Monday, March 28, 2011

Buff and Polish

Quick, hand me that rag and tin of Silvo. It’s time to buff and polish my manuscript until I need sunglasses to gaze upon my work.

I’m not talking about the revision process where great swathes of words are deleted or moved, plot lines bent, or characters eliminated and assimilated. All that heavy lifting is already done before the buff-and-polish step.

I’ve been asked exactly how I do that final edit. Is there something out there to help a writer? Personally, I have two favorite processes that I find invaluable to achieve that blinding shine.

Autocrit Editing Wizard

In the Autocrit Editing Wizard you copy and paste a chunk of text into the designated space and click on the “Analyze my text” button.

The Wizard returns a number of reports to the screen; two of which I rely on. The Overused Words report pick out commonly abused words (it, that, feel, was) and word types (initial “ing” words, initial conjunctions, “ly” words, generic descriptions). It suggests how many occurrences to remove in order to meet standard readability protocols. The Repeated Words & Phrases report highlights your unique problems (door, pasta, pain in the neck). The Combination Report shows both the above-mentioned reports at the same time.

Try a sample 400 words at

Text-to-Speech feature in MS Word

Many people recommend you read your work aloud to identify awkward phrasing, missing and incorrect words, and places where you just scratch your head and wonder what you were thinking.

Instead of wearing out your vocal chords and embarrassing the family when you get to the sexy bits, try Text-to-speech (TTS) where your computer reads your text for you.

For MS users, it’s built into Word 2010. For Word 2003/2007 you can download the DAISY add-in to convert your document to speech-ready text. Instructions for all versions can be found at Microsoft Speak.

I did a quick search for Mac users and found Apple Speakable Items.

When I’m using either of my polishing techniques, I size the computer windows to fit side-by-side on the screen. In one window, I have a copy of my manuscript open and ready to edit. In the other, my selected polishing application. I jump from one to the other, going through my manuscript, buffing, polishing, laughing and groaning.

What are your favorite to to achieve that shine?

Sunday, March 27, 2011

And the category is...?

I absolutely love awards shows. I can't wait to find out who the winner will be for "Best Comedy", "Best Drama", "Best Female Lead", "Best Male Lead", etc.

I love the way categories simplify almost everything in life...from searching for food in a grocery store to books in a library.

But, recently, I received my very first review by a bona fide reviewer! I couldn't wait to read it.

I mean 3 out of 5...not so bad for my first attempt at a short story. Which by the way is a form of writing that I am quickly falling in love with. But, as I continued to read, I thought well, this can't be about my book because it makes no sense to me...they're talking about a thriller, not my dark women's fiction piece. Not the sad story of a young woman who didn't know herself, and trusted someone she shouldn't have to guide her through a special time in her life only to be betrayed by them. But, as I continued to read, it hit me...uh, yes they are talking about your story.

Ursula K. LeGuin, a short story novelist I've enjoyed noted that on her website she dropped categories because for anything she wrote for anyone over ten they no longer seemed to fit her work.

I haven't been writing nearly as long as she has, and have nowhere near the body of work, but already I can see the genius behind what she said.

How do you feel about categories of writing. Are they beneficial or limiting?

Friday, March 25, 2011

Pretend I am here...

... but I'm not. I'm out of town. Again. House hunting.

Yes, life is once again a juggling act.

Like so many authors, I'm making a foray into self-publishing by uploading some old titles of mine. One book is out there -- it was called "Forgiveness" but I changed the title to "Penance" (my first choice for the book but I was overruled). I uploaded it last week. I hope to have the second book in the series uploaded soon and the third book in another month or so.

I figure this is a win-win for me. The rights were returned to me on these books, and I'm not out-of-pocket much (just the cost of cover art and formatting). I haven't done much promotion yet for the book(s). I hope to get to that once the Great House Hunt settles down.

Yes, we're hunting and we thought we had the perfect house. Sweet little layout, nice property, yada yada yada ... then we met with the owner and he gestured grandly toward the pasture in the distance. "That's where they say they might build the highway, but they've been talking about that for 30 years so ..."

SCREECH. Yep, we ground to a halt. My husband (bless him) immediately started calling the DOT, the mayor, the Planning Commission -- so small feat since we live in Minnesota and the house is in Iowa. The bottom line? The road will be built. Maybe 5 years, maybe 10. Maybe sooner. No one is sure.

So it's back to house hunting, which is a nice diversion from promotion, which is a nice diversion from house hunting. Maybe I'm finally getting this whole 'balance' thing figured out. It's just a matter of juggling the right kind of balls at the same time ....

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Will the Phone Ring?

This year is my fourth time to enter the prestigious Golden Heart contest. Each year the emotions have built, but no phone call has come with the best kind of news. I'd love to hear someone tell me that I have earned a final in the Romance Writers of America contest for unpublished writers. Will it happen on Friday?

It's a hard one to call. (pardon the pun) I'd like to say yes and relax, but I can't do that. I know that I've polished my story. I like the way it reads and hope that others will enjoy it as well. The question I always ask myself is, is it good enough or do I need to run through it one more time. Do we ever get to the point where we can say, "Yes, it is ready for the public to read?"

I have such a grand, supportive group of friends who have encouraged me to enter the contest because they have confidence in me. Their support means the world to me and I hope that this time I can say "YES" the call came.

I have my fingers crossed for all of us who've stepped up to the plate and put our work out there to be judged. It's both scary and fun at the same time.


My new contemporary romance, Rx IN RUSSIAN will be released on April 11 at The Wild Rose Press.

The setting is inspired by my business traveling to Belarus during the nineties. With my heroine, Dr. Jillian Burton, you will discover a different civilization, visit interesting places, marvel at the Russian architecture, taste the exotic food, toast with vodka, wear the appropriate clothe, experience many of the local customs, and fall in love with a gallant Belarussian doctor.

Fyodor Vassilov is a Russian widower, surgeon and officer— Jillian Burton is an American pediatrician on a mission to improve medical conditions in Belarus.

Jillian blames herself and her ex-husband for their son’s death, and has lost her illusions about men and marriage—Duty demands that Fyodor provide a mother to his four little boys and marry a woman who loves children and big family.

When they work together for six months in his hospital, their fascination with one another shocks them both. Can attraction and love overcome guilt, duty, and a clash of cultures?

The eighteen-hour flight to Belarus had hardly dented Jillian’s stamina, but the sight of the man standing in the cluttered office wiped every thought from her mind. His daunting height and broad shoulders overpowered the meek desk and weakened her knees.

He said something in Russian.

Hauling a deep breath, she gathered the pathetic shreds of her can-do energy and stepped closer. “Good morning.” The gray cells in her brain squeezed in a desperate attempt to recall the Russian words she’d crammed into her head a week ago. “I mean dubra outra.” An unexpected bout of amnesia sapped her wits as she skimmed his chiseled features with mouth-watering appreciation. She mentally shook herself. “English? No? Sorry, me nyet Russian.”

“Yes?” He arched his eyebrows, revealing dark lashes, too long for a man, and sky blue eyes sparkling with midnight stars.

A sigh escaped her. They might be able to communicate after all. “I’m Jillian Burton, from the American Health Delegation,” she said, praying that she sounded like her usual self—the collected rational woman she’d been ten minutes ago. A career-oriented pediatrician and neonatologist who steered clear of charming men—unless the charming male was a newborn baby.

“Dr. Burton. Welcome to Minsk.” He greeted her in accented but fluent English. “I am Fyodor Vassilov, Director of the Minsk Solidarity Hospital.” His smile brightened the dimly lit room. And her shadowed heart.

The Health and Safety nurses who’d injected her with a dozen vaccines had forgotten to immunize her against the mind-crippling power of his smile. “I... Uh...” Unable to express any coherent thought, she locked her sagging jaw. How come you’re not old and unsexy like the other hospital directors?

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.

BABIES IN THE BARGAIN winner of 2009 Best Romance Novel at Preditors & Editors and winner of 2009 Best Contemporary Romance at Readers Favorite.
Rx FOR TRUST, winner of 2010 Best Contemporary Romance at Readers Favorite and 2011 EPICON.

Rx IN RUSSIAN to be released on April 11, 2011

Thursday, March 17, 2011

What will happen to books?

There is a lot of discussion in the publishing industry and the library systems about books. What will happen to them with the new and increasingly popular e-readers. Experts predict, books will stop being produced within the next ten years. Libraries will be in complete e-form, and any book that is desired in physical form, will be print-on-demand, and probably very expensive.

This is good and the bad of the whole situation as I see it;

1. The Good: It limits the use of paper and the need to recycle the paper into the environment.

2. The Bad: We’ll also see the end of brick and mortar bookstores and libraries. Borders isn’t completely gone, but most likely will be in the next year.

3. The Good: E-books have opened the door to talented writers, who found traditional publication out of reach.

4. The Bad: There is also a lot books coming out that contain very disturbing subject matter, because there is yet any restrictions. On-line bookstores are starting to pay closer attention and pulling those books. Thank goodness.

5. The Good: The cost of e-books in most cases are cheaper. The popularity of .99cent books is growing on-line. Those books are usually earlier releases of the author, but still if you wait and are a big reader, it’s a great deal. I find the average e-book is between $2.99-$4.99.

6. The Bad: Most hard covers are upwards to $29.99 when first released. A ridiculous price for a book, even for a beloved bestseller. Personally, I collect my favorite authors in hardcover, but wait up to a year or more for the book to hit the discount table for $6.99.

7. The Good: There is a discount table and used bookstores. Used bookstores most likely are going to see a boom in business as bookstores close their doors. All those paperbacks cluttering shelves will become a great trade for credit in a used bookstore.

8. The Bad: Books will disappear within the next ten years. And I’ll really miss the experience of a bookstore.

9. The Good: You’ll be able to put all those hardcover books you’ve collected of your favorite author in your will. They’ll eventually be worth more than the original $29.99 price.

10. The Bad: I’ll really miss books, bookstores and the smell of coffee and muffins. I hope someone comes up with a idea so we can still have that experience.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

My 8 Steps to Getting 'it' Back!

My 8 Steps to Getting ‘it’ Back!

Over the last few months, several of my writing friends have told me they’ve lost the ability to write. Now, I’m not talking about just any writer—I’m talking writers who’ve been committed for a long time, but for one reason or another, they’ve become disgruntled or have gotten off the beaten track and were afraid or didn’t want to get back on. Putting your work out there is a scary thing. If you love writing you’ll find your way back but here’s what I do when I’m feeling doubtful.

It’s a matter of forcing yourself to get back on the horse. Let’s face it, we’ve all had problems at one time or another—something else comes up that takes priority, or you’re too down on yourself to get back on. If too much time has elapsed, you may have found having that freedom of those few days goes into a week or two because you’ve decided you’re enjoying yourself too much. You tell yourself you’ll get back to it--maybe your non-writing friends got a glimpse of you away from your computer and began to complain because you haven’t made time for them, so you take a few more days. Or maybe the time off has taken its toll on your confidence and you’ve decided maybe writing isn’t for you after all. Maybe you’ve given in to those doubts because you haven’t been able to get something else published. Don’t give into it. If you love writing, and I know you do, here are a few tips you can try. I hope this helps you.

1. Call it practice
Start out small. Take a few days by using a subplot from your current WIP, the one you were writing before you became plagued by those insecurities and play the ‘what if’ game. Write a short paragraph about what you think the answer is to that ‘what if.” Obviously, this works not using the WIP, but I have something else in mind here, so stay with me.
2. Commit to the practice
Commit to doing this every morning, even if it’s just for an hour. As Nora says, you can’t edit a blank page. So, get something down, even if it doesn’t make sense.
3. Be realistic (and kind)
If you miss a morning, don’t berate yourself for not doing the practice. Just pick it up again in the afternoon, or whenever you have some free time—but do it. You’ve made a commitment to yourself so don’t ruin it by giving up now. What you’ll find is that you’re writing a lot more than you imagined.
4. Read your musings
Use post-it notes, a file on your computer. This tells the creative side of your mind that you’re serious about getting back into the swing of things. By reading the file or whatever you’ve used to jot down the words gives your psyche a feeling of accomplishment because you can see the fruits of your practice, but you’re also seeing that creative side is writing some pretty darn good stuff.
5. Share your practice
There will come a point in your practice when you know you’re ready to let someone see it. Feedback gives life to work. It doesn’t have to be everyone. Chose a select few or even just one person. It’s called reinforcement and encouragement from them.
6. Pay attention to the encouragement
And when you’re really ready, announce it on Facebook or Twitter. One of the many benefits of thinking aloud on these social networks is that those who do know your work will come forward and let you know they’ve missed your musings. If it wasn’t for encouragement, some of us might never have written in the first place.
8. Reap the benefits of your practice
Now, here comes the best part. Remember I said I had something else in mind? If you used a subplot from your WIP, you already have a scene completed and can use it in your story. Now see how easy that was?
9. Notice the difference?
You’re back on track and ready to greet the writing world with anticipation.
Now don’t you feel more grounded, cheerful and resilient? Sure you do. Keep on keeping on.

Shut Up and Kiss Me ~ October, 2011
Dishing Up Romance ~ TBA

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

The Sendai Earthquake and the Issue of Control

Plates shift, earthquakes rumble and oceans roil…all natural events over which we have no control. The human and economic toll in Japan presents us with a shocking example of how we’ve failed to predict and prepare for the effects of natural disasters. The event reminds us, once again, that control is an illusion.

For those of us who write, the concept of control is a common theme and focus of conflict for our characters. Our heroes and heroines struggle for power over their destinies, even as nature, social/government groups, both big and small and individuals throw new challenges in their paths.

In fact, as writers, we ramp up conflict in order to test our characters as well as to build their strengths. Once our stories end, with growth arcs complete and couples bound solidly to one another, we’ve created men and women who are prepared to handle any conflagration, natural or unnatural.

But plate shifts, big earthquakes and tsunamis? I don’t know.

Some are saying that the Sendai earthquake was the worst tragedy to befall Japan since World War II. When we see how Japan pulled itself, phoenix-like, out of the horror of World War II, we have to take heart. They are tougher, smarter and more unified because of the challenges they’ve faced before. Like the fiction characters at our story’s end, the Japanese will handle this crisis and move ahead, stronger than ever.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Names, Branding, and Who The Heck Am I?

I was tempted by a number of different titles for this post. One of my favorites was “The Importance of being Cricket.” Another was “Janet doesn’t live here anymore.” A few weeks ago I had to make a decision about my writing name and whether I was going to continue to try to use my real name, Janet Miller, on my covers instead of my erotic penname Cricket Starr. With the change my erotic alter ego would become my main alter ego leaving the question: who am I anyway?

Jasmine-Jade Enterprises, under whose corporate umbrella Ellora’s Cave operates, decided last fall to no longer continue the Cerridwen imprint and instead fold all the non-erotic Cerridwen books into Ellora’s Cave as a line called Ellora’s Cave Blush. As a part of all this they wanted to consolidate my Hollywood after Dark series, some of which were Cricket books and others were Janet books so that there wouldn’t need to be two pages of books associated with that series.

So they asked me to move those books to the same writing name, that name being Cricket Starr. I decided I wanted to keep the Hollywood After Dark stories together, and since that would only leave one book, Christmas With Sarah, under the Janet name, re-authoring that story to be a Cricket book made sense. So now all but my books at New Concepts Publishing would be labeled Cricket Starr, and there would be some Cricket books that weren’t hot erotic romance.

So what to do? If Cricket books could also be non-erotic, did it make sense to continue using the name Janet Miller?

I decided the answer was to rebrand Cricket to be my main writing name regardless of the heat level of the book and gradually close out using Janet Miller on my covers. But how best to do this?

I started this by revamping my website, and redirecting all traffic from my other sites there. I had to convert Cricket from her hot and spicy persona to include books that were mild and even occasionally sweet. My husband had already decided that a short tag line under the name Cricket Starr was needed. This needed to be something that described my writing, mild, hot, and everything in between. Using the word Hot or Erotic would not work and since I write in so many genres it couldn’t be as specific as the “Visit the stars with SF Romance” tagline I’ve used in the past.

Often sexy, always bright, is what I came up with. Sexy works because it is a lighthearted word that can mean erotic or hot, but also works for books with less prolific sex. Bright is a play on my writing last name, the shooting star as my logo, and the fact that my books are a lighter kind of erotic work. There is a lot of humor in my stories, even the ones that have serious subject matter in them. I think the tagline reflects my writing better than anything I’ve come up with before.

With a new clean look that emphasizes my books and featuring a wonderful sorting and search mechanism, the new website’s branding is now appropriate for erotic and non-erotic Cricket books as well as the few books still under the Janet name. Instead of using half-naked men on the site, I use the book covers and blurbs to carry the message of what kind of story the book is.

So at the next RT and RWA conventions I’ll be handing out new business cards that simply say Cricket Starr, and gives my tagline and one and only website. It will be a little weird answering to the name Cricket but bigger authors than I have done that for years. 

Cricket Starr (aka Janet Miller)

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Trusting Your Instincts

Trusting your instincts. We all have gut instincts that tell us whether or not something feels right. Learning to trust those instincts can be difficult.

In my life I have found myself doubting my instincts, and then regretting, later finding out if I had gone with my gut instinct things would have been different, and better. Through the years after not trusting my instinct, I started doubting my judgment period. Wanting to put that behind me, I have resolved to start trusting my instincts. How can you start trusting instincts when past has proven you as not a good judge of what's right and wrong?

Hindsight is 20/20 they say and how true that is. Now entering a new phase in my life, I wonder if I can trust my instincts. I want to trust them when I feel that my life is getting better and better and I have to let down the walls and learn to trust others again. Is it that easy though? Not at all.

In my first manuscript, trusting someone with her heart, my heroine found was most difficult. After writing The End, I realized that allowing her to begin to trust the hero of the story, I found myself letting go of pieces of the walls surrounding my heart. As it was shattered in the near past, I realized that sometimes you don't trust your instincts and it brings more pain than is bearable.

So as I enter this new phase in my life, walls built up high around my heart, yet not letting go of the love of my life, I wonder if I can trust again. Can I allow those walls to crash down and can I allow my hero to help repair those shattered pieces. My instinct says yes. How well can I trust that instinct if in the past I have ignored it and regretted it.

If we can write happily ever after, why can't we live it? No, we can't write the hero to do exactly as we want, but can we write our life to be as free as conflict as possible and allow ourselves to be strong and instinctive. As parents we are instinctive on how to protect our children, yet with ourselves we don't always trust our instincts and instead shut ourselves away, or hurt people we love just to get the first hurt in thinking it will save us from being hurt. In the end it only hurts us more deeply than we could have imagined.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Top 5 Tips for Self-Editing

March is National Novel Editing Month, or NaNoEdMo, as fans call it. As they polish their work for submission, novelists from around the world support one another with tips and sympathy. The goal is to complete fifty hours of editing before the end of the month.

So here, in honor of NaNoEdMo, are my top 5 Tips for self-editing.

1.Know how you write, and you’ll know how to edit: Editing is hard because each writer has to come up with his own system. No standard editing word list is going to contain my personal favorite over-used verb, skittered. I tend to write skeleton first drafts and then go back and add layers. So my process is very different from someone who needs to cut 50,000 words from a rambling historical epic.

2. Start with the big picture: There’s really no point in polishing each word if you’re going to have to throw away the entire scene. Start with the big picture and then zoom in. Does your story have a structure? Whether it’s classical 3 act structure, or the Hero’s Journey, every story needs a framework. Is there a character arc? Does every scene have goals, motivation, and conflict? Do you have the right balance of action and introspection? Does every chapter begin and end with a hook?

3. Look for themes and mirrors. Try to exploit those little gems that your subconscious has sprinkled throughout the piece. Got a white rabbit who kept popping up out of nowhere? Now’s the time to make it look like you did it on purpose. If you’ve got two scenes that are too similar, use them to show character development. Turn them into mirror scenes where the set-up is the same but the action plays out differently because the character has changed. Look at your opening and ending scenes. Does the final scene fulfill the promise you made in the first paragraph of the novel?

4. The Microscope: This is where we get down to polishing every word and punctuation mark. Have you chosen active verbs, used all five senses, and avoided passive tense? Sentences beginning with “It is” can almost always be improved. Does the action follow, not precede, the stimulus or motivation that caused it? Are dialogue tags necessary and not intrusive? Look for consistency. Do your hero's blue eyes turn brown halfway through the book? Time to go back and delete your favorite words. Again.

5. Know when to stop. At some point, editing blindness will set in. Perhaps you’re too close to the project, and can only see its flaws. Or perhaps you’re so focused on killing off the word “was” that you’ve murdered your voice in the process. Round up a few friends who will give you their honest opinions. If they say they liked it better before, or they can’t tell which version is better, it’s time to stop editing and start submitting.

So those are my tips for editing. How about you? Do you have a favorite tip for simplifying the process? Please leave a comment and let us benefit from your expertise.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Time Flies!

Hi all!

You know what they say about March—in like a lion, out like a slightly less grouchy lion?

At least, that’s how it is for me these days! I’ve got a new book out, Slow Dancing on Price’s Pier (Berkley), on April 5.

So far so good! I’ve got two great quotes from wonderful writers, and the buzz is already picking up speed.

PLUS I’m getting married on July 2. Talk about busy!

(As a side note, I’m looking texts and readings for my wedding ceremony, bookworms. If you have any ideas, or if you want to tell me what was read at your wedding, please drop me a note about it here.)

Although I’m not a parent, I suspect that gearing up for a new book release is something like gearing up to welcome a new baby. Obviously, two different things. But there’s an excitement and anticipation, as well as a flurry of preparation, stress, and lots of things to do.

In between the wedding planning and writing and promoting and whatnot, I’ve also been on a pretty serious quest in search of deeper peace and happiness in my life. Yes, I know that’s cheesy. But it’s also honest. I’ve been trying to carve out time to walk, to meditate, to do things I love, to spend time giving actively as much as possible—you know, finding my higher path.

There are moments of stillness that, a year ago, I might not have noticed—and I’m glad for them. I recently stumbled across this quote: No one can get inner peace by pouncing on it.” Harry Emerson Fosdick

But sometimes, finding peace can feel like an intense journey when you're up to your eyeballs in tasks! I've got my own methods, but I'd love to hear yours.

What do you think? What’s your advice for staying peaceful and staying busy at the same time?

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

You're greater than you thin\bk

When we submit a manuscript or partial. and it comes back rejected, we tend to beat ourselves up, say our writing sucks, and shove it to the back of a drawer never again to see the light of day.

But let’s just hold on a cotton-pickin’ minute here. It’s time to rethink our strategy.
Calm down, find a quiet space where you can be alone to set aside a couple of hours and plan your best year ever.

Start by celebrating past success and review the past 12 months.
Most of us have a tendency to view “taking stock” as a chance to beat ourselves up and find fault with everything we have not accomplished.
That’s enough of that!
We’ll start from a place of power.
Give yourself some credit for what you have accomplished this year. Make a list, but don’t fall into the trap of thinking anything is too small to be of any value.

In one way or another, in one area or another (and likely in many), you’ve already come a long way.

Start by reviewing your accomplishments and successes.

Starting from March 2010, all the way up to today, make a list of all of the things you have achieved, all the goals you have accomplished, any new skills learnt, burdens done and dusted.

It doesn’t matter how big the goal was or in what area of life it was, write down every single thing you have achieved, no matter how small, or how big.

Month by month list and categorize everything you achieved in the last 12 months.

Now take a look at what you’ve written. You’ll probably find you’ve achieved more than you thought.

How good does it make you feel when you look at what you’ve accomplished:
What have you achieved?
Won a contract. Placed in a competition. Mastered a new skill.
What are you most proud of?
Sold a book. Becoming a mom. Learned to cook.
What have you learned that you didn’t know 12 months ago?
How to write delicious love scenes. How to work out great plots. How to bake light-as-air muffins.
What new skills have you acquired that you didn’t have this time last year?
How to plot. Finally mastered POV. How to work out scenes.
What challenges have you overcome?
How to write great opening pages. Writing synopses. The fear of public speaking.
What setbacks have you overcome?
Too many rejections. Fear. Those CP comments.
What situations will you look back on with a smile, even if at the time it felt uncomfortable?
That awkward love scene. The editor’s unwarranted comment about the hero.
What have you learned from these experiences?
Not to take comments to heart. That judge’s comments are subjective. That you should keep on writing no matter what.
How do you feel to be reminded of all your achievements?
Great. Fantastic. Sensational.

Start with how great you are, and you’ll soon be greater than you believed possible.

Yesterday’s Dreams
She was his strength; his weakness. Teenage love rekindled.
Available now from The Wild Rose Press

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Men Vs. Women Emotions--Are there differences?

Are there differences between a male and female brain? Is a woman’s brain more filled with emotion than a man’s? Written from his ever-hilarious perspective, Dave Barry seems to think so. 

From Dave Barry’s calendar:

“There are many differences between men’s and women’s brains, one involving a brain part called the “cingulated gyrus,” which is the sector where emotions are located. Presumably in women the cingulated gyrus is a structure the size of a mature cantaloupe, containing a vast quantity of complex, endlessly recalibrated emotional data involving hundreds, perhaps thousands of human relationships, whereas in men it is basically a cashew filled with NFL highlights”.

Me again: What do you think?

Monday, March 7, 2011


Last month I blogged about the birds on my balcony. At the time, I didn't know the common name for Juncos is Snowbirds. The little birds arrive at the feeders at the onset of cold weather and hang around until mid-March.

There is another kind of Snowbird—one of the human variety. They migrate from northern climes to the sunshine in the south. Might be Texas or Florida or maybe even Mexico.

I never thought I would join in this practice, but about five years ago, my husband and I were invited to a wedding in South Florida in February. Well that started it. We've been migrating south for a month every year since.

We camp and hike and bicycle and enjoy the warm sunshine. Our time in the south recharges our batteries, and for me my muse.

What do you do during the cold winter months to stay inspired?

Dawn Marie Hamilton

Saturday, March 5, 2011

When I first started writing, I hadn’t yet found RWA and the resources offered as a member. I did find a site for women that offered tips on writing, a place to submit and get a critique. I enjoyed it immensely and learned quite a bit but one woman didn’t really want to learn, she just wanted to be stroked on her genius idea of writing a book that would follow Gone With the Wind.

She consistently used knell instead of kneel and wreath instead of writhe. When these were pointed out to her, she had no problem with the knell/kneel but insisted that wreath and writhe could be used interchangeably. Slowly her critiques dried up, only new people to the site bothered to respond to her posts.

I see posts come through the Yahoo groups and cringe when I see all the horrible spelling or wrong word usage. Would they be offended if their incorrect word choices were pointed out to them? I’m going to say yes. Why? Because I’ve seen other posters point these things out and get shut down quickly. The most common response--“my email doesn’t have spell check.” Uh, okay but spell check won’t catch the wrong word, only the misspelled word. I sure don’t want to start any wars on the loops but it does make me wonder how many of us make those same kinds of mistakes and can’t see them.

In one of my college classes, we had to do a paper but the professor insisted we turn off our spell checker and get a proofreader. The example she gave--a previous student wrote a fantastic paper but instead of salon the student used saloon and she wasn’t writing about the old west. The professor had to mark the student’s score down, even though the paper was excellent in every other aspect. In the professor’s opinion, spell check isn’t always your best friend. I think we all need to remember that when we’re writing.

How many times have you seen right used for write? And we’re writers--honestly this one calls for getting the writer’s hand slapped with the wooden ruler. I always want to ask the person so you’re a righter, huh? Okay, I’m being sarcastic or as one friend tells me, a little too blunt.

I’ve been corrected for using blonde when referring to a character. Blonde does happen to be correct when referring to a female. Blond for a male, mixed group, or unknown gender.

I once pointed out gray/grey in a contest entry. Guess what? The coordinator sent me a note, reminding me that we had entries from other countries. I replied that I knew that but this particular writer used both spellings in the entry. If the writer had used gray all the way through, no problem. If she’d used grey all the way through, no problem. However, to use both spellings in the same manuscript, I don’t think so. If I caught it, you can be darn sure a reviewer or reader was going to catch it.

Denise Pattison

Interview with Jesse Petersen

Today, I am talking with Jesse Petersen who writes fiction under Jenna Petersen and Jesse Petersen. She has also written under the name of Jess Michaels.

MW: Why romance? You’re a very talented author and could write almost anything. What is it in the romantic genre that calls to you?

JP: I really love the whole idea of the building the relationship as the central focus of a novel and of course, the Happy Ending is so satisfying to write. I love reading romances, so it also feeds that desire.

MW: You write under three different pen names for three separate sub-genres? How is this working for you? Do you do this to distinguish yourself from other personas? Some writers such as Brenda Joyce found a change in name meant a loss of readers, is this struggle for you?

JP: Well, there is no longer any work coming out as Jess Michaels, so I’m really just Jenna Petersen and Jesse Petersen. It works for me because the genres are completely different. Jenna is historical romance, Jesse is fantasy (not romance). So the readers don’t completely overlap like they would if I were writing all romance.

MW: Who is your target audience? Do you feel that you have a target audience or it is constantly evolving? Who reads your books that surprises you?

JP:I don’t really think about target audience, I more think about what story do I want to write within the constraints of the genres where I write. As long as I enjoy the story myself, I figure that it will appeal to the portion of the reading population that likes my voice and my types of stories. I’m always sort of surprised when younger readers contact me. Or men reading my romances, though now that I’m writing fantasy those things don’t surprise me as much.

MW: Do you feel like your heroes are traditional alpha males? Why or why not? (I find the heroes in the Avon Red especially dominating in a good way.)

JP: For my romances, I do like an alpha male. I think it fits the men of their time in historical. When I write my fantasies, I don’t really write alpha males the same way. Smart, capable, strong men, sure. But the dominance doesn’t translate as well in a modern setting.

MW: Many romance writers joke that they use a pen name because their families will be embarrassed if they use their real name. Has this been an issue for you?

JP: Nope, my family is 100% behind me, read all my books and are excited for any success I experience. I’ve been very lucky not to deal with that issue. I have a pen name because my real name is Jesse and the spelling and gender are always an issue.

MW: The female romance heroine is constantly evolving she’s not the dim witted virgin she used to be. How do your characters reflect the sensibilities of the 21st century woman?

JP: Well, I hope that readers can see them as intelligent women with strength, even if they’re following rules that the reader might not necessarily have to encounter in their own lives. A woman they can relate to in the way she feels and the ways she deals with those feelings. At least in my historical romance. My fantasy heroine, Sarah is very snarky and tough and I’ve had a lot of female readers talk about how much they feel she “Sounds” like them.

MW: Women will tell you that they read romance to escape to a more exciting world filled with men who do not have questionable sexual orientation (unless it is that type of romance.) When you read, what do you want out of a romance?

JP: I just want a good read with characters I enjoy and can relate to. I like a sexy romance and a dark, emotional read. That’s what I try to write.

MW: Some televangelists and a handful of psychologists rail against the romance industry because they believe it harms relationships and marriages. How would you answer that statement?

JP: Women who read romance tend to have happier relationships. So there’s that.

MW: Romance books make up 51% of all books sold, what does that say to you?

JP: That people want to read uplifting stories that focus on the development of a relationship. And why not?

MW: Tell me about your favorite book you’ve written? Who is your most memorable character and why?

JP: I think that’s like asking who your favorite child is. I really have loved writing all my books. I think my most successful book has been LESSONS FROM A COURTESAN, so Justin is probably the hero most readers would talk about if asked about my work. I loved writing him, as he was very dark and alpha.

MW: What are your future plans? What books are in the works and what books are ready to go, but waiting for release?

JP: I have one book left to be released as Jenna Petersen in August, A SCOUNDREL’S SURRENDER, which is the last book in my Billingham Bastards series. I’m looking to sell a new book, but so far no takers. It will likely be coming out from a new name. And there is a final book left in my “Living With the Dead” series of fantasy books, EAT SLAY LOVE, that comes out in July. I’m also working on some new ideas in fantasy. But right now those are my final releases.

MW: You are making plans to go under one name (if I heard correctly) what impact will this have on your readers? (I know this is only speculation.) How will you unite the three diverse groups?

JP: I wouldn’t go under one name. My Jesse books are always going to be very different from my historical. I am going to be taking a new name for historical.

MW: The arrival of Kindle has birthed new readers who wouldn’t normally carry around a paperback. Is this a boom for the romantic industry or is it too soon to tell? Are any of your titles on Kindle?

JP: I think eventually Kindle and other readers will be the norm. All my work is available on Kindle, Nook and other readers.

MW: Do you have any appearances or book signing lined up in the near future?

JP: Nope, I’m in the process of moving so I’m not doing any travel this year that isn’t related to personal life stuff.

MW: What is your ultimate goal in writing? What do you want the readers to walk away after reading one of your books?

JP: I hope they’ve read a book they’ve enjoyed and that they want to read more. My ultimate goal in writing is to be able to keep doing it as a living.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Is He Lying?

Passive Voice: Is he lying?

Some of you may remember my blog about passive voice and how it might actually be useful to you when developing a character’s dialog. How?  Folks engaged in denial or lying, often use passive voice as a way of deflecting attention away from themselves or their responsibility for the events in question. No one, not even the most terrible serial killer, believes they are bad people or responsible for terrible actions against another human. That’s where passive voice becomes a writer’s most useful tool when portraying that bad guy or gal. Because she'll rarely say, "I killed him." Instead, she'll say, "He was killed by a gun." Yeah, like the gun acted under it's own volition and she had nothing to do with it.

Most folks who do terrible things almost always blame the victim or the weapon itself, or the circumstances. I would never do something like that—she made me do it. Or the weapon just up and did it on its own.

Expert law enforcement personnel and psychologists know to listen for these tell-tale signs of shifting responsibility and use of passive voice to deflect attention. Here’s a good example and a refresher on what passive voice is.

Passive voice is when the action is not performed by the subject of the sentence. The subject of the sentence is the recipient of the action. For example, instead of saying, he hammered the nail into the wood, you could use passive and say: the nail was hammered into the wood. The passive version is ambiguous because you don’t know who hammered the nail. And it’s that ambiguity that attracts liars to passive voice.

I should note that folks who either can't face responsibility for their actions, either because they're just irresponsible people, or in the case of a true tragedy, where someone honestly didn't mean to do something.

Let’s say the police have arrested a woman who may have smothered her child in his crib. The woman, unable to admit her terrible action, uses passive voice to avoid admitting her responsibility.

“Who smothered your baby?”

She shrugged and twisted her wedding ring around her finger, unable to meet the gaze of the policeman.

“You were there, weren’t you?”

She nodded.

“He was crying, wasn’t he?”

“He kept crying—he just wouldn’t stop!”

“So what happened?”

“I tried to comfort him, but he just wouldn’t stop. I didn’t know what to do! I just wanted him to quiet down, so I held him for a while.”

“And what happened when you held him?”

“He was smothered by the pillow, I guess. I don’t really know. He turned his face into the pillow and after a while he quieted.”

“Did you press his face into the pillow?”

“I—I didn’t realize—he must have been smothered by the pillow—that’s all I can say.”

You’ll often hear these types of statements from folks who can’t quite accept their part in a tragedy. For example, a bus driver inadvertently involved in an accident may use passive voice to minimize his role, “She was hit by the bus.” He doesn’t say he hit her or ran over her when he was driving the bus. He phrases it as if the bus had acted on its own when it hit her.

Passive voice isn’t the sole tool, however. That bus driver may really shift blame by using active voice, e.g “The bus hit her.” As if the bus drove itself and independently made the decision to run over a pedestrian all on its own.

Those kinds of shifts in focus are extremely useful in characterization and they can be applied either to an innocent person who just can’t accept or absorb his role in a tragedy, such as the bus driver, or it could be a more conscious effort by a liar/bad guy to shift the blame to the victim.

To me, these little nuances in characterization and the underlying psychology of developing realistic characters are intrinsic to the foundations of a fascinating story.

I’d love to hear any habits of speech or actions you’ve noted that make characters come alive.

Amy Corwin is the author of over half a dozen historical romantic mysteries, paranormals and cozy mysteries. She can be found on the web at and Her latest book, The Vital Principle, is now available from Amazon.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

I Am Launched

I am officially launched. My debut book came out February 16th. My husband threw me an enormous party for 50+ of my nearest and dearest family and friends. It was a night of being Cinderella. I was celebrated, congratulated, and toasted. But even Cinderella had only until midnight. The party is over. Now, back to reality.

Once your book is out there the real work begins. You used to think writing the book was the hard part, but you did that. You used to think selling the book was the hard part, but you did that. Now, you discover really selling your book is the hard part. You haunt the sales lists to see how you are doing. Guest blog everywhere you can to be 'seen'. Check and Google yourself to see if you have any reviews. The job of being published is not for the faint of heart, any more than any other part of the process of this chosen career.

I wouldn't trade if for all the world, of course, but it is a new set of neurotic worries to be concerned about. Sales for this book. Selling the next book. Promoting all your books and yourself. Being out there enough to sell your book but not so out there that you get burnout.

And I wish that kind of neurotic worry on every other writer I know. Because it means you are published.