Thursday, June 30, 2011

The 2011 Daphne du Maurier Award For Excellence in Mystery/Suspense

The results of the Kiss of Death Chapter's Daphne Du Maurier Award for Excellence in Mystery/Suspense are in. On behalf of KOD and the Daphne Committee, I am pleased to announce the winners of our 2011 Published Contest:

Category (Series) Romantic Mystery/Suspense
Finalist: Gail Barrett, MELTDOWN
Finalist: Julie Miller, TAKE DOWN


Historical Romantic Mystery/Suspsense
Finalist: Allison Chase, OUTRAGEOUSLY YOURS
Finalist: Cara Elliott, TO SURRENDER A ROQUE
Finalist: Deanna Raybourne, DARK ROAD TO DARJEELING
Finalist: Deborah Simmons, THE GENTLEMEN'S QUEST


Inspirational Romantic Mystery/Suspense
Finalist: Irene Hannon, IN HARM'S WAY
Finalist: DiAnn Mills, PURSUIT OF JUSTICE
Finalist: Marta Perry, MURDER IN PLAIN SIGHT
Finalist: Laura Scott, A CHRISTMAS RESCUE


Mainstream Mystery/Suspense
Finalist: Kate Carlisle, IF BOOKS COULD KILL
Finalist: Susan Crandall, SLEEP NO MORE
Finalist: Hank Phillippi Ryan, DRIVE TIME
Finalist: Dolores Wilson, DARK SECRETS OF THE OLD OAK TREE


Paranormal (Fantasy/Time Travel/Futuristic) Romantic Mystery/Suspense
Finalist: Erin Kellison, SHADOW BOUND
Finalist: Patti O'Shea, IN THE DARKEST NIGHT
Finalist: Deanna Raybourn, THE DEAD TRAVEL FAST
Finalist: Eileen Rendahl, DON'T KILL THE MESSENGER


Single Title Romantic Mystery/Suspense
Finalist: Kaylea Cross, COVER OF DARKNESS
Finalist: Cindy Gerard, RISK NO SECRETS
Finalist: Laura Griffin, UNFORGIVABLE
Finalist: Brenda Novak, WHITE HEAT




The results of the Kiss of Death Chapter's Daphne Du Maurier Award for Excellence in Mystery/Suspense are in. On behalf of KOD and the Daphne Committee, I am pleased to announce the winners of our 2011 Unpublished Contest:

Category (Series) Romantic Mystery/Suspense
1st Place: Jenni Wiltz, THE CHERBOURG JEWELS
2nd Place: Claudia Shelton, PLEASE BE CAREFUL
3rd Place: Jamie Michele, MIDNIGHT POSSESSION
Honorable Mention: Kathy Altman, THE BADGE BETWEEN THEM
Honorable Mention: Tammy Hooker, HIS PRETEND PRINCESS

Historical Romantic Mystery/Suspsense
1st Place: Louisa Cornell, HIS CHARMING SEDUCTRESS
2nd Place: Marnee Bailey, A TANGLE OF LIES
3rd Place: Bernadette Hearn, TRAITOR TO LOVE
Honorable Mention: Leigh Stites, THE PRODIGAL
Honorable Mention: Jacki Delecki, A CODE OF LOVE

Inspirational Romantic Mystery/Suspense
1st Place: Renee Ann Smith, THE CHILDREN'S CORNER
2nd Place: Alison Stone, RANDOM ACTS
3rd Place: Suzanne Bratcher, THE COPPER BOX
Honorable Mention: Sally Burbank, LOVE HAS NO COLOR
Honorable Mention: Anita Mae Draper, THE KEY TO HIS HEART

Mainstream Mystery/Suspense
1st Place: Elaine M. Powell, THE CANTERBURY WITNESSES
2nd Place: Cathryn Pritchard, THE END AT RIVER'S BEND
3rd Place: Patrice Kavanaugh, DIE RUN HIDE
Honorable Mention: Elizabeth Heiter, KILLER ALIBI
Honorable Mention: Denise Weeks, MURDER BY MARFA LIGHTS

Paranormal (Fantasy/Time Travel/Futuristic) Romantic Mystery/Suspense
1st Place: Caroline Dunsheath, SPLIT
2nd Place: Heather Leonard, SPELLBOUND: A MAGIC CITY MYSTERY
3rd Place: Rebecca Finley, A STONE OF SHADOWS
Honorable Mention: Ash Krafton, BLEEDING HEARTS
Honorable Mention: AJ Larrieu, BLACK MAGIC COFFEE AND TEA

Single Title Romantic Mystery/Suspense
1st Place: Sharon Wray, JULIET'S ROQUE
2nd Place: Kristine B. Thompson, LOOKING INTO HELL
3rd Place: Jane Vasarhelyi, MESSAGE FROM PANAMA
Honorable Mention: Diane Garner, THE CELL
Honorable Mention: Kristine B. Thompson, WAKING UP IN HELL


To learn more about RWA's KISS OF DEATH CHAPTER, check out

Congratulations to all!

Brooke Wills
2011 Daphne Contest Overall Coordinator

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Writing Journey Video

The publishing industry is really tough to break into. In the USA alone, in 2010 there were ~ 51,156 new fiction books published. As few as 2,500 fiction writers can make a living at writing. The odds of breaking in and being able to make a living at writing fiction aren't good, so why try? What's the point?

I've been writing for almost 13 years now and though I've accumulated over 400 rejections and spent a lot of money, I am still unpublished. But it hasn't been time and money wasted. I've recently had an epiphany that success truly is the journey - not the destination. Cliche as that might seem, it's true for me.

So I made this video to celebrate my writer's journey. It's tempting to dwell on the negatives when trying to get published, however there are so many blessings.

I've finaled in many writing contests and even won a few. I've been privileged to travel to wonderful, interesting places like Maui, Seattle, San Diego, Crested Butte, Nashville, and more to attend writing conferences. I've met and befriended many charming best-selling authors such as Susan Wiggs, Jodi Picoult, Terry Brooks, William Bernhardt, Don Maass, David Morell, Catherine Coulter, Joan Johnston, James Scott Bell . . . and the list goes on... And then the best blessing being, not just my supportive family but, all my writing pals and agent/editor friends I've made --all because of the journey. THAT'S the true brass ring.

Sure it'll be great to see my book in print one day, however people will love it, some will not, I'll have other headaches, insecurities and worries, but my friends will remain a constant joy and blessing. And I wanted to get that message out before I got published 'cause it's easy to claim that, once you have the perceived "brass ring", but I don't have that yet and I'm still loving the journey. And it's those blessings that keep me coordinating The Sandy writing contest and co-coordinating the Crested Butte Writers Conference.

I get huge joy from writing. I'm proud of my rejections. They signify effort and time put into my career. While this video shares the tough aspect of the business, it's meant to be an inspiration and celebration. An entertaining way to remind me of all the blessings writing has brought me. And you too could make one to remind you of your personal journey and the people that have blessed you along the way. It's not hard if you have the pictures. Think about it.

My fondest gratitude to my family and friends - old and new - those I have pictures of and those I don't. Thank you, all. Published or unpublished, I think you can relate. So go to my website ( and scroll down to the video, turn up the sound on your computer and listen carefully to the lyrics of the song.


Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Screenwriting Panel in Santa Monica, CA


Want more information on writing & selling your script?

Join us at Barnes & Noble 3rd Street Promenade, Santa Monica, June 28, 7:00pm, as we welcome four of the industry's most knowledgeable screenwriting experts for a special FREE panel discussion and Q & A session.

Kathie Fong Yoneda

Moderating the panel will be former studio exec Kathie Fong Yoneda whose 2nd edition of her book THE SCRIPT-SELLING GAME: A Hollywood Insider's Look At Getting Your Script Sold & Produced was just released in May.

Panelists include: Former TV exec, Jen Grisanti, author of STORYLINE: Finding Gold In Your Life Story; script consultant Dr. Linda Seger, author of her latest book, SUBTEXT: What Lies Beneath; and mythologist Pamela Jaye Smith, author of SYMBOLS IMAGES CODES: The Secret Language of Meaning in Film, TV, Games and visual Media. Authors will be available to sign their books following the panel.

This looks great, so if you're in the neighborhood, stop in, listen and learn.  And if you can't, go to your favorite book store and look for the books by the panelists. 


Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Giving Witness to an Outstanding Book

The Only Witness by Pamela Beason is one of those books, that hasn’t been hyped, has no major marketing campaigns behind it…but should have--a major one. In 2004, Pamela Beason won the Overall Daphne, the highest scoring entry for The Daphne du Maurier Award for Excellence in Mystery/Suspense. Knowing this, and curious about her writing as well as intrigued by the title, “The Only Witness,” I clicked on her link. What followed was a cover… of...well, an ape. Naturally I read the blurb, and then downloaded this book. I’m so glad I did. Please welcome freelance writer/editor and private investigator, Pamela Beason, to The Five Scribes.

Pam, Welcome. I am so happy to be doing this interview. I know that you’re a private investigator, but has anyone ever mentioned that you can write? ;) Talk about these two professions. Are they of equal importance to you, or does one have precedence over the other?

P.B.: Due to the current economic climate, I actually have three professions, which explains why I'm a crazy woman these days. I do freelance writing and editing, including technical writing, ghost-writing, and book doctoring; I do private investigation cases; and then I do my own creative writing.

Private investigation is very disruptive; you are basically on call 24 hours a day, accommodating yourself to everyone else's schedule. You end up interviewing a cop on the night shift during his break at one a.m., waiting to be called into court in the middle of the afternoon, doing surveillance at dawn or during a lunch hour, etc.—working whatever hours you need to get the job done. Investigation pays well per hour, but the hours are not necessarily contiguous and the work can be stressful and occasionally dangerous. There's a lot at stake—jobs, marriages, money, child custody, jail time—so emotions are always high on both sides.

In between investigation tasks, I'm sitting in front of my computer doing my own creative writing or my contract writing and editing jobs. I can't wait for the day when I can give up the other jobs and just write fiction. That's my dream.

As an investigator, I get involved with a lot of families in trouble. That has provided fodder for my stories. For example, I know it's easy to accuse someone and harder to prove innocence, so in my romantic suspense, Shaken, my heroine Elisa is accused of insurance fraud because she's filed so many claims after her business is plagued with vandalism and arson. The mystery we're talking about here, The Only Witness, deals with the issue of having a vital witness to a crime who cannot testify in court.

D.B. : The Only Witness. What an amazing story. Your plot revolves around a teenage mother and her infant daughter. I don’t want to give too much away. But this young mother is clearly not ready to be a mother. She’s unwed, lives with her parents, and when her baby goes missing, Brittany Morgan becomes the prime suspect in her daughter’s abduction. Told in third person, from multiple points of views of your characters, the author immediately draws us into the small fictitious town of Evansburg, Washington. While not one single human sees this crime, there is an animal witness. A 12-year-old signing gorilla named Neema.

Okay, That’s a plot I think of every day. Not. Where did you come up with an idea for an ape to be a witness to a kidnapping? Are there any documented cases of primates helping to solve crimes? And tell us what brought this story to life and why you decided to put it to words?

P.B.: I love animals, and I'm fascinated by animal intelligence. I've read all the books written by people who study apes. There have been several sign language projects involving apes: the most well known are by Dr. Roger Fouts, who taught chimpanzees sign language, and Dr. Penny Patterson, who taught Koko the gorilla. Penny and Koko were my models for Dr. Grace McKenna and Neema in The Only Witness. So after reading about the creative language used by real-life chimpanzees and the gorillas, and then dealing in my investigation work with the issue of credible witnesses in court cases, I put together the plot for The Only Witness. A gorilla has the intelligence of a five-year-old child, so if a five-year-old deaf child could testify, could a signing gorilla? It hasn't happened yet, but it would certainly make a controversial case.

D.B.: There is so much law enforcement expertise, you pull in FBI characters and you understand so much about police procedure. I assume this comes with being a private detective? Do you interact with the police and the FBI in the course of your work?

P.B.: To be a good PI, you have to understand a fair amount about all the different law enforcement agencies. I interact with local police from time to time, and we sometimes share information back and forth. Cops are individuals just like the rest of us, with their own strengths and weaknesses and personality quirks. I've talked on the phone a few times with FBI agents and been involved in a few cases that they were also involved in, but I have never worked on a case with an FBI agent. Generally speaking, law enforcement professionals don't appreciate PIs getting into the mix. PIs often do defense work where we investigate whether the law enforcement professionals did their job well, so that can cause friction.

D.B.: You let us into Brittany’s world immediately, and then, a master weaver, you go from light to serious in a heartbeat and vice versa. You introduce us to Dr. Grace McKenna, Neema’s trainer. Grace has a Ph.D. in Psychology and is a research fellow with the University of Washington. While this sounds glamorous, Pam heaps on loads of conflict on Dr. McKenna. She teaches Neema and a male gorilla Gumu, a version of American Sign Language. (Note to readers: Do you have any idea how much it costs to house, feed and cajole two full-grown gorillas?)

What brought Grace to life? What came first, er…the gorilla or the trainer?

P.B.: The gorilla, of course! Like I said, I'm an animal lover. But if you think about the amount of care a huge intelligent animal like a gorilla would require, and then you consider all the budget cuts and money issues at universities these days, you can see how someone doing a gorilla sign language research project like Grace's could get in deep trouble. And of course deep trouble is what makes for interesting drama.

D.B.: Then you introduce another character, who, sorry, readers, I just have to gush. Detective Mathew Finn. What a three-dimensional character. Matt, originally from Chicago, follows his wife to Washington, where she leaves him for another man, then dumps Matt further with two cats and a giant Newfie-mix dog. Matt is passionate about art, about animals not so much. To top it off, he has no time to take care of these very needy pets.

Readers, if you don’t read but one scene in this book. You must read when Matt goes to interview what he thinks is a slow child (Neema has the mental capacity of a five year old. Pam sets this up, a cross between Stephen King and Mel Brooks.) It was priceless when he meets Neema -- his witness to a kidnapping.

Talk about Matt and how he came to be. Are Grace and Matt a compilation of people you’ve known, or are the total figments of the author’s imagination?

P.B.: I think most authors create characters they'd like to know, and so I created Grace and Matt from my imagination. They're both smart and formerly very successful in their careers, although in the book they're at an extremely low point. It looks like Grace might lose her livelihood and her gorillas—imagine someone taking your pets or children away along with your job! And after being a hot-shot detective in Chicago, Matt took a modest position in rural Washington to accommodate his younger wife, and he's now the object of snide gossip after she ran off with another man. Both Grace and Matt are lonely outsiders who are under a lot of pressure. In Grace's case, she's got to find a way to save her research project and her gorillas. In Matt's case, he's got to solve the case of Brittany Morgan's missing baby to protect all the innocents involved and to save his reputation. And because he's my creation, I made him tough on the outside but a softie on the inside, because that's how we really want men to be, don't we? He starts off thinking animals are a pain and ends up truly appreciating them.

D.B: Brittany is compelling in her own right. It’s clear that this young mother loves her daughter. I felt for this girl when she creates the little fairy costume for her daughter for when she comes home. She’s devastated when people accuse her of harming her daughter, and the author does an amazing time line, e.g. four hours after Ivy goes missing, eight hours, two days, three day, etc. etc. I found myself holding my breath as the timeline got farther away. Ivy belongs to a support group for young mothers created by her high school. The program is also tied in with the social networks. There’s a janitorial service that hires ex-convicts that comes into play. Will you tell us about these organizations, why you brought these into the picture. I’d like to understand your plotting scenario here because both these organizations fed in brilliantly.

P.B.: As I said earlier, as a PI, I encounter a lot of troubled souls. That includes teenage mothers and their children and ex-convicts. As we all know, teen moms can do foolish things just because they don't have the experience to know better, so I wanted Brittany to be a loving but somewhat careless mom. I also got some ideas from watching TV shows about pregnant teenagers, and I am aware that some high schools have special programs to help encourage them to graduate after becoming mothers.

Then there's the issue of ex-convicts. I've met a lot of them, and while as a society we should definitely keep an eye on them, I also know that they are a very vulnerable group. Think about their situation: How can they prove they're reformed if nobody will give them a job? If they are accused of a crime, how can they prove they're innocent when they've been convicted before? Who is going to believe them? So I wanted to throw all that in there.

D.B.: Is The Only Witness a stand alone, or will it be part of a series. Truthfully? I would love to see Grace and Matt end up together. They were a great couple. Will we see them again?

P.B.: I wrote The Only Witness as a standalone, but if readers ask for sequels, I would love to create them. Like all authors, I hate to leave my characters; I do hope we can at least visit each other from time to time. I'd like to see Grace and Matt's relationship grow; I'd like to see Brittany raise baby Ivy; and I'd dearly love to see what the gorillas get up to in the future!

D.B.: How long have you been writing, and please tell us about your schedule and writing process. You edit and work as a private detective. Do you ever feel pulled in too many directions?

P.B.: I've always written from the time I was a little girl. But I started writing seriously for publication about ten years ago. These days, I write whenever I can. You ask if I feel pulled in too many directions: My answer is HELL, YES! (Oops, can I say hell here?) But my reading audience is growing by the day and soon I hope to do nothing but creative writing, with a lot of outdoor activity thrown in to break up the computer time (I hike, snowshoe, kayak, and scuba dive whenever I can).

D.B.: You’ve self-published, but you also have books coming out from Berkley. You’re agented. How do you feel about the transitions going on in today’s market? Do you plan to do a mix of self-publishing and traditional publishing? What would you tell someone interested in self-publishing, then turn this question. What would you tell an author determined to sell only to New York?

P.B.: I tell all writers to support each other, no matter what route a writer chooses. I'm doing a mix because there are advantages to each route. With self-publishing, the money can be better and certainly comes in much faster, but you also have to do and pay for everything yourself. You are running your own business. Also, most important reviewers and contests still won't touch self-published books, and it's hard to get them into bookstores and libraries, too.

Then there's the traditional route. Let's face it, the New York publishers can make any author into a superstar, but they choose to do that for very few. However, they can help you build a worldwide audience, and I'm counting on that from Penguin/Berkley. However, if you count on NY alone, you're probably losing a LOT of money and time, because the percentages and time frames for publication and payment are SO much better with self-publishing. I hope that traditional publishers will adapt to the times and treat authors better. But who knows what will happen? The whole book business is changing at lightning speed.

D.B.: Pam, I loved The Other Witness. I believe you have other books along this line. Will you talk about them, and then tell us about your mystery series and when we can expect it, and perhaps give us a blurb?

P.B: Thanks for saying you loved The Only Witness! As well as that book, I currently have a romantic adventure novella, Call of the Jaguar, available in ebook form, as well as my romantic suspense, Shaken. You can read excerpts from them on my website: In early December of 2011, the first Berkley Prime Crime book in my Summer Westin mystery series—Endangered—will hit the market. As I mentioned above, I'm a nature gal, and all Summer Westin mysteries take place mostly in the wild. The setting for Endangered is the canyons of Utah; the second (the Daphne winner) is set in the Olympic peninsula of Washington State; and the third (which I'm desperately trying to finish now) takes place in the Galapagos Islands. My character, Summer 'Sam' Westin, is a wildlife biologist who is eking out a living as an internet outdoor adventure writer, so these stories are a mix of internet craziness and wilderness adventures (both of which I have experience with). Here's a short blurb for Endangered:

When a toddler vanishes from a Utah campground, the television news quickly targets the park's cougars as the likely suspects. Wildlife writer Summer Westin has good reason to suspect that a human is behind the child's disappearance. But can she prove it before it's too late for both the child and the big cats?

Of course the plot is much more complicated than that. You can read a longer blurb and some reviews and even pre-order the paperback version on this Amazon page:, although right now in typical done-too-early fashion, there are a few typos in the description and the reviews are from my self-published version called WILD. (I always self-pub while waiting to see if NY comes through with an offer, because they move at glacial speed.)

D.B.: Thank you so much for being here. I hope you’ll come back and see us when your mystery series is released.

P.B.: It was my pleasure! I don't have copies of Endangered yet, but I'll be happy to give away an ebook copy of The Only Witness to whoever is the most entertaining or thought-provoking commenter here.


Country Strong--Top Movie Pick for Characterization

Country Strong Amazing Characterization or Cliche?

WARNING—Spoiler—this reveals the plot and ending of the movie, though I can’t imagine a good writer wouldn't see it coming.

Either the characterization in this movie was really well done or really poorly done, or I’m missed a bunch of dialogue explaining motivations, ‘cause I can’t figure it out.

I saw Country Strong, staring Tim McGraw and Gwyneth Paltrow last night and found it a surprisingly interesting movie. Usually I have little patience and find little to admire in movies featuring self-destructive alcoholic stars who implode, however there’s something about the characters in this movie that struck me differently.

Something keeps noodling around in my head, bothering me. I wonder if it might be some terrific characterization (or poorly done characterization) or perhaps I missed critical details due to the accented dialogue mumbled throughout the entire movie, straining this midwestern ear. Perhaps you can help me.

We’re a society who likes to place blame, though I suppose it shouldn’t matter to me as a person . . . all three of the main characters, James, Kelly and Beau seemed to suffer throughout the movie and that should have generated plenty of sympathy, but who was the antagonist?

On the surface, the husband, James, seems to be the obvious villain—or even Kelly herself, yet I suspect it was Fame that was supposed to be the villain.

Did manager, James, really love his super-star wife, Kelly? Did Kelly love James? I think they did love each other and that love was destroyed by her fame and the alcohol . . . yet why? Why did she start drinking? How did the fame drive Kelly to drink and start whoring around? It can’t be the loss of their baby; she had a problem with alcohol before she lost their baby. From the average person’s perspective, they had it all. Money and fame. No worries. So what went wrong????

I think James loved Kelly. Yet he took her out of rehab early—though she appeared hesitant, but willing. Did Kelly leave rehab early to please her husband, to gain access to alcohol, or ‘cause she missed the adulation of the crowds?

And what was with the chick? First of all . . . I didn’t buy that Kelly had been successfully nurturing the quail chick. In my experience . . . chicks are really hard to keep alive. It probably would have been more believable to me if they’d chosen another type of baby animal for both Kelly and James to bond to.

I’m assuming the chick was supposed to be the replacement “baby” for Kelly and James to nurture after the loss of their baby. That James indulged Kelly and brought the chick along on tour and cared for it personally spoke to his love for his wife and his grief over the loss of their baby—at least that’s how it seemed to me. I don’t think he did it simply to placate and manipulate Kelly. I missed what happened to the chick in the end. Where’d the chick go? Did it die or did they let it go?

And the fact that James cared enough to punch Beau when Beau confirmed that he wasn’t Kelly’s “sponsor”, in essence admitting that he and Kelly were having an affair, showed me that James cared enough to be jealous. James loved his wife.

James watched Kelly a lot, looking for glimpses of the “old” well, Kelly. Looking for glimpses of the woman he fell in love with. He was clearly disgusted by her drinking and seemed puzzled by her fragility; she’d always been so strong. He didn’t seem to know where it’d all gone wrong either.

I think James loved Kelly, but he didn’t know how to help her and he was jealous of the way Beau was bonding to Kelly in rehab, so perhaps he took her out of rehab and on tour to separate them? He didn’t want Beau to tour with them. It was Chiles he wanted to open for Kelly, but accepted Beau ‘cause both Chiles and Kelly appeared to need Beau.

But James made it Beau’s job to keep Kelly sober instead of watching over his wife himself. Why? That seemed like a stupid mistake. And James wouldn’t make love to Kelly when she reached out to him . . . but since he knew she was sleeping around . . . and they hadn’t worked through that . . . I guess it’s unfair to expect him to pretend everything was all right and make love to her just because she reached out to him for . . . comfort? For forgiveness? For reassurance?

What about Kelly? She appears to be the cliché star ruined by fame. She was an addict who whored around and lost her baby, however . . . did she leave rehab to please her husband? Because she’d been unfaithful –and continued to be so, throughout the movie, yet I got a sense that she wanted Jame’s forgiveness, yet wasn’t strong enough to make them sit down and talk it out and see if he could forgive her. See if they had a future together.

I got the feeling that Kelly felt all she could give James (all he wanted from her) was her career—a good performance.

A come-back. Kelly never appeared to dislike her husband. She didn’t sleep around to get even with him. She was jealous of Chiles—yet Chiles and James didn’t appear to ever be inappropriate.

Kelly was a fragile soul, yet she managed to pull-it together to please the little boy with leukemia, giving us (and James) a glimpse of the old, irresistible woman Kelly had been. We see here, the woman James fell in love with. This scene gave us all hope. What a lovely, poignant moment. Then Kelly falls apart again.

It was heartbreaking when Kelly slept with the promoter to get him to allow her to finish her tour in Dallas when he’d cancelled it.

In the end, Kelly gave all she could to that last performance. Did she do it for James so they’d go out on a high note? Did she do it to redeem herself? Both reasons?

And another thing I found interesting is where they started the story. One might be tempted to think that the inciting incident was her falling off stage and loosing the baby, but they chose to make that backstory. Do you think it was the right spot to start this story?

On the surface this seems like another simple “star ruined by fame”story, yet I find only Chiles and Beau and their romance simple. I’m really intrigued and saddened by James and Kelly’s story and annoyed to be left with so many questions.

Anybody have some answers for me?

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

It Takes a Village to Create a Writer

I'd like to think I'm a tiny part of Annette Dashofy's village. This woman is someone to watch, ladies and gentlemen. As her on-line critique partner, I'm often spellbound at her ingenious plots and writing. She's also been working on her nonfiction and short stories for years. But, I'll let her fill you in on that part of this blog. Please welcome Annette Dashofy.

Donnell asked me to write a blog about what I’ve done on the path to publication, which started me thinking. That path is long and treacherous, but the one thing I’ve learned over the years is that it doesn’t have to be lonely. It takes a village to create a writer.

I’m not sure of the exact date when I decided to get serious about writing for publication, which is a lot different than writing for friends and family. Those people will love you and tell you you’re great even when your prose sucks swamp water. I do, however, have vivid memories of the moment I learned it wasn’t going to be as easy as I’d envisioned. That moment was during my first real critique, offered by a few experienced mystery writers, a few of whom were multi-published. The truth stung, to put it lightly. But after a couple of weeks of pouting, weeping, and threatening to never let anyone read my work every again, I came to an epiphany.

They were right. My manuscript was hemorrhaging and I was trying to slap Band-Aids on it. So I tucked my “baby” into a box and slid it into a drawer never to see the light of day again.

And that was when I truly set out on that path by taking three important steps. 1.) I started an entire new manuscript and 2.) I signed up for an online mystery writing class. 3.) I joined a critique group.

The online class opened my eyes to how much I didn’t know about writing in general, but specifically about writing in my chosen genre. I completed that class and signed up for numerous other classes and workshops. I was a sponge, soaking up every morsel of advice I could get. I attended writer’s conferences and joined writing organizations, and that led me to volunteering.

I’d seen how writers help other writers, and I wanted to pay it back. And forward. I figured I didn’t yet have a publishing contract, and therefore wasn’t under deadline, so I’d make use of my freedom by accepting the role of area rep for Pennwriters It seemed like a small thing, but it put me out in the writing community, meeting other writers.

At some point, I discovered a wonderful source of entertainment known as author events. Book signings. We have a lovely independent book store nearby called Mystery Lovers Bookshop . They bring in big name authors on a regular basis. By attending these, not only did I experience writers talking about how they write and how they got to where they were (which just happened to be where I WANTED to be), but I had a chance to meet them face-to-face. Many have become dear friends.

I attended a talk by M.J. Rose, who suggested that we join Yahoo groups who shared our interests, not just writing, but hobbies and pets. And not to push your writing agenda, but TO MAKE FRIENDS. That way, when you do have a book coming out, you have a bunch of people who know you as a friend, and they’re going to want to buy their friend’s new book. So I joined every Yahoo group I could find that matched my interests. Soon, I learned there were only so many hours in day, so I pared back a bit.

And, I kept writing. I wrote and rewrote my manuscript. I wrote and submitted short stories and nonfiction articles. And started collecting rejection slips.

But eventually, I made a few sales and placed several of the short stories.

Eventually, I landed an agent for my manuscript! Then one of those short stories was named a finalist for a 2007 Derringer Award. I was on a roll!

Well, not exactly. That path to publication has a few wicked turns and deep potholes in it. The manuscript didn’t sell and I parted company with the agent. Back to square one.

Except I was better armed. I finished a second and then a third novel. I wrote and submitted more short stories and articles. And when I fell into a pit of self pity, I reminded myself I had a Derringer nomination and I’d at least landed one agent, so my writing didn’t suck.

At some point along the way, I started creating an online presence. My Writing, etc. blog is more for fun than for marketing. But when the day comes that I have a novel to promote, the blog is already set up and ready. I also helped create and remain a regular contributor to the Working Stiffs blog. I had a friend of a friend, who happens to do web design, create a website for me. If someone (like an agent or an editor) wants to see what I write or learn who I am, all they have to do is go to And, like the blog, it’s ready to shift into high gear when I have a novel to sell.

In the name of research, I’ve taken two different Citizen’s Police Academies. As a result, I’ve made some great contacts in the police department. And since two of my manuscripts are set in the world of Thoroughbred racing, I hang out at the racetrack quite a bit. A friend of mine who’s a trainer helped me get my groom’s license, so I can prowl the backside and experience that world whenever I want.

A couple of years ago, I jumped into Facebook and, more recently, Twitter. I see them as an extension of the old Yahoo group “making friends” idea. Someone asked me the other day if I really know all those big name authors I’m friends with on Facebook, or is it okay to “friend” someone you don’t really know? In some cases, I already knew them. In other cases, we’re strictly Facebook Friends. We share comments and communicate only through that network. But in many cases, I’ve met someone in person that I only knew previously through Facebook, and it’s like meeting an old friend…for the first time!

In case you’ve missed my theme here, while waiting to be published, I’ve made friends. Lots of friends. From my work as area rep for Pennwriters, to my time as their 2009 conference coordinator, to a year each as vice president and president of my local Sisters in Crime chapter, to my current status as Pennwriters vice president…it’s all been a blast. And what’s been even more fun is having these friends approach me now that one of my short stories is in Fish Tales: the Guppy Anthology and ask me to sign their copy. It’s the coolest thing I’ve ever done.

So far.

Are you part of a village? If you're pre-published or working your way to gain name recognition, how do you network to gain name recognition? We'd love to know. And for your trouble, Annette is giving away a copy of The Guppy Anthology, "Fish Tales," edited by Ramona DeFelice Long with an intro by Chris Roerden. The anthology includes 22 tales of murder and mayhem by the rising stars of mystery! We'll draw for a winner on June 10th. Be sure to leave an e-mail where we can find you. Happy Writing & Networking!

Annette Dashofy’s short story “A Murder Runs Through It” is included in Fish Tales: The Guppy Anthology, available in trade paperback and all e-book formats. Her other short fiction has appeared online in Spinetingler Magazine and Mysterical-e Magazine and she’s a regular contributor to Pennsylvania Magazine. She currently resides in southwestern Pennsylvania with her husband of 28 years and two very spoiled cats. Find more information about her as well as links to her fiction at

Congratulations to Marilyn Levinson. You have won a copy of Fish Tales!!!!

Friday, June 3, 2011

New Kids on the Block

There are new publishers popping up all the time. Traditional publishing isn't dead yet, and it might still survive in its current incarnation (maybe). But as New York tightens its lines and dumps long-standing midlist authors who just aren't increasing their sell-through like they ought, digital-first and POD publishing, and even self-publishing, are becoming hella more mainstream.This is a good thing, though others argue that the lack of appropriate, proven gatekeepers means doom and horror for all.


It's a new age. New technology means we have the ability to try out radical business models and give power back to the author. Not to mention readers who clamor for something New York just isn't willing to try.

When some folks I heartily respect announced they had opened the doors of their new publishing company, I perked up. These ladies are not fools, they're serious about the craft, the art, and the business of writing, and anything they do is bound to be exciting. I watched as they found some asses, kicked them, took a few names, and grew their reputation before they'd even released their first books.

I'm now an assistant editor for that publisher and couldn't be more excited. The business model is fabulous and very much in favor of the author. With the help of an advisory board, beautiful cover art, and a fabulous team of industry pros providing top-notch editing and publicity, this group is ready to give authors every advantage.

I can't wait to show you what we've got. :) Prepare for some pimping.