Tuesday, January 31, 2012

The Tortured Hero

I love writing tortured heroes. That sounds a bit sadistic, but what I really mean is I love writing about people who have fears and worries and issues, and how they are able to confront those things through loving someone, and find both forgiveness and redemption.

Jacob, the hero of my latest release, The Lone Wolfe, is definitely one of the more tortured men I’ve written about. He’s part of a continuity, The Notorious Wolfes, and his character was given to me by the editorial team.

When I first read the continuity ‘bible’ about the Wolfes and saw how much Jacob had to deal with, I was slack-jawed to say the least. This was a man with some serious issues. An abusive father, a series of inappropriate stepmothers, seven younger siblings to care for, and to top it all off he hit his father when he was just eighteen and accidentally killed him. How do you put all that into on book--one character--and still find a happily-ever-after?

It wasn’t easy, and The Lone Wolfe has plenty of angst! But the process of writing it made me wonder how many issues can a hero have before he becomes TOO tortured, and pulls you out of the fantasy. 

What do you think? Do you enjoy tortured heroes or do you prefer your men to have worked out all of their issues? And is there such a thing as too tortured? Leave a comment and let me know! One winner will be picked to receive a free copy of my last release, The Secret Baby Scandal, a duet with the wonderful Jennie Lucas!


***CathyP is the winner of The Secret Baby Scandal!  Cathy please email with your full name and mailing address.  Congratulations!!***

Monday, January 30, 2012

I Love My Character, and I Hope She Loves Me

Hello all! Darynda Jones here, author of the Charley Davidson series. Leena Hyat of Tote Bags ‘n Blogs was gracious enough to invite me as a guest on her blog, and I’m so happy to be here. Thanks, Lee, for having me, and thanks readers for being here.

Tomorrow is January 31, and the third edition of the Charley Davidson series will be released. I’m excited. There are butterflies in the pit of my stomach. I love Charley, and I love having the glorious opportunity to write her stories.  It’s a blast being able to share her with others, knowing that some readers out there have as much love for her as I do.

As a character, I could not have asked for a better person to come through from divine inspiration. If I could interact with one of my characters for real, it would be Charley. I would love to have the opportunity to hang out with her. I can only begin to imagine the wicked danger she would get me into. She would scare me, but we would be fast, lifelong buddies.

Charley is one of those characters that comes along at a time when you need her most. I was determined to live out my destiny and calling of being an author. What to write, though? Who to write about? I knew in order to gain the attention of the NY literary world I would have to come up with a spectacular female lead.

Now, some people have heard the story of Charley’s “birth.” I was lying in bed, waiting for my turn at the shower. I was daydreaming and under the woozy influence of menthol vapors steaming from my bedside vaporizer. I was wondering about my heroine. Then she came to me, like a thief in the night. Only it was daytime, and all she stole was my heart. I have been on cloud nine ever since.

I love writing about Charley. I feel honored to have been chosen to tell her stories. She has a vibrancy and a nuance about her. Awww. Who am I kidding? She’s loads of fun. She’s a hoot. Not too many people, err, characters could be referred to as: smart-ass, child-like, severely ADD, schizoid, hilarious, dangerous, possibly violent and yet, fun-loving and kind-hearted.

And I don’t want to give any spoilers, but let me ask you this. How many people do you know continue to push their luck with a pack of guard dogs at an abandoned mental institution just for the sake of names? Who else but Charley would flagrantly flaunt her gnarly trespassing “skills” to an outlaw biker gang just to go visit some ghost buddy who hangs out at this same mental institution? I know the neighborhood this old building sits in. Believe me. Not many people want to hang out there. Would you want to rumble with the Son of Satan? Would you pursue a murderer or two, putting your life at risk for the sake of a client? Charley does.

Some of you may be wondering about my mental health. I realize I am talking about Charley as though she were a real, live person. Maybe you’re extending to me the excuse of being a highly imaginative writer. Having minored in psychology for my bachelor’s degree, I understand you could argue that Charley’s simply an extension of my personality. I know full well she could be a way of allowing myself the privilege of letting my inner child to come forth, or my inner psycho, or my inner coffee drinker (Sadly, I’m relegated to decaf right now, folks).

I know Charley’s not real, but I think she’s awesome. We’ve had some fun together, her and I. The last three years I have spent with Charley in my life have been truly amazing, and I expect the experience to continue on. She has at least two more stories to look forward to. Me, that is. For me to look forward to because I truly love telling her stories. Aww. Good times. Good times. Thanks Charley.

And thank you all so very much! I’ve enjoyed talking about Charley from a writer’s POV. I have two more things I’d like to share. First, I’m giving away a signed, hardcover of Third Grave Dead Ahead to one winner, so good luck, all! Second, how is a winner determined? Get on the Tote Bags ‘n Books comment board and answer this question. A winner will be chosen from one of the participants this evening.

So answer this: Which literary character would you like to spend the day with in their world? I would love to know what everyone’s answer to that is. It tells a lot about the reader. Ha ha.

***Candie is the winner for the hardcover of Third Grave Dead Ahead!!  Congratulations!  Please email with your full name and mailing address!***

Sunday, January 29, 2012

A Year in the Life of an Author: January

Hi! I'm Elizabeth Boyle, historical romance author and I was asked to write a year long blog series about what I do on a month by month basis to show not only the progress of a book, but the work an author puts in over the course of a year.

No, sorry, it is not all bon bons and lap dogs.

And there is so much more that has to get done than just writing pages. So what did I do this month?

I started January with a writer's retreat with my dear friends, Jane Porter, Megan Crane, and Liza Palmer. We took over a lovely condo in Palm Springs--which turned out to be sort of an equal travel distance for the four of us. We spent the four days writing, talking about writing--process, page production, music tracks, and plot points and more writing. And a lot of eating and laughing. It was a perfect way to start 2012.

After that page-o-thon, I went back to finishing up the tasks that had been put aside over the holidays--mostly, reading page proofs. Now you might think for an author, a task that involves sitting around and reading would be like candy to a baby. But most authors will tell you, reading page proofs is a drag.

This is because we've already read the book. We wrote the book. And we are now re-reading it for about the 20th time. I had to do page proofs for four different books this month: my June release, ALONG CAME A DUKE, and the ebook rerelease of my first three books, BRAZEN ANGEL, BRAZEN HEIRESS, and BRAZEN TEMPTRESS.

I am currently going through the Brazen books for the third time in two months to give them one last once over. In between all this reading, I've been plucking along and writing pages on my 2013 release, AND THE MISS RAN AWAY WITH THE RAKE.

What I found interesting about reading a book I had just written and the three books I wrote at the beginning of my career is how much I have changed as an author. I am still mulling over the things I like now, and the things I like from then that for whatever reasons, I haven't been doing of late. Always good to start the year with a little self-evaluation.

I am doing that in spades. As I move into February, not only will I be carrying those evaluations forward, but I am also hammering out the details with my publicist for my first multi-city book tour in June.

2012 promises to be a year of growth! What about for you?

Saturday, January 28, 2012

This is the year...

January is the month when we make big promises to ourselves about what we’re going to do in this brand new year.
It feels as if we’re starting with a clean-slate, all the mistakes of the old year wiped away and it’s a chance to begin again, do something different, change our lives. How many of us have started a new year with the resolution that this is the year we’ll write a book, I wonder?
I know that I did that on a regular basis back in the day before I was published. It was harder then. There were very few books about how-to write. There was no internet where you could go for advice, no opportunity chat to authors, take a class.
When I wrote the first books that were rejected, I was on my own. I wrote three books — every word of 55,000 words — before I discovered that three chapters were enough. I don’t regret all that effort. Finishing a book is important. Imagine impressing an editor with your first three chapters and then having to finish the book if you had never done it before?
The only feedback I had was from the editors who read my early efforts. I still have the letters – they are very precious to me. Kindly editors told me what was wrong, pointed me in the direction of writers I should read — Sara Craven, Elizabeth Oldfield — and said they would be happy to read anything else I wrote, but there was no solid advice.
It’s more than twenty years since I received “the call”. I’ve published more than sixty books, won awards and had a wonderful career. It’s time to pay it forward, and Liz Fielding’s Little Book of Writing Romance is the book I wish I’d had when I first started writing. A primer. A book that helps the new writer to translate the story in her head into the written word.
How to grab your reader on the first page, tackle conflict, dig deep for emotion. How to give your reader a hero and heroine who had a life before your book begins, who are meant to be together — who don’t just fall in love because you put them together in a book — and who your reader can imagine having a life after they read the last page.
Real people, taking the journey of their lives.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Here Kitty, Kitty

With the release of the fourth Dreg City book, WRONG SIDE OF DEAD, fast approaching, I wanted to take a few minutes to talk about one of my favorite things in the world: cats.

Yes, I said cats.  Cats are wonderful.  I've had a feline fur-baby in my life almost constantly for the last twenty years. They are beautiful, smart, sassy, and make terrific lap warmers on cold winter nights.  But house cats aren't quite the focus of this topic. I want to narrow it down to an even more specific kind of cat—were-cats.  Shapeshifters.  Specifically, the Felia Clan.

Fans of the Dreg City series know that, aside from were-osprey Phineas, we haven't seen much of the various shapeshifter Clans yet—but that changes in WSOD.  You get to meet a were-dingo, several were-bears, a were-ferret (don't laugh), and (*drumroll*) were-CATS! 

Who doesn't love were-cats?  Big, burly men who shift into gorgeous tigers?  Or sexy females who shift into a lovely lynx?  And besides the sleek prettiness of a Big Cat, they are ferocious in battle.  Have you ever seen an Animal Planet special in which a lion takes down a gazelle?  Dude…

But back to the book….teaming up with the Clans isn't easy for Evangeline Stone or any of her human friends,  and neither is sharing command with a were-jaguar named Astrid Dane.  She's tough, stubborn (sound like anyone you know?), but slow to temper (unlike someone you know).  She's also joined by her brother, Marcus Dane.  What do you need to know about Marcus?  He's hot, alpha-tempered, Astrid's second-in-command, and he shifts into a huge black jaguar.  Astrid and Marcus also share a bit of a complicated past with ex-Hunter (and human) Tybalt Monahan.

As a long-time fan of this moderately neglected species of shifters, I was eager to bring were-cats into the forefront of the Dreg City books, and WSOD gave me a terrific opportunity to do so.  For those who've read ANOTHER KIND OF DEAD (Dreg City 3), you know that things changed.  A lot.  And WSOD is the aftermath book, where new alliances are formed, friends become enemies, and a whole lot of questions finally get answered.

And if the inclusion of two were-cats to the corral of Dreg City residents isn't enough to entice you to read, I have one more hyphenated word for you: were-seals (not the military kind).


So who is your favorite were-critter in literature?


Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Grandma and the Prince - Part 32

Once upon a time there was a shop girl and a wealthy man who fell in love. The shop girl was well past her socially acceptable sell-by date and, for that matter, so was the wealthy man.  She sold (chocolates) (neckties) (flowers) and their paths crossed one rainy afternoon when he ducked inside the shop where she worked to escape the downpour.
"May I help you?" she asked in her shades-of-Brooklyn accent as he strode toward the counter.

"Have supper with me," he said in his shades-of-Bermuda accent, "and then I'll tell you."

They were married two weeks later.

Six months after that he died.

You probably know the rest. This is one of those urban legends that have been told and retold in as many languages and with twice as many variations as Cinderella. The poor little timeworn shop girl was suddenly a wealthy widow living a life she'd imagined only in the darkness of the local movie house as she munched popcorn and dreamed of the roads not taken.

But this time the story is true.

The shop girl's name was Ann and she was my Grandma Bess's aunt and rumor had it she owned a burgundy velvet pouch filled with emeralds.

I've told you about my Grandpa Larry and his fifth and last wife Bess.  Bess was a widow with a young son, a tony woman who came from the right side of the Brooklyn tracks and married very well the first time. (Think Radio Shack connection, okay?) She and Grandpa Larry (my mother's father) met when he was on the rebound from my Grandma El (my father's mother) in 1953 and they married in 1954. Which happens to be the same year Grandma El married Grandpa Les in retaliation.

I was way too little at the time to know or understand what was going on beyond the fact that I seemed to have more than my share of grandparents. Three of each, if my count is right --  not a bad thing at all for an only child.

Anyway, Grandma Bess was part of my life for as far back as I can clearly remember and she was every bit as much of a grandmother as the ones I'd acquired through blood ties. She was a wonderful needlewoman whose stitching and knitting and crocheting projects always elicited well-deserved praise from anyone lucky enough to receive a finished object as a gift.

(Please remember that last paragraph.)

Time passed and we were fifteen years down the road. I was a madly-in-love newlywed, living with her airman husband in the wilds of Omaha, Nebraska a million miles from home.

We were poor. Oh boy, were we poor.  Dead broke, for that matter. We barely managed to scrape together enough money each month to keep a roof over our heads and food on the table. But we were young and in love and believed with every fiber in our bodies that love was all we needed.

And then Grandma Bess's Aunt Ann in Bermuda died and left one-third of her estate to Grandma Bess.  The pouch of emeralds? Yep.  Grandma Bess had full possession of them. I know it sounds like another urban legend but my mother got to see and touch them one Sunday afternoon and subwayed back to Queens in a state of advanced dazzlement.  This was one urban legend that wasn't a legend at all.

So imagine my excitement when Grandma Bess phoned me to tell me to make sure I was home later in the week to sign for an insurance package that was heading my way.  "It's not a big parcel," she said with a chuckle in her voice, "but I think you'll like it."

The emeralds!! I was dead sure of it.  Everyone knew we were flat broke.  I mean, we got down to three dollars in our checking account on more than one occasion. Grandma Bess had peeled off a couple of emeralds, wrapped them up, then sent them my way. A couple of emeralds wouldn't be missed, right? And what a difference they could make to us.

You can probably imagine the dreams I dreamed the next few days!  We could pay the rent and the phone, buy groceries at the commissary, and have money left over to gas up the car and do it all over again the next month.

"Don't get your hopes up," my mom warned me on the phone the day before the package arrived.  "Bess has a son and he has a wife who would look very good in emeralds."

But I wasn't listening.  Or if I was listening I simply couldn't hear.  I knew in my bones that our fortunes were about to change the second the mail carrier showed up at our front door.

Cut to the next day.  My hand shook as I signed for the package which, to my dismay, seemed way too big to hold a couple of precious gems.  Then again that could be clever camouflage on Grandma Bess's part to keep jewel thieves from sussing out the contents before they reached Omaha. I cut the string.  I tore open the brown paper wrappings.

And I found an afghan.

A beautiful afghan -- all yellows and oranges and rich browns, my favorite colors at the time -- but an afghan just the same.

I steadied myself and took a deep breath.  Okay.  This is just another clever ruse to hide the emeralds.  I luck into a fabulous afghan to keep the prairie winter at bay =and= some emeralds to boot.

Except there were no emeralds.  My gift was the beautiful afghan and a tender, loving note.

But no emeralds.

I loved the afghan but I'd be lying if I told you that my eighteen year old self was anything but bitterly disappointed. I had never thought of myself as a materialistic sort (it was the late 60s after all) but I had to struggle to appreciate the time and love that went into the afghan and put aside the thought of the beautiful green stones with the hidden blue flame.

Years later when Grandma Bess was dying I helped her sort through some of her belongings. The Hummel figurines, the Wedgwood, the Baccarat crystal that had once graced her Aunt Ann's palatial home in Hamilton, Bermuda. side. Old letters and postcards. Stacks of finished needlework and afghans exquisitely stitched by Grandma Bess. And yes a faded burgundy pouch with six square cut emeralds bumping up against each other.

I don't know what happened to the emeralds but I have the letters and the cards, the needlework and the afghans.

I wouldn't trade them for the world.


Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Of Truths and Legends

I’ve written, or am in the process of writing, three very different paranormal romance series. My Feral Warriors series is about the last nine shape-shifters in the world, each of whom shifts into a different animal, and their battle to keep the Daemons from once more rising. In my Vamp City series, a young woman stumbles upon a dark and deadly vampire utopia—a world whose magic is crumbling. A world she alone can save.

And then there’s my Esri series. In this one, an ancient evil has found its way back into our world and the only ones who can stop it don’t know it exists.

It’s the Esri series I want to talk about because, well, book three, A Warrior’s Desire, comes out today. I thought you might be interested in hearing how I came up with the idea for the series in the first place. Because that ancient evil I mentioned? They’re the Esri, the creatures at the heart of the legends of fairies and elves.

I’ve heard it said that every legend has, at its heart, a kernel of truth. Now the ‘truth’ may be as simple as, yes, there was once a great Saxon warrior by the name of Arthur. Did he live in Camelot, have a magician called Merlin as a friend, and sit at a round table? Hard to say since there were no video cameras or even literate witnesses around at the time to record the details. When it comes to oral history, it’s a near certainty that facts are going to get embellished, misinterpreted, or flat out changed to suit the storyteller. As my beloved grandmother used to say, “Why should I tell it the way it happened when I can make it so much more interesting?” (Guess where I got my storytelling talent from?)

Fairies and elves are a good example of how legends morph and change. In most of the original tales, both were the size of humans, decidedly wingless, and generally dangerous. Over the generations, the stories have changed to the point where modern culture portrays them as benevolent tiny winged creatures or pointy-eared dwarfs.

I’m a daydreamer, I’ve always been a day dreamer, but I’m also an intensely logical person. So, some years ago, when I stumbled upon a book of ancient faerie beliefs and realized that as recently as the 1800’s many very learned people absolutely believed fairies were real, I got to thinking. What if there really was a kernel of truth in these old legends? What if, long, long ago, there really were faeries in this world? My logical mind promptly took over and started firing off questions. What happened to them? Why were they here? Why aren’t they here any more? How, over the centuries, have the original facts been twisted and changed as original facts always are? And, best of all, what would I do if suddenly faced with irrefutable fact that the creatures at the heart of the legends had returned? Not cute little Tinkerbells, but man-sized, malevolent beings bent on the enslavement of the human race?

And so the Esri were born. In Book 1 of the series, The Dark Gate, the first Esri in fifteen centuries finds his way back into the human realm and wreaks havoc on modern day Washington, D.C. The hero and heroine have to accept the impossible in order to stop him, and come to realize there’s truth in the old legends after all. In Book 2, I flip that realization a bit when one of the Esri, a dangerous, dark-haired, part-human known as the Punisher, infiltrates the human realm to destroy the only humans who can stop the Esri invasion, only to realize humans are a far cry from the mindless creatures his own legends have portrayed. One human, in fact, steals his heart and changes his understanding of everything he’s known, including himself.

In book 3, A Warrior’s Desire (the one that comes out today), the back cover says it best:  Former navy SEAL Charlie Rand embarks on the most dangerous mission of his career when he dives through a portal to rescue the only person who knows how to seal the gates between the Esri faery land and the world. But meeting up with his guide and companion through the adventure, the beautiful Tarrys, turns out to be his true revelation. As the pair traverses the dangerous plains, the Forest of Nightmares and the crystal mines of Esria, they’re pursued by beings who seek to kill Charlie and enslave Tarrys. But the greatest danger of all becomes the love that grows between the couple, a love that threatens to doom their mission to save humanity.
And in book 4, Warrior Rising (which will be out March 20th), enemies turn into lovers as Harrison Rand and the Esri princess, Ilaria, fight to keep the evil Esri king from destroying both worlds in this action-packed conclusion to the series.

Have you ever wished one of the old legends was actually true? If so, which one? Or, conversely, what legend or fairy tale would you most hate to discover was real? I’ll give away signed copies of the first two books in the Esri series, The Dark Gate and Dark Deceiver, to three commenters. And don’t forget to check out my website,, for more on all my series including excerpts, character bios, and laws of the world.

****Pamela's winners are : Mary, dgaffke and Sue Sattler! Congratulations, ladies!  Please email your full name and address to so we can get the prizes in the mail! Thanks!!****

Monday, January 23, 2012

What Do Regencies and Paranormals Have in Common?

Hi, Everyone!  Blogging is one of my favorite things because I love chatting with readers about books, reading, and writing.  So feel free to join in today and offer a comment or two.  I’ll be giving away the winner’s choice of a Guardians of Ascension novel as well as a choice of wing-based, hand-crafted earrings!  In addition, I always include romance trading cards of all four novels in my winged vampire series, a bookmark, and a couple of postcards.  And this is an international giveaway, so please, join in the fun!

Though most of my work to date has been in the Regency era, I’m often asked how in the world I made the switch to paranormal?  But the fact is, it never felt like much of a stretch to me.  For one thing, three of my Regencies included Greek mythological characters (and that was way before Sherrilyn Kenyon’s fab Dark Hunters series) and I also wrote a vampire Regency novella, which was a blast and a half!

However, beyond that, historicals and paranormals share one major thing in common:  world-building.  In the same way that I helped my Regency readers to feel like they were living during the time of curricles, muslin gowns, snuff and masquerade balls, I’ve worked just as hard helping my paranormal readers experience the vampire world I’ve built.  In my Guardians of Ascension series, for instance, I created wings and flight, a different take on the vampire mythos, an array of powers that so far doesn’t seem to have an end in sight, and most importantly tough leather battle gear for my warriors, including super sexy black leather kilts!  *Tssss!!!*

I also think that both Regencies and Paranormals have wonderful alpha males.  My vampires are warriors and all my Regency heroes were titled men:  viscounts, earls, the occasional marquis.  I think if you added up the number of ‘lords’ I created in my Regencies, I may have bestowed more titles than any single monarch in British history!  Alphas are wonderful to write as well:  they’re strong, but usually isolated and just need a good, powerful woman to bring them down a peg or two in order to open up that stubborn heart to love!

In recent years, I left my Regency world behind—just temporarily, mind you—and have focused on the pleasure of writing my vampire series.  Guardians of Ascension is set in a world of ascending dimensional earths of which there are six known dimensions.  Perhaps because I wrote Regencies for so long, it was a natural thing for me to include social aspects to this world as well, like the various philosophies of my ascenders, the reverential aspects of sharing blood, as well as the potential abuses, the war, the effects of the war on my overworked, but oh-so-hunky warriors, and even what it’s like to raise children on Second Earth. 

Above all, however, I write romance no matter what the genre.  So, each novel in either my Regencies or my Guardians of Ascension focuses on one couple and their struggle to find love within all the challenges of the world in which they live.
BORN OF ASHES, my current release, is the fourth book in the series and came out on the 3rd of this month.  It features a blood slave, Fiona, who has been rescued by the Warrior Jean-Pierre.  Because she was a slave for a hundred years, she has a mission to in turn rescue other women.

I have to say that it’s been hugely satisfying to write a series, something I haven’t done before.  The continuing characters become like olds friends and with each successive book I always try to take a moment to bring forward, even if it’s just in the space of a paragraph, one of the couples from a previous novel.   
I love to talk about writing in general and my winged vampire series specifically.  Please ask me anything you like but I always want to know what you’re favorite romance novel of all time is and what has made that book so special for you!

To learn more about the Guardians of Ascension, go to:

Caris Roane has published over fifty Regency romance novels and novellas under the pen name, Valerie King.  In 2005, Romantic Times gave her a Career Achievement award in Regency Romance.  Having had a long-time love affair with vampires, Caris tackled the paranormal genre and built a unique vampire world based on ascending dimensional earths.  Her series is called Guardians of Ascension
The first novel of the series, Ascension, debuted in January of 2011 and has been nominated for a Romantic Times Reviewer Choice Award in the category of Vampire Romance.  Burning Skies was released in May, and the third novel, Wings of Fire, hit the shelves in September.  Her novella based on the series, Brink of Eternity, released July 12th as a $.99 e-read!  And most recently, on January 3rd, the fourth novel, Born of Ashes, opened the New Year.  The fifth novel, Obsidian Flame releases on April 24th.  Caris lives in Phoenix, Arizona with her two cats, Sebastien and Gizzy.

***TashNZ was picked as the winner!  Congrats, Tash! Please email with your full name and mailing address!  Thank you!!***

Sunday, January 22, 2012


Hi, all!  It’s nice to be here.  I’d like to thank Lee for inviting me.  My name is Opal Carew and I write erotic romance.  I also write steamy romance as Amber Carew. 

This time of year, I like to sit back and take a few moments to reflect on what I would like to achieve in the coming year, and beyond.  It’s tempting to just follow along my current path without really thinking about it, letting things happen by default, but if I just follow the path blindly without thinking about where I’m going, isn’t it like riding a boat without steering?  Drifting along where the current takes me?

I’m currently in the middle of a six book contract with St. Martin’s Press, with deadlines more or less set and I have two novellas to write for Samhain, and that’s more than enough to keep me busy for a year, but are there other things I should be doing to make my career successful? And what about the other aspects of my life?

I think the real question is what can I do to make my life happier?  That happiness could be a result of many things.  For instance, making my career more successful (or fun), spending more time with family, reducing my stress level, or improving my health.

As part of this process, I make a list of goals.  Some are very specific, with clear steps, and some are very broad.  Some are life achievement types of goals.  Clearly, those are bigger and may carry over years.

The great thing is, over the years I see these goals manifesting.  For instance, my big dream used to be getting published, and that finally happened several years ago.  Now it’s being a New York Times bestselling author.  That goal goes on the list every year.  Another was to be an award winning author.  Previously, I’d never won anything, but over the past two years, I’ve won three awards, and this year I’m a finalist for the RT Book Review magazine’s Best Erotic Book of 2011 award.  Also, I might not be a NYT bestselling author, but my short story, THREE, hit #15 on Barnes and Noble in August.

An example of a very specific, easily attainable goal was to submit to a publisher a series of sci fi erotic romance novellas called Celestial Soul-Mates that I’d had on the backburner.  The first two stories were written and the other three drafted.  I just had to send them out, but I never seemed to find the time.  After two years on my goal list, I finally did it, and now they’re being published by Samhain.  The third in the series, PASSION PLAY, came out a few days ago.

Another goal I added last year was to write some erotic short stories.  I love to write short stories, so they would add some fun to my career, and with the growing popularity of eBooks, there’s now a bigger market for short fiction.  So while struggling with one of my books a few months ago, in an attempt to free my creative block, I sat down and wrote a short story.  Ideas started to flow and I came up with the concept for a series, called Red Hot Fantasies.  I published the first story, THE MALE STRIPPER, two days before Christmas, and THE STRANGER a couple of days ago.


I find that over the years, this process has helped me find success and happiness, in my career and in my personal life.

What about you?  Do you have a planning process that works for you?  Do you have any secrets for finding success that you’d like to share?

I’m giving away a copy of The Male Stripper, the first story of the Red Hot Fantasies series, to FIVE lucky people.  Just leave a comment to be eligible to win.

Please join me on Facebook: Opal Carew or Amber Carew


***Opal's winners are: Jane, Linda Henderson, Leni, Evan Blanc and Alison!!  Congratulations! Please email your full name and address to as soon as possible!  Thanks!***

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Dark and stormy nights

Arguably one of the worst opening lines is “It was a dark and stormy night.” But when an elementary school teacher in Northeast Ohio gave her sixth grade class that line and told them to write a story, an author was born. An author who grew up with a keen interest in all things paranormal. I don’t remember how old I was when I first read Bram Stoker’s Dracula, but I was hooked. I think I’ve seen every Hammer Horror film that Christopher Lee and Peter Cushing were in, and while I don’t necessarily like straight horror, throw a little romance into all that gothic angst and I am so there.

So it was only natural that when I started writing, seriously writing for publication, that I went straight to paranormal romance. And I’m so excited about my Warriors of the Rift series with Grand Central Publishing. The first book, KISS OF THE VAMPIRE, comes out February 1st. It has a vampire hero and a half-demon heroine and a supporting cast that includes werewolves, elves and even a werebear. Set primarily in the Scottsdale, Arizona area, the series combines paranormal elements with suspense and romance.

The second book, HEART OF THE WOLF, picks up the storyline where KISS leaves off, with a werewolf heroine and a human cop. I’m just about ready to start writing book three, HEART OF THE DEMON which features a demon hero and a fey heroine.

Warriors of the Rift: Once a generation, the rift between the paranormal world and the human world opens, allowing supernatural entities to cross. Vampire, demon, or shapeshifter, they can save the world–or send it spiraling into chaos.

So, tell me. What’s your favorite type of paranormal, and why? To celebrate the release of the first book of the series, we’ll draw a name from all the comments and that person will receive an Advance Reader Copy of KISS OF THE VAMPIRE and a bookmark and magnet.

Cynthia Garner

***Shannon wins the ARC for Kiss of The Vampire!! Congratulations, Shannon! Please send an email with your full name and mailing address to so we can get the prize in the mail! Thank you!***

Thursday, January 19, 2012

So You Say You Want to Publish Your Own Book… by Jenny Gardiner

It's been nearing two years now since I decided to self-publish a novel. Back then it was in the early days of indie publishing, and I made the decision based on instinct, purely because I'd gotten a Kindle for my birthday that previous December and was so hooked on the convenience of it, the ability to acquire new books within a minute's time, the elimination of tons and tons of paper waste that was endemic with the publishing industry, etc. I just knew if I loved this cool, new (and then overpriced) gadget, then others would too. And I knew once the price came down on it lots of people would be on board. I'd decided the time was upon us when I heard that Apple would be launching this new product called an iPad soon. That was the magic bullet to bring the price down on e-readers so that people would buy them.

It was slow-going in the early days. That first year I hardly sold any books. Hardly anyone owned e-readers. Plus it was hard to determine the proper pricing--it made sense for an e-book to be cheaper than a book that is printed, but how much cheaper? Hard to know. And it seemed that those who owned Kindles were looking for free content. Maybe to save money after shelling out $350 for a Kindle? hehehe

Have I learned a lot in the past two years? Oh, if only you knew…

There was a time when I wanted to stay parked firmly in the camp of publishing with New York houses. That's the way it was supposed to be. But something happened along the way: times changed. New York houses changed (well, actually more like they failed to adapt, which led to their becoming much more irrelevant). It went from a reasonable proposition to an unrealistic one. More and more houses were putting all the demands on authors with little-to-no risk on their part. If a book didn't sell gangbusters, it was automatically because the author somehow failed. Which we all knew was baloney. But it was easiest to blame the most vulnerable in the trail: the writers. Advances became so small as to be almost insulting: once upon a time an advance would enable an author to write from book to book without quite starving to death. But advances were becoming so small that it was the equivalent of working a minimum wage job for about a week: clearly not enough to sustain someone. Authors were busily working their tails off, building a healthy mountain of debt and not ever seeing much money for their efforts (while readers falsely believed writers were living it up like the Kardashians!).

But then Amazon decided to offer authors what no one else had truly done: respect. In the form of a legitimate level of royalty payment. Enough to help pay for groceries! Imagine! Granted, it was part of their multi-pronged attack against the industry-slash-attempt-to-curry-favor-with-a-susceptible-population. But hey, I admit, I was completely vulnerable! Throw the possibility of actual wage-earning my way and I'll foam at the mouth! I have no pride!

But what I hadn't expected that I love about publishing myself is that I have control over my career again. No longer am I at the mercy of vagaries over which I have no control. No editors who leave in the middle of a book, leaving you essentially unrepresented for your book's publication and floundering in no-man's land. No houses who lose interest in the novel and neglect to promote it. No IOUs on royalties stuck in this mysterious accounting category known as "reserves", which means you'll never see a penny of it. Basically no one to blame but me if it doesn't do well. But now I have an artist's palette of options to try to fix that if it doesn't sell: change the cover. Change the descriptive jacket copy. Try various promotions both within Amazon and without. If the book doesn't sell, it's not dead in the water as it once was with a New York house. It just calls for some refining. Tweaking. This was a new concept: rather than sit passively by while my home was engulfed in weeds, with indie publishing I was able to take proactive measures to spruce up the curb appeal and ensure that people were interested. This is a great gift that Amazon has given authors. And one that benefits readers. For far too long authors were shut down with terrific books simply because they didn't fit within the narrowly prescripted terms of their genres and those of bricks-and-mortar stores: i.e. if it couldn't be easily categorized on a shelf, it wasn't going to find a home. But now if you write a book that transcends genre descriptions, one that might be part suspense, part women's fiction, and part sports narrative, well guess what? Somewhere on Amazon, you'll find your readership. Chick lit, once considered the graveyard for all eternity for writers, has returned with indie publishing: we knew the readers existed. It's just that publishing houses refused to take a chance to publish that type of novel after they'd killed the genre. It's a whole new world in publishing, and I'm so happy to be in the frontier of it, taking charge, owning my career again.

Over the past two years I've become a scholar of sorts, learning the ins and outs of independent publishing, trying to discern what works and what doesn't. There's a lot of trial and error, and there isn't always a simple answer. Plus it's true, rather than devote all of my time to writing, I'm having to divide it in order to focus also on trying to succeed in this New Publishing World Order. But hell, even if publishing through "legacy" New York publishers I was spending much of my time with marketing and publicity, sucking away time I'd otherwise spent creating worlds as a writer. At least now I'm doing it while earning an actual living, which is a good thing, if nothing else because it enables me to continue to be a writer. And that's a good thing.

So if you're interested in checking out my indie-published books, here they are!

and others I have with other publishing houses:

and coming very soon:

and please come visit me on twitter and Facebook here and here

Do You Believe In Legends?

Morning, everyone!  Thanks for having me here today and letting me talk about my new paranormal release IMMORTAL HOPE and the legend that it’s based on, the Knights Templar.

Templar knights defied the archangels and unearthed the copper scroll, revealing the gates to hell. Cursed for their forbidden act, they forever roam the earth protecting mankind from evil. But darkness stalks them, and battles they fight bring them ever-closer to eternal damnation. One promise remains to give them salvation – the return of the seraphs.
Embittered by his purpose, Merrick du Loire must honor an ancient pact and bring peace to his cousin’s soul. When he stumbles upon history professor Anne MacPherson, he discovers she possesses a sacred artifact that marks her as a seraph. Duty demands he set aside his personal quest and locate the knight she’s fated to heal. As he struggles with conflicting oaths, Anne arouses buried hope and sparks forbidden desire that challenges everything he’s sworn to uphold.
Anne has six weeks to complete her thesis on the Knights Templar. When Merrick takes her to the Templar stronghold, he presents her with all she needs—and awakens a soul-deep ache, he alone can soothe. Yet loving Merrick comes with a price. If she admits she's destined for him, her gift of foresight predicts his death.

IMMORTAL HOPE is the product of a lot of research and a lot of speculative fiction.  We all know, per history, that the legendary knights went to the Temple Mount and found something in the tunnels beneath.  What that something in has ranged from the treasure of Jerusalem to the essence of Christ and those myths, those legends, have firmly rooted themselves into our culture. 

But when I designed IMMORTAL HOPE and the companion books in the series, The Curse of the Templars, I didn’t want to travel the path Dan Brown and so many others have.  I didn’t want to speculate on what the knights found – even though that question is used to ground the reader throughout IMMORTAL HOPE itself.

What fascinates me more as a historian is what happened to the Knights Templar. 

Here’s the facts:  They were founded between 1118 and 1119.  They built mesmerizing Cathedrals.  They acted as ‘bankers’ for nearly every European throne.  They were rich and powerful with members claiming kingships.  They owned their own navy fleet, built roads and trade routes, their battle skills were invaluable.  In short they had strength and power, physically and politically, and enough numbers throughout their network to found their own country.

Then, after existing for two hundred years, they virtually disappeared.  The night before hundreds were arrested, an entire fleet of ships, ripe with the Order’s wealth, vanished. Templar members and leaders were arrested and tortured into confessions.  Leaders held in Chinon were pardoned in secret… and then executed anyway.

Why, is the driving premise in IMMORTAL HOPE.  Anne MacPherson, the heroine, speculates it related to the Church feeling threatened.  

There are other theories about what may have happened to them, but scholars are leaning more and more toward the Templar being a threat to the French Throne and the Church.  Still, the mysteries surrounding them leave history ripe for speculation.

-          Some people believe the Knights Templar took refuge in Portugal, becoming the Knights of Christ
-          Theories amass that the members of the Templar quietly joined ranks with the Knights Hospitaller
-          Speculation exists that the Templar united with the King of Scotland, sharing the mutual ban of excommunication, and took refuge in the North (Rosslyn Chapel verifying this)
-          Treasure hunters believe the Knights Templar journeyed to North America and hid their treasure here (Oak Island Money Pit)
-          Historical record indicates a strange turn of events in Switzerland around this time when a mighty fighting force entered, and Switzerland became the ‘closed’ country it is today.

I tend to believe the latter – that the knights moved into the mountains.  They had the banking skills, the political connections, the power to defend their territories, the know-how to operate at governmental levels. 

But what about you?  Do you believe the legends?  One in particular perhaps? 

Or do you believe in the truth, according to Merrick du Loire, cursed commander of the North American Knights Templar:

The Curse

In 1119, nine knights rode with Hughes de Payens to the Holy Land, becoming the Knights Templar. All were bound by marriage or by blood. Eight were recorded over time. The ninth vanished into history.

Beneath the legendary Temple Mount, the knights uncovered holy relics, including the Copper Scroll—a document written by Azazel’s unholy hand. For their forbidden digging, the archangels exacted a sacrifice. The knights would spend eternity battling the demons of Azazel’s creation, but with each vile death they claimed, a portion of darkness would enter their soul. In time, they would transform into knights of Azazel, warriors veined with evil, destined to fight against the Almighty.

Yet an ancient prophecy remained to give them hope. When darkness raped the land, the seraphs would return. Female descendants of the Nephilim would carry the light to heal their dying souls.

Centuries have passed. Azazel’s might grows to intolerable limits. With the acquisition of eight holy relics, he will gain the power to overthrow the Almighty.

Six Templars stand above the rest in duty, honor, and loyalty. But each is haunted by a tragic past, and their darkened souls rapidly near the end. As they battle both the overwhelming power of evil and the nightmares of lives they left behind, the seraphs are more than tools to victory.

They are salvation.

Thanks again for having me here today!

TWITTER: @ClaireAshgrove

Claire will be giving away a $25 gift certificate to one randomly drawn commenter during the tour, and a second $25.00 gift certificate to a second randomly drawn commenter at the end of the tour.  Be sure to follow the tour and comment; the more you comment, the better your chances of winning! Click the Blog Tour badge for a complete list of blog stops.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Where Did Winter Go?

I'm not sure how it happened, but clearly winter has decided to skip southern NJ and go to other parts of the country instead. As I write this, a MAJOR winter snowstorm/blizzard is heading for Seattle. . . SEATTLE? Around here? Well, after a Halloween weekend surprise snow, we've had nothing! I am seriously not happy. Then my azalea bushes began to bud and three blossoms even showed up a day later. 65 degrees in December is simply not acceptable.

It's this time of year that I get at least a couple of wonderful, hunker-down reading days during snowstorms or just after it. I make a nice pot of tea and curl up with a good book. . . or two or three. If the weather is really bad, I could spend two whole days on the couch. Ah, those are good times.

Not this year -- 2011 has slipped into 2012 and there's no sign of winter! Spring will bring its flowers and nice(r) weather and outside activities and I will have missed my significant winter reading time.

So, at this point I'm hanging my hat on the only guilt-free reading day that's possible -- I've been called for jury duty next week. Since it can be difficult or inconvenient to bring my laptop and attempt to get some writing done, I can only bring along a book or two and simply sit and read through the day while waiting to be called to the courtroom.

Either way -- it's pretty bad when I have to rely on winter storms or jury duty to get some quality reading time for myself! LOL!

How about you? How do you carve out reading time for yourself? Is it weather-related (more or less in winter or summer)? Is it job-related? Some other way? Post a note and I'll be choosing two commentors to each receive a copy of the special Mills & Boon release - ROYAL WEDDINGS THROUGH THE AGES - an anthology of seven stories about historical royal weddings. (It's only being released in the UK so it is SPECIAL!)

Terri is working on her next Harlequin Historical release (returning to the MacLerie Clan in the Highlands of Scotland!) while re-publishing her first four books that include 3 time-travel romances and one historical. Visit her website for all kinds of info about her and her books and events!

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

First Lines And More

I’m writing today with only one hand, and the left at that, courtesy of a shifty horse and a Mexican beach.

How’s that for an opening line? And an unfortunately true one. Try typing with your non-dominant hand sometime and marvel at how difficult a familiar keyboard becomes. So please pardon my brevity and all the typos!

My accident was a fairly common one, falling backward and stupidly using my hand to break my fall. But Mexico was gorgeous and one of my favorite places to be in winter. I crave sun and warmth this time of year. Perhaps that’s why I’ve placed my witchy Malcolm characters in California—so I can soak up their heat as I write!

Since I’m supposed to be chatting about my book and not my boo-boos, here’s the opening line from LURE OF SONG AND MAGIC:  Hollywood’s hottest producer seeks former teen sensation to find kidnapped son.

Hard to pack an entire story into one line, but I tried! And lest you’re left with the impression that this is a romantic suspense, let me assure you that Pippa and Oz are far too strong-willed to let plot get in the way of their conflict, or their romance. But have pity on my injured wrist and go take a look at the excerpt if you doubt me:

Sourcebooks is offering books to  two lucky commenters. To start things off, why don’t you tell me if you like a touch of paranormal in your books and why or why not.

I blew up my last Facebook page but I’ve started another at:   Stop by and check out the pics from my Mexican adventure! I’m accident prone, so Like the page and you can follow my misadventures.

If you prefer, you can reach me through my blog at or by stopping by my website at and Twitter hasn’t kicked me out yet:!/Patricia_Rice

So let me know how you like LURE and what you’d like me to do in the future (besides fall off horses). More Magic books? Historicals? Contemps?

***Marybelle and Maureen are the winners! Congratulations, ladies! Please send an email with your full name and mailing address to so we can get the prize in the mail! Thank you!***