Thursday, April 27, 2017

You Can’t Go Home Again…Unless You’re in a Romance Novel

I grew up in a small town, where the average temperature in the Summer is one-hundred-seven degrees. It’s hot, you guys. HOT.

Yeah, I spent most of my high school years, planning my escape from the heat. When the time came, I left for college and eventually moved on to cooler pastures (hey, Chicago). Then I proceeded to spent the next twenty years trying to get home. No matter where I am, I’m always planning a trip to Arizona. What can I say? I miss the heat.

So when I sat down to plot LOVE OVER LATTES (coming soon from The Wild Rose Press), the setting and theme for it were a very organic choice for me. I went back to the place I called home for four years, Tucson (Go Cats!). NANOWRIMO Day One came and I only knew two things about my story; I wanted it set in the Sonoran Desert and I wanted it to be about going home.

LOVE OVER LATTES is about a young mom who wants to make a home for her son. At first, she doesn’t really understand what that means, and in her obsession to give her son this one thing she believes is important, she goes through a series of less than ideal choices. Like accepting the help of a stranger, an intimidating-as-hell entrepreneur, who’s given up on the whole idea of home and family.

Since this is a get-to-know-the-author blog, I figured I should include some fun facts about me (*waves*):

Three things I’ve done in the name of book research:
1. Jumped off a 50-foot waterfall
2. Watched a lot of porn
3. Drank cases and cases of champagne

Three things I’m obsessed with (because I’m on a roll):
1. Customizable life planners
2. Romance
3. Netflix

Hey, you made it all the way to the bottom of the page. Thank you!

Your turn: Where’s the place you call home? Let me know in the comments below.

For your efforts, we’re giving away (4) $5 Amazon gift cards. Just click on the Facebook Rafflecopter link below and do the widgets in the thingy. Winners will be announced on Monday, May 8th, on my Facebook page before I email the Amazon claim codes. I put a lot of thought into this giveaway, guys. So, do the thing.

Happy Reading!

Diana Hicks

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Am I in Your Book?

When was the last time someone asked you, “Am I in your book?” It’s a reasonable question. Writers often use real people as models for characters in a novel. It’s a pretty good way to get back at the ex. The person who asks you the question might be excited about the possibility of being in the book, or she might be a little scared about how you describe the character modeled on her. It’s scary to think that you might be recognizable as the bitchy neighbor or the gossip down the street.

For the setting of my mystery/thriller novel Sacrificial Lam, I used the small college campus where I taught for many years. Word soon got out to my old colleagues—faculty and administration—and to the many alumni to whom I am connected on line. The question began to appear in my inbox—“Am I in your book?”
One morning I stopped by my favorite coffee shop, Pour Jon’s, and as I waited for my vanilla latte, inhaling the rich odor of dark beans being ground, I noticed the college chaplain sitting in a booth by the stairs. He waved and smiled. “I heard about your book,” he said. “Does it have an evil chaplain in it?” The book does not, in fact, have a chaplain in it at all, but I thought that’s an idea. So I said, “No, but he may show up in the next book in the series.” I couldn’t tell whether he was disappointed or gratified.
A couple of days later, the college choral director and chair of the Music Department responded to my Facebook promotion with, “Is there a creepy choral director in your book?” Again, the book does not, in fact, have a choral director at all, but again I thought not a bad idea. So I said, “No, but he may show up in the next book in the series.” I happen to know this choral director pretty well. We used to play golf together once a week. In his case I was pretty certain that he was both disappointed that he wasn’t in the novel and gratified that I would surely put him in the next one.

I did put a few of my old colleagues in the novel, not particularly well disguised, just for fun. One of them, a psychologist, read parts of an early draft to check its validity and give me ideas for types of disorders. But after talking to the chaplain and the choral director, I started imagining how I would respond to certain people when they popped the question.

What would I say if the college president saw me at the local Thai café and said, “Is there a diabolical college president in your novel?” Since I’m retired now and don’t have to worry about my job, I could say, “No, I was afraid you would sue the pants off me for defamation of character.” He was a lawyer in a previous life, Harvard Law School, in fact.

What if the CFO, the Chief Financial Officer, saw me at the bank, standing in line to make a deposit, and said, “Is there a conniving CFO in your novel?” I could say, “No, but for a price I can make you the hero of the next book in the series.” A ludicrous attempt to solicit a bribe, you might say, but worth a try.

I’m beginning to see the real value of the question, “Am I in your novel?” It could become the wellspring of concepts for future books. Or it could become a vehicle for revenge. And if I’m really lucky, it could be the goose that lays the golden egg. I can live with that.

Gary Guinn
Writer: Sacrificial Lam

Thursday, April 13, 2017

Falling in love is a lot like icing the perfect cake

I love to bake and have since I graduated college and moved out, taking my mom’s old mixer with me. Growing up in an Italian household, everything was homemade. There wasn’t a boxed caked mix or slice and bake cookies in my house growing up. Ever. Over the past few months I’ve taken a few cake decorating classes with my teenage son, who aspires to own a bakery one day. I figured it would be fun for him to learn the correct way to do things, my kitchen wouldn’t get messy, and we’d get to eat the end product. A win-win for all involved!

So far, we’ve learned the perfect way to ice a cake (which involves lots of icing, practice, and patience), how to personalize party cakes, and piping techniques. In many ways, it’s a lot like learning how to be a writer and falling in love! There’s lots of trial and error. Sometimes it works out and sometimes it doesn’t. If at first you don’t succeed, try and try again!

Later this month we’re taking classes on cupcake decorating and how to decorate a cake (putting all the elements together). I’ve learned a few good tips, one of which is that bakers are perfectionists. I’ve also learned there’s a lot of improvising in baking, much like cooking. I’ve had to modify pretty much every baked good recipe since my son has multiple food allergies, one of which is to milk. Substituting soy or rice milk for cow’s milk can change the consistency of a recipe. Even using a dairy-free butter has its challenges. I’ve also been experimenting with vegan recipes with mixed results. But we’re having fun…and eating cake.

Taking these classes has given me a greater appreciation for what a full
-time baker goes through. I’ve bought more baking accessories the past few months than I’ve ever had. From multiple sized icing bags, to many icing tips, tip holder, couplers, turntable, cake circles, cake leveler (who knew?), proper icing colors, spatulas, and probably more.

What do you think?

The heroine from my contemporary romance, FOREVER IN MY HEART, is a pastry chef. Vicky owns a hot new bakery and café in Northeast Philadelphia and has cornered the market on baked goods. Now, I imagine if I baked hours a day six or seven days a week, it would all become super easy, but right now, it takes time to do things the right way. It was fun writing Vicky’s character because I got to channel my love of sweets into her bakery. Who knows, maybe one day I’ll open that bakery with my son. That would be my dream come true! I could bake in the early morning and then write. Now that I think about it, I better make sure we open a location near a gym!


She pulled at the same moment he did, which resulted in the top box flying off and landing with a plop on the concrete.
Time stood still, and he was about to let out a nervous laugh. That is, until he caught the shocked expression on her face quickly turning to pissed off and ready to boil over.
“Dammit. I told you I had them,” she yelled.
So much for trying to help.
After releasing his grasp, she stored the boxes in the trunk.
“I’m sorry. If you would have just let me—”
“Next time mind your own business,” she said, placing her hands on her hips.
When did she get those glorious hips? And how about the sexy gleam of anger in her eyes?
With the smartass comeback he’d been ready to fire back at her forgotten, he stopped to take in her attire. She’d curled her long brown hair, which ran down past her shoulders. The green sundress was cut low, revealing a magnificent pair of breasts. Clearly she hadn’t finished developing the summer before he enlisted. The dress hugged a slim waist, ending at the middle of her thigh.
Jamie’s heart thudded with lust. Disgusted by his pure male reaction to this gorgeous woman, he’d crossed his arms over his stomach and hoped he appeared cooler than he felt.
He reached down, picked up the fallen box, and handed it to her. “If I minded my own business, you’d be scraping up the contents of all these boxes off the cement instead of only one. So maybe you should show the teensiest bit of gratitude.”
She opened the lid to reveal cannolis, half of which were broken.
What was it with him and broken cannolis?

About Forever in My Heart:

Vicky DiFrancesco is ready to put the past behind her. After a humiliating divorce, she’s determined to make her new café a success. The last thing she needs is her first love around, reminding her of what they’d lost. But when her life is threatened, could he be the very man she needs?

Jamie DiSilva’s homecoming after retiring from the army isn’t the one he’d been hoping for. Now, he’s trying to start a home improvement business in a town settled on holding him accountable for the sins of his late brothers. Redeeming himself to the girl he never stopped loving and her family is difficult when his brothers’ secrets come back to haunt him.

Untangling themselves from the past means righting several wrongs and deciding if their love is meant to last forever.

From now through April 21st, Forever in My Heart is on sale for only $1.99! You can pick it up at:

Barnes & Noble:
The Wild Rose Press:
Google Play:

Maria K. Alexander
Award-winning Contemporary Romance

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Discover Arnold Greenberg

My two Wild Rose ebooks, Max and Rosie and Taking Chances explore the emotional complexity of adultery. In Max and Rosie, his wife, the love of his life, is dying of Alzheimer's and no longer recognizes him, and though he is falling in love with Robin, their live in nurse, he remains faithful until she dies. In Taking Chances, Catherine loves her husband, Martin but is no longer in love and yearns for the intensity she experiences in the romance books she devours. She accidentally meets Tom and finds herself swept off her feet by his passion for life. Breaking her marriage vow is the hardest thing she has ever done. She feels she is living a lie and has to take a chance and follow her heart.
Their stories are about choices and integrity. Was Max being foolish honoring his marriage vows when Rosie doesn't even know he's her husband? Was Catherine wrong to take a chance and leave a loveless marriage, break her husband's heart and seek happiness?
To read more

Saturday, April 08, 2017

The Gentleman Refused to Move!

What beautiful aristocratic ward of the Duke of Althorn was seen in the company of Lord Claven, son of the viscount? The chandeliers in the ballroom flickered in waves on the decorated ceiling casting undulating shadows against the walls as he danced her through the French doors and on to the terrace. Out of sight, but not out of hearing, this reporter heard him say, “It’s such a crush in there. I thought you’d appreciate a breath of fresh air.”

Through my quizzing glass, I saw the gentleman, and I use the word lightly, place her back against the rock wall, and station himself in front of her, enclosing the woman in a vise-lock embrace. “You are breathtaking in candlelight.”

I overheard the lady in question protest in a loud voice. “What do you think you’re doing? Do you speak such words to every woman you lure away in the dark?” She pushed him back. Her sardonic laugh was one intended to insult, not inflame his untoward ardor.

“Most likely, it usually entices ladies to explore.”

“That’s probably the most honest admission you’ve made tonight. Don’t come closer. I warn you.”

Gentleman Bastard“Honesty only goes so far, when I want to do so much more. I know you have a fondness for that…bastard.” He hesitated.

“Don’t go there,” she cautioned the lord.

“We all know what Thorn is. He’s had the good fortune to have a high placed aristocrat accept him.”

Her words were loud and clear. “I warn you, Claven. I pack a wicked punch.”

“I know he’s trained you in horsemanship. Perhaps he has trained you in other areas too? Like kissing?”

I brought my monocle closer to see her face. Her lips moved quickly and apparently in anger. “I now prefer to return to the ball.” She attempted to move away.

“No,” he said. His voice was gruff to be sure.

“Kindly remove your body from my path.”

Horrors, the gentleman refused to move!

“You lured me here, my darling.” Now he pinned her against the wall.

I could see that she held her reticule between them.

“You have a vivid imagination.” She attempted to move again. “All right then,” and quicker than quick, she sent her fist to his cheek.

Caught unaware, he stumbled to the side, his hand upon his jaw.

gentlemanI then saw her walk by him with a grin. “Thank you.” The sound of her voice echoed a small triumph. “You can thank Thorn Wick, the duke’s son, for teaching me fisticuffs. Come near me again, and I’ll plaster your face against a wall.”

She exited in a rush and straightened her gown only to run into Mr. Wick. With a casual attitude, she said, “You did teach me the art of boxing. I merely employed that education to accomplish my purpose.”

And what did he answer?  “Indeed it appears you did. I’ll have to discipline him, I see.”

What has our Regency world come to when a lady is not safe with a lord?

Arthur Spectator, Senior reporter, Teatime Traveler

About the BookGentleman Bastard

After three years in England, Thorn Wick, the duke’s bastard son, perfectly flawed, still fights for acceptance in his father’s world as a renowned Argamak Turk  horse trainer. Just when he starts to believe in fairy tales, another obstacle looms to thwart his plans: on a dangerous mission to Barbados, Thorn is stunned when secrets are revealed about his mother. Will he exact revenge for the foul deed?

Alicia Montgomery, ward of the duke, is in love with Thorn. Strong willed and adventurous, she determines she can convince him to admit his feelings. But the reality of loving Thorn too much almost destroys her.

Can Alicia quell Thorn’s demons and prove love can pave the way to their happiness to fulfill their destiny?

A Regency Romance with an Element of Suspense

GentlemanAbout the Author

From a humble beginning in Newark, New Jersey, a short stay at a convent in Morristown, N.J. at the age of fourteen, Sandra Masters retired from a fantastic career for a play broadcasting company in Carlsbad, California, and settled in the rural foothills of the Sierras of Yosemite National Park with her husband, Ron, and two dogs, Silky and Sophie. She traded in the Board Rooms for the Ballrooms of the Regency Era and never looked back.

She wrote her first book at the age of thirteen and since then she’s always traveled with pen and notebook for her writing experiences. It’s been the journey of ten thousand miles with a few steps left to go. She deemed it a pleasure to leave the corporate world behind decades later.

Nothing she expected, but everything she desired. Her business card lists her occupation as Living The Dream.

Friday, April 07, 2017

Why This Title?

Why did I write my latest book, SEX, LIES, & THE SPACETIME PINCH? If I let you in on my original title, “Hug a Tree,” it might give you a clue. When that phrase was first bandied about, it stuck in my mind. One of the concerns high on my list is protecting our environment, and I was pleased to find places where I could inveigle that idea into my story.

Also cooking on a back burner was a comment made by a psychologist friend. He believed that the majority of ills leading to aggression and wars came about through sexual guilt. I pondered that notion for some time and one night, when I couldn’t fall asleep and passed the time dreaming up plots, the two ideas came together. What if a fantastic planet existed where sex in all its various forms, and as thrilling as sex can be, was available for everyone, totally without guilt?

And what if this “paradise” was threatened?

One more important element: I wanted romance––and a happy ending. All the major plot points danced in my head as I dreamed up a feisty heroine, an alpha male handsome hero, and a trip to outer space (loved adding a smidgen of science fiction, with its allure of danger and wild imagination). One love story didn’t seem enough; I needed different personalities reacting to my guilt-free-sex planet, so three other couples were added in lesser roles.

There you have it. Utopian erotica. A brand new settlement and a brand new lifestyle. And did I mention robots? Every good story has some comic relief (ask Shakespeare).

I hope you’ll have as much titillating fun reading SEX, LIES, & THE SPACETIME PINCH as I had writing it.
--Vee Bentley

Thursday, April 06, 2017

BONDING by Sharon Ervin

On one overly warm Sunday afternoon, I phoned and invited Molly and Quincy, two teen-aged granddaughters––cousins to each other––to go “alley walking” with me. These girls are intense, and keep to tight schedules even in the summer. Puzzled by my invitation, they agreed.

No cell phones allowed, except mine, which was off.

As we ambled along, talking and seeing all the interesting stuff one sees in back yards, Molly asked me to tell her “my plan for this walk.”

“No plan,” I said. “We’ll walk until we get tired, then we’ll turn toward home.”

She scowled. “I mean, what’s our schedule?”

“No schedule. No structure. No plan,” I said. “We’re just going to walk and talk and see stuff.”

Along the way, I pointed out the back of the large frame house where their great, great grandfather lived when he came to McAlester on horseback with one of his brothers. It was the beginning of the 20th Century.

“The house was called ‘The Batch,’” I said. “Joe Johnson was 21 years old, just a few years older than you are now. It was a rooming house for young, single men. He took his meals there. His brother John rode on, but your great, great granddaddy liked McAlester and decided to stay. With money his dad had given him, he began a wholesale grocery venture. He worked hard and did well. He married the daughter of a local doctor, and had a family. He was a Presbyterian. His wife had been the first infant baptized in the Episcopal church here. Joe was a mason, a charter member of the Elks club and the country club and several other civic and social organizations.”

The girls asked questions and drew mental pictures of their common ancestor and what his life was like, pictured him walking down this same alley behind this same house all those years ago.

An hour later, after we had marveled at swimming pools and bunny cages, even a bobcat in a coop, my son, Molly’s dad, stopped his car at an intersection. He had been looking for us.

“Anyone want a ride?” he asked, arching his eyebr

We were perspiring freely by then. None of the three of us responded. I was leaving it up to the girls.

“Actually, Dad,” Molly said finally, “I think I’ll stay with Nana, if you don’t mind.”

“How about if we all go have ice cream?” A tempting offer, indeed.

“Maybe later, Dad.”

Obviously taken aback, he looked at me. I shrugged.

“Dad, did you know about ‘The Batch’?” his daughter asked.

He nodded and grinned, enlightened, then regarded me again.
“You told them about their great, great grandfather, did you?”

It was my turn to grin. “Yes.”

He laughed remembering alley walking with his brother and sisters years before, and his dad, my husband, telling stories about generations of his family involved in the development of our hometown.

“I could leave the car here and go with you,” he offered.

Molly said sweetly, “No, thanks, Dad. We’ll catch up with you later.”

The girls and I walked a while longer before we turned toward home, sweating, relaxed, and closer than before. There were no electronics involved.

Read MEMORY, my newest romantic/suspense novel, in print or online at

Wednesday, April 05, 2017

What’s a Mother To Do? Brit’s Eye View

The Civil War, the War between the States, what divided a nation? Principles surely but like most wars money figured into the equation
The principles are a worthier topic.

Map showing the Southern states and the order of secession.

The Northern States denied the right of secession, claiming that the union was a "federal" one and the attempt at separation was rebellion. The Southern States claimed that the Union was a "confederation" from which any member is entitled to separate itself. The British Government under Henry John Temple (3rd Viscount Palmerston) declined to judge between them.
Popular sentiment in England was passionately divided, not quite as much as in their former colonies, but a violent feeling against slavery met an equally vehement advocacy of the South for the right of self-government. Since the South fought against heavy odds, the sporting British people were drawn to the underdog (the Confederacy).

Palmerston’s government was determined to maintain a strict neutrality. This, to most intents and purposes, it succeeded in doing though their cotton industry suffered direly. The blockades of the Southern ports cut off supplies of raw cotton upon which the Lancashire cotton industry was dependent. The cotton famine deprived many Lancashire operatives of their means of livelihood, putting more pressure on the government to aid the South.

The Trent Affair increased sympathy with the South in England and very nearly involved Great Britain in the war. The Southerners dispatched two commissioners, one to England and one to France. The commissioners reached a neutral port and embarked on a British vessel, the Trent. A Union warship boarded The Trent and the commissioners were carried off. A declaration of war was only averted when President Lincoln gave way to the demands of the British Government and released the commissioners.

If Britain had entered the war on the side of the South, history might have been quite different, but the worthier topic of principles would not have been as well served perhaps.
The Union had its own cause for complaint against England. Ships built and fitted out in British docks, sailed from British ports apparently harmless intent, were employed by the Confederacy as cruisers. The most notorious instance was the Alabama. The British Government repudiated the Union’s charge that the English had not displayed due diligence in preventing such actions. When the war ended with the Union the victor, claims for damages were brought against the British for the Confederates’ use of the cruisers.

Her General in Gray was inspired by the Ghost & Mrs. Muir, not by the Civil War. Here is the blurb and a short excerpt. See what you think of this Confederate General.

BLURB: Autumn Hartley purchases Allen Hall at a steal, but the northern lass gets far more than a beautiful plantation in the South Carolina Low Country. The house comes complete with its own ghost, a handsome and charming Civil War General—for the Confederacy. The stage is set for another civil conflict.

John Sibley Allen died in battle from a wound in the back, the bullet fired by the turncoat, Beauregard Dudley. The traitor’s reincarnation is Autumn the Interloper’s first dinner guest. Sib bedevils her date and annoys her with fleeting, phantom touches, certain he can frighten her away as he did previous purchasers. As time marches on, her resident ghost becomes more appealing while her suitor, Beau, pales in comparison. Autumn finds her ability to love didn’t perish in the divorce that sent her south seeking a fresh start.

After over a century in the hereafter, Sib discovers he is falling for none other than the feisty Yankee girl, but what future could a modern woman and an old-fashioned ghost possibly hope for?


“You are not there.” Autumn dropped her book and leapt to her feet, shaking her fist at the apparition standing beside the fireplace.

The frolicking blaze shone through the whatever-he-was lounging by the hearth, his arm stretched along the mantel. A ceramic clock beside his hand chimed the hour—seven golden notes. Tall candles in brass candlesticks flickered in an eerie fire dance. He appeared to be a Civil War soldier of the South, his opaque uniform gray with a nasty red-stained hole near the heart. Double rows of gold buttons decorated the coat. Three gold stars and a wreath on the collar glittered in the firelight. No blood spilled from the apparition. Except for his wound, he looked perfectly healthy—for a dead man! He nodded and bowed much so as his lost society had been, regardless of the strong backs supporting that way of life.

“Oh, but I am, Miss Hartley.” He straightened, longish hair gently curling over his face.

A chill raced over her, but she suppressed the tremor of apprehension. Autumn swallowed hard and adjusted her white cotton blouse. “I don’t believe in ghosts. You’re not welcome here. I bought this house and am struggling to pay for it. Get your Halloween self out of my living room.”

He smiled. “It’s not Halloween, and we share this house. It was mine, you know, and still is. I’m willing to share it with you—even if you are a Yankee. After all, the conflict is over, and I’ll hold no grudge against the Northern aggressors. Even though the South will never surrender.”

“Northern aggressors?” She inhaled sharply, the vanilla scent of the candles on the dining room table drifting into the living room. Everything about Allen Hall was beautiful. She loved the house. But this conversation with an arrogant spirit solidified defiance. “And, for your information, the South did surrender.”

“A point of history.” He shrugged and gave her a condescending glance. “No more.”

Pre-order at

Linda Nightingale - Author
Out of the Ordinary..Into Extraordinary Realms

Tuesday, April 04, 2017

From Minnesota With Love: Surviving My "Ice Age!"

History was my favorite subject in school. Westerns were my favorite TV shows. My favorite books ranged from mystery to historical romance. Every movie on my favorite list is a historical. So when I began my first novel, guess what? It was a 19th century historical romance epic that took years of research, spanning several states I personally had to visit.

         Birthweight was more than a ream of paper. And when I was told by agents or publishers that it was too long, or “sorry, try again,” I wrapped it in cellophane and boxed it up in the garage freezer. For years. Thirty to be exact. Thin-skinned over rejection? Hubby eventually scanned all 700 pages into his computer and then onto a thumb drive that is now in our safe deposit box. But I still have that initial freezer baby—lingering now in a warm file cabinet—waiting to be edited into two, maybe three books.

        Fast forward to present. I’ve attended a dozen writer conferences in the last four years, and even pitched the freezer book at a few of the early ones. Still too long. But the advice I was given paid off. Write a shorter book first, build a platform and presence. Then bring out the big one…or divide it into a series. Meanwhile, I had been writing shorter stuff: stories and articles for the local paper, national anthologies and magazines. I entered contests…and placed or won. Good sign. Skin thickened.

      When I received an award at a Women Writing the West Conference in Kansas City for a short story, Publisher Rhonda Penders was in the audience. We connected over dinner and she told me to contact her if I expanded the story to novel length as the judge had suggested. A year later, The Accidental Wife was in galley at Wild Rose Press.

      My inspiration for the time-travel romance was Diana Gabaldon, whom I met at two of the HNS Writer Conferences. (The only author I know who can get away with creating thousand page books, though each one takes her three years to write.) The Accidental Wife was a Golden Quill finalist—ironically for best FIRST book. The Accidental Stranger was released two months ago and I’m researching now for book three in my “Accidental Series.”

      So what about that real first book—put on ice? It could be a good prequel to the present series. But living in Minnesota, I’ve grown accustomed to ice…and skating into opportunities when they arise. I’m on a roll now with thicker skin and a series agenda. My ice age is history.

by Cj Fosdick

Monday, April 03, 2017

The Sandhill Island Series

I’m often asked, “Is Sandhill Island a real place?”  It is for me.  The tiny tourist island off the coast of Corpus Christi became real when it flew from the ends of my fingers onto the computer screen.  Well, sometimes it didn’t fly, but other times it did.

There are many islands along the gulf coast: Padre and Mustang to name a couple.  But Sandhill is a special place of mystery, secrets, and love.  The residents care for each other because living off the mainland they must work together.  The small strip of water that runs between their lives and those of the large city might as well be the Great Wall of China.  It not only protects them from city life, it also prevents them from receiving help when needed. And the ferry only goes back and forth four times a day.  If you’re away from home at night, you won’t get back unless you own a boat.

The residents are working class people who fish, cook, or provide hardware for their neighbors.  The tourists help bring in some money in the summer, but the winters are for die-hard islanders. 

In Secrets of Sandhill Island, Meg grows vegetables and flowers behind her seaside home.  She pulls them into town on an antique wooden cart and hopes someone will need her bounty.  She lives alone in a house she loves and wouldn’t leave for any amount of money.  But money means little to Meg.

The second in the Sandhill Island series is due out this year. Stones of Sandhill Island revolves around different main characters with some of the same minor ones.  The restaurant, Le Chez is still the best kept secret in the Gulf of Mexico and still stands even after the hurricane.  But it has a few new features – like a jazz singer on the weekends.  Billie Stone has the voice of an angel and a past that threatens to tear her apart.

Find out what the secrets are in Secrets of Sandhill Island and get ready for the second in the series, Stones of Sandhill Island.  Spring is here and the islands are calling.

Peggy Chambers

Friday, March 24, 2017

What lies Behind the Mask of Johnson’s next novel?

Henry III said, “If I were not King of France, I would choose to be a citizen of Venice.”

He wasn’t alone in his admiration. Venice, Italy has whispered its inspirational promises to mankind for centuries. Its charms have proved the catalyst for art, music, literature, and pleasure from lowly artists to pedestaled kings.

Everything from its romantically-arched windows overlooking bobbing gondolas, to its gargoyle-shaped doorknobs, speaks of its uniqueness. There are sights and sounds particular to Venice: bells’ flat gonging, water lapping against boats, hand carts thumping across the walkways on the way to a seven-centuries-old market, pigeons’ cooing right before their riotous fluttering as tourists pour contents from seed sacks into their eager palms, Byzantium architecture, blown-glass chandeliers, standing gondoliers steering their crafts effortlessly through dark water, shops with window fronts advertising hand-crafted shoes or carnival masks.

I first visited in 2005 with a friend since high school. Nacicchetti—and drank wine from the region with names like Prosecco—which we recognized—and the lesser known to us at the time—Soave and Valpolicella—in enotecas and osterias. Everything was strangely delicious and the art and sculpture was so beautifully moving we could barely digest the richness that makes Venice one of the world’s top travel destinations.
turally, we took the clichéd gondola tour. We ate squid and other small bites—

One day, as we strolled through the Rialto Market and its surrounding shops, a water ambulance careened through the canal, a big cross emblazoned on its side. The image sent roots deeper than those of simple memory.

Who was the occupant requiring medical attention?
What had happened?
Where were they from and where were they headed?
Why had this been necessary?

A new story forged from this wonderment; one which culminated inBehind the Mask, a suspense-filled romance novel with Venice as its backdrop.

My intention is to bring Venice’s full flavor to the reader as the journey is set into motion between characters who might never have met without this one event which required an ambulance. There is, of course, a mystery to be solved and lovers to bring together—my own Bridge of Sighs.

Renee Johnson is the author of Herald Angels, Acquisition, and The Haunting of William Gray. She is currently working on a Young Adult novel, while editing a suspense novel which has international flair–an homage to her love of travel and foreign food. She lives on a farm in North Carolina with her husband, Tony Johnson, and two very spoiled German shepherds named Hansel and Gretel.

Renee Canter Johnson 

Available to day at all major online retailers

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

I have been to see the dragon’s skin…

… and this is what it looks like.

Where I live, the Earth is a mellow creature. It doesn’t move beneath my feet or spew into the sky or break open very often. Folk here are focused more on the sky and the changeable—sometimes wicked—weather it brings us. We never doubt the solidity of the ground we’ve built our lives upon because it so rarely fails us.

We shouldn’t be so trusting.

The Earth is a living, breathing entity … a dragon, if you will. And that is never more evident than where this dragon is daily making itself new. On the island of Hawaii, the Big Island, the ground swells, it puffs poisonous, sulfurous smoke from open red sores and hundreds of bottomless cracks. It disgorges slow-moving lava fields that surround and torch homes, highways, and fields. It creeps downhill to fill a once-beautiful cove with 20-30 feet of solid black rock, rippled like skin.

The Earth lives here, and the people live with it, and

We think of dragons as mythical creatures, armor-plated and breathing fire. I think of them as having skin like this, and sleeping—ever so restlessly—beneath our feet.

Helen C. Johannes is the author of BLOODSTONE, a fantasy romance in which dragons do indeed sleep beneath the earth, and their petrified blood possesses magical power.
nature takes hold of the rock—very quickly, it seems, finding footholds for pollen and seedlings in seams filled with windblown dust. Dragon skin is fertile, apparently, or the islands built by these forces wouldn’t be so lush.

Helen C. Johannes

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Crazy Things Happen When You Write Steamy Romance By Stacy Gold

I recently became a published contemporary romance author. Okay, a published, contemporary erotic romance author. As soon as my first short story, ‘Just Friends’, came out, I let everyone know: friends, family, acquaintances, social media followers and random strangers. I expected the mix of funny looks, genuine excitement, and rave reviews I’ve received.

What I didn’t expect was how writing a book with explicit—but not particularly kinky—sex scenes would shift my personal universe. Especially since most of my friends and family knew what I was writing beforehand. Some even critiqued early drafts for me.

Still, their reactions after reading my officially published work have been fascinating…
At my launch party, I received congratulations cards, a lovely succulent in a pretty pot, a bouquet, and many bottles of wine. I also received a realistically rendered, double-ended, pink silicone sex toy with ‘Just Friends’ and my launch date inscribed in black marker on the side. Very thoughtful. It makes a nice conversation piece on the mantle.

One of my male friends questioned me about the specifics of powder skiing. In great detail. I think it was a mix of genuine curiosity, and a desire to let me know he read my book without talking about the sex. Or the emotions. Or the transformation of the characters. Or their relatability. Or the myriad of other things making up this story that most men avoid in their reading material.

The other night, the initial discussion over dinner with a few other couples revolved around the best words to use for male sexual anatomy. We were at a local restaurant, and not being all that quiet. I can’t help but wonder what the others diners thought, and whether they prefer the d-word or the c-word.

Not that I minded. I’m fine talking about sex. Always have been, even loudly in public places. It’s just, most other people aren’t. Or they weren’t. Until now.

Here are five wonderful and crazy things I’ve discovered:

1) My very conservative Aunt is not as conservative as I thought.

2) My guy friends are so supportive, even they read my book—and most have no idea what to say about it other than it’s very well written. Or they really enjoyed the skiing.

3) My husband likes me spending my days thinking and writing about attraction, sex, love and happily ever after.

4) I have the most wonderful, supportive friends and family ever. Not that I didn’t already know, but it’s good to be reminded.

5) I’ve given people a free pass to have frank sexual conversations with me anytime, anywhere. Which is a useful and appreciated, since I always need more fodder for my books.

What’s the one question you would ask an author of steamy romance? Does knowing someone writes about sex make you more likely to discuss sex with them?

Please do let me know in the comments below.

Stacy Gold
Adventires in Love and the Great Outdoors

Monday, March 20, 2017

unique Australian animals by Kate Loveday

Australia is a diverse country, with amazing wildlife. Amongst these the platypus is one of the most unique. It is one of the most unusual creatures in the world. It has a paddle-shaped tail like a beaver; a sleek, furry body like an otter; and a flat bill and webbed feet like a duck. In fact, the first time a platypus was brought from Australia to Britain, people couldn't believe that it was a real animal. They thought that a trickster had sewn two animals together, according to the BBC.

I have had the good fortune to see a one of these rare creatures. Not in a sanctuary or a zoo. In the wild. Swimming in the Broken River, in the Eungella National Park, Central Queensland. The National Park is in the Eungella Range, 50 miles west of Mackay. With husband Peter we had been spending a week in the Pioneer Valley below, on our way to Far North Queensland for the winter, staying in the Finch Hatton Caravan Park.

We had come here with the hope of seeing the shy and mainly nocturnal platypus in its natural habitat. So here we were before dusk standing in the viewing area on the bridge over the river at Broken River.

We had taken up our positions an hour earlier, waiting patiently and scanning the river for any signs of activity.
“Watch for bubbles on the surface of the water,” said the Ranger. “The platypus dives to the bottom for food and strains it through his bill. Then he comes to the surface to eat it. He’s only there for a few seconds and then he dives down searching for more, so you have to watch carefully. And it won’t happen until the sunlight is off the water.”

Accordingly we had been scanning the shady areas of water carefully.
We had a few false alarms as we saw tortoises swimming below us, and insects on the surface giving the appearance of bubbles.

Peter trained his binoculars upriver and suddenly there it was, many yards upstream. Creating wide ripples as it dived, it was clearly visible, and we watched its progress as it swam towards us and passed under the bridge. It was larger than we had expected at about twenty three inches long, and we saw its distinctive bill, the tail, and dark brown fur clearly. It was truly an exciting event to see this creature in its natural environment.

Apart from platypus spotting the Eungella National Park has many other attractions. It boasts the largest continuous stretch of rainforest in Australia. The winding road from Eungella to Broken River is lined on both sides with vegetation and walks and lookouts lead off from the road.

At the top of the winding road is the historic Eungella Chalet. With tables, chairs and umbrellas set out on lawns in front of the Chalet it is a pleasant spot to sit awhile and admire the view over the Pioneer Valley 700 metres below. A patchwork of green and brown fields interspersed with trees and the odd building and fringed by mountains makes this a spectacular view.
If you decide to visit Queensland the Pioneer Valley is the perfect place to spend a few days of your holiday. There are plenty of things to see and do.
If you are adventurous you may like to try hang-gliding. A hang-gliding ramp at the edge of the lawn provides a take off point for hang-gliding enthusiasts, both local and otherwise. Australian championships have been held here and competitors have been known to glide as far as the town of Pinnacle, twelve miles down in the valley below.

If you come I hope you enjoy it as much as we have. And I hope you spot a platypus.

Kate Loveday

Friday, March 10, 2017

Women's Hearts - Finding Truth in Fiction

Have you ever found yourself in a novel? Do you read to imagine yourself the heroine…or do you read because you are her…possessor of the deeper angst and motivations ready to find their way out in shared dilemmas and dreams, such as these…

Denying cannot be conjured where it isn’t, nor can it be successfully repressed: “Caging a heart – it couldn’t be done. Not a heart in full blossom of passion. Stopping a roaring river would be easier, or harnessing a violent hurricane with bare hands.” From “Love on a Train.”

Losing dreams to reality, when is it right to let them go and when is it wrong:
“Lana strained to see herself in the cracked mirror that leaned against the wall near Grandma’s cot. ‘You think your dress works good for a bride?’ Lana eyed the dress her grandmother was giving her, faded gray fabric with only a hint of white where tiny daisies had once been.
‘You’re going to be a wife, not a bride…’ Grandma muttered around her mouthful of pins, her needle and thread weaving in and out of the gathered waist. ‘Get silly notions about being a bride out of your head.’” From “Asked For.”

Being close to him, but not close enough:
“‘I miss you too,’ I answered, my cheek flat against his chest, my eyes staring across the room at a poster of Cincinnati’s baseball team. I did miss him but not in the way he thought. Even when he was near I still missed him, missed him in the lonely place he should be in my soul.” From “Mine to Tell.”

Longing for a true hero who knows what he wants, and it’s you:
“I had Regina on my horse in a second, seated in my saddle. I reached in front of her, grabbed the saddle’s horn, and sailed up behind her. ‘Let’s go. And this time, I’ll do the holding on.’ And I did, with both arms around the tiny woman I never intended to let go of.” From soon to be released “The Lady’s Arrangement.”

If an author is writing what he or she knows, they are writing your path. The pleasure is to escape to that path, or even escape from it as characters sort through what we sometimes can’t unravel. So, read. And enjoy. And when the pages reflect what you’ve always known, clasp the book close to your heart when you’re finished, and say, “amen.”

Colleen L Donnelly

Monday, February 27, 2017

Fun and news! with Abby Gordon

Absolutely gorgeous day - I've got the doors and windows WIDE open for the fresh air and breeze. Cats are in heaven - chittering as they run from window to window (using me as a launching pad on occasion) and generally exhausting themselves so I figure they'll crash in a little bit.
I've a light Italian meatball soup simmering in the crock-pot and have wheat bread dough rising to make rolls this evening.

With this spring-like weather, I feel like I should be doing my spring cleaning, but I'm restraining myself. Mother Nature has a warped sense of humor, so I'll wait. Sort of. I moved the sub-zero parka and the winter boots from the entryway coat rack to the hall closet. And did a scrubbing of the walls. Not full out spring-weekend effort, but enough where I feel like I satisfied my spring fever itch.

I'm in full writing mode - two scenes to do for IM4 - one VERY hot and steamy - Jake let's loose on Tina and ties her up, and she's loving every minute of it - and the 'here's why Allura has been doing what she's doing' - ooo, the men are NOT happy. And then there's Barden - who has a crisis of confidence. The next three for the Interstellar Matchmaker series are bubbling about in my mind - Bessie's brother, Adam, Copper Fire's police chief, does something he's NEVER done before and secrets come out of the fire. For six and seven, two of Tina's older brothers literally dance their women off their feet, but... let's just say true love's course is never smooth! And the eighth - you like time travel with a Wizard of Oz twist? Allura's last matchmaking effort sends an Andersson back to the fifties.

Annnnd, I've received a few emails about my first series - unnamed, any ideas? - and I've gone back to it - Possessing Penny should be ready for Angela, my amazingly patient editor and incredible cover artist - in a couple weeks. Plus, Claiming Claire with the menage of Claire, Paul and David and a bit of a mystery. And, in a future book - something I've never done - using people I know as secondary characters - with their permission and their input - talk about scene stealers though! I think you'll love them as much as I do though. More on that in the future.


Saturday, February 25, 2017

Tough Truth About Reviews by Cj Fosdick

Reviews are to books what “Consumer Reports” is to electronics. A book can live or die by review buzz—whether written or by word of mouth. Reviews are important for new releases, especially important for debut authors. Authors understand this; readers not so much.

     With my debut novel, The Accidental Wife, I didn’t know about marketing early for pre-orders or even that an ARC was an Advanced Review Copy. Blogging, tweeting, street teams and book tours were foreign terms and interviews were something you did only when asked—after your success was validated. Trolling for reviews and endorsements was something extroverts did, and swapping reviews was almost as uncomfortable as paying for them. It took a year of discovery and networking with other authors to learn the truth.

      For my earliest reviews, I trusted my most important Beta readers—both of whom were experienced writers and editors. I was married to one, but had lost touch with the other —a colleague who co-produced a Minnesota anthology with me thirty years ago. After reading my finished manuscript, both Betas gave me the equivalent of five star reviews.

     Could I trust them to be impartial? Hubby—not so much. More to lose there, according to his POV (point of view). Also, his left brain talent at IBM had him editing technical manuals; He never even read a time-travel historical romance, though he does love history and suspense and epic storylines in movies. Plus, he is great at editing grammatical errors and relentlessly honest in the larger picture.

     My old colleague labeled me a “helluva writer” and admitted she laughed and cried while reading The Accidental Wife. Known for her encyclopedic mind and creative fantasy, she had poems and two published books of her own: Minnesota Trivia and Growing Wings. It had been years since we touched base after she moved to another state, but I trusted Laurel Winter and loved the review she offered.

     I warmed up to inviting others to read and review IF they liked the book, but I hesitated to ask other family members to even read it. Particularly my 80 year old stepmom and my daughters, as I worried about their reaction to the sex scenes WildRose Press rated “spicy.” All were fine with the sex, but my stepmom said she did not believe in time travel. Still, she got a print copy accepted in her local library in Wisconsin. Sometimes nepotism has a silver lining.

  Though my short stories and articles were published for decades, many people knew me only as a horse trainer. Discovery and Acceptance precede sales which precede reviews. Fishing for reviews for a novel was going to be hard for a new “minnow” suddenly swimming in an ocean of writers all hoping to hook readers. Harder still for a technophobe inept at posting in Facebook and new to Twitter, Goodreads, and other social media apps and opportunities.

     I celebrated my debut by ordering “Novel CJ”—a vanity license plate for my car, then spent months of self-education, embellishing my website, writing a newsletter titled “Accidental Connections,” even distributing business cards and stocking up on print copies to sell. At a Historic Home Ec Club appearance, I laughed when an elderly member asked if I thought sex sold more books. (I side-tracked her with my cookies.) Both Accidental books have scenes involving historic cookie recipes. Armed with recipe cards and baked samples, the cookies were always a hit at subsequent Book Club appearances. I also donated a dozen copies to my local library for their book club program, reasoning discovery is more important than sales, then followed through by giving away as many debut books as I sold.

Whichever way a copy found a new reader, I couldn’t count on an instant review. Busy people took longer to read and when I ginned up the courage to ASK for a review, I sometimes got an intimidated deer in the headlights response: “You want ME to write a review?” Some readers felt unqualified to write one, some didn’t know where to post or how to navigate online. Eventually, I plugged little cards into all the print copies I sold, explaining the importance of reviews and listing the link sites. I even sent a “click list” to one reader who told me her grandchildren might be able to show her how to add a review on Amazon.

     There are three other review sources, aside from betas, family and friends:
1. Unsolicited reviews, also termed “organic.”
2. Paid Reviews.
3. Swapped Reviews.

Every writer is happy to collect unsolicited reviews, especially if they are three to five stars. Paid reviews vary in cost and value, along with results. The WildRose Press publisher warns against them.

If time is money, swapping reviews also has a cost factor beyond the fact that Amazon and other sites frown on them. I thought swapping was an inexpensive way to add reviews, even though I read as deliberately as I write. My editing eye zeroes in on errors, and faulty research. Knowing first-hand how much work the writer invests, however, I always find something affirming, and try to suppress the niggling dishonesty that gives four or five stars to a review that merits less. Isn’t it tacitly understood that getting five stars means giving the same in a swap? Wouldn’t it be less of a head game if we gave a STARLESS critique? It might increase the number of reviews with no risk to writer or reviewer, especially if they share a connection!

     Recently, I was asked by a fan to endorse her friend’s Indie fiction book for her cover. This helps to sell the book if the endorsement normally comes from a successful writer or celebrity. I was flattered into reluctantly agreeing, telling myself this was only to save a fan. It turned out the first 67 pages were an info dump. Dialog was stilted, with hundreds of he said/she said dialog tags, even with two people conversing. Supporting characters were more sympathetic than the main characters, and the ending drifted. I affirmed that she had an editor, and asked her if she truly wanted my honest opinion. Her editor also worked with Bob Woodward of the Washington Post and since Watergate, Bob has written eighteen non-fiction books. Okaaay. I emailed my notes anyway, with suggestions. For three days of work, I received NO RESPONSE back. File that under A valuable lesson learned…on so many levels!

  Endorsements and good reviews aside, ultimate best sellers—even those by well-known beloved writers seldom hit the mark with everyone. If you are counting reviews, even bad ones can be a plus. Think about the Fifty Shades Trilogy by E.L. James, which hauled in more than 60,000 reviews over the last six years Over 30% of them earned 1 to 3 stars, with even the five star reviews holding some objection. Lower ratings usually indicate disregard for subject matter or writing skill. But Fifty Shades got people talking, saved a publishing house and planted erotic books firmly into the mainstream. True then, some best sellers are the gift of public curiosity—niche readers who take a chance on a book outside their favorite genre because it has an intriguing hook and a lot of buzz. Refute the idea that only good reviews pay off. Mixed reviews mean a broader reader base penning those cherished unsolicited reviews.

     With The Accidental Stranger—the new sequel to my debut book—I’m working the review game smarter, investing more marketing time...and money while still conceding that reviews come easier to veteran writers with devoted fans and a broad base that may take years to cultivate. Unless, of course, I come up with a novel hook that flutters through demographics like a contagious flu.

     My favorite series author, Diana Gabaldon, has sold 26 million books in more than 40 countries. Outlander, her first book published in 1991, has accumulated over 22,000 Amazon reviews, with only 7% of them pulling one or two stars. I met Diana twice at HNS Writer Conferences. She has said in interviews that she won fans “ten at a time,” until she caught on. Inarguably, she may have the largest fan base of any popular author today. She is my social proof and inspiration. We both love character-driven time-travel with multi-genres in the mix. My dearest fantasy is asking her for…an endorsement!

Cj Fosdick--would LOVE reviews of her new release, The Accidental Stranger

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Naming Characters

What we name our characters, especially our main characters, can make or break our stories. An oft-used example of a poor choice is Pansy, the name Margaret Mitchell was going to give her cunning, provocative heroine until she wisely changed it to Scarlet.

Choosing the perfect name isn’t easy. It should fit the character’s personality, perhaps even his or her appearance, and it absolutely must be appropriate for the story’s time period.

While I was writing Brute Heart, a contemporary novel set in Oregon, I found names for every one of my characters, major or minor, first name as well as last name, on a map of Oregon. I was amazed at the rich storehouse of names scattered across that map--cities, towns, wide spots in the road, parks, counties, and countless topographical features. Some of the many names I ended up using were Jordan (Jordan Valley), Riley (a small town), Douglas (Douglas County), Cooper (Cooper Mountain), Annie (Annie Springs), and Jude (Jude Lake).

Take a look at a map of your own state, one that shows both topographical and political features. If you don't find good names there for your characters, spend some time with a detailed map of Oregon, a state that has a penchant for unusual names such as Boring, Shedd, Bakeoven, and Drain (all small towns). I doubt I’ll ever use those four names for characters, but what interesting names they’d be for settings.

Ginger Dehlinger

“fiction embraced by fact”

Brute Heart

Never Done

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Mystery Settings by Linda Hope Lee

What better setting for a mystery than a remote island?
That's what I thought while standing on the deck of the ferry traveling through Washington State's San Juan Islands. The archipelago includes over 400 islands, which provide a lot of possibilities!
The idea for a story did not immediately present itself until character Megan Evans appeared, seeking the truth about her beloved daughter's mysterious death. Aha, I thought, what if the clues lead her to a place where she might be in grave danger? What about . . . a remote island? And so, Gemini Island was born. Soon after that, just as I had done so many times, Meg
[i]stood on the top deck of the ferry, watching Puget Sound's Orcas Island change from a gray blob into a landmass with discernable trees and structures. . . . She would debark there. Someone from Gemini Island, which had no public service, would pick her up and take her to her final destination.
Later, after a ride in a small boat into the interior of the archipelago, Meg reaches her destination:
[i]Just before stepping onto shore, Meg felt her heart skip a beat. Once she set foot on land, there'd be no going back. For better or worse . . . she'd be stuck here on Gemini Island.
The island itself is full of mystery, from the paths that wind through the pine forests where sunlight rarely penetrates, to the desolate beaches to the mountain that has been declared off-limits. Characters add to the setting, too, and on Gemini Meg encounters the enigmatic and handsome Eric Richards, a Northwest Indian artifacts expert, who has his own hidden reasons for coming to Gemini.
The setting is important to any story, but especially so to a mystery, I believe. And yet, with the right emphasis, any setting can be made mysterious. Mystery writers, what settings have you used that have been particularly effective? Mystery readers, what memorable settings have you encountered in the mysteries you've read?

Available Now

Monday, February 20, 2017

LURCHES by Sharon Ervin

When our daughter Brandi and her friend Leslie were four-year-olds, they came into the kitchen one summer morning, their faces streaked with sweat and concern.
“What is an emergency?” Brandi asked. Leslie nodded. However it came up, the concept had caught their attention.
“An emergency is something that usually happens suddenly and needs quick action or snap decisions.” I thought that was a good response, coming on the fly as it had.
They both frowned, linked arms and left mumbling to one another. A while later, they were back.
“If there was a rhinoceros in the kitchen,” Leslie asked, her little face sober, “would that be an emergency?”
It’s hard not to crack in those moments, especially as we were standing in my tiny kitchen, but I held steady. “Yes,” I said, my sincerity matching theirs. “A rhinoceros in the kitchen definitely would be an emergency.”
“We thought so.”
They both nodded, arched their eyebrows, joined hands and went outside to swing.
At a writers’ workshop once, the leader asked if we sometimes get “in the zone,” a term most writers understand, and write merrily along, producing humdrum prose.
“What you need to remember to throw into your work from time to time,” she said, “is a lurch.”
As a reader and a writer, I knew what she meant. Surprise your readers. Surprise yourself. Lurch.
I wrote the word in block letters on a card and placed it above my computer screen as a reminder.
Brandi and Leslie demonstrated by example that morning what a lurch can contribute to a day, or a story.
Lurches come in many forms. They don’t have to be a dead body dropping from the sky to land at your feet, although that would be a good one. It can be anything out of the ordinary. Being rear-ended in traffic is a lurch. A sudden hug from a grubby child, a handsome man flirting, people at Union Station bursting into song, The list of lurches is endless. They are unexpected events, happy or sad, contagious or private, always surprising.
As I write, I try to throw in the occasional lurch, just to keep my readers––and me––paying attention. A good writer must remember to lurch. Sharon Ervin, Author of MEMORY, coming in March.

Available for pre-order on Amazon and other online retailers

Sharon Ervin

Saturday, February 18, 2017

On Writing a Series by Kate Loveday

When I finished writing my first novel, which is a stand-alone book, set in contemporary Australia, I had no ideas about writing either historical fiction or a series. However, we had moved to an area on the mid-north coast of NSW, an area that figured prominently in the early days of colonization, and I became interested in its history.

This led me to explore the attitudes towards women in the nineteenth century, and I decided that my next book must be about the life of a woman in that era, when women had few rights and were dominated by men. I determined that my character would be a spirited woman who did not take kindly to subjugation. Then I began to look at the attitudes towards women over the years, and decided it would be interesting to do a story of different generations of women – mother, daughter and grand-daughter – spanning the second half of the nineteenth century and, maybe, up to the end of the flapper era, the 1930’s. Would the patronizing attitudes of men towards women have altered? And how would women have changed? I realized it could not be told in a single book, and decided to make it a series of three books, one for each generation. So far so good.

What I did not realize was the problems posed to writers of series.

The first book, ‘A Woman of Spirit’ was straightforward. The main character, Kitty, lived her life in the book and when book one ended, she had a daughter, Joy, who was a baby. Now, I had to continue Kitty’s story in book two, 'In Search of Love', so I couldn’t just start it when Joy was a grown woman, too much time would have passed.

First problem – how to cover the years as Joy grows from child to young woman, and hold the reader’s interest? Not an easy task. She went to school. She learned to ride and developed a love of horses. Not riveting phases of her life! So book two, ‘In search of Love, continued Kitty’s story, and also covered Joy’s life from age thirteen to young womanhood.
Second problem, as time passes there is the continuation of characters, and how they would change as they were affected by the changing history of the times. It was a period of uncertainty in Australia, when there was continual debate over the decision of whether the separate colonies should join together to form the Federation of Australia or not – some for, some against. There was also a severe recession in the 1990′s. How would my characters be affected by these problems?
I thought I knew my characters well but when it came to writing scenes I realized there were so many small details to remember, particularly with places and minor characters. How exactly had I described Lady Barron? Craddock? Harry Osborne? In which hotel in Sydney had Kitty stayed? Minor points perhaps but important enough that I had to return to book one to check.

And with a series there is always the question of how much to explain in the second, and subsequent, books in case people start reading that one first. Each book must really be able to stand alone as well as being read in sequence, but it’s hard to do that without boring those who have read the first book. Finding the balance between these needs is challenging. Each book must have its own plot, its own characters, including some from previous books, and its own changing tensions. But it must still relate to the preceding story and answer the questions left unanswered at the end of that, and to have its own problems unresolved at the end, which will be answered in the next book if you want readers to be waiting for the next of the series.

Then it was time to get on with book three,'An Ambitious Woman', which is set as the nineteenth century ends, and focuses mainly on a grown-up Joy. As with all characters, Joy has become what she wants to be, a modern woman, with modern ideas. But those ideas don’t always conform to the social norms of the day, much as she wishes for it, and what happens to her will probably confound readers and leave them wishing for more.

And here is the writer’s dilemma.

Will the trilogy be enough? Or will the series keep growing? Only time will tell.

Kate Loveday