It’s A Crazy Time…that’s why we have nutcrackers, trees, mooses, and bears in wreaths on our mantel.
The holidays are upon us. The year is rushing to an end, and our thoughts are on the right present for the right person, yummy food (overeating at parties), dieting (next year), exercise (please God let there be time AND no injuries), and all those projects we didn’t get to this year, along with the guilt for not getting them done.
And then there’s the writing schedule, as well. I’ve been looking at my year, and trying to plan my writing/publishing schedule. I mean, down to the word count per day. I’m ambitious, I admit it; but for the first time, I’m convinced that I can do this writing gig. I just took a class by Delilah Devlin and Elle James titled Writing 50 Books A Year (yeah, it’s a tongue in cheek title) and they gave me SO MANY DETAILED spreadsheets, I’m in geek heaven.
Those spreadsheets have given me permission to plan. Permission to plunk down big chunks of time (conferences, vacations) and littler chunks of time (see Dad) and all the projects I want to complete next year, and figure out just how I’m going to do it all.
I’ve decided I’m not going to share my desires for next year’s publishing schedule; I know people who publish a heck of a lot more than I do, and some who don’t publish as much as I do, so there’s really no point in sharing those details until next New Year’s Eve Retrospective on the year.
For the first time, I’ll be planning – really planning – my writing year. With months up on the wall, and inputting my daily word count, and everything. Life is exciting, and my dreams are within my grasp. It’s just a matter of pushing aside fear, that little voice that says “you’re going for too much,” and forging on anyway.
In other news, I’m over at Linda Carroll-Bradd’s blog, where she interviewed me. Go on and take a look – I’m still popping in every now and then, though the blog was last week. (My friend Mary Beth Bass wrote the most awesomest comment ever!)
I’ll try to get some wine picks in for you for the holidays, and a garden post. I know I’m behind on those here, but I was on a deadline, you see. Right now, I’m deadline free (but that doesn’t mean I’m not writing!), and I’ll be back on deadline at the first of the year, so I’ll try to stockpile some blog posts.
One last thought to leave you with…even though it’s the holidays, and even though there are a million and one things to do and things that can (and do) go wrong, and even though there’s never enough time or money or energy to go around, do yourself a big, huge favor. Let go of the guilt, whatever kind you’re carrying. Live in the moment. Grab hold of and hug those you love. Express that love whenever possible, because you never know when it’s all just gonna go wrong.
Sending love and big, tight, shoulder-to-knee, rocking side-to-side hugs. And here’s our tree…
Have you read Christmas Star yet? If not, grab it…”A modern day, sweet as hot chocolate fairy tale…” And if you have, would you please leave me a review? Thanks! And my thanks to those who already have reviewed…you know who you are! xo
Today is an important day. It is my father, Chet Cunningham’s birthday. He’s 86 today.
A couple of weeks ago at Thanksgiving dinner, held at my niece & nephew’s house, his face lit up when he saw me and we hugged. He said he can never get enough hugs, and I believe him. As the kids – well, adults and young adults now – gathered in one room, their elders (oh my goodness, I’m an elder…) gathered in another. Dad and I cozied down on a comfy couch and talked about writing. I was having the devil of a time with the book I was currently writing, and he felt he wasn’t writing enough, either.
I need to get to 347 on the wall, he says. When I give him a confused smile, he nods. I’ve got 346 books published, need to get to number 347. Taking a long time. Glad I’m with Wolfpack Publishing, he says.
He says he only gets maybe an hour in the morning, but after lunch he’ll get in a good three hours of writing. After dinner, he will watch football, then head to his office for another hour before watching the ten o’clock news.
Five hours, he says, shaking his head. Not what I used to be able to do.* But I enjoy my naps.
That’s more than I get done, I tell him. His hands are in mine, and they feel so very
precious. The skin is thin, his veins bulge across the back, and his fingers are oddly shaped by arthritis. He catches me looking at them.
This one hurts, he says, rubbing his ring finger on his right hand. These other two, they don’t hurt anymore, but this one does. Except when I’m writing, then I don’t feel them at all. And he shakes his head.
That’s because the story catches you, and you forget about your aches and pains, I say. Me, too, Daddy.
My own fingers have been aching, when I’ve had a long day at work and then go home to write. I kiss his gnarled fingers and wonder if mine will look that way when I’m 85. I can’t even fathom that much time passing from right now.
He puts his forehead against mine. I’m gonna be 86 in a couple of weeks, he says.
I know. I’m so sorry we can’t come down to see you on your birthday, I tell him.
He shakes his head a bit. Both my parents died at 86. Then he gets a twinkle in his eye. I’m gonna beat them, he says.
My heart clutches just a little bit. I know you are, Daddy, I say. You’ve got to make it to at least 350 novels published.
Yeah. That’s the ticket, he says, and we laugh.
Happy birthday, Daddy. Here’s to book number 347, and may they all continue to sell.
*Chet’s schedule, when I was in school, went something like this: write from 9:30am to noon, have lunch. Write from 1:00pm to 4:30pm, then come out and be with the family until after dinner. Write from 6:30pm to 11:00pm, then watch the news and wrap up with Johnny Carson.
I love authors who touch my heart and soul, who make me think and grow with their words. One day I was hunting around the Boroughs Publishing Group’s website, checking out their products and looking for something to read, and I stumbled onto in the place where she fell by Mary Beth Bass. It being a Lunchbox® romance, it was bound to be short and at only .99, affordable.
But having bought it, I forgot about it until a few weeks later when I was perusing my Kindle, and the cover caught at me. And so I read this story on my lunch hour, and found myself so moved, so changed, that I had to write a review of it. And then I had to talk about it on my blog.
That’s when Mary Beth and I got to talking and becoming friends through Facebook, and through both of us being published by Boroughs. So I want to share my beautiful, talented, soulful friend and the magical world she inhabits.
CA: On your website, you talk about walking through the woods and memorizing poetry on an almost daily basis. How does poetry influence your writing?
MBB: When I first started hiking I used to think, this is great, but wouldn’t it be awesome if some beautiful-voiced, English-accented man was following me and reciting poetry. Kind of like a lyric lady’s maid with a voice like Benedict Cumberbatch. Needless to say I couldn’t quite make that happen. So I became my own Benedict Cumberbatch (without the butter-and-whisky voice). The cool thing about hiking and reciting is that concentrating on steep terrain and not tripping over rocks means I don’t worry that I’m doing the poem wrong. I found that I understood the poems much better than I would have from a place of stillness on the couch. Hmm, I didn’t really answer your question. Probably because I’m not sure how to answer it. I think poetry influences my writing the way everything influences writing. Something grabs a corner of your brain and makes a home there until it pops up in a book. Maude, the sister of the heroine in my young adult fantasy, everything you know, loves poetry. She was born in part from one of my favorite Keats’ poems The Eve of St. Agnes. Maude’s story doesn’t exactly follow the story of that poem but it echoes elements of it. The Eve of St. Agnes is gorgeous and sexy and deceptively dark. You should go read it right now, and imagine your voice-of-choice is reciting it. Over red wine in an old inn. In a snowstorm.
CA: I love Keats, but haven’t read him in a long time. I’ll get right on The Eve of St. Agnes, though… So, I’ve noticed on Facebook that you’re often championing local theater productions. I used to be an actress/dancer/director, and my husband is still vital in the business. How did you become so involved?
MBB: I wanted to be an actress and studied in some fancy-pants theatre schools but I realized soon after I graduated that I didn’t want that life. I love theatre. And I really love supporting other artists. Theatre is my favorite art form. It still feels like actual magic to me. I started occasionally acting again a few years ago. Last summer I was in an amazing production of The Tempest in the woods in a huge nature preserve. The show ended as night fell. Almost every actor I went to school with is a writer now. Or a lawyer.
CA: Oh, don’t I know it – acting, show biz, is a tough business and crumbles a lot of young people’s dreams, especially if they come out to Hollywood. Very few of the people I acted with 30 years ago are still doing it…okay, moving on or we’ll be here all night talking about theater! Tell me how being a parent has influenced your writing.
MBB: When I first started writing my kids were very young. On the way to the bus stop one morning my youngest son told me he couldn’t wait to see my name on a book someday. I decided then to write under my own name. People still assume if you’re writing romance you must be writing under a different name. My first book came out when my youngest was in kindergarten. He gave the book to all his teachers and his bus driver!
My daughter edited my first book when she was still in high school. (Don’t judge. If you’d seen her insightful peer-editing of her classmates’ work, you probably would have made her stay home from the Halloween party until she finished editing the manuscript you were submitting.) She interned at Soft Skull Press in college and is a freelance editor now. She also manages a restaurant in New York City and is awesome.
CA: Wow, how wonderful to get such support from your kids! Now, tell me. You call yourself a writer of “dreamy, lyrical, science fiction and fantasy romance novels for adults and teens.” The words dreamy, lyrical, and science fiction don’t usually go together. How did you come to realize that was a strength of yours?
MBB: Well, I’m pretty dreamy and lyrical by nature. I didn’t realize I was writing science fiction-ish stories until readers started pointing that out. That being said, I have a huge crush on science. My fantasy jobs are hacker or virus hunter. The hero of my work in progress, The Language of the Thread, is an eighteenth century astronomer who is working towards the discovery of Neptune, using mathematics. (Neptune was the first planet to be discovered that way.) The heroine of my first book, Follow Me, is a medical researcher and works covertly as a doctor in the early nineteenth century. I read medical journals from that time period and made up a disease. It was kind of awesome.
CAA: Okay, now I just want to sit you down with a margarita in your hand and talk science, lol! With all that going on, what is your next book about, and when will it be out?
MBB: My next book is All That We See. It’s the sequel to everything you know and picks up right where that story ends. Emma and Joe’s story continues in this book but the heroine of All That We See is Thalia Salic. I’m super excited about this book. It comes out this December.
CAA: Very cool! I have everything you know but, in my typical fashion, haven’t read it yet. I’ll be looking for All That We See. Thank you, so very much, for letting me pry into your life.
MBB: It was my pleasure. Thanks for the great questions!
Okay folks, so here’s where you can find Mary Beth Bass around the Internet. And do yourself a favor – do pick up in the place where she fell. You won’t regret it!
Hey there! So, yeah, I’m participating in a Facebook party – massive FB party – called Book Elves on the Shelves, and it goes from Nov. 29th through Dec. 23rd. My dates/times are today at 5pm PST (I know, cutting it late, aren’t I?) and December 6th at 10am PST.
My first publisher, Crescent Moon Press, is having a Huge Black Friday .99 Kindle SALE! Check out some of these great authors below and don’t forget to enter the rafflecopter for your chance to win lots of fun stuff!
The sale runs from Black Friday to New Years, so there’s lots of time to buy LOTS AND LOTS OF FABULOUS BOOKS published by Crescent Moon Press!
Folks, I double-booked Writer Wednesday this week, so instead of putting both authors on the same day, I’m giving Teresa her own day. Please give Teresa a warm welcome! I first met her when she staggered into the hotel room she was sharing with me and two friends, at two-something in the morning, RWA Conference in Dallas, several years ago. I’ve been privileged to call her friend since then.
CA: First off, get comfy and kick those shoes off. Now – what can I get you? Coffee, soda, beer, wine, or a mixed cocktail?
TNR: Wine, please, preferably a rich Cabernet.
CA: Speaking my language, woman, but then I knew that. So, what drew you to writing?
TNR: It was inevitable, perhaps genetic. My mom was an English teacher, the grandmother who helped raise me was an avid reader, and though I didn’t know my father, he was a poet and nonfiction writer. My mother has stories I dictated to her before I even knew the alphabet.
CA: Oh, I totally understand the genetics! So for our reading audience, what genre(s) do you write in, and why?
TNR: I write erotica, fantasy and romance, so it’s not surprising I write a lot of erotic paranormal romance, combining my three loves. I admit I first dabbled in romance because the genre seemed friendlier to new writers than fantasy, but as soon as I got started, I got hooked. I love happy endings, I love writing sexy, and I love incorporating my fascination with myth and legend into some of my stories.
CA: How did you start this particular book, Witches’ Waves – with a title first, a character first, or a situation first?
TNR: I started with the character of Meaghan the blind seer. She’s mentioned briefly in the first book of the series, Lions’ Pride, as “the Agency’s tame seer.” As soon as I wrote that line, I started asking myself “What if she’s not as tame as they think and wants to escape them?” That idea burbled in the back of my brain until, in a later book in the series, Cougar’s Courage, I created an infant likely to grow up with unusual powers. Well, the seer might have a vision about this baby…and the story of Witches’ Waves was born.
CA: What do you do when you’re not writing? Do you have a Day Job?
TNR: I cook a lot, bellydance, do yoga, hike, and work on our “suburban homestead.” As for a day job, I’m a part-time admin for a Realtor®, working from home with flexible hours. So I’m pretty busy.
CA: That sounds fantastic. I’ve seen the things you do with your garden harvest, and totally wish we were neighbors. Okay, now name three things your fans would be surprised to learn about you.
TNR: 1. My favorite day job ever was picking grapes at a small winery in the Finger Lakes of central New York.
2. I can say “I can’t eat pork” in five European languages.
3. I’ve lived in Manhattan and Paris, but these days I can’t imagine living in a big city. (OK, maybe that won’t surprise my readers, considering most of my books aren’t exactly urban.)
CA: The fact that you can say “I can’t eat pork” in five languages makes me giggle! And I’m so jealous that you’ve lived in both Manhattan AND Paris! Which brings me to my next question. Where would you live, if you could live anywhere in the world?
TNR: The coast of Maine…except you can’t really enjoy it during summer because all of us tourists are cluttering up the place. Drat! So much for that fantasy.
CA: LOL! I’d love to spend a summer on the coast of Maine! Name 3 simple joys in your life.
TNR: 1. Eating a sun-ripened tomato from the garden, or brushing snow off the floating row cover to harvest some cold-sweetened kale.
2. Sitting with an overstuffed cat in my lap reading a good book.
3. Sipping an adult beverage by a fire in the backyard with my husband (a.k.a. the Cat-Herder), while watching the sunset over our domain.
CA: Ah, all of those sound lovely and very similar to my simple joys. If you could have dinner with any person, living or dead or fictional, who would it be and where would you go to eat?
TNR: I feel like I should say someone famous like Jane Austen, but honestly, if dining with the dead is an option, I’d take one more evening with my friend Gregg. As for where we’d eat, I’d ask him, because if you’re back among the living for one dinner, you get to pick the meal.
CA: I love that! *wipes tear* and I totally agree, they get to choose. *sniffs* Okay. If you could give just one piece of advice to a writer just starting out, what would it be?
TNR: Write the book already, or the story, or the poem. It may stink, but remember: you can’t revise a blank page, but you can revise absolute dreck.
CA: Perfect, and I totally agree! Is there anything else you’d like to talk about?
TNR: Witches’ Waves ties up a major plot thread in the Duals and Donovans series. I’m not done with this world of witches and shapeshifters yet, but the next book(s) will go in a different direction. Possibly to Europe. I have an idea for a Duals and Donovans book set in Venice. I wonder if I can do a GoFundMe for a research trip…
Thanks so much, Teresa! Folks, below is the blurb and a brief snippet of the book. Sounds absolutely yummy! So excuse me while I go push the “buy” button…
Witches’ Waves (Duals and Donovans: The Different, book 4)
Out 11/18/14 from Samhain Publishing.
“The overall message is one of hope and the healing that love can help bring, w/some really hot sex […] for good measure.” four stars—Romantic Times
The ocean is on their side. But the fight is on land—and it’s about to get dirty.
Duals and Donovans: The Different, Book 4
Long held captive as the Agency’s secret weapon—a blind witch with visions—Meaghan has come to a line she refuses to cross. Rather than betray the infant “child of five bloods” to the Agency’s scientists, she chooses death. Except when she throws herself into the ocean, she doesn’t die. Her repressed water magic comes to life.
When the sodden, delirious witch drifts into Kyle’s arms, his otter dual instincts tell him to get her to the Donovans as fast as possible. Even though one particular surfer-dude Donovan broke his heart.
Declan Donovan continually kicks himself for pushing Kyle away, but his touchy combination of water, earth and lightning magic is too volatile, and Kyle wanted more than Deck was ready to give.
When they come together to help Meaghan control her new magic, it leads the Agency straight to the child of five bloods. They’ll have to dive head-first into total trust—in their magics, in themselves and in each other—to save the child and stop the Agency once and for all.
Warning: Contains an oceanful of sex between an ethereal blind heroine who swears like a pissed-off Marine, an overly serious otter shifter, a would-be beach bum who may be descended from a Norse god, in permutations as fluid as the sea – and themes of abuse and recovery.
Water splashed around her legs. Meaghan had reached the water’s edge. That had been her plan all along, to run to the water and keep running and let the waves carry her away. Let the Agency think she’d had a seizure and drowned. Hell, let them realize the truth, that she’d died to get away from them and the weight of betrayal on her soul.
But as soon as the water—frigid, yet somehow welcoming, bracing—hit her skin, her plan washed away. She kept running along the water’s edge, letting the wavelets carry away some of her burden of guilt.
The world shifted suddenly to the left, the way it did when she was about to have a seizure, but she didn’t seize or even get dizzy.
Instead, she was thrown headlong into a startlingly beautiful vision. She felt a man’s arms around her, a man’s body taller and younger and stronger than Shaw’s pressed against her, his long hair brushing at her skin erotically. Another man was beside him, touching them both, only that lithe, slender man was sometimes an animal of some kind. He was the size and shape of a human—a well-built human, probably handsome—but Meaghan felt dense, short fur as she stroked him.
He must be a dual. They were some of the Different people that Shaw had used her to destroy, but this dual didn’t seem to hold that against her. No, instead, he held himself against her.
They were in the water, bobbing gently as they made love.
The way the men touched her was like nothing in her limited experience. A little rough at times, a little controlling, but with an underlying affection and gentleness that was new. She couldn’t see them—even in her visions, she could rarely see—yet she somehow knew they were touching each other, enjoying each other, as well.
In her vision—or maybe it was just a vivid daydream, but she didn’t really care—she could orgasm without seizing. She didn’t know how she knew, but she did, just as she knew that soon one of the men would penetrate her while the other fucked him, and she craved that moment so much it hurt.
She sank to her knees at the water’s edge, lost in the vision, lost in pleasure.
Then her vision was bathed in blood and she heard a baby’s piercing, panicked cry.
She’d had this vision before. A child of five bloods, she’d said, and everyone had been excited about that. She’d prayed she’d never learn more about this child, nothing that would help the Agency find her. But prayers weren’t always answered.
She heard the dangerous words again, the ones that would betray the child if she spoke them: Oregon and Donovan.
A wave broke over her, drenching her, knocking her down, jarring her from the vision.
It was only a matter of time before she had another vision at the hospital and those words slipped out, dooming that child and all the child’s family—if they hadn’t already. She didn’t always remember clearly after a vision.
The smell of the salt air, the cry of the gulls, the blood pounding in her veins still called her to live, but she owed it to the baby, and the baby’s parents, and the lion man, and the others she’d inadvertently helped Shaw capture. No more. Never again.
Shakily, Meaghan got to her feet.
Then she walked straight into the roar of the surf.
Welcome to an America where the non-human Different and magically gifted humans live among ordinary people. Witches are both feared and honored, but shape-shifting duals are treated as second-class citizens. The Agency, a government agency that’s supposed to monitor illegal uses of magic and Different abilities, has developed its own dangerous agenda. But when Duals and witches join forces, the Agency and other bad guys aren’t going to know what hit them.
And neither are the witches and Duals. Witch magic grows from the positive energy of love and sex–and the only thing better than one dual for sex magic is two of them!
Teresa Noelle Roberts started writing stories in kindergarten and she hasn’t stopped yet. A prolific author of short erotica, she’s also a published poet and fantasy writer—but hot paranormals and BDSM-spiced contemporaries are her favorites. Or they were until she discovered that SF romance offers new possibilities for wild sex, imaginative adventure and love beyond boundaries, so she’s added that sub-genre to her repertoire. Oh, and she’s also half of the writing team known as Sophie Mouette, writing mostly light-hearted spicy romances (with occasional forays into erotica).
Teresa is a crunchy granola girl who enjoys belly dance, yoga, medieval re-creation, playing in the ocean, cooking, and growing more vegetables than she and her husband can possibly eat. She’d enjoy sleeping, too. She thinks. But it takes so much time!
She shares her home in southern Massachusetts with her husband, a Leo in law enforcement, and two overstuffed cats. She and her husband often plan vacations around food, history, and/or proximity to water.
Please welcome Marilyn Baxter to Writer Wednesday. She’s been a friend of mine for a long time, way back when we were on a couple of email loops together (Brainstorming Desireables and From The Heart Romance Writers, I think), so I’m thrilled to have her here.
CA: Hi and welcome, Marilyn! First off – what can I get you? Coffee, soda, beer, wine, or a mixed cocktail?
MB: Hot tea, please. With raw sugar and a splash of milk. Yeah, I know. I’m different.
CA: That sounds like my hubby, but he likes to add a drop of brandy in his tea! So, tell us about you. What drew you to writing?
MB: I almost hate to say it because there’s so much plagiarism in fan fiction, but that’s where I got my start in fiction. I’d written some angsty teenage poetry in high school and some non-fiction stuff for an online magazine, but about 15 years ago I began writing fanfiction about Lois Lane, Clark Kent and Superman. Because someone on our fanfic boards was suspected of plagiarizing, I was called upon to see if I could find the book, read it and confirm. Sadly, she had taken a Silhouette Desire and copied it word for word, merely changing the character names. But on the upside, I had read my first romance novel and fell in love with it! I sought out more books by this author, got to know her after I joined RWA and she even dedicated a book to me. One day the light bulb went off and I thought why write about someone else’s characters when I could write about my own? And maybe have it published?
CA: What a cool story! What genre do you write in, and why?
MB: I write short contemporary romance because that’s my favorite genre to read. It requires research, but nothing like a historical romance. I’ve researched sperm banks, certification for image consultants, document disposal privacy laws, family law, the history of tea and more, so I can’t imagine the research that goes into a historical! The authors who write those and other research-intensive genres have my utmost respect. I like the here and now and seeing how people deal with the problems facing couples today.
CA: So, how did you start this particular book – with a title first, a character first, or a situation first?
MB: This book (a novella, really) was started with a situation: an almost-bankrupt image consultant is hired to spruce up the image of her college boyfriend. Of course there’s a lot of history and conflict, but I don’t want to spoil the story for you. As I was writing it and brainstorming part of it with a friend, she asked if I’d ever heard Kenny Chesney’s song “Better as a Memory” because it seemed to fit the hero’s conflict. I hadn’t, but I downloaded a copy of it and the lyrics helped me get a better grip on my hero. Fast forward to the winter of 2013 and Boroughs Editor-in-Chief Chris Keeslar came to speak to my RWA chapter. He talked about a contest they had going on called “What’s in a Name” where the story had to be based around a song title. Uh… bingo! I finished writing the novella, entered it, worked my way through the preliminary rounds and finaled in the contest. I didn’t win overall (the editors chose the winner), but I did have the highest popular vote. By virtue of being one of the Final Four, my novella was published earlier this year. Most of my manuscripts start with a situation – a “what if.” From there I develop the characters’ GMC, pick character names (oh how I struggle over names!), decide on a setting, figure out the black moment (I have to know what train wreck drives them apart before I can figure out how to get them TO the wreck and how to clean it up), outline a plot and start writing.
CA: I’ve read this novella, and I love it! So, what do you do when you’re not writing? Do you have a Day Job?
MB: I was a stay-at-home wife and mom until five years ago when I divorced after a long marriage. Three years ago I began working as a part-time administrative assistant for – get this – my divorce attorney! I heard she was looking for someone to fill the position, I applied and she hired me. I like to think it was because she knew I was not only qualified but I was not a wacko. LOL! I also like to think it shows God has a pretty awesome sense of humor. Cue the Twilight Zone music because the first book I wrote was about a divorce attorney and it was before I’d ever had any dealings with one. When I’m not dealing with other people’s divorces or writing, I like to read and I love crime dramas on TV. My DVR is always set to record Law & Order: SVU, CSI, Bones, Rizzoli & Isles, Major Crimes, Perception and a new series called How to Get Away with Murder. I also obsess over Hugh Jackman. <g> He’s an amazing performer and you never hear any bad press about him. He adores his wife and his two children and just seems to be an all-round good guy. We need more good guys like him in the world. And he’s also darn hot as Wolverine in the X-Men movies and uber sexy in the bucket-shower scene in Australia. Hoooo boy! If you haven’t seen it, search for it on YouTube. Be prepared to swoon! Maybe my Hugh obsession should be part of the next question. LOL!
CA: LOL!!! We’ll just insert that little fact in here. *writes down* Marilyn obsessed with Hugh Jackman Ahem. Onward! So, name three things your fans would be surprised to learn about you.
MB: (1)I was in a New York City disco in March of 1970 when a pipe bomb was planted there and exploded. I was part of a group from my college studying the relationship between the arts and religion. I still have a scar on my leg from the bombing, but nothing bad. (2) I lived in West Germany for 4 years and traveled quite a bit. I have ridden a camel at the pyramids in Egypt, walked among the ruins in Rome and Athens, stood atop the Mount of Olives in Jerusalem, crossed through Checkpoint Charlie to visit East Berlin, ate escargot for the first time in Paris and found out I was pregnant with my first child in London. (3) Despite 1 and 2, I really do live a mostly unremarkable life. I get up, do stuff around my apartment, eat lunch, go to work, come home, eat dinner, read, write or watch TV and go to bed. Lather, rinse, repeat.
CA: Wow. I think you’ve lived a fabulously adventurous life! So, where would you live, if you could live anywhere in the world?
MB: In the Smoky Mountains of western North Carolina. I attended college in that area and didn’t really appreciate it while I was there. My younger son lives in that area now and I love to visit. It’s just gorgeous and there’s so much to see and do.
CA: Name 3 simple joys in your life.
MB: A cup of hot tea, a good book and my two young granddaughters. See? Unremarkable. Though my granddaughters are pretty remarkable. After raising two boys, I have had SO much fun shopping in the girl’s department.
CA: I have two boys, too, so I know what you mean! Now, if you could have dinner with any person, living or dead or fictional, who would it be and where would you go to eat?
MB: My father died in 1970 when I was just a few months shy of my 19th birthday. I’d love to sit down to dinner with him and let him meet my two sons and see what wonderful men they are and then introduce him to my two granddaughters who would have him wrapped around their little fingers in the blink of an eye. We would just stay in and eat at my apartment and have pinto beans and cornbread, one of his favorite meals.
CA: If you could give just one piece of advice to a writer just starting out, what would it be?
MB: DON’T COMPARE! I hear many people lament because they’ve been writing and submitting for X years and haven’t sold, but they just saw that So-and-So sold after writing for just a few months. Over the past five years I’ve learned that “Life is what happens while you’re making other plans.” In November 2008 I FINALLY finished my first novel during NaNoWriMo. About four months later it finaled in an online pitch contest on eHarlequin and I got a request for a full manuscript. To the world, it looked like I had the world on a string. What they didn’t know was that my almost-36-year marriage was falling apart around me. I was hanging on by that string, bargaining with God over everything. “If You’ll let me have health insurance, I can deal with living in a dingy trailer park. And if you let me test negative for herpes, hepatitis and HIV, You can let me have syphilis because that’s curable.” No one should have to bargain like that.
The muse left. Packed every one of her belongings and bought a one-way ticket to parts unknown. It took everything I had to write a coherent grocery list! Not only could I not write, I couldn’t focus long enough to read one chapter of a book at a sitting. I used to read 4-8 books a month. During all of 2009 I read 10 books. TEN! I learned later that inability to focus is a symptom of grief, and divorce is the death of not only your marriage, but all your dreams for the future. You work through the grief or you pay for it later. I worked very hard on that because I wanted to come out the other end in a good place.
I learned that what we see of people’s lives – looking from the outside – isn’t necessarily a true picture. Stuff happens. We have kids to raise, bills to pay, husbands to divorce, elderly parents to care for. And you just deal with it because that’s what you have to do. Winston Churchill said “If you’re going through hell, keep going.” That’s the truth!
My local RWA chapter was so supportive. Heart of Dixie is without doubt one of the best groups I’ve ever belonged to because it IS so supportive. They still love you even if your full manuscript got rejected (I received the letter a few weeks after RWA Nationals in 2009). And they don’t kick you out when your muse enters the Witness Protection Program (I swear that’s where she was because I couldn’t find her ANYWHERE).
She did eventually come back though she and I still share a very tenuous relationship. I sold a novella and a short story to Boroughs in 2013. And that first novel that was rejected after Nationals 5 years ago? My editor loves it and offered me a contract – not quite 5 years after I received the rejection letter. And she offered a contract for a sequel to it over breakfast in San Antonio back in July.
Lament away because it’s good to get it out of your system (I have paid good money to a therapist to tell me this). But stop comparing yourself to others because you are only setting yourself up for disappointment. Along this journey I’ve made so many great friends – friends who’ve dropped everything to listen to me cry, a friend who changed weekend plans to invite me to her home for dinner, friends who took me out to dinner after divorce mediation so I wouldn’t have to go home and face HIM, friends who gave up a Saturday to help me move, friends who’ve kept me from sinking into a deep hell-hole of depression, a friend who offered to loan me the money for Nationals, interest free, until I got my divorce settlement. And the list just goes on and on and on. And I think if it came down to a choice between the friends and a contract – I mean a choice where I could ONLY have one or the other – the friends would win hands down. But fortunately, we don’t have to make that choice.
Hang in there. And here, you can share my string. *smile*
CA: Marilyn, you’re awesome. Giving you BIG HUGS right now! Folks, check out this book!
Max jangled his car keys in his hand as he waited at Victoria’s door. He felt as nervous as a fifteen-year-old on his first date. He wore the gray pants and navy blazer Victoria had approved together with a brilliantly white shirt and a yellow tie with small navy dots. He wiggled his toes in his new black oxfords and marveled at how comfortable they were. True to her word, Victoria had steered a wide berth around wing tips and had showed him that style and comfort were not mutually exclusive.
He knocked a second time and nervously straightened his tie. And when she finally opened the door and he got his first glimpse of her, he let out a low whistle. His gut told him he would have a hard time keeping his hands off her.
And hard was the operative word as his body twitched below his belt. The black dress had a ruffled skirt that skimmed her knee. The V neckline teased at her cleavage but left plenty to the imagination. Simple sapphire and diamond earrings sparkled as they caught the light, and he saw a matching bracelet circling her wrist. While her high-heeled shoes were plain, they made her legs seem as if they went on forever. And when she bent to pick up her purse from a table beside the door, he caught a glimpse of her black lacy bra and gritted his teeth in an effort to will his body to cooperate.
This might be a very long and very frustrating night.
After taking her arm and helping her negotiate the steps down to the drive, he held her purse and wrap while she settled into the passenger side of his SUV. She had certainly taken her own advice to heart. She was stylish and understated, but he wasn’t so sure her classic beauty wouldn’t make her stand out like a diamond among pieces of coal.
They chatted about mundane things for most of the drive to his parents’ estate, but when he turned into the long drive lined by towering pines, he posed a question. “Are you okay with me introducing you tonight as my image consultant? I mean, that won’t make you feel like…well, you know.” He was at a loss for words.
“What you are trying to ask is if I’ll be insulted if people think I am your employee.”
“Well, yeah. I mean, you’re not, but in this crowd, that’s liable to be what people assume. I was just thinking you might drum up a little business when people see how you turned the beast into Prince Charming.”
“Too bad I didn’t tame his raging ego, too.”
Victoria laughed, and once again Max had to scold his misbehaving libido.
A little more about Marilyn: In 2001, Marilyn discovered romance novels quite by accident, which led to a renewed interest in writing. She’s had over forty stories published in the confessions and romance magazines and taught a class in how to effectively write for this genre. She is a member of Romance Writers of America and her local RWA chapter, Heart of Dixie Romance Writers. Her involvement on the local and national levels has combined to give her a great love of the romance genre and to develop friendships that span the globe.
In addition to reading and writing, Marilyn loves to knit simple things, cook in the crockpot and garden in a few pots on her patio. Her motto is “Have passport, will travel,” and she recently added Ireland and Wales to the list of 32 states and 21 foreign countries she has visited.
A native of North Carolina, she came to Huntsville, Alabama by way of Frankfurt, Germany. She has lived there longer than anywhere else and calls it home. After raising two great sons, she loves to dote on her two granddaughters. And somewhere amidst all the above, she fits in a day job as an administrative assistant for a boutique law firm.
Thanks for dropping by! Please let me know if you pick up the book. Marilyn will probably be in and out today, so feel free to ask her questions.
Today I’m welcoming Alanna Lucas, the author of Face to Face! I’m sharing the book cover first because, ooh!
A masquerade, a chance meeting, and a kidnapping: Little did Miss Penelope Ashurst realize that breaking the rules would result in the adventure—and love—of a lifetime.
One night. That’s all Miss Penelope Ashurst wants away from the strict decorum of Regency society. Donning a mask and attending a forbidden masquerade, she meets the man of her dreams. Then, before she discovers his identity, she is kidnapped.
From their first encounter, his goddess in a golden mask stirs a deep and different longing within Ranulph, the Earl of Monfort. When she disappears, he vows he will find her no matter the cost.
Soon it’s a race against time, and the kidnappers are just the start. Penelope and Ranulph’s very lives are in jeopardy. Before the end, everything will be stripped away, and Penelope and Ranulph will be more than just face-to-face. But this is true love, and nothing will stop it.
OOH! I so gotta read this one!
CA: Welcome to the blog, Alanna! First off – what can I get you? Coffee, soda, beer, wine, or a mixed cocktail?
AL: Nice to be here, Christine! I’ll have a coffee with cream, please.
CA: Coming right up. (passes coffee to Alanna) Let’s get cozy, shall we? So. What drew you to writing?
AL: I have always had stories in my head, and since it was getting rather crowded in there, I decided to write them down.
CA: Hm. Interesting. So, what genre do you write in, and why?
AL: I write historical romance. I love to research and learn about other time periods. It seemed only natural to write what I love.
CA: Very true. So how did you start this particular book – with a title first, a character first, or a situation first?
AL: Okay, this is quite a story. While at the 2013 California Dreamin’ conference, I learned that Boroughs Publishing Group was hosting the ‘What’s in a Name’ novella contest. I thought about entering, but did not have a novella completed (or even started), and I was leaving the country to visit family. A month later, I still did not have anything written down (but had had a wonderful time visiting my family) and the deadline was five weeks away.
One day, while listening to Face to Face by Siouxsie and the Banshees, inspiration struck. I sat down and just wrote. It was unlike any other project I had tackled previously. I finished the novella and a two paragraph synopsis with a couple of days to spare – talk about cutting it close!
CA: Wow! Sometimes, though, that’s the best way to get things done. Good for you. So, what do you do when you’re not writing? Do you have a Day Job?
AL: I love to spend time with my family, go for long walks, and read. Oh, and I homeschool my two kids.
CA: Some would argue that homeschooling is definitely a Day Job, though with perks! Good for you. Now, name three things your fans would be surprised to learn about you.
AL: I love to drive and did a lap on the Nurburgring in Germany.
I have a bright lime green vacuum and I am not afraid to use it (I find vacuuming relaxing).
We don’t have cable in my house.
CA: LOL on the vacuuming – wanna come relax at my house? Bring your vacuum? Nevermind – I’ve got two minions who do that for me. Oh, and I’m right there with you on the no-cable thing. So, next question. Where would you live, if you could live anywhere in the world?
AL: The Netherlands. I have family there and miss them so much!
CA: Oh, I LOVE the Netherlands! That’s it, we’ve gotta be sisters or something. Sigh. Name 3 simple joys in your life.
AL: Spending time with family, playing games with my kids, and going for walks.
CA: Ah. Lovely. Now, if you could have dinner with any person, living or dead or fictional, who would it be and where would you go to eat?
AL: Not that he would want to spend hours relaxing over a meal when there was much to be done, but I would enjoy having dinner with Michelangelo. I know a great restaurant in Rome called Hostaria Costanza.
CA: You never know – he might need a break! Great choice, hon. Another question: If you could give just one piece of advice to a writer just starting out, what would it be?
AL: Join a writers group like RWA.
CA: Is there anything else you’d like to talk about?
AL: Thank you for having me today, the coffee was great, but I’ve gotta dash – it’s time to get back to writing.
CA: Thank YOU for being here! Folks, following is the excerpt…
FACE TO FACE excerpt
Her body quivered when the damp air penetrated through her coat and costume. Crossing her arms across her body, she exhaled with frustration. “Where is she?”
No sooner had the words brushed past her lips then an apparition came rushing through the fog. “Ohhh…,” she was just about to scream when the figure draped in white emerged. It wasn’t until Penelope saw the tall staff that she recognized her friend. “Where have you been?” She hissed at Judy. “I was just about to give up.”
“I had to wait for the house to quiet.” Judy took Penelope’s arm and tugged her into the thickening haze. Once clear of the house, walking toward their destination, Judy explained, “I think my brother may suspect what we are about this evening. We have to make sure we stay clear of him. He is dressed like a pirate.”
Judy nodded her head. “Eye patch and all. He looks ridiculous.” Her high-pitched giggle caught the attention of a pair of young gentlemen on the opposite side of the street.
Penelope eyed Judy with alarm. “Shh. Do you want to be recognized?” Without further conversation, they scurried along toward their destination.
The thrill of adventure shot through Penelope at the realization of what they were about to do.
Alanna Lucas grew up in Southern California. From an early age, she took an interest in travel, incorporating those experiences into her writing. When she is not daydreaming of her next travel destination, Alanna can be found researching, spending time with family, or going for long walks. Alanna Lucas is a member of the Romance Writers of America, East Valley Authors, The Beau Monde, and Celtic Hearts Romance Writers.
Hi folks! I’m turning Writer Wednesday over to Emily Mims. Settle back and enjoy her fabulous story about her publishing journey, and how things have changed since she first began, over three decades ago.
Publishing, Then and Now – My Days with Candlelight Ecstasy Romance
It’s hard to imagine, as I think back on my days as a Candlelight Ecstasy romance writer, that it’s really been thirty-two years since I got that fateful phone call from senior editor Anne Gisonny that she wanted to buy my book ‘Portrait of my Love’ for the Candlelight Ecstasy line. In a romance world where the heroines were mostly virgins and the relationships mostly chaste, Candlelight was breaking ground with career women as heroines and (gasp!) full-blown love scenes before the commitment, and I was thrilled to be a part of that liberalization of the genre. I was fortunate to be able to write eighteen books for the line in a three and a half year period, in a publishing world that was vastly different from the world we write in today. I look back on those days with fond nostalgia and no little amusement as I think about how the writing and publishing process has been reinvented since those golden days so long ago.
I was first bitten by the writing bug when I tossed a poorly written romance across the floor and announced that I could do a better job. My husband promptly dared me to do so. I wrote up what was at that time the standard virgin-falls-in-love-with-older-guy story, had a friend type it up for me, and sent it to my favorite line, Candlelight. Lydia Paglio, an associate editor, wrote me a personal rejection letter but told me that my writing had promise. Cheeky little me called her up, and when she heard it was only my first attempt she laid out exactly what Candlelight was looking for and told me to write it for her. About that time my husband brought home an Atari 800 computer, which solved the typing problem, and I wrote up another story, the kind Lydia said she wanted, printed it out on a dot-matrix printer, and shipped the manuscript to New York. Lydia called me up with the changes she wanted, I made them and shipped another manuscript, and they bought the book. Since I was a classroom teacher and wanted to keep my identities separate, ‘Emily Elliott’ was born.
And so it went. I wrote the second on spec also, but by the time the third rolled around Lydia and Anne were willing to let me write three chapters and a synopsis (I am a plotter so this was fine by me) and then we went into the synopsis and made the changes in the story that they wanted before I did the writing. Eventually they trusted me enough to buy a book based on a brief synopsis, knowing I knew what constituted a good story, but we still went through the revision process involving multiple trips to the post office. And we worked entirely by telephone, which could be tough since I was at school during the day and was a time zone behind New York. If I was expecting a call from Lydia, I would have my husband pick up our sons from day care and hurry straight home, praying I didn’t catch traffic or have a last-minute faculty meeting to attend, to take the call before Lydia left for the day.
So when did I do my writing, if I already had a full-time job and two small children? The same as any other writer who works a day job-in the evening and on the weekend. I would get home with the boys, spend time with them and make dinner, and at seven I would hand the boys over to their good-natured and doting dad and hit the word processer while he did baths and bedtime. In those days I could rough-draft ten pages in three hours and if I had a book due I did this three to four nights a week and then took a night or two to revise and polish. And summers were a god-send. I could write during the daytime and just about double my productivity and still have time to take the boys to the swimming pool every day.
Doing research for the books was a different proposition in my Candlelight days. There was no Google to consult, no mouse to push, no icons to click. We had to do it the hard way! But to me the hard way was also a lot of fun. Since I tend to spotlight men and women in various professions, I found individuals in those professions who would, over dinner in the restaurant of their choice, answer my myriad questions about what they did. Over the course of my career with Candlelight, I interviewed an MD, a Las Vegas blackjack dealer, a deputy sheriff, an Air Force pilot, an FBI agent who also took me on a tour of the San Antonio offices, an interior designer who took me on a tour of the Dallas Trade Mart and into a catalogue photo shoot, a policeman, a forensic chemist, a belly dancer, an accountant, a stockbroker, a Border patrol agent, a…well, you get the idea! And I also got to see some places and do some things I wouldn’t have otherwise, such as tour the Brooke Army Medical Center burn treatment ward and go up in a four seat Piper for a flight over the Hill Country. (Interestingly enough, I still use this approach even though I do have the Internet at my disposal. For my upcoming book ‘The Soap Maker’ I interviewed a Llano County deputy sheriff and went into the home of a soap maker and learned how to make a batch of scented soap.) I also did a lot of in-state traveling to research my settings. I would check out the area to make sure I had the geography and the feel of the town or city right and then we would have a fun family weekend together. I made it a point to have visited every setting I used in the books except for the settings in ‘Season of Enchantment’, which is set in California and Vietnam, and you better believe I carefully researched those settings, talking to people who had been or lived there, before I put a word on paper.
I could have and would have happily written books for Candlelight Ecstasy forever. Unfortunately, between Harlequin, Silhouette, Candlelight, and Loveswept there were over one hundred titles a month coming out, way too many for the market to support, and Candlelight sales fell to the point that Dell Publishing canceled the series, throwing seventy five writers out in the marketplace to find new publishers. I tried, of course, but six weeks later my husband lost his job, and although thankfully he found work quickly, he went from working a forty hour week to working sixty or more and someone had to tend to the boys. In addition, I took on an academic coaching position that pretty well ate up what little time I had left. So regretfully I put the writing career away for what I assumed would be forever and taught school and raised my children. Periodically I thought about writing again, but my friends who were still in the business were not at all encouraging-the romance market had experienced such a downturn they could barely sell a book. “Don’t bother, Emily,” one of them told me. “It isn’t fun anymore.” I listened to them-they did have a point-but I never really quit missing the writing.
Back Into the Fray
And then, several years ago, I had an experience similar to the one all those years ago. I picked up a few novels from an again busy romance aisle in the bookstore and read them, and again I had the sense that I could do better. But this time I didn’t want to write for a series and I wanted to write a longer, more complex story with the added element of suspense. So I asked myself what would be the most powerful motivating force that would bring together two people with seemingly nothing else in common and then I asked myself how I could get those two people together in a way that hadn’t been written before, and ‘Solomon’s Choice’ was born. The sailing was not quite as smooth this time-it took me a year and a half and countless revisions to find an agent with enough faith in the story to represent ‘Solomon’, and it took her awhile to find a publisher who liked the somewhat unusual premise enough to buy the book. But finally, in October 2013, Boroughs Publishing released ‘Solomon’s Choice’ and my career was reborn. And thankfully, I will not be a one-book wonder with ‘Solomon’s Choice’. I have since written two lunchbox romances for Boroughs, ‘After the Heartbreak’ and ‘A Gift of Trust’, and will have two more full-length novels, both sequels to ‘Solomon’, going live next year. And for a blast from the past, Boroughs is also going to re-issue three of my favorite Candlelight romances to a new generation of readers.
So just how different is writing today? Hugely different in some ways and not different at all in others. The technology makes a large difference, of course. I communicate with everyone totally by email. I do all my writing and revising at the computer-no printouts whatsoever, and I have yet to go to the post office. I do a lot of my research on the Internet. One personal difference is that I have retired from teaching and no longer have to hide my work behind a pen name. To me, however, the biggest difference is that today it is the author’s responsibility to reach out to the reading community and find her readers. We can no longer hide behind a label and expect the readers to buy our book based on a logo-our readers have to want to read our books, and to make our readers aware of our books we have to be out there making our presence known in the social media world. And of course the stories themselves are different, reflecting the changes in society in the last thirty years. Single parenthood is common and not a cause for shame. Women in high-powered or dangerous careers are a story line staple. Recreational sex on the part of the heroine is not particularly frowned upon and Erotica has become an accepted presence in the market. Addiction, abuse, PTSD, war injuries, flawed heroes and flawed heroines-no longer shied away from by authors, publishers, or readers. And on the other side of the spectrum, in a world of fantasy unimagined thirty years ago, vampires and werewolves and shape shifters, oh my! The paranormal world-what a fun addition to the genre!
But not everything has changed. The crafting of an interesting, compelling, believable story is the same as it ever was. The creation of appealing heroes and heroines who reach out to the readers is as important as ever. The need to draw in the reader and make her care about these people and what happens to them is still paramount. In other words, in spite of the changes that the publishing industry and the romance genre has seen since my days with Candlelight, it is still my job to tell a good story.
Wow, Emily! Thank you so much for stopping by. What a career, and how exciting that you’ve come back to writing. I’ve heard that once you start, it’s very difficult to stop and you are proof of that, my friend.
Folks, the links to each of Emily’s books are highlighted – check them out! And if you’re interested in her back titles, aside from the ones being reissued from Boroughs Publishing Group, a quick search will show you opportunities to purchase them through third parties.
AND…here’s a quick link to all three at Amazon. Click Here.
May your Wednesday be a happy one, filled with words and books and love and hugs.
The last three months, the hubby has been doing something a little different in our garden. I’ve wanted a raised bed garden for years, mainly because I knew I wouldn’t always be able to get down on my knees to plant. But also because our soil is almost pure clay, and difficult to get anything to grow lush and green and strong without overwatering. And in this time of drought in California, bigger water bills are NOT on the menu.
Above is the newest “dirt coffin” as the hubby likes to call it. This is #3. The soil is a mix of our own dirt (that had been amended in other planting beds), soil for raised beds, steer manure, and vermiculite. Since it gets so hot where we are, and our back yard gets the setting sun, he decided we should situate the planters near the shade of the oleander (above photo, to the right). This bed gets the most sunshine. Beyond the bed, that black thing is our composter. All our green food waste and our coffee grinds go into the composter.
You can see the squash on the left – yeah, that didn’t work out too well, so we had to pull them out recently. The squash needed more light – they weren’t setting fruit, but they grew lush and big after being puny in the regular back yard. Hubby also built netting cages, to keep the birds and the grasshoppers from eating the tender lettuces. The left side of this planter faces north; all of the climbers should have been planted along that left side. Live and learn! We have several types of lettuce, spinach, bush beans, pole beans (at the back), and sugar snap peas growing in this bed.
We also have Malabar Red (or Asian) Spinach – yes, that’s spinach! It’s thicker, and has a completely different taste. Works great in salads, grows fast, and has pretty pink flowers.
Dirt Coffin No. 2 is our herb bed.
Here, we have a row of basil (that almost died before we transplanted it – we weren’t sure it would make it); in front of it, you can see the thyme. Behind it to the right, the first two squares are Mexican tarragon (which I LOVE!!!), the other two are Thai Basil. Behind them, the two middle squares at the far right is anise, and the two on either side is fennel.
Here, you can see curled parsley in front and Italian parsley behind. Marigolds tend to keep bugs away, so each bed has marigolds planted.
Here’s the parsley a month later – it’s gotten so big!
And look at the basil, also a month later! (In the background, the anise has been eaten. Sad face.)
This is the basil I picked last night in order to make pesto. 2.5 cups, put into 4 oz jars and stashed in the freezer. When I went outside this afternoon, the basil looks like I haven’t touched it. So I’m guessing more pesto will be made. If you’re local, you just might end up with a jar!
So what my hubby and I learned, is that where you plant, as well as what type of soil you plant in, is very important. We’re finally finding the right home for everything. Vegetables and herbs need the soil loose enough, so the roots can grow deep enough and the plants tall enough. If all we get is our fresh herbs and salad greens from these beds, we’ll both be very happy.
And here’s number 3, planted. The back row has broccoli (it’s supposed to get to 3′ high); the row in front of the broccoli has onions and garlic; the row in front of that has 2 kinds of kale and collard greens; the very front has spinach from seed and more collards, as well as the marigolds. You can see planter 2 in the background, beyond the hammock. Planter #4 has just been installed this weekend, where the blue water barrel sits. In front of the barrel is a “winter” tomato plant. (We’ve found the best, most exotic things to plant at a family-owned nursery not far from where I work. Really must get back there!)
Planter #4 will have potatoes in it, and not sure what else. Maybe cauliflower, and beets, when they come into the stores. Still keeping my eyes open.
So, this is where my hubby’s energies go when he’s not learning lines or songs or working in the tv/film industry. I dabble here…and I love it.
Happy Monday, my friends. May this transition time from one season to the next be good for you.