Friday, December 31, 2010

Submissions: 2010 Submissions and Responses


Here is the annual look back at my submission record for this year and some stats on my total submissions since I started to record them in 2004.

22 total submissions
*The total is 10 more than 2009.

6 rejections
*All but one were from literary agents on novel queries.

9 non-responders
*Six of these were from literary agencies, the other three from magazine editors.

7 acceptances
*These are from various sources for a variety of projects.

3 withdrawals - 380/388/390 days
*This was for the MANY GENRES, ONE CRAFT proposal, which Mike and I placed with Headline Books, Inc.

1 acceptance - 321 days
*This was for my poem Starship Stowaways at Beyond Centauri. So this goes against the past two years where I've said that having a sub out longer isn't necessarily a good thing. In this case it was!

1 other - 726 days
*I created the "other" category for circumstances which cannot be covered under the usual headings; in this instance, it was that an editor left the publishing house, and the submission had been lost.

1 novel query (literary agency)

2 articles (magazines)
2 novel queries (editors)
1 essay (online magazine)
1 article (newspaper)
6 novel queries (literary agencies)
2 articles (online magazines)

8/19/2004 - novel query (literary agency)
9/22/2004 - novel query (literary agency)
10/20/2004 - book review (magazine)

8/29/2006 - essay (magazine)
10/18/2006 - novel query (literary agency)
11/9/2006 - article (online magazine)

1/21/2007 - novel query (literary agency)
1/27/2007 - novel query (literary agency)
1/29/2007 - novel query (literary agency)
1/29/2007 - novel query (literary agency)
1/29/2007 - novel query (literary agency)
1/29/2007 - novel query literary agency)
1/29/2007 - novel query (literary agency)
1/29/2007 - novel query (literary agency)
4/4/2007 - novel query (literary agency)
4/12/2007 - novel query (literary agency)
4/13/2007 - novel query (literary agency)
4/20/2007 - novel query (literary agency)
5/9/2007 - novel query (literary agency)
5/23/2007 - short story (magazine)
6/3/2007 - novel query (editor)
9/4/2007 - novel query (literary agency)
10/17/2007 - article (online magazine)
10/22/2007 - article (online magazine)
11/5/2007 - poem (magazine)
11/28/2007 - non-fiction book proposal (editor)

Does anyone notice who most of the non-responders were? That's why things are changing. I can't wait five or ten years for an agent to believe in me and the ability for my book to make them money. If I fail, I will fail on my own terms this coming year.

Thursday, December 30, 2010

HEIDI'S PICK SIX: Tamela Quijas

Heidi's Pick Six

Tamela Quijas

1. Which of your characters is your favorite?
Honestly, my favorite male character is Professor Demetri Daskova from my paranormal romance Blood of the Beast (Book 1 of the Blood Chronicles). He’s dashing; suave, educated, and not afraid to show his weaknesses to the woman he loves. He’s a vampire with a heart and a much better man undead than he was alive.

My favorite female would have to be his counterpart, Police Detective Val Kureyev. Her job is a tough one, especially in a male world. She’s one gutsy broad that doesn’t take bull from anyone and stands up for what she believes in, despite the odds.

2. Tell me about your travels.
I was born in the United States but grew up in Germany, back when it was still east and west. I’ve been all over Europe, hitting all the historic spots (yep, I love museums, castles, and ancient places!) Since I returned to the states, I travel at every opportunity I can. Disneyland is my favorite place (I know, it sounds a bit strange, but I love the freedom!) Tell me we’re off to California and I’m ready to go now!

3. Coffee, tea, or milk?
Straight Black coffee, with one of those fake sugar thingies.

4. What else can you do besides write?
*Read everything and anything I can get my hands on---I don’t stick to one particular genre, I love them all.
*Write—I have 3 works in Progress that I am currently working on.
*Raise a houseful of kids---I still have 3 at home, down from the original baker’s half dozen!
*Tutor history, reading, and English at the local elementary school.
*Take college courses at night---I’m living my dream of becoming an elementary school teacher. Granted, it’s taken me 30 years to get here, but I’m doing it.
*Cooking up a storm—put me in the kitchen, and I go crazy baking.

5. Who are you reading right now?
6. Pop culture or academia?
7. What is the toughest scene you ever wrote?

8. Where do you find your inspirations to write?
Would you believe Music? I listen to a song and I see images in my head, which form my next novel.

9. Food you could eat every day.

10. Are you into sports or other physical activities?
11. What kind of music speaks to you?

12. Do you outline your stories or do they just take you along for the ride?
My stories take me along for the ride. I don’t go with outlines, I go by a ‘feel’, and how the story affects me.

13. Celebrity crush.
Viggo Mortenson---goodness, it’s that cleft chin, those dimples, and the eyes!!! I can watch Lord of the Rings and Hidalgo for hours. **grin**

14. Who are the biggest influences on your work?

15. Do you still watch cartoons?
Yep, but not the new stuff unless it’s Ben 10, or Disney related. I don’t care for the Kung-fu, crazy karate stuff.

Tamela Quijas grew up in a wonderfully diverse country filled with magically induced superstitions and the mystical beliefs of the old. The tales of the Brothers Grimm were told there, and their enchanting stories were the basis to many of our childhood fairytales. Tamela learned, though, that many of those famous tales held a dark secret, meant more to frighten and warn children of the unknown world that existed beyond human belief. Strangely enough, all these beloved tales hold a semblance of truth in their dark depths.

The paranormal romances she writes hold the essence of these ancient fairytales, where the darkness of life borders on the edge of sunset. It is there that the dead savor or regret those long and lonely hours until the sun rises on the horizon.

Where every soul has a chance at redemption….

Oh, just a quick note--she does write the occasional contemporary romance and cookbooks.

Follow Tamela at her wordpress site: and step into my world!

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

HEIDI'S PICK SIX: Richard Jay Parker

Heidi's Pick Six

Richard Jay Parker

1. Which of your characters is your favorite?
Although he's reprehensible I really enjoyed creating the mystique of Bookwalter - the serial killer with his own website in Stop Me. Everything about him is initially what the main character finds on his website (i.e. all of it generated by Bookwalter). I think a lot of people hide behind avatars and creative misinformation on the Internet and Stop Me illustrates what happens when that's slowly peeled away and two individuals meet in the flesh. Because Leo wants to believe that Bookwalter has his missing wife there's an interesting dynamic. I didn't know exactly what Leo would find, so it was fun deciding exactly who Bookwalter would turn out to be. He's a manipulator, so constructing the mind games was interesting but I felt it had to pay off in a satisfying way.


2. Tell me about your travels.
3. Coffee, tea, or milk?
4. What else can you do besides write?
5. Who are you reading right now?
6. Pop culture or academia?

7. What is the toughest scene you ever wrote?
Have just finished writing my second book and the final chapters were the most satisfying and hence the most difficult. As in Stop Me, I wanted to deliver a very unexpected twist and tie up loose ends without things being too neat (i.e. it had to be exciting but believable.) It's a difficult balancing act - trying to convey a lot of explanatory dialogue while retaining the suspense of the scene.

8. Where do you find your inspirations to write?
I think I draw a lot of inspiration from movies. I'm a compulsive movie watcher and it was this background that kicked off my script writing career. I think I still construct my book outlines as I would a script.

9. Food you could eat everyday.
10. Are you into sports or other physical activities?
11. What kind of music speaks to you?

12. Do you outline your stories or do they just take you along for the ride?
I had the twist set up for Stop Me and my latest book but everything between that and the opening chapter was flexible territory. My own personal belief is to try and confound expectations. I think thriller readers hate being served up something formulaic or predictable, and although there's great satisfaction to be had from figuring out the conclusion to a story, I personally prefer to be blindsided at the last moment.

13. Celebrity crush.
Yes - there are a number of celebrities I'd like to crush.

14. Who are the biggest influences on your work?

15. Do you still watch cartoons?
Am a huge Family Guy fan. It's the show that makes me laugh the most. Stewie Griffin is an inspired creation. MacFarlane is clearly an anglophile and there's a lot of British darkness in Stewie.

Richard Jay Parker was formerly a TV script writer, script editor and producer before turning his hand to penning dark thrillers. Stop Me, his darkly fiendish debut, was shortlisted for the John Creasey (New Blood) Dagger Award 2010. He has just finished his second novel. Visit Richard's chilling website:

'STOP ME is a tightly written, fast paced debut that keeps you turning the pages...'
- Simon Kernick (Author of Relentless and Severed)

Buy STOP ME with 30% off plus free shipping anywhere in the world here:

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

WORKSHOP: Writing with Authority


Online Course

INSTRUCTORS: Jason Jack Miller and Heidi Ruby Miller

DATE: April 1 – May 2, 2011


COURSE DESCRIPTION: The easiest way to engage your reader is by using concrete nouns and action verbs. In this one-month online course, Seton Hill University creative writing faculty Jason Jack Miller and Heidi Ruby Miller will show you how to analyze your writing and use easy techniques that will increase the authority of your voice.

Participants will:
* Discover how to spot passive voice
* Scrutinize their writing for generic nouns and indefinite pronouns
* Learn to avoid weak verbs and overuse of “be” in all its forms
* Practice using strong synonyms to find the best action verb
* Apply word cloud research to make their plot come alive

FREE BONUS: Course participants will receive a free excerpt (.pdf) from the new writing guide, MANY GENRES, ONE CRAFT: LESSONS IN WRITING POPULAR FICTION (Headline Books, Inc.) edited by Heidi Ruby Miller and Michael A. Arnzen with contributions from Jason Jack Miller et al.

TUITION: $79 ($89 non-Pennwriters members) $89 ($99 non-Pennwriters members)

ABOUT THE INSTRUCTORS: Heidi Ruby Miller is the co-editor of the writing guide, Many Genres, One Craft: Lessons in Writing Popular Fiction. A graduate from Seton Hill University’s Writing Popular Fiction Program, she has authored dozens of publications. Before becoming a full-time writer and adjunct faculty at Seton Hill University, Heidi worked as a contract archaeologist, an educational marketing coordinator, a foreign currency exchanger, and a world language teacher. To learn more about Heidi Ruby Miller, visit or email her at

Jason Jack Miller is a writer, photographer and musician whose work has appeared online and in print in newspapers, magazines and literary journals, and as a smart phone travel app. He has co-authored a travel guide with his wife Heidi and served as a photographer-in-residence. Jason is an Authors Guild member who received a Master’s in Writing Popular Fiction from Seton Hill University where he is adjunct creative writing faculty. To learn more about Jason Jack Miller, visit or email him at

* Subscribe to the Pennwriters Online Courses announcement list for email on our latest workshops:

Monday, December 27, 2010

Paths to Publication: Chris Stout

Paths to Publication

Days of Reckoning by Chris Stout

My path to publication started out in the traditional manner: I networked. While I was working on my MA, I met and became friends with two editors who owned their own small presses. So my first two sales were short stories, which appeared in the anthologies Thou Shalt Not (Dark Cloud Press – 2006) and Sails and Sorcery (Fantasist Enterprises – 2007). After that quick start, things came to a screaming halt. My novel Days of Reckoning, which received solid reviews from peers and mentors at Seton Hill University, failed to attract the attention of any agents. One agent sent it back with a flyer promoting his own book on how to land an agent, so at that point I consigned it to the “never gonna sell” file.

A few things happened to bring it back to life. First, I opted to continue at SHU and pursue an MFA in Writing Popular Fiction. At least with that degree, I would have a better chance of landing a teaching position. During the June 2010 residency, I attended a talk by David Morrell, and heard about how Amazon was offering a 70% royalty option to authors who chose to self-publish for the Kindle. I filed this information away for a few months.

Being in a community of writers re-ignited my interest in trying to get into print again. While I was cleaning up a new novel and searching for agents to whom I might submit, I came across my notes from Dr. Morrell’s talk. One of the authors he recommended was JA Konrath, so I looked up Mr. Konrath’s blog and read about his journey from traditional print publishing to e-book self-publishing. As I was studying his blog, Barnes and Noble announced that they were launching a self-publishing platform called PubIt!. Add to that mix the fact that Apple had launched the iPad and iBookstore, and suddenly the largest retailers were all offering strong royalty rates and platforms where authors could sell their work directly to consumers.

So I had a completed, edited novel that had failed to find a home in traditional print. And I had venues available to sell it myself without having to sink thousands of dollars into printing costs. I would need to do another round of edits to make sure everything was up to date in my book, and also to reformat it so it would be compatible across several different platforms, but that seemed like a lot more fun than sending out queries, so I took the plunge.

So here I am! My novel Days of Reckoning is a contemporary action thriller. It centers on Miranda Leider, a good cop with a violent past. Her brother is found dead, and Miranda sets out to prove that it's not a suicide. As she investigates on her own, she uncovers a conspiracy that reaches all the way to the top of her department. Trusting no one, Miranda goes rogue. With her friend and partner Detective Sam Connor hot on her trail, she hunts the conspirators and anyone else who had a role in her brother's death.

Days of Reckoning is currently available for Kindle:

and Nook:, at the price of $2.99. The equivalent of 30 printed pages can be downloaded as a free sample from either platform. The iBooks version should hopefully be available before 2011.

In the meantime, I am still editing two more novels, and in the middle of writing the first draft of yet another. I don’t yet know whether I will publish them myself or try to go the traditional route. But at least I have the experience of trying to sell and market in both ways. Since I still hope to teach when I finish the MFA, I think those experiences will be valuable in the classroom.

-Chris Stout
December 2010

You can read Chris's PICK SIX interview here:

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Website: Many Genres, One Craft


Co-editor Mike Arnzen launched the official website for our new book Many Genres, One Craft: Lessons in Writing Popular Fiction at

Many Genres, One Craft is the equivalent of a graduate program in creative writing captured in the pages of a book...stuffed with great advice, but not stuffy at all.

Gathering the voices of today's top genre writers and their published students from Seton Hill University's acclaimed MFA program -- the country's only graduate program specifically focused on writing popular fiction –- Many Genres, One Craft is an academic instructional guide that aims to be the most entertaining textbook a new author will ever read. It targets those who want to write commercial novels of quality, rather than to publish only in academia. And because it is a multi-authored collection, it is like a writing community, a group of like-minded thinkers and kindred spirits, assembled between its covers, focused on mastering one's skills.

Many Genres, One Craft debuts Spring 2011 from Headline Books, Inc.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Paths to Publication: Pike Lake

Paths to Publication


Pike Lake, the writer, is decidedly, unabashedly and irreversibly dead. Passing away in the late 1970's at the age of eighty-three, he attributed his demise, in a self-authored obituary scrivened shortly before his death, to an impacted bowel inflicted upon him by "television evangelists, feminists, warmed-over New Dealers, purveyors of shag carpet and other religious fanatics." Although enlightened ears may recoil at this appalling lack of sophistication, it must be acknowledged, albeit grudgingly, that we are all creatures of our own time.

This work comes to us courtesy of his illegitimate grandson by a French barfly, Jean Baptiste Montcalm DeRemalade. Rummaging through the old man's belongings years after his death, M. DeRemalade discovered a box containing several unpublished manuscripts. Imagine his boundless joy! After twelve bitter years of estate litigation waged on three continents, Turner Junction represents the first of what is fervently hoped will be a long line of literary gems - each providing a healthy income to Pike's seemingly inexhaustible supply of grasping heirs.

A devotee of nothing, an admirer of women's parts, a smoker, a drinker and a chafing irritant to all with whom he came into contact, such is the legacy of Pike Lake - and now there's this book.
~From the back cover.

To order a copy of Turner Junction, please email

Monday, December 06, 2010

Conference: 2011 Pennwriters Conference


Pennwriters Logo

From Julie Long and Meredith Cohen, 2011 Pennwriters Conference Coordinators

20 Things You’ll Learn About Craft and Career in Just Three Days:
1. How to start, survive and thrive in a critique group
2. Creating a powerful sense of place in your novel
3. The art of social networking and shameless self-promotion
4. How to balance narrative with dialog
5. Why writing for younger audiences is different
6. How to give a great reading
7. Identifying your learning style to become a better writer
8. Understanding your character’s psychological issues
9. Setting and reaching writing goals
10. How to interview for the nonfiction book
11. How to know if you need a prologue
12. Life balance skills for writers
*13. How fixing your first page can improve your entire manuscript
14. Understanding the creative process and the writer’s inner turmoil
15. Taking your writing to the screen
16. How to perfect your pitch
17. What makes a good memoir
18. Using meditative writing to deepen your story
19. How to research the historical mystery
20. How improv-acting can improve your writing

* by Heidi Ruby Miller and Jason Jack Miller

You’ll learn all this and so much more, from a stellar lineup of agents, writers and professionals. Registration opens in March!

Friday, December 03, 2010

PUBLICATION: Sounds in the Jungle by Heidi Ruby Miller in Eye Contact


I received my copy of Eye Contact today for my short story "Sounds in the Jungle" and was pleasantly surprised to see one of Jason's photos ("Wave Swinger") in there as well. Filled with death, loss, and mourning, this was a beautifully dark issue, appropriate as we come close to the winter solstice.

Here is a peek at the table of contents, which includes work from some of my former students and other Seton Hill Writers:

Eyes by Patrick Schober
Bloom by Passion Hannah
Aquila by Christine Telfer
Living Grace by Maddie Gillespie
Memorial by Stephanie Pikula
Kalina by Molly Follmer
Sounds in the Jungle by Heidi Ruby Miller
Tá Mé I Ngrá Leat by Lyndsey Basham
Lesson by Judith R. Robinson
Wave Swinger by Jason Jack Miller
The Man on Clipper Street by Patrick Schober
The Shorts Have Eyes by Matthew Duvall
Eye Spy by Aja Hannah
Cinderella by Stephanie Wytovich
Uh-Oh by Lyndsey Basham
Origami Moons by Penny Dawn
Dear Summer by Carissa Altizer
Dock by Alex Lowe
Visiting Campus Seven Years Later by Joe Kaldon
Clockwork by Meg Mims

The faculty advisor for Eye Contact is Timons Esaias.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Paths to Publication: Pearl North

Paths to Publication

The Boy from Ilysies_Pearl North
The Boy from Ilysies by Pearl North

I wasn't always Pearl North. That's right. It's not my real name. I'm really Anne Harris and I wrote three science fiction novels for adults before turning to YA and adopting the pen name Pearl North. People tend to have a lot of questions about this. Why did I take on a pseudonym? Why did I switch to YA? And the question I get the most: How did you come up with the name Pearl North?

As to why I started writing YA, that was a total gimme. I've always had adolescent characters in my books, frequently as main characters, and when I decided to write a book about a teenage girl living in a library so vast people sometimes get lost in it and never come out again, well, that was an idea that pretty much screamed YA to me, and my editor agreed. It was at that point that he asked me if I'd be willing to take on a pseudonym, and the reason is pretty unglamorous. The unvarnished truth is that after three sf novels with successively decreasing sales, I was officially in what is known as the dreaded Death Spiral. This is a thing that happens where your first book comes out and everybody's really jazzed about it and the buyers for the book stores buy x number of copies for each store and something like x-2 copies sell. Well, when your next book comes out, that buyer only orders x-2 copies, and there's some unwritten law of the universe that one or two copies of a book always go unsold. So your second books sells x-2-2 copies, and then your third book comes out and the buyers order x-2-2... You see where this is going. So the whole point of taking on a pseud for my YA books was to do an end-run around the Death Spiral and get Libyrinth ordered as if it were a promising debut novel by a new YA author. Ahem. I'm happy to say it appears to have worked.

As to the origins of Pearl North, here's what happened. There was a delay between the time when my editor said he would buy the Libyrinth books -- and he insisted it be a trilogy, not the single novel I'd originally planned -- and when the contract actually arrived. When it did come, I was on vacation in Northern Michigan, at my favorite place in the whole world, Pearl Lake. My agent called with the news, and she needed my pseudonym for the contract, so I had to decide on something in like, an hour. All I could think of was that I was up north, at Pearl Lake. And that's how Pearl North came into being.

Libyrinth came out in 2009, The Boy From Ilysies just came out Nov. 9 of this year, and the third Libyrinth book, The Book of the Night, is forthcoming in 2011.

~Pearl North

You can read more about Pearl at:

facebook page:

Here's what some of the reviews are saying:

“An interesting twist on the themes of societal opposition and integration, and perhaps an intriguing companion to ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451.” —Booklist

“The novel combines many science-fiction tropes—the quest, dystopian governments, degenerated society—into a clever, original story. The dramatic, satisfying climax and deftly handled resolution of the many plot threads will convince and exhilarate readers. A book-lover’s delight.” —Kirkus Reviews

“Libyrinth isn’t timid or polite. There is pain, there is death, there is consequence, and there is reality. But there is also joy, great adventure, and grace. It’s a strangely timely novel that will leave young (and not so young) readers wondering about their iPods and books. This is good YA.” —Nnedi Okorafor, author of The Shadow Speaker

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Book Deal: Many Genres, One Craft: Lessons in Writing Popular Fiction

Book Deals

I am happy to finally announce that Many Genres, One Craft: Lessons in Writing Popular Fiction has been picked up by Headline Books, Inc.. This is the writing guide that Mike Arnzen and I are co-editing.

Michael Arnzen and Heidi Ruby Miller signing the contract for Many Genres, One Craft
Photo by Jason Jack Miller

Lots of news to come, including a list of contributors, a new website, and a tour schedule.

This has been two years in the making, so I am very excited about the project coming to fruition in such a great way.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Article: Almost There (or How Heidi Ruby Miller Might Change Her Luck)


Pennwriters Logo

I knew my article "Almost There" was going to be in the Nov.-Dec. 2010 issue of The PennWriter, the official publication of Pennwriters Inc., but I was excited to see it was on the first page.

This article sums up my frustration at being an in-betweener, someone who has taken the workshops, sorted through the writing advice, written my million words and then some, and watched my peers attain a certain success (in novel writing) while I wait in limbo. More importantly, it shares how I have accepted this fact and simply moved on with my writing and am happier because of it.

I quoted some wonderful words of advice in "Almost There" from my first Seton Hill mentor, Tom Monteleone. He told me, "...This business is mostly luck. Sometimes good writers don't become successful: sometimes bad writers do. If you like to write, then write the best story you can and at the end of the year, if nothing else, you have a book you want to read."

You know what I liked about that? He didn't try to pump me up with sunshine, tell me to keep at it, work harder, chin up.

Blah! When someone says that to me, all I hear is the implication that my three-four hours a day isn't really hard work and that they got where they are because they wanted it more. I'm sure not all of them mean that, but it can be difficult to relate to someone at the bottom of the ladder when you're already at the top.

I like Tom's words better because they helped me understand why I write - not because it will make me rich or famous, but because I like to tell stories. (Something Mike Resnick reminded me of during a casual conversation at a convention. I'm sure you don't remember that, Mike, but thank you.)

Maybe some of my Irish luck will come to the surface and you'll be able to read a couple of those shelved novels one day. Then again, maybe I could do something I would have never considered even six months ago - make my own luck like J. A. Konrath (who happened to be on the panel I moderated which spurred this little article) and David Morrell have...I'm not kidding.

Things, they are a changin'.

Monday, November 01, 2010

Event: Rally to Restore Sanity and/or Fear


Jason and I had an incredible weekend in Washington, D.C. The highlight, of course, was Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert's Rally to Restore Sanity and/or Fear.

Sanity Rally Poster
Rally to Restore Sanity and/or Fear

Thank you to Jason Jack Miller for taking all of the photos; that way I could just enjoy everything, but still have photographic stock later.

Washington DC Metro
This photo was taken on Friday, October 29, but The Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority counted 825,437 passenger trips on October 30, the date of the Rally to Restore Sanity and/or Fear, breaking a 19-year record.

Ben's Chili Bowl
We ate lunch at Ben's Chili Bowl as soon as we got into DC. Awesome!

International Spy Museum
Then headed down the street to the International Spy Museum. It's hiding behind that tree.

Heidi Ruby Miller at Spy Museum
And, that's me acting like a spy in the cafe.

The National Portrait Gallery
Our training allowed us to sneak into the National Portrait Gallery right through the front door.


On Saturday, we got to the Mall around 10:00 AM. The first sections were already filled, so we ended up in the middle across from the Air and Space Museum. The official crowd count was 215,000 people.

Sanity Rally Crowd 1

Sanity Rally

Sanity Rally Crowd 3

Heidi and Jason at Sanity Rally
Heidi Ruby Miller and Jason Jack Miller at Rally to Restore Sanity and/or Fear

Sanity Rally Crowd 2

One of the best souvenirs was this hat.

Musical guests included The Roots, John Legend, 4Troops, Yusuf (formerly known as Cat Stevens), Ozzy Osbourne, The O'Jays, Jeff Tweedy, Mavis Staples, Kid Rock, Sheryl Crow, and Tony Bennett.

Also entertaining us were Father Guido Sarducci, Tim Meadows as P. K. Winsome, Mythbusters Adam Savage and Jamie Hyneman, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, R2D2, and Law and Order's Sam Waterston, who read Stephen Colbert's The Greatest Poem Ever Written:

The Greatest Poem Ever Written
Are You Sure?
Copyright 2010
By the Reverend Sir Dr. Stephen T. Colbert DFA

Did you hear that? No?
You’re probably going deaf
It’s your kids back home
Cooking up some crystal meth

Did you turn off the oven?
Did you set the alarm?
They still haven’t caught
the man with one arm

Look around at these people
How safe do you feel?
You’re car
when you parked
did you lock it?
Thinking reasonably now
what are the odds
that no one here
is a pick-pocket?

That guy who just coughed down your neck
Could he have an infection?
The restaurant where you went to brunch
did it fail its health inspection?

A mad man could set loose a virus
for which there isn’t a cure
and while these things may be unlikely
ask yourself … are you sure?

And can you be sure
that you won’t get ebola
from a tainted diet cola
toxic waste or getting chased
by a bearded Ayatollah.

Funnel clouds inhale
anthrax in the mail
your lover will discover
your vestigial tail.

Someone’s robbing your house
I can see through your blouse
Your mother was right
you chose the wrong spouse

Unlabeled Drano tornadoes torpedoes
the horrible sights of some guidos in Speedos
STD’s, PCB’s SUVs, UV Lights
A giant pimple on your face
you have a date tonight

Chocking on a biscotti
being whacked by John Gotti
Getting trapped overnight
in a full port-o-potty

And I have a final fear to drop in bucket
about a friend of a friend of the man from Nantucket

There once was a man from Eau Claire
Who no one was able to scare
He wouldn’t join panics
about the Hispanics
And later he was killed by a bear

You can watch videos from the event at Comedy Central, who broadcast the rally live.

Marine Corps Marathon
Bright and early on a chilly Halloween morning, participants began the Marine Corps Marathon. We cheered them on as we ate danishes and drank hot tea in front of The Castle.
">The Castle (Smithsonian)

Air and Space Museum
We couldn't visit DC without our traditional stop at the Air and Space Museum.

Dia de los Muertos
Before heading home, we stopped at the American Indian Museum to see the changing exhibits and catch a show for Dia de los Muertos.

A Final Note
In closing, I'll post part of Jon Stewart's closing speech because it was so inspiring and so...sane:

"I can't control what people think this was. I can only tell you my intentions. This was not a rally to ridicule people of faith. Or people of activism or to look down our noses at the heartland or passionate argument or to suggest that times are not difficult and that we have nothing to fear. They are and we do. But we live now in hard times, not end times. And we can have animus and not be enemies.

Unfortunately, one of our main tools in delineating the two broke. The country's 24-hour politico pundit panic conflict-onator did not cause our problems, but its existence makes solving them that much harder. The press can hold its magnifying glass up to our problems and illuminate problems heretofore unseen, or it can use its magnifying glass to light ants on fire, and then perhaps host a week of shows on the sudden, unexpected dangerous-flaming-ant epidemic. If we amplify everything, we hear nothing.

There are terrorists and racists and Stalinists and theocrats, but those are titles that must be earned. You must have the resume. Not being able to distinguish between real racists and tea partiers, or real bigots and Juan Williams and Rich Sanchez is an insult -- not only to those people, but to the racists themselves, who have put forth the exhausting effort it takes to hate. Just as the inability to distinguish between terrorists and Muslims makes us less safe, not more.

The press is our immune system. If it overreacts to everything we eventually get sicker. And perhaps eczema. Yet, with that being said, I feel good. Strangely, calmly good, because the image of Americans that is reflected back to us by our political and media process is false. It is us through a funhouse mirror, and not the good kind that makes you slim and taller -- but the kind where you have a giant forehead and an ass like a pumpkin and one eyeball.

So, why would we work together? Why would you reach across the aisle to a pumpkin assed forehead eyeball monster? If the picture of us were true, our inability to solve problems would actually be quite sane and reasonable. Why would you work with Marxists actively subverting our Constitution or racists and homophobes who see no one’s humanity but their own? We hear every damn day about how fragile our country is -- on the brink of catastrophe -- torn by polarizing hate and how it’s a shame that we can’t work together to get things done, but the truth is we do. We work together to get things done every damn day. The only place we don't is here or on cable TV. Americans don't live here or on cable TV. Where we live our values and principles form the foundation that sustains us while we get things done, not the barriers that prevent us from getting things done.

Most Americans don't live their lives solely as Democrats or Republicans or conservatives or liberals. Most Americans live their lives that our just a little bit late for something they have to do. Often it’s something they do not want to do, but they do it. Impossible things get done every day that are only made possible by the little, reasonable compromises...

...Because we know instinctively as a people that if we are to get through the darkness and back into the light we have to work together and the truth is, there will always be darkness. And sometimes the light at the end of the tunnel isn’t the promised land. Sometimes it’s just New Jersey. But we do it anyway, together.

If you want to know why I’m here and what I want from you I can only assure you this: you have already given it to me. You’re presence was what I wanted. Sanity will always be and has always been in the eye of the beholder. To see you here today and the kind of people that you are has restored mine. Thank you."

Friday, October 22, 2010

Reading: Michael Arnzen at Morgantown Poets


Michael A. Arnzen reading his story from Legends of the Mountain State 4

Last night we headed to the Monongalia Arts Center (MAC, as it is affectionately referred to by resident artists) in Morgantown, WV. The Morgantown Poets were having their monthly meeting, and Mike Arnzen was the guest reader.

His ghoulish selections for the Halloween season came from Audiovile, Proverbs for Monsters, Rigmarole: Zombie Poems, Legends of the Mountain State 4 and his inventive tweets.

Other readers included Scott Emerson and Ted Webb and Diane Tarantini, who will be sharing their written work at Zenclay in Morgantown on November 5, 2010.

A video of Mike's readings will be online soon.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Party: Timons Esaias's 19th Annual Passage Party


Jason and I recently attended Timons Esaias's 19th Annual Passage Party at his home in Pittsburgh, PA.

Lots of wonderful selections were read by lots of interesting people, including some poetry in the original French, sea shanties, Bukowski selections, and "All You Can Hold for 5 Bucks" from McSorley's Wonderful Saloon by Joseph Mitchell from Tim.
McSorley's Wonderful Saloon
McSorley's Wonderful Saloon by Joseph Mitchell

I chose some pages from Tom Rob Smith's novel Child 44. It was one of the best books I've read this year.
Child 44
Child 44 by Tom Rob Smith

Jason went with "Nemesis" a favorite essay of ours from Klosterman IV by Chuck Klosterman.
Klosterman IV
Klosterman IV by Chuck Klosterman

We're already thinking about our selections for next year...

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

News: David Morrell's Kindle Exclusive


You've probably seen this announcement last month from David Morrell (Rambo creator, co-founder of International Thriller Writers, Bram Stoker Award winner, etc.) and Amazon about the 10 books David will have available through Kindle exclusively, including a brand new thriller, The Naked Edge.

David Morrell speaking at Seton Hill University's WPF Graduate Program
Photo by Heidi Ruby Miller

I'm excited about this experiment. Not only because David is a great friend to and repeat guest at Seton Hill, as well as a contributor to an upcoming collection I'm co-editing, but also because what he's doing is very current considering certain discussions happening within the industry right now:

1) e-books and what they offer authors - For eye-opening thoughts, visit J.A. Konrath's blog, A Newbie's Guide to Publishing. He shows in detailed posts how he is making more money from books where he owns the e-rights as opposed to those owned by his two publishers. And, he even posted an interview with David Morrell.

2) backlist that is out of print - Six of David's books were previously out of print. This one year experiment gives readers the opportunity to find those books again conveniently and allows David to continue making a profit from his hard work. The Authors Guild has been working for years to help authors with out of print books get their work financially viable once again. (Though their thoughts on e-books are still a bit cautious considering some recent rights grabs and low royalty rates. The Authors Guild suggests authors should receive 50%, though most larger presses aren't offering that amount.)

It is interesting to note that David's books are exclusive to the Kindle Store. (Kindle and Kindle app customers can now download them.) I will be curious to see updates on the experiment and plan to follow his progress on his website.

Here is what David said of the experiment in a press release:

“Publishing these 10 books in the Kindle Store is a great opportunity to explore how electronic publishing enables me to give my readers additional, unique content,” said Morrell. “Available at $9.99 or less, I hope that my fans will be able to rediscover their favorite titles, and that new readers will have the chance to enjoy my books on their Kindles. I’m especially excited about publishing my new thriller, ‘The Naked Edge’ in digital format, exclusively for Kindle.”

These are the 10 Morrell books available in the Kindle Store for one year:
The Naked Edge (a new, never published, thriller with numerous photo inserts)
First Blood
Blood Oath (with a new Introduction)
The Brotherhood of the Rose
The Fraternity of the Stone
The Covenant of the Flame (with a new Introduction and photo inserts)
The Totem (both the U.S. and U.K. versions available together for the first time)
The Protector
Last Reveille

For more information on David Morrell and his experiment, visit his website: or see him on Facebook.

Thursday, October 07, 2010

Interview: Michael A. Arnzen on Snark Infested Waters


Michael A. Arnzen's hour long interview with the internet radio show, Snark Infested Waters, is now up on their website.

Mike describes it as "a funny-yet-serious chat about all things horror, including such topics as: sick elephants, mutant beards, cows dangling from meat hooks, sleep apnea hoses, ebooks, M. Night Shamayalan, collectible books, goreno, the relationship between zombies and coffee, and much more."

You can also hear three tracks from Audiovile, his innovative audiobook/CD.
Audiovile by Michael A. Arnzen

The first track, "Dreamachinery", stars the one and only Jason Jack Miller on banjo.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Workshop: Journey Steps, Taking the Train to Somewhere




DATE: October 1 – November 12, 2010

LOCATION: Online with Pennwriters

COURSE DESCRIPTION: Ever wonder what you’re supposed to “put” in between those four or five turning points of your story? Susan Meier’s Journey Steps, Taking the Train to Somewhere is a 6-week online course on plotting that provides quick, easy solutions for any author who has ever wondered “now what?”

Enroll here.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Workshop: Book in a Day with Debra Dixon and Pennwriters



Instructor: Debra Dixon
Debra Dixon

Date: Saturday, September 25, 2010

Time: 9 a.m. – 4 p.m.

Location: Crowne Plaza Hotel - Pittsburgh Airport / 1160 Thorn Run Road, Coraopolis, PA

Cost: $125 for Pennwriters members; $150 for nonmembers
(Lunch is included in the workshop fee)

Workshop Details:Pennwriters Area 3 will host a “Book in a Day” interactive workshop with bestselling author Debra Dixon. This intensive full-day seminar will draw from Dixon’s popular how-to book GMC: Goal, Motivation, and Conflict, the Building Blocks of Good Fiction, which is in its sixth printing, and The Hero’s Journey. She will show you how to put together the important elements of a book and its plot skeleton.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Community: Help Uniontown Win a Pepsi Grant for a Downtown Arts Center


Fayette Bank Building

To help Uniontown, PA win a grant to build a downtown community arts center, please follow these steps:

1. Got to

2. Click on Vote to Refresh America.

3. Create a login.

4. Click on neighborhoods.

5. Click on $250,000.

6. Scroll down until you see Buy/restore a historic downtown building for a community arts center. Uniontown Arts fellowship - "The Phoenix Arts Center".

7. Vote!

Thank you very much for your support!


Thursday, September 09, 2010

Workshop: Writing for Children and Young Adults


Courtesy of Jade Blackwater and Pennwriters:

WRITING FOR CHILDREN & YOUNG ADULTS with Maria V. Snyder and Lindsay Barrett George

Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting
Maria V. Snyder Photo by Michael Frost Studio NYC

Date: Saturday, September 11, 2010

Location: Fire Hall at 911 Market Street, Bloomsburg, PA 17815

Time: 10:00am-3:30pm

Workshop Details: Pennwriters Area 2 is hosting a day-long workshop with award-winning children's author Lindsay Barrett George and "New York Times" best-selling author Maria V. Snyder. New or experienced writers will learn what makes a good children's or young adult book, how to survive in the publishing world, and how to avoid sounding like an adult writing for young people.

Lindsay Barrett George will present her workshop "Puppies, Pumpkins, and Publishing" from 10:00-12:00.

There will be a bag lunch at noon. After lunch, participants will have the option of having the opening two pages of their work-in-progress critiqued by the speakers.

Maria V. Snyder will present her workshop "Maria's Nitpicks: The Basics and Not so Basics" from 1:30-3:30. The workshop is appropriate for anyone currently writing a book or planning to write one.

Cost: $35 for Pennwriters members

$40 for non-members

To register and to learn more contact Area 2 Representative Katie Yelinek, or visit her website at

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Video: Animated Map of Nuclear Explosions, 1945-1948


I nicked this from Deanna Lepsch. This is fascinating to me for many reasons, but especially since I've been doing so much research about early atomic bombs for my novel. It's worth watching the entire way through (only about 15 minutes):

Japanese artist Isao Hashimoto's "1945-1998" is an animated map showing the 2,053 nuclear explosions that took place around the world during the 20th century, from the detonations at Alamogordo, Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945 to the tests conducted by India and Pakistan in 1998.

Here's a link to MAKE if you can't see the above embedded video:

Thursday, August 05, 2010

Reflection: Sunrise Photo Shoot at Kentuck Knob


One weekend last month I got up at 4:00 AM so that I could open the gates at Frank Lloyd Wright's House on Kentuck Knob for the Westmoreland Photographers Society sunrise shoot. What an incredible experience to watch the world awaken from the top of that hill! While the photographers checked their shutter speed and adjusted their tripods, I wrote.

Part of it was for work - facts for my weekly progress report and details for copy to be turned into press releases and articles later - but part of it was for me. Trying to capture a particular time of the day is challenging when you're not writing about it as it's happening, and especially if you're normally sleeping at that hour. You miss the small stuff, those details that let your reader say, 'I know exactly how that feels.'

Maybe they'll say that when they read the revised chapter in my recent novel. The setting is certainly better for it and so is the mood. You see, we didn't have the bright sky and blooming color that morning, we had the swirling clouds and the river valley mist that crept skyward. The unfolding scene did more to inspire me than the latest tips from professionals in a magazine and more to calm me than my daily yoga.

Let's hope I captured a little of that for the page...

WPS 2 Sunrise Shoot 2010
SEATED: Heidi Ruby Miller
Photo by Kern F. Little

Incidentally, you can see the weekend's final photographs at an exhibit at Kentuck Knob this Saturday from 10:00 AM - 5:00 PM. I'll be there, as well the photographers, so say, "Hi!" if you stop by.

Thursday, July 08, 2010



Pennwriters Inc. brings you...

Discover how to avoid the slush pile and get your book sold and published!

DATE: August 2 – September 2, 2010

VENUE: Online

COST: $79 ($89 non-Pennwriters members)

A finished novel ready for submission is required for this course. LIMITED CLASS SIZE.

COURSE DESCRIPTION: Join national bestseller CJ Lyons, an award-winning medical suspense author, in a highly interactive workshop designed to give you the tools you
need to craft a complete fiction proposal, including a query letter, blurb, synopsis, opening hook, and pitch.

In this intensive course, you will learn the secrets to pitching, the power of your "blurb," and lessons on how to:
* Create a query letter that sells
* Approach the submission process
* Know if your opening hook works
* Write a short synopsis
* Write a long synopsis
* Craft a high-concept pitch
* Build your brand
* Find an agent

You will have a chance to have your query letter polished by CJ and the class—and if time permits you'll also have a chance to have your opening hooks and/or pitches evaluated as well.

BONUS: "Writer’s Toolbox"--a list of resources from CJ Lyons.

CJ Lyons

As a pediatric ER doctor, CJ Lyons has lived the life she writes about. In addition to being an award-winning medical suspense author, CJ is a nationally known presenter and keynote speaker. She has been invited all over the country to present her workshops and speak to audiences ranging from physicians to first responders to romance and thriller authors including: Colorado Fiction Writers, Oklahoma Writers Federation, the University of South Carolina at Beaufort, RWA National, MWA's Sleuthfest, Lowcountry RWA's Master Class, Left Coast Crime, and Pennwriters, among others.

Her first novel, LIFELINES (Berkley, March 2008), received praise as a "breathtakingly fast-paced medical thriller" from Publishers Weekly, was reviewed favorably by the Baltimore Sun and Newsday, named a Top Pick by Romantic Times Book Review Magazine, and became a National Bestseller. LIFELINES also won a Readers' Choice Award for Best First Novel. Her award-winning, critically acclaimed Angels of Mercy series (LIFELINES, WARNING SIGNS, and URGENT CARE) is available in stores now. Her newest project is as co-author of a new suspense series with Erin Brockovich. To learn more about CJ and her work, go to

TESTIMONIALS: “Tremendously helpful. CJ is a fine teacher, with the
patience of a saint.”
- Corrina Lavitts
Golden Heart Finalist

“CJ goes the extra mile with her willingness to help struggling writers, like myself. I would recommend this class to anyone.”
- Judith Gilbert

“The class was terrific. I’ve come away with a synopsis, back cover blurb, and a head full of scene ideas. You gave me wonderful insight.”
- Debra Hemminger

Friday, July 02, 2010

Photo Series: 2010 Seton Hill WPF Writing Conference and Retreat

Photo Series and Conferences


WPF logo small

This June 150 writers gathered "on the Hill" for the combination of Seton Hill University's Writing Popular Fiction MFA Residency and the 9th Annual Alumnae-sponsored WPF In Your Write Mind Conference and Retreat. Guests included New York Times Bestselling Author, Rambo-creator, and International Thriller Writers co-founder David Morrell, FinePrint Literary Agent Janet Reid, Poisoned Pen Press Acquisitions Editor Annette Rogers, Samhain Publishing Co. Director of Marketing and Sales Tina Trevaskis, and Dystel & Goderich Literary Agent Jim McCarthy.

2010 SHUWPF Conference_David Morrell
David Morrell
Photo by Heidi Ruby Miller

2010 SHUWPF Conference_dinner
Sally Bosco, Meline Nadeau, Jason Jack Miller, Chris Stout, Natalie Duvall, and Matt Duvall
Photo by Heidi Ruby Miller

2010 SHUWPF Conference _Maria and Heidi
Maria V. Snyder and Heidi Ruby Miller
Photo by Jason Jack Miller

2010 SHUWPF Conference_Mary and Natt
Mary Cox and Natalie Duvall
Photo by Heidi Ruby Miller

2010 SHUWPF Conference_group
Judi Fleming, Meline Nadeau, Alexa Grave, Shelley Adina, Chris Stout, Deanna Lepsch, and Tina Trevaskis
Photo by Heidi Ruby Miller

2010 SHUWPF Conference_Schmetzer and Mullig
Jason Schmetzer and Mike Brendan
Photo by Heidi Ruby Miller

2010 SHUWPF Conference_trio
Donna Munro, Jason Jack Miller, and Matt Duvall
Photo by Heidi Ruby Miller

2010 SHUWPF Conference_Danielle and Heidi
Danielle Hinesly and Heidi Ruby Miller
Photo by Jason Jack Miller

2010 SHUWPF Conference_Matalie
Matt and Natalie Duvall
Photo by Heidi Ruby Miller

We also caught up with one of our undergrads, Stephanie Wytovich, who is taking our summer Creative Writing course at SHU on Writing Short Stories. She met two of the authors whose stories we're reading in class: David Morrell's "The Abelard Sanction" and Patrick Picciarelli's "The Prince of Arthur Avenue", which was just made into a movie.

2010 SHUWPF Conference_Pat
Zachery Anderson, Stephanie Wytovich, Patrick Picciarelli, and Jason Jack Miller
Photo by Heidi Ruby Miller

And, we all had a good chat with a man who has taught all three of us a thing or two about writing, Tim Esaias.
2010 SHUWPF Conference_Tim
Timons Esaias, Stephanie Wytovich, Heidi Ruby Miller, and Jason Jack Miller
Photo by Zachery Anderson