Monday, December 12, 2011


I am among those authors who believe if you sit waiting for inspiration to come or a muse to tap you on the shoulder, you will get hemorrhoids before that happens. I don't believe in inspiration so much as ideas, and ideas are everywhere. The Sinners football series grew out of watching the Panthers lose the Super Bowl way back in 2004. The newest in that series, Kicks for a Sinner, due out in January, developed from watching games where the final score depends on a field goal.
Recently, I had problems with my garbage pickup. Just trying to get a new trashcan became a two month struggle with the powers that be. This evolved into my latest WIP, A Trashy Affair, a light-hearted romance despite the tongue-in-cheek title. One of these days, I will write about about a funny mix-up where I was served a manly sub while a handsome guy at the next table got my club sandwich complete with frilly toothpicks. What a way to meet! If only I had been younger and sexier at the time, but my heroine will be.
Have I ever had writer's block? Nope (and may it never happen to me). Why? Because, I repeat, ideas are everywhere-from an overheard conversation in a cafeteria to imaging what happened to your high school crush (Goals for a Sinner). My biggest problem is not having enough time to get all the stories in my head written down. My New Year's wish for every writer reading this post is that you have the same good problem of abundant ideas in the coming year!

Wednesday, November 16, 2011


Generally, I write two books a year whether anyone wants them or not. Takes me from three months to six to complete a novel depending on how much research I must do or the length of the book. So, what do I do with the other three months? Catch up on neglected household chores for one thing. ( I really must see about the leaking washing machine-just laying towels on the floor to sop up the water every time I do a load is not a good alternative.) Work in my garden-if the two flats of snapdragons I bought two weeks ago while fine tuning the last book are still alive. Research my next historical novel. What do I know about painters of the early nineteenth century? Not much, though I do paint and took the obligatory art history course that went with my liberal arts degree and enjoyed it. Maybe the hero should have some other occupation to save time. No, I have a whole month to learn about this. Go for it.
I also try to complete a book before the holidays set in so my time is free to bake cookies not on my diet, shop for gifts online and off, and roast that turkey because the whole family will be home. I take time to enjoy them, too, and all the chaos that comes with having a houseful of people. Writing isn't everything. Remember that.
This year, I finished my WIP earlier than expected, but didn't want to start anything new until after Christmas, so instead rewrote two of my older unsold works using all I have learned since getting two books published. They are much improved, I think, but then, I liked them in the first place. Thanksgiving looms ahead, and I am free and clear - except I just got word that Kicks for a Sinner goes to editing next week. Hmmm, pass the gravy and a batch of sticky notes, please, and hope I get the edits done before Christmas.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Biting the Star

I knew it would happen. Someone bit a big chunk out of my five star rating for Goals for a Sinner by giving it a one. The Romance Studio awarded those five stars and others followed, and no, not all reveiwers were my relatives as this person implied. I have noted those giving the most savage reviews generally hide behind a weird screen name. That's okay. I don't plan to hunt you down. In most cases, these folks begin with "I thought I'd found a fabulous new writer..." and obviously they were severely disappointed. So sorry. I do not believe a five star rating means I am fantastic. I feel it indicates that the particular book met all the criterion for a nice little romance-good characters, a plot that moves right along, and a happy ending.
Her major gripe seemed to be that the characters had misunderstandings and sometimes acted immaturely. Well, honey, if they were perfect from the start, there would be no plot, no crisis, nothing to overcome, no growth of the individuals. She didn't like my sex scenes either. To each his own. Mine tend to be more real than many and are often funny. Couples get interrupted by phone calls, don't disrobe gracefully and sometimes not at all. If you want fantastic, multiple orgasm sex right from the start, go elsewhere, dear reader, and enjoy what you find.
As for saying no girl would think of others on her wedding day, I'm afraid I based Stevie Dowd's attitude on my own. I find long receptions tedious and simply wanted to leave and be with my new husband. Instead of having a garter toss, I sent my blue garter directly to a guy dating one of my friends. I thought he needed a nudge. As for Stevie, she'd like to see quarterback Joe Dean married off so he won't lead her man into temptation and does try to set him up on her big day.
Having explained myself, I now want to say I am not all that upset by having my star diminished.
A five star rating makes you a target. I've heard sometimes jealous writers intentionally give a bad review to knock another writer off a top listing. I don't think that is the case here as my rankings aren't that high. So, like that getting that first scratch on a new car, I am somewhat relieved to have it overwith. May the disgruntled reviewer find fantastic elswhere.

Friday, September 30, 2011

Nothing Wasted

Though I have written one thing or another for most of life from grade school puppet shows to college poetry and my first novel hand-written way back in the 1980's (I found it recently when looking for some old short stories), I did not get published until, let's face it, I was old. I would have liked this experience sooner. Wouldn't everyone? But working full time, three kids, a husband and house to take care of did not allow it. I have, however, discovered that I did not waste all those non-writing years. Instead, I stored up characters, incidents, and emotions over a long period of time and placed them in my mental attic so to speak.

When I need an incident for a story or want to imagine what a character is feeling, I root through that attic and recall the joy of first love, the thrill of sex, the anguish of divorce. Things that happened to my family now spill out on the pages. For instance in one of my yet unpublished books, I related a Little League game. My son was not the best hitter, but he could take one for the team. He often got hit by the ball, one time so hard the stitching on the ball cover showed on his backside. He took a base, and being pretty good runner who always knew where the ball was (his strength), eventually rounded the bases for a score. Need a Little League scene. Out it comes from the mothballs of my mind but without the overpowering scent. My grandmother used mothballs. I know of what I speak. One day, that book might be printed. I will dedicate it to my son, probably to his embarrassment. Thanks for the memories, kiddo.

So to those of you who think you are spinning your wheels, wasting your talent, think you will never see your words in a book, I say, "No, you are just storing up information that will become your future novels." And good luck to you.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011


I look at offering to judge writing contests as paying back now that I have two books published and two more under contract. Every year, I take on Golden Heart entries and always volunteer to read and grade the works submitted to my chapter, Heart of Louisiana. Because judging is very time consuming, I do limit myself to these two endeavors just in case anyone out there is lurking to find judges. In the name of honesty, I will confess I never won a contest and did enter many over a period of three years trying to get some kind of credibility that I could claim in a query. Closest I ever came was finaling twice with Goals for a Sinner and once with Queen of the Mardi Gras Ball. And I might add after Goals did so well, I entered it in the Golden Heart and got one beautiful perfect nine out of nine - and also a three at the very same time. Goals did turn out to be my entry into the publishing world and Queen will be out next year. I do try to judge fairly without personal predjudice and attempt to give good, sound advice.
That said, I will divulge my secret sin. I like seeing how far I have come from most contest entrants. I find myself mumbling, "Doesn't anyone know how to use a comma or colon anymore?" as I read. Jeez, would you get rid of all those "was-es", and dangling "ings"? Spell check is not to be trusted entirely. He didn't do everything rite. He did do everything right! In essence, I am revisiting every mistake I ever made when I started out and before I had professional editing to show me the way. One thing I have never written on any scoresheet is "You should leave this one under your bed", as a was once written on one of my entries, although I did have an entry several years ago that truly deserved it. The poorly written thing was so bad, I thought it might be a joke. Regardless, at the very end I left the author with these words, "You need to do a lot more work on this. Hone your craft. Don't give up." I hope the author found those encouraging words amid all the red ink I splashed over her pages.
As for me, I never enter contests anymore. I only judge them.

Sunday, July 3, 2011


I am known primarily for my sexy football romances, so discussing length could mean many things. Get your mind out of the gutter! I am referring to the length of a book. Current wisdom says no novel over 120,000 words will be published today due to the atrophied attention spans of readers contracted from television viewing, computer use and tweeting. An agent at a recent conference declared she wouldn't look at anything over 100,000 words. One of my e-publishers is constantly urging their authors to produce 50,000-60,000 word Harlequin-style romances, not easy to do as I have tried it and failed. Supposedly, people using e-readers won't order anything longer. Forget classics like Gone With The Wind. Margaret Mitchell would be advised to cut that length in half or issue her story as three back-to-back novels. Sad. Okay, I will admit I've only gotten a quarter way through Northwest Passage, but it was the unrelenting dialect that made me put it down, not the length.

Length has cost me some contracts as my two best books both ran over 100,000 words. They have found a home at L & L Dreamspell. My first historical, Queen of the Mardi Gras Ball at 113,560 words, will be coming out in early 2012. Wish for a Sinner, already published, was originally 108,700 words. I cut it back to 103,000 in a vain attempt to get it under that magic 100,000 word barrier, but could not go the rest of the way. Its length was one reason it kept getting turned down. Thank heaven, the lovely ladies at Dreamspell feel length doesn't matter. It's what you do with it that counts. No, no, don't bombard them with your 700,000 word tomes. They are a small press and aren't accepting manuscripts right now. But know that here and there, people who like a good, long story do exist even if we are headed toward extinction. As for me, I did manage to bring the manuscript of Kicks for a Sinner in at 90,000 words. That was a close one!

Thursday, June 9, 2011


In May, I attended my first writers' retreat in the Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina. Being one of the lucky ones who has ample time to write, I did not go there to create but rather to smooze with publishers, editors, and my fellow writers. Besides, I also got to visit my daughter, mother and two sisters on the trip and still use it as a tax write-off. How great is that!

While the information on query writing, synopses, etc. was a little elementary for me, I did enjoy the murder mystery evening used to point out how carefully mysteries must be plotted, the side trip to Biltmore Houses to explore the world of the super-rich, and the great dessert trays (the last a little too much). Gained five pounds on this trip. Best of all, I loved meeting the publishers and editors I've known only by the names on their e-mails. I came away with a request for a partial, an e-reader won in a raffle, and many new friends.

I followed the retreat with a visit to the Randolph Writers group who gave me a lovely welcome and listened avidly to my "Adventures in E-publishing" talk. Since I was in the area, I contacted several groups to see if they might want a free lecture. These wonderful folks were the only takers. I'd like to think the others missed out on a fine opportunity. Didn't mind if they don't want me to speak, but a "No Thanks" note would have been nice in several cases. Ah well, that's the way it goes in the life of a writer. The Randolph Writers invited me back. I'll try to get there after my historical novel comes out in January and give them a new lecture, "Writing the Historial Novel-Pitfalls and Pleasures".

Meanwhile, back to polishing the draft of Kicks for a Sinner, soon to be sent off to my editor. I admit I'd rather be writing than retreating most days, but it did provide a refreshing break, and I wrote the last few chapters of Kicks in my mind on the long journey.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Headless Torsos

No, I do not write gruesome suspense novels, only light contemporaries and historicals, rarely gory. Recently, I participated in a discussion on another blog about the tendency for romance covers to feature only the torso of a deliciously muscular male, always shirtless and headless, usually legless, too. In fact, both my sports novels, Goals for a Sinner and Wish for a Sinner, have such in your face, eye-attracting covers. I admit, the first one shocked me as I considered my story to be light and funny, not hot and heavy. A meek protest to the publisher resulted in the standard reply, "Honey, this is what sells." Of course, the second cover was pretty much the same, and I guess when Kicks for a Sinner comes out it will feature a beautiful headless torso,too, or maybe just a pair of really great male legs.

I've learned to live with my covers by joking about them, telling folks that is my much younger husband and such. I do worry that readers seeking a really hot read will be disappointed, though there are certainly some sex scenes when the plot calls for them. I am also concerned that women who might enjoy the story are too embarrassed to pick up the book. A supportive cousin who works at a library, bless her heart, offers readers book covers for my works. I even looked into getting some plain brown wrappers with just the titles and my name embossed on them. Afterall, Goals for a Sinner could be mistaken for a religious tome as well. Still looking into that.

Friday, April 22, 2011

The Bad Review

Honestly, as an author I have grown the hide of an alligator. But even alligators can be injured if you shoot them in the eye. I can endure agents not liking my voice. That's individual taste. Or just not caring for my genre or how I presented my story. I still get wounded when someone doesn't like my characters. They are like my children. Please don't call them ugly. Recently, I received a poor review on Wish for a Sinner. Okay, the reader still gave me an average grade. All the others have been higher. However, she hated every major character. After I cried on the shoulder of my grown journalist daughter who understands, I did go back and check this person's other reviews. Mostly, she likes paranormal romance and is cool towards other forms of the genre. So I give her credit for even trying a sports romance. It was not her thing. Arrogant athletes and the women who tame them don't stack up the same against sympathetic vampires and loving werewolves. I do feel better now.

Another that hurt was a rejection from an editor who said one of my beloved but unpublished Regencies was merely Jane Eyre rewritten. True, I have read Jane Eyre many times, one of my favorites, so it is possible some of that flavor crept into my story. I can swear, however, that Jane Eyre never had sex with Mr. Rochester prior to marriage, and just because a heroine is plain and a hero brooding does not make them Jane and Mr. R. My gal is a tart-tongued spinster who bullies a man back to health and falls in love with him of course. If you reject all arrogant masters of the manor and plain women characters, there goes half the romance genre into the waste basket. I've never sent that story out again though I do still love it. Just want to protect my ugly children.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Writing for the Minute

Recently attending a writers' conference always gets me thinking, as it should. As usual, I went to the agents and editors panel to see what they were looking for in the way of new books. I wasn't at all surprised to hear most say they want something fresh and of course, the next big thing, although no one knows what that is. All would like to represent a best seller, the one all the book clubs want to read. I truly wish I could offer them The Help or Water for Elephants, both marvelous works of fiction, but I am afraid I don't have great literature in me. I write not for the ages but for the minute. My stories are designed to entertain and bring on a smile or a laugh to take the reader away from this troubled world for awhile and into another where a happy ending is guaranteed. Rarely does a literary novel do this, though the two mentioned above manage to pull off satisifying conclusions that don't leave one depressed for a week after finishing the book. Kudos to their authors. As for wanting something fresh, offer that and it will usually be turned down. If a story is not easily categorized for the publisher or book store, rarely will an agent or editor accept it. Not their fault. That's just the way it is in traditional publishing. So, the fresh and unique books today end up coming out e-published. Over the past few years, I've been told the 1920's won't sell, the eighteenth century in America won't sell, football romances won't sell, and a hybrid novel having both contemporary and historical elements won't sell. Seems I have a real penchant for writing the wrong thing. So, look for my football romances selling steadily on under the Lynn Shurr name, both put out by e-presses. And keep an eye out for probably my best book, Queen of the Mardi Gras Ball, a 1920's novel to be released in January, 2012, by micropress L & L Dreamspell in both paperback and e-book. I hope they make you smile.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Why Attend?

I've just returned from attending the NOLA Stars Conference in Shreveport. I go nearly every year to this small, friendly gathering with great craft lectures and best of all, a nice array of agents and editors who will take pitches. With two books out and another contracted, I believe I know my craft, but you can always learn more. This year's best hint - when hyping your romance novel to a mostly all male group mention one thing that interests them in your book like tractors or airplanes, and you will get some sales. I guess I should challenge them to check my football research in Goals for a Sinner and Wish for a Sinner. And I will next time. Since several men have read the first book, including my wonderful son-in-law, I know I got facts right and also have been complimented on that.

But mostly, I go to pitch my latest work, ever hopeful of finding an agent. Although I possess the gift of gab as my mother always says, I have as much trouble as anyone pitching to an agent. I do get the clammy hands, the sick stomach, and worst of all, if I lose my thread, I babble. This year, my first pitch to a fresh and friendly young agent went beautifully. I presented a humorous Regency series I have been working on, The Longleigh Chronicles. Feeling very confident of my pitching skills afterward, I made the big mistake of pitching a complicated reincarnation story in the afternoon. Lost in my own words and babbling, the agent finally cut me off very kindly. She said just to send her the book as an e-mail attachment. I apologized for my rambling, and she pointed out that often great pitches did not yield great books, but even poor pitches sometimes resulted in good submissions. Bless her! I truly don't know if either one of these fine agents will take me on as a client. Most likely not. The odds are not high in this business. But, every year, I go pitching again because you have to keep trying.

Besides, I won a big raffle basket of books and got an unexpected trophy for my two books with e-publishers. I also had a nice lunch and met lots of interesting people, well worth the four hour drive and the modest registration fee. So check out the smaller writers' conferences near you and give them a try.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Limited Palates

I am not much of a joiner but I find myself a member of groups, two art, one writing and one historical. After one of these meetings, we generally go out to lunch. Like most groups, we usually ended up at the same spot, not my favorite, but okay. Recently the place closed sending the members into lengthy discussions after each meeting as to where to eat. I suggested a barbecue place. We went there. One member complained that they only had barbecue (well, duh), another that she never ate in places like this. I pity her. Dives always have the best 'cue. Next week, they look at me again for a suggestion. I recommend a local cafeteria known for its $6.95 plate lunches - a meat, three sides and a bread, lots of variety. One member wouldn't go because she couldn't order off a menu, another because she never went into places like that (again). Third week, I suggested a vast Chinese buffet which also has American selections aplenty. One member says she never eats Chinese, another says she has never been in "that place". I gave up and went home to eat my leftover barbecue - and it was good.

So what does all this have to do with romance writing? Some people will never try anything different. They are stuck in the same eating and reading ruts. They only read mysteries or literary novels. Read a romance novel, and they just might die of word poisoning. As a librarian, I made myself read in genres I did not care for in order to be able to recommend some of these authors to my patrons. Don't care much for inspirationals as most seem unrealistic, but I did find some writers I liked. I try to tell folks romance has a huge range from sweet to erotic. It won't hurt to try one for a change. Who knows, they might even come back for second helpings.

Sunday, January 30, 2011


Romance writers take a lot of flack and much mockery. One of my daughter's friends said she thought it was cool that her mother wrote smut, joking I assume. I also assume she'd never read my books which by today's standards contain fairly tame sex scenes. To me, the story and characters are everything, and the sex just something two contemporary people in love would do. And I can handle a little kidding.

But recently something more unsettling happened to me as I attended a meeting totally unrelated to writing. We were there to critique each other's art. When I finished showing my paintings and getting advice, I mentioned my new book, Wish for a Sinner, had come out and passed around a copy. No hope of sales there. None of them bought the first book. For artists, they are remarkably conservative.

Then, the next person took the floor. She announced proudly she had nothing new to show as she had been busy working for the Tea Party and handed around some scribbles from her notebook and a paperdoll she had cut from the page of a book. She said the book was garbage and so she'd cut it up. All this time, I kept my outraged former librarian lips zipped. Furthermore, she said, she'd burned a pile of books she considered garbage in her fireplace. Okay, that set me off. I had to ask why she didn't simply donate them to the library booksale as other people might have enjoyed them since there are all kinds of tastes in reading. She replied she wanted no one else to read them and so what if I thought she was a censor. I said, "Of the very worst kind." "What if someone burned a piece of your work that had taken you months to create, how would you feel?" I asked. She said she wouldn't care if they'd paid the price - but somehow I doubt this.

We live in scary times. I can take some teasing about writng romance where the endings are always happy. I think we need happy endings more than ever when some people believe it is their right to burn books.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Christmas Presents, Christmas Past

Last December, I blogged about what writers want most for Christmas. I got several of my wishes this year - like a computer keyboard that works on both sides so I can now use the cap lock again to type titles. Goals for a Sinner came out in April and people are actually reading my book. Then, Santa arrived again on Christmas Eve and announced that the sequel, Wish for a Sinner, had been posted in e-book form, Fictionwise, and All Romance e-books with the softcover to follow in January. Already elated, I opened my next e-mail from the good women at L & L Dreamspell and found a contract attached for my next book, Queen of the Mardi Gras Ball, a 1920's era historical with romantic elements. Could Christmas get any better?

Yes. Another e-mail informed me that my niece had given birth around eleven p.m. on Christmas Eve, mother and son doing fine. She went into labor at the church service while singing Joy to the World. In fact, her water broke right there in the chapel. Not only will she have a great story to embrarrass her son, but you know it will turn up in one of my books some day.

Right after Christmas, we left for a trip. I left behind my latest WIP, a Regency titled Lion in the Heather, within 5,000 words of completion and a list of things I needed to do as a writer upon return. The list: Order post cards for Wish for a Sinner, Submit a short story to an e-anthology, Fill in Author Profile on Amazon, finally, and oh, finish my book. Day five of the new year. How many of these items have I ticked off - none. Great end to 2010. Slow start to 2011. But I wouldn't mind having another Christmas just like this one.