Posts tagged with: guest author

Guest Author Kristina McMorris: Writing Dual Timelines

TPWK_CoverI realized from the beginning writing dual timelines was going to be a challenge; I’d never before attempted to interweave past and present storylines into a single novel. Yet due to the nature of what would ultimately become my latest release, The Pieces We Keep—in which a boy’s dreams are mysteriously linked to family secrets from WWIII decided it was definitely worth a try. Among my greatest concerns, however, was that one storyline would outshine the other.

When I myself have read novels with dual timelines, frequently I’ve had to fight the urge to skim the present-day chapters to return to the historical ones. Granted, in large part this is likely due to my personal passion for tales of the past. But I also find that high stakes involving life and death are naturally inherent in most historical settings—from revolutions and world wars to times of slavery and civil rights—and can therefore easily dominate when placed directly beside current-day conflicts of familial or romantic relationships.

To overcome this obstacle, I tried to imagine which scenarios would be as devastating to me, or my character, as the harrows of wartime. My answer, as a mother, came without pause: losing my child in a tragic death, or perhaps in a battle for custody. Obviously there are many other situations that can ratchet up tension and maintain a high level of suspense, no matter the era in which they’re set.

Another challenge I encountered came from my choice to alternate the two timelines with every chapter. I am personally a huge fan of short chapters, finding it nearly impossible as a reader to put down a book when the end of the chapter is “just a few pages away,” but I realized it would be important to find a way to prevent jarring the reader. Also, since links between the two storylines in The Pieces We Keep are fed out gradually, I wanted to suggest a connection early on, without (hopefully) giving too much away.

Pieces-boardcroppedTo address both issues, and in hopes of creating a feeling of fluidity, I opted to start every chapter with a sentence that in some way echoes the last sentence of the preceding chapter. For example, one chapter would end with: “He left no proof of existence—save for the missive in her hand.” While the next chapter would begin: “A half hour later Audra sat alone on a stranger’s couch, the slip of an address still in her grip.”

Finally, another goal of mine was to immediately ground the reader in whichever era they were reading, never wanting them to feel “lost.” Date and location stamps were an obvious choice, but with more than 70 chapters in my novel, I felt these would be cumbersome and redundant (and perhaps even make the book 50 pages longer, ha). Fortunately, my publisher allowed me to use two different fonts, one for each chapter/time period. As a result, this required me to merely state the dates and locations at the start of the first two chapters. I’ve also seen this done in other novels to great effect when clarifying changes in points-of-view.

Needless to say, the tactics I’ve mentioned might not work for every book featuring dual timelines, but perhaps they’ll at least serve as options to consider while you’re brainstorming ideas for your own interwoven story!


Thank you, Kristina, for this intriguing glance at your process.

For those who want more information, Kristina will be stopping by periodically to answer your questions, and in true Ruby fashion, will be drawing the name of one lucky commenter (Shipping costs limit this to US residents only) who will receive a signed, trade-paperback copy of The Pieces We KeepOf course, you can find all of her books at various retail outlets including Amazon and Barnes & Noble

Kristina McMorris is a critically acclaimed author published by Kensington Books, Penguin, and HarperCollins UK. Her works of fiction have garnered more than twenty national literary awards and appeared on the New York Times and USA Today bestsellers lists. Inspired by true personal and historical accounts, her novels include Letters from Home, Bridge of Scarlet Leaves, and most recently The Pieces We Keep. Prior to her writing career, Kristina worked as a host of weekly TV shows since age nine, including an Emmy® Award-winning program, and has been named one of Portland’s “40 Under 40” by The Business Journal. She lives with her husband and two young sons in the Pacific Northwest, where she is working on her next novel. For more, visit




Building a Self-Published Multi-Author Anthology, with guest Trish Milburn

So I have this friend. And she writes good stuff. A lot of it. And I asked her to come talk to us today. 🙂

Yes, I’m clearly a writer, aren’t I? Such a way with words.

Okay. Enough screwing around. My friend (and super great author), Trish Milburn, recently self-published a multi-author anthology with a couple other friends of hers, and I wanted to know more about how they did it. So I asked her to come talk to us. Plus, the cover of the anthology is amazing! (If you don’t agree with me on this then you’re just wrong. Because it’s amazing.) So anywho, without further ado…I give you Trish. 🙂  (And I do apologize for my lack of professionalism this morning. It’s been one of those days already…)


Imain author shot’m going to guess that at least a few of you reading this post have either been a part of a multi-author anthology or thought about being a part of such a project. In the past, the vast majority of these anthologies were put together by publishers, who handled all the logistical details. But in the new world of self-publishing, anthologies coordinated, written and published by the authors themselves are a viable option.

Several months ago, fellow author and bestie MJ Fredrick and I started tossing around the idea of a Christmas anthology. The conversation eventually led to it being set at the beach rather than some snowy locale. And we brought in the awesome Tanya Michaels as the third author. One thing led to another, and in early June we found ourselves meeting up in Orange Beach, Alabama, for a brainstorming and site research trip. Since we live in three different states, it was much easier to do the initial brainstorming in person. You see, we weren’t just brainstorming our individual stories for the anthology that would become Swept Away for Christmas, a Starfish Shores Holiday. We had to come up with a name for the town that wasn’t already in use by an actual town along the Gulf Coast. As crazy as it might seem, nailing down that town name proved harder than coming up with the story ideas.

RSS Welcomes GH Finalist Ella Sheridan…and her sister

Today I have the joy of welcoming a guest blogger from the Lucky 13s–the Golden Heart Finalists of 2013. Ella Sheridan is a finalist in the Paranormal category with her manuscript UNBROKEN – she’s also my twin sister. We thought we’d do something a little different, and just talk about the joys and struggles of writing, and the novelty of having someone be a part of your life from the moment the egg splits.

Please join me in welcoming my sister, Ella Sheridan!

Ella Sheridan, Unbroken

Dani: I can’t believe you’re here! Seems like we’ve done everything together. We went to school together, took the same classes, got the same major and minor degrees. Married within 6 months of each other and had all our kids pretty close together.

Then you had to copy me and start writing…

Ella: Now, I did start when we were teenagers. I just had to develop stamina. You didn’t start until you were older.

D: Still, we’ve always read voraciously.

E: I think you learn a lot from reading. A lot of the things I do now I do instinctively because I absorbed it. From a very young age we were learning about story details, arcs, and characterization. We were reading adult books at 12 or 13.

What I think is interesting is your process hasn’t really changed all that much through the years. Whereas mine has evolved…and in some cases, is all over the map.

D: I basically do brainstorming, then plot, and get it all down in extensive notes. Then I do a really fast, really rough draft before revising.

E: And your story doesn’t really change. Once you plot it, you don’t make any huge changes (to the story) after that. But I typically have a major change—

D: In just about every chapter! I really don’t know why you want to write the book twice…what’s the point of that?

E: If I could get it right the first time, it would be a lot easier. I’m just a glutton for punishment, I guess. I’ve done that with all except for 1 Nano book, which I only had to rewrite the ending of because my critique partner read it and said, um, I don’t think so.

D: You are a plotter, though, like me.

E: Yes, I plot—

D: –Then you re-plot.

E: Then I plot some more. And then I change those plots.

D: But you know when it’s right.

E: Yes, that’s the thing that has changed a lot with my GH book. I still struggle with the worry over whether its good enough, but I don’t worry if the story is moving in the right direction, because if it’s not right, I can’t stop thinking about it. I can’t settle and have that calm in my head because I know something is off. Even if I don’t know what it is. And when I get a scene right, I have peace. I’ll worry about whether someone else will like it, but I know I’ve gone in the right direction.

That’s the biggest change with this book. I don’t know if it’s a confidence level or an evolution of my process or just this book.

D: I can’t help you there. I’m actually published and I haven’t figured it out. I get it ready to send in and think, “What if I screwed that up?” But it’s too late by then.

E: Well, I’m still working on plotting the next books a little at a time, and the thought of plotting book 2 of a 9 book series terrifies me. Because I do not want to repeat what I did with this one: force myself to write a rough draft that I knew wasn’t right but I thought, well I’ll just get it on the page and revise it. Oh, man, what a load of crap…

I have never struggled with revisions this bad, even though I’ve done major revisions on all of my previous 4 books, but this one was a major overhaul and a half – agonizingly painful to revise.  Part of it was that I didn’t know the rules of my world well enough. I hadn’t figured them out to my satisfaction. I tried to just push through it and hope that those details came. And that didn’t work.

The other part was that I wasn’t as familiar with my characters as I should have been. I mean, I’d been thinking about UNBROKEN’S characters for 3 years. I thought I knew them, and could write them. Then I started the book and…nope. Probably my first clue should have been that I had no music for this book. When I started writing I searched and searched. For me music is vitally important to plotting, getting through certain scenes, setting a mood in my mind—


D: Another thing we do the same.

E: Exactly. And with this book I could not find music that worked that way for me. Until I started the rewrite and then it finally fell into place. That was a huge warning sign that I ignored. You learn, though, and hopefully the next one will be easier.
Of course I always think that the next one will be easier. No. No its not.

D: Come on, girl. You’ve got to get it together. I say, as if I have it all together, and don’t call her every couple of weeks asking her to talk me off a ledge because I’ve freaked out over something.

E: We’re both needy. Something else we share. But it does kind of amaze me that our processes developed separately, but are still so similar. We both use the music, plot to an excessive extent, fill out forms and notes, and both need pictures of our characters. I need to be able to picture them, no matter how minor.

With Unbroken, I have pictures of places too. For the lair I googled underground bunkers, and came up with a home built into the ground in Sweden, but it’s all brushed concrete inside. I started looking at pictures of the inside, because they rent it to people –

D: You could actually go stay in your house!

E: Exactly! And this is where they got on the leather couch and… Research!

D: We get asked a lot, are you twins? Which is funny because I think the older we get, the less we look alike.

E: Me too. I think it’s the husband influence.

D: What would you say has been the neatest and the least favorite part of being a twin?

E: The least favorite part? I think now, there’s not anything about it I don’t like. But when I was just reaching adulthood, that was a hard time to kind of find out who I was –

D: Hey, you stole my answer!

E: Well, we are twins. I think that was a hard time to find myself, and I think it took me longer than the average person.

D: Yes, because you have to find who your identity is on your own. We had an identity as a set. But then we had to find our single identity outside of this other person, which is difficult when you’re with that person all the time. And used to being addressed as, well, one.

E: And thought of as a set. Sort of interchangeable, in a way. Even by people who should have known better.

D: It wasn’t until people got to know us, realized we had different personalities and different ways of approaching things, that we got the more individual approach.

E: The thing I like the most is I don’t have to go anywhere by myself if I don’t want to.

D: When I first started writing, it was the first major thing I ever did by myself. Even though getting married and starting a family were done separately, I was just adding another partner. And it was a normal pursuit.

But writing was outside the norm, and I had to do it alone, I had to walk into my first writers meeting by myself, make my first submission by myself. That is what helped me establish my identity more than anything. So when people talk about writing and how being a writer is something that is wrapped up in who you are, I think this is truer for me than it is for most people. Because it helped me establish myself as an individual person.

E: For me, it was more like following in your footsteps, so I felt like I had to work really hard to prove that I was good enough, that I wasn’t just going along. I had to really work hard.

That’s why the GH means so much to me too. It’s something we share, and that makes it more special to me. Probably less special for you, because you’re like I have to share this too? But for me, I feel like I’m following behind you and giving honor to a legacy, so to speak.

D: Aw, I have a legacy!

E: Don’t let it go to your head or anything… especially the next time you send line edits to me.

D: You do make my books better.

E: That’s an area I feel like I’ve come into my own. Not just with this book, but with my work as a line editor that helped set me apart and give us some differences. It’s something I specialize in. Also it helps that we aren’t targeting the same publishers either. So we’re doing the same thing but coming at it from different angles.

D: And even the things that are similar both have their own voice. We may look the same, but we don’t write the same.

E: Just like we have different personalities, we also have different voices and ways of carrying out our stories.

D: How about some fun facts?

1. We’re mirror image twins. Dani is left-handed and Ella is right-handed. We’re opposites in certain physical areas. We have the same moles on opposite sides of our faces.

2. Ella is allergic to a lot of things that Dani is not.

3. We have similar tastes in clothes, and are both struggling through that “I don’t want to look old” stage.

4. Ella is an inch taller than Dani but Dani is 2 minutes older than her.

5. We do have siblings, but the oldest is 18 years younger than we are. Our youngest sister is creative too, writing songs and poetry.

6. We handle conflict very differently. Ella is the fighter. Dani is more likely avoid conflict if at all possible.

7. Ella’s interest in martial arts adds a whole new element to her evil twin status. Dani is more of an elliptical kind of person, but Ella tells her how to hurt people in her books.

8. Dani’s 2009 GH book features a heroine who is trying to save her twin sister from a kidnapper.

D: The one thing that’s been the best about being a twin is I’ve never had to be alone, really. Through good times and bad. There’s always this person who is not only there, but actually gets it without you having to say anything.

E: We don’t have to explain things to each other.

D: All I have to do is look at you and you know what I’m thinking.

E: Just the lift of an eyebrow or the turn of the head and I get it completely. I could talk for hours at my husband and he wouldn’t get it. I want to say, “Can’t you read my mind?” But no. No, he can’t.

The older we get, the stronger the twin telepathy gets. “I’m not feeling good today. Think I’ll give Dani a call.” Yep, she’s sick.

D: That really has gotten stronger. It didn’t really develop fully until we were adults. I only remember 1 incident of telepathy as a teenager, but other than that it was mostly once we were older. Now it’s strengthening to the point that instead of being triggered by extreme emotions, it’s more everyday things.

One day, Ella texted me and said, “Did you hear from your editor today? Because I’m feeling unusually antsy.” I replied, “I got my celebratory sale shoes.” Oh, so that’s what the excitement is all about…

Dani and Ella will be hanging around today, answering questions about plotting, characterization, being Golden Heart sisters, and anything twins.

Ella Sheridan is a 2013 GH finalist in the Paranormal category with her manuscript, UNBROKEN. She’s a member of RWA and writes contemporary romantic suspense and paranormal with an erotic flare. Her spare time is filled not just with freelance editing, but also teaching karate/jujitsu classes. You can learn more about her here


The human world is populated with myths that allow them to pretend their plain, mundane world is more than it seems—except those myths are true. They stem from one shape-shifting species, the Archai. The Archai’s special abilities gave birth to the legends humans revered, but man can never truly understand what it means to be Archai. Their gifts. Their purpose. The depths of their betrayals.

Arik counts on no one but himself, and he likes it that way. Isolated, alone, he watches and waits for the opportunity to gain the only thing he’ll allow himself to desire: revenge. Then, in the dark of night, the perfect weapon falls unexpectedly into his grasp.

Kat is always on the outside looking in. She’s resigned to being invisible, until an innocent walk home from work is interrupted by a savage attack, forever changing the person she’s always been. Now she’s the focus of a man bent on destroying her world to settle his own score.

Two wills clashing. Two empty hearts in need of each other. Surrendering to the hunger between them is a given, but a deadly enemy lies in wait, and surrendering their souls may be the only thing that saves them.

Guest Author: Abigail Sharpe

I am so happy to be hosting my friend and fellow Unsinkable and Forever Romance author, Abigail Sharpe today. Her debut novel, Who Wants to Marry a Cowboy?  is out this week.  And since I have a real weakness for cowboys I can’t wait to read it.

Abigail is blogging today about a subject I struggle with — writing that all-important sex scene.

Sex and the Reserved Romance Author

AbigailI wrote a romance novel.  It’s called Who Wants to Marry a Cowboy? and it’s out this week.  And yes, it contains that three letter word, SEX!

I see a lot of sex questions on author message boards for romance novels.  How much is too much?  Do you even need it at all?  Can you just throw one of those scenes in there to up the word count?  And I know the answer:  You do what’s right to advance the story.  Sex for the sake of sex?  The reader will know.  And not be happy.

There is one question I don’t hear at all:  How do you write it when you can’t even look at your monitor?

Yeah, that was me.  I could *read* the physical scenes without a problem. I’m not shy and I’m not a prude, but WRITING lovemaking?  Or just some down and dirty sex?  Geesh.  I blush when I just think about penning an erotica.

I mean, I crack dirty jokes with the best of ‘em.  (Two horses fell into the mud.  See?) But I didn’t create those jokes.  I heard them from someone else.  The sex scenes in Who Wants to Marry a Cowboy? come straight from my own imagination.  Listen – I’ve been married for 15 years and have two kids, but… what if my MOTHER reads my story?  She’ll wonder how I know some of these things AND will realize I’m no longer a virgin!  And if she shows her friends?  Oy.

I remember when it was Time.  I was at the point in Who Wants to Marry a Cowboy? where the hero and heroine were ready to DO IT.  They had been interrupted several times over the course of the story already (looking back, that was probably my own reluctance to actually WRITE the scene) and I had deprived them for long enough.  So, in my technical-writer-as-my-day-job way, I wrote their sex scene.  Very step-by-step.  And with my eyes closed and facing away from the monitor.

Editing was even worse.  Because then I had to actually READ what I had written.  You can’t do that with your eyes closed. Oh, and READING it at critique group?  Fugetaboutit. I talk fast normally, but MAN!  I was like a horse at Preakness.

Once I got more comfortable with the idea that I had to write sex if I wanted the characters in my novels to have sex, it got a little easier.  A little.  I’m fortunate my critique group will tell me if there are flying body parts or if it reads like a technical manual.  Even if I am still trying to read the draft with my eyes closed.

So how do you DO IT?  I mean write sex scenes, of course.  I need all the help I can get.  And one commenter will win a digital copy of Who Wants to Marry a Cowboy?

* * * * *

WWTMACCOVERThere’s nothing florist Ainsley Fairfax won’t do to help her sister get the love of her life-even if it means taking her place on a bachelorette weekend at a Wyoming ranch so Cecelia can sail off with the man of her dreams. Ainsley is determined to spend the time keeping her head down and her heart safely tucked away-until an encounter with the ranch’s hunky owner gets her heart-and steamy desires-to bloom . . .

Riley Pommer doesn’t want to be lassoed into any relationship. But with the family ranch in dire straits, Riley knows his sisters’ crazy plan to turn the ranch into the setting for a dating competition-and using Riley as the bait-is the only thing standing between them and foreclosure. But the rules of the game change the instant Riley lays eyes on the spirited Ainsley. Now, as others try to stampede over their love, can Riley prove to Ainsley that true love is a prize worth fighting for?

Abigail is a Boston-bred Yankee now eating grits and saying “y’all” in North Central Florida. She dreamed more of being a stage actress or joining the CIA than being an author. While she still enjoys participating in community theater productions and singing karaoke, the secret-agent career was replaced by hours at her computer, writing stories of love and laughter and happily ever after.  Her first novel, Who Wants to Marry a Cowboy? is being released May 7, 2013, by Grand Central Forever Yours.

Abigail lives with her husband, two kids, and one crazy princess puppy who masquerades as a sock thief when she thinks no one is looking.


Guest Ashlyn Macnamara: Unique Character Voice

Recently, I’ve been rereading a series I discovered when I was younger. It’s a five-book middle grade fantasy series based on Welsh mythology entitled The Chronicles of Prydain. Since I’ve become a writer myself, I can’t help but noticing the author’s craft. Something really jumped out at me this time. The author, Lloyd Alexander, is a real master of character voice.

Each of his characters has his own unique way of expressing himself, and that voice helps them leap off the page. You get an immediate sense, through a character’s dialogue, of who that character is.

Take, for example, Eilonwy, the heroine of the series. She’s a secret princess, a bit of a motor-mouth, and one of the first feisty heroines I read about. Oh, and she often showed more sense than many of the male characters. I loved her. I wanted her to be real so I could be her friend. One of the ways the author sets her speech apart from the others is her penchant for spouting similes and metaphors—and they’re often just this side of implausible.

Guest Post: Candace Havens, on her Fast Draft process

Happy Wednesday everyone, and have I got a treat for you! A few years ago I had the pleasure of meeting today’s guest and spending the weekend with her. And let me just say, she is FABULOUS! And she’s also highly motivating. It was purely due to her that I finally figured out how to finish my very first manuscript. No, it didn’t sell, but it got finished. Which was all I needed at that point! And it got finished because of her Fast Draft process. There’s just something magical about figuring out how to turn off that internal editor, and let the words flow. But I’ll let her tell you all about that!

For our readers, I want you to keep in mind that our Winter Writing Festival is coming up next month, and what better way to prepare than to learn how to Fast Draft!

Now please, let me introduce to you, the wonderful, the fabulous, the spectacular, Candace Havens!!! 🙂 Please Candy, tell us all about your process…

People always say they don’t have time to write. They are lying. The truth is, they won’t MAKE the time to write. There aren’t many jobs where you can show up for an hour and then again six months later, and make a living. You have to make writing a priority.

Hi, I’m New Here. . .Young Adult Author Ellie James Shares Tips On Switching Genres

Today I’m happy to welcome new Young Adult author Ellie James. But Ellie is not “new” to the publishing world. Oh, no, she’s published 18 romantic suspense books for Harlequin/Silhouette over a period of 10 years. But now, Ellie’s writing has taken a new direction, new genre, new pen name. She’s here to tell us what that’s like. Welcome and take it away, Ellie!


At some point in our life, we all make changes. Maybe it’s a new school or a new job, a new state or city, a new neighborhood. Sometimes it’s more than one at a time.  But at some time we invariably say goodbye to what we know and step into unfamiliar territory. It’s fun and exciting, but scary and daunting all at the same time. There’s so much to learn and experience, but lessons to be learned, as well.

It’s the same thing with writing: switching genres is a lot like moving to a new neighborhood. You still have your friends from before, and in all likelihood you still speak the same language, but you’re about to encounter a whole lot of new!

Guest Keli Gwyn: 3 Ways to Add Pizzazz to Your Author Bio

I’m thrilled to welcome my good friend and writing partner Keli Gwyn to the Ruby blog!  She’s got some fun tips for making our author bios the best they can be.  Welcome, Keli!


Is your author bio boring?

Mine was—until I took a workshop from social media guru Kristen Lamb, author of We Are Not Alone: The Writer’s Guide to Social Media. She taught my fellow workshop participants and me how to make our bios lots more fun.


I think of it as taking a plain vanilla bio and turning it into a delicious sundae with plenty of yummy toppings. Here’s how. . .

Kristen gave us 3 great tips, which I’m paraphrasing.

1. Remember who we are.

We’re writers. She said that all too often when we novelists draft a bio we seem to forget we’re fiction writers. We’re used to making up cool stories that captivate readers, but when we approach our bios we go all factual and miss out on the fun.

2. Remember who our readers are.

Who reads our books? Drum roll please. Readers!

Yes, readers read our books, but our bios often sound like little more than a recitation of our writerly accomplishments. Sure, I’m a member of RWA® and its FH&L, TGN, and SVR chapters along with being a member of ACFW, but what reader cares about that? Do they even know what the acronyms stand for? Are they all that interested in the fact that I finaled in the GH and won the Launching a Star, Maggie, Emily, etc? I doubt it. And if we’re honest, do they really care that much about my family?

Nope. They want to know one thing. Can I tell an interesting story?

Kristen said we can include the writer-related facts and a little about our families, but she suggested putting that type of information at the end of the bio and keeping the beginning fun for the reader.

3. Remember that our job is to market ourselves.

If we want to reach readers, we need to give them what they want: good stories. We do that by keeping our bios fun, showing readers what types of stories we write, and giving them a taste of our voices.

Our bios are our opportunities to sell ourselves as writers of stories readers want to read.


Confession Time

My publisher asked me for a bio, which will appear on the back cover of my debut novel. I sent it to the lovely editorial assistant I’ve worked with at Barbour Publishing, Linda Hang. I’d worked on it for days, tweaking it until every word was right.

And then I took Kristen’s course.

After learning the tips above, I got really brave and read the bio I’d sent to Linda. Guess what? It was Boring with a capital B. Since I’m being honest here, I’ll tell you that I lifted portions of it directly from my query letter. Talk about plain. It was diet vanilla ice cream.

I applied the tips Kristen taught in the workshop and came up with a bio that has more pizzazz, is geared toward readers, and is no longer filled with a litany of my writerly affiliations and educational mumbo jumbo.



Since I’m a fan of show, don’t tell, I’ll let you see the before and after. And although I’m sure you could improve upon my “after,” it does represent me and my voice. I’m not exactly a sundae person in real life. I’m more of a chocolate chip ice cream drenched in Hershey’s® syrup kinda gal.

Before, with editorial notes included:

Award-winning novelist Keli Gwyn is a member of the American Christian Fiction Writers and Romance Writers of America®. She earned her bachelor’s degree in Mass Communication/Print Journalism. [Are you yawning yet?] A California native, she lives in a historic Gold Rush-era town at the foot of the majestic Sierra Nevada Mountains. She enjoys her frequent time travels to the 1800s, where she spends countless hours with her characters while fueling her creativity with Taco Bell® and sweet tea. [Better, but why put the more interesting stuff at the end?]

After, with editorial notes following:

Award-winning novelist Keli Gwyn is a California native who lives in a Gold Rush-era town at the foot of the majestic Sierra Nevada Mountains. Her stories transport readers to the 1800s, where she brings historic towns to life, peoples them with colorful characters, and adds a hint of humor. She fuels her creativity with Taco Bell® and sweet tea. When she’s not writing, she enjoys spending time with her husband and two skittish kitties.

Notes: Since my debut novel is set in California in the heart of the Gold Country, I chose to include facts intended to show the reader that I’m someone they can trust to know the area. I mentioned the kind of stories I write. I added a touch of humor since that element is in my stories. I did mention my family briefly but included a fun description of our cats.

• • •

What are some fun facts about yourself that you could include in your bio?

Image from Wikimedia Commons.


Thanks so much for the tips, Keli!  One lucky commenter will receive a copy of Keli’s debut book, which releases in just 3 days…

Widow Elenora Watkins is determined to provide for herself and her daughter without relying on anyone else. Can she run a successful business after falling for the competition? Miles Rutledge finds himself willing to do anything to keep Elenora in town. But can he win her heart while putting her out of business?

P.S. – Keli has a gorgeous new website. You really should check it out.








Guest Erin Knightley: Facing Feedback (and other fears)

Hi, Ruby sis Anne here, and I’m so pleased to welcome Erin Knightley back to the blog! We met at RWA Nationals last year, and since then I’ve watched her gracefully navigate the path to published authordom. Welcome, Erin!

A year ago this month, I was a guest with the Rubies in celebration of being a Golden Heart Finalist. And can you believe it—I’m here now to celebrate the impending release of my debut novel! If that’s not a whirlwind, I don’t know what is. 🙂

In less than a week, I will literally be able to walk into Barnes & Noble, pick up my book from the shelf, and try—unsuccessfully, I’m sure—not to run screaming through the store yelling, “IT’S MY FIRST BOOK!! LOOK, I WROTE THIS!!”


Is it exciting? Heck yeah—it’s one of the most exciting rides of my life.  To know that your work will soon be in front of hundreds . . . thousands . . . millions?? . . . yeah, thousands of eyes is beyond thrilling. But as time marches toward June 5th, when my book will at last be available to all and sundry, a funny thing seems to be happening. I went from ecstatic, to thrilled, to excited, to nervous, to scared out of my ever-loving mind.

That’s right, I said it. I’m *terrified.*

All these months that I’ve been telling every person on the planet that my book was forthcoming? Yeah, now that it has gone from months away, to weeks away, and now days away, I find that I desperately want to call them all and say, “Oops! My bad—I don’t have a book coming out. Juuuust forget I ever said anything.” [Insert innocent whistle here]

I’m not kidding.  In the aforementioned scenario, when I run through Barnes & Noble screaming like fool, what I didn’t say is that I also hope to round up every copy, buy them myself, then take off for the hills before anyone has the chance to judge me.  Because let’s face it: They will judge me.

Fact: Not everybody is going to like the book

Greater Fact: The ones that don’t will feel diabolically compelled to plaster their opinion all over Amazon and Goodreads

Fact: I will try not to read these reviews

Greater Fact: At some point my willpower will crumble like a day-old cookie, and I’ll read them all in one tear-filled, chocolate-binging evening, culminating in me in the fetal position on the couch while my three dogs exchange worried glances

Fact: I can’t do anything about what people will think of the book

Greater Fact: You know what? That’s okay.

As all the scary scenarios played out in my head (“If they had negative stars to give, I totally would have!”), I finally asked myself why it is that I write.  What compelled me to put pen to paper—make that fingers to keyboard—and begin spinning a tale. Why did I spend years working on my craft, pursuing agents, swallowing rejection [read: getting teeth kicked in by the Big R], submitting to contests, networking like a fiend, and dealing with the realities of deadlines, edits, and reviews?

Because I had to.

Because there are stories in me that I have to write. There are characters who I must give voice to, and plots I must develop. If I’m away from my computer, my fingers positively itch to type. It’s in my blood the way music is in a musician’s soul, or art is an artist’s passion.  I don’t just write—I’m a writer. It’s who I am, no matter what a disgruntled reviewer says, or how few stars are clicked.

I may be a big ole ball of insecurities right now, but ultimately, it doesn’t matter if there are those who don’t like me. I love what I do—tears, sweat, and all—and I will always be proud of reaching for my dreams, regardless of success.

And you know what else? Some people are going to like my books. In fact, I must remind myself that many already do. If I’m lucky, some are even going to love them. And while I will try for all I’m worth to avoid the mean-spirited reviews that are sure to come, I’ll also be living for the day when a fan looks me in the eye and tells me they read my book and loved it.

And that, my friends, will make everything worth it.

You know what else makes it worth it? Having made friends with so many of the incredible women and men of the romance writing community. I’m so grateful to have such a supportive group of people around me. You’ll let me be as neurotic as I need to be, give me a hug, then promptly give me a good kick in the rear. 😉

So tell me—what’s your advice for handling bad feedback? Be it reviews, rejections, or contest losses, what are your strategies for getting through the bad stuff on the way to the good?

Leave a comment for one of TWO chances to win! Here’s how it works: 

  1. Everyone who comments will be entered in my Sealed with a Kiss blog tour giveaway! Prizes include signed books, lots of fun swag, stationery, a custom iPhone case, and gift cards from Starbucks and Amazon! For details, click HERE. Drawings will be made June 15th!
  2. You’re already a winner! If you’d like a signed bookmark (or more – just let me know how many!), simply say so in the comments section, and I’ll send post haste! Offer good for the first 40 requests per blog.

*Be sure to leave your e-mail address so I can contact winners, or email me at after commenting if you don’t wish to list publicly* I’ll ship anywhere in US, Canada, or Mexico

Bio: Despite being an avid reader and closet writer her whole life, Erin Knightley decided to pursue a sensible career in science.  It was only after earning her B.S. and working in the field for years that she realized doing the sensible thing wasn’t any fun at all.  Following her dreams, Erin left her practical side behind and now spends her days writing. Together with her tall, dark, and handsome husband and their three spoiled mutts, she is living her own Happily Ever After in North Carolina. Find her at, on Twitter, or on Facebook.



When his family abandoned him at Eton, Benedict Hastings found an unexpected ally in his best friend’s sister. Her letters kept him going—until the day he had to leave everything behind.  Years later, Benedict has seen his share of betrayal, but when treachery hits close to home, he turns to his old friend for safe haven….


After five torturous years on the marriage circuit, Lady Evelyn Moore is finally free to live her life as she wishes. So when her brother shows up with a dashing stranger, she finds herself torn between her dreams…and newfound desires.


Despite his determination to keep Evie at a distance, Benedict cannot deny the attraction that began with a secret correspondence. Yet as they begin to discover one another, the dangers of Benedict’s world find them, threatening their lives, their love, and everything they thought they could never have…

Guest Author: John DeDakis — A Man Writing as a Woman

A couple of weeks ago I attended the grand opening of the American Women Writers National Museum. While I was there, the founder of the museum asked me if I would sit on a panel on the topic of men writing from the female POV, and play Devil’s Advocate. Sure!

The panel is today from 11:30-1:30 and consists of CNN Senior Copy Editor John DeDakis and Amanda Brice. In honor of the event, the Rubies are hosting John DeDakis today on the blog. Enjoy!


I’m a guy, but I write in the first person as a woman.

When my first mystery/suspense novel FAST TRACK was published in hardcover in 2005, one of my male friends said in astonishment to one of our mutual female friends, “I didn’t know John was a closet woman!”

I inscribed his book: “Welcome to my closet.”

My CNN colleague and cone-of-silence friend Carol Costello once told me after reading an early draft of the manuscript, “You have a very well- developed female side.” I suppose some guys might be freaked to be told that, but Carol meant it as a compliment, so I accept it, even though I’m still not totally sure what she means (but I think it has to do with nuanced emotional depth, or something).

Writing as a woman started when I first began toying with writing fiction nearly twenty years ago. Someone suggested that I choose a point of view that would be different for me — and a challenge. It was only later that I realized that most people who buy books are women. Cool.

I found that writing from the female perspective hasn’t been as tough as I thought it would be, for a number of reasons:

• I had a great relationship with my mom (a third grade school teacher, incidently) — I could talk with her about anything

• Cindy, my wife of 33 years, is one of those quality people who have a lot of substantive things to say. She’s smart, compassionate, articulate, and never boring

• My 30-year-old writer/daughter Emily is never shy about offering an opinion on just about everything. She has a PhD in Creative Writing from Queens University in Belfast, Northern Ireland and edited both my novels.

• I work in a newsroom surrounded by twenty-something young women who tell me about their boyfriend, career, and family issues, probably because I’m much more comfortable asking questions and listening than pontificating.

I asked a lot of women to read the FAST TRACK manuscript before I found my agent — also a woman (Barbara Casey) — and their feedback helped me make tweaks that rendered the text authentic to the female psyche. For example, I had a line of dialogue in which Lark Chadwick, my protagonist, says, “I’ll just jump into the shower.” The women of the Princeton Lakes Book Club in Marietta, Georgia, who let me sit in and listen as they critiqued the manuscript, said, as one: “Women do NOT just ‘jump’ into the shower. We savor the sensuality of the experience.”

Got it. Lark no longer jumps into the shower.

After FAST TRACK came out, Kris Kosach of ABC Radio wrote, “DeDakis crawls inside the mind of a twenty-something female, authentically capturing her character, curiosity and self-expression in this can’t-put-down thriller.” Nice.

And I continue to be amazed at the numerous 5-star reviews I get on Amazon from women who don’t seem to mind that a man is writing as a woman. See for yourself.

BLUFF, the second novel in the Lark Chadwick series, came out a year ago. Veteran investigative journalist Diane Dimond (NPR, NBC, and now Newsweek/ writes, “Lark reminds me of me in the early days of my career…. DeDakis can so accurately write from a woman’s point of view — with all the intrinsic curiosity, emotion and passion — [that it’s] nothing short of astounding.”

Conversely, I think it goes without saying that women, too, can effectively write as men. In fact, I would venture that all authors have at least some experience writing characters of the opposite sex because most novels contain male and female characters.

Yes, there is probably still plenty of prejudice out there among people who don’t believe it’s possible for a writer to be able to bridge the gender gap, but I’ve found that emotions are universal. Women, as well as men, experience fear, joy, anger, and sadness. No one gender corners the market on having feelings, it’s just that I’ve found women express them more interestingly and articulately.

So, I’m proud to be a woman — if only on the printed page.

John DeDakis is a Senior Copy Editor for CNN’s “The Situation Room with Wolf Blitzer” and the author of the Lark Chadwick mystery-suspense series “Fast Track” and “Bluff.”

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The Latest Comments

  • Autumn Jordon: You’re very welcome. I learned a lot.
  • Bev Pettersen: Such a helpful post, Thanks Autumn. And also thanks to Vivi, Rae and Judy!
  • Autumn Jordon: Everyone of these cover designers is so talented. I wish I had their eye for detail.
  • Autumn Jordon: I totally agree, Kate. I think it takes a certain eye to make an awesome cover.
  • Autumn Jordon: They did a amazing job answering my questions, didn’t they. I also learned a lot.