Friday, November 30, 2012

Susanna Fraser's Chef-y Top 10 List

SusannaFraser wrote her first novel in fourth grade. It featured a family of talking horses who ruled a magical land. (I'd totally read that.) But her writing has come a long way since those talking horses and today she's joining us to celebrate her latest Regency Romance AN INFAMOUS MARRIAGE. First let's get acquainted with the book then we'll let Susanna take over.

Northumberland, 1815
At long last, Britain is at peace, and General Jack Armstrong is coming home to the wife he barely knows. Wed for mutual convenience, their union unconsummated, the couple has exchanged only cold, dutiful letters. With no more wars to fight, Jack is ready to attempt a peace treaty of his own.

Elizabeth Armstrong is on the warpath. She never expected fidelity from the husband she knew for only a week, but his scandalous exploits have made her the object of pity for years. Now that he's back, she has no intention of sharing her bed with him—or providing him with an heir—unless he can earn her forgiveness. No matter what feelings he ignites within her…

Jack is not expecting a spirited, confident woman in place of the meek girl he left behind. As his desire intensifies, he wants much more than a marriage in name only. But winning his wife's love may be the greatest battle he's faced yet.

One of my handful of can’t-miss TV shows is Chopped. I like it more than any other current cooking competition show, and the only food shows of any kind that rival it for my love are Good Eats and the original Japanese version of Iron Chef.

In fact, I’ve spent so much time watching the show that I’ve come up with my Top Ten Rules for Succeeding on Chopped (which I suspect have more than a little applicability beyond the show).

1. Weird combos can be delicious. With enough skill and creativity, pancake mix, strawberry papaya, blue foot mushrooms, and pre-cooked chicken feet, for example, can be combined into a dish worthy of the finest restaurant.

2. Except when they’re not. But if you just slop the basket ingredients onto the plate without transforming them or considering how their flavors interact, or if you use too much of a single pungent flavor, you will fail.

3. Playing it safe may get you temporary victory, but it won’t make you memorable. Chefs who never venture out of their comfort zones may survive for a round or two or even win if their competitors make mistakes, but they’re not the ones viewers remember, and they generally don’t get invited back to champions tournament rounds.

4. Know your judges. Really, chefs. The show has been on long enough now that you ought to know better than to put raw red onions on the plate if Scott Conant is judging, or to finish your dish with truffle oil, ever.

5. Don’t argue with the judges. If they think you overcooked the beef or under-salted your dish, you’re not going to change their minds by saying you took the steaks to medium-well on purpose or that you’re committed to low-sodium cuisine. And after you are chopped, don’t make your exit grumbling how those stick-in-the-mud judges just didn’t get your vision or how you can’t believe they chopped you when Chef X left out a mystery ingredient or made a boring comfort food plate. You look like a jerk, and your behavior makes me want to add your restaurant to a list of places NOT to go next time I’m in your city.

6. Everyone makes a napoleon in the dessert round. Do you want to be like everyone else? I haven’t actually tallied the number of chefs who’ve made napoleons, but it’s enough of a default that it’s become a family joke in the Fraser household. (Mr. Fraser: “What’s for dinner?” Me: “I’ve got this pizza dough, pepperoni, tomato sauce, onions, and mozzarella. So I think I’m going to make a napoleon.”)

7. Embrace the theme ingredients, no matter how lowbrow and/or weird. They’re the tools you’ve been given to win, so don’t sneer at the pre-packaged stuff many home viewers cook with all the time, or, conversely, get grossed out or intimidated by something odd you’ve never encountered before.

8. Don’t Be That Chef. You know, the one who comes in bragging how he’s just the most naturally brilliant thing ever to set foot in the kitchen. Of course he’s going to win, because no one can touch him for drive, creativity, and sheer giftedness. I always root for him to make a fool of himself and lose in the appetizer round, and I can tell the other chefs and even the judges feel the same way. Also, I’ve noticed That Chef is the most likely candidate for committing the fatal sin of arguing with the judges.

9. It’s best when everyone is awesome. Normally I don’t remember competitors’ names for longer than it takes me to delete an episode from my TiVo. The exception is Madison Cowan and Lance Nitahara, winner and runner-up from the 2010 episode “Crunch Time.” In my opinion their competition is the best Chopped episode ever--and a quick Google search suggests I’m far from alone in that judgment. They’re both intense, gifted chefs, who each in his own way throws his whole heart and soul into his cooking. Watching how their respect for each other and healthy competitiveness drove them to excel made me want to work harder and better in my heart’s endeavors.

10. Be the French chef. This one requires a little explanation, because there’s this stereotype of French chefs in fiction as over-the-top prima donnas. But if my Chopped viewing is any indication, the opposite is true. If there’s a French chef among the competitors, he or she will be the one working steadily, quietly, and with exquisite technique and respect for the ingredients, no matter how much angst and drama is going on at the other stations.

So, what can an author learn from Chopped? I have some ideas—not to mention some embarrassing memories of days when I flirted with being That Author or hadn’t researched an editor or agent quite as well as I thought—but tell me what you think in the comments, or let me know of an unlikely place where you’ve learned life lessons.

I’ll be giving one copy of my new historical romance, An Infamous Marriage, to a commenter on this post in your choice of e-book format, and at the end of the tour I'll be giving one commenter on the tour as a whole a grand prize of a $50 gift certificate to their choice of Amazon, Barnes & Noble, or Powell's Books. There’s only one more stop in the tour, but do stop by my blog for more info.  If you’d like to be entered in the drawing, please include your email in the format yourname AT yourhost DOT com.

I look forward to replying to your comments, but it’ll be late in the evening in most North American time zones before I get a chance. I have a full-time 8-5 day job and don’t get much time online till the evening.
Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Mixing Up My 2013 Goals Cocktail: 3 Guidelines To Contemplate Before Goal Setting

What's Your 2013 Goals Cocktail?
It's getting toward the time of year that some look at with hope and a renewed sense of purpose, and others will gawk at and hide under their's time to set your 2013 goals.

Today I want to focus on the three main guidelines I'm going to use this year.

1. What Worked 
2. What Didn't
3. Things I Know I Need To Change

At first glance these might seem like a cop-out as guidelines but there is much depth to these three points that should be explored before any smart author goes into making a new set of goals for writing and for their career. I'm going to put myself out there a little today and go through each step. At the end I won't have my list of goals yet for the year, but I will have all the information I really need to understand to set goals that are more tailored to me and my needs and abilities. I hope my examples will help you take a good look at yourself and your process. With a deep breath, let's start.

1. What Worked

  • Writing at lunchtime worked when I actually left my desk
  • Setting aside 2 hours min. a weekend worked - there was at least 2 hours one day all for me
  • Having my laptop on the couch so I could write while I spent time with hubby "watching" TV 
  • Writing at the bookstore 
  • Writer Chats - I wrote more, brainstormed more, etc - BUT need to work on time 
  • Knowing my average word count and being pleased when I made it
  • When my writing area/desk is clean I write more on the fly

2. What Didn't Work 

  • Trying to write at my desk at lunch 
  • Thinking I could write on both Saturday & Sunday - it happened but was rare
  • Writing on vacation - NEVER GOING TO HAPPEN - GIVE IT UP!
  • Trying to keep my review blog full time and write too - SO not working 
  • Set writer chats - might need to see if we can rotate days sometimes 
  • Setting outrageous word goals for myself and then getting depressed when I missed the mark
  • Spent too much time on craft books - JUST WRITE 

3. Things I Know I Need to Change  

  • Limit Book Review blog to 2-3 Days a week and forget about the other days. 
  • Limit myself to 1 craft book every 3 months 
  • Don't focus on big conferences - attend smaller regional ones this year 
  • Stop letting my office be the catch all for the house - keep it clean 
  • Stop avoiding sharing my word counts - or lack thereof 
  • SHARE MY WORK - it's time to put on the big girl panties

So that's a rough look at the start of my process. I'm going to take these 3 main areas and add to that my average word counts per week, what months I can look back on and see I NEVER write, what months I'm the most productive, what special events I have coming in 2013, etc. All of that will come together for me to really set an outline for my year and what my expectations should be. And let's not forget what my hopes will be as well - you have to hope beyond the norm.

My 2013 Goals Cocktail?  A shot of reality, a dash of hope, a spritz of inspiration and success being the oh-so-awesome olive I enjoy at the end.

Now it's your turn: Give me at least 1 example from each of the 3 guidelines just to help start you off. How do you go about evaluating how your year has gone before setting your new goals? Or do you never look back and just press on? Don't go hiding from setting goals. It's a cliche  for a reason - a goal without a plan is just a dream! 
Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Always Love a Man in Uniform...The Agents of Jillian Stone

Let’s be honest—we all love a good hero.

Actually we all love a naughty one, but you know what I mean. We all adore the kind of hero who makes our palms sweat, our hearts race, and who make us forget almost indefinitely that the hero is actually a character of fiction.

Agent Phineas “Finn” Gunn is just such a hero.

When I first met Finn, he was stealing scenes in Detective Rafe Lewis’s book, helping Fanny with her bath. I was seriously hoping for a few bathing scenes in this book as well, but I had to make do with a delicious scene of being tied to a bed…and his comments about how flexible his ballerina heroine was. He’s roguish and heroic and flawed, and he’s wonderfully matched with a heroine who is about as much a deceiver as he is.

She might be the bigger liar though. It’s a toss-up.

Catriona “Cate” de Dovia is a celebrity ballerina—but she also makes a very effective double-agent of sorts…and a thief. But for an excellent cause: to save her brother Eduardo, who is being ransomed…and who also happens to be an anarchist.

And that’s just where the fun begins. Finn’s supposed to keep a watch on Cate; she’s stealing jewelry to save her brother; and there is a merry chase across France in an “Air Commander”.

Here’s the actual blurb:

Prima ballerina Catriona de Dovia lives the glamorous life of a starlet, filled with glittering jewels, sumptuous dinners, and admiring suitors. She’s grown up considerably since losing her heart to Hugh Curzon once upon a time, no longer wasting her emotions on the empty promises of charming gentlemen. On her own since the untimely death of her parents, she will do anything for the only family she has left: her brother, a notorious anarchist.

​ Scotland Yard Agent Phineas Gunn—sometimes known as Hugh Curzon—receives his new assignment reluctantly. He’s up for something a little more strenuous than playing nanny to a ballerina, until he sees who his charge is. Then, it’s a completely different story, because he’d been unable to forget the trusting, beautiful Cate since he had to leave her behind in Barcelona. 

As the two race across the Continent—by land, by sea, even through the air by zephyr—it becomes uncertain who is keeping tabs on whom, and Finn and Cate must battle the sexual tension that snaps and sizzles between them every step of the way.

This new book in the series has all the trademarks of Jillian’s charms: ribald humor, sly wit, and tight pacing and story plot. And if you’re like me, looking for the next hero who will round out the Gentlemen of Scotland Yard, there is also a novella of Archie Bruce (who I was hugely hoping would have his own story!), and there are a number of delicious characters who may yet have a future as one of Ms. Stone’s delectable heroes. I’m keeping my eyes peeled for the next installment. I always enjoy a story of wit, action, and hot chemistry of reunited lovers. May 2013 bring me even more of Ms. Stone’s wonderful stories!

This is part of a series that has a tinge of steam punk—have you read any novels that feature steam punk that you have enjoyed? 
Monday, November 26, 2012

How to Tell a Story: Add a Tiger

I attempted to see Lincoln on Friday, but it was sold out, so I chose to see Life of Pi instead. Okay, I had to be talked into it by my other two friends, but once I had popcorn in my lap and a soda at my elbow, I was quite content with the movie choice. Besides the director was the guy who did Sense & Sensibility. It would be gorgeous no matter what.

It totally was.

But it was the story that moved me. The story was about how a boy found God out in the Pacific Ocean while he was shipwrecked and fighting for his life. Oh, and how he did this while taking care of a Bengal tiger who was sharing the boat with him.

Originally on the boat there had  been a zebra, a hyena, and an orangutan, but through a series of events, only the tiger remained; and it is the boy and the tiger who finally make it to land in the end. You know this because well, the adult version of the boy is the one telling this story to a writer who is in need of a story, and a friend hooked him up with this shipwreck survivor for a chance to tell this story.

Watching the tiger and the boy come to a "truce" of sorts is engaging--great dramatic action in the middle of an ocean where there is nothing that goes on for days and days. You wonder how the boy manages to survive as long as he does, but he confesses it is the tiger who keeps him going. If he didn't have the tiger to look after, he would have lost the will to survive.

When he finally washes up on a shore with actual people on it and is rescued, the tiger disappears and the boy mourns. As he is healing, some men who belong with the company who had the ship that sank (that's how he got stranded out in the middle of the ocean--a sinking ship) and asked him what happened. So he told the story about the zebra, hyena, orangutan, and tiger--about the story we all experienced with him and what we believed. The men look at each other and ask, "What really happened?"

After a bit, the boy tells another story, something completely different, something darker and grisly, a tale of survival. Your heart breaks as you realize this is probably what really happened, but he had created this other tale for his sanity, of sorts. The men leave. The writer who listens to this new story pieces together where the "real" story and the "made up" story overlap. Finally the boy-adult asks the writer, "Which story do you prefer?" "The one with the tiger," the writer confesses. "And so it is with God," the boy-adult says.

It is a treatise I think on telling your story BIGGER. If you want thematic meaning and magic, you'll have to tell the Whopper instead of what "really" happened. The story of how the boy really survived was also an interesting story--and just as sad, if not sadder, but without the tiger, it is just a grim story of survival and not a triumphant story of survival and the human spirit.

I'm not really sure how to do this of course. I think we're all adding tigers in our own way, what with love that conquers all and true love lasts forever. The reality tends to be a bit grimmer without the magic, but we are still looking for the shine. I like the idea of being given permission to tell your story as you wish to create the truth you know. That sticking with the "facts" isn't always the best way to tell a story and that in doing so you may be missing some of the magic.

Any movies you have seen lately? Have you read the book Life of Pi? Truth or embroidered fiction?
Friday, November 23, 2012

Black Friday

A funny thing happened on the way to Thanksgiving... I stayed home. With the dog. But it's fine, we had a good day and I made my favorite crock pot recipe so all was peachy.

It's done with and maybe next year we can manage a day together with a turkey. Though I have a new friend who owns chickens and by next year, she may have me converted to not eating our feathered friends... She's working on it!

So, Black Friday... Me? A movie, maybe. Shopping? Not a chance! Now, it's possible the husband will want to venture out. He does have my birthday to buy for...

Which is the 7th of December, by the way.


So...once upon a time, Black Friday meant other things...

I'd probably like it more this way...
What about you? Shopping? Recovering from the coma? Writing? (I do hope to write.) Hope whatever you do, you had a great time yesterday and in the days to come!
Wednesday, November 21, 2012

I Am Thankful For….

This is the time of year when we all seem to stop and ponder our blessings.  My son came home from kindergarten this week with a fill in the blank, “I Am Thankful” picture.

He insists he’s thankful for his parents (despite some on Facebook who claimed his answer might have been a bit more risqué).  I am, in fact, super thankful for him.

But, this close to Thanksgiving, I’ve started to ponder my writing “career” as it were and feeling blessed and thankful for where it has taken me. At just over 6 years ago now, I started writing seriously.  And what a strange trip it’s been.

It started with Avon’s Fanlit. I met some really amazing ladies through Fanlit. After Fanlit, I found my way to the Romance Vagabonds, where I met Terri and Fran.  It wasn’t much later that Fran, Terri, Sin, and I, (along with Lisa who’s sailed off on her own now) started this blog.  I count blogging here with you guys, all the wonderful pirates I’ve met along the way, as one of the highlights of my writing journey.  The ladies who visit the blog and contribute to it are some amazingly supportive ladies.  I’m thankful for all of you.

I’ve finished three, almost four, manuscripts now.  Each of them has been a gift on its own. I’ve tried a bunch of different things and along my way I’m finding my voice. I’m also thankful for all of the rejections and requests I’ve received for them, all the contest finals or nonfinals. I’m also thankful for every critique, positive or not. I’ve learned a lot from the feedback I’ve gotten.  The people who’ve stepped in to help me out… they are awesomesauce.

Biggest highlight so far? So much happy requesting from my last story. It made me feel like I am getting THIS close to breaking out.

So tell me… what are the highlights of your writing career? What has you feeling thankful these days?
Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Sign Me Up to Recruit the New Recruits

This will be short since this is the holiday season and I've been running my butt off all day.

Monica McCarty's THE RECRUIT is probably the best of the series and I didn't think I'd say that. I've loved every book; and my heart belongs to the sailor named Erik for goofy, personal reasons, but Kenneth Sutherland is Hawt-Hawt-Hawt and the love story between him and Mary was passionate, lovely, and did I mention it was hawt?

Like really HAWT. Or Hot, because I'm driving myself nuts purposefully spelling that wrong.

Kudos to Ms. McCarty who researches her history thoroughly, but when she needs to finagle a bit with the history to make it work, she does so seamlessly and explains afterwards in case there are those of us (we know who we are) who might go, "That didn't happen." But I love these women who are women--who act true to their time period, but are still a little spunky and bold with the men who love them in return.

If you love history, you'll love this book.

If you love romance, you'll love this book.

If you love hot, sexy sex scenes, you'll LOVE this book.

If you love happy endings that feel real, especially in a time period where happy endings for women were probably pretty rare, you'll love this book.

I think there might be another four or so books left in the series. Ms. McCarty has had an end sight for this series, but each book in this series still feels fresh and interesting. I'm going to be really sad when this series ends for real.

What are you reading now? And what series do you hope will never end?
Monday, November 19, 2012

Editing and Scrambled Egg Brain

So it’s late on a Sunday night as I type this and I just remembered I’m supposed to blog tomorrow. Or today rather. You see, I’ve been a bit distracted. On Saturday I finished my 2nd round of edits on my debut release MEANT TO BE and today got back to writing the second book in the Anchor Island series UP TO THE CHALLENGE. That means my brain is officially fried.

I know this not just because I forgot about this blog, but because I haven’t blogged anywhere in weeks. Not even on my fancy new website. Which is just the silliest thing ever. I have the thing and I’m ignoring it! But again, the brain is scrambled eggs at this point.

But there are good things that have come out of this editing process.

1) I have learned that I suck at tense. Past, present, future and all that perfect stuff is lost on me. I figure it’s good to learn this now except I’m not sure how to fix it. I’ll try and I know there are many resources, but it’s understanding and retaining the information that I worry about. See scrambled eggs comment above.

2) My characters like to breathe deep. ALL of them. Deep breaths covered that book like ants on a watermelon. It was bad. At least that’s easier to fix though now I’m curious how many times I’ve already used that phrase in this new book.

3) It’s really hard to know what you have at this point of editing. Between the track changes and the various tweaks that require vetting the next several pages to make sure that one word change doesn’t screw things up in eight other places, I’m totally confused. I had confidence in this book two day ago and kind of still do, but at some point you start to wonder if you’re making things worse instead of better.

4) As an author of Contemporary Romance, not being a wine drinker is actually a problem. That one’s hard to explain but trust me, it’s an issue.

Wish I could go on to offer solutions to all of these new found issues, but I can’t. My point, however, is to show that a book does not need to be perfect to sell. My story is the same as it was before. My character are who they were and the plot is what it was with some clarifications made to enhance and make it stronger.

But all of these issues above existed in this me and this book before I sold. Editors can see through the rough patches to recognize a good story and solid writing. They can see your voice through the occasion patch of static. They can believe in your story even when it needs a little TLC.

So don’t give up and don’t let anyone fool you into thinking you can’t do this. You can and you will and one day an editor will get your voice and love your characters and make your year. Just keep going. It’ll happen.

Anyone already know what their weak points are? (This could be in writing or life if you want to get that deep. I also know I have commitment issues but that’s a whole other blog.)
Friday, November 16, 2012

Cloud Atlas – It’s That Kind of World!

An argument for the mash up of all mash ups.
That was one interesting movie! And I understand it was a book first. One I may need to read. What’s not to love? Six stories, with reoccurring souls, over six time periods, which dance a mad polka back and forth across time and space.

No, it doesn’t involve Dr. Who.

Though it wouldn’t surprise me if it did.

This is the sort of movie, and I’m sure book, that would drive a great many people insane. Convoluted, dropping one storyline to explore another, boomeranging back to it, then gone - hinting at connections, teasing that this part is history, this part is fiction…this part is…??? Philosophizing all the time about how we continue to meet the same people over and over as we are born again and again.

It’s a long movie, nearly three hours long. I sat in the theater and figured I’d need a few pee breaks. Then, the movie was done, credits rolling. Granted, I found myself fascinated at seeing the same actor playing different parts, different races and guessing who was who. The make-up people had a job to do! And thank God, we only had to see a blond Tom Hanks for a very short time.
This move appealed to me because I have a very skewed view of history and how people relate to each other. And, Terrio can bear witness to this, I love to mess with linear time when I write. Hop and skip and back and forth…that is me. The swing-set of keeping a straight timeline.

I’m not that big a fan of the flashback, but I will take a reader backward. I was quite pleased to attend an Angela James workshop a few weeks ago where she talked about this technique and how to do it so that you don’t make your reader dizzy. I do what she suggested! Big smile for me!
I like how electronic books are pushing the evolution of the reading experience. I can foresee a time when a writer can assist the reader in keeping storylines straight with using different fonts, or font colors or…offering options. And before you all run screaming for the gangplank, remember that the readers coming behind us have different expectations and attention spans. Nothing would surprise me.

Look at the prose of decades past and see how little you can tolerate how they wrote then. I bet it will be the same thing in the decades to come. Writing has become a very fluid thing. No, it’s always been that way. But the speed at which that current flows is speeding up.

I sat in the Angela James workshop and listened to her talk about the concept of rules, even inasmuch as they pertain to grammar. She kept saying never say never. You can break rules if you can do it well. That the reader is not so hung up on the particulars as the copy editors and as the popularity of e-books shows, the story can overcome the shortcomings of the prose.
There were a few copyeditors in the audience who died that day. A little bit.

A part of me considered the perception that the language is being dumbed down…but…I bet every generation has thought this. Will I recognize the novel in fifty years? If I live that long? Will it be filled with text-speak and references that are totally alien? Will the cross-genre and POV shifts grow so convoluted and commonplace that the readers of tomorrow will be groaning about how they wrote things in the past?
Of course!

Me, I love a good twisting in time and space yarn. I just wrote in my newest WIP, as my character considers the realities of traveling through time… She accepted that there was no line between truth and fiction, history and story. The two bumped up against each other, swapped DNA, fell apart, came back together… None of it made a lick of sense.

But I realize that I am not the normal reader, or writer, in this sense. So, I watched Cloud Atlas and didn’t fight the drifting from one story/time to another.  The reading experience is different. And I am as resistant to some things as the next person. Not a fan of alternating first person POV, for example. But someone will do it well and I’ll be convinced it can work!

What do you find gives you the worst willies as a reader? Misspellings? Or new spellings? Time skips? Flashbacks on flashbacks? Genre mashups too unbelievable? Text speak? What do you think will sneak in first? What has already slipped in that gives you the willies?
Wednesday, November 14, 2012

The Revenge Welcomes Catherine Bybee!

*Large red carpet thunks down the deck stairs*

We're in for a treat today, my friends. Our guest is not just talented and versatile, she's a USA Today and New York Times Bestselling author here to celebrate the release of her first Montlake Romance title NOT QUITE DATING. Give a warm pirate welcome to Catherine Bybee!  

Bo'sun here again. Jack is, um, out of the office. Okay, so I sent him on a wild goose chase for a rum cake that might or might not exist. Sue me. Now on to the interview.

Bosun: Thank you, Ms. Bybee for joining us on the ship today. It is our pleasure to celebrate your current Montlake release (out yesterday!) Not Quite Dating. Tell us about the book.

Catherine: Thank you for having me. I’m uber excited to be celebrating the release of Not Quite Dating. It feels like I’ve been waiting for this release forever. Not because of any delay in publishing mind you…but holiday stories do need to be released around the holidays.

Single mom, Jessie has no desire to date anyone who she might consider a dreamer. When she meets Jack, he passes himself off as a man with big dreams and little money. As much as his smile might spark emotions buried deep inside her, she can’t give in and actually date the man. You can’t choose who you fall in love with, but you can choose who you date.

Sexy Jack Morrison is ready for the next phase in life…complete with a wife, maybe kids…but the pool of women he’s been dating seem to only want one thing from him…money. The Morrison Hotel Empire is partially his, making him a very wealthy man. When Jessie falls into his life, he keeps his portfolio from her to determine her true feelings.

Oh, the tangled web…

Bosun: A wealthy hero who wants to be loved for more than his money. Sigh. These kinds of men never wonder into my world, dang it. Could you tell us about the rest of the series to come? Where did this idea come from?

Catherine: The idea for this book was born from life. There was once a day I waited tables during the graveyard shift at Dennys. I met many interesting people during that brief time. Not Quite Dating starts in part in the middle of a typical shift for the heroine. I’ve never been a single mom, but knew enough to make this part of the book work.

It is nearly impossible for me to write one book without thinking of book two and three. The second book in the series, Not Quite Mine, features Jack’s sister Katelyn Morrison. I loved her so much from the first book I wanted to take the rich heroine angle and see where it led. This is a highly emotional read meant for the Mother’s Day holiday. Why Mother’s Day? Glad you asked… Well, we’ve all read the story of when a ‘hero’ finds an infant on the doorstep…I wanted to write the book about the ‘heroine’ finding the infant on the doorstep.
And that’s all I’m gonna say on that! *wink*

Book three, Not Quite Enough is about Monica, Jessie’s sister. Another strong character with her own set of baggage she needs to work through to find love. Only Monica is going to fly the globe to find her love. Think Caribbean heat with an infuriating man…and no way to walk away.

Bosun: The thought of a baby on the doorstep sent fear to my heart but then you brought me back with the Caribbean. Good job! Can you tell us about your other Contemporary series, the Weekend Brides?

Catherine: Love, love, love my brides. Here again we have a series that started with one book, Wife by Wednesday, which reached an obscene amount of readers last year and prompted the series to take off. In a nutshell, or a flask, however you want to pour it… the Weekday Brides are all surrounded by a business started by the heroine in WbW, Samantha…This matchmaking business is set up to find the perfect temporary matches to suit the needs of an exclusive client list. Men in need of a bride to ‘look’ the part of family man, perhaps for a job…or to inherit a fortune.

I’ve set out to not write the same book over and over with different character names. Each book has a need for someone to get married for reasons other than love, but that is where the similarities end.

I just finished writing the third book in the series, Fiancé by Friday, and the book comes off much like a romantic suspense…where the first book isn’t that at all, and the second book is only slightly suspenseful.  I want to keep my readers guessing what comes next. And I do my best to introduce the characters of later books in the current one.

Bosun: I love your enthusiasm for these books. Checking out your beautiful website I see you write not only Contemporary but time travel/ historical adventure, werewolves, and erotica. Is there anything you can't do?? How do you keep all those genres straight? And what is it exactly about a man in a kilt? I assume you've done extensive research in this department since so many of your heroes done the Scottish garb.

Catherine: When I first started writing I wanted to write it all. Thanks to e-books and the small press, I could write shorter stories in different genre’s and explore my craft.

I have to admit, my time travels are among my favorite books. I’ve fallen in love with the family I’m writing about. And because it’s fantasy complete with historical and contemporary romance…it’s such a winning combination. And who doesn’t love the kilted hero? Yummy!

I did write a couple short erotic books. I’m not sure I’ll write more. So many authors do that better than me. I have other paranormals sitting in my hard drive that will be published someday.

I love to write and refuse to write inside a box. If Nora Roberts can write a plethora of categories, so can Catherine Bybee. LOL

Bosun: Here here! After all the high concept books you've written, why settle into straight Contemporary? Is it harder or easier to have to stick with reality?

Catherine: I’m not settling ‘just’ into Contemporary. As a writer, I have to make my deadlines and right now I have several Contemporary deadlines which I will fulfill first. But my time travel readers might just commit mutiny if I don’t get to Amber’s book soon.

That said…It can be difficult writing straight Contemporary. I can’t settle on magic or fur for a plot twist. I’m getting the hang of it…I think.

Bosun: Not Quite Dating is your first Montlake Romance release. For our writer friends who might be curious, how has your experience been with this new publisher so far? (I get this question but I'm not far enough along to have an answer so I thought maybe you could help.)

Catherine: It’s refreshing to work with a publisher that understands marketing the way only Amazon can. So many things are changing daily in the publishing world and Montlake ‘gets’ this. They are incredibly author friendly. They respond within a day of a question… a couple at the most. They give choices about cover art. Who does that? Anyone? I’ve enjoyed the ride so far…with four new titles coming in the next year, and having them re-release my other two Bride books as well, I had to have faith in them. And I do.

Bosun: Aren't they awesome?! I love them so far too. How long were you writing before you got your first contract? Any advice for those still working toward the dream? And what's your best advice for an author about to launch her first book? (Yes, this is a selfish question.)

Catherine: Before my first contract….hmmm, let me think. Serious writing, probably only about two years. I wrote off and on for years before that. Just nothing that ever included the words, The End. LOL –

As for a successful launch. I think the more enthusiastic you are about your book the more others will be. Often times launch day is anticlimactic. You prep your book for months, work on those cover images and banners, tell the world it’s coming…then have nothing to do on release day other than to hit the refresh button on the website to see your Amazon ranking. “I’m sure I’m the only one who has ever done that.” *snort*

Get your readers talking about your book and see if you can get a few to read it the day it comes out. They will tell others about it from there.

The absolute BEST advice I can give to any writer about launching a book, or selling a book…is to write your next book.

Bosun: *takes notes* Excellent. Time for the lightening round. Plotter or pantser?

Catherine: Pantser… but I’ve had to go both ways this last year. Publishers like a synopsis, AKA sucknopsis.

Bosun: Ha! Lefty or righty?

Catherine: Righty

Bosun: Morning, afternoon, or night? (Pertaining to writing, of course.)

Catherine: Yes, Yes, and Yes.

Bosun: Milk chocolate or dark chocolate?

Catherine: Both

Bosun: Twitter or Facebook?

Catherine: BOTH!!!

Bosun: And finally, ever considered writing a pirate adventure on the high seas? You could put him in a kilt!

Catherine: Oh, yeah… I wanna write that book.

Bosun: And we want to read it! Thank you for being such a good sport. Is there something you'd like to ask the crew to get this party started? Anything you want to know from a reader's point of view?

Catherine: I have a question from a reader’s point of view… If you could name a single quality in an author’s writing that keeps you coming back for more…what is it?

As for the crew… Where is that Rum Cake?

Bosun: Excellent question! (Wish I'd thought of that one.) Get to it, ladies. We certainly have no shortage of readers here. 
Monday, November 12, 2012

Black Dog

The Black Dog and I have been keeping firm company for over a month now. My doctor decided the antidepressants I was taking weren’t enough—they weren’t doing enough—to give me the long-term recovery I needed. So she switched them and started me out on a low dose to see how I reacted.

I reacted poorly.

I snarled at everyone like a wounded wolf, made snide comments which was the least of my offenses, thought pessimistic thoughts, dwelled on Facebook—especially on the posts about politics so I could really upset myself, and all around did all the things that a person in the grip of a bad depression does.

For a month this went on, and as each week passed, I got more and more despondent and worse, I wasn’t writing. I couldn’t write. I hated everything I committed to screen; I hated my story; I hated myself for being the loser I was who couldn’t even write one stupid little story. Finally, the doctor realized we should up the dosages again because clearly this was my depression acting out and not a reaction to the meds. And she kept upping it until it was the same dosage as the previous medicine. I almost feel better; I can feel it.

I’m not snarling as much; I’m not loathing as much; and best of all, I read the last few pages of my story and didn’t hate them nearly as much. In fact, I sat down and wrote three new pages to go with it, the most I’d written in at least a month.

There’s not a lot people understand about depression. Sometimes it comes for a reason, but many times, it just shows up like some relative that no one likes but everyone is forced to allow to stay for days or weeks at a time. If you can’t explain why you’re depressed, people think you’re exaggerating or that you’re wallowing on purpose. If you’d only think happy thoughts, you’d boost yourself right out of it. But it’s not that easy. It’s not how that works.

But my mojo is returning, I believe, and the meds are finally starting to what they’re supposed to. I’m no longer certain I’ll manage to finish in time for the contest, but I do believe I’ll finish.

Do you suffer from bouts of depression? How do you deal with it? Does it keep you from writing or does it help?
Friday, November 9, 2012

Going RENEGADE with Nancy Northcott!

Welcome to another Fabulous Interview with the Fabulous Captain Jack-

Bosun: Not today, Jack.

CJS: Did you… But… It's an interview day.

Bosun: Yes it is.

CJS: And I do the interviews. It's in my contract.

Bosun: Jack, have you ever known pirates to sign a contract?

CJS: *starts to speak then screws up his face* But Hellie said-

Bosun: Hellie lied.

CJS: She wouldn't. *Bosun raises a brow* True. She would. And it was on a cocktail napkin. *taps chin* But I've been washing the rum mugs for months now. She tricked me?!

Bosun: *patting Jack on the shoulder* Afraid so, buddy. But you don't want to do this one anyway.

CJS: I don’t? Why don't I?

Bosun: Nasty creatures involved in this one. Ghouls, and not the cute Halloween type. These things have claws, they stink, they fill people with venom, and feed off them.

CJS: *making a puckered face* Now that you mention it, I do have somewhere else to be.

Bosun: Thought so. *watches Jack prance off – turns to the audience* Hello, everyone! Today we're welcoming a long time friend of the crew who is finally getting her turn on the shelves. And it's about damn time if you ask us. Give a warm rum-soaked welcome to Nancy Northcott!

*crowd hoops and hollars*

Nancy: Thanks for having me on the Revenge today!

Bosun: Thanks for joining us today, Nancy. I am so excited to chat about your debut novel RENEGADE. First off, tell us about the book.

Nancy:  Thank you, Bosun.  The tagline for the book is She enforces the rules.  He breaks them all.  Now they are each other’s only hope.

I think the simplest way to give you specifics is to share the blurb, so here it is:
As the mage council's sheriff for the southeastern United States, Valeria Banning doesn't just take her job seriously, she takes it personally. So when a notorious fugitive and supposed traitor risks his life to save hers, she has to wonder why. To find the answer, she’ll have to put everything on the line, starting with her heart.
As a mage, Griffin Dare is sworn to protect innocents from dark magic, which is how he finds himself fighting side by side with the beautiful Valeria Banning. But when the council finds out the two have been working together, the pair must run for their lives--from the law, the threat of a ghoul takeover, and a possible council mole.
Bosun: Talk about opposites attracting! There's some gruesome stuff in this book, Nancy. I have to tell you, that excerpt I read on your website made me cringe more than once. Why ghouls?

Nancy:  I wanted the book to be dark, and that meant having antagonists who were a serious threat.  Using ghouls, which are not as well known as vampires or zombies, let me adapt the concept to fit what I wanted.  Ghouls are dark magic users who can use their retractable talons to siphon magic or life energy or to rip their prey’s flesh.  They’re strong enough to pose a threat to the mages, and I think the villain has to have enough power to pose a true threat to the hero.

Bosun: Well, if you're into that sort of thing. *shivers* (Kidding! I can't create villains so go you!) Regardless of the foul creatures, the voice totally sucked me in. (No ghoulish pun intended.) I know you've been a member of the Romance Bandits for quite some time so I'm guessing this isn't your first manuscript? Have you always written this kind of story?

Nancy: My first manuscript was traditional fantasy, and I’ve written others featuring characters with special gifts.  I’ve enjoyed writing straight historicals, and I read a lot of books that have no paranormal elements, but I like the possibilities they offer for playing with the story.

Bosun: Your website shows another book coming in this series. Can you tell us about that one?

Nancy: Guardian is a second chance at love story.  It revolves around mage physician Stefan Harper from Renegade and Camellia “Mel” Wray, the Mundane (or non-mage) FBI agent he once hoped to marry.  They meet again when a friend of hers is murdered and Stefan is called in to consult about a strange toxin in what’s left of the victim’s blood. Their old attraction quickly rekindles, but his secrets and her fears still stand in their way. 

Guardian is scheduled for May 2013.  In March, though, is a novella, Protector.  It’s about wildland firefighter Edie Lang and helicopter pilot Josh Campbell, who are both mages.  They think their one-night stand three years ago wrote “The End” to their mutual attraction until they meet again while fighting a wildfire.  Then they’re forced to admit they feel more than mere attraction, but they have differences that make them fear risking their hearts.

Bosun: You certainly know how to create powerful stories. And I love that she's the firefighter. Has the process of launching your first book turned out to be what you expected? Has there been an element you didn't expect as a newly published author? Something you wish you'd known going in?

Nancy: Being a blog guest is a lot of fun, but I’ve been surprised to find that it isn’t as easy as I assumed it was.  Answering questions clearly, but briefly, and choosing an excerpt are tougher than I expected.

Bosun: On that note, let's do the fun stuff. Plotter or pantser?

Nancy:  Plotter with a heavy dose of pantser.

Bosun: Alpha or Beta? (In both writing and reading.)

Nancy:  Depends which I’m reading or writing at the time.  I can go with either, depending on the story’s circumstances.

Bosun: Rum or vodka?

Nancy: Rum.

Bosun: Paper or plastic. Wait, that's not right. I mean paper or digital (as in reading preference?)

Nancy: Both.  I enjoy the ebooks I own, but an electronic reader always requires a recharge.  Having once spent two weeks without power after a hurricane, I want to be sure I always have something new in a readable format.

Bosun: Excellent and diplomatic answers all. Now let's turn the tables. Do you have a question for the crew or should we just send drinks all round and let the party begin?

Nancy:  What’s the most heart-wrenching moment in a book or movie you love?

Thanks very much to all the crew (and Cap’n Jack) for letting me celebrate Renegade’s launch with you.

Bosun: Excellent question! Get on it, crew. And one lucky commenter will win a digital download of RENEGADE. (Nook or Kindle (US/Canada only), your choice!)

I almost forgot! For fun, check out the book trailer for Renegade!