Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Emotional Structure

Thanks to another blog, I found a Emotional Structure: Creating the Story Beneath the Plot: A Guide for Screenwriters by Peter Dunne.  Don't let screenwriter turn your novelist away.  It works for no matter the format.

Peter Dunne separates the script into two parts:
1. Plot
2. Story

Plot is what happens and not just what happens but what happens to the protagonist. 
Go ahead and read that sentence again.

Plot is what happens and not just what happens but what happens to the protagonist.

So you have the witness to a murder or business collapse or anything else that is outside the Protagonist.

Onto number 2-- Story:

Story is what it (the plot) does to the who it's happening to.

These two parts are the units of a novel or script. 

Then you merge these two parts.  Your no-doubt dashing hero must find the murder of the local football hero.  He heads out to interview the boy's mother, his high school girlfriend who broke his heart when she married his best friend.  He plans to act professional and friendly without warmth, the way he always treated her, also known as his defenses.  When he gets to her home, those skills fail him but he has to find the murderer so he must use another tactic, use another skill.  This is a risk for him because it diverts him but he wants to get back to normal. But something else happens and his past habits aren't working for him and he has to learn new tools.  If you were a smoker or know a smoker, you're aware of the promise to quit but then something happens and you lit one up?  His weakness is being exposed.
He might be unaware but he must change or fail. 

This leads to our story's climax's when the character learns something.  Here the emotion has changes because the hero has broken down his walls.  Now he's a better healed person for it.

Monday, June 27, 2011

History, Reality, and Fiction

Recently, I posted an article on my blog titled "The disappearing pieces of my childhood." I posted it because of a lot of reasons: a news story on CNN, conversations with my young niece and nephews, and more.

After that post, I thought even more about how whether writing historical, contemporary, or paranormal "we" can capture snapshots of time and save them for the next generation.

In one of my books, I had a very specific idea of who the grandfather needed to be. And as he formed more and more in my head there were elements of his character that after I wrote him, I recognized them. They were pieces of my own grandfather. Any member of my family who reads that story will automatically recognize the hat and suspenders. That's a personal part of my life captured forever.

The same can be said for technology, pop culture, and history itself.

I think one of the most interesting uses of pop culture I've read was the use of Elvis Presley as a vampire! Loved it. I'm from Memphis, TN...why didn't I think of that?

When I decided that writing was a part of me that could not be denied, I wanted to tell "my" stories. I didn't realize that although they are told in "my" voice, they are all of "our" stories.

Every time one of us plots around a news story, writes a historical or contemporary, or writes about vampires trying to commit suicide in the sunlight of Italy we're introducing a reader somewhere to something. Food. Travel. History. Science.

I guess as long as there are writers, nothing will disappear.

For all of the writers out there, do you see yourselves as historians?

Sunday, June 26, 2011

When Sales Prompt a Sequel!

Because of popular demand, I'm working on The Deadly Fae and The Winged Fae, sequels to The Dark Fae.

Alicia's always known she's different--that she can recognize the mischievous fae when they show up to "play" with the humans. Only now she's faced with one highly annoyed dark fae and she's certain he knows the truth about her. She can see him, which means her life is forfeit.

Add to that, his sister arrives, who wants to play, too. And their mother, the queen of the Denkar, will want Alicia's head, once she learns what Alicia can do.

And all because Alicia was attempting to rescue her friend, Cassie, on their beach excursion at South Padre Island, from the wicked fae. Now, Alicia has really gone and done it--and she's thinking she should have let the fae have his fun. Her friend's broken heart would be a lot easier to deal with, than Alicia losing her life.

But it is too late for regrets. As soon as she threw the soda at the dark fae's chest, she had declared war on the fae. And he is happy to take up the challenge.

Oftentimes, I get a lot of fan requests for certain characters, which prompt me to write a sequel about those characters. But this time, the sales are just so phenomenal for The Dark Fae (70 to over 100 books per day at B&N alone), I'm inspired to write another couple of stories in the fae kingdoms.

In The Winged Fae, title may change:

We're back to South Padre Island in the opening...and one mischievous fae...

What fae would ever be bold enough to enter another fae-claimed territory (although humans think they own it), and believe she would not have to face the consequences of her actions?

An assassin royal winged fae of the Mabara Fae kingdom.

With a message.

In The Deadly Fae:

Lady Sessily is a member of the Denkar royal house of fae, a dark fae, but she is an outsider in many ways. It all has to do with her occupation. She's a master assassin, only no one knows it, and she aims to keep it that way.

Until a dark lord comes to see her about a job and though she refuses to take part, he refuses to take no for an answer.

This time, she could easily lose her life, and to her utter annoyance, even her heart--to one mysterious man who is like no other!

I've written sequels to books and then not sold the original, so I stopped writing sequels! What about you? Do you write a series of books, or just have an idea and wait for the first book to capture the hearts of readers before you write the next in the series?

Or do you concentrate on stand alone titles?

Actually, even though these new stories in the fae series, are stand-alone titles. I like to be able to read books out of order myself, so I try to write my stories that way also. :) So what do you do? Or think about series and stand alone titles?

Have a super day!!!

"Giving new meaning to the term alpha male."

Saturday, June 25, 2011

There's always another side to the story

I've been having a lot of physical problems for the last year or so. Early in 2010 I started to have severe leg cramps and hip pain. I tried all the usual remedies: bananas, tonic water, shoe inserts, potassium pills ... you name it, I tried it. I visited a series of 'ists' -- podiatrist, gastroenterologist, orthopedic surgeon, dermatologist (I was also inexplicably battling a skin infection that would *not* go away). I saw a gynecologist, spine specialist, neurologist, herbalist, chiropractic. I tried different physical therapies, accupuncture (which was so amazingly painful I almost passed out), I did hydro-therapy, deep tissue massage...

You name it. I saw the doctor, I tried the therapy. I finally ended up with another neurological specialist who ordered a new round of blood tests. They took 8 vials of blood and did every possible test imaginable: Lyme disease, Epstein-Barr, etc. I had a spinal test for MS. I had electroshock tests. I had MRIs. They found that yes, my spine is deteriorating (no news there) and that I have a bit of a malformation of the left hip (again: no news there). But the overall result? It's now about 18 months later and the conclusion is that I have a 'non-specific neurological disease that affects the hip and back muscles."

So what does this mean? It means there's at LEAST two sides to every story: The good news is, I don't have ALS, Parkinson's, MS or another chronic wasting disease which can be diagnosed through blood tests or tissue tests. The bad news: I don't have ALS, Parkinson's, MS or another disease that can be diagnosed. I have one of those "it's not this, so maybe it's that" disease. No one can tell me how it might progress, what the prognosis is, what to do to mitigate it.

I'm not complaining, mind you -- this is not life threatening, it's just painful. I've been able to adapt somewhat. I only get a few hours of sleep because of the pain, but I can nap in the afternoon and get by. I can't exercise the way I used to: no more 2 hour walks for me! But I can take two 45-minute walks, as long as I rest in between. I can use deep heat for the cramping, I can take ibuprofen when the pain gets bad, and I can do anything I normally do -- I just have to be careful and pay attention to my body and if pain starts, I've got to stop lest the cramping begin.

This entire medical journey has made me appreciate people who deal with chronic disease. Medicine is really an art, not a science and it's so important to be proactive in your own care. It's a team effort ...

Sort of like editing and writing (you *knew* I'd bring this back to writing, didn't you?) I've heard authors express ... chagrin (for lack of a better word) ... about the editing process. They struggle with the edits they get back from their editor and they worry if they're making the story better or not. I've been lucky: I only had struggles with one or two editors in all of my 20+ books. Did the struggle make the story better? I don't think so, but I learned a lot about the publishing house during the process (long story best told over drinks in a bar).

It's so important to have a good team on your side during the publishing process, especially if you're going the Indie (self-publishing) route. You want a good cover artist, a good editor/reviewer, a good product at the end which means good formatting, a nice package, a great story. It's all about a team. I think some authors can do it all but I can't. I've been hiring people to help me with my Indie books and I'm so glad I did because the finished product is something I'm very proud of. Check out my Amazon store and compare my two Indie books (Penance and Vengeance) with my other books there. I'm happy with what's transpired.

So here's to teamwork and taking charge of your life and your writing -- enjoy it all, have fun with it, take the lumps with the lauds, and keep looking forward. There's always something new coming up!

NOTE: I may not be posting next month at my scheduled time. It's smack in the middle of my move, so if I miss, I apologize. But my computer may be in a box somewhere on the Interstate and I don't know if I'll have time to blog. Figure I'll be back in August in my new location -- whoo!

Friday, June 24, 2011

Stubbornness or Dogged Determination!

This week I accomplished one of my goals - after entering the TARA Contest for four years, I finally finaled this year. I was stunned and shocked when I got the call a couple of days ago and heard the news that my entry in the historical category was a finalist. It's not my first final, but it certainly rates right up 'there' as an achievement in my writing career. It might have something to do with stubbornness or, as one of my friends said in a congratulatory email today, dogged determination.

I don't believe in coincidences, but lately I've had several people wonder how I can go on and on, year after year, and never give up writing my stories. Giving up has never been an option for me - well, maybe I did throw in the towel once for ten days after a contest rejection, but I was so unhappy that I opened the computer and jumped back into my story. By the way, it's the story that just finaled.

I actually love writing, spending time with my characters, all the great friends and experiences at Nationals. Then there is that other thing, my addiction. It's my excuse for having Gerard Butler photos in my computer and a few other places. ;) He is, after all, my inspiration for creating amazingly charismatic heroes.

I prefer calling it determined and not stubborn, but either way it's a trait that I'm proud of.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011


Ellora's Cave BLUSH

Barbara Monajem
Paisley Kirkpatrick
Lyn Armstrong
Lilly Gayle

Book Length: Plus Novel
Book Type: eBook

Publisher: Ellora's Cave Publishing
SBN: 9781419934629
Our Cover Price: $5.24
Osiris' Missing Part
By: Mona Risk

Blush sensuality level: This is a sensual romance (may have explicit love scenes, but not erotic in frequency or type).

Short Synopsis:
According to the legend, the evil Egyptian god of storm, Seth, killed his brother Osiris, chopped him into fourteen pieces and flung them all over Egypt. Isis, goddess of family, reassembled thirteen of his body parts. Since she couldn’t find his supernatural male member where his godly power was stored, she reattached a human one.
Isis has always loved Osiris, the charming god of labor. While dreaming of marriage, family and a son, she helps him fight Seth. Together they struggle to survive iniquities and perils.
His trip to the Afterlife has changed Osiris. He has fallen in love with Isis and regrets his past womanizing, but the sins of his past and their unexpected consequences threaten to separate the lovers more painfully than Seth’s mayhem and curses.

“We are powerful gods, Amout. We’ll give you untold strength. Now stand up and be a man. If you serve us well, we will reward you and your children,” Isis said

The man scrambled to his feet with an agility that belied his previous statement. “I’m your servant, powerful goddess.”

“Tell us about the curse you heard. Why won’t Osiris be able to reattach his member when he finds it?”

Amout wrapped his arms around his middle. “Please, ask me anything but that.”

“This is most important information. Speak.” She shook a threatening fist at him to loosen his tongue.

Amout cringed. His whole body shaking, he turned toward Osiris. “I’ll tell you privately, Almighty Osiris. Man to man.”

“Are you crazy?” Isis shouted. “Do you realize you’re insulting me?”

“Never my goddess. But what I have to say…” Amout wrung his hands, his eyes filling with tears. “I mean what Seth said will hurt your sensitive ears.”

“Don’t worry about my ears. They are made of sturdy stuff. Speak, I said.”

“Oh dear, oh gods, spare me, or cut out my tongue.” The man seemed in agony.

Was it that bad? My poor Ozi, what have they done to you, that I won’t be able to reattach you? “You can speak in front of your goddess. We have no secrets.” Hmm, except, of course, the few secrets related to Ozi’s former indiscretions. Osiris peeked at Isis who tilted her head and raised an eyebrow.

“If you insist,” Amout said as if these were his last words.

Isis’ eyes flashed in anger. “Well, we are waiting.”

“Seth said—Seth, not me—that if you ever find your cock you can’t reattach it yourself.”

“You mean that I can’t, but someone else can?” Osiris said.

“Yes, yes, yes someone else can.” Amout stammered.

“That will be no problem,” Isis intervened. “I will remove the human thing and reattach Osiris’ magical member.” Her smile showed her pleasure at the task.

“I beg your pardon, my goddess. But according to Seth you can’t.”

“Why not? Does he think I don’t have the power to do it? Which other god or goddess could handle such a difficult task?”

“Not a god, please. I prefer not to have male fingers touching my member.” Osiris’ bile rose in his throat at the mere thought of a man groping his Ozi.

“Never fear, my lord.” Amout sighed with relief. “No male’s fingers will touch your glorious member.”

Isis stepped closer. “Clarify this for me, mortal. If I can’t reattach it and no male fingers will touch it, who exactly will assume this delicate task?” Her voice came in a hiss and Amout backed up two steps.

“As you mention, my goddess, it is a delicate task, and Seth insisted it needed the delicate fingers of…of…a virgin,” he finished in a groan as Isis clawed at his face.

“How dare you, you miserable scorpion?”

Amout prostrated himself at her feet. “It’s not me. It’s Seth. You forced me to repeat his words. Please don’t vent your anger on me. I am but the messenger.”

Osiris shrugged. That wasn’t so bad. Despite Isis’ furious outburst, he smiled in relief and pulled her away from Amout’s face. Not bad at all. “Don’t kill him. We need him,” he whispered.

When Isis spun toward him, he wiped all expression from his face.

“We can’t accept that curse,” she said, her chin tilted up.

Couldn’t she remember they were discussing his supernatural penis, not her golden pot? “So what do you suggest we do?”

“Nothing. We won’t reattach it.” Her pinched lips dared him to protest. As if he could indulge her foolishness when it came to such a sensitive subject as his masculinity.

He faced her, scowling. “What do you mean we won’t reattach it? Am I to hold it in my hand when I exercise my godly power?”

“That would be better.” His sweet Isis turned red, puffing up with her held breath.

“Wait, there is more,” Amout said. “I have to tell you, I mean I have to repeat Seth’s words on how a virgin will reattach it.”

Various possibilities wallowed in Osiris’ mind and his pulse accelerated as the meaning of Seth’s curse sank into his mind.

Amout sneaked a glance at Isis. “My goddess, I thought
you would be happy to know there is a nice way around this evil curse.”

Was the guy suicidal? Osiris elbowed him. Couldn’t he see that Isis wanted to skin him alive if he added another sentence? But Osiris needed to learn the ultimate curse his brother had cast. Seth had always coveted Isis. Hadn’t he killed Osiris to possess her? Now Set had found the weapon to separate them. A simple easy way, while he watched them fight and hurt each other’s feelings. No wonder Seth was laughing and toasting.

“Tell me the entire curse,” Osiris bellowed, and the skies opened with a downpour of rain. Even with a mortal penis, he was still the powerful god feared by people and nature.

“According to Seth, only a virgin can paste your penis to your flesh and she’ll have to use her…ah…personal sap as glue.”

“How dare you?” Isis lashed out. Her eyes narrowing, she raised her arm and left a stinging red handprint on the man’s face. “And I’ll kill Seth with my bare hands the moment I catch him.”

Leave a comment for the chance to win a copy of TO LOVE A HERO in ebook or paperback at your choice, OR a copy of my ebooks, FRENCH PERIL, BABIES IN THE BARGAIN, Rx FOR TRUST.

I love books

Ordinarily I discuss various aspects of writing. I’m taking a respite this month in honor of summertime. I'm not attending RWA 2011 in New York. I'll especially miss the big event, the book signing for literacy. So I found a way to support literacy at home.

Libraries across America are struggling with budget cuts. This summer I’m volunteering at my local used book store which supports our branch library. Living in a small town offers plenty of volunteer opportunities. This one fits me to a tee. I get to surround myself with books, handle and find great books, and I’m helping our library and their summer children’s storybook and reading programs.

It’s amazing how many books our small community donates. And the variety of subjects is astonishing. There is no way you can keep the children’s book section in order. Not when the kids plop down and flip though a stack they’ve chosen, then wander off. We sell these books at one dollar an inch, measured at the spines. That way the kids get more for less.

And we’re a dog friendly shop.

The summer tourists know about us. Every year they stop and pick up a few beach reads and usually something for their kids too. Last week a man’s young son wanted the book Sounder. They glanced at the cluttered children’s shelves and soon gave up. My fellow volunteer continued looking and found Sounder, dashed out the door and we had another satisfied customer!

We only sell books in good to excellent condition. And when you walk in you immediately know this is a place where books are respected. They’re organized similar to a library.

I’ve discovered three books, all great finds, both fiction and non-fiction for research purposes. Three dollars is considered expensive for a book. Typically we charge one dollar for paperbacks, two dollars for a hardcover. New customers are pleased at our low prices. With a steady flow of donations, we must move things quickly or drown in sea of books, CDs, DVDs, and audio tapes. That’s one excellent reason for our price structure. These babies go out to later come back and be resold again and again.

I do purchase new books, of course. Now that my husband bought a Kobo ereader I’ll soon be downloading my first ebook. Yet, nothing brings back childhood memories like sitting with a book tucked in your hands, while you daydream about other worlds and bigger-than-life characters. Flip the book over. Yup, the cover confirms you’re somewhere else.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

An Egyptian Legend

 Last year, I had the unique opportunity of traveling to Egypt, cruising the Nile River and touring the monuments of Ancient Egypt. 

The Temple of Isis, in the Island of Philae, where part of my story is set.
After immersing myself in the pharaonic civilization, I brought back hundreds of pictures and brochures about Egyptian gods, and even a map of Ancient Egypt to help in my research. 
The Island of Philae, picture taken from a boat on the Nile River
Osiris’ Missing Part,  my first paranormal romance, is set in mythological Egypt.
This book is dedicated to the many friends, readers and fans who love Ancient Egypt, a fabulous civilization, shrouded in mystery, glamour and mysticism.

Isis, Osiris, Seth.
According to the legend, the evil Egyptian god of storm, Seth, killed his brother Osiris, chopped him into fourteen pieces and flung them all over Egypt. Isis, goddess of family, reassembled thirteen of his body parts. Since she couldn’t find his supernatural male member where his godly power was stored, she reattached a human one.

Isis has always loved Osiris, the charming god of labor every woman adores. While dreaming of marriage, family and a son, she helps him fight Seth. Together they struggle to survive iniquities and perils.

His trip to the Afterlife has changed Osiris. He’s attracted to Isis and regrets his past womanizing. Guided by oracles she utters when they make love, they search lands and seas until they find his missing organ and he recovers his godly attributes. Osiris has fallen in love with Isis but the sins of his past and their unexpected consequences threaten to separate them more painfully than Seth’s mayhem and curses.

Chapter One

Ancient Egypt, at the dawn of time.

Isis, goddess of health and family, bent over the gilded sarcophagus and laid her cheek upon the lifeless face. “Osiris, my love.” Grief raked her and soft sobs escaped her lips as she stroked his chest with tender caresses.

After a moment of desolation, she exhaled at the futility of her moaning. Desperate words and kisses had never revived a dead body, especially one cut into several pieces. Determined to bring him back to life, she swallowed her wailing and stiffened her back. Adjusting his severed parts close to each other, she pressed them tightly together and sealed the junctions with her tears.

With the greatest care, she pressed her key of life to Osiris’ forehead, swept it over his chest and belly, and tapped his groin a few times while she recited a litany of prayers from the Book of the Dead. “Osiris, god of knowledge and work, I command you, leave the Afterlife.”

The body squirmed against the walls confining him. Clutching her key of life with all her strength, she brushed his lips with a cautious kiss and blew her godly vigor into his mouth. His chest rose and fell.
Joy exploded in Isis’ heart. “Almighty Osiris, you’re alive. Finally.” Her voice resonated like a triumphant hymn.

His eyelids fluttered and he squinted. “Isis,” he muttered in a guttural voice she hardly recognized. “Where…what…?”

Dropping to her knees in the mud and the dewy grass on the bank of the Nile River, Isis watched him anxiously as he patted his neck and torso. His hand skated to his belly, skimmed down to the junction of his thighs and lingered over his shaft. Shock and fear twitched his face. He yanked back his fingers and heaved up his head for a better look at his groin.
The Nile River

“By my ankh-specter and its tau, this isn’t… Where is my…my…?” Osiris’ loud interjection ended in a groan that gnawed at Isis’ heart. It hadn’t taken him long to notice the unfamiliar member. Panic filled his eyes at the absence of his most prized organ and his gaze flitted from his crotch to her face.
A sigh escaped Isis’ quivering lips. Unable to detach her gaze from the area that should have harbored his fabulous shaft and now displayed a human penis, void of supernatural power, she debated how to reveal the tragedy.

“You’re alive and awake.” To reassure him, she caressed his chest with her open palm and leaned forward to rain kisses over his taut flesh. “Still more handsome than any desert knight, my lord. A generous king of the earth that Egyptians revere.”

Her loving gesture elicited another growl of frustration. With a disgusted grunt, Osiris grabbed her hand and lowered it between his thighs. “This is not my glorious member, my pride. Isis, my godly power is missing. What happened?” His voice curt, his tone impatient, Almighty Osiris scrambled to a sitting position in the wooden coffin. “Where is my own penis?” His thunderous voice echoed across the clouded skies. “Answer me, woman.”

The Temple of Karnak
OSIRIS' MISSING PART Ellora's Cave Blush, June 23, 2011
A sensual paranormal romance based on a legend and set  in Egyptian Mythology. Feel the humor and emotion, share the action and suspense, as you explore Ancient Egypt from the Valley of the Nile to the Red Sea shore and beyond.

Friday, June 17, 2011


As embarrassing as it is, I must admit, I forget to blog here at Voice from the Heart for a couple of months.

I go and check on my fellow bloggers. I look at the site, and think, “Oh, I’ve got to get my blog done.” But do I? No, I forget.

Life takes over, people get married, kids graduate from High School, the dog needs a bath, laundry needs to be done, and of course there is eating, which often requires cooking. Sounds like an author’s regular excuse not to write. It does transfer over for those involved in blogging.

There is always an excuse to forget and not put your butt in the chair and write. The dog is a good reason not to find a subject to blog about, or the kids and cooking. Then there is the big question mark as to why the blog isn’t successful, and you’re not published. It’s like talking about what you’d do with the money you’d win in a lottery, without actually playing.

You have to play to win at anything, it doesn’t magically drop out of the sky and land in the lap and there is instant success. You get a million hits on the blog, and the book hits NYT list. Nope you’ve got to blog, you’ve got to blog about subjects that people want to read, and you’ve got to write, a lot and all the time.

 Blogging is something I do a lot. I’m with The Naked Hero, and The Writers guide to E-Publishing, To say I shouldn’t be forgetful about my commitment to blog here at Voices from the heart, is a understatement. Every week, I come up with two blogs sometimes more often if I’m covering for a partner in one of the sites, or guest blogging somewhere.

Blogging is a commitment that has to be upheld if the blog is to be successful. I can’t say how many times I’ve never returned to a blog, when I noticed it hadn’t been updated at least once in a month. To keep my interest it has to be at least once a week.

When blogging first took hold, I heard many authors say, “I’m not going to bother. It’s just another fad.” Well that ‘fad’ is bigger than ever. Everyone seems to have a blog, celebrities, politicians, sport figures, newscasters, and of course writers. There are absolutely millions of them. So how does one stand out against the others? Commit to a subject manner, stick to it, and be honest. The competition for readers is thick. It’s like being a in a foot race with an Olympic runner, and you haven’t trained in ten years. Does sound discouraging, but keep it up, and you’ll attract the right people over time, who like what you have to say, can relate, and will come back.

Blogging isn’t for everyone. You literally have to come up with something to say about something, know what you’re talking about, and don’t hurt anyone’s feelings. Sounds easy, but it’s not always. So I’ll try harder, because this blog does mean something to me. How long did it take me to write this, maybe 20minutes.
So do you blog? Is it like trying to write a novel, with plenty of excuses?

Wednesday, June 15, 2011


LAST RESORT released this weekend: my first novel to be published, the first thriller I’ve ever written…the first time I’ve put my story out for public view. Now I’m nervously drumming my fingers on the table, waiting for people to read the book. My friends and family call it a page-turner, but will strangers agree? Are my characters, plot and setting interesting enough for strangers to recommend the book to each other…to order it for their book clubs…to lend it to neighbors and friends…to read it a second or third time?

The suspense is killing me!

You see, I’m an extrovert, immensely comfortable with face to face connecting with strangers. But I don’t get to accompany my book when it finds itself in the hands of a reader who doesn’t know me. That makes me feel helpless as well as anxious. My story has to sell itself on its own, unsupported by my personality.

In fact the solitary act of writing doesn’t fit my personality type. To offset the isolation, I seek critics to assess my novels in progress; I treasure input and I revise happily because of questions and criticisms of my drafts. Though I realize my time for revision of LAST RESORT is over, I still yearn for feedback.

I’ve learned a lesson from this experience: I’m going to write reviews of the books I read from now on. And I hope that readers of LAST RESORT will do the same for me.

The Wild Rose Press

and Amazon

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Momentos of life

May was a very long month with a lot of things to do, and so far June hasn't been any better. After my mother died in April I took over her estate and have been dealing with all the details of closing out her affairs. Fortunately I have my husband to help me, who had done this before when his parents died so he can offer good advice. Most of her accounts are closed and the funds distributed between me and my sisters, final bills paid, and the biggest job, Mom's house, is now cleared and cleaned, and is on the market.

One of my sisters isn't well and she has trouble dealing with all this. As she put it earlier this week, "it's like you're erasing Mom."

No. Mom was more than her little house with all its mementos, pictures, and stuff. No one can ever erase her and a house is just that - a house. The place is warm and welcoming, especially now that my husband and I spent most of last weekend cleaning the windows, the walls, carpet, and countertops. The place shines and is a credit to our mother who obviously loved the place. Let this little house sit empty and sad with no one to care for it? No, that would be wrong.

Many of her more precious belongings, not because they have a price but because they reminded her of the places she'd been and things she'd done, have been packed and are with her daughters now. I have a garage full of this stuff, as does that sister, as well as the other two. We will each set these things up around our house and Mom's memory will live on.

No one can erase a life so very well lived.

Janet Miller/Cricket Starr

Monday, June 13, 2011

Are You Slacking?

I read a blog that I just have to share with you written by Valerie Bowman, 2011 Gold Heart finalist. This hit me right between the eyes that I definitely have been slacking.

Are You Slacking? Do the Math

Thank you so much for having me, Rubies! I’m so excited to be here and I couldn’t be more proud and honored to be a 2011 Golden Heart® finalist! By day I am a technical writer at a software company in Jacksonville, FL, by night I write fun Regency romps, and in between I am a dog lover, cake aficionado, avid traveler and Hoarders watcher. I’m a member of The Beau Monde Regency chapter of RWA and a former Vice-President of the First Coast Romance Writers.

Now that the intro is out of the way, saddle up. It’s time for some tough love, writing peeps. We’re talking production.

I have 3 questions for you.

#3 is actually the most important, but we’ll start with the first two so you can properly answer #3.

#1. What’s your ultimate writing goal? Do you want a career as a writer? Or do you see your writing as a hobby? Writing for fun is fine, of course, but be clear with yourself on that score. If you’re a career-minded writer, proceed to #2.

#2. How many years have you been writing? Seriously writing? By serious I mean – when did you sit down, crack your knuckles, and vow, ‘I’m gonna do this thing! I’m gonna write a romance novel and pursue publication. For real!’? How many years ago was that day? Remember? Now, keep that number handy, we’re moving on.

#3. Remember, this is most important! How many manuscripts have you completed? Got that? Completed. I’m not asking how many you’ve started, thought about, plotted, entered into contests. How many have you actually finished? Written, in their entirety, from beginning to end? Go ahead, name that number and be honest. Don’t round up. This is for your own good. I promise.

Ok, are you ready? Here comes the tough love. If the number of completed manuscripts isn’t as big or bigger than the number of years you’ve been writing, you are SLACKING. There. I said it. You are slacking. I’m sorry to be the one, but someone had to tell you.

I can hear you. I know what you’re saying. “Valerie Bowman, you don’t know me! You don’t know how freakin’ busy I am. How crazy my life has been.”

“Sorry,” I reply. “No excuses.” I’m shaking my head, but looking sympathetic. Trust me.

You’re sputtering now. I know. You’re drawing up your shoulders tight. You’re looking down your nose at me (which, trust me, isn’t difficult, I’m 5’2). “Valerie Bowman, you tyrant! You’re going to feel bad when you learn I have a very demanding full-time job, two kids, and a pushy dog.”

Believe me, I know. Life is hard. Bad stuff happens. We’re busy. But none of that changes the reality. If you can’t produce one new, complete story a year as a wannabe, you need to pick up the pace. Odds are, even as a full-time writer, you’re not going to pay your mortgage with one book a year or even two. Not at first.

Your hands are on your hips now. Perhaps akimbo. “But I’m learning,” you argue. “I’ve been rewriting my original manuscript for the last three years because I’ve gotten so much feedback on it. Good feedback. My CPs love the hook. And it’s even been a finalist in contests! So there!”

I’m shrugging now. And nodding. “Good for you,” I reply. “But do yourself a favor. Put that manuscript down. Back away. Write another story.” You need to do it. And you need to do it every single year. And you need to get better and faster. Yes! At the same time.

“How do you know?” you ask. Well, I’m not an authority. I’m simply telling you how the pros do it, but here are some pebbles from my writing path.

* The manuscript that landed me my agent was not the first one I queried her with. The first one earned me a standard form rejection letter.
* The manuscript I love the best has never made me a finalist in any contest and my agent didn’t even submit it. I still love it the best, but it’s sitting on my hard drive.
* I’ve entered every manuscript I’ve ever written into the Golden Heart contest. Some of them more than once. #4 finally made me a finalist.
* June 3 (yes, I remember the day) was my four-year anniversary of seriously writing romance. I am currently writing manuscript #5.

And here are some stats from the 2011 Golden Heart® finalists:

* Of 33 respondents, 24 of us became finalists with something other than our first manuscript.
* Over half didn’t become finalists with our first OR second manuscript.
* Over one-third became finalists with our 4th or higher manuscript.
* Two became finalists with their 10th or higher manuscript.

Convinced yet that production matters?

All right. All right. You got the message and I will stop. The tough love is over and I hope I’ve given you something to think about. Hard.

Now for the good news! You can turn things around. If your numbers aren’t where they should be, write more, write faster, pay attention to your production. Make it a priority. Declare today as the first day you really started taking your output seriously. You can turn it around. Remember, writing just one page a day will result in an entire book in a year. That isn’t so difficult, is it?

Now. Go write! (Ok, maybe take that pushy dog out first really quick. Then, write!)

I hope you enjoyed it and found it motivating. Enjoy the week and continue to write.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

8 Signs You Need a New Critique Partner

Critique partners are some of the most important people in the writer’s universe. They influence everything from the way we put our sentences together to the types of stories we choose to write. We trust them to tell us when we've wandered off track and to keep us from public humiliation.

A good critique partner is hard to find, and it’s not uncommon for them to become our best friends. When critiquing works, it’s a magical thing. Perhaps that’s why writers have a tendency to stay in critique relationships long after they’ve stopped being effective.

Every critique group has its ups and downs, but how do you tell the difference between a momentary lull and the end of the road?

I surveyed my writer friends, and they warned me to watch for these signs:

The trust is gone. If you no longer trust your critique partner’s advice, or they no longer heed yours, you might as well call it quits. The relationship is not working.

Your CP slows you down. Ideally, you want a critique partner who writes as much as you do. Exchanges should be balanced, either chapter for chapter or manuscript for manuscript. If you never have time to write because you're always critiquing your partner’s work, that’s a bad relationship.

On the other hand, if you’re waiting to send something to your partner because she hasn’t sent you anything in ages, that’s a problem too. A critique partner should make you more efficient, not bog you down.

They love everything you write and never make suggestions. Over time, critique partners can start to write alike. They follow the same “rules” and intuitively read between the lines. But if you’re drowning in rejection letters, and your critique partner is simply rubber-stamping everything you write, it’s time to move on.

They rewrite entire passages. A good critique partner will occasionally suggest a line or plot twist. If your critique partner rewrites more than a paragraph, she doesn’t respect your voice. Find someone who does.

They argue with your critiques. Don’t expect your CP’s to use every suggestion you make. It’s normal to ask questions and discuss possible changes. But, if they’re offended by your critiques, or say you don’t know what you’re talking about, stop critiquing for them.

You hide good news. Professional jealousy is more common than writers like to admit. An occasional wistful remark is to be expected. But if you avoid mentioning contest wins, editor requests, or sales because you don’t want to deal with the drama, then look for a critique partner who’s genuinely thrilled with your success.

They don’t support your dreams. Unpublished writers get enough skepticism from the the rest of the world. If your critique partner mocks your career plans, they are doing you more harm than good. Advertise for a critique partner who's working toward the same goals.

You’re at different stages of your career. It’s fairly common for an author to lose her longtime critique partners shortly after making her first sale. Usually this is seen as either jealousy or egotism, depending on which side of the problem you’re on. The simple truth is that professional authors working with contract deadlines have different pressures than unpubbeds who write on their own timetable. If it’s not working, try to part on the best of terms. Hopefully, it won’t be long before everyone is sold and back on the same schedule.

I would love to hear your thoughts on this topic. Have you ever had to leave a critique partner? How did you know when it was time to go?

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Joanne--Dave Barry's Commencement address

Be prepared for a chuckle. The following is my monthly sharing of Dave Barry's humor. Today he addresses, at a very appropriate time of year, college graduates. Enjoy!

"Commencement Address to the College Class of ....

This is your big day---the day when you jam four years' worth of unlaundered underwear into a Hefty bag and leave college, prepared by your professors to go out into the Real World. The first thing you'll notice is that your professors did not go out there with you. They're not stupid; that's why they're professors. They've figured out that college is a carefree place where the most serious real problem is finding a legal parking space. So your professors are going to stay in college until they die. Even then, they'll go right on teaching classes. This is called tenure."

My question: What do you remember most about your graduation ceremony---whether it be high school or college?

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Wedding Days

June is a traditional time for weddings. My niece Jenn made this awesome cake for the wedding of her brother-in-law and wife, my nephew and new niece, Scott and Aimee. Yummy!

The beautiful ceremony on Saturday—yes, I cried—had me thinking about literary weddings. I realized I've written a wedding scene for each of my novels.

I've also written a very short wedding story, The Legend of the Vanishing Wedding Feast, a prequel to my un-contracted Garden Gate series and posted it at Castles & Guns.

Share your favorite wedding scenes from stories you've written or read by leaving a comment.


Dawn Marie Hamilton writes Scottish inspired romance stories with fantasy or paranormal elements.

Sunday, June 5, 2011

RV Living

Have you ever thought about chucking it all and living in an RV? Well, that is my life. I live in a 40 foot 5th wheel. Here is the floor plan for my home: Heartland Bighorn. You can check out the site to see what the interior of my home looks like. It’s not your typical family camping RV.

I have a stacking washer and dryer, both Whirlpools. I consider this a must when we’re traveling since I hate looking for a laundry to wash my clothes. Especially after our time in southwestern Kentucky where I had to drive forty-five minutes to the closest laundry, that was before we bought the 5th wheel and only had a travel trailer which didn’t have the space for a washer and dryer.

Yes, we have a special truck to pull the RV. My husband has a 3500 Chevy Silverado HD with a Duramax engine and an Allison transmission. It’s also a dually which makes pulling the RV much easier. Instead of a bumper hitch we have a 5th wheel hitch in the bed of the truck.

This past winter, while in northern Nevada, we bought a specially fitted tarp which buttons onto the bottom of the RV. It works like skirting on a mobile home keeping the floor of the RV a bit warmer during the winter.

Two months ago we bought a Tempur Pedic California King mattress to replace the one we had in the RV. Our bed is on a platform which can be lifted at the bottom. This provides us with a huge, easy to access storage area. I keep extra sheets and blankets in there, along with suitcases and outerwear. My husband requires several different outwear sets of clothing, depending on what part of the country his job happens to be in.

Instead of depending on the RV parks to provide us with cable TV, we take our own satellite and receiver with us. We have a big flat screen TV in the living room and a smaller flat screen TV in the bedroom. We also have two DVD players and a stereo. The speakers for the stereo are throughout the RV. We still have the capability of receiving cable TV, if it’s provided by the RV park so we can get local channels.

There have been times in our travels that I’ve not been able to get any internet in the RV parks. While in northern Colorado, I had to drive to the library to use their internet. However, I now have an AT&T internet card. It doesn’t work everywhere but it is a good back up. Trust me when I say that rural America doesn’t have the 3G capabilities that are taken for granted in the larger cities.

Unlike many RVs, our bedroom is completely separate from the bathroom, with a wall and a glass paneled door. There are two decorative glass panels on both sides of the door. I absolutely love that separation.

There are two air conditioners, one in the living area and the other is in the bedroom both in the ceiling. The one in the living area is vented, which means the cool air is pushed through vents in the ceiling throughout the RV. However, the bedroom air conditioner is needed because we like to keep the bedroom very cool for sleeping. A fantastic fan is located in the kitchen area, in the ceiling. When it’s too cool for the air conditioner but too warm to be comfortable, we can open a few windows and turn on the fantastic fan. It pulls the cool air into the RV, along with those smaller gnats slipping through the screens. The only unpleasant part about using the fantastic fan is it also pulls the odor up from the black tank (where the sewage goes). One of the saving graces about having the throne room separate from the sink and shower is the odor stays contained.

The best thing about living in an RV—housework doesn’t take very long. The worst thing—not much storage, if you happen to be someone who collects anything. Living in an RV makes you pare down what you need to live. Only the essentials, ma’am, but you can add a few extras due to the extra storage space found in a 5th wheel. It’s called basement storage and is underneath the RV, accessed from the outside.

Our RV has two kinds of window dressings or blinds or shades (whatever you want to call them). When they are both down, it’s considered a “privacy” shade. When that one is up and the other one is down, it’s like having sheers behind the drapes in your house. You can see out, even so no one can really see into the RV due to the tinted windows. Of course, just like in a house, if that shade is the only one down in the evening and the lights are on, people can see inside. These shades are also on the bedroom door and the glass panels beside the door.

Our RV has two kinds of window dressings or blinds or shades (whatever you want to call them). When they are both down, it’s considered a “privacy” shade. When that one is up and the other one is down, it’s like having sheers behind the drapes in your house. You can see out, even so no one can really see into the RV due to the tinted windows. Of course, just like in a house, if that shade is the only one down in the evening and the lights are on, people can see inside. These shades are also on the bedroom door and the glass panels beside the door.

My husband’s favorite toy is the central vacuum. My favorite is the kitchen faucet, it sprays with the touch of a button and pulls out so I can spray wherever I need to spray or make it higher for larger dishes. The stove has three burners and the oven is small but there is a convection/microwave so most things are easy to cook. With only two of us most of the time, I don’t need anything bigger. I do quite a bit of slow cooker recipes especially in the summer because it keeps the heat down. Have you ever cooked a ham in the slow cooker? Awesome! We also grill quite a bit.

We’ve replaced the living room furniture with five recliners and three of them are rocker recliners which are my favorites. With the ease of lifting the backs off the recliners we can stack them off to the sides so we can pull the slides in when we’re ready to hit the road.

What’s great about staying in most, not all, RV parks? One fee usually does it. Once we pay the rent we have access to whatever the park offers. Showers, swimming pools, hot tubs, playground and recreational area are all free to use. Each park is different. Some parks will charge extra for electricity if staying longer than a week. Of course, propane which is used for cooking and the water heater are costs the RV owner pays. Water, sewage, and garbage are all included in the rent.

If you’re thinking of getting rid of your house and hitting the open road in an RV, of any kind, you need to do your research. Decide what kind of RV you want and what features are the most important. Don’t settle because the sales jerk is pushing you, look around, sit in it, picture yourself in it, then make the crucial decision. It’s not for everybody but for some of us, it’s a perfect lifestyle.

Denise Pattison

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Don't Blink

In Malcom Gladwell’s groundbreaking book, Blink, he points out that we make snap judgments everyday about the people we meet. In turn, we are type casted just as fast. In the time it takes to blink, we decide what a person means to us and if we will interact with them. This applies to first time scenarios. After you know a person, you don’t have to evaluate them every time you meet.

Gladwell traces our immediate summing up of people back to primitive man. A smart mammal avoids a threat whenever possible. It is better to walk away than engage in a battle you may not win. Just as true today as ten thousand years ago. The quick up and down glance also allows us to decide if we are in the presence of a prospective mate. Most women are aware that men often check out women’s breasts before even looking at their face. What gives? According to scientific studies, the man is responding instinctively to a primitive mating behavior. He is checking out the perkiness of the breasts to insure the female is still of child-bearing age. Why waste his time on a non-child bearing woman? Silicone must play havoc with those primitive responses.

Okay, I can half way accept this theory, but what else is going on in that blink of an eye? We decide if someone is a friend, enemy or of no consequence. Lisa Cooke, romance writer, explained it fairly well by saying, we decided in five seconds if another woman is someone who could be our friend or is a threat to our marital harmony. You know the type, a sexy siren, or just someone you feel insecure around. Yesterday, I walked into my usual hair salon for my appointment when I noticed a middle age couple sitting on the couch. The woman looked up with narrowed eyes and grabbed onto her man with a possessive grip. I knew she was declaring her man off limits. I sat down, pretended not to notice, and opened my book.

Secretly, I was ridiculously pleased that she felt I was threatening. Secondly, I wanted to tell her I have a perfectly wonderful man and I was not interested in hers. I did neither. What I did instead, was take her measure in those few seconds. My impression was that she was a very insecure individual who would assume any gesture would be a come-on to her guy, that’s why I immediately opened my book and began to read.

This action to typecast people in five seconds or less is a good thing, right? I guess you could call it first impression without words. Sometimes it is a very good thing. I walk my large dog every day through the city. When I saw a group of teenagers being loud and rowdy the next block up, I crossed the street since my immediate impression was to avoid them. On the way back, I noticed the police were wrestling them into a squad car confirming my initial impression. My snap judgment worked for me then.

When does that quick blink summary not serve you well? Those who fit some stereotypical image get typed without people even talking to them. A good example of this is school. Teachers dismiss students by their dress all the time as not being worthy of their time or an education. In schools where uniforms are required the alternative rockers gets the same attention as the preppy student. Often the students aren’t recognized out of school, though. Think about your stereotypes and you do have them, how are they limiting you?

An old friend hates blondes on sight. We’ve discussed this, even with me pointing out that we have a mutual friend who is blonde. I realize her dislike comes from the preference many men have for blonde tresses, to the point that they ignored her own dark, gorgeous self. I, on the other hand, distrust women named Peggy because every Peggy I ever knew took on some important assignment and did not deliver…and I had to clean up after them. I am making headway in my Peggy issues by meeting a better caliber of Peggies recently. LOL

Often if you can get pass the initial blink impression, you find people you really, really like. If I didn’t work with my current best friend, we would never be friends because my initial impression was she was TOO nice. Luckily, I spent five days a week with her and found out she’s funny and feisty. It amazes me how many people we dismiss in a blink of an eye.

My daughter on a recent outing to a Holiday World, theme park, attempted to sum up couples we saw standing in line. Sometimes she was perplexed by very unlike people standing together and wondered aloud how they could ever be together. My answer was online dating and the man was trying to prove he's fun and spontaneous by his choice of venue.

Can you sum up people in one glance? I’d love to hear your opinion.

Friday, June 3, 2011

Indie vs Legacy Publishing

Indie Versus Legacy: Let’s Rumble!

Everyone is doing it and considering the less-than-inspiring performance of my small press and legacy published books, I thought I’d give it a chance. Independent publishing. Despite the success of folks like Amanda Hocking and J. A. Konrath, being an indie author still makes me wince. It feels like, well, giving up, or at least settling for less than the best.

Or it did.

At the end of Feb 2011, I put out my first independently published mystery, The Vital Principle. I’d been talking to a legacy publisher about it, but the editor told me frankly that sales are difficult and they didn’t put out ebook editions, so… I thought about it and decided, well, heck. Maybe I should try being an indie. I felt I didn’t have much to lose.

When my book first came out, I worked very hard to get some reviews, and got some terrific ones. I chatted a little about it, but really, nothing like the work I’d put into promoting my other books. The first month it sold 60 copies, which wasn’t bad. In comparison, my first book published by small press might have finally sold 60 copies after about five years (I stopped tracking it when it failed to sell 9 copies the first year).

This last month, my indie book sold over 200 copies. Today isn’t over, yet, and it’s already sold 11. Sure, those aren’t huge numbers, but the point is, it is gaining ground. My indie book has already sold more copies in its first three months than my second small-press book sold in two years. If it keeps this up, by the end of the year, I will have earned more than the advance on my latest legacy publisher book, not to mention that it will be another year before that book even comes out! By then, assuming all things stay the same, I will have already earned twice what I got in royalties from a legacy publisher.

One of the big questions is, why?

It wasn’t marketing, since I marketed the heck out of my first five books. However, I did change my marketing strategy in a significant way. I became less interested in “look at me!” and more interested in “what can I offer an interested reader?” I also focused more on just chatting with folks. Ironically, during the last month, I frankly did nothing on marketing, and it’s doing even better. Go figure.

The biggest factors to me seem to be the same ones Konrath talks about: covers and price. You need a good cover and with legacy publishing venues, you pretty much have no control. I don’t want to hurt anyone’s feelings because I admire everyone I’ve worked with, so I’ll leave it at that concerning covers.

I also firmly believe that legacy publishers (and a lot of authors) price their books way, way too high. People get twisted around the axle over the price of a single unit, refusing to understand that the value is the revenue stream it generates. Your book isn’t worth $.99; it’s worth whatever revenue it generates, regardless of unit price. My $.99 book is earning more for me than all my $7.00 books, combined. This confusion folks experience appears to be similar to the mindset of those who insist taxes must be raised to bring the deficit down, when the reality is that reducing taxes will create more revenues for the Government because business will prosper and generate more overall income to be taxed. Bring prices down, people buy more. Simple.

Anyway, the point is that if you’re not one of a few bestselling authors, having a lower unit price means a richer revenue stream. I would caution folks about making the assumption that if you sell 1000 $.99 books ($.40 royalty), you’ll only make $400, while you could have made $2,000 if you priced it at $7.00 ($2.00 royalty). The problem is, you probably wouldn’t have sold the 1000 books if they were priced at $7.00. If you sell 1000 at $.99, all you know is that you can sell 1000 copies of your book for $.99. The rest is an inaccurate projection.

Beyond that? I’m still figuring it out as I prepare to release my next indie mystery, A Rose Before Dying, later this month. I do have a big dilemma, though. Should I submit my next manuscript to a legacy publisher, knowing even if they accept it I won’t see it released until 2014? Or should I just suck up my pride and do the indie thing again?

It’s a hard decision.

If it was solely about the money, it would be simple: indie. But you learn a lot working with the team you get with a legacy publisher, and I personally enjoy it. I enjoy improving my craft, and the best way to do that is to work with folks who will make you swear, sweat, and then rewrite. It’s not quite the same relationship when you hire an editor, and they never seem as willing to aggravate you as the legacy publisher editors do. Weird, but true.

I’ve babbled enough and have to get back to work. My next project is to finish a holiday novella I’ve been working on for over a year. I’m determined to finish it. Maybe by next year!

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Please Review

A writer's ego can be a fragile thing. A good rejection letter (an oxymoron if there ever was) can have us flying high for days. A contest entry that says, 'don't quit the day job' can have us deleting our hard drives and taking up needlepoint.

So what can readers do to help? Write a review. Post to your blog, to Amazon and Barnes & Noble. Send a note to the author. We love reader mail. You can make our whole year with one letter that says you bought the book.

Readers probably can't imagine that their words carry so much weight, but they do. You are our audience. After ourselves, you are who we write for every day. You are who gets us into that chair, hands on keyboard, for another 8 hour day of writing. Maybe several days of just an hour a day because of day jobs, kids, and spouses.

When it can take months, if not years to write a book, we just need a little encouragement to put pen to paper to go another round. A review, good, bad, or indifferent, at least lets us know our words are being heard.

Be kind, review!!

Jill's book, Tempting Adam, is available at TWRP, Amazon, and other online bookstores.