Sunday, December 29, 2013

Character Development

A good story is a good story and an interesting character is an interesting character whether you are reading a book or watching a movie. My husband, The Irish Charmer, and I enjoy watching movies together. This weekend we saw American Hustle. It wasn't my favorite movie, but it did have some fun moments. Many of those involved Jennifer Lawrence's character Rosalyn.

*****Spoiler Alert*****

Rosalyn plays your typical ditsy blonde with a twist; she can always justify her actions with an article or book she read. I'll have to paraphrase since I don't remember her exact words. In one scene, after being told not to put metal in the microwave, she places a tray covered with aluminum foil in the brand new microwave and sets it on fire. She claims she read microwaves take the nutrition out of food. Since they take the nutrition out of food and catch on fire, they aren't worth owning.

My favorite scene is when her husband, Irving, returns home after being threatened by the mafia. She, of course, told the mafia her version of what he was up to and that is why they threatened him. Irving explains that he came up with a plan to deal with the situation. She takes credit for his plan by explaining that she read about intention in a book and by sending the mafia after him she was intending for him to come up with his plan. So, in her world, she did him a favor.

In my opinion, what makes a story more interesting are the twists: twists in plot and twists in character development.

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Introducing Barbara White Daille

It is my pleasure to introduce Barbara White Daille and her new book.

Rancher at Risk - January 2014
A Fresh Start
After the loss of his family in a tragic accident, Ryan Malloy has been given one last chance to change his life. His boss sends him to Flagman's Folly, New Mexico, to run his ranch, but unfortunately, Ryan's troubled attitude lands him in hot water with the locals, especially the ranch's manager, Lianne Ward.
Deaf since birth, Lianne has never let her disability define who she is. But, she's yet to meet a man who treats her as an equal. Ryan seems different…that is, when they're not butting heads over the ranch's new school for disadvantaged boys.

Forced to work together, Lianne and Ryan discover an unexpected attraction beneath their quarreling. But will Ryan's painful past drive them apart…permanently?

You can learn more about Barbara at her website:
Court Me, Cowboy - reissued in e-book format - Oct 15th!
The Rodeo Man's Daughter - Book Buyers Best finalist
The next Flagman's Folly book - Rancher at Risk - January 2014

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Holiday Craft

If you are looking for a fun, quick craft idea, try these candy cane reindeer. I give them to kids and place on top of gifts. You can find colorful pom poms, wiggly eyes, and pipe cleaners at most craft stores. Hot glue the pom pom and eyes into place. Next, fold a pipe cleaner in half, twist it onto the candy cane, and then roll the ends around a pencil. Finally, hot glue the pipe cleaner into place.

Making a craft helps add to the holiday cheer. Afterwards, you can relax with a cup of hot cocoa and a great book.

Sunday, November 24, 2013


On my way to the theater, I felt confident that when I watched Delivery Man it would be a fun comedy with a main character who grows as a person. Leaving the theater, I was glad I hadn't been disappointed. After watching several Vince Vaughn comedies, I feel I know his brand. I find comfort in knowing I won't be wasting my hard-earned money choosing one of his films.

Authors often complain about publishers wanting to brand their books. They feel their creative energy is stifled when they are placed into a mold. I understand that feeling. I published a short story, a fractured fairy-tale, that is far different than my usual mysteries; but I understand how consumers feel too. When they purchase an author's book, they want to know they won't be disappointed. Fans return to Nora Roberts time and time again because they know they are buying a well-written romance with a happy ending earned through trial and tribulation. The settings and characters may change, but the major elements of a romance are still there.

Authors need to decide for themselves if they want to brand their work. If not, how will they handle writing various types of books? Some authors use different pseudonyms for each genre they write and some place various tabs on their websites categorizing their work. Will book blurbs be enough to inform the consumer of what they are purchasing?

It's something to think about.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Introducing Morgan Kearns

It is my pleasure to introduce our Friday Spotlight Author, Morgan Kearns. Her book is Out Of Left Field. (Deadlines and Diamonds #3)

Back Cover Text:

Strike One
Xavier is a jerk with a capital A.S.S. and he offers no apologies. If a woman is willing to give, he’ll gladly take, walking away without a backward glance. He’s not looking for commitment and the only diamond he’s interested in has three bases and a home plate.

Strike Two
Dr. Frances Holden knows all about fixing broken bones and taming arrogant athletes. As the Team Doctor for the Las Vegas Rockets she deals with stubborn ballplayers every day. But nobody is more stubborn than Left Fielder Matthias Xavier, III.

Strike Three
When a shoulder injury takes Xavier out of the game, it’s Frankie’s job to get him back on the diamond. His rehab turns out to be more than either of them bargained for, and when she promises to help him face his scarred past, neither of them are prepared for the fireworks that come Out of Left Field and threaten to scorch them both.

You can read more about Morgan and her books on the net.

Twitter: @MorganKearns
Pinterest: @MorganKearnsCom

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Learning From Last Vegas

Novelists can often learn lessons from scriptwriters. Friday night, my husband and I watched Last Vegas. We expected an enjoyable movie with a few laughs and were not disappointed. A good comedy includes a touch of conflict, which played out between Douglas and De Niro. A good script changes the main characters for the better. Each of the main characters in Last Vegas flew back home with lessons learned which led to more fulfilling futures. We went home feeling satisfied. That is what I call a happy ending.

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Enough Said

My husband and I enjoy watching romantic comedies. After a long week at work, we want to laugh and enjoy our movie watching experience.  We chose Enough Said because it starred James Gandolfini, who passed away last June. This was most likely the last movie he made. I have also enjoyed Julia Louis-Dreyfus in her former comedies and hoped she would offer a fine performance. 

We expected an enjoyable experience, but nothing profound. I was wrong. The movie offered much more than a few laughs. In my opinion, a movie is worth every penny spent going to the theater if it touches your life or makes you reflect on your own.

In Enough Said, Julia's character discovers her new friend is the ex-wife of her new boyfriend. Instead of breaking off one of the relationships, she continues to listen to the ex bash her new boyfriend. She believes she can avoid another bad marriage if she knows what she is getting into ahead of time. Of course, her view of the man she likes is skewed by this other woman. We aren't surprised when James's character says he feels like he just spent the evening with his ex. When she is caught, which we knew would happen, she tells the boyfriend she was trying to protect herself. He accuses her, and rightly so, of not protecting their relationship.

James's character set off a chain of thoughts in my own mind. I remember when I was young, I sometimes complained about boyfriends to my friends and they would agree with everything I said. Did that help any relationship? I'm sure it didn't. Did I need my friends to help me gather the strength to break up? Perhaps. What about friends who complain about their husbands? Is it the job of the friend to give advice to help save the marriage, or should they agree the husband is a jerk, or should they keep quiet? Should friends recommend marriage counseling or remind this person of their husband's finer qualities? Should people keep their marital problems to themselves? If your friend is being abused you want to get them assistance. 

My cousin told me that her father, my uncle, once told her not to do anything that would weaken her marriage. That was good advice to those who want to keep their marriage strong. I personally don't plan on giving advice on this subject. I am no expert and I'm not sure there are any perfect answers. I am simply going to reflect on the matter and continue to appreciate a thought-provoking movie.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Introducing Brenda Whiteside

I feel privileged to introduce to you today another author from Valley of the Sun Romance Writers, Brenda Whiteside and her book Amanda in the Summer.

Three generations of women…and the secret that strengthens their love.

A line of women, all named Amanda, stretches back for generations. Each with her hopes, her joys, her pain—each pouring out her heart in correspondence with a dear family friend who shares their lives, understands their loves, and joins in their sorrows.

But within the correspondence lies a secret. And as the youngest of the Amanda’s retraces the journey through the years—beginning in post-war America and following through to modern day—the letters reveal, layer by layer, the Amandas who came before her. Soon, the truths and lies hidden in the letters lead her down a path of self-discovery that forges a bond between her past and future.


August 24, 1968

Dear Tilly,

A few days of bliss with no one to talk to but the
seagulls. I have you to thank for this. I’m so glad you
popped back after Amanda, Robert, and Mother left. The
strain I put on all of us while you were here would’ve
dragged on for who knows how long if you hadn’t
returned. Once again, Tilly, you read the tea leaves and
righted things.

My moods have been so ragged of late. Jealousy of
all things. Jealous that you could talk to my daughter,
get along so lovely with her, which I’ve had difficulty
doing these last few months. Jealous of your longer
running friendship with Robert than with me. I’m not
sure if I was jealous of him or you. You’re both mine.
And angry that the two of you are uncomfortable around
each other after so many years and not making sense of
that. When Robert left, I tried to give him the blue
swimsuit you had left behind and asked him to drop in
on you to return it. He said no, I could do it when I got
back. This was so unlike him and did more to unsettle

Visit Brenda at
She blogs on the 9th and 24th of every month at
She blogs about prairie life and writing at

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Desert Dreams Writer's Conference

April 4-6, 2014
Tempe Mission Palms Resort
Tempe, Arizona

Speakers Include:

  • NY Times Best Selling Author Christie Craig: Keynote
  • NY Times Best Selling Author Sylvia Day
  • Award-winning Author and speaker Mary Buckham
  • NY Times Best Selling Author Allison Brennan
  • NY Times Best Selling Author Karin Tabke
  • And many more
This national bi-annual conference gives writers a chance to ready their manuscriptsand pitch to sell them to big-name editors and agents. New York Times bestselling authors Christie Craig, Sylvia Day and Mary Buckham are just a few of the speakers who will keep the 200+ attendees’ creative juices flowing.
Powerhouse agents and editors—including editors and senior editors from Grand Central Publishing, Random House, Decadent Publishing and Boroughs Publishing, as well as agents from The Kristin Nelson Literary Agency, The Nancy Yost Literary Agency and The Bradford Literary Agency—will be on hand to give advice and present workshops. Agents and editors visiting the conference actively seek the high caliber of talent found among those who come to Desert Dreams.

In addition to workshops and opportunities to mingle and meet authors, Desert Dreams attendees are given a one on-one appointment with an agent or editor of their choice free of charge. Unlike larger writers’ conferences, every attendee is offered this option, not just those who are published or willing to pay extra. There’s one catch: attendees must sign up early for their choice since agents and editors are scheduled on a first-come, first-serve basis.

Desert Dreams also offers a book signing open to the public on Saturday, April 5th from 7:00-8:30 p.m. in the Mission Palms Ballroom. To sign up early and pay the reduced price, just click on the Online Registration tab at the left side of the page. Member price is currently only $180, so sign up now, before the rates go up. Desert Dreams Writers’ Conference provides authors of all skill levels – from beginner to multi-published – with the tools necessary to take their writing to the next level. Session included general writing, career development, genre-specific, agent/publisher spotlights, as well as an agent/editor panel. Check out our roster of acquired editors and agents along with our keynote speakers and workshops. Did you miss the 2012, 2010, or 2008 conferences? Order workshop conference CDs and MP3s.

Check back often for more details on the 2014 Desert Dreams Conference.
Follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and on the Desert Dreams Blog for all the latest news and updates by clicking on the links at

You can register for the conference at

Sunday, October 6, 2013

Tell The Story That Excites You

Last night, we watched the movie Gravity, starring Sandra Bullock and George Clooney. It was suspenseful from beginning to end and the cinematography was superb. I enjoyed every moment, the critics are raving about it, so why didn't husband appreciate the movie? As authors, we cringe whenever someone criticizes our books, but the truth is, we don't all have the same taste in movies or books. My husband enjoys comedies and old movies. I enjoy comedies, but I love a good mystery. I once heard someone say, "No matter what you do, someone won't like you." It's the same with the story you tell. Tell the story that you get excited about writing. If you get excited, it will come through the pages and others will enjoy it as well. Not everyone, but that's okay, too.

Sunday, September 29, 2013

Time to Change Our Way of Thinking

My husband and I recently watched the 3-D version of The Wizard of Oz. I'm not a huge fan of 3-D because it bothers my eyes and head after awhile, but this version was subtle. I enjoyed the movie because I noticed details I never paid attention to in the original version. I found myself studying fabrics and objects on tables.3-D brought the images closer for me to inspect.

3-D is altering our moving going experience, just as ebooks are changing our reading experience. There is a lot to be said about holding a book, but then I don't keep books that aren't signed when I'm finished. I also don't need three bookcases. One bookcase of signed books and reference material is enough. I'm currently down to two bookcases. I also enjoy traveling with a collection of books on my Kindle. I'm not saying 3-D will replace all movies, but I am saying technology is getting better and we should embrace the change. It will be interesting to see what our world will look like twenty years from now.

There is positive and negative aspects to both traditional publishing and ebooks, but ebooks are here to stay. My husband sometimes speaks about Kodak and how they should have embraced digital technology and who would have ever thought the Ma Bell monopoly (or near monopoly) would be replaced by many cell phone companies? Writers would be smart to sell their books in as many formats as possible: traditional, epubs, independent... Like they say, "Don't put all of your eggs in one basket."

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Inspired by a True Story????? - The Butler

                 ******************* WARNING:  SPOIL ALERT *************************

My husband and I recently watched Lee Daniels' The Butler. I thoroughly enjoyed this movie and believe it deserves a multitude of Oscar nominations. I read in the Arizona Republic that it was "loosely based" on a true story. The writer was inspired by an article he read in the Washington Post, published on November 7, 2008, called "A Butler Well Served by This Election." The article was about Eugene Allen, who served as a White House butler for eight presidents.

Like many others moviegoers, I heard the film was inspired by a real butler before I decided to attend a viewing.The character in the story is named Cecil Gaines and is played by Forest Whitaker. His wife is played by Oprah Winfrey. They were superb. As Cecil serves these presidents faithfully, his eldest son, Luis, is arrested over 16 times during his fight for civil rights. He is seen with Martin Luther King before he dies and later becomes a Black Panther. His father hears Nixon say he gave permission to eliminate the Panthers. Luckily, Luis leaves the group in time to live another day. While the eldest son fights against his country, the youngest fights for his country. He later dies in Vietnam. I could see how a trusted, beloved butler, whose son is fighting for civil rights, could influence politics in the White House. After Luis becomes a congressman, I wanted to know more about Cecil and Luis Gaines, so I Googled them when the movie let out.

To my surprise there never was an eldest son named Luis and the younger son never died in Vietnam, although he did fight in the war. The vast majority of the drama in this movie is the struggle between father and son that never took place. At the beginning of the story, Cecil's mother was raped by the plantation owner who also kills his father. That never took place either. The Oprah Winfrey character struggles with alcoholism. Eugene's wife never had a drinking problem. The vast majority of the story was fictionalized. I was glad to learn that Eugene did receive one of Kennedy's ties from Jackie after his death. That was a touching moment in the film. Also, Eugene did campaign for Obama. That part was true. I tried to figure out what percentage of the movie was real and I'm guessing less than 5%.

After reading up on the story, I felt ripped off. If I heard there was a woman named Shirley, who drove a bus in Chicago for forty years, and made up a fictional story about her, should I say it is "loosely based" on a real woman?  I suppose if the Washington Post wrote an article about her, I should say something. Perhaps I could say, "Highly Fictionalized Film Inspired by a True Story." I just read Richard Roeper's review and found he wrote something similar about The Butler. The Boston Globe warns us the story is largely fictionalized and AZ Central tells us it is fictionalized. Unfortunately, I read several reviews, even from big city newspapers, who tells us it is based on the life of Eugene Allen and fail to warn us it is highly fictionalized. I started to name them, but decided it was probably best not to upset the press. You can find those reviews, if you like, by clicking onto Metacritic Reviews on the IMDb site while reading up on The Butler.

I wonder how many people are going to watch The Butler and believe most of the film is true because it was "inspired" by a real man. I read a review on the IMDb site by Stephen Alexander. He had a valid point when he says there should have been an opening header stating that this a fictional movie.

From now on I am going to read Richard Roeper's reviews of any movie I watch that is "Inspired by..." or "Loosely based on..." before I leave for the theater.

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Life Is Stranger Than Fiction

You would think that anything that happened in real life could be written about and accepted by a New York publisher in a fiction novel. There are so many strange news reports that you would think the field of fiction would be wider, but it isn't the case.

For example, my family has recently suffered one blow after another. Last April may Uncle John died of cancer. He wasn't even 60 years old yet. The next month my cousin's grandson was born and immediately taken to Phoenix Children's Hospital. His fight for life was featured on several news channels in Phoenix. Trenton has had two heart surgeries and twenty-nine blood transfusions to top the list of treatments. A week ago last Sunday, I gave blood at one of the blood drives sponsored in his name. The next day, my cousin Jeff Randall, died in a small plane crash while working for First Solar. There were a couple of articles written about that tragedy. Five days later, my grandmother, Paula, pictured above, passed away. We held her memorial yesterday,

All of this happened within a five month period. If I created a heroine and she had to face these tragedies, an editor would probably tell me it felt contrived. As writers, we are supposed to create tragic circumstances for our characters to face and endure; but keep in mind, reality is stranger than fiction. If your gut tells you your heroine is facing too many, your editor might think so too. On the other hand, we can do anything we like to our characters if we ;publish the book ourselves. In self-publishing fiction can always be stranger than reality.

Sunday, September 1, 2013

Hot Prospects Contest - Final Day to Enter!


2013 Hot Prospects Contest
Sponsor: Valley of the Sun Romance Writers

****Permission to forward****

GRAND PRIZE: The grand prize winner of the contest will have their entire manuscript (400 pages, Courier, 12pt, Double spaced) reviewed by two professional editors at The Author's Red Room.

Final round judges

1) Historical/Regency

Editor - Holly Blanck, St. Martins
Senior Editor - Esi Sogah, Kensington

2) Fantasy, Futuristic & Paranormal

Assistant Editor - Kelly Quinn, Tor
Editor –Kristine Swartz, Assistant Editor, The Berkley Publishing Group 

3) Romantic Suspense

Editorial Assistant- Lauren Plude, Grand Central Publishing
Editor Samhain -Tera Kleinfelter

4) Contemporary Long/Single Title

Editor –Deborah Werksman, Sourcebooks, Inc
Editor at large, Sue Grimshaw, Random House

5) Series Contemporary
Associate Editor – Johanna Raisanen, Harlequin
Senior Editor Sweetheart Rose – Leanne Morgena, The Wild Rose Press

For More Information, entry form, and rules, see website at For questions please email

Those entries that do not final will be returned approximately October 30th,
2013 to help those who plan to enter RWA's Golden Heart.

Linda Andrews
Valley of the Sun Hot Prospects Chair

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Writing For Pure Enjoyment

Remember when you wrote just for the pure enjoyment of it?  Then came deadlines - self-imposed and not. Worrying over craft-  gotta get it perfect. Promo - she with the most Facebook friends wins. The voices in your head - "I have to write every day." "You need to get as many books out there as possible." If you're not careful, writing becomes work and the pleasure slips away.

Yesterday I rewrote the first scene in my next manuscript and fell back in love with writing. It was pure enjoyment. Just as good as savoring every bite of a sundae. My goal was to get into my character's head, while keeping in mind how I wanted my reader to feel. No matter how many deadlines we have, its important to keep the joy alive any way we can. It will show through in our novels.

Sunday, August 11, 2013


Last night, my husband and I watched Percy Jackson: Sea of Monsters. It is aimed at a teen/preteen audience, but I thought the premise of a camp filled with teens who are half bloods, the siblings of Greek gods and mortals interesting.

What I found most interesting was the device the writer used to reflect the main character's feelings. Although Percy saved the world, he is afraid he isn't a hero and couldn't do it again. His feeling is reflected in the actions of Mr. D, the Stanley Tucci character, who never remembers anyone's name except for Clarisse, who wins every camp challenge. At first, it was funny when Mr. D called everyone by a different name, but when he called Percy by another name, we knew he didn't think of Percy as a hero either. In his mind, the only demigod worthy of remembering was Clarisse. He further demonstrates this belief when he sends her and not Percy on a quest to find the fleece that is needed to save the camp.

The next time you read or write, check to see if there is another character who reflects the hero/heroine's fears of unworthiness.

Sunday, August 4, 2013

Filling The Well

As writers we sometimes need to fill the well. The expression simply means we need to do something other than work and write. Eventually, you run out of topics to write about if you don't have anything else to draw upon in your conscious or subconscious mind.

One great way to fill the well is to experience life. Take a vacation. One of these days I'm going to go on a cruise; hopefully one that won't need to be rescued, but then I would have a story there.

Spending time with friends can fill the well whether its the discussions you take part in or just the positive energy promoting an energized mood.

I usually fill the well by watching movies. I think of it as brainstorming. The movie might begin with the heroine stepping onto a boat and I'll suddenly have a plot for entirely different book. This also happens when I watch television shows or read novels. One moment in time can be the seed for your next story.

I didn't realize just how powerful television could be until I shared shows I had watched with my friend Bev, who is part of the writing team of Tia Dani. Over our Starbucks, I shared an episode of Paranormal Witness about the gruesome Manson murders, which led to Googling the relevant information of the time. I had read the book about Charles Manson in my teens, but had forgotten most of the details. The trial, which took place in the 70's, was a circus of unsettling events. It is said that Charlie scripted testimonies and his followers sat cross-legged near the courthouse with X's carved into their foreheads. When the prosecution's lead witness testified, Charlie motioned that he was going to slit her neck. He had his women followers so brainwashed they were ready to lie for him and say he had nothing to do with the murders, but their own defense attorney wouldn't let them testify. The lawyer disappeared. I'm not sure if his body was ever found. The whole scenario was so horrifying, Charlie has been denied parole 12 times. I believe he isn't eligible for another parole hearing until he is 90.

 From reading the few articles on the Internet, my writer's brain sparked several plots. You could take any person involved with the murders, the trial, or Charlie's "family" and ask "What if?" I would change the scenario in my story so no one would know where the original idea came from.

In the time Bev and I spent sipping our Frappacinos and discussing shows I had watched and Googled, I mentally gathered the seeds for at least half a dozen books.

The news is also a great place to form ideas for new stories. A simple report about an elderly man lost without his medication can lead to a book about a middle-aged woman with amnesia, or a teen kidnapped without her meds, or a respectful businessman found drugged up on the beach in his suit.

Writers do need to fill the well, and although it would be wonderful to take a trip to Ireland to do so, it isn't necessary. Watch a movie or a little TV, read a book, and get out and experience life.

Sunday, July 28, 2013

Learning Comedy Tricks From Movies

My husband and I love stories, whether they are found in movies or books. I find there is a lot to learn from screenwriters. This past weekend, we finally watched The Lone Ranger. We, of course, had watched the television series as children. The screenwriters altered the characters and Johnny Depp had his own version of Tonto.We wouldn't expect less from Johnny. My favorite dialogue in the story comes near the end. The Lone Ranger says the long awaited line, "Hi ho Silver away!" Tonto replies, "Don't ever say that again."

Because the response was the total opposite of what we would expect, it caught us off guard and it was humorous. When writing comedy, remember this trick. Ask yourself what the expected response should be and then what would be the opposite response.

Fantastic Opportunity for Writers!

2013 Hot Prospects Contest
Sponsor: Valley of the Sun Romance Writers

****Permission to forward****

Looking to sign your first book contract, switch from a small press to a large
publisher or simply explore another genre of romantic fiction? Turn up the heat
on your writing career with the Hot Prospects Contest.

GRAND PRIZE: The grand prize winner of the contest will have their entire manuscript (400 pages, Courier, 12pt, Double spaced) reviewed by two professional editors at The Author's Red Room.

Announcement by a former winner:

I entered the Hot Prospects contest in 2011 and placed first in the Contemporary Single Title category and won the Grand Prize overall with my erotic legal thriller, Legally Mastered (now Legal Heat by Sarah Castille). The feedback I got from the contest judges was invaluable in helping me polish my book and that year I landed an agent, and a publishing contract with Samhain Publishing and then a second publishing contract with Sourcebooks Casablanca the following year. The Hot Prospects contest was very well run and I recommend it to all my romance writer friends.

Fee: $25 for Valley of the Sun RW chapter members
$30 for non-chapter members
Chapter website has PayPal capability.

Postmark Deadline: September 1st, 2013
E-Submit Deadline: September 1st, 2013

Eligibility: The Hot Prospects Contest is open to any work uncontracted and
unpublished at the time of entry.

Enter: 3-5-page synopsis and up to the first 25 pages of story (30 pages max). Entry or
synopsis may be shorter, but neither may be longer than specified.

Categories/Judges: Trained judges for preliminary round

Final round judges

1) Historical/Regency

Editor - Holly Blanck, St. Martins
Senior Editor - Esi Sogah, Kensington

2) Fantasy, Futuristic & Paranormal

Assistant Editor - Kelly Quinn, Tor
Editor –Kristine Swartz, Assistant Editor, The Berkley Publishing Group 

3) Romantic Suspense

Editorial Assistant- Lauren Plude, Grand Central Publishing
Editor Samhain -Tera Kleinfelter

4) Contemporary Long/Single Title

Editor –Deborah Werksman, Sourcebooks, Inc
Editor at large, Sue Grimshaw, Random House

5) Series Contemporary
Associate Editor – Johanna Raisanen, Harlequin
Senior Editor Sweetheart Rose – Leanne Morgena, The Wild Rose Press

For More Information, entry form, and rules, see website at For questions please email

Those entries that do not final will be returned approximately October 30th,
2013 to help those who plan to enter RWA's Golden Heart.

Sunday, July 21, 2013

Rethink Your Villain

I am currently plotting another suspense and halfway through I hit a wall. I needed to get away from the paper for awhile. I spent time with friends and watched movies. Later, I reflected on how I wanted my readers to feel while reading the story. That is when I realized I needed to rethink my villain. I wanted my readers to be truly scared while enjoying the story, so I had to be afraid for my hero and heroin. My villain needed to be truly horrifying and so I turned my original villain into a red herring and now I am ready to move forward. Amazingly, all of the pieces were already in place so it was a simple change in direction. Sometimes I think the story already exists in the dark shadows of our minds and we have to reach in and pull it out scene by scene. Just a thought.

Friday, July 19, 2013

Love's Miracles by Sandra Lee Smith

This month I would like to introduce Sandra Lee Smith and her new book Love's Miracles.

Dr. Margo Devaull came to Dominic Zanelli's mountain retreat confident that she could help this Vietnam veteran overcome the torment that kept him apart from the world. But her training as a psychologist had not prepared her for the tragic, explosive contradictions brewing inside him. For here was a sensitive artist who could be gentle – and a man whose eyes flashed with violence and pain when he told her to leave and never come back. Yet Margo did come back, slowly gain his trust, and awaken the sleeping needs of his heart. Only by reliving her own wounded past and helping Zane confront a terrible memory from the war could she set them both free – and save their last chance for love.

Love's Miracles is available for purchase at Amazon

You can learn more about Sandra and her other books at

Sunday, July 14, 2013

Reviews: Should We Rely On Them?

Reviews: should we rely on them? With the popularity of the Internet growing, many review sites are popping up everywhere. Amazon encourages their customers to write reviews. Most of the reviews I have read appear to be a fair account of that reader's experience. Because they have room to explain, we often know why they liked or didn't like a book. And, because we all have varying taste, one person may not like a book, but five others may have enjoyed their reading experience. I rarely rely on one review when deciding whether or not to purchase a book and I won't let one or two bad reviews prevent me from buying a book if there are just as many positive reviews. I will also read the blurb and the excerpt.

I admit, when I read reviews about Audiobooks, I do keep an eye out for complaints about the voice of the person presenting the story. If I'm hesitant about purchasing the download, I will listen to the sample to make sure the voice of the reader won't ruin the experience.

Do I rely on reviewers? I believe in looking at more than one review when deciding if I should purchase a book. It is now going to be my practice for choosing movies as well. My husband and I were trying to decide on a movie and I looked at the newspaper reviews. Once before, I wondered what standard this reviewer used to judge movies. After last night, I don't trust his reviews for my viewing pleasure. I had been thinking of going to see the new Lone Ranger movie, but he only gave it two stars. He gave Heat, which I enjoyed, three stars; so when he gave This is the End four stars, I thought it had to be a great comedy. He doesn't give out many four star ratings. To be fair, the movie is making a lot of money at the box office. The movie is a satire of both horror films and celebrity lifestyles. I did laugh and even screamed, so it wasn't a total waste, but it was also crude, very crude. I decided the reviewer must enjoy what I call teen boy humor. I'm not saying that is a bad thing, only that if I were pitching the story, I would say it is aimed for young males. I wish I had known this when he wrote his review. I didn't appreciate spending $30-$40 at the theater for this viewing experience. I probably would have watched it on DVD because of the trailers and not have been upset because it wouldn't have cost so much. Walking out of the theater, I wished I had seen The Lone Ranger. I learned a valuable lesson: read more than one review for movies, too.

So, should we rely on reviewers? Not totally and not just one reviewer. Word of mouth from people who share your taste, several reviews, excerpts, trailers...can all be combined to help you make an informed decision.

Sunday, June 30, 2013

Writing Fiction: Suspension of Reality

We can often learn valuable writing lessons when watching movies. Last night, my husband and I watched The Heat. The movie was entertaining, but there were many times I had to remind myself it was a comedy. Police Brutality should be the McCarthy character's middle name. In the real world, most of her cases couldn't go to trial because she steps way outside the legal limits of the law to make an arrest. She even threatens, intimidates, and verbally abuses her fellow officers and commanding officer. She should have already been fired.

Today's audience, whether it be moviegoers or readers, usually understands the basics of law enforcement. They know an investigator isn't going to get away with beating the bad guy unless it is a case of self-defense or easily explainable in some way in which it his word against the investigator's. In many films, the beating is meant to obtain evidence, no arrest is made, and the bad guy has no desire to report the abuse because of their criminal activity. In these type of movies, the investigator is most likely after someone who killed their partner or a member of their family. These are not usually comedies. More like a Dirty Harry film.

If the investigator is rude and disrespectful to his boss, we need to know why this character is able to get away with this type of behavior. Does the investigator have something on his boss which can cause him to be fired? Do they have history which makes it plausible for them both to speak to each other in an unprofessional manner? Your readers/audience will want to know.

Comedies are meant to be funny, but you need to decide if your comedy is going to work within the limits of reality or if you are going to step over all of the lines. In the Lethal Weapon movies, the comedy works within the confines of reality. The Mel Gibson character may step over the line, but he usually gets in trouble with his boss and in the end everything is tied up in a way the audience can accept. In The Heat, the writers step over the lines in the first scene, which prepares the audience to suspend reality for the rest of the movie. This was a smart move on their part. I only thought "She can't get away with that!" twice before I was able to suspend reality and enjoy the rest of the movie.

Sunday, June 9, 2013

The Internship Reminded Why I Read Romances

Watching The Internship reminded me why I read and write romances. Going into the movie I expected the comedic duo to make me laugh, feel sorry for them, applaud when they grow as characters, and then allow me to leave with a sense of completion at a well-deserved happy ending. They did not disappoint. I thoroughly enjoyed the movie.

On the way out of the theater, I told my husband the story of how long ago I read a few books recommended by Oprah and colleagues at work. They were depressing. After devoting hours to the story, I read the last page and felt emotionally drained, empty. After two or three, I couldn't face another one of those books. I turned to romances because I knew no matter what happened to the hero and heroine I was guaranteed a happy ending. It's like going on an amusement park ride. You know you will scream with fear and laugh with delight. You also know, no matter how afraid you might get, you will eventually stand on your wobbly legs and walk safely off of the ride.

Romance novels make it safe to enjoy the story. Cheer the characters on, yell at them when they let their flaws get in the way of true love, and let your heart fill with joy when they overcome their fears to do the right thing. You know you are free to feel every emotion because when you reach the last page, everyone has a happy ending, including you.

Sunday, June 2, 2013

Character Driven Stories

Spoil Alert: If you haven't seen the movie, you may not want to ruin the ending by reading more.

My husband and I are movie buffs. Last night, we watched The Great Gatsby.You know you are watching a great character driven story when you are so captivated you forget to eat your Peanut M&Ms. The fact Leonardo DiCaprio was superb helped also. Gatsby starts out as a mysterious, rich and powerful man. There are plenty of rumors, but no one seems to know the true story. He throws lavish parties and knows the elite of New York on a first name basis. As the movie progresses, we learn how and why he built his empire. His goal was to win the hand of Daisy. His motivation was an all consuming love for her. The conflict was she wouldn't marry a poor man. With his mass fortune, he is one step away from the grand prize. Unfortunately, this isn't a romance so there is no happy ending.

If you need assistance in writing your own great character driven story, read Debra Dixon's book, Goal, Motivation & Conflict.

Sunday, May 26, 2013

The Shelfless Book by Bob Mayer and Jen Talty

Last year, I had the privilege of listening to Bob Mayer speak at the Desert Dreams Conference on Independent Book Publishing. This field is growing fast so I admit I'm curious to learn more. I purchased the book he coauthored with Jen Talty, The Shelfless Book. I recently began reading my copy and have found it to be quite interesting. One piece of advice he gives to all experienced writers is to rely more on Beta readers (readers who don't write) to give feedback on your manuscript and not critique groups made up of writers. I am lucky I have people I trust to look over my manuscripts, both writers and nonwriters.

If you are interested in learning more from this NY Times Best-Selling Author, I suggest you pick up a copy of one or more of his books on writing.

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Larry Brooks Workshop

Yesterday I attended a workshop presented by Larry Brooks. Other members of Valley of the Sun Romance Writers and I agreed it was one of the best workshops we have ever attended. He has a clear, precise, no nonsense approach.

Larry went over the difference between a story idea, concept and premise. Later, he went over the six core core competencies needed in any good story: concept, character, theme, structure, scenes, and voice. He believes an author can "break out" if one of these elements is "other worldly compelling." He went on to describe each element. He spent hours on structure.

If you ever have a chance to attend his workshop, I highly recommend you do. In the meantime, you can check out his blog  He also has two books available: Story Engineering and Story Physics.

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Promo or Write

I had an interesting conversation with some writing friends this past week. They believe traditional publishing is on its way out and authors should publish digital books either by self-publishing or through ebook publishers. They also believe you need to promo several hours a day to get your name out there. We've all heard the stories of writers who spent all day promoting and landed deals with the big publishers. But are there too many writers saturating online promotion sites now because they heard those stories, too?

I have to admit, I felt tired just listening to them. Like many other writers, I work full time, write after work, and then take care of things at home before crashing in my bed for the night. If I promo for hours a day, I wouldn't have time to write, or I wouldn't get enough sleep and would burn out. Don't get me wrong, I do have my Twitter, Facebook, and Pinterest. I just don't live on those sites.

It was also interesting that we shared ideas on where they promote, but neither could be sure just how successful that promotion was. We have a friend who makes much more money self-publishing and she doesn't promote nearly as much as they do. We all agree that some sites for promotion are mainly writers promoting to other writers.

So what do you do? I think every writer needs to follow the path that is calling to them and see where it leads. I for one do not want to lose the love of writing by worrying over how many times I tweet each day.


Sunday, May 5, 2013

Can A Book Be Too Intense?

The answer is yes. If you've seen the movie The Place Beyond The Pines, you might understand what I mean. I had read a review in our local paper which echoed the same sentiment, but I was willing to risk seeing the movie because the trailers caught my attention. Although the plot was interesting and the acting was good, I wanted the movie to end sooner than it did. The reason was the film was intense from beginning to end. I had been taught from my writing groups with Romance Writers of America to give your writers an emotional break after an intense scene. During this break, the characters reflect on what is happening and perhaps set a new goal. These breaks may include a touch of humor - anything to give the reader a chance to relax and breathe before you send them into another intense scene. The reader should experience a roller coaster ride of emotion. Can you imagine staying on the free-falling Tower of Terror ride at Disneyland for two hours straight?

Sunday, April 28, 2013

Character Struggles

I enjoy a good story whether it is in the form of a movie or a book. My husband and I usually attend a movie twice a month and I always discover a lesson about writing a story. Last night was no different. We watched Home Run. It is a Christian-based movie about a baseball player's struggle with alcoholism.

This movie was a good example of how a writer drags the hero through hell. You first learn about the abuse he received as a child due to his own father's struggle with alcoholism. Next, the writer shows how the hero's addiction with alcohol is slowly ruining his life, but he can't see it, even when he almost kills his own brother.
The temptation at this point would be to force the hero to realize he almost killed his brother and attend the treatment program willingly. Not this writer. Immediately after causing the accident which landed his brother in the hospital, our hero pays a motel employee to keep his refrigerator stocked with adult beverages.

The main character is forced to attend a treatment center and throughout most of the story he takes one step forward and one step back. Just when you think he might overcome his addiction, life hits him in the gut and he is thrown back into the bottle. By the time our hero is ready to truly face his problems, you feel his agony and sense of hopelessness. There is no doubt he has hit rock bottom. This is the difference between a good book and a great one.

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Finding an Agent

Today's world of publishing is changing fast and most of us aren't sure where it is going. A few years ago, the road to publishing meant finding an agent who would pitch your books to editors in hopes of selling your work. Now writers need to decide if they want or need an agent. I sold Liquid Hypnosis to The Wild Rose Press without an agent. They are a reputable ebook publisher. I chose them because they also offered print copies of my book. They are professional and good to work with.

But I still wanted to sell to the big print publishers. I still do. My journey in finding an agent is a bit different than some. I have writing friends who have a Rule of 5. They make sure they have 5 submissions out at all times. I never did that. Most likely because I kept growing as a writer and didn't feel the need to rush into anything. I only submitted to a handful of agents. Early on in my career, I targeted Harlequin and they don't require an agent. I submitted to an agent who gave me the win in the Desert Dreams Conference Contest. She rejected the book, but I decided not to write Inspirationals after all and shelved that book for now. One day, I'll take it out and give it the overhaul it deserves. Since it is very different from what most publishers want, I'll sell it digitally.

Next, I sent Liquid Hypnosis to two agents I met at another Desert Dreams Conference. They both rejected it and at that point I heard about The Wild Rose Press and sent it to them. I was glad to get the publishing experience and credit.

I soon decided I wanted to try my hand at cozy mysteries. I wrote a story I loved and an agent came to a Desert Rose meeting and listened to pitches. She took me on as a client. Reflecting back on the experience, I was glad everything played out the way it did. She is a good fit for me.

I'm still going through the same decision making process other writers are facing. If she can't sell my cozy, do I sell it through one of the digital publishers or self-pub it while waiting for her to sell the next proposal? I'll let you know when I make a decision. In the meantime, I keep writing.

The bottom line is every writer has to make decisions that feel right to them. If you want an agent and you feel you have a perfected book, then you can try the Rule of 5. If you aren't in a rush, then you can do what I  did and submit when it feels right. It's your career, it is up to you.

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Indie Publishing

Independent publishing is growing quicker than most of us ever imagined it would. Many of us are wondering if we should step into those murky waters and are looking to others for guidance.

At The Desert Dreams Conference last year, I listened to Bob Mayer speak on the subject. He has found more success in epublishing than he did with New York. In his book, The Shelfless Book, he says, "99.5% of indie/self-published authors will be gone in two years.... They will step away, for whatever reason, and another indie will take their place. And be gone in two years. The gatekeeper to a writer's success is the writer and his or her own perseverance, talent, and willingness to learn and change. We have to keep producing quality books that our readers want to read and in turn will pass on to other readers. We have to continue to hone our craft. Learn from each other. We also have to continue to build our business and promote."

For those of you looking for guidance, I suggest you read the rest of the book.

Friday, I will be introducing a new author.
Until then, keep reading and writing.
Tina Swayzee McCright

Sunday, April 7, 2013

Readers Don't Need To Be Hit Over The Head

This past week one of my uncles, Johnny, passed away. He was about nine years old when I was born and I remember him playing with me when I was young. Him and another uncle, Chuck, would feed me black licorice, then spin me in a chair till I threw up. That was great fun to little kids.

The Swayzee's are a huge group, I usually call us a clan. Johnny spent his final moments at Chuck's house with his daughter, brothers, nieces, nephews, and friends in every room, including the garage. I joke that you always know you've reached a Swayzee gathering if the garage door is open and there are few people, usually my uncles, standing around talking.

There were about eight of us in the room when he passed, a fraction of the gathering. We cried and then later came back into the room where his daughter and former wife remained, close to his side. We told stories and laughed. To some, that would be creepy, but my uncle would have looked down and smiled. That is how we said good-bye. My family is tight. We love each other, we joke, we laugh.

Saturday night I was in a funk. I suggested to my husband we go a neighboring shopping center and find a new place to eat. We ended up at a nice Italian restaurant where we sat on the patio. It was a beautiful evening. Sitting outside with my loving husband lifted my spirits. At the end of the evening, the waiter brought us Sambuca, an Italian anise-flavored liqueur. We didn't order the drink; they give it to their customers because it is a part of the Italian tradition. I did not know we would receive the drink. In case you didn't know anise tastes like black licorice.

At this point, I can choose from a selection of possibilities  1. Coincidence - I don't believe in coincidences. 2. My uncle made sure I got the licorice tasting drink as his goodbye - possibility.  3. It was The Law of Attraction. I was thinking of my childhood memories with John and attracted the drink to me. I do believe in the The Law of Attraction.

Life always gets me thinking about writing. If this happened to one of my characters, would I explain the reason to my reader? I don't think readers need to be told everything, especially when it comes to spiritual elements. They should be allowed to draw conclusions based on their own belief systems. Also, it gives them something to take away from the story and think about. You want readers to discuss and/or think about your story later. In The Life of Pi, he gives you two stories and allows you decide which to believe. In Shutter Island, you decide whether or not Leonardo DiCaprio's character is crazy. Both of these stories are memorable. So, do you tell your reader or not? You think about it.

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Bella Media Management Can Help You Self Pub

This month we have been discussing Indie Publishing vs. Traditional Publishing. As I have mentioned before, traditional publishers will do the hard work, other than writing, for you. They select covers, approve titles, create a blurb for the back of your book, publish your book in print and most likely digital formats. If you self pub (Indie) then you will need to do all of this yourself or get help.

If I ever decide to go the self pub route, I will turn to Carol Webb at Bella Media Management. The book cover above is an example of her work. She also updates our blog and my website at BooksbyTina. Not only is she creative, she is intelligent, reliable, and easy to work with.

You can check out more of her covers at

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Indie vs Traditional Publishing

The Valley of the Sun Romance Authors gave out these tote bags when readers bought our books at the Glendale Chocolate Affaire. Every name on the tote is a published author. Some writers went the traditional route and sold their books to a big publisher like Harlequin, Random House, St. Thomas Press, etc. These authors received advances and will eventually receive royalty checks. They have editors and deadlines. They have the added pressure of keeping their sales up in order to receive future contracts. The added bonus with traditional publishers is they send out thousands of copies of your book to bookstores and perhaps supermarkets.

Some of these writers sold to small digital presses like The Wild Rose Press. Authors who haven't been able to sell their books to the big publishers because they don't have an agent, their book is different than the books these editors are looking for, or they don't want the pressure of dealing with a big house, will often choose a smaller press. These publishers have editors and will send out copies for reviews. They do some promotion for you, but not a lot. The downside is some offer print copies and some don't. The Wild Rose Press does. Also, they often don't send out mass quantities to bookstores. If you choose this route you must make sure you are dealing with a reputable company. Ask other writers about their experiences. I believe every writer should join a professional organization like Romance Writers of America to help you guide your career.

Last, but not least, some of the writers listed on the tote are self-published or "Indie" writers. They usually hire someone to create a cover, then they format the manuscript and download it onto sites like Smashwords and Amazon. They basically cut out the middle man. The upside is the author will receive most of the profit for the book. The downside, besides paying hundreds of dollars to prepare your book for publishing, is the author is in charge of marketing the book. Some authors have found great success, but they also spend hours a day on promotion, and there is no guarantee readers will be interested in your book. Also, you must make sure your book is edited. I suggest getting a critique partner, but there are professional editors out there.
I know a few New York Times Bestselling authors who have decided to give up their big contracts in order to self-publish. These authors already have a following and are finding they make more money now.

How do you decide which route to go? There are many writers asking themselves that question daily. It depends on your goals and how much time you want to spend on promotion. Can you handle deadlines or do you want to set your own deadlines? Is your dream to make The New York Times list or do you simply want to see your book in print? Where do you see your writing career ten years from now? Once you answer these questions, you may be able to start down one of these paths.

Friday, March 15, 2013

Introducing Shobhan Bantwal

It is my pleasure to introduce another member of the Valley of the Sun Romance Writers, Shobhan Bantwal, and her book The Reluctant Matchmaker.

Publisher: Kensington Publishing

When petite Meena falls in love with her strikingly tall and older boss Prajay—a man who's determined to find a bride who will complement his remarkable height and age—how can she convince him that she's the right match for him? Is she strong and tenacious enough to make some sacrifices to fight for the giant she loves?



I hope you will visit Shobhan on Facebook.

Sunday, March 10, 2013


Before my husband and I watched the new Oz movie last night, he told me the critics were not kind. During the show, which I found enjoyable, I wondered what standard they used to review the movie. Were they comparing it to the original Wizard of Oz? The first time I watched the black and white version turn to color I was in awe. Of course, I was a child, but it was magical. We didn't have amazing special effects back then.
Mila Kunis was a wonderful wicked witch, but in my mind, no one can beat the original. If the critics didn't compare it to the original, were they comparing it to other children's films shown over the past few years? Were they comparing it to all fantasy films?

After discussing the matter with my husband, I began to wonder about book critics. With the Internet, there are many places books can be reviewed. An author on one of my Internet writing loops shared a bad review of her book with the group. Her writing friends gathered to console her. This was in the back of my mind when I watched the movie. When book reviewers, who are sometimes writers, review books, are they comparing it to their own work? Are they comparing it to Nora Roberts? Or Stephen King? Are they comparing it to great literary masterpieces? Or are they just letting us know if they were entertained?

Then there is the reviewers mood to consider. Were they happy or did they just get a divorce? Is your hero's name Steve. Guess what? Her ex-husband's name is Steve. Is your hero named Emma. Her older sister she can't tolerate is named Emma. Is your book set in Miami? She got divorced in Miami. Did the reviewer promise to get the review in on Monday and she didn't have time to read beyond the first chapter? Was the reviewer sick? Was the reviewer mad at the world? Was the reviewer upset that your publisher turned down her manuscript? Did this reviewer seek you out to bash because the boy she wanted to attend prom with in high school chose you instead?

Unless you know the reviewer and unless she explains how she reached her conclusions, you are rarely going to know what goes into the review. I am grateful I had excellent reviews. I quote them on my bookmarks and link them from my personal blog. However, I did have a friend, an aspiring writer, review my book on an Internet site. Overall, it was a positive review, but she did have one comment that was less than positive. She thought the romance, in the mainly suspense novel, was a bit stilted. Another friend, a much better writer than the both of us, was outraged. She claimed that wasn't true and was surprised I was still speaking to the other friend. I considered the review and the fact my book isn't heavy on romance. The heroine is a tough agent, not a woman who gives in to her emotions. The next time I saw my friend, I told her I saw the review and I could see how she came to that conclusion and I would watch for it in the future. My advice to my writing friends is to take what rings true as a learning experience and toss out the rest. After all, you never know if the reviewer just burnt dinner, fought with her boyfriend, lost her dog, or broke a nail.

Until Friday,
keep reading and writing.

Sunday, March 3, 2013

Which Way Do I Go?

Whenever I complete a project, I have an idea of where I want to go next. This time, the day I sent my proposal to my agent to begin pitching, a brand new story fell from the heavens into my lap. It is more intense than anything I've written before. But...I had plans to go down another path, a lighter path. What do you do? My grandmother often said, "When you don't know what to do, don't do anything at all." That lasted half a day and then the rest of the story came to me. The new story, the one given to me on a silver platter is the one I have to write. Even when I needed to do a bit of research, the perfect article came to me on the first try. I've decided that if there are times this story becomes too intense, then I'll take the other one out and work on it for a half hour or so to lighten my spirits. We'll see what happens.

Writing is a journey. You never know where it's going to take you.

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Keeping Romance Alive

I guess you could say I wanted to keep the romance of Valentine's alive. My husband and I walked along a street fair last night. On the way to the car, I decided to step into the street where it had been blocked off, yards away from the enclosed fair, and slow dance to the music. It reminded us of the night we danced on the porch of a restaurant when we were the only customers outside. Those romantic moments create memories we will always cherish. As romance writers, we need to include those moments in our novels, but we also need to include them in our daily lives.

Sunday, February 17, 2013

A New Thought on Valentine's Day

As romance writers you could call Valentine's Day our holiday. It's all about love. At least it should be. Some could argue it's about chocolates and flowers. For some, it is about one partner proving to the other how much they are loved. I have to admit, when I was in my twenties I was a member of that club. I was married to a macho Alpha male and I hoped on holidays he would take a moment to divert his attention away from ridding the world of crime to proving his love. Whether he did or didn't isn't the issue. I was expecting a lot because of commercials, societal expectations, and because I wasn't fulfilled as a person.

As we get older, some of us become more philosophical. Thirty years later, I am married to a wonderful man who asks me over and over what I want for holidays. He even picked up a gorgeous bouquet of carnations at the store a week before Valentine's while waiting for my answer. Sure, I could always come up with something if I gave it some thought, but the truth is, I have a new outlook on Valentine's and anniversaries. To me, they should be a celebration of your love as a couple and therefore, about you as a couple. My goal this Valentine's was to find a way to celebrate us by doing something romantic.

The Valley of the Sun Romance Writers hosts a huge booksigning every February at the Glendale Chocolate Affaire. They have chocolate-covered-everything. This year I picked up two chocolate-covered cheesecake slices and froze them. I spent the next few days trying to decide what to do about dinner. I knew restaurants would be crowded and I wasn't in the mood to spend half the evening waiting in line to get inside. On Monday, I attended a working dinner at Claim Jumper and decided to order an extra pasta dish to take home. They make an excellent pasta with artichoke hearts.

On Valentine's morning, my husband and I both hid to sign our cards. We met in the dining room, both grinning, holding up our cards at the same time. It was a touching moment that still makes me smile. When I came home from work, I turned off the lights and turned on the flame-less candles. Our evening was romantic and peaceful. I felt triumphant in the fact I had found a simple way to celebrate our love and it was perfect.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Introducing Anna Questerly

It is my pleasure to introduce my writing friend, Anna Questerly. Her books are for kids ten and older. Enjoy original fairy tales wrapped inside a story, as minstrel, Amos Questerly makes his way from France to England to rescue a young boy from certain death. A boy who unbeknownst to Amos is heir to the throne of England, the most powerful country in the world in 1376.
You can read more about Anna at
Her books are available at Dog-Eared Pages in Phoenix, AZ and on Amazon for print and Kindle versions.

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Glendale Chocolate Affaire Booksigning

Today is the last day to meet local romance novelists and purchase an autographed book at the Glendale Chocolate Affaire. Bring your camera or cell phone to take a picture with our fake novel cover. It has been a huge hit! You might even catch a glimpse of the mayor handing out chocolate-covered strawberries to the authors again.

We are located in the street on the east side of Murphy Park near 59th Ave. and Glendale Ave. from noon to 5:00 PM. For more information go to

See you there!
Tina Swayzee McCright

Sunday, February 3, 2013

Free Writing Workshops at the Glendale Chocolate Affaire

The Valley of the Sun Romance Writers will be hosting free writing workshops at the Glendale Chocolate Affaire Saturday, February 8th and Sunday, February 9th in downtown Glendale. The event site is between 59th Avenue and 57th Drive, north of Glendale Avenue. Check with the romance author booth on the east side of Murphy Park for the exact location of the workshops. For more information on the Glendale Chocolate Affaire visit

List of Free Workshops:

10:00 a.m. to 10:50 a.m.                  
Kris Neri

11:00 a.m. to 11:50 a.m.
Tara Taylor Quinn

12:00 p.m to 12:50 p.m.

1:00 p.m. to 2:30 p.m.
Kris Tualla, Morgan Kearns, Sandra Lee Smith

2:40 p.m. to 4:30 p.m.
Don Kirchner


12:00 p.m. to 12:50 p.m.
Betty Webb

1:00 p.m to 1:50 p.m.
Jennifer Ashley

2:00 p.m. to 2:50 p.m.
Dr. Lois Roma-Deeley

3:00 p.m. to 3:50 p.m.
Laurie Schnebly Campbell

4:00 p.m. to 4:50 p,m.
Carol Webb

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Glendale Chocolate Affaire

Once again the Valley of the Sun Romance Authors will be hosting one of the largest romance author booksignings in the Southwest at the Glendale Chocolate Affaire. You can find our booth on the east side of Murphy Park which is located at 58th and Glendale Avenues.  Event hours are Friday 5 - 10 p.m., Saturday 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. and Sunday noon to 5 p.m.

While strolling through the park, you'll find vendors selling chocolate-covered strawberries, bananas, ice cream, etc. Activities for children include face-painting and rock-wall climbing, plus couples can take a horse-drawn carriage ride. Whatever you do, don't forget to drop by and say hello to the romance writers. We often give out bookmarks and other freebies. This year we will have a  mock romance novel cover cut-out for photo opportunities. Don't forget to bring your camera or cell phone to take that memorable picture.

Romance authors love to meet readers and discuss their books or even their writing process. And if you find books you would like to purchase, not only will the author sign them for you, but our cashier will place your books inside of the red tote bag shown above, which lists the names of some of our authors. (Bags are limited to the first 250 customers.)

If you are interested in becoming a writer, we will also be giving free writing workshops on Saturday.

For more information on the Chocolate Affaire go to