Writer Beware

Writer Beware

Traps Abound

It’s been years since I’ve played this game…

Remembering to be aware of traps and leeches is something that I have to remind myself of every so often, especially after going through last years’ receipts. Every writer should beware of the traps set for the unwary. Unfortunately, every trap is different, too, depending on the person and where they are in their career. So I decided to share with you the stuff that’s tripped me up over the past few years.

In no particular order, here are the things I have learned to be wary of as I go about building my career.

1. People Who Make Money Off of Writers. Every art form has them, the people who are like leeches, bleeding those who can least afford to spend the money because we’re desperate for guidance. (These are the people who get actors and dancers to perform for free, because every actor and dancer isn’t quite who they think they are when they aren’t performing. I’ve been both, and I get it.) Who are these people making money off you? They are those who profess to know what you need to learn because they have done it, and now are willing to teach you. I’m not saying all teachers are in it just for the money; in many instances, you can find good teachers at reasonable rates (especially online) who will teach you what you need to know/want to learn.

Plus many teachers are very good at it, and they do it because they see a need and they know they can fulfill that need. But when those rates go sky-high? (Tip: Just because it’s expensive doesn’t mean it’s a good class.) When the class is less than satisfactory? Yeah, then you have a problem. YOU ARE BETTER OFF WRITING YOUR NEXT BOOK than take a class you really can’t afford and might not get much out of. That said, classes can be vital to our growth. Budget your class money, and be very careful how you spend it or you’ll be like me. I’ve got several classes that I’ve spent over a hundred dollars each on last year, and you know what? Few of those classes were memorable and made a difference in my work. And now money is tight. If I’d saved that money, I could have gone to National Conference this year. Lesson learned.

2. Beware Of Other Writers’ “How To Do (whatever)”. This one is similar, and yet a little different from the one above. If you are like me, and you go to conferences and writer’s meetings, you have all these people sharing their way (or “a” way) to do things. Like, plot. How many different plotting structures are there? Without thinking too hard about it, I can think of 4. The problem for me is, none of these work AS I’M WRITING.  Now, that may just be me, but still – I’ve had workshops totally mess me up and paralyze my writing. Not pretty.

I came to this epiphany at the SoCal RWA Conference last month. I was lucky enough to continue a dialog I had started with the fantastic Brenda Chin back at Desert Dreams last year. (My other posts about Brenda are here and here.) So, we’d talked about a book I’d sent to her and she said the plot needed work. We talked, I revised the plot and sent in the synopsis to her, and we met up at the SoCal RWA Conference where she said, yeah – there’s too much plot.

But but but – I had used the Latest and Greatest Plotting Device in my Toolbox – The Blake Snyder Save The Cat way to plot! (Blinks eyelashes, widens eyes innocently.) How can it possibly be too much? (Trust me, it was. Too much. Way. WAY. Too much. Maybe not for a single title, but DEFINITELY too much for a category romance.) Just another instance of how a great new “tool” can totally derail you. (Or maybe that’s just me.) Yes, be a sponge. Absorb all you can. Then let it all go, and just write.

(BTW – Brenda sat with me and explained the nuances of a catagory romance plot. Book is in progress. I’m a happy girl!) (Also BTW – you’d think, after reading the books for so many years, it would be ingrained. It wasn’t. Sigh.)

3. Jealousy This one hurts. Mainly because it hurts all ways around. There are some people I know who have marvelous careers that started writing at about the same time I did. I’ve learned to be happy for them and only mildly envious, instead of wildly jealous. Jealousy does no one any good. I have come to learn that, had I had early success with my writing, I most likely would have burned out because I wasn’t that good. No, seriously. I had a lot to learn. I STILL have a lot to learn, and I’m looking forward to that journey. I am content with my path because, frankly, everyone’s path to success will look different. Kick jealousy to the curb, you won’t regret it.

4. Anyone Who Promises You A Fast Solution is lying. There are none. There is no magical way to lose weight except through hard work. There is no magical way to become a brilliant writer except through hard work. There is no magical way to become a better person/good mother/loving spouse/best friend/critique partner except through hard work. No one will hand you a career. You have to work hard for it. Anyone who promises a fast solution is talking about moving money from your pocket to theirs. They win, you lose.

5. Anyone Who Says “You Must” or “Must Not” With Regards To Your Career. Be REALLY wary about these people, because often (but not always – see #1) they are people in power. At my very first conference (2002), I had an editor tell me that paranormal was dead on arrival, and try something else. Three years later, Ms. Meyer set the ball rolling with Twilight. Do take whatever your agent/editor says seriously, take it and live with it and make it your own – but if your gut rebels, then look at the relationship. Open that dialog again, and work it out with the person who gave it to you. Don’t take their position on an issue at face value. If after discussion it still doesn’t sit right, then their advice isn’t for you. This may change your career, but hell – IT’S YOUR CAREER. Not theirs.

6. Be Careful on Social Media. This should also be called the “don’t bash anyone” point. You may have been dismissed by every publisher in the business; but that doesn’t mean it’s okay to Indie pub your book and then trash talk about all publishing houses everywhere on social media. All that does is make you look childish and, perhaps, a wee bit unstable. Instead, use the trite but true “If you can’t say something nice, don’t say it at all” when it comes to social media. Because honey, what goes on the internet never dies.

I am a soft touch. I’m easily convinced the next wonderpill will make me look like a 20 y/o Victoria’s Secret model (after airbrushing) in real life. That the next skin cream will have people looking at me with delight and wonder at my glowing vitality.  That a stranger will come up to me on the street and tell me I’m beautiful. (Oh, wait – that really did happen. Twenty years ago.) I’ve learned the hard way, and I no longer have the money to toss away on a class that won’t get me anything but a handful of followers (or whatever).

So I’m passing on my hard-won knowledge (for free, lol!). Please, all you wonderful writers and actors and dancers and photographers and artists and game designers out there just trying out your wings – please be careful. Search out the traps. Spend your money wisely. Keep working at your craft and keep your eyes open for new opportunities, and beware of those selling promise-covered snake oil. There are no short cuts.

We Need More Writers and Poets, Dreamers and Lovers in the World.

Without them, the world is a poorer place.  Do you have a lesson to share? Please do!

~ Until the next time…Cheers! ~


Demon Soul and Demon Hunt are available for the Kindle and Kobo! Have you fallen into the Caine Brothers’ world yet?

White Wine Goes With Veggies

White Wine Goes With Veggies

In these days of high unemployment and global financial crisis, it’s nice to relax with a bottle of wine that doesn’t break your pocketbook. I’m here to sort out the memorable from the truly awful, and each bottle is under $10.

A photo of the Leese Fitch ChardonnayLeese-Fitch California Chardonnay 2010 13.9% Alcohol by Volume; $9.99 at Vons

On the Labels: (This one has stuff on the front as well) “Established in 1836, the Leese-Fitch adobe has been home to a girl’s school, a hotel, a military headquarters, along with several saloons and restaruants. In 2004, it became the home of the The Other Guys, part of Don Sebastiani & Sons.”

“This wine celebrates our home, the Leese-Fitch Adobe. Built in 1836, this historical landmark in the Sonoma Plaza was named after Jacob Leese and Henry Fitch, brothers-in-law to General Mariano Vallejo, the founder of the town of Sonoma.”

My Take: Ah. What a refreshing label. None of the nonsense about how this wine will make you beautiful, clean your house, and give you a party in your mouth. Ahem. Also, the way the bottle is “corked” is fabulous – which was actually one (okay, the main) reason why I bought the bottle.

My Rating: ~ Drinkable ~ It’s not a big wine; it has no real pretensions to greatness, but you know what? Usually I want a wine that complements the food – not food that must stand up to the wine. So for me, this is an easy -drinking wine that I’ll keep an eye out for, especially when I’m doing a big dinner salad and other veggies as a main meal. Something I’m doing a lot more these days and boy, don’t I feel healthier?

Steelbird Smoking Loon Unoaked Chardonnay, 2011 Photo of a bottle of Steelbird Smoking Loon

Alcohol 13.5% by Volume; $5.99 on sale at Vons.

On the Label: “Rarely seen was the Steelbird, who fo’ da most part kept to himself, but would swoop in an’ fly the Smoking Loon outta there if he got in a tight spot,” Jake went on, chomping on his cigar. “Mos’ folks figured Steelbird was just an odd duck, but his inner circle knew he was more dependable than anyone else.  A smooth operator, never takin’ any chances. He kept his ride pristine – sleek, gleaming and finely tuned. He’d maneuver these impossible routes, fast as lightnin’, without a scratch.”

My Take: This is another arm of the Don Sebastiani & Sons winemaking business, and one of my favorite labels. So when I saw this one sitting on the shelf, I had to pick it up. Especially because, hello! Screw top! I do love screw tops.

Plus, how can you resist a label that has nothing to do with the wines? I feel like I could pull up a bottle and a glass (or sit beside a cask of wine with a pour spout thingy) and listen to Jake all day long. What stories he has to tell!

Regarding the wine, it is surprisingly similar to the Leese-Fitch (and I didn’t know they were made by the same family, I swear, until just a few minutes ago). Kind of bland and unoffensive – and for being an unoaked chardonnay, there is very little of the steeliness in it, which is a plus to me. Steel is not my favorite flavor in wine. But it went beautifully with the double-veggie-stuffed baked potatoes and salad that we had for dinner last night, and that’s all one hopes for with a wine, you know?

My Rating: ~ Drinkable ~ And Hello! Affordable! Plus both bottles are attractive and won’t look like you went cheap if you take it to a picnic.

Thanks so much for dropping by. What wines have you tried lately that have reached Slut status? Or that you wouldn’t drink again even on pain of severe injury? Spill it in the comments!

As usual, this is just my honest opinion and depend upon my mood, the weather, and what cycle the moon is in. Your taste buds will differ.

~ Until the next time, cheers – and remember to drink responsibly! ~

Demon Soul, Blood Dreams and Demon Hunt are all available for the Kindle! Have you fallen into the Caine Brothers’ world yet?


My Rating System: Undrinkable, Barely Drinkable, Drinkable, Very Drinkable, and the ever popular Stay away! This is MY wine, you slut!

Seen About Town – Wildlife

Seen About Town – Wildlife

I spent Sunday carrying my “big” camera – my Canon Rebel T1i – around with me when the hubs and I walked to the duck pond and back. Thank goodness for digital! All the fun of taking pictures and none of the pain of getting them printed if we don’t like them!

We got the best of the day for photography – amazing clouds, amazing birds, and no rain. That came later, while we were at Lowe’s for seeds and plywood…but the photos of the rainbow I tried were just meh. Ephemeral mist just wouldn’t behave.

First up is a particularly devout mourning dove. They are remarkably tame (at least, around me) and won’t fly away unless you startle them.

A mourning dove, paying respects to Buddha.

Next up is a hawk’s nest. It’s high in the trees by the duck pond and the golf course near my house. Yesterday on our walk, the hawk was sitting there, and – wait for it – cheeping. At least it sounded like cheeping. Nothing mean or scary, like you might think a hawk would sound like.

The hawk’s nest, high in a tree by the duck pond.

Lastly, this is the bird feeder in our back yard. This morning, around 5:30 as I was puttering around on the internet, I heard a lot of songbird cheeping and twittering. Once the sun came up, I snapped this photo of a brave lad who didn’t leave when I stepped out on the patio. The only time our yard isn’t full of birds now is when a local hawk (maybe the same one that owns the nest, above?) swoops down through our yard, barely missing our heads. For some reason, all the small birdies go hide for ten minutes or so after that.

Our back yard bird feeder. At breakfast this morning, a squirrel trying to get at the seed almost fell off the top of the feeder.

Thanks for stopping by. What do you tend to take photos of these days?

~ I love your comments. Let’s chat! ~

Demon Soul, Blood Dreams and Demon Hunt are all available for the Kindle! Have you fallen into the Caine Brothers’ world yet?


Marian Lanouette on Writer Wednesday

Marian Lanouette on Writer Wednesday

Today I welcome in mystery writer Marian Lanouette to Writer Wednesday. Enjoy the interview!

CA: Marian, what made you decide to write a novel?
ML: I’ve written most of my life but recently after open heart surgery I had the opportunity to write full-time while recovering. So instead of short stories or poems, I put the story down on paper I had in my head for years. In two short years I got it published.

CA: Why mystery?
ML: I write mysteries with romantic elements. It’s the puzzle and the steps required to solve a mystery that intrigues me. I love reading a good mystery but I love my romance too. So, both together is a home run.

CA: Ah! Gotcha. I love me the romantic suspense, too. How many books/short stories do you have planned for this series?
ML: So far, I have five books plotted out and started. If they continued to be as well received as If I Fail, A Jake Carrington Mystery, I’ll write as many as my readers want. And as long as I feel I can maintain the integrity of the series.

CA:  Where would you live, if you could live anywhere in the world?
ML: I would love to live on a Caribbean Island with a house overlooking the water. I think it would be a great place to write.

CA:    Name 3 simple joys in your life.
ML:  1.) My husband and family 2.) Walking outside 3.)Reading

CA: Those are three of my simple joys, too. Well, MY husband and family, of course, not yours. ANYway…If you could have dinner with any person, living or dead or fictional, who would it be and where would you go to eat?
ML: Maxine’s in Paris, since I saw a movie with Audrey Hepburn. I’d love to have dinner with her. Not only did I enjoy her movies but she was a great humanitarian.

CA: I’m an Audrey fan, too. If you could give just one piece of advice to a writer starting out, what would it be?
ML: Ah, it would be research. Research your genre. There are rules. And research the publishers, agents and readers in your genre. I’d also make sure to take some grammar refresher courses and ones on POV. I did both after many rejections. If I did them first I would have saved myself a lot of heartache.

CA: What do you do when you’re not writing?
ML: I walk with my sister, visit with friends, attend writing groups, and last but not least I love to read.

CA: Do you have a Day Job?
ML: No.

CA: Lucky girl! Name one thing your fans would be surprised to learn about you.
ML: In my latest novel, Burn In Hell, A Jake Carrington Mystery, the woman Jake dates works in a crematory. I too worked in a crematory/cemetery for over ten years.

CA: Wow. You must have a million stories to tell! Is there anything else you’d like to talk about?
ML: I just want to let everyone know the Burn in Hell, A Jake Carrington Mystery released on January 18, 2013 from Muse It Up Publishing.

CA: Let’s take a look at the cover.


A botched missing person’s case.  A nervous mob boss.

Lt. Jake Carrington’s gut tells him Phil Lucci is being cagey—with good reason. Jake can see this case has been mishandled from the beginning. Sloppy police work? Or does Lucci’s hand reach as far as the WPD? It’s Jake’s job to find the answers.

Then Jake meets Kyra Russell, a woman with an unusual job—she runs the local crematory. Despite the heated attraction between them, Jake becomes more and more suspicious of Kyra. Her gambling problem has already cost her a marriage and custody of her son. More than that, she also happens to be friends with Phil Lucci. Kyra assures Jake that it’s just coincidence, but Jake’s experience and his instincts warn him not to believe in chance. Can Kyra be burning bodies for the mob? If she is, what will Jake do about it?

Marian Lanouette Bio:

One of ten children, Marian took to writing to explore new and adventurous places. While her friends traveled on planes for vacation, Marian traveled in books. With an overactive imagination, it didn’t take long for her to start creating her own characters and stories. If I Fail, A Jake Carrington Mystery that released in 2012, is the first book in the series.

As an avid reader, she discovered mysteries by reading the Daily News as a youngster. Intrigued by the real life crimes, and how the police worked and eventually solved them, ignited her imagination beyond the ordinary.

An English professor marked her final paper with an A, but wrote a note that said, “Well done, though you’re not Virginia Woolf yet, so add a little action to the story.” That one line had her punching up the action in stories to come.

Marian has many plans (books) for Jake Carrington and his crew. She invites you to discover these wonderful characters and share your impressions at: marian.author@gmail.com or www.marianl.com .

You can also find Marian here:

Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/#!/marian.lanouette
Twitter: https://twitter.com/AuthorMarian
Book Trailer: http://youtu.be/DnmqRl-J0co
BUY LINK if you are so inclined (and I hope you are!)

The book sounds way cool! Thanks for stopping by, Marian. So folks, what do you think? Do you have any questions for Marian? Let ’em fly! You know I LOVE hearing from you!

~ Until the next time, cheers – and remember to drink responsibly! ~

Demon Soul, Blood Dreams and Demon Hunt are all available for the Kindle! Have you fallen into the Caine Brothers’ world yet?

Writer Wednesday – Wendy S. Russo & January Black

Writer Wednesday – Wendy S. Russo & January Black

Today I’m featuring Wendy S. Russo, and her new YA novel January Black, which I also had the pleasure of reviewing. Oh – and somewhere in this post, there’s a super secret hidden link to a super secret second blurb for the novel…look carefully! When you find it, the password is “matty”. All you have to do is click on the link, put in the password, read the excerpt, and then leave a comment and you’ll be entered into a drawing to win a copy of JANUARY BLACK! Woot!

Let’s take a look at the cover:

Isn’t that cover stunning?

January Black Blurb
Sixteen-year-old genius Matty Ducayn has never fit in on The Hill, an ordered place seriously lacking a sense of humor. After his school’s headmaster expels him for a small act of mischief, Matty’s future looks grim until King Hadrian comes to his rescue with a challenge: answer a question for a master’s diploma.

More than a second chance, this means freedom. Masters can choose where they work, a rarity among Regents, and the question is simple.

What was January Black?

It’s a ship. Everyone knows that. Hadrian rejects that answer, though, and Matty becomes compelled by curiosity and pride to solve the puzzle. When his search for an answer turns up long-buried state secrets, Matty’s journey becomes a collision course with a deadly royal decree. He’s been set up to fail, which forces him to choose. Run for his life with the challenge lost…or call the king’s bluff.

My Review:
I lost a few hours as I read this book. It’s a Young Adult novel that is refreshingly and astonishingly intelligent, and the love story is perfectly played out.

Set in a world that is similar to our own but far removed, with a King who leads the people and set mostly in the royal city of Aventine, Matty is given a problem to solve. What was January Black? It takes him two years to solve this question; in that time, we as readers get to know this fascinating world, and delve along with Matty into astronomy, computer coding, chess, a rogue section of the city and even the words of Shakespeare. But as Matty draws closer to an answer, it is the politics of the question that will turn his world upside down.

From Matty’s lightheadedness when he walks into the King’s immense library of real books (ah! The scent of old books!) to the stargazing, to the cryptic messages passed between people who are known only by their number, to the sweet, tentative steps of first and lasting love between Matty and Iris, this is a book to be savored, read, and then read again.

Do you want an excerpt? Click RIGHT HERE for Excerpt Number One. Remember to look for the hidden link to Excerpt Number Two! Password is “matty”.

And of course, here’s a BUY LINK.

You can stalk find Wendy at these fine places:

Blog: http://wendysrusso.wordpress.com
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Wendy-S-Russo/134565346603922
G+: https://plus.google.com/112814882028410401663
Twitter: https://twitter.com/#!/wendysrusso
Goodreads: http://www.goodreads.com/wendysrusso

~ Until the next time, cheers – and remember to drink responsibly! ~

Demon Soul, Blood Dreams and Demon Hunt are all available for the Kindle! Have you fallen into the Caine Brothers’ world yet?