Schedule and Location

Welcome to the Sarasota Writers Group Blog. We meet the first and third Wednesday of each month at the Nokomis Fire Station. Coming from Sarasota or North, proceed a few blocks south of Albee Road on US 41 (past Matthews-Currie Ford) to Pavonia Road. Turn right (West, toward the bay) at the Fire Station's flashing yellow caution traffic light. If you are coming from the south on US 41, we are 2 blocks north of Dona Bay. Turn left onto Pavonia Road at the flashing yellow caution light. At the Fire Station, drive to the far end, or west side, of the firehall. Please do not block the fire doors! We meet in the training room at the far end of the complex. We Gather for a meet and greet at 6:00 pm Meeting called to order: 6:30 pm Ten-minute break: 7:50 pm Meeting Adjourned: 9:00 pm

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Simon & Schuster Seeks Rights Forever -- Is This A Sign of Things To Come?

(The following article excerpt was taken from the SCBWI BULLETIN. The statement was originally released by the Author's Guild. The SCBWI is the Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators.)

"Simon & Schuster has changed its standard contract language in an attempt to retain exclusive control of books even after they have gone out of print. Until now, Simon & Schuster, like all other major trade publishers, has followed the traditional practice in which rights to a work revert to the author if the book falls out of print or if its sales are low.

"The publisher is signaling that it will no longer include minimum sales requirements for a work to be considered in print. Simon & Schuster is apparently seeking nothing less than an exclusive grant of rights in perpetuity. Effectively, the publisher would co-own your copyright.

"The new contract would allow Simon & Schuster to consider a book in print, and under its exclusive control, so long as it's available in any form, including through its own in-house database -- even if no copies are available to be ordered by traditional bookstores.

"Other major trade publishers are not seeking a similar perpetual grant of rights."

(To which I might add, "Yet." -- Ed.)

"The Author's Guild puts it bluntly: 'Your book will live and die with this particular conglomerate.' Until an agreement can be reached, the Author's Guild advises authors to proceed with caution."

Russ Heitz

Saturday, December 08, 2007

New Story Published by Madeline

Madeline Mora-Summonte's humorous new story, THE WEDDING CRASHERS, has recently been published by and is now available to the whole country. Nay, to the WHOLE WORLD! (Thanks to the wonderful Internet.) When you go to the everydayfiction site, just check out the December Table of Contents. The publication of this cute little story is another step upward in Madeline's writing career and a step we are all pleased to see. She has also updated her website, so check that out, too. And keep your fingers crossed. Madeline has been shopping around for an agent and one of these days one of them is going to wake up and see the potential. Keep the faith, Madeline! As the barber said when he shaved Britney's head, it won't be long now.

Russ Heitz,

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Madeline's Conference Experience

Hi, everyone! Just wanted to take a minute to tell you all about my great experience at this year’s FWA Conference in Orlando.

It was my first writing conference, and although I was looking forward to it, I was also anxious. Like most writers, I am an introvert, preferring my cozy home office and quiet time reading to rooms full of people and having to making small talk. But, like my husband reminded me, I already had one thing in common with everyone there - we were all writers! And, as it turned out, among the crowd two familiar faces rose to greet me - Russ and Tuck. We sat together during the FWA lunch meeting, chatted as we waited for different sessions to begin, and even sat together in a few of the workshops. I’m sure they were sick of seeing me by the time it was over!

Speaking of workshops, I had trouble deciding which ones to attend. So many choices! Some focused on craft, such as “Write a Thriller Right Now” and “Make Bright Ideas Sparkle: Tools of the Poet’s Trade” while others, like “The Story About Contracts” and “Publicity and You: Sixteen Mistakes to Avoid” focused on the business side. Three of my favorites were “The Five Things You Must Know Before Submitting to a Publisher”, “Agents, Acquisition Editors, and Publishers Panel” and “You’ve Got an Agent: Now What?” By the end of the conference, my brain hurt - in a good way, of course.

Besides the presentations, the opportunity to talk one-on-one with agents and publishers was also offered. I took advantage of this and met with an agent to pitch my latest manuscript. Talk about being anxious! But she was so nice and encouraging, it ended up feeling more like a chat about a book (granted, one that I had written, but still) than a pitch session. At the end, she asked me to send along my query and sample chapters. Keep your fingers crossed!

By the end of the weekend, I was exhausted but quite pleased with my new social self (okay, let’s not get crazy here - handing out three business cards does not a social butterfly make!) and the experience as a whole. I encourage my fellow writers and members of the FWA to attend next year’s conference. The conference offers so much - a bookstore for you to sell your books, door prizes, an open mike night, a banquet, an awards ceremony - but even if all you do is attend the workshops, like I did, even if you only attend one out of the three days, you’ll still come away with knowledge and encouragement and inspiration. And maybe a couple of business cards. And maybe a door prize or two.


Thank you, Madeline! I'm glad it was a rewarding experience for you. Everyone should experience a major Conference at least once. Some like it, some don't, but you owe it to yourself to experience at least one. I love them. My problem is, I've got to curtail just how many I can attend. I missed this year's Orlando Conference having just returned from the 'big one' in Philadelphia which my publisher puts on every year. I'm glad I was well represented by our great Sarasota group. Madeline, Tuck, Russ, and Tucker Mayer, thank you!

Monday, September 17, 2007

The Big Business World of Publishing

Donald Maass is one of New York City's most active and well-known literary agents. He has represented the authors of many best sellers and has published a number of his own novels as well as several non-fiction books having to do with the profession of writing. THE CAREER NOVELIST is one of his most well-known, how-to books. And even though it was published about ten years ago, much of what he says in this book is still relevant today.

This is a book directed primarily toward the writer who has attained and demonstrated a certain amount of skill but wants to know more about the Big Business World of Publishing. And, whether we like it or not, the publishing industry today operates like any other global, market-driven industry. The bottom line and primary question of its corporate leaders is the same question asked by any other business: how much money will we make from this product? The follow-up analysis is also the same: if it isn't selling, dump it.

Working hand-in-hand with the publishers are the bookstore chains who are trying to cope with the thousands of new books being published every week. There simply isn't enough shelf space to accommodate them all. This means the chains have also developed their own set of bottom lines. Even a mid-list book by a fairly well-known writer is often given about thirty days worth of shelf space. If the allotted three or four copies of the book don't sell in thirty days, they are all shipped back to the publisher for a refund. Or else they are disposed of in some other ignominious way. The newly opened shelf space is then immediately filled by another author's product, which has the same thirty-day deadline.

For a writer to enter this book-publisher/book-seller world, he/she needs to be aware of a few indisputable facts. The competition is extremely fierce. The struggle is extremely difficult. The progress is painfully slow. And the financial rewards--for most non-blockbuster writers like us--are depressingly small. Nevertheless, it is a world that the potential career writer must be aware of, accept, and learn how to cope with.

In THE CAREER NOVELIST, Maass explains and defines terms like publisher's profit, returns, sell-through, voodoo numbers, ship-in, 100,000-copy first printing, the $25,000 advance, and rate-of-sale, among others. These are terms that serious writers need to know about and understand, whether they write book-length fiction or book-length non-fiction.

Maass also tells us that most publishers, even the traditional large houses, have also adopted a policy that says the writer--not the publisher--is responsible for his or her own promotion. So the days of the publisher handling all of a writer's publicity, advertising, book tours, reviews, etc. has passed. These chores are now the responsibility of the writer. Exceptions are made, of course, for a handful of writers who consistently produce a best-selling product. For the rest of us, promotion is now a large part of our job, and sometimes takes more of our time than the actual creation of the product, which is the writing part. To adapt to this shift, Maass discusses the effectiveness of such techniques as press kits, publicists, media connections, advertising, free publicity, etc.

In some respects, THE CAREER NOVELIST may be a bitter pill to swallow. But for the realist who is contemplating a career in writing, this book provides a frank, objective, and insider's view of the real world of Big Business Publishing.

Russ Heitz
Sarasota Chapter, Florida Writers Association
Mystery Writers of America
American Crime Writers League

Sunday, August 12, 2007

Law Enforcement Expert Lauds CROSSHAIRS

Russ Heitz would like to share the following review that he has recently received on his fast-moving suspense novel CROSSHAIRS:

"CROSSHAIRS packs a powerful punch from the first page to the last ... and has more curves than the Pennsylvania landscape in which the novel takes place ... Heitz is a splendid story teller ... my head is still spinning." --- Sgt. Jim Potter, M.A., law enforcement officer with a sheriff's department in Kansas for the past 25 years, graduate of the National Academy of the F.B.I. Academy in Quantico, VA, and author of COP IN THE CLASSROOM (

Saturday, May 26, 2007

The Infinite Writer E-Zine

Hello to everyone ~ You are cordially invited to the unveiling of The Infinite Writer, a new E-zine for writers and would be writers. The goal of the E-zine is to provide nourishment for the writer's soul. Meet the staff:

Dahris H. Clair - editor-in-chief
Smoki van Heyningen - managing editor
Susan C. Haley, Contributing poetry editor
Jerry D. Simmons
Fran Silverman

In addition to articles, two Celebrity Columnists, tips, news events, we're offering you a stage for your own works. We'll feature various authors and their books via the Interview. We're looking for flash fiction submissions, poetry, informational articles pertaining to the writing life. Come in and look us over. Stay for dinner. You'll go away satisfied.

(If your source doesn't support links, copy and paste into your browser)

Constructive comments welcome. There is a comment form on the zine.

Thank you for your time and your interest.

D. H. Clair, Group Leader
Pasco County Chapter of the Florida Writers Association

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

One Outline: good. Two Outlines: better?

My new suspense novel, Crosshairs, has just been released and another novel is in the works. I couldn't have done either one of them without an outline.

I'm not talking about a Roman Numeral I, A, a (1) type of outline. I'm talking about a narrative outline that is broken into chapters. Without an outline, a story can quickly conform to the old Cowboy Posse Rule of "saddle up, and then ride off in all directions."

To complicate my novel-writing process, my short-term memory has always been made of Swiss cheese. Details dribble out of it as quickly as I put them in. The only way I can counter that is to get those details down on paper right away. And then to refer to them whenever necessary, which for me means constantly.

Because of the need for a clear structure combined with the persistent leaks in my short-term memory, I have had to develop a two-outline system. The first outline I call the Skeleton Outline because it includes only the bare bones of each chapter,the primary events that will move the story forward.

For instance, the following is my Skeleton of Chapter 2 of the novel I'm working on now:

Chapter 2. Thursday morning -- More details about Dani, intro to her twin sister, Deana (Dani is just thinking about Deana). There is suspicion about a letter Dani received. It looks like it might have been opened and then sealed again. Hint that there is something hidden in Dani's past, something she doesn't want to talk about. More details re: the Siesta Key/Sarasota setting and the people who live there.

I call my second outline my Detail Outline because, obviously, it includes a lot more details. My Detail Outline for the same chapter runs about a page and half. A small part of it looks like this:

Chapter 2. Thursday morning -- Dani takes a quick shower and gets ready for work. She has a rushed, light, healthy breakfast of yogurt, wheat toast, etc. She glances out of the window of her high-rise Siesta Key condo at the beautiful azure Gulf of Mexico. The sky is cloudless. She wishes she could go for a quick jog on the beach, like she usually does whenever she has the time, which will probably be less often now that the office is finally starting to get busy. Description of the type of clothing she wears, which is usually a lab coat or scrubs. But she prefers jeans and a tee like she used to wear most of the time in Pennsylvania, weather permitting. Subtle indication that she doesn't want to think about Pennsylvania right now. Maybe another hint that she has recently been hospitalized for an unspecified emotional disorder before she moved to Sarasota. Give more details about her physical appearance. Hint that she hasn't heard from her sister, Deana, for almost a week. She decides to call her this evening, and find out if she got that promotion. Etc.

Having a Detailed Outline gives me plenty of info to develop and expand upon during the first draft of the actual story. It also allows me to find the best place to insert clues retroactively as the story develops.

The Skeleton Outline helps me keep the basic structure sound and clearly stated. In addition, the Skeleton also reminds me to keep the momentum of the story moving forward. It also points out any sags that are bound to occur; sags that will then be replaced by additional hints of danger and suspense.

Whenever possible, I also try to have each chapter end with some sort of cliff hanger, or at the very least a question. The question should encourage the reader to turn the page and continue on to the next chapter.

Two outlines for each chapter? It works for me. Maybe it'll work for you, too.

Submitted by, Russ Heitz