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.