Friday, November 28, 2008

Producer Michael Meltzer's Online Class for Screenwriting

Hi Guys,
Here's another great opportunity!!!

Imagine working for 6 weeks with a Producer to hone your script or develop your idea.

Well now you can. Michael Meltzer is teaching online classes at

Michael's 6 week class is limited to a max of 25 students, giving you plenty of opportunity to work closely with him. Not only is he willing to share his years of experience inside the industry, his goal is to offer guidance for creating and developing your idea or screenplay to be ready to submit to Hollywood Agents or Literary Managers.

Imagine working with a producer for 6 weeks for $175.00.

Please visit, create a sign in, then on the left column, click on "teachers" to find Michael's amazing bio.

Currently Zoobody is charging $1 a month to look at or sign up for a class. Michael is looking into that, but I've decided to save you that fee and have posted below exactly what the listing is. When you decide to sign up, at the moment you'll still need to pay that $1.

Teacher: Michael Meltzer
Schedule: mwf
Cost: $175.00
Start Date: January 05th 2009 or January 12th 2009
Students Allowed 25
Weeks: 6
Description: Michael Meltzer succesful Hollywood Producer gives you the inside information and guidance to creating and developing your idea or screenplay to be ready to submit to Hollywood Agents and or Literary Managers.


Wednesday, November 26, 2008

The Five Scribes count their blessings

During the turbulent time we're experiencing in the financial market and publishing industry, I still feel it's ironic my passion for writing is at an all time high. This Thanksgiving, I'm grateful for the gift of imagination, for the timeless love of storytelling and for our wide network of writers, where we can support, rant and communicate. I'm grateful for family, friends and my fellow Scribes. What fun we've had sharing our writing thoughts with all of you. ~ Donnell

Donnell, thank you for starting us off.
When we Scribes started talking about posting what we're thankful for in our lives, I thought it would be easy to list all the things I'm thankful for, my health, my life, my career, my family. Then I realized that was just too generic.

Life is full of bright moments and moments of darkness, of loss, when you think light will never again shine in your life. The darkness eventually is pierced by the love of good friends and family, and you realize the moments with the people you love may be physically fleeting, you hold them forever in your heart. I'm forever thankful for those moments.

And I'm forever thankful and grateful for the love of a good man. The comraderie of my five scribes and my writing mentors. And for my writing. I'm truly thankful that I can write stories that people will hopefully cry over, laugh with, relate to, and leave theatre or finish the book with a little something changed in their lives.

Happy Thanksgiving to all, and remember, count your blessings.


My husband is in Afghanistan now after almost two years of deployment hell, so it's hard to feel thankful for much. No, strike that. It's hard to feel content even though I'm very grateful for the things I do have. My two little boys are happy and healthy. I've had lots of writing successes this year.

Our Constitution rocks the casbah, and I have every faith that the country will begin to recover. I have amazing friends who've really been there for me during the worst of this past year. And best of all, this year is almost over, and I'll be able to see my husband - this time for longer than just two months - in February. So while I'm cranky right now, I have every reason to celebrate. I just might need a glass of wine to help me along. ;) Happy Thanksgiving, y'all, and brightest blessings. -KL

As with the others, I too am lucky that God has blessed me with the usual good fortunes of good health, the love of friends, family and wonderful writing pals, but right now, my four children are the thing I am most thankful for. Being a parent is, hands down, easily, the most difficult, longest, most important, task I've ever undertaken. The stakes are high.

If the publishing world never recognizes my brilliance and I never get published--even after nineteen years (the time it takes to raise a child), it would be very, very sad--but this failure would not be catastrophic. If I fail as a mother . . . now that would be a rejection letter of catastrophic proportions!

But right now, we're on the downside of the majority of the raising. Our oldest is 22 and the baby is 15 years old, and everybody is doing well--very well. Today. We don't know what disaster tomorrow may bring, but today they're all happy, healthy, behaving responsibly, making good choices, and not in jail. So for that, I am supremely grateful!

Happy Thanksgiving all and blessings to you and yours, T.

Blessings? I've had way more than my share. In a time of uncertainty for direction our country needs to take, for disasters that befall so many, for securities no matter where you seek them, I'm humbled by the blessings I count dear in my life.

  1. I'm thankful for a warm house and an income to meet the basic of needs.
  2. I'm thankful for having been a SAHM raising healthy, obnoxious, loving kids that will leave the nest in a few years with a certainty in their hearts that their parents love them.
  3. I'm thankful for a day job that brings joy to my life.
  4. I'm thankful for the opportunity to write stories about hope, life and family, and pray them into the hands that need the message the most.
  5. I'm thankful for my friends that give me the biggest gift ever -- unceasing love and unconditional acceptance.
  6. I'm thankful for my husband. Without him, growing old wouldn't be any fun.
  7. I'm thankful that for all my allergies, which I'm on great meds for, I've NEVER been allergic to chocolate : )
  8. I'm thankful for our United States Military that keeps our country safe.
  9. I'm thankful for our government that respects the rights of our nation's citizens.
  10. I'm thankful my Lord, Jesus Christ loves me.

I'm thankful for way more, but that'll have to wait until next year : )

Happy Thanksgiving everyone!!


Monday, November 24, 2008

The Daphne du Maurier Award for Excellence in Mystery/Suspense


The 2009 Daphne du Maurier Award for Excellence in Mystery/Suspense is going ELECTRONIC for the Unpublished contest and will adhere to the same format as in the past for the Published side. Unpublished Authors, is your entry ready? (15 pages/5000 words with a one page/675 word unjudged synopsis). Four first-round judges, the lowest score dropped for a built-in discrepancy. Published Authors, is your 2008 copyrighted book ready to go up against the best mystery and romantic suspense authors in the business? If so, circle January 15, 2009 on your calendar. Deadline is March 16, 2009. Check out Questions to: Donnell Ann Bell at

Check out our 2009 Slate of Final Round Judges:

Categories & Final Round Judges


Allison Lyons, Harlequin Intrigue & Kevan Lyon Sandra Dykstra Literary Agency


May Chen, Harper Collins/Avon & Kristin Nelson, Nelson Literary Agency


Susan Downs, Barbour Publishing & Joyce Hart, Hartline Literary Agency


Cindy Hwang, Berkley Publishing, Cherry Weiner, Cherry Weiner Literary Agency


Abby Zidle, Pocket Books & Kimberly Whalen, Trident Media Group


Rose Hilliard, St. Martin’s Press & Holly Root, Waxman Literary Agency

Friday, November 21, 2008

Semi-Feral Bunny Slippers and the Best Title EVER: An Interview with Linda Wisdom

Linda Wisdom's first book hit shelves in 1980, and she hasn't taken a break since then. In fact, she's hardly taken a breath.

Linda's newest series, paranormal romances that feature thirteen witches who were kicked out of witch school in 1313, began with I Hex Better in Bunny Slippers, continued with 50 Ways to Hex Your Lover and reached a trilling crescendo with the awesomely-titled Hex Appeal. Naturally, when I saw the name of her new book*, I thought she must be an absolute genius, so I stalked her until she agreed to an interview.

What is your writing kryptonite (e.g. mine is the synopsis – gack!)?

LOL! Same here. I hate writing them because I know the book won’t always turn out the way I wrote a synopsis. Directions change, characters tell me something different is going to happen and so on. I’ve always said I’d rather scrub the bathroom with a tootbrush than write a synopsis.

What is the worst writing advice you have ever received? What’s the best? And what would you relay to pre-published writers?

Worst advice had to do with a mystery proposal I’d written. It would have taken the book in a direction it shouldn’t go and I finally abandoned the book, although I have friends who want me to still write the book, so who knows? Maybe one day I will. The best was to always remember to write to my strengths and I feel that’s what I’ve done. For any pre-published author I’d say to stick with it, to have faith in your project. I’ve had friends who’ve stuck with it for more than ten years before they published.

I read that when you sold your first two books in 1979, your boss fired you. Please explain! What was her justification, and did you put water in her gas tank? ;)

Very true. I worked in a head hunting firm then and not long after I sold my books my boss fired me, more out of jealousy because the company owner was paying me more attention than paying her. She accused me of writing on company time, which was impossible, since I also spent a lot of time in the field, meeting new clients, etc. She hated that I never tried to file for unemployment but about 6 years later my husband ran into her at an industry function and remembered to tell her what I’d told him to say in case he ever ran into her. And that was to thank her for firing me because I wouldn’t be where I was. And payback came in a way that I had nothing to do with, but was absolutely perfect since she learned the hard way she wasn’t as invincible as she thought she was.

How did you come up with the very awesome title (ahem) Hex Appeal?

Actually, my editor came up with the title. Doncha love it ?

Absolutely, I do! It's pure genius. ;) Your degree was in fashion merchandising. Your latest books include Fluff & Puff, the bunny slippers with attitude, and Croc & Delilah, a pair of crocodile stilettos. Do I see a particular obsession of yours here? Any other sentient and fun shoes on their way in this series? How did you come up with such a fun twist on the fashionable shoe trend running rampant in women’s fiction?

I do love shoes. You only have to look in my closet. I haven’t seen any other fun shoes popping up yet, but there will be some others showing up. From the very beginning I visualized Jazz in Fluff and Puff. I could easily see this witch brewing up spells while wearing her bunny slippers that have sharp teeth and eat anything and everything.

Dish! What are you favorite mystery, sci-fi, fantasy, and paranormal novels?

Ooh, so many! I love JA Jance, Linda Fairstein, Elaine Viets, John Sandford and so many for mysteries, Cheryl Brooks, a fellow Sourcebooks author for her sci fi, Yasmine Galenorn for her Sisters of the Moon series, Sherrilyn Kenyon’s Dark Hunter series, Michele Bardsley, Kimberly Raye, Kim Harrison. They’re all must buys for me.

Show and tell time! I hear you have ink. What do you have, where is this fantastic tat, and do you have pictures?

LOL! Yes, Fluff and Puff are tattooed on the outside of my right ankle. There’s a picture of them on my MySpace and I’m thinking of having witchy Stasi’s gargoyle Horace inked on my other ankle.

Sweet! I hop
e you'll share more photos if you do get the Horace ink. If you can, tell us about the YA urban fantasy you’re working on – is it the same tone as the Hex series, or is it serious? And what kind of world is it set in?

My YA urban fantasy is about a 16-year-old girl searching for her younger sister who’d been abducted by what the heroine calls the Skeleton Man and she ends up in a fenced in city that’s actually an alternate Los Angeles. It’s more serious than the Hex series, but it does have its moments.

Tell us about the characters in the future Hex books. Will you focus on Jazz, or do we get to see the other twelve expelled witches find love and magic and witchy shoes?

The other witches are showing up. Stasi is in Wicked By Any Other Name, which comes out in March with her pervert of a gargoyle, Horace and magickal dog, Bogie. Blair in Hex in High Heels which will be out in October ’09 with Felix, her Kit-Kat clock. And I’m giving readers glimpses of the other witches. Jazz, Nick, Irma and the slippers are back in Wicked along with a Fluff and Puff prologue and they’ll also be popping into Blair’s book because they refuse to stay home. What’s sweet is I’ve even been asked if they’ll ever have books of their own. Who knows what might happen?

You have an amazing range of creatures in your Hex books. Are there any new ones we can look forward to as this series progresses?

Oh definitely. Some that are totally made up, also more Weres showing up and more ghosts and I’ll also be showing some other magicks.

Thank you, Linda, for joining the Five Scribes and dishing on your latest news. Hex Appeal and 50 Ways to Hex Your Lover are available now at your local bookstore and also at Target - go Linda! Woot! Go and getcher witch on, and enjoy Jazz's awesome bunny slippers.

* Three of the Five Scribes can attest to the fact that I came up with my title in October last year at our writing retreat and that I in no way filched it from anyone. ;)

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Robert Gosnell's Bio for The Elements of Screenplay class

Opps! Please forgive, but I forgot to add Bob's bio to the bottom of the screenwriting class page.


A professional screenwriter for more than twenty years, Robert Gosnell has produced credits in feature films, network television, syndicated television, basic and pay cable, and is a member of the Writers Guild of America, West, and the Writers Guild of Canada.

Robert began his career writing situation comedy as a staff writer for the ABC series
Baby Makes Five. As a freelance writer, he wrote episodes for Too Close for Comfort and the TBS comedies Safe at Home and Rocky Road. In cable, he has scripted numerous projects for the Disney Channel, including Just Perfect, a Disney Channel movie featuring Jennie Garth. In 1998, he wrote the Showtime original movie, Escape from Wildcat Canyon, which starred Dennis Weaver and won the national "Parents Choice Award."

Robert's feature credits include the Chuck Norris/Louis Gosset Jr. film Firewalker, an uncredited rewrite on the motion picture Number One With A Bullet starring Robert Carradine and Billy Dee Williams, and the sale of his original screenplay Kick And Kick Back to Cannon Films. Robert was also selected as a judge for the 1989 Cable Ace awards, in the Comedy Special category.

In 1990, Robert left Hollywood for Denver, where he became active in the local independent film community. His screenplay Tiger Street was produced by the Pagoda Group of Denver, and premiered on Showtime Extreme in August of 2003. In 1999, Denver’s Inferno Films produced the action film Dragon and the Hawk from his script. In 2001, Robert co-wrote the screenplay for the independent feature Siren for Las Vegas company Stage Left Productions. His feature script Juncture was produced by Front Range Films in March of 2006, and is currently available on DVD.

Robert is a principal member of the Denver production company "Conspiracy Films", is frequently an invited speaker for local writers clubs and organizations, and served on the faculty of the Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers Conference in September, 2002. Robert regularly presents his screenwriting class "The Elements of Screenplay," along with advanced classes and workshops, in the Denver area.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Blogs: A powerful way for the industry to communicate

Special thanks to Julie Rowe for this thread...

Blogs have become a powerful way for publishing professionals to communicate
with writers, and it's a growing trend. Literary agents, editors and even
book sellers are all blogging. These blogs provide a point of view on the
publishing industry that writers seldom ever see. Some even answer
questions and offer advice.

I used to read Miss Snark's blog daily (until she retired from blogging). I
didn't always agree with her, but she doled out HUGE doses of common sense
and that's worth its weight in gold. I recommend reading her blog archives:

A former bookseller dishes out her prospective on books and author

Pub Rants is the blog of agent Kristin Nelson. She posts daily and has some
great information, especially what NOT TO DO!

The Knight agency has a nifty blog. Their agents and several of their
authors have posted to this blog. Check out their early archives for some
interesting info on writing.

The Bookends, LLC blog is excellent, featuring the advice of agents Jessica
Faust, Jacky Sach, and Kim Lionetti. I read this one daily.

Evil Editor is hilarious. He answers questions and posts examples of
queries he's received and how he would rewrite them. Highly recommended.

Book Covers from the NY times Review is a blog that discusses book covers
and other 'in-the-news' items from the writing world.

Harlequin VP Isabel Swift blogs from an editor's point of view.

Knight agency agent, Nephele Tempest has her own blog as well.

Super agent, Lori Perkins often posts publisher needs on her blog

Marsha Philitas is a new agent at the L. Perkins agency and has recently
started her own blog.

Lynn Price is the editorial director for Behler Publications. I love her
frank, but funny, informative posts.

Dystel & Goderich Literary Management have a very thought provoking blog.
They don't post often (2 or 3 times a month), but I always learn something.

An editorial assistant blogs about the publishing industry and anything else
that's fun to talk about.

The I(heart) blog is a wonderful cooperative blog between HQ
Presents authors and editors. I visit often!

Agent Jonathan Lyons has a great blog with tons of excellent advice and
discussion about the writing world.

Agent Nathan Bransford has an outstanding blog. Go read it!

The Query Shark is an editor who will critique your query letter on her
blog. Be prepared for extreme honesty!

The Swivet blog is written by Colleen Lindsay, a literary agent with
FinePrint Literary Management. Her posts are eclectic, but always

The Rejector is an anonymous Literary assistant who gives her take on the
publishing industry.

Writer's Digest's Questions & Quandries blog is a great resource to find
answers to your publishing questions.

Stay in the Phone Booth with the Gorilla

Have you ever received writing advice so profound that you wanted to shout, "Aha!"? I've had several of these moments during my writing career. But I think the most valuable advice I ever took away from a conference was from Colonel Jimmie Butler, the founder of the Pikes Peak Writer's Conference. He stood at the podium and said to attendees, "Stay in the phone booth with the gorilla."

Now an odd phrase like that might not mean much at first glance, but Colonel Butler described the scene like this: A young woman out for a stroll turns to see a 500-pound gorilla chasing her. The young lady shrieks and runs for her life. She trips over trash cans, bowls over pedestrians, but with every glance back, the massive ape grows closer.

Breathless, she runs and runs. She looks everywhere for escape, but it's no use. She is about to be devoured whole by this raging primate. Up ahead, however, she spies a phone booth. Seeing it as her only hope, she charges inside. But as she closes the door, the gorilla forces its way inside. Trapped, she studies the beast about to end her life and remembers the time her parents took her to the zoo.

See the problem here? Did that last line stop you and yank you out? That was Colonel Butler's point, too. Back story, e.g. the zoo scene, has no place in an action scene. His invaluable advice to those in his workshop, and one I always remember when writing, is to "Stay in the phone booth with the gorilla."

Another treasured piece of advice came from another colonel as it turns out, Colonel Jim Roper. He looked over my manuscript, and what I thought was fine work. When he returned it to me, however, it was bleeding. Circled beside every cliche he'd penned, "Find your own voice." I remember smarting from all that red. Still, after that comment I find it nearly impossible to use a cliche without thinking, "Find your own voice."

How about you? Have you ever received a piece of writing advice you find invaluable? The Scribes would love it if you would share.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Those Little Nuggets of Gold....How Do We Mine For Them? Take Classes!!

Not for Screenwriters Only!

If you’ve been writing as long as I have, you may eschew classes or workshops, thinking you’ve seen and heard it all. We believe we're at a point where the concepts are firmly in our grasp, and we just don’t have the time in our career to spend listening to one more how-to.

Does that sound at all like something you’ve thought or said aloud?

Me too. Or at least that was me. Now, I’m seeking classes, seminars and workshops that can offer me a fresh perspective on my craft, and if I’m lucky enough I come away with a nugget or two of new information or a new way of looking at a old problem.

So to further this goal, I’ll be periodically posting classes that might tickle your thought processes and hopefully you’ll find that golden nugget.

And remember, crossing genres and mediums is one fantastic way to jolt yourself out of the rut you may not know you’re in, it can add a fresh perspective, and isn’t that a great nugget to find?

Elements of Screenplay by Robert Gosnell.

~You're a novelist, looking for a way to turn your book into a movie.
~You have a great idea for a movie, but don’t have clue what to do now.
~You’re a film industry professional who will benefit from a better understanding of the screenplay process.
~Or you’re a film student, seeking to round out your understanding of the medium.

In that case...

This comprehensive one day workshop may be just what you’re looking for.

The Elements of Screenplay gives an overview of the screenwriting process from the point-of-view of a working screenwriter. Delivered in a straightforward, easily digested presentation, the course covers Theme, Story, Character, Dialogue, The 3 Act Structure, Format and related elements, as well as information on trade unions, agents and marketing, with an occasional anecdote thrown in just for fun.

Robert is a member of the Writers Guild of America, West and the Writers Guild of Canada. He’s had his work produced for major theatrical release, for the "indy" market, for pay cable, basic cable, network television and syndicated televison.

Please visit Robert’s website for more information:, and for his great article printed in Scr(i)pt Magazine, 10 Simple Rules For Surviving the Pitch.

Currently, Robert is planning a class early Spring of ‘09. He has a contact link on his site, or you can email me, to be put on the interest list. No strings, we just want to let you know when the class will be scheduled.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Love Inspired, Suspense, and Blood Red Ink: An Interview with Sharon Mignerey

Last January, I had the honor of reading and critiquing the first ten pages of a manuscript that blew me away. At first, I thought about throwing darts at the manuscript, since it was for workshops at school and should have been rough enough to warrant lots of red ink.

Meeting the author in person was awesome. Sharon Mignerey is a wonderful, kind, and open person with tons of sage advice, and I liked her right off the bat. She's no stranger to the Five Scribes - she started out in Colorado and knew some of the other Scribes before I'd ever heard her name.

In June, I had to critique the first ten pages of another manuscript by Sharon. Again, it blew me away. This time, I gave in to the urge to throw darts, but I used it as an excuse to pick spots for made-up suggestions or, if I had no idea what I might offer up, mad props. If I get another submission for her this January, I might just give her a dart hole-ridden stack of paper and save us both the time.

And now I present Sharon Mignerey.

When your editor approached you to write for Love Inspired, what was your first reaction? Did you think it would be a successful venture for you?

I’d had five books published by Silhouette Intimate Moments (now Silhouette Suspense) when I was asked if I’d consider writing for Love Inspired Suspense. On one hand, I was flattered because my publisher thought I had the right voice to do well in this market and because they were actively looking for authors. At the time Love Inspired Suspense was a new imprint. The choice was also scary because this would be writing for a new market that I hadn’t read widely and didn’t know much about. Obviously, I took that leap of faith, and I’ve had five books with them since the first in March of 2006. It has been an honor to be part of a new imprint and seeing it grow. The one aspect I was most concerned about in the beginning, and still am, is that I’m not a particularly fast writer. So, I don’t have books coming out quite as fast as they (or I) would like.

What themes do you like to explore? Do they differ according to the type of book you’re writing?

I don’t think about themes at all when I’m figuring out a story. I know a theme emerges, but for me, theme is one of those literary conventions that seems to belong to readers more than to me as the author. We all remember the literature classes where some professor wanted us to figure out the theme of a book. Rarely was the theme obvious to me. After I’m finished with a book, I usually can see a theme, but it may not be the same one that stands out to readers. That said, I’m always pleased when readers tell me they’ve found and enjoyed a theme within one of my books because I know that can enrich the reading experience.

If you don’t think about theme in your books, what is the jumping off point for you?

The impossible conflict. I love the promise of a happily-ever-after in romance, even if the ending is bittersweet. But, I never want getting to that uplifting ending to be easy for my characters. In fact, I want it to be nearly impossible. I love creating characters that are easy to identify with, easy to like. And, then I equally love putting them in situations where they may literally have to do or die to succeed in the end. One often quoted axiom for building these kind of stories is to ask: “Why is this hero perfect for her, and why is a happily-ever-after with him impossible?” This requires understanding not only what a character wants, but also why she wants it. The answer to the why question is always (for me) more important than the what.

What first drew you to romance, and do you think you will always be drawn toward writing romance since you like those happy endings.

I probably will always be drawn to writing romance, at least in some form. The novel I’m working on now isn’t a traditional romance because it’s about a couple who’ve been married for nearly twenty years. But, it’s still a romance in that the focus of the book is on their relationship and how, in the context of that relationship, they deal with the things that happen to them over the course of the book. Their happily-ever-after depends on them figuring out the relationship. One of the things that made me want to write this book is because romance is characterized as totally being the fantasy and ignoring there’s a whole life of experiences that comes after the couple walks into their sunset. I found, at least in this book, that figuring out how to re-establish a torn relationship is as compelling as establishing a new one.

Though it’s true that I like happy endings, the most compelling thing about romance for me is that within the pages, women are the heroes of their own story. They aren’t the objectified sex object or the side kick for a male protagonist. When I first began writing, romance was the only genre where this was consistently true. Since then, women have successfully created female heroes in fantasy and mystery, as well. And so, in that regard, romance has been subversive feminist literature for decades, and the strong heroines in romance have created a space for strong heroines in other genres. It’s also provided growing room for authors who have expanded beyond the genre–just look at the NYT list any week for proof.

When your Muse is pouting in the corner, how do you entice her back to your side?

My muse lives behind Bartlett’s Book of Quotations. She’s very particular and somewhat shy, and so it is a job to coax her out sometimes. She never responds well to imperious demands, and she hates stress though she likes discipline (as in sitting down to write at a certain time). She sometimes likes music, and sometimes she likes the silence. Unfortunately, when I sit down to work, I’m never quite sure what her preference is going to be. Lately she’s been wanting music, and her tastes go to New Age and Light Classical.

When I hit a dry spell in a book, I always find that it’s an invitation to reassess what’s going on with the current novel. It can be something as simple as writing a scene in the wrong point of view or as far reaching as having a character behave out of character. If my own consciously thought-out process doesn’t yield any result, I make a date with my muse–literally. At the appointed time, I sit down and journal without any particular outcome in mind. Almost always, the answers to the problems come. Then my muse and I are once more on speaking terms and ready to go. I’ve also discovered my muse likes me better when I eat properly, exercise, and get enough sleep. Boring, right?

LOL. Not at all! It's fascinating to see what works for each person. What is your personal philosophy for writing?

When I first read this question, I laughed because it struck me as being much like the theme question. But then, I did discover I do have a philosophy for writing. It’s this: know why you are writing. Is it for the joy of the thing (and there is a lot of joy in the creative aspect of it) or is it to become published (or published again)?

If you are writing simply for the joy of the thing, know there is value in the process whether anyone else ever reads it or likes it. That creation and the creative juice that went into it are all yours. There’s value in that all by itself. It doesn’t matter what anyone else thinks of the finished piece.

If you are writing with an eye toward publication, you still want the joy that comes with creating. But, the second component is making public (publishing) your work, which is an invitation for someone else to judge it. Others will have a subjective standard they hold your work against, and they will judge it as good or bad. If you want to be published, then you have to think about craft and honing your skill. That process may not be as much fun as the process of writing just for the pure joy of it. Allowing your work to be judged doesn’t end, either, after a book is published. Then, it is fair game for critiques who may love it or wonder how it got into print.

Writing with an eye toward being published is a whole different game than writing for the sheer joy of writing. I believe a published writer must continue to love the day-to-day process of writing. If you don’t, the rest of it can drive you crazy.

When you teach, what books do you like to use as examples?

The answer to that depends on the class, but I have a couple of reference books that have formed the core of my beliefs about the structure of good stories. I always say that if you can afford only one writing book, the one you buy should be TECHNIQUES OF THE SELLING WRITER by Dwight Swain. Though this book was first published in 1965, Swain’s advice still stands up; he tells writers not only what to do, but how to do it. The second book I often refer to is WRITING THE BREAKOUT NOVEL by Donald Maass. I think the workbook is particularly good. Both of these are excellent resources for showing authors line by line and chapter by chapter how to tell a compelling story. Because novels are so influenced by movies and television, references for screen writers can also be useful. My two favorite are THE WRITERS JOURNEY by Christopher Vogler, which is based on Joseph Campbell’s work with myths, and is brilliant; and WRITING SCREENPLAYS THAT SELL by Michael Hauge, who has wonderful examples of how internal and external goals impact story.

I rarely use novels as examples when I teach because, even among avid readers of a particular genre, we often have not read the same books unless they’ve been assigned as part of a reading group. We are much more likely to have seen the same movies than to have read the same books. So, if there’s some particular aspect of storytelling that I want to illustrate in a talk, I’ll often use a movie as the example.

Got a blurb for your newest release?

The latest release is THE GOOD NEIGHBOR, a November 2008 release from Love Inspired Suspense. The blurb: He’s the detective charged with solving the first murder in this quiet community in more than 30 years. She’s the witness who found the body, a gentle woman who appears to genuinely care for others. Or is she more, perhaps a gold digger with a motive to kill? As each piece of evidence mounts against her, he is pulled deeper into a mystery where faith and fact are at odds ... and where the future of the good neighbor hangs in the balance.

I’m very pleased that Romantic Times gave it 4 stars and a nice review: “For an equally good love story and mystery, be sure to pick up Sharon Mignerey’s book.”

What can you tell us about your thesis novel? Do you have plans for it before or after graduation, or are you writing it purely for the learning experience?

My thesis novel is a longer, more ambitious project than I’ve had for the last ten or so years writing and publishing category romance. It’s a contemporary women’s fiction novel about a successful couple whose perfect life falls apart and whose future depends on whether they can fall in love with each other again. I am enjoying the experience at several levels. First, it’s a bigger story, so there are more threads, more room to play. Second, I don’t have to be writing with my eye on making sure I don’t exceed a specific page length, as I do in category. Third, because I’m writing this without already being sold, I have more latitude in where I can take the story. That last comes with a “within reason” clause since popular fiction, by its very definition, always has market considerations. If a writer hopes to sell, that general market needs to be kept in mind. So, in answer to your question, yes, I’m learning. And I like that a lot. And yes, I hope to sell it after I graduate.

What do you hope to do with your degree from SHU?

I enrolled in the program for two major reasons. The first was that I’d found myself in a rut where I wasn’t feeling inspired by the direction of my career even though I was having a degree of success. The lack of inspiration was a culmination of a whole bunch of things life changing things that happened over a three-year period: a cross country move and all the associated upheaval, the deaths of my best friend and my mother. And, of course, my muse took (needed to take, in fact) a hiatus. I wanted an environment where I could continue to work and learn, but without the same pressures as being under contract for publication. The SHU program has provided that in wonderful, wonderful ways. I’m so grateful for the experience.

The second is that I’d like to teach. I know lots of writers who are teaching without an advanced degree, but it seemed to me that I’d have more doors opened to me if I had the degree. One more year, and I’ll have it. Hooray.

What is your writing kryptonite?

Oddly enough, it’s the first three to five chapters of a book. I agonize over every single decision, every single choice. Are the characters right? Is the story interesting enough? Does it all fit together? As a writer, I’m all the things I preach against being at the beginning of a story –I’m judgmental, anal-retentive, and perfectionistic. I’m enough to drive my own self crazy. After all the books I’ve written (a number bigger than the ones that have been published), you’d think I’d know better.

At the beginning of a story, writing–just writing–and letting go of everything so the characters can take me where they and the muse (all that right-brain, subconscious stuff) simply want to go is difficult for me. I love writing the last half of the book, and I love REwriting the first half of the book. The initial writing of the first third–not so much. It’s such an odd thing, it makes me wonder how I ever became a writer.

If you had the financial, career, and editorial leeway and you could get as crazy as you want with a book, what would you write?

Boy! There’s a wish list to aspire to. As I mentioned earlier, I really like the novel I’m writing as my thesis project at SHU. It’s a bigger book with more threads drawn through the story. To write more stories like this one and be well paid – that would be wonderful.

Thank you, Sharon, for joining us today.

Sharon's book, The Good Neighbor, is available in stores NOW, so run out and get a copy.* Be sure to check out Sharon's website to see her other releases and the classes she teaches.

*Support my peep so she can spend more time writing books as wonderful as those she writes at school. I promise you won't be sorry!

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Can a Book Offer Help an Agent Fall in Love?

At conferences we hear agents repeatedly proclaim that in order to be willing to represent an unpublished author in this highly competitive, very tight fiction market, they need to LOVE the author’s story and voice. The author needs to be congenial, easy to work with, promotable, and being educated in the business is a terrific plus.

What if an unpublished author comes to an agent with a valid publishing offer in hand? The agent isn’t unduly impressed with the story or the author’s voice, but otherwise the author has the complete package. Given this situation, does the agent still need to LOVE the author’s work?

I assume that from the agent’s POV, this offer comes with certain drawbacks. The offer’s on the table and the agent doesn’t have time to work with the manuscript to strengthen it and there’s no time to send it out to other publishing houses with hopes of generating other offers and the coveted auction, but it is a guaranteed sale the agent did nothing to generate.

Given that the best agents are all about building author’s careers, when approached by an unpublished author with a contract in hand, does the agent still need to LOVE the story and voice to happily and competently represent this author? Does a contract help the author attain her dream agent, or could it even be a handicap?

Here’s what a few prominent agents had to say:

This really depends on the agent. For me, the advance and the contract are only one piece of the puzzle; I’m an advocate for the client, no matter how much $ is involved. It’s harder for me to be an advocate on a book that I’m not in love with – so that’s another factor to consider.
Jeff Kleinman

It really depends on the agent (and how much they want or need the commission). I've only agreed to rep an author with a deal on the table once, because I loved that book (and continue to love the author's work), and I get at least half a dozen such opportunities each year. For me, it really does come down to how well I connect with the material. Because I plan to rep an author for the life of their career, I don't want to get stuck reading a book I don't like or can't connect with (by an author I may not respect) once a year. Book deals are a lot of work, and an agent's job isn't over after the deal is closed. So it's not worth it to me to spend my time on material I don't like.

That said, every agent has his/her price. If the offer on the table was a quarter million dollars, well, that would certainly be worth reading and working with material I didn't care for! But in my experience, these offers on the table are always quite low, because publishers don't tend to offer very much money to first time authors who don't have agents.
Cameron McClure
Donald Maass Literary Agency

In short, my answer to this question is YES, an agent certainly still needs to be in love with the author's work even if there is an offer on the table. Personally, and at our agency, we're looking for lifetime relationships with our authors so we want to know we are the right champion for the author's work, and that we are a good match for that author for their long-term career and not simply the short-term finalization of a contract.

I can't lie - an author presenting a project that already has an offer is initially attractive. But we've had to turn away authors in the past who came to us with publishing offers because we didn't feel that engaged by their writing style and what we saw our futures together career to be.

There's an important reverse to note here as well. That is that if an author decides to shop their work to publishers in the hopes of first getting a publishing offer and then coming back to find an agent, is that if the "offer" falls through, the agent cannot go back to the editors/imprints who have already told the author no. Often, it is the case that the author did not select the appropriate editors at the different imprints because they are not as familiar as an agent is with each editor's interests. At that point, the agent is severely handicapped because he/she cannot go back and approach the imprints who have rejected the manuscript. So, an agent is always wary when an author begins to shop their manuscript to editors before going to agents.

I always appreciate receiving submissions that say something to the effect of, "Edie Editor has expressed an interest in seeing my work, but I would like to secure representation before formally submitting my materials to editors." I'm far more attracted by the fact that an author has made contacts (through writers workshops for example) and then can hand them over to me so that I can maximize the success of the submission.
Kelly D. Sonnack

Sandra Dijkstra Literary Agenc

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Don't box me in: Politically Correct and Stereotyped

Delta Dupree and I have been online writing pals for years. I've read most everything she's written, and I can remember each of her characters vividly. To say she knows something about character development is like saying Nora Roberts writes a nice story. Please welcome Delta Dupree to the Five Scribes. ~ Donnell

I detest everything about "politically correct" in any arena, and I say this with gusto. When the saying ventures inside the publishing industry, well, I'm known to bristle on a daily basis without external help. How many times have you heard: Your character(s) are too stereotypical? or this scene (paragraph, phrase ...) might offend members of society?

Fiction is about real characters that a writer meets, passes by, sees on television or hears about in the media? Correct? Sure. Think about the "perfect" story. the villain is nasty and ugly and ... and never bathes (Yuck!) who is determined to confiscate something--the woman, the money, anything. Your heroine is a size five flaunting an hourglass figure, has impeccable manners and has the voice of a songbird--dripping with sweetness. Your lover-boy hero is six feet two, muscled in all the right places, the wealthiest man on the planet who is instantly consumed with the heroine and would give up everything for her. Huh?

Do we really want to read this "perfect" book involving "perfect" characters in a "perfect" world? We need depth to make those characters three-dimensional. Typically, bad people have at least one redeeming quality. Even good people have one or more poor qualities. No one is perfect, good or bad. Make our characters real, not politically correct. Don't believe me? Read on.

Let me step in reverse for a moment and give you a smidgen of personal background before I go on. I'm African American, whatever that means. I was born and raised in the United States like my parents, forefathers and mothers. American. My ancestors are a mix of Blacks, Whites, Indians and Cajuns. I'm Black. My family lived in all-white neighborhoods from the time I turned four years old. Ninety-five percent of my schoolmates were white until I attended college. As I matured, employment relocating me to several U.S. cities with varying degrees of status and success, the men I dated were from a variety of ethnic backgrounds--all of which had diverse educational levels and financial rank. Some were extremely arrogant, some rather dull. But, for the last twenty years, I've been married to a wonderfully romantic man. We're an interracial couple. He's Caucasion.

I'm published in erotic romance, one of the fastest growing subgenres. My first novel, Strip, is an interracial love story that recently hit the book stands. You can read a little more about me, how I got The Call, and the book(s) I've written on my updated website, Blogs and websites are a great way to promote!

Now that I've given personals, back to the dreaded phrase.

Political correctness crosses all genres. Take erotic romance, for instance. Many people consider the subgenre as porn. Why is that, since sex is part of human nature? Eliminate the sensual act and none of us would be here. Is the genre porn because women opened their eyes, began to fantasize, dared to enjoy a good read containing the so-needed satisfaction as they closed the book? You see, men have kept their eyes wide open about sex. They fantasize. They enjoy carnal knowledge. They discuss it! Give it up, boys. You know who you are. Erotic romance is not necessarily about how much sex or how hot or sweet the scenes are, it's the quality of the writing, whether the characters fit the storyline, whether the plot (believe me, porn usually neglects this point) rocks your world--like all fiction genres. Taking it one step further, erotic romance is about two people in love or highly in like. Writers have stimulated the industry with eroticas--gay and lesbian, paranormal, historical, time-travel, mystery, suspense, thriller, etc. For page space I included all areas of sexy stories under the erotica umbrella, which was once politically incorrect, and not virtually accepted. This takes me to the next point.

Who are the characters in all fiction? A character's nationality, religious beliefs, gender, sexual preference, etc., should they matter? For the sake of shortness, let's put this group under DITSOL I'll get back to the acronym in a bit. Naturally, DITSOL includes the entire world's population. Should we as writers, restrict ourselves as to whom we write about? Is it wrong to include an atheist or transsexual or Jupeterian into the mix? We write about the autistic, the obese, children, criminals, heroes, a**holes, the rich, the downtrodden, the dearly departed...I can go on and on. These are (or were in the latter case) real people. Each one fits under DITSOL, no matter the color of their skin, their religious practices, or to which gender they belong. We cannot--should not quarantine the real people who make our stories worth reading.

Part Two--Stereotype. Here's one of Webster's Dictionary noun definitions: "something conforming to a fixed or general pattern; esp: a standardized mental picture that is held in common by members of a group and that represents an oversimplified opinion, affective attitude or uncritical judgment." As an adjective: "lacking originality or individuality." Hmm. Does this mean that my gazillionaire hero needs a wart on his bum? Would readers prefer to hear about the rogue hero who contracted a STD and ignored the doctor's advice, because he's tall, dark and handsome? How about the hourglass beauty with impeccable manners that left her children because the wealthy boyfriend implored she do? Not in romance, not so far. I'm not saying the above is romantic, but these are issues that impact our daily lives. It's only natural for humans to fantasize, but they prefer to dream about all things good. Maybe the perfect life.

For those into paranormal or sci-fi, the auspicious future. And, as writers, we give our audience those fantasies. But our heroes and heroines come in all shapes and sizes with different thoughts and actions, likes and dislikes, loves and hates. All are part of DITSOL, which makes the human race so great because without the "stereotypical" characters, to me, life would be pretty boring. We would all write about the same people, the same characters, and the same situations. The perfect "boring" world.

So, those politically correct, stereotypical characters, put some life into them. Give them one or two defnining qualities that lift the readers' eyebrows. It doesn't have to be an ick factor. It can be--if appropriate to the character and storyline. Make them stand out, make them memorable.

Oh. DITSOL. Diversity is the Spice of Life. Bump your characters up a notch. You won't regret it.

Thanks for joining us today. Be sure to leave a comment and enter a drawing to win, Delta's Debut Novel, Strip.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

A Quote from Jules Renard

Writing is an occupation in which you have to keep proving your talent to those who have none.
- Jules Renard

Posted without comment, but the floor is open to debate. :)

Agents Analyze Submissions

Agent Jessica Faust at Bookends has a fascinating post today on her blog regarding how agents and editors train readers to read for them. She details bullet items of what the look for in a compelling submission.

Since I'm a plotter about to start a new book, I think I'll refer back to this list before I even start writing to make sure I've covered al my bases and have at least attempted to write a commercially viable story.

Check it out!

Interview with Candlewick editor, Kaylan Adair

Kaylan Adair, Judge of Childrens/YA category of The Sandy
By Theresa Rizzo
Date: October 28, 2008

Kaylan Adair is an Associate Editor at Candlewick Press in Somerville, Massachusetts. Kaylan acquires everything from picture books through upper YA, although she specializes in middle-grade and young-adult fiction. Among the projects she's edited are the YA novels DOWN SAND MOUNTAIN by Steve Watkins and SWIM THE FLY by Don Calame, and the early reader SQUIRREL'S WORLD by Lisa Moser, illustrated by Valeri Gorbachev. She is the American editor of the YA novel THE KNIFE OF NEVER LETTING GO by Patrick Ness, winner of the 2008 Guardian children's fiction prize. Previously, she was the American editor of the Maisy books by Lucy Cousins. Kaylan is looking for fresh, original voices and compelling stories. She loves characters with a lot of heart, whether the story itself is humorous, quiet, sad, or gritty. She tends to shy away from poetry, non-fiction, sci-fi, and fantasy.

Which categories do you currently acquire? Which category is your favorite?

Answer: I actively acquire picture books through upper YA. I tend not to acquire much non-fiction, poetry, sci-fi, or high fantasy. While I do love picture books, I’m specifically looking to build my middle grade and young adult fiction lists.

In terms of submissions, what are you sick to death of and what would you like to see more of?

Answer: I have no desire to acquire books about ├╝ber wealthy teens. I would love to see more literary middle grade novels and young adult novels with unique and compelling voices. I am very much drawn to stories with heart, be they sweet or funny or gritty or tragic.

Do you accept unagented and/or email queries?

Answer: I don’t accept email queries, though I will accept electronic submissions. Technically, I don’t accept unsolicited submissions or queries, but I am open to receiving submissions (see below) from authors attending this conference up to three months after date of the conference.

What length synopsis do you prefer to see with a partial?

Answer: For picture books, I prefer to receive the entire manuscript. For fiction, I prefer to receive the first three chapters and a brief summary. I only ever skim the summaries, so please don’t agonize over them!

What are the compelling elements that you think are necessary for a good read? What particularly grabs your attention?

Answer: Personally, I am drawn to a strong voice. If I can get a sense of your character’s personality within the first page – or even the first paragraph – then I’m much more likely to be interested in his or her story. However, I would advise authors not to try to force a strong voice on their characters; if it doesn’t come organically, it will probably feel phony.

Does meeting an author face-to-face at a conference make a difference in your response time, the submission process, or the rejection process (ie. Form letter vs a few sentences of advice)?

Answer: I always respond personally to conference submissions and make an effort to give some specific feedback. If I meet an author or hear an author’s pitch and am intrigued by the concept, I might put the submission at the top of the pile, but even so my response time can be abysmal. If you haven’t heard from me within two months of submitting, please feel free to send a friendly email or postcard; I never mind an author checking in now and then, so long as she doesn’t do so every week.

Besides the writing, the story and the talent, what are the most important elements you look for in an author, ie. contest wins, cooperativeness, affiliations to writers organizations, knowledge of publishing industry, promotability, etc?

Answer: Contest wins are a nice bonus and should be mentioned in the query letter, but it’s not going to make me sign up a project I am otherwise unsure about. I do like to see that an author is familiar with the publishing industry in that she knows how to craft a query letter, when (and how) it’s appropriate to follow up, what kinds of books we publish, etc., but I certainly don’t expect her to know everything going in. I really enjoy working with debut authors because everything is so exciting to them – and to me! One of my favorite things about the job is sending a first time author the very first copy of her book. What could be better than that?

What do you love most about your job?

Answer: Whoops, I already answered this one! But I also really love the nitty-gritty parts of editing and watching a story take shape over multiple drafts. I love presenting a new book to the sales and marketing teams and watching them get excited about it. I love seeing the book on the shelves of bookstores and hearing from kids who fell in love with it. We work in an amazing industry and there are so many parts of it that I love.

Do you have any pet peeves?

Answer: One of the hardest parts of my job is dealing with the cold, hard reality of the book business. Not every book will be a bestseller, no matter how much I love it or how much the author loves it. I think it’s important to remember that your editor is on your side and wants your book to do well, so it’s hard for me when I have to deal with authors or agents who think of me (or of my company) as an adversary. But I am blessed to work with some of the nicest people in the industry, so this isn’t too much of a problem.

What’s your favorite genre/type of:

  1. Book: To edit: literary middle grade and YA; to pleasure-read: literary adult books
  2. Food: As much as I wish it were otherwise, I really love steak!
  3. Music: I love cheesy ’80s music (though perhaps that’s redundant), but I also love contemporary female singer/songwriters, if that’s a genre.
  4. Movie: Dramas, comedies, and chick flicks, depending on my mood!
  5. Hobby: Reading! Though I also cross stitch (I’m working on a Christmas stocking at the moment)

What are you addicted to?

Answer: Books, for sure – both reading and collecting. I also have the predictable weakness for chocolate.

What have you always wanted to do?

Answer: Spend a year in Ireland researching my family history, possibly writing a “faction” account of my ancestors’ experiences both in Ireland and in the U.S. (a la Alex Haley’s Roots).

Do you have a favorite quote?

Answer: “‘Now’ is the operative word. Everything you put in your way is just a method of putting off the hour when you could actually be doing your dream. You don’t need endless time and perfect conditions. Do it now. Do it today. Do it for twenty minutes and watch your heart start beating.” – Barbara Sher

Monday, November 3, 2008

Time Management

Anyone who knows me will laugh if you try to use Audra Harders and Time Management - positive context - in the same sentence. I’m the consummate *good intention* gal, but expect me to arrive early to an event? Even I have to snicker.

So it seems rather contradictive that I have learned time management, and dare I say, efficiency, at the one place that has usurped most of my time. The workplace. Of course meeting schedules and appointments is expected at work, especially if one wants to keep one’s job. But I never thought the skills I developed working for a service organization would trickle into my writing life as well.

First of all, there are events in the year that need planning. I must order literature, awards, supplies, sometimes weeks in advance of an event in order for the function to proceed smoothly. This has filtered into my time management at home. I now prepare days in advance to go grocery shopping. Appointments are scheduled in a cluster so I can take a day off rather than an hour here or there. I’ve purchased the Christmas cards I want to send out to agents and editors at the beginning of December so I can thoughtfully personalize each card to the relationship I have established with that person. Trust me, these are amazing milestones in my life : )

One of my responsibilities is to update our website at work. Bit by bit, I’ve meandered my way around Dreamweaver, a very comprehensive web site program. I had toyed with the idea of using Dreamweaver for my own web site a couple of years ago, but resisted, knowing the learning curve to the program was a bit steep. Since doing maintenance on our work site, I’m no longer wary of the program and I know how to manipulate it to accomplish my goals. Not a guru by a long shot, but not a novice either. Now, all I have to do is come up with the cash to purchase it and I’ll be all set : )

Since September, my team at work has been short a member with no hope of replacing her in the near future. As her responsibilities were scattered among those of us left, I inherited our monthly newsletter. It’s actually kind of fun. I learned how to use MS Publisher and have been a newsletter writing fool ever since. Clipart is a kick : ) Can you believe I already have a couple items ready for my family’s Christmas letter? Heck, last year, I was still printing off the missive a few days before Christmas!

All in all, it’s been a nice exchange of talents. I think the structure of an 8 to 5 job each day makes me plan all the areas of my life, including writing time. I’ve learned to focus and concentrate on the one hour a day I have to write. Amazing, when you learn to work within your constraints, the miraculous things you can accomplish!

Blessings to all!

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Words of Wisdom

"My own experience is that once a story has been written, one has to cross out the beginning and the end. It is there that we authors do most of our lying." – Anton Chekhov

"I try to create sympathy for my characters, then turn the monsters loose." – Stephen King

From CS Weekly;

Saturday, November 1, 2008

The Secret of Best Selling Fiction

The Secret of Best Selling Fiction

Tension in Dialogue= disagreement

in Action= Inner anxiety in POV character

in Exposition= ideas in conflict, emotions at war

--Donald Maass