If You Can’t Laugh at Yourself: A Funny, Serious, and Somewhat Embarrassing List of My Newbie Mistakes

When we first came up with the idea to give our former selves writing advice, I thought, how on earth can I limit it to just one thing?  I’ve learned so much over the last five years about myself, my writing, and the industry.  How can I pick the most important?

Well, I can’t, so I’m not gonna try.   Instead, I’m going touch on all the things (or at least most of them), and hope my former self realizes she needs to do her research!

Dear poor, clueless Jenna P,

So…you want to write a novel, huh?  It worked for that Stephenie Meyer chic, so why can’t it work for you?  You’re smart, good at grammar, have one hell of an imagination, and won a bunch of creative writing contests when you were younger.  You’ve got this in the bag!  Piece of cake.



Sure you can do this.  I truly believe that.  But in no way will this be a piece of cake, so let me save you a lot of spilled milk and give you a few ingredients of advice before you begin.

Don’t be ashamed of your writing — it’s a gift and there are others out there just like you.  The first chance you get, join a writer’s group.  You’ll meet some of the best friends you’ve ever had, and you’ll learn lots of stuff too.  Like what a mimosa is, what POV and GMC stand for, and that head-hopping is NOT a good idea.  You’ll learn that 160,000 words isn’t a romance novel, it’s an epic, and just because you have a suspenseful scene doesn’t mean you write romantic suspense.

Oh, and while we’re on the topic, you don’t write romance.  You write something called women’s fiction.  So read it.  A lot of it.  You’ll see what I mean, I promise.

Get comfortable because this adventure you’re on will be a marathon, not a sprint.  I know you hate that because you’re as impatient as they come, but this is something you can’t control.  There’s a lot to see along your path, so keep your eyes open and enjoy the journey.  And be sure to pace yourself, or you’ll burn out before the end.  Along the way, people will pass you and the finish line will seem to get farther away, but don’t stop.  Keep going even if you have to crawl.

 running in heels

What you write will take longer to produce, be more difficult to reduce down to a query, and be harder to sell, but don’t take the easy route.  You’ve got something here, and your main goal is to share it with the world.  Keep that in mind when the rejections start coming in, because they will.  You’ve got to pay your dues because you’re not going to be the exception to the rule, no matter how much you think you will be.

You’ve never been a jealous person, but be prepared:  Writer jealousy is inevitable, no matter how hard you try to look the other way.  Your friends will get more requests than you at times, some writers will get signed after only a few months of trying, and you might just be the last one to make it.  That’s okay; doesn’t mean you’re any less of a writer.  This business is a lot about luck and market, and it might just mean you weren’t in the right place at the right time holding onto the next hot genre.  Being a great writer sometimes just isn’t enough.

Don’t use the word quite quite so much.  Watch out for waist/waste and peak/peek.  Don’t let anyone talk you out of your oxford comma.  Find a better way to describe your protag than through a mirror.  Don’t open up your book in a dream sequence.  Skip that last drink at your first M&M banquet.  And for goodness sake — don’t send that query the minute you type THE END.

Oh, and hey – fiction doesn’t need a table of contents, dork.

Your future self,

A much older, wiser, and few pounds heavier,


And The Winner Is…

A huge thank you to everyone who participated in our two year anniversary giveaway, celebrating two years of blogging together, our new crop of BadGirlz, and our brand new site design.

We are thrilled to announce the winner of the giveaway was Lauren H! (Lauren, we’ll be in touch via email soon about your prize.)

Stay tuned for more information about future giveaways and celebrations. In the meantime, happy reading and writing :)

No Comments

Every Step is Worth Celebrating

When I first started on this weird writing journey three years ago, all I wanted was to be published. It was my end goal. The one thing where I thought, if I can just get my first publishing contract, I’ll have made it.

Well, six months after I started on this journey, I received The Call, got that publishing contract, and was ecstatic.


I still felt like there was more to it. Like there was something missing. I still felt like I hadn’t quite made it, even though I was getting paid to write and my book was available for the world to read.

So I set a new goal. A new, “I’ll make it once I ________” goal. That time, it was “I’ll make it once I get an agent.”

So I wrote a(nother) book. I queried. And then I got an agent. And while I was, once again, ecstatic, it still didn’t really feel like I’d made it.

Huh. Weird.

Maybe I’d feel like that when I got a print publishing contract with one of the Big Five? Maybe that was what I needed to really feel accomplished.

You know what happened next, right? Yep, I got a contract with Penguin, and shortly after another contract for another series with Macmillan. That’s two different contracts with two different publishers within the elusive Big Five.

And yet…

Yep, you guessed it.

Now I’m on the, “I’ll make it once I see my book in a bookstore,” goal.

And you know what?

Because even though I still have lots of “I’ll make it once I ______” goals (like getting picked up by Target, making it to the NYT or USAToday bestseller lists, making enough money so my husband can quit his job…), they’re not the end-all, be-all. They’re just pit stops on the journey. Awesome pit stops I’d love to get to, but if I don’t, you know what? That doesn’t mean I’m a failure or that I haven’t made it yet.

It took me three years—three years filled with lots of great accomplishments—and a blog post written to my pre-published self before I came to the realization that publishing is not a destination in which you have to tick off a set of goals before you ever truly make it. It’s a journey, and if you’re so focused on the next goal all the time, the next destination, you miss every beautiful landmark along the way.

I wish I could go back now and truly celebrate all those amazing steps I’ve taken. The day(s) I got The Call(s), every release day, when I held my book for the first time… Because every single step is an accomplishment in this ball-busting business. And every single one deserves to be celebrated.

I’m thinking about getting a tattoo that I’ll add to with each new book I have published. I know…that might be a huge ass tattoo by the time it’s all said and done, but whatever. What do you do or will you do to celebrate each milestone?




Advice I’d Give Myself, So Listen Up Self!

To mark the two year anniversary of the Bad Girlz Write Blog, today kicks off a blog series about advice we would give ourselves, if we could go back in time.

If I could give my earlier writer-self one bit of advice, it’d be: Keep things in perspective. Always, always, ALWAYS keep things in perspective. Now, let me break that down a tad.

It is so easy to get caught up in the microcosm that is writing and publication that you forget why you began this journey in the first place. You can lose sight of your main motivation and even yourself. With dreams come the slippery slopes and pitfalls. Between the querying, submissions, book deals, self-promotion, social media, blogging, conferences, blog tours, meetings, reviewers, stars, websites, blurbs, and summaries, a writer can get lost in the crush. You look around one day, trying to remember when and why and wth you’re doing.


We are writers because we write. We’re story tellers. Authors. Dream weavers. THAT is what it’s all about. That is what matters. So, McGovy in 2012, remember that. Write it down and stick it on the wall. Don’t forget why you wanted to do this in the first place. You like telling stories and you have a lot of them to tell. Keep everything else in perspective and DO NOT let it supersede the story or overwhelm you. You’re a story teller, dammit. Tell the story.

On that same note, Do not overcommit. Keep all extracurricular activities in perspective as well.

I can be such a Polly Planner. Little Miss Joiner. Need a committee member? I’ll do it! Want to plan a trip? I can help! Who wants to lead the charge on organizing <fill in whatever project here>? Meeee!

I don’t know why I do it, but I always do. It finally got to be too much, circa 2013. I cannot imagine why. I mean, I only work full time, have a family with a small child and a fledgling writing career. Why not add more stuff to that To Do list? I hit a wall last year and realized my writing and my life were suffering because I tried to do too much. I had to accept that, as much as I may want to cosplay her, I am not Wonder Woman. I can’t do it all. Even Diana would’ve said no to some of the things I took on!

WW-HellNoI didn’t sign up for every possible responsibility in 2014 and it has made ALL the difference. I’m more productive and, more importantly, I’m happier.

It’s all about keeping things in perspective. I wish I’d realized it earlier, but now I know. I hope this advice will help you as well and I wish you the best of luck on your writing endeavors!

thumbs up


Bad Girlz Write Is Now Bigger & Badder!

Welcome to the newly revamped and expanded badgirlzwrite.com! We’re so glad you stopped by. We invite you to pour your favorite beverage and have a look around at our new design, which includes better mobile access, snazzy graphics, and more information about our authors and their books.

You’ll find our new schedule below, including our Temptation Tuesdays, featuring every kind of temptation imaginable. The first couple of Temptation Tuesdays will be this announcement (Ta Dah!) and a Moonlight & Magnolias wrap up, but after that…well, you’ll just have to wait and see! ;) We look forward to blogging with our newest Bad Girlz and talking with you guys, so please don’t be shy. Comment, subscribe or drop us a note. Bad Girlz love to chat!

A special thank you goes out to Jeanette Grey and Brighton Walsh for all of their hard work on our fabulous new website. Snaps to you, ladies!

Week 1

Tuesday: Temptation Tuesday

Thursday: Heather McGovern

Week 2

Tuesday: Brighton Walsh

Thursday: Jenna Patrick

Week 3

Tuesday: Elizabeth Michels

Thursday: Lori Waters

Week 4

Tuesday: Frances Fowlkes

Thursday: Sydney Carroll

Week 5

Tuesday: Jeanette Grey

Thursday: Laura Trentham

In addition to welcoming our new bad girlz and highlighting our new look, we’re also celebrating our two year anniversary! All month long, we’ll be sponsoring giveaways, starting right now.

To enter for a chance at a $15 gift card to your choice of either Barnes & Noble or Amazon, follow the Bad Girlz on Twitter, and leave a comment letting us know what you think of our new look. The giveaway will run for a week, and we’ll announce the winner here on our blog.

a Rafflecopter giveaway


McGovy’s Favorite Hero

Deciding on my favorite hero above all others was a grueling task. Ha! Just kidding, it really wasn’t. The grueling part was not making this post a dissertation. :D It was an easy decision, although there is a distinguished list of front runners, not a few of which are played by Harrison Ford. What is up with that? Indiana Jones, Han Solo, Steve Rogers, Jack Ryan, Wolverine, Bucky Barnes (duh) – all of them make me seal clap, but there is no one in the galaxy like

James Tiberius Kirk

james t

This is where you act surprised at my choice, even more surprised that it involves Star Trek and Chris Pine. Go on. Be shocked. I’ll wait…

kirk in chair

MmmHmm. That’s right. You sit in that chair.

When I say Kirk is my fave, I’m referring to TOS Kirk (The Original Series for any neophytes) AND AOS (Alternate Original Series) Kirk. I love them both. The biggest difference between the two is reboot!Kirk is more openly conflicted, suffers from abandonment issues, is damaged and insecure. My complaints about the rebooted character have everything to do with the movie’s writing and nothing to do with the character itself. I’ll defend Jim Kirk to the end of the star system and save my fangirl rant for later.

Luckily, the character issues in the new movies are assuaged – for me at least – because he’s played by this guy:



The only reason the man can get away with those eyebrows is because his eyes are like KAPOW! BAH-LUE!

Ok. Shake it off. NOW, on to the major points of…

Why James T. Kirk Is So Awesome


What You Think You Know About Captain Kirk, But Really It’s a Misconception Perpetrated by People Who Never Watched The Show and They’re Wrong

First, James T. Kirk is the awesomest of awesome heroes because:

  • He’s a leader who respects his position. He’s open minded, quick witted and compassionate. He does his best to help those who need it and is often the most patient senior officer on the Enterprise. He’s not just a leader; he’s a damn great one. He listens to those around him, heeds their input and learns from them. He’s not afraid to take chances, do the grunt work and give credit where it’s due. He’s considered one of the greatest captains in Starfleet’s history and there’s a reason. He kicks ass at his job!
  • He’s extraordinarily brave, sometimes brazen and always bold. Hello, the entire franchise is based on him and his crew boldly going, but if you really think about it, they are BOLDLY going. They take off into uncharted space, very little clue what they might find and all sorts of life forms out there. His thoughts on it? “You know the greatest danger facing us is ourselves, an irrational fear of the unknown. But there’s no such thing as the unknown– only things temporarily hidden, temporarily not understood.”
  • He’s smart. Scratch that, he’s a genius. He’s a driven, handsome, brilliant captain of a starship who believes in what he’s doing and believes in those around him. That is so hot and I’m not even sorry.



  • He’s no stranger to adversity and the strength of will it takes to survive. Whether we’re talking about living through the genocide on Tarsus IV (TOS) or growing up in an abusive home (AOS), Jim Kirk is a survivor. He’s also a bonafide optimist and in this era of angry, resentful heroes, he’s like sunshine on a cold day. He’s not some molly-coddled male who’s had everything handed to him, nor is he holed up in a dark corner, bemoaning his past and succumbing to his man pain. Jim Kirk worked hard for everything he has and he strives every day to make sure he deserves to be called Captain.
  • He loves his crew. They are his friends and family and he wouldn’t be Captain Kirk without them. He knows he’s been saved from catastrophe because of Lt. Uhura. He’s alive because of Dr. McCoy. The Enterprise isn’t a pile of ashes because of Scotty and you really don’t want to get me started on Spock. Really. You don’t. His Starfleet family and the Enterprise mean everything to Kirk and, for them, he’s willing to risk his life. Like, all the damn time.



What people get wrong about Captain Kirk and it drives me crazy:

  • Jim Kirk is NOT a womanizer. I don’t care what you think you’ve heard or seen, the man isn’t a skirt chaser. Don’t believe me? Watch the show. Sure, Kirk flirts a lot, but Kirk flirts with EVERYONE. He’s one of those people who can’t help but flirt as a way of communicating. Women, Men, Aliens, Flowers, Whatever. He grins, bats his lashes, gazes with starry eyes, teases, jokes, pouts and wears tight pants. I know a lot of this came from Shatner’s interpretation of the character, but now it’s canon.

Yes, Kirk kissed a lot of females on his five year mission, but a) it was only about 10 women in 5 years, most of which while he was possessed or drugged, a few others he kissed as a maneuver to gain intel or save his ship, and a select 2 or 3 were women he genuinely liked and kissed out of attraction. b) None of the women he willingly kissed were part of his crew. James T don’t play like that. Remember what I said about being a kick ass captain? Responsiblity of rank is part of that.

This is where the reboot went wrong. They took one of Kirk’s greatest attributes and screwed it up royal. In both reboot movies we see Kirk ogling fellow cadets and even a science officer in her undies. No. Just…NO. Jim Kirk would NEVER. There are entire blog posts out there about Kirk’s position as a feminist. If you doubt it, google it…or watch the show. He’s an officer and a gentleman and a feminist and Abrams et al should pay for the err of their ways and beg Starfleet Command for their forgiveness. (I’ll stop here or the fangirl fury will fly free. *deep breath*)


  • Kirk is not some blow-hard, hot head who goes in, photons blazing, firing torpedoes first and asking questions later. I don’t even know where this Chuck Norris style stereotype came from. Maybe because he got into some fisticuffs? Because boy got swagger? True, Jim will throw down if some down needs to be thrown, and true, he seems to enjoy a good wrestle (some occasions more than others *cough* not gonna say it *cough*) and getting his shirt torn, but he’s not an inherently violent character. His enthusiasm seems to stem from too much energy; an exuberance like “Yes! There shall be physical activity!” versus actual angry fighting.

“Our missions are peaceful…not for conquest. When we do battle, it is only because we have no choice.”

“[War] is instinctive. But the instinct can be fought. We’re human beings with the blood of a million savage years on our hands. But we can stop it. We can admit that we’re killers…but we’re not going to kill today. That’s all it takes. Knowing that we’re not going to kill today.”

This seems like as good a place as any to stop because we all know I could keep going. I’ll wrap up by saying: Star Trek! There’s a reason it’s a cultural phenomenon. Live Long and Prosper, y’all!

jtk awesome1

jtk poster2


You Will Be Missed



Today I honor the life of one of my favorite Bad Girlz—Lauren Bacall. I can’t tell you everything about her amazing life in this blog, but I can touch on a few high-lights.

She was born Betty Joan Perske in the Bronx of New York on September 16th.Coincidentally, we share the same birthday. I won’t say the year. :)

Even though Lauren Bacall was absolutely gorgeous, she wasn’t exempt from insecurities. She felt her chest was too flat, her height too tall and was extremely self-conscious of her shoe size. However, she didn’t let her insecurities stop her from achieving her dreams.

At seventeen, she took acting lessons at the American Academy of Dramatic Arts. One of her classmates, Kirk Douglas, eventually became a co-star. Small world, right?

As a teenage fashion model, she was featured in Vogue and graced the cover of Harpers Bazaar. Her issue was referred to as “Iconic.” That cover would ultimately lead to her big break into Hollywood. Nancy Hawks showed the picture to her husband, Howard. He decided to have his secretary put Lauren on his girl-to-watch list.  (Way to go Nancy!)

lb harpers

Fortunately for us, his secretary misunderstood and sent Lauren a ticket to Hollywood for a screen test instead. (Thank you Secretary!) After that test, Hawks recognized her talent and signed Lauren to a seven year contract.

Lauren Bacall was famous for her husky voice and stylish grace. Interestingly enough, she was trained by a voice coach to make her voice even lower, deeper, sexier. Her signature move of holding her chin down and eyes up, came from a drastic attempt to keep her head from shaking with nerves.

At nineteen, she was cast in the movie To Have or Have Not, where she fell hard for her leading man, Humphrey Bogart. They were married a year later when she was only 20. Bogart 45. Lauren didn’t let a 25 year age difference keep her from true love. (You go Bad Girl.) They were blissfully happy until death did them part, when her “Bogie” died of cancer in 1957.

lb hb

“I was so blinded by Bogie, I couldn’t think of anything else.”

Lauren had a reputation in Hollywood as being difficult.  Do you know why? Because she only took parts she considered interesting. I wouldn’t call that difficult. I would call that standing up for what you believe in.

She co-starred with some of the greats: Kirk Douglas, Betty Grable, Marilyn Monroe, Gary Cooper, Doris Day, Rock Hudson, the man himself—John Wayne. And the list goes on and on.

The Big Sleep, Key Largo, Murder on the Orient Express, The Mirror Has Two Faces, How to Marry a Millionaire (Love this one!) were only a few of the movies she’d starred in.

Lauren was also known for her quotes. Below are a few of my favorites:

“I think your whole life shows in your face and you should be proud of that.”

“Imagination is the highest kite that can fly.”

“You don’t always win your battles, but it’s good to know you fought.”

Who can forget her most famous movie line?  “You know how to whistle don’t you? You just put your lips together and blow.”

Lauren was truly an Icon on the Silver Screen and off, known for her strength, beauty and talent. She wasn’t scared to speak her mind, and her passion for life was never ending. That’s why I’m honored to have her as my guest Bad Girl today.

Thank you Lauren Bacall for your tremendous contribution to the Golden Age of Hollywood.  Lucky for us, we can watch your movies for years to come.

Remember to Dream Big!



End of Summer Inspiration

“If you’re going through hell, keep going.” – Winston Churchill


It’s the last week of summer vacation at my house, and I’ve spent the past few days purchasing everything my little monkey will need for school this year. The pencils are sorted, his clothes are folded, and his new backpack is hanging on the back of the chair at the new desk in his bedroom. With this level of organization and preparedness, I can’t help but remember this time last year.

Last August, I was going through a rough patch on all levels of my life. I was struggling to complete and turn in HOW TO LOSE A LORD IN 10 DAYS OR LESS on time to my new editor. We were moving to a house on the other side of the city, a house that required a massive renovation before we could live there. The little monkey was already late starting school, and that was before the house flooded on move-in day. Then, he was extremely late to school. There was a constant stream of misfortune that followed my family for months.

flood pic 1


But, then something happened—we survived it. The house became more and more habitable every day. The little monkey finally started school. I turned in my book. And, everything else in our lives slowly fell into place. It was a struggle, but with small steps in the right direction, we crawled out of the pit we’d fallen into.


Why am I telling this story other than I’m feeling nostalgic today? Because bad days happen. Sometimes bad weeks, bad months, or even bad years happen. There are times when life is nothing but a pile of roadblocks to our goals, but I think the bad is balanced by good if you’re willing to fight to reach for it.

Whether your roadblocks look like form rejections from agents, sales numbers of your latest release, the word count of your manuscript, a stack of bills to pay, a house to renovate, or the number on the scale in your bathroom floor, you can overcome it through small steps every day in the right direction.

I’ve spent the past year putting my life, and my house, together after disaster. And today, I’m celebrating progress, not completion of my goals, but progress.
My little boy is about to start school—on time and prepared.
I’m back on the treadmill attempting to shed the pounds I acquired since the great flood of 2013.
My first 3 books are on book shelves, and I was able to sign them for the first time at RWA.
My fabulous agent just sold my new series, The Spare Gentlemen’s Society, to Sourcebooks in a 4 book deal!
…Do you like how I slipped that in there like the fourth item on a grocery list? *grins* With this great news, I now have a new mountain to climb—a 4 book mountain! And, I’ll climb it one word at a time, one step at a time, and one day at a time.

My small daily steps toward my new goals include walking 2 miles and writing 1,000 words every day for the next year. Keep me honest, Bad Girlz, alright? Whatever your goal, you can reach it! Even if by the end of your journey your hands look like this. It’s just an excuse for a spa day.


What small step toward your goal are you taking every day? Let’s celebrate progress!

~E. Michels



The Perfect Polish

bar keeper's friendWith what I’m about to say here, I risk looking pathetic, but I’ll take that risk….Bar Keeper’s Friend has changed my life! It’s the best cleaner, like ever! It whitens my sink even better than bleach, yet it’s gentle, simple, and cheap. And hey, any friend of a barkeeper is a friend of mine.

So I’ve found my perfect polish, literally speaking, and it just so happens that I’ve got a go-to metaphorical polish for my manuscripts, too. Just like Bar Keeper’s Friend, it’s simple, effective, and cheap. And also like my new favorite product, it’s no big secret. In my opinion, the single best tool to polish a manuscript is reading it aloud.
That’s no earth-shattering advice, I know. Lots of people use this technique. Lots of people think they use it, too, yet don’t see the benefit. Here’s the thing: it does work. It’s the Bar Keeper’s Friend of editing: but you’ve got to commit to it.

Why do I think reading a manuscript aloud is so valuable that it earns comparison with the incomparable Bar Keeper’s Friend? Because it will help you address all sorts of nebulous things that make the difference between an okay manuscript and one that a reader, editor, or agent can’t put down. Stuff that’s hard to quantify, but obvious when it’s right…or “off.” Stuff that makes an apprehensive author break out in hives at the thought of a contest judge holding our precious three chapters, red pen poised for attack. Stuff like:

  • Does the dialog sound real?
  • Am I over-using certain words?
  • Do my sentences have a sense of flow?
  • Does my pace feel right for the story?
  • Are there any parts that are….for lack of a better word, cringe-y?

It even helps with more cut-and-dried editing tasks like proper word choice (think two/too, peer/pier, etc.) and transposing errors (form/from, sign/sing) that Spell Check won’t catch. Your word processing program’s Find and Replace function is good for picking out “ tic” words that you know you overuse, like just, that, and was, but reading aloud is the only way to find the ones you didn’t notice. For example, I once repeated the word “dock” three times in a single paragraph. In my defense, it was a nautical setting. Point is, I had no idea they were there until I read it aloud… after submitting it to an agent who requested a partial based on my query. Oops!

Reading aloud activates additional areas of the brain that silent reading doesn’t. In effect, it gives us that much-needed “fresh set of eyes” within ourselves—and that’s a great thing, indeed when a critique partner isn’t available.

I’m not going to lie—it’s a long, tiring process to read an entire 85,000 word manuscript out loud, and if you really want it to work, you can’t skim over anything. But if you’re going to do it, you really need to do the whole thing. Going through until the end will help you make sure your writing doesn’t weaken after those first crucial chapters. If I’m not constrained by a deadline, I do 2-3 chapters in a day. Reading your own writing aloud is also awkward. If there are other people in the house, I feel like a first-class dork. But whatever, my family already knows I’m a weirdo, so I don’t let it bother me too much. As for the sex parts…. an empty room is a necessity. Then again, it could be just the thing to spice up your relationship—no judgment, here!

Whether you read from your screen or from a printed copy is a matter of personal preference. I find I read more thoroughly when my words are on a physical page, and I write notes as I go, to edit later. But if printing out a 300 word manuscript makes your printer sound like a cross between an early Kraftwerk record and an overworked breast pump, in-screen reading is probably the way to go.

Reading aloud to edit a manuscript isn’t particularly exciting, and it’s certainly not new, but it totally works. It’s the secret ingredient in Author’s Friend…the perfect way to get your manuscript perfectly polished!

Happy writing,


Congratulations, Laura!

lauramojitoCongratulations to newly minted BadGirl Ms. Laura Trentham on signing a three book deal with St. Martin’s Press! We can’t wait to read your football-themed contemporaries.

(The author of this post has no idea if this is relevant to Laura’s books or not,
but thought it was worth including regardless. For reasons.)

Go, Laura!

1 Comment

%d bloggers like this: