The Editing Folder of Doom

I love my live and in-person critique group. We are a wonderful mix of specialties so that each of us focuses on one or two things and we all agree or can argue coherently against any suggested changes. There are five of us and once a month we meet to hand out several pages of our story to each member. The result is that we leave with five copies of part of our novel annotated by ourselves and our friends. Continue reading “The Editing Folder of Doom”

Live Critique Group

More than twenty years ago, I first joined RWA-SD as a wanna-be writer of Romance. I was working on my first Regency romance (don’t ask, it sucked) and didn’t know anyone. Roughly 6 months later, I had made friends with 3 other new writers who lived in my area, or close enough and had volunteered to man the sales table of used books. The 3 writers and I started a critique group and may or may not have helped each other. I’ve lost contact with all but one of them and she is doing wonderfully, even if she’s not writing any longer. Continue reading “Live Critique Group”

I See What You’re Saying

Whenever someone says, I see what you’re saying, I look for the speech balloon. Or the puff of vapor shaped like words. It’s funny, but as a writer, it’s exactly what I am trying to achieve.

The person who sees isn’t using their eyes. They are using their mind’s eye. They can visualize what the words on paper mean. It’s a pretty awesome connection to make with someone. And many writers never get the full impact of how they connected with someone. Continue reading “I See What You’re Saying”

What If?

I’m a little woozy after having novel surgery done today. I met with a couple of very sharp, very supportive writers and let them flay The Viscount’s Mouse. The story started out as a tale of a young, plain, disabled woman of little means who takes a job as a governess, only to be sexually harassed by the brother of her employer. He eventually realizes he loves her, but she is fired and goes off to find her really rich and noble relatives. There’s more stuff before the happily ever after. Well, forget that. Continue reading “What If?”

Around the World in 80+ Books, Part 12

I don’t work as a bookkeeper. I admire accountants and other organized people. The only organization I have is Romance Writers of America, ha ha ha. Going down the list of countries I had visited in this trip, and the list of countries of the world, I noticed some huge discrepancies. Did I really miss Albania and Belgium? Sheesh. Well, I am going on with the list of some others at the end of the lists, and then will double and triple check where I still need to go. Let’s get agoing!

221. Montserrat. A romantic island with an actual volcano, and an actual ruined city. Called the Emerald Isle of the Caribbean due to the resemblance to the Irish coast, and the number of Irish inhabitants that settled there, it’s certainly a beautiful and diverse community. So let’s take a walk on the wild side, and read a bi-racial m/m romance that gets hotter than lava. Hot Summer Nights: Montserrat by Remmy Duchene had no reviews as yet, but some of his other titles received 4 plus stars reviews.

222. Nicaragua. Jumping around will continue, but this isn’t too far to go. You will recognize the author, most likely. Salman Rushdie traveled through this country and wrote a look at the culture and society he found there from the lower layers, looking up. A glimpse of the Sandinista years, one reviewer docked a star since the book is no longer relevant to the modern country. I hope that rule isn’t applied to very many novels, it’s a little wacky. The Jaguar Smile: A Nicaraguan Journey.

223. Palestinian Territories. Not to be too prejudiced or anything, but my Why Can’t We All Just Get Along philosophy stumbles a bit in the Middle East. Answering violence with violence is bad. And there’s no right answer. Here’s a look at the Palestinian point of view when the state of Israel popped into existence and some non-Jews had to leave. Wouldn’t you think after centuries of being treated that way, the Chosen People would have taken a higher road? Well, I wasn’t there and I didn’t experience the hatred, so let’s just leave that alone. Mornings in Jenin by Susan Abulhawa tells the story of a family forced to leave the land they loved and cherished, and the events that befell them in a refugee camp. Originally published with the title Scar of David, this powerful novel will not leave you unchanged.

224. Pitcairn. Here we have our pick of scandal from the past, or more recent. In the past, a mutinous crew of oBritish sailors fled to this island with a few native women and men, and settled into the carefree life of staying alive on a tropical island. In recent times, a culture of incest, sex slaves, and lack of status for women blew up and attracted unwanted attention for the islanders. But what about the decedents of Christian Fletcher? There should be hoards of Mel Gibson at his best, look-a-likes running around half naked. And there should be British culture and afternoon teas and so on. Think about what it takes to mutiny against the way of life you freely chose to follow, to possibly doom someone to death through starvation and dehydration in a dinghy, and to then hide from possible repercussions on another island. Serpent in Paradise is a good look at life on Pitcairn from the prospective of an outsider, Dea Birkett. One wonders how much of the way of life she observed that was later revealed in the sexual abuse and rape trials, and why she chose to stay quiet on the facts. But it could be for reasons we’ll never know.

225. Saint Barthelemy. This island was briefly under Swedish rule, and is the only Caribbean island with such a history. Electricity came to the island in the 1960s, and now St. Barts is know for its exclusivity and posh tourism. They have come a long way from slavery. A series of mystery novels centered around Charles Trenet of the Gendarmerie Nationale starts with Murder at St. Barts, by J. R. Ripley. One reviewer says it is more of a parody than a mystery, and the murderer was obvious way too soon. But, hey, it’s St. Barts!

226. St. Helena. Yes, THAT St. Helena. Regency readers and writers immediately know who went there and who died there, and that controversy will always follow infamous figures. There have been back and forth arguments between learned men for a few decades about whether Napoleon Bonapart was poisoned or died of natural causes. Consider that in a time of uncertain medical care and rampant diseases, at the age of 51, without a history of any illnesses or injuries, the deposed emperor surrendered his life over a short time to an ulcer. Possibly he did have stomach cancer, which killed his father, but read for yourself the evidence presented by Ben Wieder in Assassination at St. Helena Revisited.

227.St. Christopher and Nevis. In Romance writer circles, lately, there’s been some conversations about Nora Roberts. There’s no denying the lady has done marvelous things for the genre, and for women in particular. Some of us want to be Nora when we grow up. So I thought it would be cool to showcase her book, The Reef, which takes place on the island of St. Kitts. (When you get to know the islands really well, you can call them by their nicknames) Reviews span all numbers of stars, most interesting are the ones from daughters who remember their moms reading these books. The legacy continues.

228.St. Pierre and Miquelon. It’s pretty obvious that the smaller islands travel in pairs. These two are northwestern Atlantic Ocean islands, not so very tropical or sunny. I could not find one book about the islands, but stumbled on a movie based on a true history of the island. The Widow of St. Pierre is a French film, and tells a story that while wonderful and engaging, has a not so happy ending. And because it’s true, it can’t be rewritten for a few more centuries. Still, the movie looks good and won a few awards, and it’s all French. Just like the islands.

229. St. Vincent and Grenadines. Back in the warm part of the globe, I thought I had made up my mind, but then revisited the choices. Sometimes on Goodreads, a book will be listed, but when you click to read more about it, you get a message that the book could not be found. I could not let go of one title, A Tiny Slice of Caribbean Life: Portrait of a Vincy Woman by I. Rhonda King. A small book with a touch of the old vanity press feel to it, the golden moments between the covers are presented as dialogue between two rural women on the island. You can’t find a better way to get the feel of the place than that.

230. The Most Serene Republic of San Marino. The smallest country, population wise, in the Council of Europe, the longest existing constitution, founded as a monastery, and one of the richest countries, there are no books which take place here! Not. One. No books and the wildlife, no travelogues, not one. Why is that? Is it the lack of an ocean? The low crime rate? The fact most people never heard of it? Well, it’s going on my list of places where I will set a story someday, and in the meantime, read the official web page.

231. Slovenia. Lots of books here, as long as you read Slovenian. Luckily, a nice person (Mae Gerhard) drew pretty pictures so we can at least get an idea. And the book title is in English, so that’s a good sign, right? No reviews to go on, but The Golden Bird by Vladimir Kavčič is a collection of Folktales from Slovenia. I love this stuff, and who knows, it might be a source of inspiration for the next great Romance novel.

232. South Georgia and Sandwich Islands. Beautiful islands are in high demand by governments of near-by countries. Robert K. Headland worked as an officer in the British Antarctic Survey, when somehow he managed to be stationed on South Georgia. Not exactly a tropical island, as it’s very close to the Antarctic. Used for whaling ships once upon a time, someone noted that “A rotting whale could fill with gas to bursting, ejecting a fetus the size of a motor vehicle with sufficient force to kill a man.” But it’s not all fun and games on South Georgia. And Robert K. Headland shows us that in his beautifully illustrated book, The Island of South Georgia. No word if dead pregnant whales are being considered for use as weapons.

233. Svalbard and Jan Mayen Islands. Once called Spittsbergen for the volcano, an early explorer believed he had found the entrance to Hell. Sadly, the islands are much more mundane than that, but still remote and harsh. This was a whaling port in the Arctic, but whales were never left to rot, apparently. NASA has a base there. The capital city is Longyearbyen. Tourists come for the glaciers and the Svalbard Global Seed Vault. Goodreads had nothing to offer, so I went to the Wiki entry and looked for ISBNs. That brought up Spittsbergen Svalbard: A Complete Guide Around the Arctic Archipelago by Rolf Stange. Mostly photographs, still everything you need to know about the islands.

234. Tokelau. The island name means North Wind in the islanders language. If I hadn’t made that notation on my notes, I would think I finally went around the final bend. I know I read something about the book Where on Earth is Tokelau by Maxwell H. Heller when researching from my place of employment on a break. I know there was information on how and why Mr. Heller went there and what happened. Can I find it from home? Not on Wiki, not on Goodreads, not anywhere. Then I remembered, I was going to the Wiki pages on the country itself, not looking up the book. Whew! There are lots of articles written about the islands, because it’s a shark sanctuary, they adjusted their time zone recently, and they are a sunny, untouched Pacific paradise. That last is up to debate. But yes, the book is listed there with the subtitle, A Doctor’s Experiences in the South Seas. All’s well.

235. Trinidad and Tobago. The true Caribbean, says one tourist web site. Well, yes, there was slavery, and Tobago means tobacco, and the islands are beautiful. Chris Columbus showed up and bam! The natives no longer owned the land. Hostile Takeover engaged. The Book of Trinidad by Gerard Besson (and possibly Bridget Brereton) is a unique record, following the dictate that “We must remember, and we must remember everything.” You’ll find recipes, travelogues, newspaper articles, official records and some historians’ papers. You will know Trinidad and Tobago when you close the book.

236. Turks and Caicos. Paul G. Boultbee has penned a number of books about the beautiful islands of the Caribbean. I have very little to go on, regarding his book, Turks and Caicos Island. It’s a sunny and relatively dry set of islands, popular with pirates and salt collectors. There has been scandal in the government, just like a big country, and an annual concert with big celebrities. They have no post office, and nobody seems to mind. There is a particular breed of dog in the islands, not so much a breed, really, and a mix called the potcake dogs. Wouldn’t it be cool if each celebrity and millionaire tourist who visited the island contributed to the care and health of these special dogs? Oh, the book. Yes. Here’s the link.

236. Vanuatu, Republic of. Formerly called New Hebrides, someone decided they weren’t done with the old Hebrides yet, and changed it to Vanuatu. That means Home Stand in the native language. Survivor was filmed there, both US and Australian. No one wrote a story about that, and I think that’s a shame. The original European government was a combined English-French Condominium. I can’t see these two folks living happily together in one building, let alone an island. And the natives were banned from getting citizenship in either ruling country, which sucked. And is a greater shame than the missing Survivor books. So I’m going with The Birds of Vanuatu by Heinrich L. Bregulla, since he isn’t political.

237. Wallis and Futuna Islands. French ruled islands near New Zealand, Three Kingdoms, and nary a book on any of it. Why not write your own? The Travel Journal of Wallis and Futuna contains information on the islands and lots of blank pages so you can record your thoughts, feelings, and how much you spent.

238. Albania. The Ottoman Empire wants this country. The country doesn’t agree. The Siege by Ismail Kadare records the facts and the fiction of the event. A stunning novel by a powerful, award-winning writer.

239. Belgium. I’m cheating a bit here, as the book takes place in France and Belgium, but the subject is one of extreme interest to me. The Lady and the Unicorn by Tracey Chevalier (wonder if we’re related?) follows the escapades of a deliciously appealing scoundrel, a painter who designs the famous tapestries that now hang in the Cluny Museum in Paris.

240. Cyprus. Could go with Othello, but I think not. Better a tale where going to Cyprus tears your life apart. Sigh. No, maybe a book about finding your past and putting it all together on Cyprus. Okay, I need to wrap this up. So you’re getting both. The People In-between: A Cyprus Odyssey by Gregory S. Lamb and Small Wars by Sadie Jones. Enjoy!

And I’ll see you on Wednesday. Maybe next week we can wrap up the whole world.

I C Summer Blog Tour – “Navigating the Writing Path: From Start to Finish”

My on-line writing buddy, Louise Redmann, thought of me as a participant in this great blog tour from I C Publishing ( Thanks so much, Louise, I had a great time answering the questions and thinking about writing more than usual. Please visit her blog at and soak in the photos of her awesome first-hand research opportunities.

Here are my responses to those questions:

1. Share how you start your writing project(s). For example, where do you find inspiration? Do you outline? Do you jump right into the writing? Do you do all of your research first?
I have a few ideas that came to me from dreams, one or two that evolved while I was reading some book that didn’t go the way I thought it should, or watching a movie with the same situation. I’ll have a conversation in my head out of nowhere, between two people I don’t know. Inspiration finds me, I rarely have to look for it. Sometimes my husband gives me an idea with a pun or silly thing he will say. I jump right in to jotting down the notes about the idea, and over time have filled notebooks and computer files. It’s not likely that I will get all my ideas written out, but I hope to come close. I outline if I have a complex story that I need to keep track of, but I don’t expect to adhere to the outline rigidly. Funny thing about research, I do a lot of it before I write, but I can’t count the number of times I have paused mid-sentence to go look up one detail that I forgot to clarify.

2. How do you continue your writing project? i.e. How do you find motivation to write on the non-creative days? Do you keep to a schedule? How do you find the time to write?
Motivation to write is always an issue that comes up in my Scribophile group. I don’t have much trouble in that direction, but if there seems to be a gap between what I want to write and what’s forming in coherent sentences, I walk away for a while. I read, watch a movie, pull weeds, clean the kitchen, play with the odd parrot or two (I live with way more odd parrots than that) and in general free my brain to work out the problem. I have a schedule that gives me about 20 to 30 minutes in the morning before I go to work, and two evenings when I can squeeze out an hour or so. The weekends are split between what must be done to keep things running, like bird cage cleaning, feeding, watering, people food shopping, events, and so on, and Sunday which is my sacred writing day as much as possible. Now and then, during breaks at work I pull out a pad and pen and start making outlines, notes, even posts for my blogs that I later transcribe. It’s all good.

3. How do you finish your project? i.e. When do you know the project is complete? Do you have a hard time letting go? Do you tend to start a new project before you finish the last one?
I give my project to others to critique and read for me. When they can’t nitpick any farther, then it goes to my live-in editor, who formats, spell-checks, nitpicks a bit further, and then it’s done. I don’t have any trouble letting go because by the time we reach the end of the process, I have read the story a thousand times at least. I do start new projects before I finish one to keep myself from getting bored, and also to keep up with various projects that keep coming along.

4. Include one challenge or additional tip that our collective communities could help with or benefit from.
My characters grow in my head, and I learn surprising things about them as time goes by. I found a great way to bring out some of those secrets and peculiarities is to interview the character. It’s fun and it helps so much to give the character free rein over the keyboard. Another great idea is to list five to ten things your character would have in their medicine cabinet, or freezer, or closet. Then put it into a sentence that starts: (Character Name) is the type of person who has (list things) in his/her (pick a location from the three choices above.)

This has been great fun! I hope more of you will want to jump in and participate in this tour. Here are the two great writers and bloggers who agreed to carry the torch from here:

Kate Whitaker writes for fun and profit from the woods of Pennsylvania. You can most likely find her sitting at her kitchen table yelling at kids and cats as she tries to figure out a new way to kill made up monsters. (I love the chapters she shares on Scribophile, we’re talking serious talent here!)

Ian Faraway is a silly person, and has this to say about himself: I’m not that old but not that young, though I act like my 3 year old niece on a sugar rush at times! I hope this summer I’ll have enough time to write more, and do more in the writing community! Occupation: I’ve been writing since I started writing… all in all, it’s been a very strange day! Interests: Writing, Chess, Games, that thing where you take a pen and write words on paper, learning, joking, exercising. Websites (Ian obviously has some not-so-serious talent)

Please drop by and say hello to these talented folks, and help us spread the tour far and wide! Enjoy your week, and I’ll be back on Sunday.