Friday, July 30, 2010

Cyber-Conference Author Chat

One of the types of workshops they have at RWA Nationals is the Author Chat. It's an informal setting where favorite authors can answer questions put to them by the attendees. So I thought I'd give you a chance to have an author chat today with one of my favorites~ Deb Stover.

I doubt she remembers it, but I first met Deb at the Emerald City conference in 2002. I was unpublished and green as a gourd, but I managed to sit at the same table as Deb for lunch. I'd read her NO PLACE FOR A LADY, so it was a real thrill for me to meet her. She was kind enough to let me pick her brain a bit.

And today, she's letting me do it again. I invite you to listen in to a Chat with Deb Stover!

Emily: Hi Deb! Thanks for being here today.

Deb: Thanks for inviting me, Emily.

Emily: You've written in a number of different romance sub-genres. Which do you enjoy most and why?

Deb: Yes, I'm something of a sub-genre slut--historical, paranormal, time-travel, contemporary, romantic suspense, and even one category romance. In fact, I also have work published in mystery and fantasy anthologies. My agent tells me to "Focus," and I call that the "F" word. Seriously, if I had to choose just one sub-genre in which to write, and the market was of no concern, I would choose time-travels. The reason these appeal to me is the fascination of looking at history through a contemporary viewpoint. I love writing history from both viewpoints--contemporary and historical characters--and playing with the potential time-travel paradox. It's challenging, there's always plenty of yummy research, and it's never boring!

Emily: I so know what you mean about being a genre slut. I'll be writing historical/paranormal/ adventure romance as Mia Marlowe starting next May.

Nothing is ever wasted on a writer. How have your life experiences impacted your writing?

Deb: This is certainly true in many ways. While I definitely write from character, I don't think any writer is immune to allowing some of his or her own political and/or religious experiences from creeping into a story on occasion. I try to keep my values off the page, though. After all, I've written murder scenes and I've certainly never committed murder!

The biggest way my personal life has influenced my professional life is by teaching me unconditional love. My late husband and I had one beautiful birth daughter, then adopted two newborns with special needs a few years later. Our first adopted child has Down Syndrome. She's now twenty-three and the light of my life. After losing my husband to cancer in 2005, having her steady, unconditional love and faith in me as her mother reminds me every single day what life is all about. I try to transfer that hope, and the perfection of imperfection to my characters.

Emily: OMGosh, don't you dare keep your values off the page! This beautiful spirit is why your work is so powerful.

Please tell us why we'll love the hero in your most recent release.

Deb: Ty Malone is, first and foremost, a man. He's a father. He's a grieving widower. He's flawed and vulnerable, yet strong and steadfast. And he's sexy as hell. He's a farmer with a heart of gold and enough sex appeal to melt the heart of a tough as nails former Chicago Homicide Detective.

Emily: Since my DH is an Iowa farm boy, I think your Ty sounds yummy. What's the best writing advice you ever received or what advice would you like to give aspiring writers?

Deb: Never give up is probably the best advice I ever received. I would like to add that aspiring and/or beginning writers shouldn't settle for less than they deserve. With so many so-called "small presses" popping up on the Internet now, I caution writers to be wary, and not to give away their blood, sweat and tears to just anyone who claims to be a publisher. It's easy to toss up a website and declare yourself a publisher. It's another matter to actually prove it. The same thing holds true for agents. It may take several years to find the right first home for your work, but you're worth it. Be patient.

Emily: I second that advice! Writers should realize their own worth and not settle.

What's next for you?

Deb: I'm working on an urban fantasy project that is sort of a secret, as it has media tie-in potential. I'm not at liberty to give details just yet. It's a lot of fun, and somewhat different for me.

Emily: Very exciting! Please come back when you can share your new work. Thanks for being with us today, Deb.

Here's a bit about her latest release: The Gift

Blurb: A gift turned nightmare drives Beth Dearborn to abandon all she holds
dear, until fate demands she face Ty Malone, danger, and destiny....

“Readers will rejoice at the return of one of the romance genre’s special
talents! This melting pot of murder mystery, passion and ghosts makes for an
outstanding storytelling stew!” HOT ~ 4 ½ Stars! Jill M. Smith, RT Book

Buy at Barnes & Noble (including Digital):

Buy at Amazon (including for Kindle):

So do any of you have questions/ comments for Deb today? I'd like to talk a bit about time travel romance and see how much interest there is out there. Have you read a time travel romance? Title and author, please?

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Red Pencil Thursday with Abigail Lama-Gaffney

One of the great things about RWA Nationals is the chance to learn from other writers. The workshops cover craft, career, publishing, research, and the writer's life. Here on Red Pencil Thursday, I offer a modest craft workshop each week and hope it helps you improve your writing or enhances your pleasure in reading as you begin to recognize some of the techniques writers use.

This week, please welcome our volunteer/victim, Abigail Lama-Gaffney. My comments on her work are in red. Her responses are in purple.

I'm not wild about this title. You want the title to be your first hook and this doesn't surprise/entice/delight me. Do dreams figure prominently in this story?

They invaded his mind last week. An annoying tingle between his brows had been the only clue his life was about to change.
Whoa! Good first line. You've teased me with a tantalyzing bit of info, but I'm afraid it's not quite enough. I don't know who they are or who he is. I need more so I'll have a reason to care.
‘They’ are her emotions. I tried to make that clear about a page from now, but I should insert something about it here, instead of later.
I would never have gotten that from what you've given us here. The Prime Directive of writing is: First, be clear.

Xander Stone pressed his fingers to the spot, massaging the area before he stepped out of the car into the muggy air. With no stars or moonlight, the sky hung low and black.

He searched the featureless void, sensing her movement toward him.
He's looking for someone in the sky?
Ha ha. No, he’s not looking at the sky. I’ll make that more clear.

On either side of the road, the rustling corn leaves mingled with insect songs filling the night with a low hum of noise.
Excellent sensory detail. As an Iowa girl, I so remember that sound. However, I'd call them corn stalks instead of leaves and end the sentence with low hum. Of noise is unnecessary. Less is more.
Less is More :-).
Guess I'd better amend that to Less is More if the less is clear.

He turned his head straining to hear. The rhythmic pounding of her shoes on the pavement, interspersed with the steady inhale and exhale of her breath, resonated through the night. She traveled closer and closer, until she stopped.

How about straining to listen since presumably he has no hearing problem. You've done such a good job using sound to show us where she is, I was a little disapointed with she stopped. How about if the slap of leather on the asphalt stopped?

Wow! I hadn’t thought about that, but it makes good sense.

He blinked to focus in the blackness, but only her vague outline materialized.
Materialized makes it sound like she's traveling between dimensions. It's wonderful to have a story that bends the edges of reality, but if you're doing that, you need to give us enough detail to be sure. You want your readers to wonder what's going to happen not wonder what's happening right now.
She’s not traveling between dimensions. It’s just really dark and he can barely see her. I’ll work on changing that word.

The annoying pins and needles between his brows intensified. Across his forehead the muscles knotted in spasms of pain.

Her confusion and fear burst into his awareness.

In the same inexplicable way he knew his hand was still attached to his body after he closed his eyes… He couldn’t explain how her feelings invaded his brain.

Sometimes, it's important to break up long paragraphs. I feel like these sentences all need to be combined into one instead of three because they're all about the same thing.
Good point. I didn’t notice that until you pointed it out.

"It's okay," he called to her.
None of this seems ok to me. What is he trying to say? It's ok is too vague to advance the story.
He’s not exactly thinking clearly here. A few pages after this section, he reflects on that and how stupid he sounded. Maybe I should include that piece now? Or just axe it all together?
Yes, include his self-recriminations now. Absolutely axe any scene where a character is reflecting on what's past. A story grinds to a halt when you set up a scene advancing the action-scene ruminating on what's just happened structure. It's death.

No response.

For Christ’s sake, it was the middle of the friggin’ night. If he drove all this way for nothing…

"Say something, damn it." The moment the words left his mouth pain stabbed him like a knife between the eyes. Her fear blazed into his mind.

“God damn it,” he muttered under his breath, pressing his palm to his head.

There's a lot of profanity in a small space here. The function of impolite words in literature is for emphasis or shock value. By using so much so soon, you're diluting its effectiveness. I'd limit it to one here.
The funny thing is, I didn’t even realize how many ‘impolite’ words there were until I saw it in this format. I will definitely change that.

The initial agony faded to a red hot ache. His body and attention turned to the field. Despite her hiding among the corn, he sensed her exact location. He followed her movements as she tried to glide past him.

Despite her hiding is a bit awkward. How about Even though she was hidden . . .? What are you trying to convey with He followed her movements? Is he shadowing her? Moving with her? Or just watching her?
He’s just figuring out he has the ability to sense her location, no matter where she is. That’s how he knew she was on this road and knew where she was in the cornfield. I need to make that much more clear.

He softened his voice to sound reassuring. “I didn’t mean to scare you.”

She stopped.

He perceived the indecision in her mind.
This sentence should join the previous one in the same paragraph. If you separate out every single sentence you aren't giving the important ones emphasis.
Oops. I’ll definitely change that.

“I won’t hurt you.”

She sprinted down the corn row, the leaves whispering in her wake.

The farther she got from him, the less scared she felt.

He didn’t bother following her.
The three previous sentences need to be combined into one paragraph instead of separated.
Again—I see what you’re saying.

Tomorrow morning when he met her, he’d pretend none of this happened.
Excellent final hook. Abbie, you have some good bones here, but we need some flesh. There's not enough specific detail for us to know exactly what's happening. How does he know this girl? How did he know to drive into the middle of nowhere to have this encounter? What exactly is going on in this passage? Thanks for letting us take a look at this inventive beginning.

Looking back over it, I realize I edited out why he’s there (which would answer all your questions). Reflecting on why I did that—it seemed like it was a lot of back story and took away from the immediacy of the situation. Those questions you posed above are all answered within the first 15 pages. But it seems that without the reason for him being there—this part is confusing. And I don’t want confused readers. I’ll work on integrating the answers to your questions into the piece.
It's possible to weave in backstory without it seeming like an info dump if you do it in such a way that how he feels about the backstory is paramount. Emotion is the strongest hook a writer can set. Use it.
This has been a really awesome experience. Thanks for the feedback! This is a really wonderful thing you’re doing for us aspiring authors. Thank you.

My pleasure. Thank you for letting us all learn something along with you, Abbie.

Abbie lives in Central Ohio, with the man of her dreams and two ornery doggies. Currently, she is a mental health therapist, but her goal is to be a published author. When she's not working or writing, she enjoys running, except for the times when she hates it.

Ok, now it's your turn. Do you have a suggestion for Abbie? How about an "atta girl?" The strength of this critique group is in the many voices around the cyber-table. If you're here, you have a right to a say.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Literacy for Life Signing

One of my favorite parts of RWA Nationals is the Literacy for Life Signing, which is happening in Orlando today. Over 500 authors and their publishers are donating their profits to a group called ProLiteracy, an international organization dedicated to spreading literacy among adults.

Did you know that there are 18 million adults in America who can't read a newspaper or fill out a job application? And of all the people worldwide who are illiterate, 2/3 of them are women.

For as long as I can remember, books have been my friends. I can't imagine living by my own thoughts alone. That's why I feel so passionately that this is an organization worth supporting, even though I'm not at Nationals this year.

So, for the rest of the week, I'm having a 'literacy signing' of my own. The Book Oasis in Stoneham, MA keeps all my titles in stock. They will ship anywhere. If you buy one of my autographed books from them between now and Sunday August 1st, I will write a check for the entire purchase price and send it to RWA National to be included in their donation to ProLiteracy. (Ok, now's a good time to mention that my DH insisted I cap the amount at $500, but it'll still take a lot of book sales to get to that amount.) If you have a romance reader on your Christmas list, now's a good time to snag that stocking stuffer.

You can shop online at The Book Oasis or give the good folks there a call at 781.438.0077.

I hope you'll help me make that check I write a big one.

PS. I also hope you'll use the handy little gizmo at the end of this post to email this message to a friend, and post it to your blog, Twitter or Facebook to help me get the word out. Everyday, I'm thankful I can read. I bet you are too. Let's see if we can spread the joy around.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Cyber Conferencing

Newsflash! We have another winner: Christine H! Please drop me an email through my website with your snailmail info. Thanks to all who left a comment on this post.

If RWA hadn't moved its venue from Nashville, I'd be packing my bags today and getting ready to fly out to Nationals. When flooding forced the move to Orlando, I was given a chance to re-evaluate my trip to the convention. The panel I was scheduled to appear on was cancelled. Since I have 6 novels and a novella to deliver by next summer, I didn't really need to pitch another project. My time will be better spent writing and my money better spent hiring a pro to redesign my Mia Marlowe website before the books come out next summer.

I know it's the right business decision for me this year, but I'm going to miss the jazz of Nationals. The buzz of that many creative people who love books in one place is electrifying. I'll miss seeing my writing friends. So I decided I could have a little taste of the convention here by inviting another writer who's also missing Nationals to join me.

Please welcome Elysa Hendricks, one of my fellow Leisure Books authors, who's agreed to be my guest blogger today. She'll be speaking in italics. Take it away, Elysa!

This last weekend I finally succumbed to the Internet gods demands I join the billions of Facebook drones. Resistance was futile. Now, I'm wondering where this new adventure will lead me. So far, I'm being cautious, only friending people I know. Darn, I can't believe how easily I'm seduced by this new world I've entered. Since when is "friend" a verb? Pretty soon I'll be texting - well, maybe not too soon. My phone is OLD and even if I could figure out how to do it, it costs me a dime for each text. All I want my phone to do is be a phone. Make and receive calls. Phones shouldn't be books, TVs or written message centers. It goes against the laws of nature.

As you can probably tell I'm hardly a techno geek. It seems like only yesterday my hubby dragged kicking and screaming me into the world of Windows. My wounds from all that broken glass have yet to heal and now I'm treading new ground. Actually it feels like I’m barely treading water here.

Fortunately the characters in my books are much more comfortable with the future technologies I’ve dreamed up for them. They travel through space without getting lost or losing data. They’re also much younger, stronger and better looking than me. Guess that’s why I love putting them through so many challenges and difficulties before I let them have a happy ending. If my life is going to be complicated by computers, phones and the like I’m certainly not going to let my characters off scott free. There has to be some reward for breathing life into them.

Emily here again. Part of the fun of Nationals is getting to know other writers. Here's Elysa's Bio:

When the heroine in my first story turned out to be a winged, telepathic alien, I decided I enjoy writing stories set in different places and times. Someday I'd like to compose those stories on a laptop while sitting on a tropical beach with cute cabana boys bringing me drinks. In the meantime I'll keep warm during the cold midwest winters by writing sizzling love scenes.

And here's a blurb about her current release:

Ten years ago, to capture a notorious space smuggler, ASP (anti-smuggling/ piracy) agent, GREYSON DANE betrayed the woman he loved. Now he needs her help to capture a pirate, one whose activities threaten Earth’s safety and future.

After her father’s arrest and her lover’s betrayal, SHYANNE KEDAR fled to the Outer Worlds and slowly found a way to rebuild her shattered world. Now she captains her own small crew of smugglers. When Greyson reappears in her life she’s disturbed by her continued attraction to the man who destroyed her life. His plea for her help in saving Earth from destruction along with his offer of a pardon for her and her crew tempts her to comply, not for herself, but for her son – Greyson’s son.

As they work together to capture a pirate, Shyanne and Greyson must also find a way to recapture the love they once shared.

If you'd like to learn more about Elysa, please visit her website:

Another great thing about Nationals is all the freebies. I usually come home with a carry-on full to bursting with books. So today, Elysa is giving you a chance to win a free book too. She's giving away a copy of her contemporary fantasy:


She’d never been his to control. After penning ten popular sword and sorcery novels, Brandon Alexander Davis was ready to move on. Ready to stop hiding in his fictional world. Ready to start living life. There was just one problem: as he plotted the noble death of Serilda D'Lar, his warrior-woman creation appeared in his study, complete with sword, skimpy leather outfit, badass attitude—and a quest. Was she nothing more than a crazy fan, or had Brandon finally cracked? This woman, so strong yet vulnerable, was both fantasy and reality. She was an invitation to rediscover all he once knew—that life is an incredible, magical journey, and for love, any man can be a hero.

So for a chance to win The Sword and the Pen, be sure to leave a comment or a question for Elysa. I'll kick things off with a discussion topic. Are you an anti-techno person like Elysa? Or could you give her some pointers on how to make the most of her new Facebook account?

Be sure to check back tomorrow to see if you're the winner!

Monday, July 26, 2010

And We Have a Winner . . .

First of all, thank you so much to everyone who offered an opinion or suggestion for my hero's name for my IMPROPER GENTLEMEN novella. I really appreciate your time and thoughts. They all gave me something to think about.

I was leaning toward Aidan going into the weekend, but not sure about it. Then JennJ gave me the history of the saint of that name. And four of you indicated Aidan was your pick. When Alfke suggested the surname Danaher, it seemed to fit for me. A couple of you liked Patrick as well.

So, my hero's name will be Aidan Patrick Stonemere Danaher (Stonemere is his English mother's maiden name and the title he'll inherit from her!)

If I didn't choose your name, I hope you won't be disappointed. I'm a bit of a name collector, so the name you suggested may turn up in a later story or as one of the secondary characters for this one. Each name set my mind churning in fresh directions and helped me flesh out some of the plot points for the story as well. So thank you, thank you, thank you one and all! I appreciate you very much.

I have some other exciting news. Jennifer Ashley, USA Today Bestselling author of Lady Isabella's Scandalous Marriage, has given me a dynamite cover quote for my debut Mia Marlowe title TOUCH OF A THIEF:

"Mia Marlowe proves she has the “touch” for strong heroines, wickedly sexy heroes, and love scenes so hot they singe the pages. Throw in a magical diamond and nail-biting suspense, and readers score a winner with Touch of a Thief!"

~Jennifer Ashley, USA Today Bestselling author of Lady Isabella’s Scandalous Marriage
Jennifer Ashley is a romance powerhouse. She's hit the USA Today Bestsellers list for her historical titles. Her paranormal Pride Mates made the New York Times list. She won a Rita for her straight historical title. Jennifer writes mysteries as Ashley Gardner and erotica as Allyson James. She does it all with style and grace and a writing schedule that makes my 6 books and a novella in a year look like slacking.

Be sure to check out her latest release Lady Isabella's Scandalous Marriage. It's a keeper!

I'm thrilled that Jennifer carved some time from her busy schedule to read Touch of a Thief and even more excited to have such a wonderful cover quote from her. The best way for me to thank her is to urge you all to make her books an auto-buy like I do.


Saturday, July 24, 2010

Help Me Name this Hero

I know it's happened to you. It's 4:45pm on Friday and your boss drops by your office and tells you she needs an extensive report by Monday afternoon.

That's sort of what happened to me yesterday. Alicia Condon, my editor at Kensington, dropped me an email asking if I'd submitted a synopsis for the novella I'm doing for the IMPROPER GENTLEMEN anthology (July 2011). This will be the third Mia Marlowe release scheduled for next summer.

Well, no, I hadn't. I'd run a quick idea for a setting by her, but that was it. I fired back the story ideas that had been percolating on the back burner of my brain while I near the end of my current WIP. (I'm not scheduled to start on the novella till the second week in August--yeah, I'm that anal. My writing is planned out week by week till next summer.)

Fortunately, Alicia shot back an email saying she loved my ideas and it was exactly the direction I needed to go for this novella. (Did I mention I love my editor?) All she needs now for the cover blurb meeting on Monday is my hero's name.

Which I don't know.

I know he's Irish. The year is 1827. When the story opens, he's a convict on Bermuda, part of the pressed labor gang building the massive Commissioner's House compound on the southwest point of the island. He's no innocent, but he's not guilty of the particular thing he was convicted for. He's whip-smart, a wicked scrapper with fisticuffs, and sexy as the devil. He looks very like Matt Bomer, the actor from White Collar.

But I need a name for him.

I did a search and came up with the 10 most popular male Irish names in the 19th century:

Top ten Irish first names for boys in 1864

1. John
2. Patrick/Pat
3. James
4. Thomas
5. Michael
6. William
7. Martin
8. Peter
9. Timothy
10. Denis/Dennis

Also like Aidan, Brendan, and Ryan.

I have to come up with a surname, but that'll be easier once I know the first part.

So, what do you think? Which name do you prefer? Do you have another suggestion? If I end up using a totally new full name suggested here, I'll definitely give the person responsible credit on the acknowledgements page. So please put on your thinking caps, but time is of the essence. I need to send it to my editor first thing Monday.

Thanks so much!

Oh, say! Did you notice the cool little gizmo at the end of the post? It allows you to share this post with your friends via email, facebook, blogger, a whole slew of social media outlets. Please take a minute and point someone else this way too. Thanks! I need all the help I can get!

Friday, July 23, 2010

You've Got to be Carefully Taught

This week the news cycle has been dominated by stories about race relations in our country. Accusations of racism fly from both sides of the political aisle and the quickest way to end substantive debate on any issue is to inject race. It makes me sad that we're still dealing with this. I wonder how to break the cycle.

In 1949 Rogers and Hammerstein brought South Pacific to the Broadway stage. It's a wonderful musical with memorable characters and terrific music.

It's also about racism.

Even though I'll bet lots of you can hum "Some Enchanted Evening," there's one song that almost scuttled the production, but the lyricist and composer wouldn't mount the show without it. It's called "You've Got to be Carefully Taught." Here are the lyrics:
You've got to be taught
To hate and fear,
You've got to be taught
From year to year,
It's got to be drummed
In your dear little ear
You've got to be carefully taught.

You've got to be taught to be afraid
Of people whose eyes are oddly made,
And people whose skin is a diff'rent shade,
You've got to be carefully taught.

You've got to be taught before it's too late,
Before you are six or seven or eight,
To hate all the people your relatives hate,
You've got to be carefully taught!

When my kids were little, my DH and I worked with the youth group at our church. It was a racially diverse bunch and because we were so involved with the teens, our girls got to know and love them all.

One day my oldest daughter, who was about 6 at the time, said, "Mom, Andre is different from us."

We'd never talked to our children about race. "Oh?" I said cautiously.

"Yeah, he's got really curly hair."

She hadn't noticed this fine young man's chocolate skin. Since everyone in our house has hair that hangs straight as a horse's tail, she'd been fascinated by Andre's curly hair. And probably more than a little jealous!

I think about that moment whenever I hear about racism allegations. Wouldn't it be wonderful if we saw each other only as members of the race we all share--the human race?

And taught our children to do the same.

PS. On a much lighter note, I'm blogging at The Chatelaines today about summer fun and ideas for making a memory with your fam.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Red Pencil Thursday with Kimberly Meyer

It's Thursday and my red pencil is all sharpened up. Our guest/volunteer/victim today is Kimberly Meyer, YA paranormal author. I just love getting to read snippets of so many different kinds of romance and after checking out Kimberly's offering, I'll warn you that you're in for a treat. She's a terrible tease.

And I mean that in the nicest possible way.

My comments are in red, Kimberly's responses in purple. I hope you'll add your suggestions and encouragements at the end of this post.

“It wasn’t like I meant to kill him,” I protested to the Superiors sitting side by side before me. “He just… flung himself at my knife.”
Boy, if homocide detectives had a nickel for every time they heard that one. Actually, I like this opening. I can almost hear her whine "I get blamed for everything I do."
Thanks! I’m very proud of that line!

I could explain the situation until I was blue in the face and it wouldn’t matter. There was a dead body, and I was responsible.
You've set a tone here. Our heroine is an uber-snark who can't even take death seriously. Yes, I know she takes responsibility, but after the first paragraph, you get the feeling there's more here than you're telling us (which is good). We don't want a heroine who's a sociopath, so there must be something we don't know about the dead body and how it got dead. Good tease.

A steady hum from the ventilation system of the underground building and the rustle of my clothes as I shifted my weight were the only sounds in the room as I awaited my punishment. It was the second time in less than a month a Seeker had basically committed suicide by my hands.
Nice sensory details. You've set a dark industrial type environment for us with great economy of words. Also I want everyone to notice that our heroine is nervous, even though Kimberly resists telling us so (love the ways she shifts her weight, very subtle yet effective). I'm relieved you've let us off the hook a little by telling us the heroine is not homocidal. She just happened to be present and presumably doing her job when the deaths occurred. And yet, Kimberly's left the details dangling. Another good tease.

I didn’t know what the big deal was anyway. They weren’t human.
This seems a little callous from a character I was starting to like. I don't like to see any life form suffer. My compassion isn't limited to homo sapiens. Are the Seekers evil? If so, Seeker is kind of an enlightened sounding name for them. Can you give us a clue why she dislikes them so? Did they harm someone she loved?
They are evil, and they are responsible for the death of her mother and the loss of her leg. I didn’t feel this was the right place for me to go into those details. In my last edit, I changed the last line of that paragraph to read “They weren’t human, no matter how much they resembled us.” But it still sounds pretty harsh. I think I’ll just eliminate this line.

“We will discuss the matter in private chambers,” the Lead Superior stated. As one, all seven Superiors stood. Their faces told me nothing as they silently filed out of their seats and through the heavy metal door.
Ok, I let you have 'protested' in the first line, but I'm going to call you on 'stated.' Honestly, cross my heart, I promise you that editors really, really, really prefer to have just 'said' for a dialogue tag.
I’m laughing, because I just said the same thing yesterday at my critique group meeting. The reason I used stated was because I wanted to show how rigid and proper the ancient Superiors were. But I’m sure the scroll line below works just as well, so I’ll change it.

I took a seat and clasped my hands in my lap in an attempt to keep them from shaking. No matter how indifferent I pretended to be, the truth was I was scared. I could be kicked out of the program because of those stupid, soulless beings.
Take a look at the first sentence. You showed us she's scared. Now check the second sentence. You told us she's scared. Pick one. Readers will accept showing or telling, but not both.
I’d rather show, not tell, of course. How about this – I took a seat and clasped my hands in my lap in an attempt to keep them from shaking. I could be kicked out of the program because of those stupid, soulless human look-alikes. Then I would never get my revenge for my mother’s death.
This way, I cover your question from two paragraphs above and still give a vague description of the Seekers without making my character sound so cold.

A fake cough and then a grunt, and yet another fake cough sounded behind me. I turned to the source, my partner and best friend, and gave him a look of utter exasperation.
I thought she was alone up once the Superiors left. If she has an audience for this quasi-trial, I think we need a hint at it up front.
Good point! Of course he was there, in my mind at least, all along. I will make mention of Jesse sooner. Maybe she’ll cringe or jump when Jesse’s shoe squeaks on the floor as the Superiors are filing out of their seats.

Jesse mouthed two words to me – tell them – and I shook my head – one quick movement no one else would really see. That’d be a negative. Telling them my suspicions would give them even further reason to kick me out – for insanity. His lips moved again – the truth. I turned around, clearly telling him to piss off. I did it just in time, too, because the door to the Superior’s chamber opened.
There are too many dashes in this paragraph. Makes it hard to read. How about this:

Jesse mouthed two words to me. Tell them.

I shook my head, one quick movement no one else would really see. That’d be a negative. Telling them my suspicions would give them even further reason to kick me out. For insanity.

His lips moved again. The truth.

I turned around, clearly telling him to piss off. I did it just in time, too, because the door to the Superior’s chamber opened.

Instead of italicizing Jesse's words in the manuscript, you should underline them to indicate to the typesetter that the text needs to be set in italics. Many publishing houses use underlines for italics because it's hard to see italics in Courier New 12 pt. Notice I broke up the passage into several shorter paragraphs. I think it makes it easier to follow the flow between the two of them.
Thanks for the help. I’ve been struggling with this paragraph but didn’t know how to fix it, so I just skipped over it. I will change all of my italicized words to underlined.

Once they were arranged in their seats, the head of the Superiors stood again and opened a scroll.

Seriously? A scroll? These people needed to get with the times.
Yay, the snark is back.
She’s an angry teen. It comes natural.

I stood rigid as the gray haired man spoke directly to me.

Never, in a million years, would I have guessed their decision. It didn’t make sense. Not a lick of sense. But it was definitely the cruelest thing they could have done.
Oh, you little hooker, you. I hate it but I love it. An author has to be a little bit cruel in order to string her reader along. By not telling us her sentence, you've set some deep hooks to keep us reading.
Never thought I would be proud to be called a hooker, but I am flattered. Thank you.
My DH never thought he'd be proud to say he married one!

The room cleared and there I stood like a statue, completely in shock. A click in the duct work matched the beat of the throb in my amputated leg.
You've given us a wounded warrior. I like it. Your heroine is instantly more likeable. We're solidly in her corner now against the big meanies who are doing . . . whatever it is they've done to her. We don't know because you're such a big tease, but we're dying to find out.

Jesse’s arm wrapped around my shoulder. Slowly I turned to him. This changed everything for him, too.

“I’m going with you.”
He stands by his partner. We like him. A lot.

“No,” I told him firmly. “Absolutely not.”

“I’ll never leave your side.”

I would do the same in this situation, if the roles were reversed, but I had to let Jesse go.

Without a goodbye, or thanks for being the best partner and friend a person could ever have, I shoved past him to the rickety elevator that led to a tiny, century old building in a forgotten part of town and headed to the only place I had ever known as home. Soon, it would be a place I would never see again.

Yet another good hook. Kimberly, this is the best example of embedded hooks we've ever had in an excerpt on Red Pencil Thursday. Keep this up and they'll start saying things about your writing. Things like "page-turner."
Thank you so much for this opportunity, Emily. I’ve been following your blog since I met you this spring at RT during the pre-con workshop where you inspired me to be a hooker. RPT has been a great help to me and I’ve recommended it to every author I know.
Thanks for recommending my blog to your friends, Kimberly. I appreciate that very much. Wear your Hooker Badge with pride! You've earned it.

Kimberly Meyer's bio: When she's not writing, Kim can be found playing with tractors on the family farm. She lives in northwest Ohio with her husband, her two children, and her monstrous Saint Bernard.
My website:

Now it's your turn. Please leave your comments or suggestions for Kimberly. This is also a good place for me to let you all know that Kim was the last volunteer in my queue. If you'd like to be a RPT victim/volunteer, please contact me through my website for the details.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Confessions of a Closet Puzzler

I never suspected I had it in me.

You think you know yourself, but then the whole thing just sort of blind-sides you. There I was, putting along on my current WIP, being a good little linear pantser, and . . . what's that you say?

You don't know what a pantser is? A quick primer on writing process is in order then.

Pantser-- A character-driven writer who wakes up each morning wondering where her H/h will take her story today. (This is me. When I say I'm linear, I mean I start at the beginning and stop when I hit "The End.")

Plotter-- A plot-driven writer who knows down to the POV and sensory details what's happening in every single scene before she writes the first sentence.

Layerer-- This writer starts with a powderkeg of a premise distilled down to a single sentence. Then she expands to a paragraph, a back cover blurb, a one page synopsis, a 5 page synopsis, a 10 page . . . an 80 page first draft, a 200 page second . . . well, you get the idea. This writer keeps ploughing through the story adding layers of detail on each pass.

Puzzler-- These magical writers conjure their stories out of the air in vignettes written in whatever order the scenes come to them. Then they shuffle them into the correct order and string together connecting passages to make a story. Sort like patchwork quilting, but with words.

Anyway, back to my original thought. There I was, minding my business, writing away, when out of the blue, here came a scene into my head that was completely out of order. And I realized immediately that it had to be incorporated into my WIP, even though it meant backtracking considerably. (Like a couple hundred pages. This was a seriously out of order scene!)

After I finished tucking the scene in seamlessly, I basked in the moment. It fit. It was as essential to the story as any of the other scenes. It was like a Mozart sonata, each note strung together like a perfectly matched set of pearls.

Even though one pearl was tied in out of order.

I had tried plotting and layering before, but I never thought my mind worked organically enough for puzzling. I guess it just goes to show that if you write long enough, you'll use every known process and make up a few of your own.

When you read, have you ever been able to tell what sort of process a writer used?

Monday, July 19, 2010

Where's the Maguffin?

The what?

In case you've never heard of it before, here's a little background. Alfred Hitchcock gave us the term "maguffin." It refers to some thing all the characters in the story are after. It can be anything at all, but its purpose is to be a prime mover in the plot.

In TOUCH OF A THIEF, my debut Mia Marlowe title, the maguffin is a red diamond with unusual properties. And because of those qualities, Baaghh kka kkhuun (Blood of the Tiger) almost becomes a character in its own right.

I'm blogging about it over at and I'd love you to join me!

Friday, July 16, 2010

Hero Casting Call

When I guest blog for a new book, I'm often asked who I'd cast as my hero if my story was made into a movie. Here's a peek into my private casting call.

Trevelyn Deveridge in DISTRACTING THE DUCHESS is clever, sophisticated, and dangerous when he needs to be. Sexy as the devil, this Queen's secret service agent whistles Rule Britania as he peels off his clothes to become my heroine's nude model.

He's Pierce Brosnan in a cravat.

The knee jerk choice for my PLEASURING THE PIRATE hero might have been Johnny Depp, but frankly his Jack Sparrow nances about a bit too much to be Gabriel Drake. My prodigal pirate needed to have more of the seriously bad "bad boy" about him if I was going to make his reformation mean something.

He's Russell Crowe in a tricorne hat.

For VEXING THE VISCOUNT, I needed a man with innate sweetness for my virgin hero Lucian Ignacio de Castenello Beaumont. This treasure hunter may have "pockets to let," but his heart is rich and he's ever so eager to learn about love. Lucian's love scenes with the heroine may be exercises in the blind leading the blind, but they have plenty of sexy fun wandering the dark together.

He's Colin Firth in a frock coat and knee britches.

Ian Michael MacGregor in My Lady Below Stairs (A CHRISTMAS BALL) isn't a titled lord. He's the head groom who's in love with the scullery maid. It made sense to to choose a burly unknown as my model for this muscle-bound "man-of-all-work."

Earnest, devoted and determined not to lose his lady love, I may not know this model's name, but I know Ian Michael's heart.

I really need two pictures for Crispin Hawke, the brilliant artist in STROKE OF GENIUS. One for his gorgeous exterior and one for his irritating, insufferable interior. I already had a mental image of Crispin's dangerous male beauty when I ran across this suffering artist at the 2009 RT Convention. It was so close to the hero in my head, I had to have the picture.

But once Crispin opens his mouth, it's hard not to recognize him as the Regency's answer to Hugh Laurie's HOUSE. Crispin isn't addicted to opiates and he isn't as self-destructive as HOUSE, but his "I-dare-you-to-care-about-me" demeanor makes him one of the most complicated heroes I've ever written.


My debut Mia Marlowe title will be coming out next May. Some of you will remember the name for my hero from my Pirate Name Contest a few years ago. Lisa Mancini-Verges, the reader who submitted it, has given me permission to use the name and I'm thrilled to report that Greydon Quinn will come to life in TOUCH OF A THIEF. A disgraced British officer, Quinn is single-minded, committed to justice for his friends and a master of the Kama Sutra.

Of course, the fact that Quinn looks remarkably like Clive Owen doesn't hurt a bit either.

And that brings us to my current work in progress which I'm not at liberty to say much about yet.

Except that my hero strongly resembles Matthew McConaughey.

Ok, now it's your turn to play casting director. Take a look at the book on your nightstand. Please share the title, author and who you imagine as the hero!

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Red Pencil Thursday with Kristine Cayne

Please welcome Kristine Cayne to the Red Pencil Thursday online critique group. As with any group, we're only as strong as the members around the table, so please be sure to leave your comments for Kristine.

As usual, my comments are in red. Kristine's are purple.

Very nice. One word titles are quite strong.

Where was the best place to shoot Nic “The Lover” Lamoureux? The king-size bed or the beige club chair?
Now, that's an eye-popping opener. He must have really ticked her off. I've never seen Nic spelled that way. Am I just out of the loop?
Thank you! Nic is short for Nicolas (without the “h”). Nic is French Canadian and this spelling is more regionally appropriate than Nick.

Lauren James scanned the hotel room through the lens of her Nikon D700. Eager to get started, she adjusted the intensity of the lights and the angle of the umbrellas around the bed. With her foot, she moved the chair an inch to the left then nudged it an inch to the right.
Ha! Deftly done. I thought I was in the mind of a pre-meditating murderer for a minute. I like it when an author fools me and then lets me in on the joke. Our goal is always to surprise and delight our readers. You're off to a great start.
Thank you.

She glanced at her watch for the tenth time in as many minutes confirming what she already knew. He was late. Everything she needed to get the cleanest shot possible was already in place except her target.
Yay! You've followed the writer's path by showing, not telling. You've let us know Lauren is a detail oriented professional by showing her meticulous preparation.
Thank you.

Just then, the door opened, revealing a perfectly matched, elegant couple. Her heart rate accelerated sharply as Nic entered the room. She didn’t recognize the pretty redhead who sauntered in beside him.
I'd cut Just then. It's unnecessary and as I'm always telling my critique partner (and myself!) "Less really is more." I sometimes do a search for all the just, that, even, still and other "filler" type words so I can weed them out of my literary garden.
Good point. I’ll scrub my manuscript for fillers like these.

As she stood rooted to the spot, gaping at the most beautiful man she had ever seen, he crossed the room to stop directly in front of her and smiled. “Hello, chérie. I’m Nic Lamoureux.”
I wonder if famous people actually introduce themselves or if they assume others know them.
I was trying to show that Nic is not your typical arrogant star. That being said, I’ll take another look at this to see if I can bring out that point in a different, perhaps more realistic way.

Oh, God. His voice still held a hint of the sexy Québécois accent she remembered so well. She’d always thought it a shame that he kept it hidden in his movies and public appearances. With considerable effort and concentration, she fought to close her mouth and struggled against the need to slowly peruse his amazing body. After surreptitiously wiping her sweat of her palm off on her hip, she met his gaze and held out her hand.
Oh, God is Lauren's direct thought so it should be underlined to indicate it will be italicized. Other than the bit about his accent (which is great, BTW. I'm drawn to a man's voice first) Kristine has chosen to show us how cool Nic is by giving us Lauren's visceral reaction to him. This is a good technique to demonstrate another character's importance and it allows the reader to fill in the missing details of Nic's "beauty" to conform with their particular preferences. Good job. One little nitpick: I'd change wiping her sweat of her palm off to wiping off her sweaty palm.
You’re absolutely right. It sounds better the second way and gets rid of one preposition.

“Hi Nic,” she said. “I’m Lauren James.”

“Enchanté.” Nic raised her fingers to his lips and lightly kissed her knuckles. She watched mesmerized as the expression in his eyes turned inquisitive. “You seem very familiar. Have we met?”
While this conversation is realistic, it's not interesting. Fictional dialogue has to work harder than this. Every exchange needs a purpose and every speaker has their own agenda. What do each of them expect from the encounter? What do you want the reader to glean from this? If they do know each other, where is Lauren's disappointment that he doesn't remember her as well as she does him?
This encounter is supposed to show two things: Nic The Lover is a flirt and there is something about Lauren that rings a bell but he doesn’t know what. Since this isn’t coming across, I’ll need to rework the passage. As for Lauren’s disappointment, you make a good point. I need to include that here.

Before she Lauren could reply, the redhead joined them. Lauren had always envied women like her. Even though she was perhaps ten years older, the tall, slim woman with her flawless skin, gorgeous hair and perfectly tailored clothes could, no doubt, turn the heads of men still in their twenties. "I’m Vivian Carmichael, Nic’s agent. Where is Raphael?”
Envy isn't an attractive quality. While we need our protagonists to have flaws, you've already given Lauren some jitters. I'd rather not see her afflicted with the green-eyed monster.
Interesting viewpoint. Since we envy what we admire, I’ll change it to “Lauren had always admired women like her.”

The woman leaned forward. “I’m Vivian Carmichael, Nic’s agent. Where is Raphael?”
It's amazing to me how often this happens in my own work. I do some revisions, move some things around, and forget to delete the material in its original place. Reading aloud helps me catch those repeats.
Thank you for catching this.
That said, I'm not sure Ms. Carmichael would deign to introduce herself to someone she really didn't want there. I think Lauren should realize who she is based on her boss's instructions about the gig.
Good point. I’ll rework this part.
“Raphael has a nasty case of the flu. We were supposed to work the photo shoot together but since he can’t be here, he asked me to handle it on my own.” Lauren turned to Nic. “I hope that’s okay with you?”

Are there any un-nasty cases of flu? Some people are very private about their health. Raphael may not appreciate her sharing the details of his illness. Then too, if Lauren's been with him, Nic and his agent might think she's been exposed and is carrying the coughing-up-a-lung, feverish, aching, snot-producing virus I think of when you say "nasty case of the flu." A simple "He's home sick" would suffice.
LOL. Not quite the impression I was going for. I’ll change this.

“Of course it’s —”

“Not okay!” interrupted Vivian, pointing a perfectly manicured finger at her. “Raphael told me about you. I agreed to this arrangement as long as he was here to direct and supervise. I can not allow Nic to go through with this.”

The job of a writer is to choose which details to include. The perfectly manicured finger really speaks to Vivian's character in an economy of words!

Thank you.

Nic smiled at Vivian and smoothed a strand of red hair around her ear. “Vivian, what’s the big deal? We agreed to a photo shoot after the Bad Days premiere. So, let’s just do it. What can it hurt?”

That's a very intimate gesture. We allow very few people to touch our heads. Are Nic and Vivian sleeping together?

Their relationship is not sexual (at least not on Nic’s part) but it is intimate. Vivian is Nic’s only real friend in L.A. and they are very close. Also, when Nic is being “Nic The Lover,” he manages (most) women, including Vivian, through flirting. But, I do see your point and I’ll think about it some more.

Vivian glared at Lauren. “I won’t have your reputation ruined by some two-bit department store photographer.”

Nic frowned. “What are you talking about?”

This question makes your hero seem not quite bright. Obviously, someone in the public eye has to be careful how their image is presented and would demand the best. I'd rather have him say something to try to calm his agent down or say she's being a little harsh. Especially if he and Lauren have a history of some kind together, as I suspect they do.

Good point. I’ll think about how to make him sound brighter even though he has no clue as to the particulars of this particular photo shoot. Vivian manages all these engagements leaving Nic to concentrate on the acting part of his career.

She grasped him by the forearm while making a dismissive gesture toward Lauren. “Darling, this woman isn’t a professional photographer. She simply won a contest and you’re the prize.”

Now the agent seems not quite bright. Lauren isn't there with her cellphone to snap this photo. She's got a heavy-duty Nikon and has set up all the professional lighting equipment and staged the room for a shoot. Lauren is projecting a professional demeanor, despite her inner fangirl. If there's something else afoot here, now is the time to have Vivian give an explanation without making Nic ask her for one. Or if there's a special circumstance surrounding Lauren getting to do this, it should be introduced earlier, maybe as she's setting up for the shoot.
Lauren did win a photography contest for which the prize was to assist Raphael in a photo shoot. This is explained in the next paragraph which unfortunately isn’t in this excerpt. Vivian knows this but hasn’t told Nic since she didn’t think it was a big deal as long as Raphael was there. Now that he’s not, she’s trying to back out of the deal. The tone of her words is supposed to show that she’s very protective, even possessive of Nic to the point that she can be a b*tch about it.

He turned to Lauren, one beautiful black eyebrow raised. “I’m the prize? Exactly what kind of contest was this?”

You used beautiful for Nic once before. Maybe perfect would do here.
Good point.

Thanks for letting me take a look at this, Kristine. There are some good elements to build on here, but I'm going to give you a little tough love. I'm concerned because I just re-read the email from you that indicated that Obsession is a romantic suspense and I wouldn't have known that from this excerpt at all. There's no sense of danger. No hint that someone is being stalked or targeted because you quickly made the bit about "shooting Nic" in the beginning into a joke. You might need to rethink the opening. Pull a Lisa Gardner, Lisa Jackson, or Karen Rose novel from the shelves and see how they start. There's no doubt something evil is afoot from the get-go.
I’m glad that you brought this up since it has forced me to make a decision on something I’d been toying around with for a while. Since Lauren isn’t aware of the danger to Nic, I’ve been thinking about adding a first scene either in Nic’s POV or in the stalker’s POV.

Whew! I was sweating bullets over bringing that up. Sometimes writers just want affirmation. I'm so glad you're serious enough about the craft to be willing to take a hard look at making substantial changes. Your idea to have a scene in a different POV character is a good solution.

Genre fiction needs to be more of one thing than anything else. If it's a comedy, make me spew my drink out my nose. If it's sensual, make me fan myself. If it's historical, don't mess up on the details. If it's suspense, I want tingles running up my spine. From page one. Those are the reader expectations and writers ignore them at our peril.

I'm sure your manuscript becomes more suspenseful, but if you're promising a RS, you need to begin as you mean to continue. Right now this reads as straight contemporary romance.

Kristine is a software developer by day and a romance writer by night. She lives in the Pacific Northwest with her husband and two boys. Kristine started writing, feeling that through words she could create her own stories and entertain herself in a way that nobody else could. Kristine is busy polishing her current work in progress and eager to begin working on her second full length novel.
My website: (Aspiring writers should take a look at Kristine's website. It's well-organized, professional and presents her as a serious writer. Just what you want as you build your platform.)
My blog:

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Gerard Butler Grammar Quiz

Credit for today's post goes to the hysterically talented Kristan Higgins. You may have hated grammar in school, but I promise you'll think differently after this!

The following articles first appeared in Connections, Connecticut RWA's monthly newsletter.

Gerard Butler Grammar Quiz: I vs. Me

Oh, stop! You love grammar! You just don't know it yet. Take my little quiz and
see how much fun you have.

A) That's a great picture of Gerard Butler and I.

B) That's a great picture of Gerard Butler and me.

C) It meant a lot to Gerard and I that you burned those porno shots of the two
of us.

Only B is correct. An easy way to get the proper answer here is if you just
deleted Gerard Butler (which of course I'd never do), you'd say "me." That's a
great picture of me. Same if Gerard's in the picture (and we hope he still
is).and therefore we have B.

A) Me and Gerard are getting married in June.

B) I and Gerard are getting married in June.

C) Gerard and I are getting married in June, and we plan to have a long and
exhausting honeymoon.

The grammatically correct sentence is C. For the record, the first person
pronoun (I or me) always comes second. It's just polite, like serving the guest
first. And again, if you'd say I (as in I'm getting married), you'd say Gerard
and I. Not Me and Gerard. Because he won't marry you if sound like a dope.

Gerard Butler Grammar Quiz: Affect vs. Effect
Which of the following is correct?

A) The affect that Gerard Butler has on women and gay men is undeniable.

B) I was deeply effected by the way Gerard tore off his shirt.

C) The effect of Gerard's kiss was that I slipped him some Rohypnol and
dragged him off to Vegas for a quicky wedding.

The answer is, of course, C. Effect is a noun, as in "cause and effect." Affect
is a verb. Gerard's smoky blue eyes affect us chicks. The effect of those eyes
is devastating. True! So true!

Gerard Butler Grammar Quiz: Its vs. It's

Which of these is correct?

A) Its so nice to have Gerard take his shirt off in a movie.

B) It's even better if he wears a kilt.

C) The movie, its actors and script were pointless, at least until Gerard Butler
had that love scene. was a trick question. B and C are both correct. When one uses an
apostrophe, it's to indicate that a letter is missing or to designate possession
(Kristan, Gerard's wife) In the case of "it's" the missing letter is the "I" in
"is." "Its" (no apostrophe) indicates ownership.

The kilt, its fasteners having melted in my laser-hot stare, fell to the floor.
"It's getting steamy in here," I murmured.

"'Tis," Gerard breathed.

Note the apostrophe in front of "'tis"-because I deleted the letter "I" from the
implied word "It."

Thanks, Gerard! You're the best, baby!

Kristan Higgins is the RITA©-award winning author of six romantic comedies and a devout Gerard Butler afficianado. Her latest book, All I Ever Wanted, received four and a half stars from Romantic Times.

Emily here again. Never knew grammar could be so much fun, did you?

Ok, if Gerard Butler doesn't help you remember these little rules, which hunky male would you substitute?

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Blogging from the other side of my brain . . .

Today I'm blogging at , my evil twin's site. Ok, not so evil exactly. Slightly woo-woo, maybe, since she mixes magic and mayhem in her stories to a much higher degree than the Emily books do.

Anyway, I'd love to see you over there. I'm talking about approaching people I respect about giving a cover quote for Mia's debut TOUCH OF A THIEF.


Monday, July 12, 2010

Confessions of an RWA Slacker

I went to my first RWA Nationals in 2003, when it was held in the Big Apple. I didn't know a soul except my roommate and she was only there for part of the time. I had only finished my sad little western, but I was working on the manuscript that would become my debut MAIDENSONG (a Diana Groe title which is now sadly out of print. There are still used copies available on most online stores). The pitch appointments were all filled by the time I registered that year so I couldn't talk to an editor or agent about my fledgling work.

That was probably a good thing. I'd have had no idea what to say.

So I attended every craft workshop I could squeeze into my schedule and by the time the conference was over, I thought my brain was going to start leaking. The presenters had given me so much to think about, I couldn't wait to get home and implement the new ideas.

But I couldn't shake the feeling that there was another conference going on in tandem with the one I attended. One that required a wink and a nod and a secret handshake which I wasn't privy to. No matter. My first conference met my needs right where I was. It filled me up with new knowledge about the craft of storytelling.

Then a few months later my DH lost his job, so I had to skip the 2004 Nationals. I was too busy working 40 hours a week and trying to learn how to write nights and weekends. I finished ERINSONG and another still unpubbed story during that time.

By the time 2005 and Nationals in Reno rolled around, my fortunes had changed dramatically. I'd received "The Call!" I met my lovely editor Leah Hultenschmidt of Dorchester for the first time. It was my first peek behind the curtain into that 'Other Conference,' the one where networking was the byword, relationships were cemented and deals were struck.

From 2006-2009, I had books to sign at the Literacy Signing. I was invited to my publisher's parties and my agent got me in to some of the others. In 2009, I presented my first workshop at Nationals NEUROTICA~Adding Humor to your Prose. I hobnobbed with authors whose work I adored and tried not to stammer when I met highpowered bookbuyers, editors and reviewers. This part of the 'Other Conference' terrified me, but it's so necessary to learn to be comfortable with the business side of writing.

Now I love that part of conference. In fact, I could probably count the number of workshops I attended in DC last year on one hand. And yet Nationals met the changing needs of my writing career.

This year, I'm sorry to admit I will not be in Orlando. I had signed up for Nashville, had my room booked at the Opryland Hotel and was slated to appear on a panel, but when the venue was changed, I was told initially that the panel was being cancelled. I took a hard, business-like look at my options. Since I'd just signed contracts obligating me for 6 novels and a novella before July 15, 2011, I could definitely use the writing time. And I had to weigh whether the money I'd spend on Nationals would be better spent hiring a developer to design a website for my new Mia Marlowe pen name.

I think I made the right decision, but there's still some niggling regret. The jazz of being with so many creative people is a rush I've become addicted to and I won't get my fix this year. I'll miss the excellent keynote speakers, the excitement of the Golden Heart and Ritas (the Emmy and Oscar of the Romance World), the buzz of meeting so many writing and reading friends. But for right now, the post-it on my computer says, "It's the deadlines, stupid!"

So how about you? Are you going to Nationals? If not, do you live close enough to attend the Literacy Signing at least? If you've attended a writer/reader's conference, do you have a funny story to share?

Friday, July 9, 2010

Friday Odds and Ends

Even though I was gone for a while visiting my family, I discovered I was also still out and about on the web. Barbara Vey of Publishers Weekly gave STROKE OF GENIUS a delightful push on her blog Beyond Her Book . If you haven't bookmarked this blog, I encourage you to do so. Barb always has something fresh to share. Here are some highlights from the blog:

"Emily Bryan does it again. Stroke of Genius sparkles and crackles with whip sharp dialog and characters to cheer for. Historicals have never been such fun."

RomCon begins today in Denver. I sincerely wish I could make this conference, but I'm 10 pages behind in my current WIP and can't spare the time away. My novella in A CHRISTMAS BALL, My Lady Below Stairs is up for their prestigious Reader's Crown Award. Just being nominated is an incredible honor, especially since the rest of the field in my category includes talent like Jade Lee, Erin McCarthy, Sophia Nash and Courtney Milan.

I was blogging at the RomCon site yesterday and will be giving away a signed copy of STROKE OF GENIUS to a commenter. I'm not sure when the site will close the contest, so please pop over right away and let me know you were there.

I'd like to wish you all a belated Happy 4th of July. It's my dad's birthday and we had a grand time celebrating it with him. This snarky little pic is my oldest daughter, making fun of the fact that I used to make her and her her sister wear oven mitts to do sparklers when they were little. You may laugh, but I got them both to majority with all their fingers intact!

Hope you're having a wonderful summer filled with "take me away" beach reads. I'm just starting Sabrina Jeffries' THE TRUTH ABOUT LORD STONEVILLE.

What's on your bedside table?

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Disclaimer: ASPCA Friendly Blog

Only virtual kittens are harmed by the dreaded exclamation point! (Please read the RPT comments for further explanation.)

Red Pencil Thursday with Barbara Huddleston

One of the lovely things about having lived in lots of places is that I know writers from all over. I first met Barbara Huddleston (who intends to write as Barbara Bettis) when I lived in Missouri. I used to drive 100 miles to attend the Ozark Romance Authors meetings in Springfield once a month and Barb is a very talented member of that group. I was so impressed by her writing the first time I heard her read during the group critique time, when she volunteered for Red Pencil Thursday, I knew we'd all be in for a treat!

As always, my comments are in red. Barbara's are purple. Please add yours in the comment section!

Chapter 1
Love this unusual setting. I forgot to ask. Is this a historical romance or straight historical? Since medievals are experiencing a bit of a resurgence, this setting is still commercially viable.
It’s a romance. Sigh. ;-) The action will switch to England very soon, though.
Even better. England is still the--pardon the pun--"Queen Mother" of settings for historical romance.
Mid-March 1199

Damn, he hated the silence.

Starting with a twist is a good way to pique our interest. Normally people find silence restful, relaxing. The fact that your hero doesn't speaks volumes about him and his situation.

Sir Steven of Riverton held his breath. Drops of perspiration swept down his neck despite the cool night. He listened for the rustle of leaves, the yip of fox kit, the whirsh of owl wings. Nothing. Even the breeze scarcely stroked his beard-stubbed cheek as he led his bay gelding, Jasper. Step by step they eased through the tiny clearing. Sluggish light from the quarter moon cast a watery path ahead.

Brilliant beginning. You've used tactile and auditory clues to set your scene instead of just visual. Is whirsh a real word or did you invent it? Either way, I know exactly what you mean. Even the last sentence which uses visual description does so in an original way. I've never seen 'sluggish light' or a 'watery path' anywhere else. This is fresh writing and I wish I'd done it!

I did make up ‘whirsh.’ (Thank you!)

One query about your hero's name. Steven spelled that way seems more modern to me than Stephen. Did you research the name to make sure that spelling was common in the 12th century?

Absolutely right. It’s now Stephen. ;-)

Also, I'm not sure I need the name of the horse yet. I'd really like to zero in on just your hero. The horse is a prop at this point.

Humm. I never thought about the horse’s name. It is kind of wonky for the 1100s--and I did think I needed to name it right away. But I’ll go back and work w/ the wording to take it out. Your comment here ties in with one you made on an earlier RP entry about focusing on the hero’s name in the opening, and how we’re just getting to know him (or whomever we’re opening with). Best not to bring in too many other names all at once.

When he left the village earlier, his decision to avoid travelers and return through the woods seemed unnecessary. Few knew of this meeting. What need for subterfuge? Still, routine propelled him off the familiar road between village and monastery. Now, as he pushed on, the very silence shouted.


Thank you for not succumbing to the temptation to use an ! here. According to Heather Osborn (editor for Tor/Forge) "Every time you use an !, you kill a kitten." Barbara has used an embedded hook here (if you followed my online MY HUSBAND MARRIED A HOOKER workshop, you already know a hook is a tantalyzing bit of information that draws the reader in and propels them forward.) She's let us know Sir Steven is up to something secretive and dangerous without giving away too much.

He inhaled, soft, easy. A trace of rancid sweat hit his nostrils. Jesu! On the right. He ducked the instant a knife blade nicked his ear. Instinct drove his own double-edged dagger down then up through cloth and flesh. He wrenched the blade free. Warm, copper-scented wetness pulsed across his arm.

It seems I'm only cataloguing all the things you're doing right. Using scents and tactile impressions along with short "stream of consciousness" phrases pulls us into tight POV. We're experiencing everything at the same time Steven experiences it. This is how it's done, kids.

A word about curses. It's so important that they be appropriate to the character and the time period in order to lend a ring of authenticity. Sir Steven would be a Christian and during this century, he'd think of his Savior by his Latin name. Well done.

Not his blood, thank God. And he damn well better move if he wanted to keep it that way. Reins fisted, Steven leaped into the saddle just as keening whoops slashed the air. The rest of the pack. His mind marked the voices—too many. He couldn’t fight them all. Four, six, more shadows burst into the clearing—front, sides, back. He knew the drill. Draw the circle tighter. Trap the target.

I love the way you use language in original ways. The idea of a sound slashing the air is vibrantly new to me. Notice how as the action speeds up, Barbara's sentences get shorter. This gives the passage a sense of urgency.

He made those rules. He could damn well break them. The circle rotated. Strongest always in front to block escape. Bent low over his mount’s neck, he yanked sharply left, always the weak side of the pattern.

By letting us in on his analysis of the situation, you've deftly shown us he's a military man without telling us so.

He kicked out as he galloped past a shadow. It went down. The well-trained Jasper leaped through the opening. Then a sting on his left sent fire up Steven’s leg. He reached down, jerked free the knife, jammed a fist against his thigh. This time the thick wetness oozing through his fingers was his own.

It's been a while since you used his horse's name. I was a little distracted by it. I wonder if you might wait until they are out of danger to even introduce the animal's name. Steven's the important one here. Let us focus on him.

Will do.

The suck of breath rang in his ears, drowned his pounding heart. No sound of pursuit yet, but that would change. There…the thud of hooves echoed, far enough behind to give him time. Into the forest he headed. The thunder grew closer, loud enough to drown his brief stop to bound from the saddle.

Into the forest he headed is passive sentence structure. Your hero's not the least bit passive. I'd rather see He headed into the forest.

You’re absolutely right. The reason I wrote it that way was…I was afraid of having too many subject/verb constructions that people would think was too choppy. So I tossed that wording into the stream. Guess I’d better fish it out.

“Satan’s backside.” His bloodied leg buckled as he hit the ground rolling. Jasper picked up the gait and crashed through the underbrush onto a narrow path.

Another historically accurate curse, but I wonder if he'd use a two worded one here. Seems a tad long for the action. Perhaps a scatological remark would be more appropriate in these circumstances.

Point taken. I really need to find some different curses that would be “medieval appropriate.” I find myself using the same ones a lot. Or making them up--which doesn’t always work. OH!! I just thought of one. Merde! That would work here.

Perfect! You can't get much more scatological than "Merde!" As far as other curses go, God's Wounds, God's Feet, pretty much God's anything was used as an oath.

Steven hurtled into a large bush, ducked beneath the thick branches. And gritted his teeth when brambles clawed his cheeks.

Christ in chains. Can this night get any better?

Every publishing house has their own style rules but since this is Steven's direct thought, I'd want it italicized. To indicate that for both Dorchester and Kensington, underline the text to be italicized.

THANK YOU. Some of us have had this conversation so often. We didn’t know whether to italicize it in the text as we write or to underline it. Now we know.

The reason they use underlines is because it's hard to see italics in Courier New.

Earth vibrated as the others pounded past. Who were these assailants? Not Assassins. Too much noise. Subtle conniving marked Assassins. He could think of only one explanation. The murdering knights he hunted. Did they know his identity, or had they tracked The Black Dagger only?

Excellent hooks to set up the conflict for your hero. Now we know there are a couple dangerous groups who might want him dead.

Your crisp, elegant prose speaks to me. I really didn't want this excerpt to end. When this one sells, I'll be at the bookstore on its release day with my wallet open!

Thank you for the things you pointed out, Emily. I appreciate your help so much. One thing I was worried about in this beginning--it continues along this line for another couple of pages--is that it has no dialogue. I feared having a narrative opening would be highly frowned on? And thank you for your very kind words. As the saying goes, “From your mouth to God’s ear”…and an agent’s…and an editor’s…. ;-)

I wasn't troubled by the lack of dialogue because there's so much action. Now, if it goes on too much longer, I might be bothered by it, but your POV is so good and tight, we know exactly what Stephen's thinking. I have more problems with openings that are merely the character engaging in internal dialogue, mulling over past events. We hear snippets of Stephen's thoughts, but mostly we're right there with him in the thick of things. Well done!

Barb’s bio:
A former journalist and journalism professor, Barb now teaches English at a local college and devotes every spare moment to spinning stories about ladies and their knights in shining armor--because she firmly believes everyone needs a hero. She lives in Missouri.

Ok, now it's your turn to comment. Any suggestions for how Barb can make her story better?

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