Tuesday, July 31, 2012

I Have To Write What?

I don’t know about you, but there are certain scenes that give me trouble as a writer. Everyone’s “trouble scenes” are different; for me, they’re sex scenes.  Unfortunately for me, those are some of the most important scenes that need to be written.

There are all kinds of variety and heat levels to sex scenes, and the type of story and characters determine how explicit they should be. I get that. In my first book, A Heart of Little Faith, the hero is in a wheelchair. Now, I’m not making any conclusions about how people in wheelchairs have sex—I know from the research I did that they do. But I made the decision to put sex scenes behind closed doors because I didn’t think I could write the scene well enough, with the additional difficulties that there might be, without making it sound clinical and unwieldy. Yes, that might be a reflection of me as a writer, but it making that book a “sweet romance” really worked. It fit the characters, the story, and the mood. However, reaching that decision was very difficult for me. I didn’t want readers to think I was making any kind of social judgment—I wasn’t. And once I decided to put the sex behind closed doors, I wanted there to be enough sensual scenes so that the reader was completely confident in the sexiness of the hero.

That night, after Lily paid Tara and looked in on Claire, she lay in bed and thought about Gideon’s kiss. She touched her lips, which still felt marked with his imprint. The kiss had been soft, gentle, yet filled with so much promise. His lips had been smooth and dry, with a trace of stubble that scratched her mouth. She ran her finger over the spot, back and forth until she ached with the memory. Hugging Gideon had been like hugging a rock. His hard chest and vise-like arms had pinned her against him. His heart thumped against hers and created a complementary rhythm, as if to warn her how futile it would be to resist him. As if she had wanted to.

In my second book, Skin Deep, the sex scenes were more explicit, and that created a completely different problem for me. See, I can’t help thinking about who is going to read my books after I write them. Sure, I really hope there will be lots of strangers reading it—who DOESN’T want to be Nora Roberts—but I’m confident that my parents will be first to do so. Yes, I said parents, plural. My dad likes to read what I write too. With the first one, there was nothing I could do to stop him from reading it. With the second, I was better able to convince him that since he isn’t a romance reader, even though the book was written by his daughter, he really wasn’t going to like it very much and I would not be offended at all if he chose to skip it. He did, luckily for me. Because I blushed, literally, every time I pictured him reading the sex scenes. I blushed writing them—yes, I’m probably a prude—and knowing that he might read them sent me over the edge. I wasn’t even that comfortable picturing women I knew reading them, but my DAD? No way!

John handed her the soap. She rubbed it between her hands and washed his body. Her touch was like a caress. She began with his broad chest and ran her fingers through the curly black hair that tapered off by his navel. He closed his eyes as she soothed his skin. It tingled as she slipped behind him and soaped his broad shoulders and back. He fought the urge to grab her hand as she traced the tan line at his waist with her soapy finger.(You’ll have to read the rest for more—this is a PG-rated blog!)

So, what scenes do you have trouble writing?

Sunday, July 29, 2012

One Million Copies...What makes a page turner?

For almost year now, I have studied story structure. Larry Brooks and Syd Field convinced me that every best seller is framed with the proper story elements in the right order. I can write a book that lacks an essential element, but it will be a hard sell for me, an aspiring author.

I used Larry Brooks's list below as my entry into plotting. See if it helps you, whether you're a plotter, a pantser, or a fluid outliner.

What is the conceptual hook/appeal of your story?

What is the theme(s) of your story?

How does your story open? Is there an immediate hook? And then…
what is the hero doing in their life before the first plot point?
what stakes are established prior to the first plot point?
what is your character’s backstory?
what inner demons show up here that will come to bear on the hero later
in the story?
what is foreshadowed prior to the first plot point?

What is the first plot point in your story?
is it located properly within the story sequence?
how does it change the hero’s agenda going forward?
what is the nature of the hero’s new need/quest?
what is at stake relative to meeting that need?
what opposes the hero in meeting that need?
what does the antagonistic force have at stake?
why will the reader empathize with the hero at this point?
how does the hero respond to the antagonistic force?

What is the Mid-Point contextual shift/twist in your story?
how does it part the curtain of superior knowledge…
… for the hero?… and/or, for the reader?
how does this shift the context of the story?
how does this pump up dramatic tension and pace?

How does your hero begin to successfully attack their need/quest?
how does the antagonistic force respond to this attack?
how do the hero’s inner demons come to bear on this attack?

What is the all-is-lost lull just before the second plot point?

What is the second plot point in your story?
how does this change or affect the hero’s proactive role?

How is your hero the primary catalyst for the successful resolution of
the central problem or issue in this story?
how does it meet the hero’s need and fulfill the quest?
how does the hero demonstrate the conquering of inner demons?
how are the stakes of the story paid off?
what will be the reader’s emotional experience as the story concludes?

Friday, July 27, 2012

Friday Friend - Anne Patrick and the E-book Revolution

Welcome to today’s Friday Friend, Anne Patrick.
Anne is the author of more than a dozen novels of Romance, Mayhem & Faith, including the award-winning and best-selling Fire and Ash, Kill Shot and Lethal Dreams. Her heroines are usually strong willed, witty, and often very opinionated…combinations that usually land them in situations where death seems imminent. When she's not working on her next novel she enjoys spending time with family and friends. She makes her home in Kansas.

To learn more about Anne, please visit her website: http://annepatrick.weebly.com/index.html or blog: www.suspensebyanne.blogspot.com. She loves to hear from here readers!

I'm Proud To Be An Ebook Author

For those who are not familiar with what an ebook is, they are electronic books that come in many formats, including PDF. You can read them on your computer or an e-book reader, and if you haven’t heard, they are VERY popular. E-books sales have sky rocketed over the last four or five years. Even the major publishers are dipping into the pool.

There are a number of reasons these devices are so popular. Most e-books are a whole lot cheaper than print books. You can purchase and download e-books in minutes. They’re environmentally friendly. Your books take up less space because you can store thousands on a computer or e-reader. The print is adjustable, for those of you, like me, who don’t like to wear your reading glasses. It doesn’t matter if you like romance, suspense, inspirational, science fiction, or westerns. All your favorite genres can be found as e-books.

The only downfall is the e-readers can be expensive. However, the prices are starting to come down and some are very affordable.

There are a number of companies, which are strictly e-publishers, producing award winning books by talented authors. Desert Breeze Publishing, White Rose Publishing, Whiskey Creek Press, and Samhain Publishing are just a few of the more popular e-presses.

There used to be a stigma, and maybe there still is to a certain extent, that authors who went the e-publishing route were authors who couldn’t land contracts with New York publishers. This is no longer the case. There are many authors, formerly with big publishing houses who have pursued e-publishing because it is very lucrative. Instead of the usual eight to twenty percent of royalties most print publishers pay, an e-book author makes thirty to forty-five percent on sales. Now who wouldn’t want to double their royalties?

Another trend in the making is edgy Christian fiction. With the smaller independent e-book publishers, authors are given more leeway as to what they’re allowed to write. They’re tackling tough issues that the market used to shy away from, and dealing with situations that affect people every day.

Romances are spicier than the norm or in my case thrilling stories of sweet romance and suspense with inspirational messages weaved into them. I know it’s hard to imagine a story about murder and mayhem being inspirational, but I love suspense and I want all my writing to reflect my faith so that’s how my muse works. There is both evil and good in this world and I like combining the two and watching how my characters deal with it. So is the publishing industry just going through a phase? Some want to think so, but the numbers don’t lie. We are forging into the electronic age whether we want to or not. Look at how much the music industry has changed. Now I’m not saying the print book is going to be obsolete like the eight-track (I’m giving away my age here). People love the feel of books. They like thumbing through the pages, making notes in the margins. But the times are a changing, and I for one welcome that change. More people than ever are reading. So don’t be afraid of the future. Embrace it. Try an e-book!

Anne's Newest Release – Fire Creek

Kasey Montgomery has returned to her hometown of Fire Creek Montana after the apparent suicide of her cousin. Within days of Beth's funeral, Kasey begins to find inconsistencies in her death. The local sheriff is quick to dismiss the allegations as figments of a writer's imagination. Kasey is determined to prove otherwise. Does the bronzed skinned stranger from Beth's funeral hold the answers?

Local park ranger, Jimmy Little Raven suspects foul play too. Beth was engaged to his best friend who died months earlier from a mysterious accident. Risking his heart and his job, he teams up with the famous mystery writer to find the answers to both deaths.

Available at: http://stores.desertbreezepublishing.com/-strse-315/K.T.-Randall-Book-One-cln-/Detail.bok You can also purchase at Amazon, Barnes & Noble and most online bookstores.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Attention Grabbers

There's a lot of discussion as to what grabs a reader's attention about a book. Is it the title? Cover? Blurb? Excerpt?

This week I spent some time thinking about several of those things. I officially signed a contract for a Thanksgiving novella with The Wild Rose Press. The title I came up with even before I started writing the story: An Unexpected Blessing. So that's all good to go.

After I signed the contract, I had some other paperwork to fill out. One sheet was the cover information sheet. It asked for information about setting and basic plot, a description of both characters, and what I thought was the most important aspect of a cover. For me, I think the people should be the most prominant thing on a cover, but the background should also give a hint about the story. In this case I suggested a fall setting with a two story farm house as the background. I described the overall mood of the story as cozy and romantic with a bit of spice. It also asked for examples of other covers in their catalog that fit the general idea I had for the story/cover. I've always been pleased with my previous covers, so I listed two of those titles. From this information, one of the cover artists at TWRP will design my cover.(I requested the fabulous Angela Anderson who has done all of my covers.)
The other sheet was the Manuscript Information Sheet (MIS). On this form I filled out things like copyright name, heat level (spicy!), wrote a dedication, and provided 'praise' snippets from reviews about my work. Then I had to come up with a one sentence tag line for my book. (This was new...I hadn't done it for previous books.) I went with: Can the ex-con and the girl he's always had a secret crush on find happiness despite the past?

The trickiest things on this form were deciding on an excerpt and writing the backcover blurb. I worked on finding the excerpt first as technically this was already written and all I had to do was find the 'perfect' portion of the mss. Usually I go with a kissing scene for my excerpts, but this time I was undecided. I found several other passages that I liked as well. So, I copied and pasted them into an e-mail and took a poll of several of my friends, my sister, and my mom. Ultimately we decided on this:

“Are you going to dance with me or not?”
“Yes, ma’am, I am.” Joe stood and offered his hand.
Katy slid hers into his warm grasp. As always, his touch caused a little shock in her heart. The weight of a hundred pairs of eyes followed them out onto the floor. The dirt was packed smooth, and a ring of hay bales marked the area. Her tummy quivered with a combination of nerves and anticipation.
He found an open spot, which wasn’t difficult with the other couples affording them a wide berth, and then curved his arm around her waist to draw her close. Her body fit perfectly against him. A shiver tingled through her. She rested her free hand on his shoulder.
His thigh brushed hers as he rhythmically shuffled his feet to the music. His gaze captured and held hers. The rest of the room faded as she stared into the warm, melted chocolate brown of his eyes.
She didn’t care that people whispered. Snuck glances. Or outright gaped. All she cared about was swaying to a soft, slow beat. The quicker thud of her heart. Strong arms wrapped around her. And the desire to stay right where she was. Maybe forever.

Finally I turned my attention to writing the blurb. When I write a blurb, I start by going back to my synopsis. I take a couple of lines from the first two paragraphs about each character, focusing on goal, motivation, and conflict. Then I peruse the rest of the two page summary and try to narrow those seven or eight paragraphs into a few succinct sentences that will hopefully grab a reader's attention and make her want to read the book. Here's what I came up with:

Single mom Katy Roth thinks life can't get any worse. As Thanksgiving approaches, she finds little to be thankful for in a life that is quickly spinning out of control. To make matters worse, her parents have hired a new handyman.

Joe Mason is the town's bad boy. Literally. He's just returned from a four year stint in prison. He wants to put the past behind him and get on with his life. Trouble is, most folks aren't too thrilled he's back.

Especially Katy. Joe's had a crush on her since junior high, but she wants nothing to do with him. Until through her young son's eyes she discovers the good in him. Can they get beyond a small town's prejudice to hold onto a love neither expected?

One of the things I love best about TWRP is the amount of control and input we as authors have over these very important attention grabbers. So, what do you think? If you came across that blurb and that excerpt, would it pique your interest enough to want to read more?

Until next time,

Happy Reading!


Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Promotion - what works?

In June last year, I discovered Six Sentence Sunday. This is a regular, weekly bloghop. You sign up each week (between Wednesday and Saturday), and on Sunday you post six sentences (no more, no less) from either a published work or your WIP.

The trick, of course, as with any excerpt you post anywhere, is to choose carefully. You need to find six sentences that hang together without needing a lengthy explanation of the context. If the sentences also provide a teaser to make people want to read more, so much the better.

My very first six, on 27 June 2011, had this brief intro to my six sentences from His Leading Lady:

To save her twin sister's career, Jess is pretending to be Lora who's gone missing. She's just been out for the evening with Kyle Drummond, the director of Lora's new show in London’s West End.

And this was the six:

Kyle tightened his arm around her and Jess closed her eyes, not to relax but to try to think straight and to work out just how she was going to extricate herself from what seemed to be the inevitable sequel to all this.

She couldn’t say she was tired, not when she’d made such a fuss about wanting to stay at the club, but there were limits to what she was prepared to do ‘for Lora’s sake’ and going to bed with Kyle Drummond was definitely way beyond the limits. If that was what he expected, then she would have to admit to the whole pretence, even if it ruined everything for tomorrow's TV interview and Lora’s contract.

When the cab came to a standstill outside Lora’s apartment, she eased herself away from him but couldn’t stop herself from looking round at him. “God, I want you,” he breathed, his voice husky.
She stared at him, sure he must be able to hear the sudden frantic pounding of her heart.
That first time, I had 18 comments, most saying similar things e.g. “What a sticky situation. Can't wait to find out how she handles it.”
I’ll admit that, at times, I have ‘edited’ my six slightly, either by missing out a sentence or two from the original, or by combining two sentences into one, in order to provide a meaningful six. Most of my ‘sixes’ are usually much shorter, too, than this first excerpt.
You’re not expected to visit all the other contributors (there are now 200 or more each Sunday), but of course you can’t expect other people to visit your blog if you don’t make an effort to visit theirs. It’s time-consuming, of course, visiting many different blogs each Sunday and leaving comments. Of course, I always try to make positive comments even if excerpts about vampires, shape-shifters etc do not appeal to me personally! I also make every effort to respond to the comments on my blog, although i do wonder if anyone actually has the time to return to read them! The net result is that, over the last year, I have built up a ‘network’ of contacts and, in some cases, new friends.
So how does all this affect promotion and marketing? To begin with, I looked on it simply as a case of getting my name known and making more contacts. I had absolutely no idea whether it led to any sales – until a couple of weeks ago.
On July 8, one commenter said she had just bought my latest book ‘Changing the Future’ from Amazon. A week later, she posted a 5* review – which began: “I loved this book. I rarely read straight up romance, but after reading snippets of this book on the author's blog, I thought it really sounded good.”
Last Sunday, four other commenters said they had my book in their TBR pile. Okay, it’s not thousands(!), and it’s taken about 40-50 Sundays (I did miss some!) to reach this point. I leave it to you to decide whether or not this kind of promotion is worth the effort one puts into it week by week but, of course, even one sale is better than none! 

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

First Impressions

“The glass bottle rolled off the Formica table, splattered the last of the gin onto the linoleum floor, and released its pungent odor into the shadowy kitchen.”

The line above is the first sentence of my newest release, Skin Deep, published by Whiskey Creek Press. First lines are important. They make an immediate impression on the reader. They set the tone for the book and help the reader to determine whether or not they’ll like the story. Heck, they help the reader to determine if they’ll even read the rest of the story! Readers’ attention spans and time are short; there’s a lot of competition out there. Yes, every sentence is important, but the first one, is especially so.

My first sentences tend to rely on as many senses, and incorporate as much imagery, as possible. I want to draw the reader in and make her feel as if she is there. Of course, sight is a given here. It’s easy to picture the bottle rolling and the alcohol spattering. Smell is expressed through the odor of the gin, as well, possibly, as its taste. There is the sound of the bottle rolling on the counter and the splat of the liquid on the floor. Touch is implied through the glass bottle. Hopefully, the reader can picture how the smooth bottle feels against their own skin.

In addition to the five senses, my first sentence also gives, I hope, a feel for the atmosphere of the kitchen. The Formica table indicates that the room is older and perhaps indicative of a lower economic class (no offense to any Formica-lovers out there!). The linoleum floor also gives that same impression. And shadowy indicates a lack of light, or perhaps a time of day. Combined, it's dark and fairly depressing.

Considering that the scene that follows this first sentence involves an alcoholic and his abuse of his wife, it’s a pretty realistic picture. Don’t worry, I promise it gets better! J

If you’re a writer, what do your first sentences tell about your stories? And if you’re a reader, how much importance do you put into the first sentence?

Sunday, July 22, 2012

I'm so bad

The first time I got in trouble at school prompted my first incident of writing in earnest.
I was in 4th grade. A classmate snagged me in the girls’ bathroom and reported that a playground supervisor had been mean to my younger brother. I said, “That bitch,” and someone eavesdropping reported me, for I was summoned to the principal’s office and made to look up the word ‘bitch’ in the dictionary. It means a female dog. (No modern dictionary back then.”

As punishment, I had to call my mother and tell her what I’d done. Then I had to read three thick books and write book reports. I can’t recall the books specifically, but they were historical novels meant for upper classes. What I do recall is I loved the books. I devoured them and wrote long reports eagerly.

I had a deadline, which helped immensely. I had three interesting subjects. I could write whatever I wanted about them. I had the satisfying sense the principal realized my punishment was no punishment.

I wish I had copies of those book reports. 

Friday, July 20, 2012

Friday Friend - Lila Munro's Heroines

Welcome to today's Friday Friend - Lila Munro.

Lila currently resides on the coast of North Carolina with her husband and their two four-legged kids. She’s a military wife with an empty nest and takes much of her inspiration for her heroes from the marines she’s lived around for the past fifteen years. Coining the term realmantica, she strives to produce quality romance in a realistic setting. Her genre of choice is contemporary romance that spans everything from the sensual to BDSM and ménage. When she’s not writing, she enjoys reading everything she can get her hands on, trips to the museum and aquarium, taking field research trips, and soaking up the sun on the nearby beaches

My Heroines Have Always Been…Not Cowboys

I pondered a long time on what to write about today and the other morning it struck me right between the eyes. Duh, Lila! The blog you’re writing for is all about heroines…who were yours? Oh,dear. Now that would require some thinking.

I must confess while I absorbed English classes in high school like a sponge, I thoroughly detested history class, of any sort. So, while in fact many of my teenage idols were writers, I dug a little deeper and remembered when history was fun, you know, way back in primary school? When teachers wore crazy hats when teaching about Louis and Clark, and sneaking around on the Underground Railway sounded daring, and you wished you’d been there to help. For some reason or other at a younger age, history was exciting and it tended to stick.

Once we got past all the intriguing characters, well, let’s just say the boring political crap they tried to teach me later, well, bored me. And in the college years, my history teacher was a very colorful hippie gal that was still living the sixties. Not that I have anything against all that, I’m sure it was an exciting time to be active in the forming of nations, it’s just I’d have liked to have found out more about the entire span of modern history not just ten years of it. She’d have been great if they’d given her a class called…oh, I don’t know…The Sixties, How We Survived and How You Can Revive—Them.

Where was I? Oh yes…fifth grade. When things were still interesting as far as the olden days. Here are some of my heroines and how they contributed to molding ...

Susan B. Anthony:
Ms. Anthony was born in Adams, Mass. February 15, 1820. She came from some pretty cool parents for the times who fortunately believed their daughter deserved just as good an education as their sons. And they were active from the get go in reform measures. Seems she came from good stock! Now so I don’t get in trouble, I helped myself to the following information from http://www.lkwdpl.org/wihohio/figures.htm
as will the other factoids about my other heroines in a few paragraphs. Yes, I’m a writer, but I take help when I can get it.

  • Founded the National Woman's Suffrage Association in 1869 with life-long friend Elizabeth Cady Stanton. Together they worked for women's suffrage for over 50 years.
  • Published "The Revolution" from 1868-1870, a weekly paper about the woman suffrage movement whose motto read, "Men their rights and nothing more, women their rights and nothing less.
  • First person arrested, put on trial and fined for voting on November 5, 1872. Unable to speak in her defense she refuse to pay "a dollar of your unjust penalty."
  • Wrote the Susan B. Anthony Amendment in 1878 which later became the 19th Amendment giving women the right to vote.
  • Helped found the National American Woman's Suffrage Association in 1890 which focused on a national amendment to secure women the vote. She served as president until 1900.
  • Compiled and published "The History of Woman Suffrage (4 vols. 1881-1902) with Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Matilda Joslyn Gage.
  • Founded the International Council of Women (1888) and the International Woman Suffrage Council (1904) which brought international attention to suffrage.
  • An organization genius -- her canvassing plan is still used today by grassroot and political organizations.
  • Gave 75-100 speeches a year for 45 years, traveling throughout the the United States by stage coach, wagon, carriage and train.
  • Led the only non-violent revolution in our country's history -- the 72 year struggle to win women the right to vote.

I used to daydream about standing out there with my picket sign alongside Sue and her compatriots.

Harriett Tubman:
Miss Tubman was born on Edward Brodas plantation near Bucktown, Dorchester County, Maryland around the year 1820. Unlike Ms. Anthony she was denied education due to being born into slavery, but that didn’t stop her from helping free 300 slaves during the years of the Underground Railroad.

Nicknamed Moses she was described in the Boston Commonwealth in July 1863:
"Col. Montgomery and his gallant band of 800 black soldiers, under the guidance of a black woman, dashed in to the enemies' country ... destroying millions of dollars worth of commissary stores, cotton and lordly dwellings, and striking terror to the heart of rebeldom, brought off near 800 slaves and thousands of dollars worth of property."

Striking terror to the heart of rebeldom…Can you imagine?

These women definitely had backbones and nothing can stop me attitudes. Since I didn’t raise a daughter I often wonder who the girls of today look up to. Do they find the characters of the past interesting? Do they daydream about pioneering the prairie with Laura Ingalls Wilder? Do they want to be a gun toting Annie Oakley when they grow up? Fly to far off places, the moon perhaps, in the fashion of Amelia Earhart? Or have this, that, or the other shining star from Hollywood taken all these courageous women’s places? I hope not…

Thanks for having me over today girls! It’s always a joy and pleasure. Maybe some of you readers will leave some comments on who their heroines were growing up and if they’d like to keep up with me and the strong willed women I write they can find me at Realmantic Moments .

Happy reading!
Lila's works include The Executive Officer’s Wife, Bound By Trust, Destiny’s Fire, Salvation, Three for Keeps, the Force Recon series, the Slower Lower series, and the Identity series. She’s a member in good standing of RWA and Passionate Ink. Currently she’s working on sequels to several series to be released throughout 2012. And has a brand new line scheduled for winter 2012-13. Ms. Munro loves to hear from her readers and can be found at Realmantic Moments, Facebook,  Pinterest, Goodreads  You can also contact her via email at lilasromance@gmail.com You can find all her works at: Amazon, Nook, ARe, Bookstrand

Rebel Ink Press presents an exclusive new line from bestselling authors BethAnn Buehler and Lila Munro…

Toy Box Tales…
The Toy Box clubs, where the beer is always cold, the drinks are always perfect, and the sex is always hot, are found in the back alleys of cities across the world. Somehow, elite fighting forces always know where to locate one. Special ops team members stationed and deployed around the globe are guaranteed to find a piece of Americana, or something more exotic if they prefer, every single time they visit--no matter the mission. Owned by a mysterious man who wishes to remain anonymous, these clubs cater to every need, whim, and at times, every fetish imaginable. But as America's best often find, what happens at the Toy Box doesn’t always stay at the Toy Box...

Coming August 17, 2012…

Sugar and Spice - Lila Munro

Drake O’Malley is in between deployments and looking to hook up, but not on a permanent basis. The Toy Box, Fayetteville, North Carolina, is his team’s regular haunt. While most of what goes on in the back isn’t Drake’s style, the club does make a righteous Irish Car Bomb. And the girls who grace the doors aren’t bad either. If only Drake could find one that liked the occasional spanking, wasn’t into the whole twenty-four seven scene, and would let go when he disappeared on a mission. Someone with some spice… And spice is what he gets when Nutmeg Newman shows up. She’s not looking for a permanent mate, just a good time. In fact, she let’s go on cue and isn’t heard from again until her sister, Coriander, comes knocking on Drake’s door with a special Christmas surprise. One wrapped in a cute pink package complete with hair bow...

Thank you so much for being with us today, Lila, We wish you every success with your Toy Box Tales which sound intriguing, to say the least!

Hope all our readers will tell us about THEIR heroines!

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Fabulous Forties

I love being in my forties. This is from one of the celebrations I had to usher in the decade. I also had a fabulous night out with my favorite girlfriends and took a fantastical trip to Disney World with my hubby.

Until next time,

Happy Reading!


Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Me and my Kindle

This is the most recent photo of me - taken last Christmas at Downtown Disney (in Florida) which is the shopping, eating and entertainment area. We went there one evening and I'd had enough of all the shops and was waiting for my daughter and her partner to finish all their shopping. So, of course, I spent the time reading my Kindle, which I took everywhere with me.

And, in case you want to know, I was reading Celia Yeary's 'A Christmas Wedding' which was quite appropriate for the season!

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Photo Of Me

I find this topic the most difficult and the most ironic of all. Difficult, because we take tons of pictures of everyone and everything. My husband likes to preserve memories (he even saves all the movies to DVD and creates labels and cases for them) so everything is photographed. How do I pick one? Ironic because I'm even more obsessed with photos right now with my kids at camp. The camp posts pictures daily--hundreds--and we scan them every night, trying to find a shot of our kids. Sometimes it's just a shoulder, or a ponytail or a shoe (there she is!) while other times it's a really nice picture of one of them smiling and doing something with friends.

Anyway, I'm posting this picture of me. It's from last summer during my first book signing. I was incredibly uncomfortable at the thought of having to talk to people and convince them to buy my book, but I did it and had a great time. So, here's the picture.

Monday, July 16, 2012

Good things come in 3's!

This is my new favorite picture, taken last weekend, at the beach, before the fireworks. 
My youngest daughter, Rachel... Me....My granddaughter Brandi, who'd just come out of the lake.

Friday, July 13, 2012

Friday Friend

May McGoldrick
Jan Coffey
Nikoo & Jim McGoldrick
Many of you may be wondering who we are. To start, we are married writing partners who have studied Mechanical Engineering as well as Sixteenth-Century British Literature. We’ve held jobs in submarine construction and we’ve worked as engineering managers for Fortune 500 companies. We’ve been teachers at college and high school levels. But the reason why we’re your Friday Friends is because we’ve collaborated on the writing and publication of twenty-eight novels and two works of nonfiction. Along the way, we’ve conducted workshops for all age groups on topics of communication, writing, and collaboration. Oh, and we’ve raised two sons. To sum it up, we have somehow managed to cross the wires in our heads (in a good way) and to take a Renaissance approach to life and work.

So what have we learned over the years that might be worth sharing?

Embrace life’s distractions…

Wait a sec. Our dog is barking and pushing at our elbow. Wait……………………….

MARLO: Hey, how ya doing? This is where this blog will be taken over by me--Marlo Stanfield, international criminal, rescue-puppy from Tennessee (Twitter: @Marlo_Dog.)  Billed as a Golden Retriever, I arrived in the McGoldrick household as an eight-week-old. In truth, I am a Chow, Newfoundland, and Dachshund mix. Regardless of what Jim and Nikoo say, I know for a fact that I am the main thing they should be worrying about right now…ahem, their most important distraction.

So, knowing their bad habit of going on way too long, especially when they’re talking about themselves, I will be taking over here, conducting this interview and cutting them off when they get too long-winded. After all, they have to feed me, take me for a walk, shower me with the attention I deserve. Let’s get it on…

MARLO: Yo dogs, how does distraction have anything to do with you two giving up jobs that pay for Milkbones only to space out in front of the computer?

THEM:  Understanding distraction is what writing is all about. We were both closet writers. We always wanted to tell stories, but real life got in the way. What got us writing for publication was when we learned our younger son needed to have heart surgery. He was nine months old. We’d already taken a huge risk three years earlier when our first son was born. Jim left his job as a manager in the shipyard to go back to grad school to get his PhD and pursue a career that would pay about half of what he was making at the time. At that time, Nikoo was managing an engineering department and working 70-80 hours a week.   We realized that something had to change. Nikoo wanted to have a career that would allow her to spend more time with our boys. So we started to write a short story together. That story, a prizewinner in a national writing contest, was the first step. The next step, naturally, was a full-length historical romance novel.

Now, many people have said that to succeed in writing, you need talent, luck, and perseverance—

MARLO: That’s enough. Heard all this before. So, more important, if you two are so good at working together, what’s with all the barking back and forth between your offices. A dog needs his beauty rest.

THEM: We learned a lot about working together when we researched and wrote Marriage of Minds: Collaborative Fiction Writing. Yes, there may be some barking, but that’s because we’re both passionate about telling the best story we can. When we started to write together, Jim would type while Nikoo talked and held her finger on the ‘delete’ button, but that all changed. That ‘barking’ is mostly discussion of characters and motivation and making the story REAL for our readers. But we learned early on that we needed to separate the work from the person. Just because we don’t like a passage or a paragraph or a chapter that our partner wrote, that doesn’t mean we don’t like the PERSON. And you, Marlo, can always go upstairs and sleep under the bed if we’re bothering you.

MARLO: Easy for you to say, dog. I have very sensitive ears. But why don’t you write separately, the way classics like Lassie and Call of the Wild and Balto were written?

THEM:  Because two heads are better than one. When you have a partner, you are never alone. You always have someone to talk over your ideas with. And…particularly relevant…while one partner is writing, the other can feed a rather demanding puppy and take him for a walk up to the fields. But we’ve also found that our writing complements the writing of our partner. Nikoo is more the screenwriter type (she loves writing dialogue), and Jim is more the poet type (he loves imagery and language, descriptive passages).

MARLO: So that’s why he zones out when we’re walking. I bring him the tennis ball, drop it at his feet, and then…nothing. You’re saying I’ll have to start barking Shakespeare at him just to get his attention. Okay, then. Next question. Why so many names?

THEM: We have different names for different genres that we wanted to write. And we’ve always been looking for new people to tell different kinds of stories to.

When we started, we used May McGoldrick for our historicals, and our choice for writing historical romance was simple… Jim had the information from his dissertation work, and Nikoo had the stories. And we’re both fervent believers in satisfying endings!

Then we used Jan Coffey to write suspense thrillers. These novels allowed us to tell stories using Nikoo’s engineering background.

We used James and Nikoo McGoldrick to write nonfiction, an area of writing that grew out of our desire to help others who might be looking for an alternative way to successfully tell their stories.

Finally, we’ve used May McGoldrick and Jan Coffey on our Young Adult novels, depending on whether they were historical or contemporary. And we loved reaching a whole new generation of readers.

MARLO: Hold on while I scratch this little spot behind my ear….got it. Okay, in five words or less tell me about some of your books.

THEM: We love historicals. History offers so many opportunities to create stories. We all learned the important names and the events in school, but the HUMAN part of those events is not generally recorded. This means that there are huge gaps left, just dying for storytellers to flesh out.

For example, our Highland Treasure Trilogy began with the idea of the three mythic Fates: one spins the thread of life, the second measures out the length of that thread, and the third cuts that thread. Our three sisters in the trilogy have those general qualities to their respective personalities. From that point, we began to form the idea that these three women belong to a family that has a secret… a secret that they have been guarding since the days of the Crusades. We wrote those novels long before Dan Brown wrote The DaVinci Code, by the way. Another novel, The Promise, deals with issues of the abolition movement in England during the 1770s. The Rebel is about the rebellion of the Irish who were being abused under British domination. The Dream Trilogy picked up on issues that were introduced in The Promise and created a mystery around a woman’s murder and three brothers’ roles in it.

MARLO: I said five words or less. If I had opposable thumbs, I’d show you what five means. What blabber mouths! Now move on to Jan Coffey.

Our earlier Jan Coffey novels brought in themes of death penalty, art theft, and cults. Starting with Five in a Row we added some technological stuff—Nikoo’s background. This book was about a virus hitching a ride on your car. Then came Silent Waters—our biggest book as far as readership yet—about a submarine hijacking and political corruption. The Project was about medical experimentation on children. The Deadliest Strain was a political techno-thriller that dealt with, among other things, the effects of governments’ actions on people who are the innocent victims of war. The Puppet Master was the story of four seemingly separate lives that are beginning to unravel, and there is one person who wants to help. What they don’t know is that he holds the strings of their fate… and that nothing comes for free. Blind Eye was about identical twins, separated from each other eight years earlier, who start to communicate again just as the countdown begins to a Chernobyl-scale disaster.

MARLO: You call this five words? Getting distracted, aren’t you?

NIKOO: Speaking of distracted, I do have to step in here and say few words about the time period following my diagnosis of breast cancer, which was really a bit more than a distraction. For many people who have gone through it themselves or have had loved ones diagnosed, they all know about facing the mortality issue. It’s a game-changer when it happens in a family.

I don’t know if it was overnight, or if it happened some time during the weeks and months after, but the person who I became after the diagnosis was different than who I was before. I allowed myself to be me. I walked away from dark clouds and seeming dramas. I now cherished life with every step I took. And of course, writing was my best therapy. The nurses, doctors, patients at Yale New Haven hospital became my co-conspirators in coming up with ideas for stories. Before each treatment, they’d ask about word counts and how I was progressing with such and such a character that we’d been brainstorming during the last session.

Seeing that Marlo is about to cut me short right now, I still need to thank Mira Books for a generous donation they made to the cancer wing at that time. There are many complaints and ups-and-downs that writers have with their publishers, but that type of goodwill will always be remembered.

MARLO: Yo! Too serious, dogs. And I’m crossing my legs here. Come on, give them some last word. Something useful for a change.

THEM: Useful. Okay. Andre Dubus III, in an interview, talked about a Michael Ventura essay called "The Talent of the Room." In the essay, Ventura argues that there are many kinds of writing talents a writer may or may not have, but the one that is needed more than any other is the talent of the room, the ability to go every single day to some solitary place and write--day in day out, week in week out, month in month out, year in year out--for decades, perhaps. We need to do that whether we feel like doing it or not. Those who have this talent, Ventura argues, tend to accomplish quite a lot. Those who don't, don't.

Dubus goes on to say that, aside from that talent of the room, the lives of writers and non-writers are pretty similar: “We have spouses or partners, kids, dogs, mortgages to pay, tuitions to pay, houses to clean, groceries to buy and cook, cars that need tuning up, taxes we're putting off, personal flaws we're trying to recognize and work on, gym habits, bad habits, old friendships we try to maintain, new ones we try to find the time to nurture, jobs, daily duties and errands we don't have time for but do anyway, on and on, all while STEALING the DAILY time to WRITE, whether we feel like it or not.”

So we write as we live. Distractions are plenty: good and bad, happy and sad, thrilling and tragic. We live with the distractions and we learn from them when we can’t avoid it. We take risks, perhaps more than we should, but our desire to tell yet another story keeps pushing us back into the room. After Marlo gets fed.

Ghost of the Thames
May McGoldrick
A stranger—led back from the shadowy edges of death by a ghost—finds herself cold and bloody on the filthy banks of a river in a city she does not know…
From opium-drenched hovels and rat-infested warehouses of Limehouse to the glistening facades of West End mansions, a woman—known only as Sophy—searches for her identity. But the mist-shrouded alleys of Victorian England hold grave dangers for the friendless.
Captain Edward Seymour, the last of a long line of distinguished Royal Navy officers, is searching, as well. Returning from sea to find that his niece has disappeared, he begins combing every inn and hellhole of the city’s darkest corners, desperately hoping to find some trace of the girl.
No one knows the streets of London like Charles Dickens, a young novelist with a reformer’s soul, and Sophy and Edward turn to him for help. Flush with his early literary successes, he is working hard to use his knowledge of the city and his newfound fame to right some of the social ills that plague Victorian England.
But with each step they take toward the truth, Death draws ever closer…

Here's an excerpt from May McGoldrick's latest Historical Romance
Ghost of the Thames

Edward his aching shoulder. The worst of the storm had passed, but damp cold weather such as this had a way of making his old wounds flare up.
Word had long been circulating about the search for his niece. And the report had spread far and wide that Captain Seymour would pay well for any news of the missing young woman. An ugly pattern was developing, though. The information he received tonight—just like the leads he’d been following for the past weeks—had produced nothing. Another dead end.
None of the women working in the dingy riverside brothel in Bluegate Fields had seen anyone looking like the miniature portrait Edward carried around. None had heard the name Amelia Ann Franklin. The tavern keeper at the end of the yard just shook his head, as well. Fine clothes or not, the man was certain he hadn’t rented a room to any girl looking like that, and certainly not accompanied by any young Navy lad.
Ho! The devil! Look out there!”
The shout of the driver was accompanied by the neighing of his horses, and Edward felt the carriage clattering to a stop.
“What is it, man?” he called, throwing open the door.
“She went under the blasted horses, Captain. Can you see her?”
“A woman?”
“Aye, sir. Is she dead? Can you see her?”
Edward glanced up the dark street. There was nothing visible on the pavement behind the carriage. The door of a house opened. The light of a candle appeared. Some late night revelers staggered into the street. One was pointing under the carriage. Edward looked and saw her—a heap of blanket, dirty arms and legs sticking out from under it. The blanket had caught on the underside of the carriage and dragged the woman. The restless horses’ hooves stamped inches away from her head.
Edward yanked the blanket free and pulled the woman clear.
“Like a ghost she came, Captain.” His driver, looking down from the carriage, was still shaken. “She appeared out of nowhere. I couldn’t stop.”
“She just rolled up outta the dark,” someone chimed in.
“No one in the street, to be sure, gov, or we’d ‘ave seen her.” Everyone had something to share. The crowd around them was growing. Someone held a candle over the body.
She wasn’t moving. Edward looked at the wet, matted hair and touched her head. His hand came away, covered with blood. He pulled the blanket from her face. An open gash was visible at the edge of her hair, bleeding profusely.  Her face was covered with dirt.
“Don’t!” She tried to lift her head, but it sank again to the stone pavement. “Wait…I…”
The driver sighed audibly. “Well, the bloody chit’s alive, at least.”
“If we’re to keep her that way,” Edward said, “we need to get her to a doctor.”
“The hospital at Lincoln’s Inn Fields is close enough, sir,” someone standing near was quick to suggest.
Edward knew the place. That was where medical students of King’s College practiced. That hospital sat squarely in the midst of poverty and disease.
Bachao,” she murmured, stirring.
“She’s addled, Captain,” the driver said darkly. “The chit’s talking nonsense.”
Weakly, she tried to raise herself off the stone pavement. She didn’t have enough strength, though, and she sank down again.
She was dressed in a man’s shirt and ragged breeches with no stockings or shoes. She had the distinct smell of the river to her.
“Open the carriage door. We’re taking her to a doctor,” Edward ordered.
He tucked the wet wool blanket around the woman and lifted her off the ground. Even soaking wet, she was no heavyweight.
The crowd separated, and someone held the door as Edward settled the injured creature inside the carriage on the seat across from him. She mumbled words under her breath as if she were carrying on a conversation. Edward couldn’t make them out. She was mixing a language he couldn’t identify with English words.
“Where are we taking her, Captain?”
“Urania Cottage in Shepherd’s Bush,” Edward ordered.
More died at that nearby hospital than lived. He’d learned about the home for destitute young women a fortnight ago. Set up as charity by his friends Charles Dickens and the heiress Angela Burdett-Coutts, the place was intended to be a refuge for young fallen women wishing to improve their sordid lot in life. Edward had stopped there and shown his niece’s miniature to the matron this past week.
Kotaai,” she moaned.
“Go!” Edward shouted to his driver. Settling into his seat, he peered through the darkness at the pile of rags across from him. He could smell the muck of the river from here. What she was and why she was dressed in sailor’s rags was not difficult to guess. He wondered if she’d intentionally put herself in front of his horses.
The coach started with a jolt. The shouts of the driver rang out through the street. Her head lifted off the seat, and through a blanket of tangled hair she stared around the darkened carriage.
“Where…is…she?” She appeared to be conscious for the first time.
“Who?” he asked, leaning forward. “Who is it you're looking for?”
“The girl. Please…what happened? Where is…?” She pushed herself up straight. She was shivering violently.
In spite of the foreign words she’d muttered, there was no trace of an accent in her words now. In fact, there was a refinement in her speech that startled him. He removed his cloak and draped it around her shoulders. From the little he could see of her face, it was obvious she was young. Her fingers pulled the edges of the cloak around her. She was burrowing into the newfound warmth.
As the carriage swung up onto the Strand, the dim light coming in the windows afforded Edward a better view of the wounds on her head. He could see she was still bleeding.
“I…need to…” she whispered, looking up. "I cannot lose her.”
“The girl.” She looked around as if trying to find her phantom friend. “The girl…I was following.”
“You were the only one on the street. None of the bystanders claimed to have seen even you.”
“She saved me from the river. Dragged me out. She didn’t have to, but she…she was there.” She wasn’t listening to him. Her words were slurring, and her head began to sink back onto the seat. She caught herself and looked up at him. “She knew my name. She asked me to follow. I need…need to get out.”
“What is your name?”
Her fingers clutched the cloak around her, and her head sank back.
“Your name?” he asked. 
“She called me Sophy. My head.” She touched the open wound and then her hand dropped.
The blood was oozing from the cuts on her head. He reached over and pressed a handkerchief against the wounds that he could see.
After more than a dozen years of sailing the seas with British Navy, he had encountered many tongues. This one was vaguely familiar. “Where does your friend live? Perhaps I can take you to her.”
Her head was nodding. She was losing the battle to stay awake. Whatever strength she had in her was quickly ebbing, and she almost disappeared beneath the cloak. He pulled it away from her face.
He studied the battered woman. Faceless, wretched creatures that had only been a nuisance to toss a coin to before were now real human beings to him since his niece had gone missing. Imagining the poverty, the violence, the troubled lives, and bad decisions they’d made—all the circumstances that had pushed them into this miserable situation in life—only fueled his fears of what had happened to Amelia. He felt sick whenever he thought of what her disappearance might have led her to.
And that thought was with him all the time.
The carriage rolled to a stop in front of Urania Cottage. The woman seemed to have fallen sleep. The house was dark. Edward stepped out as the driver climbed down and tied the horses to a post.
“Knock at the door and rouse the matron,” he directed. “Have the woman decide which room I can carry this one to. Also, have them send for a doctor.”
Edward started to climb back into the carriage and stopped short. The barrel of his own pistol was pointed directly at his chest.
“I want you to take me back to where you found me,” Sophy said. “Now.”

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