Friday, June 25, 2010

Missouri, I hear you calling me . . .

I'm back in the midwest for the next week. My family is having a reunion, the first since we lost my Grandmother a few years ago. I'll also be celebrating my Dad's birthday.

I hope to be able to pop in but my internet access is likely to be spotty. If my posts are sparse that's why.

Hope you're enjoying your summer. Is anyone else doing some traveling? Seeing some family?

Safe travels all!

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Red Pencil Thursday with Barb Riley

Welcome to Red Pencil Thursday. Please welcome Barb Riley. She and I met at RT when she was one of the aspiring writers who came for a couple days of workshops ahead of the main convention for in depth training. I've been one of the presenters for that pre-con for the last 3 or 4 years and it's my favorite part of RT. It's always so energizing to meet with aspiring writers.

My comments on Barb's work are in red. Her responses are in purple. Please be sure to add yours at the bottom of this post.


“We got a problem, boss.”
Oh, excellent! If we "got a problem," we've got a story!

“Cut the drama and tell me.”

“The Scires… they know the Alkali is alive.”

His curse ripped through the bar, causing heads to swivel in search of the source. One look at his red-faced anger and they turned away in haste. The regulars knew him and discreetly ignored when things got interesting.

There's a teeny bit of a POV ambiguity here. We're in the Boss's POV. He can't see his own red face. You dropkicked us into the running action with the spare dialogue (excellent device, BTW), but now we've pulled away from the story to a more "omniscent" POV. It makes us less a part of the action. Is there a way to keep us more firmly in the Boss's head?
I agree – thanks for pointing that out! I will rework this!

“We are so close,” he whispered, drooping into the seat. He felt the beginning of one of his episodes coming on. “They can’t have her.”

Anytime you use "felt" it's a weak construct. Can you give us a specific symptom? A pinpoint headache? A twitch? A tightness between his eyes? What tells him an episode is on the way? I like foreshadowing that he has a problem like this.
I agree – I can certainly give stronger details than a “felt”.

“They ain’t found her yet. The dirty bastards got a seer, but he ain’t spilled the location. I’ll know when he does, boss, I will.” The large man across from him nervously tapped thick fingers on the table, his face anxious.

I'd really like some names for your characters. It's hard to keep track of them otherwise. If you don't want to reveal their real names, how about code names or nicknames for now?
I am not married to this person being male. I can certainly change him to female for ease reading. It’s important that I keep “Boss” secret for now.
When I was singing professional opera, we used to call the extras "spear-carriers." Every story has them--the person who delivers the telegram, the maid who brings in the tea. They don't usually have much to say. Is the person talking to the Boss someone we'll see again? If so, you need to have a more vivid characterization of him/her. Even the secondary characters deserve to breathe. If this person is the second in command, give them a nickname too if you need to preserve their anonymity. But we really need more than a pronoun in order to connect with a character.

A blonde, college-aged waitress set several small glasses before him. He turned on the charm, gazing at her through his wire-rimmed glasses, his lips curving into what he hoped she took as an alluring smile.

“Thank you, gorgeous,” he purred.

What is he, a cat? And even as I say that, I know I've used purred myself. It's such a temptation to spice up our dialogue tags, but we need to resist it. I know it seems bland, but most editors just want us to use 'said' and 'asked.' Honest.
I agree! I learned this after I wrote the prologue. I’ve learned my lesson, I will make changes. Thank you!

“Oh yeah, anything for you, hon.” With an obviously fake smile, she backed away from the table. The girls here loved taking his hefty tip, but hated when he talked to them. He wished he could do more than flirt with them, but every night ended the same-with him drunk and alone. He snatched a drink and gulped it down, wincing at the fiery bite of the liquor.

We're getting a clear picture of the Boss here of a nerdy loner. I'm wondering what he's done to inspire such fear and respect. He must have talents/powers not in evidence here. I'm not much of a drinker, but doesn't someone who gets drunk every night become so used to the "fiery bite" of liquor that they cease to note it?
Aha, perhaps he has does have powers! Thank you for your view on this – although he drinks here and there, he’s not a drunk and this does make him sound that way. I intended it to sound that every night he’s HERE, in this bar, he ends up alone. That’s not to say he’s home alone and drunk every night!
This is a common problem for writers. The story lives so vividly in our minds but the trick is to get it to live on the page just as vibrantly.

“If the Scires get to her first, they won’t kill her, but she may as well be dead to us. She doesn’t know who she is, or that her destiny lies with the District. She’d be brainwashed.”

Who said this? I need a tag here. ( I feel like the Queen of Hearts: "I need a pig here!")
I agree! I will work on this, and again, I think changing my second character to female may help with the confusion.
If you change the gender, you'll change the dynamic between them. Will the Boss be hitting on her?

Only one solution made sense to him; resorting to lies and manipulation. He sighed. “I’ll send someone to her. He’ll be there when her world crashes down and she finds the ugliness that’s hidden from the mortals. You and your boys follow them.”

Since you have two male speakers, using 'him' doesn't help your reader much. If this is the Boss, say so. I'm getting the sense that the Boss is the villain of this piece and what he sees as ugliness may not be what we'd see.
I agree! I struggled with the two hims. I will work on this! As for the semi-colon, you are right. This is YA, so I shouldn’t be using this as much as a dash. Thanks!

“Okay, boss.”

“If he can’t get close to her, then we take her. Against her will.”

The fingers stopped drumming.

“You sure, boss?”

Damn, he wished there was another way. But now that the Scires were on to them, it was past time for words. He had to act before they got to her and drained her before she even came into her power.
Good tease. The Alkali, whoever she is, has powers she's unaware of. I'm wondering about your choice of the name Alkali. It means a group of metals that form the basis for ionic salt. Salt is seen as a preservative, a flavoring, a caustic material. How does this symbolism relate to your character?Good research! You’re on the right path! Alkali is interchangeable with the science term, base. The Alkali in the story was named in a vision that became prophecy, and she is the only one of her kind. Or, the base for a different type of mutated individuals.
I also started thinking about alkaline batteries and the Energizer Bunny! But since you explained your etymology, it makes perfect sense.

“Don’t worry, my friend. We’ll try the easy way first, but when it comes down to it, it’s not the first time I’ve kidnapped an underage girl.” As bad as it sounded, it was true. As Director of the District, he’d been forced to do many distasteful things.

Well, so did Jack Bauer. Now I'm unsure whether or not the Boss is the villain.
Aha! Got you thinking!

“I sure hope you know what you’re doin’, boss.” The man shook his head uncertainly.

“Me too.” He laughed then, a sound so dark and unusual that a sickly expression came over the other man’s face. His team might follow him without question, but they seldom liked his ways.

I think we need something creepier than a weird laugh to cause the sickly reaction in the other man. You're telling a bit much here. Show us a little. If the Boss has a malevolent power, perhaps a tiny demonstration is in order. Like Darth Vader pinching off another guy's airway without touching him. I agree! I can certainly spice this up, to show why he’s creepy.

He only laughed harder, feeling the warning thud in his brain. When the pain came, he squealed in agony, hands gripping at his hair as if to

Oh, I hated pinching this excerpt off at the 500 word mark. This scene is winding up for something spectacular here. Your dialogue is crisp and realistic. This story is off to a running start, but I do have a couple caveats. It's very hard to get a clear picture of the characters without naming them. And confusing to have two men in conversation without names. You've tossed out a number of hints at the paranormal elements in this story. I think there may be an opportunity to show a bit of whatever gifts the Boss possesses. Great job!
Thank you so much, Emily! You have given me a lot to use to improve my story. Now I have a better idea of how the paranormal elements and the teasing/foreshadowing come across to a reader. I appreciate your critique!

Barb Riley lives in Central Ohio with her wonderful husband, 8 year old drama queen, and two fat cats. After attending the aspiring writers course at RT Booklover's 2010 convention, she jumped corporate ship to pursue her life-long dream of writing. She loves to read anything paranormal and urban fantasy, high fantasy, romance, and wants to write lots of the same!

My website is under construction, so for now, please look me up on facebook,

Thanks for sharing with us today, Barb. I probably won't be able to respond to comments today. As I told Barb, I'll be in the air most of the day. I'm on my way to the Midwest for a family reunion and to celebrate my Dad's birthday! So I'm really counting on all of you to give Barb the full Red Pencil Treatment!

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Having a "Secret Identity"

To use a pen name or not to use a pen name?

That's a question all authors must grapple with. Keeping a writer's real name off the cover is not a new phenomenon. Mark Twain was really Samuel Langhorne Clemens. 19th century novelist Amantine Aurore Lucile Dupin hid not only her name but her gender as well by writing as George Sand.

But why would an author use a pen name in the first place? Several reasons. Here are a few:

1. The author's real name doesn't fit the genre they write. Euphiginia Codsworthy may write fantastic YA, but her name doesn't scream cool. I doubt any young readers would pick up her book.

2. The author has a day job that might be compromised if it were known he/she wrote their books. People don't assume murder mystery writers have a bunch of bodies in their basement, but they do tend to think romance writers know a good deal more about sex than most. Some writers use a pseudonymn to keep their professional and writing lives separate.

3. The author's name is changed to protect the not-so-innocent. If a writer uses family and friends as inspiration for their characters, using a pen name keeps others from recognizing them. So if you know a writer, beware. It's a fearsome thing to fall into the hands of an angry author.

4. The author writes in different genres. Nora Roberts writes her futuristics as JD Robb. Jayne Ann Krentz writes historicals as Amanda Quick and paranormals as Jayne Castle. The name becomes a "brand." If you pick up a Quick novel, you know what type of story you're getting. Similarly, my Diana Groe books are Dark ages romance. Emily Bryan stories are light-hearted and my upcoming Mia Marlowe books will have a sparkle of magic.

5. The publisher requests a name change for marketing reasons. Publishing is a tough business. If an authors numbers don't continue to trend up, or hit a high enough level, the book buyers lose interest. A publisher may believe in the author's talent enough to publish them under another name.

6. The author wants to protect their privacy. I've never had a problem, but some of my writing friends have been stalked. Of course, a pen name isn't bullet-proof. There are ways to find the real person behind it, but it does require some additional work.

So have you considered having a pen name? Some writers choose to use their real name. Here's your chance to share why.

For Readers: If you were a writer, what pen name would you pick for yourself and why?

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

The Joy of Being Properly Tied Up!

Now, now, this is a PG-13 blog. Despite the title of this post, it's not about what you think. It's about Regency men's fashions--most specifically the blazingly white cravat favored by all young bucks during the time when STROKE OF GENIUS is set. Just as Beau Brummel changed the shape of men's fashion for all time, cravats were the precursers of the modern necktie. But cravats were tied in more unique configurations than an origami master can imagine to fold a square of paper.

How a man chose to tie his cravat revealed a good deal about his taste and sense of self. (And, one might argue, the nimbleness of his valet's fingers!)

In case you are unable to read names of the styles pictured here they are, left to right-
Top row - Oriental, Mathematical, Osbaldston
Second row - Napolean, American, Mailcoach
Third row - Trone d'amour, Irish, Ballroom
Fourth Row - Horse collar, Hunting, Maharata
Botttom Row - Gordion knot, Barrel knot

Cravats were always of white linen, and heavily starched to hold their shape (part of what made the cravat such an effective weapon for my heroine in A CHRISTMAS BALL, when she ripped the scratchy, stiff cloth off my hero's neck!). Later, the flowing "Waterfall" style was popularized by the poet Byron and less starch was required. When Beau Brummell, the arbiter of Regency sartorial splendor, fled to France (after alienating the Prince Regent with his infamous "Who's your fat friend?" remark) other colors besides white were introduced.

So what was the appeal of the cravat?

As with all fashion, the point is to be more attractive to the opposite sex. IMO, the lure of the elegantly tied cravat is in imagining how much fun it would be to untie it!

What do you think? Sometimes fashion goes to ridiculous lengths. What male fashion, past or present, do you think crosses the line into obsession or just plain weirdness?

Monday, June 21, 2010

Fatal Affair Give Away!

My friend and New England RWA chapter-mate, Marie Force, is celebrating the release of her newest title, FATAL AFFAIR, from Carina. I invited her to come share a bit about the story. Please welcome Marie!

Thanks so much, Emily, for having me over for a visit on launch day. I’m so excited to see this book hitting the digital streets today. Fatal Affair opens on the day of a very important vote in the career of U.S. Senator John O’Connor. The immigration bill he co-sponsored is headed to the Senate floor, and he is late for work—again. His chief of staff, Nick Cappuano, goes to fetch him and finds him murdered in his bed.

One of the biggest challenges in this book was writing a central character who is found dead on page one. I had to give John O’Connor a life, a past, a personality, and failings. I had to make him sympathetic while at the same time creating a motive for murder. John became a multi-dimensional character who only appeared on the page in the occasional flashback or memory, but he plays a central role in the book.

His murder serves to reunite Nick with his one-night stand from six years earlier, Detective Sergeant Sam Holland, who is assigned to John’s case. So now on top of grappling with the loss of his friend and boss, Nick is also forced to confront a blast from his romantic past—a woman he has never forgotten.

The idea for this story was sparked by a news story about a U.S. congressman who was found dead in his Washington home. At first, the case was investigated as a homicide, but it soon became clear that the congressman suffered a heart attack and fell down the stairs. The Fatal Series has allowed me to combine my love of romance and politics with a long-time fascination with true crime stories. The second book, Fatal Justice, continues Sam and Nick’s story. It’s due out in January from Carina.

Some questions for readers: What do you think of series that feature the same couple in every book? How do you feel about a little politics with your romance? I’ll give a copy of Fatal Affair to one respondent today. Thanks again for having me, Emily!

Buy Fatal Affair today at

About Fatal Affair:

On the morning of the most important vote of Senator John O’Connor’s career he is late—again. His best friend and chief of staff, Nick Cappuano sets off to O'Connor’s apartment expecting to roust him from bed and hoping he is alone. But what Nick finds is that O’Connor, the handsome, amiable Senator from Virginia, has been brutally murdered, and Nick’s world comes crashing down around him. Complicating the disaster, the detective assigned to the case is none other than Sam Holland, Nick’s one-night stand from six years earlier, the woman who broke his heart and haunts his dreams. With six years worth of unfinished business hanging between them and more than a few scores to settle personally and professionally, Nick and Sam set out to find the senator's killer while trying—and failing—to resist the overwhelming attraction between them that seems to have only grown over the years.

It soon becomes clear that the senator’s past holds secrets that not only led to his death but now endanger Nick and Sam as well. Working together to find a killer and to rediscover the love they thought they lost long ago, they must put the past behind them and build a future that offers a world of new opportunities for both of them—including an offer from the Virginia Democrats for Nick to finish the last year of John’s term.

And about me:

Marie Force’s first romantic suspense, FATAL AFFAIR, is out today from Carina Press. Book 2 in the Fatal Series, FATAL JUSTICE, is coming in January from Carina. She is also the author of LINE OF SCRIMMAGE and LOVE AT FIRST FLIGHT. Of LINE OF SCRIMMAGE, Booklist said, “With its humor and endearing characters, Force’s charming novel will appeal to a broad spectrum of readers, reaching far beyond sports fans.” Wild on Books said, “LOVE AT FIRST FLIGHT by Marie Force is most definitely a keeper. It is an astounding book. I loved every single word!” A third contemporary, EVERYBODY LOVES A HERO, is due out Feb. 1, 2011. Since 1996, Marie has been the communications director for a national organization similar to the Romance Writers of America. She is a member of RWA’s New England, From the Heart, Beau Monde and Published Author Special Interest Chapters. While her husband was in the Navy, Marie lived in Spain, Maryland and Florida, and is now settled in her home state of Rhode Island. She is the mother of two children and a feisty dog named Brandy. Find her at, on her blog at, on Facebook at and on Twitter at Marie loves to hear from readers. Contact her at

Emily here again! Be sure to leave a comment or question for Marie today. She's giving away a free download of FATAL AFFAIR to once lucky commenter!

Friday, June 18, 2010

Help! My Hero's Taken Over My Blog!

I often have guests on my blog and I would have invited him if I'd known he wanted to speak to you all, but today someone has brashly forced his way in to my Blogger account and simply taken over. Good thing it's just Crispin Hawke—the sexy, brilliant, outrageously handsome hero of my newest release, STROKE OF GENIUS! (Otherwise, I might have called the blog police!)

Crispin: I'm gratified by those accolades from my author. When she gets it right, there's no need to correct her! But really--"just Crispin Hawke?" That won't do, you know.

Emily: Did I also mention he’s not afflicted with false modesty? Very well, Crispin. As long as you're here, you can share some of the things you taught the heroine in Stroke of Genius.

Crispin: Exactly my plan. How well you know me, Emily dear. I like to call these precepts "5 Rules to Rule the Ton." Follow these edicts and you will reign above Society’s dictates and become a law unto yourself.


1. The one who cares the least wins. There is nothing so attractive to the ton as indifference. If one doesn’t seem to need their approval, one becomes instantly fascinating.

2. Boldness works. It’s not enough to follow fashion. One must lead. Grace’s unique beauty isn’t enhanced by the ordinary. Her wardrobe has to be as unusual as she.

3. Speak your mind. There’s plenty of interest swirling in Grace’s head. She only has to release the words from her mouth. (Unfortunately I’ve been unable to discover how to stop the flow once it begins!)

4. Accept your sensual nature. We are more than our houses of flesh, but there’s no point in denying the pleasures of the body. It’s possible to soar with artistic genius, achieve the pinnacle of human creativity and yet excel equally in an experience that’s . . . primal. I highly recommend it. Grace has an aptitude for matters physical to match my own and the line between teacher and student becomes blurred at times. Or even reversed.

5. Whatever else happens, one must never ever fall in love. Love is most inconvenient. It interrupts one’s schedule. It disturbs one’s sleep. It overthrows one’s life. And it completely undoes Rule 1. Love makes it impossible to care the least. Which is why love comes with the risk of loss. And reward unspeakable.

And unfortunately even geniuses are sometimes taken by surprise by it.

Emily: Thank you, Crispin. If any of you have questions for my hero, I think I can coax him into dropping by with some answers.

STROKE OF GENIUS features an Almack come out, a close call in Vauxhall, a romping good time at a country house party and more naughty escapades than can be shared on a PG-13 blog. For more of Grace and Crispin’s adventures, look for STROKE OF GENIUS at a store near you.

Visit to take the STROKE OF GENIUS QUIZ. What kind of genius are YOU?

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Red Pencil Thursday with Marissa Berry

You've heard me mention Eastside RWA in Washington state. This is the writers group that helped me so much in the early days of my writing when I lived in Seattle. In fact, the idea for the heroine in my debut novel came to me during one of the chapter meetings.

Today we welcome Marissa Berry, a member of Eastside. She's graciously allowed me to give her an online critique. I'd like to take a moment to thank her and all the authors who've volunteered for this public scrubbing. It's a generous thing to do because the hope is that other writers will learn from their experience.

My comments are in red, Marissa's in purple. I hope you'll add yours at the end of this post!

Chapter 1

Valerian Francis’ life altered the day his brother vanished. It had been forty-four days since Vander’s disappearance. Vale stood looking out the castle window watching the villagers burdened by uncertainty. It was not only his brother but their King who had abandoned them. Whether it was by choice, force or even death, it didn’t matter. The people were still left without a sovereign to guide them.

Excellent first sentence. Something important has happened to someone important! And you've raised lots of questions.

Now a word about names. I know it's historically accurate to have siblings named similarly. And Tolkein gave us Eowyn and Eomer, but in this first paragraph, you'ved introduced Valerian, Vander and the hero's nickname Vale. That's a lot of V's for a reader to absorb. I'd recommend not having characters names beginning with the same letter to avoid reader confusion.

The way the third sentence is constructed, I'm not sure if it's Valerian or the villagers who are burdened with uncertainty.
How do you feel about Zander? I ran into some problems with three ‘V’ names further into the story, so I’ve made a slight change for the brother. Also, I’ve decided to stick with introducing him as Vale, since it’s his POV. I’ve been making changes the past few days based on some great critiques I’ve received. I can’t take any credit, but I’ve been doing some major reconstruction.

I’ve changed this first paragraph a little. The confusing sentence now reads: “He looked out the castle window, observing the villagers now burdened by uncertainty.” Does this make it clearer?

I like Zander. Yes, it would make sense to use Vale since that's how he would think of himself.

I think I'm having trouble with that sentence because we're in Vale's POV. If it's the people who are uncertain, how does he know? Does he have an empathic or psychic gift?

They hesitated to look in Vale’s direction, the youngest son, who had proven nothing. They had no faith in his abilities to lead or protect them. Suddenly being the second son no longer excused him from the responsibilities of his lineage.

If this is a monarchy, I wonder if the common people would think to question him like this. Divine Right and all that. I'd have an easier time imagining the other nobles, who might think to supplant him, wondering if he was up to the task.

I’ve played with the idea of inserting a scene from my Heroine’s perspective as the opening. The scene is of Jesse spying on Vale as he goes for a swim in the river. I think it paints Vale as a carefree character, or at least, I’m hoping. This may help make it clearer that people aren’t sure about Vale because he’s young and he doesn’t spend a lot of time in the castle.

The problem isn't what the people think. It's how does Vale know what they think? And at this point, why do we care what they think? We are more interested interested in what Vale thinks. Maybe he's feeling inadequate and is projecting that onto the people he's watching.

Despite his desire to the contrary there was no question who would rule if Vander did not return. Vale would. It was now time to face his obligations.

He had been royally summoned by the elders who composed the council that aided the King. A knock sounded on his outer chamber door.

The only person who can royally summon someone is a royal person. I would think his courtiers would be scrambling to curry favor with this new power.

At this point Zander is missing and Vale is being summoned because they assume Zander is dead. So Vale is in a precarious position. You’re right. “Royally summoned” is wrong. If Vale is just a prince at this point, do you think I could still get away with the Court summoning him?

It depends on how you've set up the rules for your special world. Perhaps if there is a powerful spiritual leader, he might have enough clout to "summon" the temporal leader. However you do it, make sure the rules of the world make sense.

“Come in,” Vale called. Konnelly’s hand was still on the doorknob as he poked his head into the room. His oldest friend’s green eyes were grave, and his amber hair was tangled from his habit of running his hands through it.

We're in Vale's POV. How can he see Kon's hand on the doorknob from his side of the door? Also, my DH says guys typically don't notice the color of other guy's eyes. At this point, it's not a detail we need to know.

Good catch! I also think: “Kon poked his head into the room.” does more for Kon’s character development. I’m working on showing, not telling. I can also take out his green eyes, because my heroine makes this observation a few scenes later.

Good idea. I always like to do character descriptions from the POV of an interested member of the opposite sex. There's a time to show and a time to tell. The trick is to know which is needed at the moment. But as a general rule, beginning writers tend to err on the telling side, so it's good that you're focusing on showing.

"Vale,” he greeted. “The Court is assembled in the Chamber.” Even the normally jovial Kon was somber.

Greeted doesn't sound somber. In fact, it's not necessary. Couldn't he just say "The Court is assembled in the Chamber" with no dialogue tag at all? Also, even though they are friends, if Vale is royal, Kon would address him more formally.
Yes, I’ll remove that dialogue tag. I also took out: “Even the normally jovial Kon was somber.” I have to remember showing, not telling.

I think what I’m attempting to illustrate is that Vale isn’t used to being treated as royal. If it’s his oldest friend, do you think he would call him “Your Highness”? In the next scene where they interact together, they joke about the title thing. It wouldn’t be too hard to change it to a formal greeting here.

You might have Kon greet him as Your Highness and have Vale tell him not to. That makes Vale more likeable and yet shows the difference in their stations.

“Thank you, Kon,” Vale said.

His friend nodded and shut the door. Gifted with all four of the Spiritual gifts: Warrior, Healer, Seer and Sensitive, it was Kon’s job to be the King’s advisor. With an affinity for all four gifts, it was his duty to ensure the spiritual health of their people.

Oh cool! You have paranormal elements! Now my interest is really piqued. All right, now that I know your world is different from ours, if the rules regarding royals are different, let us know more about that up front. Does Valerian have any gifts? If so, his needs to be introduced first.

Vale possesses a Warrior spirit. It gives him superior strength. They, as a people, are actually shadow shifters. Do you think I need to put this in up front? The thing about his spiritual gift is that once they discover Zander is actually dead, one of the Court members challenges Vale’s accession on the grounds that he hasn’t been tested for his Warrior spirit. It’s a requirement of the throne. There’s a reason he hasn’t been tested, and because of that reason, Vale doesn’t really think about this gift. That’s why I’m hesitant to throw it in upfront. If I can add in his shifting, do you think I can keep his spiritual gift a secret for now?

I think you should introduce the special aspects of your world pretty quickly. If the reason the people are uneasy is because he hasn't been tested, that would make the opening make more sense, IMO. Why do you need to keep the spiritual gift a secret? Does he know he has it? What does your hero shift into?

Kon had attempted to do the same for Vander. Kon and Vander had grown up together and each reached their coveted accessions at a far earlier age than was customary, Vander as the King and Kon as the Spirit Teacher. But even working together closely, they had never become friends.

Ah! the plot thickens. Vander was gifted. Was Valerian not? If that's the source of the lack of confidence in him, I'd like to see that in the first paragraph.

Does Vale come off as lacking confidence? I guess I was hoping more for “sexily indifferent”.

He seems reluctant to accept his responsibilities and that telegraphs lack of confidence to me. Now, if he still believed his brother was alive and didn't want to usurp his place, that might alter my perception of him. I've never thought of indifference as being sexy. It seems a little passionless to me, actually. We want our hero to care about something deeply and have to struggle to achieve it.

In all of his life, Vale couldn’t remember a time when Vander had ever befriended anyone. Vander had always been a man who seemed to carry the weight of the world on his shoulders. The elders had said it would make him a great leader. Vale had always thought it made him a lousy brother.

To be a king is to be alone in all the ways that count. I'm not surprised that Vander didn't have the gift for friendship. Weight of the world is a little tired. Can you think of a fresher metaphor?

Since this is an alternate Realm, do you think I could use “weight of the realm”?

That'll work as long as you capitalize Realm to emphasize that you don't just mean his kingdom.

If this is a historical type story, lousy used to mean someone's infested with lice.

Well I don’t want anyone to think that. LOL. I explain a few paragraphs down that the Shadow Trekkers move from the Mortal Realm to the Realm of the Hidden in 1744. My thought here is that if you have two societies that are founded in the same traditions, and then separate them for 200-300 years, they will have some similarities and some differences. So that’s where the old world elements come in. I guess if you add magic to one of the society’s so they don’t have to depend on technological advances it will make them antiquated in one sense and further evolved in another. It makes sense in my head…

That's what I love about paranormals. You have such fresh ideas!

Vale straightened his robes before leaving his rooms. The walk was long enough to give him a chance to settle his churning emotions. It was a few minutes before he reached his destination.

I'd cut the last sentence. It's a little redundant since we know from the 2nd sentence that the walk was a long one. Instead, how about a peek into his intentions for this meeting?

Excellent. How about: “Straightening his robes before leaving his rooms, the long walk helped settle his churning emotions.”

That won't do. My inner grammarian has been forced out of hiding. You've got a dangling participle there. The Straightening his robes before leaving his rooms phrase should be followed by Vale since it refers to him, not the long walk. For more examples of dangling participles and how to fix them check out this site.

The Court Chamber was located in the heart of the castle. The large, wooden doors stood vast and daunting. The massive doors swung open and led into a great room. It was too large for the nine-member Court, but the elders held a certain amount of vanity. It could be seen in the expensive velvet fabric of their robes and in the gaudy ornateness of their jewels.

You use large twice, great and massive. Let's see if there's another way to show how big the room is. Do Valerian's steps echo in the overhead vault? Is the room perpetually cold because it's too big to heat evenly? Think about how to use all the senses in telling your story.

Okay, I rewrote this part. I’ve taken out “large” and “great”. That’s a good point. I think once I read something 20 times, I don’t even notice these things anymore. His steps can definitely echo! That’s a great idea. Although right now I have him walking down carpet, so I’ll have to think about that. I need to put a post-it note on my computer when I’m writing that says “Show don’t tell” and “There are five senses. Use them!”

My post-it says "It's the relationship, stupid!"

Vale walked straight through the middle of the room and ascended the stairs leading to the throne. He didn’t sit in his brother’s place. Still

And because I strictly enforce the 500 word rule, Marissa's excerpt ends in an incomplete thought. Sorry, but I want to be sure we have room for her responses without having a post that runs into next week.

Before Vale makes his entrance, I'd love a peek into how he's feeling. Does he suck in a deep breath and square his shoulders? Does he glance nervously at the elders, doing a mental headcount of supporters and detractors?

I have him taking a deep breath at the moment. Do you think that’s enough?

Should do. Thanks for letting us all go to school on your work, Marissa!

Thank you for the opportunity for feedback! It’s so great to hear another perspective. I think I made some common errors here that will be good for writers to see.

That is a wonderful, generous attitude, Marissa. I learn something each time I do a Red Pencil Thursday and I get lots of emails from writers who've recognized their own errors in the volunteer author's work. You helped people today and I thank you!

Marissa N. Berry lives in Northwest Washington with her husband. An aspiring author of paranormal romance, she loves reading as much as writing and revising. She is a member of the RWA and the Eastside chapter. For more about Marissa, check out her Blog and Facebook!

And now it's your turn to add your comments and suggestions for Marissa!

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Priming the Pump

Stephen King says, "If you haven't got time to read, you haven't got time to write."

I always have my nose in a couple books--non-fiction research materials, novels within the romance genre, and novels outside it. Right now, I'm reading a historical novel from one of my favorite non-romance writers, Wilbur Smith.

Mr. Smith sets his historicals in Africa, a place I admittedly know very little about. He explores issues of tribalism and colonialism all from a historical perspective. In Assegai, his hero is a big game hunter, who also gets caught up in the pre-WWI political machinations of his well-heeled European clients.

Like the best historicals, it's a slice of life from another time. The sensibilities of the characters are not ours and that can be jarring. But part of why I read is to be exposed to ideas that are different from mine. Not so my ideas will necessarily change (thought that's happened too) but so I'll understand the way other people think.

I'll admit that slaughtering animals for sport holds little appeal for me. I cringe at hunting species that are now on the endangered list. But, the bond that develops between those who track and take the game, the dogmatic, almost religious insistence on a "clean" kill so the animal doesn't suffer, and most of all, the courage it takes to stand before a charging lion without having a laundry emergency is riveting.

I'm still working my way through Assegai, but so far my take-away from a writer's perspective is that we find absolutes in the particulars. By giving me a detailed, nuanced immersion in this other culture, Mr. Smith invites me to find points of commonality with my own life. The setting and reaching of goals, the willingness to take risks, the courage to stretch myself in new ways, as his hero does.

Then there's the big canvas he's used as a backdrop for his story. What could be bigger than a continent full of exotic animals? And when the political intrigue angle is added, the whole story's stakes are raised. It matters more.

I think this is one area where we romance authors tend to fall short. In focusing so much on the romance relationship, we forget that the world is still revolving around our little circle of two and unless they are shipwrecked on a deserted isle, it will impact our characters.

Jo Beverley does a good job of bringing the world around her characters to vibrant life. Her Lord Rothgar has his adroit fingers in a dozen political pots. Sherry Thomas' Not Quite a Husband was set in British India during a time of great upheaval and her His at Night featured a "Scarlet Pimpernel-type" hero who played the buffoon in public and solved crimes in private. Mary Jo Putney's characters frequently grapple with larger issues than whether someone is in or out of favor with the ton.

Have you read an author who showed you not just what their characters wore and how they decorated their houses, but how they thought about themselves and the world around them? Which authors have given you a "sense of place" so vibrantly, you feel you've lived their story?

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

10 Things Every Writer Needs to Know

I never forward chain emails. I've never republished a previously published article from another writer on this blog.

Until today.

When 10 Things Every Writer Needs to Know by CJ Redwine popped up on one of the writers loops I subscribe to, I knew I needed to pass this advice on:

The following article appeared in the June 2010 issue of Love Notes,
official newsletter of the Music City Romance Writers. Permission granted to
reprint or forward with proper credit given to chapter
and author.


1. Finish a book.

Stop starting every shiny new idea and find the discipline to type one idea
all the way through to The End. It won't be perfect. It probably won't ever
be published. But what you'll learn about yourself and the process will be
invaluable and every subsequent lesson on craft will make a lot more sense.

2. Don't be so eager to share your work with others.

It's important to protect the creative process. Staying away from too much
outside input until you're sure of the story and the characters is a good
idea. Write until you're sure of the story and THEN invite critiques from
CPs. And if you're posting chapters of your work willy-nilly online, stop.
Editors are leery about selling a book when much of it has already been
offered for free.

3. Less talk, more typing.

There are many ways to network with other writers. I agree that can be an
important resource. However, many newer writers spend more time talking
about writing than actually writing. Write more. Talk about it less.

4. Read.

Reading within your genre gives you a firm grasp of the genre and what's
already been done. Reading outside your genre gives you inspiration for new
ideas you could bring to the table. Read.

5. Linger.

Set the scene. Explore the emotions. Record the sensory detail. Don't be in
such a hurry to get from point A to point B that you neglect to deliver the
entire scope of the scene to your reader. If you don't know how to linger
without filling your pages with exposition-- fill your pages with exposition.
You can revise later.

6. Understand that writing is largely about revising.

Revising is often harder than writing the first draft. Your novel won't be
perfect the first time around. It doesn't matter. What you didn't learn
about craft by finishing your first draft, you'll learn by revising.

7. No book is ever perfect.

There's always something you can change. There are no perfect books, but
there are excellent books and the trick is knowing when you've hit that
level and can let it rest.

8. Some books won't ever be published but you should write them anyway.
I know you think the book you're writing NOW is the one. You may be right.
Then again, you may be wrong. It doesn't matter. What matters is pushing
yourself to write the very best book you can and then surprising yourself
with how much better you can make it through revising. No finished draft is
ever a wasted endeavor.

9. Self-doubt comes with the territory.

All of us share one thing in common--we worry that we won't measure up. We
worry that we will. We worry that no agent/editor/ reader will snatch up our
book and when they do, we worry they won't like it. When they do, we worry
our next one will bomb instead. You can't get rid of every shred of doubt
and you don't need to. The trick is to answer the doubt with action. Keep
your head down and write. Take praise and criticism with as much humility
and wisdom as you can and then write some more.

10. Interest and inspiration start books. Determination, perseverance, and
stubbornness finish them.

If you're waiting for your "Muse" to return before you discipline yourself
to write, you won't finish your book. If you want life to slow down, your
schedule to clear, or the people around you to suddenly come to their senses
and support your passion before you make the commitment to finish your book,
you won't finish. Finishing a book takes giving up sleep, turning down
invitations, and refusing to watch tv so you can write instead. Finishing a
book means writing a scene that refuses to go smoothly even though you'd
rather do just about anything else. If you want to turn your writing from
hobby to career, find the determination, perseverance and stubbornness to
finish a book.


About the Author:

C.J. Redwine is repped by Holly Root of Waxman Literary Agency and teaches
online writing workshops. For more info, go to

Emily here again. All I can say after that is "Yea verily, amen!" #8 is particularly important, IMO. My sad little unpubbed first tries were my training-wheels novels. I was going to school on the writers craft with them. Even though only the dustbunnies under my bed have access to them now, I'm glad I wrote them.

Did any of CJ's advice ring true for you?

PS. I'm blogging on my evil twin's site today. Please join me at The topic is "In Praise of Honorable Men!"

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Calling in the Professionals

I'm getting ready to bite the bullet and hire a professional to design a website for my new pen name~ Mia Marlowe. I'm blogging about it at The Chatelaines and asking you to share your favorite author websites and what you like about them! I'd appreciate your input!

Friday, June 11, 2010

Publishers Weekly ~ Beyond her Book

This week I got an email from Barbara Vey, the Publishers Weekly blogger, letting me know that she's featuring STROKE OF GENIUS on Beyond Her Book today. Here's the link:

She hadn't published her Friday post when I checked at 7 AM EST, so I don't know what she said about my book. I feel a little trepidacious posting the link without knowing if she thought the book was good or not. It's a bit like letting the world take a peek at my mid-term grades before I know if I passed the class.

But I enjoy Beyond Her Book so much, I'm glad to urge you to check out the blog anyway. Barbara logs tons of miles each year attending book, movie, comic book conferences. She weighs in on TV and movies as well and gives her unique take on things. She's had lovely things to say about my books in the past, so my fingers are crossed for this time.

Have you ever been waiting for word on something and wondered what would happen? Did things turn out as you hoped?

11:43AM EST--Well, I must have gotten my signals crossed because her blog today isn't featuring any books. In fact, it's not even Barbara Vey's post. It's a very informative look at the recent Book Blogger Convention by none other than Andrew Shaffer--the aspiring writer who got roped into the Mr. Romance Contest at RT this year. You all know Andrew. He's been a guest on my blog before, so be sure to pop over and see what he has to say!

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Red Pencil Thursday with Christina James

One of the fun things about Red Pencil Thursday for me is that I get to read the start of different sorts of stories each week. We've had paranormals and westerns, YA and historicals. Today we're taking a look at a Christina James's contemporary.

As usual, my comments are only one person's opinion. Christina is the final arbiter of her story. But it's always good to get fresh eyes on one's work. That's why I'm glad to work with a critique partner and a beta reader. If you're a writer, look for someone whose opinion you trust, who will be objective about your work, and listen when they speak.

My comments are in red. Christina's responses are in purple. Hopefully yours will show up in the comment section at the end of this post!

Chapter One

Heavy footsteps came closer to where she hid in the stall. Melina was frozen in place, sitting on the cold, hard ground littered with straw. Her silk pants would never survive such punishment. The smell alone was enough to ruin them forever and gag her with the musky scent of wet dirt and the sourness of horse manure she prayed she hadn’t sat in or stepped in.

Excellent first sentence. It dumps us immediately into a dangerous situation and raises all kinds of questions. This is how you do it, folks. I might change the word order to Heavy footsteps came closer to the stall where she hid but your way is fine too. However, if she's hiding, I don't think she'd be sitting down. She'd be squatting, ready to run and if she's truly afraid, she's not worried about her silk pants.

Unfortunately, you received the very first draft before I did the revisions so I will try to answer everything you pointed out and have already corrected some parts in the final version.

Thank you for the compliments on the opening. She is sitting because she is exhausted – she is hiding in the stall because the hero returned before she could hide in another part of the barn. The reason for her concern for her silk pants is basically out of nervousness – it’s something to focus on – but also because she has limited clothing with her and if it gets ruined she can’t replace it because she also has no money with her which is pointed out further into the story.

I understand about multiple drafts. My work goes through several incarnations and I only stop revising when it's time to turn it in.

Still, she held her breath and clutched her lone possession to her chest. All her shoulder bag carried was a change of clothes, which were most certainly wrinkled beyond help by now, a few pairs of panties, a toothbrush and other toiletries. Not much for what was usually accessible to her. But that life was no longer hers. Running from it was the best decision she’d made in forever.

I like the use of clutched. Its a verb that shows us her desperation.

Not much for what was usually accessible to her is an awkward construction and is too vague to tell us anything. If she normally has a full closet big enough to need its own zipcode, say so.
Agreed – this could be stated better – was trying to point out how she goes from one extreme (having abundance of everything) to another extreme (having nothing).

She's scared and hiding and probably sitting in horse dung. Right now I'm not seeing how running was a good decision. What are you trying to convey here?
I’m trying to convey a young woman who was desperate to get out of a situation in her life (an arranged marriage since she comes from royalty and it was a tradition) and she hadn’t quite thought it all out but took the first chance she had to just get on her own since her father, the King, had control of all royals as king. Going against his wishes was never done so for her to do it she ran. It was the best decision because despite her current circumstances staying behind in a life she didn’t want was worse.
Oh, she's a princess! We need to know that right up front. I had spoiled little rich girl in mind. Now that I know she's a royal who's in a coercive situation, my interest is piqued. Is there a way to hint at her station?

A long, dark shadow crept over the railing. Her heart pounded as her eyes slowly lifted to identify its owner, that of a horse’s massive brown body. Dear God, please don’t let that beast come in here.

If the Dear God sentence is her direct thought, you should underline it to indicate to the typesetter that it should be italicized. You raised another question in my mind. Why is she hiding in a stable if she's obviously afraid of horses?
Yes it’s her direct thought and for my publisher they only require italics – no underline – so this will be in the final version – should be here to make it clearer. And she’s hiding in a stable because it was the first structure she came upon after a long journey and she couldn’t go into his house.
OK. Obviously each publishing house has their own standard formats. For Dorchester and Kensington, it's underlining because in Courier New it's easy to miss italics.

“Silvermoon, easy. Bet that brushing feels mighty good, heh?” a man’s deep voice boomed over the horse’s rants. The sound of its hooves clanked on the hard ground.

If a person is trying to gentle a horse, they speak soothingly and softly. He wouldn't boom. A horse being groomed doesn't rant (I'm really trying to imagine a horse ranting.) They really love the attention. I can imagine the horse being restive because it can sense there's someone in the next stall who shouldn't be there. For their size, horses are the silliest and most cowardly of creatures. It might be snorting and shifting its weight, but not 'ranting.'

I appreciate the way you're adding auditory elements, but hooves would only clank on pavement and only if the horse was shod, but they might thud on hard ground when the horse stomped.
This is true. I was just trying to convey that there was sound from his hooves from his prancing.

Instead of rants it should be grunts. Silvermoon is actually a temperamental horse which is described further into the story so he prefers to be running than being groomed. As for the man’s deep voice – to her it sounds booming because of her situation and of course his voice is deep which makes it louder. And I was trying to convey the hero trying to be heard over the horse’s noise. The soothing was in the form of the brushing and petting.

If this is a tempermental animal, I think now might be the time for the man to give us a hint at that. Otherwise, you may have other readers who have a little experience with horses who are thrown by this interaction.

“There you go, buddy. Get inside. Get some water now.”

Oh no!

The wooden door opened allowing the beast access to the stall. Melina sucked in a deep breath, squeezed her eyes tightly shut, and buried her head into her handbag on her bent knees.

Good fear reaction! This is a prime example of showing, not telling. Excellent.

Silvermoon made a grand entrance into his stall, stirring up dust and kicking around.

If the horse was worried about a stranger in the stall, he'd be likely to balk at the entrance and the man might have to swat his backside to get him to move. But since she's not behaving in a threatening manner, the horse might be curious enough to approach and sniff her.
I was actually writing it from a point that the horse is just ornery and not wanting to get back in his stall but wants to keep running. So basically because of his size, his moving around stirred things up.
I guess our horses were pretty docile so I'm having trouble relating to this. The only time our mare kicked up a ruckus in a stall was when she was at the vet and wanted to come home.

A scream escaped her throat, one she couldn’t stop as the beast stomped around her.

Ok, now the horse would be dangerous. In an enclosed space you really don't want to do something to rile them like screaming. Melina's in serious trouble here. I think you might have the horse rear, paw the air and whinny. He might kick at the sides of the stall.
Yes, she is reacting in a way that scares the horse and that’s why the hero responds so harshly, because he knows how Silvermoon can be bad-tempered.

“What the f***?” the man’s voice yelled above her.

Since this is a PG-13 blog, I edited your explitive. But since it's here, let's talk about the vulgar tongue for a moment. There is a place for all words in literature, but choosing the right moment to loose a less-than-polite verbal volley is one of the author's most important tasks. We want our prose to make an impact and there's no question that vulgar words serve as an exclamation point to an emotional moment. Rhett Butler's "Frankly, my dear" would have been severely diluted if he'd been swearing through the rest of the story.
This is an erotic contemporary and the swearing depicts a hero who doesn’t have to watch his language because he’s not always around females – he does apologize further into the story, recognizing he’s rough around the edges and not used to females being around. He’s around ranch hands all day and their mouths are bad. But the fact that he can recognize his swearing makes him appealing since he does know right from wrong and once things calm down he tries to make an effort to not swear.
This is almost the first thing we hear from your hero. The heroine is in danger, but I'm assuming worse things will threaten her later. What will he say then? Where does he go from here?
His reaction is to show how startled he is to find a woman in his barn, and worse, in his temperamental horse’s stall. The hero is caught off guard and the situation is immediately dangerous so his reaction was to portray a man who is rough around the edges who deals with danger in a rough way – until the heroine has a chance to “unroughen” him.
Since he obviously knows horses, he wouldn't shout in a way that would further upset the animal. I wonder if forceful action from the hero with no words at all isn't a better way to go.
Again, to her it sounded like yelling because of all the commotion and how deep and rough his voice is so I was trying to portray this. I do like the idea of not using any words at all – maybe until after she’s safely in front of him out of the horse’s stall.

Before she knew what to expect, large hands grasped her crudely around her upper arms and she was airborne, still clutching her bag. Instinctually, she kicked and twisted her body to free herself then she planned to run like hell to get away from whoever had just found her.

I think I'd cut Before she knew what to expect. It doesn't really add anything to the action. I try to limit my -ly words to a couple per page, but you've got 2 in one paragraph here. I'd break the last sentence into two. Put a period after herself.
Good feedback. I had already changed crudely to tightly because he’s not trying to be mean to her but at the moment he doesn’t recognize his strength in holding her.
I'm assuming he lifted her over the stall to safety. Showing is great, but sometimes we have to tell. It would make sense to tell she was lifted over the stall. I don't think she'd kick to free herself until after she was clear of the horsestall. Or how about if she started climbing the stall on her own?
The scene is happening so quickly – like literally seconds- that the kicking was part of her reaction without her even thinking of waiting until she was on the ground and out of the stall. It was the fight or flight mechanism.
“Knock it off, you little witch,” the man demanded, dropping her onto her feet but not freeing her.

“Let me go,” she screamed before landing a solid kick to his shin. Her toes protested, but she didn’t have time to address the pain of kicking something that felt like a steel post.

A word about dialogue tags. Most editors would rather see either action to indicate who's speaking or simply use "said." Readers scan right over it and it doesn't intrude.
Was showing her actions and words occurring at the same time in her frantic bid to free herself.
I just mean using 'demanded' and 'screamed.' I've heard several editors say they'd prefer to see 'said.'
He swung her away from him, releasing her. When his strong hand landed smartly across her ass, her hand automatically covered her bottom where it stung. She faced him, hardly able to believe her eyes. He was a f***ing giant. Never had she seen a bigger man. Her jaw dropped at the sight of his wide chest, massive shoulders, thick arms, huge hands, and unbelievable height. Hell, she was five-feet-four and he was a good foot over her. His legs boasted the same enormous muscles, his thighs as thick as her entire body.

Having the hero hit the heroine, even a swat on the butt, is a gamble. There are a few taboos in romance and guys hitting girls is one of them. There's no relationship yet, so this can't be construed as playful.
Understood but it was meant to portray a knee-jerk reaction – similar to a slap in the face to stun a hysterical person – not meant to harm but to get attention. There is erotic play with this later on and it’s that reason he doesn’t hesitate to swat her bottom because he’s doing it based on his Dominant personality.
This still seems over the line to me. If she's hysterical, I'd rather see the face slap, but I don't get hysterical from her, just terrified. Also, I get that he's rough and that explains his rough language, but we're in the princess's POV and she's dropping f-bombs and Hell in her head. If you want her to be able to "unroughen" him later, she needs to be a lady now, even in a tough situation, so we see clearly how different their respective worlds are.

6'4" is tall, but if she's ever watched an NBA game she's seen taller men. The "giant" is a little over the top. Thighs as thick as her entire body? What kind of Clydesdale was he riding?
She’s a princess surrounded by average size people, only her bodyguards would be large but not this large. On TV, tall is tall, but in person and to her slender frame he is much bigger and appears “gigantic” – but it may be a little over the top. Same with the description of the thighs. Just trying to show how muscular he is from working on the ranch.
This is a question of proportion. I think you want to convey 'hunk', not 'hulk.'

He stood, arms crossed, staring at her. When her gaze landed on his face she swallowed hard. He was every bit as mad as she was frightened.

Why is he angry? Confused, curious, irritated maybe. But why angry? If he's as big as you say, a little girl kicking his shin shouldn't make him mad.
This was her perception of him, that he was angry because he looked so stern and serious – again part of what makes him who he is because he’s a cowboy running a ranch and not having a lot of time out of his busy chore schedule. He’s not mad about her kicking him as he is about the interruption to his busy schedule and he knows the situation isn’t an easy fix because his ranch happens to be in the middle of nowhere so how she ended up there is no doubt going to be complicated.

Ok, I'll have to confess I got a little distracted by the interaction with the horse in this scene. There were several things that didn't ring true, so it pulled me out of the story. I'm no horse expert, but we had a mare and a gelding for five years when we lived in Wyoming, so I'm basing my comments on behaviors I observed in them. Perhaps there's someone out there with more equestrian experience who can set us straight. How would a horse react in this situation? Silvermoon was reacting solely based on his personality – that is he wanted to be running instead of grooming; and going into his stall he was feisty for the same reasons. The hero goes on to explain how the heroine made a huge mistake hiding in a horse stall especially when the horse is mean like Silvermoon. The normal horse reaction wasn’t going to apply to an ornery horse like Silvermoon.
Making Silvermoon was a stallion would make a difference in my perception of him. The few stallions I've seen I wouldn't get near, especially when there was a mare in season nearby. They are literally testosterone with hooves.

Thanks for letting me take a look at your writing, Christina! You make a very important point when you reminded me that you are writing a contemporary erotica. It's so essential to know what kind of story we're writing and what the reader expectations are for that particular subgenre.

Short Blurb:

For years Christina has had stories in her head, stories of romance and heartache, stories of overcoming the odds. She writes with a passion to make all her characters realistic so the reader can fall in love with them as much as she does. A sucker for a good love story, Christina writes hot, sensual romances with a little sarcastic wit and some humor, in a contemporary setting.

Ok, now it's your turn to weigh in. Any suggestions for Christina? Have I blown it badly? Any horse experts out there who can help us get a lasso on Silvermoon?

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

My Husband Married A Hooker-Part 4

We've talked about setting writing hooks with your title, first sentence, and at the end of chapters. Today, we're going to talk about embedded hooks.

Embedded hooks tease, prod and seduce your readers into turning the pages. As writers, we know everything about our characters and our story. It’s tempting to spill our guts. Don’t. Ladle the most interesting information out in small doses, salting the tantalyzing details throughout.

I learned about embedded hooks in the one creative writing course I took in college. The YA story I wrote started with an underage character sneaking into a hospital to visit his friend who had just been admitted. The police left after taking the hospitalized boy’s statement about the accident and my little hero was desperate to see his recovering friend.

To find out what he’d told them.

And that’s all I said about that for several pages. But my professor pounced on the little hook, raving about it. And I knew I'd discovered something important about writing. Writers are a little like old-school fan dancers. We flash our readers. We give them sneak peaks at what's coming. We part the fans and tease them with little bits of information that makes them want to know more.

I use an embedded hook when I'm introducing my heroine Viola in my first Mia Marlowe title TOUCH OF A THIEF (Kensington Brava, May 2011):

The stones would be in Lieutenant Quinn’s chamber. Her fence had a friend in the brick mason’s guild who, for a pretty price, happily revealed the location of the ton’s secret stashes. Townhouses on this fashionable London street were all equipped with identical wall safes in the master’s chamber. The newfangled tumbler lock would open without protest under Viola’s deft touch.

She had a gift. Two, actually, but she didn’t enjoy the other one half so much.

Did I make you wonder what her other gift is? Check out the full excerpt at

Drop in a little tease here and there and your readers will love you for it. The fun thing about embedded hooks is that there is no limit to how many or how often you plant them. Dan Brown’s The DaVinci Code was brilliant in this regard. By dropping little nuggets of information, he creats a path in his prose to pull his reader along. Sort of like literary breadcrumbs a reader can follow all the way home.

If you're a writer, please share an example of an embedded hook from your WIP. If you're a reader, have you recognized an embedded hook in the book you're currently reading?

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Writing with the Stars

I've often said how important contests are in helping a writer make the transition from unpublished to under contract. Right now there's a terrific contest being offered from Kensington Publishing. It's called Writing with the Stars! In this contest, the top 10 contestants will be matched up with a Brava author for mentoring through the final online judging. (Even though I'm a Brava author now--be sure to check out my author page!-- I'm too new to be a mentor. Maybe next year!) The contest is limited to the first 500 entries so be sure to have your completed manuscript ready to go on July 1st.

This contest has been responsible for launching several writers' careers: Lori Foster, Sylvia Day and Jacqueline Frank to name a few. The grand prize is a publishing contract.

For the details, please visit Brava Authors. Brava encompasses contemporary, paranormal and historical. The common element is the sensuality level. This is a very sensual line, so be sure your story premise lends itself to a hot relationship between your hero and heroine.

Good luck!

Monday, June 7, 2010

The Muse is a Crutch.

I'm a firm non-believer in the "muse," but I love the women behind the Moody Muses! They're a terrific bunch of writers from my New England RWA chapter and we're having a lot of fun together over at their blog today, talking about the nuts and bolts of writing and inspiration.

Please join us at the Moody Muses!

Saturday, June 5, 2010

The Mistress of Saucy Historical Romances


Sorry for the high-pitched squeal, but I just have to share the latest review of STROKE OF GENIUS from Books Monthly:

"Georgette Heyer with ripped bodices! Emily's latest story is simply charming - Crispin Hawke is awkward, dashing, self-assured, rude, everything you'd expect from Georgette Heyer, or even Jane Austen. Grace Makepeace, unlike the previous heroines in Emily's novels, is American. She's tall, beautiful, and knows what she wants. But she falls for Hawke in a big way and decides that she wants him above everything else. Emily Bryan is the mistress of saucy historical romances, and as ever, STROKE OF GENIUS is pure delight." BooksMonthly!

OMGosh! Did he just compare me to Heyer and Austen? I do believe I feel a case of the vapors coming on.

This totally made my day!

Hugs all around!

Friday, June 4, 2010

TGIF New Release~Victoria Gray's Destiny

Please welcome Victoria Gray today. She's sharing her new release with us--DESTINY. It's a Civil War era romance and I know there are some frustrated fans of that setting out there, so here's your chance. Take it away Victoria!

Blurb:Emma Davenport was going to be a bride, and no one was going to stop her, not even an outlaw. Bound for a forbidden marriage to her father’s sworn enemy, Emma’s scheme shatters when she is abducted and spirited away to a remote hideout. Any proper young woman would be frightened out of her wits, but she challenges her daring, seductive captor at every turn.

Major Jack Travis was used to the battlefield, not stealing spoiled, sheltered women from trains, but the by-the-book officer never doubted his ability to carry out orders until he laid eyes on Emma. His captive is intelligent, headstrong, beautiful – and forbidden. He risks his neck to protect her. But how can he protect her from himself?

Book Trailer Link:

Website Excerpt:

About Destiny :Thanks to Emily for inviting me to her blog to discuss my new release. Destiny is a Civil War-era historical that blends romance with adventure. Emma Davenport, the sheltered daughter of a powerful Northern senator, runs away to marry Christopher Staton, a charismatic businessman – a traitor with his own ruthless reasons for wanting Emma as his bride. Traveling to her rendezvous with Staton, she’s abducted by a daring train robber who harbors a bitter grudge against the man she plans to marry. Unknown to Emma, Jack Travis isn’t what he seems – he’s a cavalry officer tasked with keeping Emma out of Staton’s clutches. Driven by duty and a deep-seated hatred of Staton, Jack risks his life to protect Emma, even as he falls in love with his spirited, challenging captive. She’s forbidden to him, but sometimes, even a man on a mission has to follow his heart.

About the hero and heroine:
Jack Travis is an alpha-male with a heart. A respected, by-the-book soldier, he’s put his life on the line on the battlefield and courageously accomplished the most challenging missions. When he’s tasked with keeping Emma out of Staton’s clutches, he resents being pulled from battle to serve as a bodyguard – but he’s driven to take on the mission by his hatred of Christopher Staton and his first-hand knowledge of the man’s treachery. Isolated with Emma at his remote hideaway, he’s drawn to her spirit as well as her beauty. She’s the woman he’s always wanted – but she’s forbidden to him – until he decides to risk everything to capture her heart.

Emma Davenport is no damsel-in-distress. She’s led a sheltered existence and craves a life away from her father’s stifling influence, but she’s nothing like the mousy wallflower Jack expects. Emma surprises Jack at every turn with her intelligence, spirit, and courage. Drawn to her captor, she’s conflicted by the attraction to a man she shouldn’t love – but her heart can’t resist.

What’s next for me?
Destiny’s sequel, Angel in My Arms, will be released by The Wild Rose Press later this year. The story of a Union spy ring running out of Richmond in 1864, the book’s hero, Steve Dunham, was introduced as Jack’s partner in Destiny. In addition, I’ve begun a third book in the series, centering on the tumultuous events surrounding the fall of Richmond in 1865. I’ve also completed a romantic suspense set in 1896 Manhattan and am plotting a trio of Victorian-era historical.

Buy Links for the book:E-book :
Print :


Victoria Gray wrote her first story soon after she started elementary school. When she was in the third grade, her mother bought her a Smith Corona manual typewriter. She was officially a writer!

A trained librarian, Victoria uses her research skills to explore other eras in time. Her interest in research is a perfect fit with her work as a writer of historical romance.


Thanks for visiting today, Victoria. That 1896 Manhattan romantic suspense sounds interesting. Be sure to come back when that one sells!

It's only been a little over a week since my newest release hit the bookstore shelves. RT BookReviews calls STROKE OF GENIUS "Wickedly enjoyable!"

So go out there an enjoy your weekend! What are you reading now?

I'm blogging in a couple places today. Please grab your second cup and visit me at Over Coffee where I'm Desperately Seeking Writing Space. Then I'll be at The Chatelaines, solving the problem of Aliteracy.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Red Pencil Thursday with Paisley Kirkpatrick

Happy Red Pencil Thursday! Please welcome Paisley Kirkpatrick, our cheerful voluteer. She's a pre-published author who's beginning to win some contests. This is an important step. Contest wins show she's on the right track and is a wonderful way to get your foot in the door.

My comments for Paisley are in red. Her responses are in purple. Please feel free to add your ideas in the comment section!

Great title. Sounds like a good strong heroine


Sierra Mountain Range, California, Fall 1853
This is a good way to ground your readers in the world of your story and lots of writers use this device. However, I'd rather see touches of fall in your text instead of being told the time of year here.
Okay, but as she steps out of the cabin we start seeing and feeling the Fall – leaf colors, crisp breeze, it snows…. I can certainly take this off if it takes away. I thought it staged where and when.
That's great. I'm glad to hear you'll show it later, but readers don't like to be told, then shown. Better just to skip telling and go straight to showing. (Can you tell I'm originally from Missouri?)

Rebecca Ryder gaped at the ramshackle cabin. She must have misunderstood the directions or turned the wrong way somewhere. Grandpa had told her he was doing well with the mine, pulling out enough gold to pay her school tuition in the East and still live comfortably, too. This shack told an entirely different story. He’d given no clue he was struggling, or had he and she’d turned a blind eye?

Well, Paisley, you did the same thing I did with my first manuscript. You introduced your heroine with no one for her to talk to, so we have a long, silent exposition. If she's been going to a fancy Eastern school, is it logical to assume she'd go to an abandoned cabin in a remote location alone? Who's your hero? Might he be dragged out as an unwilling guide on this expedition?

Sanity called her back to town after the long dusty trek into this remote wilderness, but curiosity overrode the urge to immediately head down the mountain. After coming this far, she should at least check out the rest of her tattered legacy.

You're telling instead of showing with the Sanity sentence when we need to really get inside Rebecca's head and feel what she's feeling. Give us some sensory details that put us in the scene. The last sentence in this paragraph smacks a bit of something called 'author intrusion.' You're stepping in and telling your character what she should do.
I had intended this last sentence to be her internal thoughts. Will rework it.

Determined to give grandpa the benefit of doubt, she stepped out of the saddle. A few of the boards dipped as she trod across the narrow porch. Turning the door handle, she let out an impatient sigh as the crude planks protested. She shoved the door just enough with her shoulder to slip inside. The breath caught in her throat. Oh, Grandpa, no! Her spirits plummeted.

Point of equestrianship. She'd step out of the stirrup or dismount the horse, not step out of the saddle.
I knew this wasn’t quite right, but for the life of me I couldn’t come up with something that did. Embarrassed after the years of riding horses… 
We want to like our heroine. Be careful you're not making Rebecca a little unlikeable here. She's impatient and judgemental with a man who has obviously sacrificed for her welfare.
I can fix this – she wasn’t meant to be judgmental, but horrified that her grandfather lived in such a horrid state because he paid her tuition. He supposedly had found a lucrative gold mine and had a lot of money. He’d been writing and telling her this. The reason for the state of the cabin is something she soon discovers is a ploy to cover the fact that he has found a huge gold strike and is hiding the fact from those who would want to steal it.
Ooo! That's good.

Rows of newspapers stood side by side from floor to eye level. Stale, vanilla-scented pipe tobacco permeated the air barely disguising other repugnant odors that she couldn’t identify. She cringed and brushed away lace-like cobwebs that hung from the rafters, sticking in her hair and tickling her face.

Where would a miner get all those newspapers?
Her grandfather owned the local newspaper and the reason why all these newspapers are in the cabin has an important bearing on the story.
Ok, that makes sense, but since newspapers are an unusual item for most miners, you might tuck that little nugget of knowledge in there for us.

I love the vanilla-scented pipe tobacco and wish you hadn't added the unidentified repugnant odors . Here's an opportunity for that familiar smell to trigger an emotional response in your heroine. Scent is tied to memory. I still remember my tough-guy dad tearing up when he smelled cinnamon in the kitchen cupboard of his grandparent's tumbled-down cabin.
My grandfather had a vanilla scented tobacco in his pipe and you are right, vanilla always makes me think of him.
It takes a while for cobwebs to build up to that level. How long has the cabin been empty?
Her grandfather has been dead over two weeks and he was sick before then for a while. However, here in the mountains (I live where this takes place) it doesn’t take long as we share the woods and our house with spiders. I can take webs down daily and never run out of them unfortunately.
Silly me. My citified, condo-dwelling roots are showing!

A few steps along a narrow opening brought her to a wooden platform. She ran her fingers over the sparse mattress and rumpled bedding. Three broken bricks propped up the corner of a woodstove placed in an area she’d hardly consider a kitchen. She fingered a chipped cup sitting on the shelf of a small cupboard.

Sparse mattress? Do you mean thin? I like the tactile elements of this paragraph. Now we're getting sensory details. Yay! Can you add her emotional response to them?
Yes, thin mattress. The cool thing is that at the museum in Coloma we got to see the inside of a cabin that was used during this time of history so I had a visual to rely on.
Cool about the museum. That kind of hand's on research is so much richer than cracking a book or surfing the web.

The lawyer informed her mountain men passing through his property happened to find grandpa dead. They probably were the ones who’d tossed the rotted food remnants in a bucket without care. The stench of decay curdled her stomach, but not half as much as the thought of her grandfather dying up here in the mountains alone.

I didn't know until this point that her grandfather was dead. I expected to see him stagger in or something. I wonder if it would be easier for the reader if we knew this information right up front.
I thought tattered legacy told that this was her inheritance, but certainly can make it clearer. ;-)
Sometimes you have to hit me over the head with things. Let's see if it strikes others the same way before you change it.

The rotten food is certainly a pungent detail, but I wonder if its necessary. It marrs the previous tobacco smell that could have conjured up a bittersweet moment and seems like a distraction from the first visceral reaction from Rebecca.
I was trying to make the cabin repugnant to her because she needs to decide whether to stay and accept the property or give it up. The lawyer doesn’t want her to accept the property because he is trying to secure it for the hero’s family at a good price. He purposely sends her to see it alone because he is dishonest and can taste his fee when he can secure it for the MacGregors. She grew up on a farm in Texas and I didn’t think it was out of the question that she would be independent enough to ride up the road to look at the property.
Ok. Greedy, blood-sucking lawyer is kind of an over-used character. What if the lawyer was honest, but his clients were the bad guys? Just a thought. At this point, I don't know Rebecca grew up on a Texas ranch. I'm thinking cossetted tenderfoot wandering in the wilderness, because all I've been told is that her Grandpa paid for her Eastern school tuition. If you want readers to consider her smart, let us know she has the background for this remote gallivanting. I worry about her otherwise.

A small table scattered with wooden matches and a lantern sat next to his oak rocking chair.

Tears filled her eyes as she touched the carved back of the treasured antique. It was the only piece of furniture he’d taken when her father ran him off their Texas farm five years ago.
She dropped into his rocker and slowly moved her hands back and forth along the smooth-as-silk armrests. As a young child her grandfather had welcomed her on his lap in this very chair. They’d spent hours reading her favorite stories together. If only she could hear his voice one more time. Run to him for comfort. But she couldn’t. After he’d sent the letter to come, she’d rushed to reach Paradise Pines. His heart gave out two weeks before she arrived. She slumped over and sobbed into her hands. Grandpa, why’d you leave me?

Oh, yes, I've sat in a chair with smooth as silk armrests. Ordinarily I'd say smooth as silk is an overused expression, but this is the first time I've seen it applied to wood.

Oops! Young child. Is there any other kind?

I'd care more about Rebecca's tears if there was more of a lead up to them. A quivering chin, a lump in her throat--there are a number of ways you can show how she feels about losing her Grandpa throughout this opening. I really like this idea.
And I like some of the elements you've got going in your story here.

As I mentioned to Paisley when we talked about her comments, I'm not the final arbiter here. Paisley is. This is her story. She's the only one who can decide the best way to tell it. The goal of Red Pencil Thursday is always just to give the volunteer writer something to think about and maybe a few suggestions to make their work better. Thanks for being here today, Paisley.

Thank you for the opportunity, Emily.

Paisley Kirkpatrick is a ten year veteran of RWA along with Sacramento Valley Rose and many online chapters. She is unpublished, working on her fourth story, and starting to win contests. Because she lives where the 49er gold rush occurred, she finds interesting living history to add reality to her stories.

Her website URL is:

Now it's your turn. What was I wrong about? Do you see anything you'd like to change? If you're here, you're a member of the critique group, so your voice is important. Just remember Paisley can decide to ignore us all if she likes!