Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Do You NaNo? A Cautionary Tale

It's almost that time again, the month when writers get to work, some determined to push out that next manuscript and others hoping to push out their first, all in 30 days. It's almost November 1, which means it's almost time for NaNoWriMo--National Novel Writing Month.

Do you NaNo?

I sometimes feel as if my life is one continuous NaNoWriMo but, in truth, I've only done it once. It was November 2010. I was in a 29-month holding pattern between selling my first manuscript to Tor and seeing the book actually released. (Yep, 29 months. I counted.) I had an idea for a new book. It would be great! It would be half urban fantasy and half paranormal romance! It would have a subtext about Stockholm Syndrome woven through it, deep and psychological! It would be Southern and Celtic and Gothic, all rolled into one. I would write it from six point-of-view characters, which would make it rich and multifaceted! It would have an apocalyptic sci-fi element! I'd finish it in thirty days, it would be called STOCKHOLM, and it would be brilliant!

I finished it! It was called STOCKHOLM.

It sucked lemons. Really, really big lemons.

I took it apart to see why it wasn't working. Then I had to fix it. Time to write it? Thirty days. Time to fix it? Twelve months. But I learned some things.

It really couldn't sit on the fence, as it turned out. Lesson 1: Be true to your genre or, if not, know why you aren't being true. As it turned out, I didn't really have a reason except 'just because'.

Lesson 2: It's genre fiction, not literary fiction. It can have a deep, psychological subtext, but not at the price of story. Literary fiction is expected to be pretentious and slow. Genre fiction readers would gouge out their eyeballs by chapter three.

Lesson 3: Yeah, it can be Southern and Celtic and Gothic--it is fantasy, after all. But mood is no substitute for depth of character or solidness of plot.

Lesson 4: It can have apocalyptic sci-fi elements but make sure they work within the world of your primary genre. See Lesson 1.

Lesson 5: If you finish it in 30 days, it's probably not going to be brilliant. But it can be a solid starting point.

A year later, I finished that NaNo book. Somewhere along the way, STOCKHOLM became REDEMPTION and it was published about the same time as its 29-month-old elder sibling, ROYAL STREET.

I can safely say I will not do NaNoWriMo again, but I don't regret doing it that one time. The lessons were valuable.

And I forgot Lesson 6: Write from a loose outline. Deconstructing and reconstructing the NaNo book is how I developed the plotting system that has seen me through another dozen or so novels so far. [Inserts shameless plug for the "Quilting the Perfect Plot" workshop I'll be offering through the Southern Magic RWA chapter from November 17-December 14. You can find more info here.]

So how about you? Are you a NaNo veteran, or does the idea send you screaming away from the keyboard?

Monday, October 20, 2014

Soup's On!!

The weather is getting cooler and I'm thinking it's soup time! Here's one of my favorites :) Try it and let me know your thoughts.

Chicken Chili

2 boneless skinless chicken breasts
1 can black beans
1 can whole kernel corn
1 tsp onion powder
1 can Rotel tomatoes
1 packet Ranch dressing mix
1 package cream cheese

  1. Drain and rinse the black beans. Place your chicken at the bottom of the crock pot, then pour out the whole can of corn (undrained), Rotel tomatoes, and black beans on top of chicken.
  2. Top with seasonings and ranch dressing mix. Stir together.
  3. Place cream cheese on top. Cover with lid and cook on low for 6-8 hours.

Now there's a little romance for ya! Grab a bowl and a good book and enjoy!!

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

The Winner Is . . .

Thank YOU for commenting and supporting us in this fun month of giveaways.  Be sure to go back and check the posts you commented on and see if you won a prize.

And now to announce our grand winner 

of the Kindle Fire 7" HD Tablet and

several free e-books from Southern Magic's authors!

The winner is . . .

Johanna Denton!

Johana, please contact me at the following address.  CarlaSwafford @

FOR LOVE OF THE STORY BY Peggy Webb AKA Elaine Hussey

If you'd told me nearly thirty years ago that I'd still be writing, I wouldn't have believed you. In the early days of my career, I actually believed I might run out of ideas!  I thought publishers would stop buying my books and readers would move on to the next good thing.

The truth is this: I will never live long enough to write all the stories I want to tell. I will never tire of opening a brand new document then typing the title and my name underneath. My children and grandchildren will have to pry the keyboard from my cold dead hands. And why? Why do I pursue a lonely profession day after day, year after year? I do it all for love of the story.

Stories come to me many different ways. They can come in a dream, a memory, a song. They can come from an incident I've witnessed or fly off the page of a non-fiction book I'm reading. Such a small thing, this tiny idea, and yet I grab hold and start typing as if my hair is on fire. I put characters on the page and fall in love with a story, all over again.

My latest novel, The Language of Silence, sprang to life when I discovered a non-fiction book about Mabel Stark, the first female big cat trainer. Shortly after I read about Mabel, the circus came to my hometown (no coincidence there, just a bit of magic), and I got to interview a charming, ancient woman who actually remembered when Mabel was with Ringling Brothers, Barnum & Bailey. 

Mabel inspired Lola, who brought with her a whole host of characters: a granddaughter caught in domestic violence with nowhere to turn, a sister longing to know if Lola got away Scott free with murder, a beat-up old big cat trainer whose secrets are eating him alive, a circus owner who founded a dynasty of equestrians and is determined to die under the Big Top.

Oh, I LOVE this story!  Publisher's Weekly calls it "magical," and fans across the country are telling me what this story means to them. In The Language of Silence, I tackle a serious issue: spousal abuse. Domestic violence is the leading cause of injury to women, more than car accidents, muggings and rapes combined. Fear keeps many of these women silent. I spoke for them. I gave my abused characters hope, and then I gave them wings to fly away to freedom. If any of my readers identify with Lola and her granddaughter Ellen, I want them to grow wings, too. I want them to fly to the nearest shelter and speak out.     

Thank you so much for stopping by to chat.  One person who comments on this post today will receive a signed copy of The Language of Silence.

The REALLY BIG NEWS, though, is that all this month you've been leaving comments on the posts of my most wonderful Southern Magic sisters!  Boy, what a treat we have in store for you! A Kindle Fire to the grand prize winner, announced TODAY!

Also, you’ve seen our posts about the fabulous Readers Luncheon, hosted by Southern Magic. New York Times bestselling author Sylvia Day will be the guest speaker. Each attendee will receive a bag of books plus author swag, sit at the table with one or two published authors and have a chance to win baskets full of goodies!  It’s like early Christmas! To register for the luncheon, go to

Do visit me at my websites, and You can also follow me on Facebook!/peggy.webb.92 and Twitter

Monday, September 29, 2014


The Holidays are almost here so I thought it would be fun to interview Penny Watson.  You can’t think of Christmas without thinking about the Klaus Brothers.  After all, they so hot they are melting to polar ice caps.    The latest Klaus Brothers release is coming soon and I’ve heard rumors about a little something extra you don’t normally see in romance…

What are you working on now?  And are the rumors true?
My soon-to-be-released project is a Christmas fantasy. It’s SWEET ADVENTURE, the third installment of the Klaus Brothers Series.  And yes, Virginia, it does include a Yeti!
It also includes a tenacious tabloid reporter, the chief toymaker in the North Pole, psychotic frost flowers, a category four snowstorm, and plenty of romance.
Here’s the Goodreads link, with the book blurb and cover:
Where did your idea of Klaus brothers come from?
My inspiration for this series was an incongruous overlap of events.  1.) I was infatuated  with JR Ward’s Black Dagger Brotherhood series. I loved the whole brotherhood concept, so I decided to create a family with five sexy brothers. 2.) I had “scenes” pop into my head that were happening in a freezing cold environment. So I thought…North Pole! 3.) I watched Santa Claus Is Coming To Town, and I was charmed by the adorable outdoor wedding between Kris Kringle and Jessica. I decided that Santa’s village could be a really sweet backdrop for a romance. (And fun, too…think rowdy elves!)
The Klaus Brothers are the five sexy sons of Santa, who help him run his empire—Klaus Enterprises. I will be releasing the last three parts of the series in 2014, 2015, and 2016.
Book #1 is SWEET INSPIRATION, about Nicholas Klaus, who happens to be a master pastry chef. Book #2 is SWEET MAGIK, about Oskar Klaus, Director of Elfin Resources in the North Pole. Book #3 (SWEET ADVENTURE) is Sven’s story. Sven Klaus is the Chief Toymaker for Klaus Enterprises. His story is being released this holiday season!

"Apples Should be Red" is one of my favorite novellas.  I love that it has older characters.  What gave you the idea to make such a curmudgeon a romantic lead and what do you think of the response you've received to the story as well as Tom and Bev?
My whole motivation for writing APPLES SHOULD BE RED was to break the standard romance novel “rules” and see if I could still create a successful love story. I made the characters older than the norm (59/62). I made the hero a grumpy borderline alcoholic curmudgeon. The heroine was uptight and repressed at the beginning of the story. Basically, both of the characters were unlikable at the beginning of the book. Was it possible to not only make the reader like them by the conclusion, but also to root for their budding romance and happy ending? That was my goal.
I get fan mail every week from older women who find this novella to be a breath of fresh air. There are very few romance novels with main characters who fall into this age bracket. Some readers call it “OA” for Older Adult romance. Hee hee!
Amazon link for APPLES SHOULD BE RED:

What inspired you to become a writer?
I was always interested in creative writing, even as a child. From the time I was eight years old, I was an obsessive reader and writer.  I would wander around the neighborhood concocting the “perfect paragraph” in my head.
I sound like a wackadoodle, don’t I? Oh well!

What are your thoughts on self publishing now that Apples has been out for a while? Do you think it was the right way to go?
Self-publishing has always been the right choice for me. I like to make all of the decisions about my book—from concept and cover design to promo strategy and release date. I’m a control freak, so it works out very well for me.
I will say that my initial publishing experience—with a small digital press—taught me a lot about the industry and was a great way to get started. All of the things that I learned from that introduction served me well later on when I decided to self-publish.

Do you have any advice to writers thinking of self publish that haven't made the leap yet?
If you decide to self-pub, you’re starting your own business. You need to be on board with that. Some folks love all those details, some don’t. If you only want to focus on the writing, it’s probably better to follow a traditional path. If you like the idea of starting your own personal publishing company, self-pubbing is a great option.

And what the heck is about lumberjacks anyway?

Big. Brawny. Sexy. Beardy.

Does that answer your question?

LUMBERJACK IN LOVE is my bestselling novella. It’s a fun romantic comedy set in Vermont. I admit I have an intense love for bearded heroes. Marcus Anderson designs and builds tree houses, he owns a log cabin in Vermont, and he has a cute Bulldog for a pet. He’s my perfect guy!

I highly recommend Penny's Lumberjack Pinterest Board 

PENNY WATSON is a bestselling author of romantic, fantasy, and humorous fiction, a blogger/reviewer, a promo consultant and social media specialist, a beard aficionado, a lover of cocktails, and a plant geek. She is also the author of a children’s series (writing as Nina Clark) called LUCY THE WONDER WEENIE.

Penny’s 3rd Klaus Brothers novella releases in November.  I’ll give away three copies as soon as it released.  Use Rafflecopter to enter.  If you’re not already following Penny on Twitter or Facebook you’re missing all the fun.  

a Rafflecopter giveaway

 About Lexxi
Lexxi Callahan writes contemporary romance novels set in and around the New Orleans area. Solving for Nic, Book 2 is The Southern Style Series is expected to release in December 2014.  You can usually find Lexxi on Twitter  @callahanlexxie

Lexxi would also like to note that Solving for Nic would not be releasing without Penny Watson and her tireless hours of hand holding and butt kicking.   If you don't think you can make real friends on Twitter, you aren't following the right people .  Thanks, Penny!!!!