Thursday, September 30, 2010

Red Pencil Thursday with Allison Druery

Often when I do a Red Pencil Thursday critique, I've never met my victim . . . er, volunteer . . . face to face. That's not the case today. Allison Druery and I became acquainted last year at Bobbie Smith and Judi McCoy's Aspiring Writers' Boot Camp a few days before the Romantic Times convention started. It's an intense couple days with back-to-back workshops all day (and into the night!)and by the time the convention starts, the pros and the aspirings have formed a bond forged in new creative ideas and ways of approaching their work. It's my favorite part of the week.

But that doesn't mean I'll go easy on Allison. A critique is only valid if you are honest. That said, my opinion is only one person's opinion and Allison is free to accept or ignore anything I say. The value of a critique is in sending a writer's thoughts in new directions. So that's what I hope to do today. And I hope something here might help you with your WIP as well.

My comments are in red, Allison's responses in purple. Please add yours in the comment section below! If you're reading this, consider yourself part of the Red Pencil Thursday inner circle. We want to hear from you!

Love, Sex and Karma
I like this title. Sets of three always seem to work.

His eyes were drawn to the hot pink halter top that illuminated not only her tight curves, but seemed to improve the lighting in the crowded dull bar. Based on how nicely the top revealed her curves, and a tantalizing bit of a healthy, tanned mid-drift, Levi was sure that his were not the only set of eyes focusing on the heat that bellowed from Miss Halter.

Ok, we're in Levi's POV, so it's time for a word about guy-speak. Unless he's particularly erudite, guys think in shorter sentences with fewer clauses. They tend to use specific nouns and active verbs, and not go so heavy on adjectives and adverbs. I italicised them so you'd see how many there were. Also, this is a private pet peeve of mine, but I don't like roaming body parts. His gaze was drawn, not his eyes. The use of bellow is fresh (brought to mind a bull bellowing at the cows in heat), but it stopped me for a bit here. I think you want a temperature related word, not a sound one. LOVE that he thinks of her as Miss Halter.

I definitely wasn’t focusing on guy-speak. I’ll be sure to make some changes and to watch my male POV in the future. Bellowed is the wrong word, I think I might play around with the image of a mirage.

When I first started writing, I didn't think about staying in tight POV for the narrative. I took a more "omniscient" view, but you don't draw a reader in without letting them into your character's unique thoughts and observations. This is not a concept for a novice, however I think you're up to the challenge, my dear.

Flecks of gold streaked through her lengthy dark blonde hair, which only assisted the barely-there straps of her top as they outlined her swan-like neck. Surrounded by a group of women she stood conversing at the bar. Beside her someone must have made a joke because her laugh vibrated from her core to her lips causing her breasts to quiver within that deep v-necked shirt. Levi’s Adam’s apple paused halfway down his throat causing him to choke on his gin. The way her breasts were so securely snuggled together, he’d bet that she wore nothing beneath.

Swan-like neck is not a guy type observation, but you nailed him on the quivering breasts. I like the physical reaction with the Adam's apple. A fresh detail.

Watching her from across the room gave him a dark sense of power. Like a tiger stalking its prey. She stood, unaware that her future was about to change. That he, Levi Henson was her future. He knew that she was the one he had been searching for.

Can you give me a sense of why he thinks so? Is he smitten with her on the strength of a glance? Looking to meet her because they have a blind date? The tiger stalking is a little menacing for a hero. Ditto for dark power. It makes me wonder if Levi is not the hero of the piece.

I am making him sound like the villain. Don’t want that. Thanks for catching it.

Having first spotted her, relief washed through him. Settling into the couch he inspected her from a distance, but as his scrutiny continued he became anxious to approach her.

Now it seems as if he was looking specifically for Miss Halter. Can you show me he's anxious instead of telling me? I'd also like a reason.

Levi thought that nothing could pry his eyes away from her, but after only a few minutes of silently perusing her body he was proven wrong by a hard elbow to his ribs. As he rubbed his side Levi didn’t doubt for a second that the elbow was the strongest point on the human body.

I think I'd cut the As he rubbed sentence so we can get to the dialogue quicker.


Zack, his newest business partner, had a glare to match his abusive elbow. With his eyes he motioned to the two women in front of them, “Angela asked you a question.” His lips turned upwards as he faced the women. Obviously getting laid was more important to Zack than Levi’s ribs.

Love the glare to match his abusive elbow! But the next sentence is a little awkward. Instead of With his eyes he motioned, how about his gaze flicked? You need a period after them and start Zack's dialogue as a new sentence.

I felt that something was wrong with that line. I like ‘His gaze flicked’ so much better.

If something feels off to you, it's a sure bet it will hit a reader the same way.

Levi turned his attention to the two equally stunning women before him, one dark haired and exotic; the other with a mane of red hair and freckles that Levi would guess covered far more of her body than just her nose. Now, if only he could remember which one was Angela.

He'd definitely wonder how far the freckles wander! Good detail.

He deliberately looked from one to the other before making an excuse for his ignorance, “Pardon me, the music is loud. What was your question?”

The red haired woman leaned forward displaying her cleavage for his wandering gaze, “I was wondering how long your um,” her eyes met his before dipping to his crotch, “boat is.”

Levi chuckled, “My,” he paused to continue the innuendo, “yacht is larger than any that you’ve ever seen.”

Hope he can back up that claim. She strikes me as the type to get out a tape measure!
She does seem like that type of woman.

The women looked at each other with greedy eyes, making Levi want to laugh at them. He was sure that with their cheaply applied make up and their

They were stunning and exotic a moment ago and now they have cheap make up. There's a disconnect in the description that might be confusing.

You’re right. That didn’t sit well with me either. I’ll be sure to change it when I introduce them.

You've got some really good elements going here, sharp characterization and fresh details. I'm sure Levi is going to hook up with Miss Halter eventually. I'd really like to have a few more hints about why he was looking for her.

Not wanting to give away too much of the plot, I left out why he feels this way. Does this create suspense or annoyance for the reader? Should I be dropping some more concrete hints?

Yes. Don't give us everything, but we need some hooks, tantalyzing little bits of info, that will tease us into reading more to find out what's up. Last spring I did a 4 part post titled "My Husband Married a Hooker" where I go into more detail about what writing hooks are and how and where to set them. Here's the link to the first one:

Thank you so much for having me on Red Pencil Thursday. You have given me a great deal to work and play with. I’m grateful to know what I can improve within this piece, and my writing in general. Thank you!

My pleasure, Allison. I love that you regard writing as something to play with, because it certainly is. Best of luck!

Allison's Bio:
Allison Druery is an aspiring Canadian author, currently working towards a BA at the University of Toronto, studying English Literature and history. She is avidly working on multiple manuscripts, in a range of genres. When she isn’t studying, or writing she is actively trying to promote awareness and funds for ALS (Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis or Lou Gehrig’s disease). Connect with Allison at

Now it's your turn. What advice do you have for Allison?

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

I Kill People Off for a Living

I have another treat for you today. Please welcome my guest blogger, Cherish D'Angelo and her new contemporary suspense release! My blog is now hers.
Thank you so much for hosting me during my Cherish the Romance Virtual Book Tour, which launches my contemporary romantic suspense, Lancelot's Lady.

When people ask me what I do, I like to say, "I kill people off for a living." It's amazing the responses I get. Sometimes, I'll get a nervous laugh, a snicker, widened eyes, shocked expressions or just looks of confusion.

I know what they're thinking.

Really? She kills people off? Is she joking? What does she mean by that?

Yes, I'm a bit of a mind reader. But with this, it's not too difficult. Besides, I do it on purpose. I have a desire to shock people every now and then. Some may think it's a sadistic tendency; I just think it's kind of fun. And funny.

Most times, I'll clarify my answer. "I write suspense. I kill people off...fictitiously."

Their response. "Oh!" I'll hear a sigh of relief most times, then another laugh as they explain they weren't too sure about me.

I started saying this as a reply after my first thriller Divine Intervention was released back in 2004. As Cheryl Kaye Tardif, I've killed off someone in every novel. And not always people who deserve to die. I don't intentionally go looking for someone to write off; it just happens as a natural result of the direction the plot is going in.

So what about Cherish D'Angelo, my alter-ego who writes romantic suspense? Well, it seems even Cherish isn't immune to the need to write someone off--permanently. She tried to keep the victim alive. At least, in the second draft. But the victim, who wasn't a nice person at all, just begged to be killed. So I did this person in. Or, I should say, Cherish did.

Sure, Cherish may have the flowery name and she may write scintillating romance scenes and flowery descriptive prose, but she's also aware that once a character has fulfilled their destiny, we don't always need them around. And sometimes bad things happen to bad people.

In Lancelot's Lady, I can guarantee you one thing. There's a corpse. Now you just have to read it to find it. ;-)

Lancelot's Lady is available in ebook edition at KoboBooks, Amazon's Kindle Store, Smashwords and other ebook retailers. Help me celebrate by picking up a copy today and "Cherish the romance..."

~Cherish D'Angelo

Lancelot's Lady ~ A Bahamas holiday from dying billionaire JT Lance, a man with a dark secret, leads palliative nurse Rhianna McLeod to Jonathan, a man with his own troubled past, and Rhianna finds herself drawn to the handsome recluse, while unbeknownst to her, someone with a horrific plan is hunting her down.

You can learn more about Lancelot's Lady and Cherish D'Angelo (aka Cheryl Kaye Tardif) at and Follow Cherish from September 27 to October 10 on her Cherish the Romance Virtual Book Tour and win prizes.

Leave a comment here, with email address, to be entered into the prize draws. You're guaranteed to receive at least 1 free ebook just for doing so. Plus you'll be entered to win a Kobo ereader. Winners will be announced after October 10th.

Thanks for being my guest today, Cherish. Best wishes for your new release!

Monday, September 27, 2010

The Naughty List from Susan Fox

Please welcome my friend Susan Fox to the blog today. We first met at RT a few years ago and hit if off right away. Now as it turns out, we're both writing for the same publisher--Kensington Brava.

Susan Fox, who also writes as Susan Lyons, is the award-winning author of sexy contemporary romance that’s passionate, heartwarming, and fun. She is published by Kensington Brava, Kensington Aphrodisia, Berkley Heat, Harlequin Spice Briefs, and The Wild Rose Press. A resident of both Vancouver and Victoria, B.C., Susan has degrees in law and psychology but would far rather be writing fiction than living in the real world. You can find more information about Susan and her books at Susan is also on Facebook.

I know you're going to love her. Take it away, Susan.

Thanks, Emily, for inviting me to visit. Isn’t it interesting, all the things that have happened in our writing careers since we both participated in that panel at the 2007 RT Booklovers Convention?

Today I’d like to talk about Eat, Pray, Love, because a girlfriend and I just went to the movie. I’d already read the book and enjoyed both. As an author, I have to wonder, when Elizabeth Gilbert wrote that book, whether she had the slightest clue how popular it would become. Personally, I doubt it.

After all, it’s not exactly an earthshaking book. A woman of a certain age realizes that she’s got some relationship problems, and she needs to figure out who she is and what she wants out of life—as an individual, not as part of a couple. How to find the answers? Take a year off and spend four months each in Italy, India, and Indonesia.

Why does this resonate with so many readers, particularly women? Because we have all, whatever our age, reached a point in our lives when certain aspects of our life don’t make a whole lot of sense any more. Maybe it’s a divorce, illness, a job loss, or even good stuff like a lottery win or new job. Something that triggers the realization, “I don’t really know who I am any more, or what’s important to me. And I really need to know.”

Or maybe the resonance is simply because we’d all love to have the wherewithal to explore the world for a year, discovering our own gusto, passion, and spirituality—not to mention, hooking up with a hot Brazilian!

Personally, I love the “finding yourself” theme. It’s at the core of all the stories I write. Of course that theme plays out in different ways in each story. The “finding” may be about how to respect your family but be independent, or how to balance career and personal life; it may be about regaining confidence after a break-up or looking at your opposite sex best friend in a whole different way.

Or it may, as in my October release, “Tattoos and Mistletoe” in the Brava holiday anthology The Naughty List, be about coming to terms with your past in order to move into a bright new future.

Why would you ever want to go home again, when the town treated you like trash? Yet Charlie Coltrane has to return to Whistler this Christmas and supervise renovations on her aunt’s B&B if she’s to inherit the money to open her own tattoo parlor in Toronto. What a surprise that the contractor in charge of the renos is LJ Jacoby, high school geek transformed into the town’s hottest bachelor. LJ’s about to teach Charlie that sometimes you have to confront your past to find your future—and that Christmas really can be the most romantic time of the year.

In Eat, Pray, Love, Elizabeth Gilbert had some hard truths to face and lessons to learn. So does Charlie Coltrane in “Tattoos and Mistletoe.” But that’s the thing about finding yourself: rarely does it come easily. But life is, or should be, about growth. We can all be better people and live fuller lives if we confront our own demons. And as the old expression says, “no pain, no gain.”

Books and movies can inspire us to find the courage to begin our own personal journeys. How many women have found strength to make hard decisions of their own after reading or seeing Eat, Pray, Love? Lots, I bet. And I hope some will after reading “Tattoos and Mistletoe” as well. Not, of course, that everyone has to get all angsty because, after all, Eat, Pray, Love and “Tattoos and Mistletoe” are first and foremost about entertainment. But it’s always very cool, as an author, to know that your story and characters have truly resonated with a reader and perhaps helped them in their own lives.

Today, I’d like to know your “finding yourself” stories. Do you have personal examples, or favorite books or movies on this theme that really touched your heart? Or is there another theme in romance novels and movies that really, really gets to you?

Emily popping in here: Be sure to leave a comment because Susan is giving away an autographed copy of The Naughty List to one lucky commenter!

The Naughty List (containing Susan’s “Tattoos and Mistletoe” plus novellas by Donna Kauffman and Cynthia Eden) releases tomorrow, September 28. Here are some purchase links:
Barnes and Noble

Friday, September 24, 2010

Join me Today at The Chatelaines

Happy Friday! I'm blogging over at The Chatelaines today. I'm kicking off a theme of "What's next?" Be sure to pop by often to see what's up with Jennifer Ashley, Joy Nash, CL Wilson, Gerri Russell, Cindy Holby, Bonnie Vanak and me.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Red Pencil Thursday with Mia Marlowe

Ok, that's a trick title for this post because I am Mia Marlowe. It's my new pen name for my upcoming books with Kensington publishing. I'm under contract for 3 novels and a novella. The Mia books are a little different from Emily's since I'm adding a sparkle of magic to the stories.

This is from the rough draft of my novella for IMPROPER GENTLEMEN, an anthology with Diane Whiteside and Maggie Robinson. Eliza Knight, who is a professional critiquer, has given this the once over for me. Her comments are in red and my responses are in purple. I'd love to hear what you think too, so please leave a comment!

IMPROPER GENTLEMEN ~ A Knack for Trouble

“We are such stuff as dreams are made on.”--Shakespeare, The Tempest

Royal Navy Docks, Bermuda

Chapter 1

If ever there was a night to be blessed by the Knack, it was this one. Aidan Danaher didn’t use it often, but his gift of being able to misdirect a mind certainly came in handy as he stolen past one guard after another. No one saw him leave the ship or enter the British fortress through a dry man-sized drain in the sea wall.
This was a nice opening hook, I’m definitely intrigued! I want to know what the Knack is! One thought though, I was under the impression since we’re at the docks that the Knack was a ship, and then after we realize he has gift for mind manipulation, I realized it meant his power. “Stolen” should be “stole” or have the he before it “he’d stolen”.
Oh! I hadn't thought about the possible confusion with a ship name for the Knack. I need to be more clear. Would it help for it not to capitalized? The stolen happened when I Xed the 'd and didn't alter my verb. I need to be careful when I make changes that everything in the sentence still works. Good catch!

It had been a simple matter to climb up the masonry and iron of the Commissioner’s House. He knew where every finger and toe hold was. He’d helped build the blasted thing, after all, and cursed every stone of it.
I wonder if you’d consider starting this paragraph with a stronger word? Maybe: “Climbing up the masonry and iron of the Commissioner’s House had been a simple matter.” I know starting with an “ing” is not necessary strong, but it is stronger than “It had been.”
Hmmm... let me think about that. I try to avoid "ing" when I can.

But not this night.
Because something exciting is happening!

Aidan ducked from the wide second floor veranda into the tall open window, leaving the balmy Bermudian night behind. The thick-walled house was cool and kissed by a soft breeze. A far cry from the airless convict ship tied up down at the wharf.
So he’s a bad boy? Intriguing! This is also a great way to show us our scenery, I feel like I can see it, feel the air on my skin. I wonder, is there a candle lit or a fire? Or a sliver or full moon? What is the lighting like?
Good idea and it shouldn't take more than a sentence. With a novella, my challenge is always to keep the manscript trim enough to fit into the 30-35K word count restraints. Descriptions seem like a logical place to go lean, but I also don't want to shortchange my reader's experience. It's a delicate balance.

Rosalinde was there, waiting just inside her window as she promised she’d be. She was just as he’d dreamed, her long chestnut hair unbound, flowing over her virginal nightshift like a wanton mantle. Her bare toes peeped from beneath her lacy hem, curling with nervousness.
I like the contrast of wanton and virginal—and we can see she is more virginal, with the curling of her toes. “was there, waiting” is passive, suggest saying something a little more active like, “Rosalinde stood just inside her window as she’d promised.” Also, since “just” was used in the previous sentence, try to get rid of it. “She was exactly as he’d dreamed…”
Once I get the manuscript finished, I hit the "find" function to look for my bugaboos: just, almost, even, very, still--little filler words that become my writer's tick. Thanks for catching these.

“We must be quiet,” she whispered.
Do their gazes met? Show us their longing for each other.
Oh, yes! I need to establish a stronger connection here.

Aidan caught both her fidgety hands and brought them to his lips for a kiss. “Aye, lass. Quiet as ever we can.”
I like their dialogue, its sensual and filled with promise.
Thank you.

He wasn’t keen on being strung up by His Majesty’s Royal Navy for this night’s work. But one look at her wide eyes and trembling mouth convinced him she just might be worth it.

Aidan bent to kiss her, tasting her lips with gentleness, careful not to spook her.
I like seeing his gentle side.
Fair warning, it doesn't last long. Their passion ignites white-hot in another page.

For months, they’d danced around this moment. As elected leader of the Irish convicts building the public works at Royal Dock, he’d been ushered in weekly to see the commissioner, Rosalinde’s father, to air grievances or suggest improvements that would speed the work. Commissioner Burke had warmed to him, thanks to the Knack, and when Rosalinde needed a groom for her new Thoroughbred gelding, Aidan was taken off the grueling chain gang hauling stone and put to work in the stables.
Previously, the Knack had both words underlined, I would keep it consistent. Also, this last sentence is pretty long—and has a passive “had”. I think you could break it up, maybe like this: “Commissioner Burke warmed to him, thanks to the Knack. When Rosalinde needed a groom for her new Thoroughbred gelding…”
The way the manuscript is formatted, I have to underline the words I want italicized for the typesetter. I think I should go just with the Knack itself italicized without the "the." But either way, you're right. It has to be uniform. Oh, yes, I tend to have sentences that waffle on from one clause to the next, blossoming into virtual paragraphs on their own. I always have to go back and chop them up later.

He had as easy a way with horseflesh as he did with people, so it was a simple matter to convince Rosalinde he could help her refine her dressage technique. She never realized the wicked beast’s princely manners were due more to Aidan’s Knack than to her improved riding skills.
I like this, it gives us little more information about his power.
The beginning of a story is such a tricky time. There's so much groundwork to lay in such an short amount of space. I'm hoping to tease my readers a bit here so they'll wonder what Aidan can actually do with the Knack.

He stole a kiss from Rose within a few days. In a few weeks, she allowed him to caress her breasts through her stiff riding habit. They drove each other mad by inches, a little more daring each day. Always in danger of discovery, always with only moments to savor their sweet wickedness.
Did she kiss him back and allow this because she wanted him, or did he use his gift on her? Show us, maybe with even just one sentence, that they liked each other for more than just physical pleasure also—gives us motivation for an upscale virginal girl in her time to give her body to him. You're right. Even though we're in his POV, I need to make her motivations clear. It's not enough to tell the reader having him in her room was her idea, we need to know why. And no, he didn't "knack" her, though she tempts him sorely. Aidan's smart enough to know love isn't love if it isn't freely given.

This night was her idea, but a lady might change her mind at the last moment.

I liked this here for emphasis.
I find separating something out like this does work. The trick is not to do it too often.

Her lips were sweet.
And now we're at our 500 word limit.
Thanks for letting me swap places with you, Emily! (Mia for this story, please!) I can’t wait to read the rest of this story when it comes out! You have a great premise here and a unique a fresh hook—convict in love with the Commissioner’s daughter! Love it! There is bound to be ALL sorts of conflict to try and keep these two apart. I’m excited to see how you pull them through it all.

Thank you for your thoughtful critique, Eliza. It's hard to overestimate the value of a second (or third!) pair of eyes.

Mia's bio: Well, it's pretty much the same as Emily's except that Mia is the one who'll be writing for Kensington Brava, adding a dash of paranormal elements to her historicals. Watch for her debut in May 2011 with TOUCH OF A THIEF, followed by IMPROPER GENTLEMEN in July 2011. To find out more about Mia, please visit
Mia's Blog
Mia on Facebook
Mia on Twitter

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

The Best Laid Plans

Our oldest daughter is visiting this week and we're trying to show her a good time. Unfortunately, we had a total flop with whale watching on Monday. You can read about that debacle at So we thought we'd try a land excursion yesterday. We drove up to Gloucester to see Hammond Castle. (Again I did a piece on this fascinating place in August on the Mia blog ). But when we arrived at the castle, it was closed. Summer hours were over and it is only open Friday-Sunday now.


Still, the whole fam was together and we were determined not to let a little setback ruin our day. We strolled the sea wall in Gloucester for a while. Fresh air and a bracing harbor view always lifts my spirits. Then we figured a place as rich in maritime history as Gloucester must have a decent museum someplace. And sure enough we discovered the Marine Heritage Center/Aquarium.

It was totally underwhelming.

Plastic, canned exhibits you might see in any museum with very few real artifacts from the area. And the "aquarium" is a scummy joke. Their brochure indicates that MIT is a major contributor. If so, the university is not getting much bang for their buck.

Then we wandered around to the back side of a the building and tucked into two cramped rooms, discovered an absolute treasure--Mr. Paul Harling. The first thing he did was get our daughter fitted into one of the brass diving helmets and acquaint us with some of the particulars about the early diving equipment and techniques. He brought to mind Clive Cussler's fictional naval historian, the bon vivant St. Julien Perlmutter. Whenever there's a need for information planting, Cussler pulls in this character to fill in the pertinent details.

But Paul Harling is a real fellow and, though he wouldn't have said so, I suspect a man of great personal courage. Well, he'd have to be if he began hard hat diving back in 1949 in homemade equipment. His personal collection of dive equipment and memorabilia is extensive and there's a story connected with each piece. We got to actually handle copper spikes forged by Paul Revere that Paul Harling salvaged from a wreck.

He told us about some of the early diving missteps, like when some genius decided an electrically heated wet suit would be the ticket to combat the bone-chilling cold of the deep. Yeah... right. Fortunately, the system was never used, but the helmet still had the plug built into it.

We could have spent hours in those cramped little rooms filled with the oddments of a life long passion with the sea. If ever I need any maritime information, I will contact Mr. Harling.

And like all good adventures, our day in Gloucester did NOT go as planned. Isn't it always better that way?

Have you ever had a day turned upside down for the better?

Friday, September 17, 2010

Free Kindle Downloads!

Free Kindle Downloads!

For all of you Luddites like me, here's your chance to break out of the anti-techno rut. For FREE! You can download ebooks by USA Today Bestsellers Jennifer Ashley and Joy Nash to your computer. Check out the details at

Pirate Pick-up Lines

September 19th is the Official International Talk Like a Pirate Day. I am not making this up. There's a website and everything! So to get us into the spirit of this parody of a holiday, I thought I'd offer up some pirate pick-up lines.

For Lads:

1. Wanna shiver me timbers?

2. What's a nice wench like ye doing in a smarmy lagoon like this?

3. That's some treasure chest.

4. Avast, me proud beauty. Care to make my Roger Jolly?

5. Prepare to be boarded!

All right, what they lack in finesse, they make up for in impudence. But how might a lady pirate communicate her interest, or lack thereof?

For Lasses:

1. So tell me, why do they call ye Cap'n Jellyfish?

2. That's quite a cutlass ye have there.

3. Me mother warned me about sailing men. Wouldn't want to make the poor old dear a liar, would ye?

4. No, I'm not seeing Mad Dog McGee anymore. Besides, he's found a terrific new therapist and hasn't cut anything off anyone for . . . oh, three weeks at least.

5. Wanna come up to my place? I just had me mattress deloused.

For the ultimate pick up, pick up your copy of PLEASURING THE PIRATE! At fine bookstores and online now! If you'd like to learn some more pirate lingo, check out my pirate lexicon at .

Your turn! Have you got a great pirate pick-up line?

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Red Pencil Thursday with Eliza Knight

Welcome to another edition of Red Pencil Thursday. And welcome Eliza Knight, published author, blogger extraordinaire and professional critiquer. This week Eliza is also our victim, er . . . volunteer.
When I sent a note out on my writer loops for volunteers, Eliza thought I was looking for a guest critiquer, so we decided that next week, we'll turn things about. She'll be back next Thursday with her critique of the first draft opening of my Mia Marlowe novella from IMPROPER GENTLEMEN.

But this week it's my turn to take a look at her medieval. My comments are in red, hers in purple. Please add yours to the bottom. A critique group is only as strong as all its members and if you're reading this, consider yourself part of the group! Every opinion is only one person's opinion, but please voice yours!
England, 1415

The distant clang of metal on metal hung in the sky like music, before reaching Michael’s ears. His blood surged with power and lust for a good fight. He’d traveled nearly a month to reach this location. Shouts of pain and triumph floated in the air. He smiled.
I love this opening. You use a sense other than visual to show us something special about our hero's goal. Very fresh.
Thank you, Emily! That is very nice to hear.

England—home, from now on.

How long had he yearned to return to the place of his birth? Nearly twenty years. He couldn’t believe it had been that long, and yet at the same time the wait was unbearable. Although he’d called Ireland home for that long, he’d dreamt of returning. His goal since childhood had been to set foot permanently on English soil. Excitement filled his veins, his muscles flexed and un-flexed with his need to work them out. He took a deep breath. The air was different, dryer. There always seemed to be a mist in the air of Wexford.
I think I'd ditch the question and just state he'd longed to return for 20 years. And speaking of long, looks like you've got an echo here. Sometimes a word gets stuck in a writer's head and flows out our fingers multiple times. There's a mini echo with air in the last two sentences as well.
Lol, yes Michael does like the word long and air doesn’t he? It’s always great to have someone else read your work, since I’ve been over this passage 100 times and never caught that! Thanks! If I read my work aloud, the echoes ping a little louder and I can catch them.

Michael sighed, and gazed up at the sky. It was early in the morning. A few clouds hovered above, but other than that, it appeared the sun would shine for him today.

“Sir?” one of his squires, Colin, inquired.
Yay, Michael has someone to interact with! A canvas too empty of characters is a frequent problem I see in beginnings here on Red Pencil Thursday.
I too like the characters to interact with other people. I think it’s a great way to get some action, dialogue and more than just inner thoughts in there.
Internal thoughts and character ruminations are death to a scene.

“Prepare the tent,” he ordered. He turned toward the fields. “I’m going to the lists. Fletch, come with me.”

Blood pumping and his heart beating a battle tune, Michael urged his mount forward, his lead squire following. Nothing sent a thrill spiraling through him like a tournament. Although the real tourney games had yet to commence, the list fields were abuzz with knights training, squires running here and there. Roars of laughter could be heard from the crowds that watched all manners of entertainment. Bear-baiting, cock-fighting and boxing had all begun.
Multiple squires lets us know Michael is a man of pretty high rank. You've provided good details in setting this festive scene for us. Be careful not to use passive voice. Roars of laughter could be heard is weaker than The crowd roared with laughter.
Good point and great example!!! One of things I find often with my work is I have to go over passages two or three times to pick up on the passive stuff. I think my voice is naturally passive, so I have to work that much harder to make it active.

They reached the main field and dismounted. Michael and Fletch approached the men who were checking armorial bearings and pairing knights for the competition.

“My master, Sir Michael Devereux, wishes to join the list,” Fletch said.

“Devereux, eh? Son of Sir Lucas Devereux?” the balding older man asked. Grease stained the front of his tunic. His beard held the remainders of what looked like more than one meal. Was that a hunk of moldy cheese woven between the snarls? Red rimmed the man’s eyes, and his cheeks were ruddier than pig’s flesh. Dark crescent shaped shadows were smeared beneath his eyes. His sidekick, just as old, but not bald, didn’t fair much better, in fact he looked ready to keel over.
Vibrant description and very fresh. I've never seen ruddier than pig's flesh anywhere else. We read to be surprised and delighted. You're off to a great start. Sidekick tickles my ear as too modern for a medieval. Sure enough. When I checked my online etymology source, it tagged this word as a 1906 invention.
Ruddier than pigs flesh is pretty good huh? It came to me actually from that movie, Babe, while watching it with my daughter, one the characters who kind of looked like a pig had very ruddy skin, more so than her little piggy!

Thanks for the tip on sidekick. I looked up other words, and cohort, was established around 1475… I could use it since it was close enough, or just go with companion…

Michael suppressed the urge to sneer at their disheveled appearances. Apparently the men were enjoying this tourney quite a bit already. Normally, Michael would cheer them on, but his mood was soured as the reason for his being here came to the forefront of his mind.
Watch how often you use -ly words. Here we have two sentences beginning adverbs. Specific nouns and descriptive verbs make for stronger prose.
“ly” words are my enemy!
Repeat after me: "Adverbs are of the devil."

It's been a while since the men asked Michael a question. You might think about having his answer refer back to it. "Aye, Sir Lucas is my sire."
I’m glad you pointed this out, because it was actually something I had thought of, and now that you’re saying it, you’ve confirmed my thoughts!

The men nodded. “You’ll be jousting at mid-day. If you do not arrive at the list fields on time, you will be disqualified.”

He bit back a retort. He was no fledgling. Michael twisted his neck from side to side, trying to ease the tension that made his muscles stiffen. “I understand.”

“Today is the joust, tomorrow—” The man actually swayed in his chair and had to grip the table to catch his bearings. His partner laughed aloud, causing himself to almost topple over.
I really like this beginning. The contrast between your hero and the people he meets is stark. We like Michael for his seriousness of purpose and yet, I get the sense that jousting is not going to satisfy him long. Thanks for letting me take a look at it, Eliza!
Thank you so much Emily for your critique, advice and suggestions, and for allowing me to come on Red Pencil Thursday! This was a lot of fun! Everything you’ve said will really help to make the opening of my story much stronger, and I can use your suggestions for the rest of the manuscript as well!

Eliza's bio:

Eliza Knight is the author of several historical romance and time travel erotic romance novellas. She is also a professional critiquer and presents workshops to writers on craft, research and history. Coming soon--Eliza writes historical fiction under the name Michelle Brandon. Visit Eliza at, or
Thanks for stopping in, everyone. Be sure to leave a comment or question for Eliza today!

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

A Duke for All Seasons

Just posted Chapter 8 of A DUKE FOR ALL SEASONS, my free online novella. But this is a sexy passage and I'm wondering over at if I'm doing all I can to make the internet safe for younger readers. If you have a suggestions, please let me know.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Make Room for WARRIOR on your Shelves

When my first book was published in 2006, Zoe Archer debuted her Lady X's Cowboy with Leisure Books as well. It felt like we were classmates of a sort and Zoe and I have kept in touch since then. Zoe's exciting new offering is THE BLADES OF THE ROSE, a historical/paranormal/adventure series from Kensington (also coincidentally my new publisher!). I think you're going to love it.

Zoe and I sat down over a cup of cyber-joe recently. Here's your chance to listen in:

Emily: Zoe,you hold an MFA in writing. How do you think your academic achievements have contributed to your publishing success?

Zoe: Though it wasn’t easy to get an agent, mentioning my MFA in my query letter definitely helped open some doors. Of course, once the door is open, it’s the quality of the writing that ultimately lands you representation, so I can’t say that the degree made it possible. The MFA program I attended is extremely competitive, and to come from that kind of environment, where writers begrudge someone else’s success, to the world of romance fiction, where the writers are genuinely supportive was a big shock. A welcome shock, but it still amazes me how truly pleased romance writers are for each other when they succeed. At the Golden Heart ceremony at this year’s RWA, people were sobbing—myself included—as the winners came up and wept with joy. You would very seldom find that kind of camaraderie in other genres.

Emily: I know exactly what you mean. Romance writers are the most supportive people in the world. I think it's because we write about love. You've written a wide variety of romance genres since your historical debut in 2006. How did you get from the sedate England of Love in a Bottle to Zombies?

Zoe:Controlled substances.

Emily: *snort*

Zoe: Seriously, though, I always knew that I could never write the more traditional historical romance. Even my so-called straight historicals were kind of out there. I reached kind of a crisis point in writing romance, and I decided to go for broke, and write the kind of romance that I’d always wanted to read but had never found on the shelf. Thus, the Blades of the Rose were born.
Emily: Tell us more about your Blades of the Rose series.

Zoe: The books are set between 1874 and 1875. The British Empire is growing larger and stronger, and there are brutal men calling themselves the Heirs of Albion, who will stop at nothing to ensure Britain’s global supremacy. Unbeknownst to most people, actual magic exists in the world, concentrated in physical objects known as Sources. The Heirs seek out and enslave this magic to help the cause of empire building. Enter the Blades of the Rose, a global secret organization comprised of men and women who protect Sources from exploitation. The odds against the Blades are great, but that never stops them from fighting for their noble cause.

It was wonderful to write the Blades books. For one thing, I was able to set them in some really unique locations: the Mongolian steppes and Gobi desert, the Aegean Sea and the islands in it, the Canadian Rockies, and locations in England not often seen in historical romance (as well as a special location that I can’t reveal yet!). I honored the classic adventure narratives, and added mythology from all around the world. Plus, I threw in a touch of steampunk. The books are also very, very sexy, and that’s a good thing!

Emily: Wow! That's what we call "high concept!" And I love that you're taking us on adventures in some really unusual places. I can't wait to read WARRIOR now! Speaking of very sexy, what will we love about your hero?

Zoe: Captain Gabriel Huntley is utterly delicious. First of all, picture him as a cross between Sean Bean and Daniel Craig. Give him the rough accent of John Thornton from North & South. Then make him a thirteen-year veteran of the British Army, an enlisted man more comfortable with action than words. He hates unfair fights and always sticks up for the underdog. He’s uncomfortable around delicate English ladies, preferring to use his sharpshooting and tracking skills rather than engage in tea table chatter. When WARRIOR opens, Gabriel is returning to England for the first time in over a decade of foreign service. He thinks he wants to settle down and lead a quiet, ordinary life, but when given the opportunity to travel to the other side of the world and have a dangerous adventure, he leaps at the chance—little knowing he will find his perfect woman in the middle of this adventure.

Emily: Yummy! Please describe your writing process.

Zoe: I always start out with a fairly detailed outline. Writers are supposedly divided into plotter and pantser camps. I am definitely a plotter. With complex adventure stories, it’s really important for me to know where I am heading and what needs to happen. There’s room for change, and I have certainly diverged from the outline when necessary, but I never sit down to write actual pages without the outline. I write in 3-chapter blocks, then give the chapters to my critique partner (who is, incidentally, my husband! He’s also a writer.), then revise, give him the whole manuscript when it’s done, get another round of notes, then send it to my agent for her notes. It’s a thorough, deliberate process. Nothing capricious or whimsical about it. I mean business!

Emily: You inspire me to try plotting again. What's next for you?

Zoe: I just sold a new 3-book paranormal historical romance series to Kensington called THE HELLRAISERS. It’s about a group of wild 18th-century rakes who inadvertently free the Devil from his prison and literally raise hell. It’s going to be dark and sexy and I can’t wait to get started on it! Of course, if the Blades books take off, I’m perfectly willing to write four more. *wink*

Emily: I'm perfectly willing to buy every word you write, my dear!

Bio: Zoe Archer is an award-winning romance author who thinks there’s nothing sexier than a man in tall boots and a waistcoat. As a child, she never dreamed about being the rescued princess, but wanted to kick butt right beside the hero. She now applies her master’s degrees in Literature and Fiction to creating butt-kicking heroines and heroes in tall boots. Her BLADES OF THE ROSE series—featuring dashing men and fearless women—will be released Fall 2010. Zoe and her husband live in Los Angeles.

Here’s the link to the Warrior excerpt:

Learn more about Zoe here:


Buy links for Warrior:
Barnes and Noble


Zoe is giving away a signed copy of Warrior to a random commenter so be sure to leave a question or comment for this very talented lady!

Friday, September 10, 2010

Betty Crocker Rides Again

Betty Crocker Rides Again

I'm looking for stealthy healthy recipes to fulfill #7 on my Personal 9 Month Bucket List~ Cook a healthy meal the DH can't tell is healthy. Please join me with your recipes at !

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Red Pencil Thursday with Darcy Carson

Please welcome Darcy Carson, my critique partner from Seattle. Even when I moved away from Seattle, she stuck with me, e-critiquing and giving me appropriate kicks in the rear when I needed it. I can honestly say without the help and encouragement of this fantastic woman, I would not be published. And I'm not the only writer she's helped. NYTimes Bestseller Elizabeth Boyle has sat at Darcy's kitchen table and Darcy was the founder of Eastside RWA, the chapter that really set my feet on the right writing path.

Darcy and I are used to tough love from each other and she knows that this is a smorgasbord. She'll take what she likes and leave the rest. My comments on Darcy's paranormal are in red. Her responses are in purple. Please add yours at the end. ;-)

I like this title because it fits the story well. Since Darcy's been my crit partner, I know a little more about where it's going. Her heroine is a witch sent by a magic policing organization to investigate the hero, who may or may not be dabbling in weather magic. It's an inventive premise and sets Darcy's characters in conflict even as they are drawn to each other.

Chapter One

Was he causing this terrible storm?
I'd love to see a stronger first sentence. Asking a direct question is a gamble because the reader doesn't know enough to care about the answer yet. We don't yet know who he is or why he thinks he might be powerful enough to cause a storm. Maybe a little involuntary dialogue from the hero when lightning strikes near him?
I like the idea of internal dialogue. Maybe something along the lines of: He hated his weather WynnCasts. They might be accurate predications, but he couldn’t control them.
I didn't mean internal. I meant involuntary, like Brax swearing at the weather or something.

The answer frightened Braxton Wynn, lead meteorologist for KIDU TV on Channel 3.
Yesterday on the evening news, when he’d delivered his WynnCast predicting torrential rainfall, Brax had known they didn’t always hold true. But the compulsion to forecast always proved so overwhelming, he couldn’t resist. He never could.
Ok, I've said several times not to start with the weather unless the hero is a meteorologist, but by golly, that's what Darcy has here. So in this case, a weather beginning can work. You've given us a hint that he has a special skill when it comes to weather by mentioning the compulsion he feels when he forecasts. However, I really don't want the first thing I learn about my hero to be that he's afraid. Could he feel something else?
I’ve heard the ‘rule’ not to start with weather, but wasn’t sure how to overcome that problem. At least I didn’t start with ‘It was a dark and stormy night’. I agree about the ‘afraid’ bit. Deep down Brax is probably angry that it has happened again.
Since your hero is a meterologist, you have a free pass on the no weather beginning rule! ;-)

And the rains came.

Now, another urge—stranger, stronger, more compelling—rose within him as he listened to the breaking news of serious flooding south of Seattle. He had to see the damage with his own eyes.
I know sometimes people are looky-loos when it comes to disasters, but I've never thought it seemed like a smart thing to do. Can we give him a better motivation than curiosity? Maybe if he thought he caused it, he might be able to stop it? That would be walking the hero's path.
Dang, Emily, you hit the nail on the head here. My little pea brain didn’t follow through. He drove to Orting to see if he could stop the storm by being in the middle of it.

Three-quarters of an hour later, he turned his truck off the interstate toward Orting, a little town tucked beneath the shadow of Mt. Rainer. For several miles, he followed signs for the designated lahar evacuation route, in case the mountain erupted and a lava or mud flow inundated the valley. At last he reached Orting where the worst of the flooding was being reported.
What's lahar? Is it something most people know that I don't? We've got a bit of a problem because Brax is by himself with no one to talk to. Could he have the radio on and hear a recording of his own voice giving his WynnCast? And then maybe tell himself to shut up or something? I'd like to see dialogue of some kind here. Listening to someone talk is a great to get to know them and we want to know Brax.
A lahar is an Indian word and is actually printed on the evacuation signs. I do like the idea of the radio being on. And I need dialogue much sooner than I currently have. That will solve the problem.
When we were in Seattle, we lived right downtown. We didn't drive all that much then, so I guess I missed those signs. Is the word capitalized on them?

Clouds gave way as he drove the two blocks to the end of town before realizing he’d missed his turn. He pulled a U-turn and looked at the sky that had been behind him; pockets of blue sky taunted him from above. Within minutes the storm had vanished, leaving a soggy disaster in its wake.
Pockets of blue sky. Very fresh. So did he actually cause the storm to dissipate? Or think he may have? It would be ok to let us have a peek inside his head here.
Actually we are in the eye of the storm, but you don’t learn that until later through the heroine’s POV.

Driving over a two-lane bridge, he glanced out the truck’s window at the Puyallup River, filled with raging water, dirty foam, and uprooted trees.
Very clear imagery.
Yeah, I got something right!
You get a lot right, Darcy!

A dorsal fin split the torrent. That couldn’t be a dolphin.

Braxton shook his head to clear his vision. The image didn’t change. A sleek, gray, bullet-shaped animal dipped and swam in the strong current.

Impossible. River dolphins didn’t exist in Washington.
I know what the dolphin signifies because I've seen parts of this story before. I'm trying to read it as if I don't know and this passage comes across as a little confusing. A reader wouldn't be able to puzzle out why it's there or what it means. I'd drop it for now.
Not sure I agree with you on this, Emily. Gotta think about it.
That's ok. This is what I mean when I say RPT is a smorgasbord. What I share is only one person's opinion. The author is the only one who can tell her story, and ultimately is the only one who can decide how it should be told.

He felt that strange compulsion again, that same impulse to drive here. At the far end of bridge he pulled over and parked on the shoulder. Even as he watched, water spilled over an elevated levy and began to surround an old white house nestled next to the bridge, just below him.
Can his compulsion have a physical manifestation? A twinge in his shoulder or a tingle of some sort? Maybe a soft humming when he gets where he's supposed to be? If he's being led by magic of some sort, I'd like it to have a magical feel.
Oh, I like this suggestion, especially the humming that reminds him of a chant.

Brax spotted a lone woman in a bright yellow rain jacket, looking like a Gloucester fisherman, running along the jagged top of the levy. One of her rubber boots stuck in the gooey muck between the rocks. He jumped out of his truck just as she lost her balance on the slick rocks, her arms flailing like a windmill. With a sharp scream that carried over the thunder of millions of gallons of debris-filled water, she fell and disappeared from sight.
Ok, this is where it gets exciting. We've got another person for Brax to interact with. This needs to come sooner. If you start the story with him already in the truck driving through the slanting rain, he could get here much quicker.

A quick word about tightening your prose. Angela James, editor for Carina Press says not every noun deserves an adjective. Jacket has 8 words to support it in your text.
Instead of:
Brax spotted a lone woman in a bright yellow rain jacket, looking like a Gloucester fisherman, running along the jagged top of the levy.
How about:
Brax spotted a woman in a Gloucester fisherman jacket running along the top of the levy.

When action is high, word count should be low. Shorter sentences read faster and communicate urgency.

“Hang on,” he cried. Could she even hear him?
I'd cut Could she even hear him? It's not necessary.
Great editing, Emily. Wish I had thought of this myself.

Racing down the driveway, he leaped a toppled lawn chair and double-timed between scattered trash cans. Pale hands clung to the boulders as unrelenting water twisted and pulled her body. He snagged the hapless woman below the wrist.
Love the action here, especially double-timed. The author's goal is always to surprise and delight our readers with our word choices. A fresh way to express what's happening will keep readers reading.
I agree with you about word choices. Sometimes the words are something we hear everyday and sometimes they just pop into our heads.

“Wynn?” cried Katrina Bishop, KIDU’s newest assistant producer.
Since he knows her, instead of giving us her name in a dialogue tag, why not have it explode out Brax's mouth? That way you show us he's shocked to find her here instead of telling us.
Good point. And an easy fix.

“In the flesh.” He was shocked to find a co-worker here, and how cold and wet her skin felt. His hand began to slip and he lost his grip. Scrambling, he caught her again.
If there's a way to move this action to the beginning of the story, I think you'll have a stronger start. The hero's trying to do something heroic and we like him for it.
I agree wholeheartedly with you, Emily.
It's been a while since I saw any of MAGIC. Thanks for letting me take a crack at it, my friend.

Darcy's bio---Darcy Carson is published in romantic comedy. She founded RWA's Eastside Romance Writers and is on the the board of Pacific Northwest Writers Association where she chairs the annual literary contest. She writes high fantasy with dragons trying to re-establish themselves on a planet where they'd been destroyed thousands of years before and paranormal contemporary with witches who work for the magic police.


Now it's your turn to add your voice to the critique group. What suggestions or encouragements do you have for Darcy?

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

The Makings of a Wall-Banger

You know what I mean. Some books are just destined to become projectiles. But what is it that makes us want to hurl a book across a room?

For me, it's a blatant historical error. Now, no one is perfect, and I'm sure I've committed a few faux pas in my body of work. But getting the history right is something I always aspire to. Research is what I do for fun, so I may set a rather high bar of expectation for other historical writers and for the most part, I'm not disappointed. Historical writers are meticulous because we have to be. Our readership is probably the most knowledgable, most sophisticated of all the romance sub-genres.

That's why I was shocked to my curled toes to find a glaring error in the novel I started yesterday. Nothing will induce me to name the author, but she is a well-known NYTimes Bestseller with plenty of experience under her belt. You would recognize her name. I'll bet you've read her books.

But within the first few pages of this story set in 1824, she reveals that her heroine was adopted.

Impossible. Adoption was not practiced in the UK until well into the 20th century. Fostering, yes. Taking on a ward, absolutely. But no one adopted anyone legally because there were no laws dealing with it. It simply wasn't "the done thing."

Now this NYTimes Bestseller gives her readers the feel of the period. She uses all the right slang--phaetons driving neck-for-nothing and rakes trying to "turn the girls up sweet." She knows how to properly address a duchess. The fashions and food are all there in appropriate measure.

But underlying it all, there's something terribly important from history that's missing. How the people thought about themselves. The reason there was no adoption at the time is because bloodlines were everything to the upper crust. A man was born to a certain station and that was pretty much that. If he had a privileged birth, he expected lesser mortals to give way. It had nothing whatever to do with which of them was the better man. The higher ranking one was assumed to be.

In one of Jo Beverley's books (and she's someone whose historical accuracy I trust implicitly!), when her titled hero finds himself without shoes, he demands and gets the shoes off the feet of the man who just freed him from a rather nasty place of confinement. The other fellow--a stranger to the hero--doesn't hesitate for a blink. The man of rank is the one who, by right of birth, ought to have his shoes. How they perceived themselves dictated their actions.

History is more than the stuff people surrounded themselves with. It's what they read and thought about and believed about themselves and their world. That's what motivates their actions in a way that the mere outward trappings can't. I get excited when a writer gives me something more than a costume drama. I love to climb inside someone else's life and try it on, odd old ideas and all.

And no, I didn't really hurl the NYTimes Bestseller's book across the room. (The only one I've ever really done that to is Nicholas Sparks' Message in a Bottle because he resorted to making his hero an imbecile who did something completely out of character rather than have a happy ending and therefore be guilty of penning a real romance!) Once my hackles settled this time, I decided the bit of fluff Ms. NTTimes writes never hurt anyone and the story is charming.

But my sense of suspended disbelief is gone. I'm waiting for the next nasty little mole of historical inaccuracy to pop up its pointed litttle head.

How about you? Do you have any pet peeves about books? What will yank you so far out of the story there's no going back?

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Branding and Platform and Point of Difference, Oh My!

Hello! I'm blogging at today and my topic is developing a web presence. It's about how authors come across online. If you have a suggestion or opinion, I'd love to hear from you!

Thanks so much to everyone who popped by Brava Authors yesterday for my first blog on that site. It was such fun to see you there!

Monday, September 6, 2010

Improper Thoughts at Brava Authors

Today is my first time to blog as Mia Marlowe on the Brava Author's group blog and since it's a holiday, I'm afraid I'll hear plenty of crickets chirping. If you have a minute, please click over to and share your favorite silly bit of "purple prose."

You'll also get to see my fabulous new cover for TOUCH OF A THIEF (May 2011).

Happy Labor Day from a working man's daughter!

Friday, September 3, 2010

Odds and Ends Friday

First we have some winners from previous days to announce:

Barbara Monajem's winner: Sherrie Hansen

Jade Lee's winner: Daz

Thanks to everyone who left a comment on those days and made my guests feel so welcome! Please contact me, ladies, through my website with your snailmail info and I'll see that the authors receive your information.

Next I want to share that I'm blogging at my Mia Marlowe site today with an update on my 9 Month Bucket List progress, whether my DH's job is safe in the coming merger of his company and a tease about my virgin Brava Authors blog. Hope you'll pop in for a bit at and if you haven't clicked to follow me there, I hope you'll consider doing so.

Have a safe and happy Labor Day weekend and stay out of Earl's way!

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Red Pencil Thursday with Anna Bowling

Our volunteer today is Anna Bowling, author of postapocalyptic medieval romances (try saying that three times fast!) She's a hard worker who gets excited about good rejections--a perfect candidate for Red Pencil Thursday. A writer needs a teachable spirit and a willingness to try different options.

My comments are in red. Anna's responses are in purple. Please add your comments and suggestions as well.


The point of a title is to give the reader a hint about what's to come. A draper was a cloth merchant/weaver and the term first surfaced in the 14th century, so it has a medieval feel. However, if this a postapocalyptic story, this title doesn't convey any sense of danger or "other-ness." I wonder if anyone has a suggestion that will juice the title up a bit?
Title suggestions are very much welcome. This is a road story, with Draperwood being the name of a haven that may or may not exist.
Maybe something with Quest in it or Return or Finding

England, 1361

John de Warre needed nobody and nobody needed him. That fact gave him some measure of comfort, enough to keep him moving through one day after the next. He rode toward the town, or the remains of the town, weary in body and soul and with absolutely no illusions that it would afford him the rest he needed. For too many days, he’d ridden beneath the elements, his packs and stomach far from full. If it weren't for the horse, he would have stopped and in time, death would find him.

John de Warre--terrific name. You've introduces us to an archetypal hero--The Loner. We like John because even though he "needed nobody" he has a care for his horse.

I’m glad John’s name works. Finding the right name for a character lets me grab onto them. He is a loner, but he’s not beyond hope if he’s considering the horse’s needs.

He did not fear death for himself. He would not seek it, but he would not flee it either. A moment's ignorance could do it. A sudden storm if there were no shelter. Or running afoul of bandits who might be anywhere, even more desperate for the little he carried than he was himself. Starvation could do it, or thirst, or sheer exhaustion blinding him to a wrong step that could lead to a fatal fall. He'd seen death come even quicker than that, a second’s inattention in battle, or a single boil heralding a fever that could empty a house or a town in less than a week.

Things like that could empty a life as well. They had emptied his. No use whining about that. All he could count on were his own strong arm, keen eye and enough intelligence to know that those were valuable tools.

Ok. Now I'm depressed. There are a few too many ways to die enumerated here and none of them mean much to John except the fever. That's the only one we need to know about, because it impacted our hero.

Good point. Establishing a bleak atmosphere is one thing; depressing readers is another. Sticking to what matters most keeps the focus where it belongs. The death list goes.

His dry tongue rasped and stuck against the roof of his mouth. He didn’t regret giving the horse the last of his water, even if it meant his own thirst.

Have you ever been truly thirsty? In addition to the symptoms you listed here, a person's esophagus dries out, making it almost impossible to swallow. Fatigue, muscle cramps, headache, nausea, increased heart rate, the list goes on. He just touted his own intelligence. Giving the horse the last of his water doesn't demonstate it. Even though he likes his horse, he'd regret it, I promise you.

Smacking myself in the head here. I have had experience with dehydration (heat stroke, oh so fun) so this is a good chance to draw on that. John might still end up giving the horse the water, but he would regret it.

A compassionate gesture, some might call it, but for John it was a practical one. A dead horse would attract bandits, and once they were done picking the carcass clean, they would follow his trail, better nourished and better equipped than a lone man on foot. Death by bandits would be his last choice. There were better ways.

There's a logic problem here. If they butcher the horse, the bandits would be there a while. Long enough for John to reach the town even on foot... provided dehydration doesn't get him.

That sounds a lot more logical, and more John-like. He might take into consideration that the bandits would need time to butcher the horse, and they can’t do that and chase him, but how far would he get without water?

Starvation and disease would require the least effort on his part, and he’d seen their effectiveness. Trouble was, they took too long and he’d had enough of the pain and desperation either would bring. His knife had a long, sharp blade, good for hunting and dressing the meat. He’d heated it over a fire and cauterized his own wounds with it. If he had no other options, he could draw it across his own throat and be done with it all, but unless he had no other choice, he wouldn’t take his own life outside a city, or the remains of one.

I'm afraid you're spending too long on ways to die. I'd rather know more about why John is considering it in such minute detail. The best hook a writer can set is an emotional one. John is indifferent about death. If he doesn't care, we won't either. Give us a hint of what's driving him forward and we'll follow.

The death list definitely gets cut. His preoccupation with death comes from a desire to be with his wife and their child again, having lost his family in the plague, which wars with his sense of honor and his faith that tells him actively taking his own life is wrong. Which would be much more interesting than listing ways death might find him.
Now you have my complete attention. We love wounded heroes. And a hero who has loved deeply can love again, if he lets himself. The journey back to a full life can mirror his journey to Draperwood.

His eyes scanned the horizon for signs of life, his ears pricked for any hints of sounds of the living. Voices, maybe, or turning wheels. A dog’s bark. The cluck of chickens. Anything that wasn’t the wind. Then he heard the bell.

Good sensory details. When you write historicals, purists will ding you for using words that sound too modern. Scanned leaped out at me, so I checked with the Etymology Dictionary. It was in use during the 14th century, but it meant to "mark off by foot" not to look at intently. It was another 100 years before it meant that. So you're close here, but to my ears it still sounds too modern for a medieval. How about "His gaze swept..."? Notice I changed the eyes to gaze because I have a thing about roaming body parts. We don't want his eyes going anywhere.
Thanks much. His eyes stay in his head and his gaze can do the sweeping. Will add the Etymology Dictionary to my resources.

The bell! Aline dropped her mending and whirled to grab her shawl from the peg by the door.

You have a gift for selecting evocative details, but because your hero is alone, we're left only with internal dialogue and no conflict.

I'd like to suggest that you've started this story in the wrong place. As it stands, we have John by himself, ruminating over ways to die. However, the bell signals something is about to happen. That's were the story should start since I suspect John and Aline are shortly going to meet because of the bell. That's where you should begin. There will be dialogue and conflicting goals between the two characters.
That’s definitely something to consider. John and Aline do meet shortly after the bell sounds, and its sounding indicates something other than what Aline thinks it does.

This is a common problem. I chopped 12 pages from the beginning of ERINSONG, my second novel. It was like I was clearing my throat trying to get the story started. But nothing is ever wasted on a writer. Because you've written this, you know a lot about John's state of mind. However, the author always needs to know more than she shares. When he meets Aline, there will be opportunity to pepper in how he's feeling about life and death.
Very good point. Not everything we know about a character needs to go in the actual story, and choosing the right bits to use when introducing the character can make a big difference.

Thanks for letting me take a look at DRAPERWOOD.

Thank you for the opportunity. Now I’m even more excited about digging in and revising.

The whole point of a critique is to find new ways to think about our work, new directions our story might take, fresh ways of presenting our ideas. If I gave you something to think about, I'm delighted.

My bio: Anna Carrasco Bowling has finally found a way to make the voices in her head pay rent. Currently living with her real life hero in the Northeast US, she spends her days plotting world domination...okay, time travel and historical romance that takes the dark road to happily ever after.

Anna's blog:

Ok, it's time for you to add your suggestions and encouragement for Anna. I look forward to reading your comments.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Wicked Surrender by Jade Lee

I first ran into Jade Lee at RT. If you've ever met this talented lady, you won't forget her. In a sea of trembling introverts (which pretty much describes most writers), she's the one most likely to be dancing on a table. You never have to wonder what Jade is thinking. She'll tell you. It's part of what I love about her. I think you'll love her too.

Take it away, Jade!

Well, since Emily and I are such good pals, I'm going to put her on the spot! Ready? Okay, Emily, back at RWA nationals in Orlando, our keynote speaker Jayne Ann Krentz told us to know what our core story is. In other words, what is the story that always seems to appeal to you as a writer? Or even as a reader? So...Emily!! Did you think about it? Do you know?

Emily: Yeah, if someone didn't know me, based on my books, they'd think I was a repressed, oversexed bluestocking with daddy issues. But enough about me. Today is all about you, girlfriend.

I puzzled over it for a while, but eventually I realized that I just love giving my heroine the choice between two good but very different men. As in, would you choose security with a man who loves you or passion with the man who doesn't? An easier life as a respectable woman or an exciting life of topsy turvy adrenaline in the moment?

I think it all harks back to my college romance where I had two guys,, who were interested in me. The first was Simon who was a fellow extrovert. Being with him was exciting, passionate, and a huge roller coaster ride of exhausting fun/pain. The other was David who was like coming home to hot chocolate cookies and settling in for a nice night of good television. He was warm and accepting, and I was never more peaceful than when I was with him. In the end, I picked David and have never regretted the choice. But sometimes I wonder if Simon and I could have sustained something lasting. I think not. We were too hot as it was, and after just a couple months the lows were getting bad. Still, it's fun to remember those wild college nights!

The heroine of my new historical WICKED SURRENDER has just that choice. Respectable marriage with a sweet man. (Well, in his case, he's really more of a boy). And passion with someone who loves her with a kind of madness, whose touch excites her, and who is not offering marriage. Here's the book trailer.

So tell me what you think! Have you ever faced a choice like this? One lucky commentor will get a Jade Lee book!

Thanks again for dropping by, Jade.

If you'd like to learn more about Jade's work, check out her websites: / (See. I'm not the only one with more than one pen name!) Be sure to look for Wicked Surrender by Jade Lee on Sept 10, and Taking Care of Business by Kathy Lyons on Nov 10th.

And leave a comment today for your chance at one of Jade's books!