Search:
 
 

Posts tagged with: new release

Boxing for Our Servicemen

If you’ve shopped at Amazon lately, you can’t have helped but notice the host of multi-author boxed sets for sale­­—many for only 99 cents. I’ve watched a lot of these bundles hit major bestseller lists. So when Chris Keniston, one of my GH sisters from 2010, invited me to take part in a promotional 99-cent boxed set (featuring a total of SEVEN steamy contemporary romance novels by award-winning authors), I—Laurie Kellogg–eagerly hopped on board. I was particularly excited to be part of the project because our set includes only full-length novels rather than novellas and short stories that many other boxed sets contain.

Fast Men, Slow KissesI was thrilled to learn USA Today bestselling author Nancy Warren, author of over 50 novels, would be the lead author. I read my first Nancy Warren book, Whisper, released by Harlequin’s Blaze® imprint, back in 2002. The sizzling love scenes in this secret identity story are all set completely in the dark and left me still fanning myself over a decade later. (Well done, Nancy!)

Chris has been a masterful coordinator, and Sandy Lloyd did a wonderful job formatting the boxed set for the various venues. It’s been great fun teaming up with the other talented authors, Linda Steinberg, Barbara Lohr, Pamela Stone and, Sandy Loyd who are also featured in  Fast Men, Slow Kisses

Collaborating on this kind of the project can be quite time-consuming since it requires a consensus of opinion and vote on many specific decisions about things like a cover artist, cover art, marketing blurb, finances, etc. It quickly became evident the accounting to distribute royalties to seven authors could become a chore, and at only 99 cents, each of our shares wouldn’t amount to a fortune, separately. However, together, profits could become a sizable sum to donate to a charity—especially if Fast Men, Slow Kisses is successful.

We  immediately agreed no charitable organization would be more appropriate for a group of romance authors to give to than one that helps the real-life heroes who’ve defended our freedom and been left in need of assistance for themselves and their families struggling at home. Since we have both American and Canadian authors participating in our boxed set, we’re contributing our profits to military veterans’ charities in both countries.Wounded Warrior Project BannerToday is release day for Fast Men, Slow Kisses at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Apple, and Kobo. So don’t miss this great opportunity to simultaneously get SEVEN great steamy contemporary romances and help support our servicemen in need for only 99 cents.

Are you part of a multi-author boxed set or considering contributing to one? If so, please share your experience or feel free to ask questions about the process.

Touring with a book in mind

Anyone who knows me knows how much I love to travel, particularly to visit historic sites. Like every other writer, I’ll walk into a building or garden or field and the story will start to grow. I thought I’d share some of the sites I used to write The Counterfeit Lady, which came out August 5th.

First off, if you’re going to have a murder, it has to occur somewhere. When I decided Lady Phyllida’s cousin was going to be murdered and her husband blamed, I knew they had to have a period home. It needed to be just south of upper crust. And then I toured the Linley Sambourne house.

The terraced house, townhouse to Americans, at 18 Stafford Terrace, Kensington, London, was built in 1872 and moved into by the newlyweds Linley and Marion Sambourne in 1874. They lived there the rest of their lives. Linley died in 1910 at the end of the Edwardian era and Marion in 1914 just before the outbreak of WWI. Due to some lucky events, nothing in the house was altered until well after the end of WWII. Then the family decided to hand the house over to the city to be a museum of Victorian life and furnishings.

The four story and basement house was perfect as the layout of the home of Kenneth and Clara Gattenger. I admit I redid the furnishings in my mind to suit a naval architect who grew up poor and his aristocratic bride. But the doors, the windows, the stairs, everything was exactly as I wanted it for my murder.

Even without a murder, the house is a fascinating window into Victorian life. I highly recommend a visit if you happen to find yourself in London between September and June. www.rbkc.gov.uk/subsites/museums/18staffordterrace1.aspx

Another source of Victorian details that I found useful came from the London Transport Museum. Train engines and cars, trolleys, buses, both horse drawn and motorized take up the three level building. Visitors get information on how heavily used mass transit was and what it looked like, down to the seat coverings. Open all year. www.ltmuseum.co.uk

One source I couldn’t take advantage of on my last trip to London was the British Library’s newspaper collection. It was being copied onto microfilm, all fifty billion newspapers, with the copies to go to London and the originals to a protected site in Yorkshire. Now, almost all of the newspapers have been copied and they are available in the newspaper reading room in the British Library. Access is by reading pass only, and they recommend anyone overseas apply before coming to London. I certainly plan to try before my next trip. The building is new and huge, near Kings Cross and St. Pancras rail stations. www.bl.uk

And then there’s the place I want to visit, not because it will aid in writing late Victorian mysteries, but because there’s just something so intriguing about Bletchley Park. Now open to the public year round as a museum, this was where code breaking reached its zenith in WWII and where the ladies of the Bletchley Circle on PBS worked. When it comes to secrets and mystery and danger, this place is at the top of everybody’s list. It’s a 45 minute train ride from London. www.bletchleypark.org.uk

Along the same lines, the Cabinet War Rooms, where Churchill spent much of the war and where the cabinet met, is a treat for any history hound. Unfortunately for those working there, it was just one not well-protected story beneath ground level in the center of heavily bombed London. And Churchill would often go up to the roof of the government building above the bunker to watch the aerial battles at night. I imagine his security people didn’t sleep for the entire war. At the end of the war, the government just closed it up and walked away, opening it decades later as a museum. www.iwm.org.uk/visits/churchill-war-rooms

One of the best things about any of these sites (except the British Library) is the scores of books sold in their gift shops. Research gems you can take home with you as a souvenir of a fascinating tour.    

You can guess my favorite city to tour, which explains why The Counterfeit Lady is set in London in the late Victorian period. What is your favorite place to tour for ideas and settings for your stories?

 

The second in the Victorian Bookshop Mystery series, following The Vanishing Thief, is in book stores now. The Counterfeit Lady features the continuing adventures of bookshop owner Georgia Fenchurch and the Duke of Blackford as they solve a case of murder and treason.

 

Foreign Affairs: An Interrogation Report for Suspected Russian Spy

SUBJECT:  Ex-KGB Agent Nikolai Markov, hero of THE RUSSIAN TEMPTATION by Nikki Navarre

State secrets have never been this sexy.

State secrets have never been this sexy.

INTERROGATOR:  CIA Agent James Riley, hero of AN AFFAIR OF DECEIT by Jamie Michele

LOCATION:  CIA Interrogation Facility, Washington, D.C.

DATE:  Yesterday 

RILEY:  Given these anomalies in your travel documents and your, ah, colorful history, you’ll understand why we need to ask a few questions, Mr. Markov.  Mind if I call you Nikolai?

MARKOV (lighting a Gauloise cigarette): I’d prefer it if you didn’t, Dr. Riley. As I’ve explained repeatedly to your CIA underlings, my name is Nikolai Kirov, and I’m an independent security consultant. A simple case of mistaken identity, no doubt, that you seem to have confused me with this ex-KGB hit man I take it you’re looking for.

Should We Dumb It Down

While revising my new release, A Heart Decision, my editors and proofreaders questioned the accuracy of several words and statements in my manuscript. For example: My hero’s heritage is Italian (his mother was born in Italy). In Italian, the affectionate address for mother is Mamma with two Ms, however, the average American reader believes it should be spelled Mama with one M. So now I’m torn. Which should I use for this hero?

As writers, we all run into the dilemma of deciding whether we should choose accuracy over meeting our readers expectations in our stories. We want our books to be authentic, but none of us wants to receive negative reviews or e-mails from more savvy readers, calling us on the carpet for inaccuracies. Every profession has its unique vocabulary and standards, however, the public isn’t always well-versed on all job-related specifics. The same holds true for historical terms and social customs.

So my question is—should we dumb down our writing for general consumption, or should we cover subjects and use facts, vocabulary, or spellings many readers aren’t familiar with.

In my case, I usually feel compelled to cater to my audience, all the while crossing my fingers that no  authority on the subject will fling my book across the room. The human body fascinates me, so I frequently include medical elements in my stories. More often than not, though, I’m constrained by the public’s expectations of the romance genre and must explain a lot less about a topic than I’d like to. I’ve learned a lot while reading fiction, and I’d like my novels to be informative to readers, however, in order to keep my romances marketable, I can only include the basics of any subject.

The balancing act of indulging my own interests and educating readers, while still keeping most of my audience invested in the story, is like walking a tightrope. If the average reader doesn’t learn at least one new thing while reading my novel, I feel as if I’m failing as an author. So I’m always left wondering if my book quenches my readers’ thirst for interesting tidbits of information or leaves their minds dehydrated.

Today, I’m pleased to announce my 2013 Holiday release, A Heart Decision, which is Book 5 in my Return to Redemption series. Some of you may recall that I posted the cover and blurb a while back, asking for help choosing a title. I decided Janet Gardner’s suggestion, not only fit the story well, but was a humorous play on words. So Janet, THANK YOU. I’ll be sending you a copy of my newest book.

 A Heart Decision Digital Christmas Cover 300X450On her wedding night,

Sabrina will share the bridal suite

with one of her brother’s best friends.

Which one?  She has no idea!

 Sabrina Fitzpatrick helped plan her dream wedding last year—for her brother and his wife. Now, she wants her own Christmas Eve ceremony. She’s tired of waiting for commitment-phobe, Detective Luke Marino, to realize she’s been crazy about him since puberty. Consequently, when Luke’s billionaire friend asks her to marry him, she’s compelled to accept BJ Elliott’s proposal, especially after he suggests their impending marriage might induce his idiot pal to finally step forward. Unfortunately, a week later, adrenaline-junkie Luke risks his life again and ends up temporarily confined to a wheelchair.

 BJ would love to give Sabrina an unforgettable wedding night, but he fears she’ll never be happy with him if she doesn’t resolve her feelings for his buddy, first. Therefore, even knowing he could lose her, BJ persuades her to become Luke’s live-in nurse—offering her one last chance to convince the man she loves to take BJ’s place at the altar (which BJ doubts his friend will ever do). If nothing else, he hopes Love’em and Leave’em Luke can convince Sabrina he’ll make a lousy husband.

 Luke has two secrets not even his best friends know. The first is he aches for Sabrina with every fiber of his being. The second is he loves her enough to spare her the heartbreak that being his wife would undoubtedly entail. Much to Luke’s dismay, his resolve to resist his buddy’s fiancée is tested after Sabrina steps in as his nurse and starts prancing around in nothing but his threadbare T-shirt. If he surrenders to her seduction, it may destroy his relationship with BJ. And, worse still, if he gets a taste of loving Sabrina, how can he ever stand by and let her marry his friend?

To celebrate the release of Book 5 of the Return to Redemption series, I’ve placed Book 4, No Exchanges, No Returns on sale, at only 99 cents, for a few days at Amazon, Barnes & NobleKobo, and I-Tunes. I’m also holding a drawing tonight from those who leave a comment for a digital copy of The Parent Pact, which stars Sabrina’s brother Tyler as the hero and introduces, Sabrina, BJ, and Luke.

Now I’d love to hear how you handle the predicament of choosing between presenting irrefutable facts and commonly-held beliefs.  Do you sometimes dumb down a subject, or do you dare to irritate your audience by including elements that are, in reality, one hundred percent correct but seem totally wrong to the general population?

Trouble with the (Learning) Curve

I’m thrilled to be hosting today’s guest blog by debut author Arlene Hittle. Not only is she a long time commenter on the Ruby blog, but she’s a good friend and great company when we’re out writing at the local coffee shop. She’s also an amazing example of perseverance and dedication…

***

Arlene HittleThe last time I guest blogged with the Rubies, I’d just been named a 2011 Golden Heart® finalist, and we chatted about the Power of the Average Joe. I still believe in the appeal of Joe Schmoe, so it’s rather funny that the hero of my debut novel, DIVA IN THE DUGOUT, is a jock.

But I’m not here to pimp my book (much, anyway).  ;) We’re all writers here, so we dish about writing techniques and the road to publication.

DIVA’s road to publication began the day I got the coveted Golden phone call—or shortly thereafter. When BEAUTY AND THE BALLPLAYER finaled, it was one of two stories I’d entered. Being the practical sort who went into journalism to make money writing while I tried to break into fiction, I decided that if it was going to be the successful story, I’d darn well better have another two or three baseball books to go with it.

Backlist is everything, right?

So DIVA was born—and titled by Ruby Anne Marie Becker at one of our RWA® chapter’s brainstorming meetings, if I remember correctly.

I wrote the story, polished it, pitched it at RWA Nationals in 2012 and it started making the rounds. Rejections trickled in, but mainly the good kind. You know the ones: “We love your voice, love the writing, but …”

At the same time, the popularity of indie publishing was exploding. I believed in my stories enough to start making preparations to go that route myself. I opted to sit out RWA Nationals 2013 in Atlanta to devote the cash I’d have spent to going indie. I hired a web designer to redo my website, signed up for an indie publishing class through Author EMS and began working with cover artist Rogenna Brewer.

Wouldn’t you know it, that’s when Turquoise Morning Press offered me the contract for DIVA. I got the call (really an email) the Tuesday of Nationals week.

What’s that saying? Success happens when you stop chasing it?

Since DIVA wasn’t on my indie-pub radar yet, I was okay with that. More than okay. I was—and still am—ecstatic.

Of course, now I’m on parallel paths, working with TMP on DIVA and going it alone for HOME FOR THE HOLIDAYS, the holiday novella I plan to put out in November. But busy is good.

Here’s where that trouble comes in.

As pre-published authors, we’re told to hone our craft, tell great stories and, above all else, just keep writing. Excellent advice. The promise of publication, of getting our stories out there in the wild, fuels us through disheartening rejections and encouraging rejections, and through the craziness that is life.

Publication is the all-consuming goal. We want it, and we’re willing to sacrifice free time to get it.

What I didn’t realize—although I probably should have—is that once you reach that goal, you just get a new set of concerns.

It’s a whole new ballgame, so to speak. ;)

Problems with writing GMC, pacing correctly and creating sympathetic characters  may still plague your work, but you get all new things to obsess over, too.

On editing: Did the editor get my email? What if she hates EVERYTHING about my story? OMG, what if I have to rewrite the ending? How fast can I turn around the revisions?

Then there’s promo: How often do I tweet about my book? How many guest blog posts should I set up? They say you should go where the readers are (and it may not be where other authors are), but where on earth do I find the readers?

And, of course, the big question: How do you keep writing the next book when you’re neck deep in trying to sell this one to the masses?

What am I getting at? Writing books and selling them are two very different skill sets.

That, too, shouldn’t have come as a surprise. Life is great at throwing us curves. Success depends on our ability to take the pitches as they come. Adapt. Learn. Grow.

 

Let me ask you, dear Rubies and friends, what is the one thing you wish you’d known before the sale?

 

****

Diva in the DugoutIn case you’re curious, here’s the blurb for DIVA IN THE DUGOUT:

Arizona Condors shortstop Dave Reynolds faces the toughest test yet: fatherhood.

After a successful stint in drug rehab, Dave is still trying to outrun his bad boy reputation. When the team’s new owners tell him to shape up or be fired at season’s end, he vows to change. He doesn’t count on fatherhood playing a part in his transformation.

Melinda Cline makes a rash decision: take solace in the arms of a sexy-as-sin ballplayer whose name she insists she doesn’t want to know. Big mistake. Now a single mom to a four-year-old, Mel strives to live as quietly and cleanly as possible. But fate intervenes and she comes face to face with the man who insists on being included in their daughter’s life. The attraction between them is still strong, but it may not survive Dave’s reputation or his attempts to do the right thing.

Can the Condors’ bad boy step up to the plate and knock out a home run for fatherhood? And if he does, will his daughter’s mamma be ready?

Find DIVA IN THE DUGOUT at Turquoise Morning Press, Smashwords, All Romance Ebooks, Amazon. Smashwords will begin distributing to BN, Kobo, iTunes and other e-tailers within the week, I’m told.

****

Arlene Hittle is a Midwestern transplant who now makes her home in northern Arizona. She suffers from the well-documented Hittle family curse of being a Cubs fan but will root for the Diamondbacks until they run up against the Cubs. Longtime friends are amazed she writes books with sports in them, since she’s about as coordinated as a newborn giraffe and used to say marching band required more exertion than golf. Find her at arlenehittle.com, on Twitter or on Facebook.

Light in the Darkness

DEADLY BONDS, the third book in my romantic suspense Mindhunters series released today (hooray!). But rather than blog about the dark, chilling world of serial killers (as much as I enjoy writing villains), I’d like to focus on happier things. After all, despite the ominous vibes, my books are ultimately about hope and resilience. Light over darkness. Rainbows and puppies.

Okay, maybe you won’t find that last one in my books. But even in my characters’ dark world, light prevails and love conquers all.

Ruby Release–Last Chance Book Club

LastChanceBookClub_hi resSavannah White is running from a bad situation, back to the only place she ever really felt loved.  But much has changed since she last visited Last Chance.  For one thing, it’s cold.  Savannah always visited during the summer.  Thanks to the the early spring chill, the town feels different than she remembers.  For another, Aunt Miriam, whose practical caring offered a welcome respite from Savannah’s critical, impossible-to-please mother, seems to be fading since Uncle Harry died.

The changes discomfit Savannah, but it’s what remains the same that presents the real problem:  Dash Randall,  her childhood nemesis, is back home with Aunt Miriam.  Money precludes staying elsewhere, and proximity to Dash demands Savannah acknowledge that the snide, gangly boy she loathed is now downright drool-worthy.  Even so, the animosity founded in their youthful rivalry blinds her to the man the boy has become.

Dash, for his part, has a similar problem.  Savannah is as welcome in his world as another knee surgery.  Less welcome, actually.  The surgery cost him his career; Savannah might cost him the life he’s managed to cobble together since.

Old resentments and jealousies rear their ugly heads.  Forced to live in the same house as Savannah, to notice things that might soften his antipathy, Dash ruthlessly resurrects those feelings lest he yield to his unexpected attraction to the princess whose annual visits made his life hell.

Despite her uncertain future and her best efforts to remain apart, Savannah finds herself becoming woven into the weft and warp of Last Chance, going so far as to play peace-maker when the book club ladies rebel against reading dreary literary tomes and clamor for a romance.  Savannah suggests Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice, a book of sufficient literary merit to appease the town librarian, the driving force behind the book club, while still appealing to everyone else.

As it turns out, Savannah and Elizabeth Bennett have much in common.

You’d think a release announcement would be easy to write.  The topic is set in stone.  The book is read (and, in this case, enjoyed).  All that’s necessary is a brief summation to introduce the story to the world.

You’d be dead wrong.

Last Chance is a place we’ve come to know as well as we know our own home towns.  It’s become real, filled with people who could be our aunts, uncles, cousins, friends, or the crazy cat-lady down the street.  It’s familiar, comfortable, welcoming.

Most of us dislike change.  The very idea makes us shudder and mutter something like “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” even as we know what doesn’t change stagnates.  It takes a brave soul to mess with success.

There is no denying Hope Ramsay takes a risk in her new release, Last Chance Book Club.  There are changes aplenty.  The Sorrowful Angel has gone to her eternal rest.  We see brief cameos by the townspeople we know, but few play a major role; fans of Miz Ruby will see little of her in this tale.  Even the church ladies take a back seat, appearing only now and again to stir the pot and keep the town’s character alive.

Instead, several secondary and mentioned-in-passing characters have taken center stage—to good effect.  Some will be immediately recognizable to anyone who has visited Last Chance in the past, some will tease memories—including the war veteran with a knack for woodwork and matching people with the animals he’s rescued.

Oh, and did I mention he keeps company with a ghost?

This is a story about change, growth, understanding, and self-discovery, none of which would work with the beloved characters from previous books.

Some risks are worth taking.  This is one of them.

* * * * *

Thanks, Gwynlyn, for writing such a lovely summary of Last Chance Book Club.  Since this is the beginning of another series of stories that follow members of the book club, the life of Nita Wills, and a new character names Zeph Gibs, I felt I needed to shift the focus just a bit.

In the next few books, readers will be learning more about some of the younger folks in town.  This allows me to also keep tabs on what’s happening in the lives of previoius heroines and heroes.  Readers have made it clear they want to know.

Which brings me to an important announcement I would like to make here at the RSS blog.  If you’re a fan of the Last Chance stories and want to connect with other readers to gossip about what’s happening in town, or discuss the books, there is now a place to do so – the virtual Last Chance Book Club, which is has been set up as a Facebook group.  You can visit and join the group at https://www.facebook.com/groups/lastchancebookclub/.  I’ll be hanging out there on a regular basis, but I’m hoping that the group will give readers a place to connect with each other.  And I’ll be doing special giveaways and other stuff there from time to time.  But mostly it’s a place for folks who have read the books to come and socialize.

How do you feel about characters in a series of books?  Do you want to know what’s going on in the lives of past heroes and heroines?  Or are you a person who’s happy to leave it at happily ever after?  One commenter on today’s blog will receive an autographed copy of Last Chance Book Club.

HopeRamsay5X7

 

 

Hope Ramsay was born in New York and grew up on the North Shore of Long Island, but every summer Momma would pack her off under the care of Aunt Annie to go visiting with relatives in the midlands of South Carolina.  Her extended family includes its share of colorful aunts and uncles, as well as cousins by the dozens, who provide the fodder for the characters you’ll find in Last Chance, South Carolina.  Hope earned a BA in Political Science from the University of Buffalo, and has had various jobs working as a Congressional aide, a lobbyist, a public relations consultant, and a meeting planner.  She’s a two-time finalist in the Golden Heart, and is married to a good ol’ Georgia boy who resembles every single one of her heroes.  She has two grown children and a couple of demanding lap cats.  She lives in Fairfax, Virginia where you can often find her on the back deck, picking on her thirty-five-year-old Martin guitar.

Her books are available through Amazon.com and Barnes&Noble.

A Valentine’s Day Ruby Release!

Ruby LoveThis year Valentine’s Day falls on the same day as our Winter Writing Festival check-in, so I’m celebrating a little early. Happy Valentine’s Day!

People in young relationships traditionally do something romantic and often extravagant on Valentine’s Day. However, as a relationship matures and becomes settled, we frequently become complacent and neglect to observe this holiday for lovers.

Sometimes it’s because we’ve become overly practical and decide we don’t need to be romantic on cue. As a result, some of us celebrate some other day when there’s no wait for a table at a good restaurant, roses only cost $9.99 a dozen, and heart-shaped boxes of chocolate are marked down to 50% off.  And then there are some who have trouble thinking of ways to be romantic and simply don’t do anything. If you’re like me and you married one of those individuals you might want to read a Ruby blog I wrote in 2010, Valentine’s Day Encouragement for the Romantically Challenged, for a bit of consolation.

In my opinion, rescheduling your personal Valentine’s Day to a more opportune time is great as long as you don’t ignore spending time with your sweetheart and showing him or her the depth of your love. My family moves holidays all the time to accommodate everyone’s schedule. We’ve permanently moved Mother’s Day to the Saturday night before to avoid the mobbed restaurants, so is it any surprise I moved Valentine’s Day?

I must confess, the WWF check-in day wasn’t the only reason I wanted to celebrate today. The other reason is I officially launched my debut novel, The Memory of You, last year on Valentine’s Day here on the Ruby Blog, although, the book was actually published on February 6th. (Incidentally, that book is presently FREE at Amazon to commemorate the 40th anniversary of Operation Homecoming.)

This year, I (and my alter ego, L.L. Kellogg) pushed hard to publish our seventh novel by February 5th, simply so I could say I published seven books in one year. Silly, I know, but it was my goal. And anyone who’s participating in the WWF knows how good it feels to meet an especially challenging objective.

The third reason I wanted to officially launch this book today is because the story actually opens at eleven p.m. on the night before Valentine’s Day. So without further ado (drum roll please), I’m proud to announce my alter ego, L.L. Kellogg, has just released  The Naughty Never Die,  Book 2 in the Seduction series.

The Naughty Never Die Book Cover SmallerAnyone who’s read Book 1 of the series, Hypnotic Seduction, knows there was a minor  suspense element in the story, however, it wasn’t substantial enough to categorize the novel as suspense. This new release was originally called Finding Trouble (the title under which it won the Ignite the Flame and Touch of Magic contests and became a Daphne DuMaurier finalist). It was SUPPOSED to be strictly a romantic comedy, too.

Much to my dismay, however, L.L., in her usual obnoxious way, took the story places I really didn’t want to go, because I DON’T WRITE SUSPENSE. But would L.L. listen to me? NO WAY. She insisted on bringing out the inner Snookie in my uptight, prissy Jersey Girl heroine and threatening her life.

(So maybe you can understand why I locked L.L. in her room today and refused to let her attend this launch party. You should’ve seen the floozy outfit she planned on wearing.)

Anyway, we once again ended up writing a fence-straddling plot. The romance half of the book is laugh-out-loud funny, whereas the suspense subplot is dark and edgy and scandalous enough to make our philandering politicians seem like choir boys. It’s still a Red-hot Romance that’s a Little Naughty and a Lot of Fun, but it’s definitely different than my other novels.

If only the good die young,

then New Jersey’s virtuous First Lady should be a cinch to kill.


Unless….deep down she’s really quite naughty.

The Beauty—a chronic people pleaser who’s had enough of her goody-two-shoes life

Since her mother’s untimely death, crusader Josephine Callahan has served as New Jersey’s First Lady. Acting as her father’s official hostess in the governor’s mansion is tantamount to living in a fishbowl, which makes S-E-X extremely difficult. On the brink of a nervous breakdown, frustrated Josie loses her usual good sense along with her cool and lets her assemblyman boyfriend sweet-talk her into an impromptu romantic getaway–something she would never consider if she had a clue someone is trying to kill her.

The Beast—an incurable bad boy who refuses to admit beneath his scars lurks a hero

A deliberately twisted message, via the governor’s spiteful assistant, misleads ex Special Forces officer, DJ Ryder, as to the true objective of his freelance assignment. He’s told to, not only track down the governor’s classy daughter and hold her in protective custody, but to also teach her a lesson by letting her believe she’s been kidnapped.

When Josie discovers the scarred, but still sexy, badass has played her for a fool, she retaliates by feigning a raging case of Stockholm syndrome, teasing the brute until all he can think of is the ‘hold her’ part of his orders. How can Ryder concentrate on keeping Josie safe when he’s busy avoiding the danger she poses to his heart?

Now that I’ve shared what my heroine, Josie, will be doing for Valentine’s Day, how about you?  What plans to have with your sweetheart?

Do you ever have trouble keeping your plot from going places you’d prefer not to visit—like the sick mind of a psychopath?

Leave a comment to be eligible for a drawing to win a $25 American Express Gift Card.

Risky Business

Have you ever wondered where the idiom, sticking your neck out, originated? Some believe the saying is a metaphorical reference to turtles, which become vulnerable when they poke their heads out of their shells. If a turtle remains inside, it’s safe from predators. However, a turtle also can’t locate food from within its shell, so if it doesn’t ever risk its neck, it’ll starve.

There’s a lesson in this for writers. Publishing is a risky business, and editors pass up wonderful books all the time because they’re unwilling to take a chance on stories that don’t fit the current trend. On the other hand, the books that are given the biggest advances and the most publisher support are also frequently novels that are different enough to grab readers’ attention. That’s why acquiring editors constantly say they want something different—but not too different.

Negotiating that balancing act can be really tough, but if a writer always plays it safe, chances are she’ll go the way of a turtle who refuses to stick his neck out. She”ll starve as an author. If your keeper shelf is anything like mine, the authors of your favorite novels broke some so-called rules. One of the reasons LaVyrle Spencer’s and Susan Elizabeth Phillips’s titles dominate my bookcase is because they aren’t afraid to tackle tough subjects that some might consider taboo or unpopular. They take risks.

For example, in Susan Elizabeth Phillips’s novel, Ain’t She Sweet, the heroine, Sugar Beth, did something most readers would consider unforgivable. And, yet, SEP managed to instill sympathy in her audience for this character, who by rights, everyone should hate. In The Fulfillment (which helped inspire my holiday release), LaVyrle Spencer managed to write a compelling romance involving infidelity and still managed to keep all of the characters heroic.

These authors’ ability to craft such irresolvable conflicts and to find ways to, not only keep the characters likable, but still give them a happy ever after, has always left me in awe. It’s books like these that reinforce my belief that characters can do anything in a story and still remain heroic if the author gives them sufficient and proper motivation.

My newest release, No Exchanges, No Returns, is this kind of risky story. It received a lot of mixed opinions and scores in contests. Judges either loved it or hated it. And, yet, this book got closer to selling than any of my other novels, which I believe is because its surrogate-mother plot pushes the boundaries.

At the same time, this à la Jerry Springer story defies the romance genre’s conventions enough that I feared it would incense some of my audience. Therefore, I considered leaving the manuscript under the bed for my pet dust-bunnies to feast on. In the end, however, my alter ego, L.L., refused to let me leave it unpublished. Any regular visitors to the Ruby blog have undoubtedly met L.L in my past posts and know what a bully she can be. I realize there are other, more fitting adjectives for my alter ego than bully, but this is a PG-rated blog.

Anyway, L.L. kept screaming in my ear, “Grow a pair, you wimp! So what if the heroine ends up with her sister’s ex-husband. Things like that actually happen. This is a great story about sisterly love and sacrifice. Even if some people don’t enjoy No Exchanges, No Returns, a lot of readers will love it. It’s touching, it’s funny, it’s real, and it’s hot—what’s not to like? Do you think E.L. James didn’t worry her Fifty Shades of Grey would offend some readers? Her book has over four thousand 1-star reviews. Name a book that’s hit the New York Times Bestsellers list that doesn’t have something a little different or offbeat in it.”

Don’t tell my alter ego I said this, but she made a valid point. I was being a coward. So I stuck  my neck out and published the book—mostly to shut L.L. up.  Now I’ll just have to wait and see what the readers’ response is.

No Exchanges, No Returns

A new twist on O. Henry’s classic tale, The Gift of the Magi

There were never such devoted sisters…

Dr. David Lambert and his wife, Brianna, received the ultimate Christmas gift from her fraternal twin. They gratefully accepted it, of course, because everyone knows you can’t return a baby like an itchy sweater. Yet, that’s essentially what Brianna does when she has a meltdown and unexpectedly divorces David. She runs from their home in Redemption, Pennsylvania, and leaves their surrogate—her sister, Casey—pregnant with his little bundle.

When David chose her beautiful twin over her, Casey McIntyre hid her hurt behind a wall of sarcasm. Now that her sister has divorced her husband, it’s increasingly difficult to remember why the hunky pediatrician is supposed to be off limits—especially since Brianna doesn’t seem to want him or care if Casey and he get involved.

David always liked and admired his selfless ex-sister-in-law—despite that the sassy preschool teacher is always busting his chops. Consequently, after his wife bails on marriage and motherhood, it’s only natural he turns to Casey for sympathy. Unfortunately, the exasperating pixie becomes more irresistible with each day she carries his child. He already mistook lust for love once and jumped way too fast into marriage. He’s not about to botch up his life that way again.

Casey wants whatever happiness she can grab, whether it’s temporary or not. The only problem is, if she lets herself love her baby (or David), what will happen to her when her sister inevitably realizes her mistake and returns to Redemption?

 To celebrate my holiday release of No Exchanges, No Returns, I’ll be holding a random drawing for a digital copy of the book from the list of commenters.

HAPPY HOLIDAYS TO ALL!

Now it’s your turn to share. In which of your favorite novels did the authors take chances and how? In what way are you sticking out your neck in your current WIP? What concerns do you have about pushing the boundaries of the romance genre?

Ruby Release: Last Chance Christmas

 (Looking for the MAKE IT GOLDEN Contest finalist list? Jump to here.)

I love, Love, LOVE Christmas stories!  Since I also adore the beguiling denizens of Last Chance, put both in one book, and I can’t resist.

Visiting Last Chance is always a joy, but Hope Ramsay has outdone herself this time.  She took a difficult hero, a wounded heroine, familiar characters, added a little Christmas magic, and—Voila!— gave us a story sure to touch the Scroogiest of hearts.

This story brims with subtext, emotion, difficult questions and situations.  It draws us back to a painful time when tensions—and prejudices—ran deep, compels us to remember and forgive, and reminds us that healing, redemption, and love are the true gifts of Christmas.

Thus, rather than interview one of the story’s characters, I opted to peek into the mind that gave Last Chance, and all who dwell within it, life.

Hope, tell us about Last Chance.  Is it a real place?  An amalgamation of places?  Or a product of your imagination?

Last Chance and Allenberg County, South Carolina are made up places.  But the town is very loosely based on Denmark, South Carolina—a place with one stoplight that you’d miss if you sneezed while traveling through.  A couple of aunts and uncles lived in Denmark, and I went visiting there every summer as a child.  Denmark was as far away from New York City, where I lived the rest of the time, as a place could get.  When I first set out to write about Denmark, I used the real place, but I soon discovered that reality can be a major drag, especially when I wanted to give Denmark a quirky miniature golf course.  So I reinvented it.  And of course my imagination took me to a whole different place altogether.  One setting is authentic, however.  The Edisto River Country Club is a real place in Bamberg County, and I’ve described it exactly as it truly is.  As you can see from the photo, the water really is the color of iced tea.

What inspired you to write about a tiny South Carolina town filled with colorful characters?

I know this is going to sound weird, but I’ve always known that someday I would write a story influenced by my childhood memories.  I can’t even tell you when I decided that – sometime when I was very young.  When I finally sat down to write the first Last Chance story – a novel called For Love or Money, which finaled in the 2009 Golden Heart – I had the oddest feeling that I had come home.  I just couldn’t shake the feeling that I was meant to write these stories.  So I guess you could say that the inspiration came from on high or something.

What imp had you name the Rhodes children Stone, Clay, Tulane, and Rocky (aka Caroline)?

Rhodes is a family name.  And when I was a child I thought that my Cousin Clayton’s name was funny, especially since a lot of the roads in South Carolina were unpaved at the time.  If you ventured onto one of those red clay roads during a summer thunderstorm, you just might get mired deep in some slippery stuff.  My 2009 Golden Heart book, which will forever remain under the bed, thank you — was a sideways retelling of Cinderella.  My heroine, an early version of Caroline Rhodes, heroine of Last Chance Beauty Queen, was the Cinderella stand in.  She needed stepsisters, but stepsisters have been done, so instead I gave her a bunch of good ol’ boy brothers.  I thought it would be fun to give them silly names.  Clay was easy.  Stone followed Clay pretty fast.  I jettisoned Dusty, because it’s done before.  It took some serious thought to come up with the third name.  My husband and I were riding down a two-lane road brainstorming ideas when the name, Tulane, presented itself.  We laughed until we cried.

Golfing for God is so well planned.  Does such a place, or something similar, actually exist?  Or is this another gem mined from your imagination?

Once again I have to go back to my 2009 Golden Heart manuscript.  In that story Caroline has to take a visiting English baron on a tour of South Carolina.  Caroline wants to show the baron all the sights of the New South.  The baron wants to go slumming.  He’s got a guidebook with various roadside attractions that he wants to see.  So, of course I had to consult www.roadsideamerica.com to see what kind of roadside weirdness existed in the real world.  (I’m dying to visit the alien visitors’ center located in Orangeburg, South Carolina, but I digress.)  While researching I came across a putt-putt located in Tennessee that was Bible themed.  That place is no longer in business, but I’ve seen photos – the holes were all New Testament and kind of lame, if you want to know.  So I decided to have fun with the Old Testament, especially with the plague of frogs, which always struck me as funny when I went to Sunday School.  And once the idea sprouted, it was like Topsy, it just grew.

Many of the town settings in your books are revisited again and again.  Do you have a map?  Layouts of Ruby’s salon?  How do you keep it all straight?

Yup, I have a map.  It started as a map of Denmark and it’s grown.  I also created a map of the golf course, because so much action takes place there, I had to know which hole was located where.  You can see the golf course map here (http://www.hoperamsay.com/GFG/GFG.htm).  I keep a world building Bible that has all kinds of stuff in it.  Not just maps, but time lines that go all the way back to the Civil War.  I’m seriously OCD.

Having met Stone in previous books, he seemed a hard nut to crack.  Is that why his is the story told during the season of miracles?  Did you always intend for it to be so?  Or did your publisher desire a Christmas book?

Wow, that’s weird, Gwynlyn.  Years ago, when I was first plotting Stone’s book I gave it the working title: “A Hard Nut to Crack.”  Did you know that?

I had no idea!

Anyway, the heroine in that early outline was going to be a ballerina on the lam and I was trying to figure out how to work in the Nutcracker story.  So, yeah, it was going to be a Christmas book from the get go.  I didn’t get very far with this early outline.  And Stone’s book got shelved for a long time (years) while I worked on selling the series.  Once I made the sale, the series story elements had moved on, and Haley’s angel had come into being.  So the Nutcracker idea was jettisoned and I went with Christmas angels instead.  The publisher also wanted a holiday book, so luckily we were all on the same page.

Last Chance Christmas is rife with subtext, more so than any of your other books.  Was this a conscious decision?  Or did it result from the many threads this book finally ties?

It’s a complicated story for a couple of reasons.  The first is the obvious one that I needed to resolve a bunch of story lines, most important, the one involving Haley Rhodes and her sorrowful angel.  But, at the same time, I gave my heroine, Lark Chaikin, a very dark story goal.  She’s come to town to scatter her father’s ashes at the golf course, but she’s undertaking this last request without understanding why her father wanted to be interred there.  She very quickly discovers that in 1968 her father spent some time in Last Chance and became involved in an ugly racial incident.  Lark, a photojournalist by trade, is compelled to learn the entire truth of the matter.  In effect, Lark shines a light into the darkness of the past.  At the same time, the town is putting up Christmas lights, lighting Hanukah candles, and basically celebrating the darkest night of the year as we do every December.  The theme of light and dark runs like a heartbeat through the story, and that was not by accident, because Christmas is, at its heart, a Winter solstice celebration.  Even my heroine’s profession mirrors the theme of light in darkness.  She captures light with her camera.

Will there be more Last Chance books now that the Rhodes children have all met their soul-mates?

There will be more books set in Last Chance.  The next series of three books revolve around the members of the Last Chance Book Club, led by the town librarian, Nita Wills, who is an important minor character in Last Chance Christmas.  The first book in this series, Last Chance Book Club, will be published in April 2013.  In this book, Miz Miriam Randall starts matchmaking for her nephew, Dash.  Any resemblance to Pride and Prejudice, the book club’s book of the month, is entirely coincidental.

Cover Blurb

Dear Reader,

I’ve been wishing for a miracle for my oldest boy, Stone, and this Christmas my prayers might just be answered!

Her name is Lark, and she’s here in Last Chance looking into her father’s past—and stirring up a whole mess of trouble without meaning to.  As the chief of police, Stone sure has his hands full trying to keep up with her.  Ever since his wife died, Stone’s put everything into raising his daughters and dodging the Christ Church Ladies’ Auxiliary matchmakers.  And it’s clear Lark has been through some trouble and could use a place to finally call home.  I only hope Stone can let go of the past soon enough to keep her…

Goodness, I need to stop talking and finish up Jane’s highlights so we can make the town tree lighting.  You come back by because the Cut ‘n’ Curl’s got hot rollers, free coffee, fresh-baked Christmas cookies—and the best gossip in town.

See you real soon,

Ruby Rhodes

Hope Ramsay was born in New York and grew up on the North Shore of Long Island, but every summer Momma would pack her off under the care of Aunt Annie to go visiting with relatives in the midlands of South Carolina.  Her extended family includes its share of colorful aunts and uncles, as well as cousins by the dozens, who provide the fodder for the characters you’ll find in Last Chance, South Carolina.  Hope earned a BA in Political Science from the University of Buffalo, and has had various jobs working as a Congressional aide, a lobbyist, a public relations consultant, and a meeting planner.  She’s a two-time finalist in the Golden Heart, and is married to a good ol’ Georgia boy who resembles every single one of her heroes.  She has two grown children and a couple of demanding lap cats.  She lives in Fairfax, Virginia where you can often find her on the back deck, picking on her thirty-five-year-old Martin guitar.

Hopes books are available in e-book and mass market format at Amazon and Barnes & Noble

* * * * *

To celebrate Hope’s book release, one lucky commenter on today’s blog will win a copy of Last Chance Christmas, and a pretty little Angel wreath lapel pin.  Just to get the conversation going, tell us about your  favorite Christmas, Hanukkah, or Kwanzaa tradition.

Next Page »

The Latest Comments

  • jbrayweber: Thankful weeds…hmm… Am I thankful to those who broke my heart. You fellas taught me more than...
  • Heather McCollum: Thanks, Elisa! Have you seen that show about tiny houses? People live in these 250 sq ft homes....
  • Elisa Beatty: I’m the resident gravy-maker in the extended family….and made it even when I was a...
  • Elisa Beatty: Such a fabulous, wise post, Heather! And, yes, I agree 100% that, much as we may worry sometimes, not...
  • Elisa Beatty: Oh, Lord! These are amazing. I especially love Serena’s comment. Thanks for sharing, D!!

Archives