Wednesday, December 11, 2013


“Everything is amazing and nobody is happy.”

That’s the title of one of the best articles I’ve read all year, and it’s from The Motley Fool. If you’re not a stock market investor, you might not know what the Motley Fool is, but they’ve made many investors wealthy with their superior research and investing skills. (No, I’m not one of the wealthy ones, but my little portfolio is doing okay.) The article is too long to repeat, but here are some of the important points.

A comedian says if his cell phone is out for 30 seconds, he’s upset. The cell phone itself is awesome. He should be thrilled instead of complaining. Same with the U.S. economy. “Everything is great but no one is happy.” Everywhere you go these days, gloom wins. It says, “Americans are pessimistic and miserable.”

It needs perspective. These are the good old days.

If I say the average American family earns less today than it did in 2000, it sounds scary. But if I say that family earns more than in 1995, it sounds better. Today $51,000; 1995 $50,000. And that’s adjusted for inflation.

The average American born in 1950 could expect to live to 68. One born in 2010 will probably live to 79, eleven more years. African-Americans did even better. They added 15 years of life expectancy. Mostly because childhood mortality has plunged, from 32 per 1000 in 1950 to six in 2012.

Older Americans now have something they once only dreamed of: retirement. Even as recently as the 1960s, the average man had two stages of life, work and death. Now, the average worker retires at 62. In the first half of the 20th century, the average working day was ten hours, six days a week. Today the average worker has 22 days of paid vacation.

In the 1960s, in most states, a woman could not take out a loan or a credit card in her own name. In 42 states, she had no legal claim on the earnings of her husband.

High school graduation rates are at the highest level in 40 years

Traffic deaths per 100,000 have fallen by half since the 1960s.

In 1973, 49% of new homes had air conditioning. Today 89% do.

“Today,” Matt Ridley writes, “of Americans officially designated as ‘poor,’ 99% have electricity, running water, flush toilets and a refrigerator, 95% have a television, 88% a telephone, 71% a car and 70% air conditioning. Cornelius Vanderbilt had none of them.”

Sure, inefficiencies, injustice and inequality exist today. But they always have. By comparison, we live in the most prosperous time in the history of the world. That’s a lot to be thankful for.

Wednesday, December 4, 2013


Honest, I was going to write this post about creativity last week, but at the last minute decided that honoring Thanksgiving was more appropriate. And then, The Passive Voice, one of my favorite blogs, ran an article called, “Is Creativity Destined to Fade with Age?” in the meantime.

Originally published in Valley News, the article mentioned Doris Lessing, who died recently at age 94, who said, five years before, that the writing had dried up. “Use it while you’ve got it,” Ms. Lessing was quoted, “because it’ll go.”

The article then asked the question, “Does creativity have an expiration date?” and mentioned Philip Roth and Alice Munro, both of whom announced recently they would stop writing. He was 79, she was 81. The National Endowment for the Arts, together with the National Institute on Aging, is apparently looking into how creativity can be fostered throughout a person’s life.

Meanwhile, should the rest of us be worried? Not necessarily. In math and science, creative breakthroughs might occur at younger ages, because studies show the frontal lobe is still building myelenization, a sheath around the brain. After the early 40s, however, demyelenization starts to occur, and that benefits older people. “When you see a retired person undertaking creative pursuits, it may be that their brain organization is different.”

As an aging writer (and aren’t we all?), I’ve wondered how many books I can write before I decide to quit, especially with the record of Nora Roberts taunting me. But what is creativity anyway? Is it writing the same romantic formula in different ways? Is the author of science fiction or fantasy more creative than the one who writes about contemporary or even historical times and places? Is an artist who produces abstract paintings more creative than one who makes representational art, putting on canvas what one observes of the world with the human eye?

After years of writing romance fiction, I’m moving into mystery (which I’ve always preferred to read) and I’ll be anxious to see if my newest books get accepted by editors, published, and then meet with approval by readers. However, even my romance novels usually held an element of intrigue, or a problem the characters had to solve before the inevitable happy-ever-after ending. An example of the latter is THE ITALIAN JOB, which gives my heroine the task of investigating an old problem haunting the hero, and the surprising truth she uncovers. I loved writing that book and, judging by the copies I sold at the Book Fair a week ago (and the later comments), readers like it too.

Fellow-writers, do you consider yourself creative? Do you always feel creative? Do you sometimes switch genres to challenge yourself?

Wednesday, November 27, 2013


Recovering from my knee surgery these past few weeks puts gratitude for health at the top of my list, and I’m sure most of you feel the same way.

However, writing as a vocation is a close second. I’ve always wanted to be a writer, “always” being from the age of five. My sister, who was three years older, went to school first and then came home and taught me what she’d learned. On those cold winter afternoons in Illinois, we huddled in our attic “hideaway” with books and paper dolls. Then make our dolls act out the scenes in the books.

As soon as I could read, I found my calling and, luckily the public library was only four blocks from our house. I walked there, assembled as many books as they’d let me check out, and then walked home, reading as I went, from the open top book on my pile. Somehow I managed to go up and down curbs and cross the streets without being struck by cars. But then, there were fewer of them in those days.

This past weekend I participated in a local Arts & Crafts Fair where my writing club has a table for members to sign and sell their books. That’s where I get the greatest payback of having this for my career. A Fair customer bought my novel, THE ITALIAN JOB, on Friday and came back Saturday morning to say she couldn’t put it down and finished reading the book that night. Nirvana!

My other reasons for loving what I do:

* Making up stories for my characters to act out, especially seemingly insurmountable problems for them to solve. As another writer has said, “I tell lies for a living. What’s better than that?”

* Being able to “play God” with my characters, and have no qualms about killing off the bad ones. Sue Grafton said she wrote her first mystery in order to kill off an ex-husband on paper instead of real life.

* Telling people I’m a writer (when they ask what I do) and having a website to send them to.

* Getting plot ideas in the middle of the night, when other people might have insomnia.

* No need to dress up in heels and makeup. I can work in pajamas and fuzzy slippers if I want to.  With chocolate close at hand.

* Getting help from other writers, especially critique partners. Writers are the most generous people in the world.

* I’m “in the black” financially. True, it doesn’t support me, but this “hobby” has paid for itself and hasn’t taken any money out of the family budget. At the next income tax time, I expect to owe the IRS a little bit, so at least my earnings are going in the right direction.

Thanksgiving? My cup runneth over.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013


Sorry I didn’t post an article last week, but - as most of you probably know - I had knee replacement surgery and am still recovering. “Recovering,” for you youngsters who haven’t needed to do this yet, means ice packs four times a day to reduce swelling, and a physical therapist who puts me through torturous exercise routines.

But enough about the fun. In between, I sneak off to my computer room and hope to write something useful for my blog watchers.

David Farland’s always-enlightening “Daily Kick in the Pants” provided food for thought last week. Titled “Timeless Fiction,” he reminds us our University Literature courses advised us to “study the classics.” To be accurate, he says, “Learn from the best writers that have ever been. Learn everything they knew about writing and then bring their techniques to your own writing.”

Immediately after, however, Dave says this: “Yet, most of the authors of ‘timeless classics’ weren’t trying to write timeless classics. They were living in their own day, trying to write ‘timely’ fiction.” Those writers addressed personal or social problems, and probably never expected their work to be studied by future generations.

Kristine Kathryn Rusch, in her November 13 post called “Storytelling,” gives almost exactly the same advice. Don’t try to emulate the style of the classics: just tell a good story. In fact, Ms. Rusch warns about failure to do so, regardless of how beautiful the prose. She describes a novel she read about a secret, known to some characters, but not all, which was about to be revealed after being hidden for fifty years, a secret so awesome it would change all their lives.

KKR was on the edge of her seat now. How will they react? What would happen? The answer? Nothing. The characters went to bed (and not for sex). The End. The author had written the beginning of a story, but not a story. Were we supposed to guess? Or write our own book to supply a story ending? Rusch states that books like that are often called “literary,” whereas almost all romance, mystery, and science fiction will require a plot.

She doubts that those authors will ever be remembered in the future. Although their style may be outdated, we read books by Jane Austen, Edgar Allen Poe and Nathaniel Hawthorne because of the stories they told.

An example from my own recent reading is about a famous mystery writer who chose to place a book in the 18th century and used the style of language from that day. If the time period and style could have made the book a classic, it would not have died as quickly as it did in spite of her name. What it lacked was a story that resonated with 21st century readers.

So, when you write, write for your own day. You don’t know what kind of literature will be popular 100 years from now, but human beings will always like a story that interests them, that makes them turn pages to read what happens next. Just do that and your work might be considered a classic in the future. And if not? At least you wrote the best you could and pleased current readers. Besides, you’ll never know anyway.

David Farland
Kristine Kathryn Rusch

Tuesday, November 5, 2013


Well, it will be free for five days beginning Thursday, November 7. For details about how you can receive TWO free books, read my last post, because I’ve not written another since then. Talk about “best laid plans”...

But a look at my life–so far–should convince you I’m very good at making long-range plans and not so good at having them turn out as I’d hoped. As I said last month, I expected to have my knee replacement surgery on October 21st and be right back in the saddle with new posts on this blog by the 28th. Silly girl.

And my tardiness wasn’t because I hadn’t been warned. Apparently, I fell in love with the promise (from the many friends who’d already had the procedure), “You’ll be so glad you did.” Or perhaps it was this one, “I don’t even know I have knees,” which made me ignore, “Of course, the first few weeks are rough...” “Rough,” as in “OMG, wha hoppen?”

I haven’t worn makeup or combed my hair since Labor Day (or so it seems to my time-slowed-down brain), or eaten a decent-sized meal, or walked three inches without a machine attached to me or a person saying, “You can do this,”, or pain, or all of the above.

My autobiography, when I finally get around to writing it (sorry, there are at least four novels in line ahead of that),  will be titled Making Other Plans because I’ve always been good at telling God what I want and ignoring the no-doubt follow-up laughter. Like finishing my college degree (those four novels above), like marrying only once (but three isn’t so terrible, is it?) And winning an Academy Award for Best Original Screenplay (but that could still happen, right?)

Comments are very welcome, but responses may be slow since I’m only allowed 30 minutes at the computer. Wait. Do I hear the computer police sirens now?

Wednesday, October 16, 2013


My very first Blog post, in April of 2009, was about my contemporary romance novel FREE FALL, which had just been published by a small publisher. Here’s what I wrote:

“I was a single working gal and it was April in Illinois, (Not exactly Paris, but you can’t have everything.) A girlfriend and I decided to go to Iowa to visit a friend and her husband. Our hosts took us to a club for dinner and dancing and I wore my new dress. It was sleeveless, with a square neckline and bouffant skirt, and, as the silk fabric was imprinted with colorful flowers, I put an orange belt around my (then) tiny waist. My hostess owned a pair of orange silk pumps so I wore those too, although they were two sizes too small.

“We finished dinner and were drinking coffee, when a handsome man came to our table and asked our host for permission to ask me to dance. Even in those days, men didn’t ask permission to marry a girl, much less ask her to dance. Was this amazing, or what?

“So I danced with him, during which I discovered he was a skydiver. A forty-one day whirlwind courtship later we were married and about seven hundred days after that, we were divorced. My mother quoted the old proverb, “Marry in haste; repent at leisure,” regularly thereafter, bless her heart.

“FREE FALL, my latest contemporary romance novel, is based on what I learned about skydiving and parachutes in those two years. In my book, the skydiver is the hero, but in real life he left a lot to be desired. So, although some of the novel is true, most is made up, which is what novelists do. Not to brag too much about my own work, I’ll just say it has some romantic scenes--which is what you buy a romance for--some exciting scenes--this is an awesome sport--and a bit of humor. Without humor, I’d never have survived that matrimonial adventure.”

Now, four years later, I got my rights back. The publisher I used never got reviews on Amazon or did any other promotion, was sloppy about reporting sales to me, and charged way too much -$6.50 - for a 200-page e-book. I’m republishing it with the same title and text, but a new cover picture (after all, it’s a romance so it needed lovers), and the new e-book price is $2.99. In fact, it’s going free for five days, Nov. 7-11, on KDP Select.

And here’s the other good news. If you receive a free copy And post a review on Amazon, I will send you a free copy of one of my other novels. (Your choice of NORTH BY NORTHEAST, STRANGER IN PARADISE, THE ITALIAN JOB or ONCE MORE WITH FEELING.)

The bad news? I’m going to take a hiatus from my weekly blog to get a complete knee replacement. But I’ll keep in touch after I’m home again and will resume posting as soon as I can.

Tuesday, October 8, 2013


When cleaning out some old files last week, I came across an article I’d saved from the October 2008 issue of The Writer Magazine by Hallie Ephron. It’s titled “The Deadly Dozen Mistakes in Mystery Writing” and it’s as relevant now as it was five years ago. Maybe more, since, as I wrote last week, self-publishing has mushroomed.

In fact, thanks to Amazon’s “Read inside,” I read a portion of a self-published romantic suspense novel that wouldn’t pass Number Twelve of the list below. Ms. Ephron pointed out that many years ago, a group of British mystery writers, including Agatha Christie and Dorothy L. Sayers, formed the Detective Club, and made a list of things to avoid in their writing. They even swore an oath with dire consequences for ignoring it.

“If you fail to keep our promise, may other writers anticipate your plots, may strangers sue you for libel, may your pages swarm with misprints, and may your sales continually diminish.”

So, here they are: make notes and beware.

* #1. Coincidence or an Act of God. Coincidences happen in real life, but the rules are more stringent in fiction. If your sleuth is in a bathroom stall and overhears two strangers plotting a murder, Rewrite!

* #2. Concealed Clues. Mystery readers want to solve the crime along with your detective, so if your sleuth knows a fact you haven’t revealed to the reader, Rewrite!

* #3. Plot-Herding Characters. Don’t let your characters do things normal people wouldn’t do just because your plot requires that. If your character, all alone and unarmed, goes into a scary place to confront the villain, you’d better give him a darned good reason, or else... Rewrite!

* #4. False starts. Readers need a mystery, or something exciting, to keep reading, so if you give them an immediate information dump, or a “flash forward” instead, Rewrite!

* #5. Narration in dialog form. Sure, there are things you want the reader to know, but if your dialogue is stuffed with “reader feeders,” Rewrite!

* #6. False finish. These days readers expect the sleuth to have a final confrontation with the enemy, or at least a credible, though unexpected, solution. If you’ve picked the least-suspected person to be the villain and it’s not believable, or the sleuth spends pages explaining to the gathering how he put all the clues together, or if good luck, or divine intervention or a sudden rescue party solves the problem... Right. Rewrite!

* #7. Too many viewpoints. There’s a reason so many whodunits are written in first person. Readers have no problem following one person and trying to solve the crime when, or before, he does. Your story may require two viewpoint characters, but if you write more than three, and especially if you switch viewpoints in the middle of a scene, Rewrite!

* #8. Sidekicks as Stereotypes. Please, no heart-of-gold ex-hookers, no eyeglass-wearing, clumsy computer nerds, no incompetent cops. Dream up an interesting original or else, Rewrite!

* #9. Zigzag Timeline. Don’t switch between time periods if it can be avoided. If you make the reader wonder if this is 2013 or 1990 too often, you’ll lose her. Rewrite!

* #10. Fa, la, la, gathering clues. Remember the theme of all fiction is conflict. If your sleuth is brilliant, fearless and cunning at all times, if he always stumbles upon the necessary clues, if witnesses always tell him the truth, let’s face it, it’s boring.  Rewrite!

* #11. Overstaying your welcome. If your sleuth reveals a suspect to be the murderer, and then decides he’s not and chooses someone else, or the killer escapes and the last hundred pages are just a “007" chase scene, Rewrite!

* #12. The small stuff. Mystery readers are relentless about wanting things to be accurate, so make sure you have no glaring errors. That applies to punctuation and grammar too. Do it right, or Rewrite!

Tuesday, October 1, 2013


With self-published books multiplying exponentially (or so it seems), I’m finding more and more articles and blogs urging writers to do two important things before throwing their book-baby at Amazon.

* The first is to hire a professional editor. As Anne R. Allen expressed it so cleverly, “Kindle no book before its time.” Typos, bad grammar and misspelled words are a major problem driving people to condemn self-publishing and thereby hurting all of us. To say nothing of poor formatting and bad covers. Check out and be sure to read the comments below each one. They’re hilarious.

But I digress.

* The second bit of advice is “Write more books.” I agree that the more books you have available--assuming a reader likes your work--the more sales you will make. But that, too, has a caveat. Just as you need a good cover, blurb and editing, you need a good plot. As I told a writer whose book I was asked to critique, “Your goal should be to write a good story, not Book Number Four.” And the reason for a bad story is often lack of believable character motivation.

Example Number One. I’ve written about this one before. A truck driver with an alcoholic wife, a teen-aged son in trouble and a teen-aged daughter who’s pregnant, has an affair with another woman who gives birth to their child and then dies. So the husband brings the baby home to his wife to raise. Excuse me? This makes sense? Why?

Example Number Two. Four teenagers get into a car accident and one of the girls ends up paralyzed. Many years later, said victim decides to kill, not the teen driver, but...wait for it... her father. Why? Because he was “uncaring” after the accident. Yet he paid for her education, she held a good job, even fell in love and got married. Most people would say she’d had a pretty good life. How does this turn into the need to kill her father?

Example Number Three. A young woman and her brother travel from the U.S. to England to deliver art work to a wealthy Brit whom they’ve never met before. They’re invited to stay the night in his palatial mansion, and in the morning the old guy is found dead. Who’s guilty? One of the relatives who also live in the mansion and have reasons to hate the elderly relative? No. It’s the young American woman who kills him and tries to frame her own brother for the crime. Why? Because when she was sixteen he offered a surfboard to his friend if he promised to seduce her. That book was actually published by a Big-6 Publisher.

Take-away. Hire an experienced artist for the cover. Have your book edited for content as well as grammar. And, finally, write characters with motivations that answer the question, “Why?” without making the reader want to throw the book at the nearest wall. (Which is what happened to Number Three. Crash!)

Anne R. Allen

Tuesday, September 24, 2013


Well, not exactly a box, more like a miniature house on a post.

Jean Chapman Snow, writing in the Christian Science Monitor, reported about a new phenomenon in her neighborhood, a free library with a sign reading, “Little Free Library, Charter 4775.” In smaller letters, it read, “Take a book. Return a book.”

As you may deduce from the charter number, there are many such libraries around the country. Started by Todd Bol in Wisconsin in 2009, these doll-house sized structures are in residential neighborhoods in forty-five states and at least five other countries. Most are wooden sided, with a front that's open, or a glass door to keep out rain. With two shelves inside, they might hold between twenty and thirty books. And, of course, it has a website (

In 2001, a similar book-sharing idea ( was launched and is now in 132 countries with 10 million books. The system is different, however. You register a book, get a tracking number and then leave it in a public place. Whoever finds the book is invited to use the tracking number and website to show where it is, then set it free again.

As a lover of books and libraries, this appeals to me, and so, since I can’t build my own library-house, I might try Book Crossing. Although I have a perfectly good library where I live, and many in nearby cities, this is another way of sharing the books you’ve read but no longer want to keep. My own living room bookshelves are filled to overflowing, and I still buy more.

The only thing I seem to have more of is a bunch of stories in my head that I want to put down on paper. Like all other authorrs, I assume, I decided to become a writer because I loved to read. Libraries, whatever form they take, are often the places we indulged our fantasies, beginning as young as six. At several times that age now, I still love books and libraries and always will.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013


The cover article in the September issue of the Mensa Bulletin was titled, “The R (regret) Word,” and inside were snippets from stories sent in by members of things they regretted.

One said she regretted not taking Chemistry in school. A man said, “I should have had four children instead of two.” (No comment from his wife.) Another reported his 90-something grandfather regretted he never went bowling.

Here are some others:
* Not learning to play guitar.
* Not learning the bagpipes in junior high band.
* Not going to veterinarian school.
* Not taking the Mensa test sooner.
* Not studying dance.
* My mother not seeing me on Jeopardy.

However, by far the most regrets had to do with family.
* Growing up without a father.
* Not being closer to family.
* Not having more talks with my father.
* Not asking enough questions of parents and grandparents.

Although there are variation of this, I think the earliest came from a poem by John Greenleaf Whittier. “For all sad words of tongue or pen, the saddest are these: it might have been.”

Like so many others, I wish I knew more about my family. What was it like for my grandfather to leave England and start a new life in the U.S.? When and where did my mother and father--who came from different cultures--meet? It’s too late to get those answers, but I’m resolved not to have regrets about writing.

Sure, I already regret I didn’t start sooner, although I wrote stories while in grade school. But then I took time off to marry and raise four children. I wouldn’t give up one of them, and fortunately they understand why I spend so many hours at home in front of the computer now, writing books.

What about you, my friends? Will you some day regret you didn’t write more, that perhaps the Great American Novel never got put on paper? Don’t let it happen. Write right now!

Tuesday, September 10, 2013


When I began writing (long enough ago that some of you reading this might not have been born), I was told that writers should begin their career by writing short stories before longer works like novels. In those days, there were markets for short stories, so that’s what I did.

Women’s magazines carried at least one short story (usually romantic) per issue along with the required non-fiction about home decorating, fashion and cooking. But then that market dried up, and only “confession” magazines took stories. Those were supposedly “real” stories and carried no author names. One of my friends wrote literally hundreds of them, which replaced her income when she quit her job to write full time. Thanks to her encouragement, I wrote such a story and it sold immediately. It was, in fact, the first money I earned from writing and the day I was sent a check for it, my husband and I went out to dinner to celebrate.

I never sold another “confession,” and I stopped writing them. Even my prolific friend stopped submitting them. Why? Because the magazines paid the same amount to writers that they’d paid twenty or thirty years earlier. This despite the fact their advertisers paid vastly higher amounts every year. As usual, writers got the dirty end of the stick.

However, I did write lots of other stories--romance, mystery, even science fiction--hoping magazines which paid better might buy one. Alas, those didn’t sell either. However, I had a computer by then and I not only switched to writing romance novels (which, in my opinion, is where the short stories evolved when women’s magazines stopped publishing them) but saved my old stories in my computer files. And now I’m glad.

Thanks to either shorter attention spans by readers, or longer waiting times in doctor’s offices, reading short works on an e-reader, tablet or even a smart phone is suddenly popular.

I’ve sold eleven novels and four non-fiction books, but today I pulled out an old story and spent an hour updating it because I have a long list of places to send it. The world has turned again, and I’m prepared. Are you, my fellow writers?

Wednesday, September 4, 2013


Many newspapers and blogs picked up and reported the statistics in Forbes’ business magazine about the highest paid authors of the year. Even if you didn’t read the article, as a writer you probably already knew who the top people were and how many millions of dollars they earned.

E. L. James, $95 million, James Patterson, $91 million, Suzanne Collins, $55 million, Danielle Steele, $26 million, Janet Evanovich, $24 million, Nora Roberts, $23 million, Dan Brown, $22 million, Stephen King, $20 million, John Grisham, $18 million, J. K. Rowling, $13 million, George R.R. Martin, $12 million.

Those weren’t all. The article my friend sent me listed sixteen million-dollar authors. I’m going to assume she didn’t mean to imply I should throw myself under a Waste Management truck because my 2013 writing income didn’t come close. Close? Those numbers and mine aren’t even in the same galaxy.

And yet... I’m in the black. The income from my obsession (no, I meant occupation) hasn’t affected our family budget and I may yet be in the rarefied atmosphere of having to pay income tax on it.

And the reason I’m not unhappy (okay a tad jealous) is what I told my friend. That’s sixteen people out of how many million writers? (Amazon doesn’t share its figures with me.) A few people make a lot of money and almost everyone else little or none. But that just means publishing is like every other endeavor. Tom Hanks makes millions per picture, but thousands of other actors wait tables to live. Same with sports and music, for which I won’t bother you with statistics.

Three other recent articles offer perspective, posted in the popular blog, The Passive Voice. One from the New York Times was titled, “Long Odds for Authors Newly Published,” to which one can only respond, “Duh!” and another, “It’s Just Books,” by Lara Schiffbauer. She reminds us that “for every lucky, hard-working, talented writer who found success, there are many who didn’t have the stars align in the same way. Whether I sell a zillion copies or two, it won’t change the important things in my life. I’m still a wife, a mother, a daughter, an aunt, a friend. I’ll still write. It’s just books.”

Finally, “Writing Excuses: Survivorship Bias.” The podcast from which it was taken revealed “Survivorship Bias is the skewing of the data when you seek to emulate successes without considering failures in the same space.” Writers who are jumping into self-publishing study those making money there and listen to what they say as if it’s a formula for their own success. Yet, if you talked to people who won the lottery would you think playing the lottery is the only way to get rich?

If failures become invisible, you’ll be pulled toward the successes. Survivorship bias pulls you toward the superstars in everything. As Mark Coker of Smashwords has said, “We cannot promise you your book will sell well even if you follow all the tips. In fact, most books, whether traditionally published or self-published don’t sell well.”

So I am content to be a little fish in a big pond. I write because I want to and it’s part of who I am. But I’m also a wife, a mother, daughter, aunt and friend. That’s my life. The other is just books.

The Passive Voice
New York Times
Lara Schiffbauer

Mark Coker

Wednesday, August 28, 2013


This will be another short post (Do I hear someone say, “Good”?) Because this week I’m swamped with writing work I must finish.

1. Polish the woman-in-jeopardy mystery my friend and I wrote together a long time ago. It’s been sold twice (contracts from MWA approved publishers) and had to be cancelled, and now we’re trying again.

2. Put a backlist romance novel on Amazon all by myself. (Well, hubby helps since I am tech-illiterate.) At the last minute I decided to change the cover picture so am waiting for the artist to do that for me. After that comes the hard part, promotion.

3. The editor of a major publisher (not the Big-5 but I never send to them) has asked to see the entire manuscript of the first book in my cozy mystery series. I never send a book out without reading it from the top to be sure there are no typos or other problems, so I’m doing that right now.


I was amazed recently to find that copy editors can be so different. I’ve heard that, as a cost-cutting measure, publishers - even major ones - are out-sourcing, or eliminating those jobs. That would explain why the same book went to two different places and was copy-edited with vastly different results.

The first editor, although overlooking two typos I found later, made no changes except to take out the asterisks I had placed in the text to separate scenes within chapters. As you know, those separations are made when there is an important change from one scene to the next, for example, time or day, location or setting, or viewpoint. Mine were viewpoint and time changes, and, if the book had been published that way, imagine the confusion of the reader when she was transferred to another world in one paragraph.

The second editor, reading the identical book a couple of months later, wrote comments and changes on 325 of the 350 pages of the novel. This person professed to know everything about movie and television production, law enforcement, police procedures, child custody, judges, restaurant operations, medicine and hospitals, even fashion and food.

Yes, that’s the book I mentioned in the beginning of this post. My co-author and I were so confused, we pulled the book and are querying another publisher. Oh well. Maybe next time.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013


The legendary Elmore Leonard passed away yesterday, and I am not the only person, or even author, who will write about it. My two cents is that I’d read several of his books before I actually met him at the Santa Barbara Writers Conference in 1991. He signed a copy of his novel GET SHORTY for me, and it lives in a special place in a cabinet, not on the bookshelves in my living room, bedroom, guest room, office and kitchen. (I keep lots of books.)

What did I learn from him? I can’t do better than quote Leonard, whose 10 RULES FOR WRITING will be touted a lot this week.

1. Never open a book with weather.
He qualified this by adding something like, unless you’re very good at it. I’ve never done it, so I suppose I felt I had nothing original to say weather-wise.

2. Avoid prologues.
I have only one published book (CHOICES, a mainstream novel) with a Prologue, and I considered it necessary at the time and still do. I started a few other books with prologues but soon decided they were unnecessary and eliminated them.

3. Never use a verb other than “said” to carry dialogue.
I think we’re allowed to use “asked” if appropriate, but I once read a book that used “opined” and nearly gagged. These days I hardly use “said,” preferring to indicate who’s speaking by putting action in the same paragraph.

4. Never use an adverb to modify the verb “said.”
My writers’ group used to play a game called “Tom Swifties,” in which we tried to come up with the worst combinations, like Leonard’s “he admonished gravely.” Or, “‘I’ve struck oil,’ said Tom crudely.” Thanks to my computer’s Search feature, I can find and remove any unnecessary words ending in “ly.”

5. Keep your exclamation points under control.
I admit I was guilty of using too many until Leonard advised no more than one per 100,000 words.

6. Never use the words “suddenly” or “all hell broke loose.”
I’ve seldom used the former and never the latter, and, thanks to Leonard, now I never will.

7. Use regional dialogue, patois, sparingly.
I guess I’ve always been too lazy to try to describe speech phonetically. Yet, I confess I’ve dropped a final “g” sometimes.

8. Avoid detailed descriptions of characters.
Leonard allows it if you’re really good. Trying to bring my characters to life without much description is still a goal I aim for and, I hope, getting better at. In one of my books, I wrote, “His face was plain except he had more than his share of nose.”

9. Don’t go into detail describing places and things.
Another rule you can avoid if you’re really good at that. I try to find a few “telling details.”
In my latest novel, THE ITALIAN JOB, I wrote: “I knew that old hotel. The windows were French doors and led to outside balconies...but the balcony was two stories above the street, too far for jumping, even if I were an Olympic athlete instead of someone whose only exercise is changing the sheets on her bed... However, the next balcony being merely a foot away, I decided to swing over to it, enter the next room by way of that French door and return to the hotel hallway... The next room seemed dark and empty, and I reasoned that even if someone were staying there, chances were slim it would be another man bent on hanky-panky.”

10. Try to leave out the part that readers tend to skip.
In my opinion, he means big blocks of description or narration. Readers prefer dialogue and, fortunately, people tell me I write good dialogue, so I use a lot of it.

Finally, Elmore Leonard is supposed to have said, “If it sounds ‘writerly,’ I rewrite it.”
I take that to mean things like purple prose, too much description and similes and metaphors that sound like the writer was trying too hard to impress someone.

Elmore Leonard
Santa Barbara Writers Conference
CHOICES by Phyll Ashworth

Wednesday, August 14, 2013


Last week, having finished reading a cozy mystery, I began a book some call a “classic.” Either the author, or that book, made the New York Times bestseller list, so I hoped to learn something useful. However, as for priorities, which Kristine Kathryn Rusch wrote about in her blog last week, having a book of mine become a bestseller on the NYT is not even on my list.

Imagine my surprise when I discovered that almost everything I’ve learned in the thirty years I’ve been writing was ignored by that author. I won’t divulge the name, but it is a woman, and the book was first published in the early 1970s (forty years ago) by one of the Big Six (now Five) publishers. It’s apparently a backlist title reissued for the current market.

So what are the writing lessons that I’ve been learning since the 1990s that weren’t observed forty years ago?

Let’s start with Viewpoint. One could call this book omniscient, although there were times it seemed mostly in the viewpoint of one woman. However, it didn’t stay in her viewpoint. It head-hopped from time to time into her husband’s, her mother’s and her boss’s. Often within paragraphs.

Whether because of that problem or simply lack of character development, I had no interest in that person. I didn’t like or dislike her. I just didn’t know her enough to care. I had no emotional attachment. She was a mere paper doll, being pushed here and there, all “tell,” no “show.”

Backstory. Yes, there was lots of that and it was right in the first few chapters. I almost gave up reading then, but reminded myself this was supposed to be a great book and I should stick with it awhile longer to get to the good parts. Never happened. True, the character did some slightly interesting things: married and had children, got a good job, had an affair, got divorced. Not exactly Wonder Woman things, but maybe people liked to read about commonplace domestic life back then.

The setting of the novel was a period even earlier than the 1970s and the author managed to drop in every detail of the era, whether relevant or not. From who was president, to what went on in other countries at the time, to fashion, hairstyles, food, films and books. Her research was impressive. Did I care? No.
Dialogue: Very little, and that irrelevant or amateurish.

I’ll sum it up and give the reading experience a grade with points from one to ten. For Plot: five points (I’m being generous here.) Characterization: two points. Reader involvement: zero. Sometimes old novels should just be left to die in obscurity. Even as a mere $2.99 e-book.

Kristine Kathryn Rusch
New York Times

Tuesday, August 6, 2013


This will be a short post because I had cataract surgery this morning and am not seeing too well at the moment.

Speaking of surgery, it’s amazing how even a procedure that takes a mere ten to fifteen minutes requires a Pre-op appointment four days before with multiple tests. Then on the chosen day you have to be at the hospital by six a.m., change into a gown that “ugly” doesn’t begin to describe, tuck your hair into a bonnet and slip your feet into plastic booties. A machine monitors your blood pressure, patches and a finger clamp keep track of your heart, and an IV goes into a vein in your arm.

The next thirty minutes disappear and you think nothing has happened, until you realize you’re not in the operating room anymore and someone is offering you apple juice. The good part is you go home right away, see the doctor again the next day and then rejoice at how much brighter the world looks.

A day later I can watch TV or work on my computer without eye glasses and even read most print. Being a cataract surgeon must be the best specialty for a doctor, because patients are so happy with the outcome.

Like actors, they get paid for doing what they love and people thank them besides. Come to think of it, that’s true of writers too. We love what we do and readers buy our books and even ask for autographs. In addition, better than either doctors or actors, we writers can work in our slippers and jammies. And as long as we want.

Happy writing!

Wednesday, July 31, 2013


Another thing that happened, when I was on vacation this month, was the resignation of William Lynch, CEO of Barnes & Noble. Leonard Riggio, who is the largest shareholder in the company, proposed to the board a buyout of the bookstores and website but without the Nook and the e-books business. I don’t know what has happened since then - I do own a color Nook but Mr. Riggio isn’t  communicating with me although I’m in the phone book - but I’m ready and willing to offer advice for the future of his stores.

True, I’ve never owned, managed or worked in a bookstore. However, I’ve spent a lot of time in bookstores, don’t want them to disappear, and I know what I like about them.

In the 80s and 90s, the big chain bookstores, of which B&N seem to be the last, wiped out many small independent stores, but today the American Booksellers Association says small bookstores are making a comeback. I’m all for that, but I want B&N to stay as well. So I’ve made a list of ideas Mr. Riggio should adopt.

To be honest, B&N is already doing some things right. They have unobtrusive music, cafes with Starbucks Coffee and snacks, and free WiFi to customers. It’s fine with me if they also sell Nooks and e-readers (but that’s up to Mr. Riggio) and also offer items such as periodicals and CDs related to books. But no toys or other things not directly related to reading.

What they don’t do yet and, should, in my opinion, is what Amazon cannot do because it doesn’t have a brick and mortar store. (Yet) That is, have authors’ book-signings regularly and advertise these events. (Perhaps there is an occasional book-signing in one of their stores, but it hasn’t happened in mine.)

Next, fill the store with books. And not just traditionally published books. I’d like to see an entire section of the store devoted to self-published books by local authors. They could allow an author to place 3-5 copies of a book for 90 days and if those sold, they could add more. If not, they’d be returned. Self-published authors should also be allowed to hold signings.

Finally, they need to add the scent of chocolate. I’ve just read a blog that revealed greater romance book sales when the smell of chocolate permeated the romance section of the store. Not only that, sales of mysteries increased with the odor of chocolate in the mystery section. I’m not sure about Science Fiction, but, at the very least, there ought to be aroma in the cook book area.

And, oh yes, stop fighting with Simon & Schuster about book placement. When you restrict S&S books, you’re only hurting authors. If you’ve learned nothing from Amazon, learn that making authors happy (the people without whom there would be no books)  is one of the keys to success.

Barnes & Noble
Simon & Schuster

Wednesday, July 24, 2013


While I was on vacation, two interesting things happened in the publishing world. A first mystery novel by a heretofore unknown male author got great reviews but poor sales. Then it was found to have been written by J. K. Rowling, and sales skyrocketed. Plenty of bloggers have discussed this, so I will refrain, except to say I believe Rowling wanted to have her work judged on its merits and not her name, and it’s sad she was “outed” so soon.

Speaking of “Names...”


The RWA Conference was held in Atlanta last week and the Rita and Golden Heart Winners were announced. The Ritas are for published books, so the judges know which companies published them and, as usual, only books published by the Big Five and Harlequin, won the eleven category awards. Altogether, there were 81 Finalists, yet, with the exception of five from Amazon’s Montlake Romance, no finalists were either self-published or from a small press.

IMHO, the outdated belief that, unless a book is published by the Big Five, it can’t possibly be any good so judges don’t vote for it, persists. I hoped the myth had died by now, but apparently not. I wonder if - had the same books been entered in manuscript - as in the Golden Heart, the results would have been different.

When self-published books are topping Best Seller lists time after time, how can this bias still exist? I find it hard to believe that of the many small press and self-published books entered in the contest, none were deemed good enough even to final. When will we see recognition for books published for their quality instead of a big New York corporation, which are actually mostly non-American?

They are British, German, French, Australian and Canadian. In addition to all the other categories in which Harlequin has finalists, the Short Contemporary Series category should be titled “The Harlequin Category,” because every finalist is one of their books. Every year. Here’s a radical idea: Since the name of our association is Romance Writers of America, how about allowing only books published by American publishers to compete?

Every year, when the winners are announced, I think, “Maybe next year,” but I don’t intend to enter again (I did in 2011) until things change.


On the other hand, I’m happy to report that, over at the Daphne du Maurier Awards, not only were four self-published books among the Finalists, but three of them became the winners of three of the six categories. That’s half, more like reality.

Not that they didn’t have plenty of competition. Seven of the thirty-two finalists were Harlequin books, five were Penguin, three were Pocket titles, and six were from other Big publishers. However, in addition to the four self-published books, two were from Amazon’s Montlake and seven from small presses.

Readers, am I the only one who feels this way? Tell me, please.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013


First, I’m going on vacation so my blog will be on hiatus for two weeks. Catch me later.

Meanwhile, I’m sharing an interesting thing I read about how one reader chose a book to read. After approving the title, cover and  jacket blurb, she then opened the novel to page 69 and read that one page. If it passed, she bought the book. This method wouldn’t work with Amazon’s “Look inside” feature as they might not get to page 69, and I have no idea why she picked that page over, for example, the first or last page, as many people do. But it made me curious, so I thought it would be fun to look at page 69 in a few of my books and see if I’d buy my own.

This is from STRANGER IN PARADISE, about the assistant manager of a hotel in Hawaii, and the man whose company might buy it.

     "Forget last night." She said it almost too sharply, and then instantly regretted using that tone of voice with him. Yet she had to make him understand. She pulled her hand away.
     "Did Tom tell you he resigned and is leaving the hotel in two weeks?"
     Matt nodded.
     "And did he tell you he's recommending me for manager?"
     "He mentioned it.”
     "Even with Tom's recommendation, there are no guarantees, but if your company buys the hotel, that opportunity will vanish."
     "You don't know that as a fact, and I certainly don't.” He raised one hand as if to touch her again, then dropped it to his side.
     "What I know is how few women managers there are in this business. I read a magazine story that profiled the managers of eight large American hotels. Without exception, they were all men.”
     "All right, so I admit that life can sometimes be unfair. But that kind of attitude is changing all the time."
     "Who manages La Casa Grande--excuse me, The Monarch--in Mexico?"
     He held up his hands, defeated.
     "You see, it isn't changing fast enough."
     "Would it help if I steered Danforth away from buying the Ocean Breeze? There's more than enough to keep them interested out here without that."
     Dana's temper flared momentarily. "I don't want any favors from you, and I don't want my success that way."

Try this with one of your own novels. It’s interesting and fun.
Back in two weeks. Stay cool.

Wednesday, July 3, 2013


A long time ago, I read a description of a character in a book by Calvin Trillin, and I’ve never forgotten it. Well, almost. I may not have the words exactly right, but I think they’re close enough to give you the idea.

“He was dark and swarthy, with oily black hair, and looked like someone who would sell fake passports on a street corner in Istanbul.”

Now that I need it, I can’t remember who wrote these:

“He carried his weight like a weapon instead of a liability, had stiff white hair you could land a 747 on, and a handshake just short of causing paralysis.”

“He walked so slowly an arthritic centipede could have passed him.”

“Bad economic times resulted in lots of travel. When the going got tough, the tough packed the U-Haul.”

“He wasn’t much of a man, more like a moist robot.”

“She strutted as if she knew her bank balance was the equivalent of the GDP of Belgium.”

“He kept an army of lawyers around him like some women keep cats.”

“She had obviously cornered the market on pointy chins.”

And then there’s mine. I never thought I was very good at clever descriptions, but I like this one that I put in a recent book:

“Looking like a young Clint Eastwood, he appeared at her side again. Dirty Harry, with a 200-dollar haircut, wearing Armani.”

Have you written or read some clever descriptions?

Wednesday, June 26, 2013


Yes, I’m a writer and most of you who read this blog may be writers too, so I must explain that I’m not advocating talking instead of writing. I’m encouraging talking over not-talking. Action might speak louder than words, but words have the power to change lives, too.

About a year ago I wrote a blog post titled, WORDS THAT SAVE LIVES, based on a magazine article I’d read. The author cited studies that showed children who were talked to, and read to, by their parents, were more likely to succeed in school and in life than those who were not.

A more recent article on the subject points to a study that the more words a baby hears before the age of three the higher his I.Q. will become. However, here’s the shocking thing: words heard on television or other media actually have a detrimental effect.

“Okay,” you say, “but what can you talk about when the little one is staring at the lights, kicking his feet, or falling asleep?” The answer is, it doesn’t matter. The very fact Junior is hearing words, even if he doesn’t know what they mean right now, plus the obvious attention of his mother or father is beneficial.

Later, bed-time reading can be a nightly ritual, but children should be talked to any time of day, all day. What to talk about? Children love stories, and they love real stories even more. All families have moments when interesting things happened, so tell them where their grandparents lived, the interesting things their uncle did when traveling, the jobs their great-aunt took to earn money for college. Family stories should be shared to keep the child in touch with her past, as well as improve her vocabulary.

My husband’s aunt was a schoolteacher in a logging camp in Oregon in 1913 and she never failed to tell of those adventures whenever children were around. Those stories led to the memoir I wrote about her, THE GREEN BOUGH. However, you don‘t have to put your stories into a book. Just talking about them may make your grandchildren smarter. Of course, if you do put those real or made-up stories into print, that’s good too.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013


A while ago, I wrote a blogpost announcing that I’m an Introvert, and now I’ll add another insight about my character. As I’ve long known I was an Introvert in a land of more Extroverts, I also realized long ago that I’m an Optimist instead of a Pessimist.

Part of my optimism comes from my upbringing. Although my family was poor, we children were raised with smiles and encouragement. I didn’t let our status bother me. I knew I would be all right in the future, if I just did the right thing and worked hard.

And so it proved. I’m not a millionaire, but I own my own home, have savings in the bank and traveled to some foreign places. I have enough, and someone once said that “happiness is knowing when what you have is enough.” Recently an article reminded me of another good reason to be an Optimist.

The 2002 book Bringing Down the House told the true story of how six MIT math geniuses mastered Blackjack card counting and took Las Vegas for millions. The math pros didn’t win many hands and the casino edge over players is slight, but the MIT crew used a system that gave them a two percent edge. It was enough, provided they played awhile. The lesson is, even with the odds only slightly in your favor, over time you will win.

What does that have to do with Optimism? A chart with the article showed that from 1850 to 2010 the economy, and, especially the U.S. real GDP (Gross Domestic Product) per capita, rose upward in an almost unbroken straight line. Adjusted for inflation, it went from about $3000 to over $60,000 in those 160 years. What happened during that time?

1. We fought nine major wars.
2. Four U.S. presidents were assassinated.
3. 675,000 people died in the flu epidemic.
4. Ten natural disasters killed at least 400 people each.
5. 33 recessions lasted an accumulated 48 years.
6. The stock market fell at least ten percent 97 times.
7. Annual inflation exceeded 7% in 20 separate years.
8. The words “economic pessimism” were used in newspapers 29,000 times (according to Google).

And yet, our standard of living increased 20-fold.

Yes, bad things will happen, and like the MIT students, I may lose a lot of times, but the long-term odds are in my favor.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013


Many others have written about this, but I’ll put my two cents in just in case my blog post reaches a new writer who hasn’t heard about it yet. What’s the scam? Last year PENGUIN BOOKS, now RANDOM PENGUIN or PENGUIN RANDOM HOUSE, paid $116 million to buy Author Solutions Inc, the worst vanity publisher in the country, which charges thousands of dollars for publishing services which ought to be free or very cheap.

The company, which includes iUniverse, Author House, Xlibris, Trafford and others, targets inexperienced writers who want to self-publish but need help. The fees ASI charges are bad enough, but these authors get no promotion for their work, and therefore sell few, if any books. WRITER BEWARE, and other publishing watchdog groups, have warned about using ASI, but many beginners are still unaware of the risks. Now, with the (former) prestige of the Penguin name, these neophytes might think they’re getting published by a large company, when in fact, they are not.

Why did Penguin buy ASI when it could have used those millions to offer better royalties to their authors? Some think it was because ASI, which had been in business for years, had a mailing list of new writers that Penguin wanted to use.

Others say that Penguin saw the money ASI was making on the backs of the uninformed, and wanted to get a share of that. As Gail Ryan commented recently, “They’re happy to be unethical as long as they make a buck.” And another, “To hell with decency if there is money in dealing with the devil.”

Besides using the Penguin name, ASI has added more tricks to its arsenal, which are designed to further fool the unwary. 1. They use fake-informational websites to offer advice, which then only recommends Author Solutions companies. 2. They use social media to profile “publishing consultants,” who are actually ASI employees. 3. They require authors to provide testimonials about how great ASI is before they will publish their books, even when said authors have already paid the fees.

There are hundreds of horror stories by authors complaining about ASI publishing without permission, incorrect royalty statements, failure to pay royalties, harassing phone calls, and books with errors made by ASI, which the authors had to pay to correct.

“How do they get away with that?” you ask? Let’s hope they won’t for much longer. There is a class-action lawsuit against them for deceptive business practices already. Yet, public outcries are still necessary to halt the seemingly never-ending flow of uninformed writers who fall into their trap. So it’s up to us who are aware to spread the word. As for Penguin, why would anyone want to deal with them when they so blatantly allow this scam? I won’t. I don’t work with unethical people.

Tuesday, June 4, 2013



Last week I mentioned the finalists in the Daphne du Maurier Awards sponsored by the Mystery/Suspense chapter of RWA. I specifically pointed out that it appears five books out of the thirty-one finalists were self-published, which I think is a very good thing.

This week the finalists for RWA’s Rita Awards were named and, as I mentioned a year ago, the 2012 finalists were all from Big Publishing Houses. This year, 2013, there was one slight change. Although there were no self-published books among the finalists, four were from Montlake Romance, Amazon’s relatively new romance publishing imprint. Considering the size of the parent company, I suppose one can’t call it a “small publisher,” but, in my opinion, it’s a good thing when different publishers show up and the Big Five don’t walk home with everything.


In the interest of publicizing my newest romance novel, THE ITALIAN JOB, I’ve been asked to provide some Blog posts and one of them was to list my ten favorite movies. As I said in that post, among the hundred-plus in our DVD collection, I have a list of forty favorite films, so choosing only ten was hard. Although I didn’t intend to be even-handed, I ended up listing five comedies and five dramas.

The most recent was THE FUGITIVE released in 1993, twenty years ago. I won’t say, as others have done, “they don’t make ‘em like they used to,” but in fact it’s true. Thanks to the ability to produce astounding special effects these days, movies rely more and more on images at the expense of character and story. But then, I’m a writer, and must rely on character and story because they haven’t figured out yet how to make a bomb explode in a reader’s face. (But, given time, they might some day.)


I’ve also written in my occasional blog posts about correct grammar. I cringe when I see word mistakes in books, magazines or newspapers. Yet, in spite of a wrong word in the first song in the show, MY FAIR LADY is my favorite musical. What word? It’s when Prof. Higgins hears Eliza Doolittle’s Cockney accent and laments to his friend, Col. Pickering, “Why Can’t the English learn to Speak.” And the word is “hung.” No educated Englishman - certainly not a professor of the language, would say, as he does in the song, “By rights, they should be taken out and hung.” Of course, the word should be “hanged.” A man might have “hung” his clothes, but people are “hanged.” However, Lerner and Lowe were writing a song, not dialogue, and the word needed to rhyme with “tongue.” I forgive them. (But don’t let it happen again.)

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.

* * *

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.

* * *

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.

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

Tuesday, April 30, 2013


A few weeks ago, a remarkable thing happened: I received a nice check from Kensington for a foreign sale of my novel, ONCE MORE WITH FEELING which they had published back in 1998. The buyer was a Japanese publisher who wanted to turn it onto a “Manga” romance novel, which, according to Google (yes, I looked it up), is a cartoon or comic strip book. These books can be about romance, mystery, horror, science fiction, or sports, and are popular in Japan, China, Taiwan, South Korea, Hong Kong and even France.

The story in ONCE MORE WITH FEELING, which is currently with a different publisher and available as an e-book on Amazon, is about a young woman stock broker who falls in love with a customer who might be involved in illegal insider trading in the U.S. I didn’t see why Japanese readers would be interested until I remembered that the book is set in San Francisco, which is where I lived when I wrote the novel so many years ago. I worked at that time as a P.R. person for a large shopping mall and frequently was asked to escort a group of Japanese tourists through the facility. I even took them through the underground delivery tunnel where vendors unloaded merchandise for the hundred-plus stores in the mall.

I learned then that Japanese have been coming to San Francisco to live and work since 1850, and a Japantown survived the 1906 earthquake. After World War II, immigration dropped off, but soon resumed again. The Japanese people loved the city and still do.

By coincidence, this unexpected sale of foreign rights came just as I was finishing work on a novella set in the city. Writing A STUDY IN AMBER reminded me of the things I, too, enjoyed during the twenty-five years I lived there. The magnificent Golden Gate Bridge, the cable cars, sailing in San Francisco Bay, bicycling in Golden Gate Park, the smells, sights and sounds of the city.

The Japanese, being especially polite, often rewarded me for my work as their tour guide with a gift, and I still have a special one that I’ve saved for all these years. It’s a pair of jade earrings from Gump’s. As I was then, I’m grateful to those kind people and hope, even though I’ll never read the “Manga” version of my novel, that a story set in our lovely City by the Bay will bring them as much pleasure as writing ONCE MORE WITH FEELING did for me.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013


I’ve been writing seriously for thirty years, and although I’m no Nora Roberts or support myself on my earnings, they do pay expenses and I’m in the black. The only other thing I do is sing in musicals produced by the local Performing Arts Club.

That began seven years ago when my husband accused me of spending all day at the computer. I realized I needed to get out and meet people, so I went to an audition, hoping to get a part in the chorus of the show, or, if lucky, part of a duet or trio. Instead I was given two solos and, although there was no pay, I enjoyed the thrill of audience applause and compliments in the lobby after a performance.

When I was a child, my sister took piano lessons, and I took singing lessons until high school occupied all my time. But I continued to love singing, bought Broadway show albums and sang all the songs for myself. Also for my husband, who, when we took long trips in the car, would ask me to sing.

Nevertheless I was surprised to find that strangers liked my voice. Not only that, the PAC had many talented, formerly professional singers among its members, so I felt honored to join. One lady was the fifth Laurie in OKLAHOMA on Broadway and Richard Rodgers played piano at her audition.

My latest (7th) appearance occurred earlier this month when I sang in a group number, and then a solo of “It’s the Little Things” from Stephen Sondheim’s COMPANY. This is a long song, and difficult, because it consists of a series of 27 “little things” that bear no relationship to one another, and must be memorized (and sung at a fast tempo). Here’s a sample of one verse:

“It’s the little things you do together that make perfect relationships.
The hobbies you pursue together,
Savings you accrue together
Looks you misconstrue together
That make marriage a joy.”

Or, my favorite:
“The concerts you enjoy together,
Neighbors you annoy together
Children you destroy together
That keep marriage intact.”

Now I need to write some more, finish the novella I started and revise my long mystery novel. I guess I’ll go back to singing to my husband in the car.

Saturday, April 20, 2013


I landed the assignment to go to Rome, not because I was the best writer on the staff of L. A. Life Magazine, nor because I could speak Italian, because I couldn't. My incredibly important skill was availability. Time was short, Jason was on his honeymoon, Pamela was very pregnant, and no less than three staff members were out with the flu, or so they said. In May, go figure. Or perhaps because no one else was willing to fly 3000 miles on two-days’ notice. Shows what a stunningly bad social life can do for you.

Even so, my boss, Mr. Hardcastle, the first part of whose name should give you an idea of his personality, hesitated before giving his assent long enough to grow mold on my sweaty palms. “You aren't going to mess up again, are you?”

Like I planned to. Like climbing into the window of a strange person’s hotel room on my previous assignment for the magazine had been a well-thought-out decision. In truth, it was nothing but a fluke, the unavoidable result of making a serious miscalculation. Which, I fervently vowed, would never happen again.

“No, of course not.” I straightened up to my full five feet, six inches and shook my head. Which unfortunately set my ponytail swinging, not a good thing.

Hardcastle frowned. “So go already. My secretary will give you the tickets and itinerary. And, Sydney, don't forget, this is your last chance.”

He meant that threat, so I smiled and hurried from his office before he could change his mind about Rome.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013


There will be no new post this week as I am going out of town to attend the funeral of a good friend.

Tuesday, April 9, 2013


For anyone who doesn’t already know, author Dave Farland, who was kind enough to write a post for this blog a few weeks ago, is in dire need, due to having no insurance and a teen-aged son in the hospital with multiple injuries. A group of friends has decided to hold a book bomb on Wednesday, April 10, to raise funds for the boy’s care. To participate, simply buy copies of Dave’s latest two books, MILLION DOLLAR OUTLINES and NIGHTINGALE. Or, you may send a donation in any amount. I hope my readers will respond and also pass on the information via their own blogs, websites or Facebook. Thanks.


Alas, there is more sad news this week. The judge in the case of the three romance authors suing Harlequin for enriching itself by denying proper royalties to writers has decided for Harlequin. As one commenter on THE PASSIVE VOICE said, “A federal judge just said, ‘Yup, they screwed you. But they screwed you fair and square, because they told you they were going to screw you.’”

In other words, hidden in the small print of the contract signed by those authors was language that allowed just what Harlequin did. Sign the contract, suffer the consequences.

It can’t be said often enough, don’t sign anything you don’t understand. Not that I blame the authors. Or even an agent, if there was one, who allowed the contract to be signed, because this was apparently a particularly sneaky trick, and perhaps even an IP (intellectual property) attorney might not have realized the implications of it.

Makes me glad I never had a book published by Harlequin, although I certainly tried some years ago. Then I read about the multi-published Harlequin author who was paid so little she couldn’t afford to have her son’s teeth straightened. Next I learned what Amazon pays authors. If they haven’t already, I’m sure those authors have already dumped Harlequin for other venues or indie publishing. And newbies should take a close look before signing with them.

Granted, it has been a “given” that Harlequin was the premier romance publisher; and many authors felt that small royalties paid on sales of thousands of books was at least as good as higher royalties on only a few hundred. But, personally, I don’t want to work for a company that deliberately sets out to hurt the very people on whom they’re dependent.

Without romance writers, Harlequin would be out of business. If the 10,000 members of Romance Writers of America write, blog, and otherwise get the word out, writers may desert Harlequin in droves. I hope they do.

Wednesday, April 3, 2013


Last month’s Atlantic Magazine carried a cover story titled “The Robot Will See You Now” and pictured a mechanical arm holding a syringe. It would appear that the future of medicine will feature robots instead of men and women doctors. In fact, some surgical procedures are already being performed using computer-based technology that is more accurate than human hands would be.

Remember Watson, the IBM computer that beat Ken Jennings at playing Jeopardy? Well, Watson is being crammed with medical knowledge and is useful at diagnosing conditions which even a team of expert physicians might miss. From there to prescribing the perfect drug for certain problems isn’t such a huge leap and may be a step toward better health care.

So what has this to do with fiction? Well, another article I read somewhere predicted computers could write novels that some people would find as good, or better, than what is currently offered in the book market. No, they didn’t mean self-published books that some critics hate, even though a self-published book was on the New York Times best-seller list recently.

Although I’m a fiction writer, that prediction doesn’t especially worry me. I write novels that rely on my own unique sense of humor and peculiar take on events. I don’t think a computer can write my books. Yet.

What does bother me is someone like James Patterson, who churns out novels as fast as any computer by hiring others to write them for him. Apparently, he gives the “drones” the plots to work from and he sits back and rakes in the money from the publishers. To be fair, he often puts his collaborators’ names on the cover with his own, and says those people could quit but don’t.

Probably what bothers me most is that I ran across a really bad Patterson novel. I was visiting a friend in San Francisco a year ago and, while she had to talk to a repairman at some length about a household problem, I picked up a book to read while I waited. The first thing I noticed was that within the first three chapters, seven characters were introduced, each of whom had a name beginning with the letter “C”.

A chapter or so later, every new character had a name beginning with the letter “M”. I think there were six of those. Still I read on, thinking this was by Patterson and ought to be good, despite his carelessness about names. But then the next chapter was written in first person instead of third like the rest. For no reason that I could see. That’s when I stopped reading. I felt cheated and resented the waste of my time.

Authors have had collaborators before. In fact a friend and I wrote three books together some years ago, two of which are now published (SOUTHERN STAR) or soon to be (EYEWITNESS). I was told that James Mitchener hired people to do research of some of the places he put in his novels (Hawaii, Chesapeake, etc.) so he could concentrate on writing instead of looking up facts. I don’t fault him for that, especially since he started writing before Google and Wikipedia. Even though I had read many books about Titanic and my grandfather often spoke of it when I was a child, I relied on internet research while writing COLD APRIL to be certain I had the correct ship details.

But having someone else do the writing just so one can flood the bookstores with dozens of books every month? Call me a purist, but I think that’s cheating. I’m also sure Patterson doesn’t care; he just laughs all the way to the bank.

* * *

A copy of THE ITALIAN JOB was won by Patricia in S.F., who commented on my blog two weeks ago. Paper or e-book Patricia? Contact me please.

And congratulations to Lisa Hobman whose debut novel BRIDGE OVER THE ATLANTIC, launches today. If you think your too-curvy body inhibits romance, you’ll want to check this one out.

Wednesday, March 27, 2013


This month’s Atlantic magazine carries an article about Lorenz (Larry) Hart, the lyricist who wrote with composer Richard Rodgers until his untimely death at 48 in 1943. Between 1919 and 1943 the duo wrote 28 Broadway musicals, some still performed today. Rodgers teamed up next with Oscar Hammerstein and their first collaboration, OKLAHOMA!, was a great success.

Yet, I wish we’d had more years of those fantastic Hart lyrics. Maybe it’s because I’m a writer that words mean so much to me. I admire someone who has a clever way with them. Even readers who weren’t born until much later have heard of songs like, “The Lady is a Tramp, “My Funny Valentine,” and “Manhattan.”

“Bewitched, Bothered and Bewildered” from PAL JOEY begins, “I’m wild again, beguiled again, a simpering, whimpering child again.” One of my favorites is about an ended love affair called “It Never Entered My Mind.” It would help to know the music, but even so I think you can appreciate the words.

Once I laughed when I heard you saying
That I’d be playing
Uneasy in my easy chair
It never entered my mind.
Once you told me I was mistaken
That I’d awaken
With the sun
And order orange juice for one,
It never entered my mind

Most songs written at the time were a collaboration. A composer wrote the music and a poet wrote the words. Lorenz Hart was such a poet. But music changed. The popularity of the Beatles made every young man a guitarist who wanted to write his own songs. Not just music, but words too. And because he wasn’t a poet we were subjected to lyrics with a mind-numbing repetition of “baby, baby, baby.”

Next week I’ll be appearing in a musical produced by the local Performing Arts Club, singing a song by a more modern Broadway lyricist, Stephen Sondheim, who wrote the words to Leonard Bernstein’s music for WEST SIDE STORY. Sondheim later began to write music as well as lyrics for his shows. COMPANY  is my favorite, and, I think the best. Here’s a sample of the lyrics from “The Little Things You Do Together.”

It’s the little things you share together,
swear together,
dare together
that make marriage a joy
The concerts you enjoy together,
neighbors you annoy together,
children you destroy together
that keep marriage intact.

There’s lots more similar to that, ending with:

“It’s things like using force together.
Shouting till you’re hoarse together,
Getting a divorce together
That make perfect relationships.”

Remembering all those different ideas - and singing them at a faster-than-usual pace - is challenging, but I love it.

Writing is a lonely occupation and, although I won’t stop doing it, every once in a while I need to interact with other people. Being in the company of  singers, dancers and actors is like joining a happy family working together to achieve something - a night of words and music - for others to enjoy.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013


My latest contemporary romance novel has just been released. The title is THE ITALIAN JOB, and, as you can tell, it takes place mainly in Italy, although it begins and ends in Los Angeles.

My heroine, Sydney, is a magazine reporter sent abroad to write an article about a tour of Rome, Florence and Venice. She meets hero Taylor when they board the same flight. The seven hours to Rome give them a chance to get acquainted and for him to ask if he can join her tour. Fortunately he does. Not so fortunately, he hints of trouble. Just her luck if this eligible man has a skeleton in his closet. But there are even more problems ahead, and Sydney is just savvy enough to solve them.

Since my computer guru is out sick, I can’t get THE ITALIAN JOB up on my Home Page yet, but when I do, I’ll be giving away a free copy to my readers, so stay tuned.

As is the case in most of my novels, I use personal experience, such as having toured the places in my settings. THE ITALIAN JOB allowed me to revisit the marvelous sights of Rome, Florence and Venice, as well as Pisa and Lake Como.

My novel NORTH BY NORTHEAST put the reader on the same train trip between New Orleans and Washington, D.C. that hubby and I took, although, unlike that heroine, I wasn’t kidnapped and forced into a jewel heist.

ONCE MORE WITH FEELING, set in one of my favorite old haunts, San Francisco, deals with illegal insider trading in the stock market, and STRANGER IN PARADISE takes place in my other favorite destination, Hawaii. Twenty years of owning a condo on Maui made me feel like a native. Not to forget SOUTHERN STAR, which helped me relive ten days on a yacht, even though mine didn’t go through the Bahamas or have criminals on board.

Trips, life experiences and happy times can all be used, but even not-so-happy events can become helpful, even romantic stories. As someone wrote, “Writers have no problems: it’s all material.”

Do you put real places and events in your novels? I’ll bet you do. Tell me about them, and I’ll put you on the lottery list for a free copy of THE ITALIAN JOB.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013


David Farland is an award-winning New York Times best-selling author with over 50 novels in print. He has won the Philip K. Dick Memorial Special Award for “Best Novel in the English Language” for his science fiction novel, “On My Way to Paradise,” the Whitney Award for “Best Novel of the Year” for his historical “In the Company of Angels,”, and the International Book Award for “Best Young Adult Novel of the Year” for “Nightingale.”

Recently Dave released a book geared toward writing titled “Million Dollar Outlines.” In it he discusses how to write a novel that has a wide readership, giving it the potential to be a best-seller. Along with providing writers with outline and audience analysis methods, Dave also offers 28 “plotting tools” in his book. A plotting tool is basically a technique that can make your story more exciting, interesting, satisfying or complete. Today, Dave is going to share one with us.


When we talk about writing, there are three kinds of crucibles–crucibles of setting, relationship, or condition. But first we need to define, “What is a crucible?”

In metal-smithing, a crucible is a container used to hold metal or liquid as it boils. For example, to melt gold, one takes a heavy bowl made from steel and sets it in a fire. The steel, which can withstand higher temperatures than gold, doesn’t melt. But the small container quickly becomes super-heated, so that the gold liquefies in moments.

In fiction, a crucible is any setting, condition or relationship that keeps characters (such as a protagonist and an antagonist) from splitting apart.

By forcing these characters to remain together, we sometimes create an almost intolerable atmosphere. It allows us to super-charge the relationships, raise the heat.

For example, imagine that John and Mary have been married for years, but have grown apart. They decide that they don’t love each other anymore. The logical thing for them to do would be for them to divorce and split up, right? But there’s no story in that. The characters could easily resolve the situation by leaving, so as a writer, you need them to stay together.

So imagine that John and Mary have grown apart but both love their six-month-old daughter. Neither is willing to end the relationship so long as they risk losing the child. Now you have a crucible, a binding force that keeps the two together.

But there are different kinds of crucibles. Maybe it is a child. But maybe you could do the same by putting them both in a car and having them get stuck in a snowstorm. The car is a different kind of container from the relationship, but both work to keep the couple together.

So there are three different kinds of crucibles.

Crucibles of Setting

A setting may act as a crucible. You’ve all seen comedies where several people are stuck in a cabin in a snowstorm, and each of them is at the other’s throat. You will also quickly remember the movie, “Snakes on a plane,” even if you’ve never seen it. A crucible of setting might be a story set in your characters’ workplace, on a ship, or in a small town. The important point is to keep the characters together as much as possible, and to let personalities rub against one another until their tempers boil.

Crucibles of Relationship

You can never escape your family. You might try, but often the family relationship is a crucible. A child wanting to leave home is a crucible in the same way that a father who must pay child-support is in a crucible. Any two people who are married are in a crucible, as are any two people who just happen to be in love.

I recall a fine Western when I was young about two heroic cowboys who are both in love with the same woman. They are forced to band together to rescue her from a kidnapper. The men hate each other, and as the audience gets to know each man better, they both come to vie for our affections.

Soldiers in a squadron will find themselves in a crucible. For example, in “The Lord of the Rings” those who had joined the Fellowship were thrust into a crucible--a small band of men forced to band together for their own protection. It may be that your character finds himself fighting beside someone he detests--a murderer or a rapist--and yet he is unable to walk away from the conflict.

Your crucible may also be your conflict with your culture. We’ve probably all known various folks--Catholics, Jews, Muslims, etc., who try to leave their religion behind but can never stop talking about it. But it doesn’t have to be your religious culture. My father ran away from the Blue Ridge Mountains to escape the hillbilly lifestyle. I had a girlfriend who left her fine home in Southern California because she despised her family’s wealth. In the movie, “My Big Fat Greek Wedding,” we have a girl whose main conflict comes about when she is embarrassed by her ethnic roots.

Crucibles of Condition

An intolerable condition may also be a crucible--such as an illness that two very different characters join forces to beat. We see this kind of crucible used every week as Doctor House tries to solve the latest medical mystery. But it can also set your characters up to fight an economic or political condition--the hunger in India, the tribalism of North Africa.

The condition might be something as mundane as crime in the streets. Policemen who despise one another are often found joining forces to fight drug lords, rapists, and other types of crime.

So as you form your story, consider how you might strengthen your conflicts by developing one or more crucibles.

Can you think of any more examples of crucibles? Can you see a way to strengthen your own story by adding a crucible? Leave a comment and let us know.

* * *

To learn about the rest of Dave’s plotting tools, or how to write for a wide audience, check out his book: