Friday, January 30, 2009

Mail Snafu

Did you all see the article a couple days ago about the Postmaster General suggesting to only deliver mail 5 days a week, due to the USPS being in the red?

I for one was instantly irked. I can’t say why my emotions were so heated, but I think it boils down to tradition. I can’t imagine how an agency that’s been running for years can suddenly be so put upon that they have to change their integral “code”. I mean what’s one thing you can count on? The mail being delivered through rain, sleet or snow…except on Sundays, the day of rest.

Yes, I can see his point about there being less mail. But what about all the people who’ve dutifully been paying those outrageous stamp and postage rates because the USPS had to increase prices. What happened to all the money? Has it been spent on new technology like nifty sorting machines?

Also, why can’t they do a study about where the wasteful spending is going? If they have less mail due to online bill pay, online greeting cards, etc. then why not…I regret in saying this, downsize? If they don’t have as much mail, doesn’t it make sense that they don’t need as much personnel?

Is it just me, or does it seem ironic, that now they’re saying they have too little mail, but on big holidays (Christmas, Thanksgiving, Mother/Father’s Day) they’re saying they have too much?

I for one think of going to the mail box as a daily ritual, just like my postman/woman who delivers it. Sure, I could do without Tuesday’s mail so it would be one less day I receive a bill, but would it really make that much of a financial difference?

And what about those people who live by the mailbox? The people waiting for contracts, contest returns and submission information to name a few. Should the agony really be postponed? Yes, I know some agents/publishers/chapters are going partially paperless, but there are still those few who are stuck in tradition…like me.

So what do you think? Is cutting Tuesday’s mail a good idea?

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Thursday, January 29, 2009

Things You Should Know About E-Publishing

So I thought a great topic for today's blog post would be something that authors and readers would find interest in. I decided to identify interesting concepts embodied in the electronic publishing world, and pick five items of interest to authors, and five items of interest to readers. I thought it might give a little bit of insight as to how things work (and maybe encourage y'all to think a little bit of how they could work. Better.

Five Things An Author Should Know About E-Publishing
1. It works pretty much like print publishing. Author submits to a publisher, publisher rejects or accepts, manuscript goes through an editing process, is given a cover, and is released for sale. Royalties ensue. Money flows to the author. At the fundamental level, this is true.

2. It works nothing like print publishing. E-press markets are smaller, lighter, faster, and skinny around the middle. While print publishers rely on outsourcers to manufacture the physical product and then distribute it to sales points, e-presses do the manufacturing, so to speak, in-house, and more commonly operate a point of sale to the general public, in addition to taking advantage of other distribution channels.

3. E-publishing appeals to a different market than print/traditional publishing. While there exists a large overlap in the two markets, patrons of e-publishers are not a subset of print publishing patrons. For an author, this means you have two different audiences between the two. The large overlap is there, but some of your work that suits the one will not necessarily suit the other. Do not be afraid to exploit this creatively. Future generations will thank you for it.

4. Money flows to the author in all cases, but not in the same riverbed. Advances sprung out of the system of returns and credits used to keep bookstores in business through the depression. They can serve to tide an author over in the time between acceptance of the work and publication/availability to paying customers. The lag time is significantly reduced in a digital world, and publishers operating in that world operate their businesses accordingly. Also, in a digital world, no physical goods are exchanged, ergo nothing physical need be returned. While there's a question as to the purpose of an advance (whether it is a portion of the pay meant to tide an author over until the book begins sales, or a monetary expression of the publisher's expectations of the bulk of the book's expected earnings), the idea of reserves against returns has no place in an e-publishing world. Without the advance, reserves, and returns, most reputable e-publishers have established higher royalty rates in exchange for choosing a non-established way of doing business.

5. E-publishing is still an emerging market, and the rules are fluid. The jury is still out on the best way to get a book from an author's mind out to the masses via the internet. Everything from distribution to pricing to delivery to access to format is still essentially up for grabs to the method that will find the best combination of cheap, easy, plentiful, and appealing. Meaning don't be surprised if things change on you. Hold on to your hat and try to look in the right direction so you can see what's coming.

Five Things Readers Should Know About E-Publishing

1. It's not the same as traditional publishing. As readers, you've spoken through your wallets and shown that by and large, if you can find a book on the bookshelf at the bookstore or in the library, you're not as likely to look for the same fare online, unless it's got the origins you expect. So if you've always wanted to read something that New York just won't touch, chances are that the internet has its hands all over it. Go forth and explore and you may just be pleasantly surprised. Small niches and specializations can be met by e-publishers that are overlooked or ignored by the big boys due to the economies of scale. Which leads to the next item on the list

2. The economies of scale do not apply the same way online as they do in the bookstore. The shelves of the internet are endless. This means you can find just about anything, but it also means you can get very easily lost. This means a return to a book's best sales tool--word of mouth--and the savvy reader will rediscover the somewhat lost art of trusting in a like-minded fellow reader's recommends through blogs and forums and lists and loops.

3. You are being watched. No, not really in any creepy scary stalkerish way. But if you are reading ebooks, your habits and your opinions are being paid attention to by all sorts of interested parties. This means you've got some pull with how things will shake out in the future. If you are vocal, you may just be heard by enough people to enact a change in your favor or keep an unwanted change from happening.

4. The veil between the worlds can be thin, indeed. With very little effort and Google-Fu skillz, an interested reader can probably find out more about an author than she ever wished to know. This might include wonderful things like bonus excerpts, free stories, and intelligent insight on storytelling. It might also include embarrassing social gaffes, clunkers in comment threads, and unpopular opinions on reality TV. The savvy reader is forewarned. Then, too, the digital world provides an unprecedented immediacy for readers to connect with authors (and oftentimes win free stuff from them in promo contests) and express their opinions about the stories they read.

5. You can find anything on the internets. What goes for gross YouTube videos, weird porn, and vintage record collections of obscure barbershop quartets, goes for ebooks. Ebooks of all kinds, and for all tastes have been released onto the internets. Your favorite fetish, pairing, situation, setting, and type of conflict can be found in the pixels of an ebook. Some will be good, some will be less-than-polished, some will be terrible, others will be great. Many of them can be found for free, albeit illegally at file-sharing sites. Auntie Xandra's not going to rail against ebook piracy here, but she will remind gentle readers that if you score a free ebook and like it, do the right thing and buy a copy legally to show the author some love. Most of us don't count our sales in the hundreds of thousands, and for us small potatoes, we're aware of and grateful for every sale.

Well, this ended up longer than I had planned. But hopefully, it will encourage both authors and readers to really think about the possibilities that the digital world presents to us, not the least of which is the possibility of rediscovering excitement in stories.

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Monday, January 26, 2009

Guest - Francesca Hawley

Good morning everyone! Today, we have author Francesca Hawley visiting us. Francesca is sharing with us a very interesting take on the other characters we employ in our work. So grab a cup of coffee, sit back and enjoy! -- Lynda

Supporting Actors, Actresses, and Bit Players

by Francesca Hawley

We all know how important a sympathetic heroine and a strongly written hero are to any romance – regardless of genre. However, as writers we don’t often consider the supporting cast. After all, no matter how cool they are, the hero and heroine can’t interact only with each other. Well, they can if you’re writing a quickie erotic romance…but that’s about it. A good supporting cast can make or break a novel.

Think about it – what is Luke Skywalker without Obi Wan, Yoda, Han, and Leia? A troubled and slightly whiny teenager. Without a sister in trouble, would Joan Wilder have left in New York and traveled to Colombia to meet Jack Colton. I think not. She would have kept writing about Jesse and listening to the soundtrack of “How the West Was Won.” How would Dorothy have gotten to meet the Wizard if she didn’t have the Scarecrow, Tin Man and Lion to help her out and Glinda to get her started? She would have stayed in Munchkinland saying she wanted to go home. These stories would never work without secondary characters. Secondaries provide conflict, support, and comic relief.

I’m not a plotter by nature so I don’t know that I need a character to tell my hero something to forward the plot in chapter 4, scene 2. If only I did my life and writing would be soooo much easier. Instead, I just sit down and write. I let the story go where it will and invariably, my protagonists find other characters with which to interact.

In my book, Protect and Defend, my loner hero Lieutenant Diarmid Redwolf has co-workers and family. His mentor is his Captain, Ossie. Ossie doesn’t have much stage time, but it’s obvious they have history. Ossie also provides my heroine, Mikaela, some important info about Diar’s past. Diarmid has conflicts with both his parents. It turned out his father Kincaid was a sharp SOB who gave Mikaela trouble from the get-go. He also turned out to be a softy under the tough shell. Diarmid’s family relationships ended up as a strong secondary plot line I didn’t even know was there until I stumbled over it because of my secondary characters.

Mikaela, is close to her father and brother. I’ve had readers tell me already they’d like to see me write about her brother Rik, a singer/songwriter in a country music band. Miki also has co-workers and at least one is highly quirky. I didn’t know I was going to write him, and he isn’t much more than a walk on – but I love Freddy Rhineschmidt. I have to admit he leaped into my mind and pirouetted as a swishier version of Tim Gunn (of Project Runway fame).

Freddy moved the story forward when he told Mikaela about a book his partner had for her at “the store.” This led to a trip to an adult emporium run by Andre. Freddy and Andre weren’t in my plans but they just showed up. As secondary characters they provide support and comic relief. They also open up a way for me to bring greater intimacy between Diarmid and Mikaela.

Heroes and heroines need to have a strong supporting cast. Someone they can sit down and bitch to, or who can help them learn important things about themselves and their significant others. They are as important to a great story as the hero and heroine.

Who are some of your favorite secondary characters in books, movies and on TV? Do you plan out your secondaries carefully or do you trip over them as you’re writing the story? Are there any secondary characters who have ruined a story for you? Please share your thoughts. What doesn’t kill me will make me a stronger writer. :D

Protect and Defend

Mikaela Laughlin discovers a whole new world, and an entirely new species, when she tours the crime lab to meet Lieutenant Diarmid Redwolf while researching her next book. She’s lusted after “Delicious Diarmid” from afar for a long time, but meeting him sets her body on fire. It doesn’t take long for Mikaela to discover there’s more to Diarmid than meets the eye. He is far more delicious up close than she ever dreamed.

Diarmid has bad guys to catch, but one look at the voluptuous writer has him wanting to catch her instead. His shapeshifter blood recognizes his True Mate and he wants her naked body arching beneath his. Now. But with a cold-blooded serial killer on the loose, Diarmid has one shot at his future and he will not fail. Because this time, the killer wants Mikaela.

I've had a short story in an anthology called Paranaughty published by Draumr Publishing.

Alpha v. Alpha by Francesca Hawley

Serena Goldwolf's life revolves around making matches for her fellow shapeshifters through her mate service, She's thriving in the business world, if not her private one, until a match goes awry. That's when she comes face to face with Damien Blackwolf, a very unhappy customer. He's the hottest male on two legs, or four, she's ever met. Life just got interesting.

Damien is looking for his perfect Mate and is startled when he first catches the scent of the voluptuous Serena. He knows he's found his True Mate, but how will he convince her of their destiny when she won't even give him the time of day? He needs to bring out her baser desires and he knows just how to do that--by dragging her off someplace private to get to know her "intimately."

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JERR review:

About Francesca Hawley

I earned a Master of Arts in Library and Information Science in 2003 and work as a librarian in central Iowa. I'm a member of Romance Writer of America, including multiple special interest chapters. Even in my teens I wrote romances, spending my lunch hours with pen, paper, and characters. I love to weave new tales by embroidering and knitting intriguing narratives for the amusement of myself, my friends, and my readers.

My writer's mission statement is to write about exciting, sensual, plus-size heroines who love and are loved by their intense, passionate and seductive Alpha heroes.

Why create a mission statement, other than because I'm a librarian and it's something we tend to do? Because I've been plus-size all my life and I don't know how to be anything else. When I started reading romances, almost every heroine had a slender, girlish figure. If she didn't start out that way, she ended up that way. Plain or pretty, the heroine was thin. I loved those stories and their writers, but I tired of not seeing me in the heroines of my favorite books.

As I started writing, I followed market trends and wrote about slender heroines. Then I thought, am I part of the market? Yes. I am. There must be other readers who want to read about a differently shaped heroine, too. Everyone deserves to find love. So now, I write about plus-size heroines who know, or learn, how to live in their skins. My heroines are authentic and that's part of the reason my intense, passionate, and seductive Alpha male heroes love them. I hope you will too.

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Friday, January 23, 2009

Finish Strong

It's exactly 3 weeks until February 13th. Why is that a concern? Am I crunched for something romantic to do for Valentine's Day? No! That evening I'll be racing another 5K (3.2 miles) in Myrtle Beach. I know I should be excited, since it means a built-in vacation, but I also know how I feel when I finish a race and the day after. I've already warned my bf if I'm hobbling like Frankenstein to overlook it :0)

What really has me filled with dread is the finish. Ever since my first race last September I've always wanted to finish. While I was panting and my legs felt like they weren't mine, I told myself "You will keep on putting one foot in front of the other until you reach that finish!" Though I wanted to flag down the safety car right behind me, fake a cramp and climb inside to ride the rest of the way. Call it sportsmanship or a stubborn streak, but I knew I had to reach that goal--the big blue and white Finish Line blow-up.

After that race, I did 2 more and in November, whether the heavens poured down rain or not I was determined to finish, since I was racing to honor my dad. He had never given up battling his cancer and I wasn't going to wimp out an not do my best. I ended up running my fastest time yet.

Now I'm facing a biggie...a race that's part of a mega sized Expo with thousands of registrants. I don't want to be last again, and I don't want to finish like a wimp. I want to FINISH STRONG. Yes, I've been training...running miles upon miles for weeks, but I still have that doubt lingering. I've fought off that little voice that says your legs hurt, your feet hurt, you want to stop, and have kept on keeping on while the treadmill's belt makes it's soothing click and whir.

Today I realized that I also use this ideal with books and movies. One of my biggest pet peeves is for a great start to fizzle at the midway point, then the plot lingers on without an eventful end. Which is one of the things I never want to happen in one of my novels. True, I do sometimes include an epilogue, because I think sometimes readers want to see what happened after the big ending.

For instance in TIES OF VALOR I knew I had to show Zara and Awyn's wedding. Not only because it brought all the storylines together, but also symbolized a union on so many levels. Now I realize that was a rookie scene, that it's something a lot of novices do, but I don't think the book would be the same without that conclusion.

In JUST ONE LIFE, I have the main characters sitting down over ice cream where the hero and heroine met, which symbolizes the starting of a new journey for them and others. Yes, it's kind of an "aw, that's sweet" moment, but I think it adds to the character arcs and ties up loose ends.

But enough about my books :0) I've seen tons of series pop up, but wonder if they will reach their projected potential. For instance some of the longer ones are getting a negative vibe because the character arcs are getting old and the plotlines are so similar. Which makes me wonder if it's time to end on a high note.

Is that the mark of a strong finish? Knowing when to say when? Sometimes I think that's a smart answer, but not always, especially if the author has been saving a pivotal character's story. I think sometimes too much of a good thing is just that, too much. The author and publisher need to know when to strike a balance. It behooves both of them to make an eventfully strong finish so that new readers will keep buying reprints.

In terms of characters, give them the time to shine! Make them work for that resolution and after they've toiled give them what they deserve--a scene any reader will gush over and tell their friends about. Doing anything otherwise discredits the characters screaming in your ear and your novel.

In the end, make the finish count. Don't just make that last page or paragraph words on a page. Don't make the last tidbit flowery unless it needs to be. But above all make the sentiment strong and give the reader something to remember, just like a snapshot of a racer crossing the finish line with her arms upraised.

You want to celebrate THE END...especially if the winner gets their spoils in the bedroom!! Between the sheets is no place to come up second best, unless there's just cause...or a rematch in store.

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Monday, January 19, 2009

Do Internet Communications Get Cold Too?

We've been having some Very Cold Weather this past week. Mind, it's not entirely atypical for Michigan even though our TV weather 'alarm' team seems to think otherwise I call them the 'alarm' team because every time a snowflake gets within fifty miles of the city or the temp drops below 30, they get all panicky and start crying "Worst Weather Ever!"


Anyone who's lived in Michigan more than five years knows we have crappy winter weather. It's cold, snowy, even icy usually from November through April. It requires a modicum of intelligence from the inhabits - dress warmly (in layers), drive carefully, show a little concern for your elderly or infirmed neighbors by checking on them or cleaning their sidewalks. If you're like me and have little use for winter, start the countdown. It's 60 days to Spring! :D

But lately I've heard a few worrisome comments amongst my co-workers and the weather 'alarm' team. It seems that this cold weather may be upsetting to wireless communications. Now, I've heard that very cold temperatures will discharge a cell phone battery quicker than spit but can the cold affect wireless signals? Add to that the fact that I've lost my home Internet capability no less than three times since winter started. Mind you, my cable has been okay. This is just my Internet. And my provider keeps raising my bill and they want me to increase my package by taking their phone service.

Somehow I don't think that's going to happen.

In fact, I've very, very close to turning a Cold Shoulder on my Cable/Internet Provider altogether. I hear their competition offers very similar services for a lower cost. That sounds almost as good as if the weather 'alarm' team had said the day's temperature would be in the fifties (I wish!)

What about you? Have you heard of or experienced impaired wireless or Internet communications due to cold weather?

-- Lynda

Friday, January 16, 2009

Star Light, Star Bright....Interstellar Interview with Dianna Love

Dianna Love’s latest release, DEAD AFTER DARK, with friend Sherrilyn Kenyon, debuted at #5 on the NY Times Bestsellers List. So it doesn’t come as much surprise that she’s always liked to do things big. Originally she started out hand painting larger than life murals and outdoor ads, which included climbing over 100 feet in the air daily. When technology shifted, Dianna was fortunate enough to garner contracts from top sponsors to design and fabricate unusual designs for the 1996 and 2002 Olympic Games. Hanging high above the ground, she began imaging stories with larger-than-life character about everyday people who conquer extreme odds to save the people they love.

After WORTH EVERY RISK won nine first place titles, she finally found a publisher. In 2006 her debut novel, WORTH EVERY RISK, double finalled at the RITA awards in 2006 for Best Long Contemporary and Best First Book! Dianna followed up that success with two other single title novels. In her spare time, she has sparked an in-depth plotting conference, Break Into Fiction, with Mary Buckham to help writers with their plots and storylines.

I first met Dianna at a local CRW chapter meeting. Her love for writing was effervescent, and she genuinely cared about teaching us some mechanics to make our books stronger. Next, she teamed up with Ann Destefano to teach us to pitch in an all day workshop that certainly opened my eyes and forced me to up my game with Nationals looming.

A couple years ago, when I got to Moonlight & Magnolias, who do you think I spotted running around in a ball cap? Yep, Dianna. She’d decided to be the Chairwoman for the whole conference. Eventhough she had tons on her plate, Dianna always looked calm, cool and collected under pressure. And she never said no when a friend or acquaintance stopped to chat. True she might have kept working, but she hung on every word while wearing a smile.

She loves to help others build on their strengths and improve their weaknesses to make their writing/pitching the best it can be. Dianna is a total giver when it comes to her craft and her beloved chaptermates. I am one among many who believe she’s truly a Southern gem.

What kept you fighting to find a publisher for your debut novel WORTH EVERY RISK, which won the 2003 Golden Heart Award and Daphne du Maurier Award?

I was very fortunate in that WORTH EVERY RISK was the first book I wrote and I sold it a year after finishing the manuscript to the first publisher who asked for the full. A year is not a long time compared to so many others who have stuck it out for many years (I admire them greatly). Since that sounds like an ideal situation, I want to share the “rest of the story” so to speak. When you hear that someone sold their first book right off the bat or got a multi-book contract the first time out or a huge advance keep in mind that it means everything in the universe lined up just right “that time.” To put my first sale in perspective – I lost my senior editor immediately after selling and the next senior never liked anything I submitted. We just did not click on stories, which is why you’ll always hear how subjective this business is. If the second senior editor had read my first book she might not have bought it, which means it would not have sold out in a month or won a RITA. I’m thrilled all that happened, glad I published with that house and very proud of that story, but I try to share all of the information so that you get more than the fairytale details. It was wonderful, but a learning experience, too.

Since WORTH EVERY RISK had romantic suspense elements, did you feel that was a strong point to build upon for PHANTOM IN THE NIGHT and DEAD AFTER DARK? Was the strong market for paranormals instrumental in your decision to add magical elements to your single title releases? Or was there a more personal reason behind the decision?

Actually PHANTOM IN THE NIGHT is a contemporary romantic thriller (not paranormal), because we wanted to kick the Bureau of American Defense (BAD) Agency series up a notch to a high-octane suspense. So I’m still doing what I started out with on WER, but I write so much bigger now, which is a blast. :) Writing DEAD AFTER DARK really had nothing to do with the paranormal market. I started toying with that idea back when I started writing. In fact, when I had the opportunity to submit this urban fantasy novella a couple years ago (it was sold in 2006) two houses considered my bigger series, but at one the marketing department didn’t know how to market it and the other house said it was so unusual they weren’t sure how to position it. If I’d been writing to the paranormal market, I’d have changed the urban fantasy to a vampire story – as one editor asked me to consider. But I don’t jump on trends and only write what I’m really interested in writing. All my stories have a suspense element since I love suspense and thrillers.

Would you mind sharing with us how you got the chance to write with some of the leading names in romance—Sherrilyn Kenyon, J.R. Ward, and Susan Squires?

As mentioned above, that novella opportunity came along in 2006 and I couldn’t have been more thrilled. The opportunity to co-write the BAD Agency thriller series with Sherrilyn Kenyon came about in 2007 while we were touring for her latest Dark-Hunter hardback release. We started discussing her second suspense novel with Pocket and she wanted to do more with the series, to make it darker and edgier. As anyone who has attended a Break Into Fiction® ( Power Plotting Retreat with me knows – I love to brainstorm. So I started throwing out ideas and ways to expand the story lines that would make it a romantic thriller series. Sherrilyn loved the ideas and suggested we collaborate on the series. My answer? As I’m always saying, “My mama drowned the dumb kids.” Thus, the new tone sort of re-launched the BAD Agency series and Publisher Weekly reviewed it as a thriller they compared to the DaVinci Code. That so rocked. :)

Can I assume the use of the Bureau of American Defense (BAD) and Vigilant International Protectors Elite Regiment (VIPER) suggests later novels with some heroic heroes and heroines? To date, who has been your favorite “operative”?

BAD is an agency with no boundaries and no red tape…and when it comes to the agents, no rules. There are a lot of bigger stories coming, connected by secondary characters, and the entire series has a huge over-arching thriller arc. VIPER is a league of international warriors with extraordinary abilities who rise up to save mankind from supernatural terrorists of the new millennium.. VIPER includes many different types of beings in the contemporary world. It’s a dark and edgy urban fantasy. As for my favorite hero and/or heroine – the one I’m currently working on because I love them all and they all get on my nerves at one time or another. :) Kind of like kids.

As a long time member of Georgia Romance Writers what makes your RWA chapter special to you? If you had to sell GRW in a two sentence pitch, how would you sum it up for potential members?

Two sentences that describe Georgia Romance Writers would be – GRW has an amazing depth of talented writers both published and not-yet-published who share enthusiasm for each other’s triumphs and support for the hard times. In addition to writing a wide selection of romance genre, GRW is a membership of around 300 writers who have published and/or are working on women’s fiction, mainstream mysteries, sci/fi, screen writers, theatrical writers, fantasy, paranormal, nonfiction stories, nonfiction books on writing, children’s books, many of which have been made into movies.

As a past chair for the Moonlight and Magnolia Conference, what gave you the most joy when everything was said and done?

Being a chair for a major regional conference means long hours that suck up every ounce of personal time and cuts deeply into writing time, but my 2007 Moonlight and Magnolia team was an amazing group made up of talented women and one guy (our brilliant Leonard Johnson who created the website and brought us into the new millennium with PayPal set up). Everyone’s spirit and dedication to producing the best conference possible gave me great joy along the way. The pride and satisfaction they showed upon completing the conference still warms my heart to this day when I think back on that event. We had the largest book signing to date with a line literally out the door of the hotel. Every editor and agent made a point of telling me how much they enjoyed the conference and would come back again. The letters and emails we received were wonderful. That doesn’t happen without an outstanding team.

Several authors have gushed over Break into Fiction, so from the flipside, can you tell us how you feel about connecting with so many authors and helping them with their novels?

We’re tickled and flattered to hear that authors are gushing over our new program. Break Into Fiction® was my and Mary Buckham’s brainchild we’re very proud of. We created this program to help not-yet-published authors but have been nicely surprised by the number of multi-published mass market authors who have attended our national Power Plotting Retreats. In fact, we had a Pulitzer Prize winner in a recent retreat. From our side, it’s incredible to get feedback when our students have sold their first book, signed with an agent, “finished” their first book, had a request from an editor, sold a bigger series than they were previously writing, won contests…that’s when we gush about our students. We do offer monthly drawings in our contest at the BIF site for critiques and other writing related prizes and wish we could offer more private Power Plotting Retreats, but we’ll only have time for 2 in 2009 (Atlanta in March and St. Louis in April). The retreats are filling up quickly, but as of the beginning of January we still had a few spots in Atlanta (

With 2009 kicking off with the release of DEAD AFTER DARK, can you tell us what you have coming up the rest of the year?

I’m really looking forward to 2009. WHISPERED LIES (Pocket), the next BAD Agency romantic thriller (Carlos Delgado’s for those who have read PHANTOM IN THE NIGHT) will be released May 12, 2009. A week later on May 19th we’ll release the mass market paperback edition of PHANTOM IN THE NIGHT. In June, the Break Into Fiction®: Power Plot Your Novel (IBSN 13: 978-1-60550-015-7) book will be released. We don’t expect the nonfiction book on Power Plotting to have a huge print run (most nonfiction books don’t the first time out) so the best thing to do is preorder online to assure you’ll get a copy if you’re a writer looking for how to plot a stronger Character-Driven book or a pantser who needs a way to find the plot holes in a completed manuscript. The pre-order information will be on our website in February, but it will be available on Amazon for sure. On top of all that, I’ll be speaking at a reader’s event in Australia in February with Sherrilyn Kenyon, teaching Power Plotting retreats with Mary, giving my first keynote in Denver at the Romancing the Rockies Conference…and more. It’s all on my website at

Thanks so much for asking me to join you today. It’s always a pleasure to connect with readers and writers. I’m happy to answer anyone’s questions on stories or writing. If you post today two lucky winners will receive either a signed copy of PHANTOM IN THE NIGHT or DEAD AFTER DARK!

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Monday, January 12, 2009

Researched or Made Up

I had an interesting conversation with a non-writing acquaintance this weekend on the subject of SF/F/P (Science Fiction/Fantasy/Paranormal). Her idea? Only SF needs research, the rest can be made up as you go.

Ahem. Just because we write SF/F/P doesn't mean we don't need to do some basic research for our novels. I mean, sure, a spaceship will necessitate a different sort of research than a medieval-type, magical healer or a ghost-hunting vampire but every book needs SOMETHING researched. And, yes, some of it (the science or the magic) can be extrapolated or taken two or three steps beyond common belief or facts but you have to have a solid starting point before you do that extrapolation.

With that in mind, I've got a couple of go-to's that I tend to use especially for my fantasy or paranormal stuff. I thought I'd share them with you.

Scott Cunningham's Encyclopedia of Magical Herbs
The Herbal Tarot
Alchemy Works
Culpepper's Complete Herbal and English Physician

Of course, there's also the whole Google thing which I love to spend hours on when I'm trying to find one esoteric little factoid. And sometimes that leads me down dark and mysterious alleys that can provide even more color or depth to my plots.

I also subscribe to science links like World Science or National Geographic that help keep me in line with today's science. I love astronomy (a hobby) so I keep a little abreast in that field and I'm always watching the Science Channel on TV.

What we have to remember is that not every little thing we learn in the course of our research will be put in our manuscript pages. The research is there to make sure that we have a binary star system operating in the proper way or that the herbal remedy we're feeding a character will make him feel better without killing him first.

Hope that helps clear up the research/make up aspects of SF/F/P

-- Lynda

Friday, January 09, 2009

Days Like This

Fridays are supposed to be idyllic, right? They’re supposed to be easy days where everything goes your way and everyone is happy, right? They’re the kind of days that everyone wishes they had everyday…or so we think.

After this morning, I knew I needed to change my original topic for the day. So what led me to talking about how a day is supposed to be?

First I woke up early (though sore from a two hour workout…no not that kind), kissed my significant other and lounged in bed a few minutes. Then I got up, did my morning routine and the cats didn’t try to kill each other…imagine that. I was perky because I was giving my newest BIGgest Loser group pedometers, a special treat to do challenges, and knew it would add some excitement at the office as they asked others, “How many steps have you done?” (And no the answer isn’t 12. Lol) Tonight we were going to see friends we hadn’t seen in months due to his schedule, and I was going to get the chance to hit a super-sized Barnes & Noble and perhaps get some pizza.

Then as I was finishing getting dressed, I heard my significant other come back inside. Which is never a good thing. But na├»ve me thought, “Oh, he just needs to borrow my ice scraper.” Instead he opened the door to the bedroom wearing a frown and said, “I’ve got to call into work to tell them I’ll be late. Someone broke into my car again and stole my radio.”

I couldn’t talk him into calling the police no matter how I angled the idea, and I got him off to work still sad about losing the stereo he’d had only 2 months. Fuming over the situation, I barely managed to suck down some milk and grab a banana before scraping my window and getting to the office on time. I called my mom, looking for a sympathetic ear, and she reminded me that I need to do X, Y and that I haven’t yet gotten said significant other to marry me. I started to cry at my gray/brown desk inside my tiny cubicle while my co-workers filtered in for the day wondering, “What’s wrong with her?” (Thanks PMS!)

That’s how my great day turned to ruins. It could definitely have been worse, like the night I got his call about flipping his car in the mountains and not having a way to get it back. All I kept thinking was atleast he’s alive…long enough for me to wring his neck. And atleast I wasn’t running out the door with my chest thumping, scared his car had flipped across the neighbor’s yard from a suspected loose tire. That ended up being a drunk driver running up over the curb, knocking his tire off the rim, and then trying to make a break for it. And yes, as you’re probably thinking…I was trying to finish a da** book!

I’ve always had this image of a perfect writing day. A mid morning start with a light breakfast before I grab a bottle of water and sit down behind a beautiful desk. Eventhough I’m wearing my superhero pajamas and fuzzy footies. I have a window to look out across a breathtaking scene when I get stumped by what’s on my monitor. My cat (or dog) is at my feet, calming lending me company instead of walking across my keyboard. And like magic the words flow until the sun goes down and my stomach says, “Feed me!”

But it never seems to turn out like that, does it? As of late, I’ve been listening to the serenade of my dryer that sounds like a turbine engine instead of jazzy writing music. My desk is so littered I barely have room for my laptop, and my TBR pile is taking over the space. And I fear my laptop is either overloaded or about at its end, which means another added expense…besides the dryer.

Ahh…the fodder our lives tender. What great experiences to build to that Big Black Moment!

So what’s your dream writing day like? Or perhaps you’d like to share your writing day from hell. Whatever it is, feel free to vent those frustrations here!

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Thursday, January 08, 2009

A Fresh New Year, Ready for Speculation

Happy New Year, everyone! I confess, I haven't been around much in the past few weeks. Between a deadline and family commitments, I really had to bury my head in the sand for awhile. As a result, I finished my M/M (of course I still have work left to do as it's become "book one of two"), and then succumbed to whatever creeping crud has been crawling around the elementary schools, YMCA, and grocery store in this town. I think my best Christmas present came around New Years, when I could finally draw a decent breath again. I really feel for horses, now, as sleeping standing up really bites.

At any rate, this fresh new year is a blank slate, and I thought I'd start it off with a little speculation on, well, speculative romance. I think we've been talking about writing, romance, storytelling, the market, etc., but it's been a while since we've talked about the science fiction aspect of SF romance.

So I'll start off with something I think that makes speculative fiction unique. Speculative fiction always seems to have something unusual. Now, it's becoming harder and harder these days to come up with something truly unusual--but the true gift of speculative fiction is that it gifts us with something startlingly unusual, like, say, a sentient tree (and yes, it's been done), yet still relates it to a part of the human experience that we can all relate to.

The best speculative fiction (and among the titles, I'm thinking Anne McCaffrey's Pern books) take our humanity and showcase it in strange and unusual situations and environments, and in so doing, remind us without a doubt, that part of being human is to dream, to reach, and to aspire.

Monday, January 05, 2009

Anchors Away!

No, I’m not going on a cruise. That would be nice – well, except for the seasickness, but anyway – No. I’m talking about getting rid of anchors...not the heavy metal hooks that keep boats from floating away, but the junk in my life and my house that keeps me from moving forward.

Over the past couple of days I’ve been cleaning things out – book shelves, closets, etc. My ultimate plan is to redesign my den/office into a more comfortable space. This will require buying some new furniture [must pump some dough back into the economy after all] and re-arranging all my ‘stuff’.

Saturday I did the bookshelves. I let go of a lot of books I’d been holding onto and freed up a lot of space. I can’t say I ruthlessly decimated my ‘keeper’ shelf, but I came to terms with a lot of books that I was keeping just because I had all the other ones by a certain author. Many of these I know I will never read again, so why bother still having them? I also identified probably a dozen books that I would love to read again [stay tuned for a Beyond the Back List post one of these days]. I feel lighter having divested myself of about 70 pounds of books I no longer need.

Sunday, I cleaned out my ‘drawer’ – now, when I say ‘drawer’ I mean the place where I keep all the manuscripts and parts of manuscripts that have been relegated to a ‘drawer’ – the slush pile, so to speak. Now, before you faint, bear in mind, I all this stuff is on disk, so all I really did was chuck out the hard copies of stuff I have to admit I . Have. No. Intention. Of working on ever again.

Surely you jest! [I bet you’re saying that.] A writer should never throw away anything they’ve written. Hmm, well maybe that’s true, but I stopped seeing these snippets of half remembered plots as fodder for future best sellers a long time ago and started seeing them as the stuff weighing down one corner of my den. Throwing all the loosely stapled chapters, hand written notes [oops, okay so not everything was on disk] and partially marked up crit copies of stories I long ago decided I no longer liked, was extremely liberating. Now all those unfinished stories are gone [well, they’re technically not completely gone]. They’re cleared away to make room for brand new ideas and I’m no longer held in one place by all the stories I didn’t finish and should have. The anchors have been lifted and I’m ready to sail into new waters.

Next project: Buy some Dramamine.
Posted by Jennifer Colgan/Bernadette Gardner

Happy New Year!

Good morning and Happy New Year, everyone! I hope your holidays were fantastic. At the Scott household we didn't party too much, just had family and friends over. Of course we all celebrated the sale of my novel Heartstone to Mundania Press as I mentioned earlier (talk about a great Christmas present, hmmm?) But on the downside, I'm having problems with my computer and internet connection. Hopefully I can get those resolved soon but, in the meantime, I can pick up mail from a couple of other locations so if you need to get hold of me, just go ahead and email me at

When I wasn't battling the computer, though, I was having fun being a 'domestic goddess' :D I made rum balls and peanut butter cookies for Santa (and he was lucky to get one -- those cookies were going FAST, lol) Then between the holidays I indulged myself by making a couple loaves of bread from scratch. There is nothing that smells as delicious as freshly baked bread. Yum. I also created a soup, Stuffed Green Pepper soup, based on a soup I had at a local restaurant just before Christmas. That was another yum. And I made a big old pan of lasagna - in DH's words the BEST EVER lasagna. I used whole wheat lasagna noodles which gave it a more healthy aspect (I'm really getting in to the whole wheat pastas) though I'm not sure that was the only reason for its mouthwatering goodness. It could be that I rarely make lasagna because of the quantity and the fact that only the hubs and I are there to eat it. Regardless, it was a definite yum and I froze half of it for future meals, always a good thing.

Normally, we don't do New Year's Resolutions (got tired of breaking them 4 days into the New Year, lol) but I stepped on the scale a few days ago and nearly had cardiac arrest, lol. So guess what we (the hubby and me) will be doing. That's right. We're going to eat less and exercise more to shed this holiday weight.

And for inspiration I ran across this photo and quote from marathoner David Goggins: “When you think you are done… You are only 40% in to what your body is capable of doing. That’s just a limit we put on ourselves.”

I doubt hubs and me will ever participate in a marathon but I love that quote. And, when you think about it, it's good for more than just inspiration to exercise. It's good for that extra push to write or create or do any of the myriad things we're interested in. So for this year, maybe forever, I'm going to adopt this one as a mantra.

So are any of you doing Resolutions this year? Or are you like me and ignoring the whole resolution thing? Whichever you do, I wish you a spectacular New Year filled with love, health and prosperity.

-- Lynda

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Friday, January 02, 2009

2009--It's Here!

I don't know about all of you, but I'm still in a little state of getting acquainted with this new year. It seems like I spent so much time thinking about Christmas and New Year's that now that it's over I'm left thinking, "What's next?" Valentine's as suggested by all the stores who've already put out stock?

Then there's the to do list that never seems to get done and the dreaded r-e-s-o-l-u-t-i-o-n-s! I don't see them as something dirty, but lots of others do. In fact, to help people get a jump on the new year I asked my local RWA chapter members to think of what they'd like to achieve in the future. I agree that you can't make extensive goals like finishing 3 books, or getting an agent. Life can take a turn in an instant, derailing that intention and adding guilt to your list of woes. However, that doesn't mean you can't start the habit of setting smaller goals. How about establishing a writing goal for the week or month? You could promise to go to your first writers meeting, saving to go to a convention for networking, or sending out your next (or first) query. Baby steps can work better than jumping into a marathon, because achieving even the smallest goal can give you a sense of accomplishment. That will lend you incentive to continue to do more or atleast keep on track for a larger goal.

In HCRW we have a "finish the darn book" contest where members can pay into the pot for a chance to win if they fulfill their promise to finish a novel. It doesn't have to be edited, but it does have to be completed and in hard copy (not just in their head). At CRW, we've begun the "I've Got Goals" campaign where members list three goals they think they can achieve within the year. We outlaw anything like selling a book or getting representation by an agent, because it isn't something we can control. We can meet a daily word count, a promise to submit, and any number of other personal writing goals. Whoever achieves 75% of those goals gets their name placed in a pot to win the total of the combined fees.

I've competed in the FTDB contest and won. In 2008 I did "I've Got Goals" but only completed about 60% of my goals. I did enter SHOMI's contest, and got 2 non-fiction articles accepted/published. However I failed to finish editing 2 books. I actually only did one. But to win you also have to be present to win, and I was sick. See sometimes life doesn't work out like you want. But you pick yourself up, brush yourself off, regroup and get to trucking on that writer's road again.

This year I want to write a new book, place in a contest again, complete 3 more races and lose 25 more pounds. I'm headed in the right direction for the last goal by heading up another BIGgest Loser contest at my office, and have contributed an article for the CRW newsletter to help fellow writer's get rid of "secretary spread". When I think about goal number one, I get a surge of excitement. I CAN write anything. I know I CAN do it, since I've done it before. No matter what I choose, as long as I keep my fingertips speeding across my keyboard and my writer's cap on, I WILL finish a new book. Hopefully one that will be picked up by an agent or editor so one of those BIG writing goals will become a reality!

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