Wednesday, February 29, 2012


We’re all told to “write what you know,” and I do that a lot. Of course, I wasn’t actually on the Titanic, but I did a lot of research when writing COLD APRIL. Then some of the fascinating facts I learned went into the seven posts to this blog which I wrote starting last August 22nd. I’ll get to tell about them again when I give a talk at the Rancho Mirage library in April.

My latest e-book, STRANGER IN PARADISE, (Only 99 cents until March 15) also had its share of facts that didn’t get in the book, and I think you’ll find them interesting.

My hubby and I went to Hawaii on our honeymoon and stayed in a hotel on Waikiki beach with a splendid fourteenth floor view of the ocean. Then, one morning during our visit, we heard air raid sirens and found it was a tsunami alert because of an earthquake in Alaska. Police cars drove up and down Kalakaua Avenue with loudspeakers warning people to leave the beach and go to higher ground. We were in no danger in our high rise. In fact, people who lived in small houses behind the hotel came to our fourth floor roof--where there was an outdoor swimming pool--for safety.

The sight of a completely deserted beach and no surfers riding waves was as awesome to me as the number of ships that went out to sea to avoid being dashed against the piers if the tsunami should come. It didn’t.

However, when I returned home and resumed writing romance novels, I decided to write a book with a tsunami. It was a small one and no one got killed, but it became an important plot point which almost kept my lovers from their HEA ending.

So I did some research, and, since my hero knew about tsunamis-- having lived in Japan--I wanted him to speak about them knowledgeably. I contacted the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, and the nice lady on the phone assured me she would send the information I wanted. However, she warned me that some of it would be in Japanese, so she wrote captions in English above the column of dates and numbers of people killed.

The material arrived in a fat manila envelope (our tax dollars at work) and I found a thick set of pages stapled together containing columns with hand-written English words above them.

“Date” marked one column. “Oh, no, that couldn’t be a date; she must have made a mistake.” I kept turning pages and the number grew larger and larger. Yes, that was indeed a date. The Japanese had been recording data about tsunamis since the year 684.

I didn’t put that remarkable fact in my novel. I don’t even get to use it in cocktail party conversation very often.
How about you? While researching for a book, did you learn something that readers would be amazed to know?

Wednesday, February 22, 2012


I don’t know about you, but I can never look at anything I’ve written (unless, perhaps it’s really new) without wanting to change something. I like to think I’m making it better. LOL

Last month I released my 1998 romance novel, ONCE MORE WITH FEELING as an e-book, and this week I released my 2000 romance--originally titled TROPICAL NIGHTS--as the e-book STRANGER IN PARADISE. That had been my original title, but the editor changed it. Both books, by the way, were published by Kensington.

Besides the new (old) title, the latest one also got different character names. The heroine is now Dana, named for my young granddaughter. And, while I was at it, I went through the manuscript improving the writing. I’ve learned a lot in the last twelve years and, I hope, lessened the “cringe” factor. Maybe what I did can help other writers who are updating their work, or just want to make their current WIP a little better. Here are the eight things I looked for.

1. I searched for every “was” and “were“ and tried to change “to be” verbs into more active ones. This really pepped it up.

2. Next, I searched for “said.” Even in the 1990s I’d learned to use “said” in speech tags, not “groaned, laughed, tittered” or any other fancy word. This time I looked for ways to get rid of “he said” or “she said” altogether. Nowadays, I put a character’s dialogue in the same paragraph with some action, so the reader knows who’s speaking without the attribution.

3. In olden days I had a terrible habit of using “had,” not realizing how it took the reader out of the present moment. Of course, not every “had” is bad (forgive the rhyme) but I was able to remove a lot that were simply not necessary.

4. The word “that” came under scrutiny too. If it wasn’t necessary for clarity, out it came.

5. Words such as “seemed,“ and “felt” were changed to better ways to show how my characters thought and behaved.

6. Similarly, I looked for “saw,” “watched,” “Looked,” and “turned,” in order to give readers a more tangible vision.

7. By searching for words ending in “ly,” I managed to get rid of unnecessary adverbs. I strengthened my descriptions and, especially, dialogue.

8. Finally, I recognized my overuse of starting a sentence with “And” or “But.” Correcting those wasn’t always easy, but I soon found more interesting ways to get my ideas across.

How about you? Are you improving your backlist before sending it into Cyberspace? Do you have any other tips to share?

Thursday, February 16, 2012


As a romance writer, how could I slight the one day of the year to honor love and romance? But I’ve been happily married for many years and have a few grown children, so--although I might write contemporary romances as if I were young enough to participate--it’s all from memory and imagination. (Well, not all: I still get more than hand-holding from my hubby.)

Along with wisdom as we age, we accumulate memories that find their way into our books. In my first blog I mentioned the romantic way I met a man many years ago and put that into a novel. And today, I’m thinking about long before that, to when I was a child, and looked eagerly for valentines from grade school boys to come my way (very few did). I also remember when my gift was a blender! And another time when it was a huge bouquet of red roses.

As you may remember, some years ago, a group of Hollywood writers sued the studios for age discrimination. They couldn’t get writing assignments when they reached forty. “You’re too old to write about twenty-somethings,”` they’d been told. That’s ridiculous, because we remember being twenty. How can a twenty-year-old write about people in their fifties or older when they’ve never been there? I think the writers won that battle. At least I hope they did.

The television magazine 60 Minutes just did a story about three women--all in their sixties--who are attractive, vibrant, and still making people sit up and take notice. Does Meryl Streep sound familiar?

So romance, like wisdom, opportunity, success and love can come at any time. My husband’s aunt married for the first time at sixty; a friend did it at sixty-two, another friend at seventy-eight. To all who believe in romance, let’s celebrate Valentine’s Day by remembering, reading about, and writing about love. We may not receive any valentines, but our hearts will be full of joy.

Thursday, February 9, 2012


The cover story on TIME Magazine’s February 5th issue is about Introverts. And I’m one.

The article, THE UPSIDE OF BEING AN INTROVERT, “And Why Extroverts are Overrated,” by Bryan Walsh, tells us that about thirty percent of the population fall in the Introvert category. It also states that Introvert does not mean “shy,” although there’s “some overlap.” Introverts don’t shun people; they just prefer them in smaller groups and less often. This is especially difficult to do in America, which Walsh calls, “the land of the loud and the home of the talkative.”

Because we Introverts are outnumbered, and the culture expects people to be outgoing and sociable, we can feel anxious and uncomfortable in situations which Extroverts enjoy. To make matters worse, those who don’t understand our personality can sometimes be unintentionally cruel. They may chide, or even insult us, or treat us as if we have a silly problem we just need “to get over.”

Make no mistake: we’re born this way. Scientific studies have shown that small babies exhibit behavior that marks them as future Introverts. If the parents of such a child are Extroverts, they may try to influence his or her behavior, thinking it’s not normal, thereby causing, at an early age, the tension that goes with feeling different. At the very least, parents fear that the child will not have friends or be successful in life.

Not to worry. Introverts learn to adapt early and there are plenty of occupations which require what Introverts are good at: such as thinking things through thoroughly. Yes, it turns out we Introverts are usually smarter than Extroverts, make fewer wrong decisions, are less likely to get into dangerous situations, and take better care of our health. And why not, when we’re spending our time reading or thinking while Extroverts are bunge-jumping or talking?

Among the well-known Introverts, according to Walsh, are Mahatma Ghandi, Warren Buffett, Bill Gates and Mother Teresa. The author didn’t list any famous writers, but I suspect all writers are Introverts. Why else are we happy to spend so much time alone, in front of our computers, inventing stories?

I probably learned the term when I started high school. However, I’ve always known I was different from my sister and had to find coping mechanisms. How about you? Are you an Introvert? What methods did you use to get along in our mostly-Extrovert world?

Thursday, February 2, 2012


Yes, my Titanic-based love story is available at no cost. But only for five days beginning February 1st. My publisher asked if its authors were willing to post their books on Amazon’s Kindle Select and I signed on. The program lasts for ninety days, after which the books go back on other venues. But, while it’s free, I wanted followers of my blog to know about it.

And I’m not posting this to tout my own book, but to comment on e-books in general and self-published e-books in particular. Savvy authors, or readers of writers’ blogs, know that e-books are outselling hardcover books, that sales of e-reading devices have skyrocketed, and, at least according to one survey, fifty percent of avid readers who were questioned either already had an e-reader or planned to get one.

Many publishers have been selling e-books for a few years now, but suddenly “traditional” publishers--sometimes known as the Big Six plus Harlequin--are jumping into the digital waters seriously. And no wonder: that’s where the money is. It costs very little to produce and deliver an e-book. If a writer self-publishes his book with Amazon, he can pocket up to seventy percent of the retail price, compared to about seventeen percent of “Net” offered by traditional publishers. Rather than lose those authors to Amazon, publishers are scrambling to keep them and sign up more. At least three I know of have started “digital only” imprints and are even willing to look at work by unagented authors for the first time.

An interesting blog I read recently compared the “perfect storm” of e-books on the market to the “bubbles” of the past: such as the stock market crash, the housing bubble, and other similar sad stories of boom and bust. Could this happen to e-books as well?

My personal feeling is that it won’t, at least not totally. E-books are here to stay--until technology finds an even better way to put book content into our eyes and minds--but if the thousands of people who have penned a book recently, thinking they’re going to get rich, drop out in dismay at the reality of poor sales, that’s a good thing. Let’s face it: there’s a ton of “C---“ out there: illiterate, unedited brain droppings that gatekeepers called editors used to reject. I think, and hope, that the cream will rise to the top. Good best-selling and midlist authors will make more money than they did before, and new authors who were once considered “too different,” will finally have a chance to show their talent to readers.

What do you think? Will e-books continue their climb or is it a bubble that will burst?