Today’s guest is the wonderful Rhonda Pollero. Rhonda, thanks so much for joining us. I will let the rest of the post be in her own words!
Welcome and thanks for taking the time to drop by for my musings. A short introduction first: I’m Rhonda Pollero and I write romantic suspense and funny mysteries with romantic elements. TRAPPED is my 48th published novel and completes the Finding Justice trilogy. But don’t be scared off, each book stands alone. More on that in a moment.
For those of you still on your journey to publishing, let me hit you with a number – it took me 10 years to make my first sale. Why? Because I was writing the wrong thing. I had dreamed of being a (then) Silhouette Desire author, so I kept banging out (I mean that literally, this was before computers, so we’re talking IBM Selectric) 3 chapters and they fell short, so I’d write three more chapters and so on and so on. It wasn’t until a dear friend and critique partner suggested I try my hand at romantic suspense that my world changed. I sold my first attempt at romantic suspense (written as Kelsey Roberts) in 1993. So, if you’re feeling frustrated, just remember it can happen, even after years of failure and/or frustration.
Now, about TRAPPED . . . my inspiration for this story came from watching a trial here in South Florida. There was no dashing hero, but I began playing ‘what if?’ And then I remembered another sad but real case I had followed. A teenager was shot in the head but the bullet ricocheted around his brain and did no damage. In fact, he ended up with the bullet lodged under the skin at his hairline and a few stitches. So, I kinda stole that scenario. Sensing a pattern here? I almost always get ideas from real life, then weave them into a story. Even down to my heroine’s name – Chasyn is the name of one of my daughter’s friends. So, I guess I’m a thief as well as a storyteller. In a nutshell, I was off to the races with a heroine who was the target of a determined killer being protected by a hot bodyguard.
I pondered how to blend those three situations and TRAPPED was born. My next step was to use Power Structure (www.write-brain.com) which is an organizational program. No, I have no interest in the company, I just love this product. It allows me to plot out a book, scene by scene, and keeps track of all my red herrings so I don’t drop a thread. I can track the passage of time in the story (so my characters remember to eat and sleep); and I can wrangle all those little details in one spot – descriptions, locales, timeline, etc. There are other organizational software programs, I just happen to like Power Structure but it does have a learning curve. Pantsers will hate me for this but my philosophy is if I’m going to my best friend’s house, I don’t need a GPS, but if I’m driving through unfamiliar territory, I need a map. And I want it at my fingertips. Do I stick to every plot point? Nope, I take detours on blue highways all the time as I flesh the story out.
All that upfront work allows me to write quickly. I can finish an 85,000-word novel in 6-8 weeks. I’m not tooting my own horn, I’m simply pointing out that a little planning is a huge time saver. And since I started my writing career at Harlequin, I had to learn to be fast. There were some years when I was writing five 80,000-word books, and I never learned to type, so any boost up in the speed department was very appreciated.
Am I suggesting you follow my example? Nope. I think everyone must develop their own system. Most people have success when they approach their writing the way they approach their life. If you’re a list maker, make lists. Like bullet points? Go for it. Like sticky notes? That works. But I really believe you need some way to organize the arc of your story for the sake of continuity.
My final suggestion is to find yourself a brutally honest, trusted critique partner. If you just want someone to tell you you’re brilliant, send it to your mother. In the real world, editors don’t pull punches, so you need to develop a thick skin. Remember I mentioned my critique partner who steered me toward romantic suspense? Well, the exact quote was, “Your action and dialogue are great but everything else sucks. Ever thought of writing romantic suspense?” She was a dear friend so no offense at her blunt assessment, and she was spot on. I’ve had editorial notes that simply said . . . sub-par, lacks emotion, cut this, I even had one editor write ‘this scene is unnecessary and trite.’ I NEVER take these comments personally. I know editors and readers (specifically the ones who enjoy ripping authors to shreds on review sites) who simply don’t self-edit their comments. Publishing is not for sissies. No matter how brilliant your work is, you’ll never please everyone. I’ll admit that I do peek at reviews from time to time, I’ll also admit that I don’t like being shredded – who would? But I keep those things in context. If I could write a book that appealed to the entire reading public, I’d be a very wealthy woman. Instead, I focus on crafting the best book possible and I really take editorial notes to heart. Because your novel doesn’t come with audio telling the reader what you meant to say. It should be on the page.
Thanks for allowing me to share with you. Best of luck to everyone! TRAPPED is available for sale now. And if you’re interested, the series includes, ABANDONED and EXPOSED, Available in eBook and trade paperback.
Chasyn Summers parked her Prius on the street adjacent to the courthouse on East Ocean Boulevard. Her best friend and witness, Kasey, was belted into the passenger’s side.
“Are you nervous?” Kasey asked.
Chasyn thought for a minute while she checked her make-up in the rearview mirror. The state’s attorney had warned them to wear subdued clothing and modest make-up. Something about making them seem more sympathetic to the grand jury. So, she had chosen a navy skirt and a cream-colored blouse and she had forgone eye make-up save for a touch of mascara and applied just a hint of blush-nude lipstick to complete the look. Her blonde hair was pulled tight into a neat ponytail. She couldn’t look more matronly if she tried. “I feel like a school marm.”
“Tell me about it. I spent over a hundred dollars on this dress and it really needs to be hemmed. After we testify, I’ll take it to the seamstress and have her turn it into a proper little black dress.”
“Well, for now we are not two twenty-somethings out at a bar at two A.M., we’re upstanding citizens who witnessed a murder.”
Kacey shivered. “I still have nightmares about that.”
“Me, too,” Chasyn said. “But at least this will help them arrest Dr. Lansing. Thanks to us, or more specifically you.”
“Should be a cake walk,” Kasey said. “Except remember, the state’s attorney said the defense attorney would probably attack both of us because we’d been drinking that night.”
“Hours earlier and only two drinks. I mean how many times does a girl turn twenty-nine?” Chasyn asked. “We were both stone cold sober when we walked out of that restaurant and found that poor girl on the pavement.” She smoothed a wayward hair. “Ready?”
“Sure,” they exited the car and walked the short distance to the court house. It was two buildings separated by a breezeway. Chasyn knew from earlier meetings with the state’s attorney that they wanted to be on the left side of the Martin County, Florida court house.
As they approached the buildings, she heard a loud pop and suddenly found herself falling forward. A split second later she heard a second pop and Kasey fell next to her. Kasey’s eyes were open but blood was trickling out of her mouth.
Chasyn was vaguely aware of people screaming. People running. Then she felt wetness and saw a pool of blood starting to form around her face. She smelled burned flesh and a distinct ringing in her ears.
After what seemed like a long time, someone came over to her and whispered, “You’ve been shot in the head. Try not to move.”