Sunday, February 22, 2015

Guest Speaker-Geoff Symon-Forensics For Fiction

The LIRW was excited to have guest speaker, Geoff Symon, at this month's meeting! 

Agent Symon was a dynamic and fun speaker. His 20+ years of experience as a Federal Forensics investigator showed, and made his presentation, Forensics for Fiction, interesting and enjoyable. Agent Symon took us through a fictional Crime Scene Investigation that members made up on the fly. Apparently there was a murder case in a garage in Ethiopia. A crime of passion? We had to find out!

Agent Symon covered everything a writer could possibly want to know about Crime Scene Investigation. He started with the first responders who enter a crime scene, Firemen, EMTs, and Police Officers who protect the scene, and proceeded into the initial investigation led by the Lead Detective. The Detective owns that scene and works with the Sketcher and Photographer to create a pathway and document the scene.

Next he talked about searching and gathering evidence. He discussed different search patterns and types of evidence. He also taught us about cross contamination, chain of custody, and scientific techniques for gathering fingerprints and comparing fibers.

Here he is teaching us about  different types of blood splatters and how they tell the Detective about the directionality of the injury.

And here he is explaining the "tells" that make a person's fingerprints unique.

The LIRW would like to thank Geoff Symon for his fantastic presentation. We hope he will visit us again! To learn more about Agent Symon, click here! 

Until next time,


Monday, February 16, 2015 places you don't expect

Love and romance.

50 Shades of Gray.

Aliens, shapeshifters, time travel or contemporary romance.

Yes, love comes in all shapes, sizes, time periods and even planets.

Since I made my first choice of a romance novel in my middle school library many, many years ago, the one constant is the feeling of satisfaction in the enduring hope in love. I've also learned there is nothing cookie cutter about a romance, just like people and that box of chocolates on Forest Gump's never know what you're going to get.

And that's a good thing.

While I'm in the mood to let the cliches fly...different strokes for different folks. Sure it's cliche, but it's cliche for a reason. It's the truth. And romance writers are happy to be there, wielding their pen (or keys on their keyboards) to satisfy every taste. We write in diverse genres, some with a little more kink, some with a touch of mystery, and some just downright sweet...but we have a tale to tell that will probably reach into your soul and make you a believer in the hope of love too.

While not every subject is for every taste, one thing is certain: there is room for all of us on the bookshelf, on blogs, Facebook and Twitter. We all support each other, even if it's not our particular thing. I love being a part of an industry that truly knows no with a shapeshifter or a blue alien? Why not? A little magic? Finding love on the run from a murderer? Or maybe just falling for the boy next door. Yes, all romances that might just keep you up at night...and in a good way.

The next time you find yourself browsing the bookstore or the virtual shelves keep an open mind, adopt an attitude of anything is possible, and you might find a new author or a new genre you never thought you'd love. You might not, and that's okay too!

In the end it's all about feeding our love of a good story, of the familiar tug on the heartstrings or the sigh of satisfaction when we come to the end.

It's why we read. It's why we write.


A believer in second chances and that time should never be an obstacle to finding love, Debora Dennis writes time travels with modern snark and spice! When she's not writing, she's spending time with her family, reading, or trying to figure out a way to get chocolate into every dish she serves.

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Football:the makings of a story

As you know, the Super Bowl was last week. And yes, I'm one of those people who watch it just for the new commercials. I have no interest in the sport.  But this time, I couldn't help but get sucked into the suspense of the game. It was great.

Something dawned on me as I sat here to write a post. That game was like a good book. The game (story) opened up with a conflict ready to go.  Then after several trials the game (plot) turned as the heroes, The  Patriots, (or if you're a Seahawk fan, villains), gained the upper hand. The Seahawks rallied and pushed back hard, neutralizing The Patriots victory.  (Turning the direction of the story once again)  Both sides seemed equal in both skill and strength. The question, who would triumph, was not easily foreseen.

Back and forth, the game (the story) kept changing, as the teams struggled against each other, keeping us on our toes until the Seahawks were able to hold on to their dominance.  Surely victory was in their grasp. But alas no, another twist came into being and they were defeated: 28 - 24.

Now if I could write a book with that many unsuspected twists, character bonding and tension, I would bet it would be a best seller. Can you write like that? I know I'm still trying to perfect it.

editor's note:  My daughter teased me the reason The Patriots were my favorite team to win was, Tom Brady is the only football player I knew.

Monday, February 2, 2015

Step Up and Get Involved

This really should not be my topic: I am a veteran of various commitments that I got into with the part of my personality that occasionally pops up and says: “Pfffft. How hard could that be? I’ll do it.”
                At different times, this has left me simultaneously running three girl scout troops; camping with thirteen pre-teens and four harried moms in a near-hurricane; working at a coffee franchise under a crack-addicted, psychotic, rooster-toting manager who wanted me to “work through” the flu so she could go to a bachelorette party; managing the production of 24 scientific journals and the -- let’s just say “interesting” -- staff that was supposed to be assembling them; changing a tire on the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway on the tiniest, broken glass-littered island ever while cars whipped past at light speed; and suffering through the unique type of hangover that only cheap tequila can provide in order to out-drink and therefore be rid of someone who was trying to stalk my brother by hanging out with me (Do NOT ever, ever do this. It is a very bad idea.).
                None of these activities was very self-beneficial. In fact, if someone gave me a time-traveling machine and offered me the chance to do all of these again, I would say, “Yeaaah, NO” to all but the medical journals, since I met my husband there. But the rest? What was I thinking? (See first paragraph in case you have already forgotten.)
                HOWEVER. There are some times, and groups, in which you should step up and lend a hand – where it helps not only those with whom you’ve joined in a common interest but also helps you.  Here are four reasons you should join up, join in, be a part of this group of ourselves we call the Long Island Romance Writers:
1                Camaraderie.  You make friends here. You’re talking about and writing stories – and you meet other people who understand what it’s like to have characters speaking in your head, who don’t think it’s weird that you sometimes stare into space watching a plot unfold that only you can see. Heck, they encourage you to do so. They help you do it better.
                   Discovery. Each one of us knows something potentially useful to the others, whether it’s about race cars or parasailing or witchcraft or unfastening kilts or Victorian table manners or forensic poison detection. You never know, when you’re working together, what you’ll learn, which will help you grow as a person and as a storyteller, or as someone who may someday need to unfasten a kilt.  
3          Feedback. Excitement about common goals and constructive criticism from your peers, especially when you’re feeling discouraged, can jumpstart a stalled plot, fix inconsistencies, give you the oomph you need to continue, or even just get started.
           It feels amazing. Whether you’re volunteering to take on a leadership role or simply lending a hand at an event, you help everyone, including yourself. The group is able to do better things, hold better gatherings, interact more professionally and cohesively.  Something as simple as greeting guests at the luncheon, or offering an idea for a meeting presentation, or writing an article for the newsletter or blog, makes the experience of being part of the LIRW that much better. For everyone – our members, our guests, each other. I’ve heard people say it makes the chapter better – but really, the chapter is made up of US, of writers at every stage and level of experience, of new and old friends, of people who have even more to offer than just our stories. 
     So maybe it is my topic. Maybe, because I’ve done so many other not-so-rewarding things, I know a good thing when I see one. I know I’ll get more out of being a member here if I contribute to the bigger picture. Trust me – you’ll be happy you added your efforts, too, and I promise there won’t be any hangovers, and certainly no roosters.

Sunday, January 25, 2015

.Doc X

I've put off buying the new Microsoft Word for Mac because I simply couldn't afford it. As a writer, I wanted the software more than anything, but I couldn't pay for groceries, let alone a hundred dollar a year program.

I had to ask critique partners if they would convert their story files to .doc because my computer couldn't read .doc x. For some reason I couldn't download the add-on. It was embarrassing, and frustrating for everyone. But that was only a fraction of my stomach churning fear.

Would agents and editors think I wasn't serious about writing if I submitted stories on such old software? I bit my nails. Would they think I wasn't invested enough, or too outdated? I felt sick. And worse, If I didn't buy the new software, would my unpublished story files become unreadable? I couldn't sleep.

For those of you who don't know the difference, .doc x is the new file type Microsoft developed in 2007. Here are some links to better help explain the difference between the two.

So, this week, I threw caution to the wind. I upgraded my computer and purchased a one year subscription of Microsoft Word. I have new fears, like how I'm going to pay for everything once the credit card bill arrives, but I feel more confident having the new program.

But my questions remain. Were my fears irrational? Should I copy and paste my older manuscripts into the new .doc x format? Will Microsoft change the software soon? And what about the other starving writers and poor college students who can't afford the subscription? Businesses exist to make money, I understand, and yet...I wish .doc x available to all.


Monday, January 19, 2015

Finding Your Tribe

I am a writer.

I sometimes live in my own world, talking to people that live only in my fertile imagination. I can get lost for hours researching strange facts and obscure locations.  I love to talk about plotting, pacing and promotion. My desk is piled high with writing craft books, baby name books and colored post-it notes with snippets of ideas and word counts.

To my dismay, not everyone in my life shares my passion...which is why it is SO important to find those people who do. Finding your tribe, no matter what your passion is, can be best thing to happen to you. I know it has saved my sanity more times than I could possibly count.

This year marks my 10 year anniversary embracing the writer inside me. Having spent years as a closet writer, creating scenarios and characters in my head, writing out short stories and tossing them away before anyone could see them and judge the crazy going on in my head...I finally got up one day and embraced the "calling."

After admitting to myself I wasn't going to stop writing any time soon and that maybe, just maybe, someone else might want to actually read my thoughts, I sought out some like minded people. I landed at a Long Island Romance Writers meeting and instantly knew I had found my tribe. Well, maybe not instantly...I did hyperventilate in the library bathroom before I actually walked into the meeting!

Around the table were women of all ages, all demographic backgrounds, and on various rungs of the publishing ladder. Fear crept up my spine as I found a seat. I remember sweating even though it was October and the thought of throwing up was a constant companion through the entire meeting. But as the afternoon progressed a sense of calm finally washed over me with the knowledge that I was surrounded by people who "got me."

These ladies understood the voices in my head that I couldn't let go of. They carried pads and pens with them to jot down ideas on the go, just like me. The talked passionately about killing off characters and they weren't afraid to delve into the world of graphic sexual language!

Fear can be a powerful force. Fear has the power to control you if you let it. Ten years ago I faced my fear of walking into a meeting and knowing NO ONE and saying out loud that I wrote romance! (Yikes, that was a tough day!)

Ten years ago I found my tribe on the other side of fear...and it was one of the best decisions of my life.

Make this year the year you face a fear...the year you write that story, the year you submit that story, the year you find your tribe to cheer you on or hold your hand and offer chocolate!

Monday, January 12, 2015

Letting The Muse Have Her Way

I'm a planner by nature. I color code. I admit it. I have spreadsheets out the wazoo. Calendars everywhere. You get the idea. But for the past few months, I've been letting the Muse have her way and I think it's brought a freshness and spontaneity back to my writing that's made it better.

I have very detailed plans about what books to write and when to write them. I make plans for my ongoing series and figure out who is getting their books written next. But starting in about September of 2014, all my plans went out the window. A book wanted to get written that I hadn't planned.

Luckily, I went with it. I followed the Muse and wrote the book. It was a fourth book to what I had planned as a trilogy, but it really wanted to be written and I'm glad I let it happen. After that book was done, I tried to go back to my plan. I doggedly tried to get back on track with the project I had planned, but it wasn't meant to be.

Right before Christmas, I started writing another book that was not planned. (Ack!) I'm editing it right now - a new Dragon Knights book that was never in the original plan for the series. You see, I've been slowly working my way through the princes in the royal family. Each of them will have a book by the time I'm done and I figured those would be the next logical steps in the progression toward the big battle scene that will take place with the last prince's book.

But a new set of characters just showed up and wanted their book written. Two stealthy dragons who are different from the rest and a maiden who is much more than she appears. I had to get to the end of the book to figure out why it needed to be written right now. You see, I'm leading up to that big confrontation and she is an important piece of that final puzzle. I need her! I didn't know it, but I definitely see it now.

So the muse hasn't let me down. She's made the books better and the series as a whole, more cohesive. Yay, Muse!

I'm beginning to think that our unconscious mind - the Muse, if you will - knows better sometimes what we should be doing than all our best-laid plans and spreadsheets. Following these whims over the past few months has meant a lot of shuffling of my schedule and rejiggering my spreadsheets, but the books that have come from it were written faster, with way less angst, and are cleaner (typo and continuity-wise) than anything I've written in a long time. I also think they're more interesting and flow a lot more smoothly than some of the books that I've literally forced myself to write.

I know from prior experience that when a book just flows out of me in a short period of time, it's usually a winner. When I have to force myself to write it to stick to some artificially-imposed schedule, it's much harder to accomplish.

So my advice if your Muse wants you to do something you didn't plan for is - go for it! You might be very pleased with the results! :)

Bianca D'Arc
Come over to The D'Arc Side...
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