JOAN REEVES

NY Times & USA Today Bestselling Author

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THE ARCHIVES

Good reading awaits you in The Archives.
Check out the Resources of the Archives. Beginning in 2010, I archived the articles published on the website rather than deleting them.

Enjoy browsing!

BOOKS & AUTHORS
Reviews, Interviews, & Profiles

Alice Duncan & Sierra Ransom

Book Review: Bad Luck And Trouble by Lee Child

Book Review: Burn Notice: The Fix by Tod Goldberg

Book Review: Chasin' The Wind by Michael C. Haskins

Book Review: Flashback to the Golden Years by Ralph Neal Hansen

Book Review: The Legacy by T. J. Bennett

Book Review: Toujours Provence by Peter Mayle

Book Review: A Year In Provence by Peter Mayle

Interview With Daniel Arenson

Interview With Jules Bennett

Interview With Annette Blair

Interview With Marilyn Brant

Interview With Amy Clipston

Interview With Rob Costelloe

Interview With Lisa Haselton

Interview With Michael Haskins

Interview With L. C. Hayden

Interview With P. J. Mellor

Interview With Anne Marie Novark

Interview With Terry Odell

Interview With Beth Orsoff

Interview With Rita Schiano

Interview With Jacqueline Seewald

Interview With Cynthia Wicklund

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BUSINESS OF WRITING

Agents: Researching Them

Agent Questions To Ask

Agents: Identity Questions

Agents: Money Questions

Agents: Relationship Questions

Agents: Final Thoughts

Alternative Markets: Are They For You

Cautionary Tale For Writers

Contract Advice

Fair Use & Song Lyrics

Finding Markets For Reprint Sales

Five Steps To Email Press Release Success

Five More Steps To Email Press Release Success

Know Your Contracts

Six Common Sense Rules For A Happy Writing Career

Six-Month Checkup For Writers

Think Outside The Box

Why Attend A Writers Conference

Why Book Publishing Changes

Writers Have Rights: Part 1 of 3 - Keeping and Using Your Rights

Writers Have Rights: Part 2 of 3 - Retention and Reversion

Your Internet Presence: Website or Blog?

Writers Have Rights: Part 3 of 3 - Where to Sell Your Rights

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CRAFT OF WRITING

The Appeal of Horror

The Craft of Writing

First Rule Of Writing

Heart Of The Matter: Understanding Dramatic Structure

Presenting Characters, Part 1 of 8

Presenting Characters, Part 2 of 8

Presenting Characters, Part 3 of 8

Presenting Characters, Part 4 of 8

Presenting Characters, Part 5 of 8

Presenting Characters, Part 6 of 8

Presenting Characters, Part 7 of 8

Presenting Characters, Part 8 of 8

Use Your Writing Skill

Your Internet Presence: Website or Blog?

Writing for Beginners and Pros: 5 Ways to Educate and Entertain

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REGARDING THE INTERNET

Brief History of the Blog

Hie Thee To A Blog

Make The Internet Work For You: Blogging Basics

Sticky Is Good

10 Major Internet Irritations

Your Internet Presence: Websites

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SUCCESS STRATEGIES

Design Your Own Reward System

How To Change A Habit

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WRITING BY JOAN

Female Archetypes: No Wimps Wanted

From Wordsworth to Nickelback

Me, Merlot, & Mr. Hottie

So This Is Christmas

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FAIR USE & SONG LYRICS

Do you know what Fair Use is? In the United States, it's the principle that allows limited use of copyrighted material without requiring permission from the rights owner.

Fair Use is for purposes of review or scholarship. The issue of Fair Use is complex. Read more here if you want to learn more about this issue that's of great importance to writers.

When To Claim Fair Use

Professional writers need to learn the legal issues regarding what they publish in books as well as on the Internet. This is a sticky situation because a lot of writers think they can quote any material as long as they provide attribution. That's an idea that can land you in the kind of hot water that requires lawyers and deep pockets. Be very careful, and read up on the subject before you quote anything.

Song Lyrics

As much as we all love our music, it's natural that we'd want to quote it in blogs and books and such. Fair Use does not apply to song lyrics. If you quote a lyric, you must have permission.

Surprisingly, it's rather simple to gain permission to use song lyrics. Several years ago, one of my friends quoted a Bob Seger song and obtained permission for free if I remember correctly. She'd tried Seger after her first choice had named a mind-boggling fee to use one of his lyrics.

No Under The Radar

There are some artists who will never agree to have their lyrics used in any way. They will also diligently pursue litigation no matter how small the fish is. Don't think you can publish "under the radar" because no one knows you. That's a myth in this age of web crawlers that can find anything with a simple Google Alert or something similar.

If you want to find out who owns the rights to lyrics, visit the ASCAP website.

The End

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10 MAJOR INTERNET IRRITATIONS

I was checking Yahoo mail the other day, and those dancing, jiggling blue men advertising insurance or God knows what irritated me so much I thought I'd scream. I started to wonder how many Net users were like me: annoyed at times to the point of thinking Internet advertising is the spawn of Satan. Don't you just wish you could clobber the person who put that on the Web or at least punch out the image?

I started making a mental list of Internet Annoyances - things that drive me to distraction. I'm not alone. Some people have started blogs and created websites focused entirely on their pet grievances.

Some people get so annoyed by some of the odd words you see scattered around the web, but I'm not really focused on individual words, although a few like folksonomy would probably be on my list of banned words, especially after I had to do some intensive research on the subject of folksonomy in order to write intelligently about it. Here's my list, in no particular order.

Email & Web Nuisances

1. Smiley faces that wink and dance around when you're trying to read an email.

2. Any use of the word BLOOK, meaning a book based on a blog.

3. People who write web content and who know neither basic grammar nor have the ability to spell correctly. Needless to say, they also lack the common sense to have their written content proofread and corrected by someone who does know punctuation and spelling.

4. Websites that bombard you with music when you visit them. Now, I'm a music lover of just about every genre, but I cringe when I visit an author's site for the first time and a big band version of "Sentimental Journey" or some New Age non-music or, god forbid, Techno, blares at me. If you want music on your site, put a button where the visitor can click to hear, not click to turn the ear-splitting whatever off.

5. Websites with a Flash intro where you have to click to enter the site. These portals may seem moody or artsy to you, but most Web denizens hate doorway sites. Plus, web crawlers won't visit so you'll rank low in PageRank, not what you want.

6. Animation on a web page. People use animation to draw attention to something or to demo or to entertain. Unfortunately, most animation is irritating in the extreme. Who wants to try to read with something blinking on and off fast enough to cause a grand mal seizure? Whether the animation is a klutzy cartoony gif or a sophisticated piece of Flash, get rid of it.

7. Pop up ads. Thankfully, pop up blockers are usually effective but some still slip by.

8. Pop over ads make me want to scream. That's what you call those that have certain words underlined in an article so if you mouse over them, the ad springs up. I hate trying to read an article with those nuisances popping up to obscure the text at every line. I'm sure most are like me and just move on rather than staying to read.

9. Pop overs that instantly start some video clip playing. Not only does it bog your machine down, but also it's usually not something you came to site for in the first place so you move on.

10. Blogs where you can't comment unless you register. Hey, if you don't want people to join the conversation, just turn Comments off!

Okay, that's my list. At least for today. What's on your top 10 hate list?

Remember, you have a website because you want people to visit and get to know you and your books. So don't annoy them from the get-go or you'll find no returning visitors.

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FEMALE ARCHETYPES: NO WIMPS WANTED

Writers of books and screenplays explore the female archetypes as they create women characters. These archetypes are usually defined as: Nurturer, Crusader, Librarian, Waif, Free Spirit, Spunky Kid, Survivor, and Boss.

You'll notice there's not a listing for Warrior. That's because a warrior lurks in every female archetype, and pop culture has finally discovered that. Look at how warrior women have taken over the movie theaters, television, screens, and bookshelves. I think my decade has emerged. What do you think it means, and who started the trend?

Origins

As to the meaning, I'll explore that another time. For now, let's look at the origins of the warrior woman in contemporary culture though you could go back to history as well. Edgar Lee Masters in Spoon River Anthology wrote about a woman who “hated with the hate of Jael when the white hot hands went seeking the nail.” Jael was a woman in the Bible who killed a man by hammering a nail into his head.

Contemporary References

For our purposes, we'll leave Jael and Joan of Arc and many others in the past. Let's look at Honey West, a woman who first appeared in the 1957 book This Girl for Hire by G. G. Fickling, a pseudonym used by Gloria and Forest Fickling who wrote many mysteries including 10 about the girl detective. In the 1960s, Aaron Spelling brought Honey West, starring Anne Francis, to television.

Spelling was inspired by the British series The Avengers, with cool, calm, and collected Emma Peel, a spy who wore haute couture, caught bad guys, and never broke a sweat. Diana Rigg was made to play Emma Peel who could handle anything as well as or better than a man.

Ripley

Then Sigourney Weaver made movie history in 1979 as the first woman action star in the original Alien, a movie that scared me witless. Weaver as the intrepid Ripley kicked alien butt and blew it out the hatch. She reprised her role in 1966 and should have left it there because the other installments weakened the franchise and were more woman as victim than as warrior.

Buffy

Sarah Michelle Geller’s Buffy really kickstarted the whole butt-kicking female trend in 1997 when "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" premiered on television. Until her stint as vampire slayer, popular opinion seemed to be that women warriors on television would alienate male viewers and readers and possibly a lot of the females too.

Au contraire. I think Buffy had as many male fans as female. Sure, maybe the men were looking at Buffy and Faith in terms of hot chicks, but I think those two made being tough, strong, and durable hot.

Cordelia

When "Angel" came along in 1999, the show costarred Charisma Carpenter as Coredia, a chick who grew from self-absorbed to selfless with a lot of stages in between, most of them requiring her to fight demons and other assorted bad guys.

I give credit for the rise in women warriors to Joss Whedon. He absolutely knows how to create a strong woman character. He did this in Firefly, a short lived series thanks to Fox TV, and in the 2005 movie Serenity in which all the actors reprised their roles.

Women of Firefly

Notable as the captain's sidekick and right hand man was Zoe, a gorgeous warrior woman portrayed by Gina Torres. Firefly and Serenity also had Kaley as portrayed by Jewel Staite, the vulnerable but horny female spaceship mechanic. For the exotic, there was Morena Baccarin as the companion Inara Serra, a woman who commanded in a different way but who also knew how to fight. River Tam, the emotionally damaged teen rounded out the female cast. River was a killing machine trying to be sane and was played so well by Summer Glau, who truly became a force to be reckoned with on "The Sarah Connor Chronicles."

Movies

In the movies we had Lara Croft in 2001 and 2003 as portrayed by Angelina Jolie, who seems to be type-cast as some kind of assassin. She played Mrs. Smith to Brad Pitt’s Mr. Smith in 2005. Those two kick butt roles are possibly the most realistic when compared to the assassin she played later in Wanted or Grendel’s mother in Beowulf.

Jennifer Garner of "alias" fame also played a warrior, the comic book heroine Elektra, after she'd made a name for herself as the tough as nails agent Sydney Bristow which ran from 2001to 2006.

Warrior women have always been with us. They're just more visible now, and their numbers are growing in movies, TV, and books. If you've got a warrior woman in your life, count yourself as lucky.

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WRITING FOR BEGINNERS & PROS: 5 Ways To Educate and Entertain

I was reminded of an important truth recently. Don't assume! (Remember the old joke about what assume makes?)

Don't assume what?

False Assumptions

Don't assume that everyone who reads blogs are expert or professional bloggers! I tend to make that assumption when in reality the reading audience is composed of those who wish to learn as much as those who are old pros. I know I'm always pointing others to different blogs and websites to help them hone their blogging and writing skills or to learn about monetization among other subjects.

Content That Speaks

So if we are to provide editorial sustenance for all readers, we must create content that speaks to all levels of proficiency. Sounds simple, doesn't it? Ah, as the Bard wrote, "That's the rub." Like so many things in life, it's easier to say it than do it.

Here are 5 ways I think a writer can create content that educates the beginner AND entertains the pro thus keeping both the beginner and the pro glued to the page or the screen.

5 Ways To Educate And Entertain

1. Write with a compelling voice that makes the reader feel as if they're having a great conversation with the writer. That way, they read the words, not skim the copy, because they're afraid they'll miss something entertaining.

2. If possible, punch up the copy with something unexpected. In a paragraph above, I quote Shakespeare. That's a bit unexpected for a blog about blogging. You might throw in a humorous quotation, something that will pull a grin from the reader.

3. Use numbered lists. Readers love this because psychologically they feel as if they're getting step by step help in an area. Even pros will read lists because they're always looking for new ways also. Both groups are right. Sometimes, another writer's numbered list really knocks the old ball over the fence!

4. Use metaphors and similes that speak to the audience's cultural experiences. In #3 above, I used a baseball metaphor because it's springtime which is baseball season and just about everyone understands a baseball home run. Sports allusions are great for male readers, but female readers understand them too. So don't be afraid to use sports, literary, political, or whatever-floats-your-boat metaphors and similes.

5. Reference what others have done. Don't be afraid to refer to what others have written on the same subject. Acknowledge the body of work that has already been created. Give links if possible. Honor your fellow writers.

In Conclusion

Always remember that different writers present the same information in different ways. Maybe you've read 100 articles on writing, but number 101 is the one where you really "get it." So don't be afraid to tackle a subject that's been done over and over because the way you write it may be the way that speaks to someone who really is looking for an answer. That's content that works in every way.

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ME, MERLOT, & MR. HOTTIE: A Tale of Aliens and New Mexico Wine

I'm sipping the last of a good merlot and remembering how I acquired this bottle in October, a couple of years ago. The Texas fall weather was perfect that day. I put the top down on Merlot, my shiny red sports car. (Doesn’t every girl name her car?) Red doesn’t begin to describe Merlot’s paint job. It’s really the rich ruby of a smooth merlot hence her name.

I jumped into Merlot with DH (darling husband) my companion whom I often call Mr. Hottie, and we drove (yes, drove!) to Roswell, New Mexico. Why? I probably should say it was to tour New Mexico wine country, but the truth is, I’ve had a desire to visit Roswell, home of the infamous alien encounter, since the television show Roswell debuted a few years ago. You know the show. The one with the sexiest aliens on TV before Galactica and the Cylons squared off. Max and Liz. Michael and Maria. Isabel and Alex. All of them major hotties – even Sheriff Valenti and Buddha boy Kyle.

We arrived in Roswell sans speeding tickets. (Must be good karma.) We made the rounds of the tourist traps, snapping pictures of all things alien from murals to street signs. The International UFO Center was a hoot, but I restrained my laughter since there were so many studious types from every corner of the world conducting research there. Even Mickey D’s had an alien mural facing the drive through. Cool!

The next day we hit Pecos Flavors Winery, a really neat tasting room on the main drag. I adore tasting rooms. Next to libraries, they’re one of my favorite places. Pecos Flavors, after several years of selling other New Mexico winery offerings, is now bottling their own wine since their grapes have finally matured.

We sampled several wines. Mr. Hottie favors reds. I like whites. And reds. And rosés. Tasting rooms offer free tastes of anything you fancy! What a great business model. We liked just about everything we tasted. Since we wanted to buy some to take home, we had to be extremely selective. After all, a sports car doesn’t have a great deal of trunk space. We finally settled on 6 bottles with most being a 2004 Reserve Merlot from St. Clair Winery.

Unlike Paul Giamatti’s character Miles Raymond in Sideways, I like a good Merlot and will never refuse to drink one. Old Miles did more to disparage Merlot than athlete’s foot in the vineyard.

In the past, St. Clair has produced award-winning Chardonnay, Cabernet, Sauvignon Blanc, and Muscat.

In case you didn't know, New Mexico has two designated appellations, Mimbres Valley and Mesilla Valley. An appellation is a wine-growing region with recognizable boundaries. St. Clair grapes are grown in the Mimbres Valley. The winery is located east of Deming and has an elevation of 4,500 feet which makes for warm days and cool nights. Sometimes the temp varies more than 30 degrees, making the region one of the best wine grape areas in the state. The Mimbres Valley provides about half of all the wine grapes used in New Mexico wines.

I’ll be honest with you. Their Cabernet was a bit too robust for my taste though Mr. Hottie liked it a lot. Maybe it’s a macho thing. When I drink a red, I want something I can uncork at the end of a long day and relax with. I want the nose, or the scent, to delight me when I sniff, not open every sinus cavity I possess. I want to fill my mouth with it and have it slide pleasantly down my throat without an acid burn or an aftertaste.

Mr. Hottie disparages my palate. Maybe he’s right, but, to me, wine drinking is like art appreciation. I know what I like. The St. Clair 2004 Reserve Merlot pleased us both. The wine fit my taste buds as comfortably as a pair of old jeans.

Flavorful, with a nice nose and a slightly fruity blend that doesn’t shriek fruity. That makes it pair with everything from ravioli to roast to burgers. Nice and smooth in your mouth with no afterburn.

The wine traveled safely home. We savored every drop and saved the last bottle for a special occasion. That occasion was being stuck in our Hill Country home by snow and ice. By the way, if you want to check out St. Clair or Pecos Flavors, they’re on the web. In fact, Pecos Flavors has humorous alien-inspired wine labels to celebrate Roswell close encounter.

Now, I’m pouring the last of the Merlot, and I’m remembering New Mexico and all those kitschy aliens while I’m sipping this delightful sunshine in a glass.

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Meet Jules Bennett
by Joan Reeves

This morning we're having coffee with Silhouette Desire author Jules Bennett. In addition to being a successful writer, Jules is also a wife and mom with 2 toddler girls. As if that wasn't enough to keep her super busy, she works full-time in a bustling beauty salon. Whew! Now I know why she told me that when she "has a moment to breathe, she enjoys the simple things like eating dinner and going to the bathroom."

Details

Her Innocence, His Conquest is available in print and ebook editions.

In case you'd like to ask Jules a question, email her at authorjules at gmail dot com and tell her you read her interview here.

Let's Get Comfy

Joan: Let's start with a fun question about celebrities to break the ice. Which celebrity is your guilty pleasure, the person you just have to read a gossip tidbit about? Why?

Jules: I always want to learn more about Sandra Bullock. It's hard because she's so private, but that's what I admire about her. She is so classy and seems like her common sense for reality keeps her grounded.

Joan: While we're talking about guilty pleasures, tell us if you have a fave TV show that you just can't stand to miss? What about it draws you in?

Jules: I have to watch Dancing with the Stars! I make no secret that I want to be on there, but, first, I guess I have to have the one requirement: I need to be a Star. I want to dress up in cool costumes or lavish ball gowns, not to mention the rigorous workout they get!

Inquiring Minds Want To Know

Joan: A lot of people say they're going to write a book one of these days, as if time were the only element required to complete the task. Of course, you and I know there's a lot more to it than that. Why don't you tell us how long you've been working at your craft and something about your first published book, the journey from the idea that you wanted to write a book to finally writing one for which you received a publishing contract.

Jules: I started writing in 2003, got my first contract in 2005 with The Wild Rose Press, then Samhain Publishing. In 2008, I got a call from my agent that my Silhouette Desire had sold! I never would've thought I could do it, but my agent assured me that my voice was perfect for Desire. (Guess she was right.)

Joan: What do you think distinguishes you from the other writers in your genre?

Jules: That's hard to say when there are so many wonderful imaginations out there. My agent and some reviewers have said I have a sexy voice with that emotional, realistic twist that makes me fresh.

Joan: We know this business is rife with rejection. Sometimes, it's hard to take. What keeps you going when you get rejected?

Jules: Hmm...I always took a rejection as, "Oh, yeah? What do you know?" They always propelled me to do better just to make that person sorry they turned me down.

Joan: What's your favorite "oh crap I got a rejection" food and/​or drink to soothe the savaged ego?

Jules: My hubby takes me to Cheesecake Factory for any occasion. Happy, sad, anything in between!

Joan: Who are your writing influences?

Jules: Every author who paved the way before me and set the bar for me to be a better writer. I love Roxanne St. Claire and Catherine Mann. Those two have been so sweet and generous of their time to a newbie like me. Not to mention they are awesome authors!

Joan: What's the best thing about writing?

Jules: Everything. I love that the "fake" people in my head get a real life with a happy ending, I love chatting it up with readers, I love brainstorming with other authors. I'm thrilled this is my career.

Joan: What's the worst thing about writing?

Jules: Sleepless nights, but even those don't bother me too much.

Joan: If there's someone in the audience who's interested in writing, what advice would you give them if they're just starting out?

Jules: Never give up. I would never tell my children to give up on a dream, so I felt that I couldn't, either. No matter how rough the road, keep going. It wouldn't be rewarding or worth it if everything came easy.

Joan: What's the one thing no interviewer has ever asked you that you'd really like to talk about?

Jules: No one has asked if they can find me a chef. Maybe you read my chaotic schedule? Yeah, there's no time for cooking around here unless hubby does it. I'd like to know some easy recipes or just an in-house chef;)

Joan: Do you have any final thoughts you'd like to share or is there anything else you'd like to tell us about anything?

Jules: I'm just grateful to all the readers who keep buying books in this shaky economy. I know we all want to get away from day to day drama and a good romance is certainly the way to do it! I'm also running a contest on my website to give away a Kindle, so make sure you check it out!

Thanks, Jules. It was a pleasure.

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INTERVIEW WITH MARILYN BRANT

Every woman remembers her firsts: her first kiss, her first lover and her first time contemplating an affair. At least, that's the premise of Friday Mornings at Nine
a new novel by award-winning fiction writer Marilyn Brant.

This morning, we have the pleasure of visiting with Marilyn, who has been a classroom teacher, a library staff member, a freelance writer and a national book reviewer. She lives in a Chicago suburb with her husband and son, surrounded by towers of books that often threaten to topple over and crush her.

Marilyn's novels have won the Golden Heart Award, Single Titles Reviewers' Choice Award and Booksellers' Best Award, and they've been selected for the Doubleday Book Club and the Book-of-the-Month Club. Marilyn tells me that when she's not working on her next story, she likes to travel, listen to music and find new desserts to taste test.

Hey, she's a girl we can all identify with — especially that dessert part. Be sure and drop by her blog or website to visit sometime soon. If you'd like email her, send mail to: marilynbrant AT gmail DOT com.

Book Info

Before we pop over to the Windy City for a chat, let me give you the book info about Friday Mornings at Nine because I know you'll want to get a copy.

Book Title: Friday Mornings at Nine
ISBN: 978-0-7582-3462-9
Author name: Marilyn Brant
Publisher: Kensington
Available: B&N and other book sellers

Fun Questions

Joan: Let's start with a fun question to break the ice. Which celebrity is your guilty pleasure, the person you just have to read a gossip tidbit about? Why?

Marilyn: I've always liked Jensen Ackles from "Supernatural." He doesn't inspire the same degree of celebrity gossip as, say, Robert Pattinson or Johnny Depp (who are fascinating to read about, too!), but I find Jensen's character on the show to be skillfully portrayed and it's made me curious to see him in other roles.

Joan: While we're talking about guilty pleasures, tell us if you have a fave TV show that you just can't stand to miss? What about it draws you?

Marilyn: There are a lot of shows I like, but the first one that came to mind was "Castle." I think that's largely on account of Nathan Fillion and the banter/​on-screen chemistry between him and the Kate Beckett character. Plus, with the lead character being a novelist, it's such fun to watch these fantastical portrayals of the writing life — which do not remotely resemble the typical writer's reality! I love seeing what special perks Richard Castle gets or what wild cocktail parties they have him attending, etc.

Joan: A lot of people say they're going to write a book one of these days, as if time were the only element required to complete the task. Of course, you and I know there's a lot more to it than that. Why don't you tell us how long you've been working at your craft and something about your first published book, the journey from the idea that you wanted to write a book to finally writing one for which you received a publishing contract.

Marilyn: I wrote songs and poems and little stories in elementary school, worked on the school newspaper and yearbook staff in high school, etc., but I didn’t take writing seriously until I was about 30. I was a stay-at-home mom/​former teacher with a baby and in desperate need of a creative outlet, so I began writing poems again, essays on being a parent and educational articles for family magazines. A surprising number of these were published, but I’d gotten so many rejections, too, that I was beginning to get desensitized to them.

I began my first novel in 2000, having never taken a creative-writing class or even having read a book on the craft of fiction. (The lack of craft is very evident when I reread chapters from that first book, by the way! I don’t recommend this level of ignorance.) I got some feedback, though — mostly negative — from a prominent literary agency, which led me to study fiction formally, delve into craft books and, eventually, go to my first writing conference and join Romance Writers of America.

I wrote 3 more unpublished manuscripts and, then, came up with the idea for According to Jane. An agent signed me on this book and submitted it to editors, but it needed to be significantly restructured before it sold. Nine months after it had won the Golden Heart Award (RWA's highest award for unpublished fiction), and I'd revised the book yet again, it sold to the Editor-in-Chief of Kensington Books on an extremely exciting day in April 2008.

Joan: The book, about which we're talking today, was what number book for you? 1st, 3rd, 7th?

Marilyn: Friday Mornings at Nine is my 2nd published novel, but my 7th completed manuscript. (I've written five books that have never been published. Two of them never, ever should be!)

Joan: Tell us something about the book from its inception to its birth. How did you come up with the title, and do you have a 1 sentence blurb or log line to tease readers? What do you think accounts for the popularity of your book?

Marilyn: The one-sentence blurb: "Friday Mornings at Nine is the story of three forty-something moms who begin to wonder if they married the wrong man...and what would happen if, just once, they gave into temptation with another...."

Coming up with the teaser was easy. Coming up with the title was a process that took months. The book actually had several different titles before my editor settled on this one.

As for the popularity of the story, I know a lot of woman of all different ages and backgrounds, and many of them would consider themselves happily married. Even so, there are very few women I've spoken with in private who did not admit that they'd wondered — at some point in their marriages — what would have happened if they'd chosen a different spouse. In some cases, they were haunted by the "what ifs" of an ex-boyfriend.

In others, it was someone new who brought out a different side of them, or paid attention to them in a way their husbands did not. In all cases, they were forced to reevaluate who they were and what they wanted. So, in my book, I really tried to show my characters going through the process of examining their lives and making a conscious choice as to where they were headed next — and with whom.

Joan: If they made a movie of this book, and that's a real possibility, who would you cast to portray the characters?

Marilyn: I'd love to see this onscreen. I imagine someone like Kate Winslet for Bridget, Calista Flockhart for Jennifer and Kim Cattrall for Tamara. Definitely a cast I'd enjoy seeing together!

Joan: We know this business is rife with rejection. Sometimes, it's hard to take. What keeps you going when you get rejected?

Marilyn: Oh, I get disappointed just like everyone, but good friends or close family members never fail to raise my spirits. I think, too, having been doing this for a decade now, I know everything happens in cycles. A genre that wouldn't sell five years ago can suddenly be the hottest thing on the market now. Editors or agents who said, "No, thanks," to working with you on a project can and do change their minds when an idea comes along that they love. There's a lot of doors closing but windows opening in this industry.

Joan: What's your favorite "oh crap I got a rejection" food and/​or drink to soothe the savaged ego?

Marilyn: All forms of chocolate. And lots of it.

Joan: Who are your writing influences?

Marilyn: Aside from a lifelong love of classic Jane Austen, I really enjoyed the domestic dramas of Sue Miller, Anne Tyler and Elizabeth Berg, as well as the lighter touch of Pamela Redmond Satran, Susan Elizabeth Phillips, Jennifer Crusie, Susan Wiggs and Jane Porter.
Joan: What are you working on now?

Marilyn: I just finished my 3rd novel, which will be out next fall. The title is still up for debate, but it's kind of a modern "A Room with a View" story. This woman gets a summer trip to Europe as a 30th birthday gift from her eccentric aunt and, so, leaves her comfort zone to travel from Italy to England with the members of her aunt's Sudoku and Mahjong club. There, she inevitably meets someone very interesting (and attractive!) and eats a lot of gelato and linguini. And I just want to emphasize that the inclusion of these food items was absolutely necessary to the plot. MAJOR turning points happened as a result of my heroine devouring these things. And the fact that I had to eat them while I was writing these KEY scenes was equally necessary...so I could get, you know, the tastes and textures just right. I'm all about the authenticity.

Joan: Oh, I would have been delighted to help out with the eating — especially the gelato. Turning my attention from my stomach to writing though. . . . What's the best thing about writing?

Marilyn: Getting to do something creative every single day. Truly, that’s been such a gift. Even when the plotting of a scene is giving me fits or the synopsis doesn’t seem to make sense at all… I love knowing that I have a place to play with these characters and storylines. My hope is that by writing about women’s dreams and experiences as honestly as possible, I might get closer to helping readers recognize truths about their own lives. It was this sense of recognition that my favorite novelists gave to me, and I'll always be grateful for that.

Joan: What's the worst thing about writing?

Marilyn: For me, it's the difficulty in maintaining a healthy balance between all of the different expectations put on a writer within the industry and the life the writer is supposed to live outside of it.

In the writing world, I'm juggling the promotion of one novel, the copy edits of another, the drafting of a third, the design/​updating of my blog and website, newsletters, speaking engagements, writing loops/​Facebook/​Twitter and reader emails.

In my home life, I'm still supposed to magically make dinner, shop for necessities, clean on occasion (ha!), keep up with my son's school/​extracurricular/​social life, stay in touch with friends, help care for aging family members, handle all the bills, and exercise once in a while... I never feel as though I'm managing everything smoothly or getting the balance just right.

Joan: I liken it to juggling bowling balls and chain saws. Marilyn, if there's someone in the audience who's interested in writing, what advice would you give them if they're just starting out?

Marilyn: Don’t follow trends just because you think it’ll be an easier sell. And write the books that fit your voice. If what you love writing happens to be a hot-selling genre, great. If your writing voice happens to be perfect for the genre you want to write in and love to read, that’s awesome, too. But — if not — write long and hard enough to find what DOES fit you and your style best. Because then, even if it takes longer to make that first sale than you expect, you’re writing the kinds of stories you most enjoy, and that passion has a way of working itself into the projects you’re creating.

Joan: Do you have any final thoughts you'd like to share or is there anything else you'd like to tell us about anything?

Marilyn: Just to say Thank You (!!) to everyone who's taken time to read my novels. There would be no need for storytellers if there weren't avid readers. I'm so honored to know that people have spent their free time with my characters, and I always look forward to hearing readers' thoughts on my books. Best wishes to you all!

Last Word

Meeting authors is always a delight because most of them, like Marilyn Brant, are generous with their time and their insights. Thanks, Marilyn, for joining us today. You've been a delight.

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HOW TO CHANGE A HABIT
by Joan Reeves

Every day you wear a perfectly tailored set of clothes. The clothes, chosen by you, have been made to your exact measurements. They fit like a second skin.

Time passes, and you begin to think about changing this set of clothes. You have found a new set of clothing that you want to put on, but it's not easy because you're still wearing the set you've worn for years.

Periodically you try to wriggle into this new set of clothes, literally forcing them over the ones you already wear, but gradually you realize you can't don the new clothing until the old clothing has been removed.

Though simplistic, this explains clearly why you can't change a habit or modify your behavior simply by deciding logically that you wish to do so.

TRIED BUT FAILED?

How many times have you tried to change a habit only to fail? You recognize certain habits are holding you back from achieving your goals. You even recognize self-destructive behavior patterns. Yet no matter how much effort you put forth, you can't stop those bad habits. You just can't seem to change.

Are you lacking in will power? No, you're merely human, acting and reacting in accordance with your brain's programming, and, by the way, you were the programmer.

SELF-IMAGE RULES

Habits and behavior are so closely intertwined with self-concept that the brain, out of self-protection, seeks to maintain the status quo. The human brain can't simply erase all its previous programming and begin to function under a new set of parameters simply because you say: "I'm going to stop smoking. I'm going to stop over-eating. I'm going to stop negative thinking."

To the brain, wiping out its programming would be the same as annihilating the identity you've created, your self-image. Yet, you know you need to change. Then how can you?

EXPERTS RESEARCH METHODS

Behavioral scientists, psychologists, and other professionals have pondered that question through the years. The short answer is that you must get your brain to let go of the old programming and accept new guidelines you want to live by. But how?

If you've tried to modify your behavior before, chances are you've experimented with some of the more common methods out there. Self-control is the most-frequently tried way.

This gives temporary control of your conscious brain, but, eventually, you revert to old habits and end up feeling frustrated and helpless, convinced you lack the will power to succeed.

DRUGS TO SHRINKS

Drugs, running the gamut of tranquilizers to appetite suppressants depending on what you're trying to achieve, have been used too often. This offers short-term chemical success, but no long-term achievement.

Psychotherapy has been used successfully and some claim aversion therapy, wherein the behavior comes to be associated with pain, can be successful. In fact, a few years ago aversion therapy clinics were all the rage.

The only thing everyone seems to agree on is that it's not easy to change your habits. Hindsight, being perfect, tells us that we should make the right habits to begin with. Ben Franklin was so wise when he said, "In the beginning the man makes the habits, and in the end the habits make the man."

How can you possibly change then? Through a combination of techniques.

TRY A COMBO

First, you must make a decision to change. You must look at where you are in life and where you want to be. Make the conscious decision to do something different.

Wayne W. Dyer noted in Your Erroneous Zones: "It requires a great deal of work to unlearn all of the habits you have assimilated until now." Yes, it is hard work, but it can be done.

In other words you have to remove your present set of clothes (your attitudes, self-concept, habits, whatever you want to call it) before you can dress in the new clothes (the new habit, behavior, attitude, self-concept).

After you make a decision to change, take some action to achieve that change.

DECIDE AND ACT

Here’s an easy action to take. This is something I learned from one of the first writing books I read a long time ago. The book was by one of my favorite authors, Lawrence Block.

He used to teach writing seminars and self-published Write For Your Life which was subsequently reprinted by a major publisher.

From the outset, I wanted to create good habits and good attitudes about my writing. This technique I learned from Larry Block's book may help you in your campaign to modify your behavior.

What is it? A written affirmation exercise used daily for thirty days. This exercise used in combination with other behavior modification techniques can greatly increase your chance of success.

AFFIRMATIONS ARE CHEAP TOOL

What is an affirmation? It's simply a strong, powerful positive thought that you introduce to your conscious brain that will seep into your sub-conscious brain. "Affirmations help you let go of negative thoughts and replace them with positive ones," according to mystery novelist Lawrence Block who introduced this process of writing affirmations many years ago in his seminars from which his book was written.

Written affirmations are easy to use and can produce amazing results in your life. Each day, morning and evening, for thirty days, you write the affirmation you've chosen to work with that day twenty times. The affirmations can deal with anything with which you struggle.

Need to enhance your self-image? Then work with: "I am a wonderful person and deserve the best life has to offer." Want to change your diet? Write affirmations that support this change such as, "I really enjoy eating fresh fruits and vegetables." Want to enhance your creativity? Try writing: "I feel creative and am creative." "Everyday I become more creative."

AFFIRMATIONS WORK

Working with an affirmation, which is nothing more than a strong positive statement, may help you feel as if you are really accomplishing something, particularly if you tailor the affirmation to a problem area.

For instance, if you have trouble finishing projects, perhaps an affirmation, "I always finish everything I start" will help you. Affirmations work because they saturate your intellect with positive thinking.

Trying to begin a fitness program? Improve your chances of starting and staying with it by using a group of self-image enhancers along with affirmations that encourage you to like moving her body, such as, "I like my body" and "I enjoy exercising each day" or "I feel great when I start the day with exercise."

After a month, you may find you look forward to a morning walk or fifteen minutes of weight lifting because you feel empowered.

Want to finally finish that novel? Design a set of affirmations that support that goal. One of Block's that is still stuck in my head is "Writing is easy and fun for me." Try, "I write (insert number of pages) every day." "I create fully-realized characters."

Affirmations at the beginning of the day also clear your head and allow you to better focus on what you are trying to achieve. Work with them before bedtime and they may work into your subconscious and dreams.

You may wonder why do it for thirty days? Most psychologists accept as a given that if you do something for thirty days, you've created a habit. It will be more difficult to revert to the prior behavior than to continue with the new.

For thirty days, you saturate your intellect with the strong powerful affirmations, focusing on a change in your habits or behavior. It is impossible not to think of the affirmations even when you've finished writing them for the day.

If you're trying to feel good about yourself by writing, "I am a winner at life," you may have a setback and find yourself thinking, "I failed again," only to have your consciousness surprise you by stating, "Wrong! You are a winner." The affirmation will pop up at the most opportune times.

Use affirmations to help effect a change in any aspect of your life - controlling stress, eating healthily, exercising more, or working more effectively.

SAMPLES

Here are a few affirmations for you to experiment with or use these to design an affirmation that speaks directly to what you wish to achieve:

1. I let go of the fear, guilt, and resentment that prevent me from attaining my full potential.
2. I am balanced and in harmony with life.
3. Everyday I am more and more self-confident.
4. I am very sure of myself.
5. I can do whatever I desire to do.
6. I am energetic and enthusiastic in all areas of my life.
7. I eat only healthy foods that give me energy and beauty.
8. I live a healthy lifestyle.
9. I enjoy moving my body.
10. I am a winner at all I attempt.

Affirmations are very individual. What may work for one person may not work for another. You are the best source for creating affirmations that will work best for you.

Create your own affirmations, just be sure they are stated in present tense in a positive format, i.e., I am, I have, I do, etc. Don't try an affirmation phrased in the negative, such as, "I will not do such and such." It won't work. The brain responds to the positive format stated as a situation already in existence, hence the positive, not negative statement, and present tense.

EASY DOES IT

Don't try to change everything in your life in one month. Pick one area, one affirmation or group of affirmations that affect one aspect of your life. Generally the image enhancers can be combined with any other affirmations.

Just don't try to convince your brain to stop smoking, lose weight, start exercising, become a positive thinker, write that novel, and get that promotion you really deserve - all in one month. Be realistic about behavior modification.

Of all the behavior modification techniques, writing affirmations is probably the easiest with which to experiment. It doesn't cost anything. You don't need to lie on a shrink's couch. You don't need a prescription. All you need is pen and paper and a few minutes of your time.

You have nothing to lose and everything to gain. So what are you waiting for?
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MEET RITA SCHIANO
by Joan Reeves

Today, we're chatting with Rita Schiano, the author of Painting The Invisible Man, ISBN: 0979534704, published by The Reed Edwards Company, and Sweet Bitter Love, ISBN: 1883061156, published by Rising Tide Press and distributed now through The Reed Edwards Company.

Rita can be found at her website (http:/​/​www.ritaschiano.com) and her blog Rita’s Not-So-Daily Word (http:/​/​www.ritaschiano.blogspot.com/​). She offers a free newsletter on her website and an archive of her blog radio program Talk To Me (http:/​/​www.blogtalkradio.com/​rita) wherein she interviewed creative people.

Now, let's chat with Rita.

How many years from your first manuscript to your first sale?

For Sweet Bitter Love, 1 1/​2 years; for Painting The Invisible Man, 3 years.

What has been your best experience as a published author?

Having the opportunity to go into schools and talk with kids about writing.

What has been your worst experience as a published author?

Can’t say I’ve had one.

What has surprised you most as a professional writer?

The sometimes profound effect my stories have had on people . . . on their self-exploration.

If you could write any story, without regard to it selling or any of those other business issues, what would you write?

I write those stories now. There is never a guarantee one’s work will sell.

What do you love about your career?

The freedom to explore myriad concepts, points of view, emotional and intellectual expression through my characters.

What do you hate about your career?

Not a thing.

If you got a big 6-figure advance for a book, what's the first thing you'd buy for yourself?

A Tempur-pedic mattress!

What is the best advice you can give beginning writers?

Write every day. Establish a disciplined schedule. Don’t fall in love with your words. Embrace the value of rewriting and honing your work.

What would you like readers to know?

The web site where to buy my books! Seriously, seek out and support new writers. Spend the little extra to buy a new book, not a used copy off Amazon or the like. Authors only get paid when a book sells new.

PS. Looking for some good summer reading? Check out my novel Painting The Invisible Man, and read what it’s like to grow up in a family on the fringe of the Mafia. I hope you'll tell your friends and family about this engrossing story too!

Thanks, Rita, for taking the time to visit with us and good luck with your books.

Readers, make a point to discover a new author today. It's a win/​win situation for you and the author.
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BRIEF HISTORY OF THE BLOG
by Joan Reeves

Since Authors Guild has created a blogging platform for its website, I thought I'd give everyone a little history lesson.

A few years ago I wrote a lengthy article called BLOG: HOT TREND OR TIME WASTER. At the time, I didn't even have a blog. Now, with the addition of the Authors Guild Blog tool, I have three. (Subsequently, I closed 2 of the blogs and only maintain my long-running SlingWords. I did have another blot, but I abandoned it because I grew very tired of the content being plagiarised by Internet scum. I also ghost write blogs for clients.

In my original article, I traced the history of the blog. Today, it's hard to imagine that some may not know what a blog is, but it's true. There's a big part of the world that still isn't wired in, and doesn't want to be.

If you know someone like that, and we probably all do whether it's a grandparent or a coworker who shuns the cyber world, here's a primer you can give them.

Blog, or Weblog for those who still may be unfamiliar with this online journal, falls under that “Good News, Bad News” heading.

Good News

The good news is that, used well, a weblog can be an effective business tool to promote your brand and foster name recognition and credibility as an expert. It's a social tool for building online relationships and communities.

Bad News

The bad news is that blogs can be addictive, as highly addictive as Free Cell, Solitaire, or Cubis. But far more educational and entertaining.

Weblogs are defined as a web application which contains periodic posts on a common webpage. They're usually posted in reverse chronological order with the newest at the top.

History

In the beginning, way back in the early nineties, they were labeled web log to avoid confusing them with a server log. Several internet sources cite Jorn Barger as the creator of the term weblog in December 1997.

Dave Winer, who runs the Scripting News weblog, states that Tim Berners-Lee at Cerner Corporation, a particle physics laboratory, created the first weblog. (If you’re interested, the content of this site is archived at the World Wide Web Consortium.)

In February 1996 Dave Winer (link was http:/​/​newhome.weblogs.com/​historyofweblogs but is no longer active) started his weblog as part of the 24 Hours of Democracy website.

In April, he added a news page for users of Frontier, a software program, and that page became Scripting News a year later. It’s still one of the longest-running weblogs on the Internet. Winer’s and Berners-Lee’s weblogs were like most of the early weblogs--political, business, or software related. The weblog began to mutate when people began using it as a personal vehicle for recording their thoughts, actions, and opinions. Weblogs became Personal Web Publishing Communities.

In 1999, Peter Merholz changed the word weblog and, for all practical purposes, changed society. Merholz, a founding partner of Adaptive Path, a user experience consulting company, has a blog that contains “Links, thoughts, and essays from Peter Merholz.”

In his entry Play With Your Words May 17, 2002, he told how he created the word blog, a phrase meaning “we blog” from weblog. “...it's weird to experience how my love of words and wordplay has actually made an impact. Sometime in April or May of 1999 (I can't say for sure when I exactly did it), I posted, in the sidebar of my homepage: ‘I've decided to pronounce the word "weblog" as wee'- blog. Or "blog" for short.’

I didn't think much of it. I was just being silly, shifting the syllabic break one letter to the left. I started using the word in my posts, and some folks, when emailing me, would use it, too. I enjoyed it's crudeness, it's dissonance...

As I wrote Keith Dawson after he added "blog" to Jargon Scout: ‘I like that it's roughly onomatopoeic of vomiting. These sites (mine included!) tend to be a kind of information upchucking.’ Blog would have likely died a forgotten death had it not been for one thing: In August of 1999, Pyra Labs released (the software) Blogger. And with that, the use of Blog grew with the tool's success.”

Present Day

Blogs had been around since then, but around 2004, they seemed to explode. Everyone, and her dog, has a blog. Check out the blog of Jasper, a black Labrador, if you don’t believe me. And that’s just one of thousands of hits Google shows. There are cat, parrot, rabbit, etc. blogs.

If you can think of a subject, there’s probably a blog for it with more being added each day. If you aren't visiting blogs, check them out. You may find them a great way to stay in touch with a special interest or the world at large.

If you aren't blogging, then you're missing out on a lot of fun, not to mention being part of a larger community. Give it a try. It's easy.

MEET JACQUELINE SEEWALD
My guest today is Jacqueline Seewald, author of the historical romantic suspense novel Tea Leaves and Tarot Cards, published by Five Star/​Gale, ISBN-13: 9781594149146.

Her novel is offered by the publisher, Five Star/​Gale, as well as Amazon.com, Borders Books online, and B&N online. Jacqueline told me that her novel is being offered at an excellent discount from Barnes&Noble online.

Welcome, Jacqueline. Let's break the ice with some. . .

Fun Questions

1. What's your favorite TV show and why?

I don’t watch a lot of TV. I usually read in the evening. But I do enjoy Antiques Roadshow. I’ve learned a lot from the program. It gives me a glimpse of other lives, cultures, and history. I enjoy several of the other shows on Public Broadcasting as well. For instance, I like both the Mystery and Masterpiece series.

2. What do you think is the most over-rated TV show and why?

I don’t watch enough TV to answer that question fairly.

3. Name a book, any genre, that means a lot to you and tell us why. (Feel free to mention more than 1.)

The Complete Works of Shakespeare, The Bible, these are books I’ve read and return to many times and discover more meaning with each rereading. On a lighter note, I’ve read and read Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice many times as well. It says so much about women’s lives, not just in the early Regency period but for all times.

4. Name a book that you were forced to read in school that you think was a time waste and please tell us why. (In school because that means dead authors and we don't want to hurt feelings. Again, feel free to mention more than 1.)

I disliked The Merchant of Venice which I was forced to read as a freshman in high school. Luckily, we read a good deal more of Shakespeare so that my dislike didn’t stick. But I never considered any of the works I read way back in high school to be a waste of time. Silas Marner by George Elliot was not a favorite of mine as a sophomore. I found it dull. But it was well-written.

Now, let's get down to business.

Sweet 16 Interview Questions

1. How long have you been writing?

Since I was able to physically write.

2. What number book was this? 5th, 7th?

I’m beginning to lose count. Let’s see, TEA LEAVES AND TAROT CARDS is my 9th published book. I’ll have a young adult novel STACY’S SONG that will be published later this year by L&LDreamspell, and that will count as number 10. I write fiction for children as well as teens and adults.

3. How long have you been working at your craft? Please tell us something about your journey from the idea that you wanted to write a book to finally writing one for which you received a publishing contract.

I’d love to tell you that it’s been an easy journey, but it hasn’t. I started creating stories when I was in grade school. I was a good student, and my teachers were encouraging. I entered several writing contests that I won back in grade school and high school. I wrote for all the school publications: magazine, newspaper and yearbook. But I didn’t write a novel until I finished college and had worked as an English teacher for several years. That first novel was a literary work that now lies at the bottom of a drawer somewhere. It never quite came together. My first published novel was sold to Crosswinds which was a young adult line put out by Harlequin at that time. When the editor called, I was terribly excited. It was quite a thrill being offered that contract, right up there with getting married and the birth of my first child.

4. Tell us something about this particular book. How did you come up with the title, and do you have a 1 sentence blurb or log line to tease readers?

Actually, my first title for the novel was THE GATES OF PARADISE from William Blake, one of my favorite poets, who I have briefly appear as a character in the novel. TEA LEAVES AND TAROT CARDS just popped into my mind as I rewrote the novel, and I decided I preferred it as a title.

The novel is not a typical Regency. It’s a sensual historical romance set in the Regency period. I believe the hero and heroine are well-developed characters. They are both passionate people. Here’s a blurb from the publisher’s catalog:

"Jacqueline Seewald's Tea Leaves and Tarot Cards delivers an unusual and intriguing heroine together with fast-paced historical romantic-suspense. Seewald is very much at home in her early 19th century setting." - Jayne Ann Krentz (Amanda Quick)

This will give you an idea of how the novel starts:

At a ball in Regency London in 1816, Maeve, part gypsy, part mystic and accounted an original by the ton, meets the dashing Marquess of Huntingdon, a fashionable sophisticate and handsome rake. The attraction between them is immediate and powerful. The Marquess dances with Maeve who he finds secretive and mysterious, as well as sexually desirable. He also decides to do whatever it takes to make her his mistress. Maeve, however, doesn't want to be any man's mistress. She values her freedom. What she does want is for Adam, the Marquess of Huntingdon, to help her friend, Lady Caroline, avoid a loveless marriage to Adam's cousin, a man old enough to be the girl's father. The novel is a charming, witty, fast-paced historical romance with elements of mystery, the paranormal and romantic suspense.

5. Do you have any "under the bed" books? If so, how many, and what do you plan to do with them?

I’ve written five more adult novels, mostly romances, that I hope to interest either an agent or publisher in purchasing at some point. I believe they are quality fiction. I’ve also written several more young adult novels that I hope will interest agents and/​or editors.

6. If they made a movie of your book, who would be cast to portray the characters?

I can see Angelina Jolie in the part of Maeve. I think she’d be the perfect choice: dark, passionate, mysterious. As for Adam, there are just too many sexy actors to choose from, but I believe someone with a British background and an air of sophistication would be perfect. He’s a difficult character to get because Adam is an aristocrat, well-mannered and polished on the surface but a troubled man beneath with unresolved conflicts.

7. What keeps you going when you get rejected?

Believe me, there have been many times when I thought I’d give up writing for good. I’d say things like I should be scrubbing the floors, how that would be a better investment of my time. But when I do housework, my mind is still on my writing. I write because I can’t not write. I suppose it’s an obsession or an addiction.

8. What's your favorite "oh crap I got a rejection" food and/​or drink to soothe the savaged ego?

When it hurts too much, I get away from home, do something that’s fun or different with my husband. We enjoy taking long walks together. As to food, I love ice cream, although I have to settle for low fat or fat free these days.

9. Who are your writing influences?

Honestly, I read everything. I enjoy mystery, romance, but I read literary fiction, horror, science fiction even fantasy. Every writer I read is an influence. I have so many favorite writers that have influenced me. In romance fiction, Jayne Ann Krentz is number one with me because she does it all. Her novels are uniformly excellent. That was why I asked her to read my novel well in advance of publication. I’m honored that she agreed.

10. What are you working on now?

At this moment, I’m re-editing a health article that will appear in TEA A Magazine. I also write quite a bit of nonfiction. I enjoy doing research.

11. What do you now know that you wish you'd known when you started?

Not to take life quite so seriously, the bad or the good. I tend to be too uptight, too much of a perfectionist. I demand too much of myself. I’m trying to change that.

12. What's the best thing about writing?

Picking and choosing what projects I decide to undertake, working for myself, being independent.

13. What's the worst thing about writing?

With freelance writing, there’s no steady paycheck as when I worked as a teacher and then as an educational media specialist/​school librarian.

14. Do you have writing goals? If so, would you share some with us?

For me it’s very simple. I just intend to write the best possible work I am capable of creating whether novels, short stories, plays, poetry or nonfiction.

15. What advice would you give someone just starting out?

Write if you must, but don’t expect to become rich or famous. Some authors do; however, it’s not that common.

16. Anything else you'd like to tell us?

Just that if I had it to do over again, I’d likely not change anything but my attitude toward life. I’d be more positive and worry less. I think having a relaxed outlook greatly helps writers become successful at their craft.

Thank you, Jacqueline, for visiting with us today. Good luck with Tea Leaves and Tarot Cards.

The Last Word

Behind every book is a writer looking for a reader. I hope you'll put this author on your to be discovered list and buy her book today.

(This interview was previously published on this website Feb. 2011 as well as on Joan Slings Words and SlingWords.)
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MEET BETH ORSOFF

Today I have the pleasure of introducing you to Beth Orsoff, author of HONEYMOON FOR ONE which is a Kindle book. You'll probably want to order Beth's book, so here's the Kindle ASIN: B003VYBEOS to make it even easier for you to locate it.

I read Honeymoon For One, and reviewed it last week. In a word: delightful.

About Beth

Beth Orsoff writes humorous women's fiction. She lives in Los Angeles with her husband and an eight-year-old Tickle Me Elmo. You can find Beth on the web, at these sites:

Beth Orsoff.com

Beth on Facebook

Beth's Amazon Author Page.

If you'd like to write to Beth, you can use this email: beth (at) bethorsoff (dot) com.

Now, let's pour a fresh cup of coffee and start chatting with Beth Orsoff.

Fun Questions To Break The Ice

Joan: Moby Dick or Jaws? Why?

Beth: Definitely Jaws. I read to be entertained, not put to sleep (I apologize in advance to any Moby Dick fans out there). Plus I'm fascinated by sharks. I'm an avid snorkeler, occasional scuba diver, and I never miss a "Shark Week" on Discovery Channel.

Joan: What's your TV guilty pleasure? Why?

Beth: VH1's "100 Greatest One Hit Wonders of the 80s." I generally avoid reality television, but I cannot turn away from this show. I think it's because every song they play brings back a childhood memory.

Joan: Name a book, any genre, that means a lot to you and tell us why. (Feel free to mention more than 1.)

Beth: Bridget Jones's Diary by Helen Fielding. It was the first "chick lit" book I read (excluding Jane Austen, who we weren't calling chick lit back when I was in high school and college). It was laugh out loud funny, and it made me realize that you didn't have to write like Hemingway or Fitzgerald to be a writer.

Joan: Name a book that you were forced to read in school that you think was a time waste and please tell us why. (In school, because that means dead authors, and we don't want to hurt feelings. Again, feel free to mention more than 1.)

Beth: This is a tough question. I was an English major in college so there were a LOT of books that I was forced to read that I thought were a waste of time. Since I've managed to purge them from my memory, I had to go to my bookshelf and pull out one of those old college Norton Anthologies. I had vague recollections of reading Tennyson's "Ulysses" and sure enough, it had my notes all over it. Finally, a justification for having saved those thick, heavy, boring books for twenty years!

The Sweet 16

1. How long have you been working at your craft? Please tell us something about your first published book, the journey from the idea that you wanted to write a book to finally writing one for which you received a publishing contract.

Beth: I purchased my first "How to Write a Novel" book in 1994. It was the first book I'd purchased after completing the torturous three-day California Bar Exam. Clue that I'd chosen the wrong career path? I was a very tentative fiction writer. I wrote all the time as a lawyer, but that's a very different kind of writing.

During my early years as a lawyer, I took many writing courses at UCLA Extension, and I didn't really find my "voice" until 1999 in a class titled "Discovering the Writer Within." I wrote a story about a date I went on with a budding pilot who couldn't land the plane. That story got a lot of laughs, and I had my lightbulb moment – this is what I should be writing. It took a couple more years and ultimately a sabbatical from the day job, before I finished my first book, Romantically Challenged in 2002.

Or at least I thought I was finished. I started sending out query letters to agents, and received a lot of requests for partials, and fulls, but they all passed. I thought, I'm close, but not quite there yet. I ended up submitting the novel to UCLA Extension's Manuscript Evaluation program and getting a professional opinion from a writer/​editor/​instructor. I sent her the fifth draft with the notes I'd received from agents who rejected it (all containing conflicting advice, of course), and she sent me back an eight-page single-spaced e-mail detailing all of the things that were wrong with my book.

I adopted the vast majority of her suggestions (she wanted me to ax my character's Tickle Me Elmo doll, but I just couldn't agree to that one), wrote two more drafts, set it aside for almost a year when I got engaged and planned my wedding and honeymoon, then started sending it out to agents again. Two months later I had an offer of representation, and six weeks after that I had an offer of publication from NAL.

The book was published in 2006, and I threw a book signing party at Borders to celebrate. I thought I just had to sign the books (and provide the wine), but I was told by the homeless woman who attends all of Borders' events that, no, I had to read from the book too. I read the version of the airplane/​date story that made it into the published version of the book. It still got a lot of laughs.

2. The book about which we're talking today was what number book for you? 1st, 3rd, 7th?

Beth: Third. I'm not the world's fastest writer.

3. Tell us something about this particular book. How did you come up with the title, and do you have a 1 sentence blurb or log line to tease readers?

Beth: I had always dreamed of going to Tahiti. When my husband proposed, I had no idea what kind of wedding I wanted, but I knew exactly where we'd be going on our honeymoon. I suffered through planning the ceremony and reception, but I relished every moment of planning the honeymoon trip.

We visited three Tahitian islands (including Bora Bora, which is just as beautiful as you imagine it would be). Every couple we met was either a honeymooner or a couple celebrating a special anniversary. Tahiti is not a place one would want to go to alone.

It was a couple of years later (maybe I'd been thinking about the honeymoon) when I had a dream about a woman who was dumped at the altar, but still wanted to go on her lovingly planned and long dreamed of tropical honeymoon. And that's how Honeymoon for One was born.

I changed the setting to Belize, added a murder, a neurotic, conspiracy-spouting best friend, a mysterious antiquities dealer, a hot scuba instructor, and an adorable turtle named Fred. Six months later, I had a novel AND a logline: There are worse things in life than getting dumped at the altar, and being accused of killing your fake husband in a third world country where you can't speak the language is one of them.

4. This book is one you published for eBook readers. How did you make that transition from print to eBook?

Beth: My agent shopped Honeymoon for One to all the major publishers in 2007, but it had no takers. At the time I thought about submitting it myself to e-book publishers, but my agent was against it. She felt that once my next book sold, that Honeymoon for One would sell too.

Fast forward three years, my new agent was shopping my new manuscript, How I Learned to Love the Walrus, when my first book Romantically Challenged, went out of print. The rights reverted back to me, and I decided to re-release it as an e-book on Kindle. It began selling with absolutely no promotion (I suspect the $2.99 price point helped), but since it had been print published, it already had a lot of critical and reader reviews.

Honeymoon for One was an experiment – could I sell an e-book that had never been print published? To my surprise and delight, Honeymoon for One immediately started selling better than Romantically Challenged, even with no reviews. In fact, several readers have told me that they enjoyed Honeymoon for One so much that they went back and bought Romantically Challenged too. I believe that's true because after Honeymoon for One started selling, the sales of Romantically Challenged picked up too.

5. Do you have any "under the bed" books? If so, how many, and what do you plan to do with them?

Beth: I have one "under the bed" book. It's a chick lit novel entitled Disengaged which I wrote after I sold Romantically Challenged but before that book was published. A few friends who have read it and liked it asked me why I haven't put that one up on Kindle too. The answer is eventually I probably will. But I know it needs a rewrite, and I'm focusing my energies on newer projects right now. But someday . . . .

6. If they made a movie of your book, who would be cast to portray the characters?

Beth: Lizzie - Anna Kendrick; Jane--Emily Blunt (with a blonde wig)

7. What keeps you going when you get rejected?

Beth: It's hard sometimes. But a good writing day is the best high I know. I guess you could say I keep going because I'm an addict.

8. What's your favorite "oh crap I got a rejection" food and/​or drink to soothe the savaged ego?

Beth: Baskin-Robbins Hot Fudge Sundae. Good for the soul, bad for the thighs.

9. Who are your writing influences?

Beth: I love Emily Giffin's first two novels, Something Borrowed and Something Blue. She managed to make readers care about heroines who do some less than heroic things. That takes real talent. Giffin's also a former lawyer, which gives me hope too. I'm also a fan of Janet Evanovich's "Stephanie Plum" series. Ranger or Joe? Joe or Ranger? Someday that girl is going to have to decide. In the meantime, it's fun watching her struggle.

10. What are you working on now?

Beth: I'm one of those "seat of the pants" writers who doesn't outline, so I never really know what a book is about until I've written it. I'm tinkering with a new book that is going to contain two sisters, a couple of hot guys (one good, one bad), and a lost fortune. That's all I know so far!

11. What do you now know that you wish you'd known when you started?

Beth: That selling the second book is even harder than selling the first!

12. What's the best thing about writing?

Beth: When the characters come alive. It's an amazing experience.

13. What's the worst thing about writing?

Beth: Rejection, whether it's in the form of an editor passing on a manuscript, or a reader's bad review.

14. Do you have writing goals? If so, would you share some with us?

Beth: I used to want to be a NY Times Bestselling Author. I've scaled back. Now I just want to be a selling author :) Although my goal is still to eventually be in a position where I can earn a living off of my writing and quit the day job.

15. What advice would you give someone just starting out?

Beth: The Stephanie Meyers's, J.K. Rowling's, and Stieg Larsson's of the world are aberrations. For most of us, the road to publication and professional success is a marathon not a sprint.

16. Do you have any particular advice for a writer wanting to publish for eBooks?

Beth: Just because you can publish your first draft, doesn't mean you should. E-books offer an amazing opportunity for writers. But if you want to be a professional writer, you need to put out a professional product. Do not type "the end" and immediately upload to Kindle.

Joan: I've really enjoyed chatting with you, Beth. Is there anything else you'd like to tell us about anything?

Beth: Thank you, Joan, for offering me this opportunity; and thank you, readers, for buying my books!

Honeymoon for One is a delightful blend of mystery, humor, and BFF relationships with a dash of romance tossed in for good measure. Try it. I think you'll like it.

(Previously published on SlingWords).
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Meet Cynthia Wicklund

I'm pleased to welcome newly minted author Cynthia Wicklund. Cynthia should have her portrait next to the word persistence in the dictionary. She's been a writer for a long time, but she never has been able to find an editor who appreciates her unique stories. Until now.

Her first book Lord of Always, ISBN 9781419925504, has been published by Cerridwen Press. I first purchased a download copy. Today, I discovered the Kindle edition had been published so I got that too. Read the first few sentences, and you'll see why I wanted it on my Kindle too.

You can find this talented and persistent author hanging out at her website or on her Author Page at Cerridwen Press. If you'd like to contact her, she can be reached by email at cynthia at CynthiaWicklund dot com.

First, we'll warm up our conversational engines with a couple of fun questions.

What's your fave? Star Trek (old or new) or Star Wars (old or new) and why?

Both of the older series, but forced to choose, I’d say the old Star Trek. I have a real soft spot for the original series and Captain Kirk. I have to say, though, I loved last year’s Star Trek remake. It paid homage to the 60's series while updating it brilliantly. What fun!

If they made a movie of your book, who would be cast to portray the characters?

For the hero, James Purefoy (The Philanthropist) as the character he played in A Knight’s Tale. Aristocratic in a casual way, refined, but not stuffy. Handsome without being perfect. Yep, he’d do. As for the heroine, maybe Rachel Weisz or someone like her?

Okay, Cindy! Now let's get to the more serious questions.

1. How long have you been writing?

Almost 19 years off and on.

2. What number book was this? 5th, 7th?

This was my 5th completed novel. I finished it in 2005 and was fortunate enough to final in RWA’s Golden Heart that year. So I felt it had potential if I could just edit it properly. The first thing I did was remove a 10 page prologue (set up) and replace it with a one paragraph intro. I began to get more interest in it after that.

3. Would you tell us something about your journey from the idea that you wanted to write a book to finally getting a contract for one?

Unlike many writers I didn’t start writing until I was an adult. It was a gradual process for me, from being mostly a dabbler, to joining writers’ organizations, to taking classes, to becoming part of a critique group and entering contests. I knew I was serious about pursuing publication when I finished my first book and submitted it to a real publishing house. When I started getting requests, that was validation enough to keep me going.

4. How did you find that title and do you have a 1 sentence blurb or log line for us?

I have this fascination with the mystical and what part the soul plays in the human it inhabits. Does it guide through intellect or emotion? Both? Who knows? I wanted to show how my hero is transformed when his soul is exchanged for another one. His memories, however, along with his understanding of who he is, are left intact. Obviously, this change creates quite a bit of chaos in his life and the lives of his wife and family.

The title was somewhat evolutionary, and to be honest I don’t remember the sequence of events that got me there. All I remember is the original title was very bland and generic, and bland can be worse than bad.

This is the blurb I use, as it’s the basic premise of the story: How does a good and honorable man atone for wicked deeds he committed when he was neither good nor honorable?

5. How many under the bed books do you have?

Everything else I’ve ever written. But I still think about those books, and, occasionally, I’ll think of ways to revive one of them. Saying that, I think it’s a mistake never to let them go. Part of being a successful writer is learning to move on to the next project.

6. What do you plan to do with them?

Nothing. I keep them to remind me of where I’ve been and where I want to go. And there’s always that vague hope that one day they’ll see the light of day. Unsold books are like your children – you love even the imperfect ones.

7. What keeps you going when you get rejected, and what's your favorite "oh crap I got a rejection" food and/​or drink to soothe the savaged ego?

To answer the first part, for the first 24 hours, not much. After that, the worst of the sting eases, and I go back and look at the rejection – if I’ve received a personal note – to see if I can find anything positive to hang onto. An editor once apologized for being unable to buy my book, but she couldn’t get it past the final editorial stage. She did, however, tell me I had a great career ahead of me. That one comment kept me motivated for a very long time.

My favorite rejection food is something with hot apples and cinnamon and vanilla ice cream. Won’t fix anything but it helps. A lot.

8. Who are your writing influences?

I read a lot of Victoria Holt in the day. I think that’s where I learned to love the Gothic-style, darker, moody stories. Of course, Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte is top of my list in that category.

9. What are you working on now?

I have a traditional Historical (Victorian) that’s about two-thirds complete, probably most suitable for a market like Harlequin. I’m also plotting an Urban Fantasy. I know, I know, there are a lot of them out there right now. But that’s what interests me, and I have to like what I’m writing to have any hope of writing well.

10. What do you now know that you wish you'd known when you started?

The pall that trying to get published puts on the old muse. I’m not certain I’d have wanted to know that in advance, however, because I may never have written a word. And that would have been a shame because writing’s given me so much.

11. What's the best thing about writing?

The creative process. Not knowing how to put into words what you’re seeing in your head and then coming up with just the right phrase or sentence or paragraph that brings that image to life. Words can be tangible things like paint on a canvas. I love working with words.

12. What's the worst thing about writing?

The pursuit of publication. Working in a vacuum and feeling insecure. Not knowing whether you’re brilliant or deluded. Having many ideas but unable to choose a direction for fear of choosing badly because of that publication thing. That’s more than one worst, isn’t it?

13. Do you have writing goals? If so, would you share some with us?

My goals are somewhat fluid, subject to change. Probably explains why publication has been a long time coming for me. Those writers with the greatest focus, who let nothing derail them, get there the quickest. Talent is part of the equation, but talent alone won’t get you there.

14. What advice would you give someone just starting out?

Listen. Don’t take everything you hear as gospel, but be willing to learn. No matter how good you are, you don’t know it all. A little humility goes a long way. And make writer friends. They will understand and be there for you (thank you, Joan!) when no one else will.

15. Anything else you'd like to tell us?

Know your strengths and play to them regardless of what the newest trend is. I think it’s rare for writers to get published chasing the market unless they’re already established. Besides, if you’re writing something you don’t love, it’s most likely going to be obvious, and you’ve spent all that time writing the supposed next big thing and nobody wants to buy it.

16. Since this is the last question, I'll make it a two parter. First, name a book or 3 that you were forced to read in school that you think are a time waste and why. (In school because that means dead authors and we don't want to hurt feelings.) Second, name 3 books, any genre, that mean a lot to you and why.

Okay, I’m going to expose myself as one of the unwashed masses by admitting this, but I’d have to say the works of Shakespeare for books that I was forced to read. Truth is, I’m not all that intrigued by having to struggle to understand what an author is saying to me. I want to immerse myself in a story, not fight my way through it. And his works are just archaic enough to make them more work than fun. Having said that, I’m not denigrating his brilliance. Not for me in no way means not great.

Second, books that mean a lot to me. To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee was transformational for me as a young person. I asked a lot questions I’d never thought to ask before after reading that book. And the movie with Gregory Peck was just as exceptional.

The Warrior’s Apprentice (and subsequent Vorkosigan novels) by Lois McMaster Bujold. Ms. Bujold took a deformed little man (Miles) and gave him the mind and heart of a giant. To me that character is the poster child to the concept “bigger than life.”

The Jane Whitefield series by Thomas Perry. A strong Native American woman with a little James Bond in her. She fascinates me.

Cindy, thanks for visiting today and good luck with your book!

Okay, readers. The rest is up to you. If you'd like to read some reviews of Lord of Always by Cynthia Wicklund, visit Single Titles and Night Owl Reviews.

If you like a romance novel with heart and soul, Lord of Always is your kind of book. Get it today.
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DESIGN YOUR OWN REWARD SYSTEM
by Joan Reeves


Do you set goals? If so, do you give it everything you've got, do whatever it takes to achieve your goal? Yes? Then good for you. So what do you do to reward yourself when you've achieved that milestone?

Uh oh. Too many just shrug and look blank. I was like that once. I thought just achieving the goal was reward enough. Well, it is, and it isn't. Even worse, it can be a blueprint for burnout.

**Self-Employment Requires Self-Motivation**

In any self-employment endeavor, from writing to art to a home bookkeeping service, the work is often solitary, arduous, and, on many days, unrewarding in itself. The payoff for all you do may be on down the line. This is true for any entrepreneur, but for those in the arts, the reward may be so far out into the future that you can't see a glimmer of it. Sometimes, you may work faithfully on a project that never pays off.

It's only human nature, after a lot of this goal seeking and goal achieving with no reward, to become less gung ho the next time around. Too many of those times, and you suffer apathy which is just a symptom of burnout.

**For Writers**

Goal setting usually means: get the damn book written. Okay, you get it from your brain to paper. Now what? You try to sell it. You get turned down flatly by everyone. Next step? Write another book. Full speed ahead. It's finished. It fails to find a buyer. No reward again. Okay, now what?

You find yourself hesitant to try again, reluctant to start the process all over. Yet you do. Only this time, you're not so pumped. You aren't dedicated to the goal. The evil voice of rationalization jumps in. Why bother? It won't sell either. Just go watch Bones on TV.

This is where I'd yell like a Hollywood director. "You've got the scene wrong. Cut." Some flunky would come out and slap a black and white clapboard together.

**What's Wrong**

You're working hard to achieve a goal without allowing yourself a reward. Now, don't tell me the reward will be getting it published because that's something you have NO control over. Remember this: goal setting and goal achievement only works if it's something you control. You control the writing. You control the submission process. You will never control the acquisition process, and all the positive thinking and positive imaging in the world won't change that.

Lots of good books don't get published. Lots of questionable books do. In other words, that's all a crap shoot that you can't predict. So if you're writing manuscripts and waiting for publication as the reward, you're doomed to lose your fire. Worse, your motivation to write will erode like a sand dune in a hurricane.

YOU set the goal. YOU achieve the goal. YOU reward yourself. And a corollary to that is: reward yourself every step of the way from little achievements to large.

Goal: write 4 pages a day. Result: you did it for 1 week. Great. What reward did you set? The purchase of that book you've been wanting to read? A banana split from Sonic?

Goal: finish a chapter in a specified amount of time. Result: you did it. Reward: anything you previously decided was appropriate.

Goal: finish the book. Result: yes! Reward: dinner and dancing or a weekend at a B&B or anything that makes you feel rewarded for all your hard work.

So that's the deal. If you're a writer - or any other kind of entrepreneur who must be your own motivator - design a system of rewards for every step of your journey. I won't have to tell you how to celebrate and reward yourself if the outside world smiles on you, i.e. a publishing contract with a big, fat advance. We all have our own ways to howl at the moon.

Whether it's a smiley-face sticker or a sports car, make sure you celebrate the milestones from the seemingly insignificant to the magnificent.

THE APPEAL OF HORROR
by Joan Reeves


Do you know why some people really like mystery or romance? Or why others like science fiction or horror? The reasons are universal in that people all over the world respond to the genres because of the same reasons - reasons that speak to an individual on a sub-conscious level based on what the individual values.

DIFFERENT GENRES, DIFFERENT REASONS

Science fiction appeals because of the desire for science or intellectualism to triumph over problems or challenges.

Romance appeals because of the desire for love and belonging.

Mystery appeals because of the desire for justice.

Fantasy appeals because of the desire for imagination and magic to conquer problems.

Horror appeals because of the desire for good to triumph over evil.

Now, you may not watch some spatter punk film or read some gross gore horror and see it as good triumphant over evil. Nevertheless, that is what it's all about.

You can take any horror book or film and boil it down to its basic components, and you'll find it's always a battle of good versus evil. At least the successful examples of this genre are. The unsuccessful examples probably were meant to be that, but somewhere along the way, the story had an identity crisis. probably because the writer didn't know the genre well enough to understand its dynamics.

FROM CAVEMAN TO URBAN MAN

The horror story is ancient. I imagine some caveman telling stories around the campfire tried to scare the T-Rex out of his listeners. Horror connects with those not-so-logical parts of our brains. The primitive parts that tell us to get scared by what goes bump in the night. Stories from ancient times to today's urban myths are the end result, and people voluntarily listen, read, or watch in order to be frightened and to subsequently be reassured that good wins over the evil.

The Horror genre has always reflected the anxieties of each generation. In the original Dracula film NOSFERATU, the story wasn't just about a vampire. It was a metaphor for the seemingly senseless and random deaths in the first world war and the later world flu epidemic.

The Dracula tale is told anew for each generation. Even George Hamilton's comic turn as the Count in LOVE AT FIRST BITE was a reflection of the superficial, hedonistic 1970s disco party decade and the greed-is-good 1980s that was rising.

What's really interesting is to take older horror films and contrast them with remakes to see what group stars as the villain and what the message is.

In previous decades, vampires, mummies, Wolf Man, and zombies starred as monsters. After the war with the threat of nuclear bombs, aliens and robots were the monster along with giant insects and other animals. All these reflected fears arising from the unknown. From UFOs to the effects of radiation, people were worried and writers and movie makers used this in their work.

MODERN MONSTERS

Today, even with amazing visual effects, it's hard to create a really terrible monster when the evening news is full of stories about serial killers, war deaths, kids rampaging through schools, and parents murdering their own children. So tellers of tales ramp up the horror thus giving us Thomas Harris's books about Hannibal Lecter and movies like the Morgan Freeman-Brad Pitt flick Se7en.

Perhaps the last good monster flick was ALIEN and ALIENS - forget any that followed those two in that series - and the Schwarzenegger flick PREDATOR. What made those two films really scary and worthy of the horror label wasn't the monster per se. It was the suspense as the monster picked the victims off one by one without the audience ever really seeing the monster.

In other words, it was the unknown, the fear of what goes bump in the night when you're imagining the absolute worst. And then you find out what you imagined wasn't nearly bad enough.

If the horror storyteller understands the genre and stays true to its conventions, then good will inevitably triumph over evil.

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FROM WORDSWORTH TO NICKELBACK
by Joan Reeves

Did you know that April is the month to celebrate poetry? Now, don't give me that look. Poetry isn't something out of reach of the mainstream audience. It's very much a part of our pop culture, and is for everyone not just the MFAs of the world.

Poetry Defined

Poetry is drenched with emotion. It speaks of despair and darkness as well as of triumph of the human spirit. It's filled with symbolism or bluntly direct.

You may have slept through some English Lit class where a professor droned on about Byron, Keats, Blake, Elizabeth Barret Browning and others, but what those poets had to say about life and love and lust and turmoil holds up in today's world. Good poetry reflects the world around it and never becomes obsolete. Let me give you a few favorites and a new perspective.

William Blake

"Tiger, tiger burning bright, in the forest of the night." Is this about a tiger? No, it's about the evil that's manifested in man. Read "The Tiger" and its counterpart "The Lamb."

John Donne

Did you see "About A Boy" starring Hugh Grant? When he quotes, "No man is an island," he's talking about the poem by Donne. In fact, that's what the entire movie is about. Read "No Man Is An Island" for a perspective on human relationships.

William Wordsworth

Feel harried and frazzled by the frantic modern world? Read "The World Is Too Much With Us". Wordsworth identified with that feeling because he felt man was losing the ability to see the Divine in nature.

Lord Byron

This poet gave us "She Walks In Beauty."

"She walks in beauty, like the night of cloudless climes and starry skies." Penned a couple of centuries ago, this continues to be inspiration for artists, writers, movie makers, and musicians, not to mention for those who fancy themselves in love.

John Keats

Writers feel the desperation that Keats felt when he penned "When I Have Fears."

"When I have fears that I may cease to be /​ Before my pen has gleaned my teeming brain." Ironically, Keats did die young.

Alfred, Lord Tennyson

Some point to "Locksley Hall" as proof that the Victorian poet held a belief in premonition or perhaps reincarnation. "For I have dipped into the future /​ far as human eye could see /​ Saw the vision of the world /​ and all the wonder that would be."

Elizabeth Barrett Browning

Ah, "Sonnets from the Portuguese, Sonnet 43." This soaring ode to deep, abiding love is still used in everything from greeting cards to wedding vows. "How do I love thee? Let me count the ways."

Dylan Thomas

As you get older, you begin to appreciate "Do Not Go Gentle into That Good Night."

"Do not go gentle into that good night /​ Old age should burn and rave at close of day /​ Rage, rage against the dying of the light."

Contemporary Poets

Poetry still enriches our lives. (http:/​/​www.fallsapart.com/​) Sherman Alexie's "Reservation Love Song."

"I can meet you /​ in Springdale buy you beer & take you home /​ in my one-eyed Ford."

Margaret Walker (http:/​/​tinyurl.com/​ch9w6y): "Dark Blood."

"There were bizarre beginnings in old lands for the making of me."

Another Perspective

All of the above is poetry, but so are the lyrics of a really great song. From a classic like Paul Simon's "Sounds of Silence" with its memorable words: "Hello, darkness, my old friend." to Selena's "I Could Fall In Love" with romantic words like "I could lose my heart tonight...." to Herbert Kretzmer's "I Dreamed A Dream" from Les Meserables. "I dreamed a dream in time gone by...."

These unforgettable words were sung most recently by the fabulous Susan Boyle on "Britain's Got Talent" and won the hearts of the world.

Then there's Nickelback's "I Figured You Out" with scathing lyrics by Chad Kroeger.

All these examples are poetry.

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SO THIS IS CHRISTMAS
by Joan Reeves©2008
All Rights Reserved


T'is the season to be jolly. But have you noticed how many articles discuss holiday depression? There's almost as many as the ones that tell how to create memorable holidays.

I think this reflects the way many have come to regard Christmas, as the most difficult time of the year, not the most wonderful. By the time the Thanksgiving turkey has been carved, we anticipate the holiday blues even as we exhort ourselves to fight them. Then, we add more stress by wanting to find the perfect gifts, throw the perfect party, serve the perfect dinner.

Visions of a Norman Rockwell Christmas that will live forever in memory dance in our heads. Yet, on Christmas morning, many experience disappointment, or worse, a pervading sense of gloom as we look at the crumpled pile of expensive paper and shiny ribbons, discarded toys, and the mountain of charge slips. We shrug our shoulders and mutter, “Christmas just isn't the same anymore.” And it isn't. Because somewhere along the way, we've lost sight of the meaning of Christmas.

How trite, you say. How true, I say.

For those of us who celebrate Hannakah or who profess to be Christians, this time of year is supposed to have religious significance for us. Yet, how many people actually do something to celebrate their faith? Hanging onto our religion is almost impossible as we inch across the overpass to the mall, cursing the drivers who cut in front of us.

We feel the spirit of love, friendship, and good will to all mankind seep from our very souls with every hour spent trudging from store to store, spending more than we'd planned, with every encounter with rude clerks who probably also suffer from aching feet and a bad attitude.

Therapists say that most people spend an average of seventeen hours shopping for presents for their children but only an average of eight minutes playing with the kids on Christmas morning. Is it any wonder that we, and then they, ask, “Is that all there is?”

Most people think of the holidays as broad strokes on a larger than life canvas. But, just as small details bring a painting to life, so it is that small moments make the holidays special. Christmas is a moment here and a moment there, gathered from all the Christmases past like precious beads on a string, brighter than all the plastic glitter and electric lights strung throughout the malls of the land. Let me show you some of the bright moments that I've gathered over the years.

Christmas is our daughter Adina at the age of three as she jumped into bed with us, bubbling with excitement, her sapphire eyes sparkling with wonder. “There really is a Santa Claus, Mommy and Daddy. Come look. Last night there was nothing under the tree and this morning, there's a bicycle!” Her high-pitched voice held the awe felt by a child when confronted with the marvelous mystery of Santa.

Christmas is attending Candlelight Communion at church on Christmas Eve with the whole family. It's watching Adina, years later as an acolyte, lighting the candles on the altar. It's recalling special memories and toasting those people we loved who have passed, but who always live in our hearts.

It's going home from church and opening “family presents.” And it's the crazy wrapping paper war that ensues. Each person hoards their gift wrap for ammunition. Then a blizzard of paper, accompanied by laughter, giggles, and the dog barking manically, fills the downstairs. No one, neither child nor adult, sits on the sidelines.

Christmas is reading the journal that I started when the children really were children. Each year, they griped because I made them write something about the holidays. Now, with them all grown, they delight in reading the words they were forced to write over the years. I enjoy watching them hoot with laughter as they read aloud to each other and to their own kids. They comment on their childish handwriting, the misspellings, and their silly desires.

Those were the years when all Melanie wanted was a Barbie doll. Now all she wants is some quiet time from her busy life as young mother and homemaker.

At fourteen, all Michael wrote about was girls, girls, girls. Now the girls he's focused on are his wife and daughter with a lot of attention to his son too.

Micky, always the family comedienne, once rhapsodized about his favorite gift from his grandmother - socks. They all still crack up when they read that. His vibrant sense of humor now helps him balance a busy corporate life, a wife, and two beautiful daughters.

Adina, our baby, once wanted nothing but My Little Pony. Now she's a teacher, but I guess she never outgrew a pony. Now her little pony is the Mustang convertible she drives.

Each year we fill the Santa can with red and green foil-wrapped Hershey Kisses and recall the party where Micky won the Santa can. We set our angels out and discuss the year that each one represents. There's the glued-together 1988 angel that had been accidentally knocked from the table by one of the kids, and the tiny wooden angel with the broken wing that the dog tried to eat.

These moments, frozen in time, are the kind of priceless gifts you can't buy at the mall. Even better, they don't break, need batteries, or get ignored in the toy chest. Time never diminishes their significance or fades their sweetness.

So this is Christmas to me. All these moments and so many more - saved in the scrapbook of my heart.

Book Review: FLASHBACK TO THE GOLDEN YEARS by Ralph Hansen

Published by Lulu.com
Order from Lulu using this address:
http:/​/​www.lulu.com/​content/​431097

If you read my blog SLING WORDS or this website, you know that I have credentials as a published writer that probably make my standard for books much higher than the average reader. So when I recommend a book, I don't do it lightly. I read a lot, review the better books for my website and my blog and sometimes even give quotes to other authors to use on their soon-to-be-published novels.

When I discovered that my old friend Ralph Neal Hanson had penned a memoir, I eagerly ordered it because he is, of course, a friend, and I wanted to support his effort.

To be honest, I wasn't expecting much of the book since most people who self-publish their memoirs are earnest, but they usually don't possess the narrative skills necessary to make a book readable or even interesting.

I was pleasantly surprised to find Flashback To The Golden Years 1940-1960 not only highly readable with an easy conversational style but also immensely entertaining.

Flavored with sweet nostalgia for a bygone era, the book immerses one in the golden years, that too-short period of American prosperity and growth after we defeated the evil Nazis and before the ignominious Vietnam war metastasized like a malignant cancer.

Gone now are the days when kids played outdoors until dark without fear of being kidnapped by psychotic strangers, when Saturday at the movies meant being dropped off by your mom at the movie theater where you'd spend the afternoon watching the features over and over, when play dates didn't exist because every day not spent in school was a play date.

Back then there were no soccer moms. No organized carpools to over-scheduled activities each day. No computers. No video games. No hundreds of television channels to view. No cell phones. No Internet. Just the sheer unadulterated joy of being a child in a small town.

With imagination, the world was indeed your oyster if you were a kid. If you were lucky enough to be a child then.... If you wish you had been a child then.... If you liked the 1955 world created by Marty McFly in the original Back To The Future movie, then Flashback To The Golden Years 1940-1960 by Ralph Neal Hanson is for you.

My friend Ralph wrote the book plus did all the pre-publication work like proofreading and formatting. That's why there's no ISBN. He wasn't aware of the importance of such. Since he's not a New York publishing professional, there are a few minor errors. I'm a tough critic, but I ignored the less-than-perfect spots in the sweet-natured memoir.

By all means, get this book. Put it on your nightstand. Read some each night, and travel back in time to yesteryear where life was never hurried and frantic, but always serene. Never scary, but always safe. All that for the price of a book.

Thanks, Ralph, for sharing that world with us.

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Book Review of BURN NOTICE: The Fix by Tod Goldberg
A No Spoiler Review by Joan Reeves
New American Library: Obsidian Mystery
Mass Market Paperback
Copyright 2008
ISBN: 978-451-22554-2
274 Pages

Normally, I don't buy novelizations of movies or TV shows or books inspired by the same because the "voice" is seldom the same as the original visual production. I do make exceptions like the books Lee Goldberg has written for Monk, Diagnosis Murder, and others.

Since Tod is Lee's brother, and writing talent seems to run in that family, I decided to pick up a copy of The Fix by Tod Goldberg, the first in what I hope will be a long Burn Notice series of books.

The first paragraph did it for me. I swear I could hear Jeffrey Donovan's voice aka Michael Weston doing the voice over. Totally the tone, dry humor, and "voice" that has made the TV show one of my favorites.

Get this book. Solid story line and great writing. You won't be disappointed. You will find yourself laughing out loud and having a heck of a good time.
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YOUR INTERNET PRESENCE: WEBSITE OR BLOG
by Joan Reeves©2009, All Rights Reserved
May 2009
Is your site a website or a blog? Ever have that question? For some, confusion exists when it comes to identifying websites and blogs. Everyone knows when they see the big B favicon that it’s a Blogspot blog, but when confronted by a website without that identifier, they’re uncertain as to whether it’s a blog.

Definitions
Here’s my easy to remember rule. All blogs are websites, but not all websites are blogs.

A website is a collection of web pages, images, videos or other digital assets, hosted on one or more web servers, and is usually accessible via the Internet.

The World Wide Web is the collection of all publicly accessible websites.

Lord/​Lady of Your Own Domain
If you want a particular name associated with a website, then you purchase a domain name. Actually you’re only licensing the name for a specific period of time. Your license must be renewed periodically.

Important: Privacy
In addition to registering or licensing a domain name, you should purchase the security package that all website hosts offer. Pay the bucks. Otherwise, if someone types in whois in a browser, goes to that site and fills in your name, your home address, real name, phone number, etc. pops up. When you pay for the security package, the webhost name shows up.)

DIY
The software used to create websites usually isn’t as easy to use and requires the user to know a certain amount of HTML (Hyper Text Marking Language) or CSS (Cascading Style Sheets) in order to create and maintain the site. The amount of HTML or CSS that you must know ranges from a little, like bolding text or creating paragraph indentations, to a lot, like being able to actually edit a template with an FTP (File Transfer Protocol).

Sure, you can get software billed as easy to use, but you won’t be creating some of those gloriously beautiful websites you envy. Your will be plain Jane and more than likely will look like it was done by an amateur, not a web designer.

Pay a Pro
Web designers are professionals who marry art with computer technology. When a web designer quotes you several hundreds of dollars plus so much per hour to make changes after the original upload, they’re not bilking you. Well, maybe they are if you didn’t shop around, but that’s another story. Normally, they’re worth every penny. It takes a lot of specialized knowledge to create an aesthetically pleasing website.

Pre-formatted DIY
Host your site with a company like SiteGround that offers free professional design software for you to use or with an organization like Authors Guild that offers ready to go standard templates in a variety of themes and colors. I mention these two because I use them.

My blog Joan Slings Words is hosted by SiteGround which offered free domain name registration and free software. They offer two or three kinds for websites and Wordpress for blogging. Since I intended for that domain to be a blog, I use WordPress. It’s not the easiest software to master, but I’ve muddled my way through. You can get a highly individual look because there are thousands of Wordpress templates available free for you to use.

My website is hosted by Authors Guild. If you qualify as a member, I recommend them. Very easy to use, and you get a nice look even if you don’t do all the graphic design stuff I do.

Blog
So what's a Blog? It’s just a website using a specifically designed software platform that is particularly user friendly so that the individual who registers that blog name can post to and update the blog as often as they like.

Most people seem to use the Blogspot blogging platform. It’s free. I use it for my original blog Sling Words. It’s the easiest blogging platform I’ve ever used. It’s super easy to personalize for even the most inexperienced user. The current version of Blogger is XML. You can add so many elements to the blogspot blogs and change the template easily too.

If you have you domain website, get a blog too. They’re fun. Domain Websites tend to be static. They don’t get updated very often. I update mine every month because it’s easy. If you’re paying for every update though, chances are you won’t update it often.

Blogs can be updated daily - hourly if you’ve got that much time on your hands. If you can’t afford to have a professional looking domain website or can’t afford to have your domain website updated very often, get a blog. You’ll have fun with it. It can be the daily wave of friendship you send to passersby and friends who stop by to visit over their morning coffee.

Resources To Personalize Blogger

How to Change your template:

http:/​/​www.eblogtemplates.com/​how-to-install-a-blogger-template/​

Note: when shopping for free templates, be sure and read any comments on the site regarding the design you want. Some templates have bugs and the users always comment to let you know.

Sites Offering Free Templates

http:/​/​lenatoewsdesigns.blogspot.com

http:/​/​www.blogcrowds.com/​resources/​blogger_template.php

If you don’t see something that strikes your fancy, just plug “Free Blogger XML Template” into your favorite search engine and go shopping.

Have fun personalizing your websites. The more distinctive your sites, the more your traffic will increase, and that’s the goal–increasing your visibility in order to make the most of your Internet presence.

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FINDING MARKETS FOR REPRINT SALES
May 2009
Believe it or not, there are paying markets that will reprint articles, short fiction, and books. If you don't have an agent, then the job of finding those markets falls to you.

Search Engines

Use as many search engines as you can to look for publishers who buy reprint rights. Most people think only of Google, Yahoo, and MSN. In actuality, there are more than 130 search engines, and they have different algorithms that return different results. If you don't know of the others, enter the phrase search engine into Google and find others.

Create several different search strings to find the information you need. Be creative. Rephrase in different ways. Plug the keywords and/​or key phrases into the various search engines. Start with Google and work you way through some of the others.

Subscribe to market newsletters like Cindi Myers newsletter and others. (Check my blogs regularly because I list them when I find a new one.)

Follow market news on the lists and the publishing websites. When you hear of a new publisher, see if they're open to reprinting your backlist.

Check my website for more markets. As I discover new markets, I'll post it herein. Good luck!

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Alice Duncan & Sierra Ransom
by Alice Duncan

Introduction from Joan
I have a treat for you. The talented, multi-published Alice Duncan, who also writes as Anne Robins, Emma Craig, and Rachel Wilson, gives us a behind-the-scenes look at her latest novel Sierra Ransom, to be published by Five Star in April 2009. You'll enjoy this story of how she breathed life into another memorable character and created what you'll find is another of her captivating stories.)

Here's Alice!
Sierra Ransom was a book I’d wanted to write for a long time. Today’s problems aren’t unique to our generation, but have been around for as long as people have existed, and I wanted to write about the women who coped without our modern conveniences.

Therefore, I decided to have an unmarried woman run away from her Massachusetts home to California during the Gold Rush. The product of a dreadful family, Zenobia Gray was seduced by a man whom she believed loved her. Naturally, when she arrived in California, her beau was long gone. Since California at that time was desperate for women to take care of the work that men didn’t know how to do (in other words, everything except dig holes and stuff like that), Zee at least had opportunities unavailable to her back east.

The problem with the book was that, although I’d lived in California for most of my life and had taken classes in California history in high school and college, I didn’t know much about the physical area where my story would take place: California’s Gold Country.

As luck would have it, an OLD friend (I emphasize the word old, because she’s eleven days older than I), Lauren Fiedler, invited me to visit Taylorsville, California, with her over the Fourth of July holiday, where we would stay with friends of hers. Well, hecky-darn, Taylorsville was right smack in the middle of where I wanted my book to be set! So I went, had a wonderful time, and managed to get in some real, live research while having tons of fun.

Lauren and I stayed with some friends of hers, Joe and Susan Tomaselli (Susan, unfortunately, died in an automobile accident a couple of years ago), and Joe was a mine of information about the area, the old mining operations, etc. He also told me to read THE SHIRLEY LETTERS, a book written by a woman who accompanied her spouse to the gold fields, so I got myself a copy. Boy, it turned out I was exactly right about my assumption that people have always been the same. Poor Mrs. Shirley suffered from migraine headaches and all sorts of things we suffer from today, but she had to cook over a wood fire, get water from the river, had no antibiotics when she or her hubby were injured, and so forth.

Thus the redoubtable Zee Gray ended up operating a soup kitchen in Muddy Flats, a run-down gold camp in the middle of the gold country. The reason Sam Ransom ended up in Muddy Flats is an entirely different story. Sam, you see, was on the lam from the law in about as many states and territories as the United States possessed at that time. Sam, determined to go straight at last, decided that the prim and proper Zenobia Gray would be a person to emulate in his new life as a law-abiding citizen.

Final Note From Joan
Look for Sierra Ransom in April of 2009 and Angel's Flight in July. Request them at your local Library.

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INTERVIEW WITH MICHAEL HASKINS
May 2009
This month we have mystery author Michael Haskins as our guest. Michael is the author of Chasin the Wind published by Five Star (Gale/​Cengage). His book is the first of the Mad Mick Murphy Mystery series.

Important Info

Website: http:/​/​www.michaelhaskins.net
Blog: http:/​/​chasinthewind.blogspot.com/​
Book ISBN: 978-1-59414-638-1

Though Michael's book is sold out, you can find some copies on Amazon or visit his website for more info. I'm looking forward to another Mad Mick Murphy Mystery. I hope you'll visit his website and blog. You'll like what you find.

The Standard 10

Joan: How many years from first manuscript to first sale?

Michael: My first full manusrcipt was written in the late '80s, however, Chasin' the Wind took a year to write and year to sell and almost two years until its publication date.

Joan: What has been your best experience as a published author?

Michael: My first book signing in Key West where friends and stangers actually showed
up and bought the book.

Joan: What has been your worst experience as a published author?

Michael: The hard work of promoting the book.

Joan: What has surprised you most as a professional writer?

Michael: That writing the book was the easy part, promoting it is the hardest part.

Joan: If you could write any story, without regard to it selling or any of those other business issues, what would you write?

Michael: I would like to write a story where James Dean, Ernest Hemingway and Che Guevara meet and discuss the '50s and '60s and they picture the future.

Joan: What do you love about your career?

Michael: Seeing my imagination come to life on paper.

Joan: What do you hate about your career?

Michael: I can't make a living at it.

Joan: If you got a big 6-figure advance for a book, what's the first thing you'd buy for yourself?

Michael: A bigger sailboat!

Joan: What is the best advice you can give beginning writers?

Michael: Erase the words give up from your vocabulary and then read a lot and write daily.

Joan: What would you like readers to know?

Michael: That writing, creating life on paper, is fun and after you're done and rewrite and edit, you think you know how God felt once.

Thanks, Michael. I enjoyed your book, and I appreciate your taking time to visit with us.
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KNOW YOUR CONTRACTS
March 2009
Each year you should review your publishing contracts so the important details will remain fresh to you. What's important? Anything that is linked to a time/​date or to money or performance.

Mark dates on your calendar if something is up for renewal, renegotiation, or reversion this year. If your contract clauses state when you can request rights reversion, by all means request them. Know what rights you can regain and how to use them. Your back list is a valuable asset.

Discuss old contracts with your agent, particularly if you have a different agent than the one who originally negotiated the contract.

Don't let important details fall through the cracks. Even if you have a great agent, she or he will never be your best advocate because that's you. It's like hiring someone to clean your house. Sure, they'll do a good job, but chances are you'll always believe that they never clean as well as you do.

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YOUR INTERNET PRESENCE: WEBSITES
by Joan Reeves©2009, All Rights Reserved
March 2009
Do you have an Internet presence? The answer, in my opinion, is always yes - even if you don't have a website of some kind. If that doesn't make sense, let me explain.

The Internet is such a pervasive element in modern life that to not have a website means that in ignoring the Internet, you've by default created an Internet presence that is completely, 100% ineffective. Sadly, many writers who have websites still have an ineffective Internet presence because they're not utilizing this tool correctly.

For the last two years, as my freelance writing completely took over my life, I've learned more than I ever thought I wanted to know about Search Engine Optimization, PageRank, keywords, meta tags, monetization, website design, web stats, the DMCA, and other esoteric Internet dynamics. I've been retained by clients to analyze their websites, and I've written for a web leads company with part of the project being to analyze other web leads companies. I've written scads of posts on my own blog ( http:/​/​SlingWords.blogspot.com ) about various Internet dynamics.

From all this, I conclude that most people, even writers, seem not to know how to most effectively use their websites.

Since I'm trying to bring some sanity back to my life, I decided I'd find time to share some of what I've learned in order to help my sister writers (and brother writers too!). I'll start this month with the primary function of websites. I use the term to mean your own domain name home site or a blog. You can have both. Many don't have blogs, and they question whether it's necessary. The short answer: yes. But I'll get into that next month. For now, let's talk about....

Publicity vs. Public Relations

There's a difference between the two. Publicity means free advertising. Publicity is gaining free exposure by using the services of others. If someone else blogs about you and/​or your book, that's publicity because it's free exposure. I offer interviews with authors on my website, that's publicity for them because it's free exposure by another party - me. Sending press releases to media is publicity if they act upon what you send.

Publicity = Visibility

Visibility means more public awareness and that increases the positive effects of your other advertising/​marketing efforts. You always want to think: momentum. Anything you can do to keep your momentum rolling or to increase it is

Since the web is one of the few free, or mostly free, ways a writer can promote herself effectively, thus increasing her visibility, it's a viable means of publicity. Note that I didn't say sell books effectively. The main reason for an Internet presence is to promote your name, your brand if you've identified such, and to increase your public visibility, not necessarily to sell books.

By promoting your name, you hope to grow your recognition factor. The more people who know your name from the web; the more people who will recognize that name when they're standing in front of racks of books; the more people who will enter your name in the search box at Amazon; the more people who will tell others about your site, your books, your web presence. Selling books directly because of your website is possible, but it's a lucky side effect of the main purpose for the existence of your website.

Publicity and public relations both are necessary to grow your brand, your business, your product.

Public Relations = Building Image

Your website also can be an effective public relations tool. Public relations is promoting a product, i.e. your book, or a company, i.e. your name, in order to create favorable reactions or positive impressions on the minds of the public. What better way to do this than with an effective website?

So, do you need a website? Only if you're interested in promoting your company (you) and your product (your books).
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WHY BOOK PUBLISHING CHANGES
by Joan Reeves©2009, All Rights Reserved
February 2009
What the book industry wants to publish isn't static. It's always changing. What they wanted last year won't be what they want next year. Part of the reason you have to stay attune to trends is because what publishers contracted for last year won't even be on the shelves until next year or the year after. (I'm talking about print publishing here, not electronic publishing which has more flexibility in responding to the marketplace.)

Publishers Gamble

Every time a publisher buys a manuscript, he's gambling that the subject matter of that manuscript will still be of interest in a year or two when the book rolls off the presses. Sometimes that gamble pays off in a big way. Usually this happens when the publisher has been building an author so that the author is who readers buy, not necessarily a particular book. The author has grown an audience so that readers anticipate the book because of previous books.

Sometimes the gamble is lost, and the publisher suffers hugely. This too can happen with an author in whom the publisher has invested time and money also. Either the book or the author's personal life hits a hot button that turns people off, or the author has unwittingly written about something that in the interim period has been linked to tragedy or an infamous event.

I remember many years ago a romance author had a book come out that featured an astronaut as heroine. The book hit the shelves in the weeks after the Challenger disaster. No one wanted to read about a woman astronaut after Christa McAuliffe and Judith Resnick died so tragically despite Sally Ride's previous success. The book couldn't find an audience.

The Market Changes

Book publishing also changes because culture is always changing - because people are always changing.

Basic human nature doesn't change, but how people want to be entertained does. It changes in response to societal changes. Our culture is less inhibited than our parents' generation. We grew up on R-rated movies so many of us want a reading experience that matches the movies - sexually explicit, violence in action, realistic language, etc.

What was new and innovative last decade is old and passe this year. Ten years ago there was little demand from publishers for erotica. Now that seems to be all that's being published or at least what is most popular in many genres.

Back then, paranormal was a limited genre with more on TV i.e. Buffy, Angel, and the SciFi Channel than in book publishing. Now, that genre is nearly saturated in publishing. Editors and agents say they'll croak if they see another vampire book. Yet the genre seems to be chugging along. Will it crater this year? We'll have to wait and see.

Change Or Die

The only constant is change. As the market changes, you must change with it or die. In the writing business, to die means you don't get published. I don't mean sell out and write something that's not you. But find an element in the existing market or the trending market that has resonance for you. Embrace that and write for the popular culture in which you live.

Adapting to popular culture while remaining true to yourself is a fine line to tread, but successful authors do it every day. Read widely and find authors you like and respect. Use them as role models for what you wish to achieve.

Carpe diem!
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INTERVIEW WITH AMY CLIPSTON
March 2009
This month we have the talented Amy Clipston as our guest. Amy is the author of A Gift of Grace coming May 1, 2009, from Zondervan. Her book is Book No.1 in the Kauffman Amish Bakery Series.

Amy's Website: http:/​/​www.amyclipston.com. Amy's Blog: http:/​/​amyclipston.blogspot.com/​.

I hope you'll visit Amy's website and blog and look for her book in stores in May 2009.

The Standard 10

Joan: How many years from first manuscript to first sale?

Amy: I signed with my agent in 2005. I wrote several sweet romances that came close to selling. However, this book I sold on proposal in a matter of a couple of months.

Joan: What has been your best experience as a published author?

Amy: The best part has been making friends with the awesome people in the Zondervan family and also meeting so many wonderful writers. I cherish the friendships this book has brought me.

Joan: What has been your worst experience as a published author?

Amy: Worst part? Honestly, I haven't had any bad experiences yet. However, I dread bad reviews.

Joan: What has surprised you most as a professional writer?

Amy: What has really surprised me is how supportive family members, friends, and acquaintances are of my first book. Many of my friends and family members have pre-ordered it and also encouraged their friends to order it. Acquaintances have asked for copies of my cover and have told their friends and family members to buy it. It's inspiring to know people want to read my books and want me to be a success. I'm blessed to have such a supportive community around me, rooting for me.

Joan: If you could write any story, without regard to it selling or any of those other business issues, what would you write?

Amy: My husband is facing a second kidney transplant after the kidney he received from his brother in 2004 failed. I'm first in line for donor testing. I hope and pray I can tell our story someday in an effort to inspire other organ recipients and also encourage folks to donate blood and organs. I believe there is a reason why we are going through this ordeal for a second time, and I hope our story can make a difference in the lives of others.

Joan: What do you love about your career?

Amy: Everything! I love my editors and the rest of the team at Zondervan. I love having the privilege to tell my stories and share my faith.

Joan: What do you hate about your career?

Amy: Absolutely nothing. I'm blessed to be a part of the Zondervan family, and I'm blessed to have the new friends I've encountered through my journey to publication.

Joan: If you got a big 6-figure advance for a book, what's the first thing you'd buy for yourself?

Amy: I would pay off some bills and put money in my sons' college funds. And, if there's money left, I'd take my family to Disney World!

Joan: What is the best advice you can give beginning writers?

Amy: It may sound cliché, but never give up. The publishing industry moves slowly, and you must be patient. Every rejection letter will hurt you but also make you a stronger writer. When you receive a rejection, pick yourself up, dust yourself off, and learn from it. Read between the lines to see what the editor liked about your story and your voice. Continue to write, edit, and polish your books. You'll make it if you believe in yourself and your book.

Joan: What would you like readers to know?

Amy: I'm so thankful that my readers have chosen to read my stories. I'm honored to be an author of choice for them, and I promise to write the best books of my heart that I can for them.

Thanks, Amy, for visiting my website. I wish you the best of luck with your writing and many sales for your upcoming book.
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Interview with Annette Blair
February 2009
Welcome, best-selling author Annette Blair. January saw the release of A Veiled Deception, the first of Annette's series Vintage Magic Mystery. This book received an RT Top Pick. This month Never Been Witched will be released.

Both Never Been Witched and A Veiled Deception were Golden Angel Recommended Reads at Fallen Angel Reviews.

Annette Blair, a National Bestselling Author of Bewitching Comedies, Vintage Magic Mysteries & Sassy Supernaturals, is published by Penguin. Please visit her website: http:/​/​www.annetteblair.com and her blog: http:/​/​witchychicks.blogspot.com/​

Getting Acquainted

Joan: How many years from first manuscript to first sale?

Annette: Ten years for me; five when I’d go months without writing, and five when I was obsessed with making my writing shine for that first sale, which was for three books, actually.

Joan: What has been your best experience as a published author?

Annette: First: people. The friends I’ve made along the way, writers and readers. Notes from people I don’t know who say I touched their lives. But one experience that gave my mother so much pride stands out.

When I was ten, I discovered that the pretty little building next to the playground was filled with books. I went in to investigate and left with my first library card (#2036) and the max number of books allowed. I'd walked a mile to the playground, and after I discovered the Crompton Free Library, I walked that mile twice a week, taking the max number of books each time. The librarian told me which shelves I could choose from, and I read them all.

Soon I moved to the higher shelves and discovered the Brontes and Jane Austen, and I fell into an amazing new world. My love for reading continued into my adult life, during which time I wrote plot ideas on corners of envelopes, index cards, and paper napkins, and threw them into my nightstand. One day my, daughter, to whom I'd passed my love of reading, challenged me to write a book of my own. I accepted, raided my nightstand, and years later, I began selling my work.

Today, The Crompton Free Library building is the Pawtuxet Valley Historical Society where my picture hangs on a wall above a display of my novels.

Joan: What has been your worst experience as a published author?

Annette: Losing my mother three days before discovering that I had become enough of a success to leave my job and become a full time writer. This was my mother’s dream. She was a woman who had to work multiple jobs to support us, and she prayed daily that someday I would be able to stop working two jobs. When I heard the news, I burst into tears, because I couldn’t dial the phone and tell her that her dream had come true.

Joan: What has surprised you most as a professional writer?

Annette: The biggest shock for me was discovering that my words could have such a profound effect on other people’s lives, people half way across the world, sometimes. Having that much power can be pretty frightening.

Joan: If you could write any story, without regard to it selling or any of those other business issues, what would you write?

Annette: Harry Potter. No, seriously, I always said that I’d like to write more Amish Stories and I would like to finish my Rogues series. I left that publisher with two Rogues to go. But this was a difficult question, because I’ve made peace with leaving both types of stories behind. I’m loving writing my Bewitching Comedies, and Vintage Magic Mysteries, and I’m totally excited by the prospect of my upcoming Supernatural Employment Agency Series.

Joan: What do you love about your career?

Annette: I love that I’ve been a full time writer for two years now. I love getting together with my writer friends. I love booksignings where I get to meet my readers and most of the time some of my MySpace friends.

Joan: What do you hate about your career?

Annette: There is no hate, but I never wanted to be in business for myself. That was kind of a shock. So the paperwork that goes with it is a pain. I miss my coworkers at the prep school where I worked. I miss the creativity buzzing around me with 1,000 students and 100 faculty members. I was an administrator, but I had the journalism class just for fun. I miss the students who hung around my office working on the school newspaper during their free periods.

Joan: If you got a big 6-figure advance for a book, what's the first thing you'd buy for yourself?

Annette: A tummy tuck.

Joan: What is the best advice you can give beginning writers?

Annette: Never give up. The only guarantee in writing is that if you give up, you’ll never sell.

Joan: What would you like readers to know?

Annette: I love hearing from you. Also, I have four books coming out in 2009:

A Veiled Deception, Mystery #1, January 2009

Never Been Witched, Triplet Witch #3, February 2009

Larceny and Lace (originally titled Bobbins And Broomsticks), Mystery #2, August 2009

To Love a Dragon, Supernatural #1, now scheduled for January 2010.

Thank you, Annette. You're as gracious and charming as your heroines.

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MAKE THE INTERNET WORK FOR YOU: BLOG BASICS
by Joan Reeves©2009, All Rights Reserved
January 2009
The blog is a tool that can work for you or against you. One thing I've noticed in perusing lots of blogs is that the author of the blog falls into the too casual trap. What do I mean by that? The author thinks that a blog is a casual means of communication - kind of like jotting something down on a sticky note. Subscribing to this theory, the blogger believes that he or she doesn't have to write something that is very good - anything to fill the space will do. It doesn't even have to be punctuated correctly with correct spelling and word usage.

They think, erroneously, that everyone understands a blog is just a top of the head way of communicating with the audience so it doesn't matter if there are typos, misspellings, or even a lack of sense. Many use i instead of I; they use no punctuation except at the end of long awkward run-on sentences or a string of clauses and phrases.

Reading blogs like this is arduous at best, if someone makes the effort. Most visitors don't make the effort. I don't. Why waste my time reading something incompetently written when there are other blogs by articulate authors with a mastery of the language and grammar?

Another problem is that many bloggers think they can just rattle off something without giving the pertinent details required by the most basic exposition. Remember those old 5 W's we were taught about in English composition long ago? Who, What, When, Where, Why, and don't forget to throw in How as a bonus.

If you're writing a blog, stick those details in immediately after hooking the reader in order to orient the reader as soon as possible. Don't assume the reader is on the same wave length as you. This is especially true if you're writing on a single topic that you plan to upload as a three-part series or something similar. It's like the television shows with ongoing story lines that show pertinent scenes of previous episodes. Sometimes a voice over says: "Previously on 24."

1. Who?
2. What?
3. When?
4. Where?
5. Why?
6. How?

Give the facts and give them in grammatically-correct, well-chosen words, and you'll turn a casual visitor into a follower.

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INTERVIEW with LISA HASELTON
January 2009
Please join me in welcoming Freelance Writer and Aspiring Novelist Lisa Haselton to my website.

Lisa, I appreciate your taking time to visit with us here in Reading.

Readers, Lisa Haselton is one busy writer. She's a freelance writer, the author of various short stories, and is working on two novels, one of which is a paranormal thriller that has agent interest. She's also editing a mystery about five people whose lives intersect in one city on one day over one crime. To learn more about Lisa, visit her website, her My Space site, or her blog.

Important Details

Lisa Haselton, Inspired to Write
Website: http:/​/​www.lisahaselton.tripod.com
My Space: www.myspace.com/​lisahaselton
Blog: http:/​/​lisahaselton.tripod.com/​ReviewsandInterviews.

Now, let's get some questions answered.

Joan: How many years from first manuscript to first sale?

Lisa: I started submitting short stories back in the early 90s and received promising rejections -
those types that say this isn't right, but send us something else. I never pursued them. In 2007, I was part of a writing group that worked purely off prompts, and I was in an online flash fiction writing group. Those two groups combined gave me the courage to submit a flash tale to a contest, and I took 1st place. So it took over 10 years for me to get published in
fiction from when I first started submitting. I wasn't writing and submitting at all during those 10+ years. It took me that long to pursue
what was in my heart and take the leap to submit. I hope the manuscript with agent interest gets published, of course.

Joan: What has been your best experience as a published author?

Lisa: Receiving useful critiques and comments on how I can make my writing stronger. Having someone say wow, I never knew you were so creative. Connecting with other writers, published and unpublished, who write because they 'have' to.

Joan: What has been your worst experience as a published author?

Lisa: Receiving feedback that hasn't been helpful at all. It's nice to hear great story and nice job but those comments, and the fear of people being able to tell me what they really think about my work has sometimes brought me to a
standstill. When I ask for feedback and get generic responses, it's more discouraging than a rejection.

Joan: What has surprised you most as a professional writer?

Lisa: I've always known that I have loved to write. What surprises me most as a professional writer is knowing that I can write whatever I need to whether the muse is present or not. Once I sit down to a blank page or a blank screen, I may start with gobbledy-gook (yes, that's a professional term, hee hee) I will eventually
find the story that needs to be told.

Joan: If you could write any story, without regard to it selling or any of those other business issues, what would you write?

Lisa: I feel I'm already living this. I write whatever I want now. Writing is like breathing to me - I have to do it, it's part of who I am. I just hope I have enough time to get to all the stories I have inside me!

Joan: What do you love about your career?

Lisa: The freedom I have to pick projects I want to do and the stories I want to write. The freedom to write anywhere. The freedom to write whatever I want. And I absolutely love meeting other writers.

Joan: What do you hate about your career?

Lisa: Nothing. It's all up to me to make it what I want it to be. I write because it's a passion. Publication is a bonus each and every time.

Joan: If you got a big 6-figure advance for a book, what's the first thing you'd buy for yourself?

Lisa: Nothing for myself since I'm used to living frugally. Ah, the life of a writer! I'd add money to the college fund I have for my Little Sister (I'm part of Big Brothers Big Sisters and have been matched with my Little Sis since Oct 2004. We see each other every week, and she's a beacon in my life.) I'd love to know that she's all set for her entire college education.

Joan: What is the best advice you can give beginning writers?

Lisa: Follow your heart and if writing is your passion, follow it as far as it takes you. There's no greater high than starting with a blank page and finishing with a unique story that no one else could ever write.

Joan: What would you like readers to know?

Lisa: Some people feel it's important to have a niche. And try as I might, I have finally accepted that it won't happen for me. I love mysteries and suspense, but I also love horror, romance, YA and Christian. I enjoy short flash fiction, novellas and novels. I will always accept feedback, and would enjoy meeting or chatting with anyone interested in writing. I hope
to start a project that allows me to work with pre-teens, teens, and adults of all ages who need to get their story on paper, but don't feel they can write. Our imaginations are vast, and we owe it to ourselves, at any age, to get our words out so we can see them and touch them and realize they are part of us - and that it's okay to dream.

Lisa, thank you again for sharing your thoughts with us.

Readers, join us next month for another Author Interview.
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THINK OUTSIDE THE BOX
by Joan Reeves©2008
If you own the rights to a literary property, consider marketing the piece as a serial to newspapers, magazines, or websites.

Is there a resource list I can give you for places that will buy serial rights? No. I wish there were, but most work of this type has been for markets I found or helped create by planting a seed in a client's fertile imagination. That's how the serialization of my novella came to life as Moonlight on Snow at www.romantic4ever.com. The site's wonderful publisher wanted me to write original short fiction for her, but I just didn't have the time. I did, however, have the novella that had been print published several years before. And it was serendipity that it fit the website so well. The publisher did a beautiful job of presenting it, and I've been thrilled with the result. Judging by the fan mail I've received, readers were thrilled with it too.

You must think outside the box.

Check out market guides to syndication. These list chains of newspapers that purchase for the entire chain. Some of them publish fiction; they all publish articles. The old Grit newspaper still publishes fiction.

Try to analyze what you have to offer. Does it appeal to a general or a specific audience? In what medium would your work best be showcased?

Don't be afraid to boldly contact a newspaper or a magazine or a website. The worst they can do is say no. They can't reach through the mails, internet, or phone lines and throttle you for your attempt. They just say no. Or, they say yes.

Nothing ventured; nothing gained.
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WRITERS HAVE RIGHTS: PART 3 of 3: WHERE TO SELL YOUR RIGHTS
by Joan Reeves©2008
In today's world, most traditional book publishers like to hang on to the rights to a book. More and more, it's becoming difficult for an author to request reversion of rights according to contract because publishers assert that the book is still in print even if no copies can be found. With POD technology, many publishers can reprint a few copies to attest that the book is in print. Also, with more publishers retaining electronic rights to a book, it's possible it could never be out of print with today's technology.

Long Tail of Publishing = Backlist

Normally, publishers like to reprint books because their profit margin is increased since the setup work is already done. However, an author has to have a certain popularity for a publisher to think reprinting is worthwhile. They won't reprint every Tom, Dick, and Harriet just because they can. They only reprint the ones who will make them additional money.

If you're with a top publisher and you have an agent, reprint deals, book club deals, audio rights deals, etc. are more likely to happen if your book has been well-received.

If you are a mid-list author struggling from one contract to another, you are less likely to get reprint deals and sub-rights deals. One would think having an agent would make this more likely to happen, but one would be mistaken.

Cold Hard Truth

Agents are more likely to devote the bulk of their time to the authors who earn them the most money. Marketing sub-rights takes time and persistence. I've seen more mid-list authors without agents make sub-rights sales than those with agents. Why? Because if an author is agenting himself, he has more at stake and is more willing to go the extra mile to make a deal happen.

The cold hard reality of this writing business is that the more popular you are, the more benefits you get. Popularity translate into books sold. Numbers rule. Actually, if you've ever been in the working world longer than the life span of a mayfly, then you realize that the writing biz is like any other bottom-line driven business.

So if you are mid-list rather than A, B, or C list at a publisher, particularly if you are unagented, then you just have to try harder.

Be Your Own Agent

Many writers have rights reverted on their previous works, but they don't know what to do with them. They think they need an agent to sell large print rights or hardcover rights if the book was originally a paperback. Not true. All you have to know is who purchases the kinds of rights you want to sell. How do you find this out?

Network

If you know other authors, and most of us do, follow their announcements on the lists to which you subscribe. If they say they just sold large print rights, email them and ask for details. Most authors willingly share. I know I do. When I sold large print rights this year to six of my previously published books, I told anyone and everyone who would listen. On some lists where I'm well known, I posted about the process. If anyone emailed me, I told them exactly how I went about it.

Don't Be Shrinking Violet

You must be willing to ask questions, always in a nice way, because if you're too shy or you think they'll be insulted, you won't find the information you need. Mention on all the lists that you have rights reverted or retained sub-rights and ask if anyone has successfully marketed them with or without an agent.

Research

In every Search engine you know - and there's more than 130 - enter a search string for what you want to find out. Maybe it would be "Publishers purchasing audio book rights" or "Publishers purchasing reprints rights." Use more than one or two search engines because you may get different results based on the algorithm used by the search engine.

Check out Publishers Marketplace. You may want to start an account at Publishers Marketplace and list your books and the rights you control. I've heard of some making sales this way. I actually garnered movie option interest in this way.

Browse the latest edition of Writer's Market. Read the entries and see if you can find a market.

You won't be able to retire on what you make on your out-of-print work, but you can get a nice chunk of change. You can also keep a series alive if you sold the first book or two of a mystery but then the publisher abandoned you for the other books.

I always look on it as found money. I've sold standard print hardcover rights to my books as well as large print trade paper size. I've also sold reprint rights to a novella I wrote many years ago. It's been serialized and running online from January to December of this year. I'd love to sell audio book rights, but there isn't a huge demand for romantic comedy in books on tape (CD) unless you're a very well-known romance authors. Which I'm not. I'm just a working writer, still plugging away. But having fun while I'm plying my craft and looking for other places to sell my rights.

Find Some Money

Ulverscroft Large Print Books Ltd is a UK publisher specializing in large print and audio books. Their website declares they are the leading worldwide publisher of large print books. They produce 84 titles a month under a number of imprints. They publish reprints of romances, mysteries, westerns, and other genre fiction.

When I submitted to them, the Editor I worked with told me that Ulverscroft receives submissions from editors, agents and authors. All submissions are read by a panel. All members must agree on a recommendation. Publishing Manager Diane Tennant then considers titles recommended by the panel. She has the final say. All submissions should be addressed to Ms. Tennant who will distribute to her editors. Include title of book, genre, publishing history, short blurb, computer word count. Email query to: enquiries @​ ulverscroft.co.uk or by snail mail to: Ulverscroft HQ, The Green, Bradgate Rd, Anstey, Leicester, LE7 7FU.

Gale/​Cengage has lots of imprints. Most of you are familiar with Five Star, now packaged by Tekno Books. Gale/​Cengage also has a lock on much of the large print market in the States. Their imprint Thorndike Press is now the home of Wheeler Publishing and large print title offerings published by Walker Large Print.

Thorndike Press, which once published standard print hardcover reprints as well as large-print hardcover reprints for the United States library market, now mostly does large print. They have agreements with publishers such as Harlequin, Silhouette, Harper Collins, Simon and Schuster and Time Warner to publish many of their titles in conjunction with or shortly after the regular print debut of the title.

Selling to Thorndike (Five Star) is not as easy as it once was because libraries have drastically reduced their orders in the last five years. (I really miss this market.) However, it's worth a try if you have a book that received really good reviews. Last I heard, Hazel doesn't want explicit sex, but this may have changed since the boomer generation is lusty and aging in to large print.

Your chances of selling to Editor Hazel Rumney are stronger if you have popular current releases in addition to backlist titles you're trying to sell. Send a copy of your published book and any relevant reviews to Ms. Rumney at Thorndike Press, 295 Kennedy Memorial Drive, Waterville, ME 04901.

Delphi Books

Delphi Books was established by author Fran Baker. It's a small press affiliated with the Author's Studio, a network of boutique publishers owned and operated by multi-published authors. Delphi publishes large print reprints of historical fiction and some nonfiction. Ms. Baker says that contemporary reprints have not done well for Delphi, so they concentrate on historical romance and mystery. She would be willing to try a shorter (55,000 - 60,000 word) paranormal or vampire novel. Delphi pays an advance of $100 - $200 and royalties of 10% of the cover price. Books are produced in trade paper through Lightning Source/​Ingram and are available in both the US and the UK. Delphi asks for large print rights only for five years Contact Fran Baker by email: Fran @​ FranBaker.com.

Note: Delphi Books website says they're not purchasing at the moment so keep an eye on them to see what develops.

Encore Romance buys reprints for ebook editions. Encore is a new venture from Whispers Publishing and Vintage Romance. Encore is looking for previously published, out-of-print romance novels. If you own the digital/​electronic rights to romance fiction previously published by a mainstream publisher, write them with information about your book including computer word count: encoreromance @​ gmail.com. Editors usually respond with a decision within 24 to 72 hours. Encore asks that the author be willing to include information about Encore Romance and the digital sale of your book on your website. All accepted authors will be asked to sign a two-year contract (renewable) for the digital/​electronic rights for their book. Print rights shall remain with the author(s). As these books will be sold through outlets requiring distribution discounts, authors will receive 50% of the net price after discount. (Courtesy of Cindi Myers Market Newsletter. Subscribe by sending blank email to:CynthiaSterling-subscribe@​yahoogroups.com)

Fictionwise contracts for electronic rights of previously published works to produce and sell them as eBooks. They require a minimum of ten titles per author, which may be a combination of novels previously published by established print publishers, short fiction works published in major magazines, or anthologies published by established, non-vanity print publishers. The author must own the electronic rights to the works and the work must be saved in .RTF format and submitted to Fictionwise electronically.. Royalties are paid four times a year. Guidelines.

Worldwide Mystery is an imprint of Harlequin. They purchase reprint rights of previously published mysteries, but they require books that have no profane language, explicit or gratuitous sex, violence or gay themes. (That probably means their demographics indicate older readers.)

If your mystery (no romantic suspense) has been published, email Feroze Mohammed, Executive Editor: Feroze_Mohammed @​ harlequin.ca
or snail mail:
Feroze Mohammed, Executive Editor
Worldwide Mystery,
225 Duncan Mill Road
Don Mills, Ontario
Canada M3B 3K9

If you own audio rights to your book, Books in Motion may be interested. Contact: Lynn Pisar, Director of Operations : lynn @​ booksinmotion.com. In email or submission packet, describe your book as detailed in the other entries above.

Snail mail:

Lynn Pisar, Director of Operations
9922 E Montgomery #31
Spokane Valley WA 99206

Amazon's Kindle needs content. If you own the rights to your book, why not make it available for this electronic reader? Follow the link and the entire process of how to upload the proper format is described.

When it comes to making your words continue to earn a paycheck for you, adopt my motto: Nothing ventured; nothing gained.
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WRITERS HAVE RIGHTS: PART 2 of 3 - RETENTION & REVERSION
by Joan Reeves
Every publishing contract whether for periodical writing or book-length work has two important clauses that writers should absolutely know:

1. what rights are being granted by the author to the publisher

2. how long is the author granting those rights.

Short Pieces

You, the writer, want your contracts to be as specific as possible. You want to grant only the rights needed for the publisher to use your work in the way it is designed to be used. If you're writing an article about coffee for an online magazine then you want to grant only electronic rights for the article to be published in that particular magazine, not every website that publisher may have and not for websites and possibly a print brochure or print magazine UNLESS the publisher requests and pays for those rights.

You, as the writer of a short piece, also want to know how long the publisher will use your writing. The month of the issue or archived into perpetuity? What if you sell all rights for the publisher to use it anyway they deem fitting and you get a measly hundred bucks or so and then a big coffee manufacturer sees the article and wants to reprint it in their corporate publication? If you sold all rights, then the online magazine publisher can sell your writing and pocket the thousand or so fee the corporation might pay. Worse, what if a corporation wanted to use it as the basis of a television ad campaign? We're talking significantly more pay for something like that.

Now, before you say that's never going to happen, please remember: life is full of surprises. I've seen some pretty amazing things happen to writers with some of their work being used in the most surprising ways. Books that they thought wouldn't even sell through end up becoming best sellers. Stories that were published by some small press end up selling movie rights. Articles written for a magazine end up being reprinted over and over and over. Like I always tell my kids: Life can change in an eye blink.

Books

The same about what you grant and how long you grant it is true for book publishing contracts too. There's a third important contract clause you need to know: when can you get the rights back and how do you go about getting those rights. This is called rights reversion.

Rights Reversion

Book publishing contracts will tell you that you can have your rights back. The contract may give a certain date i.e. five years from publication or, worst case, it may say one year after the book is out of print. With electronic publishing and print on demand technology now available to just about everyone, including publishers, the whole issue of out of print has taken on new significance. In the past, a book was considered out of print when all the copies, or even a majority percentage of copies, were sold, and the publisher had no plans to reprint the book.

You could read your contract, mark your calendar, and at the appointed time, you or your agent could send a letter to the publisher's legal department requesting all rights revert to you, the author.

Some publishers tied up the rights in every conceivable way and made it very difficult for the author to get rights back whereas other publishers honored the contract and didn't make a fuss. The contract always provided a clause that said the publisher had the right to reprint the work if they negotiated anew with the author, but few publishers did unless the author's fame had soared to unprecedented heights.

If you are an author who has literary works that you can request rights reversion on, then I advise you to get those rights back. Read your contract, see if all the terms have been met for you to request reversion and send a certified letter, return receipt requested, to the publisher's legal department. Or have your agent do it if you're represented.

Ignored

You may get ignored in which case, mark your calendar and never give up. If they're not using the rights, then they have no need to prevent you from using them to generate more income. Send a letter on a regular basis. If you're a member of a writer's organization that intercedes on behalf of its members, then see if you can get them to address the issue.

New Contract

You may get a letter saying they want to reprint. If they do, then you make some more money on the property if you agree to the new contract. If they grant you the rights back, then you can market them on your own.

Rights Reversion

You may get a letter back granting you all rights back. If you do, hang onto that letter because any publisher who wants to reprint your work will request a copy of that letter. That letter is a legal document that should be placed with the original contract. It's part of the intellectual property that should also be considered part of your estate should you did. Intellectual property rights are inheritable rights, in case you didn't know. Once you have the letter in hand, you can begin marketing the rights to that property again.

Make a chart either pen and paper or computer spreadsheet with columns for the title of the intellectual property, who published it first, when it came out, when the rights can revert, the date you sent a letter requesting the rights, and the response from the publisher. Keep track and be sure and follow up.

Get Organized

Next time, I'll give you some specific markets that purchase reprint rights of short pieces and book-length material. Use this month while you're waiting for the next article to study your contracts, send out requests for rights reversion or offer the property to the existing publisher for reprint.

So get your ducks in a row, and, next month, I'll teach you how to get them to perform.
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WRITERS HAVE RIGHTS
PART 1 of 3: KEEPING AND USING YOUR RIGHTS

by Joan Reeves©2008
What can writers do with previously published work? Actually, quite a lot if the writer is smart about the rights associated with an intellectual property. That intellectual property can be a novel, a nonfiction book, a short story or article written either for a print periodical or written for an electronic medium like the Internet.

Back in the old days when I first started freelance writing, my work was published in print periodicals. Now, most of my freelance work appears on the Internet. Whether I'm writing under my name, a pseudonym, or as a ghost, I'm cognizant of the intellectual property rights associated with what I write.

Best For Writers

The best case scenario for a writer is never to grant all rights to the purchaser whether that purchaser is a publisher of book length fiction or a publisher of short articles or stories. In the case of a book contract, a writer's agent is supposed to take care in negotiating the contract in order to get the best deal for the writer in regards to the rights granted, the rights retained for marketing elsewhere, and the fee paid by the publisher for the rights granted.

No Agent

A writer who is selling book length fiction or nonfiction and is not represented by an agent must educate herself or himself about the various rights associated with books in order to negotiate the best deal. Fortunately, there are many professional writing organizations that offer contract review or have an archives with sample contracts and associated analyses. It's a fairly simple process to determine whether the clauses in the contract favor or harm the writer.

Agents Do Not...

As most professional writers know, agents do not represent short fiction unless the short fiction is in a collection to be published in book form. Of course, most short fiction anthologies come from established authors with a large following. These are the exceptions. Agents will not represent a single short story. Nor will they represent material to be submitted to periodicals.

Getting an agent is as difficult, if not more so, than making the sale, it would seem. However, many authors sell books without the benefit of an agent either because they haven't been lucky enough to get an agent or because their work is so popular that they are at a point in their career where they really don't need an agent. As long as an author is on top of the business end of writing, knows and understand contracts, and isn't hesitant to go head-to-head with an editor, they can self-agent successfully. I know a few big-name authors who do this. They've published dozens of books; they've had agents in the past and, quite honestly, became disenchanted with the entire agent scene. These top-of-the-heap authors know contracts inside and out, make no mistake about that.

Who Benefits

This article isn't written for those power-authors. This is for the vast mid-list and freelance writers. This is for authors without representation who have published books. They've received the rights back on those books, and they wonder if they can resell those books. Writers of shorter works of fiction and nonfiction who don't grant all rights can sell their work again also.

When I first started writing, the mantra preached was never grant all rights. If you could sell the article to one magazine, you could sell it to other markets as well. You could do this because readers age in and age out of the target audience for periodicals. Time is on your side in those situations. Also, an article that might work well in a national magazine will also work well in a regional magazine or newspaper. The respective audiences for national and regional periodicals do not overlap as much as one might think. I still try to retain rights and only grant all rights if the money is sufficient and the piece is extremely minor as in ad copy.

Book Rights

With books, the contract specifies everything from print to electronic with much in between. Read your contract. Even if you have an agent, you should know what you are selling. With print rights, normally you grant the publisher the right to publish your book in a specific country or geographic region in a specific form i.e. "North America in mass market paperback" or "standard print hardcover" or "large print hardcover," etc.

Foreign rights can be purchased by the same publisher or retained by the agent for the author or by the self-agenting author. Foreign rights are bought by just about every country in the world. Electronic rights, once ignored by publishers, are now usually a part of the rights the publisher wants.

Subsidiary Rights

The list of subsidiary rights is as long as your arm from various serial rights such as movie, TV, audiotape, and other electronic rights to translation rights. All of these are usually left for the writer unless the writer is "big" then the publisher wants their sub-rights department to actively market them, to audio book rights. Just think of all the various forms you've seen books in. There's a right associated with that. In a book publishing contract, never sign away all rights unless you absolutely know what you're doing and why you're doing it.

Getting To Know Rights

In publishing shorter pieces, also try to retain rights that may benefit you in the future. In order to understand the importance of literary rights, you must first know what those rights are. Here's a primer of the most common rights available to you, the writer.

First Serial Rights

These are the rights that a writer offers a periodical to publish a manuscript for the first time meaning that is the first time that material will be published in any magazine or newspaper. All other rights remain with the writer. Sometimes you might see this as first North American Serial Rights indicating the geographical limits of the publisher's license to print it.

One Time Rights

These are nonexclusive rights meaning that you can sell or license the work to more than one market. One-time rights when purchased by a periodical gives the periodical the right to publish the work one time, just like it sounds. Sometimes these are known as simultaneous rights you, the author, can sell your work to other publications at the same time.

Second Serial Rights

Sometimes these are called Reprint Rights. These are nonexclusive rights given to a periodical to publish a manuscript after it has already been published by another magazine or newspaper.

All Rights

Sometimes, you may see this as Worldwide Rights. This is exactly what it sounds like. You, the author, are selling every right. If you sell all rights, you can never use that work again in that form. Of course you can take the research that went into the work and create a different work, but that particular work is now owned by the publisher who purchased it.

Electronic Rights

These rights cover a broad spectrum of electronic media, from online magazines, web sites, and databases to just about anything you can think of that appears on the Internet. The contract should be specific and tell you which electronic rights or included. In the case of Electronic Rights, it's presumed that any unspecified rights remain with the writer.

Join me next month for Part 2 of Keeping & Using Rights. In the meantime if you have writing contracts pull them out and read them. If you don't understand all the clauses, research and study them until you do because a writer needs business smarts to go with a great imagination, creativity, and excellent narrative skills to be successful.
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STICKY IS GOOD
by Joan Reeves©2008, All Rights Reserved
December 2008
The measurement of the stickiness of a website an analysis of the traffic a website gets. However, it goes deeper than that. It's an analysis of what makes visitors stay on a website and what makes them return.

Your goal for your Internet presence should be:

• to make visitors stay long enough to appreciate what you offer in order that they will "buy" what you're selling

• to make visitors return to your site

• to have the visitors tell others about your site.

What You're Selling

Now don't tell me you're not selling anything because you are. Every site sells something. Sure, it's easier to spot what overt retailers sell, but every site is a selling site. If you're an author, you're selling yourself or the books you write. You're saying, "Hey, I'm a nice guy. Come and visit and get to know me." Of course, the hope is that the visitor will be moved by curiosity to want to buy your book after getting to know you via your site.

Free Stuff

Your goal is to make your site as sticky as possible. In order to do this, you've got to give the visitor something. Give means what you offer must be free. Why? Not just because everyone likes something free, though they do.

The Internet started as a free enterprise with no one paying for anything. That philosophy was pervasive which is why people become outraged when there's talk about taxing the Internet or having to pay to access a site's services. This is why most people resist paying subscription fees to read newspapers and magazines online. Their thinking, governed by Internet tradition, is that it should be free. So websites have to have significant ad revenue in order to balance their giveaway of free stuff.

Philosophy of Most Writers

Fortunately, for most of us who aren't declared retailers of anything except our opinions and ideas, we don't have to sell ad space. We may make a few bucks by monetizing our sites, but for the most part, we're happy to write our words and give good content to our visitors. I know I feel that way because I look on my blog posts as having conversations with interested and like-minded people who stop by.

Best Word Forward

Yet, at the same time I, and probably all of you, want our web presence to be a representation of our best efforts. We try to make our site appealing, attractive, and intelligent with something for the visitor to take with them - a kind of cyber party favor. What we're doing, without even realizing it, is making our site sticky.

We want visitors to stop, stay as long as possible before they move on, then come back the next time we have a party favor to give.

Stay A While

To get someone to stay on your site and explore, you have to have something on the site that will engage the visitor's interest or imagination. Good content tied to what your site's theme is.

When you see the same visitors again and again, it means you've succeeded in our goal. There's something on your site that brings them back. If that happens, then chances are your content will bring others also, and your popularity will grow. You'll build an audience for you, your words, and your product - books, articles, or whatever else you conceive.

So High School

I hate that this sounds like the popularity game from high school, but to a great extent, that's what it is. The only difference is that you don't have to be a football hero or homecoming queen to win this popularity contest. You just have to be willing to use your intellect and be generous to your visitors.

Fortunately, for writers, both those actions come fairly easy.
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INTERVIEW with P. J. MELLOR
December 2008
Welcome, P. J. Mellor. I appreciate your taking the time from what I know is a very busy schedule to share some time with us at READING.

Readers, P. J. is the author of Drive Me Wild, a January 2009 release from Kensington Aphrodisia. She writes humorous erotic romance. If you visit her website and read her biography, you'll readily see the humorous side of her personality. Her books are available at just about every bookstore in the real world and in cyber space.

On to the standard 10!

Joan: How many years from first manuscript to first sale?

P. J.: TEN long, excruciating years!

Joan: What has been your best experience as a published author?

P. J.: Having total strangers ask me if I was the author of their favorite book. It’s always a thrill!

Joan: What has been your worst experience as a published author?

P. J.: The closed minds of people who have never read a romance or, more specifically, an erotic romance and refuse to give them a chance.

Joan: What has surprised you most as a professional writer?

P. J.: I guess it would be how many people don’t consider it a profession.

Joan: If you could write any story, without regard to it selling or any of those other business issues, what would you write?

P. J.: What I write - humorous, hot stories with happy endings! How lucky am I?

Joan: What do you love about your career?

P. J.: The freedom.

Joan: What do you hate about your career?

P. J.: The freedom - it makes deadlines more... deadly. They sneak up on you!

Joan: If you got a big 6-figure advance for a book, what's the first thing you'd buy for yourself?

P. J.: Nothing! Seriously, I really don’t want or need anything else. I’d probably use it to pay off bills for my children and/​or donate it. I have a theory about giving back to others - what goes around comes around. I’ve been so blessed throughout my life, I’d feel guilty to keep the money for myself.

Joan: What is the best advice you can give beginning writers?

P. J.: Never give up hope. My grandmother was widowed at 32 with 8 children and she often said there were days she didn’t think she had the strength to take another step. When I asked how she got through it, she replied, “I took another step.” I think, as writers, it’s so important to keep going, to persevere, to “take another step”. It’s certainly not easy, but it’s the only way to succeed.

Joan: What would you like readers to know?

P. J.: How much I appreciate each and every one of them!
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6 COMMON SENSE RULES FOR A HAPPY WRITING CAREER
by Joan Reeves©2008, All Rights Reserved
1. Don't let other people's ideas about what constitutes literature affect your writing.

2. You have to sell what the buyer wants to buy, because publishing is a business driven by the bottom line. Do the research to find out what publishers want to buy.

3. Learn to want what the market wants. My husband is an energy trader. One of the first things he said he learned is that you must want what the market wants. If the markets are moving up then you must want to take a position that takes advantage of market movement. If the publishing market is moving toward a particular genre, find something about that genre that really appeals to you. Create your niche in the genre.

4. There is no one way to succeed. What works for Nora Roberts may not work for you so you must learn what works for you. You must know yourself, your abilities, your aptitudes, your desires, and your ability to create.

5. Don't be a literary snob. Every genre out there is there because there's an audience for it. Respect what other people read.

6. Don't think your words are carved in granite. Any agent or editor will tell you they're not. Learn to take editorial guidance without getting upset.

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CULMINATION OF 2008's WORK IN PROGRESS (12 of 12)
Help! Where did this year go? Quick, go find it. I know there must be bundles of days hidden away somewhere. I'm just not ready for this year to end. I've accomplished 2 of my big 3 goals. That's not enough for me. I want that third goal, and I want it now.

This is what I've accomplished:

1. got my mom's memoirs finished. They'll be available for purchase in 7-10 days. Please see my blogs if you're interested or email me at joan @​ joanreeves.com and put Mom's memoirs in subject box. I'll send you the link on where to get your own copy. It took a year of my "leisure" time to get the book edited and put together. I'm proud of it.

2. sold large print rights to most of my back list. The books are starting to come out. See a picture of the cover on Previously Published.

What haven't I yet achieved? Lots of things but the one thing that bugs me the most is having my manuscript ready to submit to agents. I've been snowed under with freelance work - which is a nice problem to have. But I'm going to have to make some adjustments in my work schedule or I won't be able to mark this big goal from my list.

I wish you all Happy Holidays and the best in the coming new year. See you in 2009 when we start the progress report anew with 01 of 12.
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INTERVIEW with ANNE MARIE NOVARK
Please join me in welcoming Romance Author Anne Marie Novark to my website.

Anne Marie, thanks so much for taking time from your schedule to visit with us here in Reading.

Readers, Anne Marie Novark is the author of Her Reluctant Rancher which is available now in electronic format and print. Visit Anne Marie's website or The Wild Rose Press website or your favorite online bookstore to order.

Important Details

Anne Marie Novark, Love, Romance and Happily-Ever-After
Her Reluctant Rancher
ISBN: 1-60154-251-8
Publisher: The Wild Rose Press

Website: http:/​/​www.annemarienovark.com
Blog: Not yet.

Now, let's get some questions answered.

Joan: How many years from first manuscript to first sale?

Anne Marie: I'm such a late bloomer. I finished my first manuscript back in 1994 and didn't sell until November 2007.

Joan: What has been your best experience as a published author?

Anne Marie: My best experience is knowing that people other than friends and family are reading my book and enjoying it.

Joan: What has been your worst experience as a published author?

Anne Marie: My worst experience is the other side of that coin: Some people don't like what I have written.

Joan: What has surprised you most as a professional writer?

Anne Marie: The amount of time and energy it takes to promote myself and my book.

Joan: If you could write any story, without regard to it selling or any of
those other business issues, what would you write?

Anne Marie: I've completed eight manuscripts and sold two. Every book I write is a book of my heart, because I write the kind of books I enjoy reading.

Joan: What do you love about your career?

Anne Marie: I love the freedom of setting my own hours, wearing casual clothes or pajamas while working, and the magic of the creative process.

Joan: What do you hate about your career?

Anne Marie: The doubt demons that continue to plague me. Will I be able to write another book? Will I be able to edit and revise the story to my editor's satisfaction? Will I ever sell again? Things like that.

Joan: If you got a big 6-figure advance for a book, what's the first thing you'd buy for yourself?

Anne Marie: A fancy new car. Okay, maybe not so fancy. I would like a Toyota Prius or a Honda Civic Hybrid.

Joan: What is the best advice you can give beginning writers?

Anne Marie: Keep writing and learning about craft. Don't give up. Perseverance is a must in this business.

Joan: What would you like readers to know?

Anne Marie: Readers can contact me at http:/​/​www.annemarienovark.com and http:/​/​www.myspace.com/​annemarienovark. I'm also on Facebook and Tweeter.

Again, thank you, Anne Marie, for sharing your thoughts with us.

Readers, join us next month for another Author Interview.

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FIRST RULE OF WRITING
by Joan Reeves
Rules are interesting little critters, aren't they? I've written before about rules and about the breaking of rules on Sling Words.

Many years ago, the first so-called rule about writing that I learned was what all published writers and editors espouse: Write what you know. I'm pretty sure all writers still hear this because I hear it when I pop into writers' conferences. I even say it myself when I teach workshops and classes.

Write what you know. Why? Because it gives authenticity to your words. By the way, this rule applies whether you're writing fiction or nonfiction, whether it's a book project or a blog on the web.

Now, people who don't write fiction think writing what you know doesn't apply. After all, you're just making it up. Right? Wrong! In fiction, writing what you know means not only getting the facts straight on your information plot but also finding the underlying universal truth that is as real for an American as it is for an Italian or a Japanese. It's the honesty and recognizable truth that makes fiction come to life. And it's what will make an editor offer you a book publishing contract.

One might even say that writing what you know - the emotions you feel when hurt, scared, angry, or happy - is even more important in fiction because without that emotional truth, your fiction will never succeed.

Over the years, I've put my own spin on the "write what you know" rule. If you've read some of my writing how-to articles or taken a class or seen me giving a presentation at a conference, you've probably heard me say it this way: Write what you know OR WANT TO KNOW.

I truly think if you are interested enough in a subject to do the necessary research AND if you have the ability to articulately express ideas then you can write on a variety of subjects without necessarily being an expert.

I also know that if you want to learn something then teach it. Researching and writing about a subject is a form of self-education.

So don't be intimidated by not being an expert on a particular subject if it interests you enough to learn about it. Without realizing it, you'll become an expert. I know I have on any number of subjects that have fascinated me enough to land jobs writing about them.

You'll know you've succeeded when you get fan mail saying: "I know you've got to be a computer guru." Or, "I know you're a perfume "nose" in real life." Oddly enough, both those letters came from readers regarding the same book Say Yes in which my heroine is a perfumer and my hero is a computer expert.

In actuality, I'm neither. I'm just a writer doing her job in creating believable characters.

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INTERVIEW with L. C. HAYDEN
Welcome, Mystery and Inspirational author L. C. Hayden to my website. Thanks, L. C., for taking time from your schedule to visit with us here in Reading.

Readers, L. C. Hayden is the author of the Harry Bronson Mystery series. The latest release in that series was Why Casey Had to Die. The Large Print edition of that book will be out in September 2008. This fall will also see the release of L. C.'s young adult inspirational novelette, Bell Shaped Flowers.

You can find the information you need in order to ask your local library to order L. C.'s books or to purchase them from your favorite online source by visiting her website or blog and by clicking on the title.

Website: http:/​/​www.lchayden.com

Blog: Same, just click blog tab.

Now, let's start asking questions.

Joan: How many years from first manuscript to first sale?

L. C.: I think I hold the world's record on this one. How about 13 years? That was back in '96 when Who's Susan? was released as a paperback, then two years later as a trade paperback.

Joan: What has been your best experience as a published author?

L. C.: Meeting people. The writing community is a lovely, warm group of folks willing to help others. The readers I've encountered are some of the greatest people around. Several folks whom I originally met as my readers are now my dear friends. Whenever I'm in their neck of the woods, I make sure I stop in to see them.

Joan: What has been your worst experience as a published author?

L. C.: I've really had to stop and think about this one. Writing is such a positive experience that I couldn't think of anything bad. I suppose though, that the worst experience is when I get rejected (by a publisher/​agent,) when my book doesn't receive a glowing review, when I do a signing and no one shows up. These things happen to every author and we all know it, but it doesn't make us feel any better.

Joan: What has surprised you most as a professional writer?

L. C.: The extent of people's kindness. We hear/​read about a world that is dark and full of people who mind their own business and don't care for others. As a writer, I've encountered the opposite to be true.

Joan: If you could write any story, without regard to it selling or any of those other business issues, what would you write?

L. C.: Not quite sure what kind of story it would be (inspirational, maybe?) but I would want it to bring a tear to the reader's eye, cause him to smile and even laugh aloud. He'd be a better person after having read the story - which is somewhat what I attempted to do in Bell Shaped Flowers.

Joan: What do you love about your career?

L. C.: I love my detective Harry Bronson and his wife, Carol. They're two of my dearest friends. I love the adventures they get into and I feel I'm part of them. I love speaking and doing presentations and meeting authors and readers. I love the writing aspect and the creativity behind it all. Basically, I love writing.

Joan: What do you hate about your career?

L. C.: I wouldn't say hate, but I would say dislike. I don't like the way we're forced to become sales people. We're forced to take every opportunity to promote our books. It sure would be great if we could write the books and not worry about promoting them.

Joan: If you got a big 6-figure advance for a book, what's the first thing you'd buy for yourself?

L. C.: Right now I'm fighting with Coachmen. My husband and I bought a brand new $80,000 motor home and the cabinets are collapsing. Coachmen refuses to repair or help with the $5,000 bill because they only offer a one year warranty (our camper was two years old when we first started having problems with the cabinets.) We feel that on something major like this, the company should stand by their product. Consequently, I'd buy a new motor home (and it won't be a Coachmen, and I hope nobody else buys the poorly constructed Coachmen campers either.)

Joan: What is the best advice you can give beginning writers?

L. C.: Never, ever give up, but at the same time, learn to recognize a bad manuscript. If you've been rejected over and over again, it's time to take a look at that manuscript. Best to put it away and let it sit for a year or two. Then take it out and through fresh eyes, revise it. While you're waiting, you're creating and submitting other works.

Joan: What would you like readers to know?

L. C.: If you're not familiar with my Harry Bronson mysteries, I'd like to introduce them to you. Why Casey Had to Die was an Agatha Finalist for Best Novel, an honor I'm very proud of. The series has also been a finalist for the Left Coast Crime Award for Best Mystery and has won several other writing awards.

Also, Bell Shaped Flowers, an inspirational novelette will be released Fall 2008. The Large Print Edition of Why Casey Had To Die, Agatha Finalist for Best Novel, will be released September 2008.

Again, thank you, L. C. Hayden for sharing your thoughts with us.

Readers, join us next month for another Author Interview.

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INTERVIEW WITH TERRY ODELL
Welcome, Terry Odell, to my website. Thanks for taking the time from your schedule to share some time with us here in READING.

Readers, Terry is the author of Finding Sarah, What's in a Name?, Starting Over, Hidden Fire, and When Danger Calls.

Here's the information you need in order to ask your local library to order Terry's books it if it hasn't already done so or to purchase them from your favorite online source: visit Terry's website and click on the book that interests you.

Terry Odell: Romance With a Twist~~of Mystery

Website: http:/​/​www.terryodell.com
Blog: http:/​/​terryodell.blogspot.com/​

Now, let's get to those questions.

Joan: How many years from first manuscript to first sale?

Terry Odell: About five, although I'd written two other complete manuscripts before my first was accepted. I never had any aspirations to be a writer; I sort of fell into it by mistake and enjoyed it enough to keep at it.

Joan: What has been your best experience as a published author?

Terry Odell: Having people tell me they couldn't put my book down. I want to be taken to another world when I read, so it's gratifying to know I can do that for others.

Joan: What has been your worst experience as a published author?

Terry Odell: I suppose it would be that with a small press, I'm responsible for so much marketing and promotion. I'm not all that comfortable 'selling' myself.

Joan: What has surprised you most as a professional writer?

Terry Odell: That people think I'm 'different' or 'special' because I've published some books. Or if it comes up that I'm a writer, they say, "Oh, are you famous?" or "Have I heard of you?"

Joan: If you could write any story, without regard to it selling or any of those other business issues, what would you write?

Terry Odell: I always write the stories I want to write. Maybe when I have a multi-book contract with deadlines, I'll feel differently, but I just like telling stories about people, pushing them to make them face situations they weren't aware they could handle when the book starts. Of course, these end up being 'tough sells' because they don't necessarily fit the mold. That's why a small press can be very nice; they're not restricted the way the bigger houses seem to be when it comes to taking a chance on new authors. There seems to be a lot of 'sameness' in the bookstores these days.

Joan: What do you love about your career?

Terry Odell: Working at home, no office hours, no need to get dressed for the office.

Joan: What do you hate about your career?

Terry Odell: Nothing. There are things I'd rather not have to do, like spending money and time on promotion, but I'm still new enough that it's all fun. If it wasn't fun, I'd quit. But I do miss being able to read for pure pleasure -- the internal editor is hard to turn off. It takes a much 'better' book to make me forget I'm reading these days. And I haven't yet been faced with writing to a deadline, so there's not a lot of external pressure.

Joan: If you got a big 6-figure advance for a book, what's the first thing you'd buy for yourself?

Terry Odell: I'm assuming you mean 6 figures in front of the decimal point, right? I can't see that happening to me, but I'd probably buy two tickets on an extended luxury cruise.

Joan: What is the best advice you can give beginning writers?

Terry Odell: If you're a writer, you'll write. It's not an 'overnight success' business -- and it's a business, so writing a fantastic book is only a fraction of the process. BICFOK (or, BICHOK as I've also seen it.) Develop a thick skin. It's not you, it's not your work, it's all about whether a publisher thinks they will be able to sell it to the bookstores. And READ.

(Note from Joan: For you who aren't writers, BICFOK means "butt in chair, fingers on keyboard." BICHOK is "butt in chair; hands on keyboard.")

Joan: What would you like readers to know?

Terry Odell: Now, that's a loaded question! That I'd love to hear from them. That digital versions of books save trees and reduce our carbon footprints. That small publishing houses produce quality work, but readers have to make the effort to request the books from their book stores and libraries if they don't like to order books by mail. Finding Sarah took Second Place in The Lories for Romantic Suspense. What's in a Name? is a Gayle Wilson Award of Excellence finalist and also a finalist in the Daphne du Maurier Award for Excellence in Mystery/​Suspense, and in the Aspen Gold (Heart of Denver Romance Writers). My Cerridwen press books are available from the Cerridwen press websites, from All Romance eBooks, Amazon, and Barnes and Noble. Visit my website, www.terryodell.com. Say hi.

Joan: Terry, thanks again for sharing these thoughts with us and best of luck with your writing.

Readers, join us next month for another Author Interview.

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CHASIN' THE WIND
by Michael Haskins
Hardback: 238 pages
Publisher: Five Star, Gale Cengage Learning
ISBN-13 978-1-59414-638-1
ISBN-10 1-59414-638-1
Copyright 2008

The cover of Chasin' The Wind has palm trees gilded by a setting sun and a boat, silhouetted on a patch of gleaming water. All else in the peaceful scene is darkness. The cover artist perfectly captured the essence of this book, the first Mad Mick Murphy Mystery, by Michael Haskins.

Set in Key West, the darkness beneath the bright surface of this tourist mecca is revealed in the opening sequence when Murphy, former globe-trotting investigative journalist, stumbles upon the near-dead body of his friend and fellow sail enthusiast.

Haskins has a lean, spare style that gives you the facts and paints a picture of the Key West known to its denizens but rarely seen by the tourists. Forget the glitz and glamour of the other odes to Floridian excess as seen in book, television, and film. Chasin' The Wind is the real deal. It's the bite of lime in a mojito, the festering, relentless antipathy still nurtured for Fidel, and the spray of salt in your face when you're on the water.

Mick Murphy is not some unrealistic super hero sleuth. He might be the guy you pass on the street. He's known tragedy, and he's haunted by the past. He probably isn't extraordinary in his beliefs: that loyalty and friendship are everything and that justice should be sought.

Haskins has created an intelligent sleuth, and you'll get a kick out of following Mad Mick Murphy from Key West to Cuba in Chasin' The Wind. You'll wish you could hang with Murphy in a seedy bar and share a beer while you wait for the next book in this promising new series.
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SIX-MONTH CHECKUP FOR WRITERS
August 2008
by Joan Reeves©2008
Seven months of this year are gone like sands of an hourglass blown into oblivion. Sorry for sounding so melodramatic, but my point is that we have less than six months left before the end of the year. Before you close out your financial books for 2008. Before tax time.

Now is a good time to review the first half of 2008 and plan for the next half of the year.

If you're a professional writer, whether freelance or book-length, or an aspiring writer, chances are you have related expenses and, hopefully, income. Now is the time to review your "books." You do have "books" don't you? You know, a record of money spent for expenses and a record of income received.

Here are 10 things to do now to show that you really are a professional writer. Presenting proof of that fact is important in case the IRS ever asks you to do so.

1. Set up a bank account just for your writing income and expenses. With banks competing for customers, you should be able to set up a no-cost checking account easily.

2. Set up an accounting record of all your expenses. This can be an accounting journal or just a spiral notebook. Decide on the Expense Categories you need like: Office Supplies, Postage/​Shipping, Internet, Cell Phone, Website, Professional Dues, Market Research (that's books, magazines, etc.). Each month list what you pay so you have a cumulative record of all the expenses in the various categories.

3. Do you have all your receipts for the above expenses categorized and filed away so you can produce them if you're audited? A simple file is a #10 envelope labeled with the expense name and the receipts inside.

4. Do you have any income due you that you haven't received? If so, do you need to send an invoice or perhaps a reminder of some kind?

5. Do you have a calendar or Daytimer or something on which you record the hours you work and on what project you work? If you're an aspiring writer, this is especially important if you file a Schedule C in order to show a tax auditor that this is not a hobby for you. This is a profession in which you're seriously trying to get established.

6. Get a jump on doing the end of year organization and de-cluttering by doing it twice a year. Now is the time to clean out research materials, file cabinets, pending files, and the office closet. Shred the stuff that needs to be disposed of. Donate office equipment like old PCs, cell phones, etc. to a charity that can use them. You get a tax deduction, and the charity gets merchandise to resell.

7. Look at your goal list for this year. Have you achieved some goals? Have you abandoned others because they don't fit your needs or your career? Have you discovered something else you'd like to achieve the last half of the year? Update your list.

8. Plan on learning something new. Is there an Internet service you've wanted to take advantage of but knew you'd have to set aside time to learn the process? Now's the time to do that.

9. How's your skill set? Do you possess all the skills you need to successfully accomplish your stated goals? If not, what do you need to learn or perhaps un-learn? Now is the time to schedule time to do that.

10. Last, but not least, is a review of your happiness quotient. How happy has your career made you so far? Are there things you don't like about where you're heading? Now is the time to analyze and figure out what to do to change things.
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INTERVIEW WITH DANIEL ARENSON
Welcome, Daniel Arenson, to my website. Thanks for taking the time from your schedule to share some time with us.

Readers, Daniel is the author of FIREFLY ISLAND, a fantasy novel published by Five Star Publishing, an imprint of Gale Cengage (formerly Thomson Gale). Here's the information you need in order to ask your local library to order his book if it hasn't already done so or for you to purchase it from your favorite online source.

FIREFLY ISLAND
by Daniel Arenson
ISBN-10: 1594146012
ISBN-13: 978-1594146015
Purchase from publisher: 1-800-877-4253 (Fax 1-800-414-5043). Email: galeord @​ gale.com or go to their website http:/​/​www.gale.com/​fivestar

Daniel's Website:
http:/​/​www.danielarenson.com

Daniel's Blog:
http:/​/​danielarenson.livejournal.com)

**********

Joan: How many years from first manuscript to first sale?

Daniel: I started writing seriously when I was about 16 years old. I sold my first story when I was 18. It was titled "Worms Believe in God", and it's been lost to the ages. My first fantasy novel, FIREFLY ISLAND, was published last year.

Joan: What has been your best experience as a published author?

Daniel: The best moments are when people email me, telling me that they loved my fantasy novel FIREFLY ISLAND. To me, these are worth a lot more than "official" reviews.

Joan: What has been your worst experience as a published author?

Daniel: When FIREFLY ISLAND became available for pre-order, Amazon placed an "available at" date which was too early. When that date arrived, Amazon automatically emailed everyone who pre-ordered the book, telling them that FIREFLY ISLAND was still unavailable, and offered a link where they can cancel their order. Luckily, Amazon received their books a couple days later, and shipped them out. Very few people canceled their orders, so all ended relatively well.

Joan: What has surprised you most as a professional writer?

Daniel: Promoting books is more work than I expected.

Joan: If you could write any story, without regard to it selling or any of those other business issues, what would you write?

Daniel: I'm writing what I love right now - fantasy which offers epic adventures, but also deals with relevant "real world" issues. I write the type of fiction I myself would like to read. I wouldn't write fiction just because "it sells."

Joan: What do you love about your career?

Daniel: Creating stories and sharing them with readers. It's not about any money or prestige (real or imaginary); it's about the writing itself.

Joan: What do you hate about your career?

Daniel: That the world of publishing is full of connections and networking. In many ways, it's about who you know. If all you have is a great manuscript, and no connections, selling and promoting your book is a tough job. Many great manuscripts get overlooked because of this.

Joan: If you got a big 6-figure advance for a book, what's the first thing you'd buy for yourself?

Daniel: Even in a hypothetical fantasy, I can't get a 7-figure advance? Oh well.... In any case, the first thing I'd spend the money on is a big book launch party, with lots of food and drinks.

Joan: What is the best advice you can give beginning writers?

Daniel: Keep studying the craft. That's a fancy way of saying that I have no one, single piece of advice; there is so much to learn. I've written a bunch of "writing advice" articles on my website. You can find them at http:/​/​www.DanielArenson.com.

Joan: What would you like readers to know?

Daniel: I'd like readers to know about my website, http:/​/​www.DanielArenson.com, where they can find those writing tips, free stories, learn about FIREFLY ISLAND, and a bunch more stuff.

Thanks again for sharing these thoughts with us, Daniel, and best of luck with your writing.

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THE LEGACY by T. J. Bennett
Mass Market Paperback: 458 pages
Publisher: Medallion Press
Copyright: 2008
ISBN: 978-193383636-2
The Legacy, a historical romance, is a marriage of convenience story, but it is unlike the contemporary incarnation of this romance standard. T. J. Bennett has crafted a story that is reminiscent of the depth historical romances once had years ago. In recent years, that depth of character and story in many cases has taken a back seat to increased sexuality and eroticism. The extra spice, though pleasurable in and of itself, has come at the expense of big, bold stories.

Like many fans of the historical romance genre, I want it all - the sensuality AND the big story peopled with memorable characters who are multi-dimensional, conflict-ridden, and driven to sometimes desperate action.

In The Legacy you'll get that. In fact, the uniqueness of this story is evident from the first page when you see below the chapter heading: "Anno Domini 1525, Wittenberg, Electoral Saxony."

Yes, it's set in feudal Germany just after Martin Luther had begun publishing his reformation writings.

Baronesse Sabina von Ziegler, a former nun, is a ruined woman forced by her vengeful stepfather into an arranged marriage with a commoner, widower Wolfgang Behaim.

Each has been betrayed by Sabina's stepfather. Each has secret plans to bring to fruition. Neither plan to consummate the marriage. Yet, fate and desire have a way of interfering with the best laid plans, as we all know.

Set against the violent backdrop of a peasants' revolt and religious upheaval, The Legacy is an uncommon historical romance, and it is uncommonly good.
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INTERVIEW: ROB COSTELLOE
Welcome, Rob Costelloe, to my website. I'm glad you could stop by, and I want to thank you for agreeing to talk to readers about your book Coinage of Commitment.

Readers, Rob's book was a finalist in the 2008 National Indie Excellence Book Awards.

Here are the details on COINAGE OF COMMITMENT so you can request it at your local library or purchase it at your favorite online bookstore.

COINAGE OF COMMITMENT
ISBN: 978-1-894936-83-5
Available from Amazon.com, and BarnesandNoble.com
To purchase from Waldenbooks, with free shipping, call 1-281-469-1901
For a free excerpt from the book, go to Rob's website. He invites you to visit Rob's Blog also.

Joan: How many years from your first manuscript to your first sale?

Rob: 1.2, that is, 14 months

Joan: What has been your best experience as a published author?

Rob: Finalist honors in the National Indie Excellence 2008 Book Awards.

Joan: What has been your worst experience as a published author?

Rob: Still can't get an agent or a major publisher!

Joan: What has surprised you most as a professional writer?

Rob: How few dollars there are in Internet sales (of fiction)!

Joan: If you could write any story, without regard to it selling or any of those other business issues, what would you write?

Rob: COINAGE OF COMMITMENT is the love story I always dreamed of writing as great literature. At one point, I even pulled it off the market for a rewrite because I realized that it was not yet good enough to fulfill the dream. Even the cover image had to be perfect before going to press. Much of the reader feedback has been what I had hoped for, but is an author ever satisfied with sales?

Joan: What do you love about your career?

Rob: I love reader feedback jubilant enough about what my book gave them that it makes me forget the despair over making it good enough. I love the way my imagination crackles with energy when I rise at 4:30 a.m. I love editing a ms with multiple passes until very word sings.

Joan: What do you hate about your career?

Rob: I hate the feeling that there's probably some promo angle that I've overlooked and should be working on, that I'm not doing enough.

Joan: If you got a big 6-figure advance for a book, what's the first thing you'd buy for yourself?

Rob: I'd buy a vacation in London as a treat for my wife (and me).

Joan: What is the best advice you can give beginning writers?

Rob: Don't even think about writing fiction unless you have another source of income.

Joan: What would you like readers to know?

Rob: I'm flattered that many readers insist that COINAGE OF COMMITMENT is so vividly written that it must be autobiographical. But it isn't.

Thanks, Rob Costelloe, for sharing your time with us.
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AGENTS: FINAL THOUGHTS
July 2008
by Joan Reeves©2008
Here are some final thoughts regarding agents and contracts.

1. Know what constitutes a deal breaker for you. Deal breakers are contract clauses that will make you sorry you ever signed the darn piece of paper. For instance, maybe the agent contract has something saying they have a say over works not even written. That's not in your best interest. So educate yourself about what is industry standard and what is likely to make you feel like you just fell off the turnip truck.

2. ANY clause in a contract is subject to negotiation. If you don't like something in the contract, then try to get it changed. Remember, nothing ventured; nothing gained.

3. Always make sure you know exactly what is required should you wish to sever relations with the agent.

4. Don't get swept away by an agent's sweeping enthusiasm or grand promises. Selecting an agent is a business decision requiring careful consideration.

5. Unless it is in the contract, nothing an agent says counts. If they promise to cut their commission on certain works, make sure the contract states that.

Choose wisely.
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AGENTS: IDENTITY QUESTIONS
June 2008
by Joan Reeves©2008
Here are 5 questions to ask a prospective agent about his or her own identity as an agent.

1. Is the agent a member of Romance Writers of America, the other professional writers' organizations that allow agent members, and the Association of Authors Representatives?

2. Does the agent offer a written contract?

3. Does the agent package books?

4. Is the agent also a writer who may be competing in your genre?

5. How do you plan to grow your client list or your agency? Where does the agent see him or herself five years from now and how will you fit into that picture?
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AGENTS: QUESTIONS ABOUT RELATIONSHIPS
May 2008
by Joan Reeves
Here are 10 questions to ask a prospective agent about how your relationship will work.

1. What is your style of agenting? Hands-on? Hands-off? Mommy? Tyrant? Boss?

2. Are you interested in helping me build a career? If so, how will you help me plan my career?

3. How often will you communicate with me regarding my submitted manuscripts?

4. If I want to change genres or add another genre to my repertoire, how will you react?

5. How do you react when a client disagrees with you regarding your strategy for a submission?

6. What do you do if you don't like a manuscript or proposal I send to you?

7. Do you brainstorm ideas with clients from a marketing standpoint?

8. What would you do if I don't get a contract right away?

9. What would you do if I get dropped by my publisher?

10. If I currently have a publisher, what will you do to improve my position with that publisher?
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AGENTS: QUESTIONS ABOUT MONEY
April 2008
by Joan Reeves
Here are 10 questions to ask a prospective agent about money.

1. What, if any, fees do you charge and why? Some agents charge an office fee, and their clients pay it willingly. Decide if that’s part of the package you can live with.

2. Do you send an accounting of the office fees or is it a flat fee?

3. What percentage commissions do you charge for various rights sold? Be wary of any agent who wants to represent self-published works or ebooks because most don’t. That’s an area that an author can easily represent herself.

4. Do you maintain separate escrow or trust accounts for client funds?

5. Do you have a separate signatory for the client account in case of your death or incapacitation?

6. How do I get my money if you become incapacitated of die? Things happen. Know in advance what to do.

7. Do you have a surety bond?

8. Do you maintain some sort of error, omission or fidelity insurance?

9. If I ever have to return an advance, do you forfeit the commission?

10. Do you send 1099 forms and a year-end statement?
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AGENTS: RESEARCHING THEM
March 2008
by Joan Reeves
Here are 5 ways to research agents.

1. Post to the lists and ask if anyone has information about the prospective agent. Request they contact you by private email so you can pick their brain.

2. Google the agent’s name and read whatever you find on the agent's work experience past and present.

3. Check the name on Preditors and Editors and at Writer Beware.

4. If you are a member of RWA or another professional writers’ organization, call the head office and ask if there were any complaints filed against said agent.

5. Ask the agent for references by asking for names and contact information for some of his or her clients then contact them. You wouldn’t hire someone to replace your roof without references would you?
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BAD LUCK AND TROUBLE by LEE CHILD
Reviewed by Joan Reeves
Mass Market Paperback: 477 pages
Publisher: Dell
Copyright: Mass Market Edition, April 2008
ISBN: 978-0-440-24366-3

As you'll begin to see by the books I review here, I have very eclectic taste in books. Some might think the Reacher books by Lee Child are more suited to a male audience, but, hey, this is the era of the kickass girl.

As a woman who took karate in Okinawa (decades ago before that was a common thing) with an Army tank of a sensei, I like to think I fit the kickass paradigm. I wholeheartedly enjoy these books so read on. You may find you enjoy them too.

If you've ever watched The Unit starring Dennis Haysbert then it's not a great stretch to imagine if The Unit personnel retired and wrote books, the books would be pretty much like a Jack Reacher novel.

In Bad Luck and Trouble, members of Reacher's Special Investigators are being killed. The other members ride to the rescue. Reacher and his former team members, notably Frances Neagley whose picture probably resides next to the word kickass in the dictionary, set about making things right and making those responsible pay.

I won't give away any spoilers because it really is a neat action book, but with surprisingly mild language from these characters. The action melds well with a mathematical savant element of Reacher's personality. Plus, Lee Child actually writes a good love scene for a male author. Kudos to Mr. Child.

All in all, it's like a very good read with buddy humor, good characters, nice suspense, a little shocking violence, and a really good, smart payback.

The book made the rounds of my family. Read it, and you too will be waiting for the next Jack Reacher novel from Lee Child.
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A YEAR IN PROVENCE BY PETER MAYLE
Reviewed by Joan Reeves
Paperback: 224 pages
Publisher: Vintage; 1st edition (June 4, 1991)
ISBN-10: 0679731148
Book Size: Trade Paperback

I’m probably the last person in the world to read this charming book. My interest was stirred by the Russell Crowe film A GOOD YEAR which has been running on the premium channels for the last two months.

The movie is heartwarming, witty, and full of sweet charm. Naturally I had to seek out the author of the book from which the movie was adapted. In doing so, I bought all of the other books written by Peter Mayle an ex-patriot Englishman living the life we all want to live in Provence.

Thus I began the first of his books A YEAR IN PROVENCE, his twelve-month epistle of establishing a new home in the Provençale region of France.

Mr. Mayle, a refugee from the advertising business, is of course articulate. More importantly though, he has a fondness for his subject matter and a humorous delivery that will at times make you smile and at other times make you roar with laughter.

The book is part travelogue and part love letter to Provence that will make you wish with every fiber of your being that you could find a similar Provençale farm house with land dotted with grape vines and shuck this rat race for the tranquil life described by Mr. Mayle.

If you haven’t read this book, get a copy from your favorite online or local bookstore. I must warn you about one thing though. Don’t do as I did initially and read a chapter at bedtime.

The descriptions of the food consumed by the Mayles and their French neighbors and friends will make your mouth water. You’ll find yourself in the kitchen uncorking a bottle of pinot noir and rooting through the fridge for a block of cheese.

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TOUJOURS PROVENCE BY PETER MAYLE
Reviewed by Joan Reeves
Trade Paperback: 241 pages
Publisher: Vintage
Copyright 1991
ISBN: 0-679-73604-2

Slowly, I'm working my way through Peter Mayle's books though these books could more rightly be described as his love letters to Provence.

Toujours Provence begins where his first book A Year In Provence ended. Now a seasoned resident of this region of France, he broadens his view to give us an affectionate portrait of the French in all their regional peculiarities.

At once amusing and educational, this book gives the reader the sense of what it would be like to see France as a resident, not a tourist.

I know I've entertained daydreams of living in France of Italy, at least for a summer. Mayle's books make me want to act upon that fantasy.

This book is my perfect choice for bedtime reading. Not because it's boring and makes me sleepy. Not because it's easy to put down when sleep calls. Reading this book is a calm interlude in my busy life. Mayle has a droll humor and a flair for understatement of the incongruous situations that develop. I find myself smiling, and I can feel the stress melting away.

Toujours Provence, like its predecessor A Year In Provence, is the perfect armchair vacation.
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COWBOY POETRY
by Joan Reeves
I'm a sucker for Cowboy Poetry. I guess because I grew up reading old Zane Grey western novels. By the time I was fourteen, I think I'd read about fifty of them. Some, like West of the Pecos and Riders of the Purple Sage, I remember distinctly, but most have kind of blurred together.

If you don't know much about Cowboy Poetry, let me clue you in. There are about 200 gatherings in the U. S. each year, and they're well attended. Texas holds one each spring in Alpine.

Cowboy Poetry includes traditional elements like rhyme, meter and narrative, that aren't seen much in modern poetry. Most of the long-time practitioners of the genre have actually worked as cowboys, or they have strong links to that culture, for instance, wives of ranchers.

No rhinestone cowboy need apply. Yes, there are some poets who've never had to deal with throwing a saddle over Old Paint, but somewhere along the line they had ancestors who knew how to cinch a saddle and ride the line.

Johnny Carson used to have cowboy poets on The Tonight Show. That's where I saw the first one. It was as if I were listening to one of the heroes from a Zane Grey novel lyrically tell about facing the bitter cold and loneliness often much a part of the job of being a cowboy.

Cowboy Poetry has been around a long time and doesn't seem to be fading. If anything, it's gaining in popularity. Maybe in this frantic rat race we call life, listening to someone recite simple yet powerful words about living with honor and integrity has greater appeal now than ever.

Forgotten (about an old abandoned horse that nobody wants to put down) by one of the greatest of the Cowboy Poets Bruce Kiskaddon:

He stands still. He ain't none worried,
fer he knows he[s played the game.

He's got nothin' to back up from.
He's been square and ain't ashamed.

Fer no matter where they put him
he was game to do his share.

Well, I think more of the pony
than of those that left him there.

Just Google Cowboy Poetry or Kiskaddon's name, and you'll find plenty of sites such as Cowboy Poetry if you want to discover more about it.

You may want to order a book from Amazon which has several from reasonably priced to expensive dealing with the subject.

Happy trails, pardner!
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USE YOUR WRITING SKILL
by Joan Reeves
February 2008
Do you try to use your writing in every day life? Or is it something you do only when working on a novel, short story, or article?

A few years ago I read about writers who donate their services at fairs and festivals. Instead of face painting or selling needlepoint, they produce 15 minutes of writing for a fee for anyone who stopped by their booth.

That struck me. I mean we're writers so why don't we all do something like that -- produce writing in real world situations.

The more I thought about it, the more I wanted to attempt that. So I made a decision that I would no longer buy greeting cards for birthdays and such but would create my own, with my profound, and hopefully, moving words. After all Hallmark, a-gazillion-dollar a year industry doesn't need my pittance to stay afloat.

Now, I'll be honest. I still buy Christmas cards, and if pressed for time, you'll find me hanging out at the card counter. But I try to arrange my schedule so I have design time for this endeavor.

What does it take to do this? Some quality papers or card stocks are nice. You can splurge on a graphic design software or you can just print a lovely quotation in a pretty font on the front of the card stock then print your personalized message inside. You can use special software to create greeting cards or just use your word processing software because they all have a template for greeting card.

I find I really enjoy creating specially designed cards for my family and friends, and I've received a lot of compliments on the cards.

What I'm proudest of is that when I can, I use my writing craft and my words rather than buying a card with someone else's words.

Sure it would be cheaper and less time-consuming to just buy all my cards, but I'm doing this as a statement that I'm a writer with words at my disposal, and my words are a gift to my loved one.
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CELEBRATE LIBRARY OF CONGRESS BIRTHDAY
by Joan Reeves
January 2008
On January 26, 205 years ago something of great importance to Americans occurred. I'll give you a hint. It involved reading materials. Give up?

In 1802, Congress passed an act calling for a library to be established within the U.S. Capitol. The Library of Congress is our library, the oldest federal cultural institution in our nation, and it serves as the research arm of Congress.

The Library of Congress is the largest library in the world, with more than 130 million items on about 530 MILES of bookshelves. The collections include more than 29 million books and other printed materials, 2.7 million recordings, 12 million photographs, 4.8 million maps, and 58 million manuscripts.

The current Librarian of Congress is Dr. James Billington. He says the Library's mission is: "to make its resources available and useful to the Congress and the American people and to sustain and preserve a universal collection of knowledge and creativity for future generations."

The Librarian is charged with the task of setting policy and directing and supporting programs and activities to accomplish this mission.

Now, that's your tax dollars at work with good results!
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THE HEART OF THE MATTER:
UNDERSTANDING DRAMATIC STRUCTURE

by Joan Reeves©2008
February 2008
In "The Heart of the Matter," talented Don Henley sings about trying to get down to the heart of the matter but his will weakens and his thoughts scatter. Unfortunately, this scenario is repeated each day when writers attempt and fail in their efforts to become successful novelists.

Why do they fail? One reason may be because they have not mastered the technique of writing scene and sequel, the driving force that powers a novel from beginning to end, or, defined in its simplest term, dramatic structure.

According to the late Jack M. Bickham, guiding light behind the University of Oklahoma’s Creative Writing program and author of WRITING NOVELS THAT SELL, a "gut-level understanding of scene and sequel is the single most crucial factor in becoming a successful novelist." He goes on to say: " . . . for me, the heart of the matter: [is] dramatic structure." From my experience, I believe Mr. Bickham is absolutely correct.

So what is scene and sequel (dramatic structure, storytelling structure, or whatever you wish to call it)? It is the technique of rendering a life-like reading experience for the person holding your book. By life-like, I mean that the story is told moment by moment with no summary, from a viewpoint, lived now, with actions that have results. Without this life-like reading experience, there is no forward motion, no excitement, in your book which means that no one will want to read your book.

Oh, so if we wish to create an exciting novel then we simply tell everything that happens, with no summary, so that everything becomes a scene? Wrong! If everything were a scene, books would be a gazillion pages long. In real life, we summarize, so, in a novel, we also summarize some things. That is the sequel part of dramatic structure.

Thus, we can refine our definition of scene and sequel by saying that it is a clearly-defined structure that develops a novel through a sequence of stimulus and response transactions that begin with page one and conclude with "the end."

The SCENE is the way the action is developed between the characters - moment by moment with nothing left out or summarized. The SEQUEL is the characters' reaction to what has happened.

Scene = goal, conflict, disaster


The scene starts with a character stating clearly what he wants. This is the GOAL that the protagonist wants to achieve. In the scene, the writer develops the CONFLICT that prevents the character from achieving that goal, then shows that DISASTER strikes as a result of thwarted goal achievement.

The SCENE QUESTION, arising from the scene goal, tells the readers what to worry about so they'll keep reading to find the answer. You should answer the scene question disastrously so as to keep the reader hooked.

For example, let's say the scene starts with John Smith (viewpoint character) stating: "I must get you to the hospital, Mary, before the baby comes!" (The action is being lived now.) This is his goal: get his pregnant wife to the hospital before the baby comes. The scene question is: Will John get his wife to the hospital before the baby comes?

The conflict is that which prevents him from achieving his goal: the weather, the traffic, the other drivers, his rattletrap car, his paranoid fear of driving in the rain, his nervousness, his wife's thrashing about, her screams of terror, etc. And of course the disaster is that he does not get to the hospital in time. (The action has results.)

Play the scene out, moment by moment, telling about the slippery roads, the blinding rain, the car fish-tailing when he hit the brakes too hard, the other drivers' speeding, etc.

Sequel = reaction, dilemma, decision

The SEQUEL (reaction) is the character's REACTION to what has happened. That reaction embroils the character in a DILEMMA based on the way the scene question was answered, forces him to make a DECISION which leads him to a new ACTION with a new goal which of course becomes the next scene. In this manner, scenes and sequels are like dominoes standing next to each other, one falling tile gives way to the next and the next until the end is reached.

With our John Smith above, after the scene question is answered disastrously, John realizes he must deliver the baby and reaction sets in (the sequel). John goes through the emotional REACTION of knowing he must do this (perhaps he faints at the sight of blood? or his first wife died in childbirth? more conflict), the physical reaction of clammy hands, racing heartbeat, the knot in his stomach. On the heels of the reaction, John is faced with a DILEMMA or quandary. Does he attempt the delivery? Does he flag down someone to help? Does he run away from the trauma? Does he become catatonic and contemplate his toes? The dilemma forces him to make a DECISION. What is he going to do? The character weighs all the options and within the scope of the character’s personality, makes a decision that leads him to take action, and of course, this action leads to a new scene where you go through the process again.

If a failure to understand dramatic structure is holding you back, then you owe it to yourself to study this crucial skill.
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CAUTIONARY TALE FOR WRITERS
by Joan Reeves
January 2008
A few years ago I spoke at a writers' conference and ran into a friend I hadn't seen in a long while. After the usual conversation between writers, she told me she had recently paid nearly four thousand dollars for a valuable writing lesson. Astonished and frankly curious as to what could have cost that much money, I asked her to tell me more.

Turns out, she'd submitted her manuscript to an agent who in turn praised it and said it just needed some editorial input to make it publishable and ready for submission to the big boys in New York. They had an editorial consultant in mind who could take her immediately if she paid in advance.

This woman is intelligent, educated, and normally sane. She'd tried for years to get published. To her, this sounded like her brass ring. She mailed them a check for three thousand some-odd dollars. A few months later she received her edited manuscript.

When she began reading what had taken her years to write, she immediately felt ill. I'm sure her blood pressure sky-rocketed. She told me she found her pristine punctuation replaced by commas, haphazardly injected or erroneously removed. Her tightly edited active voice narrative had been replaced with wooden passive passages.

Her brown eyes were awash with unshed tears when she told me how she'd been taken for a ride. And it cost her nearly four thousand hard-earned dollars from her day job salary for the ticket. The killing blow was delivered with the returned manuscript. The so-called agent decided the story really wasn't as salable as originally thought so representation was declined.

If you're a writer and think you need an agent, then for God's sake, do your homework. Know who the demon agents are. Demon agents? Yes, those who prey upon writers and are only too willing to suck the soul and every dollar they can get out of the unwary.

With the Internet, you can find out just about anything you want about any individual, especially agents.

Here are some basic actions you always need to take when seriously interested in an agent.

1. Join a writing organization that has a professional relations committee or agent liaison. Romance Writers of America has such. They maintain a data base of complaints against agents. Check out the prospective agent with your organization.

2. Plug the name into the major search engines and follow the links, and go to more than the first few pages.

3. Ask for information from those on writers' forums and listserves. Find out who the present clients are as well as former clients. Request those willing to share their experience to email you privately.

4. Go to any of the Internet sites that report on agents like Preditors and Editors.

5. Please check out the list of the 20 Worst Agents maintained by Science Fiction Writers Association and find out who to avoid.

6. When you think you've found someone reputable, know what questions to ask about the agency business practices. These can be found on many websites, published in many articles, etc. There's a list in the Archives of this website.

7. Use your common sense. If something seems wrong, trust your intuition.

8. Know what you want from an agent and be prepared to express that in your negotiations. If you want had-holding and the agent you've singled out isn't big on mothering, find another agent.

9. Never, ever pay an agent for reading your manuscript or editing. Agents make their income from selling your manuscripts. If they require certain business expenses be reimbursed to them, know this in advance and find out if this is common with most agents. If you don't like it, find a different agent.

10. Educate yourself about contracts so you'll know if an agent is doing the best job of representing you. If an agent pushes you to sign a contract with what is commonly called "basket accounting" in order to make a sale, then that agent doesn't have your best interests at heart. Know the clauses. Know what is standard and what can be negotiated. Novelists Inc., Authors Guild, and Romance Writers of America, to name a few, have published wonderful analyses of standard contracts.

Don't ever be lazy and ignore the research a smart writer needs to do. Writing income is never "easy come," but it's all too "easy go" if you are unwary.
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ALTERNATIVE MARKETS: ARE THEY FOR YOU?
by Joan Reeves
When I began freelance writing for periodicals, back in the Dark Ages, alternative markets existed but were minimal compared to the opportunities that exist today for the innovative writer. If newspapers, magazines, and books, fiction and nonfiction, were standard markets, then alternative markets were, in reality, pretty standard also, i.e., greeting cards, novelties or self-expression products, business or technical writing, scripts, comic books, puzzles, and fillers to name a few. They’ve always been around and are still out there waiting for writers.

Today’s alternative markets, let’s call them “AM’s” for brevity’s sake, are seemingly endless with the advent of the electronic media because all the above mentioned markets exist in print hard copy as well as virtual copy. Just look around. If you see anything that contains words, then that’s a market, possibly a market you can tap into.

My entire career is built around one philosophy: nothing ventured; nothing gained. When I started freelance writing, I took advantage of these abilities I possess: composing at the keyboard which I learned when writing for newspapers; writing quick, clean copy; expressing myself in an articulate manner; and asking for the job.

Here are a couple of writing jobs I had early on and how I found or created them:

■ script for a tourist paddle boat
I took the cruise, commented to the captain that it would have been more enjoyable with a narration of the area’s history. He thought that was a great idea. I gave him my card and said I’d be happy to write one. He bought the script and the rights to use it for a set length of time with an option to renew. Nice chunk of change that kept on paying.

■ business copywriting
I was at my dog’s boarding kennel. The owner was complaining about her outdated forms because her business had grown so much. I told her I’d be glad to revise her forms to meet her current needs.

I obtained other copywriting jobs at local businesses I frequented via similar conversations.

I’ve written all kinds of business papers from the general to the esoteric in addition to advertising, scripts, fillers, puzzles, articles for newspapers, magazines, and newsletters. I’ve supplied newsletter companies (publishing companies that supply clients, corporate for profit and nonprofit, with articles for in-house publications). I’ve lost count over the years of just how many pieces I’ve written.

Self-expression products, one of the traditional AM’s, is mind-boggling in today’s world of individualism. We’re not just talking bumper stickers or tee shirts, sweatshirts, and nightshirts! There’s buttons, coffee mugs, caps, posters, tote bags, calendars, day planners, note pads, plaques, checkbook covers, key rings, combs, mousepads, car window signs, yard signs, banners, pennants. Whew! The list is endless.

Now, with the World Wide Web, the opportunities have increased, and the smart writer who’s a go-to girl or guy benefits. There are online publishers of books, magazines, greeting cards, information sites, and that doesn’t even count the multitude of web sites out there hungry for CONTENT.

Content is a hungry monster waiting for someone to feed it. Someone has to write all this copy. Everyone from a website in Italy outsourcing its content needs via a freelance business website to local businesses who have established web sites and need some interesting little article on a regular basis. They are all potential customers for a good writer who can deliver.

As I said before, someone has to write the copy for anything that contains words, and, often, that someone is a freelance writer like me, or possibly you.

Okay, you’re pumped. You want to tackle these markets. How do you find them? How do you let them know you’re ready, willing, and able to offer them your brilliant words?

There are books published offering information on the traditional AM’s. WRITER’S MARKET, published by Writer’s Digest Books each year, is a standard. Now, WRITER’S MARKET also includes information about electronic magazines that acquire articles, short fiction, and the like. At www.writersdigest.com, there are even guidelines about many of these markets. The electronic markets seem to be bigger short fiction markets than print media. They also pay handsomely!

Writer’s Digest Books also publishes a little jewel called HOW TO WRITE & SELL GREETING CARDS, BUMPER STICKERS, T-SHIRTS AND OTHER FUN STUFF. That book will really get you going in the AM’s.

Another great way is to find the online magazines that cater to things of interest to you. Often they ask for submissions. Plug “writing” or “freelance writing” into the search engines and follow the links. Join writers’ listserves and pay attention to the posts. Markets are often mentioned there first.

Go to the electronic magazines by, for, and about writing because they have market listings. Join writers’ clubs and read their newsletters for market listings. Subscribe to Writer’s Digest Magazine and read their market listings closely because they often mention AM’s.

Pay attention to contests being run to see if it’s something you could write. Supermarket products often have contests with great prizes, i.e., write 50 words or less about the joys of peanut butter. Book publishers have contests when they are opening new lines. Harlequin has often run contests, and they can sometimes give away very nice prizes like new cars. Magazines have contests too.

The opportunities are out there. To quote a very old book that was, one might say, mostly freelance written: “Seek and ye shall find.” If you don’t see a market, then try to create one for your talents. I seem to be throwing out old aphorisms, but this next one also seems appropriate: “God helps those who help themselves.” Or, perhaps, you should just adopt my personal career philosophy. I offer it freely.

Nothing ventured; nothing gained.
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CHARACTER TRUTH FOUND IN OLD MOVIES
by Joan Reeves
Affair To Remember with Cary Grant and Deborah Kerr was on this morning so my daughter and I took a few minutes out of our busy day to watch THE scene.

I haven't watched the entire film in years, but if I find it's on, I always watch THE scene. Which one is that? It's the one where Cary Grant is at the door leaving, and he's talking about how he painted Deborah Kerr wearing the lace mantilla, or shawl. He couldn't take money for the painting so he told the gallery owner to give it to this young woman who fancied it because she liked it and because she was... you know, he stammers. (The young woman was in a wheelchair in case you haven’t seen the film.)

The play of emotions on his face as he's talking and as he begins wondering then putting two and two together to get an inescapable four is incredible. You are so into the character that you can imagine his thoughts arriving at the impossible conclusion that the woman who was in a wheelchair and who fancied the painting is the same as his beloved who sits on the couch and makes no attempt to go to the door to see him out.

He comes back to the couch, places his coat and hat on it, and walks to the other door in the room. He opens it, sees the painting he'd been describing. That's when he creates another memorable cinematic moment. His face reflects how crushed he is, how his heart is in a vise as he realizes the woman he loves is indeed the woman in the wheelchair who visited the gallery. He's staggered by the certain knowledge and nearly falls against the door.

That is THE scene I can never miss just as I never watch it without tears sliding down my cheeks. It's the greatest of acting because of its truth. Cary Grant is so good in that scene that the viewer forgets he's Cary Grant. He is Nicky, the devastated artist in search of his own truth.

Character truth is what makes viewers remember certain movies long after they’ve seen the flick. Characters, breathed into existence by the actor’s performance, live on to enthrall future generations who may not even have been born when the movie was made.

Movies heavy on character truth seem to take a back seat to exploding cars and indestructible, testosterone-drenched males in today's world. Perhaps this is one reason why old movies, and even television series, sell so well on DVD.

New movie makers from directors to producers to actors would do well to watch the old movies that remain viewer favorites instead of trying to figure out how many unbelievable, physics-defying stunts they can dream up.

Touch the emotions, whether through laughter or tears, and you touch a person’s life.

Character-truth in movies is easier to portray since movies are a visual medium. It's not so easy in books where you have to use words to convey that truth to readers. But, as a writer, that's your job. You have to figure out a way to reveal that truth. When you do, you'll have a story worth telling.
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STAGGERING FACTS ABOUT ILLITERACY
by Joan Reeves Copyright 2007
I've been doing research for an article about illiteracy. Championing literacy programs has been a pet project of mine since I chaired The Literacy Luncheon in 1998 for the Bay Area Chapter of Romance Writers of America.

It's hard to comprehend some of the facts I came across. Did you know that in 1910, the literacy rate in the United States was so high that educators predicted that public schools would soon eliminate illiteracy?

Then in 1930, illiteracy rates among adults ranged between 1.5% and 9.9, based on ethnicity and native-born versus foreign-born.

So what happened?

In 2003, a study showed that 50 million adults in this country could not read or comprehend above the 8th grade level.

We have a dropout rate of 29 per cent. In Japan, it's only 5 per cent; in Russia only 2.

Reading proficiency is slipping. I've seen college graduates who have trouble understanding written text. I wonder how they got through college.

A few years ago, UNESCO announced that there were 900 million illiterates in developing countries. This represented nearly 25 per cent of the world’s youth and adults. Much of this is because of the millions of children who have no access to public education.

Yes, this is shocking, but nearly 25 per cent of the youth and adults in the richest countries are functionally illiterate. These are people who had all kinds of access to education.

Why should this concern us?

Economically speaking, illiteracy costs $225 billion a year.

Sixty per cent of the prison population is illiterate. How can they be successfully reintegrated into society when they can't compete in the work force? No wonder recidivism rates are so high.

Almost 90 per cent of juvenile offenders are illiterate.

Fifty per cent of adults on welfare are illiterate. Children of unemployed parents are 5 times more likely to drop out of school.

Nearly 75 per cent of the unemployed are illiterate.

What's happening? Why in a country where education is available to every single individual has this occurred? Good questions. No easy answers.

What are we going to do about?

That's another question with no easy answers.
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CREATE RESTORE POINT IN WINDOWS
by Joan Reeves
As a professional writer, you must protect the integrity of the computer hard drive where your writing files are stored.

Nothing is more terrifying than loading a new software program or downloading an upgrade, only to find that it messes up your computer.

Here’s something important to know about your operating system which in most cases means Windows XP or the new Vista. Mac users, you can just have a big laugh about us poor PC slaves.

Last week I really screwed up some of my programs when I was trying to offload them from my C drive to the new external hard drive I'd purchased. I messed up my C drive so much that I belatedly went to the Windows Help Index to find out how to "go back" or restore my drive to the way it was before I messed it up.

I found out something important. To successfully restore, you first need to create a restore point. Now Windows XP is supposed to make Restore Points by default each day, but I learned that's no guarantee your system will restore to the way it was.

The proper thing to do before installing a new application or upgrade or making major changes that might affect the integrity of your files is to first create a Restore Point that Windows can easily find.

These instructions are for XP since most still use that. If you are a Vista user, then simply plug Restore Point into your Windows Help Menu to find out how to do it.

In XP, here are the steps to ACCESS THE SYSTEM RESTORE WIZARD.

1. Click START then click HELP AND SUPPORT.

2. Click PERFORMANCE AND MAINTENANCE and it opens the wizard. (Then you'll CLICK the action you want to take from the list displayed.)

3. Click CREATE A RESTORE POINT then click NEXT.

4. In the Restore Point Description box, type a name to identify this Restore Point, System REstore automatically adds to this name the date and time the Point is created.

5. Click CREATE.

You can read all the detailed instructions in the Help Index under To create a Restore Point.

Take a tip from me: do this before load new software or uninstall old software. That way, you probably won’t mess up your computer the way I did.

Old Ben Franklin was right: “Experience keeps a dear school, but a fool will learn in no other.”
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THE CRAFT OF WRITING
by Joan Reeves
Why do writers talk about the craft of writing? Because writing is a craft, with certain learned skills. If you’re going to be a professional writer, you must learn those skills and respect the craftsmanship involved in becoming a selling writer. Inspiration is not enough to create a compelling story.

Sometimes writers may work all their lives to learn these necessary skills in order to tell their stories in a way that will garner them a publishing contract. Perhaps, if you aren’t selling yet, it’s because you haven’t learned enough of the required techniques or haven’t practiced them enough. In other words, you just haven’t written enough words.

Dean Koontz said a couple of decades ago that a writer must write X thousand words before anything can be written worthy of publication. What that X is varies from writer to writer.

Just what are these skills one must learn in order to be a selling writer?

I think Jack E. Bickham, author of Writing Novels That Sell hit the nail on the head when he said, “A story is the formed record of a character testing conflict, told from a point of view.” In his book, Mr. Bickham discusses each of these elements - formed record, character, conflict, viewpoint - at length. I urge you to read this book if you can find a copy (it’s out of print).

Briefly, a formed record means an author controls the material. There is a formal structure. There is a consciousness of narrative principles. Classical ideas of dramatic architecture are followed. In other words, great stories just don’t happen.

A character is not just a person. In fiction, a character is a creation of many things. A character is an exaggeration of a real-life person in some respects. A character is much easier to understand than a human being, because their “tags” and traits, their attitudes, internal and external wants and needs, their conflicts are played on the stage of our minds. Often, it’s much easier to understand what makes a created character tick than to understand why your spouse gets depressed during the holidays. Or it should be much easier. That’s the author’s job: make the character understood by the reader and make the reader want to know the character.

Conflict is the driving force of fiction. Conflict is struggle. It is a fight that plays on stage for the reader. Yes, sometimes conflict is a character at war with himself, but this isn’t enough. There has to be an external conflict driving the external plot and reflecting the internal struggle. Don’t confuse adversity, which is bad luck, with conflict.

Point of view, is the scale that makes the story someone’s story. Viewpoint is necessary to fiction, because a reader wants and needs to identify with someone. The reader wants to cheer for someone and relate to the story. Viewpoint is a carefully wielded skill by the writer. A writer must make careful decisions about what kind of viewpoint to use, whose viewpoint to use, and how to use that viewpoint to not only relate the events of the story but also reveal character to the reader.

If you are just starting out, your writer’s tool box probably has lots of empty space. Add these skills as quickly as possibly, and you’ll be well on your way to writing salable fiction.
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BOOKS: A STRANGE COMMODITY
The Tale of Georg Christoph Lichtenberg

by Joan Reeves
Like most writers, I have this obsession with books. I buy a book and keep it until the end of time. That is, I used to do that, but moving three times in four years will make even the most ardent bibliophile question the wisdom of transporting a few thousand books.

Just in case I find myself in the horrible position of having to move again, I try to keep my library to a manageable size now. Each spring and fall I try to give away books.

Recently, in one of the books I was thinking of parting with, I came across a quotation attributed to Georg Christoph Lichtenberg. Many erudite people have made insightful remarks about books. This one is for the cynical crowd.

Georg Christoph Lichtenberg said: “There can hardly be a stranger commodity in the world than books. Printed by people who don't understand them; sold by people who don't understand them; bound, criticized and read by people who don't understand them; and now even written by people who don't understand them.”

That's quite a commentary on the state of publishing, isn't it? The really interesting thing about this is that Georg Christoph Lichtenberg, who taught physics, mathematics, astronomy, and other subjects, was not talking about contemporary books and publishing because he was born in 1742.

Lichtenberg did research in many fields, geophysics, volcanology, meteorology, chemistry, astronomy, and mathematics to name a few, but he's remembered primarily for his work in physics. His only true scientific discovery though was related to electricity. In 1777, he found that discharges of static electricity formed patterns in bits of dust.

Though these Lichtenberg figures were of no use to him at that time, they are the basic principle used in modern photocopying machines. Now, Lichtenberg figures, radial patterns formed when sharp, pointed conducting bodies at high voltage get close enough to insulators to discharge electrically, are being studied because they are fractals.

He is remembered for the thousands of pithy sayings he composed as much as for his contributions to science. Actually, I think he's remembered more for his creative witticisms since he's considered a mere footnote in scientific history.

In an odd way, I find it comforting that someone a few hundred years ago felt the way we writers often feel about what gets published. So if you are a writer or a reader disgusted with what's lining the shelves at your local bookstore, you're in good company.
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CONTRACT ADVICE
by Joan Reeves
I've read many discussions on the various writers lists to which I subscribe about some author's disappointment in discovering the true meaning of his or her contract - after the contract had been signed.

So I thought I'd take this opportunity to give two simple rules about book contracts.

DO NOT sign a book contract unless:

1. You have read the entire contract.

2. You understand the entire contract.

If you and the editor discussed anything that is NOT in the contract, then no matter what the editor promised, it doesn't count. Only what is in the contract is legal. If there's something you've been promised, then don't sign until the contract has been revised to represent that.

It goes without saying, but I'll say it any way, an agent is the ideal person to handle contracts. However, many of you do not have an agent as of yet, so you have to educate yourself about contract terms.

Romance Writers of America and other professional writers' organizations have published excellent articles about the different publishing houses' boilerplate contracts. Join RWA or one of the others and look these up.

If you have already published, then you may be eligible for membership in Authors Guild Inc. They offer a contract review service for a relatively inexpensive fee.

As a last resort, ask your friends who are published if they will go over the contract with you or even go on your lists and ask for help.

Yes, there are individuals like attorneys and some agents who will review contracts, but they usually charge a couple hundred bucks minimum. If you're thinking of signing an E publishing or small press contract, chances are you won't be getting an advance or will receive only a nominal advance so that fee has to come out of your personal pocket.

Use some common sense. Don't pay $500.00 to someone to interpret your contract when you are getting zippo in advance money, and the publisher has a track record of only producing a hundred dollars or less in earn out on its projects.

There are many books out there (check Writers Digest Books) on understanding contracts. Educate yourself even if you eventually plan to get an agent.

An informed writer is a writer who is less likely to be taken advantage of.
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PRESENTING CHARACTERS
Part 1 of 8

by Joan Reeves©1997


One of the simplest formulas for writing a novel is this: An appealing character struggles against obstacles to achieve a worthy goal. Notice I said simple formula, though simple, it's not necessarily easy.

For our purposes, let's break this formula down into its three components: appealing character, obstacles, worthy goal. Let’s talk about characters.

In fiction, a writer creates characters to people his or her story. These characters should be memorable, identifiable, and intriguing. Well-defined characters are also easily understood by readers, contrary to real life, wherein readers sometimes don't have a clue as to why their spouses, children, friends, or co-workers act the way they do.

When a reader meets the character for the first time, the writer hopes that the reader finds the story person so interesting that the reader is compelled to read on, to follow that character through the story. How then does a writer introduce characters in a way that makes the reader interested, even intrigued? How does a writer involve the reader in such a way, that the book cannot be laid aside?

According to Walter S. Campbell, founder of the Professional Writing Program at the University of Oklahoma, there are eight ways. He discusses these eight ways at length in his book Writing: Advice and Devices (New York, Doubleday, 1950). They are also presented in Jack Bickham's book Writing Novels That Sell, (New York, Fireside, Simon & Schuster, 1989, ISBN 0-671-68393-4).

These eight ways are:

1. By description of the character

2. By speech of the character

3. By action of the character

4. By effect of the character on other story people

5. By explaining traits and motives of the character

6. By analyzing the character's psychological processes

7. By character's reactions to other story people and circumstances

8. By what other story people say about the character.

This month we'll discuss the first way: by description of the character.

This example is taken from the very first paragraph of GONE WITH THE WIND by Margaret Mitchell.

Scarlett O'Hara was not beautiful, but men seldom realized it when caught by her charm as the Tarleton twins were. In her face were too sharply blended the delicate features of her mother, a Coast aristocrat of French descent, and the heavy ones of her florid Irish father. But it was an arresting face, pointed of chin, square of jaw. Her eyes were pale green without a touch of hazel, starred with bristly black lashes and slightly tilted at the ends. Above them, her thick black brows slanted upward, cutting a startling oblique line in her magnolia-white skin--that skin so prized by Southern women and so carefully guarded with bonnets, veils and mittens against hot Georgia suns.

In five sentences, along with a physical description “slanted, pale green eyes without a hint of hazel, bristly black lashes, thick black brows slanted upward, magnolia-white skin,” the reader knows the character's full name, how the character is perceived by others “men saw her as beautiful though in truth she wasn't,” her ethnic heritage (French and Irish), a hint of the economic status of her family (mother an aristocrat), a hint of a familial conflict (what's a coast French aristocrat doing with an Irishman with heavy, florid features which connotes a man of lower class?), the mores of the time (A high value was placed on women's white, pampered skin.), and that she was from Georgia.

Notice also how the physical description is presented:
SLANTED, PALE GREEN eyes WITHOUT A HINT OF HAZEL
STARRED with BRISTLY BLACK lashes
THICK BLACK brows SLANTED UPWARD
MAGNOLIA-WHITE skin.

Is the reader interested in this person immediately? You bet! Several million people have attested to that fact since the book was first published in 1936.
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PRESENTING CHARACTERS
Part 2 of 8

by Joan Reeves
This month we'll look at the second way characters are introduced to the reader: By speech of the character.

This selection is taken from the powerful OF MICE AND MEN by John Steinbeck, first published in 1937. This characterizes both major characters, George and Lennie, by speech, as well as by description and action.

His huge companion dropped his blankets and flung himself down and drank from the surface of the green pool; drank with long gulps, snorting into the water like a horse. The small man stepped nervously beside him.

“Lennie!” he said sharply. “Lennie, for God sakes don't drink so much...Lennie. You gonna be sick like you was last night.”
Lennie dipped his whole head under, hat and all, and then he sat up on the bank and his hat dripped down on his blue coat and ran down his back. “Tha's good,” he said. “You drink some, George. You take a good big drink.” He smiled happily.
George unslung his bundle....”I ain't sure it's good water,” he said. “Looks kinda scummy.”
Lennie dabbled his big paw in the water and wiggled his fingers....“Look, George. Look what I done.”
“...You never oughta drink water when it ain't running, Lennie,” he said hopelessly.


From these passages, by Lennie's action of drinking from scummy water without thought for health, but only with thought to satisfy thirst, the reader learns that Lennie is retarded. Even though Lennie and George both speak in an uneducated manner (improper subject-verb usage, use of oughta, ain't, etc.), Lennie's speech has a child-like quality. “'Tha's good, you drink some. You take a good big drink. Look. Look what I done.'” This child-like quality is illustrated by the adverb modifiers also. “He smiled HAPPILY.” And what was Lennie doing? Drinking from a scummy puddle.

At the same time, George is introduced and is characterized by speech as an uneducated man who is the apparent caretaker for Lennie. It's obvious that he cares for Lennie and watches out for him. “'You never oughta drink water when it ain't running, Lennie,' he said HOPELESSLY.” By the adverb modifiers used for George, we learn that taking care of Lennie is a futile, frustrating task. “'Lennie!'” he said SHARPLY.” “He said HOPELESSLY.”

In reading the next few paragraphs, one learns that George is morose, angry, and tired. By his speech, we also see that he feels much put upon and kicked around by the world. “We could just as well of rode clear to the ranch if that bastard bus driver knew what he was talkin' about.”

See the frustration and anger and exhaustion George exhibits? Note the conflict introduced in the short passage? Can you do this with your writing?
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PRESENTING CHARACTERS
Part 3 of 8

by Joan Reeves
The third way to introduce a character to a reader is by action of the character.

When you first meet the character, he or she is doing something sufficiently interesting in and of itself or intriguing in the way it is being done that makes the reader keep reading. After all, that is the goal: make the reader keep reading.

In Ken Grissom's mystery DROP OFF, he introduces you to his sleuth this way: Rodrigue was dreaming of raging surf.

Yes, I know we are told not to start with a dream, but in this case it works because of the word raging. Raging surf is interesting enough to make you read the next sentence.

It was a good dream because it meant he would spend the day hustling the tough Afrikaner barmaids instead of tacking on anodes with an ear-ringing Ramset Tool under ninety feet of cold water.

So in meeting Rodrigue - by the action of his dreaming or fantasizing - we learn through what he dreams that the wily Cajun who makes a living by his wits, as much as by his diving skills, prefers hustling barmaids to underwater labor.

In SILENCE OF THE LAMBS by Thomas Harris, Clarice Starling is introduced by description in the first couple of paragraphs. Yet, in the movie version, starring Jodie Foster as FBI Agent Starling, Clarice is introduced by action. The camera follows her as she runs the obstacle course at Quantico. She's dogged in her attack of the course, sweating, breathing heavily, never giving up, stopping only when instructed to report to Jack Crawford's office.

This introduction by action of her character also serves as a metaphor for her dogged effort to extract information from Hannibal Lechter, the infamous serial killer she is sent to interview and later for her persistent effort at unraveling the puzzle.

How does Harris introduce Lechter in the novel? Dr. Lechter himself reclined on his bunk, perusing the Italian edition of Vogue. He held the loose pages in his right hand and put them beside him one by one with his left....looked up from his reading....thought his gaze hummed....Dr. Lechter considered, his finger pressed against his pursed lips. Then he rose in his own time and came forward smoothly in his cage, stopping short of the nylon web without looking at it, as though he chose the distance....

Here we see a man who previously has been described by other characters. We already know he is a monster, a serial killer of extraordinary intelligence. Now we are introduced to him by his actions - tranquil, calm, precise, composed, ordered. Where is the raving lunatic one would expect to see? The contrast is intriguing. We read on to discover what this serene facade conceals.

In MR. MURDER by Dean Koontz, the main character is introduced in the second paragraph: Leaning back in his comfortable leather office chair, rocking gently, holding a compact cassette recorder in his right hand and dictating a letter to his editor in New York, Martin Stillwater suddenly realized he was repeating the same two words in a dreamy whisper. “...I need... I need ... I need ...” Frowning, Marty clicked off the recorder....could not recall what he had been about to say.”

Action introduction: leaning, rocking, holding, dictating, repeating, clicked, etc. Though commonplace, these actions concluding with: “Repeating the same two words in a dreamy whisper. ‛I need. I need.'” draw us into the story.
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PRESENTING CHARACTERS
Part 4 of 8

by Joan Reeves
The fourth commonly accepted way to introduce a character is by showing the effect of the character on OTHER story people. Eileen Dreyer in A MAN TO DIE FOR introduces sociopath Dr. Hunsacker.
Casey turned to answer and found herself face to face with Dr. Hunsacker....There couldn't be any mistaking just who he was....It was the smile. She could nearly hear the delivery nurses sigh four floors away....Nice-looking but when he smiled he was unforgettable. It hit you right between the eyes and left you a little dizzy. It made you smile back, no matter what else you wanted to do....Casey had never heard anyone whine and coo at the same time. That was exactly what Mrs. Van Cleve was doing...Hunsacker was holding the woman's hand, and she was batting and cooing at him.

By inference we find out that the nurses in the hospital all think Hunsacker is a heartthrob, as do his patients. He is unforgettable. His smile makes a woman dizzy, and she has to smile back regardless. Holding his patient's hand, he has Mrs. Van Cleve batting her eyes and cooing.

In TIMESCAPE by Gregory Benford, John Renfrew is introduced this way: “Daddy, look--.” “Damn, watch out.... Get that paper out of my porridge.... Marjorie, why are the bloody dogs in the kitchen while we're having breakfast?" Three figures in suspended animation stared at him. Marjorie, turning from the stove...Nicky...mouth formed an O of surprise...Johnny...his face beginning to fall.... Renfrew knew what was going through his wife's mind - John must be really upset. He never gets angry.

The effect of Renfrew's uncharacteristic actions is shown on the other characters and serves to introduce him and show his emotional state.
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PRESENTING CHARACTERS
Part 5 of 8

by Joan Reeves
You can present a character by explaining the traits and motives of the character, and sometimes the difference between traits and motives and the psychology becomes a fine line since the two are easily woven together. In Watchers by Dean Koontz, the psychopathic killer Vince Nasco is introduced in two short segments spaced a few pages apart.

In the first segment, Nasco is presented using physical description and action. In the second segment, the reader learns more about Nasco when his some of his traits and motives are presented. The following example occurs after a dialog passage in which Nasco threatens his hapless victim: He was lying, of course. She was the one he was being paid to hit, and the husband had to be removed simply because he was there. However, it was true that Vince was not going to shoot her. He wanted her to be cooperative until he could tie her up and deal with her at a more leisurely pace.

In Wolf’s Hour by Robert McCammon, hero Michael Gallatin is introduced first as a wolf who kills a Nazi officer then as a man arriving for a tryst with his lover. When his woman is killed by a Nazi assassin, Gallatin turns into a wolf and kills the assassin.

In the next segment, which is the set-up for the rest of the book, Gallatin is presented, showing human traits and motives, but with his duality present: So he would not refuse them entrance when they arrived, because he was a man and they would also be men. He would listen to what they had to say, might even consider it briefly before he refused. They had come a long way, over rough roads, and he might possibly offer them shelter for the night. But his service to his adopted homeland was done.... He could not keep them away from his door. So it was best just to leave the gate unlocked and wait for them.
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PRESENTING CHARACTERS
Part 6 of 8

by Joan Reeves
Analyzing the psychological processes of the character, as stated in last month's segment, is sometimes difficult to separate from the traits and motives and psychology of the character.

Going back to WATCHERS by Koontz, the last part of the quoted paragraph concludes with a little of Nasco’s psychology: “The two shootings had been satisfying, but he wanted to draw this one out, kill her more slowly. Sometimes, death could be savored like good food, fine wine, and glorious sunsets.”

Here’s a profound bit of psychology which opens chapter one in MORTAL FEAR by Greg Iles. It is offered as the thoughts of the main character and serves to present Lee and sets the emotional tone of the book: “Life is simple. The more complicated you believe yours is, the less you know of your true condition. For a long time I did not understand this. Now I do. You are hungry or you are full. You are healthy or you are sick. You are faithful to your wife or you are not. You are alive or you are dead. I am alive.”

Note that which he emphasizes: I am alive. Of all the choices he listed, food, health, fidelity, life, he chooses to assert that he is alive, which is apparent. Of the four choices he lists, fidelity is the subject that doesn’t “fit.” Almost by evasion, he leads the reader to believe that fidelity will be important to his story - and it is an overriding theme woven throughout his book.

Next time, this series of articles will conclude with the last two ways to present characters: by the character’s reaction to other story people and circumstances, and by what other story people say about the character.
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PRESENTING CHARACTERS
Part 7 of 8

by Joan Reeves
By the character’s reactions to other story people and circumstances.

In ONE FOR THE MONEY by Janet Evanovitch, Stephanie Plum, the main character, reacts this way to Joseph Morelli, the man who shares her adventures:

The next time I saw him, I was three years older. I was on my way to the mall, driving my father’s Buick when I spotted Morelli standing in front of Giovichinni’s Meat Market. I gunned the big V-8 engine, jumped the curb, and clipped Morelli from behind, bouncing him off the front right fender. I stopped the car and got out to assess the damage. “Anything broken?”

He was sprawled on the pavement, looking up my skirt. “My leg.”

“Good,” I said. Then I turned on my heel, got into the Buick, and drove to the mall.”


Wow! With that passage, Evanovitch is telling us that Stephanie Plum reacts emotionally - unpredictably even - to Joe Morelli. What a marvelous introduction to Stephanie Plum - and to Joe Morelli.
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PRESENTING CHARACTERS
Part 8 of 8

by Joan Reeves
This is the last in an eight-part series on introducing a character by what other story people say about the character.

In ONE FOR THE MONEY by Janet Evanovitch, Stephanie Plum, the main character, reacts this way to Joseph Morelli, the man who shares her adventures:

The next time I saw him, I was three years older. I was on my way to the mall, driving my father’s Buick when I spotted Morelli standing in front of Giovichinni’s Meat Market.

I gunned the big V-8 engine, jumped the curb, and clipped Morelli from behind, bouncing him off the front right fender. I stopped the car and got out to assess the damage. “Anything broken?”

He was sprawled on the pavement, looking up my skirt. “My leg.”

“Good,” I said. Then I turned on my heel, got into the Buick, and drove to the mall.”


Wow! With that passage, Evanovitch is telling us that Stephanie Plum reacts emotionally - unpredictably even - to Joe Morelli. What a marvelous introduction to Stephanie Plum - and to Joe Morelli.

In this passage from the same book, Stephanie reacts to her meeting a boxer named Ramirez.

His smile had turned tight, and the civility had slipped from his voice.... I felt tendrils of panic curl into my stomach, and I cautioned myself not to overreact.... I made a display of looking at my watch. “Sorry you feel that way, but I’m supposed to meet Gazarra in ten minutes. He’s not going to be pleased if I’m late.... I took a step backward.... Ramirez grabbed me by the scruff of my neck.... No one’s going to help me, I thought, feeling the first licks of real fear.”

Also, from the same book, the first three pages are devoted to what Stephanie has to say about Joseph Morelli, beginning with the first sentences of the book:

There are some men who enter a woman’s life and screw it up forever. Joseph Morelli did this to me - not forever, but periodically.

In MIAMI, IT’S MURDER by Edna Buchanan, the viewpoint character Britt Montero says this about a man who plays a major part in the story:

Dan was one of the best detectives the city had... and they forced him out.... Legally, they can’t force a terminally ill cop to retire. But they do it anyway.

So, writers, that's it. Here's the list once again on generally accepted ways to introduce characters in a story:

* by description of the character
* by speech of the character
* by action of the character
* by the effect of the character on other story people.
* by explaining traits and motives of the character
* by analyzing the psychological processes of the character
* by the character’s reactions to other story people and circumstances
* by what other story people say about the character.
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WHY ATTEND A WRITERS CONFERENCE
by Joan Reeves
Since the annual Romance Writers of America Conference is in a few weeks, I thought I’d give you my take on writers’ gatherings.

Conferences for writers are wonderful events that are anticipated with varying degrees of excitement and/​or fear. They are places where a writer can learn something new about the various aspects of the writing craft and where a writer can meet editors, agents, and other writers, published and unpublished.

We all know the importance of increasing our knowledge about the craft and the business of writing, but, you may wonder, what is so important about meeting people, especially these people who intimidate you?

Well, let's take editors and agents. If you've never met an editor or agent before, face to face, chatted with them about their daughter who's home sick with a cold or their son who just took his SAT, you may have a misconception about these people who earn their salary from writers, either directly or indirectly.

You may think they have the intelligence of Stephen Hawking, the arrogance of George III, the looks of Katherine Heigl, the savvy of Oprah Winfrey, and the compassion of a turnip.

After a few minutes of talking though, you realize that - gasp -they're just (usually) average people trying to do the best job they can in a down-sizing corporate world. They're tired; they have family worries. And, like you, they're probably underpaid and overworked. They are not ogres, with horns growing from their foreheads, whose primary goal in life is to keep you from getting published.

You've met published authors before in your own writers club, right? So why does your heart flutter alarmingly if there's a chance you might meet, say Ridley Pearson or John Grisham or Nora Roberts or Janet Evanovitch, to name a few? I guess it’s human nature to imbue others who are vastly successful with charisma. And that charisma you invest in them makes you put them on a pedestal, high above poor little you, the struggling writer.

By talking with them over cocktails, you learn that they're not any different from the writers you know, published or unpublished. Sure, they make more money, sometimes tons of it, but that just brings them the same problems you've got on a grander scale, and often, different problems that you wouldn’t want!

So walk up, introduce yourself, and talk with them a while. You'll begin to see them as fellow human beings with families, personal problems, bills to pay, and, many times, a job that gives them more headaches than pats on the back, just like you.

While we are talking about conferences, let me mention why NOT to go to a conference. There are writers who go from conference to conference and workshop to workshop. They already know nearly everything they need to know in order to write, but by hitting the conference trail, they avoid sitting in front of that keyboard and sweating blood in the effort to put words on paper. Don't fall into that trap.

Gaining knowledge is wonderful, but knowledge is not power. The APPLICATION of knowledge is power.
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AGENT QUESTIONS TO ASK
by Joan Reeves
A writer must always remember that when she is looking for a literary agent to represent her work, she is actually screening applicants for a job. She is the EMPLOYER seeking to hire an EMPLOYEE, a literary agent to work FOR HER.

This is a business. Embroider that on a sampler or design a screen saver with that on your scrolling marquee.

At the very least, here are some basic questions a writer needs a prospective agent to answer when an offer of representation is on the table.

1. Does the agent maintain separate escrow or trust accounts for client funds?

2. Does the agent have a separate signatory for the client account in case of death or incapacitation?

3. How do I get my money if the agent is incapacitated or dies?

4. Does the agent have a surety bond?

5. Does the agent maintain some sort of error, omission or fidelity insurance?

6. Is the agent a member of RWA or other professional organizations? If so, check with that organization to see if there are any comments or complaints against the agent.

7. Does the agent offer a written contract?

8. Does the agent also package books?

9. Does the agent also write books? Is there anyway this could be a conflict of interest for you?

10. If I ever have to return an advance, does the agent forfeit commission?

11. What fees or charged? Courier, copying, telephone, postage, flat "Office Expense" fee, others?

12. Am I sent an accounting? If so, how often?

13. Does the agent send a year-end statement of activity or some other kind of report?

14. How can the agent be terminated?

Read these questions carefully. If you don't know what some of these things mean, look them up. Educate yourself. This is a business, not just a creative pursuit.
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FIVE STEPS TO EMAIL PRESS RELEASE SUCCESS
by Joan Reeves
If you want to send email press releases, either to print media or as an “exciting announcement to friends, business associates, and family, follow these rules so your announcement won’t be deleted, filtered to spam, or judged rude by the recipient.

1. Follow the KISS rule - keep it short, sweetheart. People are busy. Give the pertinent information, you know, the old who, what, when, where, why, and how along with the book info: title, genre, ISBN, publisher, release date, price, & how to get a copy. Keep it to a couple of paragraphs so the reader doesn’t have to scroll and scroll again.

2. Address the emails individually. Don't send them en masse. What’s worse than BCC’ing everyone though is putting all of them in as recipients where everyone can see everyone else’s email addresses. I can’t tell you how much annoying mail I’ve received from total strangers who click a mass email mailing Reply To All. Don’t be guilty of this. If you send each one individually, the recipient will think you actually thought of them especially for this, and it will make them feel special.

3. Personalize where possible. Put a little note at the top of the email with a personal message. The few seconds you spend doing this will make the recipient regard you warmly rather than with irritation.

4. Send your email announcements in a timely fashion - not so far in advance of the book’s release that they forget, and not so far after the release that the book is no longer available. Timing, as funny man Steve Martin said, is everything.

5. Make sure your news is not only of interest but is presented in an interesting or entertaining manner. If mailing to media for inclusion in local newspapers, remember to find a hook that makes it local newsworthy.
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FIVE MORE STEPS TO EMAIL PRESS RELEASE SUCCESS
by Joan Reeves
1. Narrow your focus so that your press release is important to your target group. Instead of sending something with a plot set in a small Texas town to newspapers in Houston, send it to the towns that surround your setting area. If you have something involving a landscaper who grafts a special rose, don’t send it to just any garden society, target the rose growers. The more you narrow your focus, the better results you’ll have in garnering interest.

2. Always, be a professional. Proofread your email. Don’t treat it as if it’s a hurriedly scribbled Post It Note. It’s professional correspondence.

3. Keep a log of the press releases you send so you’ll know if you’re getting any publicity as a result.

4. If someone objects to what you send, be polite and assure them you will remove their name from your list. Then do it.

5. Install a sign up sheet on your website or blog where people can sign up to receive emails regarding book releases from you.

That's it. Pretty simple and mostly common sense, but you'd be surprised how many writers fail in this area. So give some thought to the result you want to achieve and then plan your publicity campaign carefully.

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Copyright 2002-2014 by Joan Reeves. All rights reserved. For permission to reproduce anything on this website, please contact: Joan Reeves, P. O. Box 1627, Normangee TX 77871-1627 or email: Joan at JoanReeves dot com. In the Subject Box, put REAL LIVE PERSON to get past the spam filters.

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JOAN'S BOOKS

CONTEMPORARY ROMANCE
LuvU4Ever
The Mechanic and The PhD
April Fool Bride
Second Chance Bride
Romantic Comedy that is sassy, sexy, funny, and heartwarming.
Jane (I'm Still Single) Jones
Just One Look
Scents and Sensuality
Still The One
Funny, sexy, and full of humor, each Romantic Comedy will leave you with a smile.
Nobody's Cinderella
Cinderella Blue
Four Contemporary Romance Novels about determined heroines and their would-be attempts at being bad girls -- now that's Romantic Comedy!
The Trouble With Love
Romeo and Judy Anne
Forever Starts Tonight
Crazy For Love
Each of these four Romantic Comedy novels that will enchant you with their humor, romance, and passion.
Old Enough To Know Better
Good Girl Conspiracy
Bad Girl Complex
Girly Girl Conquest
NONFICTION
Little Book of Sunshine for Readers and Writers
Memory Lane
Written Wisdom

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