Monday, November 29, 2010

I Want it.

This past week I received my birthday/Christmas gift, a wonderful and much loved iPad. Since receiving it I've wasted hours playing with it, adding apps to help write or anything else I plan to use it for. Actually I'm writing this blog on it. But with all these modern tools to help us keep in touch, make us more productive and improving our lives, I wonder whether we need it all or any. Ancient man used pigment and cave walls to tell his story. William Shakespeare wrote The Taming of the Shrew with a quill, ink and paper. But I wager if good ole Will was alive now he'd be sitting in Starbucks tapping away or wasting time on twitter or Facebook. But I'm sure Hamlet would have been rolling around his head.

The mind that's the most important tool. And I hope all of you and myself included start treating ourselves better. Shut up that inner critic with its negative jabber, believe in your talent, stretch the imagination and learn something new.

With the whirl of the holiday season upon us, I want all of you to gift yourselves with something of your chosing so you can come up with the next great story however you put it down. I'd love to read it. Happy holidays! May it be filled with love!

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Connecting the Don’ts

You know the rules. Don’t use was, don’t use it, don’t start a sentence with an ing word, etcetera, etcetera.

To reveal these and other crimes against fiction, I use the AutoCrit Editing Wizard website to highlight 19 commonly overused words and phrases. After analysis, I edit my work to eliminate occurrences of the offending words to pass the test.

I never wondered why.

That is, until I took the month-long Grammar Divas course that was recently offered by the Colorado Romance Writers. Annie Oortman and Darlene Bucholz have put together an excellent class. I’d like to share my biggest learning with you—passive voice.

For this blog post, I put a draft scene of 1,023 words from my work-in-progress through the Wizard. Analysis revealed 21 occurrences of was and a recommendation to delete about seven of them. GASP! I’d used passive voice! Some writers will wag shaming fingers at me. Some contest judges will deduct a mark or two from my score. Some critiquers will suggest a re-write of a sentence.

Some people need a lesson in passive voice. Myself included.

Did you know that having was in your sentence does not always indicate passive voice.

Here are some examples using was: Stephanie was a bounty hunter. I was born. The wedding was a happy event. These examples might be boring or weak, but they’re not grammatically passive.

And here are some examples of passive voice: A body was found by Stephanie. Janie was bitten on the neck by the vampire. The chickens were fried yesterday.

Was occurs in all of the examples. For an in-depth lesson on the differences, I recommend you visit the Grammar Divas’ website at Passive Voice-Killing Your Prose Softly. It won’t hurt. I promise.

As for those 21 occurrences Autocrit found; none of them passed the Grammar Divas’ test. I’ll still reduce the count, but for breaking some other rule.

I'll end with a revised rule. Don’t judge a sentence by its was.

If you’re curious, put a sample of your work through the Wizard at AutoCrit Editing Wizard.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

How do the seasons influence your reading habits?

I love the holiday season. No matter where you are...people are cheerier, friendlier than they are at any other time of the year. They will actually hold the elevator open, help you with your bags, or hold a taxi for you.

I think this is one of the reasons why the holiday season is such a great setting for love stories. Taking that sense of joy and hope, and shaping it into beautiful, sentimental love stories seems so natural.

I can't tell you how many times I turn to watch the latest Hallmark Channel movie because it's set during the holiday season. And if the story line involves a little Christmas miracle or Santa's that much better.

My first release, Love's Chance, was released during the Valentine's Day was not a valentine themed story, but readers were incredibly drawn to the story and its characters.

My short story, My Son, was released during the Halloween season. It was not Halloween themed, but it too did well. I have to admit...there is a little suspense and a few guns. But, not tricks.

Do you enjoy a story more because it's background is set against Christmas, New Year's Eve or Valentine's Day? Does it matter to you if the characters are on the slopes sipping cocoa by a fire or on the beaches of Hawaii?

How do the seasons (holiday or calendar)influence your reading habits?

Thursday, November 25, 2010

I won the lottery!

No, not that kind of lottery. I get to post on Thanksgiving Day (insert smiley face here).

I'm scheduled to post on the 25th of every month, and lo, and behold: Thanksgiving Day! I hope most of you folks in the U.S. are having fun with your families and are busily eating yummy food and planning attacks on the shopping malls tomorrow.

For those international visitors, fear not: we'll be back soon!

As for me? I've had a problematic month. A story for another post. It's been what I call a dippity-do sort of time. Up, down, all around, emotionally, authorially (I wonder if that's a word?), at work at home. Very busy deadlines at work, death in my family, some house crises, a computer crash ... the usual "what else does life have in store for me" kinds of things. My head is still spinning.

I found out I'm a double finalist in the Epic eBook competition. Even that's a double-edged sword for reasons that are too long to discuss here. I'm happy, but ... 

And I had a book release earlier this month. This is one of the first books I ever drafted and here it is, book 16 on my list. It took me that long to learn enough to edit it properly, I think. It's a 'romp' book -- a cross-country adventure with a hero and heroine who aren't sure they're ready for love.

Whoops! Doesn't matter if you're ready or not, here it comes! Toss in some politicians (I LOVE beating up on politicians) and you have an adventure, a mystery, and one heck of a love story. As always, it's a tiny bit steamy, but not explicit (I just don't write explicit first-person books. Sorry).

So check it out after you polish off those leftovers. Grab a fun book to take your mind off all that Christmas shopping, and decorating, and wrapping that needs to be done. Give yourself a break and relax for a few hours. Go on. You deserve it!

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Food Traditions And The Memories That Come With Them

Today, someone mentioned the green bean casserole and asked when did this tradition start? I can remember the first time I ate it on a Thanksgiving – I was about ten years old and it was at my Aunt Agnes’ dinner table. Then I started wondering, do we carry on food traditions because of the memories that come with them?

Traditions abound in our home. When I met my mother-in-law in Wisconsin for the first time 42 years ago, I asked her if she’d made cheese torte right after I told her I was happy to finally meet her. My husband wouldn’t consider December 25th as Christmas Day if he didn’t get to eat his traditional Christmas dessert. On his birthday every year he is presented with a piece of upside down cake. Stuffing for the turkey always reminds me of my Dad. It was his job to break up the bread and slice the vegies. He is always in my heart as I make the 'traditional' stuffing every Thanksgiving. My Danish grandfather’s birthday was Christmas Eve. In his honor, we’ve always served Danish Aebleskievers and sausage before the kids could open packages. (These are Danish pancakes that are made in a special pan so that they resemble golf balls after they are cooked.)

I suppose if I had to choose my favorite tradition, it would be the fruitcakes. I know, people have a tendency to roll their eyes or outright refuse fruitcake, but I swear, the ones I make ARE different. I’ve been making 18 cakes every Christmas season and we either give them away or mail them to people who’ve been kind to us. I've mailed one friend a cake for 18 years because he said Christmas wouldn’t be the same without it. The memories I have from making these cakes are some of my best treasures. When they were young, my daughters used to sit on the kitchen counter, wrap their legs around the large Tupperware bowl and stir while I added the ingredients. The recipe makes six cakes and they bake for three hours in a very low oven – filling the entire house with the most ‘yummy’ smell. I don’t have the girls here physically to help now, but I still have those memories as I stir the batches.

Do you have traditions, too? Which are your favorites?

Monday, November 22, 2010

Black Friday on the horizon

The term Black Friday has several meanings. Wikipedia identifies this coming Black Friday’s origin as the beginning of the period in which American retailers go from being in the red (i.e., posting a loss on the books) to being in the black (i.e., turning a profit). I imagine it is probably known worldwide via movies and American TV shows.

My new manuscript begins a few days before Thanksgiving in the United States. Originally, I hadn’t planned to use Black Friday in my story, but as I wrote this blog about the opening salvo for non-stop Christmas shopping several fun and interesting twists came to mind. This is the one American shopping day we either love or dread, depending on your point of view. I’ve fallen into both camps over the years.

In America Thanksgiving Day is always the fourth Thursday in November. Across the country extended family gathers to gorge themselves on food. Hey, it’s a tradition. On Friday morning your rise early, stare at either a whistle-clean kitchen or mountains of dirty plates, utensils, pots and pans, and ask the burning question. Do I dive into the rapids to snatch up those fantastic doorbuster deals or sit it out on home shore?

If you opt out you miss the camaraderie of several friends or family members going shopping on Black Friday. For many American women this is a long-held tradition, the same as roasted turkey on their Thanksgiving Day table. Granted, you’ll suffer the jam-packed parking lots, buses, and subway trains, elbow to elbow shoppers and long, snaking checkout lines. We won’t discuss the jab and grab shoppers who literally steal the last hot buy you almost took off the shelf.

Two of my best Black Friday shopping memories occurred at opposite coasts and very different environments.

In Manhattan I experienced the ultimate shopping venue, Macy’s at Herald Square. November in New York requires warm hats and gloves, heavy coats along with a scarf to fight off the icy wind.

As most people know Macy’s sponsors the televised Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, which is a great way to prepare for tomorrow’s shopping day. On your feet!

The day after the parade my friend and I crowded into a subway train packed with like-minded shoppers. We entered Macy’s through a “side” door to avoid the front entrance crush of people.

This grand dame of department stores, touted as the world’s largest, still uses the same old wooden escalator, only one person wide. I had visions of the classic Christmas move, Miracle on 34th Street, and expected to find Maureen O’Hara any moment. My friend and I did leave by the front entrance around four p.m. Coming down that escalator to the first floor was a shock. An avalanche of people wedged toward the Up escalator, herded by Macy employees. Not a foot of empty floor space was visible. I’ve never witnessed this many people at my Macy’s back home. Maybe at a discount store like Target, but not a department store.

On my home turf, the west coast, my favorite memory of Black Friday was the year a gang of girlfriends and I packed into one SUV. Here the dress is typically long sleeve tops and jeans. Temperatures are normally in the sixties with sunny skies. We hit every discount and department store we could in an eight hour shopping marathon. I admit we did stop late in the day and grab a quick lunch. An important part of the ultimate shopping spree is the chance to sit down and share your best buy stories over a cup of coffee.

Whatever your Black Friday plans I wish you a Happy Holiday season.

Thursday, November 18, 2010


I don’t believe in ghost, in demons or angels. I don’t even write paranormal or read about vampires or scary things. Fantasies, super terrestrial, science fiction events are not my forte.

And yet a recognized and respected psychic recently told me that I was a psychic, myself.

Me? No way.
But how can I explain that my dreams come true. Not once, not recently. But on and on during my whole life. Ever since I was a teenager, I noticed that scary fact.

It all started when I was fifteen and a hard working A-student. After studying for hours the day before an exam, I would dream about the questions on the test and shared them with my classmates when I came to the classroom. Imagine my surprise when all the questions I dreamed about appeared on the exam sheet. When that strange thing repeated itself several times, all my friends believed in my dreams more than I did and gathered around me on exam morning to ask about the questions and quickly reviewed the subjects of interest. When I went to college, I didn’t reveal my special gift although it continued.

After I graduated and had no more exams to pass, my dreams and premonitions changed. I dreamed of people I knew. I saw deceased relatives calling family member or friends, and I woke up with cold sweats knowing they would die soon. Unfortunately, they passed away a few days after I saw them in my sleep.

The accuracy of my dreams terrifies me. They happen sporadically, at the least expected moment, and in the morning I always have that special feeling that the scene played in my subconscious was a prediction rather than a dream.

Does that phenomenon happen to any one of you?
Do you believe in dreams, cards, mark of coffee?
From where do you get the inspiration for your paranormal stories?

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.


Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Lessons from NaNoWrimo

It’s the third week of Nano, and my second attempt at this unique and popular competition. The whole idea is to write 50K words on a new work in 30 short days. Many of my writing friends are doing editing and adding on to works that were half finished. My WIP is brand spanken new. When I started I had only a idea for a story. I had briefly plotted something with friends while at the RWA conference in Florida. It was only a vague idea when I started. I didn’t even have names for my characters. I just knew my female should be Hispanic. I knew what their jobs were, a couple of key points in the story, but that was about it. I didn’t have a plot. In Nano, it’s no plot, no problem. For me it was no plot, I’m scared sh—less.
So on the November 1st, I sat at my computer and just started writing. The names just popped out of nowhere. The plot is slowly coming together. I have GMC, the black moment is looming as I hit the halfway mark. I never thought it would be so hard and easy all wrapped up in one. Hard because I have to write so many words a day. Easy, because I'm actually doing it.

What this has taught me, I don’t have to draw out a chart with chapters carefully written out. I don’t have to have my GMC in big red letters, or mark the black moment out as if, if I don’t meet that goal on page XYZ, the story is a loss.

I’m just writing, through family complications, through cats insisting on laying on my desk, my computer, and just all over me. Daily interruptions come without warning, and never seem to fail my expectations.Yet, I'm still writing something, even if it's crap.

Before Nano all those things would throw a wrench into my writing, and it would shut down for the day, or days, sometimes a week which could lead to losing the story. What Nano does, is show a writer it can be done. They can write crap, and it’s okay. That the plot writes itself, and when it’s all over there is 50K of a WIP. It may not be complete, and much of it will need a whole lot of editing. All those green and red lines that decorate my WIP can be fixed. For me it allowed freedom. It changed my writing, not so much for the better, but it certainly made it stronger, and me more sure of my choice of careers.

If you’re doing Nano, do you feel it helps or hinders your writing?

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Injecting Humor in Your Writing

This month I’m writing about humor and how I incorporate it into my stories. Fact is, injecting humor doesn’t come as easily as one might think because what is funny to one person isn’t to another.

During a recent visit with friends, the husband showed me a joke he’d received over the Internet. He and I laughed until tears rolled down our cheeks as we pictured all kinds of scenarios. Yet when it was shown to the rest of the gang, we got the scrunched up faces without so much as a chuckle. So why is that?

Are you born with a funny bone easily tickled? No, it’s not an inherited trait, but the moods of those around you can make a huge difference. Can you teach yourself to write humorous? I believe you can. It’s like anything else, practice makes perfect—or not so perfect. A lot of it also depends on your frame of mind, and how you look at life in general. Here are some of the things you might consider:

Try to see situations through a child’s eyes. Let’s face it; they bring a lot of humor to our lives. In an email I received recently asking ‘what is love’, first graders responded with what they thought it meant. One child said, “it’s my grandpa polishing my grandma’s toenails.” I agree, it is love, but if you really think about this, is it really saying grandma is too old to bend over? Regardless of what we think, the child saw it as love and not the flaws of age or weight. This is what you want your readers to see.

Keep a smile on your face. Remember it only takes seventeen muscles to smile, and thirty-seven to frown. When people see you smiling, they’re more likely to share funny things that happened to them, which you can use in your stories.

In one of my scenes in Shut Up and Kiss Me, my heroine is in the kitchen with her well-meaning interfering mother. She’s temporarily moved back home to New York from New Jersey until she can find a job to pay for an apartment. She’s already wondering if the independence she’s gained by living apart, will be destroyed by her moving home. Moving home typically means your parents treat you like you’re twelve. Here’s the scene:

“Here,” mom said placing my dish onto the table, “You eat first, then call Nicky.”
I squared my shoulders and decided this was the perfect opportunity to let Mom know my independence would not waver because I’d returned home to New York.
“Mother, I will call Nicky when I’m ready to call him.”
“Whoa, somebody’s cranky.” She smiled sweetly. “Okay, no pushing.”
No, this woman doesn’t push, she just freakin’ wrestles me to the floor until she gets what she wants.

Now, I could have taken another approach with this scene and made them angry at one another, but that’s not funny. And quite frankly, I’m not interested in reading about anger. By injecting humor, I turned an unpleasant situation into a humorous one for the reader. Can’t you just picture that mother wrestling with her? Also, the humor has already helped you forget just how annoying that mother is.

Think of situations you’ve been in, or you’ve witnessed, and try the ‘what might have happened if?” approach. You can surely come up with something humorous. Understand that forcing humor doesn’t work either and the reader quickly becomes well aware of it.

Adding humor is like adding color to the canvas. Just remember to exaggerate the traits of your humorous character. For example, in Magnetic Attraction, I have a character named Mags. She’s into the punk look, black nails, lips, dramatic eye makeup, and multi colored hair. Mags’ character does this to upset her socialite mother. She’s a fight-the-establishment kind of woman who’s aggressive and always speaks her mind. By making the things she does a bit humorous, you’ve forgotten how annoying her attitude is too. In the first chapter, my heroine, Jordan, is upset because someone sent her photos of her boyfriend of three years in a compromising position with another woman. She’s called her two friends, Emily and Mags, and they’re at her apartment trying to console her. The heroine has tossed the photos on the floor. Here’s the scene:

Emily sat down next to me. “Where are the photos?”
“On the floor,” I said weakly, nodding toward the kitchen. Mags released her arm from around me and bolted up, racing to the kitchen to see the photos before Emily could get there. Em, who mostly ignores Mags’ control issues, gave her one of those looks that could kill, as she breezed past her, stooping down to scoop up a few of her own.
“Hey,” Mags quipped, “I wanted to see if I knew the bimbo.”
Emily held up her hand, ordering Mags to stop, then studied the photos she’d retrieved. When Emily released a loud “whoa,” Mags bolted next to her like she was sliding into home plate.
“Oh my God,” she giggled leaning over Em’s shoulder. “I had no idea
Vinny was so—”

Now in this scene, I’ve lightened the tenseness of the scene with a bit of humor just in case someone in my reading audience has experienced anything like this. Hopefully it has stopped them from reliving their own catastrophe.

Other things to remember are: don’t worry about making your first draft funny, and by all means, don’t try it when you’re NOT in a good mood. You may feel better after writing it, but you’ll have your characters exhausted from fighting with each other.

So is interjecting humor into your stories easy? No, not by a long shot, but I promise you, you’ll enjoy the process and help your readers escape from the trials and tribulations in their own lives. And who knows, they may even begin to look at their own unfortunate situations in a different light. That’s a win-win for everyone.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Christmas in Bayeux Tour

Today we welcome Steph Burkhart, an officer and a successful author.

I'd like to thank Mona for having me today on the blog and allowing me to visit with all you lovely ladies today.

Just a little about me: I was born and raised in Manchester, NH. When I was 18, this New England Patriot fan joined the US Army for a great adventure and spent 7 years overseas in Germany. I met a fair-haired California boy and we were married in Denmark in 1991. Now, the adventure over, I work for LAPD as a 911 Operator.
[Steph Burkhart in uniform]

Just recently I had an opportunity to write a short story for a Christmas anthology with Victory Tales Press. Since I'm mainly known for my paranormal writing, I jumped at the chance to expand my wings. I knew this was going to be a contemporary story, but where did I want to take it?

Then I thought of Mona Risk and her international stories with Cerridwen Press and I said, "I want to write international contemporaries like Mona." And after spending years in Europe, I knew I could draw on that experience. The inspiration for "Christmas in Bayeux" took root.
[A street in Bayeux]

I set the story in Bayeux, France and the beaches of Normandy. While I've never been to Bayeux, I have been to rural France and the experience had a profound effect on me. It was 1987, and several locals walked up to me and thanked "America" for helping France in World War II. That experience found it's way into the story. I hope you enjoy the excerpt.

Blurb: Aiden Seward is an Iraq war vet who has gone to the Beaches of Normandy to heal his wounded heart. Noel Rousseau was the girl he knew as an exchange student years ago. Can Noel help heal the ache in Aiden's heart?

She pushed two wooden double doors open and they walked into a wide open-spaced entrance hall. "Is this a museum?"
"Oui. It houses our best known prize – the Bayeux Tapestry."
"What is that?" His voice was laced in curiosity.
"Dix Euros," said the clerk. He was in his mid-thirties and wore a blue uniform.
Aiden put his hand over Noel's hand as she reached for her purse. "I'll get it."
"Vous êtes Américain?"
"Oui," said Aiden.
The clerk held out his hand. Aiden slowly took it, surprised by the gesture. What was he doing?
"Américains we like. World War II, yes? Merci – thank you," the clerk said in halting English.
Aiden was stunned. Noel said this occurred, but he didn't think it would happen to him.
"De rien. Thank you, sir."
"Non, Monsieur, merci. Keep your money."
"Oh, I insist."
"Oui, thank you, merci."
Noel smiled at the clerk, thread her arm through Aiden's, and they walked into the museum. There were a few people milling about in the halls, but it wasn't as busy as he thought it would be. Maybe everyone was at the Christmas markets.
He paused before they got far. "You said—"
She gave him an easy smile. "You handled that well."
[The Cathedral of Bayeux]

Goodie Time: Leave me a post and I'll pick out two winners to receive an autographed postcard of the cover. Tell me your favorite TV Christmas special and I'll pick a winner to receive a PDF ebook copy of the Christmas Anthology. I'll come back on 18 NOV to pick the winners.
[The WWII cemetery in Bayeux]

Sunday, November 14, 2010

NaNoWriMo - Part Two - Status report

It is now halfway through the month of writing a fifty thousand novel in thirty days and I’m ... well I’m pretty much on target. I've added a "widget" that shows my progress so far. Yellow are days I've been under the word count, orange days I've been really under, light green means I've made my count, darker green are my catch up days.

As I write this I’ve got about 20K written and by Sunday evening I should be well ahead of schedule. The problem with having a day job is that while sometimes you can do 1667 words in an evening, more often you have to rely on the weekends to write more than the minimum word count in order to make your numbers.

This is particularly true since in addition to the day job, I'm also coordinating a category in my local RWA chapter’s GOTCHA contest, and dancing in a local ballet school’s production of The Nutcracker, performances being Thanksgiving weekend, so I have rehearsals some evenings and weekend days. I play Grandmother and Mother Ginger, which I’ve done for close to 18 years now. And of course there is Thanksgiving, which I’m probably going out of town for. So I have to get the bulk of the book written during the next two weeks before things get really crazy.

In short, if I can make the word count, anyone can. And I have for two years running completed NaNoWriMo with the same set of roadblocks.

The story of my book is still evolving. I still have the vampire on the cruise ship and the sexy werewolf who wants to be her companion but I got rid of the extra guy and am focusing on giving the pair a mystery to solve. I’m glossing over some parts that will be filled in later on. Sometimes I’m in the mood to write sex scenes and sometimes I write “There is a lot of sex here and she’s the one in control this time...” which works for the rough draft. That’s the beauty of a draft, you don’t need to fill in all the details quite yet. What you want is the basis of the story, and you want to write it quickly so that the plot gets solidified. The “good stuff” can come later.

So I need to keep this short because I have about a thousand more words to write today before I can call it quits. Happy writing everyone!

Janet Miller/Cricket Starr

Saturday, November 13, 2010

The Email

I have heard people talk about the thrill of "the call". A writer can only imagine that moment, until it happens.

This past week I received "the email" that was offering me a contract on my first manuscript. I was at my day job and could hardly stay seated when all I wanted to do was jump up and tell everyone that would listen -- and even those that wouldn't. A feeling of satisfaction of something well done -- must be well done if a publisher wants it, right? A feeling of pride that I had produced this, a feeling of overwhelming amazement that this was happening to me.

As I punched out the number to my husband's cell phone, the first to tell, I couldn't want for him to pick up. The words "they offered me a contract" came out and he immediately knew what I was talking about. My husband has been my biggest supporter and fan through the waiting process and writing process. Who else would be the perfect one to share the news with first?

Two days later, I'm still flying from the realization that I'm going to be a published author. Sharing the news with other authors is rewarding as they know the hardness and reality of rejections and unsureness as we send out our babies to agents or publishers. Tell me about your "call/email".

Friday, November 12, 2010

What to do when your Characters WON'T behave...

You know what I'm talking about. You're writing along, happily involved in your plot, perfectly content with your hero and heroine and everything is going smoothly...

Then that one character, the one you had fully intended to be a secondary, sort of throw-away character, pipes up...

"Hey you. You there with the serious look on your face. Yeah, you. Writer. What about me?"

"What about you? your story line ends in another chapter."

"Oh no it doesn't! I'm not going to go quietly!"

"What does that mean, 'you're not going to go quietly?' I created you. If I say your storyline ends in the next chapter, then it ends in the next chapter. Now, go sit over there and be quiet. I'm at a pivotal plot point and need to concentrate!"

"Oh yeah? Well, concentrate on THIS!"

And that character does something you hadn't really planned for him to do and suddenly your story has changed. Oh, not that he's going to come in and take over completely, but let's face it - he's made a difference and now you're going to have to deal with that.

Sometimes that is more than an author can handle and they allow that secondary character to take over, to become another hero in their story line. Sometimes the author solves this problem by killing that character off. That's all well and good - IF it fits in with the plot. Then again, some (most) authors try to develop that secondary character into his or her own story - promising them the sequel if they'll just behave long enough for the first book to be written.

That's what happened with my first book, Changing Times, where the very bad guy suddenly got a heart. What was I going to do with him now? I had planned on a bloody massacre where the hero got to pummel him into a pulp, but now what? I had to go back and ease up a bit on his villainy, but I've still been smacked by readers.

No, really! I mean someone walked up to me and HIT me with my second book, Changing Hearts, because I made them love the villain they had hated.

Handling unruly secondary characters is a fine art. You want to develop your plot and your main characters to the point that they seem like real people To that end, they need friends, families, co-workers and not just as plot devices.

Keeping a tight rein on those characters without totally stifling them means walking a very fine line. You have to make them believeable and you have to make your readers care about them - just not as much as they care about the main characters. At the same time, you cannot allow them to take over your story. What do you do if that starts to happen?

You can let them have their moment in the sun, let them take over for a little while and see how that works for your story. You can stifle them, pushing them to the background and ignoring their pitiful cries to be heard. You can also open a new document, start writing their story, and see if that will keep them quiet long enough for you to finish what you started.

What do YOU do when those secondary characters try to take over? How do you handle them?

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Happy Veteran's Day

Today is Veteran’s Day and I want to thank the men and women who have served in the United States Armed Forces. In real life and in fiction, they are the guardians of all we value.

Romance authors love to populate our books with military characters. Honor, duty, strength, and service; whether we’re writing about a historical knight or a modern Navy SEAL, our servicemen are the perfect role models for our romantic heroes.

As the daughter of a career Air Force officer, I expected to find writing military heroes easy. In reality the opposite is true. I've written two novels with soldier-heroes and both times I swore I would never write another.

In my books, the soldiers are always silent, stoic, and steadfast. Invariably, my critique partners return my manuscripts with the following comments scribbled throughout: “He needs to say something here.” “Why doesn’t he respond?” “I feel like I can’t get inside your hero’s head.” And on the rare occasion when the hero is pushed to the limit and finally does shout out: “You might want to censure that language. It’s a bit rough.”

I would chalk this up to my own bad writing, except no one says this about my other characters. It took me a while to understand why I struggle to write military heroes, but now it’s clear.

I can’t write romantic military heroes because I write them too true to life. There’s not a lot of that swash-buckling bravado that looks so good on the silver screen. No, my military heroes are loyal and diligent, quietly working behind the scenes, doing whatever it takes to get the job done without a lot of chatter, without worrying about their own emotional states, without counting the sacrifices they’ve made.

A lot like our real-life military heroes.

A lot like my dad.

So Happy Veteran’s Day, Mom and Dad, to you and all the other unsung heroes. Please forgive us romance writers for adding loud music and panache to our tales of your brave deeds. No matter how hard we try, our paper characters will never match up to America’s real-life heroes.

I would love to hear about the inspiration for your military characters. Where do you get ideas for your military heroes and what tricks do you use to make writing them easier? (And yes, the pictures are all of my mom and dad circa 1950.)

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

A Late Little Giggle

Hi all!

I'm getting in a bit late today: I'm on deadline to turn my new novel in to my editor on Nov. 15. (It comes out in April!)

So, in lieu of writing up a blog post, I want to share some pictures that make me laugh, courtesy of the ICanHasCheezburger family of blogs.

When I'm grumpy or can't focus, I head over there for some giggles--then, back to writing!

Hope you're having a great week. Enjoy the pix!

epic fail photos - Oddly Specific: Oh, Really?

epic fail photos - Irony FAIL

epic fail photos - Roadside Assistance Fail

epic fail photos - Formula fail

engrish funny - Please Use Anyone

engrish funny - Do Pick-Ups!

cheers, Lisa Dale

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Never give up

Finally, after my two-year hiatus from writing and submitting, a new book is imminent. I’m just waiting for the cover.

Titled Yesterday’s Dreams, it is set in the seaside town of Patiki Bay, at the top of the New Zealand’s North Island.

It’s the story of a young girl who, on her sixteenth birthday, gives her gift of love to a man, who unbeknownst to her, she will not see again for ten long years. The following year, she gives birth to his daughter, now nine, and brought her up virtually alone. The book opens when he returns to his old home town after ten years overseas.

It’s a moving story—I hope. At least, my editor thought so.

But it carries a message that hopefully, will appeal to everyone who ever had a dream. Of love. Of family. Of becoming a published writer

And we writers know all about dreams, don’t we?

We work hard on our stories. We edit. We cut and polish. We send it out and pray that someone else will love our baby as much as we do.

And when the publisher sends us a contract, or gives us The Call, we know our dream has not been for nought. We have done enough for them to want our baby and send it out into the world.

As one of the characters in the book says, “Never give up on yesterday’s dreams. How else can they become today’s reality?”

If writing is your dream, don’t ever give up on it. Work on it. Fight for it. And if you do, today’s dreams will surely become tomorrow’s reality.


PS: I waited as long as I dare before posting, but no cover was forthcoming. Next time.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Joanne--How to prepare your Thanksgiving turkey

Hi everyone,
As the Thanksgiving holiday nears for many of us, I wanted to share a hilarious turkey blog by Dave Barry. Hope you have a laugh and enjoy!

"STEP ONE in preparing the Thanksgiving turkey is to let it thaw (allow six to eight years). STEP TWO is to reach your hand inside the slimy, dark chest cavity of the turkey and remove the giblets. Be careful, because you are intruding upon the territory of the deadly North American giblet snake, which can grow, coiled inside an innocent-looking twelve pound turkey, to a length of fifty-five feet. In one of the most horrifying moments in cooking history, one of these monsters attacked Julia Child during her live 1978 Thanksgiving TV special; it would have strangled her if she had not known exactly where to insert her baster. Few people who have seen this chilling footage have failed to order the videotape from PBS."

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Giant Step Forward, Baby Step Back, Giant Step Forward

by Dawn Marie Hamilton

Do you remember the childhood game: Take a Giant Step? It's how I describe my journey through the obstacle-strewn course in search of a publisher. I take a giant step forward when I final in a contest or receive a request. I take one or two or three baby steps back when I don't do well in a contest or I receive a rejection. Then something good happens, and I get to take another step forward. Then backward. And so on, and so on.

I was thrilled when I took a giant step forward not so long ago. My vampire/shapeshifter paranormal manuscript, Sea Panther, finalled in the Golden Gateway contest sponsored by From the Heart Romance Writers.

Then the results came in. Sea Panther placed fifth. No request. I rate this setback as one baby step backward because the editor said, "The tone/voice is perfect for this market," along with a few other nice things. She also provided notes on how to tweak the synopsis and premise to make them stronger. Yah!

And now, I get to take another giant step forward. My first completed manuscript from my Garden Gate Scottish time travel series, spiced with scheming fairies and one incredibly mischievous clan brounie, Just Beyond the Garden Gate, finalled in the paranormal category of the FAB (Finally a Bride) contest sponsored by the Oklahoma Chapter of RWA. My work will be in front of two editor judges. Very exciting.

My fingers are crossed.

Just Beyond the Garden Gate:
  • 2010 FAB Paranormal Finalist
  • 1st place 2008 MERWA Synopsis for Paranormal
  • 3rd place 2007 Golden Gateway Paranormal
  • 3rd place 2007 The Write Hook Query Letter

Sea Panther:
  • 5th place 2010 Golden Gateway Paranormal
  • 3rd place 2010 Touch of Magic Paranormal
  • 2nd place 2009 Hot Prospects FF&P
  • 1st place 2009 MERWA Synopsis for Paranormal

Thursday, November 4, 2010

The Power of Scent

Most of us have been taught to use all five senses when writing. Let’s face it, everyone uses hearing and seeing—they’re so powerful. Sensual writers don’t miss out on a chance to use touch or taste, but the sense of smell gets overlooked. It is regulated for sniffing perfume, sweat and the coppery odor of blood. What a shame because it can be so amazing. Let me give you an example from my own life.

At a school raffle, I won a very expensive bag of coffee beans. After I won someone placed it on my desk. Teachers and students gathered around sniffing appreciatively mentioned how they wish they won it. Since the coffee was still in the whole bean form, no one was getting any until I had it ground. It wasn’t a priority since a cold had me doing my zombie imitation.

Wiping my nose, I shuffled into my favorite grocery to grind the beans. My head cold was so bad I could barely smell anything, but I could smell the rich exotic aroma of the Sumatran beans. I stocked up on cough drops and cold medicine before heading to the you-checkout lane. An employee appeared out of nowhere to help me use the self service checkout lane. When was the last time someone wanted to help you at the self service lane?

My helper inhaled deeply several times and I do not think he was appreciating the odor of Sucrets that stuck to me like stale cigarette smoke. It was the coffee.
Two men standing against the customer service counter suddenly straightened and headed my way. They struck up a conversation that centered on my coffee. Here, I thought men didn’t have very good noses. I know it wasn’t me with my red nose and blood shot eyes that pulled on them like a magnet. The lingering, the aimless questions lasted way too long. Did they think I was going to brew a pot to share? Invite them home for an impromptu coffee break? Home exerted its own powerful pull on me.

Ready for bed and the blessed oblivion of sleep, I exited the grocery door only to be met by my fantasy man. Six feet of lean male with wavy hair and wire rimmed glasses. Best of all, his eyes lit up when he saw me. He smiled and called out a greeting. I knew it was the coffee. Who knew? When I’m feeling better I may get the coffee out of the freezer and hang out in front of Krogers. Who knows what might happen, I might start an actual riot among the coffee set.

Tell me your scent stories.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Express Your Character

As an author, I'm always fascinated by characterization. So I thought it might be fun to explore this topic over the next few blogs.

Characterization rests mainly on three legs: dialogue, action, and description. Of the three, description may be the least important. In fact, some authors never describe their hero or heroine and leave it up to the reader to decide what the character looks like. This works (pretty well, too) because ultimately, the reader builds up their own image of the characters anyway, despite what the authors says about it. It's not the author's factual descriptions of the characters that matters to the reader.

What does matter? Indirect descriptions. These descriptions are expressed by one character about another. Those indirect descriptions bring both interest and richness to the story.

When one character sees another, what he notices reveals as much about him as the other characters he's describing. For example, let's take a man who has been a loser all his life. No matter how much he tries, he ends up messing up. As a result, he's become bitter and envious of others, believing that everyone else has a better, and easier, life.

If he sees a brunette, he may describe her as "Little Miss Perfect Princess," and he may believe she has it made--doesn't have to work and has never had a hard day in her life. He'll see her polished nails and imagine she goes weekly to a manicurist. And she must have a maid, too, to keep her clothes so white and crisply pressed. She's got it all.

His envy makes him see those things that support his beliefs, despite other more subtle signs about her true position in life. He won't see that her life isn't so perfect, either. He won't notice that her "big fancy foreign car" is fifteen years old and has a ding in the fender that she couldn't afford to repair. Or that her clothes, while good quality, are well-worn with slightly baggy knees and nearly transparent elbows. Or that the cuticles on her right hand are ragged because she's right-handed and does her own nails and manicures.

He sees what he needs to see to confirm his belief that everyone else has all the luck and s better off than he is. Therefore, his descriptions of others are filled with envy. He only sees signs of wealth and an easy life, and ignores the rest.

That's just a small aspect of characterization, but an undeniably powerful one for it let's you relay important information about two characters, simultaneously. What could be better than that?

And as I'm always interested in expanding my horizons, be sure to leave your comments and tips about favorite techniques used to portray characters--whether you're a writer or a reader.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

SEE ME - Coming Nov 23rd

It's been over a year since I've had a new release from Samhain (not counting the print anthology BINDING TIES, which included my novella, BOUND BY DESIGN, which was released as an e-book in September of 2009.) So I'm thrilled to announce my next release, an erotic short story titled SEE ME.

The idea started with a title. And not the title that ended up on the cover. There have been so many books lately with titles like THE ALCHEMIST, THE ALIENIST, THE REINCARNATIONIST, etc. that I thought what would a story called THE EXHIBITIONIST be like? What kind of woman would be an exhibitionist and why? The story took on a lot of different twists and turns, points of view and tenses. It ended up as first person, present tense and while my editor said it was a risk, she agreed it was the best way to tell this story.

I hope readers agree.

So as a little preview, this is the blurb:

These days, Lydia is feeling increasingly restless, and tired of being invisible. No one at work notices the nose-to-the-grindstone colleague dressed in business drab. Her neighbors don’t even know her name.

No one knows she burns off her frustration by dancing to her favorite music, alone in her apartment. No one knows her closet is a wardrobe divided: monochrome and flats by day, silk and stilettos by night. No one knows her secret ritual has slowly evolved into private stripping…then dancing naked on her tiny balcony, daring someone—anyone—to notice.

Then, at the apartment across the way, the curtains move.

Wes can’t believe what he’s been missing by working the night shift. He is drawn to the amazing woman whose every sensual move makes his body ache. And when she catches him watching, the evening explodes into an erotic fantasy. Afterward, though, she confesses she’s not all she seems. No way is this fiery siren as boring and unlovable as she claims.

And no way is he going to let her go without convincing her she is brave, beautiful…and the face he wants to see every morning.

SEE ME releases November 23rd from Samhain.


Monday, November 1, 2010


I was so excited to realize my blog day fell on Day 1 of Nano. Short for Nanowrimo. Which translates into National Novel Writing Month. Founded by Chris Baty and his friends who wanted to see what they could accomplish in a month if they really tried. It is for writers to set a goal to write 50,000 words on a novel in 30 days. You can find all the information at

This will be my fourth year of participating. I love the thrill of trying to sit down and write so many words in one month. This month is really important to me, personally. I’m going to write a sequel to the published book I have coming out early next year. I want to see if I can plot out a book for a week or two and write it in a month. 50,000 words for me will be the whole book.
Lots of writers say they can’t do Nano because it is too intense, the holidays are coming, or for whatever reason. I don’t believe that. Nano is a great way to see what you can accomplish. It might not be the whole 50,000 words, but I bet if you try, you will have more words than you started at with on November 1, or you might surprise yourself and get the whole 50,000 or more.

Writers with deadlines don’t have the luxury of saying, “oh, it’s the holidays, I don’t have time to write.” If you are a beginning or intermediate writer Nano is a tremendous example of what writing under pressure is like, with the added bonus of releasing some of that pressure if you must. The only deadline you have is the one you set yourself. But let me warn you, Nano is very competitive. Once you start accumulating words, you want more and more. When you see how many your Nano buddies have, you want to stay up late or get up early and get more than them.

Will I see you there? You can find me under mrsgodiva. I’ll be working on Taming Brad, a contemporary romance. Here’s to all of us finding our 50,000 words.