Thank you!

On June 16th, the Many Shades blog will be closed.
The authors thank you for your readership and hope you will come visit them at their personal sites via the links to the left.

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Goodbye to Another Year of NaNoWriMo

Well as November comes to a close so does National Novel Writing Month. To remind all of you, NaNoWriMo is when writers all over the world strive to write 50,000 words in one month. It’s a fun way to either jump-start a career of motivate those who are old to the writing game.

I’m happy to report I did manage to get in my 50K, mostly due to the fact I had deadlines up the wazoo. Not that I’m complaining about said deadlines. I truly consider it a blessing to have a publisher actually wanting my work. I can’t help but reflect about all that has happened in my writing career since last November.

In the year 2007, the small press I had been published with had closed its doors and I was without a home for my books. To say I was disappointed, despondent and depressed would have been an understatement. The last thing I felt like doing was writing. I felt like my career was over before it had even started. I know what you are all thinking. This is the publishing industry and houses come and go all the time. If you’re going to be a writer you need to learn to take such speed bumps in stride. I know that now. But last year, I wasn’t in that frame of mind. I was in a depression that I thought I could never shake.

Then I gave myself an internal bitch slap and let go of the pity. Just because I didn’t have a publisher didn’t mean I wasn’t a writer. So I sat my butt down and started to write Angel’s Blood. I also got out my MS and started to look around for a new publisher. I vowed to myself that I would find a new home for my angels or die trying. Am I ever glad I never gave up.

I found a new home for my Archangel Series, eXtasy Books. Not only is eXtasy bigger and more established than my last house, but the staff there has really helped me and my career grow. In this past year, I have had five of my Archangel Series books published, one from The Drone Vampire Chronicles, One Fantasy Game, plus three shorts in anthologies. Plus, in the next year month I have another FG and a full-length Christmas book coming out. It doesn’t end with that either, in the coming year I have plans for at least three more Archangel Books, two more shorts for anthologies and two Drone Vampire Chronicles.

In retrospect, I now know it was a blessing in disguise when I lost my first publisher, and I can’t help but wonder at the many twists and turns life has for us. I can’t wait to see what this coming year has in store for me.


Thursday, November 27, 2008

It Isn't Really A Party Unless There's a Fight

By A.J. Llewellyn

As somebody who grew up in Australia, with no Halloween, no Thanksgiving, no Twinkies or Tootsie Rolls or M&Ms and tiny corner "milk bars" instead of massive supermarkets, moving to California in 1984 was an adventure I have never stopped appreciating.
My favorite of all the American holidays became Thanksgiving. Partly because my first Christmas here I was so broke my two room mates and I shared a packet of M&M (plain) between us. We tried desperately not to beat up the fourth room mate who'd eaten our carefully collected stash of vegetables we thought we'd hidden in the bottom of the fridge.
The following year, a new friend invited me to Thanksgiving and I met one of the loves of my life, candied yams.
I adore Thanksgiving because I always believed all Americans celebrated it. I loved that a total stranger could be included in a family meal and I loved that you couldn't offend anybody the way you can inadvertently offend by saying, "Merry Christmas."
So I was stunned on Monday when one of my dearest friends told me her 5 year old son - and my cherished and adored Godson (I have 11 Godchildren by the way) - was caught in the middle of political correctness run amok.
I was astounded to learn that a mother at Condit Elementary School in Claremont, CA objected to the school's annual Thanksgiving celebration. For months, these five year olds have been preparing their own Pilgrim and Indian costumes out of construction paper.
They love this holiday.
It's a long-standing, 40 year ritual for Condit and Mountain View Elementary Schools.
According to Mary Raheja, who says she is of the Seneca tribe (They however, say she is not enrolled on their books) it's like celebrating the Holocaust.
She wrote this to her child's teacher: "I'm sure you can appreciate the inappropriateness of asking children to dress up like slaves (and kind slave masters), or Jews (and friendly Nazis), or members of any other racial minority group who has struggled in our nation's history."
Raheja found a few parents to side with her while the The school's superintendent David Cash ruled that after 40 years, yes indeed, dressing up for Thanksgiving is racist.
How ridiculous!
I was so pleased to find on Monday that 90% of the children turned up in their costumes, according to my friend, oblivious to the controversy.
David cash was under police guard and heavy public criticism but in the end, Thanksgiving went as planned and I saw the photos. The kids looked adorable and learned a valuable lesson, the art of completing a task and having people admire their handiwork.
I was pleased that the entire world has NOT gone mad. These are five year olds. Plenty of time for them to learn what happened AFTER that legendary first pot luck meal.
This morning, I lay in bed listening to the news, learning that for the first time ever, a Native American tribe, the Oneidas, is having a float in the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade. Other tribes have participated before but this will be the first tribal float. I wish I could be there to see it in person and will have to settle for television.
I found myself smiling, remembering my first and only Thanksgiving in New York. My brother was living there in a shabby one bedroom apartment on Hudson Street opposite the White Horse Tavern, where Dylan Thomas slipped off his barstool and died.
We woke up, played Bob Marley and sloped off to the Parade, caught up in the pageantry...and later on as we strolled through Little Italy, the pastries.
That to me is what Thanksgiving is all about. Parties, parades and an extra scoop (or three) of yams with my veggies.
Have an awesome Thanksgiving!


Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Back In The Saddle

Since I really didn't have much time this week to write a totally new blog, I decided to look at some of my older writings to see what would be good to use. Yeah, I know I could have given you Part 2 of my WIP and how I creat things but I want to keep you on the hook for that one a little longer so I'm only going to post those once every 2-3 weeks to keep the suspense going.

So I had to find something which would work. And I think I've come up with a winner.

In 2001/2002 I was having an awful time with writing in general. This was just a few years before I was first published and having some of my bleakest times as far as writing goes. But I had a desire and a need to get back to the thing I love. This was one of my first written pieces when I decided it was time to go back. Now, it does have some things which date it but I do believe the that information is still good today. Enjoy!

Now many of you who know me will be wondering what I’m talking about. Those of you who do wonder when I was ever out of the saddle.

Well…for both of you groups, I was definitely out of the saddle. What do I mean? you may ask. For me it is obvious. About 3 years ago, I became disillusioned with life. And writing.

Not that I didn’t want to do either…no, I wanted to write and live life to the fullest. I was disillusioned with the fact that all I did was work. All I did was have a business. I never seemed to have time for any of the things that I loved. Or those that I loved.

Then 9/11 happened. I along with millions watched in horror as icons for our freedom and financial well-being were toppled in front of my eyes. To top it all off, it was my niece’s birthday. I can remember thinking, Oh hell…what a day. I can remember thinking, My god…what’s this world coming to? I can remember thinking, This changes everything.

And suddenly, I was thinking much clearer. I was thinking with the part of myself that had been shut off by business deals and bottom lines. Suddenly, I was thinking about what mattered most in my life: my family and my writing. I had neglected both for many months.

My husband and I no longer took those long walks. My son and I only argued about homework leaving very little time. My oldest was a stranger I barely knew. One of my good friends, who I considered a sister, and I fought constantly about the business. God only knew when I had last called my brother and his family. And Trista and Alfred were languishing in the limbo state of barely finished with many chapters waiting for revision.

And I was on the road to recovery. Recovery of my craft.

The business, which printed financial documents for a mainstay, suddenly couldn’t earn its keep and in April it was decided to close it at the end of May. I started to reconnect with those I loved. I try to take a walk with my husband at least once a week. I care for my youngest everyday…and he drives me crazy but I love it. I love it when my oldest comes in to tell me about his latest accomplishment. (I know his greatest accomplishment will be moving out…he’s 26 and I’m opening the door. J) My friend and I are planning critique sessions.

Trista and Alfred are also on the road to recovery. Along with them, I write at least one article, possibly one poem, come up with some ideas and plan for my next full day, or week if it’s Sunday, of writing. I’m going to write for a living…even though I may need an outside job to keep the hubby happy and pay for business bills.

This time I will make it…I have nothing to lose and everything to gain.
Now having said all that, here are some tips to keep the writing muse alive. Because, even with all I’ve been through, the muse never left me.

1. Writing doesn’t take as much time as you think.

All you need is to give it a little portion of each day. Are there times when you are waiting for something? Like a doctor’s appointment? Your kids? Is there a television show you can live without? If you answer yes to any of these questions, writing can be part of your daily routine. Write things down in a journal, then transcribe them when you used to watch that TV show.

2. Look at the markets weekly.

The markets change daily. This is because of the Internet. Today, writers have more opportunities than ever before. Exploring those markets will usually kick start an idea which will then lead to you finding more time to write. I personally get up each morning and head for my computer. Once I’ve waded through the junk mail, I start looking for new and interesting markets for my work.

3. Make a weekly plan.

I say weekly plan, because life can be so uncertain any more. I tend to plan my life at least 6 months out but for writing I do it weekly. I start on Sunday evening looking at all the guidelines I printed during the week. I then check to see if I’ve written anything that will fit the guidelines. If I don’t have anything, I ask myself if I want to write it. If I do, I put it in the weekly calendar. I plan to have the article done that same day. I then put it down for revision the next day and submission the day after that.

While this may seem ambitious, it’s the only way that I can keep focused and on track. Otherwise, I tend to never get anything done.

4. Read.

I try to read something new everyday. With the Internet, you can read articles and reviews or just about anything. I reserve my evenings for my pleasure reading or study.

5. Research.

I have certain things that interest me…such as medieval medicine. I have always been fascinated with how today’s medical system works in relation to how it really started. Because of that I am constantly reading on this subject. It gives me get ideas for some stories as well a good read about something I thoroughly enjoy.

6. Networking.

Like attracts like. I cannot stress this enough. We are what we eat and whom we hang out with. Laugh you may but it is true. By this I mean, if you truly want to be a writer you will need to network with other writers. This can be done through meetings or conferences, both formal and informal. If you want to write…hang out with writers. Strive to do…not just be a wannabe.

7. Write.Write.Write.

Remember to write, write, write. It’s what makes you a writer.

Hopefully, I’ve given you some bits of wisdom that you can use in your writing life. Life is what life is…we can’t always change it, but we can shape what comes our way. We can make things happen…positive things. And like the old saying goes, it has to start with you. You have to make the changes, you have to want to write, and you have to do it.

And for this woman…I’m back in the saddle again. Permanently.

Anybody got any bag balm?

Until next week...


Tuesday, November 25, 2008


I’m excited, can you tell? I sure everyone can hear me screaming with joy from where ever you are! lol

My anthology has received two reviews. Both were positive, but it is my second review that has me jumping like a kid who just got some chocolate. My second review was from Cocktail Reviews.

For those of you who don’t know, Cocktail Reviews rates reviews by drinks. One flute of Champagne for not good and five flutes for wonderful. If they really like it and consider it “stellar” or better you get a whole bottle of Champagne. Guess what the One Touch, One Glace Anthology received. Just guess. Now, no peeking! lol

Here is the link to the whole review: can peek! We got a WHOLE BOTTLE OF CHAMPAGNE!

Now can you tell why I’m on cloud nine!?

As exciting as it is to see the whole anthology doing well, there is always the feeling of, well…what did they think about mine? Luckily for me, Nutty Nana from Cocktail Reviews took the time to say just a little something about each story. Here is what she had to say about mine:

Forever Guy by Jambrea Jo Jones
Sheriff Samantha Reynolds has a lot on her plate and mind, ensuring that the town of Port is free from crime. So, after being covered in mud after being knocked down by a pig (LOL), she is shocked to find that her brother’s best friend, Jack, has arrived back in town. She’s had a crush on him for years. Has she got a chance with him now he’s back, or will she have to forever hold her feelings inside?
An enjoyable tale in many respects, especially the pig image.

You don’t know how tickled I am that she liked the pig scene. This is one that I included after I finished my story to add a little more oomph and to see it being pointed out just makes me happy to have such wonderful critique partners and beta readers! Without them and my editor I wouldn’t be here!

I always try for a little humor when I write because it is something that I love to read and it is great to know that I was able to add a touch that made someone laugh out loud.

Thank you Nutty Nana and Cocktail Reviews!

I just wanted to say that it is hard for me to believe that a year and a half ago I wasn’t even thinking of writing again. And for this to be happening now, it makes me happy that I picked up the proverbial pen and started putting the crazy people in my head on the computer.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Making Characters Human – Part 5

~ By the light of the moon
Up to now we’ve gone over the basics of character building, using a Sun Sign to develop inner personality and potential and a Rising Sign to see how a character will present him or herself to the world. In this article we’re going to delve deeper and focus on what is called the Moon Sign. For this you will need the character’s ‘birth certificate’ and a way of attaining the Moon Sign. There are plenty of places on the internet where you can plug in the date, place and time of birth to learn this information, just type astrology charts in your search engine and voila. Or you can find what sign the moon was in at the time of birth by using an ephemeris. An ephemeris is an almanac of the daily motions of the planets and stars. This too can be found pretty easily on the internet. Should you not want to go that route, feel free to choose a sign from the lists provided and work from there.“By the light of the moon”What’s a Moon Sign, you ask? It’s the placement of the zodiac sign and the moon at the exact time of your birth. Most experts in the field will say Moon Signs indicate one’s feminine side. Moon Signs also disclose one’s maternal, nurturing nature as well as emotions, habits and patterns. Please note, planet and house placements also play a part in how the natal chart works in developing a person, but for the sake of ease this article will only focus on the basic parameters of Moon Sign. Again, these lists are not comprehensive and should only be used for sparking your creative juices.
Key words/phrases for ~
~ Moon in Aries – directness and spontaneity; energetic and excitable; daring and independent; self-confident in love; feels with its head; impatient; live in the moment; possess inner passion and fire; can take things personally; said to enjoy trouble and confrontations; instinct is to react quickly; quick temper; need excitement and adventure in and out of the bedroom; can be selfish
~ Moon in Taurus – conservative and conventional; determined, self-absorbed and can be stubborn; can be warmly affectionate; must be comfortable in and out of the bedroom; sensual; earthy and strong-willed; persevering; romantic; sentimental; have reliable instincts; rarely spontaneous; need stability, steadiness and security; trustworthy; artistic; can be rigid and obstinate; feels with its senses
~ Moon in Gemini – has lively, inquisitive, curious nature; quick to laugh and to flip to a dark mood; needs constant stimulation; quick to reveal feelings to others and analyze own; feels with its mind; versatile; loves reason; pleasant, witty, and charming; can be moody and irritable; prone to nervousness and worry; generally dislike housework; can be bored by routine, constancy; sociable and friendly
~ Moon in Cancer – has self-protective tendency; emotional and intuitive; can be overemotional; imaginative and creative; can be touchy, moody; feel with its feelings; can be wrapped up in themselves; like security, familiarity, peace and quiet; dislike superficiality; can be devoted and accommodating; can be manipulative and creatures of habit; may act irrationally; can be extraordinarily funny
~ Moon in Leo – has strong emotions; affectionate, charismatic and outgoing; can be easily hurt if not paid attention to; hearty lover; feels with its heart; has positive energy; has happy enthusiasm; can be dogmatic, stubborn and want to be in charge of everything; thinks they know best; can be insecure at heart; has quick acting sense of determination; enjoy entertaining others; may take on the role of comic
~ Moon in Virgo – can react quickly to situations; can have lack of self-confidence and tend to worry; highly rational; talent for debate; intelligent and practical; logical and efficient; can be frustrated by the less methodical; feels with its logic; can enjoy running errands, paying bills, balancing the books; like to feel useful and needed; appreciate simplicity; when unhappy can be fussy and complain
~ Moon in Libra – like harmony and coming together; social; naturally gracious; feels through others; peacemaker; not likely to panic; likes to put others at ease; sympathetic; revel in a good debate; charming; diplomatic; like to argue until they win; flirtatious; gentle and refined; need to exist in partnership to feel truly happy; mental rapport is important
~ Moon in Scorpio – has powerful emotionality; enthusiastic; can be jealous, intense; can be suspicious; quick to judge; holds grudges; intuitive; feel with intense emotions; may attract emotional upheaval, drama; want all or nothing in relationships; fears betrayal; can be loyal, protective partners; radiate strength; can size up people and situations quickly; understands human nature well; intelligent and astute
~ Moon in Sagittarius – always out there, likes to make friends and experience life; love adventure, discovery and a good time; love to be free; feels through its experiences; optimistic and enthusiastic; love challenges; can be restless and impatient; happy and easygoing; helpful; can forget appointments and be considered irresponsible; cheerful and upbeat; love the outdoors
~ Moon in Capricorn – reacts coolly and thoughtfully; tends to be undemonstrative with feelings but that’s because feelings are well managed and handled in an efficient manner; strong need to impress; natural instinct for self-preservation; reserved; remote; thrive on challenges; self-controlled and cautious; disciplined and determined; feels through control; competent; often quite hard on self; need to feel respected and secure
~ Moon in Aquarius – independent; likes to be different, unique; intuitive; can seem to be unattainable; feels through individuality; emotional nature is cool and impartial; charming and magnetic; can have brittle response to others; can be stubborn; extremely observant; often loners at heart; can be emotionally blocked, detached; willful; though not flighty can be unreliable
~ Moon in Pisces – dreamers; sensitive, compassionate, loving; can be easily hurt; can feel sorry for themselves; can confuse dreams with reality; creative; feels through imagination; intensely romantic; can lie not to hurt others; has addictive tendencies; humor tends to be silly and a bit odd; can be absent-minded; soft-hearted, sweet, accepting; seems to know things without actual experience

Gerwick-Brodeur, M and L. Lenard. The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Astrology, 2nd ed. Indianapolis: Alpha Books, 2000.
Parker, Julia and Derek. KISS Guide to Astrology. New York: Dorling Kindersley, 2000.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

But there isn't any snow.

About three weeks ago I was cooking dinner when my high-school son walked in.

“Hey, I have to stay after school tomorrow, we have ski practice.”

Perplexed, I looked out the window. “Hate to break it to you kiddo, there’s no snow.”

He rolled his eyes at me, it’s something ever teenager has mastered to the point of perfection. “We know that, Ma.”

I rubbed my aching head with my hands, something every parent of a teenager has mastered to the point of perfection. “Okay, I’ll bite. How can you ski if there isn’t any snow?”

“We’re going to be doing dry-land conditioning. You know, running, weightlifting, that kind of stuff.”

“Weightlifting?” I echoed. "I don’t recall any muscle heads going down the slopes at the Olympics."

“Whatever. Can I stay or not?”

“Stay where?” my husband asked as he walked in the door.

“Ski practice.” By now my son had gone past the point of eye rolling phase to the hands-thrown up-in-disgust phase.

“But, there’s no snow.”

“They’re going to pump iron.” I replied.

“Since when do you want to join the ski team?” hubby quizzed the boy.

“I’ve always loved to ski and I thought this would be cool. Not only that, the whole team gets to wear cool Spyder coats.”

Yeah, that was his incentive. Forget school spirit, forget the varsity letter, forget the scholarship. My son wanted to be on the team for a flipping coat.

“If you want to join, that’s fine by me,” I conceded. “Just don’t go and do something stupid like break a leg.”

The next day, I walked in from my day-job to find the boy sitting on the couch, a look of despair and embarrassment on his face. One foot was propped on a pillow and there was an ice bag on it.

“What in the hell happened?” I dropped my briefcase and went over to inspect the damage.

“I hurt it at ski practice,” he spoke so low it was almost a whisper.

“The ski practice with no snow?”

The eyes rolled again as he let out a deep sigh. “Yes, that would be the one.”

“But, how?”

“I zigged and my foot zagged. I think I may have sprained it.”

Sprained it? His foot was the size of a football. I uttered the sentence all parents dread, “I think we need to go the emergency room.”

We made the short drive to the ER, the entire way he didn’t say a word. Too upset by thoughts of a lost Spyder coat for idle chit-chat. As the nurse was wheeling him back to his room, she asked how he did it.

“Ski practice,” I announced cheerfully, eagerly waiting her response. Her brow wrinkled in confusion.

“But there isn’t any…”

“…snow,” my son finished. “I know, I know.”

Long story short, the poor kid broke his foot and is going to have to spend the next six weeks in a cast. The sad thing is he can’t even say he was injured during a big ski meet because he was out before one single flake hit the hill. Good news, he will be out of the cast for the last half of the season.

Does this mean he only gets half a jacket?

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Happy Thanksgiving for people who deserve it

Well it's another Thanksgiving and time for more Turkey and cranberry stuffing. Pumpkin and apple pie and good company. But it's also a time to remember those we lost. Those who are homeless and the orphaned children and animals.

I read with agony that even the food banks are going dry in this time of turmoil. It infuriated me when I read about the Executives from the auto industry who had the audacity to cry poverty while flying into Washington in "Private" planes. Oh Boo Hoo spare me please. And they think they are worthy of hard working tax payers dollars to bail them out? Ha! I hope the Dems stick to their guns and continue to say NO.

How about this proposition? They sell their vacation homes, private jets, kids college educations, expensive mansions, their wives diamonds and expensive cars and give all that money back to the people they stole from? Do something good with it and give it to charities? What's the matter? Afraid to live in a middle class world? Well, snap out of it...this IS reality, and one YOU helped create...suffer along with the little people and so be it if you go bankrupt..too bad.

They are part of this financial problem as well. I feel terrible for the people loosing their jobs behind all this, but again it's "GREED" that caused this mess. So now I will sit back and watch them all suffer and don't care one iota if they go belly up. I have a great running truck, I don't need a new one at the prices they charge. Back in the 70's I could buy a brand new car made out of the best steel for $3, you pay $15,000 to $50,000 for a new car. GIVE ME A BREAK! Morons! Get your heads out of your butts.

This is a time for giving to the homeless,single moms with children, elderly, orphaned children and poor animals in shelters...not a hand out for the lying, thieving, s.o.b's in the auto industry and banks.

Happy Thanksgiving Everyone,

AP Miller

Thursday, November 20, 2008


By A.J. Llewellyn

Have you ever ignored 'em?
I don't know what it is about us men but we and I know I am guilty of it particularly, but we like to ignore 'em.
I was once driving up to Haleakala volcano with a friend and the sign ahead, painted in yellow on an old piece of bark read Danger: Turn Back.
I was pissed. It's a long way up to the top of a volcano and I was not going to turn around. I got out, moved the sign a little to the left, drove around it and almost went straight over the cliff.
Ooops. I didn't realize that a fissure in the road erupted and 90% of it gave way.
My friend has not stopped talking about it.
A few months ago my engine light went on and I ignored it. I figured, I have time. I'll get it fixed when I have extra money. Well my car has been driving great and each day I ignore the SERVICE ENGINE SOON light.
My brother however, who is visiting me, freaked when he saw me merrily driving along with that warning.
"Don't look at it," I said. "I don't."
Last night, my car gave up giving me signs. It seized up completely and I believe my mechanic is probably going to tell me it's done. Had it. I looked at it this morning and it's a nice car. It's been great. This is like a divorce. Or is it a death?
I'm not ready to say goodbye. Parting is not sweet sorry. Parting is my own damned fault. Just like a relationship that needs attention, I let my old sweetheart go. I should have seen the signs. Now, I'm shopping for a new car. And paying closer attention to signs. Any signs.

Aloha oe,


Wednesday, November 19, 2008

My Creative Process: Your Glimpse Into a WIP

Okay, I’ll admit when I decided to let you all in on my creative process, my first thought was “What creative process?” See, I considered myself a pantser. You know some one who is always writing by the seat of their pants. Amazing isn’t it, since most of my stuff appears seamless?

See, years ago, I planned everything to the nth detail. And with good reason too. When you do sci-fi or fantasy, those things need to be planned out. It’s one of the reasons that the Crusin’ project is going so slow. When I write those type of stories, I usually write a section and then make sure what I did was correct for the world I had built. And that takes time. There are some stories that I’ve let languish for months just working out the right scenario in my head. If it doesn’t work for me, it certainly won’t work for you.

Now the real reason I can be a pantser today is because I have internalized most of what I used to write down. And somehow, I manage to keep all the facts straight. So basically, I play these little head games with myself whenever I’m at the computer. Sometimes I do write the answers down on a page which I then save to my idea folder or particular story folder. A lot of the times if the story is contemporary I don’t need to do that at all any more.

So just what fuels my creative process you might ask. It can be a lot of things. Some times it people, some times it’s a picture and some times it’s a title. So let’s start at the beginning with a picture this time and I’ll take you through the whole process. And yes, you are seeing the beginnings of what is known as a work-in-progress or a WIP. I always have about ten projects going at any one time because I tend to get bored easily. With all those projects I am never bored.

First, let’s look at this picture that I posted at the top. Intriguing, isn’t it? I love the colors and I just love her stance. And the first time I saw it, I laughed my ass off. Once the humor aspect was done, I started to look at it carefully. Okay…I had this wonderful picture…which brought some very naughty thoughts to mind. Now, just how was I going to use those thoughts?

I stared at it for a few minutes and came up with the title and or tag line “Where’s My Underwear Anyway?” And then I came up with another one “My Underwear is Missing – Do You Have It?” And finally, “Explain to Me Again Why You Have My Underwear?”

I really like, “Where’s My Underwear Anyway?” and decide that’s what I’m going to keep as the title of this work-in-progress. You might ask me how I determine the length of this new venture and I will honestly have to tell you that I won’t know until it’s done. That’s another joy about being a pantser. The stories call me and I answer their call. They tell me how long they are going to be and who the characters are. I follow that train of thinking and work accordingly. Most of the time I have a general word count in mind but it is no way carved in stone.

So, now I have a title and a cover picture. Thank goodness I always put together what I call concept art that goes in with a manuscript. Basically, I put something together and then let my publisher know I want either that cover or something very much like it. Yeah, my creative juices don’t just flow in the writing arena. You’ll see my concept of the cover at the end of this column.

Okay, the next thing I think about is the first line. The first line in any story is the hook. One of the best writing talks I ever went to was called ‘Hook, Line and Sinker’ and it was about the importance of having a great first line. I have given many a talk on the importance of this myself. Once I had the concept down myself, I quickly won a few first line contests put on by the various publishing houses in the late ‘90s. Unfortunately, a great first line can’t be the only thing your story has going for it.

So what am I thinking now in regards to the first line? First, I have to set the scene. We have this woman, who doesn’t know where her underwear is obviously…so who would she be talking to about this? Her girl friends more than likely, right? You betcha! I can see them sitting around a table in a quiet section of the local bar/pub discussing the turn of events. Here’s what I see for that first line and the beginning of this quirky story.

“So…you really don’t know where your underwear might be?”

I stared at my best friend across the table. It sounded so much better when I really wasn’t thinking about it. “Do you have to be so loud?” I put my head in my hands and peered through my fingers at Monica, who’s been my best friend since grade school.

“It’s not my fault that you have the mother of all hangovers. Again. How many times have I told you to stay away from the tequila?” She sighed and sipped on her hot tea. “We’re in Scotland. You’re supposed to be drinking whiskey.”

“I know, I know. It’s to-kill-ya. But please, I gotta figure out where my underwear is.” I sent her my best ‘you have to help me’ look.

“I’ll try but this is just way too funny.” She looked around the almost empty pub. “Just think…this place was the scene of an…underwear napping.” She laughed then winked at me.

“This really isn’t funny, you know.” I lay my head down on my hands. Just thinking about it was making me queasy.

“You’re on vacation, why are you so worried?” She shrugged her shoulders in that typical Monica way.

I looked up at her and groaned. “It’s a working vacation. I’m a lawyer for heaven sakes. I’m supposed to be a model citizen.” I really wished I could do more than just look at her with distain. What I really wanted to do was wring her neck and get that smug expression off her face. “And I’m here with bunch of damn lawyers!” My voice rose and my head immediately began throbbing like a percussion band. I really needed to watch that, I thought as rubbed my forehead.

Monica sat back in her chair and sipped her tea daintily once again. “You really need to get into this Scottish tea. It’ll do wonders for that aching head.”

I grimaced and wished she hadn’t reminded me. My law firm was an international company and when we found out an important conference on international law was being held in Edinburgh, Scotland, we jumped on the chance. Monica and I had toured the continent right out of law school but of all the places we went to, Scotland was our favorite. We had accrued plenty of vacation time and it only took a little time to convince our employers that it would be in their best interest to let us go to this particular conference.

“Would you just quit it?” I mumbled into the table.

“What was that? You don’t remember any of it?”

I looked up with what I hoped was the most ill and forlorn look I could give her. “I wish you’d just stop it.”

She pursed her lips before sitting her tea back on the table. “You know you really shouldn’t be so worried.”

“Why not? Half the lawyers here have already tried to jump my bones and the other half wished they had tried. How do you get away with them not slobbering all over you? And you know how I get when I ‘m drinking tequila.”

She let out a long, low whistle. “Hon, I’m not the all American blonde woman here. And you betcha, I totally understand better than anyone just how you are when you drink that poison. But really, you don’t need to worry as I know who has them.”

This was a shining spot in an otherwise dim day. “You do? Who?”

She smiled at me then with that all knowing bitch smile she uses when she knows she has the superior position. “Yeah, I do.” Monica paused for a minute for effect. If nothing else the woman was dramatic and very effective in the courtroom.. “The stud has them.”

I let my head thump back down on the table. This was worse than I thought.

Not bad for a first try. And yeah, I put this together just for this column. I might tweak it a little but it’s pretty good right out of the chute. I read it to my husband who was standing over me, even he got a kick out of it and that’s pretty hard to do. I’ve decided to do something so totally different with this story that might warrant me passing it off to an agent. We’ll see.

Next time we’ll talk about what I do next in the process. I promise not to leave you hanging too long! Later…and have a great week.


Tuesday, November 18, 2008

The Gushing of a Newbie

This weekend I received a big surprise! My editor sent out our Anthology ARC so we can start getting early reviews! I now have in my possession an electronic copy of my book! Excuse me a moment…*SQUEE* Ok…I’m back. lol Not only did we get these copies we also received this:

Even bigger *SQUEE* It isn’t live until December 9th, but it is up! It is becoming so real. I never thought this day would come.

Last, but not least, our editor gave us a blurb for the whole anthology and I will share it with you here:

Whatever happened to good, old-fashioned romance? Remember reading about a man’s clothed physique, or how a fellow admired a woman in a pretty red dress? How about stories where couples fall in love with just one glance or that first gentle touch? Then open this anthology and enjoy 18 beautiful stories of love lost, love found, intrigue, heartache healed, the miracles of life, passionate admissions, and tearjerkers that make one sigh with longing. From best friends who find romance to time travel to a bit of Christmas magic, step into the realm of hearts on fire and love everlasting.

I really didn’t realize how much it would take to finish a short story, get it accepted and finally published. I also didn’t understand the actual support I would need. Of course there is always the family, but above and beyond family are the people who have no obligation to help, but do it anyway! I’ve been very lucky to find such people on the web. Let me tell you, without Joy Roach and Valerie Tibbs my story would not be out there right now. They are always there when I’m ready to pull my hair out and have a neurotic author episode! There are two other people who really helped me as well, Cindy Jacks and Kensana Darnell. They are my critique partners and friends. These four were there for me from the beginning of my story and they are still here at the end. At least I didn’t scare them off!

I think I have to thank one other person for my big *squee* moments and that would be Faith Bicknell-Brown. She took a chance on a new author and pulled no punches! I’m SUPER glad she was my first editor. She is tough, but GREAT!!

Ok, enough about them. This is all about me, right?! Ok, I’m just kidding, but I just had to say it because my friends and I were talking about diva moments. AND they still haven’t separated my darn skittles! Heehee
Thanks for letting me gush! I’m so excited I really can’t stand it! Just wait until the link goes live! Who knows what will happen then! lol

Monday, November 17, 2008

Making Characters Human – Part 4

Making Characters Human – Part 4 ~ Rise and Shine
Up to now we’ve gone over the basics of character building and using a Sun Sign to develop inner personality and potential. In this article and the next we’re going to delve deeper and focus on more astrological factors concerning one’s personality, motivation and behavior. For this you will need the character’s ‘birth certificate’ and a way of attaining the Rising Sign for this article and Moon Sign for the last article. There are plenty of places on the internet where you can plug in the date, place and time of birth to learn this information, just type astrology charts in your search engine and voila. Should you not want to go that route, feel free to choose a sign from the lists provided and work from there.
“Rise and shine”
What’s a Rising Sign, also known as an Ascendant, you ask? It’s the zodiac sign that was coming over the eastern horizon – rising – at the exact time of your birth. Most experts in the field will say Ascendants indicate how you will express yourself, how you cope with daily issues, and that Ascendants reveal your physical self – the mask you wear for the world. They can also disclose how you will react to new people and situations. In addition, Ascendants are said to hide some aspects of your inner self. Then there are those who say Rising Signs indicate your inner self. No matter how you look at it, Rising Signs influence who you are almost as much as your Sun Sign and Moon Sign do. Please note, planet and house placements also play a part in how the natal chart works in developing a person, but for the sake of ease these last two articles will only focus on the basic parameters. Again, these lists are not comprehensive and should only be used for sparking your creative juices.
Key words/phrases for ~
~ Aries Rising: direct and quick; doers rather than thinkers; forthright and fair; youthful, direct manner; rarely hold grudges; do everything quickly; loves action; independent; attached to the people they hold dear; self-reliant; decision makers; may appear pushy or rude; has natural vigor; adaptable; tendency to oversimplify problems; strongly need a permanent relationship; can be assertive, energetic, selfish
~ Taurus Rising: capable, slow and steady; seem placid and easygoing; tremendous stamina and staying power; loyal; have personal presence/charm; resistant to change; stubborn and fixed in ways; takes practical approach to life; cautious and careful; single-minded; likes security and routine; can be self-indulgent; possessive in love; highly sensual people; seek identity through substance/possessions; likes to always be right; can be patient
~ Gemini Rising: curious; like to learn; like to mingle; can exude an air of impatience; clever; can be bubbly, changeable, talkative, and a little quirky or cool and intellectual; well developed powers of observation; tend to seek freedom and personal space; enjoy intellectual debates; prone to self-examination; make good partners; are encouraging; like using hands and are dexterous; often the life of the party; can appear excitable; can be versatile, restless
~ Cancer Rising: gentle, caring, sweet, compassionate; sensitive to/protective of environment; tend to act shy, withdraw and protect themselves in a new situation or in public; need structure and security in a relationship; likes well-defined rules in a relationship; family-oriented; can be talkative and moody; can be indirect and take things too personally; can be emotional, loving
~ Leo Rising: radiate energy and magnetism; loud; into personal appearance; self-aware; body conscious; can be rash; have temper tantrums; have plenty of staying power and drive; idealistic; can be bossy; demonstrative; have need to be admired; kid at heart; confident; can be generous, creative; organized; has great inner strength; needs partner with strong, independent mind
~ Virgo Rising: understated; shy; analytical; can be cool, critical, stand-offish; aware of body; concerned with physical health and diet; tend to worry; particular about tiny details; have charm; have lack of self-confidence; can be tender and loving when warm up to people; can easily give in; avoids conflict; can be modest, fussy, refined, soft spoken, witty
~ Libra Rising: refined, delicate features; beauty and charm; strong sense of style; attractive; personable; can be easygoing, gullible, nice, pleasant, fair, persuasive; need a partner to lean on; can be self-satisfied; tend to take a line of least resistance; attracted to competent, active partners; can bicker and be competitive in relationships
~ Scorpio Rising: keen sense of purpose; private, secretive; can be possessive, jealous; can be passionate, intense, magnetic, ;need to control; have a lot of presence; seem to look right through people; expert at strategy; drawn to down-to-earth, natural partners; reliability is important; can use manipulation or deception; prone to powerful, intense feelings
~ Sagittarius Rising: somewhat restless, active people; adventurous, explorers; enthusiastic, positive; hopeful; lacks follow through; can be direct, jovial, happy go lucky, philosophical, intellectual; insights are interesting and exciting; love telling others opinions; overly optimistic; great sense of humor; truth seekers; need challenges; naturally self-confident; level headed; need friendship as well as physical intimacy in a relationship
~ Capricorn Rising: can be over or under-confident, positive or negative, depending upon the circumstance; warm and caring; can be prudent, disciplined, calculating, quiet, reserved, responsible, hard-working, dependable ; may be a worrier; need order; project competence; very image-conscious; has strong sense of tradition, family; has driven personality; want to appear successful
~ Aquarius Rising: forward-thinking; progressive; friendly; open; can be sarcastic, full of contradictions, magnetic, independent, humane, distant, private, kind, loving, provocative, irreverent; tends to worry about health or have disdain for medical care; unique and original; tends to dress in off-beat manner; can be resistant to change and stubborn; adept at getting things to work
~ Pisces Rising: sentimental; practice good-will, love peace; intuitive, sensitive to others; tendency for moods to change; can be imaginative, vague, artistic, quiet, shy, dreamy; tends to take on color of surroundings; not a natural leader; can be critical of partners; impressionable; doesn’t have strong decision making skills; need practical, realistic partner; have sensitivity to drugs, irresistible charm

Gerwick-Brodeur, M and L. Lenard. The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Astrology, 2nd ed. Indianapolis: Alpha Books, 2000.
Parker, Julia and Derek. KISS Guide to Astrology. New York: Dorling Kindersley, 2000.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Daughter of a Shop Rat

I am the daughter of a shop rat. As I was growing up, everyday, my father would lace up his grease splattered work boots, pick up his black plastic lunch box, and put in hours of hard labor at the local auto-plant. And I mean hard, back-breaking, mind-numbing labor. For years before he built up his seniority, my father toiled on the assembly line.

Picture, if you will, having to do the same task again and again for endless hours. That may seem easy at first. But as your hands got tired from the repetitive movements, your body ached from the jarring of heavy machinery and the work started to pile up despite all your desperate efforts to keep up, it could become your own personal hell. I remember my father coming home, his face lined with fatigue, his gait stiff because of sore muscles and his hands stained with grease from the machinery. Most of all, I remember the smell. It was a strange mixture of sweat, oil, gasoline, and smoke. I grew to associate that smell with Dad and to this day whenever I smell it I can’t help but smile.

No matter how much pain he was in, or how tired he may be, Dad always had a smile for my sister and me. In that black lunch box he carried every day were two items. The first was a little plastic monkey my sister had slipped in as a gift. The second was a sticker of the Trix Rabbit that I had stuck on the side as a private joke between the two of us.

My dad isn’t the only shop rat in our town, in fact our community is dominated by factory workers. We all drive American cars and supported the union. One of the proudest moments of my young life was seeing the picture of Dad on the front page of the paper. He was holding a picket sign and was huddled around a burn barrel with some of his fellow workers. To this day, whenever I drive by a picket line, I am compelled to tap my horn to show my support.

So you can imagine how the present news of the Big Three being in trouble is heavy not only on my mind, but everyone in the state of Michigan. Now, I’m not going to get political or suggest how we can turn around this whole mess because, quite frankly, I have no idea how we can fix everything. All I am trying to do by writing this is to remind everyone that at the bottom of all these big corporation and the execs that run them are hard-working men and women, like my dad.

I just hope that something is done soon for their sakes.

-Stephani Hecht

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Something Wicked this Way Comes

I wanted to touch on this subject because the news was just wonderful to hear. This week at Night Owls review, Tammie King who is also a good friend of mine, gave the extasy books anthology "Sanguinary Seductions" five stars and gave it reviewers choice.

Which brings me to one of the topics at hand. In a previous post I spoke about writing from the heart. This only goes to show it does work. All twenty-two of those stories were written from the heart, albeit the majority were vampires we all did one heck of a job. Bravo.

Last Saturday I attended the Vegas valley Book Festival with several of my wonderful colleagues and friends. It was a warm sunny day filled with outdoor activities mainly for the children. Andrew and I did have the opportunity of meeting Elvis as we entered the gallery. "Thank you, thank you very much."

Once inside there were tables set up with many authors and their books. I noticed that we were the only table with the naughty books and had to chuckle. We had several onlookers and browsers and a couple authors approach our table. One gentleman came by three times just to swipe the chocolate we had in the basket. The majority of the patrons grabbed all the free books at the table, and that was actually a good thing because it helps to get the authors name out there, we sold our books, not many, but at least we did sell, got noticed and passed out our business cards.

The name of the game was network. This coming April we have another signing scheduled that we are all looking forward to which should give us a better opportunity.

I did have a nice rest, so it's back to the grindstone to finish the books on hold. I also begin a Fall semester online studies at Flamel College for a course and a certification in Paranormal Studies and UFO's so I am looking forward to that. I have plans to go to a few places here in Nevada that are known haunts with a few pros I met here in Vegas who are going to introduce me to the ghosts. One of the places is Armagosa which is where one of my own books is based. I will let you all know what I saw when I get back from there which won't be for another seven weeks.

Until then,

Happy Writing and Reading,

AP Miller

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Call Me

By A.J. Llewellyn

A wise woman once told me that true friendship is never serene.

Maybe that's true, but I like serene. I love good friends and can honestly say I am a good one and I have a few too.

Have you ever thought about somebody you haven't spoken to for a long time and suddenly they call you? I have been thinking about my long lost friend (let's call her Dina) who stopped talking to me three years ago. Attempts to contact her were rebuffed and I debated reaching out one more time when she called me yesterday.

I was so astonished I could only marvel at the synchronicity of life. I was about to babble about how much I missed her when I heard a sharp intake of breath.

"Actually," she said. "I'm calling with a business proposition."

Now I was the one who was having trouble breathing. It's been three years since she cut me out of her life after a 20 year friendship because I begged her to use condoms when she was having unsafe sex with a man she really didn't know.

Yesterday, I listened as she started a spiel that I've heard before and did not want to hear again. She's selling phone service. Not just phone service but a glorified pyramid scheme. She needs people to join in a program whereby you start calling people YOU haven't spoken to for eons, pitching them a product they probably don't want.

The only reason I didn't hang up on her immediately was, as I said, I've missed her. The edge to her tone, the sheer chutzpah of her mission however were mind-boggling.

I told her I was not interested, that I could not possibly cram one more thing into my already crowded schedule.

The thing about these telephone-cable-Internet cable deals is that the same person has written the script and I knew what was coming next.

"This job is perfect for busy people, A.J! It practically sells itself."

Oh, really? Is that why she let her fingers do the talking to contact me as she thumbed through her Rolodex?

I was pleased in a way that I was evidently still on it. Not pleased about why she was reaching back to the future to contact me.

Many years ago, I got a phone call from an old lover who called to apologize for his abusive behavior to me, five years after the fact. He was in AA and it was required in his recovery steps. I personally could have done without the phone call. I could have lived forever without having to rake over those old coals, to forgive him for his greater good, not mine.

But I digress.

Dina's not a good saleswoman. She didn't even attempt to add a little sugar to the medicine she was trying to shove done my throat.

Whilst I struggled to understand why she thought it was okay to contact somebody she chose to excise from her life with a business proposition, showed me how far we as a race have fallen. There are some truly wonderful, magical people in this world and for many, a shot in the dark, a call out of the blue from somebody who used to be a big part of the fabric of their existence is a beautiful thing.

But in this day of overwhelmed senses, of endless marketing schemes, somebody trying to sell you something, it's a grimy, unpleasant feeling when you realize that shot in the dark is just that. Fling your business BS to the wall and see what sticks.

Dina is having a gathering at her place tonight to lure the unwashed masses into her scheme. You can bet I won't be there. I wonder how many will. She read off a few names and I realized at least two of the people were others she dropped at whim.

I hope one day she calls me just to say hi.

Or maybe I don't.

I'm pretty sure she won't and for the first time in three years I can say that's just fine. I'm beginning to think I didn't know her at all. I'm beginning to appreciate serene. I have some true friendships that have it. Even without a calling plan.

Aloha oe,


Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Motivating the Writer

First let me apologize for posting this blog so late. Normally I have it up in the morning, early morning like right after midnight. This week though, I must be fighting off a flu bug or something as I’ve been sleeping a lot and having a lot of headaches. Then of course, it could be the totally new food regime that my naturopath has put me on. LOL! Time will tell.

On Saturday of this week a group of eXtasy authors joined together and were part of the very first Las Vegas Book Fair. It was held in the oldest school in Las Vegas and right downtown. I loved the old hacienda style place and would love to have a house like that one someday. And they have restored it beautifully. The book fair was held in this grand old place over three days. There were poetry readings, a children’s area and over 80 local authors showing what we’ve done.

I just love getting together with my fellow authors and talking about writing. We talked and talked and talked. We talked about eXtasy, we talked about NYC, we talked about other markets, and plotting and just everything. There is nothing more motivating than getting together with other authors. It energizes you and makes you want to accomplish all those things you have been putting off for who knows just how long.

So, I decided to look at some of the other things that motivate me as well. There are lots of them but for today, I’ll only look at two of the things which motivate me to be a better writer as well as to just write every day.

The first I want to touch on is TV. Now this one can be a blessing or a curse and every writer knows this. But those also in the curse column would be email, blogs and the internet as they can pull you off task very easy. For me, I decided to start recording all my shows to watch during some down time. And I have a long list of shows. Right now the ones I watch regularly are Sanctuary, Stargate Atlantis, House, Grey’s Anatomy, Private Practice, and Fringe. These are all my very, very favorites and if just one of them doesn’t happen during a week a feel deprived.

From each I get something. From Sanctuary, I get my oddity fix as it is about a group who offers a haven for those who are different. From Stargate Atlantis, I get my hunk fix as I really have a thing for Ronin Dex and then there’s the need to roam the universe. From House, I get my irreverence fix. From Private Practice, I get my doctor/patient fix. From Grey’s Anatomy, I get my adrenaline rush. And from Fringe, well, let’s just say that Fringe is one of those series which get under your skin almost immediately because it is so off, it’s fantastic. Sigh.

Yeah…I love my TV…I know you’re wondering just how does that help me as a writer? Well, every time I watch one of those different shows, I get something for a book I’m writing. Stargate, Sanctuary and Fringe constantly give me ideas and various different things for the sci-fi books I so love to do. In the others, I find something for the contemporary works I do.

Another one of my motivators is music. Believe me, I listen to a gamut of different sounds. One on my favorite is movie themes. Many times a specific scene is brought to mind by the music and many times that scene is exactly what I need to spur the creative juices to flow. I also like soft jazz and Celtic music. My iTunes has so many songs on it that I can listen for at least 5 full days before I would need to buy something new. And everyone of the songs there gives me something new every time I listen to it.

All these things can move me to write more and better stories. What motivates you to become the best you can be?

Until next week.


Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Sweating with Sven

Yesterday was my first day of Sweating with Sven:
My goal is to write 1,000 words a day. And my first day was sucessful with 1,020 words! The cool thing about Sven is they put in 7 free days and you should still make your goal. I know that I want to finish Unseen Path and I’m hoping Sven will be the push I need. They have check-ins and the authors encourage each other. I’ve done this once before, but I quit before it was through. I plan on sticking it out this year. What is different you might ask, well let me tell you. This year I am more focused. My characters are actually talking to me and I know it is with in my power.

I think focus is my main issue. I tend to get distracted by so many ideas. Sven will help me focus on one. I know that every night I need to sit down once my son is in bed and write 1,000 words. I also know I can do it. I can do a 500 word flash no problem. I think it is a mental thing to tell you the truth. And lately I’ve been in a little slump writing wise. I think that has to do with the two stories that are finished that need edits. One is around 30,000 and I have a “was” infestation I need to take care of. The other is a short m/m, my first that still needs a little work. I need to take my focus off of them for just a bit and work on this new idea. See…I need focus. I’m all over the place. Lol

There is another writing challenge out there, but it seems overwhelming to me so I didn’t sign up. The authors that sign up for this one impress me. With the other things going on in my day to day life, I just don’t see me being able to complete NaNo! That would just discourage me so I will stick with Sven and let him sweat my 1,000 words a day out of me and enjoy every minute of it. It will feel like I’m in boot camp all over again!
Good luck to everyone participating in these writing challenges and I hope it helps you as much as it is going to help me. Failure is NOT an option! lol

Monday, November 10, 2008

Making Characters Human – Part 3

Making Characters Human – Part 3: Bathing in the Sun ~ the other half

In part two we went over the basic personality traits of the human you’re creating through the use of the character’s Sun Sign.
Again I’d like to reiterate that this is not the work of the occult or for fortune telling. Here the use of astrological aspects is to develop a character. Think of yourself as a detective putting the pieces of a puzzle together to see what makes a person do what they do.
“More to the Sun Sign ~ Stuffing those bags to the hilt…”
So you’ve matched the date on your character’s ‘birth certificate’ to those on the list to find out his or her Sun Sign and you’ve found some positive and negative traits of the sign to build up the character’s personality. Now we’re going to take a glimpse at what makes them tick in regard to Love/Sex, Career/Money, Family/Children, and Health/Leisure. Keep in mind the following lists are by no means comprehensive. We’re only touching the tip of the astrological iceberg here and still have other aspects of the character’s natal chart to cover in the next two articles. Also, each sign has listed who they are said to be compatible with. You may want to take note of this if you’re writing a second character to match with your main character. And, because opposites do attract, those are noted as well. A worksheet is included at the end of the article for you to use as a guideline.

Fire Signs are: lively, aggressive, active, dynamic, thrive on work, action, innovation, and challenge
~ Aries – March 21 to April 20
Said to be compatible with: other Aries, Leo, Sagittarius, Gemini and Aquarius; Opposite – Libra
Love/Sex: tend to fall in love/lust at first sight; liable to have a high sex drive; passionate, fastidious lovers; courtship can be ignored; can be selfish in the bedroom; promiscuous
Career/Money: makes for good athletes and climbers, doctors, explorers, soldiers, sailors and airmen, and leaders; courageous leaders; do not make very good followers; responsible; need engaging environment; likes to spend money and has to learn how to save
Family/Children: can have tendency to put family second; highly devoted to their children; defensive and loving; not big on being a homebody
Health/Leisure: energy needs to be properly used; tend to be accident prone; prone to headaches, sunstroke, neuralgia, depression, indigestion, nervous disorders; competitive sports are important; leisure time might be spent doing the same thing that’s done at work; do-it-yourself jobs; investing; interest in astronomy/astrology
~ Leo – July 23 to August 22, 23
Said to be compatible with: other Leos, Aries, Sagittarius, Gemini and Libra; Opposite – Aquarius

Due to the length of this article, it has been truncated for the blog. For the full article and worksheet please visit:

Sunday, November 9, 2008

One Step at a Time

As many of you may recall around a month ago I blogged about my daughter and her learning disabilities. She’s seven-years old and cannot read beyond a few simple words. This would be a challenge for any parent, but I think it stings even more for an author like me. To know that my own child is unable to read a book when I live create them is a cruel irony.

This past week it was time for parent-teacher conferences again. After the last disastrous event, I approached this one with a small amount of trepidation. There are so many teachers and aids involved in my daughter’s care that the table resembles a meeting at the UN. Okay, maybe I exaggerate a bit, but it was still three against one. My husband was off doing other parental duties, so I was going it alone.

I approached the table, sat in the chair that was ten sizes too small, and waited. Slowly, one by one, the teachers smiled at me. Not only is she doing better this year, she is improving by leaps and bounds in all areas. She is starting to read more, she is finally making friends and her speech is clearing up more and more each day. There is still a lot of hard work ahead for all of us, but I am finally seeing a light at the end of the tunnel. The speech therapist said she had recorded my daughter as she spoke and that had been a real turning point. She never realized how she jumbled her words until then.

I left the meeting with a bounce in my step, stopping by to gossip with some of the locals and then to buy cookies from the PTA. I arrived home at the same time as the rest of the family.

“How was school today?” I asked my daughter as she came bouncing in.

“Good, we voted for the president today.” She had already found the cookies and was diving in.

I cocked my head to the side. Democracy in the second grade? “Who did you vote for?”


It only took me second to translate. “You voted for Obama? Why?”

“Mom!” She gave me her best duh stare. “I voted for him because he looks gooooooooood. I love his smile.”

“Sounds like a good reason to me,” I conceded. “Do you want to read a book before dinner?”

Her big brown eyes danced with delight as she scrambled to her bookshelf.

-Stephani Hecht

Saturday, November 8, 2008

What justifies a marriage?

I was floored by proposition 8 in California banning gay marriages.
Now being a person who has many friends and a cousin who is gay, I am totally wiped out and angered by this one.

What justifies a marriage? Forget the traditional man and woman, marrying within your religion and culture...WAKE UP people! This is a new world, a new millennium and there is no more right or wrong or for that matter the right morals. Take a look at what the Catholic Priests are doing and tell me there are morals.

Years ago children were raised to be bigoted, prejudice and plain bullies. Today our society is made of of a "yellow" race...we are no longer black or white, why? because we don't see color anymore we see people.

So what gives society a right as a whole to decide who marries whom? Why is it such a major issue to prevent same sex marriage when people are marrying outside their culture and religion? Who are these people to judge?

Judge yourselves...take a good look at yourselves, your bigoted, racist selves. Maybe you should be throwing the book at yourselves. It doesn't matter who you are, what race you are what religion you are whether you are a man or woman. If you are in love you are entitled to happiness.

Get over the old ways and get back into reality. Gay marriages are here and they are here to stay, it doesn't matter what your sexual preference is, if you are happy go for it!

To all my gay friends and family...wear your hats proudly and be happy...snub those who snub you...better yet pity them, because they are not you!



Thursday, November 6, 2008

Cause and Effect

By A.J. Llewellyn

"Daddy, are we getting a divorce?"
These were the traumatized words my friend Tracy woke up to yesterday morning. His daughter Eleanna shook him awake, having heard the news on the radio that Proposition 8, the measure to ban gay marriage had passed.
Tracy opened one eye and nudged his husband Chris, beside him. They already knew the news but thought they'd done a good job of protecting Eleanna from the truth.
Chris and Tracy were one of the first couples to get married five months ago on Super Saturday, the very first day gay marriage became legal in California.
Gay or straight, it was the best wedding I ever went to. There was a glow over those marriages. Each couple lined up had waited years for the privilege of exchanging vows, the biggest smiles I noticed were on the faces of the parents and children of the brides and grooms.
In one ghastly evening, Chris and Tracy became one of the 18,000 couples whose marriages are now in jeopardy.
"No," Tracy told her firmly. "We are not getting divorced."
I blogged about Chris and Tracy's romantic background some months ago, the adoption of their little girl and their magnificent wedding this summer. On Tuesday night we watched Obama's historic speech together, stirred by the powerful tide of change...then watched, aghast as Prop 8 passed into law, albeit by a slim majority.
Chris's mother called first, sobbing from her home in San Francisco. My father called them and me from his cruise in the north seas, distressed.
"I don't want to go to school," Eleanna wept yesterday morning. "What if my friends are mean to me? What if they say we shouldn't be married? I like being married, daddy."
Half her class went to the wedding, but beyond fighting over chunks of wedding cake, gay marriage has never been an issue in her class room, despite but the proponents of Prop 8 will tell you. Now, suddenly, thanks to some shock jock on morning radio, Chris and Tracy's little girl was learning about hate, ignorance and fear.
For Eleanna, her parents' wedding was her big day, too. At the time I blogged about this beautiful day, I said that if all proponents of Prop 9 could have seen the love at all those weddings on Super Saturday, they would re-think their stand.
Chris and Tracy spent a lot of time yesterday morning, assuring their normally sunny, upbeat daughter that no matter what, her family was intact. Tracy made them all breakfast, Chris kissed his loved ones goodbye and went to work. Tracy looked out the window, watching his husband drive away. The street looked the same, the car looked the same, his neighbor waved to him as usual. Nothing had changed, yet, everything had changed.
He told me that in that moment he thought, 'What harm did we do to anybody else getting married? What harm have any of the 18,000 marriages done to anybody?'
The answer was none.
He made his daughter's lunch, Eleanna being picky about her sandwich's contents, arguing about fruit versus cup cakes - business as usual. He drove her to school and despite her trepidation, her friends greeted her the way they usually did.
"Hey, Eleanna, did your dad bake cupcakes?"
Tracy hugged his little girl goodbye, called me to see if I was up for coffee, and of course I was. Big, strong, hunky, muscular Tracy walked into my house and for the first time in the 12 years I've known this man, stood in my doorway and cried.
His concern was for his daughter, for all the children so loved by their parents who are now scrambling to cope with new legislature which as of this morning has seen same sex partners already being denied marriage licenses.
"Nobody can take your wedding day away from you," I reminded Chris, searching for some nugget of good out of the wreckage.
"True." He finally laughed. "And they can't take away all the wonderful gifts we got. I'm in love with my pasta maker...oh and the cappuccino maker. They can take back the Martha Stewart cookbooks I got with that Macy's gift card. None of her recipes work. I swear that woman leaves out one ingredient in each recipe, just to make us all feel like morons."
Tracy stopped talking. "A.J. is your kitchen tap still leaking?"
I grimaced.
"What am I going to do with you?" He stomped up my stairs, found the nifty tool box I bought but am hopeless at actually using and searched through all the tiny plastic boxes for washers and bolts. At least, I think that's what he said.
He went outside and turned off the water mains, attacking the pipes with a wrench. He chatted with my loony old next door neighbor, who for some reason, always recognizes Tracy when she hardly remembers her own name.
"Can you fix my blinds?" she asked him. He went into her house and did his thing, walking back to my house with a murderous look on his face.
"She just told me she voted Yes on 8."
I was stunned. Chris, Tracy and I are always helping her out, taking care of her yard, fixing burnt out lights, taking garbage bins in and out, rescuing her cat from tall name it.
"She said she thought long and hard about it, but was worried about children." Tracy looked dangerously red in the face. "I told her 'What about my child?' and she said, 'Oh, she's a sweet little girl.' "
So there you have it. Democracy in action.
He picked up a screw driver and walked toward the front door.
"Where are you going now?" I asked him.
"To fix her front door. Her screws are loose."
We looked at each other and laughed.
I put on another pot coffee and thanked heaven that it's hard to keep a good man down.

Aloha oe,


Wednesday, November 5, 2008

The Wave of Change

While this is not a political blog, I can’t write this week’s blog without acknowledging what has happened in our world for those of us in the US and everywhere. Tonight, we made history and voted for change, massive change, in the form of US president-elect Barack Obama. Whether you were for or against him, you all must admit our world has changed and we are now part of history in some small way.

But along with this change comes quite a bit of my own. This past week, I was informed that the shop where I’m a reflexologist will probably be closing down at the end of November. While that might be extended until the end of December, I find myself out of my two paying part time jobs.

Now, this can be a blessing or a curse. I can look upon this as being the gods screwing with me in a bad way or that they are trying to tell me something entirely different. As much as my sometimes pessimistic self would love to say that they are wishing me harm, I know it’s the other reason.

How do I know this you may ask? Well, may it was the last five fortune cookies that told me I was going to face change, I was going to have a career change and that soon I would be doing something I loved so I had to become prepared. Huh? Yeah, weird but true. Within a three week period, every time we went to Chinese my fortune cookie told me to be ready for a big change in my life.

At first, I thought that it was telling me about the troubles my youngest was having with his Type 1 diabetes. Then I thought that maybe it was the rejection I just had or the fact my shop was closing or…what? How many signs does one woman need?

I am a great believer of Karma and what goes around comes around. Over the years I have always put my writing career second over work and family. In the last few months, I have been pushing myself to make it more of a priority. The moment that I allowed it to finally float to the top, things start going awry and I thought again, maybe this wasn’t my time.

But this time, the way events were going awry was pushing me more and more toward writing full time. Everything pushed me in that direction. Everything. My youngest even said to me recently how my writing all the time would make life more flexible for whatever reason. Sigh. Out of the mouths of babes.

The final straw came yesterday with this fortune: Prepare yourself for a change of events in your personal life. Okay. The writing is definitely on the wall, no pun intended. I am supposed to be writing and it is high time I accepted that fate. About three years ago, my DH had given me the opportunity to stay at home and write full time. I had always wanted to do just that but for me, the time just wasn’t right. And while I’m a little skeptical this is what I’m supposed to do, this is what I am definitely committed to do.

Most of authors have outside jobs to sustain themselves. Very few of us are lucky enough to be earning money every month from writing. I had already passed that hurdle as I have been steadily earning money for the past two years. But now, I had to decide this would be my income, my contribution to the family and myself: this time I would make it work for everyone.

And you know, from the moment I decided this early on Tuesday morning, I have been at peace with the decision.

Then it may just be the writing is flowing from me like water from a pitcher. Just today, I’ve managed to put together three new ideas, finish one short story and continue on another one. In total, I’ve written almost eight thousand words just today. Who knows what I can accomplish if I can continue that pace?

Guess I’m going to find out.


Tuesday, November 4, 2008

I'm Addicted

That is right, I’m addicted. You might ask what I am addicted to. *sigh* Blog writing contests. That’s right, I’ll confess. They say admitting you have a problem is the first step, right? So I’ll say it loud and proud, I’m addicted to Blog writing contests. *whew* that wasn’t too hard. *grin*

I do have a reason for bringing this up, I swear. I enter them to help me stretch my writing. It forces me to focus and maybe write something I normally wouldn’t. My first couple of contests I didn’t win, but the experience was worth it. Then I entered a contest to write a hot f/f (female/female) scene. I WON! I was totally shocked and did not expect it at all because it was something I didn’t even know if I could write. Now it is a work in progress that I hope to get back to soon.

Recently, I entered a Halloween contest. I was very excited with my feedback. A lot of people asked if it was a work in progress. At that time it wasn’t, but…things do change. I’ll get back to that. Ok, the five people who had the most positive comments would go on to a judging round. I campaigned HARD for this. I wanted to make sure I stayed in the top five because I wanted to see what the judge (who is an editor for a publication company) had to say. You can just imagine my excitement when I was not only in the top five, but the top three! Then it became a waiting game.

I just found out the results and I came in fourth. I am very happy with fourth place. I was among four other fabulous authors and it really was an honor to be among them.
There was more good news. Remember when I said earlier that things change? The editor offered all five of us a chance to finish our story and submit it. How awesome is that?! The cool thing, this publisher is closed to submissions unless you are already an author with them or through invitation! I feel so lucky!

Now the real work begins because I have no idea where I’m going to take my story. This is the part I have the most fun with, the idea of what to write. Who are my characters? Why is she at this house? Why is there a cage in this person’s bedroom? Who is she trying to help and why? They are all questions I’ll have to answer before I can really start writing.

So I would say being addicted to Blog writing contests isn’t always a bad thing. *grin* The outcome can be very promising.

Monday, November 3, 2008

Making Characters Human – Part 2

Making Characters Human – Part 2: Bathing in the Sun ~ the first half

In part one we went over the basic characteristics of the human you’re creating and at the end of the article mentioned packing the character’s bags. Now we’re going to delve deeper and create a believable character through the use of astrology.
Ah, there’s the collective gasp I expected to hear from the many reading this.
No, this is not the work of the occult or for fortune telling. Here the use of astrological aspects is to develop a character. Think of it as psychological profiling. You’re a detective putting the pieces of a puzzle together to see what makes a person do what they do. You know what they look like, where they’re from. You have their birth certificate in your hand, but what do you do with that?
“Hey baby, what’s your sign?”
For now we’ll stick with the basics of astrology and work with just the Sun Signs. A Sun Sign by definition is the position of the Sun at the time of birth and is the strongest representation of who someone is, representing self, willpower and creativity. To find a Sun Sign take the month and day off the birth certificate and correspond it to the list below. Please note, if your character was born on a cusp, a date close to changing into another sign, you’ll need to take into consideration the traits of both signs. The cusps mark where each Sun Sign begins. Since the exact hour at which the sun moves from one sign into the next is different every year it’s a good idea to take the hour and minute one was born and check an astrological ephemeris to determine the person’s true Sun Sign. If you don’t plan to use a birth time to ascertain your character’s true Sun Sign, then just take qualities from the neighboring signs. Here’s an example of what happens when someone is born during a change from one sign to another. A friend of mine was born on a cusp date and for the longest time she believed she was a Scorpio. After a bit of conversation and obtaining her birth information from her, I did her natal chart. Turns out she was in fact a Libra. If she had been born three hours and twenty minutes later, then she would have been a Scorpio. In my trilogy I used the cusp factor for the birth of the triplets, which is why the oldest daughter is different in her personality than her two sisters. I had the oldest be born under one sign and minutes later the other two were born under the next sign. Also, because of the movement of the sun and the differences between astrologers, the dates of the signs can vary. Some of those variations are listed below.
So, what sign does your character have? Match the date on your character’s ‘birth certificate’ to those on the list to find out and then use the positive and negative traits of the sign to build up the character’s personality. Keep in mind the following lists are by no means comprehensive. We’re only touching the tip of the iceberg here and still have other categories to cover in the next three articles.
Now, let’s start packing your character’s bags.

Fire Signs are: lively, aggressive, active, dynamic, thrive on work, action, innovation, and challenge
~ Aries – March 21 to April 20
Positive Traits: adventurous, energetic, pioneering, courageous, enthusiastic, confident, dynamic, quick-witted, frank, direct, candid, make enthusiastic and generous friends, intellectual, objective; Likes: action, coming in first, challenges, championing causes, and spontaneity
Negative Traits: selfish, quick-tempered, impulsive, impatient, foolhardy, daredevil, easily irritated by slowness or moderation in companions, can ride roughshod over the sensitivities of others, can be in rare situations bigoted and extremist in religion and politics; Dislikes: waiting around, admitting failure, no opposition, tyranny, other peoples’ advice
~ Leo – July 23 to August 22, 23
Positive Traits: strongly idealistic, humane, beneficent, open, sincere, genuine, trusting, outgoing, spontaneously warm hearted and plain spoken, generous, creative,
enthusiastic, broad-minded, expansive, faithful, loving; Likes: speculative ventures, lavish living, pageantry, grandeur, children, drama
Negative Traits: can display extreme arrogance, autocratic pride, haughtiness, and excessive hastiness of temper, self-centered, have a greed for flattery, boastful, pompous, patronizing, bossy, interfering, dogmatic, intolerant; Dislikes: doing things safely, ordinary, day to day living, small minded people, penny pinching, mean spiritedness
~ Sagittarius -- November 23 to December 21, 23
Positive Traits: optimistic, freedom-loving, jovial, good-humored, honest, straightforward, intellectual, philosophical, enterprising, energetic, versatile, adventurous, eager, wide ranging mind, equipped with foresight and good judgment, can be witty conversationalists, think rapidly, are intuitive and often original; Likes: traveling, getting to the heart of the matter, freedom, laws and meanings, the general 'feel' of things
Negative Traits: blindly optimistic, careless, irresponsible, superficial, tactless, restless, can be exacting, domineering, inconsiderate, prone to anger, impatient; Dislikes: off the wall theories, being tied down domestically, being constrained, cooling your heels, bothered with details

Earth Signs are: matter-of-fact, controlled, ambitious, dedicated, determined, practical, modest and conventional
~ Taurus – April 21 to May 20, 21
Positive Traits: patient, reliable, warmhearted, loving, persistent, determined, placid, security loving, solidity, extreme determination and strength of will, stable, balanced, keen-witted, dependable, steadfast, prudent, just, firm and unshaken in the face of difficulties; Likes: stability, being attracted, things natural, time to ponder, comfort and pleasure
Negative Traits: jealous, possessive, resentful, inflexible, self-indulgent, greedy, too slavish to the conventions they admire, may be obstinately and exasperatingly self-righteous, unoriginal, rigid, ultraconservative, argumentative, querulous bores, stuck in a self-centered rut; Dislikes: disruption, being pushed too hard, synthetic or "man made" things, being rushed, being indoors
~ Virgo – August 23, 24 to September 22, 23
Positive Traits: modest, shy, meticulous, reliable, practical, diligent, intelligent, analytical, observant, shrewd, critically inclined, judicious, patient, practical supporters of the status quo, and tend toward conservatism in all departments of life, sensible, discreet, well spoken, wise and witty; Likes: health foods, lists, hygiene, order, wholesomeness
Negative Traits: fussy, worrier, overcritical, harsh, perfectionist, conservative, old-maidish, persnickety, carping and nagging, overspecialization; Dislikes: hazards to health, anything sordid, sloppy workers, squalor, being uncertain
~ Capricorn – December 22, 24 to January 20
Positive Traits: practical, prudent, ambitious, disciplined, patient, careful, humorous, reserved, confident, strong willed and calm, hardworking, unemotional, shrewd, responsible, persevering, and cautious to the extreme, think profoundly and deeply; Likes: reliability, professionalism, knowing what you discuss, firm foundations, purpose
Negative Traits: Pessimistic, fatalistic, miserly, grudging, methodical, tough, stubborn, unyielding way, capricious, flippant, somewhat self-centered, wary and cautious; Dislikes: wild schemes, fantasies, go-nowhere jobs, ignominy, ridicule

Air Signs are: lively in mind, fluent in expression, energetic, intellectual, eccentric, freedom-loving, aggressively social and great communicators.
~ Gemini – May 21, 22 to June 21
Positive Traits: adaptable, versatile, communicative, witty, intellectual, eloquent, youthful, lively, has virtue of versatility, affectionate, courteous, kind, generous, and thoughtful towards the poor and suffering, very adaptable, adjusting themselves to control the world around them by means of their inherent ingenuity and cleverness, keen, intuitive, love cerebral challenges; Likes: talking, novelty and the unusual, variety in life, multiple projects all going at once, reading
Negative Traits: nervous, tense, superficial, inconsistent, gunning, inquisitive, two-facedness and flightiness, unscrupulous lying, and cunning evasiveness; escaping blame by contriving to put it on other people, wrapped up in all the charm they can turn on, can become pessimistic, sullen, peevish and materialistically self-centered; Dislikes: feeling tied down, learning, such as school, being in a rut, mental inaction, being alone
~ Libra – September 23, 24 to October 22, 23
Positive Traits: diplomatic, urbane, romantic, charming, easygoing, sociable, idealistic, peaceable, elegance, charm and good taste, are naturally kind, very gentle, and lovers of beauty, harmony, balanced, even tempered; Likes: the finer things in life, sharing, conviviality, gentleness
Negative Traits: Indecisive, changeable, gullible, easily influenced, flirtatious, self-indulgent, impatience of criticism and a greed for approval, frivolity, shallowness, impatient of routine, colorlessly conventional and timid, easygoing to the point of inertia, extreme extravagance; Dislikes: violence, injustice, brutishness, being a slave to fashion
~ Aquarius – January 21 to February 19
Positive Traits: friendly, humanitarian, honest, loyal, original, inventive, independent, intellectual, humane, frank, serious minded, genial, refined, sometimes ethereal, and idealistic, though this last quality is tempered with a sensible practicality; quick, active and persevering without being self-assertive, express with reason, moderation and sometimes, a dry humor, concise, clear and logical; Likes: fighting for causes, dreaming and planning for the future, thinking of the past, good companions, having fun
Negative Traits: Intractable, contrary, perverse, unpredictable, unemotional, detached, condescending, fanatical eccentricity, wayward egotism, excessive detachment and an inclination to retreat from life and society; tendency to be extremely dogmatic in their opinions; may express a lack of integrity in broken promises; secretive, cunning, simmering anger and resentment, rudeness; Dislikes: full of air promises, excessive loneliness, the ordinary, imitations, idealistic

Water Signs are: sensitive, intuitive, compassionate, loving, sensual, and imaginative
~ Cancer – June 22 to July 22
Positive Traits: emotional, loving, intuitive, imaginative, shrewd, cautious, protective, sympathetic, purposeful, energetic, wise, conservative and home-loving nature, kind sensitivity to other people; Likes: hobbies, romance, children, home and country, parties
Negative Traits: changeable, moody, overemotional, touchy, clinging, unable to let go, can appear formidable, thick-skinned, unemotional, uncompromising, obstinately tenacious, untidy, sulky, devious, inclined to self-pity because of an inferiority complex, brood on insults (very often imagined), yet are easily flattered; can be tactless and difficult; Dislikes: aggravating situations, failure, opposition, being told what to do, advice (good or bad)
~ Scorpio – October 23, 24 to November 22
Positive Traits: determined, forceful, emotional, intuitive, powerful, passionate, exciting, magnetic, pleasant to be with, thoughtful in conversation, dignified, and reserved, yet affable and courteous, persuasive, strong reasoning powers; Likes: truth, hidden causes, being involved, work that is meaningful, being persuasive
Negative Traits: jealous, resentful, compulsive, obsessive, secretive, obstinate, brooding, aggressive and sadistic brutality, total arrogance, morbid jealousy, extreme volatility of temperament; Dislikes: being given only surface data, taken advantage of, demeaning jobs, shallow relationships, flattery and flattering
~ Pisces – February 20 to March 20
Positive Traits: Imaginative, sensitive, compassionate, kind, selfless, unworldly, intuitive, sympathetic, gentle, patient, malleable nature, friendly, good natured, compassionate, easygoing, affectionate, submissive, versatile and intuitive, have quick understanding, observes and listens well; Likes: solitude to dream in, mystery in all its guises, anything discarded to stay discarded, the ridiculous, like to get 'lost'
Negative Traits: escapist, idealistic, secretive, vague, weak-willed, easily led, too otherworldly for the practical purposes of living in this world, exist emotionally rather than rationally, instinctively more than intellectually; Dislikes: the obvious, being criticized, feeling all at sea about something, know-it-alls, pedantry

Gerwick-Brodeur, M and L. Lenard. The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Astrology, 2nd ed. Indianapolis: Alpha Books, 2000.
Parker, Julia and Derek. KISS Guide to Astrology. New York: Dorling Kindersley, 2000.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Making a Difference

Sometimes something so awful happens it makes me question humanity. Then other times, I see individuals do wonderful things that restores my faith.

I experienced both the other night watching, America’s Most Wanted. It profiled the case of a homeless man, John McGrahm, who was brutally murdered on the streets he called home. I couldn’t help but wonder what kind of monster would harm a helpless person whose one crime was being down on his luck. Next I wondered what had become of society that such acts were becoming more and more commonplace.

Then the story continued and I saw something that made me feel hope for the human race. The community that John had called home for years truly mourned his loss. They had considered him a part of their neighborhood, taking care of him, trying to get him help, and often feeding him. His death devastated them and they made sure he was not forgotten. America’s Most Wanted showed a shrine they had erected in his honor, it had flowers, notes and stuffed animals. They have become John’s voice and are demanding justice.

Wow. If there were only more people out there like this. I hope the police find the heartless criminals responsible for this act and lock them up for good. Go check out the profile on America’s Most Wanted.

One of the reasons I became a writer was so I could make a difference in this world. John managed to do that simply by living. Maybe I could learn something from him. For now, I will use my gift with the written word to get his story out there so he is not forgotten. It's the least I can do.

Stephani Hecht

Saturday, November 1, 2008

Is publishing in NY the right or wrong choice

Is publishing in NY the right or wrong choice? And what keeps a NY editor's attention?

On an average day I get a few inquiries from novice authors regarding whether a publishing house in NY is better then an ebook publisher.

The subject recently came up with all the hoopla going on about the big guns going e-book and settling in on the competition.

It doesn't make one bit of difference whether you get published in NY or online these days because the majority of the online publishers offer print contracts. There is a difference between the time you wait to get your books out though. NY can take up to two years to get your print book out as opposed to three to six months with an e-publisher. There is also a huge difference regarding your contract and royalties.

While NY can offer you a lucrative advance up to one million dollars if your name is Bill Clinton, as a small author you won't find an advance larger than $2,000 to $5,000 depending on the book and what the demand is for that type of book. How you market it, how it will compare to others so on and so forth. You may see higher advances if you are submitting a series. Although some of the top authors are getting substantially more. I'm talking about the old timers.

Your royalty payments from NY will range 5% to 7% depending on how well you can negotiate a contract. (You will need an agent for this). You still have to sell to reach the amount of your advance before you will even begin to receive any more money, and the downfall of this business is, if you don't sell you have to be prepared to return that money, and not to mention they can and will drop your contract, and you get paid ONCE a year...try to pay your monthly bills on that.

You still have to promote your books, schedule book signings and still meet your deadlines..In NY there is no such thing as a "late" manuscript unless there is blood or fire. They work on numerous manuscripts and don't have the time in their schedule to wait for an author to complete a book that was due under contract on a certain date and cannot fulfill their obligation.

Once you are in NY, you may want to consider hiring a marketing company and an agent. The position of the agent is to negotiate higher contracts for you and handle your business needs, although they do take a hefty 15% of your sales. Something to consider if you're only selling
$2,000 in books a year and your royalties are 5% of those sales.

Now consider what your return is in the e-book industry...First of all you are offered two to five year contracts at anywhere from 35% to 50% royalties paid monthly to every three months, again depending on the company. You get to have FREE scheduled online chats, FREE yahoo groups of your own, FREE blogs and depending where you go, FREE marketing. You get to network with other authors and receive free info. NY authors are not privy to assist other authors if it takes money from their own bank accounts.

Granted it can be a lot of work in the ebook industry, but you reap what you sow. A word of encouragement...several authors are making six figure royalty checks annually in the e-book industry already and they began their careers within the last four years.

NY authors worked for years on their careers to make it to the top. Not everyone can be JK Rowlings, James Patterson or Stephen King over night. But right now the money is in the e-book industry..I know, some of you are saying "where?" It is a bad economy, but just look at the stats in the book stores and that will tell you where the sales have been. Look at the stats for sales in hand held readers, people are reading books on their breaks in the office. Most people spend their time on a computer, not lying in bed with a book. The technology is changing fast, eventually the book stores will close and everything will be purchased online and in e-book format. Borders is already closed along with Walden.

Time spent with a reputable e-book publisher right now is the best decision you can make as far as your career. The positive here outweighs the negative in NY. There is a work overload in NY, too much overhead and there is always constant change in the editorial department. You want an editor who is familiar with your work, not to start all over again with a new one who may loathe your work and pass it to someone else.

Yes you will find that in e-books but not as much. The money you make in e-publishing depends on how far you are willing to go to get yourself out there and establish a healthy readership. We put our readers first as I know all of you do. But you have to push that envelope. Getting into NY is not easy. They want the best in books..they want something that has magic, that says "WOW!" the moment they begin reading the first sentence. A book that flows and has to remain flowing until they reach the end of your story. A book that will keep them on the edge of their seat and one they can't put down until it's done.

They want the book that will make them cheer for your hero, cry for him, laugh with him. They want that character to have as many flaws as possible to be as human as possible, and they want that love to be real and genuine between the hero and heroine. And when you can wow a NY editor like that, you are ready. My suggestion is to read Diana Gabaldon's "Outlander" series and I cannot stress this enough. Diana has created one heck of a character in Jaime Frazier that will last you a lifetime. Another character is my beloved Harry Potter, whose left an orphan to be raised by selfish evil relatives, finds out he is a wizard beyond all the abuse and basically saves the day...flaws, flaws, flaws, is the name of the game. Too long have I read about transparent characters...boy meets girl, falls in love with the damsel in distress they get pulled apart shoved back together again and then wed...BORING! Yes it's good to think outside the box but not too far that you write something that will never sell. Stay within the boundries, write what's in your heart and give that story as much feeling as you can muster. Place your character in the worse case scenario then bring them back slowly.

Editors and readers alike will be drawn into a story if you create a character with a plot they can identify with. You don't have to have that shapely voluptuous heroine and that hunky hero. If everyone in real life looked like that we would be one heck of a boring race. Think in terms of diversity, different cultures, gay, lesbian, transgendered...they exist in real life so why create characters you'd only see on the runways in fashion shows or in GQ?

In Lone Huntress, we created Lisa as a behemoth adult female. Not so normal with flaws that every woman would be able to identify with, once a little girl who witnessed her tribe being slaughtered then being the only survivor. She becomes a grown woman who feels she isn't attractive, is raised by the Bounty Hunter who saved her life from the pirates, has no clue how to raise a girl but does it in the best possible way he knows how. She is bitter from the memories of her childhood, becomes self reliant and independant, and trains to be the most feared Bounty Hunter as goes after the ones who destroyed her life. But in the process she learns to grow, learns about herself, finds strength in the relationships she finds and tries to survive...thus you now have a female character our readers can identify with, cry with, laugh with and love with. We gave her real life attributes. That's what NY wants to see. Give your stories 3 dimentional life.

No matter who you are writing for, e-publishers or NY they will all think the same. They all want that diamond in the rough, they do not just publish any book unless they are an unprofessional publisher still wet behind the ears, and thankfully they are defunct. But what I am saying is weigh your options, see what you think is best for you and your career. But if you feel you aren't ready for NY don't stress. You still get better benefits from your e-publisher. And until NY can match what I get with my ebook publishers I'm not so willing to switch yet and wouldn't suggest it to others.

To Happy Writing,

AP Miller
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