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Promotion Secrets with Author Maria Zannini

My special guest today is author, Maria Zannini who recently self-published a paranormal romance called The Devil to Pay. Maria has been out on the virtual road with the Indie Roadshow where she tells writers about her self-publishing journey and the things she’s learned along the way. Today Maria is talking about promotion, which I know is something many writers struggle with and don’t enjoy. Over to Maria…

The Indie Roadshow

Psst. Do you want to know the secret to good promotion? You might be surprised when I tell you because it’s been in front of you the whole time.

Ready for it?

You have to find the reader, rather than wait for him to find you. And when you do find him you have to talk to your reader and keep him engaged.

Book promotion is time consuming, expensive, and there are no guarantees that your efforts will bear fruit. But a lot of your labor can be cut in half if you focus on the reader and what S/HE needs.

Think about yourself as a reader. You just finished a fantastic book from a new-to-you author and you decide to Google the author to learn more about her. When you reach her blog, all you find are advertisements for more books. It feels like a bit of letdown, doesn’t it?

To attract the reader your best bet is to go to his haunts. And when it comes to indie publishing most of those avid readers will be found at book blogs, reading forums, book clubs, and book outlets (like Amazon).

Most of these outlets are free to you, though some might require asking for an invitation to appear. Others, like Goodreads and Shelfari welcome you as long as you keep the pimping low-key.

And there’s still room for legitimate advertising. LASR (Long and Short Reviews) and The Romance Studio are two I’ve used. Both offer low-priced packages and get a ton of traffic.

Here are a list of options for you to consider that are either low cost or no cost.

Buy advertising packages at a book-centric web sites. (Make sure they get a lot of traffic.)
• LASR (Long and Short Reviews)
• The Romance Studio
Coffee Time Romance
• All Romance ebooks

Share yourself
• Guest blogging. Double your mileage and blog at places where you’re lesser known.
• Forums, such as Kindleboards, Absolute Write Water Cooler, and genre-specific forums

Talk to book bloggers about:
• Reviews
• Interviews
• Guest posts

Give your book away
Liz Fichera had a marvelous idea when she gave away her arc for Craving Perfect to ten people who would agree to review it. With an indie book, there are no limitations on how many books you can give away. Be generous. Word of mouth is priceless.

Go where the readers are like:
Goodreads
Shelfari
Facebook

Finally, don’t leave out television and radio. It might be difficult to nab a guest spot, but if you have a small station locally, you’ll reach an audience you might not otherwise find.

It’s scary to put yourself out there because you don’t always know how you’ll be received, but if you’ve written the best book you can, all that’s left is to be the kind of author people want to know.

And I’ll tell you my personal secret for promoting myself. I comment on many different blogs. Not a ‘hi, I like your site’ comment, but something personal and thoughtful. If you leave short and intriguing comments, I promise you, people will follow you back.

***

I hope you’ll follow along with the rest of the Indie Roadshow as I share the things I learned on my road to self-publishing.

The Devil to Pay

The Devil To Pay is available at Amazon and Smashwords for only $2.99. It is the first book of the series, Second Chances.

Synopsis: The road to Hell is paved with good intentions and bad tequila. Shannon McKee finds herself at the end of her rope, and she bargains her soul in a fit of despair.

Shannon’s plea is answered immediately by two men who couldn’t be more different from one another. Yet they share a bond and an affection for the stubborn Miss McKee that even they don’t understand.

When Heaven and Hell demand their payment, Shannon has no choice but to submit. No matter who gets her soul, she’s not getting out of this alive.

Bio: Maria Zannini used to save the world from bad advertising, but now she spends her time wrangling chickens, and fighting for a piece of the bed against dogs of epic proportions. Occasionally, she writes novels.

Follow me on Facebook or my blog.

The 13 Step Guide to The Amorous Education of Celia Seaton

Thursday Thirteen

I have author, Miranda Neville visiting me today. She’s celebrating the release of her historical romance, The Amorous Education of Celia Seaton, which is out at Avon on July 26. Her heroine, Celia is taming a dandy, among other things. Please welcome Miranda and read on to learn about Celia…

The 13 Step Guide to The Amorous Education of Celia Seaton

1. The hero starts out needing a good kick in the behind. Tarquin Compton is London’s social leader, famous for his fine figure, perfect dress, and poisonously witty tongue. Someone needs to take him down a peg, or three.

2. Celia Seaton is the woman to do it. He ruined her marriage prospects and she’s angry.

3. When she finds him the wilderness, having lost his memory and most of his clothes, she tells him his name is Terence Fish and they are betrothed.

4. Tarquin isn’t pleased, but “Terence” turns out to be a different guy than she expected: kind, brave, amusing – and really hot.

5. In fact he’s just the man to help her escape across the moors, pursued by the villains who kidnapped her.

6. Tarquin happens to have a naughty novel with him, which Celia finds highly educational. And you know what happens when a man and a woman spend several days alone together. There’s a reason they used to have chaperones.

7. They fall in love.

8. Tarquin gets his memory back and the real trouble starts. He goes back to being the rude dandy she hates so much. Or does he? Perhaps he’s changed.

9. A house party in a ducal mansion provides opportunities for late night corridor prowling.

10. We find out why Tarquin became the way he is – and how he discovers the socially unacceptable Celia is the woman he wants and needs.

11. We learn what Celia’s kidnappers want – and how it relates to the shameful secrets of her past.

12. We meet the villains, some more desperate – and more villainous – than others and learn how our intrepid hero and heroine foil them (of course) as true love overcomes all obstacles (of course)

13. The thirteenth point I leave up to you. What would you like to know?

The Amourous Education of Celia Seaton Blurb:

Being kidnapped teaches Miss Celia Seaton a few things about life

LESSON ONE
Never disrobe in front of a gentleman … unless his request comes at gunpoint.

LESSON TWO
If, when lost on the moors, you encounter Tarquin Compton, the leader of London society who ruined your marriage prospects, deny any previous acquaintance.

LESSON THREE
If offered an opportunity to get back at Mr. Compton, the bigger the lie, the better. A faux engagement should do nicely.

LESSON FOUR
Not all knowledge is found between the covers of a book. But an improper book may further your education in ways you never guessed.

And while an erotic novel may be entertaining, the real thing is even better.

Purchase The Amorous Education of Celia Seaton

To learn more about Miranda and her books visit her website.

CONTEST: Miranda is giving away a $25 Amazon Gift card to one commenter during her blog tour. The winner will be drawn at the conclusion of Miranda’s tour. For full details and more chances to win follow the VBT for The Amorous Education of Celia Seaton

Writing A Book With Another Author

I’d like to welcome Mina Carter and Bethany J Barnes who are celebrating the release of their Sci-fi Erotic Romance, Taming the Wildcat, which was released by Summerhouse Publishing earlier this month. Please give them a warm welcome and make sure you take the time to enter their contest. Over to BJ and Mina…

Hi all *waves madly* I’d like to thank Shelley for hosting BJ and I today. We promise not to break anything, or scare anyone off (maybe)!

Mina: Today we’re going to be talking about co-authoring. Personally, I love co-authoring. Writing can be a very solitary activity (just ask any author’s family). Very often I can hole up for weeks at a time with my laptop and a host of notebooks, snarling at anyone who tries to disturb my writing time and eating a year’s supply of chocolate. (I’ve always maintained I’m in shape. Round is a shape, right?)

Co-authoring alleviates the loneliness that comes with the writing territory. I talk themes, motivations and plot to my husband and he gives me a blank look. The same can be said for my friends, until I’m reduced to muttering to myself and people look at me as though I’m mad. Unless they know me, then they already KNOW I’m mad.

Anyway…co-authors. Finding a person to write with is like an epiphany (or at the very least a damn good chocolate sundae). Suddenly you have a person who will not only listen whilst you rabbit on about your newest shiny plot with all its characters and their subplots but…they actually talk back. Far from avoiding eye contact and making a break for the door, they make comments, ask questions and add to the plot.

From navigating your own course through the choppy world of the first draft, where you have to fight awkward characters, writers block and plot issues, you have back up :D Someone to work through a scene with, help you with that trouble sentence, slap you when you’ve used the same word twenty times in the last two paragraphs (you laugh, I’m good at that one!).

Mina: BJ and I spend hours writing together over the somewhat clunky medium of skype. We each take a character and write primarily for that person. I’m a plotter, so we tend to have a plot worked out in advance (after we’ve hunted and pinned down a couple of the ever present plot bunnies) and then we write over the course of a couple of weeks.

BJ: I don’t talk to my husband about writing. He’s very analytical and has no imagination (unless it involves ways for him to be the goofy and annoying). He also doesn’t read. Not he can’t read, he chooses not to. He’d rather wait for a movie if a book sounds interesting. The most I can get out of him is for him to keep me supplied with Coca-Cola (I don’t drink coffee. I know! The lifeblood of authors the world round and I don’t drink it. Coke is my caffeine of choice), Doritos and chocolate in various forms.

Co-authoring is something rather new to me. I can thank and blame Mina for setting my feet on that path in the first place. We met and became friends through a mutual friend (waves spastically to Nic). When Mina found out I was writing a book, we started talking about it and she became interested in hearing more about it. She offered to become my crit partner and from then on, we talked about each other’s writing. Finding someone to be able to talk about characters and plots with was incredible. Someone as crazy (and sometimes crazier) as I was about writing and great characters? Awesome! She also started telling me about another form of writing she was involved in. Star Trek based RPG (role playing game). She had several characters that I became interested in and eventually, as with all of her writing, I was hooked.

Writing on the sims was the first time I had ever written with anyone else. I totally blame her for getting me hooked on the sims. Writing with others was FUN! When it ended up that the character I created sounded like she’d be a good match for one of Mina’s characters’ sons, the mother of all plot bunnies reared its head. Pretty soon, we were talking about what they’d be like together. That’s how Roz and Summer came to life. From the amount of story that was quickly filling up our heads about them, we knew that we had to write about them in a book so we could explore their characters in ways we couldn’t on the sim. Hehehehe…that translates into sex as well as character development. We didn’t want to limit their interactions when it came to how they met.

Now, co-authoring is one of my favorite things to do, even though I’m still learning as I go along. Writing with Mina is an absolute adventure and joy. I’m very blessed that she took me under her wing and showed me the ropes on how to write with another person. We’re still getting ambushed on a daily basis by rabid plot bunnies that keep telling us about this couple or that one. So far we’ve got more bunnies than we have time to write, but we’ll get around to writing more in the Sargosian Chronicles soon.

We just have to shoot or stomp on the plot bunnies that keep popping up when we’re trying to focus on current projects or they’d take over. I don’t know who I’m kidding here…they took over a while ago. Between them and the muses (for me the characters become the muse and let me tell you they are very vocal about how they should be written or what they would or wouldn’t do), I’ve had to embrace the insanity. I’ve always been crazy, but this is an all new level of coo-coo for Cocoa Puffs!

Disclaimer: No plot bunnies were harmed in the making of this post. *snickers* No…really. They are all safe and sound…for now.

Thank you so much Shelley, for letting us stop by so we could blog about co-authoring. Seriously, if anyone could see what goes into our Skype chats besides our writing, they’d wonder if we were drinking whacky juice or taking some mind altering pharmaceuticals. We aren’t, by the way…we just have that much fun together.

I’ve often wondered, before I did this myself, how people wrote books together. I always wondered how they meshed their ideas together. Now I know and hopefully, we’ve explained it a bit for your readers.

Mina CarterMina Carter was born and raised in Middle Earth (otherwise known as the Midlands, England). After a slew of careers ranging from logistics to land-surveying she can now be found in the wilds of Leicestershire with her husband and young daughter…the true boss of the family.

Suffering the curse of eternal curiosity Mina never tires of learning new skills which has led to Aromatherapy, Corsetry, Chain-maille making, Welding, Canoeing, Shooting, and pole-dancing to name but a few. A veteran Star Trek RPGer, she’s run both games and groups of games but now finds her home in Bravo Fleet,one of the internet’s oldest Star Trek simm groups.

She juggles being a mum, working full time and writing, tossing another ball in the air with her cover artwork. For Mina, writing time is the wee hours of the morning before anyone wakes up and starts making demands, or any spare minute that can be begged, bought or conned.

Her first stories were penned at age 11, when she used a stationery set meant for Christmas thank you letters to write stories instead. More recently, she wrote for her own amusement and to save on outrageous monthly book bills. Now she’s totally addicted and needs her daily writing fix or heads roll! To learn more about Mina’s books visit her website.

BJ BarnesA fiery-tempered stay at home mom by day, Bethany J. Barnes is really a superhero in disguise. Equally at home creating fantastical worlds and the men and women who inhabit them or driving armed across county to collect a hot male (her gorgeous horse, Tristan), she’ll happily wrestle rattlesnakes, rescue baby owls or perform strenuous casting tests for male leads in her stories. An active RPGer, B.J. is equally happy writing hot paranormal or steamy sci-fi and is the mainstay of many online games. An accomplished photographer, B.J.’s specialties are concert and equine photography. She’s dabbled in wedding photography, but has no patience for Bridezillas.

PS – She’s been known to shoot a bumble bee hovering in midair. Not a lady to be messed with! To learn more about Bethany’s books visit her website.

CONTEST:
Mina and Bethany are giving away a $10 Amazon voucher to one commenter during their tour. Increase your chances of winning by following their tour.

Taming the Wildcat

Blurb:

Fresh out of a disciplinary that almost ruined her career and landed her in jail, Summer King is out for a much needed night on the town…or bar district in her local space station. It seems this King girl can’t stay out of trouble though, causing a bar brawl within minutes of her arrival.

Roz Taren is a mercenary, leader of the Wildcats, and a man who knows what he wants. Right now, that’s the pretty girl in the purple dress. Rescuing her from the unwanted attentions of a bunch of drunks lands her right in his bed for the hottest weeked he’s ever experienced.

Then she’s recalled and Roz discovers his little firebird is a fleet pilot aka insane crazy with a side of total fruitloop. Fleet pilots live fast, die young and leave legends behind. When he recieves word her ship is lost with all hands, Roz must bury her along with his heart.

Only this firebird isn’t your garden variety. This bird is a Phoenix…one out to tame a Wildcat.

Purchase Taming the Wildcat

Writing the Paranormal Series Arc with Rosalie Lario

Today, I’d like to welcome author, Rosalie Lario. She’s celebrating the release of a new paranormal romance called For Love of An Angel. Today Rosalie is talking about story arcs, and I’m really looking forward to your comments. Over to Rosalie…

First off, I’d like to say thanks, Shelley, for having me here today!

For Love of An AngelHave you ever read a series with a continuing story arc? I’m not talking about cliff-hanger endings, but an overall storyline that pulled you forward from one book to the next. That’s what I aimed for when starting my new paranormal romance series, The Fallen Warriors.

My series features angels, but not in the biblical sense. Rather than servants of Heaven, the angels on my world are a race of beings from an alternate dimension. They are forced into our world when the walls between the dimensions collapse. Once the angels realize they are forever stuck here, they convince humans to allow them to rule over Earth in exchange for peace and security…the ultimate utopia. But in reality, their designs on Earth are far more sinister.

The heroes of my series are a group of angels who seek to protect humankind. Because of this they have been cast out of their society and condemned to die. They are Fallen.

The Fallen are determined to stop the other angels from eradicating humankind, and this is the series arc that pulls each story forward. I knew I wouldn’t be able to resolve this huge plot point in one, or even three, novellas, so the entire series revolves around the Fallens’ attempts to protect humans. Ultimately , it will culminate in war against the angels.

Each of my novellas is a complete story featuring a Fallen finding and wooing his mate in the midst of the group’s preparation for battle. Read on for more about For Love of an Angel, Book 1 of The Fallen Warriors Series:

Blurb:

In a world where angels rule over humans, twelve outcasts dare to defy expectation, warring with their angel brethren to prevent the extinction of humankind.

They are The Fallen…

Michael is one of twelve angels who have been outcast due to their determination to protect humankind. In order to preserve his immortality and strength, he must find a mate with angel blood. Eva Smyth has never believed the propaganda spouted by the Consortium—the elite system of guards put into place once angels took over reign of Earth—but she never expected to learn the angels plan to eradicate all of humankind, or that she herself is part angel. Joining Michael means living a life on the run, at war against the angels and hunted by the Consortium. Eva must decide whether to risk it all…for love of an angel.

You can read the first chapter of For Love of an Angel here

Please Visit me at:

Website
Twitter
Facebook

Buy Links:

Barnes and Noble
Amazon
Smashwords

So I’d love to know, do you enjoy stories with continuing series arcs?

Rosalie Lario practiced real estate law for several years before finally admitting to herself that negotiating contracts wasn’t nearly as fun as dreaming up stories. As an avid reader of romances and supernatural stories, she knew she wanted to write paranormal romance.

When not writing, she enjoys spending time with her husband and son in their home state of Florida, as well as searching out things that go bump in the night. She still hasn’t found any proof of the supernatural, but she’s keeping her fingers crossed.

Stop To Smell The Roses

My special guest today is author, Casey Sheridan who is celebrating the release of her new book Ruby Red Metallic. Over to Casey.

After spending eight hours at the daytime dungeon the other day, I was mentally pooped, but I knew I needed to sit down and write this post, or at the very least come up with a theme.

Ruby Red MetallicI did some serious contemplation that lasted a whole three seconds. I decided to procrastinate by doing a bit of yard work instead. I changed into some old clothes and armed myself with a pair of gardening gloves (I don’t like the thought of touching bugs) and my loppers, then headed out to chop down unwanted greenery growing in unsightly places throughout my yard.

This procrastination only lasted twenty minutes as I had a neon sign inside my mind flashing “BLOG POST, BLOG POST, BLOG POST” in a most annoying way.

I put my stuff away, cleaned up my mess and went inside to write, you guessed it, my blog post.

I don’t mean to give the impression that I didn’t want to write this post because that certainly isn’t the case. I was just tired. I spend fifty hours a week at a day job, then there’s house cleaning, yard work now that spring is here, laundry, shopping, helping out my mother and trying to figure out when I can do some actual writing. It all gets a bit much sometimes.

Anyway, I sat in my comfy chair and looked out the window at the apple tree in the backyard. It’s filled with large glorious blossoms and its soft fragrance wafted through my open window. It felt good to just sit there and admire the beautiful tree, to watch the rich orange and black colored Oriole hop along the branches sucking nectar from the delicate blossoms. I held my breath when a jewel colored humming bird hovered at some of those blossoms right in front of my window. Those birds are so small and so beautiful.

Those few moments made me realize how many things I miss. There are times I’m so focused on getting things done I forget to stop and take a breath. Does that ever happen to you?

Even Alaina in Ruby Red Metallic took some time to appreciate the park like setting that Scott took her to.

Alaina got out and strolled around the car, making sure to examine the well-shaded rest area. Many trees surrounded it, flowers bloomed in pots placed around the little building that housed the bathrooms, and a light breeze passed by. The air smelled fresh and sweet. – from Ruby Red Metallic

From now on, I’m going to try and take some time every day to “stop and smell the roses” (as the saying goes).

How about you? Do you take time out from your busy schedule to “smell the roses”?
****
Casey Sheridan began writing erotica on a dare, and she loved writing it so much she never stopped. Her work has been published by Breathless Press and Cobblestone Press, and has appeared on The Erotic Woman, Every Night Erotica, and RSVP-Erotica.

Read an excerpt from Ruby Red Metallic

Purchase Ruby Red Metallic

You can find her on the Web at:
http://www.casey-sheridan.com
http://casey-sheridan.blogspot.com
http://www.facebook.com/authorcaseysheridan
http://twitter.com/casesheridan
http://www.myspace.com/officialcaseysheridan

The Misunderstood Beta Hero

My special guest today is Loose Id author, Lori Toland. She’s here celebrating the release of her book Trust in Me. Over to Lori…

Trust in MeI love Beta Heroes. You know, he’s the guy who is totally geeky. He probably wears glasses and typically can fix your computer or entertainment center. Or he may be the guy who has his nose in a book and has a deadly sharp sense of humor. He might also be the science or math go-to guy who spends his days slaving over equations.

But once you get him into bed, he blows your mind. In between books and equations, he has been thinking about the many ways to sex you up and make you beg for more. He’s what a like to call a Beta to the world but an Alpha between the sheets and he is the sexiest hero alive.

Some famous Beta heroes are Sherlock Holmes, Gregory House and Indiana Jones. All of these guys are sexy and they use their brains to get where they need to be. They may be snarky or polite but they are incredibly smart and they always get laid.

Tristan is a computer nerd, with the glasses to go with it. He never thought Jamie Hunter, the high school quarterback and hot man on campus would be gay, let alone be interested in him. One hot August night changes all of that and Tristan for the rest of his life. Ten years later, he meets the man he fell in love with. Can he let go of the past and risk his heart again?

Thank you Shelley, for having me by to talk about Trust In Me. I hope you all enjoy it!

Lori

Do you enjoy beta heroes? Do you have any favorites?

CONTEST: Lori is currently doing a blog tour for Trust in Me. She’s giving away a $25 gift card from Amazon, B&N or Loose Id and a copy of her book to one lucky person. The more blog stops you visit, the better chance you have of winning. Follow this link to learn more details for the rest of Lori Toland’s Trust in Me Virtual tour

When Tristan takes over for a sick employee, he runs into an old high school crush. Ten years after a summer fling with Jamie, left him with a broken heart, Tristan’s got a different view of it; will he push away the only man he’s ever loved?

Purchase Trust in Me

CEO by day, erotic romance writer by night, Lori Toland lives in Orlando where the summers are hot but the romance between her characters is even hotter. Writing since the tender age of 13, Lori somehow finds time to play video games and watch movies while taking care of her beloved cats and a husband who will forever be her hero.

To learn more about Lori and her book visit her website or blog. You can also find Lori on Twitter.

Obsessed and Broken Characters

My special guest today is Lisa Sanchez who is celebrating the release of her erotic suspense, Obsessed. Over to Lisa…

Lisa SanchezHi everyone! Before I start rambling, I’d like to give a big shout of thanks Shelley for allowing me a guest spot on her blog. I’m so happy to be here!

Okay then, let’s jump right in! Broken characters…why do we love them and are they easy to write? I can’t speak for anyone else, but I know for me, I like reading about broken/shattered characters because I enjoy seeing their growth and healing. I’m a sucker for a happy ending, and when a broken down, battered character finds healing through love…well, there’s nothing better in my opinion.

Halley Davis, the female protagonist in my erotic suspense, Obsessed, suffers from debilitating anxiety. A victim of a brutal attack, a rape attempt, and a serial stalker (eeck!) she struggles with panic attacks and lives in constant fear. Large crowds give her the heebie jeebies and men, in general, freak her out. These feelings are not exactly conducive to finding the man of your dreams, and therein lay her struggle.

It was definitely a challenge for me to write Halley, but not for the reasons you might think. As someone who has suffered from anxiety, I instantly related to Halley’s emotional rollercoaster and the words literally poured onto the page. I’d experienced everything she had; I knew what she was feeling. My challenge was in making her relatable, making her panic believable to everyone else.

Anyone who has ever suffered from an anxiety attack can attest to the fact that they hit you out of nowhere and take you from normal to freaked out in the span of sixty seconds or less. My first draft of Obsessed featured Halley bouncing around like a rubber ball, on an emotional high one moment, then scraping the bottom of the barrel the next. While this was very true to her character and mental state, it would have been a bit jarring to readers who aren’t used to such up and down feelings. My second pass through the manuscript focused on smoothing Halley’s emotional ride, and softening transitions between her panic episodes and fine tuning her growing attraction for Nick. The fruits of my labor resulted in a tale of love, recovery and a whole lot of suspense I sincerely hope readers will enjoy.

ObsessedThe victim of both a brutal attempted rape and now a serial stalking, Halley Davis is broken, and desperate to glue the shattered pieces of her life back together. Tormented by a psychopath and battling a heavy dose of anxiety, sex and dating are the last things on Halley’s anxiety-ridden mind. That is, until she meets the man who rescued her from the hands of a would-be rapist. With a body made for sin, a wicked, sexy tattoo and an aura that screams “badass,” her rescuer not only calms the storm of terror raging inside her mind, he ignites a passion within her she’s never known before.

Tired of using meaningless sex to drown out the horrors of his past, Nick Ackart has sworn off women. In fact, if women were classified as meat, his ass is Vegan. Despite his determination to remain unattached, Nick is unable to stay away from the emerald-eyed beauty he rescued from a sadistic pervert. Immersed in a tangled web of sexual desire and deep emotion he was certain was long dead, he vows to protect Halley from the monster hounding her, even though he stands to lose his heart in the process.

To learn more about Lisa and her books visit her website or her blog. You’ll also find her on Twitter or Goodreads

CONTEST: Lisa is currently doing a blog tour and will give away a $20 Amazon gift certificate to one commenter. Increase your chances by following her tour!

Finding the Friction with Mary Hughes

My special guest today is author, Mary Hughes.

Bestselling author Mary Hughes is a computer consultant, professional musician, and writer. At various points in her life she has taught Taekwondo, worked in the insurance industry, and studied religion. She is intensely interested in the origins of the universe. She has a wonderful husband (though happily-ever-after takes a lot of hard work) and two great kids. But she thinks that with all the advances in modern medicine, childbirth should be a lot less messy.

Over to Mary…

Biting Me SoftlyLife and death is about as tense as you can get. So writing about cops and doctors naturally sizzles. But the adage is “write what you know”. Besides authoring, I’m a musician and computer consultant. What kind of story tension can you get out of programmers?

Well…what if the programmer is working late? Alone. And what if she’s a woman?

What if she’s alone and a man shows up? A tall, powerfully-built, stunning god of a man? What if he’s a vampire?

And what if he instantly rubs her the wrong way?

Add a touch of laptop humor, and we have the following.

“I” is Liese, a small town programmer. Her blood center’s just been invaded by graceful, blond Logan. The excerpt is abridged.

“What did you say your name was?” I asked him.

“I didn’t say.” The man pulled a small leather case from his jeans pocket and tossed a business card on my desk with a careless snap of the wrist.

Gorgeous and talented. This guy would bear watching. Aw, shucks, my libido said. I ignored it. Eyes locked on him, I picked up the card. Dared a glance. Logan Steel, CEO Steel Security.

Smack me in the face with a Toshiba. Steel Security was the firm that installed a multimillion-dollar security system at Andersly-Dogget Distribution, my first job—one week before I was fired.

I threw the card back. It hit the desk and rebounded into the trash, making my cheeks heat. “You can’t be serious! Steel Security is the Ferrari of security firms. They do the biggest names in the world. Why would they be in little Meiers Corners?”

“We are here to install a system.” Steel perched gracefully on my desk again. In his tight black T-shirt and open leather jacket he looked more like a well-muscled fashion model than a CEO. “Here’s the work order, if you don’t believe me. You’re wrong, Ms. Schmetterling. Gorgeous, but wrong.”

Gorgeous? I shot to my feet. “Now I know you’re lying. Fun time’s over. There’s the door.”

CONTEST: To celebrate Biting Me Softly in stores around the US, I’m having a giveaway! Just comment on this post to enter. For a second chance, let me know the city or bookstore where you’ve seen Softly! Through April 20, 2011, adults only please. Winner will receive choice of Biting Me Softly in paperback (if US or Canada) or one of Bite My Fire, Biting Nixie, The Bite of Silence or Biting Me Softly in ebook.

He’s a candy box of sex appeal wrapped with a golden bow. She’s on a diet.

Blood, sex, violence. Blood, okay, but computer geek Liese Schmetterling had enough S&V when her cheating ex fired her. Now security expert—and lip-smacking gorgeous—Logan Steel saunters into her Blood Center, setting fire to her libido. And threatening her job.

Visions of pink slips dancing in her head, Liese tries to push Logan away without touching his jutting pecs…or ridged abs. Or petting the Vesuvius in his jeans. He’s hiding something, but it doesn’t seem to matter when his smiles stun her, his kisses crank her to broiling and his bites rocket her to heaven. Fangy bites which, if she weren’t grounded in science, would make her think ampire-Vay.

Centuries old and tragedy-scarred, Logan’s mission is to fortify the Blood Center’s electronic defenses against his nemesis, the leader of a rogue vampire gang. He’s ready for battle but not for Liese, who slips under his skin, laughs at his awful puns, charges beside him into dark, scary places—and tastes like his true love.

No matter how often Logan declares his love, Liese can’t bring herself to trust him. But when his archenemy comes after her, not trusting him may cost her life…

Warning: contains explicit vampire sex involving absurdly large male equipment (hey, they’re monsters), unbelievable stamina (just how long can he stay underwater in a hot tub?), hide-your-eyes violence and horrendously bad puns. And, just when you think it can’t get any worse, a computer geekette trying to play Mata Hari.

Buy at Samhain Publishing
Check In Stock at Barnes and Noble

Hugs from Hughes!

To learn more about Mary Hughes, please visit www.maryhughesbooks.com.

Finding Foster Homes for Orphan Sentences

Kat DuncanKat Duncan is my special guest today. Kat likes to write and teach. She also likes to write about teaching and teach about writing. Today she’s giving us a few hints about finding foster homes for orphan sentences.

Have you ever tried the writing technique called layering? It works like this: you draft out your basic scene with “he said” and “she said” or “he did” then “she did”. After you’ve got that bare bones framework you go back and add details such as where they are, what they look like, the weather, the room they are in, how they feel, etc.

The trouble with this technique is that it often results in disjointed scenes. Just when the dialogue gets going, the author throws in a scenery detail or stops to have the character focus on something other than the person she’s talking to. The worst blooper of this kind happens when one character asks a question and the other character goes off into a paragraph of thinking before answering.

So what’s the solution? You don’t want to skimp on these important details, so you really need to keep them. But you have to give these poor orphans a home. Make them feel part of the family. You will want to learn how to blend dialogue, action and scenery for best effect. One easy way to do this is to give your character a reason for observing the scenery, or for moving about in the scene. Linking the scene to the character’s emotions is the most direct way of doing this.

Let’s take an example and see the progression. Here’s a snippet of conversation:

“Say what you mean, Anna.”

“Okay, I will. You can’t just barge back into my life after so long and expect to pick up where you left off.”

“It hasn’t been that long.”

“It’s not about how long. It’s about assuming that you leaving had no effect on me.”

“So, you missed me?”

“I missed you, yes. And then I got over you.”

Now that I’ve got the basic dialogue, I want to add some dialogue tags and maybe some emotions, scenery and action. I’ll layer it on all at once:

“Say what you mean, Anna,” he said.

“Okay, I will. You can’t just barge back into my life after so long and expect to pick up where you left off.” She glanced out the window at a pigeon pecking crumbs on the windowsill.

“It hasn’t been that long.”

“It’s not about how long,” she said, lifting her head to stare into his dark eyes. “It’s about assuming that you leaving had no effect on me.”

“So, you missed me?” His voice dropped to that familiar seductiveness and he reached for her.

She stepped away from his outstretched hand. “I missed you. Yes. And then I got over you.”

Can you pick out the orphan sentence? It’s the one with the pigeon. I tried to give a sense of where they were while they were talking. Mentioning “out the window” tells you they are indoors. The pigeon on the windowsill tells you they are probably in an urban setting, perhaps a few stories above ground.
But…

It doesn’t fit the scene. It’s an orphan because it doesn’t connect properly with what came before it or after it. I also tried to give a sense of discomfort for Anna. Suddenly looking away at something ordinary during a conversation indicates unease and uncertainty. But the sentence isn’t working the way I intended. Let’s see if I can make this orphan sentence part of the scene’s family:

“Say what you mean, Anna,” he said.

“Okay, I will.” She edged away from him and faced the window. “You can’t just barge back into my life after so long and expect to pick up where you left off.”

“It hasn’t been that long.”

“It’s not about how long,” she said, waving a hand to shoo the pigeon pecking on the windowsill. “It’s about assuming that you leaving had no effect on me.”

“So, you missed me?” His voice dropped to that familiar seductiveness and he reached for her.

She folded her arms against her body and stared out at the cold cityscape. “I missed you. Yes. And then I got over you.”

Better, don’t you think?

Layering can work well. Just watch for those orphan sentences when you’re re-reading and be sure to give them a good home. For more examples of how to blend action, scenery and emotional details, check out my year-long novel writing course at Savvy Authors beginning in May, 2011. You can also find me on the web at http://www.katduncan.net

In Love and War by Suzanne Barrett

Today Suzanne Barrett is visiting to give us a taste of her recent release, In Love and War.

Timnagh, County Waterford, 1993

Irish dairy farmer, Meaghann Power, struggling to make ends meet, rents her converted castle keep to an embittered war correspondent wounded in Bosnia.

Quinn Lawlor has come to his ancestral homeland to heal and to be left alone. However, pragmatic Meaghann discovers much more than just her attractive-but-surly tenant’s body is in need of healing. What begins as indifference turns to fascination, and later, desire. But can their passion survive Meaghann’s own dark secrets?

‘But where can we draw water,’
said Pearse to Connolly,
‘When all the wells are parched away?’
‘O plain as plain can be
There’s nothing but our own red blood
Can make a right Rose tree.’
William Butler Yeats

Love and War“Well, my girl, you’ve done it, now!” Brid O’Donnell’s efficient voice sliced through the stillness inside the cheese barn, sharp as a knife through curd.

Meaghann Power straightened, wiped milk-spattered palms on her white apron, and turned toward her aunt. No secret remained long in the village, but the speed with which this particular news had traveled surprised even her. “What have I done, Aunt Brid?” she began.

Arms akimbo, the stout middle-aged woman loomed in the open doorway in a dripping yellow mackintosh. She smoothed wisps of rain-dampened hair from her eyes as moisture pooled beneath her on the barn’s concrete floor. Aunt Brid’s usually set features tightened into a disapproving frown. Outside the barn door, Ireland’s continual rain misted the hillside and ran in rivulets, forming a lake in the driveway.

Meaghann plunged her hands into the sink’s soapy water and groped for the wooden paddle floating on the surface. Please God, not another lecture. She drained the suds and refilled the sink, staring at her work-roughened hands. A paraffin heater in the corner hissed as a drop of water landed on its black enameled surface. Above her a string of incandescent bulbs cast a golden glow over the paint-peeled ivory walls.

“Done?” the older woman snapped. “You invite a single man to live with you, then act as if it’s nothing!” Brid’s voice rose several decibels. “The decent people of the parish won’t be seeing it that way, and neither do I. It’s not seemly for a single woman and a strange man to be livin’ together,” Brid clucked. “This sort of carry-on may happen in Dublin, but not in Timnagh. And not in my own family.” She punctuated her remark with an irate shake of her head.

Caught by a gust of wind, the door behind Brid creaked on its hinges, and Meaghann stepped to the threshold and wrenched it closed. Only then did she face her aunt. “We won’t be ‘living together’. He’s renting the keep. And he’s not a stranger. The Lawlors came from the village.”

Brid gave a humph, then moved to the dusty corner where the heater glowed. “Hardly! They left thirty-five years ago. Besides, you know nothing about him. If you’d come to your senses and take Seamus, you’d not be struggling to run this farm by yourself.”

Meaghann stiffened her jaw. Didn’t she have the Devil’s own troubles trying to keep the place from falling to bits around her without her aunt determined to foist onto her every available man under seventy? With a sigh, she lifted the washed utensils from the sink onto a towel. “Aunt Brid, the truth of the matter is, I don’t want to marry Seamus. I­ ” She paused, not waiting to give thought to her reluctance, then plunged on. “I…don’t want to marry anyone­least of all Seamus.” She’d wanted to marry once, but that was a long time ago. Then she could afford to dream, now…. Her jaw tightened and she picked up another utensil. Now there was just today, and an endless stream of work, which never quite got done.

Brid’s heavy arms criss-crossed her ample bosom. Ginger brows furrowed as she spoke. “The way I see it, you’ve little choice. I hate to remind you, but you’re growin’ no younger. Seamus is a good man, and a fine farmer.”

Meaghann whirled around, her hand wielding a three-foot paddle like a sword.
“Seamus McHenry is fifty-seven years old!”

Brid snorted. “Don’t see as how you can afford to be choosey, girl. You’re goin’ on for forty yourself.”

How well she knew. Noisily, Meaghann expelled her breath, at this point not caring if her frustration carried over in her voice. “You’ve been at this for the last three years. Give it up. Seamus doesn’t want a wife­he wants a mother for that brood of his. Five young ones and little Cara not out of nappies.”

Meaghann turned her back on her aunt and plunged the still-damp wooden paddle into the milk curd. She gave the curds another swirl, then, satisfied the culture was working, set the paddle on a plate. “I’m managing just fine, Aunt Brid. I don’t need a husband to help me run my farm.”

Bold words, she thought as she pushed the ribbed cuffs of her cardigan up her forearms. Fact was, she needed help in the worst way.

Jack Power’s daughter wasn’t one to crumble under a little adversity when keeping her farm meant everything­security, a sense of place­of continuity. She’d grown up here in Timnagh, seeing the cycle of life repeat itself again and again. She loved the welcoming acceptance a small, close-knit community offered, as well as the chance to grow old with those you loved.

But there were times when the load she carried threatened to crush her.

Purchase In Love and War

Suzanne Barrett spent part of a winter in Ireland researching In Love and War. She has published four books with Kensington. In Love and War, twice a Golden Heart finalist, is her second book for Turquoise Morning Press with four more releases scheduled for 2011.