Category Archives: Writing

Twenty Eight Days to RT…and Counting.


I refuse to believe that’s how much time we have.  I also refuse to look at a calendar, for fear that number is right.

Are you going to RT?  If you’ve never been, there are some things you need to know.

You don’t get a lot of sleep.  You walk a lot.  Cons are notorious for making people sick.  Food is often a) forgotten b) expensive c) both.

In the spirit of things, I decided to do an RT Survival post.  We see a lot of these this time of year.

I decided to do my own.  Cuz I’m lazy and this is easy and I got books to write.

So my suggestions, in no particular order:

  1. Comfy shoes…remember, you’ll walk a lot.  If you can do cute & comfy, go for it.  I’m more for being comfortable, though.
  2. hand sanitizer…that little kind you can throw in your bag.  If you’re flying, you might want to just buy some and throw them into a ziploc bag to keep in your suitcase, but trust me, you want hand sanitizer.  You will shake hands, you touch things, you will pick things up and as much as it pains me to say this, people don’t always wash their hands. You might be in a bathroom where the soap has run out.  You want hand sanitizer.
  3. Motrin…you’re going to be a place packed with lots of people and many are excited and talking loud, plus you’ll be on your feet a lot, often with little sleep and running on caffeine and often little food.  Mortin or Tylenol or your preferred method of alleviating pain is a wise choice.  Also, if you’re up late and drinking?  Yep.
  4. Water bottle…handy to keep in your convention bag. Keep it full and drink, so you don’t get dehydrated.  That also helps fight the creeping crud.  If you are gonna be up late and drinking? Keep hydrated with water throughout helps avoid hangovers. ;)
  5. Speaking of drinking…if you’re out and about…watch your drink.  While absolutely in a perfect world, you should be safe to go out with friends, have a few drinks and have fun, it’s not a perfect world. You can find tips on staying safe in social situations at
  6. Leave room in your suitcase…yeah, yeah, I know most of us are going to try and pack as much as we can so we aren’t lugging a bunch around, but if you’ve never been to RT, then you might not know about the swag.  There are totes a plenty given away.  Books. Pens. Bookmarks. Etc.  You’ll need room somewhere for that stuff.
  7. snacks…I mentioned that we don’t always have time to eat, right? Plus food isn’t always the cheapest thing to come by.  Taking some of those meal bars, trail mix, etc can cut down on how many meals you have to buy.  You can also find friends that you can maybe go together in on ordering pizza and that sort of thing.
  8. Emergen-C…if you can take it, it can help booster your immune system so you can avoid the creeping crud.  Cons & conferences are notorious for this…people are in closed areas and the fact is, we rush around, we don’t eat enough, we don’t rest enough and other factors contribute to that lovely thing we call the creeping crud.  Emergen-C can help.

Tips offered via twitter!









The bridge at sleepy hollow

Insta-love and building bridges


The bridge at sleepy hollow


H/T to Pearl for giving me a blog topic today!  I sometimes run out of steam when it’s near/around release time because…well, nerves. ;)  FYI, just a reminder, though, there are only a few hours to enter for the ARC of DEEPER THAN NEED.

This is more of a writer/storytelling/craft ramble.

On twitter a little while ago, Pearl asked…

She then went on to tweet that she’s married to a guy that she had that ‘instant’ love thing with…she met him and yeah, she knew right away he was the one. They’ve been together for 13 years, married for ten.

I can relate to that.  While I can’t claim insta-love, I can claim an insta-something.  Ya see, I took one look at my guy and there was just something there.   He was friends with my big brother and I crushed on him, and hard, for close to four years and then I finally blurted out one day… Hey, how come you never come over here to see me… annnnndddd… twenty three years later, we’re still together.  But I don’t claim insta-love, because I met him for the first time when I was 11.  ;) Insta-crush.  Love developed over time.

There was an immediate connection, yes, but if he’d been rude, a jerk, dismissive…or acted the way half my older brother’s friends did (aka…they acted like my brothers), I wouldn’t have felt that draw, I don’t think.  But he was…nice.  Kind.  Sort of shy, at times, but he had a great smile and he didn’t have that attitude a lot of the guys in  my neck of the woods had.  It wasn’t the best of neighborhoods and  the ‘tough guy’ shit doesn’t impress me.

So the foundation for a real connection…love…grew from that first tug.

Leah joined in with:

Using insta-love to establish a connection is absolutely fine…I do it all the time.  It’s a great hook and can make for some fun romances.  You take that instant…Oh, wow…heart-racing, adrenaline rush, what the hell is this feeling and then you build on it.

But you have to build on it.

I think this is where a writer can make or break the ‘insta-love’ …or love at first sight sort of story.

I kind of liken it to a bridge.

Or building one, and the writer is the one doing the building.  That first punch of what the hell with the heart racing and blood pounding, even a burst of arousal that you’ve never felt before…you take and lay it down.  That’s a log over a creek.  Maybe you can walk over it once, or twice.  But it’s not going to hold there for long.  Especially if you live in an area where it rains a lot.  One heavy spring thunderstorm… (aka…the first fight)…and that bridge is gone.

So from there, you take that log and you build on it.  You need supports.  You need to show the reader the love.  The deeper connection.  You can’t tell the reader that the love is there–it’s that whole tell vs. show thing and in stories like insta-love, it’s vital.

Why does the hero/heroine love their partner?  One look doesn’t a love-match make.  You can feel a tug and that tug can very well be that first log–the building of that connection, but from there…what is going on?

What if the guy…or girl…is an asshole?  This doesn’t translate to saying that hero/heroine can’t be the love interest, but if the brooder is the love interest, the reader needs to understand the love connection there, and it’s got to be more than he’s so tortured and I just know my love can change him.  For one…that’s telling.


Insta-love shouldn’t, really, be any different than any other means of establishing attraction.  You’ve got things like the meet-cute, or the friends to lovers, or enemies to lovers…etc, etc.

Maybe the problem is that too many take the love at first sight trope, and then turn it into a short cut.  There’s love, there’s sex, then BAM, automatic HEA…

That’s lazy-storytelling. There is no shortcut if you want to have a good story.


Take that first subtle tug of attraction, when you know s/he/both feel something…(From my book If You Hear Her)

“You’re asking me on a date?”

From the corner of his eye, he could see the bartender listening and not pretending not to. The kid barely looked old enough to be out of college—hell, high school.

Tuning the kid out of his mind, he focused on Lena.

“Yeah, I’m asking you on a date. At least, I’m trying to. It’s been awhile since I’ve asked a woman on a date, so maybe I’m doing it wrong.”

“Well, it’s been awhile since a guy asked me on a date, so maybe I’ve just forgotten how to recognize the clues.” That pretty, wide mouth curled up in a slow smile.

She had to say yes. Because he really, really wanted to kiss that mouth. He wanted to fist his hand in that dark red hair and he wanted to press his face between the slight swell of her breasts and nuzzle the soft skin there.

He was a pretty good judge of people—he knew how to read them. Under most circumstances, at least, and he didn’t think he was reading her wrong.

If he was reading her right, then she was feeling that same, subtle tug that he felt. Banking on that, he reached out and skimmed his fingers down her forearm. “Well, now that we’ve figured out what we’re doing here, maybe we should try it again. I’d like to have dinner…with you. Would you be interested?”

“You know, I don’t think I’ve ever had a guy ask me out on a date within five minutes of seeing me.” The smile on her face took on a bitter slant as she absently touched the dark glasses that shielded her eyes. “Usually, within five minutes of seeing me, they are either on the other side of the room or they are trying to cut my food for me.”

Ezra glanced at the lasagna on his plate. “I figure if you can make it, you can cut it just fine on your own. And you haven’t answered me.”

“No. I haven’t. I’m still thinking…hell. Screw it. You know what, Ezra? I’d love to have dinner with you.”

And then you build on it…

Give it supports…

Every time I turn around, he thought…Hell. Maybe this was some sort of sign. He started toward her table, but halfway there, he realized she wasn’t alone.

No, she was sitting at a table with two other people.

A woman, about her age, Ezra figured. She was a looker, too, blond, blue-eyed and tanned. Her blond hair was worn short and sleek. Her eyes rested on his for a few seconds in female appraisal.

Ezra looked at the guy, recognizing him from the other day. He’d been with Lena at the sheriff’s office. Judging by the look in his eye, the man had more than just a casual interest in her.

He glanced at Ezra and then leaned forward, murmured to Lena. Ezra didn’t catch a word, but Lena straightened and turned in his direction as he drew even with the table.

“Morning, Lena.”


A slow smile curled that pretty mouth. She cocked her head. She shifted in her seat, crossed one slender, jeanclad leg over the other. “We’re about done, but you’re welcome to join us. We’re just talking and drinking coffee. Avoiding the rain.”

From the corner of his eye, he saw the look in her friend’s eye.

“There’s plenty of rain to avoid. Are you sure you don’t mind?” he asked.

“Of course not. After all, isn’t that what friends do?” she asked.

Maybe it was his imagination, but he thought her smile was just a tad bit mocking.

He managed not to wince. Friends—shit, that was the last thing he wanted…well, no. Not really. He did want to be friends with her. He just wanted more than that. A lot more.

Wanted, but couldn’t. Needed, even. Hell, he couldn’t quit thinking about her and he had to.

And then build some more…

“I can’t get you out of my head, Lena. You’re everywhere.” He cupped her face in his hands, angling her head back. “Can’t stop thinking about you, not from the first time I saw you.”


Lena’s sex life had been…limited. The last guy she’d been serious with had been Remy—sex with him had been fun, hot, and easy. They had been compatible in bed, but it hadn’t compared to this.

She and Ezra weren’t compatible.

They were damned near combustible.

It went deeper than the heat, though.

He made her laugh.

He made her smile.

Hell, he just made her happy.


“You’ve got that smile on your face again,” he murmured. “Like Sylvester the cat just got a hold of Tweety Bird, once and for all.”

“Do I?” She smirked and sat up, stroking a hand down his chest.

“Yeah. Kind of makes me wonder what you’re thinking about.”

“Nothing…exactly. Just this.” She shrugged, absently circling a finger around his navel.

He jumped and caught her hand. “Quit that.”

A grin tugged at her lips. “Quit what?” Unable to resist, she wiggled around until she was sitting up and raked the nails of her other hand down his side. When he flinched and caught that wrist as well, she started to chuckle. “You’re ticklish.”

She wiggled her hand free and poked him in the side again and he swore, catching her.

She tried to roll away and they ended up wrestling across the bed, laughing and swearing—although most of the swearing came from Ezra every time she managed to get free long enough to poke him in the ribs, under his arms. Even a light touch across his spine was enough.

“Whoever would have thought the big, tough cop would be that ticklish?” she teased as he rolled and pinned her beneath him.

“Brat,” he muttered, stretching her arms over her head and holding her wrists in one hand.

Biting the tip of her tongue, she twined a leg around and managed to stroke her big toe down his instep. He swore again and used his knee to press her thighs apart, pinning her hips against the bed. “Would you quit it!”

That ‘love at first sight’ thing is a lot more believable when people see that while that instant connection was there, they weren’t just blindly riding on it–they were building on it.

“You’ve known me for five weeks, Ezra. Five weeks. And you admitted it yourself not that long ago…you just came through a really, really bad experience,” she said quietly, cupping his face in her hands. “How can you think you love me?”

He laid a hand on her heart. “I think I started to fall in love with you that first night. You blushed when I called you beautiful…and then you shared your food with me. You got so nervous when I asked you for a date and I was scared as hell you would say no.” Smoothing his hand up, he rested it on her neck, used his thumb to angle her chin up. “I started to fall for you that night, Lena. I guess it’s why I backed away…maybe I didn’t think I could handle it.”

“And what makes you think you can handle it now?”

“Oh, I’m pretty sure I can’t. But then again if I wait until I can handle things, then I never would do anything,” he murmured, rubbing his lips against hers. “Things happen when they happen, not when you’re ready for them.”

Of course…this is just my take on it.

But when I’m reading a ‘love at first sight’ book and I end up tossing it aside because it’s falling into that ‘insta-love’ thing where it’s all…’oh, i love you i love you i love you…’ but the writer fails to paint me a good, cohesive picture of that love…there is no bridge, in other words…this usually why.


FYI, the pic is mine.  I took it at Sleepy Hollow Cemetery a few years ago…that’s the Headless Horseman’s Bridge.


Please… make me like your heroine


writerNot telling anybody the author or title so don’t ask.  It doesn’t really matter anyway.

But recently I read a romance and I hated the heroine.

She wasn’t bitchy.  Most of the heroines I’ve seen referred to as bitchy I outright love–usually bitchy is just a woman who knows what she wants, isn’t afraid to go after it and she’s also capable of standing up for herself.  I see a woman like that when I look in the mirror. That’s the woman my mother raised me to be…so bring on the bitches!

Noooo… this heroine was shallow.  (There were other issues with the book, but if I covered everything, I’d blog all day.)

Let’s talk about the heroine.  Just the heroine.

She was shallow.

She was vapid.

She was vain.

She had several other female friends in the book and naturally she was the prettiest, but it wasn’t enough that she was the prettiest.

She had these ongoing mental critiques of the flaws these other women had–one was overweight and talked a lot.  She was nice. She was kind.  But she was overweight and talked a lot and if only she’d lose some weight, because she had such a pretty face.

That right there put my teeth on edge.  Maybe it’s because I’m overweight.  Now granted, I’m an overweight asthmatic with a bad knee who can run three miles.  I’m an overweight asthmatic who lifts weights at the gym.  I’m an overweight asthmatic who is actually in pretty decent shape when my lungs aren’t screwing things up for me.

But there’s a hell of a lot more to a person than the number flashes up on the scale.  I mean…the woman was nice.  She was genuinely kind.  But of course, she was overweight and she talked a lot.  This was the heroine’s inner monologue, her observations-not intended to be mean or anything.

The other friends? Yup.  Physical flaws.  Poor.  Didn’t dress well.  One didn’t ever show her teeth when she smiled and she didn’t like to talk.

And oh, dear.  They were poor.  Didn’t she know how to dress

(picturing me snarling & gnashing teeth.)

Again, inner monologue.  Not said with intentional malice.

Poor…in what world is being poor a character flaw?  One that deserves such heavy deliberation?  I didn’t have much growing up.  If that’s a flaw in somebody’s eyes, that says more about that person than it says about me…as it says more about this heroine.  These women met up because they were smart and they worked hard and achieved something.

That clearly didn’t matter as much as their appearances, though, not to the heroine.

She comes from a nice upper-class white family with plenty of money.  She doesn’t understand hardship, from what I could tell.  She has a few sad things happen in the book, but it’s almost like it’s done to get her some one on one time with the hero–it never really affects her on any level.   Maybe it was done to make the reader feel for her?  I don’t know.  But it was empty because it was like these events never really touched her–caused no change inside her, in how she acted, felt, viewed the world.

So our heroine has had a charmed existence, and don’t you just know it…she’s slim, trim and gorgeous and she just knows how to dress.

All of this creates one simple picture, in my mind-and it’s the picture the writer drew for me.

The heroine is a vapid, shallow creature who doesn’t bother to look beyond the surface and all she really cares about is shagging the hero.

How can I care about this woman?  How can I be expected root for her?

Throughout the book, she doesn’t ever give a real glimpse into what she is like. Oh, I get that she’s panting for the hero.

She makes benevolent gestures to these women who she has befriended, yet somehow, because of how she acted in the beginning, that friendship seemed…empty.  She never really acknowledged the fact that maybe there’s more to a person than what you see on the outside.

I never got to know who she was and the more I read, the less I cared to know.


When we write books, we want the reader to connect to the heroine.  Heroines ideally should be realistic, dynamic characters and we should remember our readers don’t fit any one set image.

People don’t fit any one set image.  We are rich, poor, struggling to finish school and some never started.  Some of us passed every class with honors and flying colors.

We are every race, every religion. Some are brilliant, some are of average intelligence and others struggle.

Many of us have been poor–some live in poverty while others are blessed to have never known it.

Some struggle with their weight–in both ways.  Some want to lose it while others battle to gain it and yes, that really is a fact.

Some of us hide physical flaws and others don’t care if people see them.  Some of us might not be all that pretty.  Some of us are average and some might well belong on the cover of a magazine.

There are so many things that make us different…and so many things that make us the same.

Every single of us experience loneliness, moments of inadequacy, moments of joy, curiosity, hunger, exhaustion, moodiness, envy, boredom, grief, pleasure…and the list goes on.  These are human emotions.

I imagine we all also have our moments of shallowness…I had more than a few moments when I was reading that book and I’ll have them when I see women at the gym.  It’s not their figures that make me all catty, though.  They work hard-harder than I do so good on them.  What makes me feel all small and petty is this…how can you spend an hour at the gym and not sweat? I don’t think it’s natural.  There you go, one of my personal shallow moments.  And that’s not one of my bad ones.

I’ve got some catty irritation threaded through this post and I know it and I’m torn between rewriting it…and letting it go.  I think I’m going to let it go because if I smooth it out, it’s going to lessen what I’m saying.  This book rubbed me wrong on so many levels.

Shallowness isn’t appealing.  A heavy focus on external things is selling the story and the reader short. It’s taking what could have been a relateable heroine and turning her into a caricature.  The story itself was just so…blah, but maybe it wouldn’t have been pure torture if I could have liked the heroine.

Whether the heroine is a teacher, a doctor, an alien, some kind of paranormal investigator, a vampire slayer, a lawyer, a stay-at-home mom, an editor, an author, a movie star, a college student…whatever

There are certain things a writer should be able to do make that character relateable, no matter who she is, what her life experiences have (or haven’t) been.

Plenty of people have loved and watched Buffy and while none of us will ever be able to claim we were vampire slayers, (I don’t think)…

  • how many of us were able to connect with her when she cried over Angel?  Most of us have known heartbreak.
  • how many of us could relate to the sibling stuff with her and Dawn?  Not the shiny green energy key stuff, but Dawn was an annoying little sister…how many of us have dealt with annoying siblings?
  • how many of us can relate to how insecure or outright lonely she’s felt?  Yeah, she felt that way because of her isolation as the slayer, but who hasn’t felt isolated or lonely?
  • how many of us grieved when her mother died?  Who hasn’t known grief?

These emotions are what bring a character to life.  That old idiom…write what you know… screw that, but you can write what you’ve felt.  If you’ve known pain, bring that to the book, to your character.  If you’ve known love, bring that. If you’ve known insecurity, bring it on.

If all you can bring to your character are shallow observations and endless references to how friggin hawt the hero is but oh, you can’t be together because of this [insert manufactured plot device], then don’t be surprised when people can’t relate to your character.

Don’t use internal monologues about shit that doesn’t matter.  That’s not storytelling. That’s filling up pages with empty tripe that tells us nothing about your character.

If the words are there, they should reveal something or hold importance…about the person, a mystery, the town, an emotion…something.

So many words in that very long book that inspired this rant were there for no other purpose than to A) remind us how pretty and perfect the heroine was or B) how hot and sexy the hero was and how much she wanted him.

I figured out she wanted him after she told us that several times…lots of telling, rarely showing.

YAWN.  Perfect people are boring.  They have no growing to do and that growth/change stage thing is what makes a story worth reading, IMO.  It causes tension and frustration and when she (or he or both) get to the end of the journey, they are different and the story is much more complete.

She can’t finish that journey if she never really starts it.

Image from Dreamstime Free


What do you write?


When I was in New Jersey, I went out to dinner with a lady from my street team and a couple of writers.  We had a great time and one of the writers looked at me and asked me what I wrote.

But she wasn’t exactly talking about genre.  She’d mentioned a discussion she’d had with another writer.  He’d just looked at her and told her she wrote about tribes.  Families.  And he was right. She did.

I thought about it for a minute and then I said, “I write about broken people.  Then I fix them.  And sometimes second chances.”

I’d never really boiled it all down in a nutshell like that, but I guess that’s the running theme throughout my books.

One of the reasons I ended up writing the Kit Colbana books was because I wanted to play with the idea of having somebody who was weaker than the others, who had frailties and weaknesses others around her wouldn’t understand, but who got by because she was stubborn and wouldn’t give up.

I didn’t want a kick-ass heroine who bowled everybody over.  I wanted somebody who was battered, who had to fight and scrabble for every step she took, but she kept taking those steps anyway.  It’s a different sort of strength, but sheer will and determination keep her going.

Underneath all that stubbornness, she was a broken mess and I see all those wounds even though some of them don’t really start to come out until the third book, maybe even the fourth one.  She’ll probably still be finding out who and what she is as the series goes along, but I couldn’t fix her in one book.

The Protected had a broken hero…he was messed up.  We can’t even call him a bad boy.  He spent his life taking care of one person–himself–and whoring, stealing, fighting his way to accomplish his goals and then a phone call changes everything and he has to go from watching his back, to fighting for a kid’s life.  He never trusts anybody and then he suddenly has no choice.  Fixing him was fun and it was just as much fun to watch him fall.

A Forever Kind of Love had a hero who walked away from the girl he loved in high school all because he wasn’t ready to be the responsible guy, be an adult, all that.  He comes back years later, realizing he still loves her, only to find her married to his best friend.  Then life sucker punches all three of them.

Yeah.  I think broken people are just my thing.  :)

I guess, being a writer and all, that knowledge should come in handy.

So, writers out there… what do you write?



Sketching stories


I had this idea at the NJRW conference to take elements from my Writing Hot workshop and devise a new sort of workshop, one on characters.

I’m not, by nature, a plotter.

The way I learned plotting (my way of doing it, at least) was by doing character sketches.

My first attempt at a character sketch came from two places, and I built on it from there.

I was visiting Lora Leigh years ago and she mentioned how she uses pictures just to keep her characters looking different.  It seemed like a good idea…I kept making my heroines red-headed.  I like red hair.  But all of my heroines can’t be redheads. So I started doing that, kind of using one of her templates that she’d given me for just sketching out the rough outline of a character.

Then I was playing around with Lynn Viehl‘s Novel Writing Notebook-for you in depth plotters?  Get this.  This may be right up your alley.

It’s too in depth for me, but some aspects of the Novel Writing Notebook, and Lynn’s 3 questions:

  • Who are you?
  • What do you want?
  • What is the worst thing I can do to you?

Helped me figure out what I need to know about my characters, even before I start writing.

My stories come from my characters.  I usually know them first, and once I know them, it’s like they just want to tell me their story.

Take for example…

Damon. (from my Kit Colbana books).

The rough beginning of book 1, titled dead men tell no tales, sat on my hard drive for over a year.  I had about 10k of the story down. I knew what I wanted to do.  I thought. I had a love interested for Kit.  His name was Damon.  He was a white guy, really cool, played a sidekick kinda of part and they fell madly in love, almost from the beginning.

That was the plan.

And the book stalled.

I didn’t know my characters.

Then, I was on twitter. Lightning strike came in the form of this:

Damon Johnson, Image courtesy of IMDB

Dwayne Johnson.  He was on twitter and I think what did it was the way he’d been chatting with some of his fans.  I’d been thinking about that book–again–and he said something to a fan, referring jokingly to himself, He’s an asshole.

It’s a weird way a writer can get a lightning strike.

But I went back and looked at the book.  Then I hit the internet and looked at some pictures of Dwayne Johnson.

Thought about my character Damon some more.

Thought about Kit.


Who are you?  

Well. Damon’s an ass.

What do you want?  

If you want to know that, you have to read the book.

What’s the worst thing I can do you…

Again, read the book. ;)

Then I flipped those Qs around, put Damon in the equation…as I was starting to see him now, and asked Kit those questions.  A whole new story came into view, and more questions.

In the end, what I had was the story.  I had Blade Song and it was written within a week.

The questions I had weren’t really for Damon so much, not this early in the series, but I did need to know more about him.  Initially, the way I’d written him was all wrong.  He wasn’t laid-back and easy-going.  He was, in short, an asshole.  I didn’t know, exactly, what he wanted, although half through book 1, I figured it out.

But as I was making notes and writing in a frenzy, I learned who Kit was. I What she wanted is too complicated to explain in one sentence, but she has a mission and she has goals and the story evolves from there.

Although more often than not, my notes for characters end up on pinterest, or scattered inside my head, the basically boil down to something like this…


Character image (use a blank area to add your character image…keep in mind, images are copyrighted.  I make online sketches, use private boards on pinterest or buy magazines and cut things out)







Eye & Hair color





Currently resides








Who is s/he? (Note, this isn’t about her name… but who she is… is she writer, a lost soul, an artist, a scared kid…who is she on the inside.  Like me, I’m a mom, a wife, a daughter, a sister, a reader, a writer, a child of God, a brat and a troublemaker)

Mission? (a reason or being here?)


Any enemies?


What does s/he want? Why can’t s/he have it?


If you aren’t a plotter, but you feel like you have a good handle on your characters, or if you want to start trying to go down that road, this is what helped me.

I’ve got a a doc file if anybody is interested in using it.  Permission to re-use granted, although crediting it back to me is nice if you share it with others.


NJRW Conference in a nutshell


So this year, for the second time, I got to do something cool… and this year was the first year I’d done something quite like this, so it was really cool that I was able to do it twice.  Back in March, I was asked to speak for the Washington Area Romance Writers and give a workshop.  I was still reeling over the awesome of that when I got another email, asking if I’d be interested in doing a workshop for the New Jersey Romance Writers at their annual conference.

I did a workshop on Writing Hot, since that’s kinda one thing I know.  I also figured out a way to expand on the exercise I do in that workshop and make a whole new workshop–character sketches… :)  So, hey, I’m ready to do this workshop/speaker thing again.

The good points with NJRW:

  • I didn’t fall on my face with my workshop!
  • People laughed and seemed to enjoy it
  • I met some new people which is always cool
  • Hung out with a bookclub that came down to visit
  • Sat in on some very good workshops and wished I had a double so I could be in two places at once
  • Had a breakthrough during Madeline Hunter’s synopsis workshop.
  • Thanks to the synopsis workshop, I plotted out…four…I kid you not…four books on the drive back home. Yes, it’s a synopsis workshop, but hey.  My brain works weird.
  • Very much enjoyed the workshops by Connie Brockway & Eloisa James, Carla Neggers, Margaret Mallory and the talks given by Diana Crosby, Virginia Kantra & Connie Brockway.

All in all, it was a great weekend.  I went out to dinner with some readers Friday and Saturday night, hung out with Jane Porter a little-we never get enough time to talk, but she’s a sweetheart.  Talked with a bookseller & fellow writer friend Stacey out of NYC.

Bad points? Not a one.

Many, many thanks to the NJRW group for having me out.

If you’re looking to go to a workshop-say you’ve been dying to try Nationals, but can’t swing it, but New Jersey is more doable?  Go.  You’ll get a wide variety of workshops geared for both the pubbed and unpubbed writer.  You’ll meet a lot of people and trust me, these are wonderful ladies, very welcoming to the newby.



A thought on plagiarism…


I was talking with Mary Elizabeth-one of the two fanfic authors involved in the Stahl mess (read about it here).  She made a comment that she wasn’t mad, more disappointed.

I felt the same way when I was plagiarized.  I only got mad when she started trying to throw guilt trips at me–she kept trying to find other places to sneak the works up, defending herself to those who would listen and when I told her that if the works weren’t all removed and if they didn’t stay down, I’d seek legal action–she laid a sob story at my feet about her kids and their deadbeat dad.

That is when I got mad.

Before that?  I was disappointed, irritated…bizarrely enough, I almost pitied her botched attempts at rewriting my Grimm books.  I had Greta & Rip-she changed them to Gretta and Ryp.  I had Will, she changed him to Wyll.  Ella (as in CINDERELLA…) became CINDY for pete’s sake.  And the writing, while the scenes, the stories, the layout, the set-up, the plot, all of it was mine… she couldn’t recreate my story.  I’m not trying to be unkind, but the writing, plain and simple, was a botched mess.  It was the efforts, in my opinion, of somebody who just can’t write… or create the idea… so she tried to take the short cut and steal somebody else’s.

It’s not the same.

Know how I first started writing?

It was in 3rd or 4th grade.  I had read a comic book.  I loved it.  But the ending? Not so much.

Below is the opening to a speech I gave at the Washington Area Romance Writers Retreat.

I have a confession to make.

One of the first stories I ever wrote…I think I plagiarized.  Now, you’ll have to give me a little bit of leeway here, because I was in third or fourth grade.  I’d been reading this really amazing comic book—I think it was the Fantastic Four, and it was just so awesome that I thought for sure, I could do something equally awesome.

The problem was, as cool as the story was, it had a lousy ending. I didn’t like it.  I don’t remember why.  I just know I was going to make it better.

I didn’t make it better, though, and for some reason, it wasn’t as awesome as I thought it would be.

I was writing a story, yeah.

But it wasn’t my story.  It’s not the same, when the words aren’t your own.  When the story isn’t your own. I don’t think I even finished it. The magic just wasn’t there.

Yep.  I started out by trying to recreate somebody else’s words.  Like I said, I was in 3rd or 4th grade, and I knew right away it wasn’t working out.  It’s been thirty years since that botched up mess of a story and I still remember my disappointment in it.

I don’t even know if I finished it.  It just…wasn’t worth it. It wasn’t really worth it until I found out that I had my own stories inside me.

Something some plagiarists will never understand is what it’s like to create those stories, purely on your own.

What’s really sad is when the plagiarist has writing talent and just doesn’t try to develop it, or in some cases, gets lazy or whatever else motivates them to steal words.  Janet Dailey was a talented writer, yet she stole from Nora Roberts.  It’s been twenty something years, but people still remember.  I don’t buy her, because of that.  I used to love her voice, but that voice has been…tainted.

If it’s isn’t your own magic, it isn’t just cheating the readers.  You’re cheating yourself.


The crazy that comes with plagiarism scandals



I know I’m not the only who has noticed the theme with plagiarism scandals.

I think author Courtney Milan has spoken about this, but I can’t remember where or when and a search didn’t show anything.  But the cycle is kinda obvious by now.

First there is denial

I didn’t do it.

Then there are cries of bullying.

I’m the victim!  Why are you so mean!

Then we start hearing from the plagiarist’s fanbase.

Leave her alone!  There’s no proof.  You’re just jealous/mean/bullies/.  You’re being sued for libel/slander/cyberbullying…blah blah blah…

Never mind that truth is kinda the absolute defense against libel and it has to be libel. Remember your Spiderman.  Slander is spoken.  And how is it bullying to speak up about the truth?  FYI, for the record, I am outright against anybody who tells somebody to harm themselves, drop dead, etc.  If that’s anybody’s version of speaking up for the truth, find a better way.

But speaking up for the truth isn’t bullying.  Notifying the author, notifying e-tailers isn’t bullying.

There are other steps in the cycle.

Books will disappear.

The author often fades away, going silent.  Websites die.  Sometimes, the ‘writer’ makes excuse.  Depression (I’m depressed, I haven’t plagiarized anybody).  A husband is leaving, somebody is cheating… it’s always somebody else’s fault.  It’s never just the fact that wannabe writer couldn’t come up with their own ideas so they stole somebody else’s.

The only except to this rule was Kay Manning.  She openly admitted what she’d done wrong, she confessed, without exception, and she apologized without excuses.  It was the first time in the 10 years I’ve been published and more plagiarism scandals than I can recall.  Because of that, I’ll remember her name…and if she publishes again, I may give her a second chance.

The latest scandal is about a fricking USA Today best seller, Shey Stahl.  Apparently her books did so well, they landed her an agent and a contract with Simon & Schuster. (ETA on 9/30… there have been numerous comments about this but no hard data, so I’m srtiking it. More info here.) But…it might be/allegedly/blah blah blah… that those books aren’t hers.  None of them are for sale anymore and it looks like she is holding true to the pattern.

I didn’t steal them.  They are mine.  People are being mean to me.  They are jealous.

And the chorus of her fans rise high…we’re here.  We’ll support you.

It’s predictable.

Already, she’s gone silent.  FB page is gone, website is being redone.  More ‘similarities’ are cropping up with other fanfic pieces.

In a year or so, will I remember Stahl’s name?  Unlikely. If I do, it will just be that she involved in another scandal…she was another wannabe who wanted to write, but couldn’t.  Maybe one who could have learned how, if she would have invested the time to learn her voice.  Instead, she stole somebody else’s….allegedly.

Here’s the deal.

Plagiarism is wrong.

Check out this (info via Dear Author)

She’s wearing a tight blue shirt and a black pencils skirt. Her high-heels tap on the wood as she descends down the steps. Her hair is an unnatural red color, but it’s seamlessly curled and styled. And when she smiles, I feel Mom almost cringe.

Alice’s mom looks nothing like my mom.

“You must be Renee,” the lady with the deep-red hair says, offering her hand.

Mom flattens her curly hair before shaking Mrs. Cullen’s hand. “Yes, and your name?” Mom asks kindly.

Dusty by YellowBella, Chapter 2: Dry and Dusty

She was wearing jean shorts and a red tank top. Her hair was that same rich color as Ivey’s, the color of the canyons with lighter highlights throughout.

“You must be Kathy,” the lady said, offering her hand.

“Yes, and your name?” Mom asked kindly.

Stahl, Shey (2013-09-20). For the Summer (Kindle Locations 684-686). . Kindle Edition.


The blurb from the cover…sorry, it’s identical.  This doesn’t happen by accident. (click on it to see full size)

(Image from DA)



There are numerous passages in the book where lines like this were found, entire scenes blocked out, just like this. And this isn’t the first or only instance.

This is nuts.

What really bugs me is how many fans rush to support her.  You poor thing.  They are just jealous.

Part of me gets it, in a weird way.  They love these stories, they invested time and money and they want more…the problem is what they want is more lies and they can’t see that.  So they continue to defend.

It’s…bothersome, though, how they continue to refuse the evidence that is so plainly there. 

Plagiarism is a matter of ethics, and can be a criminal matter, and it’s like these people don’t care that they are defending a person who has absolutely no writing ethics, at all.  Would they go on the attack if somebody stole one of her stories?  Is it a blind defense of her?  That fanaticism is…well.  Worrisome. To blindly follow/love anybody means you refuse to see their flaws.  This is a pretty huge flaw.

One thing that did jump out at me was one of these gems, tossed out by one defending Stahl. As far as I’m concerned, she has no defense, but as a mom, and a writer…I do want to address it.

How can you do this (paraphrasing here… this was a line from her FB page, gone now, but I won’t highlight the user’s name) don’t you realize these books are her babies????


I carried my babies for 9 months.  I lost one child.  It devastated me.

I would happily jump in front of a bullet, a speeding train or a madman with a knife for one of my children.

For a book?  I’d throw my books in front of that bullet, that train, that madman.

I’ve happily thrown my manuscripts at a wall, abandoned them, starved them.  I’d never do that to a child.

A book is a creation that seems to take on its own life.  But it’s not a living creature that requires love, nurturing, protection, shelter.

Get it right, people.  BOOKS AREN’T BABIES.  I think it was Tessa Dare that led a twitter hashtag party one year about all things you do with babies that you don’t do with books…books don’t wear diapers.  Books don’t cry…etc, etc.

Books don’t pee on you, poop on you, scream at you, yell at you, cry on you, ask why nobody likes them, ask you when they can drive, ask for an allowance, they won’t grow up and leave you, come back and hug you on the first day of school.


If I had to choose between writing and my children, my children will win.  Every damn time.

Books are important and they are creative works that come from inside and yes, they can rip you apart.

You know what really rips you apart?

When somebody steals those words and tries to claim them for their own. That is why people are up in arms over the Stahl/Dusty/Sarah/Mary Elizabeth mess.  Because a lot of us, writers and readers, get that Sarah and Mary Elizabeth invested time and heart into creating a story…and Stahl went and tried to claim it as her own.  It isn’t her baby.  It’s their story-and she stole it…allegedly.

I know how this feels.  I’ve been there.  Stahl, and everybody defending her, have absolutely no clue what it’s like.


So this happened…


I decided to make a last minute pitstop before we headed onto vacation.

There was an awards show and somebody told me I should really, really go.

I’m really, really glad I did.

unwillingawardThe Unwilling won the National Readers Choice Award in the Novella category.  I entered Hunter’s Rise, The Departed and Stolen as well. All finaled.  This one won.

It’s so pretty.


Medical image

Writing a more believable medical hero/heroine…day 4, handwashing, sore feet, etc


Medical image

Image © Shannon Matteson | Dreamstime Stock Photos

This is going to be a hodge-podge.

But things I never see come up in a book with a medical professional…

  • We are always washing our hands
  • We tend to have very sore feet
  • We like pens–we have to write a lot and the pens disappear


From the CDC’s website… because I can’t resist the chance to educate…


  • It is estimated that washing hands with soap and water could reduce diarrheal disease-associated deaths by up to 50% 1.

  • Researchers in London estimate that if everyone routinely washed their hands, a million deaths a year could be prevented 2.

  • A large percentage of foodborne disease outbreaks are spread by contaminated hands. Appropriate hand washing practices can reduce the risk of foodborne illness and other infections 3.

  • Handwashing can reduce the risk of respiratory infections by 16% 4.

  • The use of an alcohol gel hand sanitizer in the classroom provided an overall reduction in absenteeism due to infection by 19.8% among 16 elementary schools and 6,000 students 5.

Now nurses know this stuff.  And hospitals (and doctor offices) are dirty places.  People get sick there.  So we are always washing our hands.  We carry alcohol sanitizer in our pockets.

Want your nurse or doctor be believable? One way to add to that? Have them washing their hands more.  We do it between each patient.  We do it before and after changing bandages.  We do it all the time.

If it’s in the workplace, there are probably posters up… they are all over the place in the health care setting. Posters on how to wash your hands… it’s not just shoving your hands under the water for fifteen seconds. You don’t have to detail the handwashing, but if she sees the poster on handwashing? That’s just another way to craft a believable medical character, showing things that she’d see every day.

Sore feet & pens… eh, I can’t really give you hard and fast facts on the sore feet thing or pens, but we spend most of the day on our feet, usually on tile floors.  If you’ve ever worked on your feet, you can imagine how tired your feet get.  We like comfortable shoes. And my pens were always disappearing or getting swiped.  By a doctor, another nurse, left in a room. Sometimes, though, I was the pen thief.

Things that you see that don’t really happen:

  • Getting it on in various parts of the hospital.
  • Nurses who still wear all white — or, hey that cap thing.
  • CPR on beds, with bent elbows
  • Giving aspirin for all sorts of shit-other than a heart attack

Sex in the workplace…

Remember how I said hospitals are dirty? I meant it.  I don’t think you could convince me to have sex in a hospital.  There are things like MRSA lurking there.  What is MRSA?  (Link) Nasty, nasty, nasty superbug.  One that is resistant to antibiotics…writing about nurses and doctors getting it on tells me that you don’t know much about nurses and doctors.  Nurses and doctors don’t want to pick that kind of infection down in those places.

The white hat

I haven’t seen a nurse in a white hat since my clinicals and there was only one nurse who wore it.  She said she’d worked too hard to get it and she’d continue to wear it, thank you very much.  I’ve been in a lot of hospitals.

When I was talking about this on twitter, I asked for feedback…none of the nurses, EMTs, doctors I know can think of any place that require the white hat, or for that matter, for the nurses to wear that stereotyped white uniform.

CPR on a bed/bent elbows

On TV, you’ll see a person give CPR and their elbows are all bent, the patient will start talking after… you’ll see CPR taking place on a bed…

CPR has to be on a flat, unyielding surface to be effective.  The person administering CPR has to lock their elbows.  CPR is brutal.  We’re told when we get the training-and we get it often…I take it every two years-you might hear a crack…ribs can break.  You can’t get the force you need to jumpstart the heart if the patient is on a nice, comfy bed or if you have spaghetti arms.  

Sidenote, while I have fortunately never had to administer CPR, when I was flying back from Alaska years ago, a passenger on the flight needed CPR.  We had to touch down briefly to get him off the plane after they’d managed to get his heart started.  A few people were freaking out… they didn’t get him breathing, he’s still dead…  CPR isn’t pretty.  People don’t stop breathing, lose their pulse and then have somebody pound on their chest and come back from that two minutes later and jump up, ready to dance.


Know why they tell you to use aspirin if you suspect you’re having a heart attack, your guy, your mom, neighbor, etc, etc?  It thins the blood, helps prevent clotting. So it can buy time on the way to get emergency help.  That’s not a bad thing…in the event of a heart attack.

But say you’ve got a head injury.  Do you want to give something that can thin the blood and predispose you to bleeding?  So why does a doctor or nurse give aspirin to a person complaining of a headache after a head injury?  What about somebody who has had an ulcer?  A bleeding disorder?  Aspirin isn’t the drug of choice for a lot of reasons, but these are just a couple of them.

Hat tip to Lillie A… she read through my posts and gave me a few more points.

FYI:  None of this, absolutely none of this is to be construed as medical advice.  I’m not a doctor.