Monday, July 27, 2015

Feeling Naked - No Phone

by Fran McNabb

On my way to a doctor’s appointment this morning, I realized I’d forgotten my cell phone. No
big deal, right? Wrong. I wasn’t going far, just a couple of miles, but I felt vulnerable, and yes, naked.
What would I do if I had car trouble? Flat tire? A wreck? What if I stopped at the grocery store on my way home? How would I call my husband to see if he’d thought of something else we needed?

My mind spun. I felt alone. I thought about going back to the house to get the phone, but I didn’t want to be late so I moved along with the slow flow of traffic. I arrived at the doctor’s office a few minutes early, checked in, then took my seat along with the four other people waiting for their names to be called.
The first thing I did was to reach into my purse for my phone, but alas, I remembered I didn’t have it with me. I looked at the others in the lobby, but no one acknowledged me. How could they? All of them had their heads down looking at their cell phones.
I wanted to giggle. This little waiting room wasn’t just a doctor’s lobby. It was a tiny slice of the world around us, made up of people living and working alongside of others, but most of the time isolating themselves from the masses around them.

 We’ve become a nation dependent on technology. The cell phone is just one of the pieces of technology that has become a necessary part of our lives. Is that a bad thing? Certainly not. I could write for pages about how the phone has made our lives easier, but not today. Today as I think about the waiting room, I wonder how many lives we’ve neglected to see around us because we were so engrossed in our emails, texts, and internet.

 When the nurse called my name, I picked up my purse, smiled to the young man who actually looked up when I stood. I realized if I had had my phone, I would’ve been just like them—isolated and much too involved in a tiny piece of technology to see those around me.

After my appointment, I didn’t stop at the store. I rushed home and the first thing I did was to locate my phone. I didn’t like feeling naked. I wanted to feel connected.

Fran McNabb and her husband live along the Gulf Coast where they raised their two sons. She has used the beaches, islands, and waterways in this area for many of her seven published books. When she and her husband are not boating or fishing, she loves presenting writing workshops. Visit her at and

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

To Contest or Not To Contest

In a writer’s world, contest means a competition for prizes — either of a financial, professional or industrial sense. The biggest, most prestigious contests carry huge payouts the Man Booker, Nobel  and Pulitzer are probably the best known, usually run by publishing houses or their affiliates and bookstore chains. No doubt the online booksellers will get into this act soon, if they haven’t already.

With other contests within the writing industry itself (as opposed to publishing or selling books), the prizes are less fiduciary and, consequently, less prestigious. In the mid-1970s, the BBC presented a mini-series, The Glittering Prizes which was shown on American television a few years later to wide acclaim. The series, written by Frederic Raphael,  has been lauded as “a golden age of television, when the BBC made British dramas for a British audience rather than overblown costume nonsense for international consumption” (Amazon customer review) — Upstairs, Downstairs / Downton Abbey fans take note.

Hayyim Bialik
Prizes awarded within the industry are often genre-specific: the RITA, the Agatha, the Dilys, Aurealis Award for Best Horror Novel,  The Bram Stoker; community specific: the Bernstein, the Koret, the Bialik, Edgar Lewis Wallant, Alice B Readers, Prix République du Glamour, the Orwell Prize, the Spear’s Book Award; social issues: the Bellwether; the Pinter; the William O. Douglas.
Alice B. Toklas

The Man Booker, Pulitzer etc. are judged by a particular elite group of people who may or may not reflect the thoughts and considerations of the general public. The criteria for winning such an elevated accolade are, of course, based on the author’s craftsmanship but often there is a socio-political element that must also fit the judges’ narrative or world view.

There are also the industry-related awards such as: the Publishing Innovation Award, for digital publishing; the Hugo, for magazine publishing; the Herman Voaden, for playwriting; the ABC Award, Golden Heart and the Three-Day Novel Contest for the unpublished writer.

For the writer, some of the most rewarding contests are those judged by readers, especially readers in their genre. Among the best are: the HUGOs (Science Fiction), the NERFA,(for Romance novels), the ELLA (for Romance novellas) and the RUBY for (Romance novels) — both the RUBY and ELLA are offered by Romance Writers of Australia, not to be confused with RWA (Romance Writers of America).
Romantic Times also runs reader-judged contests. Smaller contests include the NewEngland Readers’ ChoiceRomancing the Novel PublishedAuthors Contest.

Some of these are not what I call “reader-judged” because the readers are members of the writers’ organizations offering the contest. While they may also be readers, these are more peer-judged than the “real deal readers” who judge our work when they take it out of the library or buy a copy, read it and pass it along to someone they want to share it with. 

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Advice for Newlyweds From an Oldly-Wed

by Gina Ardito

This past weekend, I attended my godson's wedding. There were some lovely moments, touching toasts, and scads of applause for these two young people starting their lives together. What I didn't see or hear was anything worthwhile these newlyweds could carry into their future days. And so, here I am, pushy Aunt Gina, providing the words of wisdom I think these kids in love will need from someone who's been there.

1. Laugh. Not just when things are going right, but more importantly, when things are going wrong. Your Uncle Phil and I have taken photos of the auto mechanics who've fixed our car when we had trouble enroute to vacation spots (and yes, they're in our photo albums so we can still laugh about those incidents). We find humor in the long wait for doctors' appointments, traffic jams, doing the bills together, filing our taxes. Laughter eases stress, lowers blood pressure, and releases pleasure endorphins. Get in the habit of finding the humor in minor inconveniences now, and you'll be prepared for the more serious stress-filled moments later.

2. Touch. Hold hands, rub each other's shoulders, run a finger up and down your partner's arm. And not only as a prelude to sex. Touch when there's nothing else involved but touching. Touch while in a crowded room, in the car, while grocery shopping. Play footsie under the table during dinner in the middle of the week. Touching releases oxytocin, a happy chemical in our bodies.

3. Celebrate. Focus on good things, no matter how small. Compliment each other often--not on looks, but on qualities, actions, and how your partner makes you feel. It takes at least five compliments to appease the hurt of one careless remark. Reinforce the good at all times. 

4. Listen. Talk often, but more importantly, listen to each other. Put down the cellphone, turn off the television and have real, meaningful conversation where you focus solely on each other.

5. Say, "I love you." I know it sounds like a no-brainer, but your goal is to say it at least five times a day. Remember that five compliments thing I mentioned?  And the oxytocin and happy endorphins? Saying "I love you" releases oxytocin and happy endorphins. Saying it five times enforces the feeling when you're not together.

6. Think good things about your partner when you're apart. This way, you'll be eager to see each other again.

7. It's okay to go to bed angry. Sometimes, emotion clouds our judgment and you're both ready to see the compromise after a temporary cease-fire.

8. Share. Share your feelings, share the workload, share secrets, share yourselves.

9. Equal isn't always equal. Often, one partner will give more than the other to the relationship. As long as this giving fluctuates so it's not always one partner giving more than the other, this is actually quite fair.

10. Share common activities but also do things separately. Couples need outside interests to keep themselves from stagnating. Allow your partner to grow to enhance your relationship.

Congratulations, you two! May you rejoice in your happiness, weather your storms, and find a lifetime of love.

Friday, July 10, 2015

Struggling with Time Choices

My first novel was published by Avalon Books in 1990, which means I’ve been a published author for twenty-five years now.  What a difference twenty-five years make!
In 1990, it was simple.  I wrote the book; I sent it to Avalon; they published it.  I did a few readings and signings for each book, mostly at a local bookstore or with various groups of authors. That was it.  I got to work on the next book.
The Internet did exist then, but the World Wide Web was in its infancy. My first real online experience was with the Prodigy bulletin board. I logged in via a dial-up modem and it slowly—very slowly—downloaded content to my computer. I found some shared interest groups, including groups of authors writing mystery and romance. It was wonderful, though the slow interface limited my interaction. It still felt like an amazing thing to connect with other authors online.
Today I connect via cable modem and it’s lightning fast and always available. I belong to tons of different writers’ groups and listserves. I’ve learned a huge amount from online interactions. It’s amazing.
It’s also a nightmare. It’s the amorphous blob that swallows all my time. And I’m not even talking about the hundreds (yes, hundreds!) of emails I get each day or the temptation of so much news and information available. I’m talking about the pressure to join more groups, interact with people on Twitter and Facebook. Learn Linked In. Figure out Goodreads. Join Google +, Tumblr, Tsu, Instagram, Hologram and Phooeygram.
I can’t do it. I have a day job and family. I barely squeeze in time to write in my crowded schedule and I resent having to take some of that time to join conversations on Twitter, mostly on topics I don’t care about, or try to make sense of all those other social media sites.
I like blogging, since I’m always willing to give my opinion on any particular subject, especially if it’s one I know something about, like writing and telling stories. I use Facebook mostly for family connections and occasionally get rewarded when one of my children posts pictures of the grandkids.  I connect with other author friends there, too, and I like keeping up with what they’re doing.  But I don’t like posting too much about my own writing stuff.  I’m really not much for self-promotion.
I do a few public appearances at science fiction conventions and writers’ groups events.  In fact, as you’re reading this I’m probably at Con-gregate, a local science fiction convention. I have a great time at science fiction conventions.  They’re so much less format than mystery and romance writer conventions and I always learn a few things as well.  (And frequently come home with dragon ear-rings or a unicorn pendant – I mean where else can you get those things?)
But I think I’m going to try to relax about promoting and just do what works for me – blogging, a few appearances, some other online writer events, but mostly just try to continue to write the best books I can!


Getting To Know Us With Deborah Nolan

Yes, we all have bios on this website, but there is so much MORE to know about our Classic and Cozy bloggers. So the 2nd Friday of each month is dedicated to getting to know us better. This month I'd like to introduce you to Deborah Nolan. 

Okay, inquiring minds want to know…why a writer? Certainly not for the fame and fortune…or maybe it is?
Since I was very small I’ve made up stories, usually when I can’t get to sleep. I’m not sure why, but it could be because I was the only girl in a family of brothers. I spent a lot of time alone especially on summer vacations. Anyway, I think of myself as a storyteller more than a writer, but once I got the courage to start putting my stories on paper and sharing them, I found the process of writing even more satisfying that keeping my stories to myself.

When did you first put pen to paper (or fingers to keyboard) to create your classic and cozy characters?

I first started writing when I was home with my 10 month-old son in a town where I knew no one. My son was a good napper. I didn’t take me long to discover that it was a lot more fun and satisfying to write than to clean.

Do you have a set writing schedule?
Unfortunately I do not have a set schedule. I’m a major procrastinator. The good news is that I’m in and have been part of a critique group for almost as long as I’ve been writing. We try to meet every other week and that deadline is what I use to get each chapter done.

Is there a certain routine, food/drink, or location that summons forth the muses for you?

I don’t have a set routine for writing. In fact, I can write almost any place. I’ve even written chapters on scraps of paper when I’ve been stuck someplace and have nothing to read. I think it’s that part of me that tells stories when there is nothing else going on or can’t sleep. One of my most productive places to write is on the train from Hudson to NYC—as long as there isn’t a chatter on the seat behind me.

What do you like to do when you’re not writing?
Besides writing, I cook, paint, go to art museums and enjoy the outdoors. It’s why I like to play golf, kayak or take long walks. I also love parties.

I imagine you’ve been reading all of your life (all great writers have.) What was your favorite book as a child?

My favorite book as a child was Heidi. When I was a bit older I discovered Theater Shoes by Noel Streatfeild. I still have that book.

Do you re-read books? If so, which one have you re-read the most?

I usually don’t reread books but I make an exception with Theater Shoes and Pride and Prejudice though I may have read To Kill a Mockingbird the most.

But there’s more to life than reading, writing (and arithmetic)…what is your most memorable adventure in your life?
My most memorable adventure! That’s a great question. Believe it or not I think trying my first case. I don’t think of myself as a litigator and certainly don’t have that personality but I discovered that because I’m a good listener and observer that I am very good at cross-examination. That first trial taught me that there is more than one way to do things and that I should always trust my instincts. I know most of the world would not think of law school and practicing law as an adventure, but for me, representing children in abuse and neglect cases (which is what I do) has been an unexpectedly rewarding and satisfying adventure.

If you were on American Idol, what song would you sing to WOW! the judges?

"I Hope Dance" by Lee Ann Womack. The song has meaning to me—it’s what I wanted to sing when my son graduated from high school and then college. It’s taken him a while but he’s finally out there on the dance floor. I ‘d sing it on American Idol because I’d be able to bring all my hopes and fears into the song and give it heart.

What are you currently working on? What can we readers look forward to seeing from you?

I’m working on a sequel to Suddenly Lily—so far my most popular book. I’m only about 50 pages into Angela’s Story, but have recently figured out where I’m going so I’m hopeful that I can finish it this year. I’ve a completed book, Athens, which I’m presently pitching. I hope my readers will be seeing that soon!

Last question…movie rights…who’ll play your current main characters when Hollywood comes knocking on your door?

Although Angela is a 55 year-old Italian American she’s fair with light hair. I see Julia Roberts playing her and George Clooney playing Joey, the man in her life. Her son Michael might be played by Bradley Cooper and Amy Adams would be Lily.

Deborah Nolan blogs on the 29th of every month right here at ClassicandCozy.


Author of SUDDENLY LILY and CONFLICT OF INTEREST originally published by Avalon and reissued by Montlake. SECOND ACT FOR CARRY ARMSTRONG published by Desert Breeze Publishing.

Thursday, July 9, 2015

Why I Read Reviews

Reviews are Everywhere

There are product reviews from apples to zoos and everything in between. I never book a trip without reading hotel reviews on Trip Advisor. I look for clean, a friendly staff, and a good location to the sites I want to visit. Not everyone judges a hotel by the same standards. I have read reviews, both good and bad that have affected my decision. Some are more descriptive than others and definitely get the point across. One hotel reviewer complained of pubic hair in the tub, but had only nice things to say about the hotel. That was enough for me to take it off my list.

The same can be said about book reviews - Not everyone judges a book by the same standards. I may write romance, but I read all genres. I don't expect to find a romance in every book I read.

RWA STAT of the Week

2014 Romance Book Buyer Report | Nielsen and RWA
While one in four [survey] respondents state that they are not influenced by review sources at all, for those who are influenced, Amazon rating/reviews is by far the most prevalent (46%), with no other source mentioned by more than 10% of buyers.

I consider myself part of that 46% who read Amazon reviews. Like the participants in the survey, the story is the number one reason I choose a book.  I like a review that gives a good summary of the story and tells me something about the characters or location. Sometimes, the author's description is not enough. I have no problem with spoilers as long as the reviewer lets me know right away that the review contains a spoiler. It's my decision if I want to read further. I most likely will.

Some readers are bothered by typos and grammar and will let you know in their review. I usually skip those reviews. I don't read as an editor, I read as a reader.  Even the best known authors will have the occasional typo.  Again, I want to know about story and characters when I read a review. 

I definitely don't like nasty reviews or reviews that don't have at least one nice thing to say.  Really... how bad can the book be? Did you like the cover at least?

I've read reviews where the reviewer states right away that she doesn't normally read this genre. She went on to say that she couldn't get in to the story and that's why she gave it a 1 star review. Why even bother?

The number of reviews doesn't impress me. I have found some really good books with only a few reviews. 

Keep reading and if you write reviews be kind. 

Saturday, July 4, 2015

Talk Patriotism To Me

by Victoria M. Johnson

I am wildly patriotic and I always enjoy meeting others who are, too.  Upon discovering our commonality, we'll exchange stories of how this brings us to tears or that fills us with jubilation.  Quite often it's the same things that affect us so deeply and instigates powerful emotions.  Those things are words.  Not just any words, but patriotic words.  

Talk Patriotism to Me by Victoria M. Johnson
photo by Neringa Bryant

Where are these words?
They're in patriotic speeches, national monuments, historic documents, museum exhibits, TV commercials, movies, books, poems, and in songs.  Basically, they're everywhere.  I can be having a perfectly perfect time at an event and hear the National Anthem and get all choked up.  I know to bring tissue to visit national monuments.  Seeing and reading the actual Declaration of Independence in the National Archives or the words in Emma Lazarus' sonnet at the base of the Statue of Liberty and I'm a mess.  I believe in those words.
Talk Patriotism to Me, a Classic & Cozy post

What are those words?
At the Lincoln Memorial, I was in awe of the compelling words all over the interior, including:
" Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent a new nation, conceived in Liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal... that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom—and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth."  These words fire me up.  They give me goosebumps.

In the movie National Treasure: Book of Secrets (I loved both films and can't wait to see the third) the lead characters and story are as patriotic as they come:
Ben Gates: "...And because you're the President of the United States, sir. Whether by innate character or the oath you took to defend the Constitution or the weight of history that falls upon you, I believe you to be an honorable man, sir."
US President: "Gates, people don't believe that stuff anymore."
Ben Gates: "They want to believe it."

Oh, we do, we do!  Patriotic dialogue is sure to put a lump in my throat.  Is anyone else out there moved by hearing the real President give his inaugural speech and annual address to the nation?  Anyone need a hanky upon hearing The Star Spangled Banner while watching the Olympics?  You know what?  Patriotism is a turn-on.  Whatever country you call home, I hope you love it, appreciate it, and help care for it.

romance author Victoria M. Johnson
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, (A 2012 Bookseller’s Best double finalist).  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 for inspiration and tips and find her Amazon author page or connect with her on Pinterest and Twitter.  

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Colorado, Small Swords, HNS and Elizabeth Peters

by Janis Susan May/Janis Patterson

Greetings from the beautiful state of Colorado! Now you’re probably wondering what a dedicated flat-lander Texas girl like me is doing high up in the mountains. Well, right now I’m having fun.

Seriously, the reason we (The Husband and I) came up to Denver was to attend the Historical Novel Society conference. It’s the first time I’ve ever been to one of these conferences, so I didn’t know what to expect, but when I was invited to speak I had to go – especially since the panel was on Egyptology (one of my main interests, as you  know) and Elizabeth Peters (who was not only one of my favorite authors but a treasured friend.)

Actually, I felt sort of a cheat being there as a conferee let alone a speaker, as so few of my books are historical by any stretch of the imagination – a handful of Victorian gothics, a time travel to Ancient Egypt, a few traditional Regencies, a mystery set right after WWI. I mean, these people are the ones who write stories about medieval royalty and Minoan mysteries and how to do historical research and the problems of linguistics. I felt totally overwhelmed.

I was on a panel with Bill Chirf, Libby Hawker and Lindsay Davis – all proven and respected historical novelists. And me. We had sort of informally split the subject up – Bill took Elizabeth Peters’ (also known as Dr. Barbara Mertz and Barbara Michaels) early life and the attitudes of the times; I took her career from the sale of her first book (a non-fiction Egyptology book called TOMBS, TEMPLES AND HIEROGLYPHS) through her career as a best-selling multi-genre novelist and on to her much-regretted passing in 2013. Libby analyzed how her success affected the market for Egyptian fiction, which was fascinating – even a devotee such as I didn’t realize how she had made it soar. Finally, Lindsay talked about the problems of research. We had a pretty good crowd and some very interesting questions afterward, but what really impressed me was how many people came up to me from the end of the workshop to the close of the conference to tell me how much they liked my presentation. Boy, that felt good!

One fun thing we did was take David Blixt’s Rapier, Short Sword and Dagger workshop. He also did a broadsword workshop, but those things are heavy, and this was very much a hands-on workshop. You do not know what fear is until you are in a fairly small meeting room with about 40 amateurs armed with short swords, rapiers and daggers! We advanced, we fell back, we did forward and back passos (that’s what it sounded like) all the while thrusting and parrying. For some strange reason (because it was an historical conference, perhaps?) I had worn a skirt. A long skirt. I had forgotten how difficult and uncomfortable those things were to wear. Also, to ‘fight’ we in sandals had to remove them and fight barefoot. Unfortunately, The Husband and I were in the same sessions – not everyone could participate at once – so he couldn’t take pictures of me dueling barefoot in a long skirt. Maybe that’s a good thing. David, however, was an excellent teacher (and a bear about safety) so the workshop was a joy.

One thing that was not a joy was the booksigning. There were close to 100 authors by my estimation who were in the signing. The entire second floor atrium of the hotel was lined with tables and authors with big smiles and pens at the ready. The keynote speaker was Diana Gabaldon, of OUTLANDER fame. The booksigning had been advertised locally and we were told a good crowd was expected. And a good crowd came. Miss Gabaldon’s table was set aside at the other end of the room from the rest of us, which was not a bad idea as the aisles were narrow. Except – when the crowd came, they lined up to get to Miss Gabaldon’s table, got their book signed and then left. Very few even glanced at the hundred or so other authors. The most books I heard of being sold by an author other than Miss Gabaldon was four. Four! There was a lot of mutterings and gripings among the authors that a woman who has sold at least a bazillion books was syphoning off potential sales from the rest of us. Sour grapes? Probably, but still very true. It did leave a bad taste in a lot of mouths.

However, the conference ended Sunday at noon, and here we are still in Colorado until the end of the week. It’s called being a tourist. The Husband and I decided it was ridiculous to come all the way to Denver from Dallas just for two and a half days, so after the conference was over we moved down to Colorado Springs. Yesterday we spent at the Garden of the Gods. The Husband had never seen it, and I had only been there once years ago – back when I was a girl in high school.

Wow! Is that a fantastic place. Great shards of rock sticking straight out of the earth. Gargoyle figures sculpted by Nature itself. Rocks the size of a hamlet. All incredibly beautiful. We had planned to spend the morning there and then go on to a mine tour in the afternoon, but at 6:30 we were still in the park. Thinking solely of the conference, I had not brought my camera, but The Husband – a photo-holic – had his, and spent most of the day climbing over rocks and up trails taking pictures. I don’t climb well, so I sat a lot and enjoyed the scenery. It was one of the best days I’ve spent.

We’ve spent hours driving around, exploring the little towns both known and obscure. And shopping. Don’t forget shopping. I have some lovely t-shirts to wear when I want to feel a little bit of Colorado.

And plots. I’ve made notes (skeletal, to be sure, but still viable) on no fewer than three new books. As if I needed more plots. I’m already backed up over four books worth. I need more time, not plots!

But not just yet. Tomorrow we are going to make the mine tour, and perhaps a silver shop and take a look at the Royal Gorge and perhaps the dinosaur museum and… Who knows? Carpe diem, especially when in glorious Colorado.