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Sunday, August 31, 2014

Guest Blog: Lily Harlem: Writing M/M and Menage Romances

Hi, thanks for inviting me to Romance Books 4 Us, it’s great to be here. This last few years I’ve been reading and writing within various erotic romance sub-genres. Some I never thought I’d go near, others that have tempted me but I just never got round to it. Anyways, it’s been fun!

One of the biggest changes in my reading and writing material has been male/male erotic romance. I started off reading some really great man love books and then decided to have a go at writing a few myself. I suppose my first dally was with The Glass Knot which is about a married gay couple who allow a woman into their relationship. There were definite differences with the sex scenes (obviously) but I found that the love and respect and romance between the two men was no different to writing about a man and a woman, which of course it isn’t, it was just the first time I’d put pen to paper (or rather fingers to keyboard) about that subject. Also I kind of used a safety net, or rather my comfort zone, as The Glass Knot is ménage a trois my absolute favourite type of novel to write. I adore the dynamics and the complications that can arise between the characters. Also the situations and complexities that are born make for great conflict and resolution and three in a bed – wow, what’s not to love about that?

My first true male/male novel is High-Sticked, the 5th book in my Hot Ice Series. These books are all standalone reads which made it perfect for one of my players to skate out of the closet and into the arms of a male lover. I really enjoyed writing Todd and Matthews story, set in New York City (I’d just visited from the UK so it was fresh in my mind). It follows the struggle of a professional gay athlete and the nation’s media frenzy around his love life. It’s had great reviews and certainly will heat up any ereader. Gay athletes, particularly in the NHL seems to be something that always has an undercurrent of interest bubbling away when I look at the US media so it was/is pretty topical too.

I’ve since written more male/male, buoyed on by the positive reactions of readers and reviewers. Who Dares Wins is a short military ménage a trois which is riding high in the Amazon charts and I have Dark Warrior and Caught on Camera coming out early 2015 with Totally Bound – watch out for them! Dark Warrior is also something new within itself, this is a mixed race relationship, and the two men couldn’t be more different. One is an English doctor doing charity work in Africa and the other a Kenyan tribal warrior! I loved writing it, so much fun and a great setting on the vast, wild plains beneath Mount Kilimanjaro.

BDSM, or rather, more risky, harder BDSM, is also something I’ve dabbled with along with my co-author Natalie Dae – we write under the name Harlem Dae. Writing together we felt able to push boundaries, explore edgier sexual acts and create characters that were really out of the box. The Sexy as Hell Trilogy has been a great success for us and we certainly found our own limitations and learned a lot from and about each other. You can read more about my experiences with co-authoring here. Sexy as Hell isn’t for the faint of heart but if you like dark romance and eye-wateringly hot sex than it’s well worth checking out the box set which comes with three bonus spin-off stories about the secondary characters. That was new too, writing about secondary characters. We found that with the trilogy being the length that it is, these characters had unanswered questions about their lives. We’d got to know them, as will a reader, and they needed their own resolution. So far so good and they seem very popular as a wind down after the intensity of Victor and Zara’s story.

Paranormal isn’t something I’d tried before either. I’d seen shows, True Blood and watched Twilight, and decided to just go for it. Bite Mark will be out soon at Ellora’s Cave and has a sequel Claw Mark. It’s vampires and shifters and is adrenaline-infused and exciting. The plot swirled around in my head and I really got my teeth into it – excuse the pun – I can’t wait for it to hit the shelves. Bite Mark is set in London, it’s creepy, foggy and based around Smithfield Meat Market an area I know well from my younger years. I don’t think that’s something that will ever change, using places I’ve spent time in as locations for my novels, even it it’s just a springboard for the rest of the story.

So what’s next? It’s hard to know and I never say never. Sci-fi? Mmm, that’s not my thing to watch or read but maybe. Dystopian fantasy, steam punk? Again, maybe one day a fantastical plot will jump out at me. I’ve just written a short Viking story, that was fun and I enjoyed the research, also one about some bad ass bikers. I’m not sure what’s on the table next, or rather in my head, I guess that’s the beauty of being a writer – you just have to wait and see where your imagination takes you, but one thing is for sure, it will be romantic, fun, steamy and everyone will have a great time – in the end!

Lily Harlem’s latest release is The Silk Tie. It’s already getting great 5* reviews.

"Let's just say the steam-factor on this book is a 10, on a scale of 1-5. The dang thing mighta crashed my iPad it was so freaking hot. I loved every dirty second of it. Recommend to all lovers of M/M romance, and ménage."

"Oh please you must read this story. If you like to read a fantabulouse threesome story this would be it. This would be a great time to start reading Lily’s books."

"This book had me on a emotional rollercoaster hoping for the HEA but definitely a ride I didn't want to get off until the end. If you love Erotic M/F/M books this definitely one you don't want to miss."

"If you enjoyed The Glass Knot you'll LOVE The Silk Tie."

Professional life in the City of London is tough going which is why my husband Gabe and I live by the motto work hard and play hard. So when something, or rather someone, comes along that changes how he wants to play I’m intrigued by our sexy new game.

But there's always private sides to the ones you love, and in this case new thoughts and desires are stealing Gabe’s dreams. It’s not until I meet Brent—gorgeous and sophisticated yet soul-achingly alone—that I begin to understand the complex layers of Gabe’s needs and exactly what I have to do.

But I’m not afraid; in fact the idea of two men turns me the hell on. In a whirlwind of romance, fear, desire and a new cresting wave of passion we open up to each other, testing the water for one weekend only. Or is it? Will we ever be the same again? Can Gabe and I survive our decision to let a third into our bed? Can Brent just walk away and, more importantly, will we let him?

Lily Harlem lives in the UK and is an award-winning author of contemporary erotic romance. She writes for publishers on both sides of the Atlantic including Ellora's Cave, HarperCollins, Totally Bound, Xcite and Sweetmeats Press. Her HOT ICE series regularly receives high praise and industry nominations.

Before turning her hand to writing Lily Harlem worked as a trauma nurse and her latest HarperCollins release, Confessions of a Naughty Night Nurse, draws on her many experiences while nursing in London. Lily also self-publishes and The Glass Knot and Scored have been blessed with many 5* reviews since their release in 2012.

Her latest novel, Breathe You In, is a super-sexy romance with a twist that will not only heat you up but stay with you for years to come. Breathe You In was named a USA Today Reviewer’s Recommended Read of 2013.

Lily also co-authors with Natalie Dae and publishes under the name Harlem Dae - check out the Sexy as Hell Box Set Trilogy available exclusively on Amazon - The Novice, The Player and The Vixen - and That Filthy Book which has been hailed as a novel 'every woman should read'.

One thing you can be sure of, whatever book you pick up by Ms Harlem, is it will be wildly romantic and down-and-dirty sexy. Enjoy!

Lily Harlem Links

Saturday, August 30, 2014

A Little Team Building

I'm at an odd stage in my career. While it has been wonderful to see my business grow, it's also been a little scary. Some days I feel as if I've been pulled in numerous directions, and I'm sure a lot of you, both writers and readers, can relate.

One thing I've learned over the past several weeks, is that no one can do everything on their own. We all need a little help sometimes, especially when things start to become overwhelming. Whether it is family, friends or coworkers, a good support system is crucial for not only helping you succeed, but keeping your sanity and humor. :)

Over the past few months, I've been working hard to put a support team in place to help me with my writing career. I feel blessed to be at a stage where I'm able to do this, especially after seven years of doing everything (and I do mean EVERYTHING) myself. I'm happy to report that most of these relationships have already started to bear fruit.

Recently, I've gotten all of my self-publishing backlist up on Google Play and itunes, and I'm starting to put many books into print. I've released more audiobooks, and got my backlist up on Authorgraph. I'm also in the process of overhauling and growing my street team. If it wasn't for my administrative assistants, I never would have accomplished so much in so little time. I'm truly thankful for thier help, and hope that with them I'll be able to grow my business in ways that I have only been able to dream about before.

My support team isn't complete, but I'm working on it. At the end of the day, having people help with all of my administrative, financial and legal tasks will free up my time to do more of what I love most -- and what readers expect of me -- writing great books.

Who is your biggest supporter? You know, that one person you go to and can trust when times are tough. Tell me about it in the comments section. I'd love to hear from you!

~ ~ ~ Latest Release ~ ~ ~


Girl, Interrupted meets Beautiful Disaster in this thrilling and sexy debut novel, in which a college student learns her perfect life is a lie and finds new love where she least expects it—a mental institution. 

Now available from the following vendors:

ibooks             BAM.

Friday, August 29, 2014

Cops Are Heroes

3rd in the series
1st book in the Riverboat Mysteries

2nd in the series
Author, Sandra K. Marshall is the author of The Riverboat Mysteries set in the Midwest.
Author's like to write stories using cops as heroes.  It is a very dangerous job, but they have been in the news in a very negative way lately.  Police officers go through extensive training, and it's ongoing.  They have to get so many hours in every year, and there are classes that are mandatory for all law enforcement.

Officers in class
For instance, police officers are required to take classes on recognizing an autistic person and learning what to do when they meet them.  Another thing they're dealing with is mentally ill people who are committing suicide by cop.  This is something that happens more frequently than anyone hears about.  Not only that there are hundreds of cops who commit suicide because they can't deal with what they have done.  No one wants to kill someone especially a police officer.  Their job is to protect you. 

There are bad cops, too, and you don't often read about them in books.  Those who write stories using cops as heroes need to dig deeper because there are so many more layers to these men and women than usually appears in the media. 

These people suffer from their actions just like all of us. Have you ever read or written a story using a cop as a hero, or bad guy?
You may find me at these sites:
Twitter @AuthSKMarshall

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Guest Blog: Lynda Bailey: Writing Techno-colored Kink from a Vanilla Perspective

I want to extend a really big THANK YOU to the crew at Romancebooks4us for hosting me today. Leave a comment for the chance to win a $10 gift card.

Anyone who knows me knows I write contemporary romance for a reason. I loathe research. While some writers go ga-ga over research, for me it’s in the same category as a tax audit and dental visit. Me no like.

But as an erotic romance author, it seemed a natural segue for me to progress into writing BDSM romances – which meant coming face-to-face with my archenemy, my nemesis, my Waterloo…research. (And no, I’m not talking about the kind of research that had me tied up in a dungeon with whips and chains and floggers – oh my! Really, I’m not…

For Shattered Trust I wanted to do some honest-to-goodness research versus flying by the seat of my pants. Why? Because there are real people who live this lifestyle and I did not want to offend them. (Just ask any Regency author the penalty for getting historical details about clothing or transportation wrong. It can be worse than death.)

So, how does a vanilla (aka, someone not in the kink/leather lifestyle) author go about doing research involving BDSM without having to – ahem – do the research? The first thing I did was read BDSM romances by other authors – and NOT 50 Shades. A few of my personal favorites are Delilah Devlin, Lavender Day and Lily Rede. But, as with historical writers, taking what you read in someone else’s fictional book doesn’t make it so. But reading non-fiction BDSM books does. My ‘go-to’ non-fiction books are BDSM, The Naked Truth, by Dr. Charley Ferrer and The Ultimate Guide to Kink by Tristan Taormino.

Then there’s the research I did by Googling kink toys/equipment which gave me ideas of what various floggers, spanking benches and St. Andrews crosses actually look like. However, all the reading and Googling wasn’t helping me get into the emotion of what transpires during a scene. For that I needed a personal connection to the lifestyle.

Enter *Kim.*

Kim and I share a mutual friend who introduced us. Kim’s a “bottom” in the local leather community and was more than willing to help navigate me the uncharted kink waters. She answered my questions, showed me some of her Top’s favorite toys and agreed to be a beta reader for Shattered Trust. (She also turned out to be an amazing line editor!)

I took every scrap of her advice to heart. If Kim said something wasn’t right, I changed or at least modified it. One example was when Kate (heroine) scoffed at Liam’s (hero) compliment of her body. Originally, I had Liam “punish” Kate by spanking her. Kim pointed out a Top/Dominant wouldn’t set their bottom/submissive up to fail like that. She suggested turning the scene around so Kate got rewarded by being spanked. So instead of it being a punishment, it became a “fun”ishment.

Without question Kim helped to make Shattered Trust a deeper, richer, truer portrayal of a D/s relationship, and I’m extraordinarily grateful for her assistance. I’m also looking forward to working with Kim in the future, given that Shattered Trust is the first book in my Trustworthy Texas trilogy…

So what about you? If you’re a vanilla author like me, just how far would you go to get the kink right in your story? Inquiring minds want to know, don’tcha know… *wink* Remember to leave a comment for the chance to win a $10 gift card. Thanks again to Romancebooks4us for letting me hang out today!

Learning to love is the easy part...

As a young woman, Kate Landry trusted the wrong man, and she paid dearly for her naiveté. Alone, pregnant and destitute, she survived by the sheer force of her will. Now forty-two, Kate has made a good living for herself and her daughter as the owner of the Bluebird Saloon. But she’s forgotten how to live. That is until he comes into her bar…

Liam St. James loved a girl once. And only once. After an accident paralyzed her, she didn’t trust he would continue to love her. Brokenhearted, Liam left and soon discovered a world where women did trust him—to be their sexual Dominant. He plays out the scenes masterfully, but the unexpected request from the stoic bar owner will pose his greatest challenge yet…

Kate and Liam embark on a journey to uncover repressed urges and, in the process, they discover new desires. They also fall in love with one another. But when you’ve been shattered as badly as they have by mistrust, deceit and abuse, loving is easy. Trusting is harder, if not impossible, especially when the heart is involved…

Buy Links:   Amazon   B&N

Lynda grew up loving stories, especially romances. For her the only thing better than reading a romance is writing one. That and drinking red wine while eating dark chocolate.

Her romances are full of passion, with heat levels that range from hot to sizzling! She’s proud to have been a 2010 finalist in the prestigious Golden Heart®. Please join her for laughter and love, and where the good guys always win in the end.

Lynda lives in Reno with my husband of thirty+ years and two pampered pooches. You can visit her at Or drop an email at

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Harvest Season and Writing by Janice Seagraves

Harvest Season and Writing
by Janice Seagraves

Harvest Season can really messes with a writer. I know, because I live in the Central Valley of California and my house is in the middle of an almond orchard.

Just last night, I worked on my manuscript until 2:00 am and finished putting in all the changes that had been suggested by my critique partner. With sinuses acting up, I had trouble falling asleep until five.

That’s okay, I thought, I’ll just sleep in.


A low flying airplane roared overhead. It could have been a crop duster. I jerked awake. What time was it? I looked at the clock, 5:45. Crap!

Then after I finally dozed again for... oh, only a couple of hours, I woke to zoom, zoom, zoom, creak, creak, creak, Shhhhh.

Oh, yes, the harvest season has begun.

As I’m writing this the shakers have gotten closer, and I can feel the vibration right through the floor. Let me break this down for you: the zoom noise is the shaker moving to the next tree, the creak noise is the clamp tightening around the tree trunk, and shhh is the almonds hitting the ground.

The almonds will lay on the ground for up to a week, until they finish drying, and then comes the part I really dread…. the sweepers will come.

When that happens, I like to go somewhere for day. I mean anywhere. Afterwards, dust coats everything. I’m serious. See that dust cloud over there? That’s my house. I’ll need a broom to clean the dust off my furniture.

So, why do I still live here? It’s quiet…. when it’s not harvest season. And, during the spring time, the almond blooms are spectacular.

Like all my experiences the harvest season has entered into my stories.

Here’s an excerpt from my book, Matrix Crystal Hunters:

The old woman chuckled. “Yes, my grandson does have a way about him.”

“Yes, he does.” Maya looked at the older woman. “About the matrix crystals—”

“Let me ask you a question instead.” Grandmother pointed out a field filled with huge, bright red blossoms. “These are treacle flowers. We collect the nectar, then allow it to dry so we can use it as a sweetener. You enjoyed that in your tea today.”

Maya admired the flowers. “I’ve heard of treacle flowers before.”

“Have you heard of the treacle flower’s pollinator?”

She shook her head. “Uh, no, I haven’t.”

“There’s a type of lizard that pollinates the flowers. They lick up the nectar, but they receive spots of pollen right here.” She touched the middle of Maya’s forehead. “If we allow the lizards to pollinate the flowers, they’ll lap up all the nectar and we’ll have none. But if we ring off the field with sulfur crystals, they don’t come near the flowers and we get the nectar.”

Maya looked for the ditch and sulfur crystals, and soon spotted them. “How do you pollinate the flowers then?”

“We don’t. We use the seeds from another field that we allowed to be pollinated.”

Maya frowned. “How is this connected to the matrix crystals?”

“I’ll think about it.” The canny old woman turned to enter the house.


US Kindle: 
UK Kindle:
US Trade paperback: 
UK Trade paperback: 


Matrix Crystal Hunters is now on Smashwords:


Janice Seagraves’s blog: 
Janice Seagraves’s website:

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Does your Dialogue Sing?

Great dialogue is one of the most important parts of any story. Nothing will make me stop reading a book faster than clunky, uncomfortable dialogue. Poor dialogue makes my palms sweat. It makes my stomach twist. It's like listening in on two painfully shy people struggling through an awkward conversation at a party where neither wants to be.

Yes. It is that bad.

There are several reasons why your characters' dialogue is important. First, it's key to making the reader like your characters. And if readers don't like your hero or heroine, they're most likely not going to like your book. Dialogue is a window into a character's personality, his values, his intelligence, and his ability to function in the world you've created for him.

Second, it's important because we've all suffered through clumsy conversations. It's viscerally uncomfortable. Clumsy dialogue is like memory association for those awkward moments, making the reader squirm and wince. Mostly you don't want your readers squirming and wincing as they read your book. #:0)

So what makes good dialogue?

1. Good dialogue sounds natural for your characters. This means that, unless you're portraying someone from another country or time, you should always use contractions.

Example: I am not kidding = bad.  I'm not kidding =good.

This might seem basic but I've read books by writers who break this rule repeatedly. I never really got attached to the characters in those books...

2. Good dialogue should clearly represent your character. For example, a poor waitress from the Midwest wouldn't speak like an English teacher from the East.

3. Good dialogue doesn't attempt to give 2 years of back story when the characters having the dialogue should already know the things they're dialoguing about. Argh! This is a pet peeve of mine. Here's an example. Sally and Dave are talking about an incident they both experienced the week before. The author decides the easiest way to give that information is for Sally and Dave to refer to it. Okay, referring and giving a soliloquy are 2 very different things. Here's what I mean.


Sally: "I understand, Dave, that you're referring to that incident last week when we ran into Father Jeffries in the town square and he looked very embarrassed and was all fidgety, and when we questioned him why he was there talking to the sexy Widow James he rushed away with a red face instead of explaining why he was talking to her in the square when he'd told everybody he was going to be out in the country giving last rites to Old Man Taggert."


Dave:  "I thought Father Jeffries acted weird last week."
Sally, nodding:   He shouldn't have lied about going to give last rites to Old Man Taggert. There are no secrets in this town!"
Dave:   "Especially secrets that involve meeting the sexy Widow James in the town square!"

If you want to improve dialogue in your stories, make sure you know your characters well enough to give them a unique and appropriate voice. Always read your dialogue out loud to determine if it sounds like the type of person your character represents. If it doesn't, change it. And please, please, please don't use dialogue as an information dump. You risk having your readers do a book dump in response. #:0)

Happy Reading everybody!

EROS UNCENSORED - Book 3: Chasing Eros - Erotic Paranormal Box Set!

He might have been high on Brimstone when he met her. But he wasn’t too drugged to recognize a good thing when she stuck a knife under his chin!

Hermes figured he had no future, so he gave up, wasting his days inhaling Brimstone in a Succubi House on Olympus. Cursed from birth, Nidras knew her future was sketchy at best. But the last thing she intended to do was give up. She thought she had to fight the curse alone, but she never counted on a drug muddled Cupid setting his sights on her and gumming up the works. Especially one as sexy and fun as Hermes. So what if he didn’t have the first clue how to protect himself in her dangerous world? It didn’t stop him from trying!

"With such vivid imagery, totally hot men, keep you on your toes action and sex that will burn up the sheets, this title is not one that you want to miss." ~ Seriously Reviewed

Eros Uncensored

Inside the castle, we kept to the walls and shadows down a maze of long, stone hallways. My inner compass told me we were heading toward the back of the palace, deep into its ugly, stone bowels. The air was cold, damp and smelled like mildew. The stone walls we scraped against were covered in green slime. The floor was slick with the same green stain.

My curly toed shoes didn’t have much traction against the slime. It was all I could do to stay upright.

The only light in the halls came from the occasional torch, sending smelly, black oil smoke into the air to mix with the mildew. All around us the skitter of little critter feet danced across the stone floor. Probably rats.

“I like what he’s done with the place.”


I lowered my voice. “This place is like a bad cliché.”

She glared at me but didn’t respond.

We climbed several sets of stone stairs and emerged into a larger, slightly better lit area. The large, wooden door opposite the stairwell was guarded.

I looked at Nidras and sneered. The two gremlins were about three feet tall. They had soft, dark brown fur covering their bodies and a lighter, golden fur on their faces. Their brown eyes were enormous and soft, giving them a decidedly squeezable look.

Nidras shook her head and stepped out, knives in hand.

The gremlins blinked once, twice and then were suddenly airborne. They hit us in a wash of fur and froth, their tiny little fur faces transformed in the blink of an eye into gaping maws filled with razor sharp teeth.
My rabid teddy bear clamped its teeth over the forearm I’d instinctively thrown up to protect my face and worked it with surprising strength. I swung my arm hard in an attempt to dislodge it but the thing held on, its teeth ripping through skin, muscle and even bone as I tried to shake it off me.

In my panic I momentarily forgot to use my sword.

Nidras had flung her gremlin to the ground and was plunging a knife into its tiny chest. I couldn’t get my teddy bear off me. Finally, in desperation, I grabbed my sword and pulled it free with my left hand, arcing it through the air toward the furry little body.

The gremlin swung its back legs up and wrapped them around my arm, making itself too small a target for me to reach with my sword. Unless I wanted to lop my own arm off.

Pain radiated from my torn and bleeding arm. I was pretty sure I’d have a big scar.

I looked up and saw Nidras standing with her arms crossed, one dark eyebrow lifted in a definite “I told you so” expression. Her knives were back in their sheaths.

“You could help me here.”

She shrugged. “It’s just an over-sized teddy bear.”

Okay, I probably deserved that.

I swung around and slammed the gremlin up against the wall. My elbow screamed from the impact but the thing stopped chewing on my arm and blinked. I slammed it a second and then third time, finally managing to drop it to the ground at my feet. Blood ran from my arm as I jammed my sword into the gremlin’s chest, finishing it off.

I motioned toward the door. “After you.”

Nidras’ face softened as she looked at my torn arm. “Let me heal that for you.”

I shook my head. “I’m wearing it as a reminder that I’m an ass.”

Her perfect, peach-tinted lips tipped up slightly at the corners. “How about if I heal it and just keep telling you you’re an ass?” When I still hesitated she offered, “I can leave a scar to remind you.”

I thought about this for a minute. My hand was already going numb and I figured it would be hard to use my sword soon. “Okay.”

“Watch the door while I work.” Nidras placed exquisitely soft hands over my forearm and closed her eyes.
Energy and light flooded the area around and under her hands and I gasped as intense heat infused tender, torn flesh. Gritting my teeth against the pain, I kept one eye on the door as pain seared up my arm and made my pulse pound in my temples.

Finally the pain and heat slid away and Nidras stepped back.

I looked at my arm. “There’s no scar.”

She shrugged, pulling her knives. “So I lied. I’m pretty sure you’ll have lots more reminders that you’re an ass.”

“Demon woman.”

Buy Links:


USA Today Bestselling Author Sam Cheever writes romantic paranormal/fantasy and mystery/suspense, creating stories that celebrate the joy of love in all its forms. Known for writing great characters, snappy dialogue, and unique and exhilarating stories, Sam is the award-winning author of 50+ books and has been writing for over a decade under several noms de plume.

If you and Sam haven't already connected, she'd love it if you Liked/Followed her wherever you enjoy hanging out online. Here are her online haunts:


Monday, August 25, 2014

Guest Blog: Sherry Ewing: The Voices Inside My Head

My writing career started late in life. As a teenager in high school, I had so many stories floating around inside my head that I thought it would be great to be an author until a high school teacher told me my writing wouldn’t amount to anything.

Heartbroken, I gave up on my dream, married, and began raising my family. I somehow survived my first husband’s death, a divorce, and another relationship that wasn’t exactly going as I had planned. I still believed in that happily ever after story would come my way, but it wasn’t until I was talking to a friend of mine that I finally knew what direction my life would take. I had been telling him I should write that novel that’s been waiting for me for all these years. He in turn asked me, “What’s stopping you?”

I think a light bulb went off inside my head that day and I began to write my first Regency manuscript with the help of my daughters who chose the character names. Two and a half years later, I was almost finished with it when a vision of a castle sitting on a cliff began to take shape inside my head. Character’s quickly started forming and it took everything in me to try to stay focused enough to finish my other work. It was no easy task.

Pandora’s Box had been opened. Even if I’d wanted to shut the lid, it was an impossible task!

I can’t begin to tell you the number of times when I’ve completely zoned out with whatever I was doing when my characters start to talk to me. They pick up their dialog wherever I’ve left them in my writing as if they’ve been tapping their feet while impatiently waiting for me to get back to work. What could be more important than me getting their thoughts onto my laptop? I plan to take them in one direction and I think I’ve got it all figured out, but they will tell me, in no uncertain terms, if they don’t like where their story is going.

Sometimes it’s better to just let them have their way, otherwise they tend to keep me up at night. Jabber, jabber, jabber and more jabber…all these conversations going on that they could have been having with me during the day when I had my laptop out staring at a blank screen. Yet they choose the middle of the night to let me hear their voices. I throw off the covers and get the laptop out and write because I’d never remember any of it in the morning. That’s just how they work.

Yes…I have voices inside my head that can be annoying, but I am thankful all the same. So many books to write…so little time. I’d best get busy!

Sherry Ewing is a self-published author who writes historical and paranormal romance novels to awaken the soul one heart at a time. Her debut historical romance, If My Heart Could See You, hit Amazon’s top ten bestseller list only two days after the paperback release. Always wanting to write a novel but busy raising her children, she finally took the plunge in 2008 and wrote her first Regency. She is a national and local member of Romance Writers of America since 2012 and is currently editing her soon to be released second novel, For All of Ever. When Sherry is not busy writing, she can be found in the San Francisco area at her day job as an Information Technology Specialist.

For Amiria of Berwyck, defeat does not come easily as she watches her home and clan being ripped asunder. When the very enemy who has laid siege to her home demands her fealty, she will do whatever it takes to protect her people including a hastily concocted ruse that quickly begins to unravel. All too soon, she starts to question whether she can forgive herself for betraying those she has sworn to protect.

Dristan of Blackmore, champion knight of King Henry II, has a reputation to uphold as the Devil’s Dragon. After his invading army conquers Berwyck castle, he sets out to manage the newly claimed estate by training its knights in the art of proper defense. At first, everything appears as it should be, or is it? Betrayed by those he believed he could trust, he must first set aside his anger before he can make room in his heart for love.

Together they are tied by an unspoken bond. As they begin to rebuild the land and unite their people, forces beyond their control attempt to tear apart their fragile truce and only time will tell if love will forever bring them together.

Sunday, August 24, 2014

GPS for Writing


     (I wrote this article in 2009 after a road trip to California. Since then, self-publishing has forged a new direction for many of us. I’ve updated this to reflect the changes, but the basic message is the same: start with a road map even if you decide to take a detour. Another update: after that trip we bought a GPS, and more recently, we bought a new car that has a navigation system. If we travel anywhere now where we need to rent a car, we bring our GPS. I also now have a Smartphone and am learning how to use the navigation APP on that. I don’t anticipate we’ll get lost much, but then, maybe we will, and maybe we’ll discover another hidden gem.)

     Do you have a GPS in your car or as an APP on your phone? It seems everyone nowadays has a GPS in some form or another. Before our 2009 trip up the California coast, I decided we should buy a GPS and take it with us. My husband disagreed, saying the maps we got from AAA would be enough to guide us. When we picked up the rental car, we turned down the rental company’s GPS because we didn’t want to pay $140 when we could buy one for about $50 more at home. Big, big mistake.

     We got lost a lot on that trip. A lot. My husband becomes unglued when he gets lost. At one point I was writing a story in my head titled, “A GPS Would Have Saved My Marriage.” We finally calmed down and resigned ourselves to getting lost at times. We missed many of the sights we’d wanted to see, partly because the state of California doesn’t believe in signs, partly because we didn’t have a GPS, and partly because I didn’t thoroughly read the books AAA gave us. We missed Big Sur, which was one of the main things we’d wanted to see. On the other hand, while lost we stumbled onto Ventura, a true gem of a beach town. Now I know where all the Sixties hippies went. We spent a wonderful, unexpected afternoon in sunny, beautiful, quirky Ventura and decided it was a place in which we could happily live.

Big Sur
               What does this have to do with writing? Do you have a GPS for your writing? Do you know what direction you want your writing to take, or are you barreling down the freeway and hoping for the best? When you started writing to sell, did you map out a plan? Did you decide to attend conferences and workshops to learn all you could about the craft of writing? Then, did you write and write and hone your craft? Or did you write with no real direction, feeling you didn’t need to study the market, that your books would find their way to the right publishers, like a GPS you plug in with no destination and wait for it to take you somewhere?

     I know writers whose plan it is to sell only to a big New York house, and if they don’t, they’ll put their manuscripts into the proverbial drawer rather than go with an epub or a small press, or indie publish. There’s nothing wrong with that. It’s their choice. Yet, they may be cheating themselves by not recalculating their direction. I can hear that inner voice now going, “Recalculating, recalculating.” What if one of their manuscripts is a little too out of the box for the big houses? Maybe a reputable epub or small press would love it. Maybe indie pubbing that unusual story will bring major success. There are times when you might need to veer off onto small detours. You never know where those detours will take you.

     By all means, get back onto the main highway after the detour if you still want, but by opening yourself to new roads and taking a less traditional publishing route, you’ll have a book out there, a book people will want to read. Isn’t that better than keeping the book hidden in a drawer?  

     On our California trip, we didn’t get to see Big Sur, but we discovered Ventura. And I’m so glad we did. When I started writing, there were one or two epubs and they were very new and earned no respect from the writing community. Like most of my fellow members of RWA, I dreamed of selling to a big NY house. After I was rejected by several big publishers, someone suggested I submit to Avalon Books, a small press. I hadn’t considered a small press. I submitted and I sold to them. My book, a traditional romance, gave me entry into RWA PAN.

Busy Bee Cafe, Ventura, CA
     Since then, numerous epubs have sprung up. Some fell by the wayside, but many others are thriving. I contracted for my second book, a romantic suspense, with The Wild Rose Press. In GPS terms, I haven’t found Big Sur, the NY publishers, but I found my publishing Ventura, small press and epubs, and now indie publishing. All places where I’ve settled comfortably. I’m no longer heading down the expressway hoping to someday sell to a large publisher. I’ve discovered the joys of driving a less traditional route.

     You might have to change direction from time to time, but the important thing is to know where you’re going. Study the market, write what you love, learn all you can and drive forward into that publishing freeway. But be prepared for detours and know those unexpected twists in the road might lead you to greater adventures.

       Get lost in a book this summer, read Sizzling Summer, a three-book set of full-length romances I'm privileged to be part of. When summer is over, Sizzling Summer will be gone too. Only 99 cents at Amazon and Barnes & Noble.

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Ann Whitaker 
Cara Marsi 

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A sexy, sun-drenched romance set on the island of Capri. Can inept journalist Amanda Jackson get an exclusive on playboy Eric Greyford, or will she wind up as just another item on the gossip pages of his newspaper? 

Dog Nanny by Ann Whitaker 
A romantic comedy set in the heart of Texas 
When vet tech Julie Shields agrees to train two delinquent poodles to save them from becoming doggies of divorce, she doesn't count on having to harness her desire for hunky pilot Nick Worthington. 

A Catered Romance by Cara Marsi 
There's more than business brewing between two old high school flames. 
Stubbornly self-reliant Mary Beth Kendrick needs financial backing to keep her catering business cooking. A looming corporate buyout forces her to accept help from Tom Sackett, the man who broke her heart and left her with no appetite for love.




Saturday, August 23, 2014

Interview of Author Lois Winston

Today I'm pleased to present an interview of romance author Lois Winston.

Latest Book: My very latest book is The Magic Paintbrush, a children’s chapter book, but that’s probably not what most people on RomanceBooks4Us want to read, right? (Although, if you have young children or grandchildren, you might want to check it out.) The release prior to that was Definitely Dead, the first book in my new Empty Nest Mystery series. Again, not exactly romance blog appropriate. So what I’d like to talk about today is Romance Super Bundle II: Second Chances, a boxed set of 11 romances by 11 authors. It released July 1st and made the USA Today bestseller list on July 24th. And it’s currently available for only 99 cents!

Buy Links:
Amazon   Nook   iTunes   Smashwords   Kobo   ARe

USA Today bestselling author and award-winner Lois Winston writes mystery, romance, romantic suspense, chick lit, women’s fiction, children’s fiction, and non-fiction under her own name and her Emma Carlyle pen name. Kirkus Reviews dubbed her critically acclaimed Anastasia Pollack Crafting Mystery series, “North Jersey’s more mature answer to Stephanie Plum.”

Q: What is the most important thing you do for your career now, as compared to when you first started writing?
A: Promotion. People need to know about your books in order to buy them. Before I sold a book, all I had to do was write. Once I sold, I had to deal with the reality of publishers expecting their authors to do most of the work the publishing houses used to do for their authors. Sometimes it feels like I spend more time promoting than writing the next book. And every year the promotion takes up more and more time, especially now that I’ve gone indie.

Q: How much of yourself is hidden in the characters in the book?
A: Quite a bit. I guess I’m basically lazy. It’s easier to write about what I know rather than spend time researching things I don’t know. So with only a few exceptions, most of my heroines are involved in some sort of artistic or literary career. They also have my taste in music, clothes, food, etc. And all my heroes look like guys I’d want to date if I were single.

Q: If you could change something about your first book, what would it be?
A: I already did. Even though I remember checking the Atlas as I was writing, I made a geographical error in Talk Gertie to Me. No one caught it—not my critique partners, my agent, my editor, the copy editor, or the line editor. It wasn’t until the book was out for about a week that a reader emailed me to tell me I’d put the Mississippi River on the wrong side of Iowa. At first I didn’t believe it because I remember checking the map, but sure enough, when I went back and looked, I’d goofed—big time. When I got my rights to the book back, I corrected the error before putting it up as an ebook.

Q: Do you eat comfort food/listen to music when writing?
A: Comfort food for me is chocolate, but it’s way too messy to eat and type at the same time. My laptop would constantly be in for repairs. I usually have a cup of coffee within arm’s reach, though.

I prefer to write in total silence. I’m in awe of J.K. Rowling writing the Harry Potter series in a coffee shop. I’d never be able to concentrate with all that noise going on around me.

Q: How do you choose names for your characters?
A: I find I can’t begin writing until I have the perfect names for my characters. I know some authors use placeholder names, but that doesn’t work for me. I guess I’m just too anal. The name has to be right for the character before the character comes to life. I have a baby-naming book I always keep handy and have spent many hours reading through it.

Q: Covers. Ever get one you wish you could change?
A: I loved the covers of my first two books, Talk Gertie to Me (women’s fiction) and Love, Lies and a Double Shot of Deception (romantic suspense.) Then I switched publishers and was horrified by the cover the publisher proposed for the first book in my mystery series. It might have worked if my series was about a cake decorator, but my protagonist wasn’t a cake decorator. First, I cried. Then I got angry. Finally, I sat down and wrote an email to my editor, explaining that I didn’t want to be a troublemaker, but…THE COVER WAS TOTALLY WRONG! I emphasized my background in graphic design to back up my opinion of their choice. (What were they thinking?) She sent another cover they’d mocked up, one that they’d decided against using because everyone on the committee loved the one I hated. Well, guess what? The cover they didn’t want to use was perfect for the book! The cover gods must have returned from their coffee break right about then, because I got my way—until the second cover in the series…but that’s another story.

Q: Give one advice tip to an aspiring author.
A: Learn how to write right. Too many writers either never paid attention in English class or forgot everything they learned about grammar, sentence structure, and punctuation. If you’re one of them, don’t make the mistake of thinking the editor will fix all your mistakes. She won’t. She’ll buy someone else’s book and send you a form rejection letter.

Q: If you could give a younger version of yourself advice, what would it be?
A: Major in something where you have a decent chance of securing a well-paying job with benefits after you graduate. Very few art majors are able to support themselves with their art. No one ever told me that when I was in school and had high expectations of becoming a female version of Milton Glaser or Seymour Chwast. Instead, the art college I attended happily took students’ tuition money and never told us the harsh realities of life in the art world.

Q: What genre would you like to try writing that you haven’t yet tried?
A: I’ve never written a YA, but I’ve been toying with a few ideas for one. All I need is the time to write it, but there are so many other books I need to write first. Someday…

Q: Have you ever used an incident from your real life in one of your books?
A: All the time! I wrote Hooking Mr. Right after a trip to the bookstore with a recently divorced friend. She’d become obsessed with finding a replacement husband. She practically bought out the store’s inventory of dating advice books. The Rules became her bible, and her exploits supplied me with much fodder for my novel.

Fun Stuff:
Q: What is your favorite holiday and why?
A: Christmas! I love having my entire family together. And I’m really just a kid at heart. I love the festivities, the carols, the holiday movies (my favorites are White Christmas and A Christmas Story,) the cookie baking, decorating the tree…need I go on?

Q: What are two things people might be surprised to know about you?
A: I hate both peanut butter and reality TV.

Q: As a child, what did you want to be when you grew up?
A: An astronaut. Unfortunately, NASA wasn’t interested in astronauts who suffer from motion sickness. There was also the problem of my total lack of a left brain. Math was never my strong suit.

Q: Favorite food.
A: Crème brûlée.

Q: Favorite happy memory.
A: Time spent with my grandfather.

Q: Favorite drink.
A: Vanilla lattes, but really, any coffee. I can’t survive without my coffee. As a matter of fact, I think I’ll take a break right now and make myself a cup.

Q: Hot summer days or chilly winter nights?
A: Neither, really. I much prefer spring and autumn, but if I had to choose, I’d rather be chilly than too hot. I can always add another layer to warm up. Stripping off layers in public can be problematic, especially since I don’t wear many to begin with in summer.

Q: What is the top thing on your bucket list?
A: I would love to go to China to walk the Great Wall and see the Terra Cotta Warriors. Unfortunately, between the air pollution and so much cigarette-smoking, that will probably never happen. My lungs couldn’t take it.

Q: If you could have a super power, what would it be?
A: Invisibility. There are so many times when I’ve wished I were that spider under the table or fly on the wall.

Tell us where to find you:

USA Today bestseller Super Bundle II: Second Chances features eleven romances from eleven New York Times, USA Today and bestselling, award-winning authors. In it you’ll find a lonesome cowboy, a spurned bride-to-be, a heartbroken widower and an unexpected pregnancy, along with a tasty smattering of intrigue, murder and suspense. Almost half a million words and two thousand pages of strong heroes and daring heroines who'll do anything for a second chance at love.

The book I have featured in the boxed set is Hooking Mr. Right, originally published under my Emma Carlyle pen name:
Can a butt-ugly alley cat named Cupid bring together two people driven apart by secrets and lies?

After writing a doctoral thesis that exposed fraud in the pop-psychology genre, thirty-two year old professor Althea Chandler has to sacrifice her professional integrity to save her family from financial disaster. She secretly becomes bestselling romance guru Dr. Trulee Lovejoy, a self-proclaimed expert on how to catch a man, even though Thea’s a miserable failure when it comes to relationships—especially those with the opposite sex.

Burned by a failed marriage, Luke Bennett finds himself pursued by Dr. Lovejoy toting women after a gossip columnist dubs him New York’s most eligible bachelor. When he at first mistakes Thea for one of the women out to snare him, sparks fly, but the two soon find themselves battling sparks of a less hostile nature, thanks in part to an alley cat named Cupid.

Luke believes he’s finally found an honest woman. Unfortunately, Thea is anything but honest. She’s got more secrets than the CIA and a desperate gossip columnist out to expose her. Cupid definitely has his work cut out for him.

“The trouble lies in the Y chromosome.” Thea took a sip of her coffee and glared across the black Formica-topped desk at her editor, waiting to pounce on Grace if she challenged her statement.

“How so?” Grace leaned back in her chair and sipped her own coffee. Over the rim of the cup an amused expression played across her face.

“Simple genetics, really. Women have two X chromosomes. Men have an X and a Y. Do you know what the definition of Y is?”

Grace set her coffee cup on her desk and raised her eyebrows. “No, but I suppose you’re about to tell me.”

“Y is an X with a broken leg.”

Grace stared at her as if Thea had lost more than a suitcase in her recent, abrupt move from San Francisco to New York. “And your point?”

“Broken! Don’t you get it? Defective!” Thea slammed her hand onto a pile of unread manuscripts teetering on the corner of her editor’s desk, nearly toppling the unwieldy stack onto the floor.

Grace grabbed for her cup, barely averting a brown tidal wave.

“Ergo,” continued Thea, waving her hand in the air to punctuate her explanation, “there is no doubt that women are superior to men. No defective genes. Obviously, man was a rough prototype. God looked at Adam and said, ‘I can do better than that.’ Then he created Eve.” She placed her cup on the edge of the desk, leaned back in her chair, crossed her arms over her chest, and offered her editor a triumphant smile.

“So this explains why you cancelled your wedding and high-tailed it out of San Francisco? Defective male genes?” Grace shuddered. “Do me a favor, will you, Dr. Love? Keep these newly developed, radical theories to yourself. Unless, of course, you want to go from the New York Times Bestseller List back to an auditorium-size classroom packed with bored freshmen.”

Doctor Love. Thea winced at the nickname the press had dubbed her secret alter ego, Dr. Trulee Lovejoy. In truth, she did wish she could return to the classroom and the comforting monotony of teaching Sociology 101 to less-than-eager first year students. Not that she possessed an all-consuming passion for her chosen career in academia, but with everything she had lost over the past few years, at least she’d still have her integrity. However, she could no more turn back the clock and regain her compromised professional ethics than she could restore her family’s lost fortune. At least her popular how-to guides for finding the perfect mate had kept the collection agencies at bay.

“Some love expert! I couldn’t even keep my own fiancé from sleeping with my sister.” Thea raised her head and challenged Grace. “Now aren’t you glad I chose to publish under a pseudonym? Think of the public relations disaster I’ve averted. News flash: Doctor Love Causes Coitus Interuptus after Catching Sister and Fiancé in Flagrante Delicto on Eve of Wedding. Update at eleven..”

“Too erudite and wordy.” Grace brushed away the imaginary headline with a wave of her hand. “Who’d understand all that Latin?”

Thea grimaced. “I can think of at least two people.” Her brainy, Stanford-educated younger sister came to mind. As did her sister’s equally brainy, MIT-educated research partner who also happened to be Thea’s ex-fiancé. Too late Thea had discovered Steve and Madeline were engaged in far more than metaphysical debates while researching distant solar systems and spatial anomalies.

“Yes, well...” Grace fidgeted in her chair, her gaze dropping to her lap.

“It’s okay, Grace. I’m dealing with it. Putting three thousand miles between myself and them helps.”

“Out of sight, out of mind?” Grace raised her chin and met Thea’s eyes. “Come on, I know you better than that. You’re hurting.”

Thea exhaled a deep sigh and shrugged. “Guilty as charged.” She glanced over at the large scheduling calendar covering half of one wall in Grace’s office and laughed. The sound hung in the room, echoing with pain and resonating with irony.

“Just think, three weeks ago today my biggest concern was that the rehearsal dinner was getting cold because Steve was off in some corner deconstructing the theory of relativity. I used to dream we’d someday travel to Stockholm to pick up his Nobel Prize.” She leaned forward, propped her elbows on the desk and scowled at her nearly empty mug. “It just never occurred to me that the award would be for causing my world to stop spinning on its axis.”

Grace reached across her desk and patted Thea’s hand. “Trust me. You’re better off finding out the truth before the wedding rather than afterwards.”

“Speaking from experience?”

“More than I like to admit. Maybe I should take some of Trulee’s advice.”

“Get real! If you have any sense, Grace, you’ll let me out of my contract and forget about that third book. Finding Mr. Right? Hooking Mr. Right? I’m a fraud. I don’t know the first thing about how to get a man and keep him. I’m a thirty-two year old sociologist with a lousy track record when it comes to the male species. How can you trust me to write credible books on the subject when I can’t even trust my own judgment where men are concerned?”

Grace shrugged. “Maybe we both need to follow your advice. Others do and swear by your books. Besides, I’m not letting you out of your contract. Trulee Lovejoy is the best thing to happen to this company in years.”

“Trulee Lovejoy.” Thea shook her head. “What was I thinking? How did I ever let you talk me into that awful pseudonym?”

“If I remember correctly, I had a little help from a lady named Margarita. Several ladies named Margarita, actually. Besides, I’m hurt. You insisted on an alias, and I came up with the perfect nom de plume for you. After all, who would you believe when it came to matters of the heart, Dr. Trulee Lovejoy or Dr. Althea Chandler?”

Thea scowled. “Right now I’d suggest you might have better luck with Lassie."

Anything else you’d like to add?
Finding Mr. Right, a short story sequel to Hooking Mr. Right is featured in Love, Valentine Style, a boxed set collection of six romances by six authors.

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