Sunday, December 27, 2009

Happy soon to be New Year!

Well, can you believe it. It's almost the end of another year. A whole 365 days have gone by once more. I swear i don't know where the time goes. Is it because I'm getting older, or just not noticing things the same way I used to do. Whichever, as always it's time to take stock in what I've accomplished and what's up for the coming year.

My career is going well, though not as fast as I would like it to. I signed a whopping 14 contracts in 2009 and am writing my way to 2010 (G). I have partials out with two agents at present and a partial with Harlequin at Silhouette Desire, thanks to the generosity of two very special ladies, Maureen Child and Susan Mallery. I can't thank them enough for helping me to end up on the desk of Senior Editor Krista Stroever. I received an email from Krista last week telling me we will be in touch in January regarding revisions to my partial. I have wanted to be a Silhouette Desire author for as far back as I can remember. So I am willing to do whatever it takes to make that dream come true.

And for the holidays, my hubby surprised me with a check to cover the cost of the RWA conference this coming July. I knew money was tight and it might not be in the cards for this year, but nestled among my dish towels (which I ask for every year) was the check. I think I floated on air for the entire day. It was very sad not to have my son home with us for the holidays. He is stationed in Iraq and this was the first time in 24 years he hasn't been here. We did have my daughter and her fiance though, which helped to fill the void. And of course tons of food.

So what about the rest of you? Did you get what you wanted for the holidays this year? I certainly hope so. I know you were all good girls and boys (G). Well, except for you over there in the corner. You, I'm not so sure about. But we'll let it slide this time! But I've got my eye on you, so you better play it straight for the coming year.

To each and everyone of you, I wish you joy, peace and love. Have a wonderful New Year! Till next year. Patti

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Interview with Charles Griemsman

Posted with permission from Cheryl Ann Smith, debut historical author.

1-Hello Charles! Welcome! Can you please start us off with a bit about yourself? Where you grew up? Favorite vices? Any deep dark secrets you’d like to share?

I’m a Pisces from the D.C. suburbs who escaped to the concrete jungle quite a bit ago. I live in Brooklyn now and can’t complain. I’m squeaky clean—no vices whatsoever! The same goes for deep dark secrets—none. And if you believe that, I have a bridge in Brooklyn I’ll sell ya.

So I guess I choose to remain a man of mystery where your latter two questions are concerned.

2-Other than living the exciting life of a NY editor, what do you enjoy doing on your off time?

The exciting life of a NY editor, huh? Who have you been talking to? I need some pointers for jazzing up my routine! J

I LOVE swimming—I guess it’s the Pisces thing. As for culture, I’ve been hanging out with a lot of video artists lately and have somehow been roped into performing in videos here and there. The trouble is, I’m not really a performer. So, for example, coming up in November, I’m in a dance show (videotaped before a live audience)—and I can’t dance!

I’ve also been trying to cook more elaborate dishes lately. Let’s just say the results have been indescribable.

3- Have you always wanted to be an editor and what drew you to the romance publishing field?

I’ve always been intense about books. But it hadn’t occurred to me to try to make a living out of this obsession, until I heard about the opportunity to join Harlequin. I guess I was in denial. Not anymore—I’m hooked on what I do.

I came to romance by chance but have stayed by design. People tend to put genre fiction down, but I think it has unique possibilities for revealing great truths in unexpected ways. (Without beating readers over the head with said truths, the way some high-falutin literary creations tend to do.) As for romance specifically—I like a happy ending, it’s human nature to like a happy ending, and I am human.

4-Romance publishing is widely thought of as a female oriented field as most (but not all) authors and editors in the genre seem to be women. What unique prospective, as a man, do you bring to this business and Silhouette Desire in particular?

I don’t want to discount the validity of this question by saying that being a guy makes no difference whatsoever. But my experience has been that it makes very little difference—in fact, my being a male editor, with a man’s POV, came up exactly once with respect to one specific sentence in a book I was editing three or four years ago.

Ultimately, these books are about male and female characters, told from the heroes’ and heroines’ points of view. A full range of human, loving feelings is being expressed. So by extension there’s room in the field for male and female writers and editors. And everybody appreciates a good story well told—that’s the bottom line.

As far as Silhouette Desire goes, the line is more passionate, yes, but passion doesn’t shock me. Passion is natural, passion is fun, and passion makes the stakes in a story even higher.

5- We sometimes hear stories about strange submissions, such as confetti falling out of envelopes or manuscripts written on colored paper in white type. Have you ever had an unusual submission cross your desk?

Why, yes, I have—some of the illustrated material that has come through has been very—interesting? Intriguing? Words fail to describe it…trust me! Ultimately, confetti sounds fun, but it’s best to stick with the more standard modes of manuscript delivery and confine the party to the great writing one submits.

6-Since the Desire line focuses on wealthy heroes, is there a certain type of hero that is your favorite; such as CEOs, Princes, or Cattle Barons?

I’m fickle. Right now I’m not feeling royalty so much but that can change. As for businessmen and wealthy ranchers, I like them as heroes, especially when they are part of a family business dynasty. And let’s not forget the billionaires with babies, secret or otherwise—I’m loving that combo at the moment.

7-It’s common for Silhouette authors write multiple books per year. Is there a preferred minimum or maximum amount of books you’d like to see your authors write yearly?

Well…when your readers are wanting more, it’s good to keep them getting more. When you sell your first book, sometimes it can take some time to get the second one out there. That’s natural. But once you’ve established a publishing track record, to get up to three or more series books published a year is a very nice pace—one that keeps the fans very engaged.

8-What can an author do to make his/her manuscript stand out in a slush pile? Contest wins? Previous publication?

Previous publication and contest wins certainly help. Short to-the-point cover letters, without too many gimmicky come-ons really work, too.

9- What are some common mistakes new authors make with submitting a manuscript to you? Do cash bribes, Rolexes, chocolate or gold doubloons help get an author noticed or does their work have to stand on its own?

The worst mistakes are to target the wrong line and get the word count wrong. Doing the homework and making sure the story fits the imprint is crucial.

As for bribes, what are you trying to do, get me in trouble? J The best bribe is great writing—end of story.

10-What is the best part of discovering new talent?

When the senior editor says buy it, my heart leaps. Sharing the news with the author, establishing a rapport, bonding over a book—it’s all magical.

11-What is your turn around time on a submission? If an author hasn’t heard back in that time frame, how should they check back? E-mail? Phone call?

We aim to respond to submissions within a three-month window, but if you don’t hear back, it’s good to call.

Charles Griemsman
Associate Editor, Silhouette Desire

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Tax Break for Pet Owners

This morning I read a piece in the Michigan Oakland Press Parade Magazine that Michigan Representative Thaddeus McCotter (R.Mich) is proposing a bill that will use the federal tax code to help pet owners. The Humanity and Pets Partnered Through the Years (stands for HAPPY) Act HR 3501 introduced in July 2009, would allow pet owners to deduct the cost, up to $3500.00 per year for pet food, vet care, and other pet-related expenses from their income tax. Rep McCotter says the bill was created to assist pet owners with tax relief while also strengthening the "human-animal bond."

Animal rights activists are for the bill, as this gives some 60% of American who own pets the chance to keep them in their home and not have to relinquish them to shelters and other places when the going gets tough. A director for the Tax Foundation opposed the bill saying this should not be put out there to make people happy. It's only being put out there for congressmen to gain popularity among the voters.

I know that there are tons of animals out there at shelters, on the roadside, in people's homes that need assistance. And as I have often told my daughter, "You can't save everyone of them." Our local shelter has put out reports saying people often leave animals on leashes tied to the door knob of the building over night. They find these animals when they come in the morning. People do this to avoid having to be accountable for their actions and to avoid having to offer any type of monetary donation for the care of their animal.

To me, this is a good bill. It does help people in need, as long as the people in need are using it correctly. Pet food is expensive, veterinary care is even more expensive and it is heartbreaking, gut-wrenching when you have to give up an animal. I have a friend who takes in strays the way we change our underwear (I know, weird way of putting it but she does.) She works tirelessly caring for her own animals and never hesitates when a friend in need asks for her assistance. And one of those foster babies I'm hoping to take home myself sometime next year. (Long story there)
I have a senior dog with many health issues as well as a cat who can only eat one kind of cat food without getting sick. These two are my four legged children, now that my human children are grown and on their own. They have given me hours of love, attention and affection and I will do everything in my power to do the same for them so they live out a happy, healthy life.

Have a wonderful Sunday everyone!

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Interview with Debut Historical Author Cheryl Ann Smith

Today I’m chatting with new historical author Cheryl Ann Smith. Cheryl sold her first (and second) historical this summer to Berkley. Please welcome Cheryl…

First off, tell us a little about yourself? Family, hobbies, likes, dislikes?

I am married with three kids who, though they squabble a lot, are awesome. My hobbies are riding snowmobiles, swimming, and watching crime shows. Any crime shows. I’m fascinated by how crimes are solved. I love Mexican food, and nature, and laughing with my family over silly stuff. I dislike rude people and when drivers drive five or more miles under the speed limit during perfect weather. Unless they’re elderly, then they get a pass!

Do you have an agent? If so, how did you acquire them?

I do have an agent. In March, I received a request for a full manuscript from an editor, then a week later, got a very nice rejection from an agent for another project. She asked to see future works so I sent her a partial of the editor requested book. 7 hours later she signed me, and about 4 months after that, I sold to Berkley.

What's your writing day like? Do you follow a set schedule?

I get up at about 4:30 am and work for 3-4 hours Mon-Fri. Or until my brain freezes up and my eyeballs pop out of their sockets!

Any secret vices readers would love to know about?

I can eat an entire tub of Dean’s French Onion Dip in one sitting so I don’t buy it anymore!

What do you read in your spare time? Favorite authors? Favorite book?

Not only do I love crime shows but crime novels also. I adore historical romance, and contemporary novels that make me laugh out loud. Some favorites are Janet Evanovich, Lisa Kleypas, Julia Quinn, and the late Kathleen Woodiwiss.

What genre would you love to write in, but haven't attempted?

I sold in historical romance but also write quirky contemporary-light mysteries. I’d like to dust off and sell them some day. Otherwise, I’m happy with the genre I’m in.

Tell us about your current and upcoming releases.

My first contracted book will come out in early 2011. I just finished the second. We hope they will be released in consecutive months.

Where do you see yourself in 5 years? 10 years?
I see myself writing 2 historical books a year with maybe a contemporary single title thrown in. I’d love to travel to England every couple years, for research purposes of course, and to make a decent living doing what I love. Okay, it would also be cool to have fans show up at my book signings that aren’t related to me or I had to pay!

What's your favorite movie? Music? Drink? Food?

Gosh. I have lots of movies I enjoy. Dirty Dancing, Emma (with G. Paltrow), The Phantom of the Opera (with Gerard Butler). Really, anything romantic that engages my emotions. I drink water almost exclusively and some milk. Not too exciting, I know! I really like all food. That’s why I have to exercise like a crazy person!

Tough question, what's your favorite book you've ever read?

I’d have to say it’s a tie between two. The Flame and the Flower and Shanna, both by Kathleen Woodiwiss. She got me started on a lifelong love of historical romance.

If you were stranded on a desert island, and could only take along one thing, what would it be? Choices are chocolate, a hunky guy, or a book?

Can I choose a hunky guy, covered in chocolate, holding a great book?

Where can readers contact you? Do you have a website? Blog? Email they can use?

My website is and my blog and e-mail are built into the site.

Cheryl Ann Smith
Adventurous Tales. Passionate Romance.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Interview with Starr Ambrose

Hey everyone, today I am chatting with author and very dear friend Starr Ambrose. If you haven’t picked up a book by Starr, now’s the time! She is awesome.

Hey Starr, thanks for being here and thanks for the opportunity to interview you. Let’s start off with an easy question. Tell us a little about yourself? Family, hobbies, likes, dislikes?
I'm married with two grown daughters. I live in the country with a couple horses, some chickens, two dogs, and 10 cats. That pretty much tells you what I like - animals! Between them and my writing, I'm always busy. Dislike - people who drop off their animals in the country, hoping they'll find a good home. I can't tell you how many don't make it that far.

So many authors out there today have an agent. Do you have an agent? If so, how did you acquire them?
My agent, whom I adore, is Kevan Lyon of the Marsallyon Lit. Agency. She's smart, savvy, and always available. I acquired her in a backwards fashion - I sold my novel to Simon & Schuster's Pocket Books through a contest, and then went in search of an agent. Several were interested, but Kevan impressed me the most with her concentration on building my career rather than selling one or two books.

What's your writing day like? Do you follow a set schedule?
I try to write every day, and that's as much of a schedule as I'll agree to. If I want to go to lunch with friends, I write at night. Time of day doesn't matter, as long as it's not too early. I have no idea how some writers can get up at 4 AM and whip off ten pages; my muse sleeps in. (My muse is actually a rebellious little bitch with many bad habits; it's a love-hate relationship.)

Now, how about a tougher question. Any secret vices readers would love to know about?
But then they wouldn't be secret, would they? Oh, okay, I'll give you one - I probably spend more time reading than I do writing. If you don't think that's a problem, then you haven't had to deal with editorial deadlines. It's a wicked, wicked indulgence, and I don't intend to give it up.

What do you read in your spare time? Favorite authors? Favorite book?
Mostly romantic suspense authors and several contemporary. A few favorites: Tami Hoag, Laura Griffin, Suzanne Brockman, Susan Elizabeth Phillips, Sandra Brown, Nora Roberts. I also read a lot of straight mysteries, plus some non-fiction that mostly deals with politics or natural science.

What genre would you love to write in, but haven't attempted?
Science fiction - but I'm not very good at it, so I'll stick to reading it.

Please tell us about your current and upcoming releases.
Love to! On Nov. 24th my second romantic suspense for Pocket hits the shelves - OUR LITTLE SECRET. It's an action-packed romp through Washington, D.C. Proper, responsible Lauren Sutherland and laid-back Drew Creighton are polar opposites who agree on only one thing - her sister's marriage to his father, a powerful senator, was a huge mistake. They'd love to talk them into an annulment, but the newlyweds have disappeared, and even the Secret Service can't find them. Lauren and Drew uncover explicit photos and an elaborate blackmail scheme while evading kidnappers and government agents. And of course their personality clash turns out to be fueled by an attraction that grows stronger each day. This gets sexy, people!
Currently, I'm doing edits on my third book, THIEVES LIKE US, which will come out in the fall of 2010. I absolutely love this book! It's a continuation of two secondary characters from LIE TO ME and re-visits most of the same people and places. It involves stolen jewels and the Russian mafia, mixed with a charming ex-jewel thief and a woman who's understandably leery of romance after her first husband turned out to be a psychopathic criminal. Jewelry, thieves, murder, and a sexy hero - what's not to love?

Where do you see yourself in 5 years? 10 years?
A. Writing novels
B. Writing novels while my husband enjoys his retirement

What's your favorite movie? Music? Drink? Food?
Evil questions! I wouldn't even be satisfied naming ten favorite movies or music. Drink - iced tea. Food - depends on the day. Fresh bread and pasta dishes are always way up there.

Tough question again, what's your favorite book that you've ever read?
Shame on you, Patti - this is the most evil question of all! So I'll play it safe and say, LIE TO ME by that clever new author, Starr Ambrose.

If you were stranded on a desert island, and could only take along one thing, what would it be? Choices are chocolate, a hunky guy, or a book?
The chocolate - I can write my own book with a hunky guy in it. (Good answer Starr)

Where can readers contact you? Do you have a website? Blog? Email they can use?
I absolutely love hearing from readers! Contact me through my web site, , or at Thanks for reading!
I want to say a very big thank you to Starr for answering my questions and I hope you all will check out Our Little Secret as well as Lie To Me.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Let's Talk about Writing Books

Hello again and Happy Sunday after Halloween. Hope you all had a blast last night with the trick or treaters. I know I did, though this year we only had 22 kids come to the door. Which means, more candy left over for me! Watch out Snickers, here I come!

Today's topic is one that's near and dear to my heart. I would like to talk about writing books. You know, all those lovely soft pastel colored novels that offer to teach you how to write a romance. Come on, you know you've looked at them in the bookstore. Maybe even bought one and took it home and probably learned something from it. I know i have.

My personal home library contains quite a few books on writing, research and also books for purely reading enjoyment. So let's see if you and I share any of the same books, shall we? How about The Complete Idiot's Guide to Getting your Romance Published. I really like that book as it gives you a great basis for how to get started, and it's written by Julie Beard. Or what about Novelist's Book Camp: 101 Ways To Take Your Book From Boring to Bestseller by Todd Stone. Another one is On Writing Romance by Leigh Michaels. This one I really have enjoyed reading. How about Writing the Romance Novel for Dummies by Harlequin/Silhouette editor Leslie Wainger, or First Draft in 30 Days by Karen Wiesner. Karen has some awesome tips in her books on how to do just that. My current favorite is Break Into Fiction, by Mary Buckham and Dianna Love.

I did find two more at my local library last week that I decided to bring home and check out, They are Writing the Great American Romance Novel by Catherine Lanigan and The Everything Guide To Writing A Romance Novel by Faye Hughes.

I believe you are never too smart to stop learning. There is always something new and exciting to be had from each book you read, whether you pick up a thousand new ideas and tips or you only pick up one. Even one tip can be the difference between increasing your page count from 4 pages a day to 7 pages a day. And there is certainly nothing wrong with that, now is there.

Well I'm off to read and write some more for today. Hope you all have had a wonderful weekend and welcome to November!!!

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Taking Stock

Good afternoon everyone! Well, this week I decided it was time to take annual stock of my life. I have a tendency to do this every year right after my birthday and this year was no exception. A year older, not sure if that means I'm also a year wiser too! What it does mean is that 365 more days have passed and what have I accomplished?

I know that in the past 365 days I have kept myself as healthy as I can, baring a few unexpected surgeries, a few more missing body parts, a few more added pounds (why is it never less pounds), and a few more book contracts.

Literally a year ago August I told myself I would be New York published by the time September rolled around this year. That didn't happen. I could probably come up with a millions why, but the truth is it didn't. What did happen was I signed a 12 book contract for a series of contemporary novellas with eXtasy Books called The Zodiac Club. The first two are now out, Midnight Seductions and Candid Seductions just released this past Thurs, Oct 15th. I did sign a contract with eXtasy Books for a new series of paranormal novellas to be written with Stephani Hecht. The first will be out Oct 31st entitled Salem's Seduction. And I sold an erotic short story Coffee, Tea or Mimi to Noble Romance which came out in May 09. And I finished up a two year stint as President of the Greater Detroit Romance Writers of America. I have been on our local board 11 out of the past 14 years now.

That being said, I think it is definitely time for Patti to focus on Patti. Don't you agree? Am I discouraged that I didn't sell to New York? Of course I am, but it won't stop my from trying again. Am I discouraged that I didn't sign more contract this past year? Heck no. I am very grateful for the ones I did sign. And add to this taking care of myself, my hubby, my kids, my four-legged kids and running mt household. It's a full-time job on top of my full-time writing career. Can I ask for more?Sure, but then I would sounds greedy (G).

Till next time, I hope you are all staking stock of your lives and enjoying every minute of every day, doing what you love. I know I am.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Brock's Locks

There was an article in my local paper about a week ago of a young man named Brock Nowak, who for his 13th birthday dontated 10 inches of his long blond hair to Locks For Love.

He has been growing his hair for three years and even after they cut off the required ten inches, he still has hair down to his shoulders. This is an amazing young man in my opinion. To be so selfless at 13 years of age is a wonderful thing.

His mother is very proud of him, the article states and I can see why. She has raised a kind and caring son to be very proud of. Interestingly enough, Brock doesn't care what others think of him. He said that - "Sometimes it is better to be unique than average."

You know what, he's right. Unique is always better! I would love to be remembered for the unique things I have done in life rather than being remembered for just being ordinary. I applaud Brock for the generous gesture he made and I hope others take note of it and follow suit. I truly believe it is better to give than receive.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Happy Father's Day!

Happy Fathers Day!

Here it is the middle of June and another holiday. Where has the time flown? I want to wish all the fathers out there a wonderful day. They earned it, they deserve it.

My own father died at 19 years of age. The victim of a tragic car accident that was hi sown fault. The most I know of him comes from the stories family tells me and the few photos I have.

My great grandfather who raised me was a wonderful man. He and my great grandmother took me in when they were in their 60’s. Dad (as I called him) taught me many things. The most important being the only person’s opinion that matters is your own. He also said to listen twice as much as you talk. Very sage advice from a man who never made it past the sixth grade.

My husband Randy is another wonderful man. He is the father of my children and the love of my life. He has seen me at my best, my worst and everything in between. He has been there through sickness (cancer) and in health (now), through rich (hahahahaha) and poor (ok, not there yet), till death do us part (hopefully a long time coming).

Earlier this week I asked what he would like for Father’s Day. Randy said he wanted nothing. I pressed again; he said he only wanted to be able to enjoy life. This morning, we went out for breakfast before he headed to work (he works in retail, so at work today too). Tonight we will go to the daughter’s for dinner. That is her present to him. He hates it when anyone spends money on him. He would much prefer we save it, or even spend it on ourselves. I know that if there is something he truly wants, he will go out and get it for himself. And that’s fine by me.

This year he won’t get to speak to our 23 year old son Brian, who is now deployed overseas. Last year Brian wrote his dad a very nice sized check and a thank you for Father’s Day for all the money his dad had loaned him over the past two years. It floored my hubby and brought him to tears. To Brian it was a way of giving back to his father who had given so much to him.

So Happy Father’s Day to all you dads, step-dads, almost dads, and everything along the way dads. You deserve a wonderful day and I hope you get it. Whether it is a gift from a loved one, time spent on the golf course, or dinner with your family and friends at home or a local restaurant.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Interview with agent Emmanuelle Alspaugh

Hey all, this week I am promoting my dear friend Cheryl Smith and her wonderful interviews that she does for our local RWA Chapter's newsletter, The Heart of Detroit.

Chick Chat with Cheryl Smith…

This month, it is with Emmanuelle Alspaugh, an agent from the Judith Ehrlich Literary Management, NYC

1-Can you tell us a little about yourself? Do you have a family? Pets?

I’ve lived in New York City for 10 years. I came out here for college and completely fell in love with the city and with publishing. Soon after I met my husband, Zach. Four years ago we adopted a crazy Cornish Rex named Mr. B. My family is in Seattle and France, and I’m grateful for always having somewhere beautiful to go to over the holidays. I was born in France but grew up in the U.S., mostly in Eugene, Oregon, a part of the beautiful Willamette Valley. My family, especially my mom, instilled in me a profound appreciation for the outdoors, but I am a city girl through and through. I have a “blended” family with two brothers, two sisters, two parents and three step-parents, and I adore every one of ‘em.

2-When you aren’t working hard to discover the next Nora Roberts or Debbie Macomber, what do you like to do for fun?

Um...I read! Seriously. Beyond that I love to travel and going to new places. This year I’ll discover Puerto Vallarta (vacation) and Cape Cod (work). I’m a sucker for musicals and adore seeing B’way or off-B’way productions. My husband is a documentary filmmaker and likes to hijack my Netflix list with obscure movies, and then I get him back by making him watch Trueblood or 30 Rock. I volunteer a few times a year to provide food and fellowship to NYC’s homeless. The occasional hike or roller blade. Regular stuff!

3-Is there an activity, such as sky diving or knitting for example, you’d like to try some day but haven’t yet had time?

Hang gliding for sure. I’m not crafty at all! About all I can do creatively is edit manuscripts or color within the lines.

4-With summer coming up, everyone is looking for books to take on vacation. What type/genre of books would want in your carry-on?

Historical romance, including probably a little Elizabeth Hoyt. Paranormal romance—gotta catch up on my JR Ward and Nalini Singh. Fantasy, maybe the first Robert Jordan (hope I like it!). Young Adult—I picked up an ARC of The Maze Runner at BookExpo. And then I always break up my commercial fiction with some literary fiction and nonfiction. I’ve got The Namesake, Outliers, and The Female Brain on my bedside table.

5-You have an extensive background in publishing and as an agent. What made you decide to go into the field? What is the best part of being an agent?

I think my story is not so different from a lot of the people in publishing. I loved to read when I was growing up, starting with Nancy Drew and Grimm’s Fairy Tales. If I couldn’t write the stories I was reading, I wanted to help bring them into the world. That’s still what I love best about being an agent, helping an author bring their book into the world.

6-What is it about a new author and her voice that makes you want to call him or her immediately and offer representation? Have you signed any exciting new authors since you’ve been with the Judith Ehrlich Agency?
I’ve signed lots of great authors in the past year. It’s always after I get that amazing “what happens next” feeling and stay up all night to finish a manuscript. In romance, it’s that perfect blend of heated tension between the hero and heroine combined with a tightly woven plot that keeps the momentum moving forward.

7-Many new authors take the e-book route to break into publishing. Do previous e-books sales have any influence on your decision to sign an author?

Yes! I love it when an author has great e-book sales—it means they’ve already begun to build their audience. Same with contest wins. They’re a great way for a writer to capture an agent or editor’s attention.

8-What are some common mistakes new authors make when submitting to you? Have you ever had a submission that left you shaking your head?

The most common mistake I see is writers not fully researching their markets. I often get queries for strange multi-genre books such as “a paranormal, historical, romance women’s fiction” about a woman who finds a ghost in an old house. One ghost does not a paranormal make, and a flashback to a past life does not make a historical. One of the best ways to research your market is to figure out where, next to which authors, will your book fit on the shelf. What section of the bookstore will it be in? How do readers on various blogs categorize the authors whose work is comparable to yours?

Beyond this biggie, I still have to laugh when I get queries addressed to “Mr. Alspach” about a genre I completely don’t represent, like mystery or military.

9-I see you’re looking for paranormal and historical stories. What historical genre specifically is your favorite?

In romance, I love a good Regency. Also Victorian and Scottish Highlander. There’s a published, unagented Western author I’m chasing down for my list, but just one. I’d also love to do something more literary set elsewhere in Europe. And because of my background, I perk up anytime I read something set in France.

10-Many authors want to write a vampire book or an erotica to follow the trends. Do you see any genres on the wane or anything new coming up?

I love paranormals and it’s all about the world-building. In terms of trends, vampires are still hot, and so are shape-shifters (I like big cats), demons, angels, werewolves, dragons, and now zombies. That said, I would caution against writing to follow a trend unless you’re truly inspired by it. Writing for the sake of trend-following often feels stale when everyone is looking for fresh.

11-Do you accept straight women’s fiction or category authors?

I accept women’s fiction but I’m very selective. I’ve seen a lot of queries with similar themes: divorced/widowed/abandoned/newly unemployed woman inherits old house/moves back home/discovers old journal/takes trip abroad, falls in love again, is rejuvenated, etc. I’m looking a hook that’s unique, something I’ve never heard before. I also love anything gritty and urban. Take a look at my client Danielle Younge-Ullman's novel FALLING UNDER for an idea of what I like in women’s fiction.

I’m not looking to rep category with a couple of exceptions: great paranormals and/or you’re planning an epic, multi-book series.

Other areas I don’t do are contemporary romance or romantic suspense.

12-RWA National is around the corner. Do you have any basic tips for authors about pitches? Do you prefer short, like back cover copy, or something that touches on all the plot points and conflicts?
I like short pitches, but since pitch appointments last 10 minutes, be prepared to expand. I like pitches that are somewhat interactive, meaning you tell me the basic premise and then I ask questions about areas that interest me, like a character or plot point. Plan your pitch in advance. Practice telling it to your kids or in the checkout line at the grocery store. Practice telling it to strangers. If they say, “What happens next?” you know you’ve got a good pitch. Your pitch should include all the basic selling points an agent needs to know: word count (preferably between 75k and 110k), subgenre, and comp authors or titles, but most importantly it should tell the beginning of a great story, which means it should deliver a great hook. And here’s a little trick: tell us about the hero first. He’s the one we want to fantasize about. Then give us a heroine we can relate to, someone whose shoes we can try on. For example: a leopard shape-shifter is bent on avenging his parents’ murder, even if it means using an innocent woman—an empath struggling to conceal her identity. Sound familiar? That’s basically the premise for Nalini Singh’s first book in her Psy/Changeling series.

13-What is your turnaround time on a submission?

I generally respond to queries within four weeks and requested partials or fulls within two or three. There are exceptions but I usually make those targets.

Cheryl Smith is published in short romance fiction, a multiple contest finalist, and member of RWA, and The Greater Detroit RWA. You can find her short stories at and

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Interview with author Cindy Spencer Pape

Hey everyone, welcome to another Up Close and Personal chat with Stephani and Patti. Come along for the wild ride as we learn more about Cindy that you ever thought possible. Part way thru the interview Stephani started having trouble with her computer so she would call me and have me ask the questions.

Patti: This week we have the multi talented author Cindy Spencer Pape joining us. Little does she know what we are really like when it comes to interviewing victims, I mean guests. Welcome Cindy, glad to have you here.
Stephani Hecht: Should I tell Cindy what my daughter brought home from art class
Cindy Pape: Go for it
Patti: Only the good stuff, don't scare her away yet please.
Stephani Hecht: I can't resist this one
Cindy Pape: I don't scare easily-- I have teenagers
Patti: So Cindy, tell us what's new and exciting with you? We know you just got back from Chicago.
Stephani Hecht: They made a collage with magazine clippings. Right in the corner of hers is a picture of a near naked stud muffin. All man titty and a tennis racket on his lap. Just so you know she's eight
Cindy Pape: Still recovering from the trip.
Patti: And we wonder why we are banned from Panera's.
Cindy Pape: Training her young, huh? I didn't wonder about Panera’s at all.
Stephani Hecht: I thinks she'd seen too many of our covers
Patti: No, you know us too well.
Cindy Pape: Sounds like it. My son introduces me to his friends as "This is my mom. She writes porn."
Patti: So give us the skinny. What's new with your writing and what are your current releases?
Cindy Pape: Current release is "Stone and Fire" out now at Ellora's Cave. It's book 3 in my "Heroes of Stone" gargoyle series. Coming up next is "After the Rodeo," in the anthology "Finding their Way Back" (Wayback, Texas) from the Wild Rose Press, out on June 26.
Stephani Hecht: sigh I love gargoyles
Patti: I have two in my backyard
Cindy Pape: One in my living room
Stephani Hecht: Patti, I thought you had bunnies in your backyard?
Cindy Pape: Do the gargoyles eat the bunnies?
Patti: I do, it's a nice combination of gargoyles and bunnies. Oh yeah and the occasional coyote which is getting more and more frequent. No, my dog tries to eat the bunnies and so does the coyote. I think the gargoyles just supervise.
Cindy Pape: Smart gargoyles
Patti: So if you had your druthers, do you prefer writing the paranormals or the contemporaries? And which genre have you yet to write that you would like to try your hand at?
Cindy Pape: Paranormals are my first love--even my contemporaries usually have a little touch or two of the woo-woo stuff. I have written very little historical, and wouldn't mind getting into a bit more
Patti: Anything you will never write?
Cindy Pape: tear-jerker women's fiction. I LIKE my happy endings
Patti: What are you currently working on?
Cindy Pape: Currently working on a full-length paranormal romance and a short contemporary erotic romance. The short is a contracted piece for Resplendence. Not sure about where the other one is going yet.
Patti: Congrats on the contracted piece. Those are always nice. So how many publishers do you write for now? Steph is having trouble typing on her new laptop.
Cindy Pape: Resplendence makes four--five if you count Ellora's Cave and Cerridwen Press as separate publishers.
Stephani Hecht: I got a mini one and my fat fingers keep hitting extra keys
Patti: Wow, five publishers is amazing. How do you keep them all straight?
Cindy Pape: yeah those small keyboards are tough
Patti: Glad you got back Stephani. With the way you type, those fingers should be bone thin
Cindy Pape: I'm not sure I do, Patti. One is British, and I can never remember which one I'm supposed to spell things for which way.
Stephani Hecht: I have to keep name tags on my kids to keep them straight and I only the boy and girl
Patti: Wow, British, which one is that?
Cindy Pape: Total-E-Bound
Patti: Hey I've called the kids by the dog and cat's name before.
Cindy Pape: Me too, Patti
Patti: Sad, isn't it? And they even know we really mean them.
Stephani Hecht: Patti, it's that country across the ocean
Patti: across the big pond. Ok we know Cindy is a wife and mom, she's also an author, what other occupation have you had that no one knows about?
Cindy Pape: What occupations have I had? Oh wow, this could take a while
carpenter's assistant, bank teller.
Patti: cool
Cindy Pape: receptionist, teaching assistant, college instructor, Sylvan tutor, museum curator, zoo educator, naturalist, camp counselor
Patti: Oh, like Night at the Museum, did they come to life every night? Sigh, I really need to get a life.
Stephani Hecht: Wow, you've had more occupations than that guy from Dirty Jobs.
Cindy Pape: Since I was in the zoology section, that would have been messy. Another job would be nature center educator.
Patti: But think of the great stories you could tell
Cindy Pape: substitute teacher
Patti: And you're not that old either
Cindy Pape: ha! I wish
Patti: So what do you think Steph, should we hit her with the down and dirty questions now?
Stephani Hecht: Okay
Cindy Pape: bring it
Stephani Hecht: Do you mop with a bucket or a cloth?
Patti: OMG
Cindy Pape: mop? That's why I have teenagers
Patti: boxers or briefs
Cindy Pape: boxer briefs
Stephani Hecht: What movie star do you want to take home and feed milk and cookie too?
Cindy Pape: milk and cookies? As in too young for anything else? Hugh Jackman, maybe
Patti: Oh good choice. Ok, change it to what star would you like to get drunk and do naughty things with?
Cindy Pape: Hmmmm...Johnny Depp? Liam Neeson? I'm sure there are others
Patti: Handcuffs and Captain Jack, good images
Cindy Pape: Liam in a kilt in Rob Roy...YUM!
Stephani Hecht: You can have anyone but Ryan Reynolds since he is already at my house dunking his Oreos
Patti: Pfft, pick a grown up man Stephani. You can have him
Cindy Pape: again, too young
Patti: Here's one Stephani likes to ask - where's the strangest place you've ever made love at
Cindy Pape: Strangest? Or Naughtiest? A grotto in San Diego's Balboa Park is possibly the naughtiest.
Patti: You go girl!!! Do you put any of real life and your experiences in your books?
Cindy Pape: Little bits and pieces. Funny little anecdotes have a way of making it into this or that story
Patti: Do you ever craft your bad guys after real life people who have ticked you off
Stephani Hecht: Please, please tell me the gargoyles are real
Cindy Pape: Ooooh, once in a while. Not usually the big villians, but the nagging coworkers or annoying people in the grocery store? Oh yeah. Tails and all, Steph
Patti: Just like pink ponies and rainbow cotton candy Steph. I'm a big fan of Inside The Actor's Studio and have stolen some of Jame’s questions. What is your favorite sound?
Cindy Pape: Sound? Huh.
Patti: Birds chirping, violins, sound
Stephani Hecht: Mine is silence.
Patti: Come to my house then, no one home but me.
Cindy Pape: Waves, probably and oddly, trains
Patti: What is your favorite food?
Cindy Pape: movie theatre popcorn
Patti: Hmm, a train fetish I think
Stephani Hecht: I have always lived by train tracks and I love that sound
Cindy Pape: lived by train tracks as a kid--so the sound actually puts me to sleep
Patti: Coke or Pepsi
Stephani Hecht: or Coke and rum?
Cindy Pape: diet coke. Lime. No rum.
Patti: Are you a glass half empty or glass half full person?
Cindy Pape: Both. I'm alternately eternally hopeful and horribly cynical.
Patti: Dream scenario as I know you are looking to acquire an agent. You dream agent walks up to you at a conference and says Cindy, I've got an opening in my schedule and I have 30 minutes to fill. I hear you've got a fabulous book to pitch. What is your response to her to seal the deal?
Cindy Pape: Probably incoherent stuttering
Patti: come on run with it, no stuttering.
Cindy Pape: which may explain why I don't have an agent yet.
Patti: mine is foot in mouth syndrome. did it last year at conference too
Cindy Pape: I suppose I'd try to get in my quick pitch for my WIP--all the agents have already rejected everything I've got finished and unsold

Patti: What is your daily writing schedule look like? Do you plot, or fly by the seat of your pants.
Cindy Pape: I usually start a book as a pantser. Toward the middle, I tend to do a few plot points, to make sure I get everything in.
Patti: Do you write everyday? And do you have a page quota you strive for?
Cindy Pape: I TRY to write every day. Life sometimes has other ideas. My average, if things are going well is about 2-4K per day. But that doesn't happen as often as I'd like
Stephani Hecht: Okay here is a very important one...Sam or Dean Winchester?
Cindy Pape: ?
Stephani Hecht: From Supernatural
Patti: Duh moment for me on Supernatural. Jeopardy or Wheel of Fortune
Cindy Pape: Ah. Watched the first episode, thought they were both kind of whiny and never watched it again. I like my heroes to be a bit more stoic or funny, not introspective.
Patti: So tell us about your Jeopardy interview you just came home from.
Cindy Pape: It was fun. Left the room feeling like a total idiot, but everyone else in the elevator said they did too.
Stephani Hecht: Gasp! I love that show. It is my crack, Supernatural that is.
Patti: Hey a little bird told me when your sons are bothering you (one son in particular) you threaten to read blow job scenes out loud. Any truth to that rumor?
Cindy Pape: Just once. He was babbling about something--this is the kid that cannot stand silence. I told him I was trying to write a blow job scene, and if he didn't shut up, I'd start reading it out loud. He put in his headphones and shut up!
Patti: Stephani is having trouble typing again - so she wants me to ask this question.
If you were stranded on a desert island, what Stephani Hecht book would you bring if you only pick one? I swear she is on the phone with me telling me to type that.
I kid you not.
Cindy Pape: I like the beginning, so Archangel Warrior.
Patti: Nice answer, Stephani just said awww.
Cindy Pape: Hoping I got the title right
Patti: Stephani says we'll edit this part to make sure the title is right. She is so bad.
Cindy Pape: yup
Patti: Well, we've annoyed Cindy enough for one night. Thank you for coming out to play with us and we hope you had fun. Tell us your website addys so we can let readers know where they can find you and your books.
Cindy Pape: Website:
Newsletter Group:
Cian Fey:

Patti: Cool. Cindy thanks again and congrats on the new sale. We wish you many more.
Cindy Pape: Thanks Patti & Steph

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Giving Back

I’m a big believer in giving back to those who gave to me, and my blog today is about that very thing. In my local RWA chapter, the Greater Detroit RWA we give back in many ways. By helping critique each others work, by offering advice, ideas, brainstorming to others who need it. We offer a rousing round of applause for those who final in a contest, or those who sell. We also offer a shoulder to vent on or cry upon when the rejection arrives from an agent or editor and things just plain aren’t going the writer’s way.
Today though I’m going to touch on the other ways to give back. Such as,,, and Free to name a few. All of these sites don’t require a dime from you and they give back monetarily to others. That’s a good thing as Martha Stewart would say, and I say it too (G). is one of my favorite sites. It also shows me I am not up to date on anything anymore. Everything I learned in school apparently has flown right out the window. There are levels to challenge yourself on in geography, vocabulary, math and other subjects. Each answer you answer correctly you donate thanks to the sponsors 20 grains of rice to the United Nations World Food Programme. is one I really relate to. Being a colon cancer survivor this site is one I go to on a daily basis, click and give to breast cancer, hunger, child health issues, the rainforest and my personal fav – animal rescue. It’s a free button to click on all at one site to give to each of the above causes. What have you got to lose? is Microsoft’s free search site that has tons of nonprofits and schools and donates a penny each time you search for something from there. You can play games there too to earn more money for charity.
And last but not least This site which again you search from donates money to the charity of your choice. They have a list of charities you can choose from on the site.
On a different note, if you need to recycle a cell phone, why not use this one. Phones for Soldiers was started by two teenagers now 16 and 18, that accept all models (even ancient ones) and resell them to a recycling company. The proceeds are used to buy calling cards for the U.S. soldiers abroad so they can call home and talk to their families. So far 27 million minutes have been provided. (I saw this information in Woman’s Day) This one touches me closer to home as my son is in the military and about to deploy in mid June. I won’t see him for close to 18 months and while he is here on leave right now, he goes back Saturday. You can go to and print out a receipt and free postage label to mail the phone in. Address is Cell Phones for Soldiers, 2555 Bishop Circle West, Dexter, Michigan 48130-9916.
While this will not make a million dollars it can and does help many in need. And in today’s tight times and poor economy that’s exactly what we need. I thank you in advance.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Writing is serious business

** Disclaimer – this is not for the faint of heart. We are not picking on anyone with this blog, we are merely stating our opinion. And as such, it is just that, our opinion. **

Hey Stephani, here we are again sitting down to do our Up Close and Personal Chats. How are you doing this beautiful day?

I'm doing great. The whole family is out camping and they didn't make me go with them.

Better yet! I'm home alone as well. Just me, the dog, cat and oh yeah, the 24 yr old son waiting on his sister to come pick him up for their joint tattoo session. Ah yes, moments a mother can be proud of!

You should record the moment so you can look back on it for years to come.

Right to show both their grandchildren how silly their parents were. If I ever get grandkids out of them (G) Not that I’m wishing for it anytime soon, mind you.
So this week at our local RWA meeting we had Susan Mallery. She was an awesome speaker and gave a talk on Writing More, Writing Faster.

Yes, she was and she even put up with the two of us for the whole day. That should earn her a medal of valor.

Hey, we're wild and crazy dudettes. What's not to love about us?

Did you just say something? I was distracted. Trying to get Ugly Cat to yodel.

That is sad.

I know, she won't do it. She just gives me a filthy look and wobbles away.
The two guys on the YouTube Video made it look so easy.

Stephani, you really need to get a life. Ok, back to Susan. She presented a way to write 4 full length novels per year, and have a ton of free time as well.
Unless you want us to talk about something else.

No, I think this is a great topic. Way more interesting than yodeling cats. Susan was also telling us you need to know your craft, know where your book fits when you submit. Don’t be vague to the editor or agent and say “Wherever you think it would work best is good.”

Isn’t that amazing. Why can’t people take the time they need to prepare. I was so surprised to hear how many authors never follow through after their appointments at RWA National conference or any conferences really with an agent or editor. Why go to all the trouble if you aren't going to submit? Or at any conference, it doesn't have to be National. Sort of like, a kid who does the homework but leaves it in his locker instead of turning it in.

I found that interesting too. I hate it that some authors just wasted everyone's time.

Part of me wonders if they really have anything at all on paper ready to go, like the three chapters and a synopsis when they pitch, or are they just thinking 'Hey, this would be fun." Sad part is, it's taking up an appointment that an author who is ready to submit really wants and can't get.

What I don't get is that these ‘wannabe’ authors don't realize how important this really is and that it could alter someone’s life and career.

And they will be remembered by the editor or agent. Especially if this is a consistent thing they are doing. You and I both know there are people out there doing it, and we can name names as to who they are, but we won't (for fear of being stoned). Don't forget there are also those out there that snap up every appointment whether they write for a specific genre or not just to say they got an appointment. I wish there was a way the conference coordinators could do something about it. But I bet it's overwhelming.

This has to be very frustrating to the editors and agents too.

Especially if they heard a great pitch and then nothing ever comes in.

Or if they have someone come pitch something to them that will never fit in what they are looking for. Like say someone pitches a sweet romance to an erotica publisher

Exactly. Take the time to pay attention to what the editor or agent is looking for. They all have websites, they all participate in blog interviews, the information is out there. Just Google it. And you can spare yourself being told no thanks at the table with just a little effort on your own part. You know in the end, it's not the amount of appointments you get, it's what you do with them when you are face to face at the table and then the follow-through.

I agree with you, Patti. It's the quality not the quantity. You can talk all day, but if it's to the wrong people it won't do you any good.

No one ever gets bought at the appointment table. They get bought when they send it in, and it fits the requirements of the specific house.
Now, that being said, of course there are always exceptions to the rule.

Such as?

Crap, I knew you'd ask me that. Ok, they love the pitch, you send it immediately and you are bought up within a month. But, you and I both know that doesn't happen. Hardly ever do you hear someone got bought off a partial. Unless they were already a published author. Because again, it all goes back to follow through. I have heard some authors say they have their partial printed out, prepackaged up and ready to go before they leave for a conference. Then when the appt goes well, they call home and ask hubby to drop it in the mail to the editor. They are so sure of it, they are ready to roll. And that's a good thing.

Wow, talk about having your puppies in a pile. But then I guess the sooner you get it out the better. That way you can show the editor how serious you really are.

Yes, but what if the editor or agent says "Send the full" and you've only got a partial or they say email me with it. Then you aren't ready. Of course we all know the minute they get home from conference the editors and agents desks get piled up with submissions because of just such a thing.
And being professional at the table doesn't hurt either. Don't show up in shorts, a t-shirt or heaven forbid your swim suit and a cover-up cause the appt conflicted with pool time. Show them you mean it. Turn off the cell phone, lose the gum and above all, remember this is the real deal. This is not a practice session. Your practice session is with your critique group, not the editor or agent. They are the real deal.

Treat it like it's the most important job interview of your life because it could very well be. That is if you are serious about making writing a career and not a hobby.

Exactly, cause you only get about 7 minutes to make that impression, pitch that book and answer questions.

First impressions means everything when you have such a short time like that too.

Definitely. I believe it was Nora Roberts who tells writers if they can come up with a dozen reasons why they can't write, then maybe they shouldn't be writing. She's correct. If you want it bad enough, make the sacrifice. If you don't get out of line. If that sounds harsh, then maybe you need to take a step back and re-evaluate your desire to write.
You do have to give up things to write, you can't always be out there having lunch with friends, shopping, doing everything else and not writing. It just doesn't work that way. If it were easy, everyone would be doing it.

It may sound harsh, but it's true. If you want to be successful you have to work on it everyday all day or else it won't happen. I know that if I take one day off I have to work extra hard for two days to make up for it. I do it though because I want this to be a career for me.

Yes, and as we all know careers are hard to come by nowadays, especially in this economy. Susan Mallery's system starts you off writing 3 pages a day, 5 days a week with weekends off, nights off and holidays off. You work up to 8.5 pages a day over time and that way you can do 4 90,000 books a year consistently and still have time off for emergencies, vacation, edits, revisions and proposals. But you have to work at it.

What I liked best was how she said sometimes you can't wait for your muse to show up. That is so true. There are some days when I just don't feel like writing and I have to force myself to do it.

And it goes back to don't show up at the appt table with an idea in your head. Show up with a book written. Then you don't look foolish when a year goes by before you submit it. I feel you should submit within a month of pitching. Otherwise, you have wasted your time and theirs and someone who really did want a shot at it and was ready to give them what they wanted. Yes, you have to write with or without your muse. Whether you feel like crap or feel good. Whether Star Trek just came out and you want to be the first person in line to see it, or the 221st person. You have to prioritize.

Sometimes I have to track my muse down and drag her back by the hair.

Butt In Chair, Fingers On Keyboard. Otherwise it can't be done.
Now I know we'll catch flak about this because we spoke our true feelings. But Stephani and I are both published. We didn't get this way by playing Spider Solitaire (my vice) or going to see Ryan Reynolds movies (Stephani's vice) as soon as they come out. We got this way by sheer determination and hard work.

Or watching Penguins of Madagascar.LOL
My newest vice.

Or House Hunters dreaming of the house I am going to buy with my 7 digit royalty check. Dreaming is a good thing, so are vices if they are used in the right way.
Motivation is a wonderful thing if it gets you closer to your goal.

Patti is right though. To make it in this industry it will take hard work and it will take a lot of sacrifice

And alot of it is having the best book possible at the right time. Ok, time for us to get off our soap box sand get back to writing (G) We hope you all have a wonderful and safe Happy Memorial Day weekend. Oh yeah, and may your cats yodel better than Stephani can get Peep too!

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Happy Mother's Day!

Happy Mother’s Day to all the mom’s out there. And even if you aren’t a mother, I hope you have a wonderful Sunday.

Some of you know my past, but for those of you that don’t, I don’t have a mother I can say Happy Mother’s Day too. My mother gave me up when I was 3 months of age. She was just a child herself and widowed at the age of 18. My father was 19 when the car he was driving hit the edge of a ditch and flipped. He never came out of the coma. So between the time of the accident and the time when I went to live permanently with my great grandparents, I was passed around through the family. My mother didn’t know how to raise a child and truthfully I don’t think even if she did she really was up to the task. She soon found herself another man, pregnant with another child and I was in the way. I was a burden, an inconvenience to her new hubby. Another mouth to feed that wasn’t his, a crying baby when he wanted to sleep, and an expense he didn’t look kindly on.

My great grand parents took me in. They were 59 and 61 at the time. Can you imagine taking in a 3 month old baby at that age? I can’t. I’m only 48 and I can’t even imagine having grandchildren just yet. I had a wonderful life. I was afforded opportunities that many children don’t get. My great grandfather worked for General Motors back in the day when the concept cars were just coming out, under the leadership of Harley Earl. Papa traveled to England, to Paris, all over the globe and I got to go along on many of those trips. I met celebrities, kings, princes, dignitaries, you name it. But I also learned to be seen and not heard at an early age. I learned how to use the correct silverware at fancy dinner parties, to say yes please, no thank you, keep my clothes clean, and sit like a lady. You think I’m kidding, but I’m not. It was a very different world than the one we live in today.
My mother was around during the years I was growing up, but not around enough to make a difference in my life. I remember when she was once again remarried to a different husband, they sat me down and told me how much they wanted to bring me home, how much they wanted to raise me but they couldn’t take me from my grandparents. It was too late. Okay, then why tell a ten year old child any of this if it isn’t going to be. It only confused me more.

I don’t call my mother “Mother.” I still don’t. I call her by her given name. I don’t know any differently. My mother died in 2003. She was actually my great grandmother, but she was the only woman I will ever call “Mother” and the only woman I consider to be my true mother. I am currently writing a women’s fiction novel based loosely on the life I led and also dating back to the life my birth mother led. I know it is going to be a hard sell as it deals with a lot of things people would prefer to have buried under the rug.

So, to all of you who have mothers and will be spending the day with them tomorrow, I envy you. Enjoy your day as time is a precious gift and you never truly know how long you will be around, or even how long your mother will be around.
Till next time, Happy Mother’s Day all. I hope you all have a fabulous day!

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Phantom Phone Calls

Phantom Phone Calls – Good or Bad?

The other night I received a phone call about 10 p.m. Now I don’t know about you but when the phone rings that late, I fear something bad has happened to someone on the other end of the line. My heart starts to pound, my palms get sweaty and I actually dread picking up the receiver.

I looked at the caller id to find it was my 23 year old son. I had already spoken to him earlier in the evening so I wasn’t really sure why he was calling back. He’s in the Army getting ready to deploy from Fort Polk, Louisiana. Picking up the phone, I say my usual hello. No response. I hear voices talking in the background, garbled, loud at times, but no one saying hello back to me. I say it again, louder. Still nothing. Ok, now my mother’s mind starts to wander and I think “Oh my god, is he in a fight and he can’t answer the phone, has something happened and he’s trying to call me and want me to get help.” You know the drill; any mother knows exactly what I am referring to.

I start saying Hello louder each time, calling his name. I get nothing but still hear guy’s voices talking. So I sit back on the edge of the bed and start to listen as close as I can. Maybe the phone is in his pocket; maybe he phantom called me by accident and doesn’t realize it.

At this point, I hear another voice say “Oh yeah, well you don’t know what is like to sleep on the ground in 106 degree f***ing weather. Man, it’s a bi**h out there when it’s like that.” Ok, this is getting interesting. Now I’m beginning to think beers are involved and guys sitting around trying to out do one another. So I keep listening. I hear a few snacks of the conversation, then I hear my son (lovely perfect child that he is HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA) say “Yah, well when I was 18, maybe 19 you know what this girl and I did?” Then the words get garbled. It’s at this point I’m thinking maybe it’s a good thing I can’t here what he and the girl did cause I probably really don’t want to know (G).

Now, to be fair, I tried to hang up the phone about three times. And the stupid thing would not disconnect. So finally after about the fifth try, it did. I immediately picked up the phone and called him back. He answers very nonchalantly “Hey Mom” obviously not knowing what has just transpired over the past ten minutes.

His loving mother says “Brian, would you do me a favor and tell you buddy I’m so sorry he has to sleep on the ground in 106 degree f***ing weather. That must be horrible.” Big dead air pause on the other end, then he says very slowly Mom, how do you know that?” “Brian, please tell you buddy that for me, would you?” He calls out to the other guy my exact words and now I get a whole room of dead quiet. And then “How does your mom know what I just said?”

So I then say “And you know as much as I love having a conversation with you and learning what is going on, I really didn’t need to know what you and that girl did when you were 18 or 19.” Now, of course I am not letting on that I really didn’t hear the garbled part of the conversation. But he doesn’t know this. His response “OMG, I am turning beet red right now. How do you know these things Mom? This is not good.”

I politely reply, “Take your phone out of your pocket and put it somewhere safe so you aren’t phantom calling me.” “Crap,” is his response. He turns to the guys and says “My mom heard the whole conversation. I phantom called her.” To which now a group of guys are freaking out “You’re kidding right”, “Damn, she heard everything?”

Sigh, yes these are the calls a mother treasures. NOT! But I must admit it makes for good fodder for a blog. So remember if you phantom call me, you might just end up in a blog post. You never know.

Till next time everyone! Happy Spring.

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Spring has sprung!

PS Not the view outside my window, this is of St, Thomas in the Virgin Islands. One of my favorite places.

Outside my window it looks like Spring has finally come to Michigan. And with it the robins, the starlings, the rabbits and the skunks. Yup, every year we get the rabbits setting up shop under the deck, and the occasional skunk who would like to rid them of their home. My vote is for the rabbits.

Hard to believe it’s almost April. Where has the time gone? For me, it’s been spent writing, writing and more writing. And I am loving every minute of it. But I did meander through the local bookstore on Friday and spent a little money helping our economy. It is so hard to go into the bookstore and not find a half a dozen or so titles I want to bring home. But I was a good girl this time. I only bought one book.

Lately I have found my reading to be so diversified. I’ve been reading every Silhouette Desire I can get my hands on, as well as books on astrological signs for my upcoming novella series that debuts August 1st, The Zodiac Club. And my friend Stephani loaned me a copy of Stolen Innocence, growing up in a polygamous sect, becoming a teenage bride, and breaking free of Warren Jeffs. So I’m all over the place this month with my reading. And sad to say but I am also looking forward to reading Brett Michaels autobiography. Oh yeah and the next Jude Deveraux release as well.

What about you? What’s on your to be read list? Hopefully my books. (G) But if not, that’s okay too. There are so many excellent authors out there to choose from. You can go broke just trying.

I’m looking forward to breaking out the lawn chairs, and sitting on the deck while the sun shines (it will do that in Michigan eventually) and reading. That’s my favorite thing to do next to having a ton of friends over for a bbq. Then we all sit around and discuss what we’re reading, writing and doing.

But until that time, all I can do is dream of warm days, cold drinks and beautiful sunny skies. Till next time, Patti

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Interview with Jenna Peteresen

I am pleased to showcase fellow Greater Detroit RWA chapter member Cheryl Smith and her interview with Jenna Petersen in the Heart of Detroit newsletter. Jenna will be coming to speak at the Greater Detroit RWA Chapter on Tuesday, February 17th. Jenna is a historical romance author for Avon Books and also writes erotic romance for Red Sage as Jess Michaels.


Chick Chat with Cheryl Smith… Jenna Petersen

Jenna Petersen is a multi-published Avon historical romance author and also writes erotic romance for Avon Red and for Red Sage as Jess Michaels. She also speaks to chapters and will be discussing “The Anatomy of a Love Scene" at our February meeting. I'd like to thank her for her time and look forward to her workshop!

We as authors usually have an author or book, something, that started our love of the romance genre and inspired us to try to pen our own first novel. What made you decide to become a writer?
Well, back in first grade I actually won a Young Authors contest for my school. I always wanted to write. However, I came to romance pretty late in life. I didn’t really start reading them until after I started writing them. I really fell in love with Julia Quinn and that set me off to romance. Many authors have a first novel they’d rather not have the world see but took satisfaction in getting to “The End” anyway, just to prove they could actually complete a book. Do you have a manuscript tucked away you hope never sees the light of day?
I have about twelve manuscripts like that. I think you learn a lot about writing from writing and I definitely did that! If one of your books was made into a movie, which hero would you like to see portrayed on the big screen and what actor would you love to see play him, and why? I think Justin from LESSONS FROM A COURTESAN (July 2008) would be a beautiful thing to see on screen. I always picture him as Julian McMahon. Actually, the cover of LESSONS was inspired by an h-o-t photo of JM. As you can attest, Avon is a premier publisher of historical romance. Can you tell us how you felt when you got “the call” and how long you’ve been with Avon?
Actually, my first sale story is good. My husband had been on a very dangerous whitewater rafting trip and had gone a little… missing. I spent Monday, September 20th calling everyone in the universe trying to find him and picturing all the horrible things that could have happened to him (bad imagination… BAD!!). So he called me finally at 6pm. There had been an accident, the guide had been pretty badly hurt, but was ultimately okay. There was no signal, so he couldn’t call while they waited for evict to take the injured guy out. So I cried and he headed home (long drive). He pulled in the driveway at about 6am on September 21 and I hugged him and said, “I think that’s enough excitement for the rest of my life.”

Flash forward about five hours and the phone rang. It was my fabulous agent, Miriam Kriss, telling me I’d had an offer for two books from Avon. That was September 21, 2004 and my first book, SCANDALOUS, came out in October 2005. Since you write as both Jenna Petersen and Jess Michaels, you must be very organized to keep it all straight, and very busy. Do you ever hit a wall where you’d like to burn your computer and how to you get past writer’s block?
I don’t really believe in writer’s block. If I’m blocked I either just need to write through until I hit a “good” spot, or I’ve messed something up along the way, so I need to backtrack a little and figure that out.
The awesome part about writing under the two names is that it almost gives me a break of sorts. Generally, I write a Jenna and then move to a Jess. It gives my brain a little shift, which helps keep me fresh.
I also find that taking a break when I can between books (usually a couple of weeks before I get really antsy) or traveling with my husband and completely unplugging… that keeps the love for writing really visceral and fresh.It seems like every author has experienced a crazy fan, or dealt with someone who has made a snarky comment about their books or the romance genre in general. Have you ever had anything strange happen to you directly relating to your publishing career? Oh gosh, definitely. Amazon removed a review for my first book that basically said that I shouldn’t be allowed to live for writing such a crappy book. I didn’t feel like it was a threat, but apparently Amazon did (I didn’t report it, I figure people are allowed to have their opinion). That’s probably my best story, but there are definitely more. I’ve tried to develop a thick skin about it; sometimes it’s harder than others. But it’s one of those things you just… do. For self-preservation. Do you have an agent, and if so, do you feel having one is beneficial to keeping up the business aspect of your career while giving you more freedom to focus on the creative end? Do you think an agent is helpful when targeting a big publisher like Avon? I do and the woman is a saint. Seriously… the things she puts up with. Really, though, I think especially with the big houses like Avon or the other NYC houses, you have to have an agent. You can make a deal yourself, of course, but there is so much else an agent does. From dealing with contracts to being a buffer between you and your editor when problems arise, to helping you plan a career to moving you from one house to another… there are a million reasons to have a publishing professional on your side. Finding the right one is really the key.

There are many myth’s that go around about publishers, like if you misuse a comma your manuscript will be instantly rejected or that editors use manuscripts to prop up the uneven corners of their desks and don’t read them at all. What is the biggest myth you’ve discovered wasn’t true about editors since you became published? Before I published I was so, so scared of editors and agents. Seriously, I never pitched, I felt so uncomfortable around them. And… they are just people. Really nice people generally. Now I have nice, normal conversations about things outside of writing… and I think I would have been a happier unpub if I’d been able to do that before hand. When you aren’t working, what do you like to do for fun? Not… working? What is this not working you speak of?
No, seriously, we’ve been traveling a lot. Last year we went to China, which was amazing. We also went to Seattle, Hawaii and a bunch of other places. This year we’ll be spending some extra time together in DC after the conference. So traveling and spending time with my husband is really important to me. If you could go back to any time in history for a month, when would it be? What modern convenience would you miss most? I’d probably go back to the Regency, since that’s the period I write in. It would be cool to experience it… but only for a while. I would miss toothpaste. Shampoo. And INTERNET!! Could you imagine wearing corsets and hoops for a week much less your entire adult life? Well, luckily there wasn’t much of that in the Regency. They were much more comfortable undergarment-wise. But seriously, all the clothing stuff would be tough. I am such a jeans and socks girl.What books do you have coming up?
2009 is CRAZY for me. In January, the anthology A RED HOT VALENTINE’S DAY was released. It features a novella under my Jess Michaels name, “By Valentine’s Day”. Then on March 31, my next historical, HER NOTORIOUS VISCOUNT is out. April 21, TABOO (Jess Michaels) hits shelves. And to end the year, in November 2009 I begin a series called The Billingham Bastards with the book WHAT THE DUKE DESIRES.
So busy, busy, busy. And I’m so excited that going to Detroit is going to be part of my busy year!

Cheryl Smith is published in short romance fiction, a multiple contest finalist, and member of The Greater Detroit RWA. You can find her short stories at