Thursday, May 31, 2012

Scene structure -- writing tip

 We went to press yesterday, with another new book by C.M. Albrecht. And now for a question from my e-mail.

Question:  A writer in my group just throws in a scene break any time she wants to change viewpoint. And yes, I agree with her that you DO need one if you are going to change the viewpoint character. But sometimes there are three "scene breaks" within ONE conversation. Isn't a scene supposed to have structure, too? Shouldn't there be more reason  for a change of scene than just because you want another character to react by thinking something?

Answer:  Yes, dramatic scenes should be structured and they should have a dramatic dynamic. Having too many very short scene breaks  can make a manuscript feel "choppy" to the reader and cause him or her to lose interest in the action.

Every dramatic scene has the same structure.  Here it is:

    1. Transition, preferably with hook

    2. Rising action and dialogue

    3. Turning point of the scene (the place where something changes forever)
        (if nothing changes, the scene goes, no matter how well written)

    4. End/resolution of the scene, preferably with another hook. Usually when we come to the end of a scene,

    * * *

we indicate it with the double line break, at least two extra lines of "white space" and most people use the three stars, a line, or some other indication, if someone will use their manuscript to typeset a book one day. Many typesetting programs close up all blank lines. Small publishers, and even big ones, usually use the electronic manuscript file the author sends to typeset the manuscript. This is why it has become so important to send  in pristine manuscripts.

Once 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, STOP and end with a question, regardless of what else might have happened in real time.

If you are in one character's viewpoint, and want to show what another character is thinking, there are other ways than saying "she thought."

One way to get emotion across for a character, when we're in another character's viewpoint, is to use body language to express their inner feelings. 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 jerks from the knee.

There is almost no difference between the reader's reaction to the following in a scene where Mary is lying to Colin and you want to indicate that he thinks she's lying. The first way uses the example of  a switch to his viewpoint.

 Example 1:

Mary tried her best to convince Colin that she had  not be unfaithful.

* * *

Colin thought she was lying.

* * *

Mary stared at him, wondering how she could make him believe her.

* * *

She wasn't going to get away with this, Colin thought, as he slammed the door.

Example 2:

Mary tried her best to convince Colin that she had not been unfaithfil. No matter how many times she told him so, he just stood there and stared with a look of disbelief on his face.

"You have to believe me. John means nothing to me! It's you I love."  She wept as Colin turned, walked out, and slammed the door.

Example one shows us Colin's thoughts from inside his head.  But in example two, we have no doubt as to what Colin is thinking, do we?

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Scalloped Veal cutlets -recipe

Robert Legleitner’s Scalloped Veal cutlets

1     lb veal cutlets sliced thin.
½     cup flour
6     tbsp. butter
1/4     cup sherry (the good stuff too)
2     tbsp. chopped parsley
4     ounces or so of sliced mushrooms
     salt and pepper to taste

Dredge  the veal in flour and sauté in butter for 3 or 4 minutes each side. Sprinkle with salt and pepper.  Add sherry, parsley, and mushrooms.  Simmer for 10 minutes.  Should serve 4.

Contributed by Robert L. Legleitner, author of The Golden Legend...Gay, German-born archaeologist Kydon Schmidt has a secret that would ruin him.... in the homophobic atmosphere of the 1940s. So when the U.S. Government recruits him for a mission against Nazi artifact collectors, he is not in a position to refuse. Great action and adventure. You won't be disappointed!

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Too improbable? - writing tip

Question: You always advised your students to join writers' groups as if they could give no other good advice they would, at least, ask "What have you written this week?"  But I'm starting to think I ought to search for a new group. They all agree that my work is, "Too hard to believe" and all my plot twists are either "impossible" or "improbable." Okay, my stuff "pushes the envelope." But I have avidly read books with weirder plots than mine...any ideas?

Answer: Thinking back to my own writer's group days (with many thanks to the critique sessions at IWWG) my best Guess is that it's either a lack of foreshadowing, or a failure to write the action convincingly. Knowing your work from your student days, my guess is foreshadowing.

It is important to foreshadow and many writers fear to do it, in case they give too much away. FORESHADOWING is a technique that leads the reader smoothly along, hinting at what is coming next. Foreshadowing makes future action more believable. Most of us don't notice it, but when it's not there, crises seem too precipitate, changes too sudden, surprises are -- well, too much of a shock not to overcome some readers', "Willing suspension of disbelief."

For instance if your crisis is going to be the landing of a space ship from Mars, you want to have some character see a few UFOs before it happens. Then use a writer's best tool, Denial, to sell their existence. It's not enough, either, just to let the reader see them when they happen. After they do see the UFOs,  (and talk about) them, the other characters should tell them how impossible their experience was. The More they say there ARE NO UFOs, the more the reader will sub-consciously believe they're there. This will NOT give away the landing of the Martians, but it will foreshadow that UFOs exist and the reader will be prepared to believe in therm when the Martians land. Just ask H.G. Wells -- or Orson Wells -- or even Richard Dreyfuss.

One way to convince a reader improbable action is possible, is to juxtapose it with everyday things. Barbara Michaels always has her characters discuss their ghosts, satanic possessions, and hauntings while eating hamburgers or pizza. The reader believes in the pizza and "swallows" the ghosts along with it. Don't laugh. She grounds the experience in something every reader has experienced....

Remember, the reader is on the hero or heroine's side. And on your side. By picking up the book, they gave you that gift of a "willing suspension of disbelief."   Anna, I think this may just be the foreshadowing, but I AM guessing. If I'm wrong, let me know.

All fiction writers are liars, but it's important to tell a good and convincing lie. That's the fiction writer's job -- to spin the dream, so it continues, without any wake-up calls.

Monday, May 28, 2012

Please KNOW, the spam is NOT from us!

Ever since my first ISP went out of business, I have kept the email address active and had it forwarded to whatever my current ISP is.  In the last 14 years, that has changed six times, but my goal, in having in use is so that anyone who has that address can always reach me

CURRENTLY, Someone is sending a great deal of spam (judging  from the number of undeliverable messages I'm receiving) purporting to be from At least that is what is on the Return address line.

ANYONE CAN TYPE ANYTHING IN THAT LINE. And when folks do business on the Internet some people take delight in appropriating their e-mail to send less-than-appropriate messages.

This message appears to say:

"good day, how do you think you remember me now, I ve dug up on the
 Internet, will be very interesting"  

It's barely English and probably contains a trojan to rip off still more e-mail addresses from your addressbook. Never answer such a message or click on any contact links in one.

If you receive anything like that and it says "From: PLEASE KNOW THAT I DID NOT send these messages. Nor are any of the bogus messages I've had returned to anyone in MY addressbook.  BUT SOMEONE SENDING SPAM IS USING MY RETURN ADDRESS.

If you get any of it, I am sorry

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Catching UP!

Books that went to press, or went back to press this week:

TERROR REIGNS, by Eleanor Cross


Galleys that went out, or went out again this week:


RAIN SONG, by Bobbi Sinha-Morey


Work began or continued on the following:

A DESIRE PATH, by Jan Shapin

DEATH SHADOWS, by Sharon Jordan

CONSORTIUM, by Steven Clark Bradley
Galleys that are still with the authors:

Galleys still out with the authors;


NIGHT SHIFT, by Lisa Marie Brennan

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Koftas -- recipe

Bobbi Sinha-Morey’s Koftas

1     lb. ground pork              1     tsp. ginger
1/4     tsp. red chilli powder          1     Tbsp. paprika
1/2     tsp. garam masala             1/4     tsp. ground cloves
1/4     tsp. cinnamon                1     tsp. salt
3     Tbsps. yogurt             3     Tbsps. sultanas
Combine all ingredients in a medium size bowl and mix well. Using your hands,
make sixteen 1 inch meatballs and set them aside on waxed paper.

Spray a frying pan with Pam cooking spray and fry the koftas to a golden brown.
Let them drain on a paper towel.

1     tsp. cumin                           1/4     tsp. pepper
1     big onion, chopped              1     cup water
6     cloves garlic, chopped         1     cup frozen peas
1    inch ginger, grated                 1     Tbsp. flaked coconut
1     tsp. green chilli, chopped       1     Tbsp. toasted sesame seeds
1    tsp. paprika

Roast the cumin seeds in a skillet until they turn a lovely brown color and grind them to a fine powder. Mix this with the onion, garlic, ginger, green chilli, paprika, pepper, and 1/4 cup water. Blend to a smooth paste. Pour this into a frying pan and cook on low heat for five minutes. Gradually stir in the rest of the water and peas. Add the koftas, coating them with the sauce.

Cover and simmer for half an hour. Frequently turn the koftas to make sure they get throughly cooked. Garnish with the flaked coconut and sesame seeds.

Contributed by poet, Bobbi Sinha-Morey, whose latest title is RAIN SONG.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Manuscript typing -- writing tip

Question: I received a return from an e-book publisher (not you, okay, I know you don't do erotica) and she commented that the sex was well done, the story a good one, but the manuscript would be time-consuming and  "a mess to work with," though they'd take another look if I could fix it.  No instructions on how to fix it were included. You're a publisher. Any idea what might constitute a "mess," Arline?

Answer: Well I have not seen this. You were my student, and at some time we surely addressed how to type a ms., so all I can do here is give you a list of the things that make me think "mess" when I see a ms. that has been submitted for us to publish. I'm reluctant to accept any of the following for publication no matter how good it is.

Anything that makes more work for the editor. Stories where characters go upstairs when they are already upstairs; stories with same characters named Calvin on one page and Carlton on another. Seriously, it happens. I saw one recently where the protagonist went from Annabel, to Annabelle, to Annabella, and finally (last third of the book) to Arabella.  Same young Regency miss, I kid you not.

Manuscripts typed in block paragraphs with a space between, like a letter, always require the editor to remove those extra blank lines. Yes, all of them. Every single one! Because of the word processing code embedded in the text, this usually can't be done just by searching for two returns and replacing with one. So that's a time-consuming problem for starters. Whenever I see a manuscript like this, my jaw clenches.

Manuscripts with no clearly marked scene breaks.  When I taught, I used to advise students to use * * * on the blank lines between scenes, so they didn't get lost or closed up during typesetting. If you did that, you're okay, but if you just used a couple of extra blank lines, they will have disappeared with the #1 above so there would be no clear indicator of where your scenes begin and end by now.

Manuscripts typed as if working on a typewriter, with a return at the end of every line, are almost impossible, too. Each of those extra returns would have to be taken out by hand and I'd say no to anything typed like that.  ONLY use One return at the end of Every paragraph. If you do that, the typesetting program (ALL of them, I promise you) will know where to put the indents.

Be consistent in using indicators. When you indent your paragraphs, for instance. Don't use a Left Tab to indent one time, and type five spaces the next time. Especially don't type five spaces for one paragraph, six for the next, seven for another and so on. MOST typesetting programs insert their own indentations. If you use stars to indicate a scene break, make sure it is always the same number of stars.  So whatever you do, always do it the same way to make it easy to "search" and "replace" if that becomes necessary. If not, your manuscript may all look uniform on theprinted page, but they will cause problems for publishers at the lay-out and typesetting stages.

Remember, it's not like it used to be -- especially for small Publishers. They used to have an editor to look at the writing and decide if it was good enough, suggest changes in plot and character to the author, and take the time to reread the ms. after those changes were made; a copy editor read the whole thing again to check grammar and facts; after that a typesetter worked on the whole manuscript to actually set the type; and a proofreader checked the printed product, to check again for typos. Now one person with a computer does all that. And she runs spell check, just like you did.

Manuscripts are expected to be correct and READY TO GO when they arrive! Publishers will ask to have the text on disk or in electronic format and they will use the file YOU HAVE TYPED to typeset your pages.

With computers involved, especially those that produce all the translations for different brands of e-readers it is best to stay way from all caps, and foreign words with special accents and punctuation. Computers can, and will, turn those to gibberish if left to their own devices.

Use Italics correctly and only when positively needed.

Remember to use the dictionary.  Don't trust spell check too far.  If you type makeup, spell check will flag it and say it's two words. It does this all the time for compound words and that is the way it is programmed to respond to compound words -- as if they should be two separate words. If you hook them up with a hyphen -- make-up -- then spell check will pass it, because it fails to notice hyphens.  But if you look in the dictionary, you will learn that make-up is a test you take if you were absent and makeup (yes, all one word) is what you slap on your face.

Remember too, to use US spelling and grammar checkers if you are submitting to a US publisher. I have one author  who swears by the Oxford English Dictionary as the final authority on spelling. But it was created for the students at Oxford University and they live in England, where you might check spelling, but cash a cheque.  If you're sending your romance to Harlequin (a British company) then Oxford English is great. But if you're located on this side of the pond better to use a Mirriam-Webster's dictionary. There's a good one at

That's the best I can tell you.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

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)

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

Maggie Dix is not an author, but she is the artist who does our covers

Monday, May 21, 2012

Am I just too picky? -- writing tip

Question:  I know you are a sticker and complain bitterly about the "quality" of grammar. But how important is it? You made a note about my manuscript that says,  "Objects lay, but people lie." So is it going to cost me sales if I say, "Vanessa was laying on the bed?" instead of "Vanessa was lying on the bed?" Who cares? Isn't it what's going on in the bed that matters to the reader?

Answer: You have a good point. If it's a good story maybe it won't matter.  If it's a bad story, perfect grammar isn't going to help it, either. I've read some books where even the sex was dull!  That's pretty hard to do, but it can happen.

The bottom line about why I'm so picky in my notes to authors is that when mistakes get in the final copy, then it makes both of us look unprofessional. It's my job, as much as yours, to fix those things. Letting you know what I have done and why only seems like a courtesy, but I can skip that if you want.

The main reason I am so picky is that readers do notice such mistakes. When they do, they are instantly pulled out of the story and begin to pay attention to the words instead of the action. That's always bad.

Don’t break the dream by making careless mistakes with words. It is a fiction writer’s job to create a dream world for the reader to enter. S/he must make that dream world as real and as free of anachronisms or other “wake up calls” as possible.

I am currently reading, supposedly for pleasure, the second in a series by a very prolific and successful self-published author. She is undeniably good and her books are the same. Interesting characters, intricate plots, great dialogue. An element of  Fun. She has a wonderful sense of humor and is very popular with many readers. In this one, so far (and I'm only three chapters in), I have had more than three dozen "wake up calls" due to her carelessness.

First she didn't recheck Book One of the series so while I was looking forward to revisiting the characters from the book I had just finished, and was eager to see them again in the background of Story Two, I found both the former hero and heroine had different names than in the first book, their baby was also rebaptized, though they owned the same ranch and the plot from book one was recounted accurately enough to one of the new characters to fill her, and any readers who hadn't seen the earlier book, in on the back story. The original main characters' names were both different. So, as a reader, I felt confused and annoyed from the beginning, wondering if it WAS indeed the second book of the series and if they two renamed characters were really the ones I had known before. And that was just the begining.

Second, I'd guess that she (most really prolific writers do) uses voice recognition software and obviously had not read or edited the text afterward to check for homonym errors and other inherent problems, which abound in every voice-to-text program. Every exclamation mark in the text has somehow changed itself to a Capital I. The "son" was shining. The horses were guided by "rains." People spoke "allowed." This is not just an occasional, one-per-chapter jab of reality in a 16 chapter book, but something on almost every page drags my attention away from the characters, what is happening to them, and what they care about. Even though I am wearing my everyday reader's hat and not my Picky Editor's Chapeau, when I see errors like these, I am instantly pulled out of the story and into my chair. I don't feel the eager enjoyment of an avid a reader, which I truly am. I feel frustrated and annoyed.

So if it's a good book, it won't matter. Maybe, but I'm kind of sorry I invested my money this time. Though the price was very reasonable. My income is hard-to-come-by and even $3.00 is an investment that requires thought. Yes, the characters are amusing. Yes the woman can write. Yes the story is a good one, or would be if I could stay inside the dream. Will I buy more books by the same author?

That's doubtful, even though her later works (the ones that I've read, anyway) are an  improvement over this particular title, ALL of them have more than a few similar mistakes and every single book I've read from her has left me feeling frustrated and annoyed -- though none as deeply as this one. She is a very talented woman. She can plot and write well and enjoyably, though apparently not accurately.

Third: Will I finish it? Probably. I HAVE paid for it, after all. But it may take awhile. I keep losing the thread, forgetting the story, and feeling less than compelled to keep reading.

Finally, will I spend good money on this author's books again?  Not likely. I have bought five and am not eager to repeat the present experience. She has more than 50 titles for sale and many of them appear to be vastly entertaining. But every one of her titles has had some frustration attached, despite the fact that the stories were satisfying. Now when I see her name on a review or an e-mail announcing a new title, what I'll remember sub-consciously is frustration, not pleasure. There are plenty of other books that won't give me a feeling like this.

Yes, I know. 

I'm just too picky.

Friday, May 18, 2012

Catching UP!

Books that went to press, or back to press this week:


Galleys that went out, or went out again this week:

DEATH SHADOWS, by Sharon Jordan
TERROR REIGNS, by Eleanor Cross
RAIN SONG, by Bobbi Sinha
NIGHT SHIFT, by Lisa Marie Brennan

Work began or continued on the following titles;

CONSORTIUM, by Steven Clark Bradley

Galleys still out with the authors:


Thursday, May 17, 2012

Peas, potatoes and Macaroni -- recipe

Marie Prato’s Peas, Potatoes and Macaroni

1     medium size onion
1 or 2     tbsp. Olive Oil
2     medium or three small potatoes, cut into cubes
1    sm. box frozen peas
1     sm. can tomato sauce
2     quarts of water
1     sm. box shell macaroni

Cut up a medium size onion and saute it in a tablespoon of olive oil in a pot.   Cut two medium potatoes into small cubes and add to the oil.  When slightly golden add in a package of frozen peas.  Put in two quarts of water and a small can of tomato sauce.  When the water boils, add a box of shell macaroni.  Season to taste.  Makes a thick broth soup and a complete meal in one pot for four people. 

Contributed by Marie Prato, author of The Statue Walked...More modern romantic suspense in the tradition of Mary Stewart and Victoria Holt.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

A thought on Thoughts -- Writing tip.

Question: My last publisher wanted every thought in Italics, even if it said "she thought" afterward, though that part of the sentence was not in Italics.  You said that doesn't get any Italics. Yet SOME thoughts get Italics even after you edited the manuscript. I looked through some books on my e-reader and some had Italics and some didn't. I'm still confused....

Answer: Different publishing houses choose different rules. There is a typesetting rule that says half a sentence cannot be in Italics, though there are exceptions -- if, say, half the sentence is the title of a movie, that WOULD get Italics. So the rules can differ from publisher to publisher. But if you are working with us, or any publisher who used the Chicago Manual of Style, the following should be correct.

But the rules of grammar say that Internal Dialogue gets no Italics and direct thoughts get them. If we go strictly by the rules of grammar, then if "she thought" isn't in Italics, the rest shouldn't be either. But that's only half the story.

In fiction, there are two kinds of thinking:

Internal dialogue: where the character thinks to himself or herself in Third Person, in the voice of the character. This technique originated most notably with Mark Twain and got him lots of criticism in his day. Here's an example of Internal Dialogue:

     Ellie threw herself into the chair. She was sick and tired of the way she was being treated. She thought

they had better watch out or they might hear more from her than they wanted to!

Clearly, above, we are in narrative, but also in Ellie's thoughts. It is in Third Person, not a direct thought, but still couched in the character's voice, and none of it gets Italics. This is an example of Internal Dialogue.

Direct Thoughts in First person: get Italics.  For example:

   Ellie threw herself into the chair. I am sick and tired of being treated like this!

The Italics indicate it's a thought, so there's no need to say "she thought," afterward. That would be redundant. Where most folks go wrong is to add a "she thought" AFTER "treated like this!" above.  The sentence is in First person. I am sick and tired....  First person makes it a Direct Thought from Inside the Mind of the character. To add a "she" in third person within the same sentence creates a disagreement in person.

Internal dialogue gets no Italics. Direct thoughts get Italics.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Dean Hinmon’s Super Healthy Banana Bread

2 1/3     Cups  flour - I use whole wheat
1/8     Cup sugar
1/4    Cup chopped walnuts (optional, I sometimes throw in some roasted, unsalted soy nuts)
1     Cup raisins
2     teaspoons baking powder
1     teaspoon  baking soda
7     large bananas pureed in the blender.
1     teaspoon vanilla

Notice that there is no oil, eggs, butter, and only a few grains of sugar in this recipe. Super healthy, yet delicious!

Thoroughly mix the dry ingredients, then blend the bananas, add vanilla and mix banana mix with dry ingredients. Pour into an oiled loaf pan and cook at 325-F or 163-C degrees for an hour to an hour and 15 minutes. Depending upon your altitude and attitude.

Eat a slice and then you can leap tall buildings and fly at the speed of a bullet. Feed it to insensitive people and they suddenly take on the caring personality of guardian angels.

The banana bread has other uses. It can be used as a door stop, an anchor for the boat and can be attached to a steel pipe for weight lifting. It can be used as a step for reaching into a high shelf in the cupboard. There is a case reported recently of the woman who killed her husband by beating him over the head with a loaf and then hid the murder weapon by eating it. Generally, this use is not recommended. You can't make banana bread while incarcerated.

The banana bread IS recommended as a cure for all diseases known to man and woman kind, but for athletes foot, contrary to logic, it should be taken internally. One man applied the banana bread to his toes and an army of ants ate off his leg right up to his hip in the short time it took him to smack his lips after downing the remainder of the slice. There is a case reported in the AMA Journal of a woman in the last stages of terminal cancer who ate a fourth of a loaf of this banana bread and did not die from the cancer. She died from indigestion– only kidding, this bread is healthy and delicious.

Contributed by Dean Hinmon, author of The Fate of Haile Selassie’s Great-grandchildren... When foreign correspondent Mitch Hanley lands in Ethiopia he thinks that the game of death will be the same as in Vietnam and every hot spot he has covered since. He is wrong. In Addis Ababa he becomes a central player, in trying to save the lives of five children, caught in between the Marxist assassination squad and an unknown killer--an unnamed fellow correspondent who might well be the young woman with whom he is falling in love.

Monday, May 14, 2012

Take a writing class -- writing tip

News:  Just wanted you to know that I am back to writing now that I have retired from my day job.  I actually placed a story (my very second publication!) and am taking a class at a local college. I am 40 years older than most of the other students and am not sure how to act. To me they seem quite rude and raucous. Even the teacher can be nasty. It seems so different from the kind of personal attention we had in the correspondence school, but I hate to quit, after I have paid my money and all. Those of us on retirement cannot afford to throw money away. Any advice on how should I handle my fellow students?

Answer:  Treat them just like you treat everyone else -- as you, yourself, would like to be treated.  If they get personally rude, don't answer. If name calling emerges or they demand an answer, say, "Oh, were you addressing me?...."

Having said that, going back to school can be quite an experience. Classes differ, depending on the instructor and what he or she will allow students to get away with. Give respect where it's due and expect it in return. If asked your opinion about a work, tell them the following information:

1. What happened? (The plot. You'd be surprised how often this is unclear.)

2. How you felt while listening or reading. ("I got lost in thought and failed to follow the action." will tell them they didn't convey the message just as well as, "I couldn't tell what the F--- was going on!".)

3. What you might change if it were YOUR story. Suggesting what you might do is different from telling someone else what They HAVE to do. And remember to take it as only a suggestion, when they try to rewrite your stuff.

Eventually, they will get the idea.

Taking my own first class was traumatic. I'm a late bloomer (even wrote a story about that situation once). Didn't go to college until I was 35. The writing class was my 41st birthday present to myself. When I walked in, I was the only one in the room over 30, the only one without jeans and sandals, the only one wearing polyester. The attitude of the other students approximated a shark attack.

They were as cruel to one another as they were to me, but their attitude was a shock to my system. I fought back as best I could with remarks like, "Well, why didn't you like it? What was wrong with it? It's not enough to say, 'It sucks!' You have to tell me how to fix it."

By the end of the term, I had gained their respect and had two of the pieces I wrote for the class scheduled for publication in national and regional magazines, though I never made the school's literary magazine.

That experience stayed with me and when I became a writing teacher, I made it a point not to let students in my classes behave rudely to one another. My teacher explained to me that he felt if you "couldn't take it from the other students, then you weren't serious about writing."  Don't know if he ever outgrew that feeling, but I never wanted students in my face-to-face classes to be cruel to one another. It's hard enough to be a writer without getting your nose rubbed into your faults when you are new and tender. 

Call me old-fashioned. I think it works. Many of my former students have published. One brought me a slick piece she published in a gardening magazine this week. And now I've heard from you, too! I love to hear good news.

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Catching UP!

All thanks for her good work to our e-book editor, Shelley Rodgerson Chase

Books that went to press, or back to press this week: 


Galleys that went out, or went out again this week:

NIGHT SHIFT, Lisa Marie Brennan

Work began or continued on the following:

RAIN SONG, by Bobbi Sinha-Morey
DEATH SHADOWS, by Sharon Jordan
CONSORTIUM, by Steven Clark Bradley

Still waiting for responses from the authors of the following:
TERROR REIGNS, by Eleanor Cross
A GRANDFATHER'S GIFT, by Hugh Carter Vinson

The last two are just waiting for an okay so we can go to press....

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Pasta Recipe

Katrina’s Angel Hair Pasta with a fresh sauce ... (for two angels)

2     tablespoons Extra Virgin Olive Oil
½     Vidalia Onion
1    vine ripened tomato diced
    a shake or two of sea salt
a dash of pepper

In a frying pan, add about two tablespoons of olive oil (I add a fresh sprig of rosemary and two cloves of garlic to my bottle of oil to flavor it) one half of a Vidalia onion, cut up fine.
Cook onion in the oil till almost transparent. Add one vine-ripened chopped up tomato
Cook only for a few more minutes. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Boil enough angel hair pasta for two angels. It only takes a few minutes, so do not over cook.

Use this fresh sauce over the cooked angel hair.
Top with freshly ground Parmesan cheese (Reggiano).

Contributed by author Jay Hughes, for his character, Katrina.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

DRM encoding -- question from the e-mail

Question: Do you make sure our books are DRM encoded when you post them for sale everywhere? If not, Why not? Why should we make it easy for pirates.

Answer: I never opt for DRM these days. I used to, but have found it to be MUCH more trouble than help.  First the coding for DRM can get in the way of the books opening in different devices. This happened early on and still happens.  MOST of our returns from, come with the complaint, "File wouldn't open" and they are wihtout exception files with DRM.

ANYONE with a little technical knowledge and a copy of Microsoft Word 97 or later can  open a DRM protected file. It's not hard. Even I can do it and my technical in-expertise is legendary.

I used to opt for it if the author asked me particularly to do so, but I now preempt that decision as I feel it is unwise to choose DRM in any venue. It angers  customers and really can't stop anyone who is determined to open your file.

BOTTOM LINE: DRM does NOT prevent pirates from stealing your books.

If you want the whole scoop on DRM, check out the following blog.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Tea Punch -- recipe

Barbara J. Cooper’s Spicey Tea Punch

2 1/2     cups boiling water
5     tea bags or 5 teaspoons loose tea
1/4     teaspoon cinnamon
1/4     teaspoon nutmeg
3/4     cup sugar
2     cups cranberry juice cocktail
1 1/2     cup water
1/2     cup orange juice
1/3rd    cup lemon juice

Pour boiling water over  tea and spices.  Let steep (covered) 5 minutes. Remove tea bags and add sugar, stir till dissolved and cool.  Add remaining ingredients, chill.  Server over ice cubes. Makes about 7 cups of delicious spicey tea. Good summer drink.

Monday, May 7, 2012

Using Narrative inside dialogue -- Writing Tip

Question:  My writers group says my dialogue is "too repetitive"  and "characters keep talking about things that have already happened." My characters only talk about what they have just learned, but sometimes it other characters knew it earlie. How can I avoid this?

Answer: You only need to write dialogue when they are talking about something important. Skip the rest, or put it in narrative. A lot can be assumed. For instance, take this story situation: In Scene one, Sally’s brother John was in a 40-car pile up on the Interstate. He lies for hours, pinned in the car, then finally is picked up and taken to the Emergency Room, by an ambulance.  There he is rushed into surgery while (end of scene hook) a nurse tosses his wallet to the ward clerk, yelling, “Call his next-of-kin.”  In scene two: Sally rushes out of the house and meets her neighbor, Paul, a friend of John’s. Here’s scene two:

    Sally grabbed her jacket and headed for the door, frantic to get to the hospital and find out how badly John was hurt. (Opening Hook) It wasn’t until she actually got into the garage that she remembered John had been driving her car the night before, because his was in the repair shop. (Shows confusion caused by the emergency situation)  Without a second thought for her damaged car (shows her first concern is her brother’s life), Sally hurried out to the street and all but ran  toward the bus stop.
    Half a block down the street, Paul Anderson, a friend of John’s, put down his rake and caught up with Sally. “Where are you going in such a hurry? What’s wrong?” (Now in reality he would probably have said, “Hey, Sally. Wait a minute. I want to talk to you.” But that would not have moved the story forward. Dialogue should always move the story forward and it should be about something important.)
    “It’s, John! He’s in the hospital.” Sally told Paul about the accident. (Narrative used. No need to repeat all the action about the 40-car pile-up and John’s being pinned in the car for hours — the reader already knows that.)
    “No wonder you are upset. Come on, I’ll drive you.” Paul took off his gardening gloves and headed for his pickup. By the time he got the door open, Sally was already waiting inside.
    “Hurry!.” Sally gave Paul a worried look. “I have to find out how he is.” (end of scene hook)

Saturday, May 5, 2012

Catching UP!

Books that went to press, or back to press this week:


Galleys that went out, or went out again, this week:


Work began or continued on the following:

Paper books:

CONSORTIUM, by Steven Clark Bradley
TERROR REIGNS, by Eleanor Cross
NIGHT SHIFT, by Lisa Marie Brennan
DEATH SHADOWS, by Sharon Jordan

e-book only:

RAIN SONG, by Bobbi Sinha-Morey

Titles waiting for information or approval from authors:

TERROR REIGNS, by Eleanor Cross ( new cover art needed)
A GRANDFATHER'S GIFT, by Hugh Carter Vinson

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Chicken Livers -- Recipe

Young adults will enjoy Henry Hayne's  book about teens from a military family who move into an urban setting.

Sandra List’s Chopped Chicken Livers

1     pound chicken livers, trimmed
2     medium onions, chopped
1/4     cup rendered chicken fat
1     teaspoon salt
½     teaspoon freshly ground pepper
2     hard-cooked eggs, halved

Saute chopped onions in large skillet in chicken fat (you can use corn oil or margarine if you are apprehensive about using chicken fat). Add chicken livers and saute until they are cooked--pink, not bloody.

Let cool. Put into bowl of food processor and add salt and pepper. Process until coarsely ground (or finer if you wish). Add the eggs at the last minute (you can also add a smudge of light mayo or Miracle Whip for creaminess).

Chill; you can serve with crackers or bagel chips as an appetizer. Also goes good on a bagel as a sandwich spread (lettuce and tomato go great with this).

Contributed by the late Sandra List, author of the ghost story  Lizzie’s Gold, a collection of  poetry, and who was the only one of the publishers at who knew anything about technology. We miss you, Sandy.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Too much detail? -- writing tip

Question:  A friend ready my just-finished novel HAWK ON MY HAND, 150,000 words, set in the middle ages -- lots of knights and chivalric romance, castles, and battles...and her comment afterward was that it was a good story, but had "too much detail."  I asked if she meant too much description and she said, "She didn't know, but she could see everything I described, so the images were good." I thought descriptive writing was good writing and it's necessary writing in a historical fiction, right?

Answer: First let me answer as a publisher. Unless your name is George R. R. Martin, this book is too long to publish.  It needs to be less than half that long. OR made into a series of books. Only the largest mass-market publisher can afford to produce a work that long.

Images are good writing and Show don't Tell is the first advice we are all given as writers. 

But on the other hand, you can't show everything. So it's important to choose what you show for a reason. If you show a knight, he may have chased armor embossed in silver and green, the colors of his house and a shield bearing the sign of the wounded boar, his sigil, with emerald eyes set into the boar's face and a ruby wound in his side. The Green Knight might wear spiked boots with green enameled greaves, and ride a destrier that is armored with a ring-mailed, green and silver, saddle cloth covering its chest as he parades before the crowd, rearing on his  hind legs, while the knight salutes with his lance before entering the lists.

That's rich and descriptive and full of images, but what happens?

Wearing his finest armor, the Green Knight paraded before the crowd waving his lance before entering the lists.

So how do you choose which details to put in? He will be using the lance when he faces the competition. So the lance has a role to play in the action to come. The rest is window-dressing. Put in the details that will have meaning overall. Details that foreshadow later action.

My first writing teacher told us a story about the Russian writer, Anton Checkov, who once said to his own students, "If you hang a gun on the wall in the dining room, the story won't be over until someone fires that gun."

What this means, essentially, is that a writer must choose small detail carefully. So be careful not to overcrowd the pages with pageantry at the expense of action.