Monday, May 31, 2010

Are Prologues Permissible?

I’ve read prologues are passé. Big name authors can write one, but us lesser mortals are warned. Repeatedly. I know first-hand a prologue is a detractor in contest submissions.
In Breaking into Fiction,Mary Buckham and Dianna Love define a Prologue as “an inciting incident that occurs a significant amount of time before you shift to the protagonist’s Everyday World in the first chapter. The prologue is considered your story opening and should not be used as an information dump to get your character’s Back Story started.”
Recently I read two prologues that completely confused me. Both puzzle pieces of information made sense only after Chapter 4. My ah-ha’s! arrived with a side of irritation.
They honored the definition. (Now that I think about it, one was more of a backstory dump.)
My prologue attempt was definitely character explanation. I thought of it like the scenes during the opening credits in the average independent film.
Now I’m in rebound. I wrestle too long with my opening line, my opening paragraph. In my next WIP, I hope I’ll relax and write, then follow the common wisdom to write, and then delete paragraphs (and pages) until I find where my story should start.

Friday, May 28, 2010

***I want to start off by thanking you, Ana, for inviting me to the Heroines with Hearts blog. This is an honor, and a lot of fun!

1. Tami, you just learned you are a finalist in the 2010 Touch of Magic contest. Congratulations! Tell us about your urban paranormal “Bewitching the Beast.” Did you enter it in that contest for a reason?

***Yay! Thank you! Yes, I was thrilled to receive the news. Bewitching The Beast was a fun novel to write. I had just finished writing my historical, and while I love historicals, they have so many details to research. Writing an urban fantasy was so cool. Very freeing. No need to research if I could use a coat hanger or what kind of doorknob would have been on the door. I've been reading paranormals for years, and just love them. When an idea for a dark, menacing urban fantasy came to me from listening to music, I got pretty psyched. The music of Evanescence became my muse, and a story started to form in my head. But when I began writing, my heroine's voice took over. Her sense of humor is goofy and wry. She looks at life in a unique, quirky way. It totally took me by surprise, but I loved it. So my dark, brooding story turned into something with a lot of humor. The story is about Tess and Ethan. Tess is mourning the death of her fiance when she meets Ethan, a man possessed by The Beast, a dragon spirit who survives from absorbing human luck energy. The Beast forces Ethan to take Tess's energy, but for a split second, she blocks the spirits control over him. Without her energy to protect her, she's vulnerable to accidents and diseases most people can fight off. Ethan follows her, determined to protect her and find out how she affects The Beast. Ethan tries to explain the situation, but Tess thinks he's nuts. She doesn't believe in beasts and magic, not until she discovers her grandmother's Book of Shadows. She's descended from witches, and they warn her of her fate. The Beast isn't the only one of his kind. There's another, and he wants Tess dead. I entered the Touch of Magic contest because of the final judge. In this economy, I'm finding it harder and harder to get my work in front of industry professionals. Contests give me a chance to get those people to read my pages.

2. You have finaled in contests before. “Once Upon A Masquerade,” your historical, finaled three times in 2008 and almost won the 2009 Romantic Times American Title V contest. That must have been so affirming. Give us, please, your take on contests. Do you do anything special with your entry? How do you select a contest to enter? What it was like to be a finalist in such a big contest?

***Just being a finalist in the American Title contest was incredible. We had to send 50 pages to Dorchester, who asked for the full manuscript. They ultimately chose the eight finalists who competed. We sent requested samples of our work to the Romantic Times magazine, who on a monthly basis would publish an excerpt in their issue. From there the public could vote for their favorites, and each month one or two finalists would be dropped. The person who received the most votes at the end, had their book published by Dorchester. Amazing. I must say I learned a lot about promotion. I had to figure out how to get votes. Not so easy. I came in second place, which amounted to six months of marketing myself and my book. It was crazy and stressful, but well worth the experience. I made media contacts I never would have connected with if I hadn't pushed myself so hard. Overall, I use contests in two ways. When I finish a book, I like to get a general feel of how readers will respond to it. So those first couple of contests are meant to get a reaction I can use to tweak things. Beyond that, I consider who the final judges are. As I mentioned before, I primarily enter contests to get pages in front of industry professionals. I do tailor my entry to the contest. If I'm only allowed 20 pages, I make sure I use as many pages as I can while still ending on a strong hook. That may mean I cut back here and there to make it fit. You want to capture and hold the judge's attention, giving it your best shot. In fact, I've found that when I do need to cut words and sentences to make my entry fit into the page limit, sometimes if I permanently cut those things, the story is better. It's a great exercise.

3. Your website looks nice. I especially liked your “Tips for Writers” page. And I was wowed by all the airtime you’ve gotten in the Twin Cities press. Romance writers don’t often get recognized by TV stations and major metropolitan newspapers. How did those interviews come about?

***Thank you! My website is a template from I looked at what other authors had done, and then put my own take on it. I like a very clean look. As for the airtime, yes, it got pretty crazy for a while there. When I was in the American Title competition, I wrote press releases to the local papers and my parent's hometown papers (anyone who would listen and maybe care). I didn't get a lot of response initially (except for the papers in Wisconsin where I grew up, bless their hearts). As the number of finalists dwindled, and my skill at writing press releases grew, I got a nibble. The newspaper where I now live picked up my story. From there, another voting round came and went. With only four finalists left, I got a call from our local TV station wanting to interview me. They'd seen the newspaper article. They came to my house and did a really nice story. Not long later, a producer from Twin Cities Live contacted me, asking to interview me on air. Talk about insane! During the final round of the contest, when there were only two of us left, I decided what the heck, and emailed some radio stations to see if they'd interview me. Two took me up on the offer, so I ended up on the radio too. And the funny thing was how calm I felt during the interviews. I learned a bit about myself, and my confidence as a writer grew.

4. You write that it took you a long time to discover you wanted to write. I think successive careers impart a) fodder for plots and characters, and b) the ability to become wise without becoming old. Do you feel some pressure in your writing career? What are your goals?

***The only pressure I feel in my writing career, I place on myself. I'm someone who drives myself to achieve (which sometimes drives me crazy too). As a working mom, I strove to be successful in my career as well as at home. Once we realized we could live off my husband's income, I quit my job to spend more time with the kids, and to write when they're in school. And for a while, I lost myself. With a paying job, you have a solid identity. Without it, I struggled with the idea of how people perceived me - a stay at home mom who writes, but isn't published, and makes no money at it. It really helped me to join a writing group, and a critique group. I need to hang around like-minded people going through the same thing I am. I'm really grateful for my RWA chapter (the Midwest Fiction Writers) and my critique group for their unfaltering support. My goals are simple. I strive to write as much as I'm able, given school breaks, sick kids, and life. More importantly I want to enjoy writing. I'm also working toward publication, but publication can't be my goal. Because it's out of my control. I can write the stories I love, query, and enter contests, but I can't control whether I'll final in a contest or catch the eye of an agent or editor. And I think I'm coming to terms with that now.

5. Are you a plotter or a pantser or a both-er?

***I do a bit of both, but probably lean a little more heavily toward pantser. Which is odd because I always thought I was an organized person. Creatively, I guess I'm not. I start out a story with an overall idea - maybe a beginning, a discovery at the end of Act Two, and a possible ending. I then do "character sketches," which are a series of questions I answer about each character just to get to know them. I organize the story threads as far as what the main plot line is, and what the romance issues are. Then I write. Periodically, I'll stop and assess how I'm doing on the story threads and think about if I'm dropping enough hints and details. For each chapter as I get to it, I'll also start out with a list of things the chapter should touch on, then usually write some dialogue before fleshing things out. My critique partners see each chapter as I churned it out to help me stay on track, but I do big time editing once the first draft is done.

6. I know you have a great critique partner. (maybe more than one). What is your process of critiquing each others WIP’s?

***Currently, I have three fabulous critique partners. I don't know what I'd do without them. Barb, Wynde, and Darcy - you rock!Usually we review each chapter in our first drafts as we write them. We look at everything from plot holes and motivation issues to grammar and spelling. Then it depends on the person. Two of my partners like to go back and fix anything mentioned in the critique and bring it back to the table for review. I like to wait on changes and do a bigger edit after the first draft is finished. My stories typically have complex plots, so I know I'll need to go back to fix things and add foreshadowing when I'm done anyway, because as a pantser I don't know the full story until it's written. So, I'd rather just make a bigger set of revisions than do changes now and go back again as the story requires it later. After my revisions, my critique partners read the whole thing and tell me what they think.

7. What are you working on now?

***I had begun the second book in the series planned for Bewitching The Beast. But then I read on an agent's blog that it would be better to wait until that first book is sold because a second book in a series may be a harder sell if the first is passed over. So, I've gone back to writing another historical. This one is a pirate story. Argh, me mateys! I love it. The hero is a total Casanova. I've never written a character like him before. He's a lot of fun. I'm also trying to write this one totally in the heroine's POV. We'll see how well it works. I usually like to know what the hero is thinking, but this hero is so vocal with what he's thinking (if you know what I mean), it doesn't seem to be a problem. That and I like that he's more of a mystery to the reader. Is he just a sexy pirate? Or is there more to the man than what meets the eye?

Visit Tami's website at

Thanks for being here today, Tami!

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Life Threatening Situation

Here's another excerpt from my upcoming release "This Can't Be Love"...

They paddled leisurely down the river. Occasionally Zach turned to comment about something on the shore, or a rock or log in the water she needed to steer around. But mostly he remained silent.
Jessica didn’t mind. The silence was companionable and allowed her to enjoy the sounds of nature around her. The chittering of birds in the trees. The rushing of the river as they passed by outcroppings of rocks. Even the buzz of insects as they flew around her head.
After about an hour, Zach turned. “We’re coming up to another set of rapids. Just do like you did last time. Take it wide. Use the paddle to control your direction.”
“Got it.”
“We’ll go one at a time.”
The choppy water of the rapids approached sooner than she’d expected. Jessica floated ahead of Zach. She dug her paddle in the water, steering through the maze of rocks dotting the river. A large rock loomed suddenly, and she stroked hard on the left to veer around it. But she over-compensated. Before she could react, the canoe tilted and spilled her into the water.
She surfaced to the sound of panic in Zach’s voice. “Jessica?”
“I’m okay,” she assured him, shaking water out of her eyes. She grabbed the empty canoe as it floated by. It twisted and banged against one of the rocks, wrenching her arm and jerking her around. Her back slammed into something hard, robbing her of breath. A wave crashed over her head.
She came up gasping.
“Jessica, let go of the canoe.” Zach’s voice held a deeper note of concern. He paddled closer.
Despite the pain radiating from her shoulder down her arm, she gripped the canoe, unwilling to let it float away. She grasped the aluminum edge tighter as the shifting current dragged her under again.

Until next time,

Happy Reading!


Wednesday, May 26, 2010


Here's a variation on the theme, again from my Lisa and Paul story. He's in mortal danger, but it's her fears I'm showing.

It was almost lunchtime when her phone rang. She glanced at the caller ID and saw it was Ralph. Feeling guilty that she hadn’t talked to him since Saturday, she picked it up. “Hi Ralph – sorry, I should have called - ”
“Lisa, get yourself to a TV,” Ralph interrupted. “Mount Kaluda has erupted.”
“Wh- what?”
“Get to a TV,” Ralph repeated. “Paul’s out there”
“Yes, I know but -”
“Lisa, they’ve lost contact with the team out on the south west rift – and that’s where the lava is coming down. I’m trying to find out where Paul is.”
Lisa’s heart started hammering and her mouth went dry. “Oh God,” she breathed, then stood up. “Okay. There’s a TV in the cafeteria. Thanks, Ralph. I’ll call you later.”
Despite the fact that she'd started to tremble, she raced across to the Charlton Building. In the cafeteria a crowd of people had gathered in front of the large TV screen. Millie was already there and Lisa went to stand next to her. A confused mix of panic and dread fought with the desperate hope that Paul wasn’t anywhere near Mount Kaluda. Her heart thumped painfully as she watched the live coverage of the eruption and she couldn't stop shaking. It really did look dramatic – an angry red and yellow mass of fire and lava shooting hundreds of feet up in the sky. She struggled to concentrate on the commentary.
“Kaluda’s eruption started just over an hour ago - at six ten, Hawaiian Standard Time. It was thought that the renewed activity in the previous few hours would simply lead to the venting of gas and possibly the throwing out of rock fragments – both of which have been happening during this last week. But then at six fifteen, a larger earth tremor opened up a new fissure which has led to this major eruption.”
‘Get on with it,’ Lisa thought frantically as she twisted one hand around the other. ‘Where’s Paul?’
She had to wait for a few more minutes before the commentator introduced someone called Russell Baines, one of the scientists at the Volcano Center, and all her nerves tightened. If Paul had been available, surely they would have interviewed him?
“We’ve had a team out on the south west rift for the last five days,” Russell said. “They’ve been monitoring the seismic activity and also collecting samples of rocks and gases. But we lost radio contact with them when the quake started at six ten and have not yet been able to re-establish contact.”
“And are they in a danger area?”
Russell nodded. “Unfortunately, yes. Our last position for them was where the main lava flows are now coming down.”
“Can they get out of the way of the lava flows?”
“Yes, of course – lava doesn’t travel fast on the lower slopes. But the main danger is from falling rock and the debris avalanche which of course moves a lot faster than the lava. With all the smoke, it’s impossible at the moment to see whether there has been any substantial fall of rock from around the new fracture. There are also the noxious gases and burning ash, and of course there’s always a danger of being trapped between two lava flows.”
“How many people are we talking about?”
“There are six scientists from the Center here - ”
“Including the Director, Steve Barrington?”
“Dr Barrington went out to join the team yesterday with Dr Paul Hamilton who came out here on Sunday. They were only intending to stay one night at the camp. Dr Hamilton was keen to do some filming of Kaluda overnight.”
“Oh dear God, no,” Lisa breathed. Nausea rose inside her and she swayed unsteadily.
Millie looked round at her. “Lisa – you okay?” She put her arm quickly around Lisa’s shoulders. “No, you’re not – come on, sit down. You look as if you’re about to keel over.”
Lisa let herself be led to one of the chairs and started to tremble violently. Everything was swimming in front of her, there was a whooshing sound in her ears and she thought she was going to faint.
“Mike, get a glass of water,” she heard Millie call out, and then Millie pushed her head down so that it was resting on her knees. “Take some deep breaths, Lisa.”
Lisa did so and gradually the dizziness receded. “I told him go to hell,” she whispered as she lifted her head again.
“What? Here, have some water.” Millie offered the glass to her, but all Lisa could do was raise anguished eyes to her friend.
“The last time I saw him – the last thing I said to him – I told him to go to hell.”
“Yes. And now – oh God - ” Her hands went to her cheeks, and then she looked round at the television again. “Have they said any more – about the team, about Paul?”
“No, they still haven’t made radio contact.”
Numbly Lisa nodded and took the glass from Millie. As she sipped the water, she felt totally unreal, as if everything was happening to someone else. But at the same time, she couldn’t keep her eyes off the TV screen which was now showing the deep rivers of lava rolling relentlessly down the slopes of Kaluda. And somewhere on those slopes was Paul. She clenched her hands and bit her lip hard, not wanting to put the unthinkable into words, even in her mind.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Fear description

I don't have many fear scenes in my novels. Here is one from my completed MS:

Upstairs, she stripped off her clothes and turned on the shower. While the water warmed, she tossed on her robe and walked into her bedroom. When she opened her closet, she saw the white Stetson Dustin gave her resting on top of a shoebox at the bottom of the closet. She did have him to thank for her growing business.

To her right, dirty red sneakers stood behind her hanging clothes. Her body froze.

A hand reached out and took hold of her wrist. “Don’t be afraid. I’m not here to hurt you.”

His grip was too tight for her to pull away. He pushed her backwards as he made his way out of the closet. He was a good three inches taller than her five feet five inches. His blonde hair looked dirty and his deep blue eyes were more distinctive than through a ski mask.

“What do you want?” she choked out.

“I’m sorry. I didn’t know you were home. The front door was open and I just wanted to see inside. I’m not here to hurt you. I’ve been keeping a watch at night, making sure nothing happens to you while Alex is gone.”

“Alex?” she choked out as her heart pounded against the inside of her rib cage. “You know my son?”

Sunday, May 23, 2010

H/H is in mortal danger: describing fear

My heroine Erin has just facilitated a mediation where Quintos lost his chance at a million dollar settlement. He wants revenge.
Have I shown (adequately) her fear in this scene?

Erin walked around the church toward her car.
Up ahead someone started an old, blue pickup with round, yellowed headlights. The vehicle approached, and she stepped closer to the church building to allow it to pass. It swerved and blocked her path. The door opened and a bottle crashed onto the uneven pavement.
She reached in her pocket for her car key and gripped it between her knuckles.
“Don’t you know there is no salvation for a woman like you?”
He shuffled forward until he was even with the hood of his truck. “Si, Erin Foster. I have watched how you strut around. I ask Señor Professor after the play if he thought you could be a role mother to my Belinita. If at your age you would like a big man like me.” He thumped his chest and swayed on his feet. “But now I think you are not worth the same as dirt. You ruined her chances for a good life.”
“That’s not true. Belina has a host of opportunities. Other girls have…”
“No! She is ruined, and you showed no respect. In my country, such an insult must be avenged.” He hopped back in with surprising nimbleness, revved the engine, and flipped on a second, blinding pair of lights. The truck rolled forward and bumped her. “Run, puta,” he shouted. “Run or you will die.”
She spun around and ran, faster and faster, stealing glances over her shoulder to see how close he was coming, straining to see the back corner of the building.
Laughing like a mad hyena, he bumped her again.
She stumbled. Her precious envelope slipped out of her hands. She regained her footing and rounded the building. Sprinted for the rectory gate, trying to remember if she’d pulled it shut. If the latch locked.
With both hands, she shook the gate. Prayed it would open.
He gunned the engine.
If she screamed, no one could save her.
The churchyard! She peered frantically into the dark. Started to set up the correct footing to hurdle the shoulder-high fence.
Quintos slammed into her.
She flew through the air, and stretched out her arms to break her fall. The bones in her wrists shattered a split-second before her head smashed into the jagged asphalt. The truck ran over her and crashed into the fence, shattering glass and crushing metal.
Quintos opened his door and leaned out. “I got you. I got you good.” Grinding gears, he spun tires in reverse until the truck wrenched free.
She choked on smoking rubber as he sped off into the night.
Blood pooled around her face, then flowed like lava toward the twisted spires of the fence. She hugged the blacktop for it scant warmth, willing her mind to disengage from her broken body.
Off in the distance, several dogs barked fitfully.
She’d always believed her dying wish would be to go to heaven. She was surprised she longed to kiss Per one more time.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Brenda Whiteside

Meet Brenda Whiteside!

1. Brenda's novel, Sleeping with the Lights, on debuts today!!!
Brenda, I read the e-copy in one long sitting because I simply could not put it down. It is an engaging read. Tell HWH about it.

Thank you, Ana. That’s quite a compliment. I had so much fun writing this story. The idea came from a conversation with my sister years ago. She found herself single, again, and bemoaning her latest date night. She was complaining, but we also had quite a few laughs about her single adventures as a divorced woman. I saw a story. My heroine, Sandra Holiday, is not the typical romance heroine. She’s fifty, single, and stuck in a job she’s not happy with. Love seems to have eluded her while the quest for love has sidetracked her from a meaningful career. But she hasn’t given up. And even though she knows what she wants, she’s still vulnerable. She’s on a journey to find love and find it on her terms while always keeping her sense of humor. On the journey, she finds herself.

2. How long did this novel take to write and polish? When did you know/feel it was ready to submit?

I know it sounds odd, but I’m not sure exactly how long. My original idea was for a short story. I was working on some other stories and would come back to it now and then but I couldn’t see how to get to the ending without going on and on. The original short story version had three main characters but as I wrote a few more popped up. I had to let them play their part! Sandra couldn’t get done what she needed to get done in short story style. So I ignored it for months. I think when I finally made the commitment to write Sleeping as a novel, I spent nearly a year. My writing time is limited so I don’t exactly crank out manuscripts. Once my critique partners had seen all the chapters, I wrote “the end”!

3. Did you submit to just the Wild Rose Press? How long did you wait for “the call?”

That’s a funny story. I entered Sleeping in two contests. Shortly after, I had heard good things about The Wild Rose Press. Although I had intended on waiting until I got the contest results back before submitting to publishers, I thought what the heck? I submitted my query to TWRP the first week of April, 2009, and within 3 days had a request for a partial. The complete was requested in May and by the end of June I had a contract. A few days later I got my first contest results back. They ripped me! The second contest results were not quite so bad but I certainly didn’t win any honors. I realized later I had checked the wrong category on the first contest. (What an excuse, right?) But if TWRP had not already offered me a contract, I might have been so crushed that Sleeping would be collecting dust in a drawer to this day.

4. Your website has extremely nice lines, colors and images. Did you design it yourself? If so (or no) what tips can you give about creating avisually pleasing, fast loading, readily expanded website (like yours)?

Thank you. I’m pleased with it. This is my second web site. My husband and I designed and maintained the first one. I would say the site was functional but I wanted something that looked more professional, in my mind anyway. I have writer friends that have designed their own sites and they look great. Not my thing. Enter Rae Monet. She tapped into me – could figure out what I wanted when I could barely verbalize my vision. Plus the time required for maintaining was torture for me. I want to write not fiddle with a web site. I was worse than Oscar the Grouch on web maintenance days.

5. How long have you been writing? Tell us about your journey to publication? Did you enter contests? Take classes? Join a critique group?

All of the above! I’ve always liked to write but I also liked to paint. As a child I received more kudos for my art attempts and as a result art won out for quite a few years. In college, I majored in Commercial Art. Then I took a creative writing class in my early twenties and put my paints away. I’ve taken a couple of other classes since then. I haven’t entered many contests. But I have had better luck with them on my short pieces than I did with Sleeping!
When I moved to Minnesota in 1993, something happened. I have almost a physical response to Minnesota. My creative juices flow – I think I can actually feel them. Honestly! We moved back to Arizona for two years in 2002 and I couldn’t write – juices dried up. Moved back here and I started writing again. Maybe my muse lives here and refuses to move with me. I joined my first critique group in 1995 and will never be without CP’s again. My writing improved leaps and bounds after that. That group didn’t last forever so I found others. I really owe my publications to the ladies that read my work and give me feedback.
I’ve always loved short stories, both reading and writing. For years I didn’t submit them for publication. I wrote my first book nearly ten years ago. I have quite a hefty pile of rejections from agents as well as publishers for my first attempt. After that, I concentrated on short stories again and have published in both e-zine and some small publications. Joining Romance Writers of America and our local chapter, Midwest Fiction Writers, has had an impact on my writing. I learn from other writers and the information available about the business of writing helped me get published. The craft of writing is a solitary endeavor and organizations like RWA and MFW are valuable beyond words.

6. What are your top five tips to share with aspiring authors?
1. Write, write, write – even if only for 15 minutes in the morning before your day job. Don’t use lack of time for an excuse.
2. Join a critique group or find a critique partner who will give you detailed, honest feedback
3. Submit but make sure you are submitting to a magazine, agent, publisher, etc. that accepts your genre. Otherwise, you’re wasting your time and getting rejections for the wrong reason.
4. Join appropriate professional organizations like RWA and MFW.
5. Write, write, write!!

7. What are you working on now and how is it going?

My current project is a 1945 Historical Romance. I have always romanticized that era, watched old movies growing up. My mom would sing around the house all the time – those wonderful big band songs. She’s been a huge help with my research. Although this book is quite different from Sleeping, there’s still that common thread I find myself always writing about – self discovery. In Sleeping, Sandra took the journey as a woman of experience. In my current manuscript, my heroine is young and inexperienced but still groping her way on that same journey. I’m within 3 or 4 chapters of having a completed manuscript, but then will dive into the editing process. And I’m really antsy to have it finished and start submitting. My next two books are simmering and I can’t wait to get them down on paper, er, typed into the computer! I’ll be back to contemporary romance.

Excerpt from 'Sleeping with the Lights On':
After two failed marriages and countless relationships, Sandra Holiday thinks she’s met the man to end her years of less than perfect choices; choices that not only derailed her travel-related career plans but also left her single and broke.

Carson Holiday, a Las Vegas country crooner with swoon-inducing good looks, spent his adult life pursuing a recording contract and love, never holding on to either. After eighteen years, he drops back into Sandra’s life, reigniting an attraction he can’t deny.

When Carson reappears, Sandra must choose again. Only this time, nothing’s as it seems. A secret admirer, a redheaded stalker, and an eccentric millionaire throw her on a dangerous path, with Carson her only truth.

As life confronts her with yet another turning point, will her decisions find her eternally sleeping with the lights on – or will she finally discover a way to turn them off?
Thank you, Ana, for the opportunity. I had fun!

Brenda has been writing all of her life in one way or another from the captions on her childish artwork to teenage psychedelic scrolls to her current novel.

After publishing several short stories, she turned to writing novels. Regardless of the length of her story, the characters drive her forward, taking her on their journey of discovery and love.

Her life is blessed with three creative soul mates. Her son, a singer/song writer lives in a far off western town in the pines. She lives in Minnesota, a nature wonderland that captured her heart seventeen years ago, with her husband, an excellent photographer, and their dog Rusty, who creates joy (and is the smartest dog in the world).

Visit Brenda at
Or on FaceBook:

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Elevator Excerpt

I've really enjoyed the fantasy elevator scenes this week! Thanks, ladies, you are a very talented and creative bunch.

Due to lack of time and real life demands(Don't you hate it when real life intrudes into fantasy time?!), I'm "cheating" a bit and posting an excerpt from one of my books that happens to take place in an elevator.

In the elevator heading toward Claire’s apartment, Abby took a deep breath. How in the world were they going to break the news?
She glanced over at Noah, who like her had fallen silent when the doors closed. He looked calm and unaffected, as if he didn’t have a care in the world. She wished she could say the same. Butterflies danced in her stomach. She kept hoping she’d wake up from the bizarre dream she was having.
But Noah’s presence beside her was all too real. They stood close in the small elevator. The smell of his aftershave surrounded her, tickling her nose with its crisp scent. When he shifted his feet, his arm brushed hers. She tried not to look at him.
So she glued her eyes to the ascending numbers above the door.
She couldn’t be considering marrying this man. This stranger.
Someday she wanted to meet someone and settle down. Then she’d have everything she’d always wished for. Right down to the white picket fence and the family dog.
But not like this. Never like this, and especially not with someone like Noah. She wanted someone who would settle down with her. Not be off to all corners of the world on a whim. One lifetime of that had been quite enough.
But then again, they weren’t settling down. Like Noah had said, it wasn’t like this was ’til death us do part. They’d be married for a week. Then they’d each go on with their own lives—she back to her cozy house in the suburbs, and Noah back to his adventures.
Noah jarred her from her thoughts with a nudge from his shoulder. “Hey.”
He grinned. “Don’t worry, it’s going to be okay.”
She made a face at him. “You keep saying that.”
“Because it’s the truth.”
She must have still looked skeptical because he added, “Really.”
“I guess the only thing we can do is get this over with and then move on with our lives.” Abby voiced the thoughts that spun around in her head.
Noah nodded in agreement as a soft ding signaled they’d reached their destination. The doors slid open.
She hesitated. She couldn’t do this. How would Claire react?
“Come on.” Noah grabbed her hand and tugged her out of the elevator. She ignored the unwelcome spark his touch generated.
All too soon they reached Claire’s apartment.
Abby bit her lip.
Noah squeezed the hand he held. “You okay?”
She nodded even though her heart raced.
Before they could knock, the door opened and Claire poked her head out. “Took you long enough,” she began, then stopped when she saw Noah. “What are you doing here?” Her gaze dropped to their joined hands. She frowned.
Abby let go of Noah’s hand. She shook off the sudden feeling of loss and faced her friend. “We have to talk to you about something.”

Until next time,

Happy Reading!


Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Problem with comments

Just trying something here, to see if I can post something, or whether that will disappear like my comments are doing.
I'll delete this later if it works, and assume that it's just the comments that are vanishing!

Elevator Romance

She sprinted from the entrance towards the elevator as the doors started to close.
“Hold it,” she called. “Please.”
The doors slid together even before she had the chance to risk crushing her fingers in them.
“Damn!” she muttered. She was already late for her audition and now she was going to be even later.
She watched as the numbers above the door went up at an agonisingly slow rate. God, how many people were getting out at the fifth floor? It had stopped there for ages. But maybe it would start to come down again.
No, it was still going up. Ten, fifteen, twenty…
She tapped her foot. “Come on, come ON!”
Then at last it was coming down again. Another long stop at the tenth floor.
“Come on,” she muttered again.
It could only have been minutes but seemed like hours before the longed-for ‘ping’ rang out as the elevator reached the ground floor.
Another wait while the crowded elevator disgorged its passengers, but finally she was in.
She was about to press the number fifteen button when a voice called out, “Hold the door please!”
Although tempted to hit the button anyway, she stopped. Maybe if she did her good deed for the day, it would bring her good luck in her audition. She pressed the ‘doors open’ button.
“Thanks,” the man said as he reached the doors.
She stared at him and her heart started to race. Surely it wasn’t …? It couldn’t be - could it?
It was. She’d know him anywhere. How many times had she drooled over his gorgeous dark eyes, that dark wavy hair, those broad shoulders, those long legs?
He leaned across to press the button. Fifteen. The same floor as she wanted. This had to be a dream come true.
“I love your films,” she said. Oh lord, she sounded like some star-struck teenager. “I mean, I’m not just a fan, I’m an actress myself -” At least she would be if she ever managed to land a job.
“I know,” he said and smiled. That wonderful smile which made her knees weak.
“You know?”
“Yes, I’ve admired so much of your work. I never thought I’d ever have the chance to do this -”
She froze as he took a step towards her, put his arms around her and brought his mouth to hers. His lips took possession of her in a seductive demand for surrender. As his tongue gently fondled hers, sensations that she had never known before scorched through her, ignited every nerve and melted every bone. She gripped his shoulders, her head went back and involuntarily she arched towards him, thrilling exquisitely to the feel of his hard body against hers. The surrender he demanded was complete as she responded with the same fervour, wanting more, still more.
He drew back from her when the elevator stopped and the bell pinged.
Damn it, if only they were going up to the fiftieth floor instead of the fifteenth, who knows what could have happened?
“Thank you,” he said and smiled at her again as the doors slid open.
Completely disorientated, she followed him out of the elevator.
“Ah, you must be Jeremy,” said the woman who sat at the desk near the elevator, “and you must be Susan. Welcome.”
She stared at him. “Jeremy? You mean you’re not Colin -?”
He stared back at her. “Susan? But I thought you were Angelina - ”
They both looked at the big sign on the desk - Auditions for Look-Alikes, today at 11am.
He smiled – Colin’s smile, except it wasn’t.
She smiled back – Angelina’s smile, except it wasn’t.
“Good luck, Susan,” he said.
“Good luck, Jeremy,” she replied.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Elevator Romance

She never cared for the automatic ride in a germ-infested elevator. With each stop, the cramped quarters became tolerable. When the last person exited, she took a deep breath.

“Finally,” she said. “Three more floors and I’m out of here.” But when the bell dinged and stopped one more time, she waited to see who would be accompanying her for the flight down.

Her body froze when the doors glided open. The once hottest country music singer stepped in and stood beside her. She inhaled his masculine musk scent and clenched her fists to keep them from wondering.

She’d been a fan since his “Gambler” and “Coward of the County” days. “Six Pack” had always been her favorite movie. She cried for weeks when his perfect marriage had ended in divorce, and then cried for months when no one gave her the phone number to his alleged phone-sex line.

Most men looked dirty sporting a beard, but to her it was his trademark. And the way his voice vibrated when he sang always sent shivers down her spine.

She glanced at his tush and smiled. What would he do if—? Just one touch wouldn’t hurt.

When he glanced over his shoulder and met her gaze, all the years of admiration she felt for him vanished.

She raised her hand and slapped him upside the back of the head. “You’re a dumb ass.”

“Ouch.” He reached up and rubbed his wound. “What was that for?”

“Going under the knife and erasing the lines and wrinkles that defined the turmoil, failures, and success you’ve endured in your lifetime.”

“I did that for you.”

“You what?” As much as she wanted to believe he knew she lived on the same planet, she wasn’t naive.

He pulled a picture from his wallet and handed it to her. She’d sent a school picture to him years ago inside a fan letter. “I love you. Your biggest fan” on the back was faded.

“I wanted to look like that young man you loved back then.” He grabbed her waist, tipped her backward, and slowly placed his soft lips against hers. “It’s good to finally meet my biggest fan.”

Monday, May 17, 2010

Elevator Romance

What if the man of your dreams stepped into your elevator? It's you and him. What happens?

Take 1:

There was a young lady from Perk
In love with the delivery man at work.
She phoned in ten orders
from chocolates to flowers
and left the lift happy and married.

Friday, May 14, 2010

Lizbeth Selvig

Welcome Lizbeth! Tell us about yourself.

It’s a little cliché for a writer to say, but I’ve been making up stories and writing them down almost as long as I can remember. I grew up in Minneapolis, Minnesota, an only girl with three brothers, and all of us, although our family was generally normal, had bizarre imaginations. My brothers made up games like incorporating treasure maps into my mother’s wallpaper. I wrote stories about going on arctic expeditions with Paul McCartney. (He was an amazing survivalist, in case you were wondering.)

My stories have matured and no longer include former childhood crushes, although there are still arctic adventures. Well, come to think of it, there may still be some crushes, too, but the names have been changed to protect the innocent. I still live in Minnesota with my wonderful husband, Jan, and our manic Border Collie, Magic. We have two grown children, a daughter who’s an equine veterinarian married to a lawyer, the other a son who is a musician, recording engineer and business accountant-type/computer guy. Between them they’ve given us twelve four-legged “grandchildren”—from horses, dogs, and cats to lizards and goats. Needless to say, I have no end of fodder for my writing.

Very many moons ago I earned a journalism degree from the University of Minnesota, and I’ve worked on and off as both a reporter and editor. I love to travel and am incredibly lucky to have lived in Germany, Canada and Alaska. Jan and I love to hike and made some gorgeous treks through the Alaskan mountains. Minnesota has no mountains—but it’s got miles of gorgeous trails too. We hope to hit most of them. And I hope to use them, and the rest of my adventures, as inspiration for lots of years to come.

1. Liz, Songbird was a finalist in the 2010 Golden Heart contest. Congratulations! How does it feel? When did you decide to enter? What did you do to get Songbird ready to submit?

Thank you very much! I’d entered the Golden Heart® once before with a different manuscript and reached the top 25%, so when Songbird won the only chapter contest I entered it in, I knew I wanted to give it a shot at the GH. The manuscript got a huge polish job, I cut about 10,000 words, crossed my fingers and sent it off last November. Whether the polishing or the finger-crossing made the difference I’m not sure. A lot of writing success has to do with pixie dust—so I don’t discount the fingers!

Finaling in the Golden Heart® has been amazing. For me, although getting to know the other finalists and anticipating the national meeting is an honor and so exciting, the biggest changes from this experience are internal. The validation and confidence that came almost instantaneously with the ‘your manuscript has finaled’ phone call is immeasurable. I have a new and different attitude about submitting work and accepting rejections. Suddenly, magically, I believe my writing is good enough to connect with an agent or editor sometime. Of course, the pure thrill of finaling hasn’t worn off either—the feeling is as bubbly as that famous Sally Fields Oscar speech: “You like me! You really like me!”

2. What has happened since the GH awards? Have you received requests from editors or agents? Have you submitted it?

So far no requests -- the pixie dust hasn’t floated its way to an agent’s desk quite yet. But I’m inspired by the success of so many of my fellow finalists this year, and their stories have given me the kicks-in-the-bum I needed to really start marketing this book. I now have five queries circulating at any given time, so one rejection isn’t devastating. There’s always hope bubbling away. Not that my couple of post-GH rejections haven’t still entailed several hours of moping and gob-stopping amounts of dark chocolate! But, I really am finding I can process more quickly and tell myself, “Okay, I didn’t have this agent’s cup of tea today—it’s business.” That lesson’s been a long time coming!

3. Your website says you have won contests since 2005. What have you learned from entering? What are the pros and cons of contests for you?

Despite entering a few contests now and then, I’m actually not much of a contest diva—you know, that Sally Fields thing in reverse: “Will they like me? Will they really like me?” Because I have great critique partners in two states (!), I don’t enter contests for the judges’ comments as much as for the chance to get my manuscript in front of a particular agent or editor, and to give a new story a test drive. In doing that, I have gained valuable skills from contests, like: 1) How to take varying criticisms with a grain of salt and only consider the suggestions that make sense to me, which is not anywhere near as easy to do as it sounds! 2) How to have tougher skin, which I tell myself is priming me for those (very few, I pray) less-than-stellar reviews once the book is published! 3) How to intentionally break the rules. Sounds silly, but knowing what are considered to be the “rules” of writing for contests etc. allows you to make purposeful choices when you use odd grammar, write a prologue, switch points of view, etc.

4. Your new website is one of the best I’ve visited lately. I loved your grammar quiz. (I eeked out a passing grade.) You did it yourself. What pearls of wisdom can you share about that process?

Wow, that is such a nice compliment, thank you! I enjoyed putting my site together and have to give a shout-out to online templates (I used GoDaddy—but heard about so many others as I was deciding which to use). They make the process easy for those of us with no formal Website-building knowledge. If you’ve been able to work with any kind of desktop publishing software (MS Publisher, for example) and know how to move text boxes around and insert pictures into a document, you’ll have a little leg up. But, really, with a tiny bit of an “I’m more stubborn than this software” attitude, you can come up with something pretty fun. If anyone has ever thought about putting up a Website but is hesitating, I promise you, fear no more! This was on my list for two years – and it ended up being very satisfying. I count it as one of my favorite achievements. (Umm, don’t know what that says about my life in general.)

And I’m really glad you liked the quiz, Ana. I hope to put up a new one periodically so we can all keep testing ourselves. Isn’t it weird to love grammar? I’m afraid to open my grammar books, because I’ll be lost for at least half an hour. It’s not quite as much fun as creating a fabulous, handsome hero—but you wow at parties with your knowledge of such important things as “copulative verbs.” (I’d love anyone who hasn’t done it to check out my site and tell me what you think – or send me questions for the quiz!)

5. You are the current president of Midwest Fiction Writers, and headed a RWA chapter in Alaska. I can attest that this is not just a feather in your cap. You work hard at it. Tell us about this aspect of your writing life.

Gosh, that’s another really nice thing for you to say. I really do enjoy my role as president at MFW, and I loved the job in Alaska too. I’ve been volunteering in various organizations for twenty-five years (Girl Scouts, Cub Scouts, Pony Club, and RWA) and I keep finding myself on boards or in leadership positions—usually because I don’t duck when people come looking for victims ah… volunteers. But I can truly say that in RWA I’ve found a group where volunteering is a joy. And it’s a huge part of my writing life. I’ve made the best friends being on the two chapter boards, and I’ve gained confidence in talking about my writing. It’s fun and a privilege to be the face of such a professional organization when I get to introduce speakers or greet guests. I’ll take that confidence with me when I meet agents and editors long after my term is over. I think being president is the easiest job on the board – but others say no. It’s also been the best way to give back to RWA—even though it’s hardly enough to pay for the benefits I’ve received. But, I’m also a natural ham, so it’s good to have a place where I can channel that into something I love. I hope my legacy is that I made our chapter a fun and welcoming place to be—that’s something I do work very hard at accomplishing.

6. What is your writing process? Pantser, plotter or fluid outliner?

Oooh, fluid outliner! I kinda like that! I think, to be honest, I am a Pantsaliner Otter. And I’m not really being flippant (okay, I am), but I’m definitely the embodiment of a confused writer. My natural process is to pants the first two-thirds of the book, then plot the end, but structure from the start would probably not hurt me. But, I love the adventure of starting with a blank page, a character, a situation and a place, then jumping in and letting the most marvelous things happen. Unfortunately, this always makes for some heavy duty editing and tightening when the manuscript is done.

So, I’ve tried a bunch of the plotting “programs” out there: Karen Wiesner’s, “First Draft in 30 Days,” Michael Hauge’s story templates, Randy Ingermanson’s Snowflake Method. My weaker left brain LOVES making lists and getting ready to plot. My much more stubborn and obnoxious right brain puts its metaphorical fingers in its ears and shouts “nananananana.” So, I always end up ditching the snowflakes and character sketches and pants away. I’ve managed to get the right brain to allow me an outline—and fluid is the nicest thing you can call my latest of those—we’ll see if it’s worked at the end of my current project.

As for the “otter” part of my descriptor above? That’s definitely me: an otter. I play before I work and every distraction is cooler than the one before. Truly? I think it will be a tough task turning this otter into a full-fledged plotter.

7. How do you decide when a manuscript is done, that tweaking it more would be unproductive?

The best line I ever heard was from a published author friend who said, “The day you pull your book off the shelf and open its cover for the first time, you’ll say, ‘how the heck did I miss that?’” I’m sadly certain that’ll be true in my case. My inner editor is a very vocal female (she’s related to that right brain) who’s been named Lucy, and she’s tough to put in a corner. My editor training means Lucy and I get along too well most days. I love to edit a manuscript multiple times, and I have to tell myself to quit when I’ve done four passes, had all my trusted critique partners give me their suggestions, changed everything I want to change, and, maybe most importantly, made my word count. (Unfortunately, that doesn’t mean layering to add volume, it means drowning some darlings because I’m over-budget on words.) What? You’ve noticed??

And when I start “rearranging the furniture,” i.e., changing words just to play with the sound of them, it’s time to call it done!

8. Finally, what are you working on now? Another Taggert Family Alaskan story?

I am working on a Taggert Family story! This is my series set in Alaska—the place I lost my heart to when I lived in Anchorage for three years. The Taggerts are a family of marine scientists—The Cousteaus of the Arctic.

I’m working on Beluga Moon, which stars Kinley Taggert, Skip’s sister, a whale expert who takes on a huge corporation to help save the endangered beluga whales of Alaska’s Cook Inlet—even though the man she’s falling in love with is a lawyer working for the company.

The first book, Aleutian Star, is done—it features older brother, Brooks –aka Skip- Taggert, and his heroine, Haley Chapman, a San Francisco socialite who finds herself on a three-month expedition to an Aleutian Island.

The third book, Fire Sky, will be about the youngest sister, Katmai (Kat), the brainiest Taggert of them all – who earned her PhD by age 23 and who, with focus and drive that make her cool and aloof, spends all her time keeping the Taggert family business afloat until a dreamer of an aurora photographer turns her orderly life upside down.

I’m truly looking forward to the day I can head back to Alaska for a book signing of this “series of my heart” at the Barnes and Noble on A Street and Northern Lights Blvd. in midtown Anchorage!
“The bunny slippers are non-negotiable.”
Skip Taggert locked glares with the young woman whose Gucci leather tote bag sprouted a pair of crazy-eyed, fuzzy pink rabbit heads. For one moment, battle was joined, until the sibilant whirr-click-whirr from a camera's motor drive turned what was left of Skip’s cool to hot annoyance. He shot a fierce scowl at the litter of photographers jostling behind a flimsy twine barrier.
As if this expedition wasn't in enough trouble, he had California papa-friggin’-razzi. In Dutch Harbor, Alaska.
“Miss Chapman! Haley? Will you be leaving the slippers?” The runt of the litter, a roly-poly photographer with hopeful-puppy eyes, called out to the girl-of-the-hour.
Haley Chapman, petite, brown-haired and, Skip acknowledged reluctantly, far better looking than her society page pictures, fired a barrage of blue sparks at him from angry eyes. He warded them off with the swift arching of one eyebrow, a talent his sisters told him was disturbingly Spockish as well as highly annoying.
He prayed it annoyed her. Tit for tat.
"Yes. She will definitely be leaving the slippers.” Skip answered for her and found perverse pleasure in watching her lips thin. "Would you excuse us, please? Gentlemen."
Cupping her elbow, he hustled her across the creaking wooden floor to the far corner of the Harbormaster's one-room, fish-scented office.
"Take your hands off me.” Her whisper carried a tacit threat to turn up the volume if he didn’t obey. He dropped his light hold like she'd touched him with a curling iron. "I don't care what you think of me, but at least have a little respect for my parents."
A grin tugged through his irritation. Haley Chapman the spitfire—my, my. A little wet cat, all bristled fur and defiant hiss. So different from the happy-go-ditzy socialite the media always portrayed. If he hadn't been nursing such a fine bout of irritation, he'd have admitted to liking this image better.
"Oh, I think we’ve shown plenty of respect, Miss Chapman.” He cleared his throat with deliberate calm. “This expedition is facing potentially serious problems and the future of my family depends on the work we do this summer. I really can’t afford to have a second-rate celebrity playing pleasure cruise so, to be brutally honest, I don’t want you here. But I respected your father enough to let him call in favors with my father and get you on this trip. And we’re giving your mother the respect due a candidate in California's senatorial race, but all of this is causing me media scrutiny I don’t want either.” He sent another pointed look to the paparazzi. “So let me be perfectly clear. Even if Mom over there won the election tomorrow, she wouldn’t get your bunny slippers, or anybody else's, on my research boat."
The motley crowd of media hounds clicked away, fitting as well in the forty-foot-square office as clowns in a miniature car. The three parents under discussion huddled to one side of the photographer’s line. The two men, her father and his, were old friends. The woman, holding a small creature Skip guessed was a dog, looked as out-of-place as a lily in a patch of dandelions.
“As if slippers take up any room.” Haley Chapman spoke, her determination to do battle over the ludicrous footwear far more impressive than the haughty tone she tried to take. “Look Mr. Taggert—”
“Right. Doctor of what again? Seal-ology?” A pretty sneer curled her soft pink lips, and the smallest wrinkle creased the space between her perfectly waxed brows.
Skip held his breath, and with it his temper, for an extra heartbeat. “Sealion-ology, Miss Chapman. Puffin-ology; Auklet-ology; Otter-ology. More ologies than I expect you ever to have heard of.”
Her fingers curled, her jaw tensed. He fully expected her to stomp her foot like a petulant fifth grader. Instead, she came up with some sound that crossed a growl with a snake choking on its hiss. “I understand plenty,” she said when she could speak. “Like how you’ve got a really bad attitude about a stupid pair of slippers.”
“For your information, sweetheart, those damned slippers take up precious space. I’m not sailing you to Club Med, in case Daddy didn’t tell you. In fact …” He stalked to the corner behind her, where several items of gear lay in a lumpy pile, and yanked up an olive green, military duffel bag. “You need to take those three pretty little floral suitcases over there and condense. What fits in here is what you get to bring.”
“I beg your pardon?” She stared, jaw slack, as if he’d asked her to remove her head.
“No pardon to beg. You get a duffel bag of essentials like everyone else on the crew, and judging by the bulge in those suitcases, I’d say you’re in for some problem-solving.”
Unblinking blue from her eyes bored into him, now a solid, challenging beam instead of a fiery barrage. He only launched his brow again and nodded at the designer tapestry luggage: three different sized cases standing primly where she’d set them twenty minutes ago.
“Those cases into that bag, Miss Chapman. You have half an hour until we’re finished with final loading and inspection. If you intend to come, be on board with this duffel, your parka and no slippers.”

Thanks so much for inviting me to HeroineswithHeart. What a fun site—and I really enjoyed the questions and the opportunity to ramble on about my writing. I’m excited to tell my friends about your blog and have them start checking you out regularly! Thanks again.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Excerpt with Few Dialogue Tags

Here's a piece from my upcoming release This Can't Be Love.

Back in the kitchen, Jessica regarded him, an unreadable expression in her eyes. Even her face looked different for some reason tonight. His gaze lingered for a brief moment. She wore makeup. A lot of it.
“Pizza’s done.”
“Great, I’m starved.” With a determined effort Zach kept his eyes focused on his plate. “Thanks for making dinner tonight.” He bit into the gooey slice of pizza. The hot sauce burned the roof of his mouth. The pain brought a welcome distraction.
She slid into the chair across from him. “I didn’t do much.”
He swallowed.
She put her elbow on the table and cupped her chin in her hand. “So, are you working tonight?”
“No, but, uh, I have some things I need to do out in the barn I didn’t get to today.”
“Oh.” Her face fell. Her teeth bit into her lower lip. “I could help you.”
“No.” The word slipped out harsher than he intended. “I mean, that’s okay, it’s really messy out there. I wouldn’t want you to—”
She cut him off. “No problem, I understand.” She leaned back in her chair and picked at her pizza.
Her dejected expression sent a tiny stab to his heart. He’d hurt her again. “Jessica?”
She didn’t look up. “What?”
“I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to sound so rude.”
She waved a hand. “You don’t need to apologize. It’s my fault. I shouldn’t have expected you to want me”—her voice broke—“to help you.”
Zach gazed at her in horror. Was she crying? He’d made her cry? “Jess, I—”
“You know, I’m not really hungry.” She stood so quickly her chair unbalanced and crashed to the floor. “I...I’ll be upstairs.” She turned and ran from the room.

Until next time,

Happy Reading!


Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Dialogue with no tags

Here’s another scene from the Lisa and Paul story. Paul has discovered that she has a young son, but because he thought the boy was three years old, he assumed that Senator Ralph Gregory was the father. Now he’s just seen the boy for the first time and knows that the child is his son. He’s furious …

As Lisa followed him into the room, Paul spun round to face her, his eyes dark with anger. “So just when were you going to tell me? When he graduated college maybe?”
His sarcasm stung but she held her ground. “No, of course not.”
“No, you let me find out totally by chance. If I hadn’t seen him today, would you ever have told me?”
“I did try to tell you but you wouldn’t listen to me.”
“Last week. When you’d convinced yourself that Nicky was Ralph’s.”
“What else was I supposed to think? Fiona told me he was three.”
“So you should have checked your facts before you start throwing out your accusations. But think about it now, Paul – what if I had told you that he’ll be five next week? What would you have thought?”
“Does it matter? The whole point is that you obviously didn’t think it was important enough to tell me.”
“The whole point is that it does matter! Surely you haven’t forgotten what you accused me of before you went to Peru? Because that’s the issue we have here. The fact that you didn’t trust me, you thought I’d cheated on you. And you still think I was having an affair with Ralph Gregory.”
“You go to the theatre with him, and today he had his arm around you – ”
“Oh, for God’s sake! Is there any way I can get through to you that Ralph is, and always has been, simply a friend? A very good and very supportive friend over the last five years.”
“And a father figure to Nicky? I assume that’s short for Nicholas? God!” He slammed one fist against his other hand. “I can’t believe that I have to ask what my son’s full name is.”
“His full name on his birth certificate is Nicholas Paul Hamilton, and you’re named on the certificate as his father.”
“Yeah, his father – a name on a piece of paper. Have you even bothered to tell him anything about me?”
“Yes, I have.”
“What then? That his father was a real bastard who walked out on you?”
“Now you’re being stupid. Even if that was what I felt, do you honestly think I’d tell that to a four-year-old who asks where his Daddy is? I told him that you were a famous scientist who was finding out more about volcanoes so that people didn’t get hurt or killed when the volcanoes erupt.”
“Okay.” Paul inclined his head slightly and Lisa wondered if his anger was starting to abate. But then his steely eyes met hers again. “If you’d let me meet him, I’d have known he was mine. He looks just like all the photos of me at that age.”
Anger flared inside her. “So I was supposed to parade Nicky in front of you to prove to you that he was your son? No, I don’t think so, Paul. Why should I have to prove to you that I hadn’t cheated on you? We’re talking about trust here. And you didn’t trust me.”
“Maybe we’re talking about honesty too. Why didn’t you tell me you were pregnant?”
“If you’d known I was pregnant, would you have gone to Peru?”
“You know damn well I wouldn’t.”
“But you were desperate to go on that expedition. And I knew you wouldn’t go if I told you.”
“So that’s why you didn’t tell me”
“How dare you?” She was startled by the vehemence in his voice. “How dare you make a decision like that for me?”
She remembered what Ralph had said. ‘You left something out of the equation … what Paul himself might have wanted.’
“I thought - ” She stopped and bit her lower lip.
“You thought? You didn’t bother to ask me what I thought? You didn’t think it was important to tell me you were pregnant with our child?”

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Dialogue with no tags....

“Thank you.” The whisper behind his ear reminded him of where he was. “That guy gives me the creeps.”

Turning his head to the side, Richard spoke over his shoulder, his eyes fixed on the seven-foot bartender hurling the ignorant, scumbag drunk out the door. “No problem. Some men just don’t have any respect for women. Especially when they’re under the influence.”

Wow. He looked down at the hand that wrapped around his wrist. A familiar bolt of electricity shot through his veins. Only one woman ever had that effect on him.

“You sound like a man who knows how to treat a woman, Richard.”

Richard chuckled and turned around. “How did you know my—Kate?”

She placed a finger over his lips. “Shhh. It’s Kitty, remember?” She licked her bottom lip then placed her fingernail between her teeth.

“I thought you were a—”

“Shhh. We’ll talk later in the pond. Right now, I have a crowd to please.” She snaked up and down his leg as her fingers made like a spider and walked up his chest.

Between the whistles and the hooting and hollering, Richard knew no one would hear their conversation. The one time he found a woman he actually wanted to get to know, she turned out to be a liar, and an exotic dancer.

“Why?” He tried to stop her hand from twirling his hair.

“Why what?”

“Why did you lie about being a writer?”

“I’m in the middle of a dance here. Can we talk about this later?”

“You know, you don’t have to do this. I can help you become a writer if that’s-”

“Get off the stage, asshole, and let the woman do her thing,” a man shouted.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Dialogue with Minimal Tags

This week's challenge is to post a scene from a WIP where the reader can follow the dialogue with minimal use of tags. Here's one I think qualifies:

Erin recognized the Latina girl immediately. Per said her name was Belina. She'd just turned seventeen. Her mother was dead, and her father’s employment at RISE was a pre-condition for her scholarship.
Up close, Belina was flawless--perpetually tanned skin, lashes that touched her cheeks, and plump, perfect lips. An overdose of mascara and powder did not quite conceal the dark circles under her doe-like eyes.
“I need to see Professor Dumont,” Belina said.
“He's not here.”
“Where is he?”
“To be honest, I don’t know.”
“Are you his cleaning lady?”
“I’m Erin Foster.”
“Aya, I remember. You work for Mr. George. He said you were exactly what he wanted. He always gets what he wants.”
“I'm an educational consultant, Belina. I work for a firm downtown.”
“What are you doing here?” The girl eyed her with surprising audacity.
Erin knew what she couldn’t say: I just spent the night. I’m looking for my clothes. I rejected his invitation to share his bed and now we’re just friends.
“I expect Professor Dumont back soon. Do you drink coffee? I was about to have some.”
They sat at opposite ends of Per’s small dining table. Belina heaped sugar into her coffee and stirred; her spoon ting-a-ting-ed against the inside of her mug like a drummer tapping a cymbal.
“How long has Professor Dumont been your teacher?”
“I am a senior. You do the math.”
“Do you like him? As a teacher, I mean.”
“All the girls think he’s hot. I tried to seduce him once, like that Monica girl and the President.” Her eyes darted around the room—anywhere but directly at Erin. “I thought you said he would be back soon.”
“Belina, are you in some sort of trouble?”
The front door flew open.
Per held a one-hour dry cleaning bag in one hand and the strap of a bike helmet in the other. “Erin, they took the wine stain from your…Belina, what are you doing here?”
The girl darted to him, flung her arms around his waist, and burst into tears, wailing about a baby and how he said she had to get rid of it.
Per dropped his parcels. “Belina. Tell me what the doctor said.

Friday, May 7, 2010

Nancy Pirri -- today's Friday Friend author and editor

Nancy Schumacher aka Nancy Pirri, and Natasha Perry, started writing fourteen years ago while raising four children. Nancy is a member of Romance Writers of America and local Minnesota chapter, Midwest Fiction Writers. She is also one of the founders of the second Minnesota RWA chapter, Northern Lights Writers(NLW).
Nancy is also one of twelve authors (writing as Dame Sapphire) in the author-promo organization, Jewels of the Quill,
Her latest release is an erotic historical, RUINED HEARTS, writing under the pseudonym, Natasha Perry. Visit Nancy at or at

Welcome, Nancy. Thank you for being here today!

1. How and why did you start writing? Your website said you started writing 11 years ago as a mom with 4 children. How did you find/ make the time?

My mother is a huge romance reader fan and she rubbed off on me, starting of course with The Flame and the Flower. I wrote whenever I could find time – early morning before kids woke up, when kids were napping and after putting them all to bed. For several years, I kept up that pace. Most of my leisure time was behind the computer. I can’t even tell you what shows were on television during those years a I never watched any.

2. You have placed in contests since 1999. What have you learned /earned from entering contests? Do you think they are a good venue for an aspiring author?

When I first started entering contests, about two years after I started writing, it was to gain feedback. I had joined RWA so I would get the monthly report magazine, page through the chapter contest offerings and enter one or two every few months. I didn’t belong to any critique group and while I was a member of Midwest Fiction Writers, I rarely had the time to attend meetings. So I counted on contest judges for feedback. Over a period of time I must have grown as a writer because I began placing and winning some of those contests. Contests are good place for aspiring authors, especially if you don’t have other writers to read and crit your work. But don’t become an addict about entering them as the cost can add up. There will come a time when you feel ready and confident about your work to leave contests behind. Also, don’t take a contest judge’s criticism to heart. This is a good phase of your writing career to develop a thick skin.

3. You write historicals, erotica, contemporaries, and have been published in 10+ anthologies. Are you living proof that a first-time author does not need to stick to one genre to create her ‘brand?’

Absolutely. I write historicals and contemporaries under Nancy Pirri and erotica under Natasha Perry. I think changing genres is good experience for an author and it helps an author actually develop and find their voice. Because I’m a member of the writer’s promo organization, Jewels of the Quill, we write in several genres. What’s interesting is if I write a contemporary for a jewels anthology, my fans who love historical will tell me I have to write an historical next time, and vice-versa. Hard to please all the readers all the time.

4. My first WIP was a western historical. I love the classic themes and settings of westerns. Is there a market, in your view, for western romance? Are they worth writing?

Yes! American westerns, in my opinion, never go out of style. If you, as an author, enjoy doing the research and bringing to life your cowboys and their women, by all means, do so! Your enjoyment and accomplishment will shine through and be apparent in your story-in your voice, and readers will love that.

5. Your novella, “Winning Sylvia’s Heart” was published in the latest Jewels of the Quill anthology, “Magical Kisses.” It is a fantastic read, and was a finalist in the 2010 Epic’s. Congratulations! (Were you at the award ceremony?) I was impressed by your character development, plot and backstory, setting… all the elements of a novel in fewer words. How did you develop the technique to write them? Do you write, then pare away to a word count?

Thank you, Ana, for your very kind words on my story. Winning Sylvia’s Heart is one of several stories in the anthology, Magical Kisses, and it did end up winning the EPPIE in its category. This is a second EPPIE win for me, and I am very lucky to be associated with the Jewels of the Quill authors. We are our own little critique group who happen to write anthologies together for Whiskey Creek Press. I had written 3 full length novels before I ever tried to write a short story for the jewels and it was hard! I am wordy, as you can tell from my interview replies here. I write the entire first draft the same way I write a novel. Then I check it against the required story or novella word count and pare away. It’s easy to do because you can actually see the unneeded words, sentences and paragraphs as you go through it line by line.

6. Tell us about your e-pub Midnight Showcases. You said you love editing authors, especially new ones. (This is so refreshing to hear!) What do you look for in a new author? What are you looking for in submissions? What do you need/want from your authors in promotion? Are you accepting?

You cannot imagine how much I’ve learned about my own writing when editing another author! As I’m editing I’ll come across things that make me pause and think, ‘Darn, I do that too, and that’s a no-no!’ There are so many new authors with gem stories that shine, really shine. I’m not on the acceptance end of publishing so I don’t get to pick and choose but being an editor is highly fulfilling.

There is no better feeling than helping a new author see what works and what doesn’t. For example, point of view is something some authors just cannot pick up, initially, though, over time they will. If a story is good and holds my interest for much of it I can overlook things such as incorrect use of tenses and other technique errors, knowing those can be edited.

At Midnight Showcase, soon to be MS Fiction (we’re changing our name), we have a submissions page that lists what we are looking for. In particular, right now, we’re looking for paranormal stories for our Weres in the City – three anthologies that will be released over the next several months. ‘Weres’ can be any type of ‘shape-shifter’, and the stories must take place in a city, not a small town or rural area. Our house is always accepting stories for our themed digests and single-title novellas and novels. Our house has been steadily growing over the past two years and we now have close to 200 published works available to purchase at MSFiction’s website, Fictionwise, All Romance Ebooks and online at Amazon, Lulu, and Barnes and Noble.

Promotion is one of the most difficult things for an author to do, but he or she must in order to make sales. Many authors believe all they have to do is write the book, get it published, then sit back and watch the $ roll in. Uh, it doesn’t work that way. While we at our house send our authors’ books out for review at several places, we depend on the authors to have a visible face and to promo as well. Having a website is mandatory, and or a blog. Putting out a bit of money to have a cover ad at review sites, and other places that accept romance ads. Participating in interviews such as this one. Attending writer conferences and introducing yourself to other writers. There are a lot of free things authors can do and I tell them that when they lament they don’t have the money to spend on promo. The web age has been a godsend for authors, and there are several free and inexpensive opportunities available.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

3 foods in a scene

Another scene from my story about Lisa and Paul (you read last week about the the misunderstanding which separated them). Now they've met again (several years later) and started to fall in love again. Lisa accompanies Paul (by now a famous volcanologist) to New York City where he has done several TV interviews. Here's part of their first evening in NYC.

Twenty minutes later they were in a yellow cab, which took them down Broadway and through the crowded neon-lit Times Square until they turned off and approached the Hudson River. The cab came to a standstill at the pier and Lisa looked at Paul, her eyes wide. “We’re going on a boat?”
“It’s not just a boat, it’s a luxury motor yacht, and all to ourselves. Well, apart from the captain and the crew.”
Lisa looked in amazement at the sleek white yacht. “You’ve chartered this? For us?”
Paul put his hand against her back as they approached the ramp. “I thought it would be fun.” Then he stopped. “But if you’d rather do something else?”
Lisa looked back at him. “No – no, this is amazing. I love it.”
The captain was waiting at the head of the ramp. “Welcome aboard the ‘Mistral’,” he said holding out his hand. “I’m Steve and your host will be Antonio. We’ll give you the chance to settle in and then we’ll start the cruise.”
Their host, a young good-looking Hispanic, led the way down the steps to a surprisingly spacious lounge with two long comfortable cream couches and a well-stocked bar. Beyond the lounge, at the front of the yacht, Lisa could see the dining area with a round table covered in a white cloth and set with silver tableware and two silver candles.
“What would you like to drink?” Paul asked.
“White wine, I think.”
“May I recommend the Chardonnay?” Antonio said. “We have a very nice one by Louis Jadot.” Paul raised his eyebrows at Lisa and she nodded.
“Well, this is certainly different,” she said as he sat down beside her. “Where are we going?”
“Around Manhattan and up the East River, then back past Liberty and Ellis Islands.”
As Lisa started smiling, he looked at her curiously. “What?”
“I was just thinking. This afternoon we did the free ferry trip to Staten Island and now look at us.”
“Life’s changed for us both in the last five years, hasn’t it? D’you think we’ve both changed too?”
“I suppose we must have. We’ve changed careers, we’re living in different places. Where are you based now, by the way?”
“I have an apartment in Los Angeles. But of course I do a lot of travelling.”
“Where have you travelled to?”
They continued chatting until Antonio told them that the captain was about to set off. “If you’d like to go up to the fly bridge, I’ll let you know when dinner is ready to be served.”
He took their drinks up the few steps to the bridge, which was surrounded by windows on all sides and they followed him, then stood watching as the yacht moved slowly out into the Hudson River. On their left were the Manhattan skyscrapers and on the right were the New Jersey docks. It was still light, but the sun had already begun its descent to the west.
“Looks like it could be a nice sunset,” Paul commented. “And we should see all the lights of Manhattan on the way back.”
His predictions proved correct. They went down to the dining area as the yacht cruised slowly towards the southern tip of Manhattan. It was an excellent meal, accompanied by different wines with each course – crab cakes, chicken in tarragon sauce with julienne vegetables and fresh fruit slices with a chocolate dip.
The lights were already on as they approached Brooklyn Bridge, looking like a necklace of pearls, and by the time they reached Williamsburg Bridge they could see the sun beginning to set behind lower Manhattan.
“Come on,” Paul said as the yacht started turning for its return trip. “Let’s take this wine up to the bridge and then we can really see the view.”
As they stood watching the sun going down, turning the whole sky to a soft pink before it slowly darkened, Paul slipped her arm around her. Automatically she leant against his shoulder, loving the feel and the scent of him, and wishing that this night could go on for ever, that they didn’t have to return to reality again.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

3 Foods in a scene

This is from The Patriot Girl:

“Let’s make it happen,” he said. “The sooner I start making money, the sooner you will.”

The waitress interrupted. “Are you folks ready to order?”

“I believe so,” he said. “Ladies first.” He watched her skin return to its tan color, her eyes soften, and her shoulders relax.

She ordered. “A steak medium-well, a baked potato, and corn.”

“I’ll have the same.”

The waitress tucked her pencil behind her ear then grabbed the menus. “Great. I’m Shelly. If you need anything else, just let me know.”

“We will. Thank you,” Dustin said.

When Shelly left, he diverted his attention back to the woman whose gaze made his brain forget the answer to two plus two. She let her leg lean against his once more. This time he welcomed the touch instead of jumping out of his skin. Her smile was larger than a kid’s in a candy store. Knowing he’d be seeing a lot more of her had him fired up. Not only because he’d be working with her, getting to know her, and making money, but also because she made him feel alive for the first time since his wife’s heart stopped beating during childbirth.

Monday, May 3, 2010

3 favorite foods incorporated into a love scene

Here is a short, unfinished scene from my WIP:

Erin wanted to reach through the phone line and strangle Karl Norberg. “You don’t understand how complicated this project is,” she kept repeating. “We’re working as fast as we can.”
“Five to six, Foster.” It was the fourth time in as many minutes that Ramona had chimed like a cuckoo clock.
Erin swiveled her chair to face the wall. Her life was becoming too complicated.

(I need to add here details of why/how her life is changing. I planted yesterday 900 pots with seeds of melons, cukes, zucchini and winter squashes and wrote two work-related newsletters. Saturday was just as busy. The spring life of a professional gardener...)

“Has Montague complained? Well then, there’s your proof. He gets the same updates as you...Today’s report? Maybe you misplaced it… No, I’m not saying you’re irresponsible…I’ll refax it as soon as I finish what I’m working on now…I know it’s after five, Karl. I don’t expect you to wait… The report will be there when you come in tomorrow morning.”
Erin slammed down the receiver, leaned back, and rubbed her temples. The report was still on her desk, unfinished.
Last evening, Jeremy had persuaded her to take a break and have a picnic supper. As the day waned, they’d spread a blanket on the grass in front of his cottage and eaten their fill of imported Brie, crusty French bread, and sweet, ripe strawberries.
The wine must have gone to her head. She instigated a game of kissing tag. Barefoot and laughing, they chased each other, kissing and separating, shouting in turn, “You’re it. You’re it.”
One kiss had lasted longer. He pinned her against the broad trunk of a huge tulip tree. After a long, slow, tantalizing tongue-dance, she whispered his name and an invitation. He reached down and…
“Six o’clock, Foster.” Ramona spun her around. “Time’s up.”
“I thought you were kidding,” Erin sputtered.