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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?

Celebrating Strong Heroines

I’ve been spending way too much time on Facebook.

In the sea of cute kitties, the musings of George Takei, and political banter, I’ve fished out a few links that have made me think. Even better, links like the one below, courtesy of Upworthy.com, proved inspiring. Admittedly, the video clip created by Anita Sarkeesian is long, but it’s well worth a look and well worth considering:

Anita Sarkeesian on Misogyny and Damsel in Distress Tropes in Video Games

Screen Shot 2013-07-06 at 9.12.48 PMThe misogyny and worn out, overused, been-there-done-that-damsel-in-distress tropes she discusses in the context of video games are, of course, relevant to fiction. Genre fiction is filled with them, as are all forms of visual and written entertainment. In fact, what Ms. Sarkeesian so eloquently describes explains my aversion to a very popular fantasy series recently adapted for television.

On a positive note, however, I’ve found some very refreshing novels in the romance and urban fantasy genres (among others) that not only deviate from the classic ‘big, strong, dominant alpha male rescues helpless, submissive, weak female’ trope, they turn this trope upside down, shake it up, and churn out some incredibly compelling strong heroines (and heroes) in the process. These ladies kick ass, take names, and are as complex and capable as their male counterparts. Here, in no particular order, are some of my favorites:

Screen Shot 2013-07-06 at 9.14.13 PM1. Clarice Starling, Hannibal Lecter fictionverse

She is one of my all-time favorite characters from one of my all-time favorite novels, The Silence of the Lambs. Women are still underrepresented in law enforcement, including the F.B.I., but in the 1980s? As author Thomas Harris observes through the eyes of his protagonist:

All of Buffalo Bill’s victims were women, his obsession was women, he lived to hunt women. Not one woman was hunting him full time. Not one woman investigator had looked at every one of his crimes.

Not only must Starling face serial killer Buffalo Bill, she must overcome the old-boys’ network, her own personal demons, and she must match wits with one of the most frightening and fascinating killers ever conceived in the realm of fiction – Hannibal Lecter.

In the follow-up to SOTL, Hannibal, the genius killer himself sums up everything you need to know about Clarice Starling in a letter to his favorite lady:

You are a warrior, Clarice. The enemy is dead, the baby safe. You are a warrior.

The most stable elements, Clarice, appear in the middle of the periodic table, roughly between iron and silver.

Between iron and silver. I think that is appropriate for you.

2. Early Anita BlakeScreen Shot 2013-07-06 at 9.20.20 PM

I resisted this series for the longest time, but I’m so glad I finally got around to reading the first 5 or 6 books, featuring the adventures of this necromancer/private investigator who specializes in cases revolving around some pretty frightening supernatural creatures. She’s a tough as nails heroine, though to author Laurell K. Hamilton’s credit, she portrays Anita’s strengths in a realistic manner. At just over 5 feet tall, Anita has to rely on weapons and wits (plus a bit of magic at times) rather than brute strength when confronting vampires, were-creatures, serial killers, and a host of other threats.

She definitely holds her own with male colleagues and suitors as she fights beside them. More often than not, Anita actually rescues the guys. If I had to wander the dark and dangerous streets of Hamilton’s St. Louis, I’d definitely want Anita to have my back!

Screen Shot 2013-07-06 at 9.27.43 PM3. Cat Crawfield, Night Huntress series

I’ve had a ball following half-vampire Cat Crawfield’s exploits in Jeanine Frost’s Night Huntress fictionverse. From vigilante vampire hunter to covert ops team leader to up-and-coming Master Vampire, Cat’s growth and journey toward confidence and self-acceptance are as delightful to read as her relationship with hot, sexy Master Vampire hero, Bones. They fight their enemies (and sometimes one another) as equals. And anyone who can earn the respect of the most infamous, bad-ass vampire of all, Vlad Tepesh, is a heroine worth celebrating.

4. Angel Crawford, White Trash Zombie seriesScreen Shot 2013-07-06 at 9.16.07 PM

I’d been introduced to Diane Rowland’s Kara Gillian series by a friend (loving that one, too), but when I read the title of her first zombie book, I knew I’d have to grab a copy pronto. Yeah, I bought My Life as a White Trash Zombie for the title alone. Angel Crawford begins as stereotype destined to become a statistic. A high school drop out shacked up with a loser boyfriend, she can’t keep a job for more than a month and turns to pills and booze to stay numbed out. Her life takes an unexpected turn, however, when she becomes a zombie.

Angel is a fascinating character with a lot of depth and potential – becoming a zombie (seriously, it works!) gives her the impetus and means to get her life together.  Add in a series of unsolved murders, some entertaining side characters, and one hot cop, and you’ve got a great set up for a fabulous series featuring a kick-ass heroine. I also love her growing self-reliance as the series progresses – she even puts the brakes on the fast and furious relationship with her hot cop for the sake of personal growth. How refreshing.

Screen Shot 2013-07-06 at 9.18.26 PM5. Ciara Griffin, WVMP Vampire series

I’ve become a HUGE fan of Jerri Smith-Ready’s work. After Requiem for the Devil, I fell in love with the vampire DJs of WVMP and their unlikely protector, marketing intern Ciara Griffin. Wicked Game blew me away with its originality, powerful themes, and middle finger to all of those over-used conventions that riddle the vampire fictionverse (e.g. uber-alpha/high-handed heroes and damsel-in-distress heroines).

The vamps of WVMP are scary creatures of the night, as vamps should be, but with some unusual quirks. They become trapped in their era at the time of turning and have trouble adjusting to change, often resulting in OCD and mental deterioration. Working as DJs helps them stay connected to the outside world (through current events featured in their news stories) while maintaining ties to their musical ‘Life Time.’ Ciara Griffin, recovering con-artist and jaded cynic extraordinaire, makes it her mission to save the vamps and their radio station safe haven from the clutches of soul-sucking corporate radio.

She falls for hot-yet-angsty grunge rock era vampire Shane McCallister along the way, but the romance blends seamlessly with the larger plot and, fortunately, doesn’t overshadow it (or Ciara).

6. Dr. Elsa Brandeis, Soldiers of Fortune seriesScreen Shot 2013-07-06 at 9.24.11 PM 1

I adore everything written by my writing mentor, Jenna Bennett, but Fortune’s Hero proved an interesting departure from her mysteries. Captain Quinn Conlan has nothing left to lose – betrayed by his girlfriend during a weapons smuggling mission, he’s being held and tortured within an inch of his sanity by Rhenian ‘medics’ on their inhospitable prison colony. Among his torturers is icy Rhenian, Dr. Elsa Brandeis. His one and only chance at escape puts the frigid doctor in his clutches when he takes her hostage. In order to survive the elements on Marcia-3, free Quinn’s crew, and hijack a ship and flee the Rhenians, these two bitter enemies must form an uneasy alliance.

The alliance breeds understanding and attraction, but can they trust one another, or is their passion just a case of Stockholm Syndrome? When the Rhenians catch up with them, will Elsa rejoin her ‘side’ and condemn Quinn to a fate worse than death, or will she risk everything she’s ever believed in to save the rogue smuggler? Starting off as a Dr. Mengele-style torturer, Elsa is pretty much the antithesis of submissive. What Jenna manages brilliantly, though, is to humanize this strong, cold character while preserving her strength and cunning.

Screen Shot 2013-07-06 at 9.26.06 PM7. Lt. Taylor Jackson, Taylor Jackson series

Thanks to J.T. Ellison, Nashville’s finest are well-represented in the form of homicide detective Taylor Jackson and her team, who spend their time chasing serial killers in and around the city. I could wax poetic about Taylor’s strengths and virtues, but J.T. sums it up best under the FAQs section of her website:

I wanted to write about a…woman in control, who’s strong without being strident, who commands the respect of her peers and her enemies. One who’s worked hard and paid her dues.

As far as I’m concerned, J.T. has succeeded and I’d rank Taylor Jackson right up there with Clarice Starling. I look forward to delving into her spinoff series featuring medical examiner Samantha Owens.

8. Adelia Aguilar, Mistress of the Art of Death seriesScreen Shot 2013-07-06 at 9.32.56 PM

Think CSI meets The Canterbury Tales. Adelia Aguilar, the medieval equivalent of a forensic pathologist, faces a plethora of challenges when she’s called into the service of King Henry II of England: royal and local politics, the oppressive Catholic church (the grand poohbahs of which would love to see her burned), and a serial murderer of children she is charged with stopping. Adelia is the antithesis of an ideal medieval female, and thank goodness for that! Still, she manages to capture the attention of a knight – sort of. Former crusader Sir Rowley Picot, the king’s ambitious tax collector, is also out to catch the killer. When Dr. Aguilar saves him from a near-fatal knife wound, however, an unlikely romance blossoms amid the backdrop of the larger mystery plot.

The late Diana Norman (w/a Ariana Franklin) created a memorable, epic ballad-worthy heroine in her mistress of the art of death.

Screen Shot 2013-07-06 at 9.33.55 PM9. Dr. Marina Singh, State of Wonder

State of Wonder was my introduction to Ann Patchett’s work (thanks to my fabulous Agent, Natalia Aponte, for the recommendation!). Being a laboratory researcher myself, I found reluctant heroine Marina Singh authentic and relatable. Singh embarks on a  journey reminiscent of Conrad’s Heart of Darkness (with a splash of the 1992 film Medicine Man). Her mission: travel to the Brazilian rainforest to discover the circumstances behind the death of colleague and friend, Dr. Anders Eckman, on behalf of her pharmaceutical company. The stakes are high, as formidable research team leader and Singh’s former mentor, Dr. Annick Swenson, claims to have discovered a compound that extends female fertility. Corporate greed, ethical questions larger than Swenson’s ego, and the exotic, deadly jungle setting round out this heroine’s journey and make for one of the most thought-provoking novels I’ve yet read.

I also thank my lucky stars that I’ve never had a run-in with anyone as brutal as villianess (or anti-heroine, depending on your personal perspective) Annick Swenson in my own academic career!

10. Lisbeth Salandar, Millennium seriesScreen Shot 2013-07-06 at 9.35.25 PM

Reading about the brutality inflicted upon bad-ass hacker Lisbeth Salandar at the hands of her so-called advocate was difficult. How she exacts her revenge upon the sadistic pig was nothing short of a kick-in-the-balls to male oppression and a no-holds-barred lesson in eye-for-an-eye justice. Love her or hate her, she’s the sort of heroine you won’t soon forget. While I found much of the narrative…sluggish, I never skimmed when Stieg Larssen gave Salandar page time.

Short list, but these characters are among those I’ve found most engaging and inspiring – they represent what I hope to achieve in the heroines I create.

So, good people of the Internet, tell me – who are your favorite strong heroines and why do you love them? I’ve always got more room on my TBR pile and I’d love to find some more great reads featuring strong female leads.

Truth in Advertising

I’ve had a fair bit of practice writing back cover blurbs lately – one for my novella, a couple for projects under submission by my fabulous agents, and in the course of reviewing recently read books. It’s tough. It’s not unlike preparing a scientific abstract, and I’ve had a hell of a lot more experience with those. Hopefully the success with science blurbs will translate into success with my works of fiction. We shall see… Capturing the essence and theme(s) of a story, along with tone, voice, and plot within 200 or so words? Really, really tough.

Then there’s the sales pitch part. How do you reflect all of the elements noted above in a manner that appeals to your target audience and, if you’re lucky, an even broader readership? This topic has been tickling my brain since I watched the movie Flight. I didn’t want to watch it at first, you see, largely on account of the trailer. The trailer painted the story as your run-of-the-mill disaster film with a larger-than-life hero, lots of CG, and the elements of a conspiracy-type thriller (Senate hearings, anyone?).

***SPOILER ALERT***

So when my pilot guy husband insisted I give it a try (i.e. bribed me with snacks), I was surprised. It’s not a disaster film. It’s not a political thriller. The hero, while captivating (how could Denzel Washington be anything but captivating?), isn’t larger than life or even particularly heroic. He’s a drunk.

See, the story is really about addiction. It’s a great story and I actually liked it.

But you’d never know it’s about addiction by watching the trailer.

Now then, I enjoyed it, but I’m wondering how many summer-blockbuster action/disaster flick junkies were disappointed when they found out. I get the rationale. The powers that be in advertising wanted to sell as many tickets as possible, so they highlighted the scenes most likely to capture the coveted movie-going demographic. But those elements were, in fact, a pretty small part of the story.

I can see this approach backfiring.

So I’ve been working hard to balance out the rougher edges of my flawed heroes and heroines in order to help sell my work, but there is a fine line between smoothing and concealing. If editors/readers are turned off by a bitter caregiver or a former drug addict from the blurb, they would most likely be turned off even more if those characters popped up as a surprise because I sugar-coated them in the blurb.

My strategy has been emphasizing the larger themes of redemption, or the arguably more appealing story arc, while being honest about my characters’s flaws. Could it cost me some readers? Sure. But first of all, it’s impossible to appeal to everyone – it seems better to appeal to your target audience. Secondly, and more importantly, future readers might not trust me next time I put my pitch out there. This business is about building a loyal readership. I want my readers to trust that the story I sell them on the back cover is the story they’ll be getting. Plot twists and a few surprises are great, of course, but a major bait-and-switch? Not so much.

What about you folks out there in cyberspace? Writers – how do you balance the sales pitch with the heart of a story? Readers – what works for you in a back cover?

Discuss. I’ll make coffee.

Welcome Jessi Gage!

zz_Jessi Gage headshot2I am delighted to welcome fabulous author Jessi Gage to my blog. Jessi is a sister author with Lyrical Press, and I’m thrilled to be in her company for upcoming new releases in June. I recently picked up a copy of her sweeping and steamy historical romance, Wishing for a Highlander, and boy, am I glad I did. With an unconventional heroine (my favorite kind!), a red-hot Scottish warrior who balances his alpha nature with a surprising tenderness, and a dash of magic, this is a great read you won’t want to miss!

 Blurb:

While examining Andrew Carnegie’s lucky rosewood box, single-and-pregnant museum worker Melanie makes a tongue in cheek wish on the artifact–for a Highland warrior to help her forget about her cheating ex. Suddenly transported to the middle of a clan skirmish in sixteenth-century Scotland, she realizes she should have been a tad more specific.

Darcy, laird in waiting, should be the most eligible bachelor in Ackergill, but a cruel prank played on him in his teenage years has led him to believe he is too large under his kilt to ever join with a woman. He has committed himself to a life of bachelorhood, running his deceased father’s windmills and keeping up the family manor house…alone.

 

wishingforahighlanderDarcy’s uncle, Laird Steafan welcomes the strangely dressed woman into his clan, immediately marrying her to Darcy in hopes of an heir. But when Steafan learns of her magic box and brands her a witch, Darcy must do what any good husband would–protect his wife, even if it means forsaking his clan.

WARNING: A pregnant museum worker, a sixteenth-century Scot, and a meddlesome wishing box.

If my gushing isn’t enough to convince you, getting the insider scoop from Jessi ought to do the trick.

Jessi, your heroine Melanie starts off in a bit of a bind – namely, she’s pregnant and alone thanks to being abandoned by her commitment-phobe of a boyfriend before she’s transported back in time and meets Darcy. What inspired you to take a risk on this unconventional situation for a romantic female lead (which works beautifully, BTW)?

Thank you for having me, D.B.! I’m honored to be here and so excited to share a release day with you! Red Shoes for Lab Blues looks like so much fun. I can’t wait to read it!

I was actually pregnant myself when I started writing Wishing for a Highlander. I remember feeling all at home in my body for like the first time ever, and I might have been a tad more interested in sex than before. I’d never felt more womanly than while I was pregnant. I thought, why aren’t there any pregnant romance heroines? Pregnancy is sexy! That’s how Melanie was “born.”

Oh, I remember those days – pregnancy hormones definitely spice things up, don’t they? I fell in love with Darcy from the get-go. He’s all male, all warrior, and definitely carries with him the masculine mindset of 16th century Scotland, yet he comes across as caring rather than high-handed. How did you balance keeping him true to his time while maintaining his appeal to his modern-day lady?

Well, the idea for Wishing for a Highlander started with Melanie, the pregnant heroine who loves history so much she works with it every day at the Charleston Museum. Darcy started out as this enormous boulder of a warrior who was kind of a cardboard cutout until I figured out what his issues were and how Melanie could help him deal with them as much as he helps her in the novel.

My characters tend to evolve slowly as I write. The key for me is always discovering what the characters’ goals are and what motivates them to keep trying to achieve those goals even when things go way wrong for them. (GMC, goals, motivation, conflict: if I can nail that, the novel writes itself—okay not really. I still have to do kind of a lot of work, but it’s way more fun when I know GMC.)

I think you created the perfect hero for Melanie in Darcy – the contrast between his tough exterior and carefully guarded heart was a great source for goals, motivation, conflict, and depth. And…speaking of, er, interesting cultural differences, I found Melanie’s efforts to educate Darcy on the joy of foreplay and her slow, patient awakening of his sexuality very authentic, amusing, and touching. What inspired this aspect of their story?

I’m so thrilled you liked that aspect of the story, D.B. I love me a good alpha hero. Karen Marie Moning writes some of the best (Highlanders too–YUM!). But I was curious about exploring a hero who had some alpha qualities on the battlefield but some beta qualities in the bedroom.

I did this by writing a twist on the much-loved theme of the hero educating the heroine in the finer points of sex. I turned it on its head and let the heroine be the teacher. Darcy has some deep-seated personal insecurities even though he’s strong in other ways. Melanie needs and appreciates Darcy’s strength and protection, and she’s able to reciprocate by patiently helping him overcome his personal issues.

It’s a dynamic I haven’t seen a lot in romance, I suspect because it can be a challenge to keep the hero believably strong. Maybe I’m a masochist for trying it, or just too new to know better, but it sure was fun, and I’ve gotten some good feedback, so I consider the dynamic a success.

Oh I do love to see conventional tropes turned upside down – you made it work beautifully! I was over-the-moon excited to hear there’s a sequel in the works. Can you give us any hints about what is to come in this series?

The Wolf and the Highlander will be the second book in my Highland Wishes series. In it, I will tell Anya’s story. That’s right. I’m giving the murderous whore a chance at redemption, and with a wolf-man no less!

Anya was a very naughty girl in Wishing for a Highlander. She’s got a lot to make up for, and she’ll get her chance to prove she can be selfless instead of selfish. In The Wolf and the Highlander, stakes get raised, and the steaminess will climb a notch. You won’t want to miss seeing Anya go from brash villainess to selfless heroine, all because of the love of one poor trapper with a rather large axe (you thought I was going to say something else, didn’t you?) Well, you won’t be disappointed in that regard, I promise.

Can’t wait to find out how Anya redeems herself! How do you balance life and writing (yes, I’m always looking for advice on that!)?

It’s a struggle and a joy. I stay home with my two little monsters…I mean darlings, and I keep very busy running them around, playing outside, keeping them out of trouble, and trying to be a good mommy. I write in chunks of time here and there, largely when they have TV time or are napping or are in bed.

I’d prefer to be able to focus on writing for larger chunks of time. 4 hours is a good length of time to sit and write, but I don’t get that. I might not get that luxury for a few more years. My motto these days is: Make it happ’n cap’n. You just gotta do it when you can and be smart about how you use your time.

One thing I’m HUGELY thankful for is that my mom babysits for me every Friday morning rain or shine so I can go to Cupcake Crew, my wonderful critique group. I get my weekly dose of critique, cupcakes, and snark and am good to go for another week. I don’t know what I’d do without my critique partners or my mom, who makes it possible for me to see them each week.

My goal is to produce 1-2 books per year. So far, I’m managing that much and am a happy camper. Maybe someday it will be more. *fingers crossed* But for now, I consider myself blessed to have such a wonderful opportunity to be with my kids so much while I do what I love (write!) in those windows of time that appear at random intervals throughout the day.

Sounds like you got some great strategies for success there. Desert island – three must-have books?

The Bible. The Stand. KMM’s Fever series (I’m cheating and making the third book a whole series of 5 books, but if you’re going to be a stickler, I’ll take the fifth book, Shadowfever).

Thank you for having me, D.B.! I’m so glad you liked Wishing for a Highlander and loved chatting about it here on your blog.

Thank you so much for the wonderful interview. To learn more about Jessi, please visit any of her online haunts:

Website | Blog | Facebook Fan Page | Twitter | Goodreads

 

For more information about Wishing for a Highlander or to buy your copy, here are the links:

Amazon
Barnes & Noble
Lyrical Press
All Romance

Welcome Sophia Jones!

Skydiving CompositeI am thrilled to welcome fabulous author Sophia Jones to my blog. Sophia is my critique partner, fellow romance junkie, and all around great gal pal. After years of Skype and IM, I finally had the great pleasure of visiting her in her home state of Arizona, where she joined me in checking off one of my big bucket list adventure items. Gotta love a friend who’ll jump out of an airplane with you!

She’s been with me from the beginning of my writing journey – seriously, she’s read everything I’ve ever written, including some things better left buried in the depths of my computer hard drive. So naturally I’m very happy and proud to be a part of her writing journey!

Today, she’ll be telling us about her new release, The Pharaoh and the Curator.

Synopsis: Unlucky in love museum curator Michelle Beaumont finds herself in Egypt where she contributes to god Amon Ra’s resurrection. His burning heat soon has her throwing caution to the desert winds, but a lurking danger threatens both of their souls.

Pharaoh coverSophia, tell us a little about your heroine, Michelle. Aside from the physical, what drives her attraction to Ra?

Oh goodness, dare I use the word soul mate?  He is her soul mate.  But that connection aside, I think she’s drawn to his warmth.  He’s considerate of her, respectful in a way that harkens back to another time–yet he knows she is his equal and treats her as such.  She also likes the way he’s managed to keep a positive attitude and his sense of humor through what has been a very long trial.  She admires his fortitude.

Ah yes, chivalry of old mixed with a soul-deep connection and a mighty pleasing physique. Speaking of…luckily for Michelle, Ra shows off that physique by wearing very little, aside from one particularly intriguing piece of clothing that doesn’t quite fit the Saharan desert setting. Needless to say, Michelle calls him out on his wardrobe choice with great comedic effect. Do you find it easy or challenging to balance the romance with humor (which you do very well, IMHO)?

Aw, you’re sweet, thank you for that nice compliment.  I’ve been a bit surprised at how many readers have commented on the humor in my stories–mostly because I’m not a funny person.  I can never remember the punch lines to jokes and can’t tell when other people are kidding half the time.  But I find that often my characters, my female leads especially, have snarky inner voices that translate to their dialogue.  Any humor element in my writing comes about organically and usually takes me by surprise.  The romantic bits?  I have to work at those. ;o)

Oh, I don’t know, I personally think you’re a pretty funny gal, and I definitely enjoy the romantic bits in your work. This is the second erotic short you’ve published (and, dear readers, you should really check out her first – The Phantom and the Psychic), and I adore your exotic locations and romantic pairings. Can you give us any hints about what’s next for you?

I intend to do another Paranormal Erotic Tale and am currently polling readers about what they’d like to see.  Their suggestions have been quite inspiring.  So far the possibilities include a Roman garden with floral scents heavy in the air, historical New Orleans, and haunting Savannah, Georgia.  I love all of these ideas, but I’ll be honest and admit there’s a pirate argh-ing sweet nothings into my ear and sending me flashes of blue Caribbean waters when I close my eyes. 

You know I’m voting for the pirate theme, as visions of Captain Jack Sparrow dance through my naughty mind. Now then, readers, I happen to know a bit about Sophia’s process, including an, um, unconventional writing location she favors (evil grin)… Tell us a little about the inspiration for your stories and your process. You can even share that writing location if you like 🙂

You’re an evil, evil woman who knows far too many of my secrets.  Okay, if I can jump out of a plane, I can share this. ;o)  I’m a big reader, as many of us writers are I think, and I do a fair amount of my reading from the bathtub.  I suffered pretty bad writer’s block for this second shorty, and in desperation one evening, I plopped down in my bathtub– laptop and all.  No, there was no water in it, just me, sitting in an empty tub, typing.  But I found writing from my “reading place” helped me get back into my story.  The next night I laid a big, squishy comforter in the tub for cushioning, along with a pillow or two, and was able to crank out two thousand words.  Needless to say, my hubby was amused.  No, there is no photographic evidence–nor shall there ever be!

Hey, you gotta go with what works. Here’s my confession: I once pounded out 2,000 words in the passenger seat of a car while picking hubby’s brain about the inner workings of the male mind. So, in the bathtub or elsewhere, which authors would we find you reading when taking a break from your own writing?

There are so many, and it changes week to week.  My all-time favorites are Kresley Cole, Lisa Kleypas, Susan Elizabeth Philips, Stephen King, and more recently, Joe Hill.  

I’m with you on Stephen King and Joe Hill, and I’ll add Lisa Kleypas and Susan Elizabeth Philips to my list. Thank you so much for the wonderful interview and for feeding my romance addiction with your wonderful stories!

Thank you so much for having me.  I’ve learned so much from you these last couple of years; you’re truly an inspiration.

To learn more about Sophia, please visit her website. The Pharaoh and the Curator is available now from Amazon, as is her first, The Phantom and the Psychic. You can also find Sophia on Twitter and Facebook.

Welcome Lynn Cahoon!

Lyrical girls!I am delighted to welcome fabulous author Lynn Cahoon to my blog. Lynn is a sister author with Lyrical Press, and I recently had the great fortune of meeting her in person at my favorite Nashville bookstore, Mysteries & More Booksellers. What a treat!

Today, she’ll be telling us about her new release, Temporary Roommates, a smokin’ hot contemporary romance from Passion In Print. The story features a dedicated nurse, a busy doc, and the apartment they agree to share – just for convenience, of course.

Yeah, right.

Blurb:

TemporaryRoomatecover_frontAnnie Baxter has her dream job.  Now, all she needs is a cheap apartment close to the hospital.  Troy Saunders knows his life as an intern is all about the long hours. He doesn’t have time to play doctor to some Nurse Barbie.  So when his sister finds a great apartment walking distance to work and next to the best running paths in the city, he’s sold. Two leasing agents, two prospective renters, one apartment.  Can they co-exist without fireworks?

Lynn, tell us a little about Annie and Troy. Aside from the physical, what drives their attraction and what makes them hesitate to act on it?

Both Troy and Annie have strong future driven goals.  They can see the finish line and don’t want anything, or anyone, to get in the way of what needs to be done. For Troy, his grandmother’s death from cancer set his mind to work for a cure. Annie got left at the altar by her high school sweetheart. An action she blesses him for because it forced her to look at what she wanted out of life, besides the white picket fence. 

This determination fuels the desire for each other, even though both deny wanting more than just a friendship. Maybe it’s the idea of forbidden fruit as much as karma that keeps throwing them in each other’s line of sight.

Sounds like they both get a lesson in work-life balance, which I’m sure a LOT of us can relate to. And three cheers for Troy – nothing like a hot guy with noble goals. Since cancer research is my day job, he’s definitely my kind of hero. Speaking of, I commend you on winning your battle with breast cancer. Congratulations on being a five-year survivor and kicking cancer’s ass! Did your personal experience with nurses, doctors, and hospitals influence this story?

Of course! I spent so much time at the hospital and in the general area, I almost considered moving closer.  At first though, thinking about the story allowed me to think about anything else than the treatment.  As far as kicking cancer’s ass, I’d rather not crow about that. I’m a bit superstitious. Let’s just say I’m doing good now and I have a full head of hair.

I have to tell a husband story here. The guy is a true romantic. One Sunday, I was taking a nap (which I did a lot during the chemo summer.)  I’d just started to lose my hair. A noise woke me and I went into our bathroom to find he’d taken the buzz shears to his shoulder length hair. He’d fully committed too. He ran those puppies right through the middle of his head, no turning back.  He wore the buzz cut all summer.

Even now, that memory makes me smile.   

Understood, and I’m so delighted hear that you found your real life hero. What a wonderful husband! Can you give us any hints about what is to come in this series?

Temporary Roommates (A Central West End Story) will be followed by a sequel, continuing Annie and Troy’s story.  And, there’s at least one unattached friend, Sasha, who needs her own story.  I’m not sure about Matt though.  I don’t know if I can rehabilitate him into anything close to hero status. But it might be fun to try.

I’ll be releasing Marriage Not Included in May with Soul Mate and the second in The Council series with Lyrical –Return of the Fae July 1st.  So there is lots to read from me while you’re waiting for the second in the Central West End series. And of course, there’s always The Bull Rider series 🙂

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

Just do it?  Nike has a point here.  I work 40+ hours a week, commute another 8 hours, and try to fit in a work out. I’m a firm believer in baby steps. Writing 250 words a day is better than none and you have a page.  Write 500 words twice a day, and you have 7000 words in a week or 28000 words in a month. Two months and you have a nice category length book to revise, edit and shop.  Four months and you have a full length book.

My bad habit is all or nothing at times.  So I have to remember to take time for me, even if I haven’t made word count for the week.   As you know, once you’re published, more time gets stolen away from you for promo, edits, publisher requests, etc.  Only you can write your story, so make sure you focus on that first. The rest can fit in around the big stuff.

Sounds like you have the right attitude, and I like the idea about baby steps – those 250-500 word count days really do add up! Desert Island – three must-have books?

The Stand by Stephen King – Anything I haven’t read from Harlan Coben – Illusions by Richard Bach (author of Jonathon Livingston Seagull).  It’s a little book, but punches a wallop as far as story. Wait, I just realized these are all male authors.  Let’s add Jayne Ann Krantz and her Arcane Society series to the mix.  So Four – because I’m getting a boxed set.  Maybe I can do that with Harlan’s books too. ???

Yes, I like to bend the rules, why do you ask?

Thank you for inviting me. I’m so blessed to have met so many wonderful authors and readers, on line and in person.

Oh man, Stephen King’s The Stand is definitely one of my all time favorites and one I’d bring along to the beach. Thank you so much for the wonderful interview. To learn more about Lynn, please visit her website. Temporary Roommates is available now from Passion In Print , Amazon, and Barnes&Noble.

Happy 2013!

So I’m jumping on the whole wrapping-up-the-old-year-building-goals-for-the-new-year blog bandwagon (thanks, Pamela Turner and Christine Glover). 2012 came with some pretty phenomenal milestones.

1. First contract

Lyrical Press contracted my debut novella, Red Shoes for Lab Blues. My fabulous editor Ann-Marie Smith has worked with me on two rounds of copy edits and two rounds of line edits to make this story shine. We’re wrapping up the line edits and hopefully moving on to galleys soon. I’m hoping for a cover reveal sometime in early 2013 and gearing up for release in July. It’s exhilarating, and a bit nerve wracking – this will be the first time I’ve put my work (and by extension myself) out there, but it is a milestone I will always treasure.

I’m also blown away by the wonderful and supportive author community at LP.

2. Landing an Agent

I am profoundly grateful to Natalia Aponte for believing in my potential and taking me on as a client. She and Victoria Lea have given me some really terrific editorial guidance for two series I hope we can sell in 2013. I just wrapped up revisions for book one in the Music City Afterlife urban fantasy series and I’m super excited about the next steps in the quest for publication.

3. MCRW Service as Secretary

Wasn’t expecting this, but the lovely ladies on the nominating committee for Music City Romance Writers thought of me when it came time to elect a new secretary. I look forward to working with the rest of the board and our RWA chapter in 2013.

All in all, pretty awesome year.

For 2013…

1. Finish and Edit Works in Progress

This one may be tough, but definitely worth it. New material is the lifeblood of a writer. I’m making it my goal to take all of the valuable lessons I’ve learned from editing the novella and urban fantasy novel and apply them to my two new projects. I’ve read plenty of how-to books/blog posts on craft, and the recurring theme that most resonates with me – keep writing, keep writing, keep writing.  If you do, you’ll become a better storyteller, you’ll become more efficient and generate cleaner first drafts, you’ll have more projects in the pipeline ready to sell.

2. Learn All I Can About Marketing and Promotions

Here’s where (I hope) all of those panels and workshops on marketing and promo will pay off. I’ve got a great network of fellow authors, mentors, and industry professionals lined up and will continue to build on it. Balancing this goal with goal number one will no doubt present a challenge, but should be a great experience – starting with the novella and hopefully continuing with the series in progress.

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.

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

What are yours?