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Posts tagged with: 2017 Golden Heart Finalist

Meet 2017 Golden Heart Finalist Kari Cole!

I can hardly believe it, but we’ve reached the end of our series of guest blogs and interviews with the Rebelles, the 2017 Golden Heart Finalists!! Our final guest is the lovely Kari Cole, whose manuscript CONSTANT CRAVING has been nominated for Best Paranormal Romance two years in a row!!

Kari is a two-time Romance Writers of America Golden Heart® finalist, winner of both the 2015 Daphne du Maurier award and the Toronto Romance Writers’ Catherine. She lives in Upstate New York with her college-sweetheart, two way-too-smart-for-their-own-good sons, and a ridiculous labradoodle named for the bravest of Star Wars heroes, Artoo. She has a MBA from the State University of New York at Buffalo and has worked in sales, marketing, and human resources.

Kari writes paranormal romantic suspense, urban fantasy, and contemporary romance. She is a member of several RWA chapters, including: Fantasy, Futuristic, and Paranormal; Kiss of Death; the Golden Network; and the Capital Region Romance Writers, where she serves as Treasurer.

Here’s a blurb for CONSTANT CRAVING:

She’s no one’s prey, but the alpha means to capture her heart.

Who’d think to bring silver bullets to a wedding? When Izzy Meyers arrives in Montana and discovers her human foster brother is marrying into the local werewolf pack, she wishes she’d brought a whole suitcase full. Werewolves are monsters. She should know . . . she is one.

Luke Wyland never planned on being the alpha of his pack, but he’ll do anything to protect it. Rogues are hunting and killing in his territory, and it’s up to Luke to stop them. Finding a mate who wants nothing to do with him is a complication he doesn’t need, but letting Izzy go isn’t an option.

Raised to hate shifters, Izzy is confused by her intense attraction to the domineering alpha and her growing affection for the werewolves. As she and her foster family are thrown into the danger engulfing the pack, Izzy partners with Luke to destroy the traitors threatening the people she loves. But to survive, they must trust in themselves and each other, or lose everything.

“She should know…she is one”—what a great line!! Fabulous conflict, too! I can see why this has done so well with its readers!

Okay, folks, Kari’s going to sit down for a chat with me today, so grab a chair here under the big Montana sky, and grab a slice of wedding cake. Friendly werewolves welcome, too!

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Welcome, Kari! It’s great to have you with us! So, tell us a little more about your Golden Heart book (for both 106 and 2017!!) and the process of writing it.

CONSTANT CRAVING is the first book in the Apex Predator series. Versions of it have been swimming around my brain for a long time. I was fascinated with the idea of a crashed helicopter pilot stuck in the snowy mountains. I had a dream where a female pilot looks out a cracked windshield to see a pack of wolves emerging from the woods. Instantly, she feels a connection and knows she belongs with them. I woke up and said, “Oh, she’s a werewolf.” A little while after that, I saw a video of Illinois Congresswoman Tammy Duckworth—who has since become a Senator—utterly destroying a shady businessman during a congressional hearing. An Iraq War veteran, Senator Duckworth, lost both her legs in combat while flying a Blackhawk helicopter. Ding, ding, ding! I now knew who my heroine was. Izzy, too, is a veteran combat pilot, who uses her skills to great advantage to help save the day in CONSTANT CRAVING.

Oh, what fabulous imaginary origins!!! I’m sure Izzy is absolutely kick-ass!! So this story started with a dream. Has your imagination always worked like that?

I’ve always had stories in my head. They were just for me. I used them to settle down to sleep or alleviate a boring job. I never wrote them down, and I never shared them. Some were simply fan fiction, others were wholly new worlds, with original characters bopping around. A few have been my companions for many years.

I’m the same way. I have many story “companions” that have been with me for years. Clearly, at some point you started writing yours down. What tipped you over into getting them on paper?

*Shrinks down behind a chair* Please, don’t throw rotten fruit at me. After my older son was born, I started writing down the stories in my head out of sheer boredom and the all-too-real possibility of losing my mind. There. I said it. Being a SAHM is not for everyone, and my son had what is now diagnosed as acid reflux. Back then, the doctors told me to just let him cry. Have you ever listened to a baby cry all night, every night, punctuated by the sounds of retching? It was torture. This went on for three and a half years, before my son grew out of it and slept through the night. I started writing during this time to save myself. Fan fiction mashups at first, then some original Urban Fantasy. I still firmly believe there should be a Highlander/Buffy the Vampire Slayer crossover. Joss Whedon, call me.

Joss Whedon should call you!! And, oh, sweet heaven, a baby with that kind of crying for THREE AND A HALF YEARS??? My oldest had colic for three months, and when the doctor told me it might last more than a couple weeks, I honestly thought I was going to die. My hat is off to you for surviving so long!!! (Honestly, readers, if you know a mom with a baby who cries all night, every night, please consider offering to walk the floor with the baby some night so the mama can put in earplugs and get a few hours sleep.) Okay…okay… traumatic memories are running away with me. Ahem. So, you started writing to save your sanity. When did it turn to writing Romance?

I didn’t start writing Romance until I joined Saratoga Romance Writers. Mostly, I wanted to be around people who knew what this writing thing was all about. The ladies there were so willing to offer their advice and help. The value of an organization like RWA and its local chapters cannot be understated.

Yay for RWA local chapters!! They’ve kickstarted many a career. What about more personal writing support? Do you have a CP or beta readers or a writing critique group? If so, how do you work together?

Oh, yeah! There are four of us in my critique group: Me, Autumn Jones Lake, Cara Connelly, and Virginia Frost. We don’t have a jazzy name or anything—Jeez, we should really get on that—but we meet every week to go over pages, plot-doctor, plan career moves, etc. We’re all members of Capital Region Romance Writers. Usually, we meet at a local Panera, or maybe someone’s house. If we can’t meet, we email pages to each other. And if we don’t send pages, the rest of us start whining. We’re each other’s biggest fans—oh, okay, outside of our husbands. I swear on Harrison Ford’s crooked smile, I would not have come this far without my crit partners’ unwavering support, excellent editing skills, and whip-cracking.

That sounds like an awesome arrangement!! So you’ll be at Nationals, right? And you’ve been there before. How do you prepare? Are you nervous about networking with the agents and editors at the new reception they’re holding this year for Golden Heart finalists?

I always get a little—okay, a lot—crazy before a conference. Mostly, due to wardrobe issues. I used to have a closet full of beautiful suits and business clothes, but after many years out of Corporate America, they are a little out-of-date. And far too small. Darn pizza addiction. But the pitching and schmoozing stuff doesn’t bother me.

I know many writers get so stressed about networking. People are always asking me why I’m so calm at these things. (Your readers are probably sorting through their pen drawers, looking for the pointiest one to stab me with.)

How have I achieved this impossible state of Zen? I have a little trick I learned back in the dark ages, aka the 90s, when I was in sales and marketing. It’s simple actually, and something everyone can do. I remind myself that every single person attending that conference wants the same thing: to sell books. Boom!

I oversimplified, but you get the point. This boils down to straightforward economics. It’s supply and demand. We writers supply the content. Agents sell that content to editors, who then publish it and sell it to wonderful, voracious readers who demand more, more, more! Awesome isn’t it?

Without writers, agents and editors would have nothing to sell, nothing to do.

The principle stands, even if you plan to take the Indie route. You’ll still need to find an editor for your books, maybe someone to handle your foreign rights or produce the audiobook version. You’ll probably want to talk to the staff from Amazon or iBooks, or one of the many other vendors you’ll be dealing with as you navigate running your own business.

All that means networking, which is really just a fancy way to describe talking with people who share an interest with you. All those agents, editors, librarians, vendors, and writers love the same thing I do: books! They are part of my tribe. All of them.

I apply the same idea to pitching, or chatting with the woman stuck in the elevator with me. Anytime I feel nervous or overwhelmed, I remind myself that I could not find a more welcoming group to share my love of a great story than the attendees at Nationals.

That’s a great way to think about it! Everybody’s out there looking for the allies they need to win in this business (can you tell I’m typing this up while waiting for the new season of Game of Thonres to start?)

Thanks so much for being with the Rubies today, Kari! What question do you have for our readers to get the conversation going today?

How do you deal with the anxiety of leaving your writing cave to network, pitch, and socialize at a conference?

 

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Connect with Kari Cole on social media at

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/kariwcoleauthor/?ref=settings

Twitter: @KariWCole

 

Meet 2017 Golden Heart Finalist Jennifer Camiccia!

It’s hard to believe, but the Golden Heart Awards Ceremony will be taking place at RWA Nationals just TWO WEEKS from today!!! And the Ruby blog has just three more Golden Heart Finalists guests before they all fly off to conference! Yay, Rebelles!

Today we’re welcoming 2017 Golden Heart Finalist Jennifer Camiccia, whose manuscript BIRDY’S SONG is nominated for Best Young Adult Romance!

Jennifer has lived in the wilds of Los Angeles where she wrote her first book at the tender age of five, Iran where she developed a fear of camels and a fondness for pistachios, Hawaii with its balmy breezes and memories of learning to swim, and the San Francisco Bay area where she now lives with her four children and husband. She loves to ask: what if…? This question has resulted in her writing short stories and novels where the characters experience heartbreak, find love, and discover the intricacies of life along the way.

In addition to the Golden Heart nomination, her young adult debut BIRDY’S SONG was featured in the Pitch Wars showcase. Two of her other books placed in the Golden Rose contest and Cleveland Rocks contest. She is a member of SCBWI, YARWA, and RWA.

When she’s not writing, running her kids around, volunteering, or working you can find her on twitter at @jencamiccia busily snooping and gathering ideas for future stories.

Here’s a blurb for BIRDY’S SONG:

When seventeen-year-old Emmaline Frazier’s unstable stepfather drives the family car into the ocean with Emmaline and her half-sister, Birdy, still in the backseat, the crash leaves Birdy in a coma, her stepfather dead, and Emmaline with debilitating anxiety. Their flighty mother abandons them to Birdy’s grandmother’s care, and for the first time Emmaline is offered the stability she craves but is afraid to trust.

A singing competition presents Emmaline a chance to win enough to pay for Birdy’s care, and a recording contract to help achieve her own dreams. Except her plan won’t work if she can’t learn to control the heart-wrenching panic attacks she gets every time she sings. Added to that is the sweet anguish of first love. For Emmaline, giving into her feelings for Asher and accepting his love is nearly as scary as singing in front of thousands. Only by trusting she’s worthy of love will Emmaline be able to find her voice and sing for Birdy…and herself.

Okay, Jennifer, that description seriously just gave me chills!! I’d love to read that book!! I know it would appeal to the John Green crowd. Good luck!!

Folks, Jennifer’s here today to talk about how she overcame some of her own fears, and learned to believe in her own voice.

Take it away, Jennifer!

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NEVER GIVE UP

First of all, thank you for having me. This is my first blog post ever. I’m an introvert of the first order, and for a long time I was content to write in a bubble. I was convinced this would be enough for me. It had to be – because the thought of pitching to an agent or joining a critique group was terrifying.

Two years ago, something changed. My youngest son asked me when I was going to sell my book. He’d seen me typing away his whole life, and to him I was a writer. He told all his teachers I was a writer (which always made for many an awkward pause when I told them that I hadn’t, in fact, published anything). He even offered to be my agent. It hit me that I was always encouraging my children to follow their dreams but I wasn’t practicing what I preached.

I wasn’t going to improve or get where I needed to be if I allowed my shyness to stop me. So…I took the plunge and entered a twitter contest. I had zero social media presence (except for Instagram and Snap Chat to spy on my kids), and the whole thing terrified me. I joined RWA and entered a couple of chapter contests. I finaled in both, and this kept me plugging along. I must not suck too bad, right?

Meet 2017 Golden Heart Finalist Pamela Ferguson!

Today we’re welcoming another Rebelle, 2017 Golden Heart Finalist Pamela Ferguson, whose manuscript WINGS OF LOVE is nominated for Best Romance with Religious or Spiritual Elements.

Pamela Ferguson is the author of sweet romances set in small towns. Specializing in gossips, meddlers, matchmakers and happily-ever-afters, Pam loves dreaming up complications that wreak havoc in the lives of her characters. Her determined heroes and resourceful heroines are forever doing battle with narrow-minded mischief makers. Who knew there were so many bumps on the road to love?  

When she isn’t writing, Pam can be found teaching English, travelling, and playing with her high-energy German shepherd puppy.

Here’s a blurb for WINGS OF LOVE:

No. One little word. When would Reo Greene learn to say it? She’s just finished organizing Lilac’s first 5K race and is swamped with online college exams. Now the mayor wants her to collaborate with Jack Warfield to evaluate Main Street decoration proposals for the town’s upcoming two-hundred-fiftieth anniversary. The mayor is determined to make an example of Reo and Jack: if the two former high school enemies can collaborate for the good of the town, maybe everyone else will try to get along.

Back in Lilac to oversee the sale of his mother’s rental property, Jack hasn’t told anyone he’s also on a leave of absence from his new job as a Peacetalkers mediator. He got injured as a result of a meeting with a gang leader, and the Peacetalkers must investigate. Collaborating with Reo means working with the woman who destroyed his college football scholarship chances five years before.

Will past betrayals prevent Reo and Jack from acknowledging their true feelings?

Awesome! Gotta love small town romances (meddlers and matchmakers!), and high school enemies finding love! Lilac is a great small-town name, too. Pamela, I hope we’ll see your story out in the world soon!

Pamela’s with us today to talk about the role of an unexpected online connection in helping her identify her path as a romance writer.

Take it away, Pamela!

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Interconnectedness

My kids are always telling me, “Mom, stop shouting in the Bluetooth. You’re hurting my ears.” I can only imagine what my voice did to Romance Writers of America Board Member Courtney Milan’s eardrums when she told me I was an RWA Golden Heart® finalist. I don’t remember much of that conversation, except that I had pulled into a gas station and there was gushing and shrieking on my end. For her part, Courtney, one of my favorite authors, graciously endured my hysterics. I hope her hearing is okay.

If I had to pick a date, I’d say my journey to becoming a Golden Heart finalist began in April 2015. I was trying to figure out what kind of novel I was writing. I did what most people do when they need information. I turned to Google. I typed the phrase “social justice romance fiction.” Dorky, right? Romance fiction is about escape, adventure, and, most of all, happily ever after. Throwing social justice into the mix kind of, you know, defeats the purpose.

But that’s what I was thinking, and that’s what I typed.

Not surprisingly, there weren’t a lot of results. I wasn’t exactly sure what I even meant by the phrase, except that I was writing about love that surprises people, fills them with hope, and bonds them together despite society’s injustices. Love that inspires them to be better for each other and for the world around them.

Pretty much what most romance novels are about, now that I think of it.

Meet 2017 Golden Heart Finalist A.Y. Chao!

Today we’re welcoming another Rebelle, A.Y.Chao, who’s a 2017 Golden Heart Finalist for Best Paranormal Romance with her manuscript SOUL AFFINITY.

A.Y. Chao is a recovering lawyer and expat Canadian. After a somewhat nomadic path from Calgary to Paris, Stockholm, Beijing, London, and Hong Kong, she’s settled (for now) in London, England with her husband, chatterbox daughter, sweet Hong Kong rescue hound, and snuffling piggy pug. She writes urban fantasy and drinks far too much coffee.

You can follow her shenanigans on Twitter@ay_chao and on FB www.facebook.com/aychao.author.

Here’s a blurb for SOUL AFFINITY, which is not only nominated for a Golden Heart, but won the 2016 Indiana Golden Opportunity Contest for best Paranormal romance!

Aziza Lee believes making partner at her law firm will finally free her from the shame of a threadbare past. When all that stands between her and partnership is a week archiving documents called “Tor” in the firm’s mysterious Repository, not even Marcus Vandenberg, the arrogant stranger assigned to supervise her, can unnerve her.

Until she touches a Tor, and all hell reveals itself: The Tor embody souls waiting to cross the Veil. And Marcus is no ordinary pain-in-the-arse, but a netherworld guardian. Complete with attitude and wings. 

When Aziza uncovers a pattern of Tor disappearing prematurely, she agrees to help Marcus find the missing souls. Neither of them bank on Aziza accidentally binding their souls together, nor discovering Aziza’s half-human half-guardian bloodline, a bloodline prohibited by the guardians on pain of death. With the killer targeting half-breeds, Aziza & Marcus’s grudging attraction complicates further the lies they must tell to stay alive.

Wow! What a great story concept! And I love the hint of irreverent humor—this must be a fun read! I hope we’ll see it out soon!

A.Y. Chao is here with us today to tell us a little more about herself. I think maybe we don’t want to make ourselves too comfy in the Repository just at the moment (eep!!), but since it’s still Fourth of July week (apologies to those in Britain!! J), maybe we can lounge around on some lawn chairs on the beach and eat popsicles while we chat.

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Welcome, A.Y.! It’s delightful to have you with us. Tell us a little more about your Golden Heart book and the process of writing it. Have you been writing a long time?

This is my first manuscript! I’m a total newb!!

But this was an idea I had almost twenty years ago. It percolated at the back of my mind until I got pregnant with my daughter. Something clicked, and I started to really tease out the story, writing it with the help (aka regular kicks in the butt) of my mentor Jill Dawson from Gold Dust, a fabulous mentoring program in the UK.

That program must be fabulous if it’s helped you get this far this fast! What about literary inspirations? Favorite authors?

I love J.K. Rowling, truly. Love her way with words, and her sensibilities. And Phillip Pullman’s His Dark Materials. So excited about the new one coming out. 

Oh, yes!! They’re two of my favorites as well!! I’m very excited for the Pullman graphic novel—His Dark Materials pulled me in to its universe so deeply, I’m eager to see what he does with this new world. He’s a great role model (as, of course, is Rowling)! So, writing is a new(ish) path for you. What were you doing before this story clicked?

My first real job was as a pusher of forged iron and steel rolls. Then I was a lawyer. Then I became a yarn pusher (imported artisan handpainted yarn), then a handknit sock pattern designer and knitting conference organizer, and now writer. 

Wow! Okay, I think you may win the prize for most interesting and varied pre-writing career path. And it sounds like the rest of your geographic path has been amazing as well. That’s quite the “places I’ve lived” resume—so many of the world’s great cities, and such different ones. How has moving so widely affected your viewpoint on the world?

I’m Canadian, my ethnic background is Chinese via Taiwan, and I have for more than half my life been an expat—some kind of outsider but still able to find my own community. It’s given me an interesting perspective on diversity, belonging, marginalisation, being the minority, and being the majority and the subtle ways people are always able to find ways to include others, and of course, to exclude others. 

Those experiences must add incredible richness to your characters and stories. I’m guessing Aziza Lee’s status as someone with a “half-human half-guardian bloodline, a bloodline prohibited by the guardians” must on some level be a reflection, at least emotionally, of some of your experiences, or insights you’ve gained moving across cultural boundaries? And the fact that she finds herself abruptly plunged into such a strange new world?

Absolutely! I find the disconnect between how we see ourselves and how others see us fascinating. For example, on the outside, I’m always considered to be Chinese first and foremost. Because those are the most obvious visual cues. Eyes, hair, skin tone. Yet, when I lived in China, I was definitely an outsider there. Locals only needed to see me and they knew I wasn’t from there. I walked differently, laughed differently, dressed differently. But more importantly, my social mores weren’t the same. Hardware was the same, but totally different operating system. It only enforced what I’ve always known—that for me, identity is who I am inside– a mishmash of this and that–Canadian sensibilities, Chinese sensitivities, a fair sprinkling of American pop culture—and not so much what I look like outside. 

Aziza’s story is very much about learning to embrace who she is on the inside, to accept and to be proud of her differences, and learning to find her community. 

The same way that I’ve found connection never just boils down to external qualities, Aziza has to not only get comfortable with who she is inside but also be brave enough to share that inner self externally. Being plunged into a strange new world is definitely a form of culture shock. She feels she doesn’t truly belong to either the human world or the guardian’s world, yet she has to find a way to straddle both and come to terms with her identity if she wants to have any chance of finding her place in the world.

“Hardware was the same, but totally different operating system.” Fabulous metaphor! And fabulous story material! You’ve clearly got great life resources for depth in your stories. But what about the challenges you face as a writer? What makes it hard to get the work done?

Mom guilt is a tough one. I often feel guilty about devoting time to writing when the family to do list is sitting on my shoulders like a backpack stuffed with a year’s worth of trekking gear.

Oy! Yes! I think many of our readers are nodding their heads vigorously right now. Probably worse in summertime when the school-age munchkins are out of school. But you’ve clearly got momentum going. What’s your dream for where you’ll be in five years?

Oh boy, it would be awesome to be finished my trilogy (SOUL AFFINITY is the first in the planned trilogy). And I’d love to have some work in an anthology. Oh and yes, so long as I’m wishing on a star, would love to have a publisher for the trilogy and at least the first two out!

Good luck! You can do it! Hmmm…I’ve got lots more questions I’d like to ask, but everybody’s popsicles are melting quickly. So it’s time for a lightning round!! You’re in London. Tell us two things about your life there right now.

We just moved to a new (well, quite old —late Victorian) house. Currently unpacking boxes, painting walls, and slowly pulling a home together. 

One of my favourite places in the world is Borough Market in London—a fabulous food market. I love to eat good food.

Oh, MAN!! A late Victorian house AND fab food!!! Jealous meter off the charts here. (Dang, I should have had everybody gather at Borough Market today instead of the beach. *popsicle drips sadly*) Next question: are you going to Nationals this year?

This is my first ever time to a writing conference and first ever Nationals! SOOOO excited!

Newbie, right. Don’t worry—you’re going to love it! Okay, what’s one crazy fact about you that most people who meet you probably wouldn’t guess was true?

I didn’t learn to speak English until I was 5 when I went to kindergarten. I used to play with my next door neighbour Cale and never understood why I often had to mime things. It wasn’t until my mom told me that I only spoke Chinese back then, that my interactions with Cale made more sense! 

Biggest celebrity crush?

Totally love Jason Bateman in Arrested Development and This is Where I Leave You. I think it’s the puppy dog eyes. 

He’s totally underrated as an actor. Love him, too! (Though I confess Adam Driver kept dominating my attention in that movie.) Thanks so much for being with us today! Now, what question would you like to ask our readers to get the conversation going today?

Given all the different directions we are often pulled, day job, family, personal health, etc, what’s your single best strategy for maximizing writing efficiency?

 

Meet 2017 Golden Heart Finalist Melonie Johnson!!

Today we have a return guest, 2016 AND 2017 Golden Heart Finalist Melonie Johnson, whose manuscript SOMETIMES YOU NEED A SEXY SCOT is nominated once again for Best Contemporary Romance!

Melonie—aka #thewritinglush—loves dark coffee, cheap wine, and expensive beer. And margaritas…always margaritas. She met her future husband in that most romantic of places—the mall—when they were teenagers working in stores across the hall from each other. Now they live happily ever after in the suburbs of Chicago with two redhead daughters, a dog that’s more like a small horse, and a trio of hermit crabs. A former high school English and Theatre teacher, Melonie writes smart and funny contemporary romance and moonlights as an audiobook narrator under the pseudonym, Evelyn Eibhlin. A Star Wars junkie and Shakespeare groupie who quotes both Yoda and the Bard with equal aplomb, you can visit her at meloniejohnson.com and find her on Twitter and Instagram at @MelonieJohnson.

Melonie’s here with us today to talk about a topic near and dear to so many of our hearts: the importance (and pleasure) of friendships…even in the middle of a romance!

Take it away, Melonie!

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photo credit Heather Stumpf

This is my Sexy Scot’s second spin on the Golden Heart dance floor. After signing with an agent last summer (Pamela Harty of The Knight Agency), I went through a round or two of revisions.

Seeing as I wasn’t on submission yet by the time the GH window was closing, I decided to toss my story into the ring once more. I’m thrilled I did because finaling a second time means now I get to be a Mermaid (GH class of ’16) and a Rebelle! Happy to be back visiting the Rubies once again. Since I’ve introduced this story before, I’ll keep it short and sweet this time:

She indulged in a kilty pleasure…and got punked by a Scottish Hunk. A Chicago social media maven locks lips with a sexy Scot only to discover she’s the unwitting star of an internet prank and now must keep the kiss that launched a million clicks from sinking her career.

My Golden Heart manuscript begins with a group of friends on the vacation of their dreams. Our heroine, Cassie Crow, is determined to fulfill another fantasy while on this trip—she wants a foreign fling—and scores her hot hook-up in the form of sexy Scot, Logan Reid. Cassie’s escapade would never happen, however, without the help of her friends. And while this book is about the relationship that develops between Cassie and Logan, it’s also about Cassie’s other relationships—the ones she has with her friends.

Friendships are a central part of my stories, and that comes, in part, from the basic mantra: write what you love to read. I love to read stories with well-developed friendships and enjoy the banter between the heroine and her besties in equal measure to that between the heroine and hero. I relish the scenes where a dear friend helps the heroine work through her feelings as much as the moment when the hero figures out he’s found the one. Honestly, I think finding a tribe of friends you can count on is almost as important as finding your mate. Sometimes, it can be more important.

Me and my high school besties, Big bangs and jean shorts, even in winter. Hello 90s.

My oldest daughter starts high school in the fall, and she’s terrified. Her biggest fear (aside from not being able to remember her locker combination) is she won’t make any friends. I’ve tried to explain she’ll be fine—seriously, if the girl had a superpower, it would be making friends—but what fourteen-year-old listens to anything her mom says? She’s convinced herself that where she decides to sit at lunch on the first day of school will decide her fate for the next four years. I’ve told her that’s ridiculous, but then recall that one of my bridesmaids was a girl I met my freshman year…when we shared a lunch table. (Okay, so maybe it’s a good thing she doesn’t listen to me)

While we all dream of falling in love romantically, I think we also hope for another kind of love—one that involves as much trust and loyalty and connection. Hence, the appeal of these relationships in a story. Who doesn’t want a Diana to their Anne? A Bess and George to their Nancy? A Threepio to their Artoo (sorry, couldn’t resist).

What about you? Do you have a favorite literary friendship? (Movies and television count too). Let me know in the comments! I’ll be giving away three $5 Starbucks e-giftcards and since June is Audiobook Month, I’ll include a code for a free audiobook from Audible for my latest narration project, Swim Season, a YA sports drama which focuses, interestingly enough, on the friendships a high school senior develops when she moves to a new school and joins the swim team.

Meet 2017 Golden Heart Finalist Alexis Daria!

Today we’re welcoming another Rebelle, 2017 Golden Heart Finalist Alexis Daria, whose manuscript TAKE THE LEAD is nominated for Best Contemporary Romance!

Alexis Daria is a romance writer, artist, and native New Yorker. She has a BFA in Computer Arts, but her most fulfilling job was as a group facilitator for a women’s empowerment community, where she coached other women in following their creative dreams. On Sunday evenings, Alexis co-hosts #RWchat, a weekly Twitter chat for romance writers. She also serves as PRO Liaison for the New York City chapter of RWA, and is represented by Sarah E. Younger from Nancy Yost Literary Agency. Alexis’ debut, TAKE THE LEAD, is a 2017 Golden Heart® finalist and will be released in Fall 2017 from SMP Swerve, closely followed by the sequel, DANCE WITH ME.

Here’s a blurb for TAKE THE LEAD:

Gina Morales wants to win. It’s her fifth season on The Dance Off, a top-rated network TV celebrity dance competition, and she’s never even made it to the finals. When she meets her latest partner, she sees her chance. He’s handsome, rippling with muscles, and he stars on the popular Alaskan wilderness reality show Living Wild. With his sexy physique and name recognition, she thinks he’s her ticket to the finals—until she realizes they’re being set up.

Stone Nielson hates Los Angeles, he hates reality TV, and he hates that fact that he had to join the cast of the The Dance Off because of family obligations. He can’t wait to get back to Alaska, but he also can’t deny his growing attraction to his bubbly Puerto Rican dance partner. Neither of them are looking for romantic entanglements, and Stone can’t risk revealing his secrets, but as they heat up the dance floor, it’s only a matter of time until he feels an overwhelming urge to take the lead.

When the tabloids catch on to their developing romance, the spotlight threatens to ruin not just their relationship, but their careers and their shot at the trophy. Gina and Stone will have to decide if their priorities lie with fame, fortune, or the chance at a future together.

Yummy!! That sounds utterly delicious!! I love all the built in conflict and drama! I’m sure it’s a really fun read…and how fabulous that we know it WILL be out on bookshelves this fall!!!! Can’t wait to buy my copy!

Readers, Alexis is here today to talk about a powerful lesson that it behooves all of us to learn in this crazy business we’re part of.

Take it away, Alexis!

******************************

Write the Next Book

Angsty immortals. Long lost dragon princesses. Ice planet aliens. Whether it’s sci-fi, fantasy, paranormal, or urban fantasy, I’m here for it. So it’s no surprise that most of the half-finished drafts languishing on my hard drive have magical or supernatural elements. I wrote the kinds of stories I like to consume. When I finally had a book ready to query last year, it was a cute, light paranormal romance with bits of magic and mythology. In hindsight, I didn’t really know how to pitch it, and the agents I queried probably didn’t know what to do with it, either.

Paranormal is down, they told me. Genre hybrids are a tough sell. It’s not paranormal enough. You’re a good writer, but do you have something else?

After fifty rejections (or silence), it was time to reassess my strategy. I knew I wanted to build a career as a romance author, and I wanted an agent to help me make good decisions. With that in mind, I weighed my options.

I could:

  1. Expand my agent list and continue to trot this book around in the hopes that it would resonate with someone.
  2. Revise the book again, then re-query the agents on my list who allow that sort of thing.
  3. Write a new book.

The first choice didn’t appeal. I’d heard a bad agent was worse than no agent, and I’d already sent to everyone who seemed like a good fit. The second option didn’t seem like a great idea, either. Many agents don’t allow resubmissions, and I had already revised the book with the help of a mentor. Clearly the story still needed more work, but I didn’t want to get stuck in the cycle of revising the same manuscript over and over.

I chose the third option, because these rejections weren’t personal. It wasn’t me they were rejecting, it was the book. I’d done my best, but this manuscript wasn’t going to get me signed with the agents I wanted to work with. So I set out to write a book that would.

This time, I did a few things differently. I figured out how to pitch it first, writing the query letter before I even wrote the outline. I also switched genres. Since paranormal wasn’t working for me, I decided to write a contemporary romance instead. And I checked my outline against Gwen Hayes’ Romancing the Beat guideline, which I’d just read, to make sure the romance structure was sound.

Rejections continued to roll in on the mythology manuscript as I worked on Take the Lead, but I took them in stride, absorbed in my new WIP. I knew that this book was it. This was the one that would get me an agent and a book deal. It would mean debuting as a contemporary romance author, but I have plenty of plot bunnies, and I had already decided I would stick with whatever genre sold first, at least for a while. (Still, when I queried Take the Lead, I made a point to reach out to agents who were paranormal-friendly. I love the genre way too much to let it go forever.)

The same day I submitted my manuscript for the GH, I sent out my first round of queries—five times as many as my first round the previous year. (Yes, I was that much more confident, but I was also completely out of patience.) My strategy worked. Two months later, within the span of a few weeks, I had an agent, a two-book deal, and the news that Take the Lead was a Golden Heart finalist.

If you feel like you’re beating a dead horse—or a dead manuscript, as the case may be—try shifting gears. While one book is being queried or out on submission, work on the next. The only thing we can really control in this industry is ourselves. So keep writing. Try new things. Every story is its own challenge, no matter how many books you’ve written or where you are in your author career. If your writing is starting to feel stale, shake it up. Write in a different romance subgenre, or explore a trope that seems tricky. Experiment with different character archetypes, settings, or themes. Focus on craft. Actively seek out inspiration, and keep the creative well full.

I’m not sure where I’d be now if I’d kept my attention on revising old manuscripts instead of writing a new one, but by shifting genres, I kept my enthusiasm fresh in the face of rejections. I was able to query my top-choice agents again, because I had a new project. And I increased my chances of selling the book by improving my craft and writing something with a clearer hook.

Through it all, I reminded myself that a career as a romance author is not about one book. Creative work is doing the thing, over and over, and continuing to improve your skill. If you look at the well-known romance authors, you’ll see it’s not just about one book, one series, one genre, or even just one pen name. Think of it as a body of work, and each book is one piece of the whole.

Don’t get stuck. Write the next book. And the next. And the next after that. We’ve got stories to tell, and they aren’t going to write themselves.

What about you, readers? What shifts have you made in your writing journey, and how have they worked out for you?

*****************

Connect with Alexis Daria on social media:

Author Website & Blog: https://alexisdaria.com/

RWchat Blog: https://rwchat.com/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/alexisdaria

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/alexisdaria1/

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/alexisdaria/

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

 

 

Meet 2017 Golden Heart Finalist Jennifer Henderson!

We’ve got another big Rebelle week, with 2017 Golden Heart guests today, Wednesday, and Thursday. Today we’re welcoming Jennifer Henderson, whose manuscript THE GOVERNESS’S GLANCE is nominated for Best Historical Romance!

Jennifer Henderson’s addiction to romance novels began at a young age when she would sneak peeks at her mom’s Harlequins while the rest of the family was at swim lessons. Her love of all things old led to a history degree, a dozen years teaching U.S. and World History at a prep school, and eventually writing Regency romance novels. She lives in the Pacific Northwest, loves travel, scuba diving, and going to the movies, and has yet to find a piece of chocolate she did not enjoy.

Here’s a blurb for THE GOVERNESS’S GLANCE

Desperate to help save her family from financial ruin with her new governess post, Charlotte Wexley assumes her biggest challenge will be the two rascally orphans in her charge, not their handsome, rakish uncle and ward, the Earl of Huntingdon, who manages to spark her temper—and her heartbeat—at every turn.

Lord Simon Preston’s libertine life is upended when the earl’s brother and sister-in-law die, leaving him guardian to his wild niece and nephew who drive away a series of grim governesses. The newest hire, Miss Charlotte Wexley, is not what Simon had been expecting. She is young, lovely, and unafraid to put him in his place, and sparks soon fly between the fiery governess and the rakish earl. Heated words lead to sensual temptation, and soon they cannot resist passionate stolen kisses. Thoughts of Charlotte tempt Simon to visit the nursery, and he begins to connect with the children. Charlotte sees glimpses of the real man behind the jaded mask, but she must ignore the yearnings of her heart, for putting her position—and her family’s very survival—at risk is beyond foolish. When suspicious accidents threaten Simon and the children, Simon and Charlotte must fight together against an unknown threat and for their happily ever after.

Ooh, I love governess stories!!! (The Jane Eyre effect will never let me go.) You know who told me loves governess stories, Jennifer? Tessa Woodward at Avon. Just sayin’. (She told me that a few years ago when I was pitching her a story about a governess…who stopped being a governess on page one. Sigh.) Thought you might want to know.

Jennifer Henderson’s here with us today to share a bit of her personal history as an introvert…and what she learned about how to defeat the urge to stay in her shell.

Take it away, Jennifer!

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The Life Changing Magic of Showing Up

I am a scaredy cat. New situations intimidate me, my stomach often feels like a cauldron bubbling with anxiety acid, and mingling and small talk with people I don’t know well cause my heart to gallop. Just typing out these words has elevated my pulse rate. Good lord, someone get me a baby aspirin—I’m blogging with the Rubies!

People are often surprised when I mention that I’m an introvert. They’ll protest, saying that I seem so outgoing or that I have a friendly personality. The truth is that I’m an introvert ninja, stealthily posing as an extrovert as I prowl through social situations. My secret for keeping my cover all these years? Just showing up.

It’s incredible what can happen when a person bravely wades into the world around her instead of giving in to a stomach full of churning nerves, making excuses, and staying home.

The Emerald City Writers Conference in Seattle was the first writer event I’d ever attended. My husband kept leaving the website for the conference open on our computer, but I’d shake my head and close the page. New people? Scary! Actually saying out loud that I’m a writer? Scarier still! When I finally screwed up my courage, I announced my conference registration to my sisters at brunch as if I’d won the Nobel prize for literature, that’s how proud of myself I was for just filling out the online registration.

Meet 2017 Golden Heart Finalist Suzanne Turner!!

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

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

Here’s a blurb for THE LOST CHORD:

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

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

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

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

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

**********************************

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Don’t doubt. Don’t stop. Don’t worry.

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

Oh, also, drink coffee. Lots of coffee.

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Meet 2017 Golden Heart Finalist Christina Britton!!

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

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

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

Here’s a blurb for WITH LOVE IN SIGHT:

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

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

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

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

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

Take it away, Christina!!

***************************************

Getting Out of Your Safe Space

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

Nothing.

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

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

Keeping it in the box is safe.

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

Until.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

*************************

Connect with Christina Britton on social media:

Website: http://christinabritton.com/

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

Twitter: https://twitter.com/cbrittonauthor

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

 

Meet 2017 Golden Heart Finalist Heather Leonard!!

Today we’re welcoming another Rebelle, 2017 Golden Heart Finalist Heather Leonard, whose wonderfully-titled manuscript, BLESS YOUR HEART AND OTHER SOUTHERN CURSES is nominated for Best Paranormal Romance.

Heather Leonard is a civil rights employment lawyer/mediator who writes paranormal romance and urban fantasy in her ever so sparse free time. If she were a super-hero (and she wants to be because capes are this year’s must have fashion accessory), her superpowers would be the ability to find the best bottle of cheap champagne and answer all questions relating to Harry Potter trivia. Her weaknesses would be the inability to resist good champagne and Harry Potter trivia challenges. She also likes to talk about herself in the third person, as this bio indicates.

Here’s a blurb for BLESS YOUR HEART AND OTHER SOUTHERN CURSES:

Mix Stephanie Plum with Harry Dresden, add a Southern twist, and you’ll have Hazel Matthews. Living in the buckle of the Bible Belt poses challenges for closeted witch Hazel Matthews, (although she prefers to be called an “elemental engineer” or “skilled in chance reduction technology” due to the baggage associated with the “w” word).

When the untimely death of her former fiancé threatens to renew an old battle between the Diaspora (remnants of the supernatural beings who have turned Birmingham, Alabama into a magical Casablanca) and the Mystikos, a secret society dedicated to destroying all magic but their own, Hazel must find the killer to keep the peace. Forced to choose between using the magic her religious upbringing has led her to believe will damn her soul or allowing a supernatural witch hunt to threaten those she holds most dear, Hazel learns if the power within her will save or destroy her.

What a fun and fresh premise!! And with some very interesting cultural depths. I can’t wait to hear more!!

Heather’s sitting down for a chat with us today so we can learn more about her and her book. I’ve got sweet tea and slices of lemon icebox pie to pass around (mimosas, too, for anybody who wants one!!), so grab one of the rockers here on the front porch, and join us!

(Oh, and if anybody wants to throw out a few Harry Potter trivia questions, Heather and I can compete to answer them, ‘cause Harry Potter trivia is my jam, too!!!!)

*************************

Welcome, Heather! It’s great to have you with us!

It is my honor and pleasure to be on the blog today and to answer questions about myself and my book. Quite honestly, I’m still in delirious shock from becoming a Golden Heart finalist, so the fact I can string together a coherent sentence is a minor miracle.

Clearly you can string together a lot more than just a sentence, or you wouldn’t be a Golden Heart finalist! Like I said above, I love the title of your Golden Heart nominated book!! How did you come up with the idea?

Photo by acnatta / Andre Natta (profile) – A rear view of Vulcan, CC BY 2.0, Link

I started writing BLESS YOUR HEART after noticing some of the imagery around Birmingham, my home town, that made the city look like a supernatural casserole. We have a large steel statue of Vulcan (that moons the area of town where I live), a central intersection that forms a pentagram, and other pagan statues, symbols and art in prominent parts of the city. Keeping all this mind, my thoughts drifted to Birmingham’s nickname, the Magic City. I had always heard the city got the nickname because it sprang up overnight, like magic. I began to wonder, what if the city sprang up overnight because of magic. From that initial question, the story fell into place.

Oh, that’s so cool!! I’ve always wondered why it was called the Magic City, and that’s a great take on it! So you grew up in Birmingham. That’s a city with deep history in the Civil Rights movement, and you’re a civil rights lawyer. How does your work with the law blend with your work as a writer?

I am civil rights lawyer who represents victims of discrimination and harassment. I frequently go to trial to hold employers accountable who have violated federal antidiscrimination laws. The two careers, writing and the law, have benefited one another. After I started writing, my trial skills improved dramatically because I learned how to tell a compelling story that captured a jury’s attention and persuaded them to adopt the theme of my case.

My legal practice introduced me to some of the most colorful situations and characters you could ever imagine. Lawyers have some of the best stories because they are representing people in extreme conflicts that defy the imagination. For example, there was the case in which I was involved about a missing horse testicle. It was nuts! (wah wah wah – cue the gong)

Wow! I love the synergy there. I’ve always thought that lawyers have to be good at constructing narrative, and telling a gripping version of events. I hadn’t really thought about it as a source of stories themselves, but of course it must be. Do you have a new Work-In-Progress? Care to share what it’s about?

I’m editing and revising a story about a real estate agent to super villains. It isn’t like Zillow lists lairs, hollowed out volcanoes and fortresses of doom. World domination would never allow the time to comparison shop. I’m hoping that I can have it ready to enter the 2018 Golden Heart, unless fortune smiles upon me and some angel of an editor decides that BLESS YOUR HEART should be the next book she or he must buy.

I love that idea!! The humor you bring to the paranormal genre is awesome. Thanks so much for being with us today, Heather! Before we say goodbye, what question do you have for the readers of our blog?

For summer movies, my rules are I want to laugh and be awed with amazing special effects or dazzling explosions. I’m a child of the 80s, so it isn’t Summer without a blockbuster action film. For books, my reading criteria is similar – I want to laugh and be taken on an adventure to some place or situation that I’ve never experienced. What is your criteria for a beach read? What do you recommend as my next read? Remember, I need the book to bring the funny.

Awesome question!! I can’t wait to hear the answers. And folks, don’t forget to throw out a few Harry Potter trivia questions for us as well!!

*********************************

Connect with Heather Leonard on Social Media:

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

Twitter: @HNLeonard

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/heathernleonard/

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