Thursday, July 29, 2010

Favorite Books

Okay, this one is even trickier than choosing a favorite movie. There are simply so many books out there, to narrow it down is nearly impossible. To be honest, I'm not really a big fan of the classics,(I know, I know, I can hear your shocked gasps.) but there are books out there I've become attached to and think of as my own classics.

As a kid I devoured Nancy Drew books. In fact, I'll still pick them up today if I need a quick read. I'm in the process of establishing the entire collection. The Little House books by Laura Ingalls Wilder are also still among my favorites.

When I started reading "grown up" books, I headed straight for romance. I had a subscription to the American Romance line from Harlequin. Each month four new shiny silver and blue books were delivered to my house. Heaven on earth. Through these stories, I developed my love of the hunky hero, the sassy heroine, and the happily ever after. I dreamed of writing one of my own someday. For many, many years, romance was the only genre I read (outside of reading for classes and such).

When I became a writer, I found myself straying a bit from reading only romance. Part of the reason is, as we've mentioned, when I'm writing, it's difficult to be reading something in the same genre. But romance will always be my first love. In romance I enjoy contemporary the most. One of my favorite sets of books is an old SuperRomance series: Calloway Corners - Four stories by four different authors that follow four sisters - Mariah, Jo, Tess, and Eden. (My copy of Mariah is completely beat up because I've read it so many times.) In historicals my all time favorite is Heather Graham's Civil War trilogy: One Wore Blue, One Wore Gray, And One Rode West.

As I've mentioned before, I love vampires. I first fell in love with them in Linda Lael Miller's trilogy: Forever and the Night, For All Eternity, and Time Without End. These days it's the Twilight series (which I just finished reading for the eighth time) and the Sookie Stackhouse series.

For action-adventure, there's no one better than Clive Cussler. His Dirk Pitt stories are my favorites in that genre.

Obviously, I could go on...but I think we'll leave it at that for the day...

Until next time,

Happy Reading!


Wednesday, July 28, 2010

My Favourite Books

My favourite books (discounting some of the classics) are by authors who (a) write a good story, (b) create strong believable characters and (c) research their setting or hisorical background thoroughly.

They include the novels by Penny Vincenzi, especially the Spoils of Time trilogy (No Angel, Something Dangerous and Into Temptation), although I could include any of the blockbusters by Ms Vincenzi (and I can name-drop here, as she lives just across the road from a friend of mine, in a leafy Victorian avenue in Wimbledon, and I met her one morning when she was returning from a walk with her dogs on Wimbledon Common!)

Next is The Sunne in Spendour by Sharon Kay Penman, by far and away the best novel I have ever read about Richard III and the 15th century Wars of the Roses. The amount of historical research Sharon does for her novels is phenomenal and is one of the reasons I would hesitate to write a historical novel, even though I’m an historian by profession and fairly knowledgeable about the 15th century. But it would take me years to do that kind of research!

I'd also include John Jakes’ Civil War books (and also his Kent Family chronicles) and Winston Grahame’s Poldark series, all soundly researched and all with wonderful characters. .

If I could write like any of these authors, I’d be more than happy. And, for me, reading books like these are a more valuable lesson in ‘how to write’ than any or all of the writing advice books and articles!

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Favorite Books

It's hard to say because there have been several that I really enjoyed.

Contemporary books: This month I bought all of the Superromance novel's and the two I read I enjoyed.

I've grabbed random books from the library and have found several new authors that way.

I'm not a big reader, especially when I'm writing. I don't want it to influence my writing.

What about you - what books would you recommend?

Sunday, July 25, 2010

My favorite book(s)

My three favorite books are for writing. They sit beside my laptop, every ready, ever helpful. Like best friends.

Writer's Digest Flip Dictionary, by Barbara Ann Kipfer, Ph.D. (For when you know what you want to say but can't think of the word.)

Webster's II New College Dictionary, Third Edition

English Through the Ages, by William Brohaugh (From Old English to modern-day slang, a word-by-word birth record of thousands of interesting words.)

The Flip Dictionay is a thesaurus

Thursday, July 22, 2010

No Tag Dialogue

In looking through my work, I notice I very rarely use dialogue without some kind of tag. More often than not, I use an action tag, rather than the traditional "said", "asked", "replied", etc.

Here's one example I found in my current mss. Most of the time I use action/internal thought, but there are a few spots with no tag at all.

She shook her head to clear the disturbing memory. “So, how have you been?”

His warm, brown eyes met hers. “I’m doing okay. How about you?”

“About the same. Getting used to the way things are now.”

He nodded.

“I saw the girls at Mom’s house the other day.”

Chase’s eyes softened at the mention of his twin four year olds. “I can’t believe how fast they’re growing.”

Erika smiled. “It seems like only yesterday you were bringing them home from the hospital.”

“Tell me about it.”

“How are the custody arrangements working out?”

He grimaced. “I miss seeing them every day. Tucking them into bed each night. When I pick them up on the weekends I feel like I’ve missed out on so much during the week.” His expression turned thoughtful. “Funny, isn’t it?”


“Well, you know how I felt when Lauren told me she was pregnant?”

He hadn’t been overjoyed, if memory served Erika right.

“I wasn’t ready to be a father. Hell, I’d never planned on being a husband, let alone a dad. But now, I can’t imagine my life without Sami and Steph. They’re the most important thing in the world to me. I never thought I could love anybody the way I love those girls.”

Can you follow the conversation?

Until next time,

Happy Reading!


Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Had to search for something in one of mine with a minimal use of tags. See if you know who's saying what in this, a phone conversation between Jess and her sister's agent, Simon.
From my soon (I hope!) to be published novel by Whiskey Creek Press, 'His Leading Lady' (well, I have to do some advertising LOL):

“Simon, where’s Lora?”
There was a moment’s pause. “I was going to ask you the same thing.”
“So you don’t know?” Jess’s heart sank even further. “Have you absolutely no idea? How long has she been missing?”
“Well, she’s not exactly missing –”
“What do you mean? She’s okay, isn’t she?”
“Yes. She called the office yesterday and told Caroline, my secretary, that she was fine. But she didn’t say where she was or why. And I can’t reach her on her mobile. I hoped that your call was to say she was with you. How do you know all about this anyway?”
Jess grimaced. “Kyle Drummond was here this afternoon, demanding to know where she is.”
“Kyle’s been to see you? He must be getting desperate to find her then. And you’ve not heard from her at all?”
“No, the first I knew about it all was when Mr. Drummond appeared out of the blue.”
“He’s been breathing down my neck too. Did he tell you that he and Lora have a TV interview on Friday?”
“Yes, and that he’ll blacklist her if she doesn’t turn up.”
“So he’s using that threat, is it? And of course he could carry it out too. He has more influence than anyone else in the West End these days. If she doesn’t come back tomorrow, she’s going to ruin everything, Jess.”
“So what happens now?”
Simon was silent for a moment. “You could do that interview on Friday.”
“Jess, think about it. You look the same, your voice is the same and you’re a damn good actress. Lora’s said that you’re a better actress than she is. If you stand in for her on Friday, it gives us some breathing space.”
“I couldn’t possibly pretend to be Lora. And definitely not on television.”
“Yes, you could. You know every detail of Lora’s career. And I can tell you all about the show. Jess, say you’ll do it. Please. Do it for Lora’s sake. Otherwise her career will be finished.”
Jess drew in a very deep breath. For Lora’s sake.
How many times had she done things ‘for Lora’s sake’? Made excuses for her, lent her money, even given up her own place at Drama College. But there was no time to think about that now.
“And what happens if both of us turn up on Friday?” She grasped for any straw to counter Simon’s ridiculous suggestion. “That’s going to look a bit odd, isn’t it?”
“Not really. We simply introduce you as Lora’s sister and no-one is any wiser. But Lora won’t –”.
“Lora won’t what? What else do you know about all this?” When he didn’t reply, she persisted. “Come on, Simon. Whatever it is, I need to know.”

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Dialogue Tags

Not much to say about the subject that hasn't been said already.

I try to avoid them at all cost. I use action or thought to help the reader understand who is talking.

Quick sample:

"Can you come to the mall?"

Normally Heather would jump at the opportuinity to go to the mall with Sally. But she did't want to run into Kevin and his new girlfriend who were going to be there. She might have told Sally that she had no more feelings for the football player, but she was fast learning that it took longer than a week for a sixteen year old to forget her first love. For the next three months, she needed to avoid any friends during the summer vacation. Maybe by September Kevin would be a thing of the past.

"Thanks, Sally, but I have plans."

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Silencing Dialogue Tags

Billowy clouds part. An almighty voice intones, "Use just enough dialogue tags to keep the reader clear on who is speaking."

Here is a scene from my WIP. POV is heroine Erin's.

After a surprisingly good breakfast, Montague invited her for a walk. Cotton-ball clouds floated overhead. The wind was calm.

They rounded the Athletic complex and strolled back up the path towards the main school building. Montague acted as if she was a prospective parent touring the school before enrolling her children. Only the dark circles under his eyes belied his cordial demeanor.

“This property has been in my wife’s family since 1883. Her great-grandfather bought it for a hunting estate. The lodge burned to the ground in 1938; kitchen fire of some sort. A garden shed and the original carriage house are still in use. The next generation preferred sailing, so the land idled. My wife was an only child. When she decided to build the school, it was fairly simple to transfer it to an educational corporation.”

“It looks like you have invested heavily in your sports program.”

“Did you play a sport, Miss Foster?”

“Call me Erin. Cross country and track.”

“Ah, a distance runner. Were you any good?”

“I went to State my sophomore year. I placed sixth, but with my personal best time.”

“I believe in competition. I think it brings out the best in people.”

“Do you have children of your own?”

“No. My wife.” A poignant look flooded his face. “Now we have twelve hundred of them.” He clasped his hands behind his back and fiddled with his wedding ring. “You handled the departmental restructuring very well. What about my revenue surplus?”

“I have an idea that could work, but I need to know what percent of the profit you and your stockholders are willing to give up over the next three years.”

“Come and work for me, Erin. You could use the track whenever you wanted.”

“Mr. Montague, my assistants and I are a team. You don’t split up a good team. And don’t change the subject.” She glanced at her watch. “I need an answer now. This part of your contract will not be so easy.”

“Not a penny over twelve percent.”

“I won’t go over ten.”

(Could you follow who was speaking when?)

Friday, July 16, 2010

Friday Friends with Leslie Kelly/Leslie Parrish

Welcome, Leslie, to Friday Friends. Glad to have you with us. A lot to talk about, so let's get started.

Before I forget, Leslie will be giving away an autographed copy of Cold Sight. If you leave a comment, please leave an email address so that we may get in touch with you should you be the LUCKY WINNER

Tell us about COLD SIGHT and where you came up with the idea.

Leslie: Last year, I debuted my new Leslie Parrish alter ego, and loved writing much darker romantic-thrillers. One of my favorite parts of doing that was creating a team of investigators working together to solve crimes, in that case, a group of FBI Cyber Action Team agents. I liked that they weren’t traditional cops or FBI agents, they stood out. When I decided to write a new series, I thought hard about another less conventional group of crime solvers—how they would work together, what they’d do. And maybe because of my extreme love of shows like Supernatural and Psychic Detective, I decided to try my hand at writing a paranormal detective agency.

Are you a plotter or a panster?

Leslie: A bit of both, actually. I used to be strictly a pantser, but when I started writing the longer suspense novels, I knew I had to have a few things laid out in advance, before I started writing. There are a lot of twists and turns in one of my Parrish books, red herrings, clues, and all those things can’t come if I just pants my way along.

Do you work with other writers, critique partners, critique group?

Leslie: I work with three of my oldest, dearest friends—Julie Leto, Carly Phillips and Janelle Dennison—in a plotting group. We meet once or twice a year and plot out our books, brainstorming all kinds of ideas while a recorder captures our conversation. Then I take those tapes, listen to them later and use them to springboard into my stories. It’s tremendously helpful—and a lot of fun!

What do you look for in your manuscript when doing revisions?

Leslie: I have a really bad habit of falling in love with certain words when I’m writing, and use them half to death. Some words show up again and again, book after book, like they do with every other, but some are unique. But I can definitely tell you I do a thorough “very/just/little/turned/smiled” hunt on every book!

What have you learned being published that you wish you knew before you were published?

Leslie: That it really doesn’t get easier. I mean, yes, it’s easier now for me to get another contract with Harlequin now that I’ve written 30+ books for them. But the day to day of this business is incredibly tough, and the writing itself just doesn’t get easier, it gets more difficult. Every word I write now feels familiar, and I have to work hard to find new ways to convey similar themes. Super tough!

Thanks so much for being with us, Leslie. Come back anytime.

Okay, remember leave a comment along with your email address. Leslie will be around all day to answer questions/comments.

To see more of Leslie's work visit her at or visit her at

Thursday, July 15, 2010

My Favorite Things

Ah, so little time so many things to do....

As most of you know, in "real" life I'm a third grade teacher, so during the school year, between classroom responsibilities and extra curricular coaching duties, I'm pretty busy! Since summer break is upon us, I've had considerably more time to write lately. It's been fact, I finished my current WIP this past weekend. Now I'm working on edits a little bit at a time. My goal is to send it off (this weekend?!) to a colleague who volunteered to look it over before I submit somewhere. I think I might take the plunge and consider sending this one to Harlequin (per the advice of my trusted colleague)!

When I'm not teaching or writing, I have lots of varied interests. One of my favorites is cuddling up with my hubby and watching a movie or our current guilty pleasure, "True Blood". (You know me, I love my vampires.)

I always make time to read every day. Usually it's an hour before I go to sleep at night. But again, since it's summer now, I have more time for this indulgence as well. Currently I'm reading "The Red Pyramid" by Rick Riordan. It's a YA adventure vampires, but there are Egyptian gods and goddesses running about.

Other hobbies include hanging with my friends, scrapbooking, gardening, listening to music, sitting on my front porch or out by my pond, and doing renovation projects around and about our almost 100 year old house.

So, to quote Julie Andrews, "These are a few of my favorite things."

Until next time,

Happy Reading!


Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Life after Work

As I took early retirement, my whole life is now 'life after work' and, like many retired people, I sometimes wonder how I ever had the time to go out to work! Maybe it's simply a hang-over from working days, but I still tend to do my writing in the evenings. I'm a night-owl, and my brain works better later at night.
One of my main day-time activities involves a group I have been running for about eleven years for Over-50's. This is linked to our local Girl Guide organsation and many of the 60+ members, like myself, used to run Brownie or Guide units. But several of them have also brought their friends or spouses into the group. Every four months I produce a programme of activities, usually one activity each week. These include visits to local places of interest - yesterday, for example, we had a tour of an old fishing trawler which has been restored, and next week we will be visiting a stately home about thirty miles away. We also go to local lunchtime concerts or someone leads a walk in a local beauty spot or we visit a new exhibition in one of the many museums or art galleries in Manchester.
Our 'pub lunches' are always popular, and once a month we have a Social Evening at our local Girl Guide HQ, for which I plan a programme of quizzes and other activities. It may sound like hard work, but I enjoy it. For one thing, we've visited so many different and interesting places which we would probably never have done on our own, and secondly, maybe even more importantly, it's enabled us to keep in contact with the wide range of friends we all made when we were involved in Guiding.

My own personal activities - well, I confess I spend too much time on the addictive Facebook game called Farmville! I don't read as much as I used to do, but I do enjoy watching movies. My DVD collection is in danger of taking over the house (including, of course, my complete set of 'The West Wing'). I've also done a lot of family history research and traced all 32 of my great-great- grandparents (and in some cases, some ancestors before them). But I seem to have hit a lot of brick walls where I can't go back any further.
I love to travel, and during the last ten years, have done a lot of battlefield tours in France, Belgium and Germany, as well as an American Civil War tour. I love Ireland, and usually manage to get over there two or three times a year.
Taking early retirement was the best thing I ever did! My post-retirement life is full and interesting!

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

What I do for fun when I'm not writing...

First, writing is like motherhood - it is a 24 hour job. At least it is for me. When I'm out and about, I look for writing books or novels to read for research. Or I'm thinking of my WIP and have to write something down before I forget it.

As for fun, well, I don't do much in way of going out with my husband. We had our fun before our son was born and we'll have fun again when our son is grown. We're fine with that. We do things as a family.

What I do to RELAX away from writing is another story. I read, play board games with family, clean and rearrange furniture, turn up the country music and sing and dance like a nut in my living room - sometimes with the cat on my shoulder!

What do you do for fun/relaxation?

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Life after work and writing?

I had other interests before I discovered writing. Reading used to be my favorite pasttime.
I cook meals every day, but I love to bake. In my next life, I think I’d like to work as a pastry chef.
I enjoy movies. Not having a DVD player, I watch them on television. With over 100 channels and a remote, it's easy to see what else is on. (The new season of White Collar starts on Tuesday. I hope the writing is as tight as before.)
I adore playing with my young granddaughters. We cook, sing, gather eggs, pick berries, play Legos, build block towers, hang out.
I walk around my CSA garden first thing most mornings, giving thanks for the beauty and abundance surrounding me and listening to the resident elementals.
I also do astrology readings, some for free, some for hire. (I tend to turn hobbies into businesses.) I am continually awed by the accuracy of horoscope forecasts. I am happy when they help someone cope with a rough patch, or when someone starts to see they are stronger and more talented than they thought.

Friday, July 9, 2010

Friday Friends with Margaret Tanner

Our Friday Friend today is Margaret Tanner, Australian writer of historical romance.

HWH: Hi Margaret and welcome again to Heroines with Hearts.

MARGARET: Thank you Paula, as always, wonderful to be here.

HWH: Your latest novel, Frontier Wife, has just been released by The Wild Rose Press. Please tell us about it.

MARGARET: Well, I have to say that Frontier Wife has had a rather stormy life up until now. It has previously been released under the title of The English Rose, with one company who closed its doors a few weeks after my story was released. At the time it received several great reviews, so I always felt confident that I had penned a jolly good yarn. Another company contracted it, but due to problems that were out of my control, I had to ask for my copyright back.
Third time lucky. A change of publisher and title, extensive editing and re-writes and I now have a book that I am truly proud of. This goes to prove the old adage – if at first you don’t succeed, try, try again.
Frontier Wife shows how only in the new world can a highborn young Englishwoman and a tough frontier man, ignite the passion that will fulfil their hopes and dreams in ways they never imagined possible.
Tommy Lindsay arrives in colonial Australia to claim the rundown farm she and her brothers have inherited.
Hidden behind her fragile English rose beauty, beats the heart of a courageous young woman. She will need all this strength to survive the unforgiving heat, and the dangers lurking around every corner. Lost in the bush, capture by a feral mountain family, raging bushfires are nothing, compared to the danger she faces if she gives her heart to Adam Munro.
Adam Munro, a rugged frontier man, has no room in his heart to love a woman. All he ever wanted was a presentable wife who would provide him with heirs. He didn’t need passion in his life, not until he met the beautiful English rose living next door to him.
Here’s a short excerpt:
Tommy Lindsay wiped her damp forehead with a lace handkerchief. Perspiration ran in rivulets between her breasts, pooling at the waistband of her gown and leaving a damp patch. She coughed a couple of times to clear the dust clogging up her throat.
“I don’t like it here.” Her little brother Jamie kicked one of the leather sea trunks and she was tempted to join him. “Why doesn’t someone come?”
A few boxes and trunks stacked on the hotel verandah held all her possessions and those of her two brothers. Just thinking about how the once proud Lindsay family had been reduced to such pernicious circumstances caused tears to build up at the back of her eyes. She wouldn’t cry. Couldn’t afford such a luxury, not with a young brother and a sick older brother to worry about. She had to be strong, resolute.
Warrior, a thoroughbred black stallion, stomped and snorted restlessly. “Easy, boy.” David patted the stallion's glistening neck. “How much longer do we have to hang around, Tommy?”
“I don't know.” Her voice trembled even though she fought to control it. “Uncle Henry’s lawyer said someone would take us to the farm. Do you think he might have forgotten? Maybe he got the days mixed up?”
Sick dread washed over her. Oh God, what if this desperate undertaking of theirs failed? It was sheer madness sailing thousands of miles across the sea to start a new life in an alien, hostile country, but what other choice did they have?

HWH: What research did you do for this book?

MARGARET: As always, I make extensive use of my local library. My forebears were pioneers to Australia in the 1850’s, so I had access to a family diary and there are always the family stories floating around amongst the various elderly relatives.

HWH: You’ve written books with a variety of settings and in different times – colonial Australia and First and Second World Wars. Are there any other settings or times you would like to write about?

MARGARET: I have actually written two novels set against the background of the Vietnam War too, Cardinal Sin which is published by The Wild Rose Press (TWRP) and Reluctant Father, which is to be released on September 2nd from TWRP. I found it very interesting writing about this era, a trip down memory lane you might call it. I may be giving too much away here, but this was my time (I was a little younger than my heroines). Of course, I was just as beautiful as them - well, I am prone to exaggeration but I can honestly say that I was slim, and I had good legs. (handy for the mini-skirts I used to wear, not to mention the stilettoes, and I have the bunion and fallen arches to prove it.)

HWH: How long does it take you to write a novel and how much editing do you do after you’ve written the first draft?

MARGARET: I can write the novel fairly quickly. A couple of months or so. Have to do lots of editing though as I write in long hand. Just keep writing, no capital letters, no full stops, commas or paragraphs, I fix all that up after I have typed it up. Then I go over it several times more.

HWH: In what ways do you promote your books?

MARGARET: Interviews with kind people such as yourself, and I belong to several loops. I have resorted to some paid advertisement as well, but I am not sure whether that has helped or not. I have a lovely website, created by Rae Monet, one of TWRP cover artists. I have started a blog, a pathetic little one at present, but I am trying to work on it, and once I do get it up to a decent standard (I wouldn’t humiliate myself by inviting people to visit yet), I would like to do interviews such as this in the future. Once I give up work I will have more time to concentrate, or that is what I keep telling myself.

HWH: Do you manage to read as well as write? If so, what are you reading at the moment?

MARGARET: I love reading but don’t get much time. The last book I finished, Sisters In Time, by Ginger Simpson was terrific, I had to stay up late to finish reading it and went to work the next day with bags under my eyes.

HWH: What’s your favourite romantic movie (and why)?

MARGARET: Easy. An old black and white English film, Mrs Miniver with Greer Garson. It is set in England during the Second World War. I cried the first time I saw it, and I still cry when I watch it. I must have seen it about twenty times. Any time it is on pay TV, I watch it. A box of chockies and a pile of tissues, and I am all set for an enjoyable night.

HWH: Many thanks for visiting us again, Margaret, and we wish you every success with this book and, of course, for all your future work.

Frontier Wife can be obtained from
Also please visit Margaret’s website:

Margaret has very kindly offered an e-book copy of Frontier Wife as a prize for someone who leaves a comment for her - so look forward to seeing lots of comments!

Thursday, July 8, 2010

More on Adverbs?

I think we've covered just about all there is to cover on adverbs this week within posts and comments on those posts. At least, I find myself with not much more to add.

For the heck of it, I flipped through my Author Guidebook from The Wild Rose Press to see what it had to say about the topic.

Here it is:

Evaluate each -ly adverb. Replace with a stronger verb.

It didn't really forbid me to use them. It didn't say I couldn't use them. It simply suggested an evaluation of them to see if something stronger could be used.

I think the important thing is to get the story told. There's always time later to go back and tweak and polish and edit and replace and revise. Because I'm telling you, when the words are flowing for me, I'm not going to be overly concerned if some of them have an "ly" at the end.

Until next time,

Happy Reading!


Wednesday, July 7, 2010


I think my comments to our previous two posts on this topic reveal that I am somewhat sceptical about all the 'rules' that seem to be floating around. Makes me wonder who invented them all. It also seems that there are as many variations to the rule as there are actual rules. As a result, I think that some would-be writers spend more time agonising over the do's and don'ts than over the actual story.
I wrote my novel 'The Measure of Love' before I had discovered any of the rules from writers' loops or from my critique partners. It probably breaks all the rules - sentences too long, telling rather than showing, too many adverbs, too many 'ing' words etc. Okay, it was rejected - but the reason given was that too much backstory slowed down the pace (which I agreed with, by the way!). But nothing to do with any of the rules. On the contrary, the editor said I had "an enjoyable and engaging writing style.' Adverbs and all!
Now I'm wondering whether, in my newly-acquired awareness of and efforts to avoid the usual 'pitfalls', I've actually lost that enjoyable and engaging style. But no, there are still times when I break the rules (consciously now rather than unknowingly) simply because it feels right to me. I usually know, instinctively somehow, when my writing 'flows' and when it doesn't.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010


After hearing that you shouldn't use them for so many years, the "rule" has been branded into my mind. Which only means that I'm aware of them.

I do use them, occationally. When revising, if I come across one, I make sure it fits and that it can't be replaced with a better word.

I look at all the "rules" in writing more of a guideline. Do what works for you.

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Adverbs: Thumbs Up or Down?

At work, in my CSA garden, we spend first lunch trying to stump each other with “The Word of the Day. Two of my co-workers are Scrabble fanatics. Another is studying to take the Graduate Record Exam in the fall. I write, ergo I am “into” words. We keep a dictionary handy.

Our Webster’s II New College Dictionary defines adverb as: a part of speech that modifies a verb, adjective, or other adverb.

We all use adverbs, but the conventional wisdom for wanna-be, and wanna-stay,-published authors is to eschew them. So, in my narrative paragraphs, I look for active verbs that preclude any need for adverbs.

I also try to use for descriptively-specific adjectives, rather than supporting my adjectives with adverbs like descriptively-specific. When I find I have written, “The dinner service was exceptionally good,” I try to edit to, “Dinner service was superlative.” Unless I was recounting dinner at the White House or 10 Downing Street; then I’d gush effusively, completely forgetting that gush implies effusiveness, and is therefore redundant.

Dialogue is an entirely different ball game. Characters talk like people, and people run the gamut from lyrical thespian, to monosyllabic thug, to my three-year-old granddaughter’s “I go your house, Gramma?”

Eschew and preclude are $10.00 words that probably should be replaced with avoid and prevent. I cannot say whether it is better to speak convincingly or to convince.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Friday Friends with Kemberlee Shortland

First, Kemberlee, thanks for being with us on Friday Friends.

Thank you for inviting me.

Tell us a bit about A Piece of My Heart and how you came up with the idea.

A Piece of My Heart is my first novel and is published with Highland Press, This is a girl/boy next door story told Irish style. Mick and Kate had been childhood friends and were quickly growing into sweethearts. A bully at school came between them, and after graduation, Mick went away to Dublin for college, becoming a researcher and historian with the National Museum of Antiquities. Kate stayed in the west and attended college in Galway City, becoming a palliative care who looks after dying people. That there tells us she has a heart of gold. And Mick really does have a love of history, even as he denies his own family's history.

Kate left the work force to care for Mick's mother who was dying from cancer. Mick was just finishing his degree at university and struggled with getting home often and not missing coursework. After her death, Mick brought his father a Border Collie pup to keep him company, which he calls his Hairy Irish term for one with a LOT of hair. When the father falls ill, Kate steps in to care for him as well, and raises the puppy to work small jobs around the farm.

The story opens in the solicitors office where Mick discovers Kate has been called in for the will reading. Since their 'break up' ten years before, and even though she's been caring for his parents, they really haven't spent much time together. There's too much personal pain between them. Mick understood his father had paid Kate for her services over the years, so her being at the will reading was confusing...until the will is read. Mick never liked life on the farm but he must now find a way to keep it or it goes to Kate. Kate doesn't want it. It's Mick's heritage. So she agrees to help him find a way to keep the farm while allowing him to return to Dublin. Even through the pain of the last ten years, and the heartache over Mick and what they'd lost, she still cares very deeply for him.

Chapter one is uploaded to my website at

The story came about because of our rescued Border Collie, Daisie, who was found in similar circumstances as I wrote in the book. While I won't give away the subplot, I will say I'd hoped to write something no one else had. Readers have told me it was totally unexpected and they hadn't read a subplot like that before, so I guess I hit the mark there. Our Daisie will be eight this weekend, having been found as a newborn on 4 July. She's our Independence Baby! (our other rescued collie, Poppy, was born around Christmas Day. As newborns, she and her brother were put on someone's dumped...the morning after Christmas, so she's our Christmas Baby)

Is this part of a series? If so, tell us about them.

Yes, A Piece of My Heart is part of the Irish Pride Series. The other two books are Rhythm of My Heart and Shape of My Heart.

Rhythm of My heart is about Dublin based blues guitarist called Kieran Vaughan and an artist's rep from Eireann Records called Eilis Kennedy. Kieran found himself playing in a seedy bar in Dublin's north side after his business partner embezzled all of their money from their joint business, a pub called the Blues Tavern. Kieran has to pay off all the debt before he can think about his career. Then Eilis discovers him by chance and believes he'll be the Garth Brooks of the blues. Eilis was a singer, but after suffering so much heartache from agents who would only hear her demo tapes if she got on the 'casting couch' she became an agent herself. She now hears those artists who would otherwise be turned away as she had. When Kieran and Eilis meet, sparks fly. Kieran is willing to throw away a career of a lifetime to have Eilis, and Eilis is scared because she's now forced to face her greatest fears. In the background, Eilis's boss Fergus is not the playboy he thinks he is. He's one of the worst agents who uses the 'casting couch' to his advantage. He's fixated on Eilis because she's the only woman to tell him 'no.' When Fergus learns of Eilis's intentions of taking Kieran on as a client, and more importantly how she reacts around him, Fergus does everything he can to dissuade her.

Shape of My Heart is about Grainne Vaughan, Kieran's little sister, and Dublin City detective John 'JD' Desmond. Grainne is starting her life over, ie: she's trying to grow up. She's moved back to Dublin with the intention of going back to school. But her job isn't quite cutting it with the expense, so she moonlights secretly as an exotic dancer called Jett. The money comes in fast and bountiful, so it's just a matter of time before she's saved enough and can quit. JD takes a job working beside Grainne in the hopes of gaining information from her about the goings on at her dance job at The Club!. This exotic club is a front for drug kingpin Taylor Wade, aka The Hunter. Grainne thought her identity was a secret, but JD uses this to his advantage to get Grainne to spy for him...or he'll tell Kieran what she's doing! Neither intended to fall in love. When Wade discovers what the two are up to, Grainne and JD find themselves in protective custody until Wade can be apprehended. It's then we learn why Wade is called The Hunter.

There is also a short story sequel to A Piece of My Heart, which tells Kate's and Mick's story a year later. This story is called Constant Craving and should be available soon.

While A Piece of My Heart appears to be a single title, there are connections in all of the books linking the characters together.

How do you plot your novel?

Plots are like roadmaps. You have a starting point and a destination. It's how you travel between the points that makes up the story. A lot of authors complain of writer's block. To me, this is simply nothing more than traveling on the wrong road or on a dead end road. When I get stuck, I back up to the last junction and explore other scenarios before continuing. That new route can be a good choice and lead to thickening the plot, or I could find myself in reverse again and trying the next road. Eventually, when I come to my destination (the end of the story), my characters will have had all sorts of adventures.

What have you learned being published that you wish you knew before you were published?

I think I'm still learning! I learned a lot through the editing process, but really, the whole industry is a daily learning process.

I will give readers two pieces of advice though. The first is this: Get with a really good critique partner (CP) --one who will give you honest critiques of your work and is not afraid to be burtal, but in a productive way. You don't want a CP who says everything you write is brilliant. It's counterproductive and you know it. If everything you write is brilliant, then you'd be published many times over by now.

And you don't want a CP who slams you at every turn because she's probably so unhappy that slamming someone else makes her feel better about her own work.

Also, you don't want a CP who, when you send her your chapters, comes back with "everything's fine" when you've put a lot of time and effort into combing her chapters and making suggestions.

Critiquing is a two way street, both giving equal measure. If you're not happy with a partner, change. It's fine to work with a friend, but friends have too much at stake if the critique thing goes south. Find a neutral CP. Your sole purpose in the relationship is your stories and helping each other with unemotional recommendations. Sometimes friendships can blossom through these kinds of relationships, which is great, but you must keep neutrality in your critiques. I'm lucky that I've had a couple great CPs, both of whom are great friends and we can still comment on each others work, or at least work through plots and bounce ideas off without worrying those ideas will be stolen by the other. There's a lot of trust in CPing so find the right person for you.

The second piece of advice is this: Don't keep saying "I want to be a writer." You ARE a writer. What you want to be is a published writer, and to do that take the time to hone your craft, learn from people willing to teach, listen to advice, develop a thick skin, and write what you know. If you don't know it, learn it.

As a writer, I'm always interested in any tips for revisions. Do you have any?

Irish novelist Dermot Bolger once said, "Write with passion in your heart; edit with ice in your veins." No truer words have ever been spoken. Stories should be told with passion. They should be told from the soul. But by the time we write the last words on the page the story is so close to us that the thought of removing one little word is like a dagger in the heart. That's fine if we're just writing for ourselves. But to make it appealing to a mass market, we have to learn to edit with a different kind of passion, ie: with ice in the veins.

I know I've cut big scenes from my story. It gutted me to do so. Every word on the page was the story I wanted to tell. But, the story I wanted to _sell_ needed editing, so passages went, scenes were shifted, dialog made clearer, etc.

But edits aren't all about slashing scenes. Here's an example from A Piece of My Heart where sentence restructuring and clarification can turn an OK passage into one with more punch --

Original: He figured it was probably for the best that Liam had shown up when he had. In reality, while he was sure they both would have found pleasure, Kate wasn’t the kind of woman to have sex so casually. Had't she said as much before she slapped him? Subconsciously, he reached up and rubbed his cheek, which still smarted.

Published: It was probably for the best Liam had arrived when he had. In reality, while he hoped they both would have found pleasure, Kate wasn't the kind of woman to have casual sex. Hadn't she said as much before she stormed out of the house? And she hadn't denied being a virgin. Had they slept together, he didn't know if he could live with the responsibility of having taken that from her and then return to Dublin.

The published version packs a bigger wallop than had Kate actually slapped Mick, don't you think?

Thanks so much for being with us, Kemberlee. Please come back when your next book comes out.

I'd love to come back. Thanks for the invitation. And thanks for asking me to join you today. It's been a lot of fun!

Okay, Kemberlee with be here all day so ask questions, leave a comment, and she will answer them. Don't forget to visit Kemberlee's website for information on her up coming novels.

Classroom Funnies

In "real life", I am a third grade teacher, so funny things tend to happen...A LOT. What else can you expect when you gather a bunch of eight and nine year olds together? There's no telling what's going to happen or be said in a situation like that.

One of these days, I really do need to write these incidents down. There's got to be a book in there somewhere.

Here's a conversation that happened during a spelling test one year. (No, the kids are NOT supposed to be talking at this time, but the resulting (hidden on my part) laugh overcame any concern I had about the rule breaking.) For some reason, I always remember this particular comment:

Teacher (me): Number ten - 'treasure' - We should look for hidden treasure. -'treasure'

Student One: Really?! That would be cool!

Student Two: Where should we look?

Student One: Where the treasure is, duh.

Okay, maybe you have to have experienced a third grade classroom to appreciate that one, but at any rate, it still makes me laugh!

Until next time,

Happy Reading!