Saturday, December 16, 2006

Follow Up Writing Pressure

This to answer a comment about business taking away from writing:

First of all, I love my work and am not complaining :), but the pressure a writer feels, both in energy and time, add pocketbook pressure, is balanced by many factors.

It depends on the writer's life style and family, etc. demands. Add work, which writing is, even though it is creative, then tack on a string of obligations and travel and preparation, and ad work,and a huge balance of time is needed to feel fresh and with the story. (Try and read her take on pocketbook pressure. She's a great blogger.). But one person, no matter how talented, only has X-amount of energy and time, and business can take away writing time very easily.

Take a writers life style. With a supportive spouse and family, that writer will have more time and energy to devote to writing. A supportive family member can take some of the burden, i.e. websites, promo design, tax record keeping, travel arrangements, etc.

While we love writing and the writing community, book selling is still a business and has to be done; that takes time. It is an industry. If you follow, Publisher's Lunch, etc., you'll see some of it.

Some of the writers I know are settling down to write without the travel, etc. expense and energy demands. They are writers producing work for sale, and hoping that book buyers will purchase and love. There's a big difference between a hobbiest writer and a working writer, who sits down every day and works, not just when they feel like it.

Internet has helped writers tremendously, in that much ad work and business can be done online without too much time, money and energy loss.

It's all one enchilada; time and energy and pocketbook pressure balanced against the quality of a book. Everyone handles the composite differently according to lifestyle and pressures.

Friday, December 15, 2006

The Pressure of Contract Writing

You'll find an interesting post at which concerns the pressure of producing more and better writing under contracts, as opposed to writing more for an income, that is to write better and more, and the advantages of taking a paycheck job, formerly called "day-job" (my term, not hers :))

If you get a chance skip on over to Alison, who is a super blogger. She's got a new look, but she's always good.

Here's what I posted in her comment section:

Alison, love the new look, first of all.

Then, your post was right on. I've been writing full time for 16 years, but wrote for 2 publishers with a full time paycheck job for around 7 yrs. That was rough, but I did have security and insurance. I've since gone full-time and cut down to one publisher, but then my family demands aren't the same as then either.

A paycheck job (I consider writing a full-time contract job) does give security and that can relax and lighten the pressure on creative writing.

I haven't hit a slow down of ideas, but I know that some writers have, under a lot of contract pressure. It isn't only the contract pressure, it has to do with the obligations that come from the necessity of PR, which are big necessities, and less and less are being done by the publishers.

Really thoughtful post. Thank you, Alison.

Monday, December 11, 2006

Holidays and Deadlines

Mix holidays and deadlines and what do you get? One tired writer :)

I'm topping off my current WIP, that is doing the final printout, and considering my list of story resolves for the epilogue. List? Ha! It's yellow and hot pink sticky notes plastered all around my monitor, a yellow legal tablet filled with notes, a file of backup material to send in with the ms, stacks of index cards with unique spellings and character names to bring forward to the next, third and final story. This second story follows the first, AT THE EDGE, scheduled for June 2007. We have a tentative title that everyone likes, but I'll wait to deliver that news.

Keeping the threads of one story, connected to one already in production isn't easy. I have a folder, printouts of important stuff, calendars--oh, yes, I print out a calendar and mark the timelines as I go. This WIP moves fast, the story happening within less than two weeks, but based on untangling the past. So far, and I'm at the epilogue, I'm in love with the story, but it is a lot of threads to keep going when having connecting books. The Tallchiefs had 9, and I've done 5, 4, and 2 connected books, but this project is a real stretch and I'm thrilled about it, a story that has simmered for a long time.

Mm. What to do when coming off deadline? Christmas :)

Sunday, December 03, 2006


Here's a neat little present for everyone, SUGARPLUMS AND SCANDAL anthology. I rarely write short stories or novellas, but enjoyed writing this one and getting to know the other authors a little better. Here's a full rundown, presented by

SUGARPLUMS AND SCANDAL - L. Avocato, D. Cameron, M. Daheim, C. London, S. Macpherson, K. Sparks
ISBN-10: 0-06-113695-6
ISBN-13: 978-0-06-113695-5
November 2006
Romantic Mystery/Suspense Anthology

All I Want for Christmas is My Two Front Teeth - Lori Avocato
Hope Valley Connecticut, Present Day

Pauline Sokol has given up a thirteen-year nursing career to become a medical insurance fraud investigator, much to her close-knit Polish family's dismay. It is Christmas Eve when Pauline hears about Leonard Niski, an elderly man who may have been defrauded out of his dentures by a crooked dentist. With her mother Stella's urging "to be a Good Samaritan" and help Mr. Niski get his dentures, Pauline teams up with sexy investigator Jagger to investigate.

All I Want for Christmas is My Two Front Teeth is a light-hearted mystery with sweet, romantic overtones. When you add humorous characters like Dr. Elfin Santana and Pauline's meddling Polish mother, the result is a frothy, fun romp.

The Lords of Misrule - Dana Cameron
London, December 24, 1722

This Christmas Eve, Margaret Chase is coping with a distraught mother whose new jewelry has been stolen, an overindulging father who has brought home unexpected guests, and a murdered footman. Margaret decides to team up with her brother Tommy and his mysterious friend, Matthew Chandler, to find out which of the guests in the Chase household is a thief and a murderer.

The Lords of Misrule is a well-told, atmospheric who-dun-it. Margaret is a plucky, book-reading lady who is willing to affront society when she feels her point is well-made. Matthew Chandler is a man who appreciates a woman with brains and courage, and is also delighted to be Margaret's special Christmas present from Tommy.

The Ghost of Christmas Passed - Mary Daheim
Pacific Northwest, Present Day

Judith McMonigle Flynn has closed her B&B to paying guests for the Christmas season, but her large extended family is due to arrive shortly. When Judith goes to fetch her mother Gert from the guest house to help with preparations, she is startled to hear Gert say that she's had a visit from a ghost. Judith also notices the unfamiliar plaid muffler lying on Gert's easy chair.

Judith learns about the family's secret history from Gert this holiday, and Gert finds closure after many years of unresolved questions. This is a story of family love, old scandals, and what the best gifts of the season truly are, with all the sweet, cantankerous, odd, and rowdy characters found in most families.

Partners in Crime - Cait London
Dewdrop, Missouri, Present Day

Cecilia Lattimer knows she is on someone's hit list this season. Cecilia's home has been burglarized, all her Christmas gifts are stolen, her car is tampered with, and she gets trapped in an alley by three thugs bent on harming her. Thankfully, large, scary Joe Berenger shows up at the other end of the alley and scares them away. Unfortunately, Joe is a friend of her number one suspect, the new town sheriff, Monroe.

Partners in Crime highlights the quirks of small-town life and of the people who live in them. Misunderstandings, charity, and petty vengeance are all on parade in this charming, sweet, and suspenseful tale.

Holly Go Lightly - Suzanne Macpherson
Seattle, Present Day

Nick Fredericks finds himself singing Christmas carols, loudly, in the shower on Christmas Eve. Nick is on his way home to introduce his fiancée Gwen to his parents. The trouble is singing loud carols is his deceased ex-fiancée Holly's behavior, not his, and Holly keeps popping into his thoughts, so much so that he even smells her perfume. Holly has one shot, as a ghostly visitor, to save the love of her life from making a dreadful mistake and to save her best friend Carol's life. She will do whatever it takes to accomplish both.

Holly Go Lightly reminds us that love can overcome many obstacles. A story of opposites attracted to each other, then parted over something silly, Nick and Holly forgive each other too late. However, Holly has a wonderful Christmas surprise left to give Nick.

A Very Vampy Christmas - Kerrelyn Sparks
New York City, Present Day

Maggie O'Brian has been a vampire since 1872 and has never been physically attracted to any man, mortal or vampire, since. When vampires find a way to project their image digitally, and begin a vampire broadcasting network, Maggie falls in love with soap star Don Orlando de Corazon. Unfortunately, after Maggie gets a job on the show to meet him, she finds out Don Orlando is nothing more than a totally false, womanizing pig. Or is he? The problem is Don Orlando doesn't know what, or who he is. When he was turned into a vampire four years ago, he had complete amnesia, and his memory has never returned.

A Very Vampy Christmas shows us that a sense of self and our roots give our lives definition. When Maggie finds out Don Orlando has amnesia, she opens her heart and vows to give him the gift of both.

The stories in SUGARPLUMS AND SCANDALS share a Christmas theme but vary widely in style and tone. Because the stories encompass different genres, as an anthology it is somewhat incongruous. However, all of the tales have memorable character driven storylines and good resolutions. The highlights are Partners in Crime, Holly Go Lightly and A Very Vampy Christmas, each being well crafted and flowing. For six enjoyable, charming interludes this season, delve into SUGARPLUMS AND SCANDAL.

Jennell Morel


Avon authors from the mystery, romantic suspense, romance and paranormal genres give readers a special holiday treat with tasty tales that demonstrates each author's considerable talent.
Harriet Klausner

**** A wonderful anthology with six tales set around the Christmas Season. I found something for everyone in this novel. No kidding. I read historical romance, mystery, suspense, ghostly spirits, and even vampires. Wonderful holiday reading. ****
Reviewed by Detra Fitch of Huntress Reviews.

Friday, November 03, 2006


SUGARPLUMS AND SCANDAL is now on the shelves. This Christmas anthology with Lori Avocato, Dana Cameron, Mary Daheim, Suzanne Macphereson, Kerrelyn Sparks and moi, Cait London has a tag line that reads, "Be of Good Fear, Christmas Is Here."

This 12k short story was probably one of the most difficult writing projects I've ever done. My shortest to that date was a 25k novella. Once I got into it, I had fun.

If you'd like to read more, please visit my website and Sugarplums. It's about a professional organizer, Cecilia, and the "hit-man" who she thinks has been hired to "do" her.

Why did I choose a professional organizer? Because I needed someone who could get around town, into other people's lives. And because I'd just presented a workshop on Organization for the Writer. To do the workshop, I already knew the material--people think I'm organized, very funny :)--but I needed to place it into form, rather organize it. I bought a few trades on the subject and enjoyed them.

But I've come to the conclusion as I look around this messy desk, in full deadline last heat, that there are two kinds of organizers--the outer organized, those with everything neatly stacked and found. Then there are people like me, who do a minimum of that, but carry most of our organization in our heads. I like to think that anyway :)

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

I'm Reading!

While working through my latest tome and redoing my house, I thoroughly enjoyed A Kiss of Shadows, by Laurel K. Hamilton, reprint 2006. It was not a fast read as the thoughts are deep sometimes, and enjoyable. I'll read more about Meredith, her 5 men, and the fantasy underbelly of the real word. Faeries, gnomes, etc. have been favorites since childhood, altho, not as Hamilton writes them. :)
What I read depends on my mood. Sometimes I like a fast clean read, straight through, Nora, etc. usually in one night, a Presents in less. But Hamilton's wasn't that, more circles within circles, great descriptions and layers. I love last lines at the end of each chapter. The defection and envy of Meredith's friend, Kreelin/gnome was a great twist. The setting in the ancient Cahokia mounds near St. Louis, Hamilton's home, is real, so is the atmospheric fall of the Midwest.
I was impressed.

Wednesday, October 18, 2006


I'm thoroughly enjoying UGLY BETTY. How refreshing!

With the emphasis on beauty is a professional necessity in some industries, UGLY BETTY just may be the predecessor of like entertainment. This show is far apart from the makeover shows surrounding it. UGLY BETTY places emphasis on the personality and intelligence of the individual, her family and business friendships, stressing her base supportive and honorable qualities. Selma Hayek has done a wonderful job in producing this fresh show. Keep up the good work, Selma.

DANCING WITH THE STARS is gathering top ratings. I happen to love dancing of all kinds, perhaps favoring more the Latin American. For years I've watched ballroom dancing competition on television, which is great. Dancing is good exercise and I'm glad to see a return to more structured movements. Robert Duval reportedly has a tango studio set up in his barn and is an excellent tango dancer. But as for the individuals that have been on the show, I'm perhaps enjoying Emmitt Smith the most. This professional football player/businessman has come so far and seems to be enjoying himself the most. Last night he was at his best, but his partner -- a professional -- is also very good and has worked well with him. I love watching the professional dancers and the stars expressions, not only while they are dancing but when they are being judged and interviewed.

I hope both new trends developed into other shows. I am thoroughly tired of reality shows.

Saturday, October 14, 2006


In a romance, spark between the hero and heroine is bottom-line essential. Dialogue, tension, sensuality and characterization are other basic tools. But hark, there is more than the plot line, too. It’s called Texture.

The composition of a novel is much like painting on canvas. The artist first prepares the background of the painting, then the highlights are added. If the finished painting is ALL highlights, nothing stands out. This is true when writing scenes, and we want our hero/heroine to really come to the forefront.

In writing the novel, all of the story elements mentioned above can be one-dimensional, without depth and interest -- if not layered or placed within a setting. Setting could be the description of a physical place -- outside or inside, and weather. A novel's storyline also needs color, such as comparing the green of the heroine’s eyes to a highland meadow, the hero’s gray eyes to the color of steel or ice. Without these textures the story can be perfectly executed, but unexciting/blah, blah, blah.

Without setting in a story, the characters can be no more than "talking heads." The storyline can wind along, lots of action with these talking heads. But without the setting and color, the reader may never enter the story . For example, one perfect setting for a suspense might be an isolated lighthouse, the sound of the ocean crashing against the rocks, a storm brewing in the gray sky, the air moist foretelling rain.

Think of the movie "Jaws." When that particular music occurred, the viewer knew that danger was impending. The writer does not have music, but he can create nuance by using storms, rain slashing the window's glass, sunlight and wind, shadows and pounding heartbeats.

Don't forget the little things, either, like the chip in the rim of a cup, how a person deep in thought may circle it.

Thursday, October 12, 2006

Working With a Copy Edit

Copy edits are so important and save time for everyone, if the author takes time to work with them. A copy edit occurs after the author has sent in a manuscript to the editor; the editor works on it and if acceptable, turns it into the production department. The production department assigns a copy editor to go over it and clear in a details that are mismatched, punctuation, etc. The finished copy edit is then sent to the author to correct problems, either with the storyline, or the work of the copy editor, such as punctuation.

This is a very important stage, creating the best possible set of galleys, or proofs, depending on the language used. Intense consentration is needed, and frequent breaks to refresh are necessary. I process a copy edit from my publisher in three stages:

1. When I first get a manuscript back from a copy editor (the editor's notes are also included), I make one pass to absorb his/hers style and major problems. At this point, I arrange my working area to include a pencil in a different color from what the editor and the copy editor have used, a sharpener for that pencil, a sticky pad, a dictionary/thesaurus, and in the notes I may have made to myself about the manuscript when it would be returned to me. (These notes are often ideas that occur after the manuscript has been sent to the editor for the first time. I save these in the same folder as the manuscript's chapters.)

I make a very careful, slow pass this first time. The sticky notes serve as flags that there is a problem needing attention, or notes to myself. Major problems are marked by a sticky note placed at the top of the page.

2. The second pass deals with catching anything not caught in the first one. It also utilizes what I have learned about the copy editor' s style. At times, copy editors miss punctuation errors, etc. that they may have caught in other places. It is important to standardize all. And they do make errors, just like anyone else. The second pass corrects even more.

3. This brings us down to finalizing corrections in the copy edit. If my sticky notes are still left at that point, it is usually something that requires and insert. It inserts are usually done by adding an extra page and labeling it with A, B., C., etc. This extra page would be inserted behind the original, such as Page 12 and Page 12 A. For example, Page 12 should contain a marker at line 10 that says Insert. Page 12 A should say Page 12, line 10. This is when you generally sit down at your keyboard and go to work, carefully making the insertions into the copy edit.

When sent to production, the copy edit should include author's notes on anything that might affect galley setting, such as All font is not uniform, please watch.

The production department then assigns a galley setter. The author will also have a chance to correct any errors in the galleys. However, these errors must be minimal because of the time and expense involved in changing errors. That is why the copy edit must be given intense attention, to minimize errors. If the errors are the cause of the author's inattention to detail, then there is the possibility of a percentage charged to the author for the problems.

Personally, I believe that when an editor and a copy editor have worked so hard on a manuscript to present it in the best way possible, that the author should comment appreciation and thank you for a job well done. If however, the copy edit is intrusive and ignores the author's style, then that should be noted to the editor. This may avoid future work with this copy editor. Or, it may serve to educate a new copy editor to be more considerate of an author's style. This is all within the control of the editor, and the publisher's production department, matching the author with a suitable copy editor.

Friday, October 06, 2006

Western Romances

Within the space of one day, I've been asked by two pro authors for a copy of my out of print, western romances.

I'm currently writing a contemporary romantic suspense trilogy, but I did love reading and writing western romances. Pop fads are already faded, and the return of the western may be looming near. I hear this so much from readers, too, who love them, but also my contemporary western miniseries done for Silhouette Desire some years ago. Readers write me consistently about when I'm writing more. They remember the Tallchiefs, the Blaylocks, Freedom Valley and more.

There are also more requests for the Langtrys, written as contemporaries for Avon, which bring history forward, a Civil War veteran saves/marries chieftain's daughter, starts a dynasty that is written in the contemporary West.

But hey, I've got enough on my scheduled plate right now and working hard.:)

Dell did a wonderful gilt cover and replica insert by Elaine Durillo on The Wedding Gamble

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Encyclopedia Defunctitis

While trying to find more space in my office, I considered the set of encyclopedias that my daughters had used while growing up. They're grown now, in their own homes, and I rarely use this set. They're gorgeous, really they are, and I remember those payments per month.

But I never use them. I haven't used them for years. The newer members of our family don't use them either, and space is scarce. While I have an extensive library of research books on particular topics, the set of encyclopedias has remained unused. Wikipedia and other online resources have changed the way we researched for years.

Changing times have also dictated how we research. Sadly, my beautiful encyclopedias may be destined to leave my office.

When was the last time you used your set of encyclopedias? I'm interested to know.

Thursday, September 21, 2006

How Many Bks at One Time

I'm often asked this question: How many books are your writing now?

I am only able to write one at a time, but there are several others in different processes. At one time, when writing Desires, I could be handling as many as 5 at one time--but only writing one.

The processes could be: 1.) drafting a proposal for a new one; this should be done immediately when finishing one book, waiting for an editorial okay. Or possibly before ending one bk, a writer will keep notes on a new one. 2.) CE or copyedits, which is the original manuscript that has gone through a copy editor for corrections and questions, and then returned to the author. The author then sees if they agree, or possibly adds more to the ms at that time. I may do that on my next set of copyedits as I am now in my second book of a trilogy and have more pinpoints to add to the first book. These additions would be labeled pg. 12a, etc. 3.) Galleys. The step after copyediting, when the pages with all the corrections are typeset into book format, usually left and right page, or perhaps a double space, numbered line set up. The author checks for continuity, spelling, etc. 4.) promotion of a book already published, which is intense in mass market. I calculate that mine consume around a month. 5.) writing a new one.

Juggling time is a major priority with writers and not easy. But I usually call my editors and ask them when I can be seeing the CEs or galleys, or page proofs as they are called sometimes.

This helps me schedule work loads.

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Using RTF

If you are a PC user, (and I don't know about Apples), you might be interested in writing only in .rft format, which can be saved into almost anything. While working up a synopsis and screen work, I had problems with Word (I use WordPerfect for manuscript work). Then I saved to .rtf, which can be picked up by almost any machine. It worked.

In today's writing world we are going to have to be flexible and use what the computer lords throw at us. For instance, I much preferred my old DOS, function keys for writing than using a mouse. Also, like other writers, I do not like page breaks in draft form. Think of one long roll of paper, per chapter. But for some reason, most software does have page breaks.

Keeping the Story Warm

I travel quite a bit and sometimes cannot always log in my few writers hours to keep a story warm. The best thing I've found is to print out the outline and notes and read them as you go--if you can't get to a computer. Of course, those people who are still handwriting, and there are a lot of them, can use their tablets.

Those notes are so important, to keep that story warm inside you and keeping that direction of the story and flow and pulse inside the writing part of you, no matter whatever you are doing.

Once cold, a story is difficult to pickup and run. I'm writing something now that is very fast and a few days away from it was a disaster, so far as momentum.

I am about to step back into the story, this after losing chapter seven, a lead chapter for a suspense. I had to jump into eight and will have to edit when finding seven. this is unusual for me, as I save constantly. But I've been changing machines and things disappear--it was a great active chapter, too. I think I can find it. Maybe.

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Who Owns the Scene

Transitions sometimes take me forever to mull just the right starting place. "Forever" might equal three days or more. For a productive writer who likes writing, that mulling stage seems like a dead end. I think some people might consider that to be Writers Block, but I don't think that way.

I think positive, that this mulling stage is only a nesting time for when just the right idea, or the right scene makes for a good transition in the story line. Frequently, transitions are used to jump the scene ahead to save space. Other transitions can be done with change of POV or with mood.

The next thing is Who Owns the Scene, in whose head are we? That is most important in every scene. Who owns the scene, or is it narration?
To balance this, consider what the scene is and who it most affects? That is who owns the scene. Sometimes just stopping and weighing who owns the scene makes for an easy transition, that is a change of POV.

Take the scene, consider who is most affected by it, which character feels most deeply about it, add a powerful first jump line and you're generally off and running with a transition.

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Brand New and Testing

I'm working on this blog while writing a new one, so it will change, esp. the sidebar. Meanwhile, I hope you enjoy it and I'm open to suggestions. And yes, it needs a different banner, something with flash. has been updated with a news and a new contest. (I'm looking for the best reader quote to publish online, complete with initials or full name.)

Here's a preview of a Christmas anthology, SUGARPLUMS AND SCANDAL, short stories shared with Lori Avocato, Dana Cameron, Mary Daheim, Suzanne MacPherson, and Kerrelyn Sparks. I loved stepping in a little of the humor that I'd done while writing Desires.