Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Meet Debut Author Dakota Harrison

Tell me about your story. Why will we love it, and how is it different than anything we’ve read?

Good morning and thank you for having me!
Exhale’ is a love story that spans ten years. Gabby seeks peace and a steady, safe life. Her own until then has been tumultuous, with the conception of her son resulting from rape at the young age of fourteen. It deals with what is usually perceived taboo – a man who is not only much younger, but also the best friend of the heroine’s now-adult son. An exchange student from Japan, Taka falls for his friend’s mother after the death of her husband. Oblivious to his feelings, Gabby welcomes him into the family fold. Shocked at the revelation of his feelings for her, she rejects him when he suggests changing his plans for his future, scared of the repercussions of what it would mean to admit she cares.
What is your favorite line from the novel?
Have I told you how much I love you today?”
Matt’s gray eyes softened with affection. “Nope. Not today. I was wondering what was wrong.”
Who is your hero, and why will we love him?
Taka is a cardio surgeon now living in Seattle. And he’s patient. He’s prepared to wait for what he wants – ten years, in fact – and do what he has to, to get it. He makes a deal with Gabby the night he graduates college, one she thought he’d long forgotten. No one compares to her for him, she is his unmei no hito – his destined one, his soul mate. He just has to make her believe in herself, in them. His compassion and caring overlay a spine of steel, although to acquaintances he appears very easygoing and laid back.
Who is your heroine, and what makes her special?
Gabby is a freelance business merger lawyer. She’s tough. She pulled her life together after being assaulted and left for dead, continuing her education and refusing to let circumstances rule her fate; then had to do it again when she lost her husband in a workplace accident, leaving her a sole parent and heartbroken. She’s a survivor, but secretly she wonders if she’s not really meant to be happy. She’s loved Taka for a long time, but doesn’t trust herself enough to let herself be happy. Throw into the mix her assailant being released from prison, and she has to make a hard decision.
What are you currently reading?
Heart of Iron, by Bec McMaster; To Challenge the Earl of Cravenswood, by Bronwen Evans; and a re-read of Allegiance Sworn, by Kylie Griffin. I tend to read outside my genre for brain-space when I'm writing, mostly fantasy or scifi romance. It feeds the muse’s need for creativity but doesn’t impact on my writing. I keep my contemporary romance reading for when I'm between writing books, then I splurge!
Why did you start writing?

That’s a hard one. I’ve written since I can remember. It’s like oxygen to me. My mum gave me an old box off the veranda recently and it contained a book I’d written and illustrated when I was about nine years old (am now in my mid 30s). I just had so many stories in my head begging to come out and be told that it was a natural progression from reading so much.

Where can we find you online?
Twitter - @DakotaHarrison_

To find Exhale, go to:

Monday, July 29, 2013

Book Soundtracks by Debra Glass

I plot books in the oddest places. By nature, I’m a pantser – which means I write by the seat of my pants. My characters often surprise me. They say things I didn’t expect and do things that alter their courses (and my idea of where the book should go!).

One of my favorite places to explore paths for my characters to take is during those seemingly unending hours (minutes to be specific lol) on the elliptical machine at the gym. And while others are glued to the of televisions blaring one of the millions of ESPN channels, or listening to the latest upbeat jam, I’m lost in the nineteenth century world of my characters, listening to soundtrack music on my iPod.

The strains of violins and cellos seem incongruous with strenuous cardio, but that’s where I see my stories unfolding in my head as if they were movies on the big screen.

Here are a few pieces on my workout playlist now, serving to inspire my upcoming Victorian historical, Rakehell.

Primrose’s hand flew to her heart and she dragged in great gulps of air. If she’d still been wearing her corset, she would have surely swooned. She paced to the window. Light bathed the garden below, making her terribly aware that she stood in dishabille in the middle of the morning. To add to her distress, memories of the one night she’d spent with her husband battered her like a wild surf against the rocks.

He’d held some sort of power over her. A wicked thrall that had rendered her helpless but to do anything for him.


When he licked at her lips, she opened, admitting his tongue. Before when they’d kissed, he’d pillaged her mouth the way he took her body. Forcefully with a burning need to sate their mutual desires. But this kiss—this tender kiss—made her heart race. It kindled that emotion roiling in her gut she dared not name. This kiss was far more dangerous than any pleasurable punishment he meted out to her, for it had the power to destroy her, to dredge up that place where she’d stood five long, miserable years ago.

Alone. Abandoned.

This one is for scenes I haven’t yet written (but have plotted during a workout!).

Rakehell is contracted with Ellora’s Cave and should be finished and released sometime early 2014.

In the meantime, I have a new anthology of two of my Civil War era historicals.



Buy Scarlet Belles In Print

Amazon | B&N | Ellora's Cave

Friday, July 26, 2013


It wasn’t until after my grandmother died and her twenty (yes 20) siblings showed up at her funeral that I found out my mother is FBI – Full-blooded Indian. Mawmaw’s brothers and sisters looked like a reunion of the winning team at Custer’s Last Stand. There were reasons this information was kept from all of us (my brothers and my cousins,) but we won’t go into it here.

I attended my first Powwow several months later and that is where I bought my mother her FBI t-shirt. It still makes her smile. A Powwow is an amazing symphony of dancing, music, drums, food, family reunion, ceremonies and arts and crafts fair. If you’ve never tried Cherokee chili or Creek fried bread you’re missing a real treat.

My first Powwow introduced me to Cherokee chili and I was going back for my second bowl when I realized one of the ladies serving was staring at me. Hard. She abruptly asked “What nation are you?” I was a bit stunned by her question. “You have Creek eyes,” she continued. “Only Creeks have those gray eyes. You are Creek.” Her observation was a gift. It filled my soul and connected me to my grandmother in a way I’d never known.

I’ve attended RWA’s National Conference for the last six years. I’m not a wealthy woman by any stretch of the imagination. I work at Walmart, which means I am not even in that “comfortable” range of income. I live paycheck to paycheck. Going to this conference is expensive. It is the only vacation I take each year. I once had a writing friend tell me going to conference was a bad, impractical choice - spending all of that money going to conference when I didn’t even own a washing machine. (I bought a washing machine a few months ago! It is awesome and I no longer have to schlep my laundry to the laundromat every week.) She said I was ‘poor and dumb’ and would continue to be so if I made such foolish choices with my money. Don’t be angry with her. Her advice was practical and I truly believe given out of an honest concern for my welfare. 

I spend forty hours a week at a job I despise. This is not the normal griping about a thankless job. This is the absolute truth. My job puts me in the company of people with whom I have nothing in common. It requires no creativity on my part and very little thought. It hammers away at my soul like Andy Dufresne  hammering away at the prison wall with that little rock hammer in The Shawshank Redemption. And some days, like him, I feel like I am crawling through five football fields of raw sewage to escape prison. ‘Practical Me’ knows working at Walmart pays the bills, provides me with insurance and affords me little luxuries like food, toilet paper and living indoors. At least once a day I want to knock ‘Practical Me’ in the head with a tire iron, bundle her into the trunk of a car and take her off to the alligator farm for disposal.

Then, just when I am at the end of my rope, RWA National Conference arrives. For one week a year, I escape all that. For one week a year, I am a writer in every sense of the word. My roommate and I plotted a hilarious mystery/romantic comedy our first night. We only see each other once a year and yet we pick up as if it were only yesterday. I attended workshops that produced so many ‘light bulb’ moments I felt like a Kardashian being chased by paparazzi. I heard some of the most inspirational and heart-felt speeches I’ve heard. I talked writing in the bar and in the restaurants. Word counts, genre, self publishing, indie publishing, agents, editors, who got a good book deal, who got a better book deal, who is buying what. An entire week with not one word about shelf caps, outs, broken ovens or disgruntled customers.

The Beau Monde mini conference is always held the day before RWA officially starts. The workshops are intense scholarly lectures on historical topics vital to any Regency romance author. The afternoon tea and the soiree in the evening are a chance to walk in the shoes of our characters, and even better to dance in them.

I had the best editor and agent appointments I’ve ever had. They asked questions. They were interested in my stories. They asked to see what I write. I was up for four awards in four contests. I won three and someone whose work I admire won the fourth. There are people who discount those contests and those certificates and bookmarks. Fools. When your well is almost empty, when there is nothing but mud at the bottom, those certificates and bookmarks are like a natural spring bubbling up through the muck telling you “Nope. You ain’t done yet, honey.”

There is a scene in the film The Man in the Iron Mask where Philippe (one of the twins played by Leonardo di Caprio) newly freed from the mask sees a sliver of the moon through the closed shutters of the room in the Jacobite safe house. All during his imprisonment, his only connection to the outside world was a small piece of the moon he could see from his cell. In this scene he slowly opens the shutters and sees the moon entire, so close he can almost touch it. He stands there, framed in the window basking in the light of that big, full moon and you can see his soul expanding, breathing, taking flight. The empty well of all of those years alone is filled.

 Writing is often a lonely art. And those of us who truly love it long to devote our days and nights to it, to the exclusion of all else. My life’s dream is to write my way out of Walmart and spend every moment of my days and nights writing and researching and reveling in the sort of creativity that soothes and buffets and beats and exalts and makes me feel as if I have finally come home.

RWA National Conference is my moon in the window. For that one week a year I stand in the window and bask in the moonlight of writers, writing and all of the people and things that make this journey worthwhile. It doesn’t matter that at the end of the week I have to close those shutters and crawl back into the dark. I have spent time in the company of my ‘tribe,’ my nation, my people, my moonlight. And for right now, that must be enough. My well is refilled and until next time I go on.         

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Highs and Lows

The writing life, for the unpublished.

I won a contest! Squeeeee!

I got the feedback. My writing resembles a hairball on the kitchen counter. 

What I have to keep telling myself is that writing for publication is not the same as making an A in freshman comp. I may have a good grasp of the basic rules, but now I'm competing with a world full of talented writers in the attempt to attract attention. It's another level of the writing game. Those who quit will never know how close they came.

Last night, I won a tennis match. When we shook hands, my opponent said, "You're stubborn."

"7-5, 6-4? You are, too," I said.

"Yeah, but you're more stubborn."

I treasure that. It takes me to the next writing session.

Here's a little advice on self-discipline from James Scott Bell.

Monday, July 22, 2013

My RWA Nationals Experience...In MEME

Another Nationals has come and gone. And once again, I did not experience the wonder and shoe-excellence that these conferences seem to entail.

At first, this seemed like a good decision. I was, like, I don't have a book deal. I can wait another year.

And I was totally okay with that until... Yeah, I kinda got a book deal. So I was all like

And there was much rejoicing....until I realized that now I REALLY wanted to go to RWA. I needed to meet people and network. I wanted one of those spiffy first sale badges. I wanted to celebrate with my writer pals.

But, when I tried to find a room, none of the nearby hotels had ANY. Nada. Zip. Zilch.

So I didn't end up going. Again.

But that was okay. I was saving all that money, and anyway, wouldn't people be live tweeting things??

But it's really not the same, is it?

So next year, I'm learning from mistakes. Next year I'll be in NOLA for RT and Texas for RWA if it kills me... Next year, I

Friday, July 12, 2013

Pitch Perfect

I’ve been a singer much longer than I’ve been a writer. In fact, I was singing before I learned to read or write. My mom has a tape recording of me singing when I was three years old. During the recording, I stopped singing and yelled, “Hey, Mama, what’s the next part of that song?” So now, it’s a running joke in my family to ask what the next part of the song is.
There’s also a great movie entitled Pitch Perfect. Of course, it has a lot of singing and I think it’s Aca-awesome because it’s right up my Aca-alley. Also, Rebel Wilson is a riot.

Now that I’m a romance writer seeking publication, the term pitch has taken on a whole new meaning. A few weeks ago I posted on my blog about Learning to Pitch. I compiled the information I obtained from taking a couple of pitching classes and made a fun (for me) analogy to pitching baseballs.
I’ve been practicing my pitches because the Romance Writers of America National Convention is next week. I have one pitch prepared for an editor, in which I’m trying to sell a story. I have another pitch prepared for an agent, in which I’m trying to sell myself. (Not in the “oldest profession” sense but in the “I’m a talented writer” sense.)
I need a lot of practice because I tend to ramble if I don’t focus. I want my pitch to be perfect but that puts a lot of pressure on me. I love yoga and I’d been practicing for years before I heard an instructor say, “That’s why we call it yoga practice, not yoga perfect.”

When I recalled this piece of wisdom, it helped take the pressure off. If I start off perfect, there’s no room for improvement. I have to crawl before I can walk and then run. I have to practice mountain pose before I can progress to tree pose and then swaying tree pose.
Taking the focus away from perfection isn’t an excuse not to practice and be my best, but it is a way of reminding myself that I will get there, even if I don’t perform perfectly the first time. I’ll keep practicing because I want to put my best foot forward, even if it's during horizontal running.

What are you practicing these days? Getting your pitch perfect? Improving your craft? Your sport? Your body? Your life?

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

OMG! National is next week!

duluoz cats/Flickr
I can't believe that RWA National is almost upon us. Seriously, how did July get here so fast? Can you tell I'm completely freaking out?

I'm a National newbie, so I've read lots of blog posts on what to expect and hints for how to best navigate the conference. I even managed to come up with something all on my own :)

1. Angela Quarles has a great post of tips for newbies. My favorite: Bring your own water bottle to refill at a drinking fountain and small snacks to help you make it until your next meal.

2. In the comments on Angela's post, Suzanne Johnson recommended getting a rolling tote to help lug all your new books around. I ordered one from Amazon.

3. Someone on the PAN loop posted information about a photographer who takes affordable headshots at the conference. I made an appointment and can't wait to see how it turns out.

4. If you're a Groupon or Living Social member, you may have seen some great deals from Vistaprint. I used my deal to order business cards and cover flats.

5. National is a wonderful opportunity to network, but I am horrible about keeping up with business cards. To help me with this, I've installed Evernote Hello, which will allow me to take pictures of the cards with my phone and save it with a contact.

How are you getting ready for ATL? What is your best tip for getting the most out of National?

Monday, July 08, 2013

Promotion v. Privacy

Self-promotion is necessary for most writers. But, its all too easy to post a Facebook status or tweet 140 characters.... Not to mention a blog post here-and-there. ;-)

With the ease and availability of receiving AND transmitting information online, the lines between a writer's private life and self-promotion can be easily blurred.  How do you capture your online audience, that is already saturated with information and constant advertisement, and keep them interested? 

Wednesday, July 03, 2013

Happy 4th of July!

In celebrating the 4th of July, I thought I would bring out some of my old history articles. Plus it helps me cheat by not thinking up something new to post, considering I was so late in posting today. (Day job sucks!)

Did you know...
Deborah Sampson Garnnett's husband had the dubitable honor of receiving the first "widower's pension" ever awarded by the U.S. government. At age eighteen, Deborah dressed in men's clothing, then later signed up with the Massachusetts Regiment as Robert Shurtlieff. She, oops, Robert fought in four battles during the American Revolution.

Did you know...
At the beginning of the Revolution War, the best-selling pamphlet, Tom Paine’s Common Sense, sold 500,000 copies (over 5% of the colonial population).  With today’s population in the United States that would be over 12 million copies.  

Did you know...
During the 1800s, teeth became a profitable business.  Enterprising thieves invaded battlefields and extracted teeth from dead soldiers and sold them to dentists.  The false teeth, also called “Waterloo teeth,” were worn by many Regency dandies.  Even during the American Civil War, barrels of teeth were shipped to Europe.

Did you know...
Six servants were required to prepare Edward IV’s bed each night.  In a ritual of covering the bed with bleached linen, a soft bolster, and an ermine bedspread, they finished it with a sprinkle of holy water.

Holy water or not, Edward was known to seduce many women, married or single.  One tale was that Edward, crazy for Elizabeth Wydville, tried to rape her and she responded by placing a dagger to her breast, claiming her honor was more important than her life.

Did you know...
In the 10th century, the emperor of Constantinople, Constantine VII, used monasteries to punish murderers and traitors.  He encouraged them to serve their life sentences as monks.  The same for prostitutes as nuns.

Did you know...
During the 18th century, London started lighting their streets with the use of poor quality oil or fish blubber in tin vessels that were placed beneath glass globes. The light helped "thief takers" (bounty hunters paid for each felon apprehended) as well as trouble making dandies such as Mohawks (enjoyed breaking strangers' noses) or Blasters (reveled in exposing their privates to women).

Did you know...
Even in 1924, most good apothecaries had a pot of “mummiya” on their shelves, and the pharmaceutical company E. Merck had on their price list “mumia vera Aegyptica.” What is that stuff? It’s a pine resin that had been used in embalming and thought to have great healing powers (read between the lines - they actually grounded up mummies and sold it as a medicine).  


You are rich, your father is the Earl of Flanders, and you have highborn French, English and German ancestors.  If that isn’t enough, you’re beautiful and well educated for a sixteen-year-old woman.  Your world is perfect, right?  Wrong!

You have an ambitious cousin trying to court you without your father’s permission.  Why should he care about consanguineous laws?  When you finally tell him to get lost, that you’re in love with a nice young Englishman, what does he do?  He attacks you as you come out of church one morning, rips your best gown, throws you on the ground and leans over to slap you several times for emphasis.  Instead of kidnaping you, so you two could marry, what does he do?  He just rides off, the bastard (figuratively and literally)!

Who are the young lovers?

Matilda and her soon-to-be-husband, William the Conqueror.  


You stutter and frequently fall off your horse during your daily stag hunting.  Your Scottish subjects have kidnapped you twice and enjoy calling you the “Wisest Fool in Christendom”.  Though you married and had nine children, you prefer the company of your current favorite, George Villiers, and call him “my sweet child and wife”.

You are?

James VI of Scotland and, later, crowned James I of England.  James spelled his last name the French way, Stuart, instead of Stewart.  He opposed smoking tobacco and authorized the new translation of the Bible, known as the King James’s Bible.


You are a beautiful Roman noblewoman and your name means “white shadow.”  Your father gives you, along with a piece of furniture, to his political ally.  Then, you not only betray your husband by having a fling with his champion, but also plot to betray him with his son, an incestuous conceived child of your husband’s half-sister.

You are?

Guinevere, also called Gwenhwyfar.  Wife of King Arthur, lover to Sir Lancelot du Lac and co-conspirator with Mordred.


You’re thirty years old and just had your marriage of fifteen years annulled.  It’s rumored that you had affairs with your uncle and your soon-to-be father-in-law.  Hey, you don’t care what people are saying.  You have plenty of money, land, and the looks to go with it.  You left two daughters in your ex-husband’s care and plan to run off with your future nineteen-year-old husband as quickly as possible.  Time is short, you’re five months pregnant and two men have already tried to grab you for themselves.

You are?

Eleanor of Aquitaine, the ex-queen of France.  Her ex-husband was Louis VII of France and the nineteen-year-old husband would later be Henry II.


You're a handsome man that enjoys food, wine, women and song, not necessarily in that order.  You made the beach resort of Brighthelmstone (Brighton) very fashionable with the help of your friend George (Beau) Brummell.  At the age of 23, you secretly married a beautiful 28‑year‑old widow (why buy the cow, if the milk is free?  Smart girl!).  Your new bride is Catholic, thus making the marriage void in the eyes of Parliament.

You then agreed to marry your ugly, fat cousin so Parliament would pay off your debts.  On your wedding night, you proceed to get drunk on brandy and pass out.

Once your wife has finally provided an heir, she leaves for Italy and takes a lover (see other men desired her, sucker).  Rumors are that she had two illegitimate children (well, other men desired her at least twice) and danced topless in Geneva. (Hey, she apparently believed, if you got it, flaunt it.)  

You are?

George IV of England.  His wife was Caroline of Brunswick.


Being Married in London during the Year 1700
or the Single Life is for Me.

If you are a high-born lady wishing to marry your stable boy, an uncle wishing to marry his niece, or a young couple wanting to marry without consent, you would go to the alleyways known as the Rules of the Fleet near Fleet Bridge, not far from the river Thames.  All types of “plyers” would encourage you to come into their “marriage house” for the ceremony.  Most of the clienteles were craftsmen, innkeepers and the lower classes. 

One-ninth of England’s population lived in London during 1700.

Weddings were legal only between the hours of 8:00 a.m. and noon.

A contract for marriage was official when the man provided the woman with a ring or presented her with half of a coin.

Males over the age of 14 and females over the age of 12 could marry with the consent of their guardian.  Both sexes could marry without consent at the age of 21. 

A single woman had many of the same rights of a man.  She could own property, leave a will, sue or be sued, but once married, her husband own her lock, stock and barrel.  Should she commit adultery, her husband could sue the man for trespassing on his “property.” 

Popular sex manuals of the time were Aristotle’s Masterpiece and Aretine’s Postures.  The man’s sexual organ was at times referred to as his “yard.” (Funny!  In his dreams!)  A midwifery book by a Mrs. Jane Sharp claimed the wife would not conceive if there was “no desire nor delight . . .”

A 5 shilling tax was paid on licenses and certificates of marriage.  Thus, the reason cheaper marriage houses married 1/3 of the London population.

A Fleet marriage to a stranger help legitimized a child and prevented the woman from being publicly whipped.

Neither a license nor posting of Banns was required in a Fleet marriage.
If a woman got heavily into debt, she could marry a prisoner and the debt would be considered cleared.  (You can’t arrest the husband for the debt when he’s already in prison, duh!)

Brides wore bright colors, preferably blue.  Blue was associated with the Virgin Mary.

Some brides wore gloves to bed.  A symbol of their virginity. 

Bundling was common.  A board was placed on the bed between a couple.  Many women used bundling as a way to catch a husband.

One-tenth of the English brides were pregnant before they married.
Knickers (underwear) had yet to be invented.

Condoms were made from sheep intestines and tied onto the “yard” by a ribbon.  They were very expensive.

If a man murdered his wife, he was hanged for the offense.  If a woman murdered her husband, the wife was burned alive.

Bachelors and widowers, over age 25, were taxed 1 shilling a year.

Due to the high mortality, late marriages, early death, the average maximum length of marriages was 17 to 20 years.  A quarter of marriages were second marriages.

A divorce could cost you more than 20 pounds sterling. 

London shopkeepers earned about 45 pounds sterling (roughly $72.00) a year and a housemaid 5 pounds sterling (roughly $8.00) a year.


Well, believe it or not, but that was less than half of the articles I wrote between 1999 and 2005. Hope you found some of it of interest. Be sure to always check your facts in two to three publications before using in your book.

Monday, July 01, 2013

Cover Art–A Novel’s First Impression by Debra Glass

Whether the format is digital, print, or both, a potential reader’s first impression of a book is the cover. Readers realize this. Authors gnash teeth and lose sleep over it. However, publishers and art departments, don’t seem to put too much emphasis on it – or so it often seems.

Writers have very strong visions of their characters’ appearances. They live with these faces in their heads for months, sometimes years and when the cover art doesn’t match that image, it can be disappointing, or dare I say downright devastating. Many readers don’t realize most authors have zero control over the cover art.

A cover that doesn’t make a good impression can hurt a book’s sales, especially if the author is mid list or is one who hasn’t yet cultivated a fanbase.

Many authors have been very successful in obtaining their rights to previously published works and rereleasing them with fresh titles and covers. Independent publishing affords the author far more control over the packaging of their product.

Pageflex Persona [document: PRS0000038_00064]My young adult romance, Eternal was first released with a very small press under the title Haunted. The blue-washed cover the publisher provided revealed very little about the story and the cover artist did not capture my grand, colonnaded Middle Tennessee antebellum setting or my teen heroine at all. The book sold very few copies so I requested a rights reversion, changed the title, hired a premier cover artist, Tricia Pickyme Schmitt, and rereleased the work. The gorgeous cover alone generated more interest in the book (and sales) in its first week out than the old art did in two years.Haunted-ebook

Since I mainly write historical romances, I am always on pins and needles, anticipating what the cover art department at one of my publishers will provide.

While lovely, my most recent cover for Scarlet Belles, a two-book, historical anthology, fell short of my expectations. Historical readers want to see the costumes, the settings – the elements that sweep readers back in time to another era.

Here are the individual covers (which I liked and felt represented the stories) for the books included, Bought and Paid For, and Scarlet Widow.




And this is the print collection cover for Scarlet Belles which contains both stories. Pretty? Yes. Does it reveal anything about the historical romance content within? Or the raven haired heroines? Not a damn thing.


Contest time! Win a copy of Eternal in your choice of print or digital format by leaving a comment.

Have you ever passed up a book because of a less than stellar cover? Are you irritated when then cover doesn’t match a book’s content? Or could you not care less about the cover when the book is good or the author is on your auto-buy list?

*One commenter will be entered in a drawing to win a copy of my young adult paranormal romance, Eternal, in their preferred format.