Friday, March 30, 2012

Tag! I'm It.

The Lucky 7 Meme is a virtual game of tag played amongst writers. Sure, there's a whiff of procrastination technique hovering over it, but, more importantly, it allows us a peek into others' works in progress. We get to hear our friends' authorial voices and meet one or more of their characters. In addition, because the meme's rules drop us into the story's flow and only give us a few lines, we're left wanting more.

Paranormal and contemporary writer CC MacKenzie at the Fizz and Fangs blog tagged me. I'm honored--I think.

First, the rules:
1. Go to page 77 of your current MS/WIP

2. Go to line 7

3. Copy down the next 7 lines, sentences, or paragraphs, and post them as they’re written.

4. Tag 7 authors, and let them know.

Here's my snippet:

Midge cleared her throat. "Find the baby's mother for me."
"Why? What's she to you?"
"If you find the mom before the police do, I might convince her to assign custody to me."
A vein stood out in Chet's neck. "You're sixty-one years old."
"Grandparents get custody every day of the week."
"You're not the baby's grandmother."
Midge pulled the edges of her cardigan across her middle. "That's right. Rub it in."

I'm tagging the following:

Sarah Andre

Suzan Harden

Lark Howard

Kay Hudson (who just earned a Golden Heart nomination from Romance Writers of America)

Jennette Marie Powell

Soon enough, I'll get to read excerpts from those writers. Ah, now I see where "lucky" comes in.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012


I found the picture to the left on Facebook and was interested in how many people "got it" and how many people didn't see the figures at all. It got me thinking about how different perception is from one person to another. I understand that some perception is based on taste, values, background and experience. A book or author I love may not appeal at all to someone else (which is why I never review books or movies I don't like), and a movie/TV show one person finds compelling or entertaining I may hate. Variety is the spice of life, right?

When I talk about perception here, I mean how different people process input. I never understood how differently human brains process the same information until I met my husband. He's an born designer who relates to the world visually. He processes the details, shapes, proportion, color in everything he sees. Bad lighting in a restaurant effects the taste of his food. An ugly space can make him physically uncomfortable. He can draw a complex building in detail that he hasn't seen in ten years. Me? I only relate to his perception of the world intellectually--most of the subtle discordance I don't get  at all.

In contrast, I don't have any remarkable talents or genius. Sure, I'm good with numbers and my writing doesn't suck. I pick up software easily and have good organization skills that allow me to function in a day job that I've had for almost 20 years. I point these talents out to myself periodically because I don't have a genius like my husband. And being average and competent is just fine.

And yes, my husband saw the obvious answers to the picture above easily. Funny thing is, I did, too, at least for most--the others I didn't know when I saw the answers. Hint--think cartoons. The answers are here. So how did you do? Did you see the characters right away? Did it take a while? Were you totally baffled? How do you relate to the world--visually, through touch, through sound, through smell?

Monday, March 26, 2012

Everybody's an Overachiever

The people around me are all above-average. This is as annoying as hell.

An acquaintance retiled her bathroom. In a weekend. After taking a two-hour class at Lowe's. It kills me to admit this, but her bathroom looks sensational.

Older daughter assembled a large piece of furniture from IKEA for me without looking at the directions, which was fortunate since I'd wept all over them after failing to discern any difference between piece A and piece B, never mind piece C.

Hubs met a female colleague for a business lunch, and when he spilled marinara sauce on his white shirt, she whipped out a Tide To Go stain stick. Days later, we were having dinner in a neighborhood restaurant, and he spilled pesto onto his khakis. To his disappointment, I don't carry concealed stain-remover sticks.

A friend hiked a good chunk of the Pacific Crest Trail. When his compass failed, he guided himself to safety using his iPhone.

I have nothing but respect for the neighbors who re-landscaped their front yard so beautifully, you'd swear a crew of professionals had done the job, and I admire the friend who's teaching himself French via Rosetta Stone, but I'm feeling a little, well inferior.

You've done something lately that makes me appear incompetent/lackadaisical/cowardly in comparison. Did you take Cordon Bleu cooking classes? Whip up prom dresses for your daughter and her friends out of remnants? Build a set of outdoor furniture from felled trees? C'mon, confess. What have you been up to?

Friday, March 23, 2012


One of my favorite books of 2011 was THE RESTORER, the first in Amanda Stevens' Graveyard Queen series. I reviewed it here and raved about it to every reader I know (and some I didn’t!). So I waited impatiently for the second in the series, THE KINGDOM, and luckily scored an ARC. I loved it, too! Here’s the back cover summary:

Deep in the shadowy foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains lies a dying town…

My name is Amelia Gray. They call me The Graveyard Queen. I've been commissioned to restore an old cemetery in Asher Falls, South Carolina, but I'm coming to think I have another purpose here.

Why is there a cemetery at the bottom of Bell Lake? Why am I drawn time and again to a hidden grave I've discovered in the woods? Something is eating away at the soul of this town—this withering kingdom—and it will only be restored if I can uncover the truth.

The heroine and Graveyard Queen, Amelia Gray, sees ghosts. All her life she lived by her father’s rules to keep them at bay—until she met the haunted John Devlin in The Restorer and opened a door she cannot close again. In leaving Charleston she’s also left Devlin and before she even arrives in Asher Falls, she meets the handsome, charming Thane Asher whose family pretty much owns the town. But in spite of a mutual attraction, there are too many creepy happenings in the town for Amelia to trust anyone. Ultimately she learns horrifying secrets that change her life forever, but not before they nearly kill her.

As with The Restorer, The Kingdom is a deliciously creepy Southern gothic story that drew me in and kept me up late into the night. The eerie mood, ambiguous characters and ghostly entities are perfectly blended in a story of horror, discovery and redemption. I thought I’d miss Devlin (he doesn’t actually appear in this book except as a memory) because I loved him in The Restorer, but once I got into the story I was totally hooked. Read this book! It stands on its own, but is much better if you’ve read The Restorer which was recently released in mass market paperback.

And the third book in the series—THE PROPHET--will be released in May. 

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

The Writing's on the Wall

I miss the Palmer Method of penmanship. Yeah, I'm surprised, too.

For those of you who didn't attend Catholic elementary school in, say, the sixties, the Palmer Method is a form of cursive writing that aims for smoothness and consistency via right-slanting, every-letter-connected, smoothly looped writing. Among its touted benefits is the ability to take quick, legible notes for an hour or more with little or no finger cramping.

Daily drills required students like me to write dozen of o's and as many m's. My capital e was supposed to be identical to my best friend Ellen's, and everyone's small g was supposed to curve at the same place.

Nowadays, such drills are considered individuality-quashing. Back then, they gave me and my peers a break from diagramming sentences or doing long division on the chalkboard.

That's why we never rebelled openly against the handwriting regimen--not even when the left-handers among us were forced to hold their pens in their right hands. Our rebellion was subtle: a spike rather than a loop or a straight-up rather than slanted letter. Our writing developed individual quirks but remained pretty legible.

My sudden nostalgia for the Palmer Method is due to the fact I've been reading a lot of student writing done with paper and pen—and it's harder than you'd think to decipher manuscript (not cursive) handwriting, especially when letters slant left, right, and stand straight up within the same word.

Some of the writing I see appears tortured; pens stab the paper here and skip there. Austin Palmer, the Palmer Method's founder, had it right: students exert more effort printing each letter separately than linking them in one fluid motion.

Do I want a return to endless penmanship drills? No, but I'd like to see school kids learn cursive for its ease of motion. Yes, I know keyboarding is a more important skill than handwriting in the twenty-first century, and I thoroughly appreciate email, laptops, and phones with itty-bitty slide-out keyboards.

That said, there are times when we must pick up a pen. Holding a pen or pencil shouldn't seem unnatural. Handwriting should be as effortless for school kids as typing. Manuscript writing may be easier for little ones to learn, but cursive's easier to write quickly and over a sustained period of time.

What's your opinion of cursive? Is it a pleasure or did you ditch it in favor of printing as soon as you left elementary school? Did you learn cursive in school or was it all manuscript, all the time?

Monday, March 19, 2012


Last week, a lovely woman passed away after a long, sad decline. She was sixty-six years old and had suffered from Alzheimer’s for twelve years. When I read her obituary I learned she, too, had been an English major in college—something I hadn’t known before. I had known she was an avid reader and the last time I saw her socially I attended a reading of The Namesake by Jhumpa Lahiri with her and her sister-in-law. Although she was quickly slipping away, I treasure the bittersweet memory of that evening when one last time we got to share our love of books, words and slightly irreverent humor.

Farewell, Julia. It was a joy to have known you.

Friday, March 16, 2012

Off the Beaten Path-Dysert O'Dea

In honor of St. Patrick's Day tomorrow, I offer a photo of the O'Dea Castle, a fortified tower house built around 1480. It sits outside Ennis, in County Clare, Ireland. A long-ago monastery once occupied part of the site, hence the place name dysert, which means hermitage in Irish.

Did my ancestors didn't live in the castle? I wish! It's a safe bet they lived nearby, but in humbler circumstances.

Speaking of ancestors, every three years, far-flung members of the O'Dea Clan (a group that also includes those with the last name O'Day, O'Dee, Dea, Day, and Dee) gather in Ennis. They explore the castle and its environs, research genealogy, and become acquainted with Ennis and each other.

Today, the restored castle--time and Oliver Cromwell's troops had damaged it--serves as an archaeology center. Visitors can see a short film at the site, tour its rebuilt rooms, climb a spiral stone staircase to the roof, and then retrace their steps to the ground floor where tea is served May through September.

The castle's environs include the ruins of a church with a Romanesque arch, a high cross, a round tower, and a holy well. Go to the website of Natural Born Hikers to see stunning photos of Dysert O'Dea. Don't miss the shots of St. Tola's Cross or the Romanesque archway of St. Tola's Church.

For another taste of Ireland, turn to Kecia Adams' blog. Here she looks at Thomas Cahill's HOW THE IRISH SAVED CIVILIZATION, and wonders if Cahill hasn't overstated the case a wee bit.

A job transfer sent Jennifer Jensen and her family to Ireland. There, learning to drive on the opposite side of the road was the least of her driving challenges. Here, she offers the basics of learning to drive in Eire. And here, she posts a video of one of her sons behind the wheel on a narrow country road. Finally, she offers an overview of how St. Patrick's Day is celebrated in Ireland.

Happy St. Patrick's Day!

Wednesday, March 14, 2012


Several years ago I attended my first Romance Writers of America meeting. The lovely and generous Colleen Thompson introduced herself and asked what I wrote. The question threw me. It should be obvious since I was there that I wrote romance. “But what kind of romance?” she asked. I was baffled. There were different kinds? Yep. Within a few months I determined I wrote contemporary single title, or at least that’s what that first 200,000 word mess was…sort of.

Over the last few years I thought I’d gotten the whole genre thing down. My second manuscript was a romantic suspense, my third and fourth are paranormal romance. Or at least they were until yesterday when I read a Barnes and Noble Review interview Eloisa James did with Lisa Klepas about her new release, RAINSHADOW ROAD. Eloisa is one of the most prominent romance writers in the industry (not to mention a Shakespeare professor!) and Lisa Kleypas is right up there with the best of them. Here’s the paragraph that startled me:
 Rainshadow Road is a deeply moving romantic novel, but it's definitely not a "paranormal" romance.  Your heroine, Lucy Marinn, has the ability to change glass into living creatures, so the shards of a broken ornament turn to "living sparks," a dancing procession of fireflies, for example.  In a paranormal romance, the heroine herself might change shape, though generally into a member of cat family rather than a firefly, but a shape-changer has presumably lived with her feline self for most of her life.  Within the context of the world of the romance, her abilities are normal. 

Whaaaa? By this definition neither SHADES OF PARIS nor SHADES OF THE DEEP  are paranormal! My characters have psychic abilities and their world is strongly influenced by made-up science. Sure, some of the antagonists use Voodoo-like magic, but nobody shape-shifts, drinks blood, or enjoys/endures any version of immortality.

The interview goes on to label RAINSHADOW ROAD magical realism, a new concept to me, but that’s not the point. In the publishing industry we constantly hear agents and editors talk about where to place a book in the marketplace and on the shelves, and now I’m wondering if I even know my own genre. Are my stories contemporary romance with psychic elements? Romantic adventures with psychic characters? I’ve heard Jayne Ann Krentz describe her Arcane Society series as romantic suspense with characters with psychic abilities.  No mention of paranormal.

I’m not alone in puzzling over genre. My critique partner and good friend, Sarah Andre, finaled in RWA’s Golden Heart contest in the Romantic Suspense category but has been rethinking whether her story is technically a suspense because the main characters are solving a murder mystery through most of the story and are not in immediate dire peril. 

Genre labels wouldn’t be important of they didn’t create agent, editor and reader expectations that impact contracts and sales. How can my agent pitch my work to editors if we don't know what genre it is? As writers we write what we love, but, as professionals who want to make a living writing books, understanding where our stories fit in the marketplace is becoming more and more important as genre lines blur. 

What do you write? Has genre expectations impacted how you market your work? If you’re a reader, what do you think of when you hear paranormal romance? 

Monday, March 12, 2012

Shiny Links for Writers

It's all about the links today, and this set is geared for fiction writers. Put down the cat, adjust your reading light, and position your index finger on the scroll key. Here goes:

Rachel Funk Heller equates learning to write with learning to drive—and shows us how to start our literary engines.

March 8 was National Proofreader's Day. (I'm kicking myself for not knowing it at the time.) To celebrate the occasion, GalleyCat offered a link to EditMinion, an online copyediting robot. Unsure about that semicolon? Run it past the robot for free.

Louise Behiel is a therapist by day and a writer by night. In a recent series of blog posts, she explores the familial roles individuals may assume in households with an emotionally absent parent or parents. Because roles taken on in childhood typically carry over into adulthood, an understanding of them can help writers flesh out fictional characters. Warning: Behiel emphasizes that none of these roles is carved in stone and the lines between them blur. The series starts with two post on The Family Hero here and here and then shifts to The Problem Child and then onto Rebels and Scapegoats . The series will continue, so bookmark Behiel's blog.

Even if you don't write mysteries or thrillers, you'll be interested in what three literary agents had to say at Sleuthfest about the state of the publishing industry. (Thanks to mystery writer Diane Capri for the link to the Babes in Bookland blog.)

Marcy Kennedy writes science fiction and fantasy, but her definition of strong female characters encompasses all genres.

August McLaughlin's recent blog post compares revisions to relationships, and before she's finished, you'll be nodding in agreement.

Chuck Wendig's back with a list of twenty-five things we should know about word choice. Here's a sample: "Writers often bandy about that old crunchy nugget of penmonkey wisdom — NO ADVERBS — as if it is bulletproof. As if a gang of adverbs shanked that writer’s mother in the kidneys as she stooped over to water the hydrangeas. Adverbs are not birthed from the Devil’s hell-womb. They’re just words." Read the whole post here.

Writer Roni Loren may not have all the answers, but she can recommend books to fix almost any writerly problem. Have trouble plotting? Loren recommends Blake Snyder's SAVE THE CAT.

Have you recently read a blog post, article, or book that helped with your writing? Please share your find in the comments section.

Friday, March 9, 2012

5 Ways to Build Your Portfolio and Earn a Living Writing

Today we welcome our guest, Brittany Behrman, who will share her tips on how to earn a living writing--either as a full time career or as a day job while working on your novels.

The writing industry holds a certain uniqueness: while many fields are filled with employees who are only working for a paycheck, more often than not, those who aim to spend their lives writing are doing so because they possess a passion that won’t allow them to ever stop writing (the dream of a huge publishing deal doesn’t hurt either!) While it’s a blessing to be able to make money doing what you love, a field full of people who love their job makes competition a little steeper.

As you’re pushing toward your big break, how are you supporting yourself? There are ways to supplement your income without taking away from the time you spend writing. In order to earn a position in the writing field, either full time or freelancing, it takes a strong portfolio and widely developed experience writing for publications.

I’ve put together a list of the five tips that helped me create a collection of samples to show employers my talent and devotion to writing; tips that eventually landed me a full-time job. Taking the time to concentrate on these five areas will put you on the path of securing freelance gigs or full-time employment writing.

I’m honored to have the opportunity to share my tips with the readers of Reading, Writing & Rambling. I hope they help you as much as they helped me in earning a steady income while improving the skills used to cultivate a manuscript.

About the author: Brittany Behrman began her writing career prior to college graduation reporting for her school’s newspaper and contributing to two sponsored blogs. Since earning her B.A. at Rutgers University in Journalism and Media Studies in 2009, she has spent the majority of her time freelancing and bouncing around the job market. In her tireless search for a writing position, she perfected these five tips and is now approaching her one year anniversary writing full-time for the Performance Marketing Agency, DMi Partners, and an education portal for online colleges,

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Who's Lucky Now?

Lucky, the stray cat I wrote about here, is now a Rosen. That means he'll have to get used to watching Top Chef, Project Runway, and whatever's on Masterpiece Theater. He'll put up with gushing attention when our grown daughters come by for dinner on Sunday evenings and will earn acceptance from the family's two existing cats, who've been acting standoffish toward him. Luckily, Lucky's easy-going and resilient.

Nevertheless, indoor living will cramp the style of a cat who's roamed the neighborhood for more than a year—always in the company of a kittenish sidekick with amber eyes. Unfortunately, my neighborhood turned dangerous when a bully cat marked it as his territory.

When my neighbor and I noticed Lucky was limping. I took him inside, dabbed his leg wound with hydrogen peroxide, and decided to keep him indoors until he recovered. He didn't, so I took him to the vet.

Lucky's leg wound was worse than I'd thought, and I'd overlooked a nasty bite near his tail. The vet kept him overnight. By the time Hubs and I picked up the cat the next morning, we'd decided to keep him. Who could look at those wounds and send him back outside where another attack was bound to happen?

On the other hand, our adoption of Lucky would leave his sidekick outdoors without his best buddy/posse of one. That knowledge made me sick. My next-door neighbors, who already have two dogs and two cats, decided they'd take in the sidekick. How awesome is that.

The vet estimates Lucky is three years old. He'd been neutered but wasn't ear-tipped. (When a feral cat is neutered, it's common to cut a quarter-inch off the tip of the left ear as a signal the cat's had the procedure. Don't worry; the tip heals quickly.) "He was somebody's pet," the vet said.

Since Lucky and his sidekick have cadged food from me, my next-door neighbors and at least one other family EVERY DAY for almost a year, it's clear he hasn't been anyone's pet for long time.

"Dumped," my next-door neighbor said when I relayed the vet's findings.

Yet it's clear Lucky and his sidekick had been given a good start in life. They are not afraid of people, so someone was kind to them. Did that person get sick? Have a stroke? Was a loving child forced to release her pets because the family was moving? I haven't a clue.

At the moment, Lucky is afraid of me—the meanie who dabbed his leg with hydrogen peroxide, then took him to the vet. When we brought his bandaged self home, Lucky took refuge under the bed in the guest room. I voted against feeding him, thinking he was still full of anesthesia and antibiotics. Hubs disagreed and took a dish of food into the guest room. Lucky crept from under the bed to empty the dish and lick my husband's hand. An hour later, Lucky hobbled into the family room to lean against Hubs' chair.

Yesterday morning, I took Lucky back to the vet to have the bandage removed. The wounds are healing nicely. As I write this on Tuesday at almost seven in the evening, Lucky's under the guest bed. He won't be for long.

Hubs is due home any minute. When he makes his appearance, Lucky will, too.

Monday, March 5, 2012


Ah, agents and many of us wish we knew what really happens when writers aren't around? Pat found this "enlightening" video and I thought it would be an amusing way to start off the week. Anyone have writing news today?

Friday, March 2, 2012

A Small Victory, Tinted Purple

Yesterday, I folded the purple shirt you see in my photo (lefthand column) and donated it to charity. It no longer fit.

The good news, at least for someone who's long struggled with her weight, is that the shirt's too big. A swath of it poked from an unbuttoned cardigan sweater, and the collar levitated up and out.

Wearing it, I looked as if I'd borrowed clothes from my big sister-- a look I've always been drawn to. What weight-challenged woman doesn't harbor the fantasy that an item of clothing will swallow her up?

In the past, I'd have kept that blouse for my fat days. Now I know keeping it is akin to sabotage. By giving it away, I declare an end to fat days.

Really, Pat? This, despite the fact history shows . . . Shut up!

I'm not going to make it easy to undermine myself with props like too-big favorite shirts. The purple one's gone. So is the gray-striped one. And the magenta.

Although I hate to shop, I ventured out--and bought two new shirts in a smaller size. Sadly, I couldn't find the perfect purple shirt in a store. Happily, I located it online, and it will arrive in a few days. Score!

It's not the equivalent of having my cake and eating it, too, because there's no cake. Sigh.

Nevertheless, a purple shirt that fits is hugely satisfying.