Archive for March, 2010

Truth and Fiction

Wednesday, March 31st, 2010

You know that old saying, truth is stranger than fiction? Well, I don’t know about stranger, I think it’s more like wonderful and amazing. Romance author JoAnn Ross recently “met” her long-lost half-sister through, of all places, Facebook. JoAnn did an amazing amount of research to find her lost family. You can read all about JoAnn’s story on her blog.

I’m so happy for you, JoAnn!

Planting Seeds

Tuesday, March 30th, 2010

By Dara Girard

“Don’t judge each day by the harvest you reap, but by the seeds you plant.”

Robert Louis Stevenson

Like any rambunctious two year old, I hate hearing the two-letter ‘N’ word—No. But as a writer, I have heard it often and in many different guises: 

“Your work doesn’t fit our present needs”—which means—“No, we don’t want your story.”

“I don’t feel enthusiastic enough about your novel to offer representation”—which means—”No. I don’t want to work with you!”

“You’re a talented writer, but we are inundated with submissions”—which means—“No, better luck elsewhere.”

“No” scribbled hastily on the same query letter I sent in—which needs no further explanation.

Sometimes these rejections take weeks, sometimes months and sometimes years. Yes, years! I once received a rejection five years after I’d sent my work in. Obviously I’d moved on by then.

But as much as I hate receiving a ‘No’, whether standard or personal, I appreciate the effort someone takes to respond. I absolutely abhor the ones who do not reply. I find no-replies annoying and rude, but that’s the way business is done these days.

I like the quote on the blog Literary Rejections on Display—Remember this: Someone out there will always say no.

Let’s face it, rejection is not fun, especially when it comes in groups or bunches. I tend to get mine in threes. Yep. I call it the ‘Triple Threat’—three rejections (or ‘No thank yous’) in one day.  Unfortunately, it has been a common occurrence in my writing life, and at times it hurts. However, I have come to realize that receiving “No thank you” is part of being in the writing business and don’t let anyone fool you, it is a business.

The writing life is not one of leisure though many films like to end with an author pounding out a story in her spare time then getting a huge advance and movie deal—Fade to Black.

In the real world publishing can be just as cutthroat and competitive as any other business. I found out early on why many talented writers disappear—talent isn’t enough. When I started my little writing enterprise I knew I had many departments, but two were crucial to my survival. One department was Research and Development or R&D, the second was Sales and Marketing (which I occasionally refer to as S&M for many different reasons).

R&D is fun. Ah the joy of creation! S&M is not always fun (clean up your minds). In sales it’s all about business. And any salesperson will tell you that in order to get a sale, you have to get through the many ‘Nos’ to get a ‘Yes’. 

I like the quote by Robert Louis Stevenson because it suits my business. My paternal grandfather was a very successful farmer and I grew up hearing a lot about farming principles. (So much so, that in the third grade I decided I was going to be a farmer by day and chef by night—someone needed to cook the food I planned to grow!) One of my earliest lessons was that farming isn’t an exact science. Crops can get wiped out for many reasons—bad weather, bug infestation, unwanted animals, poor soil, etc.—all of which are out of ones control. That single lesson helped me as a writer.

For those of you who like a stable world, the publishing world isn’t for you. Many authors will tell you, myself included, that in the beginning (and even way beyond the beginning) the writing life might consist of feast or famine. You may get one or two contracts and then nothing else for months or years. You may get excellent royalty checks that suddenly dry up.  I say you ‘may’ because there are always exceptions and those are the ones you read about. More often writers grow their careers through hard work and many books—like authors Dean Koontz and Nora Roberts—before they skyrocket.

These authors knew the key to writing success—planting seeds. Each book, each effort (both visible and invisible) was a seed that they are now harvesting years later.

In the publishing world, there are so many variables that you, as a writer, cannot control. Your actions are all that you can vouch for. My father shared this fact with me when I was about six years old and now I’m telling you—plant your seeds then let go.

You can write a fabulous story or play, but you can’t make it a hit.

You can send out a manuscript or article, but you can’t make it get accepted.

You can write with passion, but you can’t make your work beloved.

You can do your very best, but that doesn’t guarantee that you’ll get rewarded with good reviews or a big royalty check.

But that doesn’t matter because the outcome isn’t the most important thing. It’s the process. Planting seeds is about living in the realm of possibility.

Uncertainty is the writer’s lot, but there is one thing that is certain—if you don’t plant seeds you won’t have a harvest. My grandfather had to plant seeds each and every season in order to have a harvest. He never knew which seeds he would plant would reap the greatest reward, but that wasn’t his concern his job was to plant. So he planted many different crops and did his best.

How does this translate to the writer? Your seeds are your actions. Draft a story idea, submit a query to a magazine editor, write a kind note to a fellow writer, enter a contest, offer a workshop – let your imagination fly. Sometimes you’ll reap a harvest you didn’t expect. A rejection of one idea may lead to the acceptance of another, a much needed critique or more. Remember, you are the master of your own destiny. No matter what happens, no matter how many failures come your way never stop planting. I promise you one day your harvest will be extraordinary.

So, what seeds can you start planting today?


Leave a comment or question for Dara to enter to win WORDS OF SEDUCTION. If you’re reading this post through a feed on Facebook, Goodreads, or another social network, please visit the comment trail at to be eligible for the draw.

To read Dara’s bio and the back cover blurb for WORDS OF SEDUCTION, see yesterday’s post. To learn more about Dara and her books, check out her website at

Dara Girard Guest Blogs Tomorrow!

Monday, March 29th, 2010

Tomorrow I’ll welcome Harlequin Kimani author Dara Girard to the blog. Dara’s talking about rejections and is giving away a copy of her March release, WORDS OF SEDUCTION. Please join us.


From housewife to hot novelist…her real life is igniting more sparks than her stories!

When it comes to disastrous relationships, Suzanne Rand wrote the book. The frumpy-housewife-turned-superstar-author has come home to North Carolina to sell the family house—then hightail it back out of town.

But there’s an unfinished chapter in her life: bad-boy-turned-successful-businessman Rick Gordon. Suzanne’s been burned before and can’t let the roving playboy play fast and loose with her heart again…even if he is the sexiest thing on two legs. And once passion reignites in Rick’s arms, she has no idea where this story’s going…

Rick could write the book on how not to get hooked. But he’s never forgotten Suzanne, and now’s his chance to pick up where they left off. That’s why he’s plotting a course of seduction she’ll never be able to resist. But will their rekindled passion lead to love…and the happy ending they both crave?

About Dara:

Dara Girard is an award-winning author of thirteen novels that feature strong heroines, sexy heroes, family dramas and romance. Her writing has been praised for its deft plot twists, witty dialogue and humor. Find out more on her website:

RITA and Golden Heart Shout-Outs

Thursday, March 25th, 2010

My phone didn’t ring once this morning when RWA board members were making RITA and Golden Heart calls (Penny entered the RITA). Usually, I get at least one phone call so I can pretend I’m a finalist in those briefs moments before I pick up the phone. The year it actually happened, I was doing laundry. I’ll never forget the excitement.

Congratulations to all my fellow RWA members who finaled! I’m not going to list everyone here, but I do want to give shout-outs to a select few. Click the headings to read the full lists of finalists.


Best First Book The Gladiator by Carla Capshaw – fellow GH 2007 finalist sister!

Best First BookStolen Fury by Elisabeth Naughton – another GH 2007 finalist sister!

Contemporary SeriesA Not-So-Perfect Past by Beth Andrews, who won the Golden Heart in the Long Contemporary category the year I finaled. So…another GH 2007 sister!

Contemporary Series: Suspense/AdventureThe Christmas Stranger by Beth Cornelison– my Facebook Wordscraper buddy! (Who better let me win now).

Contemporary Series: Suspense/AdventureCold Case Affair by Loreth Anne White – fellow member of the Greater Vancouver Chapter of RWA.

InspirationalCarla Capshaw again for The Gladiator – 2007 GH sister!

Romance Novella – “Annelise and the Scandalous Rake” in The Diamonds of Welbourne Manor by Deb Marlowe – 2007 GH finalist sister!

Romantic SuspenseElisabeth Naughton again for Stolen Fury! 2007 GH sister.

Romantic SuspenseDark Country by Bronwyn Parry – 2007 GH finalist sister!

Young AdultThe ABC’s of Kissing Boys by Tina Ferraro – fellow Brainstormer, Scrabble aficionado, and my friend. I’m especially super excited for Tina. Congrats, girl!!

Golden Heart

Contemporary Series: Suspense/AdventureBreathless by Kimberley Howe – GH 2007 sister!

Contemporary Single TitleSharing Spaces by Laura Graham Booth – GH 2007 sister! And a driving force behind our former group blog.

HistoricalBetween Heaven and Hell by Jacqui Nelson – fellow chapter member of RWA-Greater Vancovuer.

Novel with Strong Romantic ElementsSwitching Sides by Maureen McGowan – GH 2007 sister!

Regency HistoricalMy Dearest Rogue by Elizabeth Stock – GH 2007 sister!

Romantic SuspenseDeadly Recall by Donnell Ann Bell – GH 2007 sister!

Young AdultBloom by Shelley Coriell – GH 2007 sister!

Young AdultWelcome Caller, This is Chloe also by Shelley Coriell – GH 2007 sister!

I’ll be cheering all of you on in Nashville. Congrats!

Recent Reads

Wednesday, March 24th, 2010

Well, if you count that I read these books in January, they’re “recent.”

First up, THE TIME TRAVELER’S WIFE by Audrey Niffennegger. Sandorf Verster (a.k.a Claudia Zenk) lent me TTW several months ago. I saved it for my holiday to Mexico, when I had to read it so I could compare the movie version on DVD when I came home.

I’d heard about this book for years (like everyone else), but I didn’t pick it up because, for some strange reason, I thought it was about astronauts and spaceships. I thought it was about some guy who zipped off to Saturn or wherever, leaving his wife lonely back home. Well, the hero does zip off, but not in the way I thought. And now I’m wondering if there’s another book out there where the hero does zap off into space, and I’m getting them mixed up. Help me if you know I am.

Anyway, THE TIME TRAVELER’S WIFE was worth the wait. I very much enjoyed it. I especially liked how the author handled the story and characters jumping around in time. I always knew what year it was and which character’s viewpoint I was reading. No confusion.

Have you read this book? What did you think? Did the movie version do the book justice? I think it did. The movie was a bit depressing compared to the book, but in my opinion was an accurate reflection of the story.

Seeing as I borrowed it, I no longer have the book to quote the back cover copy, but here’s the product description from on-line booksellers:

A dazzling novel in the most untraditional fashion, this is the remarkable story of Henry DeTamble, a dashing, adventuresome librarian who travels involuntarily through time, and Clare Abshire, an artist whose life takes a natural sequential course. Henry and Clare’s passionate love affair endures across a sea of time and captures the two lovers in an impossibly romantic trap, and it is Audrey Niffenegger’s cinematic storytelling that makes the novel’s unconventional chronology so vibrantly triumphant.

An enchanting debut and a spellbinding tale of fate and belief in the bonds of love, The Time Traveler’s Wife is destined to captivate readers for years to come.

After I consumed TTW, I picked up THE MEMORY KEEPER’S DAUGHTER by Kim Edwards. (Note, if you want to learn more about Kim Edwards, don’t google her name. There are a lot of Kim Edwardses out there. Her website URL is the title of the novel).

I enjoyed THE TIME TRAVELER’S WIFE, but I absolutely, thoroughly loved THE MEMORY KEEPER’S DAUGHTER. In fact, I developed a serious crick in my neck reading MKD on the plane home from Mexico, and I had to go to the chiropractor to get adjusted. That’s one good book when you don’t notice the uncomfortable angle of your head as you’re reading it.

MEMORY KEEPER is a keeper for me.

About the book:

This stunning novel begins on a winter night in 1964, when a blizzard forces Dr. David Henry to deliver his own twins.

His son, born first, is perfectly healthy, but the doctor immediately recognizes that his daughter has Down syndrome. For motives he tells himself are good, he makes a split-second decision that will haunt all their lives forever. He asks his nurse, Caroline, to take the baby away to an institution. Instead, she disappears into another city to raise the child as her own. Compulsively readable and deeply moving, The Memory Keeper’s Daughter is a brilliantly crafted story of parallel lives, familial secrets, and the redemptive power of love.

I worried that the story would end sadly, but, for me, it didn’t. I loved the ending. I know a lot of romance readers really don’t like sad endings, but I’m not one of them. Probably because I devoured literary fiction since the age of 13, long, long before I began writing and reading romance. I find sad endings cathartic. But! I did NOT want this book to end sadly, and I had to keep reading and reading to find out how it did end. Which wasn’t sad in the slightest (at least not for me).

Don’t ask me why MEMORY KEEPER wasn’t made into a big-screen movie. I learned while searching for the book cover that it was a 2008 Lifetime movie starring Dermot Mulroney, Gretchen Mol, and Emily Watson. But I haven’t seen the TV movie, so I can’t compare it it to the book.

Anyone read THE MEMORY KEEPER’S DAUGHTER? Did you catch the Lifetime movie? How did they compare? Which did you like better? Is the movie a fairly accurate portrayal of the book?

If you’ve read both THE TIME TRAVELER’S WIFE and THE MEMORY KEEPER’S DAUGHTER, which did you like better? Why?

You can hand in your book reports at the end of the class. No apples necessary. I’ll take diamonds. Okay, okay! Cinnamon buns. Sheesh. With extra raisins.

Web Thingies That Drive Me Nuts

Monday, March 22nd, 2010

I love web design. That’s why I design my own websites. Well, also because I fervently believe in self-torture. It builds character. Everyone (as in most writers I talk to) has their own list of website design likes and dislikes. We need to think about such things so when we build our sites (or hire others to design them for us), we only drive our browsers nuts, not ourselves. Here are my website bugaboos:

  1. It should be spelled website. I don’t care that some dictionary says it’s Web site. I will never purposely spell Web site on my website (except I just did).
  2. I don’t understand tag clouds. What’s the purpose? To me, they look like someone threw up their vegetable soup. And the words that are bigger than the others? They look like they’re on an ego trip. I know tag clouds are (practically) the latest thing, but no way, no how, not ever (or at least until I change my mind) am I including a tag cloud on my blog.
  3. I can not abide moving navigation menus. You know, they hang on the side of a web page, and when you scroll down, the menu scrolls down, too? It’s a very clever idea. I liked it the first time I saw it. Then, as soon as I began scrolling, the moving menu creeped me out. The moving menu is far too Hitchcocky/Big Brother for me. It makes me feel like the computer screen’s alive, and we all know I have far too active an imagination to sleep comfortably after that. Honestly, moving menus can make me leave a website nearly as fast as…
  4. Music on websites. It drives me bonky. Whenever I vist a friend’s MySpace page, the first thing I do is shut off the music. I hereby vow that I will never ever ever install music on my MySpace page. I know the idea is that the song individualizes the page, but I find the songs make the pages take too long to load. And, well, I’m not one of those people who writes to music, so I don’t want to surf the ‘net to music, either. (Note, I rarely visit MySpace anymore, but when I did, the music most assuredly drove me nuts.) And music on real websites drives me nuts, too. I really, honestly don’t understand how browsers can focus on the words on the screen with music crowding up their brains.
  5. Animations… I can handle one or maybe two animations per page. Any more than that, and I start to get dizzy, no matter how cute or clever the animations are. I must say that I do like rollovers and remote rollovers and even animations that are somehow built into the web page banner and…this is very important…aren’t intrusive. However, give me more than one thing bouncing around, or, God forbid, following my cursor all over the page, and I don’t stick around very long. Especially when hearts or clover leafs or jack o’ lanterns start following my cursor around! I can’t get away from them! Drives me nuts!

I sometimes joke that I have adult ADD. I DO know I have HAWD (Hyper Active Website Disorder). Because there’s a commonality in my list of website don’ts. Too much visual or aural activity and I go nuts.

What are your website bugaboos? Oh, and “Writers Who Complain About Websites,” “Cindy’s Website,” and “Cindy” are not acceptable answers.