Thursday, February 14, 2019

Romancing the What?

Do you remember the 1980s movie Romancing the Stone? I never knew what that title meant, and am still not real sure, even after a bit of research.

I checked the Cambridge Dictionary online and found “to tell stories that are not true, or to describe an event in a way that makes it sound better than it was.”

So, I thought, my novels are romancing. That makes sense. The word for “novel” in French is “roman.”

I’ve been romancing crime, romancing Illinois, romancing history…

But romancing a stone?

After reading the synopsis on Wikipedia, I conclude it was the filmmakers who were romancing the stone, an emerald.

They told a fantastical tale about the good guys and the bad guys chasing after each other during the search for a great treasure.

Do you have a better idea?

Pat (Patricia) Stoltey is the author of four novels published by Five Star/Cengage: two amateur sleuth, one thriller that was a finalist for a Colorado Book Award in 2015, and the historical mystery Wishing Caswell Dead (December 20, 2017), a finalist for the 2018 Colorado Book Awards.

Pat lives in Northern Colorado with her husband Bill, Scottish Terrier Sassy (aka Doggity), and brown tabby Katie (aka Kitty Cat).

You can learn more about Pat at her website/blog, on Facebook, and Twitter. Check out the book excerpt and interview featured on SunLit at the new online news source, Colorado Sun.

Tuesday, February 12, 2019

Writing - Love it or Hate It

For February, this month of celebrating love in our personal and professional lives, I am taking a look at how love enters into my writing. Many writers I know have a love/hate relationship with this wacky world of writing, as do I. We love the process of writing when those great surges of creative urges give us words faster than our keyboards can keep up. We love it when we finish a scene and can smile and say, "Damn! That was a fun ride."

We love getting positive feedback.  And we love the satisfaction of coming to The End of a story with that great sense of accomplishment.
Photo courtesy of 
On the other side of the coin, we hate marketing - at least some of us do. We hate feeling like we are butting our heads against a brick wall when it comes to submitting an article or a story or a book for publication. We hate the things that are out of our control, like the algorithms on Amazon that determine the standings of our books. We hate the fact that Amazon controls so much of the online retail market. We hate that reviews disappear from Amazon for no reason that we can fathom, and no notification. We hate that the retail market has shrunk so much that we have to rely on Amazon for any sales at all.

For me to continue writing, I have to put those "hate" things aside and concentrate on what I love most, especially the kind words and encouragement from others.

Recently I received this in a note from a friend about my short story collection, The Wisdom of Ages. "Thank you again for gifting me this wonderful and special book. When I started to read the first story I was reminded how talented and gifted you are. The stories themselves were great but the way you wrote about each one created such emotions for me. At the end of "Maybe Someday" I actually got a big case of goose bumps. Now that’s a great story. At the end of  "The Last Supper" I had tears in my eyes."

That note will keep me smiling for a long time.

Another bright light in this crazy business is getting a rejection that doesn't cut  us to the bone. That may only happen to a writer once or twice in a lifetime, and I was lucky to experience that not too long ago.

I was talking to an editor who had to turn down an idea I have for a book, but he was so nice about it, it was hard for me to remember he was saying no. That was such a pleasant change from the rejections that would send me reeling…

“How dare they not LOVE my book?”

“My life is ruined.”

“It’s a conspiracy. I know it is.”

Sounds a little paranoid, I know, but for a long time the only thing I had to attest to my credibility as a writer was my basic insecurity. Writers are insecure for a lot of reasons. Some of us were born that way, but for others it's accumulated over the years like a fringe un-benefit.

Before the Internet, we writers tended to work in a professional vacuum- no office mates with whom to share our latest disappointment or get some direct feedback on the day-to-day accomplishments of our job. For years there was nobody here to pat me on the back except my cat, and he’d rather sleep in front of my monitor than offer me any kind words.

Now we have blogs like this one to offer advice and inspiration. On Twitter there are virtual writing and blogging communities like @bloggertribe  for mutual support and help in building an audience. On Twitter, if you use the hashtag #amwriting or #writingcommunity, you can find other writers from whom you can get daily feedback on how your writing is going, or not going, whatever the case might be.

We all know that we write because we think we have something to say, hopefully, something important and meaningful. Even when we get discouraged, we all seem to still be drawn to the keyboard - if the cat will ever move - to impart some words of wisdom or a bit of finely crafted prose. To work on that novel that is burning inside us. To spend a little time with characters who have become like family to us. To satisfy that urge to paint pictures with words.

But if that was all there was to it, we wouldn't care if our words ever saw print; and I have yet to meet a writer who didn’t care. It's good to want to say all those nice things, but the whole process would undeniably be meaningless if no one was ever going to read what we write.

So we put it out there. Do due diligence in the marketing, and hope that at the very least our monthly royalty will buy us a decent dinner out. The added bonus comes when someone reads the work and thinks it's good. Or better yet; great, wonderful, fantastic, and terrific. Like my friend who sent me that note.

By the way, the greatest gifts you can give your writer friends is to send them a note telling them how much you liked their book, as well as posting reviews of their books on Amazon and Goodreads. Have you given your favorite author any love recently?

Maryann Miller - novelist, editor and sometimes actress. She won her first writing award at age twelve with a short story in the Detroit News Scholastic Writing Awards Contest and continues to garner recognition for her short stories, books, and screenplays. You can find out more about Maryann, her books, and her editing services on her Website and her Amazon Author Pageread her Blogand follow her on Facebook and TwitterHer online workshop on self-editing, part of a series of online writing workshops from Short&Helpful, can be found HERE

Thursday, February 7, 2019

Writers Gotta Read, Right? Valentine's Day

Ah… Valentine's Day! Bring on the romance and the love, the chocolate, and the lacy, cutout paper hearts.
Sooooo lovely!
(By Chordboard - Self, from material in my possession., Public Domain,
--> But I'm a mystery author, so I can't help but think of the "dark side" as well:
  • The downside of love—jealousy, possessiveness, obsession. 
  • The poisoned box of candy. 
  • The scissors, sharp enough to cut paper, but maybe sharp enough for other, more deadly uses… 
... And now for the dark side. "Jealousy" by Edvard Munch, 1895
(Edvard Munch [Public domain])
Whether you prefer the light-hearted romance or the emotional ruin of this special day dedicated to lovers—or something in between—there's something for you to read as the following lists show…
While we're at it, who among us isn't "Dying for Chocolate?" From the blog of that name, here's a great recipe for Cherry Port Heart-shaped Brownies (yum!).
If you have a favorite Valentine's Day-themed read or a great chocolate recipe to share (!yes!) please chime in and let us know. 

Not-a-brownie, but definitely chocolate! (Marit & Toomas Hinnosaar [CC BY 2.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons)


Ann Parker authors the award-winning Silver Rush historical mystery series published by Poisoned Pen Press. During the day, she wrangles words for a living as a science editor/writer and marketing communications specialist (which is basically a fancy term for "editor/writer"). Her midnight hours are devoted to scribbling fiction. Visit for more information.

Tuesday, February 5, 2019

Is love dead?

February has long been associated with love, and Valentine's Day is celebrated in a number of countries, including the U.S., Mexico, Argentina, Britain, France, Australia, and Canada among others.

Strangely, it's origins lie in the Roman festival of Lupercalia, a fertility rite involving the sacrificial killing of animals celebrated on February 15. The name was reportedly changed to St.Valentine's Day in the fifth century by Pope Gelasius I to honor Christian martyrs by the same name. Literary links to the ancient festival and modern celebrations include Shakespeare's Julius Caesar, which opens during the Lupercalia in Rome, and Chaucer's fourteenth-century work, Parlement of Foules, written to celebrate romantic love and the first anniversary of King Richard II's engagement. He wrote, "For this was on seynt Volantynys day, Whan euery bryd comyth there to chese his make." ("For this was on St. Valentine's Day, when every bird cometh there to choose his mate." Aren't we glad we don't have to deal with Old English!)

Fast forward to the twentieth century. Heart-shaped boxes of candy, flowers, cards about love, and romantic candlelight dinners are some of the trappings that accompany this observance. In the Philippines, it is the most common wedding anniversary, and mass marriages of literally hundreds of couples often occur on February 14. Valentine Day's message of love has been extended beyond romantic boundaries to include family, friends, neighbors, and school children. I still remember the parties during my elementary school years and the excitement when the big box where all the valentines had been deposited was opened and the cheery greetings were passed out.

What has happened in the twenty-first century? As it marches on toward its third decade, it seems to have left love on the side of the road—or at least sent it to the back of the bus. News reports depict friends and neighbors parting ways over differences of opinion, family members opposing one another on any number of issues, students being bullied into committing suicide, and private citizens as well as terrorists invading schools and public gatherings to slaughter attendees. Large crowds of protesters march in the streets, demanding their rights, then vandalizing cars and businesses and attacking bystanders without regard for the rights of others. Racial, religious, and ethnic prejudices abound. Much of the world appears to teeter on the brink of anarchy.

Still, reports of love, neighborliness, and fellow-feeling creep into the news now and then. Strangers reaching out to those they do not know offer hope that love may not be facing its imminent demise.

Writers, like everyone else, are affected by the changes in our world. Unlike everyone else, we have the unique opportunity to inspire conversations when we incorporate into our stories the concerns and fears of real people—not only making our books relevant to readers, but also preserving the woes of our time for posterity. Through our characters, we can show the impact of rapidly changing and unstable world conditions on individuals and families. We might even find comfort and hope for ourselves as we allow our characters to express their concerns and seek ways to deal with what appear to be hopeless situations. They can articulate the feelings many readers are reluctant to voice. They can open the door to dialogues that need to take place, whether within the framework of a readers group or book club or simply among family members or friends.

The people who populate our pages might even remind us of the dangers inherent in isolating ourselves behind the impersonal environment of our cell phones and other forms of digital communication that separate us from hugs and human touch. Yes, technology serves a useful purpose when we can't be someplace in person; but rather than allowing it to replace physical presence when we interact with family and community, we have the power to bring love back into our lives by sharing it in person with those around us—as do our characters.

We humans have a great capacity to love and a strong desire to be loved. While we cannot alter world events, we can certainly control how we respond to them, how we deal with others, how we reach out to help where help is needed. Returning to the mentality of the heartless festival of animal sacrifices should never be an option. Instead, we can move forward to demonstrate through our actions and our characters the superiority of love as a counter to the anger and hostility and violence that permeate so much of the air we breathe.

We can show that love never fails. Not in February. Not in any time of year.

Editor Linda Lane has returned to her first love—writing—while maintaining her editing work. Her novels fall into the literary category because they are character driven rather than plot driven, but their quick pace reminds the reader of genre fiction. They also contain elements of romance, mystery, and thriller. You can contact her at websites: and