Merry Christmas & Happy Holidays!

I hope all of you are having a wonderful holiday season. Here are some photos I took along with a few quotes to bring you a smile.

What do you call people who are afraid of Santa Claus? Claustrophobic. -Unknown

Mother decided that 10-year-old Cathy shoud get something "practical" for Christmas. "Suppose we open a savings account for you?" mother suggested. Cathy was delighted. "It's your account, darling," mother said as they arrived at the bank, "so you fill out the application." Cathy was doing fine until she came to the space for "Name of your former bank." After a slight hesitation, she put down "Piggy."

There was the little boy who approached Santa in a department store with a long list of requests. He wanted a bicycle and a sled, a chemical set, a cowboy suit, a set of trains, a baseball glove and roller skates. "That's a pretty long list," Santa said sternly. "I'll have to check in my book and see if you were a good boy." "No, no," the youngster said quickly. "Never mind checking. I'll just take the roller skates."

I wish we could put up some of the Christmas spirit in jars and open a jar of it every month. ~Harlan Miller

A three-year-old gave this reaction to her Christmas dinner. "I don't like the turkey, but I like the bread he ate."

Merry Christmas & Happy Holidays!

Movie break

I've been in a movie-watching mood lately. I think the cold weather and long nights caused it. I'm going to rate the movies I've seen lately on a scale of 1 to 5. (My thoughts and opinions only, which probably aren't even worth two cents.)

Christmas with the Kranks: 3, good but I'd expected it to be better. I think it was the characters' motivations I wondered about.

The Notebook: 4 or 3, really well-done movie but heart-wrenching. It evoked all kinds of emotion in me, unfortunately it was the sad/depressed/nostalgic/heartbroken kind of emotion which I had to drive away a couple days later by reading something uplifting. I really don't deal well with movies like this. I'm sure it will become a much-loved classic, but I can never watch it again. This is why I write romance with the happy ending.

The Truman Show: 5, interesting! I like most Jim Carey movies (with the exception of a couple). He does a great job getting into character.

Bewitched: 4, I like Nicole Kidman. Probably because I'm a writer, I noticed the beginning of her GMC (goal, motivation and conflict) was so clear I could've drawn a diagram.

Anchorman: 1, don't even ask.

The Whole Ten Yards: 2, what is it with all these hired assassin movies? Is assassin now the highest 'high concept' in Hollywood? I liked that it was unusual and quirky.

Ladykillers: 4, I liked it a lot. Very unusual, interesting movie. Talk about contrasts! The group of characters were all over the map. Surprise ending too. Definitely held my attention.

The Prince and Me: 4, I enjoyed this romance, though it seemed more targeted at a teen audience. It was very much like a modern day fairy tale. I liked the characters.

Mr. and Mrs. Smith: 5, truly loved it! I've heard others say they didn't care for it because of lack of characterization. I interpreted this aspect as that they were going for subtlety and didn't want to give away too much up front. I found the big fight scene hilarious. I felt guilty enjoying that magnitude of domestic violence. The whole movie was like a train wreck waiting to happen. I'll probably have to watch it again.

Deuce Bigelow European Gigolo: 2, silly but it was good for a laugh or two. I chose it for my husband because I know he likes that type movie. We are totally opposite in sense of humor.

Jersey Girl: 4, I enjoyed this movie but the first 45 minutes or so are heartbreaking and will make even an ice queen cry. Jeez! But the middle and end were both funny and touching.

Please forgive any misspellings or opinions you don't agree with. If you've seen a great movie recently, please recommend it.

What does the above photo of a Scottish castle have to do with the movies I've watched? I have no idea, except . . . wouldn't this be a great place for a movie to be set? Or a book. Yes, definitely a book. :-)

Here is a funny Christmas quote I found. "There is a remarkable breakdown of taste and intelligence at Christmastime. Mature, responsible grown men wear neckties made of holly leaves and drink alcoholic beverages with raw egg yolks and cottage cheese in them." ~P.J. O'Rourke

Amount of decoration determines Scroogi-ness?

We watched Christmas With The Kranks a few nights ago. Since my house doesn't look like Little Las Vegas, I feel like a Scrooge. It's not that I don't love plenty of lights and decorations, truly I do... if they're done right. But it takes a lot of time and work to decorate that much. I've never been on my roof and not sure I could drag a huge ceramic snowman up there. Why rip off your shingles and risk your life for no good reason? Besides, isn't Santa supposed to stand beside the chimney instead of Frosty? (I really don't get that.)

Another reason I don't put up a lot of decoration, is that it can quickly degenerate into tacky. I'm sorry but I don't like tacky. I also don't like those huge blow up characters people put on their lawns or porches. (If you have one, I'm sorry.) Yes, I'm sure kids love a green Grinch dressed as Santa who is twenty feet tall. But what about grown-ups? I say we deserve decorations we like too.

I put my two small topiary-style lighted Christmas trees on either side of the steps on the porch. They are in pretty flower pots. Beside the door I have my grapevine wreath wrapped in red berries. I even gave my cement grape lady a red tinsel boa. That might be a little overboard, but the "goddess of wine" looked cold standing there wearing nothing but her cement smock. Oh, and how's this for tacky? I stuck a big candy cane by the mailbox. No, not tacky... playful is a better word I think. :-) As for inside the house, I like mantel decorations such as strings of "candied-fruit" or garlands of poinsettia and raffia along with velvet and tapestry stockings.

I love big Christmas trees, but boy do they eat up the time. An hour or three setting up and decorating, and the same taking down. Someone should invent already decorated trees for people like me who need to be writing instead of decorating. Fresh, real trees are the best. Smell very nice, but I couldn't justify the expense year after year. Also, as a gardener, I couldn't bear being a part of all those cute little trees dying. Perhaps that makes me a scrooge. Hope not. I have an artificial "pencil tree" which is slim and fairly tall. It fits more easily in our smallish living room. It also has a natural and elegant look to it. Speaking of elegance, my favorite "ornaments" are hydrangea blooms. I grow them and dry them in the attic. I choose smaller ones and then spray them burgundy. They look so nice in the tree with the other ornaments. Burgundy is my favorite Christmas color. You can keep your red and green. Give me burgundy... and a little gold. :-)

Above is a photo of one of our live Christmas trees from years ago, the only one that survived. Poor thing. He's had a hard life. :-)

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays!

Writing phases

I've been writing short stories for the past week or two and realized how much I dislike writing the first rough draft of anything. It's a very uncomfortable time for me. It's messy, sketchy. I only have a general idea of where I'm going. It's like walking through the darkness without a flashlight. The only light is the quarter moon. I see the general shapes of things around me. I might trip over a root, smack my forehead into a tree trunk or step in a deep hole. Half the time I'm crawling. And all I want to do is hurry and get through this uncomfortable phase so I can move on to my favorite stages of writing, 2nd draft through polishing. My rough drafts of novels tend to be very short, and like I said, sketchy, maybe 50 pages when the entire book will be 300 - 400 pages. They consist mostly of dialogue and a few actions. Sometimes a scene is one line. So and so will do such and such here. I'll figure out how later. When I get that rough draft done...whew! Now, 2nd draft, I can REALLY get into the story and have some fun. Now I can get in FLOW. This is when hours seem like minutes and I'm transported to another world. This happens for me whether it's a 10 page short story or a 450 page novel. As writers, we must discover our process and accept it, even if we wish parts of it could be different.

The Hormone Warning

Women know that there are days in the month when all a man has to do is open his mouth and he takes his life in his own hands! This is a handy guide that should be as common as a driver's license in the wallet of every husband, boyfriend, or significant other.

DANGEROUS: What's for dinner?

SAFER: Can I help you with dinner?
SAFEST: Where would you like to go for dinner?
ULTRA SAFE: Have some chocolate.

DANGEROUS: Are you wearing that?

SAFER: Wow, you look good in brown.
SAFEST: WOW! Look at you!
ULTRA SAFE: Have some chocolate.

DANGEROUS: What are you so worked up about?

SAFER: Could we be overreacting?
SAFEST: Here's my paycheck.
ULTRA SAFE: Have some chocolate.

DANGEROUS: Should you be eating that?

SAFER: You know, there are a lot of apples left.
SAFEST: Can I get you a glass of wine with that?
ULTRA SAFE: Have some chocolate.

DANGEROUS: Did you do anything at all today?

SAFER: I hope you didn't overdo it today.
SAFEST: I've always loved you in that robe!
ULTRA SAFE: Have some more chocolate!

PMS really stands for Potential Murder Suspect

Chocolate Sin

Happy Thanksgiving! Everyone bakes pumpkin pie for Thanksgiving, including me. It's a tradition, after all, and my husband loves it. Me too, but I need some chocolate too. I altered a recipe and came up with this one for a very moist, rich chocolate cake. You can vary the darkness of it by the types of chocolate cake mix and pudding mixes you choose. Mine is a dark chocolate, devil's food version.

Chocolate Sin

1 box (18.4 oz) triple chocolate fudge cake mix (milk chocolate or devil's food will also work)
2 boxes (3.8 oz each) chocolate pudding mix (dry) (fudge or devil's food will also work)
1 cup (8 oz) sour cream
4 large eggs
½ cup oil
½ cup margarine or butter
2 squares semi-sweet baking chocolate
3/4 cup evaporated milk (fat free or regular) room temperature or slightly warm
1 cup chocolate chips

Directions: melt margarine and 2 squares baking chocolate in microwave. In a separate bowl, stir together cake mix, pudding mixes, sour cream, eggs, oil, milk, and melted margarine/chocolate mixture. Blend well with spoon. This will likely be too stiff to use a mixer. Blend in chocolate chips. Spray 9x13 cake pan with cooking spray. Pour batter in, smooth out and bake at 350 degrees for about 55 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. Let cool and frost with dark chocolate fudge icing or whatever you prefer. Or leave off the icing and heat each slice individually in microwave about 20 seconds before serving with hot fudge sauce (and ice cream if you want.) Enjoy!


I listened to a workshop today in which two agents and an editor were commenting on the openings of stories. They shared the thoughts going through their minds, and said whether they would request more of the manuscript. I would estimate twenty story openers were read aloud. For the most part, these stories were good. Some had problems but none of them stunk with a capital S, in my opinion. Clearly all the writers had studied their craft. I’ve certainly read published books that were on the same level as most of them. As for problems, a few had too much internalization and backstory up front (and no action.) Some had too much action and no characterization up front (which makes the reader ask, why do I care?) Others had too many romance cliches... in other words, they were not original enough. The bottom line is, they had problems but the writing was "good". This reminds me of Tony the Tiger. "They’re not good; they’re GREAT!" Yes, we have to make our stories GREAT! Not just good. Everyone is good, or can be with practice. To snare the editors’ and agents’ attention and become published, we have to be ingenious super-writers. We must BE ORIGINAL. I feel like I should tattoo that to my fingers. Hey, it would fit perfectly.

Some things to keep in mind:
"When people are free to do as they please, they usually imitate each other. Originality is deliberate and forced, and partakes of the nature of a protest." ~ Eric Hoffer

"The man with a new idea is a crank until the idea succeeds." ~ Mark Twain

"All profoundly original work looks ugly at first." ~ Clement Greenberg

I took the above picture of a sunrise. Very original, don't you think? :-)

High Concept

I listened to a workshop by Debbie Macomber called High Concept - How to Define It, Write It, Sell It from the 2005 RWA national conference. Debbie Macomber says high concept is, "What everyone wants but they don’t know what it is until they see it." We must decide for ourselves what is high concept. She gives 9 ways to find high concepts. The first of which is "watch for trends." She says it’s important to be first and asks who was the first man to fly solo across the Atlantic? I’m sure you know the answer. Lindbergh. But who was the 2nd? Almost no one knows his name. Some of the places she says to look for high concept ideas are current bestselling books, catalogs, magazines, TV shows, news (programs and papers), England (what’s popular here was often popular there first), Internet ads, and movies. Other ideas coming from the audience include things kids are into because they’re trend-setters. Mall shopping, music and songs. She gives several examples from her own works and tells where she got the high concept ideas. In particular, she recommends Faith Popcorn’s The Popcorn Report and her other books for predicting "what’s happening in our culture and why."

Macomber says to ask your local bookseller and librarian which books are most popular, what are the readers looking for? On television, look to see which new shows are the most popular. Agent Irene Goodman says a high concept is "something that is instantly recognizable and appealing in one short phrase." Macomber gives these examples: Clueless goes to Harvard. A female Huck Finn story. Bladerunner meets Matrix. If we can distill our stories down to simple high concept phrases like these, we have a better chance of capturing an editor’s or agent’s attention. I highly recommend this workshop for the great information and specific examples. Debbie Macomber's website is

Above is a picture I took of late-blooming fall flowers, a type of geranium.

Golden Heart, etc.

I’m entering the Golden Heart contest this year. This is Romance Writers of America’s biggest contest for unpublished writers. It has 1000 entries this year, which is the limit. I’m glad I sent my entry form in early. At the moment, I am printing out my pages so I can mail them in a day or two. The entry consists of 6 paper copies of the first 55 pages of the manuscript, including an up to 15 page synopsis, and a copy of the completed manuscript, on disk, CD or paper. I’ll also be judging in a different category.

What am I reading?
I just finished reading a medieval historical romance called Dryden’s Bride by Margo Maguire. It is a Harlequin Historical from the year 2000. Why am I reading such an old book? It was in my TBR stack, I read the back and it sounded interesting. A knight with a dark soul. Yeah, I can get into that. I really loved the hero who'd been tortured and wore an eyepatch. I’m trying to narrow down my TBR stack because I’m sure at the moment it contains well over 200 books. I would like to get it down to 100 at least, because let me be honest with myself, how can I ever read that many books? I would love to read them all but I simply don’t have time, considering the amount of time I spend writing.

What am I watching?
Braveheart - the most famous of all Scottish historical movies. We’ve all seen it before, of course. I wanted to watch it again and see what I’d forgotten. I remembered the violence. :-) I had to fast-forward through those parts. With a DVD I still saw enough to know what happened. I really hate the part where William’s wife is murdered. Heart-wrenching. I always cry during the part where, as children at the beginning, she gives him a thistle at the burial of his father. There are many, many things to love about the film--the beautiful landscapes, the bravery and determination of the Scotsmen, the drama, action, adventure, humor and emotion, men in kilts, Mel Gibson. Sigh.

Speaking of thistles...have you ever seen a white one? I hadn’t, but I discovered this one (pictured above) while I was out walking one day. I seriously have not altered this picture in any way, though I confess I did some of my earlier ones to see if you were paying attention. (Blue and purple leaves, haha! ;-))

November Blog Reiver

This month in my Call of the Clans column, Blog Reiver, I visited the blog of Stephanie Bond. Her blog is a must-see. Go to and click on "Open Book". She gave me permission to use her entries: Monday, October 3, 2005 "Generating publicity through article-writing" and Sunday, October 9, 2005 "The ultimate in multi-tasking." It was difficult to choose those two because all her entries are incredibly informative. I learned a lot and plan to visit again soon. Okay, I just visited to make sure the addy above was correct and caught myself again reading several entries before I could stop. Addictive, I tell you. :-)

Something to think about: "Some of the world's greatest feats were accomplished by people not smart enough to know they were impossible." ~Doug Larson

Favorite writing books

Today I want to talk about my favorite writing books and why I like them.

GMC: Goal, Motivation and Conflict by Debra Dixon. This is probably at the top of most romance writers’ list of "must have" books. Why? Because without what you learn to do in this book you don’t have a complete and cohesive story. The GMC concept is useful for most types of fiction.

The Weekend Novelist by Robert J. Ray. I LOVE this book because it taught me how to plot. Seems strange I know because at first it doesn’t appear to be a book about plotting. But it presents the three act play method of structuring a story in such a way that makes perfect sense to me. I always felt certain things should happen at certain points in the story and this confirms that and explains it. The author goes on to show how the different points in a story relate to each other. If you have "this" at plot point one, then you need "that" at plot point two. The story will be a tighter unit. Hard to explain without going into detail.

Roget’s International Thesaurus. This reference book has over 1300 pages. I bought it new and it is the most worn-out of all my writing books. If you want to avoid being repetitive, using worn-out cliches then a good thesaurus is a must. Did you notice how I just used "worn-out" twice? I wouldn't have done that if I'd been using my thesaurus. I would've looked up the word and perhaps used dog-tired, dog-eared, exhausted, overtired, haggard, enfeebled, the list could go on.

Langenscheidt’s New College Merriam-Webster English Dictionary. I LOVE this dictionary. It has 1560 pages and weighs a ton. Not only does it contain everything a regular dictionary does, it also gives the date the word was first used. Since I write historical, this has proven invaluable to me. It saves me an incredible amount of time.

Description by Monica Wood and Setting by Jack M. Bickham both from the Elements of Fiction Writing series from Writer’s Digest Books. I used to have a real problem with setting description in my writing--I left it out. :-) Once it was pointed out to me I read these two books and learned that I loved writing setting description, probably too much. Now I have to be careful not to overdo it.

How to Be Your Own Literary Agent by Richard Curtis. This helped me understand what is in contracts and what it all means. Even if you have an agent you still need to understand all the terms and clauses.

Building Believable Characters by Marc McCutcheon. This book has lots of great things in it. Character names, professions, clothes, facial expressions, psychological problems, foreign words, etc. I use it a lot as a jumping off point. I may not use exactly what’s in the book but it gives me new ideas.

The Complete Writer’s Guide to Heroes & Heroines, Sixteen Master Archetypes by Tami D. Cowden, Caro LaFever, Sue Viders. I use this book as I’m planning a new story. After I have a general feel for my main characters, I look up their archetypes in this book and get ideas for more personality traits. I go by gut instinct for which archetype they are. I don’t assign my characters one. They tell me which they are and this book allows me to dig deeper into their psyche so I can get to know them better and present them as more three-dimensional on the page.

20,001 Names for Baby by Carol McD. Wallace. Almost every time I need to name a character I peruse this book. If it’s a main character, sometimes I’ll browse through it for an hour or so. The name must fit the personality, after all. If it’s a secondary character, sometimes I’ll just pick an appropriate name at random from the book. Any thick baby name book will serve this purpose. For last names, I use the phone book.

Do you have a favorite book about writing that I haven't mentioned? If so, please let me know about it. I'm always looking for more "must haves". :-)

Revision complete

Autumn does strange things to the trees here in NC, but I'm enjoying it. I finished my revision last night and sent the manuscript off. Woohoo! Wish me luck and cross every body part you can. Okay, maybe I can relax for about an hour then back to work. :-) I have projects in the pipeline. Which will be next? They're all trying to come out at once. A short story, a novella, another Scottish historical. Ooh they are all so tempting. I must also catch up on critiquing for all the wonderful people who critted my manuscript as I was revising it. (Thank you!) I must get busy.

Something to ponder: "At the moment of commitment, the universe conspires to assist you." -Goethe-

A workshop a day

Today I'm going to recommend something I enjoy very much... RWA national conference workshop CDs. The 2005 conference is on 3 CDs in MP3 format. They contain tons of workshops, well over a hundred. Maybe 150. This is the 2nd year I've bought them from Bill Stephens Productions ( ) and they are worth the money, which is only about 1/8 the cost of the same workshops on tape. The CDs have a printable table of contents, 10 pages. I printed this out and I look through it and decide which workshop I'm in the mood for that day. I use a portable CD/ MP3 player with a headset. I walk for about an hour, outside in the fresh mountain air, or take my mind off cleaning, washing dishes or folding laundry by learning some aspect of writing (and being virtually transported to a workshop in Reno.) Though I'm not a beginner, it never hurts to review many aspects of craft. I feel the more I listen, the more I will absorb it. I have a thirsty mind. I am usually pleasantly surprised at how good the workshop is and I often learn new information or ways of looking at writing or the publishing industry.

What makes a scene necessary?

As I'm doing my revision one of the main things I have to look for are unnecessary scenes. Why would anyone (why would I) write unnecessary scenes in the first place? Hmm. Something to ponder. So I as I'm revising, I run across a scene that I LOVE because it has lots of sexual tension in it. But if I removed the scene would the book as a whole suffer? Nope. Sadly.

So I go searching through my books on writing, looking for references to scenes and what makes them necessary or not. I am frantic to save this scene from the scrap heap. I glance through GMC: Goal, Motivation and Conflict by Debra Dixon. (One of the best books ever for fiction writers and I highly recommend it.) I discover that a scene needs to have 3 reasons for existence and one of those reasons should be either showing progress toward a goal, strengthening / changing motivation or conflict with opposing forces. She then goes on to say the other 2 reasons for a "scene can be anything you want." An example from the book is showing "sexual tension." Whew! I have one good reason for my scene. Another is "foreshadowing" which this scene is doing. In addition, I found 2 more reasons. I do have some conflict in the scene between the hero and heroine. But I can intensify the conflict if I bring in a secondary character. I’m confident this will fix the problem, and allows me to play up those other 5 reasons for having the scene. Plus it connects a previous event and a one that happens later in the book.

Upcoming are more weak scenes that I must whip into shape. Or cut. I confess I got distracted by the celebration going on. Imagining how people celebrated a certain holiday in the Highlands four hundred years ago is difficult. I wanted my research to be accurate and unfortunately my other story elements fell by the wayside as a result. What was I thinking? I still need conflict, tension and all that other meaty, page-turning stuff. Brainstorming is my preferred method of dealing with problems such as this. I can do it. Not to worry. :-)

Above is a picture I took of the mountains last fall.

Playing catch up

I'm so sorry I've been neglecting my blog. I have a good excuse. I got my first revision request. Woohoo!! How does that feel? Amazing, thrilling and terrifying all at once. So that makes two firsts in one month. (First 1st place in a contest and first revision request.) Oh and another thing, one of the recipes I contributed to my local chapter's (Smoky Mountain Romance Writers) fundraiser cookbook is going to be made on TV. A lady from our chapter who lives in Knoxville, where the show (Style) is taped, will be making the dish-- Southern Sweetheart (Sweet potato pie). I hope it turns out well. I can't get the station since I live over 100 miles away in NC. But what great publicity that will be for our chapter. Maybe we will sell lots of cookbooks as a result. Please visit to learn more about the chapter or to buy a cookbook. It's filled with romantic, indulgent, decadent recipes.

In other news I learned that my Scottish historical, My Fierce Highlander, placed second in the Golden Gateway competition. Woohoo! I feel really good about that since there were five finalists and dozens of entrants.

Here’s one of the last pictures of my flowers for this year. The forecast says snow in higher elevations (where I live) for tomorrow night. Eeek! I can’t believe how quickly summer left and winter is arriving. Back to revisions. Everyone, have a great weekend!

Things to Ponder

Here are a few things to think about. I don't know who complied this list.

Can you cry under water?

How important does a person have to be before they are considered assassinated instead of just murdered?

Why do you have to "put your two cents in".. . but it's only a "penny for your thoughts"? Where's that extra penny going to?

Once you're in heaven, do you get stuck wearing the clothes you were buried in for eternity?

Why does a round pizza come in a square box?

What disease did cured ham actually have?

How is it that we put man on the moon before we figured out it would be a good idea to put wheels on luggage?

Why is it that people say they "slept like a baby" when babies wake up like every two hours?

If a deaf person has to go to court, is it still called a hearing?

Why are you IN a movie, but you're ON TV?

Why do people pay to go up tall buildings and then put money in binoculars to look at things on the ground?

Why do doctors leave the room while you change? They're going to see you naked anyway.

Why is "bra" singular and "panties" plural?

Why do toasters always have a setting that burns the toast to a horrible crisp, which no decent human being would eat?

If Jimmy cracks corn and no one cares, why is there a stupid song about him?

Can a hearse carrying a corpse drive in the carpool lane?

If the professor on Gilligan's Island can make a radio out of a coconut, why can't he fix a hole in a boat?

Why do people point to their wrist when asking for the time, but don't point to their crotch when they ask where the bathroom is?

Why does Goofy stand erect while Pluto remains on all fours? They're both dogs!

If Wiley E. Coyote had enough money to buy all that ACME crap, why didn't he just buy dinner?

If corn oil is made from corn, and vegetable oil is made from vegetables, what is baby oil made from?

If electricity comes from electrons, does morality come from morons?

Do the Alphabet song and Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star have the same tune?

Why did you just try singing the two songs above?

Why do they call it an asteroid when it's outside the hemisphere, but call it a hemorrhoid when it's in your butt?

Did you ever notice that when you blow in a dog's face, he gets mad at you, but when you take him for a car ride; he sticks his head out the window?

The Mad Limricker Strikes!


That from my good friend and fellow chapter mate, Kerri, the Mad Limricker. When someone has good news, she creates an original poem for them. How special is that!?! We love it! Thanks, Kerri!


I confess, I bought my first Robomaid recently. It isn't quite so elaborate as 'The Jetson's' robotic maid but this one does a good job cleaning the floor. It's an electronic ball that roll inside a plastic ring with a electrostatic pad attached to the bottom. Very simple and inexpensive, but heck, so far I love it. I have two cats and a lot of dust. The Robomaid picks up the cat hair and dust easily. It just rolls around randomly across my hardwood floors and tile. It won't work for carpets of, course. You'd need one of those robotic vacuums for that. I've wanted one of those too but thought I'd give this a try first. The cats watch it like it's some sort of alien creature but they haven't pounced on it yet. This cuts down on my cleaning time so I have more time to write. Aha, that's the whole point.

Have you tried a neat new invention or gizmo lately?

Market News Focus on Kensington

Here is another issue of Cindi Myers fabulous Market News newsetter.


This week I'm reporting on Kensington Books, from their spotlight at the RWA National Convention in Reno.

Editorial Director Kate Duffy and Editor Hilary Sares presented the Spotlight. Kate has been in publishing 31 years. She has edited for Popular Library, Dell Candlelight, Silhouette books, Pocket Books and Meteor, and has worked for Kensington for ten years. Hilary Sares has been at Kensington for 9 years.

Kensington handles seven percent of mass market publishing in North America. It’s the largest privately owned publishing company in North America. Kensington imprints include: Zebra, which publishes only romance, including historical, contemporary, paranormal and anthologies in mass market and soon also some titles will be released in trade paper.Strapless (chick lit) in trade paperDafina (African-American) fiction and romance in trade paper and mass market.Brava erotic romance in trade and mass marketPinnacle – thrillers, true crime, westerns, mystery
K-mass – mass market for mystery and BravaKensington also distributes BET Arabesque and Sepia titles. Kensington is the largest American publisher of African-American fiction and nonfiction, and the largest North American publisher of gay and lesbian fiction.

Kensington publishes over 80 books a month, most of them fiction. They have no guidelines, and would like to see all kinds of ideas from authors. They like to see new spins on traditional genres, examples were a Regency-set paranormal, and paranormal erotica. “We want to see things we’re not doing,” Kate said.

Kate encourage authors to send her partials of their work in progress – you don’t have to finish it for her to consider it. She can advise whether or not it’s worth finishing and can give you some editorial guidance. Hilary is open to this also.

They accept simultaneous submissions. Response time: “We’re aiming for 3-6 months.” There have been problems in the past, but they’re trying to get better.
Hilary doesn’t care about synopses – she doesn’t read them. “Write a cover letter that reads like back cover copy,” she said. “Two paragraphs.”

Kate feels the synopsis is useful for a work in progress and it’s useful for the art department. She always reads the manuscript pages first.

“No matter what our website says, every single person at Kensington accepts unagented, unsolicited submissions,” Kate said.

Some of the specific programs at Kensington include:

Zebra Debut – more traditional romance spotlighting first authors, many priced at $3.99 around 100,000 words

A new erotica imprint will launch in January 2006 with four books that month and two each month thereafter. The line is as yet unnamed. 25,000 word novellas or 90,000 word novelsBut both editors cautioned against getting too hung up on word count, especially in erotica

Brava publishes erotic romance, often in themed collections, as well as single title books. They’ve done themes of Bad Boys and Wicked Women. If you have an idea for a theme that would fit in Brava, send it to them. Kate would love to do a World War II series in Brava, but they’re not interested in seeing anything later than WWII as far as historicals go.

Sulay Hernandez is Hillary’s assistant. She is looking for Latina fiction and nonfiction.

The editors are open to romantic suspense but be mindful you’ll be up against authors like Beverly Barton and Lisa Jackson. But if you have a new spin on it – for instance, an African American or Latina perspective, or anything different, they would definitely be interested. “It’s a difficult genre to find really great work in,” Hilary said.

Kate predicted “cowboy romance” is “coming back.” “Western romances, for Kensington, are a huge priority for 2006,” she said. They want to concentrate on creating strong covers for their western historicals.

Other editors: Karen Thomas, Audrey LeFehr and John ScognamiglioAudrey LeFehr is involved in developing women’s fiction for Kensington.

The website is Contact any editor via email using this

Feel free to pass along this newsletter and to encourage others to sign up to receive it. If you reprint or forward the newsletter, all I ask is that I be given credit for it. Anyone can sign up by sending a blank email to

Cindi Myers
My Backwards Life, Next, September 2005
Learning Curves, Signature Select, October 2005

Professional Writers Dance Between Passionate and Impersonal

by: Bonnie Boots

People that love to write often feel being paid for publication is the
benchmark of a “real” writer. So they read all the books on writing and
dutifully send off queries, filled with hope and fear that one will be
accepted: hope they’ll get the chance to be a real writer, fear they won’t
live up to the challenge. Sadly, for some, their fears will turn out to be
well founded. The emotional highs and lows of writing for pay will be more
painful then they can bear. Shocked, wounded, these natural writers will put
their dreams behind them in the mistaken belief that they’re not good enough to write for publication.

Why does this happen? Because books on writing often fail to tell the
aspiring writer the one thing they most need to know: the marketplace
demands more than talent. It demands that the writer be skilled at dancing
between the emotional states of passion and detachment. It seems like a
conundrum, and it is, so let’s unravel this riddle.

The writer filled with fervor for the process of writing produces the best
product. And in the marketplace, that’s just what your article, poem, short
story or novel is—a product. Products, whether they are romance novels or
car wax, are pretty much processed, pimped and put on the shelves the same way. All sorts of people, from editors to advertising sales managers, have
their hand in the marketing process. They have the power to tweak, alter and otherwise transfigure the product. As a writer, it takes emotional
detachment to watch, even help as your beloved work is worked on.

The ability to call forth and control your emotional states is a primary
survival skill if you hope to write for print. Can it be learned? Yes. In
his book “Emotional Intelligence: Why It Can Matter More than IQ,” Daniel
Goleman says the ability to master emotions often makes the difference
between success and failure in people of equivalent intellectual abilities.
He suggests these steps for increasing self-control:

(1) Pay attention to your emotional states. Don’t just let excitement or
fear run riot over you. Use your writer’s “inner eye” to observe and record
your own emotional states. Simply being aware of your emotions is the first
step to controlling them.

(2) Get it off your chest. Rejection hurts. Seeing your carefully considered
words edited for publication is painful. If your feelings have been hurt, by
all means vent, but do it in a journal and not, under any circumstance, in a
nasty email to an editor or a hastily posted blog. Nothing is learned from
burning bridges, and you could seriously injure your chances of ever being
published. Editors and publishers read the net, too, you know.

(3) Consider the other person’s point of view. Editors and publishers have
to deal with issues you know nothing about. Before you take personal
offence, stop to consider their side. If an editor doesn’t quickly answer
your query, stop and imagine the view from their desk. If you got 1000
letters a week AND had to handle the work of 2 because of staff cuts, might
you put mail on the back burner?

(4) Try not to take it personally. This can be especially difficult for
writers, because our work is so very personal. But when your feelings are
hurt, it’s important to take a step back and realize that in business,
decisions may need to been made that have nothing to do with YOU,

(5) Stay well-mannered and self-motivated. Being polite and persevering even when your feelings have been hurt is a definite sign of emotional maturity.
The ability to keep your cool and keep moving ahead will take you places
talent alone can only dream of.

Like any skill, learning to waltz between passion and dispassion takes
practice and persistence. Some writers tap a tentative foot, then withdraw
to be wallflowers the first time someone steps on their toes. But you can
survive and even thrive by joining the dance with passion and purpose,
accepting the thrills as well as the spills as you learn to step with the

About The Author
Bonnie Boots ( is an award-winning writer and designer who says all writers should show off their talent by wearing their Write
Side Out! Her wise and witty product line of gear that shows the world
you're a writer is at

What I Love/Hate About Fall

I was born on the first day of autumn in... we won't say what year... but it was Sept. 22. This year my birthday fell again on the first day of autumn. (That doesn't always happen.) When I was a child, fall was my favorite season, though I'm not sure why. Now I have mixed feelings about it.

What I hate about fall...
1. All those spiders that suddenly show up everywhere and their webs. I especially hate the big orangy-brown ones that build webs where I walk into them easily.
2. It's the end of the growing season. I'm a gardener so naturally I don't enjoy it when frost kills back all my flowers and plants. And I won't be harvesting any more hot pepper until the next summer.
3. Katydid and frost bug mating calls. My husband loves hearing them, but I don't. They keep me awake if the window is open and remind me of the above (end of growing season.) They also make me feel nostalgic.
4. Paying property taxes.
5. Buying heating oil.

What I love about fall...
1. END of hurricane season. I hate all the tragedies happening along the southern and Gulf coasts in summer.
2. Cooler temperatures. Heat gives me headaches and my home doesn't have an air conditioner.
3. Those beautiful fall leaves and bright blue skies. I live in the mountains with forests and trees all around so this is usually quite a show.
4. Despite this being the end of the growing season, there are a number of fall flowers and berries that are beautiful.
5. Fall holidays and colorful decorations.

What do you love or hate about fall most?

Everything Has a Gender

Are you ready for some humor? Check this out.

You may not know this but many nonliving things have a gender.

1) Ziploc Bags are Male, because they hold everything in, but you can see right through them.

2) Copiers are Female, because once turned off; it takes a while to warm them up again.

3) A Tire is Male, because it goes bald and it's often over-inflated.

4) A Hot Air Balloon is Male, because, to get it to go anywhere, you have to light a fire under it, and of course, there's the hot air part.

5) Sponges are Female, because they're soft, squeezable and retain water.

6) A Web Page is Female, because it's always getting hit on.

7) A Subway is Male, because it uses the same old lines to pick people up.

8) An Hourglass is Female, because over time, the weight shifts to the bottom.

9) A Hammer is Male, because it hasn't changed much over the last 5,000 years, but it's handy to have around.

10) A Remote Control is Female. Ha! You thought it'd be male, didn't you? But consider this - it gives a man pleasure, he'd be lost without it, and while he doesn't always know the right buttons to push, he keeps trying!

Can you add something to this list? It will get your creative juices flowing. :-)

Midsummer’s Eve - Using Ancient Celebrations in Your Stories

Today I want to share an article I wrote a few months ago. It first appeared in the Celtic Hearts newsletter, Call of the Clans.

Midsummer’s Eve
Using Ancient Celebrations in Your Stories
By Vonda Sinclair

One way to add authentic flavor to your historical romance novel and make the reader feel she has traveled through time is to include traditional holiday feasts and festivals as they would’ve been celebrated at the time of your story. I recently had an opportunity to do this in my Scottish historical. One thing to keep in mind is that people during renaissance times would’ve probably celebrated a bit differently, perhaps in a slightly more modern way, than they would’ve during medieval times.

The holiday in question is Midsummer’s Eve, celebrated around the 21st to the 24th of June at Summer Solstice, the longest day of the year. Midsummer’s Eve is also known as St. John’s Eve (Christians), Litha (Celts), Gathering-Day (Welsh), Feill Sheathain (Scottish) and Swithin’s Eve. This was a pagan holiday that was celebrated over much of Europe in the past under many different names. Even ancient Romans celebrated it as Vestalia.. In Great Britain the holiday was celebrated for thousands of years. In pre-Christian times, the people used the holiday to honor the gods and goddesses and to show thankfulness for the plentiful crops that were growing.

The most important symbol of this day is fire, which corresponds with the sun being at its hottest and most powerful at midsummer. Balefires were lit at sunset on Midsummer’s Eve and allowed to burn until sunset the next day. Biiken is the old Norse word for balefire. The Norse custom was to gather their family and animals and parade them in a procession to the sacred site. Sometimes a large circle of torches were used instead of a balefire.

Highland women generally jumped over the huge bonfires with their skirts held high so the smoke and flame reached their bare skin for increased fertility. In addition, the higher a person jumped indicated the height and success of the coming harvest. Leaping the fires also symbolized purification.

Livestock was led around the fires in a clockwise direction to protect the animals from evil and disease and to make them more fertile. Torches of heather were lit from the balefires and carried three times in a clockwise direction around fields and homes, as well as through cattle sheds for purification, fertility and to keep away illness.

Ashes from the balefire were smeared on the foreheads of the children to bless them. After the celebration, the ashes were scattered over the fields to ensure a good harvest. In truth, the ash acted as a fertilizer to the crops, providing strong root growth. Mothers would sometimes hold their babies near the balefire so the smoke would billow over them, again for blessing, protection and health. According to legend, Midsummer was a night when the veil between worlds was thin and strange paranormal occurrences were expected, especially visits from mischievous fairies.

Another prominent custom on this night included the men of the village creating a giant wheel of straw and covering it in pitch. They would set the wheel on fire and roll it down a hill. If the fiery wheel went out before it reached the bottom, this foretold a poor harvest. In addition, this symbolized the sun waning after it had peaked on Midsummer’s Day.

Certain herbs were gathered, especially St. John’s wort. The yellow flowers were believed to hold the power of the sun. Medicinal herbs were harvested at this time because they were at their peak, then dried and stored for winter. Other herbs used specifically for this holiday were vervain, trefoil, rue, lavender, roses and others. Lavender in particular was prized as an aphrodisiac which drew lovers together. Plants, flowers and feathers were fashioned into garlands or arrangements and placed over doorways, in windows, and over hearths for protection and blessing. Specific herbs were placed under a person’s bed pillow so they might dream of a future lover. This night is a significant one for romance and is tied into fertility rites. For this reason, June is the traditional month for weddings or handfastings.

Druids usually gathered mistletoe on this day and were especially happy when it was found in the sacred oak tree. As well, the ancient Romans gathered mistletoe at this time and used it in their hearth fires when they rekindled them for the coming winter.

Life was fragile and insecure for ancient peoples. A poor crop or problems with their livestock could spell starvation and death. Therefore they used the rituals of Midsummer to bless and nurture the new life forming all around them--the crops growing in the fields, the baby animals which had been born in the spring, as well as the pregnant women still waiting to give birth.

Villages, clans and families feasted, danced and sang on this night. The foods included fresh summer fruits and vegetables, pumpernickel bread, honey, lemons, oranges, mead, and ale. They usually acted out plays, one of which featured the Ivy (or Holly) King battling and defeating the Oak King, symbolic of the coming harvest and winter, over which the former ruled. Many myths are born of these traditions.

To include an ancient celebration such as this in one of your stories, first research it thoroughly in books and online until you feel steeped in the traditions. Adjust for the time period of your story then put your characters through the paces of participating in the customs. The heroine might gather herbs with the women of her clan. The hero could participate in rolling the giant burning wheel down the hill. Sometimes a person’s marital status determined whether they participated in a certain custom or not. Your characters might dance all night around the balefire or even jump over it. Each element of the celebration was symbolic and adhered to in a certain way. Be specific. Detail is important because it truly brings the holiday and your story to life.

Blog Reiver

What is a Blog Reiver? I am! This is the title of my new monthly column for the Celtic Hearts Romance Writers' newsletter, Call of the Clans. I'll be visiting the blogs of published and unpublished writers, editors and agents. I have found much wisdom, motivation and entertainment on blogs and I realized some of these entries would make awesome newsletter content. "Reiver" is a Scots word first used before the 12th century and means to raid. Aye, when they stole cattle from the neighboring clan, that was reiving. But I promise I always get permission before borrowing someone's blog entries. In the column, I'm including bio type information, links to the person's blog and website and, if they're published, a title or two of their recently published books. So it's free publicity for them that will reach the over one hundred members of Celtic Hearts, while we get to benefit from their wisdom. My first target is fellow Celtic Hearts member and RITA Award winning author of fantasy, futuristic romance, Robin D. Owens. She's had a number of books published, including Heart Choice, Heart Duel and Guardian of Honor. She was 2004 Rocky Mtn Fiction Writer of the Year. Her blog, Robin D. Owens on Writing and Publishing, is amazing and chock full of writerly wisdom! Here are the addresses of her blog and website.

Watch out! You may be the Blog Reiver's next target. ;-)


The auctions to help writer Larissa Ione who lost her home during the hurricane are underway at eBay.

Also the auctions for Leslie Ferdinand and her mom, who write as a team as Christine Holden, who also lost their homes during the hurricane, are going on at eBay. Please bid lots for these authors.

Writers Helping Writers

And still more ways to help our fellow writers who have lost everything. Thanks, Vanessa, for letting me know about this.

SQUAWK RADIO (, the blog hosted by Teresa Medeiros, Christina Dodd, Connie Brockway, Elizabeth Bevarly, Eloisa James and Lisa Kleypas is organizing a fundraiser for fellow romance author Leslie Ferdinand and her mom, who write as a team as Christine Holden. If you go to Squawk Radio and scroll down through the recent blogs, you'll come to a photo of Leslie and her mom. They escaped New Orleans in their car but had to leave their dogs behind to drown. Leslie has a 2-week old baby, a 27 month old baby, and a 9 year old. They lost all of their material belongings plus Leslie had a job in New Orleans which is now gone. Someone has given them a furnished garage apartment. in Terrell, TX to live in for a couple of weeks.

SQUAWK RADIO is collecting gift cards to Wal-Mart, Target, Office Max, or on-line stores, etc. They can be mailed to Eloisa James, PO Box 835, Summit, NJ 07901

PLUS we're hosting a big auction on Ebay with all of the proceeds going to Leslie and her family. Here's the URL for all of the auction items: (just cut and paste it into your browser if the link doesn't work). We'll be adding more items this week, including some autographed Lisa Kleypas books. 100% of the proceeds (sans listing fees) will be given to Leslie and her family.


And here's still another way to help if you're a published romance author.

As the Contest Chair of NOLA's Suzannah contest, I'm in desperate
need of published authors (RWA recognized standards) to judge first

If anyone's interested, please contact me at:

As a northern Louisiana chapter, many of our members have family and
friends in the southern part of the state who were effected by
Katrina. Therefore, we are donating a portion of each entry toward
relief efforts.

So, if you have time to spare, we really need your help ... contest
deadline is Oct 1st. You'd receive entries about the 7th and they'd
be due back by Nov 15.


Sandy DeTaranto
2005 Suzannah Contest Chair


Market Newsletter

If you write romance and don't get this newsletter by Cindi Myers, you're missing out on a lot. Here's the latest issue.

Welcome everyone. This week I'm looking at the Spotlight on HQN and Red Dress Ink from RWA's National Conference.

Red Dress Ink, (RDI) launched in November of 2001. They were one of the first imprints devoted to Chick Lit. Since that time, the market has become more crowded with Chick Lit lines. Beginning in 2006, RDI will move from 3 titles a month to 2 titles a month. They are also refocusing on their core market of traditional chick lit for 18-34 year old readers. They want protagonists under 35 years old. You need four things to write a successful RDI novel:
Quality writing,
Likeable characters – characters you would want to hang out with
A fun, irreverent tone, and
A fresh voice.
Voice is key – it should be “irreverent, sarcastic, humorous and modern.”

Executive Editor Margaret Marbury is really keen on Chick Lit mystery, but it can’t be a regular mystery with a few girly comments through in. It must have a real female sensibility.

HQN launched in August of 2004. They started with mass market paperback romance and now also publish some trade and hardcover titles as well as releasing four mass market romances a month. HQN focuses on “big fat romance.” They publish both contemporary and historical romance and romantic suspense. They don’t want gritty thrillers, but rather suspense with a prominent, emotional romance. They’re also open to paranormal romance. But the emphasis must always be on the romance. According to Executive Editor Tracy Farrell, their focus at the moment is on big contemporary romance. These books are 100,000 to 150,000 words.

HQN and RDI do not consider unagented submissions. Unagented authors my query with a short (1-2 pages) synopsis.

A few editorial changes:
At Avalon books, Orly Trieber, assistant editor, has been removed from the list of
acquiring editors.

Selina McLemore has left Avon books. She is now an editor with Red Dress Ink.

May Chen is now listed as associate editor at Avon.

Susan McCarty is a new assistant editor at Berkley/Jove.

Demetria Lucas, associate editor, has been added to the list of acquiring editors for Silhouette Books. Harlequin Superromance's Johanna Raisanen is now listed as associate

********************************** is now selling short stories online. The stories may be downloaded for 49 cents each. So far, about 60 authors have sold short stories to the new venture, including names such as Robin Cook and Danielle Steele. To be eligible for the program, authors must have at least one book available for sale on Authors or their publishers must apply to Amazon to be considered for the program. Any previously unpublished short work, both fiction and nonfiction, of 2000-10,000 words will be considered. Authors retain all rights to the material and receive a 40 percent royalty. If you would like to participate in Amazon Shorts, please contact

Feel free to pass along this newsletter and to encourage others to sign up to receive it. If you reprint or forward the newsletter, all I ask is that I be given credit for it. Anyone can sign up by sending a blank email to

Cindi Myers
My Backwards Life, Next, September 2005
Learning Curves, Signature Select, October 2005

More Ways to Help

Have you given money to Red Cross but feel there's more you could do to help Katrina victims? Aside from donating things like food, clothing, paper supplies, etc. in your own area, here are more ways to help. Please copy and paste the links into your browser. For some reason I have a hard time creating links on this blog.

Here's an update from writer Larissa Ione whose home was destroyed from flooding in the hurricane.

On Friday, auctions will begin to help raise money for her family. If you're a writer or romance reader, you will find many things here to bid on.

I've had Charlotte Dillon's website link on my website for years. It's the best place for romance writing info of all kinds. Charlotte obviously loves helping others, but now she needs our help. She and her family also lost their home in the hurricane. Please check this site to see how you can help Charlotte.

Here is Charlotte's incredible website.

The below information came from Kathryn Falk of Romantic Times Book Club Magazine.



Sep 05, 2005

Dear Booklovers,

This has been a traumatic week for many of us. We are hoping to keep you
informed on the fate of booksellers, readers and writers from the Gulf

Some authors have not checked in or cannot be located. For the latest info:

Laura at Romance Report is keeping a list.

Cut and paste this link to search:

Vicki Hinze has also put up a web site to track authors.


Note from Metsy Hingle, formerly of New Orleans

Thanks for your concern. We're okay--living a nightmare. Jim and I and the
family went to Arkansas and are now sleeping on the floor in his office in
Mc Comb, MS. We are blessed as we have electricity here and just got
internet access.

Water is bad, no gas, but we're alive. Our home is damaged and we're told it
will be 2-4 weeks before power is restored. Complicating things is that
Jim's father died late Saturday afternoon during evacutaion (a blessing
really), but Jim's first cousin was killed and his sister's 20-year-old son,
our godson, is missing.

Despite all this, I truly feel blessed. Right now my focus is on the
rebuilding process. I'll just have to hope my next couple of books do well
to pay for the rebuilding process. We'll be staying here for a while and are
trying to offer what comfort we can to those in need here in MS.

I'm sharing the water and allowing people to come use the bathrooms and cool
off in the a/c. Jim's keeping his 10 employees on normal payroll so they
don't suffer, despite the financial hit to us. I told him that would be my
anniversary gift. (Today is our 29th)

Please pass the word to others for me who have asked about me.

Love and hugs to all..............Metsy

~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~* ~*~*


Elizabeth Benway and her daughter Lizzy have passed over, due to an accident
in their van. She had a wonderful site promoting authors and cover models --
John DeSalvo being her favorite. Her site:

Poor road conditions caused by Hurricane Katrina may have played a part in
the accident on Interstate 10 which claimed their lives. The Benways lived
in the Ponce de Leon area. Both victims were pronounced dead at the scene.
The van they were riding in ran off the interstate, crashing into a patch of



If you receive the SOS America, Inc. Newsletter, you know that we are
directing our efforts to Texas. I have a house in Alvin, Texas, where I once
lived with my late father until 2000. It is empty except for my father's
caretaker. I'm flying down Wednesday to help settle in my cousin from New
Orleans who lost her house. With her husband and 3 children, she is in a
motel in Lafayette, LA, near Connie Perry.

As you know Texas is overwhelmed with refugees. From Sharon Middleton,
lawyer and SOS member, I learned that Alvin has 300 refugees in motels, and
needs a depot and assistance. Forty minutes away, in Houston, are many
shelters. JoCarol Jones, our convention director, is taking in a family and
her husband set up communications for FEMA at the newest shelter.

The children need many things, from toys, formula, baby food, to underwear
and diapers. Adults also need underwear, TOWELS, hygiene products. It is hot
in Texas (97 degrees). Towels and keeping clean are a priority now.



For suggestions on what donated items are needed, here is a small list
supplied by relief organizations. This is not complete, many other items are
also needed, particularly underwear for adults and children, summer
clothing, TOWELS.

Baby Powder
Bottled Drinking Water
Bowls, plastic, paper

Cable Ties
Calamine Lotion
Canned Food
Clorox Bleach
Clothes Pins
Cutlery, Plastic Utensils

Diapers, Disposable size 12-24 lbs.
Disposable Razors
Duct Tape

Enema Kits
Envelopes, Manila
Exam Gloves
Face Masks
Facial Tissues
Fire Extinguishers
First Aid Kits
Folding Chairs

Gatorade Packets

Generators Hot and Cold Cups, Paper
Ibuprofen Tablets

Paper Napkins
Paper Towels

Pens, Black and Blue
Plates, plastic, paperPower Cords, Electrical Outdoor 50/100ft.

Reading Glasses
Safety Glasses
Soap, Antibacterial

Step Stools
Sterile Water For Injections

Toilet Paper
Towelettes, Antimicrobial
Trash Cans
Visine Eyedrops

What To Do For Survivors?

If you send supplies or money you have the option -- YOU CAN adopt a refugee
or a refugee family. I will connect you to the people who receive your
generosity, if you request it. You can take it from there and keep up
communication. Please include your email and telephone number and I will
attempt the "link up."

Another plan, if the nuclear family doesn't exist, we hope to create a team
leader from amongst the refugees, and make him/her responsible for 10
people. Perhaps you can keep in touch with the team leader? In this way, we
can divide our efforts - much as we did for names of soldiers in Iraq.

If you are in the Houston/Alvin/Galveston area, and want to assist, let me
know. I don't drive, but will chip in on the gas, if you can deliver
supplies, etc.! Bring a pillow and sheets/towel if you can stay overnight.
We will be making a lot of BAR B Q's.


Money / Supplies.

If you have usable TOWELS, UNDERWEAR, summer clothes, toys, pack them up.
New, used, it doesn't matter. They don't have anything.

Children's clothing, toys, baby things, cosmetics, hygiene products,
underwear for men and women, night gowns, pyjamas, summer clothes, sandals.

Some of you have told me that when you discovered the cost for postage/UPS
charge to send supplies to Texas, you'd prefer sending money.

If so, let me know if you want to sponsor/adopt someone. Indicate the number
you, your office, or school groups can take on.

Your contribution is deductible if the check (made out to SOS AMERICA, INC).
Please sent to:

RT BOOKclub Magazine
SOS America, Inc.
55 Bergen St.
Brooklyn, NY 11201

Nancy will send you a receipt. She can also take your credit card for
1 800 989 8816 (ext 12)


Checks sent directly to Texas should be made out to Kathryn Falk. If you
benefit from a tax deduction, make out check to SOS America,Inc., and send
to Brooklyn address, Nancy wil make the transaction.

10218 COUNTY ROAD 941B

RR 1 BOX 134
ALVIN TX 77511-6839

My cell:347 432 2714

If you want to help with underwear and children's supplies in Houston, you
can send money or supplies to:

Many of the same supplies we needed for the soldiers are needed in Texas.
The women don't have cosmetics, shampoo/conditioners, towels, sheets. The
men need razers, hygiene products.

The children need toys, aspirins, over the counter medications, powder for
the water (lemonade, crystal lite), toys, stuffed animals.

Note : The above is a

Hurricane Katrina

We've all seen on the news how horrendous the destruction has been but we can't truly imagine the devastation of those who live there. Here is one writer’s heartbreaking account.

Larissa Ione

Please consider making a donation to the

American Red Cross

Thank you

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

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
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.


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:
"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:

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

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
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!

Drawing for FREE workshop at the end of each class!
Sign up at:

Full Listing of Earthly Charms Workshops!

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.

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.

Love from a guy’s point of view?

Recently, we went to see Wedding Crashers. (Spoiler Warning about the ending, if you haven’t seen it yet.) My husband and I both enjoyed the movie. It had some really hilarious parts. Two friends crash weddings to meet women (mostly bridesmaids) and have one night stands with them. It’s a huge scam hobby and they’re sooo skilled at it, almost becoming like a member of the family by each wedding’s end. One of the guys wonders if they aren’t being a little sleazy. Um, yeah! Well, their streak of one-night-stand luck quickly changes. Attractions and conflicts arise, setting both men on the road to true love. But the two love stories couldn’t be more different. One is sweet and innocent, while the other is like a trip to an S&M club. I loved seeing the guys get their comeuppance, but watching them change and grow as people was even better. The end reward for them...being with the women they fall in love with. And I always like Owen Wilson in comedies.

After the movie was over, I started thinking...that was a romantic comedy for men. My husband normally hates romantic comedies, but he loved Wedding Crashers. Hmm.

Speaking of love from a guy’s point of view... as a romance writer, I enjoy writing scenes from the hero’s point of view. In fact, I feel I’m better at male POV than female. How do I, a woman, think like a man? I have no idea. Maybe I was a man in a past life. :-) I think it’s because I know exactly how I want a heroic, attractive, manly guy to think.

Men and women really do think differently. Men are less inhibited, more to the point. By instinct, they are protectors. And sometimes they have a heck of a time expressing themselves emotionally. It isn’t their fault. They’re wired that way. I drive my husband crazy asking him things like... how do you feel when such and such happens? And he’ll say something like...I don’t know, just good (or bad or whatever short word he can think of.) So much for research. :-) If you’re a writer, do you enjoy/have more skill with male or female point of view?

Wisdom of a Quote

Yesterday I started spring cleaning. I'm not late, (really!) I'm getting an early start for next year. Ha! It's the writer's curse. When we're in the throes of writing a novel, we clean only what has to be cleaned. I'm talking, the bare minimum. I'm almost finished cleaning the master bath top to bottom. Yep, I even washed the ceiling, walls, everything. And I have several more rooms to go. Whew! I'm tired already.

I thought I'd share this picture I took in my flower garden of the rose called 'America'.

As for case you haven't noticed, I love quotes. I have several posted on my regular website. Here's one of my favorites:

"Many a clever boy is flogged into a dunce and many an original composition corrected into mediocrity." Sir Walter Scott writing in 1826.

This is a smart warning. I believe it means you shouldn't go overboard rewriting and editing your story. This often happens when you let several people (dozens) critique it or when you enter a lot of contests. You will get opinions from one end of the spectrum to the other, and you can't possibly follow all the advice you get. Use your own instincts. You shouldn't rewrite your first chapter twenty times, nor your first book for years. After a certain point it's likely to only get more muddled and bland with each edit.

Reality Rocks

Reality TV is all the rage. Dozens of new reality shows pop up each season. When the first reality shows came on the scene several years ago, I wasn’t a fan. I thought they were dumb. But within the last two or three years I’ve found some I love. It makes me sick to watch people eat worms and bugs. Sorry, I have a weak stomach! AND...I hate watching people being mean to each other. What does that leave?

The reality shows I like are the ones in which people are getting a chance to achieve their dreams. I find them inspiring and motivating. I’m pursuing a dream myself, the dream of publication. America’s Next Top Model is a show I can relate to. Not because I want to be a model (Ha! are you kidding?) but because these girls have a chance to have their dream career, maybe something they’ve wanted their whole lives. But modeling is a difficult profession to break in to (much the way writing is.) I like watching how hard they work, how much they’re willing to sacrifice to get what they want. But in the end, what's important is talent and skill, and the looks they were born with. Still, only those willing to work the hardest will make it.

Another of my favorite shows is Rock Star: INXS. Again, the show begins with about fifteen talented people who have been chosen from thousands to compete for the ultimate prize. In this case, to be the new lead singer of INXS. What a dream come true for someone. Not for me; I can’t sing. Watching them perform and work so hard to win is truly inspiring. In addition, I love rock music, have always been a fan of INXS. I like picking my favorite contestants based on personality, talent, and style. One contestant did a fantastic performance of the INXS song "Never Tear Us Apart." Have you read the lyrics of this song? Check them out here. Wow, how romantic and passionate! That’s the way my hero and heroine feel about each other. (I find inspiration everywhere.) What are your favorite reality shows and why?

Lucky Seven?

Today I officially completed my latest manuscript. But is a story ever truly finished until it is published? No. Okay, we’ll call it "finished" and ready to go out the door. Now comes the long process of submitting it to agents and editors. Perhaps entering it into more contests. Why is this a long process? Because editors and agents are extremely busy, their desks and shelves piled high with manuscripts. As most of you writers know, it can take anywhere from a week to two years to get a response. The more usual response time in my experience is four months to a year. Quite often you can have another manuscript or two completed by that time.

Some people I know (non-writers) wonder why I keep writing books when I haven’t sold yet. Several reasons. First, I’m one of those people who has tried to stop writing but can’t. I always come back to it. I only feel I’m being true to myself when I’m writing. Another thing, if I want to be published, I know I have to keep forging ahead. I’m not giving up. Stubbornness--er... I mean persistence is an important word if you’re trying to break in. With each successive book, I feel that my craft improves, my voice becomes more clear and defined. I stretch and grow in new directions. Or at least I hope I do.

I once heard that Danielle Steele wrote five books before selling. Early in my writing "career" I figured if I had to write five before selling, I could. It would be hard, but I was willing to put that much time and effort into it without monetary reward. Okay, so I’m past five, up to book number seven. What gives? Books four, five and six are still out with editors and agents. So it could still happen. Trying to think positive here! :-) For me, the writing of the first, second and third books was the hardest. They were a joy, too, but sometimes writing them felt like a journey of a thousand miles, on foot. (When will I ever finish??) With each successive book the process becomes easier. Or maybe only this last book was easier. I was incredibly inspired to write it and I knew where I was going with it. (Book number eight, please be easy to write!) P.S. I took the above picture earlier this year near my house.