Wednesday, September 8, 2010


Many years ago, when I first started writing novels, I clipped bits of articles on the subject and stuck them on the wall above my computer. The number of clippings grew and I taped them together until I had several strings of these gems of wisdom from published authors. One day, in a bout of office cleaning--and finding many of the clippings were yellow with age--I pulled them all down and read them. And then I learned the secret of success as a writer: Persistence.

Article after article mentioned persistence as an important--if not the most important--ingredient. And I'm living proof that it's true. In December, Avalon Books will publish SOUTHERN STAR, a romance novel a friend and I wrote twenty-six years ago.

Of course, it's not exactly the same book. Besides a few title changes, and an entirely new scene added, I improved it over the years, as I learned my craft. But the characters, the plot, the complications which led to the HEA ending, remained the same. Without going through the fat file containing copies of my letters and the rejections, I can't tell you how many times I submitted the book to publishers since 1984, but, just since 2002, (when I began to keep track on three-by-five cards) it went out nineteen times. In fact, Avalon rejected it twice.

What this tells me is that, when you have a good story, you should never give up trying to sell it.
Sure, I had to add cell phones and update the language and references, but I never gave up my belief in the worth of the core romance. I just had to keep trying until the right person--even in this difficult time for the publishing industry--saw what I saw and liked it.

Since 1984, I've sold nine other romance novels (including my very first one (which I wrote in 1975 and sold in 1986), so maybe I'm just a slow learner. But this one is particularly gratifying to me, and I hope my experience will inspire other writers to hold to their vision. A writer who hasn't sold her novel isn't a failure. She's a not-yet-published author, and time and persistence may make her dreams come true, as they did for me.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010


I'm back to blogging after a four-month break in which I practiced my other hobby: acting. I didn't just have a small role in the Moss Hart and George S Kaufman comedy THE MAN WHO CAME TO DINNER. I produced and directed it.

I had two friends who helped because, like me, they believed in the play and wanted to see it performed (as well as act in it). However, the burden of doing everything--or seeing that it got done--fell almost exclusively on my shoulders. My wonderful husband built the set and the mummy-case, but I was producer, publicity person and director all at once. I had to find furniture for the set, design the newspaper ad, prepare and print the program, hire the restaurant for the cast party (and the two lunches I provided for the cast), join the Desert Theatre League and make sure the judges had free tickets, pay the royalty for the play, get people to sell tickets, people to provide props, costumes and makeup, and also keep track of every expense. There were almost fifty receipts just from Lowe's and Home Depot for building the set. I barely slept at night. I'd wake up at five a.m. and not be able to go back to sleep because my mind whirled with all the things I had to do that day.

The play was performed Thursday through Sunday, June 10-13, on the ballroom stage here in our residential complex, and it was a great success, with people claiming it was the best they'd ever seen here. Four playgoers left their names and e-mail addresses so they could be notified of our next one.

The point, however, is that many writers are good actors and actors frequently write good books. My writer friends here are also good actors, and that's certainly true among stage and screen actors who write books. My theory for why this is so is based on the fact that good authors often visualize the scenes they write, "act it out" in their minds. And actors, having appeared in some good plays, begin to have a feel for what makes an interesting premise or scene.

I don't think I'll direct another play, but my next project is to combine these elements. I've just been elected chairman of Repertory Players, a group of actors who perform short "staged readings" at free shows here four times a year. Furthermore, I'm going to urge the Writers Circle (the club I started four years ago) to write short skits and one-act plays that will be performed by those actors. And, as if you hadn't already guessed, some members are already in both groups.

Meanwhile, I'm back to writing both mystery and romantic suspense books and looking forward to a busy, fun year.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

AVATAR - The Movie

As recent subscribers to Netflix, we've seen more movies in the last three months than in all of last year. But we do like movies and I think we're caught up. But with all the hype going around, we decided not to wait for the DVD but go to see AVATAR in the theatre. In 3-D at the IMAX. What a waste of $22.

In all honesty, I have to admit that, according to the polls, 82% of viewers liked the film. But you and I both know that movies these days are made for teenagers. That's why they open on Fridays: 'cause the kids have a big allowance and no school the next day. Plus they go two or three times. But again, to be fair, perhaps most adults liked it too. I'm just not one of them. What can I say? I write romance and mystery novels, not science fiction or fantasy, and that's plainly what AVATAR is. So shoot me.

We went early, stood in a long line and got seats right in the center. It was quite dark, as if filmed in green and brown, and I didn't see much difference between seeing it with or without the special glasses. As we left the building, my husband said the right word for the experience: ordeal. Like me, he wanted it to be over long before it was. In my opinion, when the audience starts thinking it should be over, it's too long. I don't care how many awards it gets, 162 minutes requires more romance and/or mystery and a whole lot less weirdness, constant action and violence. Even as science fiction, this is no STAR WARS, which I liked.

I especially hated the natives having tails. What was that all about? I doubt that--if humans mated with natives--they'd have tails. Unless they used them (and they didn't in this film) I believe appendages tend to disappear. I also didn't find the blue people attractive or worthy of my sympathy. Some say the film is a metaphor for what conquering people (us) do to indigenous people in foreign lands. However, although they're right, and I don't condone what we did to the Indians or what the British and Dutch did in South Africa, we didn't do it with gigantic military weapons. And all to get a mineral called "unobtanium." Now, that I loved!

The Internet is full of reviews of the film, and, just to show I'm not the only person who wasn't starstruck by the computer wizardry, here are some of their comments:

"If you like graphics and special effects, you'll love it."

"Adjectives like beautiful and breathtaking have been thrown at it, but I'll add a third B, Boring."

"...everything about the story, the setting, the dialog, and the parts that aren't purely visual, is awful."

"DANCES WITH WOLVES in outer space."

"...doing the Funky Chicken with aliens."

"Enough toys to please all the kids in the audience."

"A big, dumb movie built to make money... it resists serious criticism. You might as well analyze a beach ball."

"...overlong, dramatically two-dimensional, smug and simplistic."

And my favorite: "Like staring at the world's most expensive screen-saver."

Friday, January 15, 2010


As a former proofreader for a national magazine, I'm perhaps more aware of literary blunders than your casual reader. But, in these days of difficulty getting published, writers need to be more scrupulous than ever so that an editor won't find her "pet peeve" of author mistakes in your manuscript.

If I were an editor, my Top Ten List of No-nos would be the following because I've seen them too often.

1. Could've - could of. There is no legitimate reason to use "could of." I've seen it in printed books and it apparently stems from the author having missed an English class in grade school. He/she means "could've" which is a contraction of the two words, "could" and "have." Example: "I could've been a contender." "I could have danced all night."

2. It's - its. "It's" with an apostrophe, is a contraction of "it is" or "it has." Example: "It's in your best interest to stop doing that now." "Its," without an apostrophe, is a possessive. Example: "That book, even with its tattered cover, belongs in your library."

3. doctors - apple's. While we're on the subject of apostrophes, please remember that a plural word needs none. Example: "The apples were ripe and the doctors ate them." If you put an apostrophe before the "s" you have turned the word into a possessive. Example: "The doctor's time was limited."

4. Nauseated - nauseous. Nauseated is how you feel when something makes you ill. Example: "I was nauseated by the odor coming from the landfill." Nauseous is an adjective describing the thing that makes you ill. Example: "The landfill gave off a nauseous odor."

5. Try to - try and. Technically, there is no "try and." If your character is going to try to do something, use "try to," not "try and." Example: "I will try to help you." However, if you say "try and," you imply you'll succeed. But what if you don't succeed? You've told a lie.

6. I couldn't care less - I could care less. Once again, the second construction should never be used. After all, if you could care less, then you must care somewhat. But you're trying to say that you care so little, it would be impossible for you to care any less than you do.

7. lose - loose. Look them up in the dictionary. To lose something is to no longer have it. Example: "I don't want to lose the lovely watch you gave me." Something which is "loose" is not lost but of an unstable consistency. Example: "The watch slipped off my wrist because the band was too loose."

8. incidents - incidentses. The latter is not a word. One event is an "incident." Two or more events are "incidents." There is no such word as "incidentses."

9. roll - role. As a noun, a "roll" can be a small pastry. As a verb it means moving or turning. Example: "He let the car roll down the hill." "Role" is a noun which describes a part you might play in a film or in life. Examples: "The role required me to exit the stage." or, "I'm tired of playing the role of your wicked stepmother."

10. titled - entitled. When you give a book a title, you have "titled" it. Example: "I titled my book MASQUERADE." "Entitled" means something is owed or expected. Example: "As the eldest I'm entitled to the largest piece."

11. I hope I don't have to tell you that--unless you're writing dialogue in the voice of an illiterate character--you should never write, "Me and my brother," "Her and I," "we was," or "she don't." But I often see "myself" used instead of "me." Don't try to get fancy. Wrong: "She gave the book to John and myself." Right: "She gave the book to John and me." If John was gone, you'd say "She gave the book to me," wouldn't you?

12. farther - further. "Farther" refers to physical distances. Example: "The house we sought was farther down the road." Use "further" to indicate figurative distances. Example: "We had to look further among the possible suspects in the murder."

13. breath - breathe. "Breath" is a noun. Example: "He took my breath away." Breathe" is a verb. Example: "It's so hot, I can hardly breathe."

Well, I see my Top Ten list turned into a Baker's dozen, but I found it hard to choose fewer than thirteen. Writers seem to invent more bloopers every year. Two wonderful (and inexpensive) books on the subject are MORTAL SYNTAX and GRAMMAR SNOBS ARE GREAT BIG MEANIES, by June Casagrande. Her website,, contains her weekly newspaper column, the "grammar lesson of the week," and her Blog. All contain useful information, written in a lively style. And, for punctuation, I recommend EATS, SHOOTS AND LEAVES by Lynne Truss.

If you have some pet grammar peeves, leave a comment. And may your writing contain no bloopers, blunders or boo-boos.