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Saturday, February 28, 2015

Welcome, Cris Brashear from Samhain Publishing

Please say Hi! to Christina Brashear, the powerful force behind Samhain Publishing. 

Bio:     I came, I saw, I conquered. Or was conquered. It’s a toss up.”
Christina Brashear, as the President and Publisher, is the driving force behind the inception and growth of Samhain Publishing, Ltd. She can be reached by email through:
Blog: (I’ll be launching in the coming months a personal blog the url will be: It’s for fun.)

What made you decide that you wanted to start your own publishing company and what motivated you to get involved in the romance industry?

I loved my job. When my time at the previous company for which I worked was over I realized I didn’t want to leave this industry and all the wonderful authors with which I worked and played. I just couldn’t see going back into the corporate world of an IT department or computer operations. When your job makes you happy, do what you need to do to keep doing it! Also, I didn’t have a choice; the authors said I had to start a publishing company.

As for the romance industry specifically, who doesn’t love romance! Romantic fiction is about emotion, a kind of study of our society and how we live in our time. If you want an idea of what was like for the merchant class in the Victorian age, read a Jane Austin book. Of course, with all fiction, you take it with a grain of salt as we write how we want things to be not always the way they are, that’s why it is fiction. Reality can be harsh and when I read fiction, ninety percent of the time I’m going to go for a romance book because I want to read about how people feel and how they come to a happy conclusion as their lives together are launched.

For me, it’s also a study of the human condition through entertaining means. How does this slightly broken person overcome the adversity they suffered to connect with another slightly broken person and reach a point where they accept who they are and can move forward. I love reading a well crafted characterization and the journey from alone to a pairbond.

Can you describe what you do as part of being the owner/publisher of Samhain?

I answer a lot of questions. The buck stops with me, so I have to be available to all departments for decision-making or assisting with their deciding what direction to take. I like to hire people who are smarter than me, give them the tools they need to do their job and then be their sounding board and provide direction as needed.

Really, when I think about it my job mainly consists of looking out for the interests of the authors who have entrusted their work with Samhain. What are the best deals for marketing, advertising, audio rights, translation rights, print production, digital and print retailers and distributors? I have to look at everything and make judgments on the viability of a new relationship or evaluate an existing one to make sure it’s still the best for the authors’ works. I review our publication contract and make adjustments every few years so that we are keeping up with legal language the changes in the industry bring. We have to make sure that the copyright for the works are as protected as they can be. I also am the oversight for distribution of money. Samhain pours the majority of its minor share back into the company and my job is to make sure that it is spent in the most effect way to bring in more sales and new customers.

I also travel. A lot! I love hanging out with authors and some seem to like to hang out with me, too. ;) I tend to vent aloud what-if concepts that spark storyline and plot ideas. I also feel compelled to feed authors, so you can usually count on a meal if it’s that time and you’re orbiting me.

Since I’m from an IT background, I tend to lean heavily toward the latest and greatest in software. I believe computers should work for me and not me for them. I like to find software that does as much of the routine work as possible, so that the team has time to focus on more important matters, like connecting with customers, developing strategies to expand sales, and how to make the authors happy.

Also, I am usually the one who heads up the new website development. I’m really excited about the new site that launched in October. While it’s a little bare-bones at the moment, it’s a powerful platform that we can build out a fabulous system that will be like an iceberg; so little seen up top, but so much down below. I’d wax on about the plans, but I think people just get bored. Kind of like when I start explaining the royalties process, eyes glaze over. :-/

What's one important thing you've learned about your job as you became more 
 involved in it?

The same thing that I’ve learned with every job: it’s all about the customer service. It doesn’t matter if you’re talking about a “real” customer, the type from whom you are hoping to receive money or the type that’s the concept of treating your coworker like a customer. If you treat everyone you encounter as if they are a customer, you get what you give. You get what you give—if you’re dismissive and rude, you are going to get that in return and who wants to do something for someone like that? I look for a way to say yes when ever possible. If it can’t be yes, then I look for an alternative solution. I don’t like to say no, no is a stop and you can’t grow and expand when you’re constantly stopping.

How do you handle complaints/negative feedback from readers/authors?

I have a really deep pond. :-O

Seriously, I take their complaint into consideration, after culling away the emotion usually accompanying the feedback. What can I do to fix this or make it more palatable? How can I make this situation better for all parties? Where are we failing the reader or the author and how can I make it right for them and Samhain both?

The hardest thing for anyone in customer support to do is learn how to ignore the emotion that comes through from the frustration the customer is experiencing. It can come in the form of passive aggressiveness to outright belligerence. Learning to really understand it’s not personal, it’s not about you, can time some effort, but once you reach that nirvana, you’re like Teflon and can wade into any situation and find a way to resolve it.

What do you consider the best way for an author to do promos?

It varies from author to author, from genre to genre. And it’s yet to be discovered. There is always something new on the horizon. The next great thing, way to connect to another human being, is just around the corner.

I can say that more paper is thrown away after conferences than tchotchkes give-aways. All the money authors spend on cards and bookmarks and whatnot just makes me sad. I think it’s better to spend the money on one good item that someone is going to keep with them and have in their line of sight long after the event is over than it is to spread it out over cardstock and paper items which are sacrificed for room in the suitcase for books and get left behind for the hotel room service person to discard. Also, all the dead trees make Samhain …er me sad.

I’m still trying to learn how to make to-do lists. And to actually check them. I have to accept I am not going to remember all the things I have to do and I have to be more diligent about making lists and looking at them. That’s a recent realization about my job.

Chats. How important do you feel it is for authors to take part in chats on loops or at other romance sites?

I can only answer in concepts and theories as I haven’t interacted in social online settings in years and am not up on how well attending these types of events are. If they are well attended by a base of readers, it’s great. If it’s just buddies or fellow authors supporting each other then it’s a waste of time. Your time is more valuable than money, spend it wisely. Authors do need to connect with the readers who enjoy their work and who want to learn more about them. Authors also need to connect with new readers who are looking for the style books they write to expand their reader base.

I do advise be aware of how you might be perceived, as it has been my experience from observing poor behavior and the consequences that follow, it’s best to maintain an online personality, an author persona, that is benign and fun but doesn’t hit any hot buttons. It goes back to the treat-everyone-as-a-customer philosophy: don’t argue and don’t engage in a no-win. No-wins are debates that could alienate simply because your position isn’t inline with their position on any given topic.

Don’t give you away, keep the up a mystique like the fantasy life people dream authors live, you know the bon-bon-eating, feather-boa-wearing, writing-from-a-huge-canopied bed, castle-dwelling author persona for the public. Keep the real you private for your own sanity and safety. Most author write under a penname so they can have that level of distance, but I have seen so many crossing those lines in my years in the business and it frequently does not end well. Leave them wanting more.

If you can do that, and find sites that have people who want to engage with authors, it’s a great way to introduce your work to new readers and to interact with the loyal readers.

Please add anything else you feel is important.

Write because you love it. Write to please yourself. Don’t be afraid to fail, it’s how we learn and grow. Speak well of yourself, shut down the negative voices in your head. Take a walk. Drink more water. Smile, we’re only here for a little while.

Pleased add your bio and the place online where people can find you:

Christina Brashear is a veteran of digital publishing, having begun working in the industry at the turn of the century. As President and Publisher, Christina is the driving force behind the inception and growth of Samhain Publishing, Ltd.

Christina’s goal when founding Samhain Publishing was to establish an author-friendly publishing company where literary artists can express their creativity in a safe environment where they receive professional editing, help from a supportive marketing and promotions team, and a business-oriented operations team to handle mundane tasks. This allows authors to flourish by focusing on what they do best: writing.

As a voracious reader herself, this was not done out of altruism, but so these wonderful stories concocted in the fertile minds of creative people would come to fruition and be available to Christina and others like her who enjoy non-standard takes on traditional tropes.

Christina is always open to ideas and suggestions and can be reached by:
Twitter @crissyb65
Visit and find something great to read!

Facebook, Twitter, etc.

Friday, February 27, 2015

The Dinner in Matrix Crystal Hunters by Janice Seagraves

A science fiction romance

“What happened?” Maya set her pack to the side. “I’ve asked before, but I never get a straight answer out of anyone.”

Vach picked up the tote from where he had left it earlier and pulled out some food, followed by a grate that went over the fire. “The ancients produced great technology, similar to your own. By doing so, they angered the Great Mother. They didn't seem to realize that by damaging our world, they harmed her. The priestesses called a council meeting of all the clan members, along with the ancients, but the ancients wouldn't listen to the wisdom of the Goddess.”

He cut up some meat, then carefully worked a skewer through the long, thin pieces. Setting the meat carefully over the fire, he repositioned the skewers so there was some room in between each one. “A battle began. Those in favor of technology against those who supported the Goddess.”

She stared into the fire, trying to picture the meeting in her mind. “Is that what started the battle? The ancients and their technology lost?”

He cut up some veggies and dropped them into a skillet. “Everyone lost, Maya.”

She leaned toward him. “But… your people?”

“We were reduced to an agrarian society. All the old technology was lost when our great cities were destroyed.” He made a wide gesture with his knife. “What you see out there is what happened to our planet after the battle.”

“The desert?” Her heart sank. Something really bad happened here.

“It was wetlands before that battle.”

Maya shook her head. “I’m afraid that’s where my planet is heading. We’re just one war away from annihilation.”

“Let’s hope not.” He poured a bit of oil into the pan, stirring the veggies. Reaching across, he turned the meat over.

“What are you cooking?” She looked the food over. “It looks like shish kabobs and stir-fry.”

“I don’t know what that is.” He flipped the food in the skillet. “It’s just something I like to cook over a campfire.” Bringing out a plate, he served Maya, then himself.

“Good.” Maya nodded, taking a bite.

“You like it?”

“Yes.” She smiled at him. She wondered what else he did that was as good as his cooking.  Her gaze was drawn to the muscular chest revealed by the slit in his shirt’s neckline. He looked as if he lived a very active life, but his silk clothes bespoke wealth. Going after her the way he did said more loudly than anything that he liked to have things his own way. Pushy men make bad companions and worse lovers.

“What’s next on the agenda?” He took a bite of the meat on the skewer.

“Get out of the mountains, pack up my stuff from the old building and then go home.” She glanced over to him. It’ll be interesting to see where he lives. “Where did you want me to drop you off?”

He stared at her a moment. “I’m staying with you. Don’t you understand? I’m your servant for a year and a day.”

Maya groaned. “I don’t have room for you. I live with someone.”

“Yes, I know, Momma Roosa.” He stabbed some of the veggies with the three-pronged fork. “She also raised six children and still has the bedrooms to prove it. There will be a bed for me. Although, being your servant, I’ll sleep on the floor of your bedroom.”

“No, absolutely not.” She shook her head. “If I have to get up to use the bathroom in the middle of the night, I might step on you.”

Vach chuckled. “I’m willing to take that chance.”

She stared. “I’m not.”

He grinned. “What’s the matter? You don’t want me to see you in your sleeping clothes?”

“Humph, it’s not like my jammies are sexy or anything. As you know, you’ve already seen them.”

“Oh, those pant things.” He wrinkled up his nose.

“Yes, we call them pajamas, PJs or jammies.” She plucked at her jeans. “They’re comfortable to sleep in.”

“I sleep naked.”

“What?” She noticed his teasing grin. Is he kidding? “If you’re sleeping on the floor of my room, you’re not.”

His grin deepened. “So, I am sleeping on your floor?”

“No, I…  Huh?” She glanced back to him, her face filled with heat. God, he did it to me again. “Well, if you keep insisting on going home with me, then I guess we’ll see if Momma Roosa has a bedroom for you.”

“All right. Are you done?” He gestured to her plate.

“Oh, yes.” She handed her plate over. “It was very good. I ate all of it before I realized it.”

My Christmas book is also available in paperback for the first time.
Matrix Crystal Christmas
Matrix Crystal Christmas is made up of two short stories. I wrote this collection for the fans of my novel, Matrix Crystal Hunters.
In Crystal Flower Christmas: Vach and Maya are on a mission to undam the Laonooco River for the drought stricken region. As heartache fractures their marriage, will the gift of a crystal flower mend their relationship or break it beyond repair?
In Crystal Clear Christmas: Plague has struck the village of Zama and the citizens blame the only human left on Zenevieva, Maya. Will Vach make the ultimate sacrifice to save his wife?

Thursday, February 26, 2015

The Passionate Meal by Sam Cheever

Passion takes many forms. Each form may heat and pleasure your life for a brief moment, creating memories and feelings of happiness. It's particularly enchanting when passions are blended, the pleasure even richer for the melding. 

Food is one such passion. It has long been a key inspiration for romance...a precursor to romantic adventure...a postscript to a well-spent night. It's even played a more central part in sexual gymnastics. Whipped cream sweetens lips and other body parts. Champagne fills natural dips in the body, creates delicious opportunities for licking and sucking. Oil turns sensual rubbing into a deeply pleasurable massage. Strawberries and other bite-sized tidbits, when fed to a lover, create an atmosphere of nurture and a feeling of being cherished. Bananas become phallic. Oysters supercharge the libido. Chocolate...well...chocolate is the quintessence of creamy indulgence...a natural for a sensual event. 

So what would my perfect, romantic meal look like? 

Well it would start with Oysters Rockefeller and a plate with tiny cubes of cheese, olives and thin slices of succulent meats for mutual feeding. The main course would be a thick, juicy tenderloin, lying in a puddle of balsamic glaze. The side dishes would include potatoes, mashed with a variety of creamy cheeses, a small nest of glazed baby carrots and an array of thin baby asparagus, perfectly roasted. Dessert would be fat, sweet strawberries with creamy milk chocolate and rich whipped cream for dipping. Followed by a decadent chocolate brownie with a small scoop of french vanilla ice cream on top, covered in hot fudge. The entire meal would be accompanied by a sweet, bubbly champagne, lots of it!

That would be MY perfect romantic meal. What would you do differently? I'd love to hear. 

Bon appétit!


OR -- Get A Honeybun and Coffee FREE in eBook at the following retailers:

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

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Guest Blog: Lynn Rae: A Romantic Dinner on Another Planet

Ben and Cara star in my latest Sci-fi romance, Desire Disguised. They reside on Gamaliel, a mucky jungle planet with no sophisticated restaurants, so an especially romantic meal would resemble one served on Earth, with some significant differences. Spices, seeds, and seasonings would be imported from home, but other foodstuffs are bulky and therefore expensive to transport across the light years of space. Settlers on this planet have to make the most of native species and grow whatever Earth vegetables and fruits will thrive under an alien sun.

Since there aren’t any places to go out, our couple would be dining at home. Luckily for Ben, Cara is an accomplished home cook and like most who excel in that activity, preparing a meal is a way for her to show her love and care for another person. Ben, for his part, is simply happy to be with Cara, so anything she serves will taste delicious.

Cara would start with a platter of finger foods like fresh vegetables, a pureed bean dip seasoned with fresh herbs, and crispy crackers made with cheese courtesy of one of the settlement’s milking goats. For her main entrée, she would attempt to impress Ben by preparing one of the planet’s native creatures; lingon, which are long strands of single celled organisms which grow in the sink holes littering the jungle floor. They have a chewy consistency and are full of protein, so if you can get past the origin, most cooks treat it like pasta. Cara will make a spicy stir-fry with hers and be sure to include lots of vegetables and tofu. At this point, Ben is finally relaxed from the stresses of his job as security chief for the settlement and is ready for something indulgent. Cara has likely spent much of her free time for several days conceiving of an impressive dessert to pamper him. He has a sweet tooth, so she’ll create a layered confection of cream, sponge cake, and fresh fruit.

There are two dishes they won’t be having since neither one is especially romantic. Gamaliel has several edible native species, but they aren’t especially appetizing. One such organism is known as sharple, a gelatinous, translucent fungus that can be found in rotting trees and possesses a sharp, chemical reek. It’s an acquired taste. The other is orphillian, a tubular animal resembling a sea cucumber, though this one lives on land. It has a sticky, greenish outer membrane and the inner flesh is lavender colored. By all reports, it tastes like chicken.

Lynn Rae makes her home in land-locked central Ohio after time spent in the former Great Black Swamp, beside the Ohio River, and along the Miami and Erie Canal. With professional experience in fields ranging from contract archaeology to librarianship along with making donuts and teaching museum studies, Lynn enjoys incorporating her quirky sense of humor and real-life adventures into her writing (except the naughty bits). She writes sci-fi, contemporary, and historical romances. You can find her posting frequently on Facebook at or at her webpage

Cara Belasco has been on the run from assassins since childhood. Living in the shadows with her younger brother and one elderly guardian, her luck nearly runs out when the smuggler’s ship carrying them crashes into a soggy jungle planet.

Ben Zashi, the stalwart head of security who rescued her from the wreckage, is very curious about her cover story, and Cara has to fend off his inquires as well as her escalating attraction for him. Will the secrets she’s been hiding come between them, or can Cara allow herself to find passion with the one man who longs to protect her?

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

A Catered Romance

February is the month of love. And chocolate. And romantic dinners. Many couples go out for a romantic dinner on Valentine's Day. For some couples, cooking a meal together is romantic. My husband helps me in the kitchen, and, with a small kitchen, there are times he gets in the way, but most times, cooking side-by-side gives me a warm feeling, like a rich chocolate cake just out of the oven.

Below is an excerpt from my foodie romance, A Catered Romance. Under the title A Catered Affair, this was my first published book, a hardback from Avalon Books. Because my heroine Mary Beth is a caterer, this sensuous romance is filled with food references. Tom was Mary Beth's high school crush and the man who broke her heart. Now, years later, he's her new boss, and she finds she still has feelings for him. In this scene he helps her prepare a meal. I hope you like it. A Catered Romance is included in the set, Sweet Temptations Boxed Set, a collection of three foodie romances, including the Valentine's Day short story, Sweet Temptations, and the short story, A Taste f Romance.
Sweet Temptations and A Taste of Romance are available separately.


Breaking the connection, she glanced at the clock. “If I don't hurry and finish, there won't be a meal.” She grabbed her knife and began cutting the mushrooms she had set aside earlier.
“Where's Gail?” he asked.
“At Joey's school for a class party. She should be back soon. Gail usually acts as my sous-chef.”
“Give me an apron and tell me what to do.”
Widening her eyes, she looked at him. “You? Cook?”
He laughed. “Hey, give me credit for not being a complete slacker.”
She couldn't help smiling.
“You should smile often,” he said softly. “You look even more beautiful, if that's possible.”
Her face felt hot as the oven. “I'll get you an apron.” She went to the closet and pulled out a crisp chef's apron.
He donned the garment and rubbed his hands together. “I'm ready. What do you need done?”
She swallowed and stared at him. No man had the right to look that virile wearing a large white apron.
He frowned. “What do you need, Mary Beth?”
“Potatoes,” she said, fumbling in a drawer for a paring knife. “I need potatoes.”
“Okay,” he said. “That's a start.”
“Here.” She thrust the knife at him. “Can you peel those potatoes in that bowl over there?”
“Sure. I'm a whiz at peeling.”
Mary Beth turned back to chopping the mushrooms, needing the methodical, familiar task to help unravel her tangled emotions.
“You need all of these peeled?” he asked.
“Yes, please, unless you're not up to the job.”
“I think I can handle this,” he said, chuckling.
They worked in silence. The sound of her rhythmic cutting was broken by the occasional plop of a potato into the bowl.
She'd worked in countless kitchens with a multitude of partners, but never had such ordinary tasks like chopping and peeling been coated with the sensuality that crackled between her and Tom.
Mary Beth absorbed the heady warmth like exotic spices dropped in simmering broth. For just a little while she'd give in to the deep yearnings she'd long suppressed.
Oldies played on the radio and sunlight warmed the bright room. If she closed her eyes, she would be transported back in time. To chem lab, working as partners with Tom. He made her laugh so hard once they were both thrown out of class. She smiled. It was the only time she'd ever gotten into trouble in school.
Then there was junior year English. She shook her head at the memory. She had taken her job as tutor so seriously. Tom just wanted to have fun. That was the young, parties, laughter. He gave her a silver bracelet in thanks. She'd worn it every day.
He had been her friend, had always treated her with respect. Unlike the others, who snickered at her cheaply made clothes and called her cruel names. At the end, Tom had proven to be just like them. She had run home, her heart broken, and thrown the bracelet in her jewelry box, never to wear it again.
Too bad she couldn't have discarded her heart as easily. But Tom's betrayal had strengthened her, made her more determined to protect herself, to control her own destiny.
“I’m done peeling,” he said. “What else can I do?”
She shoved old memories aside. Tom was her boss now, nothing more. And someday he wouldn't even be that.
“Let me have the potatoes,” she said, turning to him. “I need to cut them up.”
He hugged the bowl. “I won't let you kill these like you did the celery.”
She couldn't help laughing. He could always make her laugh.
“Just give me the bowl.” She glanced at the clock. “We're running out of time. I wish Gail would get back.”
“What am I…chopped liver? I said I'd help.” He handed her the bowl. “You're the boss in the kitchen.”
The timer on the oven shrilled. She handed him two potholders. “You can take the roast out.”
“Sure, Chef,” he said, saluting.
Mary Beth rolled her eyes at him and grabbed a potato.
“You do nice work,” she said, holding up a perfectly peeled, white orb.
“I aim to please.” He set the roast on the stove top. “Smells great,” he said, inhaling deeply. “How about if I take a little chunk.” He looked at her, his hand poised over the meat.
“Don't you dare.” Mary Beth batted his hand away.
He laughed, making her smile.
“I got another smile out of you,” he said. “That's good.” His intense gaze weakened her defenses.
“I have to cut these potatoes,” she said in a shaky voice. She groped the counter for her knife.
“What's for dessert?” he asked.
“Lemon pound cake. It's in the refrigerator.”
He opened the refrigerator and peered in. “Wow! It's a work of art. Hanging around here could be dangerous.”
Not as dangerous as being around you. The thought leapt into Mary Beth's mind. She dropped the potato. It rolled on the floor. She bent to retrieve it.
“I'll get it,” Tom said.
Their heads collided. Mary Beth rocked back on her heels and rubbed her forehead. Tom crouched in front of her, concern in his eyes. He reached out and gently stroked her temple.
She swayed toward him, as if her body had a will of its own.
Tom's eyes darkened. “Mary Beth,” he whispered.
Fear filled her heart—fear of losing herself, of weakening. She jumped up.
“I'll-I'll wash this off,” she stammered, clutching the vegetable as if it could save her from her response to him.
She hurried to the sink and turned the faucet on full force. The power of the water almost knocked the potato from her hand.
Tom cleared his throat. “What else do you need?”
She needed him to leave so she could be in charge of her kitchen again and not be such a bumbling idiot. What she really needed was to take charge of her emotions.
“You can fill that with water,” she said, nodding toward the stockpot that rested on the counter.
She sidled away from the double sink to give him room, not trusting herself so close to him.
The muscles of his forearms flexed as he held the large pot under the faucet. A hard stream of water splashed into the heavy metal. Seeing him cradle the pot in his strong arms made Mary Beth ache with longing. She wanted Tom's arms around her, holding her. She leaned against the counter and closed her eyes, fighting for control.
The spicy scent of his cologne, so like his high school scent, but more subtle and expensive, teased her, provoking memories, and regret.
“Is this enough water?” Tom asked.
She gazed into his blue eyes and nodded, not trusting herself to speak.
A bemused expression crossed Tom’s features. He held the pot up. “Where do you want this?”
“Put it on the right back burner and turn the gas on high.” Her voice sounded thin.
Tom positioned the pot and turned on the heat. Flames licked the bottom of the ironclad pan.
“What next?” He stood directly in front of her.
His beautiful mouth was so close. She could just reach out a finger and…
“You have water on your face,” he whispered huskily. He smoothed his thumb gently along her cheekbone. The warmth of his touch melted her resistance. Need and longing wrapped themselves around her heart.
Part of her screamed to back away, to protect herself. But Tom's masculinity reeled her slowly into his net.
He bent his head toward hers.
“Hey, you two, what's cooking?” Gail's voice boomed from the doorway.
Mary Beth and Tom jumped apart. Mary Beth dropped the potato. It bounced along the floor, landing at Gail's feet.

Monday, February 23, 2015

Interview of Author Ellen Gragg

Today it's my pleasure to introduce author Ellen Gragg.

Latest Book: What Was I Thinking?
Buy Link:

Ellen Gragg began her writing career as a journalist, writing features and theater reviews for newspapers and national magazines. While attending college at Washington University in St. Louis she first became interested in the rich history of the city, particularly the period surrounding the famous 1904 World's Fair. While working as a consultant in the agricultural and pharmaceutical industries and writing about everything from crop dusting to FDA regulatory compliance, Ellen began writing novels in her spare time. After flipping channels on TV and watching a romantic comedy heroine choose to cast off her modern life in favor of her beau's for all the wrong reasons, the seeds of What Was I Thinking? began to take root.

Ellen resides in the Midwest with her husband, two cats, and the occasional stray dog.

Q: What’s your writing schedule like? Do you strive for a certain amount of words each day?
A: I try to force myself to write a minimum of 100 words every day, no matter how busy or unmotivated I am. I know that doesn’t seem like a lot, but that’s the beauty of it. When I’m just too busy, or exhausted, or soooo not in the mood, I can tell myself “Just write 100 words. It will hardly take any time at all. Just do it.” And usually I’ll sit down and write. Nearly always, I get into the flow by 50 words or so, and blow way past the 100 mark without noticing. But if I set a huge goal, it turns into a mountain that I can’t face.

I like to write first thing in the morning, but my current assignment at work means I have to leave home very early, and it’s just not practical to try to get up early enough to write before heading out. For the time being, I’m slipping in my writing after work, while my husband cooks dinner. (I do the dishes.)

Q: What is the most important thing you do for your career now, as compared to when you first started writing?
A: When I first started writing, the most important thing was getting published at all, in any form. It felt for years as if getting a publishing contract would be like winning the lottery – extremely unlikely, and life-changing if it did happen.

Now that I’ve had the reality of publishing, the most important thing is to polish my craft, and to deliver a story that readers can sink into, and forget they’re reading.

Q: How much of yourself is hidden in the characters in the book?
A: Well, two of my heroines – including Addie, in What Was I Thinking? – are bitter about having spent a fortune on a degree from Washington University that they didn’t end up using in their careers. That’s straight from my life. I don’t regret going to Wash U – I met my husband there, and had a very happy time in college – but for a very long time I regretted what I spent on a degree I wasn’t using.

Other than that, my heroines tend to have little pieces of me, especially the striving for independence and career respect, but I work hard to make them new and different. For one thing, I’ve been happily married for many years, so it would be hard to put my own life in a romance novel. I hit happily-ever-after a long time ago.

Q: If you could change something about your first book, what would it be?
A: I would re-edit it to cut out some slow passages in the beginning. I let myself fall in love with some long sections that the story doesn’t need. I hope Romance Books 4 Us readers will read it anyway! But I promise the next book will have a faster pace.

Q: Do you eat comfort food/listen to music when writing?
A: I don’t listen to music while I write. I used to, but over the years I developed a rule of no distractions, and that includes music. It also includes no Internet access. I keep a spiral notebook and pencil handy, and if I come up with something I need to research, I make a note of it for later. I’ve learned that taking just a moment to look something up – or to sing along with the radio – can kill my momentum.

I don’t often eat while I’m working, but I do drink Diet Coke. Very rarely I’ll have a small snack with me. I do find that I tend to forget about both food and drink after a paragraph or so.

Q: How do you choose names for your characters?
A: I find names to be the hardest things of all. I tend to use placeholder names early in the draft and let ideas come to me. Then I do a search-and-replace to put the final name in. For some reason, I tend to name men Sam and give women names that start with J. But that changes before submission. My detective book – my current work in progress – started with a name, though. I once worked for an editor who didn’t use a first name. She just went by “N.J.” I imagined that maybe she was named Norma Jean and hated it. From that, I started thinking of detective stories where the name is a big part of the first chapter, like V.I. Warshawski’s refusal to tell anyone what V.I. stands for, and I developed a book around a struggling detective whose mother named her Norma Jean, and who got called Jeanie a lot. Her struggle to be taken seriously is partly played out in trying to force people to call her N.J.

Q: If you could give a younger version of yourself advice, what would it be?
A: Don’t give up. Don’t be embarrassed to try. Write every day, no matter what.

Q: Have you ever used an incident from your real life into one of your books?
A: Real-life incidents sometimes go into first drafts, but they get edited out. They ring false in fiction.

Q: Any part of a book that drives you crazy as you write: beginning, middle, or end?
A: I get impatient in the middle. The Fun & Games part of the book feels like the most work, which isn’t right. I want to work on that impatience, because I really want to deliver the fun to the readers. Beginnings just flow, partly because I’m excited to move towards the fun & games, and endings seem easy, but the middles are work.

Q: How many stories are swirling around in your head? Do you keep a mental list, a computer file, or a spiral notebook filled with the ideas?
A: I have three novels and one novella in my current WIP rotation. Two are very active in my head, and the other two are filed under “that’s a cool idea, and I need to get back to it.” They’re on a thumb drive, each in its own folder. The most active ones also have paper file folders full of source material and notes, and binders with marked-up printouts.

And I carry one notebook to scribble ideas whenever they hit me, for all projects as well as marketing. I flag pages with sticky notes to remember to transfer to the computer when I get home form work.

Fun Stuff:
Q: What is your favorite holiday and why?
A: Christmas. I love decorating the house, baking, having relatives come to visit, and filling up the house with people and good smells.

Q: What are two things people might be surprised to know about you?
A: For my day job, I’m a quality consultant in the life sciences industries. I help pharmaceutical and medical device companies make sure their computer programs are in line with FDA regulations.

I was a competitive figure skater for a few years, as a young mother. My husband was very supportive of my offbeat hobby, and he and the children always came and cheered for me.

Q: As a child, what did you want to be when you grew up?
A: Anything other than a writer. My parents were both college English professors, and my form of rebellion was to fight against the push to be a writer. It was hopeless. It was in the blood. One of my sisters is a well-known travel writer (different last name) and my cousin (another last name) is a very successful science writer.

I took ballet lessons first grade through ninth, and really thought I was going to make a career of it. But reality raised its ugly head, and I realized dancing wasn’t my talent.

Q: Favorite food.
A: General Tso’s Chicken from the Taiwan Teahouse in Indianapolis. They make everything fresh, with no preservatives, and it tastes amazing. It’s the only place I can eat at a restaurant and feel happy about it afterward.

Q: Favorite happy memory.
A: My last trip to Clearwater Beach with my husband. Walking hand-in-hand along the beach, with the water lapping at our ankles, holding my big floppy hat against the wind, and letting my long skirt flow.

Q: Favorite drink.
A: Diet Coke. But I’m ashamed of it. I’ve been trying to quit for years.

Q: Hot summer days or chilly winter nights?
A: Can I have both? Hot summer days walking ankle-deep in the water, followed by chilly winter nights in front of a roaring fire? If I have to pick, I’ll take the hot summer days.

Q: What is the top thing on your bucket list?
A: Publishing the next novel.

Q: If you could have a super power, what would it be?
A: I’d like to be able to slow time down. That way the special moments could last longer, and maybe I wouldn’t be late to meetings so often!

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Mired in a stagnant career and the lonely, faceless slog of modern life, at first Addie Hull doesn't quite know what to make of handsome, chivalrous Bert Roland and his oddly old-fashioned mannerisms. Deciding to be reckless in her life for once, Addie lets herself be swept off her feet. But mere weeks into their romance, Bert announces that he must return home to St. Louis... in 1904.

What's a little thing like time travel in the face of true love? Addie jumps at the chance to follow Bert and leave her modern life behind, but 1904 is no time for a modern woman, and once at home Bert starts seeming like much less of a modern man. Even the electrifying magic of the World's Fair seems to be hiding unpleasant surprises at every turn. As much as Addie loves Bert she has to wonder...What was I thinking?

Bert explained his whole theory to me, complete with abstruse detail and equations on whiteboards. To the extent that I followed it, it made good sense. Naturally, he left me in the dust somewhere in the last hour. Otherwise, I could have come up with the theory myself. Still, I thought I got the gist.

“So, you’re sure time travel for humans is possible, and that it can be engineered to be safe, and controllable?”

“Yes. Absolutely. You do need a sort of motorcar, though. To contain the instruments and protect yourself from random objects in the time-wave, of course.”

“Have you built a model? Could I see?”

“Indeed. I have a working model, right over here.”

He opened a door into another room, and there, bathed in fluorescent light, was a genuine Victorian monstrosity. Well, possibly the love child of a Victorian monstrosity and a Model T. It looked something like an antique car, and something like a horse-drawn carriage, and had all sorts of curlicues and flourishes. I couldn’t tell which details were functional, and which were merely decorative. The one thing I could tell was that it was under renovation. It seemed to have once had metal walls with tiny portholes—they were now lying damaged around the floor—but the contraption now had Plexiglas for one wall and there were additional Plexiglas panels leaning against the tool bench.

“It’s wonderful. What do you call it?”
“I’m not sure yet. Mother suggested the Roland Steamer, as Mr. Ferris named his wheel after himself, but I don’t know. It doesn’t matter. I just call it ‘It’ to myself.” He stopped and stared lovingly at It.

“Your mother knows about it?” This was the first I’d heard of her, though of course I’d known there must be such a creature.

“Yes. She’s the only one—until you—who didn’t laugh when I tried to explain.”

Ooh. I suddenly realized I was in a basement lair with an unmarried weird guy who confided in his mother. How long until he told me what level of World of Warcraft he had mastered?

I leaned into It, being very careful not to touch anything, while getting a good look at the controls. “This is really something. And you said you have proof it works? You’ve actually tried it?”

I turned to look at him, and found he had moved closer. “Yes,” he said, “I’ve taken a short hop myself.”

“Really? Really?” I lost the capacity to think with the thrill of it.

“You believe me?” he asked, looking deep into my eyes. “You truly do?”

I nodded. He kissed me. It was some kiss. This guy definitely hadn’t wasted his youth on World of Warcraft. We broke apart, and I felt an amazing connection between us. It was as if we were still touching.

“You’re so beautiful,” he breathed, looking at me as if overcome. I stepped closer, and pulled him back to me, initiating the kiss myself this time. He responded, clutching me against him, and I reached for the curl at the back of the neck that I’d been wanting to touch ever since we’d met.

I don’t know how long we stood there, just kissing with the most innocent of touches, but it felt like eternity and it felt like less than a second. It seemed more intimate than some sex I’d had. I was burning and I knew he was, too.

He pulled back abruptly. “I’m terribly sorry,” He said stiffly. “That was completely inappropriate. I’ll see you home.”

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