Published Author Quotes

Today I'm thrilled and honored to post two quotes from a couple of wonderful authors whose books I love. Barbara Dawson Smith, New York Times bestselling author of historical romance and winner of the prestigious RITA Award said this about my manuscript, MY FIERCE HIGHLANDER, when she critiqued the first chapter and synopsis. "I love this story . . . it’s wonderful!! You handle the complex mix of characters, dialogue, and action in a very readable, highly exciting manner. Great conflict . . . heroic characters, true emotion, fast-paced action plot. If I was an editor, I’d buy it!"
Barbara Dawson Smith
www.barbaradawsonsmith.com
THE DUCHESS DIARIES November 2005
COUNTESS CONFIDENTIAL February 2006
THE ROGUE REPORT June 2006

RITA Award winning paranormal author Susan Grant said this about the first chapter and synopsis of WOLF IN SHADOW when she critiqued it... "LOVED it. Just loved it. I was so pleased to read something GOOD. You've got talent. Your descriptions are fabulous! I didn't expect this ending and I like that. Delightful....awesome...I want more."
Susan Grant
www.susangrant.com
Triskelion: Bewitched, Bothered & BeVampyred (charity anthology for tsunami relief) - 4/05
LoveSpell: Contact (reissue) - 5/05
Berkley: Mysteria (anthology) - 8/06
HQN: The Alien in the Supermarket - date TBD
HQN: The Assassin Who Loved Chocolate - date TBD

I wish to thank both these ladies for their kind words and for giving me permission to post these quotes. I highly recommend their fantastic books. Please visit their websites for more information.

Agents, Agents Everywhere

A couple nights ago, just before I woke up, I dreamed I was in New York City going into a literary agent’s office to pitch one of my stories. I would never actually do this. I’m sure agents would appreciate a drop-in visit even less than a phone call, which is another no-no unless you’re published. Who was this agent I visited? I have no clue, though I would say she was in her 50s or 60s. I saw her but didn’t recognize her.

That very day I learned the anonymous agent, Miss Snark, was accepting 300 word story opener submissions to be critiqued on her blog, or rather ran through her crapometer. Here’s the link misssnark.blogspot.com I read a few before mustering the courage to submit mine. Several from my brave critique group (go Rebels!) sent theirs so I refused to be left out. Besides, I never waste an opportunity these days. I sit here cringing and holding my breath as I await her brutally honest snarky take on my opening. Is there too much backstory? Too much telling? Not enough action, emotion? She has to apparently go through 77 of these things and one day soon she will get to mine. Even if she doesn’t give me a glowing review, this is a great learning experience. Reading her thoughts on others’ openings gives me ideas on what a genuinely good opening has. And this can only help me with my own.

I’ll finish on a bright note, the same day as these other two agent things, another wonderful thing happened. An assistant in a top, well-respected agency read the first three chapters of My Fierce Highlander and said some VERY nice things. I’ll paraphrase here...she doesn’t usually read historicals but she didn’t want to stop reading mine until she finished it. Both my voice and my story "captivated" her. Woohoo! I hope she doesn’t mind me relaying what she said. I’m just too thrilled to keep it to myself. Thank you, ma’am! And she wants to see the complete manuscript. Yippie!!! (Going off to work on that now.)

Earthquake

I was sitting here, typing an email last night when I heard a loud rumbling and the house shook. My first thought was that it was extra loud thunder and I yanked the modem connection out. But that wasn’t it at all. I ran down the hall toward the bedroom where my husband was sleeping. He already had the lamp on, trying to figure out why the bed was shaking. We were both terrified. Can you tell we’re simply not used to earthquakes here in the mountains of NC? We went outside and heard the rumbling moving off toward the east. It was a 3.7 on the Richter scale and happened at 11:09 pm. It didn’t even wake some people, but others were as mystified as we were. Even the local TV news covered it. Someone has said it started in the French Broad river.

According to this website:
http://www.high-point.net/dept/fire/em/eq.htm
"North Carolina is affected by both the New Madrid fault in Missouri and the Charleston fault in South Carolina. Both these faults have generated earthquakes measuring greater than 8 on the Richter scale during the last two hundred years."

Yikes! That was more than I wanted to know. I don’t personally remember experiencing another earthquake, though both my husband and my mother do. Not severe ones, thank goodness.

And also from the above website: "Natural hazards present the greatest threat to the residents of North Carolina. Over the past twelve years, there have been a significant number of earthquakes recorded in the southeastern United States. In 1987 alone there were over 71 recorded earthquakes, the largest being an earthquake registering 4.2 on the Richter scale occurring on the North Carolina/Tennessee border."

Okay, why don't I remember this? I was probably in a coma-like state of exhaustion from too much studying since I was in college that year. Anyway, you can read more about last night's tremor here:

http://earthquake.usgs.gov/recenteqsww/Quakes/usceaf.htm

Can You Deal With Conflict?

A few days ago a couple of people in my critique group were discussing conflict and whether or not they liked it. (Thank you ladies for the blog topic. You know who you are. LOL!) It made me wonder... is conflict a bad word? If you’re talking about a conflict between countries or marriage partners then, yes, conflict it bad because it means war and fighting.

But conflict in the stories we write is a very "good thing". (Martha has her own reality show, did you see? Oh no, I’m digressing.) Conflict is the C in GMC (Goals, Motivation, Conflict) This is a sort of success recipe for popular/commercial fiction taught by Debra Dixon and others. Two characters have different, opposing goals and as they pursue them they come into conflict with one another. There is external conflict, which is conflict between self and others or the world (I want it but they are stopping me from getting it), and internal conflict, which is conflict within yourself, (I want it but I shouldn’t or can’t).

Creating your main characters’ GMC should happen as early as possible in the brainstorming stage because you must have conflict at the very root of your characters and plot. It should be interwoven and inseparable. If you don’t, then the story will not be very interesting. In other words, without conflict of some sort, the characters are all happy, smiling, getting along so well. Okay, let’s all take a nice relaxing nap. Sure, that’s great for you and your in-laws, but in a story it means nothing is going on. No reason for the reader to read, nothing to hold their interest. Stories (at least commercial fiction stories) are about how conflicts get resolved. You want the reader on the edge of his/her seat. How on earth will they solve these gigantic problems? There is no way they can resolve this conflict and triumph in the end...the reader should think. Don’t let your characters or your reader relax because, as mentioned before, with relaxation comes snoozeville. You want the reader and your characters tense. From conflict comes tension. I hate feeling tense in real life, but I love making my characters tense, uncomfortable, angry, terrified, embarrassed. I believe in being mean to my characters. I put them through the ringer, throw all kinds of problems at them. I make them earn their reward and happy ending.

Agent Donald Maass, in his book Writing the Breakout Novel, says to include conflict on every page of your manuscript. When I read that, I was like... Of course! So now I try to always do that. If you can have a conflict between each and every one of your main and secondary characters... fantastic. That’s what you want. Each of these conflicts will probably be different, or they can be related and play off one another. Even if you have a mother and son, or two best friends, or two brothers, make sure there is some type of conflict between them, some important topic they disagree on. They don’t have to come to blows, obviously, or even yell at each other. Heated debates and emotional discussions are far more interesting than a scene where everyone agrees on everything. There would be no real purpose for such a scene. But make sure your characters are not just bickering for the sake of bickering. Genuine conflict is what makes your scenes worth writing... and reading.

Workshop for Writers

I'm signed up to take this workshop (by Suzanne) in September. I can't wait. Looks like exactly what I want to learn. Though I have over twenty submissions out right now, I need to have more. Yep. I'm sure I'll learn some new secrets and tips for better productivity. And yes, coming up with new marketable ideas. I definitely need that. :-)

Date: September 2005
Title: Patience is for Sissies, Just Say No To Waiting
Speakers: Multi-published Author Suzanne McMinn
Cost: 15.00
Registration Deadline: September 1, 2005

Workshop Description:
Tired of being told to be patient? This workshop explains how to
play the waiting game your way and win. Presentation includes how
to get your head in the right place for fast success, increasing
production, bold and bolder submission strategies as well as ways to
use waiting time to your own advantage. Don't start building your
career AFTER you sell - start now. Also included: tips for
marketing and promoting before you ever get the call, a Top Ten List
for nurturing the prolific submitter inside you who's dying to come
out, the Five Keys to keeping on top of your business, and a guide
to staying sane until the phone rings. Geared for the massively
impatient aspiring writer.

Topics include:

Week One - In Your Dreams
Dream big, then bigger.
No-fail planning for quick success.

Week Two - Hook 'em and Book 'em
Marketable ideas - faster!!
Increasing writing production.

Week Three - Make It Happen
Assessing personal risk tolerance vs. the Rules.
Submission strategies to beat the clock.

Week Four - Make It Hot
Fast-tracking your career pre-sale.
Taking it to the next level post-sale.


About the Speaker:
Suzanne McMinn is the published author of more than twenty
contemporary category and historical romance novels. She's been a
newspaper journalist and a middle school English teacher, but she
loves nothing more than what she does now: fulltime romance
writing. She lives by the lake in North Carolina where she raises
kids, ducks, dogs, cats, and an endless array of imaginary
characters.

Her first romance was published by Meteor Kismet in 1993. Since
then, she's gone on to sell books to Silhouette Romance, Zebra
Precious Gems, Zebra Bouquet, Bantam Loveswept, Zebra Ballad, and
Silhouette Intimate Moments. Her most recent releases include HER
MAN TO REMEMBER, SIM, October 2004 and COLE DEMPSEY'S BACK IN TOWN,
SIM, April 2005. She's written everything from category to
historical, encompassing family dramas, romantic comedies, romantic
suspense, and swashbuckling adventure. Next look for her "PAX
League" paranormal superhero series in Intimate Moments!
www.suzannemcminn.com

Drawing for FREE workshop at the end of each class!
Sign up at: http://www.earthlycharms.com/workshops.htm


-------------------------------------------
Full Listing of Earthly Charms Workshops!
http://www.earthlycharms.com/workshops.htm
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Recharging the Batteries

Well, it’s time for a wee break. I’ve been writing full speed ahead for a few months now. Tomorrow I will have the last of my requests mailed out, unless I get more. I hope I do! Did I mention I received seven requests recently for partial or full manuscripts? I’m still in shock, and definitely thrilled. Now I need to recharge my batteries for a few days. My to-be-read stack of books includes over 200. It has grown beyond a stack into a small library. First, I want to read The Immortal Highlander by Karen Marie Moning, one of my favorite authors. (I love her Highlanders!) Next in line is an anthology called Velvet, Leather & Lace by Suzanne Forster, Donna Kauffman & Jill Shalvis. (Supposed to be very sexy!) After that ... hmm... Veil of Night by Lydia Joyce (a new author I can’t wait to try.) I’m also looking forward to Embers by Helen Kirkman. I know it’s been out a while but I am still dreaming of reading it. I stayed up all night reading the previous one. There are sooo many more here, all great books.

I also want to continue my fall cleaning (altered from spring cleaning) and sell a ton of stuff on eBay. After that I’m planning to write a sexy novella. Right now it’s a short story but I’m going to expand it and turn it into an approx. 100-120 page novella, tentatively entitled Devil in a Kilt. Sounds hot already, doesn’t it? Now if only we could get this wild guy to put on a kilt, he'd be perfect for the cover, don't you think? ;-)

Oh and I want to wish my friend Vanessa a very HAPPY BIRTHDAY!!! :-)

Fellow Writer in Need

Marianne Mancusi, author of A CONNECTICUT FASHIONISTA IN KING ARTHUR'S COURT, returned from the RWA Reno conference to find her home was struck by lightning and burned to the ground. She lost everything. There is an auction on EBAY to help. Please click on the link to browse through the items.

Anything at all that you can think of that will help a single girl starting over would be welcome. The addy to mail to is:
Marianne Mancusi
PO BOX 8003
Boston, MASS 02114

If you'd rather make a monetary donation, an auction has been set up and the first items are posted with much more to come. There will be autographed books and more importantly manusript critiques by authors, editors and agents.
http://search.ebay.com/_W0QQsassZmariannefirefund
Thanks!

Leave No Story Unfinished

You got it! It's a take off on the famous quote, "leave no stone unturned," by Euripides :-) Writers, have you started a book only to abandon it after a few chapters? Why did you do this? Lose interest? Told all you had to tell? Didn’t know what happened next? Three years ago I had a book I’d left unfinished too. I’d started it a few years earlier. I felt the weight of it hanging over my head. I felt like a quitter anytime I thought of the story. Once I turned back to writing full time--and more seriously than ever, I decided the first thing I had to do was finish that book. I had a lot of it completed, maybe two-thirds. It was a single title time-travel book. That meant it needed to be around a hundred-thousand words or 400 manuscript pages. I had already completed a longer book, so I knew I could do it. I think the plot got bogged down and that’s why I’d put it on hold. Once I got back into the book, however, I enjoyed finishing it. By that time, I wasn’t just doing it to "complete a book" but because I really wanted to. I was in love with my characters again. I found my joy in the writing of it. And that further motivated me to start a new book once I had that project done. Besides that, no book is a waste of time. You learn new things with each one. Your craft improves; your voice becomes more distinct. Even if the book never sells, it’s practice. And practice is all some people need to become skilled enough to sell. Am I saying you should finish every book you start? No, but think about it long and hard before abandoning it completely.

PS this photo is the view out my front windows.

Trust Yourself


I find the more I write, the more I trust myself that when I’m finished with the story, it will be complete and as good as it can possibly be. Some people worry too much about their first rough draft. Mine is crappy, I admit. I don’t let anyone read my first draft because only a small portion of the story is on the page. The rest is still in my head and will be recorded later. I used to worry about the quality of my rough draft but not anymore. Now I know I will improve the story with each successive layer. I suppose you have to observe yourself doing this several times before you truly believe you will straighten out all the kinks and rough patches by the time you’re finished.

I also used to get really impatient with myself, wanting the novel manuscript finished immediately. Well, that doesn’t happen. You just have to take the time it takes. Some people write fast, some slow and some medium speed. Neither is right or wrong. Each person is different. I would consider myself a medium speed writer. Which is just right for me. It’s a speed I feel comfortable with. Though I’m trying to gradually improve my time, I don’t stress over it. Worrying about things like this only inhibits creativity and then the writer gets even less accomplished.

PS This is a photo I took of a mountain stream not far from where I live.

Story Garden



How is a story like a garden? Both are sensual experiences. I don’t mean sexy. (Well, they could be.) But I mean they should engage the five senses. You look at the colorful flowers and leaves in a garden, smell them. You touch the furry leaves and silky rose petals. You listen to the water of a fountain, bees buzzing and birds singing. You taste the hot pepper or mint. Though a story is just words on a page, when you read them, they fire up your imagination and you believe you’re there in the story world experiencing it with your five senses.