Wednesday, February 29, 2012


Leap Year and its extra day of February 29th is, in Western culture, traditionally the day when a woman can propose to a man.

This tradition is said to date from 5th century Ireland when St. Bridget complained to St. Patrick about women having to wait for so long for a man to propose. St. Patrick then said that females could propose on this one day in February during the leap year. Bridget then proposed to St. Patrick, who graciously declined, but gave her a kiss and a beautiful silk dress as consolation.

In the 13th century, Scotland (allegedly) passed a law allowing women to propose to a man on February 29th. Any man who declined had to pay a fine, which might be anything from a kiss to a silk dress.

In some European countries, tradition dictated that any man who declined a woman’s proposal on February 29th had to buy her 12 pairs of gloves. Evidently the woman could wear the gloves to hide her ‘embarrassment’ at not having an engagement ring.

In these days of supposed gender equality, I started to wonder whether this tradition is now an anachronism. Society no longer ‘prohibits’ women from proposing, but does ‘custom’ still expect the man to propose?

Do we expect the man to take the initiative in our romance novels too? Or should the independent modern women we create in our novels today propose to their men?

What do the readers of romance novels want? Do they still want the man to propose, preferably in some romantic setting: candlelit dinner in luxury restaurant, exotic Caribbean beach, under the bridges of Paris– etc etc? Or are modern women quite happy to accept a woman’s proposal in a romance novel?

Tuesday, February 28, 2012


My writing tends to focus on the male characters a lot. Not sure why that is. Maybe it’s because they’re the ones that I find most interesting and most different from me. Let’s face it; while my female characters are not me, I can definitely relate to them. Without coming across as too sexist or stereotypical, I can use myself as an example of how a woman would react in certain situations. I can also use myself as the means to figure out a character who would act in direct opposition to me.

But the male characters are a little trickier, especially when it comes to how they think. I have no siblings, so I don’t have a brother I can refer to. I have plenty of male friends, but I don’t think I could face any of them ever again if I based any of my characters on them. Therefore, I tend to ask my husband a lot of questions.

Most of the conversations between my husband and I have to do with what a man would notice first, or how he would talk on the phone

I remember one scene I was writing for A Heart of Little Faith had to do with a dream sequence that would repeat itself throughout the book. The hero was the one having the dream. Well, I know how I dream and could probably come up with a convincing dream for a woman, but I wanted to make sure the dream worked for a man. Or at least that the reader could potentially think that a man had this dream. So I ran it by my husband, tweaked it a bit, and hoped it would work.

Perspective is important because it’s what enables the writer to bring the characters alive. If all of my characters sound like me, that’s going to be one boring, one-dimensional story. What methods do you use to gain perspective?

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Plagiarize? No Way!

My MFBRN (most favorite book right now) is Hooked by award-winning author Les Edgerton. Here’s what I read last night from Chapter Four ‘The Set-up and Backstory’:

T.S. Eliot said, “Mediocre writers borrow; great writers steal.” That doesn’t mean plagiarize. It means to take a close look at how great writers achieved an effect, and use that technique ourselves.

Edgerton goes on to say, “When I’m writing a novel, for instance, I’ll have an average of perhaps thirty novels open, and I constantly look through the to see how others achieved the effect I’m looking for.”

Which is the better set-up - backstory opener?
This? The man had a reputation around town for being a brawler and a mean-spirited drunk. Ever since high school, when he had bullied just about every kid littler than him, he’d been known as a person to avoid. It might have been his parents who created his personality. His father spent a lot of time whaling on his son with whatever he found handy. A belt, a stick, whatever was available. One time he clopped him upside the head with an iron he snatched off the ironing board behind which his mother stood, helplessly wringing her hands. It might have been the dead-end factory job he’d found himself stick in for the past thirty-two years.
(…lots more backstory….)
Right now he found himself about six blocks from his home with his dead bride in his arms. On State Street just past Maplecrest, in the Georgetown Shopping Plaza. Behind it, actually, back by the dumpsters behind the Cap ‘N Cork.

Or this? He was so mean that wherever he was standing became the bad part of town.
At that moment, the bad part was State Street just past Maplecrest, in the Georgetown Shopping Plaza. Behind it, actually, back by the dumpsters behind the Cap ‘N Cork. Into one of which he was stuffing the body of his wife.

Here are some openers he recommends:
***A smell of spilled gasoline: when Saul opened his eyes he was still strapped in behind his lap and shoulder belt, but the car he sat in was upside down and in a field of some sort. (Charles Baxter’s “Saul and Patty are Pregnant”)

***They had dug coal together as young men and then lost touch over the years. Now it looked like they’d be meeting again, this time as lawman and felon, Raylan Givens and Boyd Crowder. (Elmore Leonard’s “Fire in the Hole”)

***He made her feel uncomfortable, and she didn’t like that. (Raymond Carver “A Small, Good Thing”)

***Tucker Case awoke to find himself hanging from a breadfruit tree by a coconut fiber rope. Like most of the big missteps he had taken in life, it had started in a bar. (Stephen Moore “Island of the Sequined Love Nun”)

***It’s true, he put his hand on my ass and I was about to scream bloody murder when the bus passed by a church and he crossed himself. (Luisa Valenzuela’s “Vision Out of the Corner of One Eye”)

***Even when she was very little her hunger was worth something: hunger taught her to dance, and her father noticed. (Robert Hill Long “The Restraints”)

***Looking back, I should have realized something was up as soon as I opened the bedroom door and found my wife asleep on top of the sheets with a strange man curled up like a foetus beside her. (Douglas Glover “The South Will Rise at Noon”)

***“You must not tell anyone,” my mother said, “what I am about to tell you.” (Maxine Hong Kingston “The Woman Warrior”)

Here are some romance openers from books on my shelf:
***It was the rain that made him think of the tale. (Nora Roberts “Morrigan’s Cross”)

***He understood his power early. (Nora Roberts “Entranced”)

***Claire Lancaster sat in the cafĂ© of a large bookstore in Phoenix, Arizona, waiting for the half sister she had never met. (Jayne Ann Krentz “White Lies”)

***This wedding was no small affair. There were seven bridesmaids, seven groomsmen, three ushers, two alter boys, three lectors, and enough firepower inside the church to wipe out half the congregation. All but two of the groomsmen were armed. (Julie Garwood “Shadow Dance”)

***“What the hell d’ye mean by ‘marry without delay,’ Father?” (Bertrice Small “This Heart of Mine”)

***On the sixth of April, in the year 1812—precisely two days before her sixteenth birthday—Penelope Featherington fell in love. (Julia Quinn “Romancing Mister Bridgerton”)

***The coach belonging to the duchess of Magnus pulled up to the tall house on Berkley Square, and an impostor stepped out. (Christina Dodd “One Kiss from You”)

***Silver Ashcroft slipped through night and shadows, heart pounding and rage simmering. (Cheyenne McCray “Forbidden Magic”)

***It was a crime that Amelia Willoughby was not married. (Julia Quinn “Mr. Cavendish, I Presume”)

***Mathias was rudely awakened by a woman’s bloodcurdling scream. (Amanda Quick “Mischief”)

***I am going to die tonight. (Allison Brennan “Cutting Edge”)

***The boom-boom-boom of the distant lali—huge wooden drums—emulated the pounding of madcap hearts in the darkness. (Terri Valentine “Paradise Promised”)

I think I'm closing in on a zinger of an opening line!

Friday, February 24, 2012

Today's Friday Friend - Morgan Mandel

Our Friday Friend today, Morgan Mandel, is a former freelancer for the Daily Herald newspaper, prior president of Chicago-North RWA, prior Library Liaison for Midwest MWA, and belongs to Sisters in Crime and EPIC. She enjoys writing thrillers, mysteries, romances and also enjoys combining them. Her latest paranormal romantic thriller is Forever Young: Blessing or Curse, Book One of the Always Young Series, available in Print, also on Kindle, Nook, Smashwords and more. Other available novels by Morgan Mandel include the romantic suspense, Killer Career, the mystery, Two Wrongs, and the romantic comedy, Girl of My Dreams. Morgan is now working on Book Two of the Always Young Series, called Blessing or Curse: A Forever Young Anthology, where readers will learn what happens to others who have taken the Forever Young pill.  One more book will follow bringing back the original heroine to close out the trilogy.
Would You Take a Trial Medication?

When I was young and living at home, I remember my mother was daring enough to take part in a trial run for a blood pressure medicine.  Since she was always a health conscious person, who even went so far as to serve us raw sugar on our kitchen table instead of the refined type, and never let us drink Kool-Aid, which she called sugar water, now that I’m older I wonder why she agreed to take part in that trial. Did her doctor talk her into it? Or, because our family was so poor, did she do it out of necessity? Fortunately, she didn’t seem to suffer any ill effects that I know about. Maybe it even helped her. I was too young to know all the details.
Dorrie Donato, the newly widowed heroine in my new romantic thriller, Forever Young:  Blessing or Curse, is invited by her husband’s boss to become part of a trial run on a new drug, one much more radical than the one my Mom took. If it worked, Dorrie could change from 55 to 24 and keep on hold at her new age as long as she faithfully took the pill.
Life wasn’t good since she’d lost her husband, Larry. He’d been too much a part of her life to pretend he’d never existed. Also, a bone density test had already shown she had osteopenia, the precursor to osteoporosis, the disease from which her mother had horribly suffered. Added to that was the fact her thyroid was shot. On a lesser scale, she wasn’t too thrilled about her thickened waist, wrinkles and veins. All those reasons led Dorrie to take the huge step of being a pioneer for a new drug.
Dorrie reverted to that earlier age, but still couldn’t get her husband out of her mind. She’d give up her new life in a flash if she could grow old with him instead, but that was not an option. She must make the best of life without him.
The pill worked remarkably for Dorrie, but then she discovered there are other ways to die besides taking an experimental pill.
I made her desperate enough to take the Forever Young pill; but, being the cautious person I am, I wouldn’t have done so. In fact, I wouldn’t want to take part in any medical trial run. Then again, I live in the real world and not a story book. What about you?  Would you, or have you, taken part in any medical trials?
Forever Young: Blessing or Curse
Fresh beginnings turn tragic when Dorrie Donato’s husband, Larry, is killed in a hit and run accident a few months after starting a new job at the Life is for Living Institute. Discouraged and desperate after suffering countless setbacks, Dorie accepts an offer by  Larry’s boss, the famous Angel Man, to  be the first to test an experimental pill designed to spin its user back to a desired age and hold there, yet still retain all previous memories.  The pill seems too good to be true. Maybe it is.
Thanks for letting me share a little about my Mom and my book, Paula.

It's a pleasure to have you as our guest, Morgan - and you've certainly got me thinking about a 'Forever Young' Pill!

You can find Morgan at
Links For All Formats & Excerpts to all of Morgan’s books:

Thursday, February 23, 2012

O is for Overhaul

The time has come. I finished my current WIP, polished it up, wrote a cover letter and synopsis, and sent the query to my editor. Within twenty-four hours (I truly do love how fast The Wild Rose Press is...) she asked for the full and I sent it off to her. it's time to tackle another project I've put off. Not totally intentionally, I was under a bit of a deadline with the one I just submitted, so that took priority. I need to overhaul another mss. I'd sent this one out and the editor said she liked the story, but it needed some tweaking before it was ready to be published.

Of course I was devistated at first. I thought the story was perfect as it was. Putting some distance between her e-mail and working on the rewrites has been a good thing, however. The short-comings she found in the story are viable ones. Her comments will help me steer the plot in a direction I didn't think to go, but will make a lot of sense for the story-line. It really will make the story a better one overall.

Big chunks of it will need to be cut and rewritten to fit the new outline. My heroine's motivation needs a little revamping in order to make her more consistent. I need to eliminate some repetition.

I have a lot of work ahead of me.

I've made copious notes, printed out the entire mss, and I'm ready to go...

Let the overhaul begin!

Until next time,

Happy Reading!


Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Occupational Hazards

At one time, it seemed to be the norm that a hero in a romance novel had to have a glamorous, high profile or ‘macho’ job (think Italian count owner of vineyard, head of multi-million corporation, Greek ship owner, etc). When a heroine was actually allowed to have a job (other than nurse, secretary or governess), then it had to be something supposedly ‘feminine’ like interior or fashion design or florist.

Today’s heroes and heroines don’t necessarily have to be at the top of their profession. They can be cops or doctors or lawyers. And in fact, heroines could, and do, have those same jobs. At least now we have some kind of occupational equality in romance novels.

However, my dilemma is that I don’t really know anything about different occupations. Having spent almost all my working life in a High School environment, I don’t have a clue about other jobs. In fact, having retired from teaching about 15 years ago, I’m totally out-of-date with the teaching profession too. And I don’t know any lawyers or PR/advertising executives or hotel owners etc etc etc.

So what do I do?

I’ve taken a chance and had two heroines who were actresses since I do know a little about that profession. Another was a TV reporter turned college lecturer, so at least I didn’t have to give too many details about her earlier career and could concentrate on the educational background. Another was a tour guide on a Nile cruise ship. I’m not sure that a week on a Nile cruise qualified me to write about that, but I did my best.

As for my heroes, the first one was a producer/director in London’s West End theatre world. What did I know about professional theatre? Nothing! At least, not from an insider’s POV. I drew on my experience of amateur theatre, did quite a lot of research and no-one’s challenged me (yet!) on anything wildly inaccurate. In fact, a lot of people have actually commented about their enjoyment of the theatre world I portrayed.

Then I had a journalist/novelist - again not too difficult, except when he was researching an article on alternative fuel sources. Why couldn’t I have had him researching something I actually know about? But - he led and I followed.

My next hero was an archaeologist, Okay, I know something about archaeology but still had to spend hours reading up about the Valley of the Kings in Egypt.

Next came a volcanologist! The sum total of my knowledge about volcanoes before this could have been summed up very briefly - they erupt sometimes and create ash clouds and lava rivers. So I had a mass of research to do – most of which I never actually used in the book, but I’m quite proud of the fact that I now know what a correlation spectrometer measures – and I laughed my socks off when this actually came up in an online trivia quiz I do regularly!

I swore my next hero would have an occupation I knew something about. But no, he decided he’s a veterinary surgeon. So now I’m researching vets.

I’d be very interested to know how other writers choose the occupations for their heroes and heroines. Do you go for jobs about which you have a personal knowledge, or know someone in that profession? Or, if not, how do you research occupations about which you have no real knowledge or experience?

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

One True Love

All the great romances have them. Bogey and Bacall, Jane and Mr. Rochester, Romeo and Juliet. That one person the other can’t live without. It doesn’t matter if they’re with someone else, if they’re forbidden to be with each other or if a conflict separates them. They belong together and ultimately, they will be.

In the movies, smoldering looks between Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall fueled that chemistry and made audiences clamor to see them together, despite an age difference of 25 years. Jane Eyre started out as a helpless governess, subject to the whims of Mr. Rochester. But slowly, desire builds between them and by the time she leaps to his rescue, the reader is hooked. Shakespeare creates the ultimate tragedy with Romeo and Juliet. The young lovers are so devoted to each other that when Romeo thinks Juliet is dead, he kills himself. Faced with the death of her lover, Juliet also kills herself.

The desire to see the guy get the girl (or vice versa) is why we read and write romances. Getting the reader to root for our hero’s and heroine’s happily ever after is the author’s job. We do that by creating chemistry between them—making the glances they give each other sizzle; creating witty repartee; showing one’s vulnerability and how the other protects it. Not only that, we need to make the reader believe that our heroine is the ONLY one for our hero and that our heroine can’t possibly live without our hero.

We create conflicts that tear our hero and heroine apart, only to find a miraculous, but believable, way to get them back together. We want our situations to be realistic to an extent, but fantastical enough to carry us away. We want that kick-up-your-heels kind of kiss, that take-your-breath-away moment. That’s what makes us unable to put down the book. Isn’t it?

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Opening Scene Dissection

I am still not sure I am satisfied with the opening scene of my WIP. I’ve left it alone for a few weeks, and today came across a chapter in Hooked, by Les Edgerton, that offers a priority list of where to start, and what information needs to be excluded.

I’ve already trimmed a chapter and a half of backstory. Edgerton writes:
Unless a book is part of an already established series, it opens on a blank world. A reader knows nothing about the situation or the characters. This is why it is tempting to write backstory, feeling the need to bring the reader up to date with a set up.

He says the most essential components of an opening scene are:
1. Inciting incident—the event that creates the lead’s initial surface problem and sets the stage for the story-worthy problem. This is the “action” part of the story, the part that is plot-based.
2. Story-worthy problem—the deep, inner life changing issue or character trait the lead will resolve by the end of the book.
3. The Initial Surface problem—the first, outer problem the main character has to solve as a result of the inciting incident. It propels the lead to take action.
4. The Set-up—the first few words that orient the reader in the opening scene. Who and where and what’s happening.

Secondary components:
5. Backstory—anything and everything that has happened up to the time of the inciting incident.
6. Opening Line
7. Language—avoid adverbs. Limit adjectives.
8. Character introduction—by showing their reactions to the inciting incident.
9. Setting
10. Foreshadowing.

The reader doesn’t need to understand what led to the opening situation in order to fully realize the significance of what’s happening when trouble begins.

Trust the reader.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

N is for Nancy Drew

Before my love afair with romance began, my series of choice was the Nancy Drew mysteries. These were the first books I remember not being able to get enough of. I can still picture the shelf at the library where they were housed. I made a bee-line for that section every time we walked into the library. These books were the reason I went to the library. I had my checklist and would mark off the ones I'd read. Choosing a new four or five on each visit was nothing less than thrilling.

I wanted to be Nancy Drew. I was completely emersed in her world.

Now, even as an adult, I'll still pick up one to read every once in a while. I've collected some of the series, but not all. I'm always on the lookout to complete my collection. I love looking at those yellow spines on my personal library shelf.

Carolyn Keene is the offical author of the series, but this is a pseudonym used to cover a wide variety of writers who have actually written the stories. The first was Mildred Wirt Benson who penned twenty-three Nancy Drew stories. Some of the original stories have been updated throughout the years, and Nancy has gone through many changes herself.

But the overall feel of the cozy whodunnits has remained for countless generations to discover and enjoy.

I can honestly say my love of reading, and especially that craving of never having enough, stemmed from Nancy Drew. It was this love of reading that eventually led to my desire to be a writer. Nancy will always hold a special place in my heart.

(If you'd like a fun and nostalgic peek 'behind the scenes' of Nancy Drew, I highly recommend The Mysterious Case of Nancy Drew and the Hardy Boys by Carole Kismaric ande Marvin Heiferman.)

Until next time,

Happy Reading!


Wednesday, February 15, 2012


There are plenty of pitfalls when you’re choosing names for your characters.

The first, of course, is that the name(s) you choose for your hero or heroine (simply because you happen to like them) may not appeal to your readers. Personally, I dislike the names Nathan and Fiona, although not for any particular reason. It’s been said that everyone associates names with people they know (or have known), but this isn’t the case with me. I don’t know any Nathans or Fionas, but somehow the names simply don’t resonate with me. Maybe that’s why those names came into my mind for secondary characters in my novels who, while not exactly ‘villains’, are somewhat unpleasant..

Another thing to think about is whether your names reflect the time when the characters were born. I won’t go into the very unlikely names I’ve seen in historical (mainly Regency) novels but, even in contemporary novels, we need to look at the names which tended to be used in the decade in which the characters were born. If a heroine is now in her 20’s, it’s very unlikely she would be called Bertha or Hilda (unless she’s named after a grandparent) since these names come from a different era. Nor is it likely that her mother is called Kylie or Beyonce. If I’m stuck for a name for a secondary character, I sometimes look at lists of the most popular names in the relevant decade.

Be wary of names which the reader might not know how to pronounce. Irish names are one example. I remember when a character called Aislin was referred to as Ash. At the time, I didn’t know this name was pronounced Ash-lin, and not Aze-lin, which was how I’d been pronouncing it in my mind. When, for no apparent reason, I thought of the name Neve for one of my heroines, I decided to spell it like that and not the true Irish spelling of Niamh, which looks nothing like its pronunciation. The same applies to any ‘foreign’ name, as I discovered when I was writing my novel set in Egypt. I chose names which sounded like their spelling.

Don’t use names which are too similar, or which rhyme. I once read a story where one character was Helen and another Ellen - could be confusing. Avoid having names like Carrie and Larry in the same story, or too many names starting with the same letter. Names which are usually associated together should also be avoided. I’m sure none of us would think of having hero Mickey falling for heroine Minnie, but I nearly fell into the trap when I had a character in my hero Jack’s past called Jill. Only when my heroine referred to Jack and Jill did I realise I needed to change Jill’s name!

Naming sisters or brothers of the hero and heroine needs some thought too. Would parents who give ‘traditional’ names like Abigail and Sarah to two of their daughters suddenly decide to name another daughter ‘Pixie’ or a son ‘Zowie’ (unless, of course, there’s a specific reason for this).

Surnames, too can cause problems. If heroine Paige Summers marries hero Justin Turner, does she become a Paige Turner? And should Sherry Morgan really marry Simon Kerry? Avoid surnames, too, which are associated with someone very famous (unless it's a fairly common surname). Any hero surnamed Clooney would always remind me of George – not that that’s necessarily a bad thing, of course!

Any other pitfalls you can think of?

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Nooks And Other E-Readers

I’m broadening our topic today. Maybe even going off on a tangent. But, readers are essential for writers, so I hope everyone makes an allowance for me. J

I’ve been reading since I was three or four years old. I remember trips to the library with my mom, where we’d come home with a stack of books almost taller than I was, only to return the following week for new ones. I remember browsing the aisles of bookstores with friends or my husband, spending hours trying to decide what books to buy and being tempted by them all. I remember conversations around the dinner table during holidays, discussing the latest books my uncles wrote, analyzing the meanings behind the words and discussing which relatives received the honor of a dedication. In other words, books have always been an important part of my life.

For me, books were always paper. Their weight gave importance to the words within; the smell of the ink and the paper added to the excitement; the ability to read ahead, or to refrain from doing so, adding suspense. And then I got published and jumped into the world of the e-reader.

I was skeptical at first. Is an e-book a “real” book? My kids started talking about friends who had e-readers and how suddenly non-readers (they exist???) were enjoying the pleasures of reading. I viewed my book on my iPad and it looked real enough. Actually, it was pretty exciting. The cover filled the screen, the pages looked like “real” pages and were easy to navigate. I couldn’t necessarily skim through sections to read ahead, but that’s kind of something I should avoid doing anyway (kind of like reading the last page of a mystery). And although I also had my book in hard copy, I had a lot of friends who were eager to order it as an e-book.

Then I started playing around with my Nook app, and I fell in love. Most Nook books were cheaper than hard copies. There were free samples to try. I’m more willing to take chances on new authors because it’s less of an investment. If you have the real Nook, like my daughter does, you can go to Barnes & Noble and try books for free for 30 minutes. If you have a Kindle, you can borrow books from our local library. I’ve developed a library on my Nook app of a certain type of book that I like. They’re all in one place, and I can go back and reread them easily, without having to scan shelves in my basement to try to figure out exactly which book I’m thinking of.

Do I still like paper books. Yes. I’m not picky—I like ALL books. I still borrow hard copies from the library, still go to the bookstore and buy paper books. But having the Nook app gives me another opportunity to read books that I might have hesitated to buy before. And anything that encourages reading is a great thing!

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Naughty or Nice?

Asking this question implies that a character, or a plot, will be one-dimensional. Flat. Maybe boring.

Supporting characters can be naughty or nice. The fumble-fingered side-kick. The dotty neighbor. The all-wise grandfather. The ultra-brave (or super-silly) maidservant. The sell-out brother-in-law. A Dr. Watson. Their role is not to be more interesting than the lead.

A romance is constructed around the main characters, and how they change so they can have a happily-ever-after.

I didn’t discover my first heroine’s depth until I was writing the second to last chapter. She’d just returned to her family’s South Dakota ranch after she’d summoned the inner strength to escape from her kidnappers and collapse in the arms of her lover, who’d turned heaven and earth inside out to be in the exact right place to catch her.

I thought I’d resolved all the subplots, and all that was left was to reunite them for their HEA. And I was unable to script that path. She could plausibly morph into a stoic spinster. She couldn’t say oops and rush back to him without hurling off some pillar principles.

Then a secondary character demanded his due. He found my heroine in the loft of the barn. She was sitting where she and the hero had first made love, where the hero had given her a ring (and meant it), and where he’d had to confess that the ring was bought for another woman.

The secondary character revealed a secret that filled the core void in her identity. She learned her mother had been naughty as well as nice. Her mother had loved him as much as the man the heroine believed was her father. He explained that love has many forms of expression, and although she wasn’t the hero’s first love, she could be his forever love. If she accepted he had a complicated naughty, but nice past.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Friday Friend - Deborah Riley-Magnus

Please welcome Deborah Riley-Magnus!
She will give a free ebook copy of "Cold in California" to one lucky commenter today.

Vampires, Romance and a Real Chance at Heaven!

I don’t know about you, but the whole Vampire thing doesn’t sit well with me. Yes, they’re incredibly sexy beings everyone would secretly (or not so secretly) love to take a bite out of, but seriously, think about it. The entire concept is laced with hopelessness and despair. To live dead, cold and only in the dark, to murder in order to remain functioning, and to never, ever have the slightest hope of redemption? It breaks my heart. In fact, it bothered me so much … I changed it!

There’s so much romance mixed in the vampire lore and mythology, but I wanted to create a romance with not only the perfect woman for my reluctant vampire hero, but a romance with the possibility of true salvation. Here’s basically how it went for Gabriel Strickland:

What happens to a vampire after he finally dies? Heaven? Hell? Nope, purgatory in a West Hollywood warehouse. Go figure.

Where does any original idea come from? I’m a firm believer that creativity is plagiarism with a flare; the wheel can’t be reinvented and if it’s square, it can’t roll. Basically, all story ideas come from the same original four or five plots, but I strongly believe that how a story is told makes a bigger impact than what the story is about. Most ideas start with love or adventure, coming of age or fantasy; the great ones come from a skewed point of view no one ever thought of before … Cold in California came to me from a very twisted and off-center place.

Truth? I never intended to write a vampire story but one day, while out on sales calls in West Hollywood, I had one of those experiences only a writer can have. It was an epiphany of the creative senses. As I climbed into my car to drive to my next appointment, I noticed something very interesting across the street. A dwarf walked along then stopped in front of what appeared to be an empty old warehouse. He suspiciously looked left then right then skulked into the darkness and my mind went off into the warped unknown. What was inside that warehouse? Was that guy a leprechaun or maybe a troll? Were there other supernatural creatures in there? What were they doing in that warehouse right in the middle of bustling West Hollywood? And … and … what if they were hiding? What if they were all … dead? The vampires would be double-dead, or better yet, twice-baked! What if they have to live right in that warehouse and … what if they have to behave themselves in order to gain salvation or else?

And thus began the story.

"Cold in California" is an urban fantasy that takes a really, really dead vampire and mystically sweeps him to a West Hollywood warehouse where he has one last chance to earn redemption. Obviously this isn’t going to be easy, especially since he has to live with other chosen dead supernaturals – trolls, werewolves, pixies, leprechauns, fairies, and a few you may have never heard of. Against their natures, all these strange characters are challenged to earn the brownie points required to pass through the pearly gates. Gabriel, of course has far more difficulties, after all he’s very handsome, has to now live among humans and dead supernaturals and the other ‘living’ supernaturals infesting the planet. He has to deal with the fact that everything he believed about final death is a lie, tolerate the unique West Hollywood warehouse culture, and endure intense new and exciting love with a beautiful woman (of course). Oh, and he must ignore his “loner” personality to step up and triumph over imminent disaster. And all this poor unhappy vampire wanted to do was be dead.

My goal was to create a vampire story and romance you’ve never seen before! How much fun is that?

"Cold in California! is the first of a five book Twice-Baked Vampire Series and was released June 15, 2011.

Excerpt from Page 5

Gabriel wondered if he’d stumbled across his first ‘familiar’ human since 1931. No one had ever suspected he was vampire before. No one. Ever. Had she known his kind? Perhaps fed them? This could be easy, it should be pleasant and it might solve a multitude of problems. Gabriel was tired of moving around so much. Something a bit steadier might be just what the doctor ordered. Any relationship required a boatload of lies and apologies for his seemingly accidental, over-zealous biting. Cursed by the life he lived, hit and run was the norm for his sexual encounters. Keeping his secret demanded he leave sooner than he liked, before things got out of hand like they did in Omaha.

There’s a boredom that comes with complete variety whether one believes it or not. Living forever had its drawbacks. The mere idea of seeing the same face and tasting the same blood day after day for a while nearly charged his batteries to overload. It also raised his radar.

She may be the answer to an undead’s prayer, but she could very well be the opposite.
He’d never crossed paths with Buffy the Vampire Slayer but that didn’t mean she didn’t exist. Still, he felt an imaginary warmth under his skin and relaxed into the possibilities. Gabriel tried to be an optimistic kind of guy. He knew that if things went bad, his host went to heaven. That was a positive outlook, now wasn’t it?

Through the boring innings they chatted casually about the weather and various cities they’d seen. If, or in that case, when Chicago lost, the team would end the year in dead last but hope reigns eternal. It was the only reason the crowd was so big. At the bottom of the ninth, Brent Tittler struggling at the plate, and right in the middle of describing her best friend’s cowboy-themed wedding, Starling made a statement that would have caught Gabriel’s breath, if he breathed.

“I always wondered about the wounds. Do they heal?”

His eyes were cold and hard, he didn’t dare show his intrigue. She didn’t even flinch.

“I mean, do you leave a bad mark, and does it have to be where people can see it … when you … you know … drink? Will I need to take out stock in antiseptic?”

“You’d like to be …”

“Oh yes, especially with a great looking guy like you. You are a man, right? In every sense of the word?”

Gabriel glanced around. Behind them sat a row of nuns, all dressed in medieval black and white habits and clicking rosary beads in their gnarled fingers. Chicago Cubs caps were precariously propped, tilted on their heads over ominous black veils. No doubt they were serious, biblical Cubs fans. Like God, if there even was a God, really gave a damn where the Cubs ended the season. Gabriel could hear their whispered Hail Marys and wasn’t sure if he was more uneasy talking about sex or his unholy nature in their presence. He drew close and spoke quietly in Starling’s ear. “Are you asking if I can perform intercourse with a woman? Yes I can. Antiseptic optional.”

She giggled a nervous laugh. “So, no infection?’

“Not that I’ve ever caused.”

“Maybe we can go now?” she suggested in a husky low voice, leaning closer even though he could have heard her whispered indecent proposal from across Wrigley Field. “This will be so cool!”

By the look of her, he could only assume she’d voraciously read Anne Rice. He just as voraciously hoped he could meet her expectations. A shiver rippled over his body like a minor earth tremor. Gabriel stood, smiled and reached to grip her hand. This was more than promising and he actually felt giddy for the first time in decades.

They had great seats, third row, just past the dugout on the first base side. Sweet seats, even with the Cubbies losing. Her warm hand gripped his as the crack of the bat resounded and he turned. It was a high pop up, but unlike all the other fans around him, Gabriel wasn’t watching the ball, illusively hidden in the lights. He was watching the sharp shard of a broken wooden bat soar … at breakneck speed … right … at … his … chest …

Well, this sure as hell wasn’t supposed to happen. Staked in the heart by a fucking broken bat? Who does that happen to? His hand shot to the wood, it was buried deep and he was weakening by the second. Agonizing sensations of explosion and implosion flooded through his body, noise blasted in his ears and suddenly he was staring up at the lights. Behind them, black night. There were stars but he couldn’t see them. The pain was excruciating and Gabriel begged any god who’d listen to make it end quickly. Heat. Searing. A stench. Then came the blackness and peace he had dreamed of for nearly eighty years. Finally, an end to it all. Dead as he was meant to be.

"Monkey Jump", the second book in the Twice-Baked Vampire Series is scheduled for release in late April, 2012. Gabriel Strickland may appear to be coping well with the responsibilities his life after double-death has dealt him, but it’s only show. The struggle to earn his ticket through the Pearly Gates takes a toll when he’s assigned to perform a Monkey Jump – a program designed to teach newly assigned management the skills required to do their job. To soften the blow, he takes his love, Dori, along as his assistant. What he wants is peace, a little romance and serenity to think things through, what he gets is startling temptation, a Soul Eater and his sidekick, Master Witch and Grand Matron, Neave Brittania Cook. One has a revenge agenda and the other, designs on Gabriel’s soul. It all gets worse when the Monkey Jump itinerary takes a perilous detour to a north Alaskan community of the oldest, most evolved vampires on the planet. Secrets must be kept and Gabriel must protect Dori as well as his own path to paradise. Well hell, this can’t be good.

Cold in California Amazon Link

Author Bio
Deborah Riley-Magnus is an author and an Author Success Coach. She has a twenty-seven year professional background in marketing, advertising and public relations as a writer for print, television and radio. She writes both fiction and non-fiction and as an Author Success Coach, focuses exclusively on publicity, marketing and promotional solutions for authors.

Deborah produces frequent pieces for various websites including Unruly Guides and WriteSEX as a marketing expert. She also writes an author industry blog and teaches online and live workshops as The Author Success Coach. She belongs to several writing and professional organizations. In 2011, she had a novel, Cold in California, and a non-fiction, Finding Author Success released. Her second fiction is scheduled for release in late April.

She’s lived on both the east and west coast of the United States and has traveled the country widely.

My Website and Blog Links
I fiction –
I write -
I suck -
I blog -
I teach -
I tweet –
I facebook -
I should be sooo tired!

My Wonderful Publisher’s Link

M is for Music

I love music. I can't carry a tune in a bucket, but that doesn't stop me from singing along in the car. I belt it out along with the artist playing on the CD. This isn't the best idea in the summer, since I drive a convertible, but heck, it's not like I'm ever going to see the guy driving next to me ever again.

Music often provides a muse for me. My Christmas novella, A Christmas to Remember, was inspired by a song of the same title sung by Kenny Rogers and Dolly Parton. My free read, another Christmas story as it happens, Mistletoe and Folly, was inspired by Toby Keith's "Blame it on the Mistletoe". I have an idea for a time travel based on another Toby keith song: "Bullets in the Gun".

Certain songs, while not having inspired a particular story, seem to go with one. I've chosen two songs for the playlist of my WIP, "An Unexpected Blessing", so far: "Outlaws Like Me" by Justin Moore and "Like Jesus Does" by Eric Church.

Sometimes I listen to music when I write, but not often. I'll play some classical if I'm trying to block out background noise from around the house: movie scores work well for this. But while I'm writing, songs with lyrics are distracting.

I usually try to weave music into my stories as well. A character may be listening to a favorite artist. Just one more thing to add dimension and a realistic touch to fiction. One of these days I'm going to write that story about a rock star. (My particular teen-aged fantasy!)

For me, music is the ultimate pick-me-up. It never fails to put me in a better mood.

Until next time,

Happy Reading!


Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Messages to Myself

I could also have called this ‘Mistakes not to Make’ - so here goes:

  • Must stop being diverted by my inner editor and learn to write a first draft without agonising over every little detail. I can fix those in the first big edit of the story once it’s all written. So (a) if I can’t think of the exact word I need, I should put something similar, then highlight it so I can come back to it later and (b) if I know I’m using a word or phrase too many times, I should ignore it in the first draft (and again highlight it for future editing)
  • Must also stop being diverted by research, however interesting it might be. For example, how come I spent two hours on Google street view last weekend, when all I was looking for was the distance between two places? And why did I stop writing for ages to look for a surname for a minor character? Maybe I need to differentiate between research that’s important to the story, and insignificant details that I can sort out later.
  • Must stop procrastinating and kidding myself that playing Pyramid solitaire is my ‘thinking time’. Instead, I should use the time visiting blogs, learning from other people (about their mistakes?), leaving comments and, hopefully, getting to know other writers (and readers). The latter, of course, is the ONLY reason I spend time on Facebook and Twitter (so now who am I kidding??)
  • Must keep going even when I feel like I am writing through treacle or, as I read recently, carving granite with a teaspoon. Must remember that, with every story I’ve written, I’ve gone through the phase of ‘This story is rubbish, it’s going nowhere, no-one will ever want to read it.’ But I’ve carried on and eventually found myself thinking “Hmm, maybe it isn’t too bad after all” and even “Yeah, it’s turned out to be quite a good story after all.” It’s happened before, and it will happen again with the current WIP (I hope!).
There are countless more messages I could give myself but that’s enough for now. What messages do you think you ought to give yourself?

Tuesday, February 7, 2012


“Up scrambles the car, on all its four legs…” D.H. Lawrence, Mornings in Mexico

“So consumers are not exactly dragging their feet. They are dancing as fast as can be expected.” Business Week

“…there has been a mountain of meaning rising behind you…” Eudora Welty, One Writer’s Beginnings

A metaphor is a figure of speech in which a word or phrase is applied to an object or action to which it is not literally applicable. It is a thing regarded as representative or symbolic of something else, especially something abstract.

Metaphors give our language color. They provide variety. They enable us to describe ordinary items, people and places in extraordinary ways.

In fact, an article published online this week in the journal Brain & Language, and described in another article by Quinn Eastman, says that the parietal operculum, the part of the brain important for sensing texture through touch, is activated when someone listens to a sentence with a textural metaphor. How cool is that? Metaphors actually stimulate your brain and that stimulation can be seen with brain imaging.

So the next time you’re searching for exactly the right word choice, remember the metaphor—it’s good for your brain!

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Mood Mythbuster

Romance writers deal often with mood, and changes in mood. Our heroines can change their minds quickly, as they are presented with new information or they reassess.
William Zinsser, in his On Writing Well, offers a myth buster. He says, "Many of us were taught that no sentence should begin with "but." If that's what you learned, unlearn it--there's no stronger word at the start of a sentence. It announces a total contrast with what has gone before, and primes the reader for the change."
"However" is best used mid sentence, as in "It is, however, a weaker word."
"Yet" does almost the same job as "but," though its meaning is closer to "nevertheless.: Either of these words can replace a whole long phrase that summarizes what the reader has just been told. "Instead," "still," "thus," "therefore,."
Using "meanwhile," "now," "later," "today," and "subsequently" ensures the reader follows a transition in the story.
And she'll thank you for using only one word.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Welcome Emma Leigh Reed

Please welcome Emma Leigh Reed!
(Emma will give a free print copy of Crashing Hearts to one lucky commenter, so be sure to post a comment.)

As I sit and think about writing this blog, my mind wanders to the beginning of my serious writing journey. Four years ago I decided I wanted to tell my son’s story. My son has PDD-NOS (pervasive developmental disorder, nonspecific – in layman’s terms high functioning autism). He was at the time eleven years old and the journey he had taken me on had been frustrating, rewarding, all consuming at times, but on the whole a journey of looking at the world in a totally different light.

As I sat down to start writing his story, the emotions were so raw still I just couldn’t do it. So instead, I decided to write a fiction story, but weave my son’s journey in autism into the story line. I did not plot out this story. As it developed, the characters took over and the story just became what it is.

CRASHING HEARTS, although fiction, in a lot of ways has my own personal, and my son’s, experiences weaved throughout. A lot of the accomplishments you will see Jared making in CRASHING HEARTS are accomplishments that my son made. It was a therapeutic story for me to write, allowing me to tell some about my journey through autism and my son’s accomplishments and also allowing me to write a story in which I always wanted to do, but never had the courage.

My son’s autism has taught me a lot about my own life. His hard work to get where he is now in life has given me bravery to do what I truly love to do – write. People who have never had the experience of knowing an autistic child do not understand the small milestones that are huge. The simple act of finally getting a hug from your child, a real hug with arms wrapped around you, will bring tears to your eyes. The first words out of a four-year-old after being nonverbal and only using sign language to communicate tears can melt your heart. I would never be able to convey through a book how powerful a journey it is to be taught by your child how to never take the little things for granted.

Chapter 1

Kira Nichols pushed back her hair as the crisp salt air blew it across her face. She walked up the path—her sneakers leaving small impressions in the soft sand—to the cul-de-sac. At the empty lot across from her house, the foundation had been capped over and abandoned for about a year now.

She sprang into a run at the rumble of a sports car arriving at a fast clip. She arrived at the cul-de-sac at the same time the vehicle skidded to a stop. She caught her breath as the lean, ruggedly handsome man exited his vehicle. The smile he flashed her was one she imagined had many women melting at his feet.

Kira squared her shoulders and approached him. Her five foot two inch frame seemed minute compared to his at least six foot stature. She willed herself to appear calm and not give away that her senses had completely left her at the sight of him.

“Grant Rutledge.” He extended his hand to her. His deep voice, like a shot of brandy, was warm and soothing. She swallowed hard, her anger forgotten for a brief second. Then it flared back and she ignored his hand. “Do you have any idea that there are children in this area?” she demanded, planting her hands on her hips.

“My apologies if you felt I was going too fast.” He gave an exaggerated glance around. “There aren’t any children about now.” He smiled that smile again and in spite of her anger, her heart melted. She started with the realization he still had his hand extended in introduction. She tentatively shook his calloused fingers. Tingles shot up her arm and she struggled with not yanking her hand away. Heat flooded her face. She prayed he couldn’t tell.

“Again, I apologize. I hope you wouldn’t think I have no regard for children.”

Kira turned to go. “I just know the type.” She gestured absently at the car. She forced herself to walk slowly towards her house, feeling his eyes on her back. Her mind whirled. She had practically melted at the sound of his voice. Her cheeks reddened at the thought of him watching her walk away—thankful she had stayed in shape.

The solitude of the cul-de-sac was the reason she originally loved this spot. Her house had been the only one in this two-lot area for six years. She hoped the new construction company would be considerate and not disrupt the serenity, and keep working hours to normal business hours, hours when Jared was in preschool.

She thought back to the long hours they kept when they put in the foundation. Jared had been unable to sleep due to the noise and disruption of his routine. Hopefully this time around the noise wouldn’t disturb him. He was just beginning to sleep through the night.

If only she could.
* * * *
Jared ran up the walkway to meet Kira, signing furiously: “Who is that man?”

“That is Grant Rutledge,” she signed back. “He is going to be building the new house, so you will need to stay away from the construction site.”

Jared’s hands and fingers flew in his excitement to know about the new house, and the fast car he saw. “Jared, use your words.” Kira ushered him into the house.

“Car, red.”

“Yes, the car was red, and it’s very fast, so you must stay away from there.” Kira found Barbara’s eyes over Jared’s head, and gave her the “I have so much to tell you” look.

“Time to get ready for the day, Jared,” Barbara interjected.

Jared skipped off to the bedroom happily, and Barbara handed Kira a cup of coffee. “Spill. I saw him. It wasn’t the fast car that made you come into this house so quick.”

Kira, glaring at Barbara over the coffee, walked slowly to the sliding doors overlooking the ocean. “What happened to the quietness of our lives? Why do I feel like it is gone?”

“Is it gone?” Barbara asked. “Or just stirred up a little? I think maybe you’ve been holding onto grief and bitterness for so long that you don’t have any idea how to look objectively at life. Before you say it, I’m heading for the kitchen and not saying another word. Nevertheless, before I go, let me just say out of love for you, Kira, darling, Patrick’s been gone for four years now. You’ve built your life around Jared, and that’s great because Jared needs you. However, there comes a time when you need someone also, someone besides Jared and an old lady like myself.”

“Barb, it’s not like that.”

“Honey, you’ve been holding on for so long, and don’t tell me you’re not angry with Patrick for the way he left the night of the accident. Kira, I’m angry with him. He never should’ve left that way. You had it just as tough as him, if not more, with the crying. He was the father. He should have been here right beside you.”

“Stop! We are not going to rehash that night and we certainly aren’t going to blame Patrick. He’s gone and nothing is going to change that.” Kira looked toward the ocean and for- got about her coffee and Barbara. For a moment she lost track of the here and now and drifted off into the peace of the ocean.

Something caught Kira’s eye, and she turned to see Grant taking measurements, preparing for the construction. Feelings she hadn’t felt in so long flooded her as she watched his dark, wavy hair blow in the breeze. Half sighing, half growling to herself, she turned from the window. Distractions were not what she needed now. There was a routine to follow. For Jared’s sake.

Bio: Emma Leigh Reed has lived in New Hampshire all her life. She has fond memories of the Maine coastline and incorporates the ocean into all her books. She lives in a small town with her husband and three children. Her life has been touched and changed by her son's autism - she views life through a very different lens than before he was born. Growing up as an avid reader, it was only natural for Emma Leigh to turn to creating the stories for others to enjoy.

Buying info: Ebook – Amazon Ebook and print – Whiskey Creek Press
She can be found at: Twitter Facebook

L is for Logan

Logan Reed. I have a soft spot in my heart for him. He was my first.

My first hero that is.

My sister named him. As soon as she came up with it, I knew it was perfect.

He's the epitome of the quintisential romance hero. (At least in my mind.) Tall. Dark hair. Green eyes. He looks good in boots, Wranglers, and a cowboy hat. He drives a pick up and owns a ranch. He's a self-made, successful businessman.

But none of that matters to Sharlie. They were high school sweethearts until all of their dreams for the future were shattered. So she's none too pleased when he walks back into her life twelve years later. He presence threatens to destroy the life she's made for herself, but she can't get away from reminders of the past.

Logan has his own agenda. He's back in town to prove he's no longer the boy from the wrong side of the tracks. And he doesn't want Sharlie to forget what they once shared.


Logan's strong arm encircled her waist, preventing her from falling.

Sharlie caught her breath as her body pressed against him. She raised her eyes to his.

The anger in his eyes turned to awareness. His breath hitched. The temperature in the tiny room rose.

Logan's gaze roamed every inch of her face, finally coming to rest on her lips.

Her pulse quickened, the beat thundering in her ears. They were so close she could feel the cadence of his heart. She sucked in a gasp of air.

His gaze met hers again. "I've tried to stop thinking about you like this. But I can't."

Sharlie licked dry lips, then cursed inwardly when the action drew his attention there once more. His head lowered.

"Don't," she managed.

"Don't what?" Logan's warm breath caressed her cheek.

"Don't kiss me."

"Why not?"

"Because I don't want you to." Even to her own ears the protest sounded weak.

"Liar," Logan taunted.

"Please," she tried one last time, shaking her head in a vain attempt to deny the feelings coursing through her.

Logan cupped the back of her head, stilling the motion. "I have to." His words melted into a kiss as their lips met.

The gentle insistence of his mouth coaxed a response from her. Her lips parted, allowing the kiss to deepen. Their breath mingled. The moist heat made her knees buckle.

"Don't you remember?" Logan's husky voice whispered, as his lips left hers to trail down the column of her throat. "Remember how good it was."

Oh, yeah. And he's a good kisser.

You can read more about Logan in This Time for Always.

Until next time,

Happy Reading!


Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Love at First Sight?

It’s almost a clichĂ© in romance novels: the hero and heroine feel an instant attraction to each other from the moment they first set eyes on each other. It’s the ‘Some Enchanted Evening’ syndrome.

But does it happen in real life? And is it really love?

It has appeared in romantic poems and stories ever since ancient times. The Greeks thought of it as ‘love’s arrows’ from the god Eros reaching the eyes of the lover and travelling from there to pierce his or her heart. This symbol is still used today.

The Roman poets, too, spoke of love at first sight. According to Catullus, when the sea goddess Thetis appeared out of the waves, “That was the moment, so the story goes, when Peleus looked and loved, and Thetis happily stooped to an earthborn-mate.”

In the Middle Ages, the troubadours extended the concept of love’s arrows with the idea that the woman’s eyes were the source of the love arrow.

Shakespeare had Romeo falling for Juliet the moment he first saw her, Victor Hugo’s Marius and Cosette (in Les Miserables) fall in love when their eyes meet, the Little Mermaid falls in love with the prince when she first sees him, even Homer Simpson fell in love with Marge at his first sight of her.

Oh, and I also think Mr. Darcy and Elizabeth fell in love at first sight, even though neither was prepared to admit it to themselves, or to each other.

According to modern psychology, attractiveness is determined within 0.13 seconds of meeting someone. The next checkpoint is the voice. Within three minutes, we make up our minds whether someone could become a potential partner. Evidently we are genetically programmed to size this up almost instantly, an intuitive skill developed thousands of years ago as our ancestors struggled to distinguish friends from enemies.

Some ‘sixth sense’ may also come into play – an instinct that the person you have just met will affect your life profoundly, or an inner recognition of someone who will become important in your life.

An initial attraction to someone can also be stimulated by the release of some powerful chemicals into the nervous system, creating a physiological arousal – the racing heart is one result of the chemical dopamine.

I think most people would agree that ‘love’ needs more than basic intuition, instinct, and/or chemistry. Being attracted to someone and loving someone are two different things. Maybe, however, that first response creates the drive to get to know the other person better and therefore opens the way to falling in love and then loving someone.

‘Attraction at first sight’ might be a better phrase, but the people whose first attraction does develop into love are very likely to claim that, for them, it was ‘love at first sight’.

So I think we authors can carry on writing about the magic of ‘you may see a stranger, across a crowded room, and somehow you know …’ etc.