Thursday, December 31, 2009

The Eighth Deadly Sin - Dawn McClure

Posted without comment since my only comments would be "wow" and "amen." Please welcome Dawn McClure, author of Azazel, Asmodeus, Heaven Sent, and Samael.

During an interview I had a while back I was asked what my writing process was like. Of course I couldn't put LOL as my response, but that's exactly what I did...I laughed out loud. Then I explained that I don't have a writing process, which, when admitted, reads like the eighth deadly sin. For my novella Azazel, the story hit me like a brick thrown from a cannon. WHAM! I knew the story, I knew the characters, and I simply sat down and wrote it. For my novel Asmodeus, I wrote a chapter a day and stumbled my way through the first draft. It wasn't until my second round of edits that it resembled an actual story. Heaven Sent was much like Asmodeus, and Samael...don't get me started. It only took me a month to write the first draft...and then two months to revise it.

With my next book I plan on doing a little research first. I’ve decided to go the 'worksheet' route. What the hell is that, you ask? Well, I have a worksheet for character development, scene descriptions, GMC (goal, motivation, conflict), a conflict grid (can't have too much conflict), a relationship toolbox (that just helps you figure out why the two main characters should fall in love), and my Fast Draft and Revision Hell worksheets. Yes, I'm still trying to find my process, but I'm afraid I've already found it - every book is different. I've listened to other writers talk about their process, and each and every one has a different way of completing their book (though most seem to have a handle on their own individual process). Through the grapevine I've heard that Nora (who doesn't need a last name) writes only dialogue in her first draft, which she so sweetly calls her POS (piece of shit, for you innocents out there). It (supposedly) takes her three drafts and then she has a completed novel. I wish. Sometimes I only need two drafts, maybe three. Other times...I actually lose count. I’ve begun to wonder, are there other authors out there like me?

Am I actually committing the eighth deadly sin?

But even if I do come up with my own handy-dandy process, would it be a perfect fit for another writer? Probably not. If I thought there was a perfect writing process out there, I'd try out Nora's, since she is the most prolific romance author to date. But writing only dialogue for the first draft wouldn't suit me. I already know this, so why waste my time? There is no magic pill...quite unfortunate...so I'll just muddle along until I find my own brand of genius when it comes to the writing process.

What I can do is give you a few ideas for reading material that may help you find your own process. Stephen King wrote a wonderful book, ON WRITING, that chronicles his writing endeavors. He talks about rejection and how he remained motivated through those hard times. In JR Ward’s book, THE BLACK DAGGER BROTHERHOOD: AN INSIDER’S GUIDE, she talks about her own writing process (which is incredible, by the way). My personal favorite craft book is Goal, Motivation and Conflict by Debra Dixon. This book takes you by the hand and guides you through the process of coming up with a solid plot, creating engaging characters and writing scenes that will keep your story flowing.

I’ll leave you with a quote. Knowing is not enough; you must apply. Willing is not enough; you must do. ~Goethe

Thanks to Dawn for blogging with us at Five Scribes today. Leave a comment with your process (if you have one!), and we'll draw two lucky winners - one will get a copy of Asmodeus in print and another will get a wallop of new and gently used books I'm culling from my bookshelf (book-a-palooza!).

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Are you a new writer or in need of a refresher course? The TOP TEN reasons to enroll in Beginning Writer Workshops


Workshops are a wonderful resource for honing a writer's skills and advancing a writer's career. If you're a beginning writer, however, workshops are invaluable. Presenting the TOP TEN reasons a NEW writer should enroll in Beginning Writer Workshops. www.beginningwriterworkshops.com/

10. You have the most stupendous idea for the next blockbuster bestseller, but don't know where to begin.

9. After the first several stupendous pages, you hit a brick wall.

8. You've written a 500,000 word book that will land you at the top of the NY Times list, but you haven't a clue how to get it there.

7. The only persons you can get to read it are your mother and your best friend.

6. You discover you don't know the difference between a genre and a gerund.

5. Even your MOTHER says the book doesn't hold her interest.

4. You finally get a published writer's opinion of your manuscript, and she tells you that you have too much backstory in the opening chapters.

3. With your first and only criticism of your work, you're starting to doubt yourself.

2. Your mother and your best friend suddenly stop returning your phone calls.

1. You want to be a successful writer, and you want the building blocks to become one.

Beginning Writer Workshops. Taught by Experts in Industry and Experts in Craft.

Monday, December 28, 2009

Seasons That Inspire


Do different seasons of the year inspire you to write for that time? Christmas does that to me. Over the past many years, it doesn't matter what kind of story I'm in the middle of writing, the urge to put it aside and work on a Christmas story invades my mind.


This phenomenon happens over a small span of time. Usually when I'm hurrying to send out cards or discover I have completely overlooked a person on my gift list does this wild urge to write about the craziness creep into my subconscious. It rarely lasts more than a couple weeks, but man, do those couple weeks really throw me for a loop.




Let's face it. I write romance. Pure and simple.


What time of year better inspires one's heart desires?


All of a sudden I begin to romanticize the holiday decorations blinking in beauty as darkness comes early along the Front Range of Colorado. Or maybe, a couple strolling hand in hand along a winding path in the winter stillness while big, fat snowflakes swirl around them. Or maybe disaster strikes at a time when peace and joy need to be celebrated around the world.


Is there another season, another holiday that creates a mood better? Thanks to Hallmark, I'd say the answer is no. No other holiday begins to gear up months before the appointed date. No other holiday inspires visions of sugarplums or lively orchestras or anonymous good deeds than Christmas.


What a plethora of material and props waiting to be incorporated in a novel bearing good cheer and happily ever afters : )


Of course, being an inspirational romance writer, it tickles me to no end to include the heavenly hosts, trumpets and birth of Jesus in a lowly stable centuries ago. Angels. We can never have enough angels. Just go read Debbie Macomber : )


So, once again, I look at my WIP and blow out a heavy sigh. Someday I'll write a Christmas romance.


Who knows? Maybe my next manuscript will be suspiciously filled with snowflakes, carolers, and twinkling lights.


And angels.


Gotta have angels.


Does Christmas have the same affect on you? How about Valentines Day? Spring? Fall?


What season inspires your writing?


May your 2009 wind down with good spirits, and may 2010 bring you lots of surprises!!




Blessings!
-audra

Sunday, December 27, 2009

The Kiss of Death Chapter presents the Daphne du Maurier Award for Excellence in Mystery/Suspense



Holiday shopping done... Check

Packages delivered ... Done

Diets and New Year's Resolutions in place... Affirmative

Daphne Books and Electronic Entries Ready... ????

Are you missing a critical element on your "To Do" list? MARK YOUR CALENDARS. THE 2010 DAPHNE DU MAURIER AWARD FOR EXCELLENCE IN MYSTERY/SUSPENSE is closer than you think: The Contest begins January 15, 2010 with an eye-blinking deadline of March 15, 2010.

Published Authors do you have a mainstream mystery or romantic suspense with a 2009 copyright? Will 2010 be the year you add the prestigious overall DAPHNE to your writing resume or win your Mainstream Mystery or Romantic Suspense genre?

Unpublished Authors, have you checked out the final round judges who could be reading YOUR Daphne Entry?

CATEGORY (SERIES) ROMANTIC MYSTERY/SUSPENSE
Patience Smith, Silhouette Intimate Moments & Michelle Grajkowski, Three Seas Literary Agency

HISTORICAL ROMANTIC MYSTERY/SUSPENSE
Alex Logan, Grand Central Publishing & Kevan Lyon, Marsal Lyon Literary Agency

INSPIRATIONAL ROMANTIC MYSTERY/SUSPENSE
Caleb Sjogren, Tyndale House Publishers & Steve Laube Agency

PARANORMAL (PTTF) ROMANTIC MYSTERY/SUSPENSE
Heather Osborn, Tor/Forge & Paige Wheeler, Folio Literary Management

SINGLE TITLE ROMANTIC MYSTERY/SUSPENSE
Margaret Marbury, MIRA/HQN & Stephanie Maclean, Trident Media Group

MAINSTREAM MYSTERY/SUSPENSE
Toni Plummer, St. Martin's/Thomas Dunne & Stacia Decker, Donald Maass Literary Agency

Further Details at www.rwamysterysuspense.org
<http://www.rwamysterysuspense.org/>

Interested in judging? To learn our criteria, contact the Overall Daphne Coordinator at bellson@comcast.net (Please note you may not judge the same genre you are entering.)

Questions to 2010 Daphne Coordinator, Donnell Ann Bell -- bellson@comcast.net

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Friday, December 18, 2009

Enduring Words

Words are powerful. Images, too. How many times have you heard a quote or a snippet of a poem, story, ad, letter, and immediately had a picture in your mind where the rest of the words are filled in and you have a memory association?

Rage against the dying of the...

It is a truth universally acknowledged that any man in possession of a good fortune...

Yes, Virginia....

What is it about enduring phrases that can bring back such visceral memories and that can fill in the blanks of the remaining sentence? Could it be the emotional impact of the words? The symbolism? A trick of the mind caught rapt at one time?

I just reread The Sun's letter to Virginia about Santa Claus. I hadn't remembered anything but the famous sentence that begins the letter's second paragraph. I had recalled the whimsical beauty of the words, but not the specifics. I did, however, flash to my childhood, sitting in the back seat of the car with a piece of hard candy in my mouth, hearing the words, "Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus," on the radio as we drove over a bridge. Powerful!

And inspiring. Have I written anything that would stick with a person? A sentence or phrase so impactful that, on hearing it again, a reader would remember where she was when she first saw it? I'm not sure, but now I definitely want to go back through my manuscript and see if I managed the imagery and tightened the prose well enough.

What words or phrases have stuck with you? What do you think drives those words to imprint on the mind?

Monday, December 14, 2009

More Christmas Reading!




As the holidays close in fast, I find I need a sanity break more often than usual. It's been cold here along the Front Range of Colorado, so along with bitter cold temps, fighting holiday crowds and complete apathy for the day job, I have cards waiting to be written, gifts that need wrapping...and the biggest dread of all...cleaning the house.

It times like this I need to make myself take a break. Thankfully, there are some great Christmas stories out right now, books that crept onto the shelves in November and I'm just now getting around to reading them...

I just finished reading Yule Die by Debby Giusti. Packaged with another Love Inspired Suspense, Merry Mayhem by Margaret Daley, the pair of stories can be found within the common cover of Christmas Peril.

Both stories are heartwarming, holiday reads. Here's the back cover blurb:

Merry Mayhem

When single mom Annie Coleman unexpectedly arrives in Christmas, Oklahoma, police chief Caleb Jackson suspects she's hiding secrets. He'll be watching her closely. And his protection is just what Annie and her daugher need, as danger has followed them to their new home.



Yule Die

It's hardly a happy holiday for medical researcher Callie Evans...until she discovers her ailing patient is her long-lost brother. And he's being watched by undercover police officer Joe Petrecelli. When the trio is abducted by a cadre of bad guys, Joe and Callie will have to fight to keep her brother--and themselves--alive.


What can be better than Christmas suspense, especially when the HEA comes with a Christmas blessing?

Not that you don't have anything else to do : ) I encourage you to pick up Christmas Peril and indulge in some suspenseful Christmas cheer!

Merry Christmas!

Happy Hanukkah!

Blessings to all!!

Friday, December 11, 2009

Fear and Power

Writing is miraculous. Seriously, how does a small idea, a vague image, a couple of resonating words, or a setting turn into tens of thousands of words? And how do those words make readers laugh, cry, cringe, hide under the covers, rage, or fall in love?

I'm sure the answer doesn't lie in the writing so much as the rewriting.

"Books aren't written- they're rewritten. Including your own. It is one of the hardest things to accept, especially after the seventh rewrite hasn't quite done it." Michael Crichton

When I sit down to write the first draft, I give myself permission to vomit on the page. After all, I can fix it later...as long as there's something there to fix. If I obsess over every word or phrase as I'm writing, I'll never get the story done. I'll spend years tweaking and playing until I've eviscerated the story driving those words.

So why, when I sit down to revise, do I have a little freak-out moment?

"Rewriting is like scrubbing the basement floor with a toothbrush."  Pete Murphy

The enormity of the task - taking tens of thousands of words and making them worthy of another person's attention - gives me pause. Every. Time. Revision is seriously the biggest writing fear I have. I can start a thousand stories, but when I go back to the beginning to make sense of what I just vomited on the page, I fear the task.

Ninety thousand words. One hundred thousand words. That's a lot of words. And from the first to the last, I want perfection. The problem is that there are so many levels of perfection I need to nail. The images need to be solid. The writing needs to be fresh. The action needs to make sense. The characters need to grow and yet remain believable in their evolution. The story has to be layered but cohesive. And all this has to be accomplished in those words I've already spewed.This is huge - and what if I just make it worse?

"You write to communicate to the hearts and minds of others what's burning inside you. And we edit to let the fire show through the smoke." Arthur Polotnik

It's daunting, and I admire those who find the exercise fun or exhilarating. It's a challenge for me. But it's part of the work. It's part of the process.

Where there's fear, there's power. I like that saying, and I firmly believe it. So my task now, as I dive into the final round of revisions - big, juicy, story-altering revisions - is to maintain my sanity and work through the fear. I'll lean on my support system of critique partners and writing friends, and I'll sacrifice a few peppermint mochas to my muse and the writing gods. I'll even don a pair of Depends just in case the fear gets too gnarly. There's power here. Power to make those readers giggle or cry. Power to disappoint them when the story is over and they realize they'll have to wait to dive into that world again.

"Writing is not like painting where you add. It is not what you put on the canvas that the reader sees. Writing is more like a sculpture where you remove, you eliminate in order to make the work visible. Even those pages you remove somehow remain." Elie Wiesel


What part of writing do you fear? And how do you work through that to become a more powerful writer?

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

How I met A NaNoWriMo Superstar

First of all, I have to qualify this interview. From the end of October when everyone started putting on their NaNoWriMo hats, I slunk into a corner to observe. In my mind, pounding out 50,000 words in a month is akin to walking on water. Despite the fact I was skeptical, I was still intrigued, and kept asking the people I knew who were participating... how's NaNo working for you? Will you have anything you can work with after you complete it?

I belong to a Goals' group, and one outstanding writer was disappointed when she only reached 14,000 words, while another committed and disciplined member met more than 60,000 words during this month-long challenge. 14,000 or 60,000, I was standing on my chair applauding.

But then Dale Mayer announced her word count, which brings me to the subject of this blog. When Dale came up for a breather during NaNo, she had not only made her goal of more than 50,000 words, she'd finished a 93,700 word novel. What's more, this author forced the skeptic in me to depart, because I'd already discovered that Dale could produce a workable first draft.

Dale entered her 2007 NaNo attempt Tuesday's Child in the 2009 Daphne du Maurier Award for Excellence in Mystery/Suspense, and Dale's work came a mere point or two from finaling in the paranormal category. Tuesday's Child has since gone on to final in the 2009 Emily and is a current finalist in the 2009 Where the Magic Begins. Dale's 2008 NaoNoWriMo manuscript Hide'n Go Seek just finaled in Gateway to the Best and placed second.

So you see, not only is Dale accomplishing her goals, she's making a NaNoWriMo believer out of me. I thought we'd talk to her and see how she does it. Want to come along?

D.B.: Dale, thanks for being with the Five Scribes today. First, fiction isn't the only type of writing that you do. You are used to deadlines in your nonfiction assignments. Tell us about that side of your professional career.

D.M.: Thanks, Donnell. It was so kind of you to ask me to be here. You're correct in that fiction isn't the only kind of writing in my world. I am a full-time freelance writer and work with many clients--and therefore deadlines. I have two business books published and am currently working on my third. All three of these works are close to 65,000 words. I also complete assignments on a daily, weekly and a monthly basis. My word counts go from a 450-word article to thousands of words for various ebooks. I'm currently creating a workbook on Stopping Procrastination. Deadlines are as varied as people. I've been given from three months to three hours to complete various projects.

D.B.: Do you feel that having these types of deadlines gives you a head start in NaoNoWriMo? Why or why not?

D.M.: I think any practice you have to adhering to deadlines would help to complete the NaNoWriMo challenge. If you can set a daily deadline of a specific word count by a specific hour, then you are ahead of the rest. For myself, setting deadlines are easy -- now following them without the pressure of a client sitting behind them is where the challenge comes in. I'm good with challenges, and I'm good with motivating myself to move forward, but there are days I wonder if I can make the goals I set myself.

D.B.: Do you brainstorm before you start in November, or do you have a brief outline? Please tell us about your process.

D.M.: It's certainly helpful if you have an idea well in advance of November 1 and starting the challenge, but in truth, I'm a panster, and although I had a three-line blurb about the story, mainly about the character, I had no idea how the story would play out.

D.B. : You have four children. What do you do in advance of NaNo to prepare for this month-long challenge?

D.M.: I do have four kids, and, yes, I'm a single parent ;) but I've never found (dare I say 'allowed') that to stop me from doing the things that are important to me. My writing is important and my children are amongst my greatest supporters. I don't stockpile food, nor do I set up a schedule and expect them to adhere. I find life continues pretty much in the same vein as before the challenge started. Except maybe I'm a little more tired ;)

D.B.: How many hours do you dedicate to NaNo in a day?

D.M.: As many as I need to? Honestly, I found the trick that worked the best for me was to write approximately 1,000 to 1,500 words first thing in the morning and then go to my nonfiction work. In the evening, I'd return to my NaNo ms. and continue until I reached 3,000 words a day. Sometimes, I couldn't get my word count done in the morning and between 7 and 11 p.m. I would do all 3,000 words and sometimes more.

D.B.: When a new day begins, do you go back and read what you wrote the day before?

D.M.: No. I didn't feel the need to. By writing to the extent I did every day, the story stayed fresh and the characters were always there in my mind.

D.B.: What do you think of your writing as you're putting the words down on the page? Is your muse having an inspirational good time, or are you practical in saying just get it down -- worry about it later?

D.M.: I find the more I write the better I am at writing the first time around. Does that make sense? It's not to say that this ms. won't need major revisions because it will. But the story was fun to write and went down fairly smooth. I did struggle around the 65,000 to 75,000 mark, but after that it flew down.

D.B. : Was it your plan to write an entire book in one month? Tell us about that.

D.M.: I had hoped to but hadn't tried before and didn't know what my 'stick to itness' capacity would be in this instance. I wasn't sure even to the last night how close I'd come. I had it in my head the ms. would be 90,000 but I forgot to ask the characters! I wrote 5,000 words on the last night in order to complete the manuscript. I typed The End at 11:10 p.m. on the last day.

D.B.: I think your achievement and your stick-to-itness as you call it is amazing. Finally, what advice do you have for anyone who's on the fence about participating in NaNoWriMo in 2010?

D.M.: I think the biggest thing anyone looking at trying the NaNoWriMo in 2010 is [to] go in with the attitude of seeing what you can do -- for yourself, your writing and your manuscript. Don't compete against other people -- because the rule is that no matter how good you are -- there is always someone better. Compete against yourself and you always come out a winner. Plus it's important to not consider yourself a loser if you don't make the 50,000 [word] goal. My first attempt at doing a marathon of writing like this was done with a writer's group and in private because I was shy of doing the [official] NaNoWriMo. That was how Tuesday's Child was born. Now I know it's okay to do your best and not worry if it's as 'good as' anyone else's attempts. Writing is for you. Do what you need to do.

You know what, Dale? I think you've made some excellent points and I've definitely jumped off the skeptic fence. Thanks for being here to talk about your process and congratulations on finishing Maddy's Floor. I can't wait to see how it turns out, and I wish you much success with it. Further, I plan to do some practice sessions based on your advice and next year participate in my first NaNoWriMo. Thanks for being here and explaining your process.

Read the End first?

Sooo I'm curious. How many of you are spoil sports and read the end of a book first?

When I found out my daughter does this I was shocked. It seems like cheating and . . . well, why bother to read the whole book if you know how it ends? It seemed so foreign--I'd never even considered it. Then I began hearing more and more people who do it and it's not as uncommon as I'd thought, but I still don't really understand the rationale. Anybody out there that can explain it to me?
Geesh, do you hunt through the house and find out what all your Christmas presents are too?????
T

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Terrific Christmas book!!


I just finished reading A Forever Christmas by Missy Tippens and can't keep the smile off my face. Missy's books have a charming, heartwarming flavor to them, but this one is definitely a Christmas keeper! She takes past love, hurting hearts, untimely grief and wraps it all up in a Christmas story filled with hope and happiness.

The woman is a master of her craft!

Here's the back blurb:

Home For The Holidays


Sarah Radcliffe's quiet Christmas back in her hometown will be lost if she agrees to direct the church's Christmas pageant. But when she meets two little boys determined to gain their father's attention, Sarah agrees to help. Then she discovers that the dad in question is Gregory Jones, the man she loved and lost. The single dad is working himself to the bone to give his boys the Christmas of their dreams, when all they want is some family time. Time that includes a new mommy. If Sarah can learn to open her heart, she may receive the most wonderful present of all -- a family of her own.

If there is a Christmas story you read this holiday season, make it A Forever Christmas! You'll be filled with joy and ready to face the Christmas season with cheer.

To learn more about Missy, check out her website and blog.

A Forever Christmas
Steeple Hill Books
November 2009



Friday, December 4, 2009

Words of Wisdom From Creative Screenwriting

Wow, these really hit the spot.

"A classic is classic not because it conforms to certain structural rules, or fits certain definitions (of which its author had quite probably never heard). It is classic because of a certain eternal and irrepressible freshness."
~Edith Wharton


"You must keep sending work out; you must never let a manuscript do nothing but eat its head off in a drawer. You send that work out again and again, while you're working on another one. If you have talent, you will receive some measure of success--but only if you persist."
~ Isaac Asimov


Please, that I have talent! Goodness knows I persist!!!!

Be inspired
~LA







How do we solve a problem like Harlequin?

If you've been vacationing in an internet-free zone and haven't heard about the drama with Harlequin and their brand-spanking-new vanity press, get thee here and read what happened while you were blissfully ignorant. Or go there and grin over Ms. Kessler's fabulous way with a Low Down.

Today, Mystery Writers of America announced that they have "voted unanimously on Wednesday to remove Harlequin and all of its imprints from our list of Approved Publishers, effective immediately." What does this mean for MWA members? Nothing if they were already acknowledged as published authors by way of a December 2 or prior contract with Harlequin. For anyone else? Denied.

Romance Writers of America have revoked Harlequin's privileges as an "eligible" publisher at the 2010 conference, and the board will meet to decide Harlequin's fate within the RWA.

Last night, during an awesome #askagent session on Twitter, I tweeted a question to find out how agents are reacting to the MWA, RWA and even SFWA (sci-fi and fantasy writers organization) to Harlequin's business decision - are they changing their submission policies to Harlequin or their relationship? Colleen Lindsay of Fineprint responded: "Not at all; Harlequin is still a good publisher."

I have to agree. Harlequin is still a good publisher with helpful and professional editors. Though I haven't sat in on any business meetings, I'm almost certain this bollocks decision was made by Torstar (Harlequin's parent company) with zero regard for how it  would affect their cash cow.


Then again, isn't it the responsibility of the writers' associations to protect their members? And isn't Harlequin still in ethical murk because they're pimping the vanity press in rejection letters?


What do you think? Is RWA/MWA/SFWA helping the situation? Do you think Harlequin will (or should) change how they do business in order to align with the demands of the writing organizations? Will you still submit to Harlequin? Will you sign a contract knowing it could mean ineligibility for awards and published perks (or membership) within these writing organizations? Do you have an agent, and is that agent still willing to work with Harlequin?



We've seen a lot of discussion about Harlequin's DellArte Press now, but we haven't seen much from the authors affected by this, the ones who will sacrifice to be a Harlequin author or the ones whose reputations and future careers might be affected by their publisher's decision.

Keep it respectful. Keep it professional. But tell us how this will affect how you will carry out your career pla

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

My to-do list in December

As some of you may know, I love mystery and romantic suspense, and while December is a hectic time for many, it's a crazy time for me. Why? Because as a member of Romance Writers of America's, Kiss of Death Chapter, one of my passions is coordinating the Daphne, otherwise known as the Daphne du Maurier Award for Excellence in Mystery/Suspense. Named in honor of legendary Suspense Author, Daphne du Maurier, this two-part contest is geared for Published and Unpublished authors, and begins January 15, 2010.

For those who write straight mystery, we have our mainstream/mystery suspense category. If you're a romance writer who incorporates suspense into your manuscripts, we have something for you too. Check out our 2010 Final Round Judges:

Category (Series) Romantic Mystery/Suspense
Patience Smith, Silhouette Intimate Moments & Michelle Grajkowski, Three Seas Literary Agency

Historical Romantic Mystery/Suspense
Alex Logan, Grand Central Publishing & Kevan Lyon, Marshal Lyon Literary Agency

Inspirational Romantic Mystery/Suspense
Caleb Sjogren, Tyndale House Publishers & Steve Laube Agency

Paranormal (PTTF) Romantic Mystery/Suspense
Heather Osborn, Tor/Forge & Paige Wheeler, Folio Literary Management

Single Title Romantic Mystery/Suspense
Margaret Marbury, MIRA/HQN & Stephanie Maclean, Trident Media Group

Mainstream Mystery/Suspense
Toni Plummer, St. Martin's/Thomas Dunne & Stacia Decker, Donald Maass Literary Agency

Contests can be intimidating; they can also be career builders. Published authors, the Daphne levels the playing field. The contest is open to all venues of trade paperback, e-publishing, self-publishing, subsidy (vanity) press, print-on-demand or small imprint publisher. If you have a copyrighted 2009 mystery, romantic suspense novel, consider entering one of the most prestigious contests out there. Your book must be bound and formatted per our guidelines on the web page, www.rwamysterysupsense.org

Note: The website still says 2009, but will be updated shortly.

Also, for anyone considering entering, I recently was a guest blogger at Romance University. I answered a lot of questions about this contest as well as about judging. If you're interesting in learning more, check out: http://romanceuniversity.org/2009/11/30/ins-outs-ups-downs-of-writing-contests/

Now go finish decorating, and doing that shopping, and then get that manuscript and/or book ready and come see me in January. Happy Writing! ~ Donnell

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Happy Thanksgiving


Thanksgiving is a truly unique American celebration, 'tho I understand there is a Thanksgiving in Canada, and my bad, I didn't research what that one is about. So I'm sticking with our American Thanksgiving.

I humbly ask that you take time today to give thanks for the gifts in your life. I won't deign to tell you what they are, you know. And if you don't know, stop and ponder, then give thanks.

We know not is all well with our country, but we can commit this Thanksgiving Day to making it the best place we can. With gestures of kindness and generosity we can help those not as fortunate as we are and those that can't be with the ones they love.

Thanksgiving can be more than Turkey Day, although the feast is fab and I look forward to it all year long. When I go to bed this evening, I'll recall the wisdom of a dear friend Jean who has lived a long and varied life, and take a moment to recall the joys I experienced this day and pass them onward.

Peace and Happy Thanksgiving to all.

~LA

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Terrific Openings

Here's a post from one of my favorite blogs. Chuck talks about a workshop similarly to one we run at the Crested Butte Writers Conference--which is a real crowd-pleaser. But in any event, it's a great reminder of what NOT to do in your own openings. Take a look!
T


7 Reasons Agents Stop Reading Your First Chapter
Posted by
Chuck

I recently attended the Writer Idol Event at Boston Book Fest. It was not for the faint of heart, but for those willing to brave public ridicule, it was a great way to get helpful feedback.

This is how it worked: An actress picked manuscripts at random and read the first 250 words out loud for the panel and the audience. If at any point a panelist felt he would stop reading, he raised his hand. The actress read until two or more panelists raised their hands, at which point the panel discussed the reasons they stopped, or in cases where the actress read to the end, they discussed what worked. Helene Atwan (Director of Beacon Press) and agents Esmond Harmsworth, Eve Bridburg, and Janet Silver (all from
Zachary Shuster Harmsworth) served on the panel.


These panelists were tough! I'd say less than 25% made it to the end of the passage. Here are some of the common reasons panelists stopped reading.

1. Generic beginnings: Stories that opened with the date or the weather didn’t really inspire interest. According to Harmsworth, you are only allowed to start with the weather if you're writing a book about meteorologists. Otherwise, pick something more creative.

2. Slow beginnings: Some manuscripts started with too much pedestrian detail (characters washing dishes, etc) or unnecessary background information.

3. Trying too hard: Sometimes it seemed like a writer was using big words or flowery prose in an attempt to sound more sophisticated. In several cases, the writer used big words incorrectly. Awkward or forced imagery was also a turnoff. At one point, the panelists raised their hands when a character's eyes were described as “little lubricated balls moving back and forth.”

4. TMI (Too Much Information): Overly detailed description of bodily functions or medical examinations had the panelists begging for mercy.

5. Clichés: "The buildings were ramrod straight." "The morning air was raw." "Character X blossomed into Y." "A young woman looks into the mirror and tells us what she sees." Clichés are hard to avoid, but when you revise, go through and try to remove them.

6. Loss of Focus: Some manuscripts didn't have a clear narrative and hopped disjointedly from one theme to the next.

7. Unrealistic internal narrative: Make sure a character's internal narrative—what the character is thinking or feeling—matches up with reality. For example, you wouldn't want a long eloquent narration of what getting strangled feels like—the character would be too busy gasping for breath and passing out. Also, avoid having the character think about things just for the sake of letting the reader know about them.

Friday, November 20, 2009

When it's too hard to write

How many times in the last few months have I wanted to give up writing?

When my son's foray into Kindergarten failed so miserably that I had to step up and homeschool...

When the additional coursework required for my degree meant I had to spend more time analyzing horror novels and critical essays on the genre than I could give my own thesis...

When the numerous revisions and halting progress on my thesis novel over the last year and a half meant that the Frankenstory it had become was almost beyond hope...

When that thesis novel was still due at the end of October...

When I'd already committed to volunteer in my children's religious education and couldn't weasel out...

When I was sick and my blood pressure skyrocketed for no logical reason...

When I had to fill so many prescriptions at the pharmacy that I wondered if they'd have a bag big enough for all of them...

When it seemed like everything around me was either exploding or falling apart and I was fumbling my obligations, how often did I want to just power down my computer and walk away for good?

Not once.

Even on those days when it was too hard to write, when I felt like any talent I might have was long gone, I still felt the fire.

Today, I give thanks for the fire to write. Some days, even if I only want to brainstorm under the spray of the shower and ignore my computer, that fire smoldering under the weight of life's burdens is what keeps me focused.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Refilling The Well -- This writer is reading

I realize that for many November is NaNoWriMo, and for the many dedicated people pounding away at their keyboards, I salute you. As for me, after coordinating the Daphne du Maurier Award for Excellence in Mystery/Suspense this year as well as finishing my own romantic mystery, the last thing I want to do is sit at a keyboard and stare at a computer screen. Therefore, I dedicate November to "Me" time," to refilling the well time and to doing something I rarely get to do anymore--read for pleasure.

My nightstand resembles a bygone era in my household. The table is loaded with books! I just completed my first "for fun" reads. Tess Gerritsen's, The Bone Garden, and Daniel Silva's Moscow Rules. (I can picture non-thriller lovers saying, This is fun?) For me it is, absolutely.

Once again, Gerritsen's physician background serves her well in this Boston-based book set in the present and in the 1800s. Combining fictional characters with the remarkable real life historical figure Oliver Wendell Holmes, she addresses the subject of ressurectionists -- grave robbers who harvest bodies for the black market. Anytime you read Tess Gerritsen you expect beautiful writing and thought-provoking text. The Bone Garden doesn't disappoint. And I love the life lesson she provides at the end of the book. It's something we take for granted today, and yet our ancestors had to learn it the hard way--with myriad loss of life and disease. The book isn't Gerritsen's standard breakneck page turner. But if you like stories of Jack the Ripper and have a love of history, you'll love The Bone Garden.

Next on my nightstand is Moscow Rules. I love sitting down with anything written by Daniel Silva. First, I know I'm going on an international tour by reading his well-researched work. In Moscow Rules I traveled to Italy, Israel, France, England, Russia and of course the U.S. His protagonist Gabriel Allon is one of the most interesting fictional characters of all time in my opinion. His combination of art, political events, world history with some of the most intriguing protagonists and the most evil antagonists created guarantee I'm in for an up-all-night read. Silva does hooks better than any author out there, his sense of humor is laugh-out-loud funny, and the way he tortures his characters is grossly unfair. His knowledge of espionage and the realism in his storytelling leaves me with no choice but to turn the pages. What I love about his series featuring the ruthless, eye-for-an eye Gabriel Allon, Ari Shamron and Adrian Carter is I know after he's made my heart stop a time or two, good will defeat evil.

I forget that I'm a writer when I read books like these. Good luck to everyone doing NaNoWriMo. Like the overworked employee who hangs up a shingle that says, "Gone Fishin'", my shingle is up too. Mine says, "Gone Reading." So, if you're a writer, how do you refill your well?

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Online Chat With Zac Sanford

This is not to be missed. A chat brought to you by Scriptscene RWA.

WHEN: This Sunday November 15th, 2009 5pm PST ( it will last apx 1hr.)

Zac Sanford is the development director with Suntaur Entertainment. He's willing to answer any questions about the movie industry. He's not trying to sell anything, so he'll tell it like it is. He's knowledgeable about both sides, writing and development.

Suntaur doesn't accept unsolicited queries, but Zac said he'd accept queries from chat participants.

You'll need to go to Twitter and sign up for an account. Then on the night of the chat, log on to http://www.tweetchat.com/ and enter scriptscenechat for the hashtag. That will take you to our chat area.

Scriptscene, http://www.scriptscene.org/, an online Chapter of Romance Writers of America is offering this first chat as an open chat. Future quarterly chats will be for Scriptscene members only...so, if you love this perk, and who wouldn't...join Scriptscene RWA (must be an RWA member as well) if you have ANY interest in writing screenplays, learning the craft from dedicated writers and being around creative people who love what they do.

Also, stay tuned. Scriptscene has a brand new look and feel to their annual contest. Info coming soon...

~LA

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

The Sandy's Back!

Bigger and Better than ever. The Sandy is back.

I hope you all have been busy writing and polishing your pages 'cause I’ve been working hard to find great new final judges for the 2010 Sandy—and I got some real gems again this year, folks! Check them out at www.thesandy.org. Please note that the URL for The Sandy has changed for dot com to dot org.


Also, I’m pleased to say that we’ve added a new genre, so now mystery writers will have their own score sheet—though they will be competing in the same category as suspense & thrillers. The final judge is Mark Tavani—Sr editor at Ballantine Books.

We’ve got a brand new website, chocked full of all sorts of helpful information. So check it out and spread the word!

Monday, November 9, 2009

Critique Groups: Love 'em or hate 'em -- they're an important writing tool

If you've been writing fiction as long as I have, you form a few opinions. Think back to your very first manuscript. Now fast forward to the ideally several manuscripts that you've completed since then. Are you the same writer you were when you reached THE END of number one?

Probably not. If you are, there might be a problem. If you're still working on number one, ask yourself why. And if you're submitting, getting no response or little feedback on your rejection letters, maybe it's time to take a look at that also.

Above all, if you haven't had any luck, can't understand why, and you haven't done so already, you might want to join a critique group.

If you're a new writer, my number one advice is to join one with more experienced writers than you are. While that might sound intimidating, that is the only way (unless you're that rare storytelling natural) that you are going to grow as a writer. You can read every book on the shelf, but until you apply craft and writing technique to your own work, e.g. develop your voice, you won't improve as a writer.

I can't tell you how much I've learned from my first book to my now sixth completed project -- not to mention all the partials stuffed deep in my drawers -- thanks to my critique partners. Comments I received in book number one were -- you've gone into omniscient POV and just blew up your POV character; you have too many POVs; you're in the incorrect POV; you're head-hopping; too many words; weak action verbs; and your research is showing.

And those are just the comments I can remember. If you listen to experienced critique partners, something will happen from one project to the next. Those new writer comments will go away. You're going to find in the next book, they'll move on to more complex writing issues. GMC (goal, motivation and conflict). Why would your hero do that? This action seems out of character? Your protagonist doesn't seem three-dimensional to me; what's his back story? Up your pacing here, this chapter is dragging. Need a transition here....

These comments may seem tough to hear, and often they're downright painful. But they are invaluable to a professional writer. It may feel fantastic to get a critique that says oh, my gosh, I love your writing, I wouldn't change a thing! Nice ego boost, but that comment isn't going to get you published. Some good advice I received--don't fall in love with your words.

Another helpful tip I've learned over the years when you're in a critique group is to listen -- don't argue. It does you no good to try to explain what you meant. Take it all in, sit back and let a partner's words sink in from one meeting to the next. It's your story, and it's up to you whether or not to change it.

Another thing to consider when you're a member of a critique group is: Are they helping? A critique group isn't a marriage. You've joined to help you improve. It's okay to say this isn't working and move on to one that will help you. If a critique group is destructive or seems intensely negative, run do not walk away from this energy. This will only make you doubt yourself further -- and let's face it, there's no one more full of self- doubt than a writer ;)

Not sure how to find a critique group? Join your local writers' organization or ask about them on line. If your organization has Open Critique, go and go often. This may be the best way to establish a new group or to get an objective viewpoint.

These are my opinions regarding critique groups. Like anything in this biz, it's subjective. How about you? What do you value in a critique? What's the best -- or worst -- advice you've ever received? Are you still with your original critique group, or have you moved on? Or have you quit altogether and prefer to write alone?

I'd love to hear your stories and what you've taken away from them. I'm a member of an in-town and an on-line critique group and find their comments invaluable. I feel they make me a better writer.

Friday, November 6, 2009

60 Days to PRO

Last week, the Fantasy, Futuristic, and Paranormal chapter of RWA® wrapped up the first annual 60 Days to PRO event. From September 1 until October 30, we offered inspirational quotes, free workshops, pitch opportunities on our members-only blog and chat room, progress trackers, chat room sprint sessions, incentive awards, and more to our members. In exchange, they worked on completing their novels, submitting query letters, and sending in their applications to gain RWA® PRO status.

Our published authors stepped up, presenting free versions of their workshops to both our PRO and wannabe PRO authors. Our members stepped up, taking all the wonderful opportunities offered to them and finishing their novels, writing query letters and synopses, pitching their novels to agents and editors, earning PRO status, sharing their daily "pearls" with others, and more.

It was an amazing whirlwind month. And it was so successful, we're expanding it next year. Instead of focusing on moving more members into PRO status, we'll focus on moving all of our members straight to PAN...or from PAN to bestseller...or from bestseller to phenom.

I'm already excited about next year even as I'm trying to recuperate from this year's event. The amazing feedback we've received has literally brought tears to my eyes given me allergies. Don't worry, they were the good kind.

If you want to join the fun, I encourage you to try this in your own organization. (Or you can always join FF&P, of course!) It was a lot of work, but it was worth every minute to see the amazing progress our members have made in their writing careers.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Breathing Life Into Characters



Audra here : )

If you've written with the intention of selling to the romance market for as long as I have, undoubtedly you've attended more workshops and read more books on the techniques of writing than you could ever count. It's continuing education, right? You never know what online class or workshop is going to make that light bulb go off in your head and give you a clear vision of everything that you've been doing wrong all these years.



Well, that of course is if you are an extremist. Personally, I think I do a lot of things right, it's just not the right editors are looking for : )


Over a year ago, I queried an established agent, well-known in romance marketing circles and she responded with a request for a partial. Oh happy day! I whisked my partial out the door with high hopes that this agent would consider representing me. Much to my surprise, a few days later I received an email from her. Even though she passed on representing me, we did email back and forth about the the proposal I'd sent.


First of all, she said I had talent and a unique voice and she assured me she thought I'd be published someday. She even liked the proposal I'd sent except for one thing: the plot felt contrived.


Contrived?

How does a SOTP writer create a contrived plot?


Hopefully we've all attended a workshop on deep POV. If you haven't, sign up for the next available slot with an author whose work you love. Deep POV brings out the heart of your characters and gives them reasons to do the things they do.


Okay. I thought I understood this.


Obviously not.


Back to my original point. You take variations of tried and true classes and workshops hoping someday the *aha* moment will burst forth and you'll get whatever everyone else seems to have gotten.


Last month I read a blog post by my friend Missy Tippens. Missy talked at length about ANOTHER craft book called The Story Within Guidebook. Caught my interest to the point where I visited Alicia Rasley's site and ordered a copy. Best decision I've made all year.


Alicia makes the concept of deep POV a perfectly painless concept. She takes you through the hows and whys of getting to know your character and anticipating their behavior. You learn to understand the character.


I know most writers have a copy of GMC: Goals, Motivation, Conflict book by Debra Dixon. Excellent book. Everything she says about dissecting The Wizard of Oz makes sense. Only problem, I had a difficult time applying the GMC to my own work. Is that an internal or external goal? If that's my goal, what is my motivation? My conflict has nothing to do with my characters goals or motivations.


Where are Munchkins when you need them??


Alicia doesn't give you the answers. She asks the questions that make you think about your book so you can answer them yourself. Clever idea, huh?


Not every method works for everyone. I'm so glad I finally found a method that works for me. Maybe now I won't be rewriting my drafts a ba-billion times and still coming up contrived : )


BTW, I have an open-ended invitation to submit my work to the above mentioned agent. By jove, this time I think I've got it : )


Blessings to all!

-audra

Thursday, October 29, 2009

What do Elliptical Trainers & Writing Have To Do With Each Other

No, I'm not kidding. We finally got our coveted LifeFitness Elliptical Trainer today and I jumped on. (Okay it was awhile ago I started this post...like in the summer, and now it's snowing in OCT!!)

Well, I can walk a mean pace on the treadmill and ride a decent hill on the bike or hike up the trails of Chautauqua Park, but when I got on the elliptical, I was stunned at how hard it was, using muscles I hadn't used for a long...long time.

So after I got off 10 measly minutes later and covered in a film of sweat....er, I glistened, I thought about how we all need to cross train our writing muscles.

I write suspense, drama, action adventure, scripts, even romance but no comedy. And people think I'm funny (I don't think I'm funny)...so maybe I need to try a romantic comedy.

Try and not be afraid if it stinks.

I heard a friend of mine speak at his High School Honors Dinner and he said, I'm paraphrasing here, we tend to be afraid to make mistakes for fear people will think less of us. That is so true. So after I'm done with my current script, I'm going to tackle this...

NEWS FLASH

I'm tackling it...Oh My Goodness, it's not easy.

For fun and likely needed therapy, I'm going to periodically nuggets of wisdom I've found while writing this RomCom (Romantic Comedy.) So stay tuned...and you can learn with me and pick me up when I'm down.

SO.....

What are you going to do to exercise your writing muscles?

Let me know.
~LA

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Frustrations, Comfort and Cravings

Anybody who knows me, knows I’m a submission slut. I ALWAYS have material being looked at by agents and editors. If it’s not out there; ya can’t sell it people. So I get a fair amount of rejections—and my rejections lately have been particularly frustrating. “Though there is much to like and admire about this work, I’m afraid I didn’t connect well enough with the material to offer representation at this time.” Well, shoot. How’re supposed to learn from that? I’ve never heard of a workshop on “Helping Agents Connect with Your Book.” Perhaps once I bust through, I’ll have to give that workshop.

You must realize that I’m NOT whining here—I don’t whine. To everything there is a season and my time will come. But I have to share that I really found comfort in Kristin Nelson’s Blog .


From what Kristin reports, it seems that NY Publishers are playing it safe—safer than usual. If they can’t see how to break a book out in a big way, they don’t want it—despite it’s many admitted strengths. If they don’t see it as a blockbuster book, they’re passing—or if they don’t see it fitting a very narrow, proven genre—like Kristen’s example of say, something like dark YA angsty romance, then they are also passing. She admits it takes courage and chutzpah to take a chance on a book they don’t envision as a “big, breakout book”, but she’d appreciate a little vision.


And I couldn’t agree more, but I’d like to take it even a step further—or maybe it’s the same step, really. I’m not quite sure. I’d like some variety and balance in the reading selections offered. Though I know some close friends who probably will take issue with this sentiment. I'm REALLY tired of vampires, zombies, and serial killers. They've had a LONG run and I'm ready for a choice of interesting long contemporary romances among other things.


Silly as it seems, I’d love a great Bewitched-style book. I always appreciate a little magic in my life. Heck, I’d write it myself if my talents at all leaned in that direction, but sigh, they don’t. Perhaps they’re there and I’m just missing them.


What about you? What are your eyeballs tired of scanning on bookshelves and what would you LOVE to read more of?

Monday, October 26, 2009

Do you write to the seasons?


It's clear that the publishing industry will save a book for a seasonal release. I suspect P.J. Alderman's Haunting Jordan www.pjalderman.com was packaged to come out around Halloween. And while this makes sense from a marketing standpoint, it got me thinking while I was out raking my mountain of leaves last week: Do you write to a season? If you're sitting by a warm fire drinking hot chocolate, do you have an urge to write a beach scene? If a new book pops into your head, do you write it based on the time of year you're in, or is the time of year irrelevant?

Since we're approaching Halloween, does it bring out your scary muse? Or can you just as well write about Valentine's Day? Does Thanksgiving give you the urge to write about family and friends and old lang syne? Or can you write about the Easter bunny?

It might be a fun escape if you're able. Particularly if you live in Colorado and snow covers your driveway and you're up to your neck in flannel and thermal socks. Stay warm, everyone, and whatever season you're in, I hope you savor it. Happy writing whatever the time of year.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Proof of Life: Exactly who is Misty Evans?







If you remember several months ago, I hauled Misty Evans into my interrogation room for a little chat. The former Marketing grad, wife and mother of twins tried every which way to convince me she was just that. I fell for it then. But what's that old saying? Fool me once? It's time to shame Misty Evans into a full-blown confession. You'll never believe what she's written this time. A book called Proof of Life. It's the third book in Evan's Super Spy series, and this time the story's about that hunk...I mean CIA Deputy Director Michael Stone.

I'm telling you, nobody can make up details like this without firsthand knowledge. It's back to the interrogation room, and this time, I'm showing no mercy.

http://fivescribes.blogspot.com/2008/09/research-likely-story-deciphering-of.html

D.B.: Welcome back, Misty. You look a little surprised to see me.

M.E.: Hello, D. Do you have bugs in your coffee pot again? I assume that's the only reason you'd insist I return to Five Scribes.

D.B.:
Ah, the old CIA trick of trying to put me on the defensive. Did you think I wouldn't read Proof of Life to find out what you've been up to? Tell me about this Dr. Brigit Kent person. She's not a U.S. citizen, and yet she works for Homeland Security. Her brother's a well known IRA terrorist. You expect your readers to believe she's one of the good guys?

M.E.: Yes, she's definitely one of the good guys -- but she has a lot to hide, and her sister to rescue, so sometimes the lines between right and wrong get blurred! Brigit did obtain U.S. citizenship as a child. She's working for Homeland Security as a consultant to the president, but she's also undercover for the British Secret Intelligence Service.

D.B.:
A double spy, eh? And you know this... how?

M.E.: Because I wrote it that way. You see, the SIS has covered up the facts about her half-brother, Peter, and her family has kept him a secret as well. One of her greatest fears is that Michael will find out just how screwed up her family is.

D.B.:
As well she should be. Your books are just full of secrets, Ms Evans. Secrets I feel it's my duty to expose. So Dr. Kent just happens to be a consultant to the president who finds herself dead center in a little girl's kidnapping. A psychotherapist who just happens to be a code breaker. C'mon, Misty, come clean. How do you know all this stuff?

M.E.: Simple. People are one giant code to Brigit, so breaking down what makes them tick is no different to her than deciphering a code. She's an excellent observer and knows how to take the pieces of any puzzle and put them together into something identifiable. She ends up involved in the kidnapping because she sees the pattern no one else sees.

As for me, I know this stuff because I have a cool source who consults for Homeland Security and she's full of interesting facts that make my imagination run wild! (I also did a lot of research. I even read books by Steven Pinker, who's an experimental psychologist and cognitive scientist. He's fascinating and his ideas blew me away! http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Steven_Pinker)

D.B.:
Don't you worry, I will check him out. And, if necessary, bring him in, too! I find it more than a little coincidental that Brigit and her sister Tory were kidnap victims as children, and that Tory's sympathies lie with their criminal half-brother while Brigit's out for justice. Explain that one!

M.E.: One of the reasons Brigit is so good at her job is because she was kidnapped as a child. She understands the minds of victims as well as the way kidnappers work. And while her kidnapping and subsequent death of her mother drives Brigit to work for the U.S., British and Irish governments to bring justice to criminals, her sister Tory has joined Peter's group because she, too, wants justice. She's however, chosen a different path to obtain it -- one that goes against everything that Brigit believes in. Trust me, you'll like her.

D.B.:
Let me decide if I like her or not. I must admit she has had her share of conflict. Poor Brigit ... (Interrogator hardens heart, refuses to be swayed. Picks up Misty's latest cover of Proof of Life and stares dreamily. Clears throat.) You expect me to believe that someone as rock solid as Deputy Director Michael Stone wouldn't look into Brigit's past, and even more astonishing, he would fall for Dr. Kent -- and not me?

M.E.: Michael does look into Brigit's past and puts his best undercover operative, Conrad Flynn, on her tail. As the story progresses, Michael discovers she's quite a conundrum, and he has a rough time figuring out whether he can trust her or not. At one point, she's being accused of being the one who's kidnapped his niece, but because he can read people so well, he doesn't believe it, even when all the evidence points to Brigit. All through the story, he wonders the same thing as you (well, almost ;) -- why he's so attracted to her. In the end, though, he realizes her heart is pure and she's the woman for him. (Sorry D.).

D.B.:
Interrogator wipes eyes and sniffs. What about Conrad and Julia, Zara and Lawson? People came to care about them, you know. Sheba won a 2008 Reviewer's Choice Award from eCata Romance and a 4-star review from RT. Tell the truth. Do we see these fantastic characters again? Or like all of you CIA-types, are they merely collateral damage?

M.E.: Wow, you're really being tough on me today! Conrad and Julia play big parts in Proof of Life, and Zara and Lawson find out they're going to have a baby, so, yes, all the main characters (and a few of the minor characters) from Operation Sheba and I'd Rather In Paris appear in Proof of Life. I had THE best time bringing all of my super agents together and even Smitty, Del and Ace got to tag along.

D.B. : You're smooth, I'll give you that much. You seem to have an answer for everything. What happens next, Misty? Do you return to Washington?

M.E.: Okay, okay, Donnell, you win. Yes, I'm returning to Washington to consult with the president, the director of the CIA and a Homeland Security team about a new army of spies that will take us into the next decade of counterintelligence. And while I'm working on that, I'm guest blogging all over the web and giving away free copies of Proof of Life. Readers can find me at:

In the meantime, anyone who comments here today on Five Scribes is also eligible to win an ecopy of Proof of Life! I'd especially like to hear which of my characters (like Smitty, Del or Michael's Secret Service agent, Brad) should get their own story in the fourth Super Agent book. Thank you, Donnell and Five Scribes, for insisting I visit with you again. Now, I insist on checking the coffee pot.

Interrogator shakes head. All right, readers, while Misty wastes her time checking for nonexistent bugs, know this. You're invited to interrogate her, too. And whoever does, might just wind up with is or her own copy of Proof of Life. Then it won't be only me who's suspicious, we'll all be out to read Misty Evans! Questions? Comments?


CONGRATULATIONS TO ELLEN! MISTY DREW YOUR NAME AND YOU HAVE WON PROOF OF LIFE! GLAD YOU'VE JOINED THE TEAM, ELLEN.... WE'LL COMPARE NOTES AND I'M SURE YOU'LL AGREE WITH ME THERE'S MORE TO MISTY EVANS THAN THERE SEEMS ~ HAPPY READING, EVERYONE!