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Wednesday, February 24, 2010


Seriously Not Funny

One thing I’ve come to accept being a writer, is the fact that a fair amount of self-awareness and personal growth stem from the actual writing process. I’ve discovered many things about myself, a few of them quite surprising. The most surprising is that of my writer’s ‘voice’.

For a new author, ‘voice’ is that mythical something which will make our work suddenly magical, and everyone will love it. The only problem is, we can’t seem to find it, and aren’t really sure where to look. The way people talk about it, voice is something you could pick up at the grocery store, or find in your handbag.

The reality is, an author’s voice is magical, because it’s inside each of us, as writers. It’s our uniqueness. The identity, if you will, of our writing that readers come to recognize. It’s derived from the choices we make about which words to use in our stories, how the story begins, and ends. What the subject matter is, and how we choose to share it, and connect with our readers. The way we develop it, is to write. And write some more. And so on.

If words are the heart of our stories, voice is the soul.

Coming around to my original point, as I’ve worked on my novels, others have commented on things which identify my ‘voice’. One of them seems to be the ability to make people feel what my characters feel, and sometimes they cry. ‘Why that’s great,’ you say.

Not if you started out wanting to be funny. I love humor. And truly admire those who write hilarious characters in crazy situations. Even if they are sometimes snarky, they make me smile. That’s what I wanted to give my readers, when I first started writing. Humor with a little snarky bite. No vampire pun intended since I write contemporary romance and romantic suspense, not paranormal.

This writer’s journey has been a revelation. I’m seriously not funny. Can’t write humor to save my life. Or make a living at it anyway. There are pages and pages to prove it. It’s just not me. My stories come out tender, touching, sensual, and action-packed. Just not funny. It’s been interesting, letting go of something I thought I could do. And doing instead, what feels right. And natural. Finding my ‘voice’. Writing stories with heart, and soul.

Sutton Fox writes part-time, and has an evil day job she’s angling to get rid of, in order to write full time. When not traveling for work, she happily whiles away her free time in Louisville, KY, with the love of her life and two cats. There are children in the picture, but they are all off creating their own lives, leaving a nice empty nest for Sutton to play in. Sutton’s Traveling Circus series, High Wire,Center Ring, and Lion Tamers, are published in ebook and print by Lyrical Press. You’re invited to follow her blog, and check out her website for more details.

Monday, February 22, 2010


Perfect Is Boring

I love a flawed character. You can do so much with them, and there is room to grow. The more human, the better. Personally, I don't think I've ever written a character without failings. In my opinion, they make for a more interesting story.

Let's take this down to basics and see what you think –

Mina is a bit of a selfish girl who runs away from home to take a boat ride with a friend. Things go dreadfully wrong, and she ends up in Dominic's path.

Dominic's father was cruel to his mother, and Dominic never did anything about it. Because of this, he has issues with women. He is afraid he will become his father, so he avoids women altogether.

Mina needs his help, but he won't let her close enough to him to get it. She clings to him because she is afraid to go home to her family and face the trouble that her running away has caused.

Now, if you look at this plot line and remove the characters' flaws, you don't have a story at all. Take away Mina's guilt, and she can return home without delay. Get rid of Dominic's family issues, and there is no tension between them. Eliminate Mina's selfish impulses and Mina will never even leave home. Keep all these things, and you have a perfect opportunity for the characters to grow as separate people and as a couple over the length of the story. Leave them in, and you have potential for passion, adventure, and romance.

There is a certain amount of perfection in the flawed character. I will go into my heroines for more examples.

Chloe, in Bound by Love, starts out a spoiled girl with little regard for the people around her. As she sees what effects her deeds have, she slowly comes to realize that her actions have consequences, and by the end of the story she is not the same.

Reena, in Crushing Desire, is very insecure. She isn't fashionable and she knows it all too well. Joshua shows her that love dictates true beauty and by the end of the story she has changed.

These flaws bring a certain level of humanity to the characters that perfect characters could never achieve. Next time you pick up a romance novel, watch for characters with flaws. See what sort of trouble they can get into and how much fun the story is because of it.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010



Yes, it’s after Valentine’s Day, but in many parts of the world including the northern states of the USA, winter still hasn’t released its icy grip. It’s also Ash Wednesday, so the days of Lent are upon us. Where I live, on the south shore of Lake Superior, warm weather is a long way off. What to do? I wish we could make all of February the “Love” month. As the golden oldie from back even before my time says, “I’ve got my love to keep me warm.” Which would be wonderful if everyone did have a love to do that.

Being human makes us all less than perfect, so it can’t happen to all. Except in movies, music and books, whether electronic or print. I’m not talking about sex. While sex definitely plays a part in certain kinds of love, it doesn’t in all. Mother love, for example. Or a small child’s love for his grandparents, or a playmate.

In my own life, the Viking from my past tells me he fell in love with me when my first grade teacher brought me into his second grade room because I was “skipping” a grade. He was seven and I was six, and he got so wrapped up in placing me on some kind of imaginary pedestal that we never became anything more than friends. I had no notion of this and, after graduation, we went our separate ways, eventually marrying others. In my case, twice.

If I hadn’t been a published author we may have never met again. His brother sent him a article from our home town weekly paper about a new book I’d written, so he went out, bought and read it. Got my phone number off the ‘Net and called on April Fool’s Day, from Nevada to New York, to ask if by any chance the Swedish hero in the book was even partly based on him. When I thought about it, I realized he was the only Swede I’d ever known very well, so I told him he could be.

As we talked I found he’d been divorced for eight years and he learned I was a widow. Furthermore, in June we were visiting our separate relatives on the same week-end in Lower Michigan only forty miles apart. He invited me to a Sunday lunch. No longer was I on any kind of pedestal and so he kissed me for the second time in my life. The first was when we were in our twenties and he stopped by the hospital where I was finishing my nurses training on his way back home from Michigan State, a kiss that surprised me.

The third kiss came when I got off the plane in Reno in August when I went to stay with him for a while--and it was the clincher. We haven’t been apart since. Going on sixteen years now. Talk about incredible luck! So it’s never too late for love.

That is, in essence, s what our Jewels of the Quill Magical Kisses Valentine Anthology tries to show: Love strikes when and where it will. My story, “The Third Kiss” comes from my own life, as well as an old Scottish belief that the third kiss is the magic one that tells you it’s love. But only if that kiss comes from the one who gave you the first two. Unfortunately, the heroine in my story is sure she hates the guy who first kissed her…

Bio: Jane Toombs has eighty plus published books to her credit and twenty some novellas. She lives on the south shore of Lake Superior with the Viking from her past and their calico grandcat, Kinko. Summers are fantastic, but the least said about winters, the better. Jane writes in most genres, but her favorite is paranormal romance. She belongs to Jewels Of The Quill as Dame Turquoise. This is a closed group of twelve published authors who promote each other. They also do anthologies, some of which have won awards. Magical Kisses, their Valentine Anthology is presently a Finalist for the EPIC Award .

Monday, February 15, 2010


My life and my writing

Like so many other African-Americans born in the seventies, I was bused from my urban neighborhood to attend school in neighborhoods that were different from mine in every way: economically, racially, and at times culturally. I didn’t know how to ‘fit in’. Don’t worry; I had friends, but not many. It’s weird how that also affected my life in my neighborhood. I didn’t get to hang out with the kids from my neighborhood between classes, in the lunchroom, or after school because we weren’t in the same place. So, I ended up in a blackhole. I didn’t fit in my school, and I didn’t fit in my neighborhood.

It’s kind of like going to work every day for years with the same people, and then you change jobs. How do those ‘work’ friendships fair? Well, it was the same for me.

So, books became my best friends. Back then, Reading is Fundamental was incredibly strong in schools. One day, I came across Judy Blume’s Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret. Could I have picked a more appropriate book? Aside from a crazy connection with Margaret, I connected with Judy Blume. I wanted to write!

Writing became my release, my escape.

The characters and stories I write are a mixture of both parts of me. I found early on through contest entries that everyone might not believe in my world, but I am extremely proud of the blended world created in Love’s Chance. The characters and story-line are a good mixture of things I’ve loved and hated about both worlds.

As I continue to grow as a person, and as a writer, I hope that I continue to craft stories from my world that are compelling and keep readers engaged.

Bio: I am an author of contemporary romance novels. My books feature strong African-American women whose love can not be bound by race, bank accounts, age, religion or gender.
Additionally, I write for, and My first novella, Love’s Chance, will be released in 2010 by Red Rose Publishing.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010


What if there is intelligent life in the universe besides humans? Let’s say multiple space going races and they’ve met. How could they communicate?

I look at our diverse world. Humans have so many cultures and languages. We need ambassadors to assist in productive communication just among ourselves. A hand gesture may mean something good in one country but an insult in another.

How can aliens learn to live with one another? There would be too many languages, let alone dialects and cultural taboos, for someone to learn. New technologies would need to be developed to assist these new types of ambassadors, these Liaisons of culture, diplomacy, and language.


Assigned as an interpreter to the Cyngi, Liaison Sadie Beckit is left in the dark. Knowledge is power when dealing with multiple races of aliens but this mysterious species has chosen to withhold most of their culture and language information.

Crossing multiple star systems to the remote Cyngi world on an old space freighter, she has come to accompany Ambassador Nual back to Central Station. On their return journey the crew and passengers end up fighting for their lives.

Sadie is forced to confront her past. Difficult choices must be made and the survival of a whole race depends on her decisions. Can she abandon her heart and sacrifice the Red Dawn?


The butterflies in Sadie’s stomach turned to lead and slammed into her gut. Glitch, her data processing POD, descended from the ceiling and floated in front of her. Various glyphs appeared then disappeared on its silver surface, much like a mirrored bubble.

The space station caught it hacking into their computer system. “Frik.” The POD stored the majority of her data and ran her more complex programs when she needed it to, like trying to break into the Cyngi database through the firewall.

“You never get snagged.” A wave of nausea crashed over her. She shouldn't have skipped breakfast. If the Red Dawn was docked at any other space station, she'd just get a slap on the wrist for the intrusion. It didn’t hurt that she was protected by her status as a Liaison. She could get away with small injunctions most other places.

Working with government officials as a translator and a cultural expert had its perks. With so many different aliens involved in the Central Worlds government, the Liaison’s office was developed to smooth over any confusion between races and to avoid misunderstandings that could lead to conflict. Every dignitary received a Liaison, so when an ambassador for the Cyngi had requested an audience with the political Assembly at Center Station—the main hub of trade and politics—she jumped at the opportunity.

Since the Cyngi guarded their privacy with intense fervor, she didn’t know how they would react to her and Glitch’s transgression. The proof was in the file they sent to acquaint her on their own customs and behaviors. Minimal information. A few language files she could use to barely get by, a child’s version of their history, basic cultural faux pas.

She had to admit she got more from her own research through rare vid files provided by the Liaison office. The media streams showed her things, like the desire to touch. They leaned against one another or held hands, didn’t matter what sex or age. So she expected her new assignment, Xau, to need physical contact; but she’d need to have a little talk with her about restraining those urges around other races. That’s if she didn’t get fired for hacking their computer. It worried her a bit and butterflies fluttered around her insides.

A bang echoed from the cargo bay below her as the crew unloaded the ship of goods for the space station that orbited the Cyngi home world on the outer reaches of the galaxy. If they took legal action for her unauthorized information hunt, it would be a long time before the Liaison office rallied to her defense.

“Liaison, the ambassador is at the airlock requesting permission to board the ship.” The captain’s voice interrupted her dread. He and his

family crewed the freighter. They were Denobola, a bipedal, panther-like race.

“Oh my cotton joy, she's early.” Sadie dropped the wet towel from her head into the laundry reciprocal.

“I can stall if you need more time, Liaison.”

“I'd appreciate that, but don't let her get upset. If she does, just let

her in.” She yanked open the drawer under the cot and grabbed a clean red jumper.

Most of the freighter comprised of cargo and little living space so their room consisted of two fold-up bunks, a bathroom, and a wall-bench.

No passenger liners came to this remote part of the galaxy so both she and the ambassador needed to make do with the sparse dull surroundings.

“The Cyngi do not upset easily. He'll wait.” The captain cut the connection.

She stopped dressing, only a leg in the one-piece suit. “He?”

More symbols flashed in rapid succession over Glitch’s surface. She didn't need to read them. It had a link to her internal processor and communicated directly with her brain. She suspected it did symbol gyrations to express its emotions, which she knew it contained. They shared this odd habit. She did a similar thing by talking out loud to get her message across.

“I refuse to review the file again Glitch. It’s flawed. According to the information provided, the ambassador is supposed to be female.” She pulled her jumper on, over the thin underwear and camisole she already wore, and zipped it up.

Not the most flattering outfit, but the Cyngi wore minimal clothes. Why would he care about fashion? Why did they switch ambassadors? Why didn’t someone send her a message about them doing this?

She ran her fingers through her tight black curls to knock loose any beads of water and forced a deep, slow breath.

“By the Dark Void, I wish they’d sent me more info on their race. I’m working blind.” She slipped on her heavy boots.

The room's door disappeared into the wall when she activated it. Outside, the bare narrow hallway led to an elevator. Pipes and tubes ran along the ceiling; and she passed a steep metallic emergency stairwell, which she’d hate to have to climb.

Glitch floated above her head. “Let's go meet our new employer. Maybe he can keep us out of prison.” She made the statement as light and humorous as possible for Glitch's sake but wiped her sweaty palms on her jump suit. No point in both of them worrying.

A bell announced the lift’s arrival on her floor. Once the doors slid open, a set of pale green eyes met hers. She restrained the gut reaction to jump back. Thousands of years of instincts bred into human DNA cried out predator. Ten years as a Liaison taught her to repress those impulses.

Kaille, one of the captain's wives, stared at her eye-to-eye. “Are you ready, Liaison?”

What do you think our future holds?

Annie Nicholas hibernates in the rural, green mountains of Vermont where she dreams of different worlds, heroes, and heroines. When spring arrives the stories pour from her, in hopes to share them with the masses one day.

Mother, daughter, wife are some of the hats she happily wears while trudging after her cubs through the hills and dales. The four seasons an inspiration and muse.

Buy Now (link -


Monday, February 8, 2010


One theory about novelists is that all fiction is autobiographical to some degree. I’d like to believe that isn’t the case when I read Stephen King or Charlaine Harris. If any part of their novels is coming from their lives, then they’re living at an intensity level that might not be particularly healthy. Still, I think there’s something to be said about this for most writers. For one thing, it’s nearly impossible to keep yourself completely outside of your work (in an early draft of my first novel, When You Went Away, a reader asked me why the protagonist hated one of the secondary characters so much; I’d based that character on someone I knew and I suddenly had to rethink my relationship with that person). For another, each of us views the world through our particular prisms. For novelists, those perspectives color every word they write, whether they are conscious of it or not. Therefore, all fiction must be autobiographical to some degree, even if it only reveals a glimpse into the writer’s mind.

Of course, often the autobiographical component is more overt than that. Writers will commonly use events from their lives in their stories, though they might alter the circumstances dramatically. This is a perfectly legitimate fiction-writing device. Interestingly, memoirists seem to be employing it with greater frequency as well, which isn’t nearly as legitimate and it makes Oprah very upset, but that’s a story for another day. My newest novel, Crossing the Bridge, is a love story about a man who has spent the past ten years contending with the sudden death of the brother he adored and with the fact that he was secretly in love with his brother’s girlfriend. I did not have a brother who died when his car went off a bridge, but I did have one who died. In my case, this happened several years before I was born. He’d gotten sick when he was young and passed away in his early teens. His death had an enormous impact on my family, particularly my mother, and when she became pregnant with me after she believed she’d already gone through menopause, she became convinced that her lost son was being returned to her. She never even considered a girl’s name for the baby she was carrying, even though there was no way to confirm that her new child would be a boy in those pre-sonogram days.

Some day, I will write about what it was like to grow up in a family with much older siblings and a mother who believed you were some kind of celestial reparation. In Crossing the Bridge, I deal with a piece of this: the mythology that builds around a fallen member of a household. My late brother was something of an icon in my childhood home. There were pictures of him everywhere. One particularly chilling juxtaposition of images was a large photo of him in a frame into a corner of which my mother had tucked one of my school pictures. We look very much alike in these pictures. Yes, I thought about that quite a bit growing up. Still do, if we’re being honest. For Crossing the Bridge, this mythology affects Hugh, the protagonist, his parents, other members of the community, and, most significantly to Hugh, Iris, his brother’s girlfriend. When, ten years later, Hugh and Iris meet again, they finally address this mythology, something I can’t say I’ve ever done with my own family (note to self…), and contend with the attraction they shared a decade ago.

By the way, I invented Iris. She’s entirely fictional. Well, not entirely. After all, all fiction is autobiographical.

Michael Baron is the pseudonym for a successful nonfiction writer. He is the author of two novels, When You Went Away and Crossing the Bridge. His next novel, The Journey Home, will go on sale in May.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010


Love That Lasts

In February chocolate means love. We give the irresistible sweet on Valentine’s Day, which is the only holiday set aside for an emotion. Chocolate candy, with its deep color and rich taste, along with flowers and paper hearts aptly expresses a token of what we feel in a tangible way. There’s passionate love, such as that of Elizabeth Barrett Browning in “Sonnets from the Portuguese.”

“How, do I love thee? Let me count the ways,

I love thee with the breath,

Smiles, tears, of all my life!--and if God choose,

I shall but love thee better after death.”

When I read those words, I see a young girl with long flowing blonde hair and a guy with broad shoulders sitting on the brick steps of the girl’s house on a warm, spring night wrapped in each others arms. I imagine it’s late and perhaps the girl’s father flashes the outdoor spotlight for her to come inside, so they hug tighter and kiss longer until at last she must go indoors.

And I hope their love will endure the obstacles and challenges life puts in their paths, and she will love him even better after death. But for me, it’s Johnny Mathis who captured the depth of everlasting love in his song, “The Twelfth of Never,” when he sang:

“…I need you, oh my darling, like roses need rain.

You ask how long I’ll love you; I’ll tell you true;

Until the twelfth of never, I’ll still be loving you.”

When I hear his smooth, melodious voice singing those lyrics, I see a young girl with love aglow in her crystal, clear green eyes and a boy with a strong build beside her. Holding hands, they walk down a road beside a field of daffodils and lush green grass with the sun shining brightly. They keep strolling until the flowers die, the grass withers and the sky turns gray. Her hair is short and white, and his shoulders are slumped, but they’re still holding hands as tightly as ever.

These two make me think of a couple I know who are in their eighties. I’ll call them Sarah and John. One night I sat across from them at the Wednesday night dinner at our church. He started a sentence, and she finished it. While she nibbled on her salad he gazed at her plate with interested, dark eyes. After a moment he got up, took long strides with his lanky legs to the serving table and brought back a roll. She smiled and took it. “Oh, thank you,” she said. But she only gave him a glance with her clear, blue eyes before she turned to the young man on her right. He talked to her about a problem he was having at work. After she finished eating, she leaned her trim, petite body close to the young man and spoke softly, obviously offering him sympathy and a possible solution. One of the ministers walked over to John and asked, “Can you meet with me on Monday? I’d like for you to help organize a group to build a house for Habitat for Humanity.”

John stood and shook the minister’s hand. “Sure. What time?”

The strength of enduring love overflows and reaches out to family, friends, and those in need who often are unknown to the person giving the love. And we wonder where it comes from? How can we have love that lasts forever? Scientists can’t create it. If they could, they would be selling it for a fortune. Once I heard that a scientist had proven that chemicals in the brain produce love, but so far no one has isolated those elements or found a pill that stimulates defective chemicals to produce love that isn’t there. Even though sometimes it appears that love can be bought or forced on someone, no one can dictate the feelings of another person’s heart. Love must be received and given. The affection we search for is a gift from our Creator, and for me that’s God. When we understand how worthy we are because our Creator loves us, even though we’re not perfect, we tap into the love, and we can give out lots of chocolate on Valentine’s Day. I believe Cammie O’Shea, the main character in my first romance, Love Turns the Tide, discovers that type of love in spite of her trials and tribulations.

Gail grew up in a small town at the foothills of the North Carolina mountains. The granddaughter of a minister and niece of several English teachers, she inherited their interests in storytelling along with her mother’s love of people. Her first writing appeared in a grammar school newspaper she and a friend put out about their classmates. Much later at Western Carolina University in Cullowhee, N.C., she enrolled in the college’s first professional writing class, placing several poems in the literary magazine and one in The Anthology of American Poetry, published by Royal Publishing Company in Dallas, Texas. After graduation she worked in Atlanta, Georgia, as an editor and copywriter until she married. Then while helping her husband with his business she published poems and freelance articles. While some were selected for anthologies two historical pieces ended up in museums. After being nudged by others to do more with her writing Gail published her first book, Now Is the Time. In 2004, the year it was released, the American Christian Writers Association named her a regional Writer of the Year. Her first romance, Love Turns the Tide, was published by Awe-Struck E Books. She lives in Georgia, with Rick, her husband of thirty-seven years. When she isn’t writing, she enjoys reading, swimming, traveling, and visiting with friends and relatives.

Love Turns the Tide is available from Awe-Struck Publishing at Learn more about Gail on her Web site, and read her blog at

Monday, February 1, 2010


What’s in a Name?

Readers and authors alike may have pondered this question many times. What exactly is in name, and does it really matter?

Speaking specifically as an author, a great deal of thought has gone into naming the characters, and title of a book. We just want to get it right.

Just suppose that Rhett Butler in Gone with the Wind had been called John Butler. Would we have still thought him the hero?

Margaret Mitchell the author of Gone with the Wind had originally planned to call her story ‘Pansy’, after the main female protagonist. She later re-named her ‘Scarlett’, and re-titled her book, Gone with the Wind.

I deliberated long and hard on naming my current novel and characters.

The male lead had to exude authority. I wanted to show his English heritage. I chose Robert Tremayne. For the female lead, I actually chose a French name. I called her Marielle Stevens, hoping to bring a little intrigue and mystery.

The title of the book eluded me. What to call it? After much deliberation I decided on The Return.

Robert Tremayne is held hostage for two years, and then returns to Britain, and freedom. Unfortunately, Robert is a very changed man. The story concentrates on the emotional turmoil, as he returns eventually to the man Marielle knew and loved.

Blurb: Whilst on assignment in Iraq, English TV presenter and journalist Robert Tremayne is captured by the Islamic Jihad, and held hostage. His soul mate, Marielle, can barely come to terms with her loss but tries to move on with her life.

Two years later Robert is discovered alive. Marielle is overjoyed, but her life has changed beyond all recognition, and the man she loved is now very different. His time in Iraq has left him cold, emotionless and detached. There's much to tell, and each wants desperately to return to the way things once were.

With the past always there to come between them, will they be able to recapture their lost love? Will they ever be happy again?

Jan lives in the East of England with her husband. When she’s not writing Jan loves to paint. You can see some of her paintings on her website here.

Her new novel, Lessons in Love is due to be released soon.

To find out more about The Return: