Saturday, November 22, 2014

MAY AGNES FLEMING: 1840-1880 - Canada's First Best-Selling Novelist by Joan Hall Hovey

I first came across the name May Agnes Fleming in the introduction of Investigating Women: Female Detectives by Canadian Writers, a Canadian Anthology edited by David Skene-Melvin, in which a short story of mine, Dark Reunion, appeared. Listed in the beginning pages were brief biographies of past and present authors. Among them was the remarkable story of Saint John, New Brunswick writer, May Agnes Fleming.

May Agnes Fleming? I had never heard of her, and I thought I had a pretty good handle on who had gone before me, certainly in my own neck of the woods. I checked the name of the city again, certain I must have read it wrong. But I had not.

Skene-Melvin writes in his introduction to Investigating Women that heroines made their first appearance in Canadian crime fiction in 1861 in the ‘sensational novels’ of May Agnes Fleming.

“She wrote forty-two novels in seventeen years, fifteen published during her short lifetime and twenty-seven after her death. The books were all unrestrained, highly sensational melodramas, filled with plot twists, mystery, disguise, startling events, murder, evil women, suspense and true love. The villainous woman – dark, passionate, and exotically foreign – was one of Fleming’s stock characters.”

I spoke with many people over the next several days about Fleming, and was generally met with blank stares, and comments like: “Who?” “That right?” “No kidding?” “Never heard of her.” It seemed a sad commentary, particularly since upon doing some digging, I found out she was one of the most popular novelists of her time. I was sure Canadians would want to know about one of their own. And Americans, too, since she resided in New York for many years. She seemed to whisper at my shoulder, prodding me to tell her story. I hope you will find it as fascinating as I did.

This is her story.

“Do you know that woman has thoroughly mastered the secret of putting words together in such a way as to form a complete and symmetrical plot?” asked a gentleman who had the experience of making and doctoring many successful plays. He gestured toward a huge placard announcing the publication of May Agnes Fleming’s new story. “This, upon my word, sir, that woman does. Remarkable woman, sir. Remarkable.” So saying, this man, nodding pleasantly, moved away, while the reporter went to pay a visit to May Agnes Fleming. This New York World reporter writing 122 years ago, describes his arrival “at a neat little white-painted two-story house in one of those outlying eastern avenues of Brooklyn – in journeying to which the tourist is made to feel that the city is elastic and is being pulled out at the edges, for his personal discomforture.

“I was shown into a small room but evidently not the workshop of the story writer, inasmuch as it was spic and span, with snowy tidies on the bright-colored satin furniture, and not a suggestion of a book or of the tools for making one.

“Wax flowers were set about here and there under shining glass globes, and a few pictures were on the white walls, indistinct in the dim light that found its way through tightly closed window shutters. It was like the ‘best parlour’ of the New England housewife, and the lady was not unlike the lady one would be expected to see there.

“She was tall – her height perhaps a little increased by the long morning wrapper in which she was dressed – and a gentle case of features. Her face was pale, showing to better advantage the richness of auburn tresses which she wore brushed well back from her forehead. In voice and manner, Mrs. Fleming confirms the opinion that her appearance forms. Her eyes are pale blue and modestly seek the ground when she speaks, looking frankly into your face when she listens. Growing earnest as she did upon the subject of the recent outrage that has been put upon her by some Canadian publishers (who were republishing all her books without her permission) and selling them at reduced prices in the United States) her earnestness is shown only by a nervous and interlacing of her fingers.”

“I live a quiet life,” she told the reporter. “Simply following the bent of an inclination that was formed when I was a very little girl, the inclination to romances.”

The reporter suggested it would interest her readers to know what methods she used in her writing.

“Will it?” asked Fleming, with a pleasant smile. “Well, I fancy they are a little peculiar. In the first place, I cannot write with any advantage except in the spring. I seem to have to get thawed out. I usually begin my stories about the first of May and finish them in the middle of June. I lock myself in a room at 9 o’clock in the morning – the merest sound disturbs me – and I write steadily, if I can, until 12 o’clock. Then I stop and do not allow myself to think of the story until 9 o’clock the next morning. It is sometimes difficult to do this, but I find it necessary to my health.

“You know, I find the most effective means for putting my work quite out of my mind is a ride up and down Broadway in the stage. The hurrying masses of people distract my thoughts completely.”

She had “become a very fast penman”, she told the reporter, working every day but Sunday, filling between 700 and 1000 pages of foolscap to complete a novel. When the first draft was complete, she would then take her manuscript out into the countryside for the final polish, but rarely made any major changes in the actual story line.

Before beginning a story she required that the entire plot be completely thought out – although occasionally, new characters would obtrude themselves in the middle of a book, “often so persistently that I am obliged to introduce them, but I take good care that they shall not interfere with the tale that I have arranged.” A title was also necessary, “thereby giving reality to the fiction before I can write a single word.

“For the inventions or discovery of a plot, I do not allow myself to begin to toil until a few weeks before the first of May. If ideas suggest themselves, I merely put them away undeveloped, but labeled, so that I can call them out when the time comes to begin."

May Agnes Fleming was born in 1840 to Irish immigrants Bernard and Mary Early. At the time of her birth, her parents lived in Carleton, West Saint John, where her father worked as a ship’s carpenter. She received her early education at the Convent of The Sacred Heart on Waterloo Street, which later became the School of the Good Shepherd.

She was a voracious reader. “Somehow, you know, girls can always manage to smuggle their favorite authors into their schools,” she said. “I read anything that I could lay my hands on.” Charles Dickens was a favorite, and she read his work incessantly. David Copperfield was published when she was 10 years old.

Soon, she began to make up her own stories. “I can remember when only a little thing at school in a convent in Saint John, New Brunswick, composing fairy tales with which I used to edify the other children, who, to do them credit, were never so completely taken with my tales as I could have wished,” she said. “Perhaps it was this unappreciativeness of my audience that turned my thoughts to the pen.”

Feeling she might do as well as her contemporaries, and “unable to resist the temptation”, she carefully initiated a tale and slyly sent it off to a paper.

“I shall never forget the period during which I waited to hear from my story. It was the most pretentious composition entitled The Last of the Montjoys: or, A Tale of the Days of Queen Elizabeth. I had just in my study of history reached that epoch and was full of the Queen and her doings.”

At the tender age of 15, Fleming sold her first story under the pseudonym of “Cousin May Carleton” to The New York Mercury. “I received for it three little gold dollars, which I treasure to this day,” she said.

The encouragement acted like a spur. She did nothing but write, dividing the fruits of her labor between The Mercury, The Boston Pilot, The Metropolitan Record, and another New York story paper, as they were then called. She wrote day and night during this period, devoting herself to the writing of short stories and serial novels, which appeared in such papers as Western Recorder and The Weekly Harold, in Saint John. The longest of these stories were Silver Star, Erminie, Hazel Wood and Sybil Campbell. All were subsequently published in a book by Brady and afterwards by Beadle. Soon after, she received her first exclusive engagement with the publishers of Saturday Night in Philadelphia.

Among those books were: Lady Evelyn, The Heiress of Glengower and Estella. Later works included A Leap in the Dark, Carried by Storm, and many others, occasionally written under the pseudonym, “M.A. Earlie.”

She taught school for a short period until the family moved to 69 Britain Street and Bernard Street and opened a grocery store. Right next door at number 71 lived John W. Fleming, who operated a boiler and blacksmithing business on Trentowsky’s Wharf, Lower Cove Slip. His son William married Agnes May in 1865, following a courtship of only 3 weeks.

Ten years later, following the death of her father, May Agnes Fleming and her family moved to the United States. (Her mother, Mary Early, died in 1905, outliving her daughter by 23 years.)

The Flemings lived for a brief time in Boston, then settled in Brooklyn, N.Y. It was the place for a writer to be. New York was the hub of the publishing industry and offered writers some copyright protection for their work – the copyright laws of the day in Canada offered little protection to writers.

While the author rose to fame in the United States, she received only passing notice in the town of her birth. The story in the St. John Sun after her death said simply: “May Agnes Fleming, a native of St. John, was a very prolific writer of romances for the story papers, and a large number of her novels have been published by the cheap libraries, as well as many that are not hers, but having been written since her death, have been accredited to her in order to give them circulation.”

(Perhaps Fleming’s name acted in a similar way to the name of the late romance-mystery writer V.C. Andrews, who was so popular that they continue to buy anything with her name on it, whether she wrote it or not.)

May Agnes Fleming was a master storyteller. Her books were filled with exotic characters, excellent description, flashes of humor and dialogue that leapt off the page. The plots were complex and tightly drawn.

Although her fiction was primarily written for British and American audiences, Fleming remembered her Canadian readers and took pains to introduce Canadian episodes and characters into most of her novels, at times with considerable ingenuity. Her work was so highly valued that publishers granted her exclusive contracts under the terms of which every installment could appear simultaneously in each paper or magazine. Consequently, she was one of the highest paid women of her day, earning in excess of $10,000 per year, which was a huge amount of money in the 1870s.

Guy Earlscourt’s Wife was one of Fleming’s most popular novels, while Lost For A Woman was considered her best work, the protagonist being the lovely and exotic Mimi Fulton, a circus entertainer who drinks and carries on in a scandalous manner with questionable men, a woman who foreshadowed contemporary feminists by running from a bad marriage and getting a job.

Perhaps she drew more heavily on her own life for this novel, since she left her husband, who had become an alcoholic, soon after they moved to New York.

William Fleming later told a reporter what happened to the marriage. “Well, it’s simple enough. She grew wealthy and famous and I remained what I was – a hard-working, hard-fisted mechanic.”

On March 20, 1880, just two years after her interview with the New York World reporter (perhaps foretold by that reporter who described the paleness of her complexion and her concern for her health), May Agnes Fleming died of Bright’s desease. She was 40 years old.

She left behind a controversial will, drawn up in 1876, that intended to ensure that her children – two sons and two daughters – should be brought up in the Roman Catholic Faith and that her husband should have as little as possible to do with them or their inheritance.

Her husband challenged the will in court, more than once, but he ultimately failed in his efforts. She left instructions in her will stating that if William Fleming did assert paternal rights and take charge of the children, “from that moment on the income she left them should not be paid, but should go on accumulating until each child arrived at majority.”

As that playright, who, in 1878 (a brief six years after Susan B. Anthony was arrested for voting), gazed upon the huge placard announcing May Agnes Fleming’s new story, and said to the New York World reporter: “Remarkable woman, sir. Remarkable.”

Remarkable indeed.


Originally published in The New Brunswick Reader –The Telegraph Journal, Saint John, NB Canada

Latest suspense novel: The Deepest Dark

Friday, November 21, 2014

P-Nut and Miss Kitty are teaching me how to live in the moment By Sandy Semerad #pets

Philosopher and author Joseph Campbell was known for saying, “Follow your bliss.”

P-Nut, my little Shih Tzu, follows her bliss without being told. She sniffs a flower like she’s reading a masterpiece.

Eckhart Tolle, who wrote The Power of Now, would be proud. Even as a puppy, she seemed to know how to live in the moment and show unconditional love. When I'm traveling, she's protective of me and gets fiesty at times.

But she'd never hurt a child, and it's painful to hear about dogs who do. Personally, I think it's because people train them to fight and kill for amusement. The pit bull terrier is the breed they usually pick.

It saddens me. My daughter once had a Pit Bull named Sonja who wanted to lick you to death, but she’d never attack anyone.

I once heard about a feisty pit bull named Major who roamed the farms around Hartford, Alabama, the town near where I grew up. “Major could tear your butt for a new one,” Cody Ryles used to say.

Major became unpopular with farmers after he killed their hogs. One day he made the grave error of killing Cody Ryles’ prize pig.

Cody grabbed his shotgun and sent Major to the great pit bull heaven in the sky, Cody said.

Was Major bred for fighting for the amusement of humans? No one seemed to know. But I can’t believe he inherited his meanness.

I’ve read that pit bulls are a relative of the English bulldog. I’ve never owned an English bulldog, but I’ve heard about one named Bozo.

Bozo was trained to hunt wild hogs. He would bay the hogs and grab them by their ears until the capture was complete. Or so the story went.

He also liked to catch snakes and one day Bozo caught a poisonous rattler. It bit Bozo. He swelled up and almost died.

When Bozo recovered, he continued his pursuit of snakes with a vengeance. He’d grab every rattlesnake he saw and shake the dickens out of it. If the snake bit him, it didn’t bother him at all, because he’s developed immunity to the venom.

In my life, I’ve had the pleasure of knowing wonderful dogs, and I hate that pit bulls have gotten such a bad rap.

I’ve read they’re a cross between an English terrier and an English bulldog. I suppose many dogs are in the mixture category, not pure bred.

When I lived in Atlanta, we had a dog named Sam, an English terrier and German shepherd mix. One might think this combination would bring violence, but Sam was a sweet dog, though mischievous.

He loved to roam and collect things. Once he brought me my neighbor’s old house slippers. I took them back to her, of course, but when Sam presented them to me, he acted like he’d delivered a diamond.

I scolded him with “No, no.”

He cocked his head from side to side, not understanding my ungratefulness.

Another time, he snatched a flannel nightgown from my neighbor’s clothesline. No mistaking it was hers. The gown had red cherries embroidered all over it.

Sam must have jumped the fence to get the gown. When he brought it to me, I discovered it had a huge rip in it. I was too ashamed to return the gown. My neighbor didn’t like Sam, and I knew she wouldn’t understand.

The torn gown somehow ended up in the washing machine and then in the dryer. One morning, I was looking for something to frump around in. Lacking anything else, I slipped on the infamous gown. As my luck would have it, my neighbor—the rightful owner--came over to borrow a cup of sugar.

When she saw me in her gown, she looked shocked, as if I threatened her life. 

Time and again, I scolded Sam for his thievery, but he still pillaged.

He continued until the day he died. The pond behind our Stone Mountain home froze over. Sam fell through the ice while chasing the ducks. He froze to death before we could rescue him.

In an attempt to recover from Sam’s death, we adopted a Brittany spaniel named Prince, who’d rather play than eat. I can still see him chasing squirrels, barking at falling leaves, running and playing with the ducks.

After we lost Prince, I didn’t have the heart for another dog until I saw P-Nut’s furry face. She came into my life after I’d finished writing my second mystery Hurricane House.  In that book, one of the characters is Onyx, a black lab, who possesses superior powers.

Don’t most dogs? And perhaps you could say the same for cats.

Recently we adopted a stray cat. We call her Miss Kitty. P-Nut bonded with her from the beginning, though Miss Kitty hid from P-Nut at first.

Eventually Miss Kitty began to feel safe. Now she frequently cuddles with P-Nut and follows her on our walks to the beach.

And guess what, Miss Kitty seems to know how to live in the moment, too.

Maybe one day, they'll teach me.

     After working as a newspaper reporter, broadcaster and columnist for many years, Sandy Semerad decided to try her hand at writing novels. Her first novel, Mardi Gravestone has been republished as SEX, LOVE AND MURDER. She wrote her second mystery HURRICANE HOUSE after a hurricane ripped through her little beach community. Her third book, A MESSAGE IN THE ROSES, is loosely based on a murder trial she covered as a newspaper reporter in Atlanta. All books have garnered five star reviews. Semerad is originally from
Geneva, Alabama, but now lives in Santa Rosa Beach, Florida with husband Larry, their spoiled Shih Tzu P-Nut and wayward cat Miss Kitty. She has two daughters and a granddaughter.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Ginger Simpson Is Not Just Eating Bon Bons and Sending Emails! #BooksWeLove #Marketing

People, at least most I know with, don't realize how much goes into being a e-published author. My family thinks the time I spend in front of the computer is mostly a waste of time and effort, but little do they know that I'm really trying to further my career and keep my name in the limelight. With the growing number of self-published and newly signed authors, being visible isn't an easy feat.  To that end,  I've compiled some of the 'marketing efforts' essential to doing this, and as you can see, it requires countless group memberships and communication efforts. You have to pick and choose what works for you.

Ginger's Marketing Tips

If you want someone to know you have a product to sell, getting your name and work out in public is key to sales. I’ve been published since 2003 and there aren’t too many things I haven’t tried to make or keep myself visible and promote my work in as many ways as possible. Money of course, if the key-factor in doing more, but I continue to look for inexpensive tools and ideas. I also utilize very opportunity to network with my peers. Sharing information is most helpful in finding new avenues to market oneself. There are a number of ways to do this effectively, and I’m listing those to which I already subscribe and included my plans to make myself even more visible now that I have new releases. Check marks (or whatever symbol bloggers changes it to) indicate the steps I’ve already taken:

 Establish and maintain a current website with buy links, excerpts and information about myself.

 Establish and maintain a personal blog, offering subscription option to those interested in receiving it daily. This allows you to become real and human rather than just a website and name.

 Besides maintaining your OWN personal blog, join group blogs to double your promotional efforts. Publisher's blogs are a must. Here are a few you might recognize.  I've utilized most of them and still use some.

 Inspired Author
 MySpace
 Communati
 Word Press
 Eternal Press
 Novel Sisterhood
 BooksWeLove Authors

 Maintain memberships and personal pages on promotional sites such as:
 MySpace
 Bebo
 Bookplace
 Facebook
 Good Reads
 Shelfari
 Manic Readers

 Participate in interviews and guest blogging days, even leaving comments help keep you visible.

 Network with others authors and readers through group and forum memberships: These are some of the ones I've utilized.

 FAR Chatters
 The Romance Studio
 Romance Junkies Chatters
 ManicReaders
 Novelsisterhood
 Cata Network Readers
 CoffeeTimeRomance
 Night Owl Romance
 Brenda Williamson Romance Party
 Chatting with Joyfully Reviewed
 Love Romance Café
 The Readers Station
 The Romance Room
 World Romance Readers

* Contact local news media with press release information (Note, I've done this too, but to no avail.  I don't know what it takes to get into the news.)

* Arrange to participate in local events...helps you to meet people in your community.

* Arrange local book signings (although information I’m reading now indicates that holding a writing class or workshop is much more effective.)

* Participate in any event that will provide a ‘buzz’ about me and my work.

The *d items are things I plan to do now that I have two books that have gone to retail stores. The stores here seem more small-publisher friendly and I’m anxious to take advantage of meeting possible new readers. I’ve been very pleased with the following I’ve already garnered through the efforts mentioned above. I think the biggest secret is to be a team player and share promotional opportunities with your peers. What benefits one, usually benefits all. I’m fortunate to have had the opportunity to work with a publisher who makes their authors a priority. That’s always a good feelings.

This is not a comprehensive list of everything in which I'm involved but it gives you a good feeling for the time I spend. Just coming up with interesting ideas for my own blog is wear-and-tear on my old brain. For this reason, you may see them shared in more than one place. Hey...brain cells fade everyday and I don't have that many left. :) NOTE: If you don't think promotions and blog posting help get your name out, you'll appreciate that when I was looking for this image to portray dying brain cells...I found my own picture and a link to a previous blog. I must say, seeing my face under dying brains cells didn't do much to pick up my spirits. :)


To find out more about my books, check out my BWL Author's page or my Amazon page.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Side Roads of Fantasy by Gail Roughton

“Welcome to Fantasy Island!”  Ricardo Montalban, remember?  Mr. Rourke.  Don’t know about y’all, but I really loved that show.  (Ricardo Montalban wasn’t bad, either.)  Like my cousin Debbie said in an email a few years back, “I spend a lot of time looking for the exact location of Fantasy Island.”  (Always told her I was goin’ to use that line somewhere and now I have.) 

Why do humans love fantasy?  Because we need it.  We need it in some elemental, basic way, I think.  Sometimes it’s light and funny and gives a momentary respite from the same ole’ same ole’ of our days.  Sometimes it’s dark and scary and gives us reassurance that no matter how bad your day’s going, things could be a whole lot worse.  Because the things that go bump in the night could be real.  The good news is, usually they’re not.  Key word:  usually.
I made the acquaintance of fantasy worlds at a very young age.  All children do, I think.  The lucky ones retain that acquaintance with fantasy worlds throughout their entire lives.  And I think a lot of those lucky ones are called – writers

When I was roughly five or thereabouts, I looked through the car window one dark night on the way home from a Drive-In movie treat.  A movie date night with my Daddy, just him and me.  Popcorn.  Cokes.  The swing set in front of the big outdoor screen where all the kids played in the dusk as they waited for the dark to come down all around them so the movie film could roll.  Fantasy land for a little girl all in itself.  He took me to see one of the Three Stooges movies.  I’m not entirely certain, and don’t even know if in fact there ever was a Three Stooges movie that involved the Three Stooges being in space.  But I have a vague recollection that was the plot of the movie.  Or maybe I’m remembering something from a preview of a coming attraction.  Five or thereabouts was about 55 years ago. 

Anyway, I remember resting my head against the pillow propped against the window and looking out and up.  Up at the stars.  At their twinkling, revolving, pulsating light.  And I thought, “Suppose somewhere up there, there’s another planet?  One where I have a double?”  I don’t suppose the words “parallel world” actually crossed my mind at that age, though I will say most grown-ups seemed to think I had a pretty impressive vocabulary.  But with or without the words to express the concept, that’s what I was imagining. 

Years later, I had the thought it might be fun to write an historical romance.  That thought was rapidly followed by the thought I didn’t want to do any research for it and didn’t have time for research even if I’d wanted to.  I just wanted to write.  And from the hidden storehouses of my brain, the words “parallel world” popped into my mind.  Because in a parallel world, I could do anything I wanted to.  It was mine.  My world.  My rules.  And so I created one.  Vanished.  And in that world, folks – You ain’t in Kansas anymore!
So be careful when you ask a writer where they get their ideas.  You just never know what they’re going to say. Or how long those ideas might have been brewing in the back of their brains.

Find Gail Roughton’s titles at

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Surrey International Writers Conference Report by Nancy M Bell

Wow, I can't believe another year has passed and SIWC2014 is over. As always I had a wonderful and informative time soaking in the advice and information provided by the presenters and visiting with old friends. Not to mention making tons of new ones. I flew into Abbotsford airport on Thursday morning with my friend Vicki Barrow and was met by Sharon Clayton who was kind enough to come and collect us. Thursday afternoon was spent in a Masters Class with Jack Whyte where 12 lucky people (this class fills up REALLY fast every year) get three pages of their work critiqued by Jack and then the rest of the class weighs in with their opinion too. I always learn so much and pick up so many nuances of the craft from listening to everyone's work and the comments generated by it.

Thursday night I lounged a bit and then met up with my friend Sara Benfit from Portland. This is our time to catch up with each other and have a good natter. Sara does three Masters Classes on the Thursday. Kudos to her, she has way more stamina than I do. LOL

Vicki, Me and Sharon

Friday morning started with a key note address by Peter Rubie. Then we were off to our workshops. I attended "Navigating Online Promotion and Social Media" with Sarah Wendell. It was a blast! Sarah is a dynamic presenter and immensely amusing. Also, love those shoes, girl! Sarah wore these cool heels with three bows up the front-- very awesome! Other workshops offered at the same time were: Elevator Pitches, Setting: More than Creating a Sense of Place with Hallie Ephron, Building the Romance Novel with Elizabeth Boyle, Tough language, Tender Wisdoms with Amber Dawn, Intro to Speculative Fiction with Danika Dinsmore, Catcher in the Wry: Writing for Teens with Anita Daher, Creating Narrative Drive with Roberta Rich and Live the Dream as a Travel Writer with Lucas Aykroyd. Whew! And that's just the morning session! From 1:30 to 3 I attended A Dozen Stories: Discussing what works with Peter Rubie. This was billed as a manuscript discussion but ended up being more about how to pitch to an agent. Still very informative. There were again numerous other workshops but I won't bore you by listing them all! From 3:30 to 5 I attended a workshop with Michael Slade entitled Northern Gothic. It was very informative and Michael is a wonderful engaging speaker.

Friday night is costume night! This year the theme was Secrets, Lies and Bad Guys. I went as Mata Hari and Vicki was Black Jack Randall from Outlander. Her red great coat was AMAZING. It was a hilarious night. The crowning jewel of the evening is Michael Slade's Shock Theatre where he and a star studded cast perform some weird and wonderful spooky play done like an old radio show. The cast includes Jack Whyte, Anne Perry, Diana Gabaldon, kc Dyer and Michael Slade. In keeping with the Hallowe'en season, a pumpkin is always smashed at some point near the end. Last year Robert Dugoni wore the pumpkin on his head and dashed about before smashing it on the board provided. Always a huge hit and not to be missed if you attend this wonderful conference.

Mata Hari and Black Jack Randall

My take on Mata Hari's jeweled bra. I gifted it to Madame Zamboni played by MC Carol as she gazed into her crystal ball and commented on Mata Hari's "44's"

Saturday starts off in the Guildford Ballroom again with a keynote by Cory Doctorow. Then it was off to New Ideas in Social Media with Sean Cranbury, followed by lunch, and then Public Speaking for Writers with Robin Spano. This was a great workshop where everyone got to practice speaking to the group and answering off the cuff interview questions. How not to put your foot in your mouth 101 I dubbed it. LOL I missed the very popular SIWC Idol session where writers submit one page of their work anonymously and pages are picked at random and read by Jack Whyte to a panel of agents who give it a Yay or a Nay. Then it was off to Back Story with Anne Perry. Another great informative workshop.

Saturday evening is the Huge Book Signing event. My friend Sara Durham and I were part of it and had a great time. Tons of people show up as the event is open to the public. Lots of laughter and good conversation. A long long line of people waited patiently for Diana Gabaldon to sign their books, as well as a good turnout for Anne Perry and Jack Whyte. It is always wonderful to talk to readers and share my books with them.

I opted out of dinner to visit with a dear friend of mine who has had some health challenges this fall and this was the only time we could get together. We have a joy filled evening catching up at the ABC restaurant which we closed down! It was raining like cats and dogs and I was very grateful Arlen and Lynne picked me up and delivered me back to the hotel. Once back at the hotel I made my way up to Jack Whyte's book launch party. His third book in the Guardians of Scotland trilogy was set to release on November 4, 2014. But we had the wonderful opportunity to purchase it in advance of that date and Jack very graciously signed many copies. He also bought a small dram of Scotch for those present. YUM!

Sunday morning, everyone is a wee bit weary by now, but still energized by the keynote by Laura Bradbury. It seems like the weekend just began and now it's time to say goodbye for another year! Kathy Chung, event co-ordinator does a fantastic job each year and 2014 was no exception. Kudos to Kathy and the SIWC Board. A huge hoard of volunteers ensure the event runs like clockwork. Sunday morning workshop was Public Readings and Developing your Authentic Voice with Sean Cranbury, then on to Action Scenes with Jack Whyte. Then it's time for the final luncheon and good-byes. If you want to find more about this great experience you can visit the SIWC website.

On another note: If you're looking for a Christmas gift for the romance lover on your list... My romance Christmas Storm: A Longview Romance has just released. You can find out more at my author page at Books We Love.

Monday, November 17, 2014

Looking At Edits To Dread Or Not To Dread by Janet Lane Walters

I've been published as an author for 46 years and I've been receiving edits from publishers for that long. The first thing that happens when these arrive is that feeling that you've made a lot of mistakes or that someone wants to change your story. Not so. Over the years I've seen a lot of changes in this process. I've also learned to take a lot of deep breaths before looking to see what I've done wrong. There isn't usually too much except for some dreadful habits I have.

Habit one is forgetting the question marks. I'm improving with this but there are also times when the question is asked but not punctuated. Another is typing sentences and leaving words out. Somehow in one's head the words are there no matter how many times you read them.

In the past four days I've done the edits for three books. Two because they were going to be published and one because I needed to clean it up and make it current to be re-released some day. In this one though it had been edited by me and by an editor or two I found one glaring mistake. His look bred contempt. But it said His look bread contempt. I either wanted to laugh or cry but I made the changes. On the other books there were comments like "Did you mean this?" After reading the passage, I wasn't sure what I meant. There were other comments about adding some details, especially since one of the books was the third of a trilogy and one does need to let the reader know who the mentioned people were and exactly what part they had or would play in the story.

So now I'll talk about how edits were received in the "old days." When I wrote short stories, I never received any edits. The editor made the changes they wanted done. I seldom found anything that was changed to make the story less than mine. Then I moved to writing novels.

Writing novels began in the days of sending off the entire mss. in a box and receiving it back for edits in a different box or in an envelope. The first few times, there were comments written on the pages, meaning one had to look at every page and decipher what the editor meant. Some of these editors rivaled physicians in the way they wrote. Then there was a revolution and the sticky notes came out and the mss. received was decorated. Some editors used different colors for different things. Little notes were discovered on these sticky things.

Now we come to today. Edits come via download and they still contain the color coded material. except you have to know how to take the notes away. This was a learning curve for me but I have mastered the process. Doesn't mean I love receiving the edits but the one thing I have learned is that these edits always make for a better and stronger story.

A final word of advice. When they arrive, take a deep breath and then start slowly. The second word of advice is do not accept all changes because you might miss something vital. Just go down the colored notes one by one and figure what needs to be done.

Just in case you're interested, the two books I was doing for Books We Love Ltd came out this weekend. Pursuing Michael West MD and Toth's priest.

Sunday, November 16, 2014

My Hobby by Roseanne Dowell

I thought I'd talk a little about one of my hobbies instead of writing. That's right, you won't find anything about any of my books on this blog. It's all about my hobby.
One of my favorite things to do when I’m not writing is embroidery. Another is quilting. I've found a way to combine the two. First, I made baby quilts for my nieces. White on white, I machine embroidered them with the darning stitch so I had control. They turned out really pretty, but I really love to hand embroider. That’s when I discovered red-work. During a quilting shop-hop, one of the stores highlighted red-work. For those who don’t know what red-work is – it’s embroidery done in all red floss. Just the outline of the picture, not filled in like other embroidery patterns. Anyway, I fell in love with it.

Every year I make something for Christmas (usually a Santa) for my children and give it to them on Thanksgiving. Sometimes it’s ceramic, sometimes wood. I found a Santa pattern and did it all in red-work, framed it and gave it to them one year.

That’s when I decided to make a baby quilt for each of my grandchildren – not for them, but for their first born, my great grandchildren. I'd already made lap quilts for each of my children and grandchildren. 
But where to find patterns? I started out with coloring books for designs. I traced the images onto 12x12 squares of muslin and embroidered them.  After I finished embroidering the squares, I cut sashing and sewed them together. For the backing I used various fabrics, not nursery print. None of the quilts have nursery fabric in them at all. 
I also used patterns from zoo animals to Winnie the Pooh.
Eventually, I found transfer books and used them for designs, much easier than tracing the. I just ironed them on. 
I looked everywhere for baby designs. It took several years, but they're all finished. I have 14 grandchildren, that’s a lot of baby quilts. Most of the quilts are done in red work, but several are done with various colors of embroidery floss, too. 

I also made quilts for my niece’s twins. One of the patterns is kittens and the other is bunnies. She had a girl and boy, so I thought the bunnies would be good for him. Recently, she had another child. A boy–so I just finished q baby animals one for him. 

So far I've given my first grandchild’s quilt to my oldest granddaughter, who had a baby boy, my first great grandchild. 
I recently found out another granddaughter is having a baby in May, so another quilt will be delivered at her shower in April. We don't know the sex yet, but the quilts aren't gender specific. 
I've marked each quilt with the name of the grandchild they’re supposed to go to in case I’m not around to give it to them. My youngest grandchild is only four. I'm already in my sixties, there's a pretty good chance I won't see him married, let alone his children.
My daughters have been instructed to pass them out. I hope I’m still around to give each child their quilt, but if I’m not they’ll each have a piece of me for their children. I hope they treasure them as much as I do. Below is a collage of a few of the ones I made.

 To store them, I put them in large store bought quilt bag. Yes, I bought a quilt for my bed. But I did make one too, I embroidered wild flowers in each square – and yes, I filled them in, not just outlined. I use it on my bed in the summer. It took over a year to embroider all the flowers, but it was worth it. Besides, I have nothing better to do in the evening while I’m watching TV. That’s the nice thing about embroidery, you can sit in front of the TV and still work on it. The hard part was quilting it.

So now you know a little more about me. I'm not just an author, I'm a wife, mother, grandmother and great grandmother.  I enjoy writing, but my family is my first love. 

Find all of Roseanne's books at Books We Love or Amazon

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