Monday, October 31, 2011

Combating Conflict

Congratulations, Cynthia Justlin! Enjoy your "Conflict Makes The Story" class with Cheryl St. John!!

Hi All! Audra here and I've got a surprise for you at the end of this post!

You know how the old adage goes -- You Never Stop Learning? Well, I'm a prime example of a work-in-progress. You'd think after ALL the years I've read books, studied the craft, attended workshops and conferences, I'd have this whole writing thing down pat.


There are so many areas in my writing repetoire that can stand improvement, and writing conflict is the among the biggest. I'm a romance writer at heart and really, I hate seeing anything stand between the hero and heroine, and happily ever after. Of course, that doesn't really leave much room to enfold the reader in a story not soon forgotten, does it? You'd think I'd have gotten past this little problem ages ago.

Nope. It haunts me still. (Happy Halloween, everyone!)

Now remember, I'm a big one for taking workshops. The advent of online courses has allowed me to pursue the selection of wonderful workshops offered for the month either through RWA or ACFW or word of mouth. Personally, I love the word of mouth scenario because if someone I like or admire cares enough to endorse a class by sharing their enthusiasm over it, well, how much better press can you get?

I'm really excited to share this class on Conflict I took in September given by Cheryl St. John. She is a master of her trade and the workshop she's developed had even me understanding the basics of good, solid, organic conflict. You've heard writers say conflict needs to be character driven so as not to appear contrived, right? Well, I'd heard it, too. But not until I took Cheryl's workshop, did I really understand how to reach inside the character and explored all their conflicted regions, LOL!

Debby Giusti, Ruth Logan Herne, Audra Harders,
Cheryl St. John and Sherri Shackelford
I had the opportunity to meet Cheryl St. John at the ACFW conference in September. She's a wonderful lady, very gracious and an absolute pleasure to talk to. By popular demand, the workshop she offered in September is being offered again in November. If you need any insight at all into conflict, please consider attending her class. The lessons are deep and informative, and her homework is quick, fun and enlightening.

Have a great week everyone!

DATES:  NOVEMBER 1 – 30, 2011
(a savings of $10.)

Only a little over two months left of 2011! Did you accomplish everything you wanted to over the year? Writing improvement challenges? A new story proposal? A finished project? Here’s an opportunity to sharpen your skills and be prepared for those new goals, which are right around the corner.

No matter what writing topic Cheryl addresses, she hangs the most importance on characters. Conflict is drawn from characters. It’s based on their goals, their backstory and their motivation. It is opposing forces that come from within the characters themselves.

Webster’s Dictionary defines conflict as “the opposition of persons or forces that gives rise to the dramatic action in a drama or fiction.” This definition is the essence of fiction, and we need to keep it in mind as we develop characters and plots. If there’s no conflict, there’s no story.

Conflict, of course, can be either light or heavy. In a humorous story, the problem may not be life threatening, but it still must be important to the characters. The characters’ motivations must be equally important to them. In suspense, the conflict is often life-threatening. All well-developed plots stem from creative use of conflict, and conflict is what keeps the reader turning pages.

In order to understand conflict and how to develop it, we must first understand what conflict is, what conflict is not, and what conflict can be. The elements that make up a story are so closely meshed that at times it becomes difficult to dissect and make a firm delineation between them. In a masterfully developed story, characterization, plotting, and conflict are all intricately entwined.

Cheryl will explain opposing goals and how to create conflict that will sustain a story. She’ll give practical advice on:
Motivating characters
Creating characters with built-in conflict
Revealing emotion through conflict
Internal and external conflict
Simple and complex conflict

Among her achievements, which include forty published books in both contemporary and historical genres, Cheryl St.John has received multiple Romantic Times Reviewers Choice Awards and four RITA nominations. In describing her stories of second chances and redemption, readers and reviewers use words like, “emotional punch, hometown feel, core values, believable characters and real life situations.” She has taught writing on local and national levels, and is in demand as a motivational speaker.

The class will be conducted via subscription to a private yahoogroup, two lessons per week, followed by questions and answers. Brief exercises pertaining to the participant’s current work in progress may be included. Archived class will be available for one week after the ending date.

I believe so much in this workshop that when you leave a comment and your email address, I'll pay for one (1) lucky commentor's class fee! I'd love to leave the opportunity open for the week, but since the class starts Tuesday, I'll draw the name Monday night and announce the winner Tuesday morning.

Have fun!


Audra Harders writes "rugged stories with heart" featuring cowboys who haven't a clue about relationships rescued by ladies who think they have all the answers. In real life, she's married to her own patient hero, has two teenagers about the leave the nest, and is surrounded by everything conducive to writing about farming, ranching and cowboys at her day job in the county Extension office. She began writing right after her son was born and sold her first book to Steeple Hill Love Inspired mere months before that same son graduated from high school. Surviving those years in between remind her God does have her plan for her life...and that He has a tremendous sense of humor. You can visit her at her website and her blog. Don't be shy!

Saturday, October 29, 2011

New lines at Entangled Publishing!

Since August, we've been releasing romance novels every month, with the odd novella wedged in there (Break Out, for example, which is vampires in space - how cool is that?). We opened to contemporary romance novellas a bit ago, but now we've created three new lines. They are:

Flirts - novelettes of 10k-15k words
Ever Afters - novellas of 20k-40k words
Lori Wilde Presents: Indulgences - short novels of 50k-60k words

Ever Afters are separate from anthology calls. And Indulgences, while reminiscent of Harlequin's lines (which we love to read), will have a more youthful voice, more dialogue, less internal monologue, and a generally faster pace than the average Harlequin.

Senior Editors are still responsible for acquiring Entangled novels and Indulgences, but every editor is responsible for acquiring her/his own Flirts and Ever Afters.

For more information, hit the Entangled website, where submission information is included for each line. And don't forget to read editor bios to learn what we'd like to see more of. Don't worry, though, if you send us something not quite up our alley. We pass solid submissions to each other if we feel another editor is a better match for the story.

Here at Five Scribes, we'll be interviewing a slew of editors, including several from Entangled. Watch for those to appear over the next few weeks!

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Jerrie Alexander interviews Rhonda Penders, Wild Rose Press Editor-in-Chief

Jerrie Alexander's THE GREEN EYED DOLL will soon debut with the Wild Rose Press as part of its Crimson Rose line. In the meantime, as she tries to contain her excitement, she took time for our benefit to interview, Rhonda Penders, editor-in chief of her new publisher. I'm pleased to call Jerrie my friend, and I'm excited for her. Please welcome her to The Five Scribes.

I recently attended the SARA conference (a wonderful writers group in San Antonio) and had the privilege of meeting Rhonda Penders, editor-in-chief of The Wild Rose Press. She spoke openly and honestly, answering all the questions presented. Oh, and she wore killer peep-toe heels that matched her toenail polish perfectly!

I'm thrilled she graciously agreed to do a Question and Answer session with me for The Five Scribes blog. I put out the word I was taking questions for Rhonda, and the writer's responses filled my inbox. Thanks to all who submitted. I combined some questions in order to keep the list manageable. Ya'll forgive me if I missed any. I'll jump right in and turn the questions over to Rhonda!

Q - What motivated you to start The Wild Rose Press?

Rhonda - RJ (my business partner) and I had both been involved in publishing from an author standpoint. We knew what we didn’t like and what we would do different so we decided to do it. The old adage of find a niche and fill it certainly is what prompted us to start the company.

Q - What kind of projects excite you?

Rhonda - If you mean what type of books or short stories excite me then it would be the answer every author hates hearing – a good story. Give me a story that makes me turn pages and I’m excited. I’m excited because I know a reader will love it and I know that translates into sales for the author. That’s what excites me when we can give a reader a good solid read for her money.

Q - What drew you to become an editor?

Rhonda - Helping other writers. There were a lot of writers out there who had great stories to be told if only someone would give them a bit of guidance. That’s what a good editor does at least in our company, she doesn’t just do line edits she helps you as the author find the right path for the story to take.

Q - What should we expect once an editor is assigned our manuscript?

Rhonda - If it's from The Wild Rose Press you should expect consistent communication, clear concise requests for revisions, an overall feel for a timeline – when she will get edits to you, when she thinks it will be done, etc. Communication at our company is number one.

Q - When a manuscript obviously needs a lot of work to make a good book, how do editors determine when to give that manuscript a shot or reject it?

Rhonda - If a book speaks to our editor, if she really feels it, she will generally send it to a reading team, two or three readers will read it and give feedback to the editor. If they love it the editor will use that information as well as her own gut instincts to make a decision. On the other hand, if an editor isn’t crazy about it but sends it to the reading team and they love it, a lot of times she will give it a second look due to the feedback received. Much the same as you know when a book is going to be good (as a reader) the same goes for our editors.

Q - What specific elements do the editors look for in a romance novel?

Rhonda - Number one is the feel good, happy ever after ending. The characters are huge of course – the reader has to fall in love with your hero and want to be your heroine or at least her best friend. If your reader doesn’t identify with your characters the story is sunk before it begins. Although romances do fall into some of the same formulas if you want to use that word – every one is different. Show me something unique, different, exciting. Make me want to read your story.

Q - What are common red flags a writer should avoid?

Rhonda - In romance POV is huge. Don’t argue with us about POV. There are only 2 in a romance – hero and heroine. The only time there are more is occasionally the villain if it’s a suspense. Don’t tell me what the NY times best sellers are doing, you aren’t a best selling author yet – you have to play by the rules. Don’t head hop. Make POV shifts clean.
Make sure your characters are relatable.

Q - What specific things can a writer do to ensure a good partnership is formed with their editor?

Rhonda - Treat your editor professionally. She is not your buddy or your best friend – she is there as a business partner. Keep it polite and professional at all times.

Q - What are your pet peeves?

Rhonda - My own personal pet peeves with authors are any that suddenly think they are divas because they sold a lot of books or were published with us or someone else. We treat all our authors the same, and expect that in return. We are a kinder, gentler publishing house and we want our authors to grow with us and feel a part of the team. We don’t need or have time for divas.

Q - What do you wish every new writer knew about the editing process?

Rhonda - That you sign a contract with us and that if we request certain edits it is understood that you are agreeing to those edits when you sign that contract. Most times, editors will tell you up front how extensive the edits will be but arguing with your editor is never a good idea. That said, if something feels wrong to you or bothers you, it is never a bad idea to speak up, ask for clarification or ask to discuss a certain change. Second, I would say you need to realize your editor is working with several authors not just you and to cut them some slack of they aren’t answering your email within hours. Our editors have been trained to respond to emails quickly and efficiently but they are also human.

Q - How many projects does an editor typically have going at one time?

Rhonda - At our company it is generally an average of 12-15. They could be in the initial query stage or in edits but we ask our editors to carry that general workload.

Q - How often do you terminate contracts with writers? What are the most common reasons?

Rhonda - We have never terminated a contract with our writers. If after the contract period is up, we may review it and determine if it makes sense to continue carrying the product but we have never had to terminate a contract. On the other hand, we have agreed to cancel a contract if there has been a problem and an author has asked to be removed from the contract for a valid reason.

Q - As an editor, are you less (or more) likely to consider work from an author who has previously indie-published something else? In other words, does prior indie-publishing help or hurt an author's chances with WRP?

Rhonda - To be honest, if an author has been published somewhere else we may look at that but each work has to stand on its own. We all know there are publishers out there who don’t have high standards or maybe even the same standards as we do. We’ve all read books that we wonder how on earth they got published – we aim for quality. We need to review the work and make sure it’s up to the standards we set for our books before we will contract it no matter who the author is. That said, if an author has been published with us before that definitely does speak to her quality of writing but it's not a given that everything she writes is going to be contracted.

Q - How does an editor become an editor? Is there a specific training or certification process or required degrees or a certain minimum amount of experience required?

Rhonda - At our company there is a training process that editors go through and a lengthy shadowing process. We don’t require any certain degrees or certifications but an editor does have to pass our stringent requirements.

Q - As a writer do I have input on which editor to work with?

Rhonda - No. If you are published with us, you have the option of using your same editor even if you write in a different line and if you know you work well with an editor you can certainly make a request to work with her again but it doesn’t mean that will happen.

Q - Is it impolite to ask what projects the editor has worked on in the past or for author references?

Rhonda - I would honestly tell you that any editor on staff would be insulted by this question, however, it certainly is within your rights to ask. All editors on our staff are qualified to edit and while some have specialty lines like Scarlet or Historical, they are the best in the business (my opinion ;).

Q - Lastly, tell us...How To Lose An Editor In Ten Days?

Rhonda - Ahh that is a question you need answered by hearing my presentation ;) I will be giving this presentation at our annual retreat in San Antonio October 2012 – watch for dates to come. I am also speaking in Charlotte, NC and St. Louis, Missouri in April as well as to the Silicone Valley RWA group in June.

About Jerrie Alexander's The Green Eyed Doll

A woman running from her past. A Texas sheriff who ignites a flame she thought lost forever. A killer who paints his victims to look like porcelain dolls.

Catherine McCoy, in spite of her aversion to the law, is attracted to the cowboy sheriff at her latest stop. Catherine begins to believe she’s found a place to start a new life. Keeping secrets is a mistake, one that could cost her dearly.
Sheriff Matt Ballard hunts for a killer in the middle of the longest heat wave and drought on record. A green eyed redhead moves to town and captures his heart. When he learns she’s lied about her past, the bond of trust he thought they had formed is broken.
Catherine disappears, but the killer has a surprise coming. She’ll fight to the death before being abused again. But will her determination be enough?

About debut author Jerrie Alexander ~

A student of creative writing in her youth, I set aside my passion when life presented me with a John Wayne husband and two wonderful children. A career in logistics offered me the opportunity to travel to many beautiful locations in America, and I revisit them in my romantic suspense novels.

The characters went with me, talked to me, and insisted I share their dark, sexy stories with others. I write alpha males and kick-ass women who weave their way through death and fear to emerge stronger because of, and on occasion in spite of, their love for each other. I torture my characters, make them suffer, and if they’re strong enough, they live happily ever after.
I live in Texas, love sunshine, children’s laughter, sugar (human and granulated), and researching for my heroes and heroines. I also love hearing from fans at

Thanks again to Rhonda and Donnell. And now a question for you folks who stop by today. Have you stumped your toe with an editor? How'd you patch things up?

Our pleasure, Jerrie. Thanks, for bringing our readers this very informative interview!

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

BOOKS, CROOKS and COUNSELORS, a legal resource for writers

Leslie Budewitz wears several hats in the world of fiction and nonfiction. She's published in short stories, the most recent the critically acclaimed FISH TALES: The Guppy Anthology, she's a practicing attorney for more than 25 years, and she is now the author of BOOKS, CROOKS, and COUNSELORS: How to Write Accurately about Criminal Law and Courtroom Procedure. And if she's not busy enough, today, she puts on her nonfiction hat to talk to us. Please welcome Leslie Budewitz to the Five Scribes.

D.B.: Leslie, welcome. First, I have to say I read your story in FISH TALES and I loved it. Well done. But today is about your nonfiction. You've been helping authors for years via your web page Now that you've written BOOKS, CROOKS and COUNSELORS, is your website still current or is it as active as it was previously?

L.A.B. Thanks for inviting me, Donnell. The website's been completely redesigned and includes an excerpt from the book, as well as other articles for writers. There's also a form to send me a question, and useful links to resources on writing and legal issues.

D.B.: I can only assume you go crazy when you see an author get the facts wrong regarding legal terms, proceedings and more, but I never want to assume incorrectly. Why did you write this book, and what do you hope authors get out of it?

L.A.B.: As a lawyer who writes fiction, I've been answering other writers' questions about using the law in their fiction for years. And I've been bothered by simple, avoidable mistakes about the law in novels and movies. Readers and viewers want to know that they are getting a realistic picture of the world portrayed on the page and screen, while also being entertained. I wrote this book to answer the most common questions and address recurrent problems, to help writers use the law accurately while telling a good story, and to give writers ideas on using legal issues to develop plots and subplots, backstory, character and setting.

D.B.: Published by Quill Driver Books, an imprint of Linden Publishing, how did publication come about? Did you approach them, or they you?

L.A.B: Quill Driver's been publishing books for writers for years. When I saw that they were publishing The Writer's Guide to Psychology by Carolyn Kaufman, I sent them the proposal and it quickly caught their interest.

D.B.: The book is broken down in a very simple format, which makes it easy to negotiate. You cover Judcial System Basics, Before the Trial, Evidence, Witnesses, Burden of Proof, Appeals, Penalty, Civil Matters, Some Terms of the Art, Wills, Probate, and Adoption, Legal Miscellany, Thinking Like a Lawyer, Thinking Like a Judge, Legal Ethics, Research and References, Book Links and more.

Leslie, this is a cornucopia of information, and it's all in one book. In addition to thorough information, it also appears to be made up of Q&As you've done over the years. Here's my question: Did you set this book up in this scope, or did your publisher/editor recommend it, because it's such a user-friendly format?

L.A.B: "User-friendly"--just what I'd hoped for! I'll admit, the Q&A format came from Dr. Doug Lyle, author of MURDER AND MAYHEM: A Doctor Answers Medical and Forensic Questions for Mystery Writers. Doug's been a tremendous help to the writing community. I'm delighted to say, he's very supportive of my work and this book. Q&A seems like a natural way to convey just what writers need to know, without bogging them down with too much information.

D.B.: In addition to your comprehensive research, Q&A, you also include interesting tidbits of history surrounding the topics you're addressing. I just loved reading these. What would you say is the biggest misconcption or mistake you see in books or television today that you wish you could hand the author BOOKS, CROOKS and COUNSELORS and say, please read this then fix that.

L.A.B.: The single biggest bother to me is failing to check terminology. Calling every prosecutor a DA because that's what they're called on Law and Order. Not knowing the names of the courts. Referring to guilt instead of liability in a civil case. Those may seem petty but they're so easy to check. Small mistakes break the fragile hold we have on our readers' attention. Other common mistakes: Assuming law enforcement officers need a warrant to make an arrest. Not knowing when a Miranda warning is required, and when it isn't. Allowing lawyers--or their clients--to argue with the judge.

D.B.: You have numerous cover blurbs from well-known authors who recommend this book. Have you worked with them before or did you give them an advanced reader copy and ask for their backing?

L.A.B.: The support from other writers has been wonderful. Such a gift. Some I knew through writers' groups or had met at conferences, and a few I simply approached and asked them to take a look.

D.B.: What would you say is the most typical question you get from writers? Then let's turn this. What is the most unusual question (s) you've received, and do you seek out the author's work to see how they incorporated your answers?

L.A.B: The variety of questions has been astonishing--showing how creative writers can be, and the many ways the law crops up in a story. Lots of questions about search warrants, sentencing, parole, and whether certain kinds of evidence could be used at trail. I've been surprised by how many questions involve inheritance and adoption. A few writers I've worked with individually have sent me their books, and it's fun to see what they'd done with the research I've provided.

D.B.: What I loved most about this book is that the questions are from authors and they are muse-activators in my opinion. From, can a child consent to a search to a witness has gone missing two days before the trial, you cover myriad scenarios that authors can benefit from. How much does this book cost, and where can writers get their hands on it?

L.A.B.: Thanks, Donnell! I do hope to spark writers to think about new ways to use the law in their stories and of course to get it right! BOOKS, CROOKS and COUNSELORS is available in trade paperback for $14.95; the ebook price varies depending on format. It's available from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, or your local bookstore. Links to retailers can be found on

D.B.: Who came up with the clever name BOOKS, CROOKS and COUNSELORS, and what's next for Leslie Budewitz? Will you do a volume 2 and continue to update, or are you moving onto something else?

L.A.B.: The name came from a collaboration of brilliant minds--none of them my own. As for Books & Crooks, Vol. 2, I'd love to write it--there will be plenty of material, as long as writers keep writing and the law keeps changing! And I'll continue to write regular columns for Sisters in Crime quarterly and First Draft, the newsletter of the SinC Guppies chapter, both archived on my website.

D.B.: This interview is a little different than our typical fictional interviews, but what advice would you give to aspiring authors? I'll ask you to put on two more hats--one, when writing fiction, what would you say to them? Two, when incorporating legal aspects into their works in progress?

L.A.B.: People sometimes ask why getting the facts right matters--we're writing fiction, after all! It matters because as writers, we build our fictional worlds one detail at a time. If we get one wrong, whether it's foundation or frosting, our readers' ability to live in that world for a few hours crumbles. But trying to get everything right, when you're not an expert in the field, can be paralyzing. Focus on the dog, not the fleas, at least in the first draft! Then, if you're still scratching your head over a legal issue, call a law professor or a legal prosecutor. Or reach for a copy of, well, I don't have to tell you what legal reference I'd recommend!

D.B.: I'd have to say, I'd recommend BOOKS, CROOKS and COUNSELORS as well.

L.A.B.: Donnell, thanks for letting me join you and your readers today. What a pleasure!

D.B.: The pleasure's all ours, Leslie. Last but not least. Anything else going on in your life?

L.A.B.: I've just accepted a 3-book offer from Berkley Prime Crime for a cozy mystery series, The Food Lovers' Village Mysteries, to debut in 2013. The series is set in Jewel Bay, Montana, a lakeside community on the road to Glacier Park that calls itself, "A Food Lover's Village." My agent is Paige Wheeler.

D.B.: Very cool. Congratulations.

Well, Five Scribes' readers, there you have it. Doesn't BOOKS, CROOKS and COUNSELORS sound like a book that belongs on your research shelf? Do you have any questions for Leslie about her nonfiction, or about writing in general? Questions or comments will enroll you for a chance to win FISHTAILS, a terrific anthology written by the Guppies, which is a subgroup of Sisters in Crime. We'll draw for a winner on Friday, October 21st. HAPPY WRITING!

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Breast Cancer Awareness: Read for the Cure!

It's Breast Cancer Awareness Month, in case you couldn't tell by the proliferation of pink ribbons and companies promising to donate money to research and screenings. The message is clear: check your boobies, ladies (and gents! boys have breast tissue, too), and support the cause in any way you can.

I've been a pink ribbon fan for quite some time, but my interest became personal in 2003 when my paternal aunt, my mom's BFF, died from this horrible disease. She was a healthy woman, running five miles several times a week and focused on healthy eating. The cancer got her anyway, and she found it too late. It metastasized. Before cancer, my Aunt Linda and my mom got together as often as possible, drank wine, vented about their frustrations, and delighted in their shared interests. Friends since they were young children, they'd grown up to marry brothers. They had planned to travel together to the Middle East, where my husband and I were stationed, to experience a different culture and play at the souq with me. That never happened, thanks to cancer. But even when Aunt Linda had lost her hair, even when the tumors in her brain meant she couldn't stand up to try on the saris I sent, she kept her smile and her humor. When she died, my mother was devastated.

My mom's side of the family didn't have a history of breast cancer. Rather, we had fibroids. And every time a lump turned up, it was always benign. Until this summer.

My mom just had a bilateral mastectomy and is looking at the possibility of chemo. This time, her lump was cancer.

I walked in the Breast Cancer 3 Day in 2008 for my Aunt Linda. As soon as I've decided which city is best on next year's schedule, I'll sign up to walk again. I'll participate in just about anything to do with annihilating breast cancer. I have a score to settle with this biatch, and I'll do it by fundraising and walking for the cause. I hope to see some of my fellow authors walking in their cities.

In the meantime, here's one way you can support the fight right now: READ!

The authors - some really great writers of romance and urban fantasy - have created this paranormal romance collection to support the Breast Cancer Research Foundation. All proceeds go to BCRF. You get ten great stories to enjoy, and BCRF has the chance to find a cure. We're on the verge of something amazing, y'all. Let's push this bizatch off the cliff!

Penguin also has their second annual Read Pink program. Look for these books, with pink ribbon seals on the covers, to support BCRF and the great work they do.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Five Scribes Contributor takes over the blogosphere

Oh, good grief. I’m not REALLY trying to take over the blogging universe, it just worked out that way this week.

Yesterday, October 11th, I was on two awesome blogs:

Ellis Vidler's Unpredictable Muse, talking about Coincidence or Conflict: I had to choose. with my good buddy Misty Evans -- THAT'S GONNA HURT: STAGING YOUR ACTION SCENES

And on October 12th (today) I’m on an additional three great blogs.

EVERYBODY NEEDS A LITTLE ROMANCE, I’m talking about dating in fiction. Do your couples date?

Then I’m on WORKING STIFFS, my critique partner’s blog, the wonderful Annette Dashofy On this blog I’ve finally snapped and a character took over my dreams.

And finally I’m on MARGIE LAWSON’S (Margie's grads blog) and she’s analyzing my writing. Thank goodness! Somebody better :)

If any of these interest you, I hope you’ll stop by. And then… da ta da :) I’m going back to a saner pace, returning to my cave and writing!

Thanks for helping me celebrate my debut of THE PAST CAME HUNTING.

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Query Letters Needed!

Query Letter Contest! Don't miss out on this fantastic opportunity!

Enter your one-page query letter and the last page of an
unpublished and completed manuscript targeted at Love Inspired, Love Inspired
Historical or Love Inspired Suspense. Deadline is Monday at Midnight. The top
five finalists will then go to Love Inspired Senior Editor Melissa Endlich for
judging. The winner will be announced on December 4, 2011 in Seekerville's
Weekend Edition.

The winner will have an opportunity to avoid the slush pile and submit
their first three chapters and synopsis to Senior Editor Melissa Endlich by
snail mail.

And best of all. This contest is kind to your budget. It's FREE!!

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Interview With Debut Author and Five Scribe Member, Donnell Bell!

Please welcome debut author and fellow scribe, Donnell Bell.

Donnell and Coach
It’s an honor to interview Donnell for her debut novel, “The Past Came Hunting.” Now, I admit, I’m a bit nervous, her author interviews are legendary and she has more energy than I could ever hope to have.

D.B.: Ha Ha. You’re a nut. You are a boundless bundle of energy and you ask terrific questions.

LA: Yeah, okay, we'll see, but first let's start with an easy one, tell us a bit about yourself.

D.B.: I grew up in the 4-Corners area, in the city of Farmington, New Mexico. I love New Mexico, and am influenced by its rich Hispanic and Indian culture, and will bring some of this knowledge to future work. For now the book I'm so excited to talk about today takes place in my (and your's, Leslie) home state of Colorado and the City of Colorado Springs. While New Mexico may be the nicknamed The Land of Enchantment, Colorado in my mind is God’s country, and it just felt right to place THE PAST CAME HUNTING there.

LA: Okay, first and maybe the most important question, when is the book available? And how can we get our hands on it.

D.B.: THE PAST CAME HUNTING is available now on Bell Bridge Books, Amazon and wherever books are sold.

LA: You created great conflict. Drake Maxwell is a sociopath, and very scary. Tell us a bit about how you came to write him (without giving away the story) because he is very male, very scary and very dangerous and,’re none of those!
D.B.: Oh, thank you for noticing, LOL. Really, in fact when it comes to writing in the male point of view, it’s hard for me to get in the head of a man--particularly a bad man. I’m what many consider naïve, and I do not use expletives myself, which made it doubly hard. But an ex-con is not going to say gosh and darn. But I admit, once I did start writing in the male POV, it was hard to let go.

LA: It was hard to LET GO OF DRAKE? I mean he was nasty, you didn’t want him out of your head????
D.B.: Oh, absolutely I did. But Drake came with tremendous anger issues. When you’re writing -- at least for me -- you do your best to live through his eyes. It’s not easy to turn that emotion off. When I wanted to get out of his head, I worked on lighter scenes with Joe and Melanie or with the boys or Mel’s co-workers.
But about Drake Maxwell. No, he wasn’t fun to write, he was as you said, scary. He came from a wealthy family, he had everything given to him, but he’s a pure sociopathic personality with a bit of a persecution complex. If you’ll notice Lt. Joe Crandall is strong. I needed my antagonist to be equally as strong--a sort of opposing force if you will. But the main thing I needed to accomplish was Melanie’s distrust of both Joe Crandall and Drake Maxwell. They’d both at one time hurt her, and I needed her to learn that Joe was the antithesis of Drake Maxwell, without making either Mel or Joe look weak or unreal. That was tough.
LA: You did a great job with Joe and Melanie. And I think it's a point well worth remembering, dear writer, that you must make your villain--note, I'm calling Drake a villain, not merely an antagonist--as smart or smarter, as strong or stronger than your hero. Otherwise there is no battle, nothing that pits them against each other with fear that the hero/heroine WON'T win.
Back to Joe and Mel. They have a very negative past to get around. You’ve done a masterful job of turning distrust into trust evolving into love. What would you say is the underlying theme of this book? Is that the theme you usually write about? Or does the story dictate that theme?
D.B. : For years I tried to figure out my theme. I received four fantastic author reviews of THE PAST CAME HUNTING. Every one of them saw this story as one of redemption.
LA: Hmmm, okay, I guess I’d have to respectfully disagree J Mel has already redeemed herself. But neither she or Joe trust one another for very obvious reasons…NO SPOILERS HERE, promise.

D.B.: Oh, yes, LA, to the reader. But while Mel may have redeemed herself with them, she carries around the guilt of her impulsive decisions. They cost her freedom, her youth. And even if it’s not rational guilt, it’s still there and, I think you’ll admit, she’s still being judged/caged by it 15 years later. (she can’t vote, she can’t teach, she can’t own a firearm.)
LA: Do you think most of your stories have a similar theme? I know mine do, TRUST.

D.B.: Redemption is a big theme in my books. In Deadly Recall my 2010 Golden Heart final, every single character save the antagonist finds some sort of forgiveness. It wasn’t intentional. I think I’m the type who doesn’t like to hold grudges. My poor characters inherited that trait from me.

Pikes Peak with Colorado Springs,
setting for The Past Came Hunting.
LA: The teenagers Matt and Luke, came across so real. I know you started this book before a lot of what teens today say and do, and all the devices they can play with were available. And your kids are no longer teens. How did you make Matt and Luke so real and timely?

D.B.: I wrote this book when my son went away to college. The book required some updating, but one thing hadn’t changed. Kids in sports don’t have a lot of time to themselves, especially teenagers of Luke and Matt’s athletic caliber. They both make the varsity basketball team their sophomore year and that’s a lot of pressure on these boys to perform, especially if they’re like Luke and have the potential to play in college. Although Matt and Luke would like to participate in social media, their main focus to stay on the team has to be basketball. They do know how to text LOL, and they do Facebook.
And, I asked my kids and two YA writers to read the scenes with Matt and Luke in them for accuracy. That helped a lot.

LA: I love the title Bell Bridge came up with. It’s perfect for the story. It’s evocative, scary and compelling. Your prior title was “Walk Away Joe,” which readers will understand as they read the story. How did you feel about the change? After all it’s your baby.
D.B.: The title, The PAST CAME HUNTING has grown on me. Lt. Joe Crandall hunts into Melanie’s past, and Drake Maxwell, of course, is on the hunt for revenge. The title aptly fits, and reflects the suspense that Bell Bridge wanted to impart rather than the romance title, Walk Away Joe, which I took from a country song ;)
LA: Your research and knowledge into the workings of a cop is scary wonderful. I know you took a Citizen’s Police Academy, I did too, and your depth and understanding didn’t just come from that. How/where did you get your insight?
D.B.: After the Citizens Academy, I also volunteered for my local sheriff’s office. I listened to deputies and their supervisors speak. I inputted a data entry system for patrol and listened to a sergeant interact with his staff. I was the proverbial fly on the wall, but loved learning the human side of these people. I also did ridealongs and I subscribed to a Yahoo group called Crimescenewriters. This group, started by retired police officer veteran Wally Lind, has been invaluable to us writers. (I probably owe Wally money.) I joined Sisters in Crime. We invited John Suthers, Colorado’s Attorney General to come talk to our group. I befriended a deputy coroner, Christina Herndon, who has become a dear friend. I went to the Department of Corrections and interviewed the media spokeswoman. I was determined to do my homework in writing this book.
LA: And it shows…well it doesn’t show as that’s not what we’re aiming for as writers, LOL, but the realness resonates throughout. Great Job.
Melanie and Joe are a great couple. I finished reading the book and wanted more. I didn’t want the story to be done with these two. What do you do to put yourself into the character? Seriously, I want to know. Do you have pictures, music? Do you create a biography for them? What? Please share.
D.B.: I would love to do a sequel involving the boys and their little sister. It’s plotted and I’m dying to write this story, but it’s when Trish is in college and the boys are out in the workforce. First, I suppose, we have to see how THE PAST CAME HUNTING works out. Everything pertaining to Joe and Melanie is in my head. No charts, no pictures. But they’re as real to me as someone standing beside me.
LA: You created memorable secondary characters that moved the story forward as well. And you completed their arc.
D.B.: Thanks, LA, that means so much because you’re a talented author in your own right and because I sure tried. I tried to visualize an ambitious D.A., a love-stricken, lonely warden, Melanie’s boss and her co-workers. They just kind of came to life on the page.

Garden of the Gods In Colorado Springs,
setting for The Past Came Hunting
LA: Anything else you’d like to add for the benefit of writers--newbie and seasoned--on writing?
D.B.: My friend Annemarie Nicklaus gave us tremendous advice, I’ll pass along here.
* Write.
* Write more.
* Write even more.
* Write even more than that.
* Write when you don't want to.
* Write when you do.
* Write when you have something to say.
* Write when you don't.
* Write every day.
* Keep writing.
Donnell will give some lucky reader who posts a comment, a copy of The Past Came Hunting.

And she'd love to give to another reader who comments, this plate with a picture of the Garden of the Gods on it.

Thanks Donnell for your candid answers, and thanks most of all for a compelling read. I loved it.

Find more information about Donnell at: www.
D.B.: Thanks, L.A. You’re the Hostess Scribe with the Mostest :)
Ciao all,
Thank everyone for stopping by for my interview with Leslie Ann Sartor. She really made me work hard for these answers. Vanessa Barneveld is the winner of THE PAST CAME HUNTING. Maggie Toussaint is the winner of The Garden of the God's Plate. Thanks again & best wishes!

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Author Liz Lipperman & LIVER LET DIE

Five Scribe Readers: I love a good who-dun-it. Add zany to the mix, and I’m a happy reader. Liz Lipperman combines mystery and laughs, and she’s here to talk about her debut novel LIVER LET DIE, which was just released yesterday. So let’s find out all about Liz and her heroine’s exploits with foie gras. For those uneducated sorts like me, that’s … er…duck liver. Please welcome Liz Lipperman to The Five Scribes.

D.B.: Hi, Liz: Jordan McAllister is about as worthy a protagonist as I’ve read in some time. On the rebound from an old flame, she longs to use her journalism degree to write sports columns for newspapers. Unfortunately, life’s been rough and she ends up in Ranchero, Texas, barely earning a living, writing personal ads and subsisting on fast food and Hostess Ho Hos. Have I summed up the basic plot so far?

L.L: Pretty much, but before I get into that, I want to thank you for having me on your blog. Five Scribes is one I try to keep up with. About Jordan, she was raised in Amarillo with four brothers who needed her outside to play football every afternoon, and although she can throw a razor sharp touchdown pass from 50 yards out, she can’t cook herself out of a box of macaroni and cheese.

D.B.: I like Jordan ;) Your protagonist’s big break finally comes when she’s summoned to the editor’s office Dwayne “Big Ears” Egan. Egan needs someone to fill in for the culinary reporter who’s on leave. You take a sports writer who knows nothing about food, and even less about cooking and make her a food critic. (No conflict there ;) How did this idea come about, Liz, and how much fun was it to write LIVER LET DIE?

L.L.: My agent submitted the first of a straight mystery series about five sisters, one of whom is a trash-talking ghost who comes back to help solve her murder, to an editor who had just moved from an inspirational publisher. Insert collective groan here if you’ve read that story where my ghost is really irreverent. I thought there was no way, but I still hoped. Imagine my surprise when my agent called to say the editor loved my voice and loved the story—had even quoted some of the ghost’s funniest lines….but…(Don’t you hate that word??) she was looking for a cozy. She said toning the story down to fit the genre would ruin it. So, she asked if I could write a cozy series―more specifically a “foodie.” She had just cancelled a series like that and was on the hunt. At first I said no way. I’m one of nine children and grew up eating casseroles. All the foodies out there were about gourmet food. Not only do I hate fancy food, but I don’t eat any red meat except cheap cuts of steak with gravy and ground beef. So, my agent said to sleep on the idea, and if I decided not to write it, call her in the morning and she would see if any of her other clients were interested. In the middle of the night, I shot up with this idea of a girl who couldn’t cook a lick suddenly thrust into a position where she was supposed to know good food. And that’s how Jordan was born. To answer the second part of your question, LIVER LET DIE was a blast to write. I absolutely love the eccentric characters. They get to say and do everything I wish I could…without cussing.

D.B.: Jordan’s assignment goes wrong from the start as she’s sent to Longhorn Prime Rib for her first food review. Only problem is Jordan doesn’t eat red meat. And that’s where the foie gras comes in. She wants something edible, and in Jordan’s estimation, foie gras is not. I thought this was ingenious how you plotted this scenario. But I am curious, how did a woman from Dallas learn so much about duck liver, and how did this scenario make it into your book?

L.L.: How else—Google!! Like I said, I devoured cozies before I actually sat down to attempt one. There was a mention of foie gras in one of them along with a snooty lady who ordered it. Since that is something I would never ever try and never even heard of, I researched it and was amazed at the inhumane way they treat the ducks. I knew I had to work that into the plot somehow.

D.B.: Jordan may be down on her luck, but she’s not in bad shape in the friend department. Every single girl should be surrounded by a cast of characters like those who reside in the Empire Apartments. There’s Michael and Victor, Lola, a psychic and tarot card reader, Ray, a retired cop, Rosie, an excellent cook―these people become Jordan’s closest allies. They play cards, they drink margaritas and sing karaoke. Tell us about these characters and who or what inspired them.

L.L.: I think I mentioned I am one of nine children. Actually, I am number 8, so I have way older brothers and sisters who I adore. They all have the same sense of humor as I do, so family gatherings are always so much fun. Then I have a group of girls I play bunko with, some of whom I’ve known for almost three decades. We vacation together every year, leaving hubbies at home. I get my best lines from them. I always try to have comic relief in my stories, and Victor fit the bill perfectly.

D.B.: As I mentioned, Jordan is no cook, but fortunately Rosie is. You create some fantastic recipes that make it into Jordan’s column, and from that point on the Ranchero Globe’s subscriptions take off. Taking a simple casserole and calling it something exotic, Jordan goes from low man on the totem pole to small-town celebrity in no time. During Jordan’s first restaurant review, she orders fois gras. However, when she finds out it’s duck liver, she stuffs it into her purse.

That same evening a waiter contacts Jordan with an urgent message, and the next thing we know, said waiter is found dead under the Empire Apartments’ staircase. He's been stabbed to death and one of Jordan’s knives is missing from her butcher block knife collection. With so many characters and so much transpiring, I’m curious how you set this up and kept it all straight. Do you work in drafts? Do you do character sketches, spread sheets?

L.L.: LOL here. I am a card-carrying plotter. I have these great character sketches I have made up, using a little from all the ones out there. I totally know my characters and their back stories before I ever write one word. Then I make a list of what I call plot points. All the stuff about ARCs and black moments and story boards drives me nuts. Of course, that’s not to say that I follow the original plot all the way, in fact, most of the time I don’t. So, I guess I am a plotser (plotter and pantser.) I write longhand, then use Dragon Naturally Speaking to transcribe it to the computer. I send every chapter to my CP after I’ve edited it a zillion times. The good news is that I never have to tear the draft apart during edits.

D.B.: Great. A Ploster. You’ve coined a new term ;) Something else you do in this story amazed me. I would classify LIVER LET DIE as a cozy mystery. But you introduce a second POV character of Alex Montgomery. Is this common in cozies, and how did Alex’s point of view character make it into the novel?

L.L.: One of the things that had me thinking there was no way I could write a cozy was that most of them are written in first person. I decided I would have to put on my big girl panties and get over that. But when I asked the editor if I could write multiple POVs and third person POV, she said that I could do what I wanted. Originally, I had two or three half-page scenes in the killer’s POV, and in edits, she suggested we get rid of those since cozies are all about the main protagonists. She didn’t think they gave any information to the reader that they didn’t find out later, anyway. She loved Alex’s POV, though. In Book 2 and Book 3, I stuck with Jordan’s third person POV only.

D.B: Jordan is a sports’ fanatic, something I’ve noticed that she has in common with the author. How much is Jordan like Liz Lipperman, and how is she different?

L.L.: In a lot of ways, we’re identical –well, except that she’s skinny and gorgeous and 28!!! I was always a tomboy growing up, and am still a rabid sports fan. I even run a fantasy football league every NFL season. As I mentioned, I don’t eat much red meat or fancy food, but I am a great casserole cook. Matter of fact, most of the recipes in the back of the book are really mine. I submitted ten recipes, thinking the editor would take her favorite two, but she wanted them all.

D.B.: LIVER LET DIE is your first cozy mystery. You’ve written romantic suspense and darker manuscripts before, correct? How hard was it to transition into a cozy writer?

L.L.: I thought it would be more difficult than it actually was. In my straight mysteries I use some bad language, have gruesome murder scenes and steamy sex scenes—none of which are allowed in a cozy, I thought. Come to find out, you can get away with a few bad words and the sex is allowed behind closed doors. So, now Jordan says “crap” a lot!! Other than that, there really wasn’t much difference writing it. What I have a hard time with is not putting too much romance into my stories. There will always be some, but mystery readers tend to like just mysteries.

D.B.: You also did something that any author would envy. You sold your first book on proposal. Now that you’ve “survived” to this point, would you recommend that to first-time authors? What have you learned from this experience?

L.L.: I was very fortunate in some ways and naïve and stupid in others. Quickly, I wrote three chapters and a synopsis and in two weeks, I had a three book deal. I thought cozies were about 55K, but the contract came back saying 80K. I nearly fainted since I had only plotted for the smaller amount (remember I’m a plotter.)

I can’t say I wouldn’t recommend it to a debut author, especially in this day and age. However, I think the anxiety of writing the book and worrying that the editor would hate it was like a demon in my head. The self-doubt was unbelievable. I even parted ways with a longtime CP who was very negative about the first few chapters. I couldn’t deal with her and me at the same time. Also, I wish I could say I learned to be disciplined with time management. I get nine months for each book. I putz around until I am in panic mode, which is exactly where I am now for book 3, due January 1st. I saw a cute cartoon on FB today about a “muse” standing behind the author with a gun in his hand. I wish I could hire him!!

D.B.: How long have you been writing, and what advice would you give to today’s aspiring authors.

L.L: Geez, Donnell, you’re about to date me. I started writing about 20 years ago on a story that remains the story of my heart. I quit for a while, then got serious in 2002 and got an agent in 2006. It wasn’t until about 2008 when she looked me in the eye and told me I wasn’t a romance writer. Her first clue, I guess, was that I always killed people!! Anyway, that’s when I wrote the ghost story. If I had to give advice to a new writer—along with all the other clichéd stuff floating around out there to keep writing, butt in chair, etc—I would have to say, be flexible. I had to go way out of my comfort zone to write the cozy. I liked big involved plots with multiple POVs and a lot of humor. I almost said no to this golden opportunity and guess what? I get to do all that in my cozies, anyway. So, if your genre isn’t selling right now, branch out a little if you want. (Ring a bell, Donnell??)

D.B.: Subtle as a brick, Liz. ;) You did a great job of sewing all the plotlines together. You had some laugh out loud moments and this was a very fun read. What comes next for Liz Lipperman? Will you be signing, doing book tours? Are you on another deadline?

L.L.: I am so glad you enjoyed the story, Donnell. There was some dialogue that my editor initially took out because it was too racy—then she put it back in because she said it was too funny to leave out. As for what’s next, I am waiting on the edits for Book 2, BEEF STOLEN-OFF and I’m a third of the way into MURDER FOR THE HALIBUT. I have been madly doing promotions for LLD, and October is insane. I am doing four book signings and I’m guest blogging nearly every day, sometimes twice a day. If any of you get a chance, pop over to Berkley’s FB page, Crime Scene, from 3-4 pm today where I’ll be fielding questions.

And another thing, Berkley has graciously offered to send a copy of LIVER LET DIE to one lucky commenter (US residents only per their request) Donnell can pick the random winner.

I want to thank Donnell again for having me today. This was so much fun.

My pleasure, Liz. We're thrilled for your success. However, I am still trying to figure out how to get my name in your books. But that’s another blog. Five Scribe readers, do you have any comments or questions? Are you a PLOSTER? Comments or questions will enter you to win LIVER LET DIE.

Happy Writing.