Friday, December 23, 2016


Those of you who know me, know that I know quite a few amazing people who have autism. Though I do not know this young lady, she is truly amazing.

Please enjoy:
Kaylee Rodgers

I'm sure that Leonard Cohen is smiling at this little angel.

Sunday, December 4, 2016

Read To Learn To Write!

Brilliant idea! I drive, so that makes me a mechanic. Right?

Who comes up with this stuff?

There is an element of talent required to write, but even more important is the skills of writing. The way we read fiction isn't done in a way that directly teaches writing. We may pick up a few things about style, but overall, I want to see YOUR style.

The reason professionals attend training and are required to have continuing education credits is so they keep their skills fresh and improve upon them.

Read fiction for enjoyment. Read about writing to improve your writing skills.

Here is a book that covers the basics of writing. It is good for beginners or as a refresher for seasoned writers.

Writing Genre Fiction: A Guide to the Craft by H. Thomas Milhorn.
Check it out and let me know what you think.
(I am not compensated for mentioning this book.)

Saturday, November 19, 2016

Telling vs Showing

Telling vs Showing is a basic skill that the beginning writer should strive to master. Too much telling is boring. It drons along in a monotone voice and doesn't have the momentum to keep the average reader engaged.
One of the best examples of telling a story through showing is Passengers by Diane Keziah Robertson. Diane brilliantly tells the story through the life events of six people who first meet on the coach. She created the setting against the backdrop of the plague in England. Passengers is almost like theatre with the characters coming and leaving [the stage] in a way that advances the overall story.

One way to self-monitor whether you're writing in Telling Mode too much is to look at how much dialogue you've written. Are the characters telling the story through their actions and words? Or is the writer narrating the story in their own voice?

Characters are defined by their words and deeds. When the writer tells who the characters are, it is almost like gossip. Let the characters tell who they are rather than the writer telling about them.

There are times that I call, "Meanwhile, back at the ranch," when the writer needs to tell some short bit that transitions the characters to a different setting or introduces benigning information that will be important at some later point.

Here is a benign piece of information: He reached for the handrail when step unexpectly gave under his weight.

Basically, who cares? I don't, unless that loose step or handrail plays a role later in the story. Don't go on and on about how many times he had planned to fix the step. Who cares? Not me.

What I will care about is later, when he pulls up the end missing nails and stashes something under the step tread while someone is pursuing him. In this case, the broken step needs to be in the setting earlier so it can be used later. Please, please don't introduce it when you need it by saying, "He suddenly remembered..." It feels like a cheat.

Read your work out loud so you hear it out loud. Reading to yourself in your mind allows for skimming and self-correcting words in your thoughts, but not in the ms because you didn't notice them.

Reading aloud also shines a bright light on long rants of telling. It will scream "BORING!" as you drone along reading it out loud.

Here is a writing exercise that helps with too much telling. Write a hundred or so pages in first person. It forces you to only write what the person knows, experiences, thinks, or says. If the main character is telling the story, that is all the writer can use. No magical fixes.

Honestly, if I can't get through the three chapter submission, then I won't ask for the full ms unless Judith wants it. Submit your best work, whether it is to us or someone else. You owe it to yourself and your story.

Passengers is here:

Sunday, November 13, 2016


It isn't normal for me to make two posts in one weekend, but it isn't normal behavior that we would create a facebook page, either.
Check out our page and contribute if you like.
True confession: I didn't do this, it was dreamed up by our authors and executed flawlessly by Joyce, our web designer. There is yet more to come. Check it out.
What do you think?

Saturday, November 12, 2016

I suddenly love Janet Reid

Janet Reid is a literary agent. We have never met and are not likely to meet. However, on her blog she said read your submission aloud.
How many times have I said that? A bazillion.

It is even better if you print your ms, and read it aloud to someone who has not read it yet. I usually give a copy of the ms to the listener to follow along. That way, they can catch when you read it different from what is written.
Of course, what you read is better than what you wrote, so make changes on your copy and fix the ms when you finish reading.
I'm 100% serious about this. How can you not want to use the paper when it can make the difference of someone picking up your ms or not? Reading on the monitor is simply not the same as seeing it in print.
After all the hours put into writing do not skimp on the final polish. Cactus Rain sometimes will make recommendations and give a second chance to get it right, but most people in this industry do not give second chances so make sure you are querying with your best product.

The other issue Janet lists is not following the submission guidelines. This industry, like most others, has expectations, norms, and 'rules of conduct.' Otherwise, it would be pure anarchy. If you don't think that you need to follow our submission guidelines, think again. We won't read what you sent, if you didn't send the right stuff. Don't waste our time. You aren't that special that the rules don't apply to you. Prepare for a ton of rejection letters. 

Sunday, October 23, 2016

Staying Published

While staying current on the blogs that I follow is not a high priority, I did see something this morning that seems worth repeating from Janet Reid's blog. Janet Reid is a literary agent.
The post is: In one of the comments someone wrote, "It is one thing to get published and another to stay published."
Just like anything else we jump into, looking at the big picture is essential to 'correct' first steps.
Writing is on a spectrum, although some people see it as an end point. While writing itself is satisfying to most of us, beyond that euphoria we need to have a serious conversation with our self about where we want to go with this 'writing stuff.'
Bang away on your laptop with the TV blaring, take writing classes, walk the isles of the bookstore with glazed over eyes, but find a bit of quite time to think of this craft as a business.
The only way to succeed in any business is to do your homework and understand the industry inside and out. Plus, to some extent understanding the ebb and flow of the economy helps build a strong business.
The point is, of course, identify your goals, and then develop a plan on how to achieve those goals.
There is a lot of advice, mine included, on the Internet and in print books. The work is to distill all of that into a working model that fits YOU.
Write your best work and make time to understand the industry. Cheers!

Sunday, October 2, 2016

What We Like

It is a lazy beautiful day in Arizona, USA. The drizzle of the monsoons tap a soothing sound on the patio cover above me as I think about the mystery of Cactus Rain Publishing. A few years ago, a close friend told me that CRP would never work.
It does work. What is the secret? It is hard to say, and it is probably more than one thing that works. We don’t advertise – at all. Maybe we have passed on some mss that we shouldn’t have passed. However, we have done well with those we selected.
I think that Irene Watson nailed it when she wrote about my novels that, “Nadine produces works of social relevance.”
That is also true of the novels we publish.
Of course, we look at writing ability and style. Though, the social message of our books is what speaks to me as I read the submitted manuscripts. For me, it is probably the tipping point.
What does anything matter if we don’t continue to evolve into better people, better societies? Though there are many others who do more and larger than our small voice, I believe we quietly and gently contribute to the betterment of all of those who read our books, without being preachy and forceful.
Our books, and those under contract, speak to critical issues and in the end, good wins over evil in the characters.
Check out what Steve Mwase says in this interview. or here

Friday, September 23, 2016

Banned Book Week

Yes, it is true, there is a special day, week, month for everything and September 25th to October 1st is banned book week.

My friend, writer Jeannine Garsee (Bloomsbury -- buy her books), says that writing a banned book is an excellent way to land on the Best Seller list somewhere -- not her exact words maybe. The real goal is to write a great book, banned or otherwise.

Here are a few of the "subversive books" that have been banned: The Great Gatsby, The Catcher in the Rye; The Grapes of Wrath; The Color Purple; Lolita; Of Mice And Men; Catch 22; The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn; The Scarlet Letter; To Kill A Mockingbird; Where The Wild Things Are (yes, that children's book with great artwork -- sheesh); Moby Dick; For Whom The Bell Tolls; and many more.

Remember in 2011, when someone had the idea to make Mark Twain's works politically correct? That is a great way to erase history, so we don't remember and are doomed to repeat it.

There are quite a few discounts on banned books next week. Do a little research and grab one or several of the many banned books.

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Scene Break

In the throes of inspiration, it is easy to get caught up in the action and write a 150,000 paragraph. Okay, that isn’t actually likely to happen. However, I have seen some long chapters.  Let’s make this simple. We used to say, “Back at the ranch …”
Think of this: A chapter change occurs when the location, time, people changes. Granted there is some license taken with this. But, start there.
What about scene breaks? I put in scene breaks when the rhythm of the read changes by ONE of the above factors; location, time, person. Think of it like a big comma, the story continues, but there is a signal that there is a change. Whereas, a chapter break is more like a full stop (period) in my analogy.
I’ve said this before, but the absolute best writing book that I have read is a scriptwriting book. The Complete Book of Scriptwriting by J. Michael Straczynski should be in your library. My copy has underlined sections, notes in the margin, and stickies popping out from the edge of the book. The single most important lesson, I think, is the section on camera angles. Get the book. Read it. Thank me later.
For a reliable place to visit for writing tips and lessons check out:
I recently found this program, which I haven’t fully tested, – I’m testing the free version. Let me know if you try it and what you think.

Thursday, July 21, 2016


There is no nice way to say this, so here is the blunt truth — stop using so many ellipses! Seriously, stop it!
Either write what you left out with the ... or use a normal punctuation mark, such as a full stop (UK) also known as a period (USA).
Creative punctuation is distracting to read and if you overuse it, it is plain annoying. (I bet you can tell that I'm reading an ms with this issue, right?)
The last several mss that I've read have a half dozen ellipses per page. Let me tell you what I'm thinking while reading that craziness. I'm thinking that I have to go through and fix that mess.
You can bet that the next ms without ellipses is going to be my favorite, even if it has other issues.
People, I'm over the ellipses. Just stop using them. If you do use them, then use them correctly and sparingly.
Thank you.

Monday, July 11, 2016

Friday, July 8, 2016

Only this...

I hope this link works internationally. Please share.

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Great New Website

Joyce finished several weeks of a major overhaul of the Cactus Rain Publishing website. You must see it. The results of her work are awesome!

I love the process each time Joyce and I do this to the website. Wouldn't it be wonderful to simply other aspects of our lives in this way?

Check it out! It is cleaner, simpler, more packed with easily accessed information. Let me know what you think...

Thursday, June 2, 2016

carpe momentum

My close friends know not to expect a once-a-year-gift on their birthday, though sometimes I do deliver. What is important is the daily gift of respect, encouragement, compassion, and love. I do random acts of kindness and, yes, sometimes gift things simple or grand that I see along life's journey.
I have a terrible time reconciling the intent of people who will be awful throughout the year, then give gifts for birthdays or Christmas. I can't help pitying such people because they must be hurting to be so unkind. Pity isn't a gift and I do try to come up with a different emotion, but sometimes one just has to go with what they have.
Some people meditate or practice yoga daily. I practice 'appreciation' of the people around me, and those I've known. Sometimes the simplest act by someone has been life changing for me without their knowing. I'm not embarrassed to tell them how much I appreciate them or what they did, and what it meant to me.
Life is short. I used to have a dance bag that had on it, "Life is not a dress rehearsal." It goes beyond carpe diem. Maybe carpe momentum is a better fit; seize the moment.
When I look back over the journey so far with Cactus Rain Publishing, I think of the people I've met. In this video are some who have passed, but all touched my life profoundly.

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Writer or Author?

A quick Internet search of the definition of writer and author shows little distinction between the two words. In terms of writing fiction, there is a distinct difference in my mind between being a writer and an author. I'm not sure where that idea originated. Perhaps it is something that was said years ago in a writing class that took root in my mind and grew from there.
Writers write. It is that simple. It is the creative process. There are many people who seem to be "a natural" at spinning a story. There are some who take it seriously enough to hone their craft by taking writing classes and reading books on writing.
With the advent of the Internet, writing classes on line have become a money making enterprise. Of course, caveat emptor, buyer beware. As most things, the classes are not equally worth the money.
Personally, I'd rather have a book that I can return to as needed. My all-time favorite novel writing book is: The Complete Book of SCRIPTWRITING, by J. Michael Straczynski.
Scriptwriting? For a novelist? Absolutely! And if you read this book, you'll know why I adore it.
So writers write and hone their craft. What's the difference with that and an author? If you have finished a manuscript, you know there is a distinct change in the landscape when you begin to query that book to literary agents and small publishers.
First off, there is a whole new set of rules to learn about the publishing industry. While anyone can pick up a pen and paper and write a manuscript, or even better, grab a digital device and bang out an ms, marketing said ms can be daunting and frustrating.
It is almost a right of passage, in some sense, to traverse from the private world of writing to the public world of publishing. The first time someone rejects that ms, it is different from friends and family wowing over the rough draft that has been shared. Friends and family are supposed to say encouraging things, and most of the time they do.
But when someone in the industry, who is considering putting their money into your ms to publish it, rejects it -- for whatever reason -- it is the beginning of the realization that this industry is serious business, and it is time to step it up, if you want to be part of it.
That right of passage period is where I make the distinction between writer and author. While I know it isn't really a distiction in the industry, it is to me because it should be a mark that you have taken the next step beyond being a casual writer.
There are quite a few books about the industry and I've found most of them discouraging, so I won't list any titles here. However, it is like any other industry, knowledge is power.

Learning how to write a query letter that gets your work considered is the first step to putting your work out for consideration.
A great query letter only goes so far. The synopsis has to be correctly written and good enough to keep the person looking at the next piece of your submission, the sample chapters.
All of this is a learning process and most of the time it does not come as natural as writing. Yet, it is required to transition the work from manuscript to novel.
Finish what you started and dive in this summer to learning the industry as your next step in the process of writing (and getting published) the next Great Americal Novel!

Sunday, April 17, 2016

The End

Thinking back over the writing classes in high school and college, it struck me (I do not know why) that while a great deal of emphasis is placed on the opening lines and the first page "hook" that I don't recall much said about the end.
Often when I read an ms, the end has come a chapter or sometimes two before the writer stopped writing. It is like a bad relationship that just doesn't go away after both persons have decided to end it.
In one of our books we switched the order of the last two chapters and had a more fitting ending, one that reminds me of a Hitchcock movie ending.
Check this out: I can't say that I love-love these endings. But then again, I think "It was a dark and stormy night" is a perfectly fine first line to a book and that is not what my professors said.
Let me know what you think after you follow the link above. Are these good last lines or not?

Sunday, March 27, 2016

Master of the Jinn: A Sufi Novel

My dear friend and writing collogue, Irving Karchmar, sent out the email below. If nothing else, take a listen to him read the sample. He has a rich voice and it truly brings his book to life. Not only does it make me want to purchase his audiobook, it makes me want to re-read his print book. Check it out on Amazon, it is beautifully illustrated.
The email:
Dear Friends:
You've always supported my writing efforts, so I wanted you to be among the first to know about the Audiobook... (forgive me if this is a duplcate email). And please pass it on to anyone you know who reads Audiobooks :)
Master of the Jinn: A Sufi Novel is now an Audiobook narrated by the author, me, available on Audible and iTunes and Amazon.  If you already listen to audiobooks, please get it. Click HERE to listen to a sample. You can also get it FREE with a 30 day trial of Audible, which can be canceled at any time :) Here is the link:
If you listen to it and like it, please consider reviewing it on Amazon, Audible, Blogs, Facebook, etc. Every little bit helps :)
Peace and blessings,

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Kindle Update

Considering that I have no use for ebooks -- don't be alarmed, we do publish ebooks -- I thought I'd add my voice to others about the need for some Kindle readers to be updated -- today.
Go here for more information on the update.
Hope this helps.
If that fails, try a print book until you can get your Kindle up and running again. Here are a few suggestions for a good read.

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Plan B

There was no new information forthcoming about the picture in the post below or its photographer. Bummer. Someone somewhere must know of its source, but this post didn't become far reaching enough to connect with the creator.
Thus the idea for Plan B. We want to use this photo in a cover art. Next best thing is to put the word out that we are looking for a photo similar to the photo below. We would like a photo of a fat-footed little girl dancing on her daddy's feet. We'd like the sense of ease that this is a common occurance between these two.
Does anyone know of such a photo? Please ask around.

Sunday, February 7, 2016

Need HELP!

We are looking for the person who holds the rights to this photo. (See below.) Please post this on your social media accounts and help us out with finding this photographer.

Any assistance is appreciated. Post away and see how far reaching you can send this request.

I might even come up with a gift for the person who locates this photographer or the right's holder.

This is where we found the photo. No response from them to date... 

Sunday, January 3, 2016

Happy New Year!

Happy New Year to all the writers out there!
If last year is any indication of a popular resolution for writers to make, then there will be a pile of manuscripts in our email coming soon.
Congratulations to you for finishing your manuscript. This is an exciting time to move it out your door and into ours.
We thoroughly vet every ms that meets the submission criteria found here:

Spend time working out the perfect industry standard query letter. There is no prize to be first to submit. The prize (publication) is in submitting your best work. You get one shot at making a good first impression. Take your time and show us your best work.
The advice I give you, whether you submit your manuscript to Cactus Rain Publishing, another publisher or a literary agent, is to print your ms on paper and read it aloud before you submit it to anyone. If the voice in your head tells you that you don’t need to follow that suggestion exactly, then you probably aren’t ready to send your ms to us.
Printing it on paper will show you how it will look to us. You should be willing to fund the cost of a ream of paper when you expect someone else to spend hundreds of times that cost to publishing your manuscript. If it isn’t worth your investment, them it might not be worth ours.
Reading it out loud will help you catch content mistakes where the person walked out of the room, then four paragraphs later, walked out of the room. Right, there is no mention of returning to the room after the first exit. Another thing that reading it aloud will help you catch are the miles long paragraphs. Creative use of a semicolon doesn’t really impress us. Read about pacing and see how your work improves by shortening some of those sentences and paragraphs!
That last sentence reminds me to warn against excessive use of the exclamation point. If everything that the character says is followed by an exclamation point, they need to get put on medication and dial it down a bit.
Whether your manuscript is finished or is still a work in progress, when you submit it, make sure you are submitting your best work.