Thursday, April 30, 2009

Romance: Is It For Everyone?


Yesterday my husband and I went to the bank to deposit money for Georgia Romance Writers and then on to Wal-Mart to buy some food and some plants.

The teller at Bank of America noticed the name on the deposit slip and wondered if I was Georgia Romance Writers. After explaining about the organization and telling her that I was a romance author, she became excitedly interested. You see, she reads romance “all the time.” Then she went on to explain that her husband gives her a hard time about reading “that stuff” so she told him that she wouldn’t have to read about it if she got it at home. (ohmygosh!) I gave her my card and one for PetitFoursandHotTamales and she said she would check us out.

Then I went on to Wal-Mart where hubby pushed one cart (with the potted flowers we want to buy) and I pushed another cart with some grocery items. When we got to the counter, my husband came up to my cart to help me with the cases of Coke on the bottom carry rack of the cart.

“Here, let me help you,” he said. “Why, thank you, sir,” I responded. When he finished, he went back to his cart, but my quiet husband and I like to play games sometimes, so I turned to the cashier and said,

“Since he was so kind and helpful, just ring his things up on my tab and I’ll pay for them.” The young girl looked like she wasn’t sure what she should do.

“Well, okay, I guess…if you’re sure.”

Dick started laughing and told me that I had to tell her the truth. (Guess he cared more about the young girl’s concerns than he did about us getting a laugh out of our joke) So I laughingly told her that we have been married 4 decades. She laughed also and looked relieved.

Then came the questions. “You guys have been married twice as long as I’ve been alive. How do you make it work?”

She isn’t married, so I started out with what I hope was sage advice.

* Be picky. Don’t marry the first guy who comes along.
* Try to spend enough time with the person to be sure he won’t be emotionally, physically or verbally abusive.
* Try to be honest about whether you really want to look at this person for the next 40, 50, or more years.

Then I explained my faith in God and how faith and religion play a huge part in our distribution of responsibility in our marriage. I believe the man is the head of the family, so if we can’t agree or we can’t find a compromise, I bow to his leadership. (Unless, of course, he wanted me to be involved in something illegal, but I’m not worried there)

The conversation on that subject ended with my husband adding that if couples could stop and think for 5 seconds before speaking out in anger…taking the time to quickly determine if whatever the discussion is about will actually be important next year, that might curtail a lot of disagreements. “Prioritize before engaging in a fight,” he told her.

So, with the divorce rate in America today at over 50%, what’s your suggestions to long-term marital bliss? What do you think is needed to turn a good marriage into a GREAT marriage? What do you think are required traits in a mate? Does romance figure in your happily-ever-after?

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Read, Set, Imagine…

Vacations for me have been a time filled with possibilities. Without the pressures of school, work and all the other mundane activities I have to deal with on a daily basis, my creative juices begin to flow. Armed with a camera and my imagination, I’m off to enjoy a period of relaxation and periodic fantasy.

From my honeymoon in Aruba and a summer excursions to Jamaica, Antigua and Montserrat, I came up with the idea for a hot and spicy novel. The sand and sunshine just begged to be the setting for a story about a man and woman finally recognizing their attraction to each other and falling in love with a side drama of a kidnapping by a drug lord that threatens to tear them apart. Not that I had problems with drug lords of course, but it makes for a good story.

I took a lot of pictures. Now I plan to make up my own island with characteristics of these different places, including the frightening bus ride in Jamaica. Here’s an excerpt of my book, which is taken directly from personal experience:

“Nicole Robinson screamed along with the rest of the passengers on the bus as the driver cut left in front of oncoming traffic. The chrome of the tractor-trailer's grill sparkled a few feet from her window. A split second before she became the truck’s new hood ornament, the bus cleared the road and rambled through the gates of the resort.

Shoving Sylvia's journal back into her carryon bag, she gave thanks the bus driver hadn't killed them on the two-way road built for one. Sylvia was going to get an ear full about this ridiculous trip.”

On the other hand, there is nothing like going on location after you have plotted out a novel though. One spring a couple of years ago, I came up with the idea for a historical Western—the story of my heart. It took me ages to find the perfect historical background and location. Call it fate, synchronicity or whatever, but I found the perfect spot with the history to backup the real part of the story.

Once I found the fort, I learned of a reenactment taking place there the following month. Thanks to a very supportive husband, I got to pack my camera and go on location. It was breathtaking. It was a walk through history for me that I’ll never forget. I could visualize the drama of the story as I walked around the ruins of the historical locations. I could almost hear the battle that ensued at the end and see my heroine through it all. The reenactors were good sports about the entire experience and did their best to educate me about historical facts, clothing, soldiers and the various Indian tribes as well as the conflicts at that time.

The gorgeous woman in this picture is portraying an officer’s wife. Her real life husband, who also happens to be said officer, made her dress. Later in the day, she gave us a lively demonstration about the layers of clothes under that green dress. I can tell you that I could never wear all of the required garments of the day, especially in the summer. It’s a good thing I was not born in that era.

Have any of you gone to places where you’ve imagined a story playing out?

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

It's All About the Story

Hi. My name is Sally, (Hi, Sally) and I’m addicted to playing with words. I’m addicted to letting my ability to turn a phrase distract me from crafting deep, heart-felt conflicts.

That’s why craft Tuesdays scare me. The niggling weasel of self-doubt always perches on my shoulder and hisses in my ear, “What do you know about craft? You’re not published, and you started your first serious novel over ten years ago. . .” And the hateful little beggar just keeps going and going like a twisted, sadistic, incredibly ugly Energizer bunny. Well, this morning I gathered my thumb and forefinger together and gave him a solid thump to parts unknown because, as it turns out, I do know a little something about craft:

It’s all about the story.

That’s my great realization for 2009: it’s all about the story. I think a lot of writers are in the same boat I am, a veritable Titanic of belief in the beauty of well-crafted sentences, gorgeous metaphors, and grammatical perfection. I’ve never doubted my ability to write, and that’s been a large part of the problem all these years. I grew too confident in college, bolstered by the admiration of professors who complimented my writing and sometimes gave me higher marks than I deserved because I wrote so well about a probably nonexistent connection between Thomas Malthus and Charles Darwin. For several years, I told myself I was a shoo-in because I could craft sentences and paragraphs and sprinkle in transcendent description.

As it turns out, I was dead wrong.

In the realm of commercial fiction it’s what you say, not how you say it. (See yesterday’s beautifully crafted AND highly poignant post from Michelle.) As I’ve progressed from “Your-story’s-so-bad-it-doesn’t-even-merit-a-response” to a terse “Not for us” to a more optimistic request for a full to a rejection letter that mentions my babies by name and compliments my voice and writing skills, I’ve learned a few things. It’s all about the story. I can’t just sit down and start to write, losing myself in my own little world. I can’t let my muse guide me through sunlit fields to make daisy chain tangents. No, I have to think the story out from start to finish, focusing on who my characters are, why they act the way they do, and making sure that their actions organically evolve from who they are. I have to do crazy things like put up poster board and sticky notes in the hallway leading from the garage so that my husband and kids think I have officially lost my mind.

The craziest thing? Plotting is fun, and writing is easy and exciting when I know where I'm going. All these years I thought outlines and plotting would rob the process of its mystique, but I was so wrong. So, from now on I’m going to focus on the story before I start writing. I need to know where I’m going and harness the words instead of letting them drag me to parts unknown.

So, what have you learned about craft this year? Any great revelations? Anyone else out there who’s brave enough to join me in Word Lovers’ Anonymous?

Monday, April 27, 2009

Faded Glory Stretch – The Way America Lives

I spent spring break on a road trip with my sister and our combined gang of five children – ages 16, 13, 11, 10 and 7. Any idea what five children do the majority of a week? They eat and they outgrow things. I’ve now seen every Walmart Super Center up and down the coast of South Carolina. On one of our forays into Wally World I picked up a cheap cotton jersey dress in a jaunty turquoise geometric pattern. Not until we got to my mom’s house in Hilton Head did I bother to take the tag off and try the dress on.

The dress? Cute, fit nicely, will probably last for three washes. What do you want for a $10 dollar dress! The tag, however, was a different story. I almost never read tags, but this one was super-sized and something about it caught my eye. The tag was so ridiculously demonstrative that I went ahead and made it the title of this blog entry. I use words for a living – not only do I write fiction that I know will be published some day (thanks Carol, for that bit of wisdom!), I’m also a published poet, and I write operations manuals for restaurant groups. I can wield a word for many different purposes. So, who in their right mind would use words on a dress tag that so clearly state the uncomfortable facts of life in modern America?

Our glory has certainly faded a bit, both as a nation and as individuals. I could look at this through any number of lenses – political, economic, inventive – but I use words so I’m going to stick with the world of words. The novel as an art form – as more than a history – has had a great run in America. We gave the world Henry James, Herman Melville, Nathanial Hawthorne, Willa Cather, Ernest Hemingway. You know, all the greats. We’ve also done some real experimentation with our novels – William Faulkner with his ever changing points of view and his 22 page sentences. Curiously, over the past forty years we haven’t churned out much that can be considered earth-shatteringly new or inventive. In this time period Latin Americans have given the world Magical Realism and the inclusion of formerly disenfranchised as writers have given us some very compelling reads that are clearly the rise to the surface of new voices. The one thing we have given the world is the memoir. And look at how that has turned out. James Frey with his brutal public busting by Oprah. Candy Spelling and Tori Spelling have new books out this month, bringing the term Faded Glory to its penultimate level. I think what we have done is given great importance to the individual voices of the downtrodden and disenfranchised, set off nicely by the egocentric homages to ridiculous wealth and the cult of personality. We’ve succeeded greatly at being splinter groups and publishing utter dreck under the guise of memoir and chick lit. I’m so proud.

The second piece of the tag is even more troubling, however. We’re fat. We’re a nation of fat people who can no longer wear clothes unless they’ve got a bit of lycra in them to accommodate our ever-expanding backsides. Okay, so let’s bring this down to the world of words again – my dress is an XL so you know I have no room to expand on the actual physical fattening of America. We’ve gotten just as fat and lazy and in need of stretch with what we read. How many times have you picked up a novel in the last fifteen years and puzzled over how bad it was? We’re stuck in a trend that requires us to write to the lowest common denominator. Mass market fiction used to have some elements of up market fiction – narrative structure that accommodated more than just dialogue; descriptive passages that allowed the story to breathe and the setting to rise up as a unique character. Most of what I pick up today is just dialogue. Why is the narrative passage so verboten? Our minds are fat, that’s why. We can’t take the time to read narrative because that requires active engagement of the brain. We just want it all handed to us in dialogue, with a side of Coke and a bag of Doritos. Re-read some of the great mass market paperbacks from the 80’s and notice that they are more descriptive, with greater room for character arcs and setting. Even romance novels from that time period are different. Where are the LaVryle Spencers and Jude Devereauxs of today? Maybe this dumbing down and loss of narrative is a result of our general culture. Fast, faster, and right now this minute.

We keep being told that we have to kill our darlings and cut the backstory because readers don’t like descriptive scenes. I like them just fine, thank you very much, if they are done with skill. We’ve thrown the baby out with the bathwater.

I’m veering into the “Back in the old days” mentality and running the risk of sounding like the bitter woman I am, but maybe we need to find a path back to that clearer and sharper glory that’s faded so much. I like a little side of literary with the love scenes and I’ve purchased too many books lately that are just trite streams of dialogue with some really odd backstory inserted in conversation. Just a few years ago I submitted to a contest and got this as feedback from someone: “You should take some time to watch soap operas and note how they handle dialogue.” Soap operas? Is that the best we can aspire to? Maybe I’ll do that and then write a memoir about it. I know – I can title it

Faded Glory.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Petit Fours and Hot Tamales: Book on a Blog

By Marilyn Baron

We didn’t know much about each other when we first began our journey. All 19 of us belong to Georgia Romance Writers. All but two of us are PROs. Some of us are friends, many just acquaintances. Some of us might not have recognized each other if we passed on the street. But in the process of forming, naming, and launching our blog, Petit Fours and Hot Tamales (PF&HT), in January 2009, and finding our way in this strange new world of blogging, something miraculous happened. We bonded.

Prayers and a Swift Kick in the Pants from our PRO Sisters

The Petit Fours and Hot Tamales are all about Reading, Writing and Romance. The words below our banner in the right-hand column tell the story.

But PF&HT is more than a blog. It’s a family. We are staggered by the talent of our sister bloggers, blown away by the generous offers of successful authors and editors to guest blog for us, so much so that almost every Friday through the end of the summer is booked in advance with “Guest Chefs.”

But it’s what goes on behind the blog that is amazing. We’ve laughed over each others’ funny posts, cried when one of our members lost a beloved parent, sympathized with a member who sat in the hospital comforting a critically ill child or sympathized with a member nursing an injured pet. We’ve offered words of encouragement to boost sagging spirits or a swift kick in the pants when one of our own was wrestling with self doubt. Whenever our confidence falters or when we face an impossible deadline, we have 19 sisters to turn to. The way everyone rallies around each other has been an exercise in camaraderie and compromise.

We’re even having our first Write Away next Saturday, a full day of writing away from home, where we’ll meet at one of our members’ homes with laptops, notepads and storyboards in hand, and an endless supply of food. We’ll belly up to the writing bar and write, talk with others when we’re stuck and write some more. What’s important is we’re not alone in our quest for publication.

The Long and Winding Road

Now nine of us have written a group novel. Technically, it isn’t really a novel. Here’s how the process worked. Each one of us independently wrote one chapter. Each chapter took the story in a new direction, with twists and turns the next writer had to run with. Sally Kilpatrick and Ana Aragón were responsible for editing all the chapters for consistency and to make sure the story flowed and errors in style were corrected. Ana Aragón formatted the chapters as an e-book, with each chapter as a separate PDF book so they could be uploaded individually as each chapter is released. Then she’ll reassemble the chapters after the entire “book” is finished. Several members worked with her on the cover design. All of us had input along the way, suggesting ideas for the title, and making revisions as we progressed. At the end, we had a nice formatted “novelette” to offer our readers.

“First thing we need to get clear – this is not a real novel,” explains Ana Aragón. “It’s more like a writing exercise to see where people go with the base, which is very cool. Think of it as a daytime serial. Things going every which way, highlighting each writers’ individual style. Fun. Quirky. Out there.

“We don’t have the hero’s point of view,” Ana says. “At one point we weren’t even sure who our hero was.”

“If we wanted to create a more uniform novel, the group would have had to sit down and do a more detailed plot,” agrees Tami Brothers. “That way everyone would have more of an idea where they needed to be by the midpoint, what the black moment was, how it would end, and (most importantly) whether it was a romance, romantic suspense, young adult, paranormal, etc.”

“It started as a romance, which Tamara continued, moved into suspense/intrigue with Marilyn, which both CiCi and Tami Brothers played out,” says Ana.

“Up until Chapter 5, it was in one POV only,” she says before she started writing her chapter, “and I’m not sure I want it to stay that way. I may just have to shake things up a bit.”

“I think it’s fun to be involved in a group write, since nine heads are turning out to be as good, or better than one,” says Sandy Elzie. “I ended it and it was actually easier to write the end than the beginning and much easier than the middle. All I had to do was take everything that everyone had thrown into the hero’s and heroine’s lives and tie up all the ends. It was as fun for me to read each chapter as it came out as it will be for our readers to anticipate where the next chapter or entry will take them.”

“I think we have something great here,” says Tammy Schubert. “All the writing is terrific.”

After rejecting such names as “As the Aspen Turns,” “Kiss My Aspen,” “Fiancée For Hire,” and “Aspen Flakes,” we agreed on the title, “Aspen Exposé.” The serialized chapters will begin posting every Sunday starting May 3.

For the time being we’re going to showcase our work, see how it’s received and then, who knows? We might write a real group novel.

It’s been thrilling not to know where the book will go and we hope the readers enjoy reading it as much as we enjoyed writing it. After all, RWA is all about pleasing readers.

If you want to read our serial, check back next Sunday, May 3 at

Here’s a taste of what you’ll see:

Aspen Exposé

When JACK DAVENPORT, sexy CEO of Mira Technologies, offers to pay Computer Programmer RACHEL LIVINGSTON $5,000 to pose as his fiancée for a Board of Directors retreat in Aspen, Colorado, he sweetens the deal with these words, “I’ll only need you at night.”

So starts a rollicking charade of espionage, suspense and intrigue, twists and turns and romance that’s almost too hot to handle. Log on every Sunday, starting May 3, 2009, as the writers of Petit Fours and Hot Tamales shake things up with their unique spin on an original serial thriller.


Got the Answers to Aspen Exposé? You can win in our “Group Novel” Contest

To launch our Group Novel, Aspen Exposé, we’re sponsoring a contest. Each chapter posted (every Sunday beginning with Chapter One on May 3 and ending on Sunday, June 28 with Chapter Nine), will pose a question about that chapter at the end of the post. Anyone who leaves a comment with the correct answer to the questions in all nine chapter posts will be entered in a drawing to win a great prize.

So keep reading!

Petit Fours and Hot Tamales Blog Authors

Mission #6: Pages 16-20 and Finding Time to Write

soldier Pictures, Images and Photos

Mission #6: Pages 16-20 and Finding Time to Write

Here we are, Mission #6 of a 9 week Operation to get those manuscripts ready to submit for the Maggie contest. If you’re like me, you are very far behind and scrambling to catch up. If you are like some of the wonderful readers of this blog, you might already be done with your submission and just waiting for May 1st so you can mail it in. To all of those people, I hate you… grin… Just kidding. I commend you. You have really kept your goal in mind and your focus on the end prize. Kudos to you. I really do wish you the best.

For those people like me, it’s okay. We still have a few weeks until the deadline and some of “us” (okay, me!) actually work better when we’re under the wire…grin…. My biggest excuse for being so far behind is finding the time to write. Most of you know my schedule and many of you are just as busy or busier. This one piece of ourselves tends to get pushed to the backburner far too many times.

I know I keep pushing my dreams and goals farther in the future. I have a tendency to say “when I’m finished with XXX, then I’ll have time for XXX. After I XXX, I can start XXX.” Whatever it is, it keeps moving forward whith each step I take. It’s almost like I’ve put my writing time on the end of a stick, much like the donkey and the carrot. If you leave that carrot out there without giving the donkey that occasional taste, then he gives up. Just like with that poor deprived donkey, I become extremely grouchy when I don’t “allow” myself that little bit of writing time now and then. I find myself becoming frustrated with both my writing and whatever I’m tied up with at the time.

I guess what I’m trying to say in a round about way is to try to live more for today. It’s good to have goals you strive for, but don’t forget that life is what passes you by when you focus on only those future goals. Eventually you will achieve them, but you’ll look back and see just how much you missed out on that you can never get back. Just my own thoughts on this subject and something I’m trying to work on myself.

Okay, I leave you with a couple of neat YouTube videos from writers who struggle with just this kind of thing. I hope you enjoy them!

Barry Eisler

Jackson Pearce

Don’t forget to scroll up and read the previous post by Marilyn about the very cool new Group novel, Aspen Expose', we’ve put together for you. Not only is it entertaining, but there is a very cool prize that can be won.

Happy writing everyone!!!

Saturday, April 25, 2009

We Have Two Winners for Marin Thomas's Cowboys

It's always fun to put two names up! Almost as much fun as reading Marin Thomas's post yesterday.

Today's winners are:


Penney! Yeah!

Cici Barnes! (OOH, can I borrow it when you're done?)

Ladies, please send your snail mail addresses to me at no later than next Friday!

And, for those of you who still want to know more about Marin Thomas and her books, please visit her at

For those of you who didn't win, here are the links to buy Marin Thomas's books:


Friday, April 24, 2009

Petit Fours and Hot Tamales Welcomes the Slightly Nostalgic Author, Marin Thomas

Marin Thomas hails from Janesville, Wisconsin. She played basketball for the University of Arizona Lady Wildcats at Tucson, where she obtained a BA in radio-television--which she has done nothing with all these years. Upon graduation, she married her college sweetheart in a five-minute ceremony in Las Vegas. Her husband's career in public relations has taken the family to Arizona, California, New Jersey, Colorado, Texas and Chicago, where she now calls the Windy City home.

Marin's first book for the Harlequin American Romance line came out in 2004. She's currently writing her 14th book for the line.

Marin's upcoming release (April 2009) A Cowboy's Promise is the second book in her Cartwright Siblings series for Harlequin American Romance. The first book in the series, The Cowboy and the Angel, earned 4 ½ stars and a Top Pick from Romantic Times.

Marin will be giving a copy of both books, The Cowboy and the Angel and A Cowboy's Promise to two lucky winners.

What I Miss About Being an Unpubbed Writer
By: Marin Thomas

Embrace and rejoice in your unpubbed status while it lasts because once you enter the world of a published author--nothing is ever the same. Regardless, the ultimate goal for most serious writers is to reach publication and once published, I doubt you'll find an author who would willingly trade in their published status to return to the land of the unpublished--but that doesn't mean we don’t miss those days on occasion.

Until I sold, I didn't fully appreciate my journey toward publication. Back then all my energy was focused on writing the "story" and making that story the best it could be--whether through revisions, taking online writing courses, reading craft books etc. Today my energy is focused on the "business" of being published and all the responsibilities that accompany it. And the one thing I thought for sure would disappear when I became published was "self-doubt." Fat chance. It looms bigger, brighter and stronger than ever.

Following are a few things I never worried about as an unpubbed writer--but now I do.

Deadlines. Self-explanatory.

Overlapping books. I miss the days when I could just focus on one book. Throw all my energy, time, thoughts into one story, one hero, one heroine. Now my books overlap and I find myself writing a new book, while revising a previous book and brainstorming the next proposal.

Fresh Story Ideas. Why did it seem easier when I was unpubbed to come up with that "winner" story idea?

Critics. The only critics I had as an unpubbed were my critique partners and I've been fortunate through my writing journey to have connected with gracious, supporting, and positive writers. As a published author I have many critics--myself, my editors, reviewers and readers.

Reviews. As an unpubbed I never considered that someone wouldn’t like my book. Now I've come face-to-face with readers and reviewers who haven't connected with my writing the way I'd hoped they would. I learned early in my career that a writer can't please every reader. Readers are human. They come with as much baggage as the heroes and heroines in the books we write. Even though writers never set out to intentionally write a story that will offend or upset a reader--it happens.

The Tables are Turned. Fess up now…how many unpubbed writers out there have ever read a book, then said "I can write better than this"? I'm guilty. Now that I'm on the other side of the fence I'm sure there are aspiring writers who've said the same thing about one of my books.

Revisions. As an unpubbed I loved revising my book--it was a chance to polish it and make it shine. Now revisions are an inconvenient but necessary part of the publication process. Revisions get in the way of my next book, which I've already begun writing before my editor sends her revision letter. Most authors have about a month to complete revisions--sometimes the revisions are light, other times you're re-writing much of the book.

Promotion. I sold my first book in 2002 before Twitter, MySpace, Facebook and Blogs. My only worry back then was establishing a website.

Once your pubbed, the pressure is on to maintain a website, blog, socialize on forums, Twitter, MySpace, Facebook. I enjoy conversing with readers and writers as much as the next person but I am not a chatter-box and most days I have nothing interesting or relevant to say--just ask my kids. This makes promotion a challenge for me.

Respect. Now this was an interesting discovery for me. Before I was published, some family, friends and acquaintances considered my writing a "hobby". Now that I'm published--working on my 15th book right now…there are still holdouts. Why? Because I haven't written a NYT Bestseller yet. Because none of my books have come out in hardcover. Because I'm not signing six-figure advances. And because there are people out there who will always say "I should a write book" and assume the entire process is a piece of cake. I'm working five times as hard at my writing now than before I was published. If people knew how many hours I put into my writing a week and how little I make compared to other careers they'd probably ask "Is it worth it?" Absolutely.

Sales Numbers.unpubbeds don’t fret or worry over sales numbers or if their book meets, exceeds or falls short of the editors' expectations. This is a constant concern for published authors.

And let's not forget there are two sides to every "coin".

Unpubbed:dreams of winning a Rita
Pubbed:another year goes by and no Rita nomination

Unpubbed:dream of getting on the Waldenbook's Bestseller List
Pubbed--another release doesn’t make the list.

Unpubbed:can write the book of their heart.
Pubbed:must write a book that fits a specific line and one you know your editor will buy.

Unpubbedafter you've written several chapters and don’t like the book you can toss it out and start a new one.
Pubbed:you're under contract whether you like the book anymore or not you have to fix what's wrong with it and finish it.

Unpubbed:don’t need a synopsis to write a book. You can write it after the book is finished.
Pubbed:you have to write the synopsis before you can go to contract and write the book.

Unpubbed:discipline is an option.
Pubbed:discipline is a must if you're going to survive and succeed.

Unpubbed:the rough draft can be as rough as you want.
Pubbed:the rough draft should be as clean as possible because you're on a deadline and you don't have much time to revise.

Unpubbed:you're the attacker, the threat, the predator to a published author.
Pubbed:you're the prey--on the run from all the unpubbs who want your slot in the publishing industry.

Unpubbed:competition is fierce to become published.
Pubbed:competition is even fiercer to stay published.

Unpubbed:your book is "your" baby.
Pubbed:your book is "their" baby. It belongs to the publisher to do with what they will.

Okay--is there anyone left reading this post--or did I scare everyone away? Seriously, nothing worth having comes easy. And nothing worth keeping is ever easier. Most writers already know this. But there's something inside each of us that won't allow us to quit or give up. Your struggles along the path to publication will only help you be that much stronger of a writer and a person when you finally sell that book. You'll need that strength and perseverance every bit as much when you're published. But never doubt whether your journey is worth it.

A book has the potential to change someone's life. To make someone smile. To bring tears to someone's eyes. To give someone hope. To make a difference in someone's life. It's that need to give to others that motivates many writers to push themselves to produce the best book they’ve ever written--time and time again. Just remember to enjoy your journey to publication and embrace the freedom and full range of creativity your unpubbed status allows, because one day your perseverance and dedication WILL pay off and you'll find yourself in the world of a "Pubbed" author.

Happy Writing!

A Cowboy's Promise *Men Made in America* (April 2009)

Okay readers, leave a comment or question for Marin to be entered in a contest for one of the following: The Cowboy and the Angel or a A Cowboy's Promise.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Would a Rose by any other Name Smell as Sweet?

By: Marilyn Baron

Touch. Sight. Smell. Taste. Sound. The five senses. But what if you don’t have all five senses? Would that place limits on your writing? I think so. I was born without a sense of smell, a trait I inherited from my grandmother. I think that puts me at a disadvantage. In writing workshops I learned the importance of capturing all of the five senses. How can my writing describe the hero’s “pungent aftershave,” or the fact that the heroine “carries the scent of cinnamon,” when I have no personal experience in that area?

Since I never had a sense of smell, I don’t miss it. Although I can’t smell roses, I love the way they look and the way they make me feel. I grow roses in my backyard – the New Dawn variety – which cross the barest hint of white with a blush of pink. They have spread up my Weeping Yaupon tree, which I now call my rose tree. I can’t smell food, but I love to eat. I think I have a sense of taste but perhaps it’s deficient and I don’t even realize it.

Not having a sense of smell has its advantages. I can’t smell stinking garbage or dirty diapers. I also can’t smell smoke. Once, I was in my kitchen cooking dinner, engrossed in a TV program I was watching through the wooden partition that separated the kitchen on the upper level from the downstairs den, when my husband came running down the stairs screaming, “The house is on fire.” I was in the middle of a room thick with black smoke and I never even knew it.

When I read the way other writers describe the way a character smells, I’m amazed and that’s when I know I am missing something. So I have to try harder and I’m never certain if my words are ringing true. To compensate for my missing sense of smell, I have developed a keen sixth sense about what is about to happen that has turned out to be pretty reliable.

I’d be interested in hearing your thoughts about the importance of the five senses in your writing.

Marilyn Baron

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

by CiCi Barnes

J gave us some great tips Monday on taming our muse, and now I want us to think about setting.

Spring inspires me. I walk out on my front porch, take in the budding trees, pops of color from azaleas, yellow bells, daffodils and dogwoods. Of course, there’s always the pollen to contend with, a necessary evil to get to the good stuff.

Everything comes to life: robins’ eggs - soon to be little birdies chirping away for the coveted worm from mama, buzzing bees, nature at its absolute best.

I’ve sat in my study all winter, pecking away at the computer keys trying to get through that sagging middle. With warm temps, I transfer my work to the front porch and my mind springs to life. The right word pops into my head after I’d spent a month of rainy days and Mondays looking for it. A better phrase peeps out from behind the tender young leaves of my Bradford pear trees.

When the sun beams down nice and warm, I transfer my work to the back deck. Rushing hubby just a bit, I have him open up the pool. Blue sparkling water glinting in the brightness, a gentle gurgle from the jets pumping in clean water. I am now in heaven.

As much as the new flora and fauna excite me, water is my muse’s home. Creeks, streams, rivers, waterfalls, ponds, lakes, oceans, pools, puddles, hot tubs. It doesn’t matter. Put me next to water and I start to salivate, for more reasons than one. I’m sure I must have been a fish in my other life. Even my “sign” is in the water category, Cancer the Crab. Hubby says that does fit my mood sometimes. But when I start to get crabby, he knows he can take me away, as the old Calgon commercial use to say, to any body of water and I transform. I’m suddenly cheery, open to pretty much anything, and my writing muse blossoms to rival any bush or flower the good Lord can create.

We have a little poll going on to the right side of this blog, letting you vote for your favorite spot to get you writing. The ocean started out as the winner, but I now see that a mountain cabin has edged ahead. That would be all right with me if there were a babbling brook next to that cabin.

Yes, all water gets my juices going, but I lean a little toward the ocean. Powerful, mysterious, yet calming and soothing to my soul. If I had the opportunity to stay at the beach twenty-four/seven, I might pump out books by the dozens every year. My fingers would be worn to the nub from constant typing. But that’s okay. When the fingers are gone, I can dictate with the ocean waves crashing in the background.

When I first started writing, I knew my setting would involve the ocean. That summer, I plopped myself right down on the sand, opened my notebook and stared out at the sea. Here’s what I wrote on a whim, without even knowing my character’s name yet.

The sight of the ocean spreading endlessly in both directions quickened her pulse, renewed her spirit. She pressed her hands to the small of her back, stretched, filling her lungs with the strong salt air.

Standing for several minutes on the edge of the rise, she watched the waves build, then curl and crash into a bubbling foam. Water rushed to cover land, then drew back quickly, pulling sand, shells, and seaweed with it. Such a simple, easygoing movement, yet, holding such power and energy in its clutches. Energy she needed; energy she was determined to regain as she collected her thoughts and decided her future.

I think I wrote that as much for me as I did my heroine.

Well, I’ve gone and worked myself into a frenzy. I’m ready for that trip to the beach. Coming right up in May. I’m about halfway through my WIP. Who knows, I may come home with The End written on the last page.

How about you? What is your all-time muse place? Does it thrive at a certain time of year? Need those rainy days and Mondays to ponder your next scene? Content to sit on your front porch? Just have to get away from it all to do your work justice? Give us a hint as to your perfect setting to write your perfect book.



I know this is going to disappoint a lot of you guys, but we only have one winner. For the rest of you, HIGHLAND SCANDAL, BY JULIA LONDON, is available at all your favorite booksellers. Here's a quick link to it now.


Today's winner is:


Crystal send your snail mail address to me at

Folks, if we don't hear from Crystal by next Tuesday, I will redraw names.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Petit Fours and Hot Tamales Welcomes the Fabulous Julia London

All of us at Petit Fours and Hot Tamales are excited to have one of our favorite authors of historical romance with us today, the fabulous Julia London. For those of you who are new to historical romance, here's what you should know about Julia.

Julia London is the New York Times and USA Today best selling author of more than a dozen romantic fiction novels. She is the author of the popular Lockhart Family Trilogy and Desperate Debutante historical romance series, as well as several contemporary romances, including American Diva and the very popular tie-in novel to the daytime drama, Guiding Light: Jonathan’s Story.

Julia is the recipient of the RT Bookclub Award for Best Historical Romance and a three time finalist for the prestigious RITA award for excellence in romantic fiction. She lives in Round Rock, Texas, with her husband and one old Labrador retriever. To keep up with all the Julia London news, please visit

Writing through a Real Life

By Julia London

When I quit my day job several years ago to write full time, I thought life would be a piece of cake. I now had the cushiest job on the planet and I didn’t even have to change out of my pajamas.

I learned pretty quickly that’s not entirely true. Writing is a solitary existence, but life still swirls around you. Most writers don’t tell you before you quit your day job, but when you live and work in the same two thousand square feet, day in and day out, sometimes, worlds collide. You can’t escape your life by going to work. You can’t escape your work by going home. Sometimes, they are two lumbering roommates, both in the way of the other, aggravating each other by intruding where they are not welcome. And the writer still has to produce a book.

In the last year, due to some family drama, I got behind in my writing schedule and had to re-negotiate my delivery dates. I announced to one and all that I had to make my deadlines—life could not intervene any longer! They all said, yes, of course!

But then my husband, who worked for a large, multi-national company that starts with Fed and ends with Ex, started getting wind of lay-offs. He worried—which meant I worried—about things. That worry crept into my head and started messing with the book and the deadline got closer and closer. Unfortunately, the words weren’t coming like they usually did.

Then my husband was laid off. Not only was he worried about getting a new job, he was home. It didn’t matter than he was respectful of my need to work, he was around and he was breathing in my work/live space, and suddenly, life had intruded too far into work this time. It was stomping around my house muttering under it’s breath and constantly—and I mean constantly—rummaging through the fridge.

The clock kept ticking. The pages I needed to write kept mounting. I had to get away or I was going to lose my mind. And the most miraculous thing happened. I rediscovered the joy of escaping into a book. When it dawned on me what a great escape it was, I couldn’t write enough. I escaped the rough patch of our life by writing, and I am pleased to report that it worked. I met my deadline. Better still, my husband got a new job. And I am eager to start my new book so I can escape again. I had forgotten over the years how to do that.

How do you escape when life interrupts? Are you able to block life from your mind when you are reading or writing, or does it muscle its way in? Would you like to escape into HIGHLAND SCANDAL? I am giving one away today!

Okay readers, leave your comments here for Julia to be entered in a contest for a copy of HIGHLAND SCANDAL. I have to tell you, it is a not-to-be-missed read! I was lucky enough to win one from Julia in a previous contest and absolutely loved it. After a long hiatus from historical reads, Highland Scandal reminded me of why I love historical romance.

So, comment away. I'll announce the winner tomorrow morning!

Monday, April 20, 2009

Making The Writing Muse Your Bitch.

Okay, I admit it. I’m in a bit of a writing slump, so I’ve decided to take the writing muse by the hair. I’m done asking for her consideration. I’m done sending her pretty invitations. She works for me; I don’t work for her. She needs to be shown who is boss. She needs to bend according to my schedule, my will and my demands. And I’ve decided the success of all this is up to me. I will make her my bitch.

*Note: for those of you offended by my profanity, please think of “bitch” as the proper term for female dog (as opposed to any sort of prison reference). Therefore, I will make the writing muse heel when I need her to and I won’t allow her to sleep on my pillow or poop in my yard.

Speaking of dogs, I always think of Pavlov’s dog--the one conditioned to receive food after the ticking of a metronome. Before long, the dog was habituated to such a degree, he would start salivating to the tick alone, even if there wasn’t a morsel of food present.

I think it’s much the same with the writing muse. So many authors feel she is this separate entity who may or may not grace you with her presence that day.

I say she’s a part of you and as such, you need to train her. Make her yours. Just decide you need her and voila! She’ll show herself. So, like the training of Ivan Pavlov’s poor dogs, you need to condition your muse. Here are a few tips:

1) Schedule Consistent Writing Time: Every morning, at a certain time, I develop an unholy craving for coffee. 7:15 AM. I’m sure I could wait until 8:30 or even 9:00, but since I’ve been reinforcing my coffee addiction at 7:15 for so many years now, I have to have it then. My body and mind are conditioned. It’s the same with writing. If you condition yourself to sit down at your computer at the same time every day, pretty soon you’ve conditioned your brain (the elusive muse, that is) to show up for work. The writing may not always go smoothly, but I guarantee one page of rocky sentences is far better than a page of nothing.

2) Establish Writing Rituals: Like the sound of the metronome to the dog, I’ve conditioned myself with an aromatherapy candle. It sits next to my computer and before booting up, I light it. After doing it for so long, I’ve discovered that something about the smell does some sort of magic to get my brain thinking about plot turns. Other ritualistic devices may include a particular piece of music, wearing a certain item of clothing, etc. Just be rigidly consistent and the rituals will start working for you.

3) Find a Space Dedicated Only to Writing: I walk into the bathroom, I have to pee. I walk into the kitchen, I get hungry. I walk into my writing space, a terrific analogy pops into my head. What’s more, don’t you think your writing dreams deserve the respect of having their own corner in your home? That sends a message, you know--to you, your family and guests. “I value my writing.”

4) Oil the Gears: I edit ONLY the new writing I did the day before to get in the groove of my story. If I go back any further, I’ll get lost in a revising labyrinth and never find my way out again. But I need to do that small bit of editing to get my pace back, and then I go on to the new writing. Decide what gets your writing gears moving—maybe it’s having to write a blog or a writing exercise—but don’t let it take over your entire day.

5) Get Sleep: It seems ridiculous to mention, but it really is rather difficult to find the energy for a sizzling scene when your head is pounding, your nose is swollen, and every time you write “he touched her tender lips” you immediately start thinking about the honking cold sore on your own. Writing takes a lot of energy and concentration. Sleep enough so you can get to it.

6) Don’t Let Perfection Get in the Way of Production: Actually, this one comes from my wonderful critique partner, Cynthia. Some days, you’re just going to suck. You are. Hemingway sucked, Shakespeare had doubts and Jane Austen wallowed in her own inability. It comes with the writing territory. Accept it, embrace it, expect it. Now move on. Don’t let the writing muse flee at every opportunity. Try to write as best you can, of course, but don’t crucify yourself when you don’t. If you do, in the long run you’ll be hurting yourself far more than if you just shrugged and chalked it up to a crap writing day. Everyone writes crap. EVERYONE who writes, writes crap.

Now it’s your turn. What tips do you have for making the writing muse work for you? I have a feeling I’ll be cutting and pasting your suggestions all day long. And, as usual, I’ve forgotten to incorporate this month’s theme. Since the theme is love, consider these tips given with the best of my loving intentions (lame attempt, I know, but still sincere).

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Mission #5: Pages 11-15

Sorry this post is going up late. I (and several of our other PFandHT blog sisters) had a busy weekend. We all attended a fabulous workshop presented by the Georgia Romance Writers of America. Our guest speaker was Deb Dixon and her topics were Goal, Motivation and Conflict and the Hero’s Journey. What awesome topics and an especially great lesson (or refresher) for those of us in the middle of this Mission!!!

This week we will be working on pages 11 through 15 of our manuscripts. Some of you are there. Some of us are pretty far behind. And then there are others who are way ahead. No matter where you fall, I remind you not to give up. We are down to the wire. We can start sending in our Maggie submissions in just a couple of weeks. That doesn’t leave much time to get those words down on paper.

With that in mind, I leave you with a few words from Ms. Dixon’s workshop

The character’s goal is something they hope to attain or achieve. Their motivation is something that drives them to obtain their goals. The conflicts are moments that matter.

She also gave us a quick way to line out a GMC on a graph. My character wants ________ because ______ but _______.

This little peak into the workshop isn’t even a drop in the bucket compared to the pages of notes I took during that workshop. If this is a subject you might need help with, I highly suggest attending one of Deb Dixon’s workshops or at the very least, finding her book; Goal, Motivation and Conflict.

So, how is the challenge going for you???

Saturday, April 18, 2009


Again, thanks to Natasha for blogging with us yesterday. We greatly appreciate the time and effort that it took, Natasha.

Today's winner, according to Mr. is J Perry Stone.

Congratulations!Send me your snail mail and we'll get it to Natasha!

Friday, April 17, 2009

The Petit Fours and Hot Tamales Welcome Special Guest Chef Natasha Moore!

We are happy to welcome Natasha Moore to the blog. Natasha is an NEC award-winning author of erotic romance for Ellora’s Cave and Red Sage and steamy contemporaries for Samhain Publishing. Read on to find out more about Natasha Moore and leave a comment to be entered in a drawing for her latest book: The Passion-Minded Professor.

Let's start with the important stuff: tell us about your latest book.
Natasha: My second contemporary romance from Samhain, The Passion-Minded Professor will be released in print April 28th. It was my take on the absent-minded professor and love potion #9 with a bit of opposites attract thrown in there. This is the blurb:

Can passion be found in a bottle?
Roxy Morgan is finally in control of her life. After working in the family diner to put her now ex-husband through law school, she’s getting her own chance at a college education. She doesn’t need any distractions in her life right now, especially men. The strong magnetic pull she feels toward chemistry professor Dr. Daniel Jennings is more than just an annoyance—it’s threatening her GPA. Yet she can’t seem to keep her mind on her studies, or her hands off him.

Driven, lonely Daniel has been working to perfect an attraction elixir so he can finally find what’s been missing in his life: passion. Sassy, outgoing Roxy wasn’t supposed to be part of his experiment. It was purely an accident. Now his elixir has given him an unexpected side effect—he’s fallen in love. But his sense of honor nags him to tell her the truth about the “love potion”.

Even if it means risking the best thing that’s ever happened to him.

Ah, to be at the mercy of a sexy professor—that sounds like fun. Where can we find The Passion-Minded Professor?
It’s available right now as a download from e-book sites like My Bookstore and More and Fictionwise. It’s even available for the Kindle from Amazon. And the print book is available for pre-order from sites like Amazon and Barnes and Noble, and from your local bookstore.

On your website, you advertise "romance with a little more sizzle." Care to elaborate?
Well, what happens when you cook up something hot? It sizzles in the pan, right? I love to add a little to sizzle to my romances, but still give readers a good story and emotions that will tug at their heartstrings.

What brought you to write erotic romance and steamy contemporaries?
I wish I’d discovered erotic romance years ago! I love writing hot, sexy scenes that leave my characters vulnerable to the emotions they may not be able to speak out loud. Contemporary seems to be where my voice works best, but I’m leaning toward a few paranormal ideas. And my next release from Ellora’s Cave is a futuristic. So I guess I’m writing all over the place. I hope my readers won’t mind, because I’d hate to limit myself to only one type of book.

What is the greatest challenge of being a "hot tamale"?
Striving to get better and better with each book I write. And making sure all the love scenes are necessary and specific to my characters. No generic love scenes in my books.
Tell us a little about a day in the life of Natasha Moore. How did you establish a writing routine?
Routine? What makes you think I have a routine? LOL I still work a full-time day job, so I work in writing whenever I can, breaks and lunch hours during the day. Then I try to get a couple hours in every evening and a few more on the weekends. I’d probably write more than that, but my husband likes a little of my time too. (We won’t talk about the housework.)

I’m so relieved to hear the housework can go. Since having enough money to hire a maid is my second wish behind publication, tell us about your first sale. What was that like?
My first sale was the best thing ever! It was for my contemporary romance, The Ride of Her Life (Which just won the 2009 NEC Readers Choice Award for short contemporary! Yay!) It was September 29, 2006. I couldn’t sleep because I had an earache, so I got up and took a couple aspirin. I decided to check e-mails while the pain reliever kicked in. I opened an e-mail from a Samhain editor with my manuscript title in the subject line. My heart began to race, but not too much. After all, I’d gotten tons of rejections before. It started out “I've had the opportunity and pleasure to review your manuscript … I thoroughly enjoyed the novel…” I was waiting for the “but”. But there was no “but”! There was an “and” “And I want to offer you a contract”!! I had to read it over several times before I really believed what I was reading. She was offering me a contract. She’d even attached the contract! I’m bouncing up and down in my seat at this point. It’s 1:30 in the morning and we were living in an apartment building at the time, so I couldn’t scream at the top of my lungs. I did wake up my husband, but after he congratulated me and fell back to sleep, I was awake the rest of the night. The earache? Never bothered me again.

Do you have any funny stories about the road to publication?
Most of my writing friends think it’s funny that I started out trying to write sweet romances for Harlequin and ended up selling erotic romances to places like Ellora’s Cave and Red Sage. Like I said before, I wish I’d discovered erotic romance a lot sooner!

Do you have any advice for fledgling writers?
Keep Writing and Keep Reading. The more you write, the better you get. I’m a firm believer in that. It’s like a pianist who takes lessons and plays for hours every day – you have to practice your craft. Thinking about writing isn’t writing. Writing new words on the page is writing. And when you finish something – start something new. And I consider reading as research. Read the kinds of books you want to write – learn from them, what the author did right and also from what might not have worked for you. Then read all over the board – learn from those authors as well. Keep writing and keep reading. Don’t give up. I have a quote up on my bulletin board that says, “The only thing that can take you out of the game is you!”

You wrote a great post on one of your blogs about the difficulties of writing beginnings. Would you like to add a gem of advice here? (For the full article, go to and check out Natasha's entry "Another Opening" from April 6th)
Thanks, I’m glad you liked it. I see so many contest entries where there is what I can only call an information dump in the first few pages. I’d just like to stress that you need to put readers in the middle of the action and let them figure out things as they go along. Readers love to put the pieces together themselves. Don’t cheat them out of that by telling them everything up front (besides, it’s boring).

What is your dream project?
Hmm, that’s an interesting question. I have a few ideas that I would love to develop into long, multi-layered novels. One would be a darkly erotic story with a gothic atmosphere and an old house said to be haunted and a hero who is said to have killed his fiancé. I hope to get a chance to start that one this year.

Gothic atmosphere and haunted houses mixed with dark erotica? I can hardly wait! In the meantime you've generously offered to give away a copy of your book The Passion-Minded Professor? What do our readers need to do to qualify for that?
I just got my author’s copies this week! They are so beautiful, soft and pretty and… Well, anyway, I’d love to give away a copy to one person who leaves a comment today. Please remember to come back and check, because I’ve posted winners before and asked them to contact me with their name and address and I never hear from them. I really want to give a copy!

Well, Natasha, thank you for such and interesting and informative Q & A session. We’ve certainly enjoyed having you here today. Loyal readers, please post your comments and check back this evening for Natasha’s answers. Don’t forget to check back on Saturday to see if you are the lucky winner of The Passion-Minded Professor.

Thursday, April 16, 2009


By Debbie Kaufman

No matter how many times I count, "responsibility" is still not a four-letter-word. But, the more I develop Spring Fever, the more it seems like it should be!

I admit it. I have a slightly irresponsible urge right now. I want to go somewhere, do something, or, more to the point, do nothing.

But, I'm surrounded by the siren call of Responsibility - the five-year-old who just woke up, the fourteen-year-old who hasn't woken up, and the husband who is about to be up. Oh, and the blog post that needs to be up!

Me, I'd rather pack a bag, put the top down on the car, and head out for parts unknown to have an adventure.

But that awful nag, Responsibility, reminds me that I can't.

She - yes, I'm convinced Responsibility is a woman - reminds me that I have obligations.

She reminds me that others depend on me.

So, how do I balance Responsibility with the need for a little Spring Fling?


Books are my answer to Spring Fever. A fever that rages no matter what my current responsibility level is at any given moment.

Yesterday, I downloaded MS Reader, an application that I didn't realize was free. Then, because of a post over on Stephanie Bond's blog, I downloaded about 18 free books, courtesy of Harlequin's 60th Anniversary.

If you haven't taken advantage of Harlequin's offer, please do. And head on over to Stephanie Bond's blog and hit the link to download one of hers, too!

Spring versus Responsibility. I guess they can both win. As long as I have books.

And speaking of Responsibility, a fourteen-letter word by the way, it's Thursday, and I'm supposed to share a snippet of my work. In this brief glimpse, Beth, my heroine, has just started cooking breakfast for Micah, her unexpected guest and former fiancee, while he is in the shower. Up to this point, sShe has successfully hidden him from her family, friends, and an unknown killer while he recuperates from a bullet wound.

Beth gathered Micah’s clothes from outside the bathroom door and tossed them in the washer. The day was only beginning and she was already tired. Her emotional drain needed a plug and she wasn’t sure where to find one.

Once the bed was made, she headed down the hall to the kitchen to start some breakfast. The knock on the front door startled her, causing her head to hit the cabinet door. One hand on her head and frying pan in the other, she straightened up and let out an expletive that would have made her mother blush. The sound of a key in the lock set off her own personal alarm bells. Her mother. Her mother was the only other one with a key to the cabin.

“Beth? Are my clothes dry yet?” Micah walked into the room, still damp from his shower.

Shit. Any other time the sight of that gorgeous, masculine body insufficiently wrapped in a towel would have been great. As it was, all Beth could do was hold her aching head and brace for impact as the front door opened.

I hope you enjoyed that quick glimpse. Now, I'm off to fix breakfast, get the kids to school, and do all that Responsibility requires of me today. Only, I'm going to do it with the top down on the car and a book nearby for a quick escape!

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

To Go or Not to Go. The Next Best Thing to Being There.

What’s the first thing that comes to mind when you think of April 15? Tax deadlines? Flowers in bloom? Spring fever? April showers? The fact that in less than two months, half the year will be over? The aura of love in the air and the realization that you’re going to have to kiss a lot of frogs before you find your Prince? April 15 is all that and more.

To me, April conjures up dreams of faraway places and vacations. I’ve been fortunate enough to have traveled a lot in my life for both business and pleasure. But I’m addicted to traveling. So there are a lot more places I’d like to go.

I’ve never gone to a place just to do research for a book, but that idea appeals to me. However, I have set books in places that I’ve traveled to and loved, like Italy, where I went to school for six months; Miami, Florida, where I was born; Gainesville, Florida, where I went to college; Palm Coast, Florida, where I have a beach condo; and Bermuda, where I’ve spent many wonderful vacations.

When I’m at the beach, I wake up for every sunrise, get out my notebook while it’s still quiet or sit out on my deck facing the ocean. I look out at the waves, the sand, the sun, the birds and the boats, and describe what I see. Many of those impressions have ended up in the pages of my book.

For the book that was set in Bermuda, I had to do research on the history of the island because the story was set in WW II. I have memories of Bermuda as it is today, but not as it was then. That book never sold (I was told that WW II wasn’t a popular time period for a romance, but I know I’ll come back to that book one day).

Wherever you decide to set your book, you are only as far away as your computer.

Once in an RWA seminar, I heard Nora Roberts say she does all her research on-line and doesn’t travel to the location. Furthermore, she does her own research. Nevertheless, her books have a wonderful sense of place. Alas, we can’t all be Nora Roberts.

I’m sure many writers select settings for their books and travel to those locations to do research. I think that would be a great way to approach a project.

What do you think? Do you have to visit a place before you can effectively write about it? Do you have to be there? What about other writers you know? Do they prefer to visit the location where their books are set or do they do their research via the Internet? Can you write a story that rings true if it’s set in a location you’ve never actually seen? Or are your imagination and the Internet the only tickets you need to your destination?

Marilyn Baron

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

A Blessing in Disguise

A Blessing in Disguise
by Tami Brothers

I have way too much on my plate right now. So every time I log in and start surfing “my blogs,” I feel like I’m wasting a large amount of time. This comment sounds pretty harsh coming from someone who has their own personal writer’s blog as well as being a part of a group blog, doesn’t it? Before you send out the lynch mob or delete me from your favorites, please let me explain.

I’m a full-time college student, a wife, a mother, and a writer. Add to that my recent addition of full-time employment in Corporate America and it’s easy to see how there isn’t time or room for a whole lot of extra in my life right now. Although I was thrilled to have a job in these tough economic times, I suddenly felt like I was out of the loop on EVERYTHING. I was stuck in a small cube in the middle of a huge building; learning a new trade that was completely foreign to me; had an awesome, state of the art computer with all the bells and whistles sitting prominently in the middle of my desk; and no access to the sites and loops I like to surf on a regular basis.

In a nut shell, it was like I was wearing blinders. Without my blogs, I felt like I was lost at sea without a life raft to keep me afloat in the writing world. My evenings were filled with school and homework. My weekends were even tighter with family activities. I could see that I was just going to have to give up something and my blog hopping looked like it would be the first thing to have to go. I couldn’t help but whine and cry as I wondered what in the world I was going to do (heaven forbid I actually work!!!). That is, until I found out about Google Reader.

When someone told me about this site, I felt like I’d been thrown that life preserver. For one thing, I actually have access to the site at work. This allowed me to reconnect with the outside world from inside my “cell.” Of course, there were some drawbacks. With Google Reader, everything but the bare bones of the blogs is cut out. No longer did I have access to YouTube videos, stellar graphics, drool worthy pictures, or mindless games. I was no longer able to be distracted by links to other sites or eye catching banners.

All these items were greatly missed for that very first week. Then I began to realize this was a blessing in disguise. I realized I was actually learning something about the blogs I followed. I could see patterns that were not obviously pointed out to me (to know what I mean by this, see the Daily Menu on the sidebar of this blog). I could tell when an author was rambling on with no end in sight and when someone had something worth saying. This also helped me to see how I needed to keep my personal blog on more of a schedule if I wanted to keep my readers coming back. I was beginning to learn what worked and what didn’t.

I also learned that I was not only networking with other writers; but without all the other distractions, I was actually learning information I would normally be paying for in a writing class or workshop. I could plan mini workshops around these posts. For someone on a very tight budget, this racked up some huge bonus points in favor of my blog hopping.

I said earlier that I have way too much on my plate right now to spend on time wasters. That statement still holds true. But with Google Reader and the slimmed down version of the blogs I love to follow, I’m able to fit these quick reads into my breaks and lunch hour without interfering with the rest of my life. Not only am I still keeping my feet wet in the writing world, but I’m also learning more about networking and various other topics my “friends” decide to share that day.
Sure, I will miss those awesome graphics and colors and you better believe I'll be checking out a few of the sites I KNOW have some terrific eye candy on them as soon as I get a spare moment at home. But I now have a plan and a way to keep the best of everything in my world. So if anyone is contemplating paring down their day and have considered culling out some of the extra "waste," think about signing up for Google Reader and see what I mean. It has truly been a lifesaver for me in more ways than one.

Do any of you have a time saving tip to share?

Monday, April 13, 2009

Media Monday: We have lost hope!

This Media Monday, I’m choosing to do something a little outside the box for our Spring Fever theme. It’s been so rainy where I live I haven’t ventured out for many outings except to the grocery store and bank. Ho-hum, right? Instead, I’ve done a fair amount of blog-hopping via my aggregator, because I can travel (virtually) around the world and glean insights in dozens of other people’s worlds in an hour or so.

I never fail to come away from my blogging travels without some nugget of wisdom on life in general or new insight on the life of a writer. What follows resulted from my travels via cyberspace.

We have lost hope!
by Carol Burnside

I recently read an article titled “Hope is a four-letter word” on JA Konrath’s blog that made a lot of sense. In it, he talked about the unpublished writers he comes across and left me with this bit of wisdom:

The ones who will never get published,
hope that they eventually will.
The ones who will get published,
know that they eventually will.

Wow. I’d never thought about it in quite that way before, but something clicked inside my head, like the final tumbler falling into place before a safe opens. As I read on, I realized I usually thought in terms of when I’d be published, not if. I visualize myself walking into a bookstore and seeing my book on the shelf. I picture myself sitting beside other authors at book signings I attend. I can hardly wait to be a member of that club.

I won’t wait for the day I’ve sold a book to act like an author. I take writing classes, attend conferences and seminars, I blog, I network, I read. I critique, enter my work for feedback through contests, and submit to editors. More importantly, I make the enjoyable act of writing a habit.

I am a writer.

I will be published.

Konrath says we should act like what we wish to be and the more we do, the more we’ll become what we now aspire to. That, my friends, is what this blog, Petit Fours and Hot Tamales is all about. Nineteen of us got together, some of us published through small presses, some in short fiction, most of us still bravely toughing it out in the write/submit/write/submit trenches. But we are determined to become published authors and have our voices heard.

You skeptics go ahead and scoff if you want to. We the determined have banded together to declare to the world, “We will be published.” We refuse to sit on the sidelines, watching and hoping for a break. We will learn. We will write. We will submit. We will create our own breaks.

Yes, we are human, and when we grow weary and the blows of rejection cause us to falter, we will bolster each other. Count on it, world, for we have lost hope, left it behind, kicked it to the curb. We know!

Carol Burnside is a writer of contemporary, light paranormal and historical romance. Her manuscripts have won the Picture This, Reveal Your Inner Vixen, and Put Your Heart In A Book contests as well as a Maggie Award for Excellence. Visit her on the web at or .

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Mission #4 - Writing pages 6-10

soldier Pictures, Images and Photos

Operation: Maggie Readiness
Mission #4: Writing Pages 6-10

With the holidays, it’s far to easy to let our writing fall to the way-side. Anyone else in the middle of spring break? How about all the extra that comes along with Easter?

Although it’s very easy to let our writing go as we fit in those other activities, now is not the time to start slacking. I’m not suggesting you give up your family time or even skip the beach. I am suggesting a little bit of extra planning to fit those 30 minute writing segments into your day. 30 minutes here and 30 minutes there will definitely add up. It may not seem like it, but there are far too many stories of published authors using these techniques and making them work. Why not give it a try?

For me, those first 5 pages are the hardest to write, but what is even harder is getting past them. I have a very BAD habit of going over them again and again and again. Sadly, I have several stories where I’ve gotten stuck on those first 5 pages and was never been able to move past them. I’m hopeful this won’t happen to any of you…grin….

To help you out, I’m attaching a couple of links for tips and encouragement on writing that first chapter.

Good luck to all of you!!! Happy Easter!

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Winners of Missy Tippen's His Forever Love

Happy Saturday!!!

Judy and Sandra Elzie are our two winners!

Congratulations ladies. Please email me your snail mail address to

Thanks again to Missy Tippens for taking time to blog with us and providing our two lucky winners with copies of her new book. For those of you who didn't win, the book is just a click away. To preorder click on the Amazon site.

Friday, April 10, 2009

Petit Fours and Hot Tamales Welcomes Inspirational Author, Missy Tippens

Thanks so much for having me on your fun, new blog. I’m thrilled to be here to talk about inspirational romance. And I guess that makes me more of a petit four than a hot tamale. :)

If you’re not familiar with inspirational (or Christian) romance, then I guess one of the first things you would notice is that it’s G- to PG-rated. Of course, different publishers allow different levels of sensuality/violence/touchy themes. But for the most part, our readers want a “gentle” read. Something they can pass along to their young daughter or grandma.

Another thing you would notice about inspirationals is that the plot involves characters living their faith or searching for faith—or even rejecting their faith. In some books, the faith element is tightly interwoven, and the story couldn’t stand without it. In others, the faith element is less evident. It may just be that the characters are living Christian lives, dealing with faith issues that may or may not have to do with the main plot.

A good many years ago, when I worked as an assistant for author Sandra Chastain, she offered to critique some of my work. And I shared a quick outline of a story idea I had been thinking about. As soon as she read it, she said, “This is an inspirational.” And it was a light bulb moment for me! I had no idea. But my faith is so important in my life that it had just automatically ended up in my characters and in their stories.

In my first book with Steeple Hill, Her Unlikely Family, the hero felt like a failure at love, felt as if he wasn’t even capable of loving (he’d failed his sister and was failing his niece). But then he found during the course of the story that with God’s help, he could love the heroine and his niece. The heroine, a former runaway, feels called to love others like Jesus would do, and thus is helping the hero’s runaway niece. She also talks openly about her faith—it’s just part of who she is and her out-there personality.

In the next book, His Forever Love(coming in June), the hero goes from feeling as if God doesn’t care what happens to him to realizing God has cared all along, and that he does have hope for a future. The heroine doesn’t make such a drastic journey, but she has to learn to trust God’s plan for her life and to risk loving again.

In A Forever Christmas (coming in November), the hero and heroine had hurt each other in the past. During the story, the hero is moved by a Bible verse in the children’s Christmas play to realize God has forgiven him for past mistakes, so maybe the heroine can forgive him, too. Then later, the heroine has to ask God for help so she’s able to forgive the hero.

Some of the faith elements are heavier than others. Steeple Hill wants to make sure the romance is front and center, so the faith elements just add to character depth and to the story.

I’d love to answer any questions anyone has about writing inspirationals (or anything else!). And please leave a comment to have your name entered in a drawing. I’ll be giving away two copies of His Forever Love as soon as I get my author copies (any day now!).

Thank you Debbie and all the Petit Fours and Hot Tamales for having me today!
Missy Tippens

Thank you, Missy! We appreciate the fact that you took time out from your busy schedule to blog with us today. Okay folks, leave a comment or question for Missy today to be entered in the drawing for one of two copies of His Forever Love. Good Luck!

Thursday, April 9, 2009

I get by with a little help from my friends. .

I must confess I started Operation: Maggie long before Tami put together a post. I began my own quest at last year’s conference. Now, I know what you’re thinking: “Wow, Sally, you’re such an over-achiever!” Maybe in a former life, but I’m really just another procrastinator—at least I was until I dedicated myself to the task of making the finals someday, hopefully sooner rather than later.

Up until this point I have been trying to write while doing all of the usual things: bear children, rear children, teach full time, take classes, keep my house clean enough that it wouldn’t be condemned by the Health Department. Just like most of you I have been writing down ideas on the backs of envelopes that once contained bills or Birthday cards. Just like you I have been eking out words wherever I could, whenever I could. Just like many of you I could never seem to find a routine or to keep a cohesive schedule. The worst thing I did, however, was write in my own little bubble.

There are several reasons you need partners to critique your work. First and foremost, you have to develop a thicker skin. Better to hear your foibles from your friends than the editor or agent you’ve been dying to work with. Second, it’s extremely difficult to distance yourself from your work. Without Pam’s help, I wouldn’t have noticed that all of my characters, particularly my heroine, had a propensity for gritting teeth. Sandy showed me a hundred different ways to punch up my prose—think “snaring her with a gaze that rooted her to the spot” instead of “looked straight at her.” Most importantly, both ladies questioned my story from tiny details to the characters’ motivations, something I didn’t have the distance to do.

A word of caution: make sure you let the comments marinate a little before you start making changes. Inevitably, you see the bad and ignore the good so you need to read those comments a second time at a later date. The first time through Sandy’s notes, I completely missed that “she wanted to keep reading (darn it!)” It was only when I went back to open Pam’s comments a second time that I saw her “I think you have the basis of a good story here.” Both of those were the comments I was looking for because I knew I would keep polishing my prose and massaging my plot. I almost missed those nuggets of inspiration because my eyes were naturally drawn to the problems.

Of course, it’s still your story, so I have to share with you with what Sandy told me after her critique. She told me to think of her suggestions like a trip to the grocery store, to keep what I liked and to let the rest go. And, hey, look at all of that ink as a sign of love; someone took the time to read your work and cared enough to write/type their thoughts.

So, now it’s time for your embarrassing moments. I’ll start. My husband critiqued my second novel and discovered my habit of accidentally typing “me” instead of “my.” He helpfully hand-wrote “Arrr!” beside each and every one. Nancy Knight pointed out that I had misspelled the title of my novel throughout the synopsis among other things, and, as a wide-eyed college sophomore one of my professors read my serious short story and asked me if it was a parody because it was so melodramatic. I could go on, but now it’s your turn. Let’s get cathartic and share those stories!