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Posts tagged with: historical romance

Meet 2017 Golden Heart Finalist Suzanne Turner!!

Today we’re welcoming the second of our three Rebelle guests this week: 2017 Golden Heart Finalist Suzanne Turner, whose manuscript THE LOST CHORD is nominated for Best Historical Romance!

With a degree in anthropology, Suzanne Turner inevitably ended up in law school, where she was voted Most Likely To Start a Cult without Knowing It. Married to a litigator and raising three feisty boys, she knows she’s never going to win control of the TV remote. Instead, she combs the beach for shark teeth and counts a Bloody Mary as a vegetable. Suzanne is thrilled and humbled that her first novel is a Golden Heart finalist. 

Here’s a blurb for THE LOST CHORD:

An earldom cursed by secrets. A family held together by lies. A woman who must choose between love and truth. 

A childhood fever ravaged most of Dr. John Scott’s memories of the dark life from which he and his mother escaped. When on her deathbed John’s mother confesses to arson, he goes to Lillistone Village to search for his real father, but instead encounters a tight-knit family living behind a wall of secrets. John wants to know who he was, but the truth might destroy the man he’s become. 

As a young girl, Alice Hammond could only watch in terror as a fire ravaged the estate of an ancient earldom, burning so fiercely it left no trace of her best friend, a ten-year-old boy set to inherit the estate. Vowing never to be helpless again, she protects her ambitious family from their own mistakes by hiding the ugly consequences. Now, a mysterious physician turns up asking questions, and Alice feels a connection so immediate, so deep, this man must surely be her childhood friend and the rightful heir. Alice has the answers, but can she yield these secrets without betraying those she loves? Most especially, John?

Oh, I love this premise!!! Dark secrets, a hidden past, a doctor hero!! And childhood friends re-uniting as lovers!! You’re pressing all my trope buttons here!! I can’t wait to see this in print!

For today’s interview, I think we’d better all don our dark velvet robes (don’t worry about the heat where you are, folks…it’ll be all cool and foggy in the depths of the dark forest where we’ll meeting. And I’ll bring cake.) Let’s sit down in the shade of some towering sycamores while I ask Suzanne some questions.

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Welcome, Suzanne!! As I’ve said, I love the premise for your book. Tell me a little more about how it came to be.

I’ll start with the process. I have three boys who are close in age and there were years when I was either pregnant, nursing, or sleep-training (FYI, they refused to be sleep trained). Then one midnight, I realized that all three were sound asleep, but I was wide awake with nothing to do. My brain buzzed with unspent energy and a scene came into my head. I broke out the laptop, started clicking away, and my historical romance, The Lost Chord was born.

Awesome!!! There are definitely some up-sides to massive, chronic sleep deprivation. And you finished the book!! And it finaled in the Golden Heart!! Huzzah! What was it like when you got the phone call telling you you were a finalist?

The day before the call, I came home from the Pediatric ICU with my youngest son (no worries, he’s totally fine!). I was exhausted and anxious and was trying to right a house that had fallen into chaos. The phone kept ringing. I kept ignoring it. Then I thought it might be a doctor, so I answered. I had forgotten all about the GH! And when I got the news, I was so floored, I babbled incoherently, danced around the house with my kiddo and texted my bestie CP, Kristina Kairn. We did a lot of gasping and shaking and crying together.

The best thing about being a finalist is the company I get to keep. The Rebelles are supportive, funny, and wise. I can ask the stupidest question and am given the biggest FB hugs! This group is full of creative, sassy, spirited, welcoming writers. 

It’s definitely a sassy, spirited group! And I’m so glad it wasn’t a doctor on that phone. Hmm, so you’re trained as a lawyer, raising a bunch of boys, probably not engaging in mysterious acts of arson on the side. Where did the gothic tenor of your book come from? Do you live in the mysterious and shadowy wilds someplace?

I grew up in Oregon, so I’m definitely all about rain and mountains and long, lonely walks. But as an adult I somehow ended up Florida, where it’s too darned sunny and the mosquitoes are deadly. Also, there is an alligator in the lake across the street, wild boars snort around in the woods, and a bear started showing up in May. Without thinking about it, my sense of place and displacement colors my writing, my characters seem to be in search of home. 

Ah, that does make sense! You can answer that yearning in creating the world of your story (also, the idea that alligators and boars and bears are roaming around outside certainly creates a sense of peril that lends inspiration to a mystery story!!!). But you aren’t writing about a contemporary world. Why historical romance?

I love to sink my teeth into research. Every tiny detail is a mystery to be chased down and answered—what was the most popular color in 1869? What was in the vaccine for small pox? How did one get from Bellagio to Dorset? I have spent hours online, at libraries, over dusty books, emailing questions to museum curators. When I read historical, I want to be so fully immersed that I can taste the details. So when I write historical, I want to give my readers that same experience. 

Ah, yes! A historical researcher after my own heart! There’s no substitute for all those hours of sleuthing, and all that dust. Aside from being sure to do the research, what’s the best tip you can give other writers?

Don’t doubt. Don’t stop. Don’t worry.

Tell that inner critic to pipe it. If you’re writing, whether you’re traditionally pubbed, self-pubbed, or storing it beneath your bed, you’re an artist. Celebrate.

Oh, also, drink coffee. Lots of coffee.

LOL, yes. Behind every great writer is a really, really big pot of java. And now a question from left field: whose your biggest celebrity crush?

Don’t laugh–Alan Alda. As a kid, I watched M*A*S*H reruns and fell for that passionate, dry-witted, functioning-alcoholic, war-weary, life-saving, principled Dr. Hawkeye Pierce. At a time when all my friends had posters of Duran Duran and Michael Jackson, I had my autographed poster of Alan Alda. When I hung it up in my room, my dad burst out laughing and said, “I’m never going to have to worry about you.”

I WILL TOTALLY NOT LAUGH about Alan Alda!!! I had a thing for him myself, once upon a time. Smart, righteous, funny, with floppy hair and sparkling eyes…oh, yesssss. (Any other Alan Alda fangirls out there?? It’s safe to come out today!!)

Now, what question would you like to ask our readers to get the conversation going today? 

I just watched Arrival and I sobbed for the first and last 15 minutes. My husband kept scratching his head and saying, “You know it’s an alien movie, right?” And I was like NOOOOOO. It’s a beautiful meditation on the nature of time and motherhood. 

What’s the last thing you read, ate, listened to, or saw that blew your socks off? 

 

Meet 2017 Golden Heart Finalist Christina Britton!!

It’s another big week with the Rebelles, with Rebelle guests today, tomorrow, and Thursday. Today we’re welcoming 2017 Golden Heart Finalist Christina Britton, whose manuscript WITH LOVE IN SIGHT is nominated for Best Historical Romance!

Christina Britton developed a passion for writing romance novels shortly after buying her first at the tender age of thirteen. Though for several years she turned to art and put brush to paper instead of pen, she has returned to her first love and is now writing full time. She spends her days dreaming of corsets and cravats and noblemen with tortured souls.

She lives with her husband and two children in the San Francisco Bay Area. A member of Romance Writers of America, she also belongs to her local chapter, Silicon Valley RWA. Her Golden Heart manuscript is going to be her debut novel: WITH LOVE IN SIGHT is set to be released by Diversion Books in early 2018.

Here’s a blurb for WITH LOVE IN SIGHT:

Miss Imogen Duncan has had her London Season, but her desperate shyness destroyed any chance for a match. Now an aging spinster, seeing ahead of her a life of servitude to her overbearing mother, she believes her chances for excitement are well and truly past. But a case of mistaken identity and an unintended kiss brings an excitement into her life that she never dreamed of.

Burying the guilt he suffers from his brother’s death a decade ago beneath a life of debauchery, Caleb Masters, Marquess of Willbridge is content enough to meet willing widows in dark gardens to numb the pain. But he is wholly unprepared when an innocent miss stumbles into his life, turning his superficial world on its head.

 Drawn to the quiet, kind girl, Caleb forms an unlikely friendship with her. Soon, however, desire for her begins to invade their time together. Refusing to let Imogen be tainted by his demons, he does everything in his power to fight the growing attraction. But when friendship turns to passion he finds there’s more to Imogen than he first thought. Can Caleb convince Imogen to give him a chance – and to perhaps heal his soul in the process?

 I’m so excited that this will be published soon!! It sounds very romantic (I love mistaken identity and unintended kisses)! Congrats, Christina!!!

It sounds like WITH LOVE IN SIGHT FORCES the heroine Imogen out of her comfort zone. Christina’s here today to talk with us about how she learned to do that herself, with her writing career.

Take it away, Christina!!

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Getting Out of Your Safe Space

For me, becoming a published writer is a dream I’ve had for two and a half decades. Which basically means my dream is a fully mature adult who’s been legally able to drink for several years. It was carefully nurtured in my youth when it was just a seed of an idea, made big and robust with grandiose goals and visions of success. I scribbled away whenever I could, even hiding away in the back room at work. I finally managed to finish my very first manuscript. And then…

Nothing.

That manuscript lay moldering in a box for years. The physical remnants of the faint wisp of a dream. Why didn’t I do anything with that hard-won book? Why did I abandon it?

Life happened, I suppose: work, marriage, children. But I can’t blame my failure to move forward on any of those things. Now that I can think clearly about it, I can see there’s a certain comfort in the dream. There is possibility in it, a chance that it might someday become reality. Even with my manuscript laying dormant, gathering dust in storage, there was still that glimmer of hope that it could one day find its way onto bookstore shelves.

Keeping it in the box is safe.

But, as we’ve seen when heroes and heroines are too protective of their hearts, being safe does not guarantee happiness. It’s stale and stagnant. And I was so safe with that fledgling manuscript. I even went so far as to stop writing completely.

Until.

I do love that word. It implies all sorts of possibilities. I was a stay-at-home mom by the time my ‘until’ came, with my youngest about to start school. What was I going to do now? I agonized over it for weeks. Until…

There’s that lovely word again. Until I went to clean out an overstuffed drawer. Where I found the letter my late grandfather had written me years before. And I read forgotten words penned in his loving hand, his belief in me that one day I would be a published author.

That was my light bulb moment. A moment I can remember so very clearly and that decided my future. With the full blessing of my husband and kids, I poured myself into my writing; something I had let go fallow, yet now was rested and full of new life, the soil rich and ready to make the dream a reality. I pulled out that forgotten manuscript, and scrubbed and polished it until it was ready for the world.

I’d like to say a publisher fell in love with my book, offered me a contract with a huge advance, and now I’m a bestselling author. Of course, if that were true, I would not be so very blessed to be a 2017 Golden Heart Finalist and part of an amazing sisterhood of talented women. Instead I sent that manuscript in to agent after agent, casting aside my fears, shrugging off the confines of the safe path I had stuck to for so long. It was frightening. And heartbreaking. Because, though there was some interest, it was ultimately rejected. Many times. But I had started on this path, and I had people who believed in me. I couldn’t stop. The big question was, what in the world would I write now? I’d been cultivating the same book for two decades. The thought of starting something new terrified me. But disappointing my family was an impossibility.

Then something incredible happened: I came in first in the Romance category for the Writer’s Digest Popular Fiction Contest. Not only was this an affirmation to me that I was on the right path despite all of the rejections I had received, but I also realized that the heroine from that short story was haunting me. She needed her own full-length book. And so I took that character, turned her hero into a rake of the worst sort, and in short order wrote ‘With Love in Sight’.

That book brought in its fair share of rejections as well. But then – finally! – a light at the end of the tunnel. I was offered a publishing contract. I signed with an amazing agent. I could almost taste the finish line. My gamble in emerging from my safe place was finally paying off.

But my journey wasn’t over. And it was about to get more difficult. The publisher closed, and I was left floundering, practically back at square one. Only this time, the hope that had sustained me before had been dashed to pieces.

I might have given up writing at that point. I certainly considered scurrying back into my safe place, where everything was calm and orderly and free of heartache. It was a very dark period for me. But I had so many people in my corner. My family, who continued to cheer me on. My writing crew, who made sure I got my butt in the chair and my hands on the keyboard. My agent, who worked tirelessly at re-homing my manuscript. I kept writing, even when it broke my heart to do so. Soon the future began to look a little brighter. I finished another manuscript. I even entered a little contest called the Golden Heart (you might have heard of it), in the off chance I might final. I was going to see this dream come to fruition no matter what.

Then, in an amazingly short period of time, I received two calls I only ever imagined getting. One, telling me I was a Golden Heart finalist. The second, from my agent telling me I had been offered a three-book deal.

It’s a frightening thing to put your heart on the line. That’s essentially what you’re doing when you hand your creation over to the world. It’s instinctual, I think, to keep it hidden and safe. But by taking a chance to see your dreams become reality, you’re also opening yourself up to an entire realm of incredible possibilities. My journey is far from done. I know there will be ups and downs. But I can’t wait to see where it all takes me. I am so very glad I left my safe place. And I don’t plan on ever going back there again.

 What about you, readers? Everyone’s journey is different. What inspired you to leave your safe place and put your heart out there?

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Connect with Christina Britton on social media:

Website: http://christinabritton.com/

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/ChristinaBrittonAuthor/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/cbrittonauthor

Pinterest: https://www.pinterest.com/cbrittonauthor/

 

Meet 2017 Golden Heart Finalist Scarlett Peckham!!

Today we’re welcoming another Rebelle, Scarlett Peckham, 2017 Golden Heart Finalist in Historical Romance with her manuscript CONFESS, YOUR GRACE.

Scarlett Peckham came to romance as a child upon finding her grandmother hiding on a porch, giggling over a beat-up copy of Whitney, My Love. She quickly stole it, and has never looked back.

She studied English at Columbia University and built a career in public relations, but in her free time always returned to her earliest obsession: those delicious, big-hearted books you can never bear to put down. Her manuscript, Confess, Your Grace, is a 2017 Golden Heart® finalist in historical romance.

An American who has spent most of her adult life in Brooklyn, Scarlett now lives in London, along with her very nice husband and their very sleepy cat. Her hobbies include cooking, running, and watching The Real Housewives while consuming unadvisable amounts of white wine.

Here’s a blurb for CONFESS, YOUR GRACE:

Immaculate, ludicrously handsome, and blessed with impossibly kind eyes, no one would expect the Duke of Westmead to be a member of Georgian London’s most exclusive private whipping club. Least of all: the woman he intends to marry.

Having shed a painful past to become the most legendary investor in London Archer Stonewell, the Duke of Westmead now finds himself in urgent need of an heir. Which means he must search for that rarest of creatures: a wife who won’t question his nocturnal whereabouts, or make demands on his heart. Poppy Cavendish is not that type of woman. A fiercely ambitious nurserywoman hired to build Westmead a garden, she has no interest in auditioning for the role of his duchess. But when their shared obsession with business triggers an attraction that is decidedly unbusinesslike, the resulting scandal leads to something neither of them bargained for: a hasty marriage of convenience. As their thorny arrangement blossoms into unexpected passion, and Westmead’s rival threatens everything they’ve built, no secret – or heart – will remain safe for long. 

**Fans self fervently!!!** Oh, MY, that sounds exciting!! How come I can’t read that right now???

Scarlett’s here with us today to talk about about reading, and writing, romance novels “in the dark.” And not quite in the way you might think. I think this topic will resonate with a lot of us.

Take it away, Scarlett!!

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Allow me to begin with a confession. I started writing romance because I thought it would be easy.

I know. I know. I’ll sit here and wait while you roll your eyes and refrain from pelting me with an old dog-eared copy of Shanna.

Finaling for the Golden Heart — a milestone that took place five years after I decided to try my hand at this seemingly undemanding enterprise and nearly two years after I began to pursue it seriously — has brought into relief just how perfectly wrong I was.

And it has made me think about why I ever thought that this might be easy to begin with.

You see, my entire life, I have read romance novels. Hundreds, if not thousands, of romance novels. And almost always in the dark. In secret.

Meet 2017 Golden Heart Finalist Emily Sullivan!

Today we’re welcoming the second of our fabulous Rebelle guests, 2017 Golden Heart Finalist in Historical Romance, Emily Sullivan!

Emily lives in West Hartford, Connecticut with her pizza man boyfriend and works as a college-level writing instructor and tutor. When she isn’t writing or reading, she is very slowly learning to play the piano. Her goal is to one day be able to play the theme from Murder, She Wrote.

Her nominated manuscript, The Price of Desire, is a late-Victorian historical romance. Here’s a blurb:

It has been three long years since the unconnected, unfashionable, and all together unremarkable Charlotte Alwyn was last a guest at Heathway, ancestral home of the powerful Winterfield family and her best friend, Lily Winterfield, when she escaped in the middle of the night to avoid her guardian’s ruthless scheme to marry her off. Now she is older, wiser, and determined to stop Lily from marrying the notorious Lord Eliot. But she didn’t count on Lord Eliot turning his much lauded charms on her instead, threatening to ruin her only friendship and her already tenuous place in society.

When she confronts his aloof cousin Edward about his lordship’s true intensions, a stolen moment with the man who has done nothing but glare at her since they met reveals an attraction she has never experienced, and she suspects that beneath his steely demeanor beats a lonely heart that could rival her own. However, Edward is not interested in hearts—hers, his, nor anyone else’s. What he needs is to secure a wealthy wife for his rakish, spendthrift cousin before they both go broke, and with her vast inheritance and lack of connections, Charlotte is the perfect target. Edward should be ecstatic, except he can’t stop thinking about or arguing with the headstrong, captivating, and wildly arousing young woman. But Edward is determined to let neither his growing desire nor his pesky conscience intervene with his cousin’s seduction. That is until fate throws a most tempting wrench into Edward’s best laid plans.

But as Charlotte delves deeper into her own mysterious past, the truth she has spent her life trying to uncover could ruin her chance at the love she has always wanted.

Ooh, doesn’t that sound like fun!! I love steely men who glare…and then slowly melt (siiiiigh). I’m looking forward to seeing The Price of Desire on bookshelves!!

Happily, Emily’s sitting down with us today for a lovely bit of drawing-room conversation. So grab your prettiest frock, ladies, find yourself a seat on one of our Ruby velvet divans, and help yourselves to some cucumber sandwiches and scones. I’ll start pouring the tea!

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 Thanks so much for joining us today, Emily! And what a charming frock you’re wearing! Those who’ve joined us for these Finalist interviews in past years know my FAVORITE FAVORITE question is this: What was it like getting that phone call telling you you were a finalist?

I actually thought the finalist notifications went out on March 22nd, not the 21st. That morning I was on my way to work when I kept getting calls from an unknown number. I figured it was a telemarketer and ignored them. Then I went on Twitter and saw all the posts about the Golden Heart and that’s when I began to hope. I answered the phone the next time it rang and got the news! So far the best part about finaling has been connecting with the Rebelles. Writing can be a lonely pursuit at times, so it’s been lovely to be a part of such a supportive group.

Amen to that! Hold tight to your new Golden Heart sisters; trust me when I say those friendships will get you through a lot!! This is your first Golden Heart final, yes? Have you been writing long?

I’ve always wanted to be a writer. I started writing when I was a kid, but I didn’t get “serious” about my writing until college. I’ve mostly had articles and essays published and was very excited when my first short story was published in The Southampton Review this past winter. I would say I mostly write contemporary short stories that I guess would be categorized as literary fiction. In addition to my GH manuscript, I’ve also completed a couple of television pilots, but otherwise my documents folder is a graveyard of beginnings—short stories, a couple novels, screenplays—and for a long, long time the manuscript that would eventually become my GH manuscript was among them.

The Southhampton Review! That’s impressive! So you’re bringing a literary bent to your romance writing. Tell us a little more about your Golden Heart book and the process of writing it.

I got the initial idea many years ago while I was still in high school. I’ve always been interested in the Victorian period and love lush, romantic dramas, but the idea of actually writing one felt beyond me. Even still, I would write scraps of scenes over the years until sometime around 2009 I started working on the manuscript more regularly and it began to have a semblance of a plot. I would write a little, then set it aside for months and months and months. Mostly I worked on it when I didn’t want to work on other writing projects. I felt very intimidated by the Victorian setting as well as the love scenes, but to be honest I didn’t put much effort into getting better either.

Then in Fall of 2015 I had a breakthrough. I was teaching English 101 and it was the end of a particularly difficult semester, so I started binge-reading historical romance novels as an escape. I hadn’t touched my manuscript for the better part of a year, but while I was reading I began to have a better sense of what was missing from it. I started conducting more research on the time period and began to revise my draft. I also realized that if I was serious about trying to write an historical romance novel, I needed to read a lot more historical romance. So, I hunkered down and got to it, making sure to read like a writer, not just a reader. After a lot of trial and error the draft really started to get somewhere. I stuck to a consistent writing schedule and after a couple of months I hit my groove. I did a little writing during the week, but Saturdays became my big writing day and I became very protective over my time. It was an obsession really, and a part of my brain was always thinking about the draft.

I remember thinking that even if nothing ever happened with this manuscript, this was still the most satisfying creative experience of my life, and I actually felt a little sad when I realized I was getting close to the end. It had been my main focus for months and months, and I wasn’t ready to let it go. I finished the full draft sometime in August and have basically been doing line edits ever since.

Awesome!! I’m an English teacher myself, and I think there’s nothing more important for a writer than to READ READ READ….and then to fight for that regular, uninterrupted writing time so you can put what you’ve learned to work! And just look where it got you! What other tips to you have for other writers?

I considered myself a pretty experienced writer before I started working on this novel, but I learned so much along the way. Read everything. Read widely and read with purpose. Become obsessed with language. I have pages full of just verbs and adverbs. Reread your favorite scenes and consider why you love them so much. There’s a great book on this by Francine Prose called Reading Like A Writer. I read it years ago and still find it so helpful.

In my professional life I often work with beginning writers, but a lot of the same advice I give applies to writers of all levels: You can’t be too precious about your writing or your practice, especially if your goal is to get better or earn that ‘A’. You don’t have to accept every criticism, but you should at least be open to hearing about what works and what doesn’t. There really are no short cuts and you can’t wait around to feel ‘inspired’. I never would have finished my GH manuscript if I hadn’t stuck to a consistent writing schedule. Whether you’re writing a paper or a novel, it takes time, dedication, and a willingness to revise like mad.

Reading Like a Writer is a fabulous book! And words are such a fabulous obsession! We’re definitely agreed that well-defended alone time is vital to getting those much-obsessed-about words on the page, but we can’t really go it all alone. Aside from your Rebelle sisters, who are your biggest supporters?

Writing invariably involves a lot of rejection, which can lead to self-doubt, but I’ve always been able to count on the support of my family and friends. When I was a kid my parents encouraged my writing and would take the time to read my stories. My mom even used to bring my stories into work with her and show them to her friends. She still does that, actually. (Thanks Mom!) I think this was a really formative experience for me because they took my writing seriously even before I did. I’ve also been lucky enough to have a partner who has enthusiastically encouraged my writing since we met nine years ago. I once read an interview with Richard Ford where he said, “Marry someone you love and who thinks you being a writer’s a good idea” and that has always stuck with me. My boyfriend, James, has believed in me even when I haven’t, and it has been a great comfort to have him in my corner through the rejections. So now it’s nice to have something to celebrate!

Aww!! I love your support system!!! Great mom, and great pizza man boyfriend!! And the Richard Ford quote is spot on!! Thanks so much for answering all my questions, Emily! Now’s your chance to turn the tables: is there anything you’d like to ask our readers today to get the conversation going?

 Yes! This will be my first trip to Nationals. Any tips for making the most out of this experience, particularly as a GH finalist?

 

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Connect with Emily Sullivan on Social Media:

Twitter: @paperbacklady

Facebook: www.facebook.com/emily.w.sullivan

Website: www.emilywsullivan.com

 

 

 

Meet 2016 Golden Heart Finalist Eileen Emerson!

Today we’re welcoming my very most FAVORITE Mermaid (*spoiler alert*: she just happens to be my CP, my brilliant editor, and my LITTLE SISTER in real life!!!), Eileen Emerson, 2016 Golden Heart Finalist in Historical Romance with AN UNBRIDLED GENTLEMAN.

eileen author photo copyEileen spent years getting a Master’s degree in costume design for the theatre, and then chucked it all to make her way in the world of Corporate America. She eventually turned her creative focus to writing, and began submitting her work to the contest circuit, with excellent results—in addition to collecting notable wins from “Emily” and “Maggie” and “Sheila,” she got a Golden Heart nod in 2012, and is now a two-time Golden Heart Finalist. She lives in Pennsylvania with either two or four enormous dogs (the number depends on whether the neighbors’ dogs have barged in through the screen door), her guitar-playing son, and her professor husband, who manages to be both deeply romantic and really, really good with computer stuff, making him the ideal mate for a romance writer.

Here’s a blurb for AN UNBRIDLED GENTLEMAN:

On the run from an assassin for the past dozen years, Anne Barrett wonders if she can finally stop pretending to be a horse trainer’s niece and try to reconnect with whatever is left of her aristocratic family. But to earn funds for her search, she must first rehabilitate a horse for Lord Norland—a man forced by circumstance to accept his grandmother’s offer of wealth in exchange for rebuilding her once-famous stud farm in Yorkshire.

Thrown together with Lord Norland more often than Anne’s equilibrium might like, she discovers that to heal the poor beast, she’ll also have to help the troubled lord face the childhood trauma that has left him with a deep fear of horses. When attraction sparks between them, Anne and Norland both have more to fear—courting a commoner could ruin Norland, while revealing her true identity could alert her parents’ killer that Anne is still alive.

What she doesn’t realize is that the assassin has already tracked her down . . . .

It’s such a fabulous story, everybody!!!! As Eileen’s CP, I’ve seen it grow and ripen from first concept to the mature version, and I LOVE LOVE LOVE Anne and Norland (and Anne’s dog Tip, and Uncle Ned, and Norland’s hilariously crotchety grandmother, and THE HORSE!!) It’s a smart, sweet, sexy, satisfying, beautifully-written, character-driven story that NEEDS TO BE OUT IN THE WORLD. SOON!!!!

Seriously, SOON!!!!!

(*Elisa catches breath*) . . .

So, anyhow, Eileen’s here today to share some wise words of inspiration from a surprising relative!! (And, no, it’s not me.)

Take it away, Eileen!!

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One of the best things about being married to my husband (besides our terrific son and a bevy of fur-kids), is that our merged ancestry means I can claim Ralph Waldo Emerson as kin.

And Ralph – I can call him “Ralph” now that we’re cousins-many-times-removed – is the king of great quotes.

1-EveryArtist

 

See that? It’s great! And so helpful for someone like me who is often riddled with self-doubt, especially when it comes to my manuscripts. Unlike my sister Elisa, I don’t have degrees in writing from prestigious universities. I have nothing but a teetering stack of writing craft books by experts like Debra Dixon, Chris Vogler, and Michael Hauge. Even that folder of contest certificates does little to bolster my self-confidence.

But Ralph? He comes up with gems like this that soothe my quivering soul:

2-WeAreWiser

 

Isn’t that lovely? Don’t you feel better about yourself? And, do you know what? I think it’s true. After this latest round of edits, I had a real sense that all these gems of knowledge I’ve been accumulating were falling into place, as if the tumblers in a lock were aligning each time I sat down to fiddle with a scene or beef up the dialogue.

3-AlwaysDoWhat

 

Aye, there’s the rub.

As my critique partners have repeatedly told me, it’s far past time that I toss my babies out into the world of queries and submissions. Which has me quaking in my boots. I’m a terrible sissy sometimes, regardless of the fact that I’m fearless about so many other things in my life. Need to know how to bake gluten-free? No problem—just find some recipes that work, and go from there. Need to plant up a garden? Pfffft, grab a shovel and get cracking. What’s the worst that can happen?

But… send my writing to an agent or editor? I’m rendered motionless with terror.

Well, in comes Cousin Ralph to egg me on, to tell me that I have to face my fears and conquer them (or never get anywhere in the publishing world.) What good is my endless tinkering and fussing if no one ever gets to see these stories?

5-Don'tWasteLife

 

Oh, all right, Ralphie-boy. I’ll do it. I won’t waste my life in doubts and fears, and I’ll trust in my knowledge and skill, and fling my manuscripts into fray.

Just after I read through them o-o-o-o-o-n-e more time.

Tell me, readers, what are your writing fears? And how do you plan to face them and do Ralph Waldo Emerson proud?

Oh, and just in case you don’t already think RWE is a stinkin’ genius, I leave you with this:

6-AgeofAWoman

 

Leave a comment below to get a chance to win a PRINT copy of your choice of the books Eileen has edited for Elisa (in her Lara Archer persona). You can check them out on Amazon here.

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Connect with Eileen Emerson on social media:

EileenEmerson.com

find her on Facebook

or follow her ramblings on Twitter: @MsEmersonWrites

(and you can see her 2012 interview with Elisa here)

 

Meet 2016 Golden Heart Finalist Karen Marcam!

Today we’re welcoming another Mermaid, Karen Miller, who writes as Karen Marcam, 2016 Golden Heart Finalist in Historical Romance with her book SAVING COLUMBINE RANCH.

Image_Karen_MillerKaren lives in southern Wisconsin, where she can be found watching way too much HGTV when she isn’t reading or working on a story. She is married with one son who is married himself now. Her empty nest will get a little fuller in the future when he and his wife come for visits, because they are expecting her first grandchild in September.

Karen is a business analyst for her day job, which means she spends a lot of time asking lots of questions and helping people solve problems in their organizations. Being so analytical can be helpful when she is plotting a story, but can be a royal pain when it makes her want to identify every background detail – down to the wallpaper on the walls – in a scene before she writes it.

Karen’s previous role was as a trainer who spent weeks at a time traveling around the country. This is when she finally obeyed the voice in her head urging her to write. That first story she worked on in hotel rooms at night is now her GH finalist. So she is very glad she listened to the voice.

Here’s a blurb for Saving Columbine Ranch:

Widowed mother of four Susan Connolly never imagined she would be raising her family alone on the ranch she and her husband established shortly before he died. If enduring alone after his death is the steep price she must pay to keep her home, then she’ll make sure it’s worth the cost. Cade Anderson has kept to himself all the years since his pregnant wife died and won’t admit why he feels the urge to help Susan now. He calls it saving her from her own foolishness. She calls it one more debt she owes.

But she’s not done paying. When the story starts, a powerful neighbor’s disturbing comments reveal an escalating desire to take her and her land by any means. Even that is a drop in her bucket of troubles when she learns a mountain-sized loan her husband took out could cost her the ranch. With so much at stake, she can’t afford the temptation Cade proposes. His hovering protection would smother her spark of independence like a wet quilt thrown over glowing embers. Besides, it’s a sure bet their smoldering attraction will not survive once he learns how she plans to save Columbine Ranch.

I love her independence, and the quiet protectiveness you’re suggesting in him!! I so miss a good heartland American historical romance (for a couple years now, I’ve heard Westerns are returning!), and I see this Golden Heart nomination as a terrific sign!!

Image of READ keyring giveawayC’mon, everybody—join Karen and I in the local saloon (don’t worry—I’ve sent ranch-hands out to take care of all your chores), and we’ll set a spell and learn more about Karen and her writing journey.

One lucky commenter today will win this sweet READ keyring!!

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So, tell us a little about your Golden Heart finaling book and the process of writing it.

It was a long process. This was the first story I ever wrote, so you can imagine how many revisions it went through. I got the idea for this story many years ago, and let it rattle around in my head for a few years before I started writing it down. My idea for the story started with a mental picture of the first time the hero came to the heroine’s cabin, and continued from there, with additional scenes added over time. By the time I started putting it all down on paper, much of the story already existed in my head. But then I had a LOT to learn about how to get it from my head into words that other people wanted to read. For example, the first version had some serious POV issues. And I had to learn that even if I could clearly “see” a scene in my mind, no one else would unless I clearly described it with my words. Each time I went to a workshop or conference and learned a bit more about writing, I applied the lessons I learned to this story. Since it is my first, and I have spent so much time with it, I am very glad to have finaled in the Golden Heart with this particular story.

What was it like when you got the phone call telling you you were a finalist? And what have you liked best so far about being a Golden Heart nominee?

Oh my word, my “getting the call” story is so embarrassing, I almost don’t want to tell it! On THAT Friday, my husband and I were driving from Wisconsin to Ohio to spend Easter with our son and his wife. Well, my husband was driving and I was reading one of the Courtney Milan books I loaded on my Kindle before we left. It never crossed my mind the GH finalists were being announced that day.

We had a wonderful time with our son and daughter-in-law and after we returned I sat down to read the emails I didn’t check all weekend. One of the first emails I saw was one Courtney Milan sent me on Friday, asking for a way to contact me.

Meet 2016 Golden Heart Finalist Tracey Amey!

Today we’re welcoming another Mermaid, Tracey Amey, a finalist in the Historical Romance category with MY LORD MERCENARY.

Tracey comes by her knowledge of Regency life honestly. Growing up, she spent many sunny afternoons in her Nan’s front parlor in the Regency town of Cheltenham, England. With her summer visits often came trips to the cities of Bath and London, and hence began her love affair with the elegance of the architecture, the spa rooms, and the fashions of the Regency period.

Now she lives in Pennsylvania where she works as the director of a college library. When she’s not writing, she and her husband are hammering, sawing or soldering her old house back into livable shape. Her daughter and a variety of household pets watch with amusement.

Here’s the blurb for MY LORD MERCENARY: 

Heiress Lady Skye is determined to marry someone who loves her, not her money. Lord Lyall, social outcast and unrepentant mercenary, is just her man—he only needs a little convincing.

When an extraordinary sword comes into Skye’s possession, she is certain the weapon is a sign of life from her long-missing brother. After she’s attacked in an attempt to steal the sword, the second thing she’s certain about is that someone doesn’t want her to have it. The only person she trusts to help her discover what the weapon truly means is her brother’s old friend-turned-professional soldier, Lyall.

What Skye doesn’t know is that Lyall has been hired to find the very sword she’s asking him to protect. He wants out of the mercenary life, and the lucrative contract to find the sword will provide him just that. If Lyall’s clever enough, he can convince Skye to give him the sword for her own protection and collect his payment with Skye none the wiser.

There’s one problem with Lyall’s plan—he’s fallen in love with the woman he plans to deceive.

When Lyall’s employer goes after the sword himself, Lyall must decide if he is truly a mercenary or if the heart of the hero he once was still beats beneath his hardened exterior. Even if he saves Skye, he doesn’t dare hope that a woman who risks all for those she cares about would love a man whose past is rife with disloyalty.

 

Oh, delicious!! I love a good intrigue-y Regency!! I’m getting very eager to see these Mermaid books up for sale!

Tracey’s here today to share a very moving story about heartbreak and second (and third) chances, and finding your true self.

Leave a comment below to be entered into a random drawing for Tracey’s prize today: a box of assorted British chocolates, biscuits and teas (Cadbury, McVities, Twinings, etc.). 

Take it away, Tracey!

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TEA_500Even the short version of my life as a writer is a story full of confessions, second chances, and reincarnations. I want to share some of these with you.

Let’s start with my first confession. Twenty years ago, in 1996, I made the Golden Heart finals with my paranormal tale of sinful angels and delightful devils. I had a different name then, a different husband and lived in a different place, a lovely home by the seashore.

In the beginning, my first adult life was magical. I was in love with my husband and my writing. How easy to write about love when I was living a fairytale. That first book didn’t sell, but I kept writing, won a Maggie for my third book and got so close to a contract with Dorchester (anyone remember them?). An agent wanted to represent me. I was on track to be published!

Then, like Bluebeard’s bride, I opened a locked door in my marriage, and the secrets and lies came tumbling out. My world crumbled around me. Once I saw the truth of who my husband was and who I was becoming, I had to leave almost everything I loved to save myself. I took only my dog and a basket of laundry and I ran.

My Golden Heart Book is Here!! Lara Archer’s THE DEVIL MAY CARE!!

LaraArcher_TheDevilMayCare_800It’s release day for THE DEVIL MAY CARE!!!

Let me tell you–I’ve waited a long time for this!! I started this book all the way back in 2009, shortly after my first Golden Heart nomination made me one of the Rubies. At the time, I was sure I was looking for a traditional publishing deal, but as I kept working on the book, the terrain of the publishing world started tremoring under our feet (something we were discussing in Vivi’s blog post yesterday).

So I finished the book, then watched and waited. A couple times I thought I’d made the decision to try the traditional publishing route with this one…but something held me back from actually sending it out. Even after it finaled in the Golden Heart (and won!) a couple years later, I still wasn’t sure what I wanted to do.

mabye top choice psoverexposeEventually, I decided to do a self-pub test run with a brand-new pseudonym, and Lara Archer was born. There she is, over on the right. Trust me, it’s a way better disguise than Clark Kent with his journalist glasses. Even family members don’t realize that’s me (the sunglasses and the overexposure help a lot).

I didn’t want to take a risk with my Golden Heart winning books until I knew if I liked self-pubbing, so I locked those away in my private vault and wrote two brand new books for Lara, and learned the ropes with those.

Both those books are erotic romances. One’s historical, BARED TO THE VISCOUNT, and one’s contemporary, WILD AT HEART. Check ’em out. They’re very hot and lots of fun. I’m hard at work on the sequels to both, and should have them out sometime this summer.

viscountforwebwildatheartwebAnd it turns out I really, really like self-publishing. (Also, I have the world’s most amazing critique partner who’s also a editor with surgical-strike powers. There’s no way I could manage any of this without her.)

Sometime in January it hit me: I wanted to self-pub THE DEVIL MAY CARE, too. And I wanted to up the heat level a bit (something the story was screaming for, anyway) so it would be a perfect fit for Ms. Lara.

That’s part of the beauty of self-publishing, that I could make a decision like that and have the book out in readers’ hands before the end of March.

And here it is!!!

Now for a blurb:

When Rachel Covington’s twin sister Sarah is murdered, revenge requires making the killers believe Sarah’s still alive, so the sheltered governess must take on her twin’s double role as London’s most notorious courtesan and undercover English spy.

Sarah’s former espionage partner, Sebastian Talbot, is assigned to train and protect Rachel, but he seems more interested in vexing her in every possible way. For Sebastian, the mission is a nightmare, a replay of his failure to save Sarah, but with a woman whose unfamiliar innocence threatens to slip past all the barriers of his cynical soul.

Together, they must lure Sarah’s murderers into the open, distinguish loyal agents from traitors, and struggle to trust one another. The slightest misstep may mean Rachel’s death, so Sebastian must help her play her courtesan role convincingly, and that means awakening her long-buried sensuality—a process which threatens both their professional detachment and their surprisingly vulnerable hearts.  

And I’ll throw in a little excerpt, too, from the scene in which Sebastian (the “gargoyle”) taunts the sheltered governess about stepping into her twin sister’s scandalous persona:

“For you to succeed in this mission, Miss Covington, a courtesan is what the world must understand you to be. So tell me: can you play the role? Convincingly? Can you, my quiet, gray, drab little nun, transform yourself into a Salomé?”

Her head swam. Courtesan.

It was too much to take in at once. That Sarah had become such a thing. That she herself was being asked to convince the world she’d done the same.

But the gargoyle’s eyes were glaring into hers, and there was something ugly in them, something that infuriated her. It was not just the implied insult, the one he’d already thrown at her in Helm’s office, that she lacked feminine wiles. No, this was something else, this was . . . satisfaction. A cruel satisfaction. Lord Gargoyle didn’t think she could do it. Worse, he didn’t want her to do it. He wanted her to fail.

Damn him. Her sister had died. Her sister had been murdered.

She had every right to be part of this.

She’d seen that look of his before, on the faces of the few men who’d ever stooped to play her in a game of chess. Most took her on only to shame her, to defeat her, to demonstrate her proper place. Whenever she’d encountered that look, she’d always—however carefully and quietly she’d had to do it, and however mild she’d had to keep her expression afterward—handed shameful defeat to them instead.

Now, she didn’t stop to think.

In one movement, she shifted forward boldly and slipped one palm around the back of the gargoyle’s neck. She’d never touched a man in such a way before, and panic threatened to overwhelm her. She fought it down.

Amabo, mei delicii,” she murmured against his ear. The words of an ancient love poem: I shall make love to you, my delight.

His neck jerked against her hand, but he seemed too surprised to do more. His eyes widened; his breath puffed against her cheek.

Forcing herself to gaze into his eyes, she brushed her fingers up towards his nape, weaving them into the thickness of his hair, while she murmured, “Domi maneas paresque nobis novem continuas fututiones.” Stay at home and prepare for our nine continuous . . . Her cheeks flamed as she thought on the translation of the crude final word.

He gasped.

Then she shocked herself as well: she pressed her lips against his, drawing him closer with the hand tangled in his hair.

His lips were soft, and warm, not the cold marble she’d imagined he was made of. They parted slightly, and his breath pushed into hers, and then it was more than touch, it was taste and smell—the tang of the liquor he’d drunk, and something else rich and dark and hot and undeniably him. An intoxicating combination that drew the whole focus of her body to the joining of their mouths, then somehow rippled out again, sending unexpected waves of sensation through the peaks of her breasts, through her belly, through her limbs.

The gargoyle made a low sound in his throat. A sound that didn’t seem quite like a protest. That didn’t seem to be under his control at all.

At that, she pulled back, breaking the kiss and dropping her hand from his neck as her heart galloped wildly in her chest. But she’d clearly achieved the effect she desired. Helm and Mawbry grinned broadly. The gargoyle stared at her, rather stunned, his eyes having quite lost their coolness. Heat rose in a wave from his body.

Then anger snapped back across his features. “Point taken, Miss Covington,” he snarled. He sat back, and cocked a very aristocratic eyebrow. “Though I think few courtesans can quote Catullus in the original.”

“This one can,” she said, smiling. Ridiculous triumph swelled in her chest.

For once, Lord Gargoyle seemed to be at a loss for anything to say.

 

Check out THE DEVIL MAY CARE. It’s available at Amazon right now!!!

 

Show and Tell Wednesday: Marnee Blake on Regency Adventures

Today we have a special Show and Tell feature from Marnee Blake, a 2015 Golden Heart historical romance finalist.

Now, if finaling wasn’t commendable enough, you should know that this blog was made in the midst of a power outage. Neither snow nor rain nor big bad storms shall keep this Firefly down. 🙂

So without further delay, welcome Marnee! Take it away.

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My manuscript, A DANGEROUS CHEMISTRY, is a 2015 Golden Heart Finalist in the Historical Romance category.  It’s a Victorian-set historical with a bit of a campy, action movie vibe.  My debut, ALTERED (coming in Dec from Entangled Embrace), has a similar action-y feel.  But, an action-y NA scifi thriller is one thing.  The same for a Victorian romance?

Well, it’s a little bit like Sherlock Holmes with Robert Downey Jr.

sherlock_holmes_poster
That movie was a bit gritty and edgy, but still very Victorian.

And it’s got a little bit of Kingsmen: The Secret Service going on, too.

Kingsman_The_Secret_Service_poster
I don’t know how many of you have seen this movie, but hubs and I loved it.  And Colin Firth.  See the movie for Colin Firth.  Granted, Colin’s not in my book.  But, my book has lots of the same sort of fast-paced fight scenes.  More kissing, though, and way less gore.

The setting is unlike most Victorians, too.  It’s more this…

Old door of a poor house, Sperlinga - Sicily

Old door of a poor house, Sperlinga – Sicily


And less this….

Great Hall Ballroom in Rundale Palace, Latvia

Great Hall Ballroom in Rundale Palace, Latvia



The story follows a scientist who is working to purify water with chloride and the illegitimate daughter of a St. Giles crime lord.  They band together to rescue a kidnapped girl and end up untangling an international intrigue. Oh, and falling in love.

So, tell me: what unusual settings do you want to see in historical romances? Or, what historical settings are your favorites?


Thanks, Jeannie, for having me! It’s an honor to hang out with the Rubies!!

Jeannie again: And thank you, Marnee, for the great teaser. Chemistry? Action/Adventure? Historical Romance? I’m thoroughly hooked!  Congratulations once again!

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Marnee Blake is a 2014 & 2015 Golden Heart® Finalist. She used to teach high school students but these days she only has to wrangle her own children. Originally from a small town in Western Pennsylvania, she now battles traffic in southern New Jersey where she lives with her hero husband and their happily-ever-after: two very energetic boys. When she isn’t writing, she can be found refereeing disputes between her children, cooking up something sweet, or hiding from encroaching dust bunnies with a book. Marnee’s debut, ALTERED, an NA scifi thriller, will be released by Entangled Embrace in December 2015. Her writing is represented by Helen Breitwieser at Cornerstone Literary Agency.

Meet 2014 Golden Heart Finalist Charis Calhoon!

Today we’re delighted to welcome Charis Calhoon, 2014 Golden Heart Finalist in Historical Romance.

Charis was lucky enough to work as an intern at the national office of RWA as a college senior. After graduating with a degree in Journalism, she was hired full time at RWA, and eventually became the association’s Communications Manager, editing the RWR and handling public relations at the RWA Conference and for RITA finalists. After eight years, she left RWA with a new baby and a new dream:  to write a romance novel herself.

Since that time, she’s worked to balance writing with stay-at-home motherhood. She’s written three complete manuscripts—two Regency historicals and one romantic suspense—and her current work in progress is a romantic suspense. She finaled in RWA’s Golden Heart contest with her first suspense in 2011, and now the historical this year. She says, “Romance fiction is very central to me.  I’m not sure I could live without the pro-woman, pro-family (all kinds of families) undertones and hopeful, love-trumps-all theme of romance—as a writer and a reader.”

charis calhoonHere’s a blurb for THE EARL NEXT DOOR:

Rich American heiress Piety Grey has fled to England to escape her hateful mother and the oily suitors she forces upon her.  All of them, Mom included, are after Piety’s money, but she protects the inheritance by sinking it into a ramshackle townhome mansion in the heart of Mayfair, which she plans to restore. The new home progresses beautifully until renovations (and Piety herself) spill over onto the property next door—home to the private, prickly, lonely Trevor Rheese, Earl Falcondale. They clash, the kiss, they halt construction by fighting (and kissing), even while the opportunistic Americans arrive in town and aggressively pursue Piety. Now the only thing to protect Piety from an abusive future is…the earl next door.  But can he pretend to be her fiance if he failed so miserably to be her neighbor?

Oh, yay!! What a great storyline! I love everything about it—and that you keep balancing your Romantic Suspense writing with Historical, because I want to read more!

Readers, grab some tea and scones (or for you Romantic Suspense folks, some straight black coffee) and settle in with us, while we learn a little more about what goes on behind the scenes with Charis!

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Let’s start with my fave question: what was it like when you got the phone call telling you you were a finalist?

When the call came in, I was receiving rental furniture to our temporary apartment, and I celebrated with the delivery men. A tree fell on our house in March, and we’ve had to move into temporary housing (with temporary furniture) until our roof is restored.

It was late in the day, because RWA had to figure out my cell phone number (the tree took out our landline).  I didn’t recognize the number and almost didn’t answer it….But then I did, and the Board member (whose name I, unfortunately, lost in the excitement) identified herself, and I remember thinking, “Did I forget to vote on something?”  I had no idea it was finalist day, and I couldn’t imagine why RWA was calling me.  When she told me I was a finalist, I stopped breathing, then I started hyperventilating, then I started screaming.

Off all the books I’ve written, THE EARL NEXT DOOR is my favorite.  I’ve entered it for several years, revising it each time in hopes of…something.  I had all but given up hope, so the joy of actually making the finals with it is overwhelming.  After I assured the delivery men and my kids that the call was good news and not tragic news, I danced around the empty apartment and repeated some dazed version of, “I can’t believe it!” again and again.  Delivery men Moses and Horatio were very happy for me and assure me that they will read my book as soon as it comes out.  (You and me both, guys!)

OMG! A tree fell on your house—that’s gotta be the best excuse for not being able to take the RWA phone call I’ve ever heard! (And, um, sorry it happened to you!) And I love that you don’t remember the name of the Board member who called—that seems to be a verrrry common form of amnesia—but you do remember the names of the delivery guys. Maybe you should send them flowers if you win…. So, this isn’t your first time at the Big Dance. Having been there twice, what would you say is the best thing about being a GH finalist?

This is my second time to final, and without a doubt, the best thing is the bolstering gush of VALIDATION you receive in the otherwise futile vacuum of, “Why Am I Still Trying?”

The validation is definitely powerful! So, are you going to Nationals again this year? It must be a pretty different experience from being on the other side of the RWA desk—especially being a Finalist!

When I worked for RWA, I attended eight RWA Conferences…arriving before the Board meeting at the beginning and staying for days after to clean up at the end. It was the culmination of our year, our biggest push/effort, and I loved it. Fast forward ten years of stay-at-home motherhood with writing on the side. When I returned to the Conference in 2012, I was an RWA member and Golden-Heart finalist; and it was STRANGE to be on the other side, almost…”imposter-esque.” It made me nervous and jumpy, and I ended up touring the host city of New York with my date (my mother) for much of the week.

I knew a lot of people in RWA, but they were all NYT-best-selling authors that I used to accompany to interviews or established authors who I had hired to write for the RWR. They were former Board members. Beyond saying hello, my “place” was no longer with them. Even though the RWA Executive Director is a dear friend, I couldn’t hang out with her or the other staff—that would be weird and counter-productive. Yet, I hadn’t joined my local chapter, and I didn’t really know anyone at my same place in the writing journey. I was…unprepared to navigate the social/networking aspects of RWA, because I didn’t really know where I fit in.

Nora Roberts used to say (and I’m sure she still does) that your closest writing friends are the women in your own “class”—so, the people “you come up with.” Even though she is arguably the best-selling romance author in the world, her closest writing friend is a much lesser-known category author who published about the same time as she did, back in the late ’70s, early ’80s.

This year, I have vowed to approach the whole thing differently.  I have still not joined my local RWA chapter (won’t go into excuses here!) but I do have a critique partner, and she is coming to the RWA Conference. We correspond every day and trade pages, but I have never met her in person. I am so looking forward to giving her a hug in San Antonio. And I want to make new friends and contacts. I can be reserved and tentative about this in a new setting…and it’s even weirder in a new/old setting…but I’m determined.

Most writers I know are introverts, and need a little coaxing to navigate the Nationals social whirl. Guaranteed: you’re never the most nervous person in the room. And hopefully you’ll meet some new friends today—our Finalist guests often tell me people at conference recognize them from their guest blog, and come to say hello. (Quick, everybody: take another look at Charis’s picture and be sure to at least give her a wave when you see her!)

Okay, next question: you’ve been immersed in the romance writing world for awhile now, from different angles. What are some of the most important things you’ve learned so far about the publishing industry and what writers need to do to get a foot in the door, and/or thrive?

Some of the best advice I have heard (or experienced) is, don’t submit until your work is ready.

I wasted a lot of contacts and industry-insider “short-cuts” from my years at RWA by submitting manuscripts that were still in the “learning” phases.  I thought I was ready…but I was not.  Some people may disagree…say, “Be aggressive early!” or, “Put yourself out there!”  But I wish I had held off, worked with a critique partner, had more readers, evolved my voice and my pacing before I started to pitch work that was really a beginner effort.

Of course, this can also back-fire. Now that I may (possibly) be ready, I hold back on submitting because…what if I’m STILL not ready?  How can you ever really be sure you’ve reached your so-called A-Game?  It’s a fine line, but simple rules and guidelines can help.  Is the book an appropriate length (I have beginner efforts that are nearly 600 pages long!)? Are your goals, motivation, and conflict intact?  Have you created heros and heroines that fit the archetype for romance?  (This is not always essential, but it can’t hurt in the beginning.  Prostitute heroines can be a hard sell. So are heros who are something like…florists.) Mostly, are you getting multiple positive comments from HONEST readers?

An straight-shooting critique partner is essential, I’d say. I can’t believe I toiled for so many years without one.

Hallelujah for straight-shooting critique partners!! And I hear you 100% on the thinking-you’re-ready-before-you’re-ready / then-second-guessing-yourself-forever conundrum. Sigh. But I sense you’re ACTUALLY ready now. With two GH nominations in two different categories, and several manuscripts under your belt, you’re somebody to reckon with.

Speaking of being a multi-genre writer—and in such very different genres!—what are your creative inspirations? Books? TV shows? Movies? Pop culture stuff? Do you have a favorite author…or several?

Oh, my goodness, I love pop culture….You may be sorry you asked.

Where movies are concerned, I like anything hopeful. Anything from indie films like, “In A World” or “Safely Not Guaranteed;” to sentimental, it-all-works-out-in-the-end movies like “Million-Dollar Arm;” to movies designed for 14-year-old boys, such as “Transformers” or “Battleship.” And my husband and I also love a good “dance-off” movie…where one “crew” of teens dance-battles another…generally so that an outsider to the dance world may prove to his/her parents that dancing is a legitimate pursuit. Love it. These movies almost always come out in the Sahara-movie-month of February, and we always see them opening weekend with the handful of other dance-off enthusiasts in the world.

What I will not watch is/are tragic movies, films that feature drug use, hazing, or beloved pets that die. I hate unhappy people floundering in their own futile unhappiness; movies without a single female character; and movies where no character is redeemable or “good.” Except for the original “Star Wars,” I’m not big on Outer Space. My favorite movie of all time is probably….”Speed.”  ….Or “Sense and Sensibility.”  Exactly what I write.  Go figure.

I read romantic suspense that is heavy on the ‘adventure/thriller’ side of suspense (not the mystery side) and Regency historicals.  My favorite authors are Suzanne Brockmann, Pamela Clare, Loretta Chase, and Julie Ann Long.

Outside of romance, I’ll read general fiction if it is HOPEFUL.  Maria Semple (“Where’d You Go, Bernadette?”) or Maggie Shipstead (“Astonish Me”) or Jennifer Weiner (“Then Came You”) are some recent books I devoured.

My favorite television show of all time is Veronica Mars.

LOL…”Speed,” “Sense and Sensibility”…what’s the diff, right? At least you’ll never get bored! (And you’re probably the 85th person to tell me of the wonderfulness of Veronica Mars, which I’ve never seen. Must get on that.) Anyhow, you’re clearly a complex and multi-layered person. What aspects of your personality would you say are most valuable to you as a writer? What aspects (if any) make the writing life more difficult?

My minor in college was Theatre, and I find writing dialogue to be a lot like improvisational acting.  You are basically typing out a “scene,” as it comes to you, fast and furious, in your head.  I love dialogue, and my books have a lot of “talking.”

I am also a controlling person (ask my poor husband), and that “control” carries through to my writing in a frustrating way.  My critique partner says I will write:  “She picked up the spoon, she raised it to her lips, she placed it in her mouth and relished the steaming soup to rolling down her throat, burning a path to her stomach….”  When I could (should!) simply write, “She ate.”  I am trying to reign in my need to micromanage my characters and the way readers meet them.

Ooh, ooh! Me too on the former actor / dialogue connection! Which is so great for historicals especially (hint, hint. Okay, also good for Romantic Suspense tough guy sass, but still. I want more historicals!!). And the micromanaging character behavior—sigh, I do that, too. I’m always trying to learn to cut it down to ONE actually interesting detail that synchs with the character’s emotional state. Like maybe if she’s having an angry conversation with the hero while eating that soup, stick with “Her soup burned a path to her stomach.”

One last thing: What question would you like to ask our readers to get the conversation going today?

I’d simply love to know what everyone is reading….What new or lesser-known author has blown you away recently?  I don’t have much time to read, but it’s one of my favorite things to do.  I’m always looking for the author or series that I haven’t yet met.

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