Author Interview – Barbara Barrett

Barbara Barrett

I am thrilled to be able to introduce you to my friend Barbara. We both belonged to the same local RWA chapter several years ago. She now lives in Florida but happened to come back to Iowa to spend her summer. We had lunch and a chance to catch up and she told me about her first sale. I truly find the writing process interesting. I hope you enjoy this interview and maybe pick up something that will help with your writing process.

VirginiaWhere are you from?

Barbara – I was born in Burlington, Iowa, which just happens to be the setting of my debut novel, ‘The Sleepover Clause.’ After graduating from the University of Iowa, I moved to the Des Moines, Iowa area, where I’ve lived ever since. Three and a half years ago, I became a resident of Florida and now live there half the year (guess which half) just outside the Disney Parks in the shadow of the Mouse.

VirginiaHow long have you been writing?

Barbara – Much too long to admit, considering this is my debut novel. I guess I’m the new poster girl for “persistence pays off.”

VirginiaWhat do you write?

Barbara – I write contemporary romance fiction right now. My goal is to expand my writing efforts to include cozy mysteries and maybe even tackle a screenplay. I stay in touch with both through my membership in the RWA Kiss of Death and Scriptscene chapters. (I’m also a member of the Spacecoast Authors of Romance chapter.)

VirginiaTell us a little about your publisher and agent.

Barbara – Crimson Romance, an imprint of F+W Media, Adams Media, is a new epublisher focused on romance fiction. The first releases came out in early June, with several more added each Monday. They provide five categories: Contemporary Romance (my area), Historical Romance, Romantic Suspence, Paranormal Romance, and Spicy Romance. Their website can be found at

I don’t have an agent.

VirginiaI know that last time we talked you’d sold your first book. A little bird told me you might have some more news?

Barbara – I wish I could tell you, but since it’s not a done deal, I’ll have to get back to you on that.

VirginiaDo you outline?

Barbara – Sort of. Whoever invented the Table function on Word made writing so much easier for me to lay out my plot line and get a sense of sequencing. I start out with each entry being just the main purpose of the chapter and/or what I want to take place in that chapter. Although I still tend to overwrite the first draft, that method helps eliminate scenes that don’t progress the story. Later, I add columns for the POV character, scenes, time, time elapsed from the beginning. Eventually, I add page numbers.

VirginiaAbout how long does it take to finish a book?

Barbara – Much too long! Easily two years thus far. Now that I’m being published, I will need to step up the pace.

VirginiaWhat is your writing day like?

Barbara – I tend to write best from mid-morning to late afternoon and during the early evening. I try to write sequentially as much as possible for continuity’s sake, but that doesn’t preclude me from jumping around, especially when I’m doing revisions. I learned from this first publishing experience that in the future I have to do a much better job keeping notes as I go along for later reference. As I can work it in, I want to learn how to use either Scrivener or OneNote to do that.

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

Barbara – I wish I could recall whose note I saw on which loop that spread the word about the new epub, Crimson Romance, that was seeking submissions so that I could give them credit, but that information escapes me now. I went to the Adams Media website and read the Call for Submissions there.

Virginia When will your book come out?

Barbara – Monday, September 3

VirginiaWhat are you working on next?

Barbara – I’m currently working on the second book of a trilogy about a residential development here in Iowa. The H/H in the first book are two architects who have been assigned to come up with the design plan. This second book is about the developer and the general contractor. The final will involve the marketing and interior design end.

VirginiaDo you have some words of wisdom for the rest of us?

Barbara – Nothing very original – be persistent and believe in yourself. Keep writing and improving your craft. Don’t be afraid to promote yourself. Write about what appeals to you most; writing about what you know also helps, but you can always research that part.

Thanks Barbara, hope you have a great book launch. Now everyone let’s go check it out.


Lois Greiman – Guest Blog

My guest blogger this week is Lois Greiman. Lois lives a bit further north than me in Minnesota on a small farm. She sold her first book to Avon in 1992. Since then she has sold 22 romances, six mysteries, and the first in her ‘Witches of Mayfair’ series. I am a huge fan of her Chrissy McMullen mysteries and am thrilled to find out she has a new one coming out. Lois has been kind enough to blog about her writing process. Writing is an interesting creative outlet. We all end up with completed projects, eventually but when asked how they do it, they all have their own process.  Lois has been kind enough to share hers today.

Soldering on…and ummm free jewelry!

Okay, I’ll admit it. Writing is difficult. If someone ever tells you, “Hey, you should just write a book, cuz’ that’s easy money,” you pop them in the eye for me, will you? Because seriously, getting published may be the hardest thing I’ll ever do. It took me five years and a couple hundred rejections to sell my first novel. That’s right, a couple HUNDRED. And I don’t take rejection well. It’s not like I go looking for it or anything. But here’s what I’ve learned: Publishers don’t generally come knocking on your door looking for that diamond in the rough (you) who has written that potential best seller (your half written manuscript).

So what’s my secret for writing thirty plus novels? It’s pretty simple really. It’s called the Put Your Butt In The Chair Method. Okay, maybe it’s not quite as simple as it sounds, because, yes, I do realize that there are a lot of things that can be done while your butt is in the proper location. Solitaire, for instance. I know several authors who are addicted to Solitaire. Email. Email’s a bugger. In fact, the entire social network thing can be fatal to that ever-elusive muse. That’s why I don’t believe in her. That’s right. I said it, I don’t believe in the Muse. What I do believe in is butts…and chairs…and butts in chairs. So here’s what I do. Every morning after feeding the horses and going for a run, I brew myself a little tea, chant, “I don’t suck, I don’t suck, I don’t suck,” four hundred times, and settle into my work chair. That’s it. That’s the entirety of my secret. I sit down, I put my fingers on the keyboard and I write something.

Now don’t get me wrong. I don’t write anything good. Nothing noteworthy or hopeful or even remotely creative. But I do write. I have a goal for the day and I meet my goal. Generally, it’s 10 pages of rough draft every twenty-four hours. And when I say rough draft, don’t underestimate the roughness. That first attempt is barely legible. If someone read it, I would, in fact, have to put a gun in my ear. But day after day and week after week it gets written. I don’t edit. I don’t second guess. I don’t whine. (Okay, that last one was a total lie. I whine all the time. But nobody listens anymore so it hardly even counts.) What I do is soldier on…through the terrible dialogue that makes me want to weep for my lack of creativity, past the nonexistent scenery, over the plot holes as big as battle ships…on. And voila, after about forty days of this dogged but totally uninspired soldiering I am rewarded with 400 pages of …drivel. I mean seriously, did you expect it to be good? No. It’s awful. Worse than awful. It’s nonsensical. Because without fail on page 77 I discovered that I hated my hero’s name. Who ever thought the male lead should be called Kismet? I’m obviously deranged. But do I go back and name him something manly and dynamic like…King George? I do not. Do I add the gun on page 83 so that Kismet can shootLeonon page 122. I do not. What do I do? I soldier on. Until finally, after approximately two months of misery I have the backbone of a book. Granted, it’s a weak backbone. It has scoliosis and rickets and some osteoporosis, but it’s still a backbone and once I have that, well…I can move on. I can add flesh and muscle and pigment. I can shape and hone. I can change my poor misbegotten hero’s name for God’s sake.

So there it is. I wish I had something more hopeful for you. I wish I could tell you that if you try these three simple but magical steps the muse will appear in a puff of fairy dust, but that’s not the way it works. Not for me anyway. And if it works for someone else…well, sometimes I’m willing to pop people in the eye on my own behalf.

To celebrate the online release of Uncorked, ( I’m giving away an adorable heart necklace and earrings. If you’d like to throw your name in the hat, please send an email with the word Valentine in the subject line to

Now…what are you waiting for? Go forth and read!

follow loisgreiman on twitter

Thanks Lois, look forward to reading ‘Uncorked’.


Leigh Michaels

This month I would like to introduce Leigh Michaels. I’m sure that her readers are going to be thrilled to know she has a new book coming out. It is my pleasure to have Leigh spend a little time on Adventures in Writing. If you have not heard of this prolific author, now is the time to get acquainted.

Where are you from?

I’m an Iowan from birth – grew up in west central Iowa, went to Drake University in Des Moines, landed in Ottumwa, Iowa for my first real job while still in college, and am still there a long time later. J

How long have you been writing?

I’ve always been a writer! There’s poetry in my baby book which I composed but dictated to my big sister when I was somewhere around four years old. My first book was published in the US in 1984 – I wrote and burned six books before submitting a manuscript.

What do you write?

After more than 20 years of writing sweet traditional contemporary romances for Harlequin (Harlequin Romance and Harlequin Presents), I got a bad case of burnout. Instead of thinking “boy meets girl”, I started thinking fondly of “boy KILLS girl”… and I thought when I finally went back to writing that I might tackle mystery.

Instead, after a couple of years of not writing fiction, I found myself back in the romance field, but I changed everything that could possibly be changed – except the happy endings.

My new books are historical (set in Regency England), long, single title, and sensual! And each of the historicals is a triple story – three heroines and three heroes whose stories are interwoven.

Tell us a little about your publisher and agent.

My new books are coming out from Sourcebooks Casablanca – and I can’t say enough about the great enthusiasm and support from my editor and the sales and publicity people. My editor, Deb Werksman, instantly saw the fun of a triple story, and she’s really pushed these books.

My agent is Christine Witthohn of Book Cents Literary Agency. Christine and I were introduced by a mutual friend, and after she read my first historical and we talked about our vision for the book and for a new direction in my career, she offered to represent me and I happily agreed. Unlike many agents, Christine doesn’t just negotiate the contract (though she does a brilliant job of that); she stays involved in the process. Anytime there’s a question or concern, Christine is on top of it. I’ve had agents before, but never one who was so easy to reach and so involved in every bit of the author/publisher experience.

 How many books have you published so far?

80 sweet contemporary romance novels which were published by Harlequin Romance and Harlequin Presents, three historical romance novels coming out in 2011 from Sourcebooks Casablanca, and a slew of non-fiction books including On Writing Romance, which was published by Writers Digest Books. Many of my backlist titles, long out of print, are now available again as ebooks in Kindle and ePub formats.

Do you outline?

Not much to start with. When I begin writing a book I know who the characters are, what their initial external conflict is, and roughly what the happy ending will be. I usually know if someone has big secrets, and I almost always know what the black moment will be. Then as I write, I start a list of scenes for each set of characters – just a rough order of which events will happen. And before I’m done I always have a pile of scratch-paper notes with a line of dialogue or a reminder on each bit of paper (because those are easy to sort and rearrange).

I find that the neater and more organized I try to be, the more cliché the story turns out. If I just scratch things down, my characters are free to take unexpected turns which surprise me (and will, I hope, surprise the reader).

About how long does it take to finish a book?

My third historical – the latest book I finished – was fondly known as “The Book That Will Never End”, because it took me eight months to write. But I suppose that’s about right, because at 95,000 words, my historicals are almost twice as long as my previous books were. Plus dealing with three stories woven together is more complex than writing three separate, shorter books. (And I hadn’t outlined enough this time – if I’d known more about the characters, I’d have had a much easier time finishing this book!)

What is your writing day like?

I start the day by checking email and looking in on the classes I teach online at Gotham Writers Workshop ( Then I open the current book and read what I wrote the day before, fixing minor problems and filling in where I left gaps. I spend 4 to 6 hours writing, and in the last few minutes of my writing day I try to move ahead to get a big chunk of what happens next down on paper in a very rough form. No attention to grammar or technical detail, no worrying about logic or phrasing. When I start writing again the next day, I polish up that section, and by then I’m back into the flow of the story.

I try never to finish the day at the end of a chapter or scene. Though it’s such a wonderful feeling to actually FINISH something, it makes starting up again the next day – facing a totally blank screen – very difficult.

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

I happened to contact Deb Werksman at Sourcebooks about my backlist titles, and as we were chatting she asked what I was writing. I said, “A Sexy Regency about a house where every resident falls in love” and she said, “Can I read it when you’re done?” So I sent it to her, and she loved it.

Do you have anything that just came out?

The Mistress’ House comes out in February 2011. It’s set at Number 5 Upper Seymour Street, London – isn’t that a lovely aristocratic-sounding address? Lord Hawthorne buys the house, intending to use it as a love nest because it’s conveniently around the corner from his mansion on Portman Square. Instead, he falls in love…

Readers who pre-order The Mistress’ House can also get a free e-book, For the Love of Tea… It’s a non-fiction book I’ve written which includes party plans, menus, and recipes for tea parties everything from a comfortable coze (as the Regency heroine would say) for two best friends, to an elegant reception for two hundred. (More info at )

What are you working on now?

At the moment, I’m taking a break after writing three big books in two years. But I’m thinking about historical number four – which is supposed to be another triple story set in the Regency era.

Do you have some words of wisdom for the rest of us?

I’ve taught writing for many years, in person, at seminars, and online, and I see lots of people with storytelling talent. But the ones who make it in this business also have a wagon load of persistence. They don’t limit themselves to one story or one kind of story; they keep writing and exploring. They never look back at a story without trying to improve it. And perhaps most importantly, they don’t wait for inspiration or reward – they find their inspiration by writing and their reward by finishing.

Thanks Leigh, I find the process of writing facinating and feel privileged to have had a peek at how you do it.

Getting to Know Phillip DePoy

I discovered Phillip DePoy when I read one of his Fever Devlin novels and loved it, The Witches Grave. I then read The Widow’s Curse and that started my quest to read the rest.  He has a great voice and his novels are filled with well-rounded quirky characters who are involved in mysteries with a twist.  He kept me guessing right up to the very end. Now let’s find out a little more about Mr. DePoy:

phillipWhere are you from? I was born in Rockford, Ill., but I don’t remember it. We moved to Atlanta when I was five because my father got a job playing French horn in the Atlanta Symphony. Despite the accidental placement of my birth, I seem to consider myself from the south. The south doesn’t know that. It seems to consider me an oddity: a leftwing Taoist who prefers jazz to NASCAR. Still, the south is as much in me as I am in the south. So.

How long have you been writing? I consider 1965 the beginning of my so-called writing career. My 10th grade English teacher, Marilyn May, liked a short story I’d written, told me I ought to be a writer, and submitted the story for a prize. I really loved Marilyn May, so I thought I should go along with her assessment. My first poem was published in 1973 (and I published poetry for many years after that) so that’s also a good, you know, marker.

What do you write?I’ve written two mystery series, one stand-alone thriller, which is my newest book (see below) and one very strange, unclassifiable book. The first mystery series, featuring detective Flap Tucker , is urban, arch, as much a parody of noir as an example of that genre. The second series, the Fever Devlin novels, concerns a folklorist in the Appalachian mountains and veers toward literary fiction, but let’s not mention that. The strange book came out in 1979 and is called MESSAGES FROM BEYOND. It is essentially messages from famous dead men who appear in alphabetical order to tell me what the afterlife is like for them. Each message is particular to the man, and it is preceded by my own biographical sketch of the spirit in question. I also write plays, and have done so for twenty years. I’m currently working on a commissioned play about spies.

Tell us a little about your publisher and agent.My agent is Maria Carvainis of the Maria Carvainis Agency in New York. The publisher of the Flap Tucker books was Dell, the current publisher (for the Fever Devilin novels and the new book) is St. Martin’s Press, also, of course, in New York.

How many books have you published so far? The newest book makes eleven for me.

What is your writing day like? I generally write in the morning. When I’m on a contract I write from a general outline, though I always depart from the outline, and I set an arbitrary number of pages I have to write before I can stop. Structure is good, if only to have a launching pad from which to depart.

Can you tell us how you found a publisher and/or agent?I signed my first agency agreement after sending out queries with samples to several New York agents that I’d found listed in the book Writer’s Market. It’s still a great source for writers, very clear about what to do, what to send, who’s looking for what. I think that’s a great place for any unagented writer to start. And in the current climate, alas, it’s almost impossible to get any notice from a publisher without an agent.

Do you have anything that just came out?My new book is called THE KING JAMES CONSPIRACY. It’s in all bookstores and on Amazon. The first reader to buy 5,000 copies gets a house in Tuscany. Sure, you’re saying, “for that kind of money I could buy my own house in Tuscany,” which is true. But then all you’d have as a big old empty house with nothing in it to read. The book is set in 1605 and concerns intrigue surrounding the creation of the King James bible. The main character is Brother Timon, a spy for the Catholic Church who is possessed of the remarkable ability to memorize thousands of pages of writing. His mission is to steal the bible without taking anything away from England except in his mind. The character is based on the real life Catholic Saint Giordano Bruno. The book has been compared to Umberto Eco’s NAME OF THE ROSE. In a real review. No kidding. I say that because it’s, I think, the highest praise I’ll ever receive, so I want to make the most of it before, you know, something happens. Like the reviewer realizes he’s gotten my book confused with something else he was reading.

What are you working on now?I’m in the middle of two novels, one about the discovery of the Nag Hammadi library in 1945 and one, called THE MAN ON THE RADIO, about my grandmother who helped to raise me when she wasn’t in a mental institution—which explains, I think, a lot about my perceptions in general. I’m also about half-way through the first act of the play I’ve been commissioned to write.

Do you have some words of wisdom for us unpubs? I have no wisdom, but I do have personal experience, and it’s told me several things that have had a personal effect. I’ll say those things. The only reason to write—the only reason to do anything—is because you love the process. If you don’t love it, the other rewards will never be enough, and if you do love it, the universe very often opens doors for you. On a more practical plain: finish something. Write a whole novel or play poem or something. Show it to everyone. Listen to what they say without answering back. Take everything the say into consideration. Rewrite. Then get an agent. And don’t ever stop. If you just keep going, something will happen.

My website is

Hope you enjoyed our interview.  Are there any particular questions you like answered in future interviews?  Also do you have a favorite author you’d like to know more about?

Until next time,


All About Eve Savage

Eve Savage is an author from a sister chapter of RWA in Omaha.  She is currently the chapter President and she’s a whole lot of fun.  She has offered to send a free copy of her latest book “Ice Cream, You Scream” by Kat Alexis, to one lucky winner. (It’s an erotic novella so you have to be 18 years old to participate. Void where prohibited. The odds of winning depend upon the number of participants. Contest ends Monday September 14th at midnight.) Just comment on my post that you would like to be included in this free drawing and the author will send it to the lucky winner in one of the following formats, adobe.pdf, mobipocket and microsoft e-reader.

Now let’s meet Eve:

Virginia: Where are you from?

Eve: I was born in Arizona, but grew up in England and San Antonia, Texas thanks to the USAF.  I’ve travelled the world and think there is nothing better than to experience new cultures.

Virginia: How long have you written?

Eve: I’ve written my entire life: mostly poetry and short stories.  I started writing novels in high school.  They featured my friends and our fantasy guys.

Virginia: What do you write?

Eve: I write everything from contemporary erotic romance to near-futuristic erotic thrillers.  I’ve also got a contemporary medical I’m working on as well as a new idea from an Agatha Christie-esque mystery. As well as a historical set in the 1860’s. Basically, I write whatever I fell like at any given time. I write by myself as Eve Savage and with my best friend as Kat Alexis.

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

Eve: I’m currently published with Ellora’s Cave and The Wild Rose Press. EC is the foremost electronic and print publisher of erotic romance.  The Wild Rose Press is a wonderful company started by my friend Ronda Penders.  They are both every writer-friendly and I’m thrilled to write for both houses.  I don’t have an agent yet, but I have been looking and two agents have requested samples of my work.

Virginia: How many books have you published so far?

Eve: I have two books published under the name Eve Savage “Out of Control and Wicked in Walesand four written as Kat Alexis with my best friend Allie Standifer, “Candy-Coated Passion, Berry Bliss, Ice Cream, You Scream, and Set Me Up.

Virginia: What is your writing day like?

Eve: I wish I could say I get up, get the children to school then sit down for eight hours of work but it just doesn’t work that way in my world. I write when I can and where I can.

In the summer while I’m trying to entertain my children, I take a notebook to the pool or skate rink and write longhand then transcribe it into my laptop.

During the school year, I write some during the day, but mostly at night when the house is settle down.  I always write with music on. I know some people prefer silence but I can’t work that way.

Strangely enough I also get a ton of work done while my husband watches sporting events or Professional Wrestling on TV. For some reason, it focuses a part of my brain and I just crank out the work!

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

Eve: I know Ellora’s Cave because I read a lot of their work and quite a few of my friends are published with EC.  I really like how they present erotic romance.  I sold my first book to a different electronic publisher which went under.  Once my rights were returned to me, I reworte the plot, doubled the length and submitted to EC.  Luckily my editor, Helen Woodall, got hold of it loved it and bought it.

Virginia: Do you have anything that just came out?

Eve:  I have a Kat Alexis book releasing on September 1st from Ellora’s Cave.  It’s called Ice Cream, You Scream.  It’s the sequel to Candy-Coated Passion, but can be read alone.

Here’s the blurb: Lana Semenova is living life on her own terms. Too bad that life currently sucks. Enter one sexier-than-sin ice cream shop owner who’s hot enough to meld his products. Drizzle with enough steamy passion to keep the neighbors awake and add a sprinkling of raw sex on the floor to liven things up.  Lana may have found the perfect recipe to spice up her life. And if not? The sex is great and that’s all a woman needs on a hot summer night, right? Well that and ice cream.

Virginia: What are you working on now?

Eve: I’m currently knee deep in a contemporary romantic suspense set in Morocco.  I’m also at the beginnng stages of a historical mystery.  I need to work on more than one project at a time to keep my brain engaged.  Along with these two works, I’ve also got some shorter erotic stories I’m working on with Allie for ellora’s Cave.

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

Eve: You’re not unpubs -you’re pre-pubs.


Learn your craft and learn about the publishing business because it is a business.


I hear way too often, “I have this great idea…” but it’s not aon the page. If you don’t get it on paper how can you ever get it to an editor or agent?


Read the current market. See what’s popular, what’s being bought.  But, don’t be afraid to write outside the box and to go with your own heart and ideas. You never know, it might be the next big thing!!

Eve’s website is www.evesavage.bravehost.comand her blog is

You can also find her at where she has published articles about writing.

Thanks Eve for taking the time for this interview.



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.


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,



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,


Interview with a Poet – Dennis Maulsby

Responding as a write, I would say: I was from war. I was driven to writing after a year in Vietnam that featured the battle of Kai San and the Tet Offensive.


It is my pleasure to introduce a friend and local poet, Dennis Maulsby.  I know Dennis because we both belong to the Border’s writing group.  This group has been around for over 10 years.  It started out at the local Barnes and Noble but migrated to Borders a few years back.  Because it is a public group, our demographics change frequently. Dennis has been a great addition.  The group has been a success story, in that several members have published.  So if you happen to be in the Des Moines area around 7:00 PM on a Tuesday night, feel free to stop by and join us.

Dennis has published in several publications and I think of him as our local poet laureate.  He writes mostly about his experiences while in Vietnam and I felt this would be appropriate so close to July 4th.

Virginia – Where are you from?

Dennis – If I was to respond typically, I would say: I was born and raised in Marshalltown, Iowa, graduated from Marshalltown High School (1960), and Grinnell College (1964), Grinnell, Iowa.

Responding as a writer, I would say: I was from war.  I was driven to writing after a year in Vietnam that featured the battle at Kai San and the Tet Offensive.

Virginia – What do you write?

Dennis – Most of my poems and short stories deal with that experience.  All my Vietnam poems spring from the personal emotional impact of that war and its relentless memories.  Some of the poems have some elements that I did not experience directly, but relate to veterans’ common experience, both as soldiers and civilians.

My memories of Vietnam have not dulled with the years.  At night in dreams, or in pensive moments, they have refreshed themselves too many times.  Perhaps, this is the way it is with all veterans.

There is no question that PTSD plagued me.  My first six months after being dumped back into civilian life were hell.  I learned that this was an affliction that must be worked constantly, like an alcoholic – once scrabbling day at a time.  In casting around for ways to cope, I discovered creative activity pushed the demons back.  Writing has been the best.

Virginia – How long have you been writing?

Dennis – Ten years ago, I joined a writers’ group and the creative writing process has been the most successful therapy.  I can only speculate on the reasons.  However, I believe writing to have an almost limitless canvas, especially in English.

There are over a million words in the language, as compared to French, for example that gets by with somewhat less than four hundred thousand –pauvre Francais. The various combinations, arrangements and permutations of a million words with new ones being added everyday must be almost infinite.  Certainly, enough to last my creative lifetime – so, I am a poet, a short story writer and perhaps, a novelist.

I started building a literary resume by submitting individual works, both poetry and short stories, to journals I thought matched my style.

Virginia – How many books/poems have you published so far?

Dennis – There are lots of rejections, but sometimes lightening would strike.  My writings have been published in the last eight volumes of Lyrical Iowa, the annual anthology of the Iowa Poetry Association.  Others have appeared in the Des Moines Register, The Hawkeye, Peregine, The North American Review, Tapestries, Types and Shadows, Fiele-Festa, and The Hawai’i Pacific Review.  Some on Internet sites including Writetherapy, Speaking Leaves, Words on a Wire, Brick & Mortar, Voices in Wartime  and the International War Veterans’ Poetry Archives.  In May 2004 my poem 6 June, Omaha Beach  was featured with a musical background on National Public Radio’s Themes & Variations.  Listen for yourself:

My first book of poetry, Remembering Willie, and all the others was published in 2003 and won the Military Writers Society of America Silver Medal Award.

Remembering Willie is included in the Veterans’ archives of The Library of Congress and is on display at the Sullivan Brothers Iowa Veterans Museum. From Remembering Willie:

Memory of a Eurasion Working Girl

I hope she knew why I was so quiet,

When we held hands at night in her strange land,

Uninvited and lost.

It must have made her uneasy, watching for cues

From this twice her size round-eyed male creature,

So large pored and hairy.

Blood-warm breeze felt so comfortable.

Her perfume riffing in the air,

Set time for the music.

That evening she pierced my blind stare,

And helped me lay down my mountain of stored up death,

So weary with the weight.

Whether she was aware or not,

She did what women have done for soldiers

These thousands of futile years.

Fingers entwined our primal spirits touched

And I remembered

What my soul should look like.

I write often – both poetry and prose – because I must.

Virginia – What is your writing day like?

Dennis – Most of my early ideas come from 3:00 to 4:30 AM sweat-soaked dreams about my experiences or nightmarish variations on them, some from daydreams or flashbacks.

At this time, the process is more normal and poetry/story ideas come from the observation of people and places, imagination and research flesh out the details.  I have recently completed drafts of a book of linked short stories and a book of poetry.

Virginia – What are you working on now?

Dennis – I’ll be retiring from my day job on July 31st, 2009 and plan to work on the drafts until they are ready to submit.  I have a list of 147 small presses.  Do you think those will be enough?

I also have developed a one to two hour (your choice) workshop.  In a relaxed group setting, participants discuss some very old forms of Japanese poetry (Tanka, Haiku, and Senryu) and how they evolved.  Once grounded, we examine how they impacted American poets and how American poets have impacted them (The American Sentence). We practice writing a few lines while simultaneously looking for ways the forms can give us insight into the poetic moment.  And, how looking for these moments may improve our other poetry and our prose.  Email me, if you are interested.  (

I have had great good fortune of being supported by several exceptional local writers’ groups.

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

Dennis – Writing the material was good therapy, but reading to a group increased the healing value by several orders of magnitude.  My first group encouraged me to assemble my book and helped with the editing and layout.  I owe them a lot.

Don’t be afraid to write honestly.  Sometimes that requires you to go mentally naked with friends or relatives, or to violate the restrictive cultural codes we were taught.  I would also recommend the summer workshops at the University of Iowa.  They have a Summer Writing Festival consisting of one week or weekend workshops on most every type of writing (poetry, novels, short stories, screenplays, memoirs, children’s books, etc.) all taught by experienced authors.  People come from all over the world for these sessions.  Check it out (http://continuetolearn.uiowa,edu/iswfest/).

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