Monday, May 31, 2010

What I Learned in the Blogathon

May has been a month of blogging for the Word Count's May 2010 Blogathon. I was already blogging daily, so that wasn't new for me. Nevertheless, I have learned several.things:

1. I have discovered several new blogs I enoy. Another way to avoid work--not that I ever procrastinate, you understand. Yeah, right!.

2.  Blogging is work. Yes, blogging every day requires digging for subjects. Not that I have trouble rattling on and on, mind you, but finding something others might find interesting is a challenge..

3. The cyberworld is not my friend, but it can work for me. With help from my daughters and husband, that is. We all need help sometimes, right?

4. When I think about writing 365 posts, it's sounds impossible. One a day sounds easier. Yes, I sometimes play mind games with myself. Occasionally, it even works.

5. Organizing an event like the 2010 Blogathon must be a real headache for Michelle Rafter. Thank goodness she did it for us. Sometimes it's better to be a follower than a leader.

Tomorrow, June 1st, I'll announce the winner of my May Blogathon Contest. Today is your last chance to leave a comment to enter. Signing on as a follower counts as a second entry. Hurry, hurry!

Also, tomorrow begins my participation in the Summer Reading Trail 2010.
As you celebrate your extra day off from work, please remember the reason for our holiday. Pray for all those who are in the armed services now and give thanks for those who died so that we can be free.

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Where Do You Work Best?

When I first began writing, I worked for a newspaper and did most of my writing at home. My "office" was a corner of the garage. Needless to say, it lacked ambiance. Didn't matter to me--I just.pounded out my articles on an old IBM Selectric.

I remember a quote from Louis L'Amour that he could write sitting on a folding chair on the median at Hollywood and Vine in Hollywood CA. I'll bet he could have, too. He was a great writer whose books I reread. In fact, Hero and I have a section of our bedroom bookcase reserved for Louis L'Amour books.

Through the years, my office space has evolved. Now I have taken over Darling 2's former bedroom. I call it my pink cave, because the walls are a little brighter pink than we planned. When I took over the room, Darling 2 redecorated it with lovely prints suited to a romance writer--a Victorian cherub, hearts, pink roses (my favorite), and a Monet Water Lily print. Very soothing!. One wall is mostly family photos, another holds prints of my book covers.  A couple of bookcases hold my :"keeper" books. It's a pleasant writing retreat. Definitely a step up from a corner of the garage, right?  Of course, the room is not entirely mine. Our three cats share it with me. I doubt they care what color the walls are or what's hanging on them, as long as the litter box is clean and the food and water bowls are full. Hero and I are the cat's staff and they don't tolerate slow service.

The point of this article is that a nice office makes writing more comfortable and more pleasant, but it's not necessary to a writer. We write because we just can't help ourselves. LOL

The late science fiction writer Warren Norwood taught writing classes. He said the most important tool for a writer is a comfortable chair. I can agree. Sitting at a computer (or typewriter if you have to) all day leaves your back, shoulders, and neck in kinks. Sure, I could write while sitting on a folding chair, but thank goodness I don't have to!

Talented romance writer Lorraine Heath once said her dream place to write would be an office in the Texas hill country with a huge picture window to look out on a pastoral landscape. Sounds great, doesn't it? I think of the tree at the top of my blog as my window. Darling 1 took the photo. That giant tree soothes and invites me to sit in the shade under its limbs and curl up with a good book. Yeah, in my daydreams I can ignore fire ants' existence.And bugs n general. But can you see what I mean about inviting?

Romance writer and radio celebrity Candace Havens said she does most of her writing in a recliner with her laptop balanced on a pillow on her lap. And she can write while watching TV. Yikes! Talk about using both sides of your brain and multi-tasking.

Do you have to have a special place to write or pursue your hobbies? Do you require quiet or can you shut out noise?

Don't forget to leave a comment to be entered in my May giveaway. Join as a follower for a second chance to win. If you don't win the May contest, return and enter my weekly June contests.

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Why A Time Travel?

A nice long weekend to relax and be with family. What could be better? I hope you have time to read a good book. Like OUT OF THE BLUE, hint, hint.

Someone asked me today why I wrote a time travel. My belief is a writer should writer the kind of book he or she likes to read. One type book I love is time travel romance. The first one I read was by Kathleen Kane. I fell in love with the concept and read every one of her books I could find. Then I met Diana Gabaldon. What a great lady, researcher, and writer! I bought all of her books, too. A bookseller I trust suggested Janet Chapman’s series on Scots warriors who were transported mid-battle to the U.S. What fun!

Writing is more involved than reading. Even a contemporary novel usually requires research to set up the world the writer will describe. My husband and I took our dream trip to Ireland and fell in love with the country. We also love our home state of Texas. What better than to combine the two? The heroine of OUT OF THE BLUE is from 1845 Ireland while the hero is a Texas police detective in the fictional city of Radford Springs. The town’s name sounds logical, right? What sounds fictional is the actual lake, Possum Kingdom Lake. Yep, I’m serious, the name is genuine. Not only that, it’s a beautiful lake. And there really is a cliff formation called Hell’s Gate.

The name comes from the early Anglo trappers in the area who trapped possums for their fur and also bought hides from the Comanches. Two trappers decided to steal from some Comanches they’d traded with, and were killed. Apparently someone survived to report that before they died, one of the trappers said “he’d see Hell’s Gate before he returned” the hides to the Comanches. The cliff formation is named for him, sort of a posthumous tribute to his stupidity.

I hope you enjoy time travel romances, too. I’ll include a copy of mine in the prize drawing on June 1st. You have until 11:59 pm on May 31st to enter. If you don’t win, don’t worry, in June I’ll have weekly drawings. To enter either, you simply comment on my blog and include your email address. If you sign up as a follower, that counts as an extra entry. Couldn’t be easier.

Have a safe and happy Memorial Day. Don’t forget the reason for the holiday.

Friday, May 28, 2010

These Are A Few Of My Favorite Things . . . Blogs, That Is

As I've been learning all about cyber-promotion for my current release, OUT OF THE BLUE, I've come across some clever blogs, beautiful blogs, helpful blogs, and a few pretty weird blogs. No point mentioning the weird ones, right? You've probably alreaady noticed there are several blogs listed on the right of this set up, but I decided to share some of my favorites with you today and hope you'll check them out. There are far too many great blogs for me to list all of them here, (that's my excuse to anyone I miss) but these are a few:

Stephanie Suesan Smith writes Texas gardening, pets, photography and miscellaneous.
Beth Trissell writes an informative and refreshing blog. Lovely photos, great research.
Celia Yeary is a Texas girl--like me--and I love her "Romance . . .And A Little Bit O' Texas" blog.
West of Mars will lead you to Susan Helene Gottfried's site Win A Book What's better than free stuff?
Petticoats And Pistols is for anyone who loves western historicals. See me waving my hand? I love them!
Slip Into Something Victorian is the perfect site for anyone who loves historicals set in the Victorian era. Me! They're the ladies who conjured up the Civil War anthology NORTHERN ROSES AND SOUTHERN BELLES. Great cover by Nicola Martinez of The Wild Rose Press. You might notice that's my name in the author list.
Author Roast And Toast is a fun Friday blog with fun ladies. I'll be roasted and toasted June 4th. I'm already  squirming. No problem, they'll serve margaritas. That will calm me.
Hywela Lyn is a Welsh lady living in England whose heart is in her special corner of the universe.
Roses of Prose is hosted by five lovely ladies.
Hearts Through History is online chapter that hosts "Seduced By History" and incorporates blogs from numerous members of the online chapter and guests.
The Wild Rose Press will give you the option to click on Blogs on the lower right links. Then you can choose between several blogs of editors and authors of various genres.
Skhye Moncreif is another fun author with a beautiful site.
Savvy Authors hosts authors on their blog--like me on May 30th!
Sky Purington is a generous lady who hosts lots of other authors--as she did for me on May 21. Beautiful blog matches her name..
Coffee Time Romance hosts numerous authors. I'll be there on June 11. Grab a cup of coffee and join me.
Sharon Donovan is a courageous author who not only is a good writer, but is blind from diabetic retinopathy.

I'm only getting started. There are so many great blogs and websites, it would be possible to surf the web all day. I suspect some people do just that for entertainment. Great. Those of us who write need readers!

I hope you'll comment on my blog. I have a grand prize (at least I think it's grand) I'll be giving away June 1st to someone who commented in May. In June, I'll be awarding a weekly prize all month. To enter, leave a comment which includes your email. Sign on as a follower and that counts as a second entry. Easy peasy, right? Free stuff!

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Family History as Story Material

Don't forget, dear friends, my May 31 prize giveaway is drawing near!!! Each comment on a May blog enters you in the drawing. Signing up as a follower counts a second entry. Be sure and include your email address and tell me if you also signed up as a follower. I'll draw early on June 1st.

Now to talking about family history as story material. You realize, I'm sure, that I don't want you to write a book in which all your relatives appear in their most annoying form. No, we do have to continue to be a part of our family. My intent is to suggest that events in the life of someone in your family may spark an idea for a character or a plot. For instance, my grandmother once told me a short anecdote about a girl her age in her little village in Tennessee. The girl had a horrid life and the other kids taunted her mercilessly. The girl quit school rather than be subjected to the ridicule. My grandmother's story touched me and I thought how nice it would have been if that little girl had found a better life after her years of misery. That sparked the character of Pearl in THE MOST UNSUITABLE WIFE.  

Darling 1 has decided to write a nonfiction book about an event that happened to my grandfather, who had to shoot someone to defend himself and his family. Unfortunately, the man he killed was his wife's uncle. Not a pleasant story, but one that began years before at the end of the Civil War with family animosity. Apparently, my grandparents were from feuding families and left Georgia for Texas in an attempt to escape the anymosity.

I am amazed at the number of historical writers who use events in their family. My friend Jeanmarie Hamilton has a fascinating family tree that includes many early Texas settlers. Ashley Kath-Bilsky's ancestor was an early Pinkerton agent.

Family lore can apply to contemporary writers, too. How many of us see tragic things happen to relatives and recognize a chain of events as a cause. Why not rewrite life and create a happy ending? 

What about your family history? I'll bet you have the seeds for innumerable stories.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Selling Your Manuscript

A friend called me tonight to ask about an offer she received for her manuscript. A so-called  "publisher" wants to publish her book. The catch is, she would have to preorder a hundred books at ten dollars each. Yes, that's a thousand dollar investment on her part before her book ever goes to press. She wanted my opinion. Guess what I told her? Don't even consider that an offer!

Writers often fall prey to the few pirhanas in the publishing industry. We want readers to read our work, want to hold a copy of our baby in our hands. It's hard to go the traditional publishing route where either you must have an agent and/or you wait months to hear whether your book is accepted for contract. In fact, I've had manuscripts get lost at publishers. One I submitted four years ago has never received a rejection. Fortunately for me, it will be released September 3rd from The Wild Rose Press--an author-friendly press who value their authors and treat them well.

The Internet makes it easy to set oneself up as a publisher. Many small presses have overestimated the ease of being a publisher and have gone belly up, leaving their authors dangling. The cardinal rule in publishing is this:

                          If they ask you to pay, run away!

And by run, I mean fast! No reputable publisher asks money from its authors. The publisher provides the covers, marketing, editing, everything. Never fall for the "Oh, but we have expenses" line. Are they a reputable business or not? If they are, they have procedures in place to take care of the author's manuscript from reading to release.

I have to share that I love working with The Wild Rose Press. The covers are great, the editors are knowledgeable and gracious, and the marketing is well managed. Plus, the owners are author-friendly and strive to make this house a family. I like that. I have enjoyed all the interaction I've experiences with the owners, editors, staff and other authors. Many friends who write for other small presses are also happy.

Whatever your choice, consider wisely before you sign a contract. The advance offered by major houses is lovely. Small presses can't match that aspect, but there are many reputable small presses. No matter what you choose, never, never, never pay out of pocket to have your manuscript published.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Book Review--The Girl on Legare Street

With THE GIRL ON LEGARE STREET, author Karen White delivers another winning paranormal to delight readers. Her earlier book, THE HOUSE ON TRADD STREET began the story of Melanie Middleton and Jack Trenholm with Melanie inheriting an antebellum mansion and the return of her father. THE GIRL ON LEGARE STREET continues that story with the return of Melanie's famous opera singer mother, Ginnette Prioleau Middleton, from whom Melanie has been estranged since Ginnette abandoned Melanie thirty years ago. Ginnette wants a reconciliation, but Melanie is not ready to forgive, in spite of the little girl inside her crying for her mommy.

Melanie sees and talks to dead people. She even receives phone calls from her dead grandmother. Ginnette is an empath, which is why she always wears gloves to protect her from vibrations picked up through her fingertips. Ginnette has returned to Charleston because she senses Melanie is in danger. She's correct! Jack, Melanie, and Ginnette combine forces to protect one another from a perilous foe..

Author Kerrelyn Sparks calls this book "Southern Living Meets Southern Unliving. A Lovely Read That's Elegant, Spooky, Romantic, And Scary." I wholeheartedly agree. Karen White is an amazing author whose work includes the subtle, dry humor I love. She perfectly captures today's Southern living--and I don't mean the magazine. I highly recommend this book to anyone who loves a good paranormal with romance and mystery--and dead people.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Joy Of Writing

I'm excited about a new WIP (work in progress) and am fortunate to have friends whose encouragement propels my enthusiasm. I love writing my stories,escaping into someone else's life, and creating the appropriate outcome for each character--depending on whether it's a hero, heroine, or villain. When I'm writing, it's as if these are real people whose life I'm recording, not something plucked from my imagination. Other days, writing requires delving deeper and a fair share of daydreaming.  I love the quote from Meg Chittendon that goes:

"Many people hear voices when no one is there. Some of them are called mad and shut up in rooms where they stare at walls all day. Others are called writers, and they do pretty much the same thing."

Along the same line, I've saved a copy of the Sunday funnies that shows the character Shoe sitting at his desk staring off into space for several frames. When someone speaks to him, he says, "Can't you see I'm writing?"

It's true that along with the joy of creating, writers face times of planning and plotting. We arrange parts of the story in our minds so that the ideas will flow to our fingers. One of my critique partners, Jeanmarie Hamilton, and I tease one another that we have to keep our fingers flying across the keys. Many days that's more easily said than practiced.

I try to write at least five pages each day. Some days I far exceed that--my all-time record being 48 pages in a very, very long day. Other days, life jumps up and grabs me by the throat. Those days are lost for my stories with zero productivity. I try not to dwell on the interruptions life presents--and there are a lot of those. The important thing for me is to keep my tush in my desk chair and my fingers flying across the keys.

To qualify for my May 31st prize give away, leave a comment. If you also sign on as a follower, that counts as an additional entry. Be sure to include your email address in your comment.

My time travel romantic suspense OUT OF THE BLUE is now available from The Wild Rose Press and Amazon. Please let me know if you enjoy it. Okay, also let me know if you do not enjoy reading it.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Reading, Writing, and . . . Magic

I've been reading a lot, spending time not dedicated to writing by pursuing reading my favorite authors. As well, I've been reading books by new authors and trying to analyze why that book sold. Sometimes I haven't a clue, frankly, other than perhaps the editor was in an unusually optimistic or cheerful mood the day the book crossed her desk. Other times I identify an element that propels me forward in the book, immersed and turning pages when I know I should stop and do a load of laundry, start supper, or go to sleep. Those are the books I think about, wondering how to craft mine with that degree of reader involvement.
I've had people tell me they'll give me a story idea if I'll write the book and split the royalties with them. Yeah, right. Coming up with story ideas is easy--I have enough to last me until I'm at least two hundred years old. Implementing the idea into a completed manuscript takes planning and perseverance. Achievein a completed work which entices readers requires magic. My magic wand is still beside my computer monitor. Hmmm, I hope my supply of fairy dust is sufficient.

My latest book, OUT OF THE BLUE, is now available from The Wild Rose Press or from Amazon. Cost is $14.99 for print (I have nothing to do with pricing, folks) and electronic download is $7.00. This is a paranormal time travel romance with suspense elements. Dierdre Dougherty is an Irish clairvoyant herbal healer who leaps from a cliff in 1845 to escape a dangerous man. She lands over 160 years later in a Texas lake beside the bass boat of police detective Brendan Hunter, who is out to solve the murder of his best friend and partner. Can Deirdre help Brendan solve this case?

Graphic by Webweaver

Saturday, May 22, 2010

He Said/She Said--Good Or Bad?

Don't forget to comment on this blog this month to be eligible for a time-related prize give away on May 31st! An Etsy steampunk watch necklace(the time) , a basket from Bath & Body Works (time to relax), and a download of my new paranormal time release, OUT OF THE BLUE  (time to read) will be given to one lucky commenter.

My critique partners and I talk about writing and what we like and don't like about particular techniques. Not too long ago we were discussing dialogue in general and tag lines (attribution) specifically. We noticed that more and more writers are omitting "he said/she said" and using either action, body language or the POV (point of view) character's thoughts in place of an attribution tag. My primary critique partners and I prefer this method. I believe the story flows better and is more natural, pulling the reader into the scene.

That's why I was surprised when a couple of writers mentioned they don't like this method. They thought "he said/she said" was invisible and they prefer pared down scenes with as little description as possible. They don't care to read body language at all. Another multi-published author friend mentioned that action such as "she nodded" or "he shrugged" annoys her. She prefers an adverb such as "he said menacingly," but tags like that annoys me.

Writing for publication constantly changes and evolves. Spelling changes, comma use decreases, and so forth. Keeping up requires study and flexibility. It appears that no matter how much a writer studies craft and technique, personal likes and dislikes shape his or her writing. Even though being a writer changes the way a person reads for pleasure, each of us was a reader before he or she became a writer. What an author enjoys reading shapes his or her perception of how he or she should write.

Keep reading good books!

Friday, May 21, 2010

Courting You Muse

Gene Fowler said, "Writing is easy. All you have to do is stare at a blank sheet of paper until the drops of blood form on your forehead."

What activates your muse? Do you have to court it? Darling Daughter 1 gave me a magic wand to help with my writing. Some days it works; some days it's broken. Okay, maybe I don't really believe the want is magic, but it is pretty.  I keep it by my monitor. After all, it couldn't hurt a person, could it? Each of us needs a little magic in our writing, right? Maybe a fairy would shower that extra sparkle into our work?

Many writers use music to set the mood for their particular work in progress. One friend downloads songs that she feels set the mood for her day's writing.  I find that anything with lyrics detracts from my concentration. Classical music, especially Mozart, sets a nice rhythm for my keystrokes. In fact, I am a fan of Don Campbell's book, MOZART EFFECT, and have the accompanying Cd's. I also listen to chakra aligning CD's, again strictly instrumental. By the time I finish a day's writing, my chakras should be a hundred percent on target.

Experts have stated that music imparts a rhythm to our text that communicates to the reader. Who knows? Each individual responds differently. Pachelbel's "Canon" soothes me. My favorite copy is on a two-CD set entitled "The Most Relaxing Classical Music in The Universe." Isn't that a lofty claim? The Cd's are so enjoyable, however, I have a spare set for the time when these Cd's expire from overuse.  After all, I can't risk displeasing my muse.

Getting away from the computer for a couple of hours might revitalize your creativity. Or do you need a few days away to contemplate? Stress can suffocate our muse. A little R and R never hurts, does it?

Reading also stimulates my muse and gets her contemplating new possibilities. Now, I do NOT mean that I am copying anyone! In fact, when working on a project, I read the opposite type of literature so even my subconscious can't plagiarize. Rather reading relaxes me by taking me away so my creativity surfaces. If a book is particularly well-written and captivating, I read it a second time to analyze the craft techniques.

A muse is not just for writers. No matter what the artistic endeavor, a muse is needed for inspiration. Each of us has a method for courting our muse. What works for you?

Thursday, May 20, 2010

The Green, Green Hills of Ireland

My latest release, OUT OF THE BLUE, is a time travel romance with suspense elements. The heroine, Deirdre Dougherty is an Irish clairvoyant herbalist and healer who travels from 1845 Ireland to drop into our time. I thought I’d set the mood by discussing the first trip Hero and I took to Ireland.

Do you love green rolling hills, thatched cottages, corner pubs, and friendly people? Who doesn’t love those things? Which is why Ireland is a great travel destination. Unless you're a smoker--public smoking is no longer allowed in Ireland. Great for people with allergies, like Hero and me. Not great if you're a pack a day person who has no intention of quitting.

The Irish are friendly to Americans. After so many Irishmen emigrated to America, Irish citizens seem to consider that visitors from the U.S. are only coming “home” for a visit. Hero and I found open, welcoming people wherever we traveled in Ireland. As they should be. After all, our ancestry includes many Scot-Irish, and we were visiting the old country.

Our first visit was through Brendan Tours, and Willie Guilfoyle was our driver and guide. His knowledge of Irish history amazed us. In other trips since then, no guide has been as well informed as Willie. In fact,on all counts Brendan Tours is a lovely group with whom to travel.

Flying in to Shannon airport, the verdant landscape surprised me. I’d heard about the Emerald Isle, but was unprepared for the landscape's vibrant shades of green. In travels across the United States, Canada, Mexico, the UK, and western Europe, I have to say that Ireland is the prettiest spot we’ve seen. In fact, I wanted to move into a lovely cottage in Adare, but my husband dragged me to the rest of our tour. In subsequent trips, we've noticed the country is changing since the adoption of the Euro and entrance into the European Common Market. This has brought Europeans buying up land and building houses as vacation homes.

The food was superb. Irish dairy products are the best I've ever eaten--even tastiet than in Switzerland. Fresh wild salmon is often served. Potatoes are served with everything in the evening, often in two dishes such as boiled new potatoes and mashed potatoes at the same meal. Carrots and parsnips mashed together--the thought of which gagged me until I ate it--turned out to taste delicious. Strict guidelines are in place to protect the Irish environment. Only clean businesses are invited. (Once at home when we booked an American hotel, the registration agent was in Ireland. No toxic waste from a phone call.)
We couldn't miss Blarney Castle and the Blarney Stone. Hero climbed to the top and kissed the stone—not an easy feat. To accomplish this, he had to lie on his back partially suspended over a wall and tilt his head to kiss the opposite wall. Fortunately, there was an assistant to keep him from plunging to his death. Me? I waited at the bottom of the 110 steps for Hero's return. After all, no one in my family needs to actually kiss the Blarney Stone. We were born with the gift of (sometimes creative) gab!

We also attended several Ceilidhs. These are musical parties. Dancers and singers are always accompanied by violinists. Usually the music also includes the bhodran (hand drum), harmonica, concertina or accordian, and the Irish bagpipe. Differing from the Scots, an Irish piper pumps the bellows between his ribs and his arm and the sound is sweeter than from the Scottish cousin. Sometimes a guitar or a banjo completes the accompaniment.The Ceilidh is a cheerful and fun way to spend an evening..

Across Ireland, we saw celtic crosses either as tombstones or decoration. Beside the roads in many places are creches dedicated to the Virgin Mary. Ruins from when the English destroyed Roman Catholic chapels litter the country. I hate to make general statements, but I consider the Irish to be religious and most to be Catholic. We stopped at the site of miraculous healing at the Chapel in Knoch. Nuns will pray for you and you can fill out a card to let friends and family know you’ve placed them on the special daily prayer list. Blessed water is also for sale.

Dublin is a bustling city formed where once sat a Viking stronghold. The town’s name means black pool. Dublin is a modern city with cheerful businesses and lots of flower boxes and hanging baskets brightening up the streets. Most homes have lovely gardens and hanging baskets. Although we entered through Shannon airport, we departed from Dublin on our first visit. 

One thing to remember, not every place has air conditioning to which we in the United States have become accustomed. For this reason, you might want to avoid the high summer months. We usually travel in May or September. The weather is still fine, but not as hot as in July and August.
Our visits were all too short. Next time, we plan to rent a cottage, purchase a rail pass, and spend a month in Ireland. Hmmm, I wonder if that cottage in Adare is available?

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Love My Book?

Yesterday I received print copies of my new book, OUT OF THE BLUE, from The Wild Rose Press. I was elated to have the actual book in my hand. The cover is great; the people at TWRP were lovely to work with. Now all I have to worry about is how readers will receive this book. Picture me wringing my hands and looking worried. Will readers like my baby?

Most writers have fragile egos. We want everyone to love our creations and value us as authors. We know it’s impossible to please everyone, but we still want everyone to love our work. We’ve spent hours conjuring up the plot and characters, spent more hours recording the characters’ problems, exploits, and triumphs. Each book is a part of the author and has been painfully wrenched from our subconscious. We say love me, love my book.

I occasionally have critiquers question my work in progress (WIP). Even constructive criticism sends me into a panic. Oh, no, I think, now I have to completely rewrite this story. No, what will I do? Am I crazy to have written it this way? What’s wrong with me? I’ll never be the new Nora Roberts now. Okay, I know I can never be as successful as Nora. Who can? Still, I have my dreams.

Suggestions from critiquers are usually excellent. If they conflict with my vision for the book, then I usually sleep on it and consider each criticism carefully. When the comments would change the entire focus of my lead character and/or affect my secondary characters, I wince. Rewrite the entire book? Probably I will tweak the book, but not make all the changes suggested. The characters are real to me, so I determine their actions.

Most writers depend on critiques. They are helpful, even when the writer doesn’t agree. Critiques make us think about how others will perceive this story and its characters. For instance, in one book I said a chaparral ran across the road. In rural Texas, we see chaparral often. A friend questioned the word. I told her that was the real name for a road runner. She was astonished--she thought those were only in cartoons. //so maybe that wasn't a good read for a Northern reader.  
I never get angry at a critique. For one thing, receiving a critique means I’ve asked someone for his or her opinion. That means I value that person’s opinion and expertise. I realize the end responsibility is mine. This is my vision, a world I’m creating, and I bear the end result. So, I’ll continue to ask these excellent writers’ opinions, but it’s still MY BOOK. I don’t think that makes me a diva. And it doesn’t mean my ego is no longer fragile. It means that I want my book to be the best I can write! I hope readers will love OUT OF THE BLUE. Blatant self promotion--the link to buy OUT OF THE BLUE is found on the right.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

In Argentina, You Gotta Tango!

Please welcome freelance writer and photographer Beverly Burmeier as a guest blogger today. Beverly lives in Austin and travels the world on assignments. Her blog is “Going On Adventrues.” Welcome, Beverly.

Thanks, Caroline. One of the best ways to get a feel for local life when traveling is by sampling popular passions. In Buenos Aires, Argentina, that means learning to tango. That’s why I ended up in a tango class, trying to contort my gringo body into Carmen-style sultriness.

The passion inherent in the tango has inspired an entire culture in this romantic South American city—a culture with all the charms of Europe but without the high price tags. Buenos Aires is a bargain for travelers, whether the city is a port on a cruise or your primary destination.

Our first night in Buenos Aires my husband Larry and I put on our dancing shoes for an evening tour that included group lessons on basic tango steps followed by a traditional steak and wine dinner. Listening to the tango beat, we mimicked our instructor’s slinky walking steps and quick kicks. We learned to shuffle our feet to the music, moving our bodies somewhere between graceful and gawky, but nowhere near the agile, athletic moves we later saw in a professional performance.

Show-stopping tango contrasts with the social version enjoyed by portenos (local residents), which is quite different and has unwritten rules such as men and women sit separately and a nod of the head is an invitation to dance. Visitors can step out on the floor of the local dance halls or milongas—if they’re brave or skillful enough. Or they might opt to enjoy people watching while sipping a drink. Locals don’t really get swinging until 11:00 p.m. Too late for you? There are dancing opportunities five days a week at afternoon milongas.

History of the tango was showcased through the different dances performed to live music. Originally performed only by men, tango had its origins in lawlessness and was once considered scandalous by the upper class. Highlights of the show we attended covered the dance’s evolution through Europe and back to Argentina into the glamorous choreographed production numbers presented today by women in slit sequined skirts and men in tight pants and fedoras.

Tango was fun to try, but I feel more passion when applauding the talented dancers on stage.

Beverly Burmeier is a freelance writer based in Texas. She writes for national and regional publications on a variety of topics including travel. Find her at and and her blog for more of her intriguing travels.
Thanks for visiting today, Beverly!

Monday, May 17, 2010

Who Is A Writer?

An acquaintance told a friend, “If you’re not writing every day, you’re not a writer and have no business attending writers’ meetings.”

Did that make me angry? You bet it did! Who can judge whether or not someone else is a writer?

It’s true that for some of us—which includes me—this is a business and we must produce X amount of pages each day to meet our goal of completing project Y by Z date. Author Merline Lovelace stated she writes at least five new pages a day, which means five series books a year. She’s a fast writer, and writes in the morning so she can play golf with her husband in the afternoon. Evenings are reserved for editing, the business side of writing, and relaxation. Great schedule for her.

But what if some people only write five pages a year? Is that person still a writer? Some people write books in their heads because they don’t have time or the energy to write their ideas on their computer or on paper—but they have dreams in their hearts. They attend craft workshops and writers meetings to gather information so that, when the time comes, they will be prepared to write. Is that wrong? Not in my opinion.

Each of us probably does his or her best in life. I know I’m doing my best, even when I fall short of my goals. Sometimes our best is working a day job. Sometimes it’s herding kids here and there. Sometimes (if you’re lucky) that job is writing. I’ve known many people who call themselves writers who probably will never complete a manuscript. So what? Who does that harm? Not me.

None of us knows who will be successful. In my opinion, the thing to do is to encourage and nurture all those who have a vision, even if the idea is just a kernel of hope. Never discourage anyone or cheat him or her of the dream!

Today, I’m interviewed on Sky Purington’s blog. Please pop over and make a comment. I’m also taking part in a May BLOGATHON. Tuesday I trade blogs with freelance writer and photographer Beverly Burmeier. Please stop by tomorrow to comment on Beverly's excellent article on learning the tango.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

The Value of Networking

Yesterday I was fortunate enough to attend an all-day conference held by Yellow Rose Chapter of Romance Writers of America. Christie Craig and Rachel Caine spoke and editors from Sourcebooks and Samhain took appointments. The luncheon was catered and was absolutely wonderful, the centerpieces were fresh flowers, there were fabulous gift baskets given away, and free books. The main benefit, of course, was networking with other writers and with the editors. Thanks to all those who participated in this lovely day.

Events like this recharge a writer's batteries and feed his or her muse. I am always so pshyched up by the end of an event that I can hardly wait to rush home and start writing. Having Deb Werksman from Sourcebooks request my WIP (work in progress) ramped up my adrenaline even more! Isn't it lovely when someone you like and respect likes your ideas? By the time I returned home, I felt as if I could boost the energy of the Energizer Bunny!

Every profession (as far as I know) has conferences/conventions. For some jobs, attendance is required and/or funded by the employer. Not so writers. We're on our own. Budget constraints may prevent a writer from traveling long distances or attending major conferences with high registration, but most writers have access to a local conference.

No matter how many events a writer has attended or how multi-published a writer may be, he or she can always glean information from a conference. Yesterday I picked up some choice information (and some hilarious stories from Christie Craig). Plus, I was able to visit with friends I don't see often. What a great day!

I hope each of you can attend your profession's conference this year. Treat yourself to a day of revitalization!

Friday, May 14, 2010

Art Reflecting Life or Life As We Wish It Could Be?

During the past, I have read posts from writers about how anger they thought they'd dealt with, had buried, or had forgotten surfaces surprisingly in their work. Their comments made me think about our subconscious and the fodder for our stories.JoAnn Ross recently wrote an article about her early loss and trail to finding her half-sister. Her search and happy reunion forced her to realize that all of her stories deal with family unity in one way or another. Whatever the cause, her books are always wonderful.

I believe my historicals came about from stories my father (in his fifties when I was born) and my maternal grandmother (in her sixties when I was born) told about their childhoods and family history. I hadn't considered that characters might sometimes grow out of frustrations with family members. Sure, I knew writers killed off in print the people they hated--one of the cathartic joys of writing! I hadn't thought of other characters as manifestations or desires. One writer mentioned a sociopath mother who had humiliated and tormented her childhood. Not until she was editing a work did she realize the heroine's mom was based on her own, right down to an event she'd included. What a shock!

Another friend whose book was edgier than any of her other books admitted it was because of all she went through when her mother was ill and dying while my friend was writing the book. As writers and as humans, we are the sum of our experiences, both good and bad.

This reminds me of a quote about television in the 1940's and 1950's. Nick Clooney, brother of singer Rosemary Clooney and related to George Clooney, said, "People wanted to see life, not as it was, but as they wished it could be." I suppose the same is true for readers of popular fiction. It certainly is for me as a reader and as a writer.

We write not so much as life is, but as we wish it could be fore everyone. For every heartache, a healing. For every good person, victory. For every bad person, redemption or swift and painful retribution. Our lives, and our dreams, are reflected in our Art.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Writing Is A Great Job!

Starting a new book. How exciting! The outline is mapped out, the first chapter is finished, and ideas are popping into my head. Do others feel the same way about launching a new project? I hope so. It's an adrenaline rush, which makes it hard to concentrate on the mundane tasks of everyday life. All I want to do is write. Who needs clean laundry or groceries, right?  Not me. I can sit at my keyboard in my sweats or robe and live in my characters' minds for hours at a time.

Eventually nature calls and I have to visit the restroom. On the way back to my pink cave (office), I get a glass of water or a Dr Pepper. Probably I'd get hungry after a day or so if Hero didn't stick his head around the door of my office and ask the question that strikes dread in many hearts, "What's for dinner?" At least he's supportive and adds, "Are you cooking, or should I just find something on my own?" Some days, he even says, "Your dinner is ready."  What a guy!

The point is, writers lose themselves in their stories. Literally sometimes, because I often lose track of time. As Celia Yeary wrote today in her blog, we are passionate about writing.  We can exist on the stuff of our dreams. Doesn't explain my waistline, but you probably understand what I mean. I love to write, and a new story that is going well is like a dozen Vitamin B-complex shots to my system.

I am a godess! I create worlds! I envision characters and give them life! And I don't even need a special wardrobe to work. Is this a great job or what?

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Time Flies When You're Doing Research

Time flies no matter what you're doing, doesn't it? Research always fascinates me, and I easily lose track of time.. I have to discipline myself or I veer off on too many tangents that don't apply to my writing, but that are interesting nonetheless. If not careful, I could waste days--probably weeks--on research.

We are fortunate to have so many research avenues available. Darling 2 (who is a children's librarian) suggests children's literature as an easy source for subjects that don't require in-depth knowledge. Children's books present a quick overview for adults with simple explanations easily mined for relevant details. Wonderful childrens books are available on almost any subject.

Remember when we had to visit the library to do research? Oops, I'm showing my age. Now all of us use the world wide web, convenient because it's always waiting for us. But beware--all facts on the www need to be checked for accuracy! Each of us could put a pet theory on a website with no proof whatsoever--and many people have done just that.. For instance, there is a website that claims space exploration is a trick to justify raising taxes and that space flight has never taken place. My aerospace engineer/rocket scientist Hero becomes upset--and puzzled--by anyone who believes that claim!

Why is accurate research so important? An obvious error stops the reader and takes him/her out of the story. The author has then lost credibility. Further research details come into question. I remember reading a well known author who made three anachronistic errors withing as many chapters. Now I don't buy her books. That's a terrible fate for an author!

My point is that research is fascinating, but writers must verify facts! Ask enough questions. Never take anything for granted without cross checking. Then, those tiny details hidden in our work will enrich the story without distracting readers.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Author Rebecca Savage Interview

How fortunate we are to have romantic suspense author Rebecca Savage visiting today. Rebecca was the 2009 Best Seller from Champagne Books. At then end of the interview and excerpt, learn how to enter Rebecca's contest. Now, on to the interview . . .

Welcome, Rebecca! Tell us some of the writers who influenced your decision to write?

I started reading Harlequin Romances after finishing my Masters in History at the end of the summer of 2003. My friend always had a romance novel in her purse so I decided to read some ‘light’ reading. Not sure I’d consider romance light reading any more. It gets pretty serious sometimes. LOL Both reading it and writing it can be serious business. Living romance is even harder, don’t you think? It’s a lot of work. I especially feel that way right now, since I’m in the process of a divorce, not to be negative, since I do truly believe in true love. I’ve seen it for others, just not sure I’ve ever experienced it. But I really really want to. J

Sorry to hear of your personal tragedy, but at least your writing is going well. In fact, you have a lovely series available now. Take us on the road to your first sale.

Wow! The first sale! Now that is a long story! I joined RWA and local writers groups CRW then MORWA, and I started submitting, and the competition is … OMG… ridiculous! I gave up on main stream publishers and sold to a small publisher thinking I’d get my foot in the door and practice with editors and publishers. I’m so glad I did. But I got caught in that trap of selling to a publisher who folded, then got my rights back and sold again, a trilogy, then sold the other trilogy I’d already written to a second publisher to keep things going, then sold another two books to another publisher…I’m so impatient. J

Readers are curious about a writer's life. Tell us about your typical writing day.

I write mostly in the summer. I spend a lot of time doing promotion, editing, reviewing, critiquing, and book signing during the school year because I’m a teacher, then during the summer I finish stories I’m working on and start new ones. J I like to write then crochet and think then write some more.

So, you're artistic in other endeavors, as well. How much research do you do for each book? What is your favorite form of research?

I do research if I need to but since I worked as a Morse Code Operator / Supervisor in the military and I teach history and politics, I don’t have to do much research. But when I do research, I like the internet and personal interviews.

Tell us about this latest release.

GUARD MY BOTDY is my latest release, and it is based on a home-grown terrorist aiding the enemy and allowing atomic weapons to cross the Mexican border, but our hero/heroine will stop him…or die trying.

Give us a thumbnail, back of the book blurb of GUARD MY BODY.

A hard core CIA covert ops expert like Nash Kincaid takes everything seriously, especially his mission to retrieve classified information from his contact, take it to the right people, and stop the deaths of thousands of children at the hands of home-grown terrorists.

A librarian with a wild side could throw a ringer into his plans, but Ayden Devlin takes most things seriously, too, even when she decides to live out the lives of the characters in the books she reads by helping her sister Leigh, a spy for the CIA. She lets Leigh insert classified information into her mouth where there’s a missing tooth, so she can safely transport the info to Nash.

Nash and Ayden meet in a biker bar, and a hit man tries to kill Ayden. Nash throws his body in the path of a bullet to save her. A bullet grazes Ayden’s head and knocks her out cold. When she comes to, she and her rescuer have to establish trust. They don’t know each other, and the mission has gone awry. It takes time to convince each other of their respective honesty and identity.

It takes no time at all for them to realize they’re hot for each other, and not much more time to realize it’s more than heat. Love blooms, stoked by building passion, the flames rising higher with each new dangerous encounter.

Will they survive to share their love and lives?

I love the heroine being a librarian. My Darling 2 is a librarian. Can you share an excerpt with us?

GUARD MY BODY is the 2nd in a series of six of "Guard My" novels. Here's an excerpt: 

Who the hell sends a librarian to do the job of an undercover CIA agent?

Covert Operation Expert Nash Kincaid - at least that's what his latest passport said - sat in a seedy biker bar, sipping on his tap beer, waiting impatiently for a librarian - of all people - to show up and make a Top Secret information drop.

He scowled and scoffed silently into his foamy brew at the very balls of his friend and fellow comrade in arms, the man who'd set up this preposterous rendezvous. How the hell had Ace ever gotten it in his head that some stuffy old bookworm would be suitable for a transfer of classified information? So what if this Ayden person happened to be Ace's partner Leigh's sister? That didn't mean she could pull off something like this.

And who the hell is the amazing-looking chick that just walked in the door?

Nash's eyes widened, and his blood simmered beneath the surface. He let his eyes wander down, and then roam back up, the woman's sexy form. Her slim but amply curved silhouette stood out against the shadows of the barroom. Bright neon lights poured over her sexy outline, illuminating her body in vibrant red and yellow hues, cascading over and around her like waterfalls of color for her to bask in. She wore a skin-tight muscle shirt and a short leather skirt. The shiny, sequined material clung to curvy hips, stopped inches above shapely knees, and topped off endless, toned legs. Her fiery hair hung loose, reaching her narrow waistline, flowing like a billowing sea of red. Nash wanted to grip her waist with one hand, run his other through all that mass of organized tangles, hold on tight, and plow into her beckoning body like a madman.

Okay, so maybe her body didn't beckon him, but he sure as hell wanted it to.

Purchase GUARD MY BODY here.

Don't forget Rebecca's first in the series, GUARD MY BABY, also available from Carnel Desires Publishing.
Anyone who leaves a comment on this blog, then goes to Rebecca's website and cut/paste an excerpt from this interview onto her blog will be entered for a free pdf of any of her books!
Rebecca, thank you so much for sharing this time with us. Best of luck with your new release. I'll be ordering the first in the series, and definitely have to have the one about a librarian!
Thanks to all of you who stopped by!

Monday, May 10, 2010

Travels With NO Rock Climbing

Hywela Lyn is the winner of the free download of NORTHERN ROSES AND SOUTHERN BELLES for guessing that I never go rock climbing. Ever! I've hiked over American Indian ruins from Arizona to Tennessee and as far north as Four Corners--then climbed back into an air-conditioned car to proceed to a nice motel. No camping for me, either. As close as I plan to come to camping is the La Quinta. (They even have mini-fridges in the rooms and breakfast in the lobby.) We visit ruins from mounds to pueblos. In fact, Hero an I love visiting ruins of ancient North American cultures. Well, we enjoy seeing others around the world, but the ones in nearby states are most convenient to visit. And cheapest.

On a couple of occasions several years ago, we visited Mesa Verde and were privileged to go to the sites that are now closed to foot traffic.  We've also hiked across Hovenweep, Gila, Chaco Canyon, and lots of others. Trust me, that's as close to rock climbing as I'll ever come! But at times, I felt like a time traveler myself as I walked through placess where families once lived. I've wondered what their lives were like.

As for the other possible "lies," Hero and I live in North Central Texas; we have two Darling Daughters; I used to work for a newspaper as reporter and featured columnist. Although Kensington was my first publisher, I am happy to say that The Wild Rose Press is my current publisher. As for pets, Hero and I have a dog and three cats. At the present time, though, Darling 2 has been staying with us while she recovers from extensive knee surgery. We also have her two dogs and two cats with us. We love her sweet pets as much as ours--well, almost--but sometimes it seems there are way too little animals everywhere! Last, I'm sure all of you know that chocolate and a Dr Pepper make any situation better!

Sunday, May 09, 2010

Creative Writer Blogger Award. Oh, Yeah?

HAPPY MOTHER'S DAY to all the Moms!! (Me included)

Beth Trissel, blogger extrordinaire, passed on this, um, Creative Writer Blogger Award. If you haven't read Beth's blog, please do so. She always has lovely photos to go with her clever blog posts. (She also has nice giveaways.)

Now I'm supposed to tell lies, um, er, no, I mean create several statements and you have to guess which is the lie. Easy, right? I'll give away a free download of the anthology NORTHERN ROSES AND SOUTHERN BELLES, which includes my novella LONG WAY HOME, to one lucky commenter who guesses correctly.

Here we go:

1. I live in North Central Texas.
2. I have two darling daughters.
3. Most people think there are way too many pets at our house.
4. I used to work for a newspaper.
5. I go rock climbing on weekends.
6. Chocolate and Dr Pepper fix a lot of problems.
7. The Wild Rose Press is my current publisher.

Now I will pass this award on to deserving bloggers:

1. Hywela Lyn, because she is so creative with her blogs.

2. Sharon Donavan is crazily creative and has that lovely butler, Oliver.

3. Celia Yeary because us Texas gals have to stick together.

4. Terry Spear because she has a good sense of humor.

5. Lynda Coker because she conceived and organized BLOGMANIA. Way to go, Lynda!

6. Stephanie Smith because she's Darling Daughter 1.

7. Busy Moms Who Love To Read because Pam encourages readers and authors.

Saturday, May 08, 2010

Real Locations or Fictional?

Yesterday I mentioned setting, and I'd like to continue that thread with an explanation. Although I often mention real cities and places in my writing, with one exception the main town/city/county are fictional. Why? It's so much easier. A fictional place can be whatever I need it to be, have the businesses I require, and the correct population to support them. For instance, in my June release, OUT OF THE BLUE, two towns are mentioned that are fictional. The heroine's hometown in 1845 Ireland is Ballymish. I made up the name so the town could be in exactly the spot I needed. The hero is a police detective in Radford Crossing, Texas, another town I "created" where none exists. In reality, there is no town of that population near Possum Kingdom Lake, which is where the hero meets the heroine.

An author I know used Fort Worth as a setting for a mystery series, and had the heroine growing up in an older area. She gave the street and nearby businesses. Local readers kept trying to guess the exact location of the heroine's home. She confessed that the exact locations she had in mind was a parking lot, but that the house was modeled after one she'd known. Another friend set her 1940's mystery in Dallas. She has her hero take a highway west to another city, not realizing that highway had been renumbered in the 1980's. 

You can see, certainly, why it's beneficial for a writer to create a setting. No one can say, "There's no house in that place," or "That road doesn't run that way," or "I've lived in that town and it's not that way at all.".

Before creating a town, I consider these things:

1. What geographic features do I need? Mountains, forest, river, plains?
2. How large does this town need to be?
3. What will the town be named? This can be a problem, because it has to be a name not already in use in whatever state chosen. You can check at the post office and online. Our library has a list of all the Texas cities and towns with postal addresses. .
4. Decide what businesses I need--and leave room for expansion if this is the first of a series.
5. Write down the main streets and whether they run east and west or north and south. I usually jot a quick map with main streets and main businesses so I won't be confused later.
6. Create a picture of the town in my mind. If I can't see it, I can't describe it.

As a reader, do you care if the setting is fictional or real?

Friday, May 07, 2010

Setting A Character?

Thanks again to Judi Fennell for being a guest yesterday! What a great guest!

When most of us think of characters, we don't think of the setting. But in some books, the setting is so crucial to the story that it takes on the dimensions of another main character. Some examples that come to mind are Nora Roberts' NORTHERN LIGHTS and her Cheasapeake series, Julie Garwood's FIRE AND ICE, and classics like MOBY DICK and SAHARA.

My own writing features Texas as the primary location, although many of my novels include chapters set elsewhere. Being a Texan for most of my life (detours to California and Florida), naturally I think my home state is always important enough to be a main character in any book. LOL Here's my personal rule: If the story could be set in any other place, then the setting is not really a character. In many books, though, the setting is crucial to the plot. How could being marooned in an ice cave take place on the plains of New Mexico?  There are many fine books set in a large city that could be any large city, and good books set in a small town that could be any small town.

I respond to great descriptions, don't you? Have you ever read a book with scenes in, for instance, a blizzard and felt chilled? I have, but then I have waaayyy too vivid an imagination. I've put down a book and been surprised that the sun is shining outside because the author wove such a wonderful tale of a rainstorm. That's the kind of writing for which I strive.

When establishing a setting, an author must make the description that vivid. Readers want to shiver at Alaska's cold, taste salt spray from an angry ocean, and experience the choking dust of the Sahara--all in the air-conditioned comfort of their chosen environments, of course! I mean, readers are smart, right? We want to do dangerous things vicariously through our love of books.

Even if you've taken your book or your e-reader to the beach for a relaxing read, you want to experience the desperate feeling of being stranded in the desert without water. How does a writer accomplish this? Not easily, that's for sure.  He or she begins weaving the setting into the narrative and dialogue with vived verbs. Colorful adjectives and adverbs (apologies to Mark Twain) sparingly used add texture. No longer will readers tolerate the four page set-up of the scene. We are used  to instant gratification.

The reactions of the human characters to the setting also give the reader clues. One of my favorite mind-candy books is Louis L'Amour's FALLON, which begins with a weary trek across gypsum flats in which both Fallon and his horse almost die before he reaches shelter. Rereading this book always makes me thirsty. Louis L'Amour knew how to tell a story! FALLON would not be the same plot if the main character escaped across gently rolling hills dotted with fresh lakes and streams. 

What kind of settings are your favorite? I certainly hope Texas is one of them!

Note:  photos copyright Darling Daughter 1.  All rights reserved.

Thursday, May 06, 2010

Judi Fennell, Award Winning Author, Interviewed

Today I'm treating you to an interview with award-winning author, Judi Fennell. Judi is the creator of a Mer series that has met with outstanding success. Judi Fennell has had her nose in a book and her head in some celestial realm all her life, including those early years when her mom would exhort her to “get outside!” instead of watching "Bewitched" or "I Dream of Jeannie" on television. So she did--right into Dad’s hammock with her Nancy Drew books.

These days she’s more likely to have her nose in her laptop and her head (and the rest of her body) at her favorite bookstore, but she’s still reading, whether it be her latest manuscript or friends’ books. A three-time finalist in online contests, Judi has enjoyed the reader feedback she’s received and would love to hear what you think about her Mer series. Check out her website a for excerpts, reviews and fun pictures from reader and writer conferences, and the chance to “dive in” to her stories, as well as a preview of her new series, beginning with I Dream of Genies, slated for January 2011.

Judi, welcome to A Writer's Life! We're excited you stopped by for a visit.

Hi, Caroline! Thanks for having me.

Judi, tell us something about yourself that would surprise most readers.

Something that will surprise readers? Hmmm… I’m not all that surprising. Pretty much what you see is what you get, but this might be interesting:

I started twirling a baton in 3rd grade. Because my posture was bad, my mother thought twirling and marching would help straighten my back out. I ended up loving it and twirled all through junior high and high school, and, while I didn’t try out for Penn State’s Blue Band, I did participate in the Syndicate Indoor Color Guard. I’ve twirled batons (sometimes 3 at a time), machetes, sabres, rifles, swing flats, flags, fire batons, and hoops. (And more than my share of pencils…) In my senior year of high school, I was one of the feature performers and did a four-spin with a forward roll in tandem with another girl. I worked up to being able to do a six-spin.

Sadly though, ever since having my kids, I can barely do a one-spin. The hormones went wonky on my sense of balance. I loved twirling; my junior year we won State Champions.

Your books about mermaids and mermen are fascinating and well-received and your next series is about genies. Were you interested in mermaids and magic as a child or did this begin when you started writing?

I belonged to a swim club called Mermaid Lake Swim Club growing up, if that answers your question.  And, yes, my friends and I used to play “mermaid”—where you had to swim with your legs together as if you had a tail. Ah, the pleasures of those days!

I’ve always loved magic and fairy tales. I still love Disney movies to this day, and have said that they wrote “Enchanted” just for me. It’s one of the (few) movies I have downloaded on my iPhone, actually. And I had my cousin who was a magician do a magic show at my eighth birthday.

My favorite TV shows were "Bewitched," "I Dream of Jeannie," "The Addams Family," "Casper The Friendly Ghost," "Shazaam" and "Isis" (Saturday morning live-action show along with the animated "Aquaman and Marineboy"), as well as "Greatest American Hero," and the list goes on. Funny story: when I was about 5 or 6 years old, my mom looked a lot like Elizabeth Montgomery. This was in the early seventies, back when we had televisions that had to “warm up” after you pushed or pulled the on-button. My mom had turned on the TV but left the room. I came in, sat down, then she came back in, and I said, “Can you turn on the TV?” Mom wiggled her nose and, presto! The television came on!

Needless to say, I was very impressed.

So, to answer the question, I guess you could say I’ve always been interested in it.

Your writing is very creative. Write a short paragraph using these words: castle, fish, damsel, blackberries, tea kettle.

Chum swam through the castle window and around a tea kettle that was now more green than copper. Next to it, a small clamshell of blackberries sat under netting Nettie had pilfered from a passing fishing boat. That damsel-fish… she was going to get caught yet. He tried to tell her, tried to warn her, but she just kept playing chicken with the fishermen. And he got no support from Angel; the Mer princess was all about collecting Human items—hence the fruit. Soggy though they might be, to Angel—and now Nettie—the berries were some sought-after prize. The two of them and their explorations were enough to give Chum a heart attack.

What's your favorite food? (Please don't say fish!)

Hands down, ribeye steak and homefries with Green Giant shoepeg white corn in butter sauce. My version. My kids love it, too, so we have it at least once a month, usually when Hubs travels. Thank God for Costco and their delicious ribeyes.

You must spend a lot of time on your writing and promotion. When you're not writing or reading, what are your interests?

Honestly, there’s never a time when I’m not writing or reading. I’m a voracious reader and when I started writing for publication I had to give some of my reading time up. So when I have “free time” (what is that again?), I pick up a book.

I do manage to squeeze time in with my family. We like to go kayaking and are planning a great vacation out west this summer. Really looking forward to that.

I also get together with my “Survivor Girls” every Thursday night—whether Survivor is on television or not. We’ve been doing it since the beginning of the third season and I really look forward to it.

Anything else you'd like to tell readers.

I’ve been so blessed to have such great readers, people who have remembered me from the online contests I’ve done and who have followed and believed in my career long before there was an actual career. I’ve had the pleasure of meeting many of them in person and I love getting the chance to tell them how much their support and enthusiasm has meant as I’ve pursued this dream. Current company included, Caroline!

Judi, thank you so much for stopping by. You're a fun writer and a fun person.

Thanks so much for having me. It’s been an honor and a lot of fun!

Check out Judi's website for updates on her writing, excerpts, upcoming releases, and booksignings at
Sourcebooks, Inc.
February, 2010

Angel's on a mission to save the planet…

Mermaid Angel Tritone has been researching humans from afar, hoping to find a way to convince them to stop polluting. When she jumps into a boat to escape a shark attack, it’s her chance to pursue her mission, but she has to keep her identity a total secret…

When he finds out what she really is, they’re both in mortal danger…

For Logan Hardington, finding a beautiful woman on his boat is surely not a problem—until he discovers she’s a mermaid, and suddenly his life is on the line…

What people are saying about CATCH OF A LIFETIME:
"Readers will adore the joy and humor and romance from Judi Fennell's creative pen."

- Jill Barnett, New York Times best-selling author

"Fennell's got detailed worldbuilding, creative secondary characters and an impressive use of mythology in this great read. While this title is part of a series, it works well as a stand-alone. Angel and Logan are both incredibly textured characters.

-RT BookReview Magazine 4 Stars

"It’s a hit. This was one awesome series and this book was a wonderful conclusion."

Night Owl Romance, Top Pick

Thanks for stopping by. Hope you'll return tomorrow.

Wednesday, May 05, 2010

What Kind Of Heroine Do You Prefer?

What kind of heroines do you prefer in your books? Over the last few decades, the heroine has changed. Today’s readers expect a savvier, more independent heroine than readers of, say, the 1970’s and 1980’s. Here are some qualities I require in  books I read and in books I write:

Smart—The heroine can’t be stupid. I do not mean she has to be a Ph.D. or a Mensa candidate. She could be a high school dropout, but she must be sharp-witted. Writers talk about the heroine who is TSTL—too stupid to live. Remember the old Gothic heroine who would take a candle down to the cellar or outside because she heard a strange noise and there was a killer in the neighborhood? TSTL! One of my friends was writing a NASCAR driver heroine and wrote herself into a corner. She joked that she left the stupid woman in an alley with two killers because she was just TSTL. Fortunately, my friend rewrote the scene and completed an excellent novel. Cenora Rose O’Neill in the upcoming September 3rd release, THE TEXAN’S IRISH BRIDE, is unable to read. That doesn’t mean she’s dumb—it means she never attended school because her family are transients.

Positive outlook—no one wants a heroine who constantly has a pity party. That doesn’t mean she can’t long for change or dream about a better life. She just has to be willing to work for that change, not expect someone else to rescue her. Being aided by a hunky hero doesn’t hurt, of course! But she has to take action herself, even if it's the wrong action.

Focused—Whatever her job, she does that job well. That is, unless constant failure is a part of the story, as in some comedic romances. Modern heroines are generally multi-taskers, just like modern readers. I believe readers want heroines who echo their own hopes and dreams, but who are able to achieve those dreams against difficult odds. In my opinion, this is what romance novels are about—hope that we, too, can overcome our obstacles and live happily ever after. In fact, many romance writers say "We sell hope."

Physical description--I write tall willowy heroines with active metabolisms who can eat all they want and never gain weight. No, I’m not blessed with that metabolism. I am tall, and wish I were willowy.  As a girl, I wanted to look like Maureen O’Hara in the original “Parent Trap.” (Not that I’d mind now.) A lot of my heroines have light complexion and dark red hair. In fact, I changed one because a man in my mystery critique group asked me if all my heroines had red hair and green eyes. Oops! Now I definitely try to vary physical descriptions so that not all the heroines (or heroes) look the same. Deirdre Dougherty, in my upcoming June 4th release, OUT OF THE BLUE, has black hair and light brown eyes. Cenora Rose O’Neill of THE TEXAN’S IRISH BRIDE has dark red hair and green eyes. Courtney Madison in my TBA release, TEXAS FIREWORKS, has blond hair and blue eyes. That’s variety, isn’t it?

Self-Respect--Readers no longer tolerate the heroine who is raped and then stays involved with the rapist. She has to possess more respect for herself. In fact, most romances no longer include rape because that man is totally unredeemable and too distasteful to readers. However, a rape survivor can be a strong heroine. Brenda Novak has a series, DEAD RIGHT, DEAD SILENCE, DEAD GIVEAWAY, about the family of a deceased pedophile. Brenda is a great writer and this was an excellent series in spite of the difficult subject. I suspect it would be hard to read for someone who had been molested.. I wrote a secondary character, Belle, in THE MOST UNSUITABLE BRIDE who survived a rape/beating and was befriended by the heroine, Pearl. Belle was a young woman forced into prostitution, but she was a good person in a bad situation.

Honor—just as in the hero, the heroine must possess honor. Even if she’s a con or a criminal, she has a strict code that governs her life. Of course, if she starts the book as a criminal, she has to change. No, she doesn’t change in order to receive the hero's love—she changes because through interacting with him she realizes she has been wrong and would make the transition even if he decided to leave her.

I like the eccentric/unusual heroines a little left of traditional. Yes, that is like me. Many authors create unforgettable heroines. I hope I create them also.

Speaking of unusual heroines, join me here tomorrow for an interview with award-winning author Judi Fennell. She’ll talk about her highly successful Mer series. Yes, mermaids and mermen. Maybe she’ll mention her upcoming series about Genies. Hope to see you then.

Thanks for stopping by.

Tuesday, May 04, 2010

What Kind of Hero Do You Like To Read About?

BLOGMANIA winner Michelle M got back to me and I'll be mailing her prize out tomorrow. Thanks to all who participated. I'll have another giveaway at the end of May, so please stick around.

HEROES--what kind do you prefer? The covers of many of my friends' books feature muscle-bound bared chests. Not that that's a bad thing, you understand. But I have wondered what kind of hero readers prefer. Being married to a wonderful Hero, I find he's the building block for all the heroes in my writing. As he's aged, he might not fit your description of a hero, but he cetainly fits mine perfectly. Remember, we see loved ones with our hearts, not just our eyes. One of the questions I asked my Darlings when I told them the fairy tale "Beauty and the Beast" was whether the Beast changed in appearance. Or was it just that as Beauty came to know him, she saw the real him and not just his exterior? If that is what happened, then she's the one who changed. Deep thinking to pose for a kid, huh? But this is one basis for stories of scarred or emotionally unreachable heroes.

When writers decide to write a novel, the first thing they do is decide what the hero and heroine will be. We have to know about our characters before we can make them real for readers. So what kind of heroes are in my books? Hmm, the thing they have in common is that they are all strong men. By that, I don't mean The Hulk muscles, but determination. Yes, they are strong physically, too, but that's not as important as other qualities. Here are some important parts of a hero's character:

Honor -- if a hero says he will do something, you know he will make every effort to keep his word. Now he may tell the occasional lie, but it's to protect a secret he's vowed to keep or a person in jeopardy. This is the kind of person who can make agreements based on a handshake because he's known to keep his word.

Sense of Humor--Can you imagine being commited for life to someone who doesn't smile or make the occasional joke? Ugh. Boring! No matter how passionat a man and woman are about one another, eventually they have to talk to one another at least part of the time.

Adventure--I mean a willingness to try new things. New foods, new travels. I don't mean being a daredevil because I want my Hero to safely return home in one piece. No adrenaline junkies for me! But he has to be brave enough to risk his life for a cause or others if called to do so.

Strong work ethic--No excuses for failure. That doesn't mean he won't fail. Failure will be due to circumstances beyond his control and not due to bad decisions or laziness. And he won'd let failure stop him. He'll work even harder to achieve his dreams. Maybe his work will be mental instead of physical, but I think callouses on a man's hands are a good thing.

Looks: Any lines in his face need to indicate he smiles, unless he's a brooding hero about to be reformed by a charming lady. It doesn't matter to me whether he has all his hair or is bald as a billiard ball. For readers, though, a thick head of dark hair seems to be the first choice. I like twinkling blue eyes because my Hero has those. For a novel, I don't think it matters as long as the author remembers and doesn't change eye color halfway through the book. Believe me, that's happened to other authors. Physique also doesn't matter to me, but most readers prefer a strong, muscular physique.

Writers strive to conjure up a hero and heroine with whom the reader can identify/empathize. What qualities do you look for in a hero in a book and/or in life?

Monday, May 03, 2010

Blogmania Winner/ Book Clubs

BLOGMANIA is over for spring, but Lynda Coker is busily arranging an even greater event for September with even nicer prizes. In the meantime, I'll be awarding prizes occasionally from this blog all through summer and fall, so please visit frequently or follow me. The winner for my BLOGMANIA prize is  I'll email her today and ask for her address so I can mail her prize package. She has 72 hours to answer or I'll have to choose someone else.

And now for my blog on book clubs. I'm a member of a local book club, Book Divas. Our members are all lovely people with whom I enjoy visiting. That's why we spend part of the meeting talking and the other part discussing the book. It's sort of a book club/group therapy session. :)  Our book for May is THE GIRL ON LEGARE STREET by Karen White. This is a sequal to THE HOUSE ON TRADD STREET.that we each read and loved earlier in the year.

Book Divas is so pleasant that I hadn't thought much about book club etiquette until my daughter, Darling 2, joined a book club that meets near her home. She absolutely loved it. The members did basically the same thing as in Book Divas. Then (dark, scary music playing here) a new member joined and brought a friend. This new member did not want anyone to mention personal details, only discuss the book. She was a pedantic book Nazi who ruined the spirit of the book club for my daughter. This could have been avoided if the club had a few rules in place.

If you are setting up a book club--and if you're not in one now, I urge you to form one--here are some things you need to discuss and/or set as rules:

1. What is your goal? Do you want this to be a formal, academic book discussion ONLY? If so, mention that at the beginning. If you plan an informal, fun group where the book is only a part of the meeting, state so initially.

2. What type books will you read? Literary, popular fiction, mysteries only, women's fiction, romance? Book Divas read a variety.

3. Where will you meet? We began meeting in member's homes, but that proved onerous. Some hostesses served a full meal and others only a snack. Members didn't know whether to eat before they came or not. Now we meet in a local restaurant so no one has to do extra house cleaning or prepare refreshments.

4. How will you choose books? In ours, the "hostess" for each month chooses the book and where we'll eat. There are online sites that specialize in book club book suggestions, and you might want to investigate these sites. One is Book Movement.

5.What if a member doesn't read the book for that month? Some book clubs levy a fine. Ours doesn't. We urge people to attend even if they haven't finished the book. After all, part of our meeting is fellowship and we enjoy one another's company.

6. Perhaps you'd rather have a book review group. One member could read the book and give a review of it followed by discussion. Or, everyone could read the book and one person formally review it.

7. Be a good sport. The thing that must be avoided is bickering or personal criticism. If I choose a book someone else in book Divas doesn't like, there are no hard feelings. (As far as I know.) One of our members always chooses sad books. I like books with happy endings. I still read the book she chooses. Some of our group like one type of book, some another. We all enjoy mysteries. We strive for a happy medium--a little of everything through the year.

8. How many people will you have in your group? We chose to have twelve. This is a nice number for a discussion, and that means each of us can be hostess only once during the year.

9. Who will send out reminders of the meetings? Who'll alert the restaurant as to how many will be dining?

Book clubs are very enjoyable. I've read many books I would never have read if they hadn't been book club selections. Some of those have become favorites I would have missed without Book Divas. Plus, these are mostly women I hadn't known before book club, yet they have become treasured friends.

Is a book club right for you?

Sunday, May 02, 2010

Listening to People

We've all done it occasionally--interrupt a friend or acquaintance. Rude, but we are human, after all. The other night, my husband and I met someone who is positively the worst listener I've ever encountered. This person would ask a question, but speed on talking before anyone could answer. Or, the person would ignore the answer if it wasn't the one hoped for and keep talking as if the answer had been the desired one. No matter how many times I explained I couldn't do what the person wanted, this person kept talking as if I'd said yes. Aggravating! Annoying! But harmless. The experience made me think about writing. Of course, almost everything makes me think of writing.

Part of being a writer is learning to listen. How could an author write realistic dialogue without having paid attention to the way people speak? We take note of snatches of conversation overheard in crowded places and in our own conversations with other people. Writers listen to the rhythm and speech patterns of people from various backgrounds and parts of the country. In what ways does the speech of an urban person differ from that of a rural person? How are they similar? How does a New Yorker's sentence structure vary from that of a native Texan? Each of these differences is importance to writers. For me, sitting on a bench in a mall and listening to those around me is pleasant and feeds my muse.

I like to study the differences in speech patterns. For instance, a woman might say, "I'm going over to Penney's to look around for slacks and a shirt. If you'll wait here, I'll be back in thirty minutes or so." A man, on the other hand, might say, "Going to Penney's. Back in thirty minutes." In general, women speak in longer sentences than men. Listening and comparing is f ood for my writing. I never know what I'll hear.

Writers themselves sometimes become items of interest. Friends who were plotting a book while eating in a local restaurant were discussing how best to kill off one of the characters. Fortunately, they averted the police when they explained themselves to the alarmed diners at a nearby table.

Whether you're a writer or a student of human nature, pay attention next time you're in a restaurant, an airport, or a mall.  See if you agree with me.

Tomorrow I'll announce the Blogmania winner of my necklace and surprise gifts.