Sunday, July 31, 2011

Liz's Lair: Breaking Out The Good Champagne

Woo hoo! As of last night, Mysteries and Margaritas has 200 followers. We knew we were getting close, and we all agreed that the person who was blogging the day we hit that milestone would send the lucky person a $10 B&N or Amazon gift card. Since it happened on a Sunday, I'll step up and be the one.

Congrats to Melissa. I tried to find your email but can't. So, when you see this post, email me at Liz@Liz and I'll put the prize in the mail.

I decided this was the perfect opportunity to say how much we appreciate all of our followers, especially the ones who religiouly comment and join in the fun as we laugh at ourselves, promote ourselves, and sometimes even say something that someone doesn't already know. Thank you all so much for hanging in there with us.

For today's blog topic, I decided to go with something that will hopefully generate a great conversation. Let's talk sex.

Since I write both straight and cozy mysteries, I go from one extreme to the other. We all know most genres have to have at least one good sex scene. To write a really good one, you have to kiss off your conservative upbringing and dive in. My question is--how do you do this knowing your mother, grown children, people you barely know, and the entire rest of the world will read every word? I remember hearing my daughter tell someone that she nearly flipped out reading her mother talking about orgasms. Does she think the stork brought her?

And I related a story a while back about a male friend who keeps looking at me funny after reading one of my sex scenes. I don't write erotica in my straight mysteries, but my sex scenes are steamy. I like getting into the H/H's heads while they're getting it on, and most of the time, I add humor. I think I do a decent job and have no problem with it, but I have friends who absolutely hate writing sex. They even go so far as to compare it to writing a synopsis, which ALL writers hate.

In the first chapter of Mortal Deception, my heroine dresses up in sexy clothes and goes into a bar for the sole purpose of seducing a man she has been tailing for the past 5 weeks. She's a widower and hasn't had sex in over two years, but she'll do anything to save her nephew's life. I particularly like that scene because I put so much humor into it. My girl worries she won't remember how to do it and needs liquor just thinking about getting naked. I also like writing villain sex, loving the way the dialogue during the act can really tell a lot about my bad guys.

I'm going to leave you with the trailer for Mortal Deception, which BTW will be available from Amazon in two weeks. Because I am using it to entice readers to get to know me, I will be offering it for $.99 until after Liver Let Die comes out. Stay tuned for the launch party, tentatively scheduled for August 15th.

In the meantime, I am curious how you guys handle your sex scenes. Do you agonize over them? Do you show your significant other? I made the mistake of reading one to my hubby, only to hear him say OMG! OMG! I toned it down.

Anyway, jump in this discussion as one lucky commentor will recieve a free download of MD when it is available. (Woo hoo. You win $.99!!)Believe it or not, it is a great heartwarming story...with sex!

Friday, July 29, 2011

Words We Use Too Frequently

Yesterday I promised to post a list of words we volunteered as our crutch words. The day got ahead of me so I'm a few hours late and butting into the usual Friday posting. My apologies. The list is long. I tried to find duplicates, but I might have missed a few. I will say I had to cut "just" and "then" off of most submissions. We all are certainly guilty of using many of the same words. So, here's the list to date. Copy it if it is of help. Thank God there is a "Find" and "Replace" function in our word processors. Happy writing!


as if
just as

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Cassy’s Corner- Words

I am in the midst of starting a new book. “In the midst” means I’m plotting, thinking, dreaming of my new characters and worrying about what trouble my new friends will be facing. It becomes a challenge. I hit the brakes in my car a little too hard yesterday to manage a red light. My protagonist was talking with me and I didn’t see the yellow turn to red until the last minute. Darn, she should know when to tone it down so I can get home safely.

But that is not the point of today’s post, only an early morning rant against these folks who invade my life. I make them up and then they move in.

Today’s musings are about words. What are the words that invade your writing? I have many that become so redundant they are useless. I have to do a search for them and then not only hit the delete button, but take out a gun and shoot them. The list is embarrassingly long.








Oh, the list goes on and on. We all have our crutch words, but I worry when too many of them end up in one sentence! Let’s create a list. Send yours in and we can have a search function to help us all. I’ll happily make a full reporting of what kicks us. With the “find” feature in our programs we can clean this us. So….. I’m waiting. Let me know your “Ugh, I did it again words” and I’ll put out a list.

As always, trying to make it better.


Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Kari's Kave: And the Winner is....

This contest was the best idea I've ever had!

You guys seriously gave me so many fabulous ideas, it was impossible to pick just one. So I picked a winner and a runner up...and BOTH will receive a signed copy of Tempest in the Tea Leaves. You've earned it and then some!

I am going to use parts of the winner's idea for book 3 and parts of the runner up's idea for book 4 (only Granny won't be the suspect in that one, someone else from town will), with little bits of several of the other ideas thrown in!

People often wonder how authors come up with their ideas and all the cool plot twists. Sometimes on our own, but even then we usually brainstorm with someone as we flesh the idea out. Other times from a song, a movie, a newspaper or news report, etc. In my case, I chose a contest.

We don't just sit down with a fully fleshed idea that pops into our head and write the book from start to finish, with all the twists and turns added in on the first pass. It usually doesn't work like that. Most authors have to go back and add twists in, change things up, and yes, brainstorm. Things come to us as we are in the middle of a book, and often times through brainstorming with our peeps.

So thank you, my peeps, for letting me storm your brains. You brainstormers rock!

And now what you've been waiting for. The winner is....

Meg London / Peg Cochran

Granny's nemesis from high school shows up in town--lifted, botoxed, and dressed to the nines with flame red hair. She and Granny have competed since they were kids--for school prizes, athletic trophies, and men. when Fiona sets her cap for Captain Walker, Granny is furious. Alas, fiona winds up dead--poisoned by one of Granny's cookies.

(I can just see them competing at the cat show, at the county fair, at a cookoff, in the sewing circle, etc, wreaking havoc on the town :-) This is going to be a fun one to write)

The runner up is.....


Lucy Phelps, the pretty and young new hairdresser, has moved to town and bought the old Hanson place. As Granny is getting her hair done one day, she discovers Lucy likes to quilt and invites her to join the sewing circle. However, when Lucy joins, she lets slip about an old diary she found in her attic while moving in, which contains the dark secrets of several prominent ladies in town, including a few in the sewing circle. Blackmail follows shortly after, and Granny is one of Lucy's victims. Soon Lucy disappears, only to reappear in Granny's garden with the Fool (Tarot Card) atop a garden marker over her buried body.

(In this case it will be someone else in town who is the suspect and maybe it will involve the Bridge club with men and women or something, and whatever fortune-telling tool I will use for that book. But I love this idea.)

Many of the other ideas will be used in some form for future books as well. You've all definitely inspired me, so thank you from the bottom of my heart :-)

Happy writing and reading!

PS Will the winners please email me with your address at so I can mail you your books? Hope you enjoy them :-)

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Anita's Attic: What Good is a List?

From the time we start writing, we hear about rankings and lists. What author doesn't dream of hitting the New York Times Best Seller List? Or the USA Today Best Seller List. There are so many it's hard to keep track of them. But does it really matter? I know a writer who hit the NYT Best Seller List a couple of years ago, and she's now working two jobs to make ends meet.

I was thrilled when I stumbled on my own book, Awaken the Highland Warrior, on the Amazon Best Seller List in three different categories. #2 for Time Travel Romance, #2 for Fantasy & Futuristic Romance, and I didn't even realize until our own Taryn pointed out to me that I was #17 on Amazon's Science Fiction & Fantasy List. Holy smokes! This isn't a romance list, it's ALL science fiction and fantasy, right there with Harry Potter. Now it isn't the NYT list, but I was pretty darned impressed. You know what my editor said? "It's nice to see, but it really doesn't mean anything." Well crud! I got excited for nothing.

Or did I...

I've decided that the numbers do count, because they're proof that I've achieved my dream. But what really matters, more than numbers and lists and nice reviews, are the letters from readers saying how much they loved the book. For me, that's what writing is about. If you don't mind, I would love to share a few reader emails.


"I’m presently reading “Awaken the Highland Warrior”. I LOVE it. This is the first time I’ve ever written to an author to send a thank you for a book. But I just couldn’t resist. Can’t wait for the other 2 books in the series. Thank you!"

"i finished the book. it was great!!!!!! i cant wait till nov to read the next one !!!! please keep me informed of any more books . I willl be reading all your books!!!!!! YOUR#1 FAN!!!!!"

"Can't put the book down! I hate having to wait until the next two come out!"

"Will you be putting the next two highlander books on Kindle anytime soon? Absolutely loved Awaken the Highland Warrior."

"I just finished reading Awaken the Highland Warrior and wanted to let you know how much I enjoyed it. Everything about it was great - the main characters, the secondary characters, the plot, the writing."

"I have a kindle and am reading your wonderful book Awaken the Highland Warrior. This is the only book available for kindle. Will your other books be available for kindle soon, I truely hope they are."

"I just happened to stumble on Awaken the Highland Warrior. I love it. I have about 40 pages left and I hate to finish it. Is this book the first in a series of three? Are you planning to expand this series?I can't wait for Embrace the Highland Warrior in November and then Unleash the Highland Warrior in the spring of 2012.Thank you for putting your imagination and dreams in writing."

"I just wanted to let you know that I read your book and thoroughly enjoyed it. I was at the beach last week and took it along for an easy read. I couldn’t put it down and enjoyed it so much! I can’t wait for Embrace the Highland Warrior to be published."

"Dear Mrs. Clenney,

"'That's cute' she said with a lopsided, dirt-smudged smile.
'The way you say damnation all the time.'
He'd had a lot of compliments in his lifetime, on how he handled a horse, a sword, a pistol, and his fists, and a few compliments on other things from a pretty lass or two, but no one had ever
compliments him on cursing. He grinned. Only Bree."

^^^^That right there, is one of my favorite moments of the book. The voice is so strong and it's so freaking adorable!"

"I had the opportunity to talk to you at the book signing at Turn the Page last Friday and after talking to you I bought your first book. I came home with lots of books, but yours was the first one that I read. I'm not normally a paranormal kind of person; however, I absolutely loved your book. I am so excited to read your next two. I hope at some point you do books about Ronan, Conall, Duncan, and Sorcha. I told you I would be honest about your book and it was an absolute blast to read!!! Thank-you for sharing your story."


And just in case it seems like I'm bragging, (shoot, I probably am), I'll post the only negative thing I've heard from a reader. She wasn't even a reader. She was a potential reader.

Dear Anita,
I was quite excited when I saw your book at my local Barnes & Noble. However, when I turned it over to check out the back, I was very disappointed. Why on earth would you want to write about Demons? Why not write a wonderful historical romance? Sorry.

And this woman didn't even look inside the book. I guess demons aren't her cup of tea. :) What about you guys, what do you want from writing? Is it to make a particular list or to sell a certain number of copies? I think those are all legitimate goals, but for me, it's hearing how much my book has meant to readers. That makes me happy. And I know that the other wonderful ladies on this blog will soon be hearing from their own readers because there's a lot of talent here.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Liz’s Lair: Writing Advice From a Three-Year Old

My grandkids are getting to the age where we feel comfortable taking them on excursions without their parents. My daughter and son-in-law are under a lot of stress both at work and at home, so Dan and I decided we would try to help them out. We already babysit once a week for our son and DIL so they can have a “date” night, and we’re planning on getting more helpful now that our granddaughters are getting older.

The plan was to pick up the two boys (ages 6 and 3) on Thursday night and have them sleep over. Instead of daycare on Friday, we were going to take them to a water park that opened close by. The boys sleep together at home, so naturally, they wanted to do that here, too…with me. Have you ever slept with a 3 and a 6 year old in one bed? Legs and arms go flying, bodies somehow get upside down, and both boys are jammed as close to me as they can get. I get about 8 inches on the edge of the bed, and even then, I usually have squatters. That's a whole other story, though.

Anyway, the six-year old (Grayson) fell asleep watching some cartoon, but the three year-old (Caden) was not about to give up without a fight. After all, he’s at Nana’s house, and all rules go out the window. What happens at Nana's …stays at Nana’s.

After the cartoon ended, I shut off the TV and of course, he fussed. Cuddling him close, I told him the story of Goldilocks. When I was finished, he wanted one more story, so I gave in and decided on The Three Pigs. Here’s how the conversation went:

There were three piggies, brothers like you and Grayson, and they all decided to build a house. The first piggy didn't want to spend a lot of time on it, so he…

What’s the piggy's name, Nana?”

Me: “He doesn't have a name, Caden. He's just the first piggy. Anyway, he finds straw…”

But what’s the piggy's name?’

Me: “Piggy number one. Anyway, he builds this straw house, and before long…”

Caden: “No, what's the piggy's name, Nana?”

By this time, I can hear the frustration in his voice, but I’m getting frustrated, too. I want to huff and puff these piggy houses down and get to sleep since we had a big day planned for Friday.

Me: “He’s Mister Porker…”

Caden: “That's not a name,” he shouted.

“Okay. Okay. Joe Piggy.”

He got quiet for a while, then said, “Oh.”

So, I finish the story with this scenario repeated for Piggy Number Two, who is Fred, BTW. By the time I got to Piggy Number Three, I went straight to Sammy.

I was telling the pig story to Dan the next day and having a good laugh over it when I realized there was a lesson in all this.


When a reader is getting into your story, they need to identify a character with something. The name you choose usually comes with a little back-story. For instance, if I called a young boy Winston, you would probably automatically think smart and rich. Don’t ask me where I came up with that, but that's what I would think. Johnny, on the other hand, conjures up an energetic, ornery kid with freckles from the many… “and the teacher asked Johnny “ jokes.

Since I have confessed my absolute suckiness at writing descriptive stuff, names become even more important. I have a lot of different characters in my books because I kill ¾ of them off, and I introduce most of them in the first three chapters in my setup. I know. I know. I can hear all your tongues clicking about doing that, but it's how I roll. In my second book of the Clueless Cook series, my agent suggested I send a character sheet to the editor with the manuscript since there were so many new folks. She’s almost freaky about names that sound alike, too many Hispanic names (both of which I am guilty of.) etc.

So, I now have a sheet of paper with every letter of the alphabet on it with several lines in between. I alphabetize the name of every character in my series, both by first and last name. That way, on book three I don’t repeat a name or get one too close. It's only then that I can see how many Hispanic names I really have. (Hey, I'm in Texas!!) And now I’d like to hear how you handle your characters’ names.

But first I have to confess the outcome of my Joe/Fred/Sammy Piggy story with that adorable grandson of mine. When I finished, I said, “Well, did you like that?”

He thought for a minute, then said, “You don’t tell it like Miss Ronda does.”

Seriously? No, the little toot did not just give me my first negative review!!

Friday, July 22, 2011

Barbie Jo's Bunkhouse: Getting into Character

So earlier this week, I had an idea for a blog post. Then after reading Cassy's post yesterday - something even better came to mind.

How far will you go to get into character????

It's summer, time for vacations, and stay-cations, day trips and just plain fun. In the spirit of getting your characters "just right", have you ever visited a place where you had an opportunity to put yourself in your characters shoes, if only for a day? We have renaissance fairs (yes, I probably butchered the spelling - it's just one of those words I can never get right)that I LOVE to go to. People in cosutme re-creating a time period that is one of my favorites. (the jousting, giant turkey legs, wench dunking) Ever since I was a teen, I've wanted to go with friends and actually get in costume. Sad to say, I've never done it. Part of me still wants to - could be more fun as an adult! (Not that I'm in the process of writing a historical, but it would be fun)

I've often re-created scenes in my home (when no one else was around) to make sure what I was having the heroine do was actually logical based on the situation and how she was sitting/standing etc...

I've gone on trips where we toured caverns, and wondered how my character would behave if she were trapped underground - great experience!

And before this year is out, I will indeed host a murder mystery dinner party. I'm dying to corral suspects at my house and try to figure out who-dunnit!

so what crazy things have you done, or places have you visited in order to "get into character"?

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Cassy's Corner- Interviewing Your Characters

I am beginning a new book. It's different than the others I have written. It is becoming a fun project, but I am having to think through the character arcs from a new perspective. A few days ago I was struggling. I knew how my main character needed to behave, what she was thinking and how the plot would progress. Yup, had all that.

What I didn't have was a depth to the dialogue or the scenes. They seemed flat to me, two dimensional rather than three. I rewrote 15 pages. Nope, still not there. I confess to feeling a tad frustrated. I KNOW my themes are good. I believe in this story. It has been occupying my thoughts around the clock. It's practically stalking me.

I was chopping vegetables for dinner Monday night and during the somewhat mundane task I was thinking about Alex (the main character) and what she was going through. Poof! There she was sitting at my kitchen island playing with a glass of wine. Well, I couldn't resist the opportunity to ask her why she was "flat" in my book. I needed her to jump off the page and capture the reader's concern. She laughed.

"It's because you aren't enough in my skin," she said.
"What do you mean?"
"Live my life as if it were your own. I am angry, pissed off, furious, and scared."
"I've said all that. It's on the page," I answered.
"No. Not really. You've told the reader what I have been going through. How difficult it is. But you haven't used the right words that reflect the hell I've been facing."

I had to think about that. My descriptions were thin. She deserved more, as did my readers. I didn't go back to make any changes that evening. Rather, I let it sit. On Tuesday I re-read my pages. Alex was right.

Yesterday I invited Alex to join me as I wrote the next chapter. She sat in the chair alongside me and constantly challenged me. Our conversation continued and my writing got better. We yakked at each other for hours. Later in the day I had a few errands to run. I invited Alex to join me in the car. We talked the entire time, out loud and at times quite vigorously. I did have to be careful in the grocery store to keep the conversation in my head. I live in a small town and can just imagine what would be said about me rambling the aisles of the store muttering to my imaginary friend.

I am looking forward to the writing today. Alex has done a great job of teaching me more about herself and what motivates her to take on the transitions she is about to undertake. I'm not sure she has to occupy the chair alongside me as I put her through an agonizing day. But I do know where to find her if my words again fall short or if I am not sure what she is thinking.

I've been asked many times if writing is lonely. How can it be when you can conjure up a companion who talks constantly and is very needy?

Are there techniques you use to learn more about your characters?

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Kari's Kave: It's Contest & GiveawayTime!

In getting ready for the heatwave starting today and going all weekend long, I realized it's going to be hot!

So I decided to come up with a "hot" contest :-)

TEMPEST IN THE TEA LEAVES comes out in 13 days!!!

I am unbelievably excited for people to read this series. We, as authors, put so much blood, sweat, and tears into the work we do. That's why we go a little crazy when our books finally hit the shelves. Like Liz said, it's scary as hell. We know not everyone is going to like our books, but we hope at least some do. After all that work, the last thing we want is for a book to fail. So I raise my glass to you and make a toast: Here's hoping mine doesn't!

Okay, now onto the contest time. I just handed CORPSE IN THE CRYSTAL BALL in to my editor. I loved writing that book just as much, if not more, than book one. So now it's time to move on to book three, TROUBLE IN THE TAROT. The "trouble" is, I have no idea where to begin with this one. So I thought I'd reach out to all of you and see if any of you could spark an idea for me. What do you think book three should be about?

I will give away one signed copy of TEMPEST to the commenter who comes up with the best book idea for me :-) Even if I don't use the idea, but it sparks my creative juices the most, you will win!

Here are the blurbs for books one and two:

Sunshine Meadows is a big city psychic who moves to the quaint town of Divinity, NY to open her fortune telling business in an ancient victorian house, inheriting the strange cat residing within. Sunny gives her first reading to the frazzled town librarian and discovers the woman is going to die. When the woman flees in terror, Sunny calls the police, only she's too late. The ruggedly handsome, hard-nosed detective is a "non-believer." He finds the librarian dead, and Sunny becomes his number one suspect, forcing her to prove her innocence before the real killer can put an end to the psychic's future.

When fortune teller Sunshine Meadows helps the police find a missing person, her vison is crystal clear. Only, she never could have predicted the corpse in the crystall ball would be hunky, hard-nosed Detective Mitch Stone's ex-girlfriend or that he would be the number one suspect. Can he put his pride aside while she clears his name this time? Only the future knows for sure...

What should this plot be about? Think TV blurb. I don't want to know who the killer will be. I just want to know who dies, etc. It doesn't have to be a perfect blurb, etc. Just what do you think in general this one should be about?

In book one, Sunny is the main suspect. In book two, Detective Mitch Stone is the main suspect. In book three, I want Sunny's Granny Gert to be the main suspect. I just don't know who dies and why they would think it's Granny.

Granny is a hoot. A bit naive, but a sweet, lovable, spunky old lady (she's 79) who shouldn't be allowed behind the wheel of a car. She visits Sunny in book two and will now be a regular character. She has pristine white hair from having Scarlet Fever at 16, and has had the white hair ever since. She has snappy brown eyes full of mischief. She wears old aprons she hand made because she recylces and reuses everything. She even makes hideous bow-ties and keeps dressing up the cat, Morty. She carries around her wooden spoon and has the perfect "cookie" for everything. And she uses an old orange pumpkin cookie jar with a missing lid, so she covers a plate in foil and uses that as the top. She finally has money from her deceased husband, but she's old school from the depression age and hates banks. She keeps a lot of her money in shoeboxes under the bed still. She has a strict schedule she sticks to. Monday cleaning, Tuesday laundry, Wednesday ironing, Thursday baking, Friday goes to salon to have hair washed and set. She plays bridge, is in a sewing circle, and has more of a social life than Sunny does. And finally she thinks Captain Walker (who's in his sixties and near retirement)is the bees knees.

So tell me, what kind of trouble did Granny get into? Any ideas at all? I just need a spark, people. I know you haven't read the book yet, but think regular small town characters (I already used the librarian, but there's still cookie cutter characters like the butcher, the baker, the candlestick maker...and bankers, restaurant owners, etc.) or even new characters I can add.

The possibilities are endless so bring them on, people. My mind is wide open, but empty as hell, so help me fill her up and get her done ;-) The contest will runn all week and I will announce the winner on next week's Kari's Kave blog on Wednesday.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Anita's Attic: Part Three - Writing Tips

I'm having so much fun with these writing tips that I'm going to continue with some of my favorites.

1. Be specific. I don't know who said it, but it's bloomin' brilliant. I'm a vague person in real life, but I don't have to be in my writing. Make the reader FEEL whatever it is you're trying to convey. If it's an emotion, grip them with it. If it's a setting, show them so that they feel they're there. If it's a car, what kind of car? Your writing won't have as much impact if you aren't specific. I have to be very careful with specific words. If you can define "it" in a sentence, then use that word and not "it". I'm terrible about this.

2. Empower. This comes straight from Margie Lawson, who's empowered her teaching classes to now offering an entire academy. Lawson Writer's Academy. Empower your writing. Empower your sentences, empower your words, empower your characters, empower their emotions and goals and characteristics. Make it bigger, stronger, more powerful, even more understated, if that's what the scene calls for. I like to look at a scene or a sentence, especially the story plot, and say, what could I do to take this to a new level? To me, this goes hand in hand with specificity.

3. Backload. This is from Margie Lawson as well. If you have a powerful word in your sentence, try shifting the words around so you end with it, because it's what the reader will absorb. For instance, I could write, Was she insane to risk this? But if I write, Was she insane to take this risk? Risk is a stronger word than this. I've ended the sentence with a powerful word that will get more reaction from the reader. Strong words like, blood, passion, fright get more mileage than it, this, about...bland words. You can't always do this, but it's great when you can. Or should I say, You can't always do this, but if you can, it's great! But whoops, I backloaded and LOST my next tip. Cadence.

4. Cadence. Another Margie tip. Yeah, I like Margie. Make your words dance on the reader's ear. For instance, she uses the line, "Lions and tigers and bears, oh my!" to illustrate. Which sounds so much better than, "Bears, lions, and tigers, oh my!" Here is a paragraph from Awaken the Highland Warrior that has pretty decent cadence. He didn’t move like a normal man; he flowed, like water over rocks in a stream. As if each muscle moved in perfect harmony with the others.

5. When you answer one question for the reader, introduce another? Keep them actively engaged in the story, not sure what's coming next. That's not from Margie, but I'm sure she would agree.

6. Open strong. We have to impress the agent or editor fast, or they won't keep reading. Sometimes it's hard to do. Not every story has a cute quip or can evoke a strong reaction, but if you can get one in there, you'll be ahead of the game.

7. Tighten everything; sentences, paragraphs, chapters, and if you're like me, it wouldn't hurt to tighten up those writer stomachs and butts. Sitting in a chair all the time isn't good for the body. Back to the story. I meantioned tightening last week, as well. Getting rid of the fluff is one of my biggest problems. I love those extra words. But chop, chop, baby. Save them in a file for later use if you don't want to abandon them. I had to cut 12,000 words on Awaken the Highland Warrior, and it still ended up at 110,000. I don't ever want to go through that again! Maybe that's why my stomach and butt need trimming too. More written words means more sitting.

8. Stay focused on where you're going with the story. I love big plots. I pride myself on big plots, but I have to be careful not to meander off too far into left field. I've had incredible reviews, not a rotten one yet. The worst have been a couple of mediocre ones. BUT two of the good reviews mentioned some clutter. And I recall a rejection I got from one of the Big 6 houses just before I sold. The editor said I needed to write more linear. Personally, I think it was because I love to bounce scenes around. Drop one, jump to another...

9. Know what you're good at and focus on that. Maybe it's writing dialog, or plotting, or characterization.

10. Be careful with repeats (or echoes). Oh God. The word makes me ill. I didn't see them at first, and then I saw them everywhere. Once I became aware of them, I spent weeks checking my MS with a magnifying glass, looking for repeats. I loaded my document into programs that would scan it for repeats. It took so much time that it would have been tempting to give up if I wasn't so stubborn. There has to be a balance. Editors hate repeats, but if you focus too much on it, or any rule for that matter, you might as well stop writing now. We aren't perfect.

The number one thing writers need to focus on is telling a story that's so great it would knock their socks off as a reader. And knock the agent's socks off, and the editor's. Rules are great, but they must serve the story, not the other way around.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Liz's Lair: Warning...Reviews May Kill You

Friday night was sleepover Bunko night with my bunko Babes. The plan was to head to one girl’s house at four-ish, eat lots of snacks, pour a frozen margarita, and head for the pool for water volleyball. We discovered this on one of our annual week long vacations, and we have definitely become addicted to it. We played for four solid hours before it was time to eat taco salads and German Chocolate Cake.

Anyway, It was about a forty-five minute drive from my house, so they were going to swing by and pick me up on the way. Right before they got here, I stepped out on the front porch to make sure my swallows were okay. (We have a nest on our porch and there are babies. They are the cutest things.) There was a package with my name on it propped against the column.

Imagine my surprise when I discovered it was my ARCs. For those who don’t know, these are Advanced Readers’ Copies and go out to the reviewers. OMG! I can't even begin to tell you the feeling I got holding the book with my name on it in my hands. I signed a contract with Berkley in December of 2009. I finished LIVER LET DIE (then Ducks in a Row) in June of 2010. For a year and a half I have been waiting, which is why the realization that my debut is only 2 and a half months away hit me like a ton of bricks.

I worked hard on this book, and in my heart I know it’s a good one, yet I’m absolutely terrified about the reviews. I hear authors talking about their reviews and saying bad ones don't bother them, but how could they not? This is your baby, and someone might be calling it ugly. Rejection hurts no matter where it's coming from, but somehow being told no by an agent or an editor isn’t nearly as scary as waiting on your peers and readers to judge.

I’m lining up my blog tour and various promotional things for the entire month of October. I’m putting on my big girl panties and asking some reviewers I see out there if they would review my book. There are even people contacting me to see if I will do an interview with them. I know Berkley is sending out the ARCS to reviewers, too. Things are beginning to happen so quickly, the weeks until debut will fly by, I know.

So, I’m left here wondering why I am so damn insecure when it comes to my writing. Everyone who read the book loved it, so what is it? I know every reader has preferences, and some may hate the book. I’ve decided to start a novena to St Jude, patron saint of hopeless cases, and ask him to send me some chilling vibes.

Okay, so I've barred my soul, and now you have to play. I want to know what’s the worse review you've ever received, whether it was from an agent/editor, a contest, or a review. Let's have fun and laugh at ourselves. I'll start. When my ghost story was a quarterfinalist in the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Awards, one of the prizes was a review by a Publisher's Weekly reviewer. Basically, the reviewer said I had missed on all wasn’t funny and it wasn’t even a mystery. Kiss my rosy red…..cheeks!! My agent had to talk me down off the ledge after that one.

Okay, I'm waiting. One lucky commenter will win one of the ARCs for Liver Let Die. The only thing I ask if that if you like it, talk about it. If you hate it, be gentle!!!

Friday, July 15, 2011

Barbie Jo's Bunkhouse: Let's talk tension

Hey, Lola here. Barbie is up to her eyeliner in plotting and polishing so I'm taking over today's post. Pull up a seat, grab your favorite beverage (depending on your timezone...or not) and let's get down and dirty.

Let's talk sexual tension.

Oh yeah, you know what I'm talking about. I don't care how old fashioned you are, EVERYONE loves a little spark, a little touch, a little... hey, do I have to keep this PG?? Anyway, you get my drift. Let's face it, sexual tension can either make or break your novel (not to mention their relationship). There is nothing better than losing yourself in a story, falling in love with the characters to the point where you feel you know them so well, you WANT them to be happy - and happiness can only be with each other.

So each glance, each innocent touch (or not so innocent) just pulls us closer and closer. The author sucks us in to their relationship and we can't put the book down until we find out if they make it. Do they ultimately end up together?? How many times have you read a book where you just don't want to stop reading because in doing so you would be stopping their progress to happiness and it's sooo imperative they get together. I swear, it's as climactic for the reader as it is for the characters!!

The great thing is, you don't have to write romance to write great sexual tension!Some of my favorite stories are the mysteries and thrillers that don't warrant a love scene or love interest, but yet the authors throws in this subtle sexual tension between characters that makes the book "human" or more "believable" if you will. These super-cops/agents, etc... are human. They have lives and needs and desires. And we are totally in as readers. The romance doesn't have to carry through the entire book, either. Just a touch, done right, will make us want more. We'll want to see if something more happens in the next book, and the next, and the next!

So how do you go about writing it? Barbie Jo does okay in the sexual tension department (when she's not in Middle Grade land - cuz that's a big fat No-No!), but...she has issues with the whole Alpha Male thing. I think she has A.M. Syndrome, and she refuses to seek help for that. Although one wild weekend in Italy with Marco the Italian stud-muffin could totally fix that problem. (Cassy, you got any contacts? Barbie Jo needs research, and I think the rest of the M&M crew should tag along for "moral support") Just sayin'.

But seriously, I think sexual tension helps to hook the reader no matter what their sizzle factor is. If the author keeps the flame contained....I think even a shy, mellow reader could find herself suddenly sizzling. There's no need to get graphic, although there are authors who do, and readers who insist. I think there's something incredibly sexy when an author builds us up to the brink of insanity and then closes the door. And by the dialogue and description of the morning after, we know exactly how good it was! Not to say that a little sneak peak wouldn't be a bad thing either, but then I want inside their heads. I want to know the passion for each other besides the physical, ya know? Show me the Love!!!

So do you put sexual tension in your stories? is it intentional or do the characters make it happen on their own? And how "far" do you go? Do you close the door, or give the show?

And as a reader, what do you like? do you want to lose yourself in the fantasy or would you rather leave it up to your own imagination?

Spill it, Lola is in the house!!!

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Cassy’s Corner- Observations

I have a game I have been playing for a long time. It’s a solo all-by-myself game. Recently I began thinking about how my game influences my writing. Maybe you’d like to play too.

It centers around observations. As I drive, move around my house, grocery shop, or whatever, I try and find something I have never noticed before. For instance, I drive Route 77 thousands of times a year going from my house to the center of town. It’s about a 15 minute drive on a slightly curvy country road. There isn’t much opportunity for sight seeing if you are the one behind the wheel. But, I still play the game. I try and find one thing that I have never noticed before. Brand new construction, added fences, newly planted bushes don’t count- they weren’t around before. You only get points for finding something that has been always there and you just didn’t register its presence.

One day I saw an entire house tucked back in the woods. The house had certainly been built many years ago, given its condition. How in the dickens could I have lived in this town for more than 14 years, driving this road so many times and not have noticed a whole house? Granted it was partially hidden behind another and granted my husband was driving so I had the opportunity to sightsee, but an entire house?

So I’ve expanded my game. If I could miss a house, what else could I miss? I walked through my yard and meager garden with the intent of seeing what was growing. Not just what was in bloom, but what were the colors, the shapes, and the sizes of foliage and flowers. The array was amazing. Not because I have much to brag about, but because each plant became a palate of its own.

Yesterday I did the same inside my house. My husband had given me a wonderful bouquet of spring flowers that are sadly about finished. I sat for roughly five minutes and just looked at them. Not studying them- that’s too intense. Rather it’s about watching and letting my mind absorb. I counted seven different colors of yellow in one of the roses.

I am now sitting in my kitchen at our island. I looked up as I was writing this and saw nine unique reflections in my stainless steel sink faucet. Each reflection speaks to some source of light—illumination from the ceiling, early sun through the windows, a white dish left in the sink, a double bounce off of a stainless steel pump for my dish soap.

I have written before about traveling to gain authenticity in my writing. I told you about being in Italy and how that has added a richness to my books. I now posit that there is so much more around us that we probably don’t see we are missing a connection with not only our surroundings but also with our readers. Through our words they need to join in our experiences.

I’ve decided to take my game to a new level. Over the next few days I’m going to try and eat my food, feel my clothes, and notice the fragrances around me all with an added consciousness. Next I hope to find the words that describe my experience and note them in a journal. Hopefully I will be able to return to the journal and find just the right description for the scene underway.

What are the games you play to add to your writing?

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Kari's Kave: Squee...My Author Copies Are Here!!!

Squeeeee!!!! My author copies arrived!

I cannot begin to tell you how exciting it is on the day that an author's book finally arrives in the mail.

We work so long on just writing a book. Six months, one year, whatever. It takes a lot of time to create our babies.

Then we turn the product of our labor in anywhere from 9 months to 1 year before its release date, hoping and praying our editors will like what we've written. After all, they've invested a lot in the story as well.

Then a couple of months later we have to go through anywhere from 1 to 3 rounds of edits from our editors, until we produce a product everyone is satisfied with. Plot issues, character issues, etc. They all need to be worked out just so. Once our book is "accepted," then it goes into production. A cover is made, the book is sent out to authors for blurbs, and finally we receive our copy edits from the copy editor.

Once we go through and finish the copy edits, clarify and fix any fact issues, grammar, spelliing, etc, that they found, we then move on to the next step. Page proofs. Page proofs are where get to see exactly how each page of the book will look once it's printed. It's your last chance to change any word, sentence, dedication, acknowlegment page, bio, etc.

Once you've approved the page proofs, the book goes off to the printer. This is when ARC's or Galleys are made, depending on what your publisher does. ARC's are advanced reader copies that look just like the finished book, but say advanced reader copy not for sale. Galley's are a bound book but without the finished cover. It's exciting enough just to receive a few of those to send out to reviewers, etc.

But nothing, absolutely nothing, can compare to recieving your box of finished copies in the mail about 3 to 4 weeks before your release date. To see the finished product that comes out of a year of labored production, to finally hold your baby in your hand, is truly an incredible feeling.

Joy, pride, satisfaction...they all hit you at once.

I am so very proud of this book, and cannot wait for people to read it. We don't just write books to make a living. We write them to share our stories with the world.

Positive reviews, negative reviews, it doesn't matter. I get so excited just knowing people are reading something I wrote.

In three more weeks on August 2nd Tempest in the Tea Leaves hits the shelves!

And now as I turn in Corpse in the Crystal Ball, I am starting the process all over again. So stay tuned...I should have a cover to share real soon :-)

In the meantime, happy reading! Oh, and go create a new baby of your own now that this author finally has some time to read ;)

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Anita's Attic: Part Two - Basic Writing Tips

This week I'm continuing with the list of writing tips I discovered in an old notebook. It was such a treat to find them and remind myself to not forget the basics. So here we go with Writing Tips – Part Two

1. Tighten dialog, make it minic real speech, but within reason. If we wrote it EXACTLY as people sometimes speak, it would be atrocious to read.

2. Stagger your paragraph and sentence lengths so it flows better. Make sure they don't start with the same word.

3. If you have a sentence or a word you want to draw attention to, give it it's own line, but be careful not to overuse the technique, or it will become ineffective and an intrusion rather than an enhancement.

4. Break up dialog with white space. It makes easier reading, so the reader doesn't feel like they're wading through the story.

5. Avoid too many dialog tags. An action beat is better. It feels more natural and can showcase the character better. It's like showing vs. telling, but with dialog tags. But as with all rules, use your judgment, sometimes the sentence just flows better to say "he said" instead of a super duper action tag. And many times we don't need any kind of tag if only two people are speaking. Just throw in a dialog tag or action beat every few lines to clarify who is speaking.

6. Tighten sentences. Watch out for qualifiers. (Almost, just, nearly, really) Sometimes they're necessary, but most often, they aren't. I'm terrible about this. I have to go on a search and destroy mission for qualifiers after a book is finished.

7. Adverbs are not the devil, but if you don't limit them, they will damn your story. In some cases they help, but like qualifiers, they shouldn't be used too often. Only use them when necessary or if it fits the character's speech pattern.

8. Make the dialog match the tone of the scene. Use banter between characters when appropriate. This creates white space, makes the story move quickly, and gives the characters and story authenticity. When things get tense, use shorter sentences, punchier. Make it real.

9. Make scenes do triple the work. Move the story forward, showcase something about the character, and introduce a new question or idea to tempt the reader.

10. Use ellipses to show trailing off dialog. Use em dashes to show an interruption of dialog.

That's it for Part Two. I'm having fun with this. It's making me stop and think about those basics that I assume are embedded in my brain. I'm going to continue next week with Part Three. I'm curious, do you stick to the rules or take joy in breaking them? I'm a little of both. There are a few things I'm set in stone on, but for the most part, I consider rules guidelines and have no qualms about breaking them if it suits the story.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Liz's Lair: Mary Marvella Talks About Self Pubbing

Since this is a new day for authors with more and more going the indie route, I asked my friend and fellow author, Mary Marvella, to join us today and talk about her journey. I met Mary a lot of years ago on a loop dedicated to posting weekly goals. It has transformed into way more that that, and some of these women have become close friends like Mary. So, without further ado, I'll let my friend take over.

Good Monday morning, ladies! Thanks for inviting me to join you today, Liz. You look so tough on the header here. This is my second guest blog, a stop on my maiden voyage as a new Indie author.

Times are changing for a lot of us. 10 years ago I would have rolled my eyes at the idea of trying to e-publish my stories. I wanted people to hold my books in their hands and smell the paper. I wanted them to turn the pages rapidly and wipe tear- stains from those pages, sighing with each kiss and moaning…OOPS! Got carried away for a minute.

Each time a chapter member announced a sale to an e-publisher, someone nearby would smile sadly, as though that author had given up, sold out. There were folks who suggested no big publisher would take that author seriously. Self-publishing or using a vanity press were definitely selling out. Who would take an author seriously if she sold books from her trunk? Images slid in my mind of someone pulling me aside and mumbling as she glanced around, “Hey, I have some knock-off purses, luggage, and books in my trunk. Wanna buy some cheap?”

Well, e-publishers didn’t go away and I tried to sell to one. That publisher had me do edits and then said, “No thanks.”

Would I even consider self-publishing? No way. Too much up front expense. Really? And of course some folks were saying that the “real” publishers would never take me seriously as a writer if I published my own stuff. I am here to tell you that I have published a novel and a novella. Did I give up on selling to a New York publisher? Nah, I still have some books I think could work for the big guys. But there are books of my heart that I don’t see ever fitting the splashy, fast paced books editors and agents say they want.

HAUNTING REFRAIN and FOREVER LOVE are old-fashioned love stories with no super heroes, shape shifters, or kick-ass heroines. I loved the characters from the second they slipped into my brain and wormed their ways into my heart. My writing is about heart and love and family and southern storytelling. I do like to mix a little lust in, too.

From HAUNTING REFRAIN a reincarnation story with ghost facilitators

William seldom saw a sunrise. But this morning he watched the pink streaks grow along the horizon and intensify. He hadn’t slept a wink. Each time he’d closed his eyes he’d seen Sarah sitting in the moonlight, like an enchantress. He’d heard her siren’s song and been drawn.

How had he missed the way her lips begged to be kissed, the way her body had ripened to perfection?

There was no way he could let that Jackson jerk have her. Kissing her had been the most wonderful experience he could have imagined and the biggest mistake of his life. The kiss was all his dreams had promised and more. His dream lover had been Sarah, but different. His dream lover had known what he needed.
He had tried to sleep, even dozed a while.

Big mistake.

From FOREVER LOVE a story about redemption and love

Day after day Devon followed Sabrina to the hospital where she tended the sick, watching the way her touch calmed children and grown up people. But today she took the path to the road that lead to the Faith Baptist Church. Tall pines towered overhead. Though there were bushes and wildflowers on both sides of the road, they were sparse compared to foliage of Devon's time.

Each time he came here nostalgia overwhelmed him. Melancholy weighed him down. Parts of the wooden structure were old and familiar, like the small chapel and its steeple. It had survived so much. He had watched generations of local people enter this place of worship. Though the cat did not usually come here, Devon needed to be near Sabrina in spirit.

Sometimes he listened only to his memories. He and his father had helped cut the trees and make those benches. Then they had sat in the back of the sanctuary with his mother, the squaw.

What do you think about the changes in publishing? Have your dreams changed? How? Do you want to find books that are more like the books we loved years ago?

Comment for a chance to win one download of Haunting Refrain or one of Forever Love.

Mary Marvella has been a storyteller for as long as she can remember. She is Georgia bred, Georgia raised, and proud of it. When Mary chose a career, teaching seemed perfect since she declared at age four that was her intention. She taught language arts (literature, grammar, and writing, all exciting and fun for her). In 1991 Mary decided to write for publication and joined Georgia Romance Writers. With more than 10 novels under her belt and tons of story beginnings, she is still writing. Her daughter loves her mama but won't read her sexy books. Love, Lust, Sweet Tea, or Southern Comfort anyone?

PinkFuzzySlipperWriters blogspot!/pages/Mary-Marvella-Author/121044561311561

Friday, July 8, 2011

Barbie Jo's Bunkhouse: You gotta love the crazy!!

As I sat this morning (after the luxury of sleeping in until 6:30)making my lists, finishing the laundry that didn't get done last night, I sipped my coffee not a care in the world. Until I realized it was now 8:15. Duh, it's Friday. OMG - I never did my blog last night!!!!!!!!!

For those who don't know, I am a sports mom. I am that loud, cheering mom on the sidelines all dressed in team colors, camera in hand and adult beverage in cleverly disguised "sippy cup". Oh yes, that is me. Right now my family is in full soccer swing. We are leaving later this morning for a tournament in Niagara Falls - hence my lists and continuous laundry. You see, we had a game last night, where I had just enough time to walk through the door, inhale a piece of leftover lasagna before flying back out the door to sit in evening traffice on our way to the field for a game that tied and went into PK's (penalty kicks for the non-soccer crowd). I am the proud mom of a goalie, who is playing field for the first time in 4 yrs but is back in goal for this weekends tournament since our regular goalie is on vacation. And my son totally ROCKED the PK's. Our team won! And he proudly displayed the turf burn on his legs (which reminds me I have to get more bandaids at the store this morning). But...we didn't get home until after 8:30 when I proceeded to start said laundry and lists.

All week has been like this. My Diva had a game Tues. while Goalie-boy had practice, and practice again on Wed. night. Thank goodness I was able to squeeze in some writing while blowing off the day job in the afternoons. Cuz sometimes you just need the mental health time. :-) Not that I was able to do a super lot - but I plan on making up for it during the car ride today. I'm trying not to let this buzz of activity take me off course. You see I am eager to finish plotting my MG story, and I've taken a partial of an old cozy idea and deciding to throw it out as a romantic comedy novella and self pub it! That and an old romantic suspense that is totally catagory and is just screaming self pub me!!

But this crazy week gave me down time in the evenings to critique for my CP and get her stuff back to her in a timely manner. And of course, there's the constant 'day dreaming' of my own work - which is writer code for "plotting". :-)

So it's all good! The crazy in life keeps us on our toes. And what's even more amazing (and probably crazy, too) is when amid all the chaos, we pull the most productive and best work we've ever done as writers. Seriously? Isn't that how it always seems to work? Put the keyboard in front of me and force me to write, and I've got nothing. But let me become the mistress of multitasking and I will not only take notes and get pages done, but I will cook dinner, do laundry, shuffle the whole damn soccer team, clean my house and even put gas in the family vehicle!

Oh yeah! We writers are just awesome that way.

**Ding** there goes the bell (well, actually the dryer stopped) so I'm off and running. Make the most of the crazy - I bet you'll be surprised at what you actually accomplished once the dust has settled!

Now where did I put my team visor and cowbell???????

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Cassy's Corner- The Paths We Choose

Cy Twombly died Tuesday at the age of 83. Cy who? For those of us who only follow the art world at the edges, his name might seem foreign. Even as a renowned painter he did much that would reduce his public appeal and financial value. He hid.

Mr. Twombly painted at the edge of what was commercially popular--lots of squiggles, blobs of paint, long lines, many colors. He didn't fit into any single category. Not quite Pop, not quite Modernism, not quite Abstract but a touch of it all. It was his work whether you liked it or not.

He moved to southern Italy in the late 50's, almost disappearing from sight. He gave few interviews and little attention to the larger art world. Some of the exhibits of his work given in top New York galleries were panned by the press. He wrote nearly nothing about his own work, spurning the common practice of encouraging coffee table books or literary commentary.

His love of Italy kept him out of the United States for long periods of time- hidden in southern Italy. Yet, his work and retrospectives have appeared in some of the major museums and galleries in the world--the Louvre and the Modern are two examples.

In reading Mr. Twombly's obituary I began to think about how we writers work so hard to put our work out there. How we talk about branding, marketing, road tours, networking, conferences, book marks, post cards, and..... I am not in any way saying our approach is wrong.

Rather, it is a marvel to learn of someone who did his work in his own way and the world found him, even though he spent most of his time out of sight. He focused on his work. Something we might find at times hard to do given the climate of publishing.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Kari's Kave: The End!

Yay...Corpse in the Crystal Ball is done!

or is it...

So you finish a book. Now what? That's the question we are faced with as authors. Some people write a book in its entirety, and then go through and polish the book. Others, like myself, write a chapter and edit a chapter, then write another chapter, then edit that chapter and so on. I can't seem to move forward without editing as I go. That doesn't mean I won't be going over the book as a whole, filling in more rich setting and descriptions and metaphors and funny lines, etc, but that's what I call adding the sparkle.

Sometimes that initial approach of basic editing as I go, however, can slow down my creativity. There's something about being in the moment and writing like hell and moving forward until the basic plot is down that is so inspiring. Yet sometimes when we write that fast, we miss a few things. I like to digest what I've written by going over it a few times before moving on. That way I really know which direction I want to move forward in. Also, each time I go over something, I always end up adding some really cool stuff in.

That's the fun part of writing a book for me. It's all in the polishing ... the sparkle. I never love a book I write as I'm writing it initially. I always think, "Oh man, this sucks." Only after I've gone over and over and over the book, adding in the really funny lines and cozy descriptions and cute tidbits do I start to think, "Oh wow, this isn't so bad."

But there does come a time when we need to say, "This is the best I can do at this time in my life," and be done. Be proud of the book, and free to move on. That is so hard to do. Every single time I go over a book, I find something I end up changing. I think that's true in general for all authors or artists or creative people, period. There will always be something you think of later that you wish you had added or done differently. I guess it's all about learning to let go. It is what it is, and then move on.

Of course, I'm not there yet with this book :-) I'm somewhere between "this sucks" and "this isn't so bad" while waiting for my CP to inspire some of those really fun lines, cool descriptions, and cute tidbits.

So when is The End really The End for all of you? Do you let go and move on? Do you reread something you wrote and keep longing for another chance to fix something? Or are you an "It is what it is, and I'm cool with it" kind of writer who truly is done with a book after they write The End? When do you truly let go?

Inquiring minds want to know :-)

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Anita's Attic: Part One - 10 Basic Writing Tips to Get Your Nose to the Grindstone

Now that everyone is home from RWA, and we've celebrated the 4th of July with lots of food and fireworks, it's time to put our noses to the grindstone. I've mentioned how I love notebooks. I plot in them, make notes in them, have them here and there and everywhere, so obviously being my undisplined self, I forget which notebook holds what. I was going through a stack of them the other day while looking for notes I may have misplaced on book three. I found a gold mine.

Not notes on book three, but writing tips I've jotted down. I wish I knew who to attribute them to. Some may have come from a workshop I took by Debra Dixon, some from other writers, and some from me, things I've picked up over the years. But it was so nice to run across them. We all know these tips, but no matter how long we've been writing, it always pays to stop and look at the basics. So I'm posting ten tips here and hope it inspires you the way it did me. This is Part One. I'll follow with more next week.

1. RUE: Resist the urge to explain everything. Less is more.

2. Allow readers to get to know your characters gradually. It's much more interesting.

3. Don't reveal too much too soon. Keep readers guessing.

4. Give readers only as much backstory as they need at that given time. Describing every detail limits readers imaginations.

5. Develop characters through dialog and action. It gives them dimension so they aren't cardboard cutouts.

6. Don't go overboard on emotions, especially ones you've already shown, or they'll lose their power.

7. Use setting carefully. It's powerful and can really solidify the atmosphere, but too much and you risk losing the reader.

8. Avoid cliches, unless it's the character speaking and it fits her or his personality.

9. Use strong verbs and watch the "ly" words. It's better to use a strong verb than one weak verb and one adverb.

10. Show don't tell. This is a basic but biggie that we all know, but it's easy to slip back into.

Monday, July 4, 2011

Liz's Lair: What Independence Day Really Means

Today, we’re celebrating Independence Day, the 235th anniversary of the birth of our nation. This message was sent to me, author unknown, but I loved what it said and decided to reprint it here.

What exactly does Independence Day bring to mind? If you said cookouts, red, white, and blue and fireworks, you would be correct. But it means so much more than that. Yes, Americans at home and abroad will gather for cookouts, parades, concerts, and fireworks. Old Glory will proudly wave over our embassies, military bases, government buildings, businesses, and homes…everywhere Americans are living, serving, celebrating, and remembering.

Beyond these annual traditions, July the 4th is the day we remind ourselves of how fortunate we are to live in freedom – and how that freedom was won. It’s a day to pay tribute to all those who have fought for and continue to defend our way of life, through their service, their commitment, and – in far too many instances – their ultimate sacrifice.

Thousands of Americans will spend this July the 4th far from home…some in harm’s way. The headlines remind us every day that, even though the phrase may be a bit worn, freedom really isn’t free – it’s the result of their continuing service and sacrifice. If you are among those far from home, thank you. As we celebrate this special day, we’re grateful for your service, and we wish you a safe return home to your families.

I’m proud to support the cause of freedom around the world. I’m proud that we, as Americans, embrace strong values. Like America itself, we are strengthened by our common values and unity of purpose.

To all of my family and friends, wherever you are this Fourth of July, let’s be thankful for the many contributions to our freedom, independence, and prosperity. The devotion to our nation continues to make America “the workshop of liberty,” as James Madison envisioned. I wish you and your loved ones a safe and happy Fourth of July.

Friday, July 1, 2011

Barbie Jo's Bunkhouse: What's in a Conference?

So lots of people attending RWA this week, and are probably still there! I do believe the Golden Heart Awards are tonight as well. Best of luck to all nominees (especially our fellow Book Cents authors!!!)

We read and hear about conferences/retreats and lecture series all across the country and abroad, making it quite easy for any writer to stay on top of their craft and the current market trends. Depending on your financial situation you can experience many different venues throughout the year and possibly get in a little research or even find the perfect setting for your next story. And booyah, it's a tax deduction!

Now, my CP and I will drive up to 5-6 hrs for a conference. For years we would tackle a spring conference and a fall conference, usually NEC & New Jersey. It was awesome! Every six months we'd make a road trip! In our "early year" it was all about the craft and workshops to learn new ways to plot, and if we were lucky maybe get to talk to a published author or two during lunch or dinner or at the bar. Of course, the whole road trip experience was a much to look forward to event in itself! 7 kids between us and husbands that tend to travel quite a bit for work & do the math people. Writer's Gone Wild, about sums it up.

Then we discovered the HUGE RWA conferences. Our first and I believe best experience was RWA in Dallas. And honestly nothing has compared to the glitz & glamour, the hotel setting, food, etc... Where at that time, we were still all about craft but on a bigger scale because of the conference. But we also attending workshops on marketing, promotion and branding. Fantastic experience. But yes, it was still about the travel adventure! :-)

After attending 3 National Conferences, I can honestly say I'm in it for the networking and fun socializing with my peeps. If there is a workshop that totally interests me (depending on what I'm writing at the time), or is being given by one of my favorite authors - I will go. But I don't knock myself out to go to everything. I'm not good at networking, so to me conferences have become more about volunteering and getting myself "out there", so folks will recognize my name by the time I get a book published - if I'm not dead by then (ha ha ha).

And now I've discovered Mystery Conferences!!! This opens up a whole new world for me and I feel like I'm starting over. I will be going to Crime Bake in November and can't wait to attend workshops and see the differences just based on a genre change. I know the "basics" will be the same, but I'm sure there are some awesome tips and tricks that will help me make my mysteries shine! I can't wait!

So what's in a conference for you? have you travelled all over? Where was your best conference experience? And if any of our followers are at Crime Bake, don't forget to look us up!!!!