Monday, May 31, 2010

Playing Dress-Up

This year at RT one of the Aspiring Writers was drafted into the Mr. Romance competition. Meet Andrew Shaffer. He never expected his week in Columbus would include strutting on stage in front of hundreds of screaming women, but he was such a good sport. I invited him to share a bit of his experience with us here. Take it away, Andrew!


One of the unexpected highlights of my Mr. Romance 2010 competition experience was getting the opportunity to play dress-up.

I normally dress conservatively – my daily outfit includes a faded t-shirt, a pair of ill-fitting blue jeans, and sneakers. If I leave the confines of my home office, I might throw on a Yankees ballcap. I had packed a suit for the RT Book Lovers’ Convention in case I needed to impress an editor during a pitch session, but had otherwise brought all of my clothing in a small, carry-on suitcase. When I arrived in Columbus for Bobbi Smith’s pre-convention writer’s workshop, I had no idea that I would also need a dozen other outfits for the four-day convention later that week.

Although I was attending as an aspiring romance novelist, I was drafted into the Mr. Romance male modeling competition [full story here:]. As part of our contestant duties, we were required to attend the nightly dinners and dances, each with its own theme; our week was to end with the two-hour onstage Mr. Romance “mangeant,” which would include a minimum of four costume changes.

I called my wife, who was still back in Iowa. She was scheduled to come to Columbus for the last two days of the convention. “I need to ask a favor,” I said. “I’m going to need a couple of dress shirts, some jeans that kind of fit me, a western shirt, a cowboy belt buckle, a cowboy hat, a pair of chaps, and a vampire cape.”

“You need all of that? What is going on?”

“I’m going to be in a male modeling competition. Plus, there are these balls every night that I’ll need to attend,” I said. “And on second thought, we can skip the chaps.” I wasn’t exactly aware of what the going rate for a pair of chaps was, but guessed they might be expensive. While I wanted to be the best cowboy that I could be during the mangeant, I had to balance my vision of authenticity with the vision of my credit card statement.

“I’ve got to let you go,” I told my wife. “The costume shop down the street closes in half an hour, and I still don’t have any wings for the Faery Ball tonight.”

For next year’s RT in Los Angeles, I’m going to check so many bags of luggage filled with costume changes that Lady Gaga’s going to think I’m overdoing it. While I’m not sure yet if I’ll be competing in Mr. Romance 2011, it’s better to be safe than sorry -- the next-to-last pair of out-of-season faery wings that you can buy at a discount costume shop look as cheap as they sound. That’s not a mistake I’m going to make twice.

Thanks, Andrew. If you'd like to know more about Andrew Shaffer's upcoming non-fiction title Great Philosophers who Failed at Love from Harper Perennial, visit his website.

Facebook: Andrew on Facebook
Twitter: Andrew on Twitter

If you have any questions for Andrew, I think I can convince him to pop by and leave an answer.

Friday, May 28, 2010

Tormented Hearts by Loreen Augeri

As you all know, I like to spotlight other authors on my blog. Today is release day for one of my New England RWA chaptermates. Please welcome Loreen Augeri!

And here's the cover blurb for her Tormented Hearts:

The world of Brett Armstrong, the Earl of Tremont, collapses when his wife and unborn child die. Determined to punish himself for the part he played in their demise, he turns his back on society and retreats to the country. Hard, physical labor during the day and mind-numbing gin at night help to keep at bay the demons that threaten to devour him. Until Catherine Hammond creeps into his world. Not wishing to resurrect his dormant emotions and the resulting pain, Brett struggles against the sensuality she exudes and battles to defeat his rising desire.

Abused by her aristocratic husband, commoner Catherine Hammond flees from his cruelty. Her hope is to hide and create a new life. She vows to never again associate with the upper classes that have heaped unbearable pain upon her family. Escaping without funds, Catherine is forced to work as a servant in the Earl of Tremont's household. His tantalizing, amorous advances ignite a fire within the cold regions of her heart, but she refuses to fall in love with a man who may destroy her.

Emily: Tell us about TORMENTED HEARTS.

Loreen: First, I want to thank Emily for having me on her blog to talk about my book. Tormented Hearts is a Regency-set historical romance about an earl devastated by his wife’s death and the part he played in it and a commoner fleeing from her abusive, aristocratic husband. Both want to be left alone to deal with life as best they can, but circumstances and the earl’s scheming brother constantly throw them together. While battling a fierce thunderstorm, befriending a wild dog, escaping into the forest, and fighting against the passion that consumes them, they heal each other’s tormented heart.

Emily: What will we love about your hero?

Loreen: Brett Armstrong is a man tortured by the demons of his past. When I read about a suffering hero, I feel his pain and want to reach out to him. I long for the heroine to make him whole again. I hope the reader will experience the same feelings. Also, even though Brett pushes Catherine away, he is always kind to her and helps her in any way he can. And of course because he is the hero, he is handsome and has rippling muscles.

Emily: What inspired you to write this story?

Loreen: I had an image of a woman fleeing through the forest. Most of my ideas come from an image I see in my mind and then I expand from there. I give the hero and heroine a goal, a reason why they want to achieve that goal, and then a conflict that prevents them from getting what they desire.

Emily: What’s next for you?

Loreen: I have a story I have almost finished editing, another that I am in the middle of editing, and an idea for a story that I will start as soon as I have completed the other two.

Emily: Sounds like you'll be a busy girl. Thanks for sharing your story with us!

Here are the buy links for Tormented Hearts from Wild Rose Press:
Print version

About the Author:
Loreen Augeri lives in Massachusetts with her husband of twenty-nine years and her two daughters. She is a member of RWA and the New England Chapter. When she is not writing or working in the town library, she enjoys reading, walking, and spending time at the beach. You can visit Loreen at

And of course, STROKE OF GENIUS is hot off the presses too. It's available at B&N, Borders and fine bookstores everywhere! Or Online.

Have you taken the STROKE OF GENIUS QUIZ yet? What kind of Genius are YOU?

Next week is going to be a busy one here. On Monday, Andrew Shaffer, the aspiring writer who was drafted into the Mr. Romance Contest at RT, will be my guest blogger! I'll be featuring some more of my writing friends' great releases on June 1st. There'll be another installment of My Husband Married a Hooker and of course, a new victim--er, volunteer for Red Pencil Thursday.

Have a great weekend and be sure to pick up a new beach read! It's almost that time.

PS. Lorreen is offering an ebook of TORMENTED HEARTS to one lucky commenter, so be sure to let us know you were here!

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Red Pencil Thursday with Saranna DeWylde

Welcome to another Red Pencil Thursday! We have a returning RPT alumnus, Saranna DeWylde! Last time, Saranna treated us to the opening of her delightful, snarky How to lose An Angel in 10 Days. Today she takes us to a much darker, grittier world.

My comments are in red. Saranna's are in purple. Of course, Saranna is free to accept or ignore anything I say. The point is to get us all thinking about the writing process and how to tell our stories better.

One word titles are powerful and this one is certainly evocative. The problem is that this might be confused for an inspirational title.

Chapter 1- The Eternal Knight
Great. Don't we all love immortals of any kind?

Screams of terror shattered the sweet haven of darkness and thrust Krestien de Godfrey back to a time when the Maltese cross had been a banner of pride he’d worn on his chest instead of the scarred brand on his back. The cool seduction of the night became hot and unbearable, just like the noonday sun set adrift on fiery oceans of sand.

Wow, Saranna! What a different voice for you. After your How to lose an Angel in 10 Days, I expected snarky humor. This is a huge departure, but it demonstrates your scope as a writer. You're able to adjust your voice to suit the type of story. Kudos.

Thanks! I’ve written four books since September and they were all snarky. I had to have some angst or I was going to go nuts and this story has been gnawing at me for some time.

4 since September! (Bowing in awe) Incredible output and so necessary in this market. Good job!
Now for the pickiness. I'm a little confused about what's happening here. "Thrust back to a time" suggests he's time traveling. "Noonday sun set" is another string of words that stops me. I know you didn't mean it that way, but it made me pause. Unless we're on a different planet, a noon sun set isn't possible.

Remember the Prime Directive of Writing: Be Clear. Show us exactly what's going on and where we are without ambiguity. Later on, I figured out this is an urban fantasy, but in the beginning, we could be anywhere, anytime.

You are so right. I knew there was something awkward there, but I didn’t know what. There’s a lot of that in this first chapter—paragraphs where I feel something is off, but I can’t put my finger on it.

His skin prickled and Krestien burned with the memory of blisters rising on his smooth, tanned flesh. The weight of his phantom armor made his limbs heavy and that screaming rang in his ears—a benediction for the dead.

He was no hero, but a man haunted.

Oh how we love tortured heroes. Phantom armor is inventive. Equating screaming with a benediciton is anther fresh twist. You've laid enough hooks to keep me reading.

Krestien turned down the alley and saw the victim had fought valiantly. The body of one man lay stiff, his once living flesh cooled on the wet street and his blood mixed with oil slicks and standing rain water.

Rigor mortis starts around 3 hours after someone is dead. Has that body been there that long?

Uh, no. And I knew that. *laughs*

Another man was holding his thigh— a steady stream of blood dripped around the ancient blade that was buried in his flesh to the hilt. Krestien could see from the markings on the handle the blade was ceremonial in nature—Mayan to be exact. If the victim’s attacker dared to pull it out, he’d tear the muscle along with the blade.

Mayan? My interest is definitely perked.

Let's do some tightening. How about getting rid of was? Another man held his thigh is more active than using a was and -ing verb. Cut that was. A steady stream of blood dripped around the ancient blade buried in his flesh to the hilt is less cluttered. Drop to in the last sentence. It's not needed--dared pull it out reads fine, but there's a logic problem with the last bit. He'd tear the muscle makes sense, but along with the blade seems to suggest the blade would be torn.

This was another of those paragraphs where I thought it was awkward, but I didn’t know what to fix.

It was a woman who held the victim up against the crumbling wall of the abandoned warehouse. She was dressed in tactical gear, nothing of which could identify her, but it was the tattoo visible in the pale light of the moon that marked her for what she was. A chalice flanked on each side by a griffin was tattooed on her bicep.

Again, let's tighten. A women held the victim is a less cluttered way to begin that sentence. Drop the first of, it was, and that from the 2nd sentence and see how you like it. She was dressed in tactical gear, nothing which could identify her, but the tattoo visible in the pale light of the moon marked her for what she was.

“This doesn’t concern you, Templar,” the woman said without turning around.

Good way to have someone else identify your hero. We had the hint of the Maltese Cross, but this confirms his affiliation.

“Why don’t we let the lady decide, Covenite?” Krestian’s lips twisted into a wry smile. He wouldn’t hesitate to cut her down if she moved against the woman pinned to the wall. Evil didn’t differentiate by what was between her thighs, so neither would he.

Whoa! What lady? We had a man bleeding with the Mayan blade. Where did he go? This lady has popped up out of nowhere.

Will fix! She’s the victim. I guess it looks like the Mayan blade guy is the victim.

I like the term Covenite. I've never run across it before. Is that original with you? It conveys an unholy bent that makes her a good foil for your Templar.

It is. The Templars in this story arc serve the Grail and the Covenites serve the Ark of the Covenant.

The last sentence will scan better if you substitute based on for by what.

“And they say chivalry is dead.” ;-) The woman pushed a glock against her quarry’s forehead.

“What do you say, Samara? Is chivalry dead? Does this concern him?” she sneered.

Samara smiled and kneed the woman between her thighs and ducked. She pushed the glock aside, but the Covenite still got a shot off and the bullet went through Samara’s chest, just above and a breath to the left of her heart.

Ok, the victim isn't so helpless. I think we've discovered our heroine!

I don't often recommend an adverb, but when someone smiles when there's nothing to smile about, I'd like to know more. Did she smile disarmingly? Grimly? Let us know.

Just is one of those words editors love to hate. It's usually unnecessary. Cut whenever possible.

Krestien grabbed the Covenite from behind and slammed her against the wall. The woman fought well without her modern weapon. She used her knees, her elbows, her teeth and her nails. Krestien was immune to her battle charms, her blows like nothing but that of a child. When he had the woman at his mercy, he positioned his hands to snap her neck. It was (change to would be since he hasn't done it yet) quick and merciful, more so (Cut so. Another just type word) than any Covenite deserved.

“Just” and “that” are my Kryptonite.

“Please don’t hurt her,” the dark haired Samara cried before fainting as the (Cut the) blood spurted from between her fingers.

Oh, yeah, she's the heroine. Gotta love that forgiving attitude. Reminiscent of Christ forgiving His tormentors from the cross. Hence your title?

Thanks for letting me take a look at this new WIP. You've got lots of inventive elements and have created a world where conflict already lives. I see great promise here.

Thanks for having me again (I am a glutton for punishment!) and for all of your great advice.

About the Author:

Saranna DeWylde is a full time Amazon Goddess and former corrections officer who decided she’d seen enough shanks and skanks. Originally a horror writer, having written her first story at her 8th birthday party in colored pencil after watching The Exorcist, she further decided her dark quill was meant for Happily Ever After instead of the things that grab your feet if they hang off the end of the bed.

Now it's your turn! What suggestions or encouragements do you have for Saranna?

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

My Husband Married a Hooker, Part 3

We've talked about hooking readers with your title. We've covered the importance of hooking with your first line. Today, we're going to talk about the hooks that turn a good read into a page-turner--the hook at the end of the chapter.

Mary Higgins Clark made a fortune writing short spare chapters and ending each one with a hard hook. Her books are called fast reads because no one can put them down. A hook is a tantalizing bit of information that compels the reader to keep going. The best compliment my editor ever gave me was sharing that she always had to stop mid chapter when she was editing my work because if she got to the end of the chapter, she’d have to go on.

Here are a few types of "end of chapter" hooks:

Bridging hook- In this hook, you bridge from one chapter to the next by picking up shortly after you left off. I'm sorry I don't know what book this example is from, but I read it once and thought it was delicious. A couple is fighting at the end of the chapter about whether or not to keep a stray dog. Finally, the guy says, "Ok, he can stay tonight, but he's not sleeping on the foot of our bed."

The next chapter opens with: "The dog snored all night."

It makes me smile every time I think of it. In only a few words, you learn a lot about the relationship and you certainly learn who really had the last word in that argument!

Danger, Will Robinson—Ending chapters with physical peril may be a cheap trick, but it works almost every time it’s tried. I heard Jessica Andersen reading an excerpt from her award winning Nightkeeper series at a book signing once. She very cleverly read a chapter that ended with the character's car careening out of control and plunging off a cliff. Well, you have to buy the book and keep reading then, don't you?

If you have a fight scene or a dangerous situation, use it to pull your reader forward. Save the resolution for the next chapter, not the end of this one.

L’amour—The same principle for a fight scene works for a love scene. End the chapter with a kiss of promise and your reader will keep turning pages. Don’t end with the cigarette moment or worse, having the loving couple fall asleep. Something else needs to happen to keep the momentum of the story going or the reader will turn out the light and wake up her husband!

Make it matter—Anything that raises the stakes is a hook. If the bank is about to foreclose, the sheriff shows up on the doorstep at the end of the chapter with the notice. This is especially important at the end of the crucial third chapter.

Why the third chapter? Because when an editor or agent asks for a partial, they want the first three chapters and synopsis. Hit them with a hard hook at the end of 3 and they'll have to ask for the full manuscript.

Setting end of chapter hooks is the best way to write a compulsive read. Who really needs 8 hours of sleep anyway?

Here's an example of an end of chapter hook from my new release STROKE OF GENIUS. In this scene, Crispin Hawke shooes Grace Makepeace, whom he's just met, away from the sketch he keeps covered in his studio--the one of the woman who's been plaguing his dreams for months:

Anyone viewing the sketch would never believe Miss Grace Makepeace hadn’t sat for it personally.

And in splendid nakedness.

Now it's your turn. If you're a writer, do you have a favorite end of chapter hook from your WIP? Readers, what end of chapter hooks kept you up late?

PS. I'm also blogging at Seductive Musings and at Tracy Madison's Blog today. Giveaways at both places, of course! Please pop over and say hi!

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

On the Shelves!

Etirv, one of our regular commenters here, sent me this picture from her Barnes and Noble in Hawaii! Thanks so much for the pic. I'm delighted to see that STROKE OF GENIUS has made it to paradise.

But Stroke of Genius isn't the only new book on the shelves. Here are a few other great new stories from some friends of mine.

Christie Craig's Shut Up and Kiss me is a guaranteed laugh riot. Christie always makes me smile. If you haven't tried her, now's your chance.

Isn't this the most beautiful cover? Cindy Holby's new medieval Breath of Heaven is sure to leave you breathless.

Remember the American Title Winner, Marie-Claude Bourque? She was featured here on my blog a couple times and now paranormal fans will thrill to her debut title Ancient Whispers.

And of course, there's my STROKE OF GENIUS. So far the reviews have been good. Here's a sampling:

"This amusing historical romance is a classic gender war tale of the irresistible force meeting the immovable object. Fans will enjoy the love between the Charles and the Thames as Grace proves Crispin the genius is a dope when it comes to love." ~ Genre-Go-Round Reviews

"Wickedly enjoyable!" ~ RT BOOKReviews

But the most important reviews are the ones from my readers. If you read Stroke of Genius, please post a review on Amazon or B & N or wherever you hang online. Positive or negative, I always love to hear from readers. And if you enjoyed STROKE OF GENIUS, please tell your friends.

Thanks so much and happy reading!

Well, we know STROKE OF GENIUS is in Hawaii. Where have you seen it?

Monday, May 24, 2010

A journey of imagination

I know it's bad form to foist your vacation pictures on the unsuspecting, but I did promise to share some of the highlights from our Bermuda trip last week.

This is the Commissioner's House on Bermuda and it was the view right out our cabin's veranda. I confess this fortress tickled my imagination. It was built in the 1820's by Irish convict labor. I kept wondering what would happen if the commissioner's daughter got tangled up with one of the Irish workmen. Sounds most improper and highly unlikely, but that's the fun thing about making things up. Anything can happen.

The three story structure is the first ever cast iron building and it has a wide veranda on each level. The views are spectacular, turquoise seas and a sweeping aspect of the scythe-shaped island. I'm taking a little rest on one of the benches, imagining my commissioner's daughter watching the brawny, sweat-covered workers toiling in the yard below. Just FYI, many prisoners were dropped off on Bermuda and allowed free run of the island if they gave their parole. There are hundreds of miles of ocean between them and the nearest mainland. Where are they going to go?

This lovely historic cathedral boasts the highest spot in Hamilton, Bermuda's capital. By law, no building can be higher than the bell tower of this Anglican church. My DH and I climbed the 155 steps to the top and so got our aerobic workout for the day. I wondered if a sympathetic priest might perform a secret wedding for my commissioner's daughter and her Irish lover.

We took a glass bottom boat tour to see some of the extensive reef system ringing the islands (Bermuda is made up of hundreds of islands, some of them no more than a foot of earth peeping from the waves). The water temperature was "refreshingly honest" so we opted not to snorkle, but this tour gave us a chance to view the different types of coral and colorful fish. We also saw a shipwreck that had been there 150 years and was being engulfed by the coral.

The dome shaped island in the background is called "Daniel's Head," formerly known as Devil's Head, and is the northern apex of the infamous Bermuda Triangle. I'm happy to report no one disappeared from our tour, but I wondered if a mysterious disappearance might not fit nicely into the saga of the commissioner's daughter and the Irish convict (who really isn't guilty, of course! He confessed to a crime he didn't commit to protect his brother).

Bermuda is one of the most remote island systems in the world, small pinpoints of land in an endless sea. It's also one of the most lovely. We wallowed in the joy of doing almost nothing in this gorgeous setting. Of course, my imagination is always churning, even when doing nothing.

Wouldn't this deserted cove be an excellent trysting spot for the commissioner's daughter and the Irish convict?

We had a fabulous time and now I'm scrambling furiously to finish TOUCH OF A THIEF (my first Mia Marlowe title) which is due June 1st. The end is near, but I also want to polish up the manuscript as well as I can.

Have you ever traveled someplace that suggested a story to you?

Friday, May 21, 2010

Home Again

Just got back from the beautiful island of Bermuda. It was glorious. This shot was taken from inside the Commissioner's House at Dockyard (a Victorian era British fort).

Now I'm 5 pages behind on my writing schedule and waist deep in laundry, but it's all good. I promise to tell you all about it next week. My dryer just buzzed at me so it's time to fold again.

Lots of things happening next week--blog guests, another installment of My Husband Married a Hooker, a new Red Pencil Thursday featuring a new WIP from Saranna DeWylde, and oh yeah, STROKE OF GENIUS will be released on May 25th!!!!!

Thanks for stopping by and have a great weekend!

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Red Pencil Thursday with LJ Cohen

Welcome to another Red Pencil Thursday, our online critique group. If you're here, you're invited to participate. I'm in Bermuda right now running away with my DH to celebrate our anniversary, but LJ Cohen, our guest author, would appreciate your comments and suggestions.

As always, a critique is only one person's opinion. Mine are expressed in red. LJ's are italicized in purple. So without further ado, let's dive into LJ Cohen's epic fantasy, WINGS OF WINTER.

First off, I love the title. Wings of Winter implies a journey and an edge of danger. (Anyone who thinks winter can't be dangerous needs to spend one in Minneapolis!)
Thanks! I’ve spent enough brutal winters in upstate NY and New England, myself.

The stag crashed through the tangled undergrowth, its sides heaving. In the shadows, a darker shadow spread across the graceful arch of its neck. Fat raindrops of blood dripped onto the shiny surfaces of outstretched leaves. Elias listened to the tortured sigh of the animal's last breath. In the distance, the hunters' voices rose, their argument carrying clearly in the still twilight air.

Good beginning. You've dropped us directly into the action and made us scramble to keep up. I'd suggest you not use shadows and shadow in the same sentence. I know what you're trying to say, but it stopped me for a second. The fat raindrops are evocative, but a little confusing. If you say 'Fat raindrops of blood dripped from the beast's throat onto the . . . " then I know exactly what's happening. Elias seems to be floating here. Ground him for us. Where precisely is he?

That whole floating character thing is an issue I struggle with in every story. I’ll need to buy some extra gravity. :)

"We cannot follow, Milord."

"The stag is mine!"

"It will die beyond the border, Lord Kaleb. Let it go."

"I’ll have the beast."

"Lord, we do not cross into Aliud land."

"Return to the garrison without me then. I’ll get the antlers myself."

"There is no need, Kaleb. We all saw your killing shot."

Good byplay, but if he's Lord Kaleb, would someone call him by just Kaleb?
Good point. An easy change to "Lord".

Elias smiled as the ambitious hunter tracked the stag's trail closer and closer to the boundary. He projected an illusion of the wounded animal into the man’s mind and sent him chasing it through darkening woods past the border that his sister ensured no Aliud could cross. Kaleb ran, heedless of the branches that tore through his shirt sleeves and scratched thin welts across his arms and face. Elias ensured that the beast was always just out of bow shot.

This is one place where I might recommend a dreaded -ly word. Elias smiled, but he's not happy. Did he smile grimly?
I know, all adverbs aren’t evil! I’ll figure out what’s most descriptive for Elias here.
Adverbs are like salt. Best used sparingly, but sometimes necessary.

Your hero possesses some unique abilities. It's good to emphasize them early like this, but I'm a little unsure about what he's doing with them. The mention of his sister is a little confusing. Are the hunters Aliud or is he? You've used the word ensure twice here. It's a word that trips me up so I looked it up in the dictionary. It says:

"Ensure, insure, assure, secure mean to make a thing or person sure. Ensure, insure, and assure are interchangeable in many contexts where they indicate the making certain or inevitable of an outcome, but ensure may imply a virtual guarantee (The government has ensured the safety of the refugees), while insure sometimes stresses the taking of necessary measures beforehand (Careful planning should insure the success of the party), and assure distinctively implies the removal of doubt and suspense from a person's mind (I assure you that no harm will be done). Secure implies action taken to guard against attack or loss (I sent reinforcements to secure their position)."

Are you using the word you intend to?

I only saw the echo on ‘ensure’ after I sent you the 500 words! Isn’t that always the case?? I will likely keep the first one and omit the second. Ensure is the correct word in the instance of the sister. We learn later on, that Elias’ sister was the Queen of his people (the Aliud) and she sealed the border with her abilities.
The hunters are human.
Elias isn’t the hero, he’s actually the antagonist. More on this in your prologue comment, as it’s something I’ve been struggling with in this story.

I catch more echoes if I read my work aloud.

Yikes for Elias being the villain! I was in his POV and I didn't know. I need more sense of malice from him. The thing you need to ask yourself is "Who's story is it?" Meaning who will have the strongest character arc from beginning to end. And that's who you should start with.

At the edge of a clearing, Kaleb nocked an arrow, pulled the bowstring taut, and loosed.
What is Kaleb shooting at? The phantom stag? The real one? Elias?

Kaleb is shooting at the phantom. Elias took the image of the real stag Kaleb had already killed and made an illusion that Kaleb chased. Ack--this is so clear in my mind! Why aren’t you telepathic, Emily??? LOL. Darned readers--they only see what the words show. :)

Showing is important, but sometimes, you need to tell too. The trick is knowing when to do each.

A brief cry shattered the silence.
Teasing the reader with incomplete information is a time-tested technique, but don't confuse us. We need a bit more to understand what is happening.

Yup. Will do. Would this help? "His sister’s brief cry shattered the silence."

Not unless you've told me Elias has set his sister up more clearly. Otherwise, I'm still clueless.

Elias shouted his triumph and Kaleb dropped the bow, crumpling to the ground, his hands clasped to his head. Stealing through his thoughts, Elias altered Kaleb’s recent memories and sent him reeling back through the trees towards the border and the men and horses waiting
for him there.

Now I'm really confused. Kaleb shot an arrow, but Elias shouts his triumph? You have two male characters. When you use a pronoun, make sure we know which man you mean. 'Stealing through the hunter's thoughts' would be more clear.
Again, one of those examples of so clear to me, so muddy on the page. Sigh. Elias manipulates Kaleb to kill Elias’ sister. (We learn later that this is because he is unable to do it directly himself.)
As writers, we see all. We know all. Our readers only know what we can clearly convey. This is why a trusted beta readers is so important.

Moonrise illuminated the clearing. Elias strode slowly toward the body. He stood over it, watching as life ebbed out of his sister who lay bleeding in the grass.

It's nighttime? This is too far in to tell us this. In my mind, I had them hunting in the daylight. Shadows in the first paragraph implies a light source strong enough to cause them.

I have this as twilight at the start of the scene, but perhaps the transition isn’t smooth enough. I’ll revisit.

Was his sister the stag? In which case, it should be a doe. Did he purposely make Kaleb think he was shooting a deer when he shot a woman instead? Does Elias hate his sister? He certainly shows no emotion over her passing. While it's important to raise questions in the readers mind, this is too nebulous for me to follow. The Prime Directive of writing is : Be Clear.

Yes--the stag was an illusion that masked his sister. In effect, Elias tricked Kaleb into loosing the fatal arrow. Yes--Elias hates his sister. That enmity is what sets the plot in motion. I’m struggling with the utility of the prologue. On the pro side, it’s the single event that sets up the entire rest of the story. And it’s pretty dramatic. On the con side, we don’t revisit Elias again for more than a handful of chapters and I think it may be confusing, as the main character in this story is Sparrow (who we meet in chapter 1). I could certainly drop hints of the visuals from the prologue later in the book, and ultimately, as I think about it, just starting with chapter 1 would be a better opening. That way, the reader discovers, as Sparrow does, that Elias (her uncle) has killed her mother (his sister, the Queen).
It's dramatic, but if this is Sparrow's story, the story should begin with her reaction to this upheaval in her life. If she learns her uncle is a murderer, that's pretty dramatic.

Chapter 1

Sparrow stared up into the canopy. Even now when autumn work left little time for daydreaming, she still loved to nest in the moss and dried leaves of the forest floor and listen to the birds chatter. A steady rise in birdsong announced the approach of dusk. Time to head

The only reason to have a prologue is to give important info without which the reader could not continue. I don't see an immediate connection between Elias and Sparrow. Is one coming within the next page? I like the name Sparrow for your heroine. Nice tie in with the title.
Prologue is going to end up on the cutting room floor, as per my last comment! The scene won’t be wasted, just presented differently. And the scene Sparrow walks into when she gets home is quite dramatic as well--it’s what shakes her from her comfortable life and into the story.
If that's the case, you may still not be starting in the right place. Authors have less time to devote to "the ordinary world" than we used to. Most editors want us to drop readers right into the heat of the action and keep going.

Hoisting her basket with blue-tinged hands, she whistled a cheery thanks to her feathered namesakes. Darkness draped the fir and pine trees long before Sparrow reached the stone walls that marked the edges of her family's land. She shivered in the rapidly cooling air and quickened her pace, as surefooted in the dark as in full daylight here in the wild places.

Why is she thanking the birds? Be careful you don't have a Disney moment here. I don't think it fits the tone you began with. Why are her hands blue tinged? Is she berry picking? A Pictish maiden? Is she not human since this is a fantasy? I like that she's seems capable and unafraid. Good qualities for a heroine.

Sparrow can understand the language of birds. She doesn’t understand why, yet, but it’s part of her heritage, as she’s half Aliud. I will re-word the sentence, or omit it altogether and get the information across another way, as I definitely don’t want that Disney moment! Her hands are blue from berry picking. That’s made clear in the next sentence or two.
I didn't get that she understood bird language from this scene and it would be important to show, I think.

She scrambled over the stone stile and into a solid wall of sheep. The flock huddled in the deepening night, bleating their distress. Sparrow frowned and whistled for the

And since I'm a stickler for the 500 word rule, we've ended mid-sentence. Looks like you've got an interesting start to Wings of Winter, lots of intrigueing characters and a unique ability in Elias that I'd like to learn more about. Thanks for letting me take a look at your epic fantasy.

Thank you very much, Emily. This was the first novel I wrote six years ago (I still have my first draft! Scary!) and “RPT” was just the push I needed to decide to revisit it. I think the story has good bones and my summer project will be a full-contact revision.

My pleasure. Sounds like a great summer project. Please let me know what happens to this story when you're finished. You've got a richly imagined world here.
LJ Cohen lives in the western suburbs of Boston, MA with her husband, 2 sons, and one dog. She and her dog Tigger are registered as a therapy team through Caring Canines. When she's not reading, writing, or editing, she's a physical therapist in private practice.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Worth a 1000 Words

Sometimes, a picture can be a jumping off place for a story. I love this shot my DH snapped as we were pulling out of the harbor in St. Thomas. Check out the seacave at the waterline on this little island.

What do you think might live in that cave?
What sort of history might it have?
Is the cave a portal to another world?

Have you got an idea for a story starter to share?

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Adventures Close to Home

Adventures can happen anyplace. This is a pic from a place within a couple hours drive of our home.

Any guesses where this is?

Do you have a favorite spot to visit close to your home?

Monday, May 17, 2010

Where in the world?

The DH and I are off on an adventure in Bermuda, but I thought I'd share a picture from one of our previous trips.

Any guesses where this picture was taken?

Friday, May 14, 2010

The Love Boat

My DH and I are getting ready to board the ship this afternoon. As usual when I travel, I'm furiously finishing packing, certain I'm forgetting something of supreme importance.

But even though I'll be bobbing in the Atlantic next week, I'm not leaving you to your own devices. I have a short post prepared for each day--as well as another Red Pencil Thursday!--so please stop by and let me know you were here.

Talk to you next Friday!

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Red Pencil Thursday with Gail Eubanks

Please welcome Gail Eubank to our Red Pencil Thursday. Even though I'm not a YA author, Gail has graciously allowed me to take a look at her work. Lots of elements of the craft of writing are the same no matter what the genre.

As always, my critique is only one person's opinion and Gail is free to accept or ignore my suggestions. My comments are in red and Gail decided not to send in responses. However, we'd love to hear what YOU think, so please leave a comment.
Flash update: When I checked my email this morning, Gail had sent her comments. Unfortunately, didn't have time to add them then, since my page count was calling me. Now at nearly 2 EST, my work is finished and I can add her comments. Sorry, Gail. Her notes are italicized in purple!


She had always known that this day would come. She had known since she was a young girl, and her mother had explained that hers was a life that wasn’t totally her own. Hers was a destiny determined generations ago. Other little girls might dream of lives shaped by their own decisions, choosing college, jobs, boyfriends, but Lean would never know this freedom. Her Irish ancestors had taken that possibility from her long ago through their own ignorance and greed. The women of the Ashe family were cursed by the long-ago foolishness of one man.

Granted, I don't read a lot of YA, but almost all that I've seen have been in 1st person instead of 3rd. There are a couple advantages to this. First, it enables the story to have an immediacy that third person lacks. Second, a young reader can step easily into the protagonist's shoes. Try this:

I always knew this day would come. I've known since I was a young girl and Mother explained that my life wasn't totally my own. My destiny was determined generations ago.

You’re right. A great deal of YA is done in first person, but not all of it. I agree that first person lends itself to immediacy and identification with the protagonist. I can see, also, how it would reduce the need for many explanations. Readers are clued in because the heroine herself gives us the information. This also appeals to YA readers because they are, generally speaking, an impatient group, which does not have patience for many descriptive, expository paragraphs.

Do you see how this change pulls the reader in closer? Just for grins, I suggest you rewrite the whole thing using 1st person and see how you like it. Notice that I cut a number of extraneous words and used active instead of passive voice. The sentence structure 'Hers was a destiny determined generations ago' is passive. If you decide to keep 3rd person, you should rearrange the sentence like this: Her destiny was determined . . .

Still, until today, Lean had lived like any 16-year-old girl. Her mother had been able to give her that much, at least. She went to school, loved books hated math. She was within a few weeks of getting her driver’s license. She’d even made a few friends who were pleasant, even if they were a bit superficial.

We know Lean is a girl. Cut the word here. When you write for the YA audience, try to use words a 16 year old would use. Not that you have to salt your manuscript with slang. That will only make its shelf life very short. Be careful to sound like a kid. They don't think of their friends as "pleasant, even if they were a bit superficial." They're more likely to be "ok to hang with, but not for deciding anything more important than which shoes to wear with which outfit."

Another great point! Despite the fact that I work with the kids that I hope would read this. I am writing in my voice and not theirs.

But Lean’s favorite part of the week was Saturday afternoons at the mall when she haunted the bookstores, lovingly examining the shining covers and inhaling the scent of the freshly printed pages. Ultimately, however, the books were put back on the shelf, and Lean went home to re-read her worn copy of Jane Eyre.

You've got some passive structures again. Don't say 'the books were put back.' Lead with the heroine in action. 'Lean put the books back on the shelf and went home . . .' I'm wondering about why she didn't save some money and buy a book now and then. Is her family very hard pressed?

I hoped to accomplish several things here. Yes, her family is hard pressed—part of that pesky curse! But, I also hoped to convey the idea that Jane Eyre is Lean’s favorite book and imprint that story in the reader’s mind so that I can echo the plot a bit in this book. I also hope to give her a kind of “other worldly” quality, showing that she loses herself in fantasy rather than deal with the realities of her own life.

But now, the heavy envelope that she held in her hand signaled the end of even those simple pleasures. It was fashioned of heavy parchment, outlined in black, and closed with a thick red wax seal. Lean wondered what the postman had thought when he placed it in her mother’s dented mailbox, but then she laughed a bitter little laugh as she suddenly realized that such letters did not pass through the post office.

Cut 'that' in the first sentence. It reads well without it. 'That' is a frequently over-used, often unnecessary word.

The High Council had its own ways of doing things. Its members were nothing if not thorough. A summons from the Council, for that was what Lean knew she held in her hands, was unmistakable and not to be ignored.

'Its members were nothing if not thorough' is too vague to tell us anything. There are some unnecessary words here. How about tightening the next sentence like this: 'The summons she held in her hands was umistakable and not to be ignored.' Less is almost always more.

She breathed deeply and, with trembling fingers, broke the seal.

Good! We have an emotional reaction! If you switch to 1st person, you will be able to get into her head and show us how she's feeling. Emotion is one of the most powerful hooks a writer can set. You might also consider giving Lean a friend she can talk to during this little opening so we don't have to have just internal dialogue.

I will consider the friend idea. I’m not sure if I want to go there because part of Lean’s background is isolation from peers (that curse!) and not being able to count on anyone but herself.

The next paragraph is a change of scene and POV. I would still like to see you stick with 1st person, but a change of scene is indicated the same way. Center a # on an otherwise blank line. This lets the typesetter know there should be a blank line.

Killian paced restlessly, though it wasn’t a sense of uncertainty which compelled him. He knew the girl would come. She had no choice in the matter. To ignore a summons from the High Council was a perilous proposition. Even the most reckless among their kind were not that foolish, and Lean appeared to be neither reckless nor foolish. In fact, he had a hard time believing that it was she who was destined to fulfill the prophecy. She appeared rather ordinary, little different than other silly schoolgirls her age. If anything, Lean seemed more subdued than most and, consequently, less appealing to him. Fate had deemed it necessary for him bind himself to her. It was indeed a cruel Fortune that would link him to this mousy creature forever. And so he paced with the pent up energy of a wild animal newly caged.

I'd rather see him actually say these things he's thinking to Lean. It would set up a great conflict if Killian is going to be her love interest. If you're sticking with 1st person, he could be pacing when Lean enters. (I like the 'wild animal newly caged' BTW.) She could ask if he was worried she wouldn't come and you're off to a good confrontation.
I like this idea. I agree that dialogue would help and this battle of the sexes would be off and running.
The almost imperceptible sound of light footsteps interrupted his revelry, and Killian barely had time to turn to face the door before it opened to reveal a small, solitary figure.

I think you mean reverie instead of revelry. 'Almost imperceptible' is too soft to interrupt anything. I'd cut those words.

Thanks for letting me take a look at your work. You've set up some good questions in this opening. The old Irish curse, the mysterious Council and Killian who doesn't think your heroine is up to the challenge, whatever that challenge will turn out to be.

I hope you feel, as I do, that writing is playtime and experimenting with different formats and POV's is part of the fun.

With all of the demands on my time, I do feel that writing is fun. It’s a creative outlet and lets me escape into a world of my own making from time to time.
Thank you so much for your wonderful suggestions. It’s not often that someone like me can get this kind of expert guidance. You’ve given me a lot to think about, especially in regard to my proposed audience.

(Expert guidance she says. I don't know whether to blush or laugh. Both I guess!)


Gail Eubanks is a high school librarian in Southwest Missouri where she lives with her teen-aged son and her Chihuahua Rocky. She has done some free lancing of nonfiction, but this is her first attempt at fiction. One day she'd like to be able to offer to her own young adult novel to the students she works with every day.

If you're reading this, you're a member of the Red Pencil Thursday critique group. Please share your thoughts to help Gail with her work. Be constructive. If you've seen something here that will help you with your writing, we'd love to hear about that too!

Your turn!

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

My Husband Married a Hooker, Part 2

A couple weeks ago, I gave you the Readers' Digest version of the first part of my MY HUSBAND MARRIED A HOOKER workshop. (It's about writing hooks, of course! What were you thinking?) We talked about what a hook is and how to set one with your title. For a refresher, here's a link to that post.

Today, we'll talk about hooking your reader with your opening line.

The beginning of a book is a delicate time. You must introduce your protagonist, establish the conflict and set the tone in ripping fashion. Years ago, readers gave authors leisure to do this in a long prologue or a first chapter loaded with backstory. No more. We must drop the reader in medias res ("into the middle of affairs"). We hit the ground running and leave enough breadcrumbs in our wake for the reader to follow and catch up.

If this sounds daunting, that's because it is. Most writers I know spend more time revising the first chapter than any other with emphasis on the first line. That's because if you don't hook your reader with the first line, the first paragraph, the first page, she's likely to reshelve the book and move on.

So here are a few tips to start with a hook.

1. Begin as you mean to continue. No bait and switch allowed!The first sentence sets the tone for the whole book.

My Distracting the Duchess starts with “I’m going to have to shorten his willy.” Ok. I admit it. I was going for a snort. Obviously, with this start, you’re in for a sexy romp. If I’d tried to make it a serious tear jerker, there would have been problems.

2. Surprise your reader.

If the world of your story has its own special rules, lead with them. I still remember my reaction to the opening of Nora Robert's Carolina Moon. "She woke in the body of a dead friend." It made me do a double take to make certain I'd read it correctly. When I was sure I had, I knew I had a unique tale ahead of me.

3. Raise a question in your reader's mind. Moby Dick opens with "Call me Ishmael." The first time I read it, I wondered if that was really the narrator's name or if he chose the name of an outcast to describe himself because that's how he felt. In just three words, Melville has set the stage for a story of biblical proportions.

4. Elicit an emotion from your readers. Stephanie Meyers' Twilight begins with "I'd never given much thought to how I would die." Well, that grabs us by the jugular, doesn't it? We all have wondered about death at some time and have pretty strong feelings about it.

You MUST hook your readers on the first line. Surprise them. Make them shiver. Give them something to elicit an emotion or raise a question that compels them to read on.

STROKE OF GENIUS starts like this:

Starting from the well-formed foot and ankle, the long line of the man’s leg ended in a disappointingly small fig leaf.

Raise any questions? Does it give you an idea of the tone of this story? Are you expecting a light-hearted, classy, yet ribald tale? (Click here if you'd like to read the rest of the chapter!)

If you're a writer, please share the opening line of your current WIP. If you're a reader, what's the first line of the book you're reading now and why do you think it's a good one or not?

Tuesday, May 11, 2010


"I just can't wait till Christmas!"

How many times did I say that as a kid? What I didn't understand at the time was that the delicious waiting was part of the fun.

This week while I'm writing furiously on TOUCH OF A THIEF (my current WIP which is due June 1st! It'll be my first Mia Marlowe title next May!) I'm also doing laundry and packing a suitcase. I'm tossing in Victoria Alexander's DESIRES OF A PERFECT LADY, Sherry Thomas's HIS BY NIGHT, and Jennifer Ashley's THE MADNESS OF LORD IAN MACKENZIE. On Friday, my DH and I leave on a cruise to Bermuda.

Yes, you can say it. I'm spoiled rotten.

We try to cruise every year and I look forward to our time aboard ship for months! I close my eyes and hear the waves shushing past us. I smell the briny air. I long for sun-drenched days and starry nights and uninterrupted time to focus on the man I love.

The anticipation stretches out the joy of the journey.

We can celebrate anything with eager expectation. What are you looking forward to?

Monday, May 10, 2010

The Blogging Gender Gap

At RT I was moderator for the HOW TO BE A BLOG QUEEN panel. There were two guys and two gals speaking and I was the youngest (in terms of years blogging and number of average hits) so perhaps my opinion shouldn't carry as much weight. But when the topic turned to "things you shouldn't blog about," there was a definite gender divide. The other woman and I thought it was wise to avoid politics, but the guys liked to stir the pot. Their blogs are visited by tens of thousands of people a day. 'Controversial' translates into lots of hits evidently.

Controversial translates into "gut-wrenching" for me. People get enough aggravation watching the news. They don't need it from me.

But John Scalzi said something that did make sense to my mind. He said "Own what you write." By that he meant state your opinion clearly and be prepared to stand by it.

But still, I don't write techno-thrillers or political espionage. I write romance. Historical romance, at that. My characters might be Whigs or Tories but who cares what my political thoughts are?

There is a highly successful writer here in New England who gives a political diatribe instead of talking about writing every time she's asked to speak. I don't agree with her politically so it's frustrating to listen when I'd really rather hear what she has to say about the craft and business of writing. But she "owns what she says."

So, at the risk of controversy, I'm prepared to do a little pot stirring today. It's something I feel strongly about. It's the First Amendment.

Recently in California some high school boys were threatened with explusion for wearing t-shirts with American flags on them on May 5th, Cinco de Mayo. The rationale for sending them home from school was that hispanic students would be offended.

That's a weak argument.

The first amendment doesn't guarantee the freedom of only non-offensive speech. This is America. We can say (or in this case wear) any silly thing we like. Whether we offend people or not.

The creators of South Park are developing a new show called JC in which a character representing Jesus is supposedly adapting to life in Manhattan. Will it be offensive to Christians? Bank on it. Do I wish they wouldn't do it? Of course. I don't like seeing anyone's faith demeaned, especially my own. Do I support their right to do it? Absolutely.

I also uphold my right to not watch JC. Or patronize any of the show's sponsors. That's how the first amendment works.

Those kids should be allowed to wear their flag t-shirts any day they please. And hispanic students should be able to wear shirts with flags of their choice. And NO ONE should get upset about it. This is America. You can say (or wear) what you want. And if you hear or see something that offends you, you don't have to listen or look. What you shouldn't do is threaten violence or try to silence the person who offends you. I had a civics teacher who always said, "My rights end at the tip of your nose." Makes sense.

Ok, now it's your turn. Say any silly thing you want.

Friday, May 7, 2010

Friday Catch-up!

Today is my catch-up day--a day to gather up loose ends and clear the decks. Ever have one of those?

Let's start with announcing the winners from last week's little online Mini-Romance Conference:

Monday with Barbara Monajem--Gillian Layne! Contact Barbara at with your snail mail address so she can ship your prize.

Tuesday with Connie Mason--Linda Henderson! Contact me through with your mailing info and I'll send you LORD OF DEVIL ISLE. (A nice long excerpt of my STROKE OF GENIUS is in the back of this book!)

Wednesday with ME!--Magdalen! Contact me through with your mailing info and I'll send you STROKE OF GENIUS as soon as my author copies arrive.

Oh! I published the next chapter in my free online novella A DUKE FOR ALL SEASONS this week. If you haven't tried it, I invite you to pop over to There are 5 chapters up, so it's enough to get a sense of the characters. You can also vote for how you'd like to see the story continue and be entered in my monthly contest at the same time!

Several people have asked how I intend to keep blogging with the writing schedule I've just agreed to. Six novels and a novella in 15 months is a bit daunting. The answer is I'll blog as often as I can and I intend to maintain my 5 posts a week pace.

You see, in the time I've been blogging, I've discovered it's not just about me entertaining and informing you (though I always hope to do that!). Along the way, I feel we've developed a community here and I enjoy hearing from my cyber-friends.

So next week, look for MY HUSBAND MARRIED A HOOKER, Part 2 on Wednesday, along with a regular Red Pencil Thursday. I'll make the rest up as I go along. That is what I do for a living, after all.

Today, I've also got a new post up at about my reception as a new Brava author at RT. And I'm up on The Chatelaines too. Hope you'll click over and join me.

This weekend, I'm dragging the DH out for some shopping for our upcoming cruise. The boy seriously needs some new shorts. I know this must come as a surprise to those of you who know me as The Anti-Shopper. The truth is, I'm only averse to shopping when I'm buying for myself.

What are your plans for the weekend?

Thursday, May 6, 2010

What an Editor Wants . . .

Well, it's happened. After 8 weeks of Red Pencil Thursdays, I find myself in the position of having no volunteers.

Several writers have contacted me and I'm waiting for their material, so I feel confident this feature will continue. (If you'd like to take a ride in the RPT hotseat, please contact me through my website!) But this week we'll do a more general critique based on some of the things I heard directly from editors during RT.

Here's what an editor wants:

1. A clean manuscript. This means proper formatting (12 pt. Courier New font, one inch margins all around, author/title/subgenre/word count in the header, pages numbered). It means you've run the spellcheck. It means you've made several passes through the manuscript, looking for proper use of there, their and they're and other common errors. It means you've enlisted the help of a beta reader who's a solid grammarian if you're not. If you turn in a manuscript riddled with little errors it says you don't respect the work, the editor or yourself. (That last sentence dropped verbatim from an editor's lips.)

Make sure your punctuation is correct and appropriate. Heather Osborn, editor for Tor-Forge, has an intense dislike for overused exclamation points. According to Heather, "Everytime you use a ! you kill a kitten."

Lots of careless mistakes mean more work for an editor. Put yourself in the editor's shoes. If you have a choice between two roughly equivalent manuscripts and one is clean and the other is not, which would you choose? Why give them a reason to say no to you?

2. A tight manuscript. Angela James, editor of the Harlequin's Carina imprint, says, "Not every noun deserves an adjective." Don't pad your word count with extras. A tight manuscript does more with less.

Use the Find function to search out these space wasters: too, even, just, only, almost, nearly, that, still . . . You get the idea. They become a "writer's tick," flowing out our fingers without our conscious knowledge. Cut them wherever you can. Qualifiers suck the life out of your prose. Descriptive verbs and specific nouns get the job done without the niggling little hangers-on.

3. An on-time manuscript. There must be a rash of late authors out there because I heard this from several editors. If you sign a contract, you make a promise to deliver a product by a certain date. If you fail to deliver, you are in breach of contract. Worse, you've potentially hurt other people's careers.

A publishing house has a schedule to keep to bring a book to market. If you fail to deliver, you may lose your slot and cause someone else to be hustled in to fill it. And if you're given a new slot, you may be bumping someone else. I lost a spot in the Historical Book Club for one of my releases because a lead author failed to deliver her manuscript on time. She wasn't a historical, but the reprint they shoved into her slot was, so it bumped me out of the Book Club and several thousand guaranteed sales. No light matter when you live or die by the numbers.

And no. Nothing will induce me to give you that other author's name. I'm sure she has no idea her action (or inaction) affected anyone else. But now you know what happens when you miss a deadline and I know you don't want to muddle things up for others.

So even before you sell, set a deadline for yourself. You may as well get used to delivering on schedule since it will be part of your creative life later. Get a calendar. Figure out what's a reasonable daily page count for you. I have a project planner on my computer and have set a reminder for myself each Friday of where I need to be in order to stay on schedule. Factor in some fun time. If you don't have a life, you don't have anything to write about.

Project the whole thing out and set the date on which you will actually type "The End." This is not the date you should agree to as a deadline. Pad your estimate with at least a week and a half. Send it to your beta reader as soon as it's finished, but give yourself a week to set the manuscript aside so it leaves the forefront of your consciousness. Then after a week, read it in one sitting, marking places that need correcting as you go. Take a day to fix the boo-boos and send it off, basking in the glow of having made your editor proud.

Now sometimes life intervenes in the best laid plans and everyone understands emergencies. What editors don't understand is that you're late because you had to go to Italy for a month on vacation. Or because you were working to meet a deadline for another house and that's why you're late for them. (I kid you not. Someone actually told their editor this. And we wonder why we don't feel the love.)

4. A wonderful story. Several editors told me they want to forget to edit because the manuscript is so compelling, they become readers instead. They want the same things readers want--to be surprised and delighted at every turn.

So our goal should be to make our editor's job easy. We should give her a clean, tight, on-time story that sweeps her completely into our fictive dream.

Sounds a little daunting, doesn't it?

As Blanche Thebom, a celebrated operatic diva, once said to me: "Hey! If it was easy, anybody could do it."

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Mr. Romance & PW's Barbara Vey

This is a picture of me and Barbara Vey, the blogger par excellence from Publishers Weekly with the Mr. Romance Contestants. If you've never tried Barbara's blog, BEYOND HER BOOK, I urge you to pop by.

Barb is a treasure trove of Everything Romance! Her site features recommended reads, industry news, and she practically lives out of a suitcase year round, traveling to conference after conference. Plus she's one of the nicest people you'd ever want to meet.

Every year at RT, Dorchester sponsors the Mr. Romance Contest. This year, we had fewer entrants and there was even one draftee. That's him in the suit. His name is Andrew and he was one of the Aspiring Writers in the classes I taught on Monday and Tuesday, pre-conference. Bless his heart, he learned the dance moves for the Mr. Romance Show on Saturday and spent the week posing for pics with conference attendees to benefit the SaveOurSoldiers charity for Wounded Warriors. If there isn't a book in his experience as a cover model hopeful, I wash my hands of him!

This is Charles Paz, last year's Mr. Romance, with the 2010 Mr. Romance Jamie Ungaro. They are both genuinely good guys.

I was drafted at the last minute for the Mr. Romance Show. After the guys did their dance, walked the catwalk and flexed their muscles, they each escorted an author out on stage and had to answer our questions.

My contestant, Franco D'Angelo, was so well prepared. He presented me with a rose, chocolate truffles, a little bottle of champagne and had a very touching answer to my question. (Don't worry. My DH is in no danger of being dethroned as the True King of Romance!) But when I asked Franco what ignited a passion in him, he said, "My kids." Awwwww. Good answer.

You'll probably recognize Charles Paz from the cover of Connie Mason's LORD OF DEVIL ISLE. Since Connie wasn't at RT, Charles signed copies of her book at the massive book fair and he sold out! He makes a wonderful Captain Nicholas Scott, the swashbuckling Lord of Devil Isle himself. (If you haven't read this sexy, adventurous tale, I highly recommend it! Buy Here!)

As part of his prize for winnng the title, Jamie Ungaro, the new Mr. Romance, will be featured on a Dorchester cover soon. Hmmm . . . my next Leisure Book will be HAPPILY EVER HIGHLANDER (under my new Mia Marlowe pen name).

Side Note to my editor Leah Hultenschmidt: In case you happen to be lurking, Leah, what do you think? Wouldn't Jamie Ungaro look amazing in a kilt?

Since we're on the subject of covers, here's your chance to voice an opinion. What sort of cover moves you to pick up a book? A good looking guy? A clinch? A headless heroine in a gorgeous gown? A garden blooming in wild profusion like my STROKE OF GENIUS cover? (Sorry. Just had to get that one in!)

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Meeting Victoria Alexander

One of the highlights of my week at RT was meeting #1 NYTimes Bestseller Victoria Alexander.

I've mentioned on this blog before how my reading habits have changed since I became a writer. Most often, I'm not reading for pleasure. I'm studying how the other writer handles the elements of the craft. However, there are a few authors who suck me into their fictive dream so completely, I forget I'm a writer too and just wallow in the glory of their books.

Victoria Alexander is one of that very small group of authors.

Along with engaging characters and singing prose, Victoria always inserts a sly little private joke into her books. You know how Hitchcock always gave himself a cameo in his films, how there's always a hidden pineapple on Psyche, how Clive Cussler appears by name as a disseminator of essential information in all his Dirk Pitt books . . . well Victoria has a running schtick in her stories as well. There is always a widow in her books whose dead husband was named Charles.

What's Victoria's real husband's name? You guessed it! Charles. (One hopes he takes it in the spirit with which it's meant?!?)

Anyway, you can imagine how excited I was to meet her. I freely confess I had a fangirl melt down-- babbling, gushing, words mangled before they left my mouth. I'm sure she must have thought I had a syndrome of some sort. But she graciously went to lunch (and picked up the tab!) with me and my roommate, the talented and charming Bobbi Smith.

It was fascinating to talk shop with her. Victoria is so personable and down-to-earth. She's recently moved from Avon to Kensington (my new publisher! I was thrilled by that news!) and she's also experiementing with plotting. Like me, she's usually a linear "pantser," but recently she'd attended a weekend workshop and plotted out her next book. She decided she liked knowing what was coming.

And it just goes to show that if a #1 NYTimes Bestseller is still learning, still experimenting with the writer's craft, it's a lifelong process for all of us.

I have Victoria's latest release, DESIRES OF A PERFECT LADY , in my hot little hands, but I'm resisting the temptation to start it yet. I'm saving it for our cruise in a couple weeks so I can savor it as it deserves to be savored. I encourage you to run out and pick it up today. You will thank me later.

If you had to list your top 5 authors, who would make the cut?

Monday, May 3, 2010

Turning Points in Life

Well, I'm home from the RT Convention with plenty of stories to tell, but I have some news to share first.

I'm thrilled to announce that My Lady Below Stairs, my novella in A CHRISTMAS BALL, has finaled in the 2010 Reader's Crown (the contest sponsored by Rom Con, the new Borders Books Romance conference being held in Denver this year!) Click here for the list of finalists in all the categories. I'm in extremely fine company.

This story is very dear to my heart. I was about half-way through writing it when I was diagnosed with colon cancer at the end of 2008. I was hustled into surgery and was profoundly grateful when we learned that the cancer had been discovered at an early stage and my prognosis is excellent.

But surgery is no light matter. I went through several months of constant pain. This was during the time when I was doing my 50day/50blog Vexing the Viscount Tour. My writing production on My Lady Below Stairs slowed to a crawl of 2 pages per day. (I did meet my deadline. I'm a fanatic about that. I'd have to be dead myself to miss one.)

In the midst of pain and weakness, the time when I slipped into the fictive dream of My Lady Below Stairs was the high point of my days. And when I turned it in, my editor said it was the funniest, sexiest thing I'd ever written. (I'd blame the drugs, but I was off them within a couple weeks of surgery!)

Finishing that novella taught me something about myself. Norman Mailer says, "Being a real writer means being able to do the work even on a bad day." My Lady Below Stairs convinced me that I'm a real writer. It was a turning point in my career and in my life.

And now I'm so delighted that this novella has been honored by the judges of the Reader's Crown Contest like this. Thank you, whoever you are!

I'll be sharing about my RT experience during the rest of this week, so I hope I'll see you here again! Right now, I need to get back to TOUCH OF A THIEF, my current WIP. It's due June 1st and I'm 250 pages in. I'll keep you posted on my progress as I go through the writing marathon my new contracts have set for me.

Today's question: Has there been a time in your life when you learned something about yourself that changed things for you?

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Still a Bloggin' Fool . . .

Well, it's Sunday and I'm on my way home from RT.

But I'm also blogging at Romancing the Book. There's a giveaway of one of my backlist for one lucky commenter. The winner will be chosen May 6th!

Hope you can pop by!

Just have to share what Lisa Wells said about my recent sales and my new Mia Marlowe name. She suggested in addition to the MY HUSBAND MARRIED A HOOKER workshop, I need to pull together a presentation called MY HUSBAND MARRIED THREE WOMEN!