Friday, September 16, 2011



I'm happy to present Joan Reeves. Joan is a best-selling Kindle author of romantic comedy who, in her first five months as an ebook author, sold over 120,000 ebooks. She also writes the popular blog SlingWords ( ). Her latest title is ROMEO AND JUDY ANNE.
Joan will be popping in today to answer questions. Meanwhile, here is her "Universal Truth."
A Universal Truth
by Joan Reeves
Rules are interesting little critters, aren't they? Quite often, I write about rules, and about the breaking of rules. However, there is one rule that I never break, and that rule involves truth.
First Rule of Writing
Many years ago, the first so-called rule of writing that I learned was what all published writers, editors, and agents advocate: "Write what you know."
I'm pretty sure all writers still hear this because I hear it when I pop into writers' conferences. I even say it when I teach workshops and classes and when I give advice to aspiring writers. This rule applies whether you're writing fiction or nonfiction, an article for a periodical or a blog post.
Write what you know. Why? Because it gives authenticity to your words.
Now, people who don't write fiction think that writing what you know doesn't apply. After all, you're just making it up. I've heard many people tell me this so it must be true. Once, even my banker who was trying to write a nonfiction book told me that I had it so much easier because I was just making it up. So you don't have to know anything if you're just making it up. Right?
Universal Truth
Wrong! In fiction, writing what you know means not only getting the facts straight on your information plot but also finding the underlying universal truth–the emotional truth--that is as real for an American woman as it is for a French woman or a Japanese man or whomever. It's the honesty and recognizable emotional truth–recognized usually on a subconscious level--that makes fiction come to life. When done well, it's what will make an editor offer you a book publishing contract or an agent offer representation or a reader email you and say your book "spoke" to her/him.
One might even say that writing what you know--the emotions you feel when hurt, scared, angry, sad, or happy--is even more important in fiction because without that truth, your fiction will never succeed.
My Spin
Over the years, I've put my own spin on one aspect of the "write what you know" rule, that being the information plot of a story if we're talking fiction. If you've read some of my writing how-to articles or taken a class or seen me giving a presentation at a conference, you've probably heard me say it this way: Write what you know OR WANT TO KNOW.
I truly think if you are interested enough in a subject to do the necessary research AND if you have the ability to articulately express ideas then you can write on a variety of subjects without necessarily being an expert. Researching and writing about a subject are highly effective ways to self-education.
So don't be intimidated by not being an expert on a particular subject if it interests you enough to learn about it. Without realizing it, you'll become an expert. I know I have on any number of subjects that have fascinated me enough to land jobs writing about them when I was a freelance writer.
Information Plot
In fiction, this same willingness to research and explore will help you in creating your information plot. In case you've never really heard the term information plot before, just think of it as the reality your characters inhabit. Every character should be like real people who have jobs, hobbies, relationships, and environments.
Part of your information plot may revolve around airplanes if your hero is a pilot or an aircraft mechanic. You would give enough information about planes, aviation, maintenance, etc. to make the reader feel that the hero really does know what Bernoulli's Principle is and how it affects a plane in the air. The reader would come away with some new information that he never knew before. Imparting that information via your fiction is the information part.
In my work in progress OLD ENOUGH TO KNOW BETTER, my heroine is a history teacher who became interested in artisan cheese making. At the beginning of the book, she's demonstrating how to make homemade mozzarella. The reader should come away with the knowledge of how this is done. (Just in case the reader wants to try it for him/herself, I'm including the recipe. It's actually quite easy.) That and growing grapes for wine are part of the information plot of that story.
Emotional Truth
Then there's the most important truth of all--emotional truth. You can give characters hobbies, jobs, backgrounds, and all the other elements that create a "fictional person," but if you don't tap into emotional truth, your writing will never succeed. I'll warn you that tapping into the well of emotional truth that each of us carry inside can be painful.
If you're writing about a character who has lost a loved one, without consciously knowing it, you tap into your memories where something like that happened to you. Your emotions rise to the top. You remember how sad and depressed you felt. All of that give you the words you need to show your character feeling that loss and all the painful emotions that go with that.
When a reader reads your words, if you've done your job well, the reader recognizes those feelings because she's had an experience with loss–everyone, worldwide, knows that feeling. The underlying emotional truth connects you, wherever you are, with the reader wherever he may be, via a character in a book. The same is true if you're writing about love or desire or happiness. Everyone around the world knows those feelings.
You might be able to fake expert knowledge in an information plot. You can't ever fake emotional truth and get away with it, and that's a universal truth. Always.

Monday, July 11, 2011

The Keith Richards Autobiography

It's titled LIFE and now I have a new respect for Keith as the genius that he is.
He says this to musicians, but it's something all writers should remember:
"Already five years earlier, on Some Girls, we'd got "Miss You" out of it, which was one of the best disco records of all time. But Mick was chasing musical fashion. I had a lot of problems with him tryng to second-guess the audience. This is what they're into this year. Yeah, what about next year, pal? You just become one of the crowd. Let's just do it the way we've always done it, which is do we like it? Does it pass our test? When it comes down to it, Mick and I wrote our first song in a kitchen. That's as big as the world is. If we'd been thinking about how the public was going to react, we'd never have made a record."

Friday, July 8, 2011

RWA Nationals in NYC

Had a blast at Nationals! So good to see everyone! Worked registration & met one of my fav authors, Tess Gerritsen. Photo from the 48th fl. revolving restaurant atop the Marriott Marquis.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Friday, June 17, 2011


A NECESSARY END, centered around the plot to assassinate President Lincoln with a paranormal twist, is now on sale with

Monday, May 23, 2011


A NECESSARY END, MY PARANORMAL ROMANCE CENTERED ON JOHN WILKES BOOTH AND THE PLOT TO KILL PRESIDENT LINCOLN, WILL BE ON SALE JUNE 15. Meanwhile, I'm having a contest as announced on the back cover of the July ROMANTIC TIMES Magazine. Just Email me and tell me the three historical figures you most would have liked to meet, and indicate which book you would like to win: A NECESSARY END,  A BLOODY GOOD CRUISE or ONE TOO MANY TIMES, and if you prefer print or PDF format. The first ten responders will receive the book of their choice. Email me at: Happy reading! 

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Mount Vernon in the Rain

At my agent Jewelann's suggestion, I'm beginning my bio novel about Martha Washington, and visited Mount Vernon a few weeks ago to do research at their library. It was like Fort Knox--first you have to make an appointment with the historian, then announce your arrival at the gate; once inside, they confiscate your bags and hand you a pencil to write with. (but many historical society libraries go the confiscation route). No rubber gloves, though. The historian stacked a few mountains of books and papers before me, and I was in heaven for three hours! I'm looking forward to going back. I LOVE Mount Vernon & never tire of going there. My first trip there was at age 8 & I never forgot it.
When we toured the house, we stood at the doorway to the bedroom where George died, apparently of pneumonia, and I, of an 8-yr-old mind, asked the guide if it was still contageous!

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Rave Review and Civil War Recipe

Thank you, Martha, for a great review of A Necessary End, and here's a yummy Confederate recipe:

Jeff Davis Pie

1 c. brown or white sugar
2 tbsp. unbleached or all-purpose flour
1/4 tsp. salt
1 c. half and half
4 egg yolks
1 1/2 tsp. vanilla
1/3 c. butter, melted
1 unbaked 9-inch pie shell

Ingredients for meringue:
4 egg whites
1/4 tsp. cream of tartar
1/2 tsp. vanilla
1/2 c. sugar

Combine sugar, flour and salt. Beat cream, egg yolks, and vanilla. Add to sugar mixture. Pour in melted butter. Spoon into unbaked pie shell and bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes. Top with prepared meringue and brown. Cool on a wire rack.

Note: You can use whole eggs in the filling, and omit the meringue.

From COOKING FOR THE CAUSE, CONFEDERATE RECIPES, DOCUMENTED QUOTATIONS, COMMEMORATIVE RECIPES by Patricia B. Mitchell, Published 2003 by the author at the Sims-Mitchell House Bed & Breakfast, Chatham, VA 24531
by Martha Cheves
A Book and a Dish

Booth felt like going behind the saloon and blowing his brains out, so maybe getting it off his chest would help.
Here goes, then.
“The day after the election, I decided it was time to begin planning this capture plot we’d discussed in Montreal. So I went to Nettie Colburn Maynard, the Lincolns’ spiritualist, to get information on his whereabouts. Not for any other reason,” he emphasized sternly. “But during the very first visit, strange things started happening to me. She went into trance and conjured up what she believes is a spirit who’s been haunting me ever since, haunting me in the hotel room, backstage at the theater, everywhere. I’ve had this recurring dream where I’m in ancient times, Rome or some old place like that, everybody dressed in tunics, and they’re waiting for me so we can murder somebody. And in real life, I’m constantly looking over my shoulder, feeling someone behind me. It’s all very unnerving. Some days, I can barely get through.” He paused for a sip.
Sam hunched forward, anticipating every word.
Booth went on, "I began to think there was something to all the mumbo-jumbo. It even started to bother Alice. She feels cold drafts in the room and sees things moving about like I do. It’s not just me going loony. And now I’m convinced someone from the spirit world is after me to do this deed to Lincoln, and won’t leave me alone until I do."
This is John Wilkes Booth’s conversation with his childhood friend Samuel Arnold. Arnold, David E. Herold, Mary Surratt and a few other handpicked friends and acquaintances were all responsible for several failed attempts to kidnap President Abraham Lincoln. Most of their attempts were foiled by actress Alice Grey. Gray was solicited by Senator John Parker Hale to help protect the president by acting as a spy against Booth. What neither of them expected was for her to fall in love with Booth and even more unexpectedly was for Booth to fall in love with Gray. His love for her was so great that he asked her to marry him.
With all attempts to kidnap Lincoln failing, the surrender of Lee and the ending of the war, Gray knew Booth would give up his attempts allowing them to lead a normal life. But as history proves, that was simply not to be.
I’ve always had a fondness for certain eras of history, the 1800s being one. Reading the John Wilkes Booth story was like stepping back into time for me. A lot of what I read, I know from reading the history books to be declared as being true. I had read that Booth was an actor, that he was at one time engaged to Lucy Hale, the daughter of Senator Hale. Reading history books told me that Mrs. Lincoln was heavy into mediums and spiritualists in hopes of contacting her two deceased sons. And I may have even read somewhere that Booth kept a diary. So, the writing of A Necessary End was a pleasure in reading for me. I’ve always said that if the history novels written by John Jakes were to be made into history books, kids would enjoy history and learn more. I feel the same way about A Necessary End’s author Diana Rubino. She has made reading the history of this event enjoyable.
Now I leave you with one question. Did John Wilkes Booth really die in that burning Garrett tobacco barn or did he escape to live a ripe old age?

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Paranormal Romance Coming out on June 15

My paranormal romance, A NECESSARY END, set around John Wilkes Booth and the plot to assassinate President Lincoln, will be on sale June 15, published by Moongypsy Press. Our artist, Dawne Dominique, designed a fabulous cover. The back cover of the Romantic Times July issue will feature an ad, and a review will appear in that issue.
Let me know if you'd like a bookmark!