Marcia’s Romantically Yours
Issue # 45
marcia king-gamble

Dear Romance Writer,

Spring has sprung and summer is right on its heels. This beautiful weather makes sitting indoors and writing difficult. Getting this newsletter out is a perfect example of procrastinating. When the weather is as lovely as it is there are just too many distractions. Even though I’m known as the mistress of multitasking, and able to juggle several projects simultaneously, writing still becomes difficult when you long to be outside. 

Do you remember how much of a stir December’s “love” theme created? Well guess what? February’s “Romance” theme got even more mail. This time I heard from women all over the country. What I’ve deduced from all this commentary is that men do not necessarily equate love with romance and women clearly do.  Is this a surprise to you?


On a more somber note, a couple of months back, the writing world lost a wonderful novelist. Barbara Parker was an author I respected immensely. Barbara, a former attorney, started off in the romance genre and then quickly switched to mystery writing. She had an uncanny ability to weave an intriguing tale and was an expert at writing from the male point of view. Barbara is best known for her Suspicion series. She earned a spot on the New York Times bestsellers list and had a huge following.  

Last year Barbara was kind enough to grant me an interview. I am running it again to honor her. I also had the pleasure of book signing with Barbara at the Miami Book Fair some time back, and although I had not seen her in quite some time, she was as warm and welcoming as if we’d had lunch the day before.  So here’s to Barbara and may she continue to spin her marvelous tales wherever she is.

I encourage you to visit her site and leave a message on her wall. Log onto and share your memories with her family and fans.

Make this a fun spring!


Marcia King-Gamble
Editor -- Romantically Yours


Tools of the Trade

A writer friend was kind enough to share these helpful sites with me. I am passing them onto you. Secrets should be shared amongst friends.

QueryTracker helps you find a literary agent by using an extensive database and easy to use search tools.

Here’s an overview of what can do for you.  

  • It tracks the overall number of queries sent to each agent and their accept/reject rates.  You can make your own assessment as to which agents are more interested in new authors and which seem to reject everything they receive.
  • You can assess the genre-specific accept/reject history of an agent.
    You’ll see which agents are actively seeking certain genres and this allows you to better target your queries.
  • You can track agent response times. If you note the sent and received dates (for queries and manuscript submissions) you can get an idea of the response time.
  • QueryTracker tracks seasonal data. You’ll see whether certain times of the year are better for some agents and not for others.
  • You’ll get a fee for how individual agents feel about certain book lengths.  Do they prefer long books, short books, or someplace in between.

Agent Query professes to offers the largest, most current searchable database of literary agents on the web. It is a treasure trove of reputable, established literary agents seeking writers.

Agent query has been recognized by Writers Digest four years in a row as one of the best websites for writers.

Absolute Write Water Cooler

Picture standing around a water cooler and listening to the office dirt. It’s the same concept except Absolute Write Water Cooler dishes the dirt on what’s happening in the publishing world. This one is a must access.


Interview with Barbara Parker

Barbara Parker gave me the most memorable interview in March of 2008. One year later this talented mystery author succumbed to a tragic disease. Barbara passed away on Saturday, March 07, 2009, leaving behind a grieving family and many, many distraught fans. Here’s what our local paper, The SunSentinel had to say about one of my favorite authors:

“Barbara Parker started writing an adventure story as a way to amuse her young son and as a break from her career as an attorney. Instead, Parker found a new calling, giving up her law practice to eventually write 12 mystery novels.

Parker, 62, of Lauderdale-by-the-Sea, died Saturday morning surrounded by her family at the Hospice By The Sea in Boca Raton after a long illness.”

Now on to our interview.

RY: Why would a successful prosecutor turn to book writing?

BP: They probably wouldn’t, and neither did I. Doesn’t “success” mean you’re happy at your job? I wasn’t. Actually, by the time I decided to try writing a novel, I had bailed out of the state attorney’s office and was doing general practice law. I didn’t like that much better. The writing life started calling to me, and I was a pushover. “Legal thrillers” were getting popular (thanks to John Grisham), so I said, heck, why not give it a try?

RY: Was switching careers mid-life difficult? How so?

BP: Giving up a paycheck for a hope that maybe it will all work out? That was a real white-knuckle ride. I didn’t really grasp the failure rate for new novelists, so I went for it. I moved to a cheap apartment, shopped at Goodwill, and borrowed money from my relatives. I never allowed myself to think that I wouldn’t sell a book.

RY: Some authors find research tedious but you’ve indicated that’s one aspect of the writing process you like. Why?

BP: Researching is an adventure! When you begin a novel, it takes you to places you’ve never been before. You have an idea what to expect, but you’re always surprised. You’ll interview people in the field you’re writing about, spend hours on the Internet, and buy books or magazines on the topic. I research in two stages. First, before I have a firm concept of the plot, so that new information can make the story more realistic. And second, after I’ve sketched it out, to make sure that all the facts are correct.  The word “tedious” applies to much of the writing process, but it’s part of the job.

RY: Many of my writer friends are introverts and are not good at engaging fans during book signings. You indicate going on tour is an aspect of the business you enjoy. Why?

BP: Well, after months of sitting alone in front of a computer, I like to see real human beings. It’s not that hard to engage readers at book signings if you smile and thank them for coming. Ask where they’re from and if they’ve read any of your other books. If not, or if you need something to fill the time, be ready with one or two interesting facts about your new story. This is where all that research you did comes in handy. Attend other signings and speeches by writers who are good at it, to pick up ideas. The more you do it, the more confident you will be.

RY: Tell us a little about your latest novel, The Perfect Fake. What inspired you to write it?

BP: The idea came from a chance conversation with a woman who collects antique maps. You never know what comes next when you say, “Really? Tell me about it.” She did, and I suddenly knew that a map forgery would make a dandy plot. Of course when you start out, you have no idea how the book will come together, but I talked to collectors, took a tour of the rare map department at the Library of Congress, and found an expert who told me how to forge a copper-plate map. Soon my characters and the story came to life. I had traveled to Italy the year before, so I created an Italian Renaissance map from 1511 and sent my characters over to Europe. While they had fun in the Alps, the Cinque Terre, and Florence, I had to sit at home in front of my computer writing the darn thing.

My next novel, The Dark of Day, will be published in June. The setting is closer to home. Glamorous Miami attorney C. J. Dunn takes a case that puts her squarely in the media spotlight, an uncomfortable place for a woman with too many secrets. I loved hitting the South Beach club scene for the research on this one!

RY: My ex-husband was a huge fan of yours. He thought you were one of the few female authors who wrote a suspenseful book in a voice men could relate to. At the beginning of your career were you tempted to use your initials or assume a male pseudonym?

BP: I never considered that, probably because the protagonist of my mystery series was a woman. Once my name became known, why change it? After two in the series, I wrote two stand-alones with male protagonists, and they did very well. I’ve heard there are men who won’t read a book by a woman, but that’s their loss.

RY: How did the “Suspicion” series get started? Where did the concept come from?

BP: I never intended to write a series. Suspicion of Innocence was designed as a stand-alone novel featuring a woman lawyer accused of murdering her sister—not exactly a series character. After it was published, though, I didn’t know what to do next, so my editor asked me to do another one with the same cast of characters. I think she really wanted more of Anthony Quintana, the romantic interest, and it’s been Anthony who holds readers’ attention, more than Gail Connor. I might go back to the series at some point, but my current publisher wants another stand-alone.

RY: In doing my research, I learned that you started off as a romance novelist and then made the leap over. Is that true?

BP: I tried to be a romance novelist, and my first novel and only novel in that genre, a paperback original, was what used to be called “women’s fiction.”

RY: What made you change direction?

BP: Mystery/suspense is more my thing. I don’t really have the “voice” for romance, and that view of reality—a man and a woman, happy ending—is one that I don’t really share. Life isn’t so neat.

RY: Where do you hope to be career-wise in five years? What plans do you have to get you there?

BP: In five years, I hope to write faster, make my deadlines, and give the reader more streamlined, compelling stories. Mine tend to be too complicated, and I’m always writing too long and going past the deadline. Nowadays the formula for success seems to call for a great website, a blog, a newsletter, maybe a publicist, and as many appearances as you can cram into your schedule. For me, the “secret” to success, if there is one, is just to keep on writing the best book you can, maintain good relations with your editor and agent, and if there’s time, then you do the other stuff too.

RY: Would you recommend a publicist to a newbie? At what stage of your career would you recommend having one? What are the benefits?

BP: If you have a pile of cash, it couldn’t hurt. But that’s not most of us, whether we’re just starting out or more established. The catch is, if you’re unknown, a publicist probably won’t helpthat much. If you’re established, you don’t need one. It’s that area in the middle where a publicist could make the difference. I’ve never used a publicist, but I’ve heard from friends who’ve used them that good publicists know how to get the most from each dollar. They can arrange personal appearances or TV or radio interviews in the right target market. They know where to put ads, and what hand-outs work and which don’t. You can find them on the Internet, I believe, but you should always ask for references and check them out with your friends.

RY: My readers are dog lovers and would like to hear about your pug Max. Tell us about him.

BP: What a little darling. His real name is Maximilian von Mango. It fits a dog who lives in the subtropics, don’t you think? Max is fawn-colored, weighs about 21 pounds, and he just turned nine. His muzzle is getting a little gray, but he’s not slowing down much, just getting more mellow. Pugs are rated as very gentle, non-aggressive dogs. Mine doesn’t bite—but he growls and runs away with his pork chop bone if you pretend you’re going to grab it. He likes to take walks, but pugs don’t tolerate hot weather, so in the summer we go early or late. When I’m working and can’t play with him, Max turns into a couch potato, content to lie down on the rug and take a nap.

RY: What does the future hold for Barbara Parker? Where can we expect to find you signing or presenting a workshop this year?

BP: You’ll find me doing some personal appearances when The Dark of Day comes out. My publisher is going to put together a website,, so keep checking for my schedule. After the book tour, I need to lock myself into my cave and work on the next manuscript. I’m probably going to turn down any requests for workshops this year because my time is so limited, but I might be doing something for SleuthFest 2009.



    Building a Better Novel
    Sponsor: Capital Regional RWA
    Location: Albany, NY
    Date; June 12-13, 2009
    Fee: $85.00-$95.00

    2009 RWA Conference
    Sponsor: RWA
    Location: Marriott Ward Park, Washington, D.C.
    Date: July 15-18, 2009
    Fee: $425-$500 before May 31, 2009

    Moonlight & Magnolias
    Sponsor: Georgia Romance Writers
    Location:  Hilton Atlanta Northeast, Norcross, GA
    Date: October 02-04, 2009



Did You Know?

Harlequin offers a Critique Service for romance writers looking for professional feedback on their manuscript. You can get an impartial critique from people who know what Harlequin and other publishers are looking for. Log on to under “Write” you will find the information about Harlequin’s Critique Service.


Romantically Yours is a FREE monthly newsletter. I would love to hear from you. Please send comments, news, research, or story ideas directly to Marcia King-Gamble at