Susan Spess Shay

Still playing make believe.


The Secret to Success

Pacejka Magic Formula Curve

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Today is my Romance Writers Ink meeting. First one of the year! Chuck Sasser is our speaker (thanks Linda T for asking him!) and I can’t wait to hear his program.

I look forward each month to our meeting. Love those women at RWI! When we’re all talking about what’s going on in the writing world, the noise level can get a little loud.

That’s a good thing!

I can’t wait to catch up.

I try to be encouraging to the newer members. Especially those who’ve submitted to critique. It’s hard to put your work out there. You have to let others, who may not know as much as you, tell you what’s wrong with it without arguing. And they’re usually right. Ouch!

Then you have to smile and say thanks!

Writing isn’t easy, even though everyone who made it through first grade can do it. To be a real writer you have to work at it a lot! (I do, anyway.)

I’ve noticed over the years how easy it is for people to get discouraged and quit.

Many who join a writers’ group tend to think they’ve got writing figured out. Most of them know way more than I did when I started! (Probably more than I do now. LOL)

But there’s more to it than just getting the grammar right or getting a story on paper. There’s no magic formula, no matter what the big boys say.

For most of us, it’s not something you can toss off on a weekend and send out in the mail on Monday morning to make a truck load of money. (Although you’ll hear stories about “my friend who did.”)

Very few people get rich writing, but there are those who make a nice living. Not a lot, but some. 🙂

I know the secret to success. (In addition to learning all you can and putting yourself in the best position you can.) Whether you want to be a writer, an artist or even a dentist.

Here’s the secret:

Keeptoitness. (Yep, that’s a Susan word.)

The-little-engine-that-could action. Tenacity. The ability to keep working at something, even when you’ve failed again and again, and you don’t know why you have to keep trying.

But you do. You have to. And you will.

If the writing is honest it cannot be separated from the man who wrote it. — Tennessee Williams 


Killer Christmas Party

I’m always so excited about my writers’ group’s Christmas party. I’m a member of Romance Writers Ink; we meet on the 2nd Saturday of each month. Usually at OSU-Tulsa.

On the 2nd Saturday of December, though, we meet at our VP, Kathlyn Smith’s house. The place is beautiful (I’ve offered to move in, but she hasn’t taken me up on the offer) and is right on a golf course. (I’d even learn to play golf if that was a requirement.)

Since C-Town is west of T-Town, I live as opposite of Kathlyn as I possibly can. My excitement builds the whole way in.

This year I got up early, as usual, but instead of blogging or writing, I made Cashew Caramel Corn as my offering for the party. My ornaments for the Dirty Santa game were wrapped. (I took two cute sparkly balls from Celebrations. One said, “Naughty,” the other said, “Nice.”)

I was ready to go!

So I headed to T-Town and everything was fine. We had a great meal. (In case you haven’t heard, writers are wonderful cooks!) We feasted on fantastic desserts. (Baklava! Peach Cobbler! Yummy!!!)

We chatted a lot. Anytime you’re with a group of like-minded people, don’t you have a ton to talk about? Writers are no exception. We talked. And talked.

And we have a new member I’d never met (Hi other Susan!) so I got to know her  a little bit.

Marilyn and I found a prime place to sit near the wrapped ornaments and were catching up a little bit, when it hit me. Hard.

The super-duper monster stomach virus. ♫♪ Duh! Duh! Duuuuuhm! ♫♪ (That’s scary music.)

And, man. I hate that. Heavy-duty antibiotics + a 24 hour virus = disaster.

So for the rest of the party, I was, well, indisposed. 😛

Finally I lifted my head enough to realize I was holding up the party, so I sent Marilyn a text message to play Dirty Santa for me.

As soon as I stopped hyperventilating and thought I had a window of opportunity big enough to make it all the way home, I hit the road. I zig-zagged across T-Town (don’t you love the road work going on?) and by the time I hit 412, I was flying. (Either the men with badges were having a Christmas Party, too, or I was plain lucky.)

After driving for what seemed like nine years and six months, I pulled into my driveway and jumped out of my car (kind of like a calf roper gets off his horse while it’s skidding to a stop) and dashed for the house. I made it to, but just in the nick of time.

I have my fingers crossed that my prob was caused totally by the antibiotic and wasn’t an “I- wanna-go-to-her-house-too” illness, because I do not want to face a bunch of irritated writers at the next meeting if I gifted them with that.



Contest Winners!

A couple of days ago, I promised you some exciting news. Today, I can share it with you!

A few months ago, I entered my WIP (work in progress) in my chapter’s unpublished contest. I’m published, but the rules allowed me to enter in a category in which I haven’t published. So I did. 🙂

My story is Christian Women’s Fiction. I’m new at writing it and since my fantastic critique partners don’t read a lot of it, I thought this would be a good way to get some feedback. And (fingers crossed) get the story out of the slush pile and into an editor’s hands.

While we were at the romance writers retreat, the contest’s finalists were announced.



Wherever You Roam by Kimberly Keys
Lady Catherine’s Secret by Sheridan Edmondson
The Madonna of Pisano by MaryAnn Diorio


Deception by Jennifer Beane
Don’t Look by Susanne Frost
Legally Mastered by Sarah Rose Ahmad


Silk by Louise Cusack
Dark Bringer by Brenda Nelson-Davis
* The Hunt for Home by Lorenda Christensen *


Medusa, A Love Story by Sasha Summers
Precious Jewels by Mary Behre
* Tears of the Sun by Jackie Kramer *


* The Slipper Fits by Sandra Wagner *
* Sex, Lies and Apple Pie by Lynn Somerville *
* The Last Refuge by Kathy Hix *


A Little Bit Crazy by Faye Hughes
Balancing Act by Pamela Gibson
Captivating Ella by Jennie Jones


Love in Bitterroot Valley by Jessica Keller
Built to Last by Sherri G. Early
* Dragonfly by Susan Shay *

 * Denotes RWI Member *

Did you make it all the way to the end? That’s my story. Dragonfly. (WOOHOO!)

BTW: RWI has one hard and fast rule, which has no exceptions. One member of RWI cannot judge another member’s entry. That way we protect ourselves against whispers that we might be less than honest.

You know, though, that everyone who entered is a winner. They got three (at least) great critiques of their work. They got their toe wet in the submission pool. And they started toughening their hide for a future in the publishing world, which just about any writer will tell you ain’t easy.

So congratulations to everyone who entered! And best of luck to all who finalled. We’re all winners!

  • Retreat! (


Almost There!

The title really ought to be, “MADE IT!!!”

I finished judging my last (I hope) contest entry in Where the Magic Begins! The Romance Writers Ink contest for unpublished writers.

I’ve probably told you more about it than you wanted to hear, but we’re almost at the end. Everyone on the committee judged at least twice as many entries as most people who pitched in to help out. I had 11 or 12, a couple of category judges had one or two more than I did, and Sandee had (at least) nineteen!

Sandee is a big reader and a wonderful judge. We don’t put our names on the entries we judge, but I truly hope the people who entered appreciate the judges.

It’s hard work. We do our best to critique these entries so they can be fixed and sell ASAP.

All the members of RWI are actively trying to sell our manuscripts, so we know exactly what it’s like to put your heart in a book. Get up early. Stay up late. Take time from your family or your knitting or other interests to tell that story.

And when that story comes to The End, we start all over with a new story, whether the last one has sold or not.

That might sound like the definition of insanity, but there are thousands of women all over America (all over the world!) who are doing the same thing.

Some are succeeding.

Sometimes our comments might seem harsh, but we work to keep that from happening. Any criticism of our babies hurts, and just like when our children have to be disciplined, it only makes them better.

We want to be a stepping stone on the way to success.

I truly hope we are!



The Magic Has Begun!

I feel like a swimmer who’s been underwater for too long. You know that feeling? Lungs burning, muscles tiring, brain thinking only one thing–I’ve got to reach the surface!

You keep straining and kicking and pulling the water behind you. You can make it. You have to make it. You don’t have a choice except to make it or . . .

Finally, you do! You break through to the air, gasp a long, loud lungful, and boy! Is it sweet.

You might have heard that long, loud lungful come from my part of Okie-Land yesterday morning. (Late yesterday morning.)

I finally finished my portion of our contest. WOOHOO!!! (Except for actually judging, that is.)

My romance writers group is hosting a contest right now (Where the Magic Begins) and, like a glutton for punishment, I volunteered to be the judge coordinator. JC isn’t such a hard job if someone hands you all the judges. That’s rare, though.

We started this contest to help other unpublished romance writers get published. When I first started writing, I had very little contact with other writers. No critique group. Nobody to say, “You’re doing this right. You should do this better.” So I entered a contest. I knew I wouldn’t win, but I wanted feedback. I was desperate for it.

Entering a contest was a good idea, but that was the wrong contest. (A little research would have helped.) In that particular contest, there’s one judge per category. So if there’s 50 entries, that one person judges them all.

That’s too much work for one person. My entry didn’t get good scores. In fact, the woman who judged it didn’t even finish filling out the score sheet. Instead, she wrote a note that said she didn’t think I had what it takes to finish that book. (A not-too-nice way of saying it was bad.)

So when my writer’s group talked about starting a contest for unpublished writers, I was all for it.

I wanted us to be there for other writers. I wanted to be able to lend a hand–help someone else God had given the craving to write. So I helped carve out the rules.

In our contest, judges must make comments on the manuscript as well as on the score sheet, which is keyed for the specific category, telling the entrant what’s right as well as what’s wrong with their twenty-five pages.

We insist each entrant receive good advice. (I was shocked when I learned that many long-time-regularly-published authors give bad advice in hopes of discouraging those they view as competition.)

Why? I don’t know. I figure if the book I write is good enough, an editor will make a spot for it if she has to. If it’s not, I probably don’t want my name on it anyway. Ü

We have a lot of entries in our contest. (More every year.) And finding judges for it isn’t easy. (Guessing how many you’ll need is even harder.) I finally came up with a math formula to help me.

Each entry (X is the number of entries) gets three judges (Y). Each judge can do around 5 or 6 entries. X times Y divided by 5= the number of judges I needed.

Example: Say I had twenty entries in Single Title. 20 x 3=60/5=12. I’d need twelve judges for that category.

A little daunting for me when I looked at the entire contest. But at least I’m ready for next year. I have my formula. I’m going to ask my chapter for more help getting judges from the very beginning instead of yelling “calf rope” toward the end.

The best part is I’ve met so many NICE women who, even though they already have a “name” and are on deadline, are willing to lend a hand.

That might just be the reason I’m going to volunteer to do it again next year. Maybe.

Or I might just be a glutton for punishment. 🙂

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Dis’n and Dat’n

Sarah Barrett Moulton: “Pinkie” by Thomas Lawr...
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This Morning’s Storm

I got up before the storm hit this morning, and I was pleasantly surprised when it happened. Molly, being the storm quaker she is, was a little anxious. She’s not the rain lover that my baby boy and I are.


Since my pinkie problem, I haven’t filled my hummer feeders. I was afraid I’d crank down and rupture my other pinkie tendon.

Two gilflirted pinkies aren’t what I had in mind when I thought about what I’d wear to my middle son’s wedding next month. I’m still trying to think of a way to decorate the first messed up finger.

I’m considering feathers. Or maybe I’ll go all out and cover it with bling.

Hummer Feeders

I finally got brave and talked G-Man into helping me fill the feeders. I was afraid the hummers had given up and gone looking for greener–or sweeter–pastures.

Happily, the birds don’t hold a grudge. I spied one during the storm this morning. (No storm quakers in the hummingbirds’ camp.)

SSMT #12

So I’m a day late for my SSMT. Finally found the one that felt right. Col. 3:3. Look it up and tell me what you think. Could you use that scripture if you had it written on your heart?

BTW: Beth Moore invited people to come over and read the comments on her blog from the SSMTers. This time we were suppose to post our verse and tell what God’s done in our lives since we started memorizing.

Go ahead. She has some real blessings from God to share. Living Proof Blog.

Here’s a picture of Beth from her website. If you look closely, I think you’ll see Jesus.


The Lists

Cover of "The Help"

Cover of The Help

A few years ago, my brother (who, simply put, is a Man of God) mentioned that he keeps a prayer list, which he uses when he’s having his morning worship time. The only trouble with that is, he said, it keeps getting longer and longer because he couldn’t take anyone he’d prayed for off his list. Once he prayed for someone he always prayed for that person.

Have you read THE HELP by Katheryn Stockett? Great book, and in August, it’ll be a movie. (I hope it’s half as good as the book.)

It’s set in the south and is about black/white relationships in 1962 Mississippi. When you read The Help, you experience the emotions that both the black and white women experience.

An eye-opening book. What impressed me most was Aibileen. (From Kathryn’s website)

Aibileen is a black maid, a wise, regal woman raising her seventeenth white child. Something has shifted inside her after the loss of her own son, who died while his bosses looked the other way. She is devoted to the little girl she looks after, though she knows both their hearts may be broken.

But that’s not what impressed me. In the book, Aibileen writes out her prayers. And everyone in the black community knows that when Aibileen writes out a prayer, God listens.

When I read THE HELP, I kept thinking about Jeffrey and his list.  

Then I downloaded The Inheritance from Living Proof Ministries (Beth Moore). It’s a recording of a weekly Bible Study Beth taught weekly in Houston, Texas. One of the weeks she say to the women, “I wish you could see my prayer journal, Siestas. You’re all over it.”

(BTW: I downloaded the MP3s, not the DVD. They’re $4 each–$36.

All three of these people are powerful prayer warriors. (Okay, Aibileen is a fictional prayer warrior, but I have a feeling she’s modeled after someone real.)

Is there a connection between prayer and writing? I know it’s not a magic bullet, but is there something in taking a pen in hand and spelling out your prayers? Is it that, when we write out prayers on paper we also write them on our hearts?

Or is it that when a person cares enough to take the time to write out their prayers, God sees how very sincere they are? 

I don’t know. There’s no commandment that says, “Thou shalt write down your prayers.”

Jesus didn’t have a pad of paper where He wrote out His. But he did take time to get away from the crowd, move away from his apostles, even away from his closest friends and spent several hours in prayer.

Most of us don’t/can’t do that (even His closest couldn’t) but taking time to write out prayers or at least keeping a list of who we’re praying for might just be a step in that direction. A place to pour out our hearts as we speak to Him.

Do you keep a prayer journal or ongoing list of people you’re praying for? Does it make a difference in your prayer life?   

In case you’re wondering, I bought a notebook to use as my prayer journal this year. We’ll see how I do.