Friday, October 30, 2015

A Spooky Tale for Halloween- Strange but True

I recently went to visit my son in Rhode Island and while I was there, we spent a day in Salem, Mass. It was a lovely city and there's an awesome memorial to the witches there in an old cemetery. The accused witches each have a bench with their name caved on it and some people leave tokens and gifts on the benches. One bench had a sweet note from a nine-time great-grandson who left some flowers and a card that said they were all fine and doing well. So neat.

As my son, daughter-in-law and I walked around, I spotted a tree that had been struck by lightning. I knew that was what happened as I have a tree in my yard that was struck during Hurricane Ivan in 2004 that has similar scarring. I took pictures of the tree and then walked to the other side and noticed a gravestone that seemed too close to the tree. Way too close.

As I was looking at it, a docent came over and told us the story about the young man, Caleb Pickman, (22 yrs old) buried there. He was killed by a lightning strike on July 4, 1737. The tree was small and intact when he was buried there. Over the years since then, it has been struck five times. 

The third picture down shows the back of the grave and just how close the tree was to his resting spot. Poor guy couldn't even get away from danger in death, could he?

I've got a lot of cool ideas on how to use this tree in stories. Does the tale or the setting inspire the writer in you?

So, anyone who tells you lightning never strikes twice in the same place is fibbing. :)

Happy Halloween! 

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

NaNo, Without a Net (and, oh yeah, a $50 giveaway)

On Sunday, the annual rite of optimistic and possibly insane authors (is “insane authors” an oxymoron?) begins: National Novel Writing Month, aka NaNoWriMo or simply NaNo.

I have done NaNo once before, in 2010. I wrote 55,000 words of nonsensical drivel called STOCKHOLM in one month, then spent the next eleven months fixing what would eventually be published as REDEMPTION, the first in my Penton Legacy series. It was because of that experience that I came up with my plotting system.

So it isn’t without some awareness of irony that I decided to do NaNo again this year:
            * Ironic because I’m teaching my plotting workshop online this month, which hasn’t left me time to plot my own novel.
            * Ironic because, like last time with NaNo, I—the great plotter of the universe—have nothing more to start with than a title and a very general idea of how it might end. Maybe. Unless I kill off that character. 
            * Ironic because it’s another Penton book I’m tackling during NaNo—this time, #5.

Here’s what I know: I started a war at the end of the last book (I think—I need to reread it in the next day or two, somehow). The hero will be Nik. He needs a heroine but I have no idea who that might be. Poor Krys has been in a coma for over a year since the last book, so I really need to wake the woman up. And it’s probably going to be called ILLUMINATION and be the last book in the series.

Maybe. Who knows.

Should you wish to join in the misery—er, I mean merriment—I’ve started a Facebook group and you’re welcome to join. I will take it private on November 1, but until then, come on and join us. You can write with us...or just laugh at it. We’re insane authors; we’ll probably laugh with you. You can find us here:

In the meantime, I have a new release, PIRATESHIP DOWN, coming out on Monday, and anyone who preorders can enter a $50 giftcard giveaway. You can find the link to purchase and enter the giveaway here (digital $2.99; print $9.99). It has an undead pirate and a Cajun merman and an orange Terrebonne Parish Prison jumpsuit. 

I even plotted the story.

Monday, October 26, 2015

Bad Boys and Teenage Daughters

Haven't we all dated "That Boy" at one time or another. I did.  Married him too, and now I write about those type of boys all the time.  Enjoy!

Carla Swafford
Look for me on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, & Google+
February 2016, HIDDEN HEAT, A Brothers of Mayhem novel
July 2016, FULL HEAT, A Brothers of Mayhem novel
Time Magazine, [Circle of Danger] ". . . involves deadly assassins, drug lords and doing it."

Thursday, October 22, 2015

Indie VS Traditional Publishing

As the White Rabbit said, “I’m late! I’m late!”  Over the past few months, several family medical crises turned my quiet little writing life into utter chaos. Thanks for your patience and your continued support. Things are settling down now, and I’m back in a routine…more or less.
I’m also very happy to announce that my latest Southern Cousins Mystery, Elvis and the Rock-A-Hula Baby Capers, is finally available both as an ebook and in print.
My oldest granddaughter, Cecilia Griffith, who is a junior at SMU in Dallas, does the adorable covers! She’s quite a writer, as well. I like to think I had a hand in that.
I’ve chosen to Indie publish the last four Southern Cousins Mysteries, and have been very pleased with that decision.  It’s great to have total control of every aspect of the book, from cover to editing to marketing to pub date.
There is much less pressure with Indie publishing, and that’s a plus for me. After thirty years of meeting strict deadlines and being told that “we” would have to work through Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Years, it’s a treat to take holidays off without feeling guilty, stressed and woefully behind schedule.
Still, I also write for traditional publishers – literary fiction under the pen name, Elaine Hussey. The plus side of being both an Indie and a traditional author is that I continue to maintain strong ties with some really excellent editors, as well as wonderful booksellers across the country. And it’s always great to sit down in a book-and-mortar bookstore and have a chance to visit with fans.
After a very long and satisfying writing career, the one thing I know for certain about this business is that change always comes. Without a husband and with children living in far-away states, I have to make sound decisions about my career…about everything, really! I am confident that being in both Indie and traditional publishing gives me a wider audience and the flexibility I need to continue enjoying the luxury of making a living with my pen.
Here are the links for Elvis and the Rock-A-Hula Baby Capers.

            Thanks for reading!  

Peggy Webb is the USA Today Bestselling author of more than 75 books. She’s still sane. More or less.

Monday, October 19, 2015

A little nudge to keep you writing: The Elizabeth Gilbert TED talk

So, I am swamped with work and wish I had time to write something amazingly clever! (Not sure that ever happens, but I will go with it.) But that isn't going to happen. So, instead, I thought I would share a video with you today. I just finished Elizabeth Gilbert's awesome book about creativity, Big Magic. It is a quick, powerful read. After reading anything I love, I binge read and watch author interviews, and I ended up coming across Gilbert's TED talks. I found two great ones, so I thought I would share one of the shorter ones. I bet several of you have already seen this clip, but, just in case you need a shot of something to keep you writing and producing work, I thought it would be something nice to share! Enjoy!

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. FOLLOW ME ON TWITTER!

Friday, October 16, 2015

The Things That Men Do - Love it!

This is my favorite comedian and my favorite story of hers.  Just wanted to share.  Enjoy.

Carla Swafford
Look for me on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, & Google+
February 16, 2016, HIDDEN HEAT, A Brothers of Mayhem novel
July 5,2016, FULL HEAT, A Brothers of Mayhem novel
Time Magazine, [Circle of Danger] ". . . involves deadly assassins, drug lords and doing it."

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Deadlines and Procrastination

So I'm running into deadlines all over my life at the moment. Which means my procrastination levels are unusually high. Therefore...

--instead of writing the holiday story I promised my editor,
--instead of doing my laundry,
--instead of writing the blog post for the Romance Magicians blog,
--instead of creating cute octopus lollipops for the Southern Magic Readers Luncheon, and
--instead of finishing the day job project that has to be done BEFORE I get on the plane to Baltmore..

I'm watching videos on YouTube.

About procrastination.

Here's hoping your week is stress-free with moments of beauty and art in which all you get are compliments about your children, your writing genius, and how intelligent you are, with the occasional comment about how beautiful you are in and out.

And if you get a moment cross your fingers for me that I get a little of that, too.

See you when I return!


Friday, October 09, 2015

Tropes Be Dope

In the most recent RWA eNotes, they shared survey results from the 2014 Romance Book Buyer Report by Nielsen and RWA on Popular Romance Tropes by Reader Group.

Respondents who considered themselves “heavy” readers said their favorite romance tropes are:

Friends to Lovers

Soul Mate/Fate

Secret Romance

Second Chance Romance

I feel like all of my books have Soul Mate/Fate tropes because my h/h are brought together at the right time in the right place for sparks to fly.

I’m a big fan of Friends to Lovers and have written a few of these.

I do love a good Second Chance Romance too. Mostly, I think this is meant for the same h/h who get a do-over with each other. But I think it can apply to a couple who think they’ve missed their shot at love, for example a failed marriage, or who’ve lost a spouse and thought their HEA was over. Then boom, they get a second chance with someone new.

As far as Secret Romance, I think I like this one for secondary characters.

What are your favorite romance tropes? Which ones do you not care for?

I’m curious if the above survey results will be validated in the responses. #sharethelove

Wednesday, October 07, 2015

The Research Wars - The Struggle is Real

I write historical romance novels set in early nineteenth century England, a time and place better known as the Regency Era. The average romance reader has gained most of her knowledge of this era from reading Jane Austen and / or Georgette Heyer or from watching BBC's Pride and Prejudice or Emma Thompson's beautiful film version of Sense and Sensibility. Jane Austen's works are the best source of information about this time period as she lived during these years. Georgette Heyer isn't a bad resource as she lived not too long after this era and had access to people who remembered the time period.

My point is, the average romance reader is unlikely to spot historical inaccuracies in a historical romance novel. HOWEVER, there is a large contingent of Regency romance fans out there who have spent years reading this genre and can spot a historical inaccuracy like a mother-in-law can spot a speck of dust on the table you just spent five hours polishing. And their reaction can make that mother-in-law in full meltdown look like Mother Theresa visiting an orphanage. A Regency author lives in fear of ...


These readers pour over the latest Regency historical romance like a ninth grade English teacher trying to flunk the quarterback because some jock broke her heart back in 1952. There are serial killer stalkers featured on Criminal Minds that don't follow their next victim the way some of these readers follow an author in whose work they have found a single mistake. And if you don't think these readers post reviews in excruciating detail and call an author out on Twitter and Facebook I have ocean front property in Arizona I want to sell you.

The only thing worse than a devout Regency reader having you in the cross hairs is a fellow Regency writer having you in theirs. A couple of rappers Twitter-bashing over song lyrics is a walk in the park. We Regency writers have turned the Research Wars into a blood sport. How many times have you heard of a RWA Chapter Forum devoting two days to arguing over whether chamber pots were present in Regency era dining rooms? They were, by the way, and men thought nothing of getting up from the table and using them - USUALLY behind a screen, but still in the same room. And you thought frat boys had a corner on EWWWW behavior.

With all of these people chasing an author down like the villagers after Dr. Frankenstein, the question is, exactly how historically accurate does a historical romance have to be? A romance novel that reads like a history book is not likely to attract many readers who are looking for a smoldering romance, some hot sex, a couple of balls and some carriage rides. And lest anyone forgets...


One of the truly glorious things about writing historical romance is immersing the reader in a different time and place without pushing their head under and holding it there. I have over 260 Regency research books in my library. I have countless notebooks and binders full of information about the minute details of life during this amazing era in my second homeland - England. I spend hours researching seemingly silly details like how a gentleman's shirt buttoned - hey, if you know how it buttoned, you know the quickest way to get him out of it! It is these little details that create the Regency world into which I invite my readers.

Research, when done correctly, is seamlessly blended into the story. It is very like walking through a beautiful home and noticing the window dressings, the comfortable sofa in the den, the arrangement of throw pillows in the formal livingroom. This includes the research pertaining to human behavior, manners, societal norms. If a writer has done her homework and has the skill, a reader will believe a man can be forced to marry a woman whom he simply kissed on the cheek. If the Regency world is real to the writer it will be real to the reader. When a writer has the skill to invite you into a world, to wrap that world around you like a cozy blanket before a warm fire with a mug of cocoa in your hand and their book in the other, it is because that world is sometimes more real than the one in which the writer lives. 

The Regency era was a real time and place in England. Not a single writer writing today lived during this era. Not even Nora Roberts lived during this era. (Don't tell her I said that!) Many of the research wars I have observed on historical romance writers' loops have been about people's behavior. It is a touchy topic. 

"No well-bred young lady would act like that in the Regency era!"

I received my two bachelors degrees at an Alabama Baptist women's college founded by the same people who founded Vassar. The college emphasized academic excellence and ladylike behavior. Our Dean of Women addressed us after a scandalous event involving the daughter of a major university's football coach, a young cadet from the military academy, and a hasty exit from a dorm window. She said something I have never forgotten.

"A lady can do the very same things as a tramp so long as she doesn't do it in the street and scare the horses." 

The way a shirt buttoned or the presence of a chamber pot or the number of times a man might dance with a young lady without causing a scandal was unique to this era. Human behavior was dictated by the rules of society, but as we all know, in love and war - rules are very often broken. The key is to do so in a way that doesn't snatch the reader out of the world the writer has wrapped around them.

I launch myself down the rabbit-hole of research about the Regency era because I want my books to be historically accurate. I am enough of a history geek to be a bit obsessive about it. I read books about and take courses on writing craft because I want to be able to incorporate all I know about this wonderful era into my books in such a way that it is no longer historical research. I want to do my job so skillfully that the reader is surrounded by the very real, vibrant, exotic, romantic world of 200 years ago. I want that world to become so real and all-encompassing that when my readers get to the end of the book and close it, they feel as if they have just awakened from a vivid and magical dream. I want them to feel as if they have lived and experienced the Regency, even if only for a few hours.

My goal is to write books in which the romance is real beyond all else, in which the research and the world are as accurate and vivid as they can be, and in which the Regency Nazis can find no fault. Because in spite of the fact I might tease those RN's, they keep me honest and keep me on my toes. May we all be blessed with readers and fellow writers such as these.

How about you? If you read or write historical romance what things make you nuts about historical inaccuracies or do you not care so long as the story is good? In other genres, as a writer what sort of research do you do to create your characters' world? As a reader are there things you demand a writer do to keep you in their book world? And for those who read and write paranormal romance - what are the problems of creating an entire world? What do readers of paranormal romance want and / or hate about the worlds that paranormal romance writers create? Is contemporary romance easier or harder to write than genres set in other worlds? Join the conversation. Let the research wars begin !!   



Friday, October 02, 2015

Location, Location, Location

Jillian here. I just got back from a trip to the Pacific Northwest- taking in Seattle, Mt. Rainier and Olympia, Washington and having a grand time with some friends. It reminded me of the old phrase Location, location, location and how it relates to writing.

Realtors use this phrase all the time and I like to think of it as I start a new novel as well. To me, location can be used almost like an additional character- especially some cities-like New Orleans, for example.  
Stories are fun to plan and one of the most interesting things to me is selecting where the action will take place. I, for one, like foreign or exotic places. The tag line for my website is Romantic Adventures with an International Flair and those are my favorite tales to tell.
Traveling can assist a writer in making his or her stories more authentic.  We’ve all gone on trips, be they short or long, to the next town or across the ocean.  I recommend that those ventures to other areas be mined for material. Using a small notebook, I jot things as I move about- such as what neighborhoods abut each other; where the nicest homes are; where the dodgy areas are; and other little details that will add to setting the scene.
I always grab a map or two of the places I visit in case I later decide to set a story there so I’ll have them to compare to areas that my character goes to. I’ve seen several movies set in places I’ve been and it always bugs me when I can tell they’ve moved around in the shooting and that the place where the character is at one point is nowhere near where they are in the next moment. I know that makes me sound anal and maybe I am but I sure do like to try to be authentic.
I recently received a review from a reader who lives in London and she praised the fact that I nailed the area of London where the story was set (Greenwich). I spent time over there when my son was living in the neighborhood. I made notes of streets, pubs, food, types of drinks, the railway stops and also picked up those maps that I love. I really think that made a difference for that reader to feel as if she/he were really in that area with the characters.
I’ve mined my real life visits for scenery descriptions as well as tourist spots that characters may visit. I have also set a few stories in places I haven’t been physically but I’ve researched by ordering maps and tourist books as well as talking to friends who have been there. I mine that information to use sporadically in the story to make the readers feel they are there. It seems to work as readers have contacted me to say they feel like they are in the places I describe.
Another thing to add when you've been to the location you're writing about is the smells around you. For New Orleans, the Quarter smells like stale beer and vomit- everyone knows that smell, right?
Or maybe you prefer the scent of powdered sugar on the air as you pass Caf√© Du Monde. LOL! 
A rose garden in England smells different than a woods in France.  See where I'm going with this?
I recommend the above for adding authenticity to your stories and to make them come alive for the reader.  Making your story’s location an integral part of the action will add flair to your tale that readers will love. Try adding the little touches that can make a difference like personal notes or information that a map or tourist guide can provide. It’ll make your stories shine.  If you’re a reader, please leave a comment letting me know your thoughts about scenery and location. I’m curious if it makes a difference if you’re reading about an area you know well if you can tell if the writer has been there or not.
Speaking of New Orleans settings and smells, my alter-ego has a new book out on the 24th of this month. It takes place in that awesome city.  Here's the cover.