Wednesday, December 17, 2014


It’s all English, thank goodness. According to what I read recently, when we split from the British in the 17th century, there was talk of changing our official language to German. Nevertheless, what remains of our attempts to modernize it, has still left us with differences which I, for one, find charming.

I may not write “colour” for “color,” or “honour” for “honor,” since I agree the Norman conquerors should never have left those useless “u”s behind, but I don‘t have any trouble understanding when I encounter them in U.K. published books. However, I’m half English, so perhaps that explains my willingness to accept their spelling and even use some British versions myself.

For instance, I’ve always spelled “theater” as “theatre,” and prefer “grey” to “gray,” but “colonize” instead of “colonise.”

My grandfather, John Ashworth, emigrated to the U.S. in the late 19th century on board the New York. As I remarked in the blurb on the back of my Titanic novel, COLD APRIL, that ship was the one which almost collided with Titanic leaving Southhampton on April 10, 1912. My father’s sister, Eva, married another Englishman, James Shallcross, so I used that name for my COLD APRIL female character.

Therefore, my father was Richard Ashworth and I was Phyllis Ashworth (usually just “Phyll”) at school. In fact, my father having passed on by that time, I used the author name “Phyll Ashworth,” on my very first novel, the 400-page mainstream tome CHOICES.

Many years ago, on my first visit to England, I met one of my father’s cousins who still lived there. Plus, due to a lovely English couple who moved here for several years while the husband worked at United Air Lines with my husband, we have British friends. Corresponding with them, plus reading all those British mysteries growing up, and watching British sitcoms every Saturday night, established my habit of mixing spellings with abandon. And I shall go on doing so in spite of my computer putting squiggly red lines under them.

* * *
I’m off for a two-week Christmas vacation. Happy Holidays to you.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014


Some of you may remember when this book was originally published in the spring of 2013. I chose a small press, named 5Prince, and they were very nice and efficient. However, my ideas for promotion were different from theirs, so we parted amiably and I got my rights back.

This version has a different cover - although also of Venice - because the cover design belongs to the artist, but the text inside is exactly the same. My current publisher is the one who has done most of my books, and the price is the same as those, $2.99 for the e-book. As you know, I recently offered it free for five days; but if you didn’t get a copy then, here’s your chance.

The novel sat in my computer for a long time before the spring of 2013, while I rethought it and rewrote it, and I finally decided it was time to put it out in the world. There’s also a trade paperback version, and I’m happy to say I sold several copies at the recent Arts & Crafts Fair in the community where I live.

The story is based on the trip to Italy that my husband and I took several years ago. At that time we had a neighbor who was a travel agent and - at a neighborhood get-together - she and I discussed such a trip. I told her we’d been on a couple of tours of Europe that involved a large bus (excuse me, “motor coach,”) and I didn’t want to do that again. She suggested a small tour, only ten people and a guide, using a van, not a bus. To make a long story short, she arranged it for us, my husband added a few more cities to the “Rome, Florence, and Venice” itinerary and off we went.

The van, the tour guide and those cities all appear in my novel. Even the gondola ride, although my husband shared it with me, not the man the book’s heroine met ten days before. Several other things actually happened and found their way into the story. For instance, we did go into the Rome church that has Christ’s manger. And I said it looked like a soup tureen, and we  laughed so hard we made a hasty exit.

When forming a plot for my characters, I often ask myself “what if?” so there was no divorcee with a teen-age daughter on our real tour, and therefore no accusation of molestation. But we did go to Lake Como (and maybe we passed George Clooney’s villa when we crossed the lake) and saw Bennett’s supermarket. Wow! Just Wow!

So, although fiction outweighs the facts in my novel, I hope you enjoy the scenery so much you want to go there yourself, and that the ending satisfies your romantic longings.  Happy reading.

Wednesday, November 26, 2014


The Anthony Awards - named for Anthony Boucher, who was a mystery writer, editor and reviewer - were held in mid-November at the annual Bouchercon World Mystery Convention in Long Beach, CA. Organized differently from other programs, its members make nominations and final voting is held at the actual event. Details are too long to repeat, but the nominations and winners are:

SUSPECT - Robert Crais - Putnam
A COLD AND LONELY PLACE - Sara J. Henry - Crown
THE WRONG GIRL - Hank Phillipi Ryan - Forge
THROUGH THE EVIL DAYS - Julia Spencer-Fleming - Minotaur

Winner: ORDINARY GRACE - William Kent Kruger - Atria

GHOSTMAN - Roger Hobbs - Alfred A. Knopf
RAGE AGAINST THE DYING - Becky Masterman - Minotaur
RECONSTRUCTING AMELIA - Kimberly McCreight - HarperCollins
THE HARD BOUNCE - Todd Robinson - Tyrus

Winner: YESTERDAY’S ECHO - Matt Coyle - Oceanview

THE BIG REAP - Chris F. Holm - Angry Robot
PURGATORY KEY - Darrell James - Midnight Ink
JOYLAND - Stephen King - Hard case Crime
THE WICKED GIRLS - Alex Marwood - Penguin

Winner: AS SHE LEFT IT - Catriona Mcpherson - Midnight Ink

DEAD END - Craig Fautus Buck - Untreed Reads
ANNIE AND THE GRATEFUL DEAD - Denise Dietz - Amazon Digital
INCIDENT ON THE 405 - Travis Richardson - Macmillan
THE CARE AND FEEDING OF HOUSEPLANTS - Art Taylor - Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine

Winner: THE CAXTON PRIVATE LENDING LIBRARY & BOOK DEPOSITORY John Connolly - Bibliomysteries - Mysterious Bookshop

MASTERMIND: How to Think Like Sherlock Holmes - Maria Konnikova - Viking Adult
THE SECRET RESCUE - Cate Lineberry - Little, Brown
ALL THE WILD CHILDREN - Josh Stallings - Snubnose Press
TROUBLED DAUGHTERS, TWISTED WIVES - Sarah Weinman, Editor - Penguin

Winner: THE HOUR OF PERIL - Daniel Stashower - Minotaur

ESCAPE THEORY - Margaux Froley - Soho Teen
Random House Children’s Books
DANCER, DAUGHTER, TRAITOR, SPY - Elizabeth Kiern - Soho Teen
THE CODE BUSTER’S CLUB - Penny Warner - Egmont, USA

Winner: THE TESTING - Joelie Charbonneau - Houghton Mifflin

BREAKING BAD - “Felina” by Vince Gilligan
THE FALL - “Dark Descent” by Allan Cubit
THE FOLLOWING - Pilot by Kevin Williamson
JUSTIFIED - “Hole in the Wall” by Graham Yost

Winner: THE BLACKLIST - Pilot by Jon Bokenkamp

HOUR OF THE RAT - Lisa Brackmann - Audible
MAN IN THE EMPTY SUIT - Sean Ferrell - AudioGO
CRESCENDO - Deborah J. Ledford - IOF Productions
DEATH AND THE LIT CHICK - G. M. Matliet - Dreamscape Media

Winner: THE CUCKOO’S CALLING - Robert Galbraith (J.K. Rowling) - Hachette Audio
(Note: Except for the above, publishers of the books which were nominated for Best Audio weren’t shown)

As for gender, there’s 17 women, 19 men, and 3 used “Chris” or initials.

* * *
Thanks for sticking around. My book, THE ITALIAN JOB, will be free on Amazon for five days, November 27 through December 1st. Grab an early Christmas present and have a great Thanksgiving.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014


I want to talk about two books this week. One is a new e-book on Amazon, but was published last year by a different small publisher and already has two book reviews. The other has been out two months but has no reviews yet. So I’m putting my request right up front. I’ll send you a free e-book of either one (or both) for honest reviews. They’re both romance novels. Descriptions can be seen on Amazon’s book pages.


Published in 2013 by a small press, it’s about 65,000 words and costs $2.99. It’s written in first person, which is something I seldom do, but seemed right for this story. Just as the title seemed right because the heroine’s job is to write a magazine article about a specific tour of three Italian cities. I loved writing the book because I could relive our trip to Italy. However, except for the background, the scenes of Rome, Florence, and Venice, my experience was nothing like the experience of my book’s heroine. I’m long married and didn’t meet my husband in Italy or on a flight to Rome. I also didn’t meet a divorcee who tried to steal him from the heroine.


This novella is about 28,000 words and costs $1.99. I wrote it for the Kindle World series, FOUR WEDDINGS AND A FIASCO, begun by best-selling author Lucy Kevin (who writes as Bella Andre for her other books). The premise of this World intrigued me since it was to be a “sweet” romance, relatively short, and was to be set in San Francisco, a city I lived in for 25 years. And where I really met my husband. San Francisco is considered very cosmopolitan, and visitors often compare it to European cities. Although I invented the eccentric, identical-twin aunts of the book’s hero, some readers have told me the ladies really exist.

Again, if I send you a free copy of one of these books, will you write and post an honest review? Thanks so much.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014


Last Sunday marked the 25th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall. I was there. Well, not exactly. The wall began to come down in November, 1989, and my husband and I were in Berlin five months later, in May of 1990. The city was jammed, due to a VIP meeting to discuss the reuniting of East and West Germany, and there were no hotel rooms available.

People put their names on a list for rooms in private homes, and, while we waited to learn if a room might be available for us, we decided to take a tour of the city. We asked for a taxi driver who spoke English and were rewarded with the services of a young man who drove us everywhere we wanted to go on both sides.

He told his own story of the night the wall began to crumble. His girlfriend was an opera singer, and, every night after his night’s work and her performance, they’d join friends at a café. On that night, a friend rushed in, shouting, “The wall is open. East Germans are rushing through and the guards aren’t stopping them.” Our driver and his friends hurried to the wall to see for themselves, leading to the pictures we’ve all seen of hundreds climbing on the wall, and others taking hammers to knock it down. The taxi driver’s girlfriend and her opera friends celebrated by singing a song about freedom from an opera they’d performed.

The driver took us through East Berlin where we saw the great difference between the cities, such as bullet holes in building walls and rubble in the streets, left over from World War II, now more than forty years in the past. We ended our tour near the Brandenburg Gate where dozens of people lined the street, sitting at tables where they sold pieces of the wall. We bought one.

Of course, we had no idea we’d see all that when we made our travel plans for a trip to Germany a year or more before. We wanted to see the Passion Play in Oberammergau, and, since it’s only given once every ten years and people come from all over the world to see it, early reservations are necessary. That, too, was a memorable experience.

As you may know, when the plague, called the Black Death, struck Europe, thousands of people died. Oberammergau, like other small villages, walled themselves in and refused to let strangers enter. However, one young man managed it and brought the plague with him. After several people died, the village elders held a prayer meeting, vowing that, if they were spared, they would hold a Passion Play every ten years throughout eternity. That was in 1633 and they were and they have. All the villagers take part and many open their homes to travelers. It’s held every day from May through October, and a roof over the audience keeps out rain.

That’s not the only passion play anymore. Almost every country holds one, and many cities in the U.S. do too. Eureka Springs, Arkansas, holds a famous one every year. We came close to seeing that one in 1965 while returning from Texas to Chicago after our niece’s wedding.

Thanks for your interest in my little history story. Next week I hope to have more writing and publishing news. Meanwhile, if you’ve seen a Passion Play or the Berlin Wall, add a comment.

Wednesday, November 5, 2014


Regular readers of my Blog know that I usually provide posts about books that have won awards. Such as the Edgar, Rita, Agatha and others. This one is about the Daphne du Maurier Awards given out at the annual RWA Conference by the Mystery/Suspense chapter, affectionately known as KOD or Kiss of Death.

It gives me great pleasure to announce this year’s winners, in six categories, plus an Overall Winner.

1. Series Romantic Mystery/Suspense finalists were:
Loreth Ann White for GUARDING THE PRINCESS, Harlequin Intrigue
Paula Graves for MURDER IN THE SMOKIES, Harlequin Intrigue
Paula Graves for SMOKY RIDGE CURSE, Harlequin Intrigue
Rebecca Zanetti for UNDER THE COVERS, Entangled Publishing

And the winner was Gail Barrett for A KISS TO DIE FOR, by Harlequin Romantic suspense

2. Historical Romantic Mystery/Suspense finalists were:
Jeannie Lin for THE LOTUS PALACE, Harlequin HQN
Katy Madison for LORD COLERAINE’S SCANDALOUS OFFER, Katy Madison Pub.
Erica Monroe for A DANGEROUS INVITATION, Quillfire Press
Christine Trent for LADY OF ASHES, Kensington Pub.

And the winner is Linda Lappin for SIGNATURES IN STONE, Caravel Books

3. Inspirational Romantic Mystery/Suspense finalists were:
Robin Caroll for STRAND OF DECEPTION, B & H Publishing
Debbie Guisti for THE GENERAL’S SECRETARY, Harlequin Love Inspired
Irene Hannon for TRAPPED, Revell Books
Susan Sleerman for NO WAY OUT, Harlequin Love Inspired

And the winner is Dani Pettrey for STRANDED, Bethany House

4. Paranormal (Futuristic) Romantic Mystery/Suspense finalists:
  Tamara Hogan for TEMPT ME, via Amazon
Mina Khan for WILDFIRE, Rashda Khan via Amazon
Daniellle Monsch for STONE GUARDIAN, Romantic Geek Pub.    
Jana Oliver for TANGLED SOULS, Nevermore, Atheneum, Simon & Schuster
Rebecca Zanetti for SHADOWED, eKensington

And the winner is Angie Fox for MY BIG FAT DEMON SLAYER WEDDING, Angie Fox Pub

5. Single Title Romantic Suspense finalists were:
Toni Anderson for HER LAST CHANCE, via Amazon
Kaylea Cross for IGNITED, Kaylea Cross Pub. via Amazon
B. J. Daniels for FORSAKEN, Harlequin HQN
Melinda Leigh for MIDNIGHT SACRIFICE, Montlake Romance

And the winner is Kendra Elliott for BURIED, Montlake Romance

6.  Mainstream Mystery/Suspense finalists were:
Gretchen Archer for DOUBLE WHAMMY, Henery Press
Allison Brennan for COLD SNAP, Minotaur, Macmillan
Rosie Genova for MURDER AND MARINARA, NAL, Penguin
Diane Hester for RUN TO ME, Random House, Australia

And the winner is Hank Phillippi Ryan for THE WRONG GIRL, Forge, Macmillan

And the Overall Daphne winner is Linda Lappin for SIGNATURES IN STONE, the winner of the Historical category.

What a difference two years make. Although some books published in 2011 received nominations and four of the 31 finalists were self-published books, this year’s 2013 finalists included many small press or self-published books, plus the Overall Winner.

Previously, Harlequin dominated the categories of Inspirational and Series, but this year they had to share awards with B&H, Bethany House, Revell and Entangled. Harlequin had six finalists (one winner), Kensington also had two finalists (no winners), and of the Big Five publishers, Macmillan had two finalists (one winner) and Random House Australia had one finalist (no winners). Half of the six winners were either self-published or Montlake (Amazon’s imprint) published. Which were most represented among finalists and winners? Small presses and self-published books had 18. The BPH, including Harlequin, had only 13.  The tide has indeed turned. Congratulations to all.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014


An article from, which I read on my favorite blog, The Passive Voice, tried valiantly last week to counteract Matt Yglesias’s article stating that “Amazon is doing the world a favor by crushing book publishers.” It listed all the steps Big 5 publishers go through to produce a book, and insisted that the process is too difficult and expensive for self-publishers to do. Before the day was out, that was countered by at least 95 comments from self-publishers who are doing just that, and far cheaper - to say nothing of faster - than the big guys.

Publishers, the middlemen between writers and readers, were once the only game in town, so authors had no choice but to sign the one-sided contracts that gave authors only 15-17% of the profit from selling their books. Compare that to the 70% of the profit Amazon gives authors who self-publish with them.

Amazon didn’t start out to crush publishers. Jeff Bezos was looking for industries where technology could make a difference, and “books” was just one of the six he found. I suspect that, in the beginning, even he didn’t realize exactly how far behind the times publishers were. Little by little he improved life for writers, and, when, instead of following Amazon and making improvements, the industry’s answer was to dig in, to fight progress and to demonize Amazon, he continued to prove how modern  methods could change lives.

Now, just a few years later, the site offers statistics proving self-published authors (mostly through Amazon’s divisions) earn more money from their writing than all the traditionally published authors combined. Over 500 such authors have shared their stories that, for the first time, they can quit their day jobs and make a living selling their books.

How did Amazon do it? First with cheaper books, then with the Kindle e-reader, then its self-publishing program. Later they added their own publishing lines for every kind of book: romance, mystery, science fiction, children’s, young adults, textbooks.

Since then, they’ve added Kindle Worlds, where authors can write, and earn 35%, for stories based on popular “worlds” created by best-selling authors. Then came Kindle Unlimited, where readers can choose, for less than $10 a month, among thousands of books to borrow and read. Plus authors get paid for the “borrows.”

Now another program is starting. Kindle Scout gives authors an opportunity to be published, with a $1500 advance and the possibility of earning $25,000 in royalties, with no long-term commitment and the choice to leave the program at any time. The only requirement is submission of a never-before published book in one of the three most-popular genres, recommended by a group  of readers as something they think should be published.

In my opinion, all of these innovations give authors an opportunity they never had before: to write whatever they want, get their books in front of waiting readers, be paid fairly, and treated like the indispensable partner that they truly are. When many authors take advantage of all the ways Amazon provides, who would willingly go through the trouble of trying traditional publishers? Who will wait for months to learn if they’re accepted (99% are not accepted), then forced to give up most of the income from their creations, to give up control of titles, covers, and prices, often for their lifetime plus 70 years, and to be prevented from writing other books? When enough writers take advantage of Amazon’s programs, then, truly, big publishing will be crushed, because there will be no one left for them.

Perhaps I shouldn’t have mentioned Kindle Scout because I intend to submit a book and, if hundreds of other writers do the same thing, I’ll have more competition. But, unlike some of the one percent of trad-published authors, I don’t want to keep it all for myself. Like most Indie writers, I’m willing to share.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014


Recently a blog that I follow ran an article, “Nine of the Most Terrifying Two-Sentence Horror Stories ever Written,” presumably in honor of Halloween this month. I’ll share two with you:

* * *
“My sister says that Mommy killed her. Mommy says that I don’t have a sister.”

“‘I can’t sleep,’ she whispered, crawling into bed with me. I woke up cold, clutching the dress she was buried in.”
* * *

Frankly, I would never read a book or story that started that way. I admit it. I’m a scaredy-cat. I don’t like to be scared and I don’t read horror novels. I read one Stephen King book and that was enough to turn me off. Judging by his sales, plenty of other people like his work. Just. Not. Me.

Scary movies are worse than books. In fact, I think my phobia began when I was a child (not sure of my age at the time, maybe five) and my cousins took me to a movie theatre to see THE BLACK CAT, (though I might have the title wrong). If a film we rented on Netflix gets scary, I leave the room.

Since I’ve always been this way, I can’t blame it on my aging brain, but these days, I don’t even want to know the news. Isis decapitating people. Ebola spreading. Climate change. Who needs scary stories when real life gets worse by the day? While my husband reads all the newspaper articles, I read the Funnies page, Dear Abby and the Bridge column.

Perhaps this phobia is responsible for my writing romance, where every story must have a HEA (Happy Ever After) ending. True, I also write romantic suspense novels, but they’re mild and often have humor. They’re not “thrillers.” My favorite mystery novelist is Agatha Christie, and my two novels featuring my amateur sleuth (soon to be published, I hope) are definitely “cozy.”

When those books are available, I’ll let you know, so you’ll be warned, in case even “cozy” mysteries are too scary for you. Hey, trust me. I get it.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014


Grammerly, a website that helps writers with grammar questions, recently did a survey of over 3000 writers and asked that question. 59% said women are the better writers.

Specifically, the results showed that in Plot Development, men are 55% more likely to get to the point quickly. Women, on the other hand, are 83% more likely to take longer and do more character development.

In the case of pronouns and determiners, men are more likely to write about people 56% of the time and about things 44% of the time. Women, on the other hand, write about people 68% of the time and about things only 32%.

Men and women writers are similar when it comes to writing about those characters. Men write about characters who are like themselves 54% of the time and about characters who are different only 46% of the time. Results for women are almost identical: 55% for similar and 45% for different.

Differences really show up when comparing writing styles. Men write long sentences only 34% of the time, and short sentences 66%. Women are the opposite. They write long, descriptive sentences 76% of the time and short ones only 24%.

Did the survey participants think longer sentences make women the better writers? Who knows? The final result is still very close.

* * *

A few weeks ago, I posted the news that my novella THE WEDDING GUEST, had been accepted for the Kindle Worlds series and many copies have been sold already. However, there are no reviews. If anyone would like a free e-book in exchange for an honest review on Amazon, please let me know and I’ll send one.

Wednesday, October 8, 2014


The cover article in the latest issue of The Writer Magazine is by Jack Smith and titled, “Start to Stop.” Mr. Smith says, “Crafting the beginning and ending of novels takes careful attention, patience, and a flair for the dramatic.”

We’ve been told from day one that, in order to be purchased and read, our novel must have a beginning that hooks the reader. Because of that advice, authors have spent more time on their first chapters, rewriting as many as thirty times. In fact, first paragraphs, even first sentences, get the lion‘s share of our attention.

Smith gives examples of good novel beginnings that are worth studying. Like all writers, I, too, have agonized over beginnings and worked hard to make them grab the reader. Here are a few from my books which I’m especially fond of.

From CHOICES. “Exactly an hour and fifteen minutes after taking off from Los Angeles International Airport, First Officer Reg Humboldt felt the strange vibration.”

From FREE FALL. “It seemed like only yesterday that Jennifer's boss repeated, ‘You're going to drive an airplane down the highway and park it in the middle of the mall?’”

From NORTH BY NORTHEAST. “Haley Parsons stared into the beauty salon's oversized mirror. A stranger stared back at her. The eyes, nose and mouth looked like hers, but the hair made all the difference.”

From STRANGER IN PARADISE. “Dana knew she’d fallen into a dream job. And, like a dream, it could disappear in an instant. Yet, she tried not to think of that. This was Hawaii. This was Paradise.”

From SOUTHERN STAR. "I wouldn't ask Gary Pritchard to captain Southern Star if he were the last skipper left alive in the Bahamas!"

And yet, I think Mickey Spillane said, “The first page sells that book. The last page sells your next book.” Smith gives examples of endings as well, although, not knowing the rest of the book, it’s difficult to judge them. However, I once won a contest by San Diego Writers Monthly Magazine for the best ending.  From DEAD MEN’S TALES, soon to be published. Less than 250 words, here it is:

The client stood, dropped the check on the desk, and left.
I plopped down in the chair and picked up the check. The number itself wasn't that large but some nice zeroes followed. I waved it in Brad's face.
"So are you going to sit around your house being rich?" he asked.
"No, like it or not, as I said, I'm going to become your partner. I think I'm ready to be a private investigator."
"But what about your charity work, your Bridge parties, travel?"
"Oh, I'll still do my charity work and play Bridge, but compared to this business, the other is a little boring."
"You'll have to come in every day, learn a lot, work hard."
"I like hard work when it's really interesting,” I said.
"But it's so erratic: chicken today, feathers tomorrow.  And, even when we get clients, sometimes they don't pay on time, or at all."
"I have an independent income." I waved the check again.  "And a nice cushion besides."
"Worst of all, it can be dangerous."
I leaned back in the chair and smiled.  "Don't be shy, Brad.  Tell me what you really think."
He burst out laughing, leaned across the desk and gave me a high-five. "Welcome aboard, Partner."

Tuesday, September 30, 2014


To my blog post readers, the following is my talk today at a meeting of the Writers’ Circle, a club I started seven years ago. This may be too elementary for most of you, but, as you’ll see, some writers don’t know the difference between memoirs and stories, and perhaps you’ll find something of value in this.

Many of you may have entered the News & Views Short Story contest. Some may have entered it last year too. The winner and finalists were published in News & Views throughout the year. Like some of you, I was a finalist, but, perhaps unlike you, I noticed - on reading the stories when they were published - that most were not stories, but memoirs.

Why do I say that? Because they sounded like someone telling me about an event in their lives, an event that really happened, instead of a made-up story.

Apparently the News & Views judges felt the same way I did, that the entries were not stories, but memoirs. How do I know that? Because this year they required the writer to include three specific elements in the story they entered: an annoying boss, a bikini and a fake illness. Since it was unlikely a writer really experienced an event containing all three elements, it seems to me they were trying to encourage writers to write “made up” stories, not memoirs, real things that happened to them.

It’s obviously too late for my advice today to show up in that contest entry. However, Writers Circle holds a contest every year too and when we say we want “Fiction,” we mean Fiction, which Websters dictionary defines as ”something invented by the imagination, an invented story.”

Therefore, if you turn in something with the pronoun “I," the judges have been instructed to consider that “non-fiction” meaning something not invented, but true, and they will put it with “non-Fiction.”

Now, it’s possible to write fiction in the first person, that is, using the pronoun “I.” I’ve written novels that way myself. So how does a reader know if the material is a memoir, or a short story written in first person? Well, one obvious clue will be the subject matter. If I write as if I’m a Private Eye, or a mass murderer or the president of a large country, you can be sure it’s fiction. But if there’s any doubt, be aware the judges may decide it’s a memoir.

So let’s define Short story versus Memoir. What’s needed to be sure it’s a story?

1. Pronoun. Stories generally describe characters as “he” or “she”, not “I”.

2. The plot. What happens in a story is generally very different from ordinary life. Not always, but usually. And those are the stories people “usually” prefer to read. Think of the popularity of what’s called “genre” fiction:

Romance, where the girl meets the Billionaire who falls in love with her and they marry and live happily ever after.

Mystery. Someone is killed and a smart sleuth figures out “whodunit.” Justice is served.

Thriller. A bad person wants to take over the world, but someone else prevents it and saves humanity.

Science Fiction. A strange new world is invented where strange things happen. Even if there’s romance or mystery, too, the strange world makes it fiction, not memoir.

If you read a book or attend a class, or a writing workshop which teaches how to write a short story, you will probably be taught what I was a long time ago. Namely,

(1) a character has a problem or goal or desire.

(2) the character is unable to reach this goal because of obstacles.

(3) the character tries - maybe many times - to succeed and finally he either reaches his goal and has a “happy ending” or he fails and has an “unhappy” ending.

What are the possible obstacles to achieving his goal?

(A) Man against man. Hero against a bad guy.

(B) Man against nature. He’s on a mountain and a blizzard comes up.

(C) Man against himself. He has a character flaw he must correct before he can win the job or the girl.

Read some short stories in anthologies until it becomes clear what a short story is. Deadline for entries is our February WC meeting. Good luck.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014


Amazon may be “The Everything Store,” and perhaps that’s what CEO Jeff Bezos is most interested in. However, writers are the beneficiaries of his interest in books. He started just selling books from publishers, but he made them cheaper than anywhere else, easy to order with “one Click” and gave fast shipping. And that’s not even counting inventing the Kindle and its later versions which has turned readers onto digital instead of paper books. Not that paper is dead or ever will be, but most writers report their biggest sales come from e-books. Some are making six figures and many have quit their day jobs because of that income.

Thanks to Amazon, self-publishing has taken off in a big way too. True, there was lots of it going on before they came along, but it was by vanity presses and a few scams where authors paid huge sums to get their books printed. Amazon’s prices are low and the books are high quality. If you price your self-published e-book between $2.99 and $9.99, you get to keep 70 percent of the price and payment is made monthly, not every six months like the BPH.

In addition, Amazon publishes books, and so many writers query them with manuscripts, it’s sometimes hard to get the work looked at, much less accepted for publication. Their lines include Montlake Romance for romance novels, Thomas & Mercer for mystery and 47-North for science fiction. There are also imprints for translated works, literary fiction and classics, among others.

Wait. That’s not all. As I mentioned in an earlier blog post, Amazon hosts Kindle Worlds where best-selling authors create “worlds” to which writers can submit novellas, and if accepted, receive 35 percent of the price of every copy sold.

And there’s more. Within the next 45 days, Amazon will begin another program for writers in which full-length novels can be entered for possible publication with advances and a guaranteed minimum income. I won’t name all the other perks, but it’s an awesome list. I suspect the goal for this program is to lure authors contracted by the BPH (especially Hachette) because those writers can only dream of getting such a good deal from them. It’s no secret that the big publishers treat their writers very badly, with terrible contract clauses, to say nothing of keeping 82 percent of the money so they can afford their New York offices and fancy lunches.

But even if that is Amazon’s goal, I’ll be happy to sign on and try to get one of those deals.  I’ve already been treated well by Amazon, with the books they self-publish for me, as well as having my romance novel SOUTHERN STAR in their Montlake imprint and my novella, THE WEDDING GUEST, in a Kindle World. I’m not earning six figures, but I’m a very happy camper.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014


Last week The Passive Voice carried an article by Maria Popov about keeping a diary or journal. Writing in her weekly blog, Brain Pickings, Ms. Popov lists names of famous people who kept diaries and what they said in them.

She quotes W. H. Auden, Madeleine L’Engle, Anais Nin, Sylvia Plath, Thoreau, Emerson, and Virginia Woolf. Not all diarists were writers. Others were artists or scientists. The author reports they used their diaries as tools for discipline, teaching the art of solitude and a way to inhabit their inner selves. They wrote about what interested them, or nature, or life and death. Diarists have left behind glimpses of their inner lives and creative struggles.

Probably the most famous diarist was 13-year-old Anne Frank, who didn’t think anyone would care what she had to say. Contrast that with Oscar Wilde, who said, “I never travel without my diary. One should always have something sensational to read in the train.”

Keeping a diary seems old fashioned today, and those written by long-dead authors were written by hand and sometimes filled several volumes. It’s strange to think of doing that now, although I’ve read that mystery writer Sue Grafton writes in her journal every day, the one she keeps in her computer.

I kept a diary for a short time when I was a teenager, and then again when my early marriage fell apart, but that was many years ago. I suppose you could say that my novels are my diaries now because details of my travels or places I’ve lived have found their way into my books. Of course, we’re told to “write what you know,” so in a way I’m just following instructions. It also explains, perhaps, why I like to write in first person. I feel the writing seems more authentic and it goes more smoothly.

My two cozy mysteries, which have yet to be published, are written in first person, but then aren’t most mysteries? Think of Sue Grafton, Raymond Chandler and John D. MacDonald.

Yet only one of my romance novels is done that way. It’s THE ITALIAN JOB, which I’ll be republishing within the next month. I did it because I wanted to use a phrase which didn’t sound right any other way. What is the phrase? At the end of a particular scene my character thinks, “I learned a long time ago that I have plenty of faults, so I lean toward forgiving others for theirs.”

How about you? Have you ever kept a diary or journal? Do you now? What kinds of things do you put in it? If I get some good ideas, I may take it up again.

The Passive Voice
Brain Pickings
Sue Grafton

Wednesday, September 10, 2014


Pardon me if I share some good news this week. My romantic suspense novel, FINDING AMY, has been a slow starter, but I’m in hopes sales will pick up. As a matter of fact, I’m not the only author who found this past summer to be less than stellar.

Joe Konrath, whose blog I follow, has experienced the same thing and, last week, his blog post was about things a writer can do to try to move the needle up the chart. Such as:

1. Write more books. You can inform your newsletter, Facebook or Twitter friends about your latest effort, which is probably the best way to generate more interest in your work.

2. Advertise. I can’t give you any tips on where, but the usual suspects are BookBub, E-bookSoda, E-BookBooster and FussyLibrarian. Some are more expensive than others, so check them out first.

3. Have a sale or use Amazon’s Countdown to lower your book price temporarily to generate some interest.

4. Try a new genre. This is a lot like Write Another Book, but, in case you were thinking about expanding your niche anyway, this might be a good time to try that. It’s even possible you’d have more readers in, for example, New Adult, than your present genre.

5. Use the Pre-order option. Recently Amazon announced it allows KDP authors to use Pre-Order for self-published books, so give it a try. Hachette can’t, but you can.

6. Send a copy of your book to a new reviewer. That’s what I did and the MENSA BULLETIN posted a blurb and cover picture. All Mensa members are allowed to submit books for their monthly column, and fellow members are probably more likely to want to sample your work than the average Joe or Jane.

The above is a tip as well as my “good news” report. Remember too, that every industry has its up and down moments and this slowdown might blow over sooner than you think. Just do what you can and be grateful your career path lets you do what you love every day. As Joe says, “The world doesn’t owe you a living.”

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

WHY SOME AUTHORS FAIL (And How to Avoid Being One of Them)

I’m not a best-selling author. Yet. But the following list of attitudes and behaviors made me think about self-defeating actions that might slow me down in my quest for writing success. Perhaps you’re guilty of one of these too.

1. Not knowing enough about the industry. Why would you launch into a new business without knowing about it? It’s easy to publish these days. However, industry news won’t come to you without a little effort. Two good places to help you keep up are Publishers Marketplace and Publishers Weekly. Some writers’ blogs are good resources too. I especially like Anne R. Allen’s blog (once a week on Sunday) and The Passive Voice (every day).

2. Not Accepting Feedback. If you have a critique group, or Beta readers, or even if you just ask someone to read something you wrote, pay attention to what they say. Not everything others say will be right or helpful, but keep an open mind and at least consider it. And above all, be polite and thank them. They’ll probably never know if you took their advice, but it doesn’t hurt to be gracious.

3. Not using professionals. Most advice these days centers on at least two professionals who can be very useful in making your book better: A cover designer, and an Editor. For proofreading to catch typos or grammar mistakes, you don’t need to spend a lot of money. Your critique partners can help or you can swap chores.

4. Playing the blame game. If your book sales slow down, or no one’s reading your blog, it’s not necessarily because readers are dense. Try to learn how to improve, whether it’s writing better blog posts, adding to your mailing list, updating your website, or providing a new cover or blurb for your book.

5. Believing the Unbelievable. There are no guarantees. You may never get on the New York Times best seller list or be a guest on Oprah, but it’s certainly possible for you to earn enough from your writing to pay a few bills (maybe a lot of bills!) Or even be able to quit your day job. Recently over 500 self-published authors revealed they were doing just that.

6. Giving up too soon. Publishing is a marathon, not a sprint. You don’t have to make millions in the first 60 days after your book comes out. It’s not a product, like food, that will spoil. E-books are forever and you have time to let readers find you.

Keep writing and good luck.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014


#1. First, during the week, I apparently sold copies of both FINDING AMY, my newest romantic-suspense novel, and THE WEDDING GUEST, the Kindle Worlds romance novella. That was fast, although as I said last week, both books were priced at $1.99 at the time.

#2. I had an interesting e-mail from a young woman who is a grad student at an Illinois university, earning her Masters degree in English. Her thesis is on Titanic fiction and she chose my book, COLD APRIL, as one of the books she read. I was also pleased she said she enjoyed reading it.

Since I’m from Illinois myself, I answered all her questions and am sending her an autographed trade paper copy of COLD APRIL.


This started out good, when a friend who lives in Phoenix telephoned to ask if I would be the speaker at a writers’ club where she lives. She’s not a writer herself, but knows some of the members and told them about me.

The meeting at which I was to speak will be held on March 21, 2015, and I said I’d call her back. I postponed the decision to accept because I had a sneaky feeling March 21 was the date of the Spring Arts & Crafts Fair here, and the club I started seven years ago participates. I called the chairman and learned the fair will be March 20 and 21.

“Well,” thought I, “I have a great idea. I can do both. I’ll attend the Fair on the 20th and then DH and I can drive to Phoenix that evening so I can appear at the meeting on the 21st.”

Great idea lasted about twenty minutes. When I mentioned it to DH, he remembered that the spring Arts & Crafts Fair often falls on the same weekend as the Sun City Singers concert and he’s one of the Singers. He phoned the club president and then shared the bad news. That is indeed the same weekend. I called my Phoenix friend and asked, but she’s sure there’s no way they can move the date of that meeting. Woe is me.


Of course my losing the opportunity to talk to writers and, perhaps, sell some books, is also frustrating. However, I was thinking specifically about my Amazon royalties for sales of my books. Yes, it’s nice to suddenly have money show up in my bank checking account, but, most of the time, I haven’t a clue which of my books was sold. The thing is I have eight books listed on Amazon, and the long number they show doesn’t match any numbers I have for my books.

Still, I did receive some money, and, yes, I’m grateful. No sad songs for me. All in all, it was a Very Good Week.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014


I’m so excited. My novella, THE WEDDING GUEST, was accepted into the Kindle World, FOUR WEDDINGS AND A FIASCO. It went up almost a week ago and is $1.99.

The first books in the “Wedding” series were written by Lucy Kevin, which, as many of you know, is a pen name for Bella Andre, one of the super stars of self-published Romance novels. A few other authors have written novellas for this world, and royalties are thirty-five percent. Bella also has another World, titled, GAME FOR LOVE, which is also open for new books by other writers.

In addition, there are Worlds created by H. M. Ward, Barbara Freethy and Hugh Howey, and, if you write for one of them and yours is accepted, you can boast about being in great company. At least, I am. LOL.

The World Licensor sets up his or her World and a new writer must use that, but the story created can add new characters and plots and belongs to the author. I was lucky that the Wedding series is set in San Francisco, where I lived for twenty-five years, so it was fun.

The Kindle Worlds team is also working on creating new Worlds, so authors should keep watching the site for chances to be published in one of them.

THE WEDDING GUEST is my second book (FINDING AMY is the other) to be priced at $1.99, but that’s unless you get AMY at only 99 cents for one more day. It goes to $1.99 on the 22nd and returns to its usual price of $3.99 on August 25. But THE WEDDING GUEST will always be only $1.99. And worth it if I do say so myself.

The heroine is a financial advisor and the hero comes to her because his twin 85-year-old aunts are also clients. He, too, invests with her, and of course they fall in love. But, when a problem arises, she thinks he was passing on illegal insider information. Read my 27,000 word novella to learn how they are able to come to their HEA ending.

Plus, if you like THE WEDDING GUEST, a review on Amazon will be appreciated. Thank you.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014


The e-book version of my romantic suspense novel, FINDING AMY, was free for five days back in April. After that, it cost $3.99. Now, thanks to Amazon Countdown, it’s going to have a lower price for several days in August. So if you didn’t get it before, here’s your second chance for a bargain.

From August 19th to 22nd, FINDING AMY will be only 99 cents.

But wait, that’s not all. From August 22nd to 26th, it will be priced at only $1.99. On the 26th, the price will go back to $3.99. So you have two chances to get a bargain if you act soon.

FINDING AMY is my latest, and one of my favorite, novels. Besides the romance between an American woman and a British gentleman (and I do mean Gentleman!), it’s set in two cities I’ve visited and have fond memories of, London and Paris. Actually, I was a visitor to both cities more than once, especially London, where my relatives once lived, in addition to friends.

I love to write romance, but I don’t write erotica. Sure, sometimes my characters go to bed together, but I prefer to close the door and let readers imagine the love-making in any way they like. Remember GONE WITH THE WIND? In one scene in that film, Rhett Butler carries his wife, Scarlett, upstairs with the promise, “This is one night you’re not going to shut me out.” The first scene the next morning shows Scarlett waking up with a big smile on her face. Use your imagination about what made her so happy.

Romance, in my opinion, should always make us happy. I’m happy writing it and I hope you’re happy reading it. It’s one of the reasons being a writer is the greatest career available.

Oh yes, one more thing. The cover of FINDING AMY has had a slight change. It’s a bit brighter than before. I hope you like that, too. And, please, if you enjoy FINDING AMY, write a review and post it on Amazon. Thank you.

Wednesday, August 6, 2014


But first, a correction. Last week, I said there was one self-published book among the nine Rita Award winners. I was wrong. There were two. The second was TAKE ME, COWBOY, a romance novella by Jane Porter. It turns out Tule Publishing is her own imprint. Congratulations, Jane.

* * *

Language guru Richard Lederer is at it again, making fun of our English language, so here are some jokes to get us through a long, hot summer.

1. Bad spellers of the world: untie!

2. Every time you make a typo, the errorists win.

3. If “Pro” and “Con” are opposites, is Congress the opposite of Progress?

4. Have you heard about the dyslexic, agnostic insomniac? He stayed up all night, wondering if there was a “dog.”

5. My girlfriend texted me, “Your adorable.” I replied, “No, YOU’RE adorable.” Now she’s crazy about me and I haven’t the heart to tell her I was just pointing out her typo.

6. The A.P. Style Guide is now accepting “over” in place of “more than.” A number of people have replied, “More than my dead body!”

7. A linguistics professor lectured to his class one day: “In English a double negative forms a positive. In some languages, such as Russian and Spanish, a double negative is still a negative. However, in no language can a double positive form a negative.”  A voice from the back answered, “Yeah, right.”

Have a great day.

Wednesday, July 30, 2014


At their Annual Conference in San Antonio, Texas, last week, the Romance Writers of America handed out statues to the winners of the Rita Awards. This was the first year that self-published books could be entered, and, as I reported in my Blog post of May 21, six of the 77 finalists were self-published books.

Although many more finalists were admitted to the categories of Contemporary, Historical and Paranormal, there was only one winner in each of the nine categories. And one of those was self-published. It was Carolyn Crane’s Romantic Suspense novel, OFF THE EDGE. Congratulations, Carolyn, for being one out of nine.

Here’s the complete list:

** Best First novel. THE SWEET SPOT. Laura Drake. Grand Central Publishing, Forever.

** Contemporary Romance. CRAZY THING CALLED LOVE. Molly O’Keefe. Random House, Ballantine

** Erotic Romance. CLAIM ME. J. Kenner. Random House, Bantam.

** Historical Romance. NO GOOD DUKE GOES UNPUNISHED. Sarah MacLean. Harper-Collins, Avon Books

** Inspirational Romance. FIVE DAYS IN SKYE. Carla Loreana. David C. Cook.

** Paranormal Romance. THE FIREBIRD. Susanna Kearsley. Sourcebooks.

** Romance Novella. TAKE ME, COWBOY. Jane Porter. Tule Publishing, Montana Born.

** Romantic Suspense. OFF THE EDGE. Carolyn Crane. Self-Published.

** Short Contemporary Romance. WHY RESIST A REBEL. Leah Ashton. Harlequin, Kiss

As I mentioned last time, Contemporary Romance was the largest category with eighteen finalists. Among them were Nora Roberts, Penguin’s Queen of Romance, Bella Andre, possibly the Queen of self-published romance writers, and Christy Ridgeway, a USA Today best-selling author, who is a member of my own RWA chapter, San Diego. Sorry, Christy, but take some comfort in the fact you had a lot of competition and neither Nora nor Bella won that category either.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014


An article in the newspaper recently reported that the film, WHEN HARRY MET SALLY, was released twenty-five years ago. In a famous scene, a woman in a restaurant, played by director Rob Reiner’s mother, says, “I’ll have what she’s having,” and became part of our film culture.

Also this year, but fifty years ago, the film, TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD, based on Harper Lee’s only novel, was released and became one of the most popular films of all time. However, if there was a special, memorable line in it,  I’ve forgotten.

Such movie lines become part of our shared culture, because, hearing them again, we not only remember the words and who said them, but where and when we saw the film, as well as our age and circumstances at the time. Say them, and friends smile and nod.

No. 2. “Frankly, my dear, I don’t give a damn,” was the last line spoken by Rhett Butler when he leaves Scarlett O'Hara at the end of 1939‘s GONE WITH THE WIND. Scarlett gets her own last tine, too: “Tomorrow is another day.”

No. 3. CASABLANCA, (1941), gave Rick (Humphrey Bogart) three great lines. Many people think he said, “Play it again, Sam,” but he actually says, “Play it, Sam. Play ’As Time Goes By.’” Later, when he and Ilsa part, he reminds her, “We’ll always have Paris,” and, at the end, as he and Claude Rains go off together, he says, “I think this is the beginning of a beautiful friendship.”

No. 4. Bogart got another good line at the end of THE MALTESE FALCON (1942) when, speaking of the black bird, the title subject and the object everyone wanted, he says, “It’s the stuff dreams are made of.”

No. 5. Not all great film lines come at the end. Clint Eastwood made the list with two lines from DIRTY HAPPY (1971): “Do you feel lucky?” and, “Go ahead, make my day.”

No. 6. And who could ever forget Joe E. Brown saying to Jack Lemmon, who has just admitted he’s a man, “Well, nobody’s perfect,” in 1959's SOME LIKE IT HOT? A great last line.

If you remember other lines from films, please share them in the comments. And if you didn’t see any of the films I mentioned, you have a treat in store for you if you catch them on television or borrow them from Netflix.

Thursday, July 17, 2014


The following was a speech I gave to a new writers' club several years ago. Recently, I had reason to look it up, and I think the information is still valuable.

There are three secrets to becoming a writer. Unfortunately, nobody knows what they are. Seriously, I'm going to give you seven rules that I try to follow. There are probably more but if you're just beginning a writing career, these will help.

Rule No. 1.  Read a lot. Every fiction writer I know was an avid reader early in life. We loved stories. From there we progressed--sometimes early, sometimes late--to wanting to tell our own stories. Successful non-fiction writers have always had an urge to share information, or just tell somebody else what to do. Read anything and everything, but especially read the kind of stuff you want to write. You’ll learn from it too.
My first stories were written when I was still in grade school, along with some really bad poetry and thirteen chapters of a novel about a girl whose parents were wealthier than the Rockefellers (Well, Bill Gates wasn't born yet.). We were poor, so  I guess that was wishful thinking.
I was published in my high school paper and yearbook. I also sent my short stories to national magazines and, although none of those were published, I got a few promising letters from editors.

Rule No. 2.  A writer writes. Even if it doesn't get published you'll learn something from it. Have you heard the expression, “practice makes perfect”? I've got news for you: it's true. And, if not perfect, at least it gets better. Plus, it's out there. You can't be published if you don't put the seat of the pants on the seat of the chair, use your pencil, your pen, your typewriter or your computer. A famous writer said, “It's easy. Just sit in front of the paper and open up a vein.”
As for me, a few years after I married my husband, I acquired an IBM Selectric typewriter and went back to writing. I enrolled in a class taught by a local woman. She had us write down the premise to a short story. You know what a premise is. That's a sentence which describes the plot. For instance, the premise for Gone With the Wind might be: “Southern woman, in love with the wrong man, survives the Civil War, and loses the right man just as she realizes she really loves him.”
My premise was about a married woman with three small children, who has an accident which leaves her unable to care for her family, so she tells her husband to divorce her and marry someone else. The writing teacher said that was unbelievable. No woman would do that. I said, "That really happened. My aunt told me about it." And she said, "Yeah, but you know truth is stranger than fiction." And then she said the magic words, "Let it be a challenge to you, make it believable." So I wrote the story and I must have made it believable because it sold the first time out.
That thrilled me, and I thought my career was launched. But I didn't sell another thing for ten years. However, I kept writing, attended classes, workshops and conferences, subscribed to writers magazines and read books on writing.

Rule No. 3.  Learn your craft. It constantly amazes me how many people want to write who have never subscribed to a writing magazine, never read a book on writing, never attended a class, or workshop or conference.
I'm at a party and someone asks “What do you do?” and I say, “I'm a writer.” And they say, “I'm going to write a book some day.” Really? If I had answered, “I'm an architect,” would they have said, “I'm going to design a building some day”?
The reason they do that is because we all learned how to write in school. We wrote themes and book reports and even theses in college. Okay, maybe if you got a good grade on your college thesis you might some day write a non-fiction article or book. But fiction is a different skill. You have to learn how to do it.
In 1980 I joined a workshop and discovered everyone was writing romance novels. I had never read one, so I borrowed a few and read them and said, "I can do that." Of course, it's not as easy as it looks, but, because I actually read those books and saw how they were constructed, I finally won a contest in 1985 and my first romance novel was published in 1986, the same year as my non-fiction book Wall Street on $20 a Month, "How to profit from an investment club," was published by John Wiley & Sons.
Another nine years went by. By then I was selling articles and stories to magazines, and was asked to ghost-write three books. So I made enough money to support my habit. Not enough to live on, but it bought paper and stamps. I wrote two 30-minute radio plays which were produced by American Radio Theatre, and I wrote both a stage play and a screen play, both of which, so far, nobody wants. However, my one-act plays and short skits were performed by an acting troupe. So I was practicing.

Rule No. 4. Learn the language. Be sure you know correct English grammar, punctuation and spelling. If you're not sure how to spell a word, look it up in the dictionary. As for grammar, however, do not - repeat do not - trust your computer grammar software. Those things are not written by experts. Your desk should contain a minimum of four books: a good dictionary, a thesaurus, and books on grammar and punctuation. If you write poetry, a rhyming dictionary helps. And if you write non-rhyming free verse, God help you. I can't.
I was an RWA Golden Heart Finalist and I sold romance novels in 1986, 1995, 1998, 2000, 2002, 2006, and every year since. In 2001 I sold my mainstream novel, Choices, and North by Northeast, my romantic suspense novel, won the San Diego Book Award.

Rule No. 5.  Write what you know. You've heard that before and it's true. Those of you who are writing, or want to write, memoirs, are obviously writing about what you know. Those who are writing fiction can also profit from what they've done and seen.
My novel, Choices is based on the seventeen years I sold my husband's paintings at art shows. North by Northeast takes place on a train tour which we actually took. Another book takes place in Hawaii which I've visited often because we owned two condos on Maui for twenty years. Another takes place on a 52-foot yacht in the Bahamas, and I've been there and done that. Some other books I've published recently take place in Italy, France and Great Britain, all of which I visited. I'm sure you’ve been places and done things that you can write about.
I've always loved mysteries and even my romance novels have elements of intrigue in them. (How else do you keep the lovers apart for 200 pages?) But I've never stolen anything or killed anyone, so how can I write about crime? In that case, it's perfectly acceptable to draw upon what you've read in other novels or in the newspaper or seen on television. It's called research. You can get books which tell you about weapons and poison, police procedures or private investigator techniques. Do your homework. Nowadays editors don't tell you why they rejected your book, so you may never know it was because you made a major “boo boo” and got your facts wrong.
I also write woman-in-jeopardy mysteries like Mary Higgins Clark, and "cozy" mysteries like Agatha Christie. They haven't sold yet but they're out there. In fact, I have eight novels out right now at various publishing houses.
All non-fiction writers will do a lot of research and I recommend you keep track of your sources. Save the article from which you pulled a fact, make a note on a 3 x 5 card of what book you got information from. This can be a life-saver if some editor or reader questions what you've written.

Rule No. 6.  Become observant. This is especially true of fiction writing, but even non-fiction writers need to learn how to “show” a scene. Readers don't have a picture to look at, as they do with films or television, so you must paint one for them.
Keep a journal in which you jot down your impression of things you see, or bits of dialogue, or even character names you may want to use, or future book titles.

Rule No. 7.  Be persistent. Most writers get rejected before they begin to sell, even afterward. Pearl buck's novel, The Good Earth, was rejected 31 times before it sold and then it won the Nobel Prize. Lust for Life was rejected 17 times. Auntie Mame was rejected 16 times. My novel Southern Star was rejected 19 times, was published by Avalon Books and is now an Amazon Montlake Romance. Even after you've published something, you can still get rejected. Every book must stand on its own. Only Stephen King, Danielle Steel and Nora Roberts can sell anything they write. Don't take rejection personally. It might have come from a female editor whose husband just dumped her or a male editor whose ex-wife had the same name as your heroine. Or they had a cold that day or the sun was shining. Just keep going. Do what I do and send a lot of work to editors. When one of my manuscripts is rejected, I can say, “Oh well, there are still seven others.”

Summary. I hope my rules haven't discouraged you, but I must admit there are two bad things about being a writer. As you see, you have to have a thick skin. If you can't handle rejection, forget it. The other bad thing is that you may never make a living at it. A few authors are millionaires, but most writers (and I mean those who actually sell something now and then) make less than you’ll get in Social Security.
Writing can be a lot of work and take up 25 hours a day, but there are three good things about being a writer. (1) You don't need a college degree. (2) It takes your mind off your problems. (Someone said that nothing in life is too terrible for a writer because he can always use it in a book.) and (3) No one needs to know you're over 50 and write in your pajamas.
Personally I intend to write until the day they find me, stone cold, slumped over my computer keyboard. If you want to write--if it's your obsession--then try my seven rules and do it.

Wednesday, July 9, 2014


The blog posts, the newspaper articles, the letter to Amazon’s CEO (signed by 69 Hachette authors), the petition to readers (signed by over 5000 authors and Amazon customers), are all part of the news going on for many weeks. I hesitated to add my two cents because, first of all, I don’t want to offend any of my readers who publish with Hachette, but also because many others have joined the discussion, and do it better than I ever could.

Since you know I’ve begun self-publishing my backlist as well as newer books, (which is obviously done through Amazon) it won’t surprise you that I signed the petition and hope Amazon and Hachette soon resolve the issue. In my case, long before this began, I’d made up my mind to submit my work (whatever I won’t self-publish) to small presses instead of big publishers like Hachette. I had many reasons even then.

(1) ....I dislike the idea that agents (who reject 95% of the authors who come to them) had the power to keep my books from editors.

(2) ....I disliked the long waiting time between accepting a book and its actual release date.

(3) ....I resented the crappy cover one publisher put on my book and the six-month delay in getting paid my royalties by all of them.

(4) ....I disliked the contract terms such as “life of copyright,”  ”non-compete” clauses, and the difficulty of retaining my rights.

(5) ....Most of all, I resented the fact all the Big-5 publishers added vanity presses to their offerings in order to charge huge fees to new, or naive, authors to publish their books. Especially Penguin Random House which paid $119 million to buy Author Solutions, the worst offender. (They’re being sued.)

(6) ....I hated that Harlequin, the largest romance publisher in the world, got away so long with cheating authors out of ninety percent of their royalties by leasing books to a different Harlequin division. (They’re being sued.)

On Tuesday it was revealed that Amazon was about to make an offer to Hachette to pay its authors one hundred percent of the price of any of their books which are suffering from the dispute, with no money going to either Hachette or Amazon. And, as they did two months ago, when Amazon suggested providing a pool of money for the authors, Hachette again said “no.” As Joe Konrath wrote, “If I were a Hachette author, I’d sue them for refusing to allow me to collect those royalties.”

In my opinion, that put an end to Hachette accusing Amazon of holding authors hostage. The end of pretending only they uphold authors’ best interests. I don’t want big publishers to disappear because I think there’s room for all. But, IMHO, this time, Amazon is right. Thankfully, I’m not suffering and will just continue to write my books and put them out. However, my wish is for a speedy conclusion so other authors suffer less. We’re really all in this together.

Thursday, July 3, 2014


I’ve been living in the desert for ten years now. (OMG, how time flies.) The Coachella Valley is--depending on traffic--one to two hours east of Los Angeles by car. During the winter season, October to March, Hollywood stars spend time here, many in their own second homes, and then go back to L.A. when the temperature rises. The benefit of their presence for the rest of us is that actors, singers and other performers appear on stage in local productions, so we enjoy great entertainment.

In summer, non-celebrities either return to their summer homes in whatever area of the country they originally lived in, such as Boston, Fargo, Minneapolis or Boise. The other choice is to stay in town but take vacations to visit relatives who live in a different climate. Thanks to a family graduation and a family wedding, we escaped some 100-degree days recently by doing that. And might do more of it before the summer is over.

Many residents use the long hiatus to vacation in other places in the country or the world. Pictures in our local Newsletter show visitors to China, Italy, Indonesia, Alaska, Australia, etc. One especially popular state to visit is Hawaii, where the temperature varies little from December to July.

We spent a week in Hawaii a few years ago, and I’m ready to return. Especially since I consider the island of Maui my second home. When my husband and I married, we spent our honeymoon in Honolulu on Oahu, but later we bought a condo, then a second one, on Maui. For the next twenty years, we rented them out for periods ranging from four days to two months, but returned twice a year for a week or two to do maintenance and ensure our guests lacked nothing in the way of amenities.

Besides the income from the rentals, which helped our bottom line, I learned a lot about the islands, much of which shows up in my romance novel, STRANGER IN PARADISE. There’s nothing like being with the one you love in a beautiful, romantic setting, to inspire writing about swimming, surfing, and snorkeling in the fabulously blue Pacific Ocean. To say nothing of passionate kisses on sandy beaches under swaying palm trees. (Wow! I almost swooned just thinking about it.)

Wherever you go, or whatever you do, take along a book or your Kindle and read a romantic novel. I recommend it.

Thursday, June 26, 2014


The more I read--and I read a lot--the more discouraged I get about the use of English by today’s writers. I posted a similar article on this blog some time ago, but it bears repeating because those same “boo-boos” keep`showing up.

With all the self-publishing going on these days--and the authors not having their books professionally edited--I suppose it was bound to happen, but, please, fellow authors, try not to make the following mistakes.

1. could’ve - could of. There is no legitimate reason to use “could of.“ I’ve seen it even in traditionally published books, and it apparently stems from the author--to say nothing of the editor--missing an English class. He/she means “could’ve” a contraction of the two words “could” and “have.“ Example: “I could’ve been a contender.“ or “I could have danced all night.”

2. doctors - apple’s. Plural words don’t get apostrophes. (See my blog post on Apostrophe Apoplexy) Example: “The apples were ripe and the doctors ate them.“ If you put an apostrophe before the “s” you have turned the word into a possessive. Example: “The doctor’s time was limited.”

3. Try to - try and. Technically there is no “try and” (or almost none.)  If your character is going to try to do something, use “try to,” not “try and.“ Example: “I will try to help you.“ After all, if you say “try and” you imply you’ll succeed. But what if you don’t succeed? You’ve told a lie.

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

5. lose - loose. Stop putting the extra “o” in “lose.” Look them up in the dictionary. To lose something is to no longer have it. Example: “I don’t want to lose the lovely watch you gave me.“ Something which is loose is of an unstable consistency. Example: “The watch slipped off my wrist, because the band was too loose.”

6. incidents - incidentses. The latter is not a word. One event is an “incident.“ Two or more events are “Incidents (add an “s” to make a plural)” There is no such word as “incidentses.”

7. roll - role. As a noun, a roll can be a small pastry you eat. As a verb, it means moving or turning over or around. Example. “He let the car roll down the incline into the ditch.“ Role is a noun which describes a part you might play in a film or in life. Example: “The role required him to exit the stage.“ or “I’m tired of playing the role of your wicked stepmother.”

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

9. breath - breathe. Breath is a noun. Example: “He took my breath away.“  Breathe is a verb. Example: “It’s so hot, I can hardly breathe.”

10. “As“ clauses. (See my blog post, “Kiss Your ‘As’ Goodbye.”) Some writers have characters constantly doing two things at once. One book I judged for a contest contained seven such clauses on one page. The word was never meant to take the place of ‘while,’ or ‘when.’ Instead it’s supposed to compare things, like, “as white as snow.” Here are three ways to get rid of wrong “as” clauses:
1. Put the phrase in the beginning of the sentence.
2. Substitute “and” for “as.”
3. Separate it into two sentences.

This list is probably not complete, but if you eliminate these ten, your writing will improve, and I won’t groan when I read it.

Wednesday, June 18, 2014


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? A few years ago, PENGUIN BOOKS, now RANDY 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 PREDITORS & EDITORS , have warned about using ASI, but many beginners are still unaware of the risks. Now, with the (former) prestige of the Penguin/Random House name, these neophytes think they’re getting published by a large company, when in fact, they are not.

Why did PRH 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 PRH wanted to use.

Others say that they 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 PRH 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. By the way, PRH isn't the only one of the Big-5 which has a self-publishing (read Vanity) press. Simon & Schuster has Archway, for example. Why would anyone want to deal with those when they so blatantly allow this scam? I won’t. I don’t work with unethical people. And, judging by the many authors using small presses or Amazon, I'm not alone.

Wednesday, June 4, 2014


My title this week and the following paragraph are from the May 12th issue of the Christian Science Monitor.

“If any place should set the standard for good grammar, it ought to be the English city of Cambridge, where the university’s venerable stone walls preserve centuries of the world’s highest learning. So, when the public caught wind of a little-noticed rule passed by the Cambridge City Council to drop apostrophes from future street signs... the pedants took to the streets, some literally.”

The Council’s rule dropped apostrophes from street signs “for more effective public service,” but was bombarded with so many questions, accusations, and, especially e-mails, that they eventually retreated. Their reasoning, however, makes sense. In a world of texts and 140 character “tweets,” where punctuation can be misread by computers, but especially on street signs, apostrophes seem out of date and unnecessary.

The well-known bookstore, Waterstones, dropped their apostrophe in 2012 and was also criticized. “If you can’t get your own language right...” said some, “it’s a slippery slope.” Others felt Cambridge has “a reputation to maintain.”

Whatever happens across the pond in the future, my quarrel is not with writers dropping apostrophes, but with their increasing them incorrectly. Hardly a day goes by that I don’t see plural words with apostrophes that don’t belong there. If you want to turn the singular word “writer,” into the plural, “writers,” you don’t spell it “writer’s.” It was merely laughable when a grocery store sign read, “Apple’s For Sale.” Now, so-called literary types are dropping them into words like confetti at a party.

No, no, no, my fellow authors. Plurals get no apostrophe. Save your strength and your printer ink by remembering that grammar rule. Unless you want to turn the word into a possessive, such as, “The doctor’s bill arrived,” (the bill of the doctor), no apostrophe is needed to make “doctor” plural. “The doctors (not doctor’s) arrived at the site.”

In 1890, the U.S. Board on Geographic Names removed apostrophes from signs here, but where is the outcry against adding unnecessary and incorrect apostrophes to the rest of our written language? Am I the only person who notices and cringes?

Wednesday, May 21, 2014


As I reported in last week’s post, the Rita Awards (Romance Writers of America) will be handed out at the RWA Conference in July. To be accurate, it will be during a black-tie event on July 26th in San Antonio, Texas. However, this week the 77 finalists in nine categories were announced.

Whereas, in the Edgar and Agatha awards, finalists were limited to five per category, RWA has varying numbers. For instance, only two finalists are listed for Inspirational Romance, three for Erotic Romance and four for Romantic Suspense. On the other hand, Contemporary Romance has 18 finalists, Historical Romance has 17, and Paranormal Romance has 13.

Although I was a judge for the Ritas a year ago, I wasn’t this time, so I don’t know how they decided on those numbers. I’m assuming it was because of the number of submissions in each category. More romance authors are apparently working in those genres. Sounds fair.

The big news, however, was that this year, for the first time in its 33-year history, self-published books were allowed, and six of the 77 finalists were self-published. In the Romantic Suspense Category, two of the four finalists were self-published. That’s 50%! In addition, 20 finalists were from small presses, that is, not the Big-5 or Harlequin. They are Entangled, Source Books, Kensington and Montlake, along with Barbour, Omnific, Samhain, David C. Cook, and Tule Publishing. That’s 34% of all finalists. Plus, for the first time, Harlequin didn’t dominate the six-book Short Contemporary Category. Entangled had one.

Another interesting tidbit is that both Nora Roberts (the Romance Queen at Penguin, one of the Big-5) and Bella Andre (a best-selling self-published author) are finalists in the Contemporary Category. Who will win? I can’t wait to find out.

With all this good news, I might enter a book in the Ritas next year. Meanwhile, I’m taking a week off from this Blog because my old computer has decided to pretend it doesn’t know me and is treating me like a virus. I’m getting a new computer tomorrow, and I’ll be back as soon as I manage to convince it who’s boss.

Nora Roberts
Bella Andre

Wednesday, May 14, 2014


Like the Edgar Awards, the Agathas are also given out this month. This year the presentation was made on Saturday, May 3rd, by Malice Domestic 26, whose members vote for the five nominees in each category.

Named in honor of Agatha Christie, the awards are for the best “traditional” mystery. That is, books best typified by the works of its namesake. The mysteries should contain “no explicit sex and no excessive gore or gratuitous violence.”

And the winners are:

Best Contemporary Novel - THE WRONG GIRL, by Hank Phillippi Ryan - Published by Forge Books.

Best Historical Novel - A QUESTION OF HONOR by Charles Todd - Published by William Morrow.

Best First Novel - DEATH AL DENTE by Leslie Budewitz - Published by Berkeley.

Best Short Story - THE CARE AND FEEDING OF HOUSE PLANTS by Art Taylor - Published in Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine.

Best Nonfiction - THE HOUR OF PERIL: THE SECRET PLOT TO MURDER LINCOLN BEFORE THE CIVIL WAR by Daniel Stashower - Published by Minotaur Books.

Best Children’s/Young Adult Novel - ESCAPE FROM MISTER LEMONCELLO’S LIBRARY by Chris Grabenstein - Random House Books

* * *
Those who read my blog post last week will recognize the Non-fiction winner, Daniel Stashower, who also won the Edgar. Nice going, Mr. Stashower.

Also, as I did last time, I’ve counted the number of men and women authors. Of the 30 Finalists, at least twenty-one are women. That number could change, depending on if  “G.M.,” “J.J.” “Leslie,“ or ”Chris,” (whom I did not count) are women or men.

Among the novels, a few small publishers (Untreed Reads, Henery Press, and Wildside Press were finalists, but no self-publishers that I’m aware of, made the cut. One can only hope that the Anthonys, to be awarded in November, and the Shamus Awards, also in the fall, will have a few. Likewise the Daphne du Maurier Awards, to be presented in July.

Forge Books
William Morrow
Random House
Untreed Reads
Henery Press
Wildside Press

Wednesday, May 7, 2014


Last Thursday, May 1st, the Mystery Writers of America Edgar Awards Banquet was held. The Edgar is the “Oscar” of mystery writing, is awarded every year and is named for author Edgar Allen Poe. The event was held at the Grand Hyatt hotel in New York City and was “Black Tie Preferred.” Wish I could have been there. All I have to do is write a fantastic mystery novel, get it published and then nominated for “Best Novel” or “Best First Novel.” Oh, yeah. Piece of cake.

The categories and winners were:

Best Novel: ORDINARY GRACE by William Kent Krueger, published by Simon & Schuster’s Atria Books.

Best First Novel: RED SPARROW by Jason Matthews, from Simon & Schuster’s Scribner division.

Best Paperback Original: THE WICKED GIRLS by Alex Marwood, published by Penguin Books USA.

Best Fact Crime: THE HOUR OF PERIL: The Secret Plot to Murder Lincoln before the Civil War, by Daniel Stashower, published by St. Martin Press, Minotaur Books.

Best Critical/Biographical: AMERICA IS ELSEWHERE: The Noir Tradition in the Age of Consumer Culture, by Erik Dussere, published by Oxford University Press.

Best Short Story: THE CAXTON PRIVATE LENDING LIBRARY AND BOOK DEPOSITORY, by John Connolly, Mysterious Bookshop.

Best Juvenile: ONE CAME HOME, by Amy Timberlake, published by Random House Children’s Books.

Best Young Adult: KETCHUP CLOUDS, by Annabel Pitcher, published by Little, Brown Books for Young Readers.

Mary Higgins Clark Award: COVER OF SNOW by Jenny Milchman, published by Random House, Ballantine.

Robert L. Fish Memorial Award: THE WENTWORTH LETTER by Jeff Soloway, published by St. Martin’s Press.

Each award, except for the last, had five nominees, and although  most of the winners were written by men, I was happy to see  twenty women’s names (and an initial which might be) among the forty-five finalists. Not exactly half, but getting close.

I was also glad to see two finalists were published by Thomas & Mercer, the Amazon mystery imprint. Maybe next year self-published books will be included. One hopes that RWA’s Rita Awards, which opened to self-pubs this year (results in July), will open the door.

Now, pick a winner from the above, stash some chocolate in a handy place and enjoy.