Wednesday, December 30, 2015


Every year between 2006 and 2015, J. A. Konrath has written a blog listing his New Year’s Resolutions. He tried to teach his readers to become good writers. In 2006 there was no Amazon, no Kindles, no easy self-publishing.

Here’s Joe’s list of Resolutions for 2006:

I will start and finish my book.
I will always have three stories submitted and be working on a fourth.
I will attend at least one writer’s conference and introduce myself to agents, editors and writers.
I will join a critique group or start one.
I will listen to criticism.
I will create and update my website.
I will master the Query process and search for an agent.
I will keep up my Blog and social connections.
I will schedule bookstore signings and greet customers while there.
I will contact local libraries and offer to do book signings.
I will make selling my books my responsibility, not my publisher’s.
I will spend a large part of my advance on self-promotion.
I will help out other writers.
I will not get jealous or envious.
I will be amiable, accessible and enthusiastic.

Do we all know Joe Konrath used those sentences to become a best-selling author? We should because he did.

However, times changed, and Jeff Bezos developed Amazon. He invented the Kindle and turned every newbie writer into a self-published one. By 2010, Joe Konrath no longer needed an agent, or even a publisher. He was making his living as a writer. His list of resolutions was:

I will self-publish. Last year I earned $1650 in December. This year it’ll be $22,000.
This majority is on Kindle, but I’m also doing print with CreateSpace.
The Gatekeepers - agents who submit books - are no longer necessary.

I’m not saying to give up traditional publishing, but there’s no down-side to self-publishing. At the worst, you’ll make a few bucks. At the best, you’ll make a fortune with agents and editors fighting over you.

Do not take any deal that’s less than you’d make in 6 years. If you sell 1000 books per month, then $144,000 is the advance you need.

I have seven novels, each earning $24K per year. In 6 years I’ll have made a million dollars on them.

I don’t expect them to remain the same. They’ll go up.

In 2016, Konrath’s list of Resolutions is one line:
This year, I’m boiling them down to one word: WRITE!

It’s easy to get caught up in different aspects of a writing career. I’ve helped other writers; I started my own company. I evangelized, blogged, collaborated, experimented, promoted. However, first and foremost, I’m a writer. And writers write! I’ve spent a lot of time on my career, and backstory needs that. But now it’s time for me to plant more seeds.

2016 is going to be my most productive year ever. Come and join me.

Wednesday, December 23, 2015


“It’s a wonder English ever caught on,” said John McWhorter, “because it’s weirder than just about every other tongue.” English speakers know their language is odd. So do nonspeakers saddled with learning it. In countries where English is not spoken, there are no spelling bees. For a normal language, spelling corresponds to the way people pronounce the words. But English is not normal.

Anglophones are not exactly rabid to learn other languages. We’re left like the proverbial fish not knowing it’s wet. Our language feels normal, until you learn what normal really is.

We think it’s a nuisance that other European languages assign gender to nouns for no reason. But it’s we who are odd. Almost all European languages belong to one family–Indo-European–and all of them, except English, assign genders. There is exactly one language whose present tense requires a special ending only in the third-person singular. Why is English so eccentric? What made it this way?

English started out, essentially, a form of German. Old English is so unlike the modern version that it’s a stretch to think of them as the same language. Icelanders can still read stories written in the Old Norse ancestor of their language 1000 years ago, and yet, to an English-speaker’s eye, Beowulf might as well be in Turkish.

When the Angles and Saxons brought Germanic speech to England, the island was already inhabited by people who spoke Celtic languages, today represented by Welsh and Irish. The Celts were subjugated but survived, and since there were only about 250,000 Germanic invaders, very quickly most of the people speaking Old English were Celts.

The next thing that happened was that more German-speakers came across the sea. England was a tiny country and probably looked easy to dominate. That was the 9th century, and they didn’t impose their language. Instead they married local women and switched to English. They were adults and adults don’t learn new languages easily. There was no such thing as school and no media. Learning a new language meant listening hard and doing your best.

Then the Scandinavians arrived and spoke bad Old English. Young people learned what they could, but soon bad Old English became real English, and here we are today. The Norse made English easier. Old English had the crazy genders of a good European language, but the Scandinavians didn’t bother with those, so now we have none. What’s more, the Vikings mastered only the shred of a once-lovely system. They smoothed out the hard stuff. We can display all these bizarre Norse influences in a single sentence, but it’s what they did to English in those days.

Finally, as if all that weren’t enough, English got hit by a fire-hose spray of words from more languages. After the Norse, came the French. They conquered the English and ruled for several centuries, and before long English had picked up 10,000 new words. Then, in about the 16th century, educated Anglophobes developed English as a vehicle for sophisticated writing. They even cherry-picked some Latin words to lend a more elevated tone. English-speaking workers slaughtered animals to serve to the moneyed French speakers at the table.

Thus, English is indeed an odd language and the spelling is only the beginning. Then it becomes peculiar due to the slings and arrows–and caprices–of outrageous history. Now, don’t you wish you hadn’t wondered why English isn’t normal?

Thursday, December 17, 2015



Darn! I worte my blog post a week ago and then discovered Anne R. Allen wrote one on the same topic for her new blog. I’ve been a follower of hers for several years, so I recommend you-all read hers.

Meanwhile here’s mine. To identify scams related to newbies (beginning writers) check out the following tips.

1. LOTS OF PROMISES. Scam artists try to lure in beginning writers by promising that, if they sign up with their ideas and follow their rules, the writer will get lots of interest, which - according to them - will lead to requests for manuscripts and sales to the Big-5 publishers.

2. BELIEF THAT THEIR IDEAS will lead the new writer/author will find editors and publishers who are looking for just what original stories you write. But, if you check carefully, you’ll soon see that their writers/authors have very few actually-published books available for the newbie to read. Nor are they very good.

3. STUDIES THAT SHOW THEIR PRICES are much lower than what other such services charge for the same service they’re offering you. These claims can be checked out, which you should certainly do. The truth is that all services are vastly over-charging for what they promise to do for you. Don’t be fooled.

4. PRETENDING TO BE A VANITY PUBLISHER. I thought this one died a long time ago, but, no, it’s still showing up. Real publishers, and also agents, don’t need customers to tell them how good they are, or have been. Their real customers do that.

So, don’t get caught in the sticky palms of fake vanity or other kinds of publishers. It won’t be funny.

Have a very Happy Christmas season, and I will be back by then.


Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Pumpkin Pecan Pies

My apologies for being late with this recipe. I’ve made it every year for over 20 years, and everyone loves it. It will stay here for another week, so be sure to copy it.


Pumpkin filling
One box yellow cake mix with pudding
1-1/2 cups chopped pecans
8 oz. butter, melted
Whipped cream
Caramel syrup

First buy some of those aluminum foil pie pans at the supermarket.  Place two of them into regular glass or metal pie pans (otherwise you may have pie mix all over the floor!).  Put a circle of waxed paper into the bottom of each foil pan.

Filling: 1 29-oz. can pumpkin pie mix
1 5-oz. can evap. milk
2 tsp cinnamon
3 beaten eggs
1 cup sugar
1/2 tsp salt

Mix thoroughly, pour into the two pans.  Sprinkle half of the box of cake mix on top of each pie.

Sprinkle half of the chopped pecans over each pie. Drizzle half of the melted butter on top of each.

Bake for between 45 and 60 minutes at 350 degrees.  (If you place the pie pans on a cookie sheet you can slide the whole thing into the oven easily.) Chill.

To serve, invert pie onto a serving plate, remove pie plate, peel off waxed paper. Cut each pie into eight wedges and top each with Whipped cream and a drizzle of caramel syrup. Makes eight servings (16 for two pies).  This is very rich.

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

History, Travel and Recipes

Writing about Pal last week reminded me of other parts of my life: my history, travel and, maybe, recipes.


Curt is my third husband. Don’t look so shocked. Yes, Curt and I have been married a long time, but there were two others before him. The first was a very young man. (Weren’t we all young once upon a time?) We had two children together, but it wasn’t right for me so we divorced.

Husband number two was even younger, and I had one child with him, but that was also not right, and I got another divorce.

I was worried about my choices and was really afraid to marry again. However, I prayed a lot and we talked a lot, so a year later I did marry Curt and we’re still together, still in love.


Curt worked for an airline, so we traveled. London, Paris, Germany, Italy, Mexico, Canada, and almost every large city in the U.S. He’d been married once before and had five children, so we had a total of eight. Traveling wasn’t easy, but we did it anyway. I loved traveling to places I’d never seen before and those images went into my books.


Sorry, no recipes this time. My daughter came to visit me for a few days, and I’d rather talk to her than write out recipes. Maybe next time. Forgive me and thanks for understanding.

Tuesday, November 3, 2015


When our two youngest sons, Marc and Dave, were seven and six, we acquired a puppy from a neighbor. The boys named him Palomino, because, being part miniature white poodle and part apricot cocker spaniel, they thought he was the color of a Palomino horse. As the dog grew, he turned white and resembled a poodle more than a cocker spaniel, but his legs were longer than poodles'. Fully grown, he weighed only fifteen pounds--mostly fur--and everyone called him Pal.

He adored the boys, played with them and let them tease him, never biting. Babies or small children, who pulled his hair or poked his eyes, were in no danger, either, because he simply crept away and hid. He learned tricks easily, such as "Sit Up," "Roll Over," and "Shake Hands" (with the right paw, of course).

Pal loved walks, and rushed to the front door whenever anyone picked up his leash. Occasionally Marc and Dave forgot to close the side gate, and Pal ran away for an afternoon or evening. Then they rode out on their bicycles to look for him, or I drove slowly around town in the car, calling his name. Most of the time we found him ourselves, or a neighbor called, since he wore a license with our phone number on his collar.

As the boys reached their teens, they became very conscientious about taking Pal for his last walk of the evening. We thought this had grown exceptionally long until we discovered that a family with three teenage daughters lived at the end of our block.

One summer morning I came downstairs, and, instead of Pal, I found a note saying he had run away while the boys were talking to the neighbor girls and they had not been able to find him. I roused them from bed and they searched for him on their bicycles, but they returned alone. Then I went out in the car, but also had no luck. I left the side gate open and went on with my activities, and about noon I heard a familiar bark from the back yard. There stood Pal in front of the sliding glass door, waiting to be let in. He was filthy, his hair matted and coated with dirt, and he headed instantly for his water dish and drank as if he had just crossed the Sahara.

He got a good bath and brushing and spent the rest of the day sleeping in his bed in the family room. That night, Marc and Dave got his leash, opened the front door and called to him, but Pal refused to go out. I could swear the look on his face said, "Oh, no, you lost me last night. I'm not going to do that again.”

Of course, by the next night he had forgotten his ordeal. He loved the boys and was up for anything they had in mind. When they were too busy for him, doing homework for instance, Pal would go into their rooms, find their discarded socks and carry them to his dog bed. A year later, while digging in the garden, my husband found a sock buried in the ice plant.

When Marc and Dave were away at upper school, my husband and I took Pal for his nightly walk, and at eleven o'clock he would pull his own leash off the railing and carry it into the front hall. The reward of one of his dog biscuit treats may have had something to do with his learning that.

  Later he taught himself another trick. One night we heard a noise coming from the darkened kitchen. I tiptoed into the room and found that Pal had learned how to push open the door to the pantry (where his box of dog treats was kept on the lowest shelf) and had his head inside the box, busily eating as many as he could.

On Christmas day, Pal, who was not allowed in the living room at any other time, seemed to know that this was an exception and, gradually inched into the room. Then, getting bolder when no one scolded him, he rushed from one person to another, wagging his short tail, as if saying, "Merry Christmas from me too." His present--usually a new squeaky toy--was wrapped and placed under the tree, and at gift-opening time, he found it first, and bit the wrappings off. We never figured out how he knew which was his among the dozens of gifts, but perhaps it carried the smell of the pet store.

Our house was located on the lagoon that ran through the town, with a boat dock and small sailboat. Pal became an instant sailor and was the first into the boat when we hoisted the sails. Usually, he stood on the bow, letting the breeze lift his ears, sniffing the wind. If we didn't take him with us, he sat on the dock, looking forlorn, until we returned. Naturally, I put his leash on his collar and held the end in my hands, but he only lost his footing once, when we came about suddenly on a very windy day. When we sailed past neighbors' backyards, other dogs sometimes rushed down to the water's edge, or out onto their own docks to bark at him, but he never responded.

In fact, Pal almost never barked. Only a stranger coming to the front door could make him lose his cool. He had to be taught to "Speak" and it took quite a while and a lot of dog treats before he did it on command. Surprisingly, his bark was deep and loud, so that he sounded like a much larger animal. One night, when the boys were away at college and my husband was out of town on a business trip, Pal's barking woke me up and I didn't hesitate to grab the phone and call the police. Sure enough, they found evidence someone had come into our fenced-in back yard. Whoever it was had been scared off by the barking of a fuzzy white fifteen-pound Cockapoo.

Wednesday, October 28, 2015


Hot on the heels of my cozy mystery, DEAD IN THE WATER, released on October 6, comes a woman-in-jeopardy mystery, EYEWITNESS, released on October 15. These aren’t self-published. DITW is from Gemma Halliday Publishing, and EYEWITNESS from Camel Press, a division of Coffeetown Press in Seattle. Another difference is that, although my name is on both books, EYEWITNESS was written with my long-time friend Carole, who writes under the pen-name Carolann Camillo.

A big similarity in the two books, however, is that both were originally written many years ago, but only now found the right publisher. So I get to repeat what I said last week: “Persistence Pays.” This book went out 52 times since 2003 when I moved to Palm Desert and kept track on 3 x 5 cards. No, not 52 different publishers: some lucky companies got to see (and reject) it more than once. Eight of the publishers are no longer in business.

However, it wasn’t all sadness and gloom. We actually received three separate contracts before the one we accepted. The first loved our story but wanted us to add “four or five steamy sex scenes.” We actually wrote one as a sample, but their idea of “steamy” was apparently vastly different from ours. The second contract was withdrawn by the publisher due to a misunderstanding between an editor and me. (I take the blame for that, but I’m withholding publisher names to avoid anyone’s embarrassment.) Number three publisher “loved” our book, but her editor apparently did not. Said editor requested changes on 300 of the book’s 350 typewritten pages. We politely declined to rewrite that much.

In case you noticed, this is the second book Carole and I wrote together to be published. SOUTHERN STAR started as an Avalon Book, and when they sold the company to Amazon, it ended up a Montlake Romance.  Stay tuned for news about the third one we wrote back when I still lived in San Francisco. That one has been rejected 46 times, and only 6 publishers are no longer in business, so we haven’t given up yet.

After 20 years of writing romance, both Carole and I are thrilled to be writing mystery because we both prefer to read mystery and have each had success with romantic-suspense. I also like self-publishing, and may do more, but there were good reasons to look for a traditional house for these two latest novels, and, so far, I’m really glad I did. Plus I like the covers they chose.

Wednesday, October 21, 2015


Is my title French for “Trivia?” Whether it is or not, this week I’ve assembled a group of items of interest. At least they interested me.

First, as promised last week, the winners of the Macavity Awards which were presented at the Bouchercom 2015 ceremonies:
BEST MYSTERY SHORT STORY was HONEYMOON SWEET, by Craig Faustus Buck, which appeared in Bouchercom Anthology 2014.

The Barry Awards, from “Deadly Pleasures Magazine” at Bouchercom:

* * *
On a somewhat lighter note:

1. An Italian man who was running late for his flight, decided to hold the plane up by calling in a bomb threat. The plane was delayed and searched, but when the man arrived at the airport and tried to board he was arrested. Lesson learned.

2. Employees at a Chinese company, who failed to make sales targets, were forced to crawl in public by taking a lap around a lake while supervisors watched to make sure they crawled. Most crawlers ripped their pants, but the photos went viral.

3. For the person who has everything: If you’re proud of your tattoo and don’t want it to die with you, a “Skin Art” company will come to your funeral home, slice off the tattoo and have it framed for your relatives. OMG

4. For those who have everything #2. If the Hydro Hammock is filled with 50 gallons of hot, bubbling water, it becomes a hot tub. Cost: $1495 and you provide the two strong trees to hang it from.

5. “No one will ever win the battle of the sexes. There’s too much fraternizing with the enemy.” Henry Kissinger.

6. Good news you were waiting for. For the first time since 2009, in September the NFL went an entire calendar month (month, as in 30 days) without any of its players being arrested.

7. For at least 25 minutes of running time, THE WALK is a “breathless, exhilarating movie experience.” But you have to watch the first two hours before that to see Frenchman Philippe Petit walk a cable across the World Trade Center towers in 1974.

8. Baabuk, a Swiss company, has made a sneaker out of natural wool that can be warn without socks. It’s cozy in the winter and breathes in the summer. Only $135 a pair.

9. In real estate to live in, not wear, you can buy a one-bedroom carriage house in Columbus, Ohio, for $219,900, or a five-bedroom in Newport, Rhode island, for $3,595,000. Glad you know?

10. And did you know Dominos is planning to sell its pizza in Italy? Or you can buy health insurance for your dog?

11. When assessing a possible match on dating sites, people put their grammar skills below their personal hygiene. However, just to be safe, use “advice,” not “advise” in the sentence, “His advise was worthless,” and “who’s”, not “whose” in “The man whose cooking dinner is a vegetarian.”

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Anthony Awards

Bouchercon - Raleigh, North Carolina
October 8-11, 2015


LAMENTATION, Joe Clifford. Oceanview
THE SECRET PLACE, Tana French. Hodder & Stoughton (Viking)
AFTER I’M GONE, Laura Lippman. William Morrow
THE LONG WAY HOME, Louise Penny. Minotaur
TRUTH BE TOLD, Hank Phillippi Ryan. Forge

Winner: AFTER I’M GONE, Laura Lippman


BLESSED ARE THE DEAD, Kristi Belcamino. Witness Impulse
ICE SHEAR, M. P. Cooley. William Morrow
INVISIBLE CITY, Julia Dahl. Minotaur
THE LIFE WE BURY, Allen Eskens. Seventh Street
THE BLACK HOUR, Lori Rayder-Day. Seventh Street

Winner: THE BLACK HOUR, Lori Rayder-Day


STAY WITH ME, Alison Gaylin. Harper
THE KILLER NEXT DOOR, Alex Marwood. Penguin
THE DAY SHE DIED, Catriona McPherson. Midnight Ink
WORLD OF TROUBLE, Ben H. Winters. Quirk Books
NO STONE UNTURNED, James W. Ziskim. Seventh Street

Winner: THE DAY SHE DIED, Catriona McPherson


THE FIGURE OF THE DETECTIVE, Charles Brownson. McFarland
DEATH DEALER, Kate Clark Flora. New Horizon
POE LAND, J. W. Ocker. Countryman
WRITES OF PASSAGE, Hank Phillippi Ryan, Ed. Henery

Winner: WRITES OF PASSAGE, Hank Phillippi Ryan.

HONEYMOON SWEET, Craig Faustus Buck. Bouchercon Anthology 2014
THE SHADOW KNOWS, Barb Goffman. Chesapeake Crimes
HOWLING AT THE MOON, Paul D. Marks. Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine
OF DOGS & DECEIT, John Shepphind. Hitchcock Mystery Magazine
THE ODDS ARE AGAINST US, Art Taylor. Ellery Queen Mystery Mag.



FACE-OFF, David Baldacci, Ed. Simon & Schuster
MURDER AT THE BEACH, Dana Cameron, Ed. Down and Out
TROUBLE IN THE HEARTLAND, Joe Clifford, Ed. Gutter/Zelmer Pulp
IN THE COMPANY OF SHERLOCK HOLMES, Laurie King & Leslie Klinger, Eds. Pegasus Crime.
CAROLINA CRIMES, Karen Pullem, Ed. Wildside


Comments: Except for a few independent publishers, and one self-publishing website (Welcome, Dru) all novels were published by well-known traditional houses. As for women versus men authors, some guessing is required due to use of initials, but I’ll go out on a limb and say that 16 women were authors or editors of the 30 Finalists, and only 13 men (even though I assumed the initials were men’s). In addition, five of the 16 women were the winners in their category, whereas only one man was. That’s good news for female mystery authors, of which I am now a member.

Wednesday, October 7, 2015


And that’s just since 2002. We moved here in 2003 and I haven’t gone back through my old records, but I do remember writing my two cozy mysteries, DEAD MEN’S TALES and DEAD IN THE WATER, in the early 1980s. That year, author Sue Grafton published A IS FOR ALIBI, the first in her “alphabet” mystery series. She’s now on “X”, and when I get my hands on a copy of that, I’ll have read all she’s written so far.

I actually wrote DEAD MEN’S TALES first, but since I started that book with my female sleuth in her office, and a dead body didn’t show up until much later, I decided to write a “Prequel” so I could have the first “dead man” on page nine. That was DEAD IN THE WATER, whose cover you see here. I didn’t write more at that time because I was having success with romance novels, but now I plan to finish the series with Gemma Halliday Publishing.

Yes, it’s been a long time, and in the ‘80s there was no Amazon or much self-publishing. You had to get an agent and then - if you were lucky - the agent found a publisher. Then I discovered romance novels, where publishers didn’t require an agent. Sometimes I had an agent, but he/she never found a publisher who wanted my books. Romance editors, however, would read everything, and my work clicked.

By contrast, I received a contract from GHP after the owner read a mere three chapters of the first book and none at all of the second. After years of submissions and rejections, I was so surprised I e-mailed her asking “Why?” She said, “I read the first three chapters and wanted to read more.” She also took into account that I’d had fourteen romances published, won the San Diego Book Award in 2002, and was a finalist in the St. Martin’s Press Malice Domestic Mystery Contest in 2012. This is a woman whose first cozy mystery was a new York Times best seller and who is now writing her tenth book in that series, plus many other books in between.

Between the 1980s and 2014, I’d revised my cozy books several times. I changed my character’s name and age, introduced cell phones and 21st century must-haves, and, always, as I became a better author, improved the writing. The stories, however, never changed, so the name of the game was “Persistence.” When I sold SOUTHERN STAR after 19 rejections, I knew it could be done and applied it to DITW.

This post is to encourage writers to persist, to keep learning and adapting because it’s possible. DEAD IN THE WATER was released yesterday, Tuesday the 6th, and by day’s end, it ranked 874 and was number ten in the Kindle bookstore. Plus, there were ten reviews, all of them Five Stars. Here’s my favorite:

“Loved this mystery. Great suspense and kept you guessing who the murderer was. I highly recommend the book.”

I’m also giving you a chance at a bargain. For a week, the digital version of DEAD IN THE WATER is only $0.99.  Happy reading.

Wednesday, September 30, 2015


Recently, a writer/teacher friend of mine from another state sent me a letter in which she complained that writing is getting worse every  day. She called it “the dumbing down of America” and she fears that critics of self-publishing might be right to blame this problem on writers who hit “Send” before their work is really ready and error-free. I was reminded of Anne R. Allen’s article a few years ago, titled, “Kindle no book before its time.”

Some writers are better than others when it comes to punctuation, grammar and other writing rules. In that case, however, as has been pointed out many times, those who are not proficient in the language need to hire an editor or proofreader. Whether I mostly read well-edited writing or somehow “missed” seeing the things the teacher finds appalling, I don’t know. So, I decided to pay attention for a couple of weeks and see if I find evidence of what she complains about.

And I did.

To be accurate, I didn’t find the exact problems she mentioned in her letter, but there were enough “boo-boos” that I began to think she has a point. Notice, I’m not naming any specific authors or the material I found the mistakes in. If any of my readers are guilty of similar errors, I hope they’ll use this opportunity to try to avoid them in the future. However, in a little over two weeks, my casual reading (not the two novels I was reading at the same time) turned up the following.

Like other languages in the world, English has rules we learned in school which helped us (helped me anyway) remember which word to use for present tense, past tense or past-perfect tense. One such list is “drink, drank, drunk.” In other words, the correct use is, “I drink, he drank, and they had drunk.” So the line, “...she’s already drank too much...” leaped out at me. The word “she’s” is a contraction of “she has,” which makes it past-perfect and therefore “drank” should be “drunk” instead.

A similar mistake occurs in the line, “...his cell phone chimed, and it hadn’t rang in a few days.”  Again, a past tense verb was used instead of past-perfect. The word “rang” should be “rung.”

A word I often see mis-used is “loose” when the writer means “lose.” “Loose” is an adjective meaning the opposite of “tight.” “Lose” is a verb indicating someone is no longer in possession of something. Minor, perhaps, but, if an author makes that mistake often, he might be turning off agents or editors from accepting his work.

Another common error is not knowing the difference between “its” and “it’s”. One is a preposition and the other is a contraction of “it is.” In the sentence, ”Blame technology for it’s lack of popularity,” “it’s” is wrong and “its” is correct.

In the phrase “...she should have staid home...“ staid” is a perfectly good word, but not when the author meant to write “stayed.”

An even worse mistake is in “...companies that have went out of business...” Please, dear writer, replace “went” with “gone.”

To finish, I found two instances of writers apparently not knowing the difference between “affect” (a verb) and “effect” (usually a noun, although there are times it becomes a verb, which may explain some mistakes in its use). In “ long as it didn’t effect the outcome...” Change “effect” to “affect.” The same is true in “... the knowledge of how scenes effect your book’s impact...” where “effect” should be “affect.”

As I mentioned earlier, the material in which I found these errors was not necessarily fiction or other prose the author hoped to publish, but authors do need to respect English and use it correctly. In most cases, it’s the only language we have. Thanks for listening.

Wednesday, September 23, 2015


For as long as I’ve been writing, some 40 years now, authors have pondered the question, “Should I use a Prologue?” Some writing teachers approve of prologues, but others do not, often arguing against them on the theory that literary agents don’t like them, and to use one would hinder chances of your book being published.

Well, times change and publishing, especially mainstream fiction publishing, has changed dramatically. Today, very few authors care what agents think because they have no intention of trying to get agent representation. These days, many writers are self-publishing. Those authors are cutting out middle-men such as agents, and even traditional publishers.

However, even if you don’t plan to try for an agent, knowing if you should use a prologue or not can be important for the success of your book with readers. Their acceptance of your work is the ultimate goal. Besides, many authors believe that readers don’t actually read prologues, so what’s the point?

From my reading about the topic, as well as these 40 years of experience writing fiction, I believe there are few reasons to use a prologue and many more not to. For instance, don’t use a prologue if:

1. It’s only there to give your book an interesting “hook.”
If your reader won’t read your prologue, it’s wasted, and you’ll still need a “hook” for chapter one.

2. It gives information which rightfully belongs in chapter one. Try doing it both ways, and see which works best.

3. It’s there only because your book is a mystery and you’ve seen many published mysteries which have prologues. For a long time, mystery prologues were almost considered necessary (certainly they were a cliche), but aren’t used that much anymore.

4. It’s long. The most successful prologues are only one or two pages. Certainly, the shorter they are, the more likely they’ll get read.

5. It’s an information dump. Authors who use prologues to insert lots of backstory instead of weaving that information into the text gradually - when the reader needs to know it - can sabotage their work.

But, guess what? Backstory introduced via a prologue can actually work and is one of the few reasons to use one. However, the operative word here is “relevant.” Make sure it fits and is really necessary. Another reason to use a prologue is if there’s a significant time difference between that and the main story.

With my own work, I didn’t use one in COLD APRIL, but the author of DANGEROUS AFFAIRS, another book about the Titanic, started with the iceberg developing off the coast of Greenland and eventually coming into contact with the ship. THE GREEN BOUGH, my memoir about Aunt Gladys, has, not a prologue, but a Foreword, a short letter from Gladys to me when I was writing the book. My mainstream novel, CHOICES, has a prologue because I needed to start the story in the cockpit of the airplane before it crashes into the Pacific. And that’s all. If I can publish sixteen other books and four novellas without one, perhaps they’re not needed.

Wednesday, September 16, 2015


Writing Fiction, especially historical fiction, requires research. Even contemporary fiction requires a certain amount, especially if the setting of your book is unusual or far away. This is the part many writers dislike, but I find it fascinating and rewarding. Yet, only two of my books are historical.

Of course, I was lucky, in that my husband and I traveled to different countries, and I took notes in order to describe those places accurately. At the same time, I didn’t want my book to sound like a travelogue, so I tried to limit descriptions to actual sights my characters would encounter or interact with.

Our most recent trip was to Italy, where we had the opportunity to visit Rome, Florence, Venice, Pisa and Lake Como. Naturally my character did the same thing (I made my female protagonist a travel writer so I had a good excuse, but I hope I didn’t overdo it. See THE ITALIAN JOB.) In addition to actually seeing the sights, I purchased a book on Rome, Florence and Venice beforehand, and bought one about Lake Como while there.

We visited England several times because we had both relatives and friends there. Bits of that area can be found in FINDING AMY and DEAD IN THE WATER (A cozy, humorous mystery to be released October 6th). Because we owned condos on Maui, we traveled to Hawaii many times, and those books include STRANGER IN PARADISE and CHOICES. A train trip from New Orleans to Washington D.C. sparked the plot of NORTH BY NORTHEAST, and two weeks on a friend’s yacht resulted in SOUTHERN STAR. Aunt Gladys told me all about being a schoolteacher in a logging camp in Oregon in 1913, (THE GREEN BOUGH) and the many books I accumulated about the Titanic told me much of what I needed to know for COLD APRIL.

I was born and grew up in Illinois (very flat and dull), but I also lived in Phoenix briefly. However, most of the last fifty years I lived in the San Francisco Bay Area, and that helped me to write ONCE MORE WITH FEELING, FREE FALL, DEAD MEN’S TALES (coming in 2016) and the novella, THE WEDDING GUEST. Also, three other novellas, under the name P.J. Humphrey, A STUDY IN AMBER, THE SIGN OF FIVE, and THE RED HERRING, are set in the “city by the bay.” A fourth in the HOLMES AND HOLMES Series is THE MISSING MAN, of which I’ve written two chapters so far.

The woman-in-jeopardy mystery, EYEWITNESS, set in New York, is due October 15, my mystery novel set in Phoenix is written but not yet published, as is BEATING THE ODDS (about horse racing in Kentucky) and a YA novel, A YEAR IN PARNEL.

Wait! I still haven’t written stories about Mexico, Germany, Canada or Africa. Hold your breath about Africa: I need to go there first. Isn’t  writing the best occupation for travelers and we who wish to travel?

Wednesday, September 9, 2015


Like most writers, I get far too much e-mail these days. About once a week, I delete a bunch, but sometimes, before deleting, I make a note about a new market I’ve heard of through those messages.

That’s especially true of one e-mail I get regularly and really like. It’s CINDI MYERS MARKET NEWS, and I just can’t say enough about how valuable that has been. This week alone, she gave out information about a publisher I will probably submit to, plus a short story site that will pay a substantial amount for stories of 1000 to 4000 words.

Cindi attends the Romance Writers of America annual conference and, while there, goes to all the Publisher Spotlights meetings. For weeks afterward, she publishes lengthy articles on these publishers, one at a time. She includes who spoke, how long the company has been in business, what they publish (as well as material they DON’T WANT to see), and full details on how to submit to them.

I also follow certain blogs because they, too, offer industry news, marketing information and insights from their many readers. The comments section alone is often worth hours of my time. The blog posts don’t come to my Inbox - I have to find them - but there are some I never want to be without: The Passive Voice, Kristine Kathryn Rusch, Dean Wesley Smith, Hugh Howey, J. A. Konrath’s “A Newbie’s guide,” and (a new one for me) The Insecure Writers Support Group.

Do you, my readers, have favorite sites or blogs to recommend? Passing on worthwhile information is one of the ways I “Pay it Forward” to writers who may come after me, in thanks for all the writers before me whose help I appreciate more than I can say.

Wednesday, September 2, 2015


I’m waiting for the next report from AUTHOREARNINGS.COM (September?) And hoping to see even more progress by Indies versus Big-5 Publishers. Those reports don’t indicate what’s happening to literary agents’ earnings, but it stands to reason that the more Indie authors there are, the less money flows to agents. Signs that it is happening are definitely in the air. Examples:

1. WRITERS DIGEST MAGAZINE. The October 2015 issue arrived last week, with a cover story boldly announcing: “38 Agents Seeking New Writers Now!” Inside the magazine, eleven whole pages are devoted to “What They Want and How to Submit.” That’s in addition to their monthly “Meet the Agent” page, which features one agent, and their usual ”Breaking In” article in which four writers discuss their debut novel and “Enter the agent” gives credit to an agent every time.

WD also has a book, “Guide to Literary Agents 2016,” available for sale. I didn’t read the article because I’m no longer interested in having an agent. In fact, the only reason I’m still subscribing to WD is because, many years ago, I learned that, for a mere $10, I could get a lifetime subscription. And I’m still alive.

That was a good deal at the time, but long before Amazon and self-publishing, I gave up on agents because (1) 39 agents didn’t even have the courtesy to reply to my query (even with my SASE enclosed), despite my already having five novels published by romance publishers. (2) The agents I did work with often ignored my wishes and followed their own agenda, and (3) they all colluded to raise their “standard” commission from 10% to 15% - a 50% raise for themselves - at about the same time.

2. THE WRITER MAGAZINE. Their October issue carries not one but two lengthy articles touting agents, plus recommending readers download the digital edition of the magazine in order to get “agents’ exclusive tips.”

3. A WD writer, who edits the “WD Guide to Literary Agents” contacted the president of the Los Angeles Chapter of Mystery Writers of America offering to give talks at chapter meetings.

4. The recent RWA Conference (July, NYC) offered two workshops (Thursday and Friday) featuring agents. I believe they always offer at least one such, so this year wasn’t unusual. However, I can’t help wondering how many other agent-centric workshops they didn’t include.

If I were an agent, I’d probably do the same thing, trying desperately to save my profession when, in today’s climate, agents are no longer needed or wanted. Many are already changing the services they offer to writers including helping them to self-publish. I predict we’ll know for sure they’ve seen the handwriting on the wall when a few begin to offer to cut their commission back down to 10%.

Wednesday, August 26, 2015


I know I’m not the only one, because I’ve talked to, written or e-mailed to my friends and relatives, and we all agree that movies are  not as good as they used to be. News reports confirms it too, reporting that movie ticket sales are down. Of course, they don’t mention the reason for that, but stupid, boring and cringe-worthy fare, in my humble opinion, is the reason.

One thing they got right was knowing who was actually watching what the movie studios have produced recently: teenagers.  So most films released in recent years have been aimed at them. On Friday evening, when school is out and homework can be put off until Sunday night, teens flock to the cineplex to see action and adventure movies, heavy with murder, mayhem and special effects. And because those same young people fill the seats, and sometimes watch the same film more than once, studios give them what they want and thereby drive certain films to record highs for attendance.

Sounds like I’ve contradicted myself, doesn’t it? What I’m saying is that, by producing films teenagers like, they’re killing the market for thoughtful, even beautiful, films that would appeal to a more mature audience. So we adults stay home, try to find something on television or watch Netflix movies, preferably those made two or three decades earlier.

Yes, WOMAN IN GOLD was a good film that anyone twenty-one years or older, could appreciate. But it was the only one worth watching in the last three months. Ever since he played Darcy in PRIDE AND PREJUDICE, like most women, I’ve been a fan of Colin Firth. I even rent his movies on Netflix. However, except for THE KING’S SPEECH (for which he won the Academy Award), there are no good Colin Firth films. And that is really surprising when you learn, as I did recently, that, although the man is only 54 years old, he’s made 42 films. One could argue that  some percentage of the total are bound to be stinkers, but why so many? Is he just really bad at picking out scripts? Is he desperate for money and will accept acting roles in anything they shove at him?

Although I’m tempted to, at least to spare my readers, I’m not going to list the clunkers. I must also admit that many of the actors we could once count on to do a good job in A-list-type movies are too old to be todays’ heroes, or dead.  Paul Newman, James Garner, Gregory Peck, James Stewart, Cary Grant, Marlon Brando, Richard Burton, Steve McQueen, Burt Lancaster, William Holden, or Glenn Ford.

Of course, I’m showing my age here, but most of the movies starring those actors were worth watching. Today’s male stars should be taking their place, but I haven’t seen any of them in a major film this year. Which leads me to the obvious conclusion that Hollywood isn’t making those kinds of movies anymore. Why? Are screen writers not writing good stories? Darn. I didn’t want the reason to be the fault of writers because I’m a writer. However, I don’t write for films and don’t want to. From what I’ve read, writers in Hollywood are the least respected part of the industry. There’s even a joke that the “starlet was so stupid she was sleeping with the writer.”

There are always others who are ranked higher and are free to rewrite anything, leaving the original writer with a plot he doesn’t even recognize or with no final credit for his hours or weeks of work. On the other hand, I’m told they’re very well paid. I guess some find that a seven-figure salary is worth the aggravation. Oh, never mind.

Wednesday, August 19, 2015


I didn’t bother with the Golden Heart Awards because they’re for unpublished writers. Besides, with 90 novels entered in the Ritas, there’s no room. Yes, 90 books. Contemporary Romance has 31, divided into three categories depending on book length. Plus, there are ten Romance Novellas (call them “extra short?). Historical Romance has eleven entries, divided into Long or Short. When I was a judge for the Ritas a few years ago, there weren’t as many. Even so, I was given seven books to read in a short length of time. More on that later.

Sonali Dev, A BOLLYWOOD AFFAIR, Kensington
Natalie Meg Evans, THE DRESS THIEF, Quercus Publishing
Beck Nicolas, FAKE, Harlequin Teen
Kate Breslin, FOR SUCH A TIME, Baker publishing - Bethany House
A. E. Jones, MIND SWEEPER, Self-published
Elia Winters, PURELY PROFESSIONAL, Harlequin-Carina
Alyssa Alexander, THE SMUGGLER WORE SILK, Penguin-Berkley
Patience Griffin, TO SCOTLAND WITH LOVE, Penguin-Signet

Winner: Clara Kensie, RUN TO YOU, Harlequin Teen

Tracy Brogan, THE BEST MEDICINE, Montlake Romance
Heidi Cullinan, FEVER PITCH, Samhain Publishing
Jill Shalvis, IT’S IN HIS KISS, Grand Cental Pub.
Nancy Harkness, THE PLACE I BELONG, Montlake Romance
Nicole Burnham, SLOW TANGO WITH A PRINCE, Self-published
Beth Vogt, SOMEBODY LIKE YOU, Simon & Schuster - Howard
Liz Talley, THE SWEETEST SEPTEMBER, Harlequin Superromance
Patience Griffin, TO SCOTLAND WITH LOVE, Penguin - Signet
Katy Regnery, THE VIXEN AND THE VET, Self-published

Winner: Jane Graves, BABY IT’S YOU, Grand Central - Forever

Virginia Kantra, CAROLINA MAN, Penguin - Berkley
Tanya Michaels, HER COWBOY HERO, Harlequin - American
Sarah Mayberry, HER KIND OF TROUBLE, Harlequin - Superromance
Jennifer Apodaca, HER TEMPORARY HERO, Entangled Publishing
Lori Wilde, LOVE WITH A PERFECT COWBOY, Harper-Collins - Avon
Tara Taylor Quinn, ONCE A FAMILY, Harlequin - Superromance
Inara Scott, REFORMING THE PLAYBOY, Entangled Publishing
Emilie Rose, STARTING WITH JUNE, Harlequin - Superromance
Caitie Quinn, WORTH THE FALL, Self-published

Winner: Jill Shalvis, ONE IN A MILLION, Grand Central Publishing

Caro Carson, THE BACHELOR DOCTOR’S BRIDE, Harlequin - Special
Julie Miller, BAD GIRL, Harlequin Intrigue
Nancy Warren, BLUEPRINT FOR A KISS, Self-published
Louisa George, ENEMIES WITH BENEFITS, Harlequin - Mills & Boon
Tiffany Reisz, THE HEADMASTER, Harlequin - e-Shivers
Merline Lovelace, HER UNFORGETTABLE ROYAL, Harlequin Desire
Farrah Rochon, YOURS FOREVER, Harlequin - Kimani

Winner: Caro Carson, A TEXAS RESCUE CHRISTMAS, Harlequin Special

Lynda Aicher, BONDS OF DENIAL, Harlequin - Carina
Talia Surova, CALL ME SAFFRON, Self-published
Elia Winters, PURELY PROFESSIONAL, Harlequin - Carina
J. Kenner, WANTED, Random House - Ballantine

Winner: Tiffany Reisz, THE SAINT, Harlequin - Mira

Grace Burrowes, DOUGLAS, LORD OF HEARTACHE, Sourcebooks
Jodi Thomas, A PLACE CALLED HARMONY, Penguin - Berkley
Kaki Warner, WHERE THE HORSES RUN, Penguin - Berkley
Grace Burrowes, WORTH, LORD OF RECKONING, Self-published

Winner: Meredith Duran, Simon & Schuster - Pocket Books

Amy Lane, THE BELLS OF TIMES SQUARE, Riptide Publishing
Debra Cowan, THE COWBOY’S RELUCTANT BRIDE, Harlequin Historical
Elizabeth Hoyt, DARLING BEAST, Grand Central Publishing
Margaret McPhee, THE GENTLEMAN ROGUE, Harlequin - Mills & Boon
Samantha Grace, IN BED WITH A ROGUE, Sourcebooks

Winner: Tessa Dare, ROMANCING THE DUKE, Harper-Collins - Avon

Kate Breslin, FOR SUCH A TIME, Baker Publishing - Revell
Stacy Henrie, HOPE AT DAWN, Grand Central - Forever
Jennifer Beckstrand, HUCKLEBERRY SUMMER, Kensington
Rose Ross Zediker, THE WIDOW’S SUITOR, Harlequin - Heartsong

Winner: Irene Hannon, DECEIVED, Baker Publishing - Revell

Jane Lynne Daniels, BE CAREFUL WHAT YOU KISS FOR, Boroughs
Jenn Bennett, BLITHE SPIRITS, Penguin - Berkley
Cynthia Eden, BURN FOR ME, Kensington
Gena Showalter, THE DARKEST TOUCH, Harlequin - HQN
Bec McMaster, FORGED BY DESIRE, Sourcebooks
A. E. Jones, MINESWEEPER, Self-published
Katharine Ashe, MY LADY, MY LORD, Self-published

Winner: Kristen Callihan, Grand Central - Forever

Heidi Rice, 10 RULES TO SEX UP A BLIND DATE, Harlequin - Cosmo
Megan Crane, A GAME OF BRIDES, Tule Publishing Group
Cara McKenna, HER BEST LAID PLANS, Harlequin - Cosmo
Grace Burrowes, KISS AND TELL, Self-published
Lorraine Heath, THE LAST WICKED SCOUNDREL, Harper-Collins - Avon
Robin Lee Hatcher, A LOVE LETTER TO THE EDITOR, Thomas Nelson
Kimberly Kincaid, PUSHING THE LINE, Self-published
Caroline Linden, WILL YOU BE MY WI-FI, Self-published
Kate Hewitt, A YORKSHIRE CHRISTMAS, Tule Publishing Group

Winner: Anna Richland, Harlequin - Carina

Trish McCallan, FORGED IN ASH, Montlake Romance
Katy Lee, GRAVE DANGER, Harlequin - Love Inspired
Tonya Burrows, HONOR RECLAIMED, Entangled Publishing
Carolyn Crane, INTO THE SHADOWS, Self-published
Kimberley Troutte, LOCK AND LOAD, Self-published
Elle Kennedy, MIDNIGHT ACTION, Penguin - Signet
Mary Burton, YOU’RE NOT SAFE, Kensington

Winner: J. D. Robb, CONCEALED IN DEATH, Penguin - Putnam

Elizbeth Fama, PLUS ONE, MacMillan - Farrar, Straus & Giroux
Clara Kensie, RUN TO YOU, Harlequin - Teen
Patty Blount, SOME BOYS, Sourcebooks

Winner: Juliana Stone, BOYS LIKE YOU, Sourcebooks

Having just listed finalists and winners of the Daphne Awards last week, I noticed some familiar names. Apparently some authors submitted to both contests. I‘d have done the same thing, and it paid off for Irene Hannon, whose DECEIVED finaled in the Daphne, but won first place in the Rita. If RWA wanted - or needed - to cut down on the number of books entered, I’d suggest not allowing authors to submit books in more than one category, because there were a lot of those.

I’m not familiar with the rules, so I suppose it was legal for the six authors who did so to submit the same book in both “Best First Book” as well as in another category. RWA could also have disallowed authors to submit more than one book in the same category, which was done by three authors, or submit a book in each of several different categories. Personally, I think it’s great that our authors write so many books every year, but, having been a judge, I’m thinking of those poor souls swamped with so many to read. Maybe I’m pessimistic, but could some judges NOT READ some of the books and just vote for the one from a big publishing house, “assuming” it must be better than those from small publishers or self-published? After all, I’m told some people still think self-published books are a “tsunami of crap.”

But I’m not one of them and I’m thrilled that 13 self-published books finaled. Add to that the 21 books from small presses, and it seems those titles make up more than a third of the grand total. Very impressive. What surprised me most, however, was the large number of books from Harlequin. Yes, they used to be the “premiere” romance publisher, but they’re in a class action lawsuit filed by authors who accused them of massive cheating on royalties. Not my cup of tea.

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

The Daphne du Maurier Awards

Every year the Mystery/Suspense chapter of the Romance Writers of America (affectionately called the “Kiss of Death” chapter) holds two contests for romantic-suspense novels. One is for unpublished writers (and that means unpublished in any genre, not just mystery) who may enter manuscripts, and the other for published writers who may enter their novel published in the preceding year.

Awards are handed out at a party (called “Death by Chocolate) at the RWA Conference (this year on July 22-25 in New York City) In each of six categories, there were four finalists and one winner, and this year they were (drumroll please):

1. Category (Series) Romantic Mystery/Suspense
Natalie Charles, WHEN NO ONE IS WATCHING, Harlequin
Delores Fossen, RUSTLING UP TROUBLE, Harlequin
Karen McCollough, THE DETECTIVE’S DILEMMA, Kensington Lyrical
Bobbye Terry, THE WIDOW JAMES, Black Opal

Winner: Lena Diaz, TENNESSEE TAKEDOWN, Harlequin

2. Historical Romance Mystery/Suspense
Anthea Lawson, MISTRESS OF MELODY, Fiddlehead Press
Brenda Novak, A MATTER OF GRAVE CONCERN, Montlake Romance

Winner: Amanda DeWees, WITH THIS CURSE, Self-published.

3. Inspirational Romantic Mystery/Suspense
Elizabeth Camden, WITH EVERY BREATH, Bethany House
Irene Hannon, DECEIVED, Revell
Katy Lee, GRAVE DANGER, Harlequin-Love Inspired
Dani Pettrey, SILENCED, Bethany House

Winner: Debby Giusti, THE AGENT’S SECRET PAST, Harlequin

4. Paranormal (Fantasy, Time Travel, etc) Romantic Mystery/Suspense
Margo Bond Collins, LEGALLY UNDEAD, World Weaver Press
Angie Fox, BEVERLY HILLS DEMON SLAYER, Self-published
J. T. Geissinger, DARKNESS BOUND, Montlake Romance
Rebecca Zanetti, MARKED, e-Kensington

Winner: Liah Penn, PURE DEATH, Etopia

5. Single title Romantic Mystery/Suspense
Melinda Leigh, HOUR OF NEED, Montlake Romance
Tamsen Schultz, WHAT ECHOES RENDER, BookTrope
Michele Sharp, DREAM HUNTRESS, Self-published
Leslie Tentler, FALLEN, Left Field Press

Winner: Kendra Elliot, VANISHED, Montlake Romance

6. Mainstream Mystery-Suspense
Traci Andreghetti, LIMONCELLO YELLOW, Gemma Halliday Publishing
Carey Baldwin, JUDGMENT, Harper Collins-Witness Impulse
Kylie Brant, 11, Cedar River Press.
Libby Fischer Hellmann, NOBODY’S CHILD, Red Herring Press

Winner: Sandra Parshall, POISONED GROUND, Poisoned Pen Press

OVERALL DAPHNE WINNER: Kendra Elliot, VANISHED, Montlake Romance

As I’ve done in the past, I’ll point out which books were published by the BPH (Big Publishing Houses). This list includes Harlequin, since it’s still the best-known romance publisher, (only six titles, when in previous years it often won almost all). And I was being generous. Besides the well-known names (Penguin, Harper-Collins, and Poisoned Pen Press) I also included Kensington and the two inspirational presses, Bethany and Revell, giving them a total of 14. Therefore, it was only fair to put Montlake Romance (Amazon imprint) with small presses and self-publishers, which gives them a total of 16.

Not only did small presses and self-publishers fare better than the BPH, a self-published book, WITH THIS CURSE, was voted best Historical, and Montlake’s VANISHED was voted the Overall Winner. It will be interesting to see how the Ritas fared. Tune in next week.

Wednesday, August 5, 2015


Last week I read an article about Introverts which reminded me I’m an Introvert and had blogged about the topic a few years ago. Assuming there might be some visitors who hadn’t seen the earlier post, I’m repeating much of it today.

I wrote the original post on February 9, 2012, because of a TIME magazine article on introverts by Bryan Walsh. Among the interesting things he said about introverts was:

(1) They make up about 30 percent of the population.

(2) Introverts are not always “shy, although there’s some overlap.”

(3) Introverts don’t shun people. They just prefer them in smaller groups and less often. For example, I love intimate dinners of four to six people. Big cocktail parties not so much.

Walsh says this is especially difficult to do in America, which he calls “the land of the loud and the home of the talkative.”

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

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

Not to worry, Introverts learn to adapt early and there are plenty of occupations which require what introverts are good at, such as thinking things through.

Yes, it turns out that we introverts are actually smarter than extroverts. We make fewer wrong decisions, are less likely to get into danger, and take better care of our health. And why not, when we spend most of our time reading or thinking, while extroverts are bungee-jumping or talking?

Walsh mentions well-known introverts, such as Mahatma Ghandi, Warren Buffett, Bill Gates and Mother Teresa. He names no famous authors, but I suspect most writers are introverts. Why else are we so happy alone, or at our computers, inventing stuff?

What about you? Are you an introvert? How do you cope in our mostly-extrovert world?

Wednesday, July 29, 2015


Several years ago, when I lived in the San Francisco Bay Area, I took a writing class from a woman teacher and met Carole, who became my writing partner for three novels. Since two of them have been sold to publishers and the third is currently being read at a publisher, I consider this a successful collaboration and hope our method will inspire other authors.

Not that I’m encouraging writers to seek out a partner. When our collaboration began it wasn’t because we planned it. The teacher conducted a “workshop” style of class and encouraged writers to read their work aloud and let the other members critique it. This resulted in my learning that Carole, an intelligent well-educated young woman, was a fine writer and had a good command of language. I, on the other hand, excelled in action scenes and lots of dialogue. At about the same time, we both realized our styles complemented each other and might, therefore, be an asset in writing romance novels, which had become popular at the time.

That teacher also introduced us to a larger critique group of about 30 women who met in an unused room at a local Sears department store. All were writing romance novels and some were selling them to Harlequin and other publishers and making money. With my son’s tuition bills a considerable expense, I wanted to do that too. Carole had read some romance novels and I borrowed three of them from her, resulting in my saying, “I can do that.”

I’ve told how I managed to become a romance author elsewhere, so won’t repeat it here. This post is about co-authoring and, inasmuch as Carole and I were rather successful at it, I can suggest some tips to others about how we worked together.

1. Choose someone as much like yourself as possible. Although Carole still had a day job (schoolteacher), we lived in the same town and could get together on weekends or the summer break, so we became friends as well. We both had middle-class backgrounds, were close to the same age, and even each grew up with a sister. Neither of us had sold any of our writing at that time, so we were both “newbies” and open to learning all we could.

2. Respect your partner's talent and style. I soon learned that Carole was a “word” person and I was a “story” person. These were my own descriptions, and I later wrote an article explaining that, which was published in a writers’ magazine. I also used it as the basis of talks I gave to several RWA chapters in California. Carole’s original method was sitting in front of the typewriter, trying to find the perfect word, for the perfect sentence, to put in the perfect paragraph. This could take hours, whereas I could dash off an entire 3000-word story in one day. I called my method “down and dirty.” Sure, it needed rewriting and improving, but that’s where our collaboration came in.

3. The process.  Having decided to write a romance novel, we first “brainstormed” the plot, and sometimes those synopses ran to 15 pages. Then I wrote the first chapter, getting the action going and using plenty of dialogue. Next I handed the pages to Carole and she’d improve the language, add descriptions, and use similes and metaphors that elevated the writing.

4. Work together. This meant discussing what each of us brought to the project and making sure we both agreed with the outcome. Sometimes I thought Carole inserted too many adjectives, and sometimes Carole thought we needed to add more backstory about our characters.

The only serious disagreement we had during one of those sessions was about the attitude of the hero. I had written the scene with him feeling one way, and Carole thought it was unrealistic. We slept on it and then I asked my husband what he would do if he were the hero and he said I was right. At that time, Carole had not yet met the man she married, but she finally agreed with me.

5. Details. As I said earlier, we wrote three books together this way, but then my husband retired and we moved out of the Bay Area. We still kept in touch and - since I had more time to devote to it - I was the person who submitted our books to publishers, and, from time to time, Carole would send me a check to reimburse me for paper, envelopes and postage.

6. Other Rewards. Each of us continued to write our own novels. Carole wrote a historical romance she later had published and I wrote eleven books in the next thirteen years. In addition, when one of our three co-written books was returned, I sometimes rewrote it somewhat, taking advantage of comments by editors or things I was learning through reading writers’ magazines and books, or through classes and critique groups I joined.

I sold seven of my self-written books, and then, as I mentioned in an earlier blog post here, I finally sold the first book Carole and I had written together, SOUTHERN STAR. Avalon Books took it, sent us generous advance checks and then went out of business. However, they sold the company to Amazon and we became Montlake Romance authors.

In addition, thanks to e-mail and compatible computer software, we rewrote our other two novels together to bring them up to date and to satisfy publishers’ requirements. That, as before, was another fulfilling experience.

Carole, too, has written more books on her own. I can’t speak specifically for her about her new methods, but as for me, what I learned while we collaborated obviously made me a better writer. I learned how to write interesting descriptions (I used to hate descriptions) and I found myself enjoying thinking up similes and metaphors to add to my otherwise “plain vanilla” writing. So, in addition to selling the books we wrote together, we established a lasting friendship and continue to write and publish novels.

If you’re thinking about co-authoring, or have it thrust upon you in some way, take our advice and go for it. It might be one of the best moves you ever make.

P.S. If you’ve already done it, tell me about your experience, good or bad, in the comments.

Wednesday, July 22, 2015


As I said last time, I don’t remember the names and results of all the contests I entered. Although a “Finalist,” not the winner, my favorite contest was the St. Martin’s Press Malice Domestic Mystery Contest from MacMillan. Considering the prestige of the publisher, even “finalist” elevated my accomplishment in my own eyes.

The “malice domestic” part meant that the suspects to the crime had to be members of the family in which a murder, or other crime, took place. I enjoyed writing about characters who seemed loyal aunts, uncles, cousins or siblings of the victim, and invented nasty things that the amateur sleuth in the story might think they were up to.

I actually submitted my book twice, several years apart, and both results made me a finalist. Some friends suggested I enter it again (the contest is held every year), saying, “Third time’s the charm,” but I haven’t done so.

Instead, the book will become the second in the cozy mystery series for which I’ve signed a contract and hope to see in bookstores in 2016.

Although not technically a contest, I entered both cozy mysteries in Amazon’s Scout program last year. That’s where readers vote for the books they like and believe should be published by Kindle Press. For a time, each of my books was close to being chosen (sort of a “finalist?) but ultimately didn’t make it. I’m planning to submit a different mystery to Scout soon and perhaps that one will.

That’s the thing about contests. You have to enter in order to have a chance of winning. In the case of Kindle Scout, winning a publishing contract means a $1500 advance, royalties of 50% on e-books, return of your rights after five years (not your life plus 70 years) if you’re not satisfied and a mere 45 days from submission to answer. What’s not to like?

Wednesday, July 15, 2015


The weekly Anne R. Allen Blog is the background for my own blog this week. Anne writes about the Library Journal “Self-E” contest which is what it sounds like: a contest for self-published digital e-books.

There’s no entry fee, but there are prizes for the winners in each of the four categories: Romance, Mystery, Science Fiction and Fantasy. Aside from the generous prizes, the reason for entering is to make libraries aware of your book so patrons may borrow it and then “discover” you as an author whose other books they might want to read. Google “Library Journal” for details.

During my many years of writing and submitting fiction, I’ve entered many contests, but won (or finaled in) very few. Which, therefore, makes them easy for me to remember.

GOLDEN FIRE. My first published book was the result of a writing contest. Contest submissions were to be the first three chapters or the entire novel, and, since I had only written three chapters, that’s what I submitted. Imagine my surprise when I received a letter stating I was one of the finalists and asking for the rest of the book.

I was ready and willing to finish it, but decided if I didn’t win, it would be a lot of work for nothing. So I asked how many finalists there were and was told, “five.” That didn’t seem like too much competition, and I never started a book - even in those days - without knowing the ending, so I promised to send the entire manuscript. However, I pleaded needing time for “final polish,” and this was the early days of computers, and I was given thirty days. I met the deadline, won first place and publication. The bad news? The prize was a Windjammer cruise which I couldn’t take, and, although the book was published, the company went out of business before paying me royalties. Much later, I rewrote the book, gave it a different title and published it again as a mass-market paperback which, alas, soon disappeared from bookstores.

Years passed and I sold other romance novels. Fortunately, I have forgotten all the other contests I entered without winning, but I felt - still do - that it was a good idea to enter them.

NORTH BY NORTHEAST. Then my husband and I took a trip on a train called The American Orient Express. We started in New Orleans, traveled East to Florida and then up the east coast to Savannah, Charleston and Richmond, ending in Washington D.C. in time for the Cherry Blossom Festival. It was such a fine trip, and I met a fellow writer on board who urged me to write about it, so I did. On a two-week vacation to Hawaii later that year, I took my laptop and every morning I wrote ten pages before we hit the beach. I was living in San Diego county at the time and knew there was a contest there, so I asked my husband to self-publish it for me (a new method at the time) and entered it. It won first prize and I got to put stickers, “Winner of San Diego Book Award” on my print copies. And I can now put “Award Winning Author” on all my books.
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I’ll continue my list next time, but meanwhile would like to hear stories about your foray into the contest world. So, fellow writers, have you entered contests? Won a prize or two? Tell me.

Thursday, July 9, 2015


After all these years, you’d think I’d know which genre is best for me, but it turns out I’ve only now figured it out.

Having an older sister, who started school before I did, I learned to read early and loved reading. One of my grandmothers always gave me a book as a Christmas present, and I haunted the public library. It was four blocks away, but I walked there and carried home as many books as they’d allow someone my age. The one on top of the pile was open so I could read as I walked home. Fortunately traffic was light, so I avoided cars going up and down curbs crossing streets. When they built a new library less than a block from our house, I was in heaven.

I read almost everything, and especially whatever was popular at the time. In other words, mostly mainstream fiction. So, when I began to do my own writing, I leaned toward the types of stories in the mainstream magazines and in best sellers. I even sent my early stories to New York magazine publishers, but never sold any. I didn’t try novels, thinking I’d have to work up to it.

Years passed, life happened, and my big breakthrough came when I took a writing class in the town where I lived and, as a result, was able to join a writing critique group. We were about 30 women who met in a vacant room in a Sears store. Listening to the readings, I learned almost all the others were writing romance novels, and even selling them, but I had never read any. I borrowed three, read them, and decided I could do that. Plus, the income would help with tuition for my son’s private parochial school. I gave myself two years to try, and one year later, I won a romance writing contest. Membership in RWA and sales followed.

However, I still read mainstream novels, as well as my favorite, mysteries. I even wrote mysteries and submitted them to editors, but never clicked. I joined an online mystery critique group to try to learn why, and my writing did improve, but sales didn’t come soon. However, my first mystery will finally be published in November, and I’ve just signed a contract for two cozy mysteries.

The latter happened so surprisingly I realized what had been missing all along: voice. When I wrote in first person and let my humorous side come through, the editor offered the contract after reading only three chapters of one of the two books. I asked why the quick decision, and she said, “When I finished reading the three chapters, I wanted to continue. Your voice, plus the fact you sold so many romance novels and I can trust you to turn in good stories, made it an easy choice.”

Plus, as Joe Konrath often says, ”Luck always plays a part.” Self-publishing and Amazon have given opportunities to thousands of writers. Some of my early romances are leading second lives and adding coffee money to my bank account. The other thing I learned is that it’s never too late for luck, or the right style and genre, to strike.

Wednesday, July 1, 2015


The Internet, as you well know, is a treasure trove of information, some useful, some not so much. Others would characterize it, perhaps, as “trivia,” or even, as has been said about self-published books, “a tsunami of crap.” The latter, however, is way too harsh, especially considering the particular information I had looked up, hoping to learn something useful.

Even more harsh, since these were first lines of famous novels by famous people. I mean, can one criticize the work of such luminaries as Tolstoy, Dickens, Twain, Hemingway, and Fitzgerald?

One thing that surprised me - although perhaps it should not have - was that I found lists of 100 Famous First Lines, or 50 Great First Lines, or 30 Memorable First Lines, and the same books showed up on all of them. Again, perhaps that shouldn’t be surprising. This is a very good collection of first sentences of popular books, and how many can there really be?

Perhaps some day I’ll write a first line that will show up on such a list. Meanwhile, here are some first lines I’ve written that I’m considering using:

“He was going to have her killed, and there wasn’t a damn thing she could do about it.”

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

“Nothing else equaled the excitement of Churchill Downs during the running of the Kentucky Derby.”

“No one murdered Edward Mason. At least I didn't think so.”

Or maybe not. What first Line have you written that you’re happy with and might put on one of your books?

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Reminder: The e-book of my second novella about Sherlock Holmes, THE SIGN OF FIVE, will be free beginning tomorrow for five days.

Wednesday, June 24, 2015


About four years ago, my TV producer friend asked me to write a series about Sherlock Holmes. She wanted to produce a television series in which Holmes shows up in the 21st century in the San Francisco apartment of a young woman, and together they solve crimes. Her only other requirement was that there be another man involved, a younger man named Watson, whose job was to maintain some of the old Victorian houses in the city, and was so good at that, he was nicknamed “Doc.”

Having read all Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s stories about the detective, I agreed to do it and I wrote three chapters of the first book of a series, which my friend hoped to use as a springboard to her TV show. Alas, less than a year later, it was announced that not one, but two, TV series featuring Holmes were underway. We know them now as the British SHERLOCK, starring Benedict Cumberbatch, and ELEMENTARY, the American series.

However, the idea intrigued me and I decided to write a series of novellas based on Doyle’s stories. I finished writing the first book that year, and then, after January, 2014, when the courts declared Holmes was in the public domain, I wrote two more. My friend having retired and no longer interested, I invented the rest of the novella backstory myself. My young woman was an orphan adopted by a Hollywood movie star, who named her Sheridan Holmes and told her she was a descendant of the fictional Holmes. Besides “Doc” Watson, there’s a grandmother who writes romance novels and owns the Victorian house they live in and, when “Sherry” decorates her flat to resemble 221-B Baker Street in London, the ghost of Holmes himself appears. Plus, there’s both mystery and humor.

Why am I telling you all this? Because the three novellas are now available and, during July, they’re free, one at a time, as e-books on Amazon. A STUDY IN AMBER goes free tomorrow, June 25, until June 29, THE SIGN OF FIVE will be free July 2 through 6, and THE RED HERRING July 9 through 13.

Naturally, I’m not the only writer who took advantage of the Holmes character no longer being under copyright, and hundreds of books have made their debut. However, all of those stories keep  Holmes in the 19th century. I reimagined them in the world of movies, automobiles, computers, microwave ovens and cell phones.

And what fun I’ve had. No trunks full of Spanish coins and jewels. No pirates, no horse-drawn carriages racing through foggy London streets, no kings who need Holmes’s advice and talent for deduction. Just a clever man with a sharp mind and a young woman who must carry out his wishes in her own clever, but modern, way.

And if you enjoy my take on the subject, do write a review.

Wednesday, June 17, 2015


I wanted to amuse myself today, but perhaps I’ll have amused you too. Or given you a reason to keep writing.

1. The road to hell is paved with “Works in Progress.” Philip Roth

2. We are all apprentices in a craft where no one ever becomes a master. Ernest Hemingway

3. If it sounds like writing, rewrite it. Elmore Leonard

4. I try to cut out the parts people skip. Elmore Leonard (Read all ten of Leonard’s rules.)

5. Work is writing. Everything else is odd jobs. (Many authors)

6. Writers live twice. (Many authors)

7. A professional writer is an amateur who didn’t quit. Richard Bach

8. There is nothing to writing. All you do is sit at a typewriter and open a vein. (Various authors, various suggestions)

9. The difference between the right word and the almost-right word is the difference between lightning and the lighting bug. Mark Twain

10. Substitute “damn” for every ”very” in your work. The editor will delete it and then it will be perfect. Mark Twain

11. Writing is a socially acceptable form of schizophrenia. E. L. Doctorow

12. I’m not a very good writer, but I’m an excellent rewriter. James Mitchener

13. I love writing. I hate the paperwork. Peter De Vries

14. The best time for planning a book is while doing the dishes. Agatha Christie

15. Heinlein’s Five Rules for writing: (Dean Wesley Smith suggests following these.)
Rule #1. You must write.
Rule #2. You must finish what you start.
Rule #3. You must not rewrite, except to editorial order.
Rule #4. You must put on the market what you write.
Rule #5. You must keep it on the market until it sells.

Time for me to follow this good advice and actually write.

Wednesday, June 10, 2015


It’s the oldest question authors are asked, “Where do you get your ideas?” Also the most popular. Since we hear it so often, many of us might have stock (even snarky) answers, like, “A wizard comes in the middle of the night and drops ideas in my head.” Or, “They come from an IDEA BOOK, which is out of print.”

The rest of us don’t mind telling readers, or anyone who asks, how the inspiration came to write a particular story. We enjoy remembering the moment, and, talking about our books is our favorite topic anyway.

My first book was THE GREEN BOUGH, the memoir of my husband’s aunt, who was a schoolteacher in a logging camp in Oregon in 1913. The e-book recently took part in an Amazon Countdown promotion priced at $.99, but, although that ended yesterday, it’s still available in both e-book and print. Being a memoir, the events chronicled came from Aunt Gladys herself, and I’m indebted to her for having such an adventurous early life.

Next came CHOICES, based on the nineteen years I sold my husband’s artwork at art shows and fairs all over the San Francisco Bay Area. The characters and their stories in that book were the result of observation and/or my imagination. I simply thought about a person and asked myself, “What if?” Such as, “What if he really killed his wife?” Or, “What happened at the Gay Ball?” Or, “Why did she cheat on her husband?”

So, real life is a great plot generator. Plus, real life often involves travel. To Hawaii, London, Paris, Rome, or to New Orleans by train. I’ve used all of those places in my books.

Three years ago, the hundredth anniversary of the sinking of the Titanic spawned ideas that found their way into my novel COLD APRIL, and my experience founding and running an investment club was responsible for my novella, THE WEDDING GUEST.

The Kentucky Derby plays a major part in my novel BEATING THE ODDS, currently in an editor’s office. Wouldn’t it be great if that book got published the same year a Kentucky Derby winner went on to win the Triple Crown? And after 37 years? (See last week’s sports news.)

The fact is ideas are everywhere because people and their interesting lives are everywhere. There’s a saying, ”Love makes the world go around,” which is proved every day, as men and women find each other and fall in love. That’s why thousands of romance novels are published every year.

How about you? What did you do recently that could be turned into a story other readers might like?