Tuesday, November 8, 2011

I’m happy to welcome KC Klein to Writer’ Wednesday. KC has just released her book, DARK FUTURE, a sexy futuristic time-travel--which, by the way, she’s giving a copy of to a lucky visitor here. So don’t forget to leave a comment--and your email addy.

KC became serious about writing three years ago and was as surprised as anyone when her stories took a turn toward dark and snarky. Today, she divides her time between taking care of her family and driving in circles around Arizona, too busy creating stories in her head to pay attention to mere road signs. KC would love a visit at kckleinbooks.com.

Congratulations on the new release, and thanks for taking time out of your frantic promo schedule to stop by. The book is set in dystopian time-travel. What draws you to this genre?

First of all, I want to thank you for letting come here and talk about my passion—writing.

I’m glad you’re here, because all of us share that same passion. Dystopian time-travel. Sounds intriguing.

I love the post-apocalyptic setting because it allows me to put my characters up against really tough odds. Which is great, since the theme of DARK FUTURE is about ordinary men and women doing extraordinary things. In my novel, DARK FUTURE, the world is going up in flames, and in order for humanity to survive, everyday people have to step-up and become heroes.

It sounds fantastic. I love the idea of, as you say, ordinary people doing extraordinary things. That’s something anyone can relate to, no matter what genre. Please tell us a little about the work.

I can’t do this any better than the back cover blurb, so here it goes:

Awakened in the middle of the night by a future version of herself, Kris Davenport is given a mission: go forward in time to save the world—and His life. Of course, her future self doesn't tell her who “he” is, just sends her into an abyss and straight into an alien invasion. He turns out to be ConRad Smith, the callous, untrusting Commander of Earth’s army and the world’s last defense. There’s only one way to know for sure if this strange woman is an alien spy—slice her throat. Except, he didn’t anticipate the heat he would feel as he interrogates the hot-tempered, warm-blooded woman. For a man whose sole focus has been survival, she's more temptation than he can handle. But a world on the brink of destruction leaves no room for love…and time is running out.

It sounds really exciting, KC. I’m looking forward to reading it. You’ve had an excellent beginning with this particular book. What’s your next project?

Right now, I am working on a sci-fi, bodice-ripper (what a hoot!), with two other very talented authors. We are hoping to have the anthology out by the beginning of next year. So look for it! Right now, the project is tentatively titled, MY HEART—THE FINAL FROUNTIER. Ha!

What fun. Anthologies are proving very popular right now, too. Yours sounds like a shoo-in.

What one tip would you offer writers?

Set a schedule. Whatever works for you, be it word count, a timer, or writing sprints, doesn’t matter, just write on a regular basis. This is the single most important habit I see that separates published authors from unpublished authors. Over the years, I’ve learned there are no short-cuts. There are no easy ways to losing weight, staying married, raising kids, or writing a book. If you want it bad enough you need to put in the time.

Excellent advice, certainly for those writers who have several things for which they’re accountable. (Although I’m still looking for that easy way to lose weight.) Good luck with DARK FUTURE, KC, and thanks, again, for joining us.

Thank you so much for having me today.

I would love to give away one e-copy of DARK FUTURE to a visitor today. Just comment, tell me what type of books you like to read or simply say hi. Either way, leave an email address where I can gift the book to you.

KC loves to chat with readers, so please hook up with her on Twitter @kckleinbooks, Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/AuthorKCKlein, or on my website http://www.kckleinbooks.com/

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Writers' Wednesday Welcomes Lori Leger

Welcome to Writers’ Wednesday where authors, both published and unpublished, share their experiences, insight, and writing tips. Today, I’m happy to feature Lori Leger.

Lori drafts road plans during the day and writes at night. She’s a PRO member of RWA, and RWA online, as well as the Bayou Writers’ Group in Lake Charles, Louisiana. She lives in Kinder, Louisiana with her husband, Michael, and one pet, an outside cat named Matou, a French word meaning male tom. She and her husband have five children, ten beautiful grandchildren with one more on the way.

Thank you for taking time out of your schedule to talk with us today. We’re celebrating with you because your first book was released one month ago and your second, just this week. Wow. Talk about fast. Congratulations on both.

Thanks so much for asking me, Barb. You have the distinct honor of being my very first guest blog!

I’m honored to be the first, Lori. Today you’re telling us about your first book. How exciting that must have been, to see that cover--which is beautiful, by the way. SOME DAY SOMEBODY is set in the year 2000 in the state of Louisiana...southwestern Louisiana, to be exact. What draws you to contemporaries?

Why am I drawn to write contemporary? Because I’m far too lazy to commit to the hard work and research it takes to write historical romance. I write what I know. I’m drawn to romance because if I’ve spent several days reading a novel and it doesn’t have a happy ending, I feel like I’ve wasted a week of my life.

I so agree about Happily Ever Afters. Would you please tell us a little about the book?

SOME DAY SOMEBODY, is the story of thirty-five year old Carrie Jeansonne, a woman in the midst of major changes. Her plans for the rest of her life include: Education (check), Career (check), Provide for her three teenagers (check), Divorce controlling, horn-dog of a husband (somewhat nasty, but progressing), and find some happiness (not so easy). She just wants to concentrate on her new career in Road Design with no added complications...Is that too much to ask?

Enter Sam Langley: Knocking on forty, newly divorced, and hating the single lifestyle. Formerly the office clown, his morose mood has prompted his co-workers to dub him “Oscar the Grouch” during the past year. After clashing with his new, outspoken co-worker, the surveyor can’t help but be drawn to this brassy, sassy lady with her take no prisoner attitude.

Plagued by her ex-husband’s can’t-take-no-for-an-answer intrusions and sleep depriving phone calls, Carrie is reluctant to allow another man into her life. By the time she decides Sam could be more than a friend, the mysterious phone calls lead to something dark and disturbing. As Carrie realizes she may be dealing with more than her disgruntled ex, she struggles to overcome the obstacles threatening her happiness, as well as her life.

Can she and Sam forge a path to happiness in a maze of intrigue and heartbreak before it’s too late for them? Or will the mysterious caller/stalker ruin her chance for a happily ever after? SOME DAY SOMEBODY is Book 1 of my La Fleur de Love Series, and is currently available in EBook format through Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Smashwords.

Sounds wonderful, Lori. What’s your next project?
Book 2 of my series, LAST FIRST KISS was released Oct. 1. It’s a story about two co-workers, Giselle Granger and Jackson Broussard, who lose their spouses in the same multi-car accident. You’ll laugh at the antics of Giselle’s two little girls, cry along with a woman facing a future without the love of her life, and contemplate a cool shower as she discovers a new passion for an old nemesis. I include a generous and juicy two chapter preview of LAST FIRST KISS at the end of the first book.

What one tip would you offer writers?

Write, write, and write some more! I’ve heard you should read the type of stories you like to write, but I read all genres. If there’s one thing I wish I’d done sooner, it was to participate in Margie Lawson’s workshop. After taking that class, I finally got it...Dialogue, Action, Body Language, and Senses. Also, find a good critique partner you really connect with...and don’t take anything she says personally. All criticism is constructive. Once you’re finished writing, don’t be intimidated by the re-writing and editing. It’s all part of perfecting your craft.

Do you have any advice for us unpubbed writers?

Well, I got tired of trying to fit my square peg manuscripts into the round holes of the publishing world. I knew from the high quality rejection letters I’d received that my writing, characters, and stories were good enough, just not necessarily what they were looking for. At fifty-two years old and counting, I decided to give self-pubbing a shot. After a minor cancer scare two years ago, I realized how quickly my life can change. It’s made me take chances I probably wouldn’t have under normal circumstances, but I’m thankful I did. Self publishing is free if you come up with your own book cover and edit your own work. What do you have to lose? If you want to go the publisher route, remember to perfect your query letter. You only have one chance to make a good first impression.

That seems to be a popular movement now, Lori. You’re joining a special list of authors finding their way to the wide world of epublishing. All the best on the two books. Please join us again to tell us about your next.

Thank you for inviting me, Barb. I’ll be guest blogging with Rachel Brimble on my first overseas blog tour! Join me on October 25, at rachelbrimble.blogspot.com. Here in the good old US of A, you can find me at www.lorilegerauthor.com or my own blog site at cajunflair.wordpress.com. I welcome hearing from readers at cajunflair@lorilegerauthor.com. Connect with me on Facebook...Lori Hebert Leger, and follow me on Twitter: Cajunflair (lleger641@yahoo.com).

Book excerpt: Some Day Somebody

Carrie couldn’t believe she’d been at her new job for two weeks already. She enjoyed the relaxed working environment and had already formed lasting friendships with her co-workers... most of them, anyway.

On the second day of September she glanced up from her studying as members of the office car pool entered from the back door, as usual, nearly ten minutes late. From her own brief experience with the carpool, she was well aware of who to blame.

She’d never forget the embarrassment of being fifteen minutes late her second day on the job because of Sam’s inability to get to work on time.
She’d sat in that truck with the others, waiting for Sam, and seething at his tardiness. The driver, a member of his survey crew, refused to leave without him, so they waited at his designated pick-up spot until he finally arrived, fifteen minutes later than he should have been. Once he’d taken his sweet time to settle himself in his front seat place of honor, she’d given him a verbal chew-out he’d accepted with pure indignation. Since then, anytime they were in the vicinity of each other, the room temperature dropped to match her icy disregard for her co-worker.

She met Sam’s gaze briefly, as he dropped coins into the soft drink machine, before returning her attention to the study guide opened in front of her.

“Look at you, hard at it this early in the morning. I’m so impressed.”
Carrie responded in a dry monotone. “Goody...I can sleep at night.” She knew little about the man her co-workers called ‘Oscar the Grouch’, other than he seemed to be in a perpetual bad mood.

He folded his long body over to retrieve the can of Coke, and walked slowly toward her desk. “What’cha got there?”

“A study guide,” she said, returning to her book. The sooner she could get a couple of certifications under her belt, the better. Certifications plus time, meant a raise in pay, and boy did she need that. She’d just tanked up her car for the second time, since dropping out of the car pool. With the price of gas, her paychecks wouldn’t go far.

“Hmph,” he grunted, popping the lid on his drink. “That’s all you ever do is study. What’s the hurry? If you needed the money you’d still be in the carpool.”

She stared up at the man, shocked at his nerve. “If you’ll think back, genius, I tried that.”

“Uh huh, you got all uppity with me then dropped out.”
Carrie pointed at the large wall clock next to the entrance. “I can’t come to work late on a new job. Do you even know the meaning of probationary period?”

"Aw, five minutes here and there won’t hurt anyone,” he said, his tone a mixture of teasing and serious-as-a-heart-attack.

She blew out a frustrated breath. “Yeah, Sam...Whatever.” She returned her attention to her studies and flipped her notebook to a fresh sheet with a snap of her wrist.

“It’s not whatever,” he said, sounding overly confident. “It’s what is.”
When she ignored the comment, the smart thing for Sam to do would have been to walk away. Instead, he leaned one elbow on her desk, as though daring her to confront him.

Bantering with three brothers and a nearly ex-husband had left Carrie sharp-tongued, sharp witted, and itching to put him in his place. Being the new girl, however, she thought it safer to ignore his taunt, lest her position of ‘Last Hired’ become ‘Next Fired’.

Carrie released an irritated sigh and slammed her book closed. She stepped down from the stool at her desk and walked up to Sam, meeting his amused gaze with a sober one of her own. “You’ve got some damn nerve, Sam Langley.”



Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Writers' Wednesday Welcomes Kellie Kamryn

Please help me welcome Kellie Kamryn, whose first book will be out in a few weeks. So glad you're here, Kellie. Thank you for visiting.

Thanks for having me Barb.

You write both contemporary and erotic romance. (And kudos for being a multi-genre writer. Not everyone can pull it off.) What draws you to each of them?

Contemporary is just the easiest for me to write at the moment. With my busy schedule, the less research I have to do the better! Erotic romance I kind of fell into. I hadn’t planned on writing erotic romance, but I had some story ideas that would have only been short stories so I wrote them and spiced them up! A lot in some cases…

You have two books set for release soon, both erotic, right? Way to go, girl. Tell us about them.

PLEASURE ISLAND, an erotic romance, will be available from The Wild Rose Press, on October 21. Very excited!!! MONKEYS, SEX AND OTHER BIRTHDAY SURPRISES will be available from Secret Cravings Publishing, set for release in November. Here’s a blurb for each of them.

Chelsea Hunter didn't come to the resort looking for sex. Jake Davis intends to change her mind. Will they be able to turn up the heat, or will their visit to Pleasure Island leave them cold?

After finalizing her divorce, Chelsea Hunter came to the resort island of Paradise for some peace and quiet so she could figure out what her next step would be. She hadn’t expected to find herself at an exotic hotel dedicated to pleasures of the flesh. Too bad she doesn’t want sex.

Jake Davis is back in Paradise after visiting a year ago when his own marriage fell apart. This time his fantasy is to guide a woman through her sexual journey. He hadn’t counted on being paired with the only woman in Paradise who prefers privacy over pleasure!

Will Jake be able to discover what Chelsea truly needs, or will their journey to Paradise remain unfulfilled? Release date: October 21, 2011

Missy Harder is reluctant to ruin a good thing and meet with her on-line lover, Sam Kentley, in person. Sam is dying to see if the connection they have is real. Humiliated in front of Sam at her surprise birthday party, she wants nothing more than to be left alone. But when Sam refuses to leave her to her misery, they both learn that humor will get you through anything, and sometimes great sex and love sneak up on you when you least expect it. Coming November 2011

Both sound intriguing.What’s your next project?

I have two more in a series that I’d like to finish editing so I could submit them to my publisher. The first one is titled REBOUND, Book 1 in the Love and Balance series and was picked up by Secret Cravings Publishing. After that, I have two more WIP’s on the go and would like to finish those as well.

I also write poetry, and my erotic poetry can be found on my blog. A few of my poems will be featured in an anthology by Naughty Nights Press, but that is still in the negotiation stages.

Congratulations on the poetry, Kellie. That’s quite an accomplishment. Poetry is not an easy area to break into.

What one tip would you offer writers?

Don’t give up! And learn, learn, learn! If there is anything you want to do in your life, then persist until you make it. Sometimes you have to adjust your vision but it’s worth it to know you can accomplish anything you set your mind to. Never forget to keep learning from anyone you can in whatever field you are trying to break into. You never know when the smallest bit of information will be useful one day.

What great advice. We should never stop learning, although it sometimes seems we’d like to reach a point we could. Life is a process and learning continues throughout. It’s so easy to get discouraged and quit when things don’t happen quickly. That’s especially true in writing. Rejections are so difficult to bounce back from. But we must persevere. Thanks, again, for joining us today.

Thanks again for having me! Please visit me at http://www.kelliekamryn.blogspot.com/ and http://www.kelliekamryn.com/ or look me up on Facebook to keep up with the latest publishing information and blog tours!

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Writers' Wednesday Welcomes Mary Ellen Dennis

This week, I’m happy to welcome author Mary Ellen Dennis. Former singer/actress and perennial rule-breaker Mary Ellen Dennis is the author of several award-winning historical romance novels and culinary mysteries. She is married to novelist Gordon Aalborg (aka Victoria Gordon), whom she met online through a writer's group; they live on Vancouver Island.

She has two books in stores this month, released by Sourcebooks Casablanca: THE GREATEST LOVE ON EARTH, set in the exotic world of a 19th century circus, and THE LANDLORD’S BLACK-EYED DAUGHTER, a fast-paced and passionate retelling of the story of two timeless lovers who would die for each other. This gorgeous romance gives the poem a whole new depth and a happy ending.

Thank you for taking time out of your schedule to talk with us, Mary Ellen. Good to see such great reviews for both books. You’ve said one was inspired by Noyes’ “The Highwayman.” The other is an 1875 circus romance. These are two very different themes. What intrigued you by each?

The seed for my circus romance was planted when I researched my 1893-1923 generational saga, HEAVEN’S THUNDER, and learned that the circus had visited Denver in the early 1900s. A big circus. With elephants! And what was then called a cameleopard (giraffe). Curiosity piqued, I began to research traveling circuses. Although no one circus is the basis for THE GREATEST LOVE ON EARTH, P.T. Barnum's comes close.

Emmett Kelley, arguably the most famous clown ever, was a friend of my dad’s. Emmett would appear in centre ring, in the middle of a huge spotlight, a white, upside-down smile dipping toward his chin. In his white-gloved clown hands he’d carry a broom and dustpan. He'd step outside the spotlight and start sweeping it into a smaller circle. Then, smaller. When the spotlight was no bigger than a dinner plate, he'd sweep it into his dustpan. To me, a little kid, it was magic! My heroine, Calliope Kelley, is named for Emmett Kelley.

Yes, at one time traveling circuses carried magic to rural areas throughout the country. My mother told me one used to set up every summer in her small town’s fairgrounds. She said my uncle and a couple of his friends would help set up for free tickets. How fortunate you were to see the iconic Emmett Kelley. He is a legend.

THE GREATEST LOVE ON EARTH came out of research you did on an earlier project and your unique connection to the circus. What drew you to the theme of “The Highwayman” for THE LANDLORD’S BLACKEYED DAUGHTER? And please tell us it has a happy ending.

When I was in grade school one of our assignments was to read a poem in front of the class. I couldn’t decide between “The Highwayman” and Shakespeare’s “Venus and Adonis” (I love horses). Why yes, I was an overachiever, why do you ask?

I chose Alfred Noyes. The bell rang before I finished and no one moved. At that moment I decided I’d be an actress when I grew up. And I’d write a romance inspired by my favorite poem. I’ve achieved both goals, although THE LANDLORD’S BLACK-EYED DAUGHTER took longer (I played Nellie is South Pacific at age 19).

First, I want everyone to know that THE LANDLORD’S BLACK-EYED DAUGHTER has a happy ending. And now, here’s an excerpt:

1 April, 1787
Elizabeth Wyndham gazed at her reflection in the mirror above her dressing table. Dispassionately, she scrutinized her ink-black hair, which fell in ringlets on either side of her face, not unlike a spaniel’s ears. A scowl caused her delicately arched brows to descend toward her dark brown eyes—so dark that from a distance they looked like lampblack. “You’re a fraud,” she said to her image. “A cheat.”

“What did ye gabble, Mistress?” asked her servant, Grace.

“I wasn’t gabbling,” Elizabeth fibbed, her lashes thick dark crescents against her cheekbones. “I coughed.”

“It didn’t sound like a cough t’ me.” Grace regarded her mistress with disapproval. While no one could deny that Miss Elizabeth was an attractive woman, Grace wondered how much longer her looks could possibly hold up. After all, she must be close to thirty. And yet she acted as if men would always flock ’round her, like pigeons. Truth be told, Elizabeth Wyndham should have been married for a good decade now, and mother to at least five children.

“What are you staring at? My gown?” Elizabeth allowed a thin smile to tug at the corners of her mouth. “In truth, this gown is so out-of-date, ’tis moss-grown.”

“Ye never fret over fashion when we’re at home.” Grace’s gaze touched upon Elizabeth’s powdered white shoulders, which contrasted dramatically with the red brocade of her gown—her very low-cut gown. “If ye want the naked truth, Mistress, yer bosom’s practically fallin’ on the table. What would yer mother—”


“—say if she saw such a thing?”

With a shrug, Elizabeth turned back to her reflection. She was aware of her shortcomings and strengths, and considered her beauty her most important asset. But only because of society’s dictates. Her quick intelligence, which would last far longer than her face and figure, would ultimately serve her better. Until that time, however, she would display her physical attributes, turning a blind eye—and a deaf ear—to the servant, chaperone, or even stepmother who expressed dissatisfaction.

“God blessed me with a generous bosom,” she said, “and I see no reason to hide it.

Grace’s face flushed. “Ye’re an authoress, Mistress, not a . . . one of them . . . improper ladies.”

“Whores, you mean?”

Grace looked as if she were about to faint. “Yer language,” she reprimanded. “Wait till I tell your mother—”


“Wait till I tell somebody,” Grace cried, stomping toward the bed.

“I’m sorry,” Elizabeth said. “It’s just that I’m so nervous.”

It’s just that you’re a fraud, her reflection mocked. How could she face the 150 guests gathering in the ballroom below? Tonight was supposed to be the crowning moment of a career that, in all modesty, had been enormously successful.

She cradled her face in her hands. Her cheeks were so hot. While she prided herself on her iron constitution, her body was sometimes bothered by a variety of vague aches and pains. She attributed their origin to tension, unhappiness, confusion, and a host of the womanly maladies she had always disdained.

Perhaps I’m coming down with a fever and will die in the next few minutes, she thought hopefully. Then I won’t have to encounter all those smiling faces, and listen to all those compliments, and pretend I’m still the darling of Minerva Press.

She had already decided that her writing career was over. Pretending otherwise was artifice.

Grace captured two black velvet ribbons and lifted them from the four-poster’s gold counterpane. “What do you want me to do with these, Mistress?”

“Tie them around my neck and wrist, please.”

“I’d rather fetch yer shawl.”

“No.” Elizabeth extended her wrist, but her servant just stood there, holding the ribbons gingerly, as if she’d caught two mice by their tails. “All right, hand over the damnable things. I’ll put them on myself.”

Grace gasped at the word “damnable.” Her thick brows shot up toward her mob cap. Without further comment, she thrust the ribbons at her mistress.

Elizabeth's fingers felt like chips of ice as she fumbled with her accessories. She knew she shouldn’t snap at Grace. Her servant wasn’t responsible for B.B. Wyndham’s inability to finish Castles of Doom, and Grace certainly wasn’t responsible for Elizabeth Wyndham’s related problem, or more precisely, her obsession.

“My obsession,” Elizabeth whispered to her reflection.

She squeezed her eyes shut, but it didn’t help. Behind her closed eyelids, she conjured up the raven-haired knight whom she hated and feared and loved—the raven-haired knight who existed only in her imagination. His face remained elusive, but the more she wrote, the more frequently she caught flashes of him—the width of his back beneath his surcoat, his thick hair curling over his ears and brushing his nape, the way he held his lithe body so straight and tall. She had fled the Yorkshire Dales in a virtual panic. That way she wouldn’t have to confront her knight’s forthcoming death. Yet he had followed her here to London, invading her publisher’s palatial townhouse. She now knew he would follow her everywhere.

It sounds wonderful, Mary Ellen. I can't wait to read it. May we have a taste of the circus story, too?

While researching THE GREATEST LOVE ON EARTH, I discovered that one circus’s animal act included both lions and tigers. I built a whole scene around that. My hero, Brian, is injured rescuing horses from a train wreck and my heroine, Calliope, is determined to “pirate his act” and perform his role as cat tamer.

Here it is:

Calliope tucked her shirt more securely into her breeches and her pant legs into her boots. She had bound her breasts and her hair had been stuffed into one of Brian’s caps. Her best idea was to invade Clown Alley and fashion a handlebar mustache beneath her nose. Maybe it wasn’t her best idea. She kept stifling the urge to sneeze.

“I don’t anticipate trouble,” she said. “I’ve known these cats since they were cubs. I’ve fed and watered them.” She wrinkled her nose and adjusted her mustache again. “I’ve even cleaned their cages.”

“It’s different inside the ring,” Brian said.

“I’ve watched you hundreds of times and memorized your every move. I’m not scared.”

“Tigers are the most cunning. Lions give warning, since they have a slow way of turning before they strike. The black panther is a killer.”

“We don’t have a panther. You only mention the word ‘killer’ to frighten me.”

"Will you not agree to either lions or tigers? It’s far less dangerous.”

“No. The posters announced both together.”

Calliope strutted into the ring-sized cage and slammed the door behind her. The chute’s wooden entrance panel opened. The first tawny lion appeared, followed by another. Leo and Duchess. Six tigers entered the cage. Although Calliope had played with them all, even petted their smooth coats, she felt her stomach tighten. The knuckles of the fingers that held her whipstock and hickory club stretched white. She snapped her whip and the beasts settled.

So far, so good.

Not so good. One of the tigers was slinking toward her, his ears flattened, his tail swishing softly. Plato. Sweet, lovable Plato, whose lips were now curled in a nasty snarl.

She snapped her whip.

Plato’s ears twitched forward. His muzzle seemed to expand in a tiger smile as he mounted his pedestal. Calliope could almost hear him purr. Triumphantly, she tossed her head. The cap flew free and her hair tumbled down. At the same time, she sneezed, losing her mustache.

"It’s a girl!” screamed a woman.

Calliope slanted a glance toward the seats. Movement surged like a tidal wave as some women pitched forward in faints while others stood, trying to get a better view. Swooning women outnumbered the avidly curious ones. Clowns climbed the guardrail, carrying vinegar and salts.

Damn and blast!

She returned her gaze to the cats. Plato chased his tail, exciting the lions. Calliope could sense the old lion-tiger jungle hatred flare. Sure enough, Leo sprang from his high pedestal, landing within inches of Plato. They both locked together, struggling fiercely for tooth-and-claw advantage.

Calliope brandished her club at the flailing cats then gave Leo a generous clout on the top of his head. The lion let go the tiger’s neck, and Plato scampered through the chute.

Eyes smoldering, Leo turned, glared, and growled.

How can you leave us hanging like that? Now that you've thoroughly hooked us, what’s your next project?

I’m working on a romantic suspense called GYPSY ROSE LIEBERMAN, about a Vaudeville ghost who was—oops—sawed in half by her magician husband. She lives “Up There,” or as John Belushi calls it, “Corpses R Us.” Think: Ghost meets The Lovely Bones. Gypsy’s (live) counterpart lives “Down There.” Can you guess how they communicate?

And I’m almost finished with the first draft of an historical romance, THE MIDNIGHT BRIDGE. While traveling to London, my heroine’s, coach is held up by a highwayman named “Conky Blue.” His real name is Trev Kendal, he’s a Cambridge law student, and he robbed the coach to win a wager (he returns the stolen goods). He’s also the adopted son of self-proclaimed Texas emperor, Michael Kendal. When my heroine leaves England to join her uncle’s household, she’s dismayed to find herself falling in love with Trev, who is now Michael’s lawyer. Because even though she’s never seen his face, she loves Conky Blue…

Ah, another story where a highwayman plays a major part. Sounds great, Mary Ellen. Hope we see it in print soon.

What tip would you offer writers?

Although it’s almost become what I call an “enigmatic cliché,” I truly believe an author must “show” rather than “tell.” What do I mean by show vs. tell? Here’s an example:

"I'm impressed with the work you've done," said Mr. Boss.

John Hero dropped his eyes and smiled. "Thanks, sir."

John had begun working for Boss & Co. six months ago. He had earned the nickname "workaholic" after his wife's sudden death...

Now try this:"I'm impressed by the work you've done," said Mr. Boss.

John Hero smiled. "Thanks, sir."

His smile faded as he stared at Mr. Boss's Wizard of Oz paperweight. He remembered how his wife had loved the song "Over the Rainbow," how he had sung it to her every night as she lay dying, how she had said, “John, you can’t carry a tune in a bucket,” her voice a caress. There was no doubt in his mind that Laura's sudden death had turned him into a workaholic...

The first way isn’t wrong. It’s just that I feel no empathy for John because the author told me about his wife’s death. Add the paperweight, or any personal detail from John’s POV (Point Of View), and I know the character better, feel his pain. Do you see the difference?

An excellent example of the difference between ‘show’ and ‘tell.’ I’m making a copy of it for future reference.

And be careful about a character dropping his or her eyes. They could get stepped on.

Yes, those dropping body parts can get messy. It’s been great talking with you, Mary Ellen. Good luck with your new releases. Thanks, again, for joining us today.

Thank you for inviting me.

For more information, please visit Mary Ellen at http://www.maryellendennis.com/.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Writers' Wednesday Welcomes Selena Fulton

On Wednesdays, we meet an author who is published or on the journey to publication, who shares a writing tip with everyone.

This week, I’m happy to welcome Selena Fulton. Selena won the 2009 Golden Acorn Excellence in Writing. She finaled in the 2010 Beacon contest. Thanks for taking time out of your schedule to talk with us Selena.

Thank you for having me.

Your current work is an inspirational. Could you please tell us a little about it and what draws you to this genre?

THE LONG WAY HOME is a contemporary inspirational romance set in Florida. I write about Christians dealing with real life situations and their journey as they grow in their faith. I try to show that no matter how far you may have strayed from God, He will always welcome you back. Being Christian doesn’t mean you’re perfect, it means you’re forgiven.

Here’s a blurb:
Mindy Stanley is far from home in every sense of the word. Not only has her husband, Joe, stolen their grocery and rent money again, he is in jail for killing two people when he wrecked the company truck. She refuses to divorce him, however. She is the daughter of a minister and even though she walked away from the church years ago, to divorce Joe would prove that her daddy was right.

Forced to cope on her own with two small children, she feels abandoned by God and everyone else. When she goes home for her sister’s wedding, she must face her parents, her past and the ex-boyfriend she didn’t wait for.

This sounds like a wonderful story, Selena. Forgiveness and redemption are universal themes. Faith can give us the strength to persevere and overcome any adversity.

What are you working on now?

One project is a time travel romance, which is a novella. I have always been fascinated with the idea of time travel, and “what if,” and soul mates. I also have a few YA ideas I’m working on.

Will you do another inspirational?

Oh, yes. I like to write stories that Christian people can relate to, about the real problems they face in the world.

What tip would you offer writers?

Keep submitting and learning! You are never too old to learn, and you will never be published if your story never makes it off your hard drive.

I love that advice. Is there anything you might add for writers just starting out?

Find a local chapter. Being around other writers provides a wealth of knowledge and is very encouraging. Take courses on writing; some of them are free. Read, read, read. You get a feel for what is selling as well as filling the creative well.

Very true. There's nothing like other writers for understanding and support. Thanks, again, for joining us Selena. We look forward to seeing your work.

Please visit Selena’s blog: http://www.selenafulton.wordpress.com/

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Writers' Wednesday-Tips From Conferences

Backstory. That one word is often enough to send writers screaming into the streets. Or at least moaning to the freezer for another Monarch® bar. Seems like we either dump it in all at once (but if readers don’t know the hero’s story, how will they sympathize with his motives?);

we ignore it (one contest judge wrote: “I never thought I’d say this, but I need more backstory here;”)

or it comes out in “scintillating” dialogue such as: “John, you know that when my father died in that terrible hot air balloon crash just before Christmas last year, I inherited his fortune. My sister has continued to fight the will, and she accused me of falsifying the documents.”

“Yes, Marsha, I’ve watched these last three months as the trial dragged on, bringing out the worst in all your relatives. Your uncle even tampered with the brakes on your car. But the police arrested him and now he’s in jail.”

At this point, even the hardiest reader would lam the book against a wall.

So--what do we do and--when do we do it?

Award-winning author and writing instructor Leigh Michaels has answers to those questions. She shared some of them at a recent Ozarks Romance Authors’ (ORA) conference in Springfield, MO.

Knowing what and how much readers need to know--and when they need to know it--can pose difficulties. Michaels admitted she still sometimes faces those challenges.

Her suggestions for handling the issues? For one, she said use dialogue. But not in the excruciating example above. Make the exchange among characters sound natural and confined.

A writer can also break up the backstory into several small bits to weave in as the book progresses, rather than hit readers with everything at once.

That piece of advice seemed directed at me, specifically. In my first manuscript, the heroic knight’s entire history was out within the first few pages of Chapter 1. But the readers needed to know it so they could sympathize with his goal and motivations. I thought. Poor hero. He’s languishing in a special corner of my mind, and I intend to rehabilitate his story one day.

Michaels mentioned another point that might be difficult to parse. If the information “isn’t crucial,” she said, “skip it.” Excellent advice. But--crucial to whom? The reader.

My translation of her advice: Of course every drop of the lovingly constructed history of my hero and heroine is ambrosia. For me. What about the readers? What must they know to make sense of it all? To make a really good punch, the ingredients must be balanced or the result is either stomach-churning sweet or eye-squinting sour.

I’m still learning my own way of writing. It’s not like everyone else’s. When I first started with fiction, I tried to do it like others said they did. Or like I thought it should be done. Or like I did the non-fiction I’d always written. But it didn’t work that way. Since it didn’t, I was convinced that I must be a failure.

But now I’ve come to accept the way I work. I’ve found that on my first draft, I overload backstory and ‘tell’ way too often. On the next trip through, I try to eliminate what’s not necessary, save lots for later, and turn the ‘telling’ into scenes with dialogue. I’m still working on that balanced recipe. But thank goodness my purchase of Tums® is lessening.

Leigh Michaels’ advice on backstory, which was only a part of her presentation on backstory, pacing and transition, reinforced points about weaving in our characters’ history. It seems writers at most levels of their careers would benefit from her insights. I recommend sitting in on one of her workshops or dropping by her website and ‘classroom’ for more pointers. Don’t forget her classic book: ON WRITING ROMANCE.

Leigh Michaels is a multi RWA Rita nominee contemporary romance author with more than 100 books, whose latest two novels are Regencies. The third Regency will be out in September. Visit her at http://www.leighmichaels.com/. Her romance writing classes are offered through Gotham Writers’ Workshop at http://www.writingclasses.com/.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Writers' Wednesday Welcomes Ashlyn Macnamara

Welcome to Writers’ Wednesday where we meet authors who are published or are on the journey to publication. In addition to sharing their stories, they offer writing tips they have found invaluable.

This week, I’m happy to welcome Ashlyn Macnamara, a Romance Writers of America (RWA) 2011 Golden Heart® finalist. Her Regency will be published in early 2013 by Ballantine-Bantam-Dell.

Thank you for taking time out of your schedule to talk with us Ashlyn. What an exciting year for you, finaling in the prestigious Golden Heart® contest--then selling right around the time of RWA Nationals.

It's been a wild few months for me. In two and a half months, I went from unagented, to acquiring representation, to selling my book. I'm still waiting for it to sink in.

Was this your first time to enter the GH?

Yes, it was.

In a sense, I'm still in shock that I even finaled. I entered my manuscript A TALE OF TWO SISTERS in several chapter contests, and only finaled in three of those. They say it's a sign of a strong voice when you get widely varying scores. I guess I have a strong voice, because boy, do my scores vary. Judges either love me or hate me, and I almost always get that one judge. Sometimes more than one.

To final in the GH, you have to get five judges to agree you've got a strong entry and hand you, at the lowest, mid-to-high 8s—or have one hold-out who scores you so low, you qualify for the standard deviation rule. But even then, the other four have to agree and give you high marks. Considering my track record with contest judges, I am extremely fortunate to have finaled

That's so encouraging for writers who are entering contests--or even those who are reluctant to do so. The GH notifications came on March 25. When did you learn the book had sold?

Oddly enough, the first time was before I even had an agent. I was in the process of nailing down representation, because I sent out queries to my entire A-list on the evening of March 25. I had more than one offer, and I was still waiting on responses from a few more agents who were still reading. In the middle of that, I received an email from an editor that basically amounted to a revisions letter. I'd submitted to a new line this past winter on a whim, and the guidelines on their website said that they'd contact me only if interested. So I submitted, and figured I woudn't hear back. Once again, I was shocked to receive this email, but I replied to the editor, told her I was in the process of acquiring an agent, and could my agent get back to her?

Of course she said yes. A couple of days later, I made my decision and signed with Sara Megibow of Nelson Literary, and she sent me her own revisions letter. And some of her suggestions were basically the opposite of what the interested editor wanted me to do. So I revised to Sara's suggestions, and we went on submission.

That first editor was still interested and made us an offer. When I talked to her on the phone, I asked her specifically about revisions, because in the back of my mind, I figured I'd have to undo everything I did for Sara and then some. Nope, the editor said. Sara's ideas were spot on.

And then I had another offer, because we submitted to nine lines, and this offer was even better, because it was a two-book deal with an advance, and for an actual book, not just digital with the possibility of print-on-demand. So we went with that one, about a week and a half after the first editor showed an interest.

Of course, I have no clue what my revisions are going to be like. I'll be working with the same editor as Sherry Thomas, who, when I met her at Nationals, informed me with a great deal of glee that her first revisions letter was 16 pages, single spaced.

That's a fantastic story, Ashlyn. What a whirlwind. You must have had a difficult time sleeping for a few nights. But the result was worth it. A TALE OF TWO SISTERS is, as mentioned, a Regency, one of the most popular genres today. What draws you to this era?

I love historical romance, period. I read in all eras, and I love medievals, Regency, Victorians, Georgian, Viking, pirate, historical westerns, you name it. In fact, I love it even more when a story is set somewhere off the beaten path, both era-wise and place-wise. I started reading romance back in the 1980s before authors became stuck with a specific brand, when you had authors like Johanna Lindsey and Heather Graham who wrote everything from Vikings to (in Lindsey's case) futuristic.

All this to say, I never considered myself a Regency author. In fact, SISTERS is the first Regency I ever wrote. My very first manuscript—the one that lives under the bed and plays with the dust bunnies—was a medieval. My other stories are all set in North America around the time of the Revolutionary War or shortly thereafter.

In fact, when I first got the idea for SISTERS I tried to figure out a way to set it in colonial Williamsburg. It just didn't want to go there. My characters and my story dictated themselves to me as Regency, and I've long since learned I can't fight my characters or they take their toys and go home. So I wrote a Regency in spite of myself.

All that said, I do love me some Jane Austen. I love her humor and sarcasm and social commentary.

Please tell us a little about the work.

A TALE OF TWO SISTERS, well, the title is pretty much self-explanatory. I've been telling people it's a little like Sense and Sensibility only with more love scenes. It's not a true retelling of the Jane Austen classic, though. It does feature two sisters: Julia who is ruled by her head and Sophia who is ruled by her heart, but that's where the similarities end. It's also very much a double romance. One of the sisters takes a slightly more prominent role, but each one has her own hero, and the story line alternates between the two.

What binds the two romances together? The villain, of course.

See, Sophia has had an unrequited crush on the villain for years, but he's never noticed her. When he finally deigns to, he offers for Julia instead.

It sounds great. If only we didn't have to wait more than a year to read it. What’s your next project?

Since I landed a two-book deal, I'm working on the next story in the series. It features the best friend of one of the heroes of SISTERS. I kind of developed a crush on him when I was writing the first story, so getting to write even more about him is a bonus. He's a little snarky, a little dissipated, but underneath that, he hides the soul of a long-suffering artist.

Mr. Upperton is also the reason my release date is so far off. My publisher wants to release the two relatively close together.

Very well. I suppose we can wait a few months for the first book, as long as we're promised a quick follow-up.

What one tip would you offer writers?

Never give up. Never surrender. And never stop believing.

About this time last year, I was ready to give up. I'd received a detailed rejection on one of my Revolutionary War stories from an e-press. I know those are supposed to be good signs, but after all the heart and soul I'd put into that book, not to mention researching it on site, the pass was a blow. At the same time, I'd received a detailed critique on my first three chapters of SISTERS from a published author. The issues pointed out in both cases were similar, and I told myself it was a wake-up call. I just wasn't ready for prime time. I still needed to work on craft issues, so what point was there in entering the GH, when I wouldn't even get any feedback in return for my $50? I'd basically be throwing that money, along with the postage, paper and ink out the window, because my writing didn't have what it took to final.

Now, I'm a member of a group of writers who formed the previous year with the intention of entering and finaling in the GH. When I told them I was bowing out, but I was happy to cheer everyone else on, they gave me a collective kick in the seat of my pants, told me to suck it up and get to work. And I am so thankful they did.

Absolutely. Nothing can surpass helpful, supportive friends. I'm sure they're all thrilled and hope to travel the rest of the road to publication with you. Good luck.

Thanks, again, for joining us today. I hope you’ll be back in 2013 when A TALE OF TWO SISTERS is released.

Thank you for having me. I'd love to come back when I can share something more concrete, like cover art or excerpts.

Find Ashlyn online: Website: http://ashlynmacnamara.net/ (blog is located on my website)
Facebook page (feel free to like me): http://www.facebook.com/%23!/pages/Ashlyn-Macnamara/178818875498486
Twitter: http://twitter.com/%23!/ashlyn_mac

Monday, August 1, 2011

Three Little Words. Paeans to the romantic in us writers. Ah, yes.
Goal, Motivation, Conflict.

Actually, romance, suspense, mystery, paranormal--no matter what we write, those three little words live at the heart of our work. Best-selling author Shannon K. Butcher put them at the top of her outline on Plotting Romantic Suspense when she spoke at the Ozarks Romance Authors conference, Saturday, July 23. But as she pointed out, many of the same steps in planning apply no matter what the genre.

Developing characters, a writer must establish goal and internal conflict and be able to answer key questions. Why are the hero and heroine perfect for each other? Why do they love each other?

The external conflict must be established. Who drives it? Is the resolution satisfactory?

Butcher dealt with GMC--along with other elements such as pacing, tension, the dark moment, story resolution. She broke them down into what might be described as the journalistic questions--who, what, when, where, why, how--listing the detailed questions as she moved through each section.

One of her points could be applied to every part of the story. Balance. Writers must find the balance in every area, from pacing to sexual tension.

Butcher also touched on secondary characters and subplots. Secondary characters can help create the world we're building and can provide tension relief.

Subplots should enhance the main plot but should be used sparingly and only as necessary.

Before we even begin writing, however, she urged writers to examine the internal conflict, the one we began with. Is it strong enough to carry the story through the the end?

What I took away from her presentation was this: The development may be driven by genre, but every story must employ goal(s) that is (are) strong, worthwhile; motivation that is compelling but reasonable for the characters and the world we're building; internal and external conflict that drive the story and the characters until the black moment, after which the hero/heroine will experience a resolution (and a mystery solved?) For those of us who write romance, that resolution is a HEA.


Now all that remains is to figure out how to do it.

The next guest on Writers' Wednesday has certainly done so. Be sure to stop by and meet Ashlynn MacNamara later this week.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Writers' Wednesday: Shirley McCann

Welcome to Writers’ Wednesday. This week, I’m happy to welcome mystery and romance author, Shirley McCann. Shirley is a founder of Sleuths' Ink, a mystery writers group, and a long time member of Ozarks Romance Authors. Welcome, Shirley. You've recently released your book, A COLLECTION OF MYSTERIES. Would you please tell us a little about it.

A COLLECTION OF MYSTERIES contains 13 of my previously published WOMAN’S WORLD mini-mysteries. I love writing these stories. The magazine has changed the guidelines over the years, so while most of them are solve-it-yourself, a few are standard mysteries. But they’re all short – under 1000 words.

Writing short stories 500-1,000 words is a challenge. Not a lot of authors can do so, but you’ve been successful at it. In addition to the short mysteries for WOMAN’S WORLD, you’ve also written for THE FORENSIC EXAMINER, ALFRED HITCHCOCK, and many online magazines. What draws you to the mystery genre?

I love the puzzle. When reading, I love trying to figure out who the “culprit” is before reaching the end of the story. When writing, I rarely know who did it until the end. And even sometimes that changes during the writing process.

Mysteries are so strong for you. Do you write in any other genre?

I also love romance. Who doesn’t? They’re feel good stories. I find it a nice balance. I’ve written a lot of confessions stories for various magazines. While they’re not necessarily romance stories, they are feel good stories.

I’m currently working on two romance novels. I do get sidetracked a lot because I love writing short stories. If I’m working on a longer project, I start itching to get back to a short story.

What’s your next project?

I’m always working on several short stories at a time. However, I’m also currently working on a mystery novel, a young adult mystery, as well as romances. I’m always working on something.

What one tip would you offer writers?

Don’t give up. I think everyone says that, but it’s true – you can’t sell if you don’t write and submit. Learn to accept rejection. It’s all part of the learning process. And don’t take it personally.

Very true. Excellent advice, Shirley. Thanks, again, for joining us today.

Visit Shirley at: http://www.cleverchronicles.blogspot.com/

Her books: A COLLECTION OF MYSTERIES:13 Previously Published WOMAN’S WORLD Mini Mysteries. Amazon, Nook, and Smashwords

THE NECKLACE:A Middle Grade Mystery. Amazon, Nook, Smashwords

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Backstory--Isn't the More the Merrier?

Backstory? Of course the reader has to know it. She just doesn't have to know it all--right now.

Just a soupcon here, a sprinkle there, and you'll have a perfectly seasoned plot. My problem has always been a heavy hand with the salt. Yep. Backstory remains a challenge for me.

That's why I was front and center Saturday for author and teacher Leigh Michaels' session "Things that Stump the Best of Us--Backstory--Pacing--Transitions." Leigh was one of the speakers at this year's conference sponsored by Ozarks Romance Authors (ORA).

Some of her recommendations: tell whatever background you can in dialogue. Natual sounding of course, in a voice consistent with the character's. Another way is to weave backstory in small bits rather than in one huge exposition.

At that point, I thought fondly of my first manuscript with its pages of the hero's angst-y introspection revealing his history and the reason his current situation was so crucial. Absolutely essential, I was convinced.

Which brings up the next point.

Leigh said that readers need not, and often don't want to, know every small detail of the character's former life. Unless the information is essential to the story, omit it.

And third: wait until as late as you can to reveal backstory, sometimes as late as the end.

These were only three of the many tips she touched on during the presentation, but they certainly caught my attention.

I still write backstory. Often I pound out a page or more that I'm certain is deathless prose but turns out to be--blah-blah-blah. Now I cut and paste onto a blank document so I can have it handy to add as needed. Like chocolate sauce drizzled around a slice of cheesecake. Again, figuring out when and how much.... (But I love chocolate, don't you?)

If you'd like more from Leigh Michaels, please check out her well-known book ON WRITING ROMANCE. Find her at www.leighmichaels.com.

Do you have particular problems with writing backstory? Have you discovered a technique that you've found helpful?

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Writers' Wednesday--Asides

Did you write today? If the answer is, “Yes,” then congratulations. That’s exactly what you must do. If you don’t write, you can’t finish the book and you can’t sell it.

If the answer is “No,” then why not?

Some of us don’t because of demands--family, jobs, illness. Perhaps, this being summer, we don’t because of vacations.

I can manufacture a grocery list of reasons why I don’t/can’t/won’t produce new words on any given day. I like to think those are explanations, not excuses. But, really, sometimes I’m just lazy. Or I’m finishing a new, good book. I try never to read in the genre in which I’m writing at the time. That means no medievals until I finish my WIP. Regencies, however…. (The latest I devoured was Leigh Michaels’ JUST ONE SEASON IN LONDON. Terrific. I recommend it highly.)

But the fact is, if I’m serious about selling--and I am--then I’d better find some way to dump the excuses and maintain motivation.

I’ve recently come back from a fallow period in which nothing I wrote worked. I wrote, rewrote, revised. Finally I managed to pull myself together and get back to the hard work of committing new words daily. That experience made me realize the importance of maintaining a schedule and sticking to it, no matter what. Because if I don’t, my story will never see black of print

In their tips, several of our Writers’ Wednesday guests have emphasized the importance of writing every day. No matter the number of words, something must be produced, even if it later goes in revision. As best-selling author Nora Roberts says, “You can edit junk. You can’t edit a blank page.” (All right--I changed a word--but you get the idea. :-))

Write whether or not you feel like it. Write whether or not you think it’s any good right then. Writers can’t wait for inspiration, guest authors have said, or we’ll never get a word down.

Often I find myself writing late at night, thinking, “This is absolutely incoherent. A waste of time.” Then the next day when I check it, I usually find it wasn’t so bad at all.

Set a goal of a certain number of words a day. Several online groups have 100 word-daily challenges. Make the goal realistic, then make the goal. Challenge a writer friend to do the same.

Just yesterday, my weekly critique group challenged each other--and ourselves--to a specific number every day and for the week, because we're determined to finish our books within the next few weeks. At first the totals were intimidating, but I have no doubt we’ll reach them.

And you know what? I can finally see the end to that interminable story I’ve been working on. Edits, here I come.

Do you write every day? Why or why not? What motivates you to keep the words coming?

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Writers' Wednesday Welcomes Alice Cummings

Joining us this week is Alice Cummings, who writes as Allison Merritt. Alice is a member of Ozarks Romance Authors (ORA), which she also serves as web mistress.

An award-winning writer, Alice just finaled in the 2011 WETA contest. In 2010, she placed second in the Missouri Literary Festival’s Short Fiction Award and received honorable mention in the WETA. That annual competition is sponsored by ORA.

Thank you for being here today. Your current manuscript, THE TREASURE HUNTER’S LADY, takes place in Australia. Would you please tell us a little about the work and what draws you to the location.

The TREASURE HUNTER’S LADY, set in Australia, is a Victorian adventure romance with fantasy and paranormal elements. The heroine is an English amateur archeologist who’s been ordered by her father to give up her hobby and get married. She’s adamant about making a great discovery and sets out to find a legendary stone called The Soul of the Rainbow Serpent. She runs into a handsome Texan treasure hunter who’s come to Australia because he needs to find the stone to cure a life-threatening disease.

In the beginning of their journey, the two rarely agree on anything, but through the dangers they face, they find themselves falling in love. Reaching the stone is difficult enough, but they also have to beat a madman who wants to sell the treasure for profit. In the end, their love is the only thing that can release the true power of the stone.

I’m fascinated with Australia, although I’ve never been there. While there are plenty of ways to have set this story in America, Australia such an unusual and exotic setting to place characters that the plot fell in place really fast. The first draft only took about a week and a half to finish, I was so excited about the project. It’s different from a lot of adventure novels in that I added some airships and steam-powered equipment, plus a mythical serpent goddess.

A week and a half for the first draft? I’m always in awe at those of you who can write so quickly. This sounds like an exciting book. An English heroine and an American hero on the trail of an exotic stone in Australia. I’d love to know the paranormal elements. What’s your next project?

Last year for National Novel Writing Month I wrote a follow-up novel to THE TREASURE HUNTER’S LADY called THE SKY PIRATE’S WIFE, which is about an airship captain bent on revenge after his enemy tries to kill him. He tricks his enemy’s stepdaughter into marriage and while he plans to use her dowry to enhance his business and leave her in England, he finds himself falling in love with her instead. It needs a good healthy dose of editing. I’m also planning a third installment about one of the minor characters from the second book, but I’m not sure if I’ll be writing it for NaNoWriMo this year, which starts in November or if I’ll start it sooner.

From the sound of it, you have a full schedule. Several people have said they use the NaNoWriMo to get rough drafts down. Good luck with the edits and with this year’s challenge.

What one tip would you offer writers?

Learn to use actions to offset your dialogue. Don’t rely on he said/she said or any of those other dialogue tag crutches. Your readers will get more involved in the story if you can make them feel like they’re really in the scenes right along with the characters.

Spot-on advice. Thanks again, Alice. It’s been great having you here.

Be sure to visit Alice at her sites.
Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/authorallisonmerritt
Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/writer_wannabe
Blog: http://havenovelwilledit.blogspot.com

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Writers Wednesday Welcomes Arline Chandler

Welcome to Writers Wednesday. Each week we’re joined by authors, both published and on the journey to publication. Today I’m happy to welcome Arline Chandler who's recognized for, among other things, her non-fiction books and articles on the Branson area and on RV-ing.

Thank you for taking time out of your schedule to be here today. Your newest book, THE HEART OF BRANSON: THE ENTERTAINING FAMILIES OF AMERICA’S LIVE MUSIC SHOW CAPITAL, is set in Branson, Mo. You’ve done quite a bit of writing about people, traditions and locations in the Ozarks--Southwest Missouri and Northwest Arkansas in particular. Please tell us a little about this work and what draws you to the area.

THE HEART OF BRANSON is a history of the entertainment scene in this small Ozarks town—a town that almost every person in America recognizes as synonymous with family-oriented, high quality entertainment. My book was at least 25 years in the making as I interviewed performers and wrote their stories in various magazines. I discovered the underlying theme of families entertaining families.

In my research, I began with the story of Marvel Cave, which early on was named Marble Cave. The story of two men, William Lynch and Hugo Herschend, who shared a common dream of opening a tour cave, intrigued me. Neither man ever knew the other. Their families carried their dreams forward with the Herschends building Silver Dollar City atop the cave entrance.

Also in research, I discovered S. Fred Prince, who arrived shortly after Mr. Lynch purchased the cave property. A self-taught naturalist, Lynch hired Prince to survey the cave. He spent most of ten years living inside the cave, measuring and examining every room and crevice and documenting his findings in a hand-illustrated manuscript which was never published.

The story of the cave links to Harold Bell Wright and his novel, THE SHEPHERD OF THE HILLS, and later the development of the Shepherd of the Hills Homestead and Outdoor Drama.

In retrospect, I see God’s hand on this area of the Ozarks—and the different people who arrived at the appropriate time to lend of their talents in creating and building what we see in the entertainment scene today.

My book follows the Baldknobbers, the Presleys, and those who arrived during the Branson Boom in the 1990s. I included the new families in town: Jim and Annie Stafford, the Haygoods, SIX, the Hughes Brothers, the Bretts, and the Duttons—all continuing to contribute to the wholesome entertainment scene. I mention stars like Roy Clark, Andy Williams, Box Car Willie, Yakov, the Lennons, the Osmonds, and numerous others who have contributed—and continue to contribute to the magic of Branson.

There are many more names, perhaps not so well known when they came to Branson, but who have carved their niche in this entertainment town: Shoji Tabuchi, Todd Oliver, Kirby Van Burch, Clay Cooper, Jim Barber. Those who brought their families along and joined the community. The book ends with a chapter about the new Sight & Sound Theatre and the inspiration of one man and his family for its Biblically-based dramas.

I am drawn to history and to the stories of other people’s lives. Branson is overflowing with interesting stories of talent, courage, challenges, faith in God, and a love or our country.

Fantastic, Arline. I’ve read many of your articles and I know the feeling you instill in your work. What’s your next project?

I have ongoing projects such as a weekly blog at www.rvlife.com/1256-arline, as well as commitments to magazines such as RV LIFE AND WORKAMPER NEWS. On my personal blog, www.arlinechandler.blogspot.com, I maintain pages titled “All Things Branson,” “The Ozarks Traveler,” and “My Canine Friends.” Excerpts and reviews of my books, as well as ordering information, are also on my blog. My interest also lies in children’s fiction and nonfiction. I have two picture books and a young adult novel in progress.

You have such a variety of writing experience. What one tip would you offer other writers?

To become a writer, one has to write daily and read with a writer’s eye. I recommend honing the craft of writing with classes, conferences, and good books about the techniques of writing.

Great advice, Arline. Thanks, again, for being here. You can find Arline at the following places:
The Heart of Branson available at T. Charleston Bookstore, Branson, MO and amazon.com
She’ll also speak at:
Workamper Rendezvous
October 18-20, 2011
Heber Springs Community Center
Heber Springs, AR
For information: http://www.workamper.com/

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Creating a Conference Pitch

Conference times are here and many of us are faced with polishing pitches for agents and editors. All we have to do is summarize a 70,000-100,000 word book into one to three sentences. Nail the basic plot as we encapsulate the hero/heroines’ goals, motivations, and conflicts. That is, what the hero/heroine want and what keeps them from getting it--until the end, of course. Yikes!

It’s not as bad as it sounds. The key: agents/editors are friendly and encouraging and really do want to hear about our stories. They want us to succeed. The conference for our local chapter, Ozarks Romance Authors, is coming up so I thought it might be fun to look at ways a conference pitch can be put together.

This is certainly not an exhaustive examination. I hope this will prompt a discussion. If you’ve pitched, if you have a different way of stating the pitch process, please let us know here.

There are several different ‘kinds’ of pitches. Some are the same, referred to differently.
1.) An ‘Elevator Pitch’ is one sentence. (Can be the hook.)That’s so if you find yourself riding in an elevator with an agent/editor and you’re asked what you write, you can reveal it briefly and succinctly. Before the door opens and she can escape. (Joking. Not really:>)
2.) A 25-word pitch is one you may use when you’re called upon for a quick summary. Often the same as the elevator pitch. Can be the ‘hook.’
3.) A three-sentence pitch, which allows you to get a bit more into GMC. This can be:
4.) A one paragraph pitch, which agents often say they want to see in query letters.
5.) A longer pitch, crafted for a 5-10 minute pitch session, but it is still very brief. Note: even if a pitch is in a conference situation of, say, ten minutes, you will not talk for that long. Make it fit one of those listed above. You should leave time for the agent/editor to ask questions.
6.) The Hook--One sentence (need not be a grammatically correct) that summarizes what the story is about in a way that compels attention. Sometimes it can act as the elevator pitch.

Let’s look at the Conference Pitch.
Hook: The line that cuts to the basics the story in a way that catches interest. Look for the unique. The extreme conflicts or differences.

He’s everything a proper lady should never want and she’s everything a bastard mercenary can never have.
(My hook for SILVERHAWK. Not great but functional).

Length: The conference pitch should be as brief as you can make it, but it can be longer than one line. It can be longer than three lines. Try to keep it in one paragraph or two. No longer (Okay, in reality you can fudge if absolutely necessary BUT keep to three minutes. Don’t wander.) Boil it down to the basics.

What the Pitch Contains:
1.) The pitch should hone in on the central conflict. The main thing that’s keeping the h/h from achieving his/her goal--and, in romance, usually keeping them apart. But as Debra Dixon says, don’t focus just on the romance; of course there’s a romance with a HEA.
2.) Avoid too many proper names. Use designations of careers or titles instead. If names are necessary, use only the main characters--usually hero/heroine.
3.) For your one line hook, avoid all proper names.

One formula:
Hero/heroine wants or needs to do something (GOAL) but is prevented from getting/doing it (CONFLICT/OBSTACLE) and not achieving this goal can lead to (SOMETHING BAD)

You may follow with the opposite h/h goal/obstacle-conflict etc. If you can summarize into a very few words, you might include a motivation or the why.

Further information on pitches can also be found on Kimberly Killion’s website. Kim spoke at the ORA conference last year: http://www.kimberlykillion.com/writers.asp

Another formula--from her site:
“TITLE is a GENRE about MAIN CHARACTER, an ADJECTIVE/DESCRIPTION, who wants to DEFAULT ACTION. But when CALL TO ACTION, he must STORY GOAL, which seems impossible because CENTRAL CONFLICT.” (Default action is the one that seems to be the main one but really isn’t.)
In other words: The DEFAULT ACTION is what s/he thinks s/he wants in the beginning. When the CALL TO ACTION comes, the h/h goes after the STORY GOAL but the CENTRAL CONFLICT prevents it. (Of course, the characters undergo a change by the happy ending.)

As an example, here’s one of my basic pitches. “SILVERHAWK is a 96,000 word medieval romance set in England (GENRE.) It’s about a knight who is everything a proper lady should never want, and a lady who is everything a bastard mercenary can never have. (HOOK)

Sir Giles of Cambrai has come to England to kill his father. (GOAL/ also DEFAULT ACTION) But depriving the man of the one thing he wants more than anything will make revenge sweeter. So Giles kidnaps the old lord’s new betrothed who is his last chance at a legitimate heir. But in the process Giles uncovers a plot against England.(CONFLICT) Now he’s faced with a dilemma—take the lady or find the traitor. (CALL TO ACTION.) What’s a good mercenary to do? Both, of course. (STORY GOAL(S)

For her part, Lady Emelin has had enough. At last she has a chance for a home and family—the two things she’s always wanted. (GOAL AND MOTIVATION) But now she’s been abducted. (CONFLICT) Trouble is, he’s the very image of the knight she’s always dreamed of. Still, she’s not going to let him spoil her last chance. Her only option is to escape. (CALL TO ACTION/more CONFLICT)

For Giles, hauling back the lady every times she sneaks away while he hunts down the traitors is a greater challenge then even he can imagine. But the greatest challenge to both is the fire that blazes between them. For he’s everything a proper lady should never want, and she’s everything a bastard mercenary can never have.

This pitch can be tightened even more for those shorter situations. It is obviously not a three liner. It does contain the one-liner or hook. But as a conference pitch:
1.) It fits within the time frame with plenty of time for other person to ask questions and ask for partial or full.
2.) And--a very good thing--your conference pitch can also be used for your query letter.

Preparing for pitch:
1.) Jot the whole thing or the main points down on 3 x 5 cards. For RWA Nationals last year, I wrote the entire pitch in short paragraphs so I could refer to it as needed. Practice reading it aloud so it become natural to say the words. So it sounds like you’re just sitting there, telling your best friend what the story’s about.
2.) Read it over and over until you are so familiar with it that if your mind goes blank, you know the story and you won’t panic. If you change a word or two--that’s fine.
I was nervous, and even though I had notes and had ‘memorized’ it, I found myself improvising. And when the questions came, I could comfortably answer them.
3.) Should you memorize it? Whatever works for you. But if you do, I recommend reading it and delivering it so much, you know it in all its variations.

Be prepared for questions. One editor asked me what set my book apart from the other medievals the company published.

In addition to Kim’s site, here is a link to a good piece on pitching by Susan Lyons.

What’s your favorite method of handling pitch composition or delivery. Please share.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Writers' Wednesday Welcomes Amanda Barke

Welcome to Writers’ Wednesday. I’ve had a bit of a ‘holiday’ from posting while I worked with my Blogger account. I’m hopeful everything is posting properly now. But I’m so glad to be back. I’ve missed you all.

Amanda J. Barke is today’s guest. Amanda is an author, editor, freelance journalist, singer/songwriter, and motivational speaker. Her work as a freelance journalist can be found in the OZARKS’ SENIOR LIVING NEWSPAPER, THE OZARKS MOUNTAINEER MAGAZINE, MISSOURI LIFE MAGAZINE and various other regional publications. Her other articles can be found online at ehow.com, livestrong.com/lifestyle, and amykitchenerfdn.org. As a motivational speaker, she travels all over Missouri promoting literacy in schools, teaching fellow writers, and motivating teens to follow their dreams. In 2010, she served as president of the Springfield Writers' Guild.

You are certainly a busy lady, Amanda. Thanks for taking time out of your schedule to be here. Your current book is set in our 50th state. Why did you choose Hawaii?

I have always loved Hawaiian culture. The novel A DISTANT RUMBLE is a Christian Fiction, Action/Adventure set in modern day Hawaii.

I also have a children’s picture book titled THE SLEEPY LITTLE SUN. I wrote this little nursery rhyme to encourage my son to stay in bed until the sunrise.

I’ve never been to Hawaii but, like you, I find the culture fascinating. And I like the idea of an action/adventure Christian work. It sounds intriguing. What’s your next project for publication?

I am currently illustrating my second children’s book titled, HATS ON, HATS OFF. It is to help encourage children fighting cancer.

That’s such an important topic, Amanda. I understand the number of children who are diagnosed with some form of the disease is much larger than one might imagine. It would be so great to have a book specifically for them, that can offer comfort and reassurance. It should be welcomed.

What one tip would you offer writers?

Study the market continually, and research your topic extensively.

Sounds like excellent advice. Thanks, again, for joining us today.

For more information on Amanda’s many writing projects log on to www.amandabarke.com, friend her on Facebook, or follow her on Twitter.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Writers' Wednesday Welcomes Misty Burke

Welcome to Writers’ Wednesday. Each week the spotlight is on authors, both published and on the journey to publication. They are asked to share a writing tip, as well. Today, I’m happy to feature Misty Burke, a fellow Ozarks Romance Author as well as RWA member. Misty is finding success in epublishing both longer and shorter works.

Misty, your book, THE MADAME OF GRAVESTONE (Book 1 in the Corset Chronicles) is a fast paced steampunk romance. Steampunk seems to be hot property these days. Would you please tell us what draws you to this genre?

I have already written paranormal and contemporary romances. So I guess it was time to branch out into something new. The idea of a steampunked western sounded like fun. Please feel free to read an excerpt from THE MADAME OF GRAVESTONE at:

I did, and it sounds very interesting. It’s billed as the first book in the Corset Chronicles. Is your next project a follow-up entry in the Chronicles?

Yes. I’m excited to say that I’m working on the next book in this series. I hope to finish THE SHERIFF OF GRAVESTONE this summer.

What are some of your other works?

I have a few that are current.

CHASING TABBY was just released from Secret Cravings Publishing.

THE LAST WATCHER was released in December ’10 from Evernight Publishing.

“Jack Frost” in ‘TWAS A DARK & DELICIOUS CHRISTMAS anthology was released in December ’10 from Evernight Publishing.

And coming soon …

TRUTH OR DARE will be released through Summerhouse Publishing in July

CATCHING HELL will be released through Secret Cravings Publishing in August ‘11.

AND MEETING ONLINE BITES will be released through MuseItHOT Publishing in November ’11.

I’m impressed that you write so fast. I can recall when we met not all that long ago, you were working on your first story. What one tip would you offer writers?

Writing is not for the faint of heart. It isn’t a get-rich-quick scheme. Between rejection letters and bad reviews, an author can feel like there are more downs than ups. “Get out now,” might even be the best advice for those that don’t truly love to write.

But for those that do, those who can’t wait to fill the page with another chapter, my advice is to always enjoy your craft. Don’t let the business of writing take away the pleasure of storytelling. Don’t let the harsher realities of the profession take away your excitement for the written word. Write because you enjoy it!

“Writing is not for the faint of heart.” How true that is. But I also like your adjuring us to “always enjoy your craft.” It is so easy to get lost in the overwhelming details that we sometimes run the risk of losing sight of why we began writing in the first place. We love to tell stories.

Thanks so much for being here, Misty.

Barb, I’d like to offer a FREE PDF copy of THE MADAME OF GRAVESTONE to one lucky commenter. I’ve asked a question on my links page. Just go there, find the question, then answer it here on the blog, in a comment.

Here’s the link. http://www.mistyburke.com/my-links.html

The question is right there in plain sight. Good luck everyone. Hope you love the story.

You can visit Misty at her various publishers’ sites or on her website: http://www.mistyburke.com/

AND--for Misty's give-away, we'll hold comments open for two days, so if you're reading this on digest, as I know several of you are, please don't hesitate to join the fun.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Writers' Wednesday Welcomes Brenda Brinkley

It's great to have Brenda Brinkley here this week. Brenda serves as treasurer of Ozarks Writers League (OWL), is a member of Ozarks Romance Authors (ORA) and Sleuth’s Inc. She not only writes both fiction and non-fiction, she’s an award-winning photographer, as well.

Thank you for taking time out of your schedule to talk with us, Brenda. Your current publication, CLEVELAND THE GREEN CAMEL, is a children’s book, as was your first. What draws you to this genre?

To be honest, I’m drawn to several different genres. But my desire to write a children’s book surfaced while I was doing volunteer work over 12 years ago at a local kindergarten. I also have five wonderful grandchildren who inspire me. I have written many magazine and newspaper articles since my first publication in 1983.

My short stories have appeared in ECHOES OF THE OZARKS Volumes 2, 3, 4, 5 and 6, VOICES Volumes 1, 2 and 3, WRITING ON WALLS Volumes 2 and 3, and CUIVRE RIVER Volume V. My photography has graced magazine and anthology covers. The latest is MYSTERIES OF THE OZARKS Volume III. I also have an article in the latest OZARKS MOUNTAINEER magazine.

What’s your next project?

I actually have several. I am working on some fictional short stories, and I write regularly for OZARKS FARM AND NEIGHBOR. I love interviewing the fascinating people of the Ozarks. I am in the editing stage of my women’s fiction novel, and I am also working on my third children’s book. But the next ‘big’ project is our Vacation Bible School at church. I am in charge of organizing that.

Children's books present a whole other challenge--the artwork. Do you do your own illustrations for the books?

Sadly, I cannot draw a decent stick man. Sean Turner has done a very good job with the illustrations for both my children's books.

Photography is a different horse altogether. I had to learn to take decent pictures to accompany my non-fiction articles.

One of my photos was on the cover of an issue of OZARKS MOUNTAINEER. Actually it won the cover contest that year. I have also had a photo on the cover of the STORYTELLER MAGAZINE and on the winter issue of the OZARKS ROMANCE AUTHORS Magazine.

I have had the cover on OZARKS FARM AND NEIGHBOR ten times. The editor of that publication told me that I would never have a cover until I went digital. I had been holding out, but that sent me straight to the store. True to his word, I have had several covers since.

My photos have also been used for the covers of ECHOES OF THE OZARKS Volumes IV, V, and VI and MYSTERIES OF THE OZARKS Volume III.
I’ve seen some of your pictures and they are lovely. One of my favorites is of the Cardinals (the birds, of course) in the snow.

Thanks. My photography will be on display, and for sale, at the Library Station on North Kansas Expressway, Springfield, in June and July. I hope everyone will stop by and take a look.

What one tip would you offer writers,fiction or non-fiction?

Develop a thick skin and hone your listening skills. You don’t have to take every bit of advice that’s offered, but you must be open to improvement. Just like many parents think they have perfect kids, many writers think their work is perfect. Critique sessions are very helpful, but only if the writer is willing to listen and learn.

Both of those points are so important, Brenda. Thanks, again, for joining us today.

Thank you for inviting me. It has been an honor.

Brenda’s books ALBERT'S HAPPY THANKSGIVING and CLEVELAND THE GREEN CAMEL, are available from Brenda, and they can be found at Amazon.com.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Researching Richard-Finding Mercadier

During the research for my books set against the story of parts of Richard the Lionheart’s decade-long reign, I came across several intriguing figures. One of them was the mercenary, Mercadier.

Mercadier served as one of Richard’s top commanders, heading several campaigns during the Lionheart’s long war against Phillip of France. According to one source, he fought with the king before Richard I went on Crusade, then rejoined him once the king was freed from captivity in 1194. Richard valued his service so much, he awarded him lands. Mercadier apparently didn’t spend much time there, however, for sources show him playing prominent roles in battles across Europe.

After Lord John threw himself on his brother’s mercy in 1194 and received pardon, historians say he fought with Richard loyally. (Some of us wonder, however. Still, history says….) Nevertheless, historians also report that Mercadier joined John in a few military excursions for Richard during these last years of the 1100s.

Following Richard’s death, at least one historical source credits Mercadier with ignoring the king’s order of pardon for the crossbowman who shot the bolt that eventually led to the king’s death. According to that source, Mercadier ordered the man flayed.

Later reports indicate Mercadier then served King John in his battles against Phillip. Unfortunately, his loyalty led to his eventual death. According to one account, Mercadier had gone to visit Eleanor of Aquitaine in 1200 when he was waylaid and murdered by another of John’s mercenaries.

Mercenaries were men--often knights--sometimes younger sons--who fought for hire (free-lances). They often act as romantic figures to many of us who write historicals, although at the time, they were generally treated with dread because they could be cruel and ruthless. My ‘Knights of the Phoenix’ series deals with a small band of ‘good’ mercenaries, loosely connected to Mercadier, including Giles of Silverhawk and Stephen of The Black Dagger.

I like to think Mercadier was one of the ‘good’ mercenaries, who gave his loyalty to Richard and later, unfortunately, to John.