Category Archives: Susan Jeffery

Golden Heart and Rita nominees, oh my!

SusanMermaidFriends, this is the LAST DAY in 2014 when RWA members will be in the dark. Yes, tomorrow is The Day for the announcement of Golden Heart and Rita finalists!

Hi, Rita! <3

Since you all know I’m incredibly helpful in dealing with anxiety (first lie), I offer these ideas (gleaned from the incredible brains of the young men I teach).

– play video games
– watch movies
– go to the gym
– play sports
– listen to music
– lock yourself in a dark room and avoid talking (really!)
– get your guitar and rock out
– there is no such thing as anxiety in my world (yes, he really said that)

courtesy Darien Times

This, as opposed to the usual stress ideas I see on other blog posts, which usually I include references to cookies, ice cream and alcohol consumption.

Also, I have two family members who are entered in the Golden Heart this year.  Just imagine the free-floating anxiety at home today…

So, GOOD LUCK to all our GH and Rita entrants!  Throwing copious sparkles in your direction today and please allow me to offer an online fruity drink.  With parasol.  And fresh fruit garnish.

Why We Write Romance

Valentines-day-valentines-day-22236757-2560-1600-300x187Happy Valentine’s Day from the Waterworld Mermaids!!!

We love Valentine’s Day so much that we are celebrating all week long. Ever curious about why the Mermaids write romance novels? Today we decided to share our answers to the question: What made you start writing romance?

Come back tomorrow when we turn the tables on industry professionals with their very own question. Our celebration will wrap on Thursday with a gift card giveaway. Leave a comment today and tomorrow for extra chances to be entered in the giveaway on Thursday.

Enjoy and smoochies!

What made you start writing romance?


This should come as no surprise to anyone: Fairy Tales are the reason I started writing romance. Fairy tales are full of fantasy, adventure, magic, mystery, blood, and death…but the tales I always found most interesting were the ones that involved true love. This love might end tragically (The Little Mermaid) or wonderfully (Rapunzel) or coincidentally (Briar Rose) or with a heaping spoonful of vengeance (Snow White/The Goose Girl), but the meeting of two soul mates in these unlikely settings gave me hope that I was not destined to be alone in this lonely world.


So the story goes that it was 2008 and I was knee deep into my brand new fascination with Sherrilyn Kenyon and the romance genre. I think it was around her thirteenth or fourteenth Dark Hunter book I’d read when I realized no matter how horrifying or dark the stories became, the couples always clawed their way back out to a happy ending. The stories were so compelling that it honestly took me that many reads to finally figure out that they would all end on a happy note. It also struck a deep chord with me that many of her characters needed redemption and how their path to that came by way of new-found responsibilities toward the person they now loved. I thought about several real-life people I knew and cared about, people with good hearts but who had missed out on that perfect happy ending. I figured out that I could give them that through my stories. I love reading and writing romance! Wishing you all the best on this Valentine’s Day! Fishy Kisses, Carlene Mermaid


Once upon a time, I was on a preschool board and I became friends with another board member, Anita Clenney. Anita is one of the nicest people on the planet and we kept in contact for years after our preschool days were over. One day we were talking and she said something along the lines of, “Oh I have so much to do. I really need to get back to my manuscript.” Intrigued, I asked loads of questions about her manuscript and discovered that Anita was an up and coming romance writer. As an avid reader with an eye for detail, I was thrilled when she asked me to be a beta reader. What she got back was way more than what I think she was expecting – actually closer to line edits than your typical overall impressions.

I have been working with Anita ever since. I can’t express how excited and proud I was when Anita signed a three book contract later that year. And I couldn’t have been more thrilled for my friend when her first book made the USA Today and New York Times bestseller’s lists.

Being a good friend, it didn’t take long until Anita suggested I put some of my great ideas into a manuscript of my very own. It took several months of her prodding, but now I’m so happy she did. I love the outlet writing gives me and I now understand why I’ve had this constantly running loop of ideas and images floating through my brain all of these years… Writing was what I was meant to do.


My journey to writing romance started because of a television show. Yep. I fell in love with an old show named Buffy the Vampire Slayer (and no, not Buffy), but the character Spike—but not because of what he was on screen as much as what was missing from Spike’s tortured existence—romance. At the time, I read horror, mostly, and lots of paranormal, but not necessarily romance, except maybe gothic romance and tragic love stories (always liked to sob with my heroines:). But then I discovered fan fiction (which since 50 Shades of Grey, I no longer need to explain:). Fanfiction writers in the Buffy fandom wore obsessive romantics. I read thousands of pages of fan fiction, and wrote 500,000 words of fan fiction myself (and no it wasn’t all one book:). And through fan fiction, I met a writer named Alicia Rasley (I won’t share her Live Journal name here though:), and she introduced me to RWA, and the idea of writing original romantic fiction. That was quite a few years ago, and I had SO much to learn (which I’m still learning), but that’s who and what started my journey in romance. Buffy, Spike, and Alicia Rasley (


I write what I love, and I also write the books I cannot find and would like to see on shelves. The inspiration of strong women who find more than love — they find love with the right guy — proves such men are out there. When they find their happily ever after, it makes me happy. I guess I write because I’d like to spread the happiness around.


The summer before my senior year of college, my mom handed me Nora Roberts’ Sea Swept to read. A couple pages in, I was hooked. That summer I read all about the Quinn’s, the Calhoun sisters and the MacGregor’s, and I haven’t stopped reading romance since. I’d always been a writer but I guess I had never found my niche. What really struck me about romance novels was that everyone got a happy ending. For a twenty-one year old about to enter the very scary and unsure “real world,” nothing sounded better than escaping to a place where dreams come true.


I write young adult romances because I want girls to read about boys who treat them with respect.  I want them to EXPECT that.  To have those high expectations of boys who will grow into men of good character.  To hold out for love.

It’s not that I ever expected my relationships in high school to pan out into a golden anniversary, but those innocent romances helped me discover what I expected from an adult relationship.  And really, when you come to think of it, they’re the same.  I think the only difference is that we become more jaded and insecure as adults, so teen romances are probably the most pure and real ones out there.  When everything is fresh and new and even heartbreakingly real.  I write teen romances because I still remember those feelings quite vividly.  It’s the promise of something special…something magical…something unforgettable.


I cannot imagine writing a young adult novel without including some element of romance. I believe first love is integral to the teenage experience. An essential part of understanding who we are is discovering who we can be as a result of another person — a person who brings out the best in us, a person who inspires us to be the best version of ourselves. That, to me, is the definition of true love.


I’ve loved reading romance since my early teens, when my family made its annual trek to Georgia and visited family. My grandmother lived with two sisters and me-oh-my, they had half a garage PACKED with grocery bags full of Harlequin books from their shared subscription. Unlimited access to these tiny miracles not only kept me quiet, it gave me my early training. Since I never really stopped reading them, I’ve also never stopped wanting to tell my own stories.


Your turn. Tell us in the comments why you *read* romance novels?

Getting My Butt Kicked

Susan-Mermaid-avatar As I’ve always said before, I generally avoid New Year’s resolutions.  This year, for a change, I made several:

–       I will join a critique group

–       I will allow myself to mentor someone, and ask for a mentor

–       I will submit material for publication

At the January meeting of CTRWA, I was right there with the club’s critique group.  We found much to say about each other’s work (both pro and con) and left feeling we’d encouraged each other in the best ways.  Resolution One:  check.

Also in January, responded to the semi-annual offer of matching Yodas and Grasshoppers.  Don’t laugh – our most accomplished writers are called Obi-Wans.  However, with the snag of a badly typed email address, I didn’t make the deadline for getting matched.  The coordinator felt badly for me and offered herself up, saying she didn’t feel she was Yoda status yet, but was willing to try.

Resolution Two: check.  Mentor achieved, and by the skin of my teeth.  But what an experience.  It has already changed my life.

You see, Joy asked an interesting question: what did I want from a Yoda? She had already joined the critique group, so she knew my writing.  (A side-resolution: I would be honest in my answer)

“I want someone to kick my butt.”

She wanted to see the synopsis for the book I was closest to finishing (not the one I was working on).  The next day, I had an email:  “We must meet.  This week.  When are you available?”  We settled on Sunday afternoon.

As luck would have it, I had a car accident on Friday.  Spent Saturday feeling like someone had squeezed all my back and shoulder muscles into one big knot (I’mostly fine now.  Really).  On Sunday, I asked Himself to drive me to the meeting spot in Connecticut, where my mentor was going to kick said butt.

I’d already told him he was NOT to sit with us.  Even though he’s a writer.

Thus, my husband of nearly 34 years found a table nearby, placed his lunch order and opened his Kindle.

Ninety minutes later, Joy said something I don’t remember ever hearing:  “I don’t need to see your chapters.  I already know from what I read in critique group, and from your synopsis, that you can write.”  And she asked a question I’d never had to answer before:  “Why are you writing?”

Oh dear.  A question I didn’t know how to answer.  Did I want to be published again?  Sure.  Was I willing to do what it takes to make that happen?

You’re writing, she told me, because you want to see your book published.  You want to know people can read your book.  You want them to see it and know how amazing this story is.  And the way to do that is to submit.  And the way to submit is to




writing space susan 2010

Amazing, how this women – in less than two hours – cuts though the all the crud of my denial and strips away my excuses.  Since our meeting on Sunday, I’ve read through the first ten chapters of THE LAKE EFFECT.  I see lots decent writing, and some of it is terrific.  I also see disjointed scenes, clumsy scenes, awkward phrases, bad word choices and incomplete sentences.  This, I realize, will be my first second draft.  What an idea!  It’s almost something to look forward to – like a strange and unexpected adventure.

Which brings me to the question:  what scares you most about writing?  What would you discover if you dared?


Writing Lessons: What a New Shirt Taught Me About the Muse

I came here tonight because when you realize you want to spend the rest of your life with somebody, you want the rest of your life to start as soon as possible.”

Susan-Mermaid-avatar   I had a “fashion” moment last Saturday.

I’d been to the hair salon for a cut and color – an absolute must before a major holiday!  I’d driven with bestie Colleen to Danbury for shopping.  First, I said, let’s stop for a bite to eat.  Then, I promised, we would attack the mall and our Christmas lists.

But, as I crossed the parking lot, I realized:

  • The shirt I was wearing didn’t feel “good” on my body anymore,
  • It was too short for the current styles,
  • And it was faded.

We must detour, I insisted.  Just a quick stop at JCPenney, I promised.  Yes, I typically take several hours to decide on anything, but this will be different!  Zipped in, scanned the offerings, tried on three shirts, selected one.  I wore it to the cashier and held out of the tag dangling from my wrist:

“I realized the shirt I was wearing is too old to be decent.” (Colleen holds up the shirt I’d arrived in as proof) “So I found this shirt, and I want to wear it right now – can you ring it up without me taking it off?”

Like this, but prettier.

Do you know, this might be my favorite shirt now?  It got me out of a fashion pickle, allowing me to shop for several more hours without that sneaking sense of frumpdom.  I even cuddled the other shirt, safely wadded up in the JCPenney bag the sales associate had offered us, gave it a farewell pat… and stuffed it in a Food Court garbage can.

That’s how determined I was not to be lured into wearing it again.  Its twin (same print, different color) is still at home, but in the bag for Goodwill.  Let someone else deal with it.

You might wonder what this has to do with writing?  Well, when opportunity knocks, you answer.  You don’t hesitate, you act!

When it’s time to write, you don’t wait.  You don’t tell yourself  “Oh, I’ll remember that!  It’s such a good idea, how could I forget it?”  You can!  You can forget it!  Give your brain five milliseconds of distraction and your inspiration is gone!

You don’t tell the Muse to hang on.  When you have the idea, it’s time to buckle down and get your work done.

I hit JCPenney with an idea in mind.  I was determined to act on the idea.  It happened.  Not because I dithered.  Because I acted!

So, here’s the lesson.  Grab your Muse, shake it loose and tell it to get off its sweet hiney and give you material.  Then, don’t wait around for that fickle bitch to show up.   Make the material happen.  She’ll figure it out.

You can do this!  It’s your choice.  Are you gonna wear that tacky old shirt and hope the writing shows up?

I’m saying that the right man for you might be out there right now and if you don’t grab him, someone else will, and you’ll have to spend the rest of your life knowing that someone else is married to your husband.”

You can do better.  If you choose to be a writer, find it in yourself to step away from the tacky old shirts, the worn-out excuses, the distractions, and the do-overs.

The fact that you’re not answering leads me to believe you’re either (a) not at home, (b) home but don’t want to talk to me, or (c) home, desperately want to talk to me, but trapped under something heavy. If it’s either (a) or (c), please call me back.

Stupid delay tactics.  They neve work!  Which is why Harry had to run across New York to find Sally and claim her, at last, on New Year’s Eve.

Good for him.

NaNo for you, but NoNo for me

Susan-Mermaid-avatarThat’s right.  I didn’t do NaNo this year.  The final days of last November brought on a sly, simmering uneasiness about my health.  It was a feeling I couldn’t quite shake, but knew I ignored it at my own peril.  Yes, nineteen years with the unpredictable and unforgiving disorder of MS have taught me to respect my intuition – if you’ve got the shakes, Susan, for God’s sake slow down.  And, if you know me, I’m an all-in or a who-cares kind of girl, and I felt it unwise to  subject myself to another month of NaNo stress.  Writing is meant to be fun.  Why spoil it with another trip to physical therapy?

Instead, I embarked on an entirely different type of insanity.  One where *I* was making the rules (sort of).  In fact, I have been on a writing hiatus this month in order to preserve my sanity (what little I have).  And do you know what?  It sucks.

I’m taking an online course to earn graduate credits and earn the next level of fifteen hours so I can also earn another raise at work.  That is, beyond the yearly seniority raise that’s built into our contract with the school.  If I can look smarter by earning additional graduate credit hours, I get more cash in my pay envelope:

*Right.* Like I said, mo’ money.

So, I’ve been taking this course on using primary sources at the Library of Congress.  I go around hunting up really cool pictures that I might be able to use in my teaching:

How did the Civil War turn out for these two?

And not paying enough attention, so I find this, which I sent to my son.  He lives in Binghamton, so it seemed like the right thing to do:

Panorama of Binghamton, NY – 1909

 And he liked it a lot, since he recognized the landmarks (the town hasn’t changed much in a hundred years, which is part of its charm.)

Then my local writing group, CTRWA, reminded its members to enter the chapter’s “fun” contest:  the Marga-RITAs.  Chapter-only, it celebrates the best and the worst in our writing.  Categories like “most creative and anatomically impossible sex scene” and “best run-on sentence” help exorcise the misery of our writing “errors”,  while we celebrate another year of writing good stuff (“best use of adorable child and/or cute animal” is my fave)(you are so going down this year, Kristan Higgins!)

Do you have any idea what it feels like to find your writing, hidden away while you slave over primary sources in pursuit of filthy lucre in your day job?  It really stings!  Little gems of prose are discovered, just waiting for the tacky margarita glass that is the prize (I have two).

What say you, Mermaid friends?  Did you ever have to go on a writing “diet” to achieve other… er…. achievements?   How did it feel?  And, knowing how it felt at the other end, how hard was it to get back into the writing swing of things?

Enquiring minds want to know!  SusanMermaid



A Temptation So Beautiful


There are stories in my treasure chest that refuse to be completed, for one reason or another.  One, LAKE EFFECT, has bedeviled me for several years.  Gerald, the father, has never decided if he will be dead (enabling his rambling daughter to sell the house and move on) or alive (chaining her to a life of servitude, shuffling between the old house and the nursing home)?

Worse, what of my two lovers?  Nicole is a devoted girlfriend, with an overseas boyfriend.  She just doesn’t know he has wandering eyes.  Sam is being pursued by a girlfriend-wanna-be in relentless pursuit of his favors.  I’ve loved writing Desmond’s and Tara’s scenes – as the unfortunate foils for my hero and heroines, they’re both such worthless material as potential mates and so completely clueless.

Occasionally I struggle with midnight “monkey mind” as I wrestle again with the frustration of seeing this story complete and finding readers.  There are other stories I’m writing, or trying to write, but LAKE keeps rearing its head.  The one that got away.  It’s hard to let go, ya know?

So, this morning, I was helping Brain with his preparation for NaNoWriMo.  We found, and printed, a ten page document from Susan May Warren ( outlining Ten Beats of a Romance.  In Beat 3, she discusses with the challenge of Why/WhyNot and WhyNot/Why in a blossoming relationship.  In one, the situation where I most often place  my characters, they understand why they can’t get together and gradually fall in love in spite of the barriers.  But in the WhyNot/Why, the characters feel an instant connection.  Only later are they aware of just how wrong this is.

Okay, my mind said.  Let’s play “what if?”  Nicole and Sam instantly hit it off.  They get each other, their little hearts go pitty pat, they’re a thing, they’re in it for the long haul.  But what about those inconvenient other lovers?  How do I move them aside?

I didn’t have any problems disposing of Desmond, the cheating boyfriend; he breaks up with Nicole before the story gets too far along.  But what about Tara?  She just wants to get married and make babies.  She has the rings picked out, the wedding party, rehearsal and ceremony planned.  All she needs is for Sam to pop the question and call the realtor.  How do I get rid of her?

So, friends, this is my question:  how do you give your hero permission to step out on his girlfriend when she has the noose as firmly tied around his neck (whoops, ring on his finger) as one woman can manage in 200 pages?  Mind you, Tara needs to make her not-so-graceful exit at the end of novel, along with Desmond – who makes a late  entrance to eat crow (happily, he is unsuccessful).

Is there a rule for a boyfriend whose heart has never been fully involved to be allowed to touch the goods before the others are returned?  How do we handle this?

(In another post, which I started before writing this, I’ll talk about characters that refuse to make up their minds – which happens all too often in this writer’s world)