Thank you, Roxann! (Penny Rader)

As I promised in my last post, Remembering Roxann...

Roxann loved to share information with us.  Here are a few links she posted on our loop over the years along with her comments.  

Just a reminder: If you see something you like, save it, print it, etc.  You never know when a link will no longer work.  More than a couple links Rox shared are no longer active. 

In Rox's words [I added the words in brackets]:

Start with a snappy Hot Premise [Alicia Rasley’s The Promise of the Hot Premise] or TV Guide blurb to give the agent or editor a strong sense of the story.

[Rox posted this a few years ago during Banned Books week.]  ...this link to a blog was posted by a friend on Facebook.  When you get the time, please visit and read it. Censorship at Its Finest: Remembering

While this is in conjunction with Harlequin's SYTYCW (So You Think You Can Write), it's fairly standard for most publishers. [Patience Smith’s Challenge 2: Have your query letter critiqued by Harlequin editors]

Just saw this link to a blog posted on Facebook, took a quick look at it, and decided it should be shared! From Dara Girard [New Year’s Resolutions for Writers]

Food for thought... The ’10 Mistakes’ List 

 Jenny Crusie with Barbara O'Neal/Samuel/Ruth Wind on e-/indie publishing.  Lots of good info, not to mention Jenny's usual humor to make you laugh. :)

...and a Pass It On. How To Be A Writer 

This is a series of photos and descriptions of British writers' rooms.  I found it fascinating, especially since very few of them appeared to be neat and tidy.  LOL  They're very much working spaces. There's lots of them, so take your time when you have some time. on the photos to enlarge.

Okay, this is one of several reasons why I use Twitter, but I think we can all benefit from this particular group of tweets by Carina Press from author Julie Rowe 7 Habits of Highly Successful Writers 

This had a *potty mouth warning*, so if the F-word gives you grief, you might want to skip it.  However, there's some really good stuff in it.  You choose. I’ll be honest.  I got as far as #1 and #2 and recognized myself.  Not good.  I'm sure there's a lot of me in the other 23. [25 Things Writers Should Stop Doing]

The simple list of these 12 steps has probably been passed around for years, but I was curious if there was anything a little more information or explanation.  I found it on the Kansas Abstinence Education Program.  And because it has the exactly same 12 steps in the same order, I thought I'd share it. [The 12 Steps to Real Intimacy]

Some things to keep in mind. 4 Ways to Motivate Character and Plot 

Short and to the point, Brenda Novak reminds all of us about the important things to do when writing. 10 Things Every Writer Should Do in Their Novel

I'm catching up on emails that I've been keeping for later, and Kristen Lamb's blog is one of them.  I like to read her blog.  She's smart and says what needs saying quickly and to the point.  This one is a guest post, but well worth the time to read. The Secret Recipe for Writing a Perfect Pitch

For those who aren't on Facebook and missed this link shared by Theresa, here it is.  I should have all of them hung around my walls. 24 Quotes That Will Inspire You to Write More

Writer’s Digest often has some of the best articles.  This is one on how to carve out time to meet a deadline or simply get some writing done is a winner.  I agree with every point, but sure do wish I had more time, anyway. :)  5 Tips to Help You Meet Your Deadline 

Penny, I know how you love writing prompts, so if you didn't see these, I thought I'd pass them on. Try These 30-Minute Writing Challenges  Of course anyone who wants to use them can check them out. ;) [Thanks, Rox!  I do love writing prompts and exercises.]

I simply stumbled upon it when needing something to show me a romantic arc.  Of all I found when searching, Jami Gold's was the best.  The best for me, I should say.  Sometimes a particular explanation is better than another, only because it breaks through the brick wall sooner and easier. ;) Write Romance? Get Your Beat Sheet Here 

I'm one of a dozen authors in this discussion, along with readers and a few other authors that have dropped in.  … Feel free to drop in and say hi or join in the discussion about hunky cowboy heroes.  


And here are a few of my favorites from Rox’s Diary of a Mad Romance Writer blog:


Mapping Your Story 
The Creative Process 
Growing a Story 
Cooking Up a Story 


The Character’s Story 
Then Along Came Conflict 
Let’s Get Together, Yeah, Yeah, Yeah 
Building Character(s) 
Creating Your Characters 

Writing a Series

The Perks of Writing a Series 
Taming the Series Beast 

Being a Writer

Begin Your Dream, Then Finish It 


I still don't want to believe you're gone, Rox.  Thank you for taking such good care of us while you were here. 

Until we meet again.

The Story Behind the Story (Melissa Robbins)

Writers have a knack for reading a news article or having a dream that turns into a story.  My short story mystery, The Bones in the Box, which it part of the Sisters in Crime Guppies Anthology, Fish or Cut Bait (due out in May), touches on this very subject. 

I love World War Two stuff and relish reading fascinating stories of the time whether it’s found lost love notes or film or time capsules.  The inspiration for The Bones in the Box sprang from one of these very stories.  In 2010, a French lady died, leaving behind a Parisian flat.  A flat she abandoned in 1942 during  Nazi occupation and never returned to despite always paying on the place.  When her lawyers opened the flat, it revealed a treasure trove like opening an Egyptian tomb.  Items left when she fled, remained untouched, including a priceless painting.

The wheels of my writer’s brain spun. As we often do, I asked myself, why and what if. Why did the lady never return, but still paid on the flat? What if she didn’t want anyone to know what remained inside?

The Bones in the Box was born. Charlotte Graham just inherited a house on a Channel Island from her grandmother who had abandoned it just after WW2.  Charlie never knew the place existed nor the Nazi skeleton in Granny’s cedar chest.  How did he get there? Did Granny put him there?

My son and his heart condition inspired my current project, a middle grade story about a boy with a heart condition who desperately wants to fly for England’s Air Defense Cadet Corps during WW2.  How far will he go to achieve his goal?

Be ever vigilant. You'll never know when inspiration will strike next!

Remembering Roxann (Penny Rader)

My heart hurts.

My friend, Roxann Farmer, passed away a few days ago.  

I'm still trying to wrap my head around the fact that my vibrant, funny, smart, gracious, generous friend is gone.  

The past few months went by shockingly fast.  Positive thoughts, I told myself, and prayer.  Rox will come out on the other side of this and kick cancer in the teeth. I just couldn't accept that she might not win the ultimate battle.  She did fight, though. Valiantly. Until she couldn't fight anymore.

I miss her.  

We met 20 years ago when I worked for B Dalton Bookseller.  She would come in with her youngest daughter, Mallory, and check out the writing magazines and books. We talked about writing and Wichita Area Romance Authors (a local writers' group I belonged to).  Before long she joined WARA and was off and running.  

Always generous with sharing writing tips and tricks and encouraging words, she quickly became a much-loved and valued member of our group. Her battle cry was BIC-HOK! (Butt IChair, Hands OKeyboard)

In 2000, Rox sold her first book.  Rachel's Rescuer, published under her writing name Roxann Delaney, was released in 2001. Her fifteenth published book, The Cowboy Meets His Match, was released August 2014.

Having an out-of-control email inbox, I've discovered, can bring comfort and laughter, mixed with tears. The past few days I've immersed myself in emails from Roxann.  Some were personal messages between the two of us, others were from WARA's writers' loop.  Rereading them unleashed so many memories.  Amidst the tears leaking from my eyes I could see her and hear her, and for a few precious moments she was here with me.

Because Rox was such a wonderful mentor I want to share some of her life lessons and writing tips:

Rejections are character building, if you let them be, and will drive you to learn more, lead you to write better, and become even more determined to sell.  … Wear that badge of rejection proudly!! 


… I definitely understand how hard it is sometimes to make yourself write.  Staring at blank page, or even a page with some words on it, can be daunting.  But if you never try, you never get the chance to succeed. 

Set a timer for 15 minutes or 30 minutes and start writing.  It doesn't matter if it's crap, it's the simple act of writing that will prime the pump and get you going.  You can fix it later.  Or set a limit of 1 page or even just 1/2 page, if the thought of writing is painful, and don't get up from where you're sitting until you've reached that goal.  


I think the more you write, the more the process becomes your own and you aren't swimming in unknown waters quite so much.  Some longtime writers say they don't plot, but I'd bet they do without knowing it.  Things tend to live in our subconscious that only surface when called upon.  (Or so we hope!)  As you grow as a writer, you'll know things about your story that will help you move through it.  But it does take practice for most of us. :)

Knowing your characters pre-writing can help, especially in the beginning.  Most women's fiction is character driven, especially romance.  Just for the fun of it, find a blank character chart online.  The simpler the better.  …  Ask your characters about their childhoods and how they grew up.  What things happened, what people did they interact with to make them who they are today?

Good luck!  Keep writing and learn YOUR process.


Moral of the story is to do your research.  That doesn't mean small publishers are bad, or that new small publishers don't need authors.  But when basic information about how payment is made and type of publishing isn't included up front, I'd question the credentials of the people involved.  That's not to say they're trying to rip off writers, but they may not be as savvy as they should be about the business.


A meltdown now and then is mentally healthy.  Sometimes we just have to let those emotions play out, as long as nobody gets physically hurt.  ;)


… each writer has her own way of writing.  Sometimes it works well.  Sometimes it doesn't.  When it doesn't, trying a new method can help.  How much of a change is up to the writer.  I write in a different way than I did fifteen years ago.  My writing method has evolved (or devolved HA!) over the years because of many reasons, and I expect that will continue as long as I keep writing.

So use what works best for you, but it never hurts to try something new, especially if you aren't totally in love with your current method.


My daughter asked me a week or so ago why I needed to buy a small voice recorder.  I explained that my characters tend to have the best conversations during my morning walks, and since stopping to write it all down isn't all that simple, a voice recorder made sense.  Then I said, "I suppose hearing voices in my head makes me crazy."  Her response was, "No, it makes you a writer."

I've taught them well. ;)  [Note from Penny:  Yes!  Yes, she did.]


…  the cure for a sagging middle is a strong, main turning point.  By the middle of the story, everything seems to be going fairly well, so that's when something needs to happen (related to the characters' conflicts) that changes the way the characters think and/or act.  Thinking of it as being something that makes them see the other character--or themselves--in a new light.  It doesn't have to be bad, but it definitely needs to have a big punch.  Play "what if" to find what that might be. 


GMC is one of the best tools to learn about your character, and since are characters on the mainstay of our stories, we need all the help we can get.  Some characters blossom early, while others are stubborn and don't want to share with their storyteller.  Using GMC can help flesh out any and all of them.

An easy way to layout GMC is to fill in the blanks in this sentence:  (Character) wants _______, because ___________, but ___________ is keeping him/her from getting it.

Wants is the GOAL.  Because is the MOTIVATION.  But is the keyword of the CONFLICT.

If there are no goals, motivation or conflict in a story, it's going to be flat.  Another way to look at is if the character in a story isn't working toward something/doesn't want something and has no reason to, where will conflict arise?  Without one or two of those elements, there can't be a third.  If there's conflict only, a reader will want to know why.  Without a goal, the character is aimless.  Without motivation, through previous life experiences, there's no reason for the goal.  We don't simply "want" something, we want because of something that's happened, whether in the near past or the far past.

Both characters in a romance (hero and heroine) will need a GMC.  They'll probably be working at odds with each other, building conflict.


Plotting builds a roadmap to follow as I write the book.  Knowing the GMC of the characters at the start aids the plotting tremendously.  But if the GMC for both characters isn't strong enough, the story isn't either.  As my editor just told me last week about conflict, "The reader should be wondering how in the world these two are going to get together because the obstacles are so great."

When you know what your character wants, why she/he wants it, and what is keeping her/him from getting it, the writing becomes easier.  You know where you're going.  Plotting is a means to guide us through the story and keep on task with the GMC.  Goals do change within the story, along with the conflict, which should build and come to a head at the black/dark moment, when all seems lost.  After that comes the resolution and the happy-ever-after ending.


That's something that editors--and normal people--don't understand.  Until we get into the actually writing of the story, we don't know everything that will happen.  They seem to think we do.


There are so many variables in the publishing world.  Hang in there.  The more you write and get it out there, the better the odds.

After several years of writing and contests--sometimes placing, sometimes bombing--I had to adopt a new mantra that I'd tell myself over and over.  "If you quit now, you'll never know what might have happened."

I'm not saying you're thinking of quitting, but we have to take the good things that happen and build on them, while putting the negatives behind.  There will ALWAYS be bumps in the road.  And it isn't always pretty in the midst of the world of being published.  Editors change, readers' tastes change, writers come and go.


You put your butt in the chair and write, even if it's dreck and garbage.  Dreck and garbage can be fixed.  The only way to fix a blank page is to write.  (The voice of experience.)


Writing takes uninterrupted time, so set aside how much time you want or can give it, and then stick to it.  Decide how much time each day you can schedule for writing and/or how many pages or words each day.  If you want to take the weekend or any others off, that's okay.  But I'll warn you that once you get into the habit and write every day, when you take time off, it's hard to get motivated.  (Again, the voice of experience.)

Set daily, weekly, monthly and yearly goals, and then work toward them, one day at a time.

Yes, sometimes I miss a day. ...

If you want to be a writer, you have to make writing a priority.  Otherwise, it's a hobby.  Ask yourself if you're a hobbyist or a writer.  If a hobbyist, that's okay.  If a writer, start writing.


You've had an over-flowing plate this year. Life happens, hon, and we do what we have to do, sometimes temporarily giving up things we didn't plan.  Eventually it will level out and get back to some kind of normal.  Note that I did not say NORMAL, because I sure don't know what that is. ;)


45 pages.  4 of those will have to be trashed and rewritten.  Sometimes an idea doesn't work. :(


Take care.  And I mean that sincerely, 'cause I love you. [Note from Penny: I love you, too, Rox.  Till we meet again...]


Not too long ago, Rox shared this on the WARA loop:

Were you lucky enough to have known Roxann?  Please feel free to share in the Comments.

P.S.  Roxann was great about sharing links to helpful articles she found online.  Come back to our blog on January 31 and I'll have a batch of them all in one place for easy reference.

The Story behind the writer and thus The Proving Zone and why if you ever run into Jayne Ann Krentz you can tell her what she’s responsible for:

Although reading is one of my chief pleasures, serendipity clearly rules my life. Sixteen years ago four things happened in the same two week period that caused me to take up novel writing.  I’d never wanted to be a writer and found it quite impossible to even write letters to loved ones.  I can’t even figure out what to write on a post card or one of those pesky tiny cards that go in flower arrangement gifts.  Except novels—these situations all still apply.

The first:
I was just finishing up a Jayne Ann Krentz novel about a novelist.  One of the lines from the book explained that writers have so many stories of their own that they don’t want to write other people’s story ideas.  (By the way—I’ve found this to be absolutely true.  I am bombarded with more of my own ideas than I can use and perfect strangers do approach me with story ideas.)  As my husband entered the room, I tossed the book down.
He said, “Bad book?”
I said sadly, “No, just disappointed.  I’ve had an idea for a book that I wanted to read since I was 15.  If I had ever met a writer, I thought I’d tell them the story, they would write it and then I would read it and know how it ended.  Now I’ve found out that they wouldn’t want it!”

The second:
He gave me that you’re a dumb shit look and asked, “How old are you?”
“Then if you’d written a page a week, you’d know how it ended by now, wouldn’t  you?”
I had to agree.

The third:
I like watching the television sitcom Dharma and Greg.  An episode where Dharma inherits a violin came on.  Greg and his family insisted she needed lessons.  Her parents’ comment of  “No!  If you take lessons, you play someone else’s music.” struck a chord of intelligent reality in me.  There went the stumbling block that I had to wait for lessons before I began.  (Are you career writers horrified yet?) Besides, I live over 90 miles from the nearest place to take any kind of writing lessons.

The fourth:
            A fortune cookie.  I was having lunch with my sister at our favorite oriental restaurant and my fortune that day was—the world is always ready for new talent.

And therefore—I write.

            I have found that writing novels is some of the best fun imaginable.  Even if the stories are never printed, the putting down of them and the antics of the characters is extremely satisfying as well as amusing.  I find further satisfaction in pleasing other readers.  I like for readers to let me know what portions of my stories they like or dislike.  That way I can remove unlikable parts from my next books!

            As if turning into a writer wasn’t odd enough, I turned to writing about what I’d been doing for the last 20-plus years—troubleshooting reading and writing problems.  I wrote So…Teach Them to Read & Write…Easily between novels.  Without the practice of novel writing, I would never have even attempted such a book!

            It is my hope that readers find The Proving Zone by Blatant Appeal enjoyable and the story behind it amusing too.  And yes, there is a story there too….


2015 by J Vincent