Sharon's INSPIRATIONAL Short stories of Faith and Romance can be found HERE or visit her
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Thursday, October 22, 2009

Lori Graham stars in One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest

Costumed as the austere Nurse Ratched, Lori Graham walked at a brisk pace toward the Oregon State Hospital. The high-pitched keening of a flute floated through the crisp fall night. An eerie crimson light seeped from the floor of the mental ward, casting willowy shadows on the cracked pavement. A macabre atmosphere shrouded the grounds of the insane asylum, the muffled screams and manic laughter echoing through the hills. The wind rustled through the surrounding oaks, mimicking the hushed whispers of the demented trapped within the walls of the institution.

A little thrill hurled through Lori, knowing in just a few minutes, she’d come face to face with the casting crew of One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest. Getting into the role of the rigid Nurse Ratched, a strong woman with great disdain for her charges, an evil smile curled Lori’s lips. What fun, a Halloween masquerade to commemorate an all star production. The cool breeze rippled through her crisp white uniform as she scurried up the rickety steps to the makeshift hospital. Sucking in her breath, she yanked on the rope to announce her presence, her heart palpitating with eager anticipation.

The heavy mahogany door creaked open with a jarring squeak, rusty hinges groaning in protest. Oliver stood there, portraying the once rambunctious Randle McMurphy. Blood oozed from the scars of his recent lobotomy, madness glinting in his eyes. Strands of red hair spiked upward in wild disarray, a fresh scar across the bridge of his nose. Giving his best Jack Nicholson imitation, he twisted his lips into a cock-eyed smile. “You rang, Nurse Ratched?”

With a wicked wink, Oliver extends his arm, leading Lori down the long, dark corridor to the parlour where the other guests await. The sound track from Thriller filtered through hidden speakers, the chilling lyrics the perfect ambiance. The scent of cranberry candles mingled with the smell of the birch wood log in the hearth. Entering the parlour, there they were in all their glory, the raucous and rowdy inmates of One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest.

Sharon floated about the room, costumed as Nurse Candy, chatting with Chief Bromden, Billy Bibbit, Dr. Stivey, Charles Cheswick and Rub-a-dub George. Martini stood off to the corner, hallucinating. Sharon rushes to greet Lori and the group gathers around the crackling fire.

Sharon: How are you this evening, Lori?

Lori: I am doing well but am a little concerned that I can keep up with the collection of characters gathered here.

Oliver materializes, shuffling his feet, carrying out his role to pure perfection. With a malevolent grin, he hands Nurse Ratched a chocolate martini, his specialty. Then he places a plate of warm tortilla chips and salsa on the table. Never losing eye contact with the nurse of his nightmares, he methodically dips a chip into the dip and feeds it to Lori. “I made this just for you, Nurse Ratched. What do you think?”

Lori: Although I find your offering very kind, a little angel food cake goes much better with a chocolate martini. You do make a fine drink, sir, and in order to properly participate this evening, I may need another.

Sharon: Ah, that can be arranged. That will be all, Oliver. You’re taking your role a little too seriously. Now that we’re all comfy with cocktails and appetizers, let’s chat a bit about who we really are behind our masks. Lori, these are all my friends and they are all wanna be suspense writers. So who better than the senior editor of the Crimson line of The Wild Rose Press to advise them. Can you tell us a little about this genre and what you look for when reviewing a suspense manuscript. What makes your skin tingle when you know you have stumbled upon a thriller?

Lori: There are so many ways to answer this question. First and foremost, I like something that makes me think. But thinking about a manuscript can take several forms. One way is a storyline that is action packed and always moving—maybe terrorists, kidnappers, running from something. Another way is for there to be twists in the plot so that I can’t figure out who did it until the very end. If I can figure out in the first couple of chapters who killed the heroine’s best friend and why, I lose interest.

Sharon: What specific character traits make or break the protagonist, antagonist and villain? What makes each unique?

Lori: Boy, Sharon, you ask some tough questions so I sure hope I do well on this test. J I know it sounds trite but reality is what I look for, especially reality combined with consistency. For example, let’s say the heroine comes across really strong in the beginning, but along the way, she can’t make decisions. That would be a manuscript that doesn’t work for me. I want characters that I feel I understand and can sit down at a table for some real conversation. I don’t want characters that shift from positions of strength to weakness and don’t recover. This does not mean that the heroine can’t be comforted and wrapped in the heroes arms when she discovers the killer has done something unspeakable but she shouldn’t become a whiner. The hero is larger than life. Isn’t it funny how much we expect from our heroes—strong but gentle, funny but serious, aggressive but not... handsome but…well, heck, handsome is a given. As far as the villain…humm, imagine fog. It is there, it is real, it is every changing, it floats, it hides things…that is what the villain needs to be. More than anything though, the characters have to stand up to real life and make me feel something.

Sharon: Good answers. Now I’m sure there are times you get the same old storylines, told over and over with what an author feels is a fresh twist. What is this fresh twist you hope to find in a submission? What haven’t you seen that you would like to see portrayed in a novel?

Lori: You know when I first start as an editor, I used to answer this question. I really don’t any more. I have discovered that every time I put an author in a box, they blow it up. I think there are some old standards that readers will always read because they love them. The trick is to change up the scenery, morph the characters, add a new dimension. With this as well as your characters, go with your gut.

Sharon: I’m all for that! Now The Wild Rose Press only accepts stories with a strong romantic platform. Would you like to see the company segway a bit into some other genres, say mainstream and women’s fiction?

Lori: Truthfully, right now, I think we have our hands full with what we have. I love that so many publishing houses put out every kind of genre there is and maybe someday we will expand to that. We have surpassed so many of our goals that who can say where we will be five years from now. For now though, I want to focus on romance and do it well. I think there are areas of romance left to be tapped and in today’s world, I also believe romance will never die.

Sharon: Amen to that! You know I’ve recently done a blog on Skhye’s Ramblings sharing my research on suspense novels. Thrillers have always been my passion, ever since Alfred Hitchcock Presents, The Twilight Zone and Rod Sterling’s Night Gallery. And who could forget all those classic cozy mysteries as Murder She Wrote, Barnaby Jones, Hawaii Five-O, and Magnum P.I. Now it’s on to Cold Case and CSI. So as a senior editor of a suspense line, I’ll bet you have some memories of old television shows, movies or books that linger in your mind. And if so, which ones and why? Do the feelings they evoke in you influence what you want in a suspense manuscript? There must be something intangible that literally screams off the pages of a good thriller. What is it?

Lori: Oh boy, I don’t have any new ones to add to the list you put up there, except maybe Mannix, Columbo and Kojak. I loved shows like that and am thrilled to have cable TV so that I can find them today. As a little girl, I devoured any book I could get from the library. My favorites were the Nancy Drew mysteries and when I ran out of them, I tried the Hardy Boys. Phyllis Whitney and others soon followed. I am not into the road filled with gore that some thrillers follow because I believe you can do so much more just messing with the mind. I mean come on…if you weren’t sitting on the edge of your seat for Hitchcock’s A Room with A View, you weren’t really watching. No gore, just the anticipation of what might be. From the shows out today, I have to admit I love NCIS.

Sharon: Isn’t that the truth. Who didn’t love Nancy Drew. And I agree. The old suspense scenes in Alfred Hitchcock were so palpable simply by playing on the imagination.

Just then, Oliver pushes out a silver caddy filled with goodies. With a glazed look in his eye, he unveils his culinary delights to Lori with a sweeping bow. Choosing the biggest of the caramel rolls, he feeds it to Lori. “Consider this succulent treat payback for the lobotomy you ordered, Nurse Ratched.”

Lori: Ooo, now caramel goes quite well with chocolate so another one of those martinis if you don’t mind, my dear fellow.

Oliver smiles. But of course. Your wish is my command!

Sharon: All right, Oliver, go shake up another batch of martinis so we can finish chatting with Lori. Maybe she’ll save you a dance later.

Oliver shuffles away, but not before blowing Lori a departing kiss.

(Right back at ya, Oliver.)

Sharon: Did I tell you Oliver is one of the characters in my current project? He seems to be creating quite a stir although all he does is annoy me! So what is your favorite Halloween memory?

Lori: This one isn’t a scary one. One of my very dear neighbor ladies made popcorn balls every Halloween for the town kids. (I come from a very small, rural town.) I used to love to go to her house for cider and a popcorn ball. It became kind of a gathering place for the kids on Halloween. We would play while our parents stood around and talked. I wish times like that could still happen today.
Sharon: Isn’t that the truth. The good old days. And what about decorating. Do you go all out in keeping with the spookiness of the season?

Lori: You know, this is the first year I haven’t. When my kids were around, my house was always decked out for every holiday—from 4th of July to Christmas and everything in between. My two older sons are at college now and my daughter is too cool for things like that. So it just doesn’t seem as fun any more. I imagine those decorations will come out again once I have grandkids but I am hoping that is a ways down the road yet.

Sharon: Well, it’s just about time to mingle and dance and have more of Oliver’s…ah…dare we say treats! But before the dancing begins, I must ask. I adore legends and lore and traditions. I collect them and am very superstitious. Can you share a favorite superstition with me?

Lori: I don’t know that I personally have one. Isn’t that strange…I have never really thought about that before. I remember all the ones when we were kids—step on a crack, break your mother’s back. (Didn’t we all stamp our little hearts out at least once, just to see what would happen?) I love the black cat ones…oh but wait, I have one. I love the ladder ones…wait, I did that over the weekend. Then there’s the salt…oops did that this afternoon. I guess I’m in big trouble.

Oliver grins as he hands Lori a fresh chocolate martini.

Sharon: Do you like to see ancient legends and superstitions work their way into a storyline?

Lori: If it is done well and the author has done the research, yes. I think about anything that is well done can make it into a manuscript. Whether it is a legend or an intimate scene between hero and heroine, don’t just stick it in to say it’s there. Research, know your stuff, build on it.

Sharon: Thank you, Lori. You’ve given us plenty of beneficial information for submitting that suspense novel. Any last words of wisdom? And where can authors submit suspense novels to The Wild Rose Press?

Lori: Don’t be afraid to try something new and give your character’s some room. Just make sure you know what you are talking about. Don’t try to make your hero an agent for the FBI if you don’t know the first thing about the FBI. Have some fun with the learning and give your characters the depth of that knowledge. You will be surprised where they take you.

You can submit through our website. Another word of advice is to always, always check out the submission pages. Every house is different in how they want things submitted and if you follow those guidelines, you will get a much better review of your work. The website is and the email is If you want to ask a question, please don’t hesitate to email me at Keep in mind, I won’t take submissions through that email or even look at a partial but I will answer a question.

Another tidbit…sshhhh…it’s a secret. There will be a special submission call coming out for Crimson the first week in November. Big doings…and you’re the first to know. I can’t give you the details because I have been sworn to secrecy but you are definitely going to want to check out the Wild Rose blog site. November is Crimson Rose month so it is all about us for the entire month of November. Woo Hoo. Anyway, check us out for those details and then plan on joining us for the November chat session because we’ll be talking even more about it. (I think I am being watched so I have to stop now.)

I see Oliver coming back and I am so parched. Oh Oliver…

Always one to accommodate, Oliver freshens Lori’s drink.

Just then, Martini cranks up the stereo, the chilling lyrics blasting through the parlour. Grinning an evil grin, Randle McMurphy scoops Nurse Ratched into his arms and they do the Monster Mash until they drop…



Sharon Donovan said...

A warm welcome to Lori Graham, Senior Editor of the Crimson Line of The Wild Rose Press. Make yourself comfortable, Lori, and we'll wait for the guests to arrive. And here comes Oliver with a chocolate martini and some chips and salsa. Oh, Oliver, you remembered my chilled glass of white wine. Sharon and Lori clink glasses. Cheers! Oliver shuffles off after gracing Lori to a wicked wink, none the worse for wear since his recent lobotomy...

Hywela Lyn said...

Hi Lori, Hi Sharon

Hi Oliver...erm oh dear, what has happened to you Oliver? You don't look quite your normal suave self!

Great to hear all about your editing process Lori, and what you look for in a submitted manuscript. Some very useful pointers there!

P.L. Parker said...

Good Morning Ladies. ACCCKKK - Oliver looks creepy. Good points of interest for future submissions. I too miss the good old days of Halloween. We had a lady down the street who always had a spook house and you had to go through it to get your treat. So fun. Have a good day. Oliver -your makeup artist failed big time today.

liana laverentz said...

I started with Nancy Drew, too. Nice costume, Lori!

And I like the blinking black cat, Sharon.

Happy October! Can't believe it's almost over already.

Julie Robinson said...

Good morning Lori and Sharon,

What a delightfully creepy interview. Makes me want to go read the books again---or watch the movie. Yep, having a real nurse like Ratchet could be more terrifying than any spook! Though, Lori, I'm sure Oliver loved the nurse uniform!

Romantic suspense has always been my favorite genre to read and write, growing up with many of the same stories, like Nancy Drew and Phyllis Whitney. I'll add Dorothy Daniels to that list. I still have a lot of my old favorite from her tucked away.
I am presently taking a course with Dr. Greg Moffett on Evil People and have taken several before with him on Cold Case Files and Stone Cold Souls. My husband fears when I want to brainstorm about murder tactics, such as how a certain poison would work. heh heh

Thank you, Lori, not just for all your advice, but for offering your email to ask questions. I don't have any right now, as I've got to leave the party and get back to work.


Julie Robinson said...

Ooh, wait, Sharon, could I have a plain rum and coke to go, please? That way, it'll just look like a soda drink---so not too strong, okay?

Sharon Donovan said...

Welcome, Lyn, Patsy and Julie! Lori will be along in a bit. In the meantime, Oliver will be happy to serve refreshments. Julie, a Rum&Coke to go it is. LOL Don't let Oliver in on any of those poison techniques. He's my cook, after all!

Autumn Shelley said...

Hi All!
Now I'm intrigued about this submission call for November!! I've got a character or two rolling around in my head of late that just might fit! Thanks Lori!!

Miss Mae said...

Hi Lori,

I have a Crimson out too, and it dwells a bit more on the suspense than actual romance. Growing up with Nancy Drew (well, I wasn't her next door neighbor, you understand!), I always wanted to solve her puzzles! Add a touch of romance to the plot, and I'm deliciously happy!

Love the idea about a chocolate martini, btw! LOL

Linda Swift said...

Great blog, Lori and Sharon. Gets us right into the mood for Halloween. It was interesting to read the tips on this genre though I don't have a yen to write suspense. But it's clear that editors look for some of the same basic things no matter what genre. And it was nice to see Oliver again, even in costume. Lucky Sharon. I think I'll add a butler to my Santa list. Does Oliver have a fathr? A grandfather????

E.A. West said...

Great information, Lori! Definitely makes me want to finish polishing the romantic suspense I have. Maybe that will keep me from going crazy with curiosity while I wait for November to find out what the big Crimson secret is!

Sharon Donovan said...

Sit around the fire and chat with us, Autumn, Miss Mae, Linda and E.A. When Lori and Oliver are through doing the Monster Mash, all your questions will be answered! LOL And Oliver will shake up another batch of chocolate martinis. Hmmmm. Linda...pretty sure they broke the mold after Oliver was created. He's never mentioned any relatives. But then again, he's just had a lobotomy, ordered by Lori!


Lori, Sr. Editor for Wild Rose Press said...

Sorry I was delayed but I had to take a nap after the drinks. Starting that early in the morning is always tough but I am more cleared now and have straightened my uniform. So...I am good to go. Oliver, oh Oliver, would you be a dear and refill this glass again.

Now for all of you lovely attendees to this wonderful party that Sharon dreamed up, it sounds like we have some writers in the mix. How truly magnificent.

Editing romance has been one of the best things that ever happened to my marriage.

Thank you, Oliver, you are such a dear. Humm, yummy. Sorry, Oliver, I was talking about the drink.

Anyway, romance is a genre that is constantly evolving and growing and becoming so a fabulous arena to be in. I love my job!!

Sharon Donovan said...

Oh, there she is, our guest of honor! Welcome, Lori. And there's Oliver at the ready, tending to your every need. Oh Oliver, bring more tortilla chips and salsa and some caramel rolls. What's that? Julie's in the kitchen! Adding some special ingredients to the appetizers. Oh dear, this could turn into a real crimson dilemma, Lori!

M.Flagg said...

Hi Sharon. Hi Lori. I enjoyed your interview. As for Halloween, my two grown kids keep addomg to the decorations in my house. Everytime I turn around there's another... Oh my!! Oliver! I just heard - a lobotomy??? Oh my...

Anyway, Lori, thanks for the tips on Crimson Rose. I write for Black Rose but I enjoy a delicious Crimson every now and then. Take care!

M.Flagg said...

Oops! Sorry for the typos. Just the thought of precious Oliver... Oh my!

Lori, Sr. Editor for Wild Rose Press said...

Oliver has the tendency to cause many of us to type very strangely as we focus where we shouldn't. :) That's okay though - that is what an editor is for.

Sharon Donovan said...

Lori, you have us all curious about the November call out! Was it last year the Men in Uniform call out was started? How is that going? I'm still working on one, about 100 pages into it. No, Oliver, that's not the one you're in! Go shake up some more martinis! Do you get a lot of submissions for this?

Sharon Donovan said...

Hi Mickey! Thanks for stopping by. I know this is a busy day for you, blogging at Dayana's. Have some coffee or is it an apple martini? Ooooh, here comes Oliver with an apple martini!

M.Flagg said...

Hi Sharon. Waving hi to Lori too! I'll definitely take that martini then it's back to Dayana's. And since Lori mentioned those sexy FBI men, I just turned on Bones :)

Rebecca J. Clark said...

Sharon, your interviews are always so much fun. :)

Lori, it's so nice to "meet" you. I currently write for the Champagne and Scarlet lines, but I love a good romantic suspense. Maybe I'll come up with a story idea someday...


Julie Robinson said...

Hi everyone!
(dusts hands off on pants)

Would anyone care for some of my
nightshade delights?
(smiles too brightly)

Just kidding!
No, really . . . .

I may have had a bit too much rum and coke in the back. Then I couldn't resist when Oliver came in with his offering

of a chocolate martini.
I slurped it up and really don't remember what I was doing in the kitchen to begin with.

Julie Robinson said...

Lori, I'm so glad you're here to keep us focused. I am so easily distracted . . . .

Sharon Donovan said...

Hi Becky. Have a seat and here comes Oliver with a Whiskey Sour. LOL Julie! You'll have the ingredients for a crimson rose yet!

Julie Robinson said...

Ah, thank you, Sharon...Just what I need--a little encouragement and a little drink.

Lori, Sr. Editor for Wild Rose Press said...

what's that?? I am keeping you from getting distracted?? Oliver, get over here. We need to distract these ladies big time!! :)

Now, Sharon, I haven't had enough martini to give away the secret for Crimson month. You'll just have to check the blog and chat time in November to find out.

The Men in Uniform is still going on and we have had a few. Unfortunately, we didn't get as many that we could contract as we would have liked. However, they are still coming in and we are going to keep that one going for awhile yet.

Julie Robinson said...

Mmmmmm, Men in Uniform---my very favorite!

Sharon, Lori needs a few more drinks, doesn't she?!

Lori, Sr. Editor for Wild Rose Press said...

Now, Julie, is it more drinks you are looking for or more Oliver?

Julie Robinson said...

Both. ---a nighttime toddy and a bedtime Oliver.

Lori, Sr. Editor for Wild Rose Press said...

Well all. Sorry that I can't stick around longer but the doctor is coming for rounds. After that I have to give Oliver his medications.

Have a great month guys and please remember to check out the blogs for the crimson info in November.

Sharon Donovan said...

A warm thank you to all for stopping by for the Crimson Rose skit. And a special thank you to Senior Editor, Lori Graham for being such a great featured guest. We will definitely be checking out the November call out for Crimson at The Wild Rose Press!

As always, may the luck of the Irish be with you through your travels. Until next time, God Bless and Farewell!

Marie-Nicole Ryan said...

LOL, I can see you as Nurse Ratched. I'm a day late because I'm on digest with WRPPRomo,but I wanted to say, "Hi."

MarthaE said...

I missed the live interview - just as well. I'm not sure how comfortable I would have felt with all those One Flew Over characters!!
Another great interview! I really enjoyed the editor perspective!
BTW - great job on decorating the site Hywela! (Want to visit mine and spruce it up!? LOL)

Joelle said...

Oh, dear, the parties over... Sharon, I am so sorry I missed Lori's interview...I've been out of state—not sorry in the least I missed the adorable Oliver in that hideous costume—what a sacrilege! Oh, there you are, my precious. Bring Joelle her favorite drink and come sit on her lap, uh, I mean beside me.
Lori's interview was wonderful, Sharon. Yet, I wouldn't have expected any less. Did you know she holds the prestigous award of being voted the #4 Best Editor by the Editors and Preditors site and, of course, TWRP took #1 as Top Publisher. Further, when I started out with TWRP, Lori was my senior editor—that's before I slinked (is that a word?) over to the dark side of the garden. And I'm here to tell you, she is and editor extraordinaire!

Must run so you can finish tidying up. Always a pleasure to chat with you, Sharon and, of course, you know who. ...wickedly blowing a Oliver a kiss.

Til next time,

Sharon Donovan said...

Oliver has no conception of time, Marie, Martha and Joelle! So the party is stil swinging. Absolutely, Joelle. I agree with everything you said about Lori. She's my editor, after all, and she makes my writing shine!

Hywela Lyn said...

Just dropping in to say thanks for the compliment, Martha, sorry I meant to reply before. I have to admit Sharon's highly original posts inspire me to try to find the right pictures!