Thursday, December 30, 2010

Am I that good? by GINNY LESTER (cont.)

The next step is finding an agent since most of the publications you are seeking are only accessible through an agent. This is from a very savvy lady...most submissions not agented wind up in the slush pile. Good grief. Can't I just go back to writing for pleasure?

Nope. You write those queries and write those synopses, and discover they aren't as easy to write as everyone keeps telling you. I know. I have friends in high places, gals who are published, gals who have been on the best seller lists, gals whose books are sold out as they are being put on the shelves. (double-sigh)

Finally! After wrestling those alligators, you find a very special agent who loves your work, can't say enough good things about your talent, knows the perfect publishing company for your baby. Ah, perfection. The editor gushes, admires, says she can't wait to publish your work because she loves it so much she can't stand it. And you're, as the saying goes, "in like Flint". (Sorry if you're too young to remember it.) It just means you've got it made, gal. You're in there and dreaming of schmoozing with the big guys, of winning the Rita, of being on Times Best Seller lists, the USA best seller lists and any number of other prestigious lists that will make your name synonymous with The Nora's name. Aha. Yes, you've made it. Until...

Your editor decides your antagonist must go. Pick a substitute. Your secondary character should be ramped up and have more coverage. Your YA heroine, instead of being a teenager on the verge of finding new life in her sheltered world, is to join an arts and crafts shop with other silly teens. The life altering changes in her world are to be taken out and replaced with giggling teeny-boppers without one brain between them. Her best friend is switched from an angst ridden girl to a happy, happy, happy ball of fluff without a personality, without problems, without deep feelings. The hero seems to have slipped through the cracks in deference to the secondary character who the editor seems to have fallen in love with. (Geez! Give me that long awaited break, for Pete's sake.)

What a letdown. How can you go along with something that will take your entire plot, characters, conflicts and make them your editor's plot, characters, conflicts? Is this what you've worked so hard for? Spent time away from your family for? Given them Hamburger Helper and peanut butter sandwiches night after night instead of healthy from scratch food fare for? (Don't try to decipher that last sentence, but if you do, let me know what it means.) Do you allow someone, a stranger, to take it all away because you think she knows best? After all, she is an editor and you're not. Do you succumb to this barbaric deflowering of your special work simply because you want to be published at any cost? Because you need the money? Because you have signed a contract? Because your agent says it's best for you? Because...well, just because...?

Trust your instincts about your writing and know there is a simple solution to this blatant attack on your talent. Okay, it's become a cliché, but it's such an important cliché. It epitomizes the ordinary to spectacular. JUST SAY NO. It's okay. The editor is a human being, not a god. The agent is human, not an icon. (Feel free to disagree with me at any time.)

All in all, it's okay to say no especially if your child is on the verge of being sent to a bad plastic surgeon to be altered for all time. Would you allow your child to undergo a boobie job at age fourteen? How about a nose job at age ten? Or liposuction at the tender age of two when bodies are prone to baby fat? Would you allow anyone to annihilate your child? Of course not. So, why would you consider changing your entire imagination for a total stranger?

I say put your foot down, and say NO, NO, NO!!!! I have a friend, (one of many) a much pubbed author on best seller lists who fired her first agent. She found out they were not compatible and it was a hard decision for her to make, but turned out to be the best one to make. She is now published with a NY publisher and has several trilogies and an impressive multi-book deal under her belt.

One last thought. There are many agents/editors out there who will see your lovely talent and want to keep it intact with few, but simple changes. Get busy and find the right one for you, the one who will not want you to radically restructure your work of art. I'm back to writing for pleasure and relaxation now. The pressure is off, thank heaven. Happy writing my friends, and good luck to you!

Am I that good? by the one and only Ms GINNY LESTER

We are lucky to have Ginny Lester with us today. I had to beg Ms. Ginny on my knees (figuratively) for a special appearance and I am so pleased that she has agreed to blog for Voices from the Heart, TODAY and TOMORROW. Ginny talks from the heart and says it as it is, in her delicious humorous style. So relax and enjoy her thoughts on writing. And PLEASE don't forget to post a comment. Without further ado, he-eeeere is Ginny Lester!!!!

It amazes me how many of us have the same background into writing. We've been fabricating stories for years, some of us beginning at a young age. The stories roll around in our heads until the day we decide to put them on paper. Ah, what a satisfying feeling it is to actually see our scenarios in print. Then someone says why don't you try and get this thing published? Whoa! That sounds like a very scary thing. Am I that good? How do I find out?

Hmm. Well, we dig through the Internet and find places we didn't know existed like RWA, FTHRW, and other areas that keep us thinking we can do this. We explore that spot close to home where you can go and observe and dig for the information you need from the people who have done it or been doing it for a long time. My first time was at a meeting in northern California when I lived there. Sacramento Valley Rose RW. I dressed to the nines, was forty-five minutes early, was a bit chagrined to see many others show up in jeans, tee-shirts and tenny runners. So, I learned a little that day.

A new-found friend from SVR offered to take at look at my first chapter. I eagerly e-mailed it to her and she came back at me with a no, you can't do this. "You have six characters in the prologue and each one has their own POV. A huge No-No!" My answer to her? What the heck is a POV?

I ventured out to find out what POV is, what formatting is, where to look for potential editors, agents, how-to articles and books. (I have a double bookcase full of how-to books. (snort) which I rarely look at.) You do your homework like a good girl and proceed to edit, re-edit and re-re-edit your work until you're blue in the face, sick of looking at it, and actually wondering if it's all worth it. You decide, yes, it's worth it to see your name in print on the cover of a book with a hunky guy and a sexy gal and your trailer. That comes before you uncover the deal on query letters and synopses. Crud! The dreaded information keeps on coming and we find out writing isn't so easy after all.

Olin Miller says it best...Writing is the hardest way of earning a living with the possible exception of wrestling alligators.

Well, rats! How's come we didn't know that in the first place? Huh? Huh? Huh? (sigh)


Ginny Lester, long-time member of FTHRWA chapter.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Everything I Ever Learned in Life, I Learned from Books

There are many books out there to help improve our writing or story skills.  So, here is a list of those I refer to and have helped me.

1.Techniques of the Selling Writer by Dwight V. Swain
         Writers swear by this book for a good reason, it's  a great book.

2. Creating Character Emotions by Ann Hood
         Helps thing of emotion in writer's sensibilities. 

3. Self-Editing for Fiction Writers by Browne and King
        Even Julianne MacLean recommended this one in her workshop at the NJ conference.

4. Manuscript Makeover by Elizabeth Lyon
       I discovered this one months ago but I like the way it helps divide the issues writers face when dealing with revisions.

5. Goal, Motivation, Conflict by Debra Dixon
       A writer's classic and must have

6. The Female Brain by Louann Brizendine, MD 
      You might be a female and think you know why we do stuff we do but this book deals with the different stages of our lives.  And now I have an understanding of women I never did.

7. The Male Brain by Louann Brizendine, MD
  Ditto only with men.  Ahh, the simple creatures the heroine or hero just can't help but love.

8. You Just Don't Understand: Women and Men in Conversation by Deborah Tannen
     We all have to write the opposite sex dialogue so this helps the words sound much more "Real".  And recommended by NY Times bestseller Caridad Pineiro.

9. Love Signals by David Givens, PHD
      The body language of love or as the log line states, "A practical field guide to the body language of Courtship."

10. Roget's International Thesaurus  
       Has every conceivable word for heat, desire and anything else you needed to find.  Keep it close. 

If you have a book or two or three you wish to share, please do.  Happy writing into the New Year.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

An Inherited Condition

Tove and Magnus's Wedding Day

It’s November 1951. Tove, a young Danish farm girl is hanging laundry in a snapping summer breeze. The sound of horse harness and wagon wheels carries across the field from the road. The handsome young man driving the wagon catches her eye. “That’s The One,” she says. She meets Magnus a few days later at a social gathering and confirms her condition—Love at First Sight.

But, Magnus is scheduled to board ship and emigrate to Canada. Romantic letters floating back and forth across the Atlantic encourage his lovely Tove to join him in building a new life in a new land. Because they’re unmarried, they must live in separate towns at least six miles apart. If the distance of an ocean can’t stop their love, a mere six miles is no obstacle. They marry on November 1st, 1952. They now have five children, eight grandchildren, and have celebrated fifty-five years of marriage—an impressive heritage.

Tove and Magnus's 50th Anniversary

Fast forward to July 1975. Joan, another young girl, is working as a sales clerk in the fabric section of Simpson’s department store. She’s heard the story of her parents’ meeting and dreams of the same for herself. A young man walks past her. He’s got dark hair, dark eyes, broad shoulders, and a great butt. He walks like he owns the world. “That’s The One,” she says. Five years later, they married and are still going strong.

The young Danish couple is my mom and dad. The young Canadian couple is myself and my husband.

My mom passed away three years ago on Boxing Day. Apart from inheriting Love at First Sight from Mom, I’m told I’ve inherited her smile and her gift for caring. Who could ask for a better legacy?

What good things have you inherited from your mom?

Monday, December 27, 2010

Conquering the world little by little in 2011!

Yes, yes, there are others who have had this master plan before me, but are they really following through on it ;-) Nope. My turn.

This is what I’ve got planned, and I might need your help for a little of this.
Now, the way I see it, I need to write, write, write, and then get everything published—that will be a guarantee (of course)—and then I just need everyone to buy everything (another guarantee), and there it’s done! Is everyone on board?

Okay, so maybe that was a dream that I had at some point.

Actually, as I look back on 2010, I have to measure the steps I’ve made against what I’d set at the end 2009. And as I make that assessment, I have to say…I am pleased. Personally, like many others, I experienced many setbacks this year, but let’s not dwell on that.

At the end of 2009, I couldn’t wait to see my first novella published, and then February 2010 it was available. And my short story was released in November. Red Rose Publishing. I wanted to meet more authors, so I joined more writing groups. I wanted to complete more manuscripts. I have, and I’ve submitted them. I wanted to learn how to make book trailers, and I’ve made 2!

What didn’t I accomplish, hmmm, that list might be longer. I never try to lock myself into “resolutions”, but I do set goals. These goals each have a series of steps. So, although I might not have cemented that final step, I did take those baby steps to the end goal. And as a result, for my writing career, I’m pleased with where I am today.

So, the big question…what’s on the list for 2011? Many, many things, with some of the most important (to me) being: networking, attending more conferences, and capturing another contract for one of the works I’m currently submitting. So much to do with only twelve little months to do it within.

What’s on your list for 2011?

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Once again, I get The Day

Yep, I get to post on Christmas Day. Let me say this: thank you, Blogger, for giving me the option to create a post, save it, and have it publish on a particular day.

Christmas is odd for me this year. We normally travel to see my Mom, but she passed away recently, so for the first time in 40 years, I don't have to travel on Christmas. As of this writing (mid-month), I'm not sure what we'll do. We may drive to Kansas City to see a sister. We may stay home. As my husband said, "no matter what we do, it won't be the same as having Christmas with your Mom, so we may as well start making new traditions now." Wise man. Not sure what we'll do, I am looking forward to it.

And of course, there's the changing of the year. My fifth year in publishing is starting next year. I have 5 books out in 2011, all before July, so I'll be busy. I'm off on 10 trips next year, all before October, to various conferences and to visit family. I'll be driving on 2 of the trips, but the others will see me at the airport (not my favorite place to be). I'm sure I'll be reporting back here on my adventures. Until then, I'm going to try to relax over the holidays, catch my breath, and get ready for next year as much as I can.

I hope you all have a great holiday wherever you are, and I hope your 2011 is all you want it to be. Kick back, relax, and enjoy your family and friends. Life is full of change -- let's all try to embrace it if we can!

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Christmas Mistletoe

It used to boggle my mind when I would see the parasitic growth of mistletoe in oak trees around our house and realize traditions make it magic at Christmastime.

What is it about the twig of mistletoe, probably with a red bow tied around it, that gets a romantic heart beating a bit quicker? Does it really stimulate the heart, especially if ‘that special someone’ is close and notices that you are standing underneath it? I'd like to think it does, but I am a romantic and love these kind of legends.

I did a bit of research. There were several explanations for the myth, but since part of my heritage is Danish I thought I would share the Scandinavian version.

The origin of the Christmas mistletoe can be traced back to the ancient Scandinavian custom as well as to the Norse myth. The Scandinavian people believed mistletoe to be a plant of peace. Even if enemies happened to pass beneath the plant, they had to lay down their arms and call truce at least until the next day. Slowly and gradually, this custom gave rise to the kissing tradition that is still in vogue. However, Christmas mistletoe is also very much associated with one of the Norse myths, known as the myth of Baldur.

Baldur, the God of vegetation, was the son of Norse goddess, Frigga. When he was born, Frigga made each and every plant, animal and even inanimate object promise that it will never ever harm Baldur. Somehow, the mistletoe plant escaped the attention of Frigga and Loki, the enemy of Baldur, took advantage of this lapse. He tricked one of the other Gods into killing Baldur with a spear made of mistletoe.

With the death of Baldur, winters came into this world. To correct this situation, the Gods restored Baldur to life. After this incident, Frigga pronounced the mistletoe to be a sacred plant, which would bring love into the world, rather than death. From then onward, whenever two people pass under mistletoe, they kiss and celebrate Baldur's resurrection. Apart from the customs and myths, the Christmas mistletoe has also been associated with kissing as it is regarded as an aphrodisiac.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010


December 21, 2010. The first day of winter. Br-r-r .In four day We’ll be celebrating Christmas eve and Christmas day. I still celebrate the same way my grandparents did with no meat on the night before.

We’ll have red sauce made with Italian tuna an anchovies over angel hair pasta, then Bacala,[salted cod] squid, fried smelts, stuffed artichokes, cream cheese stuffed into jumbo olives, stuffed celery and salad.
Water and white wine with our meals. I prefer white zinfidal as it is on the sweet side.
Author Linda Cardiello

Dessert: Along with espresso coffee, I’ve made 70 panforte, [my son came over and ate 4 while I was wrapping them in tinfoil. Had to wack his fingers with my wooden spoon or he’d have polished off a few more. I just finished frosting 74 Itallian Sicilian fruit filled cookies, struffli, [honey clusters covered with honey and nuts,] butterfly crisps, cherry biscorttis, and the hard biscorttis with almonds. Those you need to dunk in coffee, cranberry bread, zucchini loaf cakes. I don’t make as many pastries as I used to.

Christmas day is red sauce with meatballs. I make them with beef, veal, pork and spices. I make my raviolis with the same ingredients. We like meat ravioli better than the cheese. And of course all the food that was left over from the night before.

My godmother and I used to play scrabble after dinner while we drank espresso, and dunked our almond biscorttis. She was great at the game. I remember she won a huge score with the word Fez. I challenged her and lost. I learned Fez was a Turkish hat. You know the high red hat with the tassel? Believe me, I never forgot that word.

Monday, December 20, 2010


What can I say?

All the razzle dazzle, flashing lights and excitement, we loved it.
We stayed in the older part of Las Vegas at a casino called the Four Queens in Fremont Street.

Unbeknown to us there is what they call the Fremont Experience every night. A domed roof that was several hundred yards long was the venue for an incredibly colourful laser show. There was music, bands, performers and people walking around dressed as Elvis Presley, Batman, Superman, Mary Poppins, Dracula and heaps of other well known characters. Not forgetting the show girls, decked out in their skimpy costumes, fans and feathers. It was amazing, bus loads of tourist came down every night to see the display, but we were right in the thick of it, standing at our hotel door.

Many of the casinos on Las Vegas Boulevard - The Strip, have themes. We visited Paris Las Vegas which was very French with a giant Eiffel Tower as the main feature.

You could actually take a ride right to the top, but for us unfortunately, it was too windy, so we missed out. Someone told us that the Eiffel tower here was exactly 1/3 the size of the Eiffel Tower in France, but it was still a huge structure. While we were there I bought the most decadent French pastry I have ever eaten. It was to die for.

New York New York, was another interesting casino, Circus Circus was actually like being at the circus, we were only there for a short time, but watched a world class juggling act. Hubby won $100 on the pokies so he was happy. I wanted to stay and keep trying our luck there because he was on a winning streak, but he grabbed his money and ran. Another very interesting themed casino was Treasure Island, and the name truly said it all. It really did look like an island from one of Robert Louis Stevenson’s books, pirate ship and all.

We went through the Bellagio, luxury personified. Unfortunately, this poor Aussie author didn’t have enough pennies in the piggy bank to be able to afford to stay there.

One of many highlights of the trip was the Awards Banquet at the Readers Favorite Awards.

I say highlight because my novel, Frontier Wife, won 1st prize in the historical romance section. I had a lovely time there, had to attend on my own as hubby had got sunburned the day before and felt sick. Not to worry, an elderly gentleman, (80 year old Colonel) gallantly came to my rescue and made sure I had plenty to eat and didn’t feel out of things. He was very excited because his book of poems got 2nd place in the Poetry section.

Did I mention the shopping? Wow. So cheap. We had to buy an extra suitcase to bring home all the goodies that we bought.

All in all we had a wonderful time. The only downside was the trip home, talk about the flight from hell. We were diverted to Sydney because the plane was running low on fuel, then after sitting on the tarmac for an hour, a passenger became ill and had to be rushed off in an ambulance, then security stepped in because the passenger’s luggage was on board and he no longer was. Three hours later it was all sorted out, and we took off and headed for Melbourne.

Frontier Wife TWRP

Sunday, December 19, 2010

My CP is Many Things. Is Yours?

I was matched up with my Critique Partner (CP) by someone in a state-wide writers group. Fortunate, fortunate me. She helps me in so many ways. Here's how I count the ways:

1. My CP is an ear nipper when she finds my Boo Boos.

Example Boo Boo: [ He winded at Jane as he handed her the drink. ]

CP says: You probably meant 'k' instead of 'd'.

My typing fingers are dyslexic. Left middle finger, right middle finger, left middle finger, right middle finger.

Another example Boo Boo: [ Rolly gazed around, looking content and fortunate to be there. ]

CP says: Can a person actually look fortunate?

Well, of course he can. I thought it and wrote it, didn't I? But, well, yeah, okay, I guess. Damn it, she's right.

2. My CP is a cattle prod when she finds my Uh Ohs.

Example Uh Oh: [ Jane nodded. "Okay," she said quietly. Rolly looked back at Jane expectantly. ]

CP says: Telling with the adverbs; try showing instead.

Roger that. Third one this page. How is she putting up with me?

Another example Uh Oh: [ Jane grimaced and looked disgusted for a few seconds. But then Rolly noticed: Jane's whole body seemed to relax and a far away smile appeared on her face. ]

CP says: Head hopping, again; Jane POV was the goal, right?

Sigh. Bang head on desk.

3. My CP is a hand grenade when she finds my Oh Craps.

Example Oh Craps: [ whole book ]

CP says: The antagonist is kind of cardboard one-dimensional.

CP says: Jane couldn't have known about the accident; she was in a coma at the time.

CP says: I thought Rolly wanted a new life, but now I realize I was getting that all wrong.

Claw my way out of the crater of self doubt. Slowly. This really hurts. I'm guilty of weak characterization, plot blunders, and cluelessly misleading narrative. How many times am I going to have to rewrite this book? Answer: It will be fewer the better I learn from my CP.

Are you not as fortunate as I am to have a great proofreader and editor? Well, get thee to a CP!

Got one already? Lucky you.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Unofficial interview of a famous reviewer

“A review is NOT a critique,” the lady sitting next to me said in a firm tone as I listened with the utmost interest.

You see the lady I had the privilege to chat with, is a well-known reviewer who has reviewed NY bestsellers before I even started writing novels, hence every word coming out of her mouth about books --yes every word-- was worth listening, understanding, pondering, and applying. Considering the number of participles—ing words--I am glad this post is not a submission to be reviewed.

“So how do you compare critique and reviews?” I asked eagerly.

“You don’t.”

“Ah.” I wasn’t going to argue and ask silly questions.

“A critique is done on a work-in-progress. The critique partner is expected to carefully read the submission, analyze it, dissect it, and point the author to the things that need corrections. A critique is not about flattering your best friend, it’s about being honest and helping an author improve her writing. No one except you and your CP is going to read the comments. But a review is a very different thing.”

“So what exactly is a review?” I said to encourage the famous reviewer to elaborate on reviews.

“Remember a review is done on a book already published. A reviewer cannot change the book by giving advice, therefore a reviewer should abstain from saying negative things about a published book. A good reviewer should restrict herself to highlight the points she likes in a book.”

“Do I understand you right? A review should always been good?”

“Yes, a review is supposed to help sell the book. Therefore a good reviewer will abstain from mentioning things she doesn’t like. Remember, reading and judging a story is so subjective and will depend on the reader’s taste. What I don’t like as a reviewer, another reader may like. A good reviewer should never destroy a book with nasty comments.”

“Interesting. You have a good point here. So what do you do if you really think the story is poorly written?”

“If I have nothing good to say about a book, I don’t review it.”

“What if you have committed to review it and discover mid-way, you don’t approve of the writing?”

“If I am already committed to review it and my employer is expecting a review, I will grade it, give it a 2 or a 3, but I will still say something good about it. Let’s face if there was absolutely nothing a reader would like about a book, the publisher wouldn’t have published it.”

“So you have never trashed a book?”

“Never. By trashing a book, one would trash not only the author, but also the editor and the publisher. Trashing a book means that the reviewer is a bad reviewer who has a streak of nastiness and should not be allowed to review books.”

“Wow, I like that. I wish you could review my books.” It never hurts to try to get a review when one is guaranteed good review.

“Nope. I never review authors I know,” the lady said with a peremptory tone and a sweet smile.

Have you ever received a bad review? In that case, remember your book is good but your reviewer is bad.

Some of my reviews:
Romance Junkies~5 Ribbons. BABIES IN THE BARGAIN is one novel that pulls you into the story and holds you captive to the last page.
Joyfully Reviewed~ Romance blooms amidst tragedy in BABIES IN THE BARGAIN. It tugs heart strings and stirs emotions.
WRDF Review~ This was a great read, romantic and at times bittersweet.Enjoyable from beginning to end, Babies in the Bargain sports believable characters, an ultra romantic story line, and a thoroughly satisfying ending.
Readers Favorite~ 5 Hearts This is Mona Risk at her best. The story will bring tears both sadness and joy. The characters are easy to relate to. The plot is excellent. Fans of romance will love this story.

Night Owl Romance: Prescription for Trust was a fantastic read. The plot was also very well thought out and the pacing on target. The wonderful healing that took place in this book also made it a very sweet read.
Got Romance! ~ 4.5 Diamonds Mona Risk writes a charming story. Keeping the reader entertained with the twists and turns in the plot. With great characters like Luc and Olivia the reader will enjoy the world that she has built.
The Long And The Short Reviews~ Mona Risk’s writing sweeps you into the story from the first page, and keeps you turning the pages.

SIMPLY ROMANCE REVIEW: Outstanding Read. Mona Risk's TO LOVE A HERO is a wonderful love story... I definitely recommend TO LOVE A HERO , and while you're at it pick up a bottle of vodka! Nazhtrovia!!
Two Lips Review: Mona Risk tells a poignant yet beautiful and sweet story of two people falling love, who must fight their attraction... This is a story readers will enjoy.
The Romance Studio: Sweetheart of the Week. ~ Ms. Risk is one of those authors who puts together a tale that’s captivates from first page to last. I’ll have to look for more of her work in the future.

Night Owl Romance: Recommended Read Mona Risk will pull you in with her amazing characters and in-depth twisting suspense... Travel has never been this suspenseful nor this cheap!
Review Your Book: In French Peril, Mona Risk creates a swirling air of mystery around the excavation of a chapel ruin... French Peril is a great contemporary romantic read.
The Romance Studio: This is a wonderfully exciting romantic suspense novel. The characters are appealing and the setting is very romantic, a chateau in the Loire Valley.
TWO LIPS REVIEW: Pick up French Peril, a sweet mystery romance you’re guaranteed to enjoy.
Coffee Time Romance: French Peril is a great romance with an excellent mystery. Ms. Risk writes outstanding dialogue and this, combined with the lushness of the Loire Valley, are the final elements that make French Peril an excellent story.
Publishers Weekly Saturday Blurb Barbara Vey's Special Beyond her Book Blog ~ Who wouldn't want to lose themselves in Mona Risk's French Peril? Traveling to the beautiful French countryside, staying in a marvelous, ornate chateau, eating fine food and drinking the chateau's wine, and let's not forget the charming and handsome host. Sign me up, Ms Risk, I'll be looking for your next foreign escape.
All books available at Amazon.con
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.

Friday, December 17, 2010

The chaos known as Christmas

I think of all the holidays in the world, Christmas is the most chaotic, with all the shopping, decorating, baking, and the traveling. Put it at number one for nervous breakdowns. For me it is all of the above. But in the end I love it. After Christmas day, and my house is a mess, dishes piled high, and the cats are still wearing bows from the kids, I put my feet up, satisfied with the end results and that I survived another year with a little of my sanity intact.

I’m not published yet, and wonder what I’ll do when I am and I have a deadline that falls in January, which means, I’ll have to be typing my little fingers to bone through Christmas. It honestly worries me. I know I’ll get it done, but what about my large, mostly Christmas loving family? Will they understand? I don’t know, I guess I’ll find out when I get there.

I just can’t imagine going without all the pandemonium so I can hunker down in my den, in front of my computer to write. Does the publishing world take that into consideration, and allow you to take a month off? Authors I know in the middle of edits and deadlines, sadly inform me, no, they don’t.

I just completed Nano in November. I finished, I made the 50K word count, actually I went over. I wrote like a woman with a purpose, but when December 1st hit, and the edges of the holiday madness already were tickling my life, I stopped writing, other than for blogs. And that’s been a challenge. I got up early this morning to write this one. My nana blog is behind, although I did manage to post this week, and I also blog at The Naked Hero, (did a cute interview with Mrs. Claus) but that is all I’ve been able to do.

I have published friends, who tell me you just do it. You get the tree decorated, put away boxes, vacuum up the sprinkles and write. You shop on line and write. You schedule out baking, cookie exchanges and write. You just don’t have as many friends and family around, because your writing. It can work. I hope so, because next year I plan on getting that call. I’ll be writing, I hope around the chaos that ensues this time of year. So I’ve put it out to the universe, publish, getting published and writing through the craziness of the holidays.

Hope everyone has a wonderful and safe holiday. Best Wishes in the coming year.

So how do you manage your writing through the holidays?

Thursday, December 16, 2010

The Lost Art of Gift Giving

With Christmas only 9 days away, I thought I’d write about the art of gift giving, and the Secret Santa gifts no one really wants. If you’ve ever received a hideous gift, the kind you look at and wonder what the heck was the person thinking, then you know what I’m talking about.

This year my neighbor participated in a Secret Santa exchange at work. The idea was to spend $10 on the gift, but not everyone follows through on that commitment. Whether it has to do with lack of time, or just laziness, I don’t know, but her gift this year was a used curling iron with gunk all over the wand. She never did find out who pulled the female name, but she was sure upset when she followed the rules and bought something nice for a male. I suppose whoever gave the gift thought they were being funny, but she found little humor in it.

And what about the person who has a reputation for giving weird gifts? I think the worst part of receiving gifts is opening them in front of the giver. What do you do when it’s a dreadful gift? Unless you’re taking acting lessons, this can be pretty tricky. I’m one of those people whose face shows every emotion I’m feeling. I’ve never been very good about hiding my feelings, try as I might—but I’m learning.

So what do you buy? In my husband’s family, everyone makes up a list of what they want for Christmas. Truth be told, I don’t like this idea at all. Where’s the surprise in that? Sure, we did that as kids, but the list was a foot long, not one item on the list.

Another thing that irritates me is the exchanging of gift cards in the same dollar amount. That’s like giving back the money we each spent. So why do I need a gift card in the same dollar amount you gave me?

My personal preference for buying a gift is to give the person something they wouldn’t buy for themselves. And if your buying for kids for example, please don’t ask their parents because chances are it’s going to be something educational. Sure, that’s a noble objective, but kids don’t want something educational—they’re in school all week. They want a Harry Potter DS DVD or something fun.

I can remember when our grandson was 5 years old. We bought him what his father said he should have. When Peter opened the gift, he made a face and handed it back to us saying, “I don’t want this.” True, it was rude, and he got a good tongue lashing for it, but be the aunt or grandparent whose gifts are looked forward to.

Let’s face it. It takes time and thought to give the perfect gift. Unfortunately, in today’s hustle bustle world, no one takes the time anymore. Try listening when people talk and make mental notes about the things they’ve mentioned they want. Chances are it’ll be a big hit and they probably won’t even remember having mentioned it, but so glad they did.

So what do you do with gifts you don’t want or like? Do you recycle, sell it at a garage sale, exchange it, tuck it away in a drawer somewhere, or give it to Goodwill?

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Happy Holidays!

Hi all. Just wanted to wish everyone a happy and hopefully not too crazy holiday season this year. I know my life is full what with shopping, decorating, and the like. I barely even managed to remember to blog!

I love the holidays which is why I've written so many stories that take place during them. There are Ghosts of Christmas Pasta story about a vampire looking for someone to keep him company on Christmas Eve, Perfect Heroa fantasy story about a game figure who pulls himself out of a computer screen to be with the game tester he loves, and Reflecting The Future about the first Christmas on a Martian mining colony. Even my Janet Miller personality has a Christmas book: Christmas With Sarah.

I hope everyone has a happy rest of the year. Take care!

Janet Miller/Cricket Starr

Monday, December 13, 2010

My Favorite Time

Christmas is my absolute favorite time of the year. Decorating the tree with family around, buying presents for your loved ones with anticipation of seeing their faces upon opening said gifts, baking, Christmas movies and music.....I could go on and on.

This year is a little different for me. My oldest daughter is away at college, therefore not home to help decorate the tree. Due to several financial issues, the gift buying is minimal. We did get the tree decorated and some holiday baking started. The Christmas movies have been on nightly and music playing on my trek back and forth to my day job.

However, as I reflect on past years and what has been important to me through the holidays, I struggle this year due to the family not being together. This past year has been a tough year for my family with separation, financial issues, etc. As I reflect on what's important, I realize I don't care about the gifts, even the holiday baking, movies, music. The one thing that is most important to me is having my family together for this occasion. To be surrounded by ones you love is the magic of the season. A husband holding you close as you want kids open presents, kids glowing because of the fun. It's infectious. I love seeing my children anxiously awaiting a sibling to open a gift from them, just dying to see if they are thrilled with it.

In our household for as long as I can remember Christmas starts at anytime after two a.m. Yes, we actually get up at two a.m. and start opening presents. Santa is usually very generous in bringing a family movie to watch when the presents are done, and then breakfast with the grandparents starts the process all over again.

Yes, Christmas is my favorite time of the year and this year all I want for Christmas is for my family to be together, (and maybe a netbook for my writing.)

Sunday, December 12, 2010

You know you're a writer if...

This was written by the writing team of Marilu Mann when we were using a different pen name of Cai Stephan.

You know you're a writer if...
By Cai Stephan

1. You've ever forwarded a joke but only after correcting the spelling
2. You've ever edited your own email to a friend so that it wasn't in the passive voice
3. You've ever used a red pen while reading a book for "fun"
4. You don't know what reading a book for fun means
5. You can't watch closed caption TV because the captioners can't spell
6. You've wanted to go back on this list and correct the missing periods at the end of each sentence
7. You want to go back through this list and rewrite it so it is funnier and tighter
7. Your children won't let you read their math homework because you keep telling them the story problems would be better if the characters had clearer motivations
9. You've actually submitted better story problems to the Math book publishers because HEY being published is what it's all about
10. You didn't know that there are two number sevens on this list because that's a number problem.
11. You know the definition of TSTL and you strive to avoid it.
12. You know the meaning of GMC and can find it in any story you read.
13. Your friends and family delete anything you send them that has an attachment and the subject line of "I want your opinion".
14. You have EVER reshelved books of people you know so that they get a better shelf view.
15. You had any clue what #13 was referring to.
16. You are trying to add more sayings to this list as you read it.
17. You have ever been caught jotting down notes about people in a meeting that were character sketches.
18. You replay snippets of overheard conversations as dialog between your characters.
19. You watch people on the street, in the grocery store, at your kid's soccer games, to get an idea of what people wear when they're just out and about and use that as part of your character sketches.
20. You have EVER been falsely accused of being a stalker because you thought someone was interesting enough to follow.
21. You keep a journal by your bed for those ideas that "hit" you in the.middle of the night.
22. You've been known to tell your family NOT to interrupt your writing time - unless there's blood.
23. Your significant other knows they're going to get some serious ribbing about the love scenes in your most recent book, and they have the grace to just smile smugly when it happens.
24. You still blush when your family members read your books because you just KNOW they're going to read that love scene it took you hours to write.
25. You endure people wondering about YOUR love life when they read your love scenes. and it's YOUR turn to smile smugly.

And we know we are a writing team when we can happily announce our eighth story with Ellora's Cave. All Tied Up is part of the Merry Kinkmas story. This book is a Ménage à trois featuring Japanese rope bondage.


Wendy has a kinky fantasy—she wants to be tied up. Not just spread-eagle in bed, but with rope all over and around her body. She shares that with her lover Peter who arranges a session with local Kinbaku Master, James.

They learn that having sex at someone else’s direction while completely restrained is more than hot. Can they repeat their experience? Do they want to without Master Darling, who would like to make their arrangement more permanent?

You can learn more about this story here.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

How to Forget Your Golden Heart Entry

It’s been a week since the Golden Heart deadline. The mad rush to edit, print, and mail is over. By now, everyone knows whether their entry was accepted, or by some catastrophe, disqualified. We’ve had time to catch up on all those household chores we set aside in our singular obsession to get the darn thing mailed. With the holiday season, there should be plenty of parties, decorating, shopping, and travel to make us forget all about the Golden Heart.

Still, some writing friends tell me they are so wound up by the contest that they just can’t seem to get back into a writing routine. More than one writer has asked me, “How do you just send it and forget it?”

The best solution is to write the next book.

Here are some other suggestions for those who find themselves paralyzed while waiting for the results:

Imagine the Call: What would you do if they called to say you were a finalist? Polish your manuscript? Send out a flurry of queries? Drop fifty pounds? Fix that gap between your teeth? Whatever it is, start working on it today. As a former finalist, I can tell you there’s not enough time to do all the things you need to do before RWA Nationals in June. The first thing they’ll ask you for is your pen name and a professional author’s photo to be flashed up on the Jumbotron during the award ceremony. You’ll need them anyway when you sell your first book. You might as well get started.

Now Imagine the Opposite: So what if you don’t final? You’re still going to sell your book, aren’t you? Why wait? Polish up your query and start submitting. With any luck, you’ll sell your novel and be ineligible for the Golden Heart next year.

Get Ready for Next Year: This is the perfect time of year for career planning. Where do you see your writing career in one year? Five years? Give it some thought before you make your New Year’s resolutions. Then think about what specific steps will lead to that goal and make a plan. Consider taking a writing class or entering another contest. A significant number of Golden Heart finalists enter smaller contests throughout the year to prepare.

Develop Your Online Presence: There’s never enough time for promotion after you’ve sold your book. Now is the time to build your support network and develop an online presence. Join a group blog, develop your website, learn how to use social media.

But above all, write.

I would love to hear your advice for forgetting about the Golden Heart or any other big submission. What do you do to distract yourself during the waiting periods?

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Christmas downunder

I’m like a big kid at Christmas. It’s my favourite season of the year.

I often wish it could be Christmas all year round. I love the carols, holly, tinsel, TV specials and Christmas trees all decked out in their finest decorations, and of course, the presents. But most of all I love the love people share.

We still have turkey and plum pudding downunder, although a succulent leg of lamb is often included, and plenty of summer fruits. Strawberries and cherries are in season now. And while a big, hot meal doesn’t taste quite the same in the heat of midday, (I‘m an ex-pat Pom and still miss snow even after 30 years) sharing a meal with family or good friends is the best part of the day.

I especially enjoy going to lunch with my friend Jennifer and her family, whose son, Andrew, is head chef on various big boats. I don’t mean cruise liners, I mean the big boys toys. I’m talking the likes of Oracle (Larry Ellison’s toy) and above. And yes, I’ve already got Andrew earmarked for some juicy story ideas about the rich and famous. Watch this space. When Andrew’s on leave, he takes over the kitchen and wonderful meals come out on Christmas day. And no, not all chefs swear.

And while Christmas in the Northern Hemisphere means snowmen in top hats, snowball fights and red noses, here in the Southern Hemisphere it means hunks strutting their stuff on summer beaches, swimming and sunburned noses. And while you are snuggled around the fire roasting chestnuts, we are sprawled on the beach lapping up the last of the long hours of daylight. I’ll leave it to you to choose which you prefer.

And in keeping with a “good old” New Zealand summer, The Wild Rose Press came up with a wonderful cover capturing that special feeling, for my latest release, Yesterday’s Dreams, available in January. The colours say it all.

Happy Christmas, everyone. Keep well and keep safe.


Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Joanne--A Dave Barry Christmas

Hi Everyone,

Share a chuckle with me and enjoy a Holiday Dave Barry classic as follows:

"Since I’ve lived in Miami, we’ve had one cold Christmas when the temperature briefly fell into the thirties. But snow did not fall from the sky. What fell from the sky were lizards. Really. I went outside on Christmas morning, and lying on my lawn, looking stunned, were at least a dozen bright-green lizards that had fallen out of the trees. These were not small lizards. These things were the size of cocker spaniels, and they had TEETH. That is not a normal Christmas-morning sight. There is no Christmas carol that goes: “Good King Wenceslas looked out/ On the feast of Stephen/ Saw big green lizards all about/ So he said, “I’m leavin’.”

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Writing Short - Micro Fiction

I recently participated in a workshop where the leader professed writing short fiction on a regular basis would help an author develop the skill required to write in a concise manner. Okay, that's good, but I like writing micro fiction because it's fun and the exercise jump-starts the muse.

What exactly is micro fiction? After reading several articles, I found it's hard to define. For my purposes, micro fiction is a tale written within 200 words with a definable plot—a clear beginning, a strong middle, and a definitive ending. Oh, yeah, and every word must be essential to the story. Yikes.

During the workshop, we were given a word to spark our imaginations. For example: spiders.

A caller to the Car Talk guys on NPR radio inspired Sylvia's Worst Nightmare. The caller had a car infested with black widow spiders. Big ick!

Sylvia's Worst Nightmare
by Dawn Marie Hamilton
(195 words)

Shit. Late for work again.

The early morning California sun blinded. Sylvia slid into the cracked leather seat of her red MGB midget, and her short black skirt rode up her thighs. With a sigh, she inserted the key into the ignition. "Please start."

Click, click, click, click, click, vroom. "Yes!"

She pulled out of the driveway and headed for the city.

With one hand on the wheel, she scratched the raised bite mark near the vein on her wrist and shuddered. That too familiar prickly sensation of eight tiny phantom legs crawled over her skin. Revulsion chills crept down her spine. She despised spiders.

Breathe, Sylvia. Breathe. She inhaled air deep into her lungs.

Entering the freeway, she zipped across the lanes to the left and sped with the traffic. Holy shit! Her worst nightmare crawled across the dashboard. She grabbed a used tissue from the passenger seat garbage pile and squashed the damn creepy crawly.

Her thigh itched like crazy. She swallowed hard and glanced down. A black widow skittered across her leg, and she spun the wheel.

The crunch of metal was the final sound. She'd never be late for work again.


My recent news:

Just Beyond the Garden Gate from my Garden Gate series is a finalist in the Paranormal category of the (FAB) Finally a Bride contest.

Just Beyond the Garden Gate is a finalist in the Paranormal category of the Wallflower contest and Sea Panther from my Crimson Storm series is a finalist in the Rose category of the Wallflower contest.

I've joined author Pat McDermott as a contributor at the food lover's blog, Kitchen Excursions. Come for a visit and check out the tasty recipes.

Monday, December 6, 2010

A Midwinter Fantasy

I’m delighted to announce that the next story in The Magic Knot Fairies series has just been released. The Crystal Crib is a novella in the anthology A Midwinter Fantasy, now out as an ebook.

“In the frosty North, in the ice palace of Valhalla, Sonja’s life depends upon unraveling the mystery of the Crystal Crib—and upon winning the love of Odin’s son.”

So far I have drawn on Celtic mythology for the Magic Knot series but in The Crystal Crib I explore Norse mythology for a change. The hero Vidar is the son of the Norse god Odin and the heroine Sonja also has Norse god’s blood running through her veins, although she doesn’t realize this at the start of the story.

In the wintery splendor of Iceland Vidar runs a theme park called Santa’s Magical Wonderland and Sonja’s visit certainly becomes magical when he takes her to the Norse god’s kingdom of Asgard to meet her father.


“Where are you taking me?” she shouted, the wind whipping away her words. Vidar just snapped the reins, making the horse move faster. Out of the whiteness, a deep shadowy ravine loomed in front of them.

“Vidar, stop!”

Sonja’s heart slammed painfully, and she snatched panicked gulps of arctic air. She grabbed for the reins but Vidar caught her wrist to restrain her.

“You’re safe,” he shouted. A whisper of calm stroked across her churning thoughts. “Sit still and hold on.”

She clutched his arm and pressed her face into his fur-clad shoulder.

“I’m not going to kill us,” he breathed against her ear.

Her rational mind knew his words made sense; her survival instinct wasn’t taking any chances. She dragged her face up and glanced at the rapidly passing ground, wondering if she dared jump.

“Trust me, Sonja.” His words flowed into her, soothing and reassuring.

Then the horse leaped over the precipice. Her breath jammed in her lungs. Sonja squeezed her eyes closed. But the sickening stomach-flipping fall she expected didn’t happen. The sleigh shuddered and bumped; then the ride smoothed. After a few frantic beats of her heart, she cracked open her eyes. Instead of falling, they climbed into the swirling cloud of snowflakes.

With her gloved fingers still fastened in a death grip around Vidar’s arm, Sonja peered down at the snowy valley hundreds of feet below them. She scrabbled to make sense of what was happening. They were at least two miles from the resort, so the sleigh couldn’t be a theme-park ride.

Shocked and angry, she punched him in the arm. “How are you doing this?”

A flash of remorse crossed his face. “I live in a different world from you, Sonja.”

“You’re telling me flying horses are normal in Iceland?”

“Not horses.”

Her gaze jerked back to the creature pulling the sleigh and her eyes bugged. A huge white cat the size of a tiger strained against the harness. A little squeal broke from her throat. In Norse mythology, the goddess Freya had a flying carriage pulled by giant cats. Like any sane person, she’d assumed that was fantasy.

The other two contributors to the anthology are Leanna Renee Hieber, whose story continues her Strangely Beautiful series, and L.J. McDonald, whose story is set in her Sylph world.

Find out more at

Saturday, December 4, 2010

In Search of the Alpha Female

Before my best friend died, he told me I was the strongest woman he knew. This puzzled me since I knew he came from a family of assertive, pro-active women. I figured he was telling me that I managed the hand I was dealt the best I could. That’s what women do. That’s what my mother did when my father died leaving her a young widow. That’s what my grandmother did when she was forced into an arranged marriage at the age of fourteen. History is filled with capable women, alpha females.

It’s funny that women often fail to see this. Men will freely joke if they had to bear children there would be none. Yet men are portrayed as the heroic protector. Any mother who senses her child is endangered will give Superman a run for his money. As women we’re always looking for someone to take care of us; a magical prince who will come and sweep us off our feet. We fail to recognize our own power and ability. We are our own princes.

My first glimpse into the world of alpha female came in a B-movie called Knights. Kathy Long, kick boxing champion, played the reluctant heroine who saves the world against blood-sucking cyborgs. The woman literally kicked butt. She didn’t wait around for some man to step up to the plate to save the human race. That was 1985 and surprisingly movie makers did not run out and started making movies about alpha females. You still have clueless women wandering into the basement to be slaughtered. There also wasn’t a shift in novels. Most of the females characters were just managing until their man came onto the scene.

The change in both movies and fiction was gradual with women taking non-traditional jobs and doing them well which reflected popular culture. A woman could hold down a career and have a man, but it was a hard fight. Most of these alpha women were bitchy, conniving and unfaithful. On the website,, it states that men like alpha females because they are so much harder to catch. It also states alpha men should pursue alpha females because they will never be happy with a submissive beta.

In Sherry Argov’s book, Why Men Love Bitches, it points out why the alpha female is so attractive to men. She isn’t there to serve his needs, cook his dinner or sit beside him and watch another episode of Bass Masters. The very fact that she isn’t waiting on him hand and foot makes her more desirable. It’s ironic men realize this, but most women don’t. She is a person not a household appliance to make the man's life easier.

Who hasn’t listened to a friend, relative or co-worker complain that a man she’s pampered, either ignores her or insults her. Why should he try, he knows he has her 100% under his thumb. For all her carping, she’ll go home to do the laundry, fix dinner and pretend to be interested when he talks about work. Despite the women who continue to be the doormat, the traditional helpless female image is changing.

Remember all those movies with the stupid woman running from danger then she trips and falls. Usually she dies or at best is tortured while the brave alpha male searches for her. There are so many things I want to tell her. Get rid of the stupid heels, Grab something heavy. You can’t outrun bad things you have to face them head on. No one is coming to save you so you need to do it yourself. Too bad she can’t hear me.

I watched the latest Harry Potter movie with my daughter and was amazed at what a strong character Hermione was. Both Harry and Ron admitted they were nothing without Hermione’s magic. As for wandering in the forest alone, Hermione can not only protect herself, but Harry and Ron too. Just to show how smart Hermione is she did not wear heels, but carried a purse that contained everything a person might need for survival. That’s my kind of alpha female.

The changes we are seeing are appropriate to the culture. I guess the real question is when does an alpha female become too alpha? Or is it even possible to be too alpha?

Friday, December 3, 2010

Snuggle up and Read

Winter is for Reading

As the days shorten and temperatures drop, it’s easy to find an excuse to curl up on the sofa in front of the fire with a hot mug of mulled cider and a good book. As a writer, this is my most productive time of year as I no longer have the garden beckoning me to work outside. Most of my new writing occurs during the winter months when the heat generated by the computer is welcomed and even sought after. And for those who were waiting for the next installment of my previous blog on characterization, I'll continue that in January with how grammar can reveal more about your characters than you think. Because we are in the midst of gift buying and giving fever, I wanted to take a brief break to talk about a topic that may be more timely: eBooks and eBook readers. While they may not be for everyone, you might give serious consideration to them for this holiday season.

The new ebook readers make these cold, dark months downright joyous as you don’t even need to leave the warmth of your house to download and read just about any book you wish. I own a Kindle and have to say, I love it more than I thought possible. And now that Amazon has announced the ability to “gift” ebooks to folks, I can buy books for all my friends as long as I know their e-mail address. And if they don’t own a Kindle, they can still read them with the Kindle app on almost any computer or SmartPhone device. That makes my holiday gift-giving a whole lot easier!

Kindle isn’t the only ebook reader out there, either. There is the fabulous Nook (and even a new, color version) and other devices that aren’t specifically ebook readers, but work as one, such as the iPad. Each device has its own strengths and weaknesses, but as I’m older, I did want to mention one advantage the Kindle has that many other devices, particularly ones that use color technology simply don’t: a non-glare display that is more like actual paper.

One of the biggest complaints about reading books from electronic devices is that computer displays are not as comfortable to read as solid ink characters on a non-glare surface, i.e. printed material. Incidentally, that’s why traditional books are easier to read than slick-paged magazines. The shiny surface of the magazine page creates glare. It’s not that noticeable to young eyes, but I can tell you, I find it difficult to read most magazines now without reading glasses while I can still read plain books with comparable font sizes without glasses.

So, if you are considering purchasing or gifting an ebook reader (and I encourage it if for no other reason than to save trees) then you might want to take a look at the devices to see which one pleases your eyes.

And as a holiday gift to you, here is a site that has free classics and out-of-copyright books in ebook form. I’ve downloaded innumerable books that I’ve been dying to read for years. I simply couldn’t afford the often expensive paperback versions of these classics. Now, I can get them in for free!

Project Gutenberg:

And I'll give you two free reads, myself, if you like short stories. Visit my freebies page if you're interested.

Hope you find something you like!

Happy Holidays~~
Amy Corwin