Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Nightly Bug Watch

Every day when I come home from work, one of the first things I do is open the back door. I like the light coming in my kitchen and the kittens love to look outside.

Most nights Clio sits at the back door for hours, watching. Birds, mostly. Until it starts getting dark. Once dusk starts to fall, I turn on the back porch light. Calliope joins her then in the Nightly Bug Watch.
They are literally occupied for hours. Too bad that doesn't work for grandchildren....

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Dara Girard pens The Black Stocking Society series

Dara Girard is a multi-published author, speaker, and publisher willing to talk about all aspects of the publishing industry. After many novels in various sub-genres from contemporary to paranormal romance and a non-fiction book for writers called, The Writer Behind the Words: Steps to Success in the Writing Life, Ms. Girard continues to win readers with each new book. She lives in Maryland.

Dara also took a risk -- choosing to live off her savings in the pursuit of a full-time writing career, and even though she doesn't recommend that route for others, it worked for her.

Let's learn more about Dara.

Hi Dara and welcome to Examiner. Let's start with a brief introduction. Who is Dara Girard?

I was born in the American Midwest to an immigrant couple who were brave enough to call themselves my parents. I started writing stories around six and by twelve I was submitting my work to publishers certain that I’d be published by fourteen. However, thirteen years passed before I got ‘The Call’ and my first book was published in November 2003. So when I tell aspiring authors about perseverance, I know what I’m talking about. I’m a happy feminist (yes there are unhappy ones and I’ve met them) who enjoys writing romance novels because the woman is the ‘hero’ rather than just a sidekick or a prize to be won. I presently live in Maryland and I am working on my next book.

You have a new book out. We’d love to hear about it.

It’s called Round the Clock and it’s the last book in my Black Stockings Society series about four women, one club and a secret that will make all their fantasies come true. Round the Clock focuses on Anna Marie Williams. Anna Marie has always tried to please everyone until her life changes and she receives a sizable inheritance. So she quits her job, dumps her lazy boyfriend and accepts an invitation from The Black Stockings Society. And as a member, the society helps this unassuming woman discover her naughty side and capture the man of her dreams.

Readers can find out more about The Black Stockings Society from the book video on my website.

When writing, do you start with character or plot?

It depends on the story. Sometimes it’s a bit of dialogue. Sometimes a character other times a plot. In my first book Table for Two, my heroine Cassie came to me fully formed. With Round the Clock the idea started as ‘what if?’ ‘What if’ has been the catalyst behind the entire series: What if four women from different backgrounds got a chance to make their dreams come true? And in each story I try to answer that question, which has been a lot of fun.

What does your writing schedule look like? Are you a morning writer? A night owl?

I’m a mixture of both. I write well in the mornings and the evenings, but I’m creatively dead in the afternoons so I don’t even bother. I use the afternoon to attend to other aspects of the writing business like answering correspondence and book promotion or goofing off by going to the park or mall.

What advice do you have for aspiring writers?

To help aspiring writers, I put most of my advice into my non-fiction book The Writer Behind the Words: Steps to Success in the Writing Life. I also have many links and articles posted on my website—http://www.daragirard.com/articles/index.php. I always tell aspiring authors to keep writing no matter what. Get a rejection? Keep writing. Don’t final in a contest? Keep writing. An agent or editor turns you down? Keep writing. That’s the one thing you can control in this industry. The formula for getting published is very simple: Write. Submit. Repeat. You do that until you get a ‘yes’ and you only need one ‘yes’ to start your career. Don’t let the no’s get in your way. The key is perseverance.

What is your next project?

Words of Seduction is the current manuscript I’m working on and it is scheduled to be released March 2010. I hope this book will be part of a trilogy about three female writers whose love lives are nothing to write home about, but who soon discover passion goes beyond the page!

Do you put a lot of effort into promotion?

I maintain a website and newsletter so I can keep in touch with readers and I also work with a fabulous multi-media specialist, Shannon Aviles, who is helping me grow my brand in creative ways. I have done some public speaking at libraries and attended a large book signing at a Romance Writers of America conference. But most of my marketing is online.

What else would you like to tell us?

It’s been a pleasure to be here and if anyone wants to know more about me, my books or to sign up for a contest, visit my website www.daragirard.com. I also have a fun newsletter where I let readers know what I’m up to.

Book blurb for Round the Clock

Rebel made good meets good girl gone wild…

Anna Marie has spent too long trying to please everybody else. Now, thanks to an unexpected inheritance, she’s got a new lease on life. Her first step? Accepting the invitation to the Black Stockings Society. Still, the scandalous fishnets she receives in her first package must be a mistake. Anna Marie would never dare wear something so outrageously sexy to a meeting with her lawyer…would she?

In high school, Desmond Rockwell was a rebel barely aware of Anna Marie’s existence, or the fact that she had a major crush on him. But he can’t ignore the bold, seductive woman who has come to him seeking legal advice, unleashing a sizzling attraction that proves that some things are definitely worth the wait…

Purchase Links

Dara's book can be purchased at:

BarnesandNoble.com

Amazon.com

Books-A-Million.com

Other author interviews you may be interested in reading:

Diana Lawrence

Marcia James

Friday, July 24, 2009

A chat with romance author Diana Cosby


Diana Cosby

Welcome to Life, Unedited, Diana. Tell us a little about yourself?

After I retired from the Navy, as a Chief Meteorologist/ Oceanographer, I turned to my passion—writing romance novels. With 31 moves behind me and having traveled through many countries, I was anxious to create characters who reflected the amazing cultures and people I’ve met over the years.
My years of living in Europe drew me to write in the medieval time frame. After watching the movie Braveheart and with my passion for writing complex plots, I knew I had to write in this volatile medieval timeframe, hence the MacGruder brothers were born.

I have many passions in life, but one that resonates in my life is that of giving. I firmly believe that each of us can make a positive difference in another person’s life. There are so many charities that I believe in. With each book I sell, I will tithe ten percent of my royalties to a charity of my choice. The first charity I've chosen is The National Trust for Scotland, which acts as guardian of Scotland’s magnificent heritage of architectural, scenic and historic treasures. Without the National Trust for Scotland, many of Scotland’s historical wonders would be lost.

You have a new book out. We’d love to hear about it.

My second book out in the MacGruder series belongs to Duncan. Duncan is the youngest brother, a man who wields his charm as skillfully as his sword. When I met Duncan in the first MacGruder book, “His Captive,” I knew I had to write his story next. I needed to find out the secrets he hid. Through perseverance, I learned that his charm concealed a love lost and anger at Isabel Adair, a woman he still loves, who left him to become his enemy’s mistress a week before they were to be wed. Furious, he swears never to see Isabel again, until Isabel’s brother who is dying from a mortal wound, makes Duncan swear to him that he will save Isabel who now rots in her lover’s prison.

. . . and so the story begins.

My teaser:

TRUSTING HER WAS UNTHINKABLE

Lady Isabel Adair is the last woman Sir Duncan MacGruder wants to see again, much less be obliged to save. Three years ago, Isabel broke their engagement to become the Earl of Frasyer’s mistress, shattering Duncan’s heart and hopes in one painful blow. But Duncan’s promise to Isabel’s dying brother compels him to rescue her from those determined to bring down Scottish rebel Sir William Wallace.

RESISTING HER WAS IMPOSSIBLE

Betraying the man she loved was the only way for Isabel to save her father, but every moment she spends with Duncan reminds her just how much she sacrificed. No one could blame him for despising her, yet Duncan’s misgivings cannot withstand a desire that has grown wilder with time. Now, on a perilous journey through Scotland, two wary lovers must confront both the enemies who will stop at nothing to hunt them down, and the secret legacy that threatens their passion and their lives…

You’ve recently signed with a new publisher. Can you tell us about that?

In August of 2006, Sulay Hernandez and Kate Duffy called to tell me that they’d like to buy the first two novels in the MagGruder Brothers’ series. After over nine years of writing and with well past 100 rejections behind me, I didn’t yell with joy, but cried. After I hung up, I e’d my husband who was serving a tour in Iraq to share the amazing news. He called me from Baghdad. When our children came home from school, we celebrated as well. I will always carry that special memory.

Is there a favorite among your books?

If you had asked me before my third release, which will be Seathan’s book, I would have answered His Woman. I love the complexity of plot and the mystery that unfolds. Okay, and I love Duncan’s killer charm! :) But Seathan’s book hits the ground running from page one and the tension doesn’t stop until The End. I’m very proud of the third book in the MacGruder series. Once I have a title/release date, I will post it on my website, newsletter and Facebook.

What do you love about your publisher?

I’ve been blessed to work with Kensington Publishing Corporation editors, Kate Duffy, Sulay Hernandez, and Megan Records. Each has been amazing in their support, kindness and thoughtfulness. If given one wish, I would ask that when each author sells their first book, they receive the Cinderella tale that these editors have given me. To each of them, my sincere thanks.

What does your writing schedule look like? Are you a morning writer? A night owl?

I’m all about the mornings. I’m up at 6A.M.; once my son is on the bus, then I dive into my writing. When I’m writing new pages, my goal is a minimum of five pages a day regardless of how long it takes. Each day, I edit up from my previous scene, which makes my first draft pretty tight.

What advice do you have for aspiring writers?

Life doesn’t offer us problems, but challenges, and challenges we can overcome. Set your goal. Be true to yourself. Never give up. Persevere. Only YOU can tell the story of your heart.

What is your next project?

Once I turn in Seathan’s book this month, I’ll begin to write the next brother’s story, Patrik [Cleary] MacGruder. Patrik is the adopted brother whose family was slaughtered by the English. After the loss of his family, the MacGruders took him in and raised him, but Patrik’s held bitterness inside since, a viciousness that resulted in him trying to murder his brother’s future wife, who is English. I can’t wait to write Patrik’s story, it’s going to be filled with tons of angst, but also of growing of self and of finding forgiveness.

Do you have any writing rituals? Like special music, times of the day, food quirks, etc?

My music and usually a Yankee Candle as they’re my favorite. I write by soundtracks that totally move me, which rarely have any singing in them. The current soundtracks I’m using are Braveheart, Rob Roy, all three of the Lord of The Rings soundtracks, and one Lifescapes Celtic Music for stress relief CD.

Today, writers need not only write great books, but be great promoters of their books, too. What kinds of things do you do?

An add on Romance Sells, blog, attend conferences, book signings, donate books and other items to good causes, participate in worthwhile charities and I’m open to suggestions for more. :) Also, I give away signed bookmarks to readers upon request:

*Bookmarks for His Woman are available!
Send a self addressed envelope to:
Diana Cosby
P.O. Box 397
Pottsboro, TX 75076
*Please indicate who you would like me to autograph the bookmark to.

If you could interview any of the characters in your books, which one would it be, and why? What shocking thing might that character say?

Because of her complex character and her tragic youth, young years that molded her, I’d interview Elizabet, the heroine in Patrik’s story.

She’d say that the world is made of liars, cheats, those that would kill you without thought. To her life is survival of the fittest, to doubt everyone and only believe in herself.

What’s the coolest, wackiest, most risk-taking thing you’ve ever done?

Wow, tough question. I’d say scuba diving at night in Guam during a high seas warning. The waves were enormous, but I deflated my life vest and with the rest of the divers, let a rip current carry me out. Once in deep water, I swam down.
At the bottom, the wave action was so rough that I clutched onto a piece of coral and was still thrown around. That piece of coral by the way was next to a moray eel hole and the moray was none too happy with me. But, I wasn’t letting go until we had a plan. Our group decided this night dive was a bad idea, duh, so we came in over the coral reef, letting a huge wave sweep us in. Bad decision, but the only one we had.

As water pounded the reef and blasted the windswept air with spray, we swam hard with the next wave. It caught us and we were thrown over the ragged clusters of fused coral where I was stung by a thankfully, very small cone shell. My hand went numb then slowly up my arm. It stopped numbing about 3/4th the way and over the hours, slowly went away. And, I lived to tell about it. Definitely the most risk-taking thing I’ve done. I call it flat out stupid. *G*

For more info: Please visit Diana Cosby's Web site.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

And the answer is...


A yucca root!

Congrats to any and all of you who identified the mystery organ, er, root, er tuber, as a yucca because if you did, you win a free ebook of your choice! Also, if you were the 5th commenter, and you didn't say yucca, you also get a book (according to random.org). Check out my book list to the left and let me know which one you would like. Please send an email to maddie.james@insightbb.com and I'll shoot the book rightbackatcha!

Now to the rest of the story.

My friend Karen, from Omaha, and I travel quite a bit together for business. We are frequently in the desert and for years I've been saying that I want to bring a yucca plant home with me and she keeps saying I can't. The conversation goes something like this:

Maddie: Oh! There is some more yucca! I want to take a plant home with me.

Karen: You can't. We've been over and over this.

Maddie: But just a baby yucca? No one will ever know.

Karen: They are endangered. You can't take them across state line. Besides, we're on the reservation. You can't take plants off the reservation.

Maddie: Look at all of them! No one is going to miss a baby yucca. Look. Stop. There is one now at the side of the road.

Karen: We're not stopping for yucca alongside of the road.

Maddie: But we stopped and picked sage alongside the road, on the reservation, when you wanted some.

Karen: That's different.

Maddie: How so?

Karen: Just is. Trust me. I was married to an Indian.

Maddie, frowning, and failing to see the logic: Oh.

So, nevertheless, I never have taken a baby yucca home with me in fear of being nabbed at airport security for harboring concealed tubers and attempting to take them across state line.

Evidently you can mail tubers wrapped in plastic bags across state line just fine. Hm. I gotta catch myself up on all these laws....

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

My friend sent me a horse penis?

A box arrived today from Omaha. I was expecting it. My friend called the night before to say it was on its way. She didn't tell me what it was, just that once it arrived, we'd talk.

I couldn't imagine what she had sent.

Curious, of course, I opened it. My first thought, seeing that whatever inside was wrapped in a book store bag, was that the item was book related.

My friend is an avid reader and, of course, I am an author. We love to talk books and stuff. More wrappings revealed another bag and then...

Whoa. What's that?

I'm here to tell you that many things raced through my head. My friend sent me a bag of sh*t? What the hell? I looked closer. No. No... I touched it and it was kind of squishy. Some sort of sick sex toy?

A penis. My friend sent me a horse penis?


Two horse penises? (or is that peni?) No, wait. I know. An alien penis. Two-pronged. My friend is one sick puppy...

Three?

Oh. My. God!


So here I am, standing in my kitchen, staring down at my alien horse penis vibrator and thinking...what the hell are these things and why did she send them?

I pick up the cell and dial Omaha.

Leave a comment between now and 8 pm EST Thursday July 23 (tomorrow evening) and venture a guess. I'll draw from the comments for a free ebook of your choice. Good luck!

Writing 101: What are romance publisher lines and imprints?


Kensington Brava Imprint

Romance novels come in all shapes, sizes and genre, as we have already discovered. Each romance publisher is unique in how they categorize or classify their books.

Genre, word count, theme, and whether the story is a category, single-title, or mainstream book, are just some of the factors that may contribute to what line or imprint a book is categorized.

What is an imprint? Generally, an imprint is a category of books defined by the publisher. The house may want to brand certain types of books by labeling with an imprint—the name under which the book is published. Publishing houses may have many different imprints.

What is a line? Typically, a line is a grouping of books with similar themes that exist under an imprint.

Both imprints and lines brand the book for the reader and the author. The reader knows what kind book they are getting; the author knows how to target her writing by slanting the book to a particular line or imprint.

Clear as mud? Let’s look at this Harlequin example. You may want to call up the actual Web page to follow along. I have provided a screen shot, below.

Across the top of the page you see all of Harlequin’s imprints. They are: Harlequin, Silhouette, Spice, MIRA, HQN, Kimani Press, Steeple Hill, Red Dress Ink, Luna, World Wide Library. Harlequin current has ten different imprints. What are the differences? To find that out, the reader and the author may have to do some exploration. By clicking on the links and perusing the books, you will see differences. For example, Spice books are labeled “steamy erotic fiction.” Steeple Hill books are “all about life, faith and getting it right.” An aspiring author would not want to confuse the two and send an erotic manuscript to a Steeple Hill editor.

Kimani Press romances are described as “sexy, entertaining love stories that keep it real with true-to-life African-American characters who turn up the heat and sizzle with passion.” Where as Red Dress Ink books are “sexy, funny stories that follow the struggles of dating, careers and romance in the big city!”

Are you beginning to see the differences?

Now, click on the Silhouette imprint, the second one from the left. The drop-down box should reveal several lines within that particular imprint. If you study those, you will see subtle differences in each of those lines. The writers guidelines will be more specific. If you click on each imprint across the page, you’ll see more lines. All relate back to the imprint above them but possess different slants within.

As an aspiring romance author, you want to study the varying lines and imprints of publishers (all publishers, we just used Harlequin as an example) so you can make a determination about where you book best fits. If you are a reader, you may already have discovered which lines or imprints are your favorite. Time and again, you’ll look for those brands because you trust the kind of book you are going to get.

Some authors choose to write their books for a particular line/imprint, and others write the book first and see where it might fit. There is no right or wrong way to do this, in my opinion, as it may depend totally on where you are in your writing career.

So here is your homework. Choose three romance publishing houses. Visit their Web sites and see if you can determine if they have, a) imprints, and b) lines within their imprints. Take a stroll and see what you find.

Up next: How do I set up my manuscript?

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Ice cream: Stuff of the gods

Ice cream. The mere utterance of the word sends me into spirals of decadent delight. It's cold, creamy and sweet as it lays on my tongue. It slides over my taste buds and down my throat and I close my eyes in sheer delight. Ah. It comes in almost any flavor imaginable and likely I've tried them all. Well, not really, but I can say I have never met an ice cream that I did not like.

I always feel like I'm doing something bad when I eat ice cream. Somehow I like that feeling. I won't venture a guess as to what that says about me. You can reach your own conclusion.

When I've really had a stressful day, it's Graeter's Mocha Chocolate Chip on my way home from work that I adore. On a normal stressful day it would be one scoop. If it is one of those days from hell, I say give me the works--two scoops in a dipped chocolate cone. When it is in season, I splurge on Black Raspberry Chip and I don't look back. Ever.

Never look back with regret when ice cream is involved. I mean, never. Ice cream is a gift from the gods. I'm convinced of it. And we do not want to ruffle the feathers of the ice cream gods by feeling regret or, shudder, remorse, over having slurped our way through a hot fudge sundae or dove face first into a banana split. Never do that. It upsets the alignment of the planets, or something, or triggers some blip in the universe. That can't be good. So no regrets, okay?

All right.

July is National Ice Cream month, you know, as proclaimed by President Ronald Reagan in 1984. He said it was a "fun and interesting food that is enjoyed by 90% of the population." I don't know about you, but I would seriously question the thinking of that other 10%. Who does not like ice cream? I suppose there are those who are lactose intolerant. I'll give them that. Poor souls.

In my household, ice cream was always Queen. When the kids were living at home, there was a huge tub of vanilla or chocolate or Neapolitan in the freezer. Those were our bases. After a couple of scoops of any of those, the toppings reigned. Some liked just plain chocolate sauce. Some loved strawberry jam. Fresh bananas are good, as are peanuts or cashews. Any kind of nuts. Any kind of jam. Any kind of fruit. But always, chocolate.

Yes, chocolate reigns supreme in the topping world, in our book.

Whipped cream. Don't forget the whipped cream.

So, in this month of ice cream, I have to wonder. How do you like yours? What flavors do you like the best? Toppings? I've put a little poll here on the blog so feel free to respond. I'm really curious about the subject. I'm like that sometimes.

p.s. Click here for a previous post, where I showed how to make an ice cream pie. Yum!

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Beate Boeker romance novels: No clinging heroines allowed!

When I interview authors, I like to peruse their Web sites to find out a little more information about them personally, rather than rely only on what they share in their interview.

Reading through Beate Boeker's Web site was like being introduced to your next best friend. Her writing style is friendly, straight forward, and laced with a smattering of dry humor.

I'm heading to the library to check out her books. Right now. Really!

A well-traveled and educated mom, international business woman, and ex- antique re-worker/quilter/golfer, her interests are many. Writing, it's easy to see, is her passion.

I also found it interesting that English is not her first language, although she chose to write her romance novels in English. You can read more about that, here.

Welcome, Beate!

Maddie: Beate, it's great to have you here. Tell us a little about yourself.

Beate: I started writing in 2005. With the help of a book editor (Elizabeth Lyon) I managed to overcome the obstacles every beginner faces. My obstacles were a bit higher than normal because I am German and writing from Germany. I decided to write in English because I found a lot more help in the US market (see my website for full details).

Maddie: Congratulations on your success! How many books do you have in print now?

Beate: I have two books in print. Wings to Fly (it came out in Aug. 2009) and Take My Place (which was officially released this month! April 2009). It depends on my mood which one I prefer. Wings to Fly is funnier, but Take My Place has more dramatic tension.

Maddie: What do you love about your publisher?

Beate:
I love the tasteful and color-intensive covers of Avalon Books. It's easy to be proud of such a gorgeous hardback -- and it makes a great gift too!

Maddie: What does your writing schedule look like? Are you a morning writer? A night owl?

Beate:
I'm a patchwork-writer. I write whenever I have time. At night, when I wake up and can't fall asleep again. In the evening, when all the work for the day is done. At the weekend, off and on. In the early mornings, I organize the basics -- reply to mails, check blogs, etc.

Maddie: Do you have a writer’s cave?

Beate:
My "cave" is a tiny desk in one corner of the living room which has direct access to the garden. My husband (who's a programmer) has his desk behind me, and when I write, I hear him clicking away too.

Maddie: What about a day job? How do you balance the two?

Beate:
I do have a day job -- I'm a European Product Manager at a company that produces high-quality fountain pens -- now doesn't that fit well to my job as a writer? :-)

Maddie
: What advice do you have for aspiring writers?

Beate:
Never, never, never give up.

Maddie: What's next on the horizon for Baete?

Beate:
I'm working on a mystery with a strong romantic subplot.

Maddie: Oh! I love mysteries. I am looking forward to that one. What about quirky writing rituals? Like special music, times of the day, food, etc?

Beate:
I write with my keyboard on my legs, laid back in a comfortable armchair. My legs are on a footstool, made comfortable by two fat cushions. It doesn't like like working -- but it's how I love to write!

Maddie: Today, writers need not only write great books, but be great promoters of their books, too. What kinds of things do you do?

Beate:
I blog once a month together with some other authors from Avalon Books, I send out a newsletter to friends whenever I have news to share (send me your e-mail address if you wish to receive it too!), and most important of all, I have a Web site which I update regularly.

Maddie: Now, here is the totally off-writing subject question. What’s the coolest, wackiest, most risk-taking thing you’ve ever done?

Beate:
The most risk-taking thing I have ever done was the decision to become pregnant. I had never started on an adventure with an outcome I couldn't control at all. Guess what? I was right. But it was worth it.

Maddie: What else would you like to tell us?

Beate: I only realized a few years ago that my name translates into Happy Books (if you mix Latin and a German dialect). I thought that was a hint from destiny I couldn't overlook!

For more info: Please visit Beate at her Web site.

Some other author interviews you may be interested in reading:

Gerrie Ferris

Margaret Carroll

Jan Scarbrough

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Shoe Fetish

Once upon a time there were two sisters, very close in age. The oldest was very prissy, loved pink, chocolate, and anything frilly. The other, quite frankly, preferred to run naked through the house giggling like, well, a little girl.

One day, their mother said, "Let's get our pictures taken today." So, they got all dressed up, gussied up their little brother, too, and headed for the picture place.

They waited, sitting patiently during all the hoopla (for a little while, at least) and while their brother was hamming it up for the cam. Their grandmother, with her knowing eye, could spot two little girls who were on the edge of distraction. See?

"Let's go shop a little," she said to them. And before the grandmother knew it, the sisters were off and running. Luckily, the youngest had not abandoned her clothing...yet. The grandmother tried to keep up, but found it difficult to tail two sets of fast, little preschool legs. Particularly when there were shelves and racks of clothing to hide in... Especially when one went this way and the other that....

But never fear, because before the grandmother knew it, the girls stopped short in their tracks. They stood in awe, staring ahead, their mouths forming perfect little Os. This is what they saw:

Ah. Yes. Flip flops. Jeweled flip flops. Rhinestoned flip flops. Gel flip flops. Flip flops with gold stars. Sigh.

"Oh, grandmother," the sisters said, "We just love flip flops...."

The grandmother could hear the cash register ringing in her ears.

"We like these!" they chimed.

"And these! Oh, please."

Who could resist those faces?

The grandmother, now starting to inspect the tags and count her pennies, glanced at the sister's feet and said, "But you already have flip flops!"

"But we need more! And these are so pretty!" the girls told her.

And the grandmother almost caved, until the girls' mother arrived with their little brother, glanced once at the beautiful and sparkly array of flip flips on the rack, the smiles on her daughters' faces, and the shoes in their hands, and said to the grandmother, "Don't let them con you. They have a large laundry basket full of flip flops just like those at home."

Sigh. The grandmother would have parted with her pennies anyway, except the mother was not in the mood to discuss any further. It seems, that taking three young children to get their pictures taken is a tiring event.

But oh, the end product can be just precious.

p.s. What? No shoes?

Friday, July 17, 2009

Writing 101: What are the romance genres?


The romance genre, is a genre all to itself. In order to be classified as a romance novel, the story must revolve around love as the central plot, and there must be a happily-ever-after (HEA). This, first and foremost, classifies a book as a romance.




When writing a romance novel, it's important to know in what romance sub-genre you are writing, so you can pitch your story and target toward the right publishers. It's also easier to talk about your story if you have identified the genre.For example, an aspiring author I met recently described her book as "a romance but there really isn't a happy ending because the hero dies."

So you first have to stop and think: Is this really a romance? Since we said one requirement for a romance novel is to have a "happily-ever-after," meaning that the hero and heroine are together at the end of the story, if the hero dies, is this truly a romance?

Considering the response above, I dug a little deeper with the author. Turns out the hero actually dies before the story occurs, that he is a ghost throughout the story interacting with the heroine, and yes, they sail off into the sunset together--an emotional satisfying ending. Ah, I suggested, it sounds like your book is a paranormal romance.

Publishers identify the genres they are looking for right up front, usually in their writer's guidelines and on their Web sites. Some of those most common, over-arching genres referred to include:

  • Contemporary romance - novels set in contemporary times in any setting, usually after 1945.

  • Historical romance - novels set in any time period or setting prior to 1945.

  • Paranormal romance - novels with paranormal themes, including sci-fi/futuristic, fantasy, time travel, ghosts, shifters, vampires, etc.

  • Romantic suspense - novels which focus heavily on suspense, thriller or mystery elements.

  • Inspirational romance - novels with strong spiritual or religious beliefs.

  • Erotica - novels with elements of sexually explicit detail.
But wait, there's more. Many books these days cross genres, which means they may combine two or more of the above romantic sub-genres into a new genre. For example, my time-travel series, The Legend of Blackbeard's Chalice, is both time travel and romantic suspense, so I refer to them as time-travel/suspense novels. Take a look at the book trailer below and see if you can pick out both elements of suspense and time-travel. Culinary mysteries (mysteries with food themes) have recently become popular. A novel with a central love story and HEA, that includes elements of mystery, and is set in in "food" setting, might be considered a Culinary Romantic Mystery. A story based on a fairy tale theme, that includes a shape-shifter, and is highly sexually graphic, might be an Erotic/Paranormal.

It is important for a beginning author to understand the basic elements of sub-genres before crossing genres. Also realize that the sub-genre categories listed are not all-inclusive, and you may know of, or identify others that have not been included here.

For more info: Remember to email Maddie with your romance novel writing questions at maddie.james@insightbb.com.

The Legend of Blackbeard's Chalice Trilogy





Next up: Writing 101: What are romance publisher lines and imprints?

Previous Writing 101 article: Writing 101: How do I get started writing a romance novel?

Copyright © 2009 Maddie James

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Writing 101: How do I get started writing a romance novel?

Good morning. Today starts the first of a writing series titled Writing 101. These articles will be cross-posted from my Examiner.com column.
***

Kensington, 2000
How do you get started writing a romance novel?

Like any kind of fiction writing, in order to write a romance novel, you need to know the basics of creating a work of fiction. The author should have command of the English language and understand the elements of story.
We'll explore various elements of writing the romance novel over the next couple of months as the 101 series continues.
So, let's get going! Here are six basic steps to get you started.
  • Read romance novels. If you want to write a romance novel, you must read romance novels. By reading them, you will get a feel for how a romance novel plot generally unfolds and how the characters interact with each other.
  • Join a professional organization. There are a number of professional writers organizations that support aspiring romance novelists. One such organization is Romance Writers of America (see previous article, as well). RWA hosts an annual conference each year and publishes a monthly magazine on romance writing for its members. The organization has chapters in almost all states, which provides writers an opportunity to network locally. They sponsor several on-line chapters, as well.
  • Find a critique partner or group. Once you begin to network within an organization, it is likely you will meet other people who are interested in writing the romance novel. Consider if there are people you have met who would be willing to share information and critique with you. This is usually a mutually beneficial situation, where aspiring authors learn from each other. Some networks or chapters provide times for published authors to mentor or critique aspiring authors.
  • Buy a couple of good books on story structure and one on motivation. Many books on story structure exist. Ask other authors/writers about their preferences. Some favorite books about story structure that live on my bookshelf include: Story by Robert McKee; Scene & Structure by Jack Bickham, and Techniques of the Selling Writer by Dwight Swain. Along with your books on structure, find a book that motivates you in your writing. For me, that go to motivational book is, Writing Down the Bones by Natalie Goldberg.
  • Study the markets. Although you are just beginning to write, it doesn't hurt to start learning about the various markets for publishing your work. When you read a romance novel, notice the publisher and the name of the imprint (if applicable). Take note of books you read that are similar in style to what you want to write. Who publishes that kind of book? Also, you may want to subscribe to various on-line or print venues for learning about markets, such as Writer's Digest. Professional organizations also provide market news. Even though you are just beginning, it is wise to begin with the end in mind.
  • Write your first book. No author can sell a book until it is written. Writing your first novel can be a huge learning experience, in so many ways. Write, write and write some more. Don't stop until it is finished.
For more info: Maddie would love to hear what your questions are about writing the romance novel so she can answer them here. Feel free to email her at maddie.james@insightbb.com. Please put Romance Novel 101 in the subject line.
  • Next: Writing 101: What are the different romance genres?
Copyright © 2009 Maddie James

Monday, July 13, 2009

Writing and teaching

I'm a writer. It's a strength I possess and what I am passionate about. I love stringing words together to both inform and entertain. It's who I am.

I'm also a teacher. Again, I like to think that it is a strength. I suppose that writing and teaching go hand in hand, for to be a good teacher, in my opinion, you have to strike that balance between informing and entertaining. To take it one step further, you also have to incite in the learner (and reader) that passion for more.

That, also, is who I am.

For many, many years I taught children. That's not who I am today. All of those years of working with children, however, have prepared me for being the "teacher" that I am today. I no longer have the passion for the classroom. I teach, instead, in other ways. And I like to think that my teaching is more like mentoring, actually, than teaching.

I choose to give back. It might not be in a huge way. It could be on an individual basis. In fact, that is the way I prefer it. Small and quiet, and in ways that mean something to the person on the receiving end. In turn, it makes me smile and feel good about myself.

I also think my "teaching" happens via my writing. All these years I tried so hard to keep my writing separate from my "teaching." And all this time, I realize now, they go hand-in-hand.

But perhaps I was not supposed to realize that until now. Life has an interesting way of revealing these kinds of things when we are ready to receive. Right?

My writing journey is still unfolding. It's a path that has wound in and out of my life over the years. I look forward to where it will take me.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Old Louisville Hidden Treasures Garden Tour

Okay, so I ditched the writing early this afternoon. Instead, I went downtown and took the Old Louisville Hidden Treasures Garden Tour. And as always, have camera will travel. I hope you enjoy some of the shots I selected for you this afternoon.



To see the full slide show, please visit this link: Old Louisville Garden Tour 2009

It's Sunday. Missions Accomplished?

New day, new week. What did I do this past week? Did I accomplish anything of any significance?

I've been in such a reflective vein the past few weeks, I suppose it behooves me to reflect a bit here in this virtual diary, of sorts.

Let's see, Missions Accomplished:
  • In an attempt to organize myself somewhat, I started using my recently purchased Franklin Covey organizer. I learned that Franklin Covey products are designed after a book that Benjamin Franklin used to carry around with his goals, values, tasks, etc., written inside. Huh. I never knew that. I am going to spend more time with this system next week. When it comes to organization, lately it seems, anything will be good.

  • I attended a training seminar to complete a credential that I had previously achieved and let lapse. Hm. Methinks that also speaks to the lack of organization in my life of late...

  • I came home and reorganized all the training materials for the previous seminar with the one I took this week. This organization thing is getting into my head big time! I wonder when it will hit with housekeeping...?

  • I read my horoscope and also did a Tarot card reading on Facebook and both of those things tell me that I'm in transition and that better stuff is coming. I have to wonder if it is now because I will be more organized? I hold Facebook Tarot care readings in the highest regard, you know.

  • I took a down day yesterday and kicked back, although I did write about 3000 words last night. Need to do at least that and more today.

  • I posted several interviews and a bestseller list on my Examiner column this week. Finally! Celebrate! (I've had a difficult time getting there to post of late. Hm.) You might be interested in some of those author interviews. Slide by if you get the chance. Here is the link.
So, it seems, the theme of the week was organization. I am hoping that will continue to carry over to next week, because I'm taking yet another week of vacation to do just that. I have a friend who keeps saying, "Get away! Go to the beach or something! Use all of your hotel and American Express points and have a little vacation!" Nice thought but no. I am looking very forward to being home and getting several things accomplished on my 'to do' list. Top priority is finishing the current work-in-progress. I'm setting a goal of Monday evening. Hold me to that, okay?

Let's see. Organization. Yes. Let's keep that in mind.

I'm off to write. Talk soon! And check back to see my progress. I need for you (or Ben Franklin) to hold me accountable.

Wednesday, July 08, 2009

The Legend of Blackbeard's Chalice Series

The Curse, the first book in my Legend of Blackbeard's Chalice series, continues to be a great seller for me in print. This book is truly a book of my heart, conceived many years ago during a family vacation to the Outer Banks in North Carolina. Who cannot visit those barrier islands and not wonder about pirates and their stories? The Blackbeard books, a time-travel series, will not disappoint, I hope anyway! I love Jack and Claire's story so much that in a future book, I will return to them as characters.

With the release of the third book in the series, The Quest, currently available in ebook only, I wanted to remind everyone of how the series got started.

Jack Porter is in hot pursuit of his kidnapped wife. Not an easy feat considering it is 1718 and the kidnapper is Edward Teach, aka Blackbeard. Determined to rescue her, Jack sneaks aboard the pirate's ship but is too late. His beloved Hannah dies in his arms.

Nearly 300 years in the future, Claire Winslow vacations on a secluded east coast island, where the image of a man walking the misty shores haunts her. He comes to her, kisses her, and disappears. The next night, they make love. But did they really? Or was it a dream. And why did he call her Hannah?

The Curse sends Jack and Claire on a wild search through time to possess a powerful historical artifact--the silver-plated chalice made from Blackbeard's skull. This chalice holds the key to their destiny and their love. Only with the chalice, can they reverse Blackbeard's Curse.

Or can they?

Read an excerpt.

The Curse
by Maddie James by Resplendence Publishing, LLC
Paperback ~ Release Date: 2007-11-10
List Price: $17.50
Our Price: $17.50
Buy Now

Watch the updated trailer for the series below.

The Legend of Blackbeard's Chalice Trilogy


The Quest, will be available in paperback this fall.

Tuesday, July 07, 2009

Baby Tomatoes!

Tomatoes!

Really and truly, however, they are not as huge as they appear in the picture. Actually, these are tiny little grape tomatoes and yes! they came from my tiny little backyard suburban garden (if you want to go so far as to call it a garden). Last year my tomatoes were in pots; this year they went into the ground and whoa! Boy, did those tomato plants grow! I have one grape tomato plant that is huge, with lots of small tomatoes on it already and a whole lot of blooms. There are two other regular tomato plants as well, and some tomatoes and blooms sitting on them, as well. I think the grape tomatoes will be the bumper crop this year, however.

So, I had to do something with these little babies, right? I knew I had an avocado that I needed to eat this evening so...guacamole!

Ingredients:

1 ripe avocado
4 tiny grape tomatoes from your backyard! (diced)
about a Tablespoon of minced red onion
juice of a lemon wedge (lime is great, too, but I had lemon)
salt and pepper to taste

Mash it all together and you have homemade guacamole! Just add tortilla chips and munch away.

Monday, July 06, 2009

The 4th, Family & Fun

A reflection on my 4th of July weekend.


Smiles, stars & stripes, and ponytails...


catfish sizzling in hot oil...


pie, cake, mac & cheese...

and more...


mommy, bubbles and big "little boy" eyes...


snacking before the meal...


trying to make bubbles, too!

catching up...


and watching.

Thursday, July 02, 2009

Thanks, oh great spirit hunters!

Thanks to all who came by to play yesterday, hunting for ghostly orbs in my pictures. Jennifer, Magdalena, Kris, Wendy, Fran and Bronwyn -- you all had great responses!

I see the orbs in the picture of the house across from Central Park--the large brick just before the picture of the road sign for St. James Court. See left. Do you see them?

No, my lens didn't need to be cleaned because I used the same lens on all of the pictures. The sun, well, perhaps it was shining right at me so maybe the orbs could be attributed to sun spots. But...I don't know about that. I took several pictures from that same spot.

I think it was great fun, though, that many of you spotted things I didn't! Like, Wendy noticed that only one tree is blowing in the 4th Street Live pic. And several of you saw images in windows or doors that I didn't see. Eeek!

I do have to say, though, that Jennifer gave me a little scare when she said she thought the spirits might be hanging around the picture with the handprints of Pat Day. I had to think about that one a little. I kept thinking...Pat Day is still around, isn't he? Why would spirits be hanging around him unless is was, um, gone?

It bugged me all day.

All day long I’m thinking that he must have died sometime when I was out of town. And then I’d think, no, surely he isn’t dead, that she didn’t mean that… But it kept nagging at me a little and I just wondered. Then later in the day I went to the local post office to get a PO box. I’m standing in line and there is this teeny little man standing in front of me. I’m thinking jockey right away (remember, I live in horse country). Being the Amazon women that I am, I felt like I was just TOWERING over him. He had the tiniest little butt and I swear, his head could have fit under my breasts. I mean, with him standing straight up. Not that I would WANT him under my breasts, that’s just about to where he would come. Anyway, he had a letter in his hand. He moved it around. I glanced at it. I was sure the return address name started with a P. So now I’m thinking… this is PAT DAY!!! He's still here! And then I think, well, no, probably not. Then, he steps up to the guy at the counter, and they talk, and I hear the clerk say, “Have a good afternoon, MR. DAY!”

So, now, I’m for sure now that he’s not in spirit. This was all too weird!

Anyway...since all of you did such a fabulous job of spotting spirits, everyone gets an ebook of your choice! Take a look at my available titles in the left side bar and send me an email at maddie.james@insightbb.com, and I'll return a copy to you.

Oh! that reminds me. My two latest releases are not on that slide show yet, do remember that Dates du Jour and The Quest, are also available.

Thanks, ladies!