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Welcome Debbie Herbert!

2013-11-02 13.08.28I am delighted to welcome fabulous author Debbie Herbert to my blog. Debbie is a fellow member of team Aponte Literary, represented by our wonderful agent Victoria Lea, and I had the great pleasure of meeting her and M.V. Freeman at the 2013 Southern Magic Reader Luncheon. After reading and loving Siren’s Secret, I just HAD to have her on my blog.

It’s no secret that I love mermaids and the mythology surrounding them, so imagine my delight to find another aficionado in my circle of writer pals!

 

 

9780373885824(3)Shelly Connors is good at keeping secrets. The safety of her family and of her species depends upon quiet co-existence with humanity. It may be a lonely co-existence for Shelly as a half-breed, but she’s accepts her lot in life between land and water as best she can.

 

When she catches a serial killer in the act, though, guarding her fins takes a backseat to fighting for her life. Pursued by the monster, Shelly must decide whether to take matters in her own hands and have the killer face seaborne justice, or trust the attractive and engaging local sheriff. Sure Tillman Angier is easy on the eyes and damn good at his job, but Shelly’s been burned by human men before. Can she trust him with her secret and her heart as they work together to stop a deranged and deadly madman?

 

 

Thanks for being here with me today, Debbie! I’m a bit of a mythology nerd, and as such I very much enjoyed the bits of mermaid lore you wove into your story, as well as your unique spin on how these supernatural beings integrate into the human world. What drew you to mermaids as a subject (aside from the fact that they’re absolutely fascinating)?

 

I appreciate the opportunity, Dana!

 

I see mermaids as symbols of feminine beauty and strength. My theory is that even (or especially) young girls are drawn to the whole idea of mermaids because archetypically they represent power balanced with maidenly grace. Besides, who wouldn’t want to be a beautiful mermaid playing with dolphins all day long? I’ve always loved the ocean and beaches and as a child fantasized about what magic might lay deep beneath the water.

 

Your mermaid heroine is such a wonderful blend of toughness and vulnerability, with a dash of down home Southern charm to go along with her exotic nature. She literally has a toe (or tailfin) in two different worlds, not really belonging to either, but she’s forced to put herself and her kind in danger in order to bring a killer to justice. We readers experience her heartbreaking struggle to find acceptance, not just from her love interest Sherriff Tillman Angier, but from within. What inspired Shelly?

 

Shelly has a mermaid mother and human father and struggles to find acceptance on land and at sea. Except for her maternal aunts and cousins, the merfolk shun her and she is not allowed to tell her secret to humans for fear of rejection and putting her kind at risk of exposure. To top it off, her parent’s marriage was a failure and she’s determined not to repeat her mother’s mistake by denying her mermaid nature and moving away from the sea. If she falls in love, the man will have to accept her as she is because anything less is bound for failure.

 

Sherriff Tillman Angier is such a complex and relatable character. So many of us struggle quietly with caregiver fatigue – be it looking after a terminally or chronically ill relatives, aging parents, or in Tillman’s case, someone disabled. So many caregivers are idealized as stalwart and stoic, which is unrealistic and, I would argue, potentially damaging to those who actually live these situations day in and day out. You show us the good, the bad, and the ugly, complete with resentment, anger, and a longing to escape that are natural, human reactions to the stress involved. At the same time, you show us the honorable, caring man struggling to do the right thing, and I loved that. How did you balance these two aspects of Tillman’s character?

 

Thanks, Dana. I don’t mind sharing that I have an adult son with severe autism so I’m quite familiar with the struggles of caring for someone with special needs and trying to maintain balance in my life with other family relationships, a job and everything else that goes along with being a well-rounded person. With Tillman, I tried to show that despite the less-than-saintly feelings that come with caretaking, what matters is the actions we take and the lessons we learn.

To me, every character – like every person – has flaws that they work to overcome.

 

My son was recently diagnosed, so I was definitely able to relate to the struggles of a caregiver. Every complex, relatable hero/heroine needs an equally complex antagonist. You aren’t afraid to go dark (another aspect of your writing that I really admire!). How hard was it to get into serial killer Melkie Pellerin’s head?

 

I don’t know what it says about me, but it was immensely interesting to try and get in the head of a character with a value system so opposite my own. At every step of the way, I tried to imagine what would motivate a killer to commit such crimes and what happened in his life that made him so amoral. I also tried to show him as a real person with problems and one that could occasionally demonstrate glimmers of kindness in his dark world. I believe human nature is a continuum between absolute goodness and absolute evil.

 

So… two other mermaids plus a few surprise supernatural residents of Bayou La Siryna equals many more adventures in the series… Hooray! Can you give us any hints about what is to come?

 

Absolutely! Book Two of the Dark Seas series, Siren’s Treasure, will take up the story of Shelly’s cousin Jet, and is scheduled to be released this fall by Harlequin Nocturne. In many ways, Jet is the opposite of Shelly. She’s physically strong and mentally tough but nevertheless, has a hidden vulnerability that’s exposed when her ex-boyfriend pirate is released from prison and returns to the bayou.

It’s The Hunt for Red October meets Southern Gothic.

Book Three of the series, Siren’s Call, will be Lily’s story. Lily is the mysterious siren who enchants men with her voice . . . until she meets the one man impervious to her charms. This book will be released in 2015.

 

Mermaids, pirates, and hidden treasures, hooray! Just pre-ordered my copy of Siren’s Treasure. Random question just for fun – dark chocolate or milk?

 

Dark chocolate flavored with chili and sea salt. And it’s good for you! Well, probably not in the quantity I eat, but there are worse vices.

 

Hmm, a bit of spice and salt to balance the sweet. I dig it! Top three absolute favorite romance books?

 

authorphotoOh, that is so hard! Okay, I have to go with Pride and Prejudice as Number One. Mr. Darcy is the ultimate romantic hero. Second, I adore Amanda Quick historicals and my favorite is Ravished which plays upon a Beauty and the Beast theme. And third, I’ll go with Ransom by Julie Garwood for its humor and the manly highlander hero. Who doesn’t love men in kilts? Since I’ve chosen all historicals, I’ll add a contemporary book for honorable mention even if it isn’t strictly a romance: Alice at Heart by Deborah Smith which is about a mermaid from North Georgia seeking love and acceptance.

Thanks for letting me visit, Dana!

Thank you so much for the wonderful interview. To learn more about Debbie, you can visit her website, follow her on Twitter, find her on Goodreads, and check out her Facebook Fanpage. Siren’s Secret is available now from Amazon, Barnes&Noble, and Harlequin. Siren’s Treasure is available for pre-order, too, and will be released November 1, 2014.

 

Welcome M.V. Freeman!

I am delighted to welcome fabulous author M.V. Freeman to my blog. M.V. is also represented by Aponte Literary, and I had the great pleasure of meeting her at the 2013 Southern Magic Reader Luncheon – hats off to M.V. and her RWA chapter for all of their hard work organizing such a fantastic event! It’s no secret that I love urban fantasy romance. After reading and loving Incandescent, I was delighted to get the opportunity for an interview.

 

Screen Shot 2014-02-21 at 9.43.40 AMHere’s lucky me (right) hanging out with Debbie Herbert (middle) and M.V. (left). I’m a happy fangirl!

Thanks for being here with me today, M.V.! Let’s talk heroes. Some of the men who spring to life from the pages of your work tend to be a bit…abrasive. I’ll admit that Mikhail Petrov was tough sell for me, in spite of that exotic Russian accent. He’s arrogant and high-handed at best, downright ruthless at worst, and yet he somehow manages to captivate his heroine (and your readers, including me) with his unexpected depth and charm. Who or what inspires your anti-heroes?

 

I love the anti-hero because they are complex, wounded souls (which they will deny). To them the end justifies the means, and it makes them fun to write. 


But where does it comes from? I’m not quite sure. I’ve always been drawn to these types—especially as I’ve become older and can appreciate the many shades of grey in life.  I collected Marvel Comics as a kid and my favorite hero—Wolverine.  Now that was a guy who would get the job done, damn the consequences. He also understood he wouldn’t be liked—and this to me–showed great strength.  There is a moment in the comics (and the movie showed it very well) when he had to make a decision which cost him personally by killing someone he loved; but had to be done to save so many more.  It still makes me shiver.

For my book Incandescent—Mikhail was inspired by the movie “Eastern Promises” starring Viggo Mortensen who played a brutal, charming, pragmatic Russian—I knew as I saw this movie I had to write a Russian anti-hero. I wanted him to be scary. There is a scene I actually changed in the beginning of my book because he was too harsh– it involved telling his current lover her anaphylactic shock was cheaper than botox. 

 (As a side note—I like to keep all my bad guys, anti-heroes to writing and reading. I’d need therapy if I spent too much time around these people in real life—but then again—I’m a writer, I hear voices all the time….) *grin*

Oh, I’m with you on the bad boys in writing and reading. In real life, not so much… Viggo Mortensen – ah, he’s such a versatile and compelling actor. What a great source for inspiration! Speaking of exotic Russian accents, what inspired your fascination with Slavic languages and culture?

 

It started when I was in the Military—I was sent to learn Russian and found a true fascination of the culture and the language. But—I didn’t complete the course because I was kicked out for not “learning fast enough.”  Which hasn’t deterred me, I’ve recently begun listening to language CD’s again, and I have a few friends who speak it fluently who try and set me straight.  I swear, by the time I’m 80, I’ll be speaking it…or at least be able to order coffee.

As a writer—I love the accents and attitudes because it differs so much from ours. This adds great conflict and isn’t that what we like to read as well as write?  (It would be pretty boring if not!). Still, my interest over the years hasn’t diminished, only grown and it has inspired my interest in other cultures as well (like Asian).

I have every confidence in your linguistic prowess! You enjoy pairing your anti-heroes with determined heroines – these ladies have to be pretty tough and resolute to match wills with their men! What I love most about these sorts of pairings is how the inherent conflict ultimately brings out the best in both characters. You do this very well, so I’m curious how you manage the transition your characters undergo from bitter adversaries to passionate allies.

It all comes down to motivation, and putting the heroines and heroes in situations where they have to choose which is the worst option—fight each other, or the one threat that would destroy them both. I like impossible moral situations—and how they decide what would be the best choice for them.

I also make sure my heroines and heroes have a deep seated need, whether they recognize it or not, which the other fills.  It’s usually a mix—loneliness, fear, anger, trust—those things we all search for.  I try very hard to make my character’s feelings evolve. I am not a huge fan of “instant love”, lust maybe, but not love. I like to see how one can fall in love with a total asshole, and why.

The kicker—my anti-heroes don’t change; for the heroines yes. He will make allowances for her (within reason) but he doesn’t stop being him. If he is a cut-throat, fierce man—he stays that way; especially to others. Because isn’t that what the heroine fell in love with? This also goes for the heroines—because people are still the same, but to each other there is something “more”.  I think that’s the magic of romance. 

(And it’s a whole lot of fun to write!)

You definitely weave all of those elements into your stories and make them shine! So, strong coffee with cream for late night writing…fair enough, but do tell a bit more about kettle bells. My curiosity was definitely piqued after spotting that on your website J

Ah, Kettle bells—they are a ball of metal with a handle on it. It originated from Russia and my husband introduced them to me. The purpose is to work your body in ways you can’t utilizing regular weight lifting. The work outs are short, hard, and work—if you do them regularly. (I admit some weeks are better than others…)

I’m a huge fan of functional fitness, a term I heard coined, and Kettle bells help with this by strengthening those muscles we use in turning and lifting in our day-to-day life. My favorite exercise? The swing—it works your back, rear, legs, and stomach. It is one of the best over-all exercises. I’m not building huge muscles, but I am building strength and flexibility.

I just wish I could break my love of chocolate….

Ha! That’s funny. The only reason I bother working out is so I can maintain my love of chocolate. Aside from the Hidden Races series (can’t wait for more, BTW), are there any other projects you can tell us about?

Thank you! I’ve got a number of projects in the works:

–A Science Fiction romance; where a woman’s decision to make changes in her life brings on more than she expected.

-A YA UF futuristic: Where a girl struggles to find herself when all her choices are taken from her. (See what I mean about impossible odds?)

–A series of Novellas featuring:  Shapeshifters, Witches, and Vampires—Oh my!

Then there is book three in the Hidden Races series I’m pondering.

I have ideas scribbled on paper in note-books… everywhere…..Now I just need to find the time.

Wow, you have some very exciting work going on – can’t wait to add these to my Kindle queue! And… big news! M.V.’s Hidden Race’s series has just been picked up by Omnific Publishing. HUGE CONGRATULATIONS!!!

How do you balance life and writing (yes, I’m always looking for advice on that!)?

This is ever evolving. I wish had great answers. What I do know is I say “no” a lot to many things in my life.  I also try to set aside writing time in the evenings (7/8 to 10p) this includes participating in social media (Facebooks, twitter etc). Emails are early in the morning/afternoon when I get home from work.  I also make a point to meet with one writer I brainstorm with at least once a week.

I usually have one day off from day-job during the week—and that’s filled with errands, but I’m going to try and fit in a few hours at a coffee shop. I have stories I want to tell and I can’t afford to waste my time.

Plus—I read a lot—via audio books (I can’t say enough good about them).  Many sites (like Tantor) have sales once or twice a year where you can get them at rock bottom prices and I stock up. I listen while driving or when I am doing things that don’t require my focus.

I wish I could do better; there are those out there who do far better. It amazes me. I’m also open to suggestions!

You are a machine! How lucky for all of your readers (does a happy dance as one of them). Random question just for fun – dark chocolate or milk?

Both!  Dark for the decadence, milk for the comfort! Next to coffee, I can’t stay away from it.

Love that you embrace the virtues of all things chocolate! Top three absolute favorite romance books?

Only three? I’ll try….

On Thin Ice—by Anne Stuart

Once Burned—By Jeaniene Frost

Twice Tempted—By Jeaniene Frost

These are fairly new—but I have read them via books and audio over and over again. They all have dark anti-heroes and fabulous heroines.  That’s how I judge a book—if I re-read them—it’s a keeper (or it makes me cry).

Oh, I adore Anne Stuart! ‘Fire and Ice’ is one of my favorites (mostly because Reno, a.k.a. Hiromasa Shinoda, is such a fabulous hero). I’m not at all surprised to find out that you’re also a fan of Jeaniene Frost’s Vlad. He’s a fascinating anti-hero. Thank you so much for the wonderful interview. To learn more about M.V., check out some of her favorite online haunts:

Facebook:  https://www.facebook.com/AuthorMVFreeman

Twitter: @MVFree

Website: www.mvfreeman.com

Blog: http://paperbacksnpapercuts.blogspot.com/

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/6431724.M_V_Freeman

Linkedin: http://lnkd.in/d_qEGm8

Pinterest: http://www.pinterest.com/mvfreeman/

Tumblr: http://mvfreeman.tumblr.com/

Google + :       https://plus.google.com/u/0/100536411253117557991/posts

 

Thank you so much for having me here, it was great fun!

Happy 2014!

Since I did a wrapping-up-the-old-year-building-goals-for-the-new-year blog post around this time last year, I thought it would be fun to look at my goals from last year and see what kind of progress I made on them.

1. Finish and Edit Works in Progress

So at the beginning of 2013, I had wrapped up revisions on Waking the Dead and it was on its way to submission by my fabulous agent, Natalia Aponte. That left me with another novel (first in a paranormal romance series) that needed an extra 20K words added to bring it to a commercially viable length. I also had a stand alone contemporary romantic comedy novel half written, and the the second book in a series half written.

That was a $^%#-ton of stuff to finish!

So how’d I do?

Well… not to shabby, as it turns out. The paranormal romance (working title Nixies in Dixie) got its extra 20K words, part of which contained a new subplot with a new character who will get his own book in the series. It placed second in MCRW’s 2013 PITCH Contest, and it is currently under submission by my other wonderful agent, Victoria Lea.

My rom com (working title Going Dutch) is finished and under submission as well. I’d like to thank my darling Dutch husband for the 13 years worth of material on which I built the banter in the story and for answering all of my annoying questions about Dutch-isms, aviation, and for the continued exploration of our fascinating cultural differences. I’ll give a shout out to my mother-in-law for reading it and correcting the Dutch language and usage parts.

Yes, you read that right. I sent my risqué novel to my mother-in-law to read. That’s one of the really cool things about the Dutch. They’re probably the least uptight people on the planet, and they have an incomparable sense of humor and the ability to laugh at almost anything, including themselves.

Alas, I didn’t quite finish up the second book in the paranormal romance series, but I did manage an extra 20K. Hey, it’s progress! I also went through three rounds of edits for my debut novella, Red Shoes for Lab Blues, and it was well worth it for the experience and the end product. Lyrical Press published it in May 2013 and as of the end of December, I met the personal sales goal I’d set for myself. I’m looking forward to selling more in 2014 as Lyrical joins forces with Kensington Publishing (see below).

2. Learn All I Can About Marketing and Promotions

Through contacts in my author networks and a few unexpected but VERY welcomed reviews (thanks, Booknatics!) , I was able to get hands-on experience promoting the novella through blog interviews, tours, and conferences. I was fortunate enough to win free admission to the 2013 Killer Nashville Conference through The Killer Nashville 2013 Investigator’s Sweepstakes. HUGE thanks to Logan Masterson for sponsoring the sweepstakes. Look for his debut, Ravencroft Springs, coming from Pro Se Productions 2014! I was lucky enough to catch a preview when we traded work for critiques, and let me tell you, this guy’s writing will give you chills.

I’m very pleased to have a second shot at marketing the novella, this time with the power of Kensington Publishing Corporation. Lyrical Press became an imprint of Kensington in 2014, and I look forward to a re-release and the opportunity to build a broader readership for Red Shoes and future work.

3. Give Back

Probably one of the most rewarding parts of this journey has been encouraging other authors and watching them begin their own journeys. One of my cyberpals made her first sale at the end of the year. To my great delight, she told me that my encouragement was one of the factors that made her decide to write and submit original material. How cool is that? I get to be a mentor, too! And…one of my crit partners is working on her first novel. Look out, world – she’s got a great story in the making and I cannot WAIT to see what she does with it.

I am so pleased to report that my cyberpal, M.Q. Barber, published Playing the Game: Neighborly Affection Book 1 with Lyrical Press (follow the link to read my interview with her) and she’s gearing up for the next installments in the series. Like me, she’s waiting for re-release from Kensington, and I have no doubt she’ll find wild success! After all, she didn’t make the top reads of 2013 Lists at Red Hot Books AND Satin Sheets Romance for nothing!

My critique partner, friend, and all-around fabulous writer Sophia Jones published three great stories this year: The Phantom and the Psychic, The Pharaoh and the Curator, and Desert Dreams (follow the link to read my interview with her). She’s geared up to share more of Shaylene and Derek’s adventures with a follow-up, Desert Desires. She’s promised me (okay, all of her readers, but I know she’s really writing it for me) a pirate story and I’m cashing in on that promise in 2014 – you hear me, lady?

I’ve been able to give back through my MCRW chapter by serving as a Melody of Love Contest judge – this is one of my FAVORITE ways to give back. I got my start with contests, and the valuable and constructive feedback I received have made me a better writer. I hope I’ve been able to do the same as a first round judge. I’ve also had the opportunity to beta and crit for some of my MCRW sisters and I’m hoping to see their work on my Kindle and/or in my hands this year – I’m looking at you, Adventure Girl (and thanks for the feedback on Going Dutch)! Look for Jody Wallace’s Witch Interrupted in February 2014. I got to beta that one and I LOVED it even more than the first in the series, Pack and Coven (and I loved that one a lot)!

I’ll have the opportunity to give back to many of my fellow Aponte Literary authors. Look for Debbie Herbert, Ariel Swan, Brynn Chapman, M.V. Freeman, Tanisha Jones, D.T. Krippene, Eileen Charbonneau, and Juliene Osborne-McKnight on my blog soon. I’ve really enjoyed getting to know these authors and their work and look forward to sharing with my readers!

Screen Shot 2014-01-10 at 1.10.49 PMSummary

I’m counting 2013 as a success, and I think I’ll keep the same goals for 2014. Well, I’ll add a wish for more fangirl dream moments like the one I had meeting Jeaniene Frost at the Southern Magic Romance Readers Luncheon.

Squee!!!

So that’s my year in review and my hopes and aspirations for the coming year.

What are yours?

Blog Resurrected – Greetings (Again) From the Music City Writer

Backups fail.

Even triple backed up home servers are not immune to mysterious forces capable of destroying delicate computer equipment while one is on vacation.

Yet, in spite of losing past posts – not to mention a ton of family photos and other items from our home server (pauses to cry again) – out of the ashes, my new blog shall arise.

In the coming weeks I plan to recreate as many past posts as I can (remember) and build a better blog. But for now, let me start with my (re)introduction.

I am a Nashville-based scientist-turned-author of contemporary and paranormal romance, as well as urban fantasy. I honed my skills through contests a plenty, including Amazon’s Breakthrough Novel Award Competition in 2011 and 2012, and found a whole slew of author cyberpals who’ve shared this wacky and wonderful journey with me. While writing, editing, contesting, and looking for an agent/editor, I made my first sale to Lyrical Press with Red Shoes for Lab Blues, my debut contemporary romance novella scheduled for publication in July 2013. Along the way, I joined RWA and the Middle Tennessee Affiliate, Music City Romance Writers.

I HIGHLY recommend joining a professional organization relevant to one’s primary genre.

I was fortunate beyond measure to meet my agent, Natalia Aponte of Aponte Literary, through the 2012 Killer Nashville Writer’s Conference (more on that later in posts resurrected).

I HIGHLY recommend attending conferences.

In addition to writing, I’m still a working scientist, mom, caffeine addict, and entertaining neurotic. I hope this blog will entertain, educate as I share my journey from aspiring to published author, and above all else, live long enough to serve it’s purpose!

It’s great to be back!