“You will not believe what happened today! “ “Have a minute? I have this great story.”We are forever telling stories. Stories link us, they connect us to our own lives and to the lives of others. Story-telling is as natural as speaking and goes as far back as humankind.

Rita Plush, author

Rita Plush, author

And so we tell our stories. We describe and elaborate, at times adding color and interest to make a better story. We tell about what the cable guy said when he hooked us up to HBO—was he flirting? Or the delightfully outrageous outfit on the supermarket checkout girl with the eyebrow piercings and nose ring, when she rang up our free-range chicken parts and Eddy’s Caramel Delight ice cream.

 
And then there are our family stories, told and retold. Stories that go back generations become part of our oral history, like the one about our grandma who bribed the border guard in Austria with cigarettes hidden in the hem of her underskirts, so she could continue her passage to America. We pass down these stories to our children and grandchildren, so that they might know how it was with their ancestors, linking the generations one to the other.

 
Sometimes the spoken word becomes the written word, more structured, more ordered, but always there are our stories.
Isaac Bashevis Singer said, “If stories weren’t told or books weren’t written, we would live like the beasts, only for the day… the whole world, all human life, is one long story.”

 
“Alterations” are my stories, a collection written over a period of twenty years, some of them harking back more than fifty years, stories that had lived in me, the way stories do, as a bit of memory – a certain smell, the turn of a head, or the particular sound of a voice.

 
Decades later, they called to me, the memories of them morphing, changing, altering, the people becoming characters that were and were not them. And I kept writing. I dressed my characters, gave them habits and a particular way to speak, and put them down on the pages, wanting things they could not have, remembering things they wanted to forget. They mended and they sewed, they owned stores and boutiques, they jerry-made contraptions and carved dollhouse furniture. They dug in the dirt and planted tomatoes, and put together a jigsaw puzzle in a far off mountain cabin. Makers and fixers, they had the creative qualities derived from my parents and passed down to me.

 
But Alterations didn’t start out as a collection. It started with a story I began in 1994 about a quilted dime-store night table and a sleeping Mexican painted on a cupboard door, a story that was rejected ninety-three times before a literary journal picked it up. Other of my stories were met with same type of rejection. Was I discouraged then? Did I think that maybe I should try another line of work? Not me. I kept on plugging away, typing away, and sending away stories trying to get them into print.

 
What was I? Some kind of nut-case who liked nothing better than to open the mail and find a “try us again” form letter rejection? Did I have a burning need to drive up the stock of Staples and Hewlet Packard with my incessant purchase of inkjet cartridges and reams of multipurpose office paper? What made me want to write when no one wanted to read my writing?
Perhaps I was out to prove that The Little Engine That Could chugged away inside me—The Little Engine that Could Not stop writing. I write therefore I am?

 
I wonder if I was longing for a promise of closeness with imagined readers. Was I lonely and didn’t know it? Was some kind of intimacy lacking in my life? Could there have been something I couldn’t get from the people I knew in the flesh, that I had to invent characters who lived in worlds of my invention? Did I want to be the wizard who could make things happen to them—wonderful and terrible things that only I had the power to create?

 
Maybe it was some of, or all of the above. In any case, I kept on writing, writing and rewriting, and sending out my stories. Finally, “Love, Mona” that first story, was accepted, and over time, others as well, but I no more thought story collection, than I thought my name was Joyce Carol Oates.

 
A collection needs a connective link, stories that have something in common, a recurring theme or idea that ties them together. But I wrote my stories without a specific plot line in mind, the characters and the writing itself bringing the story to fruition. Little girls and adolescents, a teenager, a father, a son, grown women, a whole slew of characters, who to my mind had little to do with each other. Yet when I reread them all again, I saw that there was a link, and that link was family. Families of different types and mindsets, families that were broken and those that were healing, families my characters clung to, and those from which they ran. And it was to that enduring notion of family life, with all its messy complications, its intrigues and dramas, its loving and sometimes mysterious bonds, that I dedicated “Alterations,” in memory of my parents, Molly and Max Weingarten.
This post originally appeared on BestChickLit.

Alterations, stories by Rita Plush

Alterations, stories by Rita Plush

Rita Plush:  Many of the stories in this collection are told through the eyes of a child growing up with the rumble of the El along 86th Street, walking with her mother in her big-shouldered mouton coat, as she did her errands and talked with the shopkeepers. The walkup apartment house where she lived with her family, the damp steamy smell of the lobby where the metal taps on her shoes made a satisfying clicking sound as she ran up and down the marble steps. The seamstress in her apartment building, her friend’s father who seldom spoke, the people her parents knew, the relatives – her ear pressed to the wall, hearing talk that was not for her to hear – the people they spoke of in Yiddish so the child would not understand.
Beginning with Frances, the young child grieving for her mother in “Love, Mona,” these stories come full circle to Rusty in “Feminine Products,” pregnant but unmarried, desperate to make a family for her unborn child. I hope they keep you turning pages, both interested and entertained, as the characters become ‘altered’ by their circumstances and continue to make their way in life.
Alterations is available in ebook and trade paperback from Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/Alterations-Rita-Plush/dp/1938758153/ref=tmm_pap_title_0
and from Barnes & Noble in ebook http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/alterations-rita-plush/1115410411?ean=2940016704166
Visit her website http://www.ritaplush.com for more information about Rita.

betty for pandora 3

Story Presented by Author Betty Dravis

It’s my pleasure to celebrate with my publisher Wendy Dingwall of Canterbury House Publishing. I can’t believe I’ve been with CHP since 2011 with three of my e-books, Interviews with Dirty Harry and Other Hollywood Icons, 1106 Grand Boulevard and The Toonies Invade Silicon Valley. Time does, indeed, fly.

Since Wendy has contributed and been featured in Dames of Dialogue many times, our readers are familiar with her and we all look forward to hearing from her.

Wendy Dingwall is the most honest, caring and hard-working publisher I’ve ever had and I’m proud to be part of the great Canterbury House. It’s exhilarating to share her feelings about her business on its Fifth Birthday. Enjoy…and learn…

From the desk of Publisher Wendy Dingwall

wendy pic

Publisher & Author Wendy Dingwall

Whew! Where did the time go? It has certainly been a learning curve and then some. Especially given all the changes in the industry over the last five years.We are currently experiencing growing pains again due to our recent change of working directly with the wholesalers instead of using a distributor. The workload has increased and for the moment the process of new books has slowed as we adjust to new duties.

CHPcastle-old-english-burg

I am proud to say that we have published over thirty well-received books during our first five years. This includes our e-books.

I’d like to personally thank our super authors for their hard work in writing and rewriting, working with editors and last but not least in helping to market their books.

wendy's books

Yvonne Suarez Mystery books by Wendy Dingwall

I couldn’t have done it without our wonderful editors: Sandra Horton, Greg Kilgore and Donna Akers and our fabulous graphic designers: Ann Nemcosky, Aaron Burleson and most especially Tracy Arendt.

I’d also like to thank off-set printers: United Graphics and McNaughton & Gunn, and POD printer: Lightning Source, for turning out quality books each and every time.

We were pleased to celebrate our readers on our Fifth Anniversary by offering a 25% discount on all print book orders placed through the end of July, 2014. Now that the sale is over, we hope you will still purchase our esteemed authors’ works by ordering their books through Amazon, Smashwords, BN.com and other online bookstores.

Carolyn J. Rose

Carolyn J. Rose, author

One rainy day in the 1950s, my mother got out a set of aging paper dolls she’d played with as a child. Sadly, they didn’t survive for long. Not many toys or games did. My brothers and I played hard.

Nevertheless, despite the fact that the tiny tabs designed to hold outfits in place never quite did their jobs, I loved the variety of clothing and the speed and ease with which I could make changes. It was far quicker than dressing the rubber-skinned ballerina doll for which my grandmother sewed skirts, tops, a cape, and even a beret.

In high school I created outfits for myself—seldom with much success—by stitching up simple jumpers and skirts, borrowing from friends, and buying what I could stretch my allowance to cover. All of that took time, time I spent yearning for what I saw as the cheap convenience of paper clothing. If only I could sketch a sweater and slip it on, paint a pair of paints, crayon a coat.

Now, with words instead of art supplies or needles, thread, and fabric, I do just that for my characters. Clothing them is far more enjoyable than clothing the dolls of the past or outfitting myself.

First, the sky is the limit. There’s no budget, no need to save up or ponder the necessity of each purchase. If Mrs. Ballantine from No Substitute for Murder insists on three strands of pearls and a cashmere wrap to wear with a silk dress, she gets them. If Dan Stone from Hemlock Lake demands top-of-the-line hiking boots, no problem. I’ll even throw in a pair of thermal socks.

Second, there’s no need to alter, hem, let out a seam, or take a tuck. Everything fits, no matter what shape the character is in. That also means there’s no need for a character to shed a few pounds or hit the gym to tone up.

Third, there are no storage issues. There’s no need to toss something old because a character bought something new. There’s always room in that fictional closet for a few more items.

Fourth, if a change of outfit is necessary to the progression of the action, it can be accomplished in the time it takes to write a sentence or two.

Fifth, unless the plot calls for an item to be impossible to find, out of stock, too large, or too small, what characters want is always available in the right size and color.

Sixth, I have the right to scoff at the dictates of fashion. Nothing goes out of style unless I want it to.

Seventh, I don’t have to dress every character every day. When they’re not in a scene, they’re on their own. I sometimes wonder if they sit at the edge of a page wearing outfits from previous scenes or if they slip into loungewear or strip down for a shower or soak.

How about you?

What advantages do you see to creating clothing with words?
What are your favorite fictional outfits?
And what do you think characters wear when they’re not appearing on the pages?

 

No Substitute for Murder by Carolyn J. Rose

No Substitute for Murder by Carolyn J. Rose

Carolyn J. Rose is the author of the Subbing isn’t for Sissies series (No Substitute for Murder, No Substitute for Money, and No Substitute for Maturity), as well as the Catskill Mountains mysteries, Hemlock Lake and Through a Yellow Wood. Other works include An Uncertain Refuge, Sea of Regret, A Place of Forgetting, and five novels written with her husband, Mike Nettleton: The Hard Karma Shuffle, The Crushed Velvet Miasma, Drum Warrior, Death at Devil’s Harbor and Deception at Devil’s Harbor.

She grew up in New York’s Catskill Mountains, graduated from the University of Arizona, logged two years in Arkansas with Volunteers in Service to America, and spent 25 years as a television news researcher, writer, producer, and assignment editor in Arkansas, New Mexico, Oregon, and Washington. Her interests are reading, gardening, and NOT cooking.  www.deadlyduomysteries.com

Rita Plush, author

Rita Plush, author

Let Your Reader Hear Your Characters Speak on Audio
How we love to hear stories. The human voice, its richness and intonations takes us into make believe worlds.
And I love that my book, Lily Steps Out, has stepped off the monitor screen and printed page into the listening world as an audio book. After all the work of writing (5 years) and getting Lily into print (tack on another 7), it was pure pleasure to hear my story told through my characters. And because I think my fellow Indie Authors will benefit from my experience, I’m spreading the word—or words as we writers are inclined to spread.
I learned about ACX—Audiobook Creation Exchange—owned by Amazon (isn’t everything?) from a fellow author who said the procedure of getting a print or eBook into a listening format was “pretty much painless” and she was right. This this is the gist of how I did it:
First, I checked my publishing contract to see if I owned my book’s audio rights and the cover (yes and yes). If you don’t own the cover to your book ACX will help you put one together.
Thinking that the sales of the audio might in some way effect my publisher’s royalties on print and eBook venues, I ran the idea by them. Their only concern was that Amazon might “bundle” the print or eBook version at a discounted price with the audio, thus reducing their royalty—Amazon does what it wants with its pricing regardless of the publisher or author’s viewpoint (it’s good to be the king). A call to ACX assured me that if there was “bundling” it would be the audio that would be reduced, not the print or eBook version.
That bit of business out of the way I forged ahead and decided on the first of the three royalty options ACX offers. In a nutshell here they are:
1. Royalty Share—royalty payments are shared among ACX, the author, and the narrator (referred to as Rights Holder and Producer by ACX) with ACX getting 50 per cent of the royalty and the author and narrator each getting 25 percent. This plan is at zero cost to the author.
2. Pay for Production Exclusive Distribution—the author pays the narrator a one-time fee (this fee can be negotiated) and splits the royalty with ACX who is the exclusive distributor of the audio.
3. Pay for Production Non-Exclusive Distribution is the same as far as “author pays the narrator” goes, but the author can distribute to resources other than ACX which reduces the author’s royalty.
ACX handles all distribution of royalties and pays the narrator when she has earned $50 or more each month.
Next up on my to-do list was to create a personal profile, a blurb about Lily and provide a sample passage of the book. A click of a button put me in touch with narrators on the ACX website and I invited a handful to audition. The invites, auditions, and all correspondence between author and narrator are done through ACX’s website, with an 800 number if you have questions (I had many questions).
I also had a particular voice criteria for Lily Steps Out. A kind of New-Yorkish female voice, but I also wanted a narrator who could do male; there are men in the story who have a lot to say. Did I mention funny? There’s lots of humor in Lily and I wanted a voice artist who could put that over. So female, male, New York and funny.
Three narrators auditioned a fifteen minute, contract-specified, segment.
The first narrator lacked Lily’s spirit and liveliness, so she was out. The next was an improvement, but not quite right, so I emailed my reservations, suggested changes and waited for the revision (the seven year contract provides for two revisions of the fifteen minute segment). There was barely a difference between the first and second takes, and I decided she wasn’t for me. The third narrator nailed all the voices and patterns of speech but I felt that her emphasis was off in certain passages. My email to her explained the specifics, commented on her general performance and the recording quality (that’s the author’s responsibility) which according to the contract, can still be done after the entire recording has been presented.
Sheri Puggot, the narrator I chose, had other professional commitments to satisfy before she could start on Lily, and technical glitches and communication delays between her and ACX once she did start, making the audio production take a bit longer than the ACX website specified (three to four months turned into six months). Not a big deal, as far as I was concerned. We were in a partnership, she and I, both wanting the best reading of Lily.
From sign-on to breakout date, putting Lily Steps Out on audio was a learning experience, one in which I not only mastered a process unfamiliar to me (it’s not difficult, but it is involved and it does take time) but I was able to place Lily Steps Out on a new promotional track and put another notch in my marketing belt.
This post originally appeared on Indies Unlimited.

Lily Steps Out by Rita Plush

Lily Steps Out by Rita Plush

Blurb: Empty nest, retired husband… after thirty-three years of making beds and cooking dinners, Lily Gold has had it and decides to look for a job. Her husband Leon, however, doesn’t like not having her at his beck and call and puts the kibosh on her chance of opening her own antique store by emptying out their bank account. This is marriage? This is war! Follow Lily as she turns the status quo into quid pro and gives her husband a run for his money.
Rita Plush lives and writes in Queens, New York. Her writing practice includes both fiction and nonfiction. She is the author of Lily Steps Out (Penumbra Publishing 2012), and the short story collection, Alterations (Penumbra 2013).
During her forty-year career as an interior designer, Rita was the Coordinator of the Interior Design Decorating Program in Continuing Ed. at Queensborough Community College. There, she implemented and taught several classes in the program and remains on the faculty. As a speaker, Rita has presented at libraries and synagogues, at Hofstra University and CW Post Hutton House, on topics ranging from writing and publishing, the decorative arts, interior design and “Coco Chanel ~ The Woman–The Legend”
She is the facilitator of the Self-Published Authors’ Roundtable that meets the first Tuesday of each month at the Manhasset Library, Manhasset, L.I.
Links for Lily Steps Out
http://www.amazon.com/Lily-Steps-Out-Rita-Plush/
Links for Alterations: http://www.amazon.com/Alterations-Rita-Plush/dp/1938758153/ref=tmm_pap_title_0
http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/alterations-rita-plush/1115410411?ean=2940016704166
To learn more about Rita visit her website. http://www.ritaplush.com

Nancy Lynn Jarvis, author

Nancy Lynn Jarvis, author

–Tell us about your latest book.
I should be more excited telling you about the five books I’ve written as part of the Regan McHenry Real Estate Mysteries series or Mags and the AARP Gang, a feel-good novel about renegade octogenarian bank robbers, but the truth is, my latest project Cozy Food: 128 Cozy Mystery Writers Share Their Favorite Recipes is so much fun, it knocks my socks off. The title pretty much says it all. A BUNCH of us did a cookbook and it turned out great!
When you’re writing, who’s in control, you or the characters?
With the exception of Mags who told me what to write, while I listen to my characters, I’m in charge. Was that the case with Cozy Food? Not really. Oh, I did have to explain why one author couldn’t have a 4000 word biography when everyone else was sticking to 300 words more or less as requested, but for the most part I just looked at what the contributors had to say, licked my lips frequently as I read their recipes, and laughed at the witty way they introduced their recipes and told readers about themselves.
–Who are your favorite authors, the ones you read when you should be doing something else? Why do they appeal to you?
I now have 127 favorite writers. Seriously, doing Cozy Food introduced me to many authors I didn’t know and my “to read” list has grown exponentially. The other thing I learned after editing the book is that cozy mystery writers are simply some of the nicest people out there.
–Promotion is a big—and usually the most hated—part of being a writer. Can you share a little bit about how you promote?
Cozy Food is my idea of a great and painless way to promote. I pitched to writers that being in the book would be akin to having a blog post with legs because people would keep a cookbook and read new parts of it as they used it to cook. I’ve been getting email from people who say that’s exactly what they are doing and reviewers have indicated they are enjoying reading what authors have to say as much as the recipes. So we all get our names in front of readers—hopefully in front of some readers who haven’t yet heard of us—and have an opportunity to meet them with our bios and recipes. The cookbook also lets readers connect with writer author pages and websites so they can easily find our books, too.
–How long have you been writing?
I started writing in 2008 with The Death Contingency and have hopefully gotten better at it with later books.
–What do you consider the single most satisfying aspect of being a writer?
I’ve had people come up to me and say, “I’ve read your books; I really enjoyed them.” It doesn’t get better than that. I must add a second aspect though, because it took me a minute to decide which was the most satisfying, and if I had to ponder that long, that’s a close call. I have “met” people from all over the world as a result of writing. I absolutely cherish those new friends.
–How many hours a day do you write, where, any specific circumstances help or hurt your process?
Editing Cozy Food was a wildly different process than writing novels. I’m a lazy writer who writes whenever I want to. For Cozy Food, I worked ten hour days seven days a week for the first three weeks. That was an extremely tense time because, when I think about the authors I emailed about being in the cookbook, the project really shouldn’t have succeeded. By rights, authors should have frowned and hit their delete button when they read my spammy invitation letter. Since I had told many people about my idea, I knew how foolish I’d look if the project failed for lack of participation and that real possibility kept me up nights. Why didn’t they hit delete? See last sentence of favorite authors question.
Once the project was a go, I worked eight hour days on it six days a week and my husband, who did the formatting, pagination, and linking to make the book work put in as many hours as I did per day until it was published.
–What are your thoughts on the standard writing advice, “write what you know”?

Cozy Food by Nancy Lynn Jarvis

Cozy Food by Nancy Lynn Jarvis

Cozy Food is the epitome of write what you know. My book covers and titles may not be typical cozy style, but my books are cozies. I know what a cozy is and understand the connection between cozies and food so a cookbook seemed like a natural next step. Even having a few pet treat recipes fit with cozy mysteries.
–How do you classify yourself as a writer? Fiction or non-fiction? Specific genre such as mystery, short story, paranormal or more general such as women’s fiction, Appalachian, etc.
I’m primarily a cozy mystery writer having done five books with a sixth in the series planned. I also want to do a new cozy series featuring two older men—one long divorced and one recently widowed—who meet at a retirement community or condo where they have moved to downsize. Both were hand and they miss home improvement, so they are going to form a business called “Geezers with Tools” and get involved in mystery solving in the course of doing home repair.
I don’t know where to put Mags and the AARP Gang: comedy, feel-good, coming of age (except the characters are in their eighties), or women’s fiction, and I have a first chapter written for a historical fiction book as well, and now I’m a non-fiction editor.
–Where do you get your ideas?
Cozy Food started when I found the front cover graphic and thought it would make a perfect cozy mystery cookbook cover. That’s not unusual for me. I usually have an idea for a book cover before I get very far into the writing process. Somehow looking at a book cover design helps me focus.
–Have you bought an e-reader? What is your overall impression of electronic publishing?
I have an antique Kindle which I bought only after being told by some readers that the Kindle version of Backyard Bones was a mess. (The Kindle people kept reassuring me the readers were mistaken, Ha!) I still prefer paper books…unless it’s 10:00p.m. and I’m looking for a good book. I admit to loving Cozy Food in e-format, though, because you can zip all over the book and link to the internet for more info about an author. It is in a word, slick!
- Why do you write?
Because I haven’t found anything else to do that’s so much fun.

Link to Amazon author page with all the books mentioned is http://www.amazon.com/Nancy-Lynn-Jarvis/e/B002CWX7IQ/ref=sr_tc_2_0?qid=1402416328&sr=1-2-ent

My website is http://www.goodreadmysteries.com and facebook is https://www.facebook.com/ReganMcHenryRealEstateMysteries?ref=ts

Author Carolyn J. Rose

Author Carolyn J. Rose

I confess. I suffer from name envy.

I’ve always wanted an unusual name, a name with character, flash, and spark, a name like Scarlett or Tess or Storm. By comparison, my name seems ordinary, bland, and run-of-the-mill. I don’t even have a nickname I like better. In fact, I don’t have a nickname at all. (Okay, sometimes my mother called me “Petunia” but along with being a flower, Petunia was Porky Pig’s girlfriend, so no way would I allow anyone else to use that nickname, especially back in elementary school.)

Family legend has it that when I was three or four, I often wouldn’t respond to my name but would insist I was someone else that day and they’d have to guess who I was before I’d do anything I was told. We didn’t have a television then, so my knowledge of names was limited to relatives, family friends, and characters in the comic section of the newspaper or in stories my grandparents read to me. It wouldn’t take long for my mother and father to guess I was Cinderella or Alice or Heidi.

My name was “borrowed” from my mother’s college roommate and most of the kids I knew had what I think of as “recycled” names. There were family names handed down along with cribs and baby carriages, and names drawn from history or the Bible. In my limited experience, the “name pool” didn’t seem to be broad or deep. I went through school with plenty of kids named Mary, Barbara, Susan, Carol, Ann, Linda, Charles, Edward, John, Michael, Richard, Roger, or Paul.

When babies were about due, friends and family offered suggestions and opinions—sometimes in loud voices. Some held out for tradition, for honoring ancestors. Some had a snobbish attitude toward anyone who tinkered with a single letter of traditional spelling, joined names together, or—heaven forbid—gave a boy’s name to a girl. Others were more adventurous.

But they were nowhere near as adventurous as parents are now. The proof is in the attendance sheets I collect when I report to high school as a substitute teacher. The names on those sheets are imaginative, unique, and fascinating. There are names that are fresh and original. There are names borrowed from other languages. There are traditional names transformed by changing the leading letter for another. And there are old favorites spelled in new ways.

At the end of a day in high school, I’m green with name envy. I want a do-over. I want a different combination of letters printed below the picture on my ID badge.

Despite that, the characters in my books tend to have traditional names: Dan, Barbara, Molly, Kate, Liz, Dave.

I like to think I’ve made an effort to name them in a way that meshes with their settings, characteristics, and the roles they play. Dan Stone, the protagonist of Hemlock Lake, finds himself in a situation that reminded me of Daniel in the den of lions. Substitute teacher Barbara Reed got her name because I could shorten it to Barb, which said something about her sarcastic take on things.

But perhaps the truth is that when it comes to names, I have no flair, no flamboyance. I also seem to lack the courage to act. I could take a new name—legally or not—but I haven’t. I’ve stuck with what I was given at birth. It may not have panache and pizzazz, but it’s the name two people who loved me decided on.

How about you? Have you always wanted another name? (If so, what is it?) Do you have a nickname you’ll admit to? Do you go wild with your characters’ names?

Leave a comment and let’s chat.

 

Maturity by Carolyn J. Rose

Maturity by Carolyn J. Rose

Carolyn J. Rose is the author of the Subbing isn’t for Sissies series (No Substitute for Murder, No Substitute for Money, and No Substitute for Maturity), as well as the Catskill Mountains mysteries, Hemlock Lake and Through a Yellow Wood. Other works include An Uncertain Refuge, Sea of Regret, A Place of Forgetting, and five novels written with her husband, Mike Nettleton: The Hard Karma Shuffle, The Crushed Velvet Miasma, Drum Warrior, Death at Devil’s Harbor and Deception at Devil’s Harbor.

She grew up in New York’s Catskill Mountains, graduated from the University of Arizona, logged two years in Arkansas with Volunteers in Service to America, and spent 25 years as a television news researcher, writer, producer, and assignment editor in Arkansas, New Mexico, Oregon, and Washington. Her interests are reading, gardening, and NOT cooking.  Website www.deadlyduomysteries.com

Rita Plush, author

Rita Plush, author

Sitting at a keyboard, waiting for the muse who refuses to appear can be a lonely business. And when we writers do get those synapses flying we often become so familiar and attached to our words, we can’t see them objectively. Our words are our darlings, we fall in love with them. They’re like our children, and like our children we can’t see their faults and blunders. We need others to point out their missteps.
That’s where a writers’ group comes in. Like-minded fellows gathering for give-and-take feedback and support, will not only make us feel less alone, but can take our writing to a higher level.
Careful readers that we are, writers can sense if a scene has too much or not enough dialogue, if the characters are developed, if there’s enough detail or too much unnecessary information. And while it’s true that it’s our work, if we find a few members making the same comment about a particular scene, maybe they’re onto something from which we can learn.
I realized I had a problem with character when my group discussed the first chapter of Lily Steps Out. It had to do with Lily’s relationship with her husband, Leon.
“I don’t see him as the take-charge guy you say he is,” one member volunteered. Another agreed. Still another nodded.
“But he is,” I said, defending my work. “He’s retired now. He has no business to run so he wants to run Lily!”
“It’s not on the page,” said a member. “I think you need to show it more,” from another.
Food for thought, and I thought about it, coming up with a flashback at the end of the chapter that showed how Lily and Leon met and how cocky and sure of himself he was even then. That inclusion not only fleshed him out, but also opened a window onto the balance in their relationship that Lily would soon toss on its ear—or better still, Leon’s ear.
Writers of fiction and non-fiction, authors of essays, poetry and plays, my writers’ group meets every week in a local eatery to have a bite and discuss our work.
Out of a core group of six, we rotate leaders, each member heading up the meeting for two months. “Any news?” the leader will ask getting things started, meaning has anyone been published or rejected (alas, there are always more of the latter than the former) or heard about anything writer related that might be of interest to the group.
“Who’s reading?” is the next matter of business.
Not every writer reads every week but those who do, bring double spaced copies of their work for each attendee. As we follow along the text, we jot down comments on dialogue, character, plot, and then have an open discussion. Remarks run the gamut, and though we give our general impressions, we focus on specifics. If we like a bit of dialogue, we say why. If we think it’s unnatural for a character to speak as he or she does, we weigh in on that. The plot is sagging? We suggest ways of shoring it up.
Has anyone ever left in a huff because they didn’t like their critique? Once in a while. Have folks come once or twice and not again? All the time. Writers try us out—we post notices in our local newspapers and libraries—and decide we’re not for them. But we also have writers who remain with us for months, years even, sharpening their skills, sharing the pain and pleasure of the writing life.
Our members’ original plays have been performed at libraries and community centers, their short verse has appeared in The New York Times, and it’s not uncommon for a short story to find its way to a literary journal—does The Alaska Quarterly Review ring a bell? My novel, Lily Steps Out was work-shopped at my writers’ group, the same goes for my short story collection Alterations. I’m convinced my work wouldn’t have found its way into print had it not been for my writers’ group.
A version of this post was originally published on Best Chick Lit.

Lily Steps Out by Rita Plush

Lily Steps Out by Rita Plush

Blurb: Empty nest, retired husband… after thirty-three years of making beds and cooking dinners, Lily Gold has had it and decides to look for a job. Her husband Leon, however, doesn’t like not having her at his beck and call and puts the kibosh on her chance of opening her own antique store by emptying out their bank account. This is marriage? This is war! Follow Lily as she turns the status quo into quid pro and gives her husband a run for his money.
Rita Plush lives and writes in Queens, New York. Her writing practice includes both fiction and nonfiction. She is the author of Lily Steps Out (Penumbra Publishing 2012), and the short story collection, Alterations (Penumbra 2013).
During her forty-year career as an interior designer, Rita was the Coordinator of the Interior Design Decorating Program in Continuing Ed. at Queensborough Community College. There, she implemented and taught several classes in the program and remains on the faculty. As a speaker, Rita has presented at libraries and synagogues, at Hofstra University and CW Post Hutton House, on topics ranging from writing and publishing, the decorative arts, interior design and “Coco Chanel ~ The Woman–The Legend”
She is the facilitator of the Self-Published Authors’ Roundtable that meets the first Tuesday of each month at the Manhasset Library, Manhasset, L.I.
Links for Lily Steps Out
http://www.amazon.com/Lily-Steps-Out-Rita-Plush/
Links for Alterations: http://www.amazon.com/Alterations-Rita-Plush/dp/1938758153/ref=tmm_pap_title_0
http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/alterations-rita-plush/1115410411?ean=2940016704166
To learn more about Rita visit her website. http://www.ritaplush.com

The Dames would like to welcome author Nicola Furlong to the blog today. Tell us about your latest book, Nicola.

My latest novel HEARTSONG, is the debut in my new contemporary women’s fiction series the Sisterhood of Shepherds.

Some families have hope. Others have faith. The Shepherds of rural Oregon have Faith, Hope and Charly, three quirky sisters whose lives change forever when they reluctantly answer a personal calling to help others make amends.

In HEARTSONG, thirty-something single parent Charly Shepherd is satisfied with her life raising two children and thousands of plants in her family-owned Sweet Shepherd Nursery. Then, tragedy strikes. As she and her siblings struggle nicolafurlongto keep the nursery going, Charly begins to believe her family’s destiny is greater than raising flowers. When the three sisters reluctantly delve into family secrets to help their ailing father fulfil a promise, their lives change forever as they pursue a new inspirational path of discovery, heartache, humor and redemption.

Tagline: Experience friendship, family and forgiveness – Join the Sisterhood of Shepherds.

What great names and what a great idea for a series. Can you share a little bit about what you’re working on now or what’s coming next?

I’m writing the first draft of HOMEFIRES, the next novel in the Sisterhood of Shepherds series. It’s Halloween in rural Oregon and Faith, Hope and Charly Shepherd delve further into their personal calling to help others atone for past misdeeds. The family’s Sweet Shepherd Nursery is also hosting a ‘haunted greenhouse’ event, so everyone is tooling up their ‘thriller zombie’ moves.

Love it! What is a typical writing day like for you?

Wish I could say my life orbits around writing, but it really spins on food, especially chocolate. A typical day depends on the season.

The routine in spring and summer is easy: up early for breakie and in the garden for an hour, write new stuff from 8:30 to noonish, eat, exercise for an hour (bike ride or Nordic pole walking) while pondering my next scene, then take the dogs for a walk, back to being slumped over the computer for an hour or so of marketing and promotion before dinner and then more fun with family, friends or the plants. Fall and winter writing schedule is similar, but revolves around my playing Old-Timer’s hockey three mornings a week and not so much in the gardens.

Sounds like you lead an active life! Dogs and gardening – two of my favorites. Promotion is a big—and usually the most hated—part of being a writer. Can you share a little bit about how you promote?

Oh, I really despise promotion, but I shamelessly plug away. I have a blossoming website/blog, dig in and out of Facebook and GoodReads, and am now sprouting on Pinterest, as it really suits my gardening photos. I also teach writing and self-publishing, am an active public speaker, and attend some writing events.

nicolafurlong.teedoffTell us a little bit about where you live.

I’m really lucky to live and garden in a small seaside town on southern Vancouver Island, British Columbia. We boast the best climate in Canada and my gardens are chock a block with plants and blossoms. I’m currently haunted by striking bamboos, Himalayan blue poppies and fairy and vertical gardens.

Sounds beautiful. Where do you find inspiration for your writing?

The Sisterhood of Shepherds bloomed when I decided to dodge out of the mystery genre and plant myself in contemporary fiction. I realized I wanted to write something heart-warming rather than heart-breaking, and two themes naturally occurred to me: family and gardening.

I have five sisters and two brothers and felt it was time to explore the joys, trials and noise of family life. I am also passionate about digging in the dirt and drawn to all the thematic ideas, like life, death and seasons, surrounding gardening. So, putting my family of Shepherds into the plant nursery business seemed an ideal fit.

Love that answer. If you could talk for thirty minutes with any author (or person), living or dead, who would it be?

I would cherish the opportunity to meet Harper Lee. To Kill a Mockingbird is a wonderful novel, focused on family, truth and hope. As a tomboy with an older brother, I identify directly with Scout and her challenges to please her family, her society and yet be herself. I understand that the author had many challenges, some personal, some writing and some societal, in creating the final version. Her perseverance is inspiring.

That’s absolutely my favorite book. Although I understand she’s a bit reclusive, it would be a great coup to talk to her. What are your thoughts on the standard writing advice, “write what you know”?

This is an appealing question because I’ve recently completely changed my attitude towards this old chestnut. When I was writing mystery and suspense novels, I thought one should write about what interests you, what you don’t know but would like to explore. With this in mind, I dug into many things, including forensics, professional golf, opera singing and being a stigmatic. Now, with the Sisterhood of Shepherd series, I’m using what I know about sibling rows and reconciliations to grow a new fictional family.

What is your VERB? (This is a big poster at a local mall)? If you had to choose ONE verb that describes you and you behavior or attitude, what would it be?

GAME. Suits me to a tee as I’m very athletic and willing to tackle almost anything (and sometimes anyone!).nicolafurlong.heartsong

Were books an important part of your household when you were growing up?

Yes, books and reading played huge roles. Both my parents were highly educated and voracious readers. We all read from an early age and several of my siblings have had books and articles published. My father devoured murder mysteries and introduced me to some terrific writers, like Carter Dickson, Rex Stout, Margery Allingham, Ngaio Marsh, Ellery Queen and Raymond Chandler, not to mention the greats like Christie, Conan Doyle and Collins.

Have you bought an e-reader? What is your overall impression of electronic publishing?

I’m into electronic publishing big time. In 2008, when I learned that Japanese readers had downloaded millions of books to their cell phone screens, I realized I could self-publish my backlist and find a new audience. It was a tremendous challenge and a steep-learning curve but within a year, I had several ebooks available for sale online, awake and alive in the world again, rather than snoozing in drawers or on disks. I now regularly teach electronic publishing at a local college and have had many students succeed in publishing their own work and beginning to manage their career as writers. How cool is that?

I think it’s wonderful. Ebooks are definitely the way to go. Any good suggestions for overcoming writer’s block?

Write something, anything, everyday. Don’t edit, don’t second guess, and don’t stop.

Thanks again for joining us today, Nicola. For more information, visit: 

http://www.nicolafurlong.com

http://www.pinterest.com/novelnicola

HEARTSONG is available in paperback and ebook at:

Amazon:

Barnes and Noble:

http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/heartsong-nicola-furlong/1119125355?ean=9780985961077

TEED OFF! is in trade paperback and ebook available at:

Amazon:

Barnes & Noble:

http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/teed-off-nicola-furlong/ 1112560059?ean=9781610091091

Over the past year my husband and I revised and self-published four jointly written books previously with small publishers. He blogged about that experience for The Dames of Dialogue a few months ago, so—with the exception of saying that the process was tedious, time-consuming, and tense—I’ll skip to the revisions I don’t intend to make.

The three-book Casey Brandt TV news series (Consulted to Death, Driven to Death, and Dated to Death) is out of print and no longer available for download. The series came out through Deadly Alibi Press a dozen years ago. When Deadly Alibi folded, the books were picked up by SynergEbooks. When my contract expired, I gave away the print copies on my shelves, put my notes and files in a closet, and closed the door.

Despite the possibility of reaching readers through these early books, I don’t intend to open that door and release these titles once more.

Carolyn J. Rose, author

Carolyn J. Rose, author

Why not?

Three reasons:
• TV technology has changed
• I’ve changed
• My feelings about those books have changed

First, the technology. When I wrote the books, in the 80s and early 90s, a huge wave of change had yet to hit most TV news operations. Reporters still used typewriters. Wire service machines chattered in corners. Photographers hauled around bulky cameras and if they didn’t get to the fire or crash on time, viewers didn’t e-mail in cell-phone video. Editing was far more complex. Actual humans ran studio cameras. As an assignment editor, I communicated with news teams in the field through a radio system or landlines.

Bringing the stories into this century and this decade would take many, many hours. Not updating them, but simply trimming, tweaking, and tightening as we did with The Hard Karma Shuffle and The Crushed Velvet Miasma, would require everything to be “true to the times.” That may sound easy, but times (styles, expressions, technology, TV programs, car models) change so quickly that it’s difficult to keep up—and more difficult to remember how it was back in the day. In the process of rewriting a clunky paragraph I could slip in an anachronism that alert readers would spot and call me out on. (If you’ve ever been called out by an alert reader, you know why I don’t want to risk this.)

Second, I’ve changed. I’m not getting any younger, but I like to think that age and experience have made me a better writer. If I opened those books again, I have a feeling I’d be embarrassed by stilted dialogue, pointless descriptions, and drifting points of view. That embarrassment would be magnified because these were once the state of my art and I was proud of them.

Third, although I consider the characters to be old friends, they aren’t as well-rounded as they could be and they’re stuck in the past. I don’t relish a reunion, especially because I’m to blame for that “stuckness” and I feel a little guilty about abandoning them.

I’d rather spend time with characters from my Catskill Mountains Mysteries series and with those who populate the Subbing isn’t for Sissies series. Those characters are evolving. They’re filled with energy and exuberance. They wake me up in the night with ideas for scenes and interactions and bits of dialogue for their next adventures. And—perhaps selfishly—they urge me to write the books piecing themselves together in my mind instead of taking a detour into the past.

If you have books you won’t revise—or books you intend to get to soon—please share your thoughts and comments.

Carolyn J. Rose is the author of the Subbing isn’t for Sissies series (No Substitute for Murder, No Substitute for Money, and No Substitute for Maturity), as well as the Catskill Mountains mysteries, Hemlock Lake and Through a Yellow Wood. Other works include An Uncertain Refuge, Sea of Regret, A Place of Forgetting, and novels written with her husband, Mike Nettleton, Drum Warrior, Death at Devil’s Harbor and Deception at Devil’s Harbor.

She grew up in New York’s Catskill Mountains, graduated from the University of Arizona, logged two years in Arkansas with Volunteers in Service to America, and spent 25 years as a television news researcher, writer, producer, and assignment editor in Arkansas, New Mexico, Oregon, and Washington. Her interests are reading, gardening, and NOT cooking.  Website www.deadlyduomysteries.com

author Rita Plush and father

author Rita Plush and father

Barbara Bush’s recent stay in the hospital brought back memories of “The Barbara Bush Dress,” and the seventy-five plus years my father spent working in the garment center. From stretching, cutting, grading, pattern making and designing, my father knew more about a dress than a dress knew.
Aka the shmate business or rag trade of days gone by, the garment center was a bustling, noisy, Manhattan neighborhood between 5th and 9th Avenues from 34th to 42nd street, when metal wheels of rolling dress racks clattered along the cement sidewalks, the dresses merrily swinging from their poles, their minders shouting in Spanish. The trim and belt and button sellers, the zipper and shoulder pad purveyors, notions they were called—their shops set cheek to jowl along the streets.

Max Weingarten's tools of the trade

Max Weingarten’s tools of the trade

And in one of the lofts, or “The Place” as we called it, was my father, Max Weingarten, taking a bodice from one dress, a sleeve from another, sketching and pricing, hoping for the next “hot number” that would “check out” of the stores. Perhaps adapting, or in the vernacular, “knocking off” an up-market garment he had seen in “Better Dresses” in Macy’s on Herald Square, into one of the more moderate-priced dresses his company manufactured.
And always, he had tales to tell of the garments that sold beyond expectations, of zippers that refused to zip, of skirts that had been cut an inch too short because a cutter hadn’t laid out the pattern efficiently. But no sold-out dress order or faulty zipper, no skirt above the knees, caused the excitement, both at our house in Queens or in the showroom on 34th Street, when Barbara Bush, campaigning for her husband George in 1988, was photographed on the pages of Look magazine in a V-neck, short-sleeved dress with a pleated skirt, of my father’s design. Barbara Bush who could afford any designer from James Galanos to Bill Blass to Adolfo, chose instead a Max Weingarten.
The talk of Seventh Avenue, the dress caused a sensation in the industry. Bold announcements decked the entrance to the Damon Dress company’s showroom, Scott Biller, his boss, copied the picture of Mrs. Bush in her Damon outfit and turned it into a life-size poster, which included the missive: “Everyone tells me in my Damon dress I look like a size 2. I can afford the best and I buy Damon.”
Women’s Wear Daily—the bible of the garment industry—headed up an article (November 22, 1988), “Damon Hopes to Win with Bush” in which they told that Mrs. Bush bought the dress in Washington’s Lord & Taylor and wore it several times during her husband’s bid for President.
Damon produced 14 versions of the polyester and rayon/jacquard two-piece in an array of colors and prints that sold, sold, and sold. And my father, Max Weingarten, though he was not credited in print as its designer, was known throughout the industry as its creator.
It still makes me proud.

Alterations, stories by Rita Plush

Alterations, stories by Rita Plush

This post originally appeared on Boomer Cafe   <http://www.boomercafe.com/2014/01/24/rita-plush-proudly-recalls-father-new-yorks-garment-district/>
http://attheinkwell.com/at-the-inkwell-with-rita-plush/
http://www.blogtalkradio.com/bernadettewalsh/2014/01/23/nice-girls-reading-naughty-books–rita-plush

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