Sunday, January 31, 2010

Boy did it snow!

Usually down here on Delmarva snow is soft, light, and disappears quickly -- especially if it comes from the west. We get our big snows from the south, and usually at the END of February, don't ya know?

But this one blew across from West Virginia and dumped 9 inches on us, and with temps in the teens it will be with us awhile. That's the second major winter storm this year, something of a shock to the systems of those of us who live below the Mason-Dixon line.

We're all safe, though Dave and Shelley sure had an "interesting" day yesterday -- as in the ancient Chinese curse, "May you live in Interesting Times." What a way to celebrate Shelley's birthday!

Saturday, January 30, 2010

HUH???? - Writing Tip

Someone e-mailed this week to ask, "When do I describe the character? And how much do I TELL about them?"

It's always a good idea to use a full name on first reference (unless it's a minor unnamed character like "the waiter"), and to get the physical description in when the reader first meets the character. It can seem a small thing, but if your reader envisions a blond on first reference, only to learn that the character is a 0ne-eyed, dark-haired, pirate a few pages later. It can be really confusing. It wakes them from what John Gardiner, who wrote one of the best books on writing of all time, calls "the dream" of the story.

Believe me, I've seen some real "wake up calls" even in commercially published material. Once I was reading a historical romance set in Elizabethan England. Obviously the author had written it first as a modern story then, when historicals got hot, set it back in time.

There was a wonderful wedding scene. It had whole roasted pigs, jongleurs (what the hell is a jongleur, anyway?), lute players and troubadours singing bawdy songs of wedding night mistakes. Then a minor character praised the cheese served on the wedding "buffet," saying to the bride's father, "Where did you get this wonderful cheese?"

To which the bride's father replied, "Oh, I'm glad you like it, okay? We had it flown in special."


and "okay" would have been bad enough, as in Elizabethan times "buffet" was a cupboard but not YET a spread of food, and "okay" didn't come into use until about 200 years later. But "FLOWN IN?"


Friday, January 29, 2010

A Rose by any Other Name - Writing Tip

I feel that character names should reflect character in some way and I believe readers feel this subconsciously, as well.

Let's make up a character. Call her Christina. An old-fashioned name, or an ethnic name. If she's Christina Lawrence, her folks are old-fashioned (unless this is a period piece). If she's Christina DiNapoli, she's a far different person from Christina Lawrence. Okay, so far? So what do we do with Christina, whatever her last name is? Let's make her a high school student in New Jersey. Do her friends call her Chris? If so, she's probably something of a tomboy, may be interested in athletics or even cars. Whatever she does, she'll be competent and efficient. Chrissy, however is only interested in clothes and boys, though she's pretty naive about both. Christy may write poetry, or perhaps work on the school newspaper. Tina, well Tina likes to have a good time.

It's true. We tend to adapt names to the people we know and the names and nicknames we choose can tell us a lot about people and characters. In our society today we do this all the time. I shuddered when an old high school friend, Marge Percy, named her firstborn son "Percy." Now this being that bastion of Elizabethan English tradition called the Delmarva Peninsula, women often give their oldest sons their maiden names as first names and Marge's family had both old blood and old money, so it was expected of her. Nevertheless, "Percy" signifies "wimp" to many people today. But when he was learning to talk the kid couldn't say Percy. He said, "Berky" and that got construed to Bucky and later Buck. Buck graduated at the top of his class, went to the Naval Academy and flies jets for a living. I wonder what Percy would have done.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Free Author's Web Page at

Thanks to author Terry L. White for taking time from her sideline, doll making, to send the link where authors can build their own free pages at There they can list all their books, update cover art, etc.

That link is:

I'm working on Terry's 4th Chesapeake series book, CHESAPEAKE VISIONS, and will be sending her e-galley later today.
Thanks to the multi-talented Terry, too, for sending along her latest doll photo. Elvlis fans approve.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Commas are Important -- Writing Tip

Here's my best very basic advice about commas. Put them where you'd pause for breath or effect. There's a world of difference between:
"Shoot John!" and
"Shoot, John!
In one sentence John gets shot, in the other he is instructed to shoot. That can make a big difference to your reader, as well as to John.

If you are unsure about your commas, try making a PDF copy and running it through Adobe Acrobat in "read aloud" format. (Acrobat 7 and above will read it aloud to you.) Then you can hear the places where commas come in. Pick up on unnecessary pauses caused by too many.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Punctuating Dialogue - Writing Tip

Now punctuating dialogue is a bit tricky. First of all, you never let two characters talk in the same paragraph. Commas and other punctuation go inside the quotes. And you must paragraph each time a new person speaks.

Finally, Everything a person says at one time (even if they change the subject) goes in the same paragraph. This is pretty simplified, and quotation marks in the US are " at the beginning and end of what is said, but in the UK it's single ' -- so if you're submitting to a UK publisher, US authors remember to change your punctuation preferences.

Final print galleys are out to Elena Bowman for TIME-RIFT.

And ebook galleys are out to Terry Piper for OZARK WOMAN.

And to Kat Brooks, for A KISS OF NIGHT.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Work Progresses

Am working on getting corrections in so final galleys can be sent to authors. That's always time-consuming, but a rewarding process nonetheless.

Friday, January 22, 2010

What's the theme? - Writing Tip

An author e-mailed me this week to say someone else had turned down their ms. saying it didn't have a theme. She said themes were what she wrote in grade school, so what did the editor mean by that??? How could a novel be a theme?

In writing, the term "theme" means what the piece is about. Simple and most of us know it, but I didn't know it when I started, and some may not know it yet.

Every novel, yes, every piece of writng has a theme and The Theme of any work is usually a grain of universal truth that can be said in one line.

The action in a story is then used to illustrate the theme. Right now one of the hottest shows on TV is TRUE BLOOD, based on the Sookie Stackhouse books by Charlaine Harris. The theme of those books (yes, all of them!) is that it's okay to be different.

Sookie is different, because she's a telepath. Bill and Eric are different, because they're vampires. But basically they are okay, the good guys, and doing their personal best to fight evil as they see it, regardless of what others may think of them.

Nobody can tell your personal truth but you. You will find as you write more and more that the same themes, often related to your deepest beliefs, will surface again and again in your work.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

What Editors Want -- Writing Tip

Those of us who trained as writers, whether we were taught by other writers or college professors, were taught to seek Artistry with Words.

Sometimes we try too hard for artistry and the editor says "it's purple." But our conscious desire is to tell the story as an artist with words.

I've grumbled about editors "asking the impossible" many times, myself. Now that I've become one, I know their first priority is to be DONE with your piece so they can go on to the next one on their list. Anything you do that slows the editors down will annoy them. And working with an annoyed editor is next-to-impossible. I know, because I've done it.

Speaking as a sometime editor, here’s MY "What an Editor needs" list in order of importance:

1. Good clean mistake-free copy that arrives well before deadline.

2. Coherent and organized prose that is never confusing to the reader.

3. Authors who will listen to what the editor is saying about the assignment and will produce the desired results the editor has asked for without going off on a tangent of their own.

4. Authors who will pay attention to length requirements. Three thousand words means “three thousand Words, or LESS”. It doesn’t mean 3001 words. Editors can always stretch copy, but they can't stuff 12 inches of prose into a six inch hole.

5. Stories or information that readers will enjoy, or that will benefit them in some way.

6. Authors who don’t take unnecessary time. Who ask just enough questions to know what’s wanted then go away and produce it without talking about their grandchildren, dogs or in-growing toenails. Authors who don't pass on spam, or e-mail jokes, or pictures of their cats.

7. Authors who don’t interrupt their work flow by telephone or send twenty e-mails a day wanting to know when their book, or story, or article, will be published.

8. Authors who listen to suggestions and produce results without whining.

9. Clear, concise, informative prose without repetition or padding.

10. Artistry with words.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Paper Books -- Cost More and bring in Less.

Everyone likes a book you can hold in your hand, and many consider e-books non-starters. BUT authors make MORE MONEY on e-book sales sold from our web site.

It's true the industry is moving slower than was anticipated, because of the lack of a universal format and the prices of reading devices. But with the advent of the new B&N device and of Kindle, that is rapidly changing.

At least three new "Will take over the market and be the Universal format we've all been looking for" new formats have been released since I started in this business in 2001 and still the format that can be read by most different devices is the "universal" format that was available in 2001, PDF.

One thing most authors don't realize is that, because of printing and delivery costs, we can only offer 15% royalties on paper books sold (the same as mass market publishers do), while authors receive 40% of the list price for e-books sold from our web site. In most cases, that's $2.60 for an e-book and $ 2.54 for a paper copy.

E-books sell for less and earn the author more. Imagine that.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

New Blog

Author Carolyn LeComte has a new blog at

This blog concentrates on just what is most important to all of us--an encouraging word. Beaucoup thanks to Carolyn, author of DARK PARADISE, a moving new romanctic thriller set in Hawaii.

Check it out if you want to find something that could make you feel the way I felt when my novella THE DROWNED LAND won a major contest, after gathering 64 rejection slips in it's file.

Monday, January 18, 2010


TOBY MARTIN: SCHOOL SLEUTH by Barbara Grengs is corrected and reuploaded.

WHITE GOLD by Spencer Dane is corrected and reuploaded.

Both will be back on sale at Amazon within a few days. They remain on sale at the sales site, but will be back ordered until the new files become available.

Paper editions are in the mail for Tonya Ramagos's FIGHTING FOR A DREAM.

Editorial work is progressing on Paper editions of :

HUNTED by Jamieson Wolf

NO BONES FOR THE DRAGON, by Marjorie Doughty


OZARK WOMAN by Terry Piper

Will get the next gallies out to those authors asap.

Friday, January 15, 2010

Still Writing Checks

And that is good news. Sales were up this quarter.

Some of you sold one book, some none, and a lucky (or hard-working) few had long lists of sales from many venues.

But whether you sold one book, or hundreds, we are grateful for your efforts each and every one and proud to be your publishers.

Arline, Sandy, and Shelley

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Under the whether -- update and Homonym Writing Tip

Been a bit under the weather for the past few days, but am back to work on the payroll today. The checks will go out as soon as I finish getting them written.

And for those who collect homonyms, it's under the Weather, not Whether. Homonyms are those dreadful words that sound just alike but are spelled differently -- the ones that spellcheck never finds, since both of them are dictionary words.

Weather: noun, the condition outside your window: sunny and warm; cold and snowy; etc. or in the phrase, "under the weather" a euphemism for ill.

Whether: pronoun, if, or whichever...

So, though feeling ill and wondering whether we will survive, we are still "under the weather," tossed in the storm, and suffering from a cold blow, but definitely on the mend.

Homonyms can sure trip you up sometimes.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Reading is a participatory sport - Writing tip

When the character is first mentioned, you will need a quick image that the reader can build on and imagine the rest.

Describing a character feature by feature can get to sound like a catalog. The key thing is to describe them when they are first mentioned, before the reader’s imagination kicks in. Because even if you say nothing more than "Mrs. Goodbody, the housekeeper," the reader's imagination will create a picture to go with the name. Reading is a participatory sport. The reader is always actively involved in creating the characters from your words.

Here’s an example of how to do this from my mystery FINAL EXIT. It contains the first description of my brother and sister team, police Detective Jon Abercrombie and his psychic sister, Jillian, who are at the theater.

Jill leaned closer. “That woman over there thinks we’re twins.” She nodded toward a woman in large improbable pearls who surveyed them through opera glasses.

Actually, Jon knew they looked alike. Same dark eyes, same straight nose, same generous mouth. But his hair was dark where Jill’s was fair, and his jaw was square while Jill’s pointed chin gave her face a heart shape.

My example is by no means perfect, but I believe it gives the reader enough of an outline that they can imagine the rest.

Friday, January 8, 2010

Character-Driven Plot - Writing tip

Which comes first, the character or the plot?

Plot is "What happens?" The character is "who it happens to."

What happens is important, but the character should drive the action. If the character is an individual, then the action will happen in an individual kind of way. Writers call that Character-Driven plot

Stories where plot comes out of character, rather than the opposite are usually the best and the ones that remain with you. There are writers who think of really ingenious plot lines (Donald Westlake and Agatha Christie come to mind) and write entertaining books or stories, but the main characters in those stories are often sort of “cardboard.”

Dortmunder is always Dortmunder in the same way that John Wayne is John Wayne. Other than the fact he has terrible luck, we don’t know (or care) a lot about Dortmunder. What outlandish ploy he’ll think of next and what disaster will result, is the important thing. Poirot is always Poirot with his little mostache and his “little gray cells” but, again, we don’t much care about him as a man. Solving the murder is the thing.

Contrast Poirot or Dortmunder with Sharyn McCrumb’s psychic, wise, mountain woman, Nora Bonesteel. Nora is a character I’m always willing to spend time with. In a book like She Walks These Hills, Nora is equally as important as the plot, and a year after reading it you may have forgotten the plot, but you will remember Nora. Anyone who writes character-driven stories is doubly blessed.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Still Working on Payroll

All the data is entered, now for the spreadsheets that will show me whom to pay. Hope it's you.
And me.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

All Romance E-books adds feature

In addition to being the genre bookstore that pays higher royalties to publishers and authors, at the request of their readers has added a series search feature at both their sites -- All Romance, and Omnilit.

As for me, I'm still doing data entry. Lots of venues is a GOOD thing, but it sure makes the data collection and collation process longer. One day, when sales get higher, I'll opt for an automated check-writing program, but not quite yet.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Tell Don't Show - Narrative Writing tip

Yes, all the writing teachers say it the other way around. But there is a place for narrative.

They always tell us in the beginning to write in scenes and "show don't tell" and narration is "telling." But you can't show everything in the space allowed. So my advice is to narrate the mundane, the background information, and the action in scenes that don't move the story forward. Basically your story scenes should be like shining jewels and the narration like the silver wire that strings them together. Most writing texts don't get into how to do narration and it was years before I figured it out.

It's pretty simple. Show the good parts. Tell the boring parts. :D

Monday, January 4, 2010

More on Hooks - Writing tip

I usually find my own first line/hook on page 5, then all I have to do is move it up.

As an exercise, pick any 10 books off your shelf and read just the first line. Can you identify the hooks?

With an article, once you find the lead, the rest of the piece will "write itself." When I worked at the newspaper, my own best lead of all time was, "Carl Tauber died three times on Christmas Even and lived to tell about it." The article was about the new city paramedic service and pointed out that had Carl lived 300 yards farther down the road in the county, he'd have died once and stayed that way.

A writer who does unfailingly good transitions and hooks is Dick Francis. My all time favorite opening paragraph of his reads: "I inherited my brother's life. I inherited his gadgets, his business, his mistress...I inherited my brother's life, and it almost killed me."

Now we know it didn't kill him, because he's right there telling the story in first person. But right away we want to know what happened. We are hooked.

Saturday, January 2, 2010

Today begins...

Today I started collecting all the sales data from our distribution sites so I can collate all the spreadsheets and begin the quarterly process of payment. You probably won't hear much from me until that long and complicated process is complete.

Please be patient during this time. I do pay everyone who has money due, every quarter, though many publishers have gone to a once-a-year payment schedule.

Please remember, too, that different venues withhold funds for different payment periods. Write Words, of course, will pay for the last quarter of 2009, as we have all the data for books sold on our own site. But sales reported from other venues may be six months old, or more.

We do pay you as soon after the money arrives as possible, but please remember payments can take up to 9 months to arrive from other venues. Remember, too, that we make about the same as you do. None of us are getting rich doing this, but it gives us all a place to sell our books and a place for customers to look for them.