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Sandra Orchard, Deep Cover

Please join us in welcoming today’s Guest Chef, Sandra Orchard.

Sandra Orchard was the 2009 Daphne DuMaurier Award winner in theunpublished category and sold to Harlequin’s Love Inspired Suspense the following year. Her newly released debut novel, Deep Cover, is the first book in her Undercover Cops series: Fighting for justice puts their lives—and hearts—on the line. Sandra hails from Southern Ontario, Canada.

You can find her at:





Blurb:  Maintaining his cover cost undercover cop Rick Gray the woman he loved. Sweet Ginny Bryson never really knew Rick. He never gave her the chance. Not then, and not now, when he’s back with a new alias to gather evidence against Ginny’s uncle. The man’s crimes led to Rick’s partner’s death, and Rick wants justice to be served. But his investigation is stirring up trouble, and Ginny is smack-dab in the middle. Someone wants Ginny to pay the price for what her uncle has done. But how can Rick protect her without blowing his cover, jeopardizing his assignment…and risking both their lives?

Thanks so much for the invitation, Darcy and Debbie. I’m so excited to be here as one of your Guest Chefs, and I look forward to hearing from all of you. Many people have asked me what’s the secret to writing an award-winning story. Well, after much deliberation I think I’ve figured it out. Post-it notes!

That’s right. Post-it notes.

Picture a computer monitor with notes tacked all along its base and a book shelf on either side lined with more notes. That’s what my desk looks like. I’m a list writer. I need to see things written down if I’m going to remember to do them. Here’s the most important:

Why? Why? Why?

You need to understand your character’s motivations, not just surface motivations, deep-seated motivations. Keep asking why until you get to the very root of their motivations and then put it on the page.

Characters choices must drive actions.

If an editor or agent tells you that your story is episodic, this is the post-it for you. In each scene, your character needs a goal. Then you throw in a bunch of obstacles to that goal, until finally the goal seems unattainable—at least not without great cost—leaving your character with a dilemma. What do they do now? The decision they come to will drive the action of their next scene…unless they get sideswiped off course by another character’s actions of course.

Slow down. Five Senses.

The five senses are a writer’s best friend. Whether you’re writing a romance scene or a suspense scene, anchoring the scene with specific details will heighten the tension, drawing out the sense of danger or anticipation. For example, in my opening scene I could’ve simply said that the construction site was muddy from last night’s storm. Instead, I added more details and chose specific words to convey the hero’s growing uneasiness. “Last night’s rain had turned the Southern Ontario sandy loam into a soupy mess, and the late winter chill layering the air around Miller’s Bay bit through his damp jeans. Bit like the suspicion nipping at his thoughts that…”

Better, don’t you think? Then there’s my favorite note: What’s the worst thing that can happen right now?

It’s so much fun getting our characters into trouble, especially when escape seems impossible. And that apparent impossibility is what keeps the reader turning pages.

Your turn… What are some notes you write to yourself or keep filed in your mental file to remind you how to make your stories stronger?


To celebrate the launch of her debut novel, Sandra is giving away a $25 Amazon gift card to one lucky fan selected randomly on September 20th from her newsletter subscribers (,Facebook, and blog commenters (  fans (

And to one lucky commenter today, Sandra has offered to do a 3-page critique! 

Debbie Kaufman - September 7, 2011 - 5:56 am

Sandra, we must have been separated at birth! I am such a post-it girl :) Can’t function without them. Whiteboards are my other obsession, but I can live without them as long as I have my many packs of multi-colored post-its!
So glad to see you here on Petit Fours and congrats on your debut!

Marilyn Baron - September 7, 2011 - 6:37 am

Welcome to Petit Fours.We’re so happy to have you. I love your cover and blurb. Your advice was very helpful. I mostly use Post-It notes for dialogue. I’ll hear something interesting I might want to use in a book or hear a line of dialogue in my head and don’t want to forget it. I don’t use it for organization. Best of luck with your release.

Pam Asberry - September 7, 2011 - 6:43 am

I plot using post-its and a legal-size manila folder. It is so easy to arrange and rearrange those little sticky notes! Thank you for being with us today. Congrats on your debut and continued success!

Sandra Elzie - September 7, 2011 - 6:55 am

Hi Sandra,
Thanks for joining us today. Love your cover…and can’t wait to read it. I love suspense novels.

Post-its? I use them to remind me to add something additional…or to be sure to die up a certain loose end…haven’t used for plotting an entire story.

Blessings, Sandy

Sandra Orchard - September 7, 2011 - 7:22 am

Ladies, wow, you’re all up soo early! Very happy to be here. Yes, Debbie I’m a post-it note junkie.
Like Pam, I use post-its to storyboard, too, only on a big board on the wall divided into chapters.

Great idea, Marilyn, I’ll have to try using them for dialogue, too!

Sandra E – you stopped my hear there for a second with using them to remind yourself “to be sure to die” :lol: I make myself lots of little notes about loose ends to address, too. But inevitably…they get covered by papers, shuffled…you get the picture.

JB Hunt - September 7, 2011 - 9:19 am

Sandra, I’m wrestling with two scenes right now that don’t seem to have enough conflict driving them. Thanks for these helpful guidelines!

Sandra Orchard - September 7, 2011 - 9:33 am

So glad you found them helpful, JB.

Darcy Crowder - September 7, 2011 - 12:01 pm

Hi Sandra, we’re so glad to have you hear today. Congratulations on your release – I love the cover. :)

One of the post it’s I keep handy is “What is H/h greatest fear?” And “What is H/h deepest need/want/desire?” These two questions help keep me on track.

Thanks again, this was fun!

Sandra Orchard - September 7, 2011 - 12:55 pm

Oh, yes, Darcy, those are the essentials!!

Susan - September 7, 2011 - 12:59 pm

Thanks for joining us. I like the idea of asking what is the worst thing that can happen to my characters right now. It makes the tenion and conflict stay up front. Glad you stopped by.

Sandra Orchard - September 7, 2011 - 1:25 pm

Your welcome, Susan. :wink:

Linsey Lanier - September 7, 2011 - 4:53 pm

Big congratulations on your debut book, Sandra. Wow, “Deep Cover” sounds like a keeper. Thanks so much for those reminders. They are great. I need all of them. One of my notes I like to use is: CONFLICT, CONFLICT, CONFLICT, and the promise of MORE CONFLICT.

Thanks for being with us today.

Sandra Orchard - September 7, 2011 - 5:00 pm

Thanks so much Linsey. And you’d be one of Donald Maass’ star pupils. Conflict is so important.

Sia Huff - September 7, 2011 - 6:42 pm

Hi Sandra,
Congrats on your debut novel and your Daphne Award. Your Undercover cop series sounds great. Justice and duty or love, humm, hard decision.
I like sticky notes too. I keep one for motivation, one for internal conflict and one for flaws. I’m going to make a list of your other ones, as they are a great list. Thanks for blogging with us today and continued success.

Maxine Davis - September 7, 2011 - 7:47 pm

Ditto on all the congrats listed above. I do want to read Deep Cover!

I like post it notes. I’ll have to try that – beats a spiral notebook with lines drawn everywhere and “see p. _” written all over!

Sandra Orchard - September 7, 2011 - 8:11 pm

Hi Sia and Maxine, you are all so nice. I love being here! :)

Tami Brothers - September 7, 2011 - 9:45 pm

Hi Sandra! Great info here. LOVE you website. Am headed over to sign up for your newsletter now.

Post it notes! This is my dirty little secret obsession. I have a variety of colors, shapes, designs… You name it, I probably have it. :) LOVE Post it notes.

I use mine to separate the GMC for each character. Kind of like Pam, I keep them on a poster board and move them around as I need to. I do like Debbie’s idea of the white board, though. I use a white board (two actually) at work and that works well. I definitely think I’ll incorporate that in my writing.

I had not thought about reminder notes of things to add (like the senses). Definitely adding that to my list.

Thanks a ton for blogging here today. I love meeting new-to-me authors.

Tami :mrgreen:

Sandra Orchard - September 7, 2011 - 9:53 pm

You’re very welcome, Tami and thank you for the enthusiastic support!

I’ve got to say that I’m totally jealous of your multi-color and multi-shape post-its. I’m too cheap. I highlight them different colors, pink for heroine, blue for hero, purple for romance etc. Maybe now that I’ve actually sold a few books I should splurge :lol:

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