Saturday, April 30, 2011

Kraken Contest!

2nd Chance here, stealing Sundays away from Hal for the ENTIRE MONTH! Face it, you were tired of ogling hotties every Sunday anyway. Or speculating about the many wondrous things you’ll have when you’re a rich writer or that lottery ticket works out…

Instead, you want to answer my burning question and enter my most excellent contest! Today is the day it all begins. The search to answer the question of the century… Where did the kraken go?

To explain, between the electronic edition of The Kraken’s Mirror and the print edition of The Kraken’s Mirror…my kraken disappeared. Now, he’s a responsible beast and I choose to believe he has a reason and a place he was driven to go… (Yes, there was a reason and it wasn’t on purpose…these things happen.)

I'm having a CONTEST! And what am I giving away?

 1st prize is a Sony Pocket Reader!

2nd prize is A kick-ass kraken parasol and…

3rd prize is a Betsy Johnson ‘kraken’ ring!

When does the contest run? From May 1st to May 31st!

So… Where did the Kraken go?

Here are the options: Where did the Kraken go?

1)      He’s in Scotland, wooing Nessie

2)      He’s outside the Mines of Moria at Gandalf’s request, fighting off the menace in the waters

3)      Sharing rum with the monster in the lake at Hogwarts

4)      ? Your idea?

How to enter the contest?

1)      Comment on my blog at and pick an option, or create your own. (If the blog ain't there, don't worry, it will be...taking time to get the thing up and running right. Meanwhile, there is this blog and other blogs I'm on...)

2)      Friend my author page on Facebook, Maureen O. Betita Author and leave a comment, telling me which option you’ve picked, or where you think the Kraken went.

3)      Find me on any blog I guest at during the month of May and tell me your option. (Be sure to leave an e-mail address in the comment section.)

I’ll award the three biggies on the 31st…during the month I’ll give away smaller prizes…free books, pirate perch hats and kraken jewelry. Amuse me with clever ideas and you might win something!

Yup, here is the first prize!

And yes, this is a guest blog! So you can enter here!
Thursday, April 28, 2011

POV – Rules? Pshaw!

Well, the good news is out. I just signed a two book contract with Decadent, for the rest of the kraken’s Caribbean trilogy. I’ve already delivered the initial draft of The Chameleon Goggles, but expect to be dealing with edits and edits and edits on it. Which is good. Last time I learned a great deal and I’m hoping my edits will be less because I learned so much.

Knock on wood.

*clunk, clunk

Now, I’m working on the third book and have about 15k done. I want to shoot for around 70k, so there is work to be done. My agent gave them a date about mid June, but I hope to see it in their hands by the end of May. I know how fast e-publishing works!


Now, in The Kraken’s Caribbean, I stuck to two POVs. Mostly deep third. (Ideally.) The hero and the heroine. Until I slipped a third POV in toward the end. That of the hero for the next book. Added him, then let him slip away and returned to the H/H.

In The Chameleon Goggles, I had the new hero. His heroine and … Emily from the first book. (She was needed!) By the end, it was all H/H.


Now, the third, The Pirate Circus. Well, I have the H/H, of course. Janey was part of the first two books, her hero is a brand new character, though he is related to the hero of book one, Captain Silvestri. And the hero from book one also…I use his POV.

Now, don’t hit me! I’m not head-hopping, I need Silvestri the elder or there will be gaping holes in the plot. But his POV will fade to almost nothing in the middle third of the book and only slip back in at the very end as part of the climax. The problem I’m having is this rotten 14 year old girl that plays a major part in the crises that brings the H/H together. Her identity issues are a huge part of things with the villain of the piece.

And I find I want to include her POV.



Can I get away with it? If Silvestri Sr. is ‘off camera’ for the middle third of the book and really only seen partially in the climax…can I let Lee show what she goes through? Should I? I mean, if I don’t use her the sense of urgency might be lost.

It’s not like I want to write like a 14 year old. Heaven knows, angst isn’t my strength. I fear if I don’t sneak her experiences ‘off camera’ into the action, the H/H aren’t going to … wait…it’s not like they’ll be able to read what she’s going through…

Damn. How am I gonna do this?

Okay, looks like maybe I’m going to have to settle for something like a letter from her to explain why they need to hurry before she does something really heinous in her drive to solve her identity issues. Maybe a diary…or someone who gets away from the Circus and warns them of what Lee is mixed up in…


No, it’s not an argh. I didn’t want to write the 14 year olds POV… Maybe I could toss in a tiny bit of villain POV… No!

Stop it!

Just write it with the three you have!


I’m not listening!!!!

*pant, pant…

Sometimes the biggest problem with ignoring the rules is the temptation to not just bend them, but break them into little tiny pieces and so destroy the very framework needed to make a story work.

Lesson learned. I hope.

How many POVs are bad? Not necessarily wrong, but bad-bad. What do you think?

I know, the wedding. We'll see how many are serious about this blog and how many are wedding serious! HA! I'll be here all day. By myself if necessary.

And the Panthers choose....

For those of you who don't live in a football-crazy house, today is the NFL Draft. It's starting this evening in primetime. My hubs actually asked to take extra baby-duty yesterday, so that he could stay up late enough tonight to see the entire first round without being interrupted.

And also for those of you not living in football-crazy houses, there was a big hoopla this week regarding injunctions, lock-outs, the 8th Circuit Federal Court, yada yada yada.

So here's some writing things I've learned this week, from my husband who's freaking out:

1. Milk any enjoyment you can get:
sometimes, you have no idea what's coming next, or if anything is coming next. This is as true for writing as football. We get moments of sheer excitement. The awesome contest scores (sqee for Marn and Ter!!). The call from an agent. The talk of a trilogy. These are amazing moments, that should be celebrated to their fullest. Just like with the draft, these are prime-time, celebrate for all your worth, moments. Because we have no idea what will come next, or when. The players being drafted this weekend have no idea if they will play football in the fall. They have no idea if there even will be football in the fall. A 2012 season is looking more and more like a pipe dream. But you better believe these brand new players are going to celebrate today, and so should we.

2. Sometimes, you're swimming alone: sometimes we can get great advice from critique partners, fellow writers, mentors, published authors, contest judges, etc. Sometimes, we feel like we're cut off from all communication. Players this week were told by a judge that they could go to work, but couldn't communicate/interact with their coaches. They can work out and practice -- but not with coaching. Sometimes, you just have to swim alone. And that's okay. It can still be useful, even if you don't have that extra voice letting you know you're on the right track. Just trust your own voice.

3. Sometimes, things make absolutely no sense at all: some editors want racy, some want the romance; some say you can't do x, y, and z, some say you must. Every piece of writing advice is full of contradictions. And every contradictory piece of advice has its own (often loud) group of followers. I've read that an author would be an idiot to try to write without plotting, that no structured book can result that way. I've read that no author can write an organic story if they plot, that it becomes formulaic. Both are probably true for that particular person, both probably aren't quite fully true for anyone else. The judge ruling on the NFL lock-out this week made an 86-page ruling that makes no sense at all. It's full of contradictions (according to my husband, who's been breaking it down for me point-by-point. Goody.). Contradictions are part of life. No matter how good we get at writing, no matter how sure we feel about our own personal writing process, there will still be moments where none of it makes any sense, and everything is full of contradictions. That's okay.

Are you good at relaxing and enjoying the moment, the contradictions, and the alone-ness of writing, or are these things that stress you out?Anyone else interested in the draft, or the continuing saga of the lock-out? Anyone else have a husband who won't shut up about the whole thing? lol
Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Word Count Roll Call

I shoved a hand through my hair as I made my way into the office. Or as I liked to call it, my imagination room. Except this month, I lacked all the imagination I usually found within the room's four walls.


April was a rough month.


I sighed as I flipped the floor lamp on in the corner behind the chaise lounge. The calendar behind my desk reminded me April was almost over, X's covered all the days passed. With just a few days left and several thousand words left to cover, this month felt impossible. May wouldn't be any different. I'd pledged in a slight drunken stupor to do the same goal next month.


I flopped into my computer chair. Mina sat up with a squawk. She flicked her tail in my direction, smacking me hard on the hip. Her eyes shot me the death stare as she climbed up on top of my desk and stomped with extra enthusiasm on my keyboard as if she showed her displeasure with each little step.


I pinched the bridge of my nose and mentally counted to ten. I couldn't do anything right this month. I couldn't wait until April was over and done. Bring on May and another 50k challenge. Maybe May would bring me better luck.


At the beginning of the month, I felt such promise pulsing through my veins. The creative juice that fills me on my off months motivates me right off the bat. But I struggled to find my voice. Struggled to find my point-of-view. Struggled to find my starting point. So I worked hard on notes. I used up a new notebook and two new ink pens. I added new music into my playlist. But all that successfully did was get my booty out of the chair and down onto the trail for my other monthly goal.


That's right. Not only did I foolishly say I would write 50k this month. I also pledged to run on the trail 5 days a week. I did better with one than the other. I've been on the trail Monday through Friday since the beginning of the month (except for the days I was in Florida). I've managed about 2 to 3 miles a night. It helped clear my head of work. Helped me focus on my story. However, it did not help me put my fingers on the keyboard and type it out.


I reached for the pink Peeps and tossed one into my mouth. The Word cursor blinked back at me with no sympathy whatsoever. I slouched in my chair, put one foot up on the corner of the desk and propped the wireless keyboard in my lap.


Where do I go from here? What do I see?


Tank eyed me from his position on the back of the chaise lounge. Mina stared me down from the top of a stack of shoujo manga. The desk lamp beats down on me, giving me the third degree.


I take a deep breath to calm down. I close my eyes and imagine my world. This dark insidious world where nothing is truly what it seems. Where night is always around the corner. Where you can find me lurking the shadows.


All is right in my world. I just need to write it.


Now, Hellie and I had a drunken writing meeting last week with the GPS; and it was decided by Hellie and I that we'd do another 50k month for May (and June too). So will you join us on our writing crusade? Do you ever think of your own life as a story you're narrating as you move along? Anyone want to share their word count this month? Or pledge a word/page count for the month of May?
Monday, April 25, 2011

The Numbers Are In

First up today is some pirate squeeing. Our own Gunner Marnee has finaled in the Daphne Du Maurier contest in the Historical Romantic Mystery/Suspense category. So raise your glass with whatever you might be spiking with rum today (I love me some Mimosas) and give a great HUZZAH!!! for the Gunner!

Speaking of contests, I received my Golden Heart [insert registered trademark thingy here but I don't know how to do it] scores last night. For some reason, I thought they would come by snail mail. Why, I have no idea, but I received an email and then had to figure out what all the numbers meant.

The good news is, I scored in the top 25% of my category. The bad news is, one judge didn’t like my entry nearly as well as the other four, which looks to have cost me a chance to final. Then again, she’s (he’s?) entitled to her opinion and if my writing had been better, I would have finaled. In the end, I have no one to blame but myself.

One of the negatives tossed around regarding the Golden Heart is the lack of detailed feedback from the judges. I would definitely like to know what that judge didn’t like, but even without that information, there’s still a lot to learn from these numbers.

1) I’m not wasting my time – To be honest, I was close to this conclusion before, but these numbers pushed me over the edge. The highest score a judge can give is 9.0 and one judge gave me an 8.6. Not a perfect score, but better than I expected.

2) I can hold my own against the competition – I have no idea how many writers entered manuscripts in the Single Title Contemporary category, but I held my own against the top 25% of them. Which means I finished higher than more than 75% of the other entrants in the category.

3) This is worth doing again – I could be way off since I have no idea how anyone else scored, but in my mind, I came pretty close to getting one of those coveted phone calls on March 25. This means I could get even closer with the next one. Especially since I’ll hopefully have learned something from the first one that will make the second one ever better.

That, my pirate friends, is my positive spin on the situation. What could have easily gone terribly ugly turned out better than expected. No 1’s, thank goodness! And no wide array of numbers all over the place. I almost feel worse for any writer who gets that kind of score. How are you supposed to know where you are in that situation??

What was the last leap you took with your writing and how did it pay off? Any new authors you’ve taken a chance on lately? Turn into an autobuy, an A for effort, or a bad lesson learned? (No trashing authors, if you didn’t like it, we’ll keep names to ourselves.)
Sunday, April 24, 2011

On the Way to the Wedding

A month ago, I was out on the town with my Deerhunter and my best friend and her husband. My best friend turned to me and asked, “Did you hear about Will and Kate? Are you going to celebrate or watch the wedding?” Being my best friend has known me from 3rd grade, she’s been aware of my geekdom and the depths it reaches. My Deerhunter is slightly more naïve and thought it was restricted to Harry Potter and Twilight. (Okay, so he's ridiculously naive.) He snorted as if this were the most ridiculous question he’d heard. And then I answered.


Heard? I’m planning a party! And I’ve taken the day off. Susan and I are having scones!”


Deerhunter tripped, probably because he was gawking at me so hard. “You’re taking the day off?”


“And making scones,” I repeated since he was clearly deaf.


“WHY?” He couldn’t have sounded more aghast if I had said I was flying to England to be a wedding crasher. (You don’t think I could actually do that, do you?)


Back to the question. WHY am I doing this? Well, I’m not really sure. It’s not like I know Will and Kate. I mean, I know the tabloid version of them; and as embarrassed as I am to admit it, I have bought more than my fair share of tabloids talking about them, as if those journalists knew anything whatsoever. But I love the romance of it, and I hang on every word. I have been rooting for those two ever since I saw their names connected. A beautiful rich commoner and the future King of England meet in college, become friends, and fall in love. What wasn’t to like about this story?


Plus don’t we tend to root for two really beautiful people who are in love? We’re picturing how beautiful the kids will be or something, or perhaps it’s the romantic in us. True love should prevail (especially for really beautiful people.)


Or maybe I am really into the Royal Wedding because I remember clips and bits of Princess Diana’s wedding—I was 6—and it was Cinderella come to life and she was so beautiful and sweet looking; and he looked great in his military uniform—and he was a prince. Yes, clearly the shine was off the rose before the year was out, but the wedding was perfect, beautiful, and magical. And I do believe on that day, they were in love with each other. So even though their HEA didn’t work out, I look at Will and Kate’s and hope they’ll get the HEA his parents didn’t have. If it is true our loved ones return as angels to protect us, then I’m sure his mother is around to make sure it happens as well.


Or maybe it’s because my inner six year old still wants to marry a prince, live in a castle, and have my own tiara. I’m living vicariously through Waitie Katie as she gets the prince we all want. (Actually I think Harry’s cuter, but whatever.) Though when they show the documentaries of the things Kate has to go through to even be a princess, the things that are expected of her, I do think sometimes she’s getting the short end of the stick. Clearly it’s no small undertaking to love a prince.


Do the prince and the commoner bride fulfill the fantasy of the guy who can take care of your every need (since a king could have anything he wants)? Or is it that the commoner bride somehow won the love of a prince—the ultimate prize—and it was through her love and intelligence and steadiness that won the day? (And perhaps how great she looked in a see-through sheath and her underwear.) Love obtaining the greatest reward…. Why do we love royals and commoners so much? The ultimate opposites attract?


So the questions today are: 1.) Will you be watching the wedding? 2.) Are you remotely interested in the Royals—or even fiction books featuring royals in love? 3.) Did you watch or remember Princess Di’s wedding? 4.) Why do you think people are so fascinated with the Royals? 5.) Would you write a prince & commoner story yourself? (I would)  6.) If you could send Will and Kate a wedding gift, what would it be?


One of the things I’ll be preparing for the brunch is a Strawberry Salad. (We’ll also be having scones. And probably some quiche.)


Strawberry Tossed Salad


Field greens, romaine lettuce, iceberg lettuce

Shredded cheddar cheese & Monterey Jack

Sliced strawberries

Sugared toasted chopped almonds

Poppyseed dressing (I use bottled; I'm dreadfully lazy)


In serving bowls, put down a layer of a combination of lettuce. Top with shredded cheese, slice strawberries, and almonds. Pour poppyseed dressing over. I go crazy with the strawberries. It’s like a ration of 2/3 lettuce and 1/3 strawberries. The strawberries make it. Find the ripest strawberries you can find.


You can make the almonds by mixing one egg white and 1 tablespoon water in a bowl (froth it with a whisk); add 2/3 a cup of sugar and mix; add 3 cups of chopped almonds. Put on a no-stick-sprayed baking sheet, spread to a thin layer. Bake in 400 degree oven for 20 minutes, stirring after 10 minutes. Remove from oven and scrape from pan before it cools. (The sugar will stick to the pan and make difficult to remove.)


This salad is insanely delicious. Once you start eating it, you’ll eat it all summer.
Saturday, April 23, 2011

Sin's Fantasy Land (Part Four)

First Edition. Fourth Volume.


The month is finally coming to an end. Those of us who've participated in Awrapawrimo are weary, achy, have forgotten what quality sleep feels like (unless you're used to it), have permanent keyboard finger where they are stuck in position to type, and have consumed a bag of chocolates a day for almost 30 days.


Those of us who didn't participate in Awrapawrimo, you'll get another opportunity in August when I start my August push of 50k. I've yet to name it. We can come up with something clever later. Something to do with not being able to stand the heat and need to stay inside with air conditioning will probably fit in the title.


Since this is my last Sunday Fantasy Land blog I figured we could talk about anything we'd love to have yet don't. This could be napping during the day. This could be a personal trainer named Tristan who's so hot you have to fan yourself every time he comes over to give you your personal yoga lesson. It could be that you lounge beach side with a mojito in your hand while a trove of men cater to your every whelm. It's a Fantasy Land, take advantage of it.

In my Fantasy Land I have an unending supply of Shojo manga with disgustingly nice HEAs and wonderful love stories and heartbreaking black moments. And maybe some really good Shonen manga as well but they have to have a light romance background or I won't be interested. And I can read Kanji so I have no need to get the subbed manga. Also, in my Fantasy land, I have my own private room with a lock and a thumb pad and five different codes to get into. In this room I have my own TV and DVD player. Also, all my walls are lined with book shelves filled with my favorite manga. The room is the color of a dark cloudy day and I have a chaise lounge in the corner for reading. I have two oversized recliners for kicking back with a friend in my private room and watching anime all day. In my room there is a secret door that leads you down a secret hallway so you don't have to pass through the rest of the house to leave. And while snacking and food is usually not my top priority, I have to think of others. (GPS said so.) So in my secret hallway, you can veer off to my own private stash of goodies.


And Chanceroo, you'll have to deal. It is a manga man, but he's naked and in the shower. Compromise a bit please. And yes please. I will jump in. And  you.


You may think I have lame wants in my Fantasy Land, but I don't need much to make me happy. I'm easy. (I hear it a lot.) What will you have?
Thursday, April 21, 2011

World Building. My Way.

First, there was light.


I may opt for water first. But I’m a fickle creator. And wind. There must be wind…

Second, establish rules.


I’d rather just dive in and when I’m done, I figure out what the rules need to be and adjust as I go.


For example, when I created the world of the Kraken’s Caribbean, I knew I wanted a very light bit of rules. I mean, ‘real world’ rules would dictate the place can’t exist, period! I couldn’t make it historically accurate because, let’s face it, no one had Ipods in Tortuga.

Yes, I don’t just ignore history, I laugh in its general direction.

Anyway, world building. I wrote and wrote and wrote with the Kraken’s Caribbean. And as I molded and fashioned this world, I considered a few things I knew I wanted to either ignore or deal with. Weapons of Mass Destruction. (Yup, the kind we didn’t find in TRW.) I didn’t want them showing up in Tortuga. I didn’t even want grenades or machine guns showing up. I mean, when you have portals to other worlds and times, these things could happen!

So! First rule, no WMDs like rayguns showing up to fall under into the hands of some evil mastermind. Now, other worlds connected to the portals don’t have these safeguards. Why does my Caribbean? Well, the Kraken! And other magic handlers make sure things stay period, weapon wise. (Ok, that’s a bit of a rule, right?)

An Ipod isn’t a weapon. Nor is a microwave, blender or refrigerator. (Okay, Leslie could probably make them work that way, but luckily, no Bombays in the Kraken’s Caribbean.)

And I stuck to this rule with one exception. Because I’m the creator, I can make it so. (No, I’m not going into it, pivotal to the next book, so it’s a secret.)

Other rules? Vampires can daywalk. Hey, they are just people with an odd appetite. And super strength and speed and other predatory instincts. (They don’t glitter. Ever.) Werewolves can shift anytime, but it’s easier when the moon is full. Zombies are zombies voluntarily and no one controls them. And they eat herbs and fungi, not brains.

How did I come up with these rulish rules? Well, I finished the book and then asked some questions of myself. And in answering them, I found some rules. My editor asked a few things and I figured out some more rules. With the second volume I’ll raise a few more questions and answer them, along with the questions I never answered in book one. Like how do the Ipods, blenders, etc. get power. (I sorta let the reader think it’s magic. Hint…it’s not!)

I had to throw together some history for the Etwa Universe, where my novellas take place. Not so much rules for the humans, but rules for the Etwa. (You know humans, they tend to resist rules, so I acknowledge that given a chance, the more nefarious sorts will ignore the rules anyway. The non-nefarious are simply good people, so I don’t call them rules. Humans do right just because it’s right, not just because it’s a rule. I believe in people and it makes sense to me!)

I have created a race philosophy for the Etwa that consists of the absolute drive to be of service. Not a religious thing, but a status driven biological imperative. Hence, they serve the humans (no, not a recipe book.) (Anyone get that reference?)

The Etwa derive status for their family group by seeking out and assisting other races. They are incredibly aware of the damage they might do and so are circumspect with how they assist. And in the 500 years from when they discovered the stranded human colonies, they have been instrumental in raising the quality of life for those planets, without interfering in politics or religion.

I am an idealist.

What rules do the Etwa follow? No importation of technology. A planet that has developed technology independently can take part in trade, but the Etwa won’t transport to any worlds that don’t already have it. (Yes, the humans had technology, but by the time the Etwa find them, it’s so long gone no one knows how it once worked. Some know they had it…but that is about it.)

Again, how did I derive these rules and discover the history of the Etwa Universe? By finished the stories and then asking the questions.

Yes, I imagine it’s a backasswords way of doing this. But it works for me! I find if I try to establish all the rules ahead of time all I want to do is bulldoze through them and break them, willy-nilly. Because I can. Because I am the creator.

How do you create your world? Whether it be real or totally imaginary…you just write or you figure it out in advance?
Wednesday, April 20, 2011

The Trees

I don’t know how often these days I think about the saying, “sometimes it’s hard to see the forest for the trees.”  As a parent, bogged down in the minutia of parenting, it’s hard to keep the big picture in mind.  Because it’s so tempting to nag children.

Sit up straight at the table.  Remember to listen and stay with me in the store.  Get out of the tub, get out of the tub, get out of the tub, how many times do I have to ask you to get out of this tub?  Put your toys away.  No toys at the dinner table.  Nothing else until you eat that.  Don’t wipe your nose on your sleeve.  Share with your brother.  Cover your mouth.  Wash your hands after you use the restroom.

This is a snippet.  The list goes on.  It’s the “what’s what” of parenting.  Certainly if you’ve been anywhere within a five foot radius of a parent plying their trade you’ve been exposed to this list.

There are good solid reasons behind all this nagging.  Respect for others, hygiene, social etiquette, safety.  Sometimes, though, I fire off this litany of behavioral modification requests without much thought and, very often, with little explanation.

So I have to step back and think about the forest.  What’s the bigger picture here?  What am I trying to accomplish?  There is an ultimate goal I'm trying to achieve:  to raise respectful, productive men.

I think, though, with writing it’s too easy to go the other way.  As we sit down to write, it’s too easy to get caught up in the future, in the bigger picture.  Is what I’m writing palatable to the market?  Is it what agents/editors are looking for?  Is it the sort of brand I want to make for myself?

All this worrying about the bigger picture can paralyze a writer.  It's easy to become overwhelmed by the enormity of the task.  How am I ever going to write THAT—the book that is appealing to the market, agents/editors, and builds a “career” for me?  It's a gigantic undertaking.

But if we focus on the trees, the little steps, we can build that forest.  And it can start really small.  Focus on that one paragraph, that one action.  That one scene, that one chapter.  Because that one chapter becomes the next chapter, then the whole book.

So, how do you try to stay focused on the small steps?  How do you block out the lure of the future?  Any secrets to stay focused on Butt in Chair, Fingers on Keyboard?
Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Awaken the Highland Warrior by Anita Clenney

DRD: Welcome to Hero Hot Seat!  Today's guest, Faelan, from Awaken The Highland Warrior, is a timeless hero, who will definitely hotten things up--

*Captain Jack Sparrow saunters onstage, blowing kisses to the audience*

DRD: Hey! Didn't you get the flyer about winning an all-expense paid trip to Tortuga? For life? I left a few thousand copies by the coffee maker.

Captain Jack: I did see a lovely blonde backstage, so maybe I'll go find her.

DRD: *grabs him by a braid and twists it*

Captain Jack: *raises hands defensively* So I'll have a matched pair, to go with the lovely blonde on stage.

DRD:  *points to eyes and then at Captain Jack as he tiptoes backwards offstage* Anyway, today's hero is rather yummy. For one thing, he's a Highland warrior, and for another thing, he's a Highland warrior living in the present time!

Captain Jack: *peeks around stage curtain* Psst! Do you know where the duct tape is?

DRD: Do I look like I know what to do with duct tape?!

*The curtain billows out several times, accompanied by sounds of a scuffle*

DRD:  *rolls eyes* Okay, folks, let's give a warm Hero Hot Seat welcome to Faelan!

*audience goes wild but nobody appears on stage*

DRD: That's odd. *presses ear mike* Not again! Looks like Faelan will be unable to make it today. Fortunately we have his author Anita Clenney here.  Let's hear it for Anita!

*audience cheers wildly*

DRD: Thank you so much for filling in, Anita. And sorry about Faelan's spiked coffee. I'm already plotting the culprit's punishment.

Captain Jack: *pops up between the two chairs*  Did someone say punishment? I'm actually rather fond of—

DRD: Stop! There isn't enough brain bleach to deal with that.

Anita: We have a prankster in our group of warriors. In fact, my character Brodie reminds me a bit of Captain Jack. I hope he didn’t follow us. God forbid that he and Captain Jack get together. And Faelan’s friend Ronan could be in on it too. He likes to keep Faelan on his toes. So much that sometimes Faelan wishes he could put Ronan in a time vault and send him off somewhere. So if you see two more good looking guys wearing kilts and mischievous grins, let me know. 

DRD:  MORE good looking guys in kilts? *checks pulse* It's still spiking, but I want to hear more about Faelan.

Anita: Faelan is a great guy. Not just a gorgeous face and lots of muscles. Born into a clan of secret warriors, he’s spent his life protecting humans. Back in the nineteenth century, he was the baddest warrior around, so when Michael the Archangel got word that one of the ancient demons was behind the strife and conflict pushing America toward a civil war, he sent his toughest warrior to get rid of the demon. But Faelan was betrayed and locked in the time vault he brought to capture the demon. These time vaults stop time inside so the demon can be held until Judgment Day. The vaults have a key, but they won’t open for 150 years, just in case someone accidentally opened one. After 150 years, the demon is powerless.

DRD: Oooh, I wouldn't mind stopping time with a hunky kilted man. So what happens next?

Anita: Just before Faelan was captured, he discovered the war was just a distraction from the demon’s real plot, a supernatural disease that would wipe out humanity. So Faelan wakes to a dilemma. While he’s been sleeping, the demon has been running free, since only Faelan’s talisman can destroy this particular demon. Faelan doesn’t know anything about this time period, he has no money, no  horse, no sword. He doesn’t even know if his talisman has lost its power in the time vault. He doesn’t know where the demon is, or who sent the woman to wake him. If she’s a demon, he’ll have to kill her. If she isn’t, then she’s unleashed the gates of hell in her backyard, because the demon will be furious when he finds out that Faelan is awake.

DRD: Sounds exciting, and kinda scary. *motions camera to zoom in on the book* But it's obvious Faelan is up to the task.

Captain Jack: *smolders at Anita* This chap and I obviously use the same personal trainer.  *bends his arm* Here, squeeze my bicep.

DRD: *scowls* Your trainer works at a kennel.  Anita, this is an intriguing blend of subgenres: Scottish historical, paranormal, suspense. How did it come about?

Anita: Well, it actually started with a dream—no, Captain Jack, not that kind of dream. This was a frightening dream. My young son and I were stranded and had to take refuge in a castle. The man who lived there was so gracious, but I soon saw that there was evil lurking behind that pleasant face. At the same time, I had been playing with an idea of a buried warrior who wasn’t dead, and since I live near some Civil War battlefields, I was intrigued with the notion that what if one person could have done something to stop the war, or believed he could have. This all came together in Awaken the Highland Warrior. So while the story has a contemporary setting, I bring in elements of the past from Faelan’s life. He was very close to his brothers, also warriors. In fact, they came to help him, but arrived too late.

DRD:  I know you're busy working on Books 2 and 3 right now. What is your favorite writing advice?

Anita : I think my favorite is Margie Lawson’s advice on empowering your writing. We need to empower our plots, our characters, our words. Take it from bland to wow. I’m paraphrasing.  Basically, writers should write something that would knock their socks off if they read it. I have to throw in another favorite tip. Don’t get so caught up in rules that you forget to tell a compelling story.

Captain Jack: The best advice I ever got was not to put anything in writing. *lifts Anita's hand to his lips* But for you, I will gladly make it a guideline instead of a rule.

Anita: Oh, Captain Jack. You devil, you. Tell me, did you spike Faelan’s coffee? Or did Brodie and Ronan follow us here? Not answering, hmmm. That grin could mean anything.

DRD: Let's just say Captain Jack is guilty of a lot of unsolved hero-related crimes around here. So tell us, what do you love best about your hero?

Captain Jack: *winks at Anita* You don't want to kiss and tell about us on national TV, do you, luv?

DRD: *presses ear mike* What? Oh, okay. Captain, they're towing your ship—

*Captain Jack races offstage*

DRD:  Finally! So about your hero. . .

Anita: Captain Jack actually reminds me of Faelan when he first wakes from the time vault. After he realizes where he is, he’s so anxious to explore, the heroine Bree decides he’s worse than a toddler. She has to extract him from some pretty interesting situations, like a lingerie shop.

DRD: Can't wait to read that scene! I think I'm half in love already.

Anita: I love so many things about Faelan. Everything he knew was taken from him in one blow. His parents, his two brothers, and his little sister. Even his horse Nandor. He loved that horse. And then he finds out that the war in America–that he believes he failed to stop– killed hundreds of thousands of people. But even though he’s hurting, he doesn’t let it stop him from doing his duty, what he was born to do. Protect humans. I love that about him. He’s just unstoppable. Another favorite thing about Faelan is how he tries so hard to protect Bree when she doesn’t want to be protected. Faelan just doesn’t understand how a woman could be so bold and go rushing out into danger.  And he’s horrified when she tries to rescue him. It makes for really good sparks.

DRD: I love when warriors meet modern women. *sighs*  Unfortunately, it looks like we've run out of time, but thanks again, Anita, for stepping in.

Anita: Thank you for having me. Ah, there you are, Captain Jack. Goodbye, it was nice to meet you–oh dear, what are you doing? Put me down. Captain Jack! Where are you taking me…oh, there’s Faelan. Is that duct tape on his hands? Faelan…help!

DRD: Where's a good time vault when you need one?

Anita Clenney grew up an avid reader, devouring Nancy Drew and Hardy Boys books before moving on to mysteries and romance. After working as a secretary, a Realtor, teacher’s assistant, booking agent for Aztec Fire Dancers, and a brief stint in a pickle factory (picture Lucy and Ethel--lasted half a day)…she realized she'd missed the fork in the road that led to her destiny. Now she spends her days writing mysteries and paranormal romantic suspense  about Secret Warriors, Ancient Evil and Destined Love. Anita lives in suburban Virginia, outside Washington DC, with her husband and two kids. You can learn more about her writing at
Monday, April 18, 2011

Sex Isn't Always Good

I’m sure some of you are having a heart attack at the title of this blog, but stay with me and I think you’ll feel better. Or not. In the meantime, slide up to a Hooha and try not to faint.

In my craft reading this week, I came across the little tidbit that sex in a story needs to have a purpose. Well, every scene needs to have a purpose, but sex especially. We’re writing Romance, people. Romance involves sex at some point. But not just any sex.

Not every sex scene works or should even be included in the book. Heck, sex doesn’t HAVE to be in the book at all. (Though, if I’m being honest, I don’t want to read a book that doesn’t have at least one sex scene. Ya know?)

In my first MS, my H/H have one night of sex. They have sex more than once, but it covers one night and the next morning and that’s it. Plus, the reader has to stick around long time to get that pay off. While writing the book, this voice in the back of my head kept saying, “No one is going to want to read this unless there’s more sex.”

At that point I’d virtually smack Chance – I kid! In response to this voice, I’d try to find a way to get these two love birds into bed sooner. Nope, couldn’t do it. Didn’t fit the story. So, is it possible someone (or many someones) will tell me it won’t sell because there isn’t enough sex? Yep. Am I going to change it because of that? Nope.

So today is all about when the sex scene doesn’t work.

1) Did the sex complicate anything in the story?

If the answer is no, then what’s the point?

2) Did the sex freak out one or both characters? Reveal feelings previously unexplored?

If the answer is no, then what’s the point?

3) Did the sex solve everything?

If the answer is yes, then what’s the point?

You see a pattern here. Technically, you should ask these kinds of questions for every scene. For every line of dialogue. Hell, just ask “What’s the point?” and if you don’t have an answer, or the answer is “I had this great idea for a line of dialogue so I wrote these five pages to use that one line,” then you might be in deep doo doo.

Not that any of us would ever find ourselves in deep doo doo. We have this ship cleaned regularly and since we got rid of the goats, it’s been much better.

What do you want sex to do in your story? What do you want sex to do for you in a book you’re reading? Are you fine with reading sex that doesn’t seem to play a purposeful part of the story? (I’m not talking Erotica here, that’s a totally different conversation.) Has the way an author handled a sex scene ever made you put a book down? (No naming names here, just a simple yes or no and why, please.)
Sunday, April 17, 2011

A Mid-Month Arapaho Writing Month Poem

I did not write on Sunday

Because I spent all day at the farm

But I wrote a bit on Monday,

And found I did not come to any harm.

Tuesday’s writing went quite right

And Wednesday’s wasn’t bad,

But Thursday night and Friday night,

I wrote nothing. I am sad.

And now here it is on Saturday,

But no words written, I have looked!

I spent all day on my soft warm couch

And read my Kristan Higgins’ book!


That book it was most excellent!

That book it was most funny!

That book made me want to kiss my lover

And snuggle and call him “honey”

I finished it oh so, so late,

And now I’m curled up in my bed,

Where I shall sleep late on my Sunday

Until the neighbors think I’m dead.

Then I’ll probably start this week,

Much like I did the last.

No writing Sunday, but yes, on Monday,

And won’t I have a blast!


Perhaps this month won’t end with me

Writing 50,000 words,

But I will have new chapters in my book

That won’t all be for the birds.

And May will come and we’ll do it again

And soon this book will be in printed glory.

And perhaps some other pre-published author

Will procrastinate with my story.


How do you like to spend your Saturdays? Have you read any great books lately that you couldn’t put down? How’s your writing this month, this week, this year?
Saturday, April 16, 2011

Sin's Fantasy Sunday (Part Three)

First Edition. Third Volume.


So we've done toys and vacations. Fantasy Land is a great place to imagine your busy life is being managed quite well. You're never stressed out. You move from one thing to the next almost effortlessly. There is a reason behind this- assistants.


We've all seen the movies where the successful person has someone who is tailing behind them managing their life. I don't need an ego booster (GPS calls me the Ego Crusher 5000 and swears I shouldn't be anyone's personal assistant unless I want them to jump in a pothole and concrete themselves in to get away from me.)  I don't need some to micromanage me. However, I need someone to help me. I'm not a machine. I can't add additional memory into my brain like an external hard drive can help you when you're about to crash. My phone can only hold and do so much. I need a faithful, trustworthy assistant to trail behind me and gently remind me that today is the day I have to go to the gyno. (What? Even famous people have to go. It's not like once you become famous your DR looks at you and says, “Yup, you're famous now. I'm done with this.”)


TMI. But it's true. I need help. Even now. My life in my Fantasy Best Seller life is hectic. I have two series that are Best Sellers. I have an image to maintain since I'm two different people in the same writer body. I've been to some Best Seller book signings. I've seen the people working behind the scenes. The people who go up to the Best Selling author and whisper in their ear and the author nods. The interviews, the awards, the signings. Recognition for hard work and time spent working into a frenzy over the next story.


I'm not delusional. I know a writing career is extremely hard work. Once you become published you spend your time tirelessly promoting yourself and your books. You live with just a few scraps of sleep a night, smile until your cheeks hurt, make people feel like you've known them forever with just a few sentences exchanged between you. Your gracious and welcoming to everyone you meet. You think of the early days before you were signed and working your fingers to the bones. Every night you stay up crying over a rejection letter and frustration built up inside of you until you almost gave up on your dream. Everything in the past brings you to this day.


Fantasy Land life: My writing career.

(You might find this an odd picture but GPS and I fell in love with Sailormoon together and have always pretended we're Jupiter (me) and Mars (GPS).)

In my Fantasy Land, the GPS is going to take over as my personal assistant. She's been doing it for years but as my life grows steadily busier than the year before, GPS becomes my main support. She schedules everything, makes sure everything runs smooth. She makes sure I get from one place to the next. She makes sure I sleep at least 2 hours a night. She makes sure my new Chucks are on my feet, my bedhead is covered by my hoodie and my faded jeans are not too ripped up when we walk out of the hotel room to go to my signing as Christie Taylor. She makes sure every hair on my head is perfect, my make up is flawless, my outfit is stylish, sunglasses in place as Nika Riley. GPS is my rock. GPS is the reason I function as a Best Seller. She runs my team. My batbabes are running the tour. And I'm out on a massive tour with all my pirates.



So in this volume of Fantasy Land, let's pretend our careers. You have nannies and cabana boys and a pool boy and the praise of your awesomeness can be heard across the world. How would you have it?

Thursday, April 14, 2011

RT Round-Up

And recovery.

I hope I’m recovering by the time this post! I swear…you know that old commercial about drugs? This is your brain on drugs? Well, I’m suffering from RT brain. Or lack of brain. All I can say is this…I need to improve my stamina before next year. Or plan a solid week of downtime afterward!

Now, onto RT! Whoop! What an adventure! (Hang on, this is a long blog. It was a week! Read it!)

After three days of helping out Judi McCoy the crowds began to arrive. I’m not going to be pissy about the hotel. Really, I’m not. (Clue of my feelings? The word pissy.) (Honestly, kudos to all the volunteers and staff who managed to pull it all off despite the hotel!)

Tuesday night was the bash at the Viper Room with the rock band Run Devil Run. This band contributed their images and song titles to an anthology Decadent Publishing put out earlier this year. A masterful bit of cross-promotion if I may brag on their behalf. Small club, crowded, loud. Good drinks. They had Kraken Rum (pause for a commercial break. I’m trying to get them to notice me and offer me an Kraken Rum sponsored author tour.)

Kraken Rum – Strong, rich, black and smooth!

Back to the blog…

I got back and was already going hoarse. Trying to talk and chatter a mere few feet from the stage. And I had the He’s A Pirate panel the next day! Groan! Wednesday, it was setting up my two give away baskets in Club RT and my spot in promo ally, meeting with Katharine Ashe and figuring out how the panel would go...

The pirate panel was a blast. Really. We figured about 60-70 people were there. We gave away swag. I got Cherry Adair to wear a little orange pirate perch hat I made for her. And Katharine Ashe. I, of course, had my big black full sized tricorn on. ;-) People laughed, I was clever. Katharine was a good leader. Cherry was…Cherry. She tried to give the hat away at the end and I pouted about it… She probably gave it away when I was looking… I think Katharine kept hers. I hope. She looked great, even if it did keep falling off!

That night was my publisher’s little party. In a suite on the 32nd floor! Wow. Where I was fed strawberry shots. (Which I am stealing for the bar menu hear on the Revenge.) Then the Ellora’s Cave party…a real winner with the Hindi dance troupe. Wow!

OH! I went to that! And a steampunk party put on my Samhain. Where I posed for a picture with their pirate ship. I want one.

Thursday??? Is it Thursday already? Oh, the Fairy Ball. Where I dressed as the Kraken’s Wife and was called to the stage as a finalist. We all lost to last year’s Mr. Romance, holding a tiny yorkie puppy with fairy wings on.

It was fixed, I tell ya!

Firday. I mean Friday… Oh, meanwhile, did I go to any panels? One. I think. Uh…on marketing. I meant to go to more, really. I was up early every day, I was busy. I do not know where the hell I was most of the time. Oh, in Club RT…visiting with the lovely wife of Robert Quill, artist extraordinaire. I did chat with old students of Judi, with Judi, other Decadent authors…

Rae knows how to costume, btw. Wow. Yes, her eyes are red. Contacts. Yes, that is a throat corset. She made it. Along with everything on this costume. Well, I think she bought the wig.

Friday was the Decadent Meet the Authors event at Club RT, where we gave away a ton of stuff and I visited with Milo, the seizure dog. And his owner. That evening was the E-Expo where I sold 5 books and one person stood right there and downloaded both of the e-books on her Nook! That was sorta exciting!

The vampire ball…not bad food. I’m not going to talk about the skit. I do think I left too early, but I was a bit nervous for Saturday.

The GREAT BIG SATURDAY BOOK FAIRE! I did good. Sold 18 out of 20 books. And I could have sold them all if the ladies who found me in the bar that night had made it to my table. (Christie Craig bought my book! SQUEEEE!)

Now, what else went on? I don’t know! Well, I do know some. I met with my agent and have a list of things to do that I’m studiously avoiding because I’m just too tired to cope. Students of Judi scored requests from pitches…over and over and over again and I spent a lot of time with them. Jane pitched to my agent and got a request. I talked tattoos with Celeste and am planning on a new one next year, before Chicago’s RT.

I know I was on my feet a lot. Restocking the swag spot on Promotional Ally, working to help sell the Fairy Anthology at Club RT (benefited one of the Fairy Court Queens who had some unexpected health issues this last year.) I chatted with the drummer from Run Devil Run, who was one of the participants of the Mr. Romance contest…

Sounds like one big party, don’t it? Well, RT is a total celebration of the romance genre. Really.

What did I gain from RT? A sense of validation that I cannot begin to explain. I love the crew of the Revenge and honestly, ladies, you have helped to set me on the road toward this place with all the laughter and back and forth and all. I dedicated The Kraken’s Mirror to The Revenge and I truly meant it.

It started when I survived my near death, it built with the invitation to join this crew. It grows each day with the support I find here and all over the web.

Here’s to you, crew! Raise a glass and toast yerself!

And that wraps up my report on RT… Next year, we invade Chicago. I hope some of you nearby will think of coming. I’ll show you the ropes, lead you astray and make sure you don’t get to one panel. Well, maybe one.

Ever had so much fun at an event you can’t remember the details? Without drinking?
Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Which came first . . . the character or the name?

The writers of The Office, yesterday, released a list of character names, of roles to be filled by celebrity cameos. The names of these new characters are exactly the sort of silly fun you'd expect from the show: Merv Bronte, Nellie Burtram, Robert California.

The writer/actress who plays Kelly Kipoor, Mindy Kaling, said in an article, "Naming new characters is one of the most fun times in a writers room... Takes a tiny, silly part of the brain!" (Can't you just see her saying that?)

I must say, though, I disagree. I've always found naming characters to be sort of stressful. You have to find that perfect name, the one that encapsulates their personality, their unique-ness. And of course, it has to feel just right.

We take our dog to a community park on Sunday mornings, and a family came with a St. Bernard puppy (ahh!) named Clarice. Clarice is huge because, well, a tiny St. Bernard puppy is already bigger than half the dogs there. She's got these paws that are too big for her, so she tumbles about, and her coat is all short and curly.

I thought Clarice was the most wonderful name for this dog. The family disagreed. They came the next Sunday and announced that Clarice had become Dolly. Before Clarice, it turns out, she had been something else. I'll be curious, next time I see them, if the dog's name has changed yet again.

When I asked what brought on the name change, the Dad said, "She just didn't feel like a Clarice."

This got me thinking. We want names to match up to personalities. But we never wait to select a name -- if we're assigning a name, be it to a pet, a child, or a character, we're choosing it before we have any sense of their personality.

I had the same reaction when we brought our puppy home. We'd chosen the name before we'd chosen her, and it took me weeks to get used to it. Now, of course, I can't imagine her as anything else. Even with the baby -- I asked the hubs last week if he thought we'd picked the right name. I said I didn't really think the name we picked fit him. The hubby said, "That's because he doesn't do anything. We'd have to call him 'eat, poop, cry' if we wanted a name that fit him."

The point I'm (slowly) getting to here is that the same is often true for our characters. We assign a name at the beginning of our acquaintance, when we're just starting to get to know them. There's been a couple times I've gotten lucky, and had a character appear with a perfectly suited name. But most of the time, I choose a name, mentally flipping through various choices, discarding ones that don't fit and collecting a few "maybe's" that still just don't feel quite right.

But just like I wanted to tell Clarice's owner to give her a chance to grow into her name, I've found I need to do the same with my characters. Get to know them a bit before I decide fully on a name. Or be willing to adjust the name as new facets of their personality emerge.

So how about you? Do your characters appear already named, or do you struggle to find one suitable? Do you change their name as you get to know them, or pick one and stick with it? Ever changed a pet's name? Anyone else totally want a St. Bernard now?

Now That's Irony!

The winner from the Second Time Around blog with Susanna Fraser is...

2nd Chance!

Let me know in what format you want the ebook and it'll be headed your way!
Tuesday, April 12, 2011


Influences this week: The look in Fallon's eyes as I'm writing him, the feel of fingers without fingernails as they wrap around your neck and fresh air. And a song called, “Simple Lies” by Endo.



So I bought an independent keyboard for my laptop. Well, actually, I bought the independent keyboard and mouse at Christmas as a present to myself. This probably seems weird and silly to you since I bought the laptop to be flexible. But my hands have a mind of their own. I can't seem to type over the mouse sensor pad without deleting half of what I just wrote. So I had a brilliant idea (really, all my ideas are brilliant- whether they are half crazy or just plain crazy simply because I'm a pirate) and I hatched this ambitious plan to write three books this year.


Once I have a regular keyboard, I can rule the world!


I spend about a month gearing up to do massive write downs (sort of like a beat down, except in writing form). So in March, I pulled out my fancy, handy-dandy keyboard and mouse combo and plugged the little flash drive into my side port. It's gleaming black and has all these neat little toggle buttons along the top of it. It's nifty.


Having an independent keyboard is the bees knees of writing expeditions. I type so much faster without having to worry about where the evil cursor might start eating my words. I can put my feet up on the desk and put the keyboard in my lap and type away. It's like faeries fashioned up this keyboard just for my writing pleasure.


Until, I hit a tense wall.


Saturday, utterly dejected and feeling like the world's biggest idiot, I slumped into my office. I stared down at my fabulous keyboard and picked it up. “Why, oh why did you do this to me, keyboard? I thought we were a team. You've betrayed me.”


And the keyboard, knowing it had done the ultimate of all betrayals stayed silent and cold. The keyboard let me write in both first person POV and third person POV.


I flopped over in my chaise lounge with marshmallow Peeps until my tongue and fingers were hot pink and sugar coated.


I'm torn. GPS and I have discussed the YA being written in third person POV. We both think more of the story could be told. You would have the chance to hear the backgrounds and learn more of the world. But there is so much of the world that's different from our own, I think there would be a chance of overload and things being lost in transition in third person POV. And let's face it, third person POV is my weakest writing skill.


I've been working on my third person knowing that someday I might need it. In fact, the last two weeks of March I wrote a one shot in third person and re-worked a previous one shot from first person to third. I wrote my first third person sex scene two weeks ago. It was horrible. I never want to do it again. I felt weird and discombobulated and confuzzled. How does one stick with one third person POV when writing sex scenes. I felt like I was head hopping and spying on someone's intimate moment. It really just felt like reading a really bad porn script. My beta swears while it was different than my usual writing, it was still good. I think she's crazy. (Well, she is crazy because she's friends with me, but that's besides the point.)


Telling this story, in a different world, is an entirely new process to me. I'm always unsure of my writing. I constantly read back to myself and cringe. I'm having tense issues further on in the story when one person in charge of babysitting my main character is challenged by another for rights to babysit. With my main character not an intricate part of the fight, nor really able to see enhanced movements, she's pretty much a worthless POV. The best POV at this point would be her babysitter. The only way to achieve that is to write the whole damn story (and series) in third person. I'm not quite to this scene, I'm only thinking ahead. But it's a problem.


And the problem of Friday night where I wrote 3,000 words in Fallon's POV without noticing what I'd done. It was almost a seemless write into his mind at the time. It wasn't even really third person. More of a first person, but felt like third. I dunno how to describe it other than Fallon possessed me.


Don't get me started on writing the beginning. If only I was good at them. I think I'd write more often. I'm currently sitting at a little over 15k and knowing about half of it will be dumped in revision, I'm feeling a little more desperate to get going into the story. I'd like to be at 25k by Friday which would put me half way through the month and my word goal. But with all my back pedaling and stalling, I'll be lucky to see 20k by the end of the week.


So, how do you decide on what POV to stick with? I know I can always go back and edit later, but to write a whole book in one POV only to realize I have to shift it all? I shudder at the thought. And where are you at with your story goals? Having any luck with the muse?
Monday, April 11, 2011

I'll Take Questions as Answers for $1000, Alex

I’ve been reading Billy Mernit’s book on writing Romantic Comedy and though it’s aimed at writing screenplays instead of novels, I’m finding the elements of telling a good story apply across the board. Since my style seems to lean toward the modern day Romantic Comedy we’d find at the Cineplex (though better, I hope), this book seemed like the perfect guide.

And it is.

Since Fran and I have been stealing…err…liberating blog topics from this book for weeks now, I do hope you guys haven’t gotten tired of hearing about it and tuned me out already. I promise, this blog will get you thinking and it does require a bit of participation, but it will be relatively painless (“relatively” being the key word there), and might even give you some idea about your own work.

Today I’m talking THEME.

Now, I do not mean “What is the common theme that runs through all of your work?” This is not about generalities such as redemption, forgiveness, or second chances. Today we’re getting much more specific. I want you to figure out the specific, detailed theme for your current WIP or MS.

To make this easier to figure out, simply examine your story to figure out what question you’re trying to answer. For instance, my first MS asked the question “Can love help a woman who trusts no one, not even herself, trust someone with her heart, her child, and her life?” See? Specific.

Now, to be fair, I didn’t know that was the question until I read this chapter in Mr. Mernit’s book. But think of how much easier (relative term!) the plotting and writing can be if you know what question you want to answer BEFORE you start writing. Or at least early in the process.

I’m only five pages into the new WIP (hopefully more as I plan to write after I finish posting this blog) and think if I can figure out my question, then I’ll have an idea where to go to get the answer. Not that you need to know the answer, which might sound odd, but it’s true.

Say you start out with the question “Can a woman addicted to alcohol put down the bottle and turn her life around?” (This is the question for one of my future books, so don’t be getting’ any ideas.) Because we write Romance, it’s probably going to turn out the answer is yes, but the question alone defines the journey my character will take, and provides plenty of ideas on how to make my heroine's life as difficult as possible.

So, what is the question you’re trying to answer with your current WIP/MS? What do your characters need to prove or overcome? What question was explored in a book you read recently?
Sunday, April 10, 2011

Second Time Around with Susanna Fraser

It is my pleasure to welcome back the lovely and talented Susanna Fraser. She’s celebrating the release of her second Regency novel, but she’s here to explain how having been through a book release before doesn’t guarantee you’ll be any saner the second time around. But first, let's see what this book is about.

Lucy Jones is a nobody. As an orphan she was reluctantly taken in by her wealthy relatives, the Arringtons, on the condition that she be silent and obedient, always. When her lifelong infatuation with her cousin Sebastian is rewarded by a proposal of marriage, she's happy and grateful, even though the family finds excuses to keep the engagement a secret.

James Wright-Gordon has always had the benefits of money and a high station in society, but he is no snob. He's very close to his sister, Anna, who quickly falls for the dashing Sebastian when the families are brought together at a wedding party. Meanwhile, James is struck by Lucy's quiet intelligence, and drawn to her despite their different circumstances in life.

Lucy suspects that Sebastian has fallen for Anna, but before she can set him free, a terrible secret is revealed that shakes both families. Will James come to her rescue—or abandon her to poverty? 

Today is release day for my second book, A Marriage of Inconvenience.  I suppose I get to call myself a multi-published author now, which has a nice ring to it.  But, you know what?  It’s not really any easier the second time around.

When my debut book, The Sergeant’s Lady came out last August, I was terrified of reviews.  What if they all hated it?  What if they didn’t like my voice?  What if I really WAS the only one out there who missed the old “following the drum” Regencies?

On the whole, I came through my first review process pretty well.  I got B’s from Dear Author and All About Romance, neither of which are known for being easy to please, and overall I got lots of 4- and 5-stars.  Which you’d think would make me less scared this time.  But, no.  I’m still waiting with dread for my first really bad review, because I know it’s inevitable.  And what if all those people who loved my first book don’t like this one?  What if they’re disappointed it’s NOT a “following the drum” Regency?  What if they don’t like its being a closely-linked prequel to my first book?  What if they don’t like the fact that my hero is short?

I’m still nervous.  I’m still obsessive.  I still expect to be checking NovelRank and Amazon regularly, only now I’ve got TWO titles to do it on rather than just one.  Double the neurotic fun!

“But, surely you’ve learned SOMETHING, Susanna,” I can hear you all thinking.  Well, now that I think about it, I have:  

- I’ve learned that people will STILL ask you when you’re going to write a real book, only in my experience it’s usually an e-book vs. print distinction rather than genre fiction vs. Great Lit-rah-chyoor.

- I’ve learned that I will always find a typo in the official, too-late-to-change, published version of my work that somehow my editor, my copyeditor, and I all managed to miss on multiple careful readings.

- I’ve learned that my 7-year-old daughter and I have very different valuations of money.  I think of my writing income in terms of “When can I think about quitting my day job?” By those standards I have a long way to go.  SHE thinks of it as, “How many Littlest Pet Shop toys and DS games could Mommy buy me with her next royalty check?”  In her eyes Mommy is rich rich rich!

- I’ve learned that if you’re saving your vacation time for conference travel and taking your kid to Grandma’s for Christmas and therefore go to work like normal on your release day...everyone expects you to work.  Like normal.  Personally I think I should be trailed by a dozen handsome cabana boys, half of them kilted and half of them in Napoleonic-era British riflemen’s uniforms.  They should fan me, bring me chocolate, carry my bags, hold the elevator for me, and sing my praises. A cappella, and in perfect harmony, because I’ve sung in choirs since 4th grade and I have my musical standards.   A nice backrub wouldn’t be amiss.  And at least one of them should be a math whiz who understands my day job world’s policies and procedures inside out who’ll do my job for me that day.  Because I am an AUTHOR! With a NEW BOOK!

I’ve also learned that there’s no rush quite like getting a fan letter or seeing someone rave about your book on a blog or board.  And I’ve learned that there’s nothing else I’d rather do with my life.

What about you?  Tell me about YOUR second time a writer or anything else.  One commenter wins a copy of A Marriage of Inconvenience in their choice of ePub, PDF, or Kindle format.

A bit about Susanna... 

Susanna grew up in rural Alabama. After high school she left home for the University of Pennsylvania and has been a city girl ever since. She worked in England for a year after college, using her days off to explore history, from ancient stone circles to Jane Austen's Bath.

Susanna lives in the Pacific Northwest with her husband and daughter. When not writing or reading, she goes to baseball games, sings alto in a local choir and watches cooking competition shows. Please stop by and visit her at, get to know her on Facebook at and follow her on Twitter at @susannafraser.
Saturday, April 9, 2011

Sin's Fantasy Sunday (Part Two)

First Edition. Volume Two.


Well, last Sunday I introduced you to my little private Fantasy Land where I have a fabulous Best Seller career. All my practicalities are taken care of so all that's left is for me to have some fun while I write. Toys was our hot topic last time. What kind of impractical stuff we'd have if it didn't come down to the need to worry about the numbers and “Will I really use this” parts of life.


Next on my agenda is vacation. I like to travel. I like to get away from home and give myself a breather. I can't imagine that would change once I have my Fantasy Best Seller career so this gives me the opportunity to think where I'd want to have a vacation home. I'd stay in the states. I know exactly where I'd go.


Fantasy Vacation home:


Tybee Island, Georgia, USA

This may sound really boring to some of you in my Fantasy Land I can go anywhere and stay anywhere, and I choose to stick in the states. I've never been OUT of the states. I could take a guess where I'd want to go but then I'd have to list the whole damn world. And I'd really love to say I'd have a vacation home in Alaska (so beautiful) but I want a beach and sand, and fishy ocean water and quaint little town. I like peace and quiet. Tybee Island is so beautiful and peaceful and QUIET. Even though it's more of a tourist attraction than it used to be, it still looked exactly the same when the GPS and I went back 10 years after the first time we'd been. I'd buy a little house right off the beach on a dead end road. Just a cottage. Windows on every wall but floor to ceiling on the wall facing out on the beach. French doors so I could open them and just leave them open. The curtains could flutter in the breeze, sunlight could stream in.


In my little cottage, I'd have two bedrooms. Neutral colors. My desk would be in the living room, facing out towards the ocean. I'd have no TV. No land lines. No Internet. I'd keep my cell phone on silent. I could walk into town if I wanted interaction. I'd stay in the comfort of the cottage and cook if I wanted solitude away from everyone.


In other words, it's perfect.


So this week in our second edition of Fantasy Land think about where you'd want to be for a vacation. What would be your ideal spot? Somewhere to go and be alone with your family, friends, significant other? Or somewhere where you could be yourself and write without distractions and just relax?
Thursday, April 7, 2011

Friday Free For All

We’ve all gotten so used to Chance hijacking all of our blogs and promoting wonderful authors and her own awesome stories that when Chance’s normal Friday rolled around and Chance sent a short message that said, “One of you is covering right?”, we all went, “Yeah, yeah, we’ve got it covered.”


That’s the best thing about being a pirate: lying comes so easily.


I thought since this was the sort of lazy day that encourages rum runners and wistfully daydreaming at the horizon, instead of offering up various craft books, I would offer the other kind of craft books that make our writing better: fiction. The best part of this is that I’m pretty sure a lot of you haven’t read these books (with the exception of Janga) and so these will be excellent books to reward yourself once this writing month is over.


A Creed in Stone Creek (Linda Lael Miller): a cowboy, a kid, and a dog walk into a bar—well, it’s almost like that. If you start reading a book that has a cowboy, a kid, and a dog in it, chances are you’re reading a Linda Lael Miller book. I know what I say about kids and dogs, but Linda is honestly so compelling in her storytelling that every time I read one of her books, I want to adopt a kid and a mutt. Every time. (I also want to adopt a cowboy, but I don’t find that as odd.) What to learn from this: write what you enjoy reading. Clearly—clearly—Linda loves cowboys, kids, and dogs, and when you love something, your passion engages your readers more effectively than any clever hook or one-of-a-kind twist. Plus—and this is the part I admire most about Linda’s books—is that she manages to get her personal message across without feeling preachy. All dogs should have a healthy, happy home; shelter dogs are the best and in most need; and always spay/neuter your pets. She never says that in her books, but you certainly get that message.


Underfoot (Leanne Banks): I got this book by luck, and then I basically devoured it in a day. Then I realized this book was like five years old and there were two more in the series. The book didn’t feel dated (no obvious references to things that might date it); the characters were compelling and rich with insecurities. There was even a cute baby who drooled and stuff, a baby who was a SECRET BABY no less. What to learn from this: This book worked because of Voice, tight writing, well-fleshed imperfect characters and authentic sexual tension. This was not a unique storyline. It was a secret baby plot. A modern-day secret baby plot. That’s like the kiss of death nowadays, isn’t it? Who in this day and age wouldn’t tell someone she was carrying his baby? She’s not going to be stoned after all; he deserves to know—right? And yet she didn’t, and yet the reasons why she didn’t felt authentic and well-motivated. This worked because the author really thought about these characters and gave them conflicting insecurities, the kind that fuels this sort of behavior. The hero firmly believes he wouldn’t make a good father and tells the heroine up front he doesn’t want kids; the heroine believes that he only slept with her because he was jilted and that she is not remotely trophy wife enough to hold the hero’s interest. Oh, and there’s the matter of that kid he doesn’t want that she has. Imperfect characters are interesting characters.


The Scent of Jasmine (Jude Deveraux): I bought this book because I loved the other three books in this series and I loved this one as well. The thing I most enjoy about Jude Deveraux stories are the Cute Meets, which are never cute and aren’t really meets. Jude Deveraux’s books make me laugh out loud quite a bit, even the more women’s fiction ones, and as such, I’m looking for the Cute Meet for the hero and heroine and Jude never fails to provide a memorable meet. And it never fails that the couple can’t stand each other soon after they learn each other’s names. What to learn from this: you don’t have a novel if you don’t keep the conflict up to a fever pitch the whole time. Or at least most of the time—I think there should be a few times in the book where they agree and they realize, “Huh, maybe he’s not an idiot.” It’s the Moonlighting effect. We all loved Moonlighting as long as Cybil Shepherd and Bruce Willis were bickering; sexual tension is a wonderful thing. Put them in bed too soon, and what do you do with the story? And speaking of Moonlighting, sex should complicate, not unravel your story where it doesn’t exist anymore. The characters in this story have sex—and often—and it just adds to the Black Moment until you wonder how there will possibly be a happily ever after.


There you go: the secrets to great writing through three great books. Passion, characters, and conflict.


Now I’m going to go back to my writing and this time I’m reading (see: skimming) a craft book: Nancy Kress’s Characters, Emotion & Viewpoint. Maybe I’ll pick up some great tips from it, but I think more and more I’m finding I learn more from books I love than craft books in general. After all, don’t we all learn better through showing rather than telling?


Friday Questions: How has your writing been going this week? What books will you be rewarding yourself with at the end of April? What sort of techniques have you recognized in your favorite authors and how do you try to implement them in your writing? And what are you drinking today?

Differences in Genre

There's a character in my book who's got a gambling problem.  He's not a particularly lucky gambler.  Sort of your run of the mill gambler.  Sometimes he wins, sometimes he loses.  He borrows money against his pay--for a steep price--just to be able to go back to the tables.  He knows that he's got a problem, but every time he finds himself in a hard spot in his life, he finds himself back at it.  Dice, cards, anything.

Gambling makes Jack feel like he's got control over his life.  He is the one who chooses how much he spends or doesn't.  In his mind, the risks he takes are his risks, not the unpredictable consequences of other people.

When I think of Jack, I don't think of weakness.  But my story is a Regency, a genre I equate with gambling, drinking, parties and general debauchery.

If my story were set in contemporary times, and this character was going to the casinos at every opportunity, I'm not sure what I would think of him.

The same thing about drinking.  In historical novels, I feel like every hero is running around with a snifter of brandy and a cheroot.  Or some other libation.  But if the average hero in a contemporary or a romantic suspense was turning to liquor all the time, I wonder if I'd find him as heroic.

In historicals right now, there's a glut of courtesans and mistresses.  Lightskirts practically trickle from their pages.  I have one in my MS.  But I rarely see a prostitute as a heroine in contemporary novels.

Why do you think it's okay--from a reader acceptance standpoint--for some things to be in one genre but not in another?  Sometimes, I think that it might be because we attribute historical settings with very clear patriarchal constructs.   Perhaps, to readers, it's okay for men to turn to gambling or drink.  Maybe, if a woman turns to prostitution, it seems more understandable because she has less control over her situation.

There are authors who buck these trends, of course.  JR Ward had a contemporary prostitute heroine, for example.  But these are exceptions, not norms.

Does this bother you?  Are there other differences in genre that you notice?  Some you like, some you think are necessary or unnecessary?



Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Be the Heroine of Your Story

I fretted that this post would get me keelhauled or tossed overboard.  I almost chickened out and took the safe route.  But this is a pep talk for me as much as anyone else, so if anyone's feathers start to get all ruffly, smooth 'em down now.  You should know by now I blog about stuff that applies to ME.

Yes, it's always about me.

And here's what I want to know: why are we so afraid all the time when it comes to writing?

I want to figure out why we're so fearful of failure, and success, and all the other things involved with our creative endeavors.  

I understand that writing is hardwired to a lot of emotional hot buttons. I know I'm not the only one who has experienced the crippling doubts, the angst of wondering if I've tapped myself out, the wailing at the injustice of having a desire to write and a skill that can waver depending on my confidence level.

Like others, I've felt the elation of a contest final or win, which had been preceded by fear of having my entry eviscerated by the judges. I've enjoyed the giddiness of getting a request for a partial or full manuscript, after the pain of getting yet another rejection on those same things from someone else. I've congratulated myself for getting closer to making my dream come true, while wondering if I shouldn't have picked an easier, more attainable one.

Fear often wins the battle, because it is sneaky, and insidious, going straight for the tender spots we've willingly exposed.  Yet we forget that our creative drive is powerful too.  We need to stop tamping it down, and grab onto it so we can unleash it on the world.

What would we do if we read a book where the heroine complains that it's too hard to go after her goal, or she's too afraid, or that she doesn't have time to pursue her dreams? We'd break our arm hurling that book across the room. And then we'd pick it up with the bones poking through the skin to throw it again.

It's time to be the heroine of OUR story.  This is our only shot at it.  We can't revise the past, or edit the outcome, but we can create the day-to-day aspects, deciding what it is we will do with our ration of 24 hours.  It won't be easy, but what else in your daily life is easy?  I'll guess it's usually the stuff that bores the crap out of you.

You know you have heroic qualities, but so few opportunities to actually use them. But now you can. You can inspire those around you with your ability to do something that you fear, that you find challenging, yet you press forward anyway, not knowing if you will succeed, but determined to attempt it because of that powerful inner drive. 

I think of all the things I did that weren't easy when I first tried them.  Was it easy to walk? Nope.  It would have been easier to sit on my ass and have everyone bring me stuff. Was it easy to learn a second language? Heck no. I should have been content with the first one I learned.  Was it easy to learn how to type? Yeesh. It was so hard, I was sure I would flunk out of my typing class, but now I type over 100 words/minute.

So why did I keep doing all these things? Because I wanted to do it more than I worried about being bad at it. I didn't want to miss out on things that interested me. I didn't want to go through life knowing my tombstone would be etched with the words, "She was too afraid to try".

Let's think of some of the things we've struggled with, and how we dusted ourselves off and got back up to try again. I'll start. You all know how much I hate to reveal personal details, so that should tell you how strongly I believe in this topic.

It took me two tries to get my learner's permit, and I came close to failing the driving portion of the test when I zoomed through a light 20 feet from the end of the test. The mean officer said if he'd looked up and it was red instead of yellow I would have failed.  The funny part is I fretted for weeks and practiced like a madwoman over the parallel parking, because I was positive THAT is what I would fail. I did it flawlessly for the test (and have struggled with it ever since).

I didn't pass the bar exam the first time I took it. I missed by 12 points, which is essentially one point per question. This was a grueling, two-day, eight-hours-each-day, all-essay exam—something you only want to have to do once--and it wasn't even my dream to be a lawyer. I was devastated when I didn't pass, because I thought my entire future hinged on that. It didn't. I passed it the second time, stayed in that career for 15 years and then decided it wasn't for me anymore.

I could list others, but if I do, you won't ply me with free drinks in the hopes I'll spill more secrets.

So today, let's pull up our big-girl pantaloons and get back to being the heroine we want to spend time with, the kind of woman who can do anything she sets her mind to.  We aren't those too-stupid-to-live creatures.  We have talents, skills, abilities, and most importantly, a lot of opportunities available to us. We have a strong drive to succeed, and we can battle back the fears that try to keep us oppressed.

Let's go forth and conquer! 

What can you do that you had to struggle with? What are you doing to be the heroine in your life? I've spilled my secrets. Now it's your turn!

Times They Are A-Changing

I’m not sure if you all follow the publishing world news, but there has been plenty of buzz lately about publishing formats. For the sake of this discussion, I’m going with Traditional Pub to mean published with an established print publisher, dealing most with print distribution; E-Publisher to mean published with a house that specializes in eBooks and online distribution (but offers traditional print as well); and Self-Publishing to mean anyone who strikes out 100% on their own to publish and distribute their own work.

NOTE: Self-publishing is not the same as going Indie, but I’ll keep that rant for another day.

To bring you up to speed in case you’ve missed the recent hullabaloo, we have established authors with long, successful careers with Traditional publishers going “rogue”, as some call it, and opting for self-publishing. Then we have a self-published phenom switching over to the Traditional realm. Throw in digital books outselling print at Amazon and the wonderful development of E-published authors hitting best seller lists, and the changes are almost too much to process.

What I want to talk about today is attitudes. Has your attitude changed with these recent developments? Are you willing to check out books offered through alternative publishing models where you wouldn’t before? No one will argue there was a longtime stigma against epublishing, as if being epublished meant you weren’t good enough to go the traditional route. If anyone still believes that, then they need to wake up and join the 21st century.

As a writer, have you changed your attitude toward how/where you’d like to be published? Are you ready to embrace your many options or still dead set on Tradition or die? I’m really curious to see how our group skews here.

I make no judgments here, I believe this is a personal choice to every reader and writer. But I know my attitudes have changed in the last year or two. How about yours?
Sunday, April 3, 2011

Stefanie Sloane Goes Rogue With Captain Jack Sparrow

*camera wobbly, takes a moment to realize that Captain Jack Sparrow is fiddling with the camera before stepping back into perfect focus; he smiles*

JACK: Hello, ladies and gentlemen, it has been a while since we have had a Fabulous Interview with the Incomparable Captain Jack Sparrow. Funding has been capricious and egregiously sparse, and I have had to take up other occupational opportunities to fund my rum supply. *waves a hand, gesturing to a sign behind him* So I’m opening up a school. Captain Jack Sparrow’s Scandalous School for Irrepressible Rogues. It almost rhymes, doesn’t it? Of course, I can’t teach all the classes myself. When would I have time for the rum drinking? So I have brought in another expert on rogues: the beautiful and fascinating, Stefanie Sloane! *drags in a lovely woman who waves shyly at the camera*

STEFANIE: Hello all! *takes a small sip from the bottle of rum foisted upon her by the charming pirate and coughs in a rather unladylike fashion as it burns its way down to her belly* I can’t tell you how pleased I am to be here today with all of you—and you, too, Jack. You’re even more handsome in person than I could have imagined—a roguish romance hero if there ever was one! *her eyes grow round as saucers as she realizes what she’s just said. Clearly, the rum is working*

JACK: *kissing up Stefanie’s arm, looks confused to be interrupted* Hmm? Oh, yes, the interview. As I was saying--*still stroking Stefanie’s arm*--modern society has lost touch with what it really means to be a rogue—loveable and incorrigible. More and more, Hollywood and the romance world have been producing what is called The Fake Rake. There is nothing fake about the rakes you produce, right, Stefanie? Tell us more about your rake in The Devil in Disguise—a devilish duke, is he?

STEFANIE: *makes to offer Jack the rum, then thinks better of it after calculating the likelihood that the man will return it* The most devilish duke in all of England—incorrigible to the core, dangerous as his namesake, and utterly delectable. William Randall, the Duke of Clairemont, is a wicked rake with little regard for society—a most unlikely suitor for the prim and proper Lady Lucinda Gray. But his latest assignment for the Young Corinthians, an elite spy organization, involves protecting her from a kidnapping plot and to do this, the notorious “Iron Will” must get close to Lucinda, and convince her that he’s a man worthy of her attention. It is a simple enough task to use his devilish charm to seduce her, but William never would have guessed that he’d become enthralled by the lovely Lady Grey—or that he’d lose his own heart in the bargain.

JACK: Exactly, he’s irrepressible and incorr—wait, what? He falls in love? With a girl?

STEFANIE: *reassuringly pats the pirate on the arm, her fingers lingering on his well-muscled form* Well, yes, Jack. But rest assured, she’s not just any girl—or even a girl, for that matter. She’s Lady Lucinda Grey. Beautiful and fiercely intelligent, Lucinda has managed to gracefully sidestep even the most persistent suitors. Until the Duke of Clairemont, that is. His rugged features, sinfully sensuous mouth, and piercing eyes are as alluring as the champion thoroughbred he tantalizingly offers in exchange for the honor of courting her, and she finds it hard to resist either temptation. The feelings he stirs in her both excite and arouse, urging her on despite the very real danger he represents. But when the truth is revealed, will Lucinda risk her heart and her life for a chance at everlasting love?

JACK: *softens a bit* Oh, the kind of girl who can be tempted. That’s my kind of girl. So long as she doesn’t try to change him. The world’s supply of rogues is diminishing at an alarming rate. You must be sure to do your part to keep the romance world in supply of rogues.

STEFANIE: *realizes belatedly that she’s still caressing the man’s bicep. Releases him, contemplates the rum bottle, then sets it out of her reach* Oh, I completely agree, which is why my next two books feature irrepressible rogues as well. The Angel in My Arms follows the dangerous and delicious escapades of Lord Marcus MacInnes, known as “the Errant Earl,” and The Sinner Who Seduced Me is all about James Marlowe, a Young Corinthian spy who specializes in seducing the most beautiful of ladies, until he meets his match in fiery portrait painter Lady Clarissa Collins.

JACK: I see my Hellie’s TBR bedtime book pile will have new fare! *pulls out copies of the books to show the crowd*

STEFANIE: *Wonders if the rum has worked a little too well and she’s now seeing things* Jack, you naughty boy! Where did you get those? They’re not even out yet!

JACK: You didn’t expect me to give up pirating altogether? Have you seen teachers’ salaries nowadays? It’s criminal. Besides I needed to read them to see if they’d be giving Hellie ideas. *he smiles* I sure hope so. I’m rather partial to The Sinner Who Seduced Me, being it sounds a lot like us. Intrigue, heartbreak, betrayal--

STEFANIE: *Cannot resist the man’s smile, nor his partiality for one of her books, and smiles back* Oh yes, Jack, you’d fit right in—criminals factor into the plot even! A dedicated Young Corinthian agent, James Marlowe accepts the riskiest of missions—go undercover as a traitor and infiltrate a deadly French crime organization. As he heads to Paris, he is prepared for all matters of intrigue—everything but a surprise encounter with the only woman he ever has loved. Five years ago, the exquisitely stunning Clarissa Collins spurned his love, breaking his heart in the process. Now, the accomplished painter is in peril up to her lovely neck and only he can protect her.

Blackmailed by a mysterious man who threatens to destroy her world, Lady Clarissa cannot imagine a crueler fate. Until she is reunited with James Marlowe, the enthralling man who seduced Clarissa body and soul, then betrayed her. Despite the hurt and misunderstanding that still simmers between them, their enduring passion ignites anew, leaving the two breathless with desire and need. With their lives and England’s safety hanging in the balance, they have little choice but to put the past behind them and work together to save everything they hold dear. As they attempt to escape the clutches of the malicious forces holding them, can Clarissa and James find their way back to each other hearts…this time forever?

JACK: *shivers* Sorry, I got a bit of a cold chill at that forever part. *takes a drink of rum that seems to clear his head* Since you’re a consummate teacher like me, what lesson would you tell all good pirate writers?

STEFANIE: *Adopts look of seriousness, even though she’s currently in the presence of a gorgeous pirate* It’s age-old advice, but full of wisdom as these things usually are: Write. Every day. Make it a habit, not a hobby. Take your writing seriously, show it the respect it deserves, and others will do the same.

JACK: Most excellent advice; I take my pirating very seriously. *pockets Stefanie's necklace* And for the romantics in the audience—and there are many—what’s your Call Story?

STEFANIE: *a certain sense of dreaminess hazes the scene as she thinks back on the wonderful day—or the rum finally takes full control, one or the other* Well, Jack, my call story involves multi-tasking—you know, similar to when you’re attempting to drink rum, seduce a woman, and steal a bit of blunt all at the same time? Only mine includes fending off barking dogs, sending email to my mom, and IMing with my husband. It was early afternoon and I was cleaning the kitchen when my agent called with the offer. I was so excited that, as she filled me in on the specifics, I wrote a quick email to my mom, telling her the exciting news. Then, just for good measure, I sent an instant message to my husband.

And then I realized that I really should be paying attention to the specific of the offer. Only my husband messaged back within seconds, my mom responded at once, and my dogs began to bark—out of enthusiasm for the offer, I can only assume. In short, chaos broke out.

Rather than stressing, I went with it and let the incredible feeling carry me off to that far off fairyland known as Book Publish-landia, images of gorgeous covers, amazing sales figures, and adoring fans floating in my head. The next day, my agent sent an email outlining everything I needed to know—not as pretty as Book Publish-landia, but way more important.

JACK: Okay, last question, and then I’ll let you ask a question of the audience: it’s a rainy day and you’re wearing WHAT, drinking WHAT, and doing WHAT?

STEFANIE: *The mere thought of rain chills her to the bone, and she reaches for the rum bottle, takes a healthy swig, then offers it to her fellow scallywag* Well, Jack, I live in Seattle, so I’m very familiar with this scenario. I’m wearing fleece—I know, so not as interesting as, say, a silk kimono, but far more practical. I’m drinking a double tall, nonfat, sugar-free vanilla latte—it is Seattle, after all—and I’m writing in my office, two dogs at my feet and a framed picture of you right next to the computer screen. A girl needs a little inspiration.

And now for all of the readers out there, a question: Who inspires you—and why?