ASK and ye shall totally receive!

So there I was, watching Jurassic Park, when a couple of my muses came by to find out how the writing hiatus was going. Um, hello? MOVIE. WITH DINOSAURS. FIGHTING. (or Jurassic Cage Match, bitchez!)

Funny thing about writers. They never actually stop writing. Even if they’re not physically engaging in the act of writing, they are nonetheless thinking about storylines, characters, scenarios. I’m one of those writers for whom stories unfold like movies in my head. I have entire dialogues going on when I envision a scene or vignette. Writing is thus for me like being a director. I give the characters a lot of free agency (that’s what it feels like), and I basically turn them loose within the plot, though we all work together to get the vision onto the screen (in this case, the monitor).

Anyway, though I haven’t been actually WRITING writing, I’m still writing. Lots of ideas going on. Okay, and I have actually broken my hiatus this week. I continued working on the fourth in my Far Seek Chronicles sci fi series. And as I was tinkering, I remembered why I like writing so much.

So, my muses asked. What have you been doing while you haven’t been engaged in the physical act of writing? I directed them HERE. A veritable plethora of movies, books, television, and fun-ness. Which has allowed a whole lot of ideas to feed into the ol’ brain.

Like what? the muses ask.

You should know, I say.

Not for US, they say. For THEM ::sweeping gesture encompassing Women and Words::

Ah. Sneaky, those muses! I’ll tell you what. I’ll open this here blog to an impromptu Q&A with YOU, the readers of it!

So go ahead. Whatever questions you want to ask me, whether it’s about writing, publishing, or the weird stuff I think about day-to-day. Goofy, serious, whatever. I will totally put the dinosaur fighting on pause to respond.

And have I told you how much we here at Women and Words LUV and appreciate you? Because we do. Thanks so much for reading.

Happy Friday!



  1. If you could be a dinosaur, which species would you want to be?

    Also, any advice about writing a book review? Especially one where the book just wasn’t any good. Or, one where the concept was good, but the author could have used a good editor and proofreader. I’ve never written one before, and want to start. I don’t want to be unkind, but want to be honest.


    • Hi, Julee! Velociraptor, because they are SUPER AWESOME BADASS. At least according to Jurassic Park, which I’m sure has no clue what a velociraptor was actually like, but as they were portrayed in that movie, SUPER AWESOME BADASS.

      Regarding book reviews, I certainly do have advice. I blogged “how to write a book review” on my home site. You can find that HERE.

      I’ll also email you the link. Thanks for stopping by!


    • Hi, Barbara!

      I generally don’t do that (though other writers might). I may start with a primary character or two, but what happens for me is I’ll have an idea of a scene or characters and I don’t know how or why it happens, but the characters pretty much show up in my head in full physical technicolor glory. I may not know all the details of their pasts, but those unfold during the course of the story.

      Case in point. I’m currently writing the 4th in my sci fi series, and I’m delving into a character that didn’t get much screen time prior to this installment and I’m finding out a hell of a lot about her that I had no idea about, but it’s unfolding logically and it’s really cool, because she’s a badass in her own right, with her own flaws and issues.

      I also have what I call “walk-ons” in my books and those are almost always secondary or tertiary characters, sometimes strong secondary. For example, in my second New Mexico mystery, “State of Denial” (starring Albuquerque detective Chris Gutierrez), I had a vague idea about a love interest for Chris, and I had an idea of how they would meet. I even had kind of a name ready to go. This initial love interest that I had in mind was based in a different town and worked in law enforcement.

      Well, I started writing the book and got to Chapter 3, I believe. Chris finished questioning a potential witness, walked out into the parking lot and BAM. Love interest showed up, with a completely different name than the one I had initially picked and not only that, but they actually had a dating past. I had to go back and tweak some dialogue in Chapter 1 or 2 that Chris had with her BFF K.C., but that was okay, because Dayna Carson was such a strong secondary, so vibrant, that there was no question that she was absolutely the right character for the role. She totally blew me away, along with Chris, obviously. Heh. If you’re interested, here’s an interview I did with Dayna (I sometimes do interviews with my characters). Dayna and I discuss her “walk-on” role in the book.

      I could go on with more “walk-on” tales, but I’ll stop there.

      Thanks for the question!


  2. I would be interested to know what authors mean when they say their characters take on a life of their own, and that the character has taken them down a particular path. I can’t get my head round that, how does that work?


    • adelaide22 I know you directed this question to Andi but I may give you some insight on how it works for me(I’m not a published writer but I’m working on it)….when I am thinking about a scene, the characters seem to just come to life inside my head, they have their own personalities and their own voices. I can sometimes picture them talking and interacting with each other and as it unfolds in my head(the scene that is) the characters actually do direct me down a certain path. Before I actually put pen to paper or words into MS words, I can write and rewrite the scenes in my head many times and even once I started to truly write it may change yet again.
      I can not explain how it works..but it does and I’ve been having these mini stories, plots in my head since I was a small child, it doesn’t take much thought when they begin to take shape and I just have to let my mind go there and it does.


    • Hi, Adelaide–thanks so much for stopping by.

      Every writer is different, and has different processes and different approaches and also manifests scenes or plots differently. Ronda has supplied you her process, which works for her.

      My process is “movie-based.” That is, for whatever reasons, I “see” characters in my head interacting, talking, doing things. That scene may or may not make it into a book, but the point is that I have movies constantly playing in my head. I’ve been able to “see” entire stories that come from my inner wherever playing in my head since I was a child. So when I write, I have a vague idea about plot and plot arc, but I generally don’t know how a story is going to play out or how it’s going to end. To me, my characters are practically real people, and I imagine them as that, living their own lives. If you watch any kind of serial drama on television or Netflix or whatever, you’ll be caught up in the stories and wonder what those characters are doing and/or thinking during the show and even after the show. You’ll wonder about the CHARACTER, not the actor playing that character. Rather, you’ll get caught up in the character’s life within the context of the show. That’s how it is for me. My stories are binge-playing in my head, and my characters are developing in accordance with the stories and different plot arcs, like some kind of wild serial drama.

      Does that make sense?

      Thanks again.


      • Well now I know I don’t have early stages of multiple personality disorder or Schizophrenia….because you have just described what I have experienced most of my life..thankfully I never told people about the scenes and people in my head, I might have been put on meds or commited by now. 😉


      • Thank you Ronda and Andi, for describing this for me! this is amazing! It sounds a bit like psychography, or automatic writing! Not that I know a lot about the topic but have read some. This gives me a better insight when I wonder why the author took the character somewhere I was not expecting! 🙂


  3. I watched Jurassic Park last night as well. You, the writer on hiatus, spent your viewing time creating scenes and writing dialogue. I was watching Laura Dern and those long legs. Active writer meet passive and content reader.
    My question is about your characters as well. Do you spend a lot of time on your characters personal backgrounds before you begin a new story or do you let your story develop and add relevant details as they are needed to advance the plot? I guess what I am asking is the old chicken or egg question. What comes first for you, the story idea or the characters in need of a story?


    • Hi, there —

      I find that a backstory often develops as I’m writing. I’ll have maybe ideas about a backstory, but as the narrative unfolds, the backstories do, as well. that is not every author’s process, mind you! But so far, it’s what’s been working for me.


  4. I think you have already answered my questions when you replied to Barbara, Andi. Thanks. Very cool the way the mind of a writer works.


    • Hi, there! Well, there are exceptions, of course. Sometimes I’ll have a much clearer background for characters than other times. But overall, my process involves finding out about the characters as the story unfolds. Other authors have other processes, and that’s one of the cool things I enjoy about writing, is finding out about other authors’ processes. FASCINATING!

      And honestly, I’m one of those logic-types, so it takes a lot for me to stop thinking in terms of context and narrative and think: Oh, wow. Hottie on the screen. That’s my personal failing, though. LOLOL


  5. Andi sorry that I replied to adelaide22’s comment that was quite presumptuous of me…my fingers took over before my mind could resist….((smacking fingers) 😉 But I do have a question for you.

    Once you got started and had a story you wanted to tell, and began writing, how did you go about getting published? I know that it may not be like it is today with all the online publishing ebooks not print books and self-publishing, but what advice can you give me to how I can get my stories out there and read by publishers?..should I just settle on having people read my stories using a site like Wattpad or Smashwords? Where they read for free and see if the readers like my stories or should I just go in guns ablazing and submit them to publishers online?


    • Hi, Ronda–

      I worked about 15 years in publishing as an editor, so I knew a whole lot about the publishing industry. That was, of course, before the ease and variety in platforms for self-publishing, but nevertheless, what I learned was invaluable, even as the industry continues to change.

      The route an author decides to go depends on what the author feels is right for her. Traditional publishing–i.e. via a house–provides pros and cons, as does self-publishing. Traditional houses take much more of a cut in terms of royalties and often have clauses in their contracts that can be stifling to some, but the house also takes care of all the editing, all the design work, all the typesetting for print and/or ebook files (all varieties), distribution, and some promotion. A traditional house can allow a new author to focus on writing and building a brand for him-/herself rather than spending time writing, finding and paying for an editor, finding and paying a designer, finding and paying a typesetter, and doing all promotional work herself (and building a brand). Some self-published authors become their own cover designers and their own typesetters/file converters, and if you decide to go that route, be aware that it’s a lot of time to invest in learning how to do it right, so add that to your duties as a self-published author if you don’t want to pay others to do covers or interior work for you.

      NOTE: I am not in any way advocating either of these approaches as “better than” the other. Both have pros, both have cons, and an author needs to know herself well before choosing a path.

      I am what’s called a “hybrid” author. That means I work with traditional houses but I also self-publish some of my work. Because I work a full-time job on the side, this approach is the best for me, as I simply don’t have the time to be a full-time self-published (aka “indie”) author. I started my publishing career as an author in 2007. My first novels were published in 2008. I worked with a traditional house for those, which were part of my mystery series. Working with a traditional house initially, I think, allowed me to focus on writing and building a brand without having to worry too much initially about the business end of my projects. And eventually, because of the terms of my contract, I was able to work with another traditional house for my sci fi series. Because of the terms of both of my contracts with those houses, I was also able to self-publish. Currently, I am published with three traditional houses and I self-publish.

      One of the things to be aware of in publishing is what I call the dreaded “ROFR” clause. That’s the “Right of First Refusal” and there are lesfic houses that still use it. That clause states that once you’re contracted with a house, you are bound to provide them every manuscript afterward for their consideration. Houses differ on what happens with a work if they don’t want it, but the fact remains that I consider it an absolute pain-in-the-ass clause that is antiquated in today’s publishing world, and can limit venues for an author and also delay if not completely derail a manuscript’s publication. There are lesfic houses that don’t use it, and for that, I am very appreciative.

      If you are writing lesfic (i.e. lesbian fiction), there are a number of houses that you can approach with a finished manuscript (and there are links here on Women and Words to several). All have submission guidelines on their websites. FOLLOW THEM EXACTLY. The job of the author is to determine which house is the best fit and to do that, you go to their websites and look at their offerings. What genres are they publishing? What kinds of stories? What authors? How does your work fit? Keep in mind that publishers and authors at those houses generally do not discuss the terms of their contracts publicly (that’s part of the contract), but if you find authors who are signed to particular houses and then you find other work they’ve done that is self-published, chances are the house probably doesn’t have an ROFR. This means you’ll need to check publication dates of works to determine that, as well. If a work was published at a house in, say, 2014 and the author also self-published that year and the next, the house probably doesn’t have a ROFR. So don’t ask authors what the terms of their contracts are. They can’t discuss that.

      I generally tell authors to start building a brand immediately. At least a year before you publish a manuscript. That means you need to market yourself. Authors do anywhere from 80-100 percent of their own promotion these days, so you need to get comfortable quickly with that idea, and you need to figure out what kind of “brand” you’re going to present. That is, what are you going to be known for? What persona are you going to present to the public? What markets are you going to try to reach with your fiction? What genre(s) are you writing and how can you best market it/them? Authors are constantly thinking of promotional angles for themselves and their works. So before you even have a manuscript ready for submission, you need to start working on a website or a blog, and there are any number of free platforms that you can use to do that. I use WordPress. Women and Words is also a WordPress site. My homesite incorporates a blog as well as pages devoted to my works, which provide cover images and excerpts and links to buy. My author blog is a mixture of things going on with me with regard to my work, writing tips and guidelines, editing discussions, publishing tips and guidelines, and sometimes nutty off-the-wall stuff and other times more serious matters.

      In addition to a website, you need to get comfortable with social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter because these will help you build an audience and also push your “brand.” I Tweet about writing, LGBT issues, weird/cool things I come across, and I also make silly, goofy comments. I also interact quite a bit with people on social media and I tend to be accessible for questions and that sort of thing.

      All that said, ask yourself why you are writing. If all you want to do is write and post stories, then no, don’t publish. You can find excellent writing communities online at places like the Royal Academy of Bards, where you can post stories and build an audience. You can write fanfic or non-fanfic and build not only audiences, but critique partners to help you make your writing stronger. And you can post stories for free online (which I and many other authors do anyway to offer people previews of our writing without the cost).

      If you want to publish, then you need to think about what your goals are as a writer. If you don’t want to do all the work in the actual mechanics of publishing a book, then a traditional house might be the route for you. At least to start. If you choose a house that doesn’t have an ROFR, then you can publish with them and also self-publish to find out what route works the best for you. If you decide to jump into self-publishing, keep in mind that you will be building everything from scratch with your first novel.

      As an aside, most authors never publish their first novels. I wrote 5, I believe, before I had one that I felt was solid enough to submit for publication. Another in that first 5 was rejected. I’ve had a few rejections, and that’s fine, too. It’s all part of the deal, and you need to develop a very thick skin.

      You can also write short stories and submit them for consideration to anthologies. We here at Women and Words have been posting calls for submissions with regard to lesfic, mostly, so if that’s what you’re writing, then that’s a consideration, too. A short story can help build what’s called your list, and it introduces people to your work without too much effort on your part beyond the writing aspect. The publisher/anthology editors do the coordinating for authors and the publication. Various lesfic houses also publish anthologies and they post their calls for submissions on their sites. Ylva Publishing, for example, has a few calls on their site at the moment. One of those anthologies may be a good fit for a short story from you.

      Basically, whether you publish and how you publish are all decisions you need to make in accordance with your own temperament, circumstances, and goals (short-term and long-term). There are options these days for just about anything.

      Hope that’s helpful and cheers!


      • Wow thank you very much! I’m not really sure what I will do. Not even sure of what I am writing will be something a publishers wants. I will have much to think about and you have given me so much information to ponder as well.
        Oh the wonderful adventure I have embarked on..who says life is over at 40 ?
        It has only just begun… thanks for taking the time to give me such a thoughtful answer..and by the way Dinosaurs are the meaning of life in one way… live like you’ll die like a brontosaurus on the savannah 😉


  6. The ultimate question for writers can be broken down to adverbs and adjectives. “How, when, why, where, which, what kind, whose, how much, how many.” Because ultimately, those are the only questions that matter. 😀


  7. Hey! I have a question and a comment. Question- – Who is ultimately responsible for the Kindle version of an author’s book? I have read books with so many grammatical errors that I don’t want to read any more of that author’s books and I feel bad about that. I can’t think that someone who writes for a living would make these mistakes. Comment- – The problem with your books, especially the New Mexico series, is that as I get near the end I don’t want to read it. Your characters are so real and I get so involved with them that when I finish the book I miss them. Even after a week I find myself thinking about them. It’s like when a friend comes to visit me and she leaves, I miss her. That’s the way I feel about your characters. A lot of authors should have this problem. Love your writing!


    • Hi, Jacky–thanks for stopping by!

      Kindle books. Hmm. Well, that depends. If you go to the Amazon page where the Kindle book is displayed, scroll down to the publication information, which is listed underneath the synopsis. If the publisher listed is the author’s name, then it’s self-published and that means the author is responsible for that file and what’s in it. If the publisher is a traditional publishing house (and you’ll probably recognize the name), then the publishing house bears responsibility for that Kindle file.

      Sometimes an author self-publishes but uses an imprint name. If the publisher listed is nobody you’ve heard of, do a search on it or the author’s name. If it’s an imprint, the web search on the imprint name will probably come up in conjunction with the author’s name, which means the author is most likely operating as an indie publisher and is thus responsible for the Kindle file.

      If you’re finding grammatical and typographical errors, you might consider dropping the author/publisher a note about it (along with specific examples), because that’s a problem in editing and proofreading. If you’re finding weird file issues like, say, funky line breaks, it’s an error in formatting and the author/publisher should replace that file for you. So either way, if it’s disrupting your reading pleasure, then let the author/publisher know.

      Regarding reading MY stuff — thank you so much for your kind words! I am so glad my characters are like old friends to you and I GREATLY appreciate your reading. I’m getting back into writing, so stay tuned. 😀


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