Do they catch your attention? I know they help me stay focused on the story I’m writing. Just a disclaimer, I’m currently working on Can’t Fight This Feeling. The rest of the books in my 1985 series, She Gives Love a Bad Name, Owner of a Lonely Heart, and Just What I Needed will be releasing next year. So I hope you’re ready for some retro romance. It’s not historical and it’s not contemporary…it’s the 80s baby!

I hope you enjoyed this little visual trip into my writer’s brain. Careful, it’s easy to get lost in there. xoxo

Which mood board is your favorite? Tell me in the comments.

All my love,

Kirsten

Plotting My Torment, I mean Novel

Over the past fifteen years, I’ve met a vast variety of authors from all different genres. Yet there’s always that one detail, aside from genre, that divides us. A question really. A defining characteristic of our craft.

Are you a Plotter or a Pantser?

When I first started writing, I was a pantser. One hundred percent. I had a vibe, some characters, and a general idea for a plot. That’s what I used to guide me through the manuscript. Well, that and the driving force of NaNoWriMo pushing me through my daily word count. The mission was to get words down, not worry about the quality of the story itself.

I wrote this way for five years. Slowly, my process evolved to include a more cohesive story from the very beginning. Short stories and novellas were easy enough to write without an outline, but novels were tricky beasts and I found myself spending countless hours on edits, rearranging and rewriting scenes that didn’t fit into the story.

I can’t remember the moment I realized I was creating more work for myself in the long run by writing without an outline. But I adapted quickly after that.

There was no guideline, no worksheet, no mentor guiding me. I learned through trial and error what worked for me as an author. I’ve long since learned I should never compare my writing or my writing process to someone else’s. We’re all individuals with our own quirks and motivations. You can take what works, leave what doesn’t, and figure out the best process for you. But if you’re struggling with the same issues over and over, then maybe you should try something different and see if it helps.

My process:

  1. The inspiration.

A lot of times I’ll get inspiration for a book from a quote, a prompt, or a scene from a TV show/movie/book. That single spark often ignites a whole series of what if questions in my mind. This is the point where I write it down. Scribble a few notes and set it aside to marinate.

2. The rabbit hole.

While the idea marinates, I don’t overanalyze it. Most of the time, my subconscious will fill in the blanks and start answering the questions surrounding the scenario that sparked the idea. This is where I take random notes. Then, when I have a few spare minutes, I’ll get out a notebook and just write flow of consciousness.

“What if this happens? Then this? But what’s his motivation here? Why is she doing this? Ooh, what if this happens?”

These questions are the bones of my story. They paint a larger picture of the characters, the setting, and their GMC (goals, motivations, conflict.) It’s from this moment I outline scene by scene.

3. The outline.

This isn’t as hard as it sounds, trust me. I typically write anywhere from 1,500 to 2,500 words per scene in one POV. Again, this isn’t a rule, it’s just how my work flows. So if I write approximately 2,000 words per scene, I’ll need thirty to give me a 60,000 word novel. That number is my guide to outline.

If I’m writing a novella, I shoot for 20,000 to 30,000 words. This is about 10-15 scenes. Knowing my word count helps me balance the story arc for the outline.

Once I have these details, I’m ready to start my outline with the following general arc in mind.

  • Establish normalcy
  • Inciting incident
  • Rising action on the defence
  • Reversal
  • Rising action on the offense
  • Climax
  • Resolution

For every scene, I make note of the key elements. Who is in the scene? Who’s POV is it? Where is the scene taking place? When does this take place? What happens in this scene? Why does it need to happen? Does it push the story forward? Then, I add any details I want included in this scene, including any random ideas or images that pop into my head. Dialog notes can also be made if the characters start talking. Anything goes here as long as you answer those basic questions. It can be as simple or as complex as you want.

Then, move onto the next scene asking what if when you get stuck. I also find that having a brainstorming session with a reader or author friend can help you get unstuck if you hit that block. My editor once told me that if I wasn’t sure what was going to happen, write ten things (no matter how crazy) that COULD happen and see if it helps uncover the direction of the story.

Now, outline.

If you don’t think you can do it, why not try? The worst thing that happens is you don’t end up following the outline as you write because your mind takes you in a different direction. And that’s okay. It happens. My characters deviate from my outline all the time. Granted, they’re minor deviations, but they can be frustrating.

A lot of times when they deviate, it’s actually better for the story as a whole. It’s almost like my subconscious knew before my brain registered. So I don’t get too upset with their shenanigans because it works out in the end.

Plotting your book doesn’t have to be complicated or intricate, with color coded cards or pages of detailed notes for every character and images galore. If that’s your process, then good for you. I’m glad you found something that works. Sometimes just having a basic framework to follow keeps you grounded in the project and motivated.

When I was a pantser, I struggled to write daily because I didn’t know where the story was going that day for that specific scene. But with a general outline, I at least have a direction when I sit down to write. It helps keep me organized and focused on the task at hand.

The beauty of my outlines is that they’re structured, but it’s not too rigid that I can’t change things if I need to as I write. I also get those surprise revelations during the writing process that keep me engaged in the story. It’s a win-win for me, giving me the best of both plotting and pantsing without the hassle of major rewrites.

So tell me. Are you a plotter? A pantser? What’s your process?

If you try my process, let me know. I’m excited to hear your thoughts and experiences.

All my love,

Kirsten S. Blacketer

Why Contemporary Romance?

Even though my journey as a published author seems like it began with historical romance, it really didn’t. Around the same time I wrote An Irresistible Shadow, I wrote two other stories, both contemporary romance. They weren’t as complex as my medieval romance, and both had elements of romantic suspense. Yes, both were also published at the beginning of my career.

My first publication was a short story called “What The Darkness Proposes.” If this title looks familiar, it’s because I published it here on my website a week before I posted this. I originally wrote it for a short story competition hosted by Romantic Shorts, and it won second place. Unfortunately, Romantic Shorts will be closing their doors. So, I made a new home here on my website for the short stories they published.

Around the same time, I submitted a romantic suspense novelette to another small press. Full Throttle: Blood, Sweat, and Gears. It was very much inspired by Tara Janzen’s Crazy series featuring fast cars and a smoking hot hero. I absolutely loved writing it. But this story has also been taken down from the publisher and the rights returned. I am considering the idea of revising it as a fun treat for my subscribers.

I’ve learned a lot since these first publications. My writing has improved. My tastes have also become more specific. But the best lesson I learned was to follow my heart and write the stories I want to read. I’ll chase down whatever idea strikes me and pen a delightful romance with its inspiration.

But after six years of writing historical romance, why did I suddenly dive back into contemporary?

Well, as much as I love historical romance, there are limitations when I write it. Specifically the firm constraints of the time period which could be etiquette, technology, or other details that may inhibit the creative process. This isn’t a bad thing, but it can be exhausting trying to be true to the time period.

In Spring of 2020, I was enjoying my time living in Italy…when Covid struck. I had plans. To travel. To grasp every possible opportunity living in Europe had to offer. And then we got locked down. HARD. I mean, I didn’t leave our one-acre property for three months. My husband did all the shopping when he went to work. We weren’t allowed to go anywhere, and all of our plans were canceled, including my trip to visit Samantha Holt in England! I was enraged. Furious. Disappointed. Crushed. I had nowhere to vent my frustrations.

Only, I did. I poured my heart and soul into A Lockdown Love Affair that spring. Then it sparked an idea for A Holiday Love Affair and Mistletoe and Mistakes. All three books are interconnected and the characters were born from an idea sparked during my time in lockdown.

I set a writing schedule and stuck to it. By January of 2021, I decided to challenge myself and focus on writing a book every two months while publishing one every quarter. I met this goal with ease, even in the midst of an intercontinental move.

I pulled ideas for stories I had set aside years ago and focused on writing them. Confessions of a Fangirl had been an idea for a screenplay, but I morphed it into a romantic comedy that sparked two more books. Thus, the Her Confessions Series was born. The best part of that is these books interconnect with the universe I created for my Sunshine Meets Grump Series (A Lockdown Love Affair, A Holiday Love Affair, and Mistletoe and Mistakes.)

All of my contemporary romances so far weave together in the same universe. That’s the only tidbit I’m going to tell you because I don’t want to spoil the Easter eggs I’ve placed in the books. But even my 1985 time travel romance, When I Found You, spawned its own series of five books, and there are characters within those stories who tie into my contemporary universe. I love when a plan comes together, especially when I didn’t really plan it at all! My subconscious is a terrifying place sometimes.

Honestly, why do I like writing contemporary romance? Because I’m a contemporary woman. For me, it’s the easiest era in which to write. It feels natural because I’m living it on a daily basis. I can tie in modern technology and conventions while putting my own fun spin on it with pop culture.

It also brings a much-needed reprieve from writing a bygone era. Don’t get me wrong, I love writing historical romance, but it can be overwhelming at times. I love the freedom that contemporary romance gives me to explore topics and plots I couldn’t utilize in a historical romance.

Fortunately, I read a lot of both genres, so I’m able to bounce back and forth with ease. There are just some days when you’re in a very specific mood. I like to be flexible with my reading, but even more so with my writing.

I’ll keep going as I have been, writing both steamy historical and contemporary romance. But at least now you know the reason why I’m all over the place. Thanks for tagging along for the ride!

Are you camp Contemporary or camp Historical? Tell me in the comments.

Always,

Kirsten S. Blacketer

Etiquette for Victorian Ladies. Wait, what? Oh, heck no.

My head is spinning. I have been doing extensive research for my new series of Victorian novellas focusing on a trio of extremely independent women in the late 19th century.

I believe that research in historical romance should be treated like a seasoning. Generous enough to enhance the flavor, but too much will distract from the delicious meat of the story. That being said, most women in history were expected to follow a strict set of societal guidelines and etiquette. We often find that heroines in historical romance novels often defy these expectations.

What is a writer to do?

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In order for my heroines to break the rules, I need to know exactly what they were required to know. Only then can I defy convention. Who doesn’t love a little bit of rule-breaking?

I went out and found as many sites and books I could find that discussed proper etiquette for ladies and gentlemen of the era. Some of these manuals were written during the era, not by historians. I know I’m getting accurate information.

Research can be overwhelming, so I take it in small doses. This post isn’t about my research or even how to research. No…this post is for me to vent about the INSANE amount of etiquette and social propriety that was expected of both ladies and gentlemen of the Victorian era. Oh good gravy, I would have died.

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If I had a time machine and travelled back to the 1890s, I would have been outed for a fraud within moments. Even though I know these rules from researching them, my brain isn’t wired to follow them. I’d have been ostracized within an hour.

There are a few rules I personally found so contradictory to my personality that I would never survive the Victorian era. They also give me a HUGE respect for the freedoms that I have now.

Ready, here’s my list:

~ “An unmarried young woman, up to the age of thirty, must always be accompanied by a chaperone when she goes out.”

Yup, that’s not going to happen. Sorry. It’s bad enough that my kids follow me everywhere I go.

 ~ “A lady avoids all exhibitions of temper before others.  Whether grief or joy, emotions should be subdued in public and only allowed full play in private apartments.”

Oh crap. I wear my emotions on my sleeve. This would be darn near impossible for me. I’m a passionate, expressive person by nature.

~ “A lady never looks back after anyone in the street, or turns to stare in a public place.  She should never walk alone in the street after dark.”

Sorry, no double take when that handsome gentleman passes by on the street. No staring at someone while you’re trying to figure out where you saw them before or if you met them at your cousin’s birthday party two years ago. And heaven forbid I want to go out alone after dark.

~ “For riding, stallions were too frisky for ladies.  Mares and geldings may be used, but women and children favored ponies.  They were smaller than horses and easier to handle.  In rare instances where women drove horses, they usually drove a one-horse carriage.  “Four-in-hands” were too much for a woman to handle.”

As a horsewoman myself, I find this to be frustrating. I’ve both learned to ride and drive. While stallions and four-in-hands can prove challenging, I enjoy a good challenge once in a while. Also, have you met any ponies, they can be nasty creatures. I’ve noticed in my experience the smaller horses were much more temperamental than larger breeds. And don’t even get me started on side-saddle. I’d rather be risque, to be honest.

My personal favorite:

~ “Double entendre is detestable in a woman, especially when perpetrated in the presence of men; no man of taste can respect a woman who is guilty of it: though it may create a laugh, it will inevitably excite also disgust in the minds of all whose good opinions are worth acquiring. Therefore not only avoid all indelicate expressions, but appear not to understand any that may be uttered in your presence.”

Oh man. I can’t. I’ve always been aware of my company when conversing. Sometimes it such speech is not appropriate for the company. That I understand. But to avoid it completely and pretend I don’t understand it. I. Can’t. Do. It.

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If these have captured your interest, let me give you a few of my resources so you can see how insane etiquette actually was for the time period. Of course, the social classes would be different when it came to expectation and adherence to societal rules. But for the most part, I focus on the servants and the nobility/upper class.

This website is a good one to easily see the different functions and expectations. I took some of my examples directly from this site:

http://www.literary-liaisons.com/article031.html 

I have these books that were written during the era. Some of them are free on Amazon. Dig around, most of them you can find for free since they’re in the public domain now.

A Hand-book of Etiquette for Ladies by Anonymous

The Ladies’ Book of Etiquette, and Manual of Politeness: A Complete Hand Book by Florence Hartley

The Book of Household Management by Mrs. Isabella Mary Beeton

A Word to Women by Mrs. Humphry

Manners for Women by Mrs. Humphry

Manners for Men by Mrs. Humphry

And if you want a resource dedicated to smoking etiquette of the era, I found this awesome article: http://etiquipedia.blogspot.com/2014/05/victorian-to-early-20th-century-smoking.html

As you can see, research can be daunting, but when you find solid reliable sources, it can really help put you in the correct mindset for the era. I still find it difficult to keep my “head in the era” while I’m writing. But hey, that’s what the editing phase is for, right? It’s extremely difficult to keep modern ideals and sentiments from bleeding into a historical story.

Fortunately, there were always rule breakers no matter the era. These pioneers are a huge help for authors when it comes to creating conflict and tense situations to foster the plot of our stories. Scandal is a main force in most romance novels. *wink*

Do you have any resources or research you’d like to share on the topic? Feel free to comment.

Are there any rules of etiquette from the era that you know would be extremely difficult for you to follow? I’d love to hear your responses.

Thanks for the visit. I hope my little tirade was amusing and educational. I know it makes me a little more appreciative of the freedoms I have as a woman in the modern era. ❤

Remember, don’t take life too seriously, you’ll never get out alive. 😉

Until we meet again, may your bookshelves be full and your hearts even more so.

All my love,

Kirsten

Creative Update: Current Projects

I thought this week I would write a little post to let you all know what projects I’m working on.

Prohibition Story (tentatively titled Mississippi Moonshine)

Virginia is a tomboy. Having been raised by her father and seven brothers, she lacks all the grace and sophistication a woman should have according to society in 1923. But she’s a river rat, born and raised near the Mississippi River outside of Alton, Illinois. When she discovers her family’s secret distillery hidden deep in the woods, she stumbles into a horrible confrontation with a rival shiner.

Nathaniel shed his proper English gentleman persona to become the most infamous shine runner on the Mississippi. His suppliers in Illinois and Missouri provide him with the most coveted moonshine in the country. But when a gang attacks his most lucrative supplier, he finds himself saddled with more than a financial loss. He finds a river rat stowed away on his boat.

Interesting huh?

Stage play titled Confessions of a Fangirl

We’ve all had our moments of fanaticism. This play is meant to be a visual depiction of the five stages of fangirling and how the seemingly innocent obsession can quickly consume us and ruin our relationships in real life.

I didn’t want to use one specific actor…so I combined three of my favorites to depict a much broader fandom (and not point any fingers since this isn’t about shaming or blaming, just showing the reality and the consequences).

This is my first attempt to write a play. I’m hoping it will help me hone my dialog and plotting skills…even more, I am hoping it will enlighten the world to the wonders and dangers of being a fangirl/boy.

Angus’ story, Book 3 in the Shadow Guardian series, working title A Wicked Shadow

Angus has been bothering me since I started writing A Shadow’s Kiss last fall. He’s begged and pleaded for me to tell his story next. So I am. I have planted the seed of his tale in A Shadow’s Kiss. His love interest is much more…unconventional than Madeline and Evelyn, who are both unique women in their own rights.

I will be plotting his story over the next few months and plan to write it for National Novel Writing Month in November of this year. My first two books were NaNo babies, so Angus’ will be too.

A book of poetry (if anyone had an interest to read it, I have no idea)

I’ve been writing poetry since I was in 8th grade. I have notebooks full of poetry, and so I’ve debated the idea of self publishing a little book of poetry. It’s the project I have spent the least amount of mental energy on, since poetry is such an underrated creative medium. Perhaps one day I will follow through with it if there’s enough interest. I thought it might be fun to just have some printed and sell them on etsy. 🙂 Who knows…I may need a push to do that at some point in the future.

I also have some ideas started for a series of Regency/Victorian (haven’t decided which yet) stories.

There are always notes and ideas floating around for stories to write. I always find a new character who speaks to me, begging me to tell their story. I promise to update you on the status of my projects.

If you have any questions or comments, please don’t hesitate to post them. I love hearing from my readers.

Also, check out my blog posts at my writer’s group site The Sarcastic Muse. I focus on my writing process and romance in those posts.

Talk to you again soon! Have a great week.

❤ Kirsten

What Inspires You?

One of the questions I always ask my fellow writers is: Where do you get your inspiration?

Every one of them answers that question differently. Me…well it really depends.

When I’m in a creative rut, I use writing prompts to get the word count going. My writer’s group, The Sarcastic Muse, has a page on Tumblr (click HERE for link) where we post daily word counts for anyone to use them. I find those come in handy when I’m stuck for a starting point or I don’t have a current project waiting for my attention. I’ve had several stories blossom from these writing prompts. I highly recommend trying it if you’re in desperate need for inspiration.

I also find I draw inspiration from watching movies or TV shows, sometimes a line or a scene or even a character can spark an idea that sets my creativity on fire and I find I NEED to write, to purge what’s in my head. Some people do this and create fan fiction, which is fantastic, I love fan fiction and there are some talented authors out there who write nothing but fan fic. So don’t think I’m knocking it…I’m not. What I’m saying is that I take that spark of inspiration one step further and let my mind morph the idea into something unique and fresh and completely mine.

That leads me to my ultimate source of inspiration. MEN…to be more specific, these life ruiners right here.

Tom Hiddleston

For those of you who don’t know, the term “Life Ruiner” is defined as:

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THEY inspire me. These men who spark fantasies and ideas through the characters they play and their interactions with their fans. They are the heroes of my stories, the cast I choose when selecting my next pirate, alpha male, prince, bounty hunter, street racer, bootlegger, assassin, etc. When they spark an idea, I listen and write.

If you’re curious, Joe Manganiello inspired my Shadow Guardian, Gerard Butler inspired my street racer in Full Throttle, and Richard Armitage is the inspiration for my bootlegger on the Mississippi River. My actor in the play I’m writing is a combination of Tom Hiddleston, Benedict Cumberbatch, and David Tennant.

Tom Hiddleston…well, he’s a different story all together.

So I’ll ask you all…what inspires you?

Thanks for stopping by today.

~Kirsten