Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Some of my favourite Vonnie Hughes

...and why they are my favourites
by Vonnie Hughes

Lee Child (Thrillers)

Who doesn’t like Jack Reacher? Improbable thrillers about an always victorious man who is rarely injured and always prethinks a situation with accuracy. Loved by a disparate bunch of people.

Anne Gracie (Regencies)

Australian Regency author with the bedroom door closed. Sweet, often totally misunderstood heroines with grit – real grit, not the trumped up stuff e.g. Gallant Waif is still my favourite because the protagonists had so much to lose; the sign of an author who understands conflict. Without conflict there is no book.

Lisa Gardner (Often lumped in as Romantic Suspense author but she really should simply be called a Suspense author because nobody can do Suspense like Lisa Gardner)

Look, if you don’t set out intentionally to write a romance, then I don’t think it should be termed a romance.

She gives acknowledgments at the end of each book, and boy, does she spend hours doing research. Her books are convoluted and the police personnel and investigators in them are very flawed.

My favourites are Live to Tell and The Survivors’ Club.

James McGee (Historical Suspense)

Writes about an investigator called Hawkwood – Regency/Victorian. Book titles: The Ratcatcher and The Resurrectionist. “You don’t send a gentleman to catch vermin. You send Hawkwood.” Love it. Want to see more of the same.

Georgette Heyer (Regency)

If you are a history buff, make sure you read An Infamous Army which is “fiction” about the British and its allies at Waterloo. Until very recently it was still used as a reference book to discuss tactics and alliances at the Sandhurst Military Academy in England. No ordinary “romance” writer. She is the rock on which the Regency genre was founded.

Amanda Quick (Regency, and Regency and Victorian/paranormal)
Jayne Ann Krentz Contemporary
Jayne Castle Paranormal

For pure enjoyment, not-so-convoluted plots but with brilliant characterisation, I quite simply adore JAK’s writing. Quirky characters with peculiar hang-ups – love ‘em.

J.D. Robb

Her futuristic series involving a tough but fragile woman cop hits all the high spots. The world building is impressive because it’s constructed by deft brushstrokes, not laid on with a trowel as in so many speculative fiction otherworlds.

Lisa Jackson (Suspense)

Creepy perpetrators in creepy circumstances. A disused asylum comes to mind.

Karen Rose (Romantic Suspense) Her research is brilliant, and you can expect a not-always-easy read from Ms Rose. Her murderers are definitely not the sort you want to meet.

Gayle Wilson (Romantic Suspense) Lighter than some, but still with hidden depths, I enjoy Ms Wilson’s southern settings such as New Orleans and  Mississippi.

Dick Francis (Can anyone tell me how you’d classify DF?) Readable, clear conflict. Heroes are misunderstood, likeable but by no means perfect. When he died, we lost a thoroughly decent, well-researched author.


Sunday, December 14, 2014

Anachronistically Speaking by Judy Nickles

My parents came out of World War I, lived much of their formative years during the Great Depression, and married just before World War II. These times shaped them and, ultimately, shaped me as well. Is it any wonder I love writing “vintage” books?
Where Is Papa’s Shining Star? actually began as a thinly-veiled re-telling of a tragic family story which I found out about totally by accident. I never told my mother I
knew about it, but I made several surreptitious trips to her hometown to do some research. I found nothing. The event had happened, but records had either been sanitized or not kept at all.
So the book went through many, many re-writes before it finally found its way to The Wild Rose Press and ultimately to editor Nan Swanson’s desk. The story was supposed to end with the final page, but almost as soon as edits began, I found myself creating a second volume—the rest of the story so to speak—with Finding Papa’s Shining Star.
When I look back at them now, I understand how limited their audience truly is. In a way, I’m an anachronism in today’s writing world. The dialogue, the muted passion, the all-important behavioral etiquette which is anything but important today. So while one might say, “It’s a good story,”, it’s definitely not a best-seller.
One reviewer proclaimed indignantly, “There are no sex scenes!” Where did she miss the desire, the passion, the teeming emotions so difficult to keep in control, the necessity to survive in spite of everything? Human nature was then what it is today and will, I suspect, always be.
Still, The Shining Star Books resonate with me and others of my “ilk”. In many ways they portray a kinder, gentler time soon to be forgotten—or perhaps it already is. It’s true there’s nothing new under the sun, and the books’ characters find themselves embroiled in situations still happening today. Perhaps it’s their creator’s approach to these situations which doesn’t ring true in contemporary literature.
Nevertheless, it’s possible to fall in love with Alan and Lenore and later with Annie and David; to grieve their losses and applaud their triumphs; to believe in spite of everything they’ll find their HEA.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

A wealthy businessman, blinded in World War I, falls in love with the woman he hires as his personal assistant during the Depression—and finds her secrets may destroy their chance at happiness.

She didn’t appear for breakfast, but she was waiting by the door at the appointed time for leaving. “You’ve had no breakfast,” he said.
“I wasn’t hungry.”
“I see.” He opened the door and let her precede him to the car under the porte cochere.
They’d driven several blocks in silence when she said, “Mr. Ashley, I really should make other living arrangements.”
He knew why, but he asked anyway, adding, “I thought we’d settled all that. I find it convenient for you to live in and don’t wish to make a change.”
“Mr. Ashley, it’s not…”
“We’re both adults, Miss Seldon. I am a man, and you are a woman. We shared a brief kiss in the spirit of the moment.”
“It shouldn’t have happened.”
“Was it so repulsive to you?”
“No, but it shouldn’t have happened.”
“Actually, it was quite nice,” he interrupted. “It might even happen again.”
“It can’t.”
“Why not?”
“I’m not Elise Mayhew.”
“No, thank God. Can’t we put that behind us? She’s gone off again to who knows where, according to Sam. I won’t mention where he said he hoped she’d gone to.”
“I mean you can’t play with me as you might have played with her.”
“Played with her? If you mean were we intimate, no, we weren’t, though I’m sure she considered it more than once. I might have considered it, too.”
“Mr. Ashley, please.”
“I keep forgetting you don’t think in those terms.”
“The arrangement was questionable from the beginning.”

Judy Nickles also writing as Gwyneth Greer
"Get hooked on a good clean read!"

Monday, November 24, 2014

The Grateful Writer By Robin Weaver, Author of The Christmas Tree Wars

The Grateful Writer
By Robin Weaver, Author of The Christmas Tree Wars

You’ve just received a rejection—the third one this month. You click the trashcan icon and go back to your story, only your heroine has turned into a Kardashian-sized butt, the middle of the tale is sagging like Honey Boo-Boo’s belly, and your hero has become so whiny, you want to go Lizzy Borden on the dude. Your neck hurts, your fingers throb, and the ache in your head is threatening to make you sick to your stomach. You kick your desk, not only making your toe throb more than your fingers, but you also chip the polish from the pedicure you just got. Disgusted, you pick up your snail mail, only to discover you lost last month’s Visa bill and have received a $50 late fee.

Chocolate. The only thing that can help is gooey, chewy chocolate. Too bad you ate the last of your stash when you noticed the crack in your kitchen tile floor—fortunately, you found an errant M&M at the same time. You put on your least stained sweats, don a baseball cap to cover your three-days-overdue-for-a-wash-ponytail, and cover your face with the biggest sunglasses you have. Doesn’t matter the dims are the glaucoma glasses your father left when he insisted on fixing that “knocking” sound in your dryer—the same repair that cost you a trip to the appliance store when the machine quit working completely.

On the way to the grocery store, a dump truck, sans mud-flaps, shoots a half-inch pebble your way creating a three-foot crack in your windshield. Then, when you finally get to the grocery store, the security guard—the hunky one you suspect is really some undercover detective—waves because he recognizes you from your last incident at the grocery story—when you backed into the fire hydrant. He walks up to your car, not to remove that cart that’s in the only slot within a block of the entrance, but to tell you your windshield’s cracked. Then he looks at his reflection in your sunglasses and you realize he thinks you’re on drugs.
What possible reason could you have to be grateful?

You better find one. Recent studies suggest gratitude may be uniquely important to well-being and mental health. I won’t bore you by spouting my research sources, but trust me, my theory is well supported. According to these studies, grateful people are less stressed and less depressed. They cope with life better and are—get this—more satisfied.

For the writer, gratitude might be particularly important. As we get more and more sour from those rejections, deadlines, required edits, bad reviews, etc., etc., we can become—dare I say it—bitter. Your mood reflects in your writing.

So what’s a writer to do when life is throwing rotten lemons at you faster than a rock flying at your windshield? According to those same studies mentioned above, tough times are especially “good” times to be grateful. Gratitude helps you see the situation in a way that makes coping easier and allows you to derive creative solutions. In other words, being grateful might just help with everything from writer’s block to correcting plot holes.

Easier said than done, right? After all, people aren’t hardwired to be grateful. According to Dr. Robert Emmons, author of Thanks! How Practicing Gratitude Can Make You Happier, there are three steps:
1. Recognize what you have to be grateful for (i.e., that pedicure, a dad who wants to help, etc.).
2. Acknowledge it.
3. Appreciate it.

Having trouble recognizing your literary gifts? Consider this: a recent study cited 81% of Americans think they have a novel in them (especially pompous when another recent study said 28% of Americans didn’t read a single book in 2013). Despite the large number of “I could” people, only 0.1% (that’s one person in one thousand) actually do write a novel.

So be grateful you can write. Be grateful you do. Focus on the process, the fun of creating other worlds, snarky characters and crazy plots. Appreciate the insistent creativity that keeps you going to the keyboard again and again.

So let’s go back to the grocery store parking lot…
You take a quick glance at the fire hydrant to ensure you missed it this time. You breathe easier when it’s relatively undented. Then, you take off your dad’s glasses so Mr. Hunky can see your pupils aren’t pinpoints (or is it dilated? …I can never get that right).

Hunky says, “Wow, you have beautiful eyes.” Without even glancing at your cleavage, he offers to get you a shopping cart.

A—you don’t need a cart for a bag of candy, and B—you can’t get a jumbo bag of KitKats if Mr. Hunky is following you. You reply, “Thanks, but I just came for a cup of coffee,” grateful for your quick thinking. Then you say a little prayer because some ever-so-brilliant developer put a Starbucks in the complex. (See, you’re already getting the hang of this gratitude thing).

Hunky offers you a stick of Big Red, looks at his watch and says, “It’s about time for my morning break. Would you mind if I join you?”

Life is good.

Friday, November 21, 2014

Tyler Montgomery on being a lawyer by Laura Freeman

In Impending Love & War by Laura Freeman, published by The Wild Rose Press, Tyler Montgomery is a Harvard lawyer looking for a runaway slave. Abolitionists Cory Beecher accidentally shoots him and is forced to care for him.

“Do you think you’re a better lawyer than Mr. Lincoln because you went to Harvard?”

He didn’t hesitate. “Yes.”

“You certainly have a high opinion of yourself.”

“I didn’t go to Harvard to be a worse lawyer.”

She challenged him. “Don’t you have to be a man of high moral character to be a lawyer?”

“I’m only twenty-five. I haven’t had time to do anything immoral, yet.” He added the last word with a glint in his eye.

The sight of Tyler’s nakedness had stirred an erotic response she’d never experienced. But how did a scholar acquire sculptured muscles that rippled with power at every movement? She wouldn’t obtain the answer through silent pondering. “How did a Harvard lawyer become so strong? Carrying books around?” She hoped her witty remark camouflaged her embarrassment. How could she ask such a personal question? She turned away and lit a lantern on a peg by the door with her candle.

Tyler grabbed the lamp and whispered in her ear. “They were very big books.”

Cory opened her mouth to argue but had a feeling she wouldn’t uncover the truth. She looked around.
“Do you think I should take Hiram’s gun?” It was in the parlor but needed to be reloaded.

“Haven’t you shot enough men tonight?”

“What if there’s an intruder? He could be dangerous.”

“I think I can handle him.”

“Are you going to quote him the law?” She followed him into the dark yard.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

November Musings by Annalisa Russo

I take the back roads to work. In the Midwest, back roads wind lazily through extensive corn fields, and at this time of year, are reminiscent of Children of the Corn—solid walls of corn on either side of a two lane country road. Spooky. Then the next day—POOF! A muscular machine sits in the middle of a shorn field, and you can see so far the curvature of the earth is evident.

Such is the day today as I travel to work wearing my wool coat for the first time and watching gray clouds hang heavy overhead – snow, maybe?

I think over the weekend I’ll complete the task that most Midwesterners perform this time of year— switch their closets from breezy, summer wear and replace it with winter clothing. I’ll turn back my clock on Saturday for Daylight Saving time. I don’t exactly know why it’s still necessary to change the clocks back an hour, though driving to work in the daylight will be a nice change until 4:30 rolls around, and it is already getting dark.

I think about the effect these seasonal changes have in my life and realize I am anticipating something, like the promise of spring after a brutal winter, or the soothing temperatures of fall after a sizzling summer. And now, as the Bradford pear trees stand proudly in front of my house in an amazing burnt red and the sugar maple next door compliments it with a brilliant yellow, I think of the holidays that are soon to follow—only twenty-seven days to be exact, until Thanksgiving with Christmas just around the corner.

For a period of five years, I lived on the gulf side of Florida. I remember driving over a bridge one day and noticing a sign pinned to it announcing the Thanksgiving Day parade, only four days away! It snuck up while I was looking the other way. How did that happen?

Not so in the Midwest as nature always signals the alarm—the bounty of autumn gardens, cooling temperatures, and bare trees. The chill in the air that stirs an innate Midwestern hunger for comfort food in thick stews, creamy soups, fresh baked bread, and fragrant casseroles bubbling over in the oven. Time to drag out traditional Thanksgiving recipes and make my grocery list—turkey with Nonna’s bread stuffing, Aunt Gloria’s pumpkin pies, my grandfather’s roasted chestnuts, myriad
vegetables, and always two versions of potatoes, mashed and sweet, all eaten, if we are lucky, overlooking a yard with a fresh blanket of snow to carry us through Christmas.

So, as I write this blog, I make a note to remember these things when it is time to write about the Cavelli family’s Thanksgiving feast and celebration. I take a moment to remember my own life’s bounty.

Annalisa Russo

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

A Book Risen from the Rubble by Judy Nickles

One of the last batch of “war babies” (that’s WW II for all you youngsters out there), I grew up in a West Texas town full of reminders of the terrible price exacted by that conflict. San Angelo was an old town with “military” roots—springing up across the Concho River from Ft. Concho, one of many frontier fortresses established to protect settlers from Indians who obviously (and rightly!) objected to encroachment on their lands.

World War II had touched the entire town. Scanning the list of county KIAs, I recognize the names of too many: the father of a high school classmate, the son of a mayor, two brothers who were sons of a man my father knew well. One of them received the Medal of Honor posthumously.

The airport which is still used today housed a bombardier training school. The Air Force base still in existence took its name from a San Angeloan who died in the First World War. In November, vets stood on downtown street corners selling poppies which we wore with pride on Armistice Day (now Veterans Day since President Eisenhower effected the change in 1954).

Progress in the form of modern architecture and a dying downtown killed by the new mall and strip shopping centers in the newer part of town hadn’t yet changed the landscape of my childhood. So, when I think of my hometown, I think of it the way it used to be. And that’s the way I wrote it in Dancing with Velvet.

The book centers around the St. Angelus Hotel, now gone, where generations of young people danced to the music of live bands in the Roof Garden. With a shadowy memory of that grand place and my parents—who used to talk about it with mysterious smiles—gone for years, I found myself scrambling for information which would authenticate the setting of the story I wanted to tell. My last resort was an email to Rick Smith, a newspaper columnist who learned his craft from the same journalism teacher who taught me mine. If anyone could dig up information, Rick could—or Ed Cole would haunt him forever!

And he did. He put out a call in one of his columns, and people I thought gone like my parents came out of the woodwork. He cobbled together three more columns full of trivia about the St. Angelus. Together we breathed life into the book I call a love song to the town which nurtured me.

Dancing with Velvet
In the waning days of the Great Depression, Celeste Riley wonders if life will always be the same: going to work and coming home to keep house for her widowed father who ignores her. She clings to her married sister, Coralee, and the recurring dream of a blue velvet curtain and a faceless lover who beckons her beyond it. Then a blue velvet dress in the window of a local department store seems to promise the change in her life she so desperately longs for. When she dances in the arms of Kent Goddard at the Roof Garden, she is sure she has found the man of her dreams and is crushed when he disappears from her life. Soon after Pearl Harbor propels the United States into war, he returns in uniform as a student at the new bombardier training school. Inevitably, a wartime separation threatens their deepening relationship. Then Celeste realizes that what she doesn’t know about the man of her dreams may become her worst nightmare.

With Kent overseas, Celeste fights her own war with pride, self-deprecation, and the need to forgive. Before he comes home…if he comes home…she knows she has to win.

Judy Nickles

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Monday, November 17, 2014

A timeline for the publication process by Laura Freeman

Impending Love and War is my first novel and is available at It is a historical romance with a suspense subplot published by The Wild Rose Press. For authors who wonder how long it takes for a novel to go from submission to publication, I’ve created a timeline. Every book is different but the steps are similar.

My timeline for Impending Love and War:

Dec. 8, 2013: I submitted my manuscript to The Wild Rose Press.

Dec. 20, 2013: My manuscript was returned with edits for the first three chapters, and I was given the option to correct the errors throughout the manuscript and resubmit it. This was the first time an editor wrote more than a couple lines about my manuscript, and I was thrilled to make the changes.

Feb. 8, 2014: I resubmitted the corrected manuscript and hoped for the best.

April 6, 2104: I signed a contract with The Wild Rose Press.

April 6, 2014 – I began making edits my editor suggested to my manuscript using the edit option. Correspondence was done through email. This was the time for any serious rewrites. We went back and forth four times before all major edits were completed in June.

April 29, 2014: I submitted a blurb, which is the paragraph on the back of the book that introduces the characters, plot, and problem to be solved to entice a reader to buy the book. I also submitted a biography for the book and chose the most alluring scene of 100 words for the front of the book. It’s the passage people read to decide if they like your writing style.

May 5, 2014: The official blurb for my book is finalized after being reviewed by a committee.

May 5, 2014: I sent cover art suggestions on a form asking for descriptions of the characters, setting, clothing, etc. I also chose an artist to design the cover and a list of several book covers I liked so she would know my preference.

June 2, 2104: The cover art was sent to me for review and approval.

June 8, 2014 – Galleys were sent to me for editing minor changes using editing

sheets instead of directly on the manuscript, which is now in a different format. This continued five times.
Jun 25, 2014 – I sent approval for the manuscript to go to production.

July 23, 2014 – A copy of the final manuscript was emailed to me.

Sept. 2, 2014 – I sent marketing suggestions for Twitter, Facebook, etc.

Oct. 1, 2014 – My book was ready for pre-order and sent to reviewers.

Oct. 8, 2014 – My official release date of publication.

Laura Freeman
@LauraFreeman_RP (Twitter) or

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