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Monday, January 31, 2011

GUEST BLOG: DIANNE DUVALL


Change

Change is something many find unpleasant, something some dread and resist tooth and nail.  Yet life is all about change.  Our bodies change as we grow as does our view of the world as we mature.  We change schools as our education progresses.  We change environments when we find new jobs or move to new locations.  Our relationships change as old friends fade away, new friends enter our lives and we explore attractions to potential significant others.  Our society is in a constant state of change.  And still, we resist . . . at least some of the time.

I think one of the aspects of paranormal romances that intrigues me the most is the fact that the characters involved often must confront and accept incredible changes that could easily be termed enormous upheavals that completely reconstruct their existences, sometimes making them question their entire belief system.  How they meet the challenge of this captivates me.  Do the changes strengthen them?  Or weaken them?  Do they resist the changes or embrace them?

In my debut novel Darkness Dawns, the first in my Immortal Guardians paranormal romance series, much change occurs and the hero and heroine are definitely up for the challenge.  Roland Warbrook, a powerful, nearly millennium-old immortal, has been brutally and almost fatally betrayed one too many times in his past and now eschews all social interaction with others.  Even his fellow Immortal Guardians cannot lure him from his solitude, though Marcus -- his protégé of eight centuries -- has tried often enough.  No one seems able to breech the emotional barriers he has erected until he meets Sarah, who fascinates him from the first moment he sees her.  Or rather the moment Sarah saves him, charging to the rescue at great risk to herself, though she doesn’t know him.  And, in the days that follow, Roland finds many aspects of his life altering in ways he can’t resist.

Dr. Sarah Bingham, a music theory professor at UNC, faces even more dramatic changes than Roland.  One decision -- to intervene and save Roland from the vampire’s minions intent on torturing him to death practically in her backyard -- will alter her entire world.  An educator with a sedate lifestyle who longs only for peace and quiet and a little relaxation at the end of a stressful semester, she now must acknowledge the existence of preternatural beings -- immortal and vampire -- the latter of whom want her dead for liberating their enemy.  Sarah is completely out of her element, but rises to the occasion and loses her heart to Roland even as she chips away at his reserve and finds within herself a well of strength she didn’t know she possessed.

And the changes don’t stop there.  Much of what the Immortal Guardians as a whole have known for millennia will be called into question as their vampire enemies accomplish what should have been unachievable and prove to be a greater threat than the immortals ever could have imagined. 

I hope you’ll enjoy reading about the transformations that result as much as I enjoyed writing them.

Darkness Dawns
Back Cover Blurb

In this dazzling, sensual novel, Dianne Duvall beckons readers into a world of vampires, immortals, and humans with extraordinary gifts . . . where passion can last forever, if you're willing to pay the price . . .

Once, Sarah Bingham’s biggest challenge was making her students pay attention in class. Now, after rescuing a wounded stranger, she’s landed in the middle of a battle between corrupt vampires and powerful immortals who also need blood to survive. Roland Warbrook is the most compelling man Sarah has ever laid hands on. But his desire for her is mingled with a hunger he can barely control . . .

In his nine centuries of immortal existence, no woman has tempted Roland as much as Sarah. But asking her to love him is impossible -- when it mean forfeiting the world she’s always known, and the life he would do anything to protect.

Question:  With regards to paranormal romances, is there any change that you think would simply be too much for a hero to ask of his heroine (or vice versa) in order to pursue their happily ever after?  A deal breaker, if you will?

Dianne Duvall earned a BA in English from the University of St. Thomas and has won multiple awards as a romance writer.  Her debut paranormal romance novel Darkness Dawns received a 5-star review and was declared a Top Pick by The Romance Reviews, received a 5-star review from Bitten by Paranormal Romance and was awarded 4 1/2 stars by RT Book Reviews.  It also won first place in the Romance Writers of America Indiana Golden Opportunity contest, then was chosen as Best of the Best.  The second book in the series is scheduled for release in December 2011. 

When she isn't writing, Dianne is very active in the independent film industry and once even appeared onscreen as a machete-wielding maniac not unlike the vampires she so loves to create in her novels.
 

Friday, January 28, 2011

GUEST BLOG: JERRI HINES

Decisions! Decisions! Decisions!
 
Oh, whatever am I going to write! A dramatic murder suspense? A scary page-turning paranormal? A love story for the age? Oh, so many possibilities run rapid through my mind staring at a blank page! Why then am I drawn to historical suspense/romance? Why does the past conjure up so many tales to be told?
 
Perhaps because I romanticize the past. Or perhaps it’s a connection to the past I seek. I only know that I love the challenge of recreating a bit of history to be told again. I’ll let you in on a little secret. I love history. And as you might suspect with my writings on the American Revolution, I find this period of time utterly fascinating. So many ideas swirl around my little head when I do research and none more so than when I was doing research for Patriot Secrets.
 
My research led me to speculate about women’s roles during the American Revolution. Nothing was more dangerous at that time than spying. The price of being caught for a man was hanging. For a woman? Let’s just say that I don’t think men, both American and British, thought women capable of such a deception. I believe they were and would have been efficient in their efforts. The women seemed to have been just as passionate for their cause as the men of that time. Case and point, Margaret Kemble Gage, American born wife of General Thomas Gage, Commander of the British Army at the beginning of the American Revolution in Boston. Did you know that it was highly suspected that Margaret Gage supplied information to Patriot leaders? It was suspected she may have even given the information that led to the famous ride of Paul Revere. Her punishment, General Gage sent her to England. Although for another woman, I doubt the punishment would have been so lenient especially after the war began to turn in favor of the Patriot cause. There were harsh consequences for anyone at that point. 
 
After the research I let my imagination go. I love running with a premise such as a woman spying against the British. I love strong women who have to overcome obstacles to obtain their desires. And Patriot Secrets took on a life of its own after I started it. What more could I have asked for- intrigue, mystery and danger!
 
In my historical writings, my goal is to take a reader back in time. I know as a reader myself I want a book that allows me to escape from the world around me at least for the few hours. As an author I strive to create that escape.
 
 

I'm just a little Southern girl who loves stories. Growing up I had always had a dream to write. Stories always brewed in my head. I love to read almost as much as I love to write. I love to read because you can dream. I love to write to put down in words those dreams. I have have worked in the hospital setting for well over twenty years, but ten years ago I began following my dream of writing with the encouragement of my husband. My first book was an autobiography on my father, They Called Him CoachDream Walker, a paranormal suspense book, was published in 2008 by Wild Child Publishing. Patriot Secrets is the first of my historical romance/suspense books in my American Revolution series.  Please check out my website.

 

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

GUEST BLOG: KIMBER AN

HOW I WRITE NOVELS EVEN THOUGH I HAVE FOUR CHILDREN AND A WICKED CASE OF TENDONITIS
By Kimber An

Bottom Line:  I do most of it in my head first.

I have one child in regular school, two children I homeschool, and a toddler.  This means I live on a Master Schedule.  Before I signed with Decadent Publishing, I got up at four a.m.  Now, I get up at three.  Not kidding.  This gives me two and a half hours of quiet time on the computer before I need to get in the shower.  I have to get into the shower by five-thirty a.m. or I won’t have a chance for the rest of the day, because my first child starts the morning stampede at six a.m.  During the rest of the day, I’m working on plotting, deciding on character names, and so on while I’m loading the dishwasher, changing diapers, and picking up the eldest child from school with the other three in tow.  We’re quite a sight, traipsing through the snow with my European baby buggy.

I love my European baby buggy for two reasons.  One, I used to be a nanny.  Yeah, just like Mary Poppins, only I specialized in babies and toddlers.  And, two, I live in Alaska.  Those big wheels on the European pram go right through the snow.  Second best choice is a jogger stroller, but I digress.

A fine-tuned schedule is not enough.

As you’ve probably guessed, I have to chisel out my time on the computer because of the schedule.  Like I mentioned in the title, though, I also have tendonitis.  It gets better as my baby becomes more independent.  I noticed a huge improvement in my hands once she was able to get in and out of her chair by herself.
I must make the most of the time I do have on the computer.  This is why I do as much of it in my head as I possibly can first.  That way, when I sit down I can just write.  But, I had to figure out how to do this over the past four years I’ve been working towards publication.  And I’m constantly searching for ways to streamline my methods to cram everything I can into my time on the computer.  

Besides everything else, I’m an ePublished author.  One of the things I learned as moderator of the Enduring Romance book review blog was that an ePublished author must be extremely prolific.  We have to work very hard to build up our readership and we have to keep it up or readers forget us.  The competition is fierce.

I have a very crowded and messy imagination.  Stories barf out of my brain in a huge mess.  It’s just awful.  I wake up in the morning after dreaming stories all night feeling like I got ran over by an ice truck.  This is extremely inefficient.  I’ve had to learn the hard, extremely painful way to sort out the mess as quickly as I can.

Two things helped the most.

I ‘met’ Jacqueline Lichtenberg on-line.  She helped save the original Star Trek.  Here’s her website-   www.jacquelinelichtenberg  She taught me many things, two of which helped extraordinarily.  First, she taught me about THEME.  Everything about the story must support the THEME.  Secondly, she taught me about STRUCTURE.  A huge part of this instruction was sending me out to buy SAVE THE CAT!  by Blake Snyder.  This is a book on screenwriting.  You can learn more about it at the author’s website-   www.blakesnyder.com

So, now, the biggest thing I do when I’m preparing to write a new novel, like right now, is I outline the story, scene-by-scene, and ‘beat it out’ according to the Blake Snyder Beat Sheet, which you can find at the website.  Turns out, it works great for novels, as well as screenplays.  As I’m STRUCTURING the story, I eliminate everything which does not support the THEME.  And this, my friends, eliminates months and months of work and frustration for me in the story creation process.  

How do I write novels even though I have four children and a wicked case of tendonitis?

I do most of it in my head first.

Kimber An never had enough books when she was a kid and the ones she had didn’t turn out the way she wanted. And so she started writing her own. She also loved babies a lot, but didn’t know how to talk to boys. Instead, she became a nanny and took care of other people’s babies. Finally, she moved to Alaska where she met a boy who understood getting whacked in the head with a wadded up piece of paper meant true love. She married him and now she reads books to her own babies, and is living happily ever after.

Monday, January 24, 2011

GUEST BLOG: LESLIE SOULE

The Tortured Hero


Happy stories where everything goes right, rarely make for interesting reading material. Thus, it becomes necessary for an author to introduce the element of conflict. Personally, I have a hard time with creating characters who have the right amount of torment in their lives to make it interesting without going overboard. I tend to err on the side of caution when this difficulty arises, coddling my characters because I grow attached to them. It's hard for me to like the idea of introducing pain into my work. I'm the kind of person who cringes at surgery shows on television and sympathizes with characters who suffer, to the point where painful movie scenes force me to turn away.

And yet, I know that as a writer, being too overprotective of my characters will ultimately be detrimental to my work.

I was reminded of this the other day, when a friend and I began discussing how we'd gotten various scars. I began to realize that to some extent, our scars tells the story of who we are and where we've been. So I think one of the major challenges in writing a believable character is to give them scars, both physically and emotionally.

While I was talking with my friend, it also struck me that the two do not necessarily have to be separate - physical and emotional scars. As I began speaking to him about a scar I'd gotten from the spikes on top of a barbed wire fence, strong feelings of insecurity began to arise, like I was making myself vulnerable. It wasn't because of anything he'd done, but it was connected to times in my past when I'd opened myself up to someone, only to be ridiculed or misunderstood. So our scars, physical and emotional, are inescapable reminders of who we are. As a writer, you don't have to go overboard with torture, but be sure to give them scars.


Bio: Leslie Soule is the author of the fantasy novel Fallenwood, soon to be released by Decadent Publishing.

http://www.lesliesoule.com/

Friday, January 21, 2011

GUEST BLOG: MARY BURTON

Write.  Bake.  Feast.
Baking isn’t just about food for me.  It is a valuable utensil in my writer’s tool kit.   When a pesky book character gives me attitude and won’t reveal their secrets, I head to the kitchen.  When a plot won’t untangle, I pull out the pots and pans.  And when the pieces of a novel just won’t come together, I get to mixing batter, whipping butter cream or icing a cake.  The kitchen is where I work out just about every tough story question. 
Why does baking work to unravel a story problem?  I’ve no hard and fast evidence on this one, but my theory is that baking engages the creative side of the brain just as writing does.   Typing endlessly can land our brains in a rut and the best way to free it is to try another creative endeavor.
I’m hoping your New Year’s resolutions don’t have anything to do with diet.  If it does, feel free to jump past the cookie recipe I’m about to share.  (Warning: these cookies are darn good and you might be sorry you skipped over them.) 
This isn’t my recipe but one created by my friends Nancy and Mike who were kind enough to share.  Some (meaning me) have called these cookies sinful, too delicious and a real diet buster.  But they are well worth the time it takes to bake and they are the perfect companion to a cup of tea and a favorite book.   
Senselessly Sinful Cookies
1 cup butter
1 cup sugar
1 egg
1 tablespoon milk
2 teaspoon vanilla
1 cup oil
3 cup flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup corn flakes
12 oz chocolate chips
Cream butter with sugar.  Add egg.  Stir in milk, vanilla and oil.   In a different bowl mix in flour, baking powder and salt.  Gradually, mix dry ingredients into wet batter.  Mix well and add oats and then corn flakes.  Finally, mix in chocolate chips.  Chill the dough for about an hour and then scope onto greased baking sheet.  Bake at 350 degree for 8 to 10 minutes.  
Mary Burton captivates readers with stories of mystery, crime and relationships--destined to keep readers on the edge of their seats.  Her January 2010 book SENSELESS is a romantic suspense set in Virginia.  When she’s not writing her latest novel, she is most definitely in the kitchen cooking.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

GUEST BLOG: ROBERT ROMAN

“Intolerance”

Hallo out there in internet land, and thanks to Judy and Marianne for having me here as a guest blogger.  

Most of my books have some amount of humor in them, and you might be expecting something silly here today.  Unfortunately, something I heard not too long ago really floored me when I heard it, and that made me want to talk about a more serious topic for once.

Intolerance.

I deal with that quite a lot in my day job.  I teach in a school system with more ethnic diversity than some major metropolitan areas.  Ok, I teach in a school system IN a major metropolitan area.  Beyond that, I teach in an area where the economy is…  Depressed?  That’s somehow too light.  This economy makes a bus full of Goth kids look like the Partridge Family.  The only reason I mention that is that I’ve noticed for some reason, when incomes fall, body modification becomes the norm rather than the exception.  Every other student is tattooed, pierced, dyed, or otherwise modified in some way.

So I teach in a very diverse environment.

In my books, when I’m not writing Urban Fantasy, where plenty of the characters aren’t even human, I’m writing Steam Punk.  The Steam Punk I’ve written, perhaps unsurprisingly given where I spend my days, has a cast of characters with at least as much diversity as the school I teach in.  OK, some of those characters haven’t seen the page yet, but they’re there waiting for me to write them.  Those characters get up to the typical things characters do; loving, hating, working, playing, fighting with one another and by one another’s sides.

So I write fiction that’s got a pretty diverse cast.

Now, the comment that blew me away was by an adult, someone I would expect to have matured beyond the petty ‘he looks different to me’ concerns.  However, as I was typing away in the computer lab, I heard the comment ‘Checkerboard?  Oh, that’s disgusting’.  When I looked to see what the other person was talking about, it was a printout of a middle aged man who had tattooed his entire face in a checkerboard pattern.
Was it striking?  Oh, definitely.  Was it life-altering?  If he intended to get a job in the corporate world, it probably was.  Was it something I’d do personally?  I don’t see it happening.

Was it disgusting?

That comment sensitized me to the comments I was hearing after that.  I heard a lot more comments about what ‘disgusts’ some ostensible adults: a girl dressed up as and acting like a guy; an interracial couple; a couple that sits in one another’s laps at lunch every day.  All of these have been deemed ‘disgusting’.

Are any of those things ‘disgusting’?  Really?  They’re odd, yes.  They’re not ‘normal’.  But…  Since I’ve become a parent, my bar for ‘disgusting’ has gone up a few notches:  the contents of a diaper; eating (perishable) food that’s been hidden under the couch for a week; eating…  Well, I’m going to STOP now, because there is literally NO limit to the amount of ‘disgusting’ two little boys can come up with when they put their minds to it.  Suffice it to say, when I say ‘disgusting’, I’m talking about something that has the potential to make me blow chunks.

Now that I’ve perhaps killed your appetite with the stories of little boys doing what little boys are wont to do, back to the writing and the teaching and the point of this whole essay.   When it comes to writing, I’ve had a few bits of imagery that I would label ‘disgusting’ (I write some things with Gothic Horror elements), but it never occurred to me to put body modification or interracial couples on that list.  I write about love and courage and humor, and those things know no color or creed or orientation.  When it comes to teaching, at least once a week I bring the point home to my students that it is NOT OK to use terms describing ethnicity or sexual preference as a slur.

So…  My point.

Most of us reading this today realize the kind of intolerant behavior I’m talking about today is NOT OK.  If you don’t…  Well, if you don’t, why don’t you tell me why you think it’s OK.  If you DO realize it’s NOT OK, then do something entirely different for me.  Next time you hear or see someone being intolerant, stand up and tell them it’s not all right.  You don’t have to be pugnacious about it.  All you have to do is Not Be Silent.

That’s not too hard, right?

If you liked what you read here (or if you didn't and want to give me a piece of your mind) please come visit me at http://www.robertcroman.com/.  If you'd like to take a gander at what I've written, cruise on over to http://www.decadentpublishing.com/, keyword Robert Roman and check out my books!
 

Bob started telling stories when he was a kid.  He didn’t start writing them down until a few years ago.  When he did, folks read them and asked for more.  They keep asking, so he keeps writing.

Monday, January 17, 2011

GUEST BLOG: GRACE ELLIOT

My name is Grace Elliot and I have a (not so) secret obsession! You see near London where I live I’m the local veterinarian, tending small furry animals by day (and on call at night) but in the evening I become an author of historical romance. I am thrilled to say my debut novel, A Dead Man’s Debt, a regency romance is now a published work. Yeah! 

I turned to writing as an escape, a release from the emotional drain of veterinary work. Rediscovering my creative side I immerse myself in my characters and escape to their world - of satins and silks, of blackmail, peril and duty, where real men rode stallions and a woman with opinions was considered rebellious. I love manipulating their world, reeking havoc with the tidy order of things, placing twist after twist on their tangled lives…and more.

The regency is such a dream of an era for a writer. From chaperons to duels, and debutantes to rogues, it’s a world of contrasts. The pressures of reputation and standing were not to be underestimated at a time when appearances were everything, and denying your needs was a virtue.  One of the themes played out in A Dead Man’s Debt is whether to do the right by society, or defy the Ton to follow your heart’s desire.

Take our hero Lord Ranulf Charing. He yearns to be an artist and yet Society regards this as scandalous, akin to earning a living. Rather than disgrace his family, outwardly he keeps up appearances but at the price of inner turmoil. 

Then there is our heroine, Celeste Armitage, who believes there is more to life than becoming some man’s property in marriage. She craves travel and independence and wants to control her own future. It took a bold woman in Regency times to refuse to marry. Far easier to cave in and take a husband than deliberately invite spinsterhood. 

This scandalous rebellion is punished by exile to the country…where she meets her mirror image, Ranulf.
But who is stronger? Ranulf, for subverting his desires, or Celeste who defies the Ton and courts disgrace?
And what happens when our opposites attract? Well for the answer… why not lose yourself in A Dead Man’s Debt?

‘A Dead Man’s Debt’ is available from most eBook stores including Amazon and Book on Board. To learn more visit:  http://graceelliot-author.blogspot.com


Excerpt. – Ranulf and Celeste meet for the first time.
So be it. Ranulf gritted his teeth as he grasped the leading leg and pushed. It was like fighting against a brick wall, the calf barely moving. A lamb was difficult enough, how much more so a calf? Just as he was wondering if one man was strong enough, a shower of pebbles rattled down the bank. Concentrating on the calf, he barked.

“Dont just stand there. Get down here!”

“I beg your pardon!” A womans voice answered.

With a flash of annoyance Ranulf glanced upward.

A wide eyed young woman in a straw bonnet peered down. “I say, is everything all right?”

“Does it look all right?” Muttering under his breath, all he needed was some sensitive Miss fainting on him. “Go! Fetch help from the house.”

He saw her hesitate, biting her top lip. “But you need help now.”

A contraction clamped around his arm as the cow's tail switched across his face, stinging his eyes like a cat-o-nine-tails.

In a flurry of muslin and lace the Miss slid down the bank, landing with a thud in the ditch.

“Ouch.” She rubbed her ankle. Ranulf glared back, dark eyes flashing.

“You should have gone to the house.” Damn it all, she could make herself useful then. “Hold the tail aside.”

Pulling a face she limped over. Ranulf's eye lingered for she merited a second glance. Of middle height with a tidy waist and curves where God intended them, she appeared quick witted and bright eyed. Without further ado, she stripped off her gloves throwing them onto a bramble bush. Long, sensitive fingers grasped the muddy tail. Practical, Ranulf thought, silently impressed.

“Why didn't you go for help?”

“There wasn't time.” Her bonnet slipped backwards, revealing a quirky face with a pointed chin, her lips finely drawn with an arched cupid's bow. The sort of face an artist could lose himself in, all shades of the sea to be found in deep emerald eyes framed by a tangle of chestnut hair.

Ranulf tightened his grasp and pushed. Sweat beading his brow. The calf retreated an inch.

“What are you doing?” Her voice was gentle and calm, if somewhat deep for a woman. Ranulf guessed it would be husky in bed, whispering over a pillow after a night of passion. Her eyes were on him - deep green eyes, lively and entrancing. Suddenly he remembered that he was undressed to the waist, her curious gaze on his skin as he was gripped by the idea of those lily white hands gliding over his naked chest, her almond shaped nails digging into his skin. He shook away the thought, trying to remember her question.

All innocence and interest she watched, blushing faintly in a charming way and yet, he realized, no wilting flower. He shook his head. The woman had asked a question, damn it. He would answer.

“The calf is breech.” He grunted, “I need to push her back into the womb to turn her…” He wanted to shock this stranger, to test how bold she truly was. She stared back, biting her top lip, exaggerating her snub nose.

“Ah!” Her gaze met his.

“Think of the calf as a carriage in a narrow driveway. To turn it around you push it back into the stable yard…”

“What can I do to help?”

“Nothing.” He growled.

Throwing him an angry look, she anchored the tail with a log and scrambled round to the beast's head. After a moment
s thought, she placed her pelisse under the cow's head stroking the broad nose and crooning words of comfort.

“She's relaxing.” Ranulf's arm was numb from the contractions. He fell forward, as the first leg finally slid back into the womb. "That helps." His hair had come free from the ribbon, falling thickly about his shoulders. He glanced at the Miss. She was leaning forward, her bosom straining against a tight bodice, a satisfying cleavage between her breasts. He swallowed hard. She was odd looking, he decided, not exactly beautiful but eye catching none the less. Her face showed character, determination…and her complexion too healthy to be fashionable, rosy cheeked and peppered with freckles which with a hint of sunlight burst into a profusion.

The Miss was glaring at him now, her skin glowing bright pink. Had he been staring? His heart raced as he returned to the calving. 

BIO:
Grace Elliot leads a double life as a veterinarian by day and author of historical romance by night. She lives near London and is addicted to cats, acting as housekeeping staff to five mischievous moggies.

Grace believes intelligent people need romantic fiction in their lives as an antidote to the modern world. Her debut novel A Dead Man’s Debt  is now available from most eBook stores including Amazon, Fictionwise, Smashwords and Books on Board.
To find out more visit  http://graceelliot-author.blogspot.com





Friday, January 14, 2011

GUEST BLOG: MINDY MacKAY

It's quite alright; I don't bite…hard.
 



I am not crazy. I'm not malicious, malevolent, or misanthropic. I've never manipulated anyone into ruin, threatened someone's life, or run out of a taxicab without paying the fare, and I've certainly never made a burger out of anybody.

In short, I'm not Kiera Graves, the antiheroine of my dark scifi saga, the Puppetmasters Series. Yet some of my readers find it hard to believe I'm not a tormented artist after reading Book One, Peacebreakers.

When I first broke into book business, one of my earliest readers was a teacher I had in high school. Words she used to describe her reaction included "shock" and "horror", two emotions that were clearly written all over her face. She was disturbed at my portrayal of Kiera's turbulent family life and exploits as an enthusiastic assassin, and concerned about what might have caused me to write her this way. Did I harbor a secret desire to violently dispatch my enemies? she wondered. Was Kiera's enmity towards her father based on my own personal experiences?

In real life, I wouldn't hurt a worm, and as for my relationship with my father, we're close as can be. He was actually the one who inspired me to start writing in the first place. When I was little, he told me the most magical bedtime stories that he made up on the spot, mostly action-packed adventure stories with at least one dramatic fight scene. When he reached the end of a story, my eyes would light up and I would think, wow, I hope one day I'll be able to make up something that exciting.

So here I am, years later. I'm an upstanding, productive member of society who volunteers at the hospital, and in my spare time, I write about ruthless assassins, inter-species strife, viral apocalypse, and forbidden trysts in the alcoves of run-down mansions. I don't deny my fiction isn't for the faint of heart, but it isn't drawn from my life--in fact, I suspect my penchant for dark fiction comes from a need to balance out my cherry-bowl existence.

You can't judge a writer by his or her subject matter any more than you can judge a book by its cover. That's not to say there aren't writers out there who take out their troubles on their characters, but it happens less often than you might think.

To my fellow dystopians in this world and others, goodnight and excelsior!

Mindy.



Mindy MacKay is a native of Canada but currently lives and studies in Texas. She is a poet of ten years, a novelist of four, and has been a literature nerd for as long as she can remember. Her novels include Peacebreakers and Soulgame, the first two installments of the Puppetmasters series, and Fallen From Disgrace, a single-title mystery. Her short fiction has been published by Pill Hill Press and 69 Flavors of Paranoia.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

GUEST BLOG: GEORGIE LEE

The Conflict You Know
By Georgie Lee

What to write about, what to write? This was the dilemma facing me a few years ago. I’d written and published a traditional Regency and finished another which had been rejected. I wanted to try my hand at contemporaries but I couldn’t figure out what to write about. The old adage “write what you know” came to mind, but what did I know? Perusing the shelves at the local bookstore, I noticed a lot of stories about knitting, wine, cooking and other specific interests and hobbies. I don’t knit, I’m not into wine and I don’t cook, so what did I know that was worth building a story around?  I love books and movies but where’s the conflict there? 

At the time, I was working at a large entertainment union in Hollywood. My days were full of conflict as I argued with producers and studios over various claims for violations of the union contract. I’m not sure at what point the obvious jumped out and hit me but one day it finally did. I knew about Hollywood and especially the conflict between studios and labor unions. I began to ponder different fictional situations until I discovered the one that would ultimately become my novel. What would happen if a lawyer at an entertainment union and a lawyer working for a studio fell in love while they were both working opposite sides of a major arbitration? 

Thus was born my latest novel Labor Relations, a story about two labor relations attorneys on opposite sides of a major arbitration facing a passionate conflict of interest. The heroine, Sarah Steele, is the newest member of the Movie Actors Guild legal team and new to Hollywood. The hero, Jake Rappaport, is the head of Labor Relations at Lion Studios, a veteran movie industry man enjoying the perks of Lala Land but wondering if there isn’t something more. There is an instant and powerful attraction between them but a personal relationship during the arbitration could ruin both of their careers. 

The natural conflict built into their jobs combined with the conflict of their ideals helped me develop the story and keep it moving, providing many opportunities for creating bumps on the road to true love. Setting the story in Hollywood allowed me to use my knowledge of the city and the entertainment industry to give the novel its flavor. I had a lot of fun writing a glamorized, fictional version of tinsel town as seen through Sarah’s eyes.


So, what can you learn from my experience? You can write what you know, even if you think you don’t know anything. Start by examining different aspects of your life such as your job, where you live, the groups you’re involved in and then look for the potential conflict in each of these situations. Once you find it, make it as big and threatening to your main characters as possible so that they have everything to lose if they don’t overcome their obstacles. Finally, use your own, personal experiences to make the characters, backdrop and yes, even the conflict, feel real and believable. By the time you hit “The End”, you’ll be surprised to discover that the conflict you know really is worth writing about.




A dedicated history and film buff, Georgie Lee loves combining her passion for Hollywood, history and storytelling through romantic fiction. She began writing professionally at a small TV station before moving to Los Angeles to work in the interesting but strange world of the entertainment industry. Her traditional Regency, Lady’s Wager and her novella Rock ‘n’ Roll Reunion are both available from Ellora’s Cave Blush. Labor Relations, her contemporary romance of Hollywood will be available February, 2011 from Avalon Books. When not writing, she enjoys reading non-fiction history and watching any movie with a costume and an accent. Please visit  www.georgie-lee.com for more information about Georgie and her novels.

Monday, January 10, 2011

GUEST BLOG: LORRAINE ZAGO ROSENTHAL

Lorraine Zago Rosenthal's debut YA novel, Other Words for Love, will be released tomorrow by Random House, and we are pleased to welcome her to celebrate that release and to let us know a little bit about her and the book.

Other Words for Love is about a middle-class high school girl (Ari) from Brooklyn who becomes involved in an intense relationship with a wealthy college student (Blake) from the Upper East Side of Manhattan, and her struggle to deal with equally intense emotions when things turn out differently than she had planned. The story also delves into Ari’s complex relationships with her best friend, Summer, and with Ari’s family—especially with her sister, Evelyn, who is a former teen mom. To make things even more complicated, Ari has a serious crush on Evelyn’s husband.

She's very proud of this book because, she told me, "It's the product of a great deal of time, work, effort, perseverance, and—most importantly—affection for the story and its characters."

Lorraine began to devour books at a very young age—as soon as she learned to read—and it didn't take her long to want to create her own characters and stories.

Even while she held other jobs, she was constantly thinking about whatever she was writing at the time—working on it during her lunch hour and getting right back to it as soon as she got home. She never wanted to do anything other than a writer, with her main interest being writing, but she also aspired to write for TV or film.

Because she's always loved writing, she didn't want to hear any negativity during the time she was working on her books.

"I shut all the naysayers out and wrote as a solitary activity," she said. "I learned by years of practicing, reading, and studying books, film, and TV. I always paid close attention to characterization, plot, dialogue, etc.—and that taught me a lot."

She's also learned a lot since she began writing with her agent and her editor.

She considers her "big break" the day she was offered represention by her agent, Elizabeth Evans with the Jean V. Naggar Literary Agency, who sold Other Words for Love to Random House/Delacorte Press.

"I was so excited that she wanted to work with me and to represent OTHER WORDS FOR LOVE. Elizabeth suggested some revisions to the original draft, and I was amazed and thrilled at how much she cared about the novel, as well as her depth of understanding of my characters. In addition to being an incredible agent, Elizabeth is also a very skillful, intelligent, and insightful editor."

Lorraine always creates soundtracks for her books and had an eclectic playlist she listened to each time she sat down to write.

"Music is a great way to immerse yourself in the setting and tone of your story, and the psyche of your characters," she explained. "The song I listened to most was Breathe your Name by Sixpence None the Richer. This song perfectly captures the depth and fragility of emotion that my main character, Ari, has for her boyfriend, Blake. Another song that expresses Ari’s personality and her feelings of being an outsider is Here’s Where the Story Ends by the Sundays."

Finally, I asked Lorraine, "Do you have any advice for young writers?"

"The most important advice I can give to young writers is to never let anyone discourage you—either in regard to your writing itself or your goal of becoming a published author. Some people think it’s impossible to succeed as a writer, but that isn’t true. It may be difficult, but it is NOT impossible. Always believe in yourself and your work, and keep trying even if you hit some roadblocks. Don’t think of yourself as an aspiring writer—always think of yourself as a writer, even if you haven’t been published yet. If you write, then you’re a writer. You’re just waiting for someone in the business to connect with your work. As the saying goes, 'a published author is an amateur who didn’t quit.' My best advice: keep practicing, and never quit! Also: love what you’re writing, and write primarily for yourself. If you don’t love your story, nobody else will."


Bio: Lorraine Zago Rosenthal was born and raised in New York City. She earned a bachelor's degree in psychology and a master's degree in education from the University of South Florida. She also earned a master's degree in English, with a concentration in American and British literature, from Northern Kentucky University. In addition to writing fiction, Lorraine enjoys reading, exercising, watching movies, and spending time with her husband. OTHER WORDS FOR LOVE is her first novel.

Website: http://lorraine-zago-rosenthal.blogspot.com

Friday, January 7, 2011

GUEST BLOG: NINA CROFT

A Change of Pace

A long time ago, and in a faraway place, I worked as an accountant and dreamed of becoming a writer. More, I wanted to be a published writer. And it just wasn’t happening.

So I took a long look at the things that were stopping me.

The most obvious was lack of time. I’m in awe of people of who manage a full time job and still find time to write. I found it hard. My job was intense, and I’d often come home exhausted, wanting nothing more than a glass of wine and a good book—somebody else’s good book.

But it wasn’t only time to write, but time to sit back and think about writing, about where I was going, what I wanted to write. I’d been writing contemporary romance, submitting and receiving rejections, quite positive rejections: they liked my writing style, but the stories just weren’t right. I needed to try something different, but wasn’t sure what.

And even if I did manage to squeeze in time between job and family, it was hard to concentrate with so many distractions, or to find inspiration in a life full of routines. I was commuting; which meant long days, often leaving in the morning before dawn and coming home at night after dusk. It was hard to be inspired.

But I still wanted to be a writer.

Something had to change.

The change I came up with was pretty drastic. I gave up my job as an accountant, sold up everything in the UK, and moved to southern Spain in search of the sun and a more relaxed way of life.

I found both, and now live on a small almond farm in a area known as Las Alpujarras; a spectacularly beautiful region that lies between the Sierra Nevada Mountains to the north and the Mediterranean, far below us, to the south.

It’s a remote area of mountains and steep rugged gorges, where mules still plough the small vineyards, and mains electricity is something they have in the towns. We have no near neighbors and the ‘local’ shop is nearly an hour away. I share the farm with my husband, my horse, two goats, three dogs, three cats, and a handful of chickens.
Those are the good bits!

I couldn’t write this without pointing out that there are numerous downsides to my way of life. We have very little money, no mains electricity so we rely on solar – fine as long as the sun shines. It also took us three years to get any sort of internet connection, and if it goes down, it takes forever to get back up again.

We spent the first few years here renovating our dilapidated farmhouse, but once that was completed, I settled to a life of picking almonds, being inspired, and writing.

Thankfully, these days, remote doesn’t have to mean cut off. The internet keeps me connected with other writers and allows me to do research without leaving my mountain hideaway. I’m a member of two online writing groups, Writers Abroad, a group of expat writers from all over the world, and Passionate Critters, a fantastic group of romance writers. Both provide me with loads of inspiration, encouragement, and constructive criticism.

I now write paranormal and sci-fi romance, and almost a year ago today my first novella, Tiger of Talmare, was published by Shadowfire Press. Since then I’ve had four other novellas released and two more contracted. My latest release is Mid-Winter Magic, from Decadent Publishing, a Christmas story, and part of an anthology written together with the ladies at Passionate Critters.

Most people can’t, or wouldn’t even want to make the sort of dramatic changes I made, but it’s perhaps worth looking at your life, identifying the things that hold you back, and seeing what adjustments might bring your writing dreams a little closer to reality.



 

Nina Croft grew up in the north of England. After training as an accountant, she spent four years working as a volunteer in Zambia which left her with a love of the sun and a dislike of 9-5 work. She then spent a number of years mixing travel (whenever possible) with work (whenever necessary) but has now settled down to a life of writing and picking almonds on a remote farm in the mountains of southern Spain. 

Nina's writing mixes romance with elements of the paranormal and science fiction.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

GUEST BLOG: MARIE FORCE

I Had This Little Idea, You See…
By: Marie Force 

The little idea was about a romantic suspense series that would feature the same couple in every book—Sam Holland, a lieutenant with the Washington D.C. Metropolitan Police Department, and Nick Cappuano, a U.S. senator. I figured there’d be endless conflict by setting my series in that other city that never sleeps. I also thought it would be fun to follow a high-profile couple through the ups and downs of every day life with a backdrop of murder, politics and romance. 

Time after time, I was told it’s just not done. Romance series have a different couple in every book. It’s the formula. (Just for the record, I hate the word formula.)

Every time I heard the “it’s just not done” response, I wanted to stomp my foot and pull a toddler tantrum. WHY can’t it be done? Rather than have a tantrum, I wrote the second book in the series, which people say you shouldn’t do until the first one sells.. I was thinking, what if I can’t do it? What if I am having all these silent tantrums and the reason there aren’t many romance series featuring the same couple is because they are damned hard to write? While writing the second book, FATAL JUSTICE, out this week from Carina Press, I found out it is rather challenging to keep up the conflict between two people who are newly in love. This is the rose-colored glasses stage for most couples. Add in a murder or two and those rose-colored glasses come off rather quickly.

In the midst of writing FATAL JUSTICE, I learned that despite the love editors had shown book 1, FATAL AFFAIR, they just weren’t willing to buck the dreaded formula to take on the series. After the expected tantrum, I had to decide—do I finish FATAL JUSTICE or put it in the scrap heap and move on to something else? That was when my mulish Irish pride kicked in, and I finished that book with tears in my eyes because I was so sad that no one would get to read what happens next for Sam and Nick. And what happens next for Sam and Nick is really, really fun (in my humble opinion!)


Then along came Carina Press looking to shake things up by letting no good story go untold. I’m so grateful that the editors and staff at Carina and Harlequin have fully embraced Sam and Nick’s story and have committed to two more books after FATAL JUSTICE—FATAL CONSEQUENCES (July 2011) and FATAL FLAW (February 2012). In September of 2011, we’ll offer a free novella, FATAL DESTINY, featuring Sam and Nick’s Washington wedding. In February, we’ll be running a promotion to let readers choose the wedding details with lots of fun prizes and giveaways. To say I’m having the time of my life writing this series is putting it mildly! FATAL JUSTICE was the book that wasn’t supposed to sell. To say that I am celebrating a bit this launch week is also putting it mildly!

Thanks to all the wonderful readers who have embraced Sam and Nick and their cast of supporting characters. I’ve got lots of fun ideas in store for future Fatal books, and I hope you’ll enjoy FATAL JUSTICE as well as the upcoming books. If you’re interested in print books, FATAL AFFAIR will be released in print from eHarlequin in July 2011, and both FATAL AFFAIR and FATAL JUSTICE (soon) are or will be available as audio books from Audible.com. Find FATAL JUSTICE in ebook format at http://ebooks.carinapress.com under the Romantic Suspense tab.


My question for you is this: have you ever been told you couldn’t or should do something and then did it anyway? I’ll reward the best “rebel with a cause” story with a free copy of FATAL JUSTICE.

Thanks so much to Marianne and Judy for having me today! I look forward to visiting with you all.

Marie Force is the author of FATAL AFFAIR (June 2010) and FATAL JUSTICE (Jan. 2011), Books 1 and 2 in her new Fatal Series from Harlequin’s Carina Press. Book 3, FATAL CONSEQUENCES, is coming in July 2011, FATAL DESTINY in September 2011 and FATAL FLAW in February 2012. “This novel is ‘The O.C. does D.C.,’ and you just can’t get enough.” (RT Book Reviews, 4.5 stars for FATAL AFFAIR). In its July 2010 issue, RT Book Reviews named Marie a “Future Star of Romantic Suspense.” 

Marie is the author EVERYONE LOVES A HERO (Feb. 2011), LINE OF SCRIMMAGE (Sept. 2008) and LOVE AT FIRST FLIGHT (July 2009). Of LINE OF SCRIMMAGE, Booklist said, “With its humor and endearing characters, Force’s charming novel will appeal to a broad spectrum of readers, reaching far beyond sports fans.” Wild on Books said, “LOVE AT FIRST FLIGHT by Marie Force is most definitely a keeper. It is an astounding book. I loved every single word!” Marie is also the author of TRUE NORTH and THE FALL, available as ebooks via Amazon.com and Smashwords.

Since 1996, Marie has been the communications director for a national organization similar to RWA. She is a member of RWA’s New England, From the Heart and Published Author Special Interest Chapters. 

While her husband was in the Navy, Marie lived in Spain, Maryland and Florida, and she is now settled in her home state of Rhode Island. She is the mother of Emily, 15, Jake, 12, and a feisty dog named Brandy. 

Find her at www.mariesullivanforce.com, on her blog at http://mariesullivanforce.blogspot.com, where she runs the popular weekly Romance & Oreos Book Club, on Facebook at www.facebook.com/pages/Marie-Force/248130827909, and on Twitter at twitter.com/MarieForce. Marie loves to hear from readers. Contact her at marie@marieforce.com.

Blog/Publicity Tour Dates
Jan. 3: Romance Reader at Heart and Thoughts in Progress
Jan. 4: Suspense Radio Interview
Jan. 5: Night Owl Reviews
Jan. 6: Fresh Fiction and About Happy Books
Jan. 7: Book Junkie, Authors & Appetizers, Romance Bandits
Jan. 10: RomCon
Jan. 20: Fatal Justice will be featured on the Romance & Oreos Book Club on Marie’s Blog at http://mariesullivanforce.blogspot.com