Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Villains Done Right

I admit The Vampire Diaries (TVD) is one of my favorite shows on television. Why? Because the writers know what they are doing.

Just one of the impressive things is watching the writers create three dimensional villains.  The villains are not just "after" the heroine/hero. There's a real purpose with relatable motivations. Damon was determined to be reunited with the person he thought was his true love.  Katherine sought to bargain for her freedom (while staying alive!) after being in hiding/on the run for 500 years. Klaus wanted to become the unstoppable hybrid and create his own bloodline (family) because he felt rejected and unloved by his own family. Though these characters are ruthless and do unthinkable things to accomplish their goals (and are all about retribution), the writers also ensure that the audience sees their vulnerability and understands their motivations. By doing so, the "villains" have become fan favorites. Fans want to see them happy, even though they have done horrible things and their actions often conflict with the best interests of the heroine/hero.

What book, television show, or movie do you think created a villain done right?

Monday, February 25, 2013

Interview: LEXI BLAKE, with *Giveaway*

Lexi Blake
I recently came across a fabulous author, Lexi Blake. She is a writer of romance, suspense with BDSM. I found her new series, Master and Mercenaries enthralling. I loved her characters and was pulled into the story. Now, I will admit, this was my first foray into this genre and was uncertain what I would find. I usually read the genre I write in (Urban Fantasy/Paranormal) and don’t always read contemporary or erotic—but when I find a story I enjoy, I have to find out more about the author and the books they write. So please join me in welcoming her to Romance Magicians!

With your new series Masters & Mercenaries, how many books do you plan?

Right now I’ve got at least seven books planned. Alex and Eve are next in a book called On Her Master’s Secret Service. Then there will be books for Ian, Damon, and Simon. I’m sure I’ll meet some more characters along the way, so the series could go for a good long while.

I have to admit—I am glad to see Damon is going to have his own book, and I am looking forward to Ian. But, I know Alex and Eve are going to be tough to write, she has some major issues to deal with. I am fascinated how you will deal with it.

Book #4 in the Master and Mercenary series
The books are linked with some great suspense, what was your inspiration? (I have been told James Bond)

Absolutely they’re inspired by James Bond. I’ve always loved the Bond films. James Bond is kind of the ultimate Alpha male, so when I thought of doing a BDSM suspense series, it made sense to model it after Bond, though my secret agents are all Doms and find their happily ever afters. And if anyone wonders, Ian is named after Bond creator, Ian Fleming.

You are doing a fabulous job here, it really works. I have to admit—good one with Ian’s name! Awesome!

Speaking of James Bond who is your favorite Bond?

Daniel Craig. He’s the most modern Bond, so he’s tortured and has many layers. He’s not just a playboy. That is what I like about him as well, (although, Sean Connery was pretty awesome in his day.)

When will we see Ian Taggart’s story? –He is in all three books, but since I read your third one first—I already found him interesting.

Ian’s book is going to be the fifth book in the series. It’s already got a title. Love and Let Die. It’s going to bring the Eli Nelson plot to a conclusion. The rogue agent has run through all of the books, but Ian is going to go after him, and he’ll find a very interesting ally. It should come out sometime in 2013. Excellent! Now you have intrigued me. Yes, the urge to beg you to tell me more is quite strong!

What is your writing process? Pantser/Plotter? Do you write early morning? Late at night? When you can? How fast do you write?

I’m a plotser – an obnoxious mix of plotter and pantser. I tend to plot out in chunks, so I’ll know the basics of what I want to do for the book, but I won’t know the details until I get into the middle of it and see where the characters take me. Sometimes it works out great and other times I do a whole lot of rewriting. I write full time, so I’m working all day. I tend to feel more creative in the mornings though. I try to write at least three thousand words a day. This is how I feed my family, so I have to treat it like a job. Most of the time, I put in more than eight hours at least six days a week. You have my greatest admiration. Whoever says writing full time is easy—doesn’t’ know the reality. This is good to know, and sobering. Plus—Plotter/Pantser—I identify with completely.

Who do you read now? (Do you have time to read?)

I just got through the first eleven books of JR Ward’s Black Dagger Brotherhood series. I read a lot of paranormal. I love Larissa Ione, too. I also love thrillers. Preston and Child and Steve Berry are my favorites. Excellent, I like JR Ward, I haven’t read Larissa Ione, but I am putting her my list.

Do you have critique partners? Beta readers?

I don’t have a critique group. I have an editor and my husband. They read everything I write. I’ve used beta readers from time to time, especially if I want to make sure a story makes sense. I have two beta readers; one is a dear friend and the other is a trusted industry pro. To me, this shows you understand and trust your writing. This is important in my estimation. If you ever need a beta…(I admit—I am shameless).

You write with Shayla Black, how did you end up doing this?

In the real world, Shayla is one of my closest friends. She’s the first author who took an active interest in me, and we started having lunch once a week. We would go to a local Mexican place, and after a couple of margaritas, we started talking about how much we loved old category romances and their tropes. We thought it would be fun to take those old tropes – captive bride, secret baby, sheikh, princess/pauper – and make them ménage and BDSM. That was how we came up with the Masters of Ménage series, otherwise known as all those virgins. First off anyone who is willing to brainstorm after a couple of margaritas is *awesome*. I have to admit—I like you both took a chance and came up with a unique and very hot twist on the same old themes.

Why did you choose writing your current Genre?

I love it. I’ve written plays, comic books, you name it, but I wasn’t really happy until I found my way back to romance. I like writing books that make people happy. When I was growing up and in my twenties, I had Jayne Ann Krentz, Linda Howard, and Julie Garwood. I read those books over and over again. They were like comfort food to me, so when I decided to get really serious about publishing, I came back home. Now, if you want to know why I write erotic, I would tell you it’s because it’s generally what I like to read. I love reading very emotional love stories, and there can be so much deep emotion during sex. You totally had me at comics…(I wanted to illustrate them..) but, I admire that you went to what you love. I think you succeed with the deep emotion. It is something I am still working on. I know when I read your books there were some moments that twisted my heart. My favorite underlying theme is the search for and creating family that isn’t necessarily bound by blood.

In book 2 of your Masters/Mercenary you wrote about an erotic author--I really was interested and empathetic with the Heroine's reactions to the books she wrote--have you based this on what you encountered?

Absolutely. There is a whole lot of me in Serena. I’ve certainly faced a lot of prejudice over what I write, but I’ve also connected with many wonderful people at the same time. For every person who turns away, there’s another who walks into my life. In the end, it all works out. There’s a great quote by Dr. Seuss that I live by now. He said, “Be who you are and say what you feel. Those who matter won’t mind and those who mind don’t matter.” I agree. May you always keep writing!

I’ve been told you are a Geek—so tell me, what shows do you like (I’m really hoping you say FireFly)

I’m a deep lover of all things Whedon. I actually teach a class called Building a Best Selling Series or Everything I Needed to Know, I Learned From Joss Whedon. I’m an all-out geek. I’ve watched every episode of Doctor Who, Farscape, and both the Stargates. (Yes, I said both because SGU doesn’t exist for me. Yes, I’m bitter.) But in the end, I’m all about Buffy, Angel, and the best show to not get a full season – Firefly. AH! Joss Whedon—I will take that class one day…..

Sports: Which is your favorite one? I hear you went to the World Series…

I grew up on baseball. My grandfather was a scout at one point in time, and he passed on his love to my dad, who took me to games. One of my biggest life thrills was getting to go to the World Series a couple of years back. I never thought it would come to my town. Baseball—now that is an interesting sport. It intrigues me to know what kinds of sports people enjoy. Very cool, you went.

So, which do you prefer: Tea, Coffee, Wine or all three?

#3 In her Masters & Mercenaries Series
Definitely all three. I’m a two cup of coffee woman every morning. I like Earl Grey in the afternoon, and I love a good Sauvignon Blanc. But the top of my list is martinis! Martinis!—The Bond in you, Excellent!

Thank you Lexi for stopping by, I’ve enjoyed chatting with you, I hope you come visit again.

**Lexi is giving away an eBook copy of her most recent book, A Dom is Forever, to one commentator. I will announce it Wednesday at the end of this post on February 27. Please put your email Name(at) gmail (dot) com in the comments. *** As promised: Here are the winners: mpashon at hotmail dot com, and I am giving a book away as well, to Mistress.  Thank you all for stopping by.

A Dom Is Forever

A Man with a Past…

Liam O’Donnell fled his native Ireland years ago after one of his missions ended in tragedy and he was accused of killing several of his fellow agents. Shrouded in mystery, Liam can’t remember that fateful night. He came to the United States in disgrace, seeking redemption for crimes he may or may not have committed. But the hunt for an international terrorist leads him to London and right back into the world he left behind.

A Woman Looking for a Future…

Avery Charles followed her boss to London, eager to help the philanthropist with his many charities. When she meets a mysterious man who promises to show her London’s fetish scene, she can’t help but indulge in her darkest fantasies. Liam becomes her Dom, her protector, her lover. She opens her heart and her home to him, only to discover he’s a man on a mission and she’s just a means to an end.When Avery’s boss leads them to the traitorous Mr. Black, Liam must put together the puzzle of his past or Avery might not have a future…
Author Bio:
Lexi Blake lives in North Texas with her husband and three kids. She began writing at a young age concentrating on plays and journalism. It wasn’t until she started writing romance that she found success. Lexi believes in happy endings no matter how odd the couple, threesome or foursome may seem.

You can find her at:

Friday, February 22, 2013

Olde City, New Blood

The second weekend in February, I attended a shiny new conference in St. Augustine, Florida called Olde City, New Blood.  It was my first conference aimed exclusively at urban fantasy and paranormal readers, writers, and bloggers, and I had a blast. 

Friday night was set aside for checking into your hotels, a meet and greet at the hotel bar, followed by a bad movie tweet-up, which I skipped.  Too worn out stiff from the more than seven hour drive. 

Saturday, there were morning and afternoon panels and author readings. I had a blast reading the weenie-in-a-bag scene from Demon Hunting in Dixie.  That afternoon, I sat on a panel entitled "Demons, Witches, and Warriors," and that night we went on a ghost tour!  St. Augustine is an old city (thus the name of the conference), and purportedly very haunted.  A bunch of us piled into an open bus, froze our tooties off on the five mile ride from the beach into town, and toured the haunted lighthouse and jail.  Being a mega failure at media things, I forgot my camera, but several of the other writers got some very cool orb action on their devices, especially in the area of the lighthouse.   My paranormal writer brain was running wide open! 

Sunday brought fresh panels.  I participated in one called "Authors in the Audience," where we got to ask readers about their pet peeves and turn-offs.  Very interesting discussion, and I got to sit beside James R. Tuck, who writes kickass urban fantasy. This guy is BIG, and brash, and he's a tattoo artist in Atlanta.  At the end of the panel, he boomed, "If you're a blogger and you want a book, I have a box of ARCs to give away."  I leaned over and said, sotto voice, "That's a great idea.  Mind if I borrow it?"  Without missing a beat, James bellowed out, "Lexi has books, too."

Now isn't he just the nicest man?

After lunch, there was a charity signing, followed by my last panel, "The Sweet Stuff."  One of the questions asked of the authors on the panel was "What's your favorite term of endearment used by one of your characters?"  My answer?  Sugar Scrotum.  Hee hee.  Can you tell I had fun?

Hubby and I arrived home late that night, exhausted but with lots to talk about.  It was his first visit to a writer conference and he was intrigued.  I think he thought all we do at conferences is chase half clad male cover models around.  Ha!  Although that's not a bad idea . . .

(Lexi shakes off her reverie) 

If you haven't been to a conference, I highly recommend it.  It's a great place to meet people who are passionate about books and writing, and get your well refilled.  Depending on the type of conference, you can attend craft workshops, and pitch to agents and editors.

What about you?  What conferences are you attending this year, and what's your take on them?  Good?  Bad?  Indifferent? 

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Interview with Editor Latoya Smith: Final Judge in 2013 Linda Howard Award of Excellence Contest

This year's 2013 Linda Howard Award of Excellence has a wonderful final judge for the Paranormal/Urban Fantasy category. Editor Latoya Smith with Grand Central Publishing has graciously taken the time to answer some questions about her editorial wants and desires. And there are a few surprises along the way. Please join me in giving Latoya a warm welcome.

Hi Latoya, let's start off with the usual question. So tell me a little about your background? 

Sure! I was born and raised in Brooklyn, New York.  I attended Temple University and graduated Cum Laude in 2005 with a Bachelors Degree in Journalism, minor in African American studies. My very first publishing job was working as an administrative assistant for independent publisher and New York Times bestselling author Teri Woods.  Once I got a taste of book publishing, I knew I wanted to be an editor.  And as the saying goes, the rest is history.

A taste is usually all it takes. :-) Is there any type of story you're hoping to find, but not seeing in your submissions? 

Actually no.  For the first time, I am seeing a nice variety of stories from contemporary romance to erotica, some suspense and even paranormal and steam punk.

Fantastic news that your in-box is full of fabulous reads. So tell me, how often do you select manuscripts from the "slush pile?"  

This is the fun part!  With the expansion of Forever Yours, I have acquired quite a few authors from the slush pile.  We take our submissions very seriously and whether we acquire a title or not, we make sure to notify every author of their manuscript status.  One thing I’ve learned from all the great editors before me, is that treasures can often be found in the slush pile, so I’ve always been open to receiving unsolicited materials.

I think that is wonderful. When you do pull a manuscript from the slush pile, how long does it usually take before yo know whether or note you want to request the full? Why? 

Oh boy, I will probably get myself into trouble with this one, but my instincts have never failed me.  I can actually tell, for the most part, by the very first chapter whether or not I’ll like a story.  I am a firm believer that every author must pull a reader in from page 1.  Oftentimes there are writers who need a little help as to where to start their stories but even then, you know from the very beginning if that author has what it takes to fix what needs to be fixed or where the story is headed. 

The hook is so important. Understanding the craft is vital for writers. Now what do you consider the most important qualities of an author? 

Being a self-promoter and open to suggestions is most important.  Working with authors is like a partnership or a team effort.  At the end of the day, everyone wants the same thing--for the author and his/her book to become a big success.  As long as the author is willing to take direction in terms of editorial content and promotion as well as continuing to promote themselves and their brand, that makes for a happy publisher and usually, a happy author. 

Self-promotion is certainly important with the influx of books on the market! If you were to give an aspiring author one piece of advice, what would it be?  

Promote, promote, promote and remember to stay humble.

Stay humble. Love that! Now what questions do you wish someone would ask? And what's your answer?  

Hmm, I think I’ve been asked just about everything.

Good to know! Here are a couple of fun questions:

What book or books do you like to reread every year?  

Latoya Smith with JR Ward.
Black Girl Lost by Donald Goines and Lover Awakened by JR Ward. My absolute favorites for very different reasons.

Have you ever become star-struck when meeting an author? If so, who?  

Yes, two authors in particular.  Last year, I had the pleasure of attending the Romantic Times conference for the first time in Chicago.  I saw Charlaine Harris, the brilliant mind behind True Blood, standing alone by the concierge desk so I had to walk over and say hello.  Not only did she say hello back, but I told her how jealous my cousin would be at the fact that I was meeting her.  She was so tickled by this that she said, “Well I’m going to make her even more jealous,” then she reaches over and gives me a big bear hug.  My second star-struck moment, was also at RT when I met JR Ward at the author book signing.  She was so intrigued by my job and the fact that I was a HUGE fan that we spoke for almost 10 minutes.  Of course, I bought a second copy of LOVER AWAKENED which she signed and we took a photo together.

Everyone, here's your chance to ask an editor from GRAND CENTRAL PUBLISHING what you've always wanted to know.  Don't forget to check out the website, Grand Central Publishing Forever Yours.  

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

A Yankee Teacher Comes South in Lover for Ransom by Debra Glass

Byrne’s End

Thompson’s Station, Tennessee

June 3, 1866

Mr. John A. Bennett

Dear Sir,

I have arrived in Tennessee in one piece, though at times, I highly doubted that would be the case. Once my train crossed the Mason Dixon line, there was a marked change in the land. Many once grand, dwellings are now but burned out shells, skeletal remains of the bastions of slavery I so fervently fought against during my tenure as an abolitionist prior to the war. I must admit, however, this area referred to as Middle Tennessee by its inhabitants is, for the most part, unscathed by the ravages of the war.

Upon my arrival, I was met at the station by Mr. Ransom Byrne who, I’m given to understand, contracted my service with the Perkins School for the Blind. Though pleasant enough, Mr. Byrne embodies all the qualities I would have heretofore ascribed to a former officer in the Rebel Army. With his easy and overly familiar manner of speech, he seeks to dazzle and woo, but I assure you, Mr. Bennett, those cavalier charms are lost on an affirmed spinster such as I, but not, as I so shockingly observed, on the local maidens.

Mr. Byrne took it upon himself to confide in me that, during the war, he had been brought home to convalesce during an illness which he unwittingly spread to members of the Byrne family, including my charge, his younger sister, Jenny. The illness resulted in her blindness, and I have clearly determined that my work with the sixteen year old has been cut out for me. Like many who have been robbed of sight in the bloom of life, Miss Byrne is disillusioned and bitter. I have no doubts I shall be able to rectify that and teach her that the blind can indeed live full lives.

It is obvious to me that Mr. Byrne feels beholden to his family and their business of horse breeding. In fact, the Byrnes and their servants alike, put far too much stock and trust in the wiles of the beasts as I unfortunately learned firsthand after a mishap with a wagon and its novice driver, seven year old Charles Hunt.

I imagine a lesser woman would be intimidated by the Southern aristocracy, but not I. I fully intend to not only adhere to the standards I have adopted from my friends and mentors, Mrs. Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Miss Susan B. Anthony, but to instruct these Southern women, long repressed by their menfolk, the way to equality both in the home and at the voting poll.

As soon as I begin my instruction with Miss Byrne, I will write to you and inform you of my progress. Again, I appreciate the opportunity you have afforded me to travel from my hometown of Boston to this godforsaken land where I might not only help this young woman, but also enlighten my Southern sisters.

Very Truly Yours,

Cathleen M. Ryan

Available March 20, 2013

Lover for Ransom by Debra Glass

Ransom Byrne has been ravaged by guilt since an illness rendered his little sister blind. The former Confederate cavalry officer has resolved to make amends by hiring a Yankee tutor who’ll hopefully restore order to his sister’s life. Once accomplished, he’ll be free to leave Byrne’s End.

From the moment she steps off the train in Tennessee, Cathleen Ryan makes a startling first impression. With her feminist ideas, the irrepressible Bostonian quickly outrages everyone—especially Ransom. He deems the bespectacled teacher too uptight and prim for his tastes. Appearances, however, are deceiving. She tenders decadent proposals that shock and intrigue him, and sultry nights spent submitting to his every illicit request offer them both love and redemption.

But when her steadfast convictions attract the attention of dangerous men, Cathleen risks losing her chance of becoming more than just a lover for Ransom.

A Romantica® historical erotic romance from Ellora’s Cave

Read my favorite scene HERE by clicking the magnifying glass at the top right corner of the cover.

*Available March 20, 2013 wherever Ellora’s Cave Ebooks are sold

About Debra Glass

Growing up in the south where the air is thick with stories steeped in legend and truth, Debra came by her love of romance novels honestly. Well…sort of. At an early age, she pilfered from her grandmother’s extensive library and has been a fan of the genre since.

A full time freelance writer, Debra especially enjoys combining history, mystery and a touch of taboo to weave stories with unforgettable, haunted heroes.

She lives in Alabama with her sexy real life hero, a couple of smart-aleck ghosts and a diabolical black cat.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Interview with Beth Miller: Final Judge in Linda Howard Award of Excellence

The 2013 Linda Howard Award of Excellence has a special final category for Southern Magic Members who final in their individual category and/or get an average score of 90 or higher from their first round judges. It's not too late to join Southern Magic and add to your chances to get your manuscript in front of an agent! And this year, the WRITE MAGIC category has a fantastic agent, Beth Miller with Writers House Agency as our final judge. I've met Beth in person and she is very interesting, friendly and loves romance. Here is her interview. I hope it helps you as you polish your entries for the 2103 Linda Howard Award of Excellence.

Hi Beth. Thank you for taking the time to speak with me today. Let's start off with the usual question. So tell me a little about your background?

I’m a New Yorker, born and bred.  I grew up on Long Island, and aside from a few semesters of college, have lived there all my life.  I went to college for marine biology, ended up with a B.S. in general biology, and worked in a lab on Long Island for a number of years before I went back to school for a master’s degree in literature.  Then I found my way to Writers House, where I’ve worked with Robin Rue since 2007. 

That is one of the most unusual backgrounds I've heard for becoming an agent. Love it! Is there any type of story you're hoping to find, but not seeing in your submissions?

Just something that grabs hold of me and doesn’t let go!

Sounds like you are looking for a page turner. How often do you select manuscripts from the "slush pile?"

Very rarely.  I see a lot that have a promising premise, with good writing, but often I just don’t fall in love with the story as a whole, and I think it’s so important for an agent to love, love, love the manuscript, so that he or she can put their full support behind it.

I totally agree with your philosophy. While reading a manuscript, how long does it usually take before you know whether or not you want to request the full? Why?

It really depends.  If I keep reading past the first 50 or so, it’s a good sign.  Sometimes, if it sounds really great from the premise and first few pages, I’ll just bypass asking for a partial and just ask for the full, to save time.  But when I ask for a full, it’s because the characters draw me in, the story is compelling, and the writing is excellent.

In addition to excellent writing, what do you consider the most important qualities of an author?

Well, aside from writing a great story, I think there needs to be an understanding of the market and a willingness to revise.  You really have to put a perfect project before the editors, it seems—they’re so busy and are themselves so limited in what they can buy that you can’t just assume that they’ll take something that’s good and has promise and then do a ton of editing on it.  They take something that is amazing (and then do a ton of editing on it).  So when I find a project I want to work with, I will generally have some editorial notes to go over with the author in the hope that he or she will be willing to do them.  Sometimes I ask for a round of revisions before we sign an agency agreement—the reason being that I need to see how well the author revises, and the author needs to feel that we are on the same page as far as what revisions to do.  It is, after all, not my manuscript, and if the author isn’t on board with the changes I’m suggesting, then in all probability, we’re not the right fit.

I think that a cooperative spirit and willingness to revise is very important. Too often writers fall in love with their precious words and lose sight of the big picture. It's a business, too. If you were to give an aspiring author one piece of advice, what would it be?

Be prepared for rejection—at every turn, from the query phase, to the partial manuscript phase, to the full manuscript phase, to the I-have-an-agent-and-it’s-being-submitted-to-editors phase.  The business is so very subjective, and in all likelihood, you will be rejected many times, at many levels, before finding the right fit, whether agent or publisher.  You can’t take it personally.  You can’t let it get you down, and you can’t send a nasty reply to an agent who rejected you if you want to have any success.  If your manuscript isn’t going where you want it to go, maybe you need to get a critique partner and revisit the material.  Or start working on something new.  But just keep your chin up, and keep writing!

Keep writing. Good advice. Now here are a couple of fun questions:

What book or books do you like to reread every year?

Anne Bishop’s Black Jewels series is a must.  Occasionally, I go for a Harry Potter re-read.

Love the HP series. Tell me, have you ever become star-struck when meeting an author? If so, who?

Nora Roberts.  I may have drooled.  J

She is my all-time favorite romance author. I still have fan girl moments when I see Nora Roberts at the RWA National Conferences.  

Beth, thanks again for agreeing to judge THE WRITE MAGIC category and for taking the time to answer my questions. I hope one of the finalists grabs your attention and makes you want to read, read, read.

Everyone, here's your chance to ask an agent from WRITERS HOUSE what you've always wanted to know.  Don't forget to check out the website for more information. 

Friday, February 15, 2013

All You Need to Know about the Linda Howard Award of Excellence

Want to know more about the 2013 Linda Howard Award of Excellence?  Contest coordinator Christine Glover is answering your questions about this fabulous contest.  

Christine Glover is an award winning contemporary romance writer of sensual, sizzling novels with dark emotional edge. Her tough, no-nonsense heroines aren’t so easily swayed by great looks and killer abs, but they surrender their hearts to her heroes when they discover they are men who won’t take advantage of their inner vulnerabilities. Her characters interrupt her showers and her workouts to tell her what happens next in the story. She has yet to figure out how to apply makeup or style her hair without someone popping into her head and giving her another scene to write. Ultimately, she sits down to write about two lost souls finding each other, discovering home, and giving her romance characters the happily-ever-after endings they deserve.

Born in the Netherlands, Christine’s parents immigrated to Canada where she spent her formative years. After meeting her own real life hero, she married her Texan Alpha man and moved to the United States where she’s lived both south and north of the Mason Dixon line. Now Christine lives in Alabama with her husband the Physicist, two insanely adorable cats and one amazing daughter. She believes we are all on a journey toward attaining our dreams, but we can’t be serious all the time. She enjoys finding the silly in the serious, making wine out of sour grapes, and giving people giggle fits along with heartfelt hugs. When she’s not writing, you can find her traveling the world, cooking gourmet food, and desperately seeking a corkscrew.

Christine is in charge of this year's Linda Howard Award of Excellence ("LHAOE" for those in the know) for unpublished romantic fiction.  She has made some exciting changes to the contest, and was gracious enough to share some time to answer some questions about the contest

You are the contest queen, having been a multiple finalist in numerous prestigious contests.  Based on your experience, what are the benefits an unpublished writer can gain from entering the LHAOE?
Heather, I have entered contests since 2005 when I was desperately seeking any kind of feedback for my writing. I got it. Most of the judges were very instrumental in leading me to craft books and improving my writing skills. The Linda Howard Award of Excellence provides that and so much more. My first experience with the LHAOE was in 2008. I entered and didn't final. However, the feedback was amazing. Kind and well thought out critique that I was able to incorporate into my manuscript and enter another prestigious contest which garnered me a major final. Unpublished writers benefit from entering the LHAOE by gaining valuable feedback from trained, RWA PRO and Published judges who really do want to see every writer attain their dream. That elusive goal of publication.

What sets the LHAOE apart from other contests?

NO SYNOPSIS!!! Oh, that has been my greatest nemesis and has made entering other contests a lot harder because I've had to distill my manuscript down to a couple of pages. I'm better at writing the synopsis, but in the first round of judging, it's nice to only have to focus on the first 25 pages and making them shine.You have plenty of time to work on the synopsis which will be included when the finaling entries are forwarded to the judges, but it's not judged. That's awesome. Another thing that I feel sets this contest apart is that I am personally invested in  making sure that all the entries are treated with dignity and respect. I will vet any comments that I feel will not be conducive to building the writer's confidence. So I hope that gives new writers the courage to send in their entries. One day that entry, even if if doesn't final, could become a winner somewhere else. That's what happened to  my first LHAOE entry. It went on to WIN the LHAOE in 2012 and I got an editor at a major publishing house interested in working with me because of that win. So never give up and always work on improving your writing. You will get there!

Who are the final round judges?

I am so excited about the final judges this year. Here is the breakdown:

Historical: Chelsey Emmelhainze, Harpers Collins
Paranormal/Urban Fantasy: Latoya Smith, Grand Central Publishing
Contemporary Series Romance: Alethea Spiridon Hopson, Entangled
Single Title: Eleni Caminis, Montlake
The Write Magic (for SM members only): Beth Miller

What is the Write Magic category (and is it too late to join Southern Magic)?

The Write Magic category takes all Southern Magic members who final and/or achieve an average score of 90 or better and sends those finalists to that judge, Beth Miller. So there's a bonus round for the Southern Magic members who enter the LHAOE. It's not too late to join. And I'd love to see more members in our great writing chapter.

What is the deadline to enter?

The contest deadline is February 22, 2013. Finalists are announced in May. The winners will be announced at this year's 2013 RWA National Conference at a restaurant to be determined. I know it will be a lot of fun!!

So enter. It's a great experience. And it's my privilege and honor to be the coordinator of a contest that has given me so much as a writer. 

For more information on the contest, go to:

And if you want to become a pantser-crapper-fixer-uper (like all the cool kids), you can follow the cult of Christine on Twitter (@cjglover63), on her website and/or on her super-awesome blog

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Interview with Editor Chelsey Emmelhainz HarperCollins/Avon Impulse: Final Judge in Linda Howard Award of Excellence Contest

This year's 2013 Linda Howard Award of Excellence has a wonderful final judge for the Historical Romance category. Editor Chelsey Emmelhainz works for HarperCollins Press/Avon Impulse and she's sharing her desires and wants with us today. Please join me in giving Chelsey a warm welcome and let's learn more about her. Our own Carla Swafford works with her on her Circle of Desire books. So we're doubly delighted to host Chelsey again on the Romance Magicians blog.

Let's start off with the usual question. So tell us a little about your background? 

I initially went to school to become a journalist, but I always knew I loved fiction too much to pursue it seriously. Eventually I relented and accepted my fate: I was an English major, through and through. Several years, hundreds of books, and 2000 miles later, I found myself in New York working for HarperCollins. Though romance was not an area I saw myself in, I quickly realized that it was a natural fit and am proud to claim it as my genre today.

English major. Sounds like a perfect fit to me.  Is there any type of story you're hoping to find but not seeing in your submissions?

Unique, fresh historicals that stand out in today’s competitive market: They’ve got to be sexy, smart, and witty – think Eloisa James. Creative, high-concepts with series potential are a must. Sexy, gritty contemporaries: I’m not the right person for your sweet, small-town story, but if you’ve got hard-edged heroes, sassy heroines, and a great hook, I want to see it. Thrilling, romantic suspense: Sexy, heart-pounding, and action-packed, a la Cindy Gerard. I want page-turners that take your breath away!

Keep an eye on where we’ll be updating our submission “wish list” with our latest wants!

I'm so glad you mentioned the website. Certainly everyone needs to visit. You can submit your completed manuscript on the website. Speaking of website, how often do you select manuscripts from the "slush pile"? 

The best part of working for Avon Impulse is the ever-present possibility of finding an undiscovered gem. We’re reading submissions every day, so there’s always a chance that we’ll find one that we can’t live without!

Southern Magic's Carla Swafford was fortunate in being Avon Impulses's first slush pile find. The angels were looking down on her that day. Next question is, while reading a manuscript, how long does it usually take before you know whether or not you want to request the full? Why?

For me, I can usually tell within the first ten pages. While we may not want to judge a book by its cover, I can generally tell fairly quickly whether or not the writing is clicking. My advice to authors? Grab ‘em early and really showcase your writing!

Such great advice. And what do you consider the most important qualities of an author?

A good attitude and a great sense of humor. Believe it or not, I find that those two qualities come through strongly in your writing. Plus, they’re essential to handling the stresses that come with being a published author.

You have that right. Laughter and a good attitude makes life so much easier and helps keep the wheels running smoothly. So if you had to give an aspiring author one piece of advice, what would it be?

Even if writing is your second, third, or fourth job, make it a priority. Set goals for yourself and do your best to achieve them. Get a cheerleader (a friend, spouse, coworker, etc.) who knows you write and can help hold you accountable. Make them ask you if you’ve written yet today! Oops. That was more than one…

That's okay because we need all the advice we can get. See a good friend(s) is an important key to success. I'm so blessed to have so many. Now what question do you wish someone would ask? And what's the answer?

Question: What can I do to make my book truly marketable?

The answer: Make sure your book is high-concept, witty, and memorable. This goes for everything from the plot to the title and synopsis. Then, carry those attributes throughout the first book and into a second and third. Truly marketable books, series, and authors are those that readers remember when they’re browsing in-store or online.

Great question and answer, Chelsey. Now here are a couple fun questions…

What book or books do you like to reread every year?

I rarely read books more than once for fun—there are just too many to choose from! However, I read all kinds of books and some of my perennial favorites include: Blindness by Jose Saramago, Heart-Shaped Box by Joe Hill, The Mists of Avalon by Marion Zimmer Bradley, The Fountainhead by Ayn Rand, and young adult books by Christopher Pike and Francesca Lia Block.

Great list. Have you ever become star-struck when meeting an author? If so, who?

We get a lot of authors in the offices here, but I remember awkwardly tip-toeing in to meet Gregory Maguire, who wrote the Wicked series. He was so kind when I handed him my torn, dog-eared copy of Wicked—even though I was dopey and awe-struck. He even drew a picture of a witch in my book along with signing it!

I love it! That would tickle me to no end. I know that I've been privileged to meet and become friends and/or friendly acquaintances with a few of my all time favorite authors such as Sherrilyn Kenyon, Linda Howard and more. Plus I got to meet the divine Susan Elizabeth Phillips at RWA's conference in Orlando. Gracious and so kind.

Thank you so much for visiting Southern Magic's blog and answering our questions.

Everyone, here's your chance to ask an editor from AVON what you've always wanted to know.  Don't forget to check out the website,, and at the bottom of that website is the FAQ.