How to move a creek

Laurel Wanrow:

I have been MIA for several months on my blogs. In early September a disastrous flood event hit the small Colorado town where I own a cabin built by my Dad in the 1950′s. Since then I’ve spent half my time in Jamestown participating in recovery efforts. Read more about Jamestown and how you can help:

Originally posted on Jamestown Connect:

Here is a handy guide on how to move a creek as documented in photographs by Laurel Wanrow.

Step 1: Place big yellow thing in post-Jamestown flood creek and start digging


Step 2: Tidy-up post-flood creek


Step 3: Dig channel for new creek


Step 4: Divert water to new creek


Step 5: Grade the road where the post-flood creek used to be


Step 6: Welcome town-folk to the new Ward Road with creek back were it started before the Jamestown flood


View original

2013 Put Your Heart in a Book Contest

Congratulations to my fellow finalists in the 2013 Put Your Heart in a Book contest! This event for unpublished writers is sponsored by the New Jersey Romance Writers. The winners will be announced at the NJRWA Conference October 18th.

Sacha Devine – The Ring
Laurie Benson – A Proper Scandal*
Patricia Kratina – The Viscount With a Wicked Wink

Nadine Mutas – Blood, Pain, and Pleasure
Mary Ann Worden – Heart of Atlantis
Laurel Wanrow – The Farm *

Short Contemporary
Leigh Raffaele – Brewed For Love*
Debora Noone w/a Delsora Lowe – The Rancher Needs a Suitable Wife
Catherine Cervantes – One More Time

Single Title
Pamela Gibson – Perfect Balance
Lena Pinto – True Partners*
Catherine Vignolini – Poser

Young Adult
Amy DeLuca – Four Bullets
Caroline Dunsheath – Last Wishes
McCall Hoyle – The Thing With Feathers

*denotes NJRW member

Contest Final!

I’m please to announce The Farm has finalled in the NJ Romance Writers’ 2013 Put Your Heart In a Book contest! I entered my steampunk fantasy in the Paranormal category back the end of June, and it’s now gone on to final judging. Winners will be announced at the NJRWA Conference October 18th. It’s a great regional conference; if you’re on the east coast, consider attending.

I have an excerpt of the novel on this website under My Novels, but not the opening. Here’s a bit of the first chapter, a little longer than the excerpts I normally post, but I’m excited for this announcement, so hope you’ll bear with me!

Glenwood-on-Tyne, in the country of Belaverte

September 1857

The sharp pull on her arm jolted Annmar Masterson to a stop before she could turn the corner.

“Annmar, we are not—” Polly’s grip tightened. A trolley passed on the street behind them, the psst, psst, psst of its pumping pistons almost drowning her friend’s words. “I refuse to walk on that street.”

Annmar shot a look down the grimy alley lined by decayed storefronts, with more than a few rumpled-coated men loitering in doorways. But well-dressed vendors also pushed their carts up the shortest way to High Street. She recognized a fair number of them and nodded to the iceman steering his heavier motorized wagon.

She leaned to Polly’s ear. “Please. Foggy Bottom is there—” She nodded to the block’s end. “—and Shearing’s business but a minute’s walk.”

Polly shook her head, sending her blond curls dancing over the high collar of her candy-striped blouse. But she didn’t leave. Annmar switched her roll of linen parchment to her other hand and gratefully linked her free arm with Polly’s. Together they picked their way around the carts, and Annmar resisted the urge to pluck up her walking skirt over the drifts of fall leaves. It would only attract attention, attention they already had.

“Oh my Lord. You’ve come to the industrial district whenever you’ve visited his business? I don’t like it,” Polly muttered, but she allowed Annmar to pull her along Foggy Bottom and the factories lining the River Tyne.

“Neither do I, without Mrs. Rennet present.” Annmar sighed. No rough workmen dared approach her employer. Even the employees of the city’s largest fine arts and drafting firm crept around under temperamental owner’s stern gaze, fearing her frequent firings.

In the canyon between the towering factory walls, the clink, clink, clink of gear mechanisms echoed and steam billowed from the lines of open-paned factory windows. Polly’s wide-eyed gaze fell from them to two workmen in grubby coveralls hoisting gray metal rods off a foundry delivery wagon blocking half the street. They leered back.

Annmar elbowed her friend. She’d learned months ago to keep her focus averted from the men, though in Mr. Shearing’s presence none dared to act improperly.

She tilted her head toward the four-story warehouse rising above the adjacent buildings. “His office is just ahead, and it’s more than presentable.” Fancy green trims—worthy of any business on High Street—decorated the solid brick edifice of Shearing Enterprises. Tall, gold lettering proclaimed the business pledge across a painted signboard: The Latest in Agricultural Technology, Backed by the Best Craftsmanship in Glenwood-on-Tyne.

A mechanical screech rent the air. They both jumped. Polly whimpered as several rough curses followed, and the workmen paused to gaze at the upper windows.

“Here now!” bellowed a deep-voiced man from inside. “Put out that fire. At least the boiler held this go ‘round.”

The workers shook their heads and hauled the last rod onto the pile within the uprights of a mechanized cart. One man dropped into the seat and threw a lever, releasing a burst of steam from the engine. The cart lurched forward and the second man followed with a steadying hand on the rods. He tipped his cap to them with a half-bow and another grin.

Annmar steered Polly forward, determined not to let on she’d seen him. They stepped smartly down the wide thoroughfare where a mix of modern steam-powered and older horse-drawn wagons hauled materials. “Heavens, that damaged engine better not be the featured machine for this week’s Post. Or this newest advertisement I’ve completed.” She squeezed her roll of parchment bearing the illustration of Shearing Enterprise’s All New Mechanized Row Planter.

“She’s taking advantage of you, Mrs. Rennet is,” Polly said. “Knowing Shearing’s establishment is between our boarding room and Rennet’s Renditions. Still, I wish to see for myself this Mr. Shearing who has offered you sponsorship.”

Though cringing inwardly at her tone, Annmar managed a casual glance at her friend.

Polly raised the same disdainful brow that had been quirking since the night a week ago when the sleepless Annmar had confided Mr. Shearing’s offer. “Though I’ll catch it if I’m late to the shop.”

“You won’t be, I promise.” The very reason she’d asked Polly along instead of requesting Mr. Shearing’s ever-available carriage was to avoid a lengthy private conversation in the confines of his office. He expected an answer she dreaded giving. She paused before a green wooden door set into a brick archway, steeling her nerves. “I do appreciate you accompanying me.”

Polly sniffed. “It wouldn’t be proper, you coming alone.” She knocked before Annmar could.

The door opened and there he stood. Annmar’s stomach twisted, but she extended her hand in a practiced move. “Good morning, Mr. Shearing.”

Thanks for reading! When the contest finalists are posted, I’ll link to them. I’d like to give a shout-out to my fellow writers and crit buddies on Critique Circle. I’ve been working on this New Adult genre novel through this online writing forum and have met a number of great writers there. I regularly exchange critiques with a half dozen of them in the private queues, as well as pop into the public queues, and can’t say enough about how these exchanges have helped me to improve my craft. Check out Critique Circle at www.

Pitching Tips

Not the baseball kind, though it is the season. For romance writers, it’s manuscript pitching season, too. The Romance Writers of America National Conference begins this Wednesday in Atlanta, meaning hundreds of aspiring romance authors are gearing up to present their manuscript, either formally at an appointment, or casually somewhere–anywhere–an agent or editor might be found.  Pitching your book, a which every writer must do, either through a written query letter or in person, is a bit stressful, so it’s best to have a sentence or two prepared in advance. (Preparing this logline, by the way, is another whole topic!)

Of course, nothing beats practicing to alleviate nervousness. You can say your pitch out loud to your mirror, to a friend or loved one, or if you are really brave, to a stranger. At a recent workshop I co-presented, we took the practice one step further. For our Maryland Romance Writers meeting, Laura Welling and I recruited seasoned pitchers to act as editors and agents.

Pitch practice at Maryland Romance Writers

Our aspiring authors look rather happy for what could be a stressful event–and you could, too! Here are our tips for the actual event:

- Introduce yourself, and shake hands if you like to do that. Thank the agent or editor for taking time for pitches.

- Sit down.

- Do not be alarmed if the agent or editor is still taking notes form the last pitch. They have no break between.

- Because you’ve done your research, tell the agent, ‘I chose to pitch to you because____ (you represent____, your blog gave ___info, I know you work closely on ____and I think that is a great attribute in an agent.) Make it short.

- Tell the person what kind of book you are pitching, and how long it is. This is a good way to get past your nerves. “Today, I am here to tell you about  COWBOY UP. It’s a contemporary western romance, and is around 95,000 words.”

- Then go into your pitch.  Give them your one to three sentences, perhaps starting with your high concept or logline if that’s a good lead-in.

-After you’ve given your intro statement and 3-sentence pitch, stop and smile at the agent/editor. Ask: Do you have further questions? The agent is usually does by this time and this makes the pitch more of a conversation.

-Prepare for those follow up questions! Some are obvious: more about your hero and heroine, the conflict, the black moment, what keeps the romance apart, what cinches it.

-If the agent/editor requests immediately, you do not need to add more. Get the instructions for how to submit, and ask any questions you need to.

-In case time allows, have a conversation starter in your pocket for this particular professional.

It’s ok to end early! When you’re done, go and relax a bit!

Good luck to the writers pitching at the 2013 RWA National Conference!

A WIP Snippet!

For a change, I’m posting a snippet from my WIP – The Farm, my steampunk fantasy romance for New Adults  (young adults age +18 years). The heroine, an artist named Annmar, is making her way to a new job.

She’d love to draw one of these women dressed for a special day out. Their fancy hats—more feather than sunshade—would keep her pencil busy for hours. But Annmar shouldn’t call attention to herself, which drawing did. And while she thought she might stop if anyone took notice, she never did, forgetting herself in her imaginings and their details. It was best not to start. 

Two well-dressed men took nearby seats. One said, “We’ll get him brought over. Who else is on today’s list?”

They commenced arguing over the best route to get around to several farms. Behind them, a man in overalls got up, and with a glare to the city men, left the car.

Annmar took a second look. Their green jackets bore a familiar gold insignia above the breast pocket—Shearing’s. Oh, Lord, these were his recruitment men. Obviously, the departing farmer refused to even overhear the talk Polly also hated: should small farmers give over their land and become workers on the larger ‘cooperative’ farms that Mr. Shearing touted as the wave of the future? Polly said the so-called co-owners ended up with no say, and from the angry looks of the other passengers, there must be some truth to it.

Annmar huddled lower with her face to the windows.


Thanks for reading!

Snippet Time!

It’s been a few weeks and I’ve forgotten to sign up with my usual snippet group, Science Fiction Romance Brigade Presents, but here’s a snippet from my SFR, Passages. Quinn, the hero, is at odds with himself over making the woman he’s fallen for his bodyguard. Yet, he needs her in this role.

Eve blocked me. “There’s a reason you have a bodyguard,” she said coolly. “Let me perform my function.”

Good point. I had to get used to using the protection, which was saving our asses.

She peered around the door. A moment later she ushered me into the sealed walkway. The long, dimly lit corridor curved, so we couldn’t see the end. I paced far enough back to duck at Eve’s signal, which did come.

I hid, and even after I polished a port in either direction, the minutes dragged by.

Damn, what had happened? I’d never forgive—

Footsteps marched down the walkway. A guard appeared. He passed through me, then disappeared. It killed me, but I waited to hear the door slam, then dashed for where I hoped my guard waited.

She was there, at another set of double doors. My breath exploded out.

“This guard wasn’t so willing to trade to out there.” She put her finger to the keypad, and it flashed green.

She was so nonchalant—an act? I didn’t dare ask if she was okay.

This time when Eve checked inside, her body stiffened. She closed the door to a finger gap. “It opens into one of the bays. There’s a transport ship between us and the Conducer, with three ‘torgs working in the open hold at the back. They can see this door.”

Glad you could join me. Looking for more science fiction romance? Go find the others on the Brigade website, or use hashtag #sfrbp. Thanks for reading!

A Ticket for Neil Gaiman’s Book Tour

I’m a Goodreads fan of several authors–real ones, who have book releases. Back in May I read a post by Neil Gaiman announcing he had several upcoming book tours, and there were still 100 tickets left for the Washington DC one! Thrilled, I jumped in and got a spot.

I journeyed downtown to take my place in the very long first-come-first-served line and began a wait to enter Lisner Auditorium and get my book.

Lisner Auditorium event lineTickets come with a book

If you’ve never done this, there is always more waiting than actual event, but that’s how it goes when you are famous, and you promise to sign each and every copy of The Ocean at the End of the Lane. 1500 enthusiastic readers cram your event.

Poster The Ocean at the End of the LaneTitle page of The Ocean at the End of the Lane

It’s exciting, clearly tiring for the author who pulls it off with calm charm for days in a row –we’re his 9th stop on the England and US tour–and yet I still sigh watching him and hope that one day I may be in his shoes.

A few little fun appearances courtesy of our host Bookstore, Politics and Prose…

Neil Gaiman Puppet

…and the talk begins.

Neil Gaiman

Neil relays how this book is an accident. He intended to write a story for his wife, away recording new music, who he misses very much. She doesn’t really get fantasy writing, so he decides to pen a story for her about the things she does like: him, honesty and feelings. The short story morphs into a novella and then–hooray!–his first adult novel in eight years.

He writes with a fountain pen, in a notebook, completes the novel, then types it up. As he does so, each night he reads to his wife Amanda the portion he has typed that day. And he reads to us, chapter four, because he’s now bored with reading chapter one.

Neil Gaiman

A few more stories, questions, and another brief reading and we are called by groups to line up for the signing.

Did I mention there are 1500 of us?

The signing begins

Neil GaimanNeil Gaiman

Fortunately I am in the third group, and though I’ve had great views and photos from my fourth row seat, I cannot resist snapping more before I must walk to the top of the auditorium to get in line, then down again.

Crowd at Lisner Auditorium

Up on the stage, moving surprisingly fast, I’m finally to the table and for all of 20 seconds, I stand in front of Neil Gaiman while he signs my two allowed books.

Neil, signing my daughter's copy of Stardust

I ask a question, which I always come up with in advance for this moment: “Do you write more than one story at a time?”

“Yes,” he answers. “Though I know I shouldn’t.”

There are no huge revelations gained over the evening, no words of wisdom that will change how or what I write. It is simply a nice event, an opportunity to mingle with other fans and be happily in awe in the presence of someone who creates incredibly great stories.

Snippet Time!

I haven’t totally fallen off the face of the Earth, just fallen behind. Without connecting to a writing group, here’s a snippet from my WIP, a steampunk fantasy romance targeted at the 18+ New Adult audience. The working title is The Farm. Today I’m sharing an early point when the heroine, Annmar leaves her home in the city to take a new job. She will be doing advertising for a large ‘collective’ farm in a rural location called Blighted Basin.

With a blast of steam and a jerk, the five-thirty a.m. train to Gaptown pulled out of Glenwood-on-Tyne’s station. Annmar heaved a sigh of relief. Worrying that someone would stop her was ludicrous, but… She’d been most careful, confiding only in Polly. The glow on the eastern horizon hinted at dawn as the train crossed the misty fields of the outlying farms. An unusually large grouping of five barns and three silos caught her eye, and she knew the spread belonged to Shearing Enterprises even before she found his logo on the tallest silo.

So she wasn’t past his reaches yet.

Annmar hadn’t told Mrs. Rennet about the new job, just gave her notice at the end of the day. Mr. Shearing would try to wheedle her destination from the shopkeeper, who unfortunately would do anything for a price.

On the way to the boarding house, she made one stop to purchase the half-dozen sketchbooks she needed in case she stayed the winter. The ‘hinterlands’, as Polly called Blighted Basin, might not sell fine paper, so why not get them now that she had the money to do it? The brown-paper wrapped package went into her trunk, along with her few reminders of her home with Mother.

Additional excerpts are posted under my novels, and linked here. Thanks for reading!

SFR Brigade Presents #11

Thanks for stopping by to read my science fiction romance Passages, as part of the SFR Brigade Presents.

Banner by Linnea Sinclair

Passages is a completed novel. The first two chapters are featured under ‘My Novels’ in the bar above and I’ve just updated a few recent changes. Here’s an excerpt from Chapter Two, in the heroine Eve’s POV, during a tense discussion with her electorg run-mate, Evard.

He cleared his throat. “Once they give us the transfer location, I’ll set up another of my Conducer shortcuts so you can visit here easily.”

I wiped my fingertips over my eyes. “Thanks for the offer, but I’d rather not risk your illegal shortcuts.”

“Illegal doesn’t mean impossible, and if it’s possible, it’s permissible.” His blue eyes sparkled. “Why would Basic-runs like us be equipped with the same hardware as the Elite-run ministers if not to use the circuits?”

Not this again. I pushed off of Evard’s chest before he launched into his favorite topic of restricted electronics. “The Docga limit our use of them, same as they’ve allowed this new batch of ministers to place us B-runs at their beck and call. What’s the point of settling into a home and career in my so-called second life if I’m forced to leave?” I poked him in the shoulder before leaning on a work island. “Can you focus on something else, please? Like why a ‘new protocol’? What’s that about?”

“Rather vague, I agree. And why ban travel? Previous ministers didn’t when the Leads traveled for those ridiculous morale-boosting seminars.”

Thanks for the read! The SFRB website will take you to more of our members’ contributions, or find us at #sfrbp.

SFR Brigade Presents #10

Thank you for visiting me through Science Fiction Romance Brigade’s Presents!

 Banner by Linnea Sinclair

I’m pleased to share a snippet from my SFR, Passages. Quinn, the hero, is also getting used to having—and placating—his bodyguard, an emotional woman only somewhat suited for the job.

I handed Taior his copy and shook his hand. “As promised we’ll do whatever we can to help, but I’m afraid we have an equally pressing problem if we’re to have the staff to help Aarde. Earlier Evard and I visited Dome—”

The others gasped, but Eve rounded on me. “How dare you leave without me.”

“Easy, Eve.” Evard stopped her with a hand to her shoulder. “Hear him out.”

She crossed my arms and stared at me.

“Evard was available to guard me. We avoided the Conducer guards by cross-leaping directly onto Level Two and used Lacuna to hide as we investigated.” I had to make her understand. “Time’s running short and you were down for repair. Besides…you wouldn’t have liked using Lacuna repeatedly. Evard did.”

Her lips pressed thin for a moment before she inclined her head. “Fine, you’re the minister. But…”

“But what?”

“But you made the decision in consideration of my feelings, function be damned, as Evard would say.”

Evard laughed. “In other words, she’s saying she feels bloody lucky.”

Hope you’ve enjoyed their…negotiations. Read more SFR at the Brigade website, or head to twitter with #sfrbp. Thanks for reading!