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Monday, October 31, 2011

Road Blocks and Giving Up

  It's almost Halloween, and I have a scary story to share. It's scary because it's true, and it's about me, and it's happening right now. 

I have an incurable chronic illness.  It's autoimmune in nature, which means my own body is attacking itself because it does not recognize me as "self".  My predicament does not surprise me as my mother's illness was similar in nature, and I inevitably inherited it from her.  So, in order to deal with this issue, I consume plenty of anti-inflammatory medications.  As with many sufferers of autoimmune illnesses, I seem fine outwardly, but inwardly a terrible battle rages. 

  I still get up and go to work and return to keep house. I also have a few "extra curricular activities", such as functioning as the state president of my professional society, secretary of my local RWA chapter, and writing my own book.  However, the reality is that pain is a constant in my life and everyday it chooses how much wrath it will leash upon me. Some days are more merciful than others, but I am almost always exhausted by the time I return home from work.  With the day only half-over, I still face dinner and the cleanup, after which precious little time is left for personal interests. 
  However, there are a few things my disorder has NOT taken from me, such as my drive and determination.  Writing my book is second-highest on the list, the first is to take back my health.
Working at the Urinalysis bench
  That is not to say however that I don't have my black moments, as well as your basic crisises of faith.  There are days when I want to just lie down and give up.  In fact, I have given up much lately, such as taking advantage of conferences and educational classes that would enhance both my writing and profession, all in the name of keeping my stress levels down and getting more rest.  But let me tell you this, the book WILL be written.  Maybe not this year OR the next, but it WILL be written.  It will be written because it's the only strategy that has not yet been attempted to interest young people into entering a profession where the number of practitioners are dwindling down to a critical level.  I'm talking about my profession, medical technology.  If we don't get those numbers up, then sophisticated laboratory testing will one day be performed by high school graduates.  (worst-case scenario here!)
  But for now, I am forced to pace myself and take many rest breaks because my immunity is still more of a whack-job than a Lady Gaga presidency would prove to be!  I fully expect that for the time being I will take two steps forward and one back.  In fact, I have become the queen of beginning projects that never seem to be completed.  But at least there is forward motion, and that still counts as progress.

  So here's my question, when you are in the darkest pits of despair and/or impossible deadlines are racing toward you at light speed, what is your coping mechanism?  To put it another way, how do you get past all the perpetual roadblocks  and just "git'er done"?  
  For an eye-opening insight into the daily life of a person with an autoimmune disorder, please read "The Spoon Theory" by Christine Miserandino at:

Friday, October 28, 2011


Halloween...yaaay! Oops, did I say that out loud? I don’t remember if the ‘evil’ celebration of the dead is currently considered politically correct or not. I never can keep up with that type of thing, but Halloween has been nothing but good to me.

It was a time of fun and family when I grew up. We got to dress up, drop in on neighbors and get sweet treats, all under the watchful eyes of my parents. We never catered to the vandalism or meanness. I feel warmth at the remembrances.

Of course, that was before my parents divorced. Since I had already left home by then, I don’t know how my siblings’ holidays were affected, but after my divorce, I suddenly realized how much the American family had changed.

Unlike during my mother’s time, it’s hard to properly cultivate the traditions a kid used to grow up expecting. In my childhood, birthdays, Christmas, Easter, Thanksgiving, and Halloween were the big productions they were meant to be and they were all orchestrated from a single home. But divorce fosters lots of changes as an overabundance of grandparents, mothers, fathers and others vie for the holidays.

After my Ex and I each remarried, I came to realize how diverse my children’s holidays were becoming. Too much traveling to other place for my taste but with so many relatives wanting to host a holiday, no single home or set of customs would do.

Eventually we decided to all gather at my Ex’s house for Christmas, and I claimed Halloween.(Let’s face it; nobody really acknowledged it as a major holiday anyway so I found no one in contention for it. Hence every year I held a party. Everyone wore costumes and we went trick or treating and we rallied together in celebration of our family while all other monsters and beasties roamed the night.

As the kids grew, Halloween remained a big production here. I decorated the house, helped them, and soon their friends, costume up. Then they started to invite girlfriends and the party grew. Girl friend’s little brothers needed costumes. Friends of friends, then children of friends all joined in. The party took on a life of its own and continues to this day I will probably forever be remembered as the crazy lady who puts webs on the fences and decorates to excess every single year.

Now my full grown sons bring their families and friends and over the years, anyone who has ever heard of it is invited. Friends and family drop by, pass through, or stay and play. Everyone brings something for the table. They bring games. They take the little ones trick or treating around the neighborhood and we party the night away.

Last year I posted a three part article containing all kinds of decorating tips &recipes, things to do online on MuseItUp Publishing’s blog at: if anyone’s interested in checking it out. Fun stuff.

So I hope everyone has a good one this year. Now I need to go web my fence and plant the tombstones while the weather’s a little sunny. Decorating this year’s been a little tricky since the weather’s become such a factor but I’ll adapt. I’m on a mission. *grin*

Here’s a couple of my favorite treats for you:

Recipe for Pumpkin Pie Spice
(take that money grubbing seasonal spice availability)
1/4 cup ground cinnamon
+ 2 Tbsp ground ginger
+ 2 tsp ground cloves
+ 2 tsp ground nutmeg.
Combine all ingredients in a small jar and shake to combine thoroughly. Store covered.

And, for atmosphere:
( )

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Thinning of the Veil...

Autumn is such a poignant time of year. It marks the end of the summer and the beginning of the holdiays, starting with Halloween and ending with New Years Eve. But what many of you may not know, is that for some, New Years comes on October 31st. All Hallows Eve. Or in the Wiccan Tradition...Samhain. Most people, (including the popular ebook publisher that shares its name with the holiday), pronounce it 'SAM- HAYNE'. But the correct pronunciation is 'SOW-EN', and it is the Witch's New Year.

It is one of the major fire sabbats on the wheel of the year for pagans everywhere, and represents the time of year when the veil between the worlds is at its thinnest. The time when we can best communicate with the spirit world. Samhain is a time of transition, as the earth prepares for winter’s rest and we prepare for our journey through the dark of the year. Samhain is a time to reflect and remember loved ones who no longer walk this earth. To honor our ancestors and our past. It is a time to gather around the hearth fires and dream of spring and new beginnings. Just as Persephone descended to the Underworld to guide the spirits of the departed, so we descend into ourselves to find the path our spirits need to follow. Pomegranate seeds, candles and sprigs of bittersweet are just some of the elements used in rituals honoring this time. The year has waxed with the fullness of life and now wanes into shadow. Our souls take rest in the dark as the seasons make their final turn into the fallow and prepare for the return of the sun.

So as Halloween approaches, while we watch our scary movies and dress up as whatever it is we want to be, give a thought to the loved ones we've lost, say a prayer and whisper their names to the wind. Trust me...they'll hear you.

A Blessed Samhain to you all, and a Happy Halloween!

Marianne Morea

Monday, October 24, 2011


Halloween is my FAVORITE time of year. I decorate the house with ghosts, and ghouls, and goblins, and spiders (thank goodness they are fake!!!!) and, of course, black cats. I love cats so I have many of them. My own cats sniff them every year, wondering who the invaders are until they realize they don't move but stay put, unlike my two wild young-ins!

Today I'd like to share with you a short story I wrote in honor of the holiday. Every town has a 'haunted house'. I was told mine was haunted when I moved into it 24 years ago. First by a girl who happened to marry my brother's best friend, Russ. She grew up in The Clem, as we call it, and she's the one who told me the tales concerning my 'haunted house.'

Later on (like years) my daughter brought her boyfriend over. He stepped into my work room where I write and said I had two spirits, one of the man who built the home in 1917, another of a little boy.

Years later a woman named Ruth came to me because she could 'see' the dead and she had a hard time dealing with her gift. In fact, she didn't want it and was wondering if she could get rid of it.

"Nope I said, much to her dismay. "The gifts you have are God-given. But I can help you to deal with it."

I went on to explain that the dead cannot hurt you.

"Oh yeah? Well guess what," she told me. "You have two in your house, a man and a boy, but the odd thing is when you enter the room they leave. I've never seen anything like it before."

I was floored. Not because I had ghosts but because they leave the room whenever I am present. I had been told years earlier by the only palmist I ever checked out, that the other side (this included spirits of every type) cannot touch me. Here was confirmation.

My grandson used to tell me when I babysat him (I still do only now he's 10 instead of a toddler) that I had two monsters downstairs with glowing red eyes. I told them, in front of him so he wouldn't be afraid of my basement,

"You're dead. Kindly leave my house. Go to the White Light of the Holy Spirit."

I did this for years and have since been told my house is spirit free. Yipeeee! No more monsters with glowing red eyes, which I have since learned are Shadow People. My youngest daughter finally admitted she saw them, too, and that's why she was my 'leach.' They left whenever I was around. Hmmmm. If only I had known she had that gift. I would have gotten rid of them sooner!

Here's hoping no of my co-writers or readers have had any such experiences but mine just goes to show spirits can't hurt you . . . or can they?


They passed the house every day on their way to school. Cindy, Joanne, Debbie and Karen speculated on who lived there. It was an old Victorian, the wood weathered from countless years in the sun. Once it had been painted blue with pink trim and burgundy accents but now it looked haunted. At least, that’s what Cindy said. Karen and Joanne disagreed, but Debbie wasn’t so sure Cindy was off the mark.

The windows were dull with the dirt and grim of who knew how many seasons. Once they sparkled . . . in an age gone past. The bushes out front were overgrown yews, with mulberry and walnut trees off to the side. Left of the house was a raspberry patch while on the right stood the outlines of a garden gone to weeds. The morning was misty, giving the property an other-worldly affect.

Karen stopped by the sidewalk leading up to the wrap-around porch. She turned to the three girls, a sparkle in her eyes.

“What do you say we ditch school and explore the old house?” she asked.

“We can’t do that!” Debbie protested. “What if someone is in there?”

“Who’s going to be in there? We all know the house is vacant . . . at least that’s what my dad says. He’s the real estate agent for the old witch’s house.”

The “old witch” was Miss Markhem, Lady Arabelle Markhem. The house had been her parent’s, and their parents, and so on, or so they’d been told by the countless stories circulating the neighborhood. There were rumors Miss Markhem killed her mother and father, chopped them into tiny bits with a butcher knife, or was it an axe? Some said she buried their bones deep within the cellar and on Halloween night you could see their skeletons in the windows, screaming for revenge. A bunch of hogwash, Karen thought and today, October 30, Devil’s night, was the day to prove it. Didn’t the spirits of the deceased walk this night?

She tossed her long blonde hair over her shoulder. “I say we check it out. Who’s with me?”

“Not me,” Debbie and Cindy said in unison.

Karen looked at Joanne. “I’m in.”

Cindy shook her head. “We’ll catch you two later to hear about your wasted efforts. Ghosts, witches, murder!” Laughing the two girls left.

“Well,” Karen said once they rounded the corner and was gone from sight. “Shall we go?”

Joanne opened the gate in the wrought iron fence surrounding the property. Together they walked up the sidewalk and stepped onto the porch. Nothing so far. Karen looked in a window but it was so dirty all she could make out were shadows. Furniture no doubt. Joanne tried the door knob and was surprised when it turned. She motioned to Karen.

It was dark inside. Joanne tried a light switch but nothing came on. The electricity must be turned off. The house had been vacant . . . forever.

“Your dad have a hard time selling this house?” she asked Karen.

“Yeah. He said everyone’s heard the rumors and no one wants to live in a house where people were murdered.”

Good grief, Joanne thought. Arabelle Markham killed her parents in 1898. It was 2008 now, almost . . .

“A hundred and ten years,” a voice said.

Both girls jumped. “Who said that?” Karen demanded. Joanne looked around, seeing no one in the now dusk-like front room.

“I did.”

Looking forward, Karen and Joanne saw a young woman emerge from the shadows covering the stairs. She appeared to be 19 and was dressed in a floor length black gown with a high neck and long sleeves with ruffles. Karen stifled a scream.

“This house is supposed to be empty. Who are you?”

A pale hand reached up and smoothed the bun at the back of her head. “I am Arabelle Markham. I live here, or used to. I left on October 30, 1898.”

Karen’s eyes widened. “Left? Don’t you mean ran away?”

“No. I mean left . . . not this house, but the world. I was killed.”

Joanne was stunned but Karen didn’t believe it. “Who put you up to this? John Amor? Or was it Tom Catchum?”

“I’m afraid I don’t know who you’re speaking of.”

The first shiver a fear raced down Joanne’s spine but Karen persisted. “Yes you do. This is some kind of joke. Who are you really?”

But the pale lady before them shook her head. “It’s not a joke. My body, or what’s left of it - bones are all - is buried in the cellar . . . along with twenty others. Some are children, no older than ten but most are teenagers, like yourself. You best leave.”

Joanne grabbed Karen’s arm. “I don’t like this. Let’s do what she says, actress or not.”

But Karen refused to be cowed. She speared Arabelle with a look of defiance. “Is that so? Who killed you? And the supposed others?”

A sigh left the white lips. “My parents - who else?”

That was when Karen knew she had this so-called Arabelle Markham. “Really? Then what about the legend . . . how you chopped up your parents? That a big lie?”

“It most certainly is. My parents are the ones who circulated that story, got the idea from Lizzy Borden.”

Lizzy Borden! How lame. Still Karen played along. “Then where did your parents disappear to, if they killed you and buried you in the cellar? Why leave their home?”

“I was handicapped,” Arabelle said with another sigh. “What you now call mentally challenged and my parents . . . well, they wanted to be free. So, they killed me, made it look like I murdered them in a fit and then they ran off, never to be seen again while they traveled the world.”

That was enough. Joanne headed for the front door. “I’m leaving,” she told Karen. “This joke is no longer funny.”

“Joanne! Wait,” Karen cried but it was too late. Joanne was gone, the door shutting with a quiet swish. Karen turned back to ‘Arabelle’.

A pale brow rose. “Aren’t you going to follow your friend?”

But Karen brushed past her, heading down the hall to where the door leading to the cellar lay.

“I wouldn’t advise going down there,” Arabelle said when Karen grabbed the knob.

Karen looked at her. “Why not? If what you’re telling me is true then all I’ve got to do is dig up your bones.”

“That’s what everyone else said when I warned them and now there are twenty.”

That gave Karen cause to pause . . . for only a moment. “Right,” she said, yanking open the door. “And who’s going to get me? The big, bad, boogey man?”

“No . . . my parents. They died in 1921 and their spirits have been trapped here ever since. I only come back when someone like you enters the house on October 30. It’s a dangerous time because on Devil’s night all spirits roam free, even the evil ones. Beware lest you become another victim.”

But Karen dismissed her, racing down the stairs into the cellar with its dirt floor. The door shut with a bang.

Later that night Debbie and Cindy sat in Joanne’s bedroom, listening with rap attention to Joanne’s tale of the actress inside the witch’s house.

“Did you find out who she was and who put her up to it?” Debbie asked when Joanne’s mother came in, wringing her hands.

“What’s wrong, Mom?”

“The police are here, Joanne. They want to talk to you, to all three of you. Karen never came home. She’s missing.”

Down in the cellar, a final pat was given to the freshly dug grave. Smiling, Mr. Horace Markham turned to his wife, Bernice. “That makes twenty-one. Too bad the second girl ran away but there’s always next year.”

Saturday, October 22, 2011

A Halloween Inspired Tale

Witches, ghosts, and hobgoblins... Halloween is a perfect time of year to enjoy yourself with all the creatures of the night. Chills, thrills, and spills (of candy!) are the order of the day. And while I’ve given up dressing in costume for this special day, I do have fun giving out plenty of the sugary stuff when visitors knock on my door.

Naturally, to celebrate one of my favorite holidays, I had to create a story featuring one of my top ten candies: Candy Corn. Since I write romance (in several genres), I had to include a love twist. As I talked about in a previous blog (Real Life Inspires Art), I like to combine real life events in my stories. So for this short story, I drew upon treat-or-treating back in the old days... well, in the sixties, anyway. This short story includes the fear of my younger self that my grownup lipstick would mysteriously disappear, the frantic rush to ring as many doorbells as possible, and the dark, dank atmosphere of city apartment buildings.

The short story title: “True Love And Candy Corn”

BLURB: On a Halloween outing, thirteen-year-old Rebecca knocks on a “witch’s” door. As her treat, she is cursed with true love until the end of time, and even though desirable Frank Palmer seems to be the love object in question, Rebecca is thoroughly spooked. Now, nine years later, Rebecca is treat-or-treating again as she escorts her young cousins on their rounds. When she comes face to face with Frank, she doesn’t see true love as a curse anymore. Will the witch’s prophecy come true?

Available electronically only at

So, if you love candy corn but worry about the sugar, try this zero calorie treat on Halloween night, but be sure to reward your trick or treaters... just in case a real “witch” is on the other side of your door!


Susanne Marie Knight 
Read outside the box: award-winning Romance Writing With A Twist!


 Coming December: The Minx Tobin Mystery Series: The Yuletide Yorkshire--Case Five (Desert Breeze Publishing)
Minx finds something unexpected under the Christmas tree. Unfortunately, it wasn’t left by Santa.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Ghoulies and Ghosties

From ghoulies and ghosties
And long-leggedy beasties
And things that go bump in the night,
Good Lord, deliver us
-Traditional Scottish Prayer

Samhain is known by most folks as Halloween, but for Wiccans and Pagans it's considered a Sabbat to honor the ancestors who came before us. Samhain is the festival where the Gates Between the Worlds are wide open and departed friends and family can cross over in either direction.

For me, the most wonderfully frightening movie that deals with this idea is ‘The Sixth Sense’. It’s where I learned the most about telling a ghost story. I would love to have been the writer who came up with that story line.

Nothing’s missing. You have the vulnerable hero Cole, misunderstood by his mother, though we know he’s telling the truth. It's so important to have a MC we can sympathize with. There’s the strong but flawed man, Malcolm Crowe, to keep him safe. We have the unexpected twists and subplots and interesting characters that keeps us on the edge of our seats. (Or turning the pages.)

The imagery is amazing and terrifying. The flashes on tortured faces and hurt children. The child who opens the tent and scares us senseless. Surprises that jump out at us and make our hearts pound are essential and expected in a ghost story.

Then you have the sounds. The ghostly voices and thumping footsteps and slamming doors. Always remember to add sound to your scenes.

And absolutely no ending can beat this one, where Malcolm turns out to be dead himself. Blew me away. It’s a plot twist I never would have thought of but is so important in writing a memorable story.

If the movie didn’t frighten me so much, I’d take notes as I watched it on how to write the perfect scary story.

For this Halloween I’ve come up with a slightly less terrifying ghost story. One where the ghost refuses to believe he’s not really dead.


Trials of a Lonely Specter
MuseItUp Publishing

There’s been an accident. Quinn believes he’s dead, though Liam insists otherwise. But if that is the case, why does Quinn see the two of them as ghosts? And why does Liam play along? Exposed to Mediums and apparitions, Quinn has a decision to make: either accept his fate or risk everything to trust Liam one more time.

Dianne Hartsock


The room darkened as Liam walked through an archway on the left and he hurried to follow him. He would have liked to take some time to examine the furnishing and tapestries of the parlor, but Liam pressed on. Quinn finally caught him at the far end of the room.
“Where’re we going?”
“We’ll find Betterford’s body reposing in the highest room of the tallest tower.”
Quinn gave him a dry look. “Wasn’t that for the ‘Sleeping Beauty’?”
“So I’ve heard,” Liam purred, looking like he was about to eat the canary.
Quinn didn’t like the eager way he swept through the kitchen to the servants’ staircase.
He tramped up the dark stairs in the apparition’s wake. Liam’s werelight was a mere flicker in his hand, casting eerie shadows on the close walls. Quinn was huffing by the time they reached the third flight and Liam stopped to let him catch his breath.
He looked up at the fond tone. Liam stood several steps above, curiously watching him. “You’re a ghost, my dear. You should be gliding up these stairs.”
Quinn’s mouth fell open. “I forgot,” he confessed. His eyes dropped, waiting for Liam’s mocking laughter. It never came. Instead, the man descended the stairs until he stood level with him. Quinn held his breath as the hand that held the werelight touched his cheek.
“You give me hope,” Liam said surprisingly. “Here, let me help you.” He slipped his arm through Quinn’s.
They fairly flew up the steps after that. Quinn laughed with the exhilaration that raced through him. He’d never felt so free. He wanted to burst through the roof and fly straight into the night. Liam grinned, sharing his joy in the sensation of weightlessness and speed.
All too soon they spilled into the hallway far above. Their laughter died at the grimness of the shadowy corridor. Quinn winced when Liam suddenly grabbed his hand. The spirit’s eyes glowed with anticipation.
He leaned close. “Trust me, Quinn.” His voice was shaking and the man cleared his throat. “Whatever you think of me after this, please remember that I want the best for you. For us.”
“I don’t understand.”
Liam shook his head, clearly disappointed by his answer. Tugging on his hand, he led him to a door in the middle of the corridor.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Pruning Your Twitter Tree

I started on Twitter around 6 to 7 months ago. Last weekend, I got to looking at my follow to following ratio. For non-tweeters (shame on you) that means how many people I follow versus how many follow me. I realized I was following a lot of folks who weren't following me back. And that's bad, mmmkay?

It's bad to follow a bunch of folks who aren't following you back because Twitter works best as a communication medium. Following a crapload of folks who aren't following you holds all the appeal of listening to announcements over the loudspeaker in school. You'll never build relationships if the communication only works one way.

Following a bunch of folks who don't return the follow is also bad PR. Yes, Virginia, sometimes one must call a duck a duck. It's true - writers have discovered that Twitter is an amazing promotional tool. I've found that to be true as well. But if anyone - a reader, another writer, an agent, a publisher - boogles over to your profile to check you out, they're going to be put off if you're following 800 people and only 150 are following you back. It makes you look unpopular.

So from time to time, it's a good idea to prune your Twitter Tree. Think about your numbers and imagine them through the eye of a reader or industry professional. Even if you don't care about stats, you'll get more out of Twitter if it's working more like an intercom than a high school loudspeaker. When it's an avenue of mutual exchange, Twitter allows you to communicate with people all over the country who share particular common interests. Now that you've looked at your numbers, you may see the need for some pruning.

THE FIRST STEP is to look at who you're following. When I started, I just clicked to follow anyone I thought might be "neat" to hear from. I followed quite a few celebrities, for instance. And when I followed Oprah Winfrey, Bill Cosby, Henry Winkler and Ryan Seacrest, I knew they wouldn't be following me back. I think authors should generally return every follow from a legitimate person - as opposed to a business or other entity. But perhaps if authors followed everyone back they'd hit some upper Twitter limit. I don't know - I've seen people following many, many thousands of people. But actors and celebrities are just not going to return every follow. So when I pruned my tree, I eliminated most of those. But I don't think Bill, Henry or Ryan was especially hurt by my defection. Notice I didn't list Oprah. I still follow her because I find Ms. Winfrey's thoughts and insights valuable. She's well worth an unreturned follow.

Another of my particular interests is the TV show Grey's Anatomy. I've even written a book that's a tribute to the spirit of the show. (Griffin's Law - pick it up!) Thanks to the magic of my DVR, I've watched every single episode since it premiered as a mid-season replacement. (And yeah, I'm a big Mer/Der shipper.) I'd followed a bunch of Twitter accounts dedicated to Grey's stuff - some industry gossip sites, some people who were, apparently, even bigger fans of the show than me (to my hubby - yes there actually are such people). I'd followed most of the characters Twitter accounts but like celebrities, they're not going to return the follows either. Once in a while, McDreamy - or someone using the Derek Shepherd account - will Tweet a few things or answer some questions, but that really wasn't worth an unreturned follow to me. I pruned a bunch of the Grey's gossip sites, the fans who hadn't followed me back and even the characters. (If Dr. McDreamy or his lovely wife, Meredith Grey send me a direct message or a follow, I'll gladly reconsider. AS IF...) However, in the scope of Grey's - the real reason I watch the show is to marvel at the magical mastery of its creator, Shonda Rhimes (whom I've nicknamed Sunshine because she reminds me of the 70s song "Sunshine On My Shoulders." I change the words from on my shoulders or on the water or on the whatever to ......on my TV and it makes as much sense as most things I do). Ms. Rhimes, like Ms. Winfrey, was well worth an unreturned follow. She stayed.

I kept a couple of varied news sites. I also kept a few of my favorite authors who haven't - yet - followed me back, like Christina Dodd and Susan Mallery. But then, it was on to the hard work. The individual people. So, THE SECOND STEP is to figure out exactly who you're following and which of them is following you back. The way I did this - the first time I pruned - was to pull up a "following" browser window and then I pulled up a second window for "followers." The list appears by date rather than alphabetically, so searching it is a little challenging. I used a good old Ctrl-F search to compare the two. And what I found hurt me. It really did. Some of the first peeps I connected with were no longer following me back. So, with a heavy heart, I unfollowed them. But - guess what? I screwed up!

A search on your follower window will only look at the whole list if you're at the very bottom. I realized I'd screwed up when I went back a few days later and found one person I'd unfollowed right there, near the bottom of my followers' window. Jeepers.... (Let me say right here that one of those peeps was @bridgemama. I connected with her early on and she's awesome. I went back and followed her again. Everyone should go follow her right now! And any authors looking for some book covers or graphic art for bookmarkers or whatever should reach out to her. She's a talented artist! Okay, I'm lucky that my artistic genius of a hubby does my covers but if I needed to hire someone, @bridgemama would be at the top of my list.)

The way I fixed that was to pull up a good old fashioned Word document and insert a table. I put in a following column and a follower's column. And I went through and typed in every single person I was following on Twitter. If you're any kind of typist it doesn't take all that long to do - space it out over several days if need be. Then, you can go in at random, pull up the followers list, hit Ctrl-End so that Word takes you to the bottom, pull up a search screen via Ctrl-F and plug in a name. I'll do several at a time and put a U for Unfollow on my table. Then, when I get around to it, I just go to Twitter, cut and paste in the name from my table to the Twitter search screen and when the account comes up, press the unfollow button.

THE LAST STEP is to keep your table current. When you unfollow someone delete the row in your table. When you get a new follower, you boogle over, return the follow and then pull up your table to add that person at the top. Because you typed in your list in the order Twitter had it, your list is sorted by timeline and because you're adding new people at the top, it stays that way.

Note that your table can be used for other things too. If you like to give shout outs to new followers, you can have a column or a symbol to show you that you've done that for each new member of your Twitter family. You could also have a column to let you know when you've shown followers some #FF or Friday Follows love. If you need help with something, you'll be able to review your table list easier and it'll help you mentally sort through to find the perfect person to DM (direct message).

I realize that there are services that will organize all your Twitter stuff for you. And if you have $18 a month or so to invest in those - WHY IN THE NAME OF ALL THE PRETTY LITTLE DUCKS IN THE UNIVERSE DID YOU READ A BLOG POST THIS LONG!!! If you're like me, and this economy has made DIY a way of life for you, or if you're one of those stubborn folks (love 'em, am one too) who just rather do it yourself, then I recommend good old fashioned tables as a great way to keep your Twitter account current.

Since I pruned my Twitter Tree I've found a bunch of great new folks to follow, most of whom have followed me back. There are lots of authors doing just what I'm doing - trying to grow a "dream" into a full time job. And there are lots of readers who enjoy another thing I enjoy - romance novels. I've kept a couple of the "big deal" authors on my list, some of the news and TV sites, and a few other folks that just matter to me - like Oprah and Shonda "Sunshine" Rhimes. But overall, these days @quackingalone is pretty much a two way street and I aim to keep it that way. Follow me, and if you're a real live breathing person who's not using Twitter to run a business - then I'll follow you back because if you're interested in my insanity, you're probably someone I'd find pretty interesting too!

I heartily recommend regular pruning of your Twitter Tree and the use of old fashioned word processor tables as a way to control your Twitter profile, rather than having it control you. NOW, IF YOU HAVE ANY TWITTER TIPS OR TRICKS - if you have a great system for managing any of your social profile, I'd love to hear from you - comment away. I monitor those too and (try to) reply to each and every one.

Mary Anne Graham
Quacking Alone Romances
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Saturday, October 15, 2011

Vampires/Werewolves/Shapeshifters and Everyday Life

So many paranormal romance books feature vampires, werewolves, and shapeshifters that I can't help but wonder about how they'd function in my town, city, or as my next-door neighbor. How do these "people" go about everyday normal living? Yes, we suspend disbelief for most of this stuff in order to concentrate on the "real" story...that of the romance and passion between the hero and heroine.

But let's talk about some "real life" issues they would face. They can't all be rich, can they? Live in mansions, own expensive cars, never work? Right? do they get birth certificates? Driver's licenses? Social Security numbers (in the US)? Do they pay taxes? Can they get health insurance?

Maybe there's a secret central Vampire/Werewolves/Shapeshifter Identification Unit that works solely on providing necessary documentation like fake passports, licenses, birth certificates. And, now in the age of advanced technology, these could be updated quite easily.

Surely a 300-year-old vampire can't provide an original birth certificate. In fact, a new one would have to be issued every 30 + or - years to keep the vampire in question "looking" close enough to be in a particular age bracket. With eternal youth at whatever age a vampire was first bitten and "turned", you could only say, "I've had plastic surgery" so long before people would get suspicious.

Werewolves? Shapeshifters? What form were they born in? Human? If one of them goes for a blood test, do "red flags" appear in their test results from strange, abnormal human readings?

Now that I'm dwelling on all this, what about resumes? Do they get phony ones? Would anyone do a background check and start asking questions?

What about voting? Can a vampires register? And, here's another question from a far-off tangent from the inquisitive side of my brain...what costume does a vampire wear on Halloween?


I'm thinking way too much about this. I should sit back and enjoy a vampire/werewolf/shapeshifter romance book at face a romance without pesky "hows" getting in the way.

Photos: Flickr:pinchenettes, wallyg, TiggerT and gadgetgirl's photostreams

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Why I Buy a New-To-Me Author

3 Things That Make Me Buy Books (from a new-to-me author)

1. Word of mouth.

Not just ANY word of mouth ... but words from mouths I trust. I know the people who think like me and like the same kinds of stories I like. If one of them says, “OMG, you HAVE to read this story! It was the best thing I’ve read in months and I just can’t stop thinking about it.” I’m not going to think twice, I’m going to hie my butt over to the nearest bookstore and get my copy. This is a reason why GoodReads, when used as it was intended to be used, is such an amazing tool.

2. Reviews.

Not just ANY reviews. The reviews that sell me on a book are the ones that really get deep into the “whys” not just a synopsis: why they liked the story, why they didn’t like some parts of it, why they recommend it and to whom – realistically. I saw one review that said something like: “If you like stories about one-legged vampire cowboys named Egbert who dress up like Santa every Thursday and shout “YEE HAW” when they see a good-looking woman, you’ll love this story.” I couldn’t help but wonder how many people actually sat around saying, “MAN, I wish I could find a story about a one-legged vampire cowboy named Egbert.” let alone the rest of that ridiculousness.

3. Reputation.

Authors build reputations, and the writing world is small. Think about how the excitement built with the Harry Potter books or the Twilight series. Actually, that’s sort of a combination of the other things I talked about, above: word of mouth and reviews. And, each subsequent book in those series was more popular because of the love folks had for the previous release.

What about you? What will make you buy a book by a new-to-you author?

Visit Marianne at her blog or website.

Sunday, October 9, 2011


Let me brag about my grandson. If you don’t want to hear this, then run away. Save yourself. I’m about to be insufferable, and there’s nothing any of us can do about it. It’s in the DNA to brag about our descendants, so we just must listen to new grandparents every once in a while, sort of like having to eat rubber chicken at conventions or white knuckle teaching teenagers to drive.

When my daughter told me she was expecting, she informed me that I could start making a baby quilt. So I gestured for her to follow me to the quilting storage boxes to show her the stash of fabrics I’d already bought for it. I was quite ready to be a grandmother. I began sewing immediately, and rushed to finish the quilt before the due date. By the time it was done, Michael was ten days old. The thing was a simple appliqué block covered with embroidered flowers, in bright batiks and a rainbow of floss. Seven months of needlework, and I rushed the last bit of embroidery.

Michael is, as of this writing, three months old, and he’s my first grandchild. He is, of course, adorable. According to the law of infants, he is a Gandhi rather than a Churchill. Now that he’s smiling, he occasionally looks like Alfred E. Newman, but in an adorable way. But when he gets teeth, that’s likely to change, until they start falling out and he gets a gap-tooth grin to look like the cover of MAD Magazine. Again, adorable.

I think it’s rather odd to have a descendant once removed like this. My daughter lets me babysit often, so I get flashbacks of the days when my own children were that size. Old reflexes kick in, and I surprise myself that I remember how to tell whether the baby is hungry, bored, sleepy, or wet, which at this age is all he ever is if he’s awake. When we go places I remember how to get from here to there with a bundle of joy in tow. I’ve learned how to make him laugh, which is new for me. When he laughs I laugh, so I do it a lot. And I wonder why I don’t remember doing that with my own kids. Perhaps that’s what grandparents are for. To do all the things we didn’t think of when our own kids were that age.

But then when he goes home, I find myself occasionally looking around and going, “Where’d the baby go?” Oh, yeah, he’s with his mother, where he belongs. Sometimes he’s with his father, or his other grandmother and aunts, where he also belongs. Odd to have such a life-changing thing and be such a small part of the larger picture. But that’s part of maturing, I guess, and at my age I should be a lot more mature than I really am.

I’m lucky in that in the afternoons he sometimes lets me take a nap. We stretch out on the bed and he watches the ceiling fan go around and around while I doze some. Usually he lets me do my thousands words of novel writing, unless he’s hungry, and then he must have his bottle before I can crack the chapter files. The cats all seem to know he’s too young to be worth harassing. Besides, he doesn’t have any food, so they all leave him alone.

I look forward to the day when he will understand when I read to him. I have saved all the best children’s books my own kids enjoyed, and have recently acquired a full set of Winnie the Pooh books. I also have all the old Disney Classics on DVD. The other day we watched “Monsters, Inc.” though Michael seemed more interested in reading the warning labels on the inside of his crib. He likes noise, so I could probably have it on CNN and he would be okay with that. Yesterday I saw a pony ride at the shopping center, and wished Michael were a little older. Another couple of years, though, and I’ll be the goofy grandparent taking photos of him riding the pony with both hands on the saddle horn, laughing and grinning like the cover of MAD Magazine.

Friday, October 7, 2011

To write a series, or not write a series?

As a reader, I love a series. I enjoy reading a series with the same characters and seeing how they evolve. A good example, J. Frost's Night Huntress books with Cat and Bones. In other books/series, I enjoy reading about the different characters and their struggles. Good examples include Kerrelyn Sparks' Love At Stake series and Kelley Armstrong's Otherworld series. In the former, each book is about a different character, yet involves other important players that show up in all the books. And those other characters eventually get to tell "their" story in a book in the series. Great idea. In the The Otherworld series, one book may be about werewolves, and another about a witch or demon, yet they are all tied together in the same world, in this case "Otherworld" and have a challenge to face. Books with these two series could easily stand-alone.

In my Soul Catcher series, my characters are pretty much the same in each book. They evolve and the protagonist has to face some kind of challenge. I have 4 books in that series and I grew very close to them. I could probably keep it going for a very long time, but there's so much more I long to write.

In my new series, I decided to try something new. I created a paranormal world and the people "moving" into the community (or already "moved" in) will have a book and will have some kind of relationship challenge. So each will stand alone, yet will be part of a large series. (I hope large—lol). Since this is new for me, I hope it works. I'm halfway done and my goal is to finish the first book this year, then submit it in Dec, maybe January. We'll see what happens.

Why do I write books in a series? Because that's what I read and what I like. Plain and simple.

I have to admit that my ideas are mostly large scale ones and that plays a part in why I write books in/for a series too. Sure, I have a couple ideas for single novels, but I tend to get attached to my characters or their world, which makes me want to develop the books into a series. It's a difficult decision for me to make (which book to write) when I have several ideas jumping up and down in my head. Based on what I like to read, you can guess what my selection will be.

Are you a series lover too?

Mary Abshire
Paranormal Romance/Urban Fantasy Author

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Ideas, Where do they come from

I am often asked where I get my ideas. Quite often I don’t exactly know what spawned an idea. It might be a news item or a book I read, or even a photograph, modern or historical.  It is sometimes just my take on an old favourite.: Sleeping Beauty, Marriage of Convenience, Rags to Riches. I still have secret baby somewhere in the back of my mind. Often, it is a number of these things melding together. 

Most often what I get is an opening scene and a character that pops into my head out of nowhere. I might not even be looking for an idea at the time. Indeed, it might be a distraction from what I am working on. In this case, I simply write a few notes, store them in an ideas file and hope that will be enough to  remember it later, as well as stop it from cluttering things up.

Where does that alley lead?  Once I get the opening scene fixed in my head, I can start writing.  Often, I am not sure what the theme of the story is, or where the characters are going to lead me, but I start following along to see where it will go.

For example, in The Gamekeeper’s Lady, my first view of Robert was him in bed (very busy in the draft version) with his mistress.  I read the scene to my husband one day when we were driving home after spending some time with my daughter at University.  He got so involved in the story--- he got lost and I had to stop reading until we found the road again.  The scene after that was of Frederica, galloping wildly in the country refusing to believe she was to marry her cousin.  How this couple were ever to get together, I had no idea.

Robert’s twin brother, Charlie, in More Than  a Mistress found his story in a very different manner. He appears briefly in Robert’s book, but he was very, well to put it mildly, dutiful. The good twin, for sure.  I couldn’t imagine what sort of woman would shake him out of his complacency, apart from the fact he had let his brother down badly.  Merry Draycott, a commoner, broke down on the road in front of him. An independent business woman, she was also a heroine fit for a duke.

I have lots more examples and no doubt will be sharing them as we go along, but now it is your turn. Do you have a particular favorite type of story? I would be interested to know, for when I get my next idea.

Ann Lethbridge
Regency Ramble Blog

Monday, October 3, 2011

A New Perspective

Tonight's blog is not directly related to writing, but it certainly could be. Today my partner and I went for a hike to check out a new trail that's been lauded as being great for sight seeing. Honestly, I wasn't sure I could do it. I have fibromyalgia, and this summer has not been kind to me. It was 2.5 miles from the nearest town to the scenic bridge (our goal) and then half a mile across the bridge. And it's been six or seven months since he and I have gone on our regular walks.

However, we decided to start slow, do what we can, and just see how far we got. My first surprise was reaching the bridge and going "we've actually gone over two miles?" My next was standing on the bridge, looking over the river basin, and realizing that there is such beauty, not only in my state, but so close to where I live.

It quickly changed my perspective. I was awed and humbled at all the same time, that so close to big cities there was this lovely walking path, designed for stopping and sight seeing, and the vistas that looked like something out of Middle Earth. Iowa wasn't supposed to look this beautiful, was it? LOL!

If we tie this into writing, since we are all day, all night writing divas, I think not only is it important for us as authors to try things that we're not quite sure we can do (after all, how can we grow as writers?), and that we can find beauty in the most mundane of scenes. All it takes is a little walk, and a change in our perspective.

Saturday, October 1, 2011

My First contest - A Journey of Self-Discovery

    I have decided to enter my first writing contest, maybe you have heard of it.  It's the "Mills & Boon New Voices Contest", where you send in the first chapter of your wip by October 10th for the first round of judging.  Since I only have the first chapter written, I thought, "Why the heck not?"  You're required to register on the Facebook site & post your chapter there where other registered folks can read it.  It sounded simple enough, until...


   Well, let's just say that I was not prepared for the barrage of opinions and expectations.  I soon learned about the presumption that my hero & heroine would meet in the first chapter.  Um, what???  They don't meet until chapter two-was that such a bad thing?  (scratches head) Really?  Although I am sure she is not alone, even one of my favorite authors whose current series is a global leviathan hit doesn't employ this construct in her writing.  Stunned after this new revelation, I became indignant at the thought of a publishing house telling me how to write my story.  I suddenly felt rage rising within me like a momma bear protecting her cub.  Phrases such as, "How dare they tell ME how to tell my story!", "I will NOT be a sell-out!", and  "I absolutely REFUSE to drink the 'company Kool-Aid'!" danced about in  my brain.  After discussing this new bit of enlightenment with my writer buddies,  I finally understood the meaning and application of the term "category romance". 

Best writing buddies ever!

   Ah, now I get it!  A story that has very clearly defined expectations, boundaries and limits to fit a particular house's preferences.  Chapter one, hero & heroine meet. Chapter two, the first kiss, Chapter three, the first...whatever.  So not me.  From that experience, I now know that I do not want to write "category".  However, that is not to say that it wouldn't be a good fit for someone else, it's just not for me.  For now, I'm still considering throwing my chapter into the ring just to see how it fares.  If for nothing else, this journey was worth learning this one thing about myself.  Wish me luck!

My first contract

How many times have you writers been asked, how did you feel when you got your first contract. Excited? Elated? Of yes, but here's what happened to me. The day I received my contract for my first fiction publication I wanted to hold the pages in my hand and revel, even gloat a little. Maybe even have a small celebration. So what happens? My hubby calls. He’s broke down, and I have to go get him. Why should this be a problem? He’s twenty miles away and picking him up didn't mean driving away with him while a tow truck pulled the car away. It meant towing the car to our friendly mechanic that same twenty miles, through Prescott (AZ), the new mall, Wal-Mart, and Costco areas, Prescott Valley, and final Dewey, with all those pesky lights that always seem to turn yellow as we’re approaching them. For those of you who have never experienced towing let me tell you it is nerve racking and not for the faint hearted. I have never succeeded in convinced my husband I am truly faint hearted when it comes to sitting in 1000 or more pounds of metal with minimal control. ‘Broke down’ means no engine running. That translates into a loss of those nice little things like power steering and power brakes, turning those two immunities into mega-manual. To turn takes both arms with all the body weight I can put behind it to operate efficiently both steering wheel and brake, taking all one hundred and thirty pounds, all five feet seven inches, all stretched to maximum, both feet on the brake petal, both hands on the wheel, teeth gritting, and occasional breathe holding. Men! (said derogatorily) I’m concentrating 100% on not letting the chain slack, the rear vehicle’s driver’s (?) main job along with stopping both vehicles and not plowing into the back end of the front vehicle. My arms ache, my thighs tremble, and my hands are nearly frozen from my grip on the steering wheel. He’s up there on the cell phone. I really felt like strangling him, but then he’s used to operating road graders, bulldozers, and backhoes on a regular basis. What’s a puny car without power compared to them? He’s also over two hundred pounds. He’s unperturbed and I’m sweating. We did make it without a dented bumper or smashed radiator and only one ‘heart in the throat incident’ of needing to stop faster than the car wanted to for my peace of mind. Not the way I wanted to celebrate my first contract. He did, however, take me out to dinner, and the drink my son insisted on 'to celebrate' was greatly appreciated. Normally one is all it takes to turn me into a puddling mass that has trouble not slipping off the chair. That night it didn't. Must have been the double dose of adrenalin hanging on.
That was about fifteen contracts and three publishers ago. I didn't know then about promoting, things like writing blogs, doing interviews, sitting in on chats. Heck, I didn't even know what an ebook was. All of that is a bit overwhelming still at times. Often I yearn to be away from the laptop, curled up on the couch with a pen and notebook with the words flowing for something new with nothing to disturb me, no emails, chats, or blogs to do. I have to admit though when a new contract comes in, I still get a glow.

Larriane AKA Larion Wills, two names one author, thousands of stories

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