Writing Lesson #1 Don’t Rush

Too late - conceptual alarm clock showing that you are too late

Hard lesson learned. I hope this one I never repeat! Let me tell you my sob story. I released my last book, ACT OF BETRAYAL, in October 2017. I had set myself a deadline and by golly, I was going to meet it, and I did.

I’d rewritten and edited. I’d sent it out to be edited. Fixed and sent back. Re-edited again. I mean, I must’ve read this book 15 or twenty times during the editing process.  Toward the very end, I caught that I had used two different names for the heroine’s daughter. Blair and Bailey. (That’s a separate post about names.)

I knew I had a problem. I really couldn’t remember which name went with the daughter in this book. I opened the second book in the series, ACT OF TRUST. Sure enough in black and white, there was the name Blair. Okay, I got it. I went through and made the changes using the Find thingy.

Act of Trust 500x750

Problem was, between the time I looked and when I did the process, I mixed up the names. I changed all of the daughter’s name in ACT OF BETRAYAL to “Blair.” You’re thinking, “What?” Well, yeah, I just told you “Blair was in AOT, not AOB. But I mixed it up. The book got uploaded that way, and I ordered 25 print books just like that.

When did I notice this mixup? I was getting ready to do a reading from ACT OF TRUST and the name jumped off the page flashing like a neon sign.  My heart sank and my stomach tightened and red streaked my face. Oh crap!

I immediately emailed my formatter who laughed and said. No problem. Those things happen all the time. She’d fix it and send me another PDF. Whew! I figuratively wiped my brow. Okay. She sent it back, and I uploaded the corrected e-book to Amazon and everywhere else. Good, right?

Well, I still had these printed books with the wrong name. My brain tells me that I don’t remember names of characters in books I read, so hopefully, folks won’t notice. (Well, except now I’m telling everyone. LOL) Now, I’ve sold most of them and I have a book signing in June and I need corrected print books.

I really hated to go back to the formatter. Figured I should be able to fix the problem myself. Except, of course, the good copy with the right names was one for e-books. No page numbers. So, I went to my PDF for print and tried to edit it. You know there’s a little edit button on the left-hand side. Trick is I didn’t have the right Adobe thingy on my computer. After many aborted efforts, I finally got the right one uploaded for a cost—way more than I wanted to spend.

Now we’re crackin’. Almost. Making edits on a PDF is not as easy as on a Word doc. After days of working on the thing. I literally mean days, and I’m sparing you the gruesome details about times the words ended up on top of each other! GRRR! I had a clean PDF.

So then I got into it with CreateSpace, not realizing a new edition needed a new ISBN! This resulted in me having to call the good people at CreateSpace where Jose was able to delete one of the books, so I could precede. No wait time to talk to a real person, and he was super helpful.

Act of Betrayal

Now I’m waiting to get the proof (for the 4th time—because I kept seeing glitches with the spacing! And still I know there are at least two that I could not fix.)

The lesson I’ve learned is not to rush the editing process. The deadlines I set for myself are good, (and nothing for me gets done without a deadline), but they can and often should be moved. The quality of the product is more important than some arbitrary date I’ve given myself. And secondly, boy do I love my formatter. She’s worth every penny I pay her. I know some people can do this themselves. And Yes, I did get it okay finally, but all time I worked on that is time taken from working on the fourth and last book in my Second Chances Series. Not a good decision.

How about you? Writers, do you format for yourself? Do you hire that done? Or does your publisher do the job? Love to hear from you.

marsha@marsharwest.com  http://www.marsharwest.com 

https://authormarsharwest.wordpress.com/ Blog


http://www.twitter.com/Marsharwest  @Marsharwest







Sneak Off and Read: Lines all about the topic ASK #RSsos #RomSuspense

#OneLineSunday by #RSsos Lines all about the topic ASK for a great start to the week.

Still, I couldn’t help feel somewhat foolish. I mean, I was here to ask if anyone had ever reported seeing ghosts on the property.

Claire Gem

So many questions I longed to ask, but I doubted the Constable would even know where to begin.

Joanne Guidoccio

“I was young and in love, and when you asked me to promise to keep our relationship a secret, I wasn’t about to argue or do anything to jeopardize our future.”

Kathryn Jane

“Rude?” She lowered her voice to a whisper. “You’re the one who asked me to check out that gross excuse for a human being and for what? You think I’m stupid? I’m not doing him.”

Marian Lanouette

This part of his job was never easy, but crucial time had elapsed, time without an arrest. Now he had to ask the tough questions.

S.A. Taylor 
Shutter (work-in-progress)

“If it weren’t late, I’d ask you to come in. Karen thought I was crazy to settle on the first thing I saw, but I knew.”

Marsha West

Fire? Rafe wanted to ask more questions, but his father’s glare warned him off.

 Sharon Wray

Wasn’t a warning standard procedure for a taillight out? How did that happen on a new car? I needed to ask him for clarification later.

Vicki Batman

She sighed and wrapped her arms around his neck, creating a warm cocoon. “I thought you’d never ask,” she whispered.

Jacquie Biggar

When he asked her father for her hand the future became open to infinite possibilities. Now she could envision beautiful blue-eyed children bringing joy to AJ’s life

Sam Bradley w/a McKenna Sinclair














Sneak Off and Read: Lines all about the topic WANT #RSsos #RomSuspense

#OneLineSunday by #RSsos Lines all about the topic WANT for a great start to the week.

Although nothing had changed his core values, experience had re-shaped him, redefined who he was and what he wanted out of life.

Sam Bradley w/a McKenna Sinclair

Once I was more relaxed, I found my mind drifting back to the handsome man with the chocolate colored curls more and more throughout the day. I’d wanted him so badly this morning.

Claire Gem

I didn’t want to anger the grief-stricken constable who was bemoaning the senseless way Sarah had died, alone and exposed to the cool autumn evening.

Joanne Guidoccio

This remarkable, feisty woman moved him like no other, and he wanted her. But he’d promised himself he wouldn’t go there, wouldn’t go to sex as the default when things got awkward or complicated.

Kathryn Jane

Damn, he wanted to punch something. No, not something. He wanted to punch out Spaulding.

Marian Lanouette

I wanted to talk forever or maybe crawl through the phone to my favorite spot on his lap. But right now, just knowing I’d been given another chance, nothing else mattered.

S.A. Taylor 
  Follow Me (work-in-progress)

“What’s the matter?” Jill’s heart jumped into her throat. She had to get a grip if she wanted to others to believe she was okay, trustworthy, normal.

Marsha West

Pops spoke in French—the language of Rafe’s momma—and that meant no more questions unless you wanted to see the buckle end of his belt.

 Sharon Wray

“What do you want? Why did you pull me over?” His body stiffened like a package of frozen chocolate chip cookie dough.

Vicki Batman

Even now, the vision of her in that tub had the power to make him want to laugh and groan at the same time.

Jacquie Biggar














2018 Mid-Winter Middle Grade and Young Adult Book List: Updated with 2018 YA Rita Nominees!

As many of you know, I’m a librarian. And although I spent most of my career in Special Libraries (media business, chemical research, and document archives), I’m a huge proponent of getting kids to read. Twice a year, my reading army (made up of 9-18 year olds) helps me compile a middle grade and young adult book list.

This isn’t a bestseller list, or a new release list. It’s a cumulative record of all of the books the kids (boys and girls) in my Reading Army have loved, kept, shared, and even sleep with. This bi-annual compilation offers a cross-section of genres for teens and tweens. There were a lot of new YA Fantasy, Science Fiction, and Realistic Fiction books released this past year. I’ve also added some new Middle Grade Action/Adventure and Non-fiction stories. There are books on the list for all readers!

This year, I published the 2018 Mid-Winter Middle Grade and Young Adult Book List in February. A few weeks ago the Rita Awards, sponsored by the Romance Writers of America, were announced and four of the books on the reading list have been nominated in the Young Adult category. And two of those have also been nominated for Best First Book!

So although it’s April, I’m reposting the link to my downloadable 2018 Mid-Winter Middle Grade and Young Adult Book List. And below are highlights of the four nominated books.

The Thing with Feathers by McCall Hoyle: Rita Nominee for Best First Book and Best Young Adult Book

Emilie Day believes in playing it safe: she’s homeschooled, her best friend is her seizure dog, and she’s probably the only girl on the Outer Banks of North Carolina who can’t swim.

Then Emilie’s mom enrolls her in public school, and Emilie goes from studying at home in her pj’s to halls full of strangers. To make matters worse, Emilie is paired with starting point guard Chatham York for a major research project on Emily Dickinson. She should be ecstatic when Chatham shows interest, but she has a problem. She hasn’t told anyone about her epilepsy.

Emilie lives in fear her recently adjusted meds will fail and she’ll seize at school. Eventually, the worst happens, and she must decide whether to withdraw to safety or follow a dead poet’s advice and “dwell in possibility.”

Seize Today by Pintip Dunn: Rita Nominee for Best Young Adult Book

The third book in the New York Times bestselling and RITA(r)-award-winning Forget Tomorrow series is a thrilling conclusion to an epic trilogy.

Seventeen-year-old Olivia Dresden is a precognitive. Since different versions of people’s futures flicker before her eyes, she doesn’t have to believe in human decency. She can see the way for everyone to be their best self-if only they would make the right decisions. No one is more conflicted than her mother, and Olivia can only watch as Chairwoman Dresden chooses the dark, destructive course every time. Yet Olivia remains fiercely loyal to the woman her mother could be.

But when the chairwoman captures Ryder Russell, the striking and strong-willed boy from the rebel Underground, Olivia sees a vision of her own imminent death…at Ryder’s hand. Despite her bleak fate, she rescues Ryder and flees with him, drawing her mother’s fury and sparking a romance as doomed as Olivia herself. As the full extent of Chairwoman Dresden’s gruesome plan is revealed, Olivia must find the courage to live in the present-and stop her mother before she destroys the world.

Black Bird of the Gallows by Meg Kassel: Rita Nominee for Best First Book and Best Young Adult Book

A simple but forgotten truth: Where harbingers of death appear, the morgues will soon be full.

Angie Dovage can tell there’s more to Reece Fernandez than just the tall, brooding athlete who has her classmates swooning, but she can’t imagine his presence signals a tragedy that will devastate her small town. When something supernatural tries to attack her, Angie is thrown into a battle between good and evil she never saw coming. Right in the center of it is Reece―and he’s not human.

What’s more, she knows something most don’t. That the secrets her town holds could kill them all. But that’s only half as dangerous as falling in love with a harbinger of death.

LEtters to the Lost by Brigid Kemmerer: Rita Nominee for Best Young Adult Book

Juliet Young always writes letters to her mother, a world-traveling photojournalist. Even after her mother’s death, she leaves letters at her grave. It’s the only way Juliet can cope.

Declan Murphy isn’t the sort of guy you want to cross. In the midst of his court-ordered community service at the local cemetery, he’s trying to escape the demons of his past.

When Declan reads a haunting letter left beside a grave, he can’t resist writing back. Soon, he’s opening up to a perfect stranger, and their connection is immediate. But neither Declan nor Juliet knows that they’re not actually strangers. When life at school interferes with their secret life of letters, sparks will fly as Juliet and Declan discover truths that might tear them apart.


I want to thank my teen readers for their help and suggestions, as well as my blog readers who’ve made this now-fifty-page-list such a popular download. You are all awesome!

All covers and blurbs below are courtesy of Amazon.

Sharon Wray is a librarian who once studied dress design in the couture houses of Paris and now writes about the men in her Deadly Force romantic suspense series where ex-Green Berets and their smart, sexy heroines retell Shakespeare’s greatest love stories.

Her debut book EVERY DEEP DESIRE, a sexy, action-packed retelling of Romeo and Juliet, is about an ex-Green Beret determined to regain his honor, his freedom, and his wife.

It’s available on: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | iBooks | Kobo | IndieBound

Adding it to your Goodreads TBR list is also always appreciated!

You can find Sharon on:

Facebook | Twitter | Pinterest | Instagram | Goodreads |  Bookbub | Amazon 

Sneak Off and Read: Lines all about the topic TEASE #RSsos #RomSuspense

#OneLineSunday by #RSsos Lines all about the topic TEASE for a great start to the week.

“What are you doing?” Her breath teased the hair on his brow, sending sparks of awareness to his nerve endings.

Jacquie Biggar

She kissed and teased her way down his body from his neck to his belly. His breathing accelerated as he squirmed under her touch

Sam Bradley w/a McKenna Sinclair

He’d wanted to tease her more, make this last longer. But he could feel his control slipping.

Claire Gem

“He’s evolved.” I immediately regretted my response. Knowing Jim, he would pounce and tease me.

Joanne Guidoccio

He teased her, awakening that part of her always starving for his touch, and when his mouth warmed her ear, a pleasured sigh escaped and she turned her head to welcome him.

Kathryn Jane

Sure she had his attention, Mia glanced up at him from under her lashes and fluttered them to interrupt the fight. He’d been a cranky patient, but enough was enough.

Marian Lanouette

There was something about that woodsy and deliciously male scent trailing behind that made her forget how much she disliked him. The humid air seemed to hold the intoxicating fragrance. It stayed with her, taunted her.

S.A. Taylor 
Shutter (work-in-progress)

Despite Liz’s attempt at nonchalance, the people at the table dropped their interest in Jerrod and moved to his daughter with much teasing from her brother and a few blushes on her part.

Marsha West

Rafe brushed a kiss on Juliet’s cheek, and his familiar musky scent teased her nose. Why had he returned?

 Sharon Wray

“And was the other item a pocket level?” “Busted. Sarah Anne constantly teased me about that and the trombone.”

Vicki Batman














It’s OK to Fall Out of Love

By Joanne Guidoccio

We can all recall that magical moment when we typed the last words of our manuscript and lovingly glanced at the neatly piled pages on the desk. Head over heels in love, we could easily visualize literary agents and publishers emailing us within hours of receiving the manuscript.

That is the fantasy.

The reality is very different.

That first draft is never ready for publication. Some manuscripts require major surgeries such as changing POV and adding more sub-plots and characters. Longer manuscripts with over 100K words may need to be pared down. All manuscripts need to be checked for grammar, punctuation, and spelling.

At a workshop, creative writing professor Brian Henry suggested we put our manuscripts aside for a while before starting the editing process. He did not specify a timeline but stressed the fact that we cannot improve our work until we fall out of love with it.

Over the years, I have attended many of Brian’s workshops and read several books on editing and proofreading. Here are some of tips and quips I’ve gleaned from my research:


• Perform a spelling and grammar check using the appropriate feature in your word processing program. Be aware that your spell checker can tell you only if a word exists, not if it’s the right word. If you are uncertain, refer to a dictionary.

• Use the Search and Replace function to find and eliminate repetitive words and extra spaces. To cut back on the number of adverbs, search for “ly” and replace with “LY.” As you approach each highlighted section, decide whether to keep the adverb, eliminate it, or replace it with an appropriate action tag.

• Double-check all facts, figures, and proper names. This is especially important if you write nonfiction or historical fiction.

• Print out your text and review it line by line. Use a ruler or a blank sheet of paper to keep your focus on one line at a time.

• Read your text aloud. This will help catch missing prepositions, repetition, run on sentences, and awkward phrasing.

• Read your text backward, from right to left, starting with the last word. While I have never used this particular tip, several English teachers recommend this method for anyone struggling with spelling.

• Change the font and font size before the final edit. The altered appearance may help you see the manuscript with fresh eyes.

• Ask a friend or fellow author to proofread your text. And offer to return the favor.

Quips via Brian Henry

• If you revise the same page too many times, you are probably ignoring a major problem in your book.

• When the characters start misbehaving, don’t get rid of them. Go with the flow and make the appropriate changes.

• Write with passion, revise at leisure.

• Puke it out, mop it up.

Any other tips (or quips) out there?


Where to find Joanne Guidoccio…

Website | Amazon | Twitter | Facebook | LinkedIn | Goodreads | Pinterest

Sneak Off and Read: Lines with the topic FOOL #RSsos #RomSuspense

#OneLineSunday by #RSsos Lines with the topic FOOL for a great start to the week.

We’d speculate what life would be like with one person to share everything, a best friend we married. I would be foolish to admit right now I had those very same thoughts. Honestly? I did.

Vicki Batman

“Quin, you’re not making a fool out of yourself and I’m trying to grasp the fact that my fantasy just became my reality.”

Sam Bradley w/a McKenna Sinclair

Still, I couldn’t help feel somewhat foolish. I mean, I was here to ask if anyone had ever reported seeing ghosts on the property.

Claire Gem

Michael may have been a prize catch at one time, but I don’t imagine Susan was fooled for too long. The man had left many broken hearts and shattered illusions in his wake.

Joanne Guidoccio

But having her dream shattered after foolishly holding onto it for so many years was like the camel’s proverbial straw, and she buckled under the weight.

Kathryn Jane

I knew as soon as she saw me when a look of disgust crossed her pretty face.  I waved like a fool, but she turned away and faced the guy next to her.

S.A. Taylor 
Sharp Blades (work-in-progress)

Where was she? He went back to the porch, and feeling something like a fool, rang the bell again.

Marsha West

Rafe was a fool who once believed the Prince’s brutal goals justified Rafe’s own ruthless actions. Or, as Escalus used to say, “a fool whose violent delights have violent ends.”

 Sharon Wray














Easter – so much more than a word


Six letters.

Two syllables.

A simple sounding word with a nice visual balance.

A word tasked with conveying entire stories, and where a picture is often worth a thousand words, some words are worth a thousand pictures.

In our complex world filled with assorted and often dissimilar beliefs, Easter conjures up an amazing collection of emotions along with those pictures. 

Joy, love, excitement, anticipation and sorrow, are among the many, and just as dissimilar as a crucifix, white gloves, and a bible, are to chocolate bunnies, colored eggs, and vacations at fancy theme parks.

In celebration of Diversity,  the Sisters of Suspense Authors are sharing little bits of their Easters with all of us.

From Joanne Guidoccio:

From Kathryn Jane:

Easter means Spring to me. A time when the trees sprout new leaves, and daffodils push up through the ground to share their smiling faces with the world. Everything outdoors is new, and fresh, and holds the promise of warmer weather to come.DSCN7733 (2)

From Vicki Batman:

The world coming alive in the Spring.

From Sharon Wray:

“I hope you all have a Happy Easter.”

From Marsha R. West:

Eggs! A highlight of my memories of celebrating Easter when I was a child. My dad was an expert egg decorator. They were beautiful. Afterwards my mother turned the eggs into awesome egg salad. When we had daughters, I tried to do the same thing. Not sure I was successful, but it was fun. Now we have two granddaughters (and one grandson), and the Easter egg hunting tradition continues, but with plastic eggs. This year they will b filled with pennies, nickels, dimes, and quarters. Better for you than all that sugar.

From Jeannie Hall:

Pastel eggs and yellow ribbons

Pigtails, smiles, hidden treasure

Laughter on cherubic faces,

While sunshine, warm and gentle

Lights the way.

From Marian Lanlouette:

These girls and I have been friends since birth. I call them my cradle to the grave friends.


Sneak Off and Read: Lines about EASTER #RSsos #RomSuspense

#OneLineSunday by #RSsos Lines about EASTER for a great start to the week.

Sarah brushed back a stray hair. “Elizabeth I’s map makers added hidden messages to her maps, like those Easter eggs programmers hide in computer games. I call it seventeenth-century leverage.”

 Sharon Wray

I turned off the radio and popped my back up CD, Vivaldi’s “Four Seasons,” in the player. I sounded just like the birds singing the chirpy parts. “Do, do, dada, dada, do do.” I was a “tweetie.”

Vicki Batman

The fragrance of Easter lilies wafting on a fresh breeze and the sounds of birds engaged in spirited song greeted AJ and Quin to the canyon.

Sam Bradley w/a McKenna Sinclair

“We’ll do it differently at Easter,” Mama said, deep in thought. She was probably planning the entire meal and thinking of hosting everyone here.

Joanne Guidoccio

“Maybe by Easter I’ll have an answer for you.”

Kathryn Jane














Spring Time

Well, maybe not where you live, but spring has arrived in North Central Texas. Even before the green stuff sprang from the ground and tree branches, the birds declared it spring. In the morning walking Charley, it’s like hearing a symphony orchestra with all the different birds singing a separate part. And the birds have been carrying on this way for weeks now.


Our temps still drop occasionally at night into the 40s, but days are routinely hitting the 70s and yes even the low 80s. I almost hesitate to share this with those of you packed under multiple feet of snow from multiple nor-easters. I hope your power is back on. However, you will be the ones smiling this summer when you’re enjoying mid 70s and 80s while we will be sweltering in 105 plus and for as many as 40 days or more in a row at that!

29196692_10210728339155537_7864813871846916096_nD'Ann Burrow Snow Pic from D’Ann Burrow from the 3rd Nor’easter.

It recently came to my attention when I was looking through my books for the word “spring” for one of our Sisterhood of Suspense Sunday Hot Lines that I don’t set novels in the spring time. The stories in my books take place in the fall mostly or the winter or summer. Well, my second published book, TRUTH BE TOLD ends during the spring, but only because I couldn’t tie up the story. Spring wasn’t a main part of the book. Winter was. The majority of the story takes place during the two weeks of the Christmas/New Year’s holiday.

Truth Be Told 300dpi

Then I began to wonder, why don’t I set a story in the spring. I really hate summer, and yet I’ve had several books set in the summer. What is it about a Texas spring that makes me steer away?

I don’t know the answer to that exactly. I suspect it has something to do with tornadoes and severe weather that attacks our part of the country during the spring. It seems to me I need to take that fear, because it really is a fear, of those storms and put it into the next book I write. Well, the next one after Book 4 of The Second Chances Series, which I’m working on now and should come out late fall. That’s a plan. 🙂

I’m curious, is the time of year an important piece of your books? Is there one season you favor over others? Many, many years ago, I read a romantic suspense book (Sadly, I don’t remember title or author.), and the winter weather was an actual character in this book. The author did a superb job making the reader experience the cold temperatures, and the biting wind. I’ve always remembered that book. And yes, I should turn our spring storms into a character in a book.  Love to hear from you.

marsha@marsharwest.com  http://www.marsharwest.com 

https://authormarsharwest.wordpress.com/ Blog


http://www.twitter.com/Marsharwest  @Marsharwest