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Friday, October 29, 2010

GUEST BLOG: VICTORIA RODER

The Return of the Stupid Criminal


I had fun writing an article about a few criminals that would be better off with a day job. Many people responded to the article with stories of stupid criminals that they had heard about in the news. I thought I would share a few tales of the unbelievable stupidity that people are capable of. A man robbed an electronic store with a bag over his head, but he forgot to take his name tag off his shirt. He worked at the store he attempted to rob. I'm sure everyone has heard of bank robbers that write demand notes on the back of envelopes with their name and address on, or on the back of their own deposit slips. I wonder if anyone asked the clerk to just go ahead and put it in their account.

Criminals can be their own worst enemy. A robbery suspect in California couldn't keep his mouth shut during a lineup. When detectives asked each man in the lineup to repeat the words: "Give me all your money or I'll shoot", the man shouted, "that's not what I said!"

Whenever a husband is killed the first person they investigate is the wife, so a woman really couldn't be this stupid, could she? A woman from Arizona called "Guns For Hire" and informed them she wanted her husband killed. “Guns For Hire” stages gunfights for Western movies. She got 4 ½ years in jail.

Still my personal favorite criminal that is probably making license plates for his career change, is the ex-con intent on robbing someone in New York's Riverside Park. He pulled a fake handgun on two armed police officers in uniform! Please share stupid criminal stories you have heard.

In my action thriller Bolt Action, Detective Leslie Bolt would not have patience for the likes of these criminals. She is a tough talking, gun hoarding, Harley riding investigator. After a childhood of abuse suffered at the hands of her father, Leslie stashes a collection of pistols, revolvers, and even keeps a Browning A-Bolt Stalker Rifle in her broom closet. She is stand-offish and downright rude and having to work a serial murder case with her handsome ex-lover, Detective Lance Kestler doesn't improve her disposition. The body count mounts and Detective Bolt must conquer her own past, as she races to capture the “State Quarter Killer” before her sister is the next victim. Secrets of the past, murder, deception, sexual tension, and the “State Quarter Killer”, BOLT ACTION offers it all!

Check out the awesome kick ass book trailer of BOLT ACTION created by Goddess Fish Promotions.



Victoria Roder resides in Central Wisconsin with her husband Ron and a house full of misfit pets. She has three grown sons. Victoria enjoys camping, hiking, 3D bow shooting, snowshoeing, and motorcycle riding.

Please visit her website www.victoriaroder.com to learn a little about her.


Wednesday, October 27, 2010

GUEST POST: Amber Leigh Williams

This month I had the privilege of vacationing for four amazing days at my family’s lake house in northern Alabama. Here on the Gulf Coast, things still feel a bit like summer. Everything’s green and there’s some lingering humidity. Up north around the lake, however, the trees are changing from green to golden yellow to burnt orange and some autumn reds mixed in. There’s the scent of pine needles in the air. The water of the lake is calm and still with that gorgeous fall palette mirrored on the surface. There’s a bit of a nip to the air as well so it didn’t take long for me to break out the thermal shirt and sweatpants. All that was missing was a fire in the hearth and some hot cocoa. In the early mornings, wisps of white fog lingered on the surface of the water. Was it any wonder my creative juices were stirred? I came home with words and ideas flowing from my muse in abundance. And my first thought was, “Why haven’t I written another western romance?"

I’m not sure what cowboys have to do with autumn, but while we were up north we stopped by a western store. My father treated himself to an early birthday present with a pair of calfskin boots and was kind enough to buy me a pair of custom moccasins and a belt for my husband. While wandering around the store, I caught the western bug. Maybe it was the cardboard cutout of John Wayne or the clever signs on the wall that said things like “Coffee. Chocolate. Cowboys. Some Things Are Better Rich.” There was even an old saloon piano and a bench made out of an authentic covered wagon seat and wheels. It reminded me of everything I love about the west and writing western romance.



Recently, my western romance trilogy went from ebook to audio book collection. Since LASR readers have embraced these books and characters, I thought I’d bring it back with an excerpt from Book II, BLUEST HEART! Enjoy!

“I’d buy you a drink,” Casey drawled, “but I know you don’t.”

Josie raised a brow, tilted her head. “You remember that?”

“I remember,” he said significantly.

A shiver raced up her spine, though he hadn’t said the words in a sensual way. He’d said it in a fond, twinkle-in-the-eye kind of way that wiped all the sense clean out of her head. Glad when Rita Mae called her name, she turned and took the bottle of water Rita handed over the bar. “Thanks,” she said absently, quickly unscrewing the top and tipping the bottle up for a long drink. Whiskey probably would’ve done a hell of a better job snapping her out of Casey’s reverie. Too bad she didn’t drink. It was just too damn bad.

When she didn’t say anything, he spoke up, glancing at the empty stage. “You doing any more singing tonight?”

She shook her head, twisting the top back on. “I’m done.”

“That was a sweet song you sang for Judd,” he commented.

She lifted a shoulder. “We all go way back. And I’ll miss him.”

“He’s getting married,” he told her, “not dying.”

She shook her head. “You wouldn’t understand.”

He blew out a frustrated breath. “I’m tired of everybody acting like marriage is a death sentence. It isn’t a bad idea, settling down.”

“Not for you,” she pointed out. “Some of us just aren’t the marrying kind.”

“How do you know?” he challenged.

She looked away from his piercing stare. “Just trust me, all right?”

He must’ve seen how uncomfortable she was. Setting his finished beer on the counter, he leaned close again, his shoulder brushing hers and asked, “You want to go for a drive?”

She looked into that breathtaking blue stare. “You want to take a drive? With me?”

“That’s right,” he confirmed, gaze flickering down over her lips.

Pressing them together hard to keep from gaping, she couldn’t look away from him to collect any semblance of reason. “Fine,” she said after a moment.

He grinned, reaching into his pocket for his wallet. “Good.”


Today I’ll be giving away an audio edition of BLUEST HEART to one lucky commenter! All you have to do is answer the following question: What is your favorite thing about western romance? That’s it! Thanks to Marianne and Judy for letting me share today! Now readers, sound off!



Amber Leigh Williams is a multi-published romance author, a member of Romance Writers of America, former Secretary of her local RWA chapter, and a reviewer for The Season. Her first western romance, BLACKEST HEART, is a 1st Place More Than Magic Novella and her historical romance, FOREVER AMORE, was nominated for Best Book of 2009 by Long and Short Reviews. She is represented by D4EO Literary Agency and lives on the Gulf Coast with her husband and three labs. Learn more about her books at her website: http://www.amberleighwilliams.com/.

Monday, October 25, 2010

GUEST BLOG: MAGGIE TOUSSAINT

Heroes who make you go ahhhh
By Maggie Toussaint

We admire heroes. They’re larger than life; they accomplish the impossible; they glow with vitality. In creating heroes for romance fiction, writers are faced with the challenge of having flawed characters act nobly, characters who must come to the realization that love is all.

Not an easy thing for an alpha male to admit. Like ordinary people, heroes tend to stick with what they know. If they’re firefighters or special forces or even park rangers, they do their job to the best of their ability. Mushy stuff isn’t for them. These aren’t the kind of men who sit down and chat about their feelings.

But when they do, it's pure magic.

As readers, we know that searching for completion is our unstated goal as we go about the business of life. Sure we may be climbing the corporate ladder or hoping to keep our job in tough times, but none of that matters in our heart center. If we’re miserable and lonely, the best job in the world or untold riches won’t fix that.

Celebrating that moment of truth where the pretense of life is stripped away and we (heroes, too) look at our core and open it up to joy and happiness – well, that’s downright contagious. For writers of romance fiction and for readers, that’s the big payoff, when the character stops resisting the power of love and accepts that they don’t know everything.

Additionally, romance authors often have their hero bare their soul to their love interest. For a conflicted character, especially a male with communication troubles, this exchange and vulnerability is something he’s avoided his entire life. As readers, we get to experience that vicarious thrill of self-discovery with the heroic character.

When all is said and done, we feel that the hero deserves a happy ending, and we come away from the book with a good feeling about the characters and the writer.

Some of my favorite book ahhh! heroes have been written by Jayne Ann Krentz and JD Robb, two of my favorite authors. Suzanne Brockmann also writes strong alpha males that resonate with me long after the pages are turned. And because I love these characters, I visit them more than once by rereading their stories.

Here are my questions for you. Do you have books on your keeper shelf you read multiple times? Or is it just a quick once through the book and you’re done? Are there heroes you’d like to meet?

(Not to brag too much, I had women stop me on the street because they wanted to know who I’d modeled my first published hero after. They wanted to marry him. That made me feel like I’d gotten it right.)

I’ll go first with a hero that makes me go ahhh! Roarke, Eve Dallas’ husband, is darn near unforgettable. He’s got a warrior’s physique and a warrior’s mentality, but he appreciates nice things. The way he treats Eve, as if she’s the best thing that ever happened to him, makes me fall in love with him every time I pick up a JD Robb book.

I’ll be waiting to hear your take on heroes that make you go ahhhh!

Maggie Toussaint
Author of romantic suspense
MUDDY WATERS, available now!
e-book: digital format at Wild Rose Press
trade paperback: Amazon Wild Rose Press
www.maggietoussaint.com
http://mudpiesandmagnolias.blogspot.com/
www.facebook.com/maggietoussaint/

--
BIO:
Author Maggie Toussaint is published in mystery and romance. Her recent release, MUDDY WATERS, is a romantic suspense where danger stalks friends turned lovers as they search for hidden treasure. Her debut release, HOUSE OF LIES, won Best Romantic Suspense in the 2007 National Readers Choice Awards. Maggie’s an active member of Mystery Writers of America, Romance Writers of America, and Sisters In Crime. Visit her at www.maggietoussaint.com and at http://mudpiesandmagnolias.blogspot.com/.

Friday, October 22, 2010

GUEST BLOG: ALISON CHAMBERS



How to Create Satisfying Endings or Avoiding the Paper Tiger
By
Alison Chambers


Ever notice when a movie ends abruptly without a satisfactory ending, the audience groans or elicits sounds of surprise, as though they’re unhappy? Books are that way too. Have you ever finished a book and been so disappointed with the way the story ended that you slammed it shut in disgust or worse yet, threw it against the wall or into the trash?

What causes such disappointment in readers?

1. Characters act irrationally, i.e., out of character. A weak character suddenly becomes strong or vice-versa, without any explanation concerning why he or she is suddenly changing and turning into Superman or Superwoman.

Solution: Characters should have proper motivation. If a character is about to do battle with snakes in the ending and hates snakes, foreshadow that fear by mentioning it in the beginning of the book so readers know what to expect and it makes sense. If characters change, explain why they are changing throughout the book.

2. Things are tied up by coincidences, i.e. deus ex machina: “A plot development that didn’t previously exist and has no logical explanation behind it; a coincidence that is too unlikely to be believed.” The phrase comes from the Greek where the god suddenly appeared through a trap door in the stage to solve the writer’s plot problem.

Solution: If it seems too unlikely a solution, it probably is. Don’t get your characters into a situation you cannot logically get them out of. If they’re in a cave hunting treasure, don’t let them accidentally find a weapon that will allow them to escape. You don’t want readers to say: “What a lucky break!” or “I don’t buy that!”

3. Loose ends are not tied up, leaving questions in the reader’s mind. Readers are scratching their heads, asking themselves whatever happened to this or that character or subplot line.

Solution: Carefully review each scene and character to make sure everything is explained in the last few pages.

4. Paper Tigers

You think the characters are dealing with a terrible villain or problem. They are facing insurmountable odds. You can’t wait to uncover the solution in the last chapter. When you learn the problem is not as great or as dangerous as you’d feared, that’s called a paper tiger and that’s when you want to throw the book against the wall. You say to yourself: “What a let-down!” The story is forever diminished in your eyes, you feel as though you have been tricked, and you vow never to read a book by that author again.

Solution: Make sure your problem or your villain is truly dangerous, the situation is life-threatening and the stakes are high so readers are not disappointed.

And remember, romances always have a happy ending. When you bring your characters back together in the end to live happily ever after, you should have a good reason in mind. They shouldn’t reunite just for the heck of it. Again, good character motivation and logical reasoning is the key.

Let your readers close their books with a smile, satisfied they have just finished a great ride and hopefully, they will remember your name and want to read more!

You owe it to them and to yourself!



www.alisonchambersromance.com
The Secret Sentinel Now Available from The Wild Rose Press
Go on the Treasure Hunt of a Lifetime!

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

GUEST BLOG: LEA WINTER




Recently, I discovered a great new place to write.  On the weekend I’ve taken to hanging out at Border’s.  I get a latte and a bagel and set up my laptop in the corner.  Half the time I write, the rest of the time I people watch. It’s a great way to find inspiration for new characters. It’s nice when you get the privilege of peaking in on rare occasions. 

For example, last weekend a young business woman was sitting at her computer, crunching numbers when a tiny little man (of the most flirtatious age of just under two) wandered over to her table, pulled out a chair and greeted her with a boisterous "Hello.”  Dad (thoroughly embarrassed by the child’s actions) came to retrieve the toddler and apologized for his son’s extraverted nature. 

Personally, I think the young woman loved it.  She bought the little guy a cookie to share and spent at least ten minutes cooing at the youngster.  I don’t think she could have asked for a more pleasant diversion.  After the young suitor left she smiled with contentment then returned to the task at hand with much more enthusiasm than she had started with. 
 
The lighthearted scene brightened my day as well.  Until that point it had been pretty much me and the girl who tends the coffee counter.  She was quite bubbly and must have thought I looked hungry.  I don’t know if she was eager to please or just plain bored but in two hours time she brought me samples of pumpkin latte, pumpkin scone, pumpkin bread and an oatmeal cranberry cookie (She must have run out of pumpkin!)  Luckily for my bathroom scale the people started to wander in, taking up more of her time and so the ‘sample-giving’ eventually came to a halt.

I guess the thing I really love about writing there is the ability to submerge myself totally in my story.  I don’t have to worry about what’s for dinner or if I’m ignoring my husband.  I do, however, have to worry about noises.  I’m an animated writer who sometimes acts things out to make sure they’re jotted down just right on paper.  The story I’m working on right now involves a Conquistador, and I found myself trying to work out convincing dialog for him.  I became aware of how enthusiastically I was writing when I realized I had an audience.  A gent at a table across the room sat poised with his chin on his open hand, giving me his undivided attention.  I waved, and he waved back, and we both returned to what we were doing.  Perhaps I’m not the only story-absorbed author he’s ever seen there.  Maybe one day I’ll end up in his book. 

 So, if you’re ever in Border’s in Auburn Hills, Michigan, on a weekend morning, and you see someone who looks like a crazed writer wearing green earplugs and bopping to Hudson Brother’s songs while writing…That’ll be me.  Come on over and say ‘Hi.’  You might just end up in a romance novel.  

Lea Winter has always loved writing.  The youngest of three children, she learned early jotting tales of vivid fantasy on paper was a pleasing way to wile away the time.  An ardent fan of Rod Serling and Alfred Hitchcock, Lea’s first thought was to write short shock, suspense/horror stories professionally.  When she found she didn’t have the heart to be as gruesome as the mainstream reader required she returned to her long time favorite, romance.     
 
She loves spinning old-fashioned tales with a modern twist. “I think romance should be about feeling good.  I like to read a story where the hero is chivalrous and is emotionally there for the heroine.  She shouldn’t be helpless but the hero has to offer that one special thing the heroine is lacking to make her life complete.  I guess that’s why I loved writing Sterling from Ellie’s Delight.  He’s a bad boy but you know it will turn out okay in the end.”  

Lea’s latest release, “The Bird and the Busy Beez” is available through the Wild Ross Press.





Monday, October 18, 2010

GUEST BLOG: MONA RISK

LASR, thank you for hosting me on your blog.

As I am blogging for a review site, it seems appropriate to talk about reviews. Let’s face it, reviews are the last thing we care about before publication. As we sit in front of the computer and eagerly type, we want to share the book of our hearts, that first story we have rewritten a hundred times in our minds before gathering enough courage to share the words with our monitor. As the story takes shape and the first draft is finished, we dance with joy. High five. I wrote a book. Our goal shifts as we focus on polishing the manuscript and exchange critiques with fellow writers.

Critiques are the first form of review a writer will get. They often hurt. How dare you criticize my masterpiece? Not criticizing, just critiquing, my friend, and helping. We quickly learn to accept critique and give as good as we get. We also realize that these critiques drastically improve our writing.

Writers face the next form of review by entering contests. Here published authors and advanced writers will judge the work and evaluate the performance with a score. If the score is good, we are delighted. If the score is low, we whine, seek comfort and either accept the suggestions and use them to improve our writing, or complain about the judge and ignore the comments. It’s a matter of choice. But keep in mind the review is still given in private.

Reviews bite the writer much harder when they come from an editor or an agent who requests revisions. By then, we have developed a thicker skin and immediately agree to do whatever it takes to get the book published.

Once published your story is official, at the mercy of readers and reviewers. I remember my impatience and anxiety as I waited for my first book’s reviews. Those few words of praise that will validate my work, that will give me the confidence every new author craves, and a new boost of energy to write a new book. The smile of happiness that brightens an author’s face when she first glimpses her 5 or 4 stars should be captured on camera. How many of you have shouted on her loop: Wooohooo, 5 stars!!! I made it.

Yes, you made it. The review is your graduation certificate and you deserve the applause.

The Long And The Short Reviews~ 5 Books. Best Book of The Week. Ms. Risk has done an outstanding job with Babies in the Bargain and is a very talented writer who gives the reader what they are after. I highly recommend this book. This one will keep you on your toes and make you beg for more. I can't wait to read more of Ms. Risk's work in the future.

The Long And The Short Reviews~ 4.5 Books. Mona Risk’s writing sweeps you into the story from the first page, and keeps you turning the pages. Rx For Trust, the first book in Mona Risk’s miniseries, ‘Doctor’s Orders’, is full of emotion, suspense, intrigue, good intentions and determination, depending on which character POV you are looking from.


Readers become your unofficial reviewers. A fan letter is the best review you can ever get. This one made my day and my month!!“I totally recommend Mona Risk!!! Read and you won’t be sorry. Worth every penny you pay for her books. Take it from the constant reader.”

So what is your experience with reviews? Writers: Do you use them as a critique and learn from them? Are they a promotional tool? Readers: Do reviews influence your choice of a book? Do you write a review after reading a book you particularly enjoyed?

I will send an electronic copy of Babies in the Bargain to a lucky commentator.


Bio: As a Ph.D. in Chemistry and former director of an analytical laboratory, Mona traveled to more than fifty countries on business or vacation. To relax from her hectic schedule, she avidly read romance novels or mentally plotted her own books. Now, she lives in sunny Florida with her husband.

Mona likes to set stories in the fascinating places she visited. Her first book, To Love A Hero, is the difficult and sizzling love story of an American chemist on a mission to Belarus and the Major General of Belarus. Her romantic suspense, French Peril, set in the beautiful Loire Valley relates a dangerous treasure hunt for a precious statue by an American architect and a French count. Both books are available at Cerridwen Press.

Mona also writes medical romance novels published by The Wild Rose Press: Babies in the Bargain received ten stellar reviews, was voted 2009 BEST ROMANCE NOVEL at Preditors & Editors Readers Poll and won 2009 BEST CONTEMPORARY ROMANCE at READERS FAVORITE. Rx For Trust received five top reviews and won 2010 BEST CONTEMPORARY ROMANCE at READERS FAVORITE. Rx In Russian will be released in April 2011.

Friday, October 15, 2010

GUEST BLOG: Danielle Ackley-McPhail

The Short and the Long of a Novel Idea


I was recently approached by an aspiring novelist. This writer was stymied because he wants to write a novel, but his stories keep wrapping up in about fifty pages or less (assuming standard margin and double spacing, probably about 20 to 30,000 words) which makes them technically novellas. This is a common dilemma for writers, wanting to write a novel, but not knowing how to get started.

Let’s start by looking at the difference between a short story and a novel. (besides word count, smart aleck!)

Well, part of what makes a short story different from a novel is back story; most short stories have just the relevant information to the story being told. Novels, on the other hand, you explore characters and events a bit more, including information that is not necessary to the story, but does develop the character or give the reader insight to why things are the way they are. You can also explore the setting in a bit more detail and that kind of thing.

The second thing that is the major difference between short stories and novels is multiple threads. Usually there is one overall plot to a short story and that is it. Novels though have a primary plot, but a number of subplots that are related in some way but still different from the main goal of the story. Sometimes the subplot will deal with the main character and sometimes it will be a separate story line where another character is the focus and your main character is secondary. So basically think of a novel as telling several stories at once, but interconnected.

To use a metaphor...novels are woven tapestries, whereas short stories are knitted afghans. Many individual threads versus one continuous yarn (for simplicity sake, though there are always exceptions).

Start out with your characters and figure out three things about each one:

1) What is their goal?
2) What do they have to do to achieve that goal?
3) What is preventing them from achieving that goal?

Sometimes there will be multiple answers to each of the above, but don't make it too complicated...Also, don't be afraid to alter things as you go. I start out with an idea and write a bit, then do some research related to what I've written and often that sparks other ideas relevant to what I am doing but different from what I'd planned. My work has much more life in it if I let it develop organically rather than sticking rigidly to my plan.

Another method I have used is to write a number of short stories in the same universe, with the same characters. This has the same basic effect as a novel, particularly if you have an overall theme that continues from story to story, with a secondary theme that resolves itself by the end of the individual story. Each story should stand alone so that if anyone read just that one, they won’t feel lost or that they are missing part of the picture. Once you are done you can go back and link them into one big storyline, revising to take out repetitive detail, or just leave the stories as is and publish it as a collection instead of a novel, but with the same effect.

I’ll give you an example from my own experience:

My novel, The Halfling’s Court: A Bad-Ass Faerie Tale; when I first introduced my biker faeries of the Wild Hunt M.C. in the anthology Bad-Ass Faeries it was meant to be a stand-alone story. Entitled “At the Crossroads”, the story dealt with a faerie challenge, but set in the modern day. Since it was a short story I put more effort into setting the feel of the universe than going in-depth into the characters motivations. Those I kept simple. Faerie biker wants faerie woman, faerie woman goes missing, faerie biker must ride to the rescue. As I said, I never meant it to be anything more…however…the story was so well received when we went back to do a second volume in the anthology series I decided to write in the same universe, this time with a story called “Within the Guardian Bell”, borrowing on both faerie lore and biker lore pertaining to road gremlins. Again, the story was well-received.

I should not have been surprised when shortly thereafter a publisher showed interest in a Wild Hunt novel.

This posed quite a challenge for me because as I mentioned, the stories were meant to just be stories, and now I had to incorporate them into a novel. The character development was not as detailed as I would have done for a novel, but by the same token the writing was tightly woven, making it difficult to interject new copy building on the characters more. I managed, but not to everyone’s satisfaction. From this I have learned that when I am writing a short story I will take the extra space and flesh out the characters a little more than necessary.

In addition to adding character detail and integrating new characters, I had the challenge of pruning away redundant details. After all, the stories originally were linked, but printed separately so enough detail had to be recapped from one to the other so that no matter which story was read, the person reading it didn’t feel lost. This had the added benefit of tightening the writing and smoothing out the pace. When gathering related stories into a collection this is not so much of a concern as it is when you are fully integrating them into a novel, but still be aware of details too often repeated and perhaps edit them out in a few instances.

Now, when I was writing The Halfling’s Court I was aware a third Bad-Ass Faeries anthology was coming up, so rather than have three stories all integrated into the same novel, I instead left a gap in the manuscript where some of the secondary action takes place off-page. I later came back and wrote that scene as a stand-alone story, Seeing Red, which is also the linking story between The Halfling’s Court and the upcoming sequel, The Redcaps’ Queen.

So, as you can see, if you goal is a novel but it seems too daunting a task, try establishing a ‘universe’ through a series of short stories and you never know what might develop!


Award-winning author Danielle Ackley-McPhail has worked both sides of the publishing industry for over fifteen years. Her works include the urban fantasies: Yesterday's Dreams, Tomorrow's Memories, and The Halfling’s Court: A Bad-Ass Faerie Tale. She has edited the Bad-Ass Faeries anthology series and No Longer Dreams, and has contributed to numerous other anthologies and collections, including Dark Furies, Breach the Hull, So It Begins, Space Pirates, Barbarians at the Jumpgate, and New Blood.

She is a member of The Garden State Horror Writers and Broad Universe, a writer’s organization focusing on promoting the works of women authors in the speculative genres.

Danielle lives somewhere in New Jersey with husband and fellow writer, Mike McPhail, mother-in-law Teresa, and three extremely spoiled cats. She can be found on LiveJournal (damcphail), Facebook (Danielle Ackley-McPhail), and Twitter (DMcPhail). To learn more about her work, visit www.sidhenadaire.com.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

GUEST BLOG: MARILEE BROTHERS

Because I write urban fantasy and romance, people often ask where I get my ideas. They usually put it like this: “Oh my God, what’s going on in that head of yours?” In order to explain how ideas occur to me, you’re invited to take a little trip through my brain. Warning: Buckle up. I’m not responsible for unplanned side trips.

Earlier today I was getting ready to go shopping when I remembered I had a small check from an insurance company to deposit. I trotted back to my office to look for the check. Pawing through random stacks of mail marked “important stuff – don’t throw away,” I spotted the car license renewal notice. Oh, crap! I’d completely forgotten about it. I set the notice next to my computer so I could renew it on-line when I got home. That’s when I realized my camera software CD was still in the computer. I popped it out, put it in its protective sleeve and lifted the lid on the camera box to put it away. The USB cord that connects the camera to the computer sprang out of the box and jumped on top of my Blackberry USB cord as if to say, “Hey, dude! This is my territory. Move your ass!” Yes! Attack of the Killer Cord.

An eerie feeling skittered down my spine. My writing room was a veritable jungle of cords. I could feel them pulsating with impatience, waiting for the right moment to spring into action. One cord would be victorious, vanquishing all the others, in order to be the Supreme Ruler of the Cord Kingdom. Yes, the War of the Cords would be breaking out at any moment.

Still pondering the idea of electrical cords engaged in prong-to-prong combat, I drove to the store, picked up my groceries and then looked in my purse so I could deposit the check. It wasn’t there, of course. It was still lying on my desk where I’d left it while I went on a little trip to Fantasy Land.

I think of my brain as a labyrinth full of magical twists and turns that lead to places only I can see. Speaking of brains, when I was a little girl, my dad carefully removed the shell from a walnut, so that it came out in one piece. He held it in his palm and said, “Marilee, this is what your brain looks like. See all the little cracks and crevices?”

He snapped it in half. “Your brain has a left side and a right side just like this walnut.”

Unfortunately, my dad failed to mention one teensy but crucial bit of information. For years, when I conceptualized the idea of brain, I saw that walnut. Consequently, I thought my brain was the size of a walnut, rattling around in my empty skull like a lone pea in a tin can. Way to go, Dad.

So, there you have it. A trip through Marilee’s brain. Be glad you don’t live there. If you did, you’d probably be in my next book.


A former teacher and school counselor, Marilee lives in Washington state and writes full time. Her books include The Rock and Roll Queen of Bedlam, winner of the 2010 Booksellers Best award for romantic suspense and Moonstone, Moon Rise and Moon Spun, the first three books in the YA paranormal Unbidden Magic series. Castle Ladyslipper, a medieval romance with paranormal elements will soon be published by Awe-Struck Press. Marilee is a member of RWA, PNWA and the Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators. Visit her website at www.marileebrothers.com and follow her on Twitter.

Monday, October 11, 2010

GUEST BLOG: RACHEL SMITH

Hi! I'm Rachel Smith, and I want to thank the folks at LASR for having me as a guest blogger. As a writer and avid romance reader, I love romance review sites like this one, but they sometimes spark questions in my mind. I often find myself playing with the “rules” when it comes to writing romance, testing the genre boundaries for flexibility.

I mean, really, what elements define a story as romance? Is it the primary plot focus on falling in love, making a relationship work? Is a happy for now ending--if not happy ever after--absolutely required? Are only two lovers allowed, of whatever gender pairing? Are sub-plots unnecessary clutter on the romantic landscape?

Of course, we have subcategories in romantic fiction: romantic suspense, paranormal romance, western romance, etc. My question goes beyond geographical setting and supernatural abilities. Like many authors, characters appear in my head, demanding to have their stories told. Mine sometimes stand just over the line of accepted romance standards. At the very least, they often straddle it.

For instance, some of them live in a culture in which polyamory--committed multiple life partners--is the accepted norm. In that situation, if a story chronicles the adventures of four people falling in love, instead of two--with a non-erotica heat level, mind--is that story a romance? What about a series in which the overarching story, told through multiple volumes, is one of social and political revolution, yet every volume also addresses the establishment and/or resolution of a romantic relationship among major players in the upheaval? Are those stories romances?

What if a characters' history won't let him or her learn to love and trust freely in 85,000 words or less? Gone With the Wind has been called the quintessential romance novel, but not only was the ending highly ambiguous, Rhett and Scarlett needed a lot more than 85,000 words to reach it. Granted, I'm not Margaret Mitchell, and I wouldn't dare claim GWTW's lasting appeal for my books (although I can certainly hope), but still…what if one love story demands multiple volumes? Each volume might recount the developing relationship between consistent partners, but only the last leaves them solidly together. Will the current market and readership consider the preceding volumes romances?

These aren't idle questions for me. I've written all of the above, and now must sell and promote them, much less enter them in contests with very definite genre requirements. I stubbornly consider them all romances, though some might push the romance envelope. My most recent release, This Train, is billed as a mainstream novel but the developing relationship between a man and woman drives the plot. Sam Carnehan is a Depression Era backroom prizefighter, blacklisted from his sport and rapidly aging beyond prime competitive condition. “Georgia” is much younger, a multi-talented musician and vocalist. Reticent and on the run, she needs Sam's protection but isn't saying why. For Sam, Georgia could be the golden egg he's searched for all his life. She won't confess her real name, but her voice could provide liberally for them both, if managed properly. Her secrets--and his--lead the two on a hobo journey through the American South, culminating in New Orleans. In a city known for music and magic, Georgia confronts her history and her fears, and Sam enters the fight of his life for her sake. As for the romantic resolution--well, no spoilers here. Read the book and decide for yourself: romance or mainstream novel?

What about you? What essential ingredients define romance for you?

BIO: Rachel Smith can remember telling herself stories in bed at night to keep the boogieman at bay in early childhood. She's never stopped telling stories, and has recently had some published through Whisky Creek Press (This Train) and Awe-Struck Publishing (Bittersweet Victories, Lonely Hearts Mountain, Texas Hearts, and coming in October, Hidden Hearts). A little success breeds hunger, though...Rachel's got a paranormal romance series in search of a home. Read more about Rachel and her work at her website, romancebyrachelsmith.com, and follow her on Facebook (Rachel Smith) and Twitter (daemonscribe).

Friday, October 8, 2010

GUEST BLOG: CYNTHIA MacGREGOR

HAPPILY EVER AFTER…OR HAPPILY FOR NOW?

by
Cynthia MacGregor




“I guess I’m happy enough.” The words are often followed by a sigh, and are uttered in a voice that doesn’t really sound happy at all. I’ve heard them more often than I can count…and more often than I’d have wanted to. They are spoken by women (I can’t remember ever hearing them from a man, despite having had a plethora of male friends over the years) whose lives, whose marriages or other relationships are not as happy as these women had hoped for.

Where does the fault lie? Are we selling ourselves short in “settling for” sub-optimal relationships or expecting too much out of relationships that really are good enough? Personally I suspect it’s some of each.

Books—and it’s not just romance novels by a long shot—lead us to expect to be happy ever after, happy in the face of adversity, happy on a continuing basis, blissfully happy for the rest of our lives. For most of us, that’s hogwash. Life has its ups and downs. Relationships have their bumps in the road. Happiness is not all-encompassing, forever enduring, and constant. The happiest of couples have their disagreements.

Life isn’t a novel.

My marriage (1965-1970) was a peaceful one. We had exactly two arguments in those five years…not a bad track record. But ultimately it left me unfulfilled. And ultimately I left. Happiness is about more than the absence of negatives. Happiness is about more than “getting along well.”

I’ve been in and out of various relationships since then. I lived with Jay for five years. I lived with David for eight years. I’ve been living with Grant for three years…and still counting. I was happy in each relationship for a while. And when it wasn’t good anymore, I got out.

I’ve had people say to me, “Too bad you couldn’t find the right person.” I don’t look at it that way. I think I found a number of right people…or at least “right now” people. I found them, loved them, and lived with them each, one at a time, enjoyed it while it was good, and ended it when it wasn’t good any longer. I can think of three other men I also loved—one shared a relationship with me of 11 years’ duration, and we’re still friends, one I met and became lovers with (in both senses of the word “lovers”) and remained close friends with thereafter, and over 30 years later we’re still very close and loving (although not sexually—I don’t cheat on Grant), and the third is also still a nice friend (and co-authored a book with me).

I consider myself rich to have had all these experiences, all these relationships, all these loves in my lifetime. Am I mourning the fact that I haven’t had one steady marriage all this time? HELL NO! Do I regret the times between relationships, when I was alone? Well, I never felt “alone” in the sense of “lonely.” I’ve had an abundance of friends over the years, and while the love of friends doesn’t replace the love of a significant other, it sure does keep you from feeling lonely.

Will Grant and I walk arm in arm into the sunset of our lives together? Time alone will tell us that. I could—God forbid!—drop dead tomorrow. Or he could. Or, more prosaically, one of us could simply end the relationship. (From where I sit right now, that hardly seems likely, or at least not imminent, but stranger things have happened.) But if he dies or leaves me, I’ll look forward eagerly to the next chapter in my life, sure that it will be yet another chapter dripping with happiness.

No, not the happiness of fairytale relationships. Part of what was wrong with my long-ago marriage was of my husband’s doing, but part of it was mine: I had unrealistic expectations. But I haven’t cast myself in the role of Cinderella since 1970. Maybe I haven’t had one enduring marriage or relationship to last a lifetime. But I’ve had a running series of happinesses. And what’s so wrong with that!

You’ll never hear me say, “I guess I’m happy enough.” I’m happy. Period. No...exclamation point! Without qualifications.

And without regrets.

I wish you the same.


= = = = = =

Multi-published freelance author/editor Cynthia MacGregor has over 50 conventionally published books to her credit, and over 20 e-books. She’s written “everything from catalog copy to promotional video scripts to website copy to... you name it” in addition to all those books “and a great deal more books that haven’t seen the light of print yet...but I’m still looking for homes for them.” She also ghostwrites for others.

As well, she has edited numerous magazines and books and websites. Writing is not only her career, it is also one of her hobbies, chiefly in that she writes all the plays produced by the Palm Springs Players, a community theatre group in the village of Palm Springs, “the one in Florida...not its rich and famous namesake in California.

“I don’t get a penny for the plays,” she says, “but it’s fun.” Not surprisingly, she also enjoys wordplay, specifically punnery, and is a member of the online punsters’ group PUNY and a frequent attendee at the annual O. Henry Pun-Off World Championship, held each May in Austin TX, where she sometimes appears as a contestant and sometimes is a judge. Her other hobby is cooking “and entertaining, ’cause if you’re going to cook, you need to have victims...I mean beneficiaries...to eat up all that food.”

The self-described “happiest woman in the world,” Cynthia avers that “there is no one in the world I’d want to trade lives with.”


Wednesday, October 6, 2010

GUEST BLOG: THERESA STILLWAGON

Before I sold my first book:

My husband's getting tired of me writing all the time. He says I haven't been paying enough attention to him lately, and I agree. But I love to write. The thought of not writing this morning left me on edge as I spent time with my sweet husband. All I could think about was what I'd write when I got the chance to get to my computer again. I think that's how I know I'm a real writer now, even though I still haven't sold any of my stories, because of that edgy need to be writing.

When did I first truly feel like a real writer? I think I started feeling like a real writer when I started telling my friends that I was writing a new manuscript. I asked one of my nurse friends at work a medical question, and she was truly helpful. I thought if I'd allowed anyone other than my husband to know that I wanted to be a writer they would laugh at my dream. I was wrong.

I still remember the moment I first felt like a real, live writer. Believe it or not, it was at work while I was going to the bathroom. I was thinking about my book and it hit me--I'm a writer.

Nice feeling.

A writer writes, no matter if anyone ever reads her words. She writes because it’s in her blood, in her heart, in her soul. She writes because life only makes sense when she's creating a new story and bringing to life new characters to populate it. She writes because she has to, because she can.

If you have the desire to do something, do it. Don't let anyone ever say you can't do it.

I’ve just sold my fourth book.

One thing did change since I first wrote this blog entry. I sold four books, to three different epublishers. And I also edit for a fourth one.

And more importantly, my husband isn’t so tired of my writing.

Like I said earlier, if you have the desire to do something, do it. Don’t let anyone ever say you can’t do it.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

GUEST BLOG: Michelle Picard



This blog is part of a Virtual Book Tour for Surviving Eden, the second book in Michelle Picard's Eden Court series. In addition to the being entered into our weekly contest, comments on this post will be eligible to win a special gardening set consisting of a hummingbird feeder, nectar concentrate food for the feeder, and several packets of garden flowers. You can get more chances to win by following her tour...dates can be seen here.

“Change is inevitable, struggle is optional.”


I saw this on a bumper sticker last week and it struck me as completely true. And in real life I strive for reducing the struggle and learning to accept, go with the flow, find the mindfulness in all my crazy moments and experience it crisply as I go along for the ride. The ride’s going to happen after all and if I kick and scream against it I might miss something crucial. But should this hold true for my stories and my characters? Without the struggle there’d be nothing to my books.

I’m on my month long virtual blog tour to celebrate the release of Surviving Eden, the second in my Eden’s Court series out at Crescent Moon Press. The series premise runs like this: what if a modern woman suddenly learns she is heir to the throne of a magical realm hidden in our world and is the most powerful magical being on the planet? As with any stories worth their salt, tension and conflict characterize the entire journey, with a few soft moments to catch your breath thrown in between. My first person narrator, the heroine Rachel, struggles against her new role, her new magic, her soul mate attraction to the hero, her destiny, her unhappy past, her magical nemesis, etc… You name it she struggles against it. I’m pretty good at writing characters’ internal angst and she has it big time.

As I look forward to starting to write the third book in this series, continue the story of Rachel and her half-angel/half-demon lover Gabriel, I’ve set a new goal for myself--find more moments for Rachel to experience this mindfulness. She deserves it after all. The surprisingly wonderful thing about being a writer is that we mature as we finish each novel and start the next. Time has passed. We’ve learned some small bit about craft or our writing style and along the way we’ve maybe matured in our individual lives. And my characters are supposed to be growing too. So as I consider improving the quality of mindfulness in my life, I realize I won’t be demolishing the tension, conflict and struggle in my stories if I allow Rachel to pursue this same quality as well. When it boils down to it, rarely does a person live mindfully 24/7. In real life we have a fleeting moment of peace and connectedness and being centered in the present before the chaos of life breaks through and our thoughts, hopes, worries, irritations return. The stuff of our personal struggles. But if I can capture a few moments of mindfulness for Rachel in this next project, then the reader will experience it as one of those in between breather moments, experience the precious clarity and beauty Rachel might find, and appreciate the story even more when she’s dragged back into the drama of her story arc. It creates a contrast all its own. And maybe working on describing these mindful moments on my computer screen will benefit my personal goals.

So I’m going to throw out the story blurb for Surviving Eden. I must say I enjoyed writing it. I miss Rachel and Gabriel. If you like what you see visit me at my sites: www.michellepicard.com, www.michellepicardsblog.wordpress.com; www.thequirkyladies.com and on Facebook at: http://www.facebook.com/people/Michelle-Picard/100000107670126
And Twitter at: http://twitter.com/RulingEden

There are links to buy my books at both my website and at www.crescentmoonpress.com. The series is available in both e and print formats.

Have a mindful day.

Rachel Rieh wields enough magic to make a goddess jealous, or so she learned three weeks ago when she thought she was an ordinary, reclusive, and short-tempered gal from Boston. In this second story of Eden’s Court, Rachel, now the new ruler of the Kesayim, (angels, demons, dragons, faeries, vampires, shapeshifters and witches–the goddess-created protectors of mortalkind) finds herself faced with the task of stopping vampire hunters from annihilating the vampire race. Her lover, Gabriel, half-angel, half-demon, stands by her side to help if she can escape her obsession with protecting him at all cost.
Earth is already on the verge of destruction within six months because magic is out of balance. The new threat to the vampires destabilizes the situation more. In her race to save the vampires, Rachel meets Lillith, goddess, creator of all Kesayim and humans, and the one with all the answers to Rachel’s problems. But is the cold-hearted goddess intent on changing Rachel into her image the greater threat to Rachel and everyone she loves?

Monday, October 4, 2010

GUEST BLOG: ELYSABETH WILLIAMS

“The light’s changed,” I said this week. It hits me once a year like clockwork.

What crazy mess is she talking about?

The light, outside -- has changed. My side of the world has shifted away from the sun and it is crisper, cleaner, clearer outside. The hummingbirds are having smack downs at the feeders. It’s time to rip up the Zinnia around the front walk and mow down the flowers left behind, shooting the purpley, yellowy, hot pinkish confetti all over the yard like some sadistic garden party. The bees get ornery and we dodge them more. The cats run around the house like a herd of thundering wildebeest. Down here in the south, we have writing spiders that show up around August and flaunt their wares… I have yet to see a good variety of “Some Pig” but I have high hopes I’ll see some good literary work from them one day.

Fall festivals begin at schools and the kids seem to get spunkier. The fair comes (along with fair food.) The coolness of the evening makes coffee taste better. I can wear jeans and a long sleeve t-shirt. I don’t shed a tear when the kids want to go outside and play. It’s just the simplest of things, yet somehow, it resonates with me more than spring or winter.

To me, autumn is a rebirth. Here, it’s so hot and humid all summer, I feel like I’m holding my breath until fall when I can exhale. The wind will blow cool and I’ll roll down my car windows and listen to my cd’s loud - yes, I’m still a teen at heart - and feel the music. Around me, the rain returns and the leaves sigh in relief as the drops fall. They celebrate by showing us their true colors. The nights will be packed full of stars I seem to forget over summer. I wake up from my hibernation, alert and ready to roll.

It’s my most creative time. I will hemorrhage words – in fear I’ll lose them somewhere in translation from my brain to my hand. The coffee flows and the words flow while the world around me alters and settles down for a long winter’s nap.

The result will be in my pages. The birth of a new story with new characters and situations they must endure. Both my works I’ve completed have been in or around this time of year. I definitely see the rest of my work based in or around this time frame. I wake up during that time, why wouldn’t I write about it.

Case in point, my novel DEVIL IN A RED KILT, bases the time around Halloween. It was just natural. When the couple, Evan and Evie MacDonald, faces their fate through the span of hundreds of years, they find out what their love is made of, all because their light’s changed.

Thanks to Long and Short Reviews for allowing me to babble on their blog. I do appreciate it.

Hope everyone has a great fall where you are. It’s the most wonderful time of the year.

Visit Elysabeth at http://www.elysabethwilliams.com/

Elysabeth Williams has shown from a very early age creative work in
writing and a passion for storytelling. In 2006, she was given the
opportunity to write music reviews for an online magazine, since music
had always been a large part of her life. Still not sated, she dabbled
in short stories over bedtime with her daughter.

In spring of 2008, she received the push she needed to make her
writing and publishing dreams come true. While having coffee with a
friend, she was reminded of her love for writing and when she
mentioned how she used to write, she was told very profoundly, "You're
still a writer ... write!" After the epiphany, Elysabeth sat down,
wrote her first novel, and has been writing since.

Friday, October 1, 2010

GUEST BLOG: LISA LEWIS

Words, Music, and Emotion


“Words and music, man – they need each other. Words and music.”

Not only is it a quote from one of my favorite movies Eddie and the Cruisers, but those two things have been the constants in my life for as long as I can remember.

In the context of the movie, words are the lyrics to a song and, of course, these are always important. Even if a song has a good beat (and you can dance to it), the lyrics have to make sense and/or mean something.

In the context of my life, words are both those in songs and those in books. My earliest memories involve listening to music or reading a book. I remember standing next to the old stereo in our living room, listening to records and eight-track tapes of Jan & Dean, The Beach Boys, Rita Coolidge. In later years it was Barry Manilow, The Beatles, Kiss, and Meatloaf – yes, still on records or eight-tracks.

I remember searching the public library’s card catalog and shelves for Matt Christopher books and Encyclopedia Brown stories. Joining in the summer reading program was also a thrill for me. (What? A child wanting to read when s/he doesn’t have to?? Practically unheard of!!)

Elementary school was a wonderful place where both of these things came together. Not only was there a school library, but my teacher, Mrs. Thompson, loved music. In her classroom, students participated in the school musical productions, the Christmas caroling in the hallway, and singing at the piano.

When I first decided to write a romance novel, I didn’t necessarily plan to write about music. However, I should have known that it was inevitable. I was at a concert when the idea for Love’s Road Home struck me, and once that thought took root it didn’t leave. Concerts are so full of energy that it now seems logical that the plot was born in that atmosphere.

In Love’s Road Home, I strived to combine the strength of Tom Crowley’s love for his music with the energy of live performances and the determination he had to pursue a lasting relationship with Bethany Miller. Along the couple’s path to true happiness, I threw in some humor and suspense for readers to enjoy.

Good romance novels and good songs should both elicit emotion. Whether it’s a smile, outright laughter, a gasp, or tears – these are the things that stick in my memories. Songs that I heard on the radio after the deaths of my father and cat. Scenes or phrases from novels that weren’t wordy but somehow had just the right impact to make my heart skip – or stop. These powerful things are the major driving forces behind my life and my writing.

Words and music. Words…and music.


Lisa Lewis lives in upstate New York with her husband, two daughters, and three cats. Throughout her life, and especially during the years she worked as a high school science teacher, she often escaped reality listening to music and reading romance novels. In her first novel, Lisa has finally brought those two loves together for others to enjoy. Contact her at lisa@lisalewisbooks.com or http://www.lisalewisbooks.com.