Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Our December Schedule

Dear friends,

Every December, the Blood-Red Pencil editors take the month off, and we share with you previous popular posts. This year, we'll be doing the same, but we'll offer those links from our Facebook and Twitter pages. Please connect with us there.

Wishing you all a peaceful and enjoyable December, filled with all the spirit of the season. We look forward to seeing you all in January, after a month of rest and renewal.

With fondest regards,

Dani Greer & Team

Friday, November 27, 2015

Art Appreciation

King Parrot
Acrylic on canvas by Elle Carter Neal
Click to enlarge
I enjoy drawing and painting as a hobby – which means I don’t take it seriously, I don’t bother with practicing to improve my skills, I don’t find time for it when I’m just too busy (like the past six years!). Making pictures is a nice way to relax after a long day dealing with words.

Artworks by Elle Carter Neal
(including Pelican incomplete since 2009)
Click to enlarge
I know enough about art to know that I’m not good enough at it to illustrate my own covers. So, I’ve now set out twice to commission artwork from professional artists. The first was very easy to find. Sandra Salsbury illustrated What Does It Mean to be Safe by Rana DiOrio and I followed the blog book tour via Dani’s involvement in Little Pickle Press. I fell in love with the artwork on Sandra’s website, and knew she would be my first enquiry when I was ready to design the cover for my first book, Madison Lane and the Wand of Rasputin. Sandra was available, and an absolute delight to work with from the very first thumbnail sketch she sent through to the lightning fast turn-around of the finished cover.


This year I was ready to publish my first picture book, I Own All the Blue. I was after a very particular style for this book and I searched through hundreds of portfolios and websites before I found Bess Harding on Pinterest. Bess was also lovely to work with, and translated my text and illustration notes into darling images that bring the story to life.

I love being able to give work to talented artists. And I really appreciate what I get for my investment.

Elsa Neal
Elle Carter Neal is the author of the picture book I Own All the Blue and teen science-fantasy novel Madison Lane and the Wand of Rasputin. She is based in Melbourne, Australia. Find her at ElleCarterNeal.com or HearWriteNow.com

Wednesday, November 25, 2015


This is the time of year when we are “supposed” to be thankful. And I am. I’m thankful all year for the many, many blessings I’ve had throughout my entire life.

But having gone through a major loss within the past year and a half, I see a glimpse of why some may feel this season is an additional emotional burden. We are “supposed” to be happy. We are “supposed” to be grateful. Bah, humbug, right?

Well, maybe it’s attitude that either overrides or expresses gratitude. (And maybe this human emotional roller coaster can be good fodder for our writing, our character development!)

So, here’s what I’m grateful for:

  •         I’m healthy
  •         I live where the sun shines most days
  •        I can go hiking in 60-degree weather in November and even some days in December and January
  •         I have great friends
  •         My family
  •         My ability to write
  •         My editing clients who keep me as busy as I want to be
  •         Four published books—I’m living my dream!

So wherever you are—even if we’re spending Thanksgiving with strangers instead of family—have a wonderful day full of Gr-Attitude!

A native Montanan, Heidi M. Thomas now lives in North-central Arizona where she blogs, teaches writing, and edits. Her first novel, Cowgirl Dreamsis based on her grandmother, and the sequel, Follow the Dream, won the national WILLA Award. The next book in the series is Dare to Dream, and a non-fiction book Cowgirl Up! A History of Rodeo Women, is also available. Heidi has a degree in journalism and a certificate in fiction writing.

Monday, November 23, 2015

I'm An Author, But Almost Wasn't

Christmas hype often overshadows Thanksgiving, but it shouldn't. Around Thanksgiving, I can't help but be grateful for my many blessings, chief of which are the gift of life, the gift of love, and the gift of country.

I've also received another gift, one that sees me through hard times and give me joy. That is the gift of writing. My earliest recollections are of my father driving me and my brothers to the library, where we'd take out stacks of books to bring home and devour. 

As I grew older, I dreamed of being a writer, but that's all it was, just a dream. I had no idea how to follow through, or even if I could. That all changed one evening when I attended a presentation at my local library, There, various members of the Chicago-North Romance Writers of America chapter shared how and why they wrote. Though they came from various walks of life, and seemed like normal, everyday people, they'd managed to write books,and many of these women had actually gotten there books published. If they could do it, maybe I could.

Fascinated by the idea, I joined the chapter. It was wonderful being among people with the same interests. Not only did I enjoy the bonds of friendship, but also, when my first book, Two Wrongs, was published, I'd finally learned enough about the craft to finally realize my dream about becoming a published author.Since then, I've published eight more books, and have a few more in the works.

None of this would have happened, if not for that one presentation at my local library. I'm so very thankful I was there that night.

Would any of you like to share how you became a writer?

Experience the diversity and versatility of Morgan Mandel. Romantic Comedies: Her Handyman, its sequel, A Perfect Angelstandalone reality show romance; Girl of My Dreams.  Thriller: Forever Young: Blessing or Curse,its sequel: the Blessing or Curse CollectionRomantic suspense: Killer CareerMystery:Two Wrongs. Short  and Sweet   Romance: Christmas   Carol
Christian Women's Fiction: Hailey's Chance: Will Baby Make 3? Twitter:@MorganMandel Websites: Morgan Mandel.Com    Morgan Does Chick Lit.Com.

Friday, November 20, 2015

Adventures in Audio - Part 1: The Back Story

Image by Alan Levine, via Flickr
My husband is nothing if not diversified in the range of his creative enterprises. Board game enthusiasts, for example, will recognize the name Bob Harris as the creator of the classic fantasy board game Talisman.1 Following the world-wide success of Talisman, Bob a made the lateral move into writing Y/A fiction when our friend Jane Yolen invited him to be her co-author for Queen’s Own Fool, a tale of Mary Queen of Scots (Philomel Books, 2000), the first of eight successful collaborations. And thereby hangs the tale of how he made yet another lateral into script-writing.

Bob has always been a fan of vintage American radio comedies like the Jack Benny Show, Amos and Andy, and Duffy’s Tavern. In the wake of writing Queen’s Own Fool, it occurred to him that the life of Mary Queen of Scots, which affords so much serious dramatic material, might on a lighter note provide the basis for a uniquely Scottish sitcom.

In 2003 he mentioned this notion to his long-time friend Alan McFadzean, and the two of them set to work on a pilot for The Queen’s Heid, a comedy set partly in Mary’s palace of Holyrood and partly in a tavern across the street (the Queen’s Heid of the title), run by the scheming-but-lovable Lachie Marr. Originally conceived as a TV show, this concept was eventually developed as a one-off special for BBC Radio Scotland, first aired on St. Andrews Day (Nov 3) 2005. A sequel, The Knox Factor, was broadcast by the BBC in 2007.

Thereafter, contractual obligations compelled Bob to focus on his career as a children’s author. Alan, meanwhile, pursued his career as a science consultant, co-authoring the acclaimed book Engineering Animals. In their down-time, they continued to produce new comedy scripts - though finding a market for them proved difficult.

Then came new inspiration.

For several years, Bob had been involved in professional role-play work, both for businesses and for St. Andrews University’s medical department. He suddenly realized that from his various colleagues he could put together an excellent cast. With this prospect in mind, he and Alan went back to work on their flagship project Watch The Skies!, a comedy set in an observatory in the Cairngorm Mountains of Scotland.

Watching from the sidelines, I was thrilled when the actors fell in love with the first script at first reading. Since then, rehearsals of this and follow-on scripts in the series have been pure joy. To bring the series to fulfillment, we’ve been very fortunate to be given the use of Sunnybrae studios, run by Bob’s cousin AJ Harris, who also added the music and sound effects.

This has been a fantastic collaborative project in which everyone has given their services for free. At the time of writing two episodes are available online along with a host of extra features. Over the next few weeks there will be another episode added plus a Christmas special, with more to follow in the New Year.

Watch The Skies! is available absolutely free at Quantum Fridge.

You can Like it on Facebook at the Watch The Skies Comedy page.

You can also follow on Twitter @QuantumFridge

In my next article I will explore with Bob the difficulties and delights of writing purely for audio.

1 Talisman was first published by the British-based company Games Workshop in 1983. The Fourth Edition is currently produced and marketed by the American-based company Fantasy Flight Games.

Debby Harris is an independent editor living in Scotland. Please visit her website for more information about her editing services and fees.

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Giving Thanks in a Messy World

Being November, the possible blog themes this month were Gratitude, along with Autumn, National Novel Writing Month, and Thanksgiving Day. When I chose Gratitude, I realized what a paradox it was at this time in history. Yes, I’m grateful for a lot of things. I have a wonderful family, a nice house, work I love to do. I write books, which means I can live part of my life in a fantasy world, creating stories, mostly crime fiction and suspense. I thought more deeply about the subject, and I knew this blog post would be serious and sad and a reminder of how blessed I really am and how blessed many who will read this are.

There’s a whole messy world outside my little office in my warm house, where plenty of food fills the refrigerator. I grew up in a different time. An innocent time. My parents worked in the shoe factories in a city in Massachusetts famous for making shoes.
The public commons were shaped like the toe and heel of a shoe, factories were everywhere, and there was plenty of work. It was hard work. I spent the summer between my last year of high school and first year of college working in the factory, along with a few friends. It was enough to make me know that was not where I wanted to spend my life. I had new respect for those who worked there to put food on the table, my mother included.

I went to a state college to study art. My tuition was $200 A YEAR. I commuted thirty miles a day, so I didn’t have to pay for room and board. That amount adjusted for inflation would be $1625 today, but tuition plus art supplies and books at the same college in 2015 totals $14,000. That doesn’t include living expenses. And that’s a bargain these days. So I’m very grateful I could afford college back then, which I worked through school to pay for, by the way. Those who want to go to college now and can’t afford the tuition take out loans they pay back for years, or they don’t go. That means college has become something only the well-to-do can afford, and unless something changes, that doesn’t bode well for the country.

Then comes the messy world—the world with kids who can’t even dream of college because all they want is a roof over their heads and a regular meal. Maybe it’s this week in particular that has me writing about how grateful I really am when I read and see the tens of thousands fleeing their homelands under siege to find a safe haven, and risking their lives and the lives of their children to do so.
Or the hundreds more killed by bombs set off by madmen for the sake of―you know, I really don’t know why. Religion? Power? Hatred? Romance? Adventure?

I’m grateful I don’t live there and feel selfish for the thought and sick at heart for those who do. I feel grateful for what I have, yet it’s an empty feeling somehow knowing that others are living in such dire poverty and fear and need, with no hope of getting out of the vortex pulling them down.

I’ve never been a person who prayed much, but this Thanksgiving, I’ll make a point of saying a prayer to whatever gods might be listening for this messy world to become neater, and that no child, no vet, no person should go hungry anywhere. It so happens that what’s going on in a world far away is material for my current work in progress that has a Middle East theme. Now, I need to make it mean something in my story.

Painting by Norman Rockwell

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone, or maybe I should say, Happy Give Thanks Day.

Polly Iyer is the author of seven novels: standalones Hooked, InSight, Murder Déjà Vu, Threads, and three books in the Diana Racine Psychic Suspense series, Mind Games, Goddess of the Moon, and Backlash. A Massachusetts native, she makes her home in the beautiful Piedmont region of South Carolina. You can visit her website for more on Polly and connect with her on Facebook and Twitter.

Monday, November 16, 2015

Thanks to Lady Luck...

Image by Bill Selak, via Flickr
Lady Luck has waved her magic wand for me times without number. Without her aid, I would not have become a multi-(61 books and counting)-published author.

It was sheer chance that my first manuscript landed on the desk of an editor who not only liked it but had a space on her list for it. If it hadn’t sold, I would not have persevered, never having had a burning desire to be a writer. I wrote it to postpone having to go out and look for a “proper” job.

With my second publisher (after the first quit doing Regencies before buying my second effort), I had several different editors over the years. All were great to work with except one—and luckily she was only there long enough to drive me nuts over one book. When, years later, it became an e-book, I reversed many of the changes she had made, with the unfortunate result (okay, Lady Luck’s not always on my side) that a monkey never previously mentioned appeared on the stairs of a London mansion halfway through the book. Only one reader ever wrote to me in puzzlement...

At about the same time, my ex and I split up and I needed to start seriously making a living. Just then, luckily, Harlequin restarted their defunct Regency line; I met a senior editor at an RWA conference; she had heard my name from their new Regency editor, who was a fan of mine; and they were actively looking for manuscripts. For a while, just when I needed the work, I was writing four books a year, for two publishers.

The most surprising bit of luck I had was when I wrote Scandal’s Daughter. I sold it to Zebra on the basis of two short paragraphs: a sentence or two about the heroine, the same for the hero, and that they’d travel together from Istanbul to England.

As I was writing it, it turned into a sort of Regency Perils of Pauline. At the end of nearly every chapter, my hero and heroine were in dire peril. I rescued them at the beginning of the next chapter, from Greek bandits, Turkish soldiers, Barbary pirates, French troops, a snowstorm in the mountains, and many another deadly danger. Just before I finished it, my editor left the company and I had to send this very untrad Regency to a new editor who knew nothing about it and with whom I’d never worked. I was sure she’d hate it.

She not only loved it, she suggested a couple of scenes that I’d meant to write but somehow hadn’t fitted in! Talk about being on the same wavelength.

And talking about editors who come and go, I’ve seen the careers of friends derail because the editor who loved their work moved on and for one reason or another couldn’t take them along. The best luck of my career is having a mystery editor who has stayed. He bought my first mystery, Death at Wentwater Court in 1993, and 22 years later he’s still at the same publisher and still buying my work, the most recent being Superfluous Women, with a couple more on the way.

Thanks, Lady Luck.

Carola Dunn is author of the Daisy Dalrymple Mysteries, Cornish Mysteries, and multitudinous Regencies.


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