Wednesday, May 29, 2013


The Mystery/Suspense chapter of RWA, lovingly known as “Kiss of Death” or KOD, has announced the finalists in its annual Daphne du Maurier Contest for published books that fit the genre. However, I won’t list them here. Even non-members of the chapter can find them with a Google search.

Daphne du Maurier Awards are actually two contests: one for Unpublished writers. And that means anywhere, not just unpublished in the mystery/suspense genre. I know because being published in Romance excludes me from entering. The other is for books that were published the preceding year.

The latter contest is the one for which finalists were announced last week, and I was very pleased with the results of this first round of judging. Why? Because, of the 31 finalists, four were self-published books. One was in Category/Series, which was otherwise a sweep for Harlequin. Another was a Mainstream Mystery, and two were Paranormal books.

The other publishers represented, besides Harlequin, whose Mira and HQN lines were also finalists, were Penguin, Pocket Books, St. Martin’s Press, Bethany, B&H, and Hachette Australia. I also recognized Henery, a fairy new small press and Montlake Romance, Amazon’s Romance imprint, but never heard of Reina. Is it possible that was actually self-published, too?

For the Daphne contest, unpublished books are submitted via manuscripts, so the finalists are chosen on their merits, but Published books reveal who published them. This has led to some judges choosing a “name” publisher under the assumption that a self-published book couldn’t possibly be any good. For the first time in the past seven years, it seems that judges no longer have that bias. And why should they when self-published books have been voted at the top of sites like “Best Books of 2012" and have recently made up 25 percent of best-seller lists?

I’m not a critic of either traditionally published or self-published books. Each has its place, and authors should choose whatever works best for them. I’m what is now known as a “hybrid” author. I’ve sold books to Kensington, Barbour, Avalon and some small publishers, and now my backlist is available on Amazon. I paid my dues for many years, trying to get an agent or a Big 5 publisher to take my work, but money was never my goal. I just wanted people to read my books, so I appreciate the choices I have today. In fact, I’m thrilled.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013


Under the pen name Charlotte Kent, Juliette Hill and Annie Acorn have written a contemporary romance titled A CLUE FOR ADRIANNA, and the following post is a clever way of introducing their readers to their project.

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Juliette: We were able to write and edit A Clue for Adrianna, the first novel in our Captain’s Point Stories series in the contemporary romance fiction genre in approximately ninety days. Besides churning out sometimes thousands of words a day, what do you feel was the secret to accomplishing such an ambitious goal?

Annie: It isn’t only the number of words we produced each day that led us to accomplishing such a goal. The key to writing a good novel, which was our goal, is saying what you intend to say in a way that will be entertaining and helpful to the reader, if they should choose to learn from the experience of the characters presented.

I am personally proud of what came out of our daily collaboration, during which we continually reminded ourselves who these characters were, what their lives were like, what their hopes and dreams were and their baggage (or what they as individuals had to overcome) in order to become the best they could be. We put ourselves in the position of our characters to truly understand their actions and individual growth.

Juliette: Did you ever experience writer’s block while we were working on the book or while you were writing any of your prior literary works? If so, how did you deal with this issue?

Annie: I can honestly say that I have never experienced writer’s block. Scenes will come to me unexpectedly like a gift, but when writing a daily quota, what I do is reread the previous scene and ask which one of the characters would take the next step, or who might show up at the door, that sort of thing.

Juliette: How did you find the experience of our collaboration on such a large undertaking as A Clue For Adrianna?

Annie: I have always had an overactive imagination and obviously you do too. Every time I thought I had a story line, you brought just as much to the table. By bringing our creative perspectives together in the book, we produced vastly better material than we could have on our own.

Saying that, there were three things that I found during my experience: (1) knowing I was checking in with you each day kept me writing; (2) having daily collaboration discussions helped me focus on characters’ motivations, dreams and goals; and (3) I often saw your role, Juliette, in collaborating as keeping me on track, true to the characters by insisting that a character had to do something or not do something.

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Readers can reach Juliette and Annie at their websites: (Juliette) &

Tuesday, May 14, 2013


The recent passing of comedian Phyllis Diller gave me much food for thought. First, because we shared a first name, and second because it made me wonder if funny people live longer than others. The list below is of those who lived longer than most Americans. This is by no means a scientific study. I chose only those comedians whose names I found by Googling American comics and I used the World Health Organization chart from 2010 which gave all Americans a life expectancy of 77-80 years. So those who didn’t get to 80 were excluded.

Bob Hope, 100, George Burns, 100, Phyllis Diller, 95, Milton Berle, 94, Imogene Coca, 92, Henny Youngman, 91. But the list of 80-100 year-olds who are still alive is even longer: Betty White, Sid Caesar, and Carl Reiner are all 91, Mel Brooks and Don Rickles are both 86, Mort Sahl is 85, Gene Wilder and Joan Rivers are both 80. Maybe you can come up with more.

Of course, like most people who, when asked, claim they have a good sense of humor, I got to wondering if I might be funny enough to live to 100. For evidence, I thought of the humor I put in some of my books. Examples:

NORTH BY NORTHEAST: “I hate cruise ships.... Once they start moving, you can’t get off. They’re prisons with a chance of drowning.”

THE ITALIAN JOB: “I called my cooking efforts ‘Cordon Noir,’ because I burned a lot of dinners.”

Also: “Travel is wonderful, but home is where your clean clothes are.”


“Would you like a lei?” Before the man had time to do anything but give her a slow-spreading grin, she added, “That didn’t come out the way I planned. Why don’t I start again?”
“It sounded fine to me, but if you think you can improve on it, I’m game.”


“What are you doing?” she asked.
“Swimming. I was under the impression the state of Hawaii encourages people to swim in its ocean.”
“I’ll send a bulletin to the Hawaii Visitors’ Bureau.”
“But no national media, please.”

Well, I guess, like beauty, humor is in the eye of the beholder. I thought they were clever, but will they get me into the Centenarians Club? Just to be on the safe side, I’ve written more like them in my cozy mysteries, yet to be published, and a romantic suspense novel currently sitting on an editor’s desk.

Here’s an excerpt from my book that might tickle your funny bone:

“Naturally the funeral is in London, and I think you ought to go, not mope around feeling sorry for yourself.”
“I last visited when I was nine. I wish I hadn’t waited so long.” As usual, time had done a bang-up job of standing still.
“You haven’t had a vacation in two years. Visit your cousins in England, go sightseeing. Look at this trip as a chance to renew your own life.”
“You‘re right, of course. I’ll go.” Better than lying awake listening to mice chatting to one another in the walls.


Tuesday, May 7, 2013


Someone did a survey recently, asking why writers like to do what they do. I have several answers:

I can’t NOT write.

It’s all I ever wanted to do.

It’s the best job in the world. They pay me (although not always a living wage) for making up stuff.

I can do it in my pajamas and slippers, or on a sandy beach, or on a sailboat.

Some people are impressed when I say I’m a published novelist. They ask for my autograph.

I get to do all kinds of research, so I learn unusual facts I can drop into cocktail party conversations.

When not writing, I’m reading, which is almost as much fun.

I can deduct some travel expenses from my income tax as research for my books.

When writing romance, I can try out being sexy on my husband.

When writing a murder mystery, I can kill off people I don’t like by making them the victim or the killer who gets caught.

Nothing that happens to me is too awful, because I can always use it in a book.

Writing lets me explore emotions, be more empathetic. I like to think it makes me a better person.

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How about you? Do you have some other reasons? I'd love to read them.