People are always asking what’s the secret of becoming a published author. Actually, there is no secret, but there are six basic things that will go a long way towards success.

1. Be a reader.  Most writers do this already, but it’s amazing how many people who really don’t read think they have a book somewhere in them. Also important  is to read in the genre you want to write…read and love it. The market tends to change and sometimes authors find the genre they are famous for has dried up. Many of them will attempt to write to the new market with disastrous results. Do you quit? No, find a way to make the new genre work with your chosen love. After all, do you read only ONE type of book? Unlikely! So if you like to write historical romances and romantic suspense is king, why not write a historical romantic suspense?

2. Learn the craft. Start with basic English (or whatever is the language of your target audience). Spelling, punctuation, and grammar are YOUR responsiblity, not the editor’s. Also, learn the how to plot, how to build characters to care for, how to write believable dialogue. Learn scene and sequel, all about hooks, pro and cons of series, all the “have-to’s” of producing a selling novel.

3. Learn the business of publishing. Not just which editor is with what publisher or which agent is accepting unsolicited manuscripts, but so much more. Should you shoot for traditional or indie? Even if you have an agent, what’s a good contract? and once you’ve sold, what about taxes? What is effective promotion and how much time and money should you invest in it?

4. Persistance. Most important, how far are you willing to go? I’ve heard writers state that if they don’t sell within five years, they’re giving up.  Study the history of other authors, friends. Rejections are merely compost, to be considered as a way of improving your writing. Most well-known authors have tons of rejections under their belts. Some even have only one well-known book. The key to writer’s success is to never give up.

5. Belief in yourself. If you don’t believe in yourself, why should anyone else? Okay, there will be days when you feel you can’t do this anymore. Have some chocolate and/or wine and move past the doubt. If YOU believe you can succeed, then you can!

6. Luck. Yeah, you still have to have a certain amount of luck. That one editor who likes your work. The contest win that puts you in the spotlight. The underdog manuscript that finds an instant crowd of admiring readers. But, like the lottery, to win, you have to buy a ticket. You have to do the other five things so you’re ready with Lady Luck is there to smile on you.

So You Want to be a Real Writer, II

If you get to know a group of romance writers, you’ll find they’re pretty much like everyone else in the world. Some are fantastic people to know, some are not. Some are self-serving and ego driven from the get-go, and some are just plain nice people who’ll work overtime, helping out a fellow writer.

I’d like to tell you the really successful ones are the fantastic, nice, helpful writers. I wish that were true. I will tell you that the people I talked to for these words of wisdom are successful as well as fantastically nice. They have my sincere gratitude. 

The writers groups I belong to have newbies writers join every so often. (For some reason, only nice newbies hang around. We send the not-so-nice ones down the road.)

I so enjoy watching the way newbies go about learning the craft. (I enjoy learning from them, too.)

Some attack learning like they’re going after a college degree, studying and internalizing how-to-write books. Others write and critique and write again. Still others take a lot of classes and go to every conference they can afford. 

Usually, it’s a mix of all those things.

 So I got to wondering, which is the best way? I might not have the answer, but I know people who do. I decided to ask.

“What kind of advice would your successful author self (today) give your beginner writer self if she were just getting started?”

Here’s how they answered. (In no particular order.)

Marilyn Pappano—

I don’t know that I would do anything really differently. I would read a lot. And I would submit. I don’t think, if I were unpubbed right now, that I would have the nerve to enter contests because there’s no way I could have done that before. I would read all the advice that came directly from the editors of the house I wanted to sell to, like taking up residence on eHarlequin, etc. And I would probably read certain blogs.

I definitely wouldn’t take online classes and probably not in-person ones. The one online class I took was a huge waste of time, and I doubt if I were completely writer-friendless, I wouldn’t have the courage to take an in-person class or go to a conference/workshop.

HOLIDAY PROTECTOR in Christmas Confidential, Harlequin Romantic Suspense, 12/2012

COPPER LAKE CONFIDENTIAL, Harlequin Romantic Suspense, 4/2013

A HERO TO COME HOME TO (Tuesday Night Margarita Club 1)

Forever Romance, 6/2013


 Jackie Kramer—

 As for classes, books, etc., I wouldn’t use as many as I did when I was clueless, but NOBODY knows everything and, since the market is always changing, I’d want to keep current.

Based on knowing what I already know about the publishing biz, I would STILL probably go for publishing with one of the big six…just to be able to claim I had been published with them. I just wouldn’t wait so long to epub the book IF the rejection was a “good” one.

 Warrior’s Heart

Liz Fielding—

Read – a lot. But read like a writer. How did the author handle a situation. Change viewpoint. Describe something that you could see in your mind’s eye. How does she write dialogue? Take a book you loved apart, analyse it. And I have some writer tips on my blog this week –

Wild Justice–Beaumont Brides

Liz Fielding’s Little Book of Writing Romance

Holly Jacobs—

I don’t think my suggestions for writing, for becoming published would change now.  I know there are a lot more options out there in terms of publishing, but the craft of writing remains the same.  Study your genre.  Read a lot…read widely.  And most importantly, write every day.  That’s always been my go-to suggestion for someone who wants to write.  It sounds trite, as if I’m blowing off their question.  But writing is a craft, and like any craft it needs to be honed and refined.  The only way to do that is to write on a regular basis.  

And the writing…that has to come first.  Publishing comes after.  There are more options, but without the writing, the publishing options don’t matter.

Everything But a Dog (Just in time for Christmas!)

Kathleen Y’Barbo-Turner—

Just got back from a week in Dallas at the ACFW conference. My answer would be to join a writers group. All the other stuff is great—reading books, taking classes, etc—but there’s no substitute for getting out and being among other writers.

Daddy’s Little Matchmakers

Jean Brashear— 

I’d advise taking a two-pronged approach: 1) hone your craft by joining the best writers’ organizations you can find and taking advantage of classes, workshops, etc. and 2) read and listen extensively to authors who are doing both traditional and indie publishing. The publishing business is in tremendous flux these days, and it behooves you to be as informed as possible. There is no one way to do this, no one size fits all.

BUT… never get so busy learning the business that you don’t do the most important thing, which is to WRITE. And write. And write. Learn to revise, learn when to listen to others and when to listen to your heart. You have to believe in yourself more than anyone else in the world does, because at the end of the day, it’s the power of your story that matters much more than any business details. You need both–sad, but true–but without a powerful story that comes straight from your heart, you have nothing. Protect the work and protect your joy in it. 

And never, ever give up.

Best of luck to you!

Texas Star

The Goddess of Fried Okra

So, what would I tell my newbie self?

1- Find a mentor if there’s any way you can. I’ve been extremely blessed to have Marilyn Pappano in my life. I think she’ll get a few extra stars in her crown for all the help and support she’s given me over the years. She’s the greatest!

2- Find a critique group you can trust. I’ve been so lucky with most of my critiquing friends. You quickly learn who you can trust and who you can’t. Cling to the first like a nylon slip on a cold, windy day and kick the rest to the curb.  

3- Remember, what comes around goes around. (Just sayin’.)

4- Never give up; never surrender. Remember, tenacity is the key. If you want it badly enough, work hard and have a willingness to learn, it will come.   

So . . . do YOU have any advice you can share with new writers?

Thank you to all the ladies who answered my question. You guys are the best! (I really mean it.)

Ps: All the pictures here are mine–with the exception of Liz Fielding’s. Liz, I found yours online and thought it was beautiful. Hope it’s okay that I used it.






Watch Some Dialogue

The other day, Candace, a transplanted San Diegan, who now lives near Tulsa, spoke with her writer friend, Dave. Although he keeps an apartment in Los Angeles, his home is in St. Louis.  Dave earns his keep by crafting screenplays and novels. When he’s not writing, he often guest lectures at UCLA. Great literature is his passion. Candace has been published, mostly short stories and poetry. Dave is Candy’s mentor and online critique partner. Once a week, using Skype technology, they meet over the Internet to discuss the progress she’s made since their last online visit.   Here’s a snippet from their video conference.

“I’ve been thinking about taking the romance I’m writing and turning it into a movie script.”

“The process is similar to writing a novel, yet different.” Dave took a sip from his coffee mug.  “Words make up a book, that’s obvious.  Plot exposition, character development, and the description of setting rely solely on the written word.”

Candy glanced outside her home office window. A cardinal, the promise of winter, settled on the limb of a Bartlett pear just off her back deck.  “It’s been said a novelist paints a picture with words.”  Candy rolled her eyes. God that sounded cheesy.

“True…” Dave nodded. “…but in a movie, screen shots help create mood and give the audience a sense of place. Facial expressions, tone of voice, and body language build the hero, heroine, and villain.”

“I get that movies are more visual, but dialogue really drives the story. I’ve been doing some reading. I read the notes from your last lecture. You said dialogue is what grants the audience insight into the characters’ motivations and moves the plot. Without it, a film is just a silent movie, literally.”  Candy frowned at her reflection in the mirror hung over her desk.  “To get good at writing strong dialogue, I’ve been watching it.  I set all my TVs to mute then turned on closed captioning.  Now I don’t watch TV. I read it. My eyes tune into how each of my favorite character’s voices is separate and distinct.”

“It helps, doesn’t it?”

“Abso-friggin-lutly.” She grinned. “I’ve noticed the dialogue in my novel is stronger than ever.  The pace of the story moves faster, there’s movement even during the ‘ah’ moments. I’ve started writing the dialogue first in every scene. Then I go back to fill in the setting, the physical movement of the characters, and inner monologue.”

Dave took another sip. “So how’s the weather back there? I’m hoping to get home this weekend.”

“Freakin’ cold. I’d stay in LA if I were you.”

“Thanks. But my neighbor’s getting tired of checking on my dogs.” He smiled then cocked his head. “See you next week?  I expect to have Chapter Four in my Inbox by Sunday.”

“It’ll be there.”  Candy logged off. She opened her current WIP, scrolled down until she reached the promised chapter. “Back to work.”

Love Me Some Thunderstorms

Fellow Smart Woman Kathleen tweeted this morning that the stormy/rainy weather is good writing weather for her.

It just makes me want to sleep.

Come to think of it, though, most things make me want to sleep. I’ve been an insomniac since I was fifteen, and I think it’s finally catching up with me. 🙂

Actually, weather like this does provide a good background for writing. In the current scene in my second Tuesday Night Margarita Club book, Therese and Keegan are having dinner at a lakeside restaurant and it’s pouring rain. No need to think too hard for visuals, scents, sounds, etc., today.

Weather done right can add so much to the story experience. You don’t want to get beaten over the head with it, but it can become practically a character. There was a show on years ago called Stingray, about a mysterious guy who travels around helping people who are in trouble. The only payment he requires is help for someone else if he ever asks for it.  It was a cool show with a cool car and a gorgeous guy — Nick Mancuso. Even if the premise hadn’t intrigued me (and offered so many variations for where Ray would be/what he would be doing each week), I’d’ve been there anyway just for him. I love me some handsome Italian guys, too.

Anyway, there was one episode that involved two elderly sisters, one of whom was a much-admired mystery author. It had kind of a film-noir feel to it, with a great cast of characters, and it rained. Endlessly. It would have been a totally different story if the sun had shined or it had been snow instead of rain. In fact, though that show aired only from 1985 to ’87, when it rains, I think about that episode. It had that big an impact.

Too often writers overlook weather in their books, but when they do it and do it right, even a cold rainy day can be like sunshine after a storm.

Season Premier

This week is the kick off of the majority of the season’s new TV shows. Do you have a favorite? Or do you look for a totally new show that you’re hoping will be the next best thing since sliced bread because everything that’s on right now simply bores the heck out of you? Do you find yourself shutting down your WIP in order to watch the shows?

I have to admit, I have several shows that I follow. Monday night I watched the openers for Bones, Mike & Molly and Castle. They were great! No, I won’t tell what happened. Don’t want to spoil them for anyone if you didn’t get to watch. I’ll just say I wasn’t disappointed. Tonight, I’m looking forward to NCIS. I figure one of the main characters had to die at last season’s finale and I’m anxious to find out who it was. Whoever it is, I know I’ll be upset because I like all the characters.

Other shows I like are The Mentalist, , The Big Bang Theory, Grimm and Blue Bloods. Yes, I realize that’s at least one show for almost  every night of the week. I probably shouldn’t watch so much TV, but I’m already hooked so there’s no hope for me. *sigh*

Tell me, while you’re watching your favorite show, do you critique it as it goes along? What attracts you to the shows you enjoy watching? Is it the characters, the plot, the writing/storyline or the actors? If you were the head writer, what would you do with the show? Anything? Or do you see a show that is so-so right now that you’d love to get your creative little  hands on so you could make it shine? You can’t tell me you’ve never thought of doing that because I’m almost willing to bet money you have. 😉

Fess up. What draws you to the one-eyed monster that eats up so much of our writing time?


I spent 12 hrs writing this weekend. Heck. Yes. I wrote a new song for the band, and I’ve even gotten back to lyrics I had forgotten about. The point is, I feel pretty creative right now. I am also full of energy, not entirely unrelated to the redbull cans and granola bar wrappers in the trash can. Yeah…

I started working on some new novels yesterday, as well as contemplating some short stories. As all over the place as I am, here is what I’ve come up with. A pirate story, a fantasy, a postapocalyptic tale, and two supernatural works. I have characters out the wazoo, and have done some profiling for the most distinct ones. My distopian one is probably the furthest along. This is the one I mentioned at the begining of summer, that Nathan brainstormed with me.

The new song is almost complete, as soon as I put some words to it. Nathan called me out on the fact that it sounded too mellow for a KT Monster type song, and prompty kicked up the distortion. I’m making a metal head of him, slowly but surely. We are going to be talking with a possible bassist for the band this evening, maybe even listening to him play if we can. He’s a good cultural fit(he’s a little twisted and goofy), so we are eager to hear him play. Then all we need is a drummer…



Who says stalking is always a bad thing? Okay, I grant you if it ends up in violence, stalking is a very bad thing. But there are times when stalking could lead to fame and fortune. Let’s consider the non-fiction writer.

Non-fiction writing can be anything from The biography of George Stemple: Trash Collector to the Stars to How To Pop Pimples for Fun and Profit. Non-fiction articles involve tons of research. Ergo, the writer must interview people for the necessary information. Or if the subject source is dead, you have to hunt down people who can best give you the information you need.

Even the fiction writer has to be a stalker. Let’s start with story ideas. Writers, by nature, are people watchers. At the store, in the supermarket, visiting the zoo…they are all places in our daily lives we visit. The man with the weird laugh, the child with the enthralled expression, the two elderly lovers walking hand in hand are all grist for our character mill.

Then there is the research. Even if you write contemporary fiction there is some kind of research to do. I mean, unless you only write about what you personally know, you have to do a certain amount research. Whether it is an unfamiliar location, the hero’s occupation,  or the cause of the external conflict, you will be looking for details. I once even emailed a Chamber of Commerce in Alaska to search for information.

Luckily, most people love to talk about themselves, so writers rarely get arrested for stalking.