Heart of the Bay - SFA Romance Writers of America
Volume 23, Number 8
Tessa Woodward, Avon Editor
Date: September 11, 2010
Editor Talk: Pitches and Queries That Work!
Place: Pyramid Alehouse
901 Gilman Street
Berkeley, CA 947140
What makes a good pitch better from an editor’s perspective? Avon editor
Tessa Woodward will give members her perspective on what she and her
colleagues look for in a great pitch or query letter. We’ll also be raffling off
three information appointments with Tessa following the chapter meeting. So
come prepared―you could win a chance at priceless, career-changing
Directions: Off I-80, take the Gilman
Street exit. Drive east seven blocks.
Pyramid Alehouse is the long brick building
on the left. Turn left at the light for access
to the parking lot. Meeting room is
P.S. You can also check out Tessa on Twitter twitter.com/TessaofAvonlea and her
posts at www.avonromance.com/editor%E2%80%99s-corner/
Coffee, teas, orange juice, fruit, bagels, and doughnuts are available to all
attendees. Guests are always welcome.
Reserve by midnight,
Wednesday, September 8: $20
After September 8: $25
members and non-members
Dorothy and Teresa, our booksellers from The Book End in Newark, will
bring any book you want to order if you e-mail them by Sunday, September
5, 2010 at [email protected]
Board meeting afterward: No
To reserve: Go to www.sfarwa.com
before midnight, Wednesday, September 8,
2010. Click on Meetings & Reservations. Or
e-mail membership chair Adrienne Miller at
Roses and Ribbons
Five new releases from Lots of good news!
Chapter 90, Romance Writers of America ®
Changes in the fiction
Alice Brilmayer recaps
Sophie Littlefield and
speaking on Emotion.
How to Set Up a
Facebook Fan Page
Learned About Voice
and Dialog I Learned Ten Ways a Smart
Writer Can Use a
from Jeff Dunham
by Lisa Hughey
by Sandee Wagner
by Vanessa Kier
Due to renew
Heart of the Bay
Note from the Prez
Summer’s winding down, we’re all back from National and vacations.
Are you ready to dig in and get back to work? I hope so, because there’s
no time like the present!
In this column I’d like to address the myth that there are times in the
publishing year when we might as well all take a nap, because no one’s
working. It’s like people think that the agents, editors, and publishers
all climb into a giant station wagon on July 31st and battle traffic out to
the Hamptons, where they do nothing but snorkel and quaff umbrella
drinks until the weather turns.
Not so! If you were checking the deal reports in Publishers Marketplace you’ll see that lots of deals
were done in August. Dozens of novels were bought, most of them genre, in the first two-thirds of the
month (I’m turning this column in on the 20th). Last year―one of the worst on record ―nearly a
hundred novels were sold in August, nearly half of them romances.
Lots of people believe that “the Holidays”―that period from Thanksgiving through New Years―are a
Publishing dead zone as well. That’s self-defeating thinking, especially if you are using it as an excuse
not to finish your book/revise and polish/send out queries.
My agent sold my YA series during that period. I remember it well because she was negotiating the
deal while I was out of town for Thanksgiving. In December of 2009, 98 novels were sold and a third
of them were romances.
There are rumors that some publishing houses buy at the end of the year because of fiscal year-end
considerations. You know, the old spend-it-or-lose-it problem. Is that a quaint memory from a better
economy? Perhaps―but the truth is that books are still being bought right up until the shutters are
drawn on New Years Eve.
Here’s a little challenge for you: take a long look at the next four months and think about your goals
and what you can accomplish in the final third of this year. Identify any excuses you might be using
not to give it your best effort. And then have the talk you’d have with a friend―if you were being
completely honest and your friend really wanted to be published.
I was dismayed to hear several authors in the last month already talking about “waiting until the new
year” or “seeing how things look in 2011.” Friends, that’s a great way to talk yourself into
procrastination and self-sabotage, in my increasingly-not-very-humble opinion.
Let’s all jump in and make these months count. Don’t wait! Now is as good a time as ever to succeed.
Heart of the Bay
N e w
R e l e a s e s
Take Your Pick
Just Like Jack
by Jasmine Haynes
by Shirley Marks
Available from www.loose-id.com
August 17, 2010
E-book Format/Cover by Croco Designs
August 24, 2010
Two very different yet enticing men...
one very big choice...
Grant Tyler is sophisticated, intelligent, controlled, and a
highly successful CEO of a Fortune 500. He’s Rena
Lancaster’s perfect match, same background, same career
path, they speak each other’s language. In bed, he makes her
see stars. But then there’s Karl Kristiansen. Every bit as virile,
masculine and intelligent as Grant, he’s her contractor,
earthy, hands work-roughened, body tough, and powerful.
And he takes Rena’s senses by storm.
Megan Donnelly is searching for Mr. Right. Jack Meredith
would be perfect except he’s her best friend. She shares her
secrets, her dreams, even her dating catastrophes with him.
She’s not his type and he’s never shown that kind of
interest in her. A romance with her is not what he wants.
Jack knows Megan is the only girl for him but he hesitates
—once he crosses that platonic line there’s no going back. If
she’s as tired of serial dating as he thinks, it’s time to make
his move even if it risks their friendship. Will Megan ever realize she doesn’t need someone just like
Jack when she can have the real thing?
When Grant decides he wants Rena exclusively, he forces a
decision on her. And it’s Karl who comes up with the perfect
test for choosing between them, make love with them both at
the same time, and see who does the best job.
When their sexual play becomes a true ménage, with Grant
and Karl each trying to top the other, willing to do anything
Reba asks, even touch each other, the three of them together
are like spontaneous combustion. Now that she’s had a taste
of the real thing, how can Rena choose between these two
perfect men when they both give her different things she
Read an excerpt at www.jasminehaynes.com
Heart of the Bay
N e w
R e l e a s e s
( c o n t ' d )
Riding the Waves
by Monica McCarty
by Tawny Weber
by Veronica Wolff
August 31, 2010
August 3, 2010
Erik MacSorley is unrivaled on the seas, a
brilliant seafarer who has never encountered
a wind he could not harness nor a woman he
could not win―until he drags a wet, halfnaked “nursemaid” out of the waters off the
Irish coast. Ellie’s ordinary appearance belies
the truth: she is in fact Lady Elyne de Burgh,
the spirited daughter of the most powerful
noble in Ireland, and a close ally of the
English king. Worse, this confounding,
fascinating, irresistible woman is determined
to prove herself immune to his charms―a
challenge he cannot resist.
Her captor may look every inch a powerful,
rugged warrior, but Ellie vows it will take
more than a twinkle in his blue eyes and a
wickedly suggestive caress to impress her.
Erik is as wild and untamed as the wind,
sweeping away her resistance with a desire
that resonates deep within her heart. Still, he
is a man driven by loyalty, and she is a
woman with secrets that could threaten his
mission and jeopardize Bruce’s chance to
reclaim his throne.
As the battle for king and country sounds
across the shores, will Ellie’s love be enough
to finally tame the legend known as the
What happens in Mexico...doesn’t always
All uptight workaholic Drucilla Robichoux
wants is to experience incredible sex, at least
once in her life. So she heads off to Mexico
for some sun, sand and sin. And she finds the
perfect playmate in sexy surf instructor Alex.
Her temporary boy toy teaches Dru to ride
the waves, all right...right into the most
intense climaxes she’s ever had!
But all vacation flings must end. When Dru
heads home, she buttons up tight again.
Might as well keep this delicious fantasy
right where it belongs...in her naughty
So it sure is a shock when she walks into
work Monday morning and finds her secret
fling is her new boss! And he’s definitely still
interested in catching the big one with Dru.
They share a haunting past…and an
After Scotland’s Civil Wars, the orphaned
brothers and sisters of the MacAlpin clan
reclaimed the abandoned Dunnottar Castle
as their birthright. Hardened in battle and
haunted by family secrets, these fiery
Highlanders must rely on each other as they
right the wrongs of their troubled history.
Before she can give herself to him, he must
Cormac MacAlpin lost his innocence too
young—he’s always blamed himself for the
kidnapping of his twin brother, Aidan. He
turned away from his childhood friend,
Marjorie Keith, denying the prospect of
happiness with the young woman who loved
Now a tormented war hero working as a
fisherman, Cormac is speechless when
Marjorie comes to him with an appeal for
help…a poor city boy she’s been caring for
has disappeared, reminding her of long-lost
Aidan. Their bond of shame once thwarted a
budding romance, and threatens to again—
but Cormac and Marjorie are adults now,
with needs too powerful to keep locked
Heart of the Bay
Roses and Ribbons
A Most Improper Gentleman by Elisa Beatty was the 2010
Golden Heart Winner for Best Regency Historical Manuscript.
Pamela Gibson has taken over as our new PRO Liaison.
Sharon Hamilton has signed with agent Jill Marsal of the
Marsal Lyon Literary Agency.
Kristin Miller has signed with agent Robert Brown of the
Wylie-Merrick Literary Agency.
Carolina Montague received a 4 ½ Star Review from Romantic
Times for her novel Sacred Guardian, plus a Five Lips Review
and a Recommended Read from www.twolipsreviews.com.
Kathy Wyland's new wip, Leap of Faith, finaled in the Heart of
the Rockies contest in romantic suspense.
Thank you from a Heart to Heart Winner
I entered and won the 2007 Heart to Heart contest with the
opening chapters of my very first manuscript, The Goblin. That
win provided me with plenty of feedback, encouragement
―and a full request from Hilary Sares at Kensington. Hilary
didn't buy that manuscript, but she gave me some suggestions
as to how to rewrite it, and I did. That book, now re-titled Bond
With Me, is coming out on August 24th from Dorchester. And, in
a truly delightful series of events, the next book in the series
will be published by Kensington in early 2012.
Without the Heart to Heart contest, none of this would have
happened. The contest feedback made me believe "I can do
this!" and Hilary's feedback helped me understand where my
book's strengths and weaknesses lay. I, in turn, wanted to say
thank you to all of you at the San Francisco chapter―the Heart
to Heart contest truly opened doors for me at a critical period.
September 4 @ 9:30 a.m. - 11:30 a.m.
Black Diamonds RWA welcomes Virna DePaul who will
present her workshop from RWA National, "Big Book, High
Concept, Same But Different." Please note this is at their new
venue: Carpaccio's, 2741 Lone Tree Way, Antioch.
September 11 @ 10:00 a.m. - 1:00 p.m.
Frank Bette Center for the Arts in Alameda welcomes author
and writing coach Margaret (Peggy) Lucke to lead a
workshop called “Whose Head Am I In, Anyway?: Mastering
the Fine Art of Point of View.” For more information, visit
September 18 @ 10:30 a.m. - 1:00 p.m.
The Yosemite Romance Writers welcome Linda Wisdom who
will speak on "Writing Paranormals." Marie Callender's
restaurant, 3602 W. Shaw Avenue, Fresno, CA 93711.
September 18 @ 10:00 a.m. - 1:00 p.m.
Author and writing coach Margaret (Peggy) Lucke
presents a workshop entitled “Magic And Music: How to
Develop a Compelling Writer’s Voice” at the Frank Bette
Center for the Arts in Alameda. For more information, visit
September 25 @ 8:00 a.m. - 1:00 p.m.
The Silicon Valley Chapter welcomes Rachelle Chase, who
will present "Making the Mundane Sexy…and Giving Your
Readers Good Sex." Sheraton, 1801 Barber Lane, Milpitas,
September 25 @ 9:30 a.m. - 1:00 p.m.
The Sacramento Valley Rose Chapter welcomes historical
author Tessa Dare, who will discuss research and how to
make it all real without leaving your home. For more
information visit www.sacramentovalleyrose.com/
Heart of the Bay
compiled by Shelley Bates
From Publishers Lunch:
Weronika Janczuk has joined D4EO Literary Agency, looking in
particular for single-title romances as well as commercial and
literary fiction. Before working with Bob Diforio, she interned
and worked freelance for a number of agencies.
Agent Colleen Lindsay says she is leaving FinePrint Literary
Management for an online job at Penguin.
Tami Heim, former chief publishing officer at Thomas Nelson
and one-time president of Borders, is joining The A Group, a
marketing and technology company. She will head up a new
brand development and consulting division focuses on
Christian and nonprofit publishers.
Sales at Simon & Schuster were up 4.5 percent in their fiscal
second quarter, ending June 30, at $189.7 million, an $8.3
million increase from a year ago. Adjusted OIBDA was up
more, by 65%, at $16.9 million, compared to $10.3 million a year
ago, and adjusted operating income rose to $15.2 million. The
company cited “growth in digital content sales and the strength
of best-selling titles in the second quarter of 2010, including
Spoken from the Heart by Laura Bush and Women, Food and
God by Geneen Roth.” Though the sales gains may seem
relatively small, it’s the largest quarterly increase for the
company since October 2008.
CEO Carolyn Reidy expressed “measured optimism” and is
“more bullish now on the basic market.” She observes that
“after what for us has been a bit of a difficult time, we’re seeing
some real recovery and strength in the second quarter. We had
some really strong titles and we see that continuing now to the
end the year.” (Among the many anticipated strong fall titles
are Rhonda Byrne’s The Power, and books from Bob
Woodward, Laura Ingraham, Stephen King, Glenn Beck,
Michael Roizen and Mehmet Oz, Ellen Hopkins and Ian
Though the company did not break out overall digital product
sales this quarter the way they did when reporting three
months ago, informally Reidy said that ebook sales right now
are approximately eight percent of adult sales, noting that the
exact percentage has been changing every month. She says it is
still too early in the evolution of the market to know “whether
the ebook sales are a replacement for hardcovers, an
acceleration of paperback sales, or additional sales. From all the
research we’ve done, it’s a mix of those three factors.”
Meanwhile, the launch of the iPad helped drive a new uptick in
nonfiction ebook sales. And Reidy says that they are “seeing
authors for whom we thought the sales were―but when you
add up all the sales” across all formats, “their sales are up.”
While declining to comment on the launch of Odyssey
Editions―which does have one title originally published by
Simon & Schuster on its launch list―Reidy estimates that the
house would “double the number of ebooks available” for sale
if they were able to agree upon royalty rates with rights holders
for titles not yet available electronically. They currently have
about 8,000 ebooks available for sale, and Reidy says they are
“clearing those royalty rates piece by piece,” noting that “of
course as has been made clear, it’s an extremely complex issue.”
HarperCollins has joined Simon & Schuster and Penguin in
reporting increased sales for their most recent quarter, ending
June 30, at $302 million, up over 8 percent from $278 million a
year ago. Profits are still lagging, however, with an operating
loss of $1 million―matching the loss from this time a year ago
(though they were up $3 million prior to depreciation and
amortization). For the full fiscal year, Harper recorded sales of
$1.269 billion, recovering 11 percent after a poor fiscal 2009,
with operating income of $88 million―hardly a stellar
performance, but much improved from just $17 million in
income the year before, and still a nearly 7 percent margin. The
company credits “higher electronic sales” and Sarah Palin from
the general books division, and says Lauren Conrad, The
Vampire Diaries and Maurice Sendak contributed to an
“increase” in children’s books. Sales have risen for the last three
quarters, though of course the comparative bar has been set
lower. (For a longer horizon, Harper had sales of $350 million
in this quarter in 2008, and sales of $295 million the year
In a separate statement, CEO Brian Murray said: “We were
pleased with our fiscal year earnings as they exceeded our
expectations in a challenging marketplace that is in transition.
All divisions delivered improvements over the prior year, with
general books and children’s far exceeding expectations. We
continue to reposition the company to meet the emerging
digital market by investing in new businesses, new content and
in new skills, while simultaneously streamlining operations to
improve efficiencies...Our e-book sales were up more than 250
percent over last year, and we expect that trend to continue as
the installed base of e-readers grows, distribution increases
(continued on page 8)
Heart of the Bay
How to Set Up a
Facebook Fan Page
By Lisa Hughey
With the advent of social media there are
multiple ways to use communication
tools to reach out to readers. When
Facebook originally arrived on scene,
authors set up a Facebook page and
readers began to sign up to receive
updates about releases and appearances
and to get a glimpse into the glamorous
life of an author. However, authors can
also use Facebook as a communication
tool to network with other authors,
which is connecting in a different way.
The drawback of a simple Facebook page
is your number of friends (or fans) is
capped at 5,000 friends. Right now 5,000
friends may seem like a lot but you want
to create a Facebook Fan Page that will
grow with your readers.
Now Facebook gives artists the option to
create an Official Fan Page.
Creating a Facebook Fan Page
• If you don’t already have a
Facebook page/profile, go to
www.facebook.com and ignore the
giant sign-up fields. At the very
bottom, the site says: Create a Page
for a Celebrity, Band or Business.
• If you already have a Facebook
profile, to create the Fan Page,
simply type in
create.php and it will link to your
existing profile page.
• The first field is Category. Your
choice would be Artist. And then
from the drop-down menu, the
choice of Writer.
• Second Field is Page Name. There
are a variety of ways to name your
page. If you already have a profile
you may want to name the page,
The Official Fan Page of (Insert
Your Pen Name Here) or you can
just use your Author Name.
• Lastly, click the Official
Representative for this Person box.
What if You Already Have a Facebook Profile
and You Want to Migrate Your Fans Over to
a New Fan Page?
Author Josie Brown (Secret Lives of
Husbands and Wives, Simon & Schuster,
June 2010) wishes she had created a Fan
Page when she’d created her original
profile. Now she is trying to migrate her
followers from her profile page to her Fan
Page, but the transition is slow-going.
She suggests starting both pages at the
Author Roxanne St. Claire (Edge of Sight,
Grand Central Publishing, November
2010) sends out personal messages to her
original page followers requesting they
try out her Fan Page and click the “Like”
button. Her original page is writer and
friend-focused, as well as fan-focused
while her Fan Page is strictly for
information about her books.
Another suggestion: To get your readers
to “Like” your new Fan Page, hold a
contest and give away prizes, books, gift
cards, or some other reader incentive to
get your followers to switch or add your
How Often Should You Post on Facebook?
St. Claire updates her Fan page and her
regular profile page every day tailoring
the content to the specific followers,
keeping the “friends” page more
personal and the “fan” page more bookoriented.
Brown also posts multiple times a day.
She links her Fan Page, Twitter and her
regular Facebook page. She posts on the
Fan Page which then posts to Twitter and
then Twitter posts back to her regular
What Additional Options Are Available
Strictly for the Fan Page?
One of the benefits of the Fan Page are
extended options for followers. With the
event calendar you can update your
appearances for your fans, i.e. book
signings, workshop presentations, and
conference attendance. You can also use
this tab to promote writer’s group
meetings, such as your local RWA
There is also a Discussion Board feature.
You can have an Ask An Author board.
Or Discussion Pages for each book. The
Nora Roberts Official Fan Page has a
range of topics from Favorite Hero to
Under the Photo Tab, post Photos of your
events, your book covers, your author
friends. Fans love to see the connections
You can post links to websites or videos
that you like or that feature you. Follow
the directions on the Links page. (As an
aside, this option was not working when
I tried to upload a YouTube video)
The Fan Page also boasts a Notes section.
Why bother to post anything here?
Google crawls and indexes it. So
whenever someone searches for items
which are present in your Notes, there is
a chance that your Notes will appear in
Google search results. This means a new
stream of traffic to your blog and your
How to Link Your Blog to Your Fan Page
• To use the Notes page effectively,
link to your website or blog. As the
admin (you are automatically
(Continued on next page)
Heart of the Bay
Market News (cont'd from page 6)
worldwide, and new distributors enter the e-book market. It’s
an incredibly exciting time to be in book publishing.”
Nicola Martinez, founder of Pelican Ventures, LLC, a New
Mexico media company, announced today that the company
has launched a new publishing venture. Harbourlight Books
will publish Christian fiction that ranges in length from 25,000
words to 80,000. This announcement comes just nine months
after the company acquired White Rose Publishing, a Christian
romance publisher of electronic and print titles.
Harbourlight Books seeks to publish all genre of Christian
fiction, Martinez said. "Everything but romance." Martinez
said. "Romance will still be handled exclusively by White Rose
Publishing." According to Martinez, there is a need for the
expansion of eBook availability within the Christian fiction
community. Harbourlight Books will fill that niche, bringing
general Christian fiction to the eBook arena where White Rose
Publishing fills the gap on the romance side. The popularity of
eBooks is on the rise as "evidenced by the recent Amazon press
release that announced eBooks for Kindle outsold hardbacks,"
Martinez said. In addition to electronic books, Harbourlight
will publish print editions of novels. Submission guidelines are
available on the Harbourlight Books website.
Harbourlight Books is dedicated to providing quality
inspirational fiction that adheres to mainline Christian
teachings. Currently Harbourlight Books is accepting
unagented submissions for short stories and novels that are
already complete. The company launches its first release in
Harbourlight Books titles will be available for purchase directly
from the Harbourlight Books website and through various
retailers such as Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and others.
Bookstores wishing to stock Harbourlight titles may contact the
publisher directly, or use Ingram Distributing. Titles will also
be available to retailers and at several public libraries as
electronic downloads through OverDrive Media.
Promotion Posse (cont'd from page 7)
subscribed as admin if you set up the page), click on
Notes on the top tool bar.
• Next on the left hand side, scroll down to Subscribe and
underneath you will see, Edit Import Settings.
• Facebook will take you to the Import External Blog screen.
In this window, enter your URL (i.e.
www.lisahughey.com ) and confirm you have the right to
give permission for access to the site. Then click the
Confirm box. This will automatically upload your blog
posts to the Notes section of your Fan Page.
Links to Other Social Media
Add a Facebook Badge to Your Website or Blog
On the admin or edit page, on the right side, you can click on
Promote with Facebook Badge and it will easily load a
Facebook Badge onto your existing blog or website.
Creating Your Fan Page, One Step at a Time
With the tools Facebook has in place, setting up your own fan
page will be a relatively painless process. Block out a few
hours to get the basics uploaded and then you can add and
refine the content as you go along.
Nowadays it is possible to easily link different social media
together. Most applications, i.e.. Twitter, Wordpress, MySpace,
LinkedIn, have easy-to-click buttons with simple on-screen
instructions to link your accounts.
**Information from www.quickonlinetips.com/archives
Brown prefers the ‘daisy chain’ effect of linking all her social
media together. The facilitation is easy accomplish. Facebook
even asks when you are setting up your Fan Page if you want
to link to Twitter.
St. Claire, on the other hand, doesn’t link Facebook and Twitter,
preferring to keep Twitter strictly for friends and
acquaintances, "like the water cooler at her lonely office."
Another option is to link your Facebook Fan Page to post to
Twitter with a link when you put a new post or comment on
If you want to read more about Josie Brown or Roxanne St.
Claire, their fan pages can be found here:
The Promotion Posse is a monthly column spotlighting promotional
strategies for authors, written by members of SFA-RWA with a
knack for PR.
Lisa Hughey is hard at work on a paranormal romance featuring
angels and an espionage-driven romantic suspense series. She
hopes to have need of her fan page in the near future.
Heart of the Bay
August Meeting Recap
by Alice Brilmayer
Sophie Littlefield―author of “bondage
cozy mysteries,” young adult
paranormal books, and post-apocalyptic
novels―and Julie Blackwell―a national
bestseller of three mystery series―
joined forces on Saturday, August 14 to
discuss the most important aspect of
Emotion in fiction can be defined as “the
mental and physical sensations resulting
from external conflict (plot) filtered
through back-story and internal conflict
(character).” In other words, emotion is
the characters’ history and internal
desires as affected by what’s going on
Character is what's selling now. Readers
want emotional resonance, and
successful stories are emotion-driven.
This is true even for thrillers. Young
adult emotion has a different voice. In
YA, emotion is present but not through
narrative, rather through action.
Authors often make common errors in
writing emotion: 1) they leave emotion
out entirely, 2) they don’t motivate
emotions properly (“He’d never do/feel
that”), 3) they rely on clichés, such as
“his heart pounded,” 4) they give all the
characters the same emotion―different
people will react differently to the same
emotional stimuli, 5) they fail to move
characters along an arc―their
motivation and emotions don’t change
over the space of the story, and 6) they
make characters unsympathetic.
Julie reported that cozy mysteries outsell
thrillers. So does romance. Thriller
writers ignore emotional development at
their peril. She knows one thriller writer
who was dropped by his publisher
because his character never changed. He
never displayed any moral ambiguity.
Your job as a writer is to understand
your characters’ emotional palettes.
What emotions do they feel most often?
How do they feel about emotion, in
general? What emotions do they allow
themselves to experience consciously,
and which ones do they try to suppress?
Once you understand that, you have to
figure out how they experience emotion
physically―does one character
experience accelerated heartbeat while
another experiences stomach upset? For
each scene, identify what the point of
view character feels.
Sex is a powerful emotional experience.
In fact, Sophie calls the sex act in fiction
“a mechanical device for delivering
Julie mentioned that if you’re really
good at dialogue, you don’t need tags.
The reader will recognize who’s talking
without tags. Emotion should be the
same way. Your reader should be able to
identify the character by the way they
express emotion. For example, a proper
southern lady may display anger by
becoming quiet. A New Yorker might
curse. Italians tend to yell at each other.
When approaching your character, think
of the point at which he/she would be
willing to kill. Would it be self-defense?
Would he/she do it to defend his/her
Your story should have important
emotional pivot points. These will be
moments of character change. Such
moments create high tension. It’s best if
these moments are tied to important plot
Shame can be a powerful motivator.
Often, shame is not founded in reality.
The character may not have any control
of what causes him/her shame and isn’t
to blame for the bad event. For example,
people who survive layoffs at work often
feel shame that they still have jobs when
their friends have lost theirs. Shame is
closely related to self-concept. If we
think of ourselves as protectors, we’ll
feel shame if the people we love are
harmed, even if we couldn’t have done
anything to prevent the harm.
Your protagonist should have a superobjective. This is a goal larger than
catching the killer or winning the hero.
It’s an over-arching desire/goal for his/
her life. What does the character most
want out of life? Also, what does the
character most fear? You can think of
this as completing the sentences “Do
anything you want to me, just don’t…”
or “I can handle anything but…” (thanks
to Lynn Coddington for these). Not all
characters need a super-objective, but
the main character does.
Bear in mind that you’ll be showing
emotion, not telling it. “She felt nervous”
is unconvincing. Glancing around, upset
stomach, and constriction in the chest
are more convincing as is assessing the
dangers in the immediate environment.
Alice Brilmayer writes erotic romance as
You need to ask and answer the question
of what your character most wants.
What are his/her greatest fears and
desires and how do those intersect with
Heart of the Bay
Learned About Voice
and Dialog I Learned
from Jeff Dunham
by Sandee Wagner
When trying to dissect the intricacies of
dialog, I found myself thinking of
Jeff Dunham and his boxes full of
friends. For those of you who aren't
glued to Comedy Central, Jeff Dunham
is one of the most successful
ventriloquists working today. When he
walks out on stage, he's flanked by two
boxes. He introduces himself and then
begins to tell jokes. He works the crowd
for a couple of minutes then brings out
one of his buddies.
He has four different puppets: Walter,
Peanut, Ahmed and the Jalapeño on a
Stick. Walter is a crotchety old man.
Peanut is an alien goofball. Ahmed is a
dead terrorist. The Jalapeño on a Stick is
kind of self explanatory.
Throughout the special, I was amazed to
realize that each puppet has a character
and a distinct voice. Each puppet has a
specific style of jokes. They have
mannerisms and tics. And basically, they
are all Jeff Dunham.
I know, this isn't really a surprise to
other people―but it really struck me.
As writers, this is what we try to do. We
take our voice and pitch it through
our characters on the page. We hope that
each character sounds distinct and
interesting. We want each person to be
so clear and specific that they take on
their own personality… even though it's
Each character needs to come to life.
Each character needs to take form,
develop personality and a style of
speech. We have to channel that
difference like a ventriloquist gives his
puppets life. We need to be able to stand
next to a microphone and interview each
character and see them as distinct and
We don't have the ability to cover our
characters in purple fuzz and give them
hair made from fluffy feathers, but we
do have the ability to paint their
characteristics realistically and write
dialog that sounds unique. As writers,
we create the stage upon which these
characters interact and it's up to us to
make them interesting.
Watching Jeff Dunham do his act gave
me some hints:
Differentiation of age and
generation make for unique
takes on the same information.
Styles of speech, including
dialect give each character
Sentence length can make
conversation patterns individual.
Humor can separate very similar
Silent types are realistic and can
flavor conversation, used
Peanut is an adolescent, Walter is a
codger. When Jeff interacts with them,
they very often cover the same topics of
conversation. But it always sounds
different. The relative ages of the
characters makes them singular.
The Jalapeño on a Stick has a Mexican
accent, his responses are usually
abbreviated and disinterested. Ahmed
the dead terrorist screams and threatens.
Both of these characters display speech
patterns that mark their language
origins and differentiate them.
sentence length is disparate and no one
would ever mistake one for the other,
even without visual clues.
Without looking at the puppets, each is
distinguishable by what they say, as
much as how they say it. Each
character's distinctive point of view is
clearly driven home by their word
choice and humor. Whether they appear
humorless like Ahmed, or frenetic like
Peanut, they provide humor to the act
that would not work coming from one of
the other characters.
For much of the act, the Jalapeno on a
Stick is silent. He responds only when
directly asked a question. He doesn't tell
a tale, he just interacts with Jeff and the
other characters. His very silence sets
Writing characters with a unique style is
a very difficult task. It's interesting that I
was able to find lessons on clarifying my
character's points of view in a
ventriloquist's act. Maybe I didn't learn
everything I know about voice and
dialog from Jeff Dunham, but it wasn't a
wasted hour either.
Sandee Wagner writes contemporary and
paranormal romance that is mostly read by
her critique group. Trying to perfect
characters is a dream of hers. She pursues
this dream in Tulsa, OK, where she lives
with her husband of thirty-onederful years.
This article first appeared in the February
2010 issue of Inklings, the newsletter of
Romance Writers Ink (Tulsa, OK). Used
Peanut has an almost stream-ofconsciousness delivery. His sentences
run on and he rambles. Walter tells pithy
stories with an angry delivery. Their
Heart of the Bay
by Vanessa Kier
Ten Ways a Smart Writer Can Use
a Smart Phone
I have a confession to make. I don't own a
smart phone. That's right. Despite my
love of technology, I can't surf the
internet or download e-mail with my
phone. My practical, cost-analyzing side
has never been able to justify the
expense. However, I realize that I'm in
the minority. At every writer's gathering
people are talking, texting, and
performing other tasks on their phones.
This was particularly evident at RWA
National in Orlando. Look at any table
during lunch or the awards ceremony
and you'd see at least one smart phone in
As I watched my friends on their smart
phones, I began to wonder if a smart
phone is an essential tool in a writer's
career rather than a luxury or a toy. In
what ways might a smart phone be used
to help a writer's career?
After surveying members of my writing
chapter, I've come up with these
examples of writing-related uses.
1. Connection. Whether published or
unpublished, having a smart phone
allows a writer to stay in touch with
editors, agents, and fellow writers
even while running errands or
attending a child's swim practice.
No more delay in receiving a
critical, and potentially timesensitive e-mail about those latest
contract changes. This is
particularly helpful when traveling
out of town, since many business
class hotels now charge a daily fee
for internet access. And for areas
where cell reception is poor but
there is wi-fi connectivity, a smart
phone allows a writer to at least
stay connected via e-mail.
Promotion. Whether posting on
blogs, updating her Facebook page,
or any other aspect of social
networking a writer participates in
to keep her name and book title in
the public mind, having a smart
phone allows a writer to take care
of some of these tasks whenever
there's a moment of down time,
such as waiting in line at the
grocery store or waiting to get
through security at the airport.
Research. Again, waiting in any line
is a great time to surf the internet to
find out just what type of boots the
heroine would need for a climb in
Directions. Suppose a writer gets
lost on the way to a weekend
writing workshop and none of the
listed contacts are answering their
phones? A smart phone allows a
writer to pull up the directions from
the host's website. Some phones can
even download step-by-step
Industry news. Keeping updated on
the latest publishing news and
following new releases and
upcoming tour appearances of
favorite authors is another way a
writer can put a smart phone to use.
Scheduling. A smart phone allows a
writer to keep all calendar events
handy, making it easy to instantly
reschedule a critique group meeting
or set up an impromptu lunch with
fellow writers. She can surf the
internet to find a restaurant
centrally located to all involved and
even check out the menu to make
certain all food allergies are
Contact management. With contacts
stored on a smart phone involving
more than just phone numbers,
there's no more need for business
cards (except for the pretty
designs). A writer can enter the
contact info of the fascinating
person next to her at lunch, and
even snap a photo of the person
and attach it to the contact info.
Add that person to the mailing list
group for some marketing points.
8. Documentation. Most smart phones
now have decent cameras built in. A
writer can use her phone to take
photos of downtown Paris while on
a research trip, or to capture a
friend posing with her new RITA.
She can instantly e-mail out the
photos, or save them to post later
on a website or blog.
9. Notes. Whether via a voice
recording explaining that the photo
of the castle is the one the hero lives
in, or by typing pitch notes into a
text program as a handy reminder if
her mind blanks during her editor
appointment, a smart phone allows
a writer to store information about
her story while away from home.
10. Writing. Text applications can be
used to write new story material.
Using a mobile application such as
Dragon Dictation to translate
speech into text, a writer can add to
her story while driving or taking a
I'm certain there are other uses for smart
phones, but you get the idea. There are
many ways a smart writer can use her
smart phone to further her career.
Add all of the above together and a
writer might very well be able to justify
the cost of a new phone and the
additional monthly fee for a data plan as
a business necessity.
As for me? I'm a bit closer to making that
leap, but haven't quite found the phone/
carrier combination that will make the
upgrade worth the cost.
Tech Talk is a monthly column spotlighting
technology issues for writers. E-mail questions or
suggestions for future articles to
Vanessa Kier is a writer of romantic thrillers
currently seeking publication. She loves new
technology the way other women love shoes. Visit
her at www.vanessakier.com.
Heart of the Bay
SFA-RWA at the RWA National Awards Ceremony 2010
President - Sophie Littlefield
Golden Heart winner Elisa Beatty
VP Programs - Trish Cetrone
VP Admin - Rachelle Chase
Secretary - Lisa Hughey
Treasurer - Martha Flynn
Membership - Adrienne Miller
Newsletter Editor - Karin Ohlson
RITA finalist Carolyn Jewel
PRO Liaison - Pamela Gibson
Executive Director - Allison Kelley
President - Michelle Monkou
President-Elect - Dorien Kelly
Secretary - Lorraine Heath
Treasurer - Stephanie Feagan
Region #6 Director - Julie Hurwitz
Region #6 Director - Sylvia Day
PAN Liaison - Terry McLaughlin
PRO Liaison - Cynthia D'Alba
Telephone: (832) 717-5200
A Bevy of Glamorous SFA-RWA Members
SFA-RWA on the web
From the Editor
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Deadline for the October newsletter is September 20. Please send
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