Friday, August 31, 2012

Friday Friend - Joanne Stewart

Welcome to today’s Friday Friend, Joanne Stewart.
Joanne lives in Seattle, Washington. She and her husband are celebrating their 16th anniversary this summer, and they have two boys, aged 12 and 17. They also have two puppies, a Lab mix and a Chihuahua mix – guess who rules the roost?
First of all, Joanne, how long have you been writing?
Oh geez. Since my kids were really little. So I think somewhere around eleven years now. I had to ask my husband to help me do the math. I recall the apartment we were living in, but not the year.
How long did it take to get your first book published?
This answer really depends on how you look at it. Technically, it took me ten years, but I took a long hiatus from writing, like five or six years, and only came back to it about two years ago. When I finally did come back, I picked up the last book I’d written, filled a couple of plot holes I saw, and decided, on a whim, to send it to The Wild Rose Press. About a month later, they offered me a contract.
Filling those plot holes obviously did the trick, Joanne! And how wonderful to receive a contract from your very first submission.
Do you outline yourstory beforehand or do you write from your head i.e. plotter v. pantser?
I used to be a pantser all the way. I could sit down with a basic premise and some characters and write gleefully. Over the years, though, as I’ve learned my craft, I’ve become a bit of both. Nowadays I need to know certain things about the story before I can write. A vague idea of the premise, some of the characters’ GMCs, but then I just sit down and write and let the story take me where it will. Usually means I get stuck a lot, and have to go back and revise scenes, but I don’t outline at all. I find outlining too much makes me lose my zest for the story. Plus the characters usually run off with my story anyway. In fact, I can almost guarantee it.
I know exactly what you mean. If I do too much ‘outlining’, my stories lose their spontaneity.
Do you have critique partners and/or beta readers? Why or why not?
I currently have two critique partners. I do prefer them. I’m much more comfortable knowing someone else’s eyes have seen the story. That way I can make sure that what I mean to say is making it onto the page and the story and characters are being perceived the way I’d intended. I’d rather my partner point out potential problems than risk losing an editor’s attention for something I might have been able to fix beforehand.
Very good reasons for having critique partners!
What genre(s) do you prefer and why?
I prefer contemporary and historical. I do read paranormals on occasion, but not much. For the most part, I want a fantasy. I read for escapism, to get caught up in someone else’s world for a while. Ever look up from a book and forget where you’re at for a moment? That’s bliss to me. But for me, the story has to have a touch of realism. It loses its power if I can’t imagine it truly happening. So a paranormal for me has to move me beyond my belief system and convince me that this could possibly happen. Which unfortunately doesn’t happen often. I like contemporary because I like putting myself in the heroine’s shoes and living her life with her sexy hero. Same for historicals, except I get transported back in time. Granted, the era I’m transported back to has been romanticized, but I’m okay with that. ;)
Again, I can empathise with this, as I like writing and reading about ‘real’ characters, rather than supernatural ones.
What, for you, is the best part of writing? And the worst?
The best: when the story takes on a life of its own. You know, when the characters are surprising you and taking you down a path you hadn’t expected, and you find yourself getting up in the middle of the night, because you can’t sleep until you write that scene down. It’s very addicting for me. I get very OCD when I write. That book and those characters are all I think about until the book is finished.
The worst: that part in the beginning where I’m just learning about the characters. It’s a proverbial open book and it can sometimes take me a while before I really get to know them enough that the story opens up to me. It’s very nerve-wracking. I panic in every book. I took that long break from writing, partly because I got a major bout of writer’s block. I couldn’t finish a story to save my life. And so whenever I get stuck at the beginning of a book, I wonder, “Is this it? Is this going to be my last book?” That’s probably more than you wanted to know, right?
You’ve put my thoughts into words here! I love the process of getting to know my characters and especially the time when they start to do their own thing.
What do you think makes a good romance novel?
Characters, hands down. Characters that come alive on the page and make me care. If you can make me cry, I’m yours.
I think you’re now reading my mind! I once said to someone that if my book made her cry (for the right reasons, of course!), then I’d know I was doing something right.
What are you currently working on?
At the moment, I’m in between projects. I just finished a full length novel and am in the process of cleaning it up to send it to my agent. I plan to start working the sequel to The Playboy’s Baby. Dillon’s brother Logan’s book. A romance between a younger chef who’s just found out he’s a father and widowed slightly older woman who’s trying to move on with her life. That’s all the characters have let me in on so far.
Sounds good!
Tell us your five favourites: author, actor, movie, song, quotation.
Author – Diana Gabaldon.
Actor – can’t say I have just one favourite, but I was always fond of Robin Williams and Whoopee Goldberg, nowadays, I like Adam Sandler
Song—this one’s hard. My favorites change. Right now, it’s Adele, a toss up between her song, “Take it All,” and “Don’t You Remember.”
Movie—Hm. I have a couple. The Green Mile, and City of Angels. There are a few more, but those come to mind first. Oh, and Grease. I never get tired of watching that movie.
Quote—hmm. I’m not much for quotes. But I have one on my facebook page I came across a couple of years ago. It has a personal meaning for me. I understand how he’s feeling here when he says this:
"Ye know the fortress I told ye of, the one inside me?"..."Well, I've a lean-to built, at least. And a roof to keep out the rain". ~Jamie Fraser, "Outlander"
Tell us about your latest release.
They can't forget the past, but is it enough to create a future?
When an accident leaves her guardian to her six-month-old niece, Emma Stanton must return to her small hometown of Hastings, Montana to find the one man she's spent the last eight years trying to forget. She and Dillon had grown up together--he was her sister's best friend. But that hadn't stopped him from sharing a kiss with Emma that had followed her through the years. Now, not only must she break the news of her sister's tragic death to Dillon, but she must risk the only family she has left and tell him he's the baby's father.
Wealthy nightclub owner Dillon James has been used for his name and money one too many times, so when he comes face-to-face with Emma Stanton and her gorgeous lips, he's determined to keep things light. All he wants is to be the father his daughter needs, to make up for not being there for her and her mother. But spending time with Emma, as she shows him the ropes of caring for his daughter, is wearing down his defenses. Perhaps it's time he took a chance on love.
If only he can convince Emma to take a chance on him...
Twenty feet in front of her, leaning back against the waist-high bar, stood the man she’d spent all day tracking down—the infamous Dillon James. The man who would soon have the power to take away everything she held dear. He stood amongst a small crowd of adoring fans, all staring up at him with starry-eyed expressions, hanging on his every word. Judging by the playful glint in his eye, he loved every minute of it.
Dillon’s head turned, his brows rising in stunned surprise. His gaze locked with hers. He straightened off the bar, pulled away from the women vying for his attention, and moved in her direction, his stride long and loose.
Every step that drew him closer only increased the odd mix of emotions pounding through her. For two weeks she planned this moment, right down to what she’d say when she eventually found him. Yet not only had her throat closed up, her entire body trembled. Trepidation mixed with anticipation, excitement, and a good amount of fear coursed through her.
When Dillon stopped in front of her, her pulse settled on a quick, wild rhythm. At six foot five, he towered over her and made her shiver from the sheer size and power of his broad, sculpted body. God, she hadn’t seen him in eight years, yet he looked so much the same. The same dark hair—a rich brown, the color of espresso, sinfully thick and gleaming soft beneath the low overhead lights. He had the same square jaw and wide, sensual mouth.
The lithe nineteen-year-old body she remembered had filled out over the years. The dark blue T-shirt he wore was stretched taut over broader shoulders, the soft cotton clinging to distinctly thicker biceps. His dark jeans hugged the contours of his body, outlining the shape of his lean hips and long powerful thighs.
“Emma Stanton.” Dillon shook his head, a wistful smile tugging at one corner of his mouth. “I thought maybe I was seeing things, but, wow, it really is you.”
“Hi, Dillon. Sorry to show up here like this.” Her stomach somersaulted. “I’ve been looking all over for you today. I went to your house this afternoon. Obviously, you weren’t there. So I went to your parents’. Your mother wasn’t at home, but your housekeeper mentioned that she’d seen Logan yesterday and suggested I ask him. Your brother’s back in town, by the way. Did you know?”
She caught the insanity flying past her lips a moment too late to suck the words back. A fierce heat climbed into her cheeks. Of course he knew his brother was back in town. Probably saw him every day. God, could this get any worse? She looked like a complete fool.
“It’s good to see you too, Em.” Dillon folded his arms across his chest, his mouth splitting into a wide grin.
I loved this story! And you know about making your readers cry? I only have to envision Dillon holding baby Annie against his chest, and I fill up. That’s an image that will stay with me!
You can buy ‘The Playboy’s Baby’ at
Find more about Joanne here:

Thanks so much for being our Friday Friend today, Joanne!

Thursday, August 30, 2012

A Waiting Game

Much of a writer's life involves waiting.

We wait to get an idea. We wait for a response to our query. We wait for the offer of a contract. We wait for galleys and covers. We wait for a release date. We wait for that box of books to come in the mail. We wait for reviews. We wait for comments on our blog posts. We wait...well, I think you get the idea.

Right now I'm waiting on several things.

Since I've gone back to work this month I'm waiting for the time and energy to make some headway on my WIP.

I sent corrections in on a galley and am waiting for a release date for An Unexpected Blessing.

I'm waiting for the cover of An Unexpected Blessing.

Once I have a cover and a release date I can set up a blog tour and order promotional items, but for now, I'm waiting on those, too.

I'm waiting to hear back on the full of "This Feels Like Home" which was sent to TWRP in June. The editor said I'd hear back from her no later than the end of September, so we're getting close on that one.

I'm waiting to hear back on the full of "Family Secrets" which was sent to Harlequin. I'll be waiting a while on this as it just got into the mail a couple of weeks ago and response time is around three to five months.

And for now I'll be waiting for your comments on my post!

Until next time,

Happy Reading!


Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Writing a 'blurb' for your story

Writing a blurb is probably about ten times harder than writing a synopsis, but back-cover blurbs are one of your main selling tools. In my case, I’d say that it’s the blurb (rather than the cover) that influences my decision to buy or not to buy.
First of all, go into your local bookstore – or, even easier, open the Amazon site – and look at the blurbs of the same genre books as yours. What attracts you to a book? What puts you off? What clues did the blurb give you about the characters and the setting? Did it give you too much information, or not enough?
Here I’m going to talk about the blurb for romance novels, since that is what I write. Blurbs for thrillers, science fiction, paranormal etc may be different, of course.
When I was writing romance in the sixties and seventies, the publisher wrote the blurb for me. My first novel had this back-cover blurb:
Christine thought it was too good to be true when Don Bowden, whom she had loved for so long, confessed that he felt the same way about her. It was too good to be true ...
Short, but straight to the point – and, of course, it raises an immediate question in the reader’s mind. Why was it too good to be true?
The setting for this story wasn’t mentioned in the blurb because, in this case, it didn’t form a pivotal part of the story. The two main characters were teachers but they could quite well have been in any other profession, since the emphasis was on the relationship between them and not on the setting.
In my second novel, however, the setting was paramount to the story, and this was reflected in the blurb, which was longer this time:
Janet Harris and Philip Morton were on opposite sides of the fence. The future of Janet's beautiful Lakeland village home was at stake, and she put the blame squarely on Philip. Falling in love with each other should have been the solution. But somehow it only complicated an already tense situation. Then Fate took a hand. But was it too late?
Even though it’s over forty years since those blurbs were written, this is one occasion where things haven’t changed much over the years. Blurbs continue to be the ‘sales’ pitch, and should arouse curiosity. You’re seducing the reader and persuading them to buy your book. Give enough to whet the appetite, and don’t give too much away.
For romance novels, the blurb needs to concentrate on the characters—who they are, the first major ‘plot point’ of the story, and what stands in the way of their happiness together. If the setting or their occupations are a contributory part of the challenges or conflicts facing them, then these get a mention too. The blurb should also leave the reader asking questions (even if you have to spell it out for them!).
This is the blurb I wrote for ‘His Leading Lady’:
Jess Harper’s predictable life is turned upside down when she discovers that Lora, her twin sister, has disappeared. It’s just a week before rehearsals are due to start for a new West End musical in which Lora has the lead role. Jess decides to pose as her sister in order to save Lora's career, and this brings her into close contact with arrogant theatre director Kyle Drummond. Attraction sparks between them but there’s also evidence that he had been dating Lora. So is Jess simply a substitute – in real life as well as in the show? And what will happen when Lora eventually returns?
Two years on from when I wrote this, I can already see ways I could improve it! But the salient points are there – characters, first plot point, reference to the setting/occupations, the potential conflict(s), and finally, the question.
Basically, the blurb ‘leads’ the readers into the story, but without giving too much away, and provides a ‘hook’ which hopefully will leave them wanting to know more.
Here's the blurb for my latest release, Changing the Future:
How do you write your blurbs?

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Revise, Rewrite, Repeat

My editing process varies and I suspect, is not the most efficient method. Nevertheless, it’s what I've been using for a while and I’m kind of comfortable with it.

First, I write. I may look over what I wrote the day before and make some changes, but basically, I write until the story is done. While I’m writing, I send my daily or weekly progress to my critique partner, who gives it a second pair of eyes and looks for grammar mistakes, as well as consistency (eye color that doesn’t change, etc.).

Then, I try to set it aside for awhile. Everyone says the story needs time to gel and that your brain needs a break and I’ve found this to be true. I’ve also found this break is good because when I go back to what I’ve written, I find it’s not always as horrible as I think it is! J

The first thing I do when editing is reread the entire manuscript. As I’m rereading, I take different color highlighters and assign different colors to different things—pink for the heroine, blue for the hero, yellow for a subplot, etc. This helps me keep track of things like POV switches, character development, subplots that fizzle, etc.

Once I’ve gone through and fixed those problems, I look for repeated words and phrases, too many adverbs, passive voice, etc. Our website has a great reference for some of these—look on the right side of the website and click on HWH’s Helpful Writing Tips.

I also look for any areas that need to be fleshed out and any scenes that just aren’t working for me.

What do you do?

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Joining the 21st Century

I did it! I have Kindle on my new tablet.
Actually two younger, smarter, naturally tech-wired people did it. Katie, a garden co-worker, set it up. Monica, my daughter, activated it and downloaded a novella by fellow RWA Scriptscene member, Pepper Phillips, called Unconditionally.
I've been shown how to play with the background color, and contrast, but I think I'll leave the settings as they are, for now.
It will take some repetitious to get comfortable with this device. But I'll be able to read romances that have been inaccessible. And I'l get comfortable with e-books, just in case I elect to self-publish my WIP.
I'm excited.
I've joined the 21st century.

Friday, August 24, 2012

Ten Things I Learned As a Debut Author by Babette James

Last August 5, I received The Call for my first novel, Clear As Day. Well, The Call was an email, but it was an email that changed my life, and the year that followed has been a rollercoaster of awesome and crazy. I thought I was mostly prepared for being a published author: I’d paid attention to my friends’ writing careers, I’d taken workshops, I’d started my website and blog and dipped my toe into social media, etc., but BEING a newbie published author has still been a huge learning experience.

1. Calendars and Spreadsheets Are Your New Best Friends. Things will get hectic, you will not remember everything.
Spreadsheets: I use Excel spreadsheets to track:
Guest blog spots: when, where, what about, when due, and giveaway if any
My giveaways: where, who, what, and when sent
Yahoo loop, Facebook promo and other sites: Groups and pages and types of promo and days allowed
Miscellaneous spontaneous promos where I might post an excerpt, where, and what excerpt I posted so I don’t repeat the same post at the same site.

Calendars:  One master calendar = fewer headaches. I use my office calendar for my blog guest spots, my guests at my blog, reminders for those spots, my work events, holidays, church events, even chores around the house. Don’t want to use a paper calendar? There are numerous online calendars and calendar apps out there. I like the calendar at

2. There’s No Such Thing as a Stupid Question. What’s an Art sheet? Galleys? What are good giveaways? Blog tour? STET? When do they want it? What are good Yahoo loops to join? I have to use Track Changes? How do I upload an avatar? Do I really have to friend that person back? Questions can swarm faster than mosquitoes in July. Save your stomach lining, swallow hard, and just ask. Don’t be afraid to ask your editor, your critique group, your RWA chaptermates. There was a day when they didn’t know either.

3. The Dreaded Promo. Research the type of promo you’d like to do and how much you’re willing to spend in time and money way ahead of your release. Not all promo costs money, but all promo consumes time. Check out successful authors you like in your genre and investigate how they promo. Remember to give yourself enough advance time to book the blog tour company you want to use, the bookstore you want to hold a signing, or to get on the calendars of the blogs you want to visit.

4. Learn the Tools. Learning Facebook, Goodreads, Twitter, Wordpress, etc. at the same time you’re learning to promote your book is a good way to increase your stress. Research the kinds of social media you will enjoy using for promotion and reader interaction. You don’t have to do them all, but starting and learning to use the various accounts ahead of release can make life less stressful. Signing up is easy, but the learning curve and managing details can be time consuming. That website, Facebook header or Twitter background your favorite author has might be custom artwork or might be a simple click and use theme, but even with simple click and use finding what you like can be time consuming. Learn how to keep your blog and/or website updated regularly, how to insert clickable links, how to make a useful signature for your emails, and how to make it easy for your readers to find you and your books on the web.

5. The Blog Slog. Brainstorm topics, stockpile blog ideas, and write the posts before your book release or blog tour begins. After completing a 100k word novel, writing a 500 word blog post may seem simple, but life always seems to toss in hiccups and roadblocks and the muse goes on coffeebreak. Writing a blog at midnight the day your post is due is not good for the blood pressure.

6. Drafts Save Time. Keep a document handy that has your bio, excerpt, social networking links and buy links all in one place so you can copy and paste as needed. Keep copies of your cover and your photo in a few smaller sizes such as approximately 200 x 300 for easy posting in blogs. Save various draft Twitter posts, Facebook posts, Yahoo Loop promo posts, etc. in a master document so you don’t need to draft a new one completely from scratch each time. However, be careful when copying a Word document straight into an email: characters such as apostrophes, quote marks and hyphens can turn your email into gobbledygook when posted. You can keep clean drafts of promo email in your email’s draft folder, then copy and paste from the draft into a new email and hopefully avoid the gobbledygook.

7. Writers Write. Don’t forget to give yourself time to write. Once that contract is signed, editing and promoting can consume your time and burn you out so easily. Give yourself time to really write. Start that next story. Jot down that plot bunny. Have fun with a crazy short story idea. Let yourself be creative.

8. Give Yourself A Break. We all have lives outside of our writing career: children, spouse or significant other, parents, everyday job, church, hobbies. Our lives are packed and finding balance is already hard. It’s easy to think, “Oh, I can squeeze in promoting my book a little on top of everything else. I can still write every day. I can give up some more of my me time.”  You need that me time even more now. It was scary enough pitching and querying. The stresses can be bigger now. Get your rest. Read that book you put aside on your TBR pile. Have that dinner date with your friends.  Make the breaks as appointments on your calendar if you have to, but take time for yourself.  

9. Don’t Worry, Be Happy. Yep, totally need a thick skin. Readers, reviewers, blog commenters, that cranky person at church, and Aunt Susie’s cousin’s best friend are all going to have an opinion of your writing. Unfortunately, knowing you need a thick skin is easier than having a thick skin. You need a support group of writing friends who you can privately vent to and celebrate with. There will be times you will be bursting with happiness, fear, or anger. You don’t want to Twitter or Facebook when your emotions are crazy. Your writing friends will hold your hand, talk you off the ledge, and celebrate with you like crazy. I have an awesome group of writing friends and I couldn’t have made it through this past year without them. I’m also lucky in that my husband and coworkers are supportive, but they just don’t understand the writing life the way my writing friends do.

10. Celebrate Your Successes, Big Or Little. You busted your butt and got those edits in on time. Your neighbor liked your blog post. You held the copy of your book in your hands for the first time, print or on an e-reader. You got a five star review. Have that glass of wine, those fifteen extra minutes soaking in the tub with your favorite music playing, or that fancy latte at the coffee shop. Be proud of yourself. Honor your hard work.

What are some things you’ve learned on your journey?


What’s a girl to do when her summer lover wants forever?

Haunted by dark memories of her parents’ volatile marriage, artist Kay Browning keeps her heart locked behind a free-spirit facade and contents herself with the comfortable affair she has every summer with easygoing photographer Nate Quinn.

The only trouble with her plan? This summer Nate’s come to Lake Mohave to claim the lover he can’t let go. He’s done with the endless traveling and settling for temporary homes and temporary loves. Kay’s always been more than just a vacation fling, and now he must convince this woman, who sees love as a course to certain heartbreak, to take that leap of faith and learn how safe love with the right man can be.

With a splash, she erased the frustrating daydream. This wishful imagining fixed nothing. Her sheltered little camp would still be empty. Should she give in, pack up the camp, and hit the road north to Lake Mead instead? Just break her routine for once.
No, but it was definitely past time to get her tush out of the water and do something constructive. This lonely gnawing in her bones and brain was unacceptable. Kay pushed to her feet, facing out to the scenic lake created out of a stretch of the Colorado River and the rugged land beyond shimmering with heat.
Work, right, but it was too early in the day for the hard afternoon light she needed for the Coyote Point painting. She was too restless to read or fish and not in the mood to take the boat over to the marina, chat with George, and buy ice.
She rolled her shoulders and stretched, enjoying the hot air licking over her wet skin. As she wiggled her feet in the sand and gravel-bottomed shallows, a flurry of minnows darted past her ankles, and her silver toe ring glinted beneath the clear water. She paused, caught by the possibilities in the sparkling sun on water and the intricate, shifting reflections over gravel. Yes! Exactly the distracting challenge she needed. Shaking the water from her ears, she pivoted toward camp.
“Kay!” That male voice was not her imagination.
“Oh, shit!” She twisted and dropped into the water, sinking neck-deep. Mother always said, among other things, that a lady never goes skinny-dipping and must always wear a proper hat. Kay was only half skinny-dipping, but she fervently wished she’d worn something a bit more substantial than a baseball cap and the bottom half of the quintessential teeny-weenie yellow polka-dot bikini.
Shit, oh, shit, oh, shit. She so hated when Mother was right.
Okay, time to find out who’d just gotten an eyeful. The guy had called her name, so she should know him. Oh boy, if she’d flashed old George…
She wiped water from her face, sucked in a breath against her pounding heart, and peeked around.
She must be sun-dazed. Nate? With a beard? Hair curling over his ears? No way. Just because a familiar slouchy fishing hat topped those unruly, sun-bleached blond curls and just because this guy possessed the same deep-water tan and footloose taste in clothes as Nate with his electric blue Hawaiian shirt, bright orange swim trunks, and beat-up deck shoes didn’t mean—
“Hey, babe. Now that I’ve finally caught your attention, how about a hug from my girl?” He opened his arms. “Am I coming in after you or are you coming out?” Only Nate’s voice held that mellow timbre like chocolate for her ears.
“Nate! What…” Giddy delight flushed over Kay, clearing her shock. She dashed from the water and into strong arms, a wonderful hug, and a better kiss that launched her mind into a blissed-out whirl of oh, yes and why?
The oh, yes won out until the need to breathe forced them apart.
Nate gave her a long look, his usually easy gray eyes holding a new, simmering heat.
Wow. Whoa.

Bio: Babette James writes contemporary and fantasy romance and loves reading nail-biting tales with a satisfying happily ever after. When not dreaming up stories, she enjoys playing with new bread recipes and dabbling with paints. A teacher, she loves encouraging new readers and writers as they discover their growing abilities. Her class cheers when it’s time for their spelling test! She lives in New Jersey with her wonderfully patient husband and three extremely spoiled cats.


Clear As Day can be found at: – Paperback & Kindle

Come fall in love at the river.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

How Many Sets of Eyes?

I was excited to get my galleys back earlier this week for An Unexpected Blessing.

I was not so excited to find quite a few errors after doing a couple of read throughs. I've looked at this manuscript dozens of times, not counting all of the time I spent writing it in the first place. My editor and I did two rounds of edits together on it. And it went to the copy edit department before going to production. That's a lot of eyes looking at it.

And still I found eight things that needed corrections. Some were simple errors like punctuation in the wrong place. Honestly, I can see missing things like this. An apostrophe or a period is so minute, it's easy to skim over. Some were usage errors. Is the word 'fissions' or 'frisson' or are those two different things? The really puzzling ones were places where words were missing. Or entire lines. In the case of an entire line missing, I checked the second round of edits I did and it was there then, so this was something in the translation from document to PDF galley

I know it's easy to get caught up in the story and jump over things like that. As the author, my mind knows what should be there, so sometimes I don't notice if it's missing. Which is why I always do a read through from front to back, and then another one from back to front. The latter tends to turn up things I miss when I am swept up in the story.

The good part of this is even though it's frustrating to still be finding those mistakes, I'm so glad to have the opportunity to find them. There's nothing worse than opening up a published copy of one of my novels and finding a mistake. Nothing I can do about it at that point. Now's the time to uncover them all and fix them.

Until next time,

Happy Reading!


Wednesday, August 22, 2012

A Story within a Story

When I was writing ‘His Leading Lady’, I needed a West End musical. Since Kyle Drummond, the hero, was Scottish, I searched online until I found a Scottish legend that I thought would work as a musical play. The story of Colin Campbell, Laird of Glenorchy in Argyll, caught my imagination.

Colin learned of the Crusades and vowed to go. His young wife, Margaret, didn’t want him to go, but Colin was adamant. Before he left, he had a ring made, inscribed with both their names. He broke the ring in two and gave Margaret one half, saying, ‘If you receive my half of the ring you will know I am dead.' He then left to join the Crusade.

After seven years, Lady Margaret was besieged by suitors. They insisted Colin must be dead, but she said she hadn’t received the token Colin had promised to have sent, therefore he must still be alive.

Unknown to Lady Margaret, one of her suitors, Baron Neil MacCorquodale, had intercepted messages that Colin had sent. He wanted to marry Margaret in order to add the lands of Glenorchy to his own estate, so he arranged to visit her with a raggedly dressed man who brought a letter for Margaret. This said that Colin had died, but when Margaret asked about the token, he said there was no token and made up a story about how it had been stolen.

Still not convinced that Colin was dead, Margaret agreed to marry Baron MacCorquodale, but only when the tower of her new castle, Kilchurn, was completed. She still hoped Colin would return so she ordered the workmen to build as slowly as possible, and also to take down every night, under cover of darkness, most of what they’d built during the day.
Kilchurn Castle
This file is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license.

Eventually, (omitting some of the legend here!) due to the intervention of Colin’s foster mother and his brother, Colin finally returned home just as the marriage of Margaret and MacCorquodale was due to be celebrated. Dressed as a beggar, Colin came to the pre-nuptial feast and said he would only take a drink from Lady Margaret herself. Margaret gave him a drink and Colin took the cup from her hand, drained it in one gulp, and handed it back to her. Margaret looked down into the cup, where she saw his half of the ring. Startled, she looked at the beggar, who raised his eyes to meet hers, and Margaret saw it was her husband.

Her wedding to MacCorquodale was called off, and the feast turned into a celebration of Colin’s return.

So my new West End show was invented, which I called ‘Token of Love.’ I changed the names of characters – Colin Campbell became Callum Drummond (so that he was a distant ancestor of Kyle) and the heroine of the show became ‘Lady Kate’ - the role taken, of course, by my heroine Jess.

I even invented some songs for the show – a full chorus number called ‘When You Come Home’, Callum's solo 'This is My Token', and Lady Kate’s solo ‘No One Understands’ which became a pivotal part of the story’s climax. I even resorted to writing some lyrics:

No one understands –how my heart belongs to you –
No one understands –that to you I must be true.
They think that I’m a fool,
Clinging to the past,
Hoping beyond hope.
They just don’t understand why
I’m waiting for you.

I’m not sure I could sell the idea of ‘Token of Love’ to Andrew Lloyd Webber or Cameron Mackintosh, but one of my reviewers did say: “The sub-story of the West End musical in production was so interesting that I wanted to see it performed!”

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Ten Sentences

This is a bit of a crazy week for me. My older daughter is away in California with her grandparents and my younger daughter is taking full advantage of her “only child status.” Which means that I’m running around entertaining her and making her feel special—I don’t mind, but it doesn’t leave me a lot of time to myself. And therefore, things like blogs suffer. So, with apologies, I’m taking the easy way out and showing off 10 sentences from my latest manuscript, The Seduction of Esther. It’s a contemporary Jewish romance that takes place around the holiday of Purim (a holiday that celebrates the saving of the Jews of Persia by Queen Esther, herself a Jew). One of the themes of Purim is hiding one’s identity (Esther didn’t actually tell her husband she was Jewish until she revealed the plot against the Jews), and that’s a great theme for a romance. These sentences show when the heroine meets the hero. The manuscript is currently out looking for an agent—wish me luck and let me know what you think!

Her goal—the potatoes; the multitude of delicious sights and smells distracted her and she squeezed and smelled her way through the narrow aisles toward the back of the store.


Samara whipped her head up as a deep voice interrupted her thoughts of baked potatoes au gratin.  A tanned hand reached for her arm, its fingers long and square with clean nails.  They pressed against her arm, just firm enough for her to feel their warmth. Her gaze traveled up his arm, from the wrist. A light dusting of dark hair peeked from beneath the cuff of a starched, white shirt. Her eyes continued their way up to the biceps that filled out the sleeve. She continued across the broad expanse of chest, up a tanned throat, over a chiseled chin darkened by five o’clock shadow, past soft lips, around flared nostrils and into blue eyes. Slate-blue eyes twinkled at her.

Sunday, August 19, 2012


This was a Sunday I didn't have to rush out to work, so after my husband left to do barn chores, I flipped idly through the televisions channels, savoring my mini-vacation. I came across one of my favorite old movies playing on a cable channel: Cutting Edge.

This romantic film stars D.B. Sweeney and Moira Kelly. He is a hard-living, injured professional hockey player. She is a competitive figure skater, so tightly-wound and sharp-mouthed that she sabotages her aspirations for an Olympic medal by driving away skating partners. Her rich, equally driven father gives permission for her Russian coach to "shake things up" by bringing in this hockey player. He's strong but totally unfamiliar with figure skating.

I can relate to his innumerable spills to the ice at first. When I was young, I "kissed the ice" frequently until a Swiss instructor ground off the lowest tooth on my figure skates. I was never going to be a competitive skater, but my lessons were part of his income.

Let me also say here that the movie was on a channel that breaks for commercials. During these breaks, I folded laundry, scrubbed the bathroom sink and changed the bed sheets. When the movie returned, I picked up my mug of coffee with cream. It was heavenly.

Though I assured myself I could track the plot points, I soon lost myself in the romance. The lovers spar and spit, dare and double dare each other to do the near impossible--win one of two spots on the American Olympic team.

Her boyfriend, a Harvard MBA who works for her father, announces their engagement. Mr. Hockey has to skate to win, just not to win her love. Then, just before they skate onto the ice for the long program he confesses he loves her...

Next time I watch it, I WILL note when the first plot point occurred and exactly what it was. I know what happens.

Friday, August 17, 2012

Author Morgan K Wyatt, today's Friday Friend

Please join me in welcoming Carole Wyatt,
writing as Morgan K Wyatt.Her latest book, Unexpected Cougar, is set for release today from Secret Craving Publishing! (It was co-written with her husband.)

Carol writes:
     How is your memory? If you can remember former high school classmates who keep befriending you on Facebook, then it’s good. Do you wonder if the realtor who keeps sending you friend requests is the same girl who started the rumor about you being a boy who dressed as a girl? If you have hard time remembering details about your own life, imagine juggling the minutiae of dozens of lives. Mothers do this, teachers too, but writers live constantly in this mental labyrinth of vanishing names and facts.
      As a mother, teacher, and a writer, I was determined to hang onto more information. As I age, I worried my memory might be the first to go. My daughter gave me the dubious assurance that my memory left long ago. I suspected as much, but could have done without her confirmation.  I have consulted books, attended seminars, and searched the Internet for surefire answers to improve my memory.
      My first mistake was working outside my area of expertise. As a teacher, I’ve spent a great deal of time with pencil and paper. My first attempt at organization was a Palm Pilot. I immediately lost the stylus making it ineffective. The paper calendar works for me. I augment it with the purse calendar and white board in my office. My nod to technology in this department is I use my Google account to interface with my cell that warns me of upcoming events and appointments.  It would be nice if it would notify me of shoe sales when I walked by DSW too.
      I do manage to show up for appointments on my own now. My previous system was questionable and it involved family members. My extended family uses the same doctor, dentist, hairdresser, etc. My sister might go in for her appointment, and be reminded mine was in two days. Unfortunately, relatives could not help me with my writing.
      My total no tech system works the best for me. I have a binder with various dividers for each story where I notes names of characters, occupations, back story, where the story takes places. This is very important when engaging in a series and you have to keep referring back to a minute detail that the readers will remember. I used to keep this information in a folder on the computer. Only problem was I could not remember the name of the folder, and opened dozens with similar names.  If I didn’t waste enough time doing that, I’d go back through the 45,000 words trying to find the section of the book I needed. I’ve found if I knew what happened in that section, I could put a line of text in the search box to locate the chapter.
      Sometimes simple systems are the best. I decided to file everything alphabetically as opposed to grouping by function. This makes it easier to lay my hands on important documents.  If I don’t file immediately I forget why I cut something out of the paper or saved a particular article.
      Remembering people’s names is a major issue for me. I heard once that the ability to remember names and spell is carried on the same gene. That’s my excuse and I am sticking to it. I used to rely on my daughter’s superior memory while in public. When I saw a smiling woman heading my way, I’d asked my daughter who it was. She’d tell it was someone I hadn’t seen for years I wondered why the woman could still recognize me, or that my daughter remembered her.
      The inability to remember names or details I use as a complicating factor in my stories. In my newest release, Unexpected Cougar by Secret Cravings Publishing, the main character Elise fails to recognize her nemesis until it’s almost too late. Sure, she looks familiar and there is something about her she’s supposed to remember. What could it be?
      As for names, I try to associate one thing with the person when we first meet. Maybe she has teal blue eyes, loves Elvis, or has the same name as my mother. I shake their hand and say their name at least three times in conversation. Chunking information works better for me than just a name.  When it doesn’t, I fall back on an old friend’s trick; she calls everyone beautiful or handsome. No one ever complains about her not using his or her actual name.
     What helps you remember needed information? I am always open for methods that work.

His eyes twinkled at her in the dim light, or did she imagine it?
“Nope, I am walking you out to your car. Men look out for the more delicate sex. Although, despite you’re feminine appearance, I bet you’re a tough female, a regular Captain Janeway.”
“Who?” She scanned the parking lot for her car, which wasn’t hard since all the cars were gone, except for a few belonging to employees. She walked toward her green compact sedan with Jackson keeping pace. He rattled the change in his pocket a sure sign of nervousness. What did he have to be nervous about?
“Captain Janeway commanded the Starship Voyager on the ill-fated Star Trek spin-off. Still, her character was a strong, attractive, smart woman—uhm forget I said anything.” He stammered to an abrupt stop.
Elise hip bumped him playfully and acted surprised. “Oops, sorry. I know who Janeway is. I especially liked her Native American first officer, Chakotay.
“Really? I never met a woman who had actually heard of the show. Is this yours?” He nodded in the direction of the green less than beautiful car.
“Untrustworthy as it is.”
She found herself drawn to the slightly nerdy bartender, and they were at her car. If he were a date, she’d expect a kiss. If a guy tried to French her, plastering her against her car, she definitely wouldn’t go out with him again. If he pursed up his lips reminiscent of a second grader, she’s pass on him too. A firm, light touch of the lips solicited a second date, unless he’d triggered one of her taboo areas during the evening. This included rhapsodizing about the wonders of his mother, complaining bitterly about his ex, and every other woman who passed through his life, or expecting sexual favors as a nightcap.
A press on the keychain fob unlocked the car, turning on the interior light and highlighting the backseat complete with all the bachelorette gear for a friend’s party. Maybe Jackson wouldn’t notice the cake in the shape of male genitalia. At five times the real size, it was hard to miss. Jackson covered his mouth in sudden coughing fit and turned his head slightly away. He hadn’t missed it.
“Are you a baker by trade?” he asked in a choked voice.
“Argh, I prayed you didn’t see that. A business associate in my building is getting married. Shirley, a sixty-plus widow, picked out all the goodies. I’m the lucky one who gets to haul it all around. If they knew how unreliable my car has been lately, they might have picked someone else.” She put her hand on the door only to find his hand there already.
“Allow me.” He opened the door. “What’s wrong with your car?”
“Starter.” She slid in, turned the key, and listened to the car grind and not start. “It takes a while for it to catch. I know I should get a new one, but…”
“What?” He braced his arms against the roof of her car and leaned in to talk to her. “Why aren’t you fixing it? It’s not safe for you to be out on your own and not be able to get your car started, especially in a dark parking lot.”
Same lecture her father gave her a few days before. She sighed and muttered “Thanks, Dad.”
Jackson recoiled, slamming his head on the open door frame. Damn, just when she thought he might kiss her. Not that he should, but she hoped he would. It would mean he was interested in her, although he’d already shown her more attention than she’d had in the last six months. Still, he was probably just a nice guy who walked lone women to their cars.
He spun away from her to better curse under his breath, holding his head with both hands. Getting out of her car, she walked over to him and wrapped her arms around him from the back, an extremely bold move on her part. “I’m sorry Jackson you’re nothing like my father, with the exception he’s a nice guy. You’re a nice guy. He has brown hair. You have brown hair. He has—oh, I’m babbling.”
Jackson turned slowly in her loose embrace until he faced her. “I like it when you babble.” His lips moved closer to hers when a voice broke into their romantic bubble.
“Jack, I can’t get the credit card machine to work,” a disembodied female voice called out.
She not only heard his sigh, she felt it. He backed off, dug out his wallet, and pawed thought the contents until he produced a battered business card and handed it to her.
“The guy who owns this garage is a friend and a former co-worker. He’ll give you a free estimate and do honest work. Try starting the car again. I don’t want to leave without it running.” Jackson glanced back at the figure at the door.
“Okay.” She hopped into the car and cranked the engine again, hoping it would start.
She didn’t need her wonky car holding up business. This time it caught. Backing out, she waved at Jackson. Would this be the last time she saw him? Probably not if she continued to use the restaurant to meet her dates, the thought of him watching her soldier through inappropriate pairings would make her even more self-conscious. Why didn’t she ask him out? Maybe she read the signs wrong. It might horrify the guy. The thought of even more masculine rejection tightened her lips and steeled her determination to give dating a break.
11/11 Reluctant Cougar-Secret Cravings Publishing12/11 Christmas Warmth-XOXO Publishing1/12 Cub in Blue-Secret Cravings Publishing 2/12 Puppy Love-Secret Cravings Publishing     

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Does Your Writing Need a Diet?

A fellow member of my local RWA chapter posted this link today and said she had some fun with it. So, I went ahead and gave it a try and had some fun, too! It reminds me a bit of the link Paula shared a while ago for Wordle. This one is called The Writer's Diet and it shows you where your work might need a little dieting! As with anything like this, it's not a perfect diagnostic or analysis, and you can take from it whatever you choose, but it was fun to play around with!

I started with the opening of the mss going to Harlequin. It's called "Family Secrets". Here's what came up:

All in all, pretty good. Every category in this portion of the mss fell into the lean category. According to this, the mss is in good shape.

Then I tried it with the opening of An Unexpected Blessing, the book currently in the copy edit stage at TWRP. Here's what came up:

Hmn? This one, which is at far more advanced stage in the publishing process, came up with some areas that may need a little exercise. Unfortunately, at this point in the process, it's beyond making these types of editorial changes. Overall, it's still quite 'healthy', but may have a few too many 'be' verbs. Interesting.

At any rate, this was an interesting exercise. I highly recommend giving it a try. The link above should work, or here's the full address: Let us know how your writing shapes up!

Until next time,

Happy Reading!


Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Choosing the Right Title

Sometimes titles come easily to us, sometimes we have to search hard to find the right title for our stories.

‘His Leading Lady’ was an obvious one for me, especially as it had a double meaning. Jess was Kyle’s leading lady in the show, but who had that role in his life?

‘Fragrance of Violets’ came from a quotation by Mark Twain about forgiveness, which fitted the theme of the book. It resulted in a beautiful cover but, on reflection, was it too obscure to be the title of a romance novel?

‘Changing the Future’ again came from something I once read, not a ‘quotation’ per se, but enough for me to know this was the right title for the story.

My next release has the title ‘Her Only Option.’ I've lost count of how many titles I considered and abandoned, once I’d decided that my working title of ‘Romance on the Nile’ was too reminiscent of Agatha Christie and Poirot! I’m not happy with it, but neither my editor nor I could come up with anything better. So be it, although I admit I will never really like it.

The two WIPs I’m struggling with at the moment already have their titles – ‘Different Worlds’ (because of the very different lives of the hero and heroine) and ‘Dream of Paris’ in which the heroine’s dream of  living in the City of Love is a pivotal part of the story.

In the present climate, though, (and looking at the bestseller lists), maybe I should be thinking about ’50 Lights of Paris’ or ‘Submission by the Seine’ or ‘Vampires at Versailles'. Okay, I’m being facetious – or am I? I wonder if E.L. James agonised over her titles?

How do you choose yours?     

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Listen to Jen…Really!

There are many things I wish I’d known when I became a writer. Here are a few:

Writing is hard work, even when it comes easily. Just because I can sit down at a stretch today and write 2,000 words doesn’t mean I can do the same thing tomorrow. Or that those 2,000 words won’t be deleted, revised and rewritten several times until they no longer resemble anything close to what they did in the beginning. And that’s okay.

You need to get someone else to read your writing, even if you’re an editor! Preferably several “someone else’s.” It’s next to impossible to objectively look at your own writing and identify its flaws. Sure, you can do that to someone else’s work, but you didn’t put in the blood, sweat and tears to create it in the first place. And an objective eye is invaluable, no matter how much it hurts.

Join a group of writers, preferably a group of knowledgeable ones. In addition to the advice you’ll receive, the camaraderie is great. Writing is a lonely pursuit and you need the interaction with others.
Writers are, for the most part, nice. Meet them. If you like their books, tell them. You never know how you might benefit from being a nice person (aside from the fact that it’s just the right thing to do!). Don’t be afraid of writers.

Know the rules and when to follow them. That’s right, there are times when it’s okay to break them. It’s not something someone can tell you; you have to figure it out on your own. But sometimes, breaking the rules is okay. Editors, publishers and agents know that.

Writing is a profession, even if others might not think so. That means you have to act professional. Use manners. Don’t take things personally. Be nice to everyone. Don’t talk about anyone in a way that you wouldn’t want to get back to them. Do your research. Double check your spelling. When in doubt, don’t make that joke!

Have a marketing strategy. If you can’t create one yourself, get help from those more experienced than you. Your book won’t sell itself.

What do you wish you knew?