owl in winter

owl in winter

Friday, December 19, 2014

The Heckmasters, Book 2 - Release Date April 7, 2015!

Here is the second volume of The Heckmaster series, written by my friend and fellow Ozarks Romance Auithors member, Allison Merritt. Allison is a prolific writer, with an amazing talent for the written word. This volume will be released April 7, 2015 - Read on. 

If love can’t save them, there will be hell to pay.
Grateful for his mother’s human blood that cools the dark fire of his demon father, Eban Heckmaster has set up a medical practice in New Mexico territory. But there’s no hope of living a normal life until he rids himself of a seductive demon that’s been pursuing him.

Vanquishing it won’t be as simple as sharpening his demon-hunting sword. The clever creature is hiding inside his best friend’s head, and she has no idea of the havoc she’s been wreaking, especially with his body.

Beryl suspects Eban knows why she’s been waking up with no memory of where she’s been or what she’s done, but he’s not talking. But when she inevitably learns what he’s hiding—or rather, what’s hiding inside her—she wonders if her love for him is real, or an illusion created by the demon’s lust.

Eban is losing the battle to hold his rising desire in check. There may be only one way to extricate Beryl from the beast entangling her mind. Call upon his demon blood...and offer it as a sacrifice.

Warning: Contains a half-human, half-demon doctor who can heal anyone except himself, and a woman who’d blush if she could remember the sensuous torture she’s been inflicting on him. Could make you wonder if you should start listening to the voices in your head...

About the Author:

A love of reading inspired Allison Merritt to pursue her dream of becoming an author who writes historical, paranormal and fantasy romances, often combining the sub-genres. She lives in a small town in the Ozark Mountains with her husband and dogs. When she's not writing or reading, she hikes in national parks and conservation areas.

Allison graduated from College of the Ozarks in Point Lookout, Missouri with a B.A. in mass communications that's gathering dust after it was determined that she's better at writing fluff than hard news.

Social media links:

Read the first book in the series: Wystan (The Heckmasters)
Buy links:
Samhain - http://store.samhainpublishing.com/wystan-p-73651.html
Amazon - http://amzn.com/B00L501TJK
B&N - http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/wystan-allison-merritt/1119847207?ean=9781619222892

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or the link:


Saturday, November 29, 2014

Release Date!

I am happy to announce the release of my contemporary women's fiction novel, The Discovery of Joy, will be February 2, 2015! You will be able to find it on amazon.com and bn.com.

Releasing my baby to fly free is a thrilling and frightening process, not to mention a little astounding. How did I come so far? I'm torn between a feeling of buyer's remorse (is it good enough? Will everyone hate it?) and wanting to jump up and down shrieking, "Yes!" not to mention grabbing complete strangers by the shoulders shouting, "I have a book! A published book!"

I'm also grateful. I tried doing this, the publishing process, before I was ready and certainly before the book was ready. Obviously, I met outstanding failure. When I allowed people into my life, people who didn't feel the same bond with my book as I did, the book began to change. And I began to change as well. For one thing, I stopped rushing about trying to arrange every detail and keep control. I started listening to advice from people who've been around a little bit and know more than me. What evolved from that? Well, here it is; look at the photo.


Thank you to Rebecca T. Dickson, my editor. Thank you for demanding that I see farther than my fingertips on the keyboard. Thank you to my beta readers, Ellen Harger, and Sharon Kizziah-Holmes and an unknown friend of Sharon. Thank you to my cover artist, Niki Bradley-Fowler. Thank you Paperback-Press for taking this project on.

So, on or after February 2, 2015, should you feel like reading a book about women, about love and betrayal, heartache, food, personal growth and the discovery of joy, please order my book. I hope you like it.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

January 3, 2015 Mega Write-In and Critique

Hey folks - just a quick note to let you know the link is up and available for pre-registration for this event. Please go to:  www.ozarks-romance-authors.com and you will find the link to the Mega Write-In and Critique.
You can also find the link on my Events page.

All genres and skill sets are welcome - we'd love to see you there!

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Cover Reveal - One Step Closer

It's becoming more a reality now.

Here it is, my thoughts, my dreams, my hopes, everything I've ever thought about being, and it has a gateway, a cover. Wow.

I've always been interested in the concepts of re-inventing one's self, and personal redemption, not necessarily on a spiritual level, coming into a place of growth. Personal growth, to me at least, brings joy, a completion of sorts.

In this book, I've given you three main characters. Each woman is at a crossroad in her life, each must face her challenges and overcome the challenges life throws in her path, to come to a place of joy. I'm also serving up some food goodies here and there; cinnamon rolls, chicken and pasta, and a nice turkey-blue cheese-pear sandwich for the tummy's sake.

We're one step closer to publication but not quite there yet. Look for me after January 1st - I don't have a set-in-stone release date but once I do, I'll be sure and let you know.

Cover art by Niki Bradley-Fowler.
Publisher: Paperback-Press.

Sunday, September 28, 2014

ORACon 2014

 ORACon 2014 is behind us now and we're looking ahead to our 2015 conference. Look at all those smiling faces. We were having fun, y'all!

I first attended ORA's conference in 2013 and I thought it was good but I believe this year surpassed last year. Our speakers this year included Leigh Michaels, Liz Pelleteir, Nicole Resciniti, Mia Marlowe, Tish Beaty and Holly Atkinson. Our conference volunteers worked tirelessly for a year to make this happen, never losing sight of the ultimate goal, which was to educate, inform and assist fellow writers.

The workshops were tremendous. Leigh Michaels spoke on fighting the battle to sell to and work with traditional publishers and what the author needs to think about before taking the plunge and going with self-publishing.

Mia Marlowe held a Red Pencil Thursday on Saturday - 500 words to hook an editor. Talk about a challenge!

Angie Fox spoke on the seven key elements of plot. Every burgeoning writer needs to know this.

Agent Nicole Resciniti (the Seymour Agency) spoke on the difference between selling and slushing; in other words, good versus great.

And finally, Liz Pelleteir of Entangled Publishing, spoke on How to Edit a Best Seller.

Plus, we held pitches with editors and agents. Headshots were taken by appointment by Sharon Keeling-Davis. Awards were handed out for the Weta Nichols Contest. And there was lots of food!

Truly an amazing event. We're already looking to next year's conference and how we can make it better than this year.

So, if you're interested in a modestly priced, action-packed one-day conference in the heart of the Ozarks, consider ORACon 2015. We'll be posting details on our webpage: www,ozarks-romance-authors,com. Traditionally, we host the conference the 3rd weekend in September, so put that reminder on your calendar, in your phone, on a sticky note on your refigerator. You will be glad you did.

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Developing Your Characters

Yesterday, August 23, Jan Morrill, author of The Red Kimono, spoke to the Springfield Writers' Guild about interviewing your characters. Jan brought a list of potential questions you could ask of a character and she asked us to choose one, as an exercise, and write something about that question.

I chose a question about anger. Anger is a powerful force, a strong emotion, that causes us to act or react in sometimes self-revealing ways.

And I've had a story simmering in the back of my mind for sometime, a sisters story. Whether or not I'll ever be able to write it is a question mark - I foresee me curled up on the couch with a box of kleenex and a gallon of chocolate genache ice cream, tears rolling down my face should I open the door and face it.

But, at any rate, I took the question on anger and I visualized two sisters with different lives. They're having a conversation the day they bury their mother. The reaction to "why are you so angry?" would go something like this:

"Why am I angry? I stayed here, took care of Mom and Dad and you come waltzing back in here like nothing ever changed, waving your 'I'm the oldest' flag, and now you act like you're so entitled. I'm angry with you, India. You look down on us, you think you're better with your fancy vehicle and your designer sunglasses. I'm angry with the way you make me feel. I'm angry with how I feel about you. And I'm mostly angry my life didn't turn out as pretty as yours."

Interesting. I knew the second sister was angry and resentful toward the older sister for leaving the hometown and making a life somewhere else, and I knew the second sister believed the older sister looked down on her for her life choices but I didn't realize until it spilled out, the second sister was angry because at the hue her life took when she made the choices she did.

This exercise reminded me again how important it is to give your characters depth and layers. Interviewing, asking them questions, brings ideas not known before, to the surface. It's an astonishing thing,  how the words fly from your fingertips when you let your character reveal to you what their true motives and intentions are. These revelations bring a richer, deeper dimension to your writing.

Try it. Your characters won't fail you, trust me.

Jan Morrill is the author of The Red Kimono, Doll in the Red Kimono, and Life; Haiku by Haiku. She lives in Dallas, Texas. Photo is courtesy of Jan Morrill.

Monday, July 28, 2014

Working with an Editor - Do You Need One?

I recently hired an editor to work with me on my women’s fiction novel. It was an important decision in my hopeful career as an author and an important investment in me.

Some years ago I was all agog over Nicholas Sparks books. Yes, I know, communal gag now and we’ll move on. I read Nicholas Sparks like the world was on fire. And after awhile, I don’t remember which Nicholas Sparks missive it was, but I put the book down upon finishing and said, I could write that. In fact, I could write that better than that. 

We all know the story of Nicholas Sparks – he hit it out of the park with mega-agent Theresa Parks and she made him a celebrity and she’s got no worries now, she takes his work and it’s published and everybody’s a millionaire and they're dancing with glee. I said, I could be that guy.

And so I started writing. And I kept reading. Eventually, I became acquainted with Barbara Samuel, an author out of Colorado Springs, and took writing classes from her. And I wrote my great American novel, and I rewrote and I polished and I edited and I said, it’s done. Time to query. I’d done my homework and that’s what you do next, right? My naivete had no bounds. I queried agents who were looking for what I was writing. I queried 70 times. And I got 69 either outright rejections or no response, which is the same thing, and one “maybe.” The maybe didn’t pan out and querying before my project was polished wasn't getting me any closer to outrunning Nicholas Sparks.

Numb, I put my manuscript away for years. I wrote other things but my brain and my heart kept going back to that one manuscript. I brushed the dust off on January 1, 2013, read through it again and set it down. Oh my. All I ever wanted to be is a published author, a good one – a Nicholas Sparks success story. I learned enough by that point to know something was wrong and my book wouldn't be published in its present state.

I asked a couple of friends to read it and give me some feedback as to where I was going wrong. One of my friends, a fellow ORA member (I read and reviewed her novel for her) came back and said, “The story is there but, you’ve gone as far as you can with your friends. You need a professional here.” On a whim, she sent five pages to her editor, who promptly sent them back complete with redline and comments. A little fire lit in me. My feet got set on a path. My friend gave me good recommendations on her editor and after researching the gal and thinking about it for a while, and gathering the funds together to pay her, I reached out to Rebecca T. Dickinson, Rebecca T. Dickson Agency, out of New Hampshire, and as they say, the rest is history. We work very well together – she refines my words without taking my voice away. Becky's the polish, the “why?” and the “explain this, say what you bloody well mean.”  She provokes me, she makes me dig and she makes me be transparent. She makes me see the bigger picture.

So why hire an editor in the first place? Simple. You are too close to your words – you are not objective. You need an unbiased eye to review your work, and tell you in plain terms where you’re screwing up. I told a friend I’d hired an editor and she said, “I don’t think I could take anybody messing with my words.” Classic mistake. Check your ego at the door. You hired a professional, which you are not, and the professional is going to mess with your words. And, quite honestly, if you can’t be edited, the hope of being published by any traditional means is nil. If you publish on your own, the results may be dismal at best. Listen, even Stephen King has an editor, actually, a whole line of them. Nobody's above it, in other words.

Be aware. Editors are expensive. You’re going to pay for their services. Some charge, as mine does, by the word, others charge by the page. However you go about it, you will pay for the service. As I mentioned earlier, I made a clear investment in me, in what I want in my life.

Will an editor baby you around and kiss your butt and let you languish in writers’ junior high? Not so much, no. That is not what an editor is there to do. I remember early on working with Becky, she asked me about the way I was labeling my chapters because I was using the character’s name, along with the date of whatever day this new thing was happening. I thought the technique was so clever and I wasn't sure how to respond the first time she asked me about it and so I went selectively deaf for a moment. I really liked it the way it was. Then she asked the second time and I quite graciously explained that this was my more creative way of labeling chapters, much more original than chapter 1, 2 and so forth. I made my case. She responded with one word – “Nope.” NOPE???? Seriously? But, I'm so clever! I let myself fume for a minute or two and then, I read her suggestion and I realized, she’s right. This is exactly what she's here to do - help me. I haven’t always immediately agreed with some of her edits but I’ll tell you in all honesty, when I go back in and read the sentence the way she’s reconstructed it, I say, yeah, that’s better, that’s polished, that’s right. I have had no issues with her messing with my words, so to speak.

So, are you brave enough to seek out an editor? There may be some people available in your area, particularly if you're part of a writing group. Otherwise, check out WritersDigest.com, kirkus reviews, and predatorsandeditors.com. 

Be prepared for the journey of your life, the investment in YOU.

Friday, June 27, 2014

Caught Between Two Curses by Margo L. Dill

Hello All! I'm pleased to have novelist Margo L. Dill on my blog today. Her YA novel, Caught Between Two Curses, is available now. Here is my review of her book:

Caught Between Two Curses is a refreshing young adult novel, perfect for baseball season, perfect for a summer read. It's a fast-moving smart story of 17 yr old Julie, an orphan, who lives with her aunt Lizzie and uncle Henry, and their young son, Stevie. Julie's parents were killed in a fire before her father's 35th birthday. As a matter of fact, the men married to women in Julie's bloodline tend to die before they're 35, due to a curse put on the family by a jilted lover years ago. Julie should be at the top of her game - she has the cutest boyfriend in school, Gus, and her best friend in the whole world, Matt, by her side. Unfortunately, Gus is pressuring Julie for sex, something she's not ready for yet and, at any rate, isn't ready for sex with him in particular. And then there's Matt, who becoming closer and closer to her all the time. However, when Julie's uncle Henry is struck down first by a bad hot dog at a Cards/Cubs game, and then is taken down by a stroke, Julie learns of the family curse from her aunt Lizzie. Uncle Henry will turn 35 in a few months, so Julie has a limited window to figure out how to break the curse. Uncle Henry is a baseball enthusiast, he loves the Cards and the Cubs but the Cubs are also suffering under a curse. They''ve never won a world series, always the bridesmaid but never the bride. Can Julie break the curse on her family and save uncle Henry and in doing so, release the Cubs from their curse? It's a race against time as Julie attempts over and over again to break the curse until one perfect play in a perfect baseball game. 

Here is my interview with Margo:

Margo, tell me how Caught Between Two Curses came to be - were you inspired by baseball? You're a Cardinals fan, right?

I am a Cardinals fan, but I have to admit I like the Cubs, too.  I get this from my dad--he loves all baseball, and has always had a soft spot in his heart for the Cubs. This is unusual--most Cards fans do not love the Cubs. As for the story idea. . .Two news stories in 2003 finally inspired me to explore a question I had always wondered: why do some people survive accidents or tragedies and others don’t? Are the survivors supposed to DO SOMETHING before they die? The two news stories were when Steve Bartman interfered with a foul ball at a Chicago Cubs playoff game, and everyone blamed him for the Cubs not making it in the World Series. I thought, It’s not Steve Bartman’s fault (of course); The Curse of the Billy Goat strikes again. The second story was about a little girl who had survived a car crash where her parents died. She was actually in the car for a few days before the police found her, and she ate snacks from her diaper bag. So I created 17-year-old Julie whose parents both died under mysterious circumstances in a fire when she was three. When the novel opens, Julie thinks her only problem is that her boyfriend wants to have sex, when she’s not ready. But it turns out she seems to be the one in her family destined to break two curses that are killing her loved ones. 

Your main character, Julie, seems wise beyond her years - is she based on a real person? 

That's nice of you to say about Julie! :) She is not based on anyone real, although a bit of me as a teenager is definitely in Julie. I wanted to create a quirky character who was cute and fairly popular and struggled with dating and her future. SO, I hope I was able to do that in this novel. 

What is your writing process?

Well, I seem to change all the time, based on my life experiences, but so far, with the two novels I've had published (Caught Between Two Curses and Finding My Place), I write a draft and have it critiqued by peers, while writing it, then I go back and revise. Then I usually send it to publishers too soon and receive rejections, so then I revise some more. I don't write every day on my WIP--sometimes I will go weeks without working on it, but I usually have a good sum of it finished before I take a break. I've also attempted NANOWRIMO--and I liked the process. I haven't finished, but I had more words down on paper than I would have without trying it. 

Tell me a little bit about your writing background. 

I started writing and trying to get published in 1999 or so, when I was taking a correspondence course on children's writing. Then I joined a critique group and they talked me into trying things besides just writing for kids--essays, short stories, articles--and I started to get published in both fiction for kids and adult nonfiction, and I loved it. SO, I had quite a few magazine and newspaper publications before I started my own editing and writing coaching business in 2006 AND before I got my first novel published (Finding My Place) in 2012. Currently, I teach online classes for WOW! Women On Writing where I also blog and edit, write book reviews for a newspaper, do a lot of freelance editing and writing coaching, and write and promote my books. 

I'm not surprised, but I'm pleased by whom Julie ends up with at the end of the novel.Was that the plan in the beginning or did it evolve?

It was actually the plan from the beginning! I don't really outline my novels, but I do know a basic plot line and where I'm going toward the ending when I am writing. A lot of things changed during the writing--how to break the curse, why Grandma was never able to before, how much of a jerk Gus was--but Julie's love interest at the end never changed. 
6. What is your next project?

I am working on two novels right now--one is REALLY close to being finished and is a middle-grade novel about a super sleuth who has his own trophy stolen and this is one mystery he can't seem to figure out. He's blinded by sibling rivalry.  I have a draft started of another YA--but it's not close to being done. It's about two guys in high school--one popular, one not so much--and what happens in their lives AFTER a community shooting in a local pharmacy. Both of their fathers are killed--one dad was the shooter, and the other a cop. 

I see that you're published through Rocking Horse Publishing - what type of material do they take? Are they looking for new authors?

Rocking Horse Publishing is a small, wonderful press that takes a lot of different types of books--mostly fiction, but they do consider some non-fiction. They publish children's, young adult, and adult as well as genre novels--sci-fi, mystery, romance. They are currently accepting submissions. You can check out the guidelines here: Submissions

Find out more at http://margodill.com/blog/

Please send an email that includes one sample of a sketch, attached as a .jpg, as well as your rates.
Preview by Yahoo

Monday, June 9, 2014

Big Announcement!

Release the pigeons, alert the news media, here it comes folks. I'm gleefully rubbing my hands together, eager to share my news. 

Okay, so we'll go without a drum roll but...

I hired an editor. I hired a professional editor to work with me on my women’s fiction manuscript, the baby I've incubated for years and years.

What’s the big deal, you ask? First thing, it means I’m taking myself seriously as a writer, not fooling around with this “l’il hobby” anymore. It means I’m standing up and owning the life I want. It means I mean it.

Her name is Becky and she lives in New England. Becky is a puller – meaning, she asks tough questions and she makes me answer them. She’s forcing me to reach deep down and clear out everything that makes no sense in an effort to get to the gem lying at the bottom of the dark well. And she swears. A lot. I'm looking forward to working with her.

So, I jumped in with both feet. It would be so much easier to scurry back into the closet and slam the door behind me and not try. But I can't do that. If I'm going to be a credible writer, the time is now. Point is, if I can do it, so can you.

What's holding you back?

Sunday, May 18, 2014


Sunday morning's come around again and here I am, crouched in front of my computer screen, eeking out words to speak to you.

We're writers, and as members of that fragile but strong as a strand of hair, we support one another in any way we can. Some time ago, I mentioned I'd given my women's fiction manuscript to a trusted friend for review and feedback. Doing that was an unusual (and brave) step for me. I don't put myself out there very often, not out of arrogance, but more out of fear.

What if it's too terrible to talk about? What if she rolled her eyes on every page? What if I've fallen into the traps that I so often tell other writers not to slip into - cliches, trite language, telling instead of showing? What if I'm simply not good enough to call myself a writer? Being naked and vulnerable is not something I do well. Being a Cancer, I tend to cover the mush up with armor and carry on as if the world weren't crumbling around me, all the while the mush is sloshing around inside. It was a hard three or four weeks waiting for word.

My friend came back to me with her comments. She also asked her editor to review the first five pages. Both of them said the same thing, independent of each other - needs a hook. There must be a reason for the reader to read on. The editor said she suspected something juicier was coming later on but as yet, she wasn't sure what it would be.

The hook, the compelling reason for the story. What will bring the reader into your world. I thought about it as I vacuumed, I pondered in the shower, driving to work, rehearsing words and thoughts over and over again until it might magically appear. I took my first character, Julie, down to the studs, made her talk to me. It's not there yet but I'm working on it.

Feedback is essential for a writer. The feedback I received from my friend and her editor was mindful that there is a person behind the words on the page. They're both pretty no nonsense but not without heart, and that was helpful for me.

How do you hook your reader? Do you ask a question? Do you make a compelling statement? What are your thoughts on the hook?

Sunday, May 4, 2014

The Best Part of the Day

Another lovely spring morning arrives in the Ozarks. It's Sunday and the house is quiet, except for the clickety-clack of Ella's nails as she trots across the wood floors. No tv, no radio, not even the sound of a toilet flushing.

This is the best part of Sunday morning for me. Earlier, I took Ella out to do her duty, and I sipped hot coffee as I watched the sun peak through the slates in the wood fence, creeping across the grass in silvery ribbons. The burgeoning scent of honey suckle hung heavy on the air.

A new day, a new promise, new writing possibilities. I'm excited and frightened at the same time to be receiving notes from my beta reader, the only other women's fiction author in my romance writing group. Having looked forward to this for a while now, biting my nails and making up all kinds of possibilities of what she might say (good and bad), I'll be relieved when the word comes.

This manuscript is still the book of my heart, after all the years I've spent formulating it. It's the work I want to see my name on, lying on the New Releases table at Barnes & Noble. I feel strong about it and I hope my beta reader does too.

What are your plans for today?

What's the favorite part of the day for you?

Monday, March 17, 2014

Butternut Squash Ravioli with Sage Cream Sauce

I wanted to post this yesterday (Sunday), but my computer didn't want to upload a photo. As you will see, the photo of my creation is at the bottom of the page. So, here we go, because, It's all about the food.

It's been sleety and cold in the Ozarks today, a good day to stay indoors. Earlier, I spied a box of frozen butternut squash ravioli sitting in my freezer, and I wondered why I hadn't drug it out by now and done something with it. So, here we go. The sauce recipe is virtually the same as on the box but I changed it up just a little bit.

Sage Cream Sauce:

3 TBSP unsalted butter
1/4 cup chopped red onion
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 1/2 teas. dried sage
1 1/2 cups unsalted chicken stock
1 1/3 cup heavy cream
Salt and black pepper to taste
A spritz of red pepper flakes
1/2 cup shredded parmesan cheese
Frozen peas

And of course, the ravioli, cooked. It takes about 6 or 7 minutes on a gentle boil to cook them through but I didn't start until I had the sauce finished.

In a medium sauce pan over medium heat, melt the butter. Saute the red onion til soft, about 4 minutes, add garlic and sauté another minute. Toss in the sage and sauté for about 30 seconds. Combine the chicken stock and heavy cream, stir in, increasing heat to high. Drop parmesan cheese in. Let sauce boil, stirring constantly with a whisk, 7 or 8 minutes, til mixture thickens and reduces by about half. Salt and pepper, toss red pepper flakes in. Add frozen peas and let them cook for 3 or 4 minutes, keeping them firm but not frozen.

Ladle ravioli on plate, pour sauce over and serve.


Monday, March 10, 2014

The All You Can Dream Buffet, and other news.

Good morning, folks. Long time, no see. I'm having a terrific amount of trouble posting from my home computer and have had for about a month. So, today I'm working from a different computer.

"The All You Can Dream Buffet" by Barbara O'Neal, aka Barbara Samuel, arrived on my doorstep on Friday. I have to tell you I've been waiting with bated breath for this newest Barbara novel to come out, for like, a year. It's finally here now, and although I want to romp through it, devouring it in wild, airless gulps, I'm forcing myself to eat slowly, to savor every chapter, to weigh each one when I've finished, and tonight I'm on Chapter 18 and I can hardly wait to get to the next chapter.

To write like Barbara does, with such easy luminousity, such color and voice, that is what I hope to be able to do in my own work. I've taken some flak for writing what is called women's fiction - from people who don't understand what women's fiction is in the first place. And that's sad.

What is women's fiction? Well, it's not genre romance, let's get that out of the way first. Women's fiction can be described as stories about women, now they interact with one another, how they overcome hurdles the great game of life throws their way, how they love (and lose), their strengths, their weaknesses, how their hearts are broken in a million pieces by a husband, a lover, a child. How they overcome the cards they're dealt. It doesn't have to be War and Peace, folks. It just has to be real.

In my own writing life, I have to say, I've been so, so busy this first quarter of 2014. I've been editing and reviewing work for other writers, yes. And I've been receiving royalty checks for the book I co-wrote with Rick East (nice, so validating, so exciting when that check comes in the mail), and I've been working on the manuscript I've been working on for so long, my own women's fiction novel.

Speaking of which, my publisher friend, Sharon Kizziah-Holmes, sent my manuscript to one of her readers for review. I waited, and waited, and waited to hear whether it sucked or what. Didn't hear anything for so long, and I finally decided, it must be so terrible she can't bring herself to say it's terrible. Sitting on pins and needles is not fun, and I sat on those things for over two months. Talked to Sharon in the meantime, she'd heard nothing, and then, finally, her reader came through, just about the time I'd decided I'd better never quit my day job.

Sharon's reader liked it. Thought some parts were a bit slow but once she got engaged, she liked it.

She liked it!!!! She had good things to say, constructive things to say, and I'm digging it. It gives me reason to work harder because, quite frankly, readers are where it's at for all of us. Readers are integral to a writer's progress.

All in all, I'm happy and pleased with this review and I'm working on the comments, to make the book better, stronger, more credible. And I can do this. I got it.

How do you feel about your newest venture? Does it have wings? Can you make it fly? I so hope and pray I can make my book fly - what about you?

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Advice to Writers

With the beginning of a new year, here are some thoughts for us as writers.

1. First drafts are okay. That’s why they’re called “drafts.” Give yourself permission to blow it all out on paper unbridled, and resist the temptation to edit as you go. Editing as you go is a clumsy dance, one that lends itself to stepping on toes and losing one’s partner at the twirl. Once the floodgates open, let the words flow. Clean up comes later.

2. Tell the truth. Don’t pussyfoot around it. One thing that drives me nuts is reading superficial nicey-nicey characters. Let’s face it – people have bad tempers, people swear, people do not always exhibit spotless character and sometimes, don’t even care. Don’t ever censor yourself. Let your character say the bad words, and experience the thrill/shame of bad behavior. And don’t worry about what others will think of what you’ve written. What kind of reading world would we be living in if every character was pearly white? Your story must have tension coming from somewhere, actually everywhere, or it’s a broad yawn.

3. Today is the day you must start, not next week, or after the first of the year. Okay, all you procrastinators out there, stop making excuses and plant butt in chair, apply fingers to keyboard. Simply put, the work will not get done until you do it.

4. Daydream. Absolutely, yes. Daydream much and often. The imagination is where great stories are born, where the wonderful tomes we treasure are nurtured and where they grow.

5. Read. Read everything – read your own genre, read a genre you’ve never read before or one you’ve never enjoyed. Read the classics. I remember reading my dad’s Zane Gray collection when I was something like twelve – typically, I would not pick up a western but I loved those books. I have to force myself to read non-fiction but at times, I do. For me, reading is a “getting away” time and non-fiction is generally matter of fact. While I don’t get that great vacation from life from non-fiction, I find I always learn something that I can relate back to my fiction roots.

6. Don’t bow to the haters. I don’t know why, when an author reaches some level of success, the haters come out to meet and greet. They might shrug at your book, insult the cover, or outrightly diss your work. Maybe they’re ashamed of themselves for not working as hard as you did. No idea, but don’t bow to their negativity. Let them sulk. You go on.

7. Artist Dates. Important. The well does and will go dry and when it does, the well must be replenished. As I’ve said before, take yourself out on an artist date – go to the movies, take your camera out and shoot pictures, try a new restaurant, visit an art gallery, or just go for a walk. You’ll be surprised how seamlessly your brain will bounce back into the world of stories.

8. Critique groups. Allowing others to caress your baby is important too. Now, not everyone is going to love you, believe me. There’s something to be said for developing thick skin. However, constructive comments from people who care about you and care about your future as a writer are essential to your work. Connect with writers’ groups in your area or online. The resources you discover will be tremendously beneficial.

9. Research the craft. The nuts and bolts of spelling, grammar and sentence structure are crucial. Beyond that, study the weightier nuances of writing, such as style, voice, pace. Study the publishing industry standards. You can speak directly to agents and editors now via the internet. Find out what they’re looking for and what they’ll reject. Be knowledgeable. With knowledge comes power and you need both in your writing life.

What advice would you give to writers this year?

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Happy New Year!

Hello All.

I wish for each and every one of you who take the time to stop by my blog, a very happy, healthy, prosperous and joyfilled new year.

I've got plenty to talk about and I promise I'll be back in 2014 to let you all in on it.

Thank you!