Archive for the ‘Writing Basics’ Category

On Commas, Spaces, and Find and Replace

August 28, 2011

So, in some circles I’m referred to as the comma queen. That is because I love commas. I put them in way too much. I love the terminal comma–but I blame that on my upbringing. I was a child of the seventies, and they taught the addition of a comma before and as is used in this sentence. I have since learned that “we” don’t use terminal commas much these days and the reason being is simple, we’re conserving paper. You remove a bunch of terminal commas from a full length manuscript and you save 2 or 3 pages, sometimes 4.

Every page is money. Which is also why we no longer space twice after a period. Now, you would think that ebooks wouldn’t mind that extra space in there, but the truth is, publishers like to set up the manuscript once. Why have two spaces after periods in a manuscript, then change it to two spaces after a period in another version. Seems silly, doesn’t it?

The truth is, in my first manuscript, I had two spaces and was told I needed only one, so, being a novice writer, I went line by line and changed each one. Now, I have learned that the find and replace feature in WORD allows you to do the space change with a single maneuver.

Find and replace is a wonderful tool, but I learned something very important from using it. I had a character named ROB in my first two novels, same guy, second book was a sequel. Love that name for some reason. Maybe because the Rob in my first novel is such a great guy. Anyhow, I thought I’d do a find and replace on his name for the second book since I was using a different publisher and they wanted the book to stand alone. I used the find and replace. I ended up learning a very important lesson. The letters in the name ROB are in many different words. The word PROBLEM became my heartache. I didn’t realize how many times I’d used it in that 160,000 word manuscript. Now, when you’re doing a line by line, word by word edit, you have a lot of work on your hands.

Solution: Name your characters something creative like ZIGGY or something. Then, if you want to change it, you can do it with a simple find and replace maneuver.

To do a find and replace on anything from spaces to words, go up to EDIT and drop down, there you will find FIND.  There, you can search for words or let the drop down feature work for you, and replace all instances of that word. You can also replace all terminal commas by typing in: , and    replacing with  and, no comma.

I hope this saves you from hours of intensive editing hours. Lord knows I could have used it numerous times before someone explained the feature to me.



June 23, 2011
JENN: I’m excited to have Sharon Ervin to interview this week. I’m sure you’ll enjoy this.
SHARON: Thanks, Jennifer, for allowing me to share a valuable lesson I learned in a critique group.
In old cowboy movies, the good guys wore white hats, the bad guys, black. Heroes smiled, villains didn’t. It was easy to tell who was who.  Regular human beings are not so easy to evaluate, so neither should characters be.
At one time a disgusted district attorney answered my oft-repeated complaint by ordering me––a newspaper reporter––to tell him if and when I ever met one of the alleged criminals filtering through his office who I thought was guilty.
One day, it happened. The scowling guy’s hairline was low over his forehead, almost to his eyebrows. He sat sullen in his shackles (bound wrists and ankles), and would neither look at nor speak to me, the only other person in the room.  I was studying him when, to my surprise, his shoulders began to shake and crocodile tears leaked down his unshaven face. “My daddy said someday they’d find me dead in some alley behind some bar,” he muttered.
When he looked up at me, that low forehead sported a big knot, and an angry line of stitches.
“My best friend hit me over the head with a two-by-four,” he said. “I was nearly dead already before he shot me.”
With that he dissolved into noisy sobs. I walked out and left him alone with his grief.
The point is: even bad guys can arouse sympathy sometimes. And the good ones can transgress. If people behave that way, believable characters probably should, too.
Years ago, I was pretty pleased with my work in progress. Everybody in my Texas critique group said they loved it…except Randy. A grown man, Randy pointed his index finger at his tonsils and pretended to gag every time it was my turn to read. I assumed the usual: Randy was “eat up with jealousy.”
Finally, one evening, I bristled and braced him. What didn’t he like? 
“Your stupid heroine.”
“She’s too damn perfect,” he said. “She’s so sweet, she makes me sick.”
To be fair, Randy had a pretty perfect little wife. How could my heroine’s perfection be his complaint?
“She’s saccharine,” he said. “I cannot stand her. She’s nothing like a real woman. She needs flaws.”
FLAWS? Flaws? If my heroine’s being perfect was what annoyed him, I could fix that. I am no stranger to imperfections. Easy-peasy.
It didn’t take much to alter her. I made her a little untidy, and sometimes irritatingly sure of herself. With tiny changes, I made her astute powers of observation annoying, especially when she bragged. On the other hand, I gave her no clue as to what her unusual discoveries meant.
The hero got some revising, too. He got natty about his clothing, and began being perpetually late. Although he could arrange clues into meaningful forms, he missed obvious details, not good for a cop.
With the changes, Randy became tolerant. Not only that, others in the group liked the characters better, too. Randy and the group weren’t the only ones. Already satisfied with my little fictional family, I got positively revved.
No more good guys pompously parading in their white hats through my prose. No more unsubtle evildoers. 
My favorite characters now have warts and my bad guys display an occasional halo. I enjoy them all more for their unique, sometimes surprising foibles. And my readers do, too.


The once-perfect Jancy Dewhurst is the now-flawed protagonist in all three of Sharon Ervin’s hardcover mystery series from Five Star/Cengage: THE RIBBON MURDERS, MURDER ABOARD THE CHOCTAW GAMBLER, and CANDLESTICKS.
Sooner born, Ervin has a degree in journalism from the University of Oklahoma. Once a newspaper reporter, she now works in her husband and son’s law office half-days, gleaning material and characters for more novels. She is married to McAlester, Oklahoma attorney Bill Ervin and has four grown children.
Website address:
Buy Links: 
All my Kindle books: 
All my books:


June 16, 2011

Pat Browning was born and raised in Oklahoma. A longtime resident of California’s  San  Joaquin Valley before moving back to Oklahoma in 2005, Pat’s professional writing credits go back to the 1960s, when she was a stringer for The Fresno Bee while working full time in a Hanford law office.

She is a veteran traveler. Her globe-trotting in the 1970s led her into the travel business, first as a travel agent, then as a correspondent for Travel Age West, a trade journal published inSan Francisco. In the 1990s, she signed on fulltime as a newspaper reporter and columnist, first at The Selma Enterprise and then at The Hanford Sentinel.

At the Enterprise, her lifestyle coverage placed first two years in a row in the California Newspaper Publishers Association Better Newspapers Contest. She was also a co-finalist for the 1993 George F. Gruner Award for Meritorious Public Service in Journalism. The award was for a story she and a colleague wrote about AIDS, which was a recent phenomenon at the time. At the Sentinel, her feature story on the Japanese-American “Yankee Samurais” of World War II, placed second in the CNPA contest.

Her first mystery, FULL CIRCLE, was set in a fictional version of Hanford, and published through iUniverse in 2001. It was revised and reissued as ABSINTHE 0F MALICE by Krill Press in 2008. An extensive excerpt can be read at Google Books —

 The second book in the series, METAPHOR FOR MURDER, is a work in progress.

 WHITE PETUNIAS, Pat’s nostalgic essay about growing up in Oklahoma, appeared last winter in the RED DIRT BOOK FESTIVAL ANTHOLOGY. An earlier version won second place in its category in Frontiers in Writing 2007, sponsored by Panhandle Professional Writers, Amarillo, Texas. WHITE PETUNIAS can be read on her blog, Morning’s At Noon –

 When you click on the URL, the first thing to appear is Pat’s review of the late Kirk Bjornsgaard’s novel, CONFESSIONS OF A FORMER ROCK QUEEN. Take a minute to read it. This stunning novel revisits the 1960s in the beguiling story of a young farm girl who wants more than anything to get out of Oklahoma and make it big in the New York music world. WHITE PETUNIAS follows, so scroll on down.

Pat’s articles on the writing life have appeared in The SouthWest Sage, the monthly journal of SouthWest Writers, based in Albuquerque, New Mexico.

She is trying to find time to build a new website. In the meantime she has a page at Author’s Den –




About me: I was a reporter, feature writer, columnist, and sometimes all three, part time, full time, off and on for about 40 years. I miss it. It kept me involved with interesting people — and everyone is interesting. You just have to ask the right questions. I’m still fascinated by the way people decide to trust you and then just open up their mouths and tell you the most incredible stories.

I’ve done some news features in the past few years, mostly as favors — not that I would have turned down money. The conversation usually went, “We’d love to have you write (fill in the blank) but we can’t pay you anything.” I was never surprised. Small-town newspapers are notoriously poor and/or stingy. But I love ’em, I really do. As with the Eye of God, not a sparrow falls without their knowing it. I could never have set my first mystery anywhere else except in a very small town, with a middle-aged reporter as the protagonist. All those secrets to ferret out – so lovely!

How hard can it be? That’s what I said when I decided to write a murder mystery. File it under “Famous Last Words.” Here’s my inspirational story — inspirational in that it may inspire someone to take up another line of work.

Seriously, it’s been the experience of a lifetime. I wouldn’t trade it for a bucket of gold dust. Here’s how it all began.

Like half the people on the planet, I grew up planning to write a novel “someday.” That day arrived almost accidentally, except that I don’t believe in accidents.

I was working for The Hanford (California) Sentinel, and the managing editor suggested that I write a book column. I went to the library and walked along the shelves pulling out books that looked interesting. Most of them turned out to be mysteries. After a few weeks I decided to write my own. I actually said, “How hard can it be?”

That was about 1995, and five years later I could have written a book on just how hard it is. Through it all I was taking online writing classes, asking questions in chat rooms, lurking on listservs, trying to learn everything I could in the shortest possible time.

FULL CIRCLE, my first mystery, has had as many lives as a cat, with different titles, different characters, different plots and subplots. I think I ended up with nine or ten “final drafts,” each time thinking that I finally got it right. Eventually I had to say, “Stick a fork in it, it’s done.”

I spent about a year writing a few query letters and talking to a couple of agents and editors, but I’m too long in the tooth to spare that kind of time. I had been checking out the new print-on-demand technology via the Internet, and iUniverse seemed to be the best game in town. Not only that, I could publish for $99. It was quick, and I liked the idea of total control over my book.

I found Ariana Overton on the Internet, and she designed a beautiful cover for $100. I own it. Best $100 I ever spent. So, I formatted and uploaded my book about July of 2001, and by the end of August the finished product was in my hands.

A major factor in my decision to go that route was my husband’s health. I had given up the newspaper job to be at home with him. So there I was, sitting at the computer for hours at a time, days on end. He was patient, interested, supportive. He kept saying, “When are you going to let me read that book?” Once I decided I’d taken it as far as I could, I let him read the manuscript, and then I contacted iUniverse.

He was so proud of that book that he told everybody he met about it. I don’t know whether he generated any sales, but it gave him such a kick to talk about it. I never regretted publishing it myself. It was a gift to both of us.

Even after it was published I couldn’t tell people what it was about because I honestly didn’t know. But after I heard enough questions and did enough presentations to figure out what I had written — well, here’s the log line: “Discovery of a skeleton in a cotton field leads to murder – and romance.” Someone, and I’ve forgotten who, called it “a study in small-town secrets.” I like that.

I had a good start on my second book when my husband died and everything just stopped. It’s such a long, long story. Maybe several long, long stories, fodder for a book or two. It’s a terrible experience to sit in a hospital room and watch someone you love slip away from you, and know there is nothing you can do to hold them here. I’ve done that twice, and the second time was worse than the first. You’d think you’d get used to it. You don’t. Another piece of your heart breaks. You can fall on the floor, or you can get up and go home.

As if that weren’t enough I was diagnosed with breast cancer, had a lumpectomy and went through six weeks of radiation. With no children and no family left in California, I decided to come “home” to Oklahoma, where I have sisters and a brother and many nieces and nephews.

The move would have killed me if I weren’t part mule. I left everything I owned, not to mention almost 50 years of my life, in California. I was so exhausted, physically as well as emotionally, that I walked with a cane my first two weeks here. I was like some old crone straggling out of a cave, leaning on her cane, blinking in the light.

It’s now six years later – six years of cultural (and financial) adjustment and learning to live alone (I hate it) — and I still haven’t finished that second book. The good news is that I have picked it up again. Working title: METAPHOR FOR MURDER.

Even better news is that the original book and I are both coping with a ninth life. Krill Press, a small, new press picked up FULL CIRCLE, changed the title to ABSINTHE OF MALICE, changed the cover and asked for a couple of small revisions. The new book hasn’t done much as a print book but it took off like a house afire as an e-book on Kindle. Sometimes it takes a while for a book to find its audience.

As I write this I have TV on for company. I’m watching the Masters Golf Tournament in Atlanta. I’m watching disaster news on ABC. It’s a reminder that there’s a real world out there, so why get worked up over a piece of fiction?

I keep remembering something Sue Grafton said at Sisters in Crime conference in Boise,Idaho a few years ago. She was listing her 10 standard reactions to a manuscript rejection, but one of them is really useful for more than a rejected manuscript. She said: “The free world does not hang in the balance. You are only writing a book.”

I also remember something the late Kurt Vonnegut (author of SLAUGHTERHOUSE FIVE) said a few years ago during an interview on PBS. He said that when we’ve destroyed the last living thing on earth, it would be poetic justice if the earth sent up a message: “It’s done. People didn’t like it here.”

And then he added, “We are here on earth to fart around. What the computer people don’t realize is that we are dancing animals.”

Maybe he’s right. Maybe we should spend less time at the computer and more time dancing. Why not? I think I’ll start tomorrow. It might do wonders for my shape, and anything would be an improvement. From the side I look like Alfred Hitchcock.

Meanwhile, there are extensive excerpts from ABSINTHE OF MALICE at Google Books, .

Thanks for listening and thanks to Jennifer for letting me sound off.

Pat Browning (under construction)

Thanks for dropping in on my blog, Pat. You’re welcome here any time.  I love that cover, too!

Beth Anderson, the interview you’ve been waiting for!

June 11, 2011

Book blurb for RAVEN TALKS BACK by Beth Anderson:

Raven Morressey is living the good life. Nice home, husband, three healthy children, and it’s finally summertime, when life is again lovely in Valdez,
Alaska. All this explodes one morning when builders, digging up her back yard, uncover a recently murdered headless, handless female body covered with scarification—hundreds of colored designs cut into the skin to resemble tattoos. As if this isn’t enough, where the corpse’s head should have been is a large rock with a face painted on that resembles an Alaska Native mask.

Raven’s eight year old son, Timmy, is the first one to see the body and is suddenly unable to walk or respond in any way. On that same day, Raven hears the voice of her long dead Athabascan father coming from Timmy, who is unaware of the ancient hunting chants he sings in his sleep and the words he suddenly speaks in Raven’s native tongue—a language he does not know.

Jack O’Banion, Valdez’s Chief of Police for the past few years, faced with his first murder case in Valdez, begins his official investigation. Everywhere he goes he finds nothing but deception. The town seems to have closed into itself and nobody will tell him anything that might help him solve this case. Then one murder quickly morphs into two, then three, and the Alaska State Troopers are hot on his back to find the killer now.

Between Raven’s voices and the visions she develops, and Jack, whose career as well as his contented life in Valdez are on the line, they both feel they have to find the killer and restore some sanity to the town—not to mention their own lives, which are quickly unraveling out of control.


Author Bio

Beth Anderson is a multi-published, award winning author in several genres including romance and  mainstream crime fiction. A full time author, she lives in a Chicago, Illinois suburb. She has appeared on Chicago’s WGN Morning Show, The ABC Evening News, as well as numerous other radio and cable television shows. She has guest lectured at Purdue University and many libraries and writers’ conferences. She loves music, particularly jazz. Her website and blog are both at 


Links to my author pages on Amazon and Barnes & Noble:

Website and blog:  http//

Publisher’s Website: Krill Press

RAVEN TALKS BACK ISBN #: 9780982144398

Jennifer’s Questions:

Question:  How do you write? Do you outline? Or fly by the seat of your
pants? Do you like silence or rock out to a certain soundtrack?

I do a lot of background research and full lead character bios from childhood up to the time the story starts.  Then, when I’m ready, I start writing, getting a feel for the characters and the story. This is where I do my most re-writing. I’ll go along for three or four chapters, then I’ll start outlining the rest of the book, but that’s a very sketchy process for me. I’ll write it all out on paper, then transfer scenes onto little cards so I can move them around if I have to, and then work on a card per chapter.

My books always seem to wind up around 90,000 words or a little under. It’s just the right length for me and I seem to instinctively wind up at The End right about where I’m supposed to, word-wise. My stories have a lot of subplots in them, which you would have to have for a book that length that moves very fast. I do edit chapters as I go along, then re-edit them as many times as I have to. I know a lot of writers don’t do that, but that’s how I learned and that’s the way I stay in my personal comfort zone.

I rarely have to do full rewrites because of that, because I know where the book begins and where it’s going to end ahead of time. Even starting out, I know whodunnit, although I have changed that as I go along, depending on how the story evolves. But it usually evolves as I want it to. I don’t let my characters take over the book, especially secondary characters. It’s all in clearly knowing what you want to happen at the end, and what the leads’ problems are before you begin. By that I mean what they want. Then I work out how they go about getting it, which leads to the end.

I work in dead silence and in a darkened room as much as possible. The only distractions I want are my dog and my two cats if they need something
crucial, like treats. I have a sign on my door that says, “If you’re not bleeding, don’t come in.”  Sounds like a mystery writer?  Well, yes, that’s what I am.

Question:  Got anything to brag about? (Awards? Upcoming releases?)

With my previous books with an online publisher, I’ve had a lot of smaller awards, which meant a whole lot to me. They’re all listed on my website’s
various book pages. My first three NY books were Count on Me, a Harlequin Superromance, All That Glitters, from Ballantine’s Fortunes label, and
Diamonds, Dorchester/Ivy. At that time, early to mid nineties, internet publishing was unheard of and we didn’t focus so much on getting Internet
awards. Everything was done for us, even promotion by the publishers in some cases. After a few years of not writing much at all  because of personal problems, the publishing world was beginning its upheaval which is in full bloom now, and I moved on eventually to Amber Quill, published three books with them and started learning the POD/e-book routine.  Yes, I was there at the very beginning.  That’s where all the awards came from, and I love everyone of them because clearly, someone at all those places on the Internet loved my books.

My new release is RAVEN TALKS BACK from Krill Press, which focuses entirely on mysteries.  It’s available in Kindle and Nook and print at and Barnes & and in bookstores.

Question:  Any cool stories about meeting other writers or industry professionals that have influenced or helped you? We like to hear the silly
stuff. Ever stutter at an agent? (I have.) Ever sidestep an editor? Or have a margarita downing contest with one? (Pleading the fifth on that, myself.)

Yes.  I can tell you about the single person who helped me the most, and for the life of me I can’t remember her name because I hated her, LOL!  I had been working on my own for a few years, maybe four or five, trying to learn how to put a book together in readable form, which always looks so easy to the unpublished person while she’s reading a book.

I finally got to the point where I felt I was ready to start going to conferences.  My first conferences were RWA even though I already pretty much knew my real love was going to be mystery.  So, I sat down with this agent at a St. Louis conference, expecting her to fall over dead with delight at my brilliant prose and dialogue, and started my five minutes with her.  She lifted my three chapters, flipped through it, her eyes barely hitting the pages and flung them back at me.  “Your dialogue is horrible,” she said.

In my defense, she was famous for doing things like that and eventually got out of the business. However, I did take it to heart. I started focusing on
my dialogue, went back to the mat and learned how to do it naturally, and in doing so, developed my voice.  When I submitted to Harlequin  Superromance, although it took an ungodly long time for it to go though their channels, I had the head editor (at the time) on my side because, she said, “My writing was strong and clean and my dialogue was wonderful, fast and easy to read.” I had found my voice.

So an agent, whose apparently sole intent was to send me crying out of the room, succeeded only in my ultimately nabbing a contract, and my career was launched.

Moral of this story:  Don’t cry in front of them. Take it like a professional and if you’re lucky enough to get ANY feedback, take it to heart and start working on the weak spots because they might become your strong spots. In other words, if you are having rejections and you think you don’t have any weak spots, take another look. We all have weak spots at the beginning.

Thank you, Jennifer, for allowing me to post on your blog today!  Onward and upward, all of us!

Beth Anderson

Mystery Writers Coming Soon!

May 23, 2011

Tune in here, folks for a fantastic line-up of mystery writer appearances. All summer long, some of your favorite authors, and maybe some unknown ones, will appear here, tell a little about their lives and how they approach writing mysteries, and generally touch bases with those interested in writing in general.

From mystery, I learned a lot about the need for a goal in a story, and the definite need for the goal to be achieved. Stories in any genre that miss this key element will likely flop (perhaps against the wall) when the reader realizes nothing really progressed in the story writing.

Interview with Rowena Cherry

July 30, 2007


Give us the 411 on yourself. You know, the basic information minus address and phone number.



At the time of this interview, I’m just back from a long drive (from Michigan to Houston and back). When playing I Spy palled, I listened to a couple of remarkable audio books. One was Clive Cussler’s “Dragon” –which wasn’t about dragons– and the other was a novel-length essay about modern espionage.

The latter included a definition of “eavesdropping” which I’d not heard before. Very approximately it was: “people who listen under windows and behind doors, for the purpose of making mischief.”

I was interested because I’ve frequently –perhaps ignorantly– described myself as a lurker, an eavesdropper, and a fact-magpie. I don’t set out to make mischief, and I never betray my sources. I collect rare insights to make my stories more convincing and more interesting.

I’ve watched carefully as Las Vegas magicians made an elephant disappear, but had to send men with brooms and buckets to make an unplanned-for elephantine bowel movement vanish from the stage. I’ve examined Henry VIII’s armour, with particular attention to the submarine-sandwich sized capsule that protected his wedding tackle. In fact, I made a minor plot point of it in FORCED MATE.

My travels have taken me from the English Shires (Warwickshire), to the mystic and fog-wreathed Channel Islands, to Cambridge University (Cambridgeshire), to Dorset, to Andalucia in Spain for a couple of summers in a Spanish castle folly near Marbella and the Puerto Jose Banus, to Harpenden in Herfordshire (where I got married), to Koenigstein im Taunus, to Detroit… with excursions along the way to the Royal Henley Regatta in company with Olympic oarsmen, to Goodwood for the Festival of Speed and for the Revival, to the corporate pace cars at the Indy 500, to the Pebble Beach concours d’elegance, and elsewhere.

The places I’ve been, the things I’ve done, and the people I’ve met are fabulous inspiration for my alien romances about gods and royals from outer space. I get a kick out of weaving uncommon knowledge into my books … such as deviant frog mating behaviors, lion taming tips, fair-use quotes from Machiavelli, and military uses for urine on the battlefield. Not all of it survives the editing!

This may sound pretentious: I set out to write a book that is like an onion, not because it stinks or because it makes you cry (blame my stiff, Brit, upper lip — I loathe books that make me cry!), but for the layers I like to build up, so that if you were to read one of my books a second time, you might see something cool that you hadn’t noticed the first time.

As for the gross anatomy of a hero, being a minor Historian, I had qualms about endowing superhuman (or super-villain) sexual prowess and dimensions on real historical figures. I have no such reservations about Darth Vader types, whether they hide out on Earth or prowl the galaxies in very large and sinister spaceships!

My editor describes what I write as Futuristic Romance. I prefer to think of my subgenre as Science Fiction Romance (because it is not set in the “Future”).

How long have you been a word ho for publishing pimps? (Er, a writer?)


Prince Philip, The Duke of Edinburgh, was once pleased to call me a cow… in a kind and witty reference to where I lived at the time. I’ve been called a Hoot, a Horror, and a Joy. I dare say I have been called many things by many people, but I have never considered literary or semantic prostitution …. unless you count writing about “sexual favors” instead of “sexual favours”. I don’t “do” quickies (in the sense of writing fast-reads). I don’t write for the money.

I’m too anal…

…about finding the right simile or metaphor, the “mot juste”, about getting the research right. All that
deep thought and useful “stuff” takes time.

If I’m going to write in the point of view of an elegant, sword-fighting hero, then I want to find someone who can tell me what it feels like to stab someone (legally, of course). If I plan to throw a heroine over a saddlebow, I need to know what that feels –and smells– like. I’ll try shaving my legs with the proverbial razor shell to see if a seashell makes an acceptable accessory for the desert island beauty routine. It doesn’t, by the way. The unsightly hairs look worse when they push up under, and through, scabs.

I accepted my first publishing contract in 2003. I pleased myself (and, occasionally, contest judges) from 1992 when I started writing my first novel.

All my titles are word plays on chess terms. My first romance was FORCED MATE, but although the title was thoroughly appropriate, it was widely misunderstood. Readers who wanted a violent book were disappointed. Others were deterred by what they assumed it was about. Some call FORCED MATE an alien abduction romance with a twist. It’s a futuristic take on the myth of Persephone and the god of the underworld. A dark ruler of an interstellar superpower abducts his perfect mate, never dreaming he’ll fall in love.

Insufficient Mating Material is not about a guy with E.D. It’s a chess term for a “No-win situation.” At some point in a game, the rivals realize that no matter how many bad moves the other guy makes, it’s going to be impossible to checkmate him.

Can you give us a brief VIRGIN story? I mean, give us the nitty gritty on your first sale.


The “Virgin” (Cherry) gets “The Call”

Ms Cherry doubts that she can write a brief ANYTHING. Words run away with Ms Cherry.

Writing in the best possible taste means controlling her lamentable sense of humor, especially during love scenes. Cherry has a tendency to amuse herself (and only herself). She comes to call these unnecessary, naughty bits of prose “Gorilla Testicles.”

What, you might well ask, do Gorilla Testicles have to do with overblown writing? Wide-eyed Ms Cherry once saw a wildlife program where the scientist found it necessary to measure the size of a sleeping gorilla’s testicles using a monkey wrench. No one is sure why. He must have had an odd sense of humor! The testicles were remarkably small… not worth the time and effort involved in measuring them, or in watching them being measured.

By giving a funny name to them, Cherry minds less when the naughty bits are cut.

Chapter One.
Long, long ago (in 2003) Rowena Cherry gave up on trying to be a paperback writer, and submitted (and only The Published know the full implications of “submitting” ) the book of her heart to NovelBooksInc aka NBI.

At the time Linnea Sinclair was one of NBI’s top authors and artists, and she was asked to read FORCED MATE for a second opinion. Linnea is now a RITA winning author for Bantam Books, (for Finders Keepers, I think), but she’s also written An Accidental Goddess, also Gabriel’s Ghost, and her latest book is Games Of Command.

Apparently, Linnea sat up in bed for much of the night, snorting and howling with laughter, much to the annoyance of her husband, and the next day Linnea informed the publisher that she should buy everything Rowena Cherry wrote including her shopping list… or it might have been the Cherry laundry list.

Chapter Two.
Ms Cherry was negotiating the contract that had been offered her when another of her friends, Susan Grant (who now writes for Harlequin, and My Favorite Earthling came out recently), told her that she would be an idiot not to enter the Dorchester-Romantic Times New Voice in Romance contest. That year, it was the New Voice In Paranormal Romance. Entries of previously e-published books were permitted.

Ms Cherry asked NBI’s permission, and entered.

Chapter Three.
To cut a long story short (???) the Cherry was one of the three finalists, was offered a contract by Alicia Condon, and ended up splitting the rights.

Meanwhile, NBI shut down for a hiatus, and later went out of business. The Cherry got her rights back, but since she had invested so much in her own cover (Cherry had personally bought the rights to the Matt Twiggs photograph for the e-book cover), and in lawyers’ fees to split the rights, and since she liked the e-book editing just as much as the mass market editing, Cherry decided to buy some ISBNs and self publish the e- version.

Moral: Linnea Sinclair (to a greater extent) and Rowena Cherry (to a lesser extent) are proofs that your published e-book can still sell to a New York print house.

Everybody’s got a fantasy. What’s your writer’s (wet?) dream?

I’m not sure that I have wet dreams. I imagine most writers’ secret ambition is to win a major award, and to place on a major best-seller list. I’d like that, of course.


Actors wanna be in pictures. Where do you want to be?


In pictures!

Not in person. I think Insufficient Mating Material would make a splendid movie, if only Peter Jackson would do it. On the other hand, I am well aware of the saying, “Be careful what you wish for. You might get it!”

This saying has been the basis for a lot of fractured fairy stories, most genie tales, and not a few Faustian takes on the devil offering a deal to a human… such as in Bedazzled.

When a novel has a hero with a bioluminescent tattoo on his penis that glows in the dark when suitably excited, you can imagine the Off-Topic fun a comedian might have. Prince Djetth’s manly decoration has the potential to be his downfall if the wrong person sees it, but not in a slapstick sense. I don’t write slapstick.
I stop short at the alien prince’s dilemma when he strikes a pose and is sitting on the edge of a filling bathtub (so many romances include a scene where the hero wants to watch the heroine take a bath) and there comes a moment when he realizes that his seated bottom is going to get wet.

Get any bad advice early in your writing career?


Lots. However, someone once told me that everyone in the industry lives to some extent in a fishbowl, and that one should never “break someone else’s ricebowl” (don’t deliberately ruin someone else’s livelihood). That’s good advice.


Word, baby. Get any good directions that you’d like to pass on?




If you’re unpublished, enter contests for the advice you’ll receive. Write gracious and positive thank-you notes to your anonymous judges, even if you don’t particularly agree with what well-intentioned critics tell you.

Start your future mailing list early (always with the consent of your correspondents) so that you’ll have friends when you need them…when you’re getting the word out about your forthcoming release.

Lock in your own name for your website before you become famous. You don’t want to have to be You DO want to be a dot com!

Say “thank you” often and as graciously as possible.

Keep control of your newsletter and your contests. If your name is on it, you are legally liable if someone sues you for whatever grievance.

Dream within reason, especially when it comes to money. Here are two great links which explain advances and what it costs to publish a book:

It’s better to have a smallish print run, and sell most of it, than to have a huge run and end up owing money to your publisher!

Carla Arpin (publicist for Linnea Sinclair) and sexy, paranormal author Sahara Kelly, and witty Dorchester author Marianne Mancusi all report that having a site on has been amazing—and cheap— promo for them. I haven’t seen the benefits, but that could be because I have confined my friendships to brother- and sister- authors, booksellers and librarians, and I have not been aggressive about self-promotion (mostly because I –being a techno-dinosaur– found it a pain to set up a site, and am super cautious about running the risk of having my site deleted).

I like what The Romance Studio does for me. Email: Membership for an author is around $2.50 a month. For that, you get a profile page, a link, and the opportunity to run contests and add to your mailing list.

Other sites I really like are Romance Junkies because they have over a million hits, and Cat Brown is so wonderful to work with. Fallen Angel Reviews is another site with great presence, and a fabulous reviewing staff in my opinion: check out ; And then there’s MyShelf, which is also highly trafficked and easy to work with.

I shouldn’t really mention so few sites. I know I have forgotten some wonderful ones. Oh, and if you have $200 to spend, everyone I know swears by a print ad in RWA’s Romance Sells.

For free, chose a good signature file, that says something about you or your book, and how to find it (your own website url). Do not quote homespun philosophy from great thinkers of the past. Most lists allow 4 lines or so of tag line and moderate promotion of other types.

For 25 tips on free ways to promote yourself or your favorite author, check out my “25 Ways” article on my website (under Research workshops). Go to and poke around. You’ll probably also find links to all the handouts put out by the EPIC organization for the entire RT convention.

Join chat lists—and I have to thank outgoing EPIC president and promo genius Brenna Lyons for some of these tips, because I’m not a great chatter—look into: ebookChatters ; enchantersloop; FallenAngelReviewChatters; karenfindoutaboutnewbooks (Karen Simpson runs Coffeetime, which is a great site with some very innovative promo services and ideas) ; Novelspotters ; RomanceJunkiesReaders ;

Other great new places (suggested to me by Jacquie Rogers of Fairy Good Advice) to network are;;;

Wherever you go — and this is my best and most delicate marketing advice– remember that you never know who is watching you and reading your posts. You only get one chance to make a good first impression.

We need the 420 on where to find you and your stuff. Cough ‘em up!

In sci-fi speak, my heavy-duty mothership in cyber space is

If you dock there, you’ll find exerpts from my books, an interactive family tree to assist readers to keep all my characters and their complicated relationships straight in their minds, my bi-monthly newsletter, jigsaw puzzles of bare-chested hunks, links and research tips, podcasts of my radio shows, my promo video for Insufficient Mating Material, and lots more.

I blog about non-human lovers and other matters of vital interest with other award winning science fiction authors (Linnea Sinclair, Colby Hodge, Susan Kearney, Margaret L Carter, Jacqueline Lichtenberg, Susan Sizemore, and guests) at

Animal lovers might enjoy my new cross-genre blog with authors who specialize in adding furry characters to their romances (Deborah MacGillivray, Jade Lee, and others).

I’ve two sites on MySpace. The Rowena Cherry space is where I befriend and am befriended by other authors, cover models, industry professionals– ;

The “Insufficient” site is more fun for me– ;

If a book could talk, this might be what he’d say. “He” overcompensates for his unstudly name (Insufficient) by chatting up librarians (“Will you have me between your stacks, dear Library Lady?”), booksellers (“My greatest dread, dear Book Lady, is that you will strip me in public,”), book lovers, and boldly asking all comers to take him to bed. “He” is territorial, so will not tolerate glitter, sissy images (rabbits, bling, flowers, fairies, other naked men) on his profile page, nor will he befriend anyone with children on their avatars… because he has adult interests, and he does talk dirty.

And last, but not least, there is Amazon-Connect.

Hope to see you there.

Rowena Cherry

Rowena Cherry


Read the fine print.

July 11, 2007

It’s amazing that writers are the worst ones when it comes to reading the directions or fine print. It’s a joke, but it ain’t funny, honey. Especially when you’re the one that reminds other writers to be careful on this and then get caught doing the exact same thing.

 When you submit your work to a publisher or a contest, read everything carefully. Make sure you understand the terms.

Are they asking for your First North American Rights? If so, is there an exclusivity clause for a certain time period? You can sell subsequent rights, have your work republished elsewhere, after that time frame lapses.

Do they take all rights? Do they promise to give you a byline or copyright credit, or intend to run it without your name.

I’ve sold stories to True Confessions Magazine (Dorchester, NY) and they take ALL rights. You can’t use or sell that story ever again.

In the event that you’ve “accidentally” given all rights, and want them back, you can simply send a letter requesting said rights. Most publishers will release subsequent rights. You can ask for those rights before you sign the initial agreement.

I recently submitted some stories to a contest online. The rules said they would always make sure that the author would be given a copyright line when the stories were used. Great, right?

Another line said they assumed all rights to the stories submitted. It was easy to assume that meant ONLY THE STORIES THAT WON. But the “outfit” did indeed mean they would use all stories and hold all future rights.

After submission, I re-read the rules and saw that wording and requested that I have all future rights reverted.

Also, they published my story without my name on it–which means they violated their own rules AND copyright law. That gave me leverage, I think, when I stated that, and requested my rights be reverted.

They gave me a letter that stated they released the future rights. It was easy, done by email, and nothing to stress over–but I did stress. And I reminded myself once again not to be stupid, or unprofessional in future. You GOTTA read that fine print. Pour over those rules/submission guidelines, make sure you understand what you’re giving up.

Speaking Engagements

June 19, 2007

Ever wonder how people get on the speaking panels for conferences?

<>They go to the conference website, see who is in charge of programming, and send them a press kit, virtual or physical, meaning via email or hard copy in regular mail.

Wait. Did you think that they were just so wonderful that someone said, “Wow. I want them to speak at my conference.”…?

Sure, that happens. IF YOU’RE Stephen King!!

But, if you’re not THERE yet, you have to realize that the way you get known is by word of mouth, and usually that means YOUR word of mouth. You have to toot your own horn by sending out information about who you are, and what you can do.<>

<> I, for example, have been doing motivational speaking for 20-25 years. It doesn’t matter what topic you need addressed to your group, I can research it, and present it in the way you need it put out there.

So, this is an example of how I let people know that I am available for speaking. I post it on my blogs and websites. I send emails to conference planners. I post regularly on my blogs where I will be next.

Who is this person? You may ask that. I’m pretty much a beginner writer who understands some basics about professionalism because I was professional in other areas before I decided to write pro. And I know how to make goals and achieve success. If you or your writing friends are struggling with that, you might want to have me come and speak.

If you’ve already stopped and said WHOA, I’m not listening to a beginner, think again. Read on.

Since I write in every genre and have won over 115 awards in 3-4 years, and some of those are in every genre–I may have some simple tidbits that can really boost your writing. Also, in that short time, I’ve had cover articles on national and regional magazines, and have signed many many contracts (over 25 this year alone.) I’ve had 5 books released THIS YEAR and have more coming.
The point is…not to be obnoxious in telling my credits, but to let you know that there is a fast track to success. There are tricks to the trade. Like the first one I mentioned here about setting up speaking engagements. Some will pay well, but when you start out, most likely you will pay your own travel, and hotel expenses.

But in exchange, you will get your name in a program book that all attendees will read. You will get an opportunity (maybe more than one) to let people know what you write. And through that, other writers will learn your name, and you will be considered a professional peer.

Other engagements will follow, and they will soon begin to pay–in growing readership/fans and professional friends you can network with, and all that translates to positive word of mouth, and ultimately to higher sales.

The easiest way to advertise your book in person is to get on a panel at a conference. Someone else draws the crowd. Someone else puts the program book together that brags about your accomplishments. All you have to do is show up, be clean, and contribute with a positive energy and hopefully some good information.

The trick is…making the audience feel good about you being there. If the panel is about writing, give out some useful information. If the panel is geared to meeting the fans, make sure you’ve got something to make them feel good. Bottom line, get some eye contact with your audience. Smile. Be happy to be there.
When you talk, use the mic. If there’s no mic, speak very loudly. Half of every audience is deaf or going deaf. Never think you don’t need the mic. That’s the dumbest thing any speaker ever says. I can’t say that enough. And make love to that microphone. Put it as close to your lips as you can without touching it.

Speaking at conferences?

June 11, 2007

I have spoken at a lot of conferences this year, including Epicon (national ebook conference, VA Beach), Romantic Times (Houston), AggieCON (Texas A&M), CONquest 38 (KC), and SoonerCON (OK City).

And I’ve done readings at the National Poetry Convention (OK City) and hosted a room party at the Oklahoma Writer’s Federation Inc. Conference (Also in OK City). I will be speaking at the White County Writer’s Conference in Searcy, Arkansas on Labor Day weekend.

And I’m working on getting some other speaking “gigs” set.

So, you want to promote your books? You want to start your speaking career?

You may be surprised to find out that most speaking engagements are settled by the author offering to speak, or listing themselves as “willing to speak.”

Feel free to contact conference programming chairmen to offer your services. Be sure and list your credentials. You can send a hard copy press kit, or a query via email.

Some speaking engagements pay, some provide room, travel expenses, and meals, as well as a speaking fee. Some are “free entrance into the conference.” Some offer free conference entry for your family.

When you start out, you need to be willing to compromise, and meet the conferences half way, and appreciate the fact that they’ll be putting you in their program book, on their website, and giving you speaking time, even if it’s only on a panel.

If you’re good, people will request you back, and spread the word about how great you were. So, to make sure that happens, be prepared on your topic, and learn panel etiquette, which means “not monopolizing the conversation” but being willing to fill in the quiet spots if other panel members aren’t as equipped on the subject. Also, learn how to keep things on topic, or to bring thigns back to topic, and make sure you’re not the one leading the panel off topic.

Think about these things:

A speaker should educate, entertain, and motivate. If they don’t do that, they aren’t a very good speaker. If they do one thing, they’re okay. Two means they’re good. Three means they’re great. Aspire to be a great speaker.

ALWAYS use the mic if it is available. Remember that half your audience is likely deaf or going deaf. Even if you think you have a booming voice, you need to use the mic. This is one of the biggest mistakes speakers make.

(More on speaking in other posts.)


June 7, 2007

Janny Wurts, a very good fantasy writer, caught my attention when she mentioned he watched the woman walk away, MARIGOLD SKIRTS SWISHING.

I often think about that sentence. They may be two flowery for some works, but we, as writers, should be thinking about our prose. Janny’s words had a “purple prose” feel, meaning it was poetic, almost too pretty.

I, however, love the phrase and look to add flavor like that to my fantasy works. There is alliteration in that line. Watched the woman walk away. Look at the w’s and a’s. Consonant repetition is called consonance. (I know, that’s a DUH. But, until someone points it out to you, or explains it, it’s hard to grasp.) Marigold doesn’t add to the alliteration, but it gives us vivid color and imagery in a single word. Swishing skirts. S’s add more consonance, and the w in swishing draws the consonance from the first half of the sentence into the last part.

The phrase is just plain eloquent, the kind of thing that has mesmerized my thinking processes often. Did she know she had done that? Or does she have a natural knack for poetic prose, and not even know it? IS SHE A POET? Yes. She must be, even if she doesn’t realize it.

I’ll have to ask her if she intends to be poetic or if it simply happens as she writes. Not that it matters. I recommend her, if you’re a writer who struggles with active prose that has color and flavor. Read just one of her novels, or even several pages of one, and you will see what I’m talking about.

She doesn’t waste words. Use of WAS is minimal. She demonstrates active and rarely slips to passive writing. All in all, I believe she is a fine example of the type of writer we should aspire to be. You can learn a ton, and absorb a lot, just by reading her works. (And she didn’t pay me to say this! She doesn’t know me from Adam.)

To find Janny’s work, you can go directly to her website: