Thursday, May 28, 2009

Historical Herbs for What Ails

Good morning, Janet! So great to have you with us today!

Janet has enjoyed tremendous success since the debut of her novel, Courting Miss Adelaide, for Steeple Hill Books Love Inspired Historical line. Courting Miss Adelaide has received numerous awards including a nomination for 2008 Romantic Times Reviewers' Choice Awards and named a finalist in the Gayle Wilson Award of Excellence. Courting the Doctor's Daughter is the second book of her Courting series and is just as exceptional as Courting Miss Adelaide!

Welcome Janet Dean!

I'm excited for the chance to guest at Five Scribes today and to tell your readers about my second book, Courting the Doctor's Daughter, Steeple Hill Love Inspired Historical that released May 12. Courting the Doctor’s Daughter continues the stories of children who rode the orphan train into Noblesville, Indiana, begun in my debut, Courting Miss Adelaide.

Leave a comment for a chance to win a copy of either Courting Miss Adelaide or Courting the Doctor’s Daughter.

Courting the Doctor’s Daughter.

Mary Graves’s deceased husband drank and was lost to her long before his death. Left to rear her three sons, two of her own and one foster child from the orphan train, Mary resolves to become a doctor like her father and never rely on a man. When handsome stranger, Luke Jacobs, blows into town, peddling his remedy and carrying a secret, Mary’s world is turned upside down.

Courting Miss Adelaide.

The “orphan train” seemed like small-town spinster Adelaide Crum’s last chance to for motherhood. And yet the narrow-minded town elders refused to entrust even the most desperate child to a woman alone. Newspaperman Charles Graves believed his heart was closed forever, but Adelaide’s gentle soul and unwavering faith made him wonder if even he could overcome the bitter lessons of the past, and somehow find the courage to love….

I love history. The research that’s necessary to write a novel, especially a historical, is both fascinating and frustrating. Especially when I discover a plot element in my book won’t work…though I can sometimes find a way around it.

To write the first book, Courting Miss Adelaide and Courting the Doctor's Daughter, I researched Noblesville, a real town in Indiana, and the “orphan train.” The history behind the orphan trains fascinates me. Between the years of 1853 and 1929, 250,000-some say, 350,000, orphans or half orphans rode trains from New York City to new homes.

The idea to place out orphans originated with a Methodist minister, Charles Loring Brace, founder of The Children’s Aid Society. Brace saw children working in sweatshops, peddling newspapers and living on the streets in abject poverty, as many as 30,000 at any one time. He decided relocating these children to homes in agricultural areas would give them a chance for a better life. For some, it did. Others lived more like indentured servants than members of a family.

Courting the Doctor’s Daughter also required researching medical practices in 1898, focusing on the use of herbs or medicinal plants in treating illness. I learned many medicinal plants are dangerous if improperly used. Several plants are used in modern medicines.

Digitalis comes from foxglove.

Horehound eases sore throats and coughing.

Horseradish is a potent diuretic.

Licorice was used as a laxative.

St. John’s Wort helps mild cases of depression.

I was surprised to learn that herbs I use in cooking, such as oregano, sage, thyme, also contain healing properties. It’s been fun to see that God created the first medicines.

I needed an ingredient with medicinal properties that fit the image I had of my hero’s medicine. In Rodale’s Illustrated Encyclopedia of Herbs, I found what I sought—catnip. Not only cats appreciate this herb. Uses for humans include: digestion and sleeping aids. Catnip also eases colds, colic, nervous headaches and fevers. Catnip was listed in the U.S. Pharmacopoeia from 1842-1882. In more recent times, Varro Tyler, Ph.D. at Purdue, author of The Honest Herbal found a bit of evidence that catnip may be a sedative. Health food stores carry catnip in capsule form, mostly used to calm fussy infants.

If you’ve found an herb to be effective or have some tidbit about orphan trains, please share your information in your comment.

Thanks, Audra, for having me to Five Scribes today!

Blessings, Janet

To find out more about the herbs of yesterday, go to Janet's post in Seekerville May '09. Lots of fun facts!

Thank you, Janet for joining us today. Remember, leave a comment to win your choice of Courting Miss Adelaide or Courting the Doctor's Daughter.

(also, Thank you Wikipedia for the herb photos!)

You can also find Janet at her website Janet Dean or her blog A Cup of Faith.

Have a great day everyone! -audra

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

How-to Author Bob Mayer

The Five Scribes are pleased to present: Margie Lawson's How-to Author Interview Series, featuring today's How-to Guest, Bob Mayer

Wednesday, May 27th

Post a Comment today and you may win....

The Novel Writer's Toolkit


A Lecture Packet from me ... Margie Lawson!!


New York Times Bestseller

-- And other Bestseller lists too: Wall Street Journal, Publisher's Weekly, USA Today

39 books Published

West Point Graduate

Served in the Infantry and Special Forces

Instructor at the JFK Special Warfare Center


Master Parachutist/Jumpmaster Qualified

Earned a Black Belt while living in the Orient

Taught martial arts

Graduate of the International Mountain Climbing School

Completed 14 marathons -- including qualifying for the Boston Marathon



"Something for every writer, from neophyte to old hand. My hat is off to Bob." ~
Elizabeth George.

An invaluable resource for beginning and seasoned writers alike. Don't miss out." ~ Terry Brooks.

Review for WHO DARES WINS:

"Bob Mayer gives us a unique and valuable window into the shadowy world of our country's elite fighting forces and [demonstrates] how you can apply many of the concepts and strategies they use for success in your own life and organization." ~ Jack Canfield, creator of the Chicken Soup book series.

Upcoming Releases:

WHO DARES WINS – A book on leadership and communication

M.L: On June 2, 2009 you have a new non-fiction book coming out. WHO DARES WINS: The Green Beret Way to Conquer Fear and Succeed. If I have counted correctly, this is your 39th book. That is incredible. Tell us a little about the book and why you decided to write it.

B.M. I’ve been writing this book for almost 20 years. I’ve been living it for 32. It combines everything I learned about being a warrior and evolved that into being an artist, starting in 1977 during Beast Barracks at West Point, through my time in the Infantry and most importantly, my time in the Special Forces, where I commanded an A-Team, was a battalion operations officer coordinating the deployment of 15 Special Forces Team worldwide, and was as an instructor at the J.F. Kennedy Special Warfare Center & School at Ft. Bragg, where new Green Berets are trained.

I added to the book every year. I actually have a much longer version covering individuals and team building, but I’ve decided to break that into two books, and the one coming out now is the one for individuals. Later this year I will write one for team building, based on the A-Team model, the most successful team in the world.

M.L.: Why this book? Why now?

B.M.: Fear is ruling a lot of people’s lives. I was talking to a CEO several years ago in Maui and she mentioned that if there was one constant in business, it was fear. I started to integrate that then. Nowadays, I think it’s even more relevant than ever. Fear is crippling people. It can’t be ignored. It has to be faced and dealt with. In Special Forces we constantly dealt with fear, whether it be in training or combat. It’s not normal to jump off the ramp of a perfectly good airplane in the pitch black with over 150 pounds of gear on. And that’s just the way we get to the mission to be accomplished.

M.L.: How can WHO DARES WINS help the average person? The business person? The Writer?

B.M.: It works strategically and tactically: i.e., the big picture in changing your overall life and with specifics for improving day-to-day living. There are three areas: Who, Dares, Wins. In each area are three one-word Special “Forces”. To make it even easier to follow, the words in each area start with the same letter.

We begin with Wins and the three forces are:

  • WHAT do you want to achieve?
  • WHY do you want to achieve those goals?
  • WHERE will you be achieving those goals?

Then we move on to Who:

  • Assess your CHARACTER, both strengths and weaknesses.
  • Learn what real CHANGE is and how to achieve it.
  • Move out of your comfort zone and into your COURAGE zone.

Finally, we move into Dares:

  • COMMUNICATE your change to the world.
  • Take COMMAND of your life.
  • COMPLETE the Circle of Success.

And then you start over again, building on what you’ve done. So it’s a circular program, not a linear one, which actually makes it more attractive to women as they tend to be less linear than men.

Who Dares Wins can help in business because it’s a combination of the Warrior-Artist: Discipline and Creativity.For an artist it gives you the Warrior’s Path to Creativity. Writers workshops tend to focus on the writing and not the writer. Maybe it’s not the writing that needs to change, but the writer. I’ve taught thousands of writers over the years, and the largest obstacle is not their writing, but their approach to writing. Who Dares Wins helps examine that in detail and learn how to change.

Seventy-eight (78%) percent of Americans say they want to write a novel. Yet only a very few ever make it to the level of getting published. Because Who Dares Wins focuses on the 5% of people who can achieve sustained action using their own motivation, learning its techniques can help writers achieve their goals.

M.L.: Has writing this book changed the way you think? Or approach things?

B.M.: I’ve published a lot of books, but I’ve changed over the years. I apply these principles to myself.

M.L: You do workshops across the country based on the principles in WHO DARES WINS. Who would benefit from taking this workshop and why? What would someone get out of the workshop?

B.M.: As noted above, it forces you to examine everything about the way you approach writing. All the lessons learned in the workshop also work two ways: for you as the writer, and for the actual writing. For example, under WHAT we pinpoint what your goal is with your writing, and we also pinpoint what exactly your book is about. Both in one sentence each.

M.L.: You also do workshops based on your NOVEL WRITER’S TOOLKIT. How has writing WHO DARES WINS changed this workshop over the years?

B.M: I’m more interactive and more emotional. I always presented great content, but I’ve learned that people want to participate and also they want to be emotionally engaged. My Writers Presentation now has a workbook to go along with the Novel Writers Toolkit. I use examples from people participating. I put more of my passion into them because I’ve learned to open up more about how I feel about the subject matter. I care about what I teach but I was a bit reserved in the past.

M.L.: You have written under your own name, and various pen names. Why?

B.M.: Business reasons. Once you’re under contract, the publisher owns the option on your next book. To avoid that option, you can use a pen name. Also, most publishers want just one book a year and I was writing three a year.

M.L: You have written in many different genres. How did you decide which genre you wanted to write, and how or why did you move into other genres?

B.M.: I started in military thrillers, slid over to science thrillers with my Area 51 and Atlantis series for many years. I actually call them techno-myth books. Technology and mythology mixed together. I wrote romantic suspense with Jennifer Crusie—WILD RIDE is coming out next year and that’s actually paranormal romance. I’m focusing now on thrillers and non-fiction.

M.L: Your Area 51 series has done well over the years and all nine books are still in print. Staying power is hard in this business. What makes these books stand the test of time?

B.M.: The series is intriguing. But, honestly, title. The original title for the first book was Dreamland and we changed it to Area 51. I believe the same book with that old title would not be in its 16th printing and sold over a quarter million copies, and the series a million copies overall. Title is very, very important. It has to invite readers into the book and give them an idea what the book is about.

M.L: How do you think your writing has changed over the years? From book to book.

B.M.: I focus more and more on character. I’m actually toning down the plot of my current work-in progress, THE JEFFERSON ALLEGIANCE, and focusing much more on character.

M.L: Do you have a favorite book or series that you have written?

B.M.: I think for most writers, the next book is always the one they love. AREA 51 has been the most consistent and the best seller, but my collaborations with Jennifer Crusie are very fun books.

M.L: I heard you say many times that it’s important to study the craft, learn and be open. How do you study and learn?

B.M.: I talk to other writers. My friend Elizabeth George read my latest manuscript and gave me a lot of feedback. I think it’s important to be willing to listen to and accept feedback. I actually go to classes at conferences, rather than just teach. I learned a lot in Dallas at a conference. One of the things I teach in Who Dares Wins is that when something you experience upsets you, to focus on it. Because it’s telling you a truth that you are resisting.

M.L.: What advice do you have for the new unpublished writer?

B.M.: Write a lot. Read a lot. Learn the craft. Too many people spend too much time on marketing rather than writing. The only thing we writers truly control is the quality of the writing.

M.L: What advice do you have for the newly published author?

B.M.: Find a mentor who is published in your field. Ask for help. There is so much agents and editors won’t tell you. Most writers are pretty open to answering questions. Don’t expect anyone else to give you your career. You have to make it yourself. Thus the first Force in WDW is WHAT—you have to specify your goals right up front and then use the other Forces to pursue them.

M.L.: What is next for Bob Mayer? What are you working on now?

B.M.: Rewriting The Jefferson Allegiance and starting a new dual book concept—where one is a novel and the other is non-fiction but connected to the novel.

M.L.: Where can people interested in what is going on in your world, specifically Cool Gus, find you? For those interested in any of the above mentioned workshops, or hearing you speak, how can they find out more information, or where you will be over the next year?

Everything is on my web site: I also twitter at WhoDaresWins

M.L.: One final question – Did Cool Gus take to kayaking?

B.M: Cool Gus likes the water. He’s got his life jacket now and I’ll be taking him down to the Sound shortly.

Margie, thanks for bringing Bob to us today and, Bob, thank you for being here on Five Scribes. Readers: Questions or Comments?

This Plantzer

Last week, Donnell brought up the topic of plotter vs pantzer and I realized that though I am technically a plotter, I like to leave LOTS of room for the pantzer in me. The way I look at it, writing a book can be a lot like taking a trip. I can't just pack my bag, jump in the car, and point my car east. On the other hand, I don't want to vacation on those tours that plan out every minute of your 7 nights and 8 days either--including specified meal times and bathroom breaks--YIKES!

As with most things in my life, I like a moderation. When going on a vacation, I have to have an end destination in mind. I like to have a few "day trips" planned for the week I'm gone, but I also like to leave plenty of time for the unexpected cool--and sometimes obnoxious--opportunities that always pop up. When starting a book, I like to have a fairly good feel for my characters--though by the end of the first draft I always end up knowing them FAR better than when we started out. And before I start writing, I like to have some major plot and turning points identified and I make sure those turning points have escalating tension, but I do not need to know the end. In fact, I never know the end, other than it will be a happy one.

I tend to write complicated characters and plots, but this isn't intentional, it's the journey--the exploration of the characters as they move through the plot and the research, that morphs my simplistic story into the realms of complexity, but such is life. I don't greet a day looking for stuff to complicate/ frustrate my life--or something to give me personal growth opportunities--read painful life events that make you stronger.

Being a control freak, I always start out my day with a peek at my calendar to see what I have planned but then $%# happens. The kids come at you with imperative demands, kids get sick, spouse throws a monkey wrench--or four--into your plans. The pipes freeze so you have no water. Your mother gets cancer. The dog finds a skunk to to harass. It happens. All. The. Time.

As Oprah would say, the one thing I know for sure, is that the most successful people (including writers) are those who are flexible. They can write wherever, whenever. They don't allow writers block. They roll with the punches--when agents can't sell them. When publishers close their lines. When a book bombs. When the economy sucks. When they sell movie rights and get a HUGE advance. They make lemonade out of lemons and don't get fat when the dough rolls in.

It doesn't matter if you're a plotter or pantzer as long as it works. And it doesn't hurt to try different ways. Who knows, you might end up a hybrid like me. It's not a bad thing to be a plantzer.

Monday, May 25, 2009

We have a winner!

Last Monday, Missy Tippens offered a copy of her latest book, His Forever Love. And the winner is...Ausjenny!!

Thanks for stopping by and posting a comment, Jenny!! Missy will be getting in touch with you!

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Alternate Publishing Venues

This morning, I got my copy of Gila Queen's Guide to Markets and realized how many different tech-based publishing markets there are. Likely I was more aware of them because of yesterday's discussion of alternative publication forms. Maybe they've been there for a while, and I never noticed.

Here are two examples of what I found:

Steampod - publishes steampunk short stories in podcast form.

Nanoism is a Twitter flash fiction publisher. Yes, that means 140 character stories or less. They consider serials, too.

Clearly, the world of podcast novels and Twitter flash fic isn't solely in the realm of self-publication. Markets already exist.

In the meantime, I absolutely recommend the Gila Queen newsletter. It's pages and pages and pages (over 70 pages in this issue) of markets for every genre, and each issue includes a section that concentrates on a specialty market. Well worth the $1 per issue it currently costs.

Friday, May 22, 2009

New Technology and the Future of Publishing

Since the internet exploded in the 90s, many facets of our lives have changed, from how we find information to how we shop. Writers have noticed the shift in the publishing industry, especially in the last ten years. As technology advances, and as the Web's instant-everything extinguishes the concept of convenience, we find ourselves on the cutting edge of entertainment and information exchange. We had ebooks, either downloaded or burned to CD and shipped to us. Then we saw the rise of Print on Demand, which made it possible to order a single book that would be printed, bound, and shipped without wasting further paper or ink resources. Epublishers became more savvy, ebook readers became acceptable.

Somewhere along the way, we started seeing mobile phone books, stories delivered straight to mobile phones for consumption anywhere, anytime.

What's next?

How about podcast novels? Podcast novels are serialized books in audible form. Much like downloading an audiobook to your iPod, podcast novels allow authors to self-publish their work and make it accessible anywhere.

I first learned about podcast novels from author Kimi Alexandre, whose podcast novel Guardians is set to release the chapter one podcast today. Take a listen to the promo and see what you think:

We've already seen traditional publishers gather around the ebook bandwagon, and though it took a few years of kicking tires and inspecting the cargo area, it seems they're happy enough to jump on board and take the bandwagon for a spin. Will serial podcast novels be the next technology they decide to pursue? It wouldn't be a great departure from the audio books they already publish, but does their business model allow them to go in this direction?

Clearly, the open-ended future rights clauses becoming more common in boilerplate contracts means the publishers are prepared to produce books in more formats and deliver in less traditional ways. Whether they choose to pursue all the avenues opening with each new jump in technology, whether they choose to alter their antiquated business model and step into the twenty-first century, it's an exciting time in our industry.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Are math whizzes faster writers?

I haven’t put in my negative two cents worth lately, not that I don’t think Five Scribes is an awesome blog, but because as we said when we started it… the writing comes first. I’ve learned something during the time I’ve taken to complete my sixth book. I’ve discovered that writing a mystery is an awful lot like solving a math problem.

I wonder if we did a comparison of you math-minded people out there if you would agree with me. I wonder what kind of writer Anthony P. would have turned out to be if he’d chosen to be one? Who’s Anthony you ask? He was the whiz kid in my class. Everyone with ordinary intelligence wanted to be this kid. Anthony P. stood on his head and recited the Gettysburg Address for extra credit. Trust me on this one; he didn't need extra credit.

Remember speed drills? The mathematical drills your teacher used to stimulate your gray matter? She (or he) lined you up at the chalk board and gave you a math problem and said go. You and another kid in the class did your best to complete the problem before the other one. I guarantee no one wanted to go up against Anthony. He was that bright…that quick-witted…and darn nice so you couldn't hate him ;)

For some reason, as I finish my romantic mystery, I’m constantly reminded of math class. For instance, in Algebra each equation is balanced by a variable, which is an unknown number represented by any letter in the alphabet (usually x). The value of each variable, of course, must remain the same in each problem.

Same with my mystery: Each clue and red herring must be presented so as not to point to the killer, but at the same time you don't want to confuse your reader. I have a synopsis which explains what happens from point A to point B, I have equal measures of suspense and romance, I have tension on every page. I slow the scenes on some pages, increase the pace in the rest. But the more complicated the storyline gets, I feel like I’m back in math class reaching for scratch paper.

Seriously. Check out my plotting board. I know what’s supposed to happen from beginning to end, from chapter to chapter. The colors? Each represents a summation of a chapter and every characters’ point of view.

As the owner of an analytical mind, my classmate could skip necessary steps to reach the correct answer, while I had to check and recheck my math.

So here’s my roundabout question: If you’re a writer, and you’re good at math, do you find it easier to breeze through a book? How about you who aren’t so good at the subject? I’m truly curious about my theory. Cuz if I’m correct I need to find my old classmate and sit him down at a keyboard. And I need to do a better job of balancing my checkbook. Happy writing!

P.S. to this post. Several have made a comment about the plotting board. Here's a link that will tell you more:

Monday, May 18, 2009

Welcome Missy Tippens!!

Good morning to all our friends here at Five Scribes. I’m excited to introduce Missy Tippens, our guest blogger today. I’ve known Missy for so many years, first as prime contest competition and friend through Faith, Hope and Love Romance Writers, and most recently as a fellow Seeker in the group of contest-entrants-turned-close-friends in Seekerville. Missy writes Contemporary Inspirational Romance for Steeple Hill Books, Love Inspired line. Don’t let her fool you. There’s a touch of Yankee under that soft Southern charm. Great combo if you ask me : )

Good morning, Missy!!

You are a very diversified person and a Southern Belle to boot! Would you introduce us to the various bits and pieces of your life and how you stay sane?

Thanks so much for having me today, Audra! I’m thrilled to hang out with y’all today. (Yes, I had to use “y’all” since you mentioned Southern Belle. LOL) I was actually born and raised in Kentucky and have lived in Georgia since 1984. Now I live about an hour outside Atlanta with my pastor husband and three kids. I’m active in my church and starting this past winter have been writing full-time. More about other careers in the next question. As far as staying sane, well, don’t ask my family about that! Just believe me when I say that I am.

You have an interesting academic background. Fill us in on why you chose to write books and if your education influences your writing.

I was actually a biology major, bio-physics minor in college. Then I went on to get my masters in clinical microbiology. So it’s hard to imagine what made me want to start writing. But I’ve always loved to read. Then when I was put on complete bed rest while pregnant with my middle child, a friend brought me a bag of books. And I was hooked. I decided then I wanted to try to write one, but I waited until we got our first computer in 1995. I wrote that first manuscript while nursing my son, typing with one hand! Of course, it’s in a drawer somewhere and will never see the light of day. But I was on the road to doing something I love. :)

Through the years, I’ve been a stay-at-home mom and have also taught at a local technical college, all the while writing whenever I could. Just this year, I decided to write full-time.

How have associations like Romance Writers of America and American Christian Fiction Writers influenced your writing?

I don’t think I would be published today without RWA! I’ve learned so much from conferences and from my local chapter, Georgia Romance Writers. As you also mentioned, I’ve been a member of the Faith, Hope and Love chapter for years and have learned a lot about writing inspirational stories from the generous authors in that group. And of course, all the RWA contests have made a huge difference as well—from the great judge feedback to getting editor requests. I actually sold my first book through a contest request!

I didn’t actually join ACFW until just a few years ago. But I’ve really gotten a lot out of the annual conference. It’s an amazing way to network with editors and agents.

I was so thrilled (and relieved) the day you received The Call, not only because I knew you were a great writer, but also because our entries had come up head-to-head in so many contests. Sometimes you won; sometimes I won, LOL! What’s life like now on the other side of the fence?

Oh my gosh, I used to hate to have to go head to head with you, Audra! But what fun competition! That’s one thing I’ve loved about the Seekers. We supported each other even while meeting in contests. I could truly be happy for you when you beat me. Sure, I grumbled, especially if you won a cool prize or a read by a particular editor. But it was also almost like a win for me as well. (Audra and I have always joked that we’re actually twins separated at birth because we’re alike in so many ways!)

His Forever Love is a June ’09 release, currently available through Tell us something about it and the message you hope folks take away with them.

It’s a story about unrequited loved and about fitting in. And it’s a friends to “lovers” story (of course there are no love scenes in a Steeple Hill book, but you know what I mean!). It’s also about finding God’s plan for our lives. Here’s the blurb:

In Magnolia, Georgia, local legend says that a couple who holds hands around the “forever” tree will have an unending love. Even so, Bill Wellington held Lindsay Jones’s hands around that tree years ago...and then left her behind. He chose the big city, and now he wants to bring his grandmother there. But to his amazement, he finds that Granny has a boyfriend—and a vibrant life. A life that includes Lindsay, Granny’s caregiver. Bill never thought he’d want to come home, yet Magnolia clearly has its charms. As does Lindsay, who makes him long for a second chance at forever love.

What is the overall message you’d like your readers to associate with you and your books?

I tend to write stories about accepting people for who they are and about forgiveness. I love reunion stories, too. And love writing about opposites attracting. I guess I just love writing! I hope to tell heartwarming stories that make you laugh and cry. A pretty tough goal, but my goal nonetheless. :)

Would you share a writing tip with the Five Scribe readership?

I like this tip, because it’s something I learned the hard way! Don’t keep re-working the same manuscript over and over. Keep plugging ahead with new ones. You’ll get better with each one, and then once you make that first sale, you’ll have something ready to go to offer your publisher asap. (My first two books are 16 months apart, so I know what I’m talking about!) :)

Audra and the other Scribes, thanks so much for having me today! I’ll be giving away a copy of my new release, His Forever Love, in a drawing from those who leave comments. Please leave contact information.

Thank you, Missy for joining us today! If you haven't had enough Missy, she is also hosting in Seekerville. Check back later in the week to discover the lucky winner of His Forever Love!

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Heart of the Rockies Unpublished Author Contest



Contest Entry Deadline is June 15, 2009

Colorado Romance Writers is pleased to announce the 2009 Heart of the Rockies Contest for unpublished writers. Numerous past Heart of the Rockies entrants have gone on to publication in book-length fiction. This year, there will be nine categories with achievement awards given in each. Entries are limited to the first 215 received. Entries received after the limit is achieved will be returned to the owner.

Every entry will be judged by two experienced judges, at least one of whom will be a published author. Manuscripts that qualify for a final round will be judged by editors or agents. Finalists will be notified no later than September 1, 2009. First place in each category will receive plaques; all others will receive a certificate. In addition, winners will be announced in the Romance Writers Report.

Entrants will receive one written critique and two comprehensive evaluations of their work based on twenty different potential problem areas. Each category uses an individualized score sheet for its particular genre.


If paying by PAYPAL, the entry form can be electronic also. If submitting electronically, the person entering the contest understands that submission constitutes a signature.

If paying by check, the entry form must be printed and submitted with a signature by snail mail.

Once we receive your entry and payment, the coordinator will send you an email with a link to which coordinator to send your submission and synopsis to.

Names shall not appear anywhere on the submission entry or synopsis.


SPICY Novels under 70,000 words with explicit language and erotic adult content. (Examples: Ellora’s Cave.)

LONG CONTEMPORARY ROMANCE Series romance novels that focus primarily on the romantic relationship with a proposal length of at least 60,000 words. (Examples: Harlequin American, Superromance, Silhouette Special Edition)

SHORT CONTEMPORARY ROMANCE Series romance novels that focus primarily on the romantic relationship with a proposal length of less than 60,000 words. (Examples: Harlequin Presents, Romance and Temptation; Silhouette Desire and Romance; Avalon)

SINGLE TITLE ROMANCE Contemporary romantic novels not printed as part of a series. (Examples: Mira; Avon). Projected length of over 70,000 words.

ROMANTIC SUSPENSE Novels that contain a strong element of suspense or mystery mixed with romance. This may include gothic-style romances if they are set in modern times.

HISTORICAL ROMANCE Novels that feature romance in time periods other than the present. Most editors consider historicals as books set in times prior to World War I. Entrants submitting Gothics will have to decide whether their entries fit better here or in the Suspense category. (Examples: Avon, Zebra, Harlequin Historicals and all Regency lines)

PARANORMAL/TIME TRAVEL/FUTURISTIC/FANTASY Novels that mix romance with elements of the paranormal, time travel or fantasy. (Examples: Love Spell; Jove Time Passages, Magical Love)

INSPIRATIONAL ROMANCE Novels featuring an inspirational message of personal religious faith conveyed as a major element of the plot and not used as a plot device or subplot. Examples: Love Inspired; Waterbrook Press; Palisades; Barbour/Heart Songs; Multnomah Publishers)

MAINSTREAM WITH ROMANTIC ELEMENTS A work of fiction not belonging in another category that contains a strong romantic element, such that one or more romances contained in the story form an integral part of the story’s structure, but in which other themes or stories may also be significantly developed. ****Warning—The synopsis may be critical in judging this category if the Hero/Heroine do not meet in the 1st 30pgs and if the romance is not introduced yet.

To enter and for rules and more information check out:

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Michael Hauge Coming to Denver In July

with Michael Hauge

During this special, all-day seminar, Hollywood script and story consultant Michael Hauge, best-selling author of Writing Screenplays That Sell and Selling Your Story in 60 Seconds: The Guaranteed Way to Get Your Screenplay or Novel Read, will present his unique approach to creating compelling fiction, and to eliciting emotion in your readers.

Using clips from recent blockbuster love stories and romantic comedies, along with hands on exercises, Michael will help you strengthen your story concepts, plot structure, love stories, character development and themes.

Topics covered will include:
The primary goal of all story
The power of desire, need, longing and destiny
The essential conflict all characters must face
Turning plot structure from a complicated concept into a simple, powerful tool you can easily apply to every story
The single key to creating character arc and theme
Creating unique, believable and fulfilling love stories
The unique rules of romantic comedy: fantasy, duality, deceit
Adapting your novel to film

If you want to elevate your fiction writing to the highest possible level, this event is a must.

You can find all of this information on the CRW website here:

Also, I'll be posting an interview with Michael in June, stay tuned, it's going to be incredible. Michael Hauge's website is:

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Writing Contest Earns Winner a Writing Away Retreat

Join Random House author Cicily Janus for her semi-annual retreat. Writing Away Retreats allows writers time with the very best agents, editors and authors in an intimate environment to maximize feedback and minimize writing interruption. Past staff includes Tim O' Connell from Random House/Vintage, Gary Heidt from Signature Literary Agency and authors Doug Crandell.

Limited number of writers are accepted during these retreats. This is a SMALL retreat, 8-12 writers total. Writing sample required for admission and is judged by current staff. Some of the Staff for October 2009 is Sorche Fairbank of Fairbank Lit., Robert Guinsler of Sterling Lord Literistics, Scott Hoffman of Folio Literary Agency, Mike Signorelli of Harper Perennial and Kate Gale, Poet and Owner of Red Hen Press, former president of PEN America.

Themed Fiction/Essay/Poetry contest for full ride to the October retreat. Theme: Burning Down the House. Deadline July 1, 2009. Entry fee: $20.00 includes 10% off retreat if not winner. 5K word limit for fiction and essay, or submit 3 poems on theme. Contest judged by Sorche Fairbank.

Submit to Paypal invoice for entry fee will be sent upon receipt of entry. Further details on site. Second partial scholarship available. 60% off either 5 or 11 day retreat. If 5 day retreat is chosen two winners will be picked. Deadline to enter, June 15, 2009. Winner announced July 1, 2009. Top 10 list/Letterman style of why you should do the dishes of other writers works as entry. Most clever entry wins!

Included in cost of retreat is a 10K word manuscript critique per staff member. This means there is the potential for over 40K words of MS critiqued by agents from Sterling Lord, Fairbank, Folio Lit. and JaBberwocky along with editors from Harper, Penguin, Red Hen and more.

Average time spent one on one with staff members has been around 2 to 4 hours. Choice of 5 or 11 day retreat. Payment plans available/Paypal accepted. All-inclusive with gourmet meals and million dollar estate lodging in the Rocky Mountains! Open your mind to a different kind of conference and make an investment in your career today! Discount for registrants that pay in full and register before July 1. Couples welcome.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Notes from Q & A With 4 Literary Agents

From Poets & Writers

Maria Massie- Lippincott Massie McQuilkin, Anna Stein—Irene Skolnick Literary Agency, Peter Steinberg—Steinberg Agency, Jim Rutman—Sterling Lord Literistic


On evaluating Manuscripts—

·      INCREDIBLY subjective!  “How can you explain to somebody what moves you?  Because, hopefully, you’re capable of being moved by things that you didn’t know you’d be moved by.”

·      It’s VERY rare to be bowled over, but they know it when they see it.

·      All agents have different tastes and have SO much material to choose from

On falling in love with a Manuscript-

·      It’s the moment when an author makes the reader feel the author has seen into her soul.  When the reader can identify with the character to such and extend and says and does what we all would like to say and do, but don’t.

·      It’s when the author successfully, perfectly blends the familiar with something new and unique.  Which is really tough to do.

·      The agents all caution against paying too much attention to what is selling or trends and write what you’re passionate about—‘cause it’s really ALL about the story for them.

People in the business read in different ways than normal readers, like considering who the author is and other things beyond the story.

·      The agents agree that it’s the story first and the author etc are secondary considerations.

·      They also agree that synopses are tough to write, usually not done well.  If your writing and the story isn’t strong enough to hook them, they could care less what happens later on in the story.

·      Often times editors feel differently about synopses.

·      Agents are in constant contact with editors and they have to read submissions with an eye towards how a publisher will regard a book; not only is it a great plot and well written, but will it sell well?  How would they publish it?  What kind of cover would they give it?  How do they position it?

·      When they read something, they’re trying to imagine if more than a few people will want to read it.

Where these agents find writers, aside from referrals.

·      No blogs (not for fiction)

·      Referrals = ~ 75% , editors, MFA teachers, other agents, occasionally slush pile

·      Not short stories—most often those authors are already agented

On MFA Programs

·      The writers are SO savvy

·      MFA can be a drawback if the business of writing and submitting becomes more of a priority than the work.

·      On the other hand, having a MFA eliminates the newbies who want the agent to explain what a query letter should consist of.


·      Take chances; don’t worry about writing the “perfect” novel.

·      Pick 2-3 friends who hate everything they read, and have those people give you feedback on your manuscripts.

·      Once you think the work is done, give it another year before submitting it.  Most authors rush to submit less polished work.

Common Mistakes They See

·      Don’t be cliché

o   No characters sweating profusely on first two pages—don’t even use that phrase, “sweating profusely”.

o   No waking up from dreams on first page—it’s best to avoid dreams if possible.

·      When submitting, do NOT cc a hundred agents—no “dear Agent . . .”

o   Use the agent’s correct name.

·      Knowing “somebody” makes a difference.  A query of a “friend of a friend” makes a difference

·      Follow agency guidelines

The agents gustimate that there are only about a hundred people in the United States who make a living from novel writing.

It is EXTREMELY rare for a great piece of fiction to cross their desks.  Perhaps only 1-2 times a year.

When dealing with agents, it’s very important to have integrity, to be honest and gracious from the very beginning.   It’s a long-term relationship.

They all agree that wildly talented authors who are crazy (or difficult) . . . are NOT worth the effort.

The agent’s opinion of what are the big problems in the industry:

·      Too many books

·      Inflated advances for the few

·      Marketing budgets going to big, established authors

·      Returns

·      Trend-hunting

·      Barnes & Noble making decisions for publishers

What are the agents encouraged about these days?

·      Our president is a writer, who loves books and is all about promoting the arts.

·      One agent likes the Kindle and Sony Read

o   They keep up with new technology

o   They draw attention and intrigue people

·      YA has taken off in last few years and kids are really excited about reading.

·      One agent is encouraged by things that succeed

Best part of their jobs

·      Working with great authors

·      Discovering new voices

·      Holding an author’s book, when it first arrives

·      Having some part in the creation of a book they feel strongly about.

·      Making the author happy—making the author’s hard work pay off—their scream (happy)

·      One agent loves dealing with creative people on a daily basis and seeing how their minds work.

·               Having constant access to people who are smarter, more creative, more disciplined and better. . . just better.