Monday, June 30, 2008

Writing Tip: Handy Dandy Writer's Check List

I haven't used Jeannie Reusch's WIP Notebook. I developed my own method for organizing Work In Progress which is very similar. However, I looked this over, and it is wonderful. I found it on my marketing loop this morning and since I thought that it was so good I decided to pass it on. Author Jeannie Reusch has created a notebook to keep her WIPs organized. She has made it available for you to order or download from her website. I heartily recommend checking it out:

Click on the WIP Notebook icon at the right side of her home page.

Happy writing.

Writing Science Fiction Romance
Real Love in a Real Future

Sunday, June 29, 2008

My Secret Garden...

That's what my art students called it.

About twenty years ago, I began an ongoing project. I wanted to see if I could get bloom in my garden twelve months out of the year. Now this is a very difficult thing. I have extremely poor soil, and so, have composted like crazy. I don't have the money to put into annuals; therefore, I am limited to hardy perennials. All of the plants that I mention here are extremely hardy in the Deep South. If a plant is going to live on my hill, it has got to be tough. As they say... Root Hog or Die!

Being an artist, I LOVE gaudy colors in the garden. The brighter, the better. I love to listen to the birds sing in the early morning. I love to watch the butterflies and the hummingbirds working on the blossoms during the day. At night I love to hear the frogs, crickets, and cicadas serenading life.

Every season has its own special joy. I think of each month by the flowers that are in bloom, and the scents in the air.

January is when the Paper White Narcissus begins to bloom against the backdrop of a gray and brown winterscape, and the unsurpassed fragrance of Sweet Olive promises that, like its tiny blooms, Spring is just hiding.

February is when the old fashioned, yellow Daffodils come out, but in a winterscape that is no longer... quite so gray or brown. The differences are so very subtle.

March is when the fancier varieties of Narcissus and early Iris begin their blooms. By now, we are seeing the faintest indications of green here and there, and the tips of the highest branches seem... somewhat fuller, and not at all gray against a clear blue sky.

The first of April is when the Redbud, Dogwood, Azaleas, Wisteria, Confederate Jessamine, and German Bearded Iris are at their heights. The tree tops are chartreuse lace, and the air is filled with perfumes to shame a Paris designer.

As April progresses into May, the Amaryllis come into their red and white glory, and the Daylilies begin to bloom while tree leaves turn to emerald. By the first of June, the Daylilies are the multi-colored jewels of the garden, each with its own fragrance, ranging from lemon to cinnamon.

Well, it is now the end of June. The trees all have deep green leaves. The Daylilies are past their prime and will only bloom sporadically for the rest of the year. What else has been happening?

June has also had white, blue, and pink Hydrangeas. Subtly fragrant, pink Cashmere Bouquet, and outrageously scented Gardenia have dominated the senses.

All these are now gradually fading. But on their heels, the hot pink Summer Phlox has begun to take center stage. By day, these flamboyant beauties are irresistible to both hummingbirds and butterflies. But by night, their delicate fragrance fills my garden for my walks with the Supreme Pasha Zack and his harem girl, Maxi.

It sounds like I live in a paradise. To me it is. Most of these plants have either come down through my family, or have been passed along from friends. Each has special memories of the loved ones from whom they came. There are worse ways to be remembered.

Share your flowers while you can, and treat your senses.


Writing Science Fiction Romance, and gardening
Real love in a Real Future

Scorpius Encore...

I said Friday that I would post another image of Scorpius. I had to play around with this image from Starry Night to get it to reproduce where you can see it online. That involved exaggerating the stars of the constellation so that they can be seen on your monitor somewhat similarly to what the naked eye will see. Black rectangles in blogs excite less than no interest. *G* The bright reddish star is Antares. The bright object to the far left of the picture is Jupiter. The diagonal smudge behind the hook of Scorpius is the Milky Way as it appears on an exceptionally dark and clear night. This is the way the sky will look tonight, just after 2300 CST.

Happy viewing,


Writing Science Fiction Romance

Real love in a Real Future

Friday, June 27, 2008

Annd Heeereee's Scorpius!!!

Have I got a treat for you. With the help of the Starry Night astronomy program and a little digital manipulation on my part, I hope that I can make it easier for you to find and enjoy one of my favorite sights of the Summer sky. It is early Summer in the Northern Hemisphere, and the one of the most beautiful constellations of the sky is rising in the Southeast right after dark. If you are in the Southern Hemisphere, this is your beautiful Winter constellation, which rises in the East. It's Scorpius. The really bright, reddish star at its center is Antares. Its name means, the rival of Ares (Mars); and it is the heart of the Scorpion and one of the four, ancient Royal Stars. This negative image shows the major stars and why so many ancient cultures called it after the scorpion. The ancient Greeks said that Scorpius killed Orion, poor guy. That's why it is on the opposite side of the ecliptic, or zodiac, from Orion. The two really don't get along. Never hang out together. Sad but true, some people hold grudges over the littlest things. *G*

From a different perspective, Scorpius is call the Maui's Fish Hook by the Polynesians. One look at the constellation and you can see why. The demi-god Maui was supposed to have pulled up the islands with it. The Polynesians were relating to what was important in their world view... land and fish.

The very first time that I saw Scorpius clearly, I was in Hawaii. My first thought was that it looked rather like a diamond necklace hanging in the sky. You see? It all depends upon your point of view. Maybe it's true that diamonds are a girl's best friend. For summer, Scorpius is definitely one of mine.

I am having trouble with the original image that I wanted to include as a naked eye view. I will try to come back and edit it in later. Please be patient with me. Don't miss the opportunity to see this beautiful constellation on your next clear, dark evening.

Happy Viewing.


Writing Science Fiction Romance
Real Love in a Real Future

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Book Covers...Don't Blame the Author

Pretty isn't it? I confess. I have a file on my computer dedicated to book covers. Mostly Romance book covers with good looking guys, true; but I'm an artist! What do you expect? I am a published Illustrator and art teacher of 30 years. I like pretty pictures and good looking guys; so, in addition to Romance, I also have Science Fiction, and Fantasy covers. The only requirement is that I like it. Often I will lift one of these covers that I like, and use it for a while as wallpaper. Helps me keep a smile on my face. I heartily recommend the therapy.

There has been a controversy in recent years about book covers and author branding by publishers. First there were the clinch covers that gave birth to the pejorative "Bodice Ripper" epithet. Then there were the flower and jewel covers that, if not extremely pertinent to the plot, were real snoozers. Now, publishers think that they must "brand" their authors. Every book by one author must look similar enough that any myopic shopper will automatically recognize their favorite author from a hundred yards away. Not a bad idea... if the author likes the cover, and the cover truly represents the book.

Unfortunately, readers blame authors for poor covers. ATTENTION! Authors have almost zero control over their covers. Publishers, specifically marketing departments, make the decisions as to what cover an author's work gets. An author can only pray.

This morning I read an excellent article on covers and reader perceptions. I thought that I would pass along the URL if you are interested.

I like the idea of branding with composition and fonts; however, for me, there are only two real questions: 1) Is it a good looking, well composed, eye catching cover? 2) Does this cover tell me something important about the story in an accurate manner? That brings me to the picture above. It is the original cover of Susan Grant's THE STAR PRINCE. I think that it succeeds superbly on all accounts. It's beautiful, eye catching, tells me it's about space, and tells me that two people are in love. After all, that was what I wanted to know.

Let me know what some of your favorite covers are.


Writing Science Fiction Romance

Real Love in a Real Future

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Life Gets in the Way, An Apology, Kudos for Me, and a Rant...

Did my title to this post say enough?

What can I say, life happened! I got food poisoning this past week and have had a hard time keeping up with anything. In addition to that, I am attacking "the black hole of long standing." This is not a one day, or even one week job. UGH! Sorry that it has been so long since my last post. I missed Father's Day, and really wanted to say something about that. I guess that I will just have to choose another day to honor Dad. I'll surprise you.

On the other hand, the last few days have been extremely productive, writing-wise. I have been writing a short story to post on my website once I activate it. It will be a prequel to the novel that I am currently working on. I hope to have the first draft of the short story finished by tomorrow. Can I crow? I have taken some of the techniques that I have been learning in my writing classes and applied them... I think successfully. You may judge for yourselves after I post it. But, I am so proud of myself. Day before yesterday, I knocked out almost 2,000 words (really something for me), and yesterday I added 1,600 more. About 2,000 more, and I think that I will have this baby ready to age in its own special oak barrel. CAUTION: Although my novel is a Science Fiction Romance with Adventure overtones, this short story is all Futuristic Adventure. It isn't a Romance because the Hero must wait to meet his Lady in their novel. *G* I'll post more later.

Now for my RANT! (aren't RANT's fun?) Yesterday, MSNBC posted a poll online about "Do You Like Romance Novels?":

If you go to the site, you will immediately notice the weasel wording of the questions to be rather manipulative. Being the unreconstructed REBEL that I am, and not liking to be manipulated... I had to comment. I think that they may have opened a rather larger can of worms than they expected. Notice the sum of the first with the last question. If you would like to read the comments, this is the URL: (they're very entertaining *G*)

If you don't have the time, this is what I had to say:

I, like the posters above, also found the term "bodice rippers" to be offensive... even though at first amusing. The writers that I know have amazing intellects. They have to be astute psychologists as well as master craftsmen/women.

However, I wish to add to the posts above that, not only is the term dated, it was consciously meant to be offensive from it's first usage. It was meant to demean women. The very thing that women like about the Romance genre is the Happily Ever After ending. It implies hope for the future, along with commitment and stability within the family. These are the very things that hold a society together. When a man belittles a woman, for any reason, he shows his own deficiencies. When a woman belittles a man, she does the same. Any time one person denigrates another, they are working to destroy the society which gives us all the opportunity to achieve our dreams. Call it what you like, by framing your question as you did, you were trying to influence your poll and, belittling more than half of the population of the Earth. Men like Happily Ever Afters too.

Studies have shown that men whose wives read Romance get their HEAs more often than not.

And that my friends is my RANT. Whew, I feel so much better! Time to go write.


Writing Science Fiction Romance
Real Love in a Real Future

Saturday, June 7, 2008

On Getting Published - caveat emptor!

Let me preface this post by saying: I am pre-pub'ed! That is writer-speak for: I ain't been published yet, Sherlock. So what I write here is worth exactly what you are paying for it, or what you choose to make out of it. Understand?

First and foremost: Publishing is a business. The publisher is not in business to help you get your story published. He is in business to make money. If he can use your work to make money, fine. If you happen to make money too, well, isn't that just special. It is a business, not a charity. Don't get the two confused.

There are reputable publishers, and, well, not so... Enough said? How do you tell them apart? The first resource that I always recommend is your writing association. Writing associations keep track of these things. They are in the business of helping you write to the best of your ability and to get published. Their help is well worth the membership dues. I have already talked about the classes they offer.

In my side bar list Very Useful; Very Important, you will find links to some organizations that are extremely helpful. In addition, you should find some help in distinguishing the good guys from the bad guys at the following URLs:

Writer Beware:
Preditors & Editors:
Piers Anthony:

Surf theses sites for both the good and the bad.

I am sure that there are many more, and if you will e-mail me the URLs that you think are helpful, I will be glad to set up a separate side bar list so that it is easier for everyone to check publishers out. I have had too many of my friends burned, and I don't want to be on a fly-by-night publisher's Bar-b-Q, do you?

Do your homework!


Writing Science Fiction Romance
Real Love in a Real Future

Thursday, June 5, 2008

My Journey to the Stars Begins

Once upon a time, long before the dinosaurs roamed the earth, there was a little girl who wanted to know about the stars. But, even before there was that little girl, there was a little boy who ran away to sea to become a ship’s officer. He was my father, and he had wonderful stories to tell about traveling the world, and navigating by the stars. I liked the idea that you could know where you are, anywhere on Earth, simply by looking at the stars.

“Which stars did you use, Daddy?”
“Why, we used Polaris, and Arcturus, and Betelgeuse, and others.”
“I want to see?”
“Arcturus is that star right up there. See it?”
“Where Daddy? I can’t see it.”

It never occurred to anyone that I needed glasses. I got my glasses; yet, I could never quite get the stars. However, I didn't forget how very much I wanted to know them. I did learn to recognize the Big Dipper and Cassiopeia. Because I had found the Big Dipper, I found Polaris, but that was about it. The rest of the sky was beyond me. I read everything that the Encyclopedia Britannica and the National Geographic offered, but I just couldn’t seem to make sense of those star charts. For years, my secret desire languished. But, my time was coming. I was writing a book! Science Fiction Romance Writer was on the case.

Spring Star Note:
Just after dark, get the darkest location that you can find. Look North by Northwest (Thank you, Mr. Hitchcock), and depending upon your latitude, you will see the Big Dipper. It's a ladle or plough shaped group of stars. In England, it is called the Plough. If you are in the Northern Hemisphere, it will be high in the sky. If you are in the Southern Hemisphere, it will be low, or partially below the horizon.
The Big Dipper is supremely important to navigators, not only because the two stars on the end of the bowl, or of the plow, point directly to Polaris, the North Star, but also because the stars in its handle point to Arcturus. Follow the arc of the handle, and the next bright star is Arcturus. It will be just to the East of the highest point in the sky for those in the mid northern latitudes, or high in the northern sky for those of you south of the equator.
Every civilization in the history of the world has used Polaris and Arcturus to navigate the seas. Our modern astronauts, space station, and telescopes are irrevocably tied to the Argonauts of ancient Greece, as well as the voyagers of ancient Polynesia. Cool, huh?

Happy viewing and writing,
Writing Science Fiction Romance
Real Love in a Real Future