Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Early Happy Halloween

Debra Glass is out scaring people with her Haunted Tours ( So to get us in the spirit (pun intended) of Halloween, check this out.  I wished I had thought of this for my kids.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Take Me Out...A Baseball Anthology

Buy Me Some Peanuts and Cracker Jack. . .   
      You Don’t Have to Write What You Know

Despite being raised in the South where the high priest of the Sports Church is football, Bailey Watkins loved baseball. She loved the order, the precision, and the pace. While other sports were slaves to the time clock, a baseball game took its fine sweet time but could still go from near defeat to sudden victory with a good crack of the bat.

Thus begins, “Slugger Gone South” from the baseball anthology, Take Me Out, which was released yesterday.

Stephanie and I are pretty proud of those words. They sound like they could have been written by someone who is not only a baseball fan but is also fully invested in the culture of the game.

Yeah, well.

When Crimson Romance executive editor Tara Gelsomino put out a call for stories for a sports anthology, we thought, Oh, yeah. Perfect. That’s us. We are football people. We knew we could write a football story that would make the poets cry. There would be goal line stands, defensive linemen with heart, inspiring halftime locker room speeches, and crying cheerleaders.

But then we found out it needed to be a baseball story, slated to come out in the middle of the World Series.

We had some work to do. Baseball doesn’t have halftime and cheerleaders.

It wasn’t that we didn’t know anything about baseball. I had spent plenty of time at the little league fields watching my nephew play and Stephanie's high school  had a high achieving team. She had even been a bat girl for three years. So we knew the fundamentals of the game but, in all of our years as close friends, we had never had one single conversation about baseball. It’s fair to say we had no allegiance and little interest.

But we knew enough to know that America’s Pastime has a rich unique culture that we had to understand before we could hope to write a convincing hero who played the game or a heroine who loved it.  So we set out to learn. We attended a Birmingham Barons game, watched countless baseball movies, and worried the stew out of everyone in our lives who had any love at all for the game.

We learned how the farm team system works, that bats don’t come cheap, what MBL wives wear to games, and that New York Yankees have to be clean shaven with short hair.

Before long, it all made sense. We understood that elusive thing that makes people love the game. We wrote a hero and heroine who loved and hurt so much that it might make at least one poet cry a little.  And before we finished, I think we ended up loving baseball a little ourselves. At least I find myself pausing to see how it’s going with the Red Sox and the Cardinals instead of scrolling through the channels looking for a football game, any football game.

So you don’t have to write what you know. You just have to learn and—in some cases—have friends who are willing to let you worry the stew out of them.

Have you written something you didn’t know much about?

Monday, October 28, 2013


(For those of you too young to know, this is the late Madeline Kahn in Blazing Saddles. Check her out on YouTube singing "I'm Tired." She was AMAZING!)

I'll let you all in on a little secret. For the past six months or so I have seriously considered giving up on my writing career. I've been at this since 2008. I'm finishing up my fourth book. All four of my books have won contests and received accolades. And how many offers of publication have I received? None. Zero. Zip. Not. Very. Encouraging.

I had reached a point in my writing where I knew there was something missing and had not a single clue as to what it might be. I read voraciously, mostly historical romance. I know good writing when I read it. I know great writing when I read it. Mine is good. Mine is not great. I've searched high and low in my writer's spice cabinet and that damned jar of GREAT is simply not there.

Losing your "GREAT" is one thing. Losing your desire to keep writing is something else entirely. I've been the creative type all my life - music, painting, acting, needlework. The occasional explanation to a state trooper as to why I was doing 98 in a 55. (You do NOT get points for creativity while talking to the police.) Writing has been the one constant in my creative life. It is part of my soul and I have a feeling losing it might just push me over the edge.

(Those of you who think I have already gone over the edge and am making my way back, just keep that little tidbit to yourselves. The guys in the white coats have been trying to throw that butterfly net over me for years.)

A couple of things came together in the past several weeks and I sort of gave myself an ultimatum. I wanted a sign, any sort of sign, that I wasn't supposed to give up. I was a finalist in a big contest and my dream editor was the final judge. I was attending a really great conference and the workshops and my pitch appointments looked promising. Well you know what they say about the best laid plans, don't you? FUGGEDABOUTIT!!

Didn't win the contest. Came in dead last. Pitch appointments went really well. Workshops were fantastic. The synopsis one alone was worth the price of admission.

'Nuff said !!

BUT, I came to the (briefly) devastating realization my dream editor, who has placed all four of my books first in several contests, while she may like my work, or my voice, or maybe just the fact I can spell, is never going to buy one of my books. She just isn't. SOB!

BUT, knowing who isn't going to buy your book is a handy piece of information to have. It saves a lot of wasted time and effort. (Hey, I'm trying to be Little Mary Sunshine here! Those of you who know me know how difficult that is for me. I'll probably sprain something if I keep it up.)

I won a couple of things in the fund raising raffle at this conference. One was a Scottish themed bag donated by Scott McKinley. Let me tell you, the mouse pad in the bag is one of the most inspirational pieces of swag I've ever seen. You could bounce a quarter of the guy's .... never mind. Where was I? Oh yes! 


Writers get that way. Especially aspiring 'really want a contract with a publisher writers.' You get tired of rejection. You get tired of the ups and downs. You get tired of sitting there staring at a blank page or staring at a page of crap that stares back and tells you you're ugly and your mama dresses you funny. (Hey, they're my pages! I'll write their dialogue however I want to!)

I won something else at this conference. I won a critique. Not just any critique, but a critique by a published historical romance author whose work I love and admire. I was truly surprised I won as a number of people wanted this critique. But I got it! And I sent my partial and synopsis off to this author and prepared myself to be handed my head. We writers are masochistic that way. 

And she did hand me my head. She ripped through my pages like Jason chasing Jamie Lee Curtis. And her critique was ... nothing short of a revelation. The thing that's been missing from my writing, that thing, she nailed it. She challenged me to rise above the cliche, to get creative with some of the most ordinary things on those pages. She nailed those changes which will take my book to the next level. Those problems I just couldn't see she saw. She gave me suggestions and ideas and insights to improve my craft, not just my story. And she did it with humor and intelligence and with the clear understanding my writing was good, but these things could make it great. So THAT's where my great was hiding - in another writer's cupboard.

And how do I feel about all of this?


BUT, I've decided I can't give up. Not just yet. I want to see what these insights will do to my stories. I want to try. I want to do this. Because another writer, someone whose work I admire, took the time to read my work, to tell me what she loved about it (and there were things she loved) and then told me how to make it better. I owe it to myself. I owe it to my characters. I owe it to all of the people who have believed in my work all of these years. And I owe it to the writer who took time out of her schedule (She writes and has a day job.) to show someone else the way.   

This is not an easy gig. And I think each and every one of us reaches a point where we have to decide if it is worth it. We reach a place where we wonder what else we can do to improve our craft or take our work beyond just good. The difference between good and great is often grit - the willingness to admit our own shortcomings and sometimes even our own laziness. Writing is not for sissies. Anyone who tells you it is, is selling something. 

I'm reminded of a line from a David Allan Coe song about an Alabama-born master storyteller.

"Cause if you're big star bound let me warn ya, its a long, hard ride."

Have you ever thought about giving up on your writing dream? What helped you to stay in the game? Has anyone ever given you a critique or advice or a pep talk that helped you to stay on the long, hard ride to publication? Tell us about it!

Friday, October 25, 2013

Nominate Your Favorite Romances of 2013

I love lists.  I've made lists of my favorite lists. So, needless to say, I've been working on my holiday shopping list and started thinking about the new releases I would like to give friends and family for Christmas.  Which leads me to today's post . . .

The 2013 Romance Holiday Shopping Guide

Drop by and share with me your nominations for the 2013 Holiday Romance Shopping Guide.  I will post the results on November 29 (my next blog post date), and you can print out the post and take it shopping with you!  One commenter (who will be announced on November 29) will receive an Amazon Gift Card for $20!

The rules are simple, to post your nomination list (see, I heart lists!!!):

  1. The name of the book and its author
  2. The sub-genre of romance (Series, Contemporary, Historical, Romantic Suspense, Paranormal, etc.)
  3. Why you are nominating the book (one to two sentences about why this book is your pick)
  4. Your email address
You can enter as many times as you like.  

In honor of my love of lists, a little Feist to start your weekend :)

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Invitation to Eavesdrop

The Evolution of a Logline

Way back in 1998, when the Internet was kinda new, I learned a lot from a book and a web site, both named Web Pages That Suck*. The subtitle? Learn Good Web Design by Looking at Bad Web Design. 

Fast forward to 2013. I’m writing a middle grade mystery, and I need a logline to pitch it. 

I submitted my logline to YA Sci-Fi author Leah Petersen for critique (a prize that I won as a result of a blog contest!) By revealing the ensuing tutorial involving my bad logline--a process that brings sausage-making to mind, I hope you'll gain a better understanding of loglines--and will write a fantastic one for your next book! 


When 11-year-old Ellie McCoy’s dog wolfs down the only evidence of a crime, she will have to solve The Chicken Fingers Mystery to prove she’s not just playing Nancy Drew.


This looks like a great idea and I love the voice. "Wolfs down the only evidence of a crime" and "The Chicken Fingers Mystery" totally rock.

As far as the actual logline goes, I have a few issues. 

You have a "when/thus" set up (as you should!) but it leaves me slightly confused. Was she already trying to solve the mystery? If so, the fact that the dog ate the evidence doesn't cause your "thus" which is "she will have to solve...." Considering the Nancy Drew reference at the end, I assume she was already trying to solve the mystery, thus your when/thus is actually not true at all. 

The other problem is that the stakes aren't there. As you've set it up, the only consequence of failure is not being taken seriously, and possibly being embarrassed. EVERY middle grade book has that as a consequence, no matter what the story is. 

We need to see the stakes specific to your plot. What you need is: She has to [do this] or [this bad thing happens]. What's the consequence of failure in YOUR story? 


When eleven-year-old Ellie McCoy’s dog wolfs down the only evidence of a crime, her investigation leads to a human trafficker who intends to hide his scheme by tossing Ellie overboard in the middle of the Gulf of Mexico.


Ohhh, sounds exciting!

I still think you're missing the link between 'dog eating evidence' and the 'therefore' bit. And, while the new ending is more exciting, it still lacks the 'if she doesn't [do this] then [this consequence] will happen.

I think one of the difficulties here is the way you present the initial 'When..." as the dog eating the evidence. Is that the actual inciting event? At this point it's sounding more like backstory to me. And it feels less of a fit with this darker angle. I wonder if that's really where you need to start. 

Start by breaking it down into the basic facts. 
Who: Ellie 
What happens: This should be your inciting event, the one thing that happens that kicks off the plot. Is it really the fact that the dog ate the evidence? "Evidence" implies the investigation is already underway, which would make this something that happens after your inciting event, not the event itself.
How: What does your main character need to do to win? What is the central goal driving her and the plot?
Consequence of failure: Getting bumped off by a human trafficker. 

We need to understand a "why" for everything that follows and then the logical "so this is what our hero has to do", and the "this is the sucky thing that will happen if the hero fails." The way you have it now, I'm left wondering why she's in danger at all. How is she connected to this mystery? Why is she investigating it at all, to the point of putting herself in harm's way? What makes her the person who would have evidence in the first place that her dog could end up eating? 

"Investigation" could also easily be looking things up on the internet, tracing clues that never bring you within arm's reach of the bad guy. And is the bad guy's plan to get away with all this really "to hide his scheme by tossing Ellie overboard in the middle of the Gulf of Mexico" or is that just what he decides to do with her when he finds her on his boat with evidence that incriminates him? If so, I need to understand why she's on the boat in the first place. It's one thing to play Nancy Drew, and it's quite another to be eleven years old and on the human trafficker's boat by choice, which is the only way I can see those things coming together as you've presented them.

I hate using my own stuff as an example because I'm by no means the best example of anything, but I don't have anyone else's logline and it's the one I know best. ;)

The Physics of Falling Book 1


This is the back cover copy of my book:
When Jacob Dawes is Selected for the Imperial Intellectual Complex as a child, he’s catapulted from the poverty-stricken slums of his birth into a world where his status as an unclass is something no one can forget, or forgive. His growing scientific renown draws the attention of the emperor, a young man Jacob’s own age, and they find themselves drawn to each other in an unlikely, and ill-advised relationship. Jacob may have won the emperor’s heart, but it’s no protection when he’s accused of treason. And fighting his own execution would mean betraying the man he loves.

This is the pitch my editor and a marketing professional who gives seminars on logline writing helped me develop for my logline:

When a brilliant young physicist is accused of treason, he discovers there's only one way out of an execution. If he wants to live, he'll have to betray his lover, the emperor. 


I never would have come up with that on my own. I thought the important inciting incident was that first sentence of the back cover copy--the fact that he was taken completely out of his element and to a place where people hated him just because. It isn't until halfway into the book that the danger peaks with the false accusations of treason which should get him executed. I thought the “taken out of his element” bit was the cool thing. Like a dog eating the evidence, for me it was the eight-year-old taken by the totalitarian government for their own purposes! Yeah, not so much. That just gives me too much to explain in a sentence or two. 

So they showed me that I needed to use the inciting incident of the most dangerous problem, the conflict that was easiest to understand in a phrase or two. It wasn't the requisition of the boy, it was the enemies the man had accumulated who were threatening his life. 

Then I needed a clear either/or, an if/then that was an obvious and interesting conflict.  That was: betray the emperor (lover) and live OR don't betray him and die. Clear stakes, clear decision/action and a clear consequence for failure. It's not what I thought was the most important part of the plot, but it was the one I could present in a concise and interesting way. 

Who: young physicist
What happens (this is your inciting incident or your "Why"): accused of treason
How: betray the emperor, his lover
Consequence of failure: execution

Once the logline hooked them, THEN I could bring in all the cool details.

Use voice, words and phrases that will set your story apart and to convey the interesting bits you think are so important, but boil your logline down into: Here's the person, here's the danger, here's what happens if they fail. 


When eleven-year-old Ellie McCoy tries to help a teenaged immigrant flee from a human trafficker, the villain kidnaps both girls. Ellie must escape--or disappear forever.  


This is EXACTLY what you need.  

Now that you've got the logline, you may find you can change a word or two to give an even stronger impression of what's unique to your book and your voice. It leaves me with the right kind of questions (what happens next??) rather than scratching my head going 'but...' 

I'll tell you what, logline writing, and back cover copy, etc. sound like they should be right up our alley. We're writers, aren't we? It's just writing! But, in reality, that's not writing fiction, that's writing marketing copy. Those are very different skill sets. 


My logline has yet to be tested in publishing’s pitch and query world, but a spoken version of this particular logline passed the cocktail picnic test! I was able to spout an answer to the question, “What are you writing?” BEFORE the person who asked saw someone else over my shoulder that she was suddenly desperate to hail.

And Leah’s logline? A definite success. The first two books in The Physics of Falling series are available now: Fighting Gravity and Cascade Effect. Click on the titles for the full details from Amazon. 

The Physics of Falling Book 1

The Physics of Falling Book 2

Leah Petersen lives in North Carolina. She does the day-job, wife, and mother thing, much like everyone else. She prides herself on being able to hold a book with her feet so she can knit while reading. She's still working on knitting while writing.

*The most important thing I learned about web page design is to hire a designer. I did not learn to design an attractive web page of my own using tools available on Blogger. 

Monday, October 21, 2013

RWA 2013 Conference In Atlanta

Every year Romance Writers of America hold a national conference in different city. This year it was in Atlanta. Check out the videos.

Friday, October 18, 2013

Pirate Treasure to Them What Reads!

Time. Lord, how it flies! Things on my to-do lists continue to creep up on me. It's not like I'm not paying attention, me hearties. Thank goodness I didn't forget to make an appearance here today, eh?

You see, I'm 11 weeks out of surgery and still trying to get back into the groove. I've set goals. I've nailed down priorities. But there always seems to be something in my way. Like using all my neck juice at work and returning home, only to need rest, instead of sitting butt in chair in front of the computer and spilling my muse onto the page.

Indeed, good things have come out of having time to recuperate: plotting a new novella series, plotting two more books in my Nelson's Tea series, reading several Self-Publishing books and romance novels, and reevaluating my life. All well and good things to accomplish, eh? But there's one aspect of this writing biz that never ceases to amaze me. The pirate in me wants OUT!

So far, I've encountered Captain Blade, aka Lord Garrick Seaton, while in the shower. Horrors! I quickly reminded him I was a lady and to be more discrete. Then I had some rum and welcomed him back in the room. (Pirate!)

A milestone! I took my first trip to the liquor store without my hubby and made a rum purchase for the 2013 Southern Magic Romance Readers' Luncheon. Woot!!!

"Do tell, girlie. Now I know why the rum's not gone, luv." Jack winks slyly.

Exactly! The rum's not gone and neither is the spirit to write more pirate novels. Now, to get my neck involved in my plans.

"Perhaps a little hempin jig might help, eh?"

(Shaking head most delicately.) Not a good idea, Jack. Surgery, remember?

"What you need is therapy. Savvy? That should limber you up!"

Funny you should mention it. I'm starting therapy next week. And boy, do I hope my neck muscles and nerves get back on board after having jumped ship back at the beginning of August.

"Don't worry, luv. I know exactly how to tune your muscles."

Arrrr-righty then. Well, it appears Jack has imbibed WAY too much rum. His confusion is paramount, me hearties. It also leads me to do things that... well... a lady never tells.

What things have jumped out at you, lately?

Are you a list maker or a fly by the seat of your pants kind of pirate?

I'll give one lucky commenter a $10 Amazon gift card for posting. (That's pirate treasure to them what reads!)


Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Jeaniene Frost's Book Trailers

Everyone knows about Jeaniene Frost's books about Cat and Bones (if not, go now and read!). Well, she has started a new series, and Vlad is wonderful and so sexy. Here are the book trailers.  Don't forget she's going to be in Birmingham November 2.  Register for the luncheon (lots of giveaways) before October 27 at

Monday, October 14, 2013

Legends of White's Bridge

Since it’s October, I’m telling spooky family tales every Wednesday on my blog. Here, I’ll be sharing a ghost story from my hometown. May your October be Spooktacular.

The Legends of White’s Bridge
Down in South Georgia, where I grew up, the locals have long told ghost stories about White’s Bridge. The church and cemetery sit on a sharp bend in White’s Bridge Road and the bridge, around the curve, crosses over Spring Creek.
Google Maps

Nowadays, the creek isn’t very deep, but once upon a time, it was deep and had a strong current. My friends and I swam there in high school, so twenty years ago, it was at least deep enough to swim in.
In my day and before, in my mom’s day, kids would listen to the tales and then drive out into the country to try to bear witness to some of the legends. One legend says, if you venture to step into the cemetery at night, lights will come on over the graves. Not gas lanterns or solar powered LED lights, but eerie, unnatural glowing balls of light that hover over the graves. Rumor has it a lot of casualties were buried on the sight from the Confederate and Indian wars. If you’ve never heard, warrior spirits don’t always rest peacefully. ***insert wicked laughter***

One story that seems to have started the fascination with White’s Bridge is a tale of love and deception with tragic consequences.
Years ago, when cars were new but the roads were still one lane horse and buggy trails, a young couple ran away together to get married. Their families were at odds, think Capulets and Montagues, or even better, Hatfields and McCoys. The young man and woman had loved each other since childhood, but their families were keeping them apart. Their plan was to drive to the next county and get married. When they returned home, their families wouldn’t be able to separate them.

The young woman packed a small suitcase and snuck out of her house, through the woods and met her man at the end of the dirt lane. Shortly after they crossed the county line, they experienced car trouble. One lane roads often had pull-off areas every now and then so people could pass each other. The couple got out and pushed the car in search of a pull off.
The first place they came to was the White’s Bridge Church yard. There was a giant old oak tree near the road, so they pushed the car under the tree. The young man told his lady to wait in the car while he went for help.

Darkness fell and the young woman grew anxious as the wind picked up. A storm raged overhead with heavy rain, deafening thunder, and blinding lightning. The wind blew the branches of the oak and they bumped and scraped across the roof of the car. The frightened woman opened her car door and ran for the church.
In those days, churches were left open as places of sanctuary for travelers on the road. There would be provisions for visitors to use like food, firewood, and bed rolls. The woman started a fire while she waited for her fiancé to return. She passed the time by practicing her wedding march up and down the aisle of the little church. When the storm calmed and she grew tired, she lay down and went to sleep.

The early morning sun streamed through the stained glass window and woke her. Concerned that her man might be looking for her, she threw open the doors of the church and found him...hanging from a limb of the oak tree.
What she thought was a branch brushing the car’s roof was actually his feet. In her despair, she ran for the bridge, and with a heart-piercing scream, she jumped. She didn’t fight as the deep water and strong current carried her down to the bottom of Spring Creek. They later found her lifeless body floating in the water.
It was rumored that the young woman’s family knew about their secret plan to marry and was responsible for murdering her fiancé. Nothing was ever proven and no one was punished for the crime.

They say, if you go out to White’s Bridge when the moon is right, you can hear the woman’s screams and see her floating in the creek.

Are you scared yet? Are there local ghost legends where you live?

Wednesday, October 09, 2013

Two, Four, Six, Eight, Your Writing Is Going Great!

Next week my writing group meets.  And, though we've been together for several years now and they are an awesome inspiring group, I still find it difficult to submit excerpts to them. Despite the mutual understanding that its a rough draft, its still difficult to share the words I've labored over.  Its the fear of showing my work.
Yet, I know there are no better cheerleaders in my corner than my writing group!  So I will clamp down the fear (and try to remember that I am my harshest critic) and hit send on that revised chapter this week.  Because, truth told, everyone needs cheerleaders!

Are you fearful of showing your work?  If so, how do you snuff it out to gain the benefit of your cheerleaders? 

Monday, October 07, 2013

Twitter & FaceBook C*ntest for Southern Magic Reader's Luncheon

Jeaniene Frost, Author of the Night Huntress Series

What better way to get everyone ready for the Southern Magic Reader’s Luncheon on November 2, 2013, but to have a contest?

Not only are we going to have the fabulous Jeaniene Frost, but her narrator—the wonderful Tavia Gilbert.

We are going to have Tavia read at least *one* (I’m hoping for more) favorite scenes form the Cat and Bones series—but which ones? That is hard to decide.

So, it was decided the fans would pick them.

This will be held via Twitter and FB (on the Southern Magic page).


Tavia Gilber, Voice Artist for Jeaniene Frost
  1. Tell us which scene you'd like to hear read. 
  2. It must be kept PG (because it will be read in mixed company) 
  3. The top three most requested scenes will be chosen. 
  4. 3 people will be picked at random to receive one of three $5 Amazon gift cards at the end of the contest. If you respond on FB (Southern Magic page with hash tag) or Twitter (with hashtag), I’ll contact you. If you respond here (and there will be another day I ask for input here) please put the email address: name at whatever dot com.  I will post the winners here on Romance Magicians.
  5. This contest starts today on October 7, 2013 and ends October 14 , 2013. 
  6. Please use this hash tag on Twitter and FB: #MagicLunchAudio,

Let’s have fun with this!

For me, I’d like the first scene when Cat & Bones meet. 

What would you like see?

There is *still* time to attend the Southern Magic Reader's Luncheon,
Click here: Magic Lunch  for instructions on how to buy tickets. 
There's only a few weeks left! 

Friday, October 04, 2013

Is Romantic Suspense Dead?

When I got my RT Book Reviews the other day, I scanned the book review sections, mainly to see who is publishing what. One of the things I noticed was the small and I mean small section for Romantic Suspense. It amazes me how quickly a genre can almost disappear.

First, I would like to mention how I also noticed how large the Erotica section is now. If you read some of the blurbs, you will realize that many of the Erotica books are also romantic suspense. I noticed because my last two books were placed under Erotica because they were released under Avon Red. My books are hot but not erotica. If you read them, you would agree. There is a difference between erotica and just good ol' hot books.

Anyway, general contemporary appears to be growing in popularity. I'm all for that. Historical Romance is going strong though I wish there were more Medieval (not Scottish) stories. I see more westerns. That makes me happy.

Oh, I lost track. Back to Romantic Suspense. No. I don't think it's dead, but it's time for it to change. I like to think my type of RS is ahead of its time. (Think James Bond adventures, not Criminal Minds gruesomeness.)

What type of genres/story-lines would you like to see more of?