Chincoteague, Virginia: My Island Inspiration

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Do you like to travel? I do. I can’t get enough. I want to go everywhere, see everything. I make games of guessing where my fellow travelers are going when they get off the plane or highway. I wonder how long the couple at the next table has been in love or if they’ve admitted to one another yet that they are. Do you do that too? It’s fun. Travelling is fascinating and quite good for the soul.

Every trip is unique. Sometimes, I’m ready to move on. Other times, a place beckons me to stay. Have you ever been somewhere like that? Somewhere that speaks to your heart? I have. In 2007, I visited a place that resonated so intensely it pained me to leave. Seven years later, I still remember the faint scent of brine in the humid summer air and how evenings smelled of ash from charcoal grills and bonfires. I close my eyes and see the weathered clap board of our rental home and the curving steps to the historic lighthouse. That vacation changed me. I’m back in Ohio now, but I’ve never been the same. In many ways I never really left.

Chincoteague, Virginia plays a major role in my daydreams and novels. When I sat down to write a mystery series, I knew the island had everything I needed to tell the tale. Chincoteague is a tiny island community off the East Coast where the locals are delightfully unusual, made up of some transient folks who spend the winters elsewhere and those who stay year round. On any given day, there are handfuls of tourists, craftsmen and artisans. The town slogan is “Relax. You’re on island time now.” I mean, right? Who doesn’t want to live on island time? Whatever that is, it sounds wonderful! The island is a perfect backdrop for romance and the national forest is great for some scary chase scenes. The possibilities are unending.

I’ve loved every moment of writing about this town, and I long to return there more than anywhere else. Maybe someday I will. My fingers are itching to pack even as I type this post.

How about you? Has any place ever gotten under your skin like this? I’d love to hear about it. Maybe I need to visit there next!

And now for a giveaway: Leave a comment below with your favorite place to visit and one winner will receive a copy of Murder Comes Ashore AND a cool dragonfly necklace. Can you just picture the dragonflies hovering over cattails on the marsh? It’s the perfect accessory for reading about the seashore!

Murder Comes Ashore
 photo MurderComesAshorejpg.jpg Patience Price is just settling into her new life as resident counselor on Chincoteague Island when things take a sudden turn for the worse. A collection of body parts have washed up on shore and suddenly nothing feels safe on the quaint island.
Patience instinctively turns to current crush and FBI special agent Sebastian for help, but former flame Adrian is also on the case, hoping that solving the grisly crime will land him a win in the upcoming mayoral election.
When the body count rises and Patience’s parents are brought in as suspects, Patience is spurred to begin her own investigation. It’s not long before she starts receiving terrifying threats from the killer, and though she’s determined to clear her family’s name, it seems the closer Patience gets to finding answers, the closer she comes to being the killer’s next victim.

About Julie:
 photo 1103.jpg Julie Anne Lindsey is a multi-genre author who writes the stories that keep her up at night. She’s a self-proclaimed nerd with a penchant for words and proclivity for fun. Julie lives in rural Ohio with her husband and three small children. Today, she hopes to make someone smile. One day she plans to change the world.

Find Julie online:
Julieannelindsey.com
Photo-gramming her life on Instagram
Pinning the pretties on Pinterest
Tweeting the crazy on Twitter
Blogging about books & the writer-life at Musings from the Slush Pile

Heroine of HomeEc?

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My mother was a good cook, a sublime baker, and a gifted seamstress whose quilts and smocked baby dresses especially were true works of art. And when I was a kid, I wanted nothing to do with any of those skills. I loved Mom, but our personalities contrasted (and during my adolescence, clashed), so I was desperate to prove I wasn’t her.

Still, in 7th grade I found myself taking HomeEc as an elective, mostly because I didn’t quite have the nerve to take Shop instead. The classes weren’t officially sex-segregated anymore, but no boys took HomeEc my year, and as best as I can recall no girls took Shop, either. I walked into class the first day full of dread. Yet much to my own surprise, I discovered that cooking was tremendous fun and that I had a knack for it. I didn’t quite become the kitchen helper and apprentice cook I’m sure my mom had dreamed her only daughter would be, but from then on I spent regular weekend afternoons in the kitchen baking cookies and making fudge. And once I was grown and living on my own, I taught myself cooking in earnest. Now my cookbook shelf is almost as packed as my Regency and Napoleonic Wars research shelf. I love challenging myself with new recipes, and I bask in the praise my family, friends, and coworkers bestow upon my culinary mojo.

But that’s not the whole story of my HomeEc experience. You see, we also had to do sewing projects. I made an 82 on mine. I know, that sounds like a pretty good grade–until I tell you that the lowest grade any of my girlfriends got was a 98. So I’m pretty sure that 82 would’ve translated to a 62 or even a 52 in an academic subject. Mind you, I fully deserved that bad grade. My cushion was ugly and sloppy, and I hated every minute I spent on it. Many years later, I still don’t have a single crafty skill–give me a needle or a paintbrush, and all the deftness with which my hands separate eggs or work biscuit dough dissolves into utter clumsiness, tense and frustrated. Every once in awhile friends suggest that I take up knitting. “It’s so relaxing!” they tell me, and I have to explain that to me it’s about as relaxing as going to the dentist or sitting in rush hour traffic.

What does any of this have to do with my new release, A Dream Defiant? Well, my heroine, Rose Merrifield, is a gifted cook. At the start of the story, she’s following the drum with her soldier husband. Her fireside is a popular place in her husband’s company because she can make delicious meals out of oddly assorted ingredients with a skill that would’ve made her a Chopped champion if she’d been born 200 years later, and she earns money on the side cooking for the regiment’s senior officers. But she’s always dreamed of more, of owning her home village’s one inn and making its kitchen a place travelers will stop to linger.

I realized after the fact that I could’ve just as well made her a gifted seamstress with dreams of setting up shop as a modiste, but it never occurred to me to do so. And then I noticed a common thread in all my heroines–though they’re not based on me in any direct way, I’ve given them all at least one of my interests. Elizabeth in An Infamous Marriage is a bookworm who longs to travel and see the world. Anna in The Sergeant’s Lady loves to sing, and I made her an alto, like I am. And while Lucy in A Marriage of Inconvenience has a gift for painting and drawing despite the fact I can barely draw stick people, I made her musical too, and she hates to sew and work embroidery. I didn’t consciously choose to give my heroines those pieces of myself, but I suppose it’s a form of Write What You Know.

What about you? For the writers among you, what pieces of yourself do you put into your heroes and heroines? And for the readers, do you find yourself drawn to characters who share your skills and interests?

A Dream Defiant Cover

Spain, 1813

Elijah Cameron, the son of runaway slaves, has spent his whole life in the British army proving that a black man can be as good a soldier as a white man. After a victory over the French, Elijah promises one of his dying men that he will deliver a scavenged ruby necklace to his wife, Rose, a woman Elijah has admired for years.

Elijah feels bound to protect her and knows a widow with a fortune in jewels will be a target. Rose dreams of using the necklace to return to England, but after a violent attack, she realizes that she needs Elijah’s help to make the journey safely.

Her appreciation for Elijah’s strength and integrity soon turns into love, but he doubts she could want a life with him, knowing the challenges they’d face. As their relationship grows, she must convince Elijah that she wants him as more than a bodyguard. And she must prove that their love can overcome all obstacles, no matter the color of their skin.

Susanna Fraser has been writing since the age of 9. Her youthful efforts featured talking horses, but she now writes Regency-set historicals with a focus on the soldiers who fought the Napoleonic Wars.

A native of Alabama, she never lost her love for barbecue or stopped saying “y’all” as life took her to Philadelphia, England and Seattle, where she lives with her husband and daughter.

For more information, visit her website or her blog, or follow her on Twitter and Facebook.

Character Interview ~ The Guardian’s Witch

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Ah, there you are and just in time. Thank you for coming; I knew you wouldn’t want to miss this. We’ve pulled a real coup. Let me give you a little background before they begin. Our investigative reporter is about to hold an interview the hero, Lord Alex, and heroine, Lady Lisbeth, of Ruth A. Casie’s new book, The Guardian’s Witch. I see they are about to begin. I’ll fill you in on their story when the interview is over.

TGW - Smaller photo TheGuardiansWitch303x480.jpg

Reporter: (Facing the audience) Welcome and good afternoon. Today’s quests are Lord Alex Stelton, the exceptional knight who put his life on the line for the woman he loves. Also here is his extraordinary wife, Lady Lisbeth. She too was willing to risk it all–to save the man she loves.

Alex Stelton is the seventh son of Lord and Lady Stelton. Alex’s father is also a seventh son, an oddity that arises in the Stelton family from time to time. Lady Lisbeth and her younger sister, Laura survive their parents Lord and Lady Reynolds who were lost to us in a terrible carriage accident and their brother, Richard. Richard died valiantly on the Welsh battlefield.

(Turning to his guests) Thank you both for taking time to talk to us today. The first question I have is for Lord Alex.

Alex: Please, call me Alex.

Reporter: Certainly. Alex, what was your first impression of Lisbeth?

Alex: I’m embarrassed to tell you.

Lisbeth: He avoided me for weeks.

Alex: (Taking Lisbeth’s hand.) That’s not quite correct. You made it perfectly clear that you wanted no part of me. As a matter of fact I got a very clear impression that you would’ve been quite happy if I had disappeared like the others the king sent to protect you.

Lisbeth: Well, what did you expect? You came marching into Glen Kirk all proud and self-important just like all the others.

Alex: (Raising an eyebrow to his wife.) Did I now?

Lisbeth: (A bit contrite.) Well, maybe not exactly like them. (She pulls her hand away from his and faces him.) How was I to know?

Reporter: (Cough.) How did this disagreement start?

Lisbeth: He didn’t tell me for weeks.

Reporter: I beg your pardon. What didn’t Alex tell you for weeks? (Looking at Alex the reporter noticed him squirm, just a bit.)

Lisbeth: He didn’t tell me we were married.

Reporter: Married? I don’t understand?

Alex: Wait a minute, Love. You didn’t exactly make it easy.

Lisbeth: Love— (She shot Alex a glance that could turn him into a pillar of salt.)

Alex: (Alex faced the reporter) I won a bet with King James. If I held Lisbeth’s Glen Kirk Castle safe for one year it would be mine. Having an estate of my own has been a goal of mine for some time.

Lisbeth: (Foot tapping.)

Alex: (Rakes his hand through his hair.) After meeting my part of the bargain, I went to London to collect my winnings and ended proxy wed to Lady Lisbeth by order of the king.

Reporter: He what? And you didn’t tell her for weeks?

Lisbeth: (Folding her arms in front of her glaring at Alex.) Exactly.

Reporter: Perhaps we should move on. Lisbeth, I understand you come from a long line of healers and that you are quite gifted. My sources tell me you’ve used that gift to save Alex more than once.

Lisbeth: (A humbled look crosses her face.) Yes, I work hard to keep the people I love safe.

Reporter: (Shows Lisbeth a charm.) I understand you place these charms in the trees around Glen Kirk.

Alex: (Takes the charms from the interviewer.) My wife has a notion that the pretty bits shine and distract. (He gave the reporter a cold stare.)

Reporter: I understand there are rumors that your wife… uses incantations—

Alex: (Stands dragging Lisbeth with him.) This interview is over.

Reporter: (Obviously upset.) I’m sorry m’lord. I meant no disrespect to your wife or you. But sir, your wife’s special talents are common knowledge far and wide. It is to be honored sir, not reviled as some may think.

Alex: I clearly told your man that those questions were not to be asked.

Reporter: M’lord, Alex, this woman was ready to risk everything for you. She was in the midst of conjuring up the true criminal responsible for the treason for which you were accused. She was using her magic in front of the king and his court, all to protect you. Surely you know what a grave risk she was taking.

Alex: Don’t you think I know that. (Alex took his wife in his arms.) I cringe each time I think of how close she came to being judged a witch and the consequences that would have been metered out.

Lisbeth: Alex, (she pulls gently away from his embrace) come sit down. No harm was meant, surely you know that. (She pats his arm.)

Alex: (Regaining his composure.) I will not dwell on it, Lisbeth. I will protect you always.

Lisbeth: Yes, Alex. I wouldn’t have it any other way. But all here know who and what I am. There is no longer a need to hide that I am a witch.

Reporter: We have a little more time. Alex, I understand that your wife is very talented. Her dreams of the future appear to come true.

Alex: (He looks at his wife and does all he can to contain his smile.) My wife has many talents. Her dreams are–exceptional.

Lisbeth: Shhh Alex.(She leans close to him.) No one else will understand.

Alex: (Totally forgetting the reporter for the moment.) You call me into your dreams and we… Faith, (A smoldering look passes between them and he rakes his hand through his hair.) I want to spend the rest of my life in your dreams…

Reporter: Well, thank you both very much. (Pulling on his shirt collar.) Is it warm in here? (The reporter turns to the audience) You can find out more about Lord Alex and Lady Lisbeth in The Guardian’s Witch by Ruth A. Casie now available for their Nook or Kobo or Kindle.

I hope you enjoyed the interview. Here’s a brief overview and trailer for The Guardian’s Witch.

England, 1290

Lord Alex Stelton can’t resist a challenge, especially one with a prize like this: protect a castle on the Scottish border for a year, and it’s his. Desperate for land of his own, he’ll do anything to win the estate—even enter a proxy marriage to Lady Lisbeth Reynolds, the rumored witch who lives there.

Feared and scorned for her second sight, Lisbeth swore she’d never marry, but she is drawn to the handsome, confident Alex. She sees great love with him but fears what he would think of her gift and her visions of a traitor in their midst.

Despite his own vow never to fall in love, Alex can’t get the alluring Lisbeth out of his mind and is driven to protect her when attacks begin on the border. But as her visions of danger intensify, Lisbeth knows it is she who must protect him. Realizing they’ll secure their future only by facing the threat together, she must choose between keeping her magic a secret and losing the man she loves.

Do you have any questions for Lord Alex or Lady Lisbeth?

Ruth photo Ruth.jpg

Ruth A. Casie has always had stories in her head.  Encouraged by family and friends this ballroom dancing, Sudoku playing, aspiring gourmet has given way to her inner muse writing historical fantasy. Now, rather than write marketing and communications for corporate America, she writes historical fantasies about strong men and empowered women and how they cope with unexpected challenges. She hopes her stories become your favorite adventures. For more information, please visit www.RuthACasie.com, on her Blog, Twitter, Facebook, and Pinterest.

What a Writer Needs

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At my daughter’s school, something called “Writer’s Workshop” is part of the curriculum, starting in kindergarten. They learn about inciting incidents, conflict, and that stories need to have a beginning, a middle, and an end. I’m impressed–creative writing wasn’t taught at all in my childhood school, as best as I can recall, and certainly not so early! So far young Miss Fraser, age 8, has been encouraged to write nonfiction stories of daily life, though she’s prone to cheat by writing about adventures from her favorite video games.

This year when we went to Curriculum Night a few weeks after school started, we found the following list in Miss Fraser’s Writer’s Workshop notebook.

My remark when we saw that? “She left out peace and quiet.” Though I’m in full agreement that “Ideas” belong at #1 and “Food” should be in a big font!

My List

Ideas
Peace and quiet
A good computer
An ergonomic desk and chair
A personal research library and access to a good library system
Piles of index cards and a corkboard
A whiteboard and multicolored dry erase markers
A notebook and plenty of pens
Chocolate

 

 

The whiteboard, notebook, and corkboard are all key parts of my process. I’ve tried using Scrivener, where a virtual corkboard and files full of notes are part of the same file as the manuscript, but it didn’t work for me. I need to be able to step back from the keyboard and take pen in hand to brainstorm properly. It flips on a different switch in my brain, somehow.

When I was finishing the first draft of An Infamous Marriage, my new release from Carina, I added sticky notes to the mix and wrote up a separate one for every scene or key character moment that needed to happen before the end of the story. I divided my office door into sections labeled “To Do,” “In Process,” and “Completed,” and moved the notes from section to section as I worked. Seeing all those little squares of paper crowded into the Completed section the day I finished was beyond satisfying.

What about you? What triggers your creativity, whatever form it takes? Comment to enter my month-long blog tour contest. At the end of the tour I’ll be giving away a grand prize of a $50 gift certificate to their choice of Amazon, Barnes & Noble, or Powell’s Books to one commenter on the tour. You get one entry per blog tour stop you comment upon, so check out my blog for the whole schedule! If you want to be entered in the drawing, include your email in your comment in the format yourname AT yourhost DOT com.

An Infamous Marriage cover

Northumberland, 1815

At long last, Britain is at peace, and General Jack Armstrong is coming home to the wife he barely knows. Wed for mutual convenience, their union unconsummated, the couple has exchanged only cold, dutiful letters. With no more wars to fight, Jack is ready to attempt a peace treaty of his own.

Elizabeth Armstrong is on the warpath. She never expected fidelity from the husband she knew for only a week, but his scandalous exploits have made her the object of pity for years. Now that he’s back, she has no intention of sharing her bed with him—or providing him with an heir—unless he can earn her forgiveness. No matter what feelings he ignites within her…

Jack is not expecting a spirited, confident woman in place of the meek girl he left behind. As his desire intensifies, he wants much more than a marriage in name only. But winning his wife’s love may be the greatest battle he’s faced yet.

—–

Visit Susanna Fraser at her website, follow her on Twitter, or stop by her blog.

 

Have You Ever Been Haunted?

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A couple of years ago, my husband and I were driving home from work past some old houses when I said to him, “You know what would be cool? A romance about a guy who hires a female contractor to fix up a house that turns out to be haunted.”

It’s not surprising I wrote a story about a ghost. We had one in our first apartment in Kansas City. She actually wasn’t all that scary, but she really annoyed me. And when I was a child playing with a Ouija board, I talked to another spirit who taught me a new, grown-up vocabulary word, but I won’t say too much about that incident, because I put it in the book.

I wrote a lot of the first draft of Sole Possession as a project for National Novel Writing Month, which challenges you to write 50,000 words of a novel in the month of November. (Is anyone else besides me doing NaNoWriMo again this year?) After that, I finished the story and rewrote the whole thing. And then I rewrote it again.

Although the story takes place in the Chicago area, The Vaile Mansion in Independence, Missouri helped inspire the house in the book. They try to make the house look festive and normal on the official website, but seriously, it’s creepy. My favorite rumor about the place is that the first owner had a hard time saying goodbye to his dead wife, so he originally buried her corpse on the premises in a glass-topped coffin flush with the ground. (This is not in my story, by the way, so feel free to use it if you’re writing something scary!)

In Sole Possession, my heroine, Andi Petrowski, is good at her contractor job, but her most unique talent lies elsewhere. Wait, that sounded sexual. And actually, the book is sexy, but what I mean is, she has psychic powers. David Girard, my hero, has to face his personal demons, in a pretty literal sense. A reviewer pal of mine envisioned Jeremy Renner in the role of David. Works for me! I particularly like the character of Morty Silva, a blunt and eccentric ex-priest turned psychic. Publishers Weekly called Sole Possession “an intriguing haunted house tale with spine-tingling suspense and an emotionally fraught romance,” which is exactly what I wanted it to be.

I was thrilled to get the call from Carina Press. OK, actually I didn’t pick up, because I didn’t recognize the number and I hate talking on the phone, so they had to email me, but anyway, I was really happy. I keep Carina books on my iPhone so no matter where I am, I always have something good to read. I’m planning to take the anthology Romancing the Holiday on Christmas vacation with me, because love reading something that gets me in the mood for the season.

Speaking of getting in the mood, since it’s almost Halloween, I would love to hear other people’s ghost stories! I won’t put them in a book, promise. And if you’d like to check out Sole Possession, you can buy it here!

Bryn Donovan is the author of one previous romance, An Experienced Mistress. She has an M.F.A. in Creative Writing, and she’s also published two children’s books as Stacey Donovan. When she’s not at her day job writing greeting cards, she makes quilts,  watches TV shows about the supernatural, and hangs out with her husband and two silly dogs.

Three Top Tips for Co-writing from Heidi Belleau & Violetta Vane

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Hi, Carina blog readers! I’m Heidi Belleau. My co-writer Violetta Vane and I are the authors of the M/M urban fantasy The Druid Stone, which is out now from Carina Press. We’re often asked about how we co-write, from the nitty gritty of what programs we use through to how we settle disagreements. So here’s my top three tips for co-writing. If you’re co-writing a novel or are considering co-writing, I’m hoping this helps you get a grip on things! If you’re not a writer, I hope you enjoy this inside glimpse into the making of The Druid Stone.

1. Learn the tech

If you’re writing solo, chances are you have a preferred method of getting those words down. Maybe you like to handwrite in a notebook, then transfer to a computer. Maybe you use the classic Microsoft Word or the writer-friendly Scrivener. Maybe you prefer Write Or Die because it gives you extra motivation. Whatever choice you make, you came to that decision based on what works best for you. Co-writing is no different, except now your priorities have changed. The number-one most important feature becomes, “how do we share our work?”

For many authors, writing on Word with the “Track Changes” feature enabled is their go-to for co-writing. Write a bit, save the doc, email it to your co-writer when you’re done, and then they download it, write a bit more, save and email it back to you, rinse and repeat. Maybe one of you is responsible for a point of view each, or maybe you’ve planned things out and assigned each other chapters, and that’s how you determine when to trade off.

Violetta and I understand the appeal of that approach, but that’s not our thing. We like to write together in real-time, right down to editing each other’s sentences as we write them and finishing each other’s paragraphs. For that, we like Google Docs. In fact, we’re writing this blog post in Google Docs!

So how’s it work? We create a document that we then share. Sometimes we give beta readers access later on. Once we’ve done our pre-planning, we do a point by point breakdown of the chapter we’re working on and just start writing! The important thing is, Google Docs works for our purposes. We like to share, rather than delegate (although we do a bit of that, too), so e-mailing back and forth really doesn’t work for us. There are other programs for writing collaboratively, and each has its own strengths and weaknesses. Give them a try and see what works best for you!

And just as a side note, no matter what program you use initially, your eventual editors will be sending you a Word document with Track Changes on, which you can’t upload to GDocs or other collaborative services intact. So at some point, you’re going to have to work in Word (or a similar one-person-at-a-time processor). You can either email back and forth, taking pieces of the editing separately, or you can use a screensharing program, like we do. We like Teamviewer 6 (which is a bit laggy, but functional enough) or the built-in screensharing that comes with iChat if you have a Mac.

2. Communicate

I wrote a whole post on this for my individual blog, but the jist of it is this: co-writing is a creative and professional relationship. It’s taking something very personal to you (writing a book) and inviting another person into that sphere. If books are an author’s baby, then you are now co-parents. Congratulations! Now comes the hard part.

To mix my metaphor until it’s frothy, I want you to think back to… oh, every group project you ever did in school. Remember that feeling? Wondering who you were going to get paired with, wondering who was going to flake, dreading the thought that you were going to do all the work but your group members were going to get the same grade as you? Co-writing’s a little like that, except now money is involved. Luckily, unlike many school projects, you get to pick who you work with. You’re also both adults. Unluckily, adults can also be flakes or not do their fair share or be difficult to work with, even when it’s not intentional.

I can’t promise you’ll never have conflict or never pick the wrong person to co-write with, but I can give you advice to set you on the right track. Keep the lines of communication open from start to finish. Lay out your expectations. Ask questions. Talk about how you’re feeling. Set boundaries. Be open when something’s not working, but also be sure to compliment each other when something is. Co-writing comes with unique challenges, but it also comes with fantastic rewards. Being open and honest lets you make the most of both.

3. Be flexible – Conflict is good!

We create and design people from the ground up: their personalities, their appearances, their relationships. We control their every move. We may even muck about with their sex lives. Is it any wonder that authors might be a little bit… controlling? Like any artist, we often have a “vision”. We’re passionate about what we create and how. But unless you’ve hired out some kind of word-sandwich artist to write to your exact specifications, co-writing involves compromise. It involves disagreement. Sometimes passionate disagreement.

Now since you’re following tip two of this list and communicating effectively and respectively with your writing partner, you know that a clash of egos where you both go in intending to give no quarter isn’t gonna get anything written. You’re willing to hear each other out… but now what?

Did you know in an early draft of our novel The Druid Stone, the big Galway finale was meant to include a car chase? Violetta was absolutely mad about the idea. She had all these big grand plans and maps and, because she’s so very very visual, a big cinematic concept for the scene that could easily fit right into a blockbuster movie.

…And then I said no. No, that would take way too much explanation and logistics to get the car from Point A to Point B. No, have you ever seen an Irish city street. No, I just don’t think it fits the narrative as we’ve established it. Not surprisingly, she wasn’t too terribly pleased with my shutting her down, just as I haven’t been terribly pleased with her turning down my ideas. So she replied with “Well, we still need a big showpiece scene, so what do you suggest instead?” We talked it over, going back and forth on lots of different ideas, and eventually settled on the scene that’s in the final version.

Arguments and disagreements, as long as you both approach them professionally, can improve your writing. Only the strongest ideas survive. You work hard to convince the other person, and all that hard work shines through for the readers, too. A lot of the time, you come to a consensus or middle ground which is smarter and more unexpected and just plain better than what one person could come up with alone.

Sometimes you give up control. Sometimes you stand by your vision. Sometimes you fight it out until something new and brilliant emerges. Co-writing is chemistry. Sometimes your reactants just fizzle out, sometimes they explode, and sometimes they combine in that perfect way to make something really amazing (like chocolate chip cookies). It all comes down to what you’re mixing and how.

How about you? Have you ever co-written or considered co-writing? If you have, do you have other tips to share? And if you haven’t, why not? And readers, have you read any co-written novels you absolutely love? Ones under a single penname that you were surprised to hear were co-written after the fact?

About The Druid Stone

Sean never asked to be an O’Hara, and he didn’t ask to be cursed by one either.

After inheriting a hexed druid stone from his great-grandfather, Sean O’Hara starts reliving another man’s torture and death…every single night. And only one person can help.

Cormac Kelly runs a paranormal investigation business and doesn’t have time to deal with misinformed tourists like Sean. But Sean has real magic in his pocket, and even though Cormac is a descendant of legendary druids, he soon finds himself out of his depth…and not because Sean’s the first man he’s felt anything for in a long time.

The pair develop an unexpected and intensely sexual bond, but are threatened at every turn when Sean’s case attracts the unwelcome attention of the mad sidhe lords of ancient Ireland. When Sean and Cormac are thrust backward in time to Ireland’s violent history—and their own dark pasts—they must work together to escape the curse and save their fragile relationship.

The Druid Stone is available from Carina Press, Amazon, B&N and ARe. For other retailers and links to other stops on the blog tour, please visit knockmanovel.com. You can can also get in touch with Violetta and Heidi at their websites, or add us on twitter: @HeidiBelleau and @ViolettaVane.

 

Win a sterling silver Celtic triple spiral pendant!
The Celtic triple spiral is an ancient Irish symbol and an important recurring motif in The Druid Stone, and we’ve got a lovely silver version to give away to one lucky Carina reader! Leave us a comment here with your email and we’ll randomly select a winner on August 24th. We’ll contact the winner by e-mail on the day and arrange shipping to a mailing address of your choice to anywhere in North America. Bonne chance!

Countdown for blastoff

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I’m lousy at math. When I’m at the supermarket, I can do a simple pennies-per-ounce cost evaluation, but that’s about it. An accountant does my taxes, I don’t balance my checkbook, and I don’t do Sudoku. Where’s the fun if there’s no words?

So whatever possessed me to put numbers into Zero Gravity Outcasts, I don’t know. Maybe I thought the math would be simple enough. If there’s 10 warships threatening the peace conference, and 4 leave to fight my heroine, and she disables 2 of those, then how many warships are left?

“I think the numbers are wrong,” came the note from my fabulous editor, Lynne Anderson. “How many warships end up at the peace conference?”

Um, there were 10. Take away 4. Six are left.

“Except on page 15 it says 8. Right?”

Well, yes, it does say 8. I need those odds to be overwhelming! Readers must be worried! I need 8 warships threatening the peace conference!

“Yeah, yeah, yeah,” Lynne says. “So what happened to the other 2 warships?”

Okay, reasonable question, what did happen to those other 2 warships? Perhaps they needed to have an extrasensory outer-space tune-up and oil change. On their way to the fabulous Macy’s one-day clearance sale. Because people just had to get those fringed, pink leather boots.

“Maybe the heroine disables four warships,” Lynne says cheerfully.

Yeah, the heroine doesn’t have any weapons. Disabling four warships would be tough, even for those superheroine-type people who can make nuclear bombs from paper clips, which my heroine makes no claims to be able to do. Although she’s handy. But nuclear-bombs-from-paper-clips handy, no.

“Actually, you don’t really say exactly how many warships start out threatening the peace conference,” Lynne says. “Maybe there’s just 8 to begin with? And then…”

I could see that my math problems were transferring to Lynne. Not good.

“How about this?” Lynne says. She’s sounding desperate, but I know she’s better at math than I am. I see a solution coming!

“There’s 10 warships threatening the peace conference,” she says. “Four leave to fight the heroine. She disables 2. The other 2—”

“Go back to the peace conference!” we exclaim simultaneously.

The warships probably would have had more fun going to the Macy’s one-day clearance sale than getting shot at in the battle at the peace conference. On the other hand, this way they didn’t have to do any math figuring out what 35 percent more off the last 25 percent markdown was, either. Although those fringed, pink leather boots would have been worth the effort. At any price.

And next time, there’s going to be 10 warships threatening the peace conference, and they’re all going to stay put. Because only a dope messes with outer space math.

(And a final note to readers: this story is true, but I’m sure the numbers are way, way off.)

Finding Romance in Everyday Life

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Like many of us, I hit the ground running on Monday morning and don’t come up for air until Friday night. My days are a blur of work, chauffeuring, homework supervision, pet care, errands, cooking and laundry. (Mountains and mountains of laundry.) Usually my weekends are just as busy, too, what with birthday parties and family obligations and all those chores that never get done during the week.

I write in the evenings, once my kids are asleep, and often in the mornings, too, if I can haul myself out of bed early enough. Practically speaking, this often means I spend less time with my husband than any other member of the family, the dog and cat included.

So where does romance fit in? And how can a romance writer like myself find inspiration amid the craziness of everyday life? It took me a while to figure out the answer, mainly because it was so different from the larger-than-life scenarios that figure in my favorite books.

My husband has never rescued me from a burning building, a sinking ship or a blood-starved vampire. He has never nursed me back to health after I was struck down by cholera or consumption or childbed fever. Nor has he fought in hand-to-hand combat to defend my honor, although in all fairness he has studied martial arts for many years and I’m certain he could do so if necessary.

We’ve been married for ten years, and he’s never surprised me with flowers or jewelry, has never written me a poem, and has never whisked me off to Paris for the weekend. Ahem.

And yet…

When I was felled by the worst cold ever while working on the final round of edits for Improper Relations, he brought me mugs of tea and rubbed my back and took care of everything so I wouldn’t worry.

He encouraged me every step of the way when I decided I wanted to focus on writing, and he never stopped believing I would be successful one day, despite abundant proof (in the form of rejection letters) to the contrary.

When I told him that Angela James at Carina Press had phoned to say “yes” to Improper Relations, he was so overcome he could only say, “I’m so proud of you.”

And when our daughter was born, five years ago this spring, he waited until the baby was settled and the delivery room had quieted down and then he took my hands in his, kissed me, and looked me in the eye without saying a word. In that moment—the most romantic moment of my entire life—I knew without a doubt that he loved me, was proud of me, and would cherish me and our children forever.

It’s because of these moments (and countless others that I don’t dare mention because the poor man would likely curl up and expire of embarrassment) that I believe in romance. It may sound corny, but it’s true.

In this I know I’m not alone. We’re all searching for romance in our lives. Sometimes we find it in the pages of a book. Sometimes we find it in the quiet moments of our own lives.

And sometimes, if we’re really lucky, we get to write about it.

An editor by profession but an historian by inclination, Juliana Ross lives in Toronto, Canada, with her husband and young children. In her spare time she cooks for family and friends, makes slow inroads into her weed patch of a garden, and reads romance novels (the steamier the better) on her eReader.

You can find Juliana on her website, Goodreads, Twitter, Facebook and—her newest obsession—Pinterest .

You can buy Improper Relations through Carina, Amazon, Barnes and Noble and All Romance.

Change. The Good. The Bad. The Ugly.

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LIFE IS CHANGE. GROWTH IS OPTIONAL. CHOOSE WISELY.

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We’ve all heard that there are two things we can rely on in life: death and taxes. Well, for writers, there is another.

Change.

Change is all around us and it is a part of life. We see change in the seasons and the weather. People come and go in our lives, jobs change, our health changes, new businesses spring up, others fall victim to the economy. Or even the death of an owner (our town’s yarn shop) can cause unwanted and sad changes.

Sometimes change is good, other times, it is not welcome. Either way, it is a part of our daily lives whether we want it or not.

Most people do not like change because change is scary but I have always embraced change whether it is a new home or rearranging my house or even a new job. Change freshens my life. It is a renewal of heart, mind and soul–a breath of fresh air to chase away the stale and stagnant.

For writers, it is a part of our careers for if we do not change, then we dry up and fade away like a pile of autumn leaves. In the publishing world, what’s selling now will eventually fade away to be replaced by something new and fresh. Or perhaps something old will be reborn. Like historicals, angels, time travels and ghosts. Think of the writing world as a big circle with cycles and seasons. Nothing remains the same.

I, as a writer, must be open to not just riding the winds of change, but to grow as a writer and a person. While writing White Vengeance, book 11 in my White Series, I felt as though I was slogging through muck. Each word, each scene was a struggle. I loved the characters, loved the story, but something was happening to me as a writer–I was growing and changing yet my White books were not. At least not much.

My stories all had a bit of the mystical with the use of visions, gifts of sight and other aspects of Native American culture. As the series grew, I wanted as a writer to explore the mystical aspects of Native American beliefs and go deeper into the mystical world yet my books were historicals, not paranormals. Suddenly, I had a choice: continue to fight the change happening within me as a writer or give in and grow as a writer.

So I gave in and let myself write what I wanted for that last White book. And I had a blast. Writing was fun again. Things were happening that I never imagined. I allowed

myself to listen to that inner need to change and it revitalized the entire book. I loved the book, the characters, the writing. The change in me, my writing attitude was a wondrous feeling. I knew then that as a writer I had to embrace change–let myself grow. I gave myself permission and the freedom to grow and change. It was a scary step but one I have no regrets in taking.

I also realize in writing this, that Change was responsible for the birth of the White Series. When I wrote White Wind, I didn’t have a series in mind. Just one book. My next book was set on the Oregon Trail. I had the Jones family all set to head west and I needed a wagon master. For Jessie of course.

Enter a half-breed with issues who needed a past, reasons for his conflicts and of course, I turned to his family. Well, I decided to give Golden Eagle & White Wind (Sarah) a second son and named my wagon master, White Wolf. Okay, so now I have two connected books. Still not really a series.

But it became clear that Wolf’s family needed to make a showing in White Wolf. I already knew that Wolf had a powerful warrior brother named Striking Thunder as this was revealed in White Wind. Then I, in my “Godly” role of Creator, gave the two brothers, two sister. Nice even number of children for my original hero/heroine.

Well, it became quite clear that these children all need some major changes in their lives in order to grow and become the adult characters I envisioned! A series was born with the simple act of allowing myself to be open to change.

Change is still happening in my writing. My SpiritWalker series was born of the changes that took place in writing White Vengeance. I’m currently nearly done with my second SpiritWalker book that demanded many changes in my writing. I’ve also taken this new series to contemporary settings and surprise, it changed again.

There are more than just SpiritWalkers in this world. My SpiritWalkers are at the top of the “myth” chain of special humans but there are a whole host of other beings walking my world. Some good, some bad and some truly ugly beasts. None of any of this would have been possible if I had stuck to the same old thing.

Today, change has made me a better person. Even the disaster of losing my retail business is revealing the good. That change wasn’t just bad. It was ugly in so many ways yet due to my positive outlook and my belief that change is ultimately good even when it looks horrid, I’ve come out ahead.

So what is changing for you? Is it a good change? If it’s bad or ugly, is there good that you can see and hold onto? How do you view change? Is it refreshing or something you resist? If you resist change, why? I believe we should all think about change, see and analyze changes around us and allow change to make us better people.

What are your thoughts?

Susan Edwards

Susan Edwards ~ Magic, Myth & Wonder

White Series

SpiritWalker Series

http://susanedwards.com

http://susanedwardsauthor.blogspot.com/

http://twitter.com/susan_edwards

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DISCOVERIES

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Susan Edwards ~ Myth, Magic & Wonder

Covers White SeriesA couple days ago, I redesigned my banner for my website and sent it to my son who deals with my website.  I loved what I did but knew he’d find fault.  After all, he’s a programmer, which makes pleasing his sensibilities with my creativity nearly impossible.  And <sigh>, I was right.  He vetoed most of what I did which set me to wondering what happened to that creative little boy who along with his younger sister were responsible for me discovering my own writing talent.

You see, I haven’t always been a writer.  Unlike so many authors who say they’ve always loved writing, I had never wanted to write anything, except maybe chatty letters to friends or my great-grandmother (who loved receiving mail) or notes to pals in class.  Okay, I’ve dated myself here because I grew up without computers, emails, social media or text messages!  Writing entailed pen & paper or typewriter, neither of which works with my creative process.  Anyway, growing up I absolutely hated writing, did not excel in English and thought history the most boring subject on earth!  So it’s rather strange and ironic that not only am I a writer but I’ve published 12 historical romances.  Well, back to my little story here.

When my son was in grade school, his teachers were very impressed with his writing and his creative storytelling.  Same thing happened with my daughter.  Both kids were very creative and did very well at writing and telling stories.  I was mystified at where they got their talent but glad they enjoyed the writing experience.  Of course, we as a family were big readers so I figured that helped.

In that same time period, I was reading historical romances.  Mostly Native American/Westerns.  And I was getting bored with what was out there and had read most of what appealed to me.  Why wasn’t there more of what I want to read?  It was very frustrating, especially when I had this great idea for a story that I wanted to read and couldn’t because it wasn’t written.

And here it comes.  You see, I had two things going for me that led to my current writing career. First and foremost, I was, and still am, an avid reader of romance (write what you know). Second, I am a natural-born storyteller.  I can still remember using my dolls and stuffed animals to create stories and “situations” for them.  As I grew up, my need for storytelling did not fade away.  I had stories in my head day and night.

However, I did not think of them as stories or write them down or tell them to others.  I figured I was an oddity, that no one had scenarios playing in their heads that demanded that I pay attention to them.  But it turns out they were stories.  I created them, scene by scene.  I rewrote them then went back to individual scenes and rewrote again and again until I was satisfied.  Once a “story” was perfected, another story would take shape and the process would repeat.  Many times, an old story would return with the clarity of story in a book.  I could “re-read” it and make changes.  Even years later this could happen.

Of course, I figured I was just an incurable daydreamer.  My teachers and parents certainly thought so!  :-)   It wasn’t until I was in my 40’s and had already sold my first book that I discovered that my daydreaming was actually storytelling!  All the elements we writers require for our books were in my dream worlds.  I had the good guys, the bad guys, the conflict, the black moment and the happy-ever-after.   Does all this sound like a writer? Yep.

So here I am in those before-I-became-a-writer days, consuming books about strong heroines and handsome warriors like an ocean swallowing a beach until that idea came to me, that book I wanted to read and couldn’t.  There was a heroine who meets a young, virile Native American hero at stream.  This “story” kept intruding on my thoughts—more so than normal.   Also, I could not move this story forward to “the end” which was very strange as I could see these two characters so clearly: she was running away from an evil uncle, and my hero was a troubled young warrior.

Before I knew it I had a nice little scene going of these two people so in love and so right for each other.  And it was the perfect place to put them into a nice hot love scene.  But something was wrong.  First, this couple wanted more from me.  They were so insistent that I did something I’d never done before:   I took them out of my head and gave them life on paper (good thing I had a computer by this time).  Okay, I thought. I’ll write a nice, steamy love scene. I could see it, feel it, so no problem, end of story, right?

Wrong! Before I could write about these two people falling in love and having their happily-ever-after, I had to know more about them.

  • Why was my heroine alone in the wilderness?
  • Why was she fleeing her uncle? What did he want and how bad did he want it?
  • What troubled my warrior and why was he in the same vicinity as my heroine?
  • Why was he drawn to my heroine aside from her blonde hair? Why her and only her?
  • Was he willing to risk it all for her?

Before I knew what hit me, I had four chapters of back story.  I was shocked.  But it couldn’t possible be any good.  So I gave it to a couple of people to read.  One of my closest friends looked at me after she finished those chapters with awe in her face (I still remember that look) and she said two words that sealed my future:  Finish It.  The rest they say is history! The writer within was set free and an author was born!

I choose this topic for this blog because I never, ever considered writing to be a hidden talent.  I would have loved to see the looks on some of my old teachers faces, especially a couple of past high school English teachers as I’m pretty sure (as sure as there is always death and taxes in life) that none of them would have predicted that I would become a writer, let alone a published author.  And perhaps things would have been different had I not listened to that inner voice telling me to step out of my comfort zone and put that first story down on paper and take a chance that someone might read it.  Yes, it was scary to let others read it, and see what went through my mind.  But it was well worth it for I made an amazing discover about myself.

The path I set upon started with committing a story to paper.  But that was only one step of the process (aside from letting others read it).  It took me 3 years to finish the story between all the aspects of life, husband and children.  Add another 4 years of writing and rewriting and learning the craft of writing and submitting and getting rejection after rejection before an editor asked for a full manuscript. Add another year before I had my first offer, then yet another year before that first book, White Wind was on the bookshelves in 1996. Nine years total!   Wow!  It should come to no surprise to learn that I can be very stubborn and determined.

It’s now about 15 years later and once again I’m anticipating seeing my first book hit the shelves with a new cover in its new digital format with Carina Press. The excitement and anticipation is the same, as is the worry–will readers like my baby! Some things do not change!

So in retelling this story, it is my hope that someone reading this makes a self-discovery of their own.

Are you harboring a writer within? If so, what are you doing about it? I’d love to hear your “writer within” stories.

  • Have you discovered a hidden talent during your adult years?  If so, what and how do you feel about it.
  • Have you discovered something about yourself through your children?
  • What do you read, why and how does that genre make you feel?

Check out my website http://susanedwards.com where I have a contest running.  Sign up for my mailing list and I will enter you into a separate contest for a tote bag filled with goodies.  Winner will be drawn January 1st.    There 7 separate contests, each added to my website.

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