2 Blondes, 1 Redhead & a Reviewer

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What’s your music memory?

When I hear what is now classified as an oldie, I get happy.  Bouncing in the seat happy.   I hear ‘Be young, be foolish’ by the Platters, I’m transported to Folly Beach Pier with my then sweetheart, a Citadel cadet, and I’m rocking with the entire senior class.  Yet I couldn’t name another song by that band.  I hear Bad Company or Steppenwolf’s Hey Lawdy Mama and I’m suddenly riding in a Marine MP’s jeep with my best girl on our way to my Marine boyfriend’s place. (Ah, that would be Bob, married 35yrs)  It has more to do with riding over the Chechessee River Bridge in an open jeep than anything.  The tires thumping on slab concrete and wood rails had a rhythm of its own.

Our music tastes coincide with moments of maturity.  They mark our lives early when we don’t really know who we are inside.  At least it did for me.

Trip back a few years and my memories are connected to The Temptations, Marvin Gaye, Smokey Robinson, Tommy James and the Shondells. (yes, I’m that old)  I have a clear memory of Iron Butterfly’s ‘Innagadadavidah’ playing at a school dance.  Songs like the Loco-motion, Good bye Yellow Brick Road, Oh Very Young and everything Jim Croce garner a memory.  Yes, I cried when he was killed.  He was my favorite.

Something rock and roll was playing when a broadcast was interrupted to say JFK had been assassinated.  I remember my parents reaction, the tears and every one huddled around the Hi-Fi.  I didn’t understand the gravity of the situation.  I was about six  or seven and we were living in Iceland.  All I knew was they were very sad.

The Beach Boys, Mama’s and Papa’s, Eric Clapton, Joe Cocker, Stevie Wonder and Diana Ross music floated on the air during teenage sleepovers and after school activities.   Woodstock and the Million Man March was the time of my youth, but I lived a sheltered life.  I might have looked like a hippie then with purple leather, love beads and my hair ironed, but that’s about as far as it went.  We all did it to be cool, but that’s when our choices weren’t always our own.  No one could tell us what music to love.  The teenager battling high school hormones, homework and curfews know what they like.  It was about the only thing that was certain in our lives.   Sure, parents didn’t understand our choices just like I don’t understand the appeal of rap and never will.

In my early twenties disco was everywhere, but it’s not a part of me.  I was married, doing hair, but honestly, I can’t dance.  No rhythm here, at all.  It’s probably why I have little connection.  But I digress.  Often it’s music that flares a memory between the maturing years in our lives when decisions are often life altering.  College?  Military?  Peace Corps?   Music is wrapped in the freedom that one year– from seventeen to eighteen– marks.  I was enjoying the heck out of life then.

I’ve lost a chunk of years with American culture.  Anything produced between 1988-1992 is Greek to me, including all television.  We were living in Okinawa then. AFRTS was the only English speaking channel and military radio sounded like Good Morning Viet Nam.  That’s another reason why I prefer my oldies to anything on the air now.  I get annoyed when I read lyrics to a new favorite and find out its senseless, vulgar trash.  Yet I like the beat.  (It’s easy to dance to, Mr. Clark.  I give it a 98)

I’m not slamming anyone’s taste.   Few songs made sense in my era too.   Remember Whoopi Goldberg’s character in Jumping Jack Flash?  Or Muskrat love?  No one cared.  We remember what was playing when an event changed something in our lives.  Small or large, it doesn’t matter.  It could be the week someone broke your heart or the day you made the cut at tryouts.  It means something to the individual.

The week my husband proposed was full of activity but a constant was Boz Scaggs and Donovan playing in the background.  When I hear either’s song, the memory of that week pops up.  Yet I can’t recall my husband proposing.  Not one moment of it.  Strange but there it is.  Might be though, that it wasn’t the first time he’d asked.

My writing career forced me to stop listening to country music with lyrics and a decent beat when my medieval knight in Ireland sounded like a cowboy bringing in a herd.  I solved this with some Rachmaninoff and a little Mozart. With so many instruments, I couldn’t single one out.  It helped with my job, yet now, I can’t listen to anything but the snap of the keys.

Music can change your mood and lift it up.  When it trips a memory, its even sweeter or in some cases, bitter sweet.  Sometime when I sing along and know all the words, I’m a little stunned that I can recall the lyrics of a thirty year old song.  At the same time I recognize it for the memory it evokes and think, “Oh yeah, that’s when I…”

So I’m curious…. what song trips a special memory for you?


The Power of Words…

When I first learned this I was about 13, in the back of the family station wagon and under a blanket reading Stephen King’s Salem’s Lot.  I would have been in huge trouble for that, not for reading, but the subject matter.  It wasn’t the book a sheltered Catholic girl should be reading, however, it scared the crap out of me.  Really scared; so much that I had to stop, tuck it away and think of something else.  Quickly.  That’s when I realized that the author’s words were so powerful they terrified me.  I didn’t know if I could finish it.   I asked myself, “It’s a book. I’m scared of a book?”  As it is now, I understand that the way it’s written on the page, (i.e. printed) that had me breathing hard, sweating a little and thinking ‘ Oh please let good win over evil.”

It was my first King novel and wasn’t my last.  Some I couldn’t read they scared me so much.  I consider that a mark of excellence.  If the author can bring me to a tense state, then yes, they know the power of their words.  When I began writing, I remembered that childhood moment and it made me want to learn how to recreate that too.

My mom is a huge mystery fan and panics when there aren’t at least four unread books in the house.  I’m not that bad, but then again, I write them so there is a happy medium in there somewhere.  I have varied taste.  It depends on my mood, my current interest.   Last year I read almost all of the PJ Parrish books.  I love comedy and adore my pal Rhonda’s Finley Anderson Tanner series.  If I want a thriller, its Preston and Child, and if I want to read a historical, I immediately go for Connie Brockway, Jillian Hunter or Teresa Medeiros.  They have never failed me.  Oh, and neither has Stephen King.

So, readers… anyone give you that reading jolt?


The book that inspired…

Oh let’s jump on the Way Back Machine with Sherman and Peabody.   

Too dated? 

My career started pre-internet, so I don’t think I’m that off track.

I was a licensed Cosmetologist for 13 years.  Writing was out of left field for me.  I’d never written a word unless forced.  I was the mother of a 3 year-old and a newborn and Id organized myself into complete boredom when I’d picked up my first romance novel.  I read hundreds but with one novel, I was on page five or six and kept asking myself, ‘when is the description of a show boat going to end and the story going to start?’  That I even asked that question generated more and I believed I could do better.   Ha.

I still consider it arrogant of me to believe I could pick up a pen and be good enough to be published.  But then, I never considered being published at all.  That’s not why I write.  At that time in my life, my idea of a writer was scratching out on parchment by candle light in some cold dark apartment.  money was never a factor.  I just wanted to learn and studied extensively any how-to book I could find.  We were living in Okinawa Japan then and I wrote for any magazine, newspaper and TV guide who’d accept my work.  A few of those sales paid for the manuscript shipping cost to the US. 

It took me three years to write that first book.  It was rejected six times and rightly so.  It was so loaded with everything I loved about romance novels and vastly over written.  But it taught me how to write.  Believe it or not, a couple rejections were encouraging.  I was already onto the next story, and wrote My Timeswept Heart, a historical time travel about a Sgt Maj.’s daughter who travels back in time to end up with the Continental Marines of the Frigate Navy.  I should add that my fellow writers in the Okinawa Writers Guild thought I should forget a time travel and write a straight historical romance.  They insisted that a publisher would not buy a paranormal book from an unpublished writer. 

Needless to say, I didn’t listen to that piece of advice.


My Cell phone etiquette rules…

Let me preface this with some facts. I am not glued to my cell phone and I am very careful of using it in public.  A cell is a tool, not my life line.  I’m a grown up and I have my priorities straight.

1.  No using a cell phone when it threatens lives.  As in while you are driving.   I want to ram the cars where I see someone driving erratically because they are trying to do it with a damn phone to their ear.  No text either.  Cars are 4 ton machines that need your complete attention.

2.  No using a cell phone while you are supposed to doing something else, like load your items on a store conveyor   It angers me that the rest of us have to wait on you because you can’t cut a call off when it’s your turn at the register.  And yes, I’m the bitch that calls you on it in public.  I get a cheer from fellow shoppers so I know I’m not alone in this)  Do the job, then go chat.  Did no one teach you how to be courteous to other human beings?

Which leads me to #3… if you don’t want anyone to hear your conversation, take it outside.  I will stop, stare you in the face and listen.  The person says, “Hey, this is private!”  I say, “And this is public.  Deal with it like an adult.”  I don’t want to hear your conversation.  Ever.  On the same vent, I won’t chat on a cell in public.

4.  No crass dirty monologue from a TV show as your voice mail. I won’t call you back nor will I leave a message.  Let’s be good and not vulgar.  Not everything on TV should be repeated ad nauseum.

5.  Do NOT answer a text or even check your phone during a conversation with me.  I’m a mom and old.   I’ll snatch that puppy out of your hand because you obviously don’t know how to hold a conversation and need to go back to grade school.

My advice, teach your children YOUR rules of using a cell phone and if you don’t have them, you should.   I will close my tirade with saying Jodi Arias Trial has proven that a cell and its camera should be used with caution.


What goes around….

I must preface this Bad Editor moment with a few details.  At this point in my career I’d sold over a twenty books and had been writing for two publishers non-stop for several years already.  This was not my first rodeo.  I didn’t need a third publisher at that moment but I was open to writing a contemporary paranormal.  At the time paranormal was just breaking out of its shell.

I didn’t submit anything, this editor called me.  I don’t recall the conversation but I was flattered, and later emailed her a short synopsis.  Then I did some research on her.

This editor, I’ll call her Gi Gi, was very young in comparison to me and the people I’d been working with in the past few years.  She was new to publishing, yet was a buying editor of a major publisher then.  A well respected publisher.

I had never seen her in person.  When I did, I was unimpressed.  She was slovenly dressed, showing skin that shouldn’t be, and I must say, I do recall the body odor.  She offered intimate sexual details of her life to perfect strangers and drank excessively.  All this went on under the impressionable eyes of new writers at a conference.  I wanted to shout this was not acceptable, but my friends sponsored the conference and I’ll always be professional.  I kept my mouth shut.

When I returned home I’d received an email with a brief comments on the synopsis I’d sent. She’d sent it before the conference.  She said it was like a chess game, and that my work ‘pretty much sucked.’  Yes, she used those words.  Really.   How is it remotely respectful, you little twit.  This and Gi Gi’s behavior at a professional conference was just too much.  Its people like this woman who give writing romance a bad name.  I called her boss and in true Marine fashion, I went right to the top.  He was appalled.  Well respected, remember.  Within a week or two, she  no longer works for the publisher.  Not surprising, she’d earned a nasty reputation very quickly.  People heard.  You can thank the word spreading power of internet for that.   Gi Gi’s no longer in the business.

My work is done.

The moral: behave as a professional and or some righteous bitch like me will call you on it.


Good Teacher, Bad Teacher

I’ve had a few, like everyone else.

Bad teacher was Miss Cauble in the third grade.  She was the worst teacher I’ve ever encountered. She left a lasting impression and not a good one.  While teaching multiplication she would say ‘Two Times Two.’  I was learning to tell time and kept looking at the clock, confused.  If she had said multiply, then my 3rd grade mind would have eventually understood. But she used two different terms and the ADD dyslexic child could not understand.  So instead of explaining it right she called me stupid and put me in a room between classrooms.  She yelled at me (though teaching was HER job) called me dumb and actually spanked me when I didn’t understand her points.  I was scared. What had I done to make her angry and talk to me this way? The entire class saw it, and when I was released from my prison, I refused to go back.  I hid behind the door and just cried, feeling and thinking I was stupid.  A boy, David Davenport found me behind the door, comforted me and told me that she was wrong.  He was my hero but I was so ashamed that I walked home in tears. Never told my parents either since I thought I’d be blamed and the teacher was right. Thirty years later my father heard the story and nearly cried.  He was furious.  That was a comfort but I struggled through school and even more because I had that black cloud from one teacher.

For years it hung over me, so when you think what you say doesn’t impact a child, you are dead wrong.  To this day, I wish the woman ill.  And I love the 5th grader, David Davenport for just being my hero of the moment.

That said, the great teachers… there were two. Mr. Bemiss my high school history teacher.  He was the type that injected personal story of the players in history into learning and that made me want to know the people of history, not just the facts.  We played games, and once in a while he dressed the part of a historical character.  To this day, history is my first love.

The other was my English Lit teacher, Mrs. Striker (not sure of that name, folks, I’m old) but she managed to make Dante’s Inferno fun and exciting.  Her own love of English Lit was hard to ignore and like Mr. Bemiss, she injected the life of the writers into her lessons and the motivation behind their written words.  I was already a closet Stephen King fan, in the closet because I didn’t think my strict Catholic parents would like their child reading about demons and vampires.  I hide the books.  Yet Mrs. Striker opened another door to historical documentary. I know, a real snoozer, right?

In the beginning of the year she assigned a term paper on a historical character and I chose Vlad Teppes, Count Dracul. Yes, that one.  I was the only student who turned the paper in on time and I received an A minus. The minus because the last sentences were my opinion and this was a study, no personal opinions allowed.  I can look back and see my interest in creating the world of Vlad Teppes for the reader, my teacher.  As a student, I made A’s in three classes, Art, History and English Lit.  I squeaked through math and science but its history and English lit that let me graduate.  I swear.

And yes, that Miss Cauble crap hung over me even then. I feel I would have done better in school without her words ringing in my ears all the time.

Not unlike my writing career, I was stunned someone wanted to read something I wrote and then terrified they’d find out I wasn’t smart enough to be a real writer.   This is after writing non-fiction for three international magazines, two newspapers, and publishing fifteen books!  To this day I like surrounding myself with people who I feel are smarter than me.  I love learning.

So for those two teachers who enlightened me, thank you. I’m forever grateful for your inspiration. Your direction sent me down this writer path.

For Miss Cauble, I hope you’re suffering in school hell because I’m certain I wasn’t the only little kid you traumatized for life.


Characters… they ARE the story!

Bad characters and good plot?  No one will remember your story or want to read it or care about whatever plot is going on.  Great characters and average plot?  How many books can you name where you fell in love with the character and could care less about the story.  As long as you got to read their life, you’re all over it.  (Me too)

I learned early that Characters make the story and if you slack, no one will read the book, let alone buy it.   So for 20 years and 37 books my method of madness– know the character’s past.

We each are the sum of our life experiences.  Each of us has childhood issues we still deal with, or traumas that have changed our views.

Personally, I’ve done some things the average person will never have the opportunity to do.  Drive an Armored Personnel Carrier onto a beach?  Rappel down a cliff to scuba dive in the East China Sea?  Fire a 50 Caliber machine gun?  Or move an entire household across the country ALONE.

Think about what you have done in your life, and then work it into a character.

Below is a list of questions to ask your character.  Not yourself.  You have to cop the attitude of someone who has say… lived without parents or had everything in the world at their fingertips and still think there is more to life than good schools and spending cash. Or a car from Daddy.

The writer has to get in the head of the character and respond according to their past. That’s what makes a good one.

Feel free to use them to make your own character analysis.  I do one for character, especially the villain.  He or She is the hero of their own story.

Personal Information: description of the character, basic stuff.

Job/Talent necessary for this story?    What made them chose this profession?

What is their role in this story?  The Goal, the motivation behind it, and the conflict.  Who is stopping them?

What were they doing 24 hours ago?   Why did they do it?

What does character NOT know about the central conflict at the start?

What’s the McGuffin? (That elusive thing they are all searching for, if any)

Where did they spend their last vacation?   They go alone?

Family, Siblings, and the relationship?  What have they experienced that left marks?  Mental and Physical.

How were they raised?  Some background here.  (I was raised with a ‘pay it forward’ attitude, how about them?)

Who do they owe for the good/bad traits in them?   What are they?

Secret fear, talent, & wish?   What are they looking for, if anything, in their lives?

What they love about the opposite sex?  What they hate about the opposite sex?

How is their goal connected to the hero/heroine?

Favorite meal music, drink?  Bad habits?  Favorite saying?

What pushes their buttons?  Little and big ones.

Who could they count on for back up in a tough situation?

What would they be willing to die for?

What’s their Achilles Heel?  Could it bring them down, and in what way?

A personal conflict they struggle to hide or deal with?   Is it part of their Achilles heel?

What’s missing from their lives?   (They don’t have to know it’s missing)

What’s the 3 MAJOR tuning points for this character in this story?

Does this character have a conflict with anyone else?

What are the Heavies (the bad guys)doing to this character?

There are more that you can ask your character but these are the basics for getting a feel for them.  I always gain plot points to work in when I do this. Some, like Rhonda Pollero do this with soft ware (get ready for her plotting books coming out soon)  I need the paper and pen, to sit away from the computer and all the trappings of a writer and just dive deep.

That’s my take.  Any tips YOU do for creating characters we love and hate?

The plight of covers…

Now let me say first that if you are not a USA today or an NYT bestseller, you get what you get. I have had very little say-so in covers over the years. For Harlequin, none. No input yet all authors have to give scene descriptions so they can make a cover.  You see how that works, ey?

I recall, when my editor Kate Duffy asked about covers, I mentioned I hated Teal and pink. I’m writing action adventure, it needs dark and mysterious.  Other than Naked truth, a cover I loved, I had three more with pink, teal and blue.  I was not happy.  A high action thriller with a pink cover??  If I were writing Palm Beach fiction (hi Rhon) that would be great.  I disliked a couple covers because I recognized the H&H pose from old historical novels.

Now, a cover I loved was Naked Truth.  It did the job without leading the reader down a different path.  The color wash over them was the first, and as Kate predicted, many publishers copied it.  She knew it would happen and asked that I not put the cover on my web site until the release date.  I obeyed, yet within months. There were thousands with the same look.  So if you see a cover with a color wash over it, mine was number one.

When it came to my historicals, the only one I truly loathed was The Irish Enchantress and that’s because the colors were completely off. It looked like a bad bruise, imo.  But the Irish Princess cover was as if someone jumped in my brain and repeated it in ink. So when you get a cover, ask yourself if you can live with it.  As a writer published in print, and low on the totem pole, I had very little input and often, just lived with it.

So….any other cover nightmares out there?


who wants to be a writer?

I never wanted to be a writer.  My idea of a writer was a skinny soul scratching out stories by candlelight.  I was a lic. cosmetologist.  Making beaucoup bucks at it, too.  But like most of us, i was a reader.  often, when I was a kid, sneaking books I’d get grounded for reading because they were too adult. (Stephen King!)

I was a voracious reader, but the urge to write came when I read a romance that wasn’t all that great.  Hear me, I’d read a couple hundred already that were fantastic and I tried to understand why I didn’t like it.  That was the seed.  ‘I’d have done it this way’  runs through your mind.  Then I metioned this lousy book to a pal and she challenged me to do better.  She was insulted I dared be critical one of HER authors.  It was really more like, oh reallly?  you think you can do better, try.   While our kids played, I sat right there and wrote.  Oddly, she read it and said, not half bad.  If she said it stunk, I’d have just kept on being a reader.  what prompted me to keep going is I hadn’t finished the book and didn’t know jack about writing.   After we relocated to Okinawa, I was in full bore writing mode.  I also had my first experience with fellow writers.  I’d never met anyone who wrote fiction.  (met lots of military non fiction writers, naturally)  they turned me onto all sorts of new ideas and avenues.  I love them for that.

So the jist of this is that it was happenstance.  I never intented to write for a living. I was just writing to see if I could do it. It was all about the challenge of something new.  (for me, at least)  In 1992….I found out that, yup, I can and a publisher wanted to buy it.  This September I’ll have been a memeber of RWA for 22 years and the 20 yr anniversary of my first sale.  37 books in 20 years.  In any other genre that would be phenominal.  In romance, I’m small potatoes.  In that same time, Maureen Child has written over 120.  See, small ‘taters.  =)

Welcome to the new home of BabesinBookland

Our boxes are all unpacked and we’re thrilled with our new digs.   Just in case you’re new to Babes – here are our bios:




The daughter, wife, and mother of U.S. Marines, Amy J. Fetzer sold her first book while living 6,000 miles from U.S. shores.  Since then, she’s published over thirty-five novels and novellas in historical, historical paranormal, short contemporary, romantic suspense and recently, romantic action thrillers for Brava.  Visit her on the web at



Best selling author Traci Hall believes in happily ever after.  She likes mystery, thrills, chills and love songs so whether she is penning her adult historical romances, or her teen paranormal novels, or her coming of age stories, one thing is guaranteed – a happy ending.





USA Today Bestselling author Rhonda Pollero has penned more than 40 novels including the popular Rose Tattoo, Landry Brothers and Finley Tanner series. She has been featured in Cosmopolitan Magazine, The New York Times and The Washington Post. She is considered an expert on structuring the novel.

Please visit her on the web at


Our resident reviewer is a former editor with a major New York publishing house.  If you’d like to be considered for a reviewjust make a request

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