Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Women Writing the West Conference, 2013

Women Writing the West Conference, 2013
Andrea Downing

As a writer of books set predominantly in the west, being a member of Women Writing the West has been a great advantage to me, and attending their annual conference a must. Aside from the educational benefits, the conference is a chance to put faces to names on its listserv, an opportunity to reunite with old friends, and a great chance to make new friends. This year’s conference was held in Kansas City, MO—about as far east the organization will go—and among the new faces was TWRP’s very own Editor-in-Chief, Rhonda Penders.

With thanks to United Airlines, my flight to KC was three hours late, pretty well knocking out any opportunity to do more than a late dinner on the Thurs. evening. Come Friday, however, Rhonda and I were amongst those who were off to the Steamboat Arabia Museum, a fascinating showcase of two hundred tons of merchandise meant for sixteen towns along the Missouri River from a boat that sank in 1856. In 1988, the boat was raised, its cargo virtually intact. This exhibit provided a perfect morning’s pastime, especially when a delicious lunch in the Old Market area followed, enhanced by getting to know my boss a wee bit better!
Back at the Embassy Suites, the more serious segment of the conference began in the afternoon. Speeches of welcome were followed by a publishers panel in which Boss Lady more than held her own with Filter Press, University of Iowa Press, The History Press and Pen-L Books. The audience was given a wide range of views on the current state of publishing. For me, this was followed by a panel on ‘Making the Most of Your Research,’ which discussed excellent ideas for tracking down those worrisome facts one wants to get correct in historical writing. That evening, I was delighted to be able to drag Rhonda off to dinner with a few friends, including Conference VP LaDene Morton. It was a great meal to unwind and end a busy day.
Saturday started bright and early with a ‘Pick Me, Pick Me’ in which panel Rhonda was included. Random first page entries were read out, while panelists had paddles announcing either “No, thanks”—which they would hold up where they would have stopped reading—or “Yes, please.” This was an honest, unrestrained session with highly constructive criticism. Although the entries were anonymous, I have to admit I was glad my own was not chosen. Telling not showing, too much description, too much grey area, not enough dialogue—a veritable catalog of writers’ faults was laid out for one and all. By the end of it, I was glad to escape to Brian Shawver’s ‘The Language of Fiction’ swiftly followed by a personal critique session of my WIP.

Other highlights included award ceremonies and readings from winning books. But what struck me through that day was how popular Rhonda Penders had become. I could hardly sit down without someone singing her praise. When I proudly owned up to being a TWRP author, I was cross-examined as to what the Press is like from the author’s viewpoint. Everyone, it seemed, suddenly wanted to become a Wild Rose author! In the quiet of those private agent/publisher sessions for which authors assiduously sign at conferences and conventions, Rhonda Penders had become flavor of the weekend.

Well, lucky me. I’m already a Wild Rose Press author. Thanks for coming along, Rhonda. You’re a Star!

Rhonda with EPIC Award winner Karen Casey Fitzjerrell at the Kansas City Old Market

The Steamboat Arabia Museum

Andrea Downing

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Character interview - Taking the Tumble

 Eve Dew Crook

Last night, in a lucid dream, I interviewed Cyn Westland’s mother (Anwyn) and my heroine’s father (Davis), recently divorced, as well as her father’s new ladylove, Tirah. We were seated in the living room of Anwyn’s penthouse. Davis and Tirah shared the couch, and through the room’s huge picture window the view of Central Park 20 stories below. Anwyn and I sat opposite each other on plush chairs surrounding the coffee table. From the corner of my eye I could see the park’s trees, their bare branches covered with a light sprinkling of snow. Across the park stood the Metropolitan Museum of Art, and we could just make out the twinkling lights of its handsomely decorated Christmas tree in the museum’s roof garden.

Cyn and Mac were away on a book tour to promote his graphic novel, “Wild Adventures in Heroic Stupidity—The Tall Tale of Oxy Moron,” so I started the interview.

Me: Cynwyd is a most unusual name. How did you come to choose it?

Davis: I visited a marvelous collection of post-Impressionist art in a suburb of Philadelphia, Bala Cynwyd, and the name stuck with me. It had a lovely sound.

Anwyn: Of course I knew it belonged to a Welsh saint, so I went along.

Me: But did you know if it was female?

Tirah (with a rich laugh): That language is so unpronounceable, who would know the difference? Anwyn scowls. Davis looks fondly indulgent. Interviewer struggles to hide a giggle.

Me: I’ve heard Cyn claim that you were very harsh with her when she grew up.

Davis: Nonsense. I just held her to some standards. We need to set the barrier high, or we’ll end up a nation of ignoramuses.

    Me: How did you feel about that, Anwyn?”

Anwyn: There were times when I thought he was too severe,” (she takes a sip of her wine), but to be truthful, I was too full of my own concerns to contradict Davis.

Me: That’s very candid of you.

Anwyn (defensively): Well, I’m in therapy now. I’m learning to face the reality of my behavior.

Me: And you, Tirah? Have you any feelings on the matter?

Tirah: I believe in having standards and goals to live up to. But I believe in women, and men, facing their responsibilities.

Me: Can you expound on that?

Tirah: As I told Cynwyd, women have the responsibility of teaching men that they can’t get away with everything. For example, if Cyn felt her father was too harsh, she should have stood up to him and told him so. A definition for being too harsh needs to be clarified, brought into the open. People must learn to go beyond their prejudices and establish genuine communication.

Me: That’s not easy.

Tirah: No, but for education to succeed, for genuine learning to take hold, it must be done.

Anwyn (looking bewildered): It isn’t always possible to express one’s feelings in a way that can be understood by the other person. It’s too easy to be angry rather than reasonable.

Davis (leaning back and listening): I’ll let you ladies hack it out. I see you both want to dissect me.

Laughter bursts out among all four of us.

Me: Well, I’ll focus on you for a moment, Davis. Your choices are certainly eclectic. Your fiancée is an imposing, dark-haired, highly intelligent career woman, while your former wife is a petite, angelic, unprofessional female. Yet they both found you appealing.

Davis (shifting a bit uncomfortably): I believe in the philosophy of the trend-setting anthropologist, Margaret Mead. After her researches in Samoa, she returned to lecture, among other things, on the need for marriage to be serial. The first marriage, if I may paraphrase my understanding of her words, is for bearing children, and each party should concentrate on finding the best mate to achieve that goal. But when the children leave the nest, the parents should be free to pursue a partner who more closely fulfills their ideal of a life shared, of common interests and tastes, and a desire to be with this person forever more, as the old saying goes.

Me: And you, Tirah?

Tirah: Oh, I agree. Strongly. There is the right mate for youth, and the right mate for maturity.

Me: Before I close this interview, what do you think of the United States?

Tirah: It is a country both wonderful and exasperating.

Me: Can you enlarge on that?

Tirah: No. I promised Davis I would stay away from politics.

(Interview terminates 7 a.m. as the alarm goes off.)

Monday, October 28, 2013

What do you do you do when your hero just won’t tell you his name?

What do you do you do when your hero just won’t tell you his name?
by Helen C. Johannes

You’re the author, right? You control the story. After all, it’s all coming out of your head, isn’t it?
Now I usually haven’t had much trouble naming my main characters as soon as they appear on the page. Some friends have asked me how I can come up with such unusual names as are necessary in fantasy, but the only challenge I’ve usually had is getting the spelling arranged so the reader can pronounce them in some way close to how I hear the names in my head. Secondary characters have had their names changed on occasion, but most of them spring on the page “fully named” as soon as I conceive of them (buddies Grodar and Morys, for instance from THE PRINCE OF VAL-FEYRIDGE, and Rees and Pumble from my upcoming release BLOODSTONE).

But main characters—the author should know their names before she begins to write the first draft.
Tell that to my hero of BLOODSTONE.

He insisted on being “the man” for the first third of the book—or the Shadow Man, as he’s known to others—before I decided I had to figure out what he wasn’t telling me. Turns out he had a very good reason for withholding his true identity. He was in serious denial and had almost forgotten who he used to be.


Once another character unlocked his memories in a series of flashbacks, I knew who he was and how he came to be the Shadow Man. And I finally got a name. Not to mention a full sense of how the heroine would both challenge and complete him.

I don’t recommend diving into writing a story without a name for a main character. A well-chosen name tells both the writer and the reader a great deal about that person. The writer has a mental, emotional, and sometimes physical guide to that character and how he/she might react and what might motivate him/her. The reader forms an instant impression to that character. For instance, who didn’t correctly size up J.K. Rowling’s Severus Snape or Draco Malfoy as soon as either of them appeared on the page? Names are powerful or we writers wouldn’t invest so much effort in choosing the right one.

Still, if a character refuses to “play nice,” perhaps he or she is telling you something and you need to dig deeper.

Helen C. Johannes

Saturday, October 26, 2013

Bear and Bare, Pt. 3

Bear and Bare, Pt. 3
 Eve Dew Crook
The “bare” part of the title doesn’t fit any longer, as our Arizona living evolves around tank tops and shorts, but there was a bear in our neighborhood one summer, and we frequently see javelinas marching down the streets and munching on the cacti, as well as deer on the golf courses and coyotes everywhere. Besides the snake that landed on my husband’s shoulder as he was opening our front door, we have occasional visits from them on our back patio, in our garage, and hiding under rocks and bushes. Sometimes they’re rattlers. I saw a wildcat on my neighbor’s back fence, and a covey of quails was born in our backyard. But the most unusual animal to visit us showed up on our roof.
We heard the patter of footsteps for several nights and finally called pest control, thinking we had pack rats nesting up there. A man with a cage showed up late the next day and climbed up to the roof. When he finally descended and rang our doorbell, his cage was no longer empty. Inside was an animal sporting a gorgeous bushy tail and huge round eyes, like the ones we remembered from our night-flying squirrels. It was a ringtail, a nocturnal animal resembling a small fox with a raccoon-like tail. It is usually seen only at night in woods and rocky areas, not places like our roof, so it was thrilling to see it up close and to learn it’s the state animal of Arizona.

As a post script to my three days of animal stories, you might be interested to know that I grew up in the city, never had a pet, and knew wild animals only from zoos. I’d love to hear comments from my readers.

Friday, October 25, 2013

What Comes Blair McDowell

For me it has always been place. I find myself in a place I love and my mind starts churning. What if….?

Sometimes it’s a character who occurs to me at that point, more often it’s the glimmering of a plot. It was that way when I started writing Romantic Road, the novel currently in press with Crimson Rose. I was on Germany’s famous Romantische Strasse, the winding scenic road that connects a number of walled medieval German towns when I thought, “What a great setting for a chase story -- about a woman in peril. Maybe the name of the road could have a double meaning.”

The characters and plot evolved from that moment.

Sometimes the aura of a place so captivates me that it calls out for a story. It’s that way with the Amalfi Coast, in Italy, where I’m traveling now. There’s this wonderful little inn in Positano, halfway between the sky and the sea. A few years ago I stayed there for a week. The book I’m presently writing is set in part in Positano and Rome. But to be sure, I felt I had to be there again. Although I’m a hundred and fifty pages into the story I have yet to come up with a title. When In Rome? That’s Amore? Love Italian Style? Perhaps the name will come now that I’m in the right setting.

I keep detailed logs in the form of blogs as I travel. In the next few days I’ll post those where my book-in-progress is set. I hope they will give some pleasure to armchair travelers as well as those who may be thinking about the next vacation.

Blair McDowell 

The Amalfi Highway, Italy

The Amalfi Drive is one of the scariest in the world to navigate by car. It gives “hairpin turns” a whole new meaning. The road twists and turns half way between sea and sky, so narrow at times that there are lights allowing traffic to move in only one direction at a time. When a bus comes toward you, as happened to us several times, you must literally hug the cliff to let it pass.

Why bother? It’s simply some of the most spectacular scenery in the world, and it’s interspersed with tiny charming towns: Amalfi, Positano, Ravello, Minori, Maiori… we love the names of the last two, being musicians—Italian for minor and major. But having been here before, our favorite towns are Positano and Ravello. On our last trip, we stayed in a dreamy little inn, the Casa Teresa in Positano, a hundred and ten steps down from the road. Much of the novel I’m presently writing is set in Positano. However, we opted to stay in Ravello this time. Our faulty memories of it told us that once in the town, the terrain was relatively flat. (WRONG!). Just to be careful, we booked into a hotel with a lift.

The Amalfi Highway, Italy
Ravello, Italy
To get to Ravello, you leave the twisting, turning Amalfi Drive and head upwards on an even narrower twisting, turning road. Ravello sits like an eagle’s nest on a mountain top overlooking the whole coast. Our trusty GPS, Geraldine, took us right to the door of our hotel. The wife of the proprietor of the small, family-run Hotel Garden, was at the car instantly telling us we could not park there. It was pouring rain, a virtual downpour. Bags were hastily unloaded and she led us to the entrance as a young man, presumably her son, took the car away to a legal parking lot. Yes, the hotel did possess an elevator, but to get to it one had to go down eighteen wet slippery steps from the road. This is not easy for a traveler with a tricky left knee and a painful right hip, and a cane. We now know that in the future we must ask “How many steps are there before we get to the lift?”

Garden Hotel, Ravello, Italy
Entrance to Garden Hotel, Ravello
However we soon found ourselves ensconced in a room with a view forever, and all was forgiven. We discovered we were right next door to a restaurant we had discovered on an earlier trip, da Salvatore, one of the best we’ve ever encountered in all of Italy.

I was content to sit on our little balcony and enjoy the view and then eat at da Salvatore, but JP was seeking some culture, so she bought a ticket to a concert to be held that night in the historic grounds of the Villa Rufolo.  Ravello hosts a world-class chamber music festival from June through October every year. The concert didn’t start until 9:30 pm—I knew it would be wasted on me.

Villa Rufolo, Ravello, Italy
Part of Villa Rufolo in Ravello
There are two sites in Ravello that make the trip up the tortuous road worthwhile. The Villa Rufolo dates back to the 13th Century and has extensive and beautiful gardens.  But Cimbrone is my favourite. Situated on a rocky promontory, it was first an ancient Roman villa. Building has been built over building in the succeeding centuries.  The gardens and the view from the Belvedere are spectacular. Composer Richard Wagner is said to have used it and the Villa Rufolo as his setting for the second act of Parsifal. Cimbrone operates as a luxury hotel today. Guests are picked up by helicopter at Naples Airport and transported there, thus eliminating the need for a long, traffic clogged drive.

We enjoyed sitting at a café on the piazza in Ravello that afternoon, watching three successive wedding parties, three brides all dressed in white satin and lace, descend the
church steps to be pelted with rice and rose petals. We enjoyed it less later, when one of those brides held her reception over our heads until midnight.

Ravello, Italy
Ravello Street
I must explain that most of the hotels start with the main level at zero. Then the rooms descend the cliff. At the Hotel Garden we were on -1. That’s minus one. The music and laughter was immediately over our heads. We cannot seem to escape weddings on this trip. This brings the number we have observed to eight.

I must admit I would not opt to stay in Ravello again. I much prefer Positano. Artist Paul Klee said of Positano that it was “the only town in the world conceived on a vertical rather than a horizontal plane”. Positano with its pastel houses, vistas of the azure sea and narrow little laneways that always end in steps is my favorite on this coast.  It’s crowded with bus tours during the day, but they don’t arrive until after ten and they’re gone by four.

One might expect such cliffs and precipices to denote a rather barren landscape. Nothing could be farther from the reality. The steep hills are terraced and covered with grape vines from which a very pleasant local wine is made.  There are many lemon and orange orchards. Lemons here are the size of grapefruit and are delicious. Both desserts and an aromatic after dinner liquor, Limoncello, are made from them. Olive trees and palm trees vie for position and hibiscus and bougainvillea are everywhere. From one end to the other of the Amalfi Drive is one vast lush sub-tropical garden.

Sorrento, Italy
Sorrento at sunset
After two days we left Ravello and headed for Sorrento. My desire to see Sorrento comes largely from hearing Pavarotti sing about returning to it on countless recordings. I’m a huge Pavarotti fan.

Once again our trusty Geraldine took us without a hitch to the Hotel Belair. I really got it right this time. This lovely four star hotel sits right in the edge of the promontory, hanging out over the Bay of Naples. It is decorated beautifully and tastefully in Italian style with many antique pieces. Our room is a delight. And for once our two beds are comfortable and wide enough so that I don’t worry about falling out of mine in my sleep. Across from us, in the distance, we see the Naples and, looming over it, Mount Vesuvius, the still live although hopefully dormant volcano that destroyed Pompeii two millennia ago.

The food in the restaurant is far better than we’ve come to expect in hotel dining rooms. Nevertheless we’ll explore other options. As I predicted in my last blog, the prices of everything escalate as we move north. But, apparently, so do the standards. The last four-star hotel we stayed in (near Paestum) was in no way comparable to this jewel.

Hotel Belair, Sorrento, Italy
Hotel Belair, Sorrento
As I’ve been writing a thunder storm has raged outside. We can see a massive waterfall gushing down the cliff from above the town to the sea. The concierge said, “Don’t go into town in the rain. Nothing moves.” JP took the storm as an opportunity to nap. She’s sound asleep.  Fine. I’m more than content to sit and write.

But now the sun has come out. With any luck we’ll be able to get into the cliff-side pool in an hour or so. Life could be worse.


Go to my Goodreads page, to find more info on my other works and reviews.  

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Bear and Bare, Pt. 2

Bear and Bare, Pt. 2

The next week the plumber we’d hired finally arrived and installed our appliances. We set our dining table in front of the 8 ft. long windows of the living-dining room and invited close friends for our first try at entertaining in our new home. I had just put a casserole on the table when my friend Marian, who was facing the window, let out a piercing scream and pointed. I turned to see our mama bear had returned. She was standing on two legs, her front paws leaning on a protruding windowsill, peering in at us. Her head looked huge. The little ones were behind her busily munching the cheerios we had put out for the raccoons. Years later my friend still reminds me of the shock she received that day.
From then on our garbage was frequently raided, but we never saw the bear or her cubs so close to the house again. We had to content ourselves with a possum who perched on a dogwood tree outside the window where it could see our TV screen and seemed always there for its favorite program. A skunk shared the dish of cheerios with our raccoons on a regular basis, needing only to raise its tail to keep the ‘coons at a distance. And flying squirrels would perform their acrobatics for us by swooping down into the bird feeder, even though we had lights on in the back yard. There was also a tame deer who would lie down in front of our house close enough to pet, but the next time we were visited by unusual beasties occurred when we moved to Arizona—tomorrow’s story.

Monday, October 21, 2013

Bear and Bare, Pt. 1

Bear and Bare, Pt. 1
Eve Dew Crook
I’ve read that pets in romance novels attract readers, but that wasn’t on my mind when I included Oxy Moron, a pet lizard, into Taking the Tumble. He somehow landed there right from my subconscious and plays a small but significant part. Speaking of animals, however, I could tell a few stories.
We built our vacation house in the Pocono Mountains of Pennsylvania several years ago and moved in before the plumbing arrived. A little chemical toilet was placed by the porch back stairs. One full moon night I went out to use the facilities. I had just pulled down my pajama bottoms when I heard a noise by the garbage can. A black bear was clawing at the heavy elastic that held down the cover. We stared at each other for a moment that felt like an hour. Then, to my surprise, she waved a paw at three little cubs I hadn’t noticed hiding behind her. They ran to a nearby tree and clambered up clumsily, the bottom one climbing right over the first two to get farthest away. It was like watching an old Keystone Kops routine.
Grabbing hold of my bottoms, I ran onto the porch and watched as the mother bear ripped off the garbage can cover and ate her messy meal before calling the cubs down for their share and then ambling away.  The next time I saw her is tomorrow’s tale.

Friday, October 18, 2013

Angel's Addiction - The Rockin' Hard Series

Book 1 in the Rockin' Hard Series

His angel...

Gabriella Blanchett can't seem to resist the addictive lure of another pleasure-filled night with the smoldering rock star. He'd be perfect except for the sudden and mysterious disappearances in the middle of the night. His ability to sense her every need, coupled with the secrets he harbors, leave her head spinning, her body humming, and her heart in jeopardy.

Her addiction...

Rock star Auro Moretti tours the world with a goal that's two-fold. He hopes his music is inspiring, but as an empath, he also heals tortured young souls in the audience with his gypsy gift. Protecting his family's secret and Romani heritage proves as difficult a task as keeping Gabriella in his bed.

She fills his soul with light...he feeds her craving for love...and a stalker threatens to destroy both.

    Wow!  Angel's Addiction release day has finally arrived.

I'm bouncing back and forth between excitement and nervous energy, but I'm determined to make the best of both.  

Today, I feel compelled to share a few crazy thoughts about the characters in this book.

Let's begin with Auro.  My hero is...let's just say he's an Alpha male with strong dominant tendencies.  On the flip side, his empathic abilities allow him to experience and show great tenderness and sensitivity.  What more could a girl ask for, right?

Here is an example of the contradictions that are Auro.

I took her hand and led her back inside. “Come.”
She shook her head and followed me to the couch. “You are scaring me. Just—”
“Gabriella, sit down.” She shivered at the authority in my voice, and I hid a smile when she obeyed.

Astounded by this beautiful woman’s total acceptance of what I was, partnered with the love she continually shared, forced me to pause. “Thank you for trusting me with your pleasure.”

It's so much fun writing Alpha heroes like Auro who respectfully adore their heroines.

Then there is Gabriella (Angel).  Darn, this is harder than I thought.  My heroine is complex as well. Gabriella is a strong self-sufficient woman who balks at Auro's instinct to protect, but hungers for his control in the bedroom.  

Here are a few of her random rants...

“Ugh! Your arrogance makes me want to scream. You just don’t get it, do you? I won’t be commanded to do what you think is best for me."

That was just it. I didn't usually allow myself to give in and relinquish complete control. You love that about him. You've trusted him since the beginning. It’s your need for his dominance outside the bedroom you can’t accept.

I know, completely confusing out of context, but maybe just enough to make you want to meet these great characters.  

An excerpt and link are posted below.  Please take a second of your valuable time to read through, then if you like what you see...just click.

Rock On!

Nese Lane

Lustful addiction to an empathic rock star leads to love and deadly games… 

     I peered around the corner into the kitchenette area. Auro stood with his back to me, and I took a moment to appreciate the view. He’d drug on a pair of soft well-worn jeans. The fabric molded his ass in a way that had me drooling. He hadn’t bothered with a shirt, and muscles played across his back when he leaned forward and laid a single red rose on the room service tray.
     Preoccupied with his task, he quietly sang a tune I didn't recognize. The sound of his voice had me wet in five seconds flat. I’m so easy.
     I slipped behind him and wrapped my arms around his waist. “Mmm, morning.” I slid the long silky strands of his hair over so I could kiss where my lips met his spine. The deep rumble of his chuckle tickled my cheek as I snuggled against his warmth. 
     “Try afternoon, cara, it is after three. I was just coming to bring you something to eat and find out your plans for this evening. I had hoped to wake you in a completely different manner, but this works almost as well.” 
     He turned in my arms, tightened his hold, and lowered his head to brush his lips across my mouth. And there it was…the euphoric feeling of his kiss. The fix I needed from my drug of choice—Auro. It hit my system with enough punch, my knees weakened. I steadied myself by grasping his shoulders, leaning my full weight against his tension-filled frame. 
     “Sorry to spoil your fun. How can I make it up to you?” I murmured against his lips. Heat flashed in his gaze, and I slowly lowered myself to my knees.

Wednesday, October 09, 2013

Best of Both Worlds - Kevin V. Symmons

Best of Both Worlds

“Okay, what’s the story? You’re a guy, and you’re writing… romance?”
It’s a question I hear often. Every convention I attend or speak at I get that suspicious stare followed by the inevitable… “Why?”
So in answer to the first comment, yes, I’m a healthy male and though no longer young, still feel in the prime of life. And I write novels that contain that to use my publisher’s words, strong romantic elements.
I have coined what is probably not a new sub-genre but I’ll pretend it is and call my novels romantic thrillers. Does this let me off? Not entirely since romance is not an afterthought in my work but an integral element… as is the thriller. Hey what’s a good book without an exquisite damsel in distress?
Having been a lifelong devotee of the thriller genre I’d taken note of the fact that thrillers were packed with danger and tension. Seldom did they contain any meaningful relationships. I admit to also reading my share of romance and women’s fiction which were fraught with romantic tension but left the excitement of the thriller behind. I wondered what the result would be if you combined the two in equal amounts.
For years, Mary Higgins Clark, a fellow Cape Cod resident whom I have met and spent some time with was crowned the queen of romantic suspense. I liked and admired her work but the difference in my writing is that my characters are in more danger. Far more! Often, as is the case of my successful paranormal, Rite of Passage, not only is the heroine’s life at risk but so is the fate of the entire world. Yep… all of civilization! Now that trumps who gets the family farm!
I had been a writer for some time and Rite of Passage had begun as your standard YA novel. After my trip to the RWA nationals that year all that changed. When 75% of the sessions were permeated with the fragrance of the occult it was difficult to come back and deliver a trite coming of age story. Having been raised around a conservative Yankee mother who secretly embraced the stars and magic I found the transition easy. So my heroine and hero left the realm of YA and joined the ranks of the paranormal. And as an added incentive to readers I decided to build in tension and conflict that would put the world as we know it in peril. An historical set after World War II I believe it has the passion and emotion that propels every good romance and some serious plot twist that send it (ego aside) toward the realm of an engaging thriller.
Why romance? After several failed attempts at something more mainstream or prosaic I happened upon a wonderful teacher named Jo Ann Ferguson, whose credentials are extensive and impeccable. She opened the world of romance writing, explaining that emotion was the key to success.
I wrote a recent blog describing what I called the four “Es”… critical elements to a good novel: to educate, entertain, escape and draw emotion. I discovered that all were important but combining the final two (escape and emotion) could make for something a page turner.
I’m pleased to say that my re-write of Rite of Passage sold to The Wild Rose Press—my award-winning publisher—and garnered a nomination and position as finalist is this year’s RomCon Reader’s Crown awards.
What’s next... a contemporary romantic thriller, titled Out of the Storm, set on my beloved Cape Cod. It was released on Amazon Kindle Select (E-books) and again combines the elements of escape and emotion as my fragile hero finds himself confronted by the adult persona of a dangerous and secretive young woman he’d met only once as a teenager. The print book will be out in a month.
My hero, Eric, still grieving over the tragic loss of his childhood sweetheart and their unborn child, must decide if Ashley Jean, who appears on his doorstep during a fierce Nor’easter is the answer to a dream or a nightmare from which he cannot escape.
A southern girl, Ashley is not only lovely and brilliant but mysterious… Lizabeth Salander meet a 20th Century Scarlett O’Hara. I’ll leave you to discover the rest.
In closing, do I love writing romance as a man? Damn Straight… but I love it more when combined with kind of excitement you expect from Jack Reacher or Jason Bourne!
Good writing till next time!


Kevin V. Symmons

Find Kevin at
            On Twitter @Kevinsymmons

            And on Amazon, Goodreads and outlets where print and e-books are sold

Wednesday, October 02, 2013

On Location with Unchained Memories by Maria Imbalzano

Setting for "Unchained Memories" by Maria Imbalzano
"Unchained Memories" is a contemporary romance that takes place in Princeton, NJ.  The hero and heroine of my novel (Clay and Charlotte) both live and work there; Clay as an ER doctor at Nassau General Hospital and Charlotte, as a medical malpractice attorney at a local law firm.
The borough of Princeton is dominated by Princeton University, a beautiful ivy league campus, with many gothic style buildings. Clay lives in a condo near Palmer Square, right in the center of town and Charlotte rents a furnished house a few blocks north of the heart of Princeton.
In Charlotte's free time, she roams the Princeton University campus with its many residence colleges (dorms).. Several photos are on my website. They are (in the order presented) Prospect House Gardens (1,2,3), Nassau Hall (4), Mc Carter Theater (5), University Chapel (6), Arched walkway between Holder Hall and Hamilton Hall) (7), Alexander Hall (8), Blair Hall (9), Walkway toward Nassau Street (10), Archway at Holder Hall (11), Graduate College (12) Cleveland Tower (13, 14) and Pyne Hall (15).

The photo on the cover of the book is the Cleveland Tower at the Graduate College. The bells (67 of them weighing 12,996 pounds) play on Sunday afternoons and Wednesday evenings, except during exams.
Princeton University has two theaters on campus, McCarter Theater which hosts dance troupes and plays and Richardson Auditorium at Alexander Hall which has bands and ensembles. In one scene from the book, Charlotte and Clay go to Pendleton Theater (based on McCarter Theater) to see "Cat on a Hot Tin Roof".

Princeton University is a beautiful campus in a quaint town. The main sreet is Nassau Street which has upscale shops and a mix of eateries which cater to students as well as patrons from the area. Whether wandering the town or the campus, you won't be at a loss for interesting destinations.

Available on Kindle