Housekeeping and Editing…Two Challenging Tasks!

I admit I’m not much of a housekeeper. I know mothers that excel at having a well-kept home. I’ve stopped by to drop my kids off at scheduled play dates or even unexpectedly to sell Girl Scout cookies and have been invited into homes that are often tidy and beautiful. I do clean, but more often than not, there are toys strewn about, and my office/playroom is well…just plain messy.


One rainy afternoon, I was mumbling under my breath while cleaning out closets when my hubby walked in and said, “What’s the big deal? Think of it as cleaning up your manuscript after the first draft.” I dropped the trash bag stuffed with kids’ clothes intended for Goodwill, and looked up at him in shock. As an engineer and introvert, he’s definitely on the quiet side, but sometimes he blurts out very helpful and insightful things. I started thinking and came to the conclusion he was totally on point.

So what do cleaning the house and editing your book really have in common? It turns out to be a whole lot.

Read the entire manuscript in one sitting

Get the feel for the story. Resist marking the pages and making notes in the margins. Just read for the content. This will reveal overwriting, sections that need more explanation, or unfinished plot points. It’s similar to walking through the house and noting what needs to be cleaned, which closets need to be organized, and how big of a task you have ahead of you.

Traditions in Life and Writing

Lately I’ve been thinking a lot about traditions and how my family traditions have changed over the years. Similarly the pathway to publication has evolved.

As a child, the holiday season was filled with traditions surrounding food and family gatherings. My mother is a baker and a chef beyond compare. Every holiday season, the women in the family – Aunts and cousins – would gather and bake. My Great Grandmother’s Italian Cookie Recipes all started with 5 lbs. of flour. That is a LOT of cookies! My contribution to these cookie baking nights was the famous and often shared story of the time I knocked over the 5 lb. bag of flour when I was five. A true indication of my love for all things domestic to come!

The Traditonal Family Italian Cookies

The Traditional Family Italian Cookies

My favorite family memories as a child were that of my family – My mom, dad and brother. We were together always, and there was a lot of laughter in our home. Christmas Eve, we would make the rounds, first on my father’s side of the family for dinner – family and food, then to my Great Grandmother’s house for more family and food. We were LARGE in numbers back then. I only remember that it was fun…and at times we drove through snowstorms to get there. Have I mentioned I grew up in Buffalo where A White Christmas was a given? The snow did not stop us from seeing family, nor from missing Midnight Mass. Christmas Day was filled with more family and food. Mainly I remember a long day filled of playing with my cousins. Those were beautiful Camelot-like days.

Gift Ideas for Writers

If you’re like me, you’re still scrambling for holiday gifts. Need ideas for that special wordsmith in your life? Or are you a writer and you need to buy yourself a little something for under the tree? Here are a few fun things I’ve found.


Nearly every writer drinks coffee or tea to keep the brain juices flowing. And when I say “drink,” I mean CONSUME MASSIVE QUANTITIES OF. If you know a writer, these make great gifts:

General Purpose Mug

Buy here.

For the History Lover

Buy here.

Going All Fan-Girl on Margaret Mitchell

In July during the RWA conference in Atlanta, Georgia, author Diana Quincy and I headed into the city center to visit Margaret Mitchell’s home. Yep, Margaret Mitchell, the author who wrote a book I’ve read at least ten times. A little unknown Pulitzer Prize winning work called Gone with the Wind, featuring a heroine still popular almost 100 years after she first appeared—Scarlett O’Hara.WP_000723

We were so eager to visit one of the most admired female writers of all time that we meandered up to her house—now a museum run by the Georgia Historical Society—headed on in, and where told by a gift shop attendant, “You are way too early. The tour begins at 11:00 a.m.”

Okay. We were excited.

Returning promptly at 11:00 a.m., the tour group assembled and was comprised of mostly . . . romance writers! The interesting thing about taking a tour of an author’s house with authors is that you really get a sense of what is fact versus fiction.

For example, there was a wonderful picture of Mitchell typing away on her Remington typewriter propped up on a wooden sewing machine. Her hair was swept neatly back, her dress was fashionable and tidy. There were no signs of clutter, no discarded papers filled with typos, no dirty coffee mugs nor cigarette buds in ashtrays.

Exactly how I look when in the middle of a story—ask the mailman, he’ll confirm it. Of course, the other tour members got a great laugh out of that picture, as well. It’s exactly how you’d expect an author to look in the movies. Again, fact versus fiction and in this case, fiction won.


Hope Restored


As our regular readers know, our amazing critique partner and blog mate, Joanna Shupe, has come into some major success recently. As a result of her recent final (and now WIN!!!) in RWA’s Golden Heart contest for unpublished authors, an editor who had her book on his desk got motivated to read it in a hurry… at the same time, she got an offer from another publisher. Joanna ended up with a three-book contract, including print, from Kensington! At RWA’s National Conference she rubbed elbows with the other Golden Heart finalists and with the Kensington authors, not to mention she will now be a PAN member. Although her historicals won’t hit shelves until early 2015, worlds have opened up for her already. Given Joanna’s stellar writing, fab stories, and serious work ethic, I guarantee this is just the beginning.

Why, you wonder, is my blog post about Joanna? Because, dear readers, her success has renewed my own hope. Joanna landed an agent about a year before me, so not only has she been submitting longer, she’s submitted to more places than I have. Yet every one of her rejections and my own seemed to lump together in my heart. Just when the both of us really started to wonder—maybe not about quitting (well okay, once or twice it crossed my mind), but about possibly giving up the original dream by pursuing publication through a less traditional avenue. An option that’s viable, though still terrifying, these days. Then, viola, success for her! From her dream house, for three-books, not just one, and even for print, which let’s face it, seems a rarity these days for a new author.


Caught in the Draft

Like many writers, I crave praise.

I want someone to read my writing—whether it’s a sentence, a paragraph, or an entire story—and just LOVE it. ‘Cause it feels…well, awesome.

Except when they don’t. And that feels…well, crappy.

By Girlnamedjim (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0 ( or GFDL (], via Wikimedia Commons

By Girlnamedjim (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0 ( or GFDL (, via Wikimedia Commons

Keeping Your Toy Shiny and New

While serving on jury duty recently, I was able to finish Stephen King’s On Writing. As many of you know, the book is chock full of awesome writerly advice. What really struck home with me was how King handles a first draft. Famously, he says to “write with the door closed; edit with the door open.” (I don’t have the book in front of me, so forgive me any errors with the quote, but you get the gist.)

King doesn’t show any piece of his current WIP to a living soul until the first draft is done. Then he goes back and does a bit of self-editing. And then, and only then, when he’s happy with the “first” draft, does it go out to beta readers.

Come on! Get Your Will Ferrell On

Deconstructing Sentences: The Will Ferrell Effect


Imagine sitting in an auditorium and listening to a lecture on macroeconomics. The professor is going on and on about consumerism. How Americans buy more than they produce. On, and on, and on. The monotony of the professor’s voice sounds like a Maharishi’s mantra, lulling you toward a deep, blissful sleep. On, and on, and on. To the point where your numbed mind begins to wonder if investing money in this class–along with your 400 other fellow American, college student, consumer, investors . . . yep, the same ones nodding off next to you—was a bad idea.

Now, take this same scenario and pretend the professor is . . . Tom Hardy. (Sorry, I’m still in my dream state at the macroeconomics class.) Okay, I’m keeping Tommy for myself. How about . . . Will Ferrell?

Favorite Romantic Moment

valentines day couple

For many of us, we eat, drink, and sleep romance. We’re writers. It’s what we do. Especially if you’re a member of NJ Romance Writers and are participating in our 30,000-word February writing challenge, JeRoWriMo (Jersey Romance Writing Month)! Even while I’m working my day job, driving, or even—forgive me—hanging out with my family, a part of me often is thinking about my characters. It’s not enough to write that happily-ever-after for our hero and heroine. We have to write it in a way that evokes the emotion of the reader; to make our characters so real that our readers fall in love with them as much as we do.

Holiday Round-Robin Kickoff

This week on The Violet Femmes, I have two distinct pleasures: one, to announce the winner of our Contest Giveaway, and two, to kickoff our Holiday Round-Robin story. Without further ado:

The winner of the Nook Simple Touch is…..


Congratulations, Barbara!!! We wish you many great Reads!

Next up, our Holiday Round Robin’s first installment, written by me, Jenna Blue, just for you, our Dear Readers. Why? To share the spirit of the season in the form of a little romance. Each week, one of the Femmes will continue the story. We hope it brings you a little holiday joy in this busy season…


Things This Writer Is Thankful For

Hope everyone had a wonderful Thanksgiving holiday! I don’t know about you but in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy, it’s more apparent than ever how much I have to be thankful for. Nothing like the biggest and worst storm on record to make you appreciate the little things in life.

Here’s a short list of the things I’m thankful for in my writing life…

The Internet

Research can be fun, but it can also be a major time suck. I’m so grateful for all the wonderful historical blogs and sites that make it easier to find the nuggets of information I need. Google Books is worth its weight in gold for first person historical accounts.

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