Monday, December 22, 2008

Merry Christmas from all of us at TWRP

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to all our authors, readers, and friends from all of us behind the garden gate.

We are on official holiday shutdown from December 20 until January 5, 2009.

We wish you a blessed and happy holiday season and thank you for all you've done to make our garden bloom and grow this year. Here's to a wonderful 2009 for all of us.

God Bless!

Rhonda Penders

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Make Sure Your Dialogue Sparkles

This time of year everything is sparkling. The silver and gold ribbon on our wreaths, the metallic gift wrap, and even the decorations adoring our homes.

I love things that sparkle, and the one I like best is dialogue. In a romance, witty repartee between the hero and the heroine brings their chemistry to life. It is one thing to say they are opposites that attract, for instance, but quite another to show it through their actions and conversation.

How can you be sure your dialogue sparkles, and doesn’t fall flat? Here are a few tips:

Cut the chit chat. If it doesn’t move the story forward, cut it. If you mention the weather, for example, it better be because a storm is moving in and is going to strand your hero and heroine together. Go through your manuscript and make sure each piece of dialogue is absolutely necessary.

Omit unnecessary tags. Keep your dialogue tags to a minimum. It’s better to show who is talking through action, and even to some extent dialect. Too many tags distract the reader. And, while we’re on the subject of tags, I would suggest using simple tags whenever possible. The reader doesn’t really notice “said” and “asked.” And those simple tags distract a reader less than “intoned” or “demanded.” Certainly, there are times when something more descriptive is needed. But, use descriptive tags less frequently than the old standbys. Rely on the dialogue itself to make your point.

Show their growing attraction. Sexy, fun dialogue makes a manuscript sizzle. (Even a sweet romance should show romantic tension.) Work on developing the romance with their conversation—or even better, with what they are not saying. It can be very intriguing to read a conversation where what isn’t being said is more important than what is. It makes the reader feel like they’re in on a special secret shared by only the character and the reader.

Use strong words. Make sure your word choices are strong for maximum impact. You don’t want to use boring words. Boring words=boring dialogue.

So, this holiday season, make sure your dialogue is one of the items sparkling.

Happy Holidays!

Renee Lynn
Editor--Champagne Line
The Wild Rose Press

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

The Romance of the Holidays

I thought I’d change the tone up a bit on our blog and talk a little about holiday traditions. No matter what holiday you celebrate, or even if you don’t celebrate at all, there is just something special about this time of year.

The crisp air, new pristine snowflakes, gorgeous lights and decorations, and the spirit of love. It makes me think about curling up on the sofa with a good book (or e-reader!), and sipping hot chocolate. Nothing is more satisfying than a good romance during this time of the year. By nature, the holidays are full of romance.

Part of our holiday tradition is baking cookies. Okay, I’ll come clean. My husband is the cook and baker in the family. We have a deal: he cooks, and I clean up. It works for us. But we will put on Christmas music, and he’ll make some mouthwatering concoctions, while I entertain our young son.

But, to be honest, just seeing him in his element, loving his family and doing something so domestic, makes me find him all the more attractive. It’s heartwarming to see the one you love being so domestic.

I guess you could say, I’ve found my hero :) I can’t help but feel blessed at the holidays to have an amazing and loving family and a job I love.

What are your holiday traditions? Do you buy a real tree? Go caroling?

I’d love to hear about it!

Hope you are all having a fabulous holiday season.

Renee Lynn
Editor--Champagne Line
The Wild Rose Press

Sunday, December 14, 2008

What I really, really want for Christmas

by Kathy Cottrell, Senior Editor, Last Rose of Summer line

This is what I really, really, realllllyyyyyy want for Christmas--and throughout all of 2009:

1. A hero who makes me drool. Making me laugh counts, too. And if he can make me weep, all the better. I'd like to find a hero who yells, "Hey, Kath, over here! Look at me; let me show what I can and will do for you." I want heroes like the three men in Kathleen O'Connor's "Men Of Paradise"; Diane Amos' "Getting Personal"; and Lainey Bancroft's "The Trouble With Tessa", all from TWRP due out in the spring of 2009.

2. A heroine with a backbone. Perhaps it's always been there but might need a little softening. On the other hand, it might emerge as the story progresses. That's even better. The one with the strong exterior shell but who underneath is a mass of fears and anxieties is best of all. She'll make the hero work to "uncover" her weaknesses. And I'd really like it if she has a past.
For great heroines, IMO, Check out Dara Edmondsen's "Compromising Positions" and Nicole McCaffrey's "The Model Man", both Last Rose of Summer best sellers in 2008, and Diane Amos' "Mixed Blessings", due out in 2009, also part of the Old Lady Saloon.

3. I want someone [hero or heroine] whose motivation goes beyond wanting to acquire a tract of land so he/she can build condominiums on it because they grew up poor. Yawner of all yawners. How about someone who might be scared to death each day, but goes out there and does it because it's the right thing to do? Think TV's Monk; the psychic hero on "The Mentalist"; or Charlie Crews, on "Life".
For those of you who aren't familiar with these three darling men--all heroes in my book--Adrian Monk, a former police detective, suffers from numerous phobias and idiosyncracies, yet he manages to reach beyond them to solve crimes and save lives. "The Mentalist", a new fall show on TV, focuses on a psychic who advises the California State Police on violent crimes and who, on a daily basis, is reminded that his much loved wife and child were murdered--in part due to his arrogance and Grand Canyon sized ego. Charlie Crews is a cop who spent 12 years in prison for the murder of his police partner, railroaded by other law enforcement officers. He is released on appeal, wins a gazillion dollar lawsuit against the LAPD, yet returns to work there as a homicide detective. Think about the stress of working with some of the same people who put you in a maximum security cage for 12 years, hoping they'll watch your back, knowing they won't.

4. I realize Hogwarts has been taken. I'd still like to discover a setting that jumps off the page and becomes as real as the humans. The kind of place that I feel I MUST visit sometime [Kathy O'Connor's gated Florida community "Paradise"] even though I loathe hotter climates--or go back to so I can burn it down [No Man's Land in Kat Henry Doran's "Captain Marvelous"]. It can be a small town or a big city, or a neighborhood inside a big city. It might be a college campus or a high school. Check out Eileen Dreyer's "Sinners and Saints", a 2006 release through St. Martin's Press. If New Orleans isn't your cup of chicory, read Sandra Brown's "Envy" for a look at one of the sea islands off the coast of Georgia.

5. Conflict is the basis for the story and it must consist of something more serious than what can be resolved in a 5 minute conversation. Sorry, the reluctance to offend the other's sensibilities, or fear of what the parents might think are more than yawners to this editor. They put me into a coma faster than a duck . . . never mind.
I want to think from the beginning of the story "these two do not stand a chance of a popsicle in hell of staying together". I want to know that one of them would give up their life-long dream in order to keep the other in their life--and if it's NOT the heroine who does all the changing/giving/making compromises, that's even better.

6. Proper spelling, punctuation, a dearth of frothy prose, limited speech tags, and tight narrative goes a looooong way with this Wild Woman Editor, so take advantage of spell check, a thesaurus, and a good critique group.

Friday, December 12, 2008

More on Critiquing...

Following on Donna’s excellent critique partner post, I’d like to write about the actual experience of ‘critting.’

So you don’t think you have enough experience to be a critique partner?

Can you read?

I know. It sounds simplistic. But critique partners don’t develop overnight. And when you’re first starting to realize you need one, you can be sure that Nora Roberts is probably too busy to look over your work. (She writes 8-9 books a year). Needing a critique partner usually means the person expects you to critique their work, too.

I know it sounds strange to put two people together who’ve never done this task before. Or to put an experienced critiquer with an inexperienced one. But you’d be surprised at how well it can work.

So, how do you develop YOUR skill as a critique partner if you’ve never been one?

Read, read, read.

Once you’ve stepped off the cliff and offered to read another person’s work, there are a few rules for a newbie ‘critter.”

Be polite.

Grammatical errors are usually the easiest to find. Note them.

Look for instances in which you do not understand what is happening. Ask for clarification. Even if it is something as simple as “Who’s talking here?”

Read passages out loud. If it sounds odd, uneven, choppy or awkward, make a note of it.

Do not be afraid to insert a comment, sentence or paragraph that might clarify – such as “This doesn’t sound like how a little kid would lick an ice cream cone. Kids are messy and usually need bibs, napkins and a bath...perhaps this can be a little more realistic?”

When something makes you smile, sigh, get angry or sad, say so.

Start slow, read carefully, and most of all, enjoy your friend’s story. You’re job isn’t to take a hatchet to it, but to read it as a reader and note the areas you enjoy and the areas that need improvement.

Feed back is important. There is nothing worse to a writer than to have someone go through their manuscript, write “Good!” and “Wow!” in 8-10 places and that’s it. On the surface, that sounds great, but authors are really looking for a gut reaction. Authors want recognition for telling a story that reaches out to the soul in some way. They want to know if they touched the reader, if they elicited emotions that can be treasured, examined and mulled over.

Authors are like engineers. They construct the story, putting the right words here to support the theme, and the best words there to frame their masterpiece. The reward is a reader who steps into that world and finds something that speaks to them.

Read your partner’s work. Give them value for their construction. If a theme is weak, or a framework unsupported, it will fall. But if you can assist in strengthening the book, the reward is a gift that many people can enjoy.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

To Critique or Not to Critique

by Donna Basinow

You know, there is nothing harder than to tell another writer, “Sorry, it’s just not good enough.” At least here at the Wild Rose Press we go a little beyond that and tell you why. We try to point you in the right direction, guide you on the road to improving your writing so next time the answer could be different.

The bottom line is that most of us are writers as well as editors, so sending a rejection letter is almost like receiving one ourselves. And our writing is no better than anyone else’s.
The problem is that when you write a story…you’re involved. This is your child. You’ve created it (monster or angel doesn’t matter). And like most parents when someone criticizes your child you take offense.

So what do you do? First you write the story that’s burning to get out, then you proofread it, then it’s ready to go, right? Heavy sigh. Polish, polish, polish, shine, shine, shine.

The best way I have found to polish my writing before I submit is to let someone else read it. But you know that if the person who reads it is: your mother, your sister, your best friend, your aunt, your cousin, or anyone else you know they are more than likely going to tell you what you want to hear. “It’s wonderful! I can’t wait to see it in print! I’m going to call cousin Ida now and tell her to watch for it at the bookstore!”

So okay, you say, if I can’t let someone I know read it then who? What about another writer? They’ve struggled with the same problems you have. They understand about characters and conflict, about plot and setting, about point of view…ugh, point of view… And the one advantage they have here is that they didn’t write this story. They can see mistakes that you can’t!
Have you ever noticed it’s harder to catch your own mistakes than someone else’s? That’s because you can’t see what you’ve written if it’s still alive in your head! And trust me, it takes a long time for those characters to get off the stage and move on.

So here’s my Dear Abby piece of advice for the day – join a critique group, or at least find a critique buddy. It will do wonders for your writing!

Saturday, December 6, 2008

It's Not Personal, It's Business

That’s a quote from one of my favorite movies. Not The Godfather, although I’m told that’s where the quote originated. But Tom Hanks says it to Meg Ryan in You’ve Got Mail. He’s the owner of a B&N style mega bookstore chain, she the owner of a small, local bookstore. She can’t believe he’s destroying her business; he can’t believe he’s falling in love with her. Sigh. Great movie.

But back to that quote. I think it applies very well to what we do here at TWRP. Most of us write because we have a passion for it. Writing isn’t a path you choose so much as one that chooses you. Most writers I know can’t not write. Even if they wanted to stop, the stories would keep coming. And when you regard your creations as your “baby,” it’s easy to forget to be on your best behavior when someone rejects—or asks you to change—that creation.

Which brings me to the point of this blog. There are two types of authors we deal with here at TWRP. The professional author. And the Unprofessional author. Let’s talk about the differences.

The Professional author makes it a point to know the romance industry. She reads trade magazines, may or may not belong to RWA, and reads within the genre she writes. She knows about POV, pacing, showing versus telling and conflict. She critiques, either with a group or a partner, takes their criticism objectively and is always ready and willing to learn more about her craft.

The Unprofessional author doesn’t pay attention to any of those things because that’s not her style. POV, pacing, showing and conflict are unimportant to her because she has written The Great American Novel (her mom even said so!). And so what if the hero and heroine don't even meet until page 345 (of a 700 page book) she wants –no demands!--an editor love her story just the way it is. She doesn’t critique. She’s tried that before, but everyone she met was an idiot who didn’t “get” her story.

The Query.

Professional Author reviews the submission guidelines to ensure that the story she is planning to submit fits within the guidelines. When the editor requests a partial submission and tells her she will hear back in sixty days, she marks her calendar and moves on to the next project. Should day sixty come and go with no response, she sends a brief note to the editor, because it is entirely possible, in this cyber age we live in, that the editor’s response was lost somewhere in cyberspace, or that she, the author misunderstood.

Unprofessional Author doesn’t care about the guidelines; when the editors see her story, they’re going to love it so much the guidelines won’t matter. She receives a request for a partial and an assurance from the editor that she will hear back within sixty days. Two days later, Unprofessional Author emails Editor to ask if she’s had time to read her story yet. Does she like it? Unprofessional Author is thinking of changing this, that and the other thing, and what does Editor think she should do? Editor politely responds that she hasn’t had a chance to look at the submission yet, and requests Unprofessional Author hold off on any changes to the MS until Editor can have time to look it over. The following week Unprofessional Author again emails Editor to let her know she has made major changes to the plot and would like to re-submit the new version. Editor agrees and the author sends it. Throughout the next sixty days, Unprofessional Author emails Editor at least 57 times asking if she’s read the story yet and what she thinks. When day sixty comes and goes and Editor doesn’t get back to Unprofessional Author, Unprofessional Author fires off a nasty email basically calling Editor every name in the book for not getting back to her, curses her first born and all future generations of Editor’s family and goes on and on about how she, Unprofessional Author, didn’t want to be published with some small time press where she’d probably only ever five dollars in royalties anyway. Editor responds that she actually requested the full four days ago and tells Unprofessional Author what email account the request was sent to. Ooops. Unprofessional Author forgot that she had used that account with her original query and didn’t think to check it.

The Rejection.

Professional Author, while undoubtedly crushed that her story has been rejected, politely thanks Editor for her time and her thoughts. Professional Author gives herself a day or two to wallow in her disappointment, then reads the letter again. Maybe Editor had some valid points. Editor did say that she’d be willing to consider the story again if certain things were addressed. Professional Author contacts her critique partners, asks their opinions and makes plans to re-work the areas of the story Editor mentioned.

Unprofessional Author fires off a nasty email to Editor, snidely thanking her for wasting her valuable time and reassuring Editor that she’s made a huge mistake because everyone who has ever read this story has loved it. Editor is missing out because when this story sells it’s going to make a lot of money. Unprofessional Author is going to tell everyone what a lousy publishing house TWRP is and she’s going out on all her loops to tell people not to submit here because we obviously don’t know quality work when we see it. How dare we ask her to cut 400 pages and change so much? The next day, Unprofessional Author sends the story back to the editor, having cut 390 pages and fixed the conflict, pacing and POV issues overnight.


Unprofessional Author proceeds to bombard Editor with a series of emails. Every time she re-reads the rejection letter, she finds something else Editor said that she disagrees with and repeatedly emails Editor with her angry thoughts.


Knowing full well that Editor doesn’t know what she’s talking about, Unprofessional Author waits a few months, then resubmits the unchanged story through the query process as a new query. They’ll never know it was previously submitted and rejected.

The Contract.

Professional Author understands that edits will need to be made to her story. She may not always agree with what Editor asks of her, but realizes that she has signed a contract and the edits are part of the agreement. Maybe that scene she loved so much really doesn’t move the story forward. Maybe the first chapter really is merely back-story and can be removed, even though she loved that chapter. Professional Author realizes that Editor is not trying to destroy her story, she’s trying to make it tighter, more marketable and make it fit in with the stories TWRP sells and TWRP readers expect.

When the edits are complete, Professional Author patiently waits for her release date, understanding that it’s something Editor has no control over. When she receives her final PDF copy of her story and her release date, she realizes something –the story really is stronger now. She mentions to Editor that she has two more stories she’d like to submit, one for Editor’s line, and another that may fit another line and asks how she should go about submitting them.

Unprofessional Author argues over every little comma, and sends links to websites and grammar resources to show Editor that she, Unprofessional Author, is correct and Editor is mistaken. She bristles at being asked to remove her adverbs—she really thinks all those “ly” words add flavor to her story-- that’s her voice, after all! And how can Editor ask her to remove that vital scene written from the point of view of the heroine’s cat? It’s necessary to the story! Meanwhile, Unprofessional Author is out on the TWRP loops telling her fellow authors that she has the worst editor on the planet and she never wants to work with this editor again because she’s so stupid (she doesn’t give Editor’s name, of course, but people will still know out who she mans). After the edits are complete, Unprofessional Author bombards Editor daily via email for a release date. She needs one fast because an elderly aunt wants to read the story and the old gal could die any day now.

When Unprofessional Author receives her final PDF copy and her release date, she complains that the date is too far away. Other authors she knows who are published elsewhere had their stories released much faster. She still hates that cover and she isn’t even sure she wants to tell anyone she has a story out with us because it’s so bad now that Editor made her take out those commas and adverbs. She then sends Editor, via email, six more stories that she has written recently. Just to get her opinion on them…

I could go on and on, but I think you get the picture. *G* And I know you’re thinking, Come on Nic, you’ve exaggerated some of this stuff just to make a point. Sadly, I didn’t. All the above examples of unprofessional behavior are things that I’ve either personally encountered, or my fellow editors have encountered.

I also want to stress that I’m not implying you can never disagree with your editor, or never email her to ask her questions. As you know, TWRP is one of the few publishers who encourage author input and we pride ourselves on communication. Don’t be afraid to speak up if you feel requested edits are unreasonable or extreme and don't be afraid to ask "what comes next?"

Editors aren’t out to “get” anyone, we just want to sell great stories. So the next time you submit, keep those five little words in mind: It’s not personal. It’s business.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Trusting Your Editor

So, you finally have that contract in your hand. You’ve told your husband, your mother, and even the woman in line behind you in the grocery store, who wouldn’t know you from Adam :) I know, I’ve been there myself. It’s an exciting time.

Your book is going to be published! Maybe it’s your first book. Maybe it’s your tenth. Either way, it’s a fabulous feeling. Until you receive those first round of edits.

Suddenly, your manuscript—the one your editor swore she adored—is filled with more markups than the red-marked sale tags at a store closing sale. Your heart drops. Was your manuscript really in need of that much help?

This is a tough moment. Your words, your baby, has been critiqued and edited. It may be light, or it may have needed more work than you anticipated. No matter what, it’s a difficult pill to swallow.

The first thing I would advise is to just go through the edits once, and then set it aside for a day. You need time to let it sink in, and to think about what your editor had to say objectively. Keep an open mind as much as possible.

Your editor is trying to make your manuscript shine. She’s trying to polish it, not change the essence of it. And though your first instinct might be to fight the changes she’s asking for, I suggest trusting your editor. Give them a chance. Does this mean you shouldn’t question things you don’t agree with? By no means. Your name is going to be on this work. It’s your reputation on the line.

But also consider it is the editor's and publisher’s reputation as well.

Do editors make mistakes? Of course, we are human. But generally, many disagreements can be cleared up by honest communication and keeping an open mind. The editors here at TWRP are happy to work with you. This is a partnership.

Go over your edits with as much objectivity as you can muster and take what you can from them.

As TWRP editors we are always here to help and keep the lines of communication open.

Go ahead and ask questions. That’s what we are here for.

Renee Lynn
Editor--Champagne Line
The Wild Rose Press

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Finding the perfect story…

My last post spoke about what happens after you submit to TWRP. Now, I want to touch on what happens when we find a story we want to contract.

The title of this post is a bit misleading. A “perfect story” might lead you, as an author, to believe everything about your work must be perfect before it is contracted. That is simply not true. But, what is true is that it must be a story that has been polished, edited, and worked on diligently and with passion. It can’t be in a rough draft form, or sent out before it’s ready. While it’s an editor’s job to polish a manuscript until is shines, it is not our job to rewrite the entire work. So, be sure to send in your best work, and have it looked over either by a trusted writing friend or critique partner first.

That said, there is a rush when you find a story that has “soul.” I love discovering new authors! I also love seeing an author grow, book after book.

Now, while a manuscript having “soul” might mean one thing to one editor, and something all together different to another, there is a common factor—your passion as a writer. It’s possible to read a manuscript, which technically has all the right factors: the point of view is spot on, the characters say and do the right things, and the plot can make sense and have a sufficient amount of conflict…but the reader can still feel nothing.

What really adds the spark, the undeniable, intangible “something” to an author’s work is the passion of the author for her characters and their love story. Then, the editor is brought along for their ride. They feel all their emotions, all their desire, and all their pain.

When I find a story that moves me this much, excitement courses through me. I LIVE for moments like these. There is nothing better than telling an author her work is going to be published. Believe it or not, editors WANT to publish your story. We want to find a great romance. Regardless of the horror stories you might have heard about editors, we are just people who love writing, reading, and publishing.

So, send us your best work, your fabulous love story, your book of the heart. We are waiting to read your submission!

Renee Lynn
Editor--Champagne Line
The Wild Rose Press

Saturday, November 29, 2008

What Happens After You Submit?

Note: Last week Jamie West did a fabulous series on editor pet peeves. Thanks for a very informative week, Jamie! This week, I thought I’d give you a peek into the submission process itself.

As an author, you’ve spent hours, weeks—maybe months—working on your baby, and polishing your manuscript until it shines. Now, without a net, you have to throw your baby out into the world, to see if it can fly on its own. You have submitted your manuscript for publication.

Congratulations. That is a bigger step than you might realize. It takes a lot of courage to face possible rejection.

But after you send your query off to The Wild Rose Press’s Query Us” e-mail, what happens to your submission? Does it end up in some cyber black hole? Not at all. Queries are read and disbursed every morning by our wonderful editor-in-chief, Rhonda Penders. They are then sent on to the appropriate senior editor, based on line, and from there sent on to an editor.

That is when I come in. And I’d like to tell you a couple of things about my process, and how I handle reviewing a submission.

First, I read the query, looking for the concept of the book. I do love a well-written query. Send me something that reads like a back cover blurb, with a clearly defined hook, and I will anxiously read on. But if your query doesn’t have the perfect blurb, don’t worry. This is only a piece of the puzzle.

Do I look at the author’s credentials (provided there are any listed) on the query? Yes. And though I note them, and a publishing history is worth mentioning, they don’t mean as much to me as the writing.

I always sneak a peek at the first chapter then. I can’t help but look at the writing itself before I get to the synopsis. Okay, I will admit it: I am a synopsis skimmer. I am most attracted to the actual writing, then the synopsis. Is the style fresh? Does the voice catch me? Is the storyline plausible? Do I relate to the characters? The answers to these questions, along with a general clean manuscript, free of grammatical errors, will determine if I want to see more, and if I want to invest a couple of hours reading a full submission.

Only then, if I adore the writing, do I go back and read over the synopsis to see if the plot makes sense. If all the pieces fall into place, I will ask to see the full manuscript.

And if the full is one of those stories that keeps me reading into the night, then you might just have yourself a contract.

Up next: The Rush You Get When You Find a Gem of a Story

Renee Lynn
Editor--Champagne Line
The Wild Rose Press

Friday, November 28, 2008

The Big, Bad Editor's List Of Pet Peeves - Act IV

Editors really don’t want to hate authors. Honest. We want to publish your book as much as you do, maybe more. When books get published, we get paid. It is as simple as that. We’re on the lookout for the best product on the market. We do research, we pluck gems from the slush pile, we’ll even take a diamond in the rough, if we meet an author who’ll work hard to help polish it into the treasure it can be.

However, authors can get on our bad side. It’s not easy, but it does happen. Here are a couple things you can do to be certain we never want your manuscript to darken our doors again (although, if you learn the error of your ways, we’ll gladly take a different manuscript!)

Don’t Read The Guidelines

Astoundingly, I see an average of 3-4 manuscripts a week that are not, have not been, and in fact, don’t even pretend to be romance. TWRP publishes romance. Romance is boy-meets-girl, boy-loses-girl, boy-gets-girl-back, and a Happy-Ever-After (HEA). In our guidelines, we even state that relationship development should be at least 50% of the novel. I’ve received a manuscript of 400 pages wherein the heroine got married, had multiple children, and her husband died, in the middle 3 pages of the book. It was the only mention of any relationship whatsoever. I’ve received a manuscript where the hero bounced from woman to woman (a few underage), exploiting his prowess, and finally settled on the heroine in the last 7 pages of the novel. These are not romances. Relationship development is vital to a romance.

Jamie’s caveat

Hero and heroine shouldn’t be more than 5 pages apart for the most part. As an author grows, I will accept a well-written plot with them a little further apart, but most newbies do not have this kind of control until their 3rd or 4th book. Some of my fellow editors are less hard-line about this issue, so feel free to submit if you’ve kept the hero/heroine apart for more pages. This is not a hard and fast rule, but it helps us maintain the quality of what we sell. There are always exceptions and writer with good control over the work can stretch the limit.

Resubmission Hounds/Eager Beavers

These writers get their nice rejection letter and a few pages of edits back, make the changes and resubmit the manuscript 2 hours later. They do not look at the rest of the manuscript to see if they’ve made the same mistakes throughout that the nice rejection letter mentioned. Nope, they just do the required edits highlighted and send it back. Ladies and gentlemen, I’m here to tell you that if the nice editor mentioned something in the rejection letter that could apply to the whole manuscript, you might want to check the entire novel.

This really happened. I rejected a manuscript. Five minutes later, it was resubmitted (we have a time stamp). Another editor was assigned who knew I had it. She thought maybe I’d asked the writer to resubmit, so she read and it rejected it also. Five minutes after the second rejection was sent (again, the time stamp), it was re-submitted again. Don’t do this. The editors at TWRP know their jobs. If your manuscript is rejected, there are valid reasons. We try to let you know your strengths, and your weaknesses. Look at those weaknesses, read up on them, and even sign up for our FREE critique partner service at If you don’t want to do that, the best editing tool you can use is reading the manuscript out loud. If the book sounds clunky, awkward and stilted, it probably is just that.

The Prima Donna

There’s a difference between an author who is rightfully angry and an author who is simply stamping her foot metaphorically and having a tantrum because we didn’t ask to publish his/her work.

I’ve dealt with manuscripts that slipped through the cracks and authors who have a right to be angry and upset. We’ve managed to settle amicably each time. It took work on both our parts. This includes an author who was so upset she wanted only a Senior Editor (before I was one). However, she listened to our side of the story, we did some sample editing so she could take me for a test run, she was satisfied with my work and we went straight to publishing from there. Her anger was justified and we made allowances to give her what she wanted. But she was polite, despite being upset, and we worked to make her experience a good one.

But the author who shoots me an angry email with doubts about my abilities, my legitimacy as a human and my mother’s marital status when I was born is not endearing. Do not get angry and sling personal insults. Even if you feel I trampled on your novel, take a good, hard look at it and ask another experienced person to look at the book, too. We at TWRP always try to give the best advice in the rejection. We’re not soulless robots rubber-stamping a form letter. I can’t tell you how many times I came across a really unique plot that I’d LOVE to edit…but it wasn’t a romance. I’ve had several manuscripts that crossed my desk where I regretfully informed the authors of the best place to sell the book. They were THAT good. I actually recommended in the rejection letter which publishing house (and sometimes even the exact editor) who would probably look at the work.

We editors know our business. We know what we sell, and what other companies sell. We may not chat with other publishing houses much, but rest assured, we know their guidelines, too. As with any business, knowing the competition is simply good economics. If an excellent book is not right for our house, we usually try to direct them to where they rightfully belong, if we know.

The Chatty Patty

Once I am your editor, please, please, do not send me emails with photos and stories of your dogs, your kids, your grandkids, your African safari or your husband’s gallbladder surgery. Editors and writers are business partners, first. We may establish a friendship later, but at the beginning, I’m simply buying your work.

In the editing process, nothing makes me grit my teeth more than a writer who sends me countless emails asking if she should change the word ‘scum’ on page 72 of her novel to ‘pond-scum’ and similar editing changes. This is your manuscript. You can make and suggest editing changes, too. We are a partnership here. Our goal is to publish the best book possible. Work with me, but do not send emails with simple changes that you can make without affecting the integrity of the manuscript. Make them and if I do not feel they are appropriate, I’ll catch them in the line edit, anyway.

Once we begin editing, you can nudge me by sending a polite email if you’re feeling neglected. You can even put in the subject header the word ‘NUDGE.’ If I don’t respond within a week, send an email to my boss, Rhonda Penders, If you are working with an editor for a specific line, send a note to the Senior Editor. They are all listed on our main webpage. This way, we both maintain contact. Other editors may prefer a different method, feel free to ask them.

I hope this list has helped you understand our side of the desk. I hope you learned, you laughed, you shared my editor life for a while. I hope we have a long and enduring relationship doing what we both love. Good luck with your writing career, and remember, a manuscript sitting in a drawer is just gathering dust. Send it along to us and you might gather an audience, instead! Come on, send that novel in!

Any questions? Ask in the comments section.

Next week – fellow editor Renee Lynn is at the helm. Tune in!

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

The Big, Bad Editor's List Of Pet Peeves - Act III

In the ongoing saga of the Big, Bad Editor’s Pet Peeves, we come to a host of small problems which can kill a perfectly good manuscript. Scene breaks, brand name dropping, body parts, swearing, one word emotion, and it.


Let me issue a caveat. Some editors are fine with scene breaks. I’m not one of them. I feel that if you need a scene break, you need to clarify your character’s position better. A transitional scene from one to the next makes sense. My fellow editors will respectfully disagree with me and we’ll probably have emails flying on our Staff loop. (Don’t worry, its good for them to question their beliefs, keeps us all fresh).

So, what is a scene break? It is where you write one scene and then realize your character really should be somewhere else or thinking something else. Or you go to the other character’s POV and see what he’s doing at the same time. And, CUT! Off you go. Three asterisks and your reader has been beamed like a Star Trek character into the next scene. In most cases, your reader isn’t Captain Kirk (unless its fan-fiction) and you don’t own one of those transportation devices. Having your reader plopped into a different setting is like Kirk appearing out of nowhere to the superstitious savages. I will occasionally allow a scene break, but you better have 25 reasons to back up why you need it when I ask. I’m just saying.

A scene break pulls the reader up short. It is a stopping point. When you couple it with a POV shift, it can be the kiss of death to the reader - they may not finish the book. How many books have you read where you skipped to the ‘good part?’ Think about it and you may see a trend. The ‘good part’ is usually in one POV where you feel what that character is showing. Your purpose is to keep that reader so happy to finish the book that she'll buy your next book.


Brand-name dropping seems to be increasing in the manuscripts I’ve read lately. I kid you not, I got a manuscript in which the characters had to go buy a part for a car and the author listed 22 stores by name that might carry that part. If your heroine drives a 1969 Buick LeSabre change it to an ‘older, gas-guzzling sedan.’ Mentioning such things will get the red pen from me. These date your manuscript, they also come under ‘fair use’ laws. It means you can use certain terms, but it is dictated by the owner of the brand name. Since we don’t want to constantly be writing letters to the owners asking permission, we prefer you use generic euphemisms for the cars, toys, tourist traps, and sexy lingerie.


One of the funniest lines I ever read in a manuscript was a hero who allowed “his eyes to run around the room as he looked for a way out.” I had this vision of an alien species whose eyeballs popped out, dropped to the floor, sprouted legs and took off running around the room like a spider on speed. Make sure your hero/heroine’s body parts can actually do the tasks assigned (real aliens are the exception to this rule).


Different editors have different views on swearing in a story. If there is no shock value and cussing doesn’t impact the story in a profound way, it is unnecessary. I have nothing against swearing, but throwing cuss words around as if they're everyday jargon dilutes the power. When you overuse the words, it is a waste of resources. You want every word to count in a good story. If a character swears for lack of anything else to say, it simply fills the silence, not a good trait. Heroes and heroines need to come across as decisive, firm and in control of their speech.


Human beings are not one-dimensional. We laugh, we cry, we share the lives of others for a while (that’s a quote from Thomas Carlyle. Go look him up. I don’t agree with him on most things but he understood the value of a good book). When we ‘get emotional’ we are not one feeling, we are a big mass of feelings. That said, sometimes in our intent to show exactly what our heroine/hero is feeling, we think a short, clipped sentence will do the trick. Add a little emotion and everyone gets the point…twice. Sentences like this grate on many editors’ nerves.

“Surprised, she jerked back.”

How about:

“She jerked back.”

The verb tells us something startling happened. Ahhh, mystery. The reader will continue to read because they’ll want to know why she jerked back. The ‘surprised’ part of the first sentence gives away an unnecessary clue that subtly foreshadows what is to come. If a reader knows the ‘good part’ is coming, they may put the book down to do other tasks, relishing the anticipation of the ‘good part’ for later. But your job is to make them keep reading a book they can’t put down!


And then there’s the magic IT. It is not a subject. Sentences with 'it is' or 'it was' instead of a specific noun makes for passive writing.

“It was the the man's abrasive tone that got to her.”

How about:

Sam’s abrasive tone grated on her nerves. (although really, I would do anything Sam Elliott told me to do – I love his abrasive, Scotch-on-the-rocks voice).

Do a find/search of the instances of ‘it’ and its iterations (ha ha, “it and its iterations!”) and work on being more specific.

Questions? Ask in the Comments section.

Next Big Bad Editor’s Pet Peeves post: The authors editors love to hate. However, there will be a break for Thanksgiving Day because my mother will be mad at me if I’m playing on her computer during a family event (yes, I’m middle-aged., but if you met her, you’d be afraid of her, too. I’ll be on her turf and she knows where the iron skillets are).

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

The Big, Bad Editor's List Of Pet Peeves - Act II

In the second installment of The Big, Bad Editor’s Pet Peeves I bring you yet another bane of my existence...


There are editors who don’t mind head-hopping. There are authors who write head-hopping characters seamlessly. And then there’s me.

But first, here are the main POV’s used in fiction so you’ll know what I’m talking about.

Objective Point of View - In objective point of view, the writer tells what happens without any bias towards character or plot. The writer doesn’t tell the reader how the characters feel or what they think. The writer is simply an observer telling a story. A lot of children’s stories are told in objective point of view. Journalism used to be told this way, too. (Don’t ask my opinion on what is called journalism nowadays).

Third Person Point of View - The writer is not a participant in the story, but allows the reader to know and understand the point-of-view of one or more characters. The reader knows how the characters feel about events and what they think, too. The writer is the third person - “the fly on the wall”- hearing and seeing all in the chosen POVs. Most fiction is written in third person narrative.

First Person Point of View - The writer is the narrator of the story. The writer’s opinion is not always objective and they may infuse their opinions, thoughts and actions on the reader. This style of writing may not always be trustworthy, because the reader is depending on the writer to tell the truth. Biographies are usually written in the first person. (What, you think some of them are the whole truth??)

Omniscient - The writer knows everything about everyone, how they fell, how they think, what their motivations are. Some police thrillers are written with this style because the POV of the criminal and what the motivation may be is just as important as the POVs of the police. Think of this POV as an army general. The general is looking over a map of the land and moving his armies where he thinks they’ll do the most good. The armies have no say, they do not understand or care why they are being moved, they are simply minions of the general and do as he dictates. All action and characterization if any is from the viewpoint of the “all-knowing” general.

Author Intrusion - When an author infuses a preaching tone or opinion that has not been stated as the character’s thoughts/feelings anywhere else in the book.

Now, back to my peeving. A point of view head-hop breaks my train of thought.

It is disconcerting to be identifying with the hero and to suddenly be thrown out of his perspective by an invasive newcomer who is a stranger with thoughts, actions and a perspective of her own! When reading, the reader starts to understand the character, starts feeling his/her depth of emotion, starts thinking "wow, that's almost exactly how I feel!" and then BAM! they're kicked out of his/her POV and into another character's thoughts. Even if the second character also feels as they do, the reader is left with a sense of incompleteness. The reader isn’t even finished with the first person when they have to deal with the thoughts of the second person.

Wait? What? See how confusing it is?

Think about the classic books you read as a child - rarely are there even two POVs - part of the reason they're classics is because the characterization is so strong with one POV.

I know you feel that you can convey more when you show both sides of the story. I know it is easier to keep them in the same scene while they go back and forth like a tennis match. However, its not strong writing unless you are one of the few experienced authors who’ve mastered the technique.

Inexperienced head-hopping keeps the reader off balance. And worse, it gives the impression of a play. Each person and their story is produced like the characters in a play - "here is your part, tell your background, move off the stage for the next person." It comes across as very cut-and-dried. I have noticed that many authors who do this are avoiding something.

That avoidance is very telling. What is it telling this editor? In almost every instance, the author is avoiding emotive content. You read that right. Most authors are trying to “wow me with words” so they don’t have to delve into their psyche and pull out emotions that may bare the soul of their character. Why? Because every character the writer invents carries a little piece of that writer in it. Most people don’t let all their thoughts/feelings hang out. Even overly dramatic people may sometimes be hiding behind an opinionated façade. When a writer puts words to paper, they open up they way they themselves may think. It’s a little scary to show that vulnerability to an audience of readers.

Part of writing is that ability to share what we feel. Constantly head-hopping can convey the story you want to tell without having to get emotional about it.

But this is romance, baby. It is all about emotion! It is all about that vulnerable state when you open your heart and bleed until a hero rides to the rescue, wraps a tourniquet of love around that heart and helps it heal.

Open that vein. Strengthen the story by wearing your heart on your sleeve. Don’t hide behind pretty words or keep the reader head-hopping so much they can’t get a real grasp on how that character feels. Emote! Give me a point of view from one character that strengthens the romance and makes it grow. Give me a point of view that shares its pain, its angst and its passion. And I’ll give you a contract for a well-written book that readers will want to read.

Any questions? Ask in the comments section.

Next Pet Peeve Post: Scene breaks, name dropping, body parts, swearing and it.

Monday, November 24, 2008

The Big, Bad Editor's List Of Pet Peeves

I have a lot of pet peeves. I plan to highlight the big ones for the next week in this blog. The rest I’m willing to work with to find a viable compromise between the author and myself. And honestly, although I prefer great grammar and punctuation, I will not reject your story because you missed a comma or misspelled a word (however, this doesn’t mean you can send me a poorly edited manuscript). So, with that said, all this week, we shall concentrate on my Pet Peeves. And the Number One Spot goes to…(drumroll)…


Nearly every newbie author (including myself back in the day) is guilty of back story. Back story is when one set ups a scene to tell the reader all about the hero or the heroine before the actual story. Because one is trying to capture the reader’s attention, one wants them to understand and identify with the heroine/hero. That’s almost always how to TELL a story. Think about it. Remember the stories you told your kids?

“Once upon a time, there was a little girl whose Grandmother was sick. She baked some goodies for Grandma, put them in a basket, put on her little red jacket with hood and headed out the door. Stepping onto the forest path, she met a wolf…”

But in romance, it works better to SHOW a story. Start the story in the middle of the action, preferably when the hero/heroine or protagonists meet.

“Hello, my pretty.” The wolf’s eyes gleamed as he eyed the girl’s basket. He licked his chops as drool ran down his chin. (Right away we can see that this is the Bad Guy – his personal hygiene habits alone tell us his character).

“Hello,” Little Red Riding Hood said in a polite tone, furiously thinking that the loaf of bread in her basket simply wasn’t an adequate weapon. (Smart, bakes and can multi-task. Obviously, the heroine).

Even if the meeting isn’t auspicious, it actually sets the stage you were striving for in the back story. The wolf is established as the bad guy. Little Red Riding Hood is established as being the heroine in deep trouble. The reader has just entered the comfort zone of reading. Reader immediately knows the actors on the page, and is ready to identify with the heroine. The door is open. The page must be turned.

And that, my pretties, is right where you want the reader to be. So excited that turning the page cannot be helped. How many times has someone interrupted you right at the Big Moment in a book or movie? Your job, as a writer, is to make every single chapter have a Big Moment. Or two…or twenty. Keep that page turning.

Don’t bore me with the story of how Little Red Riding Hood’s grandmother made that coat by going to a specialty store to buy the woolen fabric in that specific shade of cherry red, and how she bought real bone buttons and lined it with silk because LRRH was such a special little girl, what with baking Granny treats and doing the housework and fluffing pillows and all. Granny is a secondary character. She can be mentioned, but I don’t want her life story, her choices or her pet peeves even mentioned in the book, okay? Well, unless you can do it in a paragraph or less, as it relates to the hero/heroine. There is no reason to know why Granny made the coat. She’s Granny, LRRH is her granddaughter. Grannies do that kind of thing. That is sufficient for readers to know by inference.

Write tight. Your goal is to use as few words as possible to convey character and action. You want to punch the reader in the eyeballs with everything that will make them keep reading down the page and to the next.

The master of writing some of the best first lines ever was Louis L’Amour. Next time you go to the bookstore or library pick up a few of his books and read.

“When I rode up to the buffalo wallow, Pa was lying there with his leg broke, and his horse gone.” (END OF THE DRIVE Ó Louis & Katherine L’Amour Trust)

In that single sentence, the writer conveys a sense of urgency, a sense of responsibility, a sense of trouble, and the need to solve the problem fast. And the reader is off and running – reading as fast as possible to find out what happens.

Louis didn’t go into back story, he hopped right into the action, left the reader staring at the page thinking “My gosh, WHAT HAPPENED?” And then they find themselves reading all day and finishing the book at 2 a.m. knowing they have to go to work tomorrow.

As you continue writing the book, and at this point, I’ll talk specifically about romance, you must keep the hero and heroine together. Do not go off on a tangent about how the hero’s long lost brother shows up with three kids and a dog, and how the hero loved his brother’s wife back in the day and now must mourn her passing but is charmed by his brother’s daughter because she looks so much like her mother, a pretty girl with brown eyes and blonde hair who sang as sweetly as a lark, loved dogs, and could bake the best apply pie this side of Sara Lee. (It is almost Thanksgiving, I’m into baking metaphors).

The reader doesn’t want to know all that. The reader is looking for the romance – the reader wants to see the relationship develop between hero and heroine. Hero and heroine. Hero. And. Heroine. You can allow a little back story as they interact with each other. He can tell her about losing someone he loved. He doesn’t need to go into detail. She can see a photo of Mom and notice that the little girl looks like Mom and the hero seems to have a soft spot for the kid. But then, you must revert back to hero and heroine and how THEIR relationship is growing. What are they doing? What are they feeling? What is happening? How do they react when it happens? Do they take action? If so, is it a resolution? If not, why not? Will there be a resolution later? Why the delay?

Every time an author introduces a secondary character, the potential for back story is set. Resist! If you must use a secondary character, give the reader bare bones. A quick paragraph about their meaning in the hero or heroine’s life, and then move back to hero and heroine. Don’t give them a life history. Don’t give them “air-time” in a story about Hero and Heroine. If they have a story, write another book about them.

Don’t give Hero and Heroine much back story, either. Heroine’s story before meeting hero is hers alone. Hero’s story before meeting heroine is his alone. But this story…this story is about them. Together. Developing a relationship in the present. This is their story. Write it wisely.

Any questions? Ask in the comments section.

Next Pet Peeve Post: Point Of View

Friday, November 21, 2008

No More Naked People

Now that I have your attention *G*.

Let’s talk a little bit about avoiding clichés. Most of us know by now not to use the “have the heroine look in the mirror” trick as a means of describing our character. It’s cliché and doesn’t usually work since most of us don’t look in the mirror and notice our heart-shaped face, our azure blue eyes and dainty features. We just want to make sure we look presentable.

Lately in historical submissions, I’ve noticed a trend toward one of the oldest cliché’s in the writing industry. The Naked People Cliché.

Scenario one: it’s such a hot day that our heroine strips off her twenty five pounds of petticoats, her corset and the dress she can’t get into without assistance and dives into the inviting and deserted (so she thinks) pond. Or lake. Or stream. First of all, in an age where just the sight of a woman’s bare ankle was considered forbidden, I’m not convinced. Think about it; women were considered little more than property and had no rights—is our heroine really going to strip down to her birthday suit and go for a dip? When any man could come upon her and take advantage? Put it another way. If you were on a beach by yourself on a hot day—would you do it?

Back to our story. At some point, while the heroine is blissfully swimming along, usually with either her behind or her breasts bobbing along the water’s surface, our hero comes along. And joins her. Now depending on what point in the book we’ve reached, this may be their first meeting (cliché!) or this may lead to the first love scene (another cliché!)

Scenario two. Heroine is in a hotel, usually with the hero, sometimes sharing a room, sometimes not. She’s hot and dusty and is more than ready for a soak in a nice hot bath. Soapy bubbles may or may not be covering her naughty bits, but invariably, the hero comes through the door. She shrieks. He smirks. Cue love scene.


I’m not saying that you can’t find a way to make this different, so please, if you must have naked characters, feel free to surprise me. But don’t fall into the cliché trap.

BTW it goes without saying that naked heroes and heroines are perfectly acceptable in love scenes. And think about it… having the hero, at an appropriate time, remove that corset, that dress she can’t get into without help, those twenty five pounds of petticoats…. Well that’s a lot more fun than having his work already done for him, isn’t it?

Happy writing, everyone!

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Five Tips for Aspiring Authors

Four things you must consider if you want to make a good impression on an editor (and one thing that is just good to do anyway):

1. Don't just study submission guidelines, follow them. An editor is within his or her rights to reject a manuscript solely on the formatting being a mess. The story may be very good, but how are we to know if we cannot read it? Allow your genius to shine by formatting properly. Yes, I know, I dislike Courier New too. Yet Courier is one of the easiest fonts to read. Word count and page count estimates can be simplified, and therefore how long the project will take to edit. If all manuscripts we receive start out the same, comparing one to another becomes much easier.

2. Name-dropping (comparing your work to other authors) in the query is unneccesary. Chances are I haven't read those other authors.

3. Telling me in your query how (adjective) your story is will not impress me. Allow me to be the judge of what adjective to apply. Every reader and reviewer will have their own opinion. Telling your reader what to think can spawn a negative reaction.

4. Make sure the synopsis shows the entire story; beginning, middle and end. A good synopsis shows the emotional turning points as well as the main plot, and gives us the names of the major players. Outside of that, don't stress too much about it. We know that synopses are difficult to write. The partial manuscript is our sample of your writing, and what we give most weight to when deciding if we want to see more.

And, good advice in general, 5. Back up your work regularly. Keep drafts separate with new file names--you never know when you might want to rescue a scene you cut at one point to refurbish somewhere else. Back up on different media and keep the copies in various places. At least one copy should be kept outside your residence, just in case. For example, I use CD's, USB key drives and an external hard drive.

When comparing apples and oranges, and you're only looking for apples, the choice becomes obvious.

Don't be an orange.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Men in Uniform Blog Contest

As promised, the Crimson Rose garden venue is starting off the Men in Uniform submission call with a blog discussion/comment contest. The topic is, of course, our favorite man in uniform. I’ll start the ball rolling but I want to invite you all to join in. No rules to this discussion except to keep it G or PG rated since we do have teens who visit the site.

My favorite man in uniform is a man in the naval dress white uniform, standing at attention. It goes without saying he would be looking at me adoringly throughout. I love the history it signifies along with the clean, fresh lines. It just looks so fine. All in all, just heart-racing stuff.

So share away – what’s your favorite??

Keep in mind, your name will be entered in a drawing for a free gift so comment away. Who knows your comment might give an author a wonderful idea for a story that fits in with our submission call. Speaking for all of the Crimson Rose editors, we all know there are some fabulous authors out there and we can’t wait to see what comes in.

Sigh…I can see the snappy salute and dress-whites now…

Headed back to the romances,

Senior Editor, Crimson Rose

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Crimson Rose Month

October was a time to celebrate the paranormal side of life (go guys!!) with their big finale on Halloween. Hope you all enjoyed the Ball and that there were some fabulous costumes.

As we move into November, thoughts do begin to turn toward winter as we change seasons a bit. What is better on a winter day than curling up with a comfy blanket in front of a roaring fire with your drink of choice and a really great book? A cup of tea, a mug of cocoa, a glass of Chablis…whatever relaxes you. However, as you choose that really good book, how about a great suspense novel to help you snuggle down even more into that blanket and yet keep you on the edge of your seat?

November is Crimson Rose month and we would like to invite you to take a tour of the crimson page of our website— and then click on the crimson link on the left-hand side. We have some incredible works there now with more on the way.

We are announcing a call for submissions—Men in Uniform. We would like to fill our “store” with some brand new stories showcasing your favorite man in uniform. Cindy Green wrote a free read entitled A Girl, A Guy and A Goon to kick off Crimson Rose Month and the Men in Uniform submission call. Feel free to download it and catch a glimpse of Cindy’s favorite man in uniform. (Thanks for kicking us off, Cindy!)

Whether you have written suspense before or want to try writing this venue for the first time, we welcome your submission. This can be any uniform you find an intriguing story wrapped around. There are firemen, policemen, paramedics, military, doctors, and sports figures. There could also be sanitation workers, astronauts, pest control folks, computer geeks, humane society workers—the list is endless. Can women be in uniform? Absolutely, but we really would like the man to be in uniform, too. They can be from the same line of work or a different one. A police woman meets a humane society worker. The options are just too many to think about.

We have a special chat on Monday night, November 3rd, 8 p.m. eastern time where there will be an active discussion on some of our favorite men in uniform along with other fun things to try out for the Crimson Rose month.

I know I piqued your interest with that comment so here are some fun things for November. On Sunday, November 2nd, I will be starting a special blog specifically on men in uniform. All visitors will be invited to post comments. At the end of the month, there will be one lucky winner chosen at random from those comments. That winner will receive the crimson download of their choice.

But wait, there’s more. (I am a secret writer for infomercials.) For every individual who downloads Cindy Green’s free read, their name will also go in a random drawing for a free Wild Rose Press coffee mug.

Now, I am sure you are thinking that it can’t get any better than this but it can. (Cue drumroll to raise the suspense level.) Lisa Dawn from our phenomenal marketing department will be posting a poll every couple of days to the loop. With this poll, you will be voting for your favorite crimson blurb and cover art. I have to warn you this will be a tough choice because we have some great stuff out there. From each of these polls, a winner will be chosen at random to receive the download of their choice from the books in that poll.

Just a reminder, stop by the chat on Monday night. Let’s talk men in uniform along with murder and mayhem. So many thoughts, so many villains, so many ways for a heroine’s heart to race. And again, please visit our website to check out the crimson titles and if you have any questions, please feel free to email me a The Crimson Rose editing staff can’t wait to see what this calls brings.

Have fun and hope to see you at the chat Monday, the 3rd.

Senior Editor, Crimson Rose

Monday, October 20, 2008

Be Your Own Worst Critic (So Others Won't Want To)

(reprinted from the blog at

We all do it. We write a book we love. It's wonderful. Its characters made us laugh. They made us cry. They made us fall in love. "That book is my baby," we say.

Until that manuscript goes into a drawer for a month while you let the ink dry, and the objectivity comes back.

This is what you must do as a writer, to distance yourself from the books you've written. Only after you haven't seen the work for a while, can you read it with fresh eyes. And when you come back and hate the words you've put on the page, and you're ready to burn it, and you think you should never torture the world with your prose again ... then you're ready to revise.

Being critical of your work is not a bad thing. In fact, it will help you get the thick skin you need to be an author. Your worst critic--you--is about to become your best ally on the road to publication.

First and foremost, you'll need to look at the mechanics of your writing. Are the sentences structured properly? Are you using poor grammar only where it's done on purpose (There are such instances!)? Is your book loaded with adverbs? Too much telling and not enough showing? Remember: Unless you fix the mechanics, your reader won't be able to see past clunky writing to appreciate the great plot and characters of your book.

Next, look at characterization, POV, and flow of your storyline. Is everything consistent? Do a character's actions and reactions make sense for his/her worldview? Do the scenes flow nicely? Are some too short and others too long? Do you get to spend enough time in each major character's head to fall in love with him/her? Could a scene be written better in someone else's POV? Cut scenes, move them, rewrite them. You can save the whole enchilada as a new file in your computer, so that you have the old version on hand, should you want to change something back.

Do not be afraid to slash and burn parts of your book. If the core of your story is strong and moving, it will survive the editing process! And if an agent or editor suggests a change to your manuscript, consider it carefully. Most of them are experienced in what sells, and they want you to get the best bang possible out of your manuscript. They aren't out to tear up your work, I promise.

That's your job. :)

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Rejection: Knowledge is Power

I have heard it said often that small presses—Ebook, royalty-paying publishers, in particular—will publish anything that comes across the transom. The proof for this is in the pudding (so the elusive “they” will say): Sub-par releases, under-average cover art, poor editing. These are the gripes. Because of this, I decided to analyze seriously our own submissions and titles to see if this viewpoint held water, or was all wet (Oh, and BTW, clichés and IM abbrev’s are OK in a blog entry—but not in a manuscript unless your character is going electronic ). Here’s what I found: Several of our titles have received glowing reviews—and not just from “Miss Jane Doe’s Blog that nobody ever heard of,” but, awards such as four stars from Romantic Times Magazine, reader’s and/or editors’ choice awards, and the like. Our covers have won The New Covey Award, the Dirk A. Wolf, and others. Our books have won Eppies, and other well-recognized contests—and our rejection rate on submissions exceeds fifty-two percent across the entire company. If the proof is in the pudding, The Wild Rose Press is stirring up some pretty rich chocolate—lots of cacao and not much artificial flavour.

But, you may say, “That sounds very sweet; how about giving us some meat and potatoes data.” OK. Generalities won’t cut it. Here are the bare-bones numbers on my own stats: Sixty percent rejection to forty percent acceptance. However, of the forty percent I do contract, more than half of those (fifty-four percent) are from authors who have published with us before (sometimes with another line; most often, someone I’ve personally contracted). So what does that mean? It means, if you’re a new author querying me for the first time, you only have an eighteen percent chance of me offering you a contract. To illustrate, it means that for every one hundred manuscripts I see, sixty get rejected and forty get contracted—but of the forty which get contracted, twenty-two are return authors, and only eighteen are new to TWRP. Eighteen out of one hundred. Does that sound discouraging? Don’t let it be. Just think of it this way: Every one of the twenty-two I contract as return authors, were once first-time authors. What this information should tell you is this: I don’t contract everything that comes across my desk, so if you’re serious about your career opportunities with The Wild Rose Press, send me your best work, not that first draft you wrote fifteen years ago and haven’t looked at since.

I take my job as an editor very seriously. It’s my reputation on the line, as well as the company’s and yours as the author. I don’t want to disappoint readers. I want them to pick up your book and be awed, moved to laughter or tears—or both in the span of a few chapters. I want them to talk to their friends—not about how poor TWRP books are, but how they’ve found a keeper, a must-read—how they can’t wait for the sequel or the next new release from Author A at TWRP. That’s what’s best for you—and me. What this should also tell you is, when you get that contract offer, don’t write it off as something trivial—and don’t let your friends, either. TWRP may be a small press, but I certainly don’t offer contracts to everyone.

I’m sure you’ve heard the rejection rate at larger houses is much higher than what I’ve described here. That’s because they see more manuscripts, yet unfortunately, that doesn’t mean more good submissions. I can understand their dilemma. I’ve been with TWRP for quite some time now, and I’ve seen the tide of submissions ebb and flow. It would be nice if the more submissions we saw, the more contracts we issued, but that’s just not the case. It’s usually the other way round: The more submissions, the higher the rejection rate. This is a sad reality.

But, that brings me to a very important point, which I know I’ve made before: if I reject your manuscript, but give you an offer to resubmit, I’m not trying to be nice. Just like you, I lead a busy life, and I don’t want to see a manuscript multiple times if I know it is too far away from publication quality. I only offer to look at a manuscript an additional time if I see some promise in it. So, please, take me up on my offer. Incorporate my suggestions. Resubmit. As I write this, I can think of several manuscripts I’ve contracted which were initially rejected, but came back to me well edited and polished to contract quality. I love it when that happens!

Rhonda recently put out a note asking for more submissions. We are always looking for great stories. In White Rose, I’d like to see some Miniature length and Rosebud length really great inspirational stories—stories in which Christian people struggle with their faith, but still rely on God. Emotionally driven stories with a strong romance and a strong Christian principle. These stories can be contemporary or historical.

In English Tea, I’d like to see any-length traditional regencies, and stories with a gothic flavour. I’d also like to see medievals which feature feisty heroines and courageous knight-types where chivalry is celebrated and women can be strong but still feminine.

Our rejection rate may seem discouraging, but don’t let it be. I’m shooting for a hundred percent contract rate, so send me a terrific read. If you do, I’ll send you a contract, and together, we'll grow.

Nicola Martinez, Senior Editor
White Rose & English Tea Rose

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Dear Editor: When Should I Give Up?

You've just opened your tenth rejection letter for your from-the-heart-and-soul novel. You've even written a short story that you sent out, but haven't heard back about yet.

Some of the rejections say, "Thanks but no thanks." Others have a note or two about craft improvements you can make. But learning what passive voice is and not writing that way--or fixing it where it lies, like stagnant water, in your 100K book--is anther story. You even got a critique group and four people told you six different ways how not to do what they say you're doing wrong and you have no idea what they're talking about.

Should you give up? Decide that your writing is crap, will always be crap, and no one will like it, you can't change how you write, and that's it? Time to go back to the day job and just exist?


Don't do that to your dreams.

Never give up. You can learn new tricks. Study books on grammar and style. Study books on craft. Buy used copies of your favorite novels and highlight the heck out of that author's crafty bits. Analyze. Imitate until the methods sink in.

And above all, keep writing. Practice, practice, practice.

Have you ever looked at a portrait drawn by an amateur or self-taught artist, and thought, "Wow, that's really good. I can ignore the fact that the facial proportions don't look right because I can't even do that good. Stick figures, baby." Compare that drawing with a professional portraitist's art, someone who has studied line, color, shading, proportion, and has specific tools for different jobs. Worlds of difference in quality, eh?

Writing is a passion and an art. Craft tools and proper structure will allow your passion to shine, just as that professional artist's work is worlds above the amateur's. Perhaps that amateur portraitist draws as a hobby and is content with art for fun and stress relief. That's wonderful.

Is your writing a hobby? Then where did those rejection letters come from?

That's what I thought. Now put on your big girl panties and study.
Kelly Schaub is an editor in the Faery Rose Line. She is also author Kelly McCrady. Check out her new book, "Martial Hearts," on sale at The Wild Rose Press tomorrow, October 15!

Monday, October 6, 2008

If Only I Could

I've always been an avid reader. Childhood memories include sitting at the breakfast table while scrutinizing cereal boxes, hitching a ride to the grocery store with my mother so I could have a quiet place to sit and read in the car, and hour upon hour spent with my nose in a book. Someone bought me a sweatshirt once with a crazy, old lady silk-screened on the front, declaring she was the Queen of Books. That was me at ten.

I suppose, deep down, I've always been an editor too, though I'm still new to this Garden. "Can I write on this?" is a phrase that frequently draws a sigh and an eye roll from my co-workers as I reach for my friendly blue pen. My twelve-year-old prefers to take her homework to her father, who spell checks and gives a cursory glance, rather than Mom, who rattles off rules and requires three re-writes. I can't help it. It's what I do.

I haven't read "for fun" lately. I've been so busy with work and kids and life, that I just haven't made the time to sit down with a book. Also, I'll admit that I'm one to pick up a book and not stop until I'm finished, two in the morning or not. (And honestly, I might as well go ahead and read until three, because if I don't, I'll lay awake all night, wondering what happens, anyway.) Ages ago, a friend of mine suggested a book that she, her sister, and their mother had all enjoyed. I looked it up at my local library and became patron number two-hundred-and-ninety-seven to request it. Of course, months have come and gone, and I'd forgotten all about it. I was surprised to receive a call from the library this weekend, informing me the book I had requested was now available. What book? I sent my husband to pick it up, and laughed when he returned with the book that two-hundred-and-ninety-six people had read before me.

Climbing into bed last night, I picked it up.

I leaned close to my computer...

I cringed. It's written in first person? Might take some getting used to. First person is hard because it limits the writer--and the reader--to one point of view, giving absolutely no insight to any other characters.

That dialogue is all wrong. Who's saying what?

I tried. My fingers itched for my pen. I am not editing this book. I am reading it. Read it.

But they were everywhere. Misplaced punctuation. Misdirected quotes. "Head hopping"--in a story told in the first person! Then/than mistakes. Their/there/they're issues. Inconsistencies abounded. They agreed to meet at Restaurant A, but discussed what a great first date place Restaurant B was. An "I'm sorry I didn't do this" speech, when it was clearly done on the previous page. A "When December came, it was as cold as I had ever seen it when December came," sentence.

I gasped. I bit my lip. I rolled my eyes. I mumbled, "Someone should have caught that," under my breath a hundred times.

And I loved the story. I loved it. It's fantastic and wonderfully written, but...

I wish I could turn that part of my brain off and lose myself in the story, like I used to be able to do. If there was a switch, I would turn it off for the chance to enjoy a book without groaning at punctuation. But there's no switch. No magic word. No blindfold for my brain.

So I'll keep reading. And keep editing. And pray that no one will ever say of a book I edited that it's wonderfully written, BUT...
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Saturday, September 27, 2008

Inspirational vs. Clean Romance

People sometimes ask me what's the difference between a Christian story [White Rose] and a sweet story. [Sweetheart Rose]. I know this is because at TWRP we will go beyond the boundaries of traditional CBA guidelines, and so some authors think that White Rose is really nothing more than a "clean" romance--hence the confusion between White Rose and Sweetheart. However, a White Rose is more than just a clean romance. Yes, the romance is there. Yes, we will allow our hero to drink a glass of wine with dinner. Yes, the hero and heroine may spend the night alone together--chastely, of course--if the plot warrants it (maybe they are on the run from villain and have no choice), but a White Rose has to convey a Christian message, no matter how subtle. Characters in a White Rose must be Christian--or discovering Christianity as the plot develops.

Tough issues such as death, addictions, pre-marital sex, can be addressed, but they have to be addressed from a Christian world view. That means that anything which opposes traditional Christian teaching cannot be construed as OK. Maybe your heroine did get pregnant before she got married, but it's got to be in the backstory, and she's got to have already figured out that her behaviour was wrong (the pre-marital sex, not having the baby.) We want to see those tough issues handled if they can be wrapped around an emotionally compelling romance.

Then, there are the people who basically ask if they can write a secular novel, but then just have the characters go to church a couple of times, or pray once in a while. Christians FROG (fully rely on God) to guide them in their lives. This entails a little more than a once-a-week trip to holy ground and a quick, "God help me," sprinkled in. Being Christian puts a person in a different mind-set; that character will react differently than a non-Christian, will think differently. This should shine through in an inspirational romance. The personality of the character should emanate his/her faith--without being didactic.

So, White Roses are not just clean romances where the character says a quick prayer before meals. White Roses are stories of faith-filled or struggling Christians finding their soulmate. For complete guidelines, visit our main website.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

We're Looking for some Cowboys...

That's right. I've noticed a bit of a slowdown in the corral lately and I wanted to put out a challenge to any authors out there who wanted to try something a little different from their norm. Personally, I'd love to see some more short stories ( 5K to 20K) submitted to the Yellow Rose line (longer are fine too!).

Here's my challenge: Simply find a picture of a cowboy from anywhere...a magazine, the internet, billboard, wherever but find one that speaks to you--sexy, sweet, that's your call. You don't need to show me or anyone else for that matter--call him your private cowboy as he's simply for inspiration **wink**.

Whatever picture you find, sit back and study it for a moment and ask yourself questions--How did he get there? Did someone break his heart? Who healed it? Is he headed to his sweetheart, or still searching--how does he find her? Is he looking for a fun little romantic romp or a soul-changing love? Does a city girl catch his eye or the girl on the next ranch?

Play what if: What if your cowboy met a tatoo artist or a corporate lawyer? What if he was headed home from a rodeo and took a wrong turn?

The possibilities are endless and I would love to see what you come up with to corral the heart of the cowboy in your picture. We're looking for good, solid stories with a strong romance. Click HERE for our submission guidelines. Along with the required information, add Yellow Rose Challenge to your subject line. This is a fun and open challenge for all!

Friday, September 5, 2008


I am so excited. I am teachable!! I want to start by thanking the patient teachers who have been so great. I have worked with computers for...well, let's not go there. It is just too depressing. I have even taught my kids how to use computers but blogging was something I couldn't get in my brain.

So, now that I am in here, you would think I would have something really incredible to say, wouldn't you? :) Since I don't, I'll start with some basics. My name is Lori Graham and I am the senior editor for the Crimson Rose line of The Wild Rose Press. I also do some editing for the Climbing Rose line and the White Rose line because you can't live in murder and mayhem 100% of the time. I have been blessed by a wonderful family both at home and here at the garden and if you are still new to the house, you will love it here.

Crimson Rose is nearing our "month of the year" as we are the featured line in November. We are in the planning stages for the month so be looking for new items in association with it. However, if you have ever considered trying your hand at a crimson and want to give it a shot, I would love to get some free reads out on the website. Please give me a jingle at and let's talk.

Also, while we always love a full and rosebud manuscript and how they help us escape our non-reading lives, I would love to see some rosettes and miniatures added to our catelogue. I understand it is tougher to write a romantic, suspenseful short but it can be done so I'll put the challenge out there. Any takers??

Have a great weekend everyone and for those of you who love football, is fall again!!


Vintage Rose

Vintage Month! Ahhhh, a good vintage wine, an old record on the, no, that would be a Golden Oldie on the MP3, maybe? Did you know LPs, records, are coming back? Only they call them vinyls now. Kinda like what we used to know in Iowa in the ‘50s & ‘60s as high heels and spikes are now back as stilettos. “There is nothing new under the sun” but there will always be a new name for it, huh?

The Vintage line at The Wild Rose Press concentrates on the stories of the 1900s, wherever they are, whatever they’re called...we run the gamut from sweet to hot for sensuality, and our settings have ranged throughout Australia and Europe as well as the U.S.A., and we’d love to explore farther. Sometimes we do some time traveling from here to there and back again, and what fun that is!

Wouldn’t you like to join us? People are people and romance is romance, wherever and whenever you find them. All that changes is the window dressing...the setting might look a bit different from today’s scene in the same place, the manners and social expectations might be a bit more formal, the dress code more according to strict guidelines, but the hearts that beat under those vintage outfits are just as loving, just as easily broken, just as ready to jump for joy at the sight of the beloved person!

We’re here to answer your questions, to tell you more about the books that have been published at TWRP in the Vintage Rose line already, to encourage you to explore your own family history and the history of your own setting. Sometimes a little-known natural disaster can spark a story, or an unusual comment from someone on the never know when your creativity is going to announce, “Now, there’s a story!” So start looking with Vintage and the 1900s in mind, and I’ll just bet you will come up with something we want to publish!

The Editors at Vintage Rose

Thursday, September 4, 2008


What a busy month we have going here already. First its the anniversary of our bookstore. Our bookstore turned 2 years old this week! If you haven't checked out our books lately, you really need to browse our shelves. There are so many awesome stories waiting to be read.

We have a brand new newsletter up on the website. If you click through to the garden gate and scroll down on the main page you should see it at some point by late today (Thursday).

We gave away our first SONY eREader! The lucky lady was one of our authors Dianne Miley who purchased a story from one of our sponsoring authors and her name was drawn out of all the entries we had. The next round of this fun contest starts on September 22 so keep watch for it.

September is Last Rose of Summer and Vintage Rose Month. We will spend all month celebrating these lines and talking with the editors and authors from there. All our Vintage Rose titles are on sale at 10% off. In LROS you'll see we have a brand new series called "Chapter Two" check out the Rose of the month page for more details.

Over at Scarlet Rose they are cooling down from their 31 Sultry Nights contest. The lucky winner of a $75 gift certificate to Fredericks of HOllywood was Kealie Shay. I'm told there was over 3000 posts last month to the Wilder Roses loops. Way to go ladies!

Fall is on its way and hopefully as the leaves turn and your thoughts shift to indoor activities you'll visit our two year old bookstore and download some wonderful stories to curl up with on a crisp fall day.

Thanks for all your support the past two years. We promise even more to come in the next two.


Monday, August 25, 2008

The Plot is the Thing

I've been asked at conferences and workshops what I look for in a manuscript and I've been thinking (and yes, Virginia, blondes do think... sometimes). I was looking over the books I've edited since I've been with the company and wondering what it was that set them apart from other books. What was it that called to me and said, "yes, this is the book you want to contract."

First and foremost it's been the story. The plot has to capture my attention. I've read other manuscripts and the writing may be clean, the characters may be well-developed and likable, but they leave me yawning. If the plot is fascinating to me, in most cases the other problems can be fixed. It's a "diamond in the rough." It might take some work but that's what I'm here for in my role of editor. If the gem is polished, but there's no fire to the plot, it's a pretty piece of costume jewelry...nice to look at but not worth much.

So... work on the plots. Make sure you have some fire and interest. Make me hold my breath and turn the page frantically to find out what comes next. Then you have my attention and my thanks for bringing me a story I can love.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

The Flower Basket

For those of you (and I hope there are several more) planning a submission to The Flower Basket series in the Sweetheart line:

Based on the submissions I’ve received to date, I thought a bit more explanation was needed. The guidelines state you need to download and read Business is Blooming, (free read) the kick-off Rosette for the series. This is essential because you need to get a feel for the shop and the three owners. The plot of the story you create must have a connection of some type with the flower shop. This means your characters need to place or receive an order of flowers. They may consult with the shop owners, in person or on the phone, on an upcoming event or just dash in for a spontaneous purchase.

Business is Blooming established the names, business roles and basic characterizations for the three shop owners. You need to keep those consistent when those characters appear (ex: don’t have your character talking with Steffi about making a run to the flower market—that’s Donica’s job). The touchy part is not creating story events or personal histories for another author’s character that changes the potential storyline. (ex: don’t give Steffi a past involving three years in New York as a runway model)

You may introduce other characters necessary for your storyline, and if your project is contracted, those characters become part of the population of Almendra. At the contract time, you will be given the option of reserving control of the characters in your story or releasing them for others to write about.

I invite questions about the series and am willing to look over proposals or story ideas. Please remember a contract is only issued on a completed story.

Leanne Morgena
Senior Editor, Sweetheart Rose