Introducing Debra Ginsberg

Debra Ginsberg

It was the first minute of my first day and my first impulse was to run.  Just turn around and get the hell out of there as fast as I could.  In that frozen moment between initial response and subsequent action, I stood mute, my vision tunneled to the desk in front of me.  It was piled to toppling with files, pink message slips, newspaper clippings, and indeterminate scraps.  A multi-line phone was half buried in the middle of this chaos, its angry flashing call buttons casting a blinking orange glow across the papers.  What struck me with the greatest force, though, was the sheer number of words I saw in front of me.  With the exception of the phone, every inch of the desk was layered in a dizzying collage of blue-black fonts and scribbles.  And every word was screaming at me to pay attention and respond.  This was my desk.  This was my job.

An excerpt from Blind Submission

Blind Submission

Thought about writing and publishing a book?  Maybe you need to read Debra Ginsberg’s novel Blind Submission.  Someone in one of my writer’s groups recommended this one to me and I enjoyed every minute of it. It is definitely a keeper.  It had the inside information about the publishing world with all its warts, including the proverbial boss from hell.

Hope you enjoy our interview:

VirginiaWhere are you from?

Debra – I’ve lived all over – from London, England to Brooklyn, New York, Portland, Oregon to Los Angeles.  I’ve been living in San Diego for over twenty years now, though, so this is definitely home.

VirginiaHow long have you been writing?

Debra – I’ve been writing since I can remember.  When I was about four or five, before I had mastered the mechanics of writing, I’d dictate stories to my mother.  But by about six or seven I was at it full time.  But I didn’t just want to write – I wanted to be published.  That dream of walking into a bookstore and seeing my book on a shelf has been with me from the womb.

Virginia – What do you write?

Debra – I’ve written – so far – three memoirs (“Waiting,” “Raising Blaze,” and “About My Sisters,” and two novels (“Blind Submission” and “The Grift”).

VirginiaTell us a little about your publisher and agent.

Debra – My memoirs were published by HarperCollins, and all are still in print through Harper in paperback.  My novels (including the one I am finishing now) are with Shaye Areheart Books, a fiction-only imprint of Crown Books, which is itself a division of Random House.  My agent is Linda Loewenthal of The David Black Agency in New York.  She’s fabulous – smart, funny, warm, and with amazing instincts.  We’ve been working together for four years (I had another agent prior to her for the memoirs).

VirginiaHow many books have you published so far?

Debra – Five – and I’m currently working on #6, which will be published sometime in 2010.

VirginiaWhat is your writing day like?

Debra – I’m at my best in the morning, though oddly that isn’t when I get most of the words in.  I’m pretty early taking care of business on the computer, emailing, etc., then I take a long walk (essential) and then get down to writing between 11 AM and noon.  At the beginning of a book, I’ll work (if I’m not interrupted, which I very often am – the perils of having one’s office in the middle of the house) until 5 or 6 PM.  But when I’m near completion and trying to get it in on time (like now), I usually put in twelve-hour days and don’t get up from the desk until 8 or 9 PM.

VirginiaCan you tell us how you found a publisher and/or agent?

Debra – I’d had some experience working in publishing before my first book came out (I worked for a few literary agents), so I was familiar with the process.  My first agent and my first editor were actually two women I had worked with.  I was introduced to my current agent through another editor who, in turn, used to work with my current publisher.  Ultimately, publishing is a pretty small world.  If you’re in it long enough you start to know everyone!

VirginiaDo you have anything that just came out?

The Grift

Debra – The paperback edition of my most recent novel, “The Grift” has just come out.  Also, I must mention that my son (the subject of my memoir, “Raising Blaze”) has just written his own, absolutely brilliant memoir titled EPISODES: My Life As I See It and that will be in stores in a few weeks, on September 1, 2009.

VirginiaWhat are you working on now?

Debra – A novel of psychological suspense title “The Neighbors Are Watching.”

VirginiaDo you have some words of wisdom for us unpubs?

Debra – The publishing landscape really is changing.  There are more and different opportunities for writers now, from print-on-demand to electronic books.  But the core of it still remains the same – and that is just to keep at it.  I tried to “give up” my writing habit for many years because it just seemed too difficult to get published and make a living from my writing (and even though I’m on my sixth book, it’s still a challenge to sustain myself on writing income alone). But this is all I’ve ever wanted to do and so it wouldn’t let me go.  If you want it badly enough, you will make it happen.  I still recommend having a good agent and I highly recommend having your manuscript edited before you begin the submission process by a reputable freelance editor.  I can’t tell you how helpful this can be.  And read.  Read often and read everything.

I’m happy to share my website: and my son’s website: where you find information and links.  You can also find me on facebook – my new home at home.

Thanks so much for the interview Debra.

Happy reading and writing for everyone else.


P.O.V Step 8

P.O.V. – Step Eight – Write a Novel with Me


As I developed the story and characters for this project, I had made a decision to try writing in the first person point of view.  I was so excited to start writing that I automatically wrote the first chapter in third person.  I realized it as I was walking in the parking lot of our local Borders to meet with my critique group.  I had planned to share what I had written, only wanting to run the beginning by them to get their feel as to whether it hooked them. 

I explained what I had done and they encouraged me to share it anyway and then go home and re-write it in first person, so I did.  I found later that as I re-wrote in first person P.O.V. that I was able to add more details to the story. 

So far, my protagonist, Rachel has won a prestigious writing award, returned home to find her fiancé dead.  She decides rather than face the humiliation of others finding out that, he’d been cheating on her, that she would let everyone think that she was with him when he died.  That was the premise of my story.  Now I have to go on and show the sinister truth of what is happening to her.

My first chapter is two scenes and is about 10 pages double-spaced, in length.

While working this week, I continued to work on my outline and develop my characters. I tried to develop scenes that would reveal more of each character and I did some brainstorming for my Act 1 turning points to make them more plausible.

            I think one of the things I find difficult about writing, is that there are so many choices.  I start out writing and as I go, I wander off into other story lines.  By working on the outline as I go, I am hoping to curtail that little habit.

            I wanted to discuss hopping heads.  I keep running into other writers in critique who really don’t get it.  One critique group has told me that it is okay to switch point of view within a scene once.  I believe the writing is stronger if the author stays in one point of view throughout the scene.

            Let me know what you believe.  What are editors saying about switching point of view within a scene?


I will be adding an author interview later this week.  The author is Debra Gibson and I absolutely loved her novel Blind Submission.


Until next time,



Getting to Know – Lori Wilde

I would like to introduce someone who probably doesn’t need an introduction to anyone who reads romance.  I met Lori when she came to Des Moines to do her High Concept workshop.  Needless to say, it was very enlightening and entertaining.  Lori is both a talented writer as well as an accomplished speaker and if you get a chance to attend her High Concept workshop, do it.  You won’t regret it.  I hope you enjoy her interview.

Now let’s see what Lori has to say:

VirginiaWhere are you from?

Lori – I’m a native Texan.

 Virginia – How long have you been writing?

LoriHmm, I wrote my first short story when I was eight years old, but if you mean when did I get serious about writing?  That was 1990.

 Virginia – What do you write?

Lori – Sexy, humorous contemporary romances with a small town feel and a strong sense of community.

Virginia – Tell us a little about your publisher and agent.

Lori – My agent is Jenny Bent of the Bent agency.  I’m currently published with Harlequin and Avon Books.

Virginia How many books have you published so far?

Lori – My forty-third book just came up but I have four more in the pipeline waiting for release.

 Virginia – What is your writing day like?

Lori – It varies.  If its deadline crunch time I might write twenty hours a day.  But in a normal writing day I try to get to the computer first thing in the morning and write for three or four hours.  I take a lunch break, exercise, check e-mail and then I teach my writing classes online.  I average 2 – 3000 words a day on non-crunch days.  The most I’ve ever written in one day is 10,000.

Virginia Can you tell us how you found a publisher and/or agent?

Lori – I got my first publisher through a contest win. My agent found me after she read a book of mine that she loved.

 VirginiaDo you have anything that just came out?

LoriI’m in an anthology with Stephanie Bond and Leslie Kelly called Sand, Sun, Seduction that’s on sale now.

VirginiaWhat are you working on now?

Lori – I’m in between contracts at Harlequin and Avon, so I’m working on a brand new project.  It’s a romantic suspense.

Sweethearts Knitting Club – Coming soon! 

VirginiaDo you have some words of wisdom for us unpubs?

Lori – Read, read, read.  Write, write, write.  Never, ever give up.

 My website is  I blog monthly at http://deadlinehellions.

Thanks for taking the time for this interview and we will look for your new releases.  Now is the time for my readers to let me know who they’d like me to interview.  I have several in the pipeline and I am trying to present one a week, so let me know who you’d like to learn more about.

Until next time,



Write a Novel with Me – Characters and Plot

I hope you haven’t given up on me.  I know this step took longer than I had planned. I spent most of this weekend trying to finish up enough of my character and story development to be able to start writing this week.  My protagonist is the most fully developed character so far.  I was struggling with trying to create the rest of the characters but at this point, they are just names with  enough background information for me to start writing.  I think I need to write about them a little before I can actually create them more fully.  I plan to create a more detailed character sketch for each character as they are introduced in the story.   If you are anything like me, I find that  if I don’t write for a while something nags at me until I do.  I couldn’t take the nagging any longer. 

My villain and my innocent suspects are all writers who are attending a writer’s retreat with my protagonist.  Something happened in the past that has caused one of them to seek revenge. I still have Ben, who I have decided was a college professor who taught a writing class that Rachel attended.  He may still be a cross dresser but I’m having second thoughts about that. I think I will let that go until I actually get further into my story and see if it needs to be included.  If not, he may just be a stereotypical college professor who likes to flirt with the coeds.  He may have been involved with Rachel and one or several of the other students in her class when she was in college.  He will end up being my second victim. 

As I said, I have decided that the villain is out for revenge.  Haven’t totally decided why yet but I will keep developing that part of the story as I go. 

I have figured out what the ten most important scenes are and they include the opening, the three plot points, the climax, and the resolution.  They are just skeletal ideas at this point that I will build onto as I write.  I am developing the plot points by causing something to reverse the direction of the story at that point.  They will be my guideposts leading me to the end.  I will have subplots but I’m not sure what they are at this point.  I will have a romantic sub plot and I do know who Rachel’s romantic interest is. My plan is to work on the outline each day as well as write so that I am always a little ahead of my writing.  I am using a three act structure.

Over the next 30 days, my goal is to write 100 pages, 25 pages a week, 4 pages a day.  At the end of the 30 days, I will set my goal for the next 30 days.  I will tweak next month’s goal after I see how well I do with this one.

I will share as much of my development of the story as I can without actually telling you details that will give the story away.  I do want you to want to buy the book, once it’s published.

In the meantime, let me know what you are doing and if you’ve set any goals. I do believe in the philosophy of write it down, make it happen. So now I’ve written it down and shared it with you.  I will post weekly so you know if I met my goal or if I am struggling with any part of the process. 

In the meantime, keep writing.


Write A Novel with Me – Innocent Suspects Update

Write a Novel with Me – Update

 I am posting so that you know I am still here.  I have been struggling with balancing work and writing, again.  I have to confess that I have also been struggling with this step – developing the innocent suspects. 

 I have decided that maybe I chose my villain a little prematurely.  And because, though I want to share the experience of writing this novel, I may not want to share all of the details because when this master of the mystery genre is completed, I want all of my followers to run to the bookstore and buy it.

 I am still in the middle of this step but I do want to share what I have been doing.  I have also been reading a few how to write books, like Phyllis A. Whitney’s ‘Guide to Fiction Writing’ as well as ‘Bang the Keys’ by Jill Dearman.  One thing I have decided to do is use a book journal.  I am writing down all of my ideas as I go so that I don’t lose them.  That was an idea I picked up from ‘Guide to Fiction’.  I don’t normally journal but I rather liked this idea.

 As far as the innocent suspects, my character Ben, the English professor is now one of those suspects instead of my villain.  I think I’ve come up with a much more interesting villain.  Someone the reader can really fear.  I’ve also discovered that for me to continue developing characters, I had to develop more of my story and that is what has been taking me so long.  It feels like a puzzle that is missing a few pieces and it is driving me crazy.  So I had to step back for a day or two to let it all settle.  While I wasn’t obsessing about it, an exceptional idea came to me.

 Because this is a mystery, that part I can’t share but I can share the process I used to come up with it. I needed a villain who had a grudge against my protagonist, so I devised different scenarios.  Maybe the protagonist was involved with a group of friends who accidentally killed someone after drinking, maybe when the protagonist was a teenager, she was babysitting a child who was kidnapped and later murdered, or at least a bloody garment was found indicating a murder.  Maybe the protagonist was kidnapped along with another child, she escaped but the other child was murdered.  Those are a few ideas that I came up with while I played the what if game.

 Feel free to share some of your ideas with me but don’t tell me what you actually chose to use for your story because I want to be surprised when I read your published story too.

 I plan to post again, this weekend after I have more thoroughly developed the other innocent suspects.  Just know that one of those suspects is the real murderer. 

 I do look forward to hearing from you.  Let me know what is working for you and maybe what isn’t, maybe I can make some suggestions to help you. 

 In the meantime, keep writing.


Meet Jennie Bentley

Jenny Bentley

Do you like to read and are you a do-it-yourself type person? If so, I’d like to introduce Jennie Bentley, the author of the DIYseries.  Along with a most satisfying read, especially if you are a cozy mystery fan, she provides do-it-yourself advice that she used in the story.  In Spackled and Spooked she shows how to make a peek a book shower curtain and how to turn a dresser into a bathroom vanity, among other creative suggestions.

I will be reviewing Spackled and Spooked later this week.  In the meantime, here is my interview with Jennie:

Spooked and Spackled

Virginia – Where are you from?

Jennie –I was born in Northern Europe and came to the US in my late teens. Yes, English is a second language for me.

Virginia – How long have you been writing?

Jennie – Um… forever?

 I remember writing and illustrating a little six-page volume about a black poodle named Top before I started school. In first grade, my teacher warned my parents I’d grow up to be an author. The impetus was a book—a notebook—I filled with the adventures of a small elf in green pajamas.

 More recently, I started writing A Cutthroat Business—the book that started it all—in 2005. That was when I got serious about wanting to be published. A Cutthroat Business will be released next summer, but before I found a publisher for it, it crossed the desk of an editor at Berkley Prime Crime, who offered me the opportunity to write a series of Do-It-Yourself home renovation mysteries for them. The time from I started writing the book until I signed the contract for three other books took about two years. 

Virginia – What do you write?

Jennie –Funny, romantic mysteries. Specifically, the Do-It-Yourself home renovation mysteries from Berkley Prime Crime, and—starting in June 2010—the Cutthroat Business mysteries for PublishingWorks. The DIY-books are sweet and cozy; the Cutthroat Business mysteries a little less sweet and a little more sexy, but still on the traditional or cozy end of things.

 Virginia- Tell us a little about your publisher and agent.

Jennie-Ihave two publishers: Berkley Prime Crime is an imprint of the Penguin Group, the second largest publisher in the world. They publish the DIY Home Renovation mysteries featuring Avery Baker and her boyfriend and business partner, handyman Derek Ellis, who renovate houses in the tiny—and fictional—town of Waterfield, on the coast of Maine. They also publish a lot of other, similar, crafty-type cozy mysteries.

 PublishingWorks is a smaller, independent publisher which has only recently ventured into genre publishing from children’s books and non-fiction. They have all the departments and outlets the bigger publishers have—sales, marketing, etc.—but on a much smaller scale. The benefit is that I get more input on things like cover art and marketing, which I don’t get with the bigger publisher, where everything is more automated.

My agent is Stephany Evans, president of Fine Print Literary Management. She represents mostly women’s fiction, and is especially interested in anything health-related.   

Virginia- How many books have you published so far?

Jennie-Two books published, Fatal Fixer-Upper & Spackled and Spooked, both in the DIY series. Four more are under contract. DIY#3, Plaster and Poison, will be released in March 2010, with DIY#4 and DIY#5 in the pipeline. A Cutthroat Business, first in the Cutthroat business series, is coming in June 2010. One more book in that series is written, with a third about halfway done.

Fatal Fixer Upper

Virginia- What is your writing day like?

Jennie-Assuming I don’t haveanything to do besides write—like a signing or TV interview or similar—I get up around 6 am, get the kids ready for school, take them there—or send them off with my husband—and sit down at the computer. By then it’s about 8 o’clock or so. I spend 20-30 minutes checking email, Facebook, Twitter, any blogs I’ve posted recently… what have you. Then I get down to business. I read over at least some of what I wrote the day before to get into the voice and the flow of things, and then I’m off. Usually I take a break for lunch sometime around 11 or 12, although I don’t always remember. By 2:30 I have to stop to go pick up the kids from school again. After that, it’s family time until they’re in bed around 8:30. If I’m under deadline—and I usually am—I’ll put in another hour or four at that point, depending on how close to deadline I am and how far away I am from finishing. Some days I manage 1,000 words, some days 6,000. The word count grows exponentially the closer I get to having to hand the manuscript in, I’ve noticed.

Virginia- Can you tell us how you found a publisher and/or agent?

Jennie-I found my agent through, which is a very useful website. I sent the traditional cold query: I’d never met my agent, didn’t know anyone who knew her, didn’t have an introduction—she agreed to represent me based on the query letter and manuscript I sent her. Both publishing contracts came through her efforts in sending out the manuscript to editors.  

 Virginia- Do you have anything that just came out?

Jennie-Spackled and Spooked, DIY#2,  was released on August 4th.

Virginia- What are you working on now?

Jennie-I’m promoting Spackled and Spooked, revising Plaster and Poison, and writing DIY#4, tentatively titled Mortar and Murder. If I can finish by the end of the year, we might be able to get it out by the end of 2010! After that it’s on to DIY#5 and finishing Cutthroat #3. I’ve also got a YA mystery that I have to work on to get that ready to submit.

Virginia-Do you have some words of wisdom for us unpubs?

Jennie-Besides reading a lot and writing a lot, I have two:

 1)      Finish the manuscript you’re writing. The new, bright, shiny idea you just had sounds great, and would undoubtedly be great fun to write about, but if you never finish a manuscript, you’ll never get published. Later on in the process you’ll be able to sell on proposal only, but at first, having a completed manuscript is essential.

2)      Learn as much about the business end of writing as possible. By which I mean the ins and outs of getting that finished manuscript from the computer to the bookstore. You don’t want to do what I did back in 2001 or so, when I got a two-page rejection letter from an editor at Harlequin, detailing everything that was wrong with the synopsis I had sent her and giving me suggestions for how I could remedy the problems. Now I know that this is code for “Fix this and send it back to me,” but then, I put the letter in a drawer and never looked at the synopsis again. Please don’t make that mistake. I’m still kicking myself. Not because I didn’t get published anyway, a few years later—once I figured out where I’d gone wrong the first time—but because it was an opportunity, and those should never be squandered. 

My website is I blogat the Good Girls Kill for Money Club every other Monday, and at the Working Stiffs the first Friday of every month.

Thanks so much for taking the time for this interview.  I look forward to more adventures with Avery.

Until next time,


Introducing – Richard Jay Parker

I’m crossing over the pond for this interview with Richard Jay Parker, an author who came to my attention on Twitter.  Considering the story line of his novel, this meeting on Twitter gives the whole thing a little edge.  I hope you enjoy the interview and follow-up by reading his novel.

Let’s find out more about Mr. Parker and his work:

Virginia: Where are you from?

Richard: I’m from South Wales originally but lived in London for fourteen years when I was a TV writer before re-locating to Salisbury three years ago.

Virginia: How long have you been writing?

Richard: Just over twenty years – I’ve been lucky enough to have made a full-time living from writing although there have been spectacular peaks and troughs over the years.

Virginia: What do you write?

Richard: I was formerly a TV scriptwriter, script editor and producer but I started writing novels about a decade ago.  It’s taken me that long to get my first thriller STOP ME published.

 Virginia: Tell us a little about your publisher and agent.

Richard: My publisher is Allison and Busby: and has an eclectic range of authors although they are mainly known for their crime output.  My agent is Conville and Walsh.  I’ve been with them for just over a year.

 Virginia:  How many books have you published so far?

Richard: STOP ME – is my debut thriller.

 Virginia: What is your writing day like?

Richard: I’ve designed my day so that, at some point, I have no choice but to write.  I start at eight and finish between five and six, so this gives me plenty of time to catch up on emails etc before attacking the keyboard.  I’m lucky that I have the whole day but, that said; most off my thinking is done before I sit down and that’s the vital part.  I find working a plot in my head while I’m doing something else is a hell of a lot more valuable than hours spent sitting at a desk.  I think it’s how a lot of writers work and, as long as you can make notes, getting the words down can be done when you find a spare moment.

 Virginia:  Can you tell us how you found a publisher and/or agent?

Richard: The agent came first.  I was fortunate enough to get one with my first novel, which was a sort of warty character study but although it attracted a lot of positive feedback there was no offer from a publisher.  When I decided, I wanted to write thrillers I had to find new representation.  That took some time.  I got an agent interested in my work but it wasn’t right for the agency he was with.  A year or two later he was poached to another more progressive agency and he invited me to submit the book I was working on.  He sent it to a number of publishers and it got sold on the second wave of submissions.  There was another publisher interested but the bigger they are the bigger the committee is.  I’ve very happy to be with Allison and Busby.  They’re very forward thinking and know the sort of books they excel at.

 Virginia: Tell us about the book that is coming out soon.

Richard: STOP ME is out on August 4th.  The trade paperback is available in bookshops and sites and then the mass-market paperback is coming out in January 2010.  I believe it’s going to be one of Allison and Busby’s first e-books.  The subject is very appropriate for that.  It examines how technology – emails and websites can be used for macabre purposes.

 Everyone suspects there’s something sinister about email chain letters.  STOP ME begins with an email chain letter from the Vacation Killer.  It describes a girl and must be forwarded.  If it ends up back in the killer’s inbox, he won’t slit her throat.  Nobody takes it seriously to begin with until the jawbone of a prostitute is sent to the police.  The missing prostitute fits the description in the email.  But the real story of STOP ME is in the relationship between two men via a website.

 John R Bookwalter claims to be the Vacation Killer and runs a website based around this alleged delusion.  He’s never left the state of Louisiana and the Vacation Killer has killed around the globe.  He’s dismissed by the police as a crank but claims to have Laura, the wife of Leo Sharpe.  She disappeared in London and the Vacation Killer was suspected.  However, her remains were never sent to the police and Leo wonders why – did the email get back to the Vacation Killer’s inbox?

 But as everyone around Leo gives up on Laura ever being found Bookwalter is the only person talking about her in terms of her still being alive.  A bizarre relationship ensues and Bookwalter comes up with the most plausible theory of how she was kidnapped.

 Leo has to decide whether he should accept Bookwalter’s invitation to fly to Louisiana to find out if there’s any truth in what he’s saying.  That’s what the title STOP ME refers to – more than the emails.  It’s about being drawn submissively into something you know you shouldn’t.

 Virginia: What are you working on now?

Richard: Have just finished the first draft of a new, dark thriller.  I spoke to my agent yesterday and he has only forty pages left to read but is enjoying it.  I hope everyone else will be able to read it soon.

 Virginia: Do you have some words of wisdom for us unpubs?

Richard: Moving to the next project is vital.  Some writers have many books inside them that they have to work through before they get to the one that will be a success for them.  The only way to get there is to move on to your next project and write it while you’re waiting to hear about the previous one.

 VirginiaPlease visit Richard Jay Parker’s website

For overseas customers it’s available with FREE WORLDWIDE SHIPPING from the Book Depository where it is the current Editor’s Pick:

Am doing a book signing in Waterstones, Salisbury at 7:30 pm on Thursday August 13th│Parker

And signing in UK airports throughout the summer:

Thanks Richard for taking the time for this interview and watch out for strange emails.

Until next time,


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