Monday, January 31, 2011

End of the Month!

Can you believe it’s the end of the month? It seems like only a few days ago that I was writing my Happy New Year post and I had that brand new calendar with all the blank space.
My January calendar is written all over! Work schedules, writing schedules, play dates with grandchildren, meetings, Writing Game numbers, actual numbers written, goals, appointments, exercise routines and classes-a lot of living happened this month.
My goal for January was to write at least 250 words every day. I didn’t make it; those vertigo days when I could barely think much less sit and type are clearly marked.
But those days when I made it; those numbers are written in a pretty pink ink! I love what those little numbers signify.
Success! Goals accomplished! Achievement!
Those little pink numbers make me smile; I want to see more and bigger numbers written in pink for February.
Writing at least 250 words a day in February-it’s a good goal, but I want more.

Saturday, January 29, 2011


There’s the pause that refreshes (thank you Coca-Cola) and then there are the refreshing things that make you pause. I  just returned from my son’s high school production of Anything Goes and it definitely qualifies as a moment to pause and savor the experience. The cast and crew, along with the tech crews how spent months building the intricate sets, are to be commended. Their obvious enjoyment and passion showed clearly.

I love that sort of obvious third-party passion. When you can just tell that someone has enjoyed creating whatever it is that you are enjoying. Songs, books, music, plays, art, gardening. Everywhere you look, the evidence abound that someone has stopped, paused and refreshed their soul with something they enjoy.

Stop and smell the roses. Or listen to the birds. Or read a book. Watch a movie. Sing in the shower. Wash your car. Play a game with your kids. Pet your dog. Whatever fuels your passion and helps center your sense of self, don’t forget to do it.
Pause. Refresh. Renew.
What kinds of things do you do that help you find your sense of peace or joy?

Happy reading,

Friday, January 28, 2011


Bouncing off of a subject my good friend, Geri, mentioned in her Synopsis blog, one of my favorite parts of writing is creating my character’s secrets. Secrets help give your characters emotional depth. We can all relate to someone with a hidden something in their past. We all have those juicy little tidbits that we’ll go to our grave with, or we’ll die trying.

As Geri pointed out, secrets don’t have to be earth shattering. Secrets can be as simple as someone who’s been married before but for some reason doesn’t want anyone to know, or someone who is lying about who they really are; perhaps she/he has stolen someone else's identity.

It helps if the character believes that if their secret is revealed their life will be ruined forever. A secret can also be more complicated and challenging, such as a past discretion that is in direct opposition to what their goals are now, like a politician’s illicit affair, or Miss America’s past job as a stripper. The secret doesn’t need to be gigantic to make the story move forward, but try to make it as big as your story can handle. The larger the secret, the more dangerous the risks the characters will take to safeguard their past, which will take the story in surprising directions and make the outcome more gratifying.

The situations which your character creates out of the need to keep their secret must change the way they see themselves. In other words, the situations elicit character change. The character wants to change, but they are not sure what to do, because it’s difficult and frightening to reveal something so confidential about themselves. They are conflicted about changing. But in the long run, they will have to come face-to-face with their secret instead of continuing to hide. And even though the guilt of covering up this secret becomes difficult to handle they will go to many lengths until there is no other option.

The penalty of revealing this secret must be genuine for the reader to believe the secret’s validity and the character’s motivation behind wanting to hide it. Their guilt of deception becomes heavier the closer they get to the heroine/hero. Whether it’s the disposition of the secret or the character’s actions necessary to continue to hide the secret, the consequences must jeopardize the future happiness of your characters. Otherwise, your readers could care less how the characters or the story develop.

The trick to revealing the secret is to dribble in bits of smaller lies and deceptions throughout your chapters that are used to cover the secret, and then little by little more is revealed until the big secret is exposed and the character is psychologically stripped and defenseless. Like peeling back the layers of an onion, one lie at a time, torturing your character. That’s what it’s about, right?
Only when the last tidbit is revealed, when the full secret is laid out in the open, will the character then have to rely on faith that they will not be rejected by the hero/heroine. Their internal conflict is to keep the secret, save the hero/heroine, and try to find ways to do both of these things, but they fail. Of course, in romance, in the end, the hero/heroine forgives the other for the secret and they live happily ever after, we hope.

It’s a good idea to wait until the last third or fourth of the story to reveal the severity of what is at stake for the character and why revealing the contents of the secret is so devastating to them.

I know, lots to take in, but I hope this has given you a few guidelines on how to filter information throughout your story for some juicy and interestingly devastating secrets.

Happy Writing!
Wendy Treitel

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Short and Sweet Synopsis

I know what you’re thinking. No synopsis is short or sweet. But, they can be. I found that out when I completely plotted my next book in ten days. If I can do it, so can you.

As writers we are all storytellers first and foremost. If you don’t have a good story, I don’t care how clean or cleverly you write. No one will read it. So, being as storyteller gives you the ability to automatically write your synopsis, before you write the book or after. I wrote mine before.

I can hear the crying through cyber space already. I hate doing a synopsis. It’s the worst part of writing and it’s holding me hostage to a story I may want to change dramatically. I won’t do it. You can’t make me.

Okay, you’re right, I can’t make you, but I might be able to help you if you are trying to write a synopsis. I will even go so far as to say, it may layer and give your book more dimension before you write the first word.

First, let me explain why I decided to do a synopsis. If you have ten unfinished manuscripts lying around, ask yourself why. I do, and I did. I have all those unfinished novels because I don’t know where the story is going. I run into a blank wall and had to stop. I had no where to go.

It’s hard to be a hundred pages into a book then come up with the rest. Anyway, it is for me. So I decided I’m not ever starting a book until I know where it’s going and how it ends. This way I have a map. I don’t have to follow it exactly, but I need to know where I’m going.

I’ll admit I love people who can sit down and write a book with absolutely no idea where they are going. They figure it all out along the way and it comes out perfect. I don’t have that kind of luck. If you have unfinished books, the reason may be because you never knew where you were going in the first place.

Okay, to the bones of a synopsis. I start out by saying…”This is a story about Heroine who wants something (her goal) she wants it because (her motivation) and she’d have it if only (her conflict) that’s the first paragraph. Then do the same for the Hero.

Next, how do the Heroine and Hero meet (inciting incident). This is the beginning of your story. Chapter one. Once they meet, what keeps them together (Reluctance and Decision) what do they stand to do (Action they are going to take) This moves the story along and tells what action takes place in the story. What do they stand to lose (the Challenge)? What brings them intimately closer (Relationship builder) What keeps them from immediately riding off into the sunset (Relations barrier) What is the worst thing that can happen to H/H, (Climax gets closer). What do they fear most (Internal Conflict). What ruins the relationship and tears their goals away from them (black Moment) Who caves (who has to change the most in the book Character Growth) How do you want your story to end ( the Resolution).

While this is a very bare bones Synopsis, it’s all an editor or agent wants. And it can help you finish your story. I suggest a few other things that don’t have to go in the synopsis.

Ask your characters a few important questions before you sit down to write your synopsis.

What do your characters regret more than anything in the world – This can be something they did, or something someone did to them or something completely out of their control like the death of a loved one.

What’s their secret? Everyone in every story should have some kind of secret. It doesn’t have to be earth shattering, but we all have them.

What is their biggest fear? What scares them every day? It can be simple, or it could be big. Your story, you choose.

I hope this helps. If you have any questions you can email me at .

Write on
Geri Foster

Monday, January 24, 2011


Blessings are the good things that happen to us.
Sometimes we get unexpected blessings. Sometimes they come from friends, or maybe complete strangers. They come in different shapes and sizes, spoken and unspoken. Some are solid, like our grandchildren who make us laugh and cry and remember what it’s like to be young.
Some are as transparent as the air we breathe. Some come to us on angels’ wings.
The last few weeks I’ve struggled with a nasty little condition called vertigo. There were a few days when crawling was easier than walking, less spinning-twisting-looping and not so far to go if I fell. Then came the days when I could walk and talk as long as I did it very carefully, no fast movements for this chick; but occasionally that sick-dizzy-room-twisting feeling that could stop me in my tracks.
Then the first quiet whispers, “I’m praying that God will heal this vertigo.” “I put your name on the prayer list at my church.” An email from a total stranger, “I am praying for you.” I can’t even start to tell you how humbling it is to know that your name is on a prayer list in so many churches; that someone would take the time to light a candle for me. Words fail me.
My life is full of blessings.
I am blessed by the beauty of sunrises and sunsets; by birds that sing and butterflies gracefully flitting through my path. I am blessed to live in this country and this state. I am blessed…the list is endless.
I am blessed by the three ladies whose names grace this blog-friends and writing partners who have cajoled, encouraged, pulled, pushed, threatened, and critiqued numerous pages of manuscripts. I can’t imagine this journey without them. Again, words fail me.
Today is my best day yet. I still move funny and slow, but I believe, like George Bailey, that this is indeed a wonderful life. I am blessed by family and friends who love me and by complete strangers who pray for me.
Blessings to you and yours,

Friday, January 21, 2011

I do...

Really love wedding reality TV. I know it sounds crazy, but a lot of these shows reinforce WHY I write romance. The love, the bonds, the companionship. And, let’s be honest, the crazy. Here’s a  quick run-down of some of the shows I’ve seen or heard about. For the record, I have NEVER watched an entire episode of Bridalplasty <shudder>

Premise: Four brides who are strangers and live in the same vicinity meet and attend each other’s weddings. Then, they score each wedding in four categories: Dress, Venue, Food and Overall Experience. The winner receives a great honeymoon. To ensure the brides don’t skew the scores so they win, they also have to rank the other weddings 1 to 3. It’s a pretty nifty set-up. I love the camera confessionals from the brides. Most of the time, they are not bitchy or catty, but genuinely caring and enjoying themselves at each event. I look forward to more of this series!  

Kleinfeld, help me find the
perfect dress!
Premise: Dress consults at the bridal salon of Kleinfeld Bridal in Manhattan match brides with their dream dresses. When I first saw it, I thought it would be boring and full of self-important women showing off tons of divattude. Instead, it focuses on the “feeling” a woman gets when she finds THE PERFECT DRESS. The one she looks awesome in and, more importantly, the one which embodies all the love and hope she feels for her groom. Sounds over the top? Trust me, it’s worth watching.

Premise: Brides-to-be compete in challenges to earn plastic surgery for their dream wedding. Really? Spew. Even before this show aired, I was annoyed with it. Bad enough we live in a society that constantly dictates that any woman over a size 0 is fat, but to go after what should be the happiest day of a woman’s life and insinuate that she will only look good if she has a little lipo here and a fat transplant there? Ricockulous. I have tried twice to watch this show. Not only do I find the women unlikable and unsympathetic, I find their whining and crying fits over NOT getting that week’s surgery to be sad and pathetic. I’ll pass.

Premise: Four bakeries coast-to-coast create awesome wedding cakes. Really the title says it all. This show has great bakers who are personable and always go the extra mile to ensure their couples receive the cake of their dreams. My favorite episode so far has been when one designer said “Yeah, we can make a bobblehead groomscake.” They had NO idea how to do it, didn’t know if it would work and fretted the entire show. Needless to say, that cake was Amazing.

Premise: A bride knows what she wants for her wedding — the dress, the flowers, even the icing on the cake! But with only three weeks before the big day, wedding planner David Tutera shows up and changes everything. Eh, I’m still out on this one. It’s a little too over-the-top for me. And Tutera alternates between annoying and charming. Often the annoying gets to me first and I’ll flip away from the show. Never a good thing. But if there’s nothing else on, it’s a good little diversion.

Premise: What does it take to pull off the "perfect" wedding while still managing to stay within your budget? Each episode of Rich Bride Poor Bride follows a couple and their wedding planner to see what happens when costs collide with expectations. This is a fun show, especially for brides-to-be. Talk about your budgeting nightmares.  Lots of interesting couples who are willing to work for their dream wedding, even if they don’t have the money to spend. Creativity and hard work help to make their dreams come true. The perfect beginning to a life compromise!
Premise:  Stories of men and women who thought they were happily married until the day they uncovered a shocking secret about their spouse that would leave them asking Who the (BLEEP) Did I Marry? This one is intriguing as hell and truly shows the darker side of marriage. If you just catch the previews, you’ll be wondering how the victim spouse could NOT know they were being played, but their stories are usually hidden in every day situations. Episodes this year have ranged from the DC Sniper to a Cuban defector who married an American  woman solely to spy on the US. Sounds far-fetched, but I am always dragged in by their plights.
I thee wed ... no matter the cost or time constraints!

Perfect Proposal (TLC) Defunct
Premise: TLC would receive emails from guys and sometimes girls, seeking help with their marriage proposals in creative ways. This show is no longer on the air, but I really loved it. It was the original wedding reality show for me and the one that set the bar high. The cameras followed the would-be groom as he went about his tasks to propose to his girl and she would never be the wiser. Locations, props and number of people in on the question popping varied. To me, it was all about true love, doing that special thing that forever cemented your relationship and vulnerability. Thankfully, none of the women ever said no.

That’s just a handful of the shows out there. Do you watch them? Have any favorites?

Happy Reading,
 Jennifer August

Positive Attitudes and Positive People

From as early as l can remember, my mother was the positive force in our family. I’m now the proud owner of her old copy of The Power of Positive Thinking by Norman Vincent Peale. Great book. My mother always made me feel like I could accomplish anything I desired. And yet growing up I wasn’t much for confidence. I’m not an outgoing socializing kind of person, but I love hanging out with positive people. I’m lucky to have friends who look at life the same way I do, friends that drift toward the energizing aura of people with positive attitudes. When I’m with them, I feel the intensity of their positive power and it’s almost as if I can accomplish anything!

I believe sometimes, that people don’t realize to what extent they can be a magnet for someone else’s moods. For instance, when I married my husband, he was one of the most positive people I’d ever met. His affirmative outgoing attitude is partly what attracted me. He’s a salesman. Part of his job description included maintaining a positive outlook, right? And that’s how his mindset coasted for a long time, but when his father became ill and my husband had to spend so much time with him, my husband began to take on his father’s grouchy demeanor. Now it’s understandable the man was cantankerous, he was 94 and not feeling well. I am of course pointing out to my husband his wicked moods…oddly enough, he agrees with me.

This serves to confirm what I’ve always heard; you hang around a grouch long enough you become a grouch.

I also have to continually work on myself in this area, but I take pride in believing that I’m a fairly positive person, or I try to be, because I don’t care for the opposite. Just recently, a friend told me I was an inspiration to her, and that my writing enthusiasm has inspired her to pursue a desire she’d had for a long time. To hear this means a lot to me. That I can inspire anyone to do anything is a big deal. It makes me feel I have purpose, like I’ve made some small contribution to humanity.

I try to remember life truly is short. We have lost so many relatives and friends this last year, that the seriousness of that statement has taken hold in my brain. I don't want to waste another minute! I want to live in an optimistic light. I don't want to spend another moment in a negative atmosphere. Remaining out of those can be tricky sometimes however, so it definitely takes work not to get pulled into that state of mind. But you can do it! Walk away. Put your headphones on. Pretend you have to make a phone call, something just escape!

Having attended many positive thinking and success seminars and having read loads of self-help books over the years, okay and a few hours of face-to-face therapy with a real live psychiatrist, I like to think that I’ve absorbed some of what I’ve been listening to and reading. I’ve found attending these hoo-rah-rah motivational seminars, reading these types of books and listening to audio recordings and podcasts are a tremendous help. The seminars or conventions I find terrifically stimulating, especially when they are specifically for women. We all know the amazing hum of energy that fills a room containing hundreds or thousands of women! Right? Think about all of the writer’s conventions. Aren’t you always incredibly jazzed after those? I know I am. It’s the positive energy flowing through the atmosphere circulating around all those amazing positive women, (and a few men too) that gets us all revved up!

Surround yourself with positive people and their optimistic energy will surround you.

Become a positive person and other positive people will drift in your direction.

This can be as easy as transforming negative thoughts to positive ones, like: "I can't change I'm too old." to "I'm changing all the time." or "I love changes, they make life fun."

Or it can be much more difficult, like making decisions that will forever alter your life in order to become a happier, healthier, more positive person: changing jobs, moving to a better neighborhood, leaving a spouse. But in the long run, you know you’ll be a better person once you adjust to the different way of life. I believe in following what my gut tells me to do, even if it hurts.

Motivational speakers I’ve enjoyed include, Zig Zigler, Dale Carnegie, Anthony Robbins, Billy Graham, Joyce Meyer, Joel Osteen, to name a few, and there are so many more. I attended a woman’s business convention once where Ron Chapman (A famous Dallas area radio broadcaster) was the motivational speaker and he was fabulous. I laughed lots and had the special opportunity to meet several successful Fort Worth business women as well. Wonderful experience. If you ever get the opportunity to attend a positive anything seminar, GO! They are very rewarding.

Most of the books that I have found helpful over the years, and ones that will remain on my bookshelf forever, are older releases, but I still pick them up and read them on occasion. There are so many helpful books out there I couldn’t begin to list them all here, but if you are struggling with any issue, there is a publication out there just for you that might help.

Here are some of my old favorites that will remain on my bookshelf:

The Bible
The Power of Positive Thinking
by Norman Vincent Peale.
Your Erroneous Zones by Dr. Wayne Dyer
Fear of Flying by Erica Jong
Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff by Richard Carlson
I’m Okay, You’re Okay by Thomas A. Harris
Seven Spiritual Laws for Success by Depaak Chopra

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Why Can't I Get Any Sleep Around Here?

The Writer Angel Whisper
Those who know me, know that while I’m a little on the crazy side, parts of me are very regimental. Major list maker here. Sorry, it’s the only way I can stay sane in my world! Part of my strict schedule is Sunday through Thursday I go to bed at the exact same time. After the news, I’m in bed asleep in a matter of minutes.
4:10 in the morning?! Argh!
Lately I’ve had to fight like a demon possessed to stay asleep!
Am I the only woman who struggles with waking up in the middle of the night? It’s the worst thing in the world. And it’s so lonely with the lights out. And what’s with all those noises? Are there gremlins running around outside my bedroom door?
Oddly enough, I sleep like a baby on the weekends. Nothing wakes me up. During the week, when I have to get up at 6:30 for work, I’m zonked.
And grumpy!
That’s because I wake up at 4:10 every morning, and can’t fall back to sleep until a few minutes before the alarm goes off. I mean, I’ve counted sheep, made imaginary love to my hero, did my grocery shopping, and made to-do lists. Nothing helps. Usually I end up rolling around on my king sized bed like a tipped over bowling pin.
In desperation I spoke to my doctor about my sleep pattern and she said it was hormonal. Does everything that happens to woman after fifty have to be hormonal? Surely not.
As I struggled through this time, I remember something Wayne Dyer once said on a PBS special. The self-help guru claims he wakes every night at a certain time and he concluded that’s when the Angels Whisper.
I remembered that a couple of weeks ago when I lay in my bed fighting the covers. What if the Writing Angels are trying to Whisper to me at 4:10 in the morning?
I put my theory to work the very next night. My eyes popped open at 4:10 on the dot. I lay there quietly waiting to hear the flutter of little wings.
Nothing happened!
I stayed with it.
The Angel Whispers, I listen
A couple of days later I lay in bed listening when an idea came to me so out of the blue. I shot up in bed. I loved the concept immediately and as far as I know, no one has done anything like it before. I was so stoked I wanted to jump out of bed and start writing. The tiny voice told me to wait. In seconds, I was back asleep.
Next morning I woke up anxious to start on my new manuscript, but never managed to chip out a chunk of time. I went to bed that night looking forward to my 4:10 date with the Angel Whisper. She didn’t let me down. She showed up right on time.
I lay there quietly listening to that tiny voice that instructed me to map out the complete story before typing one word on the manuscript. I immediately started a synopsis. I’m into my eighth day and my story is slowly, but every so effortlessly coming together.
I have no idea where this is going to go, but I’ve decided I’m going to enjoy the ride.
So, the next time you wake up in the middle of the night, maybe the Angels have something to Whisper to you.
Sleep well,

Monday, January 17, 2011

Creating Characters

When’s the last time you listened to someone tell a story?
My grandmothers were accomplished storytellers. I still remember the sound of their voices as they wove their tales of intrigue and adventure. Sometimes their words gave me chills; sometimes they made me cry. They made me feel and think. The cadence of the words, the way different characters sounded introduced me to a whole new world, while anchoring me firmly in the bosom of family. Sometimes I wish I could run home and sit at their feet and hear their words all over again; feel that safe at home feeling one more time.
Mostly they told stories about past times and family members; always brave and adventurous, because back in the day-if you couldn’t say good things-you didn’t say anything. Ah, the good old days!
Who knows if you can believe the stories handed down through generations? Sometimes there’s evidence or proof to back up the facts or at least some of them. In the telling and retelling facts are forgotten, while others are slightly elaborated on-to make the telling a little exciting.
History, speculation, conclusions, maybes, why, why not, and what ifs-that’s what storytellers tell and fiction writers write.
The stories we’re told, the experiences of our forefathers, our own experiences and journeys are what shape how we think, feel and act. As writers we draw on those emotions, memories and feelings to bring characters to life. We invest them with human qualities we’ve experienced or observed in others.
What stories were you told of your ancestors? What was your grandmother or grandfather like at your age? Where did they live? How did they make a living? What was the world like then? How did those things shape them? How did their upbringing influence you and your life?
Basically, this is how fictional characters are created. By asking questions and finding answers, writers create believable characters and hopefully ones readers will want to revisit time and time again.
Met any real characters lately?

Saturday, January 15, 2011


Characters are the heart and soul of good fiction. Whether hero, heroine, villain or secondary character, each one enriches the story, or they should. The villain should frighten or disgust while intriguing. How and why could anyone do those things? Likewise, if you don’t see, hear or feel with the hero or heroine, the story is incomplete. These characters play off each other so villains have to be bad and heroes have to be good.
The hardest part of writing fiction is creating characters that walk off the page and into your heart. For that brief period of time while you’re reading the book, you are part of that world, so the place and time are also characters in the story.
All genres are the same: good characters = good stories = keeper books.
So where do good characters come from?
No really, some characters just pop into your head and tell you their whole story; what could be easier than that? To me-the writer, characters are people with feelings, families, like and dislikes. Oh, and they have birthdays, celebrate holidays, get hurt, angry and make mistakes. Other characters are difficult to define, hard to control and undisciplined. As a writer those are the challenging ones. They are also the ones that keep me up at night. They don’t conform. They’re rebels and invariably they are the ones we fall in love with, because they break the rules we can’t or won’t break.
Good characters are what make you want to “keep” a book and reread it. When you open the cover of a book you’ve read before you’re connecting with the characters. Consciously or subconsciously you’re looking for something the characters have to offer; a good laugh, a good cry, suspense and drama. Maybe you want good to triumph over evil or to fall in love with the hero vicariously through the heroine. ;-)
Rereading a book is like opening a bottle of wine to share with a friend. You laugh, you cry, you cheer the characters on to their journeys end. It’s a comfortable visit, to a known destination, with good characters to share the journey.
So ask yourself, what characters do you enjoy revisiting time and time again?

Friday, January 14, 2011

Online Socializing

I’ve been filled with wonder lately and talking to several of my friends about the multitude of changes I’ve witnessed in my own short lifetime. Today I’d like to focus in on one of those changes: The amazing growth of technology.

For instance, the very first writer’s group newsletter article I wrote was about learning how to research on the internet, which gives you an idea of how long ago that was and how far technology has come since then! There was only one search engine at that time, if I remember correctly. Now I’m dating myself.

One of the problems I’ve encountered however, with today’s fast paced techno-world, is simply finding the time to keep up. Fitting these tasks into one day, every day, on top of working full time, coming home and preparing dinner, keeping up with the housework, handling the family’s finances, counseling children, husband, and other family members, writing and logging onto the internet to catch up with what’s happening around the world…whew! Well, you know what I mean? I’m certain you can all relate.

I’m totally jazzed though, about today’s new venues of socializing, but to stay in touch with everyone, I need an iPhone™ , iMac™, iPad™, iPod™, iPatch, ay, yay, yay! With multiple email addresses, Facebook™, My Space™, Twitter™, several Yahoogroups™, and a zillion various blogs to name a few, I’m exhausted before I even sit down at my computer. If I don’t check each of these frequently, I get so far behind it’s a daunting task to get caught up with who’s saying how, what, where and when. You have to stay in the loop! Right? Trust me, I’ve been out of touch for a while before and it’s a lost feeling for sure when you’re the only one not staying connected. For someone who doesn’t really like spending much time chit-chatting on the telephone, the vast information passageway of the World Wide Web can become as overwhelming and time-swallowing as a cold, deep, black, universal, worm hole.

And on top of that, I’ve committed myself to blogging too! Oh my! This part however, I admit, I’m finding a thoroughly fun adventure, and perusing the comments makes the work and time involved wonderfully rewarding. Oddly enough, scheduled blogging has also become a catalyst for inspired writing on my WIPs. Besides I love to write or I wouldn’t be here.

I also adore the internet and would be totally lost without its immeasurable knowledge base. Gosh, it doesn’t seem that long ago I was asking, “What’s the internet? What’s the World Wide Web? What are all those dot com addresses streaming across the bottom of all the commercial ads on television?” Now, if I have any kind of question, no matter what the subject, I run to the internet. Don’t you? Doesn’t everyone? What on earth did we do before? We had to drive to the library. Now I admit, I still have to go there occasionally, just because of the warm fuzzy feeling it provokes in me, but I don’t go very often any more.

So I’m wondering how everybody makes time for each of these tasks in addition to your normal routines? How do you fit surfing the internet into your day? Is that phrase outdated now? I can’t keep up? How much time do you spend online? Do you schedule your visits to the internet, or do you just sit and while away the hours? Do you limit the number of blogs you follow? Any time saving suggestions I could get would be tremendously helpful.

I’m looking forward to your comments and the possibility that someone can help me get this part of my life organized. Thanks, and until next time, I remain…

Overwhelmed but Happy in Texas,
Wendy Treitel

Thursday, January 13, 2011

My Glamorous Life

Today at 4writers, we're delighted to have talented author Sophie Oak with us. Think it's all glamor and glitz? Let's see what Sophie says... Thanks for stopping by Sophie!

I’m a writer. It’s how I make my living. When I start to talk about my profession, I usually get one of two reactions. Most people immediately tell me about the book they’re writing. Yeah, I’ve even gotten that from a waiter in a foreign country. But then sometimes I get – wow, that’s exciting. You must live an interesting life. I think Judith Krantz ruined reality for all writers. You remember back in the eighties when a network would make one of her romances into a sweeping, epic miniseries? There she would be, introducing the series herself in her designer clothes from the library of her multimillion dollar mansion, a stunning cabana boy walking around the pool outside.

Yeah – I ain’t Judith Krantz.

My glamorous morning begins with the hubby’s alarm going off. I hear it. I throw things at it, and then I swear that I’m getting up this time. I’m getting up so I can exercise. I’ll have time before the baby wakes up to go for a jog and get some word count in. I’ll do that in just a minute…

Then the baby is screaming through the monitor, and I realize that I’ve overslept.  The morning is half gone, and I need to get a move on. After changing the baby, feeding the baby, cleaning up the baby because I left the syrup way too close to her little hands, I finally get to sit down with a cup of coffee. Yes, let the ideas flow.
Except I need to update my blog, answer my e-mail, update and answer all my Facebook posts, check my calendar and crap – I forgot to pay that bill. By the time I get done with all of those fabulous tasks, it’s lunch time. This time, the baby decides she doesn’t want chicken noodle soup. Yep, I get to clean up the baby again.

The afternoon brings edits and a call from my publisher about when she can expect a new Bliss book. I assure her that after I help my teen with chemistry, yell at my middle daughter about the state of her room and watch Toy Story 3 for four hundredth time, I will get right on it.

Sometime after the hubby comes home, I finally sit down and I do, in fact, fall into that amazing, wonderful, interesting life. Words flow and before too long, it really takes shape. I tell the kiddos good night and finish up another chapter, before I get ready to sleep so I can wake up and do it all again tomorrow.

It’s not glamorous, but it’s mine and I wouldn’t change it for the world. But sometimes, like when I’m writing an erotic scene and I can’t think because Elmo is talking in the background, just sometimes, I want to punch Judith Krantz in her perfectly made up face.

Sophie Oak writes erotic romance for Siren Publishing.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Laugh Often

I have a sign on my kitchen wall that says, "Live Well, Love Much and Laugh Often". I never paid much attention to that little plaque until this weekend. Then, it struck home.
After a harrowing week of crazies, I went out with several of my girlfriends over the weekend to have dinner and a few drinks. With the help of wine, margaritas, and some frou frou drink, we ended up laughing ourselves silly. For over three hours we were completely out of control and at times bordering on hysteria. We laughed about sex toys, dogs fighting, kid’s clothes, and weird people. You’d have thought we were 16 year old girls out for the first time.
As I drove home that night, I thought why don’t we do that more often? How come we let the stupidest things in God’s creation steal our fun and our laughter? The jobs, the kids, the housework, it all robs us of who we really are. And let’s not forget the people in our lives. Sometimes it makes me want to live on an island all by myself.
Who am I kidding, I’d be nuts in a day.
Didn’t someone once say, Laughter is Good for the Soul? That proves it, even God wants us to laugh and have fun. What better fun than getting together with great friends who allow you to display your silly side without judgment?
We need to laugh more and stress less. As writers we need to recognize that life is a joke, most of the time. Why do we take ourselves so seriously? Why all the drama? And yes, wherever you have writers, you have drama. But you also have fun loving people who actually understand you.
I know, that’s scary.
I promised myself I will no longer allow small stuff and people and jobs and obligations to drive me nuts. I won’t let anything dig its claws into my time, my fun, my life or my writing. I’m going to laugh more and I’m going to appreciate the wonderful friends I have.
As women who write, let’s become better friends. Let’s smile more and crack a joke at every given opportunity. Let’s bust a gut laughing until every other person in the room turns around and gives us the stink eye for having more fun than them. Let’s not take ourselves, and others so serious.
I honestly think the sound of laughter is the most beautiful sound ever created by God or man. And we all have it. We all have the ability to laugh instead of cry, we have the creativity to look at all the crap around us and see the more humorous side.
I’m laughing out loud today, how about you?
Geri Foster

Monday, January 10, 2011

A Rogue By Any Other Name...

Words have meaning and names have power.  ~Author Unknown

I love naming characters in my novels. I pore over my myriad baby name books, scour the internet for just the perfect name, then spend hours writing or saying it while I compile the rest of that character. It sounds silly, but would you buy a book about a Viking named Bob? Even Robert the Viking doesn’t have a good ring to it.

I love good characters, ones I really bond with and enjoy whether they make me laugh or cry or raise a brow. And a name is inherent to that. I have been a romance reader for a looooong time. Really long time. I used to have a subscription to Silhouette’s Desire line and would eagerly receive my 6 books every month, devour them, then put them on the bookshelf. I also read anything Kathleen Woodiwiss or Diana Palmer put out. There were quite a few other authors I read but can’t remember (eek!) but I DO remember their characters names. And it drives me crazy because I want to find those books again to re-read them and find out if the book was really good or why it made such an impression on me.

Here’s an example (this was the mid to late-80s): the book was an historical, vaguely recall it being set on an island like Martinique, but I could be wrong. The two characters I remember are the hero Kincade or possibly Kincaid  and the heroine Chris, short for Christine. There was also a witchy woman vying for the hero’s attention who had a very sexy, Latin name, except I can’t remember that either. Any clues?
I remember Kade’s name and his general impression of a character being strong, forceful and sensual. I remember Chris being unafraid, a force of nature and not one to give in. Obviously these characters formed an impression on me, but I wonder, would they have done the same if they’d been named Bob and Jill? Probably not.

Not that there’s anything wrong with “regular” names. Edward and Jacob have proven to be phenomenal as have Harry and Ron. I just think it depends on the type of setting. For example: Brenna and Garrick. Any indicators? Any ideas what type of book those would be from? They are from Johanna Lindsey’s book Fires of Winter. She’s a Celtic captive and he’s a Viking. I haven’t read the story in many years, but it, too, stuck with me. Especially the scene where Garrick saves his young son Selig.

But I also find myself shying away from unpronounceable names, like ones with too many vowels or apostrophes or an overload of consonants. I don’t know about you, but when that happens, I have a standard set of “fill-in” names that I use. So Uyghor becomes Therrin and Sa’patke becomes Sarah. It works for me, but I do feel a twinge for the author because I’m sure they worked hard to find a name to fit their character. It’s not unlike naming your baby. Over and over again.
Photo from

So, what kind of character names do you like? Are there any you are tired of? Ones that have been over done or not done enough?

Here’s a list of my favorite names:
Ethan, Quinn, Garrick, Kincaid, Kellan, Amelia, Abigail, Catherine, Victoria, Marcus and Emily. There are tons more, but I want to hear from you!

Happy reading,

Saturday, January 8, 2011

What Makes You Pick Up A Book?

When I shop for romance books, I have tried and true methods for picking them up. First, of course, are my favorite authors – Julia Quinn, Julie Garwood, Jo Davis, Shayla Black/Shelley Bradley, Suzanne Enoch, Tracy Anne Warren, Stephanie Laurens, Susan Gable, Diana Duncan, Karen Hawkins – just to name a very few. Those are auto-buys for me and I eagerly await their new releases. I have a special calendar above my desk with upcoming releases penned in.

Beyond that, though, I pick up books first based on the cover – I’m a firm lover/believer of clinch covers. While my imagination will fill in the details and come up with my own hero and heroine as I read, I like having a head start on the cover. Bare chests and sultry women are good.

Next are titles. In historical romances, I gravitate toward books with words like royal titles (Dukes, Earls and Viscounts), knights, Templar, crusades, Scotland, etc. In contemporary books, I lean more toward the erotic and mysterious. I’m not really much on generic titles or the other spectrum of all-inclusive titles such as the Billionaire Cowboy’s Secret Baby with His Virginal Bride. Hey, it could happen. Now, some of those tags interest me, but by and large they don’t catch my eye.

I also love saucy titles such as Sarah MacLean’s Nine Rules to Break When Romancing A Rake. That was a darn good book, as are the sequels. Karen Hawkins’ phenomenal MacLean curse series also tweaks tradition tongue-in-cheek style: To Scotland, With Love, Sleepless in Scotland, The Laird Who Loved Me. Who could resist those titles? And you really MUST read those books. Wow.

Next is the back cover blurb. Those 30 seconds it takes me to read the back cover is like the trailer to a movie. Grab me, interest me and leave me with that I-have-got-to-buy-this-book feeling. Good cover/blurb writing is an art and those who excel at it do a lot to convince me to buy. Hopefully, but not always, the author does her (or his!) part and delivers an exceptional story.

After the blurb, I’ll flip open and read the first paragraph. If it doesn’t grab me, KEEP READING. I know how hard I work on my books and there’s no way I’m giving up after one paragraph. I usually will read at least the first five pages of the book because I know if I don’t like it by then, I won’t at all. Most of the time. Once or twice I have been fooled.

Those are all the usual reasons people have for picking up a book. What are some things that pull you to pick up and buy a romance novel?

What makes you pick up a book?
Happy reading,

Friday, January 7, 2011

Resolutions and Goals

Welcome one and all, and a very Happy New Year!

I am totally excited to be here and am looking forward to a healthy and prosperous year for everyone.

Today, I want to talk about New Year’s Resolutions and Goals: Two four-letter words as far as I’m concerned. I know I’m probably in the minority, but there you have it.

A few years ago, I decided to quit making resolutions because I felt like I was always setting myself up for failure. If, near to the year end, I had not followed through completely on all of my resolutions, I would beat myself up. My soul would plunge into deep depression. Guilt weighted down my shoulders and churned up acid in my stomach causing many sleepless nights.

Even though for a few years prior to my no-resolution rule, I wouldn’t carve anything into stone, I would still repeat over and over in my head phrases like, “This year I’m going to lose weight,” or, “This year I’m going to be a better person,” or, “This year I’m going to write on a more regular basis…yada, yada, yada. About half way through the year, I’d start whining (to myself of course), “Gosh, I haven’t lost enough weight,” and “I haven’t been a good enough person,” and “I haven’t written enough…” and the list goes on. You get the picture.

So now, I simply don’t make resolutions. I no longer fret over them and I’m healthier because of my decision. I’ve tried repeatedly, with the same result so I relinquish that task to the braver, stronger public. Maybe I’m doing something wrong? Perhaps I internalize my shortcomings a bit too seriously? Whatever the reason, I’ve come to terms with my personal monster and he no longer gets the best of me.

Now for that other four letter word - Goal. Ask my critique partner’s what I think about goals. They’ll laugh and tell you I don’t like those either. I can hear them snickering right now. Hush vicious girls! :)

When it comes time each year to write our goals on paper, I’m the one and only in the background groaning loudly. For some reason, to me, goals are just another way to set myself up for total mental and physical collapse. I know it’s probably silly of me to think this way, but then not everyone can explain their own behavior, what works for them and why it works, sometimes it just does.

I know this is contrary to everything everyone has heard or been taught before, but this is what works for me. Don’t get me wrong, I believe goals are an invaluable tool, and they work for most people, giving them a guide to follow for their coming year’s achievements. Heaven knows everyone makes goals, right? I guess I’m one of those unique individuals who doesn’t fit the status quo. I blame my genealogy for that one. Even though I forced myself to write something on that blank piece of paper, I try to put it out of my mind…hmm…maybe that’s how it’s supposed to work. Mind games.

Previously, I would do just as everyone else and make those darn resolutions and goals even though I hated it and it made me nauseous. However, as I age, I’m learning to listen to my own motherly mind more and more. That crazy little voice wandering around in my brain instinctively telling me what’s the right and wrong thing to do. My twisting gut, and a considerable amount of therapy, tells me not to worry about these outside pressures.

One way is not always the only way.

I now appreciate my universal intuition and like the feeling I get from taking responsibility for my own actions. If I decide not to do something, like make resolutions and goals while everyone else around me thinks I’m nuts, or the system tells me it’s the only way to accomplish success, I can accept that choice and be happy and content.

I’m amazed at how often I feel like I’m doing the right thing for me and that everything plays out better than I expect most times, especially when I get out of my own way. I do however prepare a mental list of sorts and then try to get those things accomplished. I suppose this could be considered mental goal making without the written backup. I know what I need to do to get those tasks done. When I recently went back and thought about everything I’d accomplished this last year, I was surprised and satisfied. And of course with the help of friends, and the goals everyone forces me to face, I will push myself harder this year. So off I go to lose more weight, be a better person and to write more!

So now that you know how I feel about Resolutions and Goals, what are your feelings on the subject? Do you make resolutions? Do you make goals? If you answer yes, I’d be interested to know what your process involves. If you answer no, I’d love to hear why you don’t partake in this annual ritual. I’m also curious to see if there’s anyone out there who feels like I do.

If you perform an internet search for Resolutions and Goals, over 14,000 links are out there and there’s something for everyone, so have fun browsing that subject!

Regardless of your preferences in planning your future objectives, I wish each of you a fabulous and successful New Year. I look forward to next time.

For now I remain… Sincerely Yours,
Wendy Treitel

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Fun Facts About Coffee

Today we are delighted to have the talented and fun Michelle Miles guest blogging for us today. Author of the popular Coffee House Chronicles books, Michelle is a prolific, intriguing writer. Check her out today!

Fun Facts About Coffee
By Michelle Miles

I’m so excited to be a guest of this new blog! I was excited when Jen asked me to come over and check out their new digs. It’s still shiny and new, isn’t it? I’ll try to keep the paint splatter to a minimum. ;)

I’ve been procrastinating on this blog entry for a couple of days, thinking I would come up with something witty and brilliant for a post. Something that has meat and people can sink their teeth into it. My CP gave me some brilliant ideas on the evolution of the coffee bean, different ways coffee is enjoyed around the world, and other similar things. But I couldn’t get my brain to function that way. As hard as I tried, I couldn’t come up with anything informative much less witty.

So this morning as I was driving to work, the radio station I listen to does a spot call “Did You Know?” One of the fun facts was that people who drink coffee were less likely to commit suicide than people who didn’t drink coffee. Hm, I thought. I guess that means I’m safe seeing as how I drink my allotted two cups per day. And I know my man is safe because he single-handedly keeps Starbucks in business.

Recently, I received a gift that was a set of Irish coffee mugs. I was so delighted about this, I ran out and bought a bottle of Bailey’s Irish Cream. Do you know how delicious a cup of coffee is with a healthy splash of Bailey’s? It’s to-die-for. The only I had missing on my coffee was s dollop of whipped cream (and we all know that’s not conducive to keeping a girlish figure).
Then, I perused the Intarwebs, looking for All Things Coffee. When I ran across some interesting facts. For instance: The United States is the world largest consumer of coffee followed closely by Brazil, who happens to be the largest producing country. Juan Valdez would be proud, don’t you think? The highest per capita consumption, though, occurs in Northern Europe. Those crazy Finns, Swedes and Danes love their coffee almost as much as my husband loves his Americano. The largest exporter of coffee is Italy, birthplace of the espresso, coffee bars and biscotti. The French enjoy their espresso with baguettes and croissants; the English prefer their coffee at tea time and we Americans like coffee any old time.

Now that I think about, it seems I have provided you with some information about coffee. It’s at least something you can file away in the Useless Information File for future use. You never know when you’ll need facts about coffee.
Here’s another fact about coffee. My new novella, THE COFFEE WARS, is now on sale at Cobblestone Press for $3.99. Here’s the blurb:

All's fair in love and coffee. In this war, the only thing that matters is a lot of hot steam!

Lilly owns the new up and coming, Java Perks. She’s determined to be the number one coffee house in town, crushing her competition down the street, The Bitter End.

Meeting the mystery woman in his coffee house, David immediately wants her for himself. After a hot encounter on his desk, he can’t stop thinking about her. Until he learns she’s the owner of the place trying to put him out of business.

When David confronts Lilly accusing her of using him, she throws down the gauntlet. Now the two are at war and may the best woman win!

I would love it if you’d pick up my new book today. I have a coffee habit to support after all. ;)

Michelle Miles found her love of writing buried in the fantasy books of Patricia A. McKillip and the beautiful romances of Victoria Holt. It wasn’t until her high school years she decided to take up the pen and try her hand at writing. She created faraway lands, space adventures, and even princesses who just wanted to be saved. Never learning to plot, she always believed that jumping in feet first was the way to go and has since become a self-proclaimed Pantser, writing sexy contemporaries and sizzling action/adventure.

Her contemporary Coffee House Chronicles, include TALK DIRTY TO ME and NICE GIRLS DO, which are currently available from Samhain Publishing. TAKE ME I’M YOURS, SEX LUST & MARTINIS and THE COFFEE WARS are now available through Cobblestone Press.

She resides in North Texas with her cat, her Man and her son. Visit her website at to sign up for her monthly newsletter and read her daily blog, Ye Olde Inkwell.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Motivation ... or a swift kick in the ass

Wow! Is it already 2011? Another good year to write passed me by and I did very little. Did you reach last year’s writing goal? Did you make more writing goals this year? Do you fear you will never get your WIP finished?

Well, join the club. I know exactly how you feel, think and…stall. I know because I’m one of the best procrastinators out there. I’m ashamed to say, I haven’t finished a manuscript in a very long time. However, I have started a ton of new projects. Three chapters of anything, and I’m out. At last count, I had eighteen unfinished stories.

Sound familiar?

Knowing this had to end, I spent the holidays questioning myself. Yes, I had an ugly pity party, and I was the only guest. I cried, I tried to validate my fifteen years of wasted time, and I even blamed my old computer; then my new computer. Anything but admitting I don’t want to write.

I am a lazy person who struggles to get off the couch, walk to the computer and write. Isn’t that pathetic? I want to be a writer and I want to get published, but I can’t bring myself to do the work.

Well, this year that changes. I’ve made yet another New Year resolution. I will finish a manuscript this year and I will get it out the door.

So, how am I going to do that you ask. Well, for one thing I’m going to write everyday. I’m not putting a word count to that commitment, but I will write something...hell, anything is better than a blank page.

Also, I plan to finish a book. I’m not going to stop when I get stuck. I’m not going to listen to that editor in my head that tries to convince me that I can’t write. And I’m blocking out that little weenie that sits on my shoulder and encourages me to stop writing on this WIP, and start something new and exciting.

I’m making motivation the topic of my first blog entry and I’d love to hear from you. Hey, I can use all the advice you want to offer. Tell me how you get out of a writing slump. How do you struggle to get to the finish line? What is your number one rule? How do you make that difficult leap from putting exciting words on a blank page to being published?

I look forward to hearing from you, and if you are like me, well, we can all learn together.


Geri Foster

Monday, January 3, 2011

An Awesome Gift of Time

Welcome to 2011 and a new year; a tantalizing package waiting to be unwrapped, teasing and encouraging us to life and living. As I drank my coffee on the first day of the New Year I couldn’t help wondering what adventures lay ahead. That’s when it occurred to me what an amazing gift the New Year offered; time and lots of it!
Really, think about how much time is contained in that measure we call a year; 12 months, 52 weeks, 365 days! I’m not even going into hours and minutes, I’m good with a blank calendar page. Mentally rubbing my hands together I wondered how to best use my new gift? What to do? What goals did I want to make? What dreams to chase?
That’s my favorite thing, chasing dreams (writing fiction) and now thanks to the New Year I have all these blank calendar pages! Yes, there is work to be done, but there is also fun to be had. As I sat, coffee cup in hand watching the day unfold, I thought about the current projects (unfinished stories) and how to move them to the completed file. What new ideas would pop into my head this year?
Creating a work of fiction is one of the most exciting adventures imaginable. From ‘idea’ to ‘the end’, it’s a ride with twists and turns and stalemates; sort of like a roller coaster or river rafting-no matter how many times you do it, each adventure is different. That’s what makes it exciting time and time again.
And yes, while contemplating all this “new” time I had, I got an idea for a story, really a series of stories. It’s the tiniest germ of an idea, but an amazing concept I can’t wait to explore. Of course there will be characters to develop, plotting parties, writing and rewriting. There will be information to gather and a location to find or create.
Okay, got to go, life is busy and my calendar pages are filling up quickly!
Let’s raise a glass to Auld Lang Syne, adventures and this amazing gift of time to enjoy life.

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Happy New Year!

Welcome to 2011, it’s going to be a great year!

Welcome to our brand new blog, too. Ella, Wendy, Geri and myself are tickled to be trying our hand at blogging. We don’t really have a gameplan, we just want to make it entertaining and informative. If you have questions whether as a reader or a writer, let us know and we’ll be happy to do our best to answer them.

I have been asked several times where I get my ideas from.  I love that question because my answers usually result in brow-furrowing looks of “Oh, realllly?” J You know, the kind of response that people take a step away from and surreptitiously dial the funny farm? Yep, those kinds of answers.

Okay, maybe it’s not really that bad. My ideas come from a variety of different spots. Once, I dreamed an entire book start to finish. It was a really good book. Even if it’s currently languishing in my To-Be-Revised pile! One of these days it will see the light of day.

Sometimes I will hear part of a phrase and think, hm, I wonder… My friends and family are used to seeing me suddenly have that faraway look in my eye before I start furiously digging for a pen to write down whatever it is I’ve seen. Often a factoid I hear triggers a germ of a story idea. Once, I heard that the President’s limousine carries two pints of his blood just in case. I immediately said “Oh, I could kill the President with that!” Fortunately, I have not received a visit from anyone in a suit about that statement. My immediate thought was if I could have an assassin try to get to the blood supply, switch it and then cause an accident which needed to result in an immediate transfusion – wham, instant assassination. However, I don’t write those kinds of books, so that mostly went away!

The strangest book idea I had came from an address. It was 1200 Midnight Drive. Really. I don’t remember what town, but I remembered that street address. It spawned a short ghost story involving murder, mayhem and romance. It was quite fun to write!

Other ideas are word association games, reading the dictionary (honestly! I find some good fodder just by doing that), brainstorming with my critique partners and good old fashioned brain sweating. It doesn’t always happen easily – more often than not it’s a great deal of work to create a viable idea. Then, you have to ensure the world you create is the right place for your idea and the characters the proper ones to populate it.

Sometimes a publisher sends out a call for a specific kind of story. That's where the idea for Strokes At Midnight (Amazon Kindle Store) came from. The theme was Halloween and the heat level was erotic. I came up with a twist on the classic Cinderella story with my heroine covered only in body paint and posing as a model in a living art collection. At a Halloween party. It involves some *ahem* adult themes. To give you an idea, the tagline is : An erotic short story of fantasy, fetish and forever after!

The inspiration for my book Her Dark Master (Red Sage Publishing) was actually borne from my favorite song in The Phantom of the Opera by Sir Andrew Lloyd Webber. Masquerade is full of emotion both light and dark, promise and retribution. It has genius lines and captivating music. The lyric “Paper faces on parade” was the ultimate spark. From that line, I came up with the story of Victoria Ashford, a lady of the Regency Ton who is betrothed against her will. And not to the man she loves. So, being a sort of rebellious young lady, not to mention very adventurous (after all, she writes scandalously sexy stories for an underground paper) she decides to masquerade as a courtesan and have at least one night of passion with the man she truly wants. It was great fun to write!

So, tell us, what are some of your favorite books and storylines. What do you like to read about?