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Posts tagged with: romance

Let’s Talk – Disabilities in Romance

I’m writing this post today from Duke Cancer Center where I will be talking to third-year medical residents as a survivor of ovarian cancer (Survivors Teaching Students is a nationwide program – https://ocrfa.org/get-involved/survivors-teaching-students/ ).  

As I watch the people move before me, I am awed at some of the conflicts, determination, and love that I see. These people (and I can proudly say that I was one of them) are heroes and heroines, battling against foes plaguing their bodies. They often have husbands, wives, and partners with them.

When we, as authors and readers, talk about increased diversity in romance, we often jump to race and sexual orientation diversity. We’ve made great strides in offering readers wonderful stories in these areas, however, I still do not see many disabled heroes and heroines in romance.

Decades ago I met a young writer at a conference who had just pitched a story idea with a blind heroine. She was told by the agent that she would not be able to sell a blind heroine to a publishing house. Do you think this is still true?

Some say that readers want fantasy when they read romance. That bringing the challenging conflicts that come with a disability to a romantic story could turn readers off. But with television shows like ABC’s Speechless, with a main character with cerebral palsy, I believe the tides have begun to turn.

 

My Highland Hero shaving my head when my hair started falling out. He shaved his too.

As an ovarian cancer survivor, I’ve thought about writing a heroine with cancer. Of course, she will live as I only write happy endings and that is what readers of romance expect. But as I toss and twist the plot in my mind, I realize that the story actually falls more into the category of realistic fiction than romance because the fight for the woman’s life becomes the focus and not the building relationship. Can such conflicts overshadow the romance, thus shunting the book out of the romance genre?

There are all types of disabilities, some much easier to deal with than others. I could easily see a dyslexic heroine or an amputee. I’d like to read a romance between a cancer warrior heroine and a doctor. The whole taboo thing about patient/doctor boundaries would be so interesting to explore. The military book I read while judging last year’s Ritas had a very strong hero dealing with the loss of his leg and phantom pain. The core story still remained about the growing relationship.

But what about someone with bipolar depression or complete paralysis from a spinal injury? Would these types of disabilities be too much for the casual reader? Or would these books open a view into the struggles that come with these conflicts, pulling readers into the richness of the characters? However, again, would the focus in these books end up being on the physical/mental conflicts rather than the romance, making these books realistic fiction with romantic elements?

What do you think? I think we’ve come a long way in areas of diversity over the last decade, but I still don’t think all people are represented in romance. Do you have examples of diverse heroes and heroines with disabilities? Do you think there is a market for such romance? What type of diverse heroes and heroines would you like to see in romantic literature?

 

And before you leave, since it is still September, which is Ovarian Cancer Awareness month (and I’ve got my teal on!), please remind yourself of the symptoms of this sneaky, vicious disease.

 

Bloating that is persistent

Eating less and feeling fuller

Abdominal pain

Trouble with your bladder

Other symptoms may include: fatigue, indigestion, back pain, pain with intercourse, constipation, and menstrual irregularities.

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Hi! When I’m not writing Scottish Historical romance and driving my kids around, I’m an educator and advocate for Ovarian Cancer Awareness. When I was diagnosed six years ago, I barely knew even one symptom of this very quiet disease, which is the most deadly of the GYN cancers. If you are a warrior, survivor, or just want to chat, please feel free to contact me at Heather@HeatherMcCollum.com . I’m an “open book” when it comes to talking about my OC experiences. Heather

 

 

 

Putting on Your Big Girl Pants

liztalley_princenotsocharming2500So this isn’t going to be one of those how-to posts some of the Rubies are so good at (I’m looking at you, Hope Ramsay :))

But this, rather, will be more confessional. See, I’m going to totally get naked here. Don’t worry. You won’t have to look at this 44 year old pudgy body, but I will open up about my career – the good, the bad, and the meh – for the last year.

Let’s begin with a brief bio: finaled in Golden Heart, sold first book three months later, sold two more five months later, embarked on career with Superromance, signed 8 book deal, realized publishing was changing, stuck in 8 book deal, signed book deal with Berkley, signed short story with Storyfront, sold two books to Montlake, turned down three book deal with Harlequin, subbed two more books with Montlake, got rejected, writing a new proposal…

And six years later, here I am. In that time, I’ve had some bright moments – a Rita final, RT Superromance of the Year, Amazon book of the month. But I’ve had some bad times too, namely, realizing I can’t control what happens. I CAN’T CONTROL WHAT HAPPENS.

What looks to be a sure thing, turns south quickly. And thus, this is where we are in publishing. So what, you may ask?

Indeed. So what.

Well, here’s what. All this time I thought if I wrote good books I believed in, if I made my deadlines, if I jumped through publisher hoops, and if I smiled a lot and was agreeable that I would reap the rewards of my efforts. That’s what we tell ourselves, right? That’s what we tell our children. That hard work pays off. Except sometimes it doesn’t.

It just doesn’t.

So two weeks ago, I made a HUGE decision to take the series my publisher felt all meh about and publish the remaining books myself. You may be like “So? Lots of authors do this.” But it feels bigger than that. Because this wasn’t about tossing something out there and seeing what happens. It’s about the foundation of what I believed being shaken, about me losing some faith in what I thought I knew and about me putting faith in myself. So for me, it was big. I quickly set about getting covers (that look awesome, btw), finding an editor (done) and creating my own publishing company – ARTalley Books, LLC. I applied for my EIN and uploaded the first offering Prince Not So Charming to Amazon. In two weeks’ time, I changed my destiny.

Here’s the whole point of this post – I resisted taking action for far too long. I didn’t believe in myself, and though I’m still quivering in my slippers, I now believe in myself, and something about this is freeing.

Yes, freeing.

I did it myself. Myself. Like a big girl. LOL.

And, though I’ve heard so many people rave about self-publishing (and just as many complaining about it), I never understood how empowering it is to make your own decisions. I chose the cover and I wrote the blurb. I selected my own meta data and figured stuff out. I’m still blown away by myself. Which is silly, but it’s true. I sort of want to huff on my fingers and polish them on my shirt. Did you see what I just did? Yeah, me. I started a business.

So what does this mean for you and what’s the point? Um, honey (and I say that in a non-offensive, non-patronizing way), if I can do it, you can too. And I’m not merely talking about self-publishing. I’m talking about writing that book you’re scared to write or starting that editing business you’ve been mulling over for months. Or maybe it’s something non-writing related – running a marathon, leaving that jerk, or quitting your day job. Deep down you know what is right for you. Stop doubting who you are, stop making excuses. Put on your big girl pants and get busy.

It’s beyond time.

 

Liz Talley is the new owner of ARTalley Books, LLC. She has published twenty-one stories the traditional way, but as of Nov. 17th, she’ll be doing some things her way. And that has her pumped! You can find out more about the newly bold Liz at http://www.liztalleybooks.comor find her on FB at https://www.facebook.com/liztalleybooks/.

Oh, and if you want to support her new business and get a fun little novella in the process you can buy Prince Not So Charming here http://bit.ly/PrinceNotSoCharming

Brainstorming Unusual Character

 

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Oops. The Ruby calendar had a few holes, so I thought we’d talk weather today. Not what it’s like in your area (however, you certainly can share), but how weather is used in our novels to trigger change in our characters’ lives. We know the well-worn cliché of the hero and heroine trapped in a cabin during a snow storm, but we don’t want to do cliché. We want to write fresh ideas

Did you see THE POSEIDON ADVENTURE? How about THE GRAPES OF WRATH? Those are two off the top of my head movies/books where weather was the catalyst for change in many lives.

I’m about to begin a new story for my PERFECT LOVE line and I’ve been brainstorming, thinking about my characters and how I can use weather to change their lives, and/or to up the conflict and anxiety. I’m thinking a flash flood wipes away the wedding set-up, thus putting everything on hold. Enter in a contractor who steals the maid of honor’s heart from the groom’s brother.

Here are a few others examples:

A high heat index causes a blackout situation, sending the tenants of an apartment building to the cool basement.

Lightening brings down a tree limb causing a car accident.

A hail storm causes a delay in a flight.

A sunny day on the beach causes a severe sunburn and sends the victim to the ER—step onto the page Doctor do-me- good.

Hot day melts all the icing on the cupcakes, or the wedding cake, the heroine has made.

While camping, a calm night has the heroine hearing every twig snapping, causing her to build big a really big fire which gets out of control.

A sand storm causes a woman to lose her way on the back roads of Arizona.

Okay, this is an interactive blog, so come on, think out of the box, and share your ideas for ways weather can affect your story, or share an example of something you’ve read.Golden Sun

 

 

Spice Up the Romance

This is a hectic time of year. After September, it’s a slippery slope right into the winter holidays. So we often forget that most important someone in our lives. Taking the time to remember why and how you love someone is incredibly important and can also be lots of fun!christmas-countdown[1]

 Now I know you know (my eyebrows raised as I take on a well-meaning lecture pose) that the heroes in all the books you read and/or write are not the type of guys you see on the street or in the Lazy Boy next to you in the family room (compare the 2 below). But they certainly can have bits and pieces of the heroes we love in books. Whether we’ve given our oath to love them forever or if we are just trying things out with a potential love-of-our-lives, we owe it to ourselves and the relationship to whip up some sweet and spicy romance. Here are a couple easy ideas to get you planning.

 football guyhotguy reclining

 

 

 

 

 

 

1. Pick a scary movie and go on a date. Snuggle close during the scary parts. Or rent an old horror flick, cuddle and laugh at the cheesy effects.

whisper2. Learn a sexy phrase in another language (there are pronunciation options on some translation sites). Leave the phrase written in a note and then whisper it in his ear.

3. Write a dirty limerick and leave it for him. There are plenty to copy if you can’t come up with your own. My hero, Will Wyatt, in UNTAMED HEARTS is a pirate who can come up with a dirty poem right on the spot! Here is one Will spun off the top of his head (his tamest one ; ). I DON’T recommend leaving this one for your husband though!Untamed_Hearts_500

 

There once was a girl from Madrid,

Who married a dandified prig,

So at night she would creep

To her bloke down the street

Who loved her clean out of her wig.

 4. Pack a thermos of hot chocolate and two mugs. Find a dark, empty field for date night. Don’t forget the cozy picnic blanket so you can enjoy warming each other up under the stars. If all goes well, you can put this scene in your own romance novel!picnic

 

 

5. Write a sexy note in code and leave it in his lunch or on the seat of his car. Text or e-mail him the key so he can decipher the note. If you can’t think of something, borrow a line from your favorite romance book. He’ll never know!

code key

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

6. Pretend to read his palm and tell him all the things he should do to increase his love life (and not just washing the dishes).

 

 

7. Make a special drink and tell him it’s a love potion. Drink it together and see what happens.

Coctails

 

 

 

 

 

 

 8. Book an all-inclusive, adults-only stay at a 5-star resort in the tropics with a swim-up bedroom and a beach butler to bring the two of you drinks on the beach. Gourmet dining, dancing, kayaking, moonlit walks…Oh yes, I’m doing this one! Actually I am, for my 20th wedding anniversary. No really – my hubby and I leave tomorrow at the ungodly hour of 4 AM. I plan to post pictures on FB. You can check some out at (HeatherMcCollumAuthor on FB). I’ll be sure to only post the non-naked ones (wink, wink). This is the first vacation (for more than 2 days) that we’ve taken together without the kids since our honeymoon. Eeks – I’m so excited! 

ElDorado

So let’s hear your ideas for spicing up your love life. What have you crazy kids done to stoke the romantic fires or maybe want to try (La, la, la, la! PG-13 please!)?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Take a Walk on the Wild Side

Hello everyone! Today I want to talk about a promotional idea, one that I and another writer are trying out, even as you read this.

Most readers have a preference of subgenres, and some will not dare to dangle even a toe into the other genre pond.  Romantic suspense readers might easily pick up books with contemporary, edgy covers while passing on books with Jane Austen type gowns gracing the cover. Historical readers might go for the stories featuring a hero in a kilt or with a sword. I, myself, pick up a British historical romance before a contemporary military or western romance. I know what to expect in the English and Scottish settings and language, especially when reading my favorite authors. The stories are comfortable and the “ride” I take to reach the end of the journey is as familiar, fun and wonderful as usual.

Untamed_Hearts_500The Perfect Hostage

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

So when my publicist recommended that I do a joint blog tour with an author who writes contemporary romantic suspense, I wasn’t sure it would work. My novella, UNTAMED HEARTS (Buy Link Untamed Hearts) is a 16th century romance that follows a pirate into the Scottish Highlands. The other author, Misty Evans, was releasing a romantic suspense novella, THE PERFECT HOSTAGE (Buy Link Perfect Hostage) featuring a Spec Ops hero from her Super Agent Series. Completely different settings with a completely different readership.

As Misty and I discussed our two seemingly opposite novellas, we realized that both involve characters taking a large risk. Our heroines take a “walk on the wild side” and try something new. And in both cases, the payoff is hugely gratifying.

That got us thinking about the benefits of taking risks, stepping out of the box and diving into something completely different. Aha! This was something we could suggest to readers. So I did a little easy research on the benefits of stepping outside the box and trying new things.

The following quotes are from The Franklin Institute of Science and discuss our brain health.

“Mental stimulation improves brain function and actually protects against cognitive decline…”

“Throughout life, your neural networks reorganize and reinforce themselves in response to new stimuli and learning experiences.”

“Consider your brain a muscle, and find opportunities to flex it. ‘Read, read, read,’ says Dr. Amir Soas of Case Western Reserve University Medical School in Cleveland.”

The article gives various ways to improve cognitive strength throughout our lives.  It recommends physical activity, learning a new language, as well as using your non-dominant hand for tasks like brushing teeth or moving a computer mouse. Basically doing something new or trying to do something familiar in a different way.

All reading stimulates the brain and reading something outside a person’s area of familiarity could add even more stimulus. So we’ve asked our readers to “take a walk on the wild side” and try out a different subgenre of romance. If they usually thrill at a man packing a semi-automatic and riding a motorcycle, we’ve asked them to take a look at my swashbuckling pirate stuck in the Scottish Highlands. If their hearts thump wildly while reading about a man in a kilt brandishing a lethal claymore, we’ve asked them to give a Special Ops agent, snowbound in a chalet, a chance. Our books are novellas so the time and monetary commitment is small (Both novellas are only $0.99 right now). And who knows, maybe after wading in the other pond a reader might decide to plunge into the other subgenre altogether.

I don’t know if it will work and I don’t think we can track numbers on it, but it is something new to try. The more we can promote each other and other subgenres, the more opportunity we create for readers to expand their reading preferences. And that will help all of us. So if you are contemplating a joint endeavor to promote, don’t rule out authors who write in completely different subgenres than you. Taking a “walk on the wild side” might be a perfectly fun way to broaden your readership.

Has anyone else tried something like this before, and did it work?

Do you have any suggestions for “outside the box” promotion?

 

More information about Heather McCollum can be found here on her web site: http://www.HeatherMcCollum.com. She can also be found on Twitter at https://twitter.com/HMcCollumAuthor and on FB at https://www.facebook.com/HeatherMcCollumAuthor.

More information about Misty Evans can be found here on her web site:

http://www.readmistyevans.com/ . She can also be found on Twitter at https://twitter.com/readmistyevans and on FB at https://www.facebook.com/AuthorMistyEvans .

I want my HEA

Shailene Woodley is going to be big in 2014, with two highly-awaited films releasing this spring: Divergent (March) and The Fault In Our Stars (June). I probably won’t see either.

I want happily-ever-afters. I prefer for books to end on a joyful, uplifting, satisfying note. If I know in advance that a story will end sadly, I’m not likely to pick up the book.

There was an agent who once wrote this wonderful blog post about her personal preferences in fiction. She said that she only represented a narrow set of subgenres.  She compared her taste in books to her taste in foods. Some things she liked. Some things she didn’t.  If she rejected a manuscript, it wasn’t a commentary on the quality of the work. It was just a choice.

Chocolate Cake Slice with Raspberries

That makes a lot of sense to me. I’m allergic to chocolate, and cilantro turns me into a snarling crazy woman. I’m sure they’re delicious; they’re just not for me. I’ll stick with vanilla.

I write YA. Divergent  and The Fault In Our Stars are huge in the YA market. So is Hunger Games.  I haven’t read them. I may be the only YA author on the planet who has not picked up the really big series of the past few years, and that’s okay. My friends assure that they’re all fabulous books and I believe them.

But that leads me to the thing I appreciate most about romance fiction. It’s knowing that the ending–however the author works it out–will be hopeful. I want justice to be served and love to prevail. My TBR pile is filled with HEAs.

smoke rises from music box, genie's green eye watches through smoke

Confession time. Do you have a popular book/series you haven’t read or a blockbuster film you’ve never seen? Are there genres or sub-genres that you avoid?  Let’s celebrate the diversity–the flavors–of the fiction market (and just be glad that there is room for everyone!)

 

Elizabeth Langston is a 3-time Golden Heart finalist. A Whisper In Time (book 2 of the Whisper Falls trilogy) releases 8 April 2014.  I Wish, her “Ruby GH”, will release in November 2014. (Shailene Woodley would be perfect as the heroine Lacey!)

Visit Elizabeth’s blog by March 15 to enter a giveaway of her debut book Whisper Falls.

 

 

Ruby Release: His Uptown Girl (with a side of flawed character)

When I set out to write this blog post, I had a million things racing through my head I wanted to say, but as I sat down and faced the blank page, all the brilliance faded.  In its stead was “Whaaaat?” Amy_UptownGirlWhich is the thought I’m often left with after long days of donning too many hats. I mean I totally have hat hair 24/7 because I’m always wearing a different one. So I’m tugging on the writer hat even though I still want to wear my “Greatest Aunt Evah” hat because yesterday I got a brand new bundle of joy – Samuel Matthew – whose sweet baby newness healed the grump in me and reminded me about what is truly important in life.

Okay, so writer hat in place…I’m ready.

First, this month marks an anniversary of sorts for me. Three years ago (waaaaaay back in 2010) my first book Vegas Two Step released. Seeing that first book was so damn wonderful – I can never go back and capture the enthusiasm of holding a book – MY BOOK – in my hands. Never. This month marks a new benchmark for me – the release of my tenth book His Uptown Girl. The thrill, though not as intense, is still very much present.

This book is a bit different from my others in that it takes on some touchy social issues. Yeah, I did that. I never thought I would take on anything so emotionally charged as racism and privilege, but somehow it happened. Which is ironic, considering several months back on Dear Author, I made a comment about another author’s book that sparked conversation about privilege and racism…and instituted a new commenting policy at the site. At the time, I did not bring up the fact I’d tackled the same issues in my upcoming book, but I had. Yep, little ol privileged me had written a book dealing with the very things I’d been accused of. Huh.

So this book is a bit outside the box for Superromance (and Harlequin) in that my heroine (very white and privileged) falls in love with a musician (racially mixed and not so privileged) and includes the viewpoint of a nineteen year old African American (very black and very underprivileged.) The book has smoky bars filled with jazz, gang turf wars and showdowns with intolerant former in-laws.  It’s not your average bear when it comes to romance. Will it sell well? Probably not as well as my Vegas makeover book or the retelling of A Christmas Carol or my surprise marriage books. Definitely not as well as other traditional Harlequin books about the sheriff trying to save the ranch, a heroine surprisingly pregnant or a military hero dealing with PTSD. I probably won’t earn out on this book. And I probably will get some ugly letters (a la the Cheerios commercial). In fact, I’ve already had some friends say “I’m not interested in reading that.” And I know some readers will say, “Thanks, but I don’t want to face that sort of reality in my escapist reading.” And my response is “That’s okay.” You see, I wrote this book for myself and I wrote it as gritty and realistic as Harlequin would let me. Because I believe that even in romance we need books that have flawed characters. We need books that take on social injustice. We need books that can actually change the way readers see the world.

I never set out to write a book like this. I’ve firmly clung to the idea that I write books that allow women (and men) to escape the harsh reality of everyday life. I write fluff. I like fluff. I like knowing my book is a gift of sweet happily every after. Totally good with it. Not saying this book doesn’t deliver some laughs, some sweetness and a big bow wrapped around a shiny, happy future. The book has that….but it also addresses some of the uglier truths that still exist in our world, and I am satisfied knowing I wrote something more weighty than a mistaken identity or a runaway bride. I wrote something real and honest. Something more than I ever thought I would.

So back to the original intent of this post – flawed characters. You see, I like flawed characters. I like to get mad at them, dislike them and watch them change before my eyes, learning lessons we all need to learn. Flawed characters are interesting to read about, even when you don’t like them much. I’ve always thought Susan Elizabeth Phillips was brilliant at creating flawed characters. I can remember reading her books and getting mad at the characters. So mad that I took it out on my husband. Poor man had to pay for the stupid, egotistical mistakes of some fictional hero in one of SEP’s books. I’m telling you – I’d get my feelings hurt BY CHARACTERS IN A BOOK. That’s how good a writer that woman is. Creating emotion is the chief goal of a writer and making a reader think about the world in which they live through the characters is a happy side effect. Characters who don’t have it together, think they know what is right (and are wrong) and say things that make you want to slap them and hug them at the same time are sheer deliciousness. I gobble them up and then go back for seconds.

That’s what I gave His Uptown Girl – realism with all its warts and scars. I think it makes the book more interesting. It gives the book teeth.  Grrr!

So now I’d love to know what you think about addressing social issues in romance books – is it a do or a don’t? And who are some of your favorite flawed characters?

FYI – You can find His Uptown Girl on sale in stores and online. Here’s a link to the book on Amazon where you can read an excerpt:http://www.amazon.com/Uptown-Girl-Harlequin-Superromance-ebook/dp/B00BAT1QJ4/ref=tmm_kin_title_0

 

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.

Ruby Release: CAPTURED HEART by Heather McCollum

Hosted by Liz Talley

Finally, I get to host a Ruby Release with Heather McCollum, which is a very good thing, indeed. When Heather’s first book was released, I was slated to be her host, but that debut fell during a really rough time for Heather (see last week’s post regarding ovarian cancer) when she was dealing with things way more important than a celebration. So I’m extremely thrilled to celebrate Heather today, with her debut release with Entangled Publishing. So let’s get this party started!
1. First up, let’s talk about the book. I read the description and it sounds fascinating. I love stories of healers. Tell us about the idea for Captured Heart and why you chose a healer as the heroine.
Thanks so much, Liz, for having me on the Ruby Slippered Sisterhood blog! I’m thrilled to be here on CAPTURED HEART’s release day. The idea for the book started over thirteen years ago. In fact, this was my first born book. My mother still has the original in her attic. Of course when I wrote it the first time it had 40,000 extra words, different character names, and every strange scene I’d ever imagined all stuck into one hefty tome.
Meg, though named Emma at the time, was always a healer. The art or “magic” of healing has always fascinated me. So much of what we know today about medicine would have been magic back in the 16th century. Although Meg does possess a supernatural power to heal, she doesn’t know how to use it and until she meets her aunt, it is more of a curse than a gift.
There is also a fine line, which I’ve learned first-hand this year as I fought cancer, between healing someone to life and healing someone to death. A lot of our miracle medicines are poisons. Doctors need to know how much and when to dose a patient or the cure becomes lethal. Meg experiences this as she learns to use her magic blue light (and yes, I imagine it a teal blue) to heal.
2. And since we’ve talked heroine, tell us about the hero. How does Caden embody the perfect hero?

Have you seen my cover? Caden definitely em”bodies” the perfect Highland hero! I like to tell people that my husband posed for the cover and watch their eyes pop- LOL!
Caden is the perfect clan chief. He’s been raised as a rugged warrior but has an intellect that makes him question the reasons behind war. He’s built a system of accountability for himself by visiting ten cottages in his village every day to talk with his people. So when he is enraged and wants to react foolishly out of revenge or some other selfish emotion, he recalls the faces of the men, women and children who depend on him to act with honor and in their interests, not his own. It chains him to the right path in a time when many leaders acted recklessly to further their own pursuits.
As a chief to a large clan, Caden is definitely alpha-male. Doesn’t talk much and doesn’t reveal his plans except when he must. He is just as capable of surviving as a lone wolf as he is leading a clan away from the brink of starvation. He can slice an Englishman from stem to stern yet pluck a leaf from Meg’s wild curls. He could have many women but decides that he wants only one. Ah, and there is the conflict. What if the one he wants is the one whose sacrifice will save his clan?
3. This is your first book with Entangled and so many have been fascinated with the wild success they’ve achieved with their books in such a short time. Tell us about selling to Entangled and how it’s been different from previous publishers.
My agent, Kevan Lyon, was very impressed with Entangled Publishing when she proposed my book to them. Until now Entangled has focused on contemporary and YA romance. CAPTURED HEART is their first Scottish Historical romance and is part of Entangled’s Select line.
Owner, Liz Pelletier is amazing! She worked for all of her authors to sign a deal with a large national book distributer and still had time to brain storm with me on my trilogy. Her talents, for running a successful business, and her heart, for doing her absolute best for the authors and editors, are endless.
I was assigned an editor right away as well as two publicists. Libby Murphy kept us on track with edits and is not afraid to roll up her sleeves and dig into making a book perfect. Heather Riccio and Barbara Hightower worked together to line up blog tours and events for my release. They are so supportive and always looking for ways to put CAPTURED HEART in front of the reader.
Between Liz’s fabulous leadership, Libby’s sharp eye and book sense, and Heather and Barbara’s constant efforts to promote, I’m not surprised that Entangled’s books are all over Amazon’s top selling romance list. I’m so fortunate that CAPTURED HEART has found a home with them.
4. You shared with me that your mother actually had a hand in this book. Tell us a bit more about her role in your book.
My mother, Irena Rea, is an artist (among other things), and I’m so proud to have her sketches in my book! Each chapter starts with an excerpt from Meg’s mother’s medicine journal about the curing benefits of a particular herb. My mom sketched the herbs to be included with the chapter headings. They look wonderful! Now she’ll have to read the book despite the spicy parts : )
5. Finally, your dedication in the books is pretty personal to your experience over the past year. How has your journey in fighting ovarian cancer shaded your writing? Do you come at scenes and characters differently than before?
I dedicated CAPTURED HEART to all the women fighting against ovarian cancer, women just like me. I also dedicated it to my teal (ovarian cancer color) army of supporters, because when you’re diagnosed with something like cancer, you can’t fight it alone. You need help, and love and lots of prayers and good karma. You need to believe that winning is not only a possibility but inevitable. My teal army (think Xena warrior princesses in teal leather : ) made me believe that I couldn’t lose, because I couldn’t, not with three kids aged 4, 10 and 12 and a husband who lost his own mom to breast cancer when he was just 9.
When you go through something horrific, it changes you. I had written CH before the diagnosis, but my agent sold it while I was going through chemo (Kevan knew I’d be back, that I’d make it). I was worried that my voice would have changed so much that I wouldn’t like what I’d written before.
What I’m discovering is that my voice in my writings hasn’t changed much, well perhaps I pay more attention to the beauty in my made-up world, but otherwise it has stayed the same. What’s changed though is that I live truer to my written voice. Huh? Well, I used to write about intangibles like discovering the most important things in life and really loving someone. I wrote about them, but did I really understand them?
Just like when we read those refrigerator magnets that tell us to “stop and smell the roses.” We all agree that we should take the time to fill our senses with the beauty around us, but do we really do it? Not unless we happen to be enjoying a tea party in a glorious rose garden or judging a rose competition. So we nod and agree with the magnet, but we don’t really do it.
My writing was the magnet and my life was, well, my life with all its hectic, crazy, too-busy schedule. Fighting against the beast that threatened to take all that away from me, threatened to take me away from my kids and shatter my family – surviving that fight suddenly made all the magnet sayings make sense. I began to live what I wrote. So has my writing changed? Well if it has, it rings with more truth. My characters never took life and love for granted, and now neither do I.
Thanks again, Liz, for interviewing me today. I am so excited about CAPTURED HEART coming out! I used to walk through big book stores and look at the books in the “M” section of romance and imagine my book being next to Judith McNaught. I plan to go to my local Barnes & Noble today and find my book in the shelves. And instead of just smiling and walking by, I’m going to stop and smell them.
Wow, such a fabulous journey you’ve made and all the Rubies are so proud of you (yes, I’m totally speaking for everyone ‘cause I know this great group of women). So Heather has gone through a lot to keep writing and releasing books, what methods have some of you used to get back into the game when writing had needed to take a backseat in your life?

Ruby Release! The Memory of You — Laurie Kellogg

Once upon a time . . . 

Oh, wait.  This isn’t a fairy tale.  This is a true story.  Here’s how it goes: 

One day, the husband of a woman in limbo drags her to a sales promotion.  The young salesman is personable, and they get to talking.  Somehow, the talk turns to the fact the woman in limbo has just helped another author get published.  The topic sets the young man off on a rant about his mom, her Golden Heart®, and the fact she still can’t find a publisher. 

The woman in limbo (who has a son about the same age) is touched by the young man’s outrage on his mom’s behalf and offers her services.  And that’s how a critique partnership and abiding friendship came to be. 

I was the woman in limbo  Events had trashed my faith in myself; my writing moldered while I helped others grab the brass ring. 

Laurie Kellogg is that lovely young man’s mother. 

In the beginning, I doubt either of us had any idea the impact her son’s unassailable belief in her talent would have on our lives.  But serendipity is what it is, so it’s with a full heart I announce the release of the book that earned Laurie her second Golden Heart,  

The Memory of You  

She can’t forget him

He can’t remember her

Together, they must discover the

healing power of unforgettable love

Second Lieutenant Matthew Foster was captured in Vietnam and mistakenly declared dead. Six years later, he’s finally released with the other POWs during Operation Homecoming. Unfortunately, his memory has been erased by the torture and emotional trauma he endured. Due to prior facial injuries and the beard concealing his gauntness, he looks nothing like the boyish photo in his military file. 

 When the Army informs Matt he has a wife, he’s sure Abby must have made a new life for herself. And he doubts the bitter man he’s become can salvage enough of the boy she once cared for. To be fair to her, he decides to simply write a note to wish her well and leave. But before he does, he can’t resist going to Redemption, PA, to catch a glimpse of the woman he’d loved enough to marry.  

 The irony of the small town’s name is totally eclipsed by Matt’s dread that he’ll discover he’s lost something truly worth remembering. That fear becomes reality when he learns Abby is engaged, and he’s a daddy! Luckily, his wife doesn’t recognize him, so Matt could still walk away from the beautiful stranger who’s been starring in his X-rated dreams. However, he could never, ever abandon his sons.  

The clock is ticking. Any day, the military will inform Abby he’s alive, and her wedding is in only six weeks. It doesn’t give Matt much time to discover if he can reclaim the love the war stole from him. 

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The Latest Comments

  • Bev Pettersen: What great advice and in just three words. Thanks, Addison!
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