Weekend Read: Our Little Secrets

Happy Friday and upcoming weekend, all. Wow. Can’t believe the Olympics are winding down already. So psyched about Andy Murray’s gold and first big win!

Just finished reading Our Little Secrets by Merry Farmer, indie author, fellow Twitter-pal (and PA ‘neighbor’ :)).

This captivating historical, set circa the early 1900s, caught my attention immediately.

Premise: Girl seeking to escape her past steps off a train in a frontier town. She meets the general store’s owner, an apparently kind and clever chap with whom she immediately feels chemistry. He’s looking to change the town’s perception of him, shall we say? So, within 24 hours, Miss Charlotte Baldwin and Mr. Michael West agree to a business arrangement and marry. They make a pact not to ask questions about each other’s pasts. 

I absolutely loved the characters and liked the story circumstances that brought this pair together—especially a MAJOR twist—and helped them grow and change as individuals and as a couple. The author did a wonderful job creating chemistry between “Charlie” and Michael, as well as fun, witty interchanges between the two that were delightful to read. I also tend to enjoy stories where the hero/heroine are on each other’s side from the start. This story did not disappoint.

Being a reader who tends to go for the gorgeous alpha-looking hero with the beta-guy’s heart, I liked that I was endeared to Michael even though he wasn’t described as the eye-candy type. Who he was off the bat—and the inner hero brought about via the story events—made me often forget he wasn’t necessarily packaged in that traditional leading man model we romance lovers tend to expect. (BUT: Part of Ms. Farmer’s dedication was to her first celebrity crush named—hmm, Michael. Despite a clue she provided I’m still wondering who he is, lol.)

Set against the incredible Montana landscape (one I hope to visit one day), Ms. Farmer did a very nice job painting the setting and period details. I definitely felt transported to the turn of the century and felt grounded there the entire time. She kept me turning the pages and now has me looking forward to the sequel (to which she provides a sneak-peak at the end of the book).

A great weekend read! Get Our Little Secrets (and/or Merry’s other titles) here: Nook or Kindle

Visit Ms. Merry at her website.  Like her on Facebook and/or follow her on Twitter and let her know your thoughts on her works! (We authors LOVE that!)

And after all that, if you liked the content here, won’t you kindly SHARE below?

Have a great weekend! Thanks for your time,


Weekend Read: Mary Reed McCall’s The Crimson Lady

Hi all,

Just a little behind this weekend, but I wanted to get my second weekly post in. Hope all is well with everyone on this day!

Disclaimer: The following is my opinion of Mary Reed McCall’s THE CRIMSON LADY. This book was purchased by me at Who Dares Wins Publishing and I’m sharing my thoughts simply because I want to!

Guess the lovely cover art caught my attention but this wonderful tale kept me turning the pages. I happen to love stories where the hero and heroine find peace with each other early on and spend the rest of the story battling the story events (and a few of their inner demons) to find the way to their happily-ever-after. (I can give that part away. The story is a romance.)

Braeden de Cantor (such a cool name, too) is exactly the type of hero every woman wishes would walk into her life. Although we meet him a fugitive, he is steeped in honor and integrity. Reluctantly, he upends Fiona Byrne’s world by making her accompany him, certain she is the key to finding his missing foster sister. He also needs to confront his uncle, who imprisoned and tortured Braeden, most likely kidnapped his sister and marred his good name in a world where honor is everything.

Fiona is three years escaped from the world of prostitution, into which she was sold at age fifteen.  That time she spent burying her alter-egos, Giselle and The Crimson Lady. She has also re-established herself as a respectable widow in a world where prostitutes are looked down upon and are not to be associated with by people of genteel society. Braeden’s quest is a major threat to her fragile peace, especially when he leaves her no choice but to lead him to the group of outlaws with whom she partnered in the past, as they are the only ones who can connect Braeden with the man who is responsible for his sister’s disappearance. This same man, who purchased and imprisoned Fiona (physically, mentally and emotionally) is also the only one who can restore Braeden’s good name.

Neither of these well-developed characters needed long to discover the goodness in each other. Braeden is frequently at odds with the juxtaposed images he has of the hardened Crimson Lady and the warm, compassionate woman he is drawn to immediately and ever more as he knows her through her words and kind actions, especially among the outlaws. Fiona needs time to realize she can be loved despite the hell she lived at the hands of multiple men. (Braeden, of course, is just the loving kind of warrior to do it. And he’s pretty hot, too! ;))

This story was well-written and peppered with enough period detail to get me looking up words and learning more about medieval times, the clothing of the time and vocabulary specific to that era. I look forward to more from this author.

Have a great day and weekend everyone. Please remember to take a moment and click a SHARE button if you’re so inclined. See y’all next week!


Coffee and Because I’m Slow On the Uptake

Hey friends and followers,

Happy final Friday of 2011! Can’t thank all of you enough for all the ways you’ve made this blog such a happy place for me. You may have contributed a post or a comment, told somebody else about it or simply clicked LIKE and/or FOLLOW; maybe you just read or happened by via search engine. No matter what, you’ve touched me whether you know it or not! Please know how precious you all are, whether I know you by name or not.


Now, since I forgot to announce this on Wednesday (that’s the ‘Slow on the Uptake’ part of the this post’s title–the ‘Coffee’ woke me up ;)), I’m inviting y’all to Calisa Rhose’s Chit-Chat space for a cup of virtual coffee and discussion on why sittin’ and chillin’ has gone wayside in today’s digitally-driven, insanely busy world. Plus, her first published historical romance, HOME, debuted this week, on her birthday. And being the kind soul she is, she reminded me (during her recent virtual visit here) that I celebrated NO MATTER WHY‘s second anniversary this month too.

So, if you can spare a few, come on down!

A safe and happy new year to all (though I’m thinking this is my 199th post–why not close out the year with Number 200?),

Lotsa luv,


Writing Into the Past with Author Calisa Rhose

I’m so excited to be here Joanna! I often wondered if…no, when this day would come for me. Celebrating my first book release. Thank you for hosting me on my HOME blog tour!

You’re so welcome, Calisa. Thrilled to have you. Among the things I love best about writing and social networking are the wonderful online friends I’ve made. And I guess the cyber-world has it’s ‘small’ moments too. Calisa and the very sweet Anna Kittrell (whom I hosted earlier this year—read that post here) work as critique partners so we’re all sort of friends together.

Before I get to the reason I’m here I want to wish Joanna- or rather her book, NO MATTER WHY, a happy 2nd release day anniversary!

Thanks for the reminder, Calisa. My TWRP release date was January 15, 2009, but friends started buying right about December 9, 2008. (How cool. On Donny Osmond’s birthday no less. Is there a connection, lol?)


OMG, I LOVE!!!! your cover. Perfect colors–it simply breathes! Congratulations on having achieved that oh-so-exciting-and-life-changing-milestone in your writing journey! Tell us how HOME came about:

There were several challenges for me while writing this story of hope and finding what’s always been right under your nose. My daddy always said sometimes we can’t see the forest for the trees. In HOME that was certainly true.

BLURB:  What could a gypsy and a Vietnam veteran have in common?

Silvertown’s outcast, Poppy Tippen, has loved football hero Sam “The Force” Callahan forever. But he never seemed to know she was alive. Now he’s home from the war and she suddenly finds herself comforting him from the demons of “that damn war.” Is his attention merely an escape from the haunting nightmares? Or does she hold the interest of the only man she’s ever truly loved?

Sam Callahan’s only solace from the war nightmares wrecking his life comes in the unlikely form of a gypsy girl with stigmas of her own. He’s known Poppy his entire life, but there’s something different about her now. Something special he desperately wants to hold on to. Can he convince her she’s the only thing he needs to put the past behind him?

When this story presented itself to me I was stunned by the deep need to tell a story set in theVietnamera. That alone was a challenge. I typically write contemporary, whether western or paranormal romance. HOME is my first attempt at historical. Sure I lived in the 60’s but I was a tiny tot. I don’t remember much of those years past my own front step on theMojave desertin centralCalifornia.

The other challenge? I write full length novels. My typical story is upwards of 55,000 words. HOME is just 21,000. Yikes! How am I supposed to get everything about these two characters into less than half a book? And did I cut it with the historical part? I’ll let you read HOME when it comes out next Wednesday, December 28th, and judge for yourself how I did with these challenges.

For now I would like to talk about how I managed to write something I wasn’t accustomed to.  HOME is set in August,1967 ina small, fictional town inOklahoma. I don’t do a lot of research for my contemporaries, and slightly more for my paranormals. But for HOME I spent a lot of time going back to the 1960’s life styles, clothing and music.

Music. It plays a large part in my writing. I listen to what suits the story theme, whether it’s cowboys, wolves or days of war and protests. So I loaded up on popular songs from the sixties and wrote. I didn’t use the music to fit scenes exactly. I had trouble putting myself in the era. Music from the Beatles, Elvis and my heroine’s favorite, the Chiffons helped me get into that time frame mentally. There’s just something about that time and the music that draws you in. Have you watched GREASE lately? Though set a little before my story, much of the music is the same. Bonnie and Clyde debuted in fall of that year, too.

One thing I had to do, and didn’t enjoy as much, was research the main topic of those days; the Vietnam war.

Sam Callahan was sent to the front lines as a doctor. For three years he watched young boys die, and being much older than the average soldier at twenty-seven, he had to accept that he couldn’t save them all. Hard to do for a man who was raised to believe there was nothing he couldn’t do.

I read so many horror stories while learning what would impact Sam once he returned home. PTSD which was called shell shock back then was his biggest damage. He would relive those years ‘over there’ with no reprieve. Until he met Poppy.

Poppy Tippen was a treat to write. Full of pep and vinegar as my gramma called it, she wouldn’t take no for an answer when it came to Sam. She loved him unconditionally. But how does a gypsy fit into the 60’s? It was a time of more wives’ tales than curses and boogeyman. So how did the curse of a doll affect these two? I’ll let you read to learn that, but I will say that my Poppy was a modern gypsy woman.

(Here’s an excerpt!)

Get HOME at The Wild Rose Press when it releases on December 28th. Consequently- I’d love for you to buy my book that day. Why? It’s my birthday! What a wonderful gift for me!

Psst: Calisa’s buy link came in early; you can buy her book here! I’m sure many of you have reader friends out there who might just love this very special debut love story!

You can find me at my website, and on my blog on the same site in the Chit-chat tab. I love to hear from you so feel free to shoot me a note in the Say Hey tab. I’d also love it if you follow me on Twitter and friend me on Facebook.

If you missed the official tour Kick-off post earlier this week, you can do it now at my blog, Pen of the Dreamer. I’ll wait. Back? And that’s how HOME came to be.

I had a wonderful time here, Joanna!

Always a pleasure to connect with you, Calisa! Really looking forward to this release! Remember friends, December 28, 2011 at The Wild Rose Press!

 Thanks to all of you who stopped in! Until next time,


Worth the Time: Awesome Blog Reads

Happy Friday, writers, readers and friends! Are you geared up for fall with October in full force? (I’m still working on getting my fall decor out. A year just flies!)

Keeping things simple today and sharing some of the great posts I happened across this week and last. (As always, I’m catching up.) Hope any and/or all of these posts speak to you as they did to me. And if you liked what you read, take a moment and click a share button (where applicable) or give a shout-out at one of your own social media platforms. I promise, that blog author will be nothing but grateful! Finally, if you comment here on what you liked, I’ll do my best to find more of the same or related posts.

Here goes:

Mash-up articles for Friday: 10/07

Meredith Bell: What Do You Have a Knack For?

Scott Hunter’s Blog: The Pathway to Effectiveness

Scott Hunter’s Blog: The Real Meaning of Cause and Effect

Because this is so appropriate for a Friday: YA Author Julie Musil’s Friday Night Rewind

Real-life Romance finds its way into Jane Richardson’s Edinburgh Fog

For those wanting to go it alone in the self-pub world: Keeping up with e-book technology by Jenn Talty

Jami Gold answers this very valid question: So Why Do Guest Posts?

Merry Farmer sings the Praises of the Unlikely Hero

Looking to guest post? Jon Konrath may want your write up!

Christine Warner: Reasons to Slow Down (Just a Little Bit)

Why Read Bad Fiction? Mark Landen has a few good reasons!

Feel free to add any of your own. Have a great weekend!


Virtual Visit from Author Emma Lai!

Hi everyone! Thanks for coming by, especially on author interview day! Make sure to read on for Emma’s surprise revelation 😀

Thank you so much for accepting a place in the bloglight, Emma! Always great to welcome a new face to my blog! Let’s get started: 

What do love best about writing? I’m a complete panster and love watching the characters and plot grow. It’s like watching a movie unfold, and I love movies!

Sometimes, I’m surprised by what the characters do, and for me, if I tried to plot then I would feel compelled to force my characters to act in the predetermined way. Plus, it makes the writing process more emotional for me, allowing me to experience the highs and lows as the characters would when faced with, well whatever they’re faced with.

I can so relate, Emma. When I’m in first draft, I feel as though I’m the reader, waiting as the story unfolds. Makes for writing that’s as much fun as reading! What do you like least? This is a moving target. Edits are always difficult, but if they strengthen the story then they’re well worth the blood, sweat and tears. Promotion is also difficult, partially because I have a hard time putting myself out there, partially because of the time involved. However, I love interacting with other authors (we have a solitary lifestyle by profession) and hearing what readers have to say.

Wait. The answer just came to me. I hate the waiting. I hate waiting while my characters figure out what comes next because once I start a story I have a pressing need to finish it. I hate waiting after I’ve sent the draft to my critique partners because I’m anxious for first reactions. I hate waiting to hear back on queries and submissions, mostly because I’m not patient…though I’m sure you’d never get that from this post. 🙂

What started you as a writer? My husband. He loves to read, yes even romance. I needed something to occupy my free time while I studied for my comprehensives, so I wrote him a story, which he insisted I share with his mother, who has some experience with the publishing world. They both pushed and pushed until I bit the bullet and submitted. Here I am two years, five releases and eight contracts later. Guess their faith wasn’t misplaced.

What keeps you writing? I would literally go insane if I didn’t write. My mind is constantly working, and writing stories gives it something productive to dwell on. Writing is a great stress reducer for me.

How has your writing impacted –or significantly changed—other aspects of your life?

I guess it’s time for the big reveal…

The biggest way writing has impacted my life was to inspire me to start a small e-publishing press, Twenty Or Less Press. I’ve found that while there are plenty of romance publishers who provide awesome feedback, even on rejected works, there just weren’t that many—or at least I didn’t come across them—e-publishers of other genres who provide much more than form rejections.

As a writer, I continually strive to improve my skills, and one of the most helpful things I’ve received, is criticism from others. My publishing house provides constructive feedback on all legitimate submissions. (Legitimate as in following the submission guidelines.) I’ve received dozens of emails from authors expressing their appreciation for my honest feedback even though, for the most part, the feedback included rejections. My goal is to help other writers be the best writers they can.

How exciting and mazel tov! I am so impressed by you taking on the business of publishing in today’s changing publishing paradigm. How did you come up with a name as intriguing and unique as the one you chose?

Sorry; sidetracked! Back to the interview:Where do you get story and character ideas? And for those who write across cultural lines, how do you market or generate mainstream, typical reader’s interest in your books? I think this question applies to those who write across genres while using the same pen name. That said, I have just submitted my first interracial/cross-cultural story. Either way, my answer is the same: market the characters. Plot drives the story, but it is through the eyes of the characters that the journey is made. Strip the characters of whatever makes them genre specific and tell the reader what she has in common with them or why she’ll love them or hate them.

As a reader, sell me on the characters, and I’ll read anything.

Me too! I’m currently reading a book and getting through it exactly b/c the author got me interested in the characters AND the story is compelling enough to keep me turning the pages. (The actual writing falls pretty far short of my tastes.) Talk about current, past and future projects, upcoming releases, maybe your ‘dream novel’? I have a couple of ‘dream novels’. I just submitted my first full-length book for consideration by Loose-Id. It’s not only my pet because it was the first book I wrote when starting my career as a writer, but because the heroine shares part of my personal life journey–walking the line between two cultures while feeling part of neither. Or, maybe that’s what I tried to write and didn’t succeed at. We’ll have to wait and see what the editor says. 🙂

My other ‘dream novel’ is a YA sci-fi/fantasy. I’ve always loved science fiction and once I discovered fantasy in my college years, I fell in love with that as well. I thought combining the two would make an intriguing read. The project has been slow going. The first book is over half complete, but I’ve taken a long hiatus from it while I’ve learned more about the craft of writing. Some things take time to do full justice. (Just hope I remember that if I get a rejection on the cross-cultural romance.)

Are we soul-sisters? I feel the same way w/a very slow-going project, but in the meantime, I’ve learned tons about web presence and social media. Please tell our readers how you juggle work (other than writing, assuming you work ‘outside the home’), time to write and all that goes along with it, especially as a published author (i.e., promo, etc).

My life is one of deadlines. Everything is prioritized based on that. I’m blessed to have a husband with a flexible schedule so when due dates loom, he steps in to take care of the little one.

If you please, talk about ‘my life is one of the deadlines’ in the comments’ section. In the meantime, kindly share the three ways you find most effective to promote your work: Promoting is about keeping your name out there even when there’s not a release in the near future. So, I tweet and do blog posts—though keeping with my desire to help other writers, most of my blog is devoted to showcasing the work of others. As time allows, I leave comments at other blogs as well. However, just as big as promoting is making sure I keep readers supplied with new stories.

Now in honor of the two-year anniversary of my first published story, I’m sharing covers and blurbs from the entire Mates of the Guardian series, which includes the upcoming Book 3: His Capture, Her Rescue. (Stories are available at The Wild Rose Press, Amazon.com and Barnes and Noble.com)

Leave a comment for a chance to win your choice of any of my published stories and an ARC of Book 3–when it becomes available. I’m also offering a $25 gift certificate to Amazon, Barnes and Noble, or The Wild Rose Presswinner’s choicefor rebranding suggestions left on my blog at http://emmalaiwrites.blogspot.com/2011/08/its-all-in-branding.html.

BTW, Emma, these covers are stunning. Love the colors. And the model on His Capture Her Rescue reminds me of Twilight fame’s onscreen hero, Robert Pattinson. (That’s a good thing! :)) 

   His Ship, Her Fantasy:  Ellie Woods is in love…with a ship. When an argument with the ship results in a bump on the head, she finds herself in the strong arms of Alastair. But, who is he, and where did he come from?

Alastair has loved Ellie from afar for years, but duty has kept him from revealing himself to her. When a grave threat reveals his true identity, he hopes that Ellie will choose reality over fantasy. (Read an excerpt.)

   His Hope, Her Salvation: Promised in marriage to an abusive oaf, Judith resolves to find out if there can be passion without love. Snatches of conversation overheard at the local inn lead her to a mysterious American merchant who might be able to satisfy her carnal curiosity and capture her heart.

Donovan, a Guardian Hunter, is on the trail of a rogue Elysian in Georgian England. As the son of the First Hunter, he long ago gave up hope of finding his heart’s mate. When Judith appears in his study, his inner beast and his heart demand he answer her plea for help.

Will their passion answer their hearts’ pleas, or will it wither under the threat of reality? (Read an excerpt.)

  His Capture, Her Rescue (Coming soon from The Wild Rose Press)Masquerading as an American, Eallair, a Guardian Steward from another world, is searching Victorian England for the kidnapped mate of a fellow Guardian. When he meets Miss Harriet Cartwright, he knows her for the spirited, intelligent mate he has longed to find.

Since the death of their parents, Harriet has used her intelligence and sharp tongue to guard her sister from fortune hunters, but now that Prudence is close to choosing a husband, Harriet can consider her own future—one hopefully filled with adventure. When she meets Eallair, an American rancher who likes to travel and isn’t put off by her outspokenness, she is intrigued.

But before Harriet and Eallair can explore their attraction, she and her sister are kidnapped. While Eallair scours the countryside for them, Harriet discovers Eallair’s off-world origins. Now she must decide: just how much adventure does she want in her future?

So which of Emma’s titles has YOU most intrigued? (#2 has my attention.) Any of you who’ve already read her work, please leave the rest of us a recommendation! As always, thanks to all of you who stopped in! Stay tuned for two or three reviews next week (maybe even tomorrow! :)) 

Until next time, 


Prolific Author Alert: Sarah McNeal is Here!

Good day, friends!

Hope all is well in everyone’s world today. Please extend a warm welcome to paranormal romance author Sarah J. McNeal! 

So glad to have you here, Sarah! Start us off:

What do love best about writing?

I love the creative process.  Hanging out at restaurants and the library listening to other people’s conversations and jotting down notes in my writer’s journal makes me feel like a mystery sloth.  I love when an epiphany presses the happy buzzer in my mind and helps me pull together the story I’m working on.  Shoot, I love everything about writing including the smell of pencils and the sight of stacks of notebook paper.  I love to settle down at my computer and transfer my handwritten text onto the screen.

What do you like least?

I almost hate to say it—promotion of my work.  I hate going around begging readers to check out my blogs and visit my website.  I feel like I’m on a street corner with a tin cup of pencils to sell.

What got you started?

March 18, 1947, I took a breath and, with it, came my imagination and the desire to share it.  I made up songs when I was three years old and told “adventure stories” by the time I was four.  I wrote my first story when I was nine.  The longing to share my stories has always been inside me.

What keeps you writing? 

It is my joy and aspiration to write—and then write even better.  It’s not something I control as much as it’s something that is basic element of myself.

How has your writing impacted –or significantly changed—other aspects of your life? 

After I published my first book, everything changed including my belief in myself.  Until then, I saw my career as nursing.  Nursing was the career my father chose for me.  Because he was a Great Depression survivor, he wanted me to choose a practical career that would not be dependant on the economy—and, believe me, it wasn’t.  I have never been without a job.  So, I have gratitude in that respect.  But the deep yearning to become a published writer had finally been fulfilled with the publication of my first book.  I planned to retire from nursing the first chance I got so that I could devote myself to my first love—writing.  After a few years of saving and planning, I took an early retirement. Even in the face of a declining economy, I have never regretted it, never looked back.

(Oh to retire early…what a joy…)

Where do you get story and character ideas?

Mostly from the world around me.  I keep a writer’s journal with me everywhere I go and jot down tidbits of things I see and hear.  I wrote Bitter Notes based on a real life event.  Someone threw their baby grand piano out in the front yard and let it rot in the elements. Every day I passed it as it fell into pieces of rotted wood and despaired over it.  Why?  Why would anyone do that?  I felt driven to write its story.

I was fooling around one day playing my harmonica with my feet propped up on my Grandfather McNeal’s trunk and it made me think about the things in that trunk and what they were like when they were new.  That’s how I found my inspiration for Harmonica Joe’s Reluctant Bride.  All of my stories started with something that crossed my life’s path.  When all else fails, I play the “What If” game.

For those who write across cultural lines, how do you market or generate a mainstream, typical reader’s interest in your books?

Generating interest from any reader I believe begins with producing the best story I can write.  Good writing speaks to readers more than anything else.  I don’t write cross-culture stories unless you count fantasy cultures—not yet anyway but, if I did, I would give it my all.

Talk about current, past and future projects, upcoming releases, maybe your ‘dream novel’?

Bitter Notes is a novella published by Amira Press.  Logline: An abandoned piano heals a broken heart.

The Violin is a story about a member of my family that died too young.  I brought John back from the brink and gave him a life in this book from my heart.  Although currently in re-edits, it is contracted by Publishing by Rebecca J. Vickery for its second edition. Logline: Timeless love brought together by a violin.

Harmonica Joe’s Reluctant Bride is my latest release. (Logline: A haunted house, a trunk and a date with destiny. Below are the blurb and an excerpt.

I am presently working on the sequel based on a secondary character that I fell in love withBanjo (Logline: Deceit stands between a man’s love and his destiny.)

For those who don’t know me, they can get a couple of my free stories; download them at my website or from Amira Press.

*** For more of Sarah’s very intriguing titles click here.***

Please tell our readers how you juggle work (other than writing, assuming you work ‘outside the home,’ as a patient aptly asked me many years ago J), time to write and all that goes along with it, especially as a published author (i.e., promo, etc).

I used to have a very difficult time dragging myself away from my writing to go to work in the ER and then I finally decided to take an early retirement after I sold my first novel.  No regrets.  I do however, make time for my family.  As much as I love writing, my friends and family do come first and I make time for them whenever I need to.  It’s easy to get so caught up in writing that it takes over my life so I do have to force myself to come out of my writer’s cave from time to time and become a social being.  My sister never gets this about me.  Traveling and enjoying theater and other people are her main enjoyments so it’s hard for her to understand that writers are accustomed to being alone.

Please share the three ways you find most effective to promote your work!

1.  The number one thing a writer needs for promotion is to produce the best story they are capable of writing.  Quality writing counts more than any other thing.

2.  I do not like to go into readers’ groups and post blurbs and excerpts then take off.  I like to interact with the readers and authors on the loops.  I have a banner that tells about my books and directs them to my website.  I don’t need to hammer it down their throats every single day.  I think authors who do that, risk losing the interest of readers.  They just grow numb to the constant barrage of “look at my books.”  I’m sure that some may disagree with that point of view but that has been my experience. I think interacting with readers and other authors and always remembering to be polite, answer questions and say thank you when someone compliments me.

3.  Blogging I find is a very effective way to present myself and my work to others.  When people read about the things that concern or interest me, I think they can often relate to me better.  It’s a way of getting readers to know me and where my heart lies.  I am a person first and then I’m a writer.

    (Love this cover! Gorgeous!) 

Harmonica Joe’s Reluctant Bride

Blurb: Lola Barton discovers a warp in time in an old trunk when she falls into 1910. She finds herself married to Joseph Wilding, a stranger shadowed by secrets. Mistaken for Callie McGraw, a thief and a woman of ill repute, Lola finds her life is threatened by a scoundrel. Joe stands between her and certain death. With danger threatening all around and secrets keeping them apart, can Joe and Lola find their destiny together? Or will time and circumstance forever divide them?

Excerpt:  Harmonica music floated down from the attic—the last place in this tumble down wreck of a house Lola Barton wanted to go.  Had someone or something taken up residence there?  Lola made her way up the darkened attic stairs measuring each step as the ancient boards creaked in protest under her feet.  Her flashlight beamed a narrow circle of light illuminating the cobweb-covered door at the top of the landing.  Her heart raced and pulsed in her ears.  Hands trembled with the surge of adrenaline as she pressed forward.  She ignored her inner voice that warned, “Don’t go!”

Her cynical mind told her the rumors that Misty Oaks Plantation had ghosts weren’t true.  The tales of murder and betrayal had to be the overactive imagination of the local townspeople.  A homeless vagrant had to be the most logical explanation for the disturbance.

Once she gained the landing, she blew the cobwebs from the door and leaned her ear against it to listen for any movement on the other side.  Wisps of harmonica music lifted in the air.  Perhaps someone left a harmonica lying around and the wind blew hard enough through the cracks in the walls to make it sound as though someone played the instrument.  Just the wind.  No ghost.

With her courage bolstered by her logical conclusion, she grabbed the doorknob and turned it.


Harmonica Joe’s Reluctant Bride

By Sarah McNeal

ISBN: 978-1461087731 1461087732

Available at:

Western Trail Blazer Novels


Lulu Book Store:


Barnes & Noble

Available in print, too!

Thanks so much, Sarah, for sharing your author’s journey with us! I’m always in awe of authors who can take ideas and see them to so many complete stories. Best wishes and may you continue to experience the joy of creating!

Have a wonderful day, folks!



Ruth A. Casie’s Top Tens

Hi everyone,

Welcome to Wednesday! Before I jet off to work–two four hour mornings a week for three weeks but who’s counting, especially when there is little or no paperwork to bring home…?

Quick note to those who are in the area and looking to brush up on writing-related topics in a positive and supportive atmosphere where authors of all levels and genres rub elbows:

I’m ridiculously excited to announce I’ll be teaching my very first workshop to my fellow writers this upcoming Saturday at the Edison Public Library! (Click here for details!)

Sorry! Sidetracked, as usual. 😀

Which is kind of how I came across Ruth A. Casie,  a fellow Liberty States Fiction Writer who’s debut novel, Knight of Runes (Carina Press), is scheduled to hit virtual shelves on November 14, 2011! This dynamo apparently has her debut author act so much better put together than I ever did. (Love her blog!) Here is an excellent roundup of tips  she picked up at last week’s Romance Writers of America’s National Conference.  When you’re done, check out Ruth’s excellent ‘Top Ten’ list of what she learned from her first round of edits: some nice wisdom to be gained from both articles. Thanks Ruth!

RWA Nationals Top Ten: http://ruthacasie.blogspot.com/2011/07/ten-plus-things-i-learned-at-2011-rwa.html

Ruth’s Top Ten Things Learned (Edits): http://ruthacasie.blogspot.com/2011/06/top-10-things-i-learned-from-my-first.html

Best wishes, Ruth, and looking forward to having you drop by sometime soon, and when your book releases!

Have a great day all,


So: Who Are Your Characters?

Good-day, friends! Still practicing my Aussie-style hello–we’re into the second week of the Australian Open Tennis Championships and pretty much all my favorite players are still in it on the men’s side; Kim Clijsters keeps it VERY interesting for the women! SuperBowl #45 contenders are in place. With the Jets out of it–rough way to close it out, too–I can happily root for the Aaron Rogers’ team. (Oops! I’m sure I meant Green Bay. ;)) Hopefully, I’ll have my Sunday life back beginning Feb 7th. No more sports for a while!

Moving on: Assuming I remember correctly, I believe I read a post by today’s guest at the Author Island Tiki Hut,  liked what I saw and invited her over for a visit. We did an exchange. She’s here today; I’ll be at her blog later this week (Thursday, 1/27), sharing about a love-hate relationship. Hopefully, you’ll get a chance to stop by!

The Story: France, 1942.  The world is at war. The Nazis have stolen the infamous blue diamond, Le Coeur Bleu, intending to barter it for weapons that will destroy the Allies. Jewel thief Hunter Smith is given a choice; help the French Resistance steal back the diamond and avenge the death of his best friend, or stay locked up in an English prison. He chooses revenge.

Resistance fighter Madeleine Bertrand’s husband died when he was betrayed by Hunter Smith. How can she now pretend to be married to the arrogant American? How can she betray Jean Philippe’s memory by her passionate response to Hunter’s kisses? Neither is prepared for the maelstrom of attraction that erupts between them. To survive they must uncover the mysteries of the past and conquer the dangers of the present. But first Madeleine must decide if her loyalties lie with her dead husband and the Resistance or with the greatest love of her life.    

The Tantalizer: “I said in the letter that you had not worked as a gardener before, so he is not expecting you to know the difference between a delphinium and a dianthus.”  Monsieur Gagnon poured milk onto his porridge.  “But he is expecting you to work hard.  If you don’t, you could be fired, or your cover could be blown.”

“I can manage.”

 “The job might require a little more than sticking a shovel in the ground occasionally and spreading a bit of manure,” Madeleine said.  The others turned to stare at her.

She immediately regretted her sarcastic remark, regretted throwing his words in his face.  She shouldn’t let this man get to her, but she couldn’t seem to stop herself.  They needed to work together for the sake of the mission.  But she hated him.  After what he’d done to Jean Philippe…

Hunter’s gaze locked with hers, and the heat of his anger scorched her clear across the room.  She refused to back down from the challenge in his stare.  She’d be damned if she’d let him intimidate her.

“Madeleine, enough.”  Monsieur Gagnon spoke sharply.  “Regardless of your feelings, we need him.  He is our only hope for getting the diamond out of the hands of the Nazis.”

He was right.  If they couldn’t steal Le Coeur Bleu, Jean Philippe would have died for nothing.  She couldn’t let that happen.

She inhaled deeply and looked away.  “All right.  We’ll work together.”

And with that, I present to you:

The Author: Jana Richards has tried her hand at many writing projects over the years, from magazine articles and short stories to paranormal suspense and romantic comedy.  She loves to create characters with a sense of humor, but also a serious side.  She believes there’s nothing more interesting then peeling back the layers of a character to see what makes them tick. When not writing up a storm, working at her day job as an Office Administrator, or dealing with ever present mountains of laundry, Jana can be found on the local golf course pursuing her newest hobby. Jana lives in Western Canada with her husband Warren, along with two university aged daughters and a highly spoiled Pug/Terrier cross named Lou. Learn more about Jana at her website and blog.


All yours, Jana!

Thank you, Joanna. I’ve always found that the better I know my characters the easier it is to write my story.  If I know my characters inside and out, I’ll know what they’ll do in any situation.  This means their actions grow out of their characters and are natural and consistent with the people I’ve created.  In other words, they react like “real” people.

So how do I get to know my characters?  Usually, before I begin writing, I have in mind the kind of character needed in my story.  Using a character sketch, I begin to create the characters who will people my stories.  The character sketch covers everything from physical attributes and educational background, to attitudes towards sex, his/her family, and life in general.  I’ve used this one for many years:

  1. Name, age, birthday, birthplace.
  2. Body type:  height, and weight; short description of overall appearance; general impression she/he gives.
  3. Details of physical appearance:  color of eyes; color of hair and complexion; frequent facial expressions; way of moving and walking; sound of voice.  Characteristic mannerisms and gestures.
  4. Dominant character traits.  Which get her/him into the most trouble?  Basic personality:  extroverted, introverted, independent, insecure, other.
  5. Taste and preference in dress:  favourite outfits, jewellery, makeup if applicable. 
  6. Personal history and background:  Are parents alive?  Siblings?  Role in family when growing up; type of childhood.
  7. Previous relationships with opposite sex.  If married before, describe marriage.  If divorced, how bitter?  If widowed describe feelings about deceased spouse.  If single, what past love experiences?  Attitude toward sex, toward own sexuality, toward opposite sex. 
  8. Educational background and current profession:  skills, responsibilities, goals, daily responsibilities in present job.
  9. Personal goals, dreams hopes, and philosophy of life.
  10.  Hobbies and talents, outside of professional skills.
  11.  Problems character is facing as the novel opens, both emotional and practical.
  12.  Past experience that provides motivation for character’s decision and action in relation to problem or problems that arise(s) as the story develops.
  13.  How will character’s decisions and actions complicate the resolution of the problem?
  14.  Write a paragraph summing up the essence of this character’s personality.  Now reduce it to one line.

The character sketch is not written in stone.  As you write you may add to your knowledge of your character as you get to know him/her.  I suggest revising your sketch as you go.

Another great way to get to know your character is to interview them.  Yes, I do know we are talking about a fictional character, but treating them like real people helps to make them real for your readers.  Vanessa Grant, in her book “Writing Romance” offers this advice and some sample questions to ask your character: 

  1. Ask a friend to be your interviewer.  A writer friend is best:  he or she will understand what you’re trying to do.
  2. Record the interview.  Recording will eliminate the distraction of taking notes.
  3. Give your interviewer a starter list of questions, then tell him or her to wing it, ask anything at all.
  4. Slip into character and answer all questions in the first person.
  5. (Note:  it is possible to simply interview your character yourself using a recorder, or a keyboard.  Whatever works for you.)

Sample Questions:

Where and when were you born?

Was your family rich, poor, middle class? How did this affect you?

Which parent were you closest to? What’s your relationship today?

Any siblings? Tell me about them. What’s your relationship today?

What’s your education background?

Did you like school? If not, why not?

Did you have a pet?

Ever been married? What happened?

What do you consider your best physical feature?

Do you read? What kind of reading? Books? Magazines? Newspapers?

What makes you angry?

What do you care about most?

Sometimes it’s helpful to look over a list of personality traits to narrow down those you want your character to have.  This list (http://www.gurusoftware.com/gurunet/Personal/Factors.htm) also includes the corresponding negative trait in addition to the positive trait.  Remember that a negative trait is only three steps from a positive one.

 How do you get to know your characters?  Do you fill out character sketches or conduct interviews?  What other methods have you used?  For fun, check out the character sketches for the former Canadian TV show “Due South”, (http://fly.hiwaay.net/~warydbom/duesouth/sketches.htm) particularly the one for Constable Benton Fraser, just because he’s cute.  But seriously, this site gives an idea of how sketches are created and used.

Thanks, Jana. Always great to have something I can save and refer to in the future. I’m so bad at sketching my characters. I tend to have an idea who they are but really get to know them as I write. Makes it fun in that I’m very much the reader as I write. The story and the players tend to reveal themselves as I progress. What’s really cool is when I’m certain I know these folks, then another nuance of their personalities emerges. Anyway, such is the life of this pantser.

That’s it for today, everyone. Remember, I’ll be at Jana’s blog on Thursday–hope to see you there!

Have a great day and thanks for your visit. Always appreciated!


Tina Gabrielle: First-Sale Friend!

Every interview is special in its own way.  

Tina Gabrielle and I met two years ago in July, when the two of us had the honor of being presented with ‘first-sale’ flowers at New Jersey Romance Writers! It was so nice to share that oh-so-special moment with someone else and to still feel connected for a reason so simple. Not sure even Tina knows this but short, casual discussions along the way also helped me get my website off the ground. (Thanks for those tips, Tina!)     

     Aren’t we cute? Almost twins, lol! 🙂   

Like most authors, Tina continues to wear many hats along and somehow works ‘writer’ in there quite well. (You’ll see as you read.)  Here’s a little background:  Tina is an attorney and former mechanical engineer whose love of romance novels helped her get through years of academia. She often picked up a romance and let her fantasies of knights in shining armor and lords and ladies carry her away. After multi-publishing for a prestigious law journal, she has finally fulfilled her dream of writing fiction. She lives in New Jersey and loves to hear from readers. Visit her website at www.tinagabrielle.com.

                           You have quite an interesting backdrop to your writing aspirations and accomplishments, Tina. Tell us about your writing roots: what got you started and what gave you the confidence to persevere?  I have always been a writer! I can’t put a date on when I penned my first story. I wrote as a teen, but I didn’t really consider publication until I joined Romance Writers of America about six years ago. It was never a question of perseverance, writing was something I had to do, something I was born to do, and I stubbornly refused to give up! 

How has your writing impacted other aspects of your life? As an attorney and former mechanical engineer, I was trained to write clearly and succinctly. I have published numerous non-fiction articles for a law journal, but writing fiction has shown me how to write creatively. I have learned how to hone my skills by ‘showing and not telling,’ and to do it while entertaining my readers. The creative outlet has made me a happier person, and has impacted and enriched my life in a positive way! 

Talk about current, past and future projects, upcoming releases, maybe your dream novel? I write historical romance. My first book, LADY OF SCANDAL, is a Regency-set historical which was released by Kensington/Zebra Books in September 2009. Romantic Times Book Reviews gave it 4 Stars, calling it a “tantalizing debut,” and recently nominated it as one of the best first historical romances of 2009.   

    Here’s a quick blurb:   The heroine, Victoria Ashton, is an anonymous investor in the London Stock Exchange whose hopes of independence are shattered when her father’s enemy, Blake Mallorey, assumes the family debts and presents her with a stark choice: live with him as his mistress for one year, or condemn her family to bankruptcy. Scoundrel he may be, but Blake will not force anyone into his bed. He intends to seduce Victoria, one wicked kiss at a time. But with a woman as spirited and sensual as Victoria, seduction works both ways—and a plan rooted in revenge can blossom into a scandalous passion.   (Read an excerpt: http://www.tinagabrielle.com/excerpt.html).

The second book in the series, A PERFECT SCANDAL, will be released on October 5, 2010. Aspiring artist Lady Isabel Cameron knows what she wants and an arranged marriage to an elderly dominating husband is not in her plans. When her father pressures her to marry, she plans a scandal to escape a loveless match. What better way to ruin a lady’s reputation than to seek the aid of her childhood infatuation and former rogue, Marcus Hawksley? 

Marcus Hawksley cares naught for society’s cruel opinions. As the unwanted younger son of a powerful earl, he had been snubbed by the ton years ago when he dared to enter commerce. It mattered naught that he was now an influential art collector and prosperous stockbroker of the London Stock Market. The last thing Marcus expects is the appearance of Lady Isabel at an estate sale. Boldly unchaperoned, she seeks him out in a room full of erotic art and surprises him with an outrageous proposition: she seeks a salacious affair to ruin her reputation. At first Marcus refuses—despite his attraction to the lady—but Isabel kisses him and ignites a sizzling attraction that takes both of them by surprise. But when they’re unwittingly caught together and a priceless painting disappears, Marcus is the lead suspect—and Isabel his only alibi. A hasty marriage of convenience forges an unlikely alliance, and they must learn to trust their hearts before a mysterious enemy with murderous plans ends their burgeoning love before it begins…

I’m currently working on a three-book Regency-set series involving barristers who share the same chambers at the Inns of Court in London. I can’t resist writing about lawyers! I also love paranormal romance and have an idea for a series that I would like to try out one day. More information can be found on my website!

Please tell readers how you juggle work, time to write and all that goes along with it, especially as a published author (i.e., promo, etc.). I know many authors who have set writing schedules, but my days vary. Life oftentimes gets in the way of a rigid schedule. As well as my own family, I cared for two sick parents and recently lost my father to cancer. I have learned to take it day by day. Some days I am able to write multiple chapters and others I stare at the computer screen in frustration. I have learned to be flexible—to grab time and use it when I can. I often write late at night and on weekends. That being said, I do have a publishing contract with Kensington which requires me to complete a 100,000 word manuscript in less than a year.

My heartfelt condolences to you and your family, Tina. I remember taking care of my father—a stressful and difficult time. Nothing, too, like pressure from a contract—wonderful as that may be—looming in the back of your mind in addition to everything else you have going on in your day. Now, with some hindsight since being a published author, is there anything you’d do differently? I’d have an author website and a Facebook page, and I’d learn how to be more techno savvy.

Please share three ways you find or believe most effective to promote your work. An author website, networking with agents, editors and other authors by going to writer’s group meetings and conferences, and doing whatever you find enjoyable. If you enjoy book signings, then do them. If you like giving workshops at meetings, conferences or at your local library, then offer them. But don’t get bogged down with promotion and forget the most important thing: the best way a writer can promote herself is by continuing to write good books!

Well said, Tina! Definitely an important reminder for me and many, I’m sure! Best of luck with your upcoming release, meeting all your deadlines and getting that paranormal series off the ground. Maybe you’ll join us again in the fall and give us an update?

Thanks so much for stopping by!

Until next time,