Friday, July 30, 2010

Five Reasons I'm Not A Pantser

By Ruby Johnson
A pantser is a writer who sits their fanny in a chair and just lets the words flow out through their fingers or as one writer describes it by the seat of their pants. They have an idea of where they want to start, and how they want the story to end. They can craft entire novels through cause and effect. Two well known pantsers are NYT best-selling authors  JoAnn Ross and Allison Brennan.

So Why Can't I Be A Pantser?
For me, being a panster  reminds me of the story of the airplane pilot who announces over the speaker, "Ladies and Gentlemen, we are lost. But we're making good time. So please take a look out the window and enjoy the scenery.

  1. I'm a list maker, I have been since I was ten years old. I have to list things in order of importance.
  2.  I'm a goal setter, so I have to know the end result and how I'm getting there, so I have to know the long term goal or the dramatic action.
  3.  I have to know the short term goals- the characters emotions, the specific tasks, objectives, and actions of the protagonist. I need to know the scene goal with the antagonist blocking the protagonist at every turn.
  4. I write mysteries, I don't like stumbling over dead bodies if I have to figure out how they got there as I write, even though I'm told pantzers love this.
  5. I don't have the temperament to keep writing myself out of corners and that's what happens to me when I don't plot the story.
I'm definitely a plotter, not a pantser.

There are many successful pantsers and their method of writing comes easy to them, but not to this list making, goal setting writer.

Are you a pantser or a plotter?

Wednesday, July 28, 2010


The Other Side Of The Mountain

by Jeff Turner

Do you remember that film from the late 60s or early 70s called “The Other Side Of The Mountain”? A young boy goes and lives alone in the mountain wilderness endures hardship, learns about life, and then returns to his everyday life back home with his parents. Right now I am on the other side of the mountain in a way like that movie character was. Things are not what they once were.

After being out of work for a while I have started an out of town project near Boulder, Colorado. The client is but a few miles from the edge of the Rocky Mountains, Colorado’s Front Range. I can go outside in the parking lot and view the line of mountains running from north to south stretching from one end of the horizon to the next in an unbroken line. The peaks and foothills tower above the farmland on the rolling prairie that spreads to its edge.

That image reminds me of this past year. Life was just rolling along like the fields near the peaks and then WHAM, divorce and no job. The peaks had risen up and stopped the rolling plains of my life. Where I thought I was going suddenly changed, and worse, I felt I was in limbo going nowhere. Pressure and stress mounted as time went on; nothing seemed to be going well at all. I knew I needed something else to occupy myself besides a frustrating search for a job.

So one day, I looked around my office, found my books on how to publish a book, and resolved to finish the book I had worked on, the one you now see on Amazon and B&N. While I looked for a job every single day I also now worked on my books, I started something I wanted to do and something people said I was good at. Amidst the angst of my situation I resolved to work on this new effort, a new path down the road of life. In that quest I did learn something about myself. Just as the boy in the film learned how to live from the land, I learned to do something new that was important to me. I knew I could do something I had not done before and that fact gave me new confidence in myself. Now, I am a confident person anyway but when you are faced with major negative events in life having any success can make a huge difference in your outlook on things. Such a triumph helps you reach your own other side of the mountain. In failure or disappointment one small victory, which may only seem small at the time, can be a large factor in getting past a trying period in your life.

Having now reached a place over the top of the past year’s hard to scale peaks, life is returning to normal again. My mood is better, my sense of humor and good nature are as they were before. And I still work on my books. So I have reached the other side of the mountain just like the boy did. I have endured some trying times and life has been restored. It is not the same as it was before but it is good nonetheless and new things to look forward to.

We should all try to find the other side of our own mountains of life and climb the rough peaks, endure the cold winds that blow through us, and learn how to live well again regardless of what we endure to get to a new, warm place in our life.

What is your Other Side Of The Mountain story?

Monday, July 26, 2010

How to Hook the Reader With a Great First Line

by Ruby Johnson

"Last night, I dreamt of Manderley again."

That line from Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier is one of the most famous lines in the world and is a good example of great first lines. What any great first line does is hook the reader.

Why? Precisely. It makes the reader want to know why. It raises a direct question and the reader is hooked into reading the next line, the next paragraph, the next page, the chapter.

In my early days as a writer, an author friend told me the first line is the story promise. It sets the mood or tone for change in the character’s life and draws the reader into the story. Les Edgerton author of Hooked says, "Your first sentence is the door into the house of your manuscript. Do you want it to be inviting, attractive, intriquing? Or do you want one that whimpers, The Mundanes reside here. Enter at the risk of falling asleep”

Donald Maass, literary agent and author of  Writing the Breakout Novel , as well as three other books on writing, developed a list of what hooks should contain. This is his list:

• Action or danger

• Overpowering Emotion

• A surprising situation

• An evocative description that pulls a reader into the setting

• Introduction of a unique character

• Warning or foreshadowing

• Setting a tone or theme

• Shocking or witty dialogue (internal or external)

• Raising a direct question

The following are some of my favorite first lines of novels. Can you identify which characteristics of Donald Maass’s list applies to each of them?

1. Falling in love with a catholic priest was not my smartest move. Kristen Higgins, Catch of the Day.

2. At about 0530 that very morning, Ken “Wildcard” Karmody became a terrorist. Suzanne Brockman, Out of Control.

3. He was running for his life. And it wasn’t the first time. Nora Roberts, Hot Ice.

4. The story begins where I’m making love to an ancient Chinese vase, on gangster’s orders, watched by eleven point two million viewers. Jonathan Gash, Moon-Spender.

5. When he was nearly thirteen, my brother Jem got his arm badly broken at the elbow.... When enough years had gone by to enable us to look back on them, we sometimes discussed the events leading to his accident. Harper Lee, To Kill A Mockingbird.

6. Ever since we shot half of the Mineral County sheriff’s department, my deputy and I have been a little shorthanded. Evan McNamara, Fair Game

7. Three things occurred to me on or about May 5, which is not only Cinco de Mayo in California, but Happy Birthday to me. Sue Grafton, “G” Is For Gumshoe.

8. “Hey, Gil—your air freshener’s standing by the side of the road.”Gary Braumbeck, Keepers

9. Anna Reardon had done the unforgivable. She had lied through her teeth to get Karl Lindstrom to marry her. LaVyrle Spencer, The Endearment.

Remember, an editor, is the one buying your book so make those first lines, first paragraphs, first pages, first chapters compelling. Make them so good that the editor can’t wait to discover what happens next and doesn't want to go to bed and take a nap.

Recommended Reads.
Hooked, Les Edgerton, Writers Digest Books
Writing the Breakout Novel, Donald Maass, Writers Digest Books

Saturday, July 24, 2010


The winner of Caroline Clemmons's book OUT OF THE BLUE is LACY.

Caroline will be in contact with you about your win.  Thanks for commenting on our blog.

Ruby Johnson

Thursday, July 22, 2010


How Eating A Chocolate Kiss Can Help You Describe Your Hero
By Ruby Johnson
Almost all writers, particularly romance writers, love chocolate.
In fact chocolate has a long history of association with romance.
Valentine’s day and the sale of chocolate is a good example.
 So how can you use chocolate to enhance your ability to use your five senses for description?
If you don’t like chocolate, you won’t develop a passion for it now.
But if the existence- not to mention the taste- of chocolate is one of the ways you know ecstasy on a daily basis, you will love the following exercise from my many years of chocolate appreciation.
 I’m not going to preach to you about the health  or the psychological benefits associated with chocolate, those are well documented.  An ingredient in chocolate is said to react inside your body causing you to feel  much the same as you did when you got your first romantic feelings. Oh, and don’t try this outside in the heat of the summer.

Take a piece of good chocolate (I prefer chocolate truffles) or lacking that a chocolate kiss. Close your eyes and hold the piece of chocolate in your hands, feel the texture, smell it, rub it on your lips, savoring every part of the experience. Then place it in your mouth and pay close attention to how the taste unfolds. Do not chew. Suck on the chocolate and let it melt in your mouth. Notice the explosion of sensation on your lips, tongue, and throat. Notice the difference between sucking on a piece of chocolate and quickly chewing it. Let two or three rapturous minutes pass and open your eyes. Now apply this experience to your hero. This also works well for the heroine.
So lets describe your hero.

 What does your hero look like?

 What color eyes does he have?
 Is he tall, or  average height? Is his build muscular, slender, rugged, wiry?

"The golden lights in his whiskey colored eyes were surrounded by absurdly long lashes."
He was so tall he made her feel petite and she was six feet tall.

What color of hair does he have? Is his hair black, brown, blonde, grey, or any of these with highlights? Is it long, short, curly, straight, thick, thin, or non-existent?

"It went with the slightly shaggy sun-streaked brown hair."
"He was at least forty and his hair was beginning to thin, but it only made him more desirable."

What types of clothes does he wear? Is he a suit and tie man, casual jeans, tee shirt, leather jacket, golf shirt and kaki’s? Does he wear expensive loafers, or boots or tennis shoes?

"He had broad powerful shoulders that strained the fabric of the expensive suit he wore."

Now, consider hearing. What does he sound like? Does he have a soft voice, deep voice, high or a loud one?

"He had a beautiful voice. Deep and rich and curiously fluid."

Does he have an accent?
 Is his accent southern, a western twang, fast New Yorker, or foreign?

"His voice was soft with a western drawl."

"His voice was smoky and rich, thickened by an authentic southern accent."

Next, consider smell. What does your hero smell like?
Does he wear a distinctive aftershave? Does he smell like spice, grass, fresh like a winter afternoon or horses?
" He smelled like the rain of a summer storm.'

Consider the sense of touch and ask what your hero feels like. Does he have smooth hands, soft hands, calloused hands, or hard hands? Is his body rock hard, muscular, or soft?

"She could feel the cowboy's work roughed hands against her skin."
"His well defined shoulder and chest muscles were rock hard. He looked as if it would hurt to bump into him."

Does he have  smooth or roughened skin? Is it enjoyable to touch? Can you feel his beard? Is it a five o’clock shadow or is it longer? Rough or soft? Is his facial hair soft, wiry, spiky? Would you want to run your fingers through it? Are his lips hard, soft,smooth, rough?

"His features were craggy and weatherbeaten and he had at least a two day growth of beard on his face, but his smile took her breath away.. His straight, jet-black hair tumbled over his forehead."

Last, but not least is taste. Imagine kissing your hero. What does he taste like? Whiskey? Mints? Champagne and chocolate?

"He gave her a slow lingering kiss. He tasted of chocolate and champagne and something more earthy".

All five senses have been used in the description of your hero. Not so hard if you start with a piece of chocolate.

What hero's description stands out in books you've read?


Jeff Turner, a member of GFW Writers, is a IP project manager and this little story is from one of his upcoming books on memories of his children's childhood.

By Jeff Turner

How many kids have asked the proprietor of a pizza place to autograph a pizza box for them? My son, Roger, did one day at Charlie’s Pizza.

Charlie’s Pizza was a neighborhood institution on the east side of Fort Worth where we once lived. For over 30 years Charlie and his family owned the restaurant and produced New York style pizza for Texans obsessed with BBQ and Mexican food. His pizza was always delicious, topped with fresh ingredients and a good thin crust. We ate there frequently as did many others who lived on that side of town. In fact, one year Charlie’s pizza was voted as “best pizza” in Fort Worth.

Over time, Roger was old enough to realize what Charlie’s Pizza was and asked for it. He also knew Charlie and his excitement was evident when we announced we were eating there. He always ate his share of each pizza pie. Like us, it was one of his favorite eating places and remained so over the years.

However, the most memorable experience was the time Roger decided he wanted Charlie to autograph one of the pizza boxes. Roger was very insistent about this, so one day I asked Charlie to sign a box containing a large pizza we’d ordered. Charlie looked at me a little funny and I explained why I was doing this. He cracked a real big smile, whipped out a pen, and ascribed his John Henry on the top of the box. I took the pie home in its box and presented it to Roger. The look on Roger’s face was that of an adoring fan. He loved that box and kept it, sauce stains and all, in his closet for years. It was a valued treasure in his little boy eyes even though it started as a plain pizza box.

Over the years, the box disappeared in house moves, but the act was not forgotten. A couple of years ago, I was in the restaurant and Charlie, now grey headed, was behind the counter making pies. As I paid for my order, I saw the stacks of empty pizza boxes behind him and asked if he remembered signing a pizza box years ago. He paused briefly and, with a big grin on his face, and said he did recall doing that. I refreshed his memory about how happy it made my son. He laughed and said no one had ever asked him to autograph a box as long as he had been in business. Sadly, he has sold his restaurant.

So a plain, ordinary pizza box, just one of billions like it, was signed and treasured by Roger like an autograph penned by a famous movie star or athlete. That small act of kindness by Charlie Langdon shows that the star on life’s stage is not always someone well known and famous, but instead can be a person who rises above average when he makes a difference in someone’s life. Charlie was an average person who became very important in the big, bright eyes of a little boy who liked his pizza.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

How to Engage Your Reader With Memorable Secondary Characters

Caroline Clemmons believes in strong heroes and heroines, but she also believes that secondary characters are important in a novel. She is a Texas author and an active member of the RWA and Yellow Rose RWA. It is my pleasure to welcome Caroline to our blog. Welcome Caroline!-Ruby Johnson

by Caroline Clemmons

Part of the fun of writing is creating interesting, quirky secondary characters. Unlike the hero and heroine, secondary characters don’t have to be bigger than life. As authors we can play around with these guys and make them zany or annoying or heroic.

 Caution—carefully balance creating characters that are memorable and interesting without letting them steal the spotlight from the hero and heroine. A good secondary character exposes the best qualities of the hero/heroine. The secondary character also encourages the hero/heroine. In a crisis, the secondary character may mediate.

Let’s take a moment and think of some famous secondary characters in film and print. Here are a few I remember:

  • Clayton Moore as The Lone Ranger and Jay Silverheels as Tonto;

  •  Batman and Robin;

  • Robert B. Parker’s Spencer and Hawk;

  •  Dr. Watson and Sherlock Holmes;

  • Captain Hatings and Hercule Poirot

  • Lucille Ball and Vivian Vance as Ethel Mertz
 You can add many more duos to this list, I’m sure. The characters I listed above provide different qualities to the story. Tonto ( which means stupid), for instance, is a trusted confidante—almost a partner—but the poor man also functioned as maid, cook, and messenger. Who doesn’t know the term Kemosabe? We aren’t sure what it means, but we know by whom it was spoken and to whom. Tonto’s job was hard and definitely not politically correct by today’s standards. At the time the stories began, however, Tonto’s presence emphasized that the Lone Ranger was open-minded and fair.
Currently, Batman is a mentor to Robin. Before the movies about them, the television series starring Adam West as Batman focused attention back to this comic book duo. In the movies, Robin has been portrayed with more backbone, but he’s still a secondary character.

The multi-purpose assistant is a common theme in crime stories, cozies, and romantic suspense. Late mystery writer Robert B. Parker’s Hawk is one of my favorites. Since main character Spencer has to abide by the rules to keep his P.I. license, Hawk is the go-to guy for gray areas. Hawk is not afraid to cross the line—any line.

Janet Evanovich’s Stephanie Plum who has her policeman boyfriend Joe Morelli to consult on legal as well as cozy matters. Ranger, though, can get things done with no-questions-asked. After ONE FOR THE MONEY in which Lula was brutally victimized, she and Grandma Mazur are the fun type of secondary characters authors love to write—and read.

Ethel Mertz was a reluctant partner-in-chaos who functioned as a calming influence when Lucille Ball overreacted—which was always! Ethel couldn’t keep Lucy out of trouble, but she tried at the same time she was Lucy’s best friend. Ethel is a perfect secondary character for one of today’s romantic comedies. There are too many terrific romantic comedies in print to list them here.

The secondary characters on whom I am concentrating today are (1) the confidante/best friend, (2) those who facilitate the plot/mentor the hero/heroine, or (3) those who can turn into a leading character in the next book of a series. Not that it’s necessary that secondary characters fall into one of these categories. Each book is peopled with characters that serve various functions, and one character might serve multiple functions, as does Mildred Vandermeer in my current paranormal time travel, OUT OF THE BLUE.

In your story, no matter how secretive the hero or heroine, there might be one person who advises and mentors the protagonist. I’ll use “Sleepless In Seattle” since you’ve probably all seen that movie. As well as being her supervisor, Rosie O’Donnell is confidante/best friend to Meg Ryan. Tom Hanks has Rob Reiner in the friend role, plus Tom also has his son urging him to action. The confidante/best friend allows the exposition of details that would be boring in narrative or an info dump. They provide the opportunity for humor, such as when Rob Reiner explains modern dating to Tom Hanks, or when hundreds of letters arrive because of Tom Hanks’ son. Ethel Mertz also falls into the confidante category, as would most best-friend characters. Yet the confidante does not know everything about the hero’s/heroine’s thoughts and desires.

A facilitator/mentor might be a priest, minister, or family friend. A protagonist goes to the facilitator when seeking help with a decision or quest. A facilitator might be off-stage in guise of a benefactor whose legacy is the inciting incident. Jodi Thomas’ TWISTED CREEK springs to mind. The main character, Allie, inherits a lakeside home/store in a small community from a man she’d never met or heard of. Her arrival launches this wonderful story set in West Texas near my hometown of Lubbock. The mentor helps the hero/heroine become a better person or excel in a particular way or fulfill their purpose. Your hero or heroine might even have memories pop into his or her head of a deceased mentor’s advice. If this is the case, keep flashbacks short and at a minimum number or you’ll lose readers.

Series are always interesting because they give readers a chance to continue with secondary characters they love. In book one, Jake could be the hero’s brother or best friend—or even the guy who loses the heroine. In the next book, Jake becomes the hero, but readers continue to learn about the couple from the first book. In a third book, perhaps Jake’s business partner becomes the hero. Sometimes authors who didn’t plan a series receive such a good reaction to a secondary character they write a linked book. I’m fortunate to have this situation in my upcoming September historical release, THE TEXAN’S IRISH BRIDE. My editor asked for a follow up book focused on the heroine’s older brother, Finn O’Neill. If you plan a series, create several secondary characters that are worthy of his/her books with your series’ future books in mind.

Create secondary characters that interest the reader, but be careful they don’t steal the show from the hero and heroine! That’s why they’re called “secondary characters.”

To thank those who comment today, I’ll choose one person who comments as a winner of a PDF file of my June release, the paranormal time travel OUT OF THE BLUE, from The Wild Rose Press. Don’t forget to include your email with your comment.

You may contact Caroline at


Congratulations! Judy Sizemore. You are a winner of a book from Allison Brennan


and put Book Winner  from AS WE WERE SAYING in the Subject.

Then include your name and address and the book you want.

Thanks for reading with us.


Friday, July 16, 2010

Caroline Clemmons On Monday: How to Engage the Reader with Memorable Secondary Characters

Have you ever read a novel with such engaging secondary characters or side kicks that they just begged for their own story?  What makes them different from the secondary characters whose names you can't remember at the end of the book? If you're writing a series, a memorable secondary character is important. Caroline Clemmons will give you some guidelines on creating  secondary characters on Monday's blog. Be sure and stop by for a chance to win one of her books.

 A Little About Caroline In Her Own Words:
As long as I can remember, I've made up adventures. Okay, I admit the early creative stories featured me riding the range with Roy Rogers and Dale Evans and saving the West. What a disappointment to learn that Roy was exclusively committed to Dale! Eventually, my best friend from across the street and I decided to become better detectives than Nancy Drew. We drove our parents and neighbors crazy sticking our pert little noses where they didn't belong. About that time I started writing down my adventures, but mostly I was a reader. Not until I read Nora Roberts' early novels did I decide to create my own romance manuscripts. My road to publishing was a lot slower than Nora's was. No surprise there! I still read Nora's books—as well as those of countless other authors—but now I write full time. That is, unless life interferes.

  My Hero and I live one a small acreage in the ranching and horse country of North Central Texas. Our two daughters are grown, and supportive of my writing. Living with Hero and me now are Webster, our sweet black Shih Tzu, and our two shorthaired cats: Sebastian, a black and white tuxedo who thinks he's our watchcat; and Bailey Erin, a shy apricot tabby. When I'm not writing, I love spending time with family, reading, traveling with Hero, browsing antique malls, and digging into family history and genealogy. Writing about strong heroes and heroines who overcome amazing obstacles to forge a meaningful life together is my passion.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010


There's no one better to talk about the importance of characters than Allison Brennan. We are honored to have you here. Allison welcome!  Posted by Ruby Johnson.

Characters are People Too!

By Allison Brennan

“If I don’t write every day, the characters begin to stale off in my mind—they begin to seem like characters instead of real people.” – Stephen King, On Writing

Therein lies my philosophy, and perhaps my neurosis. Characters, to me, are people too and in fact, they should be real to the author, so much so that you’d recognize one of your characters walking down the street. Better, your readers should feel that if they met one of your characters at Starbucks, they would instantly recognize them—not simply their physical attributes, but their personality and mannerisms. That the character becomes so real that she leaps off the page in 4D—physically, plus their thoughts, feelings, dreams, and fears (the fourth dimension.)

One of my favorite workshops to present is No Plotters Allowed which I originally created with the incomparable bestselling author Patti Berg. While the title is rather dramatic (and the subtitle “Solutions to Writers Block for those who Can’t, Won’t or Don’t Plot” rather stubborn), it truly is a workshop designed to help people figure out why they are stuck.

I can’t write your book for you, but I might be able to identify your problems. Two of the reasons we’re not touching here for lack of time and space—1) Talent, or immature ability and the need to learn more about the craft of writing; and 2) Personal issues, i.e. an unsupportive spouse, dependents, or demanding day job.

The other reason is the most common, at least for writers who have made the commitment and have invested in learning the craft of writing (the investment, BTW, is rarely a financial investment. Like Stephen King, I believe in daily writing and through writing and editing I believe everyone becomes a stronger writer), is a stubbornness among writers to force their characters into a box. To make them perform as the writer thinks they should perform, to make the choices the writer thinks they should make.

My daughters noticed that I talk about my characters as if they are real people. For example, one day I was brainstorming with them (16 and 14) in the car and my oldest suggested something. I frowned and said, “But Lucy wouldn’t do that.” While it was a logical progression based on the information I’d shared with my daughters, it was a decision my character would not make.

I’ve found that more often than not, when I’m stuck in a book, it’s because I’ve forced my characters down a path they would not have chosen for themselves; or worse, had them making decisions they would not have made. This means backtracking—re-reading what I have written until I find the scene where I intruded in the normal course of events. I edit, thinking now about what would my character do or say or think. Sometimes, this means deleting a chapter or three or more. Sometimes, it’s an easy fix and I happily go on my way until I, ahem, impose my will on my characters yet again.

It’s like children. We all want to make our children do what we want them to. What we know is right. What we know is the best choice. But sometimes, our choices should never be their choices; sometimes, they need to make mistakes. And honestly? Sometimes we’re wrong (though I will not admit that to my children now, because as far as they’re concerned I’m always right, and I’d like them to believe that fantasy a little while longer.)

But with kids, we lay down rules and guidelines, and often find ourselves doing the same with our characters without realizing that our characters are not our children, but fully-developed human beings with their own unique backstory that has shaped them into the people they are today. We are all creatures of our past coupled with our God-given talents and personalities. We all have unique genetic codes that, when combined with environment, create us into unique human peoples. Our characters are the exact same, and until we start accepting that, we’ll be trying to force them into a mold that is both boring and rather sterile—all because we’re trying to protect them, and ourselves, from what we—and they—fear.

I have read many compelling characters in fiction, characters who leap off the page, characters who are more than the author in that they are, somehow, more real to me than the author who created them.

Nora Roberts is an author who does an amazing job creating very real characters and imbuing them with an authenticity that is rare and wonderful. Her JD Robb In Death series gives us a world that no matter how long we’ve been away, we slip into it like a hot bubble bath, with familiarity and a sigh. Eve Dallas, Roarke, Peabody, McNab,--but even more important, her secondary characters which are add depth and richness to the story that would be unattainable with cardboard stick figures, there only to move the plot along. Officer Trueheart, Mavis, Trina, even Galahad the cat.

Some other fictional characters who have stayed with me long after I close the books . . . Tess Gerritsen’s Jane Rizzoli and Maura Isles (and secondary character Anthony Sansone, who is one of my favorites); Thomas Harris’s Hannibal Lecter, Francis Dolarhyde, and Will Graham; Michael Connelly’s Mickey Haller; Robert Crais’s Joe Pike; Lisa Gardner’s Pierce Quincy; Mark Twain’s Huckleberry Finn; and every character, big and small, in Stephen King’s masterpiece The Stand.

As Robert McKee says in his book STORY, “Character is story.” Stay true to your characters by butting out and letting them write their own story. It will be so much stronger, richer, and real.

I could go on all day about characters who’ve impacted me . . . but what about you? What are some fictional characters who’ve have stuck with you long after you closed the book?

I am giving away an autographed book to one lucky person. All you have to do is tell me the name of your favorite character and what makes them memorable.

Allison Brennan is a New York Times bestselling and award-winning author of fourteen novels and numerous short stories. The mom of five lives in Northern California and in her free time enjoys movies, video games, high school sports, and (of course!) reading. Book two in her Seven Deadly Sins supernatural thriller series, CARNAL SIN, is out now. And fan favorite Lucy Kincaid launches a series in January, 2011 with LOVE ME TO DEATH, followed by KISS ME, KILL ME in March. Visit her at

Tuesday, July 13, 2010


New York Times and USA Today bestseller Allison Brennan is the author of fifteen novels and three short stories. A former consultant in the California State Legislature, she is married with five children.
Allison says she began  writing over 100 books she never finished. After turning 30,and giving birth to her third child, she decided to actively pursue a career in writing. Committing herself to write a book from beginning to end, she wrote five complete novels before selling The Prey in 2004. Two years later it was released and made it to #33 on New York Times list.
With her first book Allison's publisher asked if she could write two books connected in some way to The Prey. Since that book was already written and in production, plot options were limited. During the copyediting stage, she tweaked the backstory of her heroine so that she had two friends from the FBI Academy, and they became the heroines of The Hunt and The Kill. Her "Predator Trilogy" was the first of four loosely connected romantic thriller trilogies. Each story is a complete work with a separate hero, heroine, and villain with some recurring characters that can be read individually or in order.

Crime fiction, mysteries, and romantic suspense have always been Allison's favorites. She has become very well educated in the field of homicide investigation and has many contacts in the field of law enforcement and forensics, including the FBI.
 In addition she has always liked supernatural stories and wrote one prior to her romantic thrillers. Her first three supernatural thrillers - Original Sin, Carnal Sin, and Mortal Sin - will be released in 2010.
Allison is continuing to write her trademark romantic thrillers. In early 2011, she'll launch a series starring Lucy Kincaid, a favorite character from her No Evil trilogy. The stories will tackle complex and current issues in law enforcement through the eyes of Lucy, an FBI recruit; her brother Patrick, a computer genius who's recovering from a two year coma; and Sean Rogan, a private security expert.
Come join us tomorrow for advice from an expert on character development.

Monday, July 12, 2010


This is another short piece by member Jeff Turner from his upcoming book Notes to Stephanie: Days Remembered.

by Jeff Turner

One of the funniest things we ever did occurred in the dressing room  at the Sears Women's Department in Ridgmar Mall. I dare say not too many husbands shop with their wives. But we weren’t like most couples were we?

So one Saturday you wanted to go shopping for clothes and as usual I actually went with you. We drove over to the west side of town to Ridgmar Mall and went into Sears. We went up the escalator to the women’s clothes department and you started looking for things you wanted to try on. While that went on I simply sat down someplace and watched people go by.

After a while you walked by with an arm full of outfits. Without thinking I followed you into the dressing room and shut the door. I didn't notice people around who saw us go in there. I just sat down and watched you try on all of those outfits and giving you my opinion of them when you asked. Of course seeing you half-naked in your panties and bra was hardly something to complain about either. It certainly made me think of doing things with you other than shopping, but I digress.

When you finished going through the outfits, you gathered them up and we opened the dressing room door and stepped out. We paused as we became aware of  the people outside looking at us with smiles or a questioning look on their faces. A man and women coming out of a dressing room together is not something you see every day.

We both got a kick out of that when we realized what they were reacting to. Indeed, we did something funny without even trying. And that is what made that little moment in time so memorable. Sometimes the best things come about when you are not trying to find them.  An event happens and creates a brief, intense moment of pleasure, joy, or humor and makes a regular day special. And that day in the dressing room was one of those times for us.

Friday, July 9, 2010


It is our honor to spotlight GFWW member, Steve Sanders, a lawyer, and a1982 graduate of Baylor University School of Law. He is the author of a book of poetry, Characters: The Buffalo Soldier and Other Poems ; editor of and a contributor to a book of pirate poetry, Raising Black Flags: Original Poetry By and About Pirates ; and editor of and a contributor to an anthology of poetry and short stories, Echoes From Other Worlds. His free time is spent writing, book signing, traveling to book fairs where he sells his books, and handmade jewelry. In addition, he works with the Haltom City Public Library, organizing events to promote authors and the library to the community. He’s also a member of the Fort Worth Poetry Society and the Poetry Society of Texas.                                                              

Welcome Steve!
Poetry expresses how we feel about a certain subject through imagery and senses. Your collection of poems is inspired by the life of pirates, when did you begin writing poems about them?

That’s kind of a long story but the best one’s usually are! I have been making and selling jewelry since 1996. In 2003, my wife and I decided to take our jewelry to a Renaissance festival. Well, when you vend at a renfaire you have to go dressed in “garb” so I thought what’s a better business model than a couple of pirates who have come ashore to sell off their plunder? I wanted to rename my business and so I started asking everyone I knew who they thought of when I mentioned “pirates.”

“Pirates of the Caribbean” was just coming out then so they didn’t say “Jack Sparrow!” Instead, they said “Blackbeard.” So, I decided that the name of the new business was going to be “Blackbeard’s Treasure Chest.” When I was writing my wife an email to tell her about the new business, I misspelled it – “BlackBEAD’s Treasure Chest.” It stuck and that’s been the name of the business ever since!

I’ve been writing since I was ten and writing poetry since I was in high school. It’s always been my way of releasing pent up emotion or saying the things I wanted to say but couldn’t. My writing became a secondary career in 2000 when I was asked by a woman at work to write an original piece for that year’s Black History Month celebration. That was the beginning of me taking myself seriously as a writer and becoming determined to someday publish. I did an enormous amount of research and wrote a forty-two stanza poem about a young Caucasian man who meets a retired Buffalo Soldier and the effect this friendship has on the young man’s life. The work was extremely well received and friends suggested I publish the work or even try to write a screenplay from it.

What that piece led to was a rebirth of my relationship with my father’s only surviving relative, my Aunt Sandy and her husband, Rufus. They are very big into cowboy poetry and they encouraged me to write more of the cowboy pieces. I did so, writing several pieces. But they weren’t really true cowboy poetry, they were more historical pieces. About 2006, my wife suggested that if I was going to write in that style, why not write “pirate poetry.” Take the same form, rhyming quatrains, and just change the setting and the characters. The business had taken off and this seemed like a great way to go. Once again, it stuck, and I’ve never looked back!

What attracted you to pirates and their life?

I’ve always loved history, I was a Civil War reenactor for 22 years, and pirates are a huge part of history. From the Cilician pirates who caused so much trouble to the Romans, to the Hanseatic League’s privateers, to the pirates of the Golden Age of Piracy, to John Paul Jones, there is a rich history of real life pirates out there. The real stories make up a bloody history and one full of death and short on plunder and glory.

But, like so much of history, our popular media has glamorized the life in films like “Captain Blood”, “The Black Swan”, “Goonies”, and, most recently, the “Pirate of the Caribbean” films. I think what attracts me most is the idea of being free, to sail the ocean and go where you please, when you please. In the movies, Captain Jack Sparrow says, “Do you know what a ship really is? It’s not a keel and a hull, that’s what a ship needs, not what it is. What a ship really is, what the Pearl is, is freedom.”

All my life I, like most of us, have been a wage-slave, working for someone else and dancing to their piper. I dream of a life where I can be free, traveling where I want to and taking my goods to markets all over, living off what I make from my own labors and my own wits. This is the concept I refer to when I talk about “raising the black flag.” It’s a dream that many of us have and I intend to make that dream come true. I’m doing those things now (paying off all my debt, building a retirement account, building my business and my literary goods) so that, someday, I can be free like Peter Blood to live as I please!

Pirates have been a popular genre in Western fiction and lore for a long time. In 1814, Lord Byron published an epic poem entitled “The Corsair” , the tale of a pirate captain who risks his life to save a slave in a Turkish harem – he sold all 10,000 of the first run of copies in a single day! Treasure Island was first published as a book in 1883, “The Black Pirate” was a hit film in 1926, the original ‘Pirates of the Caribbean’ ride opened at Disneyland in 1967, and plans are afoot for a fourth “Pirates of the Caribbean” movie for summer of 2012. And if I ever sell copies of my book to one half of one percent of all of the people who saw just the first “Pirates of the Caribbean” film, I can start living that life I dream of!

Could you tell us a little about the collection of poems?

Raising Black Flags contains poems from fourteen different poets and artwork from two different artists and it is all pirate-themed. About a third of the works are mine and include some of my “adventure poetry” – poems in the nature of Kipling’s “Gunga Din” where I write rhyming quatrains that tell a tale. One of my favorites is “A Tale From Devil’s Tavern.” It’s a poem about a haunted pirate ship. The ghost of one of their victims returns each year on the anniversary of her death to take one of the pirates off into the night. It has a twist at the end and it’s very popular when I do shows and readings.

The other poets all write in various forms, some rhyming, some in free verse. They write about love and death, mermaids and sirens, and the life of a sailor at sea. Some of the poems are romantic, some humorous, some are sad and some are rousing tales of adventure. We’ve gotten some really good reviews and we’ve sold about 220 copies of the book through my business, Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and other booksellers. Not bad for an independently published book!

When did you realize a collection was developing on this theme?

Actually, this collection was planned this way from the beginning. I wanted to publish a book of pirate poetry to add to the products I was selling from “Blackbead’s.” I had written several but I was afraid it would take me months to put together something that was all pirate-themed. I knew there were other poets out there writing about pirates so I just put out a call, over various avenues on the Internet, and within six months, I had enough poetry to fill a book! We have all worked together well, some of these people I have never spoken to over the phone, all of our communications have been via email! But it doesn’t matter. All of the people are intent on raising their own black flags and we’re out there doing it!

Where do you draw your inspiration from for your poetry collections?

Generally speaking, my inspiration comes from the people I know, the values I wish to inspire, the world around me and the incredible story that is our own history. Sometimes, people give you challenges and you go from there. I used to write original poetry for people – they would give me the subject matter, the tone and what form they wanted to poem in and I would do the rest. “Devil’s Tavern” came from a challenge from a fellow writer to write a pirate ghost story. “Treasured Melody” is a love poem to my wife. “My Honey”, a cowboy poem about a horse, was inspired by one of our cats. Yeah, ask me about that one sometime! If it is a good story or a powerful, emotional image it will usually translate into a good poem.

How did you go about assembling your poems?

I know a lot of poets print their poetry in a chronological order. Others group their poems by style or subject matter. I tend to group my works by subject matter. For Raising Black Flags and Echoes From Other Worlds this was pretty easy. The hard part about those two, since they were anthologies, was to ensure that no one poet was clumped all together. I wanted to spread out the works.

My next book may be a little more difficult. I intend on calling something about voice or voices and it will include poetry and short stories and will include a number of genres. That one will probably be organized by trying to create a flow of the works. Or I may just do it in chronological form. Sometimes, that’s the best way to ensure a varied mix.

When you sit down to write poems or short stories, what is your process?

I’m not one of those writers who have a definite place and time to write. I like to be freer flowing, especially when I’m writing poetry. I almost always write better using a computer – I still write with a pen or pencil from time to time but, strangely enough, that seems to take too much time! I do want a quiet place where I can focus, although sometimes it is coming out so fast and furious that it doesn’t matter where I am or what I’m doing. “My Honey” was written in my head while I was laying down trying to sleep. I was in bed, my mind whirling and spitting out these words, and I finally just got up and wrote the piece down on paper. Other pieces have come to me while I was driving and I would try to remember them till I got where I was going! Other times, I have to work at it. I’m currently playing a plotline for a Steampunk novel and that has been grueling!

You’ve won many awards for your poetry and writing, can you tell us about the contests?

My first big prize was at the 2009 “Books ‘N Authors ‘N All That Jazz” Canis Latran Writing Contest at Weatherford College. I took the Judge’s Choice in the Poetry Division for “The Regimental Ball”, one of my cowboy poems. That was amazing! They make you feel like a rock star out there. There was a free lunch, a monetary prize, and they had the head of the Theater Department read my piece. I took two Editor’s Choice Awards this year, one for a short story, “The Sorcerer’s Headphones”, and one for a pirate poem, “It’s In Me Blood.”

I also had a poem chosen for last year’s San Antonio Poetry Fair’s anthology, “Voices Along the River.” My poem “Dad, You’re My Favorite Cowboy” was selected for publication in “Voices.” That poem was given an Honorable Mention in the 2009 Haltom City Public Library’s Texas Writers Contest and this year, just recently, one of my short stories, a piece entitled “Seventy Minutes” tied for First Prize in the Adult Short Story Division of the 2010 Haltom City Public Library’s contest.

It is amazing how good this sort of recognition can give an author! It is one thing to have family and friends tell you they enjoy your work but when a total stranger gives you an award or buys a copy of your book (especially when they ask you to autograph it) that’s a totally different feeling. The sense of accomplishment is incredible. I heartily recommend entering contests! You just never know when you’re going to win!

What are you currently working on?

As always, I have several projects going at once. I definitely want to get a book out at the end of the year and I am putting that together, gradually. I’m working on editing a friend’s book of poetry and she wants to publish it before the end of the year. I’m rewriting a short story that I recently put down in draft, entitled “Straight to Hell.” I’ve got the Steampunk novel still going and a poem about John Paul Jones’ most famous engagement. Finally, I’m working on a piece entitled “Dark Blue” about life and death and passing from one to the next.

I’m working with two different illustrators to put together books that combine my poetry with artistic images. One of the books would be “The Buffalo Soldier” and the other would be “The Captain’s Coat,” one of my pirate poems. I’m also involved with my brother in a collaboration that would become Blackbead Books’ second CD of music and recorded poetry.

And, of course, I’m doing what every “indy” publisher does all the time – market, market, market! I have a book signing this weekend, another in about a month, and I’m trying to set up one in Granbury. I’m also getting ready for the Granbury Pirate Invasion at the end of August, Middlefaire Renaissance Faire in September and October, the Pirate Days of Texas in October, and the Texas Magical and Medieval Faire in November!

Thank you so much for a wonderful interview and I wish you much success !
You may purchase Steve’s books through this site, or
Characters: The Buffalo Soldier and Other Poems, ISBN 978-1435713581, Lulu Publishing, 2008); (Raising Black Flags: Original Poetry By and About Pirates , ISBN 978-0615255354, Blackbead Books, 2008); and (Echoes From Other Worlds, ISBN 978-0578045887, Blackbead Books, 2010.
His jewlelry may be purchased at:

Thursday, July 8, 2010


 By Ruby Johnson

 Were you one of the millions of people who made a New Year's resolution in January? Was your goal to complete a novel by the end of 2010? How's that working out for you? Is your novel still a dream? Because that's what it will always be unless you start.

It’s July, and January is a long time behind you. There are twenty-five weeks left in 2010.

What if you just had 175 tomorrows left to live? What would you do? If you have 175 tomorrows, that’s 24 hours today and 4200 hours of tomorrows. If you plan to work at another job, that’s 1500 hours including commute time, and 1400 hours of sleep. Okay, you’re down to 1300 hours for home, children, self. If your children are young, there’s homework, meals, baths, bedtime stories by 7-8pm, and a committed time of 3-4 hours, so 750 hours. Now you’re down to 550 hours which leaves you 69 eight hour days to accomplish your goal of writing. So if you write 4.5 pages a day for 69 days you will have your 300 page book by the end of 2010.

So are you ready to commit yourself to think in a new direction? Everyone has 24 hours. It’s just that some of us use those hours more efficiently than others. In order to achieve your goal there are some things you can do.

• The goal must be written down and must be meaningful and specific.

• The goal must have an ending time.

• Obstacles to obtaining the goal must be identified.

• A plan must be executed to overcome obstacles.

• Write down the list of people, organizations, and tools that can help you obtain the goal.

• Write down a plan of action to obtain results.

• Write down the things that will benefit you if you obtain the goal.

The PERT CHART is a useful tool to show you how much progress you’re making toward your goal. The example shown is for seven months.

 The Program (or Project) Evaluation and Review Technique, commonly abbreviated PERT, is a model designed to analyze and represent the tasks involved in completing a given project. It is commonly used in conjunction with the critical path method or CPM.

It is a tool used in business and I frequently used it as a manager in the health care field for projects. I was exposed to this method by a vice-president who was retired from the Navy. In fact, this is one of the first places it was used.

The whole idea is you have a stated start date and end date for a project with critical points and dates along the way. It is written in diagram type fashion and gives a very clear picture of where you are on a project. You start with the beginning date, then list the activities that you need to have done before the end date. Then you place them on the diagram with a specific date by each one. If you run into an obstacle then you have to double up your time and effort to make the next date on time.

This gives you clarity and the ability to boil down your tasks and timeline. It also gives you a visual method to follow your progress. You’re able to react to unexpected changes and recover from setbacks. By visualizing all the pieces of your project it helps in your accountability in documenting outcomes which is crucial to success.

What tools do you use to help you write a book? Leave a comment and win a chance at a Starbucks gift certificate.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010


Karin Harlow has chosen a winner of ENEMY LOVER.

Congratulations Cathie Caffey!

 Please contact Karin  with your snail mail address. Hope you enjoy your prize.

Monday, July 5, 2010


by Ruby Johnson

I am a former South Carolinian and a descendant of Captain David Allen Price of Revolutionary War fame. Being descendants of those who fought for the independence of this country or immigrants who came to make a new life gives us all some responsibility for preserving their ideals. I think the United States is great because of:
1. The freedom of the power of speech.

2. The freedom to live as I wish.

3 The freedom to choose whatever religion I want to practice.

4. A military who protects our country everyday and assists other countries who ask for help to protect their freedoms.

5. The ability to pursue any career or endeavor I want as long as I'm willing to work for it.

6. The resiliency of Americans experiencing disaster and their willingness to pick themselves up and keep going.

7. The charity, compassion, and missions of Americans who are willing to help their neigbors here or in other countries.

8 The ability to vote even if the leaders we elect are not who we voted for.

9. The right to buy a gun for protection if I want one.

10.The sheer beauty of this country - east, west, north or south.


Link Within

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...