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This month I have two “new” books out. I say “new” because one of them is a reissue. But I’ll bet it’s new to you! This is the first time in digital for FULL BLOOM, and it was published in print in 1990. That’s almost 25 years ago. The other book, FOR THE RIGHT REASONS, is actually new, and it’s Book #9 in the Project Justice series.

You can check them both out on Amazon.com; just click the covers for more information.

Book #9 in the Project Justice romantic suspense series

Book #9 in the Project Justice romantic suspense series

Retro Romance, reissue of a 1990 Silhouette Romance by Karen Leabo

Retro Romance, reissue of a 1990 Silhouette Romance by Karen Leabo

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SynopsisI might be one of the only writers in the world who actually enjoys writing a synopsis. For me, it’s a time of ultimate creativity, a chance to challenge myself to come up with the best characters, the most unexpected plot twists, the cliffiest cliffhangers.

I always write the synopsis before the book. I tried writing a book without a synopsis once, and it was an unmitigated disaster. I wasted weeks tearing it up and putting it back together, cutting and adding, so that it made sense. But maybe you are comfortable with seat-of-the-pants writing. That’s okay. Writing a synopsis after that messy first draft allows you to see where your story needs shoring up. Find the holes, the parts that don’t quite connect. Write the synopsis as you wish the book had turned out, then dig into your revision with a plan in mind.

However, if you ever expect to sell books on proposal, as almost all prolific working writers do, it’s a good skill to master, and it’s not beyond your ability. Once you get down the basics, you get better with practice. (If you ever read any of my early attempts, you would see the truth in that.)

In June I am teaching a month-long workshop at the Margie Lawson Writing Academy, one of the premiere venues for online writing instruction. In this class, you will learn a foolproof formula for writing a synopsis that sings.  You will participate in exercises that actually create the building blocks you’ll use to assemble the synopsis, along with one-on-one feedback. (Feedback is shared with the class, so you learn from your own work as well as that of your classmates.) At the end of the month, you will write your synopsis and receive a personal, detailed critique/editing from me. The $50 you’ll spend on tuition is worth that service alone–that is what I would charge a private client just for the critique.

This is the last time I’ll be teaching this class for at least a year, possibly longer, as I am taking a vacation from teaching classes. This is my highest-rated, most in-demand class.

You don’t have to hate synopsis-writing anymore!

 Please go  here to learn more about the class and sign up:

You don’t have to hate synopsis-writing anymore!


Class space is limited, so don’t put it off.


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End-of-Summer Recap

It’s been more than a month since I’ve blogged, I’m ashamed to say. A lot has been going on in my life!

Writing: I’ve been toiling away on Book #7 of the Project Justice series for Harlequin Superromance. This book features Hudson Vale, a character who played a pivotal role in FOR JUST CAUSE. The book is due Oct. 1 and I am waaaay behind schedule; keep reading to see why. I attended the national Romance Writers of America conference in Anaheim, and I found a new agent! I’ve been without representation for almost three years, and it’s nice to have someone in my corner again.

Vacation: My husband’s family takes a yearly bicycle trip. This year we went to New York state, cycling along the towpath of the Erie Canal. (A couple of years ago we did the C&O Canal (through Maryland and W. Virginia) and this was somewhat similar. We rode for 7 days, from Buffalo to Syracuse. Totally self-supported so we had to carry all of our stuff with us. And–get this–I made all the arrangements this year. I was stressed out the whole trip worrying that I’d messed up reservations. It was quite the logistic nightmare, finding bikes to rent, places to stay, and how to get the bikes back to Buffalo (urg, don’t even ask!). But it was so much fun. We only had one little snafu, when a motel simply wasn’t where it was supposed to be, as shown on both my guidebook map and the GPS. We had to ride about 5 miles farther, which was no big deal except that Max, my husband’s cousin, had a flat tire. But everything else went well. We saw some beautiful countryside, visited several museums and a wildlife refuge, ate some wonderful food. One of the best things about cycling is you get to eat a lot! You’re on the bike for several hours each day and it burns a lot of calories. We also visited Niagara Falls, my first time, and I loved it. Although we walked over the “Rainbow Bridge” to Canada for a visit, and to see a different view of the falls, I liked the American side better. Instead of a bunch of hotels and restaurants, there’s a pretty park with hiking trails, and you can get very close to the falls. We took the tourist boat, Maid of the Mist, to get a close-up view.

Acting: I continue to go out on a lot of auditions. Mostly for student films and very low budget features, a few internet TV shows. I have booked a few jobs. The best one was for a student film where I played a really angry modeling agent. I got to scream at this poor model. The other kind of fun job was for an Epson printer commercial–footage that they put up on their website so prospective customers can take a “tour” of a printer. Unfortunately, though I spent half an hour in make-up, they ended up shooting only my hands. 😦 And finally, I have a job on Monday as an extra for a real TV show you might have heard of, American Horror Story (it’s on FX). They needed an actress with super-short hair to play a prisoner in a Nazi concentration camp. Oh, and one other modeling job, next weekend, for a photographer’s portfolio. He does beautiful work so I’m excited.

Home Renovation: I have finally hired a contractor to build us a back porch. We just signed the agreement with the architect ($3,000+ just for that, gulp). Haven’t done much on the house since finishing my office and the front yard. But soon I’m going to tackle painting the living/dining room. On Sunday, the plan is to clear some space out in the garage and move my mosaic materials out there. Right now they take up the whole dining room.

Jury Duty: Spent a week on a truly horrible, disturbing criminal case. I was an alternate juror, so I sat through the entire trial, though I didn’t deliberate. I was relieved the jury found the defendant guilty on all counts.

That’s it. I keep saying this, but I’m going to try to post my blog more often. I used to blog every single day. How did I do that?

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You never know what’s going to happen on a movie or TV set.

I was hired as an extra for a web TV series called The Tesla Archive. I was to play an FBI analyst. My wardrobe instructions specified that I wear black pants or skirt, white button shirt and black blazer. I didn’t have the shirt and pants in my closet. (I steer away from white because I always manage to stain white the first time I wear it.) So my first order of business was a trip to Goodwill for the required wardrobe.

I’m now at an eighteen-dollar loss, because this role doesn’t pay. (I am doing lots of stuff–if it sounds like a fun project–where the only compensation is a nice lunch, a copy of the project once it’s done, and credit. At this stage, I badly need to fill out my resume and put together a reel of clips showing my work. That is my immediate goal. The big pay-offs will come later.)

I drive out to La Mirada–it’s only about thirty minutes and light traffic, so that’s cool–and hang out with my fellow FBI analyst extras. The set is all decked out with computers and screens like an FBI “situation room.” I don’t know the specifics of the show, but there’s some kind of crisis going on and all the analysts are working furiously at computer screens or running to and fro. For the first scene, we did lots of “crosses” where we walk across the set in the background while the main action is going on.

The last scene of the day was a complex one involving one long take, with the camera moving along a track, focusing on various people as they talk and move. My job was to sit at a computer terminal, pretend to stare intently, type and jot things down.

During the rehearsal for this scene, the actor who’s playing my boss (I guess he’s head of operations or something) suddenly walks up to me and says, “Wingate. Any activity from local law enforcement?”

I’m thinking, Crap, what do I do? Extras aren’t supposed to talk. But he was speaking right at me and obviously waiting for an answer, so I said, “None, sir.”

The director of the show liked it and left it in. We filmed it about twenty times (because the shot was so complicated, it was hard to get everything right all at the same time). So I said, “None, sir,” every time. I thought about changing it up. “All’s quiet, sir.” “Quiet as a graveyard, sir.” But I figured that would be pushing it. So I said the best “None, sir” I knew how to say.

After we wrapped for the day, they asked me to invent a first name for myself, and I’d be listed in the credits. I decided my character seemed like a Joan. So I’m “Joan Wingate.”

I don’t know when the series will make its debut. I think the aim is to get it released on Hulu. I will keep you apprised.

Meanwhile, I’m also auditioning for two game shows. Tomorrow is my first audition for Pyramid. (Remember the $100,000 Pyramid with Dick Clark? It’s that game, and it airs on the Game Show Network.) The other is a show called Sing If You Can, by the producers of Don’t Forget the Lyrics and a few other shows. The basic idea is that contestants sing while the people from the show distract you and see if they can get you to flub it up. I survived the first audition, and the second is scheduled for later this week. (I can’t sing, in case you’re wondering, at least, not well. I have no training and have never performed in public unless you count some drunk karaoke. But I figure they have to have some bad contestants that people can make fun of.)

On the writing front, still waiting to hear from Harlequin about the next three Project Justice books. I am having second thoughts about the vampire book and whether I should really send it out. Just not sure that’s the right thing for my career. Hmm.

I had four contractors come out and look at my porch. So far only one has gotten back to me with a bid. It’s a frightening project and the one thing (beyond electricity and plumbing) that we wouldn’t even consider attempting ourselves.

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Haven’t blogged in a while, but I have a couple of things to talk about this week.

First, big book giveaway! I’ve teamed up with six other Harlequin Authors. Together, we’re giving away SEVEN packs of SEVEN autographed books. We’re doing this on Facebook, and it’s super easy to enter for the drawing. Here is the link to the contest page: http://www.facebook.com/kara.lennox/app_455995934413715

Second: Do you need an agent? How do you find the right agent? What can agents do for your career? These questions and more will be addressed in the online workshop “All About Agents,” I’m teaching at Savvy Authors,  Class starts June 11! Here’s the link:http://www.savvyauthors.com/vb/showevent.php?eventid=885

Other writing news: I just turned in a new proposal to my Superromance editor for three more Project Justice books. Fingers crossed!

So what else is going on?

I’ve revived my acting career. I got a little part in an industrial film shot by Sony (an in-house marketing kind of thing) and I had so much fun! My actress friend Marie said if I want to do more, I should sign up at Actors Access. So I did, and I’ve been submitting myself for all kinds of roles. And, OMG, I got one! I get to play “Sleeping Wardrobe Woman” in a low-budget feature film.

On the home front, I had a contractor out to look at our back porch (which basically doesn’t exist) and give us a quote for building a new one. I really, really want a porch. It’s going to be expensive because we have to match the houses’s historic details. But I’m hoping we can do it in phases. I’m supposed to get a quote this week.

In the garden, we’re harvesting raspberries, strawberries and cherry tomatoes almost every day. I’m afraid the other tomato plants are something of a disappointment. I don’t know why, but they aren’t making tomatoes. Last year we had tons! Only the cherry tomato plan seems to be happy. But I did harvest our first yellow squash, and we have loads more coming. Can’t wait to eat it tonight!

And, finally, I dusted off my metal detector and went over the whole front yard, while it’s still mostly soft dirt. I found a Ziploc bag of what I thought, at first, was silver coins. But it tuned out to be some miscellaneous chrome hardware, parts of a chair or something. ::sigh:: I also found 4 pennies. Then I went to the beach, where I found a number of quarters, dimes, nickels and pennies, nothing old.

As you can see, I have way too many interests and hobbies. I wish I could clone myself. Lately I’ve been neglecting my Etsy stores. Haven’t done much in the way of art, and I have stacks of vintage items sitting around waiting to be cleaned up, photographed and listed for sale. (Got an antique silver plate water pitcher for $1 the other day!). But only so many hours in a day.

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My Weekend Project

Now that my office is done. the yard could no longer be ignored. We were in danger of being ticketed by the city, the front yard weeds were so high. This is what the weeds look like: This is the half of the yard that isn’t done yet.

Yesterday afternoon was spent digging, pulling, hoeing, raking, and making trip after trip to the compost cage. This morning we finished the weeding, then went to Home Depot to buy mulch. You see, this is the third time I have cleared this yard of weeds. Each time, I have intentions of planting, and I do a few plants, but then the tall grass takes over again.

This time, we bought some ground cover that supposedly will fill in in six to eight months. I forget what it’s called now, but it has gorgeous flowers in all different colors. We also put in the path of pavers today, which will help with keeping up with weeding until the ground cover fills in. The other ground cover is a succulent with pink flowers.

I am really surprised we got all this done. I swear, I am going to keep up with it this time. The bark mulch should help prevent some weed growth.

So, here is the “after” photo. (Some of the plants were already in place, like that big philodendron, and the fountain grass, and that mass of ice plant in the front.)

We also bought a cana (I remember my mother growing those) which is in the very back by the fence. You can’t see it very well. And we bought a strawberry plant.


In the back yard, the tomatoes are only so-so. We’ve harvested one, but one plant simply isn’t producing any, and the another has one tomato but it doesn’t seem to be growing or blooming anymore. Something ate about half Rob’s grapes when they were pin-head size. Our orange tree is finally making oranges–some are bigger than shooter marbles now. But the tangerine tree fruits are still B-B sized and don’t appear to be growing. It might still be in shock from transplanting.

The squash plants look beautiful and are about to bloom, so I’m hopeful we’ll get squash this year. The broccoli has sprouted; we planted seeds so it’s way behind. I’ve never grown broccoli before.

That is the garden report! For a couple of people who have brown thumbs, I think we’re going pretty well.

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Movie Star Me!

Last night, I got to play movie star. A friend of a friend asked me to be in a video at Sony Pictures Interactive. It’s probably not a video you’ll ever see; it’s intended as an educational piece for Sony employees to learn more about how different ages use different types of digital content and social networking at various times during the day, and how the platforms relate to one another.

There were no lines. (Well, once I had to say “Wake up!” but my voice won’t be on the video.) I played “Baby Boomer” with a 12-year-old son. I got there at 7 p.m. and went straight to make-up. I enjoyed chatting with the make-up artist, a very nice woman from Russia named Liana. Then dinner arrived (we got to order from a nice restaurant nearby). It was a while before they were ready for me.

They shot the scenes out of order, but in chronological order, it starts with me waking up to the clock radio (how un-hip!) while other, younger characters wake to their various cool digital devices. There were a couple of short scenes where I’m being “stern mom”–I’m making my kid get out of bed, I’m telling him to stop playing games and go clean his room (this is all done without dialogue, mind you). Then I take his tablet computer away (he’s watching Men In Black II ) and I start watching it myself (I switch to The Vow). The last scene, I’m watching the original Men in Black on the sofa, and I motion for my son to join me. We share a sweet mother-and-son moment, all is forgiven, and we watch the movie.

The video has two other characters that have their own little drama going on, a Gen X man and a Gen Y man. (They’re texting each other and watching trailers on their cool devices, then ordering movie tickets online.) But I don’t interact with them so I didn’t see much of them last night. The entire video probably lasts no more than five minutes.

All scenes were shot against a green screen. If you’re a fan of Cougar Town, Courtney Cox’s son has a green-screen set-up at his house. It’s where you can drop in any background you want during post-production.) My “bed” was a long skinny table padded with a couple of couch cushions.Also, all screens on the devices we used were blue; video images will be dropped in later. So I had to pretend to tap and scroll on the tablet computer when I had only a vague idea of what I was supposed to be seeing, then make the appropriate facial expressions.

Acting without lines is actually more difficult than I thought it would be. Everything had to be conveyed with facial expression. I had to look stern, sneaky, guilty, delighted, surprised. They told me the video would be ready by the first week in June. I’m not sure if I’ll be able to post any clips or not–it might be proprietary information.

All in all it was a great time. I love acting. I’d do more of it if I could, but of course if I really wanted it, I’d have to put together a resume, a reel, headshots, find an agent, etc. And that would take way too much time away from writing. But any time a gig falls into my lap, I’m all over it!

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It’s been like giving birth, I swear. After all these months, today I was doing all the teeny final stuff–mopping the floor, replacing the faceplates and the smoke alarm and the vent register. And one of the faceplates wouldn’t go on. I’d built out the wall too far. So I had to get my putty knife and scrape, scrape, scrape until finally it would fit. Then, of course, I had to repaint! But finally it’s done. It’s really done. And I’m in the process of moving all my stuff back in.

My antique hook rug, given to me by my mother-in-law, was so filthy I couldn’t bear to bring it into my nice new office. So Rob and I took it outside, hung it over the swingset, and beat it with a broom. (There’s no other way to clean it, really. It’s too fragile.) this old-fashioned method worked surprisingly well. It looks much better.

I’m going to have to do a major purge of office stuff. I am determined to get rid of anything I’m not using, and organize what’s left. In addition to writing stuff, I have to cram my art, crafts, and vintage stuff in this one small room. Right now it really looks junky, which is a shame because the new office is so pretty.

In other news, I’ve been planning the family bike trip, which will be in upstate New York (along the Erie Canal towpath)  in August. I had no idea how difficult the planning is. It literally look two straight days. You have to balance the daily mileage with the towns you want to visit with the lodging that is available and reasonably priced, for seven people. You have to figure out where to rent the bikes (most of the bike shops don’t do long-term rentals, so I had to call a zillion before I found one who would work with me). Then you have to figure out how to get the bikes back to where you started (because we only ride one way). To keep costs down we stay at hostels when we can. This trip, we’re staying at a lot of bed & breakfasts, because those end up being the cheapest option. Also staying at a few cheap motels. We’ll only be riding 20-35 miles per day, to give us plenty of time for sightseeing. There’s a major bird sanctuary there, and Rob’s sisters are interested in doing some genealogy research, as his mother’s family is from this area.

Tomorrow, I’m all set to start a new book (in my new office!) I’m going to work up a proposal for three more Project Justice books. I’m waiting for my friend Charlotte to read the vampire book and give me feedback.

Oh, and one more thing. I’m teaching an online class starting tomorrow (Monday, May 7) How to Quit Your Day Job, with the Heart of Carolina Romance Writers. Here is the link if you’d like to check it out: http://heartofcarolina.org/online-classes.html It’s only $20 for a three-week class.



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We can all agree that caffeine wakes you up, a scary situation causes your body to produce adrenaline, and certain boring books put you to sleep. But the mind-body connection goes so much further than that. Research continues to prove just how closely our minds and bodies are connected, which has huge implications for writers. Are there foods you can eat to make you more creative? Will the time of day you work out affect the number of pages you write in a day? Can writing an emotional scene make you mad at your husband? Join me for a fun and interesting two weeks, learning about the latest research and how you can apply it to improve your writing (and maybe improve your life). It starts today! (and runs for 2 weeks).

Here’s the link http://www.coffeetimeromance.com/board/forumdisplay.php?f=1849

Scroll down to find the forum. I believe you can read without registering, but to post replies, ask questions etc. you have to register.

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Catch Up Blog

I have been so bad lately about blogging. There’s been lots going on.

The biggest news is, the first two Project Justice books made the finals of the Rita competition! The call took me completely by surprise, as I’d forgotten what day the notifications were going out. I tried to be calm but I’m afraid I shrieked a bit.

Once Rob scraped me off the ceiling, I had a new set of problems. They gave me a deadline for providing five more copies of my books and an author photo. I am completely out of my first book. I’ve never done that before, but this book has always been in short supply. I wasn’t able to order an extra box even when they were new. So now I am reduced to ordering used copies from Amazon, one at a time, and hoping they show up in time that I can send them.

And the photo … oh, dear God. I haven’t had a proper portrait done in years. I have a couple of semi-flattering snapshots I’ve been using for guest blogs, facebook, whatever, but this picture will be blown up to about twenty feet wide on a screen in a huge ballroom, and a snapshot won’t do. So I bit the bullet and found a professional photographer. He was all the way out in Venice, but I really liked his portfolio and he was reasonable. I should bet the proofs soon, and he said he can turn around the final image pretty quickly. I also forked over the dough to have my hair and make-up professionally done. If I don’t win the award, at least I got a new picture!

Tomorrow is April 1, the first day of Script Frenzy. Script Frenzy is like NaNoWriMo, except that instead of writing a novel in a month, you write a screenplay. I haven’t written a script in a long time so this will be good for me. I am taking one of my failed novels and seeing if the story will work better as a movie.

And finally, I am STILL painting my office. I’m on the second coat of enamel for the woodwork; can’t wait until it’s finished! Once I can move all my junk back into one place, instead of having it spread all over the house, I will be so much … I was going to say happier, but I’m happy. More at ease, maybe.

That is pretty much my life. It’s raining (almost always a happy thing in Southern California) so I think I’ll head for bed with a good book.

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