Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Conference Time

by Fran McNabb

After a lot of soul-searching, financial probing, and writing needs, I decided to once again attend RWA’s National Conference this year in Orlando. I’ve been attending nationals since 2001 or 2002 when I went to my first one as a new non-published RWA member in New Orleans. I was like a kid in a candy store. I wanted to see and to experience everything—and tried to!

I went to as many workshops as I could fit into my day, took copious notes, and talked to as many other writers as I could. By the end of the day I was exhausted, and by the time I drove home I collapsed. It took days for me to recuperate.

As a published author with many local, regional and national conferences under my belt, I now consider myself a seasoned conference attendee. My expectations are totally different. I have volunteered to help during the conference. What better way to meet new people. I will still attend as many workshops as I can, but I’ll be more selective. My goal now is to work on marketing and career info. I might drop into some craft workshops as well because I think we are never too old or too experienced to learn something new. If I can take away one bit of new information from a workshop I feel I’ve used my time wisely. Sometimes just being reminded of things we know we should be doing as a writer is as important as the new info we get.

When I’m asked to give recommendations to new writers, I always tell them to attend as many writing conferences and workshops as possible. Learning is never complete. 
If you're going to RWA this year and it's your first conference, plan for an exciting, educational few days. Wear comfortable shoes, dress in layers, plan your days so you can have downtime, attend workshops that will best fill your needs as a writer, but most of all have fun.

I look forward to a great time in Orlando. If you see me, please stop and say hello.

FRAN MCNABB grew up along the Gulf Coast and uses that setting in many of her novels. She writes tender romances and presently has eight available through most major outlets. She and her husband live on a quiet bayou harbor and enjoy boating, fishing, and visiting the local islands. Writing, painting, and spending time with grandsons fill the rest of her days. Visit her at www.FranMcNabb.com  or contact her at mcnabbf@bellsouth.net. She loves to hear from her readers.

Saturday, July 8, 2017

The Freedom to Write

By Karen McCullough

I’m writing this on July 4th, the day the U.S. celebrates as Independence Day, which started me meditating on freedom and what that means to an author. There are so many layers to the topic I barely know where to start, though, just as freedom itself can be a sticky issue involving questions of individual liberty versus responsibility to others.

I suppose on the broadest possible level, my brain can come up with anything at all to write about. And at an only slightly narrower level, legally I can write pretty much anything I want.  I’m fortunate to live in a country where I have broad leeway to do and say what I want with significant legal protections for my right to say things. I know there are places in the world where that isn’t true.

That said, there are still some constraints. Ugly legal consequences are likely to ensue if I decide to write something that slanders or libels others, plagiarizes someone else, or violates trademarks, etc. Those should be repugnant for an ethical author in any case.

The next level would be standards of good taste that one violates at one’s own risk. There are things I simply won’t write about it. I’m not going into detail because others won’t necessarily agree with my limits, and some people can write well about sensitive topics that I wouldn’t dare tackle. This is also a moving target. Fifty years ago four-letter words and anything hotter than a chaste kiss were verboten in romance novels. Now frank language is the norm and details of sex acts are pretty much expected unless the book is characterized as “sweet.”

And then there’s the practical level, the one that comes down to decisions about marketability, viability, and career-building. At its most basic it’s about the realities of the publishing industry today, and this is the one where I struggle. The way things stand today, whether you’re published by a company big or small or even self-publishing, you’re most likely road to success is to find a niche and fill it as best you can.

And that’s something I’ve never been able to do. My restless imagination chases ideas through a number of different genres and subgenres, returning with story ideas that rarely fit well into any single category or series. I’ve been published in mystery, romance, fantasy, romantic suspense, and paranormal. 

I have one mystery series that lost its publisher after the first one when Five Star/Cengage cut its mystery line. The second one had been written and accepted editorially at the time of the purge, and I’ve since self-published it. Harlequin picked it up (as it hard the first one) and will do a mass market paperback for the Worldwide Mystery Library. And I’m now in the process of writing the third in the series. So far sales aren’t blowing the roof off, but I’m just happy that I actually have some.

So I’ve exercised my right to write whatever I want, and the market has exercised its right to shrug and mostly ignore me. That’s the way it goes.

If you'd like to check out all the different books I've published over the years and their assorted genres, come visit my website at http://www.kmccullough.com

Thursday, July 6, 2017

Holidays, Choices and Freedom

 by Janis Susan May/Janis Patterson

Okay, today I’m going to be a little serious today, because this is a subject on which I am passionate. Don’t worry – I’ll go back to writing and other frivolities next month.

July 1st was Canada Day. July 4th (day before yesterday) was America’s beloved celebration of Independence. July 14th will be France’s Bastille Day, recognized as the beginning of the Revolution against the tyranny of the Bourbon royal house.

I have always wondered why the celebrations of the freedom and sovereignty of three great nations had to fall in the hottest and most uncomfortable month of the year. Anywhere in the Northern Hemisphere you can pretty much count on July being miserable. However, that’s neither here nor there and completely beyond my pay grade.

We must look beyond the physical discomfort and revel in the ideals behind the celebrations. Oh, I know everyone loves the fireworks and parades and picnics and all the other trappings of the holiday, but let’s be honest – anyone can hold a parade or set up a fireworks show just about any time of the year. What is important is the idea behind these three monumental holidays, and this should be important to everyone no matter their political allegiance. Some things go beyond politics.

Freedom. Or, if you prefer, liberty. The right of the people to rule themselves without bowing to the dictates of a single group or another country. The right of the people to choose their own path. The ideal that every man has – within the limits of fair and equitable laws – the right to live his own life as he sees fit. The right of every man to determine his own destiny by his own work and ability. The right of self-reliance and the right to keep what you earn. The right of the pursuit of happiness.

Sometimes each of these countries has fallen a bit short on each of these rights, none of which are guarantees. Every generation has to win these rights again, for as President Reagan said, “Freedom is always only one generation away from extinction.” (And I’m paraphrasing here, but that’s the gist of his statement.) Someone else said that the Tree of Liberty must be watered with the blood of Patriots. I find that incredibly sad, but it’s also incredibly true.

I hope each and every one of you had or will have a simply splendid holiday, with friends and food and fireworks and all good things, but I also hope than during this day of celebration and all the days that follow you remember the reason for celebrating. And give a moment of thought to those who died to preserve your freedom to go your own way and make your own choices.

If I can leave you with one thought, it would be (as so many truths are) from Benjamin Franklin. It comes from a letter he wrote to the Pennsylvania Assembly; many versions of the words exist, but the thought is always the same : “Those who would give up essential Liberty, to purchase a little temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety.”

Even as you celebrate, make your choices well.

Tuesday, July 4, 2017


My husband, daughter and I recently stayed at a B&B on Nantucket.  On our first morning, the owner asked the twelve of us at breakfast a question:  If you could have a conversation with anyone, alive or dead, who would it be? 

I avoided answering because the question seemed so personal.  I didn’t know this woman and had just met the others.  No matter whom I picked, I was afraid my answer would be too revealing.  I’m sure that says something significant about me, but that’s not my point here. Nor will I address why I feel comfortable now answering this question in my blog that could, theoretically, reach more people.

My first thought, if I had answered, was to say I’d like to talk to my mother. She died when I was in my forties before my children became adults and before I’d become the person I am now. She was not easy to talk to and the number of real conversations the two of us had could be counted on the fingers of one hand with several left over. I like to think with more years of life behind me that I’d be able to talk to her now and push past her defenses and get real without her shutting me down. 

But if I had answered that morning I wouldn’t have said my mother.  Instead I’d pick a writer who I admire.  My first thought was Jane Austen because I have read all her books and love every one. But I think the times she lived in are so different than ours that we would not have the same concerns. In addition, because she never had a husband or children she never had to juggle work, children and a spouse or justify occasionally putting herself first.

On the other hand, Ann Tyler, another favorite author, is alive and does have a family. I love how she turns domestic stories into brilliant character studies.  Because I’ve read most of her books, I’m not sure I’d need to ask her any specific questions.  Instead, I’d like to hang out, have lunch, coffee or a glass of wine and chat.  That way I’d find out if she’s a lot different than I am or more like my friends and I with the extra dash of genius that produced such novels as The Accidental Tourist and Dinner at the Homesick Restaurant.

I’d also pick her because she’s a woman.  It seems so many male writers have big egos, assistants and attitude.  I don’t think they would let their hair down or forget that they’re famous and part of the literati as easily as a female writer.  In sum, I don’t imagine they’d be that much fun to spend time with over a drink. 

But mostly Ann Tyler would be my choice because of an essay she wrote about having to schedule her writing time around her children’s activities.  In the essay she described how she’d put away a manuscript to go to her child’s athletic event.  As a woman and a mother, I can so relate to that.  I don’t see a male writer interrupting his afternoon of writing to catch his daughter or son’s soccer game though maybe I’m being harsh and hasty in casting aspersions.

Most significantly though I’d pick Ann Tyler because the last conversation I had with my mother was about one of Ann Tyler’s books, Breathing Lessons.  My mother thought the book was funny.  I read it later, after she died, and didn’t find it funny at all.  But I like to think that talking about it and why we had such different reactions could be a starting point for us.

I wonder how others would answer the question: who would you want to talk to, alive or dead?  Would it be an historical figure?  An ancestor, or would you also go for someone who you could relate to and learn from?  

Saturday, July 1, 2017

Surprising & Delicious Ways to Cook Bacon

by Victoria M. Johnson

Nothing makes a breakfast beautiful like bacon.  But bacon aficionados have conjured up some creative ideas to enjoy bacon for lunch, dinner, and even dessert.  If you believe everything tastes better with bacon, then you'll love the recipes and tips for cooking bacon below.  If you despise bacon for the mess it makes in your kitchen, read on.  You'll learn cleaner, more interesting methods to cook it.

If you're a crock pot enthusiast, check out these recipes such as Bacon Barbeque Chicken Sliders, Bacon Quiche, or Crock Pot Breakfast Casserole. 

Is grilling your thing?  Whether you prefer the small indoor electric grill or an outdoor grill, here are some savory recipes to try: Foods to Grill Wrapped With Bacon.  And here are the steps for basic bacon skewers

The most common methods to cook bacon are the stovetop, the oven or the microwave.  See the techniques to use for each.  How To Cook Bacon: Three Easy Methods

Some people use other appliances to cook their bacon such as a waffle iron, wok, and a smoker.  Here's how they do it: 14 Surprising& Easy Ways To Cook Perfect Bacon!

and Brie, Bacon and Basil Pasta.

One of my favorite dessert recipes is this one for Bourbon Bacon Maple Cupcakes. But I wouldn't turn down these Gluten-Free Bacon Chocolate Chip Oatmeal Cookies. And if you're in the mood for something sinfully gooey, try this Easy Sticky Buns with Bacon recipe.

There are four ingredients I love that are each included in this four-word recipe: Bacon Stout Chocolate Cheesecake. The topping for this cheesecake is beer-candied bacon, which makes for a great snack on its own.

As you might have guessed, I'm one who regards bacon as one of the four basic food groups.  It's an essential ingredient for a happy day.  Do you have a favorite way to serve bacon?  Let us know in the comments below.

Victoria M. Johnson knew by the time she was ten that she wanted to be a writer.  She loves telling stories and she's happiest when creating new characters and new plots.  Avalon Books and Montlake Romance published Victoria's fiction debut, The Doctor’s Dilemma.  Her other fiction book is a collection of romance short stories titled, The Substitute Bride and a novella, Hot Hawaiian Christmas. She is also the writer and director of four short films and two micro documentaries.   Visit Victoria's website at http://VictoriaMJohnson.com for inspiration and tips and find her Amazon author page or connect with her on Pinterest and Twitter.


Tuesday, June 27, 2017

What's in an Ending?

Some of us write in a kind of stream of consciousness way. Some of us plot. Some of us outline. Some of us have an idea that writes itself.

We all must find a way of coming to an end: one that is appropriate, comes at the right time, is both logical and emotional so that the reader puts the book down with a feeling of satisfaction.

None of us want to hear that our ending was disappointing, unless that disappointment is because they wanted the story to go on and on.

One of the most iconic endings was written in a novel published on June 30, 1936 and very quickly became the most quoted ending for decades to come at the end of a novel 1037 pages long.

“After all, tomorrow is another day.” (Gone with the Wind)

This is the only ending completely suitable for this book, because the readers know this heroine very, very well and are assured that yes, one day, she will get him back.

However, this open, promissory ending has the drawback of inviting others to continue the story to suit their own wishes. The Margaret Mitchell Trust has only ever authorized one sequel, Rhett’s People, but all potential sequels pale in comparison to MM’s achievement.

Many of the best endings are in the classics, both modern and ancients. Here is the ending of one of my favorite books by American author, Anne Tyler:

“…She was frantically waving down taxis—first the one ahead, then Macon’s own. ‘Arrêtez!’ Macon dried to the driver. The taxi lurched to a halt. A sudden flash of sunlight hit the windshield, and spangles flew across the glass. The spangles were old water spots, or maybe the markings of leaves, but for a moment Macon thought they were something else. They were so bright and festive, for a moment he thought they were confetti.” (The Accidental Tourist)

And the ending by a much-acclaimed author, Gabriel Garcia Márquez:

“Florentino Ariza had kept his answer ready for fifty-three years, seven months, and eleven days and nights.

“‘Forever,’ he said.” (Love in the Time of Cholera)

Some endings intentionally leave you wanting more, particularly if they are part of a series but cliff-hanger ending are best left to chapters in a single book, not a series that requires a purchase—being left in the lurch or forced to buy is not necessarily pleasant.

As in Gone with the Wind, a novel that ends leaving us wanting the story to go on can lead to “fan fiction.” Whether that is a good thing is a matter of personal choice and taste.

If for any reason, an ending cannot be found that is satisfactory, some writers (and script writers as well) used the epilogue. Like the prologue, the epilogue serves a purpose—the device can cut off any further speculation in the same way that a prologue sets the stage before the story begins. These address backstory and closure but, as Elmore Leonard said,

“Avoid prologues.” (10 Rules of Writing)

I extend that admonition to ‘Avoid epilogues’ as well. If we’re writing a series (or think a book may become a series), an ending can keep that door open as well as close the chapter on that particular story without leaving us with the sensation something is missing.

Or an ending, a final sentence or paragraph
·      Ties everything up
·      Brings all the pieces together
·      Clears up the mystery
·      Identifies the culprit
·      Puts all characters at peace
·      Or leaves all possibilities on the table.

Although the total of the reading experience is the ultimate determinant, we still want the final word to linger and resonate, not as an ending, a finality, but as a promise of forever, hope.