On the heels of Nicole’s post about e-readers came Jonathan Franzen’s disparaging comments about e-books.  Twitter exploded with rebuttals, and one question caught my attention: Are e-books even real books? I rolled my eyes, feeling like I’d landed back in Philosophy 101 where we debated whether or not the tree outside the window was really there.

When I’m reading—on my iPad—I don’t think, “Hey, I’m reading an e-book.” I’m simply reading. When I’m writing, I don’t think, “Hey, I’m going to slack on this manuscript and target an e-pub.” I’m simply writing the best story I can write.

On the surface, none of my thoughts or actions seems controversial, but other people sure do get worked up about e-books and e-publishing. At the crux is this idea that print books are of better quality writing and storytelling than digital books. Haters espouse that a digital book is only a digital book because it wasn’t good enough for the “legitimate” publishing world to stand behind.

Good God, why care that much? If you like it, read it. If you don’t, stick with what you love. Come to think of it, maybe that’s the real issue. Is all the noise because some people are worried they’ll lose what they love?

Though I love my e-books, I can’t imagine a world without paper books.

Bottom line: I hate to argue. I want the world to hold hands and run through a beautiful field of poppies, but I’m not holding my breath for the digital haters to grab on anytime soon. Why can’t we all get along?

Seriously, the world is big enough for all of us.



Why I Love My E-Reader

January 30, 2012

This past week we’ve spent a lot of time doing projects that need to be done around the house before Baby #2 arrives. One of things I’ve had to do is downsize my bookshelf space since I have now lost my “office.” (Please note I put that in quotes because I never actually used it aside from storing books and office supplies.)

So, I went through my books, boxing up any that I didn’t want easily at hand. I’ve moved a lot over the course of my life, and this is the first time I went through my books with the express purpose of putting some of them away. Off my bookshelf, out of sight. I was surprised at how easy it was to box up my history books from college, teaching books from when I was working, and even books I simply didn’t like or never got around to reading (and at this point probably never will).

Back when e-readers were a newfangled thing, I never imagined I would own one. How could it replace the feel of a book in your hands? Still, last year my Mom got me a Kindle for my birthday and I’ve pretty much read exclusively from it since then. After moving bookcases, going through books, etc over and over again I see more and more the benefit of my e-reader.

I already have so much clutter. Toys everywhere. Husband’s T-shirts multiplying at night, I swear. Pictures, knicks-knacks, and did I mention toys? My Kindle is just this little thing. It isn’t hard to move or heavy. The babies can’t pull it off the shelves and clutter the floor with it.

Of course, there’s something to be said about a paper book. About underlining favorite lines, and I’ve even considered buying print versions of some e-books I’ve particularly loved. But, honestly, at this point in my life having all of my books in one tiny little device is exactly what I need to keep my sanity.


As you may have guessed, even if I hadn’t told you, I’m a little bit quirky. I have little habits, little rituals…QUIRKS. I told you they’re quirks, I can live with that. So, I have these little quirks that I use for motivation, inspiration and sometimes just out of habit.

Like the fact that when I learned to type in the sixth grade, I didn’t have a computer. Okay, the truth is that when I learned to type I don’t think anyone had a computer…at least not at home, it was 1973. So let’s start again, when I learned to type I didn’t have a typewriter. I wanted to type so badly. Well, I had to learn to type, after all, how could I write if I didn’t type. Now writing wasn’t a career, because after all, I needed to get a real job and I was going to be a teacher, but I had to write, because, well…that’s what I do.

So, I signed up for a six-week typing mini course at school…yes, six weeks, that’s it…followed by six weeks of shorthand. Yes, I do have short little hands, but that wasn’t what it was about. Rent an old movie about secretaries if you don’t know what shorthand is… So I didn’t have a typewriter. (I said that already.) But, I wasn’t alone. There were many kids in the little Ohio farm town where I grew up who didn’t have typewriters at home. So the teacher gave us a cardboard typewriter keyboard to practice finger placement at home. Now I was lucky enough to have a wonderful neighbor who knew how excited I was…and happened to have a portable typewriter. (Okay, I’m getting tired of this, but if you don’t know what a typewriter looked like GOOGLE IT ALRIGHT! Really, it’s not that long ago. They still sell them…at thrift stores, but they still sell them.)

So for six weeks I had a typewriter, and when I left that typing class, I typed eighteen words a minute…there may or may not have been errors, I don’t remember. I reluctantly returned the borrowed typewriter. My mother made me. But I kept the cardboard keyboard and practiced typing on it every day. I knew I was getting faster, but without a real typewriter I didn’t know how to test myself. I wanted to be a good typist, and I would sit in my room, with my cardboard keyboard on my desk, and play “writer” as I typed on my pretend typewriter. I didn’t play “secretary,” because that would have required shorthand, and after six weeks of shorthand, well there’s a reason that half of you don’t know what it is!

So I would practice my “typing,” and I thought I was getting faster and faster. I started taking my cardboard typewriter down to the family room when I watched television. Yes, back then in the old days, there was only one television in most homes…and there was a good chance that it was black and white…and it didn’t have a remote…well, it did but I was the remote. So, I’d take my little keyboard down to the family room, and I’d start typing during the commercials. I’d try to keep up with whatever words were printed on the screen during commercials, and if there weren’t enough words then I’d try to keep up with whatever was being said.

So here’s where it gets quirky…yes, QUIRKY—not OCD, just quirky. Eventually, typing without a typewriter became a habit. I didn’t just type during commercials, sometimes I absently mindedly typed during programs or when my mother was talking in the car. Not only that, but I didn’t always have a keyboard. Yep, that’s right, I abandoned my cardboard keyboard…I may have worn it out, and I would type on my thigh or on the table… Come on, it’s not that weird. Drummers drum on the table or the back of chairs all the time.

I saved all of my babysitting money that year…and bought a real typewriter. And yes, my typing had improved immensely. I was up to forty-three words per minute…possibly with errors, I don’t remember, and of course, by this time I knew the keyboard by heart.

No one ever noticed my little “air typing” habit, well at least they didn’t say so if they did. And until today, I’ve never told anyone else except of course Hunky Hubby, because he may have figured it out on his own—I occasionally type on his leg when at the movies or in the car when we’re sitting at a stoplight. NO, IT IS NOT OCD. It’s QUIRKY…I can live with quirky. So yes, I still type without a keyboard.

And really, when I started this rant, I was going to talk about writing quirks and how occasionally I go through my old short stories and poems and read them all the way back to when I was a kid. I still have the versions that I typed on my first typewriter…yes, WAAAY back then. But, now I don’t have time to talk about that, and besides for some reason I’m a little angry, so maybe I’ll write about that next week. Maybe.

What are your writing quirks? And don’t try to tell me you don’t have any, I know you do. You do don’t you? Please, please tell me about them…

And, by the way, the last time I tested myself I typed eighty-three words a minute, one error, so my little quirk isn’t such a bad thing!


After ten years of writing and editing non-fiction, I know it’s not enough for a writer to state a claim or pick a side and then write the words. Unless it’s an essay or opinion piece, outside sources are required to support the writer’s claims. Finished copy is expected to be turned in with a complete source sheet, detailing the expert and anecdotal sources spoken to and their contact information. In some cases, source sheets list medical studies, times and dates of lectures, and or details about transcripts. All of these things have one goal: to support the writer’s claim(s).

In the years I’ve been writing fiction, I’ve encountered people who think I left the non-fiction world because fiction is “easier.” The writer has “free reign.” After all, the story is made up, they say. But just because a story is fiction doesn’t mean it can’t and shouldn’t be believable.

When a fictional character acts or reacts, writer’s need to support that claim. Hard Ass Alpha Male can’t cry in Chapter Ten without some substantial “support” for his action (the claim). Remember, just because the writer says it’s so, doesn’t mean it is.

Think: What sources back up this claim? The best source is always a primary source, a person with direct knowledge of the subject matter.

In this case, the subject matter is Hard Ass Alpha Male’s behavior. Nobody knows this guy better than this guy knows himself. For our purposes, we’re going to call Hard Ass Alpha Male the expert primary source. When Hard Ass cries in Chapter Ten, if it’s a legitimate claim, then there are other actions (small though they may be), thoughts and feelings in earlier chapters that support this behavior.

  • Maybe he felt a lump in his throat in Chapter Four, showing he’s capable of emotion.
  • Maybe he thinks about the time he cried in high school after losing out on the class presidency, showing there’s a precedent for this sort of behavior.
  • Maybe a bunch of little misfortunes in chapters one through eight have him fighting back tears throughout Chapter Nine, anticipating his breaking point.

If you can detail moments like these, then you’re on the right track. But if Hard Ass rips through chapters one through nine with nary a smile or twinge in his heart, if he stomps around saying emotion other than anger shows weakness without so much as a fleeting thought to the contrary, you could have a problem with believability when that first tear falls.

To make a claim even stronger, take a look at the secondary sources. What do the other characters tell the reader about Hard Ass Alpha Male?

  • Maybe Happy Healthy Heroine notices early on that when he’s particularly harsh to her, his brow twitches, and it looks uncomfortable, and she surmises the action to mean he’s uncomfortable with treating her that way, that he’s capable of feeling, but for some reason he won’t set the emotion free.
  • Maybe Flashy Business Partner knows how much Hard Ass drinks when the stakes are high, and he’s worried that drinking to numb the pain is going to backfire someday.

Coupled with instances from a primary source, secondary sources strengthen a claim.

So what? Who cares? Does analyzing character motivation from this many perspectives really matter? I hope so. Otherwise, I’m wasting a lot of time. 🙂 Hopefully, the extra step is worth the effort. I’m suspicious that sufficient support of a writer’s claims results in an effortless story, one that seemingly tells itself without rude interruptions from a writer, who’s trying to force character motivations down the reader’s throat.

I don’t want to be known as a pusher. 😉 Bestselling author has a better ring, don’t you think? (Hey, a girl can dream.)


My Name and/or Pen Name: Summer Vasu

Blog/web site/twitter: I’m on twitter @SummerVasu

Where I write: When I’m at home, I write at my desk, on my laptop. But nowadays, I mostly do my editing here. I used to scribble in a notebook when on bus ride on way to work. I can tell you it drew a lot of attention. It was funny the way people would crane their necks and try to make out my scribbles – some of which even I found frustratingly incomprehensible later! Once a man said to me, “Mam, I’ve seen people reading on their journeys, you’re the only person I’ve seen writing during one!” That really split my sides and made me shake my head at my own self. But when else would I find the time? Having a job and taking care of husband, two kids and in-laws at home rather narrows the leisure a bit. Though it’s touch and go when they’ll all decide to disown me for having writing more on my mind than cooking, washing and all the rest of it. Now since hubby’s got me a Blackberry, I’ve given up on scribbling and usually hide the screen with my index while I jab down short hand to keep up with the flow of thoughts.

What I write: Contemporary romance, or mostly along Modern HMB lines. Have been trying my hand on a paranormal short, hopefully I’ll finish it.

Worst rejection: Combined rejects of last two years number up to four. Except one, they were all standard Rs. My worst one was probably the third I got for a Modern, since I had high hopes for that one. But I quite see what I did wrong and am grateful for the experience. And oh yes, one even worse was losing a contest. It rankled so much, I turned a sore loser and didn’t vote for the finalists at all. That was early 2011. Hopefully, it has made me a better person and I won’t do such a thing again.

Best rejection: It was for a medical first chapter submission call from HMB. They called my writing intense and compelling. I was really encouraged by that.

What keeps me writing: The fact that I simply cannot not write. It took me many years to finally start trying, although it was always at the back of my mind in a sort of ‘will do sometime’ way. Since I have started however I find life has become more meaningful despite the rush hour feeling I have created for my every day.

I am a writer because…I love to shape stories, and scenes and conversations that keep running in my head. Two characters involved in intense emotion, that scenario makes me write and I start to lag when I write the in-between filling scenes.


[We’d like to thank Summer for sharing with us. If you’re a romance writer (unpublished or published, straight romance or strong romantic elements) who is interested in being profiled, email Elley.]

When Is it Okay to Quit?

January 24, 2012

For the past 5 months every writing project I’ve worked on is either a rewrite or an edit. In 2011, of the 5 novels I finished, only one was a brand new project.

My current WIP is not only a rewrite (at this point a multiple rewrite), but it’s also part of a series. A series I planned 8 years ago. These people and their story (though that’s changed somewhat) have been taking up space in my brain for eight years. You’d think I’d want to finally get it out.

But… Everything has begun to feel a little stagnant, boring, redundant. I yearn to start something new and fresh and anything I haven’t done before.

The question becomes, is that okay? I spent many years as a writer never finishing anything, so leaving anything unfinished at this point makes me nervous, but at the same time when I sit down to write right now… I’m not excited. I don’t look forward to it. Rarely do I find myself daydreaming about my characters. I stare at a screen and wonder why I thought this whole writing thing was ever a good idea.

I’ve been feeling this way for a while now. Even before I started my current project. Maybe it’s symptomatic of something larger. Maybe it’s just the place I am in my life–I’ve got a lot going on. Maybe it really is the project and I need to move on.

I’m struggling with the “right” answer here, and am constantly reminded there are no right answers except maybe in math and trivia. This is neither, and no choice is set in stone. Still, this is my conundrum. Where I’m stuck.

When it comes to writing, what are the things that trip you up? That stop you in your tracks and make you wonder which step is next? And do you move on from it? I’d love to know.


Is it Monday already? I feel like it should be Saturday. What happened to the weekend?

Ah, well a fresh new week. I didn’t do any writing over the weekend, but I rarely write on the weekend. My house is too busy and our calendar is always packed. This weekend I got to spend Saturday playing with my cousin’s three beautiful daughters, ages 7, 6 and 2. We pulled out all of my craft supplies and made a mess on the table, but we had fun doing it! We rubber stamped pictures, made paper bag puppets, hole-punched butterflies and hearts and glued them to cards. Then we made individual homemade pizzas for lunch. Saturday evening after I picked up the mess, we had good friends over for dinner, and yesterday, Hunky Hubby was busy building a workbench in the garage and organizing, so I took the opportunity to get out of the house for a few hours, because I’ll be sitting here at home writing for the rest of the week.

My goals for the week? Write 10,000 words, finish reading two books I’ve been reading at the same time, write some book reviews, and exercise for at least an hour every day! I think it’s manageable. I really do.

Hunky Hubby bought me a Wii for Christmas. It’s not that I wanted a Wii, the boys wanted a Wii and Hunky Hubby didn’t want to get them another video game system. So, because it was Christmas, and I knew that the boys wanted a Wii, I told Hunky Hubby that I wanted one for exercise. (You know, I’m getting bored with walking at the beach.) He checked them out and got all excited about the fitness opportunities. So, he bought a Wii…for me.

Now of course, the boys have bought a variety of new games and have been playing the new game system non-stop, especially youngest boy (age 20) whose new school semester doesn’t start until mid-February. In the meantime, the Zumba package that Hunky Hubby bought for me, sits still unopened in the living room next to the television.

So this weekend, Hunky Hubby notices that it’s uh…late January, and I haven’t opened the Zumba.  “Hey, I bought this for you, not the kids. They didn’t need another video game system…when are you going to use it? I’m beginning to think you didn’t really want this thing at all, that you manipulated me into getting it for the boys?”

“Me? No honey, I wouldn’t do that…I want the Wii, and I’m very excited about the Zumba. It’s just…well, I’m not comfortable exercising in the living room with people in the house, and there’s always someone here!”

“Uh, huh…Well, then we can just put the system in our bedroom. That way you can take a break from your writing and exercise uninterrupted.” Hunky Hubby is always so resourceful.

So, I promised to use the Wii, while youngest son walks the dog every day…since middle son is rarely there at this time. Now I’m committed.

But, truly, I do need to get up from this computer and move around every now and then, so Zumba…here I come…then I’ll write for two hours, maybe climb up and down my three flights of stairs for a while (it’s raining today, no walk at the beach), write for another two hours, then read at lunchtime. Then hopefully a little more writing…Tomorrow repeat.

So now I have to go downstairs and figure out how to use the Wii…I’ll have to ask youngest son what to do. Odds are I won’t be able to do it by myself, kind of like this new computer, which I love, but I’m still trying to learn. Why is it that everything I do has to involve new technology? Life was so much easier when writing just involved a pen and paper and exercise was a walk on the beach…

Anyway, what’s your plan for the week? Does it include Zumba? Next Christmas I refuse to manipulate Hunky Hubby into getting what the boys really want. Sorry, boys…I love you, but …well, now I have to Zumba!


Writing Brought Us Together

January 20, 2012

As the mother of two teens, I hear a lot about keeping an eye on their whereabouts and talking so they’ll listen. I’ve never been a big believer in parenting (or doing anything really) based on how an expert or even the masses seem to think it should be done. If it feels right for me and my family, I do it. Even so, I hear the expert rumblings about how to keep teens close. Play video games together! Make your house the house where everyone wants to hang. Set firm boundaries and natural consequences for crossing those boundaries. And you’ll have healthy, happy teens who won’t shut you out.

But I don’t like videos games. And for over a year now the constant renovations on my house make it unsafe for teenage whirlwinds to run wild and free. My boundaries? They’re like Swiss cheese. (I follow and teach one “commandment” to my kids: Be kind. The rest sort of falls into place.) Somehow I’ve managed to have healthy, happy teens, but they still shut me out sometimes. After being Queen Coddler when they were babies and toddlers, this hurts. Of course, then I remind myself that they’re successful, independent young men so the wound stings a little less. And then something like this happens, making the hurt disappear:

My oldest brought home a graded, seventy-point English paper yesterday. I read his words, and then his teacher’s words. Both were beautiful. He wrote about baseball. (Yes, we’re obsessed.) She wrote nothing but praise. One of her comments included a question: So you’re going into sports writing, right? I asked him about that question. I wanted to know his answer. I half expected him to grunt and roll his eyes and walk away. Instead he talked to me.

Sure, it was my birthday, so I received extra attention to begin with, but something else happened when I told him how proud I was and that I’d always thought he’d make a wonderful sports writer. He started coming around more, wanting to talk about it until at one point I offered to set him up an anonymous blog where he could start blogging the world of sports from his perspective. He seemed very intrigued.

I was treated to more hugs and conversation with him yesterday than any day before, and I don’t have a single parenting expert to thank. Writing brought us together. And for this mom, it doesn’t get much cooler than that.


Silly Passion

January 19, 2012

“Anyone can be passionate, but it takes true lovers to be silly.” Rose Franken

I came across this quote on Pinterest, and I love it. I don’t know where the idea came from, or why I felt that way, but long before I started dating I knew that my perfect match wouldn’t necessarily be someone who would sweep me off my feet with grand romantic gestures. Instead I was interested in someone who could make me laugh and someone who could appreciate my own silliness.

Which is why my favorite romance novels, the ones that truly stick with me, are the ones that show the heroine and hero tease each other or have silly moments. In Nora Roberts’ Birthright, the heroine plays the Jaws theme because she knows it freaks the hero out. Makes me giggle every time. In Shannon Stacey’s Yours to Keep, a game of scrabble turns far more steamy, but it starts off in a fun, silly place.

When I think of happily ever after, when you as a writer want me to believe the main characters are in love and will remain that way, when you want me to believe they are companions for life, I need to know they can laugh together, be silly together, as much as I need to know they can get through the hard stuff together.


My Name and/or Pen Name: Gillian Colbert

Blog/web site/twitter: http://www.blackdoorpress.com and twitter is @GillianColbert  

Where I write: I write out of the Deep South in my little space carved out amongst my eleven-year-old daughter and my  two Pitbulls who rule the roost.

What I write: I write erotic fiction, non-fiction and poetry.

Worst rejection: A form letter that told me absolutely nothing about why they rejected me.

Best rejection: “Great story. We’ve just closed to freelance submissions,” from Jack and Jill magazine.

What keeps me writing: The voices in my head clamoring to get their stories told and out for the world to see.

I am a writer because… I am driven to create worlds and characters that challenge their insecurities in the search for their one true mate.


[We’d like to thank Gillian for sharing with us. If you’re a romance writer (unpublished or published, straight romance or strong romantic elements) who is interested in being profiled, email Elley.]