Monday, March 7, 2011



At last month's writer’s meeting, before critique, a discussion rose on the proper use of the comma, a boring topic, indeed, and one, I must confess, I know little about.

Notice all the commas? Anyone know if they are right?

I consulted Copyediting, A Practical Guide by Karen Judd, the "bible" I was given when I began work as a small non-fiction publishing house. What follows is a summary of the proper use of the comma. (I know, yawn, but editors do like a clean manuscript,)

A comma is used in compound sentences usually before the conjunction. Refresher - a compound sentence is made up of two more distinct sentences, each able to stand alone. However, you need not use the comma is the two clauses are closely related or if the second relies on the first to make sense. Hint - if it sounds better read aloud with a comma pause, use it.

Use a comma after an introductorial adverbial clause. When it rains, I feel sad.

Use a comma after an introductorial infinitive phrase. To get published, you must actually write something and submit it.

Use a comma after a long introductory phrase. After nine long years of trying and many rejections, I finally got published.

Use a comma after a short introductory phrase if confusion would result without it. In 2010, 150+ writers were members of Liberty States Fiction Writers.

Confused yet? Wait. It gets worse.

Use a comma after a parenthetical element that serves to break up continuity. When I was learning to edit, I learned, among other things, that the use of a comma can be confusing.

Use a comma between coordinating adjectives if the word and could logically be read between them. LSFW hosts a popular, informative conference each spring. (Popular and informative). As opposed to not using a comma to separate an adjective from a word group. The speaker stood on a black shaky platform (not black and shaky platform, not that it would ever happen at the conference.)

Use commas around nonrestrictive elements. My manuscript, which is a contemporary romance, is at Avalon.

Do not use commas in restrictive clauses using that instead of which. The manuscript that is a historical romance is not at Avalon. (Only that manuscript, not some other).

Use commas with appositives. Refresher - an appositive is a word or group of words that renames the noun or pronoun it follows. Kathye Quick, a founding member of Liberty States Fiction Writers, writes contemporary series romance for Avalon.

If all the above isn't enough to absorb, there are a whole lot of other uses of the commas to consider when writing. There are rules for quotations, transitions, special elements, antiethical elements, series, adverbial clauses and more. After trying to distill all the remaining uses of the commas into a good and entertaining paragraph without luck, I gave up.

So while I'm sure you all now have comma overload short-circuiting your brain, the best advice I have for you is when in doubt, read the sentence out loud. A comma indicates a pause. I you would pause in speaking, pause in your writing. It's all really just a judgment call in most cases.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

How I got Inspiration from the Mirror

I have a thirty-nine year old son. He’s successful, newly single, has his own house, has paid off his student loans, is a commercial airline pilot who lives in Arizona and I want grandchildren. Any takers?

I know, I know, leave the poor guy alone. He has to adjust to single life. But as Mona Lisa Vito said (sort of – same concept) in My Cousin Vinny, my biological clock is – stomp, stomp, stomp, ticking and at this rate I ain’t getting any grandchildren.

And that was the inspiration for Grandmother’s Rings, my three-book contemporary romance series for Avalon Books.

The original concept was nothing like the final product. In it, a heroine talked to her grandmother, who was a ghost. Only the heroine could see her. Gram then decides it’s time for the heroine to find the right guy and sets out to do just that for her favorite granddaughter using otherworldly happenings. But when I pitched the concept to my editor at Avalon, she gently reminded me that the story sounded too paranormal for the line. She was right, of course, but I wasn’t ready to let go of the idea; I just needed to rework it somehow.

So then I thought – write what you know. What would a post-hippie parent who still likes to smell babies’ heads do if her children weren’t cooperating and ready to settle down yet? I knew I had the perfect mother-type from which I could draw some characterizations (C'est Moi). All I needed were a few reluctant ‘children’ who wouldn’t recognize themselves in print and try to get even.

Then, because my head hurt from all that thinking, I sat down to watch Gem Week on my favorite shopping channel – QVC – and a beautiful amethyst ring was being featured. As soon as the show host mentioned “birthstone,” my problem was solved. I would write a series in which siblings were directed by their mom to use one of their grandmother’s rings to find love and happiness

Enter Google. A few searches later and I found that birthstones actually do have characteristics associated with them that are said to be germane to the personality of the child born. It then became a family affair. Amethyst is my mother’s and grandmother’s birthstone, Sapphire is my sister’s and Citrine is my dad’s and mine.

So, while running up my QVC credit card, Amethyst, Sapphire, and Citrine, the books in the series, were born. If I didn’t have children who will cooperate with me, I could make them up. That way I could actually get them to do what I want them to do including reproduce.

Those having the Amethyst, birthstone are said to be intelligent, clever, determined to reach goals, daring and stubborn. Somer Archer, the oldest, is all of these things. She’s a newspaper reporter hoping someday to be a news anchor and is determined and focused on achieving that goal before she’s thirty. Nick Daultry is a New York City police officer, temporarily assigned to rural New Jersey as part of Homeland Security Training. Reporters and cops are natural enemies but a perfect recipe for romance.

A Sapphire is said to promote clear thinking and wisdom and can help center a person. Since Trent Archer, the second sibling is a local police officer, he needs everything a sapphire can give him. Provided, that is, he can get through the torture of being in his sister, Somer’s wedding, and his pairing with Nick’s NYC partner in the wedding party, Linda Wolff, a veteran female cop who looks like anything but fun. But as the wedding weekend progresses, Trent sees something he likes in Linda’s eyes.

A Citrine is believed to protect from injury and offer beauty, and joy. Ali Archer, the youngest and most free-spirited of the three Archer siblings, is counting on it. She is the last one standing and determined not to fall for the new family curse. But at her nephew’s first birthday party she runs headlong into Nick’s cousin Jake, a red, white and blue hero soldier on leave for 30days before returning to his unit in the Middle East for another tour of duty. Can the self-proclaimed environmentalist and the soldier find a middle ground to share or will they just have to settle for some combat wounds that may never heal?

I enjoyed writing about the Archers and getting to know them, But now, it seems like three of my children are leaving me forever. Over the last 18 months, Somer, Trent and Ali became as real to me as my actual kids. But now, with the publication of Citrine, the last book in the series in August, the Archers have other things to do than hang out with me. I’ll miss then; I really will. But I have other people in my head screaming to get out.

I hope all of you who get to know the Archer’s will enjoy their adventures as much as I did. And who know, maybe we’ll run into them somewhere in our own travels because maybe somewhere out there, the Archers really do exist.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Hitting the Wall

I haven't been here for a while. I can't write and lose weight at the same time apparently.

Defatification is hard work, I keep it under 1600 calories and I work off 600 on the torture machine of choice - the tread mill and I still can only manage to lose 1/2 to 1 lb a week for a total of 50 in a year and a half, while my sister, Ms. Fatty Fatterstein has dropped 85 since January. Maybe I left my metabolism in heaven and she picked it up on the way here, Do you think she'd give it back, Noooooooo. She looks great, I still have a tire around my middle, albeit I'm down from a truck tire to a mid-size car now. I'm aiming for one of those smart car tires by the end of summer.

Did you know that sugar free jello has 10 calories but still equals 100 calories when you eat ten of them? I think I see where I'm going wrong.

My son is getting married April 2011 and I have no intention of wearing one of those mother of the groom dresses. I want a slinky one-shoulder jobbie that shows off my ink and my booty which needs to be about two sizes smaller by then.

So if I kinda go away for a while, it could mean I'm in the middle of booty-pops to a hot Adam Lambert song - I know he's gay, leave me alone - somewhere in the basement. C'mon on down and let's boogie!!

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Painting your book

Just got home from vacation yesterday and I think that if you factor out the great spa and all the massages, if you can, the best part of the trip was the Norman Rockwell Museum. I went on the tour and really learned a lot about writing and how our craft is a lot like

Now at first that might sound strange, but if you think about it, writing and painting are closely connected. The painter is telling a story with his brush strokes much Ike we are telling a story with our keystrokes. And in both cases, it is up to the artist - whether it be the painter or the writer - to make sure that the details come out enough to tell the story.

Take this painting by Norman Rockwell. What do you see? A family dinner. Thanksgiving perhaps. It's actually one of the four paintings that compose Rockwell's majestic "The Four Freedoms" series. Maybe you'd stop a minute and look at the picture and then walk on. But let's look closely at this painting and "see" the story Rockwell is telling us.

In the painting is a large family gathered around their table. The occasion is probably Thanksgiving because of the huge turkey being served. Both the good china and the good silver are on the table. It’s probably Grandmother who cooked all day to make the feast.

The man in the center left is talking and everyone seems to be smiling in reaction to what he has said. The man in the lower right corner is looking at you, as though waiting for your reaction toe the comment.

Grandpa is at the head of the table and has his carving tools ready to slice and serve the turkey. Grandma is placing the turkey in its place. She is still wearing her apron in case something spills and ruins her dress. The turkey appears to be cooked to perfection.

The table extends past the bottom of the canvas, giving the perception that the viewer is actually at the table. The man in the lower right corner of the painting also seems to be inviting you to join in the feast.

Rockwell used white as the main color on the table. But look at the details; the ice in the water, the ironed-in creases still visible in the tablecloth, the light and shadows on the crisp white dishes and serving pieces.

Another painting that tells an incredible story “in the moment” is called “Moving In” it is a example of how Rockwell used his artwork to spark thought and intrigue. The image focuses on a moving truck parked in the driveway as some resident children greet their new neighbors. It seems like an ordinary scene, but it tells an entire story in the matter of one single instant. Look closely.

Both girls are wearing pink to indicate similarities. Two boys have baseball gloves, one a baseball uniform – common interests. The black children have a white cat; the white children a black dog. Do you see the separation on the sidewalk? Two children are ready to cross the line. Very typical of the time frame. Do you see six figures in the painting? There are actually seven. One is in a window to the rear left, peeking out and ready to report to the neighbors. What happens next? Who makes the first more toward friendship?

Norman Rockwell had the gift of inviting us into his work and allowing us to share the story he was trying to tell. Isn’t that what we, as writers, hope to do also?

The advice we can gleam from a Rockwell painting is this – the details are very important, but they should never tell the observer or the reader what he is to experience. The details need to be subtle enough to set the scene and allow the observer to share the story with the artist (or writer) creating it.

Sunday, October 11, 2009


Alex is back!

I have just come from being mesmerized by Dr. Andy Yablonsky on THREE RIVERS. Our own darling Alex O'laughlin first a hot undead guy and now a hot making sure no one is a dead guy doctor every Sunday night. The show is well worth the trip to the TV set

OK I admit, I miss the whole undead, is he going to bit me persona. But this new one -it ain't band.

The show was a hit from day one, so let's just hope CBS realizes it.

And while I'm thinking, you do know there is a gazillion vampire shows on now. Why did MOONLIGHT ever get cut anyway. It was better than most.

A close second in happening hunks on this show is scorching hot Asian doctor, Daniel Lee played by Daniel Henney. If Dr. Yablonsky is busy, I'd take a run at some Kung Pow Chicken with this guy.

But seriously check it out. It will have you thinking og Ben Casey and Dr. Kildare all rolled into one hunky ex-vampire.
Excuse me but I think I hear my hear skipping a beat and I need to get to Three Rivers. ASAP

Thursday, September 10, 2009


Tomorrow is the anniversary of one of the worst days in the life of Americans everywhere.

I remember the first time I went to Ground Zero. I had happily volunteered to help feed the rescue workers and was honored to be able to contribute in that small way. It was the least I could do. After all, I wasn't a member of the police, fire or rescue teams, I wasn't in construciton or clean-up. I just wanted to do something to help. I was ready, willing and able to dish out soup, deliver coffee, serve the meals, anything. I'd seen all the footage, was familiar with the sight of the rubble and the carnage. I was prepared.

Or so I thought.

Just seeing the hole in the skyline was troubling enough, but it was the smell of death that hit you when you pulled up at the site that really shakes one to the core. It was everywhere. No escaping the odor. Though you got used to it and the odor siminished, it did not go away. A newscast could not even begin to describe that aspect of the clean-up nor preapre you for it. It was disturbing after only one day there. Can you imagine being there every day?

When I got home, my husband could smell it as soon as I walked in the door. It premeated my clothes, hair and skin. It took a long shower, a lot of perfumed bath gel and a few spins through the wash cycle for my clothes to get ride of the smell. It was the smell of 9/11 and I'll never forget it.

I'm not going to get on my soap box and tell everyone to never forget. Some people will. But I won't. Never.

God Bless America.
picture 1 - ground zero
picture 2- dad and I getting ready to serve the meals
Picture 3 - dad, sis and I just before leaving - picture taken by a member of NYPD who dubbed dad "Soup Boy" and was making us laugh.

Saturday, August 29, 2009


Ah, plotting. We’ve all heard the metaphor – plot is the skeleton on which the story is hung.


Plot is not something for you to drape your scenes upon, hoping they eventually tie together and make a good book. Plot is a concept that saturates every page of your work and draws the images, events and people together to make a good book.

This may be the hardest thing for beginning writers to come to understand. We are led to believe that the plot is an object and not a process. As we write and get better at it, we come to realize that the plot touches every word we write, organizing them into a sense of character, action and location.

Now that I’ve totally confused you, I’ll try to explain.

We all have stories to tell. A story is a chronicle of events strung together like links in a chain. These events make the reader want to know what comes next. A plot is more than that. A plot is a chain of cause and effect relationships that involve the reader in the question “why did that happen?” To makes our stories interesting, we need a strong plot.

As writers we are under tremendous pressure to be original, but the truth is, there are only so many basic plot lines. It is the writer’s style and way the plot is presented that makes it original.

As romance writers, we need to take the plots and mix them with a healthy dash of love. When writing our “Great American Romance Novel.” we need to keep some basic points foremost in our plot:
The prospect of love should always be met with a major obstacle. The hero and heroine may want to fall in love, but they can’t. Not for a while anyway.
The pair is often not suited for each other in some way.
The first attempt to overcome the obstacle never works. Their love must be proven.
The characters must be unique and interesting and you must have deep feelings for them in order for the readers to also care. Love has many other feelings associated with it and these feelings must be fully developed according to the needs of the romance plot.
Make sure the hero and heroine are involved in the full test of love and romance. They need to be tested and retested until they finally get the love they seek. Love is earned, not just given.

Ronald B. Tobias gives a rundown of basic plots in his book 20 Master Plots and How to Build Them. Tobias says plot is more than an accessory that conveniently organizes your material. Thinking of plot that way has helped me tremendously over the years. I know I can’t distill his work into a few paragraphs, but I can list a few basic plot lines for you (with a reference to some of the illustrative examples Tobias uses in his book). If need be, find the one that can help your story come alive and tailor it to your needs. The trick is not to copy a plot, but to adapt it to your idea, always remembering in our chosen field to keep the romance level high.

Adventure – Your heroine goes out in search of fortune motivated by someone or something to begin the adventure and needing the hero to complete the task. (Any Indiana Jones movie).

Pursuit – Make sure there is real danger associated with getting caught, and in fact, your hero and heroine may even get caught or almost get caught before the end. Establish the ground rules for the chase, establish the stakes and start the race with a motivating incident. (Murder on the Orient Express)

Rescue – The hero, heroine and “bad guy” weave a journey of pursuit, separation, confrontation and reunion. (The Princess Bride).

Escape – Begin the plot with the imprisonment (of person, of mind or of concept), deal with the plans for the escape and make sure that these plans are almost upset at least one time until finally comes the escape or the liberation of the heroine’s heart. (Rapunzil)

Underdog – The against all odds plot. (Cinderella).

Temptation – This plot examines the motives, needs and impulses of human nature. The hero and heroine must learn something about themselves and why it is right for them to give in (or to not give in) into the temptation. A lot of inner turmoil, a lot of emotion in this one. (Adam and Eve).

Change – The change usually can only be accomplished through love. (The Frog Prince).

Forbidden Love – the hero and heroine defy social convention and pursue their hearts, often with dangerous results. (Romeo and Juliet)

Sacrifice – the sacrifice is often made at a great personal cost, often with a strong moral problem at the center of the story. Make sure the reader understands why the sacrifice must be made. (Casablanca)

Plotting a good book seems like a tall order, doesn’t it? Truth is, writing is work. Good writing is even harder work. But the end result of this entire struggle is a good book; your good book.
In closing, I wish you beautiful heroines, handsome heroes and 4-Star Reviews for what you do to them.

Happy plotting!