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Author Carolyn J. Rose and pet

Author Carolyn J. Rose and pet

When I wrote my first TV newsroom mystery (now out of print and going to stay that way), I called it Face Time. The title referred to the amount of time viewers would see a news anchor’s face during a newscast. Over the years, I’d worked with several anchors reeled through tapes of news programs and literally counted the seconds their faces filled the screen. If their co-anchors got more time, they’d complain to the producer and news director.

The title spoke to me. But not to others. I argued with everyone (including writing coach Elizabeth Lyon) who said they didn’t get it, didn’t think much of it after I explained it, and felt it wouldn’t sell books. Eventually they wore me down and I went with Consulted to Death because the death of a media consultant sets the plot in motion and the title signals that the story is a murder mystery.

Although I felt like I was the only writer ever to go to war over a title, I wasn’t. Here’s what Lyon says in her just-released booklet, Crafting Titles:

In my years as a book editor, I’ve seldom seen an early title make the final cut. Critique groups, family, friends, and editors may passionately insist that you change your title. . . Because every novel can have many good titles, set your sights on finding one that captures the essence of your novel, has the right “sound,” and reflects its genre.

Crafting Titles by E Lyon

Crafting Titles by E Lyon

In the first section of Crafting Titles (available from Amazon, Crafting Titles by Elizabeth Lyon, Nook, and Kobo), Lyon reviews the many benefits of using a character’s name, like Lolita, or The Great Gatsby. After that, she examines the possibility of using the name of a place:

A setting may become a major character. If place sends seismic waves throughout your story, consider . . . compelling reasons for selecting it as a title.

One of those reasons has to do with the theme of the book, so I pat myself on the back that I used Hemlock Lake as the title for the first of my Catskill Mountains Mysteries. For the protagonist, the remote lake and the small town beside it are poisoned by past events and memories, and those poisonous feelings shape the story and his future.

Elizabeth Lyon, author

Elizabeth Lyon, author

In Lyon’s words: Titles that telegraph themes may unite many levels of the novel: plot, character development, an image or concrete thing, a place and era, an emotional tone, an atmosphere.

Elsewhere in her booklet, Lyon discusses the use of important things or meaningful objects as titles, the use of quotations and literary references, and titles that fit specific genres. She also considers the ideal length of a title, and branding for sequels and series.

Reader recognition of your book is particularly important if you decide to write a sequel, a prequel, or a series. Publishers—and fans—often hope, or even expect, sequels or series. Novels destined to be sequels or part of a series typically have similar titles. A handy way to accomplish this is by repeating a pattern of words in every book title.

I probably should have done that with my Catskill Mountains Mysteries, but I got carried away with other ideas and—okay, I admit it—didn’t ask for advice. Without conscious thought, however, I set up a pattern for the Subbing isn’t for Sissies Series. The fourth in the series, No Substitute for Myth, is just out.

If you’ve struggled with a title in the past or are struggling now, share your pain with a comment. Elizabeth and I will be happy to respond.

A writing teacher and book editor since 1988, Elizabeth Lyon is the author of half a dozen books on how to write, revise, and market novels and nonfiction. In 2013, she launched a booklet series to explore one topic at a time in greater depth. Booklet #1 is Writing Subtext. Booklet #2 is Crafting Titles.

A reviewer for The Writer magazine selected Manuscript Makeover as one of “8 Great Writing Books in 2008,” and described it as “perhaps the most comprehensive book on revising fiction.” Lyon is also the author of The Sell Your Novel Tool Kit, Nonfiction Book Proposals Anybody Can Write, and others.

No Substitute for Myth by Carolyn J. Rose

No Substitute for Myth by Carolyn J. Rose

Carolyn J. Rose is the author of the popular Subbing isn’t for Sissies series (No Substitute for Murder, No Substitute for Money, No Substitute for Maturity, and No Substitute for Myth), as well as the Catskill Mountains mysteries (Hemlock Lake, Through a Yellow Wood, and The Devil’s Tombstone). Other works include An Uncertain Refuge, Sea of Regret, A Place of Forgetting, and projects written with her husband, Mike Nettleton (The Hard Karma Shuffle, The Crushed Velvet Miasma, Drum Warrior, Death at Devil’s Harbor, Deception at Devil’s Harbor, and the short story collection Sucker Punches). She lives in Vancouver, Washington, and her interests are reading, swimming, walking, gardening, and NOT cooking.  Website

Author Carolyn J. Rose and pet

Author Carolyn J. Rose and pets

For some writers, the process of crafting a novel gets easier with each work.

Unfortunately, I’m not a member of that group.

Counting one that I tossed, three that are out of print and will stay that way, and five written with my husband, I just finished novel number 19 (No Substitute for Myth, to be released in June—or so I hope). Even though I knew the characters well because it’s the fourth in the series, and even though I had a clear idea of the plot, I struggled through the middle. Some of that struggle was due to elements I decided to add. Some was due to a feeling of being “held hostage” by my characters and wanting to be out of my office and living a life of my own.

In the previous substitute book, the beginning gave me fits. For number four, that was a cakewalk. Sometimes the ending is elusive, and sometimes I visualize the conclusion long before anything else.

Recently, while waiting for inspiration to deliver a perfect simile, I made a list of what I find most difficult about crafting a novel.

Getting an Idea. Because I’m afraid every idea will be the last, I treat a new one like the discovery of a rare plant. I record my “find” on a file card, post the card on a bulletin board, and then watch it, waiting for fresh shoots and leaves. Meanwhile, other ideas may be passing me by.

Plotting. The planning writers do is equivalent to that huge percentage of an iceberg beneath the surface. It supports your story. But the process of plot-building can be slow, and I’ve found that once characters interact, things can change. So, while I know how a book will start and how it will end, my plans for everything in between are often vague until I get there.

Crafting the Opening Sentences. Unless they come to me in a cheesy-snack-fueled dream, these are tough. So tough, in fact, that I often leave a blank space. When I reach the end, I have a better idea of how to plant the seeds of theme and plot on the first page.

Sitting. I don’t think I need to elaborate on the consequences of spending too much time on your ass-et.

Not Borrowing from Others. I don’t mean plagiarizing; I mean that unconscious shift toward a style or turn of phrase brought on by admiration for the skill of the author I’m reading at the time.

Making it Through the Middle. No matter how many file cards I’ve accumulated and how much plotting I’ve done, sometimes I feel like I’ve waded through a swamp only to step into quicksand. Often I have to go back to the beginning and work forward, reintroducing myself to characters I created weeks ago and have half-forgotten. The ending, like a mirage, seems to retreat before me.

Controlling the Snacking. When I’m stressed—and being stuck in figurative quicksand is stressful—I snack. (And I’m not talking about munching on baby carrots or apple slices.)

Taking Advice. Unless I’ve asked for it, I hate getting advice. And even when I’ve asked, I hate taking suggestions. So, when I’m deep enough in a quandary that I solicit ideas, I set them aside for a week while I work past a bout of I-should-have-seen-that resentment.

Ignoring Advice. I’m referring to the unsolicited and random suggestions that come from well-meaning folks who always wanted to write but never did. “You should write about my garden club and be sure to name all the members or someone will be mad.” “Don’t forget to give your protagonist a few cats.” “You should set your stories in Bermuda.”

The Ending. I think of an ending as the perfect meal—all the good stuff on the plate in portions that are just right. Not so much that servings and flavors run together. Not so little that I close the book feeling hungry. Just enough that I’m satisfied and want more from the same chef.

The title. Titles are tough because a few words have to do a lot of heavy lifting. In fact, they have to do so much lifting that I’m going to “save my strength” and save the topic for next month, when I’ll enlist writing coach Elizabeth Lyon to help me.

In the meantime, what do you think is the most difficult phase of writing a novel and why?

Maturity by Carolyn J. Rose

Maturity by Carolyn J. Rose

Carolyn J. Rose is the author of the popular 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, Through a Yellow Wood, and The Devil’s Tombstone). Other works include An Uncertain Refuge, Sea of Regret, A Place of Forgetting, and projects written with her husband, Mike Nettleton. She lives in Vancouver, Washington, and her interests are reading, swimming, walking, gardening, and NOT cooking.

Although I don’t consider myself a star graduate of the write-what-you-know school of crafting a novel, I’ve found personal experience provides a firm foundation. Still, a few months ago I found myself on shaky ground, deep in write-what-you-don’t-know land.

Author Carolyn J. Rose and pet

Author Carolyn J. Rose and pets

When I pounded out the final pages of Through a Yellow Wood back in 2011, I thought I wouldn’t visit Hemlock Lake again. So, in tying up loose ends and leaving the characters looking toward the future, I gave Camille a baby bump.

2014 rolled around and my fictional folks started lobbying for me to continue their lives in a third book. Since the previous mysteries began in the spring and concluded in September—and since I’m a Virgo and can’t resist a pattern—I knew this one would start as winter retreated from the Catskills. That meant Camille would have her baby on the pages of The Devil’s Tombstone.

And that meant I was in big trouble. I’ve done a lot of things in my life, but giving birth wasn’t one of them. What if I got it wrong?

Channeling Butterfly McQueen as Prissy in Gone With the Wind, I raced to my husband’s office (AKA the man cave in the basement) crying, “I don’t know nothin’ ’bout birthin’ babies!”

“Pick an evening when I’m out,” he counseled when I calmed down. “Invite your gal pals over for one of those macaroni-and-cheese-fueled talk sessions. They’ll give you graphic details.”

Eeekkkk. That was exactly what I wanted to avoid.

As the oldest of a pack of cousins, I often overheard my mother and aunts sharing their experiences during labor and delivery. I was too young to fully understand, but old enough to pick up on words like pain, exhaustion, intense pain, contractions, endless pain, pushing, screaming pain, etc.

I got the idea—giving birth was a far cry from a walk in the woods or a picnic at the beach. I also got that each woman experiences labor in different ways, and that time and pain could vary greatly.

A few hours spent scouring the Internet and a slew of postings confirmed that I had plenty of leeway. If I wanted Camille’s baby to pop out, that could happen. If I wanted labor to go on for a day or more, that could also happen.

I decided Camille would be in enough trouble already—stranded by a snowstorm miles from medical assistance—so I cut labor short. But being stranded created new problems for Camille. And for me.

Back on the Internet, I scrounged information on home deliveries and problems that could arise. I read about dilation and contractions, umbilical cords and the placenta. My head spun about like it belonged to the girl in The Exorcist.

How much detail would female readers want? What about male readers? And what about my male protagonist?

I couldn’t recall my father or uncles hanging around while their wives recounted birthing stories. In fact, I recall them doing disappearing acts worthy of the greatest illusionists.

In the end, I glossed over parts of the process and left out far more than I put in. After reading the scene a friend told me, “At first I was angry that you didn’t describe the birth. I felt cheated. Then I realized that anything you wrote wouldn’t be my experience and I would feel angry about that as well.”

That doesn’t exactly mean I got it all right. But maybe it means I didn’t get it all wrong.

Did I learn a lesson from my venture into write-what-you-don’t-know land? You bet. I’m close to 200 pages along in No Substitute for Myth and sticking to writing what I know. Um, except for the parts about Bigfoot.

The Devil's Tombstone by Carolyn J. Rose

The Devil’s Tombstone by Carolyn J. Rose

Carolyn J. Rose is the author of the popular 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, Through a Yellow Wood, and The Devil’s Tombstone). Other works include An Uncertain Refuge, Sea of Regret, A Place of Forgetting, and projects written with her husband, Mike Nettleton (The Hard Karma Shuffle, The Crushed Velvet Miasma, Drum Warrior, Death at Devil’s Harbor, Deception at Devil’s Harbor, and the short story collection Sucker Punches).

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. She’s now a substitute teacher in Vancouver, Washington, and her interests are reading, swimming, walking, gardening, and NOT cooking.

intro by Betty Dravis

Most of our readers are probably familiar with author/writer Joanna Lee Doster, but ever since I selected her exciting book Maximum Speed: Pushing the Limit for a Betty Award for Book with Best Movie Potential, I wanted to share her story on Dames of Dialogue.

Joanna and Wonder Dog Jack

Joanna and Wonder Dog Jack

Doster is a writer and author whose published books include Celebrity Bedroom Retreats (Rockport Publishing) and the aforementioned Maximum Speed: Pushing the Limit (MPI Publishing). The new edition of her family drama and motorsports racing thriller was released on May 4, 2014 on and Barnes &

She has also written a series of nationally syndicated celebrity profiles that featured legendary sports figures. Doster is a freelance journalist for syndicated newspapers (Gannett as one example), magazines and blogs. In addition, she has held executive positions in Cable Television (Arts & Entertainment, The Learning Channel and PBS communications) and the entertainment industry. She and her husband live in New York.

Now Doster has written the following, especially for our Dames of Dialogue readers.

by Joanna Lee Doster

Most people ask what inspired me to write a stock-car racing thriller. To keep it as simple as possible, I transitioned from my previous non-fiction book and publications to following the need to express myself with expansive, epic stories. I knew I needed powerful characters, with generational back stories; families with complex relationships from the past leading to the present. I satisfied my writing needs in Maximum Speed by writing about three generations of a stock-car-racing family.

joanna max speed cover
Since I love to explore the different kinds of interactions my characters have and how they maneuver throughout their lives, my book about car racing became a metaphor for life. People are racing to or away from something. It’s not so much their destination that determines the type of person they are. It’s their journey to the finish line that determines that. My main characters have flaws and handicaps that most of them bravely overcome. Everyone chooses the path they take in life and how they travel on that path defines them. Ergo, the racing metaphor…
I became intrigued with stock-car racing when I began to realize that it’s not just drivers going aimlessly around tracks. It takes a tremendous amount of discipline, endurance, precision and focus. Driving around tracks for at least four hours with the glaring sun in their eyes, breathing in some residues of carbon monoxide inside a two-ton car that has 2 g forces is difficult enough. The experience is grueling when coupled with when to let up on the gas, when to make a pit stop, knowing when to avoid hitting another car and avoiding track debris, other crashing cars, etc. The list is endless…
I developed complex multi-layered characters that are a composite of people I have known. What I always loved about reading great books was that the well delineated characters always hooked you right away whether they were the heroes or the villains. You wanted to know what happened to them even after you finished reading. In Maximum Speed: Pushing the Limit I show their human frailties right from the start and they draw you in and you do want to know what happens to them at the end of the book. I also naively always believed in justice and so I try to balance out the imbalances in some of the character’s lives. But usually life has a way of meting out its own justice, so it’s not up to me, the author, to do that. I found that it’s best to let the characters take over and show that through their action and dialogue.
My protagonist Sean Devlin has been living on the edge his whole life, making speed and danger his constant companions in order to cover up a deep hole of loneliness and shame from the painful stigma of his childhood stutter. Reckless and testing the limits of life, he finally realizes that he doesn’t have to overcompensate for his speech handicap and conquer the world and his family to be number one. As Taylor, his mother, always told him, “You have no competition, as long as you believe you’re number one.”

The theme of “winning at all costs” philosophy is a thread that runs throughout my latest 2014 edition of Maximum Speed. People are always pushing the limit in their lives in order to achieve great success, whether they are celebrities like the ones in Celebrity Bedroom Retreats (Cher and Versace to name a few) or like the race-car drivers in Maximum Speed. Some of my characters push the limit on and off the racetrack with reckless disregard for their fellow teammates and or loved ones. My protagonist, a young champion racer, has an inordinate amount of drive, determination and obsessiveness for victory lane, overcompensating for a bullied childhood.
Joanna Lee Doster links:
Facebook page:
Amazon Author Central:
BN order page:

joanna, ashley, me on marsha show...

by Betty Dravis

Susan Alcott Jardine is an amazing woman! Not only is she an author, an artist, former actress and an award-winning screenwriter, she and her equally-amazing husband, Neal, are among the most active animal activists in California, and possibly, the nation.

I met Susan about four years ago, shortly after interviewing her former high-school friend, Actor/Producer Tony Tarantino, for Dream Reachers II, a book I co-authored with Chase Von. Susan’s book, The Channel: Stories from L.A., came out about the same time, so I jumped at the chance to review it. A haunting, well-written book… Needless to say, Susan has a way with words… The Channel is available at many online bookstores, including Barnes & Noble and Amazon:

susan triple pic art book and green door

Susan was born and raised in Los Angeles where she majored in theatre arts at El Camino College and California State University, LA. As mentioned above, she worked as an actress in theatre, television and film before working behind the scenes in music production/publishing, as a writer/editor for entertainer Kenny Rogers’s “Special Friends” newsletter, in entertainment law and broadcast television. She and her writing partner Marc Havoc received the WGA Foundation Award for their screenplay Lullabyeland.

susan in bus stop

ECC Theater Production of “Bus Stop,” directed by Joseph D’Agosta who also played Bo to Susan’s Cherie. — with Neal Jardine at El Camino College, Torance, CA.

While playing a role in a film at Paramount Pictures, Susan not only met Tony Bennett and the late Stephen Boyd, she also became friends with the acclaimed screenwriter Harlan Ellison who wrote the screenplay for The Oscar, among many other acclaimed literary/cinematic successes. Ellison became her mentor, actually critiquing her first published story from The Channel: Stories from L.A.,The Metamorphosis of Nathanial Kronstadt, which was first published in Ellery Queens’s Mystery Magazine back in 1985. She acknowledges Ellison as “a turning point and inspiration” in her life. For more about Harlan Ellison, check Wikipedia:

susan with neal by artThis versatile and talented woman is also a painter, and her artwork is in private collections in the US, San Salvador, and Kenya, East Africa, including the permanent collection of Providence Saint Joseph Medical Center. She lives in the Los Angeles area with her husband Neal and many rescued cats.
Art website:

While most of us writers dream of having movies developed from our books, Susan’s dream is much more altruistic: she and her husband Neal dream of founding a Feral and Stray Cat Foundation.

Since 2006, Susan and Neal have been actively rescuing feral and stray cats from the freeway berm that runs behind their home. Over the years they have been trapping, spaying, neutering and moving mother cats, kittens and new litters into their Green Door Editions (GDE) art studio, as well as using it for a recovery area for sick and injured cats. The Jardines named the studio their “temporary kitty hospital.”

susan's neal with cats on bed

Susan confided, “’Life’ and recent unforeseen events sent us into a tailspin here at GDE, forcing us to regroup and formulate a Plan B. But, from the chaos and re-grouping, New Doors opened up to a new path for us here at GDE. Through a loving gift from my late parents’ Trust, as if by magic, there was a ‘Gift’ to be used to start our animal rescue foundation.”

In 2015, the Jardines plan to open their non-profit foundation: “Alex & Friends’ Foundation” which will benefit ‘Feral & Stray Cat Rescue.’ Neal will be working from the legal aspect to set up a non-profit (501) (c) (3) to comply with Federal and state Regulations, and Susan will utilize her art & writing to create the logo and artwork for small gift items that can be added to a new website for the foundation.

dog with poster“It won’t happen overnight,” Susan said, “but by baby steps, we can slowly set it up and connect with other non-profits in the community. We will keep you posted and let you know when we’re finally up and running. A lot of legal work needs to be done before we can go forward, like setting up our Board of Directors, financial account, etc. The good news is that the non-profit status has already been approved by the IRS. We are moving forward and will keep you posted when it is finally up and running as a non-profit animal rescue foundation.”

I’m excited for Susan and Neal…and for all the animals they are helping. I admire them and others who care enough about animals to devote their lives and resources to them. To learn more about all the animals they help, check Susan’s Facebook page at: Don’t forget to check Susan’s site on a regular basis so you can either rescue a pet yourself or donate to this worthy cause.

ENDNOTE: Not essential to this story is a fact I would like to mention before closing: Neal’s brother is the famous Al Jardine of the Beach Boys. Since we and most of our fans love The Beach Boys, I thought you might enjoy that interesting tidbit.

Susan and Neal with Al Jardine

Neal and Susan celebrated with Al Jardine at his performance and book signing on the Target stage at the Los Angeles Times Festival of Books at UCLA. After performing his hit song, “Sloop John B,” Al greeted fans and signed copies of his children’s book, “Sloop John B: A Pirate’s Tale,” which also contained a CD of the song.

al jardine with brian wilson at bb concert in indio ca august 30 2014

BEACH BOYS Brian Wilson & Al Jardine still going strong as they prove at a recent concert in Indio, California. Next year they will take the ever-popular songs of the Boys to the UK.


For some writers—and I’m one of them—writing a synopsis seems more difficult than writing a book.

Author Carolyn J. Rose

Author Carolyn J. Rose

With a book, there’s plenty of “room to roam,” dozens of pages on which to flesh out characters and enlarge themes. There are opportunities to slow the action to provide sequels to follow tense scenes and add description to set the mood and foreshadow action to come.

But a synopsis must be pithy, a neat progression of plot points, thumbnail sketches, tight but evocative description. It must be a distillation of tone, theme, and character arc.

So when writing coach Elizabeth Lyon suggested I write two versions of the synopsis for An Uncertain Refuge, I came as close as I ever have to giving up on my writing dream and getting out that failed knitting project (Who knew a scarf would be so difficult?) from 1970.

To her credit, Elizabeth’s logic was sound. She felt the synopsis I’d labored over for two weeks (Fourteen days! Long days!) didn’t do justice to the emotional journey of the protagonist. She said my synopsis didn’t fully illuminate where Kate Dalton was when the novel began, the challenges she faced, the ways in which she grew, changed, and adjusted her attitudes, and where she was at the end.

Not wanting to break my perfect record of resisting good advice, I fought Elizabeth’s suggestions the way a feral cat fights a bath.

There came a point, however, when I realized I was expending more time and energy avoiding the project than I would if I just did it. So, after kicking over a wastebasket or two, punching out a family-sized bag of corn chips, and downing an adult beverage, I got right to work.

“Easy” is not a word I’d use to describe the process. Neither is “painless.”

“Time-consuming?” Sure. “Frustrating?” You bet. “Worthwhile?” Yes.

When I was finished, I presented both versions to Elizabeth. She reviewed them and gave me a lukewarm “Okay.” Then she dropped the bomb. “Now put them together into one synopsis.”


An Uncertain Refuge by Carolyn J. Rose

An Uncertain Refuge by Carolyn J. Rose

Combining the two meant boiling down 10 pages into 5. That involved tough choices and hard decisions and (Gasp!) deep thought. I punched out a giant-sized sack of pita chips, kicked a footstool, and found a dozen reasons to delay or ditch the project entirely.

But then I got down to it and, after a solid week of work, had a polished product I could send out. Over the next two years, that synopsis went to hundreds of agents and editors. It raked in a few dozen requests to view the first chapters, but no one wanted to take a chance on it. Eventually I published the novel myself. (E-sales to date: 16,000+)

Given all of that frustration and time spent, was the synopsis exercise worthwhile?


I developed more discipline and focus. I learned how to refine my thinking, strengthen description, and capsulate characterization.

Would I do it again?

I don’t know. But one joy of self-publishing is that I don’t have to.


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

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

Maturity by Carolyn J. Rose

Maturity by Carolyn J. Rose

A few days ago I watched a group of high school seniors struggling to write two-page essays about their lives and their plans for the years after graduation.


These were kids who spend untold hours sharing information—sometimes what I consider to be way too much information—in conversations and phone calls and text messages. This was a topic that required no research or attributions. The assignment seemed like a no-brainer.


And yet, after putting down their names and the date and the class period, most of them came to a full stop. Hung up on how to begin, they stared at that blinking cursor.


I felt their pain. Hoping to hook readers who happen across my books but aren’t familiar with my name, I labor long and hard on first sentences and leading paragraphs. Years ago I learned to delay the stress of crafting that opening and leapfrog into the story by leaving a blank space and writing this: Something brilliant goes in this space and I know I’ll think of it later.


I passed along that advice and saw a few kids catch fire and start hammering their keyboards. Others, though, sat like statues. I offered another piece of time-worn writing advice. “Don’t worry about getting your sentences and paragraphs in order. You have that cut-and-paste function. Move things around and clean up transitions later.”


More fingers prodded the keys, but about a third of the class was still floundering. I hit them with the ever-popular first-draft dogma. “It doesn’t have to be perfect. It doesn’t have to be great or even good. It just has to be done. You’ll fix it later.”


Author Carolyn J. Rose

Author Carolyn J. Rose

That was enough incentive for a few to suck in deep breaths and tap hesitantly at the keys. But there were still three staring at their screens with expressions of fear, loathing, panic, and/or soul-searing anxiety. Trotting to their sides, I did a quick survey: “What are you having trouble with? What would help you?”


If you’re a writer, their responses won’t surprise you. They felt that what they wrote—in this first draft or any other—wouldn’t be good enough.


Thanks to that critical little voice in my head, I know Not-Good-Enough Territory well. In fact, I take up residence there every time I sit down to write.


The terrain is riddled with sinkholes and quagmires and quicksand. If a map exists, it’s not accurate. Storms swirl across the landscape and a sudden freeze is always imminent.


One trick to traversing this hostile land is to get moving and keep moving. If you write fast enough, you may outdistance the inner critic or develop enough momentum to leap across or plow through obstacles it throws in your path.


Another trick is to be your own BFF and make plenty of positive noise to drown out snarky comments that could bring you to a halt. If you can’t shut the inner critic up, then shut it down. Congratulate yourself on every simile and bit of dialogue. Cheer the completion of each paragraph. Reward yourself for every chapter.


I shared that philosophy and saw one boy take it to heart. In a few moments he was pounding away. Ten minutes later he had a full page. One of the others managed a paragraph before the bell rang. The third said she couldn’t work in a room filled with people, but made notes.


As for me, when I got to my keyboard, I took my own advice, shut the little voice down, and cranked out eight pages. They might not be good. They might be barely this side of dreadful. But they exist.


What are the tricks you use to get the job done? Leave a comment and share your strategy.

Carolyn J. Rose is the author of more than a dozen novels, including the Subbing isn’t for Sissies series (No Substitute for Murder, No Substitute for Money, and No Substitute for Maturity), and the Catskill Mountains Mysteries (Hemlock Lake and Through a Yellow Wood). 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. She founded the Vancouver Writers’ Mixers and is an active supporter of her local bookstore, Cover to Cover. Her interests are reading, gardening, and NOT cooking. Website

Today the Dames are pleased to shine the spotlight on multi-genre author Joe Perrone, Jr. Hi, Joe, and welcome. Tell us about your latest book, Twice Bitten: A Matt Davis Mystery.

SmallFrontCoverTwiceBittenMy latest release is Twice Bitten: A Matt Davis Mystery, which is set in Roscoe, NY. When a local meth dealer is found murdered in the cab of his pick-up truck, it appears at first glance as if it is nothing more than a drug deal gone south. However, after the actual cause of death is determined, the investigation takes a decided turn toward the bizarre, and eventually the focus of the investigation centers on an itinerant preacher who dabbles in snake handling – the venomous kind – and his attractive assistant. Ron Trentweiler is an ex-convict who has found religion, and Winona Stepp is a young woman with a very murky past. The devil, as it is said, is in the details, and Matt’s investigation of the pair takes him as far away as the coal mining area of Pennsylvania in an effort to get to the truth about his two suspects. The ending will leave you gasping for breath.

Sounds great. I love books that leave you gasping for breath at the end. They always make meSmallFinalFrontCoverBrokenPromisesCandara want to read more so you can be sure Twice Bitten is going on my TBR list. Can you share a little bit about what you’re working on now or what’s coming next?

I am currently at work on the fourth Matt Davis Mystery called Broken Promises. In it, an 88-year old woman is found dead on the grounds of an old burned-out hotel, shot once through the heart. If that’s not mystery enough, there is no apparent motive and there are absolutely no suspects. But, as Matt’s investigation progresses, a steady drip of information from numerous sources begins to lead him in a most unlikely direction: back to the hotel itself. The action is divided between the ongoing investigation in the present, and a description of the series of events that led up to the killing, dating as far back as early in World War II. This one is a true murder mystery.

Ah, a series, that’s even better! What is a typical writing day like for you?

JoelastChristmasNo two writing days are exactly alike for me, but they all have one thing in common: they are draining. On a good day, I’ll awake around 7 a.m., traipse downstairs to my computer, check my emails, and then go back upstairs to have my breakfast. After breakfast, when I sit down to write, I will go over whatever it was that I last wrote and re-read and re-edit it until I’m fairly happy with it. Then, hopefully, I will begin to write new “stuff.” After anywhere from one to three hours, I will either stop for the day or take a break, because I am exhausted. I may do some research on the Internet or answer some emails or check my book sales. Then, I will have lunch. If the spirit moves me, I might go back to work for another half hour or hour, and then I’ll quit for the day. That’s a good day! On a bad day, I might just re-read and re-edit the work from a previous session and then just sit there praying for something to happen. If I’m lucky, I might have a publishing project that I’m doing for another author that I can put my energy into; if not, I’ll probably go to the gym.

Okay, you hit on the one thing that would probably make me force myself to write on a bad day; going to the gym. I’d much rather write—even on the hard days. When you’re re-writing, who’s in control, you or the characters?

For the most part, I would say that I am in control—that is, until they start to speak. Then, I listen for their voices and write down what they say. The same is true for storyline. When it’s working right, I have a germ of an idea and then it kind of goes where it needs to go – which is not always where I had planned for it to go.

I absolutely love the times when my characters “speak to me” and wish it would happen more often. Who are your favorite authors, the ones you read when you should be doing something else? Why do they appeal to you?

I am embarrassed to say that I don’t really read that much. I have some physical problems with my eyesight – andSmallGuideCover I have ADHD, which has always made it difficult for me to read at length. I also have a dread of co-opting someone else’s work subconsciously, and that keeps me from reading any murder mysteries – especially when I am at work on one of my own. As a result, I have taken to reading mostly non-fiction books about such subjects as travel, exploration, mountain climbing, and politics. I also enjoy reading biographies.

I—and I think most other authors—live with that same fear and like you, I tend to stick to nonfiction when I’m writing fiction. Promotion is a big—and usually the most hated—part of being a writer. Can you share a little bit about how you promote?

I spend at least an hour or more per day at promotion. I utilize all forms of social networking, including Facebook, Twitter, and various sites that cater to writers and readers. I also maintain an aggressive advertising campaign, both through Google AdWords and Microsoft Bing. I maintain a website, and blog about once a month on it.

I haven’t tried Google AdWords or Microsoft Bing yet, but I’ve been hearing good things from authors who have. Maybe one of these days I’ll check them out and see if I can figure out the process. How long have you been writing?

SmallFrontCoverMarch1-2013EscapingInnocencecopyI guess I have been writing since around the third grade, which would make it about 60 years. My “serious” writing career began in 1969-70, when I was a sportswriter for a major New Jersey newspaper. From there I went on to write advertising copy, free-lancing with two ad agencies. Then, in the late 70s, I wrote feature articles for local newspapers, as well as fishing articles for local magazines. I started my first book in 1987 while working three jobs, one of which was as a limousine driver, which gave me ample opportunity to write. For three years, I filled up spiral notebooks (six in all) with the memoirs of my time coming of age in the 60s. Somewhere along the line, I came to the realization that no one really gave a damn about my memoirs, so I morphed them into a novel, Escaping Innocence: A Story of Awakening, which I eventually published nearly twenty years later after completely re-writing it at least three times.

Wow, 60 years, that’s a long time. One of my biggest regrets is that I didn’t start writing seriously until about 10 years ago, although I played around with it for most of my life. Mark Twain said, “Southerners speak music…” Do you have a favorite southern saying you can share with our readers?

That would definitely have to be: “Well, bless your heart.” My mother was a native North Carolinian, and she used that phrase all her life. Since I was born in “The Capitol of the Confederacy,” I feel obliged to follow in her footsteps.

One of my favorites, too. And Southerners are very adept at using that phrase in a multitude of ways. Who were your favorite authors as a child? Have they influenced your writing career in any way?

My favorite authors as a child were Mark Twain and Edgar Alan Poe; one would be hard pressed to find two more diverse writers, I suppose. I loved Twain’s humor, and I loved Poe’s darkness.

I love Twain and Poe, too. In fact, when I was much younger than I am now, I went through a serious Poe fan-girl stage. If you could talk for thirty minutes with any author (or person), living or dead, who would it be?

I would love to meet Truman Capote. He is one of my favorite authors – and one of the most fascinating individuals to ever put pen to paper. He was a true character, and his major work, In Cold Blood, is probably my favorite book.

Great choice. I, too, loved In Cold Blood. Mine would be Harper Lee who was a good friend of Capote’s. Wouldn’t it be wonderful to talk to both of them at the same time? What is your strongest and/or your weakest area in the creative process?

Without a doubt, my biggest weakness when it comes to writing is my inability to create a plot; doing that is definitely the hardest part of writing for me. On the other hand, my greatest strength is my ability to write realistic dialogue, something that I take pride in doing. Perhaps I like dialogue because I love to talk to people and to tell stories. I am probably a natural born story teller.

Yeah, I’m better at dialogue than plotting, too—or maybe I should say my characters are better since I’m one of those authors who allow them to take full control when I’m writing. What are your thoughts on the standard writing advice, “write what you know?”

I don’t know who coined the phrase, but he or she really knew what they were talking about. When I am at my best is when I am writing about something I really know, like fly fishing – and my relationship with my wife. Both of these subjects find their way into my writing with regularity.

I always enjoy hearing the answer to that last question. Unlike the plot driven or character driven question which tends to lean toward “character driven,” I think we may be about 50-50 on the answers to that one.

Thanks so much, Joe, for joining us today. I enjoyed learning more about you and hope you’ll come back to visit the Dames often!

Readers, to find out more about Joe and his books, visit his website at: or follow him on Twitter: @catsklgd1.

The first two books is Joe’s Matt Davis Mystery Series:

NewSmallFrontCoverAsTheTwigIsBent                        SmallFrontCoverOpeningDay

(presented by Dame Betty Dravis)

cheryl for DOD blogI was born with a passion for books that started at a young age. One day, when I was about three, my mother caught me scribbling lines under each sentence of Dr. Seuss’ The Cat in the Hat. She was appalled. She thought I was defacing the book. When she asked me what I was doing, I said, “I’m writing the story.” I think even then I realized how important books would become in my life.

About ten years passed and I had a book collection that was the envy of my friends. I had every Nancy Drew and Hardy Boys book, plus numerous Bobbsey Twins novels and others. Every word was like gold to me―something to be treasured. While my mother read her romance novels and my father read his science fiction tomes, I slipped away into the world of youthful investigations, following clues and solving mysteries―often with a flashlight under my blanket. I was captivated by these authors’ golden words and often stayed way past my bedtime.

Reading is very therapeutic and can take your mind off stress and pain, so my books became my best friends, always there when times were rough. What better way to escape the mundane life of a pre-teen and forget about chores, school and low self-esteem issues than to bury oneself in an intriguing book? These stories took me away to other worlds, to ‘live’ other lives, if only for an hour or two.

As a young teen, I collected Barbara Cartland and Harlequin romances and other adult fiction. One day I was offered a job as a journalist for a small BC newspaper. I was thrilled. Masset Meanderings became my column and I was paid about $5.00/week. Years later, I wrote a health and beauty column for another newspaper. But my deepest passion rested in fiction and books.

At fifteen, I had a growing collection of Stephen King, John Saul and Dean Koontz books and was fascinated by stories of suspense and horror. Inspired, I began to write my first novel. It took me a year to complete and I was proud of that accomplishment. Yearning for someone to tell me it was good, I brought the typewritten manuscript to school and kept it in my locker until I could show it to my language arts teacher. However, when I returned to my locker, someone had broken in and my manuscript was gone, and since this was well before home computers and laptops, it was my only copy. I was devastated. This time, they were my golden words. And someone had stolen them. That day I learned that there is a deeper connection to the words we write. We own each word. If we have written something, those words have stemmed from our thoughts and feelings.

As a bestselling author of Canadian suspense novels who went from avid reader to avid writer, I have been blessed by words. I am not only a woman who loves to read, but an author who loves to impact other readers. After growing up reading books of every genre, I have learned to appreciate and respect those golden words as gifts given by an author. Books educate, motivate, inspire and enrich, and every one you read has the power to stretch your mind and imagination in ways that challenge you. A good book can make you shake with fear and check your doors and windows, make you question ethical practices, or make you feel better about yourself. Books can make you laugh out loud…or reach for a tissue. Words have power and reading is an investment, one that I believe is worth more than gold.

~ * ~

From Cheryl Kaye Tardif, the international bestselling author that brought you CHILDREN OF THE FOG, comes a terrifying new thriller that will leave you breathless…


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Submerged reads like an approaching storm, full of darkness, dread and electricity. Prepare for your skin to crawl.”

—Andrew Gross, New York Times bestselling author of 15 Seconds

Two strangers submerged in guilt, brought together by fate…

After a tragic car accident claims the lives of his wife, Jane, and son, Ryan, Marcus Taylor is immersed in grief. But his family isn’t the only thing he has lost. An addiction to painkillers has taken away his career as a paramedic. Working as a 911 operator is now the closest he gets to redemption—until he gets a call from a woman trapped in a car.

Rebecca Kingston yearns for a quiet weekend getaway, so she can think about her impending divorce from her abusive husband. When a mysterious truck runs her off the road, she is pinned behind the steering wheel, unable to help her two children in the back seat. Her only lifeline is a cell phone with a quickly depleting battery and a stranger’s calm voice on the other end telling her everything will be all right.

Get SUBMERGED today.

Learn more about Cheryl Kaye Tardif at and follow her on Twitter.


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