We're taking a break from themes for a while. It'll be a smorgasbord of posts this spring. Your comments can help us determine what type of posts you'd like to see more frequently. We hope to hear from our readers often!

Sunday, June 28, 2015

Critique Partners and Win a Book by C. Marie Bowen

Welcome Ms. Bowen to The Roses of Prose. Keep reading to find out how you can win one of her books!

Critique partners. Love ‛em? Hate ‛em? Need ‛em? I’ve had more than a few. Some good, some bad. A few wandered off and got lost somewhere. Are you still out there? I’ve been told I need them, and I’ve been warned against using them. Here are a few things I’ve learned about the elusive and highly valued critique partner.

1. Never a friend or family member. Your sister might be a great Beta reader, but CP? No.

2. Where to find them? Mine have all come from on-line classes. Similar genres and similar goals are helpful. You want to publish your work, so find someone who also wants to publish.

3. Never take your CP’s word for a fact change to your manuscript. You’ve got Google. Check it out. If they’re right, you learned something. If they’re wrong, you dodged a bullet.

4. If you’re the one questioning a fact, send a link to support your suggestion.

5. Correct their spelling, punctuation and repetitive errors without assuming they don’t know how to spell. They’ve read their work a dozen times. Their brain sees it as it should be, not how it is. Help a CP out and just add the apostrophe and skip the lecture on contractions.

6. Always welcome suggestions, but don’t feel obliged to take them. Sometimes, a crazy idea from your CP will spark something completely different inside your head.

7. Never be upset if they don’t take your suggestion. They know where they’re going with their story.

8. If they wander off, let them go. Set them free and wish them well. Re-tweet their successes and don’t ask why, just let it go.

9. When you find one you work well with, it is magic. I love my critique partners, and I know my work is much better, fuller, and cleaner because of their efforts.

10. Appreciate their hard work. A well done critique shows, with lots of corrections, suggestions and questions. In return, read their work—twice—and be an advocate for their success.

I know I wouldn’t have the success I’ve enjoyed without my critique partners. A shout out to C.A. Jamison and Jodi Hale for their unflagging support and tough love.

I welcome additions to my CP list in the comments below. One commenter will receive a free ebook of either my novel Passage, or one of the anthologies I have a story in. Winner’s choice!

Passage - blurb:
After a car accident, Courtney Veau has a “near death” experience, and returns to her past-life in the post-Civil War west. When she wakes in a present-day hospital, Courtney realizes she’s returned to her own hollow existence. Heartbroken, she knows she left behind not only a family she loves, but life with the man who shares her soul, a man she’ll love forever, Merril Shilo.

A carriage accident nearly takes beautiful Nichole Harris’s life, stealing her memories completely. Plagued by amnesia, she is confused by flashes of memory that are out of time with the world around her, and seem to belong to someone else. Only Nichole's own strong emotions remain to guide her—and as others try to take control of her life, she fights a desperate battle to survive. Merril Shilo is someone she should know, and though her memories fail her, she is stunned by her passion for him—and the remembered agony of a broken heart.

Merril Shilo is the love of Courtney’s life—no matter when that life might be. The memories and emotions of her life as ranch heiress Nichole Harris consume Courtney’s mind—and her heart. Courtney soon finds her desire for Merril threatens her sanity, as he beckons from a past she can no longer reach. She would give her life to return to her soul-mate, if she could only find the passage back to him.

Passage - excerpt:
The long shadows faded into twilight. She'd found what she came for—proof this house existed. There was no longer a reason to stay; and yet, just the possibility she might hear his voice again kept her waiting one more day.
Outside the window, night took final possession of the day. A few porch lights came on down the block. Headlights swung around the corner as a car turned onto the street and illuminated the pavement. The headlights winked off and a car door slammed.
Behind her, the room took on a familiar chill. She turned from the window and pressed her back against the heavy drapes as the echo of boots pounded up the back stairs. She gasped when he raced into the room, vaguely luminescent in the darkness. He was dressed in denim trousers and cotton shirt, with a silk scarf tied loosely around his neck. Where's his hat? Had he lost it in the dash up the stairs? That wide-brimmed cowboy hat was such a part of him he seemed naked without it. His hair had come loose from its binding, and he shoved it out of his face with a familiar motion. She stood close enough to read the emotion play across his face, a mixture of fear and bewilderment. His breath was labored, and his anxiety tangible as he stopped and looked right at her. Her mouth fell open in surprise and her heart tightened in her chest. Does he see me?
He took a hesitant step toward her. “Nichole?” His voice filled with horror, he whispered her name from another life.
Yes! Merril, it's me.” Courtney stepped toward the specter.
His head turned. His attention called away from her open arms. “Oh, sweet Jesus.” Merril fell to his knees and reached for something no longer there. “Nicki, please don't go. Stay with me.”
Merril, I'm here.” Her heart ached for him and for herself, but her plea went unheard.
Sobs shook his wide shoulders.
Her heart clenched to witness his despair. She longed to comfort him, to assure him she was there, but could not. In defeat, she sank to her knees beside the grieving apparition.
Nicki, don't leave me. Look at me—” His hushed voice, choked and broken.
I'm right here, my love,” she whispered, but the room grew warm and Merril Shilo faded back into the past. Courtney hung her head in the darkness and fought back tears. One question was answered, at least for now.

Connect with C. Marie at any of the links below.

Amazon Author's Page                       Facebook           

Saturday, June 27, 2015

Look in the Mirror by Betsy Ashton

I was all over the place on this post. So many things are milling around in the blogosphere, on the airwaves and with the voices in my head that I had to write about identity. Your own identity is an intensely personal thing, because it is how you see yourself.

I can look at myself in the mirror each morning and see the size 6 woman I used to be. I used to have dark hair, no wrinkles and a serious tan every summer. I could see myself as Wonder Woman, that incredible image of a woman super-hero who fought crime and won. I could see myself as young and idealistic, who thought the Baby Boomer generation could change the world through our sheer numbers. And I would be lying to myself.

I used to be a six 6 back, oh say, thirty years ago. I had the flattest stomach in the world. I was lean and mean. And I was tanned. All over. No tan lines. But that is for a different post. Maybe.

I can fool myself into believing I'm that twenty-something, but the reality is different. Not worse, just different.

The voices in my head shape my books. I have to live in a character's head for a long time before I really get the identity of said character. How does she see herself when she looks into the mirror? Does she self-identify as good? As bad? As something the reader knows she clearly isn't?

I can no longer fool myself about not being twenty-something any longer. Neither can my characters fool me into thinking they are something they aren't. My idea of facing them in the mirror is to see their flaws, their strengths, their weaknesses. It's my task to select the traits, warts and stretch marks that make them into readable characters.

In my latest WIP, I guarantee my main character isn't all that likeable. She's definitely interesting. I let her get away with fooling herself at the beginning, but reckoning day is rapidly approaching. When we reach it, you'll feel seismic upheavals. Stand in a doorway and brace yourself. I don't think this character is going to like being "outed" for the person she is.

Have you every written about a character who was self-delusional? How did you solve the problem?


Betsy Ashton is the author of Mad Max, Unintended Consequences, and Uncharted Territory, A Mad Max Mystery, which is now available in e-book at Amazon and Barnes and Noble.

Friday, June 26, 2015

Inch by inch, life's a cinch.

Yard by yard, life is hard.

I had one of those Panic Mode days today. This happens to me when I get behind at work. Keep in mind, 'behind' is a relative term. There's often just the appearance of being behind: I have a few emails stacked up (OK, a hundred or two, because I was out of town again).  I have to evaluate what to work on, I need to prioritize and sort out what is important and what isn't.

Inevitably, when this happens, I end up feeling way stressed -- waaaayyyy stressed. I always have to take a deep breath, look at the Stack of Stuff, and just start digging through it. Usually an hour later I look up, realize I've accomplished a lot, and I start to relax. But there's always that initial "Oh, no!" Panic Mode.

I managed to avoid Panic Mode most of this spring. I deliberately turned my back on things that bugged me. I didn't rise to the bait when people posted annoying things. I kept my opinions to myself. I didn't do things that annoyed me (a lot of promotion, or exercising on days when I just damn well didn't want to). I gave myself a break. I relaxed.

What surprised me was how easy it was to slip back into Stress Mode. BUT -- and here's the biggie -- I can easily envision how easy it will be to slip back into Relax Mode. I've found that I accomplish almost as much when relaxed as when stressed. I used to think that being wound tight as a clock was the way to accomplish things.

Au contraire.

So I'm going to practice what I preach and relax today. I'm not going to panic. I've accomplished a few things already. Now I'm going to pick away at a couple of other things. And then I'm going to do what I want to do.

Can you do that? Can you shuffle the Stack so there's less stress? Maybe not today, maybe not every day, but ...

Try it. You might like it.

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Not Your Mom's Middle Age by Brenda Whiteside

Two days ago was my 47th wedding anniversary. Yes, I know...amazing, but not the point. I actually know quite a few couples who have been able to stick together that long.

Middle age is what I'm thinking about. My husband and I spent the night in Jerome, Arizona. Jerome is an old mining town that hangs on the side of Mingus Mountain. It's long been a haven for artists of all art forms, mystical adventurers and bikers. We heard there was a band playing in the Spirit Room, and we spent the afternoon listening to good ol' waist-down rock and roll, danced a little, and people watched.

Early on I realized all but a few of the patrons drinking and dancing and acting crazy were around our age. I
mused that the hippie-art crowd of the 70's had grown mature. No, maybe mature is the wrong word. They'd grown older. The general atmosphere and goings-on were anything but mature. We laughed a lot. This wasn't my mom's middle-aged group. I was embarrassed for some of them, but mostly I fit in so I cheered them on. What's really great about growing up is not caring what anyone else thinks when you're being yourself. Yea!

Jerome is a designated historic site. If you're Arizona bound, I'd highly recommend you visit this unique tourist town. But be prepared for one heck of a drive up the mountain on a road with so many switchbacks you might get dizzy.

P.S. I'll be at the hospital all day when this posts. My sister's husband is having a heart procedure and I'll be there for support. I'll check in as soon as I can.

Brenda spends most of her time writing stories of discovery and love entangled with suspense. The rest of her time is spent tending vegetables on the small family farm she shares with her husband, son, daughter-in-law and granddaughter. Together, they’ve embraced an age-old lifestyle that has been mostly lost in the United States - multiple generations living under one roof, who share the workload, follow their individual dreams and reap the benefits of combined talents.

Although she didn’t start out to write romantic suspense, she’s found all good stories involve complicated human relationships. She’s also found no matter a person’s age, a new discovery is right around every corner. Whether humorous or serious, straight contemporary or suspense, all her books revolve around those two facts.

Visit Brenda at
She blogs on the 9th and 24th of every month at
She blogs about writing and prairie life at

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Another Short Story to Share by Margo Hoornstra

It's my turn at the Roses of Prose again, and I brought another story to share. This one is also based on a true incident. Isn't it great when life presents us with so many story ideas?

Dolls For Generations

Six year old Kayla held two cloth dolls, a boy and a girl, in her outstretched arms.

“But, Momma. Why can’t we take the dolls home with us?”

“Because you have enough toys at our house. These need to stay at Grandma’s.”

Vera watched the exchange between her daughter and granddaughter. If she had her way, Kayla would go home with whatever it was she wanted. Even Grampa, for a day or two, if that would make her happy. But, before she’d become a grandmother, with its license to spoil and let discipline slide, she’d been a parent. She remembered those demands and the limits they imposed. So she said nothing.

“They need to go home with me,” her granddaughter persisted. Vera could hear the tears of frustration in Kayla’s voice, then watched them brim over in her eyes.

“They’re all dirty. Look.” Her daughter reached out to gingerly touch a grimy sleeve, then brushed her hands swiftly together to cleanse them.

“But, I want them to.” Kayla stiffened her knees as if that physical act would help her get her way. “Why not?”

“Because I said so,” Vera heard her daughter counter at last. She recognized the line used by many parents to end an argument with a child.

The dolls in question had been a Christmas gift—from Vera’s mother to the twins—many  years before. Her youngest daughter had actually thrown them in the trash one day when she decided to purge her bedroom, and herself, of all things juvenile. Vera couldn’t stand the thought of their being discarded. She’d rescued them then set them in a corner of the basement to be forgotten. That was where Kayla had found them—toward the end of a sleepover visit when boredom had begun to set in and she’d gone off looking for new adventures.


Vera steeled herself. She would be expected to respond. It was now up to her to find a solution for her granddaughter while allowing her daughter to save face.

“Yes,” she said as if Kayla had just asked for something as easy to provide as a cookie.

“Is Momma right? Do the dolls have to stay here?”

Vera looked at her granddaughter’s expectant face, then at the ‘please help me here’ expression on her daughter’s. “Yes, they do, Sweetheart,” she said at last. “Because, your mother is right. The dolls are a little dirty.” She looked at her daughter. “And, Grandma needs to clean them up.”

She knew she was providing only a stop gap measure; a temporary fix to the situation. Still, she was relieved when Kayla accepted her answer without argument. For now, that was enough.

The next day, Vera inspected the dolls with a critical eye. She had forgotten how important dolls had been to her at one time long ago, then she realized, they still were. As a child she had spent many satisfying days with her inanimate friends. She’d dressed them warmly for walks outside and tended to their every imagined need.

She laid these dolls on the counter by the sink, then went to work with soap, water and a wash cloth. It was like bathing a baby without the squirming. After they were dry, she’d mend the minor rips and snags she’d discovered.

A few days later, she bent to that task. It was important that the thread blended with the material so the stitches didn’t show. She could almost see her own mother, expertly matching thread to cloth. Vera pulled a length of thread from a carefully selected spool. Her stitches were small and neat, just as her grandmother had taught her. ‘Keep the stitches even.’ Gram would say. ‘Not too long. The shorter the better. Long stitches are for basting. You, Vera girl, are sewing.’

She worked slowly and lovingly until the dolls were completely restored. Then, she decided new clothes were in order.

Her smile erupted into an outright laugh as she drove into the yard later the next afternoon. Her trip to town had been successful on many fronts. The hardware had the part Ben wanted for the tractor, in stock and on sale. But, best of all, the toy store had yielded more than she’d hoped. It had been a long time since she’d been doll clothes shopping. She’d forgotten how much fun it could be—going through all the colors, the styles, the accessories. She’d settled on a yellow dress for the girl doll, smocked across the front in orange and pink thread. The boy doll wound up with jeans—appropriate for a boy, she thought—and an orange top festively embroidered with a palm tree on the front. His outfit came complete with a hat. She quickly unloaded the car, anxious to get to her dolls. Dressing each one with love and care, she took her time to straighten their collars and adjust them both just so.

She set them on the bed in the spare room, then stood back to admire her work. She couldn’t wait for Kayla to see what she’d done.

She’d recaptured and made cherished memories. And, she’d done it for all of them—her grandmother, her mother, her daughter, her granddaughter, and herself.
Hope you enjoyed my latest offering. Happy Summer, Everyone.
My days to blog here at the 11th and 23rd. For more about me and to see some of the other stories I have, please visit my WEBSITE

Monday, June 22, 2015

A father's special love ~ by Leah St. James

Last week I had the privilege of moderating an author discussion panel at a local Barnes & Noble store. To start off the discussion, I had asked the authors to read brief excerpts from their books. One woman had written a story about what happens when a person grows up without love—specifically what happens when “babies” have babies and don’t know how to parent. 

In the scene she read, a young man (who had grown up in this loveless environment) goes to his girlfriend’s father and asks for her hand in marriage. The dad isn’t thrilled and he gives the prospective groom a tongue-lashing about how precious his daughter is to him, how he isn’t going to hand her over to just anybody.

 I wish I had taken notes and could share a quote because my description hardly comes close to the eloquence and power of the author’s passage. I almost cried. Later, during the discussion, I joked that I wished  I’d grown up with that fictional father. And I meant it.

My parents divorced when I was about four years old, and my father disappeared from our lives. My mom, my sister and I lived a pretty bare-bones existence in the “things” department, but we had an abundance of love.  

Still, I didn’t realize how the absence of a male figure in my life affected me until years later. I shied away from boys and men in general. They were foreign creatures who either ignored or deserted you.

Then I met my husband-to-be in college, and later his dad. It took a while for Dad to warm up to me – hubby kept insisting that his dad was just quiet, that it had nothing to do with not liking me. But looking back, I have to wonder if he didn’t quite approve of his son’s choice. I didn’t come with a great pedigree, or money...or much of anything but need. But he was hubby’s best man at our wedding – although hubby jokes about him saying, even as I walked down the aisle, “It’s not too late, you know.” (I’m

Despite what he might have been feeling, he treated me with nothing but (QUIET) respect. But more than that, he treated me with care. I didn’t have a car back then so walked three or four blocks to work. When it snowed, even a few inches (which was almost every night in northeastern Pennsylvania where hubby and I were living at the time), Dad would pick me up from their home at least a mile away to drive me the few blocks to my job. (And they were very QUIET rides, believe me.) 

Eventually we started talking :-) and we developed our own relationship. He began to fuss when I went out by myself and got upset with his son (hubby) for not fussing. (Hubby was used to me bopping around by myself – I’d been doing it for years – but Dad was not.) At first I thought it was annoying – like he didn’t trust me to go out by myself. But then hubby explained that his dad was worried for me. 

It was the proverbial “aha!” moment. I remember feeling so special. So loved. I remember thinking, So that's what it's like to have a dad.

Dad with my sons, sharing his obsession...
uh, I mean his love of golf.
Over the years we grew very close. I was at his side during his mother's funeral (my mother-in-law couldn't be there).  He bought me maternity clothes and joined me on college trips for my sons. I sat with him during chemo treatments.

He became the dad I’d never had.

So when the author read her excerpt the other day, and I commented that I wished I had that dad growing up, I thought of my father-in-law and how blessed I was to have had him in my life.

When my sons have children, if they have daughters, I’m going to remind them just how special their grandfather made me feel even though I wasn’t really his.

Here’s to all the great dads out there who teach their daughters what it’s like to be cherished, and who make their beaux sweat, just a little, for their favor.

Leah writes stories of mystery and romance, good and evil, and the power of love. Visit her at

Sunday, June 21, 2015

Critique? Who? Me? By Barbara Edwards #MFRW #MyAHAshare

Critiquing is one of those skills that writers both hate and love. A good critique is worth its weight in gold. A poor critique can shatter a tender ego and put the writer into a tailspin.
How do I know? I’ve been on the receiving end of both. 
I belonged to a wonderful group  of five writers who met weekly for coffee and to exchange pages. The minimum was ten, but more could be added if someone had a good week. We always went forward. The chapters that were critiqued might be read as a whole when the manuscript was done. It kept us inspired. We did get published. Then I had to move to another state. Working on-line didn’t happen. 
The destructive critique came from a writing teacher. She checked my weekly offerings and then told me that I had no talent and should write for my own benefit. Cruel? Sure, but I’ve learned many people can be cruel. It took me years to recover from that blow.
  I’ve been without a critique partner. I think that after awhile I felt like I didn’t need one. I have books published, my editors like my work, and I’m comfortable with what I do. 
That last was the signal to me that I needed something. I looked at my latest mss and wasn’t satisfied anymore. I wanted to ask a friend to read it, but I realized I wanted more than a single view. Friends say they like it. Family always loves it. Friends don’t want to hurt your feelings. I need a critique.
This week I took the time from writing to attend a Romance Writers of America on-line class on how to critique and how to find a good critique partner. (Classes like this are a major benefit of belonging to RWA.) I happened to see a few people from RWA who were also searching. I contacted them and the experiment is in progress.
My first mistake according to the class is I wasn’t clear what I wanted from them and what I could offer in return. This is not a one-way street. If you don’t feel like an equal partner, the effort won’t last over time. I’m not talking about the excited, “Can you please look this love? I got a call from an editor.” I’m talking about the work that comes back with so much to change its not your any more or the consistent ‘there’s nothing to fix.”
Plan to exchange pages on a regular basis. 
Oh my, the speaker gave a great list of things to think about requesting. I’m not
including it because  it’s really geared to each writer. What I need might include grammar checks and plot flow, while you might need character consistency and goals. That’s why being clear helps.

I should add I was the Kiss of Death Chapter's original critique co-ordinator. I've judged contests both sate and national for 20 years. I've done classes on critiquing. I should know all this, but like everyone else, I forget.

I joined a Facebook group that is forming named Authors Critique Group. 

I’m not sure if the people I’m with will work out. I hope so. It can be discouraging and time-consuming, but I’m looking for the gold ring at the end of the ride.

Please follow, friend or like me. I love to hear from my readers.

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