Friday, October 29, 2010

Fuel for Thought

A topic for this blog post refused to come to me.  I guess my muse went on vacation.  Thanks.  Anyway, I couldn't think of one subject that I wished to write about so I'm sitting in front of my messy desk, watching the cursor flicker at me, and munching on pretzel sticks.  My fuel for thought. 

Delicious fuel to get my mind going--The buttery taste so creamy then the explosion of salt.  I'm in heaven. While munching on one, it came to me--my snack needs praise for the help it gives me.  Everyone has their snack that is comforting and stomach filling.  These stick pretzels do that and also help me think .  In college, I munched on them during a lecture.  Somehow, they kept me focused on the lesson even these years later, I get into the zone when I'm eating them. 

Some people use food as a reward.  The sundae if finish the revisions are completed.  A cheesecake if you write that synopsis.  I even read it in one of Kasey Michaels's books where her heroine who was a writer, would line up M & Ms (another of my beloved snacks) then once reaching writing goals would eat them.  Sound yummy.  We all need something to get through some tasks and every little thing helps as the cliche goes.

What is your favorite?  Do you have more than one?  Is the food a reward or is it your fuel for thought?

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Who do you like to read?

As an author, I always find it interesting when people ask, "Who do you read?"

This question seems so simple, but when you really think about it...just how loaded is it?

-Does it speak to your knowledge as a writer?
-Does it speak to your knowledge of different genres?
-Does it speak to you as an individual?

These are some of my favorite books:

Absolutely amazing opening!


Sad, but enjoyable.

But, what do these books tell you about me? Anything?

Why do you choose the books that you read? I pick a book for so many reasons: author, setting, genre, characters, but when I find an author I like, I buy everything they have. Because I know I will enjoy it, or at least I hope so ;-)

What would the books on your shelf tell me or anyone about you?

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Nearly Didn't Make it to Scotland

Before I mention the first castle, I wanted to say that I almost didn't make it to Scotland, and was totally unprepared with what to do...what a near disaster!

This was the first castle we visited and it was very cold here! I loved this castle--only one room that was finished off and decorated, otherwise it was in ruins and trying to envision what it looked like when people lived here was more fun.

It was high above cliffs, surrounded by water on 3 sides and had a long way down stairs, then a long path up again until you came to the one entrance, easy to see anyone approaching by land or by sea.

Here was one of the rooms that would have been occupied by someone of status.

This shows some of the walls and one of the more finished buildings.

I love the water, and loved seeing the waves crashing on the rocks below the castle's cliffs. It's a long way down!

Here is one of the storage rooms. Note all the rocks were covered in green moss. It was cold and misty, cloud-covered, a cold breeze while we were here.

Note the thickness of the walls. Long drop off here to the rocks below!

This was the well where they would get their water. I was having fun getting a reflection of the castle in the water. I imagined a medieval people gathering to get water at the well for meals.

In the earlier days, arrow slits were part of the defense system. Later, they created round holes for guns.

Again, rocky, watery grave if prisoners tried to escape, and very difficult to access from down below. The castles were built with primarily defense in mind.

This was the chapel.

We were very fortunate that the place was virtually empty and so were able to get a lot of pictures without having a ton of people in them. :)

After we saw this castle, I felt the trip was worth all the while.

Every vacation should have a disaster or two to make them really memorable, right? Of course! So I made my flight just fine to Houston, to Newark, was getting ready to board for Edinbourgh, and my passport had expired the month before.

I have to say that the folks at Continental Airlines were wonderful. They helped me to get to Philadelphia on Amtrak the next morning and the security at the Customs House were wonderful, and the clerks there too, to ensure that I could get on my way. It was a sweat job getting a train, a taxi, a photo from Kinkos over half a mile from the Custom House, and all the while I'm lugging a bag (the other went to Edinburgh and was happily waiting for me there), very briefly noting historical monuments and buildings along the way in my frantic rush, a very thorough screening, and then hours later with new passport in hand, a rushed taxi ride back, which was the scariest part as the meter went out on the driver's taxi and he kept trying to get his phone that had fallen on the floor while slamming on his brakes when someone stopped in front of him in the traffic filled streets. Then the train ride back to Newark, back through security and on the plane that I should have taken the night before.

Which meant that I didn't have a night to sleep. As soon as I arrived in Edinburgh, I met my friends and we were on our way across Scotland!

The way I look at it was that I had never been on a train, never to Philadelphia, and so it was a unique experience. And it showed that an impossible situation was made possible. I will also say that I'm not the only one who has faced this crisis!!!Although I wished I had seen that my passport was nearly expired. But I've only used it once in 10 years, so I never even thought about that aspect!!!

Maybe it'll go in a book someday!!!

Have any wild adventures in traveling?

"Giving new meaning to the term alpha male."

Monday, October 25, 2010

Life is a balanced act

No, not a balancing act. A balanced one.

For the first time in months I'm working on a Work In Progress that I just love. The characters are really solidly in my head and the plot is tight, and I'm making huge progress. I'm averaging a chapter every other day -- a finished, polished, solid chapter. This is the way I used to write, before I got bogged down for some unknown reason, last spring.

The other side of the fulcrum? My home life is out of whack. Nothing major, just car trouble. I took the car in for its 30k checkup, expecting to spend $300-$400. Instead I'm spending 10 times that.

I'll give you a minute to pick your jaw up off the floor.

Yep, $3500. The car has been in the shop for a week, waiting for parts and/or being worked on by mechanics. Plural. This is a car that ran just fine. All I anticipated was a spark plug change, etc. But turns out mice got in and made a nest out of the entire electrical system ("awesome," one service guy said. "It was awesome." Not the word I would use to describe it, but I get the point). EVERYTHING electrical has to be replaced.

Keep in mind: this is a car that is parked in a garage and is driven every day. Every single day. So it's been 'protected.' This begs the question of what is happening to my husband's car and his truck, which sit outside and are not always driven on a daily basis. You're right. I don't want to know until I've paid the bill for my car.

So there you have: the balance of life. On the up side of the teeter-totter: my writing. I thought I had lost the writing mojo because this summer was such a drag, writing-wise.

On the downside: mice.

And on the up-side: my cats, who now get to play in the garage now and again. They are going to have a field day...

Yep. Life really is a teeter-totter, isn't it?

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Life's Colors

Today the phrase "take time to stop and smell the flowers" popped into my head as I drove to the grocery story. Mother Nature is more than generous to us here in the Sierra Nevada Mountains of California. One scene that always takes my breath away is the white, billowy thunderheads that look like puffs of cotton. On a certain stretch of highway, framed by tall pine trees, you can see the clouds waiting for you at the end of the road. Of course you never reach them, but it's fun to imagine grasping a bit of fluff and taking it home to dream on. I grabbed my camera and went back to capture the picture to share with you. The huge thunderheads were gone, but you can catch a glimpse of what we get to see every now and then when we're lucky and Mother Nature is in a creative mood.

My mother, an award winning oil painter, gave me the love of finding beauty around me. I didn't realize it at the time of my youth, but when my daughters spent time with her and came home talking about their time with their grandmother, I started to see her skills as an artist. Their favorite experience was when she would have them lie on the ground and watch the clouds. "If you concentrate very hard," she would tell them, "you can move the clouds around with your mind." Then they would have fun looking for different pictures in the clouds. Even now I take the time to see what I can discover.

Do you know clouds aren't really white? I learned this watching the movie "The Girl with the Pearl Earring" where Dutch oil painter Johannes Vermeer asks his housemaid-turned-assistant what color she saw when looking at the clouds. At first she said white, then no – yellow, blue, grey are the colors. When I went looking with my camera, I did happen to notice the multitude of colors in the clouds. Amazing how a compilation of colors can appear white.

This got me to thinking about our writing and how we each have our own individual voice. How does this happen? Can it be a compilation of our life's colors and those who've influenced our lives? Maybe who we are is determined by how we absorbed those experiences and share them with others. Is there one event in your life that might have had a great impact on how you write or approach your writing or job?

Guest Cindy Green

Today I am pleased to introduce multipublished Inspirational author, Cindy Green. PLease welcome Cindy.

Cindy , please tell us about yourself?
It’s good to be here today. To put it short and sweet, I'm an author, teacher, maid, mother, wife and accountant. I have degrees in history and education and taught middle school up until about six years ago. Now I stay home and homeschool my two boys. I was born in California and now live in North Carolina out in the country about a ½ hour from Raleigh . I've been married for 15 years. I'm published in several genres: Inspirational, historical, contemporary, young adult and suspense. Those are also the genres I like to read. I spend my (non-existent free time) reading, watching period dramas and doing my best to keep this house one step away from becoming a disaster area. To read my more in-depth bio, stop by my website.
Can you please introduce your new book to our readers?

Best Friends or True Love? Only Santa Knows.

Kathryn Graham hates Christmas. She hates the snow, the decorations, the whole nine yards. Nick Pringle on the other hand can’t get enough of the season. He may be her best friend and fellow writer at Redburn Weekly Magazine, but sometimes his exuberance gets on her very last nerve. Now they’ve been assigned to cover the orphan toy drive story. It’s just a puff piece not the serious journalism Kathryn hopes for, but maybe—as Nick says—there are no old stories just new angles.

Nick Pringle has been in love with Kathryn practically since the day they met. When he realizes that she’s lost her Christmas spirit, he figures he’s just the guy to help her find it again. He enacts a plan to send her anonymous gifts from Secret Santa, but will any of this really make a difference in her? Will she ever see him as anything more than her smart-aleck partner even after their passionate kisses? Then again maybe he’ll get what he wants for Christmas after all.

From where did you get the idea for this story?
All I Want for Christmas is a best friend’s romance. I love writing the best friends romance because it’s wonderful to see friendship develop into love. Isn’t it right that they be friends first as that’s what cements the couple together. I started writing this book because my publisher at the time needed Christmas stories and I figured I could write one. Six days later, the first draft was finished. A whirlwind of writing. I felt as though I was but a vessel to my inspiration and had no control over it. A truly inspiring experience.

Cindy, who is your hero?
Nick Pringle is our tall, tawny haired, hazel eyed hero who is always well-dressed and well-mannered with never a hair out of place. He is Kathryn’s writing partner and friend. Nick is definitely the mild mannered reporter type. He’s the nice guy around the office who is always in good spirits, available to take hysterical phone calls 24/7, and he also happens to be in love with Kathryn. So, it’s no mistake that when he learns Kathryn has lost her Christmas spirit that he intends to help her find it again.

When I came to naming this character, I decided to think Christmas since this is a Christmas book after all. So, I named him Nick Pringle which is like St. Nick and the Pringle is close to Kringle. Nick Pringle. Silly I know, but it works.

Nick is mild mannered so much so that he doesn’t want to rock the boat with Kathryn. Of course, he likes to tease her; and he loves how riled she can get – but it is always in fun. He knows that he loves her now, but he doesn’t want to change things and ruin their friendship. But then he starts sending her gifts from a Secret Santa, and Kathryn starts falling for her Secret Santa because he seems to know her so well. This finally gets Nick to move into action culminating in the finale.

Please, introduce your heroine.
Kathryn is the dark haired, blued eyed heroine of our story. If you really want to understand her character, think “ Lois Lane .” I have to admit to being a huge Superman fan, and when I came to write this novella, I thought it would be great to use LL as my inspiration. Kathryn is not exactly like Lois, but you will see similarities. When it came to naming this character, I decided to use the name of a great newspaper woman. I named her after Katherine Graham, the famous journalist and later owner of the Washington Post. I changed the spelling of the name, making her Kathryn and the hero, Nick, calls her Kat.

A few words to describe Kathryn: smart, attractive, stubborn, and sometimes abrasive. She is the type that puts on a hard exterior but inside she’s mush. She isn’t close to her family, so she puts everything she has into her job. She wants to be a part of the legitimate press instead of having to write all these “puff pieces,” as she calls them. You know, public interest stories. She doesn’t find them important enough. To quote her, “Give me a shoot out, bank robbery or a scandal any day of the week. Then I’ll be happy.” Oh, and did I mention that she hates Christmas? Well, there is a reason for that. To find out why, you will just have to read the book. :) And then there is Nick. He is the one person in the world that she calls in the middle of the night and actually cares to spend time with. But she has never thought of him as anything more than a friend, and a best friend at that.

And one more thing – she is a bona fide Chocoholic!
All I Want for Christmas is available at Champagne Books, Amazon, and all those online book sellers.

Can you give us a backlist of your books?
I have several titles still available on my backlist. Inspirational (both historical & contemporary): A Funny Thing Happened on the way to Your Wedding, Relationship Rescue, Dilemma of the Heart, Snow Kissed. Suspense: A Night of NovelTea and NovelTea Next Door. Contemporary: All I Want for Christmas. Young Adult/Fantasy: Struck by Conscience, Historical Western: The Heart Never Lies.

FREE READS:I’d like to offer a couple free reads to the readers here. MY GRAND EPIPHANY is more of a contemporary, humorous chicklit-like story. You can download for FREE at White Rose Publishing. My other free read is called Second Chances. It’s a historical western set in 1878 Wyoming . Download it today at White Rose Publishing.

Future Projects:This coming January, I have another historical western coming from Champagne Books called Listen to Your Heart. I should also have book two in my Faery Guardian series come out in 2011--Sold my Soul to a Frog.

Where you can Find Cindy:You can visit me at my Website or my Blo, called Cindy's Musing. In addition, I have a Homeschooling Blog and a Teen Fiction Blog. They can also email me at I’m on Myspace Facebook Twitter and Twitter for my YA friends. And I have a Newsletter. The latest edition should be going out soon.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Is your character a Gumby?

Blessed are the flexible for they shall not get bent out of shape.
––Kim Downey

I have followed this philosophy for years. Well, okay, I admit I’ve failed at times to bend with the breeze. However, my husband lives the above quote in an organic sense. He’s as calm as a summer sea––always. Which sometimes drives me to the point of distraction or, more importantly, as a fiction writer, to boredom. No romance author wants to write about someone who doesn’t emotionally react to events.
During story development I decide on a character’s flexibility. Is she limber as Gumby or rigid as a walking stick? Or somewhere in between? The differences lead to surprises, an important reason we keep turning the pages of a book. Here’s one over-used, classic example. To save her child, a prim librarian jumps on the back of a Harley with a tattooed, beer-guzzling biker. Since she’s an inflexible person her reactions jack up the scene. Lots of sparks fly between them.
I’ve written my fair share of scenes lacking pizzazz, usually as my first draft. My heroine is stuck on cruise control. That’s when I try revving pass the red line, overshooting her flexibility limit. Suddenly you’re writing emotionally-driven dialogue and action scenes. Hey, she yells at me while madly waving her hand, I’m totally bent out of shape here! Sorry, I tell her, but I get the fun bonus of vicariously jumping on the back of that Harley and wrapping my arms around a dangerous Hell’s Angel.
Another way to look at character flexibility is through the lens of ambivalence. Does my heroine see the world as black-and-white or shades of gray? I once read an article titled Why So Many people Can’t Make Decisions. It included a simple checklist to find your shade. The truth is we’re not totally in one camp or the other, which offers more opportunities to give my heroine conflicting opinions. Now she’s twisting in two directions and definitely giving me the evil eye.
I tell her I didn’t mean to create all this anxiety and stress in her life, but she is in the middle of my story. And the fun just gets better and better.

I’ll close by sharing a little secret. My husband has a motorcycle so I experience, firsthand, the thrill of riding behind a man with a hot, roaring engine between our legs. Talk about symbolism!
I’m always searching for additions to my writer’s toolbox when it comes to character development. If you have a favorite tool I’d love for you to share it with us.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

My Favorite Things by Jaclyn DiBona

[Picture of Mona and Jaclyn as they met for the first time in August 2010 in Massachussetts]

This month has been tough.

Fretting and fuming to get my book published, along comes mother nature,
to show me whose boss,
Between eye doctors, and new glasses,
New hearing aids, at the tune of $3, 300.

Finding out I have spinal stenosis was bad enough,
Having to get shots in the spine didn’t sit well with me at all.

When my young doctor asked me if it was painful to move,
I was happy to see him gape in awe as he shook his head,
when I bent over and touched my toes.

Gleeful, I was on a roll, bending backwards, and forward, and threw in
a couple of twists for good measure to answer his question.

He frowned in disbelief, rechecked the ex-rays , and shook his head,
Much to my dismay, I still got the 3 shots in the spine.

I complained to my girlfriend that I was too young to have all these problems.
She gave me no sympathy, and told me that it was nothing at all,
and she sang to me this song.

Maalox and nose drops and needles for knitting,
Walkers and handrails and new dental fittings,
Bundles of magazines tied up in string,
These are a few of my favorite things..

Cadillacs and cataracts and hearing aids and glasses,
Polident and Fixodent and false teeth in glasses,
Pacemakers, golf carts and porches with swings,
These are a few of my favorite things.

When the pipes leak,
When the bones creak,
When the knees go bad
I simply remember my favorite things,
And then I don't feel so bad.

Hot tea and crumpets, and corn pads for bunions,
No spicy hot food or food cooked with onions,
Bathrobes and heat pads and hot meals they bring,
These are a few of my favorite things.

Back pains, confused brains, and no fear of sinnin',
Thin bones and fractures and hair that is thinnin',
And we won't mention our short shrunken frames,
When we remember our favorite things.

When the joints ache,
when the hips break,
When the eyes grow dim,
Then I remember the great life I've had,
And then I don't feel so bad.

'My Favorite Things' about Aging By Julie Andrews

To commemorate her 69th birthday on October 1, actress/vocalist Julie Andrews made a special appearance at Manhattan's Radio City Music Hall for the benefit of the AARP. One of the musical numbers she performed was "My Favorite Things" from the legendary movie "Sound Of Music." However, the lyrics of the song were deliberately changed for the entertainment of her "blue hair" audience.

I may not be 69, but I still laugh whenever I hear the melody to this song. While visiting my cousins in the Vosges in France, I looked out my bedroom window, seeing the mountains I’d swear I heard Julie Andrews singing this song.

POSTED BY: Jaclyn Di Bona

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Looking your Best

As far as I remember my mother repeatedly told her daughters they should never leave the house without looking their best. In her book, looking your best includes fashionable clothes and shoes, make-up and jewelry.

After being hospitalized ten times two years ago, Mom moved to an assisted living facility. She used a wheelchair to move around, had to raise her legs most of the day, inserted an oxygen tube in her nose to breathe better…and swallowed so many pills my stomach hurt for her.

Looking your Best. My mother practiced what she preached. Mom was always perfectly well dressed in pantsuits, and twin sweaters, and would never forget to wear her earrings, bracelets, necklace or rings. There was a beauty salon in her building. So Mom had her hair set and her nails done once a week. Salesmen from a couple of stores came twice a month to sell clothes to the residents of the assisted living facility. My mother was their best client. Although she was a professor before retiring, my mother’s hobby had always been fashion designing and sewing her clothes and her daughters’ clothes. Before moving to assisted living, she gave us her precious jewelry, and bought fashion jewelry to replace the expensive pieces.

My mother professed that being nicely dressed and jeweled helped her forget she was a very sick person, confined to her wheelchair or recliner. The other residents complimented her and tried to emulate her. The assisted living staff admired her positive attitude, and the compliments of an old gentleman filled her with pride.

If I forgot to wear makeup when I visited, Mom asked me if I was sick. When I explained I was too busy to pay attention to my appearance, I regularly received a lecture. Basically, it went as follows: I didn’t have the right to neglect myself when I was healthy; I should realize that an agreeable face and a nice smile went a long way to cheer people confined to their living quarters. A presentable person projects a good impression and commends respect.

Mom died two weeks ago. Everyone remembers her lovely smile.

Needless to say, I’m always aware of what people wear around me. Including my characters. While authors describe their hero and heroine’s eyes, hair, figure, I always have to describe their clothing as well to better characterize them and situate them in a scene.

In TO LOVE A HERO, my heroine, Dr. Cecile Lornier is a career woman. You will find her dressed in dark suits that match her profession of serious scientist. When she’s attracted to General Sergei, she will let Tania, her sassy Russian driver, influence her into buying more stylish, colorful outfits and of course a Russian mink chapka (hat) to warm her during the freezing Belarusian winter.

In FRENCH PERIL, the heroine, Cheryl Stewart, is a young graduate student practically living in jeans and t-shirts. Yet to attract the handsome count François, she won’t hesitate to follow his sister Marilène’s advice and buy a Frenchy black dress.

In BABIES IN THE BARGAIN, my first medical, Holly, the pretty resident lives in scrubs but wears a tight long black dress, slit up to her thigh, when the hero invites her to the opera. The dress is a killer and the hero can’t resist.

In Rx FOR TRUST, my heroine, Dr. Olivia Crane is a psychiatrist, a university professor and a single mother. At work, she favors professional suits and classic silk shirt, but as soon as she is home she changes into a velvet pantsuit that matches the color of her eyes. The French hero, Dr. Luc George dreams of seeing her in sexy shorts or sophisticated short dresses.

I have given examples of heroines. Yet the same goes for my heroes.

Are you a fashionista when it comes to your characters? How do you dress them? Do they look like the picture on your cover? Or do you avoid mentioning what they wear?

If you like to travel and love to read, come and enjoy my international romances. I will take you around the world through stories that simmer with emotion and sizzle with heat~

All books also available at

Confusion! What to write!

What do you write? Is it contemporary, thriller, suspense, historical, paranormal, YA and now steampunk, or all of these in one genre. Is it the trends you write, hoping to hit just the right story, at just the right time? Or do you just follow your heart and hope for the best.

I've tried them all for all the above reasons.

By the time a trend hits the shelves, it's headed towards it's expiration date. Agents have mail boxes stuffed full of queries and stories on the hottest genre. They go to conferences screaming, "Don't send anymore." Whatever the hot genre is, agents usually are bombarded by it. Although I've heard that for years about Vampires. They still seem to be a hot commodity. But yet at my last conference, the agents screeched about over stuffed e-mails boxes. At times it's all sooooo very confusing.

So what is a writer to do? Follow ones heart? Or follow the trends, and write yet another teen vamp story?

I've found personally the best stories I write, are directly attached to my passion. I've written the story of my heart, at least twenty times. No matter what I do with my writing or try to do with a manuscript, I always return to my passion for historical writing. I love the research, and making those new discoveries. I love taking historical events and famous individuals, and introducing them to my characters, which is like introducing them to me. I give my hero and heroine the feeling I'd get from meeting a King or discovering I was in the presence of a someone I admire.

After a long dry spell, moving around in the modern world of the contemporary genre, I've gone back to my passion, and will once more write another book of my heart.

What I've found when writing within that passion, every word, every page, and the manuscript as a whole suddenly becomes that book of the heart.

I'll leave behind what is the trend, and just hope for the best. After all the trends do turn around, and come back to what wasn't and is new again. If the historical genre is out right now, it will make that big U turn that happens in all genres and come back into vogue, eventually.

Write from the passion that drives you, and it will become the book of your heart. I know there is an agent out there who will recognize the emotion that drives a story, more then the trend.

What do you write? Is it from the heart or following the trends?

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Combating Self-doubt

This month I’m writing about self doubt, something I know we all struggle with from time to time, but for me, I get this feeling more frequently than you can imagine. If you know me personally, then you’re laughing at my comment because I appear to be the most confident person on the face of the earth. But the truth is, sometimes I’m not feeling what I portray.

There’s no question it’s a very human emotion, but what it does to us internally is another story. It’s times like these that you think you’re the only one. Well, trust me, you’re not.

I’ve been writing for six years. I was one of those lucky authors you love to hate because my very first finished manuscript was purchased by the very first publisher I’d submitted to. Yeah, I know what you’re saying. This writer must be hot stuff. But let me tell you about the after effects.

While my confidence was soaring, I was on top of the world. And then I came crashing down like a torpedo plummeting into the water missing its target when I received the first rejection after the purchase. I thought for sure my next submission would be welcomed with open arms. It wasn’t. It was rejected three times. But what I did afterward was something I’ve promised myself I’ll never do again. I stopped submitting. Yup, that’s exactly what I did. That old self-doubt just took up residence in my body and it wouldn’t let go.

The good news is I didn’t stop writing, and now, I have four manuscripts I’m flooding the market with, one having been sold two days ago!

When I told our children about my sale, they were all very excited for me. One son said, The only difference between successful people and unsuccessful people is extraordinary determination."

Another promise I’ve made to myself is whenever those self-doubts infringe upon me, I will try to focus more on the positive things I have accomplished. I recently read an article on self-doubt by Alexandra Levit, a columnist for the NY Times. Here are some of the things she's suggested when you're trying to beat self-doubt:

Event Journal: I’m a list maker by nature, but this is something that really works. I take a piece of paper and draw a line down the center and keep track of all the things that went well, no matter how menial I think they are. It could be something as simple as a telephone conversation with a friend, had a good meeting, or I wrote a great paragraph in my current story. The good things go in the left column, and the difficult things go on the right column.

If you do this, at the end of the day, you will no doubt notice that the list of things that went well far outweigh the list of things that didn’t. Are you seeing yourself in a different light now? Hmm, I thought so.

Call on the Cheerleader Angels: My hubby is the head cheerleader in my family. And thank God for that. He knows me well enough to sense when I’m feeling insecure. He’ll sit me down and just start chatting about his day, ask about mine, give me positive feedback even if I’m not jumping up and down. And that’s when he reminds me of all the good things I’ve done. Fortunately, he’s not the only Angel in my life. I have lots of other cheerleader angels too, and I’m thankful for each one of them.

Celebrate your successes: I celebrate every success – for as long as the excitement remains. I think it’s important to reward yourself for a job well done. When I sold Cupid’s Web, I went out and purchased a Dooney and Bourke handbag. Now that I’m not working out of the house, I don’t need as many handbags, but I’ve always had a fetish for them. This purchase is a reminder of what I accomplished, and every time I look at it, I smile—even when I’m down.

Hmm, so what should I buy to celebrate my recent sale? Gucci? Vera Wang?

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Who wants to write a book in a month?

Next month is National Novel Writing Month, or NANOWRIMO, and for the third year I’ll be a part of this global challenge. The challenge? Write fifty thousand words of a new project between November 1st and November 30th. The words all need to be written during that time. No rewriting of older work, no starting the project early. To achieve it you should write 1667 words per day, every day, in order to keep up. If you write more words in one day, that puts you ahead of the game, but the more you keep up with the writing, the more likely it is you’ll finish.

Mind you, this isn’t going to be a finished book. It will be a rough draft, something to edit into something that can be a sellable project. Acknowledging that this isn't a completed project gives the the option to play with ideas rather than committing yourself to making it letter perfect. That can come later during the editing phase.

My plan is to write a new Hollywood After Dark book, as that has been a pretty popular series. I’m thinking of doing a story about a vampire who decides to take a cruise, inviting along her long-time psi male companion and then finding out someone has hired a male shifter to be her bodyguard while on the trip. Maybe the guys get together and end up with her as well. Three in a bed is always such an interesting number. And then there is also the possibility of someone falling overboard, needing to be rescued, the three of them ending up on a deserted island...

So many interesting ideas to cover--and only thirty days to make them happen. I’ll have to let you know next month how it is going.

Janet Miller/Cricket Starr

Wednesday, October 13, 2010


Who is your hero? As I was a kid, my daddy was my hero. He could do anything, make anything better. Okay, he's still my hero. Regardless of how old I have gotten, my dad can still make things better with just a smile, a hug or just a cup of coffee and a chat.

As my children grow, I wonder who their heroes are. My oldest daughter in her freshman year at college states her younger brother is her hero. He has inspired her to go into the field of speech and language pathology with his hard work to overcome, and live a normal (whatever normal is) life with his autism. My son has worked hard to overcome his nonverbal state. He learned sign language in order to communicate with us, and then after the age of three started to verbalize. He spent a lot of hard work on occupational therapy to control his sensory overload.

When I wrote my first book, my hero in the book was very similar to another one of my heroes -- my husband. The hero in my story was kindhearted, loving and had a quiet strength about him. This is a man that is supportive, encouraging and just picks you up when you are down. My first book wouldn't have been written without that support and encouragement from my husband.

So whether you write, or are a reader, what is your ideal hero? Or who is your real life hero? What makes a hero? Hard work and perseverance, or is it someone that is just always there?

We all need heroes in our lives, and we all need to strive to be a hero in someone else's life.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

RomantiCon 2010 and Way Too Much Fun!

Okay, so from October 7-11 I was in Richfield, Ohio attending RomantiCon 2010. This is a small conference presented by Ellora's Cave (my publisher) for authors, readers, editors, reviewers, and aspiring authors.

The staff at the Days Inn and the EC staff do an absolutely amazing job of putting this thing on - I mean, it's not like we're the only ones in the hotel, there are other people staying here - but somehow they manage to keep a group of erotica writers, their fans, the super-hot Cavemen, and all the other hotel guests happy and supplied with (amazing!) food, beverages (both alcoholic & non), and good times.

The conference started on Thursday for most of us with a "Meet and Greet" and a sash contest - the whole sash thing came about during a discussion on the RomantiCon loop about how to recognize authors and what they write...some were elaborate, some were very last minute, but they all looked great!Hey, You're SUPPOSED to be looking at my sash! The handsome man standing to my right is one of the EC Cavemen - his name is Lorenzo and he was on the cover of one of my books (Sapphire Sizzle). Oh, by the way? Nara Malone won the sash contest - her prize? Next Year's Conference Fee!
Then Friday there were workshops for aspiring writers, workshops for readers, workshops for current writers, and more meeting-and-greeting! Friday night was the "costume event" - a Roaring 20's party with flappers, gangsters, molls, and more! There was some "play" money passed out and we were all playing slot machines for tickets to a raffle. There were some amazing prizes given out at this event, including a digital camera, a video camera, a Netbook computer, a B&N e-book reader, a Sony e-book reader and a Kindle!

Did I mention the EC Cavemen? LOL Yes, they were there in pin-striped suits, white suspenders, spats & their trademark fedoras. These are some of the nicest guys you'll ever meet (and they're not bad looking either - LOL). From left to right (in case you were interested...Kevin, Keaneau (brand new, his first EC experience outside of the photo studio), Lorenzo, Angelo, Brooks, Christian, Rodney and Jason (seated)).

Okay, so there WERE a lot of people there in costume and having fun, there were just as many not in costume but still having fun!

On Saturday there were more workshops, this time divided into reader focus groups, research, hands-on information, and so much more. Saturday night brought the 10th Anniversary Celebration featuring Ellora's Cave founder Jaid Black, the first Caveman, CJ Hollenbach and the first female cover model, Shannon Smith. Jaid was gracious and emotional over the giving nature of the EC authors and fans. She specifically mentioned some of the times that EC authors have "given back" to those in need and how proud she was to be a part of such a group. Jaid, CJ & Shannon all also autographed the Special Edition of The Empress' New Clothes, a re-release of the very first EC book for all attendees.

Of course, there was dancing and more fun at this party...

Yes, the Cavemen were dancing in those 4-inch heeled boots - what? You weren't looking at his boots? Well, what WERE you looking at??

Oh, did I mention the author awards? No? Well....Marilu Mann just happened to win a 2010 Superstar award for "Witches, Shifters, Demons & Doms, Oh My! Most versatile types of heroes"

So, Sunday brought more workshops, the crazy-hat and BINGO/pizza party and departures for most of us. I stayed an extra day to get a better flight and so I could recap this event for all of you. Now, other than seeing the pictures above, what do YOU get out of this? Well, a totebag of SWAG and other stuff, of course! I picked up some really amazing stuff that will go to one lucky person (or maybe more once I get home and see exactly what kind of loot I DID manage to get!). How do you win? Leave a comment here or at (where there are MORE pictures and daily recaps of the events at RomantiCon) and someone will win a totebag full of SWAG!!

Monday, October 11, 2010

What You Should Know Before Joining a Group Blog

I feel very fortunate to be part of two successful group blogs, Voices from the Heart, and The Lady Scribes. I can take no credit for their success. In both cases, hard-working, talented writers put the blog together, and I was lucky enough to be invited to participate. But through their efforts, I have learned a bit about group blogging.

If you’ve never participated in a group blog before, you might wonder why you would want to join. Like everything else on the internet, it’s a promotional tool, a way to build an audience. Some agents and editors prefer an author who has an online presence. They want to know 1) that you can handle the technology, and 2) That you can be trusted not to embarrass yourself online.

Blogging is not for everyone. Some feel that blogs are outdated, and they prefer to use social media such as Facebook or Twitter. Personally, I think a combination of all three works best. You want some content backing up your tweets. I’m also a firm believer that you’ll be most successful doing what you enjoy. If you don’t like blogging, don’t do it.

But if you think you’d like to give it a try, a group blog is the ideal place to start. You can team up with more experienced friends who will help you learn the ropes. You’ll automatically have a bigger audience because every member brings their readers. With a group blog, the time commitment is minimal, so it won’t cut into your regular writing time. The other members will also keep you motivated and hold you accountable for blogging regularly.

Here are some things to consider before you sign on:

Choose your members wisely. The more members you have, the less often you’ll need to blog. The minimum number is probably about four and the maximum around thirty. But choose those members carefully. You don’t want someone who’s going to post something that will embarrass you. And you want people who can be counted on to post regularly without being reminded. Be aware of potential conflicts. For example, inspy writers and erotica writers may clash because they’re aiming for different audience.

Focus. Your blog will find its niche more easily if you focus from the outset. This is easier if you’re all writing the same sub-genre. What audience are you trying to attract? Look at similar blogs and see what works. What can you do better? Are you blogging for readers or for writers? The difference is significant.

Rules. The best way to avoid conflict is to agree on a set of rules and a schedule before you start. These might be as simple as ‘No politics. No book reviews.’ Give your blog a movie rating—G, PG, XXX- so you can communicate easily to guest bloggers what you’re looking for. Decide in advance what offenses will be cause for removal from the group. Decide what will happen if someone regularly fails to blog on their appointed day.

Invite others. Plan days for contests, interviews, and guest bloggers. All these things will bring new visitors to your blog. If they like what they see, they may become regulars. Create a plan for promoting the blog.

Evolve and innovate. Be prepared for change. You will want to stop periodically, re-evaluate, and change direction. Disagreements will occur, but remember everyone wants the same thing, a successful blog. And if the day should come where you part ways, it will be much easier knowing it was not personal, only business.

So there you have it, my tips for joining a group blog. Did I leave anything out? I would love to hear your advice on participating in group blogs.

Saturday, October 9, 2010


Like many others, I belong to a several email writing loops. Some members seem to have a healthy respect for their writing.

But recently, a member of one of those loops made the shocking announcement, “I suck as a writer.”

Excuse me!

Normally I would have ignored it, but it didn’t end there. Before long almost everyone had climbed aboard the bandwagon and was saying the same thing—about themselves.

I couldn’t let their comments pass. Didn’t they realise what they were doing to themselves? Their writing? Didn’t they know that what they put out there stays out there. I had to nip it in the bud.

Actors, artists, writers—everyone in the entertainment industry suffers from some kind of need for acceptance.

But here’s the rub. If you are unpublished, and you have that belief about your writing, then you are likely you remain so. If you have had some success at getting published but seem stuck in the same place, you’ll likely stay stuck.

If that is your belief, then perhaps you had better get out of the writing game and find another dream. Why would anyone put themselves through all kinds of torture just to berate their own work?

Whether you believe in the Law of Attraction or not, it is constantly working to obey your commands. No question. If you say your writing sucks, then the Law will move heaven and earth to prove it to you.

No one writes a perfect first draft, not even the great divas. They’ve all been where you are now.

Don’t you think it’s time to change the tired old record?

You do NOT suck. Your writing does NOT suck.

And I’ll say to you what I said to them: Before you go to sleep at night, and first thing when you wake up in the morning, even throughout the day when your feeling a little low, say three times, “I am a wonderful writer”, or “I am a great writer,” or any similar affirmation.

Try it for 30 days and just see what happens to your writing.

Yes, affirmations do work.


Friday, October 8, 2010

Yoga---a war story

Yoga---a war story

Namaste (that’s yoga for hello, have a nice day).

My past several blogs have focused on the healthy writer. I’ve written about eating healthier, exercising regularly, and getting enough sleep.

Today, I’m writing about yoga. Relaxing, calming, yoga.

If you are reading this blog for some helpful yoga tips, or to learn more about yoga, you’ve come to the wrong place. Check Wikipedia.

I must be one of the few people left on the planet who had never practiced yoga. But when the community I live in began offering weekly classes for $4.00, I decided to sign up.
First, I needed a nice, stretchy, yoga outfit. I purchased a cute outfit in blue, and added a matching blue mat, to the cost of $50.00. Luckily, my local department store, Marshall’s, had just what I wanted.
That was the fun part.

Then came the first class and . . . balance, or should I say, my lack of balance. There was no way I could balance on one foot in a prayer position—at least not for longer than 1 second. It's been 3 weeks now, and I haven't improved.
And I don’t think my instructor likes me, but that’s another blog.

My sister in New York recently started yoga. In a recent email she wrote:
“Does your instructor make you lay down at the very end for about 5 minutes where it’s complete silence and you’re supposed to just meditate? I tend to just lay there and think about if I’m swallowing too loudly, or what happens if I cough?"

Maybe it runs in my family, but I find it hard to meditate. Perhaps one day I’ll be able to balance on one foot, and my instructor will begin to like me. Or perhaps she doesn’t like the color blue. I could always look for another yoga outfit in green, with a matching mat, of course.

Or, maybe I’ll take up tennis. Everyone looks good in white, except I don’t know about wearing those little tennis skirts.

Anyone else have any yoga war stories they’d like to share?

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Scottish Heritage as Inspiration

by Dawn Marie Hamilton

Years ago, I traveled to Brussels on business and saw a billboard ad for whisky featuring a braw Highlander. At that moment, I decided I wanted to write romance novels with yummy Scottish heroes. Well, it was years later before I began my first novel, Just Beyond the Garden Gate. A time travel romance, of course, my favorite.

I wanted my heroine to travel to the past from a US town swathed in Scottish myth. I thought the best way to create such a place was to have the town near one of the many Scottish festivals. After much research, I decided on the misty Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina and the Grandfather Mountain Highland Games and Gathering O' Scottish Clans. And thus, my fictitious village of Anderson Creek and my Garden Gate series evolved, hopefully someday to find a publisher.

This past weekend we loaded up the SUV with camping gear and headed to the Williamsburg Scottish Festival. So little time, so much to see. I thought I would share some of the sights with you.

2010 Wiliamsburg Scottish Festival
Opening Ceremonies

Got Pipes? -- Piper from Clan Hamilton

Athletic Events



Wednesday, October 6, 2010


What is it about immortality that fascinates us so much?

Paranormal romances are full of immortal characters, be they vampires who ‘live’ on after death, demons, angels, and other beings from spiritual dimensions who take human form, or other characters who gain immortality during a story from touching artifacts, spells, or other different intriguing ways.

For me, part of the appeal is that these characters have lived through experiences that we can hardly begin to imagine. They have seen great moments in history, suffered through the brutality of past ages, and in the process may have gained insight and knowledge we, in our short human lives, can only aspire to. Many have also undergone great suffering that has shaped them into tormented souls. And I love a wounded hero.

One of the biggest issues of course is the immortal character who falls in love with a short-lived human. That provides wonderful relationship conflict to overcome.

I have a few immortal characters in my Magic Knot series and I love the extra dimension of conflict they bring to the series.

What do you think about immortal characters? Appealing or not?

Tuesday, October 5, 2010


In the movie Because I Said So, Diane Keaton’s character goes to a spa with her daughters. She insists on wearing her turtleneck for a massage. Sounds a little stupid, doesn’t it? I know I laughed myself silly at that scene because it reminded me of my first massage. The masseuse assured me I could wear a swimsuit, a two-piece one. If I were okay with wearing a bikini in public, then I would own one. I did survive that first massage because I relaxed and allowed myself to trust. It didn’t hurt that the guy was a total hunk.

It made me think critiques are a lot like massages. We all seem to like both in theory. I’ve talked to several of my friends and almost none of them have had massages. They’d like to, but they can't bring themselves to get on a table facedown and trust their body to a stranger. Same with critique groups, most people who swear they’ll never attend have had a bad experience. Often their experiences come rather vicariously. A friend of a friend endured horrible humiliation at a critique session; therefore, all critiques will follow the same pattern. What would happen if we applied the same reasoning to everything?

Who hasn’t had a book-worthy bad date? I had one write me a three-page critique on what I could do better. That didn’t stop me from dating. It did stop me from dating him, though. Same with massages, I had one woman put me in such extreme pain that she advised me to take three extra strength Tylenols. An unfair or hostile critique should be regarded the same way my review writing date was. Quite frankly, not all critique groups or partners are a good fit. Just like not all masseuses will suit.

A friend of my mine writes explicit romances and then tries to have them critiqued by church ladies. It isn’t working out well. RWA has several different genre groups. Inside these groups, you can often find the right person or persons to critique your work.

Critiquing is a trust relationship. You really are pulling off the turtleneck to submit yourself to a critique massage. A good partner knows to give equal praise and to recognize growth in your craft. Occasionally, you may not agree with a critique, that’s okay. Go with what feels right. In you’re feeling really mellow about your critique group, you might be ready for an actual massage.

I am very grateful for my critique partners. They are right up there with my actual masseuse. Yes, ladies, I am shallow—he is a hunk, but very good with his hands. When he is done, he always says, "Enough torture." I manage with effort to slide off the table.

I would be interested in hearing about your critique and massage experiences, both torturous and heavenly.

Morgan Wyatt

Sunday, October 3, 2010

From the Writer's Shelf

Today I wanted to share some information about books I've had on my bookshelves--some of them for years--that have helped me almost more than any of the more traditional books writers rave over. It's just a small selection, but I hope you might find one or two that look interesting.

And for those of you who aren't writers, let me reassure you that there is just as much here for the "normal person" as for the twisted writer. (You have to be a little twisted to writer, don't you think?)

So here were go...a few oddball selections from my bookshelf.

The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People
By Stephen Covey

The world of writing is strewn with rejections, harsh comments, and discouragement. Sometimes, you wonder if you'll ever make it or if you should just pack up your toys and go away quietly. But writing isn't the only career out there that can lead to frustration and depression.

This book has been the friend I most needed during both my "daytime career" and my career of choice, writing. Sure it's old, heck, my copy is from 1990, but some things--mostly challenges--never really change. And although this book focuses on more traditional jobs where you are not working by yourself, the "you can do it" tone is just what you need to keep the spirits up and make you feel like you can continue in the face of the appalling odds in the current publishing industry.

It is more about achieving your personal best than anything, and we all need that.

I recommend reading this the day after you get one of those shattering rejections. It will help you refocus on your positive goals. We may have no control over if/when our books ever get published, but we do have control over the writing and submission process. It's important to focus on what we can control.

The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin
If you read nothing else, read this. When you are depressed, read this. Ben focuses on what Covey calls the "Character Ethic" but really, it's all about integrity, courage, justice, patience and industry. All traits which a writer--and anyone, really--needs to live a happy life.

When I got this book and read it, I felt incredibly jazzed and energized. Here's a dirty little secret: I've suffered from depression and the sense of "not being good enough" my whole life. This book and Covey's gave me the kick in the butt I needed, and still need, to feel like I do have power over certain things in my life. I may not be able to force a publisher to pick me up, but I can sure control my work, the quality of my work, and how I deal with the situation. I like the sense that when I go to bed at night, I've done the best I can do for that day.

If you feel you need "something" you may wish to read this book. It gives you some basic tools for building a successful and more importantly, happy, life.

The Gentle Art of Verbal Self-Defense  and More on the Gentle Art of Verbal Self-Defense
by Suzette Haden Elgin, Ph.D.
I've taken several Internet writing classes on characterization and have spent a lot of time studying it. However, in practical terms, I've gotten more out of these two books (and a few other similar ones) than any other courses or books.

When you think about it, when you write a character, you're portraying them through words. Dialog and action. How do you portray that father who always blames his family and co-workers for his failures? How does he express himself? How does he phrase things?

These books are absolutely brilliant for giving you concrete examples of how different personality types speak. I've never found better references for helping me to develop characters with specific personalities and ways of expressing those personalities.

For years, I struggled with (and still struggle with) developing characters who feel and sound real. Who are distinct individuals with equally distinct speach patterns.If you've been accused of creating characters who all sound alike, or are "inconsistent" with their position and background, then I urge you to take a look at these two books.  I actuay prefer The Last Word on the Gentle Art of Verbal Self-Defense and refer to it constantly, particularly when developing secondary characters and conflict. It covers things like language choices, syntonics and language as a system. It sounds dry but it is very readable and extremely usable.

Whenever I get stuck because a character won't gel for me, I start to build the character using traits and information from a verbal self-defense book, and that character immediately starts to come to life in a consisten way.

The last book I'm going to mention is one that is more "traditional" for writers:

Creating Character Emotions
By Ann Hood
Of all the writers' books on my shelves, this one is the most useful. It covers several of the "big" emotions such as anger, sorrow, happiness, and grief, and gives you examples of who those can be effecitvely conveyed. I go bck to it time and time again to remind myself of how I can more effectively draw my characters.

As you can see, I'm obsessed with characters and characterization.
But then, when you think about it, isn't that really what fiction is all about? The characters?

And of course, keeping ourselves sane and optimistic enough to continue in what can be a very gruelling and challenging career.
Amy Corwin

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Trying Something New

I write stories in all different lengths, short stories, novellas and full-length novels. Each length has its own challenges, and I enjoy writing each length. Sometimes it's my choice, but usually the story itself dictates the length and the way it needs to be told.

And sometimes it can take a while to figure it out.

One reason I love writing short is that I can try different things. A new sub-genre. A new voice. A new POV. Sometimes I do it to get the creative juices going when I seem to be at a standstill. Sometimes I do it for the challenge. Sometimes it's because the story just needs to be told a different way.

My November release from Samhain, SEE ME, is one of those stories that started out with a flash of an idea and a lonely, frustrated woman who's merely trying to cope. It also is more of a straight erotic story, although is does have an uplifting ending and the heroine does change during the story because of the man she lets into her life.

I'm very pleased with the way the story turned out, but it went through several incarnations over the course of a year or so. There were times I wanted to give up on it, and I worked on other stories in between. But I kept coming back to it. I started writing it in first person, past tense and it was a very short story. Then I lengthened it and changed to third person. Finally I expanded it even more and went with the final version, in first person, present tense.

Here's a short exerpt:

I can’t remember when I first started stripping to the music, but I remember clearly the night I first pulled open the curtains before I began to take off my clothes. It was only a couple weeks ago, on my birthday, and I had been yearning, somehow, to connect with other people.

I’d still been timid fourteen days ago. That night, I’d drawn open the heavy curtain, but left the thin sheers closed. My heart had pounded against my ribs as I stripped down to my fancy black satin underwear to the rhythm of a salsa beat. I’d nervously stayed in the shadows that night, but I could have just as well been under a spotlight. It hadn’t mattered. There’d been no sliver of light to betray the movement of a curtain. Nobody saw me.

Day by day, I grew bolder.

Tonight, I step up to the curtains and yank them open without a second thought. Darkness has fallen. The lights are still on behind me. If anyone looks out, will they see more than my silhouette behind the sheers? Can they see the red silk that hugs my body? The heels that make me stand tall and thrust my breasts out?

I can’t see out into the darkness and at this moment, I really don’t care.

The throaty cry of the saxophone sends shivers up my spine and I slowly unknot the sash at my waist. I slide the narrow strip of silk through my fingers as the dress gradually parts. Although I know no one sees me, I imagine someone’s dark eyes staring at me out of the shadows. He’s looking at my cleavage laid bare by the parting red silk. The dress slides open and my nipples prickle as the fabric glides across their sensitive tips.

SEE ME will be released November 23rd from Samhain.

So do you try writing different genres/voices/points of view? And have you ever changed up a story that you're writing until it finally works?


Friday, October 1, 2010

Plotter, Pantser, or Puzzler?

The question applies to your writing style. Mainly, how you get the story onto the page.

Plotter – (that’s me) Very linear thinking. Start with “Once upon a time” and continue on to “…and they lived happily ever after.” Love flowcharts, Excel files, spreadsheets, and plotting boards.

Pantser – The story is all in your head, you just have to put it down on the paper. Sometimes new ideas will hit your brain and you just go for it – literally write by the seat of your pants.

Puzzler – Write the story in pieces, whichever one hits you at the moment, piece together later, like a puzzle. Also called islands and bridges, which I like a lot.

Each way is the right way – for someone. That is the joy of writing. There is no right way, no wrong way, just your way. You can use one of these methods or a combination of the above, or make up your own methods of getting the story out of your head onto the page.

One thing I have learned: each method can’t understand how someone uses the other method. Plotters go nuts listening to puzzlers say they just write whichever scene is ‘hot’ in their brain and they will figure out later where it goes. Pantsers don’t want to plot because they feel the story is already done if they write it all out in detail.

There are grammar rules and submission rules and probably some other rules too that I missed, but isn’t it nice to know there are no rules for how you write your story?

Are you a plotter, pantser, or puzzler?