Monday, February 28, 2011

Get something at stake - writing tip

We turned down a manuscript for a historical romance recently that was very well written. It had great images and the author knew grammar. She wrote in clear, easy-to-understand English, and had the ability to make the reader see everything she described. All that, as it turned out, was too much of a good thing, because she described every single thing the character saw.

Every thing.

She described the clothes, the jewels, the horse-drawn carriages, the wild wind-swept moors with a fast horse under her...the scullery, the latrines, the horse manure in the stables.

The problem was, despite her ability, that she followed her character everywhere -- yes, even into the bathroom -- but never once got inside that character's thoughts and feelings. She SHOWED us everything without picking a single detail that would reveal character, and she never "told" us what the character was like, or what she wanted.

The heroine had conversations with other characters about the weather, the tapestries, the Duke's coat of arms. But they never talked about anything important, like what the heroine wanted, or what her problems might be.

Now we didn't read the whole book, of course, only the usual sample. But in that sample the author followed the character around in her daily routine from the moment she woke, until she climbed into her satin-sheeted bed and sank gratefully into the feather mattress.

Showing and imagery detail are important, but they should be there for a reason. The description of Cinderella's ball gown was only important because we knew she usually wore soot-stained rags. It was there for contrast and had a reason.

If a scene is included in the story, it should be because something interesting, or important, or both is happening in it. If the story is a historical romance, it should start when the heroine meets her one true love and include an obstacle that stands in the way of their future happiness.

It should not start with her getting out of bed, using the chamber pot, eating bannocks, reading by the fire, being fitted for her ball-gown, having dinner in the great hall, riding on the moor, OR dancing the night away with a lot of different people none of whom stirred in her (or us) the slightest interest.

Nothing was at stake. In a good story, something is at stake all the time.

Now this author has plenty of writing talent, but she still needs to develop her storytelling skills. I just sent the usual stock rejection, "we regret" and so on. As a former teacher, I wanted to give her advice on what needs work, but writing advice from a potential publisher is rarely appreciated, so I elected not to explain why.

Should I have explained? What do you think I should have told her?

Friday, February 25, 2011

Pavlova - recipe

Still nothing much to catch up with this week, except Terry L. White's VIENNA PRIDE went back to press. Meanwhile here's an extra recipe.

Barbara Adams’s Famous New Zealand Pavlova *
*The Australians claim it, but we are sure it started in New Zealand.

3 egg whites
3/4 tsp. Vinegar
3/4 cup fine sugar (Confectioner’s Sugar)
½ tsp. Vanilla
pinch of salt

Beat 3 egg whites till stiff with three quarters of a teaspoon of vinegar.
Add a pinch of salt. Gradually add three quarters of a cup of fine sugar
and half a teaspoon of vanilla. Beat till thick. Pile onto dampened grease
proof paper and bake for three quarters of an hour in a cool oven (200-F or 93-C.
When cooked, cool, then cover with whipped cream and decorate with pieces
or peaches, strawberries or kiwi fruit to give in a real south sea flavor.

Contributed by Barbara Adams, author of Cobwebs...Sue cannot shake her misgivings when her timid aunt marries an overbearing bully....An intricate web of lies and deceit is slowly unraveled. But where does Sue's boyfriend Jason fit into the puzzle? The reader is drawn towards an enticing but sticky ending.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

I narrator - writing tip from the e-mail

Question: Arline, you were my teacher and I have read your SECOND FIDDLE, so I know you have a book with two I narrators. As you know from reading some of it, my own book has three "I" narrators. I have tried several agents and a number of publishers and they all assure me that no one will take it with "multiple I narrators." Is this hopeless?

Answer: I wouldn't say hopeless. It will certainly be a more difficult sell, as I mentioned before. It has been done, not only by me, but by such notable authors as Dick Francis. Be sure to identify the viewpoint character below the chapter headings or at any changes. Then try it with smaller publishers who will be more flexible, but may provide fewer promotional opportunities and will not be able to afford advertising. But you will have your book.

In fact Write Words just published VIENNA PRIDE by Terry L. White an excellent book with several "I" narrators.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Wild Rice Casserole - recipe

Carlene Dater’s Wild Rice Casserole

1 cup wild rice
½ lb. fresh or 2 cans mushrooms
¾ cup butter
3 Tbsp. grated onion
3 cups chicken broth

Soak and wash rice 3 or 4 times in boiling water till rice opens up. Slice fresh mushrooms. Brown rice in butter; add remaining ingredients except broth. Put into buttered 2 ½ quart casserole. Add broth. Cover and bake at 350-F or 177-C for about 1 ½ or 2 hours. Takes a while, but well worth it.

Contributed by Carlene Dater, author of The Colors of Death and One by One... Kate Lomax travels to her hometown of Pine Bluff, Minnesota to attend the third wedding of her friend, Elizabeth. She is eager to see her old friends, a group of women called the Birthday Girls. What should have been a happy occasion quickly turns sour when the body of one of the Birthday Girls is discovered in her own swimming pool.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Scene ? - Writing tip

Question from my e-mail: Hi Arline, remember me? Beth, your student from Flagstaff?

I got a ms. back from an agent with the brief comment, "Too long, and has too many unnecessary scenes." Okay, it's 100,000 words and you did tell me not to go above 80,000, but I thought the scenes were all necessary. Why didn't she?

Answer: If something doesn't change forever, the scene probably isn't "necessary." For instance:

Two people go for a walk and talk about the weather, then they go home. I don't care how beautifully you describe the countryside, nothing has happened/changed in the story.

Beware, even if something does change, if it's a small something. Two or three "small" scenes, where only something little changes, all in a row, can intensify the "nothing much going on here" feeling. Trust me, Beth. I have done this myself many times, so I do know how it can happen. And I have learned how to fix it.

Here's my advice on scenes.

Every scene should begin with a solid transition that establishes the moment in time and space, tells the reader who is present, and sets the problem/hook statement in the first or second line. Thereafter the action and dialogue develop until the turning point is reached, then a final hook for that scene is set, and the scene ends.

The Scene Ends Right There! Yes, as soon as the point is made, regardless of what else might have really happened later.

Say for instance a medical examiner is called to the scene of a murder. He looks at the corpse and at the uniformed cop on standby, then says, "He's done it again. This is the same as the last one."

That's the final point of the scene, because we have let the reader know a serial killer is on the loose. Now after this scene, the criminalists will descend, take photographs and fingerprints, pick up blood samples, and eventually the body will be removed leaving the inevitable tape outline on the floor, but to show the reader all that would be anticlimactic, because the point had already been established. Once your serial killer is on the loose, end the scene, and get on to the next scene instead of wasting your, and the readers, time on pointless action, however well-written those details might be.

Now, not all scenes turn loose serial killers. Sometimes the point of a scene is as trivial as having an ex-boyfriend call to say he's in town for a week. Okay, that's a turning point. He's in town and he wasn't. A change. But this information might be included in a scene where the turning point is a bigger one. Say your character's next big action is to find a body (sorry, I am primarily a mystery writer). Then you might include the smaller change and write the bigger scene this way:

Your main character, a female PI, is entering a creepy old house, looking for her lost dog. In a mini-flashback, she recalls the phone call from her old boyfriend, Sean, and thinks about their former relationship, while she calls the dog. When she hears scratching noises and her dog whining. She opens a closed door, revealing the body. And the scene ends there.

So the boyfriend change is there, but you don't need to play out the phone call or include their rehashing old times dialog "on stage." Look at the point of each scene and see if you can add the small change to another scene and get rid of the "little" scene, thus cutting the overall length.

You don't need a separate scene for every single change and can combine several changes into one scene, as long as the biggest change remains the focal point.

Make sense?

Monday, February 21, 2011

French Stew - recipe

David Hooper’s French Stew (Adapted) with Baguettes

* The elegance in this stew is its simplicity. It does not take long to prepare and it is ready to
eat in an hour.

1 2 to 2-1/2 pound chuck roast.
6 medium red potatoes
2 small or one medium onion (cut in quarters)
8 carrots (I use the baby carrots and put in two for one carrot. No scrape, no mess)
½ cup Flour
1 teaspoon of salt
½ teaspoon of black pepper
½ teaspoon of rosemary
½ teaspoon of thyme
2 tablespoons of oil
2 tablespoons of butter
1/8 teaspoon of Tabasco sauce
1 French baguette loaf

Heat skillet or Dutch Oven on medium high with two tablespoons of butter, two tablespoons of oil. Cut the chuck roast into one-inch squares. Salt and pepper the meat, then dredge it in flour. Put the pieces in hot grease and brown until all sides are uniformly browned.

When done, take the meat out and put in one cup of water, stirring to get all the breading off the bottom of the skillet. Put the rosemary, thyme, salt, Tabasco, and pepper into the skillet. Stir a few seconds. Put in the potatoes, carrots, and the onions into the skillet. Put the meat on top of the vegetables, add water to just barely keep the ingredients covered with liquid, cover, and let it come to a boil. Turn the heat down and let it simmer for two hours, stirring occasionally.

When the meat is tender, turn off the heat and let sit on the stove for five minutes. Slice the baguette and garnish with butter.

Contributed by David M. Hooper, co author of Reunions Are Murder by Ursula McNabb... Retired policeman Bob Brantmier didn't want to go to his 30-year high school reunion, but his old partner on the force needs help after one of Bob's classmates is murdered. Look at it this way, at least Bob knows all the suspects, though maybe not as well as he thinks.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Catching UP

Nothing much moving in or out this week, though I HAVE been working, it doesn't show up as progress yet.

Promo Opportunity from ARe

We are now booking spots for the June 2011 RT Magazine ad.

The ad will be a 1/2 page/color and contain 12 covers on the flame background with our logo, tagline, and web-address. A review is not guaranteed.

We would need a minimum 300 dpi 600X900 pixel color cover in jpg or pdf format by March 10th for the June issue.

Payment can be sent by via snail mail to our corporate address:


All Romance eBooks, LLC

Attn: June RT Ad

334 East Lake Roa d Suite 286

Palm Harbor, Florida 34685-2427

or via paypal:


Please query via email to to ensure that space is available PRIOR to sending payment.


Read an eBook week is coming up March 6-12, 2011 and we at All Romance are gearing up for a fun free read campaign.

If you haven't already, be sure to upload your free reads to our site before then so when the fun begins readers will have an opportunity to sample and fall in love with your work.

Also news from ARE this week.

**********F O R Â Â I M M E D I A T E Â Â R E L E A S E **********
Permission to Repost Granted

All Romance® eBooks Unveils the ARe Cafe

The digital eBook retailer announced the addition of the ARe Cafe, a new reader-centric social networking platform that offers rich content and is fully integrated with the All Romance/Omnilit digital bookstores.

Palm Harbor, FL

February 17, 2011

The veil of secrecy surrounding ARe's new endeavor was lifted this week at the Tools of Change Conference in New York. Customers received their first hint about the nature of the ARe Cafe when a tab appeared on the company's website a few months ago. The welcome page for invites booklovers to "Stop by for a byte" and Lori James, the company's co-owner and Chief Operating Officer had previously described the Cafe as "A Unique On-Line Community for Passionate Bibliophiles." During Tuesday's Bookselling in the 21st Century panel, more details were revealed.

The Cafe will cater to readers, authors, bloggers, and publishers. If you love books, you are going to love the Cafe. With carefully curated news, aggregation of relevant commentary, reviews, events, real-time information about what is selling, a robust social network, and a virtual library where readers can organize their books and share recommendations, there is something for everyone. And it is all centered within a full-service digital bookstore.

Thus far the Cafe has only been accessible to a select group of invite-only Beta users affectionately called the "First Byters". It is expected to open to the public in March.

About All Romance eBooks, LLC

All Romance eBooks, LLC was founded in 2006, is privately held in partnership, and headquartered in Palm Harbor, Florida. The company owns, which specializes in the sale of romance e-books,, which sells both fiction and non-fiction e-Books, and, a unique on-line community for passionate bibliophiles.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Viewpoint - writing tip

Question: Years ago you sent me a handout on viewpoint, with examples of the different ones, that you used in your writing classes. I lost mine and now I think I remember what it said, but I'm not sure anymore. Do you still have it?

Answer: Sure. Here 'tis.

A View on Viewpoint

The best way to choose viewpoint is to ask yourself whose story or scene it is. Once you know who the story is about, it’s safe to assume that most of the story will be told from that character’s viewpoint, either in first person with an “I” narrator, or third person with a “She or he” narrator.

There are several kinds of viewpoint, some very literary indeed. but most fall into the two classes mentioned above.

"First Person" is written with an "I" narrator, as if the story happened to you. "Third Person" limited, is written in third person, but limited to a single point of view. This is the pov chosen for most short stories. Also most Gothics (girl in danger ) stories are written in first person limited, while genre romances are written in either first or third person, but limited to a single character's viewpoint. In either case “limited” means limited only to the main character’s viewpoint. The reader cannot know anything the character doesn’t see, think, or feel.

One way to get emotion across for a character, when we're in another character's pov, is to use body language to express the character’s inner feelings. Describing the body language will get the character’s emotions across to the reader, whether the observing character understands them or not. Remember the classic romance ploy where the heroine thinks the hero is mad because his teeth are clenched and the inevitable muscle in his jaw is jerking, but the reader knows it’s only because he’s in the throes of desire. We all read body language all the time. It does no good for someone to tell us, "I'm not upset at all," if their face is red, and their arms are crossed firmly on their chest, while one foot kicks like a piston.

"Limited Omniscient," is written in third person, and limited to a single viewpoint in any one scene, but is considered omniscient, because it can shift from one character's viewpoint to another's at scene or chapter changes. This is used in most mainstream novels by everyone from Margaret Mitchell to Stephen King to Larry McMurtry. True "Omniscient" viewpoint is the godlike view of a story told by a narrator who knows all, including all the characters innermost thoughts. This is the familiar viewpoint of fable and fairy tale.

Finally, there is the "Camera-eye" or what is sometimes called the "Exterior Dramatic" viewpoint, in which no single character's thoughts are revealed and every part of the story is told only with described action. This is the most difficult viewpoint in which to write, but it forces the writer to produce images. It's a good learning viewpoint for writers who want to experiment, but it can produce cold, flat, and "unfeeling" stories.

The advantage of using “Limited Omniscient” viewpoint is that you can sometimes show things that happen when your main viewpoint character is not present -- and you can have more than one viewpoint character with the focus character shifting at scene or chapter breaks. This is the viewpoint I chose for both my novels KILLRAVEN and GHOST DANCER as I wanted to have scenes from both the man’s and the woman’s viewpoint and to show what one was doing while the other was elsewhere.

If you limit yourself to one character’s viewpoint in either first or third person, it gives the reader a closer involvement with the character, but you can only show the reader things that character sees or knows. The limitation is exactly the same as in first person, where the reader can only know that the “I” narrator sees and knows. If you choose that viewpoint, you can have a scene of your main character cleaning out the school and having a heart to heart about Love with her best friend while they work. But you cannot have a scene with the villain watching them from behind a bush and planning rape and murder. With the second option, the reader knows the two women are in danger, even though the villain slinks off when the hero appears. The reader knows what he intends to do and that he might Come Back anytime. With the first it’s only the heart to heart talk that is at stake. With the second you have set up tension and suspense that should last through several scenes and chapters in the back of the reader’s mind. This kind of tension is crucial if your book is destined to be a "page-turner."

In every viewpoint, you have to be careful, too, not to show anything your viewpont character can't see. For instance if an embarrassed viewpint pov character describes her own "blushing red cheeks" she can't see that unless she’s looking in a mirror. On the other hand, you can describe gestures and inner feelings and emotion in a viewpoint character. For instance, the protagonist can "hope her shame didn't show on her face," or "feel the heat of embarrassment burning on her face." When we do show a detail only other characters can see, it's called "author intrusion" because the writer is telling the reader something that the viewpoint character can't possibly see.

One way around this problem (I still catch myself doing it, so I surely know how to fix it), is to use one of the character's other senses, to get the point across. Your protagonist can't see her cheeks blush without a mirror (and that's done too often, and too often badly), but she might "feel her cheeks grow hot" or her "try to swallow back the tide of embarrassment and wished she could drop right through the floor." This was the hardest viewpoint lesson of all for me.

Now I’m going to give you some examples of the same scene, written from several different viewpoints.

Jacqueline's viewpoint third person limited: (We only know what J. is seeing, thinking and feeling).

Feeling tired after one of the toughest days on the job in weeks, Jacqueline let herself into the apartment and shut the door. She wasn't surprised to find the breakfast dishes still on the table, but stopped astonished, to see her husband, Bill, still in his undershirt and kicked back in his recliner with the evening paper.

"I thought you had that job interview this afternoon." Trying to control the sudden spurt of anger that made her hands shake, Jacqueline put down her bag and picked up the mail. More bills.

"I didn't go. It was too hot."

Jacqueline's viewpoint first person:

Feeling tired after one of the toughest days on the job in weeks, I let myself into the apartment and shut the door. I wasn't surprised to find the breakfast dishes still on the table, but stopped astonished when I saw my husband, Bill, still in his undershirt, kicked back in his recliner with the evening paper.

"I thought you had that job interview this afternoon." Trying to control the sudden spurt of anger that made my hands shake, I put down my bag and picked up the mail. More bills.

"I didn't go. It was too hot."

Bill's viewpont: third person (limited)

Bill watched as his wife, Jacqueline let herself in. Her shoulders were slumped as she came through the door. Jacqueline looked mousey and worn-out. How could a woman let herself go like that? That wasn't the worse, though. Ever since he'd lost his job, Jacqui meddled all the time. She'd had no right to set up a job interview for him at her company when they advertised for a mail clerk! Did she think he wanted to be a mail clerk? Surely he was above all that.

Bill watched her glance at the dishes still on the table. She'd had plenty of time to do them before she left for work, but she'd left them for him. Well, he wasn't anybody's mail clerk and he wasn't anybody's housemaid, either.

"I thought you had that job interview this afternoon." Jacqui put down her bag and picked up the mail with trembling hands.

"I didn't go. It was too hot." Bill rattled the paper. Let her stand there and stare at the damned bills all day, it wasn't going to change anything.

Bill is mentioned first above, because HE is the viewpoint character. But do you see how Bill’s thoughts and feelings come through, while Jacqui’s are only shown through her gestures and body language?

True omniscient viewpoint:

Once upon a time in a city far far away, a young married couple were experiencing problems, because the husband had lost his job. (Notice all the “telling.”) Feeling tired Jacqueline pushed into the apartment. Seeing the breakfast dishes still on the table and Bill kicked back in his recliner made her mad. (More telling.) Surely, he could do a little around the house.

Bill (hops into Bill’s head) watched her glance at the dishes still on the table. She'd had plenty of time to do them before she left for work, but she'd left them for him. Well, he wasn't anybody's housemaid, and he wasn't anybody's mail clerk, either.

"I thought you had that job interview this afternoon." Jacqueline fought to control her anger (hops into Jacqueline’s head) as she put down her bag and read the bills ( more telling).

"I didn't go. It was too hot." Bill said, angrily. "I told you, you were wasting your time. You practically kill yourself working for that company. What makes you think I'd want to do the same?" Let her go ahead and get mad, (Hops into Bill’s head) it wasn't going to change anything.

(Now the above gets into both peoples thoughts, but it is ill-favored with editors who call it “head hopping” and because of that and all the “telling” it almost certainly would be rejected.)

Exterior dramatic -- or camera eye -- viewpoint:

Jacqueline's shoulders were slumped as she came through the door. She looked mousey and worn-out. She glanced at the yolk encrusted plates and cups half full of cold coffee that were still on the breakfast table.

Bill looked up from his recliner and rattled the newspaper, shaking the pages into position with an impatient gesture.

"I thought you had that job interview this afternoon." Jacqueline frowned, put down her bag, and picked up the mail with shaking hands. "You've been out of work for weeks. What are we supposed to do about these bills?"

"My life's ambition isn't to become a mail clerk in a company where you're a vice-president, so forget that. Besides, it was too hot." Bill's eyes narrowed when she glanced from him to the dishes. He rattled the paper again, but said nothing.

Notice in the last scene how, because of all the images, you can see everything. Nobody has to say Bill was angry, his “narrowed” eyes, and “impatient” rattling of the newspaper tell us that without going into his thoughts at all. I think this particular scene might work better in exterior dramatic viewpoint, although I usually don’t recommend it. All emotions have to be shown through gestures and body language, rather than letting the reader in on the character’s thoughts and feelings. Unless it is done very well indeed, it can produce work that comes across as “cold,” "distant"or “unfeeling.”

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Baked Striper - recipe

Here on Chesapeake Bay it's time for the big fish to make an appearance - a delicious time of year to prepare a Sunday fish dinner for all the family. This recipe is for a nice 4-5 pound Striper, or "Rock" Fish, but works equally well on other large fish.

Liz Hamlin’s Baked Striper

1 4-5 pound striped bass (in season, of course)
3/4 cup melted butter
2 cups dried bread or stuffing cubes
1/4 cup chopped celery
1 small onion, grated
1 tsp. Sage
1 tsp. Salt
1/2 tsp. Pepper
1/4 cup white wine (optional)

Wash and dry fish and place in a shallow baking pan lined with aluminum foil. Mix 1/2 cup butter with remaining ingredients, to form stuffing. Fill fish cavity and lace shut. Cut three or four gashes on each side of fish and baste with remaining butter. Bake at 400-F or 204-C degrees for 30 to 40 minutes.

Contributed by Liz Hamlin

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Person Anyone?- writing tip

Question: I can't believe I'm mixed up about person, but when I tried to point out that the narrator switched back and forth from third to first on a manuscript in our writers' group, the others all said I was the one that was wrong. What was that rule again?

Answer: Here's the rule.

There are three kinds of “person” in narrative for a story as far as writing is concerned:

First Person, I narrator. We are INSIDE the “I” character and see and hear (and taste and feel) whatever the “I” character does. Nothing can happen in the story unless the I narrator is there to see, act, or react.

Second Person, writing a letter, or addressing the reader directly as “you”. Second person is usually regarded as a mistake, though I've seen it done and done well.

Third Person, the viewpoint character is a “he” or “she”, or the given name, never “I” unless they are speaking, but the reader is still inside that character’s body, thinks with that character’s mind, and feels with that character’s heart.

Once you have established narrative person, you should not switch from one to the other in narrative, within the same story, with the exception that dialogue is usually written in first person as that is how someone would speak. And of course the rule applies to narrative, not to dialogue. "I think..." "I want..."

Direct thoughts of the viewpoint character, which appear in Italics in the ms., are also usually in first person, just as if the character has spoken aloud, but without the quotes. If the writer was reading their story aloud, it is possible that some of the first person stuff was thoughts and you just couldn't see the Italics as you had no page to follow them on.

Or maybe you're right and they just all mixed up. Who knows?

Monday, February 14, 2011

Mock Barbecue Chicken - recipe

Maggie Dix’s Mock Barbecued Chicken

½ to 1 whole chicken
cut in parts
1 tsp. salt
½ tsp. pepper
½ tsp garlic powder
½ cup brown sugar
3 tbsp. butter (or lite margarine)
1/4 cup broth
1 tsp. smoke flavoring

Place chicken pieces in a greased baking pan with broth and smoke flavoring. Sprinkle with condiments and sugar. Dot with butter. Bake one hour in a slow oven (about 325-F or 163-C ).

Except for one children's book, Maggie Dix is not an author, but she is one of the artists who do our covers.

Friday, February 11, 2011

Catching UP

Not much going on this week -- but I'm working on a number of projects that will be about ready in a week or so. It takes about a month to prepare the print files and do all the necessary work before uploading t hem to the printer's site. That's why I still had books going to press all during December, though I kept saying I wasn't working on anything except the year-end bookkeeping.

No books went to press this week.

No galleys went out this week, though work continued on:

TRAVELLER by David Yates

NIGHT ON THE TALBOT by Arline Chase (an e-book)

For those who have asked, Shelley is feeling much better, thanks.

I am doing well, too.


Thursday, February 10, 2011

Continuity problems ? - writing tip

Another question from my email:

Question: Hi, Arline. It's Marsha your old WD student. I got a manuscript back this week with a note from an editor that it had "continuity problems" and needed a rewrite. Can you help me understand what that is?

Answer: Hi Marsha. Usually that means that things happen out of sequence. Someone goes upstairs when he's already upstairs. Someone leaves for London and arrives in Glasgow. These are exaggerated examples of course, but even small things can put readers off.

A lot of this is plain common sense. I can't tell you how many manuscripts I see as a publisher where scenes open with conversation between two people who are barely identified, and we don't know where they are or even if it's a modern story or historical Who where and when should be in every transition, remember?

Worse, many times a third person will say something, then following the speech, will be the words, "Danny Martin joined them on the post office steps." It's plain disorienting for Danny to speak, before he joins them. Sort of like someone sneaking up behind you and poking you in the back when you're not looking. And it's even worse if the first two people have been talking for half a page before we find out they're at the post office. Especially if we've made assumptions from the subject matter and already built them a street corner, or a grocery store parking lot to have their talk in our imagination.

Yes, I know we've been taught to "start with dialog and get the reader involved right away." But for me, keeping the reader grounded in time and space is the bones the story is built on.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Chicken Marsalla - recipe

Josh Aterovis’s Chicken Marsala
2-4 bonesless, skinless Chicken Breasts
4 Tbsp olive oil
4 Tbsp margarine or butter
1 Cup sliced fresh mushrooms
1/2 cup Marsala Wine
1/2 cup red wine or sherry
1/2 cup chicken bullion

Flour Mixture (to coat chicken):
1/4 cup flour
1/2 tsp salt
pepper to taste
1/2 tsp oregano

Pound the chicken breasts until they are approximately 1/4 inch thick. Dredge in flour mixture.

Heat the oil and margarine together in a deep skillet until it begins to bubble. Cook the chicken breasts until they are golden brown on both sides. Remove. Add the mushrooms to the skillet and saute them until they start to cook. Add the wine and bullion. Thicken with cornstarch until it reaches a gravy-like consistency. Return the chicken breasts to the sauce and simmer for ten minutes. Serve over pasta.

Contributed by Josh Aterovis, author of Bleeding Hearts...Quiet unassuming 16-year-old Killian Travers Kendall has always known somewhere inside himself that he was different from other boys... Then an openly gay youth becomes a student at his school. For the first time Killian has met someone who understands. When the new boy is murdered and Killian is injured during a hate crime, the young man vows to find the killer.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Nauseous? -- writing tip

Question: Someone in my writers' group told me there's no such word as nauseous. I can't believe that. I've seen it a hundred times. What can I say to her?

Answer: Well, there is such a word -- the dictionary says so. But the meaning is often confused with the verb nauseated. Nauseated is when you or your character feel sick. Nauseous is when you or your character smell so bad that you make other people feel sick. Same meaning as the more common variant, noxious.

Therefore, despite the fact that I've seen perfectly good authors, Dick Francis and Lisa Scottoline, among others, use nauseous to mean nauseated, and that the coloquialism is fast becoming standard usage in the US, in correct English a character cannot "feel nauseous." If he IS nauseous, it means he makes other people feel sick. If HE feels sick, he is nauseated.

Hope that answers the question.

Monday, February 7, 2011

Corn pudding - Recipe

Lizzie Dix’s Corn Pudding

1 small box Corn Muffin Mix. Martha Washington or any other brand. Prepare batter according to directions.

Add to batter:

1/4 cup. Brown sugar
1/4 tsp. cinnamon
1 can creamed corn
Dash of salt.

Bake in a greased 9x9x2 inch square baking pan or dish, for 35 to 40 minutes in a slow 325-F or 163-C oven, or until brown on top and solid, but not too dry. It’s done when a toothpick comes out clean, but should be moist.

Contributed by Lizzie Dix, author of A Day in the Marsh...Chris thinks going to a meeting with his father will be bor-ing. Then the marsh beckons to him. First reader, second grade reading level.

Friday, February 4, 2011

Catching up - vist from Mr. Pish

We enjoyed a lovely talk with Mr. Pish this week. He is hard at work on a new travel book and we'll soon be publishing his "Woodland Adventures" showing him meeting local celebrities at his new home in Washington State.

Still working on a number of projects, but no galleys went out this week.

Books that went to press this week: VIENNA PRIDE by Terry L. White

No galleys were returned, either, though a few are out and we are still waiting to hear about corrections.


Thursday, February 3, 2011

Question from a former student -- A hole? - writing tip

Question: I took your tip on being a stringer and it resulted in an instant assignment with my local newspaper. :) But the editor warned me, just before he hung up, "I'm trusting you on this, so get a quote in the second paragraph and don't leave me with a hole here." What's he talking about?

Answer: A quote is whatever the subject of the story says to you. Baring profanity, whatEVER he says, write it down so you can quote him. A HOLE is the space the editor is saving for your story. If you, for some reason, don't turn in a story, then he's left with a "hole" and nothing to put there. Editors who haven't worked with writers before, don't know yet if they can deliver the story. Trust me, editors have nightmares about holes.

When I worked at the newspaper, we got a release that Willie Nelson was planning to play a local folk festival in Ocean City and would hold a press conference AFTER the concert (about 10 p.m.), answering questions from anyone who wanted to stick around and ask them.

Unfortunately, we didn't have a stringer, so we had to send a "real" reporter. That meant paying him for hours of waiting around. Even so, at great expense, we sent a reporter to cover Willie Nelson who, being very popular in our county, helps sell newspapers. We chose our youngest cub, and paid him 8 hours overtime to cover travel, etc. He got two tickets to the concert so he could take his girlfriend along. We even paid him mileage and covered his meals, warning him that the night would be a late one and asking that he file his story from his laptop, before going to bed. We were an "evening" paper, which meant we hit the street before noon. When I started to lay out the front page at 5 a.m. I found no story and called the reporter.
"Shawn," I said, "Where's your story on the folk festival?"
"Oh, I didn't write anything."
"Why not? Didn't you go?"
"Yeah, I went. But nothing happened."
"What d'you mean, nothing happened? I've got a 16 inch hole in the front page!"
"Well, see -- uh, Willie Nelson's bus got in a ditch up around Dover someplace, so, uh, he didn't show up, and he was the only big name. So, well, nothing happened. There's no story."

There certainly should have been a story! I can think of several headlines. "Performer not injured in bus mishap" was the one we went with, because it was easy to make Sean call the Delaware State Police and get quotes from their "spokesperson" and have the accident report faxed in. (He wrote the story in half an hour, on deadline, and you should have seen his commas! Not that I had time to fix them if the paper was to hit the street on time.

Now if Sean had been doing anything but stuffing himself and thinking about whether he was going to get anywhere with the girl he took along, we could have had, "Festival crowd disappointed when Nelson failed to make date," or "Promoters offer refund, but crowd waits for Nelson," or "Local performers do double duty when Nelson arrives late," or "The show goes on, about four hours late." How do I know? Because those were the headlines in the other local papers that covered the event. As you can see, at least one other reporter left early. Listen, if they show up, it's news. If they don't show up, it's still news.

Anyway, the moral of this long and boring story is, if they talk to you, that's a quote. Even if they say, "No comment," or "Get out of my face. I ain't got nothing to say!" That's still a quote. And whatever happens or doesn't happen, that's NEWS. Write something about it and turn it in.

Quote them, write your story, and don't leave your editor with a hole. He'll thank you for it and remember your name whenever he needs a stringer.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Wild Rice Casserole - recipe

Carlene Dater’s Wild Rice Casserole

1 cup wild rice
½ lb. fresh or 2 cans mushrooms
¾ cup butter
3 Tbsp. grated onion
3 cups chicken broth

Soak and wash rice 3 or 4 times in boiling water till rice opens up. Slice fresh mushrooms. Brown rice in butter; add remaining ingredients except broth. Put into buttered 2 ½ quart casserole. Add broth. Cover and bake at 350-F or 177-C for about 1 ½ or 2 hours. Takes a while, but well worth it.

Contributed by Carlene Dater, author of The Colors of Death

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Anachronism anyone? - writing tip

Read a book this week by a best-selling author who shall remain nameless. It was a historical tale set in Elizabethan times and the story was a good one, kept the reader avid for more. Well done, except....

Well John Gardiner, whose book THE ART OF FICTION is a favorite of mine, used to talk about not waking the author from the "dream" of the story, and this book, while not new, and while a good rousing tale, contained several "wake up calls."

Looking at if from a writer/craftsman's aspect, it seemed fairly obvious to me that the author had conceived it first as a modern story, then 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 wedded bliss. Then a minor character praised the cheese served in 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."

"Buffet" and "okay" would have been bad enough, as in Elizabethan times "buffet" was a cupboard and "okay" didn't come into usage until the 19th century and then only as an American expression until the 20th. But "flown in?" How?

This is why it's important to have your own set of first readers, trusted friends who will go through your manuscript and warn you about things you may have missed. One of the best things about writing is that you can so easily go back for "do overs."