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Friday, September 30, 2011

Guest Blog: Donna Del Oro

The writing process is fascinating and I love it! Do I plan all my characters out before I start to write? Yes! If I didn't, I wouldn't know where the story was going or how to get there. Characters are everything in a story. They motivate, push, pull and determine the outcome whether the story's a romance, mystery or thriller. I plan the lead characters, their motivations and goals, their shortcomings and strengths--then put them in situations that test them. I don't put pen to paper until it's all planned out in my head. The chapter details, I leave until I arrive at that point in the story.

Writing has always been a catharsis, a way of working out ideas, emotions, personal problems. I was creating my own comic books in junior high school and wrote my first novel in high school. I showed them to my sisters and friends and had no clue how to go about getting published. Then life intervened, I worked my way through college and began teaching. Then began a family...well, the rest is history. Is it still a catharsis? Yes, in many ways although now it's more of a cerebral exercise. Gotta stave off that Alzheimer's, y'know. Seriously, my grandmother lived a full life and was mentally sharp until she died at 100. I'm hoping to follow in Grandma Eva's path.

I never have writer's block but I never force myself to come up with an idea. Waiting patiently and keeping busy doing other things helps the internal, creative percolating process. Eventually, the ideas come along with the motivation to put it all down "on paper". Only now, it's sitting time at the word processor.

The research part is the most fun for me. I love doing research! For my first women's fiction novel, a dramedy with a Hispanic heroine, I needed to research the Mexican drug cartels. For that and a couple of climax scenes, my sister, Gloria, and I drove from East Texas to San Antonio, then on down to Laredo, Texas. With more than a little trepidation, we crossed into Nuevo Laredo, two "gringitas" going shopping in this sleepy little bordertown. That was seven years ago--thank God! Now, this bordertown is overrun and terrorized by the Zetas, the paramilitary arm of one of the Mexican drug cartels. Then, it was bad enough but not yet too dangerous. While riding around in a taxi, we saw a pickup loaded with men carrying assault rifles--and they weren't federales, either. They were Los Zetas and had they known I was doing research on them, I'd now be buried in an unmarked grave in the desert somewhere. Truly scary! And stupid! Now I'm a little more cautious about my research, where and how I do it. For the second novel in my Born to Sing series, Scheming and Dreaming in Los Angeles, I went down to So Cal and did a bit of city hopping (there are over 70 small cities in the greater Los Angeles area) and got a feel for a couple of them. Each one is distinct with its own flavor, socio-economic identity and ethnic makeup. I studied the freeway maps, got a feel for the terrain and the costs of each neighborhood, and talked to people who live down there. I'll be doing the same thing with the sequel to Scheming, Alive in New York City. For me, the research is fun but the writing is challenging!

A necessary part of the writing cycle are good critique partners. I am blessed with two wonderful women who bring a vital, critical eye to my work and are not afraid to tell me what's wrong as well as what's right. I return the favor, our pact being "Be brutally honest but diplomatic."

I love mysteries and thrillers, especially spy thrillers. Authors like Daniel Silva, Brad Thor, Lisa Gardner--I simply devour their books. How I wish I could write like them! I'm working on it... Because I love to read mysteries and thrillers, I've branched out and have written one romantic mystery and one romantic thriller. A Bodyguard of Lies and The Delphi Bloodline, I'm confident, will be coming out in the next two years. These two were especially challenging to write and I've revised them numerous times until I think they're about ready for public consumption. Wish me luck!

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Donna Del Oro spent her childhood in two places, Silicon Valley, CA and the countryside of East Texas, as her father tried several job opportunities. Finally settling in Silicon Valley, she grew up in a bilingual, bicultural world--Spanish on her mother's side and English on her father's. Comfortable in both worlds, she decided upon retiring from teaching to write about her Hispanic side. Four women's fiction books resulted and a series about professional singers, their careers and love lives. Retired and devoting much of her abundant free time to exercise, writing, singing and her grandson, Donna has finally reached a point in life that totally satisfies her. Life is good and she has no complaints, just a lot of gratitude.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Guest Blog: Elisabeth Naughton

Thanks so much to the Long & Short of It for inviting me to stop by during my Tempted blog tour! Tempted is the third book in my Eternal Guardians series, which just hit store shelves on September 6, 2011. The Eternal Guardians are seven warriors descended from the seven greatest heroes in all of Ancient Greece who protect the mortal realm from threats of the Underworld. Tempted is Demetrius’s story. He’s a descendent of the famed hero Jason and he hides a dark and deadly secret—one that could lead to the end of the world.

Tempted marks my seventh published book in just a little over two years. I sold my first book, a romantic suspense titled Stolen Fury, in 2008 and it was published in January of 2009. Readers often ask how I’m able to write so fast—seven books in two years is a lot! But the truth is that the first two books in my Stolen Series were already finished by the time I sold that first book, and I had already completed—and sold—the first book in my Eternal Guardians series before Stolen even released. I would love to say I can write a book in a month, but that’s not true. It generally takes me about 4 months to get a book finished, and even before I sit down and start writing, I’m plotting in my head, living with the characters, listening to them tell me “Yeah, that sounds good,” or “No way, you can’t write that about me!”

Writing is not an easy profession. While you’re learning the craft, you’re not getting paid. It’s like college all over again except without all the fun parties and without that college professor telling you you’re doing it right… Unless of course you’re submitting your work to agents and editors who then seem more than willing to tell you when you’re doing something wrong! I never planned to be an author—it wasn’t a career goal of mine. In fact, when I was teaching middle school science, one semester the administration asked me to teach a language arts class and I nearly choked. “Me? Teach writing? Are you nuts? I’m a SCIENCE teacher! What the heck do I know about writing?” Turns out…quite a bit.

I’d always been a big reader, and in college I aced all my writing classes. In grad school, I was the “editor” for all my friends and helped them rewrite all their papers (they all got A’s, by the way). And on my way to and from work when I was teaching I used to make up stories in my head. I’d hear a song on the radio and an entire story would pop into my mind. And I’d play with the characters for weeks before letting them go. At the time, I didn’t know I was “pre-writing”. I thought I was just killing time. Then I took a leave of absence from my teaching job and after about a month realized I was going to go nuts without something to do. So…to kill time…I sat down at the computer and started typing. I really thought I was just playing…a way to keep my mind active. But that playing turned into a story. And that story turned into a book. And then that book turned into another book, and before my year was over I realized…I was a writer. I decided not to go back to my teaching job and figured I’d give the writing a go and see what happened.

I got “the call” in February of 2008, almost exactly five years after I started writing. That first contract was for three romantic suspense books, which became my Stolen Series. At the time I sold those books, I’d already started writing Marked, book one in my Eternal Guardians series, so I quickly finished that and sent it to my agent. About eight months later, Marked sold and my second series, the Eternal Guardians, this one paranormal, was born. And it only took five years! Five years of not getting paid, hearing about all the things I was doing wrong when I subbed work to NY, and no super fun parties. BUT…it was five years where I honed my craft and learned the business. I met some fantastic writers during that time, paired up with my critique partner, Joan Swan (whom I still critique with today), and even though I didn’t sell right away, I know those five years gave me what I needed so that when I did eventually sell, I was able to put several books out fairly quickly and build a readership.

Not everyone gets to live his or her dream. But I am. I love putting words on paper, creating characters and worlds my readers can’t wait to dive into next. And even when I’m frustrated with a scene or the direction of a book, I remind myself that this is a job I never expected, but am so very thankful I get to do. And really, when the guys I get to interact with every day are as hunky as the Eternal Guardians, it’s definitely not a hardship!

To celebrate the release of Tempted, Sourcebooks is giving away two copies of Tempted (US/Canada shipping only). To be entered into the drawings simply comment and tell me what your dream is.

TEMPTED BY ELISABETH NAUGHTON – IN STORES SEPTEMBER 2011


DEMETRIUS—He’s the hulking, brooding warrior even his fellow Guardians avoid. Too dark. Too damaged. And given his heritage, he knows it’s best to keep everyone at arm’s length.

Isadora is missing. The words pound through his head like a frantic drumbeat. For her own protection, Demetrius did all he could to avoid the fragile princess, his soul mate. And now she’s gone—kidnapped. To get her back, he’ll have to go to the black place in his soul he’s always shunned.

As daemons ravage the human realm and his loyalty to the Guardians is put to the ultimate test, Demetrius realizes that Isadora is stronger than anyone thought.

And finally letting her into his heart may be the only way to save them both.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: A former junior high science teacher, Elisabeth Naughton traded in her red pen and test-tube set for a laptop and research books. She now writes sexy romantic adventure and paranormal novels full-time from her home in western Oregon, where she lives with her husband and three children. Her work has been nominated for numerous awards, including the prestigious RITA Awards of Romance Writers of America, the Australian Romance Reader Awards, the Golden Leaf, and the Golden Heart. When not writing, Elisabeth can be found running, hanging out at the ball park, or dreaming up new and exciting adventures. Visit her at www.elisabethnaughton.com to learn more about her and her books. Her next book in the Eternal Guardians series, Enraptured, will be in stores in April 2012.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Guest Blog: Lynda K. Scott

Setting – More Than Just a Pretty Place


According to Wikipedia: In fiction, setting includes the time, location, and everything in which a story takes place, and initiates the main backdrop and mood for a story.

That's a fairly decent definition. But we, as authors, can't just say "Star Date: 8900.3, Starship Enterprise, Captain's Log" at the beginning of our story or whenever we have a scene change...though it would make things a lot easier, lol.

When I begin writing a story, I start with characters (who are they, where did they come from, what do they look like) but right behind them is the Setting. Why so? Because the answer can lead to Why Are They Here and that is invaluable to the plot.

Many authors use the setting as a character itself. Setting can lead to opportunities to add to the characterization or the plot. In my short story, Magician's Tale, the characters are scientists doing a quick study on a planet that rotates around a binary star system. In my novel, Heartstone, the characters travel to two planets totally different from Earth in climate and or life forms.

My preference is to use the setting to help show mood or lead in to conflict. Here are some examples and a brief description of why I used it.

Weather Related Setting Descriptions

The sky turned storm-silver and he heard the muffled roll of thunder, accompanied by the closer whine of a man-thing. (Heart of a Dragon – introduced the conflict)

An ocean breeze, faintly laced with brine and damp, rolled up the mountain to chill his sweat-dampened skin. (Heartstone – leads into a scene showing internal fear)

Time of Day Setting Descriptions

A shadow, long and sharp in the sun's slanting rays, moved and vanished before Keriam could identify it. (Heartstone – shows contrasting mood)

Far out to sea, a pale line of fog rose out of the ocean depths. High above the fog, a star pulsed in the indigo sky. (Altered Destiny – leads to characters mood)

But what if (my favorite phrase, lol) what if your character is on another planet?

Maureen McKinna’s polarized faceplate darkened as she looked toward the ominous red giant rapidly sinking behind the serrated teeth of the horizon. (Magician's Tale – lead in to upcoming danger)

Mood Related Setting Descriptions

The trees grew in an odd triad formation, three boles rooted companionably together. (Heartstone – shows viewpoint characters' intrigue with new world)

The only signs of life were low, sulky bushes and a sooty yellow grass that hugged the ground stubbornly. (Heartstone – shows not only the desolate landscape but reflects the viewpoint characters' mood)

These are just a few ways to show the setting. Yes, they're brief and in their stories they're usually accompanied by an extra two or three sentences. But even when describing an alien world, you don't need paragraph on paragraph devoted to the setting. (Unless you write like James Michener who devoted pages and pages to describe the place his novel was set.)

Whether it's to enhance characterization or plot, mood or theme, setting is more than just pretty place. It's a vital component in the writer's arsenal.

Where to find me on the web:

Website http://www.lyndakscott.com.

To join my newsletter, send a blank email to: LyndaKScott-Newsgroup-subscribe@yahoogroups.com

Thanks for having me!

If you are a member of or join my newsgroup before Oct 1, you'll automatically be entered into a drawing for a beaded crystal heart pendant. (Sorry, you must be a resident of the USA to win the pendant but a non-USA winner will receive an alternate prize to be determined at the time of the drawing.) Contest Rules are available at http://lyndakscott.blogspot.com/2011/09/new-member-only-contest.html

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
In her family of Kentucky 'ridge runners', oral tales were a tradition that even the children participated in. She spent many nights with her brother, cousins and friends telling tall tales to excite the imagination. Now she creates award winning science fantasy romance filled with despair, hope, love and courage.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Guest Blog: Leigh Michaels

A Day in the Life of Leigh Michaels


Every now and then a high school student who wants to be a writer asks if she can job-shadow me for a day, and I never know what to say – because honestly, a day in the life of Leigh Michaels is usually pretty dull.

I start out the day with coffee, the newspaper, and a bit of TV news with my husband, and I often check my email from my minicomputer while he’s watching the Today show. (I purposely don’t own a smart phone, so I can’t be quite as tied to the Internet.)

Once in my office, I look in on my classes and respond to students. I teach romance writing online for Gotham Writers Workshop (www.writingclasses.com), so I may have as many as 30 students posting assignments and giving feedback to each other, though fortunately not all on the same day. I answer any crucial email and take care of any pressing business matters – setting up blogs, answering fan mail, writing speeches or making notes for upcoming appearances.

Then I retreat to the little book-lined room next to my office, where my laptop is set up, and write, taking a quick break for lunch.

The best a job-shadower can hope for is that my story is moving along so well that I have a Romancing the Stone moment (remember Kathleen Turner sobbing, “This is so good” as she finishes writing the last page of her novel and tries to find something to blow her nose on? Happens once in a great while in real life.)

After a few hours of writing – it might be just two or three if I’m only starting a story, six or eight if I’m finishing one – I break again and take a long walk, do some housework, pay the bills, and cook a decent dinner. Cooking is therapeutic for me, and I sometimes get my best ideas while chopping veggies for a stir fry.

In the evening, I check my classes again and often do research, or relax with a movie, or finish up all the business stuff that didn’t get done in the morning. Though I love to read, I’m careful what I pick up while I’m writing – because it’s so much easier to get lost in someone else’s world than it is to create my own.

At least, that’s the ideal day – when all the threads get tied up and I get at least a thousand words written.

But then there are days like today – when I started out with only a few things on my to-do list, and I was determined to polish those off quickly and then dive back into my new story so I could spend all day with the six main characters and three separate romances which weave together to form each of my books.

I intended to finish up a critique I started yesterday,assemble a basket for the literacy raffle at the Moonlight & Magnolias conference in Atlanta so it’s ready to take with me on the plane, check on my students, write a thank-you note to the bookstore manager who hosted a book signing and program for me over the weekend, and then go hide out in my sitting room with my laptop and write.

Of course the moment I decided that, the day began to unravel.

The phone rang while I was still drinking coffee. My son in law and two granddaughters were in town, just finished with a dental appointment… so of course I suggested they stop by so I could get my fair allotment of hugs, and I ended up making pancakes and sausage for five.

When they left, I went back to my critique, and I just managed to finish it up and send it when the phone rang again. My handyman carpenter was working for a neighbor today, but he was at a standstill with that project till the paint dried, so did I want him to take a look at my honey-do list in the meantime? Since he’s hard to get, I grabbed the chance. Before he was finished with the first two projects, I’d added three more to the list – which is how things usually go when he’s here. By the time he went back to his first job, it was time for lunch. Then I had to do some prep for the contractor who’s coming next week to pour a new patio, and call the plumber to move a hydrant that’s in the way of the new patio. Then classes… and more email… and thank-you notes, and finding things I plan to add to the literacy-auction basket…

And here it is almost bedtime. The basket isn’t finished, and I still haven’t managed to get myself back to 1816 and the three couples who are waiting for me to tell their story.

But I did get this blog post written. :)

What’s your ideal day like? Mine has nothing on the calendar – at least no appointments and no commitments, just a big span of blank time so I can truly wallow in my work!


THE WEDDING AFFAIR BY LEIGH MICHAELS – IN STORES SEPETEMBER 2011


You’re invited to the wedding of the year!

The Duke of Somervale, whose sister’s wedding is the event of the ton, is fighting off debutantes and desperately needs help from beautiful, stubborn Olivia Reyne. But she is engrossed with problems engulfing her dearest friends and family. The last thing Olivia needs is to be embroiled with a duke whose dark gaze makes her forget herself entirely...

Discover a new side of a beloved author as Leigh Michaels draws you into the glittering, glitzy world of Regency England and an affair you’ll never forget.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Leigh Michaels is the author of nearly 100 books, including 80 contemporary novels, more than a dozen non-fiction books and three Regency romances from Sourcebooks Casablanca: TheMistress’ House, Just One Season in London and The Wedding Affair. More than 35 million copies of her romance novels have been published by Harlequin. A 6 time RITA finalist, she has also received two Reviewer's Choice awards from RT Book Reviews, and was the 2003 recipient of the Johnson Brigham Award. Leigh also teaches romance writing on the Internet at Gotham Writers’ Workshop. She lives in Ottumwa, Iowa. For more information, please visit www.leighmichaels.com.

Leave a comment to be entered into a drawing for one of two sets of Leigh’s trilogy: The Mistress’ House, Just One Season in London and The Wedding Affair. US and Canada residents only please.

Monday, September 26, 2011

GUEST BLOG: A. FARIS

Judge a book by its cover

The brute in black and white, his rough-hewn face a reflection of his battered soul, stands over a delicate beauty. Hair spilling gold, over pale, slim shoulders, she covers herself with a scarlet sheet that only serves to make her creamy skin glow, drawing the eye to the beauty she seeks modesty for.

That is Sin City, the 2005 Robert Rodriguez/Frank Miller film, in my own words. The contrast of black-and-white with blocks of bright colours – reds, yellows, greens - mimics the feel of old-print comics. Satine on the Elephant, in her red dress (Moulin Rouge). Marilyn Monroe in the pink dress, singing that diamonds are a girl's best friend (Gentlemen Prefer Blondes). These are moments in film that stuck indelibly to my mind, impactful images that reinforce the stories they tell.

Vermeer's Girl has a wide-eyed, luminescent gaze whose Pearl Earring complements, that draws one in, the Mona Lisa with her mysterious smile annoys me, Munch's Scream petrifies me still, Warhol's Soup Cans amuses.


Somebody Help Me, Please!!!

I don't know about you, but where I come from, viewing paintings is considered to be an upper-class thing, which I think is a pity (since many museums don't charge a cent for entrance). Linking the written and the visual does not limit the imagination, but expands it. Contrary to many critics of TV in the TV vs reading debate, I do not think that TV robs one of imagination or creativity. In fact, much of 'fine' art, from the Renaissance to the Pre-Raphaelites, is driven by texts, stories, or poems.

Romance as a genre has been rubbished by many snobs, as has TV. Fine art has been held in such reverence that it has become unapproachable. Two ends of a spectrum that should be bridged – a world where pop culture is not denigrated and art not placed on a pedestal. In the same way, book covers, especially romance covers, are not generally considered to be art. Yet, in the way the covers draw the eye and set expectations, the images 'slapped' on the front act in the same way as the visuals of a film, or a painting. The rich velvets and colours in Moulin Rouge, sets the scene, as do scantily-clad cover models set the mood for a sexy read, or the hearts and roses for sweet romances. I enjoy looking at a book cover; it adds to the enjoyment of a book. For me, the best books, electronic or not, have a good story and a beautiful cover. I can even forgive an average story for a fantastic cover.

I have been fortunate in that my book covers reflect the mood of the books, and that I love them.


My sweet and shy heroine






Deshabille and sexy (and man, I want her hair!)]



What image has stuck to your mind – be it from a music video, movie, cartoon, painting or book cover?

A commenter will win a copy of either of my books (Out of Joint or Wings of a Butterfly, your choice) and a set of postcards of Pre-Raphaelite paintings. Also, commenters are automatically entered into the big draw, as part of the blog tour.




Blog tour picture; weblink




A. Faris: Love distilled lives sweet

A Faris is the author of time-travel paranormal romances, Out of Joint and Wings of a Butterfly, both published by Decadent Publishing. She has an upcoming fantasy, The Golden Harp, a romantic re-telling of Jack and the Beanstalk, also with Decadent Publishing. You can find her at http://afariswrites.wordpress.com/fariswrites.wordpress.com/




Friday, September 23, 2011

Guest Blog: Meg Benjamin

Think Like a Guy


Recently, I saw an announcement for a workshop that promised to teach writers to “think like a guy.” This isn’t the first of these I’ve seen, in fact it seems to be a fairly consistent workshop topic. The idea is that women writers need to be told how guys think and act so that we can actually write a believable male character because, I guess, the male psyche is so alien that we can’t really figure it out on our own.

As you might guess, I find all kinds of problems with this idea, beginning with the assumption that women can’t figure out how men think because they’re, well, weird. This isn’t exactly a new concept. In fact, a lot of male writers seem to have adopted a version of it regarding women. For these guys, women are alien, foreign, indecipherable, and their heroes repeatedly encounter mysterious women who do things no man would ever do for reasons hidden deep in their treacherous souls. Usually nasty things, of course.

The other problem with this whole “think like a guy” thing is the male character it frequently produces—the beer-swilling, belly-scratching, foul-mouthed alpha who has trouble keeping his knuckles from dragging when he walks. In other words, “think like a guy” becomes “think like a stereotype.”

But I wonder if it’s really necessary to “think like a guy” at all when you’re creating a male character. From my own point of view, some of the most interesting romantic heroes are the ones who don’t think like guys, or at least not like the stereotyped kind of guys. A lot of Jennifer Crusie’s heroes fall into this group. So do heroes by Julia Ross and Eloisa James and Sarah Smith. The kind of heroes I’m talking about have a sense of humor and a sense of the absurd. They’re frequently torn by doubts about their plans or about the direction in which they’re headed. And while they may not be as tearful as the classic “sensitive guy,” they do have emotions that they occasionally express.

In other words, they behave a lot like women. Or at least the way women are thought to behave.

I’ve tried to do this with my heroes to a certain extent. The Toleffson brothers in my Konigsburg books are all beset by doubts in some ways, and Tom Ames, from Brand New Me, is more interested in making his bar the best that it can be rather than in demonstrating his level of testosterone. On the other hand, when Deidre Brandenburg, his SO, is annoyed with his stubbornness, she calls Tom the worst thing she can think of—“You, you…guy!” Which maybe sums the whole thing up.

Actually, I think this is what women writers can bring to male characters—an acknowledgment of the female side of the alpha male. I’m not arguing for effeminate heroes, but for heroes who manage to pick up some of the more non-stereotyped aspects of the female psyche along with the more obvious male ones.

Does having a female side make the heroes less masculine? Nope. But it does make them less stereotyped and a lot more interesting. And who knows, it might also make them more human. So maybe instead of “think like a guy” workshops, we need ones that teach how to “think like a human.” At least the outcome would be a lot less predictable.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Meg Benjamin is the author of the Konigsburg series for Samhain Publishing. Book #3, Be My Baby, won a 2011 Epic Award for Contemporary Romance. Book #4, Long Time Gone, received the Romantic Times Reviewers’ Choice Award for Indie Press Romance. Book #5, Brand New Me, was a Long and Short Reviews Best Book. Meg lives in Colorado with her DH and two rather large Maine coon kitties (well, partly anyway). Her Web site is http://www.MegBenjamin.com. You can follow her on Facebook (http://www.facebook.com/meg.benjamin1), and Twitter (http://twitter.com/megbenj1). Meg loves to hear from readers—contact her at meg@megbenjamin.com.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

GUEST BLOG: SHANA GALEN

Ten Things You Don’t Know About Me


In this day of social networking, it seems like everyone knows everything about everyone else. Visit Twitter, and you know what someone had for lunch. Visit Facebook, and you see all the pictures of their last birthday party. But I’ve managed to keep a few things to myself—including my embarrassing lunches—and now I’ll bare all and share them with you!

10. Lord and Lady Spy, my September release, is a Regency historical nod to the 2005 film Mr. and Mrs. Smith with Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie. This is not a secret. What most people don’t know is I didn’t want to see the film when it was released in theaters. I don’t like action films that much. I got the idea for Lord and Lady Spy after seeing a preview for the film on cable a few years after it came out. That’s when I finally watched the movie and why my book differs from the movie quite a bit.

9. I majored in opera my first year in college, and I have to know if my characters can carry a tune or not. I don’t always put it in my books, but I can’t write about a character if I don’t know how well they sing.

8. Sophia sings very well. She’s an alto. She, of course, can do just about anything (except fire a pistol). Adrian can do everything she can’t (including fire a pistol), but he sings woefully off-key.

7. I like to speak my dialogue aloud as I write. I use a horrible English accent that ensures I will never, ever make it as an audio book reader.

6. One of my favorite things about writing is it provides me an escape from the banalities of everyday life. I have a toddler I adore, but writing about spies is a welcome diversion after hours spent talking about Elmo.

5. Adrian, the hero of Lord and Lady Spy, has a secret spy library complete with a hidden panel and everything. I really want one of those.

4. Sophia, the heroine of Lord and Lady Spy, fears one reason her marriage is falling apart is because of multiple miscarriages. She’s been unable to produce an heir. I too suffered a miscarriage, and writing about Sophia’s struggles helped me to deal with my own pain from the loss of my baby.

3. I once had an author whose books I think are pretty sexy tell me she blushed reading one of my sex scenes. I think she might blush again when she reads Lord and Lady Spy.

2. Sophia’s name in Lord and Lady Spy was originally Bridget. My editor asked me to change it because Bridget wasn’t an aristocratic name at that time. I still think of her as Bridget, though. Adrian was always Adrian.

1. Lord and Lady Spy is my 10th book! Ten! I can hardly believe it. In case you don’t know, I’m so grateful to all of my readers for buying my books and allowing me to do what I love.

Okay, so now I’ve spilled all of my deep, dark secrets. Tell us something fun about you.


LORD AND LADY SPY BY SHANA GALEN – IN STORES SEPTEMBER 2011

No man can outsmart him...Lord Adrian Smythe may appear a perfectly boring gentleman, but he leads a thrilling life as one of England’s most preeminent spies, an identity so clandestine even his wife is unaware of it. But he isn’t the only one with secrets...

She’s been outsmarting him for years...Now that the Napoleonic wars have come to an end, daring secret agent Lady Sophia Smythe can hardly bear the thought of returning home to her tedious husband. Until she discovers in the dark of night that he’s not who she thinks he is after all...

ABOUT THE AUTHOR Shana Galen is the author of numerous fast-paced adventurous Regency historical romances, including the Rita-nominated Blackthorne’s Bride. Her books have been sold worldwide, including Japan, Brazil, Russia, Spain, Turkey, and the Netherlands, and have been featured in the Rhapsody and Doubleday Book Clubs. A former English teacher in Houston’s inner city, Shana now writes full time. She’s a wife, a mother, and an expert multi-tasker. She loves to hear from readers: visit her website at www.shanagalen.com or see what she’s up to daily on Facebook and Twitter.

Leave a comment for the chance to win one of two copies of Lord and Lady Spy. Open to US and Canada readers only please.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Guest Blog: Dana Pratola

Renewal


Autumn is back. Though the leaves haven’t yet changed in this sector of the country I know it’s coming. I can feel the change in the seasons beyond the cooler days and crisp nights, beyond the back to school sales and the scent of wood smoke stinging the air. I feel it inside, like an energy building, the shift in gears that must happen in order for me to gain momentum enough to endure a long, and inevitably freezing winter in the northeast.

For me, Autumn is a time of hope, and more so than spring, of new beginnings. It’s taking on a manner of thought that enables me to appreciate the diminishing sunlight and the reemergence of pumpkin pie. If I go into it with the right attitude I can even look forward to damp clothes on the radiator, raking leaves and waiting in a long line on Thanksgiving Eve because I forgot a crucial ingredient.

That’s not to say that as a kid I didn’t suffer the “end of summer blues” like everyone else as September approached — I did. But I knew even then I would write romance, and what season better expresses the richness of romance than snuggle weather?

So while nature is pausing, sleeping around me, I know that if I maintain a positive attitude, I can make this season my most productive. And as summer slides without argument or lament into the sea of time, I watch it wave goodbye, and turn to look forward.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: I am a 47 yr. old mother of 3, married 25 yrs. The Lord is my Savior, writing is my passion and publishing inspirational books that show the grace of God is my ministry.

AVAILABLE in paperback or Kindle at: http://www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_sb_ss_i_2_12?url=search-alias%3Dstripbooks&field-keywords=dana+pratola&sprefix=dana+pratola OR http://www.whiterosepublishing.com/Dana-Pratola-628?osCsid=8538c8d3b19e913a421bd6606289c9ae
Available in paperback or Nook at www.barnesandnoble.com/w/the-covering-dana-pratola/1104473665?ean=9781611161014&itm=4

Monday, September 19, 2011

Guest Blog: Tanya Hanson

Happily married to a firefighter, I’m a California beach girl who learned some valuable things on the way to becoming a writer. I waited way too long to submit, until the kids were away at college. Big mistake.
Furthermore, I also learned:
1. Check your pen name early on. I didn’t and now share cyberspace with a porn star of the same name.

2. Remember that nobody dies from rejection. Gnash your teeth for a day, then move on.

3. Write what you love, not what’s trendy at the moment. If you don’t, writing’s a chore and what’s the point?

4. Enter contests. It’s such a feel-good thing when you do well, and the comments are helpful if you don’t. It might open some doors. And practically speaking, having to follow directions and prepare a perfect manuscript is great training.

(For example, my entry in the Hearts Crossing Contest at White Rose Publishing led to an eight-book series contract! And I was just the runner-up! The third book, Sanctuary, is now available and deals with cancer-survivor hero and heroine. Guess what…it’s as romantic and hopeful a love story as you’ll ever see.)

5. Read! I got a recumbent bike both for exercise and for a dedicated time for reading. Reading good literature helps remind you how to vary sentence beginnings and structures, increases vocabulary, and improves grammar skills. (Can you tell I taught high school English forever?)

Thanks for spending time with me today. I’ll be awarding e-copies of my two summer releases, Sanctuary and Faithful Danger, my first suspense novella.


http://www.whiterosepublishing.com/Faithful-Danger
http://www.whiterosepublishing.com/Sanctuary
www.tanyahanson.com
www.petticoatsandpistols.com

Friday, September 16, 2011

Guest Blog: Allison Knight

FOSTERING KITTENS OR HOW TO RUIN AN AUTHOR'S LIFE


Here in the south, it's been hot, but y'all know that, and being the softhearted individual my wonderful husband is, he insists on making certain the animals who inhabit the outdoors have both food and water. Since we have a shed at the edge of our property, we keep the bowls of food and fresh water in the shed with the door wedged open.

On this particular Friday he returned from his feeding task to inform me he thought we might have a kitten or two in the shed. I panicked. (Did I say I was as softhearted as he is?) We have other creatures who frequent that shed. Would they hurt the kittens - if they were there? And where was the mother? In fact that led to another question, because the cats would live outside had all been fixed. Where did they come from?

We informed our son who lives close by of our suspicions. He arrived after work and after dark, got a flashlight and went to investigate. Not one kitten, he informed us, not two but four. With the other animals coming and going and the weather so hot, they couldn't be left in the shed. Mother was still nowhere to be found.

At seven the next morning our son knocked on the door and in a cat carrier he had four of the cutest kittens I've seen in a long time. Decision time. We already had three grown cats, all rescues which we dearly love. Four kittens about five weeks old and three adult cats made for seven felines and that was not possible. Oh, lord, what to do? Solution! Take them to the vet the next day and he could find homes for the adorable foursome, when they were old enough to be put up for adoption.

Ha! It seems the cat population in our area was exploding. He already had too many kittens and cats. The local shelter would probably end their lives, so we couldn't do that. We could of course put them back in the shed. But we couldn't do that. No mother, lots of other critters, so now what?

We decided to foster them. Yep, we would keep them until we could find homes for them ourselves. But with the adults cats that posed another problem. The solution to that was a big dog cage, thanks to our son and WalMart, that sat in the living room and contained four kittens, toys, food, water and a cat sand box. And there it stayed for FOUR weeks. That meant no time to do much of anything but take care of kittens. Absolutely no time to write.

It also meant crawling on the floor to clean out the cage and trying to contain the four kittens while you did the clearing, adding food, water, etc. So what's the big deal you ask? Well, I'm a senior citizen. I've had a knee replaced, a hip replaced and my husband was still recovering from his first knee surgery. Kneeling down and crawling around may be easy for a youngster, but not for me! In a couple of years, maybe I'll laugh about it, but I'm still a bit sore. Did I mention I didn't get to write a word while I was babysitting these little guys?

The kittens? Oh, we found them good homes. They're doing fine. But I can honestly say I don't ever want to foster a litter of kittens again!

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Award winning author, Allison Knight began her writing career like many other authors. She read a book she didn’t like and knew she could do a better job. Since that time, Allison has written and published romances for both paperback and digital publishers. Her third medieval romance from her 'song' series will be available in November of 2011 and a digital short story is scheduled for release in December 2011.

Because she loves to share her knowledge and her love of romance novels she often blogs with other authors. She also loves to talk about the growing digital market.

You can find her at:
http://www.allisonknight.com/
http://www.allisonknight.blogspot.com/
www.facebook.com/AuthorAllisonKnight
She blogs once a month for The Writers' Vineyard, http://thewritersvineyard.com/

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Guest Blog: Isabel Cooper

First of all, I will note that I’m an incredibly lucky girl where time management is concerned. I’m continually impressed when I read other authors’ blog posts about balancing writing with the rest of their lives. These women are raising families, working at fairly exhausting jobs, and still making time to do great work—and by comparison, I have it easy. I have an eight-hours-a-day desk job, no pets, no kids, parents who have their own lives several states away, and a boyfriend who can and does feed himself, bless him. If I can’t do a decent book or two a year, I really have nobody to blame but myself!

That said, I do have my own commitments: I have dinner or play games with friends a couple of times a week, I often go down to see some old college friends and professors, I go to the gym regularly, and I spend the odd weekend or three with friends in the woods, pretending to be a fantasy character. (I’m a pretty huge geek, really.) I also like to travel a lot. These aren’t the kind of time constraints that family life or a job as an ER doctor might put on me, but I have to work around them.

My biggest ally in that struggle has been modern technology. I can type a lot faster than I can write—I had a weird Dickensian childhood where playing Typing Tutor on the school computers was all the entertainment that existed some days—and that certainly helps, but that’s only the beginning. I write all of my novels in Google Documents these days, which means that I can access a draft in progress from any computer, as long as it has an Internet connection. That’s a huge change from a year or two ago, when I had to constantly email drafts to myself, and an even bigger one from my youth, when transferring something as big as a novel between computers meant dealing with floppy disks—and God help you if your school used Macs and your home computer was a PC!

And now I would like a cane, so that I can wave it at kids and tell them to get off my lawn.

I wrote a lot of No Proper Lady at what was then my job, while I waited for people to call or email. I made many of the edits in a car with my parents, going down to Pennsylvania for Christmas vacation—Dad, ever the technophile, got one of those mobile wireless hot spot things—and I’ve written bits of the sequels at friends’ houses, at Internet cafes, and even on the commuter rail in Massachusetts. I’ll never get the complete trifecta of planes, trains, and automobiles—air travel makes me too nervous to write—but I know I finish books about twice as fast as I would have done a few years ago.

Which takes me back to people who impress me: anyone who wrote in the days before the Internet, before computers—or the days before typewriters! I don’t think I’d have ever finished a novel, let alone published one, if I’d had to rely on my handwriting.

I know no editor in the world could have read my stories, anyhow.


NO PROPER LADY BY ISABEL COOPER – IN STORES SEPTEMBER 2011

It’s Terminator meets My Fair Lady in this fascinating debut of black magic and brilliant ball gowns, martial arts, and mysticism.

England, 1888. The trees are green, the birds are singing, and in 200 years demons will destroy it all. Unless Joan, a rough-around-the-edges assassin from the future, can take out the dark magician responsible. But to get close to her target she’ll need help learning how to fit into polite Victorian society to get close to her target.

Simon Grenville has his own reasons for wanting to destroy Alex Reynell. The man used to be his best friend—until his practice of the dark arts almost killed Simon’s sister. The beautiful half-naked stranger Simon meets in the woods may be the perfect instrument for his revenge. It will just take a little time to teach her the necessary etiquette and assemble a proper wardrobe. But as each day passes, Simon is less sure he wants Joan anywhere near Reynell. Because no spell in the world will save his future if she isn’t in it.

ABOUT THE AUTHORDebut author Isabel Cooper lives in Boston and maintains her guise as a mild-mannered project manager working in legal publishing. She only travels through time the normal way and has never fought a demon, but she can waltz. Her next book, No Honest Woman, will be in stores in April 2012. For more information, please visit http://isabelcooper.wordpress.com.

Leave a comment to be entered into a drawing for one of two copies of No Proper Lady. US and Canada residents only please.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Guest Blog: Pat Dale

Hi! Thanks for inviting me here today. I’ve been writing for fifteen years now, and in the last two have finally managed a degree of success in getting my books published. As my mate of forty-two years says, I’m an overnight success in just 5,475 nights. LOL

So, where did I land in the wacky world of publishing? Smack dab in the middle of the biggest shift since invention of the printing press, that’s where. But, you know, I wouldn’t have it any other way. Now that I have eight books available either in print or in e-form, and another four due to be released in the next half year, I’m satisfied that I’m in the right place.

Don’t get me wrong, I lusted for those nice advances. Many of my friends were publishing books hand over fist, collecting advances, and enjoying life. But, they had to keep on producing books at an ever-increasing pace to keep the money coming in. After a while, it became all about the money; deadlines and the money. Their books generally disappeared from bookstore shelves in a couple of months, never to be seen or heard from again.

Enter the electronic age. Exit most advances, large or small. But, once my book is available online, it won’t go out of ‘print’ unless my publisher folds, barring unforeseen circumstances. So, my books that came out two years ago are still as fresh as the day I wrote them. And still as available. That’s my take on the fiction world we live in these days. Now, on to a subject I love to discuss.

Why do I, as a man, write romances? From the day I joined a chapter of RWA, I’ve been asked that question. Well, why shouldn’t I? The way I see it, there are two genders, male and female, and we can’t be both. Should love be the sole responsibility of one gender with the other absolved of obligation? I think not. Yet, that’s exactly what many women have done, perhaps unwittingly, in assuming that men ‘know nothing about romance’. They had better hope that is not the case, if they desire a romantic partner in life.

I cut my eye teeth reading classic romance paperbacks and reveling in the world-wise revelations I found inside those pages. But I did not admire the heroes that were prevalent in the day; strong, uncaring louts, who had to be brought to their knees by an even stronger heroine before they could become suitable love partners.

Oh, that stuff happens. I grant you that. But in the world I’ve grown up in, most of those jerks are not the guys who ‘get the girls’ in the end. Same goes for ‘cowboys’, in my estimation. Having spent years living on the high plains, I’ve known real cowboys and, to a man, they are not what is written about by most romance writers.

My novel, A GIRL’S BEST FRIEND, released by Whimsical Publications, features a character who’d grown up on a ranch in northern Nebraska. Cut from real cowboy cloth, he’s spent years developing his ‘spy’ skills in the service of his country, only to be betrayed by one of his own colleagues. Running for his life, he meets Laura Margolin, a TV jewelry diva, and his world spins out of control. Classic love at first sight develops between them as Laura experiences betrayal in her own world. A crazy patchwork develops as each deals with their own situation, and before it’s over, Laz will have died a hero’s death, Laura’s career will be toast, and they will live happily ever after. How could that happen, you ask?

Log onto my (Pat Dale) author page at Amazon.com, BN.com, or click on www.whimsicalpublications.com where the book is available in print or ebook, and read A GIRL’S BEST FRIEND to find out.

Have a great day, everybody, and happy reading!

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: After a long career as a professional musician, Dale turned to the pen to craft over a dozen novels and he’s adding more to the list. The native Missourian traveled far and wide before settling near Kansas City to enjoy the scenic beauty of the heartland. Using musical rhythms and values, he writes in a style some call poetic prose.

Readers noted his bent for dark gritty stories when not in comedic mode, so he’s writing a mystery series that will give even hardy souls something to shiver about. Whether romantic comedy or dark drama is your cup of tea, Pat’s endearing (sometimes frightening) characters will lead you into worlds you might otherwise never have visited. So, pick up a Pat Dale novel and whisk yourself off for a few hours of fun fantasy reading.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Special Interview with Carly Phillips

In advance of the release of New York Times best-selling author Carly Phillips' newest release Serendipity--the first in a brand new series coming out this month--the publisher has re-issued her first three books, Solitary Man, The Right Choice, and Perfect Partner, in ebook format.

We invited Carly to answer a few questions for us:

Since you write in the contemporary genre, what genre other than contemporary do you read for fun and have you considered writing any other genre?

I am a true believer in writers doing what they do best. I am doing what I love, and I hope that shows to the reader. I read in other genres (paranormal, erotica, etc.), but that is my enjoyment, my reach into other worlds that gets me away from the contemporary writer I am. Right now I don’t want to write another genre. There are too many others who do it well – paranormal requires a world building that is so foreign to me, I’d rather get lost as a reader than write it and try to keep track. Historical means I’d have to research (blech!) and true suspense would mean my brain would have to work differently! So, I’m a happy contemporary romance writer and a very happy all-genre romance reader.

What's the craziest thing you’ve ever had to do for research?

I’m not a huge researcher – THANK YOU GOOGLE! Seriously. And I belong to enough writer loops with awesome people who’ve held so many various occupations I can always shoot someone a question!

What’s the craziest question you’ve asked someone for a research question?

See above, LOL.

You’ve written so many different books that are remarkably unique. How do you manage to create so many diverse characters without duplicating their personality traits and quirks (and how do you keep them straight)?

Thank you! Honestly I don’t know how I do it. It’s something that comes naturally to me, creating characters that fit, that are made for each other … I don’t worry about duplicating unless something screams it’s familiar or I’ve done it before. If it feels fresh, I assume I’m okay. And the truth is my memory is horrendous even within a book and I can’t keep things straight! LOL. I have my critique partner who reads and the publisher and editors and myself … I hope for the best and pray everyone has patience with me!

What is your favorite part of writing a series? Why does it work for you? What are the challenges/ joys?

Every series offers something different! For example the humor in the Bachelor Blog series, Kiss Me If You Can and Love Me If You Dare were the most fun to write. In the Serendipity series, I went in a brand new direction. In Serendipity, it’s the depth and the way so many threads wind together throughout all three books. I love these brothers and how hurt they are, how much they need the right person to understand them. To me that’s what makes them special. So each series gives me a different challenge and results in a different joy once it’s completed!

Series works for me because I’m never ready to leave characters after one book, but three seems to be the magic number for me. Then I feel I’ve completed something and ready to move on. In Serendipity, I hope to stay in the town and do 3 book ARCS/stories.


You’re a funny lady! Do you find it easy to write romantic comedy? Do you just think funny thoughts? Have you ever laughed in her sleep from a dream and it woke you up? Are any of the goofy moments in your books based on your life?

Thank you! I don’t think I’m funny. And I think the books you mean are more … filled with slapstick moments than romantic comedy, or quirky secondary characters to fill out the canvas, and because I enjoy writing them and they aren’t main hero/heroines, I feel I have more leeway in their behavior and dialogue. Kiss Me If You Can and Uncle Yank in the Hot Zone series are closer to real life – in ways nobody except me would know. Little family quirks or “haha” things I brought to life!

Thanks so much for taking the time to visit with us!


Carly Phillips is the New York Times Bestselling author of over 30 romance novels with contemporary characters and plotlines that today’s readers identify with and enjoy. Carly is a stay at home mom of 2 daughters (now almost old enough to read her books!), one soft coated wheaten terrier and a brand new Havanese puppy. She’s a Twitter and Internet junkie and is always around to interact with her readers. More information on Carly can be found at www.CarlyPhillips.com. Around the web you can also find Carly at:
Twitter: www.twitter.com/carlyphillips
Facebook: www.facebook.com/carlyphillipsfanpage
Blog: www.PlotMonkeys.com

Monday, September 12, 2011

GUEST BLOG: TINA PINSON

Write Your Heart


You've heard the adage… Write what you know. While I agree the adage holds some truth, that wouldn't be the first word of advice I'd tell a writer.

Just think… if everyone wrote only what they know, there would be no need for imagination. No need for research books. There would be no Sci-fi or fantasy. No daydreams.

The ironic thing is, two people who know about the same thing, (you pick the topic) would probably still see their truth of it differently. One of them might even tell the other that they don't know what they're talking or writing about.

Why? Because who we are, and what we think, skews our perception and causes us to consider things differently.

Think about what happens when the police asks ten people to explain what they saw at the scene of an accident. Usually, he'll get ten different stories.

My advice to writers is… Write Your Heart. Write with the mind, imagination and voice you've been given. Yes, you may have a writing twin, and your writing might be similar, but it's never completely the same. We all have a distinct and unique voice.

People told me that I should write like so and so, or write in a certain genre. Problem was… when I didn't write with my voice, my Heart, I usually didn't care for the words I put down on paper.

I believe my writing gift is a talent God gave me. So if I'm trying to write like someone else or the way someone thinks I should, then I'm not being what He created me to be. I'm not being true to my character. Trying to be what you're not, can be discouraging and push you into writer's block

Am I saying not to learn and grow from other people's criticism or ideas? No. But weigh what is said carefully, and don’t just change things because someone says you should. Or because someone doesn't like it.

There will always be critics. I know, I've had my share. Some of their criticism may have been deserved, but some came from people who wanted to change and perhaps control, who I was as a writer.

You're never going to please everyone, don't try. It can be tiring. Write Your Heart, and you're sure to have an audience of one, someone who believes in your story.

You.

(And for me, I believe God, as well.)

I will be giving away one copy each of In the Manor of the Ghost or Touched by Mercy. Leave a comment today for a chance to win.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: After 20 years in Colorado, Tina Pinson resides in Mesa, AZ,with her husband of 31 years Danny, they have three grown sons, and are proud grandparents.

Tina started writing in elementary school. She enjoys many creative outlets for writing such as poetry, songs, and stories.

Tina has completed eleven novels. She has been a member of ACFW since 2003 and was a third place finalistin the ACFW Genesis Contest in 2003 (then Noble Theme) for her story Trail of the Sandpiper-Rescued. She was first place finalist in her category for the 2009 CWOW The Phoenix Rattler-Does Your Story Have Bite contest.

Tina's Novels Touched By Mercy and In the Manor of the Ghost are available through Desert Breeze Publishing. Coming Soon through Desert Breeze Publishing: When Shadows Fall Summer 2012, Shadowed Dreams Winter 2012 and To Catch a Shadow Spring 2013.

My website -- http://www.tinapinson.com/
Twitter:@Tina_Pinson
Facebook-- http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=754617103

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Guest Blog: Linda Swift

I'm not very good at following rules. Contrary to the "rule" of writing in one genre which would allow me to gain a loyal readership, I flit from one category to another. At the moment, I am flitting between contemporary and historical books with stories that are defined as romance, women's fiction, and mainstream with some crossovers.

It took me a while to figure out the difference between women's fiction and romance as it apparently did one of my publishers who accepted my submission of the former and then did major surgery to convert it to the latter. I've never been convinced the amputation was necessary and someday I hope to reattach those missing limbs and offer it for adoption.

I've finally concluded that a romance is about a relationship between two people (in the traditional romance a man and woman), with the focus on these two with no subplots, and the story has a happy ending. Whereas women's fiction can have other relationships, subplots, and end the way real life often does.

Some people say they read books to escape real life and if they want reality, they will watch the TV news. But I maintain that it can be more cathartic for readers to "lose themselves" in a book that mirrors life. If people have problems and sadness in their own lives, I think it helps to know that they are not alone in that. To read about a character who faces a bad situation and overcomes it can offer hope of doing likewise. And isn't it better to cry over an imaginary character than to indulge in a pity party for oneself? The end result is still the release of stressful emotion.

In my books, I sometimes write about controversial relationships. In my March contemporary, To Those Who Wait, the two main characters are married—to other people. But there were circumstances that changed four reviewers' opinions about their extramarital affair. Life ain't always pretty. And in my just released historical, This Time Forever, the heroine was married and the hero was engaged but no reader would want Clarissa to stay in her abusive marriage. Philip's dilemma was more difficult because he was torn between two decent women who loved him.

I would not leave you with the thought that everything I write is gloom and doom. I have other contemporary books released this year that meet the definition of romance in every way. And I have a new historical awaiting release—a whimsical love story about a castle guard and waiting lady-- that will warm your heart and make you smile. Meanwhile, I shall continue on my convoluted writing journey, and hope that a few adventurous readers who like variety will follow me. For more information and examples of my multi-genre flaw, go to www.lindaswift.net

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Linda Swift writes contemporary and historical women's fiction, romance, and mainstream books, short stories, poetry and plays. She is currently contracted with seven digital publishers and has nine books and three short stories available in a variety of genres. Her most recent release is THIS TIME FOREVER, a Civil War saga, winner of LASR's Book of the Week.

She and her husband (in-house techie) spend time between Florida and their native state of Kentucky, visiting their children in Tennessee enroute. She is grateful to her entire family for their encouragement, support, and technical help that enables her to survive in cyberspace.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

GUEST BLOG: CARLA NEGGERS

The Long and the Short of It is pleased to welcome Carla Neggars who took time from working on her next Sharpe and Donavan novel, Heron's Cove to chat with us. FBI agents Emma Sharpe and Colin Donovan are introduced in her newest book, Saint's Gate, and are thrown together again in a case dealing with Russian art and arms trafficking.
It's the first time she's worked with continuing characters and she is having a great time.

"Emma and Colin are an intriguing couple—she's an art crimes expert from a family of renowned art detectives and was briefly a nun; he's from a cop and lobstering family," she explained. "They grew up on the Maine coast a few miles and a world apart from each other."

I asked Carla to describe her writing space.

"Well, I just escorted a couple of spiders out to the adjoining screen porch! I work on the lower level of our hilltop house in Vermont. My main window looks out on a very old sugar maple. My desktop computer is on an L-shaped workspace, at least for the moment. I'm always rearranging furniture. I have Ireland art on the walls—including silly Thomas Joseph sheep pictures—and I have a craft table where I do most of my actual writing. It's countertop height; I write by hand there and type on my MacBook Air."

Carla often writes by hand and changes pens frequently, sometimes on the same page.
"I have a lot of pens," she admitted. "Once I got searched by airport security. They didn't tell me outright my pens were the reason, but they did say, 'You have a lot of pens.' I counted them. Twelve. I didn't think that was too many. You should see how many I left at home!"

If Carla's taking a substantial break from her writing (two or more days), she loves to get away—to visit family and friends, take off for Maine, pop down to Boston to visit her daughter, son-in-law, and grandson (not to mention getting her hair cut at her favorite salon), or fly to Ireland. Some of her other things to do when she's not writing include hiking, kayaking, or spend an evening listening to traditional music in an Irish pub and having dinners with friends and family.
"I also love to learn new things. For Saint's Gate and now Heron's Cove, I've had a great time learning about whiskey/whisky," she told me. "Fascinating!"

Carla has always wanted to be a writer, however she didn't think it was a practical career, so she figured she would need a day job.

"I debated becoming a plant pathologist (so I could cure Dutch elm disease) and I started college as a music major," she said. "For reasons unbeknownst to me, being a musician seemed more practical than being a writer!"

Carla almost always reads non-fiction and fiction at the same time. She's currently reading The Accidental Creative by Todd Henry and said, "This is must reading for anyone working in a creative field! His explanation of the rhythms of a creative life is both practical and inspirational."

She's also re-reading Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier.

"I must have skimmed it the first time, because I'm seeing all sorts of nuances that I missed," she told me. "Either that or my eye is different now than it was in my early twenties."

For fun, I asked Carla, "Have you ever eaten a crayon?"

"No. I've never even been tempted to eat a crayon, but I love to peel the paper off crayons. I guess that's not as dramatic as eating one, though. As a kid, I loved to color. I have a box of crayons in my desk drawer. The big one—64? I've had it for several years and have yet to color anything. I think I'll go out and buy a coloring book now."

A remote convent on the coast of Maine becomes the scene of a vicious murder and the theft of a mysterious painting in SAINT’S GATE (MIRA Books, $24.95 U.S./$27.95 CAN.), the first book in a darkly suspenseful new series from New York Times-bestselling author Carla Neggers.

FBI art crimes specialist Emma Sharpe is summoned to the Sisters of the Joyful Heart, a convent in her hometown of Heron’s Cove, Maine, that specializes in art restoration, to look at a previously unknown painting by a famous local artist. Before she can look at the canvas, though, the nun who sent for her is murdered and the work of art in question is stolen. Emma quickly realizes that catching the killer depends on solving the enigma of the missing work of art.

Emma is a woman of many lives—former novice nun, a family member of renowned art theft and recovery experts, and now FBI agent assigned to use her private art detective skills in an international crimes unit. So when a distressed nun from her former order asks for her covert help, Emma answers the call only to find herself thrust into a murder investigation.

Colin Donovan is an undercover FBI agent who’s believed dead by a lot of bad people and he wants to keep it that way. He’s back home in Maine recovering from his last, harrowing mission and recharging his batteries camping out and kayaking along the coast. But when his friend (and local village priest), Father Bracken, presents him with an intrigue of murder, art theft and a convent’s long-held secrets, Colin can hardly refuse. As the danger seems to lurk closer and closer, Colin is certain of only one thing – the very intriguing Emma Sharpe is at the center of it all.

It soon becomes apparent that as Emma and Colin are drawn further into this deadly legacy of betrayal and deceit, the killer plans on making sure neither of them will be around to solve the twisted puzzle.

Monday, September 5, 2011

Guest Blog: Kathryn Meyer Griffith

The Story of Vampire Blood

Author’s Revised Edition by Kathryn Meyer Griffith
A rerelease of my 1991 Zebra paperback romantic vampire novelhttp://damnationbooks.com/book.php?isbn=9781615724253


In 1990 or so I’d just got done releasing my first three paperback novels with Leisure Books, a romantic historical (The Heart of the Rose 1985) and two romantic horror books (Evil Stalks the Night, 1984 and Blood Forge, 1989), and because I wasn’t making much money on them, was looking, as most so-called restless young authors were doing, to move up in the publishing industry.

So I wrote snail mail letters to three established authors of the day – Dean Koontz, Stephen King and Peter Straub – asking for a little advice and a little help. What do I do next? I want to be one of the big dogs running in the big races. I want to make the big bucks. Be famous like you. (Ha, ha. I was so naïve in those days!)

Well, Stephen King and Peter Straub never answered my letters but one rainy fall night I got a phone call from Gerda Koontz (Dean Koontz’s wife) and she said Dean had gotten my letter and wanted me to have a name of a brand new agent who I should call or write to and say I was recommended by him. If I thought it strange that Dean Koontz himself wasn’t actually talking to me I was told by Gerda that he was a shy man and had had a particularly hard couple of months because of family problems (I think it had something to do with his father in a nursing home or something, but can’t exactly recall now) and he’d asked her to call me. She often did that for him, as well as helping him with the business side of his writing career. He (through her…and I got the impression that he was actually nearby telling her what to say the whole time) said I had to have an agent (I didn’t have one) and then he gave me the name of an ambitious one, Lori Perkins, just starting out and his advice on what I should do to advance as a writer.

I do remember being incredibly touched that he, a famous busy novelist that I admired – I loved his Twilight Eyes – would take the time to talk to me, even through his wife. They were both so sweet and we talked for nearly an hour all about writing, books and everything.

I took their advice and contacted that agent and she agreed immediately to represent me on my fourth book, Vampire Blood, no doubt, because I said Dean Koontz had recommended her to me. Name dropper! But Vampire Blood was the reason I’d contacted those famous authors in the first place. I thought it was the best book I’d done so far and wanted it to go to (what I thought at the time) would be a better publisher than Leisure Books, which contracted and hog-tied their writers with a horrible ‘potboiler’ one-size-fits-all ten year contract with low advances and 4% royalties. Yes, I got a whole whopping 14 cents a book in those days, but, I must confess, they did print thousands of paperbacks each run and had a huge distribution area. I thought I could do a lot better. Anyway, Lori Perkins wanted me to send her the book and she did like it and eventually sold it, and then three others zip-zip-zip right after, to Zebra Books (now known more as Kensington Publishing) at 6% royalties and double the advances I was used to getting. They slapped a sexy blond vampire with a low dress on the cover and a hazy theater behind her. Lovely colors. I thought it was an eye-catching cover. I was so happy. I thought I’d made it! Again, so naïve.

Vampire Blood. A little story about a family of vicious killing vampires who settle in a small Florida town called Summer Haven and end up buying and fixing up an old theater palace to run, and pluck their victims from, and a divorced, down-on-her-luck ex-novelist and her worn-out father, who along with friends, help thwart them.

Now to how and why I wrote it.

My husband and I lived in this small Illinois town, Cahokia, at the time and there was the neatest little hole-in-the-wall theater in a nearby shopping center we used to go to all the time…run by a family of a sweet man, Terry, and his wife, Ann, and sometimes their three children, two teenage boys and a girl named Irene. Such a friendly, but odd couple. The run-down theater was their whole world it seemed. The kids helped take in the tickets, pop the popcorn and sell the candy snacks.

Now the minute Terry and Ann found out, in one of our earliest conversations, that I was a published novelist they were my greatest fans. Terry went right out and bought all three of my books and they all read them. Terry always thought they’d make great movies. Next time my husband and I went to the little theater Terry and Ann greeted us like old friends, so delighted to see us, and refused to take a dime from us for anything. We got in free whenever we went from then on. Now in those days my husband, my son, James, and I were pretty broke. I worked as a graphic designer at a big brokerage firm in downtown St. Louis (across the Poplar Bridge from our Illinois town) but my husband was in between jobs. We lived on a shoestring. Hard times. So I always was so tickled that we could get into the local movies for free. We went a lot, too, as we loved movies, especially science fiction and horror films.

One night I was watching Terry and Ann and their joy in running that little theater, with the kids bustling around doing their jobs, and I got the idea for Vampire Blood. Just like that! Use them and the theater as a backdrop for a vampire novel. Hey, wouldn’t it be neat, I off-handedly mentioned to Terry one night, if I wrote a book about a family of vampires that was trying to pass as a real human family, the man and woman wanting so badly to fit in and lead a normal life for a while, renovating and then running a theater together…but the kids are wild and, as kids always do, make trouble for them in the town…killing people? Terry loved the idea and I asked him if it’d be all right to use him and his family as a template for the vampires. He was thrilled to be part of anything to do with my books and said yes. So…I wrote this book about them (sort of), the theater (making it much grander than it was, of course), a small town terrorized by cruel, powerful vampires who can change into wolves at will….and a saddened lonely woman, her brother, and her ex-husband (who she still loves and ultimately ends up with again after he saves her life) who finds herself again, but loses a lot, as well, fighting these vampires. Vampires she doesn’t believe in at first.

I was very happy with the book when it was done and dedicated it to Terry and Ann when it came out in 1991. Terry and Ann were thrilled, too.

So Vampire Blood came out and did very well for me, second only to my Zebra 1993 Witches. As the years went by it went out of print and when, twenty years later, Kim Richards at Damnation Books contracted my 13th and 14th novels, BEFORE THE END: A Time of Demons and The Woman in Crimson, she asked if I’d like to rerelease (with new covers and rewritten, of course) my 7 out-of-print Leisure and Zebra paperbacks – and I said a resounding yes!

So…here it is…Vampire Blood…twenty years later, alive again and better, I believe, than the original because my writing then was done on an electric typewriter, with gobs of White-Out and carbon paper (I couldn’t afford copies), using snail mail; all of which didn’t lend itself to much rewriting. And in those days, editors told an author what to change and then the writer only saw the manuscript once to final proof it. Who knew what those sneaky editors were slipping in inbetween and before the final book was in an author’s greedy little hands. Hey, and I was working full time, raising a son, living a life and caring for my big extended family in one way or another, too. Busy, exciting, loving, happy and sad times.

For this new version, Damnation Book’s cover artist Dawné Dominique made me an astonishingly intriguing cover of a lovely vampire (Irene the youngest vampire who turns out to be the most brutal and ancient in the end)…but, thank goodness, without the low sexy top. And my DB editor, April Duncan, helped me make it a better novel.

A lot has happened to me and my family in these twenty years, as well. Both my parents, and my beloved maternal grandmother, the storyteller of her generation, have since passed away. Many people we used to know have. Old boyfriends, old friends and relatives. I miss them all! I no longer have that agent; she went on to bigger advances and bigger writers. I lost my good job at the brokerage firm, bumped around in lesser jobs for years, always writing in my spare time, and now, at long last, write full time while my husband works way too hard in a machine shop to support us.

Rewriting the book brought back so many good memories…and tears over those no longer here. The theater closed sixteen years ago, the owner believing it’d served its purpose and used up its time. Terry and Ann, heartbroken, were never the same. They had other jobs, none they truly cared about. Ann is still with us, but Terry died a few years ago, I heard from someone. We lost contact once they stopped running the theater and we moved from Cahokia to a nicer town miles away.

But I’ll never forget those early days and the stories that came with them. Days of high hopes and far distance future dreams…some of which have come true and some which haven’t. I’ve never made the big bucks, never gotten truly famous, but now, at long last and to my great delight, all twelve of my older books, from Leisure, Zebra, and The Wild Rose Press are being rewritten and reissued from Damnation Books and Eternal Press between June 2010 and July 2012. Better than ever after I’d rewritten them. I have plans to write more books and short stories, too, when they’re done. Most importantly, I’m living a good life with a husband I adore and brothers and sisters I love. Writing the stories I was born to write and happy I am. I have my memories. All in all, I’m a lucky, lucky woman.

So, all you writers out there…never give up and never stop writing!

Thank you!
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ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Since childhood I’ve always been an artist and worked as a graphic designer in the corporate world and for newspapers for twenty-three years before I quit to write full time. I began writing novels at 21 and have had fourteen (nine romantic horror, one historical romance and two mysteries)previous novels published from Zebra Books, Leisure Books, Avalon Books, The Wild Rose Press, Damnation Books and Eternal Press.

I’ve been married to Russell for thirty-three years; have a son, James, and two grandchildren, Joshua and Caitlyn, and I live in a small quaint town in Illinois called Columbia, which is right across the JB Bridge from St. Louis, Mo. We have two quirky cats, Sasha and Cleo, and the four of us live happily in an old house in the heart of town. Though I’ve been an artist, and a folk singer in my youth with my brother Jim, writing has always been my greatest passion, my butterfly stage, and I’ll probably write stories until the day I die.

DAMNATION BOOKS http://www.damnationbooks.com/ and ETERNAL PRESS http://www.eternalpress.biz/ again in print – and all in e-books for the first time ever! Learn more about her at www.myspace.com/kathrynmeyergriffith or www.bebo.com/kathrynmeyergriffith or www.authorsden.com/kathrynmeyergriffith or www.bebo.com/kathrynmeyergriffith and http://www.facebook.com/#!/profile.php?id=1019954486 .
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