A Slice of Orange


Message from Mindy Neff

March 18, 2007 by in category From Our Archives, Spotlight, Writing, Writing Conferences tagged as , , ,

July is the time of year that most of us are beginning to get excited, or nervous, about going to the National RWA conference. Some of us are hoping to meet with an editor or agent, some are desperately longing to start a career, others perhaps wanting to change their careers.

I’ve been thinking a lot about the stories we tell ourselves. Not the stories we tell in our books. I’m talking about the stories that are deeply embedded in our subconscience. The voices that whisper that we’re not good enough, or smart enough, or that we have to be perfect, that we can’t look or act foolish, or human, or that we’re shy, that we don’t do well speaking in public, that we became a writer because we’re introverts, and having to pretend to be an extrovert for four whole days is going to shred our insides to bits.

Our stories also tell us that we should never admit to these failings, that we’re the only ones who feel so out of control, or so inadequate, or so inept. According to the book, Becoming Real, Defeating the Stories We Tell Ourselves That Hold Us Back, by Gail Saltz, M.D., every one of these stories is a lie. But until we learn to recognize them and rewrite them we will continue to make the same mistakes over and over. These stories will hold us back by making us afraid to reach out, by convincing us that we’re not deserving, or good enough, or popular enough, or by reminding us that we’re shy and scared out of our minds that someone is going to judge us and find us lacking.

I want each and every one of you to know that you do deserve to have your heart’s desire. You are worthy. You matter. And you are not alone. Do not listen to those self-defeating stories!

It’s easy to get overwhelmed at functions as large as the RWA National Conference. That’s one of the reason’s our OCC conference volunteers, Michelle Thorne and Lana Krevis, have worked so hard to make sure there will be an OCC suite available in Reno where everyone can come to see a familiar face, network, attend parties, or simply retreat to catch your breath.

To kick off the conference in style, we’ll be playing a game of Reno Bingo at the Wednesday night literacy signing. Be sure to pick up a bingo card at the door, then stop and speak to each of our OCC authors and get your bingo card stamped . You shouldn’t have any trouble finding us ,we’ll be the ones with the really cool flower pots and “orange girl” signs in front of us.

After the literacy signing, we’ll be throwing a pizza party in the OCC suite and inviting all of our authors to bring their editors and agents. Everyone is welcome. Come and mingle with friends or make new ones. There will be prize drawings, giveaways, and a really good time! Then, of course, we will be having our Saturday night RITA bash to honor all of our RITA and Golden Heart finalists and winners. Lots of food, drinks and fun. So, whether you want to attend a really cool party, or you just need some down time–or you find yourself at loose ends and don’t want to sit in your room by yourself or cruise the bars looking for your pals, the OCC suite is there for you. Come and help out, or just come and hang out. It’s going to be a blast!


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Keeper Shelf

March 15, 2007 by in category Archives tagged as

Keeping Your Keeper Shelf Safe
By Sandy Novy-Chvostal
When it comes to keeping their Keeper Shelves intact, my friends employ a variety of methods. A few, like Barbara Benedict, simply rely on their excellent memories to remember who’s borrowed a book. A couple others make the borrower sign a little “check out” card that they keep in a file. Our OCC Web Editor embosses “From the Library of Marianne Donley” on the title page and–“just in case they tear the title page out and say it’s theirs!”–also stamps page 54 as a back-up embossing.

But although I appreciate the sentiment behind these quaint little customs, when it comes to keeping my own Keepers safe, I don’t like to fool around. Instead, I go right for the big guns.
I rely on magic. Specifically, book curses.

I was copying down an especially effective curse recently, when my husband asked, “What’s that?”
I glanced up to find him reading over my shoulder–apparently his favorite position for reading, he does it so often. His eyes were narrowed in a slight frown as he studied what I was writing.
“It’s a curse, “ I told him. “From the Medieval monks. I’m going to put it on signs and hang it above my Keeper Shelves.”

He glanced at me, stared at the page, then looked at me again. He lifted a brow–(yeah, he can really do that; just like my favorite romance novel heroes). He said in a flat tone, “You’re going to hang that over all the bookshelves in the house.”
“Not all of them. I’m only putting it over my romance and young adult novels, my books on writing, and my children and Christmas book collections.” I thought about it a second, then added, “I don’t think my cook books need it.”

“Neither do I. Judging by your cooking, those come with curses already included.”
He winced as my elbow hit his ribs, but instead of taking the hint and moving on, he said, “But doesn’t it seem kind of extreme to put–For him that stealeth, or borroweth and returneth not, this book from its owner, let it change into a serpent in his hand and rend him. Let him be struck with palsy, and all his members blasted–” He winced again. “–all over the house?”

“So are you planning to write it in blood?”
“No,” I said regretfully. “Just red ink. But dark red–so it looks like blood.”
He shook his head. “But they’re only books.”
“They’re my favorites and some are out of print. I don’t want to lose any.”
“So you turn to threats and intimidation?” He arched his other brow (he’s am-brow-dexterous, you know) and added chidingly, “I thought you were big on sharing.”
“I am. Just not my books.”
“Well, I think you’d want to share something you care about the most with your friends.”
“You do, huh?”
“Yeah. The more you care, the more you should share.” (My husband; the poet.)
“Fine.” I started to get up from my chair. “I’m glad to hear it. Cuz Jerry across the street asked to borrow your drill the other day, and I couldn’t get the second padlock off your tool box so–”
Like magic my husband disappeared.
I returned to my curse copying feeling satisfied, and yes, even benevolent.
Because although I hate to lend out my books, I’m eager to swap notes about them here on OCC’s Keeper Shelf in the coming months, along with my book-loving friends.

Sandy Novy-Chvostal (aka Sandra Paul) has a degree in journalism, but prefers to write from the heart. She is married to her high school sweetheart and they have three children, three cats, and one overgrown “puppy.” Romantic Times has labeled Sandra Paul’s work as “outrageously funny and surprisingly perceptive” while Rendezvous stated “Sandra Paul is imagination with wings.”

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Writer on the Verge

March 14, 2007 by in category Writer on the Verge by Kate Carlisle tagged as

By Kate Carlisle

That’s me, on the verge. But really…on the verge of what? Stardom? Publication? A nervous breakdown??

Hey, and what is a verge, anyway? Like some kind of cliff, I think. The edge. The brink. The limit. Land’s end. Ah, it might be fun to just relax and jump.

But wait! It might hurt! Maybe I need to be talked off the ledge. Help!

Yeah, good luck with that. I’m here to tell you, you can try begging for help off the ledge, but your friends, the real friends, the people who nag you and worry for you and laugh and talk and share your pain are yelling “jump!”

What’s up with that?

It’s scary here on the verge! You just want to step away, maybe go take a nap. But they won’t let you! No, they want you to enter another contest, query another agent, stop screwing around and get serious about your work.

And if you try to sneak away? Ha, they band together and refuse to let you pass. They operate in packs, they form tag teams, they nudge you closer to the verge, whisper sweet words of encouragement, coax and coo and smile and cajole you into believing that you’ll be happier if you jump. They insist the plunge itself only lasts a few seconds and you’ll suddenly find yourself in a new and better place. A lovely place that finds you closer to a contest win, the end of your book, your dream agent, your first sale, the bestseller list.

And then? Well, then you’re on the verge of something else! Yeah, somewhere along the road you realize that with every step you take, you find yourself at the edge of another cliff.

So what do you do? Take a nap? No, those people, those friends, they won’t let you! Really, they are a bunch of nags! Nope, there’s only one thing you can do when you find yourself on the verge.


Kate Carlisle is a Golden Heart winner and American Title finalist who writes romance, mystery and Young Adult fiction.

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Booksellers Corner

March 13, 2007 by in category Archives tagged as

Book Groups

By Michelle Thorne

What a Book Group can do for you.

I can’t believe it’s been so long since I posted anything, but this was one of my things to do in the New Year. I really don’t like resolutions because they are sorta like rules and I immediately want to break them, so I just make a list as suggestions. As I recall, I talked about my book group last time and suggested that you should belong to one or start one. I think I said that if you are serious about writing, you should be serious about reading, and reading widely. So put this on your to do list.

1. Join or start a book group.

2. Read.

Now here’s what a reading group can do for you. A friend of mine, who is an editor, said that sometime as little as 10 books in a series romance line is all that separates the #1 book in a month from the book that was in last place. 10 Books. Amazing. My book group has 11 members. You do the math. You should reach out and “touch “ book groups all over the country. You could virtually “visit” a meeting with just a speakerphone at the book group. In your jammies. Jayne Ann Krentz did one with us a few years ago and although my girls froze when actually confronted with one of their all time favorite, Jayne and I had a very nice chat about her books, I can talk about books for literally hours if need be.

I recommend that you ask you publisher to put some book group questions in the back of your book as a jumping off point, a mapquest for your book. Go to a bookstore and look in the back of books in the Chick Lit section or, and I really hate to say this, but to give the girl her props, any Oprah books, although I would never recommend you read them. They have some great questions that you can “borrow” and tailor to your book. If your publisher doesn’t want to put in ??? in the back of the book, simply put in your author notes “Visit my website for book group discussions questions. Easy.

But the most important thing I can tell you today is take some time for yourself and READ. I’m pretty sure that’s why you wanted to become a writer. You enjoy the written word. You like a great story. I give you permission to stop writing for an hour and read. After all, I am the BOOK GODDESS, if only in my own tiny little brain.

Happy Reading,


P.S. What would YOU like to know about book selling?
Michelle Thorne is the owner of Bearly Used Books…123, Home of A Great Read and OCC’s Media Director. For all your reading needs contact Michelle at:

Bearly Used Books…123
Home of A Great Read
123 So. First Street
La Puente, CA 91744
(626) 968-3700

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A Beginner’s Guide to Manga

March 12, 2007 by in category Archives tagged as

by Sara Black

Pretty boys. Magical girls. Demons. High School angst. Fruits Baskets. What’s not to love about manga? For the uninitiated they are worth checking out because they are hideously popular to the point that Harlequin is publishing their own and “manga-style” romances are being solicited, they are fun reads, and you’ve already raided all the other sections of the bookstore.

However, if it’s your first time voyaging into the Graphic Novel section maybe it’s a little intimidating. Maybe you even lose a little cred with the bookstore clerk by referring to the comics as Anime. Maybe you’re still hung up on ‘what the heck is a Fruits Basket?’

Here, let me help. Manga (mawn-gah) refers to Japanese comics books and only the comic books. Though popular series often get turned into Anime (Japanese animation), the comic books are still called manga.

How about some titles?

If you’re looking for action and adventure you may want to give Inu Yasha, One Piece, or Naruto a try. These comics are aimed at younger boys and as such feature long fight scenes, fantasy worlds, and occasional pre-teen level romance (something around the level of ‘I really like her, but kissing is gross’). Ranma 1/2 is similar but focuses on comedy more than adventure.

And now for a plug. My favorite manga: Rurouni Kenshin. The title character is a diminutive man who killed a whole lot of people during the Meiji revolution and is now trying to atone. The romance is more sophisticated than in the stories mentioned above without getting sensual, though the story revolves around the main character’s redemption.

If your taste is more towards the romantic, teenage angst plots try Mars or Paradise Kiss. These stories are more graphic and feature teenage heroines and heroes struggling with hardship and soap opera level conflict. If you want a little more fantasy (and maybe a magical girl or two) with that angst you may want to try Ceres, Red River or From Far Away. These may depict sensual sexual situations.

For a more innocent view of high schools give the oddly named Fruits Basket a try.

If a mix of history and violence is your thing Blade of the Immortal, Lone Wolf and Cub or Vagabond are more artistically sophisticated series aimed at adult males. There may be a little romance but there is probably more blood.

If you like horror try Monster, Hellsing or Deathnote and sci-fi lovers might want to check out Battle Angel Alita (which may one day be a movie directed by James Cameron) or Blame.

And if you’re wondering about the ones with groups of pretty boys on the cover and not too many girls on the inside, like Gravitation or Love Mode, those are Shounen-Ai and/or Yaoi. These stories are typically written for woman and revolve around homosexual male relationships, Shounen-Ai being the less graphic of the two. The lesbian equivalent, yuri, is less popular but they are out there.

Of course there are hundred of titles I haven’t mentioned, about sports and board games and anything you can think of, but hopefully I’ve given you enough to approach those shelves with a little less wariness.

Good luck.

Sara Black has a degree in Cinema/Television from USC. She watches far too much television, eats way too much sushi and is always writing a romance novel. For someone who religiously stays out of the mainstream, she knows an awful lot about Pop Culture. This is the first in a series of posts on the subject.

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