Friday, April 29, 2011

Scoop--The Sandy 2012 Romance Final Judge

Brand New Editor, Sue Grimshaw,
will be the Romance Final judge for the 2012 Sandy Writing Contest!

I'm thrilled to announce that Sue Grimshaw of Ballantine, Bantam & Dell will be the final judge for the romance category of The Sandy AND she'll be attending the 2012 Crested Butte Writers Conference!

I met Sue several years ago at a Colorado Romance Writer's conference when she was the Romance Buyer for Borders. Sue was sweet lady with fascinating insights into the romance genre. A marketing wonder! When I heard that Sue had gone over the editing side of the business, I immediately contacted her and invited her to judge The Sandy and attend the conference. I wanted to get to her before others snapped her up. And we're so very lucky that she readily accepted all invitations!

I'm already looking forward to next year!

Sue Grimshaw, Editor at Large & Category Specialist for Ballantine, Bantam & Dell, resides in MI with her husband & shelves of romance books. Previously Borders Romance buyer for ten of her almost sixteen year tenure with the company, she has been recognized by the industry year after year for her support of the genre, including being the recipient of the 2008 RWA Vivian Stephens Award. Sue loves to travel, ski, bike & hike, but, has the most fun being with her husband & reading romance.

Sue is looking for romance books that focus heavily on characters & emotional depth in all sub-genre’s, especially contemporary & paranormal. Although not required, authors that have series planned or multiple books outlined could be very appealing.

Romance writers, get to work!!!

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Erotic Romance & the making of a STORY

I love having guest authors to Five Scribes, especially when they make me think. And my dear friend Maryn Sinclair had me nodding vigorously as she validated point after point in this article. Maryn's alter ego was a finalist in the Mainstream division of the 2010 Daphne du Maurier Award for Excellence in Mystery/Suspense. Maryn is equally as talented as her mainstream counterpart. See if you don't agree. Please welcome Maryn Sinclair to The Five Scribes.
~ Donnell
I write Erotic Romance. Gasp. That's the stuff with lots of graphic sex, right? Right! But that's not all it is, at least not in my books, which I'll explain later. First, let's not get Erotic Romance mixed up with Erotica or Porn. Unlike those two, ER must have a HEA: A Happy Ever After ending. I wouldn't dream of putting two people together in sexual situations and not have them find a way to be together at the end. What would be the point? If you read my books, you'll know that up front. It's how they get through all their baggage--my characters always have baggage--and to get over their pasts or deal with the present that makes their stories interesting. That is a totally objective viewpoint, you understand.

I've always incorporated sex in my stories. I've had critique partners suggest that if I eliminated the sex in my "straight" books--the ones I write under another name--they would be more salable. Yet I'm always amazed at those who have no problem reading or writing about killing people in every bizarre possible way. Poison? Sure. Which is the most obscure, and how can my main character get his/her hands on it? Stabbing? shooting, mutilation, blood spurting from the carotid artery? Why not?

But sex? Uh-uh. Shiver. Close that door and don't look.

What's wrong with that picture?

What could be more uplifting than making love to someone? To touch, feel, taste a person who makes your heart sing just by being next to him?

I guarantee that unless you're a reader or writer who's been involved in some form of law enforcement, most of you have never seen blood puddling around a dead body or had anything to do with a murder investigation. BUT, I bet almost every one of you has made love, knows what it feels like, and, heaven forbid, enjoyed the hell out of it. So what's your problem with reading it? Or writing it? Why does a sexual relationship make some readers uncomfortable?

Is it because you deem it too personal? Is it that the James Bonds of the world can openly indulge in sexual encounters without being judged but women can't? Men are rakishly sexy when they bed every woman in sight; women are, well, you know what they're called. Did we not burn our bras for equality? (Full disclosure: I didn't burn mine. I needed it.)

I do have limits, however. I don't write werewolves, vampires or shapeshifters. Nothing against them, but I don't understand that world. I have a hard enough time understanding the world I live in, let alone invent one. No heavy BDSM, although I will mix that element into my stories in more subtle ways. I haven't written dom/sub stories, or D/s, as it's often written. I have no problem with those, either. They're just not anything that turns me on to write about UNLESS it's an equal opportunity kind of thing. You know, what's good for the gander is good for the goose. I don't spank. I was spanked as a kid. I don't see anything sexy or erotic about being spanked. I do have a light bondage scene in SEXUAL PERSUASION, but there's a reason. Really, there is. And it's consensual. That's not to say I won't ever write anything that falls into that category, but like nude scenes in movies, there has to be a reason.

My characters have hang-ups or histories that keep them from getting what they don't think they want, which is a relationship. In other words, they have a story. And that's my point. Gee, it took me long enough to get here. Erotic romance can have a story and can and should be more than just about sex. The romance can be between a man and a woman, two men, or two women. It can be a combination of multiples. Sure it may start out as lust. Doesn't every romance start out with two people who click on some hormonal level? Call it pheromones or magnetic attraction. It happens, and we've all experienced it. At least I hope we have. Some are like shooting stars that burn bright, then die out on the way down to earth. Others develop into loving relationships and burn forever.

In SEXUAL PERSUASION, my first release for e-publisher Loose Id my hero, Alex, is immediately drawn to my heroine, Charlotte. It's the second time in his life that Alex has experienced that overpowering chemistry. The first time happened seventeen years before, and it was with another man. That relationship ended badly, and Alex has intentionally kept from any involvements.

Charlotte, my heroine, is pretty, smart, and a good businesswoman. Her weakness is that she chooses the wrong men to fall in love with. She's sworn off men, at least for now. (Come on, you know how it's going to end. I've already given that part away.) Alex is the attorney for Boston's number one racketeer, and the gossip is he's the racketeer's lover, which makes him another man in a long line of Charlotte's bad choices. But is he?

Add Charlotte's sleazy, BDSM-loving ex-boyfriend (notice I get that element in peripherally. Sneaky, huh?), a crooked land deal, and Alex's old lover, and you have the makings of ...a story. See?

So, it doesn't have to be all about sex, although by the very nature of the genre that's an integral, no, a major part of writing erotic romance. You wouldn't write an erotic romance without, well, sex, any more than you'd write a mystery without mystery or a thriller without something thrilling happening.

I found writing erotic romance harder than straight suspense or romantic suspense. Not only did I have to develop that story I talked about, but I had to make the romance and the sensual moments believable. Oh, and original. Did I do it? I think so, but that will be up to the readers. My second novel with Loose ID, THE ESCORT--no release date yet--is nothing like SEXUAL PERSUASION, which if you haven't figured out the title's meaning, it has to do with Alex's, um, sexual persuasion. My third effort is nothing like the first two.

Many of my writer friends confessed that they've tried to write graphic sex scenes and couldn't. I'm not sure if it's those drilled-in inhibitions about sex that keeps them from writing the genre or if it's just too hard. Probably a little of both. I found it challenging, and I think I'll keep finding it that way. I also found it fun. And what could be better than to have fun writing every day? Hmm, I can think of one thing. Wanna guess?

Maryn Sinclair is a New England native living in the South who loves creating characters that murder, love, hate, and connive, but mostly love. She's lived in Italy and pursued a few careers, all having to do with the arts. Then writing took her by storm, and she hasn’t stopped. She speaks dialogue in the car while driving, makes notes in the middle of half-heartedly doing something else, and prays that no one notices her idiosyncratic behavior and carts her off to some place nice and quiet where she can be treated. She hasn’t been found out yet, so she's safe for the time being. To learn more about Maryn, check out her web site at

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Choke: A Seriously Laughing Matter

Before I have any of you thinking I'm more off than usual or have you rushing to employ the Heimlich maneuver, I want to assure you I'm fine. But I am smiling because I've just finished Agatha-nominee Kaye George's debut novel, CHOKE. Kaye, who's known mainly for her award-winning short stories, joins us today to talk about her full-length novel and May release from Mainly Murder Press. Please welcome my fellow Sisters in Crime and Guppy member, Kaye George to the Five Scribes. ~ Donnell

About the book:

Twenty-two year old Imogene Duckworthy is waiting tables at Huey's Hash in tiny Saltlick, TX, itching to jump out of her rut and become a detective. When Uncle Huey is found murdered in the diner, a half-frozen package of mesquite-smoked sausage stuffed down his throat, Immy gets her chance. Immy's mother, Hortense is hauled in for the crime. Unclear of the exact duties of a PI, Immy starts a fire in the bathroom wastebasket to bust Mother out of jail. On the run from the law with her mother and her toddler daughter, Nancy Drew Duckworthy, Immy wonders, now what?

D.B.: Hi, Kaye! Now what, indeed! Congratulations on CHOKE, and thanks for the laughter. I think my first question is what inspired this story? Two, what's with the unusual names? (I picture a person named Kaye taking her average-name revenge out on her characters). And three, was CHOKE as much fun to write as it was to read?

K.G.: My first answer) My husband and I lived in the Wichita Falls area for a few years recently, and with my penchant for writing about places I used to live, it's a natural. It's a place that felt foreign to me while I was there, filled with colorful people and hardship. I guess I couldn't get it out of my mind until I wrote about that area. As for the people, I never know where they come from.

Two) I make it a practice to collect names and have a list of them to choose from. But, oddly, I usually don't consult my lists. My characters come with their names. By that, I mean, when I get the right name, the character pops for me. I always keep an alphabetical list so everyone won't have names that begin with M (my all time favorite). That's how Xenia got her name. I didn't have an X name. I had a college professor named Xenia, so that was back there somewhere.

And (three) yes, CHOKE was lots of fun to write!

D.B.: I will be smiling for days after reading this book. From a vicious dark Brahma hen--mistaken at birth for a male--named Larry Bird, SHE steals Immy's flip flops, to Immy's dumpster diving, to her floppy hats, birthmarks and fat suits, you have some laugh out loud moments. I can't imagine being funny throughout an entire book. Does humor come naturally to you?

K.G.: I'm so glad to have entertained you! And you know, I guess writing humor does come naturally. I never used to write humor because I thought that would be cheating--it's so easy. The few times I did, I was told I did it well. Eventually, I found out that it's not easy for everyone. But I think so many things are ridiculous. I guess that's why it's easy for me.

There's a line I try not to cross. It's seductive to slip into ridicule and meanness. And oh, so easy. But I truly like all my characters, so, while I can see what's funny about them, I never try to make fun of them or make them the butt of an easy joke. I hope I accomplish this!

D.B.: I was under the impression that some of your writing was dark. True? False? How difficult is it to alter your voice for each project?

K.G.: Oh, yes, that's true, some of my short fiction is dark. It seems to work out this way--the shorter the darker, for me. It might get boring, I think to be unrelentingly noir for a long piece, although I enjoy reading that from others. It's easier to sustain humor over a book-length project.

I have a few different voices I use for different purposes, and I'll probably develop new ones in the future. A couple of my short stories were written in dialect (which I could never do full-length), and those were dictated to me by a voice in my head. I sat and took dictation and did hardly any rewrites on those two. I'd love for that to happen again, but that's not something I can force.

One voice I worked and worked and worked on, was the one for a Neanderthal mystery series. I think I finally succeeded. That voice is unique to that series and I could never use it anywhere else.

D.B.: I was immediately engaged in CHOKE, particularly in Immy's and Hortense's family dynamics. Immy, petite and small, is an unwed mother who longs to follow in her murdered police officer father's footsteps. There's only one problem. Immy's mother Hortense is the domineering personality in the relationship and forbids it. The fact that Hortense is Immy's and her daughter Drew's chief support and they live with Hortense, you establish conflict from page one. One thing I did see. A daughter doesn't come to her mother's aid in such a manner if she doesn't love her. Immy is a fantastic protagonist. Talk about the conflict between these two. How difficult was it to keep the tension escalating between Immy and Hortense?

K.G.: That's my job, isn't it? At least that's what I've been told. Sometimes it's hard to think how you can put more obstacles in the way, and sometimes they just fall into place.

When I'm stuck, a walk, or time away from the keyboard can shed illumination. But escalating conflict is, always, what I'm trying to do.

It finally clicked one day, after hearing the above over and over for years. A person reading a book wants to read about something other than real life. Otherwise she'd read a biography or history. I realized that it would be truly difficult for a fiction writer to make a novel too much over the top. That's what the reader wants. When I realized that, it opened doors for me to let it flow. My characters, my settings, my situations all should be larger than life more colorful, and much more interesting.

D.B.: You write that Hortense, a librarian, is a large woman with multiple chins. As I read, though, I discovered she has an amazing heart and an even bigger vocabulary. She's such a great character, using lines like, "My daughter does not prevaricate (lie); "Use your cranium," ( Most would say head,); "My abdomen is communicating with me, " (Meaning, she's hungry).

Drew is a precocious Barbie-loving three-year-old who I visualized and adored instantly. Loved that she calls her grandmother "Geemaw." I also saw that you use Drew to build tension between Immy and Hortense. Part of Immy's growing up, I suspect, will be when Immy acknowledges that she is the parent, and deals with her mother who constantly calls Imogene, "Little Missy." Was this deliberate on your part to make these two so very different?

K.G.: Yes, it absolutely was. And you're right about the arc of Immy's maturity. She despairs that Hortense is more Drew's mother than her grandmother, that Immy herself is not a good parent. She is a good mother, of course, but she doesn't think she is, and there's an ongoing competition between Immy and Hortense for Drew. Not for her affection, since Drew loves them both, but for the role of parent. And Immy hates Barbie dolls! One more place to put conflict.

D.B.: In addition to mystery and humor, there's a good amount of growth in this book. Perhaps the most fun for me was to watch Immy take charge. After her uncle's murder, in which her mother becomes a suspect, Immy purchases THE MORON'S COMPLEAT GUIDEBOOK FOR PRIVATE DETECTIVES, believing that everything about becoming a detective can be found in a book--asking herself questions like, "What would a detective do?" each time she goes in search of a clue.

You do quirky well. Every character in this book-- from Hortense's love interests, Clem to Saltlick's chief of police; Ralph, who has a crush on Immy and just wants to date her; Xenia's boyfriend who smokes Virginia Slims; to Baxter, the alleged meth dealer--these folks are very well drawn. How do you get to know your characters? Got any secrets you'd like to share?

K.G.: I wish I had magic secrets. All I know is that once I put them firmly onto the page, they speak to me. While I'm writing a first draft, they're my best friends, my constant companions. My last thought at night and my first thought when I wake up. Things creep out of my subconscious onto the page. Weird things, too. I'm glad I can't see inside my head.

D.B.: Tell us about Mainly Murder Press, and your experience with them. I believe CHOKE is the first in a series. How many more Imogene Duckworthy books can we expect?

K.G.: I love working with MMP. Mainly Murder Press only offers one-book contracts at a time. If Choke does well, Smoke is available to them for consideration.

D.B.: Let's get down to the writing portion of the interview. How long have you been writing? Tell us about your schedule and the research you had to do to complete this book. Offhand, I don't think you got it from THE MORON'S COMPLEAT GUIDE TO RESEARCH. From law enforcement to your private detective scenes, CHOKE is a success.

K.G.: As I always say, I drew stories in crayon before I could read or write. Since age four or five, I guess. I devote every day to my writing business. I rarely take a day off, even though I probably should. That's not to say I actually write fiction every day. Some days are taken up with blogs, interviews; there are always endless e-mails, and I critique with several groups both in novel and short-story length.

When I'm doing a first draft I like to spend a good solid three to four hours writing. I can't sustain it much longer than that before I need a break. And I don't think I have enough ideas at a time to go at it much longer than that. By the next day, thoughts have gathered and I can continue.

Research? My life and the lives of everyone I know. Plus, the city of Austin offers a Citizens Police Academy, which I took a couple of years ago. I know a couple of cops socially who I can go to for specific questions. I would highly recommend Citizens Police Academies for mystery writers if they live near a town big enough to offer one. Even smaller towns have a ride-alongs, where you're in a patrol car for the entire shift.

I'm one of those people who will try to strike up a conversation if you're in line. If the line is long enough, I can get your whole life's story out of you. And I'll use it. And there's the Internet, of course.

D.B.: You mentioned critique partners. Did they clue you in that you had something special with CHOKE or did you just know?

K.G.: My face-to-face group in Austin is invaluable, as was the online group I sent this through. I've been with Austin Mystery Writers for a few years, and we've been through multiple projects with each other. We're very supportive of each other, and to tell the truth, we always think the others are working on a special project.

D.B.: In addition to CHOKE, you have a Neanderthal book-length series that I hope we'll see sometime in the near future. Then there's your short story collection. You even self-published, THE ROAD TO SELF-PUBLISHING. Do you plan to self-publish any of your fiction?

K.G.: I did self-publish a short story collection, which is what led to the nonfiction booklet. I'm proud of each and every story I've had accepted and published, but some of the magazines, both online and print, are now out of business. So partly to have them all in one place and available, and partly to see how hard it would be to self-publish something, I put out A PATCHWORK OF STORIES last year.

My publisher doesn't want the e-rights to CHOKE, so I'll put that out at some point in digital format.

D.B.: Thanks for the explanations. Finally, Kaye, I always ask on Five Scribes: What advice would you give to aspiring authors?

K.G.: Don't quit now! Even if it's been years, it can still happen. Especially now, with the world of publishing bursting wide open and changing like quicksand. Explore the options you think will work for you, and keep at it. Don't quit. Also, you must read. Read, read, read.

Excellent advice. Thank you for being here today. Readers, if you like feisty heroines in small Texas towns, I hope you'll visit Saltlick, Texas (which borders Wymee Falls) and Imogene Duckworthy soon. From busting her mother out of jail, to foiling a bank robbery with the use of her letter opener, to uncovering a dope ring, Imogene will keep you laughingly entertained and cheering for her success.

A couple more things about Kaye. She was one of the talented authors whose story, "The Truck Contest," made it into FISH TALES: THE GUPPY ANTHOLOGY. She reviews for "Suspense Magazine," and writes for several newsletters and blogs. She, her husband, and a cat named Agamemnon live together in Texas, near Austin. Check her out at
or her blogs,, her solo blog, and

Kaye's book doesn't release until May 1st. But a question or comment will gain you admittance in a drawing to receive CHOKE, upon its release. We'll draw a name on Friday night April 22nd. Be sure to leave your e-mail address so we can contact you. Questions/Comments?

Congratulations to Liz Lipperman who was the winner of Kaye George's debut novel CHOKE.

~ Happy Reading & Writing!

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Workshops: How do you like 'em?

As some of you may know, Five Scribes has close ties to Colorado writing conferences, particularly the Crested Butte Writers Conference, which will be held June 17-19, 2011. This year, Co-conference Chairs Barbara Crawford and Sandy Competition Coordinator, Theresa Rizzo put me to work. I'll be helping with the workshops, ensuring the speakers have all the visual aids and handouts necessary for attendees to get the most out of the workshops.

And that's what it's all about, isn't it? That the attendee receives his money's worth at a conference. So far, I'm impressed. We have editor, agents and authors presenting some fabulous career, craft and motivational sessions for authors and aspiring authors to put to use in their writing.

Which brings me to you. When you attend a conference, what works better in your mind and/or which do you prefer? Are you content to listen and absorb? Or are you more into interactive workshops? I'd love to hear about the best workshops you've ever attended. You have the floor. Thanks!

Friday, April 1, 2011

Eleven-year-old joins blogging world

I've been hearing that thanks to Twitter and Facebook, blogging is on a downward spiral. Thankfully, this boy doesn't follow trends. I love that he's started a blog toward, what else, reading, and his target market age group, 8 through 12. How fabulous that he's reading AND writing reviews. Congratulations Rubix Boy. We're now following your blog.

Check out this one he did for Young Adult author M.A. Golla. I know Ms. Golla's got to be pleased.

To learn more about M.A. Golla, check out her blog, entitled what else? Gnome de Plume (or the blatherings of a middle-grade writer)

Happy Writing, Reading & Reviewing!