Monthly Archives: March 2013

Books: Susan Kelley!


MarinesQueenSMThanks for having me back on The Whole Shebang. I’m thrilled to announce the release of my newest futuristic romance, The Marine’s Queen. With all the advancements in genetic coding and the hopes and fears that go with that, I think readers will find my ‘super soldier’ story has an interesting take on the idea.


The plot of genetically enhancement isn’t unheard of in science fiction. From Kahn of Star Trek fame to Kurt Russell in Soldier, the fiction genre has treated this topic in a variety of ways. The Recon Marine, Joe, in my novel is more along the lines of normal psychological expectations than the aforementioned examples, but he struggles to understand the civilian world he was created to protect but never expected to occupy. Some of his difficulties will make you laugh but at the same time you feel a bit sorry for him. He needs a special woman to help him fit into a life without battles.


Here’s a short blurb:


Queen Callie Adell’s enemies want her for the secret elixir only her bloodline can produce. She flees an abduction attempt and lands in the arms of the most feared military man in the universe. Recon Marine Captain Joe, a genetically enhanced soldier, knows little of civilian life or of women. But his body knows what it wants from Callie even if his mind suffers mostly confusion in her presence.

Joe’s sense of honor and duty demands he protect the queen even if she can never overlook his unnatural origins and love him as a man. But neither of them can ever be safe if Callie doesn’t protect Joe from those who want to destroy him as much as her enemies wish to capture her. Only if she can civilize her marine will the world accept him as more than a living weapon. But can Callie convince Joe that he’s a man first, her man, and a marine second?


You can buy The Marine’s Queen in ebook here.


If you prefer a paperback copy, you can find it on Amazon.


Thanks again to Shebang for having me. If you want to read more of my humble take on the world of writing and books in general, please stop by my blog, Susan Says.


Have you ever watched the Star Trek movie with Kahn in? I heard they might remake it sometime. Did you see Kurt Russell in Soldier? Do you think we’ll have genetic engineering to improve the human body anytime soon?

Music: Dave Russell!


What kinds of things do you generally paint or take pictures of? I range from abstracts to life studies

What inspires you to create? Stresses and tensions

Do you have the picture already in your mind before you paint it or do you start painting and uncover it?        Definitely the latter

Do you have a favorite painting of yours? It is called ‘Jungle’, and portrays dense vegetation.

Who would you consider an influence on your art? Picasso, Chirico and countless others

Do you listen to music when you paint? Who? Sometimes; Debussy, Bartok, Hindemith

Tell me something quirky about yourself. I also play guitar and write quirky songs

What do you aim to make people feel when they view your art? I want them to feel stimulated

What’s next for you?  Attempted collation of my works

Do you sing in the shower? Occasionally
B.1940; live in London UK. Artwork recently featured in Poetry Express Newsletter, produced by Survivors Poetry & Music. Main music albums are ‘Bacteria Shrapnel’ and ‘Kaleidoscope Concentrate’. Many tracks on YouTube. Also publish poems and short stories.

  1. Mental Fight Club

Mental Fight Club is, in essence, an adventure story. You can read this story here and learn more about our seven Muses by clicking on the icons on the right.

Books: Barbara Barrett!


Photo by Leslie Sloan

I write contemporary romance, thus far of the “sensual” variety.

What inspires you to write?

I do well speaking to groups, but in casual conversation, I tend to hang back and wait for the other person to finish speaking. Frequently, someone else beats me to the punch and the process of waiting to speak repeats itself. The practice of raising your hand to be recognized was meant for me. So I guess I write because the computer lets me have my say (unless it refuses to acknowledge the tab settings I want, which was the case today). A supportive teacher in grade school encouraged me to write. A little encouragement apparently went a long way. These days, what inspires me to write is usually a “what if” question, as was the case with my most recent book, And He Cooks Too. I wondered what would happen if a cooking show host really couldn’t cook. From there I was off spinning my tale.

Do you listen to music or set the mood somehow to get writing?

I listen to television. Is it distracting? Probably. Could I be more productive without it? More than likely. It’s a bad habit I developed in high school and then college while I studied and haven’t been able to shake. However, I am pretty successful blocking it out. Sometimes the credits will be rolling before I realize a program is over, because I’ve gotten so engrossed in developing the latest chapter.

Do you come up with the plot or characters first?

Plot. I already alluded to the “what if” process. I’ll come across an interesting situation and then start playing around with “what would have happened if x had been y instead?” or some version of that speculation. I don’t get very far with the plot, though, until I’ve explored the question, “what kind of person would wind up in a situation like that?” That’s when character development occurs. I develop a rough sketch of my main characters using Debra Dixon’s “Goal, Motivation and Conflict” method (What does the character want? Why do they want it? What prevents them from having it?), then I return to the plot. I fall somewhere between being a pantser and plotter. I need a “roadmap” to write my story: how my characters get from Point A to Point Z, but the points in between occur as I think of them.

AndHeCooksToo_7346_750Do you have a favorite book of yours?

No, not yet. Two of my books have been published. Obviously, those top the list. I love the first, The Sleepover Clause, because it was the first and it takes place in my hometown of Burlington, Iowa. I love the second, And He Cooks Too, because of the cooking aspect. I became a huge fan of Food Network programs as I was doing research on the book. But I also love the three or four other manuscripts in some phase of development because I’m continuing to learn my craft and incorporate new ideas I’ve picked up from my editors, my writer friends, readers, and my own experience.

Who would you consider an influence on your writing?

Three pictures hang on my office wall, my muses. Whenever I feel the need to improve the exposition part of my writing, I turn to the works of Nora Roberts for inspiration. Her descriptions and narrative are poetry. I love the way Linda Howard spins a plot, especially the numerous unexpected twists. And Janet Evanovich’s sense of humor underlies my interesting in writing on the light side.

Tell me something quirky about yourself.

I’ve lived in Florida the past four winters. Although I’ve heard about the gators in the area, I never saw one outside a zoo or enclosure until this year.  A month ago, I went on a narrated cruise of the St. John’s River in Blue Springs State Park, ostensibly to view the manatees, but in reality we were able to be more up close and personal with the alligators there. After having the first two or three pointed out by our captain, I started spotting them on my own, now knowing what to look for. It became a game, to see if I’d notice them before the captain, and I did pretty well on a couple. I brought that interest home with me, especially since it’s “mating season” for gators, which makes the males less shy. Not that I’ve been trekking around the various retention ponds – I’m not that brave, or stupid – but as I’ve been driving by certain water spots, my eyes search the shore, seeking the critters. There’s one, in particular, that’s out about every sunny day. What’s the payoff? I have no idea. That’s what makes this quirky, because I can’t explain my fascination, just follow it.

What do you aim to make people feel when they read your books?

Satisfied. Whatever promise I make with the story question is fulfilled. To get to that point, I want readers to be intrigued by the plot and find it credible, to care for and root for my characters, and to accept the story resolution. If my stories take them out of their lives for just a bit or they learn something from the story, that’s great too. (If they cry at the end, that’s a bonus.)

What’s next for you?

Writing-wise, I’m currently working on the sequel to The Sleepover Clause, working title, The Travel Clause. I’m also revisiting two manuscripts I wrote sometime back. One is a chick-lit I’m now describing as Women’s Fiction and the other is about a soap opera. I want to finish that revision before all the current network soap operas disappear. I’m also continuing to expand the promotional efforts for my books and further develop my brand, like seeking more reviews, creating a trailer for my books and attending more reader events. I recently gave a presentation on romance writing to a group at Stetson University in Celebration, Florida and discovered how much I enjoyed doing that sort of thing; I’d like to do more of that in future months.

Do you sing in the shower?

Only in the car. When I’m alone. And only with songs I really love. I get the best radio reception for a Top 40 station, so I’m up on names like Mumford, Keshia, Bruno Mars, although if I hear Taylor Swift having “Trouble” one more time, which I will, I’m going to turn it off. But don’t I wish our books got so much play.


Barbara Barrett spent her professional career as a human resources analyst for Iowa state government, and that training has stayed with her in her writing of contemporary romance fiction. The theme of her writing, “Romance at Work,” reflects her fascination with the jobs people do and infiltrates her plots almost to the point of becoming a secondary character.


A member of Romance Writers of America and several of its affiliate chapters, she was first “published” in sixth grade when a fictional account of a trip to France appeared in her hometown newspaper, the Burlington Hawk-Eye. Years later, she was fortunate enough to visit the subject of her essay, although in it she never envisioned that she would trip on a curb near the Arc d’Triomphe and have to limp her way through the Louvre.


Now retired, Barbara spends her winters basking in the Florida sunshine and returns to her home state of Iowa in the summer to “stay cool.” She is married to the man she met in dormitory advisor training her senior year of college. They have two grown children and six grandchildren. When she’s not writing, she’s busy lunching with friends or playing Mah Jongg.


Her first book, The Sleepover Clause, was released by Crimson Romance in September of 2012. Her second book, And He Cooks Too, was released by The Wild Rose Press on March 22.


She loves talking about writing romance and welcomes invitations from book clubs to join them via phone calls or the Internet.  Check out her contact information to request she visit your book club.

Contact Information for Barbara Barrett









Twitter: bbarrettbooks




Scenes and Sequels


What is a scene? It is a part of the story that contains action. Each scene in your novel should set up a conflict, preferably one that builds on the previous one, like a series of steps. Step one is the basic story problem. The second step builds on that and ups the ante. The third builds on those two, and so on until you reach the highest step – or climax – of the story.

A scene puts the reader in the here and now. The action unfolds as they read, not in the past, where backstory takes place. Scenes contain setting details so the reader knows where he or she is as well as what is happening. They also contain action that is usually shown through dialogue between two or more characters. A scene contains three parts: goal (something the main character needs or wants), conflict (why s/he can’t have it), and disaster (a new problem as a result of the conflict). Each of these elements is important to a scene. And it’s important to keep upping the ante (the disaster), but remember to give your reader some breathing room too – a sequel.

A sequel also contains three parts – reaction (to something that happened), dilemma, and decision(what to do next). You can think of sequels as standing on the step of the staircase just before you take the next step up. You build the tension and action up, then give the characters a little rest. Let them catch their breaths for a couple of pages, then go back into the action. Sequels contain emotions, retrospection, or analysis. They are where the character has to step back, look at what has happened, and make a decision what to do next.

One thing you don’t want to do is overdo the narration part of a sequel. Though it is introspective, it should not be long or boring. Often authors go into what’s called an “info dump” where they tell the reader what’s going on, what has happened in the past, or what is going to happen. Narration slows the action down, but you don’t want to slow it down so much the reader gets bored and stops reading.

By utilizing scene and sequel, you control the pace of your story. Pacing is the rate at which the story proceeds. In a romance, your hero and heroine need to occasionally get out of bed; in a murder mystery, the detective needs time to look at the clues and figure out his or her next step. Even the characters in an action/adventure novel need a little time to regroup and reload.

There are two important aspects to check when looking at your pacing. One is the use of flashbacks, the second is called an information dump.

A flashback, also known as backstory, is simply the character thinking or talking about something that happened previously, either before the book started or in a previous section of the work. Usually, it is a bit of background information that is necessary either to understand the character or situation. If it shows up on the first page, or even in the first chapter, you may find yourself losing readers. Backstory rarely contains any action or tension. It is information, period.

The transition between the “now” time of the story and the flashback needs to flow smoothly so that the reader isn’t jarred. If possible, use dialogue to introduce or present backstory information. Dialogue keeps the passage more immediate. But be careful you don’t “info dump”.

An information dump is when you’re using dialogue or prose to present information the reader should have in order to understand the character or action. Yes, giving vital information is good. Giving it all at once, in large gulps, isn’t. Go through your story. Do you have long paragraphs of nothing more than explanations? Get rid of them. Break the info up into smaller bites and scatter it through the scene(s). In that way, you’re still giving the reader the information but not a lecture.

Try answering the following questions to see if you’ve got your scene and sequels heading in the right direction:

  1. What is the event that sets off the rest of the action in the book?
  2. Where does the story start? Try to start in the middle of the action or with “ordinary world”, but with something happening. If you start too soon with filler, you’ve lost your readers before you’ve hooked them.
  3. Have you started the first chapter with a bang – something interesting and important that draws the reader on?
  4. Have you avoided overloading the beginning with back story?
  5. Will the reader care what happens to the hero/heroine? Why or why not? If the reader doesn’t care, s/he won’t read the book.
  6. Do the events in each scene lead logically from one to the next, like a chain?
  7. Is there variety to the scenes?
  8. What complications have you thrown in to make reaching their goals difficult?
  9. Where in the book does the reader know the hero/heroine will reach his or her goal? If too soon, you lose readers, if too late, scenes may need to be cut.
  10. Do you have something important happen every three or four chapters?
  11. Have you allowed for areas of downtime?
  12. Have you ended any chapters with someone going to sleep? (not a good thing)
  13. Have you used enough detail to let the reader know setting, character, events, etc. but not so much as to bore him?
  14. Do you establish the main character of each scene at the beginning of the scene?
  15. Have you wrapped up all loose ends by the end of the book without being too predictable?
  16. If a mystery or suspense, do the clues you’ve given throughout the story support the ending?
  17. Do you have a catchy or unique title that is appropriate for the story?
  18. What makes your story unique? What gives it an edge over other stories?
  19. Do you have more dialogue than narration? Dialogue keeps the reader with the characters.
  20. When you read your story out loud, are there areas you tend to skip over? If you find them boring, so will your readers.
  21. Have you varied the length of your sentences? Too many long ones slow down the action and too many short ones lead to choppy reading.
  22. How much “white space” do you have? If you have areas where paragraphs run a half page or longer, can you break them up? There needs to be a balance between short and long.
  23. Have your characters played Hamlet? If they are prone to long, windy speeches, break them up. Have something happen while they’re talking.
  24. Have you devoted the right amount of space relevant to the character’s importance? Major characters get more page space, minor characters get less.
  25. Does the opening introduce the main characters and setting without being an information dump?
  26. Are transitions from “now” to “then” (flashbacks) as smooth as possible? Do you make them feel as if they are happening now

Vicky B

Books: Georgia Lyn Hunter!


lyn1GLH: Thanks Misty for having on your site, it’s a real pleasure to be here.

MS: What genre do your books fall into or is it a genre blended?

GLH: Paranormal romance. It’s a blend of drama, thriller and comedy moments, really. J

MS: What inspires you to write?

GLH: Everything. A drive, people watching, reading, movies… hmmn alleys too—I like the dark dingy stuff J. I’m always creating in my head, even when I’m not writing.

MS: Do you listen to music or set the mood somehow to get writing?

GLH: Absolutely. It differentiates depending on the scenes. But I love musical scores, especially when I write my first draft as opposed to music with words. I have a playlist I wrote to for Absolute Surrender, its on my website.

616705_514408275241967_2123821553_oMS: Do you come up with the plot or characters first?

GLH: Hmmn… hard to say. When I wrote this book, it started off with an idea, but in subsequent books, I started with the characters. I then played around with few ideas and went with the one that resonated within me and fitted my characters.

MS: Do you have a favorite book of yours?

GLH: I have several from different genres. But in the genre I write, my current fave is Caressed by Ice and Lover Unbound.

MS: Who would you consider an influence on your writing?

GLH: My daughter, in the sense she never gave up even when I wondered if I could tackle this project. But I’m so glad she was there for me. And of course my favorite authors. Nalini Singh for her sensual love scenes, JR Ward for her uber male heroes. Dean Koontz for the scare factor.

MS: Tell me something quirky about yourself.

GLH: not quirky per se. I don’t share jellybeans, not even with my kids, which of course they find cute. *snorts*

MS: What do you aim to make people feel when they read your books?

GLH: That love can conquer and overcome all obstacles. Sigh. I’m a hopeless romantic. I throw my characters into the deepest hell and let them fight for their HEA. But more, I want anyone who reads my books to be captured by my characters and be drawn in by them and root for them all the way.

MS: What’s next for you?

GLH: I’ve just finished Darkness Undone, my second book and am currently working on revisions for my third book, also completed, a standalone paranormal romance.

MS: Do you sing in the shower?

GLH: Good God, no! I would never subject anyone to that horror. I do something far better in there…I go through scenes in my head that is difficult to write. I find water soothing, and usually, it helps unravel the blockage.



Author’s facebook:



Buy links:

Black Opal Books:




Barnes and Noble:


BIO: Georgia Lyn Hunter, she’s happiest with a book in her hand and never thought about writing, too busy devouring the books out there, then she read her first paranormal romance several years ago the writing bug bit. She loves creating strong, alpha heroes who think they need no one and the heroines come along and knock them on their gorgeous asses.

She enjoys brainstorming with her daughter over new ideas and have several book ideas plotted out for the story Arc. Now she just wants an extra pair of hands to get it out, because she complains her brain is like a hive, her characters voices too loud, and they all want out. J

She’s excited to finally live her dream with the release of her first book.

Georgia Lyn grew up on the tropical climate of South Africa and now lives in Qatar with her husband and her two children. When she’s not writing or plotting her next novel, she enjoys reading, catching up on missed TV shows and being with her family.

The Plot Thickens


One of the first questions you should ask when you’ve finished your book is “What is my book about?” Try to boil it down to a sentence or two. This is the basis of plot.

Plot is what your story is about. If you just string together a group of sentences that have no coherency, you don’t have a plot. You don’t have a story. You just have words. In order to have a plot – and, therefore, a story – you have to be writing about something, preferably something that is includes conflict. If you write romance – the basic plot is: boy gets girl; boy loses girl; boy gets girl back (usually with a bit more action thrown in for interest.) Or you can think of it this way: plot is two dogs with one bone.

It is important to have a plot that draws the reader in – and keeps him or her reading. Proposing hypothetical questions the reader may ask does this. Consider the following passage from my story, “Prime Time”:

Deena studied the newest crop of lunar tourists and transports milling around the huge domed reception area as her partner began his spiel for his audience. On the far side of the shuttles, she caught a quick glimpse of Security leading out a sorry-looking group in binding collars.

One of the prisoners broke from the line and dashed for the shuttle. He never had a chance. The guards triggered his collar and took him down before he got ten steps. Deena winced as they dragged the unconscious man to a cart and dumped him. She hoped for the prisoner’s sake he never woke up. He’d be much better off. The guard glared at her and she turned away. She was here to do a job and forget whatever she might see. She could do nothing for them. Nothing.

The questions that arise are: What is Deena doing there? Why can’t she help anyone? Why would it be better if the prisoner never woke up? Is Deena a prisoner? What is going on here?  Each question leads to another – and thus, the beginning of a plot.

Plot can take two basic forms, or even a combination of the two. It will usually be either a three-act structure (beginning, middle, end), or, from Joseph Cambell’s writings, be a mythic journey. It can also be a combination of the mythic journey within the three act structure.

In the three act structure, you have the beginning (Act I) in which you introduce the character(s), set the tone, establish the setting, introduce the story problem, and urge the reader to move on to the next section.

Act II is where you expand on these issues and set up the final moment of the story.

Act III is the final battle, the tying up of loose ends, and leave the reader satisfied.

The Mythic Journey, as explained by Christopher Vogler in his book (which I urge you to get), consists of:

Hero in his ordinary world

The call to adventure

Answering the call

Tasks and challenges


Allies and opponents


Final test

The return

In addition to these structures, most plots can be boiled down to patterns:

The quest – Indiana Jones looking for the Ark of the Covenant

Revenge – Inigo Montoya in “The Princess Bride”

Love – choose any “chick flick”

Change – Scrooge in “A Christmas Carol”

Adventure – Dorothy in “Wizard of Oz” or Luke in “Star Wars”

The Chase – “The Fugitive”

One Against – Batman in “The Dark Knight” or Erin Brockovich

One Apart – Rick in “Casablanca” or Han in “Star Wars”

Power – Lord of the Rings

Death Overhanging – death can take three forms: physical, emotional, or professional. For physical, “Titanic”; emotional – “Inception”; professional – “Pretty Woman”

Sometimes it helps to have something in the ending reflect back to the beginning of the story. You can do this with an object or with a situation that mirrors one in the beginning. For instance, if you had a story about a blackout, you could have the hero flicking the light switch at the beginning and – nothing. He goes through the apartment searching for candles. The story continues and on the last page, he flicks on the light switch and gets light – then turns it off and lights a candle.

Or you could have the very nervous heroine entering a particular building and at the end, she enters that same building, but this time, everything has changed, especially her.

When checking on the plot line, ask yourself what is the hero/heroine’s goal? If he or she doesn’t reach the goal, so what? Why should the reader care? What makes the goal so important that we need to read? If the goal or conflict is too simple, you’ll end up with the reader saying “they could have done that on page one”, and if they could have, that’s not a good novel. If the goals aren’t important, neither is the story. Having your character take a shower merely because she wants to isn’t a compelling action. It only becomes important if she happens to be staying at a place called “The Bates Hotel”. (If you don’t understand that reference, check out a little movie called “Psycho” by Alfred Hitchcock.)

Once you’ve set the stakes, raise them. And raise them again. And again. Keep the story growing.

In a full length novel, you will probably have several sub-plots as well as the main plot. A sub-plot is similar to a plot, but may involve secondary characters. Even with other characters, they should have something to do with the plot, a link that ties them to the main story line. Like a plot, they must be tied up at the end.

Then go on to the following questions:

  1. What is your story about?
  2. Who are the main characters in your book? There should be one or two – three at the very most (hero, heroine, villain).
  3. What do they want? What are their internal and external goals and are the goals important enough to carry the entire story?
  4. Why does it matter if your characters do or don’t reach their goals? If it doesn’t matter, you don’t have a story.
  5. When are the goals met? If too soon, you might have a short story, but not necessarily a novel.
  6. How do they meet their goals? They should have to overcome obstacles that make it exceedingly difficult to reach their goals.
  7. Do you have subplots? How do they relate to the main plot?
  8. Is there enough of a story to fill an entire book?
  9. What is the initiating event that sets off the rest of the action in the book?
  10. Does the conflict escalate, with a major complication every few chapters, throughout the book? Is the conflict believable?
  11. Do you use compelling hooks at the end of chapters to keep the reader interested?
  12. Are there enough twists in the plot, especially towards the end, to keep the reader reading?
  13. Do you have subplots? How do they relate to the main plot?
  14. Are all conflicts, problems, loose ends solved at the end?
  15. Do you have a compelling opening sentence? One that draws the reader in and makes him or her want to continue reading? If not, can you make it more compelling?
  16. Where does the story start? Have you included too much backstory?
  17. Do you have a catchy or unique title that is appropriate for the story?
  18. What makes your story unique? What gives it an edge over other stories?

Vicky B

Music: Nathan Rivera!


I love Nathan and I hope you will too. He’s funny and fun and has such a zest for life 🙂 Enjoy!


Music, my dearest friend.


When I was young you took me by the hand, in fact both hands! That’s when we started playing the piano. You were a family friend, you grew up with my father! You two traveled the world together. My brother knew you too. Sitting behind that red drum kit you and him could be heard throughout the neighborhood banging away on the cymbals.


Sometimes I wonder where I would be without you. Driving down the dirty city street I pull up to a stop light. Sitting on the sidewalk with a peculiar posture is an obviously deranged man holding an equally deranged sign. “If not for you…” I think to myself as I continue my city drive, my drive with you! I turn you up and smile, I can’t believe you knew Patsy Cline!


I pull up to our destination. Your song ends as I put my car into park. I love when that happens! I hurrely rush to turn the car off before the next song starts but I’m too late, and I think to myself… “hurrely?” In any case we have arrived. Together you and I step out into the streets of a new place, a new town. Accordion, guitar, harmonica, the necessary pieces to this puzzle we call life.


Walking into the Santa Monica club I hear some pop rock and you blaring loudly on the bar speakers. I am in disbelief, I can’t believe you hung out with those guys! Besides that fact here we are together and it’s minutes away from downbeat. I walk on stage, tune my guitar, arrange the microphones and pick up my accordion. Untangling my long hair from the accordion straps we are ready to play. The set begins. From one instrument to another, each song I am thankful that you are with me every step of the way. The sound man is doing a good job and I am so pleased to have both him and you on my team. My 45 minutes of fame come to an end. I thank the sound guy and internally thank you. You did a good job tonight Music, too bad nobody was listening!


It’s a long drive home but we don’t really mind, we are so busy focusing on each other that time dissipates in the blink of an eye and we have arrived. It’s late and I’m tired but you keep me up. We walk outside and under the gentle light of the moon and stars we make soft and equally gentle sounds come out of the resonator guitar. It’s fun in a quiet way. Sitting on my lone mountain top, I hear the distant city sounds below me and I wonder where you will take me next. The world Music, I want to see the world.