Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Real Life Romance

If we didn't want "happily ever after" in our lives, romantic fiction wouldn't be as popular as it is.

Being a writer of sweet romance, my life revolves around creating fictional characters who have challenging problems to overcome in order to find their "happily ever after" in holy matrimony.

What a blissful day it is when we find "happily ever after" romance in a real-life situation.

This past weekend I was able to attend the wedding of a very special woman. I've known the bride since she was born. She was a beautiful little girl, full of energy. She's always had a great zest for life and a wonderful, warm love for people.

On her wedding day, this lovely woman was more beautiful than ever in every way. Her energy and zest for life was at its zenith as she danced to her recessional music with her handsome groom at her side while they exited the church after the ceremony.

What a thoroughly exquisite day! Rarely do magnificent moments occur in our lives. I'm going to savor this "happily ever after" one for a long, long time.


Fran Shaff, Award-Winning Author

Monday, September 20, 2010

A New Chapter

Readers and beginning writers often ask me questions about book chapters.

1. How do you know how long to make a chapter?

2. How do you know when to end a chapter?

3. How do you determine the number of chapters there should be in a book?

In reality, there is one answer suitable in replying to all these questions: It's up to the author.

However, there are some factors the author will take into account in making her own determination regarding the length of chapters, number of them in a book and how to end her chapters.

1. Length of chapter. Sometimes the author needs to take into account a format a publisher may use in all the books it produces for a certain line the book may be a part of. In this case, the format will determine the length of the chapter.

Genre also plays a factor in determining the length of chapters. Books which are suspenseful may use shorter chapters to help imply a sense of urgency. Dan Brown's "Da Vinci Code" comes to mind. Some of the chapters in that book are very short, and, of course, the book is quite suspenseful.

2. Ending a chapter. The end of a scene is a good place to end a chapter. The end of an event is too, so is a change of setting or a change of point of view or a dozen other happenings in a story.

The only hard and fast rule which should be considered in ending a chapter is this: end with conflict. If a chapter doesn't end in a way which entices the reader to continue, he may close the book. Don't want that!

3. Number of chapters. Just as in determining the length of chapters, publisher format and genre may determine the number of chapters in a fictional book. If these factors are not necessary for consideration, then number of chapters is totally the choice of the author.

Of all the "rules" of writing, essentially there are no rules for chapter length, format of chapters and number of chapters in a novel. The author can pretty much do what he wants.

However, as in all aspects of book writing, it is always wise to keep the reader in mind when setting up chapters. Too much inconsistency in formatting chapters can unsettle and frustrate a reader while classic style, evenness of pace and an engaging flow to the story compel the reader to continue reading.

Book writing is a terribly complicated process, and setting up chapters, as professional writers know, is pretty far down the list of things they are thinking about when they are undertaking the job of writing a novel.

Nevertheless, people have a few questions about chapters, and I hope I've answered to everyone's satisfaction today. If I haven't, please leave a comment with your question, and I'll get back to you.


Fran Shaff, Award-Winning Author

Monday, September 13, 2010

Reality in Fiction

I don't know about you, but I like my books, movies, etc. to have plenty of reality laced inside their fictitious plots. I can really wrap my head and heart around a storyline which seems plausible, real, believable.

I strive to put a bit of harsh reality in each of my books. Whether I'm painting a picture of the grim life of a homeless boy in the 1880's scraping out a living on the streets in New York (A Partner's Promise), revealing the pain a man suffers when he learns his beloved son is in reality a baby who was stolen years ago by his late wife who'd arranged an illegal adoption (Stolen Son), or speculating what might happen to infatuated "love at first sighters" when one accidentally deeply hurts the other (For Love of Maggie), my dramatic stories strive to give readers constant reality checks, just as life does for us when everything seems to be going rather well.

To illustrate my point, I have an excerpt below from FOR LOVE OF MAGGIE. Watch as Kayla Franklin's bliss is dampened by the reality of her everyday life.

Setup: Roth’s just given Kayla a ride home. She’s invited him in for coffee, and, in a moment of closeness, she’s told him how she became Maggie’s mother. Roth, overcome with emotion upon hearing her story, ends up seizing the moment--and Kayla!

Roth cupped her cheeks with his hands. “You're an angel, Kayla.”

Before she could insist she wasn't, his lips covered hers, and she was in heaven.

He slid his fingers into her hair and kneaded her scalp as he kissed her more completely than she'd ever been kissed.

Even though she felt his touch deep within her, Kayla needed more of him. She slid her hands over his firm chest around to his back and pressed him closer.

He sent his hands to her spine and crushed her against himself.

He ended the kiss and pressed his cheek to hers. The exquisite roughness of his beard against her silken skin touched her all the way to her toes. He breathed into her ear and nearly drove her mad with his words.

“Kayla, angel, sweet Kayla,” his raspy voice and the passionate tone in his words nearly drove her mad with desire. As if he’d read her mind, his lips immediately found their way back to hers.

She began to loosen Roth's shirt from his waistband. She needed to touch his skin. But his belt was tightly cinched around his waist. She stopped her efforts and, instead, settled for feeling his warmth through his blue work shirt.

His lips left hers. He trailed kisses from her chin to her collar bone.

She threw her head back and gasped at the pleasure he caused deep inside her.

Suddenly, he took hold of her shoulders and stared down at her.

Kayla, caught in his sultry gaze of desire, couldn't speak.

He closed his eyes tightly for a moment then looked at her with the gentlest visage she'd ever seen. He cupped her cheek with his large hand. “Kayla, you're so beautiful.”

In that, the most intense moment she had ever experienced in her life, Kayla wanted nothing else but Roth. She wanted his arms around her, his lips on her. She wanted his heart beating against hers and his scratchy cheek reddening her silky one. She wanted him to carry her in his arms to some secluded place blessed with glorious beauty where the two of them could learn everything about each other, body and soul. She wanted a union with him more unique than any human before them had ever known.

“Roth,” she whispered, barely able to speak, “I...”

He touched his fingers to her lips. “Kayla, shh.”

He kissed her again, and rapture became her new world, full of sun and bliss.

This haze of heaven, living and true on earth, lasted minute after minute until she thought she’d explode from the sheer joy filling her empty depths.

Abruptly and without any warning, something began to tear at the bliss. Shadows clouded the sun until a near total eclipse consumed their planet.

Kayla felt something tug at her skirt, trying to wrench her from the paradise she never wanted to leave.

The tug came several more times before she finally withdrew from her perfect world into the reality of her tangible existence.

“Maggie,” Kayla said, looking at the child who’d insistently tugged her skirt. She tore herself from Roth's arms and bent to touch her. “What are you doing out of bed. Did we wake you?”

She rubbed her hand over her flannel pajama bottoms.

Thanks to years of experience, Kayla knew exactly what was wrong. “She's wet, Roth,” she said glancing up at him. “I've got to take care of her.” She picked her up and stood up straight. “I guess things got out of hand between us,” she said, looking down. “It's been an emotional night.”

He looked at Maggie in a peculiar way, stared a long time. He glanced at Kayla, his eyes filled with pain.

Kayla's heart broke. His feelings about Maggie hadn't changed a bit, she concluded.

Roth cleared his throat and rubbed a hand over his face. “It was my fault, Kayla. I couldn’t help myself. The story you told me was remarkable; you’re remarkable. I just had to take you in my arms. It was my fault.”

She squared her jaw and lifted her chin. “Yes, maybe it was, but maybe it was my fault too. It seems we have a strange basal effect on each other. I guess we'll both have to keep our emotions in check. Neither one of us wants a relationship with the other. We'd both better keep that in mind.”

“But, Kayla--”

“Good night, Roth.” She left the kitchen before he could say another word. By the time she reached the bottom of the stairway in the hall on the other side of the dining room, she heard the back door close.

Clearly, Roth had once again taken her from heaven to the lowest regions of the netherworld. She was alone and empty with a wet child in her arms.

The happy, fulfilled life she had enjoyed for many years was now unbearably lonely.


Is anything more real than having to deal with taking care of a wet little girl?

Fortunately, since I, like most of you, prefer happy endings my protagonists always find a way to work through their monumental challenges.

This week, I'm wishing you romantic things to brighten your life when things get a little too real. I hope your week is a flowery, pretty one!


Fran Shaff, Award-Winning Author

Monday, September 6, 2010

Happy Labor Day Week

I hope everyone has a good week reflecting on the wonderful contribution all laborers make to our societies. From parents to teachers, preachers, custodians, doctors, dentists, checkout clerks, factory workers, shelf stockers, etc. all people who work to make our lives better deserve acknowledgment for jobs well done.

It is good to take time to think about how we contribute in positive ways to our lives, to those around us and even to strangers we will never meet.

As a writer, I hope my words, whether here or in one of my books, short stories or articles, bring something positive to readers and help other writers in some way.

As a volunteer, I hope the strangers I may never meet feel the warmth of a hug when they are in need of something my fellow volunteers and I have provided.

As for you, God bless you for your efforts to contribute your labor in positive ways to your friends, families and to strangers.

Have a great week and a wonderful autumn.


Fran Shaff, Award-Winning Author