Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Want to be an author?

"Stay loose and watch snails." I saw this on a poster in a friend's bathroom and thought it funny. However, that is not my topic for to-day. As many of you know, my husband passed away on December 4, 2008. Before he died and since, I had lost my creative muse. A friend gave me "A Creative Writer's Kit by Judy Reeves," and it jolted me into wanting to write again.

For every day of the year, the Kit poses a question or a comment and I write a page starting with the comment. For instance, to-day, June 30. "Long afterward, I came upon it again ..."

Here's what I began to write. "The copy of the letter I wrote to Maurice disappeared so long ago I had forgotten about it..." I wrote a whole page and my final sentence is - "Maurice is now a famous politician, the story of our affair and the child he fathered might ruin him."

Not exactly brilliant but there's a story possibility. I'm surprised at how quickly I can spin a little tale from a short comment.

On June 28, "Write about small change." This is how I began. "Small Change is my best friend's puppy. Actually, he is three years old now but still looks like a white ball of fur..."

Goddesses, here is the comment for July 1. "The possibilities are endless ..."

If you have time and the inclination, I'll like to read how you'd begin. I'll be writing my comment tomorrow morning and will share it with you if the July 1st Goddess doesn't mind me invading her space. Or, I can wait until it's my turn as Goddess-of-the day on July 15.

However, if you'd rather watch snails and ponder the meaning of life, go for it.


Monday, June 29, 2009

Where Are You Going?

I've been writing seriously for four years, though the first year doesn't really count since that's when I pounded out thousands of words of crud. But that's a blog for another day.

Anyway, I just signed my 8th contract. Yeah, I'm very proud of myself (but this blog isn't about that either). I've written one series and have just started a second. All my books, save for one, are suspense. One of them (still uncontracted) is a complex romantic suspense with a stalker and FBI agents and a couple of dead bodies. I like complicated plots with twists and turns. Anyway, I did all those stories by the seat of my pants. Ya know, starting with the "what if" question and letting the story unfold organically from there. I didn't know there was another way because I'd only been on the reading side of novels.

Then I started meeting other writers and learning the basics of the craft. Words that become second nature to writers. Words like goals and motivation, internal and external conflict, hero journeys, black moments and character arcs and backstory. Huh? What do you mean it's boring for the reader if I tell the whole childhood history of my heroine in the first 18 pages? But she's so scarred and flawed ... everything else will make so much sense if you know that her Aunt Betty was actually a man in WWII with a penchant for wearing lady's underwear.

Back when I first made the decision to become an author, I was blissfully unaware of any rules in writing. I was happy just sitting at the computer letting my characters stumble into life-threatening situations, argue, kiss and eventually fall into bed (actually, the falling into bed part seemed to come waaaay to easily to me *wink* anywho...). I was naively typing away letting my characters roam through my stories until something really bad happened which often times included killing the bad guy and then riding off into the proverbial sunset.

But I've grown. I've matured. I've learned that other writers actually plot out their stories ... ya know ... like an outline for a research paper. Oh, I was a scientist in my former life, I've done a lot of research papers. I could do that. As a matter of fact, I thought I might actually thrive plotting a book.

So I signed up for the best plotting class I could find. These instructors were writing pros, presenting the plotting process one step at a time. I'm a good student ... I have always done all my homework ... and I dutifully kept up with the class assignments. We had to describe our hero, heroine and villain, if we had one (ha, mine was eeeevvvil) ... no problem. Then we had to talk a little bit about their childhood, their fears, their dislikes and goals. Okay, I was shaking a little bit ... I'd never really "met" my characters in any of my books until I threw them into some nasty situation. But that's okay ... I pushed through. I tried to discover who they were and what they wanted before writing chapter one.

Then, I had to write ALL their conflicts, internal and external along with the journey I was going to take them on during this story. WHAT? Like I had to know before actually writing the scene at the warehouse what the heroine was going to do with the antique glass vase when she got to the lake? I was breathing in paper bags and bathing in calamine lotion to control my breathing and the hives breaking out on my skin.

When the instructors (all smiles and sweetness) nicely sent out spreadsheets so we could outline our chapters ... well, that was my undoing! How the heck could I tell you what was going to happen in chapter 20 when I didn't even know if my heroine would still be alive past chapter 15? Heck I didn't even know if the story was going to be longer than chapter 10!


Sorry. *deep calming breaths ... in through the nose out through the mouth* It's still a bit overwhelming when I think about it. But I'll recover. I've set aside all their pretty charts and excel spreadsheets. I gave it a shot, more than one, but my poor muse has an apoplectic fit every time I pull them out. It's just not worth the pitchers of margaritas and soothing music it takes to pull her off the ceiling.

So I'm going to admit it now. Hi, my name is Nina ... I'm a pantser. I've tried plotting because so many writers look so happy with all that information spread out in front of them. Smiling as they happily take their characters on the journey they've taken weeks sometimes months to discover. I can't do it! I just can't ... please don't make me. It's just not in my wiring. I'll happily write my next book having no clue where I'm going or what terrible thing lies around the next corner, but knowing I'll be happy as I travel through the story and even happier when I arrive at the end.

Oh, and while I'm at it ... should I admit I write with absolute silence? Yeeeaaahhh, probably not. That'll definitely make you think I'm totally off my rocker.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Romance Writers for Change-Please Read

Is there anyone who is e-puiblished who isn;t aware of the struggle to gain recongition and legitimacy with RWA? To have a level playing field with the older established print only puiblishers? Today I'm going to tell you about a very large group of authors who have formed together to effect change that will, hopefully, correct some of the inequities. The group is called Romance Writers for Change and is open to any author, published or not. Over the opast several days a great deal of hard work has been done to craft a mission statement and a ressolution to present at the Annual General Meeting in RWA Nationals. There are several authors who have stepped up to run for office. Several people will be carrying proxies to the meeting with them. Here's what's been produced so far:
1. Name - Romance Writers for Change
2. Mission Statement
Romance Writers for Change was formed to help educate and create awareness about digital publishing for all RWA members. We fully support and believe in the RWA organization, and hope to partner with it in a positive, constructive way. To that end, Romance Writers for Change members support the following statements:
RWA members should be offered educational opportunities regarding all aspects of digital publishing and rights exploration/protection.
The creation of a new Digital Liaison seat on the RWA Board of Directors is in the best interest of all RWA members.
RWA’s Publisher Standards should incorporate publisher criteria that recognize digital and small press publishing as legitimate and valid models.
RWA’s Published Author standards should be revised according to a set of criteria that recognizes the specific digital publishing business model.
All romance publications published by a royalty-paying, non-vanity/non-subsidy publisher should be eligible for the RITA, provided the submission meets minimum industry-standardized format requirements. Format requirements should be based on neutral criteria that endorse readability and ease of judging, and should not be based on the method of production or distribution.


Resolution # _______________________

WHEREAS, the purpose of Romance Writers of America, Incorporated, is to advance the professional interests of career-focused romance writers through networking and advocacy,

WHEREAS, the current Bylaws and Policy and Procedures Manual of RWA® do not advance the professional interests of all career-focused romance writers, it is

RESOLVED, that the RWA® shall recognize that romance writers can be career-focused if they have (1) contracted with a publisher that pays an advance, or (2) contracted with a legitimate small press or electronic publisher that pays consistent and accurate royalties at a designated rate as defined by contract.

In accord with this, it is FURTHER

RESOLVED, that RWA® should amend its Bylaws and its Policies and Procedures. As soon as practicable, RWA should (1) provide official recognition to legitimate small press and electronic publishers who publish romance; (2) allow all e-published romance works to be entered into the RITA® under clear, accessible rules; and (3) reevaluate the standards for determining whether an author is published.

Dated this ____ day of ______________________.


A True Record Attest:


By _________________________________________

Romance Writers of America Incorporated

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

Submitted by: _________________________________________________________

Approved as to Form by: _________________________________________________

Passed on _____________________________________________________________

The group can be found at http://groups.yahoo.com/group/RWAchange/

There is a high volume of email so you may want to join and specify Digest or Special Notice, but that still gives you the opportunity to read through the emails and the information in the files section. This is our best shot yet to create equality fioer epublishers and small presses, so I urge you to take a moment and check us out.

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Mystic's Call...the end to the Island Guardians...

It is so hard to say goodbye to friends, but that is essentially what we do both as authors and as readers when we finish a book. Perhaps that is why so many of mine turn into series. I don't like good byes. But all good things must eventually come to an end. And with Mystic's Call it is time to say goodbye to the Island Guardians. I hope you enjoyed reading the series as much as I enjoyed writing it. Thanks for exploring their small world with me.

Imprint: Ellora’s Cave

Title: Mystic’s Call by Lacey Thorn

Release: 06/19/09

Genre: Futuristic/Sci Fi

Line/icons: Aeon/ménage

ISBN: 9781419923296

Price: $4.45

Mystic’s Call by Lacey Thorn

Book 5 in the Island Guardians Series.

As the Aisle of Altair prepares for its final battle the Mystic is awakened with the knowledge of the ancients and more power than one person should hold. She is not afraid of her destiny…especially when it includes the three sexy warriors that are her intended mates. At seven feet with black hair and aqua blue eyes they are pure fantasy…and now her reality.
Bram, Finn and Tanner Verbani are the sons of Princess Asme. Save the island? You bet they will. But first they must claim the woman that ignites the fires of passion in them all. The Mystic. The golden blonde beauty with a body made for loving. And they plan to love it over and over again.


Mystic’s Call
By Lacey Thorn

But none of those were the reason that he was here. No, his was a far different mission and why he had chosen to go from village to village. His mother, Princess Asme, the great island Mahiki, or blood princess, had informed him that it was his duty to pave the way for the others. For here, in this village of guardians he would find the Mystic, awakened and, if his mother was to be believed, awaiting his arrival.
According to his mother’s words he would recognize her by the eyes. They would be the same aqua blue as the royal family, the direct descendents of the Goddess of Altair. He felt both a sense of pride and fear at being chosen as the first of the three men who were to be her mates to meet her. His mother had been adamant that as the first born he was to meet her and woo her first, fiercely adamant. He couldn’t help but wonder if it had to do with more than just he and his brothers.
He was only moments older anyway. He and his brothers Finn and Tanner were as close as triplets could be. They all had the same short black hair, much shorter than most warriors and the aqua blue eyes of the royal family. They each stood at seven feet tall, tall even for a warrior. But then they were built like their fathers were. Bram hoped that his brothers were fairing well. With their connection, he felt sure that he would know if anything was off.
But now he had to focus on the here and now. He had to locate the Mystic. She would have awakened by now. He had felt the stir in the air as his brothers and the Guardians would have too. She was here and she was aware, and soon she would find herself in the arms of one of her three mates. Bram was more than anxious to see what the goddess had in store for him.
He made his way into the village hoping to spot one of the men he knew. Arik Savari, Alexi Donan, and the Mederra brothers Drago and Ulrik. They would have all made it here ahead of him. He was confident that he would find a place of welcome with one of them. Of course as the son of the Prince any of the warriors would accept him into their home and feel lucky to have him. And as the son of the Island Mahiki, Princess Asme, the women would feel just as blessed to have him in their homes. But sometimes a man wanted to be among someone that he might be able to consider a friend.
He was lost in thought, walking on the outskirts but not yet into the village when he became aware of the woman. She was gorgeous. She had golden blonde hair that feel in a braid down below her waist and when she turned and smiled at him his heart caught at the site of the aqua blue of her eyes. She smiled motioned her finger for him to follow and disappeared into the trees.
She was indeed a great gift from the goddess and he counted himself blessed that he was to be the first of Verbani warriors to claim her. For he had no doubt that in the next few moments he would claim her.

Here is your chance to find out how it all ends. And if you missed any of the beginning it is never to late to start a new series.

Island Guardians by Lacey Thorn

Earth Moves
Fanning Her Flames
Washed Away
Breathing Her Air
Mystic's Call

It's your world...unlaced

Thursday, June 25, 2009

COMING SOON: At Long Last, Love by Madison Blake

This book was originally entitled "My Heart's Desire", pertaining to the hero, Tyler Morrison, being the heroine's heart's desire. Anyway, the new title is pretty descriptive as well, which you'll realize once you've read the book.

I believe it's the most romantic book I've ever written. Actually, the idea for the story came to me when I was toying with one of the Arthurian legends in my mind. Then, the characters and the story formed soon thereafter.

Sorry to disappoint fans of King Arthur and the knights of the round table, because At Long Last, Love is set in modern times, albeit with a hint of magic, and with only the barest reference (and a little twisted at that) to one of the Arthurian legends. As I write this blog though, I was excited by a thought: Would the readers know which Arthurian legend I had in mind?

So, a contest! Well, two actually, coz I'm feeling generous.

First contest: For everyone

Join my newsletter (http://groups.yahoo.com/group/thelovechronicle/) and you're automatically entered in the drawing for one free download of At Long Last, Love in whatever format you desire. If you're already a member, then you are already in the running.

Easy, right?

Second contest: For those who've bought (no pirates allowed!) and read the book

Answer this question: Which Arthurian legend inspired this story?

Email your answer to madison@thelovechronicle.com . Sorry, I won't be offering any more hints, so don't email asking me for hints or asking if your answer is correct.

Anyone who emails me and has the correct answer will be entered into a drawing for a free download of any book in my backlist (coz you already own [through legal means] a copy of At Long Last, Love and have read it, so I don't think you'd want another copy) in whatever format you desire.


1. Even if you're in the running for the first contest, you are still eligible to enter the second one.
2. If no one gets the correct answer for the second contest, I may pick one whose answer is the nearest. If none, then I may just have a random drawing from all those who have emailed me an answer.
3. Whatever happens, there will be *two* winners. So, even if you entered the two contests, you are eligible to win only one. Fair, right? But entering both contests gives you one chance more to win!

Contest ends on July 31, 2009. Winners will be announced on my blog on August 3, 2009. Coincidentally, that's my dad's birthday!

Good Luck!

At Long Last, Love will be available at Ellora's Cave or at the new site, Jasmine Jade.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Anyone a Saved By The Bell Fan?

I saw this recently and immediately sent the link to my sister to relive old memories.

Not to reveal my age, but we used to watch Saved By Bell every day when we came home from school. (We weren't supposed to watch TV on weekdays but that's a whole other blog). Is it sad that I knew every reference Zach made?

Monday, June 22, 2009

Change, change, change...

Ah, the heartburn of edits, critiques, and reviews! My baby, my baby is so precious. I just know it's perfect. Really. Well, almost. No?

For an author, there is nothing that stings so much as criticism of their work--whether it is deserved or not. Any author who says otherwise lies. Oh, we can be big boys and girls about it, but deep down, it still bruises the ego.

If we are to present our best work then that input is necessary because most of us are too close to our work to see the flaws. Even minor flaws can mar our work and prevent us from placing our best work before the public. The way I see it, there are three stages of criticism for my work. (I'm not counting myself as I should have done my own edits before it goes to the next stage.) Count the number of times I used "work" in that paragraph! Talk about flaws...

Critique partners: When I have my chapter/section/piece that I'm working on polished up to the best of my ability, then it's time to send it off to my critique partners. Contrary to what some people think, it's not their job to tell me how wonderful it is. I have family, friends, even neighbors who can do that. No, their job is to point out the flaws in my writing.
What is it with you and the head hopping?
Why are there nineteen characters in this scene?
Did you know that you used the word "just" twelve times in two paragraphs?
I have no idea what the first three paragraphs are about!

Or conversely, I fell asleep after the second sentence.

The critique partner is the first line of defense. She/he is the one who puts the brakes on the runaway train before it completely jumps the tracks. Rather than telling me how amusing/hot/sexy my writing is (unless my scene just totally blew them away!) what I need is for them to point out where and how I can improve. Otherwise, they are just cheerleaders yelling rah, rah.

After the critique partners shake things up, it's my job to go back and fix things. And when I've done that to the best of my ability, then it's off to submissions.

Editor: If my book is accepted, then eventually an editor will go over it with a careful eye and a big fat red pen. Well, not really a red pen. In this new technological age, it's all done on the computer with fancy hi-lighting and squawks of protests in the margins. But the end result is the same.

Why does hero have three arms in this scene?
Men are blond, women are blonde.
Fourteen "that"s on this page.
People are who, things are that.
Not on the accepted list of alternative words for penis--use something else.
There are fourteen characters in this scene. Cut some of them.
Why did the heroine suddenly turn into a whiney wimpy crybaby?

Sometimes, there are simply paragraphs of suggestions. This is erotic romance. Therefore, the hero/heroine should probably make it to bed sometime before Chapter Sixteen. There is no sexual tension in the story until Chapter Ten. At this point, you have a mystery with romantic elements--not an erotic romance.

Whatever there is, the editor is committed to improving the author's book, so taking the edits personally just doesn't work. When I received my edits and final line edits, I always read through them immediately to make sure I didn't have any unanswered questions. Then I left the computer, walked around, had a cup of coffee and thought about them.

Until my frustrations were under control, I didn't work on the edits, because my best writing is not accomplished when I'm in a temper. And sitting in front of my computer is not the place to get over my mad, no matter how temporary.

Editors do not generally set out to destroy the writer's fragile ego. Really. And if your ego is that fragile, maybe you should find another line of work. Yep, your feelings will hurt. But if you want your book to be the best it can be, then get to work.

If you have radical differences of opinion with the editor, those need to be resolved before you make changes. Believe it or not, the editor is not God. However, before diving in, make sure you really, really want to draw that line in the sand, because likely your book will not be published by that publisher and you will need to go elsewhere.

Yay! I've made it through the editing process and now my book is released and I anxiously await the reviewing process.

Reviewers: Reviewers are the toughest audience of all. They're readers, generally not professionals in the writing field, but they know what they like. And when they don't like your book, they say so in a public arena. In the Internet age, public has a very different meaning than during the print age. A bad review will likely be read world-wide. Ouch. It doesn't just sting, it humiliates. No matter what spin you put on a bad review, it sucks.

But there are things still to be learned from a bad review. Don't shove it under the mattress. Print it out. Cool down. And analyze that review. What exactly did the reviewer not like? And... are they right? If so, how can you change things so your next book is better?

At every step in the process, the author can learn valuable lessons and use those lessons to improve their writing. Would I rather my critique partners pointed out the flaws privately instead of hearing about them in a public review? Yeah. Oh, yeah. But if my story made it through the entire process still flawed, then that unflattering review may be the last chance I have to learn something that will make all the difference in my next book.

So don't forget to thank them for their hard work. Critique partners, editors AND reviewers. They're worth it.


Sunday, June 21, 2009

Mia Columbus

I forgot about posting and got a nudge. My apologies, though I doubt I'll have deep words of wisdom to offer. I've decided to blog about discoveries.

1. The eBook industry is more expansive than one realizes. The fingers of publishers, editors, and connections reaches far into the ether. Take care what you post.

2. A book can be contracted on a proposal well into your future, despite the common practise to only contract finished work. Excellent for job security.

3. As much as you think you know, there's more to learn. Never stop looking for it.

4. Fall Out Boy has fantastic music and "I Kissed a Boy" is a hot parody with underage actors. Much to my chagrin.

5. Friends will constantly surprise you, humble you, and astound you with their generosity of spirit.

6. You can write and accomplish anything if you decide to do so. Be not swayed from your path.

7. Day-old popcorn smells like urine.

All true and all new, though number five should be expected by now. Have a quick and productive week.

Saturday, June 20, 2009


I confess. I presented this to my local RWA chapter last year. But I think it still applies. It does for me at any rate. Hope you find something of value too.

Sex is serious business. It’s enthralling, enthusiastic, invigorating and enervating. In addition to being fun, it’s funny. Which is what makes my erotic romances different from others’. Humor—even in my darkest erotic romance—is my “brand.” My author’s voice.

I’ve written short contemporary, romantic suspense, Regency and Victorian historicals. I never sold. Now I write erotic romances. My fourth book—His Virtual Assassin—released June 20, 2008. My fifth--Passion's Twins--released in March 2009 and will be out soon in print. I think you can see why I write what I write. I SOLD!

NOTE: Erotic Romance is not Erotica. Romantica—my publisher’s trademarked term—is still first and foremost romance—with its developing love story, conflict, and usually a HEA. I say usually, because my second historical fantasy ends with the heroine’s death. Come to think about it, all three heroes died as well!

Why do I write what I write?

· Freedom of language: To ensure I avoid redundancy, I have an American Dictionary of Slang where I find lots of synonyms for sex parts. I also have a Dictionary of Euphemisms, which I don’t use much if at all.

· Freedom to fantasize: I remember being really angry at Erica Jung for revealing so many female fantasies in her novel Fear of Flying. Now I appreciate the freedom to imagine anything—and to write about it.

· Luck: In 2005 I ran in to Barbara Woodward at the RWA conference in Reno, NV. She suggested I attend the “spotlight” on Ellora’s Cave Publishing. I won an anthology, loved every story in it, and wondered if I could write a story as funny and HOT as Charlotte Boyett Compo’s The Windsday Club. Inspired as I hadn’t been in a long time, I came home and wrote Passion’s Four Towers, which became my first sale ever.

· Freedom to explore new (for me) subgenres: I started writing Futuristic Fantasy because I needed something to occupy my time while I waited to hear about my historical fantasy. Both genres are a lot of fun to write. I probably will never write a paranormal, even though I read them a lot.

· Naming Creativity: I live with my Character Naming Sourcebook from The Writer’s Digest. I don’t even start writing until I’ve named all my major and most of my secondary characters. Naming is fun. For example, PFT’s three brothers’ names are variations on the word “spear.”


Unless you’re Jennifer Cruise, Stephanie Bond, or Janet Evanovich, I strongly recommend you avoid setting out to write the funniest scene ever written. If you try it’ll most likely read like you’ve delivered the punch line before you’ve set up the joke. Having spent most of my adult life acting in comedies and farces, I know the funniness comes from ordinary people being caught in extraordinary circumstances and behaving like the situation is perfectly normal.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

shameless promo

Damien's Destiny comes out this week, and is the first of a series called Songs of the Mages. Four are now written, and I hope for eight. Naturally I'm thrilled and want to share. The trailer link is on myspace and just type in my name or Damien's Destiny.. Here's the opening chapter. Forgive me for being so blatant, but I've got my hands full with a sick husband and not much time for anything original.

Damien’s Destiny.
Mage, synonyms from Webster’s Collegiate Thesaurus: Magician, charmer, conjurer, enchanter, magian, magus, necromancer, sorcerer, warlock, wizard.

Chapter One

Damien, the Earl of Sinclair, had always known he was a mage. A wizard, an enchanter when he chose. He’d never harbored a doubt. His parents had laughed and recognized him as his true father’s son when they found him chortling in his crib, re-arranging colors from the spectrum in the air. He still found it relaxing to form the colors of light into beautiful patterns. He enjoyed his sorcerer’s power, although he seldom resorted to magic. Never to black magic. He occasionally bewitched someone but only if necessary. Mostly his powers were not needed. A strong man in his own right, he relied heavily on himself. His father had been just as powerful. The blood of Merlin and the Lady of the Lake ran strongly through the veins of his ancestors and in him.
And he never forgot that with his powers came the obligation of deep rooted responsibility. In no way would he ever use his powers just to prove himself, or to harm anyone. His abilities were a blessing, a gift, and at times a curse. Sometimes he’d really rather not see the future.
Although even his powers didn’t make stones any softer. Maybe he should turn this one into a bale of cotton. Damien grinned as he shifted a little, trying to find an easier location on the hard rock he’d chosen to lean against. No matter, he sat in the shade and positioned so he could watch the ocean. The sound and the pattern of the ever-surging waves always fascinated him. Gulls swayed and swooped close to the rocky shore seeking a little nourishment, flying nearer to the water than the few lapwings overhead. His stallion, Araby, munched on some tufts of dried beach grass sticking up through the scree. A dragon fly flittered around his rump, and Araby flicked it away with his tail. Araby seemed contented here but his own hay might be tastier. Damien looked toward the horizon, where the sea met the sky and a small boat completed the perfect view. A beautiful day, and one likely to remain scorching hot.
Still, he’d better get Araby home to proper food and some true shade for them both.
Just as he rose to his feet, he noticed a girl walk into view from around the craggy prominence to the west. Her long skirts touched the sand as she hesitated at the shore line where the white-crested waves were crashing after each other. She came far too close to the water. Her slippers must be soaked.
Then she unexpectedly walked straight into the water.
Didn’t the little fool realize this beautiful stretch of beach could be treacherous? Maybe not since she’d invaded on his private property. His very private property.
She marched as if on parade, her chin high. Her long skirts were soon soaked and doubtless dragging on her. He jumped to his feet to run toward her, shouting as he ran.
“Turn back, miss. Turn back at once. This water is treacherous.”

Monday, June 15, 2009

Long or short?

What kind of stories do you like to write? Long, 70,000 words plus, or short, 45,000 - 50,000 words? What about your reading habits? Do you prefer a good, long read or something short y0u can finish quickly and start on something else?

For me, it all depends on the quality of the writing. However, even the brilliant writing of Alice Munro leaves me shaking my head. She writes short stories. For me they don't have a proper ending and leave me wondering what is going to happen to the story people. Alice Munro is world famous and has just been awarded the Man Booker Prize in England. She's a Canadian!

I write both long and short. I have a long historical (not published as yet) that comes in at 110,000. Probably too long for to-day's market. I have three short contemporary romance novels all in the neighbourhood of 50,000 words. My five books published by Cerridwen Press are a mix of long and short.

What are you comfortable writing?

I've posted the cover of my historical romance, A Very Difficult Man, now available in trade paperback. Also I've had a trailer made for my book. If you'd like to see it, go to: www.YouTube.com, type my name in "search" and you'll find the trailer. It was created by Misty Taggert, Trailer To The Stars, and is really wonderful. It's also on my Facebook page.

For more information about my books, you'll find me at, www.anitabirt.com


Sunday, June 14, 2009

Plotter or Pantser

I had a totally different post written for today, but something happened pissed me off so bad I had to write about it. On one of the loops I’m on a discussion turned to plotting and flying by the seat of your pants – aka pantser. One person really irked me. She gave great detail why she’s a plotter (all valid I must say), but then she closed with. I’ve come to realize that plotters are professionals and pantser's are only writing for hobby.
Hold on; hit the rewind button on that. Hobby? I don’t park my butt down every day (before going to my full time job) to pump out 1k words for a HOBBY! I took offense to that. I’m a pantser by every sense of the word. I get an idea from a line in a song, a character on television, or someone I see out on the street, and then I run with it.
Take my current WIP for instance. The heroine is waiting for a pizza to be delivered when someone knocks at her door. She’s expecting the delivery boy, not some gorgeous guy. The hero has gone to the wrong apartment. That’s all I had to start with. Nothing special.
As I sat and wrote the story I couldn’t believe the twist and turns that have sprung to life. This is going to be a pretty cool romantic suspense. Oh, BTW, it started out as a straight contemporary romance. So, you see for me flying by the seat of my pants works.
Here’s another point. Recently I had to write a synopsis for a short story. I didn’t want to write the full story if the editor didn’t feel it would fit her current anthology. She loved the idea and asked me to write it. I knew the beginning, middle and end. Great, right?
I’m struggling with getting the words down on paper. In fact, I secretly think this story sucks big time. I’ll know better when I go back to edit. The point is I plotted this one. Maybe it’s in my head, maybe not. All I know is for right now pantsing seems to work for me. When I try to deviate from this I get stuck. Maybe some time in the future that will change and I’ll become a plotter, but for now I’m sticking with what works. Oh, and on a final note. This November I’ll have seven books out. Not bad considering I landed my first contract last December. I’d say not too shabby for a hobbyist?
What’s your thought being a plotter or pantser?

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Can Business Be Pleasure?

Business Vs Pleasure. This is an argument I often have with myself. Writing for me has always been about pleasure. I create stories that I love (most of the time) and I do so because I enjoy the writing process. It's creative, it's therapeutic, it has absolutely nothing to do with the mundanities of real life. It's an escape for me, it's my place.

But recently an author friend of mine decided to quit the day job and focus on her writing as a full-time career. A big step, a huge change and a major risk in terms of financial stability. She told me she felt it was time to start treating writing as a business. She wants her passion to become her career and she believes that if she works hard, she'll get there.

This got me thinking about my own life and the way I treat my craft. My attitude towards writing has always been pretty relaxed. Sure, I meet my deadlines, I send my contracts in on times, I'm professional, but I don't worry about writing and I don't depend on it for my income. But what if I changed my attitude? What if I made some rules for myself, schedules that have to be followed? What if I went business-mode on my writing career? I'd be much more productive and I'd probably earn a decent amount of money. But would I lose the heart of my writing? Would it become the stress of my life?

For any writers out there, how do you manage your writing? Is it a hobby or is it your bread and butter? Or have you found a happy balance between the two?

Please share, I'd love to get another perspective on this :)


Available Now from Ellora's Cave - Cyr's Revenge
Available Now from Liquid Silver- His Lying Eyes
Available Now from Loose Id - Beauty and the Beasts



Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Where do ideas come from?

I’m happy to say I just got back from a wonderful trip to Italy. After writing several stories set there, it was nice to finally experience the setting myself. At one point, I had an intense déjà vu feeling as I rode into Rome on a bus. I looked to the left and felt exactly what my heroine did when she came to Rome. True, she rode in a wagon instead of a bus, but it felt the same. The sun was even at the same angle in the late afternoon sky.

The second déjà vu moment hit me when we rode by the Tiber River at night. Again, it felt exactly the same as what I wrote. It looked very similar too, but the riverbanks are raised up now, a manmade invention. I felt her trepidation as she wondered where to find a safe haven for the night.

Before I left for the trip, a friend of mine bet me I’d get an idea for a book there. And how could I not? It’s Italy, after all.

Days passed by as I saw one beautiful site after another, fully occupied by the tour and various details like -- Did I remember to pack the sunscreen? Did I bring the camera? Does my husband have his passport? It seemed I was too busy to even remember I was a writer, much less concoct a story.

We went from Rome to Florence to Venice where I got a cold. By then, I’d long given up on getting any story ideas. But ideas are like romances. They strike when you least expect them and when you’ve stopped seeking them out. So there I was, sitting on a boat bound to the island of Burano -- cold, feverish, achy, and exhausted. I’d been taking notes from the tour guides through the whole trip in case I needed something for book research later, but I was too tired to drag my notebook out now. I didn’t even listen to the guide with full attention. The drone of the motor and pull against the waves was putting me to sleep.

And then the guide said something that made my ears perk up. He said the island of Burano was inhabited by glassblowers who were so good at what they did and so prized by Venice, they weren’t allowed to ever leave the island. They literally lived and died there.

And I thought, wouldn’t that make a dang good story?

Of course, if I write the story, I’ll have to go back to Italy. Research, you know…

Afton Locke
Unlock your darkest fantasies and brightest dreams...

Monday, June 8, 2009

My Name Is...

So, who am I? What name should I use when penning my novels? Should I use my "real" name or a pen name? Pros and cons involved? How do you decide what your author name will be?

I thought long and hard about this in 1999 when I sold my first book, a nonfiction ebook to Online Originals. The book is a ghostwritten autobiography of a speaker for a women's shelter and almost all the names in the book have been changed to protect my subject.

What about me? Did I need to protect myself? After considering some factors involved using my own name, I chose to use a pen name. Protecting myself, along with the subject of my book, seemed the wiser course to take.

My "real" last name is an Italian name and usually mispronounced and/or not spelled correctly. People seem to add extra letters/accent the wrong letters all the time, even if I've pronounced it for them. So, eliminating any confusion about my last name also appeared to be a smart career move.

Marianne Stephens has served me well, both as the name for nonfiction works and mainstream romance books. One drawback...it's kinda long to put on promotional items, email address, website, business cards, etc. And, one thing I noticed at book signings. Authors are seated alphabetically. At the last big book signing I went to, I was in the second row from the back of the room. That meant people started at the "A's" and some never got to the last few rows before their arms were already full of books.

Hmm. Having a last name towards the end of the alphabet didn't work well for me.

When I started writing erotic romance books, I decided to use a different pen name. Separating my mainstream romance books from my erotic romance books seemed to be a positive way to keep readers interested. Some people don't like erotic books so would have a choice of visiting my two websites for my two names.

The pen name, April Ash, didn't take long to formulate. I wanted a short last name at the beginning of the alphabet...so I'd be in that front row at major book signings and Ash works for that. April, a shorter first name, compliments the last name. And, this name is a lot easier to put on those promotional items, etc., I mentioned above!

That's who I am. Me, myself, and I. All three names suit my purposes and lifestyle.

Marianne Stephens/April Ash
Visit my websites at: www.mariannestephens.net and www.aprilash.net for more information about my books!

Sunday, June 7, 2009


BABIES IN THE BARGAIN, is coming to The Wild Rose Press on July 03, 2009.

BABIES in the BARGAIN is a sweet and spicy medical romance in the genre of Grey’s Anatomy and ER.

I wrote the book in 2005 and entered it in numerous contests. It came with flying colors, winning several contests: Launching A Star, The Beacon, Great Expectations; Golden Gateway; Gotcha; Enchanted Words; The Suzannah; Winter Rose; Linda Howard Award of Excellence.

A video trailer.

I personally met the European singer when my next-door neighbor invited my husband and I to meet some friends and have dinner with them. The singer and her husband who is her agent were present. Unfortunately, the lovely young woman fell sick and suffered from bronchitis. We took her to our doctor and bought her medicines. When she recovered, she offered me her album and wrote on the CD, "You saved my life." I used her song, Enjoy the Boy.

BABIES IN THE BARGAIN is based on my daughter’s professional experience. Needless to say, the book is dedicated to her as she read and corrected the medical cases.

My heroine is a pediatrician and a neonatologist finishing her residency and training in a children’s hospital in Washington. Same as my daughter did. And my heroine Holly “coincidentally” shares some of the medical cases and emotional career turmoil that my daughter faced during her tough training. But the coincidental similarities stop here.

The story behind BABIES IN THE BARGAIN started on a Christmas Day, a few years ago, when my daughter was still a first year neonatology fellow. She was on-call on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day—as she’d been for the previous three years. To share the holiday season, we called her and said we were coming to have lunch with her at the cafeteria. My husband and son helped me carry the elaborate home-cooked meal and the wrapped presents. We shared a happy lunch with the guest of honor wearing green scrubs.

Later, she invited us to visit the NICU. We slipped yellow gowns over our clothes and scrubbed before entering the room where five preemies fought for their lives. I approached one of the isolettes and noticed that the preemie wore a dress with Christmas prints. My daughter explained that a nurse sewed the tiny outfits for the babies in residence over the holiday. I realized that the dedication of the NICU personnel, including my daughter, went beyond the performance of a well-done job. They gave a hundred and one percent to the babies they helped save and did it happily. On that Christmas Day, I decided to write a story featuring the wonderful doctors and nurses who treated our loved ones.

Short Synopsis: With only one year left to complete her medical training in Neonatology, Dr. Holly Collier vows not to let anyone mess up her sacrosanct schedule. Especially not the drop-dead gorgeous Dr. Marc Suarez who broke her heart seven years ago.

When a tragic accident transforms the carefree playboy into a dedicated but novice father to his nephew, Holly gives in to her maternal instincts and turns her structured life upside down for the orphaned preemie. But can she learn to trust Marc again and believe in true love?

A contest is running on my blog during the month of June to celebrate the release of BABIES IN THE BARGAIN. http://www.monarisk.blogspot.com/

Other books by the same author:

Mona Risk



pithy sayings (not mine).

I've had a week where I could mangage to get very little thinking done. No remarks please, my brain really has been turned off even more than usual. My husband fell but most forunately didn't break anything. But he's a mass of bruises and the week has sped by due to extra attention he must have, plus doctor's visits, etc. etc. I'm glad he's here and not in a hospital, but my brain is pretty much mush.

Luckily I have this great friend, Carlene Dater, who sends me a thought a day. She's an author too so they're mostly all about writing and I love them. I've collected a bunch of them that are my favorites. With her permission I'm sending them on to youl

Quote no.1:
"Always remember imagination is more important than knowledge"...ALBERT EINSTEIN. That's pretty good advice from one of the brainiest men who ever lived.

Quote no. 2:
"Be ready when opportunity comes. Luck is the time when preparation and opportunity meet." ROY D. CHAPIN JR.
Quote 3:
"Always bear in mind that your own resolution to succeed is more important than any other." ABRAHAM LINCOLN

Quote 4.
"Why not go out on a limb? Isn't that where the fruit is?"

No. 5 isn't exactly a quote, but it's something I didn't realize before. Novelist Carson McCullers endured three storke before she was twenty-nine. While she was crippled, partially paralyzed, and in constant pain, she suffered the profound shock of her husband's suicide. Others might have surrendered to such afflictions, but she settled for writing no less than a page a day. On that unrelenting schedule, she turned out many novels, including Member of the Wedding, The Ballad of the Sac Cafe, and
The Heart is a Lonely Hunter.

And if that isn't inspirational I don't know what is.

How petty one's personal problem seem beside those of that great lady and author? And don't you love the quote from Frank Scully?

I'd love it if anybody wants to send me their favorite quote...

Thursday, June 4, 2009

My first Book Trailer and CONTEST!!

This is the book trailer for In Sorcery's Hold and I absolutely love it. It won't be the last. It was fun, although I had to hold myself back from glitzing it up with flashes of fire or sparkles. Yep, I was one of those kids who always went wild with the glitter when given a craft project. Less is more was never my motto. Give me sparkles and colors and extravagance.

Okay, so today's my birthday and I thought I'd give away a gift or two. Well, actually two. There will be two winners. I'll buy one ebook from Ellora's Cave for each of the winners regardless of whether you're an author or reader. So here's what you have to do. Just comment. Anyone who comments will be entered. I'll count the number of comments disregarding my own and use a random number generator to pick the two winners. I'll draw the winners first thing when I get online on the 5th.

Have a wonderful day,


Monday, June 1, 2009


Note to self -- gotta get to grips with how this works. My June 1st blog posted on May 24th. Why? I don't know, except that I was jet-legged that day. If I stole someone else's spot, I apologise! If I didn't, hey, you got extra words from me!

Currently, we in UK are experiencing something very rare -- a summer! Which makes it very difficult to sit inside, staring at the computer screen, instead of being outside in the sun. Now, if, like my writing partner, Chris, you don't enjoy the sun (she says she goes red and blotchy. I say, use SPF 50!) then I guess you can ignore the glorious weather. I can't. I'm a sun-worshipper. I love being out. Do you see the problem? If I'm sun-worshipping, I can't be working on the WiPs. Now, don't tell me to get a laptop and work outside. I have a laptop (very cute mini laptop!) but I find my brain goes into a fugue-state in the sun. Maybe I was a lizard in a previous life...

Going off on a tangent -- what is it about a tan that we so admire? Our heroes are tanned (usually because they lead exciting outdoors lives?) and even our heroines. Even if they're not the colour of teak, they'll have a 'glow'. They won't be pale and interesting (unless they're Victorian). I know, medically speaking, that tans are Bad, that tanned skin is Damaged Skin, that we are courting all manner of nasty things. But, irrational as it may be, I feel better when my pale English skin is overlaid with a tan. Deluded, I feel slimmer, sexier, and happier. I droop when the weather is grey and cloudy. I'm sure I suffer from S.A.D. The sun comes out, and I perk right up!

Anyway, I spent yesterday in the garden with my grandson (three years old this summer and cute as a bug) and his new paddling pool. He was nude and plastered with total sun-block and had a whale of a time. So did I -- but I wrote not one word.

However, I'm cautiously happy with the current WiP. See below for a taster...

It had once been a jewel of Jacobean architecture, creamy Cotswold stone standing four-square at the end of a curving driveway edged with elms and surrounded by lush landscaped gardens. The driveway still existed, ending in a gravelled space in front of the sweeping steps that led up to the front entrance. The gardens were an overgrown jungle, though attempts had been made at clearing some of the tangled growth. The steps were moss-covered and crumbling in places. Windows looked out over the courtyard, blank eyed, desolate…
“It’s a fixer-upper!” Jon said, grinning. “Some wedding present, Mad…”
“It cost Laura the best part of a million,” she snapped, defensive. “Another million will go on restoration and modernisation. Then it’ll rival Castle Howard, and we’ll make our fortune.” Maddy felt obliged to defend the place, even though her initial reaction had been similar to her brother’s. “Come on in. I’ll show you where you’re sleeping. Then give you the tour.”
“She’s a wealthy lady, then, this Laura? Or she was, until Dad turned her brains to mush.”
“You can talk,” Maddy muttered to herself. She had lost count of the girlfriends Jon had acquired and discarded in his teens. Aloud, she said, “Even you must have heard of Stanscombe Paper Products. She’s the only daughter, and current CEO. Henblas Pennant will be a kind of corporate conference centre. Eventually.”
“Or loss-leader? Tax write-off?” Jon ducked under the low lintel, dislodging cobwebs, dust, and some dried-out insect remains. He brushed them off his shoulders, looking around him at what once must have been the Great Hall. Oak panelling still lined the walls, dark with age – stone flags were underfoot. The ceiling way above was corbelled and bossed, and around the upper floor ran a balcony – a minstrel’s gallery. He whistled softly. “A mil has to be a conservative estimate, Mad… Dry rot. Wet rot. Death Watch beetle…”
“Dealt with,” she said shortly, a tad annoyed that he had so accurately diagnosed some of the faults of the old place. “We also have the plumbing fixed. And the electrics. What’s left is cosmetic. Well, mostly.” She crossed her fingers surreptitiously behind her back.

Maddy had appropriated the master suite for herself, and relegated Jon to the small housekeeper’s room she herself had occupied until the departure of her father and his new bride. Grigori Hawke she gave the only other accommodation ready for occupancy, the butler’s pantry off the kitchen, and felt obliged to apologise.
“We will be very comfortable here, Miss McMillan. Thank you.” He placed his backpack carefully on the bed, and the cat emerged, giving a sinuous stretch and wide yawn before hopping down to inspect the room. “As you see, Meri approves.”
“She’s housetrained…?” Maddy wondered what she could find to use as a litter-box. He smiled, and gestured to the small window that gave out onto a walled garden.
“She is a very sophisticated lady.” He lifted the latch and pushed the window open a few inches. The cat levitated to the sill, chirped at him, and slipped out.
“Aren’t you worried she’ll get lost? Or, well, there are a few farm-cats – toms – that hang out…”
“Meri can well take care of herself,” he smiled. “But thank you for your concern.”
He did have a lovely smile. As he shrugged out of his jacket, the rolled-up sleeves of his shirt showed a deep tan, muscles moving smoothly under the skin. His hands were narrow, long-fingered, elegant. Maddy always noticed hands. And eyes. You could drown in the caramel depths of his eyes…
Down, girl! “I’ll – just go and rustle up something to eat,” she heard herself gabble, and got out of his sight, leaning against the wall outside and taking several deep breaths. You’re twenty-five years old, she reminded herself sternly. You’re not a silly teenager.