Friday, November 29, 2013

Black Friday? How about BOOK Friday?

As promised last month, here is the list of "Favorite Romances of 2013" based on the comments to my post:

Blackmoore by Julianne Donaldson 
Edenbrooke by Julianne Donaldson
Fallen too Far by Abbi Glines
Never too Far by Abbi Glines
Forever too Far by Abbi Glines
Destiny by Cindy Ray Hale
Easy by Tammara Webber
Undeniably Yours by Becky Wade
The Distance Between Us by Kasie West 

The gift card winner is Ashfa!  I'll email you shortly.

And while you are here looking for some great reads, remember the Southern Magic Holiday Giveaway!

BannerSouthern Magic brings its readers a special treat for the holidays; 34 awesome romance books by many of its talented authors. Swoon, daydream and faint reading some of the best romance around from New Adult to Historical to Erotica. There's a little bit for everyone.
One lucky winner will be selected at random. Each author will mail her gifts separately. So the winner will receive several packages during the holidays. Instantly putting a smile on his or her face. The packages will contain books and perhaps other goodies from the author.

Who knows what surprises might be found!!!!

So don't delay, enter now before the bustle of the holidays gets you sidetracked.

Here are the wonderful authors participating in this special giveaway. Check out their websites!
Betty Bolte
Carla Swafford
Christy Reece
Debbie Kaufman
Ingrid Seymour
Jillian Chantal
Katherine Bone
Kerry Freeman
Naima Simone
Paula Graves
Susan Carlisle
Suzanne Johnson

Be sure to click on the Rafflecopter below between November 25 and December 16!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Some Thanks, Some Giving

As another year rushes to its inevitable climax (where did the months go?) I invite you to reflect on your personal epiphanies from this year. Epiphanies of the writing kind. I thank you, fellow Southern Magicians, for your role—and give you my top three. It's only a partial list of Epiphanies from 2013—in order to leave room for you to add your faves. 
From a Southern Magic meeting
Remember the Southern Magic program led by Birmingham's improv theater experts, when we introverts dared to take center stage, improvising story and dialogue on the spot? I’d repeat that experience any day. Especially a slow writing day. It was a full-body reminder that every character perceives the same situation in a different way. That every character brings different baggage into an event. That every character has her own agenda. Lesson learned? If you’re stuck on a scene, stand up and improvise. And if you need another character, call me! 
From a writing conference
A real live New York publishing house editor, in a presentation about character development, cautioned that she sees too many stories that fail to show the deep motivation behind a character's desires. In her view, three-dimensional story characters act according to their given personality traits--but they react according to deeply embedded character traits. Thus, your characters' motivations should show in their reactions to key events. 
She shared her funny hat exercise to make her point. Each person in the room was presented with a figurative funny hat. Poof! Here's your funny hat! The challenge was to put the hat on a character and write about his reactions. 
Typical paragraph: When Mary put the jester's hat on John, he began to dance, waving his hands and tossing his head to make the bells jingle. He wanted everyone to see that he was a good sport.
Typical editor response: Why? Why did he want everyone to see him as a good sport? 
After hearing the editor ask why half a dozen times, I wisely did not read my same-old paragraph out loud. 

Lesson learned? I vow to drill through the initial reaction, down into the backstory and baggage, to find out exactly why my characters behave the way they do. 
From a blog subscription
On Brenda Drake's blog, NA author Jenny Kaczorowski mentioned the three Cs of querying. Character, Conflict and Crisis aren't new concepts to me, but using these as the framework for a query is another epiphany.  

In Jenny's words: 
Character: Tell me who she is and why she’s important. Name, age, what is she like?
Conflict: What does she want but can’t have? What prevents her from getting what she wants?

Crisis: What will happen if she doesn’t get what she wants? What happens if she does?
Put each of those into a paragraph and you should have a much clearer picture of this fascinating story and world you’ve created. 

Your turn

One of the greatest benefits of membership is the way we help each other hone our craft. Please share the writing tip you're most thankful for this year! 

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Fun with Cover Art: Designing a Self-Published Cover with Megan Mulry

Today I'm so excited to have USA Today Best-Selling Author Megan Mulry back to the blog to talk about her upcoming indie release, In Love Again.

Her debut, A Royal Pain was a USA Today Best-Seller and selected as one of NPR's Best Books of 2012. Her Unruly Royals books feature witty dialog, fashion to die for, and sizzling love stories. If the Shoe Fits is the second book in the series and her up-coming self-published release, In Love Again is the third. R is for Rebel will finish the Heyworth Siblings' stories and releases in February of 2013.

Here's the blurb for In Love Again:

The Marchioness of Wick is about to get a second chance at life...whether she wants it or not. After twenty years in a loveless marriage to a duplicitous British aristocrat, Claire Heyworth Barnes finds herself broke and alone. Encouraged by her dynamic American sisters-in-law, the shy royal decides to start over in New York City. When she lands a job with a famous interior designer, Claire accidentally reconnects with the first—and only—man she ever loved. 

FIRST LOVE... Benjamin Hayek has never forgiven Claire for the heartless way she left him when they were teenagers in the south of France. And even if he could, Claire's not sure she has the courage to contend with how he makes her feel. Can they build a new love from an old flame? Or will a bitter history and a complicated future stand in their way?

Megan's  offered to share with us she went through designing a cover for the book.


Hi Lisa, Thanks for having me visit Southerm Magic again!

One of the most enjoyable (and terrifying) aspects of self-publishing is the creative freedom. My traditional publisher, Sourcebooks, is very accommodating in terms of author input with cover art, so it certainly wasn't as though I was reacting to some prior confining situation. But for some reason, it still felt like a heady liberty. I knew I wanted to stay very closely aligned to the visual cues of the other three books in the Unruly Royals series—white background, single image, swirly font—but I also wanted to play around a bit. Here is a visual tour of my month-long creative descent into madness…I mean, process:

The Historical Version

The Menopause Version

The Tom Jones Version

Agent thinks image still menopausal but likes title…

...everyone likes bolder font and title...

…until brother asks, "What's a mar-chee-HOE-ness?"

(Title scrapped immediately.)

…become obsessed with the word tiara…

It's young! It's fresh! Quick! Think of more Tiara titles!

More! More! More!

Brighter! Cuter!

… realize this title and cover concept don't really send the right message after teen daughter says it looks like a YA royal detective comedy…

…start to lose steam on whole self-publishing business…

…start thinking of other writers and make tiara version of their covers instead:

The Jamie McGuire Version

The Maya Banks Version

The E.L. James Version

The Christina Lauren Version

The Lizzie Bennet Version

Ah! Finally! A title I love! That everyone can pronounce! With special hand-lettering by talented calligrapher Alexandra Haughton! But…alas, we were never able to smooth out the hand-lettering graphic file properly. So…back to searching for fonts and an image that didn't look so "bridal."

The Polaroid Version

…committed to title and font, but still trying totally different, last-minute visuals…

The Movie Poster Version

…maybe not totally committed to font after all…another last-ditch freak out to totally change everything!

…got a good night's sleep. Decided on final cover:

The Final Version designed by Kimberly Van Meter

 …I can breathe again!

Thanks for sharing this with us, Megan!

In Love Again Releases November 29th, but you can pre-order it NOW on Amazon and Barnes and Nobles, or in paperback on CreateSpace!


 November 25 - December 16!
BannerSouthern Magic brings its readers a special treat for the holidays; 34 awesome romance books by many of its talented authors. Swoon, daydream and faint reading some of the best romance around from New Adult to Historical to Erotica. There's a little bit for everyone.
One lucky winner will be selected at random. Each author will mail her gifts separately. So the winner will receive several packages during the holidays. Instantly putting a smile on his or her face. The packages will contain books and perhaps other goodies from the author.

Who knows what surprises might be found!!!!

So don't delay, enter now before the bustle of the holidays gets you sidetracked.

Here are the wonderful authors participating in this special giveaway. Check out their websites!
Betty Bolte
Carla Swafford
Christy Reece
Debbie Kaufman
Ingrid Seymour
Jillian Chantal
Katherine Bone
Kerry Freeman
Naima Simone
Paula Graves
Susan Carlisle
Suzanne Johnson

Be sure to click on the Rafflecopter below between November 25 and December 16!

(Sorry - that's 34 AWESOME Titles and not 36, but still a HUGE amount!)

For those who have no twitter or facebook, go to the bottom of the rafflecopter to the last option and use the free entry. All you have to do is leave your email address.

Good luck to all!
a Rafflecopter giveaway

Friday, November 22, 2013

M.J. Schiller's Long And Winding Road!

As a Crimson Romance author, I've had the great privilage of being able to interact with a lot of great writers, especially MJ Schiller, writer extraordinaire! Cheerleader and motivator, MJ's ever on the Crimson Author loops fist pumping, hootin' and hollerin' for all of us. MJ has also made a poignant impact on my life and the decisions I'm making in my professional career. So with a blog opening in sight, I sat down with Jack one night on our secret barrel. (We shared a jug, if you know what I mean! But I digress...) Anyhoo, Jack suggested that I abstain from keeping all of MJ's mojo to myself. "Why not share yer treasure, luv, to them what needs it?" Which made perfect sense. And so, without further ado, I give you the talented, hillarious, generous, and more than a tad motivated, MJ Schiller! You'll be so glad I did, me hearties!

Well I was asked to talk to you today about my writing journey, and oh, what a trek it has been! There have been some hairpin turns, some steep grades, that’s for sure, and some times when I just coasted along. Scratch that. That never happened! ;) Writing is hard work, and in order to do it right, you have to constantly be striving to get better at it and to get your name out there. No coasting allowed! 

"It's wicked bad luck for ships what coast without a good wind, lass."
"Shhh, Jack! MJ's telling us about her journey." 
Jack puts a fingertip on his lips... "Silent as the grave, luv."
MJ tries to get herself back on task. "Jack is mesmerizing, isn't he?" Audible sigh...

Where was I? Oh, yes. Ships! No. I mean, journeys. Before you set off on your journey, you have to plan and pack, right? My journey started off without a lot of planning at first. We were mapless, without written directions or a GPS. I began by sitting down and writing twelve books. Not all in one sitting, of course, but twelve full-length novels. Then I decided to learn about writing. A little backwards, eh? I don’t recommend this course. There is a lot of backtracking and pointless meandering that can be avoided if you start off with a plan of action. You should attend classes, read books about writing, and read award-winning books in your genre.

I did have the opportunity to attend a weeklong workshop, the Antioch Writers’ Workshop, in Yellow Springs, Ohio. This was like a little piece of heaven on earth for me. A week to live among fellow writers, talking about all things literary? Divine! I joined the local chapter of RWA which, among other things, was a critique group. I began to bring in my writing and have it read aloud for the first time by strangers (yikes!). This is where I really began to grow as a writer. I am lucky in having a number of extremely intelligent and talented authors in my group (hi, guys!) who have taught me much more than any book or seminar ever could. I was also fortunate enough to attend the Chicago North RWA Spring Fling. Here I began to learn more about the business end of publishing. Along the way I did pick up a number of books on writing. Some of them I even read. I guess they’d be the souvenirs in my suitcase.

So, although I started off a little lost on my journey, I began to formulate a plan. The plan involved submitting to agents and editors, which I did. I took my rejections stoically (cried like a baby) and sent out more query letters. And, miracle of miracles I got a contract offer! I had my brother-in-law/free lawyer read it, signed on the dotted line, and told the entire extended family around the Thanksgiving table. When we got home that night I got online to check my email and the publisher had rescinded its offer. Turns out they’d bitten off a bit more than they could chew and had to spit me out (the publisher went out of business). I’d hit a pot hole, busted a tire, and messed up my suspension all in one shot!

So back to the drawing board, licking stamps, sending out letters. And low and behold, I got another offer and published my first book, TAKEN BY STORM! Big milestone on the journey, flashing lights, beeping horns, the works! I had my first book out! But then I began to think about it. This publisher was getting 70% of my profits for, basically, editing my book and providing a cover, things I could do on my own. I’m not saying that working with a publisher in the future is out of the question, but it would have to be a publisher with a lot of reach to give up that much of the profits again. Logically, the next step was to self-publish.

Read this next line in your best GPS voice-“Now rerouting…” This meant acquiring more books about the industry and asking a lot of questions to those who had already self-pubbed (I was like an annoying little gnat!) We created a business plan this time and I brought along my navigator/husband/business partner. Kissmet Publishing was born! We published my second book, TRAPPED UNDER ICE, part of my ROCKING ROMANCE COLLECTION. TRAPPED’s sales blew away TAKEN’s as it was in the hotter, contemporary romance category. [TAKEN BY STORM is now part of my ROMANTIC REALMS COLLECTION and is set in a fictional place similar to Ancient Persia. It is a great story, by the way, I highly recommend it! ;) ] Since then I’ve brought out a second book in each collection, ABANDON ALL HOPE--the story of a rock star reunited with his high school sweetheart after an eight year separation—and AN UNCOMMON LOVE—my fairy tale romance about a princess that falls for a commoner. This month I released my first in my REALISTIC ROMANCE COLLECTION, which features heroes and heroines from all walks of life. UPON A MIDNIGHT CLEAR, my Christmas romantic suspense novella, for example, features an EMT and a widowed kindergarten teacher. 

"You're a well-propertied writer, Lady Schiller," said with that Captain Jack Sparrow appreciative grin. "I've a mind to navigate ye, myself."
"Why don't we share a blurb from MJ's Christmas novella UPON A MIDNIGHT CLEAR, instead?"
Raising his jug in salute. "Let's!"

Dylan Fisher is an EMT and part-time Santa Claus at a mall in Denver, Colorado. He has logged plenty of time with children sitting on his lap asking for anything from the latest electronic gadget to a week’s worth of homework passes, but he never heard anyone ask for what little Delaney Kelly asked for on one snowy night in December. A dad! When Dylan’s eyes search the crowd for Delaney’s mother and land on Keira Kelly, the paramedic almost finds himself in need of a little CPR. She is stunning! 

Keira Kelly is still grieving over the loss of her husband, but a reckless driver has her thinking about nothing but survival as she’s headed home from the mall. When Keira wakes in the hospital to find a hunky EMT at her bedside, she begins having a few thoughts that would put her on Santa’s Naughty List for sure! But when she finds out the EMT is only hanging around because the police believe someone is out to get her, she’s not sure what to think about his kindness. Is he helping her because he wants to, or because he feels he needs to? And what about the man who rammed her car, could he have had something to do with her husband’s death?

"EMT? Emergency Monkey Tracker? I have a question. Why can't I find one of those?"
Rolls eyes. "Emergency Medical Technician."
"That be what they call it now, eh? Where's that undead monkey?"
"Jack, since M.J. has been talking about travel metaphors, let's read an excerpt from a car scene in her book." 
That smile again, revealing a sparkling gold tooth. "Let's!"


Her heart began to beat faster. She was no longer singing, but Delaney didn’t seem to even notice, carrying on without her. She heard her singing about Frosty “hippity-hop-hopping through the snow.”
            Keira was pretty sure that was wrong, (didn’t Peter Rabbit “hippity-hop?”), but didn’t bother to correct Delaney. Her hands clutched the steering wheel as she hunted for a street ahead they could turn down. Spotting one, she waited until the last minute to signal and then made a right-hand turn. To her horror, tires screeched and beams from the black sedan’s headlights swung crazily as the car swerved around the corner, too, fish-tailing in the snow, but following all the same. A motor raced as it zoomed up on them, getting so close she lost sight of its headlights as they dipped below the SUV’s back bumper.
            Her heart thudded in her chest. I can’t panic. Kevin told me if someone ever followed me I should head straight to a police station. But where’s a police station?  She searched her mind, street names and places flashing before her eyes and then the impact of the sedan’s bumper jolted the SUV.
            “Mommy!” Delaney screamed.
            “It’s okay, sugar.” Even though she wanted to sound reassuring, her voice was tight. The car rammed them again. 
            Keira’s eyes flew back and forth from the rearview mirror to the road, trying to remain in control of the vehicle and anticipate her attacker’s next move at the same time.  The street she chose was dark. A park hemmed either side of the two-lane road and a long row of drivers in the opposite lane waited their opportunity to turn onto First Avenue. 
            “Aaahh!”  She involuntarily yelped as the sedan hit them with greater impact, making her SUV skid across the pavement. She quickly corrected and then tried to speed up to avoid another collision. She checked the side-view mirror. Headlights zoomed up again and she braced herself. 
Too late, Keira saw the car in front of her making a leisurely left-hand turn onto the thoroughfare from a side street. She screamed and slammed on the brakes. The SUV began to skid sideways, her rear bumper making contact with one of the cars waiting in line next to them, sending her vehicle spinning in the opposite direction. Delaney’s cries rang in her ears. Images blurred through the windshield, a tree, a lamp post, and then, the car gunning for them. With a tremendous crash of metal it drove the SUV into a park bench and a concrete, cylinder-shaped garbage receptacle decorated with neutral-colored pebbles. The airbags failed to employ. Her head hit the steering wheel with the initial impact, and then the side window when the SUV crumpled against the pebbled trash can. 
            A car horn blared, her car horn. She struggled to lift her head. About ten feet in front of them, the black sedan swam in and out of her vision. Its front bumper trailed on the ground on one side, half of the hood accordioned upward, steam rolling out of it menacingly in the cold night air. She imagined the black vehicle to be some sort of fire-breathing dragon. Why does it want me dead?  she asked herself groggily. 
It came to life in front of her eyes, backing up over the curb a few feet, pieces clunking and scraping against the concrete. The wheels turned and with a screech of spinning tires it scrambled toward her. For a minute, she thought it sought to finish them off. Instead, the sedan roared off into the night with sparks flying from its underbelly.
            Pardoned for the moment, she became aware of the pain driving through her brain. She clutched at her stomach. She tasted blood. Head heavy, she laid it down on the steering wheel, closing her eyes. She heard the horn again…shouting… somewhere, Christmas music.
            Delaney! a voice screamed in her head. Keira wanted to turn to search the backseat, but it felt like her head was no longer connected to the rest of her body. She heard a strange noise, a loud, screeching, whirring noise…the dragon returning. She whimpered and went still.


"Dragons? Did she say "dragons?" Hand flail!
"Hey Gang, if you enjoyed this ~ keep reading!"  

MJ is a lunch lady in the heart of Central Illinois. My gosh, can you get more folksy than that? She met her husband at the University of Missouri-Columbia and now she has an eighteen-year-old (how did that happen?) and sixteen year old triplets! She loves to read, karaoke (where she can pretend she is a rock star) and spends WAY too much time on Facebook. She grew up in St. Louis and still has family there.

"Triplets?" Jack's eyes gleam.
"Isn't MJ loads of awesome? Imagine how hard she's worked to raise a family AND manage a writing career!"
"Aye. She be right gracious to acquiesce to our request to appear on ye ol' blog. Thank ye, Lady Schiller! Most kind," Jack says with a chivalrous bow.
"Rum for all and all for rum!" I add. No excuses necessary. Pirate!
Jack flashes his charming gold-toothed sparkle. "'Tis the season, luv."

You can find MJ Schiller here:, MJ on FB, Twitter, Pinterest, and Goodreads.

Want to read UPON A MIDNIGHT CLEAR? You can buy and download it here: BN and Amazon.

What has your road in life looked like thus far? (Or currents, if'n ye be a pirate?)