Posts tagged with: liz talley

What you see….what they see….

mosiac chairOnce upon a time in a galaxy far, far away I was a kindergarten room mom.



And as the room mother, when the annual silent auction came around, I was in charge of gathering up donations. Oh, and making a class art project to sell at the auction. Yeah, making an art object with the children in the class. Making an art object with children in the class that was something mosaic. MOSIAC!

Feel free to feel horrified.

I was.

So as I pondered what in God’s creation I could actually do for the class mosaic project, my glance happened upon an iron chair beside the pool that had come with my house (the owner had left it). It had lovely form and if I spray painted it and ripped the ruined cowhide upholstery from the seat, I could paint it and made a new seat…a new mosaic seat. It was brilliant. Truly brilliant. So I took myself off to the local craft store, bought outdoor spray paint in a lovely ivory and a mosaic kit. After lots of cursing and breaking of stones and glass, I hauled it all down to the kiddo’s classroom and the class “helped” me glue on the stones and glass. The kids loved placing the little bright bits of color. It was a true class effort. Sorta. After the making of the mosaic was complete, I sprayed the chair, set the grout and VIOLA! Precious mosaic class art piece for the auction. And, y’all, it was so pretty. I seriously wanted it for myself, but as instructed, I hauled the now heavy chair down to the auction and proudly placed it in the spot for our class.

Two nights later, dressed in my best business casual, swilling from a goblet of wine, I prepared myself for the comments that would come my way. “Oh, my gosh, I LOVE the chair! How did you do it?” or maybe “You have the best auction item. It’s going to fetch a small fortune!” I mean how could it miss? It was adorable and the kids had made it and it was creative and out of the box and….

…no one bid on it.


My precious was a clunker.

I was slightly crushed and somewhat insulted. How could no one bid on my cute chair? Well, here’s the point of this whole post (I know you were wondering) – the chair had to fit a certain person. Not everyone goes to an auction looking for a garden chair for their sunroom, right? A cute handprint painting with little silver beads glued on can go on a desk or a wall.  A wind chime made with mosaic tile can clink outside on any porch (and grandmothers LOVE wind chimes). But a chair? Has to have a spot. And match. Not an easy sale. In my creative lala land, I thought I had something different and thus I assumed it would be well-received. And I was wrong.

And, so we can draw the same parallel with our writing. We often complain that editors and publishing houses (and readers) want something different but not too different. How many times have we heard this? A dozen? Ten dozen? I’m pretty sure all my rejections letters arriving in SASEs (remember those?) said something pretty much like that. And every editor on every panel I ever attended wanted something fresh, not overdone, original….but then said it was too hard to market, they didn’t know how to shelve it, and could I add a secret baby? The book of your heart may stay the book of your heart (fresh and original though it is) if you can’t market it. Which means you have to know the market, you have to know what’s selling, you have to know your buyer, er, reader, and you have to think like a business woman and not a creative genius stuck in lala land wrapped up in the false knowledge your precious is going to sell, sell, sell and break the record for best auction item in the history of class auction items.

That does not mean you won’t find your reader….after all, my cute little chair found a home with the school secretary. She was the only bidder and got a steal of a deal for $30. But she loved that chair. Told me several times over the years how cute it looked in her sunroom next to her houseplants. But I learned my lesson. I had to know my market if I wanted to have my art project go for $350.00 (what the other class made with their cheap wall hanger….seriously!). It doesn’t matter how cool your project is. If there isn’t a market, you’ll be left to wonder why someone didn’t recognize your genius.

Hey, you really do learn all you need to know in kindergarten!

By the way, I have a new precious out. Just released yesterday. It’s my first single title with a new publisher and I’m hoping like mad it’s not a mosaic chair of a book, but rather a pretty little sparkly gem that will look good on everyone’s bookshelf. Here’s the link so you can check it out on Amazon. You’re feeling pretty sorry for me and my chair right now. Hey, I know how to soften a buyer up. LOL.


A Dark Horse is Born

Over the past few months I’ve been swamped. Spring is always busy with baseball, end of school activities and, since I try to write 2-3 books a year, a perpetual deadline. So, yeah, busy. Which means I haven’t blogged here in a while. It’s good to be back among my peeps.

Since I’ve been MIA, I thought I would share a day from my journal several months ago. It was a really good day, a click-my-ruby-slippers-together kind of day. We’ll skip the days with headaches, dirty socks and dismal book sales for now.

March 26, 2015, aka Golden Heart/Rita announcement day

7:00 am – Today is the day calls go out BUT I’m going to pretend I don’t know and act accordingly. Okay, fine. I have to promote the Ruby announcement party. That means I can’t pretend to not know. I’ll just pretend not to care. RITA schmeeta. Who cares? Doesn’t really mean anything. Besides I’m writing today. I have a deadline. Focus, sister. Focus.

9:30 am – Ah, Starbucks! My true friend with your muffins and much needed caffeine. Let’s get the laptop open. And maybe sneak a look at phone and see who has finaled.

10:00 – No writing done. Okay, one sentence done. Sinking realization I’ve entered wrong category. Let me hop on email loop to Rubies and share my idiocy (cause misery loves company). There. Feel better (but not really) but better. Try to focus on wip.

10:15 – chat with fellow writer about Chapter business. Don’t mention RITAS. Don’t think about the fact the categories are filling up. RITAS don’t matter anyway. Right? Right.

11:05 – Screw it. Check Twitter. See lots of congrats. Feel happy for friends. Sad for self. Consider saying to hell with it and buying a cake pop.

11:12 – see I have a message on Twitter. Wait. Abigail Sharpe wants me to check my messages. Why? Wait. What? Is this a sick joke? She better not be asking me something about the Golden Network. Is she in the Golden Network? I can’t remember. But, this could mean something.

11:13 – Send Abigail a message that I’m not at home. Send a question mark. Then send cellphone number just in case.

11:14 – pretend to write. Look at  friend writing across the table and try not to vomit.

11:20 – phone rings. Unknown number from Florida. Pick it up. Answer calmly with hello.

11:20:20 – break down crying when she says she’s calling on behalf of RWA. Scare writing friend. Alyssa Day says magic words  – “Is this Liz Talley? I have really good news.”

11:21 – look at writer friend who looks worried. Her eyes get big with unasked question. I nod and say something into phone that is gibberish.

11:21:20 – hang up and shake like leaf.

11:24 – wipe eyes and call husband’s office. He’s with a patient. Damn it. Leave message. Get on Ruby site and drop the bomb that I finaled in the RITA! The MFing RITAs that seconds ago meant NOTHING!

11:25 – call Mom (should have called her first!) Explain what the Rita is. Assure her it’s a big moment.

11:26 – call agent, switch over to tell husband, switch back to agent. Shut computer down. Who can write a sex scene at a moment like this?

11:35 – go to lunch. Eat grilled chicken and veggies because now I have to buy a dress and not resemble a baby hippo in it.

Rest of day – accept congratulations, try to get a grip on reality, and wash baseball uniforms. Oh, and answer perpetual question of “what is there to eat around here?”

So there’s a glimpse into a helluva day…a most wonderful day. Other good days came as a result of this day, things like getting Godiva chocolates and flowers, receiving invites to fun things like receptions, and getting that pretty little pin to wear at conference. I’m sure by now you’re thinking,  “Okay, sister, we get it. You’re a finalist. Whoop-dee-do.” And I understand.  Because what does it really mean? A pin, a moniker behind a name?  Why bother sharing this day with you?

Because often I’ve thought about quitting. Just letting my writing career slip from my fingers much the way my child’s hand slipped from my grasp at the playground. At some point it just all pulls away and you’re left standing, wondering if that’s all there was to it. You sit day after day on the sidelines, sending congrats to other people, watching them talk about the calls they got, the big news, the deals, the numbers, the accolades. And you feel like you suck. You fondly recall a moment when you were one of them. When you believed in yourself.  That’s how I’ve felt for the past two years. Very much like a nobody sitting on a park bench waiting for someone to remember she existed.

I don’t share the wonder of this day to gloat or to cheerfully say “looky here what I did.” No, I share it because I am you. I’m every writer who wants to quit and do something better with her time. I’m the writer who felt alone, who wondered why everyone else was doing better than she was. I’m the writer who doubted everything she did. Who didn’t know if she should write more, promote more…get another job and forget about writing.

And I’m the writer that on that day not only felt joy, but sincere, SINCERE relief that I might have some small glimmer of goodness still in myself somewhere.

In essence I’m every writer out there.

So there. The reason why I needed to share this. And I’m sure you’re wondering about why I called this a dark horse. It’s because if I had an extra $100 I wouldn’t bet on myself. No. Seriously. I’m so dark a horse for this award, you might as well call me Midnight, Ebony, Obsidian and every other word you’ve used to describe your hero’s black eyes. But that’s okay, cause I made it to the track this time. I’m happy to be on the fricking track.

So I don’t even have a question to ask. Maybe you can think of something in your own life this pretend journal entry (like I keep a journal…I can barely find my list to the grocery store) can relate to. Do you feel like you’re on the sidelines? Are you waiting on something good to happen in your writing life?




Read a Romance Month


(I’m hi-jacking this post….but Darynda can keep her cute pic up there because she’s the blogger on RARM TODAY – go check out her post!)

So this is Liz Talley and just in case you didn’t know, August is the month of romance! SO this is OUR month, people. It’s our chance to stuff the good wonderfulness of romance books down the throats of all those prigs who scoff and turn their uppity noses to the sky at us and our inferior product. Oh, you didn’t know? Romance is trashy.

Which is why it totally fits me. In fact I may wear white after Labor Day this year. And I know how to tease my hair Texas-sized. Oh, and I’ve been known to mix silver and gold jewelry and I do love a good Moonpie. Yep, I fit right into trashy…except we all KNOW that romance writing is some of the most beautiful, clever, satisfactory writing out there…and we all love it.

Yes, this is our month.

Read a Romance Month was started by Bobbi Dumas RARM pic

The first Read-A-Romance Month was launched in August 2013 by Bobbi Dumas, an unabashed romance fan and advocate. As a freelance writer who specializes in romance and women’s fiction, Bobbi has been privileged to write about the books, writers and other great aspects of the publishing industry, especially as they affect and impact women. She primarily writes reviews and features for NPR and Kirkus, the book media site where she also pens a popular romance blog.

This month over on her website ( you can find 93 award-winning authors blogging and giving away fabulous prizes to help celebrate romance books. Isn’t that fun?

So I decided to ask a few Rubies why they love romance books so much and here are their answers:

Gwynlyn  MacKenzie

Why?  Because sometimes reality sucks.  Between the covers of a romance, the ending is always worth the struggle to reach it, and that translates so well to real life, infusing optimism into the darkest days, kindling the belief there will be light at the end of the tunnel.  Love is the most powerful force on earth.  Romance celebrates it, illuminates it, and shouts to the world that love is now, as it has always been, the answer.

 Anne Marie Becker

 For the escape and for the moment of triumph. When life around me feels crazy, which is most days, escaping into a character’s world for a few minutes is precious relief. And knowing they will overcome all obstacles to achieve the greatest reward is reassuring in a world where there are no guarantees.

 Heather McCollum

 For the escape and for the moment of triumph. When life around me feels crazy, which is most days, escaping into a character’s world for a few minutes is precious relief. And knowing they will overcome all obstacles to achieve the greatest reward is reassuring in a world where there are no guarantees.

Jennifer Bray-Weber

 To live vicariously in a time and place unlike my own. To relive the first blush of love. To sigh in satisfaction of a HEA. Yeah…that’s why.

Tamara Hogan

 I love reading romance because no matter what the era or setting, or how many dire complications might arise, I know the characters will find their way to each other by the end of the story.

 Jeannie Lin

 My first romance novel was handed to me in middle school by my BFF. “You’ve got to read this,” she said. “So we can talk about it after.” That’s how we’d first become friends. In elementary school, we happened to check out the same books at the school library and ended up chatting about them afterwards. This is why I read romance books to this day — to engage in rich and emotional conversation over books. And make new friends.

 June Love

 I read romance because of the roller coaster of emotions. I know the guy will get his girl. I know the woman will get her man. But, it’s their journey that keeps me turning the page. No matter how bad things get between them, love will win. And, that happily ever after is why I keep reading romance.

Elizabeth Langston

 I read romances because they remind me, over and over, of a universal truth. Love is worth fighting for. It takes work. It doesn’t always fall into place at first but we can keep trying and we’ll find it. Love is the most precious thing in my life and yet it’s free.

 Vivi Andrews

I read romance novels because I crave resolution.  In a romance, the questions get answered, everyone works through their issues, the world gets saved, and love conquers all.  And the girl always, always gets her guy.  Justice and symmetry and endings that make you sigh?  Yes, please.

 Diana Layne

Since HEA’s are not guaranteed in real life, I read for escapism, knowing I’ll get my happily-ever-after.

 Elisa Beatty

I read romance because it lets me re-live all the emotions of falling in love: the crazy attraction, the uncertainty, the frustration and fear, the giddiness, the tears, the bliss, the intensity of passion. I don’t want quite that much drama in my real life (I’ve been married almost 20 years, and am very glad to be past the thrill-ride stage), but it’s so much fun to read about it. 

Elizabeth Essex

I read romance novels because the HEROINE ALWAYS WINS. Always. I want the heroine to win the way a plant wants water. Romance books lift me up. They are  empowering, inspiring and just ripping good yarns!

Jackie Floyd

 I read romances for the HOPE they give. The hope that everything will work out and that Happily Ever After is a possibility for everyone.

 Anne Barton

Romances let us experience  that scary, wonderful, crazy feeling of falling in love over and over again. We count on them to make us a little breathless and leave us happy. Who wouldn’t want that in a book?

Laurie Kellogg

 I read romances for the endorphin high I get from the happy ending.  It’s the same as feeling you get from eating chocolate. I’m an HEA addict.

Addison Fox

I read romance because it makes me happy. A genre totally devoted to the idea that love matters. ::sigh:: It doesn’t get much better than that!

Don’t you love those answers? And I bet you’re thinking of exactly why you love having romance novels in your life. And I want you to share with us why you pick up a romance novel as opposed to something else. We know you love all books, but why is romance one of your favorites? Leave a comment and you’ll be entered to win my two releases this month – The Sweetest September and the re-release of A Little Texas PLUS a $15.00 Starbucks giftcard.

If you want to see why I read romance, you can go to



Ruby Release: The Sweetest September by Liz Talley

Amy_SweetWelcome, friends, to the party I’m throwing for myself. Presumptuous of me, huh?

But, oh well, today is a great day to celebrate, Friday and all that, so I figured why not throw a release party and invite all of you?

The Sweetest September is my 13th book, and I’m banking on it being lucky ’cause I’m positive that way. And not only am I celebrating another book released into the wild, but I’m celebrating a new me. Yeah. A new Liz Talley.

Once upon a time….a long time ago (aka, when the fab Liz Bemis set up a website design and promotions business) I put myself out there as Liz Talley, Romance Through the Seasons. Liz and I thought long and hard about what I wrote and she came up with a really cool idea based off some images I gave her. She’d asked me to think about my writing and what I wanted to represent to potential readers. I immediately hit upon the seasons idea because at that point, I liked to chose a different season in which to set my books. And the image that I finally settled on was a tree. I liked the imagery – the growth, renewal, and, well, trees are pretty awesome. So she came up with a website in which there was a tree and it changed with the season. It was very cool. Really.

And then I got a few more books under my belt, and Liz said, “Maybe we need to freshen your look” and so we did. She created an fantastic set of seasons that changed accordingly.

And it was good.

But this spring, I attended RT in New Orleans where I received the Reviewers Choice Award for Best Superromance (humor my bragging – I’ve never won anything before). At the book signing I sat next to the energetic, sexy Damon Suede (I say sexy because I don’t have a chance with him…and he’s totally cute).  Anyway, over the course of me taking pictures of him with his fans and assisting him with marking his books with stickers, we talked about the business. At one point, he leaned over and said, “I love your bookmarks.” To which I said, “Oh, thanks.” And then he said something quite transforming -“But they don’t really tell me much about who you are as an author.” Well, I sort sat back (not physically…but in my mind, I totally fell back, mouth open.) I took a deep breath and asked, “Huh?” And because Damon is a kind person, he broke it to me quite gently that I needed a brand that said something about my writing and what I brought to the reader, and while bucolic scenery is nice, it says nothing. I left the book signing hot (it was a bazillion degrees in there), flustered (those lines!) and confused about who I was.

The next day while lunching with my fabulous Rubies, I brought this up and guess what? They AGREED with Damon.

Set me on my ear, I tell ya.

But with my faithful sisters’ aid, I began to really think about what kind of books I write….and what I wanted the reader to expect when he/she first made contact with me.

So I took suggestions – magnolia, Southern, sassy, modern, small town, mint julep, porch swings, cotton fields, plantation houses – and I contacted Wizard Liz Bemis (Yeah, that’s her moniker around here – magic behind the curtain). And she started tossing those suggestions into her vat of creativity. And she came up with this:

I think it’s the perfect combination of modern and country. It’s bright, sassy, slightly nostalgic and fresh. It’s what I hope people associate with my stories. And since I’m no longer limiting myself to romance, it still fits my overall writing tone and style.

So as I launch this new book, the first in a series set in fictional Magnolia Bend, I happy to say I feel renewed, energetic and optimistic about who I am. Which sounds weird, but y’all know what I mean. We all need a little spit and polish at times, a little fresh coat of paint. Feels good. Gives us a little oomph. So if you haven’t thought about branding and who you are as an author. If you haven’t looked critically at what you’re portraying through your website and promotional items, maybe it’s time you do.

It worked for me….and I’m really hoping I get to sit next to Damon again sometime. Maybe whatever he comes up with next time will land me on a list or lead to a six figure deal. He’s genius…which is why his branding is a light bulb.

So tell me today who you are as an author? Have you every changed your vision?

Oh, and since this is a party of sorts, we need a gift. And cake. Man, I wish I could share some cake with you. But I can give away a present. How about a lucky commenter (Rubies included) wins a $10.00 Amazon card and a copy of any of my books? Oh, and here’s the link to the book on Amazon in case you want to take a peek,. Happy Friday, friends!



It’s Hot in Here: Researching Fire Fighters

Minden fireman Tony Hall demonstrates how to wear the equipment

Minden fireman Tony Hall demonstrates how to wear the equipment

Honestly, I can’t believe it’s July already…and I can’t believe I’m facing the start of another book. My fifteenth Superromance. Yeah. Crazy.

So I pretty much thought by this point, I’d run out of ideas. It’s been a constant worry – what if the story ideas just stop? But, like most of you, something triggers an idea and BAM! I’m off and running with a new story. So when this particular one came to me, I knew where I would start, I knew what kind of heroine I was dealing with, and because my hero Jake is in other books, I knew the charming, devil-may-care firefighter hid dark secrets and a tragic past. What I didn’t know was anything about being a firefighter.

Kinda a big problem.

You see, both Eva and Jake are firefighters which means much of the action will take place on scene of fires and at the fire house. Much of their conversation will revolve around their fellow firefighters. Heck, they’ll be sharing a shower in the firehouse. So I sorta had to know what being a firefighter was all about.

Clueless, I took to Facebook to ask for some recommendations. And as you suspect, I got lots of help. Seems everyone knows a firefighter. Cha-ching!

So that got me to thinking about how writers do research about things they have no clue about. So, I’m here to share my experience in working with experts because I’m fresh off of being a good researcher after my field trip to a local fire station yesterday.

First, think about what you will need to know. Sometimes it’s hard to gauge just the amount of information you’ll need. Do you need to have the ear of an expert in the field? Or is it something you can easily look up on the internet? In other words, how integral is the research? There have been books where I needed a small fact which was readily available with the click of a mouse. For example, when I wrote chef Rayne Rose in A Taste of Texas, I scanned an article on the latest trend in culinary arts, chose one and after a few clicks found a few recipes that sounded perfect for her. At that point I knew could toss in dialogue about making a reduction or chopping cilantro she’d grown in the herb garden and it would read as authentic without my having to contact a chef and grill him or her (punny, huh?)  But this wasn’t the case when I wrote a college football coach. In Under the Autumn Sky, the plot centered around recruiting violations and watching Friday Night Lights, while helpful in a lot of ways, wasn’t going to teach me about recruiting schedules, NCAA sanctions or scouting reports. I needed someone who could tell me exactly what recruiting highly rated high school players was all about.  So assessing how important your research is to the plot is the first thing you need to do.

Next, determine the best expert source. This can be hard, too. In the case of my current wip, I knew I needed to talk to a firefighter. But not just any firefighter. I needed one from a small town roughly the size of my fictional Magnolia Bend and I needed one who had been on the job for at least a decade. Finding this fireman wasn’t hard to do. I grew up next door to him. But when I wrote about sugarcane farming in The Sweetest September, I didn’t have that luxury. I live in North Louisiana. We don’t grow sugarcane here which meant I had to find an expert willing to talk to me about harvest, crop rotation, pesticides who didn’t live right around the corner. Or when I wanted to learn about whooping cranes. Not so easy since their habitat is not my area. So often you will have to do some digging to find the best source and expert. Luckily, we live in a time of social media, so a nicely-worded plea will often reveal a friend who knows an uncle or a cousin who works with someone who knows exactly what you need to know. There are days I truly bless the wonder of FB and Twitter (and Google!) in finding what I need.

Next, make contact with the expert. A polite, professional email usually does the trick in establishing first contact with an expert. And strangely enough, people are willing to help in most cases. Why? People love to talk about what they do. Truly. Well, pretty much. I’ve met with detectives, football coaches (this is the research trip my husband actually went on!), doctors, attorneys, bankers and now a fireman. I’ve had phone interviews with the head of the sugarcane league, a Mardi Gras float builder, and a surgeon. I’ve exchanged emails with wildlife biologists, police officers and secret service. It amazes me how considerate and enthusiastic people can be about meeting with a writer.

Next, be prepared. Go into the interview with prepared questions. Bring a notepad to jot down incidental notes, and take your camera to capture pictures. Have your business card ready and behave in a professional manner. If the expert relays that he or she only has a certain amount of time, respect that time, and always ask for permission for any sensitive information. Leave your contact information and ask for further contact information from the expert…or other experts who might aid you. If you are doing the interview via telephone or email, make sure the expert is agreeable to further follow up questions.

Finally, thank the expert. You can do this in a variety of ways. I brought cookies (cause what firefighter doesn’t want a plate of cookies to snack on during the domino game on their shift?) But a lovely thank you note works well, too. And if you want to mention on your dedication page the help you received from your expert, that’s a really lasting way to show your appreciation for the help you had on the research.

So there you have it. It’s a bit common-sense, but it’s always good to  be reminded. Haphazard research can lead to frustration during edits…or really nasty reader letters. You can have a great plot, great characters, a high concept and strong marketability, but if your research is dodgy, you’ll have regrets. So the next time you’re starting a new book, take the time to do proper research…and don’t be afraid to tap an expert on the shoulder and ask for help.

Oh, and so you know, my upcoming August book The Sweetest September includes research from experts in banking, law and sugarcane farming, and my November anthology Cowboys for Christmas includes research on women’s volleyball and being a large animal vet. I’m pretty sure I can deliver a breech foal now. So tell me what is the most interesting research you’ve done? What experts have you contacted or met with? I’d love to know.


It’s Easy to Give Advice

So the other day after killing myself in Zumba class, I headed toward the exit of my gym. To the left of me is an area where several older people gather to have coffee and donuts (I know!) after they work out. It’s a busy area and they never fail to make me smile. Well, this particular day as I ditched my empty water bottle, I heard several older men complaining about the way other people let their kids mooch off them. It was the whole virtuous “Teach a man to fish” conversation and they were quite spirited about it.

And all I could think was “Yeah, but you’re not living it. You’re sitting here, popping donuts, spouting off about how you would NEVER let your kid mooch off you. Easier said than done.”

I left and as I walked to the car, my mind flipped to how much advice we get as parents – don’t let them have a bottle past a year old, no passies past age 2, start them on vegetables first….yada, yada, yada. And it follows a parent all the way until….well, until a parent is hobbling around the track and wolfing donuts at 77. Everyone seems to know best.


Advice. Sigh. It’s everywhere in the writing world, too. From the time you join an RWA chapter or some other writing group, well-intentioned people are lined up to give you gentle (or sometimes bone-jarring) advice on what you should do. Whether it’s “stop using so many ellipses” (yeah, I know I use a lot of ’em) to where you should advertise your book for sale, someone somewhere is going to make you feel like you’re doing it all wrong. And you will believe them, the same way I believe all those experts in parenting magazines when they said to give a child choices to give him a sense of independence (Thank you Parents magazine for EVERY SINGLE fight I have with my youngest over what he wears each day) or those well-meaning moms who made me feel like I was the worst mom in the world for not packing organic lunches, monogramming their shortalls, and skipping the occasional room mom party. We all get sucked into believing other people know what is best for our story, the submission process, and promotions.

And that’s not to say we all don’t need some advice sometimes. Because sometimes good advice does make the difference to a plot or our sales. I’m not saying don’t listen to others, but instead I’m asking you to always listen to yourself. You usually know what is needed for the story. Know why? Cause it’s your story. Yours. And there is some satisfaction in knowing that you control that aspect of your writing life. You are the creator of your story. Bottom line.

This is something I must keep in mind with my new critique group. In my local RWA chapter, I felt there was a need for some mentoring and critiquing because so many of our members were new writers. When I first joined NOLA STARS, I had some very generous ladies who met with me once a week to read my work and show me how to be a better writer. Yes, I was easily influenced because I wanted to get better and please these more experienced writers, but at the same time, I was very certain to hold on to my vision. Some writers aren’t good at digging in their heels and that’s something I encourage my new critique group to do – hold on to your story.

So today, dear friends, I’m reminding you that advice abounds everywhere, but it’s easy to give advice when you are sitting in a different chair (eating donuts). Every author is different, every situation is different. Hold on to your story. It’s yours. It’s you. And it can’t be anybody else’s.

So today let’s talk about advice – have you ever received any from someone who just didn’t get it? Have you received advice that’s made a big difference in your career?

What I Really Want to Say on Twitter

iHis Forever Girls buy my book.

Truly. I’ve tried being witty. I’ve tried joining conversations. I’ve tried book blurb tours, giveaways, blogging six ways to Sunday, and going to reader conferences. I’ve bought book marks, reader trading cards, given away books, giftcards, and a kidney (okay, not an actual kidney but lots of heart-shaped things). I’ve advertised, helped host Facebook parties, given away raffle baskets and done everything else but tap dance to sell books (and I’m willing to do that if I can find some tap shoes to fit me). But the results are always the same. My book sales are…oh, I can’t even say it….average.

So what I really want to say is JUST BUY MY BOOK ALREADY!

But that would be crass. That would turn people off and then my name would be blacklisted as “one of those authors.” You know the ones – they constantly tweet their reviews and links. Their signature line is eight miles long (with links!) and they slyly slip things in about their books in other people’s posts. Basically they do everything they can but shove the book in your face and beg you to buy it.

Sad thing is, I understand that desperation because sometimes I want to say the hell with it and just post “You people need to buy my book because I want to go to another conference this summer and need some money.” Too honest? Yeah, I thought so.

And there are times I want to tell people to NOT buy my book. Like reverse psychology will work the same way it did when my kids were six years old and I’d say things like “Don’t you dare put this toilet seat down” or “I bet you can’t run get the mail faster than I can.” By the way, those challenges no longer work on 14 year olds. They give you that blank stare than could kill pretty flowers and baby’s smiles. I figure if I say “Don’t buy this book. Nothing to see here, folks” maybe readers might get interested enough to check it out for themselves. But I know that won’t work any better than chasing people with nail files and bookmarks.

I feel like I’ve tried everything I can think of to sell my books (outside of setting up outside the Barnes and Noble, yelling “Come try a real book, whydontcha?” which could possibly get me arrested).

So what should I do?

I already know what you gals are going to say – shut up and write another book.

And that’s pretty good advice. You see, there is much about the world I cannot control (which drives Virgos like me nuts!). I can’t control what readers think, I can’t control how much promo Harlequin will give me, I can’t control distribution, shelf space or foreign sales. I can’t control whether someone will pick my book to review, how many people like me on Facebook or how many people enter my raffle copter. I can’t even control my damn covers. BUT what I can control is my writing. I can control my characters (or try to), I can control my reading a good craft book (rather than watching The Bachelor) and I can control the amount of time I spend with my butt in the chair and hands on the keyboard. That’s it.

Can’t make people buy my book, even if I want to shout on Twitter, Facebook, blogs 1,2,and 3 and from the parking lot of the Barnes and Noble BUY MY DAMN BOOK!

Because I don’t control the universe. Which is sad because if I did we’d all be a size four with perky boobs, gorgeous hair and Matthew McCognaughy, Brad Pitt and Henry Cavill (take your pick) giving us a foot rub…and we’d all be reading my newest book. See? Now you wish I were in charge 🙂

So here’s the premise of this whole post – don’t try to control the world. Just control what you can do (in the comfort of your own home…or Starbucks). Focus on your writing. Make it stronger. Make it tighter. Take it to the next level. Be a good friend to other writers. Don’t steal their thunder. Don’t whine (I don’t take my own advice sometimes). Don’t put the writing off. Control what you can control – which is how you put your story on the page.

That’s it. That’s all I got. (and in case you didn’t get it, this was advice to myself, too)

FYI, I do have a RUBY RELEASE this month and I’m adding the blurb and cover in case you’re interested in doing my will. When I snap my fingers you will go to Amazon and buy the book. 1…2….3… (okay, okay, I didn’t hypnotize you. Add that to the things you shouldn’t do to readers)

What are some promo Do’s and Don’ts that drive you nuts?

His Forever Girl

This forever is off to a rocky start!

Meeting Tess Ullo is definitely a sign life’s improving for Graham Naquin. After their spectacular night together, he knows there’s a lot more to explore between them! Good thing he’s aced the interview that will bring him home to New Orleans, his young daughter and Tess.

Too bad things don’t go the way Graham hoped. That job he lands running a float-building company? Tess thought it was hers so she quits to work for the competition. As they face off in business, he admires her talent…and keeps thinking she’s the one for him. Now he has to persuade her!


From Superromance to Novella: Learning to write short

Ah, writing long…I’ve become most familiar with the idea (and in my head I’m accomplished at it).When I sold my first Superromance, the word count was a doable 65K. That particular length is perfect for writing a tight single storyline romance. Secondary characters can make appearances and there can be plenty of internal and external conflict. I loved my first several Superomance books for this very reason. No need to weave a secondary plotline or allow prose to get too fanciful or wandering. Dream up a heroine, grab hold of a hero, giving them something to keep them apart and sit back and let the fireworks happen. The  reader can gobble this sort of story up on a Sunday afternoon making it a satisfying length.

But then, my line upped the word count. 75K was still a good length. Now I had time to add a little more voice and have my secondary characters interact more with my primary characters. I could even introduce a secondary character’s point of view as long as I kept the conflict manageable.

And THEN there was the jump to 85K. Okay, I admit, at first I was baffled at how to write a tight story with good movement adding 10k to the plotline. I mean, 75K just worked ideally. No meandering, no drawn out throw away scenes readers hate, but I had to admit there were times I skipped over a scene I thought added some depth to the story. Now I had room to really punch up the secondary plotline, giving more a stake to these characters whose story developed just as much as the hero and heroine over the course of the book. Suddenly there was a lushness to the language, a beautiful layering of emotion that allowed the reader to connect to characters beyond the primary characters. With a larger canvas, came the challenge to paint a picture that didn’t crowd or make the story too fussy and ornamental. So here are a few tips for writing longer:

Liz’s tips for writing longer:

* add a third point of view from a character who has a stake in the action and/or can manipulate the goals and motivations of the hero or heroine.

* use deep third person point of view to create depth

* try same scene, differing point of view

* consider multiple goals for each point of view characters (this can lead to more motivation and conflict)

So after expanding my word count by 20k, I then faced a new giant…that was, well, a short giant. I got a call from Harlequin regarding writing a short story that would be featured on the Harlequin Community site. It was great exposure for readers who might not have tried one of my books but could now check me out through the free online read. I agreed. Sure, I could do that…uh, until I actually had to sit down and, ahem, do that.

It wasn’t easy.

That first short story – The Nerd Who Loved Me – is a bit like the first novel I ever wrote (except you can actually still read this one – the other is in my virtual “under the bed” file). I chafed a bit at the constraints and found injecting voice, which I felt was a hallmark of my writing, was very difficult with a tiny canvas of 11K. All of my cute scenes had to be tossed (painful!) and the GMC had to be tight, tight, tight. There wasn’t room to fully develop my characters, so I ended up feeling like what could have been a really lovely story got stifled by the shorter word count. Was the story bad? No. Was it something I wish I had a do-over on? Ehh…maybe.

I could  have given up on writing short after that less than stellar experience. After all, my bread and butter fell with writing “SUPER,” so why expend any more time on writing short?

Because the “market,” aka reader, likes a shorter story. Hello! That’s why so many authors are doing novellas. Raise your hand if you’ve written a novella. Ah-ha! I knew there were a lot of you. And it’s the same reason why I’ve taken up the torch and examined ways to make a short story “pop” and give the reader a satisfying read that feels bigger than the word count indicates. Currently, in between my bigger books, I’m writing novellas and short stories, so I’m focused on honing my shorter story writing skills. Here are a few tips for making your writing short and sweet (or sexy or suspenseful or whatever else you need it to be).

Liz’s Tips for Writing Shorter:

* consider a reunion story. This eliminates much of the “getting to know you” necessary for intimacy (at least in most books :))

* write shorter scenes (no more than 5 pages in each point of view) and shorter chapters to keep pace quick

* be thrifty with secondary characters

* be economical with your words. No double adjectives, decrease the compound subjects and verbs.

* Keep GMC simplistic

* no secondary story lines

Okay, I profess that I’m not a pro on writing short (or even long for that matter), so I want to open the floor to those writers who have considerable experience at writing shorter. I’m sure I missed some good tips. So let’s spend Monday talking about what makes a good short story/novella. And feel free to offer tips and make suggestions for writers who’ve done this well.


Ruby Tuesday: Liz Talley

Ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls, today we begin a new feature here on the Ruby blog.  It’s the first ever RUBY TUESDAY!!!  Now, what is Ruby Tuesday, you may be asking.  It’s your chance to get to know the Rubies a little better.  We’ve been blogging together here for over four years now and it seemed like it was past time we introduced ourselves.

Today we welcome our first Ruby Tuesday victim volunteer, one of our southern gems, Superromance author LIZ TALLEY!


Liz Talley with her mother, Mother's Day 2013

Liz Talley with her mother, Mother’s Day 2013

Name: Liz Talley


2009 Golden Heart Category & Title: No Shrinking Violet, Regency

What Happened to That Book: Um, it’s still on my harddrive

How many books have you written? Published – 12 books, 2 short stories. Unpubbed – 2 books, 1 novella.

If you could grow up to be one writer, who would you want to be? Agatha Christie – I don’t think that needs explanation 🙂

What are your favorite subgenre(s) to read? I love reading Regency (my first love). I love my Regency Rubies and I love Sherry Thomas, Julie Ann Long, Eloisa James, and too many to name. I also love suspense and read all the Lee Child books.

College? Major? Post-grad work? Louisiana Tech University, English Education, summa, 1994

Marital status?  Kids?  Grandkids? Married to my childhood sweetheart Doug. We will have been married 20 years this upcoming May. We have two boys age 14 and 11.

Where are you from? I’m from Minden, Louisiana, though I was born in Chambersburg, PA. I’m affectionately known as “the Yankee” in my family though I’m about as southern as cornbread.

Where would you build your dream house? Doug and I grew up very blue collar, working class (aka not well-to-do) and our biggest dreams involved having things – a big house, expensive cars, fancy vacations. We worked hard to “make it” but strangely enough I now dream about retiring to the land we bought on Caddo Lake and building a snug little cabin with a stone fireplace, huge windows facing the cypress trees on the lake and a little patch of ground to grow a veggie garden. I want to live like Thoreau – very simply.

What three words would you use to describe yourself? Amusing, ambitious and loyal

Which TV show are you most addicted to right now? Big Bang Theory, Major Crimes, Modern Family and The Mentalist

Do you like sports?  What team(s) do you follow? LOVE sports. I’m an avid, rabid, LSU fan (the totally obnoxious kind). I also love to watch the Saints on Sunday and the Texas Rangers on the diamond (though I’m disappointed they’re tanking as we’re approaching October)

What hobby takes up the most of your time? Being a mother. Oh, wait. That’s not a hobby. LOL. Seriously, being a parent takes up a good chunk of my time. I love my kids, but sometimes I need to be peeled off the floor at the end of the day. I also love doing zumba and shopping. Writing’s my job, but bargain shopping – the kind where you get down on your hands and knees and dig through the 75% off bin – is my hobby. Yeah, I’m a little weird, but I’m a writer. It’s required.

Do you have any advice for new writers?  My advice to new writers is to read every night and to find a good group of supportive friends in the business. When I started, I was alone. A-L-O-N-E. Which is good for actual writing, but not for entering the fray (aka, world of publishing). You need friends, not just to rah-rah your efforts, but to help you deal with crushing rejection, growing pains and success. You have to have butt-kickers who will pick up the pom-pon…or kick you in the ass when you need it. Writing takes talent, but even more so, it takes sheer determination. And I think it’s hard to walk that path alone.

Excellent advice.  And thank you, Liz, for being our inaugural Ruby Tuesday volunteer!

I’ve Got the Hiccups

When I was younger, I hated getting the hiccups. Who am I kidding? I still hate them. They are annoying…and sometimes hurt.

I can remember trying all the supposed fixes for getting rid of the hiccups – standing on my head (yes, I tried this), spoonful of sugar, gulping a whole glass of water. I even asked people to try and scare me…which backfired of course because I TOLD someone to scare me, and therefore, wasn’t all that scared when they jumped out at me.

Yeah…getting rid of the hiccups seemed impossible.

But it’s not.

One day, I think when I was in high school, one of my science teachers said something that niggled in the back of my head. She said “Your brain controls your body.” Yeah, we all know that. But when she said it, I had the hiccups, and I thought to myself “I should see if this works.” SO I told my diaphragm to stop contracting. But it didn’t work. Never one to give up, I tried again except this time I sat really still, closed my eyes and focused on my throat (which made more sense to me since that’s where I felt the hiccups). I sat very still, very quietly for a full minute, breathing deeply, focusing while swallowing…and viola! My hiccups went away.

I know. Incredible, huh? And I still do it to this day. I’ll even pull over into an empty parking lot when in my car and “concentrate” my hiccups away. Works every time.

So I realized you’re confused because this is supposed to be about writing. Well, yes, you have guessed it by now – this is an analogy.

This past year has been tough for me in regards to my writing career. Now, I won’t go into all the details, but suffice it to say that I have been struggling with not only my identity as a writer, but whether I wanted to continue on this particular road. Feels crazy to admit that, but it’s true. I have written a lot of books in the past 3-4 years and when I started this career path, I had a vastly different vision for where I would be thirteen books into my career. Because of the market and other factors I can’t control, I find myself not where I thought I would be…and this sort of depressed me. I began to fret, watch my numbers (and other authors numbers), and haunt review sites to see if anyone read my books. I began to doubt everything about what I had chosen along my path. I began to doubt myself.

Oh, I had read all about those authors who’d talked about backsliding in their careers. They’d talked about firing agents, losing editors, lines closing, being let go. They’d talked about not wanting to write and being unappreciated. I poo-poo’d their tales, thinking myself invincible. Thinking I could never want to quit writing.

But, truthfully, I batted around the idea…all the way up to Nationals.

I know. Not that long ago, right?

You know, I never thought it would be me who would entertain the thought of throwing in the towel. Of course, I’m often melodramatic, and nothing even remotely as bad as some of the things I mentioned has happened to me. In fact, much of my dissatisfaction stems from being enormously impatient. But that still didn’t change my mindset. Deep down inside, I felt like a failure, ashamed I hadn’t done better for myself and for my line.

Several weeks ago while listening to a particular song on the radio, with lyrics about not giving up and knowing “it’s worth it”, my son got the hiccups. I told him how I always got rid of them and went back to singing the song while he attempted to use his mind to shut down the contractions of his diaphragm. And as I sang the lyrics, I realized he wasn’t the only person in the car with the hiccups.  Desperate to stop the discomfort in my career, I had resorted to some silly things. I had allowed the hiccups to control me, to make me forget how wonderful the journey has been, how much faith my editor has in me, how much my agent loves my writing…and how much my readers like my characters and storylines. I had lost focus.

So I sat down and refocused myself on the problem, and if I’m being honest, I can admit my dismay over my career results from factors I can’t control. Like the hiccups, it just happened. But I realize I do have some control, and that control is over my product. I can’t make readers buy my books, I can’t make reviewers like my book, and I can’t control the market…but I can control my attitude and the quality of my work.  If I sit really still (in front of my computer) and focus on what is before me, swallowing uncertainty, I can make the hiccups go away.

Sometimes it takes some outside help to get to the point you can do refocus yourself. Sometimes you need your mentor, agent, editor, critique partner…or some stranger at the grocery store to tell you how good you are. Sometimes you need a colleague to have faith in you, to give you a boost, help you in some way. Sometimes you need a reader to send you a note or a contest final to slap you upside the head. But really, what it comes down to is that YOU have the power to fix yourself. And that’ some powerful medicine.

You’ll be happy to know I’m over my hiccups, and I’ve hit the ground running with some plans to refocus myself…maybe even reinvent myself a little. Sometimes a gal needs a little shaking up. And sometimes she needs the hiccups so she can grow and find her way, becoming stronger because of the challenge set before her.

Here’s to conquering the hiccups! Now, you share the best way you’ve found to deal with the hiccups in your career (Or the literal hiccups if you’ve found a better way than mine :))


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