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Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Article: Five Things Not To Do When Trying To Write Your First Novel

by Susan Schaab

Some people suppress an insistent urge to attempt novel-length fiction all their lives. That’s like giving yourself permission to hide from who you are. If your soul is that of a writer, to write is not a luxury, it’s a necessity. Like many novice writers, you may be overwhelmed with the process of producing a novel. Here are five suggestions for your journey.

* ONE - Don’t force your writing, but DO write often, even if you’re just making notes.*

You will often hear practitioners advise you to “write every day.” Some sit down and consort with their muse at five o’clock every morning without fail, and some work from an outline. If these techniques work for you, that’s great, but don’t berate yourself if you tend to write sporadically and randomly.

In the book, The Writer’s Desk, by Jill Krementz, Stephen King was quoted as saying that he doesn’t take notes, doesn’t outline and tends to just “flail away” at the thing.

You will find that when you reach a certain point in a story and the pieces are starting to assemble, you will have a natural desire to spend time at the keyboard. But some days, the words and ideas will hide behind cement walls. You should just let them hide. They will come out when they’re ready; just present them with plenty of opportunities.

You’ve probably heard the suggestion to keep a notepad, electronic device, or some other method for capturing those juicy little snippets and fragments at impact, to be sorted and scrutinized later. They come from reading, watching, eavesdropping and experiencing life, and they come without warning.

My own experience has been that those little scraps of paper or digital bytes do lead to plot ideas, character profiles and dialogue passages. I had a large file box of such material when I sat down to work on the first draft of Wearing the Spider. The concept for the title came to me while hiking on a remote tropical island, and I jotted down my thoughts on a trail map.

* TWO - Don’t stop reading and viewing others’ writings. *

Writing instructors will tell you that you must read with almost the same intensity with which you write. You must learn to see, hear, observe and absorb your environment like a writer. The other day, my three-year-old asked me, “Can you wonder…?” Indeed. It occurred to me that the answer to this question may be the primary pre-requisite for any kind of creative writing.

You will experience the written word in a new way once you’ve tried writing. The novelist illuminates the level of consciousness that is sensed, felt and heard only by the heart. Novelists give voice to the unspoken and good ones do it with a rich serenade of words. To fully understand this concept, you must make reading other fiction a large component of your ongoing education. Synapses in our minds network in ways we can only speculate about. Components of others’ stories, plots and characters ignite epiphanies and stir emotions in our own subconscious mind, where the best stories originate.

While viewing the work of another writer, however, keep in mind the parameters of general copyright law. The original expression of an idea is protected under U.S. and international copyright laws the moment it is captured in a fixed medium of expression. You cannot legally copy any amount of another’s writing and call it your own. And, if you do use the words of another, you must attribute and, in most cases, seek permission from the copyright holder.

Even when a writer borrows small quantities, but also utilizes the same theme or format, or follows the pattern of expression, he or she can run afoul of copyright law. There are exceptions under various categories of “fair use,” but one should contact an attorney who specializes in copyright law for specific guidance.

While taking notes from someone else’s work, you must capture enough information for attributions and permissions that may be necessary, depending upon the portions you use. If you are simply tracking your inspirations and free thoughts that come from the stimulation of another’s writings, you should jot down that fact in your notes so that you won’t wonder whether a particular passage was a summary or paraphrase months later when sorting through a miscellaneous stack.

* THREE - Don’t cloister yourself. *

You must be in the presence of life to editorialize about it. The richness of life and the serendipity of social interaction are crucial to the evolution of your novel. The natural flow of conflict, resolution, affinity and antipathy make for interesting characters. Don’t take yourself out of circulation while penning stories, as you may be missing an influence of great importance. And, it’s not uncommon to find valuable storylines in the troughs of life. Conflict is good.

The development of a good story can be compared to the creation of a pearl in the “womb” of an oyster. An irritating grain of sand prompts the oyster to surround the intruding particle with mother of pearl. So, that irritant is the nucleus of enduring beauty, just as the challenges a character embraces in a tale can gracefully illustrate strength of conviction.

As a novelist, you will be courting conflict at every juncture of the writing process. Harvesting the obstacles in your own life is a suitable means by which to find it.

* FOUR - Don’t be afraid of where the story takes you. *

I’ve heard many writers say that well-crafted characters, with whom you’ve let yourself become properly acquainted, will actually tell you their story. Many have written about the “voyeuristic” role of the writer.

When I started writing Wearing the Spider, I didn’t really believe this. I tried to be in control of the direction of the plot, but I discovered that I was sacrificing some level of authenticity. The more time I spent thinking and writing about the characters I’d created, and the more I “watched” them in my mind, the more vocal they became, informing me when I’d committed a misstep in the telling of their story. When I decided to let myself truly follow the course of action that a character seemed to be dictating, the story became much more authentic and interesting.

For example, in Wearing the Spider, against the common wisdom, I let my lead character “decide” how to handle an incident of sexual harassment. Most people would advise a victim to report such an episode. But, having had such experiences myself, I know it is not so black and white.

How one reacts or doesn’t react is quite complex. A victim, who is frequently a female, must grapple with a number of unknowns: Will she be believed?; Does she have proof?; Did she do anything that might be interpreted as encouragement?; Could she have misunderstood the actions of the harasser?; What will they think she is expecting to gain by reporting the situation? And, even if she successfully neutralizes her harasser, how will she be treated by other men after the incident is documented, investigated and publicly-known?

* FIVE - Don’t send manuscripts out too early. *

Everyone needs an editor, even the most skilled and experienced of writers. There is simply no way to view your manuscripts objectively after you’ve spent hundreds of hours immersed in them. And, when you are just starting out, you must find your own. There are wonderful free-lance editors who will not only help you shape your vision, but teach you many things about your craft (and yourself). You can search any number of online writing resource sites, such as Preditors and Editors: http://anotherealm.com/prededitors/index.htm. You might also try contacting these New York based organizations: Words into Print at http://www.wordsintoprint.org/ and The Editors Circle at http://www.theeditorscircle.com/.

Writing is not just putting words on paper. A good writer must develop artistic discernment - the ability to recognize whether or not a passage “has legs.” A good editor can help you develop this judgment, but it may take time. Be patient.

Good writing does not happen with the first draft and may not happen with the second or third. Anne Lamott wrote in Bird by Bird that “Almost all good writing begins with terrible first efforts.”

If you are destined to be a writer, you will feel the need to express yourself with words no matter what the outcome. Time will reveal whether or not your novel will find a home with a publisher, but no one can deny to you a feeling of triumph when you’re staring at a final manuscript bearing your name.

Originally published at Articlecity.com

About the Author: Susan Schaab, the author of Wearing the Spider, is an attorney who, for more than eight years, practiced technology and intellectual property law with various firms and as in-house counsel in New York, Texas and California. She can be contacted through her website: http://www.susanschaab.com.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Author Interview: E. G. Parsons

The Long and the Short of It is very excited to welcome E.G. Parsons to our pages. E.G. has been a professional freelance writer for many years, writing for newspapers and magazines. Her love of books began as a child when she'd curl up in the barn loft on rainy days to read Edgar Allen Poe or Nancy Drew Mysteries. That love has only grown stronger over the years. As a member of the International Women's Writers Guild, she enjoys writing and reading sizzling romance enhanced with the elements of mystery, suspense, and the paranormal. Today Elizabeth resides in the Midwest with her husband, sons, and a boxer named Charlie.
 
I asked Elizabeth how many books she’d written. She told me she was currently rewriting her sixth book. They’ve not all been fiction. In fact, she has three books of poetry published. Her fiction includes a romantic suspense, the first in a time travel romance series (we are giving this one away in our contest this week), and she’s currently working on Shadow of Rachel, a historical romance with a touch of the paranormal.  

Black Rock: A Time for Love is being released by The Wild Rose Press this winter and one lucky reader will be among the very first to receive it. I asked her to tell me a little about the book.  

Elizabeth said, “The setting begins on a ranch in Texas in the late 1800's and then goes forward to modern times. There's plenty of sizzling romance between Roxanne and Collin as well as suspense as they travel through time to escape the clutches of a killer.” 

All writers have writing quirks of one kind or another. I asked Elizabeth to tell me about hers. 

“I'm almost embarrassed to admit it,” she told me, “but sometimes I pretend to be my heroine and walk around acting out a scene and speaking into a handheld recorder. Then I play it back to see if it works for the story. It helps me see if the dialogue sounds natural or forced.” 

To renew herself and reduce stress, Elizabeth has two hobbies she shared with me. She loves to garden and paint. She said, “Put a paintbrush in my hand and a canvas in front of me and I'm a happy person. When the spring comes, my fingers itch to be digging in the dirt.” 

Another thing she enjoys is hearing from her readers. Her poetry has always won her lots of fans, but when her first novel, Captive Fear, was published and she began receiving emails as well as snail mail, she was “so excited. The comments I got most were that I was their new favorite author and it was the best book they’d ever read. I can’t even begin to describe how that makes me feel as a writer. I cherish those letters.” 

Elizabeth has led an interesting life. She lives in the Midwest, but grew up in south Florida. She told me the following tale. 

“When I was a child in South Florida, we lived down the block from a butcher shop and Mom would send me for cheap cuts of meat to make soup. The butcher always had some kind of strange food for me to try (chocolate covered ants and fried grasshoppers) and I guess I was a strange child because I was always up for it. And really they weren't bad at all.” 

She did not lose her spirit or adventure when she became an adult, either. 
“My niece who is close to my age and I made the mistake of [making a crank phone call] one summer after watching the movie "I Saw What You Did and I know Who You Are". Suffice it say we got into a situation almost as scary as the one those girls in the movie got into. So never ever make prank calls.” 

Be sure and visit Elizabeth at her website, where she has some fun things to do and a contest for you to enter.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Short Story: A Familiar Ring

by Jenna Bayley-Burke

“Don’t hate me.” Melissa said as soon as she opened the door.

Brian stared at his wife, his brows knitting together. He’d only been gone two days. She couldn’t have done anything to make him hate her in two days. Could she?

“I lost my ring.” Tears glistened in her pretty brown eyes.

His gut clenched. He’d designed her engagement ring himself, spent a month flipping through catalogs, trying to draw what he wanted, searching for someone who understood his sketches. Heck, he spent an entire afternoon staring at diamonds for ones that sparkled just right.

Instead of letting her see him cringe, he smiled and stepped in the door, dropping his bag to the floor and wrapping her up in his arms. “What happened?”

“I don’t know.” She squeezed him tight, pressing her face against his shoulder so her voice was muffled. “Last night when I went to wash my face it wasn’t there. I spent the whole day looking everywhere. Everywhere.”

Taking a deep breath he released her, kicking the door shut and leading her into the living room. He sat with her on the couch and pushed her blonde hair behind her ears so he could look into her face.

“My mom helped too. We went back to the park we to Jesse to, the grocery, cleaned out the car completely, washing machine, dishwasher, and it’s nowhere. I swear, this house has never been cleaner.”

“That’s something at least.” He forced a grin, racking his brain for a possibility she hadn’t thought of. “What about Jesse’s toy box? Or the fridge. You’re always leaving the remote in there.”

“That was once. And I cleaned them both out. Took a box of toys to the children’s shelter when I finished with the toy box.”

“Wow. Okay.” He nodded slowly, taking her left hand in his. He’d grown so accustomed to seeing that ring on her finger the last four years, it looked bare without it. “We’ll get a new one.”

“We can’t afford it right now.” Melissa waved her hand toward the kitchen, which they’d been remodeling themselves bit by bit for the last three months. Right now all their meals came from the microwave because they didn’t have a stove. “My mom gave me one of her rings she’s not using. I can wear that.”

“I can buy you a ring.” He pushed a hand through his hair and tried to think of where the money would come from. He’d picked up some extra money when he volunteered to train the airport screeners at the Boise airport, where he’d just returned from. Maybe if he asked to be assigned to more, or picked up extra shifts managing the checkpoints at neighboring airports. But that would mean more nights away from Jesse. And two-year-olds understood ‘Daddy has to work’ about as well as ‘Don’t touch.’

Melissa leaned into him, resting her head on his shoulder. “I’d rather have a stove, and have you home.”

****
The metal detector really liked the petite brunette trying to pass through the security checks with her two young children. The curly haired little girls were not impressed by the hold up.

With a smile, Brian stepped forward, helping to keep the kids from bolting. The woman unfastened her watch, dropped it in the tray, and tried to pass through again. No such luck.

“Why don’t you try removing all your jewelry,” Brian suggested. They could pat the woman down, but that might scare the girls. “Even your shoes could be setting it off.”

Brian watched as the woman slipped off her shoes, earrings, necklace, and three rings. His heart skipped a beat as he saw the heart shaped diamond, flanked by two teardrop diamonds on the wedding band.

He cleared his throat. “Excuse me, but where did you buy that ring? Your wedding band?”

“Oh, I’m not married anymore. My girls found that a few weeks ago while we were playing at a park.”

“Here in Oregon?”

“Yes, Hillsboro actually.” The woman passed through the metal detectors without a peep. Her girls began to clap. She bowed and kissed the youngest on the head before retrieving her shoes and pulling them on.

“Would that be Griffin Oaks Park?”

The woman’s eyes widened as she looked up at him. “Yes.”

“And is there an inscription on the ring? Brian's Best Bet?”

“Yes!”

His cheeks tightened as his smiled widened. “I’m Brian. I met my wife when she sold me a lottery ticket.”

She blinked, then began to laugh. She reached into the tray and pulled out her jewelry. Handing the ring to Brian she shook her head and grinned. “Your wife should have this sized so she doesn’t lose it again.”

“Thank you so much.” Brian turned the ring over in his fingers, breath swelling in his chest. As he watched the woman who’d answered his prayers walk away his cell phone rang on his hip. His supervisor was understandably confused by what she saw on the monitors.

He couldn’t stop smiling as he explained. Keeping the secret as he called Melissa and asked her to meet him for lunch nearly killed him. His hand slipped into his pocket at every opportunity, a thrill shooting through him every time his fingers found the ring.

By the time Jesse toddled up to him, pulling Melissa along for the ride, Brian was sure the secret showed on his face. To get to the bank of windows where Jesse could watch the planes land he had to let go of the ring, holding the boy with one hand, and Melissa’s hand with another. He tried not to look behind them every few steps, worried the ring would slip from his pocket and be lost forever.

“What’s on your mind?” Melissa asked, giving Jesse a container of crackers and sitting down in a chair by the windows.

“What makes you think there’s something on my mind?” Slipping his had into his pocket he connected with metal and let out a deep breath.

“You called, for one. And you seem nervous.”

He’d been nervous the first time he did this. But now, excitement ruled his emotions. He got down on one knee in front of her chair.

“What are you doing?”

Pulling the ring from his pocket he held it out to her. “Will you marry me?”

She stared longingly at the ring. “We decided it was too much right now.”

“I already paid for it. Five years ago.”

“That’s my ring?” Her eyes glassed over and her bottom lip started to quiver. “But how did you find it?”

Brian slipped it on her finger as she tried not to cry. “I am a very lucky man.”

About the Author: Jenna Bayley-Burke is a domestic engineer, freelance writer, award-winning recipe developer, romance novelist, cookbook author and freebie fanatic. Blame it on television, a high-sugar diet, or ADD; she finds life too interesting to commit to one thing — except her high school sweetheart and two blueberry-eyed baby boys. Her category romance novels can be found in bookstores, as long as you live in the UK. Her short stories, both naughty and nice, are available from The Wild Rose Press. When she is procrastinating, she has lots to say on her blog, website, and reading group, We Call It Research.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Article: Paying Dues

by Patrice Moore


Don’t you hate reading about first-time authors who, when asked how long they’ve been writing, will say something like “Oh, about six months.” Or maybe it’s two years. Perhaps even five years.

Me? It’s been seventeen years.

Boy that’s embarrassing to admit, but it’s true. I know it because my husband and I had our seventeenth wedding anniversary this year, and I started writing just after we were married.
Seventeen years of writing and submitting and getting rejected. Again and again and again. I have twenty-one complete manuscripts gathering dust, figuratively speaking, in my desk drawer.

Why did I do it? Why did I keep writing in the face of nearly two decades of being told my writing wasn’t up to snuff?

Because I’m a writer, that’s why. And wow, does it feel great to say that. I can call myself a writer at last.

In The Beginning...

…In the beginning I read a badly-written romance novel and thought, “This is terrible. Even I can write better than that.” My husband encouraged me to put my money where my mouth was, so I did. I wrote a book called Sands of Kismet (a desert romance) full of every possible writing error known to romance.

Except, of course, I thought it was brilliant. I submitted it. It got rejected.

Next came The Art of Deception. Again, brilliant. Again, submitted. Again rejected.

Next came Snow Bound. Brilliant. Submitted. Rejected.

A Faire to Remember. Brilliant. Submitted. Rejected.

I didn’t just submit each manuscript once and suffer a single rejection, either. NoooOOOooo. Masochist that I am, I tweaked each rejected manuscript and submitted it again elsewhere. My rejections span the globe. I have whole file folders full of rejection letters. Stacks. Mounds. Veritable mountains.

Again, why did I do it? Why did I suffer through so many years of discouraging comments with nothing to show for it?

Because I’m a writer, that’s why. It still feels great to say that.

Seeing the Light

Now of course, my writing improved over those seventeen years because, let’s be frank, it was so bad that it could only have gone uphill. I go back to my original version of Sands of Kismet and I want to gag. If there was an error to be made in that story, I made it.

Point of view head-hopping. Telling not showing. Backstory dump. Story arc. Internal and external conflicts. Excessive verbiage (purple prose). Waaaay too many adverbs. Whole chapters that did nothing to advance the plot. The laundry list of technical and stylistic errors went on and on.

At first I either could not or did not understand what people were saying about my bad writing. After all, if you don’t recognize your own mistakes, you can’t know how to fix them (talk about a Catch-22).

And I am, apparently, a slow learner.

But here’s the important thing: I did learn. Slowly, snail-like, I began to decipher the cryptic comments made by editors, agents, and critique partners.

Usually I could count on one new breakthrough in understanding per manuscript. So if I have twenty-one manuscripts tucked in my drawer, then figure twenty-one Big Writing Mistakes that I finally learned to fix.

It’s a Business

Those years weren’t wasted though. During all those years of garnering rejections, I learned not just the craft of writing; I also learned the business of writing.

It goes without saying that I’ve been a member of RWA for years. I became whiz-bang at writing query letters. I’m not too bad with a synopsis (though I hate ’em, of course – who doesn’t?). I got burnt with a bad agent and thereafter learned to research agents carefully. I carved out daily writing time despite my busy schedule.

All these things are critical for a writer to know. (Did you hear that? I’m a writer. It still thrills me to say I’m a writer!) You might have the most brilliant manuscript this side of Nora Roberts, but if your queries are clumsy, rude, and amateurish, then your manuscript will never be requested and your brilliance will never be known.

Finally...

And finally, I got my breakthrough. An editor at The Wild Rose Press picked up Saving Grace, my favorite manuscript. She actually (get this) thought it was brilliant. I got a (gasp) contract. I saw my name in print. Believe me, the thrill still hasn’t faded.

And that back-log of manuscripts sitting in my drawer? Some will never see the light of day. But others were salvageable. Now that I know what I’ve done wrong, I find I have some manuscripts that only need some tweaking and actually can become printable. Wow.

I have four books under contract now with The Wild Rose Press, a publisher that will have my eternal gratitude for recognizing the unrecognized WRITER within me. (Didja hear that? Writer! It still thrills me to say I’m a writer!)

And you know what’s nice about this long journey? I’m older now, I know my craft, and I can take things in stride. Occasionally if a newbie writer gushes something flattering to me, I feel experienced and mature. I've paid my dues. I've done my time. It's kinda neat.

And finally – finally! – I got some business cards printed up that say I’m a WRITER.

Just for validation, y’know.

About the Author: About the Author: Patrice Moore lives on a forty-acre homestead in north Idaho with her husband and two daughters. She does what she calls the three H’s: Homesteading, Homeschooling, and Home Business-ing. Visit her website to learn something about her lifestyle and writing.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Author Interview: Patti Shenberger

The Long and the Short of It is very excited to have Patti Shenberger with us today. Patti is an incredible woman and has really won my admiration. One of my off-the-wall questions to her was “if there is any horrible experience in your life you could erase, what would it be?” This was her response, “Having cancer last fall. I was diagnosed with colon cancer in September of 06 and had surgery in October. Then the lovely rounds of chemo started in December and going through this May of 07. It is an experience you never forget. It changes your life in one fell swoop. Your life has a tendency to pass before your eyes as you realize you are NOT invincible. I thought about everything I hadn't done that I wanted to, about how my kids would get married and have grandkids I would never see, how my husband would go on with life. But I can say now that for all the hardship it caused, it was also a learning experience. I have learned not to take anything for granted. To do certain things differently. The laundry will still be there tomorrow, the beds don't have to be made every morning. And most importantly, cherish and live every day to the fullest.” 

She has certainly taken her own advice as far as her writing goes. Patti has written and published three books: Womb for Rent (under her pseudonym Amanda Brian), A Miracle Through Time, Take No Prisoners, and …coming soon…The Laird’s Lady. She also has several short stories published through The Wild Rose Press. 

Patti, like many of our authors, has been writing since she was a child. She took a creative writing class in high school and passed with honors. As she said, “Nothing could stop me after that point.” 

I asked Patti what kind of advice she would give to a new author. “My advice,” she said, “and please take with a grain of salt, is to write, write, write. And when you're not writing, read, read, read. Read everything you can get your hands on regarding your craft. There are so many wonderful books, tapes, authors, critique groups, writers’ organizations out there just waiting to help you make your mark in the world. And patience. You can't expect this to be a hurried process. It just ain't so, though there are some who were in the right place at the right time, with a completed manuscript and hit it big. But not all of us. So hang tight and keep those fingers flying on the keyboard.” 

Take No Prisoners is Patti’s newest book to be released, just this last month. I asked her to tell us a little about it. “It is the first of a series of three stand alone titles set in the small, fictitious town of Harmony, Michigan,” she told me. “Frankie Canfield is a soap opera diva who left home years ago to escape the smothering small town she was raised in. But she also left behind the only man she had ever loved and lost-- Jake Maxwell, the new sheriff of Harmony. She comes home to ‘pretend’ marry the sheriff in a PR stunt, but has no idea it's Jake who's in charge. She thinks the previous sheriff is still in office. Fate takes a very wild ride as Frankie and Jake reunite in ‘pretend’ matrimony amidst a flurry of passion and pride. Can they make it work a second time? Gotta read it to find out!!”  

Patti told me the hardest part of writing, for her, is to remain disciplined. “Writing is a very solitary pursuit,” she explained. “You’re alone in a room with a keyboard and a blank screen. It can be very overwhelming. There are many times that cleaning the toilet or doing the laundry is more appealing than sitting down to write.” 

I asked Patti about some of her favorite things. Other than her family (her husband, Randy, and two grown children Amanda and Brian), she loves her dog, Cassie (a twelve-year-old German shepherd/golden retriever mix), Pizza Hut Meat Lovers Pizza (“I love all the meat on there and it has to have a stuffed crust as well”), and thunderstorms (“My favorite place to be is sitting on a deck watching a storm come in across the water, whether it be a lake or an ocean—an ocean preferably. The smells, the sounds and the sights are wonderful”). 

Finally, I asked her to describe herself. “I would label myself a very anal person (no pun intended to the cancer comment above!),” she said. “I like to have things a certain way, be in charge and make sure things are done in a timely manner. Friends have a tendency to give me projects because they know I will pull them off even under a tight deadline. It's just my nature.” She grinned, then added, “Even in the hospital for the cancer surgery, I was giving orders to those around me!” 

Make sure you visit Patti at her website. And, thank you, Patti, for being with us this week. Best of luck in your life and writing.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Article: Writing Tip: A Word on "That"

by Lisa Silverman


Once in a while I am called upon to edit or proofread a manuscript that makes a particular mistake with great frequency, and I’m reminded to tell you all to avoid aforementioned mistake. Today I am helping to rescue an author who had difficulty knowing when to include or omit the ever-present but little-considered word “that.”

I refer to “that” not when used as a pronoun (”That was a great party”), adjective (”I prefer that website”), or adverb (”He wasn’t that fat”). Usage in those cases is more straightforward, although the word can perhaps be replaced by a more interesting or descriptive one.

The more troublesome function of “that” is as a conjunction, usually introducing a subordinate clause. It’s troublesome because in many cases, it’s perfectly acceptable to use “that”—-and perfectly acceptable not to. You should be able to recognize when it makes a difference, and why.

Example:
"Peter told Paula that she looked beautiful."
"Peter told Paula she looked beautiful."

Economy of words being important to me, I would choose the latter sentence. It conveys the same information without being unclear. However, eliminating “that” can sometimes affect the clarity of a sentence, and while you’re being your own editor, clarity should trump even the economy of words. When the clause being introduced follows a transitive verb, the introductory “that” can often prevent a misreading of the subject of the clause as the object of the verb, as in this example:

"She trusted that Ken had been faithful."
"She trusted Ken had been faithful."

In this case, go with the first sentence. Why? While the meaning of the second sentence will be clear to most readers by the time they arrive at the period, they will first find themselves reading this: “She trusted Ken.” And we don’t want our readers to be confused for even the millisecond that it takes them to get from “Ken” to “had.” Because confusion creates distance.

This is another one of those little tricks you can use to address both wordiness and lack of clarity in your writing. Look for “that” when you’re rewriting, and make sure it’s there when it should be and gone when it’s unnecessary. And that will be that.

About the Author: Lisa Silverman is a freelance book editor and works in the copyediting department at one of New York's most prestigious literary publishing houses. She has also worked as a ghostwriter and a literary agent representing both book authors and screenwriters. She founded http://www.BeYourOwnEditor.com in order to provide writers with free advice on both writing and the publishing business.

Originally published at ArticleCity.com

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Author Interview: Marcia James

Marcia James visited with us at The Long and the Short of It recently and it was a pleasure to have her with us. She is a busy lady, so we really appreciated her taking time out of her schedule to answer a few of our questions.

To start with, she’s a freelance video scriptwriter, advertising copywriter, and PR consultant. In addition to developing marketing and promotional materials (you can win an example in our contest, if you are one of our runner-ups) she writes articles for her local weekly newspaper. After years of dealing with such sexy topics as “how to safely install traffic lights,” Marcia told us she is enjoying “researching and plotting steamy love scenes” with her husband and hero of many years…all for her romance novels. It’s a tough job, but somebody has to do it! 

She’s thought a lot about writing and wanted to share some of the important things she’s learned. “Don’t ignore the business side of the publishing industry while you’re honing your craft,” she said. “Don’t wait to learn the meanings of terms like sell-through and basket accounting until it’s too late. Because after you get ‘The Call’ is WAY too late to start learning about contracts, agents, self-promotion, etc. Join a writers’ professional association, such as Romance Writers of America, and learn all you can -- even if it means reading those sometimes less-than-exciting articles on foreign rights and author branding. Choose your pen name, lock in your domain name and start designing your Web site (on paper, at least, if you don’t have the funds to get a site up and running right now). Power-schmooze at writers’ conferences and meetings, making the most of your networking opportunities. Treat your writing as a profession and not a hobby. And respect your talent and take nothing less than respect from friends and family.” Good advice to anyone who wants to be considered professional. 

Marcia has what has been described as a “unique” sense of humor. When she’s beginning to plot a book, one of the first things she does is think of humorous “what if” questions to build her plots. I asked her to describe her plotting process for At Her Command, available from Cerridwen Press. “At Her Command was based on the question, ‘What if the FBI, DEA, and D.C. police unknowingly put operatives undercover at the same sex club?’ That premise provided lots of sexy and funny possibilities. The next step in my process,” she continued, “is adding interesting characters to the plot.” Marcia’s heroine (a DEA agent) is handed a nightmare assignment—“working as a dominatrix to bust up the sex club’s drug-trafficking. Then I complicated her life by having my Alpha male homicide detective hero go undercover as a submissive at the club to solve a murder.” What develops between the pair before they learn they are both in law enforcement is interesting. 

There is a bit of comic relief in the book in the form of a tiny Chinese Crested hairless dog as her DEA drug-sniffing partner. Since Marcia is allergic to animals, she’s adopted a “virtual pet” – a Chinese Crested hairless dog logo, a drawing of the DEA dog, Smokey. Smokey has been so popular, she’s added a Chinese Crested to her other manuscripts.

Like many authors, writing was a hobby of Marcia’s from elementary school through college. After she completed her master’s in English and Communications, though, she considered herself a “real writer.” After her various writing endeavors, she decided to try her hand at fiction writing in 1999. She told me, “In a way, it was like starting over since there was so much to learn – and I’m still learning something new every day.”

I asked her, “What was the hardest part of writing your book?”

“Fleshing out the suspense/mystery parts of the plot when I have a great deal more fun writing the romance and love scenes!” she said. “My books are rated R (for Risqué), and I enjoy writing the sexy stuff so much I've considered freelancing as a love scene ghost writer for my author friends who dread writing that part of their books. ;-) So my critique partner sometimes has to remind me to get back to the suspense/mystery plotline and stop writing twenty-page sex scenes!”

Marcia shared with me she has written another book, Sex and the Single Therapist. It’s the first book in a comic mystery series. “My heroine is a Las Vegas sex therapist/amateur sleuth who tries to solve the murder of a client, much to the aggravation of the hunky homicide detective on the case,” she explains. “Despite a sexual chemistry that could power all the neon lights on the Vegas Strip, the therapist and the cop have a rocky road to their happily-ever-after.” The second book of the series, Death and the Double Entrendre, is already in the works.” You can check out the sex advice column her heroine writes at Marcia’s website.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Short Story: The Right Girl

by Ceri Hebert


 
“Missy what are you doing?” Skyler tiptoed across the lawn, as if her bare toes on the grass would sound like stiletto heels on wood. She came up behind her roommate, whose scantily clad butt was pretty much the only thing sticking out from the hedges that separated their yard from the neighbor’s.

“Have you ever seen anything more delicious?” Missy replied.

Skyler didn’t go so far as burrow into the greenery, but she could see the new neighbor hauling boxes from the U-Haul. He was shirtless and wore a baseball cap backwards. She couldn’t see much more to qualify Missy’s statement.

“He’s wearing the right hat anyway,” Skyler commented, noting the single red “B” on the navy blue hat.

“You can keep the hat. I’ll take what’s under it.”

Missy backed out of the hedge and swiped her hand through her dark hair. She and Skyler looked very much alike, but when it came to fashion, they certainly didn’t browse each other’s closets. Missy was more of a “Daisy Duke” kind of girl, and the halter-top barely contained her full breasts. Skyler, on the other hand, wore her cut-offs somewhere between mid thigh and her knees and an old Red Sox tee.

“Hope he doesn’t catch you at that,” Skyler muttered.

“On the contrary, Sky, he can catch me all he wants. Maybe I should just fall into him.”

“You’re hopeless.”

“And single, which to me is the same thing,” Missy admitted.

“Well, happy hunting. If you get caught, better hope he doesn’t call the cops.” Without waiting for a reply, Skyler walked back to their bungalow, throwing a glance behind her back. Missy was digging herself through the hedges. Why she didn’t go introduce herself, Skyler wasn’t sure, but it wasn’t her business. Missy was a force of nature and it was wisest to just stand back and let her go.

***

Skyler loved the nursery more than any nightclub in the world. She studied the flats of marigolds and red Phlox.

“I never figured you for the gardening type. A woman of many talents.”

The voice over her shoulder was low and sexy and startled Skyler. She almost dropped the marigolds.

She swung around and glowered at the man. It only took three seconds to identify him as her new neighbor. It didn’t make her any less miffed. “What’s that supposed to mean?” she demanded.

“Just that I saw you out last night and it’s amazing you recovered enough to be out here today.”

“Last night?” Oh, last night. Well, Mr. Hunk from the other side of the hedges apparently thought she was Missy. “Yes, I am amazing, aren’t I?”

She pushed by him. What a nerve! He didn’t even know her and he was making that kind of comment. Skyler had actually felt a little sorry for him, knowing he was under Missy’s lustful eye, but now she could have him.

“Wait,” he called.

She tried to ignore him. She put the marigolds down and kept walking. Her trip was ruined.

“I’m sorry,” he persisted, following her out of the greenhouse.

“Fine, ” Skyler ground out. “Apology accepted. Now goodbye.”

***

Erik stared at the SUV as it whipped out of the parking lot. He didn’t get it. What was up with her? For the past three days she’d spied on him, walked around her front yard in skimpy outfits. Whenever he was outside, she was outside. Maybe she thought he didn’t notice, but how could any man not? And last night, she didn’t approach him, but she sure threw him enough suggestive smiles he wondered why she didn’t introduce herself.

He had to admit he wasn’t all that star struck. Yeah, she was gorgeous, she was built, but she dressed, no, he wouldn’t say it. He liked a woman who left more to the imagination. Like how she dressed today. She didn’t wear much make-up and her hair, which was all teased up last night, was in a bouncing ponytail. An amazing transformation. But she just blew him off. He didn’t know whether to be intrigued or just shrug it off as a lesson learned.

He decided to be intrigued.

After loading up the railroad ties for his garden, he headed home. He liked the peace of the neighborhood after the hectic rush of Boston. His closest neighbor was the dark haired girl who liked to spy through the hedges. He owed her an apology. A real apology.

He backed the pickup to the back of the house and cut the engine. A flash of red caught his eyes. His neighbor. From where she stood on her deck he had a good view of her. She was back to her scantily clad look, a miniscule bikini. She turned her head toward him. Lips as bright as her bathing suit curved up in a smile.

Now was as good a time as any to say sorry. He pulled the two flats out from the passenger seat of his truck and headed toward the opening in the hedges.

“Well, hello. I was wondering when you’d come over and say hello,” the woman said silkily. She leaned against the railings of the deck as he approached, showing off her generous cleavage. “Of course, what kind of neighbor am I, not coming over to welcome you to the street.”

Erik halted a few yards away. This wasn’t the same woman who he’d accosted at the nursery. This woman had chocolate brown eyes, not pale grayish blue. And a smattering of freckles across her nose. This woman’s complexion was creamy and flawless.

“Erik Ingraham,” he introduced, closing the distance. He set down the flats on the grass and held out his hand. She took it eagerly.

“A pleasure, Erik. I’m Missy Harrington. Can I get you a beer or something?”

“No, I need to get back to my work. I just wanted to come over and…”

“And what?”

The icy voice behind him was familiar. Slowly he turned and came face to face with the woman from the nursery.

“And apologize again for earlier. I didn’t mean to offend you. I, um, I brought over the flowers I think you wanted before I acted like a jerk. I’m Erik Ingraham.” He held out his hand to her and for a moment he thought she was going to ignore it.

But finally she reached out and clasped his hand in a firm grip. “Skyler Johannsen. Apology accepted.”

“I feel so left out,” Missy pouted from the deck. Apparently she was used to pulling in all the male attention. He figured if he didn’t fall in line she’d get over it and move on. It was Skyler he was interested in. But first he had to somehow break through the reserve he saw in her.

They’d had a bad start, but with some luck it would get better.

He glanced down at the flats. “Can I help you plant these?”

Skyler raised one dark brow. “You? Plant flowers?”

Eric shrugged. “My mom has a garden. I help her out on occasion. What I lack in creative flair I make up in my skill with a shovel.”

She continued to stare, that one slim brow arched high. At least her lips turned up in a small smile.

The ice was beginning to thaw.

“You bring the shovel and I’ll bring the beer,” she said then turned away. Before she took more than two steps she swung back around. “Three o’ clock, Eric. I think that’ll square us away.”

Square them away, but if he had anything to do with it Eric would make sure things wouldn’t end there.

About the Author: Since the age of 12, it’s been Ceri’s dream to be an author. With three books published this year, she’s achieved that dream. Currently she’s happily settled in southwestern New Hampshire with her husband and four children busily weaving stories and continuing to pursue her dreams. You can find out more about Ceri at her website or join her Yahoo Reading Group.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Article: How To Jump Start Your Writing

by Allie Boniface


I almost titled this article “101 Things to do Besides Work on your Novel/Article/Short Story,” but then I figured most people already had the skill of procrastination mastered. 

What do you do when you don’t want to write? I mean, most of us writers, published or not, newbies to writing or veterans, enjoy writing. We like to create, we like to make up stories, we like to develop characters and see what happens to them. 

Sometimes, though, we struggle with the actual process of writing. It’s hard work. It doesn’t always go smoothly. At times it’s downright frustrating, and we feel as though anything that comes out on the page is stupid and worthless. 

Well, here are some suggestions for jump-starting your writing. Some have worked for me; some I’ve stolen from friends who swear by them. Maybe you’ll find one that lights a fire under you as well! 

  • Set your alarm and write for 15 minutes. Sometimes, the hardest thing is actually sitting down and facing the next scene you have to write. So give yourself a very limited window in which to work on it. You might find that after 15 minutes, you’ll be on a roll and want to continue. Or, you can save your work, pack it away, and be done until your next 15 minutes.


  • Go outside. Find a place to write that’s different from the norm. Take your laptop, or notebook, onto the front porch. Or down to the corner park. Or to the sidelines of your child’s game. Especially now that the weather’s nicer in most places, being outside might inspire your writing.


  • Go to a different room. Instead of writing in your office, try the living room. Or the basement. Or the coffee shop downtown. Again, changing your setting might inspire change and progress in your writing.


  • Use a writing prompt. You can find them anywhere on the Internet by Googling “writing prompts.” Writing without the specific purpose of finishing a story or polishing a chapter can free up your creative juices.


  • Eat some chocolate. It’s proven to raise your endorphins, which in turn improves your mood, which might just make you want to tackle that next plot development.


  • And speaking of raising endorphins, get moving. Go outside and walk. Or take a kickboxing class at the gym. Or garden. Or play catch with your kids. Anything that gets the blood circulating perks up your attention, your mood, your energy level…


  • Keep a notebook and pen in your purse/car/pocket/next to your bed. This way, when inspiration strikes you at those odd moments, like sitting at a traffic light or at 3 am in bed or in line at the grocery store, you don’t have to try and remember it 4 hours later when you finally get to your keyboard.


  • Reward yourself. Set up a system where you can have a dish of ice cream if you write 1000 words. Or go shopping for a new pair of shoes when you finish the first half of your novel. Or rent that movie you’ve been dying to see when you revise your sagging middle chapter.


  • Comment on someone else’s work. No, I don’t mean tear it apart. But if you belong to a writers’ group, post some feedback for another member. Or write an Amazon review of a book you recently read. Taking a step back to objectively view someone else’s writing can steer you in a better direction when it comes to your own.


  • Read. Read a new book by a new author. Or a favorite book by a well-loved author. Or a book that’s outside the genre you normally choose. Remind yourself how you enjoy words on a page, words telling a story, words filling up the spaces in our world.


  • Finally, tape up something near your workspace to inspire you every day: maybe it’s a picture of your family, or a copy of the first positive email you received from an editor, or a postcard of a serene Monet painting you love, or a news article about your favorite author’s rags-to-riches story.
  •  Good luck!

    About the Author: Allie Boniface is a romance novelist and high school English teacher living with her husband in the northern New York City suburbs. She’s had a soft spot for love stories and happy endings since the time she could read, and she’s been caught scribbling story ideas on scrap paper (when she should have been paying attention to something else) too many times to count. When she’s not writing, shoveling snow, or grading papers, she’s traveling the United States and Europe in search of sunshine, back roads, and the perfect little pub. Visit Allie’s website to find out release dates and all the latest news, or hear what’s on her mind today at her blog.

    Tuesday, October 9, 2007

    Author Interview: Allison Knight

    AUTHOR INTERVIEW:
    Allison Knight


    The Long and the Short of It would like to welcome Allison Knight to our pages. Allison says she’s like many writers…she read a book she didn’t like. Even though her kids occasionally gave her “digs” about it, she decided she could do better… and to prove it, she wrote a romance.

    Now, twelve published novels later, she’s still going strong. In addition to her writing, she’s taught fiction writing and spoken at conferences throughout the nation. She and her husband, an engineer, moved south to the land of hurricanes and sunshine. When she isn’t watching the weather, she writes, creating heroes and heroines, and then finding ways to make their lives miserable.
     
    I asked, “Allison, wow, twelve books? How long have you been writing?” She told me “I started writing poetry when I was in the seventh grade. I wrote essays and short pieces in eighth grade, then short stories in high school. By the time I got to college, I was writing newspaper stuff. I returned to fiction after my children were grown.” 

    One thing we’re always interested in is our favorite authors’ opinions of the important elements of good writing. Allison said, “That’s like asking: Which came first, the chicken or the egg? 

    “I think there are several very important elements in good writing. First the plot. There has to be a good plot, a framework on which to hang the story. Characters are also essential components. Conflict is necessary and tied to plot and, of course, no one will read a story full of grammatical errors.” 

    She has a very hectic schedule. Here’s what she told us,” I start about 7:30 in the morning, reading e-mails and responding when necessary, then about 10:00, I begin working on the work in progress. We stop for lunch about one, and after lunch I’ll work until about four. The evening is a return to e-mails and then I read. Usually my work schedule is six days a week. Sundays vary, but I seldom do much work on Sundays.” I told her it seemed like a full-time job. She said, “I’m one of those really lucky authors who has a very supportive husband. When the housework got in the way of my writing, we got someone to help with the housework. He helps with dishes and meals and I get to write.” 

    Being busy is not a new experience for Allison, though. She said, “I’m a mother of four, I taught junior high and high school while I was raising the children, I cooked and cleaned the house (well kinda), I made all the kids’ clothes, my own and even my husband’s shirts, slacks and three tailored suits. Although my husband claims I can’t walk and chew gum at the same time, I can multitask with the best. I had to!” 

    Allison has actually written seventeen books. As we’ve said, twelve have been published and three others are either at the publishers now or about to go to the publishers. When asked about her favorite, her response was, “…the last book I write.”  

    Her last published book was Heal My Hurting Heart. It’s a historical romance, set in the mountains of Colorado. Luke, the hero, is tough, independent and inclined to mistrust all women. “Along comes our heroine,” Allison says, “who by nature is feisty and interested in staying quietly out of all limelight, while Luke is interested in getting rid of her by advertising her presence. Both the cook and the local doctor (both older women) play important roles. Yep, a woman doctor and a cook—both independent, western women who know their own minds.”  

    Allison always knows her own mind! She told me she and her husband have moved more than twenty times (“and he is not even in the military”). She said, “I can pack a 3 bedroom house in three days. I also refuse to do it any time in the near future.” 
    A few other facts about Allison. The strangest thing she’s ever eaten is alligator (“French fried, it’s not too bad, and no, it doesn’t taste like fish, but it doesn’t taste like chicken either”), she can taste the difference between Pepsi and Coke (“Coke tastes sweeter to me than Pepsi. And I like Pepsi better”), and – even after watching it half a dozen times, “An Affair to Remember” still makes her cry. 

    Remember to drop by and visit Allison at her website. Thank you, Allison, for visiting with us.

    Thursday, October 4, 2007

    Short Story: Dryad

    Dryad
    by Christopher Kish



    The old man in worn overalls stared at his family wall. Through all the pictures of lush green groves, bubbling brooks and grass covered knolls, one thing remained consistent, her: Flowing brown hair, emerald eyes and milky skin. In every picture, from the day his family left Ireland to the present she was there. It was his family's legacy to care for her. He also had loved her.
     
     “Nepadari,” he whispered, “My sweet Nepadari” touching the last picture for a moment, his shoulders slumped, and he went outside. 
     
    The door creaked shut as he came onto the porch. The woodland orchestra quieted for a moment, and began again. Tyler breathed deeply of the cool air in defiance. He then started coughing so hard spasms racked his crippled frame.
     
    He remembered, could not ever forget. Saving her life was all he had thought about every day for a century. He grabbed a delicate wood staff and hobbled down the porch like a man going to his funeral. He followed the beaten path into the tall trees and stopped for a moment to look at his old house. Old and empty just like him. It would all change today. He would never see his home again.
     
    Tyler was one hundred and ten years old. Today was her birthday, her rebirth into this world. She was the only thing that kept life in veins far spent. His weathered face cracked a grin. A gentle breeze through the leaves rustled his memories back to where it started…
      
    A ruddy faced boy ran through the woods as quickly as his ten-year-old body could take him. Spring was ending and he knew he had only a couple of days left to be with her.
    He did not even realize he had tripped until he was rolling down the hill. He hit the little grove face first, smack into a puddle of mud.
     
    This was embarrassing. She was probably laughing at him. He could hear the bubbling of the waterfall that seemed always to calm him. 
     
    “Nepadari.” he called in a rushed voice. She did not respond, instead he realized he was hearing sobs. He wiped the mud from his eyes and looked around: The beautiful grove he once knew with its fields of wild flowers and boastful oaks were gone. His chest suddenly became tight: Big machines and the stumps of trees stood everywhere.
     
    “Nep!” he cried.
     
    “I am here, my love.” a faint voice called him.
     
    He saw her, huddled down on the old stump of the tree where they had met each other for over a year. He ran over to her, cradling her cold body in his arms. Tears streamed down his young face. “What happened?”
      
    “They killed me.” She gestured to the tree. “Remember me.” Her green eyes looked upon him, the spark that had always been there nearly vanquished. “I love you.” She put a quivering hand on his cheek. “Mother is calling me back to the Earth.” She began to fade in his arms.
      
    “No Nep, don't” Tyler begged.
      
    “Remember me, my sweet Tyler. Plant the seed, re-grow my tree and I will come back to you. Remember.” She faded out of existence.
     
    The little boy fell to the ground tears streaming down his face. It was then that he noticed it: A giant golden acorn…                                                                                                   
     
    The subtle winds blew his memory back from the past. He remembered. He loved no one else. In one hundred years, every day of his life had been dedicated to her. He had been a ranger most of his adult life and spent it preserving the beauty of the forests. He could not stand another boy going through the heartache he had endured. 
     
    He came around the corner to the same little grove his family had lost so many years ago. It had cost him a lot to buy back this land, now it is part of a National Forest. Every day he visited her tree, spoke to her, and encouraged her. She was sentient, just not able to take form. It had taken many years for her tree to gain full strength.
      
    There she was on a rock near the tree.
      
    “Nepadari” he cried. Forgetting he was a hundred years old, he dropped his staff and ran into her arms.
      
    “Tyler” She spoke his name in a singsong voice that had wooed him to slumber on her lap many a lazy afternoon. He clang to her like a vine to a tree. He took deep breaths of her intoxicating scents of flowers and glade. He played with her long silky strands of golden brown hair as she laughed merrily.
      
    “Pleased you are to see me I think.” Green eyes as deep and beautiful as the forests around them looked into his with adoration.
      
    “I love you Nep. I always have. I am sorry.” His breath came sharp as pain racked his body. His heart that had beaten only to see this day could not beat any longer. It gave way, and life began to take its leave.
      
    Nepadari grabbed him in her arms, “No Tyler, it cannot end like this.” Her eyes narrowed “It will not end like this.” Tyler tried to smile and took his last gasp of life. The Dryad lifted up her head and cried and the entire forest wept with her.
      
    ****                                                                                                                                                                      
     Time passed over the forests of Nepadari. She grew strong and full of life. As promised, she took care of her Tyler just as he had taken care of her. Smiling, she gave Tyler a pat, “There, is not this better than death, my sweet? Now we can be together forever.” She kissed him and frolicked off into the warm sunshine.
     
     
    A slight wind rustled the leaves of a young tree. A tree, many hikers say, that resembled an old man twisted through its limbs.

    About the Author: Christopher D. Kish is a fervent fantasy and science fiction fan…A passion that kindled in his teens. When he is not writing short stories of fantasy, he is currently writing a science fiction novel, SF being a close second love. His passion in life besides writing is his beautiful wife and an unhealthy obsession for pizza. Christopher has been a resident of Ohio most of his life. Visit him at his page on writing.com.

    Wednesday, October 3, 2007

    Article: Eyes In The Back Of Your Head

    Eyes In The Back Of Your Head -- Or, the Value of Critique Groups

    by Kim Watters



    The other day, I drove my two darling kids from another eventful trip to the grocery store. You know the kind of driving experience that ranks up there with a root canal. From the “Mommy, Shane hit me.”, to “No way, Emily hit me first.” To the most popular, “Shane won’t quit looking at me.”, followed by “Well, Emily spit at me.”

    I, being in such a good parent, tell them to both cut it out or the next person who touches, spits, looks at, or talks, will not be getting dessert for a week. And I’ll know, because I can see them with the eyes in the back of my head.

    Ah, blissful peace.

    Once the suddenly quiet car came to a not-so-graceful stop in the garage, my son jumped from his seat and started digging through my hair.

    “What are you doing?” I asked in that shocked mommy voice that can only be replicated by a cat that suddenly realizes he’s about to get a bath.

    “I’m looking for the eyes in the back of your head,” my son announced in that seven-year-old befuddlement. “Where are they? I don’t see them.”

    Trying not to laugh and give them the wrong impression that they were not going to be in trouble, I brushed his fingers from my head. “That’s because they’re invisible. I can see you and every movement you make, but you can’t see them.”

    “Wow.” My four-year-old hurricane of a daughter exclaimed and unbuckled herself from her car seat. She started searching the back of my head along with her brother. “Hey, Shane, look. Do I have any?”

    “Er. No, Emily. You don’t. Only Mommy has eyes in the back of her head. They developed in the delivery room when I had Shane and they’ll seal shut the moment you step up to the altar as a bride.” I answer smugly.

    “Really?”

    “Really!”

    This conversation got me thinking about the mysterious concept of the all seeing eyes that are there, but not there. Just like critique groups.

    The all seeing eyes that pick out our flaws that we are too close to see. These special people, unlike our children and relatives, who we’ve picked out and invited into our lives and into our writing. Similar to the way my children painstakingly searched through my hair, my critique group looks for missed opportunities in plot, motivation, description and grammar, just to name a few.

    Like children, critique groups are a blending of individuals. But unlike passing on Uncle Charlie’s widow’s peak, or Aunt Mildred’s two-left feet, finding the perfect critique group can take a couple tries to get it right. Each member brings in their own personal strengths and weakness, while offering something unique and fresh. They also provide a special friendship, because who else would stick with you while you plan murder and mayhem or torturing lost souls for the fun of it.

    While the eyes aren’t there for my children to see, the outcome is the same. Shane and Emily are well-behaved creatures now, (ha) in awe of mommy’s ability to see things when she’s not looking directly at them ( if you believe that one I’ve got some swampland available in Arizona). My critique group is the invisible force that keeps my manuscript in line and is the reckoning force behind that polished piece of art on its way to New York City. And of course, we won’t mention the wine and the other delectable goodies available for consumption at our meetings either. That’s a whole separate issue.

    About the Author: At twelve years old, Kim Watters fell in love with romance after she borrowed a romance novel from her older sister. An avid reader, she was soon hooked on the happily ever after endings. For years, she dreamt of writing her own romance novel, but never seemed to have the time until she relocated from Chicago to Phoenix. The rest, they say, is history. She’s a multi-published author with releases from Avalon Books and The Wild Rose Press. She’s a member of RWA, PASIC, NINC, Valley of the Sun Romance Writers, Desert Rose RWA, and the ACFW. Visit her at her website, myspace.com or bebo.

    Tuesday, October 2, 2007

    Author Interview: Sandy Blair

    AUTHOR INTERVIEW: Sandy Blair

    The Long and the Short of It is very excited to have Sandy Blair visiting with us. Sandy has had an exciting life. She’s slept in castles, dined with peerage, explored the great pyramids, lost her husband in an Egyptian ruin (she still denies being the one lost,) and fallen (gracefully) off a cruise ship. She’s tasted Rocky Mountain Oysters (but wouldn’t tell me more than that).
    She has a brand-new book out today, A Highlander for Christmas, which is sure to thrill every kilt-loving reader of romance. Sandy loves writing about Scotland’s past and has won accolades from some premiere sites. Publisher’s Weekly, speaking of A Thief in a Kilt, said, “Blair’s attention to historical and regional detail supports a fine balance of action and romance, making this political potboiler a winning read.”

    Along with such glowing reviews, she’s also a winner of RWA’s Golden Heart, a National Readers Choice Award for Best Paranormal Romance, the Write Touch Readers and CAPA Reviewers awards for Best Historical, the Golden Quill and Barclay awards for Best Anthology, nominated for a 2005 RITA and recipient of Romantic Times BOOKReview’s 4 ½ star Top Pick and K.I.S.S. ratings.

    She shared with me that even though she started writing decades ago, her first novel wasn’t completed until she retired from nursing in 1999. But, once she started, she hasn’t quit. Even now, she’s working on Book 4 of the Castle Blackstone series and is putting together not one, but two series proposals: a contemporary series featuring three brothers and another historical series featuring five Highland warriors forced to join together by circumstances.

    She’s so successful, I had to ask what advice she would give a new writer. “Read!” she said. “Read what you’d love to write and write what you love to read in order to know what separates the best from the rest. Read everything you can get your hands on, no matter what the genre, so your voice remains fresh.”

    Sandy told me she also relies on her critique partner, Suzanne Welsh, a lot when she gets into a tight spot with her writing. “I…occasionally get too close to the subject matter and can’t find my way clear of a specific situation. We brainstorm ideas and invariably she’ll say something that triggers a scenario and I’m again off and running.”

    Her hero is often the character who comes to her first. She said, “As I come to know what he loves, truly dislikes and fears most should he not meet his goal, his opposite/mate takes shape in my mind. Once she’s alive on the page, I can see their black moment. The rest of the writing is a great adventure.”

    Don’t look for Sandy, when she’s on deadline, to be perfectly coiffed and ready for tea. She confessed, “I can’t write unless I’m in my jammies and bunny slippers. When on deadline, I live in them!”

    Be sure and check out Sandy’s blog and, especially, the picture of Coco, her gray and white panda-bear-looking Bichon, at her website.

    Sandy, thank you so much for visiting with us.