Monday, June 30, 2014

My Wish List

Ana starts her writer's gift list.

I have encountered people who are finishing their holiday shopping in August.

I could never accomplish this, but I thought it might help my loved ones if I started my wish list.

1. Muse Net. The color is optional, but that sparkly lavender one is nice. (A muse net traps your muse so s/he has to stick around until you finish.)

2. Waking Recorder. Saves the brilliant, but fleeting inspirations that rise from the subconscious overnight.

3. Personal memory cloud.  Automatically records, organizes, and stores ideas for book titles, character names, story plots.

4. Social media double. An invisible clone who updates all social media accounts 24/7. The higher-priced model also does impeccable book formatting.

What would you add to a must-have wish list?

Thursday, June 26, 2014

On the Road Again

Debra's off on a long weekend getaway.

Today we're on the first day of a four-day weekend trip to Ozark, Missouri. This has been an annual trip for about the last nine years. We've only missed one year in that time, and that was because I was on crutches with stitches in my foot last year. :(

A friend has an uncle who owns a few hundred acres in the Ozarks. It will be a weekend of ATVing, tractors, the swimming hole, and hanging out and catching up with friends. I'm planning on bringing my Kindle so I have a ready supply of reading material. I usually go through at least a book a day there, as we spend most of our afternoon lazing around at the swimming hole. We put our lawn chairs right in the rushing water and kick back. It's bliss.

This place is so fabulous, it actually became the setting for my second Corral book, This Can't Be Love. I'm going to take a copy of the book with me to do some on-site photographs, as I did with Wild Wedding Weekend when we went on our cruise this past March. One of these days, I'd like to do an 'On Location' page for my web-site.

For now, I'm going to kick back and enjoy a fabulous vacation!

Until next time,

Happy Reading!


Monday, June 23, 2014

Contest Confidence

My entry in the Wisconsin Fab 5 contest took 5th place overall. Naturally, I am thrilled. This means I have come a long way on my quest to be a good storyteller.

I hope I will receive some comments from the final round judge. I would take them seriously, as I have done with the first round judges' comments. These aren't people who know me or would be concerned about my feelings.

A published author who judged in the first round suggested that I shake up my opening. Cowgirl saves ranch is somewhat cliche. This fits with my recent Deep Story plotting session, where I realized that hero saved by heroine made for a stronger story line.

The contest feedback was as good, I feel, as an editor in a publishing house. I am certain now that I can write a publishable story. Yippee!!

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Beginning to End...or Not

Debra takes a look at her writing process.

I am not a beginning to end writer. Usually, when I have an idea for a story, I know how I want it to begin, and I know how I want it to end, but I generally have no idea of how I'll be getting from one to the other. Sometimes, I'll have ideas for key scenes that I'll jot down as notes. More often I'll just write and see where the story takes me. The more I get into it, the clearer things become, and soon the story takes shape.

With my current WIP, I have definitely followed this system. I wrote the first chapter and a bit beyond. I have the almost-to-the-end scene written, and I know what needs to happen for the HEA. But what I have in between are just a bunch of scenes. What I'm missing are the connections to draw those individual pieces together to make a story. I need to figure out how and why my characters are going to change throughout the course of the story. I have a pretty good handle on my heroine's motivation, but nothing as solid for my hero.

What I need to do is really dig into my characters' emotions. It's those deep POV gut-wrenching moments that are missing and making my story more like stand-alone vignettes rather than a smoothly flowing narrative with a cohesive plot and characters arcs. It's time to get beyond the superficial and see if I can actually make something of this project.

There's my goal. My conflict is I'm still not motivated to actually sit down and do anything about it. What I need to do is a read-through to refamiliarize myself with the story. It's been way too long since I've even looked at it. So that's my short-term goal for today. Like a homework assignment, I'm going to set myself the task of sitting down and reading through the mss. Hopefully, that will get my creative juices flowing. The right mindset is definitely a good place to begin.

Until next time,

Happy Reading!


Tuesday, June 17, 2014

The Writing Muscle

Jennifer is "working out"...

I finally picked up my manuscript yesterday and started editing it again. It felt so good to disappear into the lives of my characters. I really love Cassie and Rayne, and it was almost like having a reunion with dear friends.

Life has been so hectic lately, I haven’t been able to focus on writing, but I decided that I had to force myself to get back to it, even just for a few minutes. A few minutes turned into an hour. I didn’t do major rewriting yesterday, even though there are places that need it—I left notes for myself to go back later and take care of the rewriting. I still didn’t feel I had the concentration necessary tackle major rewrites. But at least those parts that need major rewrites are now percolating in my head, waiting for me to have either the time or a brainstorm.

I’ve posted several blog topics here about not having time to write, or not being inspired to write or, conversely, getting back to writing. What I’m finding more and more to be the case is that writing is like exercising. There’s a muscle that needs to be used; otherwise it atrophies. I’m not saying you can never stop or that there is no benefit to taking a break—it is creative, after all. However, I do believe that at some point, even if you don’t want to, you need to sit down and write. Just write, no matter how awful it might be, because just by actively engaging in the activity, my brain starts to churn again and I find the inspiration slowly returning.

Monday, June 16, 2014

Book covers

BookBub Unbound, a blog from the book promotion site, posted an interesting list of Best Themes for Book Covers.
They say at least 30% of a shopper's decision to buy an e-book is based on the reader's attraction to the book's cover.
Their list for best themes for covers is:

Animals, especially dogs.
Beach scenes. Sand and surf convey leisure and relaxation--time to read.
Seasonal themes, especially Christmas, where family, home and hearth are shared.
Friendship and sisterhood.
Shirtless men.
Great photography, especially in cookbooks.
Chick-lit art, especially for series
Cute kids.

Thursday, June 12, 2014


It's time for Debra to start thinking about getting the word out.

I have a new book coming out in August. Yay!

I need to start thinking about promotion. Line up blog appearances. Purchase promotional materials: bookmarks, postcards, etc.

Trouble is, I don't want to do any of those things. Promotion is one of those things you put so much time and effort into and there seems to be no good way to measure whether those efforts were successful or not.

I am sorely tempted this time around to do something different with promotion...translation: do nothing. What would happen if I didn't do a blog tour? What if I don't order bookmarks? My gut feeling is my sales will be exactly the same as they always are. My books do okay sales-wise, but nothing close to anything that will help me retire early to a tropical island when I turn 50.

The question is, am I willing to take the risk? And even if this book doesn't do 'as well' as my previous ones...what are the consequences of that? Am I going to lose readers as an author? I'm sure my mom and the rest of my family and a few friends will still read my stories. Some days it seems like those are the only people who do read my books.

Have you ever done absolutely nothing to promote a book and just let the chips fall where they may?

I'd love to find a new approach to promotion. But that's what everyone else wants, too, right? The blog thing seems to be losing speed. Too many blogs out there with the same people posting and commenting. And those tend to be other authors rather than readers. Not that authors aren't readers, but I know I can't buy every book by every fellow-author out there, so I can't expect everyone to be buying my books. I haven't tackled Twitter yet. For most of the year, there's no way I can keep up with it. Maybe I'll try it as a summer thing this year. We've discussed the merits of Pinterest. So that has possibilities.

I'm sure I'll come up with something.

Until next time,

Happy Reading!


Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Procrastination Is Killing Me

Jennifer is spinning her wheels...

I’m at that “in-between time” in writing. I’ve submitted a manuscript to my editor and she’s accepted it for publication. I’ve signed the contract, but haven’t gotten a release date, forms, or anything else.

This is the time I should be writing. I should be working on the next book in the series. I should be finishing up the edits to the other manuscript I wrote and getting it ready for submission as well. It’s the perfect time to do all of this because there’s no pressure, no deadline and no current marketing that has to be done.

Unfortunately, I’m totally uninspired.

Maybe the lack of pressure is part of the problem. Maybe I need things held over my head in order to get things done. If so, that’s disappointing. Writing has always been my escape from the stresses of the rest of the world. It’s what I do when I don’t want to work on my to-do list. It’s not supposed to be another thing I don’t want to do.

Here’s hoping the summer brings some inspiration!

Sunday, June 8, 2014

Pages From The Heart Contest

Pages From The Heart Contest is open now through June 30!

Entry: Electronic entry of the first 25 pages of your original, unpublished, and uncontracted novel-length (or projected novel-length) manuscript. See entry form on our website:

Published Author: the writer is contracted or published, but the entry itself must not be contracted or published. Self-published authors are welcome. The manuscript must be your original work.
Unpublished Author: the writer has not accepted a publishing offer for, or self-published, a work of original fictional narrative prose of 20,000 words or more (by the contest entry deadline). The manuscript must be your original work.
Pages From The Heart Contest is open to RWA Members only.

Contest Categories: Historical, Contemporary (single title or category, includes Novel with Strong Romantic Elements), Paranormal/Futuristic/Time Travel, Romantic Suspense/Mystery, Inspirational, and Young Adult/New Adult

First Round: Three Judges per entry. The lowest score will be dropped, but will be used in case of a tie.
Second Round: Ranking completed by professionals in the publishing industry who actively acquire in the categories they’re judging. A comment section will be available for judge feedback, though it is not required. See our website for a list

All prizes are for all categories in both unpublished and published authors’ divisions.
First Place:  critique of your submission by an independent professional editor, Lynn Crandall Editing Services + name in contest winners section of the RWA Report + website/avatar graphic + printable e-certificate.
Second Place: 1 Year Free Membership to FTH + name in contest winners section of the RWA Report + website/avatar graphic + printable e-certificate.
Third Place: name in contest winners section of the RWA Report + website/avatar graphic + printable e-certificate.
Honorable Mention receives a website/avatar graphic + printable e-certificate.
Hero of Our Heart Prize: Top three entries in this special “judges’ choice” category will be ranked by an agent or editor. Finalists do not have to final in the Category contest. The winner receives 1 Year Free Membership to FTHRW and a website/avatar graphic+ printable e-certificate.
– All finalists’ and winners’ names will be listed on the FTHRW website with a link to a social media contact of the writer’s choice.
 – All entrants will receive the score sheets from each judge along with their judged submission, including the dropped score. Judges are encouraged to give additional feedback comments at their discretion. 
– First-Round Judging Score Sheet as well as Judging Guidelines are available so potential entrants can see what’s being evaluated.
– We stay connected to you every step of the way through our contestants’ “Contest News” yahoo group. You will be updated when the contest closes, when Judges have received entries, when Judges have started returning entries, etc.
– Upon exiting the contest, we will encourage feedback from contestants, judges, and other volunteers. We want to provide a contest that YOU want to be a part of!

Entry fee: $20 FTHRW members/$25 RWA members (US funds paid through paypal on entry form.)
Multiple entries: $15 for subsequent entries (US funds paid through paypal on entry form.) Please note that each manuscript can only be entered once. Additional entries must be from different manuscripts. More than one manuscript can be entered in the same category or in different categories.

Entries will be the first 25 pages of your manuscript saved as a DOC file. If formatting guidelines are not followed, the entry will be returned to author for correction.
Standard industry formatting rules apply:
-One inch margins, double spaced, font: Times New Roman 12 or 14 or Courier 12.
-Header: division, category, title, and page number.
-Author’s name must NOT appear anywhere on the manuscript.

For more information: PFTHContest @ (delete spaces.)

Thursday, June 5, 2014

Word Count Madness

Debra takes a look at the word count of Star Wars.

When I opened my browser the other day, my eyes scanned down, like they usually do, the list of top stories of the day. I almost always find something to click on that distracts me from what I was supposed to be doing on the computer in the first place. Usually it's an article about William and Kate or about a recent tv show or movie I have an interest in. One in particular caught my eye for two reasons. One, it was about Star Wars. I am a huge Star Wars geek and can't wait for Episode 7 next year. Two, it mentioned the words in the original movie, now dubbed Episode 4. Since Ana had recently discussed the merits of Ogden's 850 words, clicking on this particular time-waster was a no brainer.

Someone (Who has way too much time on his hands.) counted all of the individual English words used in the first Star Wars movie. I don't know if it's the original version, the extended version, the DVD version, or the whatever version. There have been so many I've lost count. Turns out, according to this article, there are 1,695 individual English words used in the movie. The most common is 'the', which is used 368 times.

Not only did said person apparently count all of these individual words, he then alphabetized them, and then arranged the corresponding movie clips into an almost 45 minute video. (Which I haven't watched...Yet. But being the giant Star Wars nerd that I am, I more than likely will at some point. It's officially summer break, so I can enjoy these types of indulgences.)

To me, this seemed like a small amount of words for a two hour movie, and again had me wondering how many individual words I use in my stories. I'm sure there's some tool/app out there that would help me figure it out. But, sigh, my time would probably be better spent getting new words down on the page in order to finish my WIP. Right?

Until next time,

Happy Reading! (And may the Force be with you.)


P.S. If anyone is interested (aka as big of a geek/nerd as I am, here's the link to the article/video.

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

I Did It!

Jennifer spoke to Hadassah...

Last week, I wrote about a speech I was giving to a Hadassah chapter (a Jewish women’s group) about my book. The speech, “How A Nice Jewish Girl Became A Romance Writer,” was last night and I had so much fun!

An old friend of mine arranged for me to give the speech. She and I served on numerous committees at my temple prior to her moving to another part of the state. I joined her and her husband for dinner at their home prior to the speech, where we caught up on news and she filled me in on the group to whom I’d be speaking.

She brought me over a little early, which gave me a chance to meet several of the women and to set up a small table of my books and postcards. Then it was time for the meeting to start. They took care of organizational business and then Patty introduced me.

Surprisingly, I was not nervous. There were about 50 people there, maybe more, but I didn’t know any of them, other than Patty, so I think that helped. In any case, I didn’t forget to breathe.

They laughed in all the right places and most of them looked as if they enjoyed listening. I'm always nervous when speaking to a large group of women, because I know not everyone is interested in the topic, but either I held their attention or they were really polite. :)

Afterwards, I answered questions for about ten minutes and then many of the women came up to me to talk to me. I sold many books and some of them plan to contact me for other speaking engagements.

I can’t wait!

Sunday, June 1, 2014

Could you limit your writing vocabulary to these 850 words?

Basic English, created in the 1930's by Charles K. Ogden, is used as an ESL teaching method. It has been adapted for futuristic novels like Orwell's 1984.
Ana wonders if she could unlearn all the other words she knows...

Word List - in His Order

    OPERATIONS - 100 words

    come, get, give, go, keep, let, make, put, seem, take, be, do, have, say, see, send, may, will,
    about, across, after, against, among, at, before, between, by, down, from, in, off, on, over, through, to, under, up, with,
    as, for, of, till, than,
    a , the, all, any, every, little, much, no, other, some, such, that, this, I , he, you, who,
    and, because, but, or, if, though, while, how, when, where, why,
    again, ever, far, forward, here, near, now, out, still, then, there, together, well,
    almost, enough, even, not, only, quite, so, very, tomorrow, yesterday,
    north, south, east, west, please, yes .

    THINGS - 400 General words

    account, act, addition, adjustment, advertisement, agreement, air, amount, amusement, animal, answer, apparatus, approval, argument, art, attack, attempt, attention, attraction, authority, back, balance, base, behavior, belief, birth, bit, bite, blood, blow, body, brass, bread, breath, brother, building, burn, burst, business, butter, canvas, care, cause, chalk, chance, change, cloth, coal, color, comfort, committee, company, comparison, competition, condition, connection, control, cook, copper, copy, cork, cotton, cough, country, cover, crack, credit, crime, crush, cry ,current, curve, damage, danger, daughter, day, death, debt, decision, degree, design, desire, destruction, detail, development, digestion, direction, discovery, discussion, disease, disgust, distance, distribution, division, doubt, drink, driving, dust, earth, edge, education, effect, end, error, event, example, exchange, existence, expansion, experience, expert, fact, fall, family, father, fear, feeling, fiction, field, fight, fire, flame, flight, flower, fold, food, force, form, friend, front, fruit, glass, gold, government, grain, grass, grip, group, growth, guide, harbor, harmony, hate, hearing, heat, help, history, hole, hope, hour, humor, ice, idea, impulse, increase, industry, ink, insect, instrument, insurance, interest, invention, iron, jelly, join, journey, judge, jump, kick, kiss, knowledge, land, language, laugh, law, lead, learning, leather, letter, level, lift, light, limit, linen, liquid, list, look, loss, love, machine, man, manager, mark, market, mass, meal, measure, meat, meeting, memory, metal, middle, milk, mind, mine, minute, mist, money, month, morning ,mother, motion, mountain, move, music, name, nation, need, news, night, noise, note, number, observation, offer, oil, operation, opinion, order, organization, ornament, owner, page, pain, paint, paper, part, paste, payment, peace, person, place, plant, play, pleasure, point, poison, polish, porter, position, powder, power, price, print, process, produce, profit, property, prose, protest, pull, punishment, purpose, push, quality, question, rain, range, rate, ray, reaction, reading, reason, record, regret, relation, religion, representative, request, respect, rest, reward, rhythm, rice, river, road, roll, room, rub, rule, run, salt, sand, scale, science, sea, seat, secretary, selection, self, sense, servant, sex, shade, shake, shame, shock, side, sign, silk, silver, sister, size, sky, sleep, slip, slope, smash, smell, smile, smoke, sneeze, snow, soap, society, son, song, sort, sound, soup, space, stage, start, statement, steam, steel, step, stitch, stone, stop, story, stretch, structure, substance, sugar, suggestion, summer, support, surprise, swim, system, talk, taste, tax, teaching, tendency, test, theory, thing, thought, thunder, time, tin, top, touch, trade, transport, trick, trouble, turn, twist, unit, use, value, verse, vessel, view, voice, walk, war, wash, waste, water, wave, wax, way, weather, week, weight, wind, wine, winter, woman, wood, wool, word, work, wound, writing , year .

    THINGS - 200 Picturable words - picture list

    angle, ant, apple, arch, arm, army, baby, bag, ball, band, basin, basket, bath, bed, bee, bell, berry, bird, blade, board, boat, bone, book, boot, bottle, box, boy, brain, brake, branch, brick, bridge, brush, bucket, bulb, button, cake, camera, card, cart, carriage, cat, chain, cheese, chest, chin, church, circle, clock, cloud, coat, collar, comb, cord, cow, cup, curtain, cushion, dog, door, drain, drawer, dress, drop, ear, egg, engine, eye, face, farm, feather, finger, fish, flag, floor, fly, foot, fork, fowl, frame, garden, girl, glove, goat, gun, hair, hammer, hand, hat, head, heart, hook, horn, horse, hospital, house, island, jewel, kettle, key, knee, knife, knot, leaf, leg, library, line, lip, lock, map, match, monkey, moon, mouth, muscle, nail, neck, needle, nerve, net, nose, nut, office, orange, oven, parcel, pen, pencil, picture, pig, pin, pipe, plane, plate, plough/plow, pocket, pot, potato, prison, pump, rail, rat, receipt, ring, rod, roof, root, sail, school, scissors, screw, seed, sheep, shelf, ship, shirt, shoe, skin, skirt, snake, sock, spade, sponge, spoon, spring, square, stamp, star, station, stem, stick, stocking, stomach, store, street, sun, table, tail, thread, throat, thumb, ticket, toe, tongue, tooth, town, train, tray, tree, trousers, umbrella, wall, watch, wheel, whip, whistle, window, wing, wire, worm .

    QUALITIES - 100 General

    able, acid, angry, automatic, beautiful, black, boiling, bright, broken, brown, cheap, chemical, chief, clean, clear, common, complex, conscious, cut, deep, dependent, early, elastic, electric, equal, fat, fertile, first, fixed, flat, free, frequent, full, general, good, great, grey/gray, hanging, happy, hard, healthy, high, hollow, important, kind, like, living, long, male, married, material, medical, military, natural, necessary, new, normal, open, parallel, past, physical, political, poor, possible, present, private, probable, quick, quiet, ready, red, regular, responsible, right, round, same, second, separate, serious, sharp, smooth, sticky, stiff, straight, strong, sudden, sweet, tall, thick, tight, tired, true, violent, waiting, warm, wet, wide, wise, yellow, young .

    QUALITIES - 50 Opposites

    awake, bad, bent, bitter, blue, certain, cold, complete, cruel, dark, dead, dear, delicate, different, dirty, dry, false, feeble, female, foolish, future, green, ill, last, late, left, loose, loud, low, mixed, narrow, old, opposite, public, rough, sad, safe, secret, short, shut, simple, slow, small, soft, solid, special, strange, thin, white, wrong .