Sunday, December 16, 2012

Once Upon a Weekend

I am proud to announce the release of Once Upon a Weekend. My short story is a fractured fairy tale inspired by Rapunzel. Although the story is a step away from the mystery/suspense I usually write, it does have an unexpected twist like my other projects. The twist in Liquid Hypnosis was quite unexpected. Readers said they should have seen it coming, but did not.

What to expect from Once Upon a Weekend:

Sometimes a curse is really a blessing...When Hannah Lawrence agrees to manage a hair salon in a castle, she doesn't expect fairy tales. Then she finds herself alone in the salon with the owner's hunky brother, and magic sizzles between them. But can she forget her past long enough to embrace it? Contractor Tate Browning doesn't believe in magic. But when he makes the wrong comment to the wrong witch, his hair starts growing fast and won't stop. He's determined to finish the work he promised his sister--but how can he concentrate with the salon's beautiful new manager around? When Hannah discovers that Tate must prove himself worthy three times to remove the curse, he refuses to believe it--but magic cannot be denied. Will Tate and Hannah need a fairy godmother to find their happily ever after?

You can download Once Upon a Weekend in digital format at 
Amazon Books for $1.99 and

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Writing Hooks

This month we are discussing hooks. I chose the picture above as an example of how a hook might get your reader asking questions. Is this picture really Elvis or a Vegas impersonator? Is Tina going to discuss Elvis or other famous singers? Perhaps it is the jacket she wants us to look at, is that it? Or maybe she is going to discuss how people changed history. Is she going to bring up The Beatles?

The beginning of your story needs to plant a story question your reader wants answered. The first line of Liquid Hypnosis is Trevor Carlton hated threats-when they were directed at him. Hopefully, the reader will want to know what the threat is and who it is directed at and will continue reading long enough to get pulled into the story.

That is the goal of the hook: to get your reader to continue reading long enough to get pulled into the story.

More on hooks next Sunday.
Until then, happy reading and writing!

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Organizing Chargers

I am constantly looking for ideas to make my life easier. I don't have time to mess with stuff. Today, I came up with a better way of organizing my chargers.

I already label each charger so I know which device it belongs to. Once upon a time, I found a collection of chargers in my daughter's room and had no idea what do with them. I believe I eventually tossed them since she had long grown up and move out.

I had already been placing the chargers in the basket, but today I remembered I had a box organizer, which are plastic pieces that divide boxes. I bent them a little to fit into the basket and now each charger has its own place in the basket, so they no longer get tangled together. To hide the chargers, I place a fake plant on top of the basket. Now it looks like part of the decor.

Until next time,
Happy writing or 
happy organizing!

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Why We Read Romance Novels

Yesterday we attended a wedding reception for our friends Angie and Dan. The above picture is of her bouquet and the unity sand bottle filled by wedded couple, family and friends. It warmed my heart to see how happy they both looked. I don't think I have ever seen her so beautiful.

With so much love in the room, I was reminded of why so many people read and write romance. We can't attend weddings every day to get that adrenaline shot of love that makes you feel good all over, but we can read novels daily.

A romance novel will challenge the hero and heroine with life's ups and downs, but in the end they are guaranteed a happy ending. When I put down the novel after reading the last page, I always feel good.

The last I heard, over 50% of all paperback novels were romances. I understand why.

Until next week,
happy writing and reading!

Sunday, November 18, 2012

More on Villains

This month we are discussing villains. The trick-or-treater above seems harmless enough, even kind of cute, but what if this isn't your child following you home after a night of collecting candy? Who is it? What will he do? Let your imagination take over and write the story.

Villains are your antagonist. They are whoever or whatever keeps you from your happily ever after. The villain could be an abusive husband like the one in the movie Enough with Jennifer Lopez, or a monster as threatening as the evil vampires in Twilight. You could be your own villain if you have split personalities just as the character played by Sally Field did in Sybil or the character plagued by mental illness in A Beautiful Mind, starring Russell Crowe. The villain doesn't have to be human or even a monster; it could be a storm such as the tornadoes in the movie Twister. The villain could also be big industry dumping harmful chemicals similar to the one in the movie Erin Brockovich.

Sometimes villain are based on true stories and sometimes they are a figment of the imagination. In either case, they should be powerful. Our hero and heroine must fear them before they fight and conquer. When you are creating your next villain, look deep inside to what scares you, what really, really scares you.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Introducing Nancy Jardine

Once again, I would like to introduce another author at The Wild Rose Press.

       Nairn Malcolm’s looking for the impossible. He needs a highly skilled, enterprising aide who’ll be at his beck and call 24/7. No ordinary Jane Doe will do. He doesn’t expect the only candidate who drops in at his Scottish castle for an interview to be so competent…or so stunning.
      Aela Cameron’s got exactly the right mix of talents to satisfy all Nairn Malcolm’s needs, and more. She loves the jobs he needs done, adores his castle, and finds his frenetic lifestyle energizing. But she’s only      looking for temporary: not to fall in love with the man.
      Can Nairn convince Aela she’s tailor-made for him in every way…and not a passing fancy?  

Take Me Now, is available at Amazon and at the publisher's website:  You can read more about Nancy on her various Internet sites:                                                                                                        

Sunday, November 11, 2012


This month we are going to talk about writing villains. You don't want them to be the typical bad guy who is simply evil. Your villain is the hero of his own story. He needs to have his own layers as a character, his own strengths and weaknesses, his own hates and loves. Why is he/she evil? Were they always bad or did someone push them over the edge? Does everyone see this character as evil? Your villain needs to have character development as strong as your hero to make the story more interesting.

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Protecting the Witness

I have to admit, when I bought this book I wasn't sure I would enjoy it because of the gang activity involved. My grandmother owned a bar in the rough side of Phoenix and I teach in an area where there are gang-related drive-by shootings. So why was it the first book I bought on my Kindle? I wanted to read a selection of books from Harlequin's new Heartwarming series (No sex scenes) and I wanted to support a writer from the Desert Rose Chapter of Romance Writers of America that I joined about ten years ago. Linda is a nice, classy woman, as well as a great writer. I chose to support her.

To my surprise, I was pulled into the story immediately. The story is more about relationships than gangs. Not only the main relationship between the hero and heroine, but the strained relationships she has with her brother, her friends, and her co-workers. I immediately felt for her and wanted her to have that happy ending. Linda did not disappoint.

This is the excerpt from Amazon if you are interested in reading more:

Time Is Running Out…
She had vowed never to return to Houston's crime-riddled East End. But Detective Crista Santiago's promotion to the Chicano Squad has put her right back in the violence of the barrio. Determined to transfer out as fast as possible, Crista first has to prove herself by solving a series of drive-by shootings.
Crista has only one witness—four-year-old Samantha Del Rio. Protecting Samantha becomes Crista's number one priority, which means staying close to the little girl. And her widower father, Alex. But "staying close" soon changes into becoming part of the family. And the more attached Crista becomes to the girl and her father, the more she's afraid she's lost her edge…and her ability to protect the witness.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Add Emotion to Your Synopsis

This month we are discussing synopsis writing. Last week, I mentioned you should add the goal, motivation, and conflict of your characters. Along these lines, I want to add advice given by Agent Evan Marshall in his book, The Marshall Plan for Novel Writing, published by Writer's Digest Books.

Mr. Marshall says you need to add motivation and emotion. Some of the worst synopses he's seen are the ones that leave out these key elements. On page 198, he writes, "Tell us that when Brandon tells Carla he's accepted the job in Sydney, Carla sees her happy life collapsing around her, that she is devastated by this news. The next morning over coffee she pours her heart out to Tanya."

No matter how many years I write, I find it helpful to review what the experts have to say.

Friday, October 19, 2012

I would like to take a moment to introduce another Wild Rose Press author, Mariah Lynne, and her book The Love Gypsy.

Florida homicide detective Brianna Breeze can’t seem to catch a man unless she handcuffs him.
So her best friend decides to take matters into her own hands and tricks Brianna into seeing the
Love Gypsy, a time traveler’s friend noted for her extraordinary matchmaking skills.
When a tall, muscular man wearing jeans, a black leather jacket, and slicked-back 50s hair bursts
in on her first visit, Brianna is bewitched. Despite the gypsy’s warning not to get involved with
him, Brianna can’t get him out of her mind—even though she, more than anyone, knows the
pitfalls of romancing a stranger.

A present-day murder, a mysterious vintage car registered in the distant past, and a smoking gun
complicate the puzzle. Brianna doesn’t know if her lover from the past is a murderer, or a savior,
but she’s willing to risk time travel to find out.

To find out more about Mariah and her book visit

Sunday, October 14, 2012

The Dreaded Synopsis

They don't call it the dreaded synopsis for nothing. Many writers find it difficult to narrow the many facets of their story down to five pages. First, let me say, you will need to do some research to determine the length of your synopsis. Check the websites of the agents and editors you are targeting. I find five pages double-spaced to be a safe bet.

You will want to include the goal, motivation, and conflict of your characters and each of the main turning points. I've heard repeatedly that your writing voice should show in your synopsis, but I find that difficult to accomplish.

I usually write the synopsis after writing the manuscript, but my agent requested I write one for the third book in a series I had written yet. I went to bed asking the heavens for an idea. Not only did I wake up with one, I wrote the synopsis and it turned out to be the best idea in the series. I hope to repeat that event many times to come.

Don't worry, a synopsis is not set in stone. You can adjust it, and I often do, as you alter your story.

Sunday, September 30, 2012

Still Plotting

I love this picture! This is how I feel sometimes when I am plotting a novel. I enjoy the process, for the most part, but am always afraid there might be a sagging middle, or the plot twists might not be unique enough for an editor, or too unique for the them to take a risk on buying the novel, etc. At every writer's meeting someone will tell you how to write a book well and they don't always agree with each other.

When I want advice from the experts, I turn to my favorite craft book Writing the Breakout Novel by Donald Maass. His literary agency sells more than one hundred manuscripts to the top publishers every year.

In his chapter regarding plot, he reminds us conflict is the essence of the story, but we also need a sympathetic character who confronts this conflict. He also discusses the importance of creating tension on every page. I highly suggest you read his book.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Sagging Middle

This month we are talking about plotting. I believe the advantage to plotting your story ahead of time is it helps you avoid the sagging middle. I like to plot three turning points that each move the story in a new direction, followed by the black moment and the happily ever after.

If I'm writing a romantic suspense, I plot the turning events for the romance and then for the mystery. Every thread of your story could have its own turning points to make the story a page turner. You don't want your reader to get bored and put the book down.

Remember, you'll get a lot of advise when it comes to writing. Take what rings true for you and don't worry about the rest.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Introducing Alana Lorens

 The Wild Rose Press was kind enough to give me my start, so I would like to introduce you to some of their other authors from time to time. Today we have Alana Lorens and her book That Girl's the One I Love

 Leyla Brand has one perfect day in her life: the day she meets rock singer Arran Lake at the Bele Chere Festival in Asheville. They have so much in common, Leyla is sure they are soulmates and will have a future together.
The very next morning, when Arran receives the call to hit the big time, he vanishes into the world of California rock and roll to become an international star, leaving her behind. Only a few phone calls keep them in touch -- until his phone is disconnected. After that, all she has of him is every new song that hits the charts.

 Five years later, she gets a message on the Internet from an unfamiliar address. Someone wants to know if she's the Leyla of Bele Chere. Should she open that door and discover who this might be? Who else could it be? And if it is Arran, why does he want to contact her now, after all this time? Will he just break her heart again?

You can learn more about Alana at
and her book at

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Plotting With Post-it Notes

This month we are discussing plotting. I am a visual person, so my favorite way to plot is to jot notes about the book onto Post-it Notes. The colors I use depend on what I have available. Each color represents a different thread in the story. This is an example:

:Pink - Romance
Orange - Romantic Conflict
Light Blue - Achieving the Major Goal
Dark Blue - His Character Arc
Yellow- Her Character Arc
Green - Black Moment

After I write the notes, I divide the white board into chapters and scenes. I write the setting, time, and point of view at the top of each box and then I place the notes in a way that the story builds the romance and their character arcs. The various colors show me if I'm dumping too much of one plot thread into one place or if I haven't shown the romance growing throughout the story.

I'll jot these notes into my computer and take it to Barnes and Noble where I work. When I wrote my short story, Once Upon a Weekend, which comes out 12/12/12, I placed each chapter onto construction paper on top of the boards. I folded the chapter I was working on and took it with me when I wrote.

Each author has their own way of plotting. This is mine and I enjoy the process. In the end, that's really all the matters.

Sunday, September 2, 2012

I took this picture at The Palace of Fine Arts in San Francisco. While admiring the detail, I wondered if the artist knew what he would create beforehand or did he start with a chisel and let his imagination take over. Writing novels is much like any other piece of art. Some writers plot out every scene like I do. Some writers sit at the computer and let the characters take over the story. Those writers create stories by the seat of their pants and are therefore called pantsers. Some writers are a bit of both. I am a heavy plotter. I tried to be a pantser once, hoping I would reach inside and find well-developed characters who want their story told. After three chapters, I hit a brick wall and couldn't type another word. I needed my plot worked out ahead of time to continue. Some pantsers have told me they wished they were plotters because their characters get carried away and they have to throw out chapters that are not needed in the story. It could be a waste of time, but then they might have originally needed those chapters to get to know their characters better. Only that writer can be the judge.

So which system is better. I would argue neither. Everyone has their own style and the sooner a writer embraces it, instead of cursing it, the better off they will be emotionally. Have writers switched styles? I'm sure some have, but it isn't common. I have one friend who became a plotter because her story had so many intricate details, she had to make sure she included them in the right places. Writers who turn to mysteries have a reason to suddenly become a plotter. Mysteries need all of the clues placed in a logical order and sprinkled throughout; plus the red herrings need to be included as well. Although I know pantsers who have become plotters, I haven't heard of plotters becoming pantsers. It may have to do more with our personalities. I need to plot my life as well as my stories. I have a friend who would think nothing of quitting a job without a backup plan. I would have panic attacks.

Since I am a plotter, next week I'll go into how detailed I get when working on a story.

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Read It Out Loud

Continuing with the subject of self-editing, the best advice I can give is to read a printed copy of your manuscript. Your mind will pick up flaws you overlook on a computer monitor. When possible, I also read my work out loud.

When looking only for spelling mistakes, you can read lines backwards.You can also read pages out of order so you don't get caught up in the story.

I'm off to Barnes and Noble to do some self-editing myself.

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Print and Edit

The most important advice I can give on the topic of self-editing is to print your work. Today, I will print my proposal (first three chapters and synopsis - in this case 3 synopses) and take it to the cafe at Barnes and Noble. When I read through it, I'll mark any changes needed. I'll be looking at all aspects of writing, but mainly I'll be checking to make sure enough details are there to give the chapters sparkle, to make it come alive. Later, I'll use the hard copy to alter the original on the computer.

Done? No. I'll go through this process at least two more times and I'll read it aloud at least once. Reading your work from the printed page and reading it aloud helps find those mistakes your mind often skips over when reading from a monitor.

Why did I include a picture of a sundae? That is what you can give yourself when you are finally done. I might treat myself to one after I mail off the whole proposal, but I'll share it with my husband.

Sunday, August 12, 2012

At we are discussing self-editing. I would like to share with you the books I've used to assist with self-editing.

The First Five Pages - A Writer's Guide to Staying Out of the Rejection Pile by Noah Lukeman

Self-Editing For Fiction Writers - How to Edit Yourself Into Print by Renni Browne and Dave King


The Grouchy Grammarian - A How-Not-To Guide to the 47 Most Common Mistakes in English Made by Journalists, Broadcasters, and Others Who Should Know Better by Thomas Parrish

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Basted Omelet

I'm still plugging away on my South Beach Diet. I admit I cheated last night with half a cup of ice cream, but still managed to lose that elusive pound that wouldn't drop. My favorite meal while on Phase One of the plan has been omelets.

I admit, I am not good at flipping omelets, so I came up with my own way of preparing them. While the egg mixture is cooking, I baste the egg to cook on top, by placing two teaspoons of water around the edge of the pan and then covering. I used a rather large pan, which does not have a lid, so I place two pieces of aluminum foil over the top. Once the egg is cooked, I sprinkle the cheese on top, recover, and let the cheese melt.

Basted Omelets
2 servings

Ingredients:  (Sometimes I only use ham and cheese.)

1/4 cup diced green bell pepper
1/3 cup diced lean ham - I used luncheon meat that I cut with kitchen scissors.
1/4 diced tomato
1 cup of low fat, shredded, sharp cheddar cheese
3 eggs or egg substitute
1 tsp. Canola oil

Saute the bell pepper over medium heat, in 1 tsp. of oil, in a large pan, and then set aside in a small bowl.
Add the diced ham and tomato to the bowl.and set aside.
Beat 3 eggs with a fork in a different bowl and pour into the same pan heated at a medium temp.
Baste the eggs as described above. Add the cheese and melt as described above.
While the cheese is melting, microwave the bell pepper, ham, and tomato for 40 seconds, and then sprinkle over one half of the pan. I'm not good at flipping omelets, so I cut a slit through the middle of the side without  the ham mixture, so I am folding one quarter of the omelet over the mixture and then the remaining quarter. You should now have an omelet similar to the one pictured above.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Portabella Mushroom Recipe

I am glad to report I am still on my modified version of The South Beach Diet and still losing. I'm not very good at eating vegetables, so I decided to cook something up. In the book they have a recipe for cherry tomatoes with mozzarella stick pieces heated up inside. I don't know where I saw a variation with mushrooms and couldn't find the recipe. This is my version. I enjoyed them and hope you will, too.

Ingredients to make 6:

6 Portabella (aka Portobello) Mushrooms
1 Tomato, cut into 6 slices
3 Mozzarella Low Fat Cheese Sticks
Parsley Flakes if desired

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
I used a baking sheet lined with aluminum foil, but only because I hate to clean. It takes away from writing time.

 First, I sliced the caps off the mushrooms, brushed olive oil on top, and heated for 7 minutes on the side with the oil facing up and 2 on the other. You can change this how you see fit.

Next, I placed a tomato slice on top of each mushroom, and then mozzarella on the very top. I had to slice cheese sticks because that is all I had available. You can use shredded mozzarella or slices.

I baked them for 10 minutes, but they are done when the cheese is melted.
Optional: I sprinkled parsley flakes on top for added color.

Sunday, July 15, 2012

My First Week on The South Beach Diet

I think most writers recognize the fact, we can produce more if we feel healthy and energetic, but we also recognize the fact getting there isn't always easy. We fall into bad habits and then one day we wake up and tell ourselves it is time for a change.

I truly believe dieting is absolutely horrible! I chose the picture above as a reminder of what I have had to give up. I have been battling my weight issues most of my life. I did lose quite a bit of weight a few years ago when I went through a blissfully happy time period. I played The Secret DVD and CD over and over and ate less without much effort. Then my class size at work grew. Last year I had 28-30 second grade students in my class in a high risk area of town. Last June, I married a wonderful man, but that also meant blending our lives together with an adjustment period. My daughter and my sister also got married this past year. I was the maid-of-honor for my sister and had no clue what to do when it came to throwing her a bridal shower. Oh, and did I mention I co-coordinated a writing conference in April with about 250 attendees? I truly believe stress causes you to gain and retain weight, which I did.

I tried the Dukan Diet and almost fainted. I tried eating less, but I was always hungry. Then my cousin, who is also a teacher, told me she lost weight on The South Beach Diet and so did her husband. My mother lost a lot of weight giving up bread and potatoes. Turns out she was on South Beach. I decided to give it a try. I bought the new book The South Beach Diet Super Charged.

I am one of those people who loses weight when the time is right. There is usually some sort of trigger. No, it's never a major event. I have never lost weight because of a reunion or wedding. That is too much pressure and I gain weight under pressure. This time the trigger was my doctor telling my husband that he should take me on his walks because he is worried about me. My doctor is wonderful, so I'm not upset about him saying anything. I love my husband dearly. He is the greatest and I don't want him feeling bad that he couldn't get me to exercise, so I decided it was time to take this seriously.

First, I'll admit I haven't read the entire book yet. I skipped around to what I think I needed to know.
I also cheated a bit, but not much. My husband and I have routines where we share meals when we go out between the time he gets off work and he joins me at Barnes and Noble where I write. We both enjoy the fried shrimp at Leo's Hawaiian BBQ. I did give up the macaroni salad I love. We also share a shredded beef quesadilla at Ajo Al's once a week. I did give up the chips and salsa.

The biggest change for me was giving up flavored creamers in the morning. Anyone who knows me well will tell you I have a little bit of coffee with my creamer. I never thought I would give it up, but I did. I switched from 2% milk to 1% and put that in my coffee with sugar substitute. It is nowhere near as satisfying as my flavored creamers, but it is manageable. My husband asked me if I was feeling well when I told him I hadn't had creamer all week. I mainly ate omelets in the morning and salad for lunch. We usually grill meats for dinner when we are home. I also cooked up a whole package of turkey bacon to munch on when I get hungry.

Overall, I would say, I'm not hungry as much as I usually am when dieting. There were a few moments when I panicked because I felt limited on choices. Sugar Free Popsicles got me through those times. Since I had already lost a couple of pounds before beginning the diet, I didn't lose as much as I might have, but I did lose three and a half pounds this past week. Not bad considering I cheated a few times.

If you are interested in this diet and sharing ideas, feel free to comment.

Sunday, June 3, 2012

New Years in June

Like millions of others, you might have made resolutions On New Year's Eve. Mine was to improve my life. Yes, I made it vague intentionally so that I might actually, for once, keep a resolution. Now that June has rolled around, and I am out of school for the summer, I have decided to revisit that resolution and make it more specific. I'm not one for making a long list of life changes and keeping them. I did organize parts of my home and, for the most part, they have remained cleaned. I also cut down on the amount of coffee I drink in the morning. Now I am ready for the next step.

My top priority is to drink more water. I admit, I hate water. I would rather drink coffee, soda, green tea, etc. In order for this to stick, I have to make it part of my routine. I decided I'll drink a bottle/glass during lunch, when I'm in the car, and then again with dinner. They say it takes three weeks to create a habit, so we'll  test that theory.

I hope you too will revisit your New Year's resolutions and tweak one or two.

Until next Sunday,
happy reading or writing.

Tina Swayzee McCright

Sunday, May 20, 2012

During the holidays we are reminded of our many blessings and how we can give back as a way of saying thank you. Yesterday, I spent the morning with work colleagues at a retirement breakfast and listened to a story one of my friends told. I was amazed by how much she does to help those in need every month of the year. She is amazing and, yes, she made me feel guilty. I reminded myself that I have worked at a school in a low income area for twenty years, I give at church, and give to charities, but it didn't seem like enough next to her efforts.

Later that day, my husband had an appointment to give blood. I decided to join him and discovered, thanks to their computer records, I hadn't given since 1992. I know there is a big need for blood donations, but I always seemed to busy to drive three miles down the road to their center. I felt worse when I watched my husband jump when he saw the needle. He hates needles and yet he gives on a regular basis. I, on the other hand, don't mind needles much and have a great vein. It also didn't take long to complete the donation. I decided then that I would donate next to my husband from now on. The woman who checked me in called it our date. It was probably the best date we've been on since we were helping others.

I encourage you to take time from your busy schedule to give blood, and better yet, make it a date with your significant other.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

A Conference For Every Writer

It is not too late to register for one of the best writing conferences in the country April 27-29, 2012 in Scottsdale, AZ. No matter what you write, you'll find a workshop for you.

Need help unlocking your muse? Jess Macallan can help. She is giving a workshop at the Desert Dreams Writing Conference. This hands on workshop is designed to help writers get out of their own way. Using techniques that trigger then anchor creative thinking, analyzing personality types and experimenting with tips and tricks, this workshop will help any writer capture her inner fire and keep the embers burning in the face of change, stress, and more.

What about the dreaded query letter? Brenda Novak, national bestselling author of 35 books, uses her background in sales and marketing to show you how to craft a query letter that will show you how to use this powerful marketing tool to your best advantage.

Erin Quinn will help you navigate editor/agent appointments. Are you still trying to figure out what you're going to say the next time you pitch your story? In this interactive workshop, Erin Quinn will lead participants—using their own story ideas for examples—and help them find the most exciting aspects of their story to turn into an intriguing and cohesive pitch.

Tara Taylor Quinn will tell you how to sucessfully plan and implement a 50+stop blog tour.

Alexis Walker's workshop is designed to help any level writer map out their own personal plan for success. Using the strategic planning tools employed by businesses and nonprofit organizations, each writer will develop an individual career plan he/she can start using immediately.

Don't miss the opportunity to advance your career while networking with experts in the field.
For more details go to

Saturday, March 24, 2012

One Lucky Winner at Desert Dreams!

My dear friend, Kathryne Kennedy, a Publisher's Weekly Star Reviewed Author, will be critiquing the query letter and first ten pages from one attendee at the Desert Dreams Writer's Conference. You must register before midnight March 31, 2012 to be eligible. Conference coordinators (Susan Lanier Graham or Tina LaVon McCright) will notify the lucky winner April 1st with details.

To register go to

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Bringing Your Characters to Life

Arizona's own Laurie Schnebly Campbell can help bring your character to life.

What kind of dialogue makes your characters real? What kind of description works best for your voice? No two writers will use the same techniques for these key elements, but having new tools to choose from can make writing description and dialogue easier as well as more fun…not only for you, but for your readers as well. For each technique, this session will use examples from books by the conference’s best-known guests.

Laurie Schnebly Campbell combines her background in counseling with writing novels like the one that beat out Nora Roberts for “Best Special Edition Of The Year.” Her latest book is a how-to on creating characters, and she’s taught writers online and in person from L.A. to London and New Zealand to New York…recently presenting her 100th live workshop to an RWA group. Besides teaching, she enjoys writing for an advertising agency, narrating for Talking Books, and vacationing with her husband and son in Sedona, the red-rock town named for her great-grandmother. “People ask how I find time to do all that,” Laurie says, “and I tell them it’s easy: I never clean my house!”

Laurie will be speaking at the Desert Dreams Writer's Conference April 27-29, 2012
Registration closes March 31st. Don't miss this opportunity!

Wednesday, February 29, 2012


The winner of the $20 Amazon gift certificate is Black Roze.

Keep an eye out for details of another contest in the weeks ahead.

Sunday, January 29, 2012

You Could Win a $20 Amazon Gift Card

I am having a contest you won't want to miss!

On February 29th, one lucky subscriber to my newsletter will win a $20 Amazon gift card.

If you would like to enter this contest, simply find the purple Join Suspensebytina Newsletter on the left side of the blog. Click and join! I promise I don't bombard my subscribers with emails, although you will receive a quick welcome note.

Also, if you are trying to organize your life in 2012, feel free to read the posts below and share your organizational tips.

Organizational and Travel Hints

Like many of you, I find there isn't enough time during the day to get everything accomplished. I also realized I could save time by organizing our condo. Those minutes I spent searching for clippers, nail files, manuals, etc. could now be used writing or cuddling up on the couch with my husband. (Both equally important.)

Every Sunday, I am sharing what I have accomplished. Now, I admit I already had the top drawer in my bathroom (right picture) organized. I wanted to share this with you because I just found more of these handy bins at Staples this week. I put them in my kitchen drawers. They were three for a dollar - can't beat that! And yes, I am in my forties and still using Oxy products. Whoever said you stopped getting pimples when you grow up lied. You just get less. And the blue love notes are from my husband, The Irish Charmer. I keep them in the drawer to brighten up my day.

On the left side, there is a picture of travel bags. My husband and I used to spend an evening in Tucson every other weekend. I decided to keep the cosmetics I use most in one bag and store it in a drawer for every day use. I wrote on a label what I needed to add to the bag when we go out of town. The other bag is where I keep deoderant, a travel tootbrush, toothpaste, and perfume. It also has a label that tells me what else I need to bring when we leave town. I can also use this as my airline bag for passing through security at the airport. I just shove it into an outside pocket of my suitcase and we are ready to go. When I'm home, I put it in a bathroom drawer so it is ready for the next trip. These bags have saved me a lot of time.

If you have organization or travel hints, I hope you will share them with us.

Also, I am having a contest you won't want to miss. On February 29th, one lucky subscriber to my newsletter will win a $20 Amazon gift card. If you would like to enter this contest, simply find the purple Join Suspensebytina Newsletter on the left side of the blog. Click and join! I promise I don't bombard my subscribers with emails, although you will receive a quick welcome note.

I'll have more organizational tips next Sudnay. I hope you'll drop by.
Tina McCright

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Win a $20 Amazon Gift Certificate

On February 29th, I will draw the lucky winner of a $20 Amazon gift Certificate!

To enter this contest, all you have to do is become a subscriber to my Suspensebytina Yahoo newsletter. There is a link on the left side of the blog. Click and Join! It's that easy!

Organizing Goes Green

Going "Green" applies to every area of your life, including organizing.

Those of you following the blog know I am determined to save time by organizing my life. I would love to go out and buy brand new organizing systems and hire people to install them, but it isn't in my budget. And although I did buy a few baskets at a thrift store, I realized it would be simpler and cheaper to use ordinary items at home to organize those items which were cluttering my bathroom drawers.

I purchase inexpensive razors in bulk. The problem is they fall out of the bag once opened. I also own too many coffee cups. I helped solve both problems by placing the razors in a souveneir cup. Now when I grab for a razor from the bottom drawer, I notice the coffee cup it is resting in and remember the exciting whale watching adventure my brother, Bob, and his wife, Beth, took me on one summer.

I was about to throw out a not-so-gently used Christmas gift bag when it dawned on me that I could cut off the top and use it to hold hair clips. Both organizers are now stashed away in the bottom drawer in my bathroom where they are easily located when needed.
If you have any creative organizing ideas, we would be interesting in reading about them.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Organizing the Medicine Cabinet

As some of you may know, my New Year's resolution was to improve my life. My biggest goal is to get more organized. I need to make the most use of my time since I teach during the day and write during evenings. Every second counts.

Like most people, I put like sized items together in the medicine cabinet. Not much thought went into it, other than groaning over cleaning it. I was organizing the top bathroom drawer when I found a safety pin and realized I didn't have just one spot where I would look for safety pins. I decided to place them in plain sight on the bottom shelf in the medicine cabinet. Then it dawned on me that I really should keep a nail file and clippers in their too. These are simple items I usually have to hunt for, or go to the spare room to retrieve, while getting ready for work. Now they are within arms reach when I snag a nail or I need to pin clothing down or together.

I also started putting my medications into those days of the week containers. Not only does it save time opening and closing bottles, but now I know if I took them that day.

Although these are simple fixes, they do save me those wasted seconds or minutes that add up quickly. If you have an organizing idea, I hope you'll share it with us.

I'll have more organizing hints for the bathroom next week.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Still Organizing - An Odd Bathroom Caddy

If you read last Sunday's post, you know I am working on improving my life for 2012, which means I have a lot of organizing to do now that I recently got married. We merged The Irish Charmer's belongings with mine in every room except for the bedroom bathroom, which I still use in the mornings.

Anyone watching television commercials knows women have many choices when it comes to personal grooming. The problem is what to do with all of those items after you buy them. I spent months trying to figure out what to put in the bathroom that wouldn't fall off the wall, rust, or somehow create a mess.

One day, I was cleaning out a kitchen cupboard and found the caddy pictured above. I believe it came with the dishwasher and is used to hold items like baby bottle caps. I immediatly knew it would solve my problem in the bathroom. It now holds razers, face cleansers, and utensils for smoothing the skin on my heels. What I like most about this caddy is I can easily lift it up when I need to cean the tub.

If you found an imaginative use of an ordinary object, I hope you will share it with us.

Friday, January 6, 2012

First Week of Improving My Life in 2012

I started out the week intending to work out in the morning, but my car battery died when I set out for the gym. Instead of walking on the Treadmill, I lifted weights at home. Still a workout. Plus, my husband became my hero when he fixed my car battery.

Any time you can look at your husband like he destroyed a fire-breathing dragon, your life is on the right track. Not a bad way to start the new year.

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Organizing - Start With The Purse

Like most of you, I made New Year's Resolutions. I WILL finish two books this year. Also, I plan to eat healthier and organize my life. You can probably tell by the picture, this post is not about eating healthier.

For the most part, I do have an organizing system. My motto is "Everything has a place and it will eventually get back there." I plan to do a better job of getting it "back there" this year. My husband and I both make piles of clutter and then when it gets on our nerves, we clean it. Clutter will interfere with your ability to think clearly and creatively so it is best to try to avoid it as much as possible. Don't get me wrong, I am no neat freak and don't plan to become one. I just know that with working a full time job and writing in the evenings, there is little time to clean so it is better to have a plan that will help free up more time.

I decided to start with my purse. The bottom was filled with old receipts, candy, and pens. The zipper compartments were a mess of miscellaneous items that were no longer usable because the wrappers had opened or come off. The purse needed a good cleaning. First, the handle was fraying, but instead of buying a new purse, I found an old favorite and transferred items while I cleaned. Saving money is always a good plan.
The three items in the left picture, closest to the text, were ideas I had already put into place. I keep my keys on a hook and I started putting those keychain cards on a separate hook. I placed a keyring around one handle of my purse and I attach both my keys and the keychain cards onto that ring and then drop them into the purse in case the hook ever breaks. (right picture) I always know where my keys are. You might also notice I keep a flash drive in a holder attached the purse as well. This is where I keep a copy of the manuscript I'm working on.
The white purse looking item in the left picture is an old makeup brush holder. I got tired of the wrappers of femine products ripping open in the zipper compartments of my purse. This case is hard and keeps them secure. The black makeup purse was used to protect my large sunglasses, but now I use it to store small items like antacids, lipstick, medications, etc. When I need something I can pull it out of my purse and easily search inside.

The address book is also where I list birthdays and more imporantly our car license numbers and the size of my air filters for the air conditioner. That info is now always at my fingertips whenever needed.

The Equal container was an idea I came up with this weekend. While cleaning my purse, I found Tic Tac mints. This was the perfect container to hold my sugar substitutes. The first few times I removed the lid I needed to pry it open with the end of a pen, but by the fourth time it could be tugged open easily. I also used Goo Gone to clean off the label. Now I know exactly where my Equal or Splenda is at all times. No more searching.

And now, after removing the cards I rarely use from my wallet, my purse weighs less than ten pounds. I think...
If you have any organizing ideas, please feel free to share them with us.