Friday, February 15, 2008

Questions at a Reading by Camille Marchetta

Recently, I did a reading of my novel, THE RIVER, BY MOONLIGHT, at a Barnes & Noble in Edgewater, N.J. It was a new experience for me. I've had cable and newspaper interviews in the past, made one speech years ago before a large group, and done several roundtable discussions with small ones. I've even appeared (briefly) in some documentaries to do with my work in television; but I'm always far more comfortable alone in my office, at my computer, than at a public event; and this was my first reading in a bookstore. I was a little apprehensive about it.

I prepared a few, a very few, introductory remarks, including all the necessary expressions of gratitude, the agenda (so that everyone would know what they were in for and for how long), a synopsis of the book, and lead-ins to each of the four excerpts. A friend had helped me select those, she opting for brevity and maximum drama, and I for sections that were self-contained, needing a minimum amount of explanation

There was a nice crowd present, larger than expected, in a small space, with some new faces among the familiar ones of family and friends who had come to offer support. But of course things didn't go exactly according to plan. The manager who had organized the event, and to whom I was enormously grateful, walked off before I could thank her and then returned after I had launched into the rest of my remarks, meaning I had to stop, say thanks, and then try to pick up where I'd left off. And as I'd earlier turned down a glass of water (what was I thinking?), I was plagued by a dry mouth through the entire event. Still, I managed to get through the readings, which I'd rehearsed endlessly, without any serious mishap. And when I finished, I asked for questions.

Because of my background in television, the majority of those I'm usually asked have to do with Dallas and Dynasty, with "Who Shot J.R.?" and the Moldavian Massacre (there's some wonderful footage of the latter on uTube), shows I worked on in one capacity or another. This time, however, possibly because my television history was not mentioned in the publicity for the event, all questions referred to my book.

THE RIVER, BY MOONLIGHT is set in New York City and the Hudson River Valley in 1917, just as the United States is about to enter the war in Europe. It deals with the death of a young woman, a talented artist, and the effect of it on her family and friends.

What had prompted me to set the book in that era? people wanted to know; which locations were real, which fictional? how much research had I done? how long had it taken to complete a first draft? that sort of thing; and, finally, because several people had read my previous novels, LOVERS AND FRIENDS and THE WIVES OF FRANKIE FERRARO, why was this new book so different from the preceding two?

Frankly, I don't think it is. Though my books always spring from specific characters and events, all of them revolve around ideas and issues and themes that matter to me, that I think are important, that I wish to explore. I never work from an outline. Once I know the beginning of the story, and its climax, once I find its "voice", I just start writing. Structure develops as I go along; characters put in an appearance as needed. From time to time, of course, I stop, take stock, and make corrections when things on rereading seem "wrong" somehow. But mostly I just keep going until I get to the end. Then, in subsequent drafts, I polish, and polish some more. And always I try, no matter how serious the issues involved, to make the book as easy a read as possible.

I'm willing to entertain the notion that at times I might do all this better than at others, but I'm not convinced of it. If my process is always the same, why wouldn't the results be? The "break-out book" we so often encounter, is it really better than the one that came before, or will come after? I'm not sure. But what I think is that readers' reactions have less to do with how skilful an author has been than with how meaningful the issues and themes of any given novel are to them. I think they respond first to what it's about and then to how it's written - it's structure, its style, its voice.

What I tried to explain at the reading is that, to my mind, a novel set in 1917 is of necessity going to sound quite different from one set in the 1960s, the period of my first two books; that the characters also dictate its tone; but that those differences seem to me to be quite superficial.

No no no, the questioners protested. That wasn't it. The differences, they insisted, went far deeper than that.

Well, never argue (or at least not for too long and only in fun) with your public, I always say. It's wonderful that they've taken the time to read your book, experience it, respond to it. If they see things in it that you don't, that's all to the good (except when it's to the bad – as with critics from time to time: but that's another story). What a reader brings to a novel can enrich and expand it in ways that an author can never anticipate. If people are certain this novel is so different from its predecessors, who am I to disagree?

Eventually, the bookstore manager reappeared and put an end to the discussion. My arguments had changed no minds. The audience went away convinced they were right. I came away wondering. And I still am.

Camille Marchetta

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Romance by LaConnie Taylor Jones

The word romance can be defined in several ways — a brief, intense love affair, the sexual love between two people, a fascination with something or even excitement. However, most people associate the term romance with the collection of love stories, the genre. There’s another definition that best describes how I define romance and the role it played in my road to publication — the spirit of adventure.

Aaah…the spirit of adventure! For me, this translates into heroic achievement because never in my wildest dreams did I ever imagine that combining two of my greatest passions in life would lead to the completion of two full-length novels. A challenge from my husband made me seize the opportunity to blend my enthusiasm for teaching health, social responsibility and social justice together with my love for reading the romance genre.

For over twenty-five years, I was content to be a reader. Then in the summer of 2003, something amazing happened. The enthusiasm for my career coupled with the experiences I’d gained over the years sparked a multitude of storylines and another romance began to blossom. I decided to test the waters to see if I could actually craft my skill as a health educator with my passion for reading. In the summer of 2003, I decided to roll the dice and become a romance writer and I’ve never looked back.

Is there a romance you long to embrace that’s lying dormant inside of you? I bet there is and would love for you to share it.

Remember, romance - it’s more than a genre.

Check out LaConnie’s website at to see how you can win a $100 gift certificate to!

Monday, February 11, 2008

Tips for Writing a Mystery

First, you need to decide exactly what type mystery you are planning to write. Hopefully you’ve read enough crime novels (seems to be the preferred name for the genre these days) to know what kind of novel you are going to write. To name a few: the private eye novel, amateur detective, usually someone with an interesting or unusual profession, can be hard-boiled or a cozy, the police procedural, romantic suspense, woman in jeopardy (think Mary Higgins Clark),
historical mysteries–can be a combination of any of the above, thriller, when an innocent becomes involved, either by accident or coincidence, in dangerous events beyond his or her control (think Alfred Hitchcock movies), suspense, when the protagonist is in a constant and increasing state of danger.

Mysteries of earlier times were more interested in the hero solving the crime, now are as interested in the emotional impact of the crime of the hero and his or her private life. You have to create a credible protagonist to help the reader suspend disbelief. Though you must know the back story of your characters, you don’t necessarily have to tell it all. Bits and pieces should come out–maybe internally. Don’t lump it all together in one place. Don’t forget the villains–they should have history and issues also.

Here’s a check list of what you need to know about the book you’re going to write:
The Crime
Scene of the Crime
Suspects and Motives
Where everyone was at the time of the murder; alibis.
Conflict that led to the crime
Conflict that follows the crime and leads to the solution.
Climax, the emotional high point of the novel.
Solution or resolution

Remember it’s not necessary to only write about what you know, but what you don’t know, you need to find out about.

Use your imagination, create unusual characters and interesting settings, either real or ones you’ve made up.

Once you’ve finished, print the manuscript out and go over it carefully. Make sure you tied up the loose ends and things progress in a logical manner. After that, have someone else edited it for you, someone who knows how to edit–preferably someone who reads and understands the mystery genre.

And yes, you can do something different as long as it works. My latest book, Smell of Death, is a police procedural, but there are several crimes in the book that must be solved. In this particular series, I wanted to show how the job affects the family and family life affects the job.

Smell of Death is authored by F. M. Meredith, a.k.a. Marilyn Meredith, available at and

Friday, February 08, 2008

Loving the Love Scene by Ashlyn Chase

Erotic romance authors are often asked how they write hot love scenes. It ain’t easy! In fact, it’s one of the hardest things to write well. I happen to write erotic comedy but when it comes to sex, I’m deadly serious about it.

Here are a few tips to writing a convincing love scene. First of all, try to be sure your characters aren’t as shallow as this: “I like your body, let’s have sex.” It’s great to have sexual attraction between the hero and heroine from the get-go, but to make a love or sex scene convincing, we need do a little better than that.

I like to have one of them do something special for the other to show they care. That usually happens in real life. Dinner and a movie is classic but classic can be clich√©. As imaginative writers, we can and should be inventive. Maybe he knows she likes puzzles so he pulls out a 1,000-piece puzzle and invites her over to put it together. That says a couple of things. One: I want to spend time with you—lots of time. And, two: I’m paying attention to your likes and dislikes—I’ll meet your needs.

Of course in an erotic romance, the couple won’t get beyond putting together the outer border before they wind up tangled in the sheets. In order for that to happen, especially in a short story, the writer often makes them familiar with each other beforehand from their workplace, mutual friends, or being stuck in a space capsule together for months. And, of course, they’ve been burning for each other too long as it is.

One of the hardest things for the erotic romance writer to do is make each encounter feel like it’s the best, most powerful, over-the-top sex your POV character has ever experienced. In order satisfy the avid erotic romance reader’s expectations, you have to get right into that character’s body and describe sensations that often defy description. You’ll find yourself typing words like: arching, moaning, clenching, whimpering, “Oh God, oh God!” pummeling, pounding, stiffening, exploding, convulsing, gasping, rasping “I can’t take anymore,” shuddering, fluttering, shivering, quivering, bucking, and… Well, you get the idea. The reader must be swept away, just like the character.

For the writer to put together a scene like that, and to make it different every time, may take a lot of thought and frequent ice water breaks. For a reader to consider it a successful scene, she must not be able to put the book down. Thus, it might take you all afternoon to write something the reader will devour in a couple of minutes.

Do you need to have a current love life to write erotic romance? No. I think it helps, but I know some single erotica writers who can make you want to wear oven mitts to turn the pages! I even know a virgin who won a contest with her love scene and subsequently published her story. But if you have a regular bed partner, take advantage of it. Tune out the noise in your head and concentrate on the moment. I can’t tell you how many erotic romance authors refer to their significant other as their “research assistant.”

In either case, I think the best way to write any romance is to read romance. To write hot romance, read hot romance. The next time someone implies that writing romance is easy, dare them to write a love scene—preferably one that makes you drool, sweat and attack your boy toy.

Visit Ash at her website or blog. And don't forget Ash will be stopping by StoryCrafters on the 13th to answer any questions you have.

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

Once Upon a Time by Deborah Woehr

I didn’t always like to read books. In fact, I hated them when I was in the third grade, when my teacher began forcing book reports down our throats. Despite a kind mom’s efforts, I still couldn’t stand the thought of sitting there and reading some stupid story that I would forget a few minutes after I’d finished it.

Three years later, I was introduced to Judy Blume. All of the cool girls were reading this book. I just had to have it because they were reading it. Forever, it was called. I bought it with my own money, took it home and began to devour the pages because I knew what it was about. My parents wouldn’t approve of their 12 year-old daughter reading this book about a young woman’s first sexual encounter, which made it all the more thrilling to sit there and read it in front of them. Forget Nancy Drew! This was much more exciting!

Well, my mother caught me as I was reading The Act. Stunned shock came first, followed by outrage. My parents let me finish reading the book, which still remains in their night stand, 29 years later. I went on to rebel her by buying the books of Robert Heinlein, Ray Bradbury, Piers Anthony, Dean Koontz, and Stephen King.

She couldn’t understand what drew me to these books, but I loved them. They took me to other worlds and into moral situations that I couldn’t yet understand, such as the affair one of the heroines had before she and her son were trapped in their car while a rabid dog snarled and lashed at them. I also remember the passage in Robert Heinlein’s Stranger in a Strange Land, where he describes what happens when you place a pink monkey in a room full of brown monkeys. It was pretty powerful stuff that I’ve carried with me years after I read these books.

One afternoon, I set a book down and pulled out my notebook with the idea of writing my own story. I stared at the blank page and froze, my pen poised several inches over the first ruled line. My mind went as blank as that page. After a moment, I put both the pen and the notebook away.

You’re no writer, I told my young self. You’re a painter and a scratchboard artist.

I kept a journal to chronicle my personal life, but I never got up the courage to attempt to write a story until after I turned 30. That morning, I was lying in bed, playing what I call a “mind movie.” My mind is always playing them. That morning, I was thinking about a serial killer who decided that he was bored hunting down single white females. How would the police react if he caught the daughter of one of the police chief? This would be the finale for the single white female hunting, I thought to myself. Then, he can start hunting after married women.

I got out of bed, grabbed my artist’s sketchpad, and wrote the first paragraph for this “finale” scene. It was horrible. This time, I didn’t panic and give up. I kept writing. Nine months later, I had a novel-length manuscript. Eight months after that initial paragraph, I published my first short story.

Writing became an obsession as soon as I saw my name listed in the table of contents of that magazine. I shelved my first manuscript for a variety of reasons and started what would become Prosperity, a ghost story set in a remote rural town in Arizona.

About the Author
Deborah Woehr is a writer, designer, and problogger who lives in San Jose, California with her husband and two children. She earned her A.S. in Computer Graphics in 1993 and began writing in 1997, publishing one short story and several articles. Currently, she is a freelance writer for Syntagma Media. In 2006, she edited and published the 2006 Writer’s Blog Anthology, a collection of essays and poems written by bloggers. Her novel, Prosperity, will be available on Amazon in February. For more information about her books, please visit her website at
PROSPERITY: A GHOST STORY VIRTUAL BOOK TOUR ’08 will officially begin on Feb. 1, 2008 and continue all month. If you would like to follow Deborah’s tour, visit

Win a free copy of Deborah’s book by commenting on her tour stops! One lucky person will be chosen at the end of her tour on Feb. 29 and announced on her tour page at!

Deborah’s virtual book tour is brought to you by Pump Up Your Book Promotion Virtual Book Tours at and choreographed by Dorothy Thompson. Check out to

Monday, February 04, 2008

Write about what you know about... St. John of the Midfield

Stuart Dybek, one of America’s great contemporary writers, and my creative writing instructor during my years at Western Michigan University, often told us in class to “write about what you know about.” At the time, outside of being a creative writing student, I was a baseball player who, due to my writing background, was probably the only guy on the team who could have spelled the word soccer correctly at the time. In the early 80’s, the game was relegated in American gym class with other sports like Swedish handball or rugby. As baseball players, we turned our noses up at any guy in the locker room who said he played soccer.

Today, I’m thankful, on account of my son’s interest, that my wife signed me up to be his soccer coach in a recreation league back in 1992 when he was six. From there, I began a learning odyssey of the game, one which led me to study under former world class players like Jordan Mitkov and Falah Hassan, to creating my own youth soccer travel club. During my fifteen years of on the job training, I was able to learn all the intricacies and nuances of the game, details which allowed a depth of knowledge I was confident enough in to write about.

When it came time for the story, St. John of the Midfield, to finally burn out of me, the soccer related scenes came about easily since I personally experienced them all in some way or another. I was writing from first hand experience; from playing, to coaching, or, from being a referee. Readers have told me the soccer scenes are some of the best they’ve ever read. As a writer, you’re never tired of hearing comments like that from your audience.

Professor Dybek would, I’m sure, be impressed that one of his students actually listened to him. Writing about what you know about is the most important part of the methodology on the craft of writing I subscribe to. In this case, it has proven to serve me well. However, my wife Vicki has warned me not to get Melvellian and desire to write something about working on a whaling boat.

My response to her simply was, “Then don’t sign me up.”

You can find out more about St. John of the Midfield at his website.

Friday, February 01, 2008

Woes of Publishing! by Sandra Worth

"Persistence finally paid off!" That's what everyone who knows me tells me now that I've been picked up in a two-book deal with Penguin. There was a time when I doubted it would ever happen. I entered contests and won awards judged by illustrious writers like Ray Bradbury, New York agents and editors, film makers and Hollywood producers. Though they selected me as their winner and sometimes I walked away with the grand prize of a thousand dollars or more, they passed on picking up my novel for publication. I couldn't understand why and I didn't believe them when they said, "Historicals don't sell." I knew they would, if they just published them! So I worked on my manuscript, revising and revising; hoping and hoping. But the change of heart never came. More rejections streamed in. My agent finally gave up on me. "There's no more I can do for you," she said, handing back my manuscript. I promptly looked up the names and addresses of small publishers and sent out a flurry of query letters.

One day a small POD publisher called with an acceptance. I was overjoyed. But I had to wait eighteen months for the release of my book, and by that time, the publisher was out of business. I got my rights back, and another small publisher offered to pick up the book, the first in a trilogy. I was ecstatic--that is, until I read their contract. By signing, I would give up every possible right to my book. It was as if my "baby" would be taken up for adoption by this stranger, and I wouldn't even have visitation rights. I'd never, ever see her again! She would keep my name but be out of my hands forever. If I changed the beneficiary of my will, I'd have to obtain the publisher's permission first. Much as I wanted to be published, I knew I couldn't accept these terms. The publisher said, "Take it or leave it." So I left it.

That's when I got a break. Another small publisher came along who was willing to talk terms, and willing to do a traditional run. I saw their product, and it was beautiful! Lovely cover, good paper, beautifully presented. They even had a well known distributor. The editor was gifted; the art director amazingly talented. I couldn't believe my luck! Working with them was a dream. They published the first book in my trilogy, and it was perfect. I worked non-stop on its promotion. I joined Toastmasters and learned public speaking. I never turned down a book talk, appearance, or an interview. I was completely stressed out but I kept promoting fiendishly. If I didn't, who would ever know my book was born? To my delight, my efforts paid off and it kept going into printing after printing. After all, didn't I know in my gut that historicals would sell, if given a chance?

I thought I was home free, but no, not quite yet. This wonderful publisher took on a marketing partner, and the new partner was one of those believers in a tough contract. She made me an offer for all my rights -- movie rights, serial rights, subsidiary right -- in the high two digits.

Yes, that's what I said. Ten dollars, actually. So I looked for another publisher. After I found one (let's call her "Angel") who was willing to publish the two sequels, my first publisher called to tell me his new partner was no longer with him. Aware that a trilogy does better when it's not split up between publishers, I offered to write "Angel" a new stand-alone book. She accepted, and the three books, The Rose of York trilogy, came to be published by End Table Books as a set.

I wrote furiously on my new novel for Angel. She even gave me an advance! I was euphoric. I pushed everything aside for nine months and kept writing. Then, just before I finished the book, I heard from Angel that she had lost her distributor, and was wondering how I felt about selling the book through personal appearances. I groaned with fatigue! At this point, I knew I would rather not have the book published than to try to market it this way.

Finally, I decided my writing days were over; it was all just too much trouble. I talked to Angel. She was every inch a kind and heavenly person, one of those special people we are privileged to meet in our lifetimes. She understood. She returned my rights, and I returned her advance. I contacted my former agent and told her what had transpired. She told me to send her a PDF of Lady of the Roses. I did. "I'm going to submit to New York," she informed me. Good luck, I thought.

Three weeks later, she called. "Are you sitting down?" she asked. "Penguin has made an offer for Lady of the Roses and they want two books. How fast can you write the second?"

"But historicals don't sell," I replied.

"Historicals are hot," she said.

Since then the first book in the trilogy, The Rose of York: Love & War is going into a second edition. We've sold the Spanish rights for the first and second books in the trilogy, Love & War and Crown of Destiny, and the Russian rights to Lady of the Roses: A Novel of the Wars of the Roses, which came out January 2 in the U.S. Meanwhile, today, January 8, Lady was released by Penguin Canada. I went to Amazon to buy a copy to send to a friend in Toronto and there was a notice posted: "Temporarily sold out." They will notify me when they have more books.

Didn't I always know historicals would sell if they were only published?

Tell Sandra your feelings about love and destiny by writing her at or enter via her website at, and win one of five signed copies of LADY OF THE ROSES and a beautiful cloisonné bookmark.