Monday, August 31, 2015

A Match Made in Heaven: A New Release and the Readers Luncheon

I have a novella due to the editor tomorrow, so what better thing to blog about than a new release, right? Then it hit me that this book, PIRATESHIP DOWN and Other Stories from the Sentinels of New Orleans, should be hitting the virtual shelves about a week before the wonderful folks of Southern Magic, the Birmingham RWA Chapter, hold the annual Readers Lunch on November 7.

About four years ago, I saw a note on an email loop that writing coach extraordinaire Margie Lawson was going to be doing a workshop for the Southern Magic chapter in Birmingham. I made the three-hour drive, never dreaming I was going to meet kindred spirits who'd welcome me even though I didn't live in Birmingham and didn't, at the time, actually write romance. I was awaiting publication of the first book in my Sentinels urban fantasy series and had a paranormal romance in the planning stages, but they welcomed me and I knew I'd found a writing home even if I can't make it to meetings on a regular basis.

So this year, on Nov. 7, I'll be hosting a table at my fourth Southern Magic Readers Lunch. Every year, they get bigger and more awesome. This year's speaker is author Darynda Jones, with welcoming remarks from my friend, author Lexi George. AND I'd love it if you'd come and sit at my table! You can save $10 on a ticket by registering by the end of do it already! Did I mention there is an amazing lunch and a huge book-signing afterward? Click here to register, and I hope to see you there.

In the meantime, how about a sneak peek at PIRATESHIP DOWN? In this scene, the undead version of 19th-century French pirate Jean Lafitte has convinced heroine DJ (a wizard) and their mutual friend Rene (a Cajun merman) to drive from New Orleans to the wilds of southern Terrebonne Parish, Louisiana, so Jean can claim the remains of his schooner that sank in 1814 and whose ruins were recently found. They aren't quite sure how this is going to work, but I can guarantee that whatever plans they make, the presence of the unpredictable pirate will ensure that chaos reigns!

I made it to Houma before having to use force. Once I’d finally gotten Jean off the topic of panties, he’d proven curious about the world flying past the passenger-seat window of Rene’s obscenely jacked-up black pickup.
He wanted to know about interstates and how they differed from other roads.
He asked about various types of vehicles and demanded to know why they had names like Rogue and Renegade but no one had a Privateer.
            He was fascinated by the 18-mile-long Atchafalaya Basin bridge, second longest in the U.S. behind the bridge over Lake Pontchartrain, and waxed philosophical on how long it would have taken him to cross the massive swamp back in his human days.
            He wanted to know how fast, exactly, Rene’s truck would go. Thank God the merman refused to demonstrate.
             The tunnel that runs beneath the Houma Canal was almost our undoing.
            “We are driving an automobile beneath the water?” Jean stuck his head out the open window and studied the tunnel roof zipping past us overhead. “I wish to pass through here once more, Rene. We must do this now. Tout de suite.”
            Grumbling, Rene indulged him, turning around and going through the tunnel the other way, then doing it all again.
            “I wish to walk through it,” Jean said. “This is a most wondrous thing. We must do this now.”
            “No.” Rene kept driving through the semi-urban sprawl that was Houma, the last town of any size before we drove into the wilds of southern Terrebonne Parish, aka The End of the World As We Know It.
            Frowning, Jean did his spoiled toddler impression and reached across me to grab the steering wheel.
            “Get him off me, wizard. Make yourself useful.” Rene slapped at Jean’s hand and whapped me in the head instead.
I gave Jean a quick zap on the arm with Charlie, and he looked at me as if I’d killed his puppy. Jeez.
“Sorry, I shouldn’t have done that,” I said, and meant it. I should’ve just beaten him over the head with the staff instead. I didn’t normally use my magic thoughtlessly, and the fact I’d zapped him in such a knee-jerk way told me how much healing I still had to do, mentally as well as physically. My nerves were raw.
            Any lingering awkwardness was dispelled by Rene who, hearing a familiar set of guitar chords on the radio, turned it up full blast and began singing Taylor Swift’s “Shake It Off" at the top of his off-key merman lungs. Jean and I looked at each other in mutual horror.
            “Roll up the window before we get arrested for disturbing the peace!” I yelled at Jean over Rene’s warbling about “haters gonna hate.”
            Rene’s joyous caterwauling effectively killed all conversation when he segued into “Bohemian Rhapsody.”

And there you have it! In case you need a audio, click the video above. 

Sunday, August 30, 2015

It's All About those Bookclubs!

It's All About those Bookclubs!

Alicia Hunter Pace (Jean & Stephanie)
One of my favorite parts about the Southern Magic Luncheon is all of the book clubs that get together and attend the luncheon together.  What a great idea!!

Jean and I have each long been members of bookclubs.  I can remember being part of the Nancy Drew Bookclub as a little girl in elementary school. I have discovered new friends and favorite new authors as a member of a bookclub. Jean's book club members have seen each other through many ups and downs that life has brought to its members.

 With these wonderful experiences it is not really a surprise that our very first contemporary novels feature the members of a bookclub as they each find the love of their lives, in our Gone South series.

The Southern Magic Luncheon every year has book club members who all get together and attend to sit with a favorite author and meet new authors. The last day to save on your registration is tomorrow so get your bookclub together and make your plans to join us at the luncheon.  You are guaranteed to have a great adventure to add to your bookclub memories and who knows maybe you will meet a new favorite author!

I hope you and your bookclub are able to register today so that you get the discount!!  Register is the link!

See you there!!!

Alicia Hunter Pace - Stephanie

Saturday, August 29, 2015

Best Reader’s Luncheon Evah… #MagicLunch #getyourticketbeforepricegoesup

One of my favorite reader’s luncheons was the very first one I ever attended. It was the 2012 Southern Magic Readers Luncheon featuring Sherrilyn Kenyon with welcome speaker Dianna Love.  They were very nice and encouraging to a newbie writer like me. I also met and made a lifelong friend in author Mina Khan. She writes about djinns and dragons and that’s supercool in my book. Well…it’s in her book, but you get my meaning.
In 2013, Jeaniene Frost spoke, giving me even more encouragement to keep pursuing my dreams of being a published romance author. Her extremely talented audiobook narrator, Tavia Gilbert, did several readings and blew us away when some of thought Bones was actually in the room. Author Christy Reece’s welcome speech depicting the roller coaster ride that is an author’s life was hilarious and heartfelt. I won several goody baskets and made another friend for life with the fabulously funny Jamie Farrell.
Then, in 2014, possibly my most favorite luncheon evah, I attended as a hosting author for the very first time. In her welcome speech, Naima Simone fangirled over Sylvia Day just a little (but not in a creepy way) and had us all in stitches. When Sylvia Day spoke, she reminded us that we were all readers first and still. I met and made connections with readers at my author table. I think mostly they sat with me because Angela Blount and I scored a primo location next to Naima & Sylvia. But it doesn’t matter why they sat down there, just that they did.  And I got to be the hostest with the mostest, bestest readers. (Spell check keeps trying to change mostest to moistest. Raise your hand if you’ve ever read this word in a romance novel.)

I can’t pick a favorite reader’s luncheon because all of them have been fun and fabulous in their own special way. Southern Magic does a wonderful job and members put in a lot of work to make our luncheons memorable for all who attend.
So, what are you waiting for? Get your ticket today for the Southern Magic Readers Luncheon on November 7, 2015 before the price increases on September 1st. You don’t want to miss Lexi George and Darynda Jones. I’m betting on something like a standup comedy routine that’ll have us wishing we’d worn our Poise pads.
If you purchase your ticket before September 1st, leave a comment with your email address and I’ll throw your name in a hat and draw for a $10 gift card.

Friday, August 28, 2015

Writing the Older Character

My grandmother recently made the decision to move into assisted living, a move that will be helpful to her in many ways and puts her into close contact with her friends (who also live there) on a daily basis. What I have noticed about my grandmother’s transition into this new phase of life is that even though she is experiencing anxiety about the physical aspects of moving and making a change, her zest for life has returned. She is more energetic and enthusiastic, knowing that she will be able to live around her friends and have daily activities to look forward to in her new life.

Grandma and I. :)
Last weekend, we began the “packing up” and “cleaning out” process, and we came across about three large boxes in the back of her closet. I brought them out and opened them in front of grandma, and it turns out that the boxes were full of her old diaries—diaries she still doesn’t want anyone to read. (By the way, I totally get that and we are in the process of burning them without reading anything, per her wishes.)

But this isn’t a post about longing to take a voyeuristic look into my grandmother’s past! Instead, the experience of finding these diaries made me look at my grandmother in an entirely new way. As happens with children and parents, and grandchildren and grandparents, the younger generation only has limited experience with the generations that come before them—and this often causes us to pigeon hole the  previous generations into limited roles. Grandma is my grandma. I never think of her as teenager, lover, worker, etc. But seeing all of these diaries reminded me that I should, and it also made me think about how I write about elderly characters.

Writing about people who are older than ourselves is challenging, because in some ways we feel like a fraud trying to describe a life stage we haven’t yet experienced. (At least, that is the way I sometimes feel!) When I taught freshman composition courses and had to instruct students on writing personal narratives, the first exercise I had them do was to bring in a photo of themselves where they remember having specific thoughts as the photo was taken. For example, perhaps they had just broken up with a boyfriend or girlfriend but they still put on a smile for the camera even though they were dying inside. This exercise they found simple, because it was about them. But during the next class, they had to bring in a photo of an older family member or friend and approach the assignment from a different perspective. In other words, they had to really think about another person as an individual with life experiences they didn’t consider most of the time.

At first, they thought the exercise was kind of silly, but most of them said that it ended up being one of the most insightful experiences they had in the class when it came to thinking about character and narrative. Humanizing our older relatives and friends, and really thinking about all of the experiences that made those people into who they are, can make our lives richer, but I also think it can make our writing more complete as well.

I know that older characters are sometimes harder to find in romance, and we usually gloss over them as secondary to the hero and heroine, but if an older character appears, that person should be as authentically drawn as possible and play a real role in the story. It might seem intimidating to write about an older person at first, perhaps because of lack of experience or because you don’t want to jump into a stereotype. But remember: An older character gives you a whole life story to work with in really fun ways!

Do you write about older characters often? What are your strategies?

Susan Sierra is a historical and contemporary romance writer. She loves books and old letters, adores her dog and family, and has a deep and committed love affair with coffee. She spent time as an undergraduate studying (having fun) in Mexico, went on to work for a large regional magazine as a copy editor, and then decided that she hadn’t tortured herself enough in she went to graduate school. After many years, she walked away with a PhD and an unhealthy relationship with Charles Dickens. She hopes to complete her first full-length novel in 2015. FOLLOW ME ON TWITTER!

Thursday, August 27, 2015

My First Southern Magic Readers Luncheon

My first Southern Magic Readers Luncheon was my favorite. It was 2012, and I went starry-eyed and full of excitement. I couldn't believe such an event was practically in my backyard, and I would be having lunch with writers. People who know me know that I’m a huge fan girl. Writers have always been my rock stars. I collect signed books like some kids collects comic books or baseball cards. I love them. I’ve been to countless signings and have been so awestruck I didn’t say a word. Not one word. I just stuck my book out with the sticky note on it with my name spelled out. Of course, on the way home, I would kick myself for not at least saying "hi" and telling them how much I love their books.

I arrived full of nervous trepidation. When I talk about books to non-readers, their eyes glaze over, and they usually smile and nod politely before making an excuse to get away. Why? Because I talk about my favorite characters as if they are real people. I was determined to not be a stuttering fool. But what could I possibly say to writers... people who are eloquent wordsmiths? Nervous, I sat down at a table hosted by Susan Carlisle and Bambi Lynn, both were gracious and  generous with chocolate, goodies and their time. To this day, they are two of my favorite people. We laughed, we shared our love of romances and jotted down suggestions for new books. And in the process I realized writers are readers, too. There was no need to be nervous. And the lunch table provides an intimate, small enough setting that you get to know your fellow readers and the authors.

But the luncheon isn't just visiting with like-minded folks. You get stuff. Lots of stuff. Books and swag (Did I mention chocolate?) The door prizes and raffle baskets offered are amazing! Come with an empty backseat, you never know how many you'll win or how big the prizes will be! Not to mention you can purchase more books and get them signed by your favorite authors.

This year, I'm super excited to be attending as an author. My first book, Saving Evangeline was published in May. *Cue the song, “Circle of Life.”* I'm hostessing a table and can’t wait to talk about books with people who “get me.” I promise to provide chocolate.

This year's luncheon will be November 7, 2015 in Birmingham, Alabama and the keynote speaker will be NYT and USA Today bestselling author Darynda Jones. (did you hear that fan girl squeal, that was me!)  You can purchase tickets here. But hurry, ticket prices will increase September 1st!

Comment below and leave your email address and preferred e-book format for a chance to win an e-book of Saving Evangeline. Winner will be announced 8/31/15.
 She’s hell bent on ending her life; he’s heaven sent to save her. But, there’s a catch. God’s rogue angel must complete the task disguised as a priest. A forbidden passion ignites, love unfolds and meddlesome angels from above attempt to intervene. Will Remiel’s love save Evangeline or cause them both to be lost forever?