Join me in welcoming Anna Markland, best selling historical romance writer and a personal friend as well as fellow member of our local RWA chapter. Today she answers questions about the best and worst of writing and who her favorite characters are. Then there’s an excerpt from her latest book, the Rover Defiant.
1. What do you like best about writing?
I am constantly amazed at where the ideas flow from as I write. I’ve never thought of myself as a particularly creative person, so it’s gratifying to re-read my books and marvel at the creativity of the plot lines.
2. What’s the worst part?
I am a person who likes to do things once, and that’s it. However, a manuscript has to be edited and I find that both useful and tedious.
3. What made you go medieval with your writing?
I’ve always enjoyed medieval romance, and I get a lot of satisfaction out of the research.
4. How do you come up with your characters?
The hero and heroine of my first book were loosely based on a couple that did exist in the Middle Ages. From there I simply followed the members of their family and its offshoot branches. My interest in genealogy led me along that path. Ancestry, roots and family traditions are basic.
5. Who’s your favorite character and why?
Caedmon FitzRam, hero of A Man of Value. His world falls apart when he discovers he’s the bastard son of a Norman Earl. He has always thought himself a Saxon and despises Normans. He goes off on Crusade where he rediscovers his worth. One of the difficult things about following a family through successive generations is that you have to kill people off. I still cry buckets when I re-read about Caedmon’s final moments in Sweet Taste of Love.
6. How does your family influence your writing?
My husband is very supportive of my spending hours locked away in my writing cave. He probably hands out more of my business cards than I do!
8. Do real life people ever become characters in your books?
There are many historical figures in my books; William the Conqueror, King Henry I to name just two. However, I have used events from my own family’s life. As an example, I dedicated Hearts and Crowns to my granddaughter, Peri who was very badly scalded when she was 2 years old. The heroine of Hearts and Crowns, Peridotte, is also badly scalded while trying to save her husband’s life.
In Haunted Knights, the hero, Adam, is deaf. My grandson, Adam, is deaf. In that same book, the heroes rescue the heroines from a devastating fire. My own home burned to the ground in 1998. I’ve used the names of many of my children and grandchildren for characters in my books.
9. Your latest book is?
My next book will be The Rover Defiant, a sequel to The Rover Bold. It will be available for preorder in the next few days. These are the first two books in a series entitled Viking Roots Medieval Romance Saga. Most of my books follow the lives and loves of a family of Normans after 1066, but this series is an attempt to trace the 10th century Viking roots of those Normans.
Here’s an excerpt:
(Torstein is a freed slave, but the Viking nobility will never forgive or forget his past, and the woman he loves is completely out of his reach.)
Torstein was astonished Sonja had ventured in search of him. Her willingness to risk much gave him courage to take hold of her trembling hands. “You’re cold,” he said with a smile.
“You can warm me,” she replied huskily, her eyelids half hooded.
Her sultry voice freed him of his fear she might reject him. “You know of my past, yet still came to me.”
She nodded, smiling, though her nervousness was evident in the rigid set of her shoulders.
It struck him in an instant of blinding clarity that Freyja had destined him to be this woman’s protector. “Do not be afraid, Sonja. I believe the gods have decreed we be together. I will move mountains to make you mine.”
She tightened her grip on his hands as a tear trickled down her cheek. “How can it be, Torstein? My father will punish us both if he thinks I have spoken your name.”
He pulled her closer. “What will he do if I kiss you?”
Her lips parted, her eyes fixed on his mouth. “It would be folly,” she murmured.
He put his arms around her waist, pinning her hands behind her back, drawing her against him. The scent of freshness and purity that clung to her filled his nostrils. “My kiss will be my pledge to you,” he whispered, lowering his head to touch his lips to hers.
She sagged back against the wall of the house, pulling him to her body. A throaty moan escaped her lips as his tongue coaxed her mouth open and she melted into him, welcoming his invasion into her warm mouth. His body responded fiercely, but it wasn’t simply lust filling his senses. He’d never shared the taste of another’s saliva, nor savored the tang of salt on another person’s skin.
Her kiss was life giving. He would never give her up. “This is my first kiss,” he rasped when their lips reluctantly parted.
She smiled, her dark eyes full of longing. “Your mother must have kissed you.”
He shook his head. “My mother called herself a lost soul. She was an Irish princess stolen from her land by my grandfather, Magnus Gardbruker. It seems my grandmother was a jealous woman who allowed him no concubines. He gave his prize to his son, Gunnar, my father.”
“She must have loved you,” she said, cupping his face with both hands. Her loving touch, the first he’d ever experienced, evoked a memory of the Archbishop preaching of the coming of the Holy Spirit and how it had filled the fearful apostles with peace.
He shrugged his shoulders, struggling to force the words from his dry throat. “My mother had seen twelve summers when she bore me. I remember she cried a lot. Gunnar quickly tired of her and she never learned to speak Norse properly. Her one pleasure came from speaking the Gaelig with Padraig, an Irish monk who was one of Poppa’s slaves. She wanted to teach it to me, but Gunnar forbade it.”
“What happened to Padraig?”
“The Franks killed him near Chartres, but I believe his heart died when my mother was sold off in the market at Ribe. There was nothing physical between them. They provided an anchor to the past for each other, a reminder of who they truly were.”
He hoped his anger at the cruelty of fate wouldn’t repulse her.
“You have noble Irish blood in your veins,” she said with a sly smile. “They say Irishmen are stubborn.”
He clenched his fists. “You will see how stubborn I can be if anyone tries to part us.”
She frowned and pulled away from him as the sound of a door creaking open came to their ears. “They’re coming,” she whispered.
He gripped her hand. “I must be assured you are with me in this, Sonja. It will be our secret for the time being, but I want your pledge now.”
She stared at her feet. “I don’t have your courage, but I promise myself to you.” She lifted an amulet on a long cord from around her neck and thrust it into his hands, then hurried to the door as her mother appeared.
“There you are, silly girl. Come and say goodbye to our guests. What are you doing out here?”
She yanked Sonja inside, eyed Torstein then slammed the door.
“She was trysting with her future husband,” he said under his breath. He fingered the amulet of hammered copper, then pressed it to his lips. Padraig had secretly taught him to decipher runes. A name stood out on one side as he’d expected. “Sonja,” he whispered, smoothing his thumb over the symbols.
He turned the amulet over, choking out the words engraved into the green metal. “The brightest star shines in the darkest sky.”
If you’d like to read The Rover Bold before The Rover Defiant becomes available so you’re all caught up, here is the Amazon link.
Oh, I know a lot of hard work went into it but, to me, it still seems magical. I blogged on creating this series last year. At that point I was in the process of planning it out. For the first time in my life I sat down and seriously (and sometimes not so seriously) thought out what I wanted in the series. With the help of Power Point, Pinterest and Lisa Wells’ class on building a series I was well on my way.
Chocolate Worth Dying For, a cozy mystery series would be set in Victoria and revolve a chocolate shop owner and caterer, Maxine Peters. Smart, sassy and too nosy to keep her nose out of other people’s business she’d have to find out who was behind any crime committed around her. In real life I don’t advise that. There’s a certain truth to the saying, ‘curiosity killed the cat.’
Then I came up with a side kick, Heath. Part of it was practically. Catering requires a lot of heavy lifting so her side-kick Heath is 6’2′ and a recent graduate of cooking school. He’s young, enthusiastic, works for cheap and he can do the heavy lifting, as well as giving her moral support. I gave her an on again off again love interest who was a policeman. There’s more but that’s the backbone of it.
I’ve stuck with the backbone and all those ideas and pictures of what the characters wore, car they drove etc really paid off. Plot points changed. Characters were added or deleted and I’m sure that to many looking at the starting ‘bible’ and the end result, it would seem as if I should have just started from scratch. They’d be wrong.
Since then I’ve been to ThrilllerFest and heard some exceptional writers such as Michael Palmer, Catherine Coulter and Michael Connelly talk about their writing and how they do it. Most didn’t give such formalized directions on creating books or series. But most did spend a fair amount of time thinking about their characters and ideas for their books before they actually started writing them. In their own way, whether they’ve admitted it to themselves or not they’ve all come up with their own ‘bibles’.
Michael Connelly KNOWS his main characters such as Harry Bosch better than many of you know your friends. Michael Palmer spends months thinking about what will be the McGuffin or central idea his book revolves around and reading everything he can on the topic before he types, prints or electronically produces that first word. Characters get major thought and research before they make it to the page in Catherine Coulter’s books.
Given that I also work full time with no assistants in sight to help organize my work or life creating a ‘bible’ is a smart way of keeping track of the details so that I can create another in my Death By Chocolate series.
A Ghostly Affair
“There are no ghosts here,” Maxine said, as Heath helped her carry in supplies. They were catering the Castle Society’s annual fundraiser and here was Craigdarroch Castle.
The Castle was large and grand, the house Robert Dunsmuir had promised his young bride, Joan, before they made the trip to the new world, from Scotland as a young immigrant. It also announced to the world that he, Robert Dunsmuir, was a man of substance. In fact, he was the richest, most important man in Canada when he started building it in 1887. He’d died in 1889, before the castle was finished leaving his wife, Joan to live out her days there, along with her daughters.
But Maxine wasn’t going to let herself be swayed by stories of ghosts in the castle. She certainly wasn’t going to allow her staff to scare themselves silly over tales of Joan showing up out of thin air. Maxine didn’t believe in ghosts.
The kitchen she was using, though, was hardly state of the art. While undoubtedly updated since the original inhabitants lived in the castle, it left much to be desired. Maxine had not made a success of her business as owner of Au Chocolat and caterer by letting such things stop her. She brought in warming pans to keep the hot appetizers heated and made sure another cooling unit was available for anything in need of cooling.
With over a hundred of Victoria’s most prominent citizens expected to attend, it was up to her to make sure the event went off without a hitch.
“You mean richest,” Heath said grinning at her. Six feet two with spiked brown hair and a tattoo on his arm he’d been with her from the start. Only a few years younger than her he had an irreverent attitude towards life but he’d earned her trust many times over and she’d have been lost without him.
“They are trying to raise money,” she admitted. “But I’m sure there will be at least one person here who’s invited not just because he, or she, can afford to make a hefty donation.”
“Maybe a ghost.”
“Bite your tongue.”
“A ghost would only add to the affair. And Craigdarroch is known to be haunted. They even talk about it during school tours.”
“Well, tonight,” Maxine said determinedly, “they can stay away. I have enough to deal with as it is. Why is it so many catered events are staged in venues where people have to run up and down stairs to serve anything?”
“At least everyone’s on-board and ready to go tonight.” Everybody included Jane, Marcus and Ally, along with Sara and Danielle.
“Still, 85 stairs. I don’t care how authentic they’re trying to keep the place they could put in an elevator.”
Already a few of the guests were arriving although the event didn’t start until eight and it was only seven thirty now. Whatever happened to fashionably late Maxine wondered.
Trays filled with chicken satay skewers and salad shooters, cucumber and lox twists, bacon wrapped meatballs and several other hors d’oeuvre ensured guests would be well fed.
And then there were the chocolates. Trays and trays of the truffles she was so justly famous for. Raspberry, Kahlua, Pumpkin Spice, Buttered Rum and a myriad of others, along with chocolate covered caramels and numerous other delights Victorians had come to know her for.
She looked up to see Wendy Carr approaching her. Dressed in a ball gown which could easily have been worn at one of the dances held by the Dunsmuir’s, oh so long ago, she carried a fan which she fanned herself with. Maxine half-expected to find her little dog, Toto, hidden in her skirts.
“Darling, you’ve outdone yourself,” Wendy declared looking over everything. “This evening can’t fail to be a success.” She took a chocolate raspberry truffle from the tray Maxine held out. “Honestly, these are to die for.” She shivered slightly. “I don’t mean that literally,” she said hastily.
Maxine shivered too, remembering another fundraising event a couple of years ago. A man had died, clutching one of her truffles in his hand as he did so. It had not been an auspicious start to her new catering business. By the time she discovered who was behind it another of Wendy’s dearest friends had become a victim. Another turned out to be the killer.
Two years later Wendy Carr had put her life back together. Newly single, having divorced her husband, rather than live in a shell of a marriage, she seemed to show up at events with a string of younger men, while avoiding any serious relationships. And as the fundraising chair of the Historical Society she’d been instrumental in making sure Maxine catered the event.
Though she could’ve been forgiven for becoming bitter she seemed to have softened. Given her sharp tongue of a few years ago that was just as well.
From the floors above music drifted down. 19th century waltzes and other dances of the era had been replaced with a more modern selection. At present the Monster Mash had taken over.
“I somehow can’t see the people invited to this party getting down and doing a graveyard smash.”
Wendy rolled her eyes. “I know but it was unanimous when I asked for volunteers to run the music. George. It’s what he does in his spare time. Along with his teenage son.”
George Dent. The managing partner of the biggest law firm in town. No doubt more than one of the clients he’d acted for in his twenty some odd years as a lawyer would identify with ‘I Put A Spell On You’, as the song echoed throughout the castle.
“Is his son helping?” She pictured him in her mind. Tall and lanky, with legs and arms which seemed too long for his body, at fourteen he had the awkwardness of someone not quite comfortable in his own skin. He made up for it with a shy smile that lit up the room and blue eyes which sparkled with intelligence.
“I suspect it’s George’s way of keeping him out of trouble.” Wendy gave a small smile, “I’d better get out there and start mingling,” she said taking a truffle as she went.
Maxine sent the first round of appetizers out and gave instructions to Marcus and Ally. “A new tray every fifteen minutes, if not more. Start from opposite ends of the room.”
Taking a tray herself she headed up the stairs. The party was destined to be a huge success with over half the crowd there already and it was barely eight o’clock. Ghosts and goblins, princesses and popular cartoon characters such as Batman, Spiderman and Arrow, from the hit TV show, filled the room.
People oohed and ahhed over spectacular, over-the-top and just plain scary costumes.
Tanya came over now, clutching what looked like a martini in her hand. Maxine greeted her with a smile, noting her latest boyfriend, developer Zak Forrestor, had stopped to talk to someone. Dressed as a sexy vampire, Maxine hoped she didn’t over-indulge tonight.
Tanya held up her drink which was red and sparkled like blood in the light. “Pomegranate juice with tonic water! Let me know if you need any help. You are the BEST caterer! Look at the turnout already.”
“I think it’s more Wendy’s doing,” she said modestly. “Try one of these,” she said giving her a cucumber lox appetizer.
“I wonder if Joan will be here tonight?” Tanya asked. A part-time model and full-time friend Tanya was blonde, bubbly and fun. But the blonde hid a razor-sharp intelligence and more than once she’d saved the day for Maxine. Unfortunately she also had a habit of over-indulging so the Pomegranate and tonic water was good news.
“Joan Dunsmuir, the original mistress of this castle. This is just the type of event she’d like. She loved entertaining.”
“So sad though,” Maureen Ruckles said, local historian and author of over five books, one on Craigdarroch Castle. “Her husband built the castle for her and died before it was even completed.” She helped herself to a chicken satay skewer.
“Mm, so good,” Tanya said. “So, they never lived in the castle?”
“Oh, she lived here to her death along with her daughters. Numerous balls were held here. In fact,” Maureen said dramatically, “some claim they can feel her presence in the room and there’s a feeling of happiness when she’s there.”
“Not what I heard,” Jan Meyer said, a local investment advisor. “A friend of mine swears when she went through in high school there was a cold and angry presence whenever they were in Joan’s rooms.”
“So, I wouldn’t want fifty million school kids tromping through my bedroom or private areas either,” Tanya said airily and waved at Zak, busy talking. She headed off in his direction and Maxine headed back downstairs. Originally dumbwaiters had been used to bring food up from the lower levels to the dining room. But the Castle society volunteer she’d spoken to had made it clear they were no longer in use.
She passed Sara and Danielle coming up with more trays of appetizers. They were definitely getting bonuses tonight if everything went well. And she was sure things would. She was less sure a few minutes later.
She watched in horror as a ghostly shape appeared out of nowhere flying straight at Zak Forrestor as he started down the stairs. He turned to see what made everyone give a collective gasp only to have it virtually accost him throwing him off balance and causing him to fall over the staircase. Maxine watched in horror as he fell to the bottom, landing with a sickening thud. She rushed to him along with another lady dressed in a nurse costume. But she was afraid it was going to take more than an ambulance and paramedics to save Zak Forrestor. The way his neck was twisted wasn’t normal.
I’m pleased to welcome Jacqui Nelson to my page today. A fellow member of my local RWA group and a personal friend, Jacqui writes historical romantic adventures set in the American West and Victorian London.
Her love for the Old West came from watching classic Western movies while growing up on a cattle farm in northern Canada. Her passion for Victorian London wasn’t far behind and only increased when she worked in England for four years and explored the nooks and crannies of London on her weekends.
Jacqui now lives in Victoria on the west coast of Canada where she works in a bookstore. Her previous jobs have included animator, systems analyst and fundraising event coordinator. She is a Romance Writers of America® Golden Heart® winner and three-time finalist.
1. Who or what would you be if you could be anything you chose to be for a week? What would be your super power?
I’d like to be Annie Oakley with the super-human power of ace sharpshooting. I’d participate in as many Wild West shows as I could—from the stands with the spectators, backstage with the performers and onstage during my own sharpshooting act. I’d be sure to take lots of notes while asking Buffalo Bill Cody and his troupe all sorts of questions including what it was like to ride for the Pony Express as a teenager.
2. Why do write? And why western?
I’m currently writing historical romantic adventures set in the Old West. While growing up on a cattle farm, I watched a lot of classic Western movies. Two of those movies, The Outlaw Josey Wales and For a Few Dollars More, are still in my top 10 movies of all time. I like to include the word “adventure” because I feel that’s a big part of my stories. I guess I could use action or suspense, but I think adventure better describes a story like Between Heaven & Heaven which includes a sharpshooting and riding competition followed by a wagon train journey half-way across a continent.
3. What would you say to anyone wishing to become a writer?
Go for it! Life’s too short not to live your dreams, and I’ve always said, “If other people can do something, then so can I.”
4. Are you a plotter or a panster and what’s the difference?
I’m a plotter…to an extent. I usually outline scene-by-scene the 1st third of a book. Then while writing those scenes, I’m able to see the rest of the book and continue writing my outline…except for the end. For me, the end is always the hardest part.
5. How do you research your books and make them authentic for the reader when your books are set in a West no longer here?
I do a lot of my research online and at the library. I also have the complete set of Time Life Old West books which I often turn to for inspiration.
6. When you have a day job how do you fit in writing?
That’s another hard part—balancing writing with work and family and friends. In the past, I’ve cut back on sleep and exercise in order to write more, but I found that made me a bit grumpy. And an unhappy writer isn’t the most productive writer. One of the good things about my day job at the bookstore is that after I spend a day on my feet, I’m motivated to sit down…in front of my computer.
7. What’s the best thing about being a writer? About being Jacqui?
On the days when I don’t have to go to work, I get to stay home in my pajamas and turn a blank page into something that (hopefully) feels alive with words. Plus I get to hang out with my story characters and see where they will lead me. That’s a pretty rewarding experience. It’s also rewarding when I hear from readers who’ve connected with my stories. Writing is a solitary endeavor filled with an unending minefield of self-doubts, so hearing positive feedback is a gift beyond measure.
8. What was your biggest mistake and what did you learn from it?
I’ve made too many mistakes to remember them all, but my most recent one was underestimating the time it takes me to complete story revisions. But I’ve learned that I have to take my time if I want to create the best story possible, and I shouldn’t feel guilty about the speed of my individual writing process. It’s useless to compare ourselves to others. I’m me. I can’t be someone else.
9. Do your friends and family members show up as characters in your books?
The personalities of my family and friends haven’t shown up in my books. At least, not yet! But things that they’ve done have. In the book that I’m currently revising titled Between Love & Hell, my heroine works in a Dodge City saloon where (on a particularly rowdy night when a wave of cowboys fresh off the trail enter the saloon) she decides to sing Amazing Grace. A friend told me that she sang this song in a karaoke bar one night, and afterward a man in the crowd said something like, “If I’d wanted a sermon, I’d have gone to church.” So that’s the response my heroine receives.
10. When you’ve had a hard day and characters just won’t do what you want what’s your reward for powering through?
I don’t set daily rewards, but now I’m thinking I should! In the past, I’ve bribed myself with the treat of a new purchase (like a pair of shoes) if I reach a bigger milestone (like a first draft or final revisions completed). Right now, I have my eye on a brightly colored pair of winter boots.
My next novel, Between Love & Lies, is set in Dodge City during the heyday of the cattle drives. It will be released…as soon as I get these revisions done
So in the meantime let me share a blurb and excerpt from one of my already released books. I have Between Heaven & Hell (set on the Oregon Trail) and Adella’s Enemy (set in Kansas during a cutthroat railroad race).
Adella’s Enemy was inspired by the AMC’s historical Western TV series Hell on Wheels. It’s part of the “Steam! Romance and Rails” series where it can be read on its own or as one of three interconnected novellas in the Passion’s Prize anthology featuring fellow 2010 Golden Heart® finalists E.E. Burke and Jennifer Jakes.
Blurb for Adella’s Enemy
Can the pursuit of an old enemy lead to a new love?
The War Between the States ended five years ago, but she still pursues her enemy…
Rebel spy turned government rabble rouser Adella Willows receives her mission straight from a Washington senator—play havoc with the Katy Railroad and derail its bid to win the race. The senator craves wealth. Adella craves revenge against the man responsible for her brother’s death. But her plans crumble into chaos when she enters a battle of wits with the railroad’s foreman.
An ocean separates him from his failures in Ireland, but he’s still haunted by those who died…
Seasoned railroad foreman Cormac McGrady’s sole desire is keeping his workmen safe and employed, which means keeping the Katy ahead of its rivals. But the beautiful spy bedeviling his railroad needs protecting as well. Cormac must choose between winning the race and winning Adella’s heart, while Adella must choose whether she lives for revenge or dies for love.
Excerpt from Adella’s Enemy
New Chicago, Kansas—March, 1870
(The last town at the southern end of the Katy Railroad)
“Sorry to be such a bother.” Adella lowered her gaze and tried to appear contrite, which wasn’t difficult as she truly regretted seeing anyone involved in such back-breaking labor. But being a bother was her job. Now she must become even more bothersome. She must embrace every opportunity to delay this construction crew from reaching the border.
Her Irish rescuer exhaled a weary breath and said in a much gentler tone, “’Tisn’t your fault. Don’t worry about us.”
Oh, but I do. And to apologize for seeing your men’s lives made more difficult, I promise to buy each and every one of them a drink tonight.”
A round of hoorays went up.
“Now, lass, you needn’t—”
“Miss, it’s not necessary—”
“Look, lady, I can’t let—”
“You can. And you can call me Miss Willows.”
“Stubborn English,” he muttered.
Annoyance made her squeeze her valise’s handle even tighter. “I’m not English. I’m American.”
“Isn’t Willows an English name?”
She opened her mouth, then snapped it shut. She wondered if she might wrench the handle from her valise, so tight had her grip become.
His eyes narrowed even more. “If you’ve got something to say, Miss Willows, say it.”
“You’re overbearing and opinionated—an Irishman I heard all about in my youth.” Her mother’s tales of her home country hadn’t always been admiring.
Behind him, the McGrady Gang hooted in mirth. “She’s put ye in yer place, Mac.”
She felt no pleasure in the accomplishment. It served no purpose. Unfortunately, she was struggling to recall her purpose. Her befuddlement had arrived with the big Irishman, the one the men called Mac. Her reaction to him was dangerous. He was dangerous.
Refusing to look at him, she stared at the train. She was here to delay construction of the track, so Levi Parsons lost the race and his ill-gotten gains. She was here for Declan.
Between Heaven & Hell (my full-length novel): www.amzn.com/B00L3AW2XE
For paperback books, visit my Amazon author page: www.amazon.com/author/jacquinelson
You can learn more about me and my writing at…
Facebook fan page: www.facebook.com/JacquiNelsonBooks
Facebook friend page: www.facebook.com/JacquiNelsonAuthor
Be sure to sign-up for my newsletter for a chance to win a Kindle Paperwhite on December 1st…
Thanks so much for having me as your guest, Pat! It’s always a treat to hang out with you.
As a writer I remain fascinated by how other writers write. I think this is because I secretly hope to find the hidden code that makes me able to immediately write wonderful books that are literary and commercial successes. But I digress.
Today I have a guest from my local RWA chapter (Romance Writers of America for the un-initiated). Lisa has two writing persona’s – ‘Lisa McManus Lange’ writes sassy and inspirational slice-of-life articles for her blog www.lisamcmanuslange.blogspot.com and is multi-published with Chicken Soup for the Soul (5 books – 7 stories) and other anthologies. ‘Lisa McManus’ writes fiction for kids and teens, and is contracted with Lycaon Press for her young adult novella, ‘Newbie Nick’ available wherever ebooks are sold. She can be found at www.lisamcmanus.com
How did you start writing?
I daydream – a lot. I read – a lot. As a kid I did both – a lot. I knew at a young age I wanted to be a writer, and had a first-attempt at it by writing a short story – a ‘thriller’ – about an acid-spewing spider that attacked people as they slept. Needless to say that story was never published – but to this day I wish I still had that story. I wrote poetry in my teens, and then didn’t ‘really’ start writing until I was in my early 30’s. My first publication was a slice-of-life story about an old woman I would see on my daily walks who always picked-up trash during her own daily walk.
What is the best part of writing?
The best part of writing is when a reader comes to me saying that what I wrote changed their day, their perspective, or their life (I have been blessed to have all three).
Why do you write?
I write because I love being able to entertain or inspire. If someone laughs at what I wrote (even if it’s in the wrong places!), I am happy.
How do you come up with ideas?
From daily life. I enjoy the obscurity and absurdity of everyday stuff. I love things that make me think, ponder and wonder – and then I think, “What if?”
If you had one super-power what would it be and why?
To run fast. I am busy and always on the go, and if I could run faster to where I needed to go, I would be happier (never mind having the ability to outrun zombies, a secret obsession of mine).
Funny you should ask about wishes as I have been thinking about them for a story: the possibilities, the problems they can cause (if they came true), the good they do (if they came true), and the power they have over a person who has been granted just one wish.
So what would I wish for? As cliché as it sounds, to have happiness and health for all my family. That’s all. It’s simple, really.
What would you say to someone wishing to become a writer?
Read. Read. Read. Read.
Write. Write. Write. Write
Read what you want to write about.
Read what you love.
Read outside your ‘norm.’
I’ve heard too many people say ‘I want to be a writer’ (of books) but they don’t know what to write. When asked what kind of books they like to read (a writer can write books, magazine articles or poetry – the list goes on), they say ‘I don’t have time to read,’ or ‘I haven’t read a book in years.’ One fuels the other – reading and writing – and you can’t have one without the other.
And then when asked if they are writing, they say no. Everyone has to start somewhere, why not NOW? So get writing, and get reading!
Lisa has recently written a YA book called Newbie Nick which is available wherever ebooks are sold.
All 14-year-old Nick Zinsky wanted was a guitar of his own and a necklace for his mom, and he wanted to buy both without anyone’s help. Too young to get a real job, he came up with a plan to get the money.
Using a guitar loaned from his high school, he spent the summer and weekends playing the guitar while busking downtown. But he had to keep his “job” a secret from everyone—from his mom, his music teacher, the other kids at school, and especially from the school bully, Beau.
But when a music competition is announced where the prizes would solve all Nick’s problems, Nick lacks the confidence to enter the competition. Having a nickname like “Newbie Nick” doesn’t help, either.
Does he find the courage to enter? Will he ever get his guitar?
Oh, so that’s her dad. When I first started coming downtown at the beginning of summer, he would scowl at me from the store’s doorway. I was afraid he would call the police, but he didn’t. I always try to move spots, but there are only so many sidewalks I can use. I have to be seen and heard, but I also have to be careful to not be seen by anyone I know.
Her dad went back inside. Jessica was still waiting, so I gave the easiest answer. “I want to buy a guitar and one day play like my grandpa.”
“Whyyyy?” This time she sat down on the sidewalk beside me.
I strummed a few chords. The people passing by ignored us. I was losing business chatting with her. I figured I would just get my story out quick. I knew she wouldn’t care and probably wouldn’t tell anyone. And besides, a little twerp like her wouldn’t understand, anyways.
Sweat dribbled down my back, and I knew the peanut butter and jam sandwich in my backpack was gonna be warm and soggy.
I looked at her again. “Because he was the best guitarist ever. He was a music teacher and taught me how to play when I was a little kid like you.” Before I knew it, I was babbling on. “If I want play like him, to be like him, I need my own guitar.”
I barely registered that someone had thrown in a few coins in my case as I kept talking. “Someone stole his old guitar from my grandma’s house, and I haven’t been able to play unless I borrow a guitar from school. So I want my own.” I stopped. Why had I gone on and on like that?
“Doesn’t he play the guitar anymore?” she asked, as if I hadn’t rambled on about any of the other stuff.
“He died a while ago.” And I miss him so much, I wanted to add, but didn’t. I didn’t want to sound like a freak, even if only to a stupid little kid.
“Is he in heaven?” She looked fearful for a second.
“Yes, he is,” I said, and she sagged in relief, as if worried he wasn’t.
She picked at a worn edge of the guitar case, looked at the money inside, and then said, “Why don’t you work at a store to get money? If you have a store like my daddy, you could make lots of money!”
She was really starting to get on my nerves, though I couldn’t blame her for my frustrations. I strummed again. After being without a guitar for a year, not only had I gotten rusty and lost my touch, but I had forgotten how playing made any mixed-up feelings disappear.
But it was missing my grandpa that had me wanting to play again. My grade nine music teacher, Shark, had loaned me a guitar for practicing on the weekends. He knew my mom couldn’t afford to rent one. But it wasn’t enough for me. I wanted my own. I hated not having something to play during the week, and I hated feeling like a charity case and borrowing one.
So when summer came, Shark secretly loaned me the guitar for the summer. The school wouldn’t approve if they knew. Even though having a guitar with Mattheson High School in black ink down the side of it wasn’t exactly cool, at least I could play. But if Shark knew what I had also used the guitar for, I don’t think he would exactly approve either.
Jessica still watched me. Waiting.
I gave in. “I can’t get a job because I’m fourteen, almost fifteen,” I was quick to add. “Maybe next year I can get a real job. But for now, my mom won’t let me. She says school is too important.” Just thinking about it was starting to irritate me. I had to get rid of the kid somehow.
In a nice, fake, happy voice I said, “Hey, I think your dad is calling you. I think you better go now.”
At the mention of her dad, her eyes widened and she jumped up. She stared at me for a moment, and then skipped away. Thank God.
A leaf fell at my feet, reminding me I didn’t have much time left. Soon the crappy autumn rains would start, and my days of busking downtown would be over, along with days of making money. If I wanted to play, if I wanted a guitar of my own, I had to make money. I had already put down $50 toward theperfect guitar I had on layaway at Mike’s Music store, but I had a long way to go. It was a vicious circle—playing a guitar to make money to play a guitar. It sounded stupid thinking about it that way, but it was true.
But none of that mattered right at that moment.
Because as I looked up, I saw him. My sweat from the summer sun turned to ice.
It was that stupid jerk, Beau, from school.
I can personally say I loved this book and cried happy tears at the end.
Newbie Nick, available at Lycaon Press
Find Lisa at:
Thank you for having me, Pat. I wish you much success in your own writing, and thank you in advance to your visitors for stopping by!
Do you outline your books or wing it? Describe your process.
I’m what’s known as a pantser, in other words I wing it. I get my ideas from current events and from there I build my character’s world.
How do you decide on setting?
The setting was the easy part. I love the west coast and small towns, so I made that an integral part of my story.
What genre(s) do you write in? Why?
I’ve always loved romance and dreamed of one day writing for Harlequin—still working on that—and suspense books keep me turning the pages, so it was a natural fit.
What is your favorite part of writing?
When you get that scene in your head and everything flows from the fingers to the keyboard, almost without thought. Love that.
What is your least favorite part of writing?
I’d have to say editing. I go over the same words so many times it can be frustrating.
Some writers edit excessively as they write; others wait until a novel is finished to do the bulk of editing. How about you?
I edit as I go. I’m compulsive, and can’t seem to leave it alone.
What’s the strangest thing you have ever done in the name of research?
Online searches for drug-running and human trafficking in Iraq and Mexico. I expected to be flagged by the DEA at any time, J
E-books, print, or both? Any preferences? Why?
For myself I prefer e-books, but I know a lot of people like print so I’ve gone with both for my novel. And let’s face it, there’s nothing like holding a book you wrote in your hands.
Please tell us your experiences with social media. What are your favorite and least favorite parts of it?
I love social media. It’s an amazing way to make friends with people from all over the globe. That being said, I’ve found since I opened an author page on Facebook, I’m getting lots of strange, “Hi, I’d like to get to know you better,” messages I could do without.
What do you read? Do you read different genres when you’re writing versus not writing?
I read a wide variety within the romance genre. Romantic Suspense-Iris Johansen, Suzanne Brockmann, Comedy-Jennifer Crusie, Paranormal-J.R.Ward, YA-Jodie Esch, Lisa Lange.
For more about Jacquie Biggar check out her website and connect with her on Facebook and Twitter.
Sara Reed is on the run from an abusive ex who happens to have ties to a Mexican cartel. Mistakenly thinking her and her daughter would be safer if she had some kind of leverage, she takes a copy of some valuable files, files that make her a target.
Nick Kelley is an ex-marine trying to find his place now that his career is over due to injuries suffered from an IED. When the two of them meet in the pretty little town of Tidal Falls, the experience is explosive.
Thanks for inviting me on your blog. I’ve enjoyed reading your posts on all kinds of subjects to do with writing. The topic is endless, isn’t it?
I started writing years ago, and by the time I got my first book out last month, September 2014, I was working on the second draft of Book 12. (I’m that kind of person – I have to stay organized or I’ll die of confusion. That’s why my books are numbered before they have a title.) Not that all twelve books are finished. I’m working on the editing for my second novel, Legal Obstruction, to be released in November this year.
I write romantic suspense. I like a love story but for me there has to be more than just boy meets girl and they fall in love. I’ve read just about every author going, not just in this genre but all over the map. Some of my favourites are Ian Rankin, always set in Scotland, Greg Isles, set in the deep south of the US, Neil Stephenson, some fantasy and most set along the west coast or in the Philippines and south east Asia, John LeCarre, especially Little Drummer Girl. I also like Linda Howard, Sandra Brown, Lisa Kleypas. They all write differently but are great entertainers. My early authors that I read were Daphne DuMaurier, Taylor Caldwell, Mary Stewart.
Life is rich and deep and it’s much more enjoyable if we open ourselves up to all kinds of ideas. They mix and percolate in my head until I’ve come up with another idea for a story.
I come from a family of story tellers. My mother wrote short story fiction, and poetry. My father told stories as a form of entertainment. We were raised with the speaking of tales, a great deal of reading of all kinds of literature, from Zane Grey to Edgar Allen Poe, and lots in between. It was a fabulous background for someone who decided to become a writer.
Be careful what you go after…
Katy Dalton worked hard to finish college, holding down two jobs, and she saved money. Then she gave it all to her friend when he convinced her to invest in a local business. But her job disappeared and she needs her money back fast, everything her friend Bruno has already loaned to Rome Trucking.
When Katy insists he return her money, Bruno stops answering his phone and bad things start to happen.
Brett Rome has a career in hockey and the last thing he wants to do is leave a promising opportunity as coach to come home and run his father’s trucking company. But Paddy is sick, can’t handle the day-to-day business, and Brett has to return.
What he discovers is not the picture of a successful business that he remembers, but one that is teetering on the very edge of bankruptcy. To add to the chaos, a young woman walks in demanding her money, the money his father borrowed from her.
With the company in chaos, Brett hires her. Then bad things start to happen.
Can Brett put this broken picture back together, and is Katy part of the solution or the problem?
Amazon: Suspended Animation
Lips, lips pressing down on hers. Kate’s eyes fluttered open and she found herself looking into soft, brown eyes that were liquid pools of concern. Kind eyes. Without thinking her arms went up around his and she found herself responding to him. Applause burst out from the bystanders around her.
Hopefully that makes you want to read further. In a short presentation on writing best selling novels earlier this year, Phyllis Smallman said “great writers are great readers.” We all nodded sagely. Then she clarified. You not only have to love reading but you have to read to learn how others write. Oh.
She suggested going to the nearest library and reading the first paragraph from best selling novels. I’d like to think the above example from Lost In Vegas works. It has at various times made it into the top 100 books on Amazon. Below you’ll see an opening line from one of Phyllis Smallman’s books. It definitely draws me in.
Do you think you can catch crazy? In Dutch’s, where I mix martinis and pull drafts, some nights a madness swirls through the air, like a virus infecting everyone.
Opening from: Smallman, Phyllis. “Jack Daniels And Tea.”
Then start to think about how books you love are constructed. Chances are none start with a page on botany. Chances are you’ve met at least one of the main characters in the first page and there’s been an inciting incident within the first thirty. Whether it’s romance or mystery there’s probably a giant problem in the way that makes a neat resolution impossible and makes you wonder “how on earth will they solve that?”
That’s what makes you keep reading. Maybe the botanist is trying to save a plant in the middle of a proposed logging site. Conflict! The life blood of books everywhere. If the botanist is gorgeous and the logger a testosterone soaked version of man candy even better. Switch it up and make the botanist a male version of sex on a stick and the logger a pissed off blue eyed blonde who’d look more at home in a women’s magazine than at the job site decked out in steel toed boots. Excellent!
Depending on size you may have a sub plot or two. Maybe three. They should tie into the main story line, adding depth to the story and characters.
Then think about the ending. You want to end with a bang, not a whimper. There should be resolution that leaves the reader feeling emotionally satisfied. They should close your book feeling that the ending you wrote was the only way the book could have ended.
With kids still out of school and no end in sight for our local teacher’s strike this seems a perfect time to share the work of a friend of mine and fellow writer who writes YA. Fantasy to be exact with her work sometimes compared to a young Tolkien.
Andrea’s first publication is The Chosen, a middle-grade fantasy she worked on for about three years. The second book in The Chosen series, Nature’s Unbalance, was released May 2014. Andrea is currently editing Book 3, Striker’s Apprentice.
Andrea’s second series, New Avalon, is YA fantasy. Book 1, Destiny, is available on Amazon. Fate: New Avalon, book 2 is releasing on September 30th. Readers of the first book will find Elena Baxter’s second year at New Avalon even more challenging, if possible, than her first.
Andrea has also published My Open Heart, an autobiography about growing up with heart disease. Her hope is that it will give encouragement to young adults growing up with heart disease, or other chronic illnesses, as well as parents of children growing up with heart disease.
Andrea lives in the Kansas City, KS area. She grew up in Florida, but is originally from NJ.
She has generously shared with me details of her writing career. The following are some questions and answers on what it means to be a writer for Andrea along with an excerpt of her work:
I had to change my major towards the end of my sophomore year of college. I didn’t know what field I wanted to go into. My sister said, “You like writing, why not do that?” So I chose journalism. When I graduated, I started writing freelance web copy from home. I then decided I wanted to try to write a book. After a few attempts at different genres and storylines, The Chosen was born.
Creating new worlds and shaping my characters to be who I want them to be…until they take over.
Because I want to.
*laughs* Another tough question. They usually pop into my head when I’m watching television and movies, or reading books. I’ll see something that sparks an idea, and take off with it from there.
Flying. I’ve always wanted the ability to take off and fly away, hovering above everything and everyone, and floating through the clouds.
This is a tough question, but if I had one wish, I would use it to heal my heart condition. I would love to be able to know the freedom of running up a hill.
Never give up your dream. Keep working hard, and persevere.
Ten Brides for Ten Heroes spans the gamut of the ever-popular wedding romance genre—from heartwarming laughter to thrilling adventure, from sweet to steamy. This 10-book bundle features novels by New York Times and USA Today bestselling authors. So get ready to toss the bouquet and say, “I do!” as ten brides risk it all to find their happy ever after.
Wedding Fever by Patrice Wilton – The romantic comedy series, Serendipity Falls.
Mila O’Reilley owns Wedding Fever, a bridal boutique in Serendipity Falls Mall. She sells more than dresses, she sells dreams along with the belief in happily-ever-after – a sentiment she personally doesn’t share. Can a jaded bridal consultant and a cynical news reporter uncover the true mystery of Serendipity Falls without being swept away in the madness?
Find Patrice at: www.patricewilton.com
Helen Scott Taylor:
The Army Doctor’s Wedding by Helen Scott Taylor – The Army Doctor’s Series
Major Cameron Knight throws himself into the danger of front-line, battlefield medicine to keep the demons from his past away. When he rescues an injured charity worker who’s saved a tiny newborn baby, he marries her so they can take the orphan back home for surgery. With this brave woman he finally has the chance to redeem himself and find love.
Find Helen at: http://www.helenscotttaylor.co.uk/
Wedding Surprise by Mona Risk – The Holiday Babies Series
Claire and David faced many challenges over the years. Finally, Claire’s dream of a wonderful white wedding to the man she loves is about to come true. Two weeks before the wedding, Adriana, the high-school classmate who’s tried to snatch David several times, makes an announcement that threatens to destroy the couple’s happiness. Is Claire and David’s love for each other strong enough to turn the worst wedding surprise into the best?
Find Mona at: www.monarisk.com
Tomboy Bride by Alicia Street – The Dance ‘n’ Luv Series
Kendra returns home for her brother’s wedding determined to get her age-old crush to finally see her as more than a tomboy. But will her game of making him jealous with a hot and handsome faux-beau make him fall for her—or backfire and leave her in ashes?
Find Alicia at: http://aliciastreet-roystreet.com
Destination Wedding, by Rebecca York – The Decorah Security Series
From the moment Nick Cassidy signed on as one one of Camille Norland’s bodyguards, sexual sparks flew between them. Although determined to keep his emotional distance from her, Nick is forced to admit his real feelings when she’s kidnapped by a ruthless Russian mobster with matrimony in mind. Can Nick rescue her before the wedding night? Can they escape from Victor Zanov’s tropical island death trap? And can they come to terms with their complicated relationship?
Find Rebecca at: www.rebeccayork.com
Summer of Love by Annie Jones
Brides, Beehives and Barbecue! Can mother daughter mayhem be far behind? Bless her heart, it’s 1967 and a determined southern bride isn’t sure love is really all she needs.
Find Annie at: http://theanniejones.com/
Return of the Runaway Bride by Donna Fasano
Savanna returns to her hometown to explain why she fled on her wedding day, but she never imagined how her escape all those years ago changed Daniel. Can she make him understand—and forgive?
Find Donna at: www.DonnaFasano.com
Single & Searching by Rita Herron
A woman looking for love… A reporter looking for a story… A mad rush to find a criminal… When the truth comes out and danger strikes, will they succumb to the passion burning between them?
Find Rita at: www.ritaherron.com
Here Comes the Bride by Theresa Ragan
Samantha Johnston, a reporter for the LA Beat, attends the wedding of one of America’s hottest actors in hopes of learning the identity of his mystery bride, and ends up saying, “I do.”
Find Theresa at: www.theresaragan.com
Love Me Tender by Mimi Barbour – The “Elvis” Series
After her year in Texas as an exchange student, Annie leaves pregnant and heartbroken. Nine years later she returns to introduce her eight-year-old son to his American family. And to the man who still haunts her dreams – the handsome, embittered rancher who never knew he’d fathered a son.
Find Mimi at: www.mimibarbour.com
Sitting is the new cancer. Really? Because I’ve never heard of anyone going through chemotherapy for excessive sitting. Still, when I hear the stat of 9.3 hours a day sitting for the average person,versus 7.5 hours sleeping I see a problem.
I even see a link. Let’s face it, it’s hard to get lean and buff – in a chair. And obesity is linked to cancer, heart disease and a whole host of degenerative diseases which fell us on a regular basis
Most of us could use a little more time walking. But when? The average work place isn’t designed for walkers. And when we’re not working writers write. Add in family duties and going to the gym during the slim piece of time we have left – isn’t going to be top priority.
This is where Nilofar Merchant’s idea comes in. Have meetings where you walk.It’s an idea I for one, could embrace. I like the idea of having meetings where we walk, rather than sit in a stuffy room. She explains it brilliantly in the following video:
I can see where being outside in fresh air would engage our senses, possibly allowing us to come up with fresh ideas and solutions to our problems, whatever they might do.
I suspect taking notes or writing as you walk might not work so well,so walking meetings might work better when they are only between one or two people. And should decisions have to be made, including a brief wrap up session, in a seated area might be of benefit.
Perhaps combining the two with a ten to fifteen minute walking portion where people walk and brainstorm together and then another ten or fifteen minute portion at the end, where business is taken care of, decisions made, voted on and recorded, where necessary, would work best.
I think I’ll propose this for our next meeting. So, if you see a bunch of us walking along and talking you’ll know, we’re having a meeting. Important stuff happening here. Don’t let the odd bit of laughter fool you. It’s a meeting!
Some of the most popular shows on television right now are based on Marvel Comics. Whether it’s the agents of Shield or Arrow these characters are larger than life.
They’re escapist entertainment for sure. But I think they’re particularly popular when people are feeling stressed and over-whelmed. Super-heroes don’t have the same problems mere mortals do. They’re stronger, smarter, faster, and bigger than life. Whether they’re able to leap the tallest building, transform themselves or harness the forces of nature their special powers mean they’re not subject to the same limitations as ordinary people. And their powers are used to protect the innocent.
In the Xmen we have Storm able to harness the powers of , well, a storm, to wreak havoc when necessary. Then there’s Rogue, Jean Gray and Emma Frost. In Batman, Cat Woman has been known to give him a run for the money although I’m not sure her big screen incarnation truly captured her abilities.
I’m having a hard time thinking of a major motion picture and box office hit whose main character has been a female superhero. Have I missed one or is it time for someone to create such a character?
What super powers do you think would make a great female superhero? Women are better known for being nice and able to get along with others than for their destructive powers. But could some of those powers be made into super powers?
What would these be? Empathy, intuition, caring, mediating are strong female characteristics but how would they work in a superhero? X-ray vision, super-wealth and the ability to harness the forces of wind, water and other elements could also come in handy and are not male only traits. In fact I think any small child would tell you his mother can see things in the back of her head….lol!
Marvel has a free Create Your Own Superhero page.It’s fun to play with!
So tell me, what super powers would you want if you could have any? And which super powers would you like to see in a superhero?
But the real secret is in my ingredients. I NEVER SCRIMP. Nope, the butter is my baked goods is always butter. The cream is always fresh and the vanilla is REAL. I’m not going to share ALL my recipes with you but this is a cookie dough that is good on it’s own and can be used as the base for all kinds of cookies. The picture is of Black and Whites. I like them plain although they can be frosted with half chocolate, half vanilla frosting.
ULTIMATE COOKIE DOUGH
This is a basic dough that can be added to or changed up to make chocolate, caramel-pecan or black and whites. Add nuts, sprinkle with sugar crystals or glaze. Really, you can’t go wrong with it!
2 cups flour
½ tsp baking powder
½ tsp salt
¾ cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 cup sugar
1 large egg
½ tsp vanilla (adjust to individual taste)
Mix together dry ingredients
Beat together butter and sugar in a large bowl with an electric mixer at medium speed until pale and fluffy (3 minutes with a standing mixer, 6 with a hand mixer.
Beat in egg and vanilla
Add flour mixture in at low speed, a third at a time.
Take dough out of bowl and form (10 – 12 inches) it into a log on a sheet of plastic wrap.
Chill until firm or at least for a couple of hours.
Heat oven at 375 degrees
Take cooled log and slice ¼ inch slices until you have enough to fill two baking sheets. Place on ungreased cooking sheet about an inch apart. Cook for about seven minutes with a sheet on each oven rack. Switch baking sheets and bake another 5-7 minutes until edges are golden. Cool for a couple of minutes and then transfer to cooling racks to cool completely. Continue until all dough is used.
Garnish with melted chocolate drizzling back and forth across the cookies or sprinkles of coarse sugar. These cookies can be kept for up to a week in an airtight container between layers of wax paper. They never seem to last that long for me but perhaps your house will be different.
Also, you can save part of the dough for up to five days chilled in the fridge or wrapped in plastic for up to a month in your freezer.
ULTIMATE CHOCOLATE COOKIE
Basic butter dough recipe but add in ½ cup dutch or best quality cocoa powder and ½ tsp baking soda to dry ingredients.
10 ½ oz bittersweet chocolate melted
Follow the instructions for the originals.
BLACK AND WHITES
Put one log of plain and one log of chocolate together and cut into circles. Bake.