Friday, September 30, 2011

Shirley Jump Shares The Princess Test And A Giveaway

Don't forget to leave a comment when you finish reading to be entered in the drawing for a book.

Shirley Jump
About Shirley Jump...

New York Times and USA Today bestselling author Shirley Jump spends her days writing women’s fiction and romantic comedies (The Princess Test,September 2011) to feed her shoe addiction and avoid cleaning the toilets. As AJ Whitten (, she also writes horror young adult novels for Houghton Mifflin’s Graphia imprint with her daughter (The Cellar, May 2011). She says she finds writing time by feeding her kids junk food, allowing them to dress in the clothes they find on the floor and encouraging the dogs to double as vacuum cleaners. But don't let her kid you, she is one of the best cooks around. Visit her website at or read her recipes and life adventures at She is also one of the best teachers of writing around, running workshops, maintaining a blog and yahoo group to help writers better their craft. It is my pleasure to welcome Shirley back with her newest book.

Back Cover Copy...

Carlita Santaro has never felt like a "proper" princess, and she's finally escaped the palace for the small town of Winter Haven.

Daniel is an award–winning journalist, but now, as a single dad, he's working on a gossip show—better hours but rock–bottom morals. His boss orders Daniel to test suspiciously down–to–earth Carlita—is she really royal, or just posing as a princess?
Carlita captivates Daniel, but soon he'll have to choose: Should he follow the headlines, or his heart?

Chapter One...

Dawn broke its soft kiss over the lake, washing the blue-green water with a dusting of orange and gold. A slight breeze skipped gentle ripples across the water, and whispered the scent of pine through the open window. Carrie Santaro curled up on the cushioned window seat, watching the day begin. In the three days since she’d arrived at her rented lakeside cottage in Winter Haven, Indiana, Carrie had spent every spare moment in this window seat, soaking up the tranquility and the quiet peace found in being utterly alone. Her sister, Mariabella, who lived half the year in a seaside town in Massachusetts, had told her that life in the States was different from life in the castle.

She’d been right. Here, in this tiny Midwestern town, with all its hokey charm, Carrie felt free. To be herself, to drop the mantle of her princess life and to be just… Carrie. To be the person she’d been fighting all her life to be. She hadn’t packed a single ball gown, not one pair of high heels. While she was here, she’d be all jeans and T-shirts and sundresses, all the time. Just the thought made her smile.

And while she was here, she decided, she’d find out who she really was. Maybe with enough distance between herself and the castle, she could finally get the answers she’d waited a lifetime to hear. After all, hadn’t her mother once said that was what had happened to her when she’d visited this town? Perhaps Carrie could get lucky, too.

Her cell phone rang. She sighed before flipping it out and answering the call she’d been dreading. “Hello, Papa.”

“Carlita!” Her father’s booming voice, calling her by the name her parents used when they wanted to remind her of her royal roots—and royal expectations. To remind her she should be a dutiful daughter, an obedient princess.

Uh, yeah, not.

She’d always been a rebel, and never been much for the suffocating mantle of royal life. She was more at home with dirt under her nails than wearing a starched dress to a state dinner. She’d taken the etiquette lessons, suffered through boarding school and sat quietly through countless events, trying her best to be what everyone expected of a princess.

Most of the time. And now, she was doing the exact opposite, which had displeased her parents to no end. Carrie was tired of caring. She was ready to live her life, and be free of all that once and for all.

“When are you coming home?” her father asked, in their native, lyrical Uccelli language.

“I just got here,” she answered, reverting to her native tongue, too. It felt a little odd after days of speaking only English. “I haven’t even started working yet.”

He pshawed away that notion. “You have work here. Come home.”

“Papa, we talked about this. I’ll be home in a few months. The wine shop needs an advocate for Uccelli. If we can get the American sales off the ground—“

“We need you here,” he said. “Your sisters, everyone, needs you here.”

Ever since her middle sister Allegra had become queen, her parents had been urging Carrie to be a bigger part of the royal family, to take a more active role in the Santaro family causes and the country’s needs. Something Carrie had resisted almost from birth. She wanted nothing to do with any of that. Just the thought of being surrounded by all that pomp and circumstance made her feel like she was being suffocated. “They’re fine without me. I’m barely a part of the family activities. The media hardly noticed I left.”

There’d been one small piece in the Uccelli papers, a quick mention that Princess Carlita had gone on vacation, and nothing more, her sister Mariabella had said. If Allegra had been the one to leave the country, there’d have been newspaper and television coverage for days. Not for the first time, Carrie thanked her lucky stars that she would probably never be queen.

“That’s because we have worked to keep your ‘antics’ out of the media, and keep this vacation of yours a secret.”

“It’s not a vacation, Papa. It’s a job.”

He sighed. “I know you love this work, and think this is what you want to do—“

“Think? I know.”

“But it is far past time you acknowledged your heritage,” her father said. “And stopped playing in the vineyards. And at life. All these years, I have indulged you and let you have your freedom. You, of all the daughters, have had the least to do with the royal family and its duties. But now, you are twenty-four, my dear. Time to start settling down and become a true Santaro.”

Settle down? She bristled at the thought of handing her life over to yet another person who would want to tell her where to sit, how to act, what she should do. In the last year, her father had also been pressing her to be a bigger part of the royal family. He’d reminded her a hundred times that play time was over and now she needed to step more fully into her role as princess. “That is the last thing I want to do right now.”

“I love you my daughter, I really do, but you have one fault.”

They’d had this discussion a thousand times and Carrie didn’t want to have it again now. “Papa—“

“You flit from thing to thing like a butterfly. First it was wanting to be a landscaper. Then it was being a champion in dressage. Then it was rock climber, I think. Now, a shop owner.” He paused, and she could hear the disappointment in his voice. “When are you going to settle down? It is time to be serious.”

“I am, Papa.”

He sighed. “I know you are trying but it would be nice if you found a career you could stick with. A place to really shine.”

“I already have—working in the vineyard.” But as she said the words, she knew he had a point. She had darted from job to job, pursued a dozen careers in as many years. She’d never settled down with anything until now. Not a job, not a man, not a thing. “You don’t understand. It’s hard to find your place in the sun,” she said quietly, “when there are so many stars overhead.”

“Oh, cara, I understand that,” her father said, his voice softer. “I grew up in my father’s court, the second of five. If my eldest brother hadn’t died, I would have lived a very different life than the one I had. It was a good life, though, and I am not complaining.”

Carrie sent up a silent prayer that she was so far removed from the throne that she would probably never have to worry about wearing the crown. “I love working in the vineyards and with the wine, Papa. I want to run the vineyards some day.”

“It is not a proper job for a princess,” he said. “Go back to college. Become a doctor. A humanitarian. Something that befits royalty.”

In other words, not something where she got her hands dirty. When the vineyard’s marketing manager announced last month that this year’s harvest would be his last because he was retiring, Carrie had seen it as her chance to take a more active role in the company she loved so much. Her father had disagreed. She’d hoped he would come around, but clearly, he wasn’t about to. She wanted to prove to him with this trip that she could do both—have a career she loved and represent the royal family in a dignified way. “Papa, I will be home in a few months,” she said again, more firmly this time.

“This is yet another lark for you, Carlita, my dear.” Franco Santaro sighed. “I worry about you.”

“You don’t need to, Papa.”

“I do, cara. You dropped out of college after your first year. Then dropped out of the second one. And barely finished at the third. And now you go to this town--” He cut off the sentence, leaving whatever else he intended to say unsaid. “I worry. That’s all.”

Carrie winced at the reminders. “I just wasn’t a good fit for college. I love being outside, being hands-on.” She sighed, then gripped the phone tighter. “Tell Mama I love her. I have to go or I’ll be late for work. I love you, Papa.”

“I love you too. I will talk to you soon.”

Carrie hung up the phone. She showered and dressed, then drove the two miles from her rental house to the downtown area of Winter Haven. It wasn’t until she parked that she realized she was a full half hour early for her first day of work.

She got out of the rental car and stood under the sign of By the Glass, the specialty wine shop where she’d be spending the end of summer and early fall. This was what it had all come down to—her years working in the vineyard, working her way up from a vineyard tech job to a viticulturalist assistant, and after she’d gotten her degree, assistant to the manager.

She’d loved learning about the science of field blending to create new flavors. Loved seeing the finished product taken from a harvest and bottled for consumption. She’d tried several degree programs before settling on one in sales and marketing, with a heavy concentration in viticulture—even though her father had argued against those courses.

Once she got more hands-on at the vineyard, she wanted to parlay what she had learned into growth for the company. It had taken nearly a year to convince her father that Uccelli’s amazing wines should be sold in the US and that she should be the one to head the venture. When Jake, Mariabella’s new husband, had offered backing to open a wine shop in the small tourist town in the Midwest, the former king of Uccelli had finally agreed.

At first, Carrie was content to let the shop run itself while she watched from Uccelli and spent her days helping the vineyard manager run the operation. But as the first few weeks passed and the sale of Uccelli wines in America remained stagnant, she knew she wanted to take a more active role. Do what made her happiest— get involved and get her hands dirty. And finally implement some of what she had learned in college.

She’d spent two weeks at a wine shop in Uccelli, learning the techniques of selling. Still, her father had had his doubts, sure she’d turn around in a day, a week, a month, and embark on something else.

How could she blame him? When she’d come home from her third and final college, her father had been sure she’d never settle into any one career, despite her framed degree. But Carrie had retreated to the vineyards, and as soon as she did, felt at home. She’d known this was where she’d been meant to be, all along. Any doubts she might have had disappeared.

Now Carrie was going to prove not just her own worth as a vineyard director, but the worth of the Uccelli wines to foreign markets. And maybe, just maybe, she’d return to Uccelli and her father would finally see she was committed to this work, and the best next choice to run the vineyard’s overseas operations. If not, well, she’d scrimp and save until she had one of her own.

But the little nagging doubts still crowded on her shoulders. What if you quit this too, that voice whispered, What if you fail? Where will you be then?

She would not fail. Simple.

Carrie unlocked the front door, let herself in, then did the few morning tasks required to open the store. By the time Faith, the regular clerk, came in, the shop was already humming with music and warm incandescent light. “Wow,” Faith said as she dropped off her purse behind the counter. “You’re in early.”

“I was excited about my first day.” Carrie slipped onto the other side of the heavy basket display of featured wines and helped Faith carry it out to the sidewalk. The sales clerk—whom Carrie had met when she’d arrived in Winter Haven on Friday—was a tall, thin blonde with a warm smile and wide green eyes. She’d welcomed Carrie, and quizzed her for a solid hour about the Uccelli wines that first day, clearly excited to meet someone who had direct experience with the vineyards.

“It’s nice to work with someone who likes their job,” Faith said as they walked back into the shop. “The last girl we had here was late so often, I gave her an alarm clock for her birthday.”

“Did it work?”

“Nope. She dropped it when she ran to her car that night because she was late for a date.” Faith shook her head. “I already think you’re going to be a better clerk than she ever was. Plus you know these wines better than anyone.”

Carrie brushed away a long lock of dark hair, and tucked it behind her ear. A flush heated her cheeks. “Thank you.”

“Hey, I’m having a party a week from this Friday,” Faith said as she arranged a display of corks on a small round table by the register. “Just burgers and chips at my lake cottage, before the weather gets too cold to do anything. You should come. You’ll get to know a lot of the locals.” Faith grinned. “Maybe even meet someone sexy, for a little end of summer fling.”

“A fling? Me?” Carrie laughed. “I’m not the fling type.”

“Think about it. You have the perfect situation. You’re only here for a few weeks before you go back to the other side of the world. What better time to have a fling?”

“Princesses don’t have flings, Faith. My father would have a heart attack.” She could just imagine Papa’s face if she added a public scandal to her list of mistakes. It would be ten times worse than the time she skidded in a half hour late, wearing grape-stained jeans to a media-filled dinner with the Prime Minister of Britain.

Faith leaned in closer to Carrie. “Every woman deserves a fling, Carrie. Otherwise, you’ll end up married and surrounded by kids and wondering what the hell you missed out on.”

Carrie thought of the prescribed life ahead of her. The people expected it, after all. Her oldest sister was married and already talking about kids, while her middle sister, the queen, had gotten engaged last month. Carrie was expected to go back to Uccelli, find an “acceptable” career, and an “acceptable” spouse, as her older sisters had done, and then fill her calendar with state dinners and ribbon cuttings and uplifting speeches.

Ugh. Just the thought of what lay ahead made Carrie want to run screaming from the room. How had her mother ever stood it? Was that why she’d reminisced about her time in Winter Haven? Because it had been a brief pocket of freedom to be herself?

“I’ll be there,” Carrie said, deciding that while she was here, she was going to experience everything she could. She might not have a fling, but she intended to have a damned good time. It might be her last opportunity for a while, and she intended to take advantage of the break from expectations.

Mama had told her dozens of times about this little Indiana town, a place she’d visited once when she’d been younger, before Carrie had come along. Mama had lived here for a summer under an assumed name, as a person, not as a queen. In those days, the media hadn’t been as ravenous to uncover every detail, nor did they have the resources of the Internet, so Bianca had been allowed a rare window of obscurity. Mama had raved about this town to Carrie so often that when Carrie was brainstorming with Jake about a test location in the U.S., Winter Haven had been the first one to come to mind. In the few days that she had been here, she had seen firsthand why her mother loved the little town so much. It was charming, quiet and filled with warm, welcoming residents.

And, to be perfectly honest, she’d wanted to know what the appeal had been for her mother. Whenever Mama talked about Winter Haven, her features softened, and she got this dreamy look. Carrie had to wonder what had made this place so unforgettable.

The morning passed quickly, with several customers coming into the little shop. Every bottle of Uccelli wine that left By the Glass gave Carrie a little thrill. It was like handing over a part of her heritage, herself, and she was delighted to share the beautiful bounty of her country with others. She belonged in this field, she just knew it.

By eleven, business had slowed. “You certainly have the magic touch,” Faith said. “I don’t think we’ve ever sold that much wine in the first two hours of being open.”

“People must be in a wine buying mood.”

“Or they’re so dazzled by meeting a real-life princess that they buy every bottle they can.”

“Oh, I don’t know about that.” Carrie had mentioned her royal heritage when people asked her about her accent, which wasn’t all that pronounced, given the years she’d spent in British boarding schools—one of many attempts by her parents to curb their wild child. And even then, she’d released the information reluctantly, and only when pressed.

“I’m telling you, we should capitalize on the princess angle. Put up a sign and everything.”

“Put up a sign?”

“Something small. No billboards or anything. This is a tourist town, and a little brush with a royal, that’s the kind of thing tourists love.”

She hesitated. “I don’t know.”

“Might as well flaunt it if you got it, sister.” Faith grinned.

Advertise her royal heritage? Use it as a marketing tool? The idea grated. Her princess status had always been a chokehold on her freedom. “I just think it’d be better not to advertise that whole thing.”

“It could sell a whole lot of wine,” Faith said. “And isn’t that your goal? To make this store a success?”

Confronted with that truth, Carrie really didn’t have grounds to refuse. And wouldn’t it be ironic if the thing she hated most about her life became the thing that helped her get what she wanted? Plus, if she handled it right, she could show her parents that Carlita Santaro was the perfect representative for the kingdom’s wines.

Carrie glanced down at her faded jeans and the store logo T-shirt she was wearing. “I know one thing for sure.”

“What’s that?” Faith asked.

“I won’t be the princess they’re expecting.”

Faith smiled. “And that’s part of your charm.”

Carrie reached over and plucked the chalkboard advertising today’s specials out of the window. “So…where’s the chalk?”

# # #

The sign worked wonders. As word spread about Carrie’s presence in the shop, business began to triple, then quadruple. Carrie’s naturally outgoing personality was a perfect fit for the curious tourists. Faith was over the moon ecstatic about the uptick in business, and started talking about bringing in some temps to help with the additional influx of customers. Every day, Carrie went home to her rented cottage by the lake, feeling satisfied and proud of the job she was doing.

Maybe now, after seeing how she had helped spur sales of Uccelli’s prize-winning wines in America, her father would see that she was made for this business. That her heart was there, not in the palace or in some stuffy office.

“Hey, do you mind if I run out for lunch today?” Faith asked when business had ebbed a bit mid Thursday morning. “I know we’ve been crazy busy, and I hate even asking, but my mom and sister are in town today and they want my input on planning my youngest sister’s baby shower.”

“Go right ahead,” Carrie said. “I’ve got this under control.” She cast a glance at the cash register that had been the bane of her existence ever since she’d started working here. She’d been able to do everything in the shop, except get the recalcitrant machine to do what she wanted. It seemed no matter which button she pushed, it was the wrong choice. “More or less.”

Faith laughed. “Well, if it gets too crazy, just write down the sales and we’ll run them through later. And remember, this button here,” she pushed a big green one, “will open the cash drawer.”

Carrie nodded. “Okay. Got it.”

After Faith left, Carrie got to work dusting the shelves and giving the display bottles an extra bit of polish while a few customers milled about the shop. On the center shelf, she picked up the signature wine from Uccelli—a graceful Pinot Grigio with notes of citrus and almond. Carrie knew it had a crisp, dry taste, one that seemed to dance on your tongue. Of all the wines manufactured on the castle grounds, this one was her favorite.

A sense of ownership and pride filled Carrie. She had tended these vines. She had picked these grapes. She had worked the machinery that took the grapes from fruit to liquid. For years, she’d been the rebel—the girl skidding in late to dinner, the one who’d ducked ribbon cuttings, the one who’d done whatever she could to avoid her identity and its expectations.

Funny how all that bucking tradition could result in something so sweet, so beautiful.

The label was decorated with an artist’s rendering of the castle, its elaborate stone façade a dramatic contrast to the rustic landscape and the rocky shoreline. She traced the outline of the castle, ran her finger along the images of the four turrets, the bright purple and gold pennants.

The bell over the door tinkled. Carrie put the bottle back, then turned toward the door. A tall man stood just inside the entrance, his athletic frame nearly filling the doorway. The slight wave in his short dark hair accented the strong angles of his jaw. Sunglasses hid the rest of his features, yet gave him an edge of mystery. He had on jeans and a lightly rumpled button-down shirt, which made him look sexy and messy all at once.

Oh my. Something in Carrie’s chest tightened and she had to force herself to focus on her job, not on him. “Welcome to By the Glass,” she said. “What can I help you find?”

He pointed toward the chalked sign in the window. “I’m looking for the princess.”

Carrie smiled. She put out her arms and figured if this guy was disappointed to find out she wasn’t a diamond-clad diva, that wasn’t her problem. “That would be me.”

He arched a brow. “You?”

“Yes.” She put out a hand. She’d gotten used to introducing herself as a princess in the last few days, but this time, she hesitated for a second before speaking the words. Because she wondered what this handsome man’s reaction would be? “I’m Carlita Santaro, third daughter of the king and queen of Uccelli. Which is where the grapes are harvested and the wines are bottled.”

He removed the sunglasses, revealing eyes so blue, they reminded her of the ocean edging her home country. When he shook her hand with a strong, firm grip, Carrie thought about what Faith had said about having a fling. This guy was everything a woman looking for a little adventure could want. Tall, dark, handsome, and with a deep voice that seemed to tingle inside her. And best of all, no wedding ring on his left hand.

“I’m sorry, but I was expecting someone more…formal.”

She glanced down at the dark wash jeans and T-shirt she was wearing, her bright pink shirt sporting a logo for the store, and laughed. “Princesses don’t go around in long dresses and tiaras every day, you know.”

“True.” He released her hand, then fished in his breast pocket for a business card and handed it to her. “Daniel Reynolds. I work as a producer/reporter for Inside Scoop. I’d like to do a story on you and the shop.”

“A…” She stared at the card, then at the man. “A story? For the news?”

“Well, the show I produce isn’t news. Exactly.” He let out a little cough. “We like to call it ‘infotainment.’”

She shook her head. And here she’d actually been thinking of asking this man out. Clearly, her jerk radar was down, because this was just another vulture. “Paparazzi. Why am I not surprised?” She turned away from him, ignoring the business card. “Thanks, but no thanks.” She crossed to a short, older woman who had entered the shop while they were talking, and started telling her about the shop’s special on whites.

“I’m not a member of the paparazzi,” he said, coming up behind her.

“This Riesling is one of our top sellers,” Carrie said to the woman, ignoring him. He could spin it however he wanted, but she’d seen his type before. All they wanted was the scoop, another headline to blast across the airwaves. “If you like a sweeter wine, it’s a great choice.”

The woman tapped her lip, thinking. “I don’t know. My tastes run in the middle, between dry and sweet.”

“Then let me suggest—“

“This is the kind of story that could really put your shop on the map.”

“—this Pinot Grigio. A little dryer than the Riesling but not as dry as the Chardonnay you were considering.” She reached for the bottle, but before she could make contact, Daniel had inserted his business card into her hand. She wheeled around to face him. “I’m trying to do my job here.”

“And I’m trying to do mine.” He pressed the card against her palm. “Please at least consider my offer.”

“I don’t think so.” She took the card, tore it in half, and let the pieces flutter to the floor. “I have no interest in anything you have to say to me. Not now, not ever. Go find someone else to torment.” Then she turned back to her customer, exhaling only when she heard the shop’s door close again.

Shirley is excited to offer the first princess book—A Princess for Christmas—so readers can read Carrie’s sister’s story.

 Don't forget to leave your name at In the the subject line put contest entry, and in the body of the email, leave your name and email address so that we may contact you if you win. We promise we won't give out your information.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Writers' Push-ups-Four Ways to Improve Your Skills

If you find something of value in this post, please leave a comment when you finish reading..

Jeff Bacot mentioned something akin to “nobody ever thinks about how many golf balls a player hits before teeing up for hole #1.” Practice drives and putting. Buckets and buckets of balls at driving ranges. Athletes at all levels do the same thing between game days. They practice. Drills and exercises, and then they practice some more. They identify weaknesses and concentrate on converting them to strengths. Maybe writers are no different then athletes. Both worlds are highly competitive. Both worlds feast on mistake-free performances.

You have an inkling too many pronouns end up in your writing? Give yourself 20 minutes tomorrow morning to write one paragraph with no pronouns about a person you observed the last time you were in the grocery store. Adverbs and adjectives -- you use lots of them? Tomorrow morning. Twenty minutes. One paragraph with no adverbs or adjectives: not even a hint of anything ending with a ly, describing what you ate for dinner last night. The next time you sit down to work on your novel: it’s game day. In-between it might be good to consider some exercises.

NPR had a 600 word three-minute short story contest running recently. The rules were simple. The 600 word maximum, and the completed story had to have someone arriving into a town and someone leaving a town. All the other story essentials had to be there. Theme, intent, conflict, heart, a beginning, a middle and an ending. Don’t forget solid characterization, coupled with a proportioned balance of narrative and dialogue. Make no never-mind what genre you write -- drills working within similar constraints can build word selection muscle and overall ability to better focus on your story.

Another drill was out there on-line in the past month or so, again with a max word count, but 80% of them had to be corralled in quotation marks, and the last line had to be “This is all about the bicycle, isn’t it?” Exercises are all about building skills. When was the last time you heard of a defensive safety saying to an opposing wide receiver “I can rip that ball out of your hands -- watch me do 75 push-ups in less than three minutes to prove it?” Drills and exercises aren’t about the specifics of your story or your characters: it’s about being astute and strong enough to pick the right words at the right time when working your novel on a proverbial game day.

Do real writers make use of exercises? Yep. The most famous of all. Hemingway’s buddies challenging him to write a complete short story in less than 10 words. Mr. Hemingway did it in six. “For Sale. Baby Shoes. Never Worn.”

Some heads-up stuff.

The 2011 Texas Book Fair in Austin is October 22 and 23. 6th Street will be packed, as will every UT venue able to seat 100+ authors, publishers, agents, newbie writers and readers. Seriously -- do this fair at least once in your lifetime. Where else could you eat lunch, and the people at the table next to you are in an heated discussion over the use of dangling participles?

NaNoWriMo starts November 1st. 50,000 words in one month. A hugely good exercise to produce a 1,600+ words-a-day quota. Great exercise in developing stream of consciousness POV, but even better -- a great discipline to sit down for 90+/- minutes a day to do nothing else but write. The perk is Create Space will then give you a “free” perfect-bound paperback galley print version of your work, and you’ll probably have until June 2012 to submit your final draft.

Do you use exercises to improve your writing? Tell me what you do.


Member Spotlight:

George Talbot is  a member of Greater Fort Worth Writers and lives in Justin, Texas. Formerly in the field of communications, he was a TV weatherman and sportcaster. He says he is the  better-part of retired with two dogs, two horses, and two daughters. All of them all grown-up....He's the only one who is still trying to become a mature adult.

Monday, September 26, 2011


Like this post? Leave a comment when you finish reading for a chance at a free book from Shirley.

By Shirley Jump

In my very first rejection letter for my first novel, the editor said, “unfortunately, the characters didn’t come alive” for her and thus, she was sending back my masterpiece unwanted.
I was crushed and dejected. What did that mean, anyway? Characters come alive? They were certainly alive and well to me. I’d written several hundred pages about them, too. They’d been in my head for months. They’d been my constant worry for weeks while I waited to hear back on my submission.
But they hadn’t existed for anyone else but me. Let me show you why

Excerpt from VERY FIRST BOOK:
When Lindsay walked in the townhouse, she immediately kicked off her shoes and dropped her purse on the nearest chair. Her cats, eager to see her, were rubbing up against her legs within seconds. She looked down at them and laughed. They were practically knocking each other over to get to her. George, the biggest one, had little trouble shoving his way in closest. Tabby, a smaller gray cat, was pushing up against him. Maggie, the tiniest of the three, just sat off to the side, mewing softly. Lindsay, feeling bad for her, picked her up first, scratching her gently behind the ears. Maggie was pure white and partly deaf. Lindsay had found her on the side of the road one winter morning, cold, hungry and afraid. After a few meals and a cozy bed, though, Maggie had warmed up to Lindsay and was now the most affectionate of the three.

Harlan Jones set the sixth chair of the month on his front stoop, removed his cowboy hat and brushed the sweat off his brow before replacing the headgear. If he kept up like this, he’d either have to get married and have twenty kids or start giving the damned things away. Or, better yet, quit building them. If he was a smart man, he’d put the circular saw and drill away for good. Get over this stupid fantasy that he could be a woodworker.

A soft barrel-shaped body brushed against his leg. Harlan chuckled, leaned down and scratched Mortise behind the ears. The Golden Retriever’s tail slapped happily against his rump, and he snuggled closer. Tenon, not to be left out, brought her slender golden body into the mix, and slobbered onto Harlan’s hand.

“A sane man wouldn’t waste time building chairs he isn’t going to sell,” Harlan said to the dogs. Because they never argued back.

“A sane man focuses on a job with benefits.” Harlan moved away from the dogs, heading into the garage he’d converted into a woodshop, and started to put his tools away. “One that has a nice retirement package.”

Mortise dropped to his haunches in the doorway and panted. Tenon bounded off after a squirrel in the yard.

Harlan exited the garage, then shut the door. Was it crazy to be talking to his dogs? Probably, but hell, it was only him and the mutts here. Had been for six weeks, ever since he’d moved from Dallas to this tiny rental house in Edgerton Shores, Florida. The small town was quiet, peaceful. And gave a man too much damned time to think. “If there’s one thing I learned from my father, it’s that hobbies don’t pay,” he said to Mortise.

He had a job. A job he wasn’t always fond of, granted, but it was a job he was good at. A job he also needed to keep because a hell of a lot of people were depending on him. Harlan Jones was nothing if not a dependable, hard worker, one who took care of those he loved.

His gaze went to the distance, to a hospital that lay fifteen miles to the north. Out of sight, never out of his mind. “I have a job,” he repeated to the dogs, to himself, and to the air linking him and the Tampa General Hospital. He best not forget that when he was sanding a leg and admiring the sheen of the wood after the finish was applied. He had seen firsthand where foolish dreams got a man—penniless and unable to support himself, never mind his family. And right now, people were depending on him not to be foolish.

Harlan was about to go back inside and find something else to do with his Saturday when he caught a movement out of the corner of his eye. Here she came. Again. Bound and determined to mess up his life, that woman. “Be good,” Harlan muttered to the dogs. “And I mean it this time.”

“Mr. Jones,” Sophie Watson called to him from two houses down, her blond hair back in a loose ponytail, swinging along her shoulders. From the first day he’d moved into Edgerton Shores, he’d seen Sophie Watson on his daily walk to work. They were pretty much the only two people up and about at that time in the morning, before the sun even thought about rising. She to open her downtown coffee shop, Cuppa Java Café, and have it ready for people wanting an early morning java, and he to greet them when they were looking for weather forecasts or traffic reports or a quick chuckle as they got ready for their day.

In those early morning moments, Harlan hadn’t done much more than say hello as he passed by. Sophie had seemed nice, friendly even, the first few times he’d encountered her. She was a beautiful woman, too, with delicate features and a penchant for skirts. That had intrigued him, made him even consider asking her out. Then he’d found out she lived across the street from him, and that was when the trouble started.

“My dogs are staying on their side of the street,” Harlan said, putting up a hand to stop Sophie Watson before she started her daily rant about the twin’s tendency to wander around the neighborhood. So they’d relocated a couple of Sophie’s rosebushes, and, well, creatively repotted her lilacs and a rhododendron. Oh yeah, and that incident with the muddy paws and her living room sofa.

Still, Mortise and Tenon meant no harm. They were merely being…dogs. Something Sophie Watson didn’t seem to appreciate, as she’d told him at least a dozen times. “The dogs are staying out of trouble, and out of your flowerbeds. No need to come over here and ruin my day.”

Excerpt © copyright 2011 by Shirley Jump. To read more, visit

Now, granted, the second excerpt is longer, but it shows a great deal more about the character. I chose two where the characters were dealing with animals on purpose, so you’d have similar scenes to look at.

Let’s dissect why they work/don’t work:

1. EVERY INTERACTION SHOULD TEACH US SOMETHING MORE ABOUT THE CHARACTER. What more do we know about Lindsay at the end of the excerpt? Not a whole lot, really. She has three cats and she rescued one from the street. Okay, that makes her a nice person and a cat lover. Doesn’t tell us a ton about her. Doesn’t make her come alive. Can you see her? Imagine her? Predict how she’d react in a situation? Probably not very well.

Take the second scene with Harlan. You can see his conflict over his job versus his hobby. When he stares off at the hospital, you get an inkling there is more to his stay in that town. You see his interactions with his dogs, and yet he’s still a cowboy and a manly man—you see that when he meets Sophie.

2. THE INTERACTIONS SHOULD MOVE THE PLOT FORWARD AND KEEP THE READER’S ATTENTION. In the first example, it’s one big blah-blah paragraph. Nothing happens. She comes home, feeds her cats. Big deal. In the second example, there is a visitor (the heroine) who will change everything. Harlan is trying to stick to the status quo, and Sophie comes and shakes that up, something she’s been doing since he met her. By the end of that scene, Harlan knows his quiet existence is shifting. The plot has moved forward and things are changing for the character.

3. WE SHOULD BE ABLE TO “SEE” THE CHARACTER. I don’t mean describe the character (that’s a whole other issue, dealing with Point of View, that I’m not going to get into here), but rather, you can see who they are. I talked about this a little in the first example. You can see what kind of person Harlan is, what kind of man he is, what he’s passionate about, etc. But other than that, there’s really no physical description. Yet, after reading that one, do you not feel you know and can see Harlan better than Lindsay?

4. USE DETAILS. The key to great characters are in the details. “Barrel-shaped body,” “loose ponytail,” etc. I don’t overdo the adjectives. One good one will do the work of five bad ones. You don’t want to overwhelm your reader with too much description. Yet in Lindsay’s example, there’s not a lot of description. A little of the cats, but that’s not what we need. We need to see Lindsay’s world. Where she lives, what she’s seeing, how she feels about it. The details are the character’s filter of the world around them. Use them.

5. DON’T PUT IT IN UNLESS IT DOES ALL OR MOST OF THE ABOVE. If the scene doesn’t show your character, move your plot forward, interest your readers and/or give a vivid idea of your character’s world, DON’T put it in. It’s fluff otherwise and you don’t need it. Don’t be afraid to cut things that don’t work. Sometimes you write them, just to get them out of your head so you can get to the good stuff.

Good characters are about good writing. Characters who come alive HAVE lives. You can see, touch, feel and hear their lives when you read the words on the page. Put those in and you’ll have an editor sending you an acceptance letter instead of a rejection!

Shirley Jump

New York Times and USA Today bestselling author Shirley Jump spends her days writing romance and women’s fiction to feed her shoe addiction and avoid cleaning the toilets. She cleverly finds writing time by feeding her kids junk food, allowing them to dress in the clothes they find on the floor and encouraging the dogs to double as vacuum cleaners. Visit her website at or read recipes and life adventures at

Thanks so much for stopping by. Leave Shirley a comment if this post gave you some value.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Interview with Emily March, New York Times Bestselling Author

Emily March
Please welcome New York Times Bestselling Author, Emily March. We are thrilled to have her visit us online this week. She will also give a presentation on her publishing journey at our Author Spotlight on Sept 25th in Keller, TX.
About Emily

Emily March is a romance author with years of experience in historical and contemporary stories. Her Eternity Springs novels published by Random House received starred reviews from Publishers Weekly magazine, and her third book, HEARTACHE FALLS, landed on both the New York Times and USA Today bestseller lists.

Emily March on her publishing experience:

People often think of writers as having “overnight success”. How many years have you been working toward “overnight success”?

Well, my first book was published in 1993, so let’s just say my night lasted a long time.

What has this journey been like for you? Agent? Queries?

I actually didn’t have much trouble getting an agent. I queried an agent I saw speak at a writers conference and she passed me along to a newcomer in her office. That agent sold my first contract. I changed agents after my second contract and was with that agent for many years. She retired about the same time I took my hiatus, so when I came back, I queried another agent I’d met over the course of my career and she took me on.

What galvanizes you to keep writing in this rejuvenation of your career?

I love the work. I love the friends I have made in the business. It took taking a break from the business to realize that I missed it once it was gone.

Could you share a bit about your books and characters in Eternity Springs?

We’re calling my Eternity Springs series romantic women’s fiction because the stories have a bigger focus than simply the relationship between a man and a woman. These books deal with family relationships and friendships, too. Eternity Springs is a small town where broken hearts go to heal, so each of the books has a character whose spirit needs healing in some way.

What inspired you to write contemporary romances?

I’ve written historical romances, women’s fiction, contemporary romance, and romantic suspense. These Eternity Springs stories are what I wanted to write at this point in my creative career. Who knows, maybe next week I’ll decide to write Steampunk--but I doubt it.

How do you give your characters the depth and detail necessary for readers to connect with them?

I write from my heart. I write about people who I want to be friends with. My characters aren’t perfect, but they’re real.

What challenge or struggle do you face when you try to build emotional bonds between the characters?

I don’t analyze my stories too much. Honestly, I just write them.

How do you, then, go about addressing the part you struggle with.

Again, I don’t overanalyze my work. So much of writing for me is instinctual. I do believe I have a basic storytelling talent that I inherited from my dad--the greatest oral storyteller I’ve ever met. I write what feels right, and somehow, it works.

Which is more important in your stories: character or plot? Or are your stories mostly character driven?

Character, definitely. Plotting is my weakness and luckily, I have a group of author friends who help me plot. We do a plot group at least once a year and help each other plot our books for the upcoming year. It’s a lifesaver.

What do you find most rewarding about your writing career? Most disappointing?

My reinvention as Emily March and the success of the Eternity Springs series has been a joy. Most disappointing--the crash of Geralyn Dawson’s romantic suspense series I loved those books.

What piece of advice would you give to new writers?

 Read. Read. Read. Read.Then, read some more.

What is something you often see beginner writers doing wrong?

Worrying about promoting before you ever learn about viewpoint or characterization.

What book are you reading right now?


If you could have a beer/coffee/tea with a literary luminary (living or dead), who would it be and why?

No literary luminary for me. Give me a good old mass market fiction author who works to entertain and doesn’t worry about being literary. Two people, I’d have a beer with Jim Butcher because I’m a little in love with Harry Dresden of his Dresden Files series, and wine with Christina Dodd on her front deck because it’s one of the most beautiful spots in the world and she’s one of my dearest friends.

What’s next for you?

I’m putting up my Geralyn Dawson backlist as e-books now. I have an e-book Christmas short story coming from Random House in October, then my next full-length Eternity Springs novel is LOVER’S LEAP and it comes out December 27th. I’m working on the fifth book of the series, NIGHTINGALE WAY, now and it’s due for release in October 2012.

Where can we buy your books and find you on the web?

You can buy my backlist books at and Barnes&

My Emily March books are available wherever books are sold. 

 I’m also very active on my Facebook page and I invite everyone to join me there.

You can follow me on Twitter @emilymarchbooks and @geralyndawson.

If you're in the area, please join us on September 25th, at 2pm at the Keller Police Dept (on Rufe Snow Drive) for Emily's Author Spotlight Presentation. She'll also be available to sell and sign books after her lecture.

 If you've read a book by Emily March AKA Geralyn Dawson, which was your favorite title?

Monday, September 19, 2011

Donnell Ann Bell On Writing: The Conflict Has To Come First

Donnell Ann Bell On Writing: The Conflict Has To Come First

Donnell Ann Bell On Writing: The Conflict Has To Come First !

Donnel Ann Bell and Coach
Enter to win a free ebook copy of The Past Came Hunting

I first met Donnell Ann Bell six years ago on Mystery Writers Critique group. She very kindly guided me through the critique process. She was already a professional. It is my pleasure to welcome her to our blog
Donnell Ann Bell is the recipient of numerous awards for her fiction writing and the co-owner of Crimescenewriters, a Yahoo group for mystery/suspense writers, which is 2,000 members strong. Donnell was raised in New Mexico’s Land of Enchantment and today calls Colorado home. She was also the coordinator for the Daphne du Maurier Writing Contest for several years.

Donnell Bell On Her Journey…

What has this journey been like for you?

Interesting, constant and fun. I’ve never, ever heard a writer say he’s bored. The great thing about a writing career is, there’s something to focus on every day, whether it’s research, craft, or digging into your work in progress. You learn something fascinating every day.

People often think of writers as having “overnight success.” How many years have you been working toward “overnight success”?

I’m hardly an overnight success, more like a graduate from the Uphill School of Trudging. ;)

I wrote my first book in three months in 2001, and, just for the record, my mother loved it. The agents and editors, not so much. As I learned the various tools of writing, each book’s completion dragged out longer, but the good news is, each book got better. I don’t think I’d want to be an overnight success. 1) That’s a lot of pressure, 2) that involves a lot of luck, and 3) you miss so much growing along the way.

What galvanizes you to keep writing?

I’ll hear a song, or a breaking news story, or read an article, and my muse will latch on and start chattering. If I ignore her, she’ll keep me up at night. If I’m watching a movie, I’ll finish the ending in my head before the show’s over. I write out of self-defense. My muse. . .she’s a real taskmaster.

On Her Book And Characters…

Could you share a bit about your latest book, The Past Came Hunting, and its characters?

It’s no secret that I took the idea for THE PAST CAME HUNTING from the country song, Walk Away Joe. For those unfamiliar with the lyrics, it’s about a 17-year-old girl, who against her mama’s wishes, takes off with the boy her mom calls a “walk away.” Born to be a leave her, tell you from the word go, destined to deceive her, he’s the wrong kind of paradise…she’s gonna know it in a matter of time…that boy’s just a Walk Away Joe.

The song ends when the boy runs into a Texaco Station robs it, while the girl stays in the car. Later, he leaves her in a lonely hotel room, an accessory to armed robbery.

My darn muse started with the chattering again, and I had a compulsion to finish that song. Of course, the overall scenario is different, but my book is based loosely on a country hit. Plus, I didn’t want to concentrate on the bad guy who robbed the convenience store, as a fan of romance and impossible conflict, I wanted to focus on the cop who arrested her.

 Fifteen years ago a young Colorado Springs police officer arrested a teen runaway accused of aiding a convenience store robbery and attempted murder. She was innocent, but still served prison time briefly. Her testimony sent the real criminal to jail for much longer. Now she’s a young widow raising a son, and the man she put in prison is free and seeking revenge. She moves to a home in a new neighborhood—then learns that her next-door neighbor is the by-the-book officer who arrested her. Now he’s a Colorado Springs P.D. Lieutenant. Like it or not, he may be the only one who can protect her and her son from the past he helped create. ~

~~ Melanie Norris thought taking a ride with a sweet-talking stranger was the biggest mistake of her life. Fifteen years later, when she moves next door to the cop who arrested her, she reserves the right to change her mind. ~~

If you had to choose, which scene in this novel is your favorite?

This is such a tough question. Because this book crosses genres, romantic suspense, women’s fiction and even young adult, it was too much fun to write. A great scene, however, is when Melanie, my protagonist confronts Lt. Joe Crandall at the Police Operations Center when he’s invaded her privacy. It was a risky, unwise move on the lieutenant’s part, and my female protagonist is out for blood. It was a fun, tense scene and it’s “one” of my favorites.

Shock made her numb.

It wasn’t possible. How had she missed the connection? She hadn’t thought of the man in years. The cop who’d arrested her, his name had been . . . Crandall.

Somehow Mel found the strength to look into his eyes. And when she did, she came face to face with what could only be a mutually shocked expression.

“You,” she whispered.

“You,” he replied.


What inspired you to write romantic suspense?

That darn muse again. She's so fickle: She loves dead bodies but happily-ever-afters.

What are the challenges/rewards of writing romantic suspense?

One, I’m not your typical romantic suspense writer. I don’t write hot, and although I enjoy an occasional hot read, I’m more into the mystery/suspense. I do, however, love the sexual tension between a female/male protagonist. I also think romantic suspense is a harder sale these days thanks to paranormal and also people, like me, who don’t want to write hot, transitioning more to straight mystery to avoid it. Don’t get me wrong: I like paranormal, I’ve written a reincarnation story, I simply prefer stories that make people face real challenges and overcome them.

Some authors say their stories are ripped right from the headlines. Has an idea for one of your novels ever been sparked by real people and events?

Yes, definitely.

On Her Writing Process…

How do you give your characters the depth and detail necessary for readers to want to cheer them?

I’m a visual, tactile learner. I can’t read something and automatically understand it. I’ll invest in Citizens Academies, in-personworkshops, I’ll volunteer, go to shooting ranges to handle a gun. As a former court reporter, I’m also a great listener. I’ll go on ridealongs and hang on every word. Reading an article won’t give you those valuable little intricacies you need for your novel in my opinion.

However, if you’ve ever looked at my web page,(, go to the articles section and read, “You’re Not a Cop Till You Taste Them.” It is written by Sgt. Bernie Moss who is not a writer. He’s a bomb squad expert and a career cop. He gave me permission to keep this article on my site. I defy anyone not to choke up when you read that article, or get a glimpse of what a police officer goes through.

What challenge or struggles do you face when you try to build emotional bonds between the characters?

Good question. If you have a superficial conflict between characters, you will have difficulty forming a bond. The conflict has to come first.

How do you, then, go about addressing the part with which you struggle?

I make sure I have both enough internal and external conflict. It’s the cement that glues your novel together.

Do you have specific techniques you utilize for getting into the heads of your villains? Would you care to share them?

Another great question. I write bad guys intrinsically. I think about what makes them tick. One antagonist I wrote was driven by desperation and a vice, his compulsive gambling addition. In another book, my antagonist is ambitious and cunning and is content to hide under the radar. In THE PAST CAME HUNTING, however, I have an antagonist who was afforded everything in life. He’s a pure sociopathic personality. My editor had me read, THE SOCIOPATH NEXT DOOR, by Martha Stout. I knew I had written a sociopath, Ms. Stout’s book reinforced it.

What are the challenges in developing a layered, plot-driven story of suspense that rivals others in the market? Do you have any particular plot techniques you’d care to share.

I think my problem is that I invest a lot of time with these characters, and afterward, you can stick a fork in me, I’m so done. I’m working on creating a series right now, and that will be a huge challenge for me not to tell the entire story in book one. But it is fun ;)

What do you find most rewarding about your writing career? Most disappointing?

Most rewarding: The friendships you make along the way. No question about it. Writers have a unique bond, and no one outside of our profession truly grasps how hard it is to write a book worthy of publication.

Disappointing? That not every book you write will be worthy of publication.

If you could give writers one small piece of advice, what would it be?

Develop a thick skin and an open mind. If you can’t take criticism, or take expert advice on improving your work, you’d probably be better off in another business. Because that’s what writing is--a business.

What is something that you often see beginning writers doing wrong?

As the former overall coordinator of the Daphne du Maurier Award for Excellence in Mystery/Suspense for the Kiss of Death Chapter, I can easily answer this question. Information dumps in the first chapter and having your characters sit around and think about each other instead of acting. In other words passive writing. Another problem is back story. As Donald Maass will tell you, every word, every sentence must advance your story. If it doesn’t, it doesn’t belong in your novel.

On Her Personal Life…

What is a little known fact about yourself?

Gosh, I’m such an open book. My husband is a chemical engineer and the most straight-laced, but wittiest guy I know. I can’t create a hero without having a little bit of my husband in the protagonist’s makeup.

What book are you reading right now?

Since I do interviews for Five Scribes I’m reading four at present. Just finished Portrait of a Spy by Daniel Silva by the way LOVED it. I’m reading Joelle Charbonneau’s Skating Around the Line, Anne Marie Becker’s Only Fear, and Child Finder Revelation by Mike Angley.

If you could have dinner with a literary luminary living or dead, who would it be and why?

Easy. The legendary Dame Daphne du Maurier. I’d tell her how much I admire her professionally and personally. She didn’t have an easy go of it in life. I’d ask her if I’d done a good job of keeping her memory alive, and pray she was happy with the results.

What’s next for you?

Bell Bridge has Deadly Recall and I’m  hoping they’re going to publish it. I’m  editing two of my older books that I think have huge promise, and I’m  writing a coroner’s mystery series based in Colorado.

Finally, where can we buy your books and find you on the web?,  and everywhere books are sold.

Ruby,  Greater Fort Worth Writers and As We Were Saying, thank you for allowing me this opportunity to blather on and for sharing in my excitement of my debut novel.

Donnell, it was our pleasure. We hope you'll drop by and share your next book with us.

Friday, September 16, 2011

Dale Mayer shares Tuesday's Child With A Book Giveaway!

Enter To Win a free copy of Tuesday's Child.

Dale Mayer

We are excited to feature the awesome Dale Mayer with her new book. She has graciously offered an  ebook giveaway  to one lucky commenter.

About Dale

Dale Mayer is a prolific multi-published writer. She's best known for Tuesday's Child, her romantic suspense novel that was one of the final four in the Kensington Brava/Romantic times Magazine contest this last year. Besides her romantic suspense/thrillers, Dale also writes paranormal romance and crossover young adult books in several different genres. To go with her fiction, she also writes nonfiction in many different fields with books available on resume writing, companion gardening and the US mortgage system. She has recently published her Career Essentials Series in ebook format.

Back Cover Copy...

What she doesn’t want…is exactly what he needs.

Shunned and ridiculed all her life for something she can’t control, Samantha Blair hides her psychic abilities and lives on the fringes of society. Against her will, however, she’s tapped into a killer—or rather, his victims. Each woman’s murder, blow-by-blow, ravages her mind until their death releases her back to her body. Sam knows she must go to the authorities, but will the rugged, no-nonsense detective in charge of tracking down the killer believe her?

Detective Brandt Sutherland only trusts hard evidence, yet Sam’s visions offer clues he needs to catch a killer. The more he learns about her incredible abilities, however, the clearer it becomes that Sam’s visions have put her in the killer’s line of fire. Now Brandt must save her from something he cannot see or understand…and risk losing his heart in the process.

As danger and desire collide, passion raises the stakes in a game Sam and Brandt don’t dare lose.

Tuesday's Child

Lying in bed that night, Sam couldn’t sleep, her overwrought mind refused to let up. The tantalizing possibility that she was meant to do something with this gift worried the frayed edges of her mind. Depressed and unsettled she fell into a fitful sleep, her dreams dark and disjointed pieces of past visions.

Screams jarred her from a deep sleep. Confusion turned to fear when Sam realized the horrific sounds were coming from her own mouth. Even worse, she had no idea where she was.

Terror overwhelmed her. Her fingers spasmed in a death grip around a strange steering wheel as the car she drove careened further out of control. Still trying to toss off the remnants of sleep, Sam yanked hard on the wheel in a futile attempt to turn it. The mid-sized car plowed through a steel barricade to hang suspended in midair before plummeting to the rocks below. Screams ripped from her throat and she reefed on the useless steering wheel, helpless to stop the deadly impact. Her foot pounded on useless brakes. The front grill of the car crumpled and metal buckled upward. The car smashed into the first of the rocks below, snapping her forward into the windshield. Agonizing pain shattered her spine. Grinding metal, exploding glass and continuous crunching sounds filled the air as first the bumper flew off, then the rear window shattered outward. Twisted metal ripped and groaned, flying to land beside the crash site. The car tumbled, smashed on a huge rock, careened to the left and flipped end over end before coming to a hard landing on its wheels at the bottom of the cliff.

Then utter silence.

Sam trembled. Shock and pain pulsed through her veins even as her blood dripped out one beat at a time onto the shredded seat beside her. God, she didn’t want to die.

She wanted to live. Please, dear God.

Someone help!

Blood streamed over her face, her spine…where a shearing heat set off continuous stabbing pain. The steering wheel jammed into her ribs. The front dash had crumpled into a mess of twisted steel and plastic, the famous Mercedes emblem now hung drunk in mid air over the remains of the once beautiful cream leather seats.

Sam couldn’t feel her right arm. And wished she couldn’t feel her left. She closed her eyes, willing away the image of bone shards that had sliced through her sweater, a few loose strands of wool clinging to the ends. Heart wrenching sobs poured from her throat, tears coated her cheeks. She was alone. And dying.

A brilliant flash of light engulfed the car as the fuel from the pierced gas line flashed into flames. Heat seared her lungs and scorched her hair, the strands melting against the inside of her car window. Panicked, she screamed as flames licked at her feet, burning, and cooking the flesh right off her bones.

Agony. Pain. Terror.

A voice whispered through the blackness of her mind, so odd, so different it caught her attention. She strained to hear the words.

“Let go. It’s time to let go.”

Sam stared through the flames, stunned. Let go of what? She couldn’t hear over the roaring fire and could barely see, but knowing that someone was there stirred her survival instinct, and she started fighting against the seatbelt jammed at her side. She was saved. Just another minute and they’d open the door and pull her free. She’d be fine.

“Please hurry,” she cried out.

“Let go. You don’t need to be in there. Let it all go, and come with me.”

She peered through the golden orange windshield to see a strange male face peering at her through the flames.

He smiled.

“Come with me.”

“I want to, damn it. Can’t you see I’m trapped?” she screamed, her vocals crisping in the heat.

“Release yourself. Come with me. Say yes.”

The pain hit a crescendo. She twisted against it, hearing her spine splinter. The car seat melted into her skin. So much pain, she couldn’t breathe. Blackness crowded into her mind, blessed quiet, soothing darkness. She reached for it.

“Let it go. You don’t need to go through this. Hurry.”

She started. Why wasn’t he opening the door or getting others to help? He should be trying to save her. Shouldn’t he? Sam, so confused and so tired, she could barely feel the pain overtaking her body. Where had he gone? She tried to concentrate. His face was now only a vague outline that rippled with the heat waves. A soft smile played at the corner of his mouth. The flames burned around him, weird as they centered him in the warm glow. She wanted to be with him. To live.

“Here, take my hand.”

Dazed and on the brink of death, Sam focused on the hand reaching for her. She struggled to raise the charred piece of flesh that had been her arm and reached out to grasp his.

She was free.

Overwhelmed, cries of relief escaped. She turned to hug her savior, her head just reaching his shoulder. He stood beside her, the same radiant beaming look on his face. His blond hair glowed, and he had the brightest teeth. She sighed. This beautiful man pointed to her right arm. Confused, Sam glanced down at her burned arm, realizing she could feel none of her injuries. Just like her other one, her broken arm had miraculously healed – whole, smooth and soft. Her skin hadn’t looked this good in ten years.

Realization hit.

She spun around to find a massive fireball below. What the hell? She had to be dead. But instead of the horror or shock, she expected to feel, she felt good. In fact, she felt great. She turned to the ever-smiling stranger.

“Let’s go sweetheart.”

Sam didn’t know why he’d called her that, but she bloomed under his loving gaze. Honestly, she was so damned grateful to be out of the car, she let him get away with it.

Holding hands, they floated higher into the cloudless blue sky. Then when the crash site below had become a tiny speck, Sam felt a hard flick on her arm and the words, “Thanks, but I can take it from here.”

And she woke up


Buy Dale Mayer's book at,   Barnes & Noble, and other book stores.

To find out more about Dale and her books, visit her at Or connect with her online with Twitter at and on Facebook at

Don't forget to leave a comment for a chance at a free ebook

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Writing Around The Web

The Ideal Editor
Faith Hunter answers questions about editors and editing in this article.
"I’m curious, though, as to what qualifies an editor to be an expert. There are editors who are writers, and writers who are editors, and there are editors and writers who are *only* editors and writers. So where do editors gain this talent for improving on the work of writers? Is it just practice critiquing?"
First, off, there is a major difference between an edit and a critique. 
A through edit addresses pacing, plot progression, character development, plot and story arcs, the very structure and heart and soul of a novel or story. For the rest of this article go to:

What's Good and Bad In Publishing Contracts
Here's an interesting blog column written by an attorney who specializes in "representing authors and other talent in negotiations and litigation." In each article he will look at a specific publishing contract and comment on five items that are good or bad. Then he makes an overall recommendation.


Three Criteria for a Killer Title
My brain refuses to rest with a good title. It scrambles about until it finds thebest one. That perfect fit. And searching for the best is not easy. Often times, for me, it either comes or it doesn't.

When it comes, what a glorious feeling. But when it doesn't? No fun at all. My brain turns into a stubborn donkey. The harder I push, the more it refuses to budge.

Which is exactly what happened these past couple weeks as my editor and I discussed potential titles for my debut novel. My brain refused to cooperate. Sure, I came up with a few suggestions. And some of those suggestions were okay. But none were great. None really resonated. None fit my idea of a strong title. 

Which for me, involves three criteria:

It has to represent the story. 

For more go to

Link Within

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...