Get Your Short Shorts Ready

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Even though fall is here, it's time to break out the Short Shorts. That's short shorts as in Short Short Stories for the
11th Annual Writer’s Digest Short Short Story Competition.

Requirements

Word count: 1,500 or less.

Deadline: December 1, 2010.

Grand-Prize: $3,000 (that’s $2—or more—per word).

Other Prizes: 1st- through 25th-place will be printed in the 11th Annual Writer’s Digest Short Short Story Competition Collection.

Takeaway Truth

The contest is open now so cruise over there for more information or to enter online.

Meet Marilyn Brant

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Every woman remembers her firsts: her first kiss, her first lover and her first time contemplating an affair. At least, that's the premise of Friday Mornings at Nine, a new novel by award-winning fiction writer Marilyn Brant.

This morning, we have the pleasure of visiting with Marilyn who has been a classroom teacher, a library staff member, a freelance writer and a national book reviewer. She lives in a Chicago suburb with her husband and son, surrounded by towers of books that often threaten to topple over and crush her.

Marilyn's novels have won the Golden Heart Award, Single Titles Reviewers' Choice Award and Booksellers' Best Award, and they've been selected for the Doubleday Book Club and the Book-of-the-Month Club. Marilyn tells me that when she's not working on her next story, she likes to travel, listen to music and find new desserts to taste test.

Hey, she's a girl we can all identify with — especially that dessert part. Be sure and drop by her blog or website to visit sometime soon. If you'd like email her, send mail to: marilynbrant AT gmail DOT com.

Book Info

Before we pop over to the Windy City for a chat, let me give you her book info because I know you'll want to get a copy.

Book Title: Friday Mornings at Nine
by Marilyn Brant
ISBN: 978-0-7582-3462-9
Publisher: Kensington
Available: B&N and other book sellers

Inquiring Minds Want To Know

Joan: Let's start with a fun question to break the ice. Which celebrity is your guilty pleasure, the person you just have to read a gossip tidbit about? Why?

Marilyn: I've always liked Jensen Ackles from "Supernatural." He doesn't inspire the same degree of celebrity gossip as, say, Robert Pattinson or Johnny Depp (who are fascinating to read about, too!), but I find Jensen's character on the show to be skillfully portrayed and it's made me curious to see him in other roles.

Joan: While we're talking about guilty pleasures, tell us if you have a fave TV show that you just can't stand to miss? What about it draws you?

Marilyn: There are a lot of shows I like, but the first one that came to mind was "Castle." I think that's largely on account of Nathan Fillion and the banter/on-screen chemistry between him and the Kate Beckett character. Plus, with the lead character being a novelist, it's such fun to watch these fantastical portrayals of the writing life — which do not remotely resemble the typical writer's reality! I love seeing what special perks Richard Castle gets or what wild cocktail parties they have him attending, etc.

Joan: A lot of people say they're going to write a book one of these days, as if time were the only element required to complete the task. Of course, you and I know there's a lot more to it than that. Why don't you tell us how long you've been working at your craft and something about your first published book, the journey from the idea that you wanted to write a book to finally writing one for which you received a publishing contract.

Marilyn: I wrote songs and poems and little stories in elementary school, worked on the school newspaper and yearbook staff in high school, etc., but I didn’t take writing seriously until I was about 30. I was a stay-at-home mom/former teacher with a baby and in desperate need of a creative outlet, so I began writing poems again, essays on being a parent and educational articles for family magazines. A surprising number of these were published, but I’d gotten so many rejections, too, that I was beginning to get desensitized to them.

I began my first novel in 2000, having never taken a creative-writing class or even having read a book on the craft of fiction. (The lack of craft is very evident when I reread chapters from that first book, by the way! I don’t recommend this level of ignorance.) I got some feedback, though — mostly negative — from a prominent literary agency, which led me to study fiction formally, delve into craft books and, eventually, go to my first writing conference and join Romance Writers of America.

I wrote 3 more unpublished manuscripts and, then, came up with the idea for According to Jane. An agent signed me on this book and submitted it to editors, but it needed to be significantly restructured before it sold. Nine months after it had won the Golden Heart Award (RWA's highest award for unpublished fiction), and I'd revised the book yet again, it sold to the Editor-in-Chief of Kensington Books on an extremely exciting day in April 2008.

Joan: The book, about which we're talking today, was what number book for you? 1st, 3rd, 7th?

Marilyn: Friday Mornings at Nine is my 2nd published novel, but my 7th completed manuscript. (I've written five books that have never been published. Two of them never, ever should be!)

Joan: Tell us something about the book from its inception to its birth. How did you come up with the title, and do you have a 1 sentence blurb or log line to tease readers? What do you think accounts for the popularity of your book?

Marilyn: The one-sentence blurb: "Friday Mornings at Nine is the story of three forty-something moms who begin to wonder if they married the wrong man...and what would happen if, just once, they gave into temptation with another...."

Coming up with the teaser was easy. Coming up with the title was a process that took months. The book actually had several different titles before my editor settled on this one.

As for the popularity of the story, I know a lot of woman of all different ages and backgrounds, and many of them would consider themselves happily married. Even so, there are very few women I've spoken with in private who did not admit that they'd wondered — at some point in their marriages — what would have happened if they'd chosen a different spouse. In some cases, they were haunted by the "what ifs" of an ex-boyfriend.

In others, it was someone new who brought out a different side of them, or paid attention to them in a way their husbands did not. In all cases, they were forced to reevaluate who they were and what they wanted. So, in my book, I really tried to show my characters going through the process of examining their lives and making a conscious choice as to where they were headed next — and with whom.

Joan: If they made a movie of this book, and that's a real possibility, who would you cast to portray the characters?

Marilyn: I'd love to see this onscreen. I imagine someone like Kate Winslet for Bridget, Calista Flockhart for Jennifer and Kim Cattrall for Tamara. Definitely a cast I'd enjoy seeing together!

Joan: We know this business is rife with rejection. Sometimes, it's hard to take. What keeps you going when you get rejected?

Marilyn: Oh, I get disappointed just like everyone, but good friends or close family members never fail to raise my spirits. I think, too, having been doing this for a decade now, I know everything happens in cycles. A genre that wouldn't sell five years ago can suddenly be the hottest thing on the market now. Editors or agents who said, "No, thanks," to working with you on a project can and do change their minds when an idea comes along that they love. There's a lot of doors closing but windows opening in this industry.

Joan: What's your favorite "oh crap I got a rejection" food and/or drink to soothe the savaged ego?

Marilyn: All forms of chocolate. And lots of it.

Joan: Who are your writing influences?

Marilyn: Aside from a lifelong love of classic Jane Austen, I really enjoyed the domestic dramas of Sue Miller, Anne Tyler and Elizabeth Berg, as well as the lighter touch of Pamela Redmond Satran, Susan Elizabeth Phillips, Jennifer Crusie, Susan Wiggs and Jane Porter.

Joan: What are you working on now?

Marilyn: I just finished my 3rd novel, which will be out next fall. The title is still up for debate, but it's kind of a modern "A Room with a View" story. This woman gets a summer trip to Europe as a 30th birthday gift from her eccentric aunt and, so, leaves her comfort zone to travel from Italy to England with the members of her aunt's Sudoku and Mahjong club. There, she inevitably meets someone very interesting (and attractive!) and eats a lot of gelato and linguini. And I just want to emphasize that the inclusion of these food items was absolutely necessary to the plot. MAJOR turning points happened as a result of my heroine devouring these things. And the fact that I had to eat them while I was writing these KEY scenes was equally necessary...so I could get, you know, the tastes and textures just right. I'm all about the authenticity.

Joan: Oh, I would have been delighted to help out with the eating — especially the gelato. Turning my attention from my stomach to writing though. . . . What's the best thing about writing?

Marilyn: Getting to do something creative every single day. Truly, that’s been such a gift. Even when the plotting of a scene is giving me fits or the synopsis doesn’t seem to make sense at all… I love knowing that I have a place to play with these characters and storylines. My hope is that by writing about women’s dreams and experiences as honestly as possible, I might get closer to helping readers recognize truths about their own lives. It was this sense of recognition that my favorite novelists gave to me, and I'll always be grateful for that.

Joan: What's the worst thing about writing?

Marilyn: For me, it's the difficulty in maintaining a healthy balance between all of the different expectations put on a writer within the industry and the life the writer is supposed to live outside of it.

In the writing world, I'm juggling the promotion of one novel, the copy edits of another, the drafting of a third, the design/updating of my blog and website, newsletters, speaking engagements, writing loops/Facebook/Twitter and reader emails.

In my home life, I'm still supposed to magically make dinner, shop for necessities, clean on occasion (ha!), keep up with my son's school/extracurricular/social life, stay in touch with friends, help care for aging family members, handle all the bills, and exercise once in a while... I never feel as though I'm managing everything smoothly or getting the balance just right.

Joan: I liken it to juggling bowling balls and chain saws. Marilyn, if there's someone in the audience who's interested in writing, what advice would you give them if they're just starting out?

Marilyn: Don’t follow trends just because you think it’ll be an easier sell. And write the books that fit your voice. If what you love writing happens to be a hot-selling genre, great. If your writing voice happens to be perfect for the genre you want to write in and love to read, that’s awesome, too. But — if not — write long and hard enough to find what DOES fit you and your style best. Because then, even if it takes longer to make that first sale than you expect, you’re writing the kinds of stories you most enjoy, and that passion has a way of working itself into the projects you’re creating.

Joan: Do you have any final thoughts you'd like to share or is there anything else you'd like to tell us about anything?

Marilyn: Just to say Thank You (!!) to everyone who's taken time to read my novels. There would be no need for storytellers if there weren't avid readers. I'm so honored to know that people have spent their free time with my characters, and I always look forward to hearing readers' thoughts on my books. Best wishes to you all!

Takeaway Truth

Meeting authors is always a delight because most of them, like Marilyn Brant, are generous with their time and their insights. Thanks, Marilyn, for joining us today. You've been a delight.

Autumn Arrived

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Is it crazy to be so excited about a mere drop in temperature? If you live in the land of perpetual summer, I think not. This morning, it's 61 degrees! I wore a jacket on the drive to school. How utterly delightful this brisk morning air.

Of course, by late afternoon, the temp will hover in the high 80's. To much of the country, that's summer time temps. To us here on the Gulf Coast, that's fall.

Takeaway Truth

We take our autumn however we can get it, and we enjoy every lowered degree as long as it lasts.

Autumn

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Quote for the Week

Delicious autumn! My very soul is wedded to it, and if I were a bird I would fly about the earth seeking the successive autumns. ~George Eliot

Since I spent all day Saturday at the annual fly-in at our Hill Country home, autumn and flying hold equal appeal.

Autumn

A cold front was moving in Saturday. The Fort Worth area was hit early according to my brother-in-law in Burleson where it was pouring rain. We're hoping for some cooler temps here at Rancho Reeves and home at Casa Reeves after the front moves through.

Flying

Ah, not only birds get to fly about the earth seeking autumn. One of the greatest adventures I ever had was learning to fly. So much freaking fun that it's unbelievable.

Dozens of planes, an air evac helicopter, and a small commuter helicopter made the fly-in here this year. We saw them from the back porch as soon as they started coming in so we jumped in the golf cart and scooted over to the airfield.

Pilots and Aircraft

Walking around and talking flying and planes to the pilots was so much fun. You see, my husband and I once owned a plane when we lived out in the oil patch in New Mexico. Having this home here and seeing so many planes on a regular basis makes us long for a plane again.

The planes were amazing from the Korean-war era Navy training plane to the small "home-built" planes that darted about like starlings in flight. The former Navy plane has 600 hp and was like a bullet when it buzzed the runway on approach. Several of the planes blew colored smoke on flyovers. One by one they landed, taxied, and parked. What a delight.

Throw in a barbeque brisket dinner and lots of friendly people, and you have a perfect Saturday. We went home around one, got a big glass of ice tea from the fridge, and went out to the porch. Watching the planes leave was nearly as much fun as watching them arrive. We made a game of trying to guess at what point on the runway they'd lift off.

Of course, that's kind of an easy game. On hot days like today, the density altitude (combination of high temp and high humidity) makes it more difficult for low wing aircraft like Pipers. They need a lot of runway compared to the high wing Cessnas and such.

Takeaway Truth

The good times roll -- even in hot, sultry weather.

Visiting Author: Jacqueline Seewald

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My guest today is Jacqueline Seewald, author of the historical romantic suspense novel Tea Leaves and Tarot Cards, published by Five Star/Gale, ISBN-13: 9781594149146.

Her novel is offered by the publisher, Five Star/Gale, as well as Amazon.com, Borders Books online, and B&N online. Jacqueline told me that her novel is being offered at an excellent discount from Barnes&Noble online.

Welcome, Jacqueline. Let's break the ice with some. . .

Fun Questions

1. What's your favorite TV show and why?

I don’t watch a lot of TV. I usually read in the evening. But I do enjoy Antiques Roadshow. I’ve learned a lot from the program. It gives me a glimpse of other lives, cultures, and history. I enjoy several of the other shows on Public Broadcasting as well. For instance, I like both the Mystery and Masterpiece series.

2. What do you think is the most over-rated TV show and why?

I don’t watch enough TV to answer that question fairly.

3. Name a book, any genre, that means a lot to you and tell us why. (Feel free to mention more than 1.)

The Complete Works of Shakespeare, The Bible, these are books I’ve read and return to many times and discover more meaning with each rereading. On a lighter note, I’ve read and read Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice many times as well. It says so much about women’s lives, not just in the early Regency period but for all times.

4. Name a book that you were forced to read in school that you think was a time waste and please tell us why. (In school because that means dead authors and we don't want to hurt feelings. Again, feel free to mention more than 1.)

I disliked The Merchant of Venice which I was forced to read as a freshman in high school. Luckily, we read a good deal more of Shakespeare so that my dislike didn’t stick. But I never considered any of the works I read way back in high school to be a waste of time. Silas Marner by George Elliot was not a favorite of mine as a sophomore. I found it dull. But it was well-written.

Now, let's get down to business.

Sweet 16 Interview Questions

1. How long have you been writing?

Since I was able to physically write.

2. What number book was this? 5th, 7th?

I’m beginning to lose count. Let’s see, TEA LEAVES AND TAROT CARDS is my 9th published book. I’ll have a young adult novel STACY’S SONG that will be published later this year by L&LDreamspell, and that will count as number 10. I write fiction for children as well as teens and adults.

3. How long have you been working at your craft? Please tell us something about your journey from the idea that you wanted to write a book to finally writing one for which you received a publishing contract.

I’d love to tell you that it’s been an easy journey, but it hasn’t. I started creating stories when I was in grade school. I was a good student, and my teachers were encouraging. I entered several writing contests that I won back in grade school and high school. I wrote for all the school publications: magazine, newspaper and yearbook. But I didn’t write a novel until I finished college and had worked as an English teacher for several years. That first novel was a literary work that now lies at the bottom of a drawer somewhere. It never quite came together. My first published novel was sold to Crosswinds which was a young adult line put out by Harlequin at that time. When the editor called, I was terribly excited. It was quite a thrill being offered that contract, right up there with getting married and the birth of my first child.

4. Tell us something about this particular book. How did you come up with the title, and do you have a 1 sentence blurb or log line to tease readers?

Actually, my first title for the novel was THE GATES OF PARADISE from William Blake, one of my favorite poets, who I have briefly appear as a character in the novel. TEA LEAVES AND TAROT CARDS just popped into my mind as I rewrote the novel, and I decided I preferred it as a title.

The novel is not a typical Regency. It’s a sensual historical romance set in the Regency period. I believe the hero and heroine are well-developed characters. They are both passionate people. Here’s a blurb from the publisher’s catalog:

"Jacqueline Seewald's Tea Leaves and Tarot Cards delivers an unusual and intriguing heroine together with fast-paced historical romantic-suspense. Seewald is very much at home in her early 19th century setting." - Jayne Ann Krentz (Amanda Quick)

This will give you an idea of how the novel starts:

At a ball in Regency London in 1816, Maeve, part gypsy, part mystic and accounted an original by the ton, meets the dashing Marquess of Huntingdon, a fashionable sophisticate and handsome rake. The attraction between them is immediate and powerful. The Marquess dances with Maeve who he finds secretive and mysterious, as well as sexually desirable. He also decides to do whatever it takes to make her his mistress. Maeve, however, doesn't want to be any man's mistress. She values her freedom. What she does want is for Adam, the Marquess of Huntingdon, to help her friend, Lady Caroline, avoid a loveless marriage to Adam's cousin, a man old enough to be the girl's father. The novel is a charming, witty, fast-paced historical romance with elements of mystery, the paranormal and romantic suspense.

5. Do you have any "under the bed" books? If so, how many, and what do you plan to do with them?

I’ve written five more adult novels, mostly romances, that I hope to interest either an agent or publisher in purchasing at some point. I believe they are quality fiction. I’ve also written several more young adult novels that I hope will interest agents and/or editors.

6. If they made a movie of your book, who would be cast to portray the characters?

I can see Angelina Jolie in the part of Maeve. I think she’d be the perfect choice: dark, passionate, mysterious. As for Adam, there are just too many sexy actors to choose from, but I believe someone with a British background and an air of sophistication would be perfect. He’s a difficult character to get because Adam is an aristocrat, well-mannered and polished on the surface but a troubled man beneath with unresolved conflicts.

7. What keeps you going when you get rejected?

Believe me, there have been many times when I thought I’d give up writing for good. I’d say things like I should be scrubbing the floors, how that would be a better investment of my time. But when I do housework, my mind is still on my writing. I write because I can’t not write. I suppose it’s an obsession or an addiction.

8. What's your favorite "oh crap I got a rejection" food and/or drink to soothe the savaged ego?

When it hurts too much, I get away from home, do something that’s fun or different with my husband. We enjoy taking long walks together. As to food, I love ice cream, although I have to settle for low fat or fat free these days.

9. Who are your writing influences?

Honestly, I read everything. I enjoy mystery, romance, but I read literary fiction, horror, science fiction even fantasy. Every writer I read is an influence. I have so many favorite writers that have influenced me. In romance fiction, Jayne Ann Krentz is number one with me because she does it all. Her novels are uniformly excellent. That was why I asked her to read my novel well in advance of publication. I’m honored that she agreed.

10. What are you working on now?

At this moment, I’m re-editing a health article that will appear in TEA A Magazine. I also write quite a bit of nonfiction. I enjoy doing research.

11. What do you now know that you wish you'd known when you started?

Not to take life quite so seriously, the bad or the good. I tend to be too uptight, too much of a perfectionist. I demand too much of myself. I’m trying to change that.

12. What's the best thing about writing?

Picking and choosing what projects I decide to undertake, working for myself, being independent.

13. What's the worst thing about writing?

With freelance writing, there’s no steady paycheck as when I worked as a teacher and then as an educational media specialist/school librarian.

14. Do you have writing goals? If so, would you share some with us?

For me it’s very simple. I just intend to write the best possible work I am capable of creating whether novels, short stories, plays, poetry or nonfiction.

15. What advice would you give someone just starting out?

Write if you must, but don’t expect to become rich or famous. Some authors do; however, it’s not that common.

16. Anything else you'd like to tell us?

Just that if I had it to do over again, I’d likely not change anything but my attitude toward life. I’d be more positive and worry less. I think having a relaxed outlook greatly helps writers become successful at their craft.

Thank you, Jacqueline, for visiting with us today. Good luck with Tea Leaves and Tarot Cards.

Takeaway Truth

Behind every book is a writer looking for a reader. I hope you'll put this author on your to be discovered list and buy her book today.

(This interview was previously published on Joan Slings Words.)

Visit Author Beth Orsoff

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Today I have the pleasure of introducing you to Beth Orsoff, author of HONEYMOON FOR ONE which is a Kindle book. You'll probably want to order Beth's book, so here's the Kindle ASIN: B003VYBEOS to make it even easier for you to locate it.

I read Honeymoon For One, and reviewed it last week. In a word: delightful.

About Beth

Beth Orsoff writes humorous women's fiction. She lives in Los Angeles with her husband and an eight-year-old Tickle Me Elmo. You can find Beth on the web, at these sites:

Beth Orsoff.com

Beth on Facebook

Beth's Amazon Author Page

If you'd like to write to Beth, you can use this email: beth (at) bethorsoff (dot) com.

Now, let's pour a fresh cup of coffee and start chatting with Beth Orsoff.

Fun Questions To Break The Ice

Joan: Moby Dick or Jaws? Why?

Beth: Definitely Jaws. I read to be entertained, not put to sleep (I apologize in advance to any Moby Dick fans out there). Plus I'm fascinated by sharks. I'm an avid snorkeler, occasional scuba diver, and I never miss a "Shark Week" on Discovery Channel.

Joan: What's your TV guilty pleasure? Why?

Beth: VH1's "100 Greatest One Hit Wonders of the 80s." I generally avoid reality television, but I cannot turn away from this show. I think it's because every song they play brings back a childhood memory.

Joan: Name a book, any genre, that means a lot to you and tell us why. (Feel free to mention more than 1.)

Beth: Bridget Jones's Diary by Helen Fielding. It was the first "chick lit" book I read (excluding Jane Austen, who we weren't calling chick lit back when I was in high school and college). It was laugh out loud funny, and it made me realize that you didn't have to write like Hemingway or Fitzgerald to be a writer.

Joan: Name a book that you were forced to read in school that you think was a time waste and please tell us why. (In school, because that means dead authors, and we don't want to hurt feelings. Again, feel free to mention more than 1.)

Beth: This is a tough question. I was an English major in college so there were a LOT of books that I was forced to read that I thought were a waste of time. Since I've managed to purge them from my memory, I had to go to my bookshelf and pull out one of those old college Norton Anthologies. I had vague recollections of reading Tennyson's "Ulysses" and sure enough, it had my notes all over it. Finally, a justification for having saved those thick, heavy, boring books for twenty years!

The Sweet 16

1. How long have you been working at your craft? Please tell us something about your first published book, the journey from the idea that you wanted to write a book to finally writing one for which you received a publishing contract.

Beth: I purchased my first "How to Write a Novel" book in 1994. It was the first book I'd purchased after completing the torturous three-day California Bar Exam. Clue that I'd chosen the wrong career path? I was a very tentative fiction writer. I wrote all the time as a lawyer, but that's a very different kind of writing.

During my early years as a lawyer, I took many writing courses at UCLA Extension, and I didn't really find my "voice" until 1999 in a class titled "Discovering the Writer Within." I wrote a story about a date I went on with a budding pilot who couldn't land the plane. That story got a lot of laughs, and I had my lightbulb moment – this is what I should be writing. It took a couple more years and ultimately a sabbatical from the day job, before I finished my first book, Romantically Challenged in 2002.

Or at least I thought I was finished. I started sending out query letters to agents, and received a lot of requests for partials, and fulls, but they all passed. I thought, I'm close, but not quite there yet. I ended up submitting the novel to UCLA Extension's Manuscript Evaluation program and getting a professional opinion from a writer/editor/instructor. I sent her the fifth draft with the notes I'd received from agents who rejected it (all containing conflicting advice, of course), and she sent me back an eight-page single-spaced e-mail detailing all of the things that were wrong with my book.

I adopted the vast majority of her suggestions (she wanted me to ax my character's Tickle Me Elmo doll, but I just couldn't agree to that one), wrote two more drafts, set it aside for almost a year when I got engaged and planned my wedding and honeymoon, then started sending it out to agents again. Two months later I had an offer of representation, and six weeks after that I had an offer of publication from NAL.

The book was published in 2006, and I threw a book signing party at Borders to celebrate. I thought I just had to sign the books (and provide the wine), but I was told by the homeless woman who attends all of Borders' events that, no, I had to read from the book too. I read the version of the airplane/date story that made it into the published version of the book. It still got a lot of laughs.

2. The book about which we're talking today was what number book for you? 1st, 3rd, 7th?

Beth: Third. I'm not the world's fastest writer.

3. Tell us something about this particular book. How did you come up with the title, and do you have a 1 sentence blurb or log line to tease readers?

Beth: I had always dreamed of going to Tahiti. When my husband proposed, I had no idea what kind of wedding I wanted, but I knew exactly where we'd be going on our honeymoon. I suffered through planning the ceremony and reception, but I relished every moment of planning the honeymoon trip.

We visited three Tahitian islands (including Bora Bora, which is just as beautiful as you imagine it would be). Every couple we met was either a honeymooner or a couple celebrating a special anniversary. Tahiti is not a place one would want to go to alone.

It was a couple of years later (maybe I'd been thinking about the honeymoon) when I had a dream about a woman who was dumped at the altar, but still wanted to go on her lovingly planned and long dreamed of tropical honeymoon. And that's how Honeymoon for One was born.

I changed the setting to Belize, added a murder, a neurotic, conspiracy-spouting best friend, a mysterious antiquities dealer, a hot scuba instructor, and an adorable turtle named Fred. Six months later, I had a novel AND a logline: There are worse things in life than getting dumped at the altar, and being accused of killing your fake husband in a third world country where you can't speak the language is one of them.

4. This book is one you published for eBook readers. How did you make that transition from print to eBook?

Beth: My agent shopped Honeymoon for One to all the major publishers in 2007, but it had no takers. At the time I thought about submitting it myself to e-book publishers, but my agent was against it. She felt that once my next book sold, that Honeymoon for One would sell too.

Fast forward three years, my new agent was shopping my new manuscript, How I Learned to Love the Walrus, when my first book Romantically Challenged, went out of print. The rights reverted back to me, and I decided to re-release it as an e-book on Kindle. It began selling with absolutely no promotion (I suspect the $2.99 price point helped), but since it had been print published, it already had a lot of critical and reader reviews.

Honeymoon for One was an experiment – could I sell an e-book that had never been print published? To my surprise and delight, Honeymoon for One immediately started selling better than Romantically Challenged, even with no reviews. In fact, several readers have told me that they enjoyed Honeymoon for One so much that they went back and bought Romantically Challenged too. I believe that's true because after Honeymoon for One started selling, the sales of Romantically Challenged picked up too.

5. Do you have any "under the bed" books? If so, how many, and what do you plan to do with them?

Beth: I have one "under the bed" book. It's a chick lit novel entitled Disengaged which I wrote after I sold Romantically Challenged but before that book was published. A few friends who have read it and liked it asked me why I haven't put that one up on Kindle too. The answer is eventually I probably will. But I know it needs a rewrite, and I'm focusing my energies on newer projects right now. But someday . . . .

6. If they made a movie of your book, who would be cast to portray the characters?

Beth: Lizzie - Anna Kendrick; Jane--Emily Blunt (with a blonde wig)

7. What keeps you going when you get rejected?

Beth: It's hard sometimes. But a good writing day is the best high I know. I guess you could say I keep going because I'm an addict.

8. What's your favorite "oh crap I got a rejection" food and/or drink to soothe the savaged ego?

Beth: Baskin-Robbins Hot Fudge Sundae. Good for the soul, bad for the thighs.

9. Who are your writing influences?

Beth: I love Emily Giffin's first two novels, Something Borrowed and Something Blue. She managed to make readers care about heroines who do some less than heroic things. That takes real talent. Giffin's also a former lawyer, which gives me hope too. I'm also a fan of Janet Evanovich's "Stephanie Plum" series. Ranger or Joe? Joe or Ranger? Someday that girl is going to have to decide. In the meantime, it's fun watching her struggle.

10. What are you working on now?

Beth: I'm one of those "seat of the pants" writers who doesn't outline, so I never really know what a book is about until I've written it. I'm tinkering with a new book that is going to contain two sisters, a couple of hot guys (one good, one bad), and a lost fortune. That's all I know so far!

11. What do you now know that you wish you'd known when you started?

Beth: That selling the second book is even harder than selling the first!

12. What's the best thing about writing?

Beth: When the characters come alive. It's an amazing experience.

13. What's the worst thing about writing?

Beth: Rejection, whether it's in the form of an editor passing on a manuscript, or a reader's bad review.

14. Do you have writing goals? If so, would you share some with us?

Beth: I used to want to be a NY Times Bestselling Author. I've scaled back. Now I just want to be a selling author :) Although my goal is still to eventually be in a position where I can earn a living off of my writing and quit the day job.

15. What advice would you give someone just starting out?

Beth: The Stephanie Meyers's, J.K. Rowling's, and Stieg Larsson's of the world are aberrations. For most of us, the road to publication and professional success is a marathon not a sprint.

16. Do you have any particular advice for a writer wanting to publish for eBooks?

Beth: Just because you can publish your first draft, doesn't mean you should. E-books offer an amazing opportunity for writers. But if you want to be a professional writer, you need to put out a professional product. Do not type "the end" and immediately upload to Kindle.

Joan: I've really enjoyed chatting with you, Beth. Is there anything else you'd like to tell us about anything?

Beth: Thank you, Joan, for offering me this opportunity; and thank you, readers, for buying my books!

Takeaway Truth

Honeymoon for One is a delightful blend of mystery, humor, and BFF relationships with a dash of romance tossed in for good measure. Try it. I think you'll like it.

Walking with Ken Follett

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As I mentioned before, I walk a couple of miles just about every morning. I always take that time to listen to my iPod, specifically, to audio books or podcasts about the book biz. One of my favorite podcast series is Meet the Author, hosted by Barnes & Noble.com.

A couple of days ago I listened to an interview with Ken Follett, author of some wonderful books on my keeper shelf. I've heard a lot of people say that his Pillars of the Earth is the best book they've ever read. His next book, Fall of Giants, to be published next week, will be the first novel in his Century Trilogy.

Mr. Follett's Tip

All the left brain thinkers of the world will rejoice because they can put their Excel or other spreadsheet skills to good use.

Mr. Follett revealed in the interview an interesting way to stay up to date in a work that involves a lot of people over a long span of time. He uses a spreadsheet. He inputs the characters' names, prominent physical characteristics, their birth date, chapter titles, and major events in time.

The spreadsheet formulas calculate what age the character at any given time. Let's say the character is born November 2, 1963, and that event occurred in Chapter 1. Then, in Chapter 6 which takes place in March 1999, the spreadsheet calculation will tell you at a glance that the character in question is now 36.

Takeaway Truth

Writing a novel, especially a complex one that spans many years and involves many characters, is a tremendous undertaking. Use any trick you can to maintain continuity and keep it all straight in your head and in your manuscript.

Vitamins

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Quote for the Week

I had my physical a couple of weeks ago. Much to my surprise, it turned out I had a Vitamin D deficiency. My doctor prescribed a prescription of megadoses of Vitamin D to be taken once a week. I took the first one last Saturday night and was sick all day Sunday. Took me a couple of days to rally.

Friday night, I took the second one and again awoke on Saturday morning with the headache from hell. Okay, I may be slow, but even I realized the wonderful Vitamin D supplement was at fault. So, here's this week's quotation.

French actress Jeanne Moreau said: "All those vitamins aren't to keep death at bay, they're to keep deterioration at bay."

Takeaway Truth

Be wary of vitamin supplementation. Always consult your doctor if you have ill effects from taking supplements.

Review: Honeymoon for One

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Honeymoon for One by Beth Orsoff

Kindle Edition: 430 KB
Sold by: Amazon Digital Services
ISBN/ASIN: ASIN is B003VYBEOS
Simultaneous Device Usage: Unlimited
Publisher: Clark Street Books
First edition: July 15, 2010
Language: English

Every Woman's Nightmare

What do you get when you combine a dumped-at-the-altar bride-to-be, determined to take her dream honeymoon, an airplane seat mate eager to pose as her husband at the couples resort, a hunky Brad Pitt lookalike who inspires instant lust, and a foreign country where said bride can't speak the language?

You get Honeymoon for One, a delightful blend of mystery, humor, and BFF relationships with a dash of romance tossed in for good measure. This droll mystery, highlighted by a series of unexpected events that complicate an already complicated situation, will keep you turning the pages and smiling.

Maybe it was the tropical setting or the wacky characters. but the book was reminiscent of a Carl Hiassen novel, albeit a kinder, gentler Hiassen book.

No Spoiler

When reviewing a book, one treads a fine line of revealing enough to convince you the book is worth buying but holding back on those little surprises that make a book truly entertaining. So I'm just going to leave you with the brief description I wrote above, and a little about the wonderful characters you'll meet in Ms. Orsoff's novel.

The protagonist Lizzie Mancini, the hapless bride-to-be who finds herself un-engaged the night before the wedding, and her best friend Jane Chandler will delight you. I suspect that there's a little Lizzie in all of us.

As for BFF Jane, with her hilarious phobias and a trust fund that enables her to outfit both of them like a covert ops team, well, Jane is an original, and she's laugh out loud funny. We all need a BFF like Jane in our lives.

A Word About Kindle Books

Honeymoon for One is a Kindle book which means it's priced very inexpensively. In case you didn't know, you don't have to have a Kindle in order to purchase and read a Kindle edition. Just go to the Amazon Kindle site and download their Kindle for PC or Kindle for iPhone software.

If you want a Kindle though (I love mine!), then click here to get your own Kindle.

By the way, I'll be interviewing the author, Beth Orsoff, Sept. 21, right here on Sling Words. Drop by to discover more about this talented author.

Takeaway Truth

I like to use the rating system made famous long ago by Siskel and Ebert. I give Honeymoon for One 2 thumbs up. In fact, I liked it so much that I plan to get the author's other book Romantically Challenged.

Protect Your Blog

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Next month is National Cyber Security Awareness Month in the U.S. I thought this would be a good time to discuss blog security. Since I'm on Blogger with Sling Words, I'll address that particular platform.

Fancy Up Your Blog

Do you know what Third Party Code is? It's all those little pieces of software that make your site pretty and all those gadgets or widgets that allow you to count visitors or place ads on your blog or any of the other things you add to your blog to individualize it.

The important rule to remember when it comes to Third Party Code is never to use anything from a suspicious source. Make sure the website you get the code from is reputable as is shown by badging on the site. Malicious code can entice under the cover of tracking your visitor stats, but it may also be collecting data on you and your visitors in order to sell it to advertisers who will torment you to death at the very least and embed malware on your computer – and your visitors' among other nasty crimes they can commit.

Read the Code

Sure you can read the code. You don't have to be a code slinger to read the code. It's nothing but links embedded with other gobbledygoop. You should be able to spot the link part easily. If you're installing code that's supposed to show nature photographs, you should be able to see the website to which it points. If you see a link that it's pointing to other sites that have nothing to do with nature photos, beware!

Sneak Preview

Always use the Preview button. Never hit Save until you've previewed what the code does when it will be live on your blog. If you don't like what you see, click Clear Edit.

Insurance

Of course, a good rule of thumb is to always backup your template before you make ANY changes. You can see how to do this at the Layout/Edit HTML tab. Just click the link that says Download Full Template and save the .XML file on your hard drive. Be sure and give it a name you'll recognize. Then, if worse comes to worst, you can just revert back to your download version. Simply click the Upload button which is also found under the Layout/Edit HTML tab.

Takeaway Truth

Don't take anything for granted when it comes to installing an add-on to your blog. Having your blog hijacked or annihilated by malicious code, unwittingly installed by you, the owner, would be devastating.

Who Killed the Economy?

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I just heard about another friend who's out of work so I hope you'll pardon this editorial which some may call a rant.

Unemployment and rising federal debt tell us that our economy, if not dying, is on life support. Some people obviously didn't get the memo because imports of pricey foreign consumer goods hit an all time high this summer. U. S. exports didn't follow suit thus making our trade deficit at its highest level since October 2008.

Some Seem Unaffected

For every frugal American converting to permanent use water bottles and taking stacations, there were just as many profligately-spending citizens snatching up flat panel TVs, cell phones, and other expensive toys.

Surprisingly, economists had forecast a smaller trade gap because of lowered global oil prices. Obviously these economists don't hang out at the local malls or WalMart and Target on the weekends. They must never drive by a cell phone storefront and note the throngs inside waiting for their chance at an iPhone or Droid.

Hey, we may all be going to the poor house, as my grandfather used to say, but we're dressed in imported clothing and driving there in a new Lexus with our iPhone in our hand and a Coach bag next to us while we sip our imported bottled water.

Buy American? Ha!

Those who shout "Buy American" aren't offering a viable alternative. Electronics, clothing, and so much more just isn't manufactured in the United States any more. Look around. Chances are just about everything you own was made outside the country, from the coffeepot that gives you your cup of java in the morning to the TV you watch at night. Try finding dinnerware that's made in the U. S. That industry was killed long ago with only Homer Laughlin, makers of Fiestaware, remaining.

What's the answer? Who knows? I'm just a writer.

Takeaway Truth

Perhaps a place to start is to buy American -- if you're lucky enough to find something made here. Vehicles still are. Mostly.

10 Ways To Make A Website Fail

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1. Always use the hard sell.

Sell. Sell. Sell. In every blog post, all the time, never cease pushing your book or your product.

2. Don't pay any attention to the visual aspects of your website.

Who cares if it's not eye pleasing? So what if images overlay text in some areas. Why not have one main page that scrolls to infinity rather than go to the trouble of distributing the content by creating other pages?

3. Use lots of different fonts.

There are hundreds and hundreds of eye catching fonts available. Why limit yourself to just one? Experiment and use a lot of different ones - the harder to read, the better.

4. Be sure and use colored fonts.

Why choose plain old black? It's so mundane. Use chartreuse, magenta, pink, yellow, and red. Really mix it up.

5. Be sure and choose a black background.

Black is dramatic. Who cares if it's difficult to read text on a black background? Who cares if someone's eyes water when they're trying to read that pink text on black. Make it really challenging and use dark gray text on a gray background. That will make them really concentrate.

6. Be sure and have your website open with music.

Who doesn't love music? The louder the better. Of course, pick something out of the mainstream like Glenn Miller if you came of age during World War II. Who cares if it brands you as old to a young visitor who stumbles across your site. If you're young and hip, make it bitch slappin' rap. Who cares if it offends every woman who chances upon your website?

7. Use animated gifs.

Blinking and gyrating animation attracts attention. No one would leave your site just because that pulsating image causes eyestrain and a headache.

8. Write without regard to spelling and grammar.

After all, who worries about grammar and spelling in this brave new world? If you've got a product to sell, they'll buy even though your content is full of errors. Surely visitors wouldn't equate correct grammar with attention to detail in fulfilling an order properly. So what if your own name on the website is misspelled. You don't have time to proofread everything, do you?

9. Be sure and include broken links.

When you write about something and link to it, don't bother with making sure the link is correct. Why go to the trouble of shortening a 300 character link by using Tiny URL or something similar. If the link gets broken, won't the site visitor painstakingly type it into their browser?

10. Always be inconsistent with posting.

Visitors will eagerly check back every day even if you haven't posted since New Year's Eve. Why work so hard to present new content on a regular basis? Every other week or month is good enough to keep my visitors coming back, isn't it?

Takeaway Truth

Duh! Do the opposite of every enumerated rule, and you'll succeed with your Internet presence.

3 eReader Resources Remove Confusion

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Do you find the eReader devices confusing? Here are 3 resources to help you better understand them and to choose the one that fits your needs.

Kim Komando Comparison Chart

KK lists the most popular from the Kindle to the iPad and compares them based on battery life, screen size, connection, and more.

Comparison on Wikipedia

Good old Wikipedia does an even more in-depth comparison and lists virtually all the devices out there.

eBook Reader 2010

The site gives reviews of the top 10 devices. They also have video for those who prefer to watch and listen rather than read.

I'd researched this before I bought my Kindle. Looking at it all again, I feel I made a good choice. I wanted something I could carry easily in my purse, held a battery charge, could access books for download anytime and anywhere, and was easy on the eyes.

I chose the Kindle, and I'm an enthusiastic supporter. Kindle Rocks! In fact, I'm starting a series on how to get the most from your Kindle on Joan Slings Words, my other blog, but I encourage you to do your own research before you make a purchasing decision.

Takeaway Truth

Different devices have different features. Choose the one that works for you.

Lone Star Writer's Conference

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It's finally time for the Lone Star Writer's Conference, an annual event sponsored by Northwest Houston Romance Writer's of America, one of my chapters.

Those who register early get a great benefit: the first 35 will be invited to a special Meet and Greet Reception on Friday, October 15, 2010.

DATE:

October 16, 2010

LOCATION:

Houston Marriott North at Greenspoint
255 N Sam Houston Parkway East
Houston, TX 77060
281-875-4000
$69.00/night, Direct Link for reservations

REGISTRATION FEE:

$120.00

SPEAKERS AND AGENTS:

To date, this is the lineup.

Author Randy Ingermanson, Keynote Speaker. Mr. Ingermanson has a Ph.D. in physics from UC Berkeley.More importantly, he's published 6 novels and won about a dozen awards. His most recent book is Writing Fiction For Dummies, and he is known around the world as "the Snowflake Guy" in reference to his widely used Snowflake method for writing a novel. He's also the publisher of the free monthly Advanced Fiction Writing E-zine, which has over 21,000 subscribers.
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The Luncheon Speaker is Christine Witthohn of Book Cents Literary Agency, and her speech will be about how to maximize your chances of getting published or staying published in this volatile market.

Also attending are Agents Naomi Hackenberg of Elaine P. English, PLLC; Amy Boggs of Donald Maass Literary Agency; and Christine Witthohn of Book Cents Literary Agency.

Takeaway Truth

Writers conferences are great places to meet publishing professionals as well as other writers.

Joan Writes for The Celebrity Cafe

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About a month ago, I was asked to start writing for The Celebrity Cafe.

Emails flew back and forth. Finally, we ironed out all the details, and I wrote a few articles to see how I liked working with them and how they liked my words. We decided we liked each other just fine so they've set up a spot for me at the Cafe as one of their columnists.

Visit Me

If you'd like to drop by, which, of course, I'd love for you to do, and on a regular basis, you can find me at Joan Reeves on The Celebrity Cafe. I'll be writing the same kind of articles I already publish, mostly on my other blog.

I like to say I write about events and people who put the POP in Pop Culture, in my own inimitable style. (I don't know if you'd call it an inimitable style, but I just like that word. It kind of tap dances off the tongue so I use it whenever possible.)

Takeaway Truth

Writing is fun. Writing about the events and people who put the POP in Pop Culture is a hoot.

In Honor of Those Who Labor

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I'm enjoying the Labor Day extended holiday. Hope you are too.

When one wishes to get away from work, leave the cell phones, PDAs, and laptops behind. Then you might actually have a chance to enjoy that rare commodity called Leisure Time.

Takeaway Truth

Happy Labor Day from one who labors to all of you who labor too.

Labor

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Quote for the WeekTomorrow we honor the contributions of hardworking men and women in America.

Martin Luther King said: "All labor that uplifts humanity has dignity and importance and should be undertaken with painstaking excellence."

Labor Day, a national holiday here in the United States, has been observed on the first Monday in September since 1882 when the Central Labor Union of New York City established the holiday.

In 1894, Congress made it official by declaring Labor Day a federal holiday. Of course, the day has evolved from parades and speeches about the contributions of working men and women to a symbolic ending for summer with bargain sales, backyard barbeques, and kids going back-to-school the next day.

Takeaway Truth

Be happy, and be safe this Labor Day!

6 Questions to Answer In Blogging

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This post is a fundamental truth about good writing. What you'll read is very basic, yet it's often ignored by too many bloggers. Very simply, it's the need to clue in the reader about the basic facts.

Tell The Reader

One thing I've noticed in perusing lots of is that pertinent details are left out. Those details are the old 5 W's we were taught in English composition. Who, What, When, Where, Why, and don't forget to throw in How.

If you're writing a blog, stick those details in to orient the reader immediately. Don't assume the reader is on the same wave length as you. This is especially true if you're writing on the same topic that you plan to upload as a three-parter or whatever.

It's like the television shows with ongoing story lines that show pertinent scenes of previous episodes. Sometimes a voice-over says: "Previously on Burn Notice...."

6 Questions

1. Who? Who did it? Who is doing something, about which you are writing?

2. What? What happened or what's going to happen?

3. When? When did it happen or when will it occur?

4. Where? Where did it happen or where will it take place?

5. Why? Why did this occur or why will it happen?

6. How? How did it happen or how will it happen or take place?

Takeaway Truth

Always answer these questions, and your writing will be strong and concise.

Reader Ages; Books Change

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I read this wonderful quotation attributed to the late William Robertson Davies, one of Canada’s most popular authors. Mr. Davies wrote novels and plays as well as dramatic criticism, and he was also a journalist and a professor.

Mr. Davies explained the compulsion to reread books. For all of you who have books on your keeper shelves that you reread every so often, you get it. Many people though don’t understand why people read books they've already read. He wrote: “The great sin is to assume that something that has been read once has been read forever.”

We, the keepers of the books, can attest to the veracity of that statement. We have our favorites that we turn to again and again. Each time we discover something different in those well-read words.

For my daughter, the book she reads every year is Dune. For me, it varies. My keeper shelf is more like a keeper bookcase, and the books are a motley bunch indeed with books from every genre.

There’s The Good Earth by Pearl Buck which I read when I was only a child, and it brought to life, for me, Chinese peasants. Watchers and Lightning by Dean Koontz still delight me because of the imaginative possibilities within those pages. A Rose In Winter by Kathleen Woodiwiss is a desperately romantic swashbuckling tale.

The Ninja by Eric Von Lustbader fed my desire for all things Japanese. Shotgun Saturday Night by Bill Crider introduced me to Sheriff Dan Rhodes and, later, to Bill and his wife Judy.

Panzer Spirit by my old friend Tom Townsend is a marvelous mixture of Tolkien fantasy, Texana, and Nazis. Then there's the books by my good friend Elaine Raco Chase, the O. Henry Short Stories, my 12th grade English Lit book that I still have on the shelf, the Jane Austen books, and so many more.

Mr. Davies uses the example of Thackeray’s Vanity Fair. The book is usually required reading in college, but the book you read at 18 is different, you’ll discover, than the book you read 20 years later.

The older you get, the more your vision of that book changes. The words haven’t changed, but the experience you’ve incurred with every year changes you so what you get from the book will be different each time.

Perhaps, we reread the books that have touched a chord within us in order to see how we've changed.

Takeaway Truth

Reading a book again is like meeting an old friend after a long absence and being amazed at how your friend has changed.