If Only I'd Known: Writing Lesson by Caroline Clemmons

Caroline Clemmons, one of my friends from the Smart Girls Read Romance group blog, is an Amazon bestselling and award winning author of 39 historical and contemporary Western Romance novels and novellas.

A frequent speaker at conferences and seminars, she has taught workshops on characterization, point of view, and layering a novel.

Caroline and her husband live in the heart of Texas cowboy country with their menagerie of rescued pets.

When she’s not indulging her passion for writing, Caroline enjoys family, reading, travel, antiquing, genealogy, and getting together with friends.

And other Web Pages
Find Caroline

Blog * Website * Facebook * Twitter * Goodreads * Google+ * WattPad * Shelfari * Pinterest.

Click on Caroline's Amazon Author Page for a complete list of her books and follow her there.

Subscribe to Caroline’s newsletter to receive a free novella, Happy Is The Bride, a humorous historical wedding disaster that ends happily—but you knew it would, didn’t you? Caroline loves to hear from her readers so email her: caroline at carolineclemmons dot com.

If Only I'd Known: The Value of Networking
by Caroline Clemmons

One of my mom’s frequent phrases was “If only,” and I believe if she’d won the lottery, she would have said, “If only it was one of the larger amounts.”

We still joke about her glass-half-empty (with a crack down the side and a chip on the rim) attitude. Yet, each of us probably has a long list of things we wish we’d done or known years ago about which we say “If only.”

When Joan invited several of us to submit a post for her new feature, I had trouble choosing which of the many things I wish I’d known at the beginning of my writing career.

One day, my very supportive husband (whom I call Hero) told me he’d learned there was a group of romance writers that met not too far away on one Saturday a month. Over the years, I had been in garden clubs, book clubs, Bible study groups, women’s church groups, bridge groups, and home extension clubs.

I’d worked for a newspaper, and thought I knew how to write, and I already had plenty of friends. Why, I asked Hero, would I want to sit around with a group of women just because they also wrote romance?

Wrong, wrong, wrong! Picture me banging my head against the desk as I recall that foolish remark.

One of the most valuable aids to my writing was joining a local chapter of Romance Writers of America. At the local RWA chapter meeting, women didn’t just sit around talking, although they did network before and afterward.

Monthly programs were presented on a segment of writing. I soon realized I knew nothing about writing a romance—at least not if I ever wanted to sell one. We heard about point of view, pacing, internal and external motivation, conflict, character flaws, dialogue, editing, character arc, and much more.

I drank in every presentation, went to conferences, and formed a critique group. How did I publish my first book? One of the members of that RWA chapter told me the name of an editor who was buying for a new line and suggested I submit my book.

Amazingly, the editor offered me a contract—and major edits.

If only I’d know to join a local RWA chapter before writing my first book! 


Lorraine, Bride Brigade Series, Book 6 by Caroline Clemmons

How to escape marriage to an odious man? Leave the state.

Lorraine Stuart joins a group of women traveling to Tarnation, Texas, a town with numerous bachelors but no marriage-aged single women.

She longs to meet a man who will admire her and the writing ability that has her published in several publications, by a pseudonym of course.

Just her luck, out of all those in Tarnation, she falls for the most stubborn man she’s ever met. But, the handsome newspaper owner is the only one who makes her heart flutter.

Grant Pettigrew has worked hard to establish the Tarnation Gazette. He is intrigued by Lorraine but he won’t let a woman write for his newspaper. Besides, he can’t afford to hire anyone yet. But the redhead is gorgeous and ignites dreams of family, even though he’s never met a more obstinate woman.

Will two immovable forces join to form a forever love?

Click to add Lorraine, Bride Brigade Series, Book 6 to your Romance Library.

Takeaway Truth

Writers, don't isolate yourself. Writing friends and writing organizations have a lot to offer whether you're a beginner or a multi-published pro.

How Many Words Make You Salable

Have you written enough words to make your work salable? I bet you've never heard that question before.

I was thinking about this as I was sitting on the porch this evening and scribbling in a notebook.

Darling Hubby and I left Houston this afternoon, thinking we'd get away before the forecasted torrential rains from Tropical Storm Cindy.

We arrived at our house in the country and enjoyed an unseasonably cool evening courtesy of the approaching storm. So I took advantage of the cool evening to sit on the porch and write.

Writing Routine

Most of us who write a lot get in the habit of writing on a computer of some sort. We get in such a habit that we think we can't write unless we're at the computer.

The truth is that most of us have lives outside of writing. If we write only at the computer, we lose a lot of time when we could be getting more words in the can.

How Many Words Is Enough

Most commercially successful writers adhere to the theory that you must write thousands of words before you ever write anything salable.

Dean Koontz said this very thing in Writing Popular Fiction, published in 1972. (I think that was the first of his books on the subject in which I read that.)

Anyway, Mr. Koontz said: "A writer must write X thousand words before anything can be written worthy of publication. What that X is varies from writer to writer."

Self-Analysis

How many words have you written? Estimate your thousands of words. Are you happy with that? Maybe you need to write more by taking advantage of the short blocks of time you find during the day and evening.

Perhaps you should also try different media to take advantage of those minutes. It's easy to keep a notebook and pen nearby or tucked in your purse or in the car console. Try writing that way as well as with a note app on a tablet, voice dictation on your Smartphone, or an old AlphaSmart if you have one, as I do. (I'm going to hold a funeral when my AlphaSmart dies.)

It's really amazing how many words you can write just with pen and paper. Sometimes, because you're writing slower than when keyboarding, the words are more thoughtful and may need less editing.

Takeaway Truth

You'll get more words cranked out if you use your time effectively. It just requires a little advance planning.

Review: Zoo for Frights and Thrills

I've been binge watching Zoo, a CBS series, now on Netflix. (Both seasons are also on Amazon.)

What attracted me to the series is the premise that's at the heart of the dramatic: a widely-used chemical in products all over the world is altering the DNA in the animal kingdom, resulting in the animals viewing humans as prey no where near the top of the food chain.

I'd just finished reading up on the Monsanto/Round Up situation and had also watched some documentaries about this chemical.

Round Up (glycophosphate), widely-used on the planet, has affected the way wheat is grown and has found its way into our food supply. Scientific studies have linked glycophosphate to autism and also to the huge jump in auto-immune diseases.

Backstory

Zoo is based on the 2012 novel of the same name by James Patterson and Michael Ledwidge. This scary drama series stars:

James Wolk as Jackson Oz, a zoologist
Kristen Connolly as Jamie Campbell, a journalist
Nonso Anozie as Abraham Kenyatta, a safari guide
Nora Arnezeder as Chloe Tousignant, a French intelligence investigator
Billy Burke as Dr. Mitch Morgan, a veterinary pathologist

In Season 2, these cast members were added:

Alyssa Diaz as Dariela Marzan
Josh Salatin as Logan Jones/Edward Collins
Gracie Dzienny as adult Clementine Lewis

Premise

A group of people from various fields investigate the violent animals attacks upon humans begin occurring all over the world.

Some of the animal scenes are really frightening. I wouldn't let impressionable children watch this, or they may become scared of cats and dogs.

The series is well-acted, and each episode is imaginative in the way it escalates the threat from the animals--including fish, birds, insects, etc.

Along with the increased threat, the team seeking to alert the public to this menace as well as a way to reverse the genetic changes in the animal kingdom find themselves imperiled.

Like all evil corporations, the officer's companies have influence with the politicians. Thus the team finds themselves labeled criminals.

The evil corporation of course has a plan to cover their tracks and hide their culpability while at the same time fattening their wallets by offering their own solution to the growing problem.

Takeaway Truth

For chills and frights, watch Zoo. The series returns to CBS on June 29 for its 3rd season. Watch Season 1 and 2 now so you'll be ready for this summer thrill ride.

The Joy--and Pain--of Gardening

The way it looked before. Now it's a weed patch.
I spent the day working on Phase 1 of Yard Renovation at our house in the country.

I Hate Armadillos

The reno was necessitated by an armadillo in 2013 that completely destroyed the yard that summer by digging  under the house in every shrub and flower bed we had worked so hard to create.

You see, in the country there aren't a lot of landscape crews to do the hard work for you. In fact, it's hard to find anyone who wants to do landscaping work.

The end result? Dead plants, mulch that ended up everywhere but in the beds where it was to keep the weeds from growing, and massive holes all around the house. In the morning, I would fill the holes, only to have darn animal make new ones each night.

Backstory

The yard never got repaired. By the time the armadillo probably ended up as roadkill, we had started renovating the townhouse in Houston we'd bought and moving. The next year was taken up by reno, moving, and going through treatment for the trapezius muscle I had damaged doing all of the above.

Then in 2015, too many life challenges landed in our lap. We rarely came to our little house in the country. When we did, it was only to mow and go back to Houston.

Another Armadillo

I thought last year I'd finally have the time to devote to what was an overgrown weed patch--everywhere.

You couldn't even see the landscape rocks that had once edged the shrubbery. But Life had other plans--and another armadillo.

Eventually it must have met its fate on a country road. According to research I did, there's really no way to deter an armadillo. The only thing that makes it go away is death.

Fields of wildflowers
2017: I Have A Plan

I think I can be here every weekend for a few months. So I  decided to work on 1 area each weekend. Make it a blank slate by removing all landscape rock, pull all the weeds, put down new weed block cloth, dump a ton of mulch over that, and place the rock borders back.

I'm inspired. I'm pumped. I'm...tired!

I worked all morning on the lantana bed at the corner where the driveway and sidewalk meet. It's a blank slate now.

I finished that shortly after noon. Now I'm waiting for the sun to start going down so I can finish that one area with the weed block, mulch, and rock.

One thing about gardening in Texas in the summer. You must pace yourself and work before noon and after the sun starts going down. The heat is just too great otherwise.

Takeaway Truth

Phase 1 is almost completed. Now, I have only--gulp--14 more phases to go. Oh, dear. I'm exhausted just thinking about it.

If Only I'd Known: Writing Lesson by Elaine Raco Chase

My guest today is Elaine Raco Chase, the first published author I'd ever met!

I was totally in awe. She was one of the top romance authors back in the day of print bookstores that were found in all the malls. We're talking huge sales! Fast forward to today, and she's still at the top of her game. Like many bestselling authors, she's made the transition to ebooks and audio books.

Just meeting her--a woman who had a husband, kids, a dog, and a house to take care of--made me realize that authors weren't demigod geniuses up on pedestals, but normal people. Like me! She inspired me to pursue writing for publication. Even more importantly, we became lifelong friends.

Meet Elaine Raco Chase

If you like sassy, laugh out loud, contemporary romances - some more explicit than others - you have found the right author!

Reviewers have called them: "cat & mouse" - "slow burn" - "hot and steamy" - "highly addicting" - "solid characters & lots of humor" - "amazing reads!"

I call them fun! Her heroines are NOT: thin, petite, clueless or submissive. They are strong women who aren't looking for a man - until the right one comes along! And those men! Tough-guy, alpha males who don't know what hit them! But do know they want MORE!

Elaine has written a dozen romantic comedies, some more explicit than others, and she also writes explicit mystery/thrillers featuring Roman Cantrell and Nikki Holden.

Dangerous Places is their first adventure, followed by Dark Corners, with Rough Edges currently a work in progress. All of the thrillers are stand-alone novels with continuing characters but no cliff-hangers. So far, both have been Romantic Times Top Hot Picks for romantic suspense.

Elaine also wrote the Agatha Christie nominated non-fiction "How to write the Amateur Detective Novel" which is in the FBI Forensic Library at Quantico.

Despite having not been to college, Elaine has taught creative writing at colleges and universities in the U. S. and Canada. She taught most recently at Miami-Dade College in Florida.

Find Elaine Online

Website * Twitter * FB Profile * FB Fan Page. What's really fun – visit Elaine's Pinterest Page and see Roman, Nikki, Alex, Darnie, Rudy, Duncan, Edgar and all the other characters! Plus places, food, clothes – everything!

If Only I'd Known: Write What You DON'T Know
by Elaine Raco Chase

If only I'd known...anything!

Honest…when I think back, it's a miracle I was ever published. It was 1977 (we were still writing on papyrus), and I was home with two kids under five and not much time to read. When I did read it was assorted hardboiled detective novels and Mills/Boone romances.

The romances made me cringe…these were frail, frightened damsels who needed help crossing the road and were always in distress when the romantic hero showed up. And he of course, scowled, growled, and treated fair maiden rudely for 198 pages…then on page 199 stated: "Of course I've always loved you."

Where…where was that love…not in the first 198 pages.

I Did It My Way

That's when I started writing romances and mysteries and kicking to one side all of the publishing rules. Seriously, that's exactly what I did…I wrote the opposite of all the rules and that sage advice: write what you know.

I knew nothing. I never went to college – well, let me correct that – I studied wiring computer boards and Fortran programming – all perfect requirements for being a writer. Not!

What I did have was a talent for writing dialogue, for creating fun characters, smart women who had careers and didn't need a man to help them. Actually the men needed the women more!

In 1978, Dell saw something in my romantic comedies that started an entire new romance genre!

Back to Today

I celebrate 40 years as a writer this August…and a lot has changed both for major publishers and indie authors that can be summed up in one word: eBooks.

If only I'd known – but I would not have done anything different. I still NEVER write what I know… I love the hunt of learning.

I still never censor myself, and I've taken some nasty reviews for it. And I still never follow the rules…where's the fun in that? There's always a new genre to be created…and maybe you'll be the one to do just that.

Dark Corners (Roman Cantrell-Nikki Holden Mystery II) by Elaine Raco Chase

Exciting Explicit Extraterrestrial?

All over south Florida people are seeing things – things that can't be real –or can they?

Nikki's boss gives her the most bizarre assignment of her career. 

More than 200 solid citizens have reported sightings and contacts with UFO's! Soon she's on the trail with help from the University of Tennessee Space Institute & the Air Force!

Roman comes to the aide of an old Army buddy and finds himself with the most baffling case of his career. Did the US Army actually hijack an armored car? Or is his buddy feeding Roman a pack of lies?

When their cases converge – Roman and Nikki become trapped in a plot that's stranger than science fiction but as real as death in Dark Corners.

Takeaway Truth

If you like smart dialogue, high concepts, captivating characters, and sizzling relationships, read Dark Corners or any of the novels by Elaine Raco Chase!

Review: Blue Gold: American Jeans

Never throw away your jeans--or denim anything for that matter.

That's the takeaway from watching Blue Gold: American Jeans recently. It's available on Netflix and Amazon Prime.

In fact, check out your parents' and grandparents' attics for old denim clothing. No matter how worn and raggedy, vintage denim is worth big dollars in the collectible market.

I cringe when I think of my old Sasson and Jordache jeans I blithely donated to Goodwill when that fashion jean craze waned.

I wring my hands in despair when I think of darling hubby's old Levi 501 XX that he replaced when they developed holes from years of wear. We could probably buy a new luxury vehicle if we had those to sell now.

American Jeans Truly Are Blue Gold

Blue Gold: American Jeans is a fascinating documentary released in 2014 and narrated by actor Edward Burns.

Written and directed by Christian D. Bruun, the film tells the remarkable story of blue jeans, a garment created for gold miners in America in the 19th century. From those humble beginnings, jeans have spread all over the globe, with all cultures embracing them. One fact they brought out is that American blue jeans are called Texans in some countries. I love that!

The film profiles fashion designers and those in the forefront of jeans culture as well as vintage jeans experts and traders who travel the highways and byways of America in search of blue gold: denim clothing made in America.

Sadly, like so much industry and manufacturing, jeans-making left these shores during the 1990's. In 2003, Levi Strauss followed the other jeans makers to China, India, and other cheap labor countries. Only 2 or 3 "boutique" jeans brands are now made in America.

The documentary has some thought-provoking scenes of factories filled with children and old people, sitting on crates and working long hours at monotonous jobs in the manufacture of jeans for the new century.
All in all, this documentary is entertaining and educational. It's also consciousness-raising.

You'll never again look at a pair of $25.00 jeans in a discount store without thinking about how they came to market at such a low price.

You also may find yourself visiting every thrift store near you, looking for the elusive 501 XX Levi's made prior to 1980.

Watch the trailer for Blue Gold on YouTube. Learn more about the film at Blue Gold: The Movie.

Takeaway Truth

I guess the policy to adopt is never throw anything away! You might be throwing away blue gold. Another good policy would be to support manufacturers that truly do make in the U.S.A.

Prayers for the Wounded

My prayers are with those injured in the shooting at the Baseball Park in Alexandria, Virginia, and with their families.

I grew up in an era when people were allowed to have dissenting opinions about most anything, without fearing they would be shot for having differing opinions.

What Is Happening to the Land of the Free

I find myself confused and bewildered by those who think it's all right to settle disagreements with weapons whether that's a disgruntled Democrat attacking Republican members of Congress or a school kid attacking a classmate he dislikes.

What's the Answer

The answer to this violence is not to ban guns or knives or whatever the handy weapon of choice might be. The answer is to banish the idea that people can't compromise and live in peace. Banish the idea that only one group knows what's best for the country, and everyone not a member of that group is the enemy.

When I went to school, what Voltaire said was deemed to be what our country stood for: "I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it."

We are all Americans. We should all cherish the idea that we can have different opinions without doing violence to each other. We should all be willing to work together for the common good.

Takeaway Truth

God bless America.