How deep is your research bench?

I’m in the process of selling my house.

After one open house, my realtor was in the process of shutting off all the lights and locking up when she entered my office library.  A couple of days later, she asked my daughter, “Why does your mom have all those books about poisons, forensics and the criminal stuff on her shelf?”

I knew my daughter did everything she could not to laugh out loud. She calmly told her, “She’s a writer.”

My realtor was probably relieved to know that I wasn’t plotting to kill anyone–not in the non-fiction world anyway. It also might explain why she never accepted my offer to make her a cup of coffee.

The point of my story is twofold.

A novelist or author is like a journalist and like any investigative reporter worth their salt, their main objective is to answer the questions “who, what, when, where and how,” with concrete, factual answers.  As authors, we have a little more flexibility when it comes to telling the story, but we still need to do our homework and research.

1) Although we’re encouraged “to write what you know,” I flip it around a bit and I make sure “that I know about what I’m writing.”

I believe in having a book that covers every subject. Though most of my books are packed away, a few still remain within arms reach. One of my books is about a pediatric nurse, hence the “Code Blue” book. I didn’t have the faintest idea of what went on in the emergency room from a nurse’s perspective. So, I bought a book for research and reference.

2) make sure your research bench is deep, on and off the shelf.  

With my nurse story, I took it a step further and made an appointment to visit a couple of nurses at a nearby hospital in my town. There, I was able to get firsthand, what it was like in the emergency room during a crisis, what triage really meant and how they juggled their personal lives and saving the lives of others.

One of my heroes is a real estate mogul. Thank goodness my daughter is a real estate and mortgage subject matter expert!   I was able to pick her brain on eminent domain and house flipping laws. With my real estate 101 course, I believe my story could withstand scrutiny from the most knowledgeable real estate professional (someone like my realtor, maybe?). 🙂

Ensuring that your research bench is deep both on the shelf and in the real world, will make your stories that more believable.  And don’t be afraid to talk to people.  Ask those burning questions! All they can do is think you’re crazy for asking. But once you explain it’s research for your book, it’s amazing how quickly they offer information.

And maybe they’ll even accept your offer for a cup of coffee.


No man (or writer) is an island …

Living a writer’s life leaves many of us hovering over our computers and notepads, yet we shouldn’t forget that our solitary “islandlike” existence intertwines with others.

Our literary endeavors may be depend upon our individual prose, style and craft. But our work ultimately relies on the feedback from someone other than our characters. We depend on editors, agents critiquing partners, readers and yes, other writers to offer guidance, help and encouragement.

Therefore, I’m pleased to promote a fellow author’s invitation to name her latest book.

Jordan K. Rose pens novels that will leave you sitting on the edge of your seat, and her next book is sure to do the same. But she’s looking for a few good ideas for a title. And you can help!

Just click on the promotional box above (or to the left) to enter Jordan’s NameThatBook contest and let your creative juices flow. Have a little fun, and receive recognition if your title wins.

The writing community spans countries and continents, yet I find it to be surprisingly small and intimate, where everyone knows someone and where good deeds and well wishes are shared for years to come.

So, send a good wish and a little help to fellow writer, Jordan K. Rose. Enter the contest, and NameThatBook!

No Man Is An Island

No man is an island,
Entire of itself.
Each is a piece of the continent,
A part of the main.
If a clod be washed away by the sea,
Europe is the less.
As well as if a promontory were.
As well as if a manor of thine own
Or of thine friend’s were.
Each man’s death diminishes me,
For I am involved in mankind.
Therefore, send not to know
For whom the bell tolls,
It tolls for thee.

Devotions upon Emergent Occasions, By John Donne, 1624

Steppin’ out with the Beautiful Blogger Award …

Big thank you to mlfables for nominating me for the beautiful blogger award.  I feel so special.  🙂  

Blogging transcends continents and countries and it gives us the opportunity to  touch so many people without leaving our homes.  I’m glad I’m along for the journey.

The rules for this award require that I write seven things about myself and then pass on the love (my nominations for this award are listed down below).  So here it goes:

Three Things I’ve Learned About Writing

  • A muse is the best friend a writer can ever have
  • Grammatical rules can be broken for the right price
  • Once you’ve written your first book, or story you’ll never read a book the same way again.

Three Things I’ve Learned About Reading

  • Biographies are wonderful means of measurement.  They offer a glimpse into someone else’s life and give me assurance that my characters’ lives can never be over the top.
  • Readers (especially lovers of romance) like to read about someone whose life is spiraling downward and how they fight to climb back to the top.
  • For a writer, other people’s books become textbooks.

One Thing I’ve Learned About Life

  • It has the potential to get better every day. It’s up to me to recognize that and act on it.

Now, I’d like to acknowledge the following bloggers and say thanks for making my world a little nicer.  My nominees for this award are as follows:

TGIF: Two days of sex, passion and books …

This weekend the New Jersey Romance Writer’s Conference, (NJRW) whose theme is “Unleash Your Passion,” happens and I’ll be there.

I’m looking forward to the lineup of guest speakers and presenters, which includes best-selling authors Sabrina Jeffries, Heather Graham, Susan Wiggs and husband and wife team, Jim and Nikoo McGoldrick.

There will workshops for writers at all levels, some include:

  • Using POV to create emotionally powerful scenes
  • The Core of Romance
  • Women’s Fiction: Hitting the Genre’s Sweet Spot (see, told you there’d be sex!)
  • E-pub, Self-publishing, Marketing and Selling the book and the Future of Publishing for the Writer

There are also editor/agent appointments for those pitching their books, a Literary Book Fair, where authors sign their books for their fans, and most of all, networking opportunities.

I’m not pitching a book this year. However, I will be handing out business cards (which ALL authors should have–yet to be published and published) and networking. I’ve met some of the most fantastic people at these types of conferences, not only as supporters of my work, but as friends.

The NJRW conference will also have a professional photographer on site to take studio and environmental portraits. Need a new head shot for your book or Web site? Say cheese!

While I’m there, I’m going to take a trip to Barnes and Noble, which is only 10 minutes from the conference location. There are a couple of new books I want to pick up.

    I find J.K Rowlings’ adult book,“The Casual Vacancy”very intriguing. It’s also on Nook, so I will be making my e-book purchase!

    Ken Follett’s,“Winter of the World” (part of the Century Trilogy), which is on Nook as well! Yippee!

    Actor and Director Penny Marshall’s, book “My mother was Nuts,” looks hysterical.

    I couldn’t buy books without including a Romance novel. “Return to Willow Lake,” by Susan Wiggs, one of the conference speakers, is on my list to buy. It’s on NOOK as well. However, I may purchase this at the conference, so that I can get Susan to sign it! Perfect timing!

By the way, the authors signing at the Literary Book Fair donate a portion of their proceeds to literacy. Nice, huh?

I’m taking a bag large enough to transport all my new books—those I plan to buy and those I don’t!

Have a great weekend. See you Monday.

Be a Brady: Spread the love one page at a time

“When I get a little money, I buy books; and if any if left, I buy food and clothes.” –Erasmus

Last Thursday, I met a woman at a volunteer event and we started chatting. We then (don’t ask me how) started talking about the oddest things that made us cry.

She cried off of The Three Bears. Yours truly, cried over the Brady Bunch. (Particularly the episode where Marcia enters Mike in the “Father of the Year” contest)

Be warned. I couldn’t get the Brady Bunch theme out of my head, so the poem below was written by the tune. Apologies for this. But there is a silver lining—you can’t hear me sing it. 🙂

Read on!

Here’s the story of a man name Jerry,
Whose children could read and write and spell
When they asked him how do you spell “ferry”
Of that, he could not tell

Then the one day Jerry met a student
And he thought she could help him, yes indeed
He was happy because he had done the right thing
The student taught him to read

Whew! Glad that’s out my system!

If you haven’t guessed, I was the student–one of 20 people–who taught a group of men and women to read. Jerry was a father of four who worked as a manual laborer and any document he needed to sign or know about, he’d ask a friend or neighbor to read for him. He came to the program wanting to better himself and have his children be proud of him.

Three months later, he could read all Dr. Seuss’s books, a few Nancy Drew books (He liked mysteries) and some articles in the newspaper.

In addition, he could finally fill out an application for employment with some assistance. That was a big moment for him. But an even bigger one for me–a mere 19-year old. I’d done something useful, and in turn, I’d deepened my love of the written word.

As writers, and lovers of the written word, we basically know when we fell in love. Imagine, those who can’t experience that joy, because they can’t read.

There are literacy programs nationwide such at UNESCO and the World Literacy Foundation that need people to teach others how to read. But you don’t have to go that far, look in your towns at the high school and colleges and libraries. They’re always looking for people to join an adult literacy program.

And once that task is done, and “your student” discovers the love of reading, there’s no stopping them.

Children love to hear a good story. My three-year-old grandson will grab a book and “read” to me, which is remarkable since he hasn’t learned as of yet. What he has learned is that at certain times during our reading sessions, the inflection in my voice means that trouble is brewing or something wonderful is about to happen. Now when he “reads” he imitates me.

There’s always a need to teach children to read through mentoring or just participating in programs such as Read Across America and RIF.

RIF “Reading is Fundamental,” continues to ring true. Without reading, it would be rather difficult to translate and understand other areas of study such as science, mathematics and technology.

If you’re thinking about it, or just want to keep in the back of your mental Rolodex, check out some of the places mentioned. If you’re really ready, then grab a book and get to reading or tutoring. Trust me. Your love of the written word will deepen.

And who knows you may get all choked up–just like I do from the Brady Bunch. Oh, and for your singing pleasure, the Brady theme song. Okay, everyone, once more with feeling!

Guest Author J. Gavin Allan … talks love and counter Intel

I’m thrilled to have author J. Gavin Allan as my guest today. Not only is he a new author, but he’s my critiquing partner! So, I’m doubly honored.

Oh, and check out his bio. It reads like a novel! 🙂

J Gavin Allan’s tales profess one agenda. Love is the most powerful force in the universe.

Homebound as a child due to illness, loneliness liberated imagination. Poe’s influence can be felt in his work. Trained as a Counter-Intelligent Agent by the US Army, J Gavin used his unusual mind’s eye developing strategies protecting Americans abroad. The only non-Vietnam Veteran in his airborne unit, he memorized accounts of special operations in Southeast Asia. Coupled with interviews of North Vietnamese veterans and Bru Montagnards his expertise increased.

While in Asia, J Gavin developed valuable friendships. A submitted screenplay in China, and a Vietnam War novel thought too controversial for publication showed his versatility.

A retired New York City teacher, J Gavin instructs language at the University level. The author writes in all genres, always with a besieged romance battling to survive. Membership in RWA and NJRW sharpened the sometimes-disturbing imagery in his work. An active member in veterans’ organizations, J Gavin still finds time to relax on the rifle range.

NR: Jaye thanks for stopping by and hanging out on my blog. Just move the balloons to the side and have a seat. As you probably guessed from all the decorations, it’s my 100th post and I couldn’t think of a better way to celebrate than to invite my critiquing partner and new author over for a chat. So, talk to me. 🙂 When and how did you discover your love for writing?

JGA: It became an escape as a child. I spent two years understanding what it meant to be isolated.

NR: And what about your work? What drives your stories?

JGA: My work concentrates on one agenda. Love is the most powerful force in the universe. It is greater than any person or belief.

NR: I know you’ve been writing for a long time, more than 16 years, right? How did you persevere?

JGA: Membership in NJRW…plain and simple…

NR: I’ve blogged about New Jersey Romance Writers (NJRW), and the benefits of belonging to a writer’s group or organization. NJRW is definitely an organization that supports and cheers on its members. Shout out to all NJRW members!

NR: Okay, I digress, again. Jaye, you recently secured a literary agent, which is a big moment in many an aspiring writer’s life. What was your initial reaction when you received “the call?”

JGA: The call from Nicole R. of the Seymour Agency led to a professional conversation. We talked strategies of marketing. All the while I was pinching myself and waiting to wake up.

NR: I bet. So, tell us about your upcoming book, “Family of Heroes”, which is a historical work set in war-torn Burma. Also, are there any takeaways you want readers to experience after they’d read it.

JGA: “Heroes” is the best example for putting forth my “agenda.” I realize many life-styles will embrace or detest the book when told of the plot, but it is not something to dispute their beliefs. It is to show…love for someone is greater that national, economic, religious, political, and racial differences…and…differences in sexual orientation. If you need love or to be loved…does it matter?

NR: I have to say, that because I’m your critiquing partner I was honored to see it from beginning to end. It’s the type of book that leaves you emotionally spent. You feel drained, but at the same time satisfied for having read it. So, are there any new projects on the horizon?

JGA: Next project is the sequel to “Heroes…The story of Bo Bo” and finishing a graphic and psychological war drama about the Vietnam War…”The Last Lieutenant”…There is romance in all my work.

NR: Writing is tough. It takes patience and dedication. What advice would you offer to aspiring writers or writers in general?

JGA: You must write and then write some more. When you do not feel like writing or feel empty of ideas…watch people and imagine them in a story. Plus…listen to all critiques…do not be a snob about where they come from. Even members of the Great Unwashed, as myself, might see something you need to include or delete.

NR: So true. Jaye, I can’t thank you enough for stopping by, especially on my 100th post. J Gavin Allan is an amazing writer, not because he’s my critiquing partner, but because it’s true! Visit his website and get hooked.

Learn it, breathe it, live it: The Writer’s Creed …

This week has been a good one filled with interesting posts and comments. For those of you following, commenting, “liking” or just plain stopping by, I really appreciate it. I’m humbled that you took time out of your hectic schedules to take a look. We all have gifts and I believe a blog is one social medium that helps us share them.

Thanks for allowing me into your world. 🙂

The other day I blogged about creating obstacles for our characters that will result in a satisfying ending, and I wanted to share this post then. However, it would have been outrageously long.

So I’m ending the week (TGIF!) with author Clint Johnson’s  Writer’s Creed,  which states (more or less) that we, as writers, are obligated to give our characters hell, so they might emerge happier and healthier people. Kind of like life!

Here’s Clint Johnson’s hysterical take on the writer’s oath, law and slogan. I have it hanging in my office as a reminder, for inspiration and most definitely a good laugh. Visit Clint’s site for his complete take on why he wrote this version of the writer’s creed and how it is vital in achieving our goal as writers.

Have a great weekend.  See you Monday.

The Writer’s Creed

The Writer’s Oath

On my honor, I will do my best to create havoc on every page and to leave neither peace nor happiness in my wake; To cause problems at every opportunity;  To abuse characters I love, always aspire to the worst, and sleep unburdened at night.

The Writer’s Law

A writer is…

– Duplicitious (Never Trustworthy!): A writer never lets her characters know everything that is going on. The more you can mislead and confuse your characters, the more enjoyment you give your reader.

– Traitorous (Never Loyal!): A writer is always looking for ways to undermine characters and foster betrayal in her stories.

– Hindersome (Never Helpful!): A writer makes trouble; she does not solve problems.

– Curmudgeonly (Never Friendly!): A writer begrudges every moment of happiness and prosperity in her story. Contentment is offensive to her–discontent, ultimately pleasing.

– Rude (Never Courteous!): A writer has no regard for her characters’ egos or positions within society. She finds humiliation ever-desirable.

– Vindictive (Never Kind!): A writer causes trouble because she can, not because it is deserved. Every success of a character is worthy of retribution.

– Mutinous (Never Obedient!): A writer upturns all her characters value and depend upon. She fashions those in her story with the specific intention of capitalizing on their weaknesses.

– Profligate (Never Thrifty!): A writer never holds anything back. She seeks to expend every resource and emotional reserve of her characters, and only constrains the extravagance of her imagination by the furthest reaches of plausibility.

– Licentious (Never Clean!): A writer collects all her characters’ dirty little secrets and yells them out to anyone willing to listen.

– Profane (Never Reverent!): To a writer, none of her characters’ beliefs are sacred; their faith exists to be challenged, and wrong must sometimes be portrayed as right.

Despite common perception, yes, there are admirable characteristics of writers as well (though we make mighty poor Boy Scouts). We must be…

– Brave: Obeying the Writers’ Law can be difficult, uncomfortable, and wearying. Have the courage to be sadistic enough to write good stories.

– Cheerful: Engaging in antisocial, uncivilized behavior–at least in imagination–is the primary obligation of a good storyteller. You can’t avoid it. So don’t feel guilty. Write great stories, don’t apologize or get ulcers, and live cheerfully and well.

The Writer’s Slogan

Cause trouble on every page.