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Happy reading!

By Carolyn Smith (aka Caroline Clemmons)


Sadly, this past week southwestern author Tony Hillerman died. My family and I have read his works with pleasure. I’ve loved that he brought the Southwest to life for readers all over the world. His passing started me reflecting on how his writing had shaped mine. That set me thinking about all the writers whose work I love. Not counting the Nancy Drew mysteries that started me reading voraciously, there are too many favorite authors to list. However, a few people had a dramatic impact on my writing and my reading.

Not a writer, but a storyteller, my dad first interested me in both history and in the family tales that bring history to life. He’s no doubt why I chose to set my books in Texas. And his stories are probably one reason those old western movies I saw on Saturdays seemed not only real, but also current to me. (My heart still hasn’t recovered from learning that Roy Rogers had failed to wait for me to grow up and had already married Dale Evans.)

A western writer whose works I continue to reread is Louis Lamour. His art of storytelling is amazing. He once spoke to Romance Writers of America National Conference. He stated that his concentration was so great that he could write sitting in a folding chair in the middle of Hollywood and Vine with a typewriter balanced on his knees. How could I not admire that dedication and professionalism? In addition to his short stories, he worked his way back and forth across America at many jobs. It was his early job in a coalmine that killed him when black lung took its final toll. I believe his books will be around for many decades to come. My husband and I have all of his books. They’re great stress relievers.

Recently, a group of friends and I were sitting around a table. Of the nine of us, seven were reading a Nora Roberts novel, one was about to start one, and the only other person had read many of Nora’s works but was reading something else at that time. What other contemporary author can claim this popularity? These were not writers gathered to talk about writing. This was a group of women at a prayer/Bible study group talking about books and authors they loved.  Many authors are bestsellers, but I can’t think of any other who’s reached this status of popularity with such a wide range of fans. I read Nora’s first published novel, although it was many years after it had been written. I had decided to write romance, and my mother-in-law loaned me some of her Harlequin and Silhouette novels. Wasn’t I lucky to pick Nora as a model? If only I could attain a tenth of her popularity, I’d be in heaven!  She is one great storyteller.

It isn’t only the writers we love who shape us. While reading, we also see things that don’t work, that we hate, and that we want to avoid in our own work. The fact that a book is published doesn’t make it perfect by any means. Writers are a hard audience—we know what’s supposed to happen. We see anachronisms, incorrect word use, and other errors that most readers probably miss. I once tossed a historical romance when the author’s third anachronism caught my eye in as many chapters. But she’s a very popular writer, so her readers either don’t mind or don’t catch the inaccuracies.

Subconsciously, everything we see, hear, or read leaves its mark on our minds. Consciously, we strive toward goals, set our standards, and write. And read. We have to keep reading. Writing with persistence (and a lot of luck), perhaps someday a new writer will choose one of our books as one that influenced him or her. Wouldn’t that be great?

There have been varying positions on book trailers effectiveness. Personally, I like them. I think they’re fun and an inexpensive way to plug your book. But not everyone cares for them.

Tell me what you think.


TRADING FACES releases today from Samhain Publishing. WOOHOO!

There are worse things than winding up dead…

With her ex-husband’s death, Elyse Cabot thinks she’s permanently off the emotional roller coaster…until he turns up posing as his twin brother—the real victim of foul play—at his funeral. Before she can get any answers out of him, he’s gone, leaving her with more questions than closure.

And a fortune in loose diamonds.

Seeing Elyse again brings back a lot of hot, sweaty teenage memories for Jack. Then she opens her mouth and out comes some cockamamie story about her ex, diamonds and double crossing. So much for rekindling an old flame. Still, he just can’t seem to resist the lure of this dame in distress.

He just hopes he can solve the case before he does something stupid—like fall in love.

Sooo…. to celebrate it’s release, I’m going to give away one e-copy of the book. Leave me a comment at SFC and at the end of the day I will pull one name out.


 I’m lucky in that I have a spare bedroom which I’ve turned into an office.  I try to write every morning for about two hours and as you can see by the picture I love everything costal, in particular, Florida. So I painted the room a light sea blue, and there are flamingos everywhere. I started collecting the flamingos when I was writing a contemporary about a fictional town called Flamingo Heights.  That small brown comforter covers a small chair for my little dog Bentley, who loves to sit with me. Of course wants to sit on my lap but he’s adapted to the alternative, his little spot which is right by me. I also have two bulletin boards plastered with pics as inspiration for my current WIP. One of them (not pictured) is a magnetized surfboard.I’ve found I need background noise to write so I have a radio or iPod going. When I’m editing the iPod is blaring out my playlist of music I made specific for my story. Don’t you just love the iPod? How did we ever live without it? <g> Every once in a while I’ll have a candle burning too but most of the time I write before heading off to work so the candle is reserved for the weekends.Strangely enough I’ve found some of the best place to write in public spaces like Starbucks or doctors offices. Don’t ask me why, maybe it’s because I can’t do anything but write. Go figure.Long gone is my desk top computer. I traded that in for a laptop with a docking station and a back up hard drive. I don’t keep paper around either. Everything regarding my WIP or future works is on spreadsheets. I’ve even scanned some of my favorite reference books into the computer and saved them as PDFs. I learned a while back, when I was forced to clean out my closet in search of an elusive piece of paper that was important then, that stacks of paper and sticky notes were not my friend. I lost precious writing time, and almost scraped a story in the process. That simplification process took about a month but it was worth it.  So where is the best place for you to write? Have you made over a room? Maybe you have a favorite comfy chair instead? Or perhaps you can’t write in your house. Where do you go?

By Denise Belinda McDonald 

He said

she said he grimaced

she lamented

. . . . laughed, cried, yelled, whispered, questioned, replied, asked, answered, snorted, choked, groaned, moaned, etc, etc, etc . . . .When I started writing, I used all the various tags for said and asked. Now I tend not to use them at all. You hope that each character’s voice is distinct enough so the moment they speak, the reader knows that’s your heroine. Or the crotchety neighbor. Wizened Grandmother. Studly hero. Their voice carries you past the he said, she said.

Body business is great instead of tags when you have an intense scene that moves so quickly as to not have time for the reader to pick up on nuances. Or even put in introspection from the POV character as they say one thing that is not like them at all but think and mean another to lend to their voice.

As writers, I think we tend to be harder on writing works than readers. Readers, in my opinion, can ease into the story, get lost in the words far quicker than a writer. Writers will look for plot holes or purple prose. Not to say that readers can’t detect craft issues, but they will pick up a book for entertainment. Me, I pick it up for contrast and comparison. For the craft of the writing. I do enjoy books still, but not like I did as years before when it was nothing more than a story to me.

Back to tags . . . I have read books where every line of dialogue is followed by a tag. I got to a point where I skimmed over tags and found the writer relied too heavily on them and I had to go back a re-read to see who the hell was talking. The writer (and I am not saying anyone specific as there are many to whom this may apply and many it doesn’t) uses tags as a way not to delve too deep into characterization as they don’t have to make each character stand on their own, they tell you who is talking (which ekes into show, don’t tell – and that is a whole ‘nother gripe of mine).

I will admit though, writers are the harshest critics and we tend to have one or two things that we can pull our self up on the soap box about and inhale deeply before we let it rip, so take what I say with a grain of salt.