Read. Read. Then Read Some More

Go to any writer’s workshop or seminar and the one consistent piece of advice you’ll hear repeatedly is, “Read.” Writers who don’t read will simply never be successful. How can they be? That’s like being a musician but never listening to music. It’s impossible to learn the craft of writing without seeing it done well…and not so well.

Last week, Linda and I were talking about books we’d read recently. I realized my reading list has been a little eclectic lately. The only fiction I’ve read is Marilyn Pappano’s Copper Lake Secrets and The Rag and Bone Shop of the Heart, a poetry anthology. Everything else has been non-fiction. Titles include:

Life, the autobiography of Keith Richards, guitarist for the Stones;

The Rite, by Matt Baglio, which is about the making of modern exorcists;

What the Bible Says About Angels, by Dr. David Jeremiah; and

The Story of A Soul, by St. Therese of Lisieux.

Even though these books aren’t fiction, they still have a tale to tell. From each, I’ve learned a great deal about structure, voice, plotting, and imagery, not to mention the life of an iconic rock star, demons, angels, and the journey of the soul.

Read any good books lately?

Inspiration and Challenges

Characters in any good romance novel have to face challenges, obstacles, and conflict. Without those things, our stories would be bland to the point of blah.

Sunday night, Hallmark Hall of Fame presented a movie titled “A Smile As Big As The Moon.” I have to admit, I didn’t see much of it, just the beginning and the last 30 minutes. (Sure wish I’d seen the entire movie!) What I gathered was a class of Special Needs students, who didn’t get along by any stretch of the imagination, was accepted into NASA’s Space Camp.

During the course of the following months, these kids studied and prepared for camp. They were the first such class allowed to attend the camp. To everyone’s surprise, I think even their coach’s, they pulled together and became a team. From their mist one young man learned to be a leader. He grew beyond everyone’s expectations…or dreams. In the end, he demonstrated extraordinary growth. He overcame his own private obstacles, and, from my perspective, became a man.

That’s what I want the hero and heroine in my stories to do, face their challenges and overcome them for a Happily Ever After. If we, the writer, don’t throw everything but the kitchen sink at them (and sometimes even that), and test them to their limits, how will the reader know how heroic they are?

It would’ve been great to have written “A Smile As Big As The Moon,” to create those characters and see the interaction between them change and grow. Only this movie is based on real life…real people. Which is what makes it all the better.

I applaud those young people and their coach for stepping outside their comfort zones (waaayyyy out!), facing those challenges and overcoming them. You are truly an inspiration. Thank you!

Linda Trout

Friday Book Reviews by Robyn Daniels: Bond, Pappano and Morsi

Our Husband



 Stephanie Bond’s first book has long been a favorite which holds up well over time. This wild romp came from the author of the successful Body Movers series. Bond’s hook is a traveling salesman has three wives scattered along his route. His three wives vary in age, education, and backgrounds. His first wife, Beatrix he married for money. His second wife, Natalie could be his daughter. His third wife, Ruby could be his granddaughter with Beatrix. Their personalities are different but they share the common thread of accepting superficial marriages without much communication because his force of personality gives each woman the feeling that she is special.

 The women each give him a gift. Beatrix provides status. Natalie allows him access to her medical earnings. Ruby renews his passion and builds an aging man’s ego.

When these women become the prime suspects in his murder they unite to solve the mystery. Their road trip is the stuff of family legends.

Because Bond is such a good writer, by the last page you will come to see all three as quite likeable.

Copper Lake Secrets

Marilyn Pappano


Marilyn Pappano takes her readers along the reading experience like the consummate professional she is. Her books engage you. Believable and well-crafted characters become your friends, neighbors, or people you have heard about—Irish travelers.

The way the suspense grows with her main characters is refreshing as they are not at odds like the often written pair who instantly hate each other and then fall in love. Both seek answers to personal demons finding the answer in Copper Lake. They work together and grow to love one another while the suspense builds through more deadly threats.

The descriptive is rich, encompassing the reader in things as simple as childhood swims and as complicated as survival of our main characters. With Marilyn Pappano layering the plot, it is just so fascinating to read beyond the first layer. An awesome romantic suspense. I loved the Copper Lake estate where the action takes place. I enjoyed touching base with a familiar character or two. Pappano’s storytelling in this book is among some of her best. She had an earlier work turned into a movie for Hallmark. This one would translate easily to the big screen and is scary enough to draw in a wide audience of both sexes. Undoubtedly one of the best reads over over 360 books for me last year. Pick up your copy and feast on the work of a gifted writer.

Red’s Hot Honky-Tonk Bar

Pamela Morsi


One of the best books I read last year is Morsi’s tale of Emmaline (Red) Cullens who has worked from homeless unwed teenage mother to proprietress of her own bar in a little locals’ hangout beyond the upscale River Walk of San Antonio, TX. While both are bound by the river, her piece of Heaven is definitely low rent.

Red is proud of her adult daughter serving in Afghanistan. Currently as a cougar to fiddler, Cam, she has good lovin’ and is not yet ready to kick him to the curb. One call from Bridge, her daughter, endangers this good life. Bridge’s ex-husband is deployed in S. Korea and out of the picture. His mother providing care for the grandchildren suffered a stroke. Red must take care of two grandchildren she barely knows.

I’m sure readers will enjoy Cam’s skills with children and helping Red grow. The two grandchildren are just incredible. Cam’s aunt adds another dimension to the story, enhancing the reader’s experience. Red learns to navigate PTA, its dragon lady, and a no show cupcake booth worker who ensnarls her in working the politically correct cupcake booth from hell. If ever a booth needed two workers it’s this one. Poignant and at times funny beyond belief, savor the read.

The quotable dialogue is laugh out loud funny. Once you meet Red you will understand the phrase: “A heart as big as Texas.”

 ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Remember: If you want a particular book reviewed, please contact me. If you wish to review a book, we ask that it not be your own work. Make reviews between 20 and 300 words. Scale between 1-5 hearts with one being the worst book you ever read. Five is for a best ever read. We reserve the right to edit reviews for length and content. The reviews are based on recent reads, NOT NECESSARILY NEW RELEASES.

Reviewed by Robyn Daniels

Is There a Writer I Can Talk With, II

I love being part of the writing community. Well, the romance writing community, anyway. 🙂 (I’m not sure if all writers are as sharing as romance writers.)

In her blog on Wednesday, Jackie Kramer mentioned that a writer needs another writer to commiserate and/or celebrate with. And she’s right. Only somebody who’s been through the fire knows how hot it really is.

But I’ve learned over the years that I need to talk to another writer for more reasons.

  • Only another writer can teach you how to write for publication.

English teachers know grammar and punctuation, etc., but an author will tell you that each house has its own style. (Serial commas, one or two spaces after a period, and that kind of thing.) No matter how educated you are, you aren’t going to teach a publisher how to publish.

  • Writers know EVERYTHING.

They really do. Some of them are very humble about their knowledge, and they make it easy to learn from them.

*Thanks, Marilyn, for all the things you’ve taught us (me especially) over the years!!! We appreciate you!*

  • Writers really do know EVERYTHING.

Sounds as if I’m repeating myself, but on a little different note, if you need to know something, there’s a writer out there somewhere who knows it. Or she knows somebody who knows it. Or she can help you research it.

Several years ago, a friend of mine wrote something that referred to glaciers during the ice age having been in the area which is now Oklahoma. I offered to check with my Dad (a geologist) about it.

I didn’t have to, though. Both my husband and my son knew for a fact glaciers had never graced Oklahoma. (Okay, I don’t know a lot, but I know people . . . )

Just yesterday, writer friend Jackie Kramer, who’s also a nurse, answered my call. My great niece is in the hospital, where she works, with RSV. She calmed my fears and educated me on the sticky virus.

  • Writers cheer you up if you get down.

I promise you, if you do something silly or just plain stupid, there’s another writer out there whose done it, too. And someone has done it bigger. And they survived to tell the tale. (And they’ll probably share it with you.)

  • Writers understand.

We look for insight–the underlying reasons behind other people’s actions and emotions. We have to be able to make sense of the people in our lives. It’s what we do.

Because we just might want to write about it some day. 🙂

All I Want for President’s Day

All I wanted for New Year’s Day was a new contract or two, and I got those (counting the pre-Christmas one, three total!).

Now all I want for President’s Day is for my publishers to accept electronic signatures. Don’t get me wrong — the current process beats the old one by a mile, where publisher mailed contract to agent, agent mailed to author, author read and signed and returned to agent, agent returned to publisher. It took weeks.

Now my publishers email my contracts to my agent, who emails them to me. Process completed in a matter of minutes. Then I print out three copies, sign them and snail-mail them back. If I’d been able to do my part electronically, instead of spending an hour printing, reading and signing, then standing in line at the post office, paying mailing costs plus the cost of a mailer, and filling out customs forms, I would have all but the contract/reading time to find something more interesting to blog about here! We’d all come out ahead, wouldn’t we?


A series of commercials for Progresso soups involve satisfied customers calling the Progresso kitchen by tin can phones and raving about the great soup to the cooks.  In one of them, a couple of female customers call to brag about how “it” fits! And the female cook responds with positive cheers.  Then one customer gets a male cook whose answer is a clueless “Okay” without the most basic understanding of what’s so wonderful about something fitting.

We all know, don’t we? It means that she was able to lose enough weight to get back into her favorite jeans. Men just aren’t wired to body image like women and telling a man that you succeeded in getting back to a size you like better confuses them. They would just buy jeans that fit, whether they had to buy smaller or larger.

Monday, I had to kill a couple of hours between a doctor’s appointment and work. So, I had lunch at Cosmo and wrote on my iPad.  I got 747 words written!  That was the most I’ve done in one sitting on my MIP in months!  To say, I was on a high is a severe understatement. Now, I know what my fellow writers are saying as they read this.  “You go, girl! Woo-hoo! Awesome!”

When I got to work, I marched in as if I owned the world.  My co-workers asked what had me so hyped and when I told them about my word count, they just looked blank and said, “Nice.  You’re taking Shawna’s team.”

Wahhhh! Is there a writer here I can talk with?  Once again, I was reminded of how solitary a writer’s daily life can be.  And it’s worse for me because I live alone and don’t have anyone at home who loves me enough to take (or fake) an interest in how my writing is going.  I can use the Internet to connect with other authors which is better than a tin can phone, but I really miss a faster connection.

So to all my writing sisters and brothers, thanks for being the writer out there I can talk with!