Fiction Writing and Other Oddities

Monday, February 28, 2011

The Changing Face of Publishing

Lots of good news and plenty to watch in the world of publishing. With Borders and other bookstores struggling, we may be seeing a shift away from the brick-and-mortar stores to streams of electrons rather like the music revolution where record stores all but disappeared in favor of downloading MP3s. At least that’s the speculation, but how true is it? Really?

It’s not entirely true for music, so I doubt it’s entirely true that within five years or so, paperback books will be a thing of the past.

Here’s the thing: there are still CDs being produced and sold. There’s an entire aisle of them in my local Wal-Mart, for example. Not everyone who is interested in music has a computer and access to the Internet. Wow. Did you realize that a significant portion of the people in the United States don’t have computers or access to the Internet? I’m not making this up. It’s true. Yes, some of them go into places like libraries to use the computers there, but still…

Music CDs still exist, although many folks seem to forget this.

And while the music stores are mostly gone, CDs are sold through other outlets. And I have every confidence that books, following the same trends, will move along similar lines. We may see the demise of the dedicated bookstore, I seriously doubt all printed books will disappear within the next five years (or so). I have every confidence that paperbacks, like CDs, will continue to be sold in outlets like Wal-Mart and Target. There will be significant portions of the population who don’t have e-readers or any kind and chose not to read books on their smartphone. They may not have computers, either.

Not every person who reads owns a computer or wishes to read a book in electronic form, just like enough people prefer to buy CDs and play them on their CD player.

So while I read Konrath’s blog about e-publishing, I have a difference in opinion in some of the details. For example, I think he’s downright crazy to tell a fellow author to decline a 200K traditional book contract in favor of self-publishing. That’s just crazy. You never, ever turn down a 200K “sure thing” that includes a substantial advance. It’s always better to get a large chunk of money in one lump sum than drips and drabs spread out over time, because of interest. Even if you earn 1%, you’ll have more at the end of one year with a large chunk + interest, than you will getting a small trickle.

And after all, he forgets that Mr. Big Author who gets the 200K traditional contract can then be published, get the name/acclaim, and eventually get his rights back if he wishes and self-publish that same work, in essence, double-dipping.

So I don’t think self-publishing is the only answer from here on out. And since this is a topic which interests me, I’ll be writing a few more blogs about the publishing industry and self-publishing.

Now…for my news.

The Vital Principle – a historical mystery that takes place in the early years of the 19th century is out! An inquiry agent is hired to expose a spiritualist as a fraud, only to be enmeshed in his employer’s murder. I’ve already gotten one terrific review, and it’s sold more in its first week than some of my other small press books have sold in several months. That’s always encouraging.

Right now, it’s only sale for $.99 as a “special introductory price”. Like Konrath, I’m exploring what prices are appropriate for novels. We’ll see how it all turns out over the next few months.

Wacked! – This cozy mystery has gone through the first series of edits with my wonderful editor at Five Star/Gale and now I’m eagerly awaiting news about the cover. I’m dying to see what they come up with. The heroine is an overworked computer specialist (like me) who stumbles into a murder investigation. Thanks to this contract, I was able to join Mystery Writers of America! I’m thrilled and it’s just in time for the Malice Domestic conference. I’m hoping to attend this yearly conference on a regular basis as it lets me visit the area where I grew up.

A Fall of Silver – The Wild Rose Press accepted my second paranormal romance! I love my editor, so I’m very, very happy about this. For those who read my first paranormal, Vampire Protector, you may remember a secondary character named Quicksilver. This book is her story. It is much darker, edgier and sexier than any of my other books, so I’m a little nervous about it. But sometimes, my dark side just demands to be heard.

Next on my roster is another mystery set in the 19th century. I’m working on the second round of edits. I’m calling it A Rose Before Dying, at least for now. We’ll see if that turns out to be the final title or not.

That’s it for now!

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Kat Duncan on Creating Unique Characters

Please welcome Kat Duncan for the 4th and final blog in The Wild Rose Press blog tour! Kat is going to talk about creating unique characters which is something she's terrific at doing!

Developing Unique Characters

A reviewer of my romantic suspense, Fifty-eight Faces, recently commented that the villain, Rolf Bauer, sounded more like Snidely Whiplash than a real human being. I was amazed that I'd created such an impression on a reader. Granted, it was not exactly the impression I was going for, but it's a strong connection for a reader to make and that has to count for something.

I remember watching the Rocky and Bullwinkle Show and enjoying the escapades of Dudley Do-right and his arch-enemy, Snidely. Are these unique characters? Hardly. In fact, they are considered stereotypical. But then, I think all characters start from a stereotype. It's what you do with the stereotype that makes a character memorable and unique. Since (hopefully) few of us are personally acquainted with real villains, a writer has to use a heavier hand when it comes to stereotyping villains.

What's really fun for me as a writer is creating secondary characters. I like to play around and make them at least as vivid as main characters, even if they only make a cameo appearance. One of my favorite secondaries is Jimbo Wilson. I plan for Jimbo to be a recurring character. You can meet him for the first time today as he leaps from the pages of my romantic suspense, Six Days to Midnight:


The dissonant squawk of a two-way radio reached the patio. Janet stared as a hulk of a man ambled up to them in a slow waddling shuffle. He was dressed in greasy gray coveralls, unzipped to his navel, showing his blubberous pink torso. Flaming red hair exploded from his head. A matching five day stubble spread across his face.

"Brandt, my man!" he said in affectionate California surfer twang.

Brandt stood, and they clasped one hand, delivering identical pats on the back with the other.

"Jimbo, good to see you, man."

"Dude, I heard you got a problem with your bird."

"Yeah, an issue in the starboard fuel tank."

"Hey no problem, bro." Jimbo turned to Janet with a broad grin. "Say, who's the chick?" The man awkwardly bowed to take Janet's hand. "Hellooo. I'm Jimbo Wilson, aircraft mechanic. And whooo are yooou?" he intoned in his most romantic voice. He bent to kiss her hand.

"Ah, Jimbo. She's with me," Brandt said, rescuing Janet from his amorous advance.

"Oh, yeah. Gotcha, man." He winked and clicked his tongue at Brandt. "Nice catch."


"Well, let me take a look at your bird." He dropped a walkie-talkie on the table, then ambled off to examine the jet. Janet watched as a brand new Mercedes panel van drove out onto the runway. With zero sense of urgency or alarm, Jimbo pulled out some equipment and started working under the right wing.

"Who is that guy?"

"James Bradley Osgood Wilson, III, best aircraft mechanic in this part of Africa. Black sheep of a very blue blooded Connecticut family. Thrown out of the American Air Force. He does great work, especially if you need discretion. He has a long clientele list."

"Yo, bro," the walkie-talkie squawked. "I got the video on it. You want it out quick, or you want it out safe?"

"How long for safe?"

"Two days."

"Quick works for me."

"Gotcha, man." Jimbo walked back to the van, gathered up some more equipment then returned to the jet.

From her distance, Janet watched in detached fascination as the improbable man twisted and turned under the wing, manipulating some mysterious device in hopes of snagging the bomb.

"Got it," Jimbo said a few minutes later. "Hey, and I didn't destroy your bird." He held up an object in one hand for them to see.

"What is it?"

"I.E.D. A terrorist bomb."

"Al Qaeda?" Brandt asked.

"I don't think so. Too sophisticated. Not their style. This is professionally engineered. Probably in Europe."

Janet watched as Jimbo casually turned the bomb over several times. Even from this distance Janet could almost see his eyes gleam in fascination at the exquisite prize in his hand.

"Yep. Definitely European. You have some very serious people mad at you, bro."

"Not me. The girl."

I just received a fantastic review from Coffee Time Romance for Six Days to Midnight. "Wow! Six Days to Midnight is loaded with action, suspense, and romance right down to the last sentence. Twists and turns abound, many much unexpected. A great cast of characters tell a story that is pulled right from today’s headlines, which is scary but also makes for great reading material. Kudos to Ms. Duncan for offering readers a great read!"

You can read the full review at:

Now's your chance to read it for only 99 cents:

Thank you, Kat, for joining us today!

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Make Me Buy Your Book: Mysteries

Make Me Buy Your Book!

Here we are at round two of my monthly challenge for authors to make me buy your book! This month, I’m hankering after historical mysteries. I love ‘em and frankly, can’t get enough.

For these, think of books like the Falco mysteries by Lindsay Davis—which are a total blast to read. They are set in ancient Rome and poor Falco somehow manages to bungle his way through the politics and bullies in one of the oldest cities on earth. I’m also totally addicted to Charles Todd’s books set in post WWI England. They are so atmospheric and richly detailed, you feel as if you are living during that difficult period.

Again, I’m looking mainly for e-books to read on my Kindle. And I welcome both traditionally published authors as well as independents to leave a comment here.

What should you include?

The blurb for your book and a link so we can buy it, of course! I’m serious about that part. I go through all these comments with my Kindle in hand, looking for things to buy. There are a lot of other readers here too who are probably just as desperate to find a good book to curl up with.

If you could also include a bit about what to expect, e.g. is it a cozy-type mystery set in the past, or is it more gritty? Give us the scoop—we’re dying to hear about it and this is your opportunity to spread the word about your terrific novel.

My only restrictions are: no erotica and please don’t include anything offensive or over a PG rating in the comments.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Guest Blog - Significant Others

Happy Valentine's Week!
We're a little late, but it's still the week for romance. Caroline and I are trading blogs today and talking about romance in the real world. Hope you will join me in welcoming her!

Here in the week we celebrate the week of Valentine’s Day, our minds conjure up memories of meeting our significant other, in my case my sweet Hero husband. Since I’ve known him since I was twelve, I probably shouldn’t go back that far. But I will. LOL

The first time I saw my husband was in Lubbock, Texas at his sister’s thirteenth birthday party in 19mumblemumble. I first met Joyce in Sunday School, but we were later in Girl Scouts and school together. I knew she had a twin brother, but had no idea she also had an older brother. Halfway through the party, my fifteen-year-old Hero arrived from work to take photos for Joyce. Instantly mesmerized, I thought Hero the most sophisticated, suave “older man” I’d ever seen. What each of us wore that evening, where I sat, everything about the evening is seared into my brain as, “Hey, this is important stuff, so remember it!” Surprisingly (or not), I have photos of Hero when he was fifteen and he looks exactly as I remember, but...maybe I was star struck and he wasn’t really so sophisticated or suave. Hero was and is a geek, a genius, an electronics wizard. In fact, he became an electrical engineer in the aerospace industry specializing in rockets. Yes, Hero is a genuine rocket scientist who has several patents to his name.

But I am ahead of myself. Hero’s sister was angry that I--according to her--flirted with him at her party. No matter. We did not marry when I was twelve. We dated off and on when I was in high school and a freshman at Texas Tech, but then he graduated and went off to Dallas. Our paths didn’t cross again until we were both living in Dallas several years later.

One year I wanted to go visit my parents over Thanksgiving, but couldn’t afford air fare for both Thanksgiving and Christmas. Hero’s sister told me Hero was driving to Lubbock for Thanksgiving and she’d tell him I needed a ride. Yes, the same woman who fussed at me for “flirting” with her brother was now matchmaking. Go figure! Hero invited me to accompany him to Lubbock for the upcoming holidays, and also invited me to dinner on Friday. Again, I remember what each of us wore and where we went for dinner: I wore a sleeveless black dress and my black suede heels and we ate at Yee’s Chinese Restaurant. We were married four months later in Dallas and went to New Orleans on our honeymoon. Our first child was born two years later followed by the second daughter almost three years after the first. I truly believe Hero and I are soul mates and hope we enjoy many more years of our happily-ever-after together. His kisses still curl my toes, and there is no better husband in the world. Now that is real romance!

Speaking of romance, will take you to the purchase link for my latest romances, the western historical THE TEXAN’S IRISH BRIDE and the paranormal modern time travel OUT OF THE BLUE. They’re also available in print and download from most online stores. My back list of contemporaries SNOWFIRES and BE MY GUEST and linked historicals THE MOST UNSUITABLE WIFE and THE MOST UNSUITABLE HUSBAND are available at and will soon be available at other online sources in e-download.

Please check my blog at to see what A. J. Nuest has written on this topic.

Thanks to Amy for letting me guest on her blog today.

---Note from Amy---
Be sure to leave comments as you will automatically get entered for both our weekly and grand prizes for the Wild Rose Press blog tour. The tour runs from Feb 2 through Feb 23, and we're giving away gift certificates and a fabulous grand prize so stay tuned!

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Would you buy this book?

Book covers and cover art are so important! When I walk into a bookstore or even browse online, the first thing that catches my eye is the bookcover. It's what makes me pick up a book and read the blurb. And then read the first paragraph. And then buy the book.

Without a good cover, chances are that most readers will never bother to read the blurb unless it's an author they know and love already.

So I'm very, very interested in what draws in a reader. I've got a historical mystery coming out in the next couple of months, so I'm particularly interested in covers at the moment.

What do you think of this cover?
It's for a historical mystery set in 1815 and features a spiritualist accused of murder.

In 1815, an inquiry agent, Mr. Knighton Gaunt, is asked by Lord Crowley to attend a seance with the express purpose of revealing the spiritualist as a fraud. The seance ends abruptly, however, and during the turmoil, Lord Crowley dies. Gaunt is left to investigate not only fraud, but murder. Suspicion turns first to the spiritualist, Miss Prudence Barnard, but as Gaunt digs deeper into the twisted history of the guests at Rosecrest, he discovers more deadly secrets.  Inevitably, long-time friends turn against one another as the tension mounts and Gaunt is challenged time and time again to separate fact from fiction.

What do you think of the cover?

What kinds of covers attract you? I'd love to read your comments and suggestions, so be sure to let me know!

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Valentine's Day - Truffles

My husband is a choc-a-holic and his birthday falls the day after Valentine's day, so even though he's not supposed to eat sweets, once a year I make him truffles. They are ridiculously easy to make and if you're scratching your head, wondering what the heck you can do for your significant other, it's a great last minute idea.

Here's the basic recipe...

Chocolate Truffles
1 & 2/3 c. heavy cream
7 Tbsp unsalted butter
1 lb of semi-sweet chocolate
2-3 Tbsp Bourbon (Amaretto or Grand Marnier are also good), optional
Cocoa powder

  1. Chop up the chocolate roughly
  2. Pour the cream into a saucepan and add the butter in chunks.
  3. Heat the cream and butter over medium heat until the butter melts, stirring constantly.
  4. Turn up the heat and keep stirring until it's just starting to boil. Remove from the heat.
  5. Add the chocolate and stir it in until it melts and starts to thicken & cool.
  6. Add the liquer (if you wish--this is entirely optional).
  7. Cover and cool for 2-3 hours (or longer). While it is cooling, stir it about every 45 minutes or so.
  8. Sprinkle some cocoa on a plate and coat your palms. Form the truffles by scooping out 1 tsp (you don't have to be exact--this is just a rough size and you can make them larger or smaller at your discretion). Roll them briefly to make balls (don't hold them too long or they will melt) and then roll them on the plate to give them a nice coat of cocoa.
Keep them refrigerated.
Note: I like to wash out and save the glass instant coffee or mason jars to use as truffle jars. They make really cute gifts when you tie a red ribbon around them. 

So there you are--easy, right? These truffles have a deep, rich flavor and you can have fun adding different liquers if you wish. Orange-flavored liquer is excellent, although my husband is a big fan of bourbon-flavored truffles.

I've got my mixture sitting in the refridgerator right now and I'm planning to surprise my husband with a jar of his favorite bourbon truffles this evening, right after a scrumptious dinner of venison bourguignon, pasta, and a huge salad.

Happy Valentine's day (a little early, but...)

Saturday, February 12, 2011

School of Hard Knocks: Writing Goals

Writing Goals

No matter what you’re doing, you’ll accomplish it more efficiently if you know your goals up front. This series of blogs about writing blurts out just about everything I’ve learned over the years and after you decide on what you want to write, the next most important thing is to decide your goals. (Okay, maybe the next thing is to get a cute little laptop and a skin to make it look really snazzy and encourage you to write. But I digress.)

Many folks want to write for their own pleasure or the pleasure of their family and friends. They are the lucky ones as they don’t have to worry about placing their own desires and needs second and those of the readers, first. But if you want to write professionally, then your goals change. Your writing must change to accommodate that goal.

You must put your readers, first.

That statement usually causes a lot of puzzled glances. But here’s the thing: when you write for yourself, if you want to veer off and suddenly add a completely unrelated incident about a blue cat in a tree, it’s not a problem. It’s fun, freaky and you can have a blast doing it. When you write professionally, however, you have to keep in mind your readers and reader expectations.

Here’s an example. Let’s say you love mysteries and have decided to become a mystery writer. This means that as you write, you have to remember what mystery readers want from your story. They want a mystery and they want that mystery resolved. If the resolution of that mystery doesn’t have anything to do with blue cats, and blue cats don’t serve to illustrate something about one (or more) characters that relates to the mystery, then I’m sorry. No blue cats allowed. It doesn’t matter what you want. It matters that you meet your reader’s expectation if you plan of being successful. And getting published.

Naturally, all bets are off you decide in the end that you’d rather write for yourself, self-publish, and not worry about selling any copies. That’s perfectly legitimate and a fun thing to do. However, even for self-published authors, I urge you to think about this: if you want someone to buy your book—and pay their hard-earned money for it—isn’t it a matter of honor that you write a cohesive, good novel? And that it is actually worth the money they pay? Do you want to make people wish they’d never heard of you? That you’re a terrible writer? Sadly, they may think you’re a terrible writer no matter how good your book is, but I’ve drifted off topic. The point is that writing a novel means developing enough intestinal fortitude to think of the reader first, think of the reader’s expectations, and give them the best darn experience you can for their money.

Wednesday, February 09, 2011

Guest: Amie Louellen on Creative Ideas

Welcome to week two of the Valentine's Month Blog tour. Visit as many of the eleven blogs as you can, leave a comment, and you're automatically entered in a chance to win weekly prizes and a grand prize worth over $50.

The bloggers are listed at the bottom of this blog, so be sure to check them out and leave comments.

Now, here is Amie Louellen on the topic of Where Creative Ideas Come From...

What if…

Those are the most dangerous words in a writer’s vocabulary. Or at least they are for this writer.

I can’t say where ideas really come from, but the “what’s ifs” are everywhere.

What if the van parked in the driveway at my neighbor’s house is not really a plumber? What if the girl walking down the street is a runaway? What if the cashier at McDonalds is a billionaire?

It’s where the writer takes it from the “what if” that truly makes it creative. I write funny, light-hearted romance. So…given the above what ifs…

The not-really-a-plumber is spying on her ex, the girl is a runaway bride, and the billionaire lost a bet.

And then I’d take it one step further.

Our “plumber” borrowed the van from a friend. Of course she knows nothing about plumbing and is about to be approached by the hero who needs advice on his pipes (no pun intended. Okay, okay, it was intended—shrug—what can I say?). The bride is about to be picked up by our cowboy hero who is unknowingly assisting a runaway Mafia bride. (Trust me, this would be hysterical!) And our billionaire bet his mousey—yet brilliant—executive assistant that he could hold down a “regular” job (again, too funny!).

Now, someone who writes horror would probably make the plumber a serial killer. A science fiction writer would make the runaway bride an alien, and the billionaire…uh…I got nothing but a mousey—yet brilliant—executive assistant. But I think you get the idea.

I believe writers are hardwired for their genre. That’s not to say that an author can’t change it up. My agent often times tells me, “you’re a writer…write it.” But the creative process remains the same. The idea comes, then the writer follows it where the muse leads.

And the idea comes from…

Well, Susan Elizabeth Phillips swears there’s a warehouse in Tulsa where they’re stored. But I’ve lived in Tulsa half my life, and I’ve never run across the place. (I mean, hey, this town ain’t that big). So… I’m gonna have to go with thin air. But I’m not sure it matters as much where the idea comes from as what is done with it.

Now about that billionaire…

Addendum—Right after I completed this blog, Oklahoma was hit by a blizzard. We got almost 18 inches of the white stuff in my neighborhood. My family has been snowed in for days. I’m married—which means I have no control over the television. I have a 10 year old son—which means there is no peace and quiet…ever. And they both expect me to cook—really? So as I am wandering around the house, unable to write (I did mention the lack of peace and quiet, didn’t I?) unable to read (“Mama, play a game with me.” Did I mention said child was grounded from all electronics?) and unable to even clean (Outside dog is now inside and doesn’t know what to do with himself indoors), the “what ifs…” set in. What if a couple is snowed in unexpectedly? What if their sigs are best friends? What if they are sworn enemies? What if…well, you get the idea. At least, no one can invade my mind…though I’m pretty sure the 10 year old has tried! Please send help…a 4-wheel drive and peace of mind <3 AL

Addendum to my addendum—Another 4 to 6 inches expected today. Seriously…send help—chocolate, coffee, and Xanax.

Amie Louellen--Brodie's BrideThe Wild Rose Press Valentine's Blog Tour:

Amie Louellen loves nothing more than a good book. Except for her family…and maybe homemade tacos…and shoes. But reading and writing are definitely high on the list. When she's not creating quirky characters and happy endings she enjoys going to little league baseball games and boy scout meetings. Born and bred in Mississippi, Amie is a transplanted Southern Belle who now lives in Oklahoma with her deputy husband, their genius son, a spoiled cat, and one very hyper beagle.

Brodie's Bride

Waking up next to a beautiful golden-haired stranger isn’t the worst thing that has ever happened to Brodie Harper, but staying in a fake marriage in order to gain a new construction contract could very well be.

Savanna Morgan just wanted a way out of an engagement to a man she didn’t love. Marrying Brodie seemed liked the perfect answer at the time. Less perfect the next morning when she finds herself disowned by her father and flat broke. Now she must make it through the weekend. Monday they can get it all annulled and forget it ever happened.

The real problem may be keeping their hands off each other until then.


“Married,” the official supplied with a happy nod.

For the first time since the blonde had screamed and set off the pounding in his head, Brodie noticed the band that circled the fourth finger of his left hand. Married. Images of a scarlet chapel and gold rings flitted through his mind. Lost in the fog of straight shots of tequila, the whole ordeal seemed liked a dream. But if what the man said was true...

Holy heaven. The last time Brodie had gotten drunk had been the day his grandfather died. Then, he’d only acquired a tattoo, but this time... Married? And to a hooker? A gorgeous hooker. An expensive hooker by the depleted state of his wallet, but a hooker none-the-less.

“Where’s my dress?”

Brodie half-turned as his hooker-bride stumped down the stairs, her naked glory covered by the rumpled satin sheet. One red, high-rise pump was missing.

“I wouldn’t know,” he replied, his headache tripling.

“You took it off. You find it.” She punched him hard in the chest with one red lacquered fingernail.

“You want it. You find it,” he countered.

“That dress was an Armani. And you—”

Brodie leaned away from the blonde and closer to the man behind the counter. “Are you sure we’re married?”

“Quite certain.”

“Married?” she squeaked.

“One hundred percent sure?” Brodie added.

“It was a lovely ceremony.”


Damn, Brodie thought. He was too nice of a guy, but he couldn’t stand the panic he heard in her voice. He faced her and took her left hand in his own, turning them both so she could see their identical rings. “Seems we tied the knot last night, sunshine.”

Congratulations to Marci who won the first week's prize of a $15 The Wild Rose Press gift certificate and a $5 Samhain gift card. But don't fret, there are more prizes each week plus a grand prize the last week of February.  Just leave a comment to be entered!LINDA KAGE -

Thanks for joining us!

Tuesday, February 08, 2011

Waxing Philosophical About Writing

At one time or another, everyone feels the need to justify their likes, dislikes, and opinions. In the past, I’ve explained that I dislike the new “wave” of storytelling in present tense. It’s too “I spy with my little eye” for me. But I keep thinking about it and about why it irritates me as a reader so incredibly much. It feels so unnatural and sounds so childish to my ears. And looking through my books, I’ve found that the ones written in present tense that I can tolerate or even like, often have descriptive passages that use past tense.

And that got me thinking again about why. Why do I dislike present tense for fiction so much? I love it in blogs. But blogs are short and conversational. I don’t mind brief passages. I just can't read an entire work of fiction written that way.

So while I was walking the dogs today, I thought about it again. Why?

There really is a good reason why it feels so unnatural to me and why it feels like I’ve plunged into a mediocre role-playing game when I run into a book written that way.

We live in the past.

That’s right. Think about it. Everything that comes in through your senses has already occurred. In some cases, a really, really long time ago.

Take vision for instance. You walk outside and look at the stars. Well, what you’re seeing is the past. It’s light that spun out through the universe years ago—in many cases, billions of years ago—and you’re just now seeing it. If you’re gazing at a planet, it may already have exploded and turned into cosmic dust a billion years ago. The further away the object is, the more “in the past” it is by the time you see it.

What you’re hearing occurred in the past, as well. And since sound waves move more slowly than light, you will for example see the smoke and flash of gun powder exploding from a muzzle loader gun, well before you hear it, if the gun is sufficiently far away.

And who hasn’t experienced that split second of “Hey, I think I’m okay!” after a fall, only to realize a second later that maybe you’re not okay, after all. Maybe you broke a bone or two (as happened to me, boo, hoo) and it just took your nerves a second or two to catch up with the signals from your broken bones.

Our brains also have to process this input, so any results as far as feelings are also…about things that may already be over with.

All information coming into our bodies is about the past. It may be only milliseconds in the past, but it’s still the past.

I feel better now. I can finally justify why I prefer books written in past tense.

Sure, it’s more about my own psychological problems, but at least I can excuse them by saying: everything we see, feel, or hear is in the past, so it only makes sense to describe them that way when telling a story.

By the way—I see that my daffodils are getting ready to bloom!

Thursday, February 03, 2011

Guest Author - AJ Neust on the Significance of First Lines

Please help me welcome author AJ Neust who is going to talk about the significance of first lines in a novel.


Ahhh…that first line of any new story is like that first bite of chocolate, or maybe that first sip of wine. With it, an author can create mystery, sound, action, tone, setting, or even inspire the reader to think outside the box. The first line of any new story is a powerful tool. It needs to snag the reader, invite them into a world the author’s created so they get lost in the story and finish that first chapter without even realizing how far they’ve come. Maybe that’s why first lines are so hard to write. And why I so often get asked by aspiring writers, “Where do you start?”

My answer? Start in the middle. While this may sound contrary to everything you imagined about crafting a story, don’t assume all great novels start at the beginning. In fact, most of them start somewhere way past the beginning. And some even start at the end.

In one of my earliest manuscripts, I clearly laid out all the details, describing with great care the scenery, now my characters were dressed and each expression they wore. I delved into character development, going off on tangents to show the reader the place each person stood in their lives. I spent hours laboring over the groundwork, when in reality, I was bogging down the manuscript with so much ennui, the story didn’t actually begin until five or six pages into the first chapter.

Now I start in the middle and let the story unfold. I weave history in where appropriate, describing only those details needed to move the story along, giving hints about the past and future, while leaving the rest for subsequent chapters. While I realize this sounds a lot easier said than done, the most important thing to remember is your characters already know who they are. They’re already IN the scene, and have lived up to the point where you START the story. If a good author is truly each of their characters, then those characters wouldn’t waste page after page telling themselves what they already know. They wouldn’t tell themselves why they are taking a certain action or what they’re wearing, because to the character, these story elements are already in place.

Instead, (and here’s where things get tricky) their story would be told by the comments other characters give them, the reactions displayed, the scenery and emotions these elements inspire. This is the key to create a great first line, scene and chapter.

One of the best comments I get from a critique partner is a QUESTION. “Wait, what happened before this happened? Why is she acting so weird?” AHA! Then I know the reader will flip the page to find out what happens next (or in some cases, what happened previously). Even if the element I’ve introduced doesn’t yet make sense, I’ve sparked the reader’s curiosity enough to keep turning pages. That being said, a fine line exists between creating enough intrigue to snare the reader’s interest, and leaving the reader frustrated. Any good author has the ability to “divine” this mysterious line. Don’t be so vague, the reader can’t follow the story.

Start in the middle, at a key point in the story. Being with a bang–the moment your hero and heroine meet, the fleeting second your heroine has an epiphany or sees another character do something that could potentially change her life. Become you’re characters, and undoubtedly, the first line will write itself.

Answer this question to enter AJ’s blog drawing:

What author penned this famous first line? “Who is John Galt?”

Visit our February Valentine’s Blog Tour and leave a comment to win a prize. The more blogs you visit with comments, the better your chances of winning. Prizes begin valued at $20, increasing each week to a Grand Prize of over $50!

Other blogs to visit include:

Bio -

Author AJ Nuest lives in a small farming community in Northwest Indiana with her loving husband and two beautiful children. She is the author of two contemporary romance novels.

Contact Information her on the web:




Jezebel’s Wish Blurb:

Haunted by nightmares, tormented by guilt, Jezebel came to Redemption Ranch to escape the past—except now she's stuck in the middle of nowhere with no redemption in sight. When her mother pushes her into riding lessons with local veterinarian Matthias Saunders, Jezebel balks. Sure, the doctor is gorgeous, but he’s completely obnoxious and knows how to push every one of her buttons.

Only her deep connection with The Reverend, a gentle stallion who guards her darkest secrets, has her agreeing to spend any more time with Dr. Saunders. Caring for the stallion is the first bright spot in her life in months, and if being around the horse means she has to deal with Matthias Saunders, then so be it. Surely a city girl like her can handle one country vet—even one with disturbing blue eyes. Can't she?

Jezebel’s Wish Excerpt:

Jezzy stopped. “I thought I was having a riding lesson.”

“You are.” He nodded toward the empty paddock. “Go in.”

“Go in?” Jezzy propped a hand on her hip. “You sure you know what you’re doing? Because it was my understanding that an actual horse is needed for a riding lesson.”

“Don’t you think it would be wise at this juncture to leave the understanding up to the professionals?”

Jezzy rolled her eyes. “You’re making this way too easy. Professionals? Please. Don’t get me started.”

“Why not? Getting you started is exactly what I’m here for.”

Jezzy’s jaw dropped. She didn’t quite know how to interpret that remark.

He held out the rope. “Now go in. And take this lead line with you.” Steely blue determination glinted in his eyes. There was no way he was going to give in.

Jezzy snatched the lead line from his hand and stormed through the gate, then turned when he closed it behind her.

He put a foot on the bottom railing and rested against the gate, facing the horizon. “Take the chair to the center of the paddock and sit down.”

“And just exactly how is that supposed to teach me to ride?”

He cocked an eyebrow. “You want out of the deal?”

Jezzy’s fist clenched tight around the lead line. What she wanted was to march back to the fence and smack his face.

Wednesday, February 02, 2011

The meaning behind Chiczofrenia?

I am pleased to host Dr. Laina Turner, author of "Chiczofrenia, Crazy is an Art Form", today. Thank you so much for joining us!

As I have stated in my book, Chiczofrenia is a play on words. I have grown to love the term and feel empowered when I use it. Why? Because we all have a little crazy in us and that’s not a bad thing. It may manifest in many different ways and may not be readily apparent to others but we know deep inside what it is. I feel now, though I haven’t always, that this aspect of me is what makes me…well…me.

I firmly believe we can have it all. A great relationship, marriage, be a great friend, a great mom, keep a good house (if that’s important to you, it’s not one of my top five), be a career woman, follow our dreams, work out, eat right, and many other things. However, somewhere while trying to accomplish all this, we can tend to go a little nuts. Some more than others, and some longer than others. I used to think I was normal. HA! What a reality check I’ve had. Normal is relative. I’m sure Howard Hughes and Andy Warhol thought they were normal.

Know it’s ok to feel overwhelmed with all you have to do to have it all. Life isn’t easy. However, we all deserve to have what we want. Women seem to have the knack of how to manage it all and not go too crazy. Women seem to always take on more and more…and we’re successful at it.

Being a woman is difficult and a constant evolution of self-discovery. It’s not an easy journey and through the process you realize every woman has her own issues, her own brand of crazy, which is my favorite kind of normal. Crazy is fine. Embrace it.

I want women to embrace what it is they truly want - without caring what anyone thinks. Learn to laugh at your own craziness and be cool at the same time. Be the strong individuals we all want to be while looking like a million bucks.

Chiczofrenia – crazy is an art form – released January 2011.

Chiczofrenic is the term for the woman who is purposeful and intentional in how crazy her life may be. The goal with this book is to recognize many women drive themselves crazy, intentionally, by trying to be all they can. I firmly believe we can have it all. A great relationship, being a great mom, keeping a good house (if that’s important to you), being a career woman, following your dreams, working out, eating right, and many more. Women seem to have the knack for how to manage it all and not go crazy. Women seem to always take on more and more…and are successful at it.

Women have tried forever to pretend they fit in the norm even when the norm wasn’t what they wanted. I want women to embrace that more - without caring what anyone thinks. Learn to laugh at your own craziness and be cool at the same time. Be the strong individual you want to be while looking like a million bucks.

Being a woman is difficult and is a constant evolution and journey of self discovery. It’s not always an easy journey and through the process you realize everyone has her own issues. Her own brand of crazy, which is my own kind of normal. Crazy but embracing it.

ISBN: 978-0-578-07034-6Book: $14.95 Available on $9.95 Available on Kindle and Smashwords

Excerpt from Chiczofrenia, Crazy is an Art Form

Who the hell am I?

I really had no idea who I was for a long time. Do you? I used to think I had somewhat of an idea. Ok, you caught me. I really thought I knew. I thought from a very early age I was destined to be a ball busting businesswomen superbitch. I probably read too many Jackie Collins books where there were beautiful, strong kick-ass women. Does that make me sound bad? It probably should. The entire time I was thinking it, living it, it sounded just dandy to me. I mean who wouldn’t want to be a ball busting superbitch? (Now all I needed was a cape!)

It took me a long time to realize that being a ball busting superbitch wasn’t all it was cracked up to be. Then it took me even longer to figure out what it is I wanted to be, and I’m still not sure. What I did figure out is that what I was doing what I thought was expected of me. It was this other persona, an alter ego if you will. How the hell did I ever conjure up this “person” I thought I was supposed to be, to portray? I have absolutely no idea.

I just know that I started down the ball busting superbitch path and kept going like the energizer bunny and never once stopped to think about what I was doing and if it was what I wanted or what made me happy. Until that one day I woke up and thought WTF? Why am I doing this? How did I get to this place where I was doing so much for so many others, trying to live up to their expectations, and in the midst of it all forgetting who I was?