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Monday, February 28, 2011


Tricks to write a shorter synopsis

You have edited and polished your manuscript to death and now you need to send off a stack of query letters  to different agents/publishers. The dreaded synopsis is’s six pages long. That’s okay in some instances, but what happens when you come across someone who wants a ONE page synopsis? Shock, horror, how can you condense 6 pages into one?

Here are a few of my tricks.

The page should be single spaced with one space in between paragraphs and right-aligned with no indents and 1-inch margins.

2. Reduce the font to Times New Roman 11pt. Yes; it is small, but still readable!

3. Go through the synopsis and find the turning points. Remove any extraneous sentences.

4. Think about rewording. Can you make some sentences smaller? For example:

Abigail doesn’t want Justin to touch the child. He might kill him.
change to
Abigail fears Justin will kill her child.

Here you have just gotten rid of five words without changing the meaning of the sentence. It will also make the synopsis sharper – more concise.

5. Remove flowery description. You don’t need it in a synopsis.

6. DON’T repeat full names. Put in the action and emotions, but leave out what the place they are in looks like unless it’s haunted or there is something more that needs to be highlighted about the room.

7. You're telling whoever reads this synopsis what the story is about, so don’t include dialogue.

I hope some of these tricks of the trade help you. Good luck with your publications.

Born in England, Margaret moved to the Kent countryside five years ago to get away from the busy life in London. She is married with two grown children and has worked in various fields of work. She is a Clairknowing medium, Crystal Therapist, Parapsychologist and Psychic Development tutor.She has been writing for over 20 years and has numerous short stories, novels and articles published. Margaret writes romance and paranormal romance. 

Her love for literature extends from writing to reading and she is always willing to embrace new ideas and philosophies. She likes nothing more then to sit with a good book in the quiet realms of the countryside, with her dogs, Odin and Chester. A true animal lover, Margaret’s warmth and sensitivity is reflected in her writing

Friday, February 25, 2011


Thanks so much to the ladies at Long and Short for having me here today.

Just a little about me: I was born in Manchester, New Hampshire. After graduating from Central High, I joined the US Army. I spent 11 years in the military, 7 in Germany. While in the military, I earned a BS in Political Science from California Baptist University in Riverside, CA in 1995. I left the Army in 1997 and settled in California, but my favorite football team is still the New England Patriots. I work for LAPD as a 911 dispatcher. I've been married for 19 years. I have two boys, Andrew, 8, and Joseph, 4.

My visit to Budapest, Hungary

My latest release, The Count's Lair, takes place in Budapest, Hungary. Picking Budapest as the setting of the story was easy for me – I visited the city in late September 1997.

At the time, I was in the US Army and deployed to Taszar, Hungary in support of Operation Joint Guard. They offered me a chance to go to Budapest on a USO Recreation weekend. How could I refuse?

My hotel was on Margaret Island, in the middle of the Danube. The weather was mild, the leaves were just starting to change – it was the perfect time of year to explore.

Budapest is filled with many architectural achievements – the SzĂ©chenyi Bridge, (one of the earliest chain bridges built in the 1840's), the Parliament Building (built in 1896) and Fisherman's Bastian. I fell in love with the Bastian. It has resonated with me ever since.

The Bastian was built from 1895-1902 on Buda Hill overlooking the Danube, Margaret Island, and Pest. It's over ½ mile long with seven towers – each tower representing one of the original Magyar tribes that settled in the area. It's named after the fisherman who were assigned to guard that land in the middle ages.

Fisherman's Bastian helps to accentuate the setting in The Count's Lair, Book 2 in the Budapest Moon series. The story takes place in Budapest, Hungary during Christmas time 1901. Count Anton Varga harbors a dark secret, but he's in love with a talented pianist, Lady Amelia Andrassy. He'll give her 3 clues to his secret. What will Amelia do when she discovers what he's hiding?

Question for you: I'd love to hear about a place you visited that resonated with you.

Enjoy this small excerpt:

She flashed him a tender smile. "Well, my mother was musical. She played piano and sang. My sister likes to sing. My father would take us out into the woods, and we'd pick our tree. He'd cut it down, and we'd bring it home. We all decorated it with glass ornaments, garland, and popcorn. My mother would take us caroling with her church choir. We'd even bake special foods for the holiday."
 "What? Yorkshire pudding and rib roast?"
 "How did you know?"
He chuckled. "You grew up in England, if I remember correctly."
"I did grow up in England."
"Near London, right? Ester?"
"It's Esher -- just outside of London."
Again, he chuckled. "I'm sorry. I know you told me--"
"Before you left."
"Yes, before I left."
She stepped away from him, as if forcing distance between them for not remembering. He grabbed her wrist. "I'm sorry."
"Don't be," she said quietly.
"Perhaps you can help me to enjoy the Christmas season," he suggested. "Let me take you to the Kris Kringle Market in Budapest."
Her eyes danced with delight at the suggestion. "I'd like that. When?"
He frowned. "A week from now."
"A week?"
"I have to go to Sopron. I'm finishing the improvements to the estate."
"Oh." She withdrew her hand.
Silence grew between them. He frowned. He wished he could escort her back to Budapest, but he couldn't. The full moon commanded his actions for the next week.
"Amelia, please, let me take you."
"Can I trust you, Anton?"
"Yes." He stepped next to her, radiating warmth. A small smile graced her lips, as if she'd been infused with hope from his heat. She looked up into his eyes. He wrapped his arms around her. Their combined auras made him blink.
"Is something wrong, Anton?"
"No." He cocked his head, poised to kiss her. "Do you sense this?"
"This what?" she whispered.
"This spark? This heat? Amelia, a week isn't so long, is it?"
"No, I'll wait."
He drew her close, slowly pressing his lips against hers, caressing them like a reverent pilgrim. She softly leaned against his hard body. Their kiss ignited a flame in his loins, but it was too early to fan it. He would go too far. Rather abruptly, he disengaged from her soft mouth.


The Count's Lair is available as ebook for Kindle, Barnes and Noble Nook, Sony Ereader, and Kobo. You can also download a copy from the Publisher's Website at:

You can find me on the web at:





Wednesday, February 23, 2011


Unusual Gifts in 2010  
Nan D Arnold

Okay, yes, there were favorites like my dear hubby’s man ‘n cheese from scratch. And divinity fudge from my fab-u-lous crit pard and author,Cheryl Dale. Then there were the others. Items that filled you with awe and those that made you wonder and question and lament and sometimes fume.

Like: Just when I thought it was safe to go back into the guest closet, I spied the MYSTERY THING. One of those orphan Christmas gifts a relative (on my husband’s side) gave me. I’d tell you what it was, if I knew. It’s a shallow almost star shaped ceramic thing. An ashtray? Nobody in our family smokes. A candy dish. Too shallow. However, said giver is a dental hygienist and well aware of my sweet tooth. But then why did the giver also provide a platter of fudge brownies made with dark chocolate, my favorite? A puzzlement. Anyway, it will remain hidden until giver’s family visits and then will appear on our coffee table.

On the other hand, we had our first rental. I refer to our bird house. This is the first year (of five) a bird took a seasonal lease. An adorable hard working tufted titmouse. A lovely surprise gift watching her work her little buns off and hearing the peeps. Then, by cover of darkness I guess, poof. Gone.

Also, on the plus side, the house next door to ours (yikes) went into a short sale. But the new owners are such lovely, considerate, generous folk, we wonder how we did without them. He’s in advertising and we share a snarky sense of humor. Their two well behaved canines are a joy. Jake, the pseudo-Newfie (no, he’s some other breed but to me looks like a Newfoundland hound). Jake is big and black and the type that would jump in the water at a moment’s notice and pull me to safety. Given I hate water, that’s a plus.

Oh, and how about the contract for Merry Acres Widows Waltz. Woo hoo! Coming out in March 2011.

Okay, one final comment. Valentine’s. Another bottle of not- to-be-named-here hand lotion of a perfume fragrance I abhor. I mean, an observant person might feel three other full bottles of various varieties, perfume, bath scent, etc., languishing in the powderoom, guest bath, and my dresser a clue it’s not used much. But. Maybe I’ll regift it next year to the dental hygienist.

Nan D Arnold lives in Georgia with a retired husband (pray for her), three pesky cats and a hundred characters chattering away in her head.

Monday, February 21, 2011


Fear – A Deadly Emotion

Fear can freeze genius. It can render speechless, it can stop a heart. And it is the single deadliest emotion for anyone who has a dream.

All of us hold some dream close to our hearts. We nurture this, we tend it like an infant, and we will turn into she-bears if someone trods on, or even close, to our little seedlings that are just beginning to sprout.

But the one limitation, the single greatest factor that will prevent those seedlings from blossoming is fear. Fear of failure. Fear of mockery. Fear of becoming injured. Whatever the dream is, there’s a counterpart, a negative reason we will often embrace to protect ourselves. Often at the detriment of our dream, to the point many of us will forsake that dream. Or, we’ll keep it so buried it doesn’t have a hope of seeing the sunlight it needs to grow roots.

I’ve known talented equestrians who won’t move up to the next level because they are afraid they won’t succeed there. All kinds of excuses usually give them the room to avoid the possibility of failure: I need a better horse, I’m just not ready yet, maybe next year… All the while they’re riding at that upper level in lessons and there’s not a single glitch in their movements. They are ready. Fear holds them back.

I’ve met and talked with budding authors who have finished their book, but fear of rejection has kept them from sending it out. Again, the excuses run the gamut: I need to go through it one more time; I’m waiting on my friend to read it; I can’t write a synopsis… Again, this is fear speaking. Fear has rooted in and killed the dream before it could ever take root and grow.

No one wants to open their heart and possibly bleed. We’ve all had that happen, in some fashion or another, and it isn’t pretty. We’d rather live in our protective bubbles, safe from cuts and bruises and knowing that we can’t be wounded. Really, who wouldn’t choose security and comfort over the terrifying unknown?

Or maybe, that someone has tried the dream and already failed, or perceived the experience as a failure. When this happens in romance, we call it “Jaded”, or “Bitter”. Really, it’s the fear of opening ourselves to someone else and taking the chance we might bleed again.

My heroine in Timeless Valentine, Olivia, struggles with fear. She’s become so convinced of protecting herself from the mistakes of her past, the encounters that have told her romance can only end one way, she won’t take that risk and let the dream she harbors have a chance at wings. She hides all this, as many of us do, beneath sarcasm, wit, and keeps everyone at arms distance.

Until Lucas Benning, her childhood tormentor, forces her to open her eyes… as well as her heart.

Valentine’s is over with now, and we’ve all eaten our fill of chocolates and had our romantic adventure. But for any of you who can understand how it feels to hold a dream and how terrifying it can be to consider building that dream, you’ll relate to Olivia’s struggles. Like her, I hope you’ll learn sometimes the best thing you can do is embrace that fear and take the risk.

Childhood hatred fired their blood. Yet, a Valentine’s Day experiment inflames their hearts…

When Lucas Benning relocated to Kansas City, his best friend’s sister became his roommate. Problem is, they’ve despised each other since he cut off her hair when she was fifteen. But with Valentines Day looming, his sentimental side can’t accept Olivia’s jaded perspective the holiday’s for fools. He vows to prove romance doesn’t go hand-in-hand with sex. Except, a game he starts to prove a point awakens a frightening passion he can’t escape.

Eccentric artist, Olivia McDaniels, finds Lucas’ proposal laughable. Yet, when her brother commissions a portrait of Lucas, she sees a different side of the man--tender and selfless. To her horror, he chips away at the walls around her heart. Only, Lucas belongs to another woman, and the feelings he stirs can only lead to pain.

As the holiday arrives, will Cupid's arrows forge a timeless bridge between their differences, or will they eternally miss their mark?
Claire has been writing since her early teens and maintained the hobby for twenty years before deciding to leap into the professional world. Her first contemporary novel, Seduction's Stakes, sold to the Wild Rose Press in 2008, and she continues to write steamy, sexy stories for the Champagne line.

In 2010, she sold a paranormal romance to Tor Romance, involving the Knights Templar. This series will release sometime in 2011.

Writing, however, isn't her only passion. When she's not sitting at the computer ticking out plotlines, she raises and trains Oldenburg, Thoroughbred, and Arabian horses. Time allowing, she competes in the sports of Show Jumping, 3-Day Eventing, and Dressage. Many of her favorite barn friends make cameo appearances in her horse-themed novels.

Claire lives on a small farm in Missouri with her two toddler sons, fifteen horses, and five dogs. She credits her success to her family's constant support and endless patience.


Friday, February 18, 2011


Where Does Inspiration Come From?

I’ve been fascinated with events of World War Two since I was a child. Growing up, my father would tell stories about his time in the Canadian Army. He enlisted in 1942 and trained at a couple of bases in Western Canada before being shipped to England. There he was given further training, and although he didn’t know it at the time, he was being prepared, along with thousands of other Allied soldiers, for the invasion of Europe. On June 6, 1944, D-Day, my Dad was part of the Canadian contingent that stormed Juno Beach in Normandy, France. By June 9, 1944 he was captured by the Germans and spent the next eleven months as a prisoner of war. 

Luckily, he survived the invasion and his captivity and lived into his eighties. But his ordeal has always stayed with me, leaving me with an appreciation for the hardships people of that era went through and a fascination with the history of the period.

When I started to write romance, conventional wisdom said that “historical” novels had to be set before World War One, and usually before the turn of the century. So I concentrated on contemporary romance, feeling that I had a better handle on modern times then I did on times past. But still I carried a desire to someday write about the 1940s and the events that had captured my interest since childhood.

Fast forward to January 2010. The Wild Rose Press had put out a call for stories for their “Jewels of the Night” series. The series would be comprised of novella-length romantic suspense stories involving a blue diamond. They could be set in any time period. I really wanted to participate in the series. After much thought, I finally came up with an idea that allowed me to indulge my interest in World War Two history: what if a famous and very valuable blue diamond was stolen by the Nazis and was about to be sold in exchange for weapons that would be used against the Allies and possibly extend the war? What if this event took place in occupied France in 1942, and what if the only person who could help the French Resistance steal back the diamond was in jail in England for jewel theft? As I answered those questions, “Flawless” was born.

Writing a historical novel based on real historical events, was a new and daunting task for me. I read about the history of the time, and the events that led up to 1942 occupied France. I also read about the French Resistance and the support some parts of the Resistance received from the British Special Operations Executive (SOE). This group sent French speaking spies into France and supplied the Resistance with arms and two-way radios that allowed them to report on German troop movements and other events of interest to the British. I also researched the Lysander, the sturdy little plane used by the British to drop spies into France because of its ability to land and take off on short runways, and to fly low enough to be undetectable to German radar. There were a lot of other things, like what does a French Chateau look like, what kind of dress was worn in the 1940s, and how do you pick the lock of a safe?

While the research might have been extensive, “Flawless” was a labor of love. It was released on January 5, 2011 by The Wild Rose Press. If you enjoy stories set in World War Two, or are a lover of romantic suspense, this story is for you.  
Jana Richards has tried her hand at many writing projects over the years, from magazine articles and short stories to paranormal suspense and romantic comedy.  She loves to create characters with a sense of humor, but also a serious side.  She believes there’s nothing more interesting then peeling back the layers of a character to see what makes them tick.

When not writing up a storm, working at her day job as an Office Administrator, or dealing with ever present mountains of laundry, Jana can be found on the local golf course pursuing her newest hobby.  

Jana lives in Western Canada with her husband Warren, along with two university aged daughters and a highly spoiled Pug/Terrier cross named Lou. 

You can reach Jana at her website, blog or Facebook She currently has a contest running on her website with three prizes of books to be won. Come take a look!

Wednesday, February 16, 2011


When I’m writing I don’t often have much time to read.   And what reading time I do have is limited to research books.  But when I turn in a book and have a few weeks of downtime, my first stop is the bookstore and library.  Armed with my TO BE READ list, I collect all the books I’ve been coveting and dive in.
Reading for me is a bit like filling the well.  I find myself relaxing as I crack open a book and settle back on the couch.  I let go of worries about plot, structure and characterization and just enjoy the story before me.  It’s a true gift to be swept away by a story and forget that I really should be cooking dinner or switching the latest load of laundry. 
Today I was online ordering books from the web and from my local library.  I never limit myself to any one genre or one author.  I read across the board and even search out that which might not only be fun but challenging. 
I’ve got a real mixed back on my TBR pile right now.   And no doubt by the end of the day, the list will be even longer.  Right now it includes:
The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest, Stieg Larsson
Moonlight Mile, Denise Lehane
The Lost Art of Listening, Michael Nichols
Ice Land, Betsy Tobin
The Wolves of Andover, Kathleen Kent
My heroine Eva Rayburn in SENSELESS is a big reader.  Her books are neatly almost reverently organized in her small room.  Books have been her companions for years and at times her salvation. 
So what have been some of the books you can’t bear to take off your keeper shelf?  I’m always looking for a book to dive into and would love to hear your suggestions.
Mary Burton captivates readers with stories of mystery, crime and relationships--destined to keep readers on the edge of their seats.  Her January 2010 book SENSELESS is a romantic suspense set in Virginia.  When she’s not writing her latest novel, she is most definitely in the kitchen cooking.

Monday, February 14, 2011



When I was asked to write this blog, Judy wrote: This is a chance for readers to get to know you.

My question: which me do you want to know?

All of us wear many hats. Maybe some of them are daughter, wife, mother, divorcee or widow. Even limiting myself to my writing life, my hat collection is enormous.  My first novel was a Regency-era historical that was born out of my first love, Georgette Heyer’s Regency novels. My book was sexier, having been written during a more permissive time. I moved on to write for Silhouette Romance, which meant short books with the bedroom door closed on intimacy. When I lost my editor and the line closed, I found my career floundering.

Presto, change-o: I created Suz deMello, erotica author, and ventured into the kinky new world of online erotic romance.  Suz writes mostly paranormal erotic romance, and boy, she sure pushes the limits. No closed bedroom doors for Suzie. In fact, nothing is off limits.

But Sue Swift bravely soldiered on, writing her brand of romance, though with more freedom than Silhouette allowed. And more attention: my books published by Five Star have garnered reviews from Kirkus, Booklist and Publishers’ Weekly.

Now, my writing career has slowed while I am editing for Total-E-Bound, a British erotica publisher. While neither writing nor editing are careers I contemplated as a child or even as a young adult, I love my work and believe I have fallen into my dream job.

So what’s the message? If you want to succeed in publishing, be prepared to not only write wonderful books, but learn to be flexible. Adapt to changing times. Seize opportunities as they arise. Think outside the box—hell, destroy the box. It may seem like a cozy cave but really, it isn’t doing anything but hemming you in.

Good luck!

Best-selling, award-winning author Sue Swift has written over a dozen novels, plus several short stories and non-fiction articles. She writes in numerous genres including romance, mystery, paranormal, historical, contemporary comedy and erotica, which she publishes using a pseudonym.

Her books have been favorably reviewed in Publisher’s Weekly, Kirkus and Booklist, attained the finals of the RITA and reached the top ten on a bestseller list.

A former trial attorney, her hobbies are yoga and world travel. She resides in northern California, where she’s working on her next manuscript, planning her tenth trip overseas and editing erotica for a British publisher, Total-E-Bound.

Her travel blogs are Susan Overseas ( and Travel as Metaphor ( 


Hot isn't a hot enough word to describe corporate raider Fletcher Wolf, but since he's suing couturier Cara Fletcher for, oh, a gazillion dollars, she figures she shouldn't hit on him…at least not too hard.

On top of that, she wonders if he's responsible for the harassment and vandalism that's plaguing her, irritants that escalate into crimes when her workshop is trashed to the tune of a hundred thousand dollars. The economic damage enables him to seize her company, bringing him into her life on a daily basis. When her Manhattan loft home is torched and her assistant murdered, Cara realizes that the man she wants is the only man who can keep her safe.

Swift, author of Spy Game (2008), mixes sex, danger, and fashion in this fun…romantic suspense novel that will appeal to readers of traditional romance as well as fans of sexy mysteries like Janet Evanovich’s Stephanie Plum capers. Aleksandra Walker, Booklist