Monday, January 30, 2012


In a few months I'll be giving two workshops on conflict.
April 2012 for the STAR chapter. Go to:

The second is CONFLICT AND THE CATGORY ROMANCE in May for Savvy Authors. (I think you have to go to for that one)

Anyway, why two workshops? Is there that much to know about conflict? Is the conflict of a category romance that different from a single title...

Are there different kinds of conflict?

Well, yeah. To all three questions.

LET CONFLICT TELL YOUR STORY FOR YOU is sort of self-explanatory. There are ways to let the conflict of your story push the story along. In fact, that's actually one of conflict's [main] jobs! LOL

But I was amazed at how much I had to talk about for CONFLICT AND THE CATEGORY ROMANCE.

For instance, Category Romance readers LOVE banter. If your banter springs from the hero and heroine just being snippy with one another or just being silly, it can work...but if it springs from serves the double duty of tickling readers and pushing the story forward.

Category Romance readers also love those "moments" in a story when the hero and heroine almost kiss, or almost make love, or accidentally touch...when everything is breathless and the action comes to a halt as they sort of stare at each other, or gaze into each other's eyes, both trying to make the decision...Should we do this? Then or both of them remembers their conflict [internal or external] and they step away. But the groundwork has been laid. Readers know the temptation is getting out of control. But conflict stopped them.

That's another great job of conflict in a category romance. Attraction tempts them to take steps, to step close, to touch, to almost kiss and then ultimately to kiss...but conflict pops into their heads and they think...he's not right for me [for whatever external reason you've created] or I'm not ready for this or don't want this [for whatever internal reason you've created] and they step away. But again, those seeds of the "rightness" of this hero and heroine being together have been planted. And readers know the next time they take a step they might not walk away so easily.

Readers also see that push pull that happens sometimes in real life, when you want something so badly you can taste it...but you stop yourself FOR DAMNED GOOD REASONS. Not because you're strong. Not because you like to deprive yourself. But for DAMNED GOOD REASONS. Those reasons your characters pull away are based on conflict.

Anyway, I could talk about this forever. (Obviously! I got two whole workshops out of one topic. For over 100 pages I went on about conflict! LOL)

But we're out of time here. I have two deadlines looming, so I'm off.

But think about the things I said above about conflict.

Is conflict driving your story? Your Characters?
Does conflict pop up when it's needed to stop your characters from doing things they aren't ready for or believe they don't want?
Does your conflict enhance the interpersonal relationships of your hero and heroine?

Lots of stuff to ponder on a Monday morning!

Happy Monday.


Friday, January 27, 2012

For those asking about my schedule this year!

What am I doing in 2012?

March 2012 CAN THIS MANUSCRIPT BE SAVED New Zealand chapter!Registrations are now open. Here's the link 

April 2012 I will be doing my workshop LET CONFLICT TELL YOUR STORY FOR YOU for the STAR chapter. Go to:

April 19...JOHNSTOWNERS and surrounding areas...I will be at the Coal Miner's Cafe talking about how the publishing industry has changed and is changing!

April 27-28 I will be at the Spring Fling in Chicago doing CAN THIS MANUSCRIPT BE SAVED live.

In May 2012 I will be doing a workshop for Savvy Authors CONFLICT AND THE CATEGORY ROMANCE.

Jun 11 to July 8th, I will be doing JOURNEY STEPS for Savvy Authors.

October, SELF EDITING for the multi-genre group PENNWRITERS.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Just for fun!

I got to thinking about this section of BABY ON THE RANCH today and it made me laugh. I thought...what the heck. Let's let other people laugh too....


It was a test. If she came over, he’d know she was interested. If she didn’t…well, he had other guests to pursue.

Just as he expected, she excused herself and walked over.

Playing with her pearls, she cleared her throat. “Um, Cade, could you and I go somewhere private to talk?”

Sweet success sparked through him. He didn’t mind leaving the party. His guests were entertained and probably no one would miss him. More important, no one would be so foolhardy as to come looking for him.

She glanced up at him hopefully.

He smiled down at her. In ten minutes the charcoal beneath the beef wouldn’t be the only thing sizzling.

"Sure, Sugar.”

With his hand at the small of her back, he guided her through the French doors into the formal dining room. The velvet skin of her back tickled his palm with every step she made. Little beads of sweat formed on the back of his neck.

She peeked back at him. “Do you have a den?”


“You know, sort of an office. Someplace private?”

He’d intended to simply take her to his bed. But he wasn’t about to argue over logistics. In the marble-tile foyer with the huge crystal chandelier, he pointed straight ahead. He let her get a few steps in front of him so he could take in the view of her gorgeous back, her nicely rounded bottom caressed by the soft material of her perfect red dress. He pressed his hand to his chest to still his beating heart. She was absolutely perfect.

Whoever said money didn’t buy happiness was a complete liar.

“Second door down.”

She stepped into the room ahead of him. He closed the door and locked it.

Apparently hearing the click, she turned and frowned at him. “You’re locking the door?”

“Well, you don’t want to get caught do you?”

She frowned. Her full lips turned down prettily, creating a dimple in her right cheek. Cade all but rubbed his hands together with glee.

“No. I don’t.”

She sipped her wine. Realizing she might be nervous, he didn’t immediately pounce, but ambled to the bar and poured himself two fingers of Scotch. They might have to get back to the party, but the beef wouldn’t be done for another hour. They had plenty of time.

He motioned to the black leather sofa. “Seat?”

She smiled nervously. “I think I’d rather stand.”

His brow puckered. Confusion eclipsed the heat sparking in his blood stream.

“I … um…” She glanced down at her wine, then back up at him with a hesitant smile. “Well, there’s something that I have to tell you.”

That didn’t quite compute. “Tell me?”

“Yes.” She sucked in a breath. “I’m Suzanne Caldwell.”

His eyes narrowed.

“You don’t recognize the name because my grandmother never had her name on any documents. She held everything in trust. But I'm the missing owner of the final one-third interst in Andreas Holdings.”


Nothing like finding out the person you want to seduce is ... well, sort of your boss! LOL

Hope that made you laugh.


Monday, January 23, 2012

Revision! EEK! (Not Really)

My editor sent me an email telling me she would be reading my manuscript next. Of course, nailbiting commenced. Sort of. My editor has a wonderful way of finding the weaknesses in my manuscripts and giving me time to fix them.

It's hard to be afraid about that. In fact, it's a good thing.

The problem most of us have when we get suggestions for revisions is a visual one. Seriously. We look at our "book" with the editor's suggestions in mind and we see a big blob (hundreds of pages) and a little blob (the editor's revision letter) and somehow we have to merge them.

The other problem we have is a disconnect between the agent/editor's comments and the real world of crafting.

As I say in my workshop CAN THIS MANUSCRIPT BE SAVED, there are seven reasons manuscripts get rejected or need revising, and all of them involve either STORY, SCENES OR WORDS. Because your story, your scenes and your words are the only entry points you have into your book. You tell a STORY with SCENES and you create SCENES using WORDS.

But editors don't use those terms. They don't say, Your STORY is weak. They say, the book dragged or was slow or...God forbid...boring.

They scare the snot out of us because story encompasses the ENTIRE BOOK. Story takes in every page of the book. And we think every ding dang page needs to change.

But that's not true.

If you'd sit down and write a one-paragraph story summary of your book as written, then look at the editor's comments and see how you can adjust your paragraph to incorporate her suggested story changes BEFORE you actually go into the manuscript and change'd see that fixing a slow or boring story usually involves beefing up one element of the story (in the story paragraph) and then finding the scene or scenes (or writing a new scene or two) where you can incorporate that change.

You wouldn't have to change the entire least not every page. Though you would have to be thorough and go back and make sure appropriate transitions and mentions are made to incpororate the new story element.

That's just the tip of the iceberg for ways and means to incorporate editor suggestions into a finished manuscript. I have an entire workshop of tips and tricks -- CAN THIS MANUSCRIPT BE SAVED. I'm giving it for the New Zealand chapter. Let me find the web addy...

But my point of this blog post isn't to advertise that workshop (though it fit in handily! LOL). My point is to tell you to take a breath. If you get a revision letter...or a rejection that points out a lot of errors in your manuscript and you WANT TO FIX THEM....there are lots of organized ways to revise.

You do not have to make a mess of things!
You do not have to worry about making things worse!
You can create a logical plan of attack, taking one item at a time.

And, if you recognize the editor has the best interests of the book in mind, it can even be fun.

Happy Monday!


Monday, January 16, 2012

Writing a Mission Statement

I'm not a professional mission statement writer. In fact, I haven't written one or thought about one since my old days at a huge corporation that shall remain nameless. :)

But after I agreed to edit for Entangled, it suddenly hit me that I had a lot of jobs.

In my head it all made sense.

In my head there was rhyme and reason.

In my head there was order.

In my head there was focus.

On my desk was a mess.

Writers give up a lot of things for their art. [Understatement alert.]

Writers get a lot of crazy looks and dead stares when we talk about our work with non writers.

Writers spend a lot of money going to conferences, attending online classes, buying computers, paper, ink jets, how-to-write books.

Writers lose sleep. Either because we work into the dead of night or because we get up an hour early to get our pages in for the day.

There has to be a reason we're doing all this. And that reason has to be compelling -- because it has to drive us for years.

I love it when someone tells me that his or her book haunted them, that they couldn't stop thinking about it and that writing came naturally, easily.

But for the rest of us mere mortals, with kids who need us, husbands who want us, day jobs, family responsibilities to aging parents, illnesses, long commutes, weddings to plan, there has to be something that gets us to the computer -- and happily every day.

In my goal setting workshop, I tell you that goals will do that. They will get you to your desk (and happily) every day. But I only tell you that after I explain that you have to know yourself. You must know what you want and why you want it before you can set genuinely good goals.

So I set my goals this year thinking I knew myself and what I wanted and why I wanted it, but after I took the job with Entangled everything shifted. I did not have to set new goals. My goals remain the same. But I did need to remember why I was doing all this work. (LOL!)

And that's where the mission statement comes in. I Googled How to Write a Mission Statement and came up with some cool stuff. But, really, when I sat down to write mine, I simply said what I wanted to accomplish with my life, how I intended to accomplish it and how I intended to finance that.

Don't laugh. If you write a business plan, you must say how you intend to finance your plan. I just took a page from that and tucked it into my mission statement.

If you think about it, writers always have several jobs. We juggle a lot of things. It's good to know why -- and not just as a vague...I want to be successful...but a real why.

Why are you doing this?
What do you want to accomplish?
How do you intend to accomplish it?
And how do you intend to finance it?

Think about those things this week. Really think about them. Then write out a statement. Don't worry if it's actually a mission paragraph or a mission page (mine's a page!). Just tell yourself the truth of what you want and why you want it (and how you intend to accomplish it and finance it).

Then every day when you get up, read it. Remind yourself of who you are, what you want and how you intend to accomplish it...

So that when you have to bow out of the bowling league, leave the birthday party early, get up an hour before everybody else on the planet, give up TV, take your laptop on vacation...and any one of the thousand other things we do to find time to write...You won't feel bad. You'll feel justified and maybe even energized.

Because there's a reason you want to succeed as a writer and that reason is worth a few sacrifices.

Happy Monday


Monday, January 9, 2012

You've heard the rumors...

Me? An editor?

Yep. I took the plunge! Under the leadership of the lovely and talented Nina Bruhn, I've agreed to be an editor for Entangled Publishing's new category romantic suspense line, Dead Sexy.

I'd been a long-time admirer of Liz Pelletier who started Entangled. I'd read a few of their books and enjoyed them...actually, I super loved THE WHAT IF GUY (by Brooke Moss). So when she told me the concept she was considering for a category-length romantic suspense line, I was intrigued.

When Nina Bruhn, a writing friend tapped to be editorial director for the line, asked me if I'd ever considered editing, I realized that if I ever would consider being an editor...this was the line and this was the time.

So now I'm not just your friendly author who loves to teach; I'm an editor for an exciting new line.

Does this mean I'll stop writing? No. I love my Harlequin Romances. And adore my editor, Sally.

Does this mean I'll stop teaching? Nope. I consider it a sacred duty to help as many people as I can achieve their dream of getting published.

Becoming an editor is just an extension of both of those.

This is a really cool time in publishing. The Internet makes it possible to learn the craft of writing virtually at the speed of light. Facebook and Twitter make it possible to know exactly what editors are looking for, cutting submission time and errors down to nothing if you're savvy. And epublishing makes it possible to submit and see your story for sale on Amazon in what feels like the blink of an eye.

I'm thrilled to be part of it!

Scroll down for the guidelines for the new, exciting DEAD SEXY line!


DEAD SEXY: The Nina Bruhns Collection is Entangled Publishing’s dynamic new line of 50-70K word, branded category-style romantic suspense/mystery/thriller novels. Our DEAD SEXY editors are looking for bold voices and compelling stories that will pull our readers into a page-turning world of thrills, sizzles, chills, and intrigue. Whether you write sweet or steamy, cops, para-ops, or special ops, cozy village sleuths, or mile-a-minute adventures, if your mystery, suspense, or thriller includes a romance with a happy, committed ending, we want to see it!
Make us gasp. Make us cry. Make us think. Make our hearts pound. Make us feel the rush of adrenaline and the zing of DEAD SEXY attraction. And do it all in less than 70K words.
As do all our lines, DEAD SEXY offers authors e-royalties of 40% of cover price. These books will be priced competitively, and sold digitally only.
Specifically, our DEAD SEXY editors want to see:
• Category-style novels with category feel and category flair
• Quality storytelling, quality writing, expertly crafted story-structure
• A ratio of suspense/mystery to romance of anywhere from 20/80 to 80/20
• Authors who can seamlessly weave the romance with the suspense, mystery, or thrills
• Authors who know the classic storylines, but aren’t afraid to push creative boundaries
• Proven category plotlines such as woman-in-jeopardy, forced proximity, intimate strangers, snowbound, bodyguards, PIs, military heroes, para-ops, legal thrills, sheriffs, sleeping-with-the-enemy, and reluctant partners in crime or justice, just to name a few
• Plotlines outside the usual realm of category romance, such as amateur sleuth, hard-boiled detective, cozy mystery, medical/science, contemporary gothics, super-sensual thrillers—as long as the story has a strong, committed DEAD SEXY romance
• Stories with one main plot. No complicated multiple subplots. These are short books
• Well-developed characters with emotional depth, even in plot-driven stories
• Pacing appropriate to the story—active storylines and active characters, even if they take their time resolving the story issue (mystery, crime, etc)
• Any level of sensuality from closed door to super steamy, but always DEAD SEXY
• From unpublished authors: stand-alone books only; queried ms must be completed
• From published authors: single or multi-author series or continuities welcome
• Manuscripts between 50-70K words in length
• Authors previously published in category romance are especially welcome; revised backlist titles will be considered on a case by case basis
• DEAD SEXY will accept both agented and unagented submissions
To submit a manuscript for consideration, paste the following into an email:
• A one-page (400 word max) query letter containing your full contact info including phone number, agent’s info with phone, genre, title, word count, any pertinent writing credentials, where we can find you on the web (provide links), and a compelling one-sentence logline for your book (Google “Save The Cat logline” if unfamiliar).
• Up to the first twenty-five (25) pages of your manuscript; end at a natural break
• Published authors are encouraged to query with a proposal consisting of a query letter with all of the above, backlist info, fifty-ish (50) pages of your manuscript (= Act I), and a five (5) page max synopsis. We will sometimes ask for copies of two (2) previous books (print books okay), preferably within the same sub-genre as your submission.
• Please attach the above to your email as a .DOC, .DOCX, or .RTF file
• Send your query or proposal to:

Muddle in the Middle

Usually when a writing pundit talks about the muddle in the middle, he or she is referring to the middle of your book. It takes some crafing and some real ingenuity to keep a book from falling flat on its face in the middle. Middles need a high point. They need something spectacular to shift the story so that readers gasp and keep reading--

But we're not going to talk about that today. We're going to talk about the "middle" of my most recent proposal.

Can there be a middle in a proposal?

Yeah, but I'm not talking about the "middle" in the way most people do.

Which takes us to the story of my proposal...

A few weeks ago, I had time to start a proposal for a continuity I'm working on for Harlequin Romance. I wrote two chapters and started the third, plus I wrote the synopsis. Then I got approval to write the next book in my contract. That took a month, but on Friday, after the book went in, I went back to the proposal.

This proposal doesn't "sing" but it hits all the marks. On a lazy morning, which Friday really wanted to be, I could have slapped another scene or two into chapter 3 and pronounced it good enough and had the weekend off.

And, oh, man, did I ever want to do that!

But I recognized the danger of the "middle" of a project. It's that point that falsely tells us, Hey, come on. This is good enough. Just send it in.

When in reality we know we haven't searched for grammar errors, repeat words, bad sentences.

We haven't taken the time to make our descriptions unique, fresh, enticing.

We haven't read the scenes to see if they knit together.

We haven't read the scenes to see if they really move the story or only take up space.

We might have enough chapters. We might have a beginning, middle and end. We might have a black moment and two great characters who grow enough to solve the problem at the satisfying conclusion...

But we aren't done.

Books need TLC. They need grammar runs. They need vocabulary safaris. They need description massaging. They need character examinations. They need storyboarding to be sure you really have told the story the best way possible.

Do you see why I believe that typing the words "the end" isn't the end, but the middle?

And do you see why the middle can be a muddle? You'll be confused. You'll be tired. You'll be eager to get your book out. But you shouldn't jump the gun. You should be good to your story (and yourself) and take a day off...then go back to chapter one, page one and check your story, check your scenes, follow your character arcs with colored markers, and check your words.

Then you won't have any regrets or fears when you hit send on the email submitting it to an agent who might have requested it or an editor who's looking for exactly what you wrote!

Happy Monday!

susan meier

Monday, January 2, 2012

Happy New Year!

Well, here we are...back at the blog!

In the past few weeks, we've examined our lives and hopefully set some great goals for 2012.

So where does that leave us in today's blog?


I  read something for someone over the weekend that kind of made me shudder. I would have loved to have been able to email the author and say...Hey, have you ever thought of writing out your story idea in one paragraph? I think if you'd do that you'd see the inconsistencies of your story.

But for a couple of reasons, which will remain my little secret, I couldn't do that.

Still, it made me go to my office, close the non-existent door [if my husband read my blog that would be a hint to him] and write out a one-paragraph statement of the book that I'm working on just to make sure I'm on track.

I'd written a one-paragraph statement before I started writing. But now that I'm almost done with the book, my vision had shifted and changed bit. So I wrote a new one...

Who are these people?
What do they want?
Why don't they have it?
What do they have to learn to get it?

And I went back to my book with a clear understanding of what I needed to write next.

Sometimes setting your story straight can be as simple as answering those four questions.

So who are your characters?
What do they want?
Why don't they have it?
What will they have to learn to get it?

Clear that up in your head today and go into your WIP with a fresh brain! No clutter. No muss. No fuss. Just what's really going on in your book!

When you answer those four questions, you get right to the heart of your story. You stop piddling around with things that don't matter or don't count. And you begin writing with purpose.

Happy Monday!