Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Review of Lisa Kleypas' contemporary, Sugar Daddy

Lisa Kleypas’ Texas Series: A Wonderful Read From This Picky Critic

I’ve been writing and learning the craft and business of writing for twelve years. I’ve found that reading current, really good fiction books helps elevate my own writing, however it also seems to have had a hand in making me a rather harsh critic.

I have some very time-consuming hobbies and volunteer obligations, combine that with a large family and some good friends, and I don’t have make a lot of spare time to read, so when I do, it has to not only entertain me, but help inspire my writing. And I don’t often find books that do both, but recently I did. And I’m thrilled to stay up late at night, reading as slowly as I can make myself, savoring Lisa Kleypas’ contemporary series.

I first stumbled across Smooth Talking Stranger and was absolutely delighted to see that she’d written two books before that. Stellar writing combined with enchanting characters. I absolutely fell in love with her heroes.

Sugar Daddy is the first in the series, and with this beginning I fell deeper in love. This is where Lisa breaks all the rules and conventions. Her heroine doesn’t meet the hero until page 219. 219 of 371. 60% of the way through the book. How did that one get by the editor???? If this had been her first book, I wonder if that would have worked. Not that it bothered me, mind you, but romance writers know about those “rules”.

Personally, I hate the supposed rules. When people observe that I tend to think outside the box, my instinct is to ask, what box? So I love to see a writer break rules that probably shouldn’t exist in the first spot. I knew Lisa was a writer extraordinaire (at least to me) when I came across this one particular scene.

This scene was absolutely so powerful and perfect, I was shocked to discover that I’d actually shed a couple of tears. Now it could be that I am one of the few readers affected that way by this scene ‘cause the men in my life don’t apologize 90% of the time they’re in the wrong. Most of the time, they don’t even recognize that they were wrong—even if it is pointed out to them in a kind, respectful way.

But Gage did. In Sugar Daddy, Both he and his father handled the situation with great sensitivity, and they said and did everything exactly right. Even though Liberty overreacted a little, Gage and Churchill, recognized that they’d, completely unintentionally, usurped Liberty’s authority with her sister and in doing so, caused a rift between Liberty and her little sister she was raising.

They’d betrayed Liberty’s trust, scared her, and hurt her feelings. And it all had been done in total innocence. But Gage immediately acknowledged his mistake, made it right, and then further flagellated himself and defended Liberty’s reaction when she apologized for over reacting. What more could one ask for in a hero?

Gage did this all the while his father, Churchill, talked to Liberty’s little sister explaining things in an honest forthright manner that had the sister running to Liberty with an earnest apology. Wonderful. Just the healing outcome we all long for after a family/relationship squabble!

Lisa did a lot right in Blue-eyed Devil also. There were two areas that stood out in this reader’s mind. One demonstrated the power of sibling loyalty. No matter their disagreements, past hurts, or circumstances, Haven’s brothers always had her back. Unconditionally. That type of loyalty I can really appreciate.

What really stole this reader’s soul was encapsulated in the last couple pages of the story.

“I am touched by Hardy’s concern, his constant desire to be the man he thinks I deserve. Even when we disagree, I have no doubt that I am cherished. And respected. And I know that neither of us takes the other one for granted.”

What more could a woman want? My cynical inner voice wants to know if such a man really exists outside the pages of this book. Lisa has created such a vivid, realistic family that I want to believe so. I have to believe so.

“I have come to realize that you can never be truly happy unless you’ve known some sorrow. All the terrible things Hardy and I have gone through in our lives have created the spaces inside where happiness can live. Not to mention love. So much love that there doesn’t seem to be room for bitterness in either of us.”

Again, my cynical inner demon says, just wait until Haven and Hardy have been married awhile and stressed with kids and illness and things money can’t fix. But then, if you never begin a relationship with this solid base of love, respect, etc . . . what’s to see you through the hard times certain to come—besides stubbornness? Isn’t it a worthy goal to search and attain what Haven and Hardy achieved?

Obviously I think so, or I’d find these stories unrealistic and wouldn’t even want to pick up another one instead of wondering what Lisa has in store for Joe—the fourth Travis sibling. So sad there’s only one more Travis to journey with!

Give yourself a low-calorie treat and pick up Sugar Daddy today—or any of Lisa Kleypas’ books. It doesn’t really matter which order you read them in. Enjoy!

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Interview with Lisa Gallagher, Agent at Sanford Greenburger

Lisa Gallagher is a literary agent at Sanford J. Greenburger Associates in New York. She is actively seeking new clients both in fiction and non-fiction, who are great storytellers, delivering both narrative urgency and dramatic tension, combined with multi-faceted characters and a transporting sense of place. Lisa will be attending the 2012 Crested Butte Writers Conference, June 22-24, 2012.

  1. Which categories do you currently acquire? Which category has a special/constant place in your heart?

    Answer: I am an eclectic reader and I represent fiction, non-fiction and YA writers across a broad range of categories. I will always keep an open mind as to “category” and will never tire of hoping to discover a wonderful new voice I can champion. I am always looking to be transported; to lose myself in a world of characters I can root for and care about, all with a great sense of narrative urgency: I love character-driven narrative but dramatic tension is also key for me.

  1. What length synopsis do you prefer to see with a partial? Single spaced or double?

Answer: Always double-spaced, no exceptions please. It’s not about being fussy; professional readers just get used to reading in a certain way, and you don’t want to do anything that stands in the way of a reader enjoying your work. Personally I don’t like synopses for fiction – a cover letter tells me what I need to know, making me want to read without giving anything away. I am not a fan of spoilers – I like the story to unfold without knowing what is coming, so that I can fully experience the journey. For non-fiction, I do like an overview as part of a proposal that also details how the chapters break down, so that I get a real sense of the narrative arc, as well as a sample chapter to demonstrate the quality of the writing. In terms of partials – length is less important to me now, given that most of us are reading electronically. If I have the whole manuscript, I can stop reading at any point without wasting paper. Rather than focusing on length, I would encourage think about making the opening of your manuscript as strong as possible – great material is what will keep me reading.

  1. In terms of submissions, what are you sick to death of and what would you like to see more of?

Answer: One never likes to see anything too derivative, and also avoid trying to write to fit what you think will be saleable. Remember that even as publishing lead times become shorter, even as you identify a trend, it is probably cresting and by the time your book is ready for submission, it may well be over or the market flooded.

  1. What are the most compelling elements you feel are necessary for a good
    read? What particularly grabs your attention?

    Answer: Narrative urgency and dramatic intensity are both key for me. I want to find the book that I can’t put down; the book that keeps me reading when I know that I should really be doing something else…

  1. For you, which elements in a fiction submission are terminal problems garnering automatic rejections and which are tempting and fixable meriting a look at a revision if a talented author is willing to accept your advice?
    1. Voice
    2. Weak Grammar
    3. Common plot
    4. Poor character development
    5. Story is too controversial (ie rape, politics, religion—what else?)
    6. Mediocre / uninspired writing
    7. Excessive use of violence or cursing
    8. Lacking genre –specific requirements like, suspense/sexual tension/ world-building
    9. Pacing is off—plot is too slow
    10. Story starts in wrong spot
    11. Ending is unsatisfactory
    12. Other

Answer: This is such a subjective process, it is hard to isolate one specific element. In general I always think that plot is more easily fixable than voice or character development.

  1. Does meeting an author face-to-face at a conference make a difference in your response time, the submission process, or the rejection process (ie. Form letter vs a few sentences of advice)?

Answer: I always ask that if I have met someone in person, or if someone has come to me via a writer I know or have published in the past, I always ask that they make that clear in the subject line. I want to know in advance that we have a personal connection, because I appreciate them thinking of me, and I will be as thoughtful as I can be in turn.

  1. Besides the writing, the story and the talent, what are the most important elements you look for in an author, ie. contest wins, cooperativeness, affiliations to writers organizations, knowledge of publishing industry, promotability, etc?

Answer: It would depend on the book. Certainly a writer’s ability to reach an audience is something that should never be underestimated, but I would suggest highlighting anything in your submission letter that might grab an agent’s (or an editor’s) attention.

  1. Do you have any pet peeves?

Answer: Being included as a “bcc” with two hundred of my favorite agent friends. Being addressed as “Dear Brian…” Mostly I respond adversely to an obvious lack of care and attention. Whilst it is true that the world isn’t going to stop spinning on its axis if you have a typo in your letter, what that tells me is that you didn’t take the care to proof-read your letter carefully. Remember that in taking on a client, I am entering into a business relationship, and why would I want to go into business with a partner who doesn’t take as much care as I do?

  1. What are you addicted to?

Answer: Exercising and really good food and wine. One allows the other. And reading of course…

  1. What have you always wanted to do?

Answer: I’ve always loved being an advocate for authors. In the shorter term I would love to go to Sweden and stay in the Ice Hotel and see the Northern Lights…

  1. Do you have a favorite quote?

Answer: Of course it is a little bit like reading constantly, and your mind going blank when someone asks what you are reading….

Friday, February 24, 2012

Social Networking for Writers: Ur Doing it Wrong

Last time I posted here, I offered a list of tips for writers using Twitter. Now I want to step back and offer some ideas for using social networking in general. Why? Because I see so many authors doing self-promo that will only earn them indifference at best and perhaps disgust at worst. These authors consistently neglect the most important point about social networking:

It's all about community.

If I could put that in blinky lights here (easily), I would. It's the only thing about social networking you, as a writer, need to remember.

Readers don't blogstalk you so they can read about your release. They don't like your Facebook page because they want to keep an eye on each of the four announcements a day you make about your June title. They don't follow you on Twitter to see whether you're going to tell them about the ebook version...all day.


In fact, if you're using social networking only to promote your book, you're doing it wrong. 

The online sociosphere, from blogs and microblogs to LinkedIn and e-mail lists, is inundated with people trying to sell us stuff we don't want. Spammers are everywhere, and many authors are on the verge of getting their own spammy label. Even if you have permission to promote yourself or your book on an e-mail loop or on Twitter...should you?

People gather on social networking sites to network socially, not see ads and self-promo all day. They gather to share conversation, to share ideas, to share images. 


But what to share? To start: everything but your book.

When you, the author, decide to jump into Pinterest, for example, because it's a great place to put fun images related to your book, do the rest of Pinterest a favor and create a few non-book related boards. I'm really not that interested in what you think your heroine looks like. I'll care for a second, but then I'll dump that image and go back to the one I had in my head. Likewise, setting photos are cool. But again, they're unnecessary, and I'm not going to follow you on Pinterest if my only option is the board about your book.

Instead, share DIY projects you do in your spare time. Share movies. Share books (not yours) that you love to read. Share funny images you find. Share interesting blog posts. Share things that matter and don't feel like an elaborate ruse to get me to buy your book. 

Share yourself. Bits and pieces of you that will draw your reader community closer. Things that will help them find common interests and common ground. Form relationships, not an audience. Your book is for your audience. Your social networking presence is for your community.

Authors who neglect their communities and who treat social networking sites like they're personal billboards to pimp books will see their promotional efforts fail. 

Rule of thumb: If you've already mentioned your book today, wait a week before you mention it again unless there's huge, amazing news your readers will want to know about. Also, don't disappear between these mentions. Stick around and connect with others.

Authors who connect with their community, who share the bits of their public lives (via their public personas, a post for another day) with the rest of the online world, are different. Their readers will discover them. Their readers will come to them organically, and when those authors respond to their tweets, thank them for their comments, and spread the author love (aka pay it forward, share community, cross-pollinate, give an author you admire some toys in your playroom), the readers become fans.

I'll give an example. In my almost 20 years hanging out with RWA crowds, I've come across many authors whose books I used to enjoy...until I met them. I've also come across authors who've earned a lifelong fan because of how awesome they were. One example is Catherine Coulter. I adored her historical novels back in the day, but I just didn't gel with her contemporary voice when she switched over. However, I buy her books as gifts for others all the time because one day, she offered me -- someone she'd met two hours earlier -- the chance to send her my WIP so she could give me feedback. I never took her up on it because it was way too generous and my WIP sucked way too hard, but I've never forgotten her kindness. Now, go buy her books because she's amazing!

Translate this attitude--this willingness to reach out, be accessible (by whatever standards you you have or need), be friendly, be part of a community--into the online world, and your readers will become fans who attract more readers.


Remember it's about community.

Remember that nobody is on Twitter to see you pimp your book. They're there to get to know you. Leave the pimping for your website, your bio, and your tiny e-mail signature line. Let your personality advertise you, and readers will look for your book.

Monday, February 20, 2012

Wide eyes and pursed lips

I want to talk for a moment about facial expressions. I've been noticing them quite often in the manuscripts I've been editing (including my own). I've also been hacking away at them with my red pen as if they were zombies and this were the apocalypse.

We writers are obsessed with facial movements. You can tell, because we include so many in our manuscripts. Our characters smile and frown in a variety of ways, from small quirks of a frown to wide, brilliant smiles that stretch the lips. Characters lift their eyebrows... in surprise, in question, or in amusement. Oh, they also waggle them. Eyes widen and blink, or narrow or roll. Lips twist and purse. Mouths snap shut or drop open.

And I haven't even gotten to the head-movements, like shaking or nodding or tilting. In my own writing, I'm fond of having my characters tilt their heads, so much so that they probably require a chiropractor by this point.

In many cases, if a reader didn't know better, they'd think that the most important facet of fiction is what a pair of eyes are doing at any given moment. Gazes sweep and penetrate. Sometimes, glances are meaningful or full of weight. At other times, stares can burn through a character like the Death Star through an entire planet. And you think Alderaan had it bad... woe to a character when the heroine's eyes are boring through him with fiery anger!

Now, description in writing is a good and wonderful thing. So is the ever-expounded upon concept of showing. So, it stands to reason that we need to describe the reactions of our characters. But there's such a thing as overkill. Facial movements are probably one of the most overused and cliched method of providing beats in a scene.

Facial expressions can be very useful and important--we see that in real life when we talk to other people. However when they're overused in fiction, the one moment when it's important that the reader see the tiny frown of the heroine, they're not going to notice in the sea of other facial ticks. It's just another frown. Just another glance.

We also have a strong compulsion to describe the facial expressions of point of view characters. One small problem with that--the point-of-view character can't see her face. And while we can be cognizant of our own facial expressions--we're often not.

When I'm furious, I'm not actually aware of anything my face is doing. I feel like I want to throw something. I'm aware that I can't seem to breathe well and that there's an odd ringing in my ears. I see that my hands are shaking. But do I notice that I'm frowning? No. Heck, I have no idea what my face looks like. Neither, for the most part, should a POV character.

So save those facial expressions for moments when there's an important reason for the POV character to be aware that they're smiling or frowning. If you've conveyed that the POV character is happy through narrative and dialogue, the reader's going to paint a smile on his face. Readers are clever like that. And it's what makes books different from movies--we can suggest how the stage looks with hints and bits of description. The reader fills in the blank bits when we give them enough to build with. The facial expressions of characters are no different.

And honestly, if you need a beat of some kind, there's a million other things a character can do besides smile or glance.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Overwriting. What is it? Do you do it?

Do you overwrite?  Not sure?  Here are  two great articles to help you decide.

Overwriting?  Less is More

by Sally Carpenter

In the movie “Amadeus,” the king criticizes young Mozart’s music as having “Too many notes.” Many writers suffer from the malady of using “too many words” in an attempt to appear brilliant or literary. Too much decoration on a wall creates a cluttered look; likewise, overwriting buries the author’s message under mounds of verbal puff.

            My motto is “less is more.” A short, compact sentence is more effective than a excessive verbiage.

            Let’s look at some examples. What’s wrong with this sentence?

“Having finally earned her degree after going to classes for four years at State University, where her mother had also matriculated, Suzy packed her bags, rode on a bus, and got an apartment in the Big Apple to take acting classes, go to auditions and hopefully be cast in a play.”

            *What’s the point? The lengthy opening clause veers off in all directions.

*Is all of this information necessary? Does the reader need to know that Suzy’s mother also attended the college? Either delete this statement or save it for later pages.

*Avoid repetition. “Packed her bags,” “rode a bus” and “got an apartment” all pretty much say the same thing. Likewise, the intent of “acting classes,” “auditions” and “cast in a play” can be summarized into fewer words.

Here’s the same sentenced boiled down to the essentials: “After college graduation, Suzy hopped a bus for the Big Apple to pursue her dream of become a Broadway star.”

Short, sweet and to the point. The author’s message is clear.

Be stingy when describing scenery or objects. You’re giving snapshots, not selling real estate. Most readers won’t wade through detailed descriptions.

 The arson scene resembled the Gone With the Wind movie set after the burning of Atlanta.

This brief statement may be more effective than describing all the charred walls and burnt furniture.

 Here’s another example that requires first aid.

“Harold was unhappy. He crossed the room with a heavy tread, swinging his arms at his side. He grabbed the door knob, turned it and pulled, crossed the threshold and pulled the door shut behind him.”

*Show, don’t tell. Let the reader see the character’s emotion through dialogue and action.

*Condense a long description of action by using descriptive verbs.

Let’s try that again, letting Harold show his bad mood through his actions.

“Harold frowned. He stomped across the room, yanked opened the door and bolted from the room, slamming the door behind him.”

            Speaking of verbs, a frequent overwriting bugaboo involves adverbs.

            She whispered softly. He gently tiptoed. The girl ran quickly.

            Can a person whisper loudly or tiptoe roughly or run slowly? Most action verbs don’t require modification.

             Another good writing style is to let the action do the talking. A strong image is often more powerful than a lengthy string of dialogue.

            “I hate you!” she shouted. “You’ve betrayed me! The engagement is off! I’m canceling our wedding plans! I never want to see you again!”

            Instead of that speech, try this instead: She pulled the engagement ring off of her finger and threw it on the ground at her fiancĂ©’s feet.

            More effective, more visual and less wordy. The reader can infer the woman’s emotion from her actions.

            Avoid needless verbal baggage through a careful selection of a few good words. Remember, less is more.

Sally Carpenter is native Hoosier now living in Southern California

She has a master’s degree in theater from Indiana State University. While in school two of her plays, “Star Collector” and “Common Ground,” were finalists in the American College Theater Festival One-Act Playwrighting Competition. “Common Ground” also earned a college creative writing award and “Star Collector” was produced in New York City.

Carpenter also has a master’s degree in theology and a black belt in tae kwon do. She’s worked as an actress, freelance writer, college writing instructor, theater critic, jail chaplain, and tour guide/page for a major movie studio. She’s now employed at a community newspaper.

Carpenter’ debut book, “The Baffled Beatlemaniac Caper,” was nominated by Left Coast Crime for a Eureka! Award for best first mystery novel. She’s now writing the second book in the Sandy Fairfax Teen Idol mystery series, “The Sinister Sitcom Caper.”

She’s a member of Sisters in Crime/Los Angeles Chapter. Contact her at scwriter@earthlink.net.

Overwriting?  Master the Right Words 
By Patti Brooks

A writer that falls prey to overwriting suffers from one or more of these character traits:

1. When a writer comes from a teaching or preaching background, he has been trained to do whatever it takes to get a point across. The Teacher/Preacher will say it, write it on the blackboard, get the students to recite it. A Teacher/Preacher stands in front of a classroom or congregation with the assurance that he has to say must be learned. This ingrained manner of communicating leads to overwriting.

A writer who works successfully with animals falls into the same trap. A Trainer/Teacher understands the advantages of being repetitive and consistent in teaching animals acceptable behavior.

2. Now, a Parent, usually with multiple kids, has to repeat himself to get things done. "Pick up your socks, eat your vegetables, chew with your mouth shut," etc. How many times do you suppose the average parent recites these house rules in a week? A Parent put his feet on the floor in the morning committed to getting across to the kids that these things must be mastered and this is how this house is run, etc. And, kids, you will learn it by gosh or by golly.

3. How about a writer with a spouse that makes the mistake of not listening the first – or third–time? Do you think overwriting is another word for nagging?

4. In this mix is the writer who thinks his readers are too dense to get the point by saying it just once. I believe it is the fiction writer’s primary job to create a page-turning entertaining work. The book reading public not only has thousands of books to choose from, but when the going gets boring, it’s way too easy to set the book aside and reach for the TV control.

I think it’s important to note, that all of us fiction writers need to accept that it doesn’t make any difference what a given reader thinks our books are about. Give a reader the opportunity to form his own opinion. What is important is that the reader enjoyed it sufficiently to look for the next book by that author. Run the experiment. Ask four people who have read your book what they think it’s about. (For this experiment to work, you must ask readers separately so they don’t build upon what one another say.) My money’s on four very different responses.

5. Let’s consider the writer that is very taken by his writing and feels he has come up with several ways to write a given sentence and they are both so wonderful that he includes both.

6. Then there is the Victorian writer who feels an adjective/adverb-bare sentence is just not right.

He proudly shows off his knowledge of the Thesaurus. And if one adj/adv is good, certainly two or more are superior. That writing is akin to all the fanciful fret work on Victorian era houses. Do you suppose the Victorian writer has a fear of the naked verb? Certainly people of the Victorian era clothed themselves from top to bottom and then some.

Avoid overwriting by taking the time to choose the right words to convey the thought and adjectives will become almost superfluous.

Master choosing the right words to convey the thought and I guarantee saying it only once will be powerful – and will allow the reader to eagerly move on and not get bored with "this isn’t going anywhere."

Patti Brooks is a writer who sold her first article to a national magazine at age 16. She has published 500+ articles for trade magazines, and general interest newspapers and magazines like "Goodhousekeeping."

Patti is a rider who got her first horse at age 13. She has competed in shows and distance riding where she has accumulated 3,000 miles of competition. Patti, with her husband Bob, have raised over 100 Morgan Horses on their farm in Connecticut. She has served as president of several equine associations and has been inducted into the American Morgan Horse Assn's Hall of Fame.

In order to devote more time to Writing and Riding, Patti recently stepped down from her Realtor position as Marketing Mgr of a firm that markets horse farms in Connecticut.

Patti teaches a fiction writing class at a community college. Her work is included in anthologies. Her grasp of writing something worth reading as well as marketing has made her a popular participant on literary panels and discussion groups. http://www.pattibrooksbooks.com/

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Tax Tips for Writers

I just love it when a plan comes together.  I needed information for my taxes; Cindi Myers just happened to have a fabulous new release.  Please welcome Cindi as she shares important tax information for writers  ~ Donnell

Taxes may be one of the least-talked-about but most-important topics for writers – both published and aspiring. I'm surprised at how many unpublished writers don't realize they could be deducting some of their writing expenses from their taxes. According to the IRS: "For the expenses to be deductible under IRC §§ 162 or 212, the taxpayer must engage in or carry on an activity to which the expenses relate with an actual and honest objective of making a profit." (Italics mine.)

 If you are seriously pursuing your writing, with the intention of making a profit, you're entitled to deduct expenses associated with that pursuit from your income taxes. Examples of expenses you might deduct:

                Membership in writers' organizations

                Attendance at conferences, including conference fees, mileage or airline ticket costs and part of your meals.

                Cost of writing books and magazines

                Cost of books in your genre

                Office supplies


                Costs associated with building and maintaining a website.

They key to legitimizing these deductions lies in good record-keeping, not only of the expenses themselves, but of your efforts to make a profit at this writing business. Save all receipts and note on the receipt the writing related nature of the expense. For example, a note on the receipt for postage might read "Submission to XX Publisher."

Keep a notebook in your car and jot down the beginning and ending mileage when you make writing-related trips, whether to your critique group, writer's meeting, or to the post office to mail a submission.

You should keep a log of submissions to publishers and agents and copies of rejection letters. (Yes, those rejection slips do have some value!) I suggest you also keep a log of the time you spend writing each day. Get a 2012 calendar and make a note each day of how many pages you wrote or how much time you spend writing. Not only will this prove useful should you ever be audited, it will open your eyes to exactly how much time you're really putting in at your craft!

To take your writing-related expense deductions, you'll complete a Schedule C: Profit or Loss From Business. While you can use tax software to help you through this, I strongly recommend consulting a tax professional, at least the first year, in order to make sure you're maximizing your deductions without violating the tax code.

Once you begin making money from your writing, you'll need to pay quarterly taxes, including social security taxes. You may also want to deduct expenses associated with having an office in your home. A tax professional can be a big help at this point, too.

Cindi Myers is not a tax professional, nor does she play one on TV. She has, however, been a full-time writer for 15 years and is the author of more than 40 published novels. Her most recent release is The Woman Who Loved Jesse James. Find out more about her at http://www.cindimyers.com or http://www.romanceofthewest.com

Monday, February 6, 2012

Only 6 Days Left to enter The Sandy!

Only 6 days left to enter The Sandy !
Don't miss out on a chance to impress these amazing editor and agent final judges. Especially the editors who only take agented submissions.
Experienced writers, this is your chance to slide in the back door!
Published authors--this is your chance to land a contract with a bigger or traditional publisher or agent.
Go to the website for rules and regulations.
Tell your critique partners--spread the word!

2012 Sandy Final Judges
  • Romance - Sue Grimshaw, Editor at Large & Category Specialist for Ballantine & Bantam Dell
  • Mainstream Adult Fiction - Kevan Lyon, Agent at Marsal Lyon Literary Agency
  • Suspense / Thriller / Mystery - Kat Brzozowski, Assistant Editor at Thomas Dunne Books
  • Fantasy / Science Fiction - James Frenkel, Editor at Tor / Forge
  • Children's & YA - Mary Kole, Agent at Andrea Brown Literary Agency


Welcome Our New Scribe!

I met Ann before we'd even had our first official school event at Seton Hill. She and I sat next to each other at an informal Red Robin dinner, and when we saw each other's name tags, we realized we had just met our assigned critique group members. We got on so well that semester that we remained critique partners throughout school, and we've become friends besides.

Recently, she was hired by Lori Wilde to edit for Lori's Indulgence line at Entangled Publishing. So now we're coworkers, too!

We at Five Scribes were delighted when Ann agreed to join us. As you can see, she'll bring a fresh perspective to the blog. Welcome Ann!

When I first heard you'd be trading a fantasy novel with us, I admit I was concerned. I don't read a lot of the genre, and I'm pretty picky about what types of fantasy I'll read. But then I got your manuscript and was captivated by how you've twisted the genre. Share with us what youwrite so everyone else can see why I was blown away.
For long fiction, fantasy and paranormal romance. I dabble in science fiction and horror, but in short stories, rather than novels.Though my novels tend to have some really dark moment in them.

I'm querying a project that's kind of a cross between high fantasy and urban fantasy, much in the way a Reese's Peanut Butter cup combines chocolate and peanut butter. Immortal lords, sexy reports, swords, guns, cars,betrayal and a great evil about to come back into the world. I'm finishing up a smexy paranormal romance about a guy, a grumpy forest and field fae, and a flock of vampires on a cruise ship crossing the Atlantic (what could possibly go wrong with that?).

Writers are supposed to read. A lot. So tell us what you like to read.
Everything? I do read quite a lot of fantasy. I enjoy all kinds of YA and romance. I like historical fiction. I like non-fiction. Science fiction. I don't read a lot of horror novels, but I love horror shorts. So far this year, I've read a steampunk YA, two paranormal romances, and two m/m romances, one historical and the other fantasy.
I'm currently reading an epic fantasy door-stopper and a book on the history of the battle of Agincourt.

I'm on Goodreads, so you can follow along as I plow through my reading list. I'm trying for 50 books this year.

I like to gush about Seton Hill on this blog, so now it's your turn. What was your favorite thing about the Writing Popular Fiction program?
The people. The instructors were fabulous--are still fabulous and giving. And my fellow students were great. I made friendships that will last a life-time. The environment was so supportive of genre fiction.

Tell us about your new editing job.
I'm an associate editor for Entangled Publishing, working on Lori Wilde's Indulgence line of category romances. My job is to help the authors of the great books Lori finds turn their works into books readers can't put down.

But editing is a new addition to your work schedule. Tell us aboutyour day job.
I'm a technical writer. I learn about complex things that engineers create and then translate what they tell me into plain English so folks can actually use whatever it is. I also get to be an advocate for the user and tell the engineers when their design is--not conducive to a good user experience.

Gotta love those "undocumented features." So what are your hobbies?
Gardening, both inside and out. I have a very bad orchid habit and I love to dig in the dirt. I'm also a member of the SCA, so I dress up in medieval clothing and hang with royalty, yo. I just got a bread machine,so I've been baking a lot of bread.

And I have two feline overlords who demand that I play with them, feed them kibble, and provide them a warm body on which to lay.

Two enter the ring. One leaves. Who and why?
a. Locke Lamora vs Honey Badger
Locke. The man survived being in a barrel of horse piss and the ire of Bond Magi. You think a Honey Badger's gonna stop him? Honey Badgers might ear snakes out of trees, but Locke will just skewer it with a sword. Then probably make some kind of fine meal out of it to serve to unsuspecting nobles.
b. Legolas vs Dannel Rivvis (the conniving and hardcore Elasi in Ann's novel)
HA! Dannel. He has a gun and he knows how to use it. Legolas may be a fantastic archer, but Dannel plays dirty. He's also not stuck in the middle ages. The world grew up and he adapted. Swords? Yup. Guns? Yup. Cars? Yup. Ever see Legolas in a car? No? Well then.
c. Chess Putnam vs Rachel Morgan
Oooh. Hmm. Geez. I think they'd band together to hunt down and kill the bastard who stuck them into the ring.

Where can we find you on the interwebz?
I have a pretty static website at annlaurelkopchik.com.I'm very active on twitter as @amergina. I'm on G+ as Ann Kopchik. Your best bet is probably twitter.
Thanks for joining us, Ann! We look forward to the posts you'll bring to Five Scribes.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Amazon: Savior or Devil in Disguise?

ALERT: Authors must read!

This Author's Guild article, Publishing's Ecosystem on the Brink: The Backstory, explains the publishing industry's current status in clearer terms than any I've read and it's pretty alarming. I now "get it", but what I don't get is what anybody can do about it. Amazon and self-publishing seemed like a Godsend to authors and AMZ was our savior, but now I'm worried.

I read the Bloomberg Businessweek article, Amazon Wants to Burn The Book Business, and was alarmed. It scares me enough that I feel like just writing books and forget about getting published until all the dust settles. Also, it leaves a bad taste in my mouth and a desire to boycott Amazon. I really hate bullies.

What I haven't read in these articles, is what can be done to reign in Amazon. Should Amazon be reigned in? If we can't beat 'em, should we simply join them? That seems a defeatist attitude. Where does this leave agents?

What do you guys think?

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

The Rodeo Man's Daughter by Barbara White Daille

Hello, Five Scribe Readers.  I love a book with secrets.  I love knowing something the characters don’t know, following along and watching characters’ reactions when they discover the mind-boggling truth.  Barbara White Daille is an expert at plots like these.  Once again, she’s honored me with an interview to talk about her newest release THE RODEO MAN’S DAUGHTER.  Please welcome Barbara White Daille, and stay tuned for a book giveaway.

D.B.:  Hi, Barbara, welcome back.  I see we’re back in that made up town of Flagman’s Folly, New Mexico again.  As a person who spent 20 years in this state, I love it that you set your story in THE LAND OF ENCHANTMENT.  Talk about New Mexico and why this is such an attractive place for a story?

It's great to be back here at Five Scribes! 

New Mexico has some wonderful, history-rich cities such as Santa Fe.  It's also still wild in many areas, with lots of open land.  That untamed, rugged feel makes the state a natural fit for sexy, hardworking ranchers and cowboys—which just happens to be the kind of heroes I most like to write about.

D.B.:  We last visited Flagman’s Folly with A RANCHER’S PRIDE.    This time we have a new cast of characters.  Caleb Cantrell, a rodeo man, and Tess LaSalle, a Realtor, and a charming little imp named Anastasia Lynn who goes by the nickname “Nate.”  You bring in characters from A RANCHER’S PRIDE, Ellamae, Judge Baylor, Dori, and Manny.  Why do you think readers connect so well with a series?  And how difficult/easy is it to pick up where you left off?

BWD:  I believer readers like series for the chance to revisit with the characters.  They become, if not friends, folks we feel we know.  So far, it hasn't been difficult at all for me to pick up again with a new Flagman's Folly book.  I love the town and all the folks in it, which helps them stay in my mind. 

D.B.:  Caleb is broken in more ways than one.  He’s set on proving a thing or two in Flagman’s Folly.  You also do an awesome job in getting inside his head.  I felt like I was reading about a man who rode the circuit.  When you create a hero, how do you go about getting to know him?

BWD:  Mostly by writing about him.  As we get to know each other, he tells me things.  (smile)  But it's a slow process, depending on how long it takes him to trust me.

D.B.:  The same with Tess.  She’s such a sympathetic character.  In the classic tale of a woman who falls in love with a rodeo man, she follows him to tell him some very important news.  Here she finds him with two women hanging on his arms.  I felt a punch to my stomach when I read that.  How you make Caleb sympathetic, and Tess not seem like a doormat, but you manage to pull it off.  What kind of thoughts went through your head when you set up this conflict between them? 

BWD:  I wanted to show a young girl going through a bad time and a man doing all the wrong things for what he thinks are all the right reasons.  Each of them is so emotionally hurt by the other, there's no way they can be together.  But for the purposes of the book, they have to be.  (smile) 

D.B.:  Setting is so important to you, and you do it so well.  I want to share a talent you have.  Readers/Writers, read this section in Caleb’s point of view.  Barbara might have easily described this in the stereotypical:  She lived in a pretty house....  But note how Caleb compares it to his life.

Always, he had envied Tess this old house with its two stories, peaked roof, and deep porch corralled by rails.  A wooden-slatted swing dangled from chains in the porch ceiling.  He’d always wanted to sit in that swing, too.  It overlooked rows of plants with big pink and yellow and orange blooms and the yard that ran down to the street.

The porch alone took up more footage than that rust-eaten hulk he’d lived in growing up.

He stabbed at the gold doorbell and stepped back.

What impressed me about this description is that in one paragraph, we get that Tess obviously had a better home life than Caleb, that when he looks at the flowers, he doesn’t know what they are, just calls them blooms (a guy’s point of view) and the use of “stabbed” in that final line is a powerful action verb that reinforces this is a man taking this all in.  Well done. 

Share your thoughts on setting with our readers.  Is that something that comes naturally to you, or do you have to work at writing environments.

BWD:  Thanks for the compliment, Donnell!  I'm honored.  And the truth is, I work at it.  I visualize settings, but making them clear on paper is another matter. 

D.B.:  In addition to setting, your narrative includes the environment. 

Caleb:  So far, he wouldn’t take any prizes for his conversational skills. . . . If he wasn’t talking horses or rodeo, he sure felt at a loss when it came to kids.

Later in the scene as Caleb is observing Nate. . . “Hey, guys,” she yelled at a level that could quiet an arena without a bullhorn.  "You won’t believe who’s here!”

Without long stretches of describing a rodeo man you in short passages “show” that rodeo has been his life.  Did you pick this up by reading, or is this a natural gift you have when it comes to writing?

BWD:  I'd love to say it's a gift.  (smile)  Truth is, I write what I love to read. 

I prefer short stretches of description.  No offense to anyone who likes to read or write longer ones.  To each her own—which is why it's wonderful to have so many choices when it comes to books.

D.B.:  Once again we’re down to almost three pages and I haven’t even gotten your answers yet, so I’ll close with one final question.  What do you want readers to know in our third interview that you didn’t yet know during our first or second interview?

BWD:  I'm learning how much fun it is to come back to "old friends" again and again.  To make stories more textured and layered and complex while—fingers crossed again—keeping the story moving.  And I hope readers enjoy coming along for the ride.

D.B.:  Barbara, thanks for being here again.  It’s so great to see that your persistence is paying off and that Harlequin American is recognizing it has a talented author in its mix.   Will you be doing a book giveaway?

BWD:  Thanks!  And yes, I'm offering an autographed copy of A RANCHER'S PRIDE, the first book set in Flagman's Folly. 

I hope your readers liked learning a few things about me and will look for—and enjoy—THE RODEO MAN'S DAUGHTER, as well as my other books.  I also hope they'll visit my website:  

Originally from the East Coast, award-winning author Barbara White Daille now lives with her husband in the warm, sunny Southwest, where they love the lizards in the front yard but could do without the scorpions in the bathroom.