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Post-WD Novel Workshop handouts

If you attended the Writer’s Digest Novel Writing Workshop in Los Angeles, these are the handouts you are looking for:

Training Yourself to Write A Richer Novel Every Time


Steps to Revising Your Novel

The rest of you can access the worksheets, of course. But next time, you should come! I missed you.

Boot Camp For Writers

NWC-300x250Writer’s Digest Novel Writing Conference, August 15 – 17, 2014, Los Angeles, CA Plot Your Novel’s Course

Move closer to your goal of completing a tightly crafted novel that will capture and keep the attention of publishers and readers. Learn from industry-savvy speakers and deepen your knowledge in focused sessions.

All this is brought to you by the editors of the industry’s most trusted source for writing advice and insight for more than 90 years—Writer’s Digest.


Experience start-to-finish instruction in the art of crafting a well-written, saleable novel. Many of publishing’s most respected and knowledgeable writers, agents and editors will be on hand to guide you. Hone your craft fundamentals, explore the future of publishing and get the tools you need to advance your career as a writer.


From the numerous opportunities each session offers to connect with its speakers, to the workshopping with other novelists, the Writer’s Digest Novel Writing Conference is your chance to establish real connections with both your fellow writers and industry insiders.

BOOT CAMP:  Romantic Fiction with Barbara O’Neal 
Join me for a three hour intensive on all aspects of writing the romantic novel for a leg up on finding the exact right place for your novels. Strengthen your weak areas and shine in your strong ones with this in-depth, hands-on workshop.


There is a $50 discount to the conference when you register with the promotional code WDSPEAKER.

Who Attends Writer’s Digest Novel Writing Conference?

Writer’s Digest’s reputation attracts a uniquely dedicated group of writers to the Conference. Most have been writing for years and many have already published. They want and expect relevant information to further their writing careers— whether in the educational sessions or through exposure to valuable products and services.

 Questions? Email me at awriterafoot  @, or ask away in the comments section.  Hope to see you there!

Kindly Shepherd’s Pie

This is a wintery sort of recipe, but a reader went through a lot of trouble to listen to the recipe on the audio version of THE ALL YOU CAN DREAM BUFFET and write it down, so I thought her efforts deserved reward. It’s a great dish to bring for gatherings where there are a lot of varied diets, and I’m just going to say that it can feel really sad to go to a big barbecue or something and everyone else is chowing down on these great, rib-sticking meals and you’re nibbling on a bun with sauerkraut or maybe having (yet another) salad.  Be kind to your vegetarian friends.  Take a hearty dish to a potluck for them.

You’ll like it, too.  I created this for Christopher Robin, who loves Shepherd’s Pie and missed the way I made it.  It took a lot of experimenting, but I finally came up with one he adores.  This is it.  Vegan and fabulous:

Kindly Shepherd’s Pie
From The All You Can Dream Buffet, Barbara O’Neal 

Serves 4 generously

Olive oil, 2 tablespoons, plus 1 tablespoon
2 ribs celery, 1 monster onion, 2-3 carrots, all diced
5 cloves garlic, smashed, peeled, roughly chopped
1 medium parsnip, diced (optional. Some people don’t like the sweetness of this vegetable, but I really, really do)
1 cup fresh or frozen peas
1 Tablespoon tomato paste
1 quart high quality vegetable broth
1 bottle heavy red wine such as zinfandel (the deeper the body, the better)
2 tablespoons tamari
Splash of Worcestershire sauce (make sure it is the cheap kind, without anchovies)
1 tablespoon thyme
1 cup porcini mushrooms, cleaned and sliced
1 cup button mushrooms, cleaned and sliced
2 cups ground meat substitute, such as Quorn or Morningstar crumbles
4 large red potatoes, peeled and diced (or for a more rustic dish, leave the skins)
½ cup margarine
½ cup soy or coconut milk
Salt and pepper to taste

Prepare all vegetables except potatoes and have them ready. In a dutch oven or heavy, large saucepan, heat 2 T olive oil (or more—this is not a high fat dish, using 3-4 tablespoons would not go amiss). Add onions, garlic, celery, carrots, parsnip and cook over medium heat until softened. Add tomato paste and stir into vegetables.

Open the wine. Pour one generous glass for yourself, then pour the rest in the pan.

Add vegetable broth, spices, and tamari and bring to a boil. Lower heat and simmer until liquid is reduced by at least half.

Meanwhile, peel (or don’t) the potatoes and cut into chunks and cover with water.

Bring to a boil, then slightly lower heat. Simmer until potatoes are tender.

Taste broth, correct seasonings. Add peas and mushrooms, and ground meat substitute if you are using is, and let simmer on low heat while potatoes cook.

Heat oven to 400 degrees

When potatoes are tender, drain the water and add butter. Mash or whip until the potatoes are smooth, then add milk to make a slightly soft mash.

Taste the stew. Liquid should be thick and velvety, with a rich, deep taste. If it needs more flavor, add salt or a little more tamari, or one cube of veggie bullion. If it is not thick enough, remove some liquid from the pan, stir together with two tablespoons of flour until very smooth, then add back into the stew and let thicken.

When the stew is right, pour it into a 10-inch glass pie pan or cast iron skillet and top with mashed potatoes until it is covered completely. Using a spoon or fork, make peaks in the potatoes so they will get brown and beautiful in the oven.

Bake for 10-20 minutes, or until potatoes have developed a nice crust.

Let cool for five minutes, serve in generous portions.

Letters to my new writer self

Dear New, Young, Passionate, Painfully Aspiring Writer Self:

I am looking at you with great tenderness. Your passion for your craft, your hunger for publication, your commitment to continue to try makes my heart swell with pride. It is not easy, what you’re doing, writing, or rather, writing with the full intent to publish.  It’s easy to write if you are doing it only for yourself.  It’s only a joy, then, a secret pleasure, a tattoo on your inner thigh that you share only with your most intimate associates.

Writing for publication is a much more dangerous and challenging undertaking.  It means risking your ego and your standing in the community. People don’t understand your desire, even those you expect to understand, like reader friends and your librarian. Oh, I know how you’ve learned to dread that question at gatherings. You say you are a writer and someone says with excitement, “Are you published?”  You have to say no, and watch their eyes dim and their attention stray.

But you will not always have to say no. If you stay the course, you will be published.  For now, you go ahead and claim the title of writer, because you are a writer. You write. You put in the hours of study and practice, over and over, whenever you can fit it in. You do it even though no one does particularly understand or even believe that you can ever break into the hallowed company of Authors.  I am so proud of you.  Keep it up.

A few other things that will help you stay the course: pay more attention to what you are doing right than what you are doing wrong. Time, reading, and practice will heal most of your flaws, but no one can do what you do as well as you do it, so stick with that. Polish it, explore it, love it.  That’s where your voice is, in the things you love and do well.

Keep reading a ton.  People tell you that writing will corrupt your process, but that’s how you came to writing in the first place, isn’t it? You read, more than anyone you know, always.  Keep doing that, and don’t just read in the areas where you write. Read everything—articles and essays and poems and books of fiction and non-fiction. Read crap and read classics. Read genre and read literary fiction. Just read. It teaches and guides new writers better than any other single thing.

Keep your eye on the prize. You’re going to keep trying on hats until you find the one that fits, and once you do, your life is going to change in such big ways that you will never believe it could be your life. You will eat a meal in New York City with an editor. You will see your book on the shelves of your local bookstore. You will get letters from readers who love your work more than any other writer out there. Honor her, that reader, with your will to stick with it.

One more thing: don’t be afraid of editors and agents. They are busy, but they are always looking for the writer they connect with, the one they can publish, the one they adore. Some of them, over time, will become your friends for life.  Some of them will only make you crazy, but this is the great secret: editors and agents are your equal. You are all a corner in the great triangle of publishing. Don’t be intimidated.

Finally, you are more powerful than you know. Have faith in yourself, and the work, and trust it to take you where you want to do.

Your older, wiser, more experienced self

Want to read more letters from other writers to their younger selves?  Check out

1-random-front  stoked_800  IMG_0222  echo_800  (click on covers to read more)

And don’t forget to like Lark O’Neal on Facebook, so you can stay current with new releases (and there are quite a few coming, my friends!)


Someone teasingly called me an Anglophile the other day, and I was completely startled.  “Really?” I said, “Do you think so?”

She laughed and laughed and laughed.  I came home and asked (my British beloved) Christopher Robin if he thought I was an anglophile. Field at HawkhurstWithout a blink, he said, “Uh….duh.”

I suppose I don’t like the word because it sounds like I love England more than I love America, which is not true.

So I had to look around my life, and yes, it’s true that I have an English husband, and he’s the reason for a lot of our quirkily English habits, like the (imported) PG Tips for breakfast, not coffee, and the HP sauce and Branston pickle in our cupboard, the salad cream (not mayo) that he must have to put on his salads in the summer time. Those are for him. Mostly. It’s true I love tea, British tea made with sugar and milk, and drink great gobs of it, but I grew up on tea.

Well, and there is the matter of English history, which I know much better than American history, if I’m honest. American history bored me to cross-eyedness, whereas English history was full of queens and princes and monarchs and swords and moats. I loved historical novels as a girl—of course I would love English history! And then I started writing them, so I had to study those eras even more, the Georgians and the medievals, and then I discovered plague, which is so desperately interesting and not exactly English, but a great force in English history.


It is also true that I love the fact that the English garden, as if it is a national sport.  Sometimes, in England, you can visit a garden that is also on the grounds of an old manor house or even a castle. With a moat or a bowling green or some closet that once held a body. I love gardens and flowersand castles. Why wouldn’t I like them all together like that?

And okay, there is the matter of the beauty of those landscapes. I am constantly amazed at the number of people who can be hidden away among the rolling hills, how it can all appear to be completely deserted, only a horse and a couple of sheep occupying the landscape far into the hazy, hilly distance, and then you spy, hiding, a subdivision that must house thousands.  
st waiting for me?

It’s also a walking land, full of paths steeped in history. I am a walker, thus I love places where I can walk.

Oh, the history, did I mention history? History in every village, across every road. History reaching far, far, far back in the most

The local castle, where CR's father volunteered for a long time. I used to have a picture of this castle in a book and couldn't imagine that I'd ever get to see it.

The local castle, where CR’s father volunteered for a long time. I used to have a picture of this castle in a book and couldn’t imagine that I’d ever get to see it.

interesting ways. To the kings fighting for dominance, to the French invading, the Celts, the whoever else, the barbarians far back.  History in layers like the rings on a tree, here and here and here.  Standing in a village square, I could, if I had a time machine travel to 100 BC or 1066 or 1348 or 1942.  Where else can I touch history like that? The scars of the Blitz, still lingering on buildings? Walk on the battlefield that changed history entirely? Drink in a pub where Shakespeare might have sat?

Pubs. Yes. There are pubs with solid beer in pints, and we all know that I do love ale, and pints of it are absolutely agreeable, even if bartenders always try to talk me into a half-pint, seeing as I am so ladylike and all. I love pubs and pies and fires and dogs. Yes, those things, too.

I ask you, what’s not to like? I’m hardly an Anglophile for loving perfectly fascinating things, am I?

CR says I am an Anglophile because I can’t see the forest for the trees. That forest, according to him, is that England Is A Cold Wet Miserable Country.  He’s a Coloradophile.

Are you an Anglophile, like me? Or another sort of -phile? 


That Apartment in Brooklyn

3DAllYouCanDream1-216x300By now, most of you must know I have a new book out, The All You Can Dream Buffet by Barbara O’Neal.  It’s one of my favorite books so far, a tale of four food bloggers who gather at a lavender farm in Yamhill Co, Oregon, which has to be one of the most beautiful places on earth. (It is no secret that I adore lavender and it was a delight to do the research, let me tell you.)

One of the things I did to support the release of the book was travel to New York for a class discussion at Fordham with my editor, and while I was there, I went to brooklyn & cassandraBrooklyn for a signing. (Waving to Cassandra Mariano, from Staten Island, who came in with her mother. So much fun to meet Facebook friends in new cities!)  My friend Therese Walsh, author of The Moon Sisters, had rented an apartment close to the bookstore where we were signing together.

It was a sweet little place, big by NYC standards, a fifth floor walk-up with essentially one big room and a well-appointed little kitchen with a big window and plenty of  space. The bathroom was a triangle barely large enough to stand in front of the sink, but who cares with a kitchen like that? A pile of New Yorker magazines were stacked by the couch, and spying them, I felt time shift abruptly and intensely. No longer was I standing there, too hot in my scarf and waiting for everyone to go downstairs. Instead I was instantly transported into my twenty-year-old self, who was a very hungry and ambitious writer who dreamed of having exactly that life–the one I would live in this apartment. I would have some not-very-thrilling job in the city and take the train back home, dragging my stuff up all those narrow flights of stairs to the apartment at the back, with three windows and turquoise appointments on the walls, and books everywhere and a curtain dividing my day life from my night.  For an iridescent moment, I floated there with Twenty, being both my selves, each image overlaying the other.  Now and then.

As we headed down the stairs, I smiled to myself, because in a way it has all come true, my writing life, born when I lived in a second floor apartment in an old house on a busy street in a city where cars drove by all night long and I had stacks of New Yorkers and piles of books everywhere, and a big kitchen where I never cooked anything because I was working and studying and partying all the time.  I read from The All You Can Dream Buffet and went to dinner with Therese and a couple other literary friends (all of us from Writer Unboxed) and we talked about what we’d done to make our dreams come true, to capture for ourselves a literary life.  I drank wine in Brooklyn and thought of that girl, who was waiting for it all to happen.  When I got back to Chelsea (taking not the train but a cab even if was expensive because I’d been on the go all day to meetings and lunch and then a long, long evening and maybe the train at 11 pm was more than I really wanted to deal with–plus one of the gifts of being Not Twenty is the liquidity to take a cab when one wishes), I walked out into the night to take one last look at the silvery finger of the Empire State Building sticking up into the dark sky. I walked to the store in the mild night and bought water and milk for my coffee. Twenty was pleased, and so was I, walking back on the quiet street, with the smell of garbage somewhere in a can not quite closed, and voices in an apartment, and a glimpse of a classroom in the school.

Have you ever encountered a younger self in the street somewhere? 

Wild Fertility

A writing blog today…..

camille pissarro

I’m in the midst of an enormously fertile period. I’m writing in several genres, including a non-fiction project. This morning I awakened to write the next scene in a book that will eventually become a Barbara O’Neal book. There is soup and a lost child and dogs, but the underpinnings of this work have been very dark and hard to digest.  It suddenly seems ready, however, so that was where I poured my energies this morning.

I’m also working on a non-fiction book for a British publisher (to be distributed through MacMillan in the US) on writing romantic fiction.  The offer came out of the blue, but as I’d been in teaching mode through the spring, it was exactly the right project for me to write on the side, coalescing some of my ideas into a form that can be digested more easily than my exuberant but scattered blogs here.

There is also the matter of Lark, who keeps coming up with new ideas and concepts for her ongoing work in two arenas, The Otherlands and Going the Distance.  Look for more on both of those series in the near future (the 1st installment of The Otherlands will be published sometime in January, an exact date to be determined when I clear the decks and finally finish the line edits.)

All this work! You would think I’d be going crazy, feeling overworked and overwhelmed, but quite the opposite is true.  I have not been so in love with work in many years, and as I was sitting in my chair yesterday, watching it snow and doing some research reading into foster children, I did pause for a moment to realize I feel like I moved to a new land.  I’d been chiseling work out of the hard granite, chipping away a nugget at a time, and it took a lot of hard work and time to do it.

Suddenly, and I do mean suddenly—at the very end of May—I have moved to a completely different place. This is delta bottom farmland, rich with silt and sunlight and the perfect conditions for growing hearty fields of crops.  My mind feels utterly engaged, my heart excited.  I get up and go to work every morning at 4:30 without complaint, even with eager intention. My daily production rates have tripled and show signs of quadrupling.  I’m back to the younger me who wanted the world to go away and leave her alone so she could write more, more, more.

It’s glorious.

And I don’t really know why it happened. Was it the switch to getting up early? I think that has helped.  I am enormously productive during that 90-120 minute block.  It’s as if I’m giving myself an extra work day, every work day.   My evenings were never, are never particularly productive.  I watch television. I might read, but am often too tired to do any serious reading. I putter around after dinner, and for ages I’ve been ready to go to bed around 8, but would hang on for whatever reason. For about a year, I’ve been practicing the early work, but it really took root when CR decided he wanted to try swimming in the early morning.  Now we both want to be asleep early and get up early together, and on days we decide not to get up so early, we get those extra zzz’s. Healthy.

The other thing that I’ve done is give myself permission to totally play in my work, take chances, see what happens. I’ve done some novellas, purely for me, playing with the form, seeing what I like.  I’ve made a big return to romance in the new adult and young adult series, but the books are very different from each other.  The young adult is soft science fiction, highly romantic and with epic adventure undertones.  The new adult is very sexy and lots of fun, but has a serious undertone, too: Jess has to find out who she is—and that means making mistakes, discovering her history and deciding what things matter most to her.  It’s also set in part in New Zealand, which you all know I’ve fallen in love with.   The Otherlands is deeply rooted in my love for the sff genre and I carried it around with me for ages before I realized that I could just….go ahead and write it.  I also have an entire 5 (6?) book series planned as a tie-in/continuation of the St. Ives historicals, all growing out of our travels to England and New Zealand.

And don’t forget the women’s fiction. I love it a lot.  My new book, The All You Can Dream Buffet, is one of my favorites so far. I  love the characters and the setting of a lavender farm, and these women who have all had life challenges.  It was engrossing and required a huge amount of research and recipe testing, and it went back and for the between my editor and I several times, but the end result is one I am very pleased with. I hope you will be, too.

I believe this fertile, wild productivity is the result of me giving myself permission to do that play.  I can do it because of indie publishing, and I don’t have to worry that I’ll starve or that I’ll flop at a new publishing house.  I can take big chances, play in a lot of different arenas. Because I’m the one taking the risks, and I don’t need to sell 50,000 books to break even. Because I am more in charge of everything, I don’t feel that creeping anxiety that plagues all working writers over how many books are selling here and there and everywhere.  I am much freer to write the books arriving today.  I am very deeply enjoying the balance between my work for traditional publishing and my own publishing, a luxury that I couldn’t have imagined even five years ago.

This is not everyone’s ideal scene, I get that.  I have friends who need and like to focus on one book for a couple of years at a time. I also have others who like writing lots of books, but mostly in the same arena. That’s fine.  My brain has always loved variety and mix-ups and new challenges.  Sometimes I’ll fall on my face, but that’s fine, too.  So far, the fields are growing very well, producing a good many crops. I hope I will be wise enough to recognize when/if winter arrives and asks me to rest.

Do you like to write in many arenas or focus on one?  Do you find there are wildly productive periods in your life, and less productive ones?  

PS I’m pulling away from blogging so much elsewhere and will be spending more time here.  Hope you’ll join in the conversation.

Meet Lark O’Neal….Random is LIVE today!

Delighted to tell you that Lark O’Neal’s first book is live.   Amazon     Barnes and Noble     iBooks     Kobo     Paperback.



Here are some of the things readers are saying about Random:

5 stars   Wow that was an awesome story. I was completely sucked in from the first chapter and pushed my bedtime back a couple hours because I was so enthralled in Jess and Tyler’s growing love. This book constantly keeps you guessing and there are quite a few of twist and turns.  Sade, Goodreads

5 stars    An engaging story that captivates the imagination and resonates with readers of similar experiences.  –Alexia Purdy

This was a great book to read because you’re constantly wondering what the heck is going on and what will happen.  –Luisa, Goodreads

I genuinely liked this story. It is different and there is a lot of drama but the characters are real and very like able. Jess and Tyler both have major issues and it is interesting to see them try to work them out together. They both have challenges with exes, Jess’s ex is a real nightmare and both have family issues. The chemistry between these two is off the charts from the start and the sex scenes are well written and hot.  –Steph, Goodreads


Have you visited yet?


I’ve been hearing a lot of funny grumbling about NaNoWriMo.  I’m not sure why.  There are certainly a lot of bad novels written during this month, but who cares?  The pursuit of art is a joyful thing and brings a lot of good into the world.  And if you are a writer who loves writing, what could be more fun than spending a whole month reveling in the joy of writing?

I’m playing this year.  Not in public, as I did with The OtherLand Chronicles (which will be coming your way in January), but I am writing with the intent of breaking that 50K mark. We shall see if I am able.  Today:


Ta da! A surprise and a revelation….

If you follow me on Facebook, you already know about this, but here’s a little background.

You may have noticed that I’ve been scarce this summer. So much has been happening behind the scenes!  It all started when I went to Breckenridge with Christopher Robin in late May to have a long weekend for my birthday. It snowed. A lot. Which meant we didn’t do any hiking or kayaking as we’d planned, but read and napped and ate and rested. Also good.

On the second morning, the Girls woke me up at 4 am with a book idea. I told them to go away and turned over. They insisted I need to get up and write this down. Like, now. So I got up and made a cup of tea, and by the time CR woke up, I had an entire book outline. Characters, plot, story, romance.  All of it.

Every now and then, I get a gift book. I don’t remember one coming to me so fully fleshed. Bemused, I set it aside and hung out with CR for breakfast. By afternoon, the book was bothering me again. I decided to take my notebook to the local Starbucks (which is so adorable and has amazing views).  I realized halfway down the hill that I’d forgotten a pen. It’s not that easy to find something like that in Breckenridge and I really didn’t want to walk all the way back to the hotel.  I was about to give up when the Girls said, “Oh, no you don’t. Go ask that boarder in the t-shirt shop if he has one you can borrow.” So I did. And he was like, “Sure, dude.”  I said, “I’ll bring it back.” He waved me away. “No worries.”

I went to Starbucks. I ordered a coffee. An hour later, I had 67 scenes, in order. Basically, uh, the whole book.

I’m no idiot. A book shows up like that, I’m going to show up, too, and write.  So write I did. The entire book over the summer. My fingers couldn’t keep up.  I had no interest in doing anything but showing up for the book. It was like living in a movie for the summer. It is the most fun I’ve had writing in about 100 years, and you know me, I love writing!

The thing is, this is not my usual realm. It’s not even Young Adult, which I’ve been writing on the side for awhile.  (More on that in a few weeks…yes, the OtherLands are finally going to be published.)  This attack book is New Adult, a genre I’ve been reading but really had had no plans to write until this 19-year-old girl showed up. To keep the branding straight for those of you who want my women’s fiction–that’s still Barbara O’Neal.  If you like the romances, that’s Barbara Samuel.  If you want New Adult and Young Adult, come see me as Lark O’Neal.

Here is her first book.  It will be out November 12, with book #2 to follow in the spring, 2014 and #3 in the summer, 2014.  You can pre-order now at Amazon and Apple.  Subscribe to Lark’s newsletter. Follow her on Facebook  and Twitter. Check out the website.

Ta-da! Here is the cover and back cover blurb:


Life is random…


19-year-old Jess Donovan knows better than most that life is random. Her mom is dead, and she’s on her own, patching together a living as a waitress when a car crashes through the restaurant where she works. In two seconds, she loses her job, watches her best friend hauled away in an ambulance…and meets Tyler Smith, one of the hottest, most fascinating—and mysterious guys she’s ever met.


Both for the good and the bad…


Within days, Jess is swept up into the mesmerizing force that is Tyler. Their every touch sizzles, every kiss dissolves them both, and the sex is…fierce. But there’s more to Tyler than his hypnotic eyes. He’s adrift, too, and his body—and his soul—are covered with scars. How can she find herself with a guy who is lost himself?


Until you take charge….


Jess is determined to find her way, and make a life that is better than the one she was given. But how?







Pretty excited, I think you can tell. :)

Also, for those who are pursuing NaNoWriMo this year, come make me your buddy.  I’m awriterafoot.