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Holiday Prep

One of many ways to prep for the Holidays

The holidays are upon us! Many romance authors write stories focused on the holidays, especially Christmas. After all, it is a premiere holiday associated with love and romance. (Yes, I've been watching Hallmark Christmas movies. Have you?)


Unfortunately, I still haven't followed suit. I've considered a Christmas-themed story, but my creative juices fail me. ☹  Perhaps a post-Christmas story? Now I have ideas…love found in the gift return line; an accident while taking down outdoor decorations and a beautiful paramedic responds to the 911 call; a single mother with an adorable little one (they're always adorable, aren't they) hires a hunky handyman to take down her decorations. The ideas are percolating!! Appears I do better with post-Christmas ideas than pre-Christmas ideas. I suppose the last two could be turned into pre-Christmas…hmm, there may be hope for Christmas 2024.


Completing stories prior to the corresponding holiday is necessary for success. My February Blog post of story ideas was based on "forgotten/neglected" holidays. I've been running with my 4th of July idea about an errant rocket setting a she-shed on fire. The story is taking shape, and I have time before 4 July 2024 to finish writing and editing…timing is everything!


So, with thoughts generating for holidays, I give thanks for the fans of my writing and the gift of creativity.


Happy Thanksgiving!

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Inspiration and Where It Comes From

Sources of Inspiration

Inspiration is necessary for the creation of stories, but where does it come from? Excellent question. Let me explain some sources of my inspiration.


Many things have given me inspiration for stories. Most notable is my service in the United States Air Force. Without that key experience my author journey may never have happened. I'd still be happily reading romances featuring Navy SEALS. Instead, I desired a romance with an Air Force veteran hero, so The Consequential Love Series came to be, and my journey began.


Another work experience led to my story, Restoration. My years of working as a contracting officer with the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service introduced me to wetland restoration, which provided the reason for Alex and Seth meeting.


Speaking of contracting, that experience is all over Playground Antics, my latest work in progress!! It's a romantic suspense, so don't be turned off by the word 'contracting.'


Growing up in Minnesota and many additional years of living in the state are the reasons behind the location for The Consequential Love Series and Restoration. Not to mention, my love of winter being a key feature in the setting for the series. And, less we forget, Garrett's remark in Resolute Love of visiting the many parks and historical sites in his favorite state.


I learned to play golf as a youngster;  I even played on the ladies golf team at Moorhead State! Throw in Mike's passion for the game, and the end result is Accidental Attraction. In fact, it started on our way to a golf vacation in Arkansas!


I have absolutely no idea where the inspiration for Sparks Fly came from, perhaps thinking of the many people who suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder, PTSD. Why a smokejumper? Don't know, but it worked.


Within each story further inspiration strikes. Driving home a different way and sitting at a stop sign brought me to a street sign that inspired Garrett as the name for my hero in The Consequential Love Series. The song "I Don't Dance" as performed by Lee Bryce inspired the dance scene in Victorious Love.


The name I wanted to give the son I never had became the name for the main male character, Seth Tobias, in Restoration.


A favorite lithograph of ours, which hangs in our dining room, The Picnic by Hinte, inspired the picnic scene in Sparks Fly. Picnicking was a key element in Caleb and Ivy's fledgling relationship.


My love of photography inspired Leigh's passion for capturing the beautiful images around her in The Consequential Love Series.


Let's not forget my total enjoyment of wine leads to a wine and cheese tasting at the Aspen Inn in Resolute Love.


In other words, inspiration is all around us and inside us. The key is to be open and receptive when it shows itself.

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Reasons to Summarize a Story

Back cover = Blurb


Have you ever tried to summarize a favorite book/movie/TV show to a friend without spoiling the ending? Tough, huh? Welcome to the world of an author!!


My stories have ranged from 35 thousand words to almost 99 thousand words. Now imagine summarizing a story of that many words to about 150 words or to a single page! A challenge to be sure.


There are a couple of important products for an author to create through summarizing their story.


First off, let's discuss the "Blurb." Yes, that's a thing. You'll find it on the back cover of books. The purpose is to inspire interest in your book and entice a reader to spend their time and money on the story associated with the short blurb they just read. This is also why ratings and reviews help folks make that decision, but I digress.


There are multitudes of articles providing guidance on writing a blurb, but bottom line the author is in control. For my first three books, I wrote short and to the point blurbs. They were 67, 91, and 79 words in length. I got more verbose with my next three. They were 142, 149, and a whopping 175 words. I'd like to keep them no more than 150 words.


Another form of summarizing a story is a synopsis. These are used to interest a literary agent or publisher in your story. The major difference from the blurb, is you include the ending. Major characters are introduced, the action, perhaps the theme. Again there's guidance available to help you. This one can be longer—one or possibly two pages.


I participated in a challenge where the submission was a synopsis. If I remember right, we couldn't exceed 1,000 words. I finished mine at 821. It was strange to not write an actual short story. Although I may turn it into a short story for the fun of it and for my newsletter subscribers to enjoy.


Another form of summarizing is a one-minute elevator pitch. This would give me nightmares, so I won't go there.


 So there you have it, things we authors do besides write stories.


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Pacing—A Necessary Consideration

Prepared to Write

Pacing. No, not the pacing you do to when you count your steps to estimate a distance as in just how long is this putt? I'm talking about pacing in writing. It makes a difference with a story, trust me. Too long a sentence or paragraph will slow down the pace of your story. It will bog the reader down, and they can lose interest.


Think of a song. If it's played too fast or too slow, you ruin it. Some songs are written for fast tempo and others are written for a slow tempo. Also, portions of a song may vary in the tempo. It's the same with a book's scenes. Some should have a fast tempo, others a more relaxed, slow tempo.


An action scene needs a fast pace, so shorter sentences. Boom. Boom. Boom. Verbal confrontations like action narration will be faster. In Sparks Fly, I tried for shorter sentences when Caleb fought the fire at Avis's house.  I hoped to capture the urgency he experienced while fighting the fire and searching for Avis.


When writing sex scenes, I want slow things down and draw you into the characters' lovemaking. I don't want it to be a rushed scene. I'm looking to demonstrate how they care for each other and build the passion of the moment.


Sometimes I get a bit wordy in the narrative and run a variety of issues in one paragraph or one sentence. There's a proper place for conjunctions, but they don't always belong in a sentence. Case in point if the joined words aren't related, don't throw in an "and," "but," or "so." The same goes for paragraphs. If they're different topics, I insert a break or move them to a better spot.


There's also a rhythm within a sentence and the variety of paragraph lengths to consider. If it all sounds very technical to you, you're right. Fortunately, the AutoCrit editing platform helps me address these technicalities.


The next time you read a book, watch for the pacing. Does a scene strike you as sluggish? Did you slip through the book at an appropriate speed as the words and lengths of sentences and paragraphs led you through each scene at the perfect pace for what was happening?


Writing is not easy. There's much to consider and much to learn.

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Thoughts on Romance – My Genre of Choice

Our Wedding Toast 42 Years Ago


Our 42nd wedding anniversary inspired this month's topic…ROMANCE!


Romance is key to my writing. Yes, steamy moments are important, and I enjoy writing those scenes, but romance/passion is the foundation and is so much more than steamy sex.


The Penning Passion course I took a while back gave me tons of information on ways to build passion through ever increasing levels within my story and add to the romance. Afterall, where is a great romance without passion.


So, what is passion? The Merriam-Webster dictionary offers many definitions. I'd say the following work for my purposes: "intense, driving or overmastering feeling or conviction" or "ardent affection" or "sexual desire."


I learned about methods of building passion by using the stages to intimacy. Before the course, I employed that in Sparks Fly. Accidents do happen. Since the course, I've applied what I learned in my writing of Playground Antics.


In Sparks Fly, Caleb and Ivy are "enemies," because she doesn't trust him. They gradually take note of each other's charms. Sensual touching progresses and grows steamier as it moves along. Sparks fly between them, and passion ignites like a fire igniting when the proper elements are added.


In Playground Antics, as I shared in posts on my Facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/RomanceByDeGroot), Beth is hesitant to act on her growing interest in Jace because of concerns over a conflict of interest in a project she runs. As the story progresses, their interactions work through the twelve stages to intimacy. The result? Passion grows. Bless his heart, Jace follows Beth's lead and displays a willingness to wait for her.


Romance can also be a subplot or B-story within the story. Accidental Attraction contains a B-story of Zach and Emily's friends, Ben and Julie. Playground Antics also has a romantic B-story involving Jaxon and Allison. In this story you learn more about these characters than you did in Accidental Attraction.


You can find romantic sublots in many genres. Watch for them as you read your favorite mystery or thriller or whatever you may be reading. I enjoy the Logan McRae series by Stuart MacBride, the Inspector Ian Rutledge series by Charles Todd, and the Sebastian St. Cyr series by C.S. Harris. All are mysteries and often have romantic subplots. Romance is all about us.


For me, writing romance is all consuming. You could even say it's my passion!!

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Surprise!! Reading is Important for an Author Too

My Stuffed Bookshelves

Yes, reading is important for an author.


First, there are books dedicated to the art/craft of writing, I have read a few. Believe it or not, Stephen King wrote a book to help aspiring authors and not just for those wanting to write horror. I've read his book, On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft, as it has been widely recommended by many. It was interesting to see into him as an author and his thoughts on writing. I thoroughly enjoyed "I Give You My Body…" How I write Sex Scenes written by Diana Gabaldon. Does her name sound familiar? It may if you've read her Outlander series of books or are a fan of the TV series of the same name. And there's Save the Cat! Writes a Novel. A fun book that gets into beat sheets for planning your book.


Second, there are blogs, websites, and magazines, like my stash I discussed in my blog post, New Year Resolutions on 8 January 2023, dedicated to writing and that offer a host of information. (And no, I haven't yet succeeded in reducing my stash.)


I consider this all education like the continuing education I was required to take when I worked as a contracting officer. It's an important factor in any job, and writing is a job…a highly enjoyable one. To keep my writing polished and interesting this is a key activityfor me.


Next is reading for fun, although I've discovered I noticed the author in me takes note of techniques used or missteps. Fortunately, I can still enjoy the books I read. The genre I read consistently is romance in a variety of subgenres: contemporary, historical, and paranormal (yeah, werewolves and even werebears!!) I enjoy mysteries with a couple of series set during the Regency era in England high on my list. The first is the Sebastian St. Cyr series by C.S. Harris. A recent discovery of the Lady Darby Mysteries series by Anna Lee Huber has me hooked as well. A book that falls under the category of biography and memoir made me cry at the end even though I knew what happened! If you're searching for your next read, I highly recommend Alone at Dawn: Medal of Honor Recipient John Chapman and the Untold Story of the World's Deadliest Special Operations Force by Dan Schilling and Lori Longfritz. The one genre I don't read is horror. I don't watch those movies either.


So there you have it. Reading is important for everyone. I'm so blessed that my mom instilled a love of reading in me with bedtime stories and regular library visits.


Happy reading to us all!!



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Establishing My Author Brand

Steamy Romances by Elaine M. DeGroot

I've read that it's important to establish your author brand, so people form an accurate image of who you are as an author. Okay, so let's see how I'm doing.


My social media (Facebook) and my website (Romance DeGrootified), my books, my interactions (in-person and through my newsletter), and my personality all go into this.


I love having a website and Facebook page to show my works, to share my thoughts on writing, to share what I've learned, and to share pieces of me & my life with you. This is my way of establishing my brand as an author.


Much of my brand relates to my writing of steamy romance. The book covers depict the steamy nature of my stories. I love how the covers relate to the story.


The stories develop in my imagination through the inspiration of my life experiences, my careers, my likes, and passions. Those have been DeGrootified for my stories. All are critical aspects of who I am and reflect on my author brand.


To deepen your understanding of me as an author, I've shared my many woes/trials and travails of the writing and the editing process. I think this is a critical piece of my author brand...my quest for creating the best stories for my readers. The method I use for writing has changed from typing to handwriting my first draft. My first edit is when I transcribe the first draft into the computer. After that I use an online editing platform, AutoCrit, to work magic on my writing. Hours of editing happen, and yet errors and discrepancies persist. A definite frustration factor for me! I print out the story and read it in search of errors or better words for the proper meaning or effect. I have MS Word read it aloud while I watch the words go by. This is to catch flow issues and clumsy wording. Lately, I have the view on 200% to make it easier to catch punctuation errors. I share this process with you through posts, so you understand the vast amount of effort each book contains.


I believe what I share provides insight into who I am as a person and an author. I share stories of my author assistant, Missy, and how she "helps" with my journey; the wine I like to drink; how & why I've named characters as I have; the happenings in my life like entering Accidental Attraction for an award and winning and participating in writing challenges with the results; and where I write are some of the information I've shared regarding who I am.


All of this goes into establishing my author brand. I hope you all have an image of who I am as an author, and how I do this not just for me but for you, too.


Happy reading!!


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Sibrian Iris

My hubby, Mike, recommended a theme of "April showers bring May flowers" be applied to this month's blog post. He's brilliant! Ideas and inspirations in April can become stories in May.


There's another short story challenge starting soon in AutoCrit. That's always fun writing with challenging topics and twists thrown in. Yes, I plan to participate.


And I've been consolidating writing prompts—short ideas to inspire your writing. I've been going through years of emails with five prompts in each message. Of course, this effort is cleaning out my email which is a good thing and should have been done a long time ago, but that's neither here nor there. There are some great prompts to consider. The resulting stories can be a short story or blossom into a longer story, a novella or full-length novel. I still have more years to go through, so I'll have many inspirational prompts to work with.


(A quick aside: Speaking of short stories, I should take time to write a few to send out to my Newsletter subscribers. Maybe even try different genres. Those prompts are definitely going to be handy to have!)


Writing needs to be a habit. Be it writing a snippet in response to a prompt or another scene for an ongoing story. It's like training for a sport. You need to practice and keep your writing skills sharp. Habits often require schedules. Many authors schedule their writing. I'm sure a schedule makes it easier to become a habit. Do I have a writing schedule? No schedule, just sketchy plans that either happen or not. Maybe I need to take this more seriously and build a schedule? Nah, that's not in my wheelhouse since retirement. I do promise to continue writing. The many ideas in my head need an outlet!


Keep on reading. I'll do the same as well as writing!

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Training Forever!

Ready for Note-taking


Learning never ends! It doesn't matter what you do, training keeps you at the top of your chosen profession.


Previously, I'd written about the writing training I've purchased to help me improve my writing skills. See blog posts: New Year Resolutions on January 8, 2023 and Editing: Like a Search and Destroy Mission on August 27, 2022. I also participate in weekly AutoCrit YouTube sessions which are informative and fun. There are other training sources, such as The Authors Guild, Reedsy, and Authors Publish.


Recently, I bought a short training course, Penning Passion, from AutoCrit that is specifically focused on my genre of choice: ROMANCE! Yes, I'm planning to learn more about writing romance. The training is in the form of four one hour Zoom sessions. I am so looking forward to this training! The modules are as follows: The Science and Psychology of Romance, Crafting Connection: The Heart of Writing Romance, The Characters of Romance, and Putting your Best Foot Forward. This ought to be interesting. The sessions begin on March 20th and end on April 10th. Please wish me well.


Other training has focused on the business of writing. You read that right—business. Fun topics like taxes, marketing, key words related to internet searches, and so on.


Will all this training change how I write? Only for the better. I still plan on more steamy romances. Trust me on that.


Happy training to me and happy reading to you all!!

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Story Ideas…Where Do They Come From??

Ready to write...need an idea!



Valentine's Day has come and gone, with no chocolates consumed. Say What??!! But I did get a story idea, while ruminating on the holiday. Yeah, no telling where or when a story idea comes to light!

Here's my idea: a series based on holiday related romances might be my next author adventure. Stay with me on this…I wouldn't write about the usual holiday included in romances like Valentines Day or Christmas. Nah, I'll latch onto some of the forgotten holidays. Those that come and go without much notice or hoopla. Here are a few of my ideas. Let me know what you think by commenting on this post.

1.      President's Day: Costumed re-enactors bump into each other as fate intervenes into their lives. Consider a President Teddy Roosevelt (Bully!) and a Dolly Madison. She's running around with a large portrait of George Washington. Hopefully he's not carrying a big stick—that collision could cause some damage.

2.      St. Patrick's Day: A drunken brawl at an Irish pub results in the owner falling for the responding cop.

3.      May Day: As young children, she left a May basket on his step. He caught her—their first kiss. Years later, she returns to town to care for her parents. He never left and still has bits of the May basket in a wooden box.

4.      4th of July: Errant fireworks set her backyard she-shed on fire. He's the firefight responding…KISMET!!

5.      Labor Day: a play on words, her sister goes into labor early and he's the doctor on duty for the holiday weekend.


What do ya think? Granted, a few of those holidays aren't truly forgotten, but this idea is in its infancy! Am I onto something here?

Story ideas can happen from a picture, an experience, a song, a writing prompt, or something overheard.

May the ideas never dry up!

Happy reading to you and happy writing to me.

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