Susan Spess Shay

Still playing make believe.


Wonder Weekend

I spent the weekend with my sisters and we had a fantastic time! Not the Spess Girls, though. The RWI girls.

Our motley crew.

Shirts say, “Smart Women Read Romance . . . I write it.” 🙂

You could call us the S Troop.

This is a Smart, Savvy, Supportive group of women. And get this–out of the 14 pictured, nine are published in romance.

I’ll name them so you’ll know whose books to look for. (The published members are in bold, the soon-to-be published in regular.)

From left to right–Me, Kt Somerville, Jackie Kramer, Lynn Somerville, Linda Trout and Peggy Fielding.

Back row, left to right– Jan Warren, Kathlyn Smith, Jennifer Adolph, Marilyn Pappano, Kathleen Y’barbo, Jackie King, Marion Grace and Holly Bazan.

Of the five ladies who aren’t published, I’m sure it won’t be long before they are. So keep their names in mind, too. 🙂

I learned a ton this weekend, and the funny part is, I learn as much from the unpubbed members are I do the published ones. It’s a wonderful group of women to be part of.

But any time I do something like spend time with my girls, I miss something else. This weekend, I missed the arrival of Dad’s one-day-old chicks.

I hated missing the big day after all the excitement of preparation for them. Naturally I asked for pictures.

 Aren’t just-out-of-the-shell chicks cute? Makes me want to cuddle one or two while I can–before they can peck my eyes out. LOL.

Their enclosure is round to keep them from piling up in the corners and smothering each other. There are pebbles in the water to make it shallow, so the babies can’t fall in and drown.

I’m looking forward to seeing these little guys in person soon. And to eating their eggs. I wonder how long it’ll be before they’re mature enough to lay? Which one will mature first? Are the non-producing chicks jealous when one starts to produce?

I don’t know.

Are non-published writers jealous when others publish? That depends on the unpubbed writer. Over the years, I have seen some that are.

In our group, though, the answer is no. (Well, good jealous, maybe, but not the ugly kind.)

Why? Because the professionals in our crew will work nearly as hard to help the others as she does on her own stuff.

And that’s a pretty nice group to be part of. BTW: Marilyn has a new book available. Check it out!

 Order Marilyn Pappano’s newest book now!


Plethora Cringe

Let me preface today’s post by telling you it’s written tongue-in-cheek. (Since I’m writing this instead of speaking about it, would that be thumb-in-cheek?) Although the word makes me cringe, I promise I won’t pummel anyone who uses it. Very much.

There are few words I won’t use when writing (if I can help it.) Most of them are vulgar.

Today’s word, though, isn’t vulgar. At least a vulgar word has its uses–to shock or startle the reader or to show the character of the person using the word.

Today’s word is just useless. I mean, come on. It’s a stupid word. Okay, maybe not a stupid word, but an unnecessary one.

Today’s word? Plethora. (Bet you saw that one coming.)

According to–

noun–overabundance; excess: a plethora of advice and a paucity of assistance.

There are tons of much better words to use instead of plethora. Try deluge, flood, glut, many, much, overabundance, overflow, overkill, overmuch, plenty, profusion, superabundance, superfluity, surfeit or surplus.

Usually “a lot” will do the trick.

Yeah, yeah, I know. There’s an unwritten law that says all newby writers must use plethora somewhere in their work. Even if it’s never published. Even if it causes critique partners to scream and run the other way. Even if it makes the hair stand up on my neck and my ears bleed.

Much to my shame, I have used it myself, in one of my first manuscripts. (Hangs head.) I had my heroine, whose name I can’t remember, walk into a house, look around and see a plethora of doilies.

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Writing About Writing

Today, I’m over at Writingsluts (one of the Small Town Worlds in my life) writing about something that filled my writer’s well, and how I write a super-short-blurb thingy, such as you’d use in a query letter to an agent or publisher.

If you’re interested in writing fiction, you’ll probably have to write a query letter someday. Unless you self-publish, then you wouldn’t have to because you’d be querying yourself. 🙂

So if you want to see how I come up with a shorty synopsis or if you’d like to see how I’d write a vampire story (which I won’t be doing in the foreseeable future) come on over here.

And please, say hello while you’re there. It’s all good fun!


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! (


Writers’ Retreat

The Four-spotted Skimmer or Four-spotted Chase...

Image via Wikipedia

My writers’ group and the venerable Ms. Jean Brashear  (romance writer extraordinaire) went on a retreat over the weekend at Meadowlake Ranch near Sand Springs, OK, and guess what! I found a new Small Town World!

Funny how that happens, isn’t it? 🙂

I got to the ranch at about 5:00 and went with the others who were there to check out the cabins. Being a person who doesn’t sleep much (especially when I’m in a strange bed) I chose a cabin with a place where I could get up early and not disturb anyone. (Outside, on the patio next to a pond, I had time to spend with the Lord each morning.)

I roomed with our queen mentor, Marilyn Pappano, and the very soon to be published, Lynn Somerville. Now that’s an entertaining pair! I’d hoped for a little snoring (I find listening to snoring relaxing) but both ofo them slept with hardly a snort. 🙂  

We had wonderful food, great fellowship and a speaker–Jean Brashear–who gave us the benefit of the knowledge she’s acquired during her wonderful career.

I was blown away at the preparation she’d done for our little retreat. Her handouts were great, but her patience, knowledge and willingness to share with us was unbelievable. From the bottom of my heart, Thank you, Jean!

There were miles of trails to tramp, the air was cool but not cold, and we had a great time hanging with our sisters.

We met a mom and her daughter, who were staying in the teepees,

who’d come just to have time together without TV. They took hay rides, gathered eggs from the hen house, rode horses and had a great time.

At the end of the retreat, we had some very exciting, nearly unbelievable, news. But I’ll save that until tomorrow. 🙂 (I’m not being coy. I just need to take my time when I tell you about it.)

So when was the last time you took a weekend for yourself to refresh and renew? If you retreat from life once in a while, share!   




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. 🙂