Sunday, November 30, 2008


Twelve more days until the latest book in the Flowers of Camelot series--MAGNOLIA--will be released! Prince Undain, brother-in-law to Chrysanthemum and his partner, Prince Dennac find the perfect woman to be their wife. Magnolia, rescued from a shipwreck by Dennac is a refugee from Alfland. Fleeing for her life, she happily accepts Undain and Dennac's proposal. Can a unicorn princeling, a fairy-elf, and the son of King Arthur find happiness? Of course! This is Avalon, after all.


Saturday, November 29, 2008

Guest author: Jane Beckham

The Grip crew would like to welcome author Jane Beckham.

Happy belated Thanksgiving to you all.

It’s a holiday that here in New Zealand where I am we don’t celebrate which I think is kind of a shame. In my family, particularly, we have a lot to be thankful for. My great grandparents were on the ‘founding father’s ship, The Duchess of Argyle, which came to New Zealand with the first lot of immigrants. New Zealand had been a whaling port up to that time, until a Mr Wakefield masterminded the mass settlement of our small country back in the 1860s.

In today’s world where there is so much uncertainty and economic pressure on us all, it seems hard to come up with things we could all be thankful for.

So as I sit here writing, I wonder what could, or should, be on my list.

1. I’m upright, moving on two legs, which because of my disability is a true blessing.

2. I have a wonderful husband with whom I celebrated our 25th wedding anniversary this year, a true testament of commitment.

3. To my two daughters who challenge me and love me in equal measures.

4. That each day I can use my brain and hopefully come up with some words, - okay they may not necessarily be wonderfully witty, or pure literature, but it’s a story at least that hopefully sometime someone will want to read.

Because NZ doesn’t celebrate Thanksgiving, we are all gearing up for Christmas. So perhaps I can tell you a little about this, because of course, New Zealand is celebrating the summer months and Christmas is not snow or winter woolies, but beaches and bbqs.

I live in Auckland which is surrounded by both beaches and volcanoes which are hopefully extinct. Christmas is the scarlet pohutukawa tree lining our beaches, the smell of bbq smoke wafting up from backyards, it’s a real Christmas tree with fake snow sprayed on the tips. It’s poor Santa walking the streets sweltering under all the layers of an 80degF heat. It’s sitting down to lunch with a turkey, but with salads too and maybe a steak on the barbie. Christmas is also pavlova, a meringue/marshmallow like desert topped with whipped cream and of course our very own kiwi fruit.

So, yes there is a lot to be thankful for.

The sun has risen to a new day, that’s good.

Happy holidays everyone,
Jane Beckenham

What will be in your Christmas stocking?
by Jane Beckenham

Biography – Jane Beckenham
Author Jane Beckenham found literature at a young age. In books she discovered dreams and hope, stories that inspired in her a love of romance, and travel. Years later, after a blind date, Jane found her own true love and married him eleven months later.

Life has been a series of ‘dreams’ for Jane. Dreaming of learning to walk again after spending years in hospital. Dreaming of raising a family and subsequently flying to Russia to bring home her two adopted daughters. And of course, dreaming of writing.

In 2007 Jane celebrates the release of her fourth book. HIRING CUPID, a fun and sexy read that will leave you searching for your very own Cupid.

With her family growing up, life is a round of playing mum's taxi service, all the while wondering what her hero and heroine are up to behind her back! Writing is Jane’s addiction - and it sure beats housework.

You can contact Jane via her web site or email her at

Friday, November 28, 2008

Let Us Give Thanks

Thanksgiving is a time of family, fun and food. We always schedule our get togethers to be able to have one celebration with my family and one with my wife’s. Yep, that’s a whole lot of eating, but oddly enough I’m alright with that.

It seems with all the demands of life, it’s a rare event to get everyone in the same place at the same time even for a meal. So, I’m particularly thankful for this holiday for providing just such a venue. True, I still don’t get to see all of my family (we’re scattered across the country) every year, but it give me an opportunity to catch up with folks I only get to see every few months and we get to do it while surrounded by tons of food, glorious food.

The first half of the day usually starts out with a menu along the lines of this:

Green bean casserole
Candied Yams
Potato Salad (with mustard, mayo, onions, eggs, pickles, and garlic)
Mac Salad (with Velveeta, mayo, garlic and onions)
An assortment of breads and rolls
Upside down cake
Dirt Cake
Pumpkin Pie
Apple Pie

The second half wraps up with:

Prime Rib
Mashed potatoes and Gravy
Green beans (with bacon and onions)
Cranberry sauce
Deviled Eggs
And an assortment of Pies.

And yes, I try to eat a little bit of everything and more than I should of others. It usually takes me about a week to recover from all the food, but it is totally worth every extra mile I have to run.

So, what’s the standard fare at your house?

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Thanksgiving...not just another shopping day

Now, for anyone outside the US, please ignore my ranting. Thanksgiving is a quintessentially American holiday. Yes, I know Canada has one too, but the roots and origins are a little different, and the whole thing has gone a lot less crazy.It's only my own country-mates I want to slap silly over this one.

As I spent much of this week cleaning and prepping for today's dinner, all I saw on TV and in the stores was Christmas stuff. When did Thanksgiving stop being important on it's own and start being just a milestone in the Christmas madness? Surely a month is enough time to prep even for the biggest, most over-the-top commerical gift-fest there is. You'd think so, wouldn't you?

Thanksgiving is supposed to be a time of celebrating the harvest, and reflecting on one's good fortune. It's a time to be amazed by the sacrifices our ancestors made to bring us to this place and time, whether those sacrifices were voluntary or not, and no matter how long ago they were made. (And for some of us, we probably don't want to examine too closely how our ancestors may have exploited others to get there. Kind of ruins the image, if you get what I mean.)

It's a time to look back at all the troubles we've endured and to be grateful that we made it through. It has some religious overtones, but they're quiet and pretty open. Be thankful to whichever diety you prefer, or just to the fates, or to the people who've helped. It's a time of family unity, though for many of us, that is a mixed blessing. I love my relatives, but they drive me nuts. This is NOT how Thanksgiving looks at my house. Not even close, LOL.
In fact Maxine, as usual, has it right:
But however you celebrate Thanksgiving, whether with friends or family, watching parades or football, or lounging on the beach, I urge you to take the time to remember that it's a separate holiday, and NOT just the introduction to the Christmas shopping season. Take a minute or two wherever you are to say thanks to someone for helping you get through the past year. And take a moment to reflect on the good things. We all have problems. We all have had rough times this past year. But we're still kicking. And that's worth being thankful for.

Happy Thanksgiving from the Pape family, to all of yours.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

This Thanksgiving we should all try a little harder...

I will try not to be depressing...okay not TOO depressing with my post. But this is going to be a really difficult Thanksgiving for me. I lost my Dad on November 1st of this year, and since we have always spent Thanksgiving with him I feel a little lost this time around.

I always went to his house and cooked a bunch of food for Dad, the Jr. and myself. Sometimes the Mr. would tag along, and sometimes he was with his family. And before the Jr. came along it was just me and my Dad eating too much and watching football. The point is Thanksgiving was our holiday. And this year I don't have that anymore. And it sucks real bad.

I have been invited to many, many places this year. I have been told that I shouldn't be alone. I just don't want to spend Thanksgiving with anyone else's Dad. I feel I would be better off on my own drinking wine and watching television in my own living room than watching other happy families with their inside jokes and traditions and feeling like an outsider all day.

The Mr. and I are going to the cemetary in the morning then we will come home and I will break open the boxes of wine and pull out the appetizer dinner I have planned. I knew I wasn't going to feel like going all out with dinner, and since the Jr. is going with other relatives I didn't think we needed all of that anyway. I am pre-posting this, but I'm relatively sure that I will still only be interested in the booze by time actual Thanksgiving comes around, though I may be coerced into a handful of olives and some funky cheeses I have picked out.

There will still be too much food. There will still be football. There will still be cold weather and phone calls to distant relatives. But I can't imagine any of it ever being the same again. I love my father very much and on this day more than any other I think the loss of one of the most important people in my life is going to cut deep.

So on Thanksgiving, when you are sitting around your tables counting your blessings, I beg you to count each and every person sitting there with you. Be thankful for your family. If you still have your parents, one or both of them, hug them and tell them you love them. If they are far away please call them and talk to them. If you have lost one or both of them, ask the person nearest you to hug you for me. If the loss is recent ask for two or three and a kiss on each cheek from me too.

We take so many things in our lives for granted. Even if it is only once a year we should all try a little harder to be thankful for what we do have before it's gone and we never took the chance to appreciate it.

Dakota Rebel

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Thanksgiving for Brynn

It’s been a rough year in the Paulin household. My husband was laid off for about half the year, my grandma was on the verge of death for two months, we lost power due to a storm in July and lost the entire contents of our big chest freezer, we had to replace the washing machine, and spend nearly $3000 on car repairs, deal with the State of Michigan’s ineptitude which resulted in a suspended license though a ticket was paid but cost us unjust fees, we’ve spent the year without medical or dental insurance while we’ve figured out how to get meds and pay for doctors…

On and on it went. 2008 has sucked. But you know what, I still have a lot to be thankful for. Last month, my husband got a new job that he loves and pays better. My grandma lived and is doing well. The food was replaced…no big deal. We have a wonderful washing machine and I can wash laundry without going to the laundromat. The car drives great. The State still sucks, but I’ve made a fantastic contact in the local office who I know by name and who’s very helpful in clearing things up.

There’s adversity and there’s silver lining.

And there are other blessings. Can I count them? No. My family members are healthy. I’m healthy. We have a house to live in and we’re not in danger of foreclosure nor are any of our utilities shut off or going to be. We have food and clothes and can live in relative comfort. We have jobs in a state where thousands are unemployed and even more go to work daily with the fear of losing the job they have.

Though, my brother-in-law flies missions over Iraq on a 3-month rotation, he’s remained safe. We’re obviously thankful for that. We’re thankful that we live in a free country where we have opportunities, where we can move about in relative safety, where we can worship where we want to, where we have freedom of speech and the opportunity to read and write what we want to…where we are allowed to vote for a leader as we did this year.

So when the Paulins sit down this week at our Thanksgiving dinner, we will look beyond all the bad things that happened this year and we’ll be thankful for all the good, for our friends, for our families and we’ll look forward to a great 2009.

Monday, November 24, 2008


In the US we have a special day set aside so that we can celebrate Thanksgiving. Some people think it's a celebration and remembrance of the Pilgrim's first feast. If so, we've wandered considerably off the path. The Pilgrim's would find our feasts very poor.

Who were the Pilgrims? Were they really those black clad, long-faced Puritans? Actually, the Pilgrims were a mixed group of men and women who were seeking religious freedom, a brave new chance for a life, and some who were hoping to make a buck. All of them united against the common enemies of hunger, fear, and the strange new land.

Perhaps we could take a lesson from them. United fronts have a better chance of success than the house divided. In this Thanksgiving season let us take time to give thanks for all those who were brave enough to explore a new land.


Saturday, November 22, 2008


We'd like to welcome Aurora Rose Lynn to the blog today. Thanks for stopping by Aurora!

Why does a reader crave a happy ending in a romance? And what makes for a happily ever after ending?

Even though I’m an author of romance and erotic romance, and am supposed to know about those miracle happy endings, my personal experience, up to about ten years ago, was romance (usually THE END part) equates with hurt feelings and a sense of wanting more. I’d ask, “Wanting more of what?” The answer came to me after I read a Diana Palmer novel, and spent the whole afternoon crying. Why couldn’t I have a love story like that? I’ve never forgotten that book, and once I had my ‘happily ever after’ ending, I started to enjoy romance.

I read and read - everything from Harlequin to single title romance, although I’d rarely read romance before 2000, and tended to focus on fantasy, science fiction, and mystery. The first novel I wrote was a hard-boiled private eye novel which won an Honorable Mention. How cool is that?

In 2001, I decided to write an erotic romance and was immediately faced with what comes between the beginning where the hero and heroine meet each other and the end where the pair are supposed to live happily ever after? I mean, I’m looking around me at the couples I know, and very few of them are living that happy ever after ending. They’re squabbling continually about petty things like finances and more important things like ‘who’s going to get the kids for the weekend?’ Yeah, sadly, there’s divorce in there. Not a happy ending, is it?

With the characters in my novels, I get to choose their circumstances, how incompatible the sexy hero and swooning heroine are, and the events that will lead them gradually closer to each other, physically and emotionally, although in erotic romance the physical part is very important. (You know the kind where the hero and heroine make love to each other? ) Often the road to getting the hero and heroine to a happy ending is a bumpy ride. But the reader pretty much demands an ending that will satisfy them, and so the ride is well worth it.

I look at the characters first. Usually they’re male and female, although I have a novel in progress that has two males and a female. We all have a quirk in our make-up that often leads to problems with others. Me, I’m very independent, and my heroines usually are too. If she meets with an alpha male, then there is war in the happenings! Two independent people can’t have a happily ever after ending, can they? But that’s the whole fun about writing erotic romance. The characters make love to each other and fundamentally, both change as they learn about the other. In my upcoming novella, Fantasies, due to be released by Total-E-Bound on December 15, I have two couples who are both trying to find their way with not only the world at large, and themselves, but with each other. The journey takes place in a Christmas setting and as Hanna and Carla make their journey of self-discovery, they must also battle with a problem that many face in their quest for love. Is an older man or woman the right partner for a younger one? What challenges do they face if they decide marriage or staying together is a long-term option? I had fun writing Fantasies and made certain that Carla and Hanna, the mother and daughter looking for love, found it in an unexpected man. And there it is, a happy ending in the making!

Aurora Rose Lynn

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Happy Happy Joy Joy

Happy endings? I take it we’re not talking about that massage parlor over on 32nd and Broadway.

I think happy endings are very important, if not an outright must, when you put your characters through as much hell as I do. Having said that, I don’t always deliver a clear cut “and they lived happily ever after.” More often than not, even though the characters are in a good place and have been made stronger through their shared troubles, there is something lurking in the darkness just ahead and ready to take them on the next grand adventure.

Why would I do that to those poor people? In short, I don’t believe in Happily Ever After. I believe in happiness and the pursuit and once found holding onto it for as long as possible, but nothing lasts forever. Now wait just a cotton pickin’ minute, you say. What about love? I do believe in a forever kind of love, but it must be an ever evolving beast and with change comes highs and lows. The love may not diminish, but no one can exist in a perpetual state of happiness. Life just won’t allow that to happen. True, it may NOT be our significant other that causes unhappiness, but we all have to experience our lows to really appreciate the highs.

Get your happy-ever-after fix...

That's my sig line, so it should come as no suprise where I stand on this topic. Which, oddly enough, makes this blog even harder to write. Part of me just wants to type DUH in really big letters and be done with it.

Am I fostering a set of false ideas that cloud the mind and leave reality lacking? Puh-lease. I give my readers more credit than that. Of course HEA doesn't really mean a couple will be happy for every day of their lives. I don't know of anyone who really believes that. Fiction is just that--fiction. I like mine escapist and pleasant. If you want dismembered body parts, by all means go read it. But I want my books to leave me at a happy place. The bill collectors can show up tomorrow, or the river can flood, or the king can call his vassals off to war. Whatever. At the time I leave that book, I want everything hunky-dory. This is true, by the way, whether I'm writing a book or reading one. I like the mental vacation I get with romance, and the sense, when I put a book down, that sometimes, just sometimes, the good parts make the bad parts worth the trip.

So what makes a happy-ever-after in Cindy's world? Love, committment, marriage? Yeah, any and all of those are good. Is that simplistic and idealistic? Again, DUH. Life is complicated. So is good fiction. Life has good and bad and everything in between. I've been happily married for 23 years to a man who proposed less than six weeks after we'd started dating. We were young, crazy, and we knew we wanted to be together. It hasn't always been roses, but at the end of the day, I snuggle into arms that fit, and I honestly have to believe that sometimes you get lucky. Amid all the stress that twenty years and two kids and myriad careers have brought, I honest-to-god wouldn't trade any of it, if it meant I couldn't be with him. Even when we're fighting over stupid stuff. As someone said earlier this week, I want to know at the end of the story, that whatever else life throws at them, they're going to face it together.

And that is a Happy-Ever-After I can really believe in.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Happiness May Appear Closer Than It Actually Is

I have a very skewed idea of "Happy," especially when it comes to romance. Almost all of my books feature vampires. And usually, only one party is a vampire and the other is a human. To get their happily forever after...well the mortal has to die. Sure they come back, but this almost always leads to abandoning everything they have ever known in favor of being with their vampire lover.

To me that is happy. But I can see how some people might disagree. For the most part the vampire turning is implied. With the exception of one book the reader doesn't see the "dirty details" involved in a "forever after." It's more pleasant to think of the good and let the bad fall to the side.

Sure, at the end of every book the hero and heroine are together and happy and in love. But can a reader forget everything that has taken place before? All of the hurt, the loss, the pain that I have thrown at them as hurdles to get together in the end? Can they forget what the hero/heroine is going to have to give up in the future to be with this one person?

I don't know. It seems to be working out, people are still reading my books and seem to like them very much. But I am a cynic. "Committed couple at the end" I can live by that code. I just don't always know how happy that really is for some of my characters.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Happily Ever After

When it comes to books and movies, Brynn Paulin has one rule: there must be a happy ending. After that one requirement, anything goes. And it just might in her books.

That’s a clip from my author bio and it’s absolutely true. I believe in happy endings, and I prefer happily ever after endings. Actually, I have a very strong opinion about them. Let’s face it, there’s enough bad stuff going around in the world without me writing an ending that leaves the characters with more horror, sorrow or hardship. As a romance author, I feel that I owe it to my reader to deliver the goods—the warm fuzzy goods. It’s part of the “contract”. Romantic books are adult fairytales. Romance + Hero + Heroine = HEA.

HEA stands for Happily Ever After. In my books, that’s what you’re going to find. HEA. There’s a trend right now for a new ending “Happy for Now”. In many cases, happy for now, in my opinion, is a copout and a betrayal and a little too much like the wishy-washy society we live in that perpetuates the “if you’re not happy, move on” philosophy. There is no permanence or stability.

I have to agree with the commenter yesterday who mentioned honesty in the ending. I’m not advocating a deus ex machina, suddenly all is well and the choirs sing ending. While the characters in a book should experience trials and emotional upheaval, a book should be written with a slant toward getting to the HEA. When you get there, it’s not a surprise though no one could predict the path. It makes sense to get to the HEA. It has to make sense. The “Poof! And they kiss and declare undying love even though they hated each other with unmitigated passion one paragraph ago” kind of stories really irritate me. I wonder, did you run out of words? Did you just get tired of writing the book? Did you not notice what was happening here?

Opinionated? Me? No…

Do I think that the characters in a HEA ending will never face a trial or unhappiness again? No. I don’t think they’re going to live in some romantic utopia where nothing goes wrong, but when THE END comes around, I know that the hero and heroine are united. They will face anything else that happens in their lives as a unit. They are each other’s strength and comfort.

Yes, I think beyond the last page while I’m writing. I can’t be the only author who does that. I often think of many “but what if this happens?” scenarios while I’m writing. Will the connection I’m creating stand up to adversity? If it doesn’t pass my test, I rework things. It helps to fireproof your characters so to speak.

I guess I have to backtrack here for a sec… That happy for now ending. Sometimes it’s necessary. If the characters meet and the romance takes place over the course of a day and/or the emotional connection between them can’t be realistically developed then happy for now has to happen in order to ring true. I believe in love at first sight and soul mates. Quick connections can happen in my realm of experience, but you have to be uber-careful in writing it.

Honestly, this topic is so important to me that I could go on forever. But, I won’t. I’ll end with two reiterations:

1. Romance + Hero + Heroine = HEA

2. Brynn Paulin + Book = HEA

It’s just the way it is.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Happy Ever After

What kind of ending do you like? Most people like happy endings to their books. Of course, the definition of a happy ending varies from book to book.

For some a happy ending requires a wedding. For others a commitment is enough. And then there are the books--whodunits--that the required ending is catching the killer.

How do you feel about your books? How would you feel about a book that didn't have a happy ending? Are happy endings realistic?

Readers are split on subject matter for books. I've had readers who questioned why there are not more books that deal with real issues and other readers have pointed out that they read books for escape and therefore don't want to read about serious issues. It seems to me that those preferences could carry across to the endings, too.

I would like to hear what readers would like.


Saturday, November 15, 2008

Please Welcome CRISSY SMITH

We're very happy to welcome Crissy Smith to the Grip blog today.

My muse! Ahhhh what can I say about him? He likes to ride next to me with the top down on the car, wind-blowing lifting our hair from our shoulders, and music blaring. He leans over and whispers in my ear and I find myself having to pull over and get out my mini-notepad to write down his ideas.

I’m lying in bed curled up sweet dreams dancing in my head and he shows up bare chested and demanding attention. I have to wake up and write down more thoughts.
I’m watching TV, a movie, listening to the radio and he interrupts with his favorite question. “But what if they were a werewolves?”

In case you haven’t figured out my manly muse follows me around day and night. Sometimes he stays quiet and I think he’s left and sometimes I can’t get rid of him. Oh and he is a wolf shifter. To him any subject should be looked at in a paranormal way.

He’s given me so much inspiration I have to outline my books and make him wait until I can get to his latest one. And he always wants a strong-willed, independent, female that he can dominate and show new things too.

I love him. I hate him. He is my greatest friend. And my biggest foe.

He was the one who came up with the plot of Savage Love my first release through Total-E-Bound that is on sale now! We were watching TV when he suggested the under cover cop was a werewolf, the bad guy was a vampire, and the woman just found out both exist.

So make my muse happy and read the excerpt! Or I may never get some sleep!)You can find more about Savage Love at Total-E-Bound and buy your copy today!

Kelly Walker will do anything to catch her sister's killer, including entering a world she'd had no idea existed, and giving her heart to a man not completely human.

Kelly Walker is determined to bring down the man who killed her sister. One year later and there still hasn't been an arrest made. She knows there is an on-going investigation headed by the attractive and intriguing Alex Gray. The only man who has ever been able to touch something deep inside her she'd rather not know about. Their attraction is almost animalistic.

Alex Gray has tried for a year to keep Kelly out of the investigation he's given two years of his life for. But when he finds her trapped with the man he knows has killed before, he must risk everything to protect her. Showing her what he really is and what they are up against could cost him the one thing he's waited his entire life for—a mate


Kelly wasn't happy, but she left the bar. What was she going to do anyway? Walk up to Craig and introduce to herself as the sister of the woman he'd killed a year ago. He would probably pull out a gun and shoot her where she stood.

Shaking her head, Kelly walked to her car. A sound from behind her made her stop and twirl around. No one was there, but the hair on the back of her neck stand up. Digging through her purse, she found her keys and gripped them tightly in her hand. She looked back at the door. She could go back inside and have Alex walk her to her car.

No, he might think she was making it up to be alone with him. Biting her lip, she turned back towards the car and jumped in surprise. The man in front of her was over six feet tall, had on a long blank trench coat, and was snarling at her. As he reached out for her, Kelly backed away. He moved faster and grabbed her upper arm.

He quickly pulled her in the alley behind the bar. She could see three men waiting.

Kelly started to kick, but a hand covered her mouth and an arm went around her neck, cutting off her air. Then she was standing in front of the man she had come to see.

Craig Lambert leaned forward and sniffed her neck.

Kelly tried to kick out again, but the man holding her was just too strong.

"I love the smell of fear," Lambert said in a deep voice that made her stomach roll.

He straightened, and she could make out his facial features in the dim light of the alley. Just like the first time she'd seen a picture of him, she was amazed at how normal he looked. In fact, up close, he was quite attractive. No wonder why her sister had been interested in him.

"I saw you watching me. Do I know you?"

Kelly shook her head, unable to talk with a hand over her mouth.

"No? You do have something familiar about you though." He ran thin, bony fingers over her cheek, and Kelly felt tears threaten to fall. When his thumb flicked over the pulse in her neck, she could have sworn his eyes turned red.

Eyes wide, Kelly watched him as he leaned forward. His mouth opened and his teeth, which had been normal, started to lengthen. Her scream was barely audible as terror she'd never felt before shook her body.

Before he reached her, there was a howl and something knocked into them. Kelly went down on her side and rolled away from the two men. She heard someone call out, "wolf," as she scrambled to hide against the wall of the building.

The scene before her was like something in a movie. A grey-and-white wolf stood in the mouth of the alley as the four men spread out with guns drawn. Kelly didn't know what to do, so she pulled her legs to her chest and wrapped her arms around them, hoping to stay invisible.

The first shot rang out and Kelly jumped. The wolf charged into the alley, attacking the wrist of the one who'd shot at him. While he was busy, another man aimed for the wolf, but the animal moved just in time and sidestepped another bullet.

The first man was holding his arm as he fell away from the wolf. Kelly watched as blood gushed from the wound and dripped to the dirty concrete. She felt her stomach turn at the sight and steeled herself not to get sick. That wouldn't help the situation at all.

Then the wolf jumped on the other guy, his sharp canine teeth clamping down on the man's throat. Kelly closed her eyes as the man's scream turned into a gurgle but the sound of movement had her opening her eyes again. She watched as the wolf released the man and stalked towards the other two men. The one who had held her, and the one who had killed her sister.

The men exchanged looks before jumping straight up in the air. The wolf charged at the same time but met only air as the two men disappeared.

Kelly wasn't aware she was sobbing until the wolf turned, and she met his stare. She'd never seen a real wolf before, only on television, but she knew this wasn't just an ordinary wolf.

He stepped forward, and Kelly held out a hand. "St…st…ayyyy," she stuttered. Her hand shook and she could practically hear her own heart beat. The wolf stepped closer.

Hoping this was just a bad dream, she closed her eyes, counted to ten, then opened them, but the wolf was still there. Standing in front of her, his head tilted to one side, blood dripping from his mouth.

Kelly moved onto her knees and tried to crawl away. The wolf growled, and she froze in her spot. The growl vibrated the air around her. Obviously, the wolf didn't want her to move. So she remained on her hands and knees against the old brick building, watching as he closed the distance between them. When he stepped in front of her, she once again got a look at the eyes.

A sense of calmness went over her as she looked in those deep grey eyes. She just stared, as she had done not more than half an hour ago. "Alex," she whispered.

The wolf moved and she felt his soft fur against her skin.

The back door of the club swung open, and they both jumped. Before she could blink, the wolf hunched down and growled. Kelly felt a wave of relief as Marcus stepped out the door.

Kelly watched Alex's partner take in the scene before him. The wolf was still crouched down and growling, and Kelly was still on her knees. She looked over to where the men had been but they were gone. There were no bodies or anyone but them in the alley. No blood or sign of what had taken place. If Kelly hadn't seen everything with her own eyes, she wouldn't have known anything had even taken place.

Marcus closed the door and turned towards her. Kelly started to stand, but the wolf turned his head and snapped at her.

Crissy Smith is Letting the WILD out!

Friday, November 14, 2008

A "Muse" Me

I used to cringe when people asked me the dreaded question, “How do you come up with your ideas?” It’s such a hard question to answer because there is no ONE answer that really covers it. Inspiration comes many times and in many forms throughout the writing of the novel. Oh, sure you get the initial surge that puts the story underway, but how do you decide what to put your characters through as they travel from point A to point B? I’ve had entire chapters spawned from watching a homeless man pick up a smoldering cigarette butt outside of a store or watching a soiled napkin dance along on the wind for parts unknown or from a vase knocked from a windowsill while dusting, shattering and sprinkling petals all over the kitchen floor or… well, you get the gist of it by now.

A muse? I don’t have one per se. It’s more like an ocean of voices vying for attention, each with a story to be told, each with a distinct voice if choose to listen. Most of the time they are hushed whispers and easy to ignore, but occasionally an event happens like one listed above and they scream out a scenario as a cause or effect and I think, Yeah, I can run with that.

Not all scenes are born of the troublesome voices in my head, some are just drudged up from past experiences (both mine and those shared with me), polished a bit and offered to my characters to do with what they will. Others travel down the road of what would happen if different choices had been made at critical crossroads in my own life. Those generally scare the hell out of me. I happen to love the life I have right now, but I’ve had many an opportunity that would’ve taken me to a different place, with different people and a drastically different outcome. I have to say, looking back, I’ve chosen wisely more often than not.

Inspiration is all around us. We are bombarded with possibilities on a daily basis. The trick is recognizing the worthy and stifling the cries of the trivial.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

“Where do you get your ideas?”

Honestly, this is one of the most often asked questions for a writer, and really, one of the very hardest to answer. The late, great science fiction author Douglas Adams once said something about this. Forgive me for not recalling his exact wording, but it was along these lines: “All I can suggest is to drink lots of coffee and to buy a desk that can withstand having one’s head banged on it.”

Yeah, that about sums it up, though I substitute diet cola for the coffee (ick!). Ideas and inspirations float in and vanish at will. I don’t have a muse, or at least if I do, it’s frighteningly erratic. My ideas come from here, there, and everywhere, usually when I’m least expecting them. Sometimes snippets of dreams. Sometimes a tidbit of an overheard conversation. Other times, I’ll be watching a boring movie or TV show and think, “This would be much cooler if he was a werewolf and she was a leprechaun.” And so on. Generally the best ones occur when I can’t write them down.

I think part of the particuliarity that makes fiction writers, particularly speculative fiction writers, what they are is the weird ability to act as sponges for all the odd bits of whimsy in the universe. Seriously. Until I started interacting with other authors, I thought it was just me who would look at a couple in a restaurant and immediately start spinning a story in my head behind her unusual necklace, or his interesting accent. Or who would hear a single phrase out of context in a grocery line and end up building six different scenarios around it. Or watch a perfectly ordinary movie and get so irked that I had to rewrite the ending in my head just so I could put it out of my mind and get to sleep.

The real key, I believe, is taking all these bits and pieces and choosing which few to weave into a story. One cool idea does not a story make, unfortunately enough. It’s the convergence of several threads that make a tapestry, and the melding of several ideas to make a story. The difference between being an author and a lunatic may be just that simple—the ability to weave our bits of insanity together into something remotely feasible. Some days that's easy and some days it's hard. Much like those engaged in any other creative pursuit, we all have our off days, or off weeks or (gulp) off years. If we're stubborn enough to slog through it, and wise enough to give ourselves time for other parts of our lives in between, we come through on the other end with a creation that appears to the reader as an effortless and seamless flow of perfectly linked ideas.


Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Muse Vs. Mood

I don't know that I have a "Muse." I have ideas. I have inspiration. But it never comes from the same place. With my last novel fabulous waiters were my inspiration. And lately, nothing seems to be enough to get my fingers clacking again.

I am going through a very difficult loss, and he seems to have taken my desire to write with him. I'm sure it will come back, but to be honest right now I couldn't care less about getting anything new on paper. Nothing has been strong enough, no muse, no idea, no anything has made me think "Hey, there is a story in that."

I guess it is difficult to write with a broken heart when it doesn't come along with any anger. When I am mad, I can write three novels and decimate many lives in it. But when I am sad...I can't even write any bad poetry.

So if I do have a muse, and he is a tricky little bastard if I do, I think that my mood can squash him far too easily for my taste. I would prefer to stick to looking at yummy boys and using that as a launch pad for stories. So much better than depending on an invisible man whispering into my ear.

Dakota Rebel

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

My Muse

My muse is a man. He never tells me what I need to know until after the fact. And he’s annoying. And he likes to vacation in Europe while I’m in the middle of writing a book. He’s fond of whispering sweet nothings in my ear while I’m drifting off to sleep or giving me the key turning point in my story while I’m in the shower. I’d fire him, but somehow, he gets the job done.

He likes water. He talks while I swim or I’m in the whirlpool. He speaks in the rain and have I mentioned the shower? If I’m really, really stuck on a story, you might find me heading for a long, hot shower in the middle of the afternoon.

He adores music. I listen and he send movies through my head. We like to drive and plot. I’ve learned to take notes with one hand while I guide the car through traffic with the other. I’m good at writing without looking at the paper.

Music. I write to it. The muse has picked a soundtrack for every book and it’s part of my manuscript prep work. There are some songs that are basic to every book I write. I have various versions of Hallelujah that make it onto every soundtrack (think Rufus Wainwright’s version in Shrek). This Year’s Love by David Gray is essential. Lullaby by the Dixie Chicks. In My Heaven the Bo Bice version. Breath and Diary of Jane by Breaking Benjamin. Music invokes mood. I carefully choose each song to match the emotion of what I’m writing. The muse likes that. It’s his crutch.

But sometimes I take that crutch away. When the muse refuses to speak, I refuse to let him have music or sound. You might be amazed by how quickly answers come after five minutes driving in a totally silent car.

I’m not insane. I don’t really think there is some guy who follows me around whispering into my ear—wouldn’t that be nice? And annoying. But there are ways to trick the brain. I know my brain’s triggers. As a writer, I think that’s one of the most important things to learn. What and where are the circumstances that allow your creativity to flow? Is there certain music? Are there certain pictures to look at? A particular scent? A particular place? A particular format (paper versus computer)? Do you need to be alone or can you write with people around?

I’ve long said that I don’t believe in writer’s block. I believe in writer’s procrastination. I believe in writer’s distraction. I believe as a writer, you have to learn how to get around that. We must outwit the muse and tell him we’re in charge…

Take away his music until he speaks.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Muse? What muse?

I would say that somewhere in the top five questions an author is asked is the perennial favorite, "Where do you get your ideas?" Huh. Must I confess? I have no idea.

I write using the seat of the pants method. The two times I've attempted to outline books prior to writing, neither of the books bore even the faintest of resemblances to the outlines. So how do I manage it? Free association? No actually, I allow my mind to explore all the possibilities of what if.

What if the people were blue? What if King Arthur never died, but went to his home planet, Avalon instead? What if angels could shift into any animal they wanted to? What if.

Sometimes, our brain is trying to let us know that there's a great story lurking inside, but our control knobs won't let us go. Then that story dies, because we've strangled it. Nearly every time I have trouble with a story, it has to do with that very issue. Instead of letting my brain present all the possibilities... I try to squeeze it into a story girdle, trying to prevent any of the jiggles and wiggles that might possibly make it interesting.

Inspiration? That's the what if. What if I turned right instead of left? What if my character crochets while he watches football? What if my heroine loves to do woodwork or plumbing? When I as the writer open myself to new possibilities, I discover the story lurking in the shadows, just waiting for me to set it free.

What if a dragon and a tiger fell in love? Hmmm. See? Infinite possibilities. With all those possibilities, the only real problem is finding the time to write all the stories.


Sunday, November 9, 2008

The Gallery


Lana Healy agrees to a blind date with Conner after much nagging from a mutual friend. She knows that Conner is an artist, but what she was not aware of is the fact that he’s also a vampire. This ceases to be an issue for her when their chemistry together becomes undeniable.

Lana soon realises that his being a vampire is the least of her worries when it comes to her feelings for him. She can only hope that he feels the same way.

Excerpt (ADULT) :

“I’m flattered that you want me. I want you, too. I really do. But I’m leaving in a few days, and you don’t seem like the kind of woman who is big on casual encounters. I don’t want to hurt you.”

“Christ, Conner, I’m not asking you to be my boyfriend. While it may be true that I am not known for my one night stands, that doesn’t mean I’m not capable of it. We’re adults, we are attracted to each other, apparently, and—”

“What do you mean ‘apparently’?” He cut me off.

“I mean that you are gorgeous, and any woman in her right mind would want you. And for some reason you seem to want me, too.”

“For some reason? Would you like me to list the reasons I want you? Would that help to clarify for you? First, you are beautiful.” He held up a hand to stop the protest he could tell was about to fall from my lips. “You are funny, you’re smart, you’re just as crass as I am and you want me.” He pressed his body between my legs, wrapping his arms around my waist.


“But nothing. If you can promise no regrets, then so can I.” He brought my hand to his lips, laying a gentle kiss on my palm. “I want you, Lana.” He kissed my forehead. “I want you.” He kissed my eyelids. “I want you.” He kissed my lips, my neck, my collarbone.

My hand went to his head, fingers running through his thick black hair as he unbuttoned my shirt, spreading the fabric to expose my breasts. His hands moved to my legs, sliding my skirt up my thighs while his hips pushed my knees further apart.

He started kissing a trail down my chest, his face pressing into me, urging me to lean back. My shoulders hit the piano keys. The sound echoed through the room, making me jump.

Conner smiled at me, then gripped my calves, pulling my ass to the edge of the bench as my back played a few more notes for us on the keys. My skirt was bunched up around my waist, and he hooked his thumbs under the elastic of my panties, pulling them down then off before continuing his descent down my body with his mouth. I fought not to giggle at how cold the wood felt against my suddenly bare ass.

The whole situation was so unlike me. I’d started the evening angry about being set up with a vampire, and a few hours later I was almost naked in my best friend’s art gallery with my undead surprise. On their brand new piano, I might add.

I might have laughed at the absurdity of it all if he hadn’t chosen that moment to press his thumb against my clit. Any humour I might have felt was washed away with the small, hard circles he made against me, replaced by an intense need to feel more of him against me, inside of me.

I had thought I wanted him before, but when he licked a slow line up my slit, I realised I hadn’t even begun to understand what that could mean. His mouth was so warm against me, his tongue making the same movements he had made with his thumb moments before. He flicked his gaze up to look at me and ran his stubbled jaw over my clit, making me come. The orgasm caught me off guard. I hadn’t been prepared for it to hit me so quickly. My nails dug into his shoulders as my head flew backward, my body spasming against the keyboard and filling the room with more strained notes.

“Is that the opening chorus of Phantom of the Opera?” he asked, a crooked smile spreading across his lips.

“That was amazing,” I said softly.

He stood, pulling me to my feet with him. “I don’t know that one. You’ll have to show me.” He kissed me, his mouth still flavoured with my juices.

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Please Welcome Sommer Marsden

We are so happy to have the great Sommer Marsden with us today!

The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly...

Well, let's face it--rejections are never good, are they? But truly they can be. Let's take for example a rejection I received just last week. I finally got around to subbing to a major print magazine and received an email regarding my snail mail submission. This can be good. An email is a quick way to contact you. So, it can often mean a sale if it is in response to a paper submission. And all of that ran through my head when I saw it. So, of course I opened the email with much anticipation and excitement. It was a rejection. Ah, but it was a good rejection. It basically said that she loved my story but it was wrong for what they publish. Therefore she was sending me some samples in the mail to look over so I could try again.

Come on, that's good, right? A very nice editor giving me a very nice compliment and taking time to send me material so I can give it another go. I have to say, as far as rejection goes, it doesn't get much better than that.

Rule number one: Any feedback rocks. It means a busy frazzled editor is taking the time to help you learn something about your writing. Very. Good. Thing.

As for bad. Well, to a degree they are all bad. They all put a little dent in the ego. This can last minutes, hours, days, week, months, or possibly centuries. Okay, so centuries is a bit much. But it does suck and the best thing to do is just sink down into your pity party and have at it. Just monitor it. Don't let it go on for too long or you will never get anything done. Cry, have a glass of wine, drive your husband insane, go for a walk, paint your fingernails or eat a box of cookies. Go on, get it out of your system. Writing is a labor of love and as the J. Geils Band so eloquently put it: Love stinks, yeah, yeah...

At least sometimes.

Rule number two: Allow your pity party to commence but don't make it an all-nighter.

Now let's tackle the ugly. The ugliest of ugly in my book is the dreaded and hopefully avoidable...((((echoing silence)))) This is the rejection that comes in the form of complete an total nothingness. You are ignored. You are not answered when you query. It is as if you are invisible.

This is not to say that every time you never hear you have been dismissed. I have fallen through the cracks (paperwork not ass) and upon query an editor will get back to me and let me know for sure if I am in or out. But when I query and there is..(((sounds of crickets chirping))) I kind of lose my mind. To me a curt "No" is a thousand times better than a great black void of silence. So in those instances, all I can say is, Karma's a bitch.

Rule three: Karma's a bitch. What goes around comes around. Amen.

Above all else, never give up. I do not give up so you are not allowed to give up. Keep plugging along. Have hope, have wine, bitch, moan, cry and talk it out with your fellow writers. But never ever give up. Or I will come find you. Seriously. Get back to work.


Here is a look at Double Booked by Sommer Marsden:


Blyth’s on a forced vacation. She’s supposed to relax, regroup and recover from a failing marriage. It should be heaven. Instead, she finds she’s double booked into her not so haven-ish condo with a playboy like no other. Anthony is her roommate and the man who just might push her over the edge. He’s cocky, rude, domineering and sexy as hell. Is he just a fling or is there more to this bad boy than meets the eye? After all, her vacation can’t be all voyeurism, spanking and power play…right?

Excerpt (Adult) :

“Jesus,” I muttered under my breath. Now vegetables were turning me on. Maybe Anthony secreted some pheromone that made the women in a five mile radius turn to ravenous sex goddesses.

“What about him?” he said right into my ear and let out a yelp. I clutched my heart and dropped the cucumber I had been lusting after.

“Jumpy, aren’t’ you?” He retrieved the poor abused vegetable and put it back into my hand. His eyes lit up and he rested one big hand on my flank. Only one finger moved. Just one. He stroked that small patch of skin through my cotton dress. “I know what you were thinking,” he said in a somehow manly sing-song.

“About a salad!”

“Nope. About sex. What that would feel like. Or imagining it was me. It’s a toss up.” His grin was completely self-assured.

“I would not stoop to produce,” I lied through my teeth.

“And yet, you’re not ready for the real thing.”

“Who says?”

“I say,” he said and placed his arms around me without touching me. He straddled my arms with his arms. His chest, nearly but not quite touching my back, and began to wheel the cart. “You have that wounded soldier thing about you. You have seen the worst and you’re not quite ready to get back into the swing of things. But you’re dying to.”

“With you? You assume?” I snorted for effect but my stomach was fluttering to the point of nausea.

“Yes. With me.” His lips were touching my ear now. Any fool could see my nipples poking against the thin fabric of my dress. I bit my tongue to keep from moaning.

“You have it too,” I hissed because he had backed me into a corner. I was wounded and it pissed me off.

“I have what?” The very tip of his tongue touched the rim of my ear. My pussy went liquid. My boring panties were soaked. My blood hummed under my skin.

“The wounded soldier thing about you.”

Then he was gone. His heat, his face, his tongue. Gone. He had retreated so fast it was like a vacuum. “What’s for dinner? If I’m invited,” he said gruffly, taking his arms from around me.

“Garlic shrimp. Salad. Some kind of dessert,” I stammered, more than a little confused.
He opened his wallet and handed me a twenty. “Here. Use this to help pay. I’ll meet you outside,” he said and walked off.

I watched him go. “Okay,” I said to no one.

Friday, November 7, 2008

Giving the Slip

Rejections, yeah I’ve had a few. Ok, maybe more than a few. Fine, I’ve had dozens of the nasty little suckers. Though, I don’t think I ever quite hit the triple digit mark, I know I had to come close.

Rejections are a part of every writer’s life. If you don’t develop thick skin early on, you will crumble. The majority of my rejections were the coveted form rejections, but I’ve been lucky enough to receive several offering advice and even a couple that were down right inspirational, but all made me more determined than ever to get published.

What seems like a lifetime ago, I wrote the greatest book ever to be unleashed on the human race. How could it not be? I poured my heart, soul and tears into this thing. It didn’t take long to realize (yanno, in publishing time, which was seven or eight months) not only was it not ready to be submitted, but it was crap. Oh, don’t get me wrong, the basic concept was fine; the writing was the problem. Yeah, I was a sucky writer with delusions of grandeur.

I skinned my knees a couple of times early on in the submission process. It sucked, but I began to learn. I developed a vague sense of just how much I didn’t know about the biz. It grew. I queried far and wide. Looking back, even my query letters sucked. I received stacks and stacks of form rejections if I received any response at all. The really cool thing about mass submissions? Walking to your mailbox to find ten or more rejection letters waiting for you. Now if that don’t make your day, I don’t know what will.

So, I read. I learned. I grew. I put my first attempt under the bed. I set out to write another book. As it turns out, it wasn’t quite ready either, but at least with that one, I began to comments and suggestions along with the standard form rejection.

I attended a Con, where my eyes were opened all the wider. Not only did I learn a few things, I made a few new contacts. I also, discovered the joys of having a beta reader.

I wrote a novella, it was accepted. I learned a bit from that. I wrote some short stories. Still more I learned.

I went back and with the help of some encouraging beta readers, tore the original works to shreds, only the idea survived and even that was twisted and changed. I took a break, wrote more shorts, had them accepted. I revisited the books again, one after the other. I put them away.

I made several friends in cyberspace, some of which are accomplished writers. I learned a lot from them. I continued to hone not only my book, but my query letters. I continued to submit and continued to get rejected.

Then a couple of years ago, one of my rehashed babies was accepted and I haven’t received another rejection since. Perhaps I should knock on wood there, but truth be told, I doubt I’ve seen my last rejection slip and oddly enough, I’m alright with that. I know it’s not me they’re rejecting. It’s just part of the game.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

"We're sorry. Your book does not fit our needs at the present time."

Ah, the fun part of being an author. Sometimes, no matter how much you love a manuscript, no matter how much your critique group loves it, and no matter how wonderful all your friends think it is, it just isn't right for the market. So you send it out to editor after editor and agent after agent until you have a thick file (paper, electronic, or both) of rejection letters. Sometimes you get useful criticism, and other times a simple, "It's not right for us at this time."

What's really fun are when you get a collection of letters that look like this:
  • I enjoyed the plotline, but found the characters a little superficial
  • The characters were strong and original, but I wasn't grabbed by your voice
  • Loved your voice, but the conflict was lacking in this story
  • Great tension between hero and heroine, but found the plot a bit weak

O-o-o-kay. You see where I'm going with this? What do you do when one major editor loves something about your story, but hates something else? And when it's a DIFFERENT something for each one?

Send it to somebody else.

Okay, that was easy. But what about when you run out of somebody else's? Or when you get it to that one house that likes to hold onto things for two or three years without any response? It's a very puzzling business we work in, folks, and I don't pretend to have all the answers.

One thing I do know though, is you have to keep going. If writing books is something you really want to do, then you can't give up. In the spring of 2006, I almost did. I was sick of the submission and rejection cycle, and so I sent the three manuscripts I'd been circulating to three different publishers. "This is it," I said. "If one of these doesn't take, I'm hanging it up."

By September, I'd sold all three. To all three different publishers. (Though one has since closed it's doors.) The resulting books are Curses, The Cowboy's Christmas Bride, and Dragon in the System. All three had multiple rejections, and all three have gone on to receive great reviews. So that's my best advice to dealing with rejection. Sulk, feel bad for a little while, then get right back out there and do it again.

Do published authors still get rejected? You betcha. I have a friend who writes for the house whose name is almost synonymous with romance to some people. She regularly turns in proposals for three book deals and has her editor say yes to two of them and no to the third. It happens. The difference is, she has an agent acting as buffer, and she's at the point where she sells on a synopsis & partial, not on the whole book. So it does get better, but let's face it, it's still rejection. It can happen to anyone, and usually does.

So expect it, deal with it, and move on. That's all you can really do. And if writing is really in your blood, then you're probably going to have to deal with it again and again.

Because when somebody FINALLY says, "We'd like to offer you a contract," the file full of rejection letters is all worth it.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

So, Your Baby Has Been Rejected!

Veteran Grip writer Regina Carlysle is here today filling in for Dakota Rebel who is out dealing with a family situation this week. The rest of the Grip crew would like to thank Regina, and send our best wishes to Dakota and her family.

Rejection, huh? Hey, I know a little bit about that and if you’re a writer, it’s something most of us have to learn to live with. Rejection happens in the business. From a logical perspective, we know a publisher is a business and they are looking for things that are right for them but try telling that to a writer. A completed manuscript is your BABY. You’ve conceived it. You’ve nurtured it. You want to see it spread its wings and fly. We want everyone to love our baby as much as WE do. It’s only natural.

The thing is, not everyone is going to see the beauty of your baby the way you do and this can lead to rejection.

I wrote for fifteen years before making my first sale so the topic of rejection is something with which I’m vastly familiar. In those days, we didn’t have the option of internet publishing. It just wasn’t there. If you sought publication, your only alternative was with the giant publishers in New York and we ALL know how hard it is to land a contract with them. That doesn’t necessarily mean your work SUCKS, it just means they are overstocked with authors or the genre you’ve subbed to them.

In the end, it’s not about rejection so much as how you handle it. We all face it from time to time and yes, everyone can say…don’t take it personally but, dang it, it’s hard not to. I normally give myself a day to mope and whine. That’s it. As a writer, it’s important to keep going. Have a work in progress going at all times. So when those rejections come, dive back in. Don’t start second guessing your talents and just know that SOMEWHERE is a publisher who will love it. Immediately send the rejected manuscript elsewhere then go back to the work in progress. In other words, keep plugging, keep typing, keep generating ideas.

Check out Spanish Topaz by Regina Carlysle, released TODAY from Ellora's Cave.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

And You Get Up Again

Okay, I'm going to come right out and say it. This week, I cheated. I have a stack of rejection letters. Lots. So I have plenty to say on this topic. BUT rather than try to reinvent the wheel, I'm giving you an article I wrote with Bronwyn Green after a long discussion with a friend of ours who was formerly an editor with one of the New York publishing houses.

Rejections and How to Use Them to You Advantage

Nobody likes rejection. Not even masochists. And yet, as writers, we invite rejection, time and time again by submitting our material for consideration. It’s the nature of the publishing beast.

Every writer has been rejected at one time or another – from Edgar Allan Poe to Steven King to Nora Roberts. Okay, maybe not Nora Roberts, but I’m secretly convinced she’s a robot, so that doesn’t count. Actually, I bet back in the beginning of her career she racked up plenty of rejections. Just like the rest of us mere mortals.

Why was my story rejected, you might ask. What could I have done differently? What does “This story does not fit our needs,” mean? Manuscripts are rejected for myriad reasons, many not having to do with the quality of the writing at all. Let’s look at these reasons before moving on to the writing quality issue.

Here are some of the top reasons perfectly good manuscripts get rejected, from the mouth of a former editor who has agreed to speak anonymously.

***The editors or agents in question have seen too many manuscripts with the storyline in question. It’s simply too similar to novels either on the market or currently in production.

***Your manuscript hits the editor’s desk during a turnover period. I used to be the running joke at my RWA chapter. "Whatever you do DO NOT submit to the person Brynn submitted to." Every time I submitted, the manuscript was returned because the editor had either left the company or switched departments or got promoted or got sent to another country or got pregnant. I'm telling you. I couldn't win. I learned through discussion that, when this happens, the replacement editor is supposed to give all of the previously requested material a fair shot. Due to the nature of the business, this rarely happens. Either the editor who is leaving, the editor who is taking over or an assistant who is helping out in the interim sends out blanket form letter rejections. The manuscripts might be given a cursory glance, but if their interest isn’t caught instantaneously, they won’t read on. The replacement editor already has so many inherited authors to deal with that acquiring new ones at that very moment isn’t a priority.

***You’ve sent your manuscript to a senior editor. All editors are overworked, most with an author load they can barely handle. Senior editors typically have many other duties within the company as well as a large number of authors with no room for more. So, unless a manuscript is positively perfect and brilliant, it’s more likely to get rejected than passed on to an associate or assistant editor. It’s even more unlikely that the senior editor would pick it up herself. When you have a choice of editors to submit to within a certain line or company, always submit to the assistants and associates. They usually have a decent-sized load of authors, but they’re also hungry to acquire. Acquiring new authors is very important for their company status. Therefore, an editor with a slightly smaller workload will have more time to spend on an author who’s “not quite there, yet, but very close.”

***You didn’t do your homework. Know the lines/houses you’re submitting to. Know what elements are “allowed.” Know which authors they currently publish. Know what sub-genres they are currently seeking. For example, submitting a category romance to Dorchester’s Lovespell line would be result in a big fat rejection letter. Despite the amount of homework you’ve done, your manuscript really might not fit their needs. It might not resonate with a particular editor and is rejected because of that.

***Your manuscript arrived during a “housecleaning” period. Now, most publishing houses will tell you there’s no such thing as a housecleaning period. I’m here to tell you, there is. The month before the RWA National Convention and the period of time between Thanksgiving and the New Year are traditionally bad times to submit. During these times, editors are desperately trying to clear out their slush pile in order to prepare for the deluge of manuscripts following the National Convention and to have a clean slate at the start of the New Year.

On to the writing related reasons your manuscript might have been rejected.

***The plotline might not be tight enough. It might wander or drag in places. You definitely want to avoid this, especially during the proposal stage.

***Your characters may lack depth. If your characters don’t come across as three dimensional as your family members, friends and co-workers, you might want to work on them a bit more before submitting.

***There may be glaring spelling and grammar errors.

***The plot was hackneyed.

***The synopsis fell flat.

I could go on and on and on. The point is you must be sure your story is as good as you can possibly make it before submitting. Get feedback from writing friends or contests. Look at it as objectively as you can and polish, polish, polish.

The type of rejection letters people receive vary – from the dreaded form letter to the personalized letter. Generally, unless you’re being invited to revise and resubmit your story or to submit other work, you’re most likely to receive a form letter.

Unfortunately, there is no real way to tell why your story was rejected from reading said form letter. They’re written to be purposely vague to save the editor or agent from having to write out a personal response. There are several reasons for the existence of the form letter.

Time. Thousands upon thousands of manuscripts are submitted to publishing houses and literary agencies every year. If an editor or agent took time to write a personalized rejection letter for every single manuscript, the process would take even longer than it does now.

Suggestions are often taken in the wrong spirit. When an editor or an agent takes the time to give you suggestions for improving your manuscript, the proper response is, “Thank you for your time and consideration.” Even if you vehemently disagree with every last word the editor or agent had to say, the appropriate response is still, “Thank you for your time and consideration.”

I was amazed to discover that many writers write back with a rebuttal to their rejection letters. In fact, I thought the editor I was speaking with was joking, but she explained that it happens all of the time. They receive lengthy missives about why the publishing house is making a big mistake because their book is the best thing that’s ever been written, to personal attacks on their professionalism, intelligence and integrity to threats. Yes, I said threats. Essentially, there are a handful of writers out there who lessen every other struggling writer’s chances of getting decent feedback. Please, don’t be one of those writers.

When you receive a personalized rejection letter, remember this is actually a good thing. The editor or agent thought enough of your work to take the time to write to you. If you receive a request for revisions, celebrate heartily. This is the very best kind of rejection letter. If you receive an invitation to submit other material, do it! Submit more of your work. Not everyone gets that offer.

When you get a form letter, it’s okay to be sad, but remember, this isn’t a personal reflection on you. It’s not necessarily a reflection on your writing. I have a friend who advocates a 24-hour mourning period. When she receives a rejection letter, she allows herself a good cry, commiseration with writing friends, as much chocolate or ice cream as she feels like eating and a bit of moping. After the 24-hour period is up, she rereads her letter and decides where she’d like to submit her story next.

I think this is a healthy response. It’s natural to feel let down, but it’s also important to keep trying. Remember, above all else, publishing is subjective. What one editor may dislike, another may love. It happens all of the time. Don’t give up. Keep polishing your craft and submitting your stories.

Monday, November 3, 2008

Ah, rejection!

I confess that I have NO terrible pile of rejection letters sitting in a drawer somewhere. I have one. Yes, one. The story line for a book I submitted was too similar to a book already released by my publisher. Sigh.

So did it sting? Oh, yeah. It did. Kind of ticked off, I hunted down that other book and read it. And then for a good long while I felt ill at how many similarities there were. Too many. So on top of the rejection, the book was tainted for me. And it still sits in my computer waiting for revisions and possibly some day I'll submit it somewhere else.

Rejection doesn't only come at the hands of a publisher or editor, though. Like most things rejection starts at home. It really doesn't matter how many readers we have across the globe (and I'm always stunned when I hear from a reader who lives overseas), our family is the group we want to be proud of our work. And mine is not.

Oh, its not because I'm not a good writer--although they really have no way of knowing that because they don't read my books. The genre I write offends them. And that, my friends, does sting. A cousin read my mainstream book and commented that it was a good story but had far too much sex in it for her taste. To my knowledge, she's the only member of my family outside of two of my children who has read one of my books.

Rejection can blindside you if you aren't prepared. I carefully considered all the consequences of writing the kind of books that I write and I knew ahead of time what those consequences would be. That's why I use a pen name. But I admit that the rejection still stings at times. Those are the times that I pull out the letters from readers and friends--those letters that tell me how much they enjoyed my books. That's the antidote for rejection. Fan letters are a powerful vindication for our work. Mail 'em in!


Sunday, November 2, 2008

The Gallery Comes Out Tomorrow!!!

I cannot tell you how excited I am to finally be able to say that! It seems like I've been waiting forever for this one to come out. And tomorrow it will be available for everyone to read. Yay!


Lana Healy agrees to a blind date with Conner after much nagging from a mutual friend. She knows that Conner is an artist, but what she was not aware of is the fact that he’s also a vampire. This ceases to be an issue for her when their chemistry together becomes undeniable.

Lana soon realises that his being a vampire is the least of her worries when it comes to her feelings for him. She can only hope that he feels the same way.


I was surprised at how easy the conversation felt with him. We fell into an easy report littered with sarcastic remarks and light, humorous banter. His wit was quick and he matched me dig for dig. It was nice to talk to a guy who didn’t get offended at my mouth. I cuss like a sailor and pass judgement on everyone with no explanation or remorse. A lot of men can’t handle that. But Conner took it all in stride. It was refreshing.

We passed on dessert so the waiter left the bill on the table while we finished our beers.

“So was your opening a smashing success?”

“It was, thank you. This city is full of assholes who couldn’t wait to, what was it? Start blowing smoke up my ass. I practically sold out opening night.”

“Great, then you can get the check.” I smiled sweetly, winking at him over my glass.

“It would serve you right if I went to the bathroom and never came back,” he said. “You had to order the chicken and the foi gras.”

“I was hungry. If I’d known you were going to bogart the steak tips I would have gotten the lobster too.”

He dropped his credit card on top of the check with a dramatic sigh. I laughed. I had been laughing all evening. I couldn’t remember spending such an amusing evening with anyone other than Hugh Grant, Ben and Jerry.

“What are you thinking about right now?”

“I was just wondering if Amanda was right, if I could really bounce a quarter off your ass?” When in doubt, sarcasm works in a pinch.

“Well, I usually don’t pull out the kinky stuff until the third date. But I suppose I could make an exception if you promise to still respect me in the morning.”

“That would imply that I respect you now.”

He smiled, dropping his eyes to the table. He covered my hands with his own causing me to let out a breath I hadn’t realized I was holding. His hand was warm and his skin was just as soft as it looked. It made me wonder about other parts of him, which made me blush.

“What are you thinking about now?” His voice was teasing, making me realize he had looked up at me in time to see the redness creep over my cheeks.

“Nothing you want to hear about.”

“I doubt that very much.”

The waiter brought the check back, saving me yet again from my awkwardness.

“Come on.” Conner dropped the pen on the table before taking my hand, leading me out of the restaurant.

“Where are we going?”

“I want to show you my work.”

“Now?” It was going on ten pm and the gallery was long closed.

His hand tightened a little around mine, I squeezed back. I didn’t know what the hell I was doing, but I liked him touching me, I didn’t want him to stop. In fact, I found myself wanting him to touch me more, touch more of me.

As if reading my mind he pulled me against him and kissed me. It was soft, warm, and much too quick. My panties became instantly damp at the feel of him against me. I looked at him with wide eyes when he pulled back.

“There, now the first kiss is out of the way. We can both relax and have fun.” His logic was frustrating. I wasn’t sure if I wanted to hit him or make him kiss me again. Relaxing was now the least of the thoughts flying through my mind. “Let’s go see some art. If you can call it that.”

“Do you have a key?” I followed close behind him, one hand still in his and the other wrapped around his arm. His bicep was firm and flexed slightly as we walked.

“No, but all vampires are experts in breaking and entering. Greg won’t even know. Maybe while we’re there we can loot the safe and run away to Maui together.”

“Isn’t Maui a little…sunny for you?”


“Maybe a little. But wouldn’t you rather run off to Transylvania or something?”

“You know, just because you’re cute doesn’t mean you can throw racial slurs at me. I’m going to call the ACLU and report you if you’re not careful.”

“Be still my heart.”

Dakota Rebel

Saturday, November 1, 2008

Guest Author: Janet Lane Walters

Today the Grip Crew welcomes author Janet Lane Walters!

Writer's Space:

Since I've been selling since 1968, and I've moved a number of times, a number of spaces have been in my life so I'll share some of my favorite ones. Having a space in which to dream and write is important, but mine have always allowed the flow of family to enter. My children learned early that if Mom had a pen in her hand they should wait quietly until she looked up. Two of my writing spaces were successful but one was not and later I'll tell you why.

In 1968 when I sold my first short story, my space was a room about 8 by 10 lined completely in wood. I didn't have a desk but used a card table and a manual typewriter, complete with carbon paper and white-out tape. There was one book shelf that held mostly my writing supplies. Books were in another room. There have always been books around both for pleasure and for research. The space opened through a walk-through closet into the family room where my two young sons played and watched TV. My table was placed so I could see them, a very necessary thing since they were one and almost three. I haven't thought about this space for ages and remembering the eagerness when I sat down to type what I'd hand written brings that eagerness back. This space was in Pennsylvania.

We moved and the spaces changed, Two were in Ft. Worth. Texas. Neither of these resulted in sales but were learning spaces. An editor rejected a short story and stated that it sounded like a synopsis for a novel. This while in two Texas apartments. I honed my writing skills. One of the studies was in a hall with a desk. The other was in a room that was about fifteen by fifteen. They do things large in Texas. The room was both a writing space and a nursery for my infant daughter. By now the boys were seven and five. Here I wrote and re-wrote the first novel to sell. The book was rewritten seventeen times but didn't sell until I was in another Pennsylvania writing space.

My writing space here was an interesting spot. Situated between the kitchen and the living room, this wasn't exactly a room but a passage way. The steps to the basement were at the rear of my space. My desk sat beneath the window. The only wall without a door had a floor to ceiling bookcase where I had begun to collect my research material. Mostly medical and nursing magazines. My first books were "sweet" nurse romances. I sold three in 1972, one of them the book that was revised again and again. Revision was what helped me learn the craft of writing.

My next writing space was also in Pa. and this was the one that wasn't conducive to writing. The desk, actually a flush door with legs attached sat in front of a massive picture window giving me a vista on the world and too much to see and dream about. Here I wrote some poetry that was published but little else. Dreaming was too easy.

My current writing space is in New York, not far from the Hudson River but the only windows are small and look into the neighbor's kitchen and front porch. The space was once a sun porch that had been converted into a room by the former owner. When we first moved in I had the walls painted pale lavender with a dark purple carpet on the floor. For writing purple prose. Here I completed two more books and worked as a ghost writer for doctors and learned a lot about medicine and how I didn't like to write for doctors. Not all of them were bad and several gave me credit. That was a plus. But a return to work as a nurse to put four children through college interrupted my writing but not collecting ideas.

My writer's space is not pale green with a parquet floor. My computer desk has lots of shelves. On the top shelf are the sixteen dragons in my collection and some other sillies like a feather pen and a kohl stick from Egypt a bear dressed as a doctor and a small cat as a reminder of my familiar who passed away. Across the room is my recliner where I hand write all my stories. Above the chair is my fencing foil, a cane shaped like a serpent and a picture of Robespierre a cat who lives in several of my books. One wall is filled with research books and so is another bookcase. The children are grown and on their own, but the children of my mind live in my space and come out to show their stuff to the world.

Here's a taste of Flight, Book One of The Henge Betrayed by Janet Lane Walters
available now from Mundania Press
(Click the cover to find out more)

Blurb: Awakened late at night, four teens are sent by their parents to seek teachers to show them how to use their awakening powers. They have affinities for the elements, Earth, Fire, Water and Air. As they leave the henge, they witness the destruction of their home and family. Can they find their teachers before the mage, Dom Senet, He Who Walks With Evil, finds them?

Flight - Book One of The Henge Betrayed by Janet Lane Walters published by Mundania Press

A flash of lightning brightened the sleeping chamber. Ash woke with a start and burrowed into the pillows. The scent of trouble rode the air currents that threaded through the open window slats. Her heart thudded in her chest. Like the beating of a giant’s club against a massive drum, thunder sounded. Again, lightning flashed and cast green, red, white and blue slashes across the sky.

The air held no threat of rain. ‘Twas like the heat storms of summer, unnatural at this time of year for the waning days of autumn marked the season.

Ash calmed her racing thoughts and tasted the air for that was her element. A frown formed within and without. From the land beyond the four walls of the henge, she caught the odors of fires, animals and men. From inside the keep, there was little except the aromas of her parents and siblings. Something was wrong. Where were those who served the Dom and Doma of Wesren? Ash propped herself against the pillows. If she had her younger brother’s affinity for things of earth, she could read the stones of the ancient tower and know what had passed while she slept. Where were the men servants and maids? ‘Twas as though the henge had been abandoned by those who lived within the four walls.

The chamber door creaked. Ash froze until a familiar scent reached her. “Mama, what’s wrong?”

The Doma Calanda slipped across the room and sat on the bed. “Ashlea, still your thoughts.”

Ash struggled to obey the sharp command. Her mother seldom spoke this way. “Why?”

“Thoughts travel on the wind and may be read by those who wish us ill.” She grasped Ash’s hand. “Dress in your warmest clothes. As soon as you’ve finished, go to the inner room.”

The urgency in her mother’s voice raised fear. “What’s happening?”

“We’ve been betrayed. An army surrounds the henge. Your father and I believe the secret of the openings in the walls is known by those who seek to force us to use our powers for their ends.”

Click the book cover for more, or go look for the book on or Barnes & Noble.

Visit Janet at Dame Amber, Jewels of the Quill, Books We Love Author Janet Lane Walters, Books We Love Spice Author Janet Lane Walters , Nothing Binding, or her blog, Eclectic writer.