Monday, December 29, 2014

Engaging Novel Interview

Today I’m going to do something a little different. Instead of interviewing an author or writing about my own work, I will interview a Southern Magic author’s novel. This will work basically like a book review except it will only cover the first 16 sentences of the novel. See if you can guess what story this is, and who wrote it.

THE NAKED MAN swayed back and forth, his ankles bound by duct tape and rope to a massive hook suspended from the ceiling. A bare light bulb at the end of a long wire swung in the opposite direction, casting drunken shadows across every inch of his sweat-coated skin.
Abby Rodriguez’s gaze followed the movement of Rex Drago’s body as if watching a tennis match in slow motion.
“Enjoying the view?” His bored and resigned tone barely hid his sarcasm. Even upside down, his eyes taunted her.
“Yeah. Actually, I am.” She sat cross-legged a few feet away on the warehouse floor, her favorite Sig in one hand, resting on her knee. “You’ve been working on your abs. Got them looking good. Almost an eight-pack. Maybe you could get a job modeling for romance novels.” With his big arms tied behind his back, she admired how the muscles expanded each time he struggled with the tape. A sparse swirl of hair rested between his pecs and trailed to a thin line over his abs toward his groin.
“Funny. Real funny.” He cleared his throat. “Get me down.
(Slightly longer than 16 sentence because there were several one-word statements.)

1.     Does it connect the reader with the protagonist? Yes, and I like Abby’s method of viewing a naked man. Definitely a strong willed woman.

2.     What is happening? Abby has the upper hand with Rex suspended upside down from a hook.

3.     Is it dramatized? Definitely. Who wouldn’t love to see this?

4.     Does the action move the story forward? Yes. It compels me to read more.

5.     Does what happens have consequences? Yes. I anticipate that Rex will take his revenge for being displayed helplessly. Hopefully with pleasure involved.

6.     Does the protagonist do something? Yes. Abby is taunting Rex while guarding him with a gun. She must anticipate him pulling a Houdini.

7.     Does the protagonist desire something? Yes. I think what Abby’s desire is something of a sexual nature. Could be fun with him suspended and helpless. Whatever the issue, it would have to be dire for her to go to such drastic measures to ensure his cooperation.

8.     Is the action current? Yes.

9.     Is there enough setting? Yes. They are in a warehouse with hooks in the ceiling, but who noticed with the hunky naked man?

10.  Does what happen raise a story question? Absolutely. Why is he hogtied upside down, and how did Abby get him that way?

I give the start of this story a full 10 points because all questions were answered with a yes. So, what do you think? Is this a story that you’d like to read? I’m intrigued myself and want to know what happens next. Below is the Novel name and a short summary as well as the Author Bio.

Hope you enjoy my review,
Philisha Byrd Stephens

After disappearing days before her wedding to fellow Circle agent Rex Drago, Abby Rodriguez discovered that trying to reclaim a life—and a love—lost is a whole lot harder than she thought. When her family's safety is threatened by an arms dealer, Abby must go undercover with the one man who sees right through her as they play the scariest roles yet: husband and wife.

Mission or no mission, Rex Drago wants answers from his ex-fiancée. Forced to play along as a rival arms dealer and the husband he once wanted to be, Rex is finding it hard to stay professional—especially since Abby is just as hot as ever. And when they find themselves in a very intimate position, Abby and Rex must act the part—or risk blowing their cover entirely.​

CIRCLE OF DECEPTION can be found anywhere on line where books are sold.

CARLA SWAFFORD loves romance novels, action/adventure movies and men, and her books reflect that. She has three romantic suspense novels with Avon Red and recently sold a hot motorcycle club series to Loveswept. She's married to her high school sweetheart and lives in Alabama. More info about Carla can be found at the following places on the Internet.
​On Facebook, Goodreads, ​Twitter, Pinterest, & Google+
Time Magazine, ". . . involves deadly assassins, drug lords and doing it."
RT Book Reviews - 4-1/2 stars,"[A] dark, gritty story that will grab you by the throat and not let go."

Friday, December 26, 2014

Holiday Magic

I hope all of you are having a Christmas season filled with family and friends and holiday magic!  If I could distill the essence of the season into a simple phrase, it would be this: give and receive kindness. May your new year be filled with endless acts of kindness!

I’ll see you next year!

  Peggy Webb is the USA Today Bestselling author of more than 70 books in multiple genres. She also writes literary fiction and is a member of PEN as Elaine Hussey.

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Christmas Culinary Competition

I watched the movie Four Christmases with a bit of trepidation and some nostalgia. It’s a movie about a couple who divides their Christmas Day between their parents, all of whom are remarried. Although my parents never divorced until later, it seemed a constant competition between my maternal and paternal grandparents as to which family got Christmas Eve and which got Christmas day.

As an adult, I can empathize with my poor mother, who just wanted everyone to be happy…which was impossible, of course. As a child, I benefited because that competition primarily took the form of a feast. My maternal proper Scottish grandparents were all fondue and oyster dressing and food that was a bit more highbrow. It slowly sucked you into a culinary coma, on the heels of candied pecans and just a spoon more of crème fraiche. And ALL THE SALMON.

On the other hand, the aroma coming from my paternal Italian grandparents’ home punched you in the face the second you opened the car door. You were helpless to resist fresh bread and pasta, home-churned butter, and such a variety of meats that all the neighbors stopped by for some. The dogs didn’t even bother to beg because they were so stuffed. Another lamb bone? Meh. Bury it with the other ones.

I’m very fortunate that my husband’s big family picks a Saturday before Christmas, with everyone contributing several dishes. Each person gives one gift and receives one gift. Very practical and nobody is burdened with all the cooking. More time for visiting. My sister, mother, and I? We pick up Dreamland Ribs. We are flexible types and just want to relax and gab. Also, each year I contact the elves so that Santa delivers gifts the morning of Christmas Eve instead of Christmas Day because that’s when we get my step-son. Christmas Day is spent at home, which is right where I want to be. Then, in January, we have a “Christmas Reunion” at the community center for my husband’s entire extended family…or Dirty Santa Professional Edition as I call it.  Seriously. Don’t EVER steal the gift the third time unless you are willing to face the consequences.

Do you have multiple Christmases on a single day or any behind-the-scenes machinations? I feel blessed that my family days are not burdensome to me. No competition from the different families. But, I admit that I could do with a tiny bit of oyster dressing accompanied by hot, crusty bread fresh out of the oven with just a smidge of home-churned butter.

Monday, December 22, 2014

My Podcast Addiction

Hello. My name is Susan. I am addicted to podcasts.

At first, my obsession with podcasts started with listening to a few book programs or maybe an episode of This American Life. But then someone told me about Serial…and that was it. I was hooked.

After binge listening to eight or nine episodes (yes…I came to it late), all I thought about was Serial—the people, the events, the accusations. But I also realized something else—something that allowed me to justify my addiction. I discovered that I was also listening to this podcast as a writer.

If you haven’t listened to Serial yet, you really should give it a try. The episodes are available online for free at, and you can listen to them on your computer, if necessary. I downloaded them from iTunes so that I could have them with me on my drive to work each day. The episodes vary in length, but I have always been entertained and curious about what is coming next.

What I love most about Serial is that it is an excellent example of storytelling, and it only took me a few episodes to realize that I was learning all kinds of things about writing I started picking up on ideas about constructing characters, choosing point of view, the value of proper pacing, the complexities of plotting, and how to structure complex stories. 

After I caught up with all of the episodes of Serial, I wanted more. I didn’t necessarily want more podcasts like Serial (because those are hard to find!), but I did want more podcasts for writers and/or about books. Talking about books, authors, publishing, and writing inspires me as an author, so if you think you might need a shot of inspiration, give some thought to listening to podcasts.  

In my search, I found some great podcasts that are very well done and provide a lot of great discussion and information. Here are a few of the podcasts I now love as a reader and a writer... 

[NOTE: Each of these can be found on iTunes.]

Books on the Nightstand: The website’s “About” section states that Books on the Nightstand “strive[s] to bring you great book recommendations, as well as a behind-the-scenes look at the world of books, bookstores and publishing.” I really enjoy listening to the two hosts, and they have some really interesting episodes. 

BookRiot Podcast: Another podcast heavy on book news and information.

BBC World Bookclub Podcasts: This is a great resource for author interviews and discussion of books. Many of the authors are literary fiction writers, but most are well-known names, and there is always a good bit of discussion about writing.

The Narrative Breakdown: This is probably my most favorite podcast for writers. The discussion is always lively, and you can get a lot of great advice about different aspects of the writing process.

Kobo Writing Life Podcast: Another excellent writing podcast. I've found great interviews (I loved listening to Rainbow Rowell, author of Eleanor and Park), and I hear lots of good information on here. 

Again, this tiny list just scratches the surface, but they are a good place to start. If you have other suggestions, please leave them in the comments section! Happy listening!

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

Friday, December 19, 2014

I'd Like to Thank the Academy

Eddie Murphy told a joke in one of his stand up films about Stevie Wonder and awards ceremonies. He said "If you don't shut Stevie up, the credits will be rolling and he'll still be thanking people."

I haven't won an Academy Award. Yet. (They have Oscars for writers, did you know that?) :) I should get an Oscar for some of the performances I put on at work. The award for Best Bakery Manager Appearing to Agree with A*****e Store Manager While Suppressing the Urge to Punch Him in the Face goes to .... The  award for Best Ability to Keep a Straight Face While Talking to a Size 30 Customer Shoved into a Size 12 Tank Top and Size 14 Leggings goes to ....

I may not have won an Academy Award, but I do feel like I've won something this month. After seven years of writing seriously and a lifetime of wanting to be a published writer, this month on December 1st, my first dream finally came true. It has been a long strange trip. One I have wanted to bail on more times than I care to remember. Every time I tried to steer this train wreck off the tracks someone was there to jerk the controls out of my hand and keep me on the rails.

I have a fabulous cake decorator working for me who quits at least once a day. Working at Walmart is crazy. Working as a cake decorator at Walmart is crazy, wrapped in screaming terror, topped with a healthy dose of "TheCakeBossDoesn'tWorkHere!" So at least once a day Cara looks at me and says "I quit." And I look at her and say "No." and we go back to work. This post is for all of those people who looked at me and said "No." Those of you who have seen Stevie Wonder at an awards ceremony, gird your loins. This may take a while. And I'm not blind. When you bring out the hook, I will run from you. I may have to pretend you are a knife-wielding clown to pick up some speed, but I will run.

I would like to thank Avon Publishing for putting on the AvonFanLit event. (And thanks Tammy Lynn Rushing for telling me about it!) One of the chapters in the end product is mine. And I met some amazing writers, many of whom remain some of my dearest friends and supporters in this business.

I would like to thank my very first critique group. I met them via the FanLit event. They saw something in my writing and recruited me into their group. I learned so much from these ladies. They were my first teachers and I will never be able to repay them. The group has since disbanded, but I want to thank Erin, Terry Jo, Marianne, Gillian and Mary. You put my feet on this path.

I would like to thank the Broads of Broad Strokes - the little group that formed in Tammy's bookshop. Your critiques, enthusiasm, support and understanding kept me going more times than you will ever know. Thanks Tammy, Jeannie, Audrey, Kathleen and Fran. I still crack up every time I think about us reading the "weenie in the bag" scene in the Mexican restaurant.

I want to thank Southern Magic, the most amazing and generous chapter of RWA on the planet. You ladies keep me sane. Which is a bigger job than ANYONE knows. You keep me connected. You teach me. You support me. Your accomplishments make me proud to be a member of such a talented group. And you let me ramble like an idiot on the blog once a month. :)

I want to thank the following blogs for their support, their sense of community, their entertainment and their education - The Risky Regencies, The History Hoydens, The Goddess Blogs, The Wet Noodle Posse, The Word Wenches, The Jaunty Quills, and Number One London. When you are as crazy about romance as I am, especially historical romance, it is nice to know there are people out there just as crazy as you are.

I would like to thank The Romance Bandits. If you haven't seen the party they threw for my debut last week you missed the most amazing, humbling, stupendous launch I have ever seen. Cassondra Murray and the rest of the Romance Bandits blew me away and while the enthusiasm of the little community they have built on their blog didn't surprise me after all of the years I've visited there it was still beyond thrilling to see all of that enthusiasm directed at something I wrote.

I want to thank Dianna Love for sending her street team over to the party. Dianna is one of the most generous and giving writers it has ever been my privilege to know. She is a big reason I gathered the courage to take up writing after years of my desire to do so lay dormant. I met Dianna at a readers luncheon seven years ago and she encouraged me to pick up my pen and pursue writing again. Thanks, Dianna. I owe you. Big time!

I want to thank my two Golden Heart groups - The Pixie Chicks and The Ruby Slippered Sisterhood. For all of the late night conversations, especially lately about the terrors of Indie publishing, thank you! For the commiserations, butt kickings, cheer leading and the sort of advice and chastisement only sisters can give - thank you! I would not want to be on this journey without you.

I want to thank the Beau Monde Chapter of RWA. Anyone who writes Regency set romance and doesn't avail themselves of the collective genius of this group as writers and researchers is missing the most amazing resource ever. More than that, they are some of the most generous and supportive writers it has been my privilege to know.

To my two idols and mentors - what can I say about two people whose work I so greatly admire befriending and mentoring me? There are no words adequate enough to express my gratitude. To Diane Gaston, O Divine One, thank you for the late night phone calls, for the e-mails and for all of the support and friendship you have shown me on this journey. To Anna Campbell, La Divina, thank you for all of those long e-mails, for the lunches at Nationals, for all of the laughter and generous information, opinions and advice and most of all for the dear friendship.

To RWA, I would not be making money selling something I wrote without this organization. Period. I will be forever grateful to RWA for introducing me to so many amazing writers, women generous enough to teach workshops, to answer questions or to sit in a bar and tell me "you can do this." Writing is often a lonely calling. Through RWA I have learned the two most important things a writer can learn - you are not alone and it is okay to ask for help. And for the contests, the judges' critiques, the opportunity to pitch to editors and agents, the opportunity to gather with fellow writers and just be who I truly am, I thank you!

To my RWA conference roomie, Andrea Stein, thank you for convincing me over and over again to hang in there. Thank you for believing in me and for kicking my butt when I needed it. Thank you for being a cheerleader, confidant, adviser, partner in crime (see The Joanna Bourne Incident,) for daring to ride in a car I was driving in Atlanta, for always being there, for taking this Indie journey with me, for spotting for me so I don't break my neck getting into my spanx, and for being the sister I never had.

I belong to two of the most amazing critique groups in the business, bar none. Their enthusiasm for my work and their support and encouragement mean the world to me. More than that, their incredible talent and never ending diligence serve as an inspiration to me each and every day. And their tolerance for reading my stuff over and over and over again and their ability to talk me off the ledge on a weekly basis should have each member of both groups up for sainthood. It is a privilege and honor to belong to these two groups and to call these forces of nature my friends.

So, to  Regency Romance Critiquers and Historical Romance Critiquers you have my undying love and appreciation for putting up with me. I would not be a published author without your wisdom, laughter, butt kicking and support.

And last, but never ever least, (Okay, I heard that. You're all saying "Will she NEVER shut up!")

To Kate Parker, Hannah Meredith and Anna D. Allen - I've already offered you my first born, but you wisely declined as he really is the worst chihuahua ever. So you will have to settle for my offering you my undying gratitude. I truly was ready to get out of this game. You four came along and invited me into this endeavor and then endured dealing with my fits and starts, my SLOWER THAN CONGRESS writing, and my complete ignorance of the proper use of commas. :) Your determination to produce nothing but quality writing, great stories, with well-drawn plots and characters forced me to kick my game up a notch and make me determined to settle for nothing less as I go forward. Your generosity, knowledge, friendship and craziness have changed my life and made this the very best Christmas ever. I love you all dearly.

There you have it. My Academy Award speech. Someone poke Naima and Carla and tell them the credits are rolling. It has been a long journey only to arrive at another starting place. From here I hope to travel a long and successful trip in publication. And I hope I always have the people who have made this journey possible in my heart and by my side. The trip is so much more fun with other people to laugh with, cry with, to ogle hot guys with, to complain with, and to get out and push when necessary.

Have a very Merry Christmas and a Prolific and Successful New Year. 

And, now for a commercial :

Christmas Revels : Four Regency Novellas

Hannah Meredith, Anna D. Allen, Kate Parker and Louisa Cornell

“A Light in Winter or The Wicked Will” – Debt-ridden Connor Grayson inherits his uncle's title and ruined estate. But in order to receive his uncle's money, the new Viscount Roxbury must marry an ancient crone—a fate he considers... until he meets her companion.

“The Lord of Misrule”
– Everyone expects the Earl of Morrell to propose to Alice Caruthers during the Christmas holidays. Finally! But when the earl’s best friend arrives as the lucky First Foot on New Year’s Eve, Alice’s world turns upside-down.

“God Rest Ye Murdered Gentlemen” – Newlywed Eugenia, Lady Hunter, wants to impress her aristocratic in-laws with her first Christmas house party — but blackmail, dead bodies, and being snowed in with a killer are not part of her plan.

“A Perfectly Dreadful Christmas”
– Three not-so-wise gentlemen, a pregnant stranger, several tumbling footmen, and an unexpected snowstorm will turn Elizabeth's Perfectly Ordinary Christmas into a disaster ... or a Christmas miracle with the man she loves.

Now where is Ellen DeGeneres with some pizza !!!!

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Walking in the Footsteps of the Past

I’m still celebrating the release of the first two books in my A More Perfect Union series of historical romances. The stories are set in and around Charleston, South Carolina, in the fall of 1782. The British prepared to evacuate the city, as the war wound down. This time period fascinates me. I don’t think most Americans, let alone citizens of other countries, understand the dynamics of that age. In order to understand it better myself, I had to visit present day Charleston not once but twice for research… Seriously. I did research (among other things). What kind of research did I do? Well, let me tell you, but first I have a special announcement to make!

Emily’s Vow (Book 1) is only $.99 for a digital copy through December 31! So I’ll make a deal with you. I’ll give away an ebook copy of Amy’s Choice (Book 2) to three commenters (selected using who buy a copy of Emily’s Vow and post the confirmation number and email address in the comments below. That’s right! You could have both of the first two books in the series for less than one dollar. Here are the links to buy a copy of Emily’s Vow:

Now let’s look at some of the places I visited to gain a sense of the place and ensure my historical facts are as accurate as I can make them.
My supportive guinea pig hubby traveled with me to Cowpens National Battlefield. In the photo, he is the man on the right, as the park ranger led us down the road where the battle between the Americans and the British took place. This site becomes important in book 3, Samantha’s Secret (spring 2015).

We also discovered Brattonsville, a town on the frontier of South Carolina during the 18th century. It’s a unique site because American Revolution era buildings are on one side of the street, and Civil War era buildings on the other. They had a really nice gift shop and museum, too. Walking through the school helped me describe the experience of walking on the old wood floors in the books. The photo shows a cabin where somebody lived.
In Charleston, we took a carriage ride through the historic downtown so that I could get a sense of what traveling back in the 18th century might have been like. The horse’s name was Bob; I have no idea what the guide’s name was! But we learned about alley notorious for being used for duels, which features in Emily’s Vow.

We also took a tour of the Old Exchange and Dungeon, learning about how the British kept prisoners in the basement, shown in the photo, while they occupied the city. This site features in Emily’s Vow .

On our first trip to Charleston we stayed at the Rutledge House B&B, which was the home of John Rutledge, one of the governors of South Carolina during the Revolution time period. This is where I tried sherry for the first time, when they served high tea one afternoon in the upstairs parlor. Being in the elaborately decorated house helped me to visualize other houses in each of the three stories. The photo shows the rear of the majestic house.
And in order to sample the atmosphere a bit more, we ate dinner one night at McCrady’s Tavern, which existed during the Revolution. Also, George Washington ate there when he made a tour of the south after he became the first president of the United States of America. We were seated in the “old section” so I like to think I ate dinner in the same room as Washington.

I hope you’ll take me up on my offer, because these ladies’ stories are dear to my heart and I want to share them with everyone who loves historical fiction as much as I do! Good luck!

Keep in touch! I'd love it if you'd sign up for my newsletter so you'll learn about my new releases first. Thanks!

Twitter: @BettyBolte
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