Change by Barbara Wallace


I hate change.  Which stinks since change is the one constant in this world.  Well, change and the fact that I hate it.   It seems as though every time I settle into a comfortable routine – or worse, an energetic, uplifting routine – something happens.  I find a supportive group of writer friends to meet with and then the group starts falling apart.  I find a coffee shop that’s the perfect place to write and it suddenly becomes popular.

certaintyI finally make it as a published author and the entire publishing world turns upside down.

It is enough to drive an anxiety-ridden girl like me crazy.  And, since I’m one of those hypersensitive  writers who need to stay in a calm center in order to create, change effects my writing too.

The change doesn’t have to be that drastic to push me over the edge either. The whole reason I’m going off on this rant is because the Boston Red Sox decided to blow up the team and trade my favorite player.   Now I’m cranky because I don’t know who I’m supposed to root for every fifth pitching day.  I actually had to turn off the radio because the news had me in such a tizzy.  So, you can just imagine the state I’m in trying navigating the publishing industry where every blessed day brings along a new development.

As you know, last week I went to the RWA National Conference .   You couldn’t have asked for a better conference.  The workshops, the people, the networking – everything was empowering.  Beneath all the excitement however, was the ever present sense of change.  Everyone knew that the industry we live in this year will be completely different in 2015. Even Sylvia Day noted this in her wonderful keynote speech when she pointed out how different the world is today from a decade ago.

Being in publishing these days means running on a continual treadmill. If you don’t change with the industry, you can be left behind.  You see it in the old-timers, the writers who are still longing for the return of the days before technology, marketing and social networking.  Unfortunately, those days are gone forever.  And, as much as I might miss them, they ain’t coming back any more than Jon Lester is re-signing with the Red Sox.   Best I can do is find a new patch of stability, hang on, and hope that the next bout of changes isn’t too traumatic.

How about you?  How do you feel about change?  Like it? Hate it? Don’t care?  How do you cope?  Let me know!

The one change Barb Wallace is okay with is the release of a new story.  Starting August 11, readers can enjoy her new serialized short story, The Millionaire’s Redemption, on Harlequin.com.

ETA: No sooner did I schedule this than the Red Sox traded ANOTHER player that I liked.  I so hate change.


Liz Fielding’s cracking day out


London Eye

Photo copyright N J Allsopp

None of my family live close to me so when I told my daughter I was dead keen to take a “flight” on the London Eye but the dh doesn’t do heights she leapt in and said she’d love to come and so we arranged one of our “play dates”. An all girls day out; me, the dd and her two girls, aged 4 and 2 (plus the yet to be met baby boy due in October!)

I hopped on a train to London and we met up in Waterloo on gloriously sunny day. Many hugs and a wail of “where’s granddad from Cora, the 4 year old – she’s a big fan).

We took a cab across the river to the “Eye” and I can’t remember when I’ve seen so many people. It’s the school holidays and we weren’t the only ones who’d come out to play.

London Eye


The queue was unbelievable, but fortunately I’d booked fast track tickets on the internet and we were on our gondola in no time. The “Eye” doesn’t stop but Cora was really brave and we jumped on together hand in hand. (She had said she was only going on the “bottom one”). She took a quick look down from the edge and then scuttled bac to the safety of the bench, but was soon walking around and pointing out the “Shard”. She and Veda took their Daddy up that on Father’s Day. Veda, 2, wandered around and smiled a lot.

The views from the Eye were amazing. It’s a slow half an hour circuit offering the most fabulous views of London and the countryside beyond. Every famous landmark you can think of all seen from a dizzying new perspective. And down below, in the park, very, very small people having picnics. Lovely.

Tuttons, Covent Garden

Back on the ground we headed for Covent Garden, lunch at a favourite restaurant – open wild mushroom ravioli, rocket leaves, parmesan cheese and pistou dressing for the grown ups, sausage and mash for the littles ones.

Then came the visit to Build a Bear. Cora has been saving up being good stars towards building her own My Little Pony and Veda had a cape for the pony she had for her birthday.

All in all, it was cracking day out!

PS While the dh didn’t come with us, he did take a great picture of the Eye the last time we were in London, so that’s his contribution to the post!





Writing Novellas, by Samantha Hunter


In my opinion, novellas are an art form in their own right, generally defined as a story running between 10k-40k:. Like all writing forms, not everyone takes to them (as reader or writer). There is the idea every now and then, however, that writing a novella is “easy” — well, to put that one to rest, it’s not.

OneHotNightsmI personally adore writing novellas. If I could make a living writing novellas, I would. To date, I’ve written nine novellas (two upcoming) for Harlequin, Samhain and self-pub. Novellas have provided me with a lot of creative fun, and they have also snagged me my only RT Top Pick (Samhain, Bending over Backwards), and Publisher’s Weekly Review (Samhain, One Hot Night). But writing a novella and doing a good job of it can take just as long as writing a full-length book (I’ve spent an average of three months on a novella, sometimes less, sometimes more). The story needs to be just as complete as it is in a novel, providing a complete reading experience in a much shorter space. Still, they are my first love in fiction writing.

I went to an RWA workshop on novellas with Elosia James, Julia Quinn and Connie Brockway, and while these three work together and are all historical authors, there was still a lot to be taken from the talk by a contemporary novella writer. (One of the more amusing, and comforting, moments in the workshop was the realization that no matter how good and complete your novella is, there will always be readers who think it’s “too short” — this seems to be a common, frustrating refrain, but we can choose to hear it as that they enjoyed the story so much that they want more). :)

The challenges of the novella are the same, no matter what your genre: at what point to begin, how much backstory, how to have people sexually active and falling in love in a relatively short period of time.  I also listed what seemed to be the seven reasons for writing a novella in the first place:

  1. novella as gift (for fans/readers — extra views into a char’s life, etc).
  2. novella as marketing device for other work (overlaps with the previous, IMO).
  3. novella as “way in” — publishers with e-lines will take novellas from unknown authors, gives you a way into mainstream publishing, work with an editor
  4. novella as “anthology or group project” — I did this with my Strangers on a Train story, “Tight Quarters” (Samhain) and it’s a great way to get to know and work with other authors, or get one of your stories in a book with a headline author, increasing your own visibility.
  5. novella as a “stand alone story” — if you have an idea that is not a series or an anthology, it can still be a novella. However, readers like novellas series, and they are more likely to find their way into print.
  6. novella as “creative experiment” — want to try a paranormal or historical, but can’t take on a full novel? Try it out in novella form, first.
  7. novella as “starting point” — if you are stuck in your writing, or a new writer, try a novella before taking on a full length book (I have some reservations about this, as a novella can be as difficult if not more so than a full length book, depending on the kind of writer you are).

I think these are all valid to different degrees, but I would also suggest that if you are not a novella writer because you like to write novellas, none of these might be suitable reasons for you to do so.  But there is no harm in giving it a try — you might discover that you love it as much as I do, and there are a large pool of publishers who are taking novellas now, so if you are inclined, go for it!

Be aware that there is not big money to be made on novellas, generally — your advance is often the only money you might make on the story (at least for several years) and this is especially true in an anthology with other authors, where everything is split. With other e-publishers, you won’t see an advance, most likely, but you will see royalty payments, but they could be relatively small, depending on how well you are known to readers.

I’ll take any questions you might have about novellas, and would love to hear any advice or ideas you have about them as well!


More Images from San Antonio!



Barb shows off her Booksellers’ Best Award. She had tough competition; Michelle Douglas had two books in the same category!


Donna shows off her pin commemorating her 25th Harlequin book

Donna shows off her pin commemorating her 25th Harlequin book

Much fun was had at the Harlequin party. With Amy Weaver, Shirley Jump, Barb Wallace, Cathryn Parry, Karen Foley and Donna Alward

Much fun was had at the Harlequin party. With Amy Weaver, Shirley Jump, Barb Wallace, Cathryn Parry, Karen Foley and Donna Alward

Michelle Douglas' cover greeted all who rode the elevator

Michelle Douglas’ cover greeted all who rode the elevator

Barb Wallace and the awesome Kandy Shepherd at the HQ signing

Barb Wallace and the awesome Kandy Shepherd at the HQ signing


Going to Nationals? Make it Work for You


On the heels of Susan’s post a couple days ago about not going to the national Romance Writers of America conference in San Antonio (and it seriously isn’t the same without her :-(, I thought I would talk to those of you who are here. I’m here, so if you see me, say hi! I love meeting writers and readers!

Here are my tips for making your time at National work for you:

1. Make Friends: writers are introverts, by and large, but the national conference is NOT the place to hide in your room and give in to your inner shy child. Get out, interact. Say something nice about another Author’s dress or her shoes or her book cover. I promise, no one will bite you :-)

2. Take Advantage of Everything: go to the first timers’ event if it’s your first time at nationals. Go to the luncheons, the workshops. Sit with strangers and ask them what they are writing.

3. Dress Up: put on your favorite dress, wear some heels (buy Band-aid blister bandaids) and take time to do your hair and makeup. I think when you look professional, you feel and act professional. And when you feel good about how you look, that shows in your attitude.

4. Buy the tapes: if you can afford it, buy the tapes of the workshops. There is soooooo much information thrown at you in a few days and having the tapes for later helps you absorb the information better.

5. See the city: if this is your first time in San Antonio, be sure to take at least a few hours to see the sights and enjoy the Riverwalk! It’s truly beautiful.

6. Network: if you have business cards, hand them out. If others give you theirs, follow up after the conference, even if it’s just a little “nice to meet you” message.

7. Make some memories: stay up late with your friends and talk shop or shoes. Share a few giggles over lunch. Take a few goofy pics with your new friends. Make the most of the conference–because you worked hard to get here and you should celebrate that :-)

And if you see me, come on over and introduce yourself!! Maybe we’ll end up sharing a funny story or comparing shoes ;-)



What Not to Do When You’re Not Going to Nationals


Before reading this post, I recommend going back and reading Susan Meier’s post on Not Going to Nationals. Such a well-written and thoughtful post.

I’m afraid I can’t promise that for my post.

Over the past few months, I’ve been the unwilling target of pranking thanks to the creative imagination of my 8-year-old son and a TV show called “The Amazing World of Gumball.” I think the show should be more appropriately called “The Amazing World of Goofball.”


Salt in the sugar bowl. Songs and movies on my iPod changed/replaced with his own music. At a visit to the grocery store, I found him writing “I’m cold” on the clear glass of the cooler holding ice cream and whipped toppings.

I really can’t blame him. I’ve committed a prank or two in my life. And as I sit here missing my friends and colleagues, I’ve thought up some fun ways to let them know how much I miss them.

1) Text message someone: Guess who showed up for Nationals? I’m in the [unnamed] bar. Come meet me! :-)

2) Liven up the literacy signing. Call in some soldiers, doctors, on-duty firemen or even strippers to entertain the crowds and authors. This would work well for a workshop featuring a favorite author as well. And why not some cowboys? It is in Texas, after all.

3) Add an extra box of random books to someone’s incoming packages. To be honest, I’m not sure how well this would work. The way some of these hotels work, the recipient may never see the package.


Of course, I would never do any of this and wouldn’t recommend it. I will be writing, chatting up patients on the phone and starting a countdown until next year. I plan to be in New York.

What would you do to let a friend know you miss them at Nationals? Prank or no prank ideas accepted.

Abbi :-)


Not Going to Nationals? (Sniff, Sniff)


Last year, I had a grand time at RWA Nationals. A Rita finalist, I was invited to parties, had people buy me drinks, had editors woo me. I bought new clothes and shoes. Drank champagne. Listened to some great PAN workshops.

This year…clears throat…I can’t go. :( There’s only so much conference money in the budget and I decided to go to a few cheaper conferences over a one big expensive one. And a few days ago I was seriously regretting that decision. I want to go! I want to see my friends!  I LIKE talking to editors. Wah!

So how does one get through the “I can’t go to RWA blues”?

1. Dress up. (Seriously) Instead of staying in your pj’s wallowing in misery, at least put on nice jeans and a spiffy shirt.

2. Do your work. You may not be able to go to Nationals, but you are still a writer. A good writer. Some of you are FABULOUS writers. Remind yourself by writing all week.

3. Keep up with tweets and facebook posts about the conference. Interact. Enjoy others’ enjoyment. :)

4. Take an online class. It may be too late to enroll … but find some blogs. Go to my blog site susanmeier@blogspot.com. I’ve got lots of short how-to-write posts…Dig in the archives. You’ll find some great stuff…but, my point, is engage yourself the way your friends and peers are being engaged. Learn something. :)

5. Buy alcohol. I’m going for a nice white zinfandel. Have a glass a night, then go on Facebook or twitter and look for your at-conference friends. Toast with them.

6. Realize that you may be going next year. You could even make that a goal and begin saving now. :) And do a little daydreaming.

7. Find me on Facebook and we will have a heck of a good conversation about going next year, what we’re writing, where we think the industry is going…especially if I’m already enjoying my zinfandel. :)


Happy Reading… susan meier


San Antonio Tweet Up


Hey Chocolate Box Fans! Are you attending the RWA Conference in San Antonio next week?  If so, why not join us for a Chocolate Box Tweet Up!

When: Thursday, July 24  8:30-9:00 pm

Where: Pool side, Marriott Rivercenter

Samantha Hunter, Ami Weaver, Donna Alward, Shirley Jump and Barbara Wallace invite you to come hang and say hi before the Harlequin PJ Party.  You won’t be able to miss us – we’ll be the girls in the Chocolate Box t-shirts!

Can’t make the tweet up?  That’s okay – be sure to stop by and say hello at Wednesday’s Literacy Signing.  Donna, Barbara and Shirley will be signing books.

Morning Person? Not Quite, by Samantha Hunter


morningThere have been a lot of times in my years when I woke up at the crack of dawn every day, for many years to make the 25-30 mile commute to school, and then to my teaching job. There were the years when my son was small, and he was a morning child, getting up way too early for my taste (until he reached teenage years, and then I couldn’t pry him out of bed with a crowbar). I would wake up early, and often be in bed late, but I was a lot younger then. Overall, I am not a morning person, though there are advantages to being up early.

This summer, when the sun started shining in a little before six am, I’d wake up early, or on a hot day, we’d get up early on purpose to take the dog out before it got too warm. Some days I even enjoy it — getting up early literally adds hours to my day that I often complain about needing. I enjoy the increased exposure to light and sunshine, and can sometimes get out in the garden or read over coffee. But more often than not, I don’t like it. I like staying up at night, just until midnight, maybe, to watch some TV and then read. Then, sleeping until 730-830 is perfect. I never really sleep later than that, and I don’t usually stay up past midnight. Naps are not common — once I’m up, I’m up. Bumorningevening-people-300x292t this is my natural schedule, the one I fall into most easily. Going to bed early, or getting up early, takes effort.

Still, there are days like today where a morning appointment pushed an early wake-up, and early walk, and cut my coffee time in half, allowing me to get all of my exercise in before ten with time to spare to do things like email and this blog before noon. This is good, but I don’t really like it. I like the extra time, but all in all, I miss the extra evening time I have on the other side of the day, for reading and such.

Then I saw this graphic on the qualities of morning and evening people; since I see myself as balanced between both, I think I have qualities on both sides of the line, actually. I am neither an early bird nor a night owl, I guess. I also rarely write in the morning or the evening, except when my husband is traveling, sometimes. I am a flat-out afternoon writer.

What about you? Are you naturally a morning or evening person, or like me, a little of both? Do you find yourself changing your schedule with the seasons, or with external demands? What is your ideal schedule?


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