Saturday, October 31, 2009

Thinking Write: The Secret to Freeing Your Creative Mind

By Kelly L. Stone

Publisher: Adams Media; Pap/Com edition (October 18, 2009)

ISBN-10: 1605501328
ISBN-13: 978-1605501321

Genre: Non-Fiction

Are you looking how to:

· Recover from writer's block
· Conquer burnout
· Learn to be more productive during precious writing time
If so, consider picking up a copy of THINKING WRITE.

Kelly Stone wrote THINKING WRITE as a companion to her book, TIME TO WRITE. After coaching writers in how to make time to write by carving out a few minutes here and there, Kelly knew she had to provide a means to capitalize on every precious moment. THINKING WRITE contains all the information writers need to tap into their creative river. By training the brain using the methods in THINKING WRITE, writers can instantly tune into their innate creativity.

The book begins by introducing writers to their greatest tool, their minds. Writers learn how the mind relates to writers' creativity. Accessing the subconscious mind is how to tap into creativity. Several methods are presented, and writers are encouraged to select the one that works for them. A CD of creative meditations accompanies this book to provide a little extra help. Once the subconscious is open, it can be programmed to respond to triggers that act as switches. When presented with the trigger, writers can instantly tap into their creativity. Think of this as creativity on demand.

Reviewer: Tammy Schubert
Rating: 4 Petit Fours There are no hot tamales for this work of non-fiction.

The Saturday Review

The Worst Halloween Ever

By Barbara Robinson

ISBN 0-06-027862-5

Publisher: Joanna Cotler Books
An Imprint of Harper Collins Publishers

The Herdmans plus Halloween have always spelled disaster. Every year those six kids—the worst in the history of Woodrow Wilson School, and possibly even the world—wreak havoc on the whole town. They steal candy, spray paint kids, and take anything that’s not nailed down.

“Don’t blame Mr. Crabtree,” she said. “It wasn’t Mr. Crabtree who piled eight kids into the revolving door at the bank. It wasn’t Mr. Crabtree who put the guppies on the pizza. It was the Herdmans, or some of the Herdmans, or all of the Herdmans . . . so if there’s no Halloween this year, it’s their fault!”

A fun read for any age. Mrs. Robinson has a great way of telling a very funny story.

When I was teaching, my friends and I used to email each other. You could tell it
was a bad day when Nova would write: Imogene Herdman is one of my students,
or when Nedra emailed: Claude and Ollie Herdman made the Assist. Prinical cry.

I can’t help it. I love all six of those kids, not when they were in MY class, you understand, but on paper!

3 Petit Fours and 0 Hot Tamales
Reviewed by Maxine Davis

Friday, October 30, 2009

Author Lori Handeland Tells Us What's So Great About the Apocalypse

Petit Fours and Hot Tamales is excited to welcome author, Lori Handeland. Lori Handeland is a two time RITA Award winner and the New York Times Bestselling author of the paranormal romance series, The Nightcreature Novels, as well as the urban fantasy series, The Phoenix Chronicles.

Lori lives in Wisconsin with a husband, two sons and a yellow lab named, Elwood. Check out her website at

What's So Great About the Apocalypse?

In real life, not much.

In fiction, everything. Danger, heartache, conflict, the end of the world, will we or won't we survive?

It's all about the stakes, baby.

And in Apocalypse Happens (released November 3), they're HUGE.

Elizabeth Phoenix is one of a select few with the power to battle those who have escaped from the darkest level of hell—demons bent on destroying humanity and reclaiming earth once and for all.

Liz is determined to stop yet another Doomsday. But this time, it’s going to be more difficult than ever because someone she thought was dead isn’t dead anymore…and is bound and determined to destroy Liz and everyone she loves in the upcoming Apocalypse.

I've always been fascinated with tales of the end of the world. Revelation, the Mayan Calendar, it's all so interesting to me. And when I read the tale of the Nephilim (the offspring of the original fallen angels known as the Grigori) a story began to form. That story became the basis for my urban fantasy series, The Phoenix Chronicles.

I love writing stories where ordinary people are pitted against extraordinary odds. In The Phoenix Chronicles I went a step further and pitted extraordinary people against Apocalyptic odds. It was as much fun as I thought it would be.

Here's a taste of Apocalypse Happens.

They are free.

Those words had whispered through my head only a few weeks ago. Taken out of context, the phrase should be uplifting.

Freedom’s good. Right?

Unless you’re talking about demons.

The earth is full of them. They’re called the Nephilim. They’re the offspring of the fallen angels—or Grigori--and the daughters of men.

Yes, the angels really fell. Hard. Their story is a perfect illustration why everyone should toe the proverbial line. Piss off God, wind up in Tartarus-a fiery pit in the lowest level of hell.

Word is God sent the Grigori to keep an eye on the humans. In the end, the angels were the ones who needed watching. So God banished them from the earth—bam, you’re legend--but he left their progeny behind to test us. Eden was a memory. We’d proved we didn’t deserve it. But I don’t think we deserved the Nephilim either.

Fast forward a million millennia. The prophesies of Revelation are bearing down on us like runaway horses. Perhaps four of them? No matter what the forces of good do to prevent the end of the world, nothing’s working.

And that’s where I come in.

Elizabeth Phoenix, Liz to my friends. They call me the leader of the light. I got dropped into the middle of this whole Doomsday mess, and I’m having a helluva time getting back out.

For reasons beyond mine or anyone else’s comprehension, Tartarus opened; the Grigori flew free, and now all hell has broken loose.


Join Liz and her former lover the dhampir (half vampire, half human) Jimmy Sanducci, along with Sawyer, a Navajo shaman and shapeshifter who is Liz's mentor, among other things, as they try to thwart another apocalypse. They're accompanied in this task by Summer, the annoying rodeo fairy who also loves Jimmy, and Luther, a shapeshifting lion cub they found along the way.

How do you choose your books? Do you prefer regular people and incredible odds? Incredible people, incredible odds? Or something else entirely?

Have you read any apocalyptic fiction and if so, let's hear the titles. I'd love to read them too!

Lori is generously giving away an ARC of her new release Apocalypse Happens, so get to commenting folks!

Thursday, October 29, 2009

October - Scary, Spooky, Witches, Ghosts and Goblins, oh my!

The month is almost gone. You know what that means - just a couple more nights and Trick or Treat! Then it’s candy time. About the only thing scary about that are the pounds that seem to go along with each delicious bite of Milky Way, chocolate kiss, or cinnamon ball. (And always remember the cardinal rule of Halloween: always buy the candy you don’t mind being stuck with!)

This October we have celebrated all things associated with Halloween. We have read some wonderful stories in the ‘Pumpkin Patch’ this month. They made me hungry, made me drool, made me think of a first date, and want pumpkin-flavored anything. Not to mention the hot males that the lovely ladies of the P4Ht invented. Did I say drool? Oh, yeah!

Whether or not it’s Halloween, one thing that is always scary to a writer is not finishing that WIP!

Here is a snippet from a WIP, Full Moon and Foul Play

The three boys were stone-still, the soccer ball rolling down the sidewalk. Their eyes were big and their mouths open. All of them stared at the tall man who had approached them. His request would have sounded so reasonable to the average bystander. “Can you boys tell me which house is the Franklin House, the Bed and Breakfast?”

Sammy got his voice first. “Mister, are you sure? You’re really talking about the Frankenstein . . . uh, the Franklin House?”

Gerald, the leader of the group and natural skeptic, turned his head slightly toward the house, narrowed his eyes and took a step forward. “Nah, you don’t want that Bed and Death house. You want to go on out of town to the Motel 6. My Dad says it’s okay for one night.”

The six-foot-two Taylor Gordon was perplexed. Now it was his turn to narrow his eyes and to wonder just what the boy meant, or rather what his dad meant. He cleared his throat. “Yes, I’m sure. I want the house owned by Miss Dahlia Franklin that is a Bed and Breakfast, and I plan to stay a little longer than one night.”

Taylor looked at Danny. “Son, you haven’t said anything. What do you think about the Franklin House?” He couldn’t resist teasing him a little. “Am I making a mistake staying there?” His smile showed genuine amusement and not a little curiosity after hearing the responses of the other two boys.

The boy shrugged and cocked his head. As he walked away, he said as nonchalantly as an eight-year-old could, “Don’t make no never mind to me. You’ll end up dead. She might be the prettiest witch around, but I wouldn’t eat anything she cooked.”

Trick or Treat! Catch a broom, scare somebody, and eat some candy! What is your favorite treat for Halloween? Now, there you go again, clean up those thoughts!

Maxine Davis

Wednesday, October 28, 2009


Recognize these two?

Anyone out there a Supernatural fan? If you're not, you're missing out.

My daughter and I are Jared and Jensen groupies. She's team Jared, I'm team Jensen.

(Jenson's in the foreground by the way. Sizzlin, huh?)

For those of you who have no idea what I'm talking about, Supernatural is a series on the CW. Jared Padalecki plays Sam Winchester, boy wonder, computer genius, sensitive, demon blooded, younger brother whom my daughter refers to as The Spice of her Life. Jensen Ackles plays Dean Winchester, flawed, classic rock, classic car, fast women, trans fat, pie loving older brother. I simply refer to him , with a twinkle in my cougar eye, as Hottie Mc-hotstein.

In a nutshell, the brothers are demon hunters, bent on saving the world from Lucifer and his minions.

It's a friggin awesome show if you're into hot guys, paranormal worlds and a cherry, 67, black, Chevy Impala...hey, who isn't into that?

The series has an official cast of two. The only regulars are the "Spicy" brothers Winchester. Every week, the Winchester boys find themselves in a new city or town facing a new supernatural threat, encountering new characters along the way, most never to be seen again. And that's just fine by me.

Two brothers, battling evil with a shirtless scene every so often is all I need to be supremely happy.

And given the nature of the show, it just wouldn’t work if the brothers’ lacked chemistry. Luckily, Ackles and Padalecki instantly created beautiful music together from show one. You can actually feel their chemistry when you watch. You share their sadness (these butt kicking guys actually cry. It's heartbreaking when they tear up), their frustrations and their few moments of happiness. You laugh at their pranks and jokes and in general, you believe these guys could be brothers. The actors do such a good job my daughter and I actually feel like they really are related and we hate when they fight.

From a production standpoint, this show is one of the best on the air today in my opinion. There are basically four directors that call the shots on a rotating schedule and all of them are good. They're each on the same plane, and because of this, the show is tight, well written and boasts a deep sense of continuity. Plus, the writers have done their homework. The lore and mythology of the show are based on real legends in history. This gives the series a very realistic feel. On top of that, the effects, both practical and CGI are top notch for TV. It's often bloody, scary and totally freaky, but the tendency for gore is perfectly offset by a rockin sound track, a hot car, the believable emotional struggle between the brothers and the overall story arch that continues through each season.

October is the month of ghouls, goblins, vampires and spooks. What better way to embrace the spirit of Halloween than to curl up on the couch with a warm cup of cocoa, slippers on, phone off, TV tuned, and watch this show? Plus, you might even end up bonding with your teen son or daughter while taking it all in. It's a win win.

The show is in its fifth season right now, Thursdays, 9:00 on the CW. If you're like me and can't abide starting a series from the middle, never fear, the first four seasons are on DVD and I promise, they are worth every penny. The GMC you pick up from the show alone is worth it's weight in gold if you're a writer. I'd buy it as a learning tool...well, for that and the opportunity to see Sam Winchester's abbs on screen. You can also rent the series from Blockbuster or Netflix...pick your poison.

I highly recommend you try it out. Whether you're a die hard paranormal fan or not, I believe the story of these brother's, their tragic history, their present struggle and the future battles they'll face together will keep you coming back for more.

So, all you paranormal TV fans out there, let me know if you're a Supernatural fan - what do you like about the show and are you team Jared or Jensen?

If you're not a SN fan, what shows do or did you like? Buffy? Angel? Heroes? Lost? Smallville? Fringe? Just to name a few.

Love to hear from you!

Have a great day, a happy Halloween and make time to write, write, write!


Tuesday, October 27, 2009


By: Sandra Elzie

Since today is my blog day as well as the day that my Treasure Hunt story is “up” on my website…(a shameless plug, but what the heck?) I thought I’d take today and just enjoy some of the lighter side of Halloween. Come on! Let’s share some fun moments!

As you can see from the attached picture, I’ve looked better…and worse…but it was all in fun. The picture was taken by one of my staff back in 1982 when the Accounting office hosted the Halloween Open House. (Each year a different department was responsible for providing the party and it was our year).

I had some dedicated Halloween fans and they strung webs all over the office, complete with my second most dreaded thing…black spiders. We all baked and about 200 people came throughout the day to admire our work and get a ‘treat’…candy or a cookie.

The following year there was a costume contest and I won the prize because I had spent the first hour of the day going around handing out apples and no one recognized me. Finally one of the administrators tracked me down in the hall and told me that if I didn’t belong in the building that I’d have to leave. I gave myself away when I started laughing…no, not a witch’s cackle, but a Sandy laugh. I was very surprised that I had been able to keep my true identity a secret for so long. (I had called in sick so they wouldn’t be expecting me at the office)

I’ve gone to work dressed in pajamas…my whole section did…(and I was only 21 and dumb enough to do it), a cowgirl with much-used boots and a paramedic, complete with a stethoscope hanging around my neck.

Like our kids, I always enjoyed any excuse to have a good time on that one day of the year. One year hubby and I went to a party as Natasha and Boras. Partway through the evening he donned a black cape and stuck in vampire teeth. Okay, I’ll admit that I married a man willing to step outside the box and have fun. (Vampires don’t have to talk, they just bite necks, so he was quietly right at home)

So, share your funny costume or party stories with us and then click on my name in the sidebar to the right and hop over to my website to read my entry in the Treasure Hunt contest. Be sure to answer the question at the end of the story and save it…along with the answers from the stories before mine and be eligible for a fantastic prize. (It’s bigger and better than any prize we’ve ever given since we’re making you work for it!)

Share your experiences and then enjoy the story at my website.

Happy Halloween!!!!!

Monday, October 26, 2009

I Scream, You Scream

Back in the late 80’s, my sister and I thought we were pretty safe choosing to have our three kids be clowns for Halloween. They were around four and five years old. We wanted the experience to be fun, and frankly, we were both on a tight budget and it was an inexpensive way to go.

My mother and I sewed costumes. We did the makeup from a cheap kit. Even my husband and I got in on the dress-up fun.

Only we weren’t clowns.

I was Mrs. Roper from the TV show Three’s Company. Yeah, from back in the dark ages. Let’s just say the costume did nothing to enhance any of my attributes and leave it at that. Still, I didn’t see anything scary when I looked in the mirror, except the possibility of what I might look like in twenty years.

On the other hand, my dear hubby decided to be Dracula. And that’s where things got weird. Despite the fact that my nephew, Keith knew we’d put on costumes and was looking forward to Trick or Treating, he began to tear up when he saw himself with the clown makeup on. He cried more when he saw my Jason and Holly similarly made up. His face really crumpled when he saw me, but the Dracula bit with vamp teeth and a touch of fake blood running from the corner of my hubby’s mouth was too much.

My kids shrieked with glee when their dad chased them around the room acting all vampirish (is that a word?), but that wasn’t quite the reaction he got from Keith.
The shrieks were, um, definitely not of the delightful variety. Oh, dear. Oh, dear! There was full-on sobbing and horrible noises coming out of that child’s mouth. His makeup was ruined and stayed that way.

No amount of cajoling, or real clowning around or reassurances from any of us—not even from his un-made-up mom and grandmother—could console him. I have a picture of us (before digital days) and we’re all grinning like crazy, trying to convince him it’s all in fun, but he’s having none of it. We still don’t know why seeing his own face in cute clown makeup started the waterworks.

I guess we all have our irrational fears. Weird masks and ghoulish makeup don’t bother me. Real blood and needles? No problem. But I hate the feeling of creepy-crawly things on my skin. Maybe someday I’ll tell you about my experience with dozens of Daddy Long-leg spiders in the dark of night. (((shudder)))

My kids have always delighted in those made-to-scare-the-crap-out-of-you movies, but I had to leave the room every time the bad-things-coming music started. My mind replays those scenes when I lie down and close my eyes at night. More insomnia I don’t need.

I’ve confessed some of my irrational fears, now tell me some of yours. What triggers your screams that's a little bit or a lot embarassing? Come on, you're in a circle of friends. Spill!

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Next Week Will Give You Chills!

Tune in next week for another frightening lineup!

Monday, October 26: Carol BurnsideI Scream, You Scream!
Tuesday, October 27: Sandra Elzie
Wednesday, October 28: Tamara DeStefano -
Thursday, October 29: Maxine DavisOctober – Scary, Spooky, Witches, Ghosts and Goblins, oh my!
Friday, October 30: Guest Chef: Lori Handeland

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Our Winner for Chicken Soup for the Soul: Devotional Stories for Women

Many thanks to Susan Heim for taking time out of her obviously busy schedule to come and talk with us!

After consulting, we have a winner for Chicken Soup for the Soul: Devotional Stories for Women.

Donnell is our lucky winner!!!

Donnell, email me your snail mail

The Saturday Review

311 Pelican Court

By Debbie Macomber
Publisher: Mira

ISBN-10: 1551667193
ISBN-13: 978-1551667195

I finished listening to this book on CD a few weeks ago and was delighted with it. On PF&HT, we've discussed the problem of writing characters who are "too nice," and therefore ending up with stories with too little conflict.
If you have that problem, Debbie Macomber may be the author to study. Her characters are always nice, and yet there is a ton of conflict in her stories.
For example, 311 Pelican Court opens with a couple who are going through such a bitter divorce, they can barely stand to speak to each other. Then the local judge awards their house to their two children, forcing them to stay in contact! The judge's life is no cakewalk, either. Her ex-husband reappears after leaving her years ago and begins to pursue her -- just as she's seriously falling for another man!
Then there's the group of men in the town whose lives have been torn apart by a horrifying incident in Vietnam. One of them owns a bed and breakfast with his wife, which sounds sweet and peaceful. Except that a mysterious lodger has just died there and the owner believes there's a link to the past in his death.
There's plenty of conflict in 311 Pelican Court and yet it has that cozy, home-baked-bread feeling you can count on in a Debbie Macomber book. How does she do it? I'm not sure, but when life overwhelms me, this is the kind of book I reach for. How about you?

4 Petit Fours and 1 Hot Pepper
Reviewed by Linsey Lanier

Bride by Command
By Linda Winstead Jones

Genre: Single Title
Publisher: Penguin
ISBN 978-0-425-22804-3

This book is a paranormal/historical world building story. I picked it up for free while in Washington at Nationals.
Emperor Jahn of Columbyana needs to take a wife, but not before he has a little freedom. Pretending to be a sentinel for the king, he travels to the home of Lady Morgana Ramsden, one of the six women he is supposes to choose a wife from. On the return trip to the castle, Jahn and Morgana fall in love. Neither knows the other has a secret. Jahn, who he really is and Morgana, that she can turn people and things into glass. At the castle, Jahn keeps Morgana in the dark by having them live in a room above a tavern. Jahn is unaware of the people plotting to kill him and their desire to control the future of his kingdom. Those plotting have supernatural powers like Morgana . Jahn and Morgana go blissfully through the days, until Morgana is threatened and Jahn moves her into the castle where she discovers he is the Emperor. Angry, Morgana refuses to forgive Jahn until she learns of the plot to kill him by her father, she has not seen in years. She shares the information with Jahn and together they save the kingdom and their future.
If you are a paranormal fan(I’m not) I think you would enjoy this read. I wasn’t as interested in the secondary characters as I should have been; I skipped over some of their scenes.

Rating(s) 3 Petit Fours and 3 Hot Tamales
Reviewer: Susan May

Friday, October 23, 2009

Please Join Us in Welcoming Susan Heim, Editor for Chicken Soup for the Soul

Recently I (Debbie) got to see one of my first devotional stories published. The story, Like a Child, was based on an event with my granddaughter that served to snap me out of my routine and back into awareness of all the beauty around me. Today, I am privileged to present my interview with Susan M. Heim, one of the two co-editors of Chicken Soup for the Soul: Devotional Stories for Women. At the end of this blog post, please leave your comment or question for Susan and be entered to win a signed copy of this great devotional. Let's start with a little bit about Susan and her extensive publishing experience!

Susan M. Heim is an author and editor, specializing in parenting, multiples, Christian and women’s issues. She is a longtime editor for the bestselling Chicken Soup for the Soul series. Susan’s books include Chicken Soup for the Soul: Devotional Stories for Women; Chicken Soup for the Soul: All in the Family; Chicken Soup for the Soul: Twins and More; It’s Twins! Parent-to-Parent Advice from Infancy Through Adolescence; Boosting Your Baby’s Brain Power; Oh, Baby! 7 Ways a Baby Will Change Your Life the First Year; and, Twice the Love: Stories of Inspiration for Families with Twins, Multiples and Singletons. Her articles have appeared in many books, websites, and magazines, including Angels on Earth and Twins Magazine. Susan is the founder of TwinsTalk, a website for families with twins and multiples. She is the mother of four sons, including a set of twins, and blogs about parenting

Good morning, Susan. So happy to have you with us today. Start us off by telling us about your latest release, Chicken Soup for the Soul: Devotional Stories for Women.

Chicken Soup for the Soul: Devotional Stories for Women is Chicken Soup’s first daily devotional book! It includes 101 daily devotions to comfort, encourage, and inspire women through the ups and downs of life. Each devotion has a beautiful story that illustrates an inspirational Bible passage, followed by an original, personal prayer. Chapters include Faith, Motherhood, Illness, Life Lessons, Marriage, Service to Others, Self-Esteem, and more. The book also includes two bonus devotions and an inspirational foreword from Jennifer Sands, a 9/11 widow, Christian author and speaker.

How is this Chicken Soup book different from the mainstream?

Like other Chicken Soup for the Soul books, you’ll find 101 inspirational stories. However, each story in this book is unique because 1) it’s written by women, for women; 2) it’s accompanied by an inspirational Bible verse and a personal prayer; and, 3) it’s in a Christian devotional format, so readers can start or end each day with a nourishing and restorative story.

What do you hope that readers will say about this book?
We hope that readers will say that these stories showed them that God is an ever-present source of comfort and love in their lives, regardless of their circumstances. We want the words of wisdom from the women in this book to warm readers’ hearts and convince them that God is their partner in this walk of life, whether the path is smooth or filled with potholes. We’ve already been so touched by the letters we’ve received from women who have felt less alone after reading this book.

You have a co-editor on this project, Karen Talcott. We’ve only interviewed a few partnerships in writing and would love to know how the two of you produced this book together.

Actually, this book didn’t start out as a Chicken Soup book. I’d been writing devotions over the years, but didn’t have a firm idea about what I wanted to do with them. I started sharing my ideas with my friend, Karen, and we decided to do a book of devotions together! Our first intention was to do a year’s worth of devotions, but once we each had written a dozen or so, we were already feeling overwhelmed. We spoke to the manager of a local Christian bookstore who said that women prefer shorter devotional books because they like to try a new one every few months. That made us a feel a little better knowing that we didn’t have to write 365 stories. But then we started thinking about what we really wanted to share with women. Many of them are dealing with issues such as cancer, marital problems, death, economic problems and more. We realized that we didn’t have all the answers or all these experiences. That’s when we decided to recruit other women to tell their stories. We visited churches and women’s groups. We posted on forums and websites. And the stories started coming in. We were amazed at the generosity and faith of the women who wrote. They’d been through some very difficult experiences, as well as the many everyday challenges we all face, but all had experienced a healing and strength through faith.

When we had enough stories, we started looking for a publisher. Several publishers were interested, but things moved slowly. I had been working with Chicken Soup for the Soul for many years as an editor, and suddenly I realized that the answer had been right under my nose all this time. It occurred to me that these devotions were simply shorter versions of Chicken Soup stories. Chicken Soup had never done a devotional book before, so I sent them the manuscript. They loved the idea! And all the pieces just fell into place.

Susan how did you get your start in writing? In editing?

I have a degree in business, but always loved writing and editing. I started doing freelance editing for Health Communications, Inc. (HCI), while working for another company. And in 2000, HCI hired me as a full-time editor. At that time, they were the publisher of the Chicken Soup for the Soul series, and I loved working on their books. Several years later, I was surprised to find that I was pregnant with twins! After their birth in December 2003, I decided to become a work-at-home mother and do freelance editing and writing again. I continued to work for HCI, as well as other companies. I also began writing books about parenting and twins, and had several of them published. When Chicken Soup for the Soul acquired a new publisher, I really wanted to continue working on their books. They offered me co-authorship on my first book with them, Chicken Soup for the Soul: Twins and More, and I’ve since published two more books with them: Chicken Soup for the Soul: Devotional Stories for Women and Chicken Soup for the Soul: All in the Family.

Were you inundated with submissions?

The response was definitely greater than we expected! Women have always been hard-wired, I think, to want to offer comfort and advice to one another. That’s why we have so many mothers’ groups, book clubs, girls’ night out events, and Christian women’s circles. We find comfort in telling our stories to each other. And this book was an opportunity for many women to do that.

As writers, we love to understand the submission process. Can you tell us about the Chicken Soup process and also about yours for books you put together independently?

Stories for Chicken Soup for the Soul books are collected through the website at If you click on “Submit Your Story” on the left sidebar, you’ll see a submission form, story guidelines, and possible book topics. Chicken Soup for the Soul editors read through every single story that is submitted. If it makes us laugh or cry or inspires us, it’s a potential Chicken Soup for the Soul story.

For books that I put together myself, you can email stories to me directly through my author website at

When you were dealing with submissions, what was the biggest problem you had? The strangest submission? The funniest?

The biggest problem was just the overwhelming volume of submissions. I always want to do a really good job in evaluating them and give them my full attention, so I try to read the stories in small chunks of time so I don’t get too tired or distracted.

The strangest submissions are those that are sent in by people who have obviously never read a Chicken Soup for the Soul book. They may send in a story of three sentences. Or it may just be a rant, not an actual story. Writers should always be familiar with a publication before they submit. They should get several copies of a book series or magazine to which they’re submitting and study the format and style of writing. This greatly increases their chances of acceptance.

As for the funniest submissions, that’s hard to pin down because we get so many funny stories, and I love them! I like to laugh, so I naturally gravitate to the stories that are humorous. We certainly have a lot of serious stories in Chicken Soup for the Soul books, but we also try to interject some humor to brighten people’s day.

What things make you reject a submission almost immediately?

We don’t accept essays, sermons, term papers, etc. Submissions must tell an actual story. If they’re more than 1,200 words, we’ll reject them in most cases unless we feel the extra length is really essential and keeps our interest, or we feel the story can be edited down to the appropriate length. We edit the stories, but if they’re so riddled with grammatical and spelling errors that they’re difficult to read, they will probably be rejected. If a story doesn’t fit the theme of the book, we won’t use it unless we feel it might work in another book we’re doing.

What things make you fall in love with a story?

We love stories that stir emotions. If they make us cry or laugh out loud or get the “warm fuzzies,” they’re good candidates. We also love to stumble across unusual topics. Stories about pets dying are common. If your dog did something that few dogs have done before, it’s more likely to be accepted.

Please tell our readers how to know if you are soliciting new stories and what types of things you will be looking for in a submission.

Check the Chicken Soup for the Soul website at often. Potential titles are frequently added. Read the submission guidelines on the site. They contain great tips for writing a Chicken Soup story. Make sure your stories are edited and free of errors before you submit them. Write in first person, telling the story from your viewpoint. Most of all, be persistent! We do get a lot of submissions, but keep trying. Sometimes, it takes years to put a Chicken Soup for the Soul book together. You may submit a story for one particular book, but find that we’ve added another title that your story might also be appropriate for. Most writers (not just for Chicken Soup, but in general) receive multiple rejections before they are accepted.

Susan, what are you working on right now?

I have an idea for my first fiction book, which I’ve started researching! I’m also busy spreading the word about my new books by writing articles, doing radio interviews, and networking. Writing a book is just the first step in being an author. Once the book is done, the hard work begins in telling people all about it. And, of course, I hope to work on more Chicken Soup books in 2010!

Give us some basic contact information, please!

Readers can learn more about me at
or visit my parenting blog at
And, of course, they can learn more about Chicken Soup for the Soul at Twitter name is @ParentingAuthor.

Have a question or comment for Susan today? Leave one to be entered to win a copy of Chicken Soup for the Soul:Devotionals for Women signed by Susan Heim, Karen Talcott, and Debbie Kaufman.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

My Greatest Fears

Halloween, celebrated on October 31, is traditionally about ghosts, goblins (whatever they are) and other scary stuff. Facing your fears, as it were.

Like most introverts, I have many fears, none of which are in any way even remotely related to the supernatural or paranormal. In truth, one of my greatest fears (other than invisible lurking spiders) is public speaking. Oh, I can carry on a reasonable conversation standing around in a large group of people, but put those people in a chair, me in front of them with a mic and I freeze. I completely forget the English language and the sea of smiling humans becomes a throng of drooling, snarling werewolves waiting to devour me.

Earlier this month, I had an opportunity to sit down with a published author with the intention of putting together a 3 line pitch so I could be ready any time someone asked me about my book.

Immediately, this author picked up on the fact that the whole idea of cold pitching to some hapless editor or agent sent me into full blown DT’s. She very gently talked me down from the ledge and somehow, she magically unraveled my stuttering, stammering synopsis and helped me create a 3 sentence pitch. It worked!

When someone gifted me with an unexpected pitch appointment with an agent, I sat down, smiled, and in a semi-controlled voice, gave my pitch. I didn’t run away, I didn’t hurl—I even remembered her name—and mine!

The pitch worked so well, the agent requested a full manuscript.

Now, let’s talk about REAL FEAR.

REAL FEAR is sitting down at your computer, booting up your manuscript file and discovering there is absolutely NOTHING in your brain worth writing about.

That’s where I’m at today. I’ve done all the right things. Lit the candle, surrounded myself with green, have a comfy chair, there’s a bottle of booze within easy reach and I still can’t think of one damned thing to write that is remotely of interest to myself, let alone someone else.

Desperate, I fall back on the old if you can’t write something brilliant, write crap. You can always delete the crap, but there’s not much you can do if the page is blank.

So, dear readers, there you have it, my ultimate fear; facing down the blank stare of the word processor.

Here's a tidbit of my WIP for your reading pleasure:

He walked up behind her as she stood alone on the edge of the crowd. “You look lovely tonight, Miss Habersham. Quite an improvement over this morning.”

Charlotte jumped. “Mr. Stafford!” she gasped. “Did your mother never teach you it was impolite to sneak up upon a person?” She held her hand to her breast for a moment, her face scarlet from her décolleté to the tips of her dainty ears.

James smirked. “I must admit my education did not include how to behave in the presence of feminine brewmasters.”

“How--?” Charlotte’s eyes widened for the briefest of moments, then they narrowed to angry slits. “What on earth are you talking about, Sir?”

“Come now, Miss Habersham…or should I call you Charlie? Do you think me lame of mind as well as of limb? Surely you knew I’d conduct a discreet investigation if I’m to keep your secret. I wouldn’t want to engage in any illegal activities, would I?”

James knew it was cruel to toy with Miss Habersham in such a fashion, but he couldn’t seem to help himself. “It is quite astonishing what some will reveal when tempted with the promise of a coin or two.”

Charlotte’s mouth fell open. “I don’t know what you’ve heard, Mr. Stafford, but my name is not Charlie and I am no brewmaster. My father’s Christian name was Charles. He was the brewmaster, not I.”

“Tsk, tsk, my dear. Mendacity does not become you. That pulse at the base of your throat gives you away in an instant,”

What is your ultimate fear? Is it something tangible like spiders? Or is it something more indefinable? Have you overcome your fears or have you conquered them?

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Creature Feature, or What I Loved To Write About A Long, Long Time Ago…

I was attempting one of those age-old writer traditions of closet cleaning when I came across a notebook full of stories and writing assignments I’ve managed to hang on to since I was a kid. Out of the many realizations that struck me (one being that I’m not much better at spelling, sigh) was that I had a real penchant for the spooky, scary and downright macabre stuff!

The only explanation for this must have been the influence of television shows like Creature Feature, Twilight Zone and Dark Shadows. Anybody remember Elvira? I just aged myself, didn’t I? Anyway, my cousin and I were terribly addicted to these things at an early age, 8, 9, 10 – where were our parents??

Sometimes we would spend an entire Saturday building a haunted house down in my aunt’s basement, complete with special effects like Bissell brooms disguised as monsters that would slid out from their hiding places when we pulled a string, to squishy, nasty things in bowls you had to touch with your eyes closed. We even used a sound track – Funeral For A Friend, by Elton John. Of course our younger cousins had to go through them time and again.

Thank goodness for hormones and the discovery of romance novels.

But, in honor of all things spooky for Halloween, just days away, I thought I’d include a small sample of my 10 year old mind at work. I didn’t edit, but I did fix the spelling:

Hi my name is Sandy Michaels. Something funny happened to me about a year ago and I wanted to share the story with you.

The Curse

One day I was digging in my backyard to plant a mimosa tree. When I dug up some rocks and one of them was an Indian arrowhead. So I kept it so I could start a collection. I put it aside and finished planting the tree. Then I went inside and washed it off. I was surprised to find it was shiny black and it had a green glow, I loved it. The next day at school I asked my professor if he had a book on arrowheads, and I showed him the one I found. He said yes and gave me the book. After school I went right home and started to read it. I turned the page and there was a picture of my arrowhead. On the page it said, “A long time ago there was a tribe called the Wama-Wama tribe. They had their witchdoctor make a special arrowhead with a curse on it. The curse stated that anyone who rubbed it would turn into a white buffalo and roam the plains on the night of the full moon. This made it easy for them to find and kill their enemies.” I closed the book and turned out the light. All of a sudden I jumped up remembering I had rubbed the arrowhead when I dried it. I grabbed the book and searched to see if I could find an antidote for it. But I could not. The next day before school started I went to the professor and asked if he knew of an antidote, but he did not. He said that I should look for a descendent of the Wama-Wama tribe for help. So, for the past year I have been looking for a descendent of the tribe.

So, if you are ever in the west on the plains and see a white buffalo by the light of a full moon, don’t worry, it’s me!

I want to send out a special thank you to my third grade teacher, Mrs. Sandifer, for nurturing my creativity and budding desire to write, and for slogging through everything I gave her. And Aunt Ann – thanks for letting us turn your basement upside down all those weekends!

So how about you? Do you still have any of those early childhood stories? A favorite Halloween memory? Or maybe an encourager from those early years you haven’t thought of in a while. Let us know.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Prove a Story Creation Theory

Most writers, especially the members of Georgia Romance Writers and Romance Writers of America, have all be told at one time or another that if you give a group of writers a concept, word, etc. and tell them to write a story about it, each writer will create something different. No two stories will be the same. This is all assuming writers don't plagiarize.

How do we know that? There are only a certain number of plots out there. How many? Funny you should ask. There are many different answers. I have heard 7, 20, 37 and 69. Who is right? Who is wrong? The fact is it doesn't matter. What's important to note is that the experts agree that there are a limited number of plots writers can use to create stories. Now think about how many stories are out there in all the various genres available to the consumer.

What makes these stories different? It is your voice, the choice of words, how the words are strung together, pacing, emphasis on certain words or phrases, genre, world view, opinions, education, background and experiences that make your story unique.

Explore the number of plots:

So let's prove the following theory:

Give a group of writers a line, blurb, concept, word, etc. and instruct a group of writers to create a story. None of those stories will be the same as long as there is no plagiarism.

I am going to provide the concept, and I would like you to come up with a story. All I'm looking for is a few lines to describe your story. Please post your creations as a comment to this blog. To make this exercise even more interesting, get some friends to join us.


All of us know the story of Little Red Riding Hood, the girl going to grandma's house who is eaten by a wolf. Now, your job is to insert a romance into the fairytale.

If you need to refresh your memory, here is a link to the story as retold by Rohini Chowdhury:

The only limits to this exercise are the ones you impose on yourself. If you come up with more than one story idea, post them. Now go have some fun.

NOTE: I want to apologize up front for not responding to your ideas during the day. My company blocks blogs, so I can't jump in during my lunch hour. So I will catch up with you all tonight. I look forward to reading about great story ideas.

Monday, October 19, 2009

The Inspiration of Fall

Fall is always my greatest time of creative inspiration. When the air turns chill, blankets get piled higher, and the magic of the holidays approaches, my brain goes into fantasy overdrive. It's been this way for many years. This year, I'm determined to take full advantage of this phenomenon. Because inspiration, without it's evil twin, perspiration, produces nothing.

So to produce more this fall, I have a daily plan. The foundation of my plan is to carry my Alphasmart Neo everywhere I go. If you've never written with one of these little jewels of productivity, I highly recommend it. I've found that I can easily do two or more pages during a child's piano lesson, 500 words while sitting in a static carpool line, and I won't embarass my doctor by mentioning how many chapters I can get done in the waiting room.

Bumping my productivity is a weekly meeting with my critique partner. One day a week we have a write-in of our own. We set a goal for the day, use a timer for 15-30 minutes at a time, and take occassional breaks to discuss plot problems. We try to limit our general chatter and the timer is instrumental in helping us do that. Writing with others can be more productive than you realize - if you agree on the rules.

To put my productivity into the highest numbers, I'm joining in the annual writing challenge for the month of November. If you want a real challenge, join me in the National Novel Writing Month next month. The goal is to write 50,000 words in the month of November. Feel free to join me by going to I didn't get 50,000 words last year, but I guarantee you that I wrote more than I would have otherwise.

These are my plans for Fall productivity. Please feel free to share ways that you plan to boost your own productivity this season.

Sunday, October 18, 2009


Congratulations to Linda Henderson for being the winner of a copy of THE DIPLOMATIC TUTOR.

I told my husband before the blog posted that the first one to leave a message would be the winner, so, Linda, I hope you enjoy the book.

If you'll e-mail me your snail-mail address, I'll send it right along.

Thanks to everyone who dropped by and left a message.

Sandy Elzie

Spooooky, Bwa-ha-ha-ha!

This week our "Scary, Spooky, Witches, Ghosts and Goblins, oh my!" month continues. In addition, we're having a Treasure Hunt (See pumpkins logo in sidebar). Follow the instructions and be rewarded with free reads throughout the month. Gather the answers to the questions asked after each story, and be prepared to send the lot of them to a special e-mail address we'll divulge at the end of the month. We'll draw one random winner from everyone who gets all the answers right. There are four free stories already posted, so get to reading and GOOD LUCK!

This week's lineup:
Mon, Oct 19: Debbie Kaufman – TBA
Tue, Oct 20: Tammy Schubert – Prove a Story Creation Theory (A fun interactive exercise!)
Wed, Oct 21: Darcy Crowder - Creature Feature
Thu, Oct 22: Cynthia Hamer-Omey – My Greatest Fears
Fri, Oct 23: Guest Chef: Susan Heim (Chicken Soup Editor)
Sat, Oct 24: Reviews

Saturday, October 17, 2009

The Saturday Review

The Diplomatic Tutor
By Sandy Elzie
Genre: Single Title Avalon Romance
ISBN 978-0-8034-9973-7

If you’re looking for a sweet, heart-warming romance to snuggle- up with on a cool, fall day The Diplomatic Tutor is for you.

Natalie Holms, from the hills of West Virginia, accepts a job as tutor to the precocious daughter of the widowed, British Ambassador to the United Nations, Trenton Lancaster. His little girl, Kelsey, has had numerous tutors but through Natalie’s attention and care, flourishes. Trenton discovers his daughter is not the only person that has fallen in love with Natalie, he has also. When Kelsey’s life is threatened Natalie and Trenton work together to keep her safe. Kelsey tells her father she wants Natalie to stay with them forever. Trenton realizes he wants that also and for the all to become a family he always dreamed of.

This is my friend Sandy Elzie’s first book and I look forward to reading many more of her stories.

Rating(s) 4 Petit Fours and 1 Hot Tamale
Reviewer: Susan May

Time to Write
Kelly L. Stone
Adams Media
ISBN 1598694383
Writing Reference

Whether you need a gentle shove in the right direction or a swift kick in the pants, Time to Write is the book for you. Kelly L. Stone logically takes you through the process of how to establish a writing schedule, how to overcome those obstacles that keep you from writing, and how to utilize the strategies successfully published authors use.

Time to Write is so pragmatic you immediately want to follow Kelly’s suggestions for becoming more productive. All of the testimonials from published authors are inspiring both in the practicality of their suggestions and in how easy it is to identify with these “book stars” and to see yourself following in their footsteps. Time to Write also includes pages of resources including writing organizations, helpful web sites, and even Sabrina Jeffries’s character checklist.

If nothing else, reading this book is like watching Clean Sweep when you’re trying to Spring Clean; it will inspire you to evaluate your own writing processes and to improve them. For me, it was also a lot like listening to my mother: excellent advice and just enough of a guilt trip to get you doing what you already knew you needed to do. Whether a newbie or a veteran in the trenches, you need to read Kelly L. Stone’s Time to Write.

Reviewer: Sally Kilpatrick
Ratings: 4 Petit Fours Uh, no Hot Tamales. . . It’s nonfiction.

Friday, October 16, 2009


Sandra Elzie was challenged by her husband in 2001 to not wait until retirement in 2005 to start writing the books he had been hearing about for years. Picking up the gantlet he threw down, she spent the next 8 years honing her craft and finishing 12 manuscripts.

Her first published book, The Diplomatic Tutor was her thirteenth manuscript and will be released by Avalon Books on October 24th. Avalon also bought her next book, In Daddy’s Shoes coming in October of 2010. She now lives south of Atlanta with her husband, Richard, and cat, Jack, and enjoys reading, traveling and, as always, writing her next book.


When Natalie Holmes accepts a position to tutor Kelsey, the 5-year old daughter of the British diplomat to the U.N., she never expects to be the one put to the test. She never expects to fall in love with the child or the father, but fights the attraction since she knows he could never love a coal miner’s daughter from West Virginia.

Trenton Lancaster is a widower, with strict rules concerning the safety and education of his daughter. When Natalie thoughtlessly breaks a rule, she expects to be fired. Only Trenton’s growing attraction for Natalie and her obvious devotion to Kelsey makes him retain her. She later proves her love and loyalty when terrorists attack and she risks her life to protect the child.

Natalie and Trenton immediately clash, but he can’t resist her homespun simplicity and intelligence and she falls in love with his strength of character and devotion to Kelsey.

Each must change, but when the prize is the ‘live happily ever after’ kind of love, its worth any risk and sacrifice.

Hello everyone!
I must start by thanking Petit Fours and Hot Tamales for all the support they give to a sister writer. It is my privilege to be a guest chef today and I can’t wait for each of you to have your day on the blog.

In keeping with this month’s theme about Halloween and scary things that go bump in the night, I thought I’d write a little about my journey to publication and the scary bumps along the way.

Like a lot of you, it started waaaaaay back when I was in grade school and my imagination ranged far and wide about how someday I’d write a book and be famous. I even practiced signing my name…although I write under my “real” married name, so all that practice was for nothing unless you count the good grade in penmanship.

Most of my beginning masterpieces have disappeared into a black hole (definitely the best place for them), but my mother actually kept one I did when I was about ten and I let it remind me of just how far I have come in learning to write. Notice I said “learning”. For me, writing is fun, but I had to study in order to improve enough to sell. I’m all for continuing education and that goes for writing skills as well as classes needed to stay at the top of the game in any other professional career.

Now I’ll be the first to admit that some writers seem to be born with the ability to put words on the page that describe people, places and things with an eloquence that is a pleasure to read. Others have the kind of brains that grasp sentence structure and parts of speech and can make even poor prose sounds good with just a few tweaks. My hat is off to these folks.

Sad to say, I was not gifted in either of these areas. I have a mind for ideas, the ability to write children well and to write strong arguments between my hero and heroine, but when it comes to spelling, I have to rely heavily on Spell Check and when it comes to grammar, I rely on my husband, critique partner or editor.

So, do you have to have a degree in English Literature, grammar or education in order to write a book? No. In order to sell one? Thankfully, no.

First of all, what you need is a good idea for a story and then the determination to get it down on paper. An unwritten or unfinished story can’t be edited and sold. When every excuse in the world rears up to gobble your time and keep you from your computer, train your mind to recognize the little devils and send them packing…without a Trick or Treat goodie. (Hey, I had to stay on theme, right?)

My road to publication was paved with ghouls and goblins, also known as rejection letters. In fact there were so many of them that I could have easily allowed the demons of “I’ll never be published” to convince me that getting yet another rejection letter meant that I had again failed and that I would never succeed; I’d never reach my dream of signing my name in a book that had my name on the cover. To quit might have been easier than fighting the demons, but the stories in my brain would have persisted and I would have been miserable.

Instead, I kept trying and eventually I sent The Diplomatic Tutor to Avalon Books and met with success. Am I through with rejection letters? Of course not! Just know that each rejection letter is a brick in the foundation of your writing career and keep building that foundation, one brick at a time, until the structure is complete and your name is printed on the front cover of your book.

Are rejection letters one of the things that go bump in the night for you? Or maybe it’s the synopsis or the query. (I can certainly empathize with that one).

If you’re not a writer and instead love to curl up with a good book on a stormy winter evening, tell us about your favorite scary story and you will be eligible to win a free copy of my first publication, The Diplomatic Tutor.

Please visit me at:

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Taking a Machete to your WIP

By Ana Aragón

Got your attention, didn't I?

Well, the editor who sent me a six page revision letter after having my manuscript dropped on her desk sure got mine. After flying through her letter I tossed it into the trash and stormed out of the house to drown my sorrows in a cup of chai tea at my local Starbucks.

What did she know? After all, my original editor LOVED the premise of my story and had approved the delightful prologue and first three chapters of my "baseball, secret baby, shotgun wedding" story. This particular editor suggested I get rid of the prologue and start my book with Chapter 3.

Chapter 3? What? Get rid of that lovely prose and witty dialogue between my hero and heroine? Start my book in HER POV?

What the.....?

Well, it took me one year to get over it and I finally decided to pitch the story as a long contemporary series book to another publisher. So when the editor I pitched to asked me to send the full manuscript, I knew what I had to do...yeah, get rid of the prologue and start the book with Chapter 3. If you need to get rid of 20,000 words, that's a good place to start!

So I took my machete to the manuscript and here's a snippet of the opening scene. I've got to say, it does seem to get to the heart of the story.

Oh, and that wonderful prologue? You just might find it later this month, buried somewhere in the PFHT Treasure Hunt!


On a frigid, wet Christmas Eve, Nikki Logan’s carefully constructed, secret life came apart at the seams. It wasn’t pretty.

She maneuvered through the semi-closed door and pushed Dominic Moretti back through the festive entry before anyone could see him, slamming shut the door behind her. Christmas Eve in Logan Springs, Georgia meant food, and lots of it. Family and friends had just started to fill their plates, so she was guaranteed at least ten minutes before they realized she was missing.

Her heart beat faster than a Major league fastball in July. “What the hell do you think you’re doing here?” she hissed.

“Has anyone ever told you that you have anger issues?” Dominic’s sultry voice and bedroom brown eyes added an extra layer of goose bumps to her quickly-freezing arms. He leaned in and gave her a sweet peck on the cheek. “Merry Christmas, cara.”
She broke into a cold sweat while scenarios of how she was going to get out of this mess raced through her mind. It was a shame the only plausible one was pushing Dominic off a familiar bridge and into the Chattahoochee River. Sadly, it was a good two-mile hike through the sleet in ridiculously high heels, which she’d agreed to wear tonight against her better judgment.
Maybe she could coax him into her truck.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Why EQ Is More Important Than IQ

by J Perry Stone

To begin, there is no question intellectual ability is necessary when navigating the long road to published authorhood. I maintain, however, that a writer needs more EQ than IQ, especially if she ever hopes for a truly rewarding career.

Emotional Quotient (EQ): the measure of a person's adequacy in such areas as empathy and in dealing sensitively with other people.

To paraphrase, EQ is pretty much about other people while IQ is more about you.

I cannot tell you how many times I’ve heard authors discussing how solitary the life of a writer is. I picture them holed up in their offices, tapping away at their keyboards, with nothing but their characters and a can of coke for company.

Oh to be the brilliant scribe with so much genius fueling the noble craft.

So much talent and intelligence.

… so much opportunity to develop social ineptitude.

When I think about it, I'm not convinced writing is very solitary because EQ must come into play on so many different levels. Even before an author can bang out a scene, she must observe interaction around her and participate in it if she ever has a hope of expressing genuine emotion through her words. As she’s arranging such words, she must always consider those reading them if she has the smallest chance of holding their attention.

Beyond the book, an author must network. EQ is a must as she may be required to work with agents, editors and marketing departments filled with personalities that don’t necessarily meld with her own. She must consider other people’s feelings, be aware when work-loads threaten civility, have a sense when she may be asking too much. She must bear in mind the needs of her family, friends and writing partners. Lastly, especially in the age of internet, an author must connect with her audience on some personal level via a bevy of electronic avenues if she intends to build loyal readership.

All of this is possible with EQ because it’s all about considering others. EQ flips a switch in our minds, focusing our attentions outward instead of inward. It even helps to buoy creativity as thinking about writing for others extricates you from the quagmire of self-criticism. This, by the way, makes for higher productivity.

EQ even has the power to transform negative experiences into positive ones. Knowing how to respond to criticism while considering the person giving it is a function of high EQ.

As for my own experience with IQ vs. EQ, I’ve actually stopped buying a writer’s books because she belittled readers then insulted others who stood up for them. And there was no question. She certainly had plenty of IQ (going so far as to post the education portion of her resume on her “about author” page), but she came across so superior and arrogant in her website blogs, I had serious questions concerning her EQ. Don't get me wrong. I fully admit she is still a talented word-smith, but that simply is not enough. I cannot bring myself to subsidize her career when there are so many talented and kind authors to support.

Now turn the tables. If, as aspiring authors, we fail to develop our EQ--our sensitivity to readers--such readers will have similar say in our careers.

In the end, EQ is about relationships and I don’t know of one area in life where valuing relationships is not of utmost importance. IQ will certainly help us with our writing endeavors, but it is EQ that determines our staying power, as well as our contentedness.

So how about you? Do you think EQ is more important than IQ? Have any examples to share? How does EQ affect your writing?

In keeping with our spooky theme this month, consider this terrifying scenario: the EQ-challenged writer/boss/neighbor/relative.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Posterity: Why Do We Write?

By Marilyn Baron

I just finished reading The Angel’s Game, by Carlos Ruiz Zafón, author of one of my favorite books, The Shadow of the Wind. The first paragraph really grabbed my attention and made me think about why I write.

“A writer never forgets the first time he accepted a few coins or a word of praise in exchange for a story. He will never forget the sweet poison of vanity in his blood and the belief that, if he succeeds in not letting anyone discover his lack of talent, the dream of literature will provide him with a roof over his head, a hot meal at the end of the day, and what he covets the most: his name printed on a miserable piece of paper that surely will outlive him. A writer is condemned to remember that moment, because from then on he is doomed and his soul has a price.”

What does it for me, I think, is the promise of getting my name printed on that “miserable piece of paper that surely will outlive (me).” I’ve always dreamed of having my name on a book at the bookstore and in the library. It’s not the money, not the fame, but the fact that something I’ve written will survive for posterity. Maybe that’s the same reason we procreate, so a part of us will live on after we’re gone.

At age 11, one of my poems, The Spider Web, was published in Highlights, the magazine I read as a child in the dentist’s office. And my fourth grade teacher read my first “book” to the class in installments during the lunch break. It was called “East West Island,” and the characters were all kids in my class. That fourth grade teacher, Ralph Provisero, encouraged me to write, and before he died he sent me a letter saying he knew I would one day be a successful writer. Maybe I write for him, maybe I write for my parents who always supported my desire to write. My father always wanted to be a writer and I’d like to be a success for him. Maybe I write for myself. I suspect it’s a combination of reasons.

But that first paragraph in The Angel’s Game spoke to me and I think it rings true.

Another great book I just read, Special Topics in Calamity Physics, by Marisha Pessl, begins with these words: “Dad always said a person must have a magnificent reason for writing out his or her Life Story and expecting anyone to read it.”

Whether or not you write your Life Story or just a story, it must be compelling if it is going to fly off the shelves on its way to bestsellerdom.

I would be satisfied to write a book that speaks to someone. A book containing language a reader would marvel over, quote, think about and recommend to a friend.

Then once your novel makes it to the bookstore, the reader has another dilemma. What book should they choose out of the vast selection offered?

Too many choices: What ever happened to plain old orange juice?

That brings to mind something that happened to me in Publix the other day when I went shopping for a carton of orange juice. Just plain orange juice. I soon discovered there was no such thing as plain old orange juice. There were countless brands and within brands countless choices. Too many choices.

There was Orange Juice With Lots of Pulp (Grovestand). Some Pulp. No Pulp. Low Acid. Calcium D. Pure Premium. Heart Health With Omega-3. Antioxidant Advantage. Healthy Kids. And the list goes on.

It’s the same when you walk into any bookstore. There are just too many choices. What will make your novel stand out and encourage the consumer to choose your book?

What about you? When did you get that “sweet poison of vanity in your blood?” Why do you write? What do you think will make your work in progress stand out and encourage the consumer to pick it up?

Monday, October 12, 2009

Oh Reader, Where Art Thou

I know some you of have the same little problem I do.

No, I’m not talking about hemorrhoids, vaginal dryness or anything else the doctor has a tri-fold color brochure for. You oh-so-clandestinely slip those puppies in your purse. Then, when you’re in Walmart, grubbing for your wallet to pay for that pallet-load of groceries, it flutters to the floor and lands at the feet of the one and only hell-fire hot Greek god who’ll ever be in line behind you. Being a gentleman, he bends to pick it up. Never mind that you’re diving after it like a hawk to the kill. He still gets to it first. You have to endure the moment when he reads “So, you have vaginal dryness.” He looks like he just picked up something that says, “Touching this brochure will make your wiener discolor and shrivel up like a really old banana.” When he gives it to you, a bizarre physiological transference takes place – kind of like shapeshifting. He sees you as the really old banana. You hang your head, stuff the brochure back in your purse, and know that you will never, ever have an intimate conversation over a glass of pinot with hell-fire hot Greek god guy. And, he won’t offer to do something about your “problem.”

I am talking about something equally as dreadful, though. You’re pitching your novel to an editor or agent, in person or in a query, and have to say which shelf your book goes on in Books-A-Bazillion. It’s a legitimate question. You want your book where its readers will be looking. Too, some agents only sell certain kinds of books. Editors definitely sell certain kinds of books. But your book is “bi.” It could sit on two shelves. “Well, ideally,” you evasively say to the agent,”it would have its own big shelf right where you walk into the bookstore, then another one by the coffee counter. I just know I could sell to the caffeine clan. They’re my people – legally indulging in a slightly mood-altering drug.”

The agent or editor looks at you like your manuscript title is “So, You Have Vaginal Dryness.” If the agent’s a woman, she raises an eyebrow. If it’s a man, you’re in the dead banana zone.

Seriously, I’m selling a book that certainly has a huge romance at its heart and a HEA, but it’s post-apocalyptic, has a supernatural creature as the villain, but no magic, trolls, elves or dwarfs like a fantasy (swords, but no sorcery). So, it’s kind of paranormal, with a level of world-building you’d want in a paranormal, but the setting isn’t your typical paranormal (castles and fortresses, but no vampires, werewolves or shapeshifters). To make matters more complicated, people who’ve read it said it feels like you’d find it over in literature. I take that as a compliment, but it doesn’t make it easier to sell. My name isn’t Margaret Atwood. Did I mention it’s 130,000 words? A disastrous length for romance. A delightful length for fantasy.

I’m making this too complicated. The book could go in either section depending on marketing. Maybe I’ll follow the tack of a published author whose query letter I found online. She was in a similar quandary. She just called her work a novel and let the query speak. It worked!

I’m curious how other people are handling this. I know some of you P4HTs have the same little problem, but in different permutations.

When we get this hashed out, I’ll make the brochure. “Oh Reader, Where Art Thou? – or -- So, You Have Shelving Syndrome.”

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Love is kind of crazy with a spooky little blog like ours

Is October giving you the shivers yet? Tune in next week for more scary fun with PF&HT!

Monday, October 12: Anna StefflOh, Reader Where Art Thou?
Tuesday, October 13: Marilyn BaronPosterity: Why Do We Write?
Wednesday, October 14: J Perry Stone - Why EQ is more important than IQ
Thursday, October 15: Ana AragonTaking a Machete to Your WIP
Friday, October 16: Guest Chef: Sandra Elzie - Things That Go Bump in the Night

Saturday, October 10, 2009

The Saturday Review

Title: Whispered Lies – A Bad Agency Novel

Authors: Sherrilyn Kenyon and Dianna Love

Publisher: Pocket Books
Genre: Romantic Suspense
ISBN 1-4165-97425

Bureau of American Defense operative, Carlos Delgado, has a job to do; bring in a mysterious informant known as Mirage. When the informant doesn’t fit into any mold he had imagined, Carlos finds himself putting more than just his life on the line to keep her alive.

Gabrielle Saxe has been hiding from a killer for more than a decade; all the while, searching for those responsible for her mother’s death. During that time, she’s used her high IQ and exceptional computer skills to aid agencies around the world by sending anonymous messages to help track down international criminals. When she receives a cryptic message from a friend who is suppose to be dead, she can’t help but put her identity on the line to unravel this new secret. Her inquiry makes her a target for more than the killer she’s alluded this long. Now she’s on the run from multiple agencies who want to know how she’s discovering their secrets.

Whispered Lies is incredible! I’m serious when I tell you I was exhausted when I finally read the last page of this book. Sherrilyn Kenyon and Dianna Love did a stupendous job of creating a whirlwind adventure that is a life and death race to find the bad guys before they kill our hero and heroine. Whispered Lies is filled with computer hacking, espionage, grenade launchers, hellish torture and a helicopter vs Jeep chase scenes; all wrapped around a love story that barely has a chance of surviving. This book literally has it all. I was on the edge of my seat as Carlos and Gabrielle raced the clock to untangle the clues to some missing teens as they stayed one step ahead of a secret organization that would stop at nothing to keep the world from discovering who they are. Their love story is touching and believable. I got chills when Kenyon and Love described the tenderness in Carlos’s touch when he was trying to convince the killers that Gabrielle was his girlfriend and not the informant they were looking for.

If you want a high-stakes, fast-paced read that leaves you fulfilled (and exhausted) in the end, Whispered Lies is the book for you. Carlos and Gabrielle’s story is just one part of the BAD Agency series. I was thrilled to see characters from previous stories and enjoyed the update on what was happening in their lives. Of course, I couldn’t stop myself from trying to guess which ones will eventually get their own HEA. This was a GREAT read, but now I’m left waiting on the edge of my seat for Kenyon and Love’s next BAD Agency release.

Reviewed by: Tami Brothers
Rating(s): 5 Petit Fours and 4 Hot Tamales (Hot!)
(I actually met both Dianna Love (top picture with Annie Oortman) and then Sherrilyn Kenyon (bottom picture) at the M&M Writing Conference this past weekend. Both are AWESOME!!!)