Tink...tink...tink...anyone out there? Hi! I'm Barbara Donlon Bradley - Author - editor and slightly crazy - ask anyone in my family. I hope to use this blog to talk about writing, editing and whatever pops in my head. Hope you enjoy.

Saturday, June 28, 2014

Meet my Latest Guest: Margaret Fieland

I want to welcome Margaret Fieland! First I’d love you to introduce yourself.

Tell us about your latest release.
     I have three published science fiction novels. The third one in the series was published last July, and the second in the series this past November. Yes, the third one appeared first.  The first two novels in the series, Relocated  and Geek Games, are young adult sci fi novels. The third one, Broken Bonds,  is an adult sci fi romance. I'm finishing up book number four in the series, another adult sci fi.

Now I have a few questions for you – I have found readers do like to know fun things about us writers.

1.) Who is your favorite villain – it can be from a book (even one of yours), movie or TV show. And why?

     Captain Hook. I was a huge Peter Pan fan as a kid. I saw Mary Martin on Broadway in the original Peter Pan. I loved Barrie's novel and read it over and over. Hook was pure evil but was not so scary that he gave me nightmares.
     My sister became a fan of Alfred Hitchcock and dragged me to see Rear Window. Unfortunately, the movie terrified her, and she had nightmares. I am still not a fan of horror movies.

2.) Who is your favorite character out of your books? Why?

     At the moment it's Imarin Namar from Broken Bonds. He's passionate, possessive, and possesses a great personal integrity. In spite of his love for Ardaval, there are lines he refuses to cross. He won't compel – but he will remind Ardaval of the love they once shared.

3.) What do genre do you write? What made you pick that one?

     I write sci fi and fantasy. I'm a huge sci fi and fantasy fan, but up until 2010  I'd never written any, mostly because I had a fear of the world-building. So in September, 2010 I decided to write a sci fi novel of my own for National Novel Writing Month (NaNo), which takes place every November. I spent the six weeks I had mostly on creating my aliens, their culture, their history, the history of the Terran Federation the politics, the art and literature. I spent less time on the plot, ending up a couple of pages of notes, but enough to give me the overall arc of the story.  In November, I started writing. I spent from January to June or so revising.

4.)What are you working on now?

     I'm finishing up the fourth novel in the Novels of Aleyne series. I'm very close to being done, but I still don't have a title.  I've also started work on a fantasy about a young man who lives in a cave in a future ice age. It involves animals with near-human intelligence.

5.)    What got you to start writing?

     I wrote poetry for years before taking it at all seriously, but around 2005 or so I wrote a couple of poems I wanted to keep. Since even then I was frequenting more than one computer, I searched for a way to store them online, and became involved in a couple of online poetry communities.  I came across a contest on one of the ezines I likes and was a finalist. I started taking my poetry more seriously, submitting it for publication, working more on it, and hanging out more online. I discovered the Muse Online Writer's Conference, and met Linda Barnett Johnson. Linda required everyone who joined her writing forums to write both fiction and poetry. I got started and became hooked. Before that it never occurred to me to write fiction at all.

6.) Where do you get your ideas from?

     Everywhere. The initial impetus for the Aleyne novels was a reaction to a story I read years ago about aliens who formed foursomes, but they were basically two couples. My reaction? I wouldn't write it like that. And when the time came, I didn't.

7.) What would people who read your work be surprised to find out about you?

     I can write backwards and wiggle my ears. When I was in college, I'd give up going to the library in order to study for exams. I'd become bored. Then I'd reread Alice in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass. I also taught my self to write backwards and wiggle my ears. Thankfully, I had – and still have – a good memory, because as you might gather, I was not a terrific studier.

8.)    Do you have any special talents?

     Other than those? Yes, I play the flute and the piccolo. I also enjoy playing with digital art. My mother was an artist who specialized in portraits in oils, and it left me with a lifelong love of art and art supplies. When my sons were little, we carried a restaurant bag with crayons, colored pencils, paper, and playdough in the back of the car to keep them amused. Fortunately, they all liked to draw.
     You can check out my Pinterest boards to see some of my digital art work. I use GIMP, a free program with a lot of the features of Photo Shop. Be warned, however: it's quite addictive. 

9.)    What was the one piece of advice you received when you were an aspiring author that has stuck with you? Why?

Keep Writing. Don't get hung up on how awful whatever you're writing is – if you don't get it down on paper, you can't work on improving it.

10.) If you could talk to any famous figure (present, past or fictional) who would it be and what would you talk about?

Charles L. Dodson – Lewis Carroll was his pen name. He was a true eccentric, a mathematician by profession. I'd ask him if he had any poems he hadn't published.

11.) What song would you say describes your life?

Yikes. I can't think of a song to describe my life. I'm really terrible with song titles. I am very fond of Greensleeves, even though I'm far from suffering from unrequited loved. I have a poem/song of mine I like a lot:

Green Peas, A poem-song
by Margaret Fieland

1. Mom: Tune: Greensleeves

Alas my son you know it's wrong
to leave the table discourteously.
Don't give me "pretty please," come along.
Sit down and finish your green peas.

2: Son: Tune: Red River Valley

How can you serve these peas, knowing
I hate them; I've told you six times.
Don't give me that stuff about growing.
You must think that I'm still a child!

3: Sister: Tune: Sixteen Tons

Sixteen year old, is this what I get?
If you want to chase me out, well, now you're all set.
If Peter calls, just say I'm out, that's all you know.
Can't stay another minute, Mom, I've got to go.

4: Dad: Tune: Good King Wenceslas

What's this fighting all about?
Please give me a reason.
Everyone can hear you shout
clear over at the Gleason's.

Give him a break just for tonight,
you are being cruel.
All you do is scream and shout.
I think you're a fool.

5: Mom: Tune: Greensleeves

Green peas were for the boy,
but green peas aren't worth a fight.
Green peas have brought no joy.
Forget about eating those green peas.


12.)  If you could come back as any animal – what would it be?

     My family thinks I should be a Portuguese Water Dog:  dark curly hair, intelligent, and doesn't follow the rules.


Bio:

Born and raised in New York City, Margaret Fieland has lived in the Boston area since 1978.  She is an avid science fiction fan, and selected Robert A. Heinlein's “Farmer in the Sky” for her tenth birthday, now long past. In spite of earning her living as a computer software engineer, she turned to one of her sons to put up the first version of her website, a clear indication of the computer generation gap. Thanks to her father's relentless hounding, she can still recite the rules for pronoun agreement in both English and French. She can also write backwards and wiggle her ears. Her poems have appeared in journals such as Melusine, Front Range Review, and All Rights Reserved.  She is one of the Poetic Muselings. Their poetry anthology, Lifelines, was published by Inkspotter Publishing in November, 2011.  She is the author of  Relocated, Geek Games, and Broken Bonds,  published by MuseItUp Publishing, and of Sand in the Desert, a collection of science fiction persona poems.  A chapter book is due out later this year.




Broken Bonds


Sex with aliens? How about romance with aliens? A treason accusation? Brad Reynolds has his hands full. When Major Brad Reynolds is assigned to head the Terran Federation base on planet Aleyne, the last thing he expects to find is love, and certainly not with one of the alien Aleyni. How can he keep his lover, in the face of political maneuvering and of Ardaval's feelings for his former partners -- and theirs for him?

Excerpt (PG):

Brad took a deep breath of cool night air, inhaling the nutmeg scent of the flowers planted around Ardaval's front door. Before Brad could knock, the door opened and Ardaval stood in the doorway. Brad hesitated before putting out his hands palm up.
Ardaval placed his hands over Brad's. "My heart, my home, my hearth."
"My hearth, my home, my heart," Brad murmured in response.
Smiling, Ardaval directed his gaze at Brad's eyes; it evoked the same curious flutter in the pit of his stomach as the last time they'd met. Ardaval held open the door and gestured for Brad to enter. "You've come to discuss Gavin."
"I have." Brad followed Ardaval into the front hall where tiles of local stone sparkled on the floor and a padded bench stood under a window. Through a doorway on one side, a glance revealed a kitchen furnished with dark wood cabinets, clean and a bit bare.
"Come." Ardaval gestured toward the back of the hallway where a doorway led into a center courtyard, open to the cool night air, and motioned to a small table. A red-leafed tree in the center spread its leaves overhead. Brad sat, and Ardaval sat beside him.
Brad needed to talk about Gavin Frey's political views. Views that, as far as he could tell from the records, were the opposite of his own. A breath brought him the scent of Ardaval's skin, musky, with a hint of clove. Was it duty or cowardice keeping him from reaching for Ardaval's hand and kissing the palm?
Ardaval clasped Brad's hand in his. "Tell me more about why you were posted to Aleyne."
Should he remove his hand? No. He enjoyed Ardaval's touch and what was the harm, really? When he glanced up, he found Ardaval regarding him with evident amusement.
"I recommended that a man who used psi to save his squad be given a dishonorable discharge." Brad hesitated. "Although the soldier deserved a medal rather than a court martial, he was a fool to admit he caught a thought.”
Ardaval nodded.
"About Gavin Frey. Is he your shan?" The thoughts slipped out.
Ardaval stared into Brad's eyes for a a second or two before he replied. "As you surmise, he is my son; my shan, because I didn't raise him."
Might as well ask this, too. "His mother never told you about him?"
Ardaval shook his head. "No, she didn't. He spent six months here after she died. Then we disagreed over a matter of ethical principal and he left."
Given what he understood about Frey, Brad would have been surprised if they hadn't.
"He married, but his wife died. He has a son who is now fourteen by Terran Standard years."
"His mother possessed a strong psi talent."
"She contacted you?" Brad's eyebrows rose to his hairline.
"She did. I suggest you keep an eye on the boy."
"Do you believe he has gazal?" If the boy developed Aleyni mind speech abilities, he'd need careful watching. Brad's own family had been fairly accepting but how would Frey react if he discovered his son possessed gazal? And what about the terrorists, who might try to exploit Keth's talent?
Ardaval nodded. "I do, though of course we've never met. Gavin doesn't, or at least if he does, he keeps his mind so locked down it's the same thing."
Brad sighed and rose. He'd completed what he'd said he'd come to do.
"It happens this way with us, at times." Ardaval paused for a moment. "We'll meet again."
Brad turned to leave. He couldn't ignore this connection, wish it away, any longer. Only Ardaval's assurance kept him moving out the door.

Publisher's website:

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Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Writing Doen the Bones: Seven Steps to a Plot that Will Make Your Readers cry for More

I found another wonderful hand out. I looked for a name on this one and didn't find it but I did like the info in the hand out so here we go...

1.) Search out an idea that hooks you - find something that fascinates you. I know we've all been told to write what we know, but I can't help but play the what if game when I write - it always sparks the creative juices and that's what you need to do - find something that sparks those creative juices

2.) Pinpoint the prize for which opposing characters to fight - murder, a treasure, a missing child - in other words your goal. The over all goal of your book is something everyone in your book could be after.

3.) Devise a central character who'll take immediate, aggressive action to win the prize - it should be someone your readers can root for. You should let us into the head of this character so we understand what their motivation is. Give us something to root for.

4.) Pick a moment to begin your story that will plunge your characters into exciting action - I've been told over and over again to start the book in the middle of a scene - it grabs the reader right away.

5.) Pit your character against a worthy opponent - for every strong character you should have an equally strong bad guy.

6.) Know the step-by-step action this character must take in the face of unanticipated developments in order to reach the climax of your story - give your character obstacles then help him overcome them. I'd like to add one more thing - make these obstacles something believable.

7.) Work out a good conclusion that satisfies your reader - give the climax an an unexpected twist - make your reader believe that the winner deserves to win and they want them to win.

Saturday, June 21, 2014

Meet My Latest Guest - Zanna Mackenzie

I want to welcome Zanna Mackenzie. First I’d love you to introduce yourself.

I live in the UK on the Derbyshire/Leicestershire border with my husband, 4 dogs, a vegetable patch that’s home to far too many weeds and an ever expanding library of books waiting to be read.

Being a freelance writer and editor of business publications is my ‘day job’ but, at every opportunity, I can be found scribbling down notes on scenes for whatever novel I’m working on. I love it when the characters in my novels take on minds of their own and start deviating from the original plot!

 Tell us about your latest release.

It’s my third novel and it’s called If You Only Knew.  It’s based in a village in the Peak District National Park in an area which is an extreme sports mecca – climbing, abseiling, white water rafting etc. Faith runs the trendy coffee shop in the village, catering for all the tourists which visit the area. She’s weary of getting involved in another relationship after problems in the past, including getting her heart broken. Zane arrives in the area as one of the new owners of the Carrdale Extreme Sports Centre. He’s not looking to get involved either thanks to a complicated past and a commitment to focus on making Carrdale one of the best activity centers in the UK but he still finds himself drawn to spending time with Faith. By the time Zane’s business partner Matt arrives a few weeks later –from Austria where he’s been trying to sort his life out – Zane and Faith have put aside their various fears and concerns and have started dating. As soon as Zane introduces Matt to Faith it’s clear something is wrong…. Matt just happens to be the guy who broke Faith’s heart years ago!
The book explores how Matt and Faith’s past could destroy Zane and Faith’s relationship.
With Matt out to cause trouble and Zane keeping secrets Faith’s life is about to get very complicated indeed…

Now I have a few questions for you – I have found readers do like to know fun things about us writers.


1.) Who is your favorite villain – it can be from a book (even one of yours), movie or TV show. And why?  

 I’d say the character Jason Bourne from the Bourne films. In a way he’s a villain - a trained assassin - but his story and his past portray him, amazingly, in such a way that you have sympathy for him and even find yourself rooting for a happy ever after for him.

2.) Who is your favorite character out of your books? Why?

I’d choose Zane from my latest novel If You Only Knew. I should probably confess that when I was writing the book I developed something of a crush on him! He’s outdoorsy, strong and determined but he’s not an arrogant domineering alpha male – far from it. He’s been badly hurt in the past by various people and is scared of falling in love and being vulnerable again. When things get complicated with his new girlfriend Faith he tries his hardest to overcome his fears, do the right thing and make it all work but it isn’t easy and there’s a lot of hurt and confusion for all concerned, which is when he begins to think it might be for the best if he just walks away... I think he’s a total sweetheart and have a special fondness for him.

3.) What genre do you write? What made you pick that one?

I write across a couple of genres at the moment. My first novel The Love Programme is a contemporary romance. My second book How Do you Spell Love? is more chick lit with a magical element to it. My latest book If You Only Knew is romantic comedy / chick lit! I’m also writing a series of comedy romantic mystery novellas at the moment. The idea for a plot just pops into my head and then builds into a book, no matter what the genre!  I guess I just love writing and telling these stories.
  
4.)What are you working on now?

Several things. I can be a bit of an impatient person and tend to have several projects on the go at once. I have two full length novels with the first draft of the manuscript written but waiting for my editing process to start. One is a romantic comedy with a mystery element and the other is more chick lit. I’m also working on book 2 of my comedy romantic mystery series of novellas. I’m also working on a non-fiction book. Phew!

5.) What got you to start writing?

I’ve always wanted to write. In school I wanted to be a journalist but thought I wasn’t outgoing enough for that job so ended up working in travel. Eventually I got into writing tourism publications and that resurrected by love of writing. I started a distance learning comprehensive writing course and then tried my hand at short stories, non-fiction and eventually novels.

6.) Where do you get your ideas from?

Anywhere and everywhere! Bits of dialogue in a TV programme or movie, snippets of real life conversation, magazines and newspapers – all sorts.  Sometimes they appear out of nowhere – just popping into my head whilst I’m making dinner or walking the dogs.

7.) What would people who read your work be surprised to find out about you?

Ooooh, tricky one. Perhaps …that I’m a bit of a tomboy in some ways? Maybe this does come across if you read my novels though– I’m not sure! The lead female characters in my books are often a bit outdoorsy like myself! I feel most at home out in the garden in scruffy clothes and wellington boots tending to the vegetable patch, or out in the countryside walking the dogs with my husband.  Some of my characters share a few of these traits with me - Summer in How Do You Spell Love? has her own allotment and grows all her own fruit and vegetables, and Faith in If You Only Knew is a keen countryside rambler when she gets time away from running her coffee shop.

8.) Do you have any special talents?

No, I don’t think I do! My parents say I’ve inherited ‘green fingers’ from my grandfathers on both sides of the family if that counts!

9.) What was the one piece of advice you received when you were an aspiring author that has stuck with you? Why?

To write books you would want to read yourself and to enjoy the writing process.

10.) If you could talk to any famous figure (present, past or fictional) who would it be and what would you talk about?

I’d probably choose somebody like Jane Austen. I love her books and have watched the TV and movie adaptations of them too. I think it would be fascinating to be able to talk about books and writing with her - plus it seems like she was quite a fun person too!

11.) What song would you say describes your life?

Something like ‘Hall of Fame’ by The Script. It’s a very inspiring, motivational song about having faith in yourself and what you can achieve in life. I’ve always had low confidence and poor self-esteem issues, right through childhood and on into my adult life. My books would never have been published if it wasn’t for my husband who nagged me to start sending them off to publishers for consideration. I was convinced I didn’t stand a chance of getting published but I loved to write so I kept on writing and eventually found the nerve to send my books out to publishers.

12.) If you could come back as any animal – what would it be?

As we have four rather spoilt Labrador dogs in our house I would probably have to say a Labrador dog! Going on long country walks, relaxing on the rug by the fire… can’t be bad can it?





Excerpt:
   “I guess that’s the man you’ve been waiting for.” Sophie nudged Faith, almost knocking the fresh-from-the-oven apple pie from her hands, and pointed towards the door.
   Faith chose to ignore the double meaning behind her friend’s words. She wasn’t waiting for any man, not in the romantic sense anyway, and certainly not a guy who reminded her of Aaron. Her café, which she had created from scratch six years ago, was hosting the meeting of the local Tourism Association. And the guy currently making his way towards her was Zane Ferguson, one half of the new ownership team of the Carrdale Outdoor Activity & Extreme Sports Centre. She’d reluctantly phoned him a few days ago when he’d arrived in the UK and invited him to the meeting to give everyone an update on the Centre.
   “Faith, right?” he said, extending his hand and hopping onto one of the stools in front of the café’s counter. The hand was firm, slightly rough to the touch and warm. It was strangely comforting. “I’m Zane. Good to get to put a face to your name at last.”
   Faith nodded, even though she was anything but pleased to put a face to the name of Zane Ferguson. What kind of a name was Zane anyway? It sounded all-American, as though he should be something like a baseball player, a superhero, or a cowboy – certainly not an English extreme sports instructor. Out of the corner of her eye she could see Sophie giving Zane the once-over. Sophie knew all about Aaron, knew every detail of what had happened…

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Saturday, June 14, 2014

Meet my Next Guest - Victoria Pinder!

I want to welcome Victoria Pinder!
First I’d love you to introduce yourself.

I’m Victoria. I live in Miami right now, but who knows where I’ll be next year in the continental United States. I’m from Boston, and my fiancé might have us both moving at some point this year.
So my wedding is June 14th. I have a few contracts with publishers. Chaperoning Paris comes out June 11th, 2014, and Favorite Coffee, Favorite Crush comes out June 12th, 2014. The honeymoon will be calming and I can’t wait.

Tell us about your latest release

Favorite Coffee, Favorite Crush is a sweet, fun story about Penny coming home from college and getting a job. She finds her high school friends. Jay was her high school crush and he needs a stable woman as a date. Lots of manipulations from meddling parents, but in the end it’s a story of falling in love with her high school crush.
Chaperoning Paris is different. Gigi is working at a high school, and avoiding Sean. She left her high school boyfriend and ran away from home after her mother forced her to have an abortion. Now an adult, she has to stay in town for a year, and for six months avoided Sean. Sean has survived cancer, a divorce, and he’s out for payback with the high school principal. Gigi gets in the cross fire, and Sean can’t ignore her.

Now I have a few questions for you – I have found readers do like to know fun things about us writers.

1.) Who is your favorite villain – it can be from a book (even one of yours), movie or TV show. And why?

Of all time? Darth Vadar. Original series. I grew up on Star Wars. But the evil guy with the cat fighting Mr. Gadget and the Misfits who were the villain of Jem and the Holograms all come to mind. But Darth gets the top. He chose power. He walked away from love. I find that fascinating.

2.) Who is your favorite character out of your books? Why?

I don’t have a favorite child. My mother never picked a favorite child, and I created all my characters. There are times when I want to slap them and times when I want to hug them. Penny is so determined and optimistic, but she should be telling her friend the truth a lot sooner.

3.) What do genre do you write? What made you pick that one?

Romance. I started with science fiction romance because it was something I wanted to read, but couldn’t find the books. I do have fantasy romance too. But I also write and love contemporaries. They are fun to write.

4.)What are you working on now?

My wedding brain has taken over my writing ability. Post honeymoon, I’m going to finish my rancher story that I’ve always wanted to write. And I have an outline and beginning of a goth type too. Goal is to have these two done before RWA Nationals. After my honeymoon, I have more time.

5.) What got you to start writing?

I always wrote to myself but I feel they are horrible stories. One day I was having dinner with a rabbi and I’m not Jewish, but he looked at my hands and asked me if I was a writer. I said no, but then I scratched my head. I had always written. And people do make money. You can call that the light dawning question. (My middle school yearbook predicted I’d be a writer, but I ignored all the previous signs.)

6.) Where do you get your ideas from?

Life. Things that happen on a show. Playing the ‘what if’ game. This question is like asking ‘how do you think or imagine?’ My question is how can you not?

7.) What would people who read your work be surprised to find out about you?

That despite writing romance, for a long time I was cynical about my own chances at finding love. I totally believed I missed the boat and screwed up in my past. While I was not about to jump off a bridge or anything, I just believed it was up to me to take care of myself. I’m so happy I was that wrong.

8.) Do you have any special talents?

Singing off key. I like to be a bit of a rebel rouser and I definitely like to laugh and joke. Some of my writing friends have said ‘how is it that you’re a writer? You aren’t the type.’ I tell them that’s just determination. And I am determined to do anything I set my mind too… is that a talent?

9.) What was the one piece of advice you received when you were an aspiring author that has stuck with you? Why?

Writing is subjective. Just because one agent/editor doesn’t like your work, it’s not personal. Just find the people you gel with and take heart.

10.) If you could talk to any famous figure (present, past or fictional) who would it be and what would you talk about?

Last time I answered this question for another blog, I think my answer was Jesus. So I’m steering away from the religious this time and going with Abraham Lincoln. We’d talk about plays and why he shouldn’t go. We’d also talk about the 13th, 14th, and 15th amendments, the media of his day, and his war strategy.

11.) What song would you say describes your life?

Dark Horse by Katie Perry right now…

12.) If you could come back as any animal – what would it be?

If we follow the Buddist thinking this means that I did something super bad in this life and am coming back as a lower life form. I think cats had jealousy issues and dogs had loyalty issues in their pasts which is why they are now our household animals, but I’m stretching my brain in trying to remember what I learned about reincarnation. It might all be wrong what I’m saying as I’m pulling this from memory without google checking. But this is how my brain remembers, and I’ve never wanted to return with more to fix. So I’d like to come back as a human being if I have to come back

Wow you are a busy woman! I couldn't help but notice that I'm loading this on your wedding day! I hope it is a wonderful day for you!




Excerpt:

“Home, sweet, err...coffee.”
Getting out of her car, Penelope brushed her worn jeans to get out a small wrinkle. Not that it mattered. She smelled the coffee drawing her to the door. The delicious aroma of freshly brewed java that could wake her up waited inside. Gainesville had coffee shops, but nothing that held her heart like this place. In high school, this place was her Mecca. Her stomach grumbled for the familiar drink.
The coffee shop looked almost the same as it had years ago, except for the aluminum tables and wooden chairs with red cushions. She remembered the plaid chairs and brown tables, but the place still calmed her, like she was coming home.
She stepped up to the counter. “I’ll have a cinnamon dulce non-fat latte, please.”
Leaving Gainesville after college had always been the plan. Just never back to Miami, but she’d changed. She could live here now.
She checked her lip gloss while she waited for the latte at the counter.
When she accepted the promotion from part-time to full-time position, she knew she would have to face her mother and the catch of the month, Lars, her mother’s plastic surgeon. What that woman would do for a free tummy tuck.
The job she’d accepted had offered to triple her salary provided she moved to the Coral Gables office. Somehow, she’d avoid her mother until necessary. What was the man’s name with money this week? Penny ignored that last call, knowing the man with the largest wallet always took precedence over whatever Penelope needed. Getting the non-fat milk, she watched the barista finish her latte. She’d succeed here, now. She had to.
She’d call Sandra, Eva, John, and Michael later. Wyatt, her half-brother, was stationed overseas, so she’d wait for his weekly call. These people were her real family.
The man handed her the latte. The first sip gave her the strength to do this. The tightness of the ride dissipated while she tasted her liquid savior. Sighing, she tasted heaven, the wake-up to her day.
“Penelope.”
Though the unmistakable voice was deeper, she knew who it was without even turning. Her high school crush, who never noticed her beyond her brain, with a deeper tone. Pulling at her pink tank top, she wished she wore better clothes. “John Jay.”
His steely blue eyes and sandy blond hair were the same color, but his build had grown more muscular. The leanness of his youth gave way to broad shoulders and hard, muscular arms. He had a straight, faded scar on his left cheek that was new--probably a bar fight. Rich boy wore his fancy perfectly fitted polo and jeans, and was definitely hotter with age. His million-dollar smile and devastating dimples sparked a warm flush that sped through her all the way to the tips of her toes.
“I’m going by Jay these days. It’s less formal.” He winked at her, turning off his tablet, pointing her to his table.
“It’s a good name, but I still prefer Dimples,” she teased. “It’s what I called you on online whenever I needed you.”
His rich, deep laugh sent that familiar spark through her.
Damn. Rich boy knew his effect on women, including her. He could manipulate her when she went quiet, but she learned a lot of in college. She’d not let him weaken her.
“When did you get back to town?”
“I’ve been in town for, like, five minutes. I stopped in for morning coffee. How have you been?”
“Good. Busy these days. You?”
She pushed back her hair, twisting her wrist, telling herself she was not the nerdy girl with a one-sided attraction any longer.
“I have a lot going on.”
“Flirty, Warm Eyes. How come you never came home after college? The past few months you’ve been out of touch.”
“Warm Eyes” sounded new. She refused to dwell. “You noticed? I’m surprised.”
“I noticed.”
She almost lost her balance looking at those dimples.


Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Writing Down the Bones: Nine Rules for Romance Writers

I found another gem - this one was done by Ruby Frankel and Jane Toombs.
The rules they give are to help us avoid the most common mistakes made by romance writers. I;m going to write what they said then give you my take on each of them.

1.) Create a sympathetic heroine - this one is pretty simple - your reader needs to bond with your hero and heroine if they don't like them they won't read your book.

2.) Keep your hero present in person, thought, or conversation - this one I'm still thinking about - I'm not sure what angle they were aiming at - I know you don't want a hero who isn't focused on things around him - he can't be thinking about how pretty the heroine is while trying to hide from the bad guy but this doesn't mean you can't show his attraction to the heroine - it's a delicate balance.

3.) Provide your characters with believable motivations - this one is another that is pretty straightforward - your story has to make sense - you are suspending disbelief in your work - making your reader believe it could happen - even though it is fiction.

4.) Avoid using angry confrontations as a substitute for tension between hero and heroine - I agree with this one - your hero and heroine are attracted to each other. There is supposed to be tension, but having them argue all the time isn't how you build tension - it's the way their body betrays them - the way their thoughts wander when they don't want them to - I have read books where the tension has been built by arguing and all it did was make me dislike the heroine.

5.) Don't confuse sex with romance - as an erotic romance writer there is a lot of sex in my books - but it isn't there just because I write erotic stories. My characters are in love, this is the way they share their love - they just do it a lot.

6.) Avoid excessive description - back in the 80's deep description was in - I remember a book I bought where I ended up skipping the description - only read the sections where there was dialogue - a 400 page book turned into a 250 page book - now your reader wants just enough to know where your characters are but they want action, dialogue, emotion. They want to bond with the characters and they want to be with them on every page of your book.

7.) Know the exact meaning of any word you pull from your thesaurus - we've all been told to mix up our words - and I have seen authors grab that thesaurus and use another word but sometimes the definition is off a bit and the word you use does't work. Be sure when you do that it has the same meaning as the one you're replacing.

8.) Don't burden chapter one with the hero's or heroine's entire past - yep - very good advice - back story should be sprinkled through out your book - don't data dump

9.) Eschew coincidence - writing is a learning process - no matter how long we've been at it, try not to think you know it all or can't learn from another author or book.

Pretty basic but interesting. Hope it helps you as you work on that next ms.

Saturday, June 7, 2014

My latest Guest: B. K. Fowler!

I want to welcome, B. K. Fowler to my blog! First I’d love you to introduce yourself.

Well, I was born in…just kidding. I’m a word nerd, meaning I love writing (and rewriting), completing crossword puzzles and finding boo-boos on menus and brochures. I have a bossy cat and a well-behaved spouse. I’m grateful for the enthusiasm people are showing for Ken’s War and for the support Melange Books, LLC provides during the process of acquiring a book and onwards.

Tell us about your latest release.

“When teen hormones and culture shock” collide is an accurate “sound bite” for the YA novel, Ken’s War. As the conflict in Vietnam escalates, army brat Ken and his hot-headed dad are suddenly deployed to a dinky post in Japan. Culture clash is just one of the many sucker punches that knocks Ken’s world upside down. He struggles as his assumptions about friends and enemies, loyalty and betrayal, and love and manipulation are fractured. An army misfit, a Japanese girl and a martial arts master play indelible roles in Ken’s rocky journey he starts as a Pennsylvania boy itching to get his driver’s license to when he’s a young man who stands heads above some and shoulder-to-shoulder with his father.

Readers can get their own copy of the Ken’s War at  http://www.fireandiceya.com/authors/bkfowler/kenswar.html and
Readers can visit
https://www.facebook.com/#!/kenswar for insights into the book and the publishing process.


Now I have a few questions for you – I have found readers do like to know fun things about us writers.

1.) Who is your favorite villain – it can be from a book (even one of yours), movie or TV show. And why?

Reading Lawrence Sander’s First Deadly Sin was the first time I’d come across a fictional antagonist who was fully developed, not a cardboard stereotype created to fill a role. Making me care about the bad guy is quite a feat, I’d say.

2.) Who is your favorite character out of your books? Why?

I’m intrigued by Ken, the protagonist, for the same reasons Nancy Springer, an award winning writer, (http://nancyspringer.com/index.html) was. Nancy said that Ken’s War “depicts the angst of an Army brat, exploring the full range of teenage behavior and emotion, mirroring the messiness of real life. Ken’s psyche includes a plethora of contradictory impulses, including an awakening sexual awareness handled with delicacy and tact by this gifted author.”

3.) What do genre do you write? What made you pick that one?

I write article-length nonfiction pieces to promote non-profits. I write fiction to explore relationship dynamics and emotions, especially emotions occurring covertly in the subtext of what’s overtly acknowledged between people, as in Ken’s War.

4.) What are you working on now?

I'm putting the finishing touches on the novel Authenticity. Lynn, a gifted art intuitive, knows in her gut of painting are priceless masterpieces or forgeries. Authenticity is her forte. Or so she thought.

5.) What got you to start writing?

When my spouse was transferred to Malaysia, I found myself in a foreign country without all the props that defined normal life: no house, car, job, network of friends. We were starting from scratch on many levels. Writing was something I could do no matter where we lived. My first paid article was written about Malaysia on my first word processor.

6.) Where do you get your ideas from?

My ideas come from something that bugs or intrigues me. The seed for Ken’s War was planted when my former martial arts instructor, a white American, told me he’d lived in Japan with his dad and had learned martial arts at a dojo. Now, that’s intriguing!

7.) Do you have any special talents?

I can concoct one-of-a-kind meals made with whatever’s on hand. How else can you explain sweet potato-chickpea-yogurt soup? Or fried chicken livers with grapefruit and celery. Yum!

8.) What was the one piece of advice you received when you were an aspiring author that has stuck with you? Why?

“Write fast. Edit slow.” Editing slowly means chipping at a chunk of writing as a sculptor chips at a chunk of marble. Lots of debris falls onto the sculptor’s studio floor. That metaphor conveys the work writers do to transform what was written in the heat of inspiration and creativity into a tight, marketable piece.  To me, edit slow also means letting spans of time pass between editing sessions on a project. It’s amazing how time changes one’s perspective.

9.) If you could talk to any famous figure (present, past or fictional) who would it be and what would you talk about?

I’d like to ask Joseph, Jesus’ dad, to tell some funny stories about his little boy.

10.) What song would you say describes your life?

Talking Heads’ “Once in a Lifetime” captures how I feel sometimes.
"You may find yourself living in a shotgun shack / And you may find yourself in another part of the world / And you may find yourself behind the wheel of a large automobile / You may find yourself in a beautiful house with a beautiful wife / You may ask yourself, Well, how did I get here?"

How DID I get here?

11.) If you could come back as any animal – what would it be?

My cat. For a moocher with bad manners, he’s got it made.



Ken's War Excerpt: 
Ken Paderson squinted against light streaming through the door into the belly of the U.S. Army transport plane he and his dad, Captain Paderson, had flown in on. The world was buzzing out there. He worked a pen under the cast on his broken arm but couldn’t reach the itch to scratch at it.
A backlit figure chasing a long shadow strode toward the plane and saluted with excessive finesse. “Welcome to Camp Zama, home of the 9th Theater Army Area Command.” The soldier yelled to be heard over the roar of an airplane taxiing nearby on the airstrip.
Ken returned the salute. Captain Paderson’s salute turned into an awkward flapping of hands as he tried to stand on a pair of legs that refused to follow orders.
 “Whoa, watch your step, sir.” The soldier propped Captain Paderson up. “Don’t worry, a cup of coffee and you’ll find your land legs.”
“Are we in Okinawa?” Ken asked.
“Yes, indeedy.” The soldier’s cigarette bobbed between his lips. “Like they say, ‘The island of Okinawa existing among the bases.’ ” He shook a cigarette out of a flattened pack.  The soldier’s grin lifted one side of his face, while the other side concentrated on keeping the cigarette clamped between his lips. “Follow me. Lieutenant Colonel Topker is expecting you at oh-nine-hundred hours.” He looked at Ken. “Follow me, cherry boy.”
            Ken regarded his dad’s expression, but couldn’t de-code what he might be feeling. 

Lieutenant Colonel Topker, a muscular man, rose from his desk and leaned over it to shake their hands. He stood a head taller than Ken’s dad.
“Be seated,” Topker said. “I’m pleased to have you aboard. Both of you.” His gravelly voice reverberated in his chest in a friendly but forceful way.
            “I’m pleased to be here, sir.” His dad’s talent for lying was extraordinary.
            “You’re a lucky boy.” The colonel’s eyes, framed with fans of tan wrinkles, were smiling on Ken. “You’ve been on trains, a ship and a plane to get here from half way around the planet. A million boys would love to trade places with you, wouldn’t you say?”
“Yes, sir,” Ken lied to be polite. Like father, like son. 
            The ceiling fan’s whirling blades sliced warm breezes off the ceiling, and made bright colored banners with emblems bearing a whole new set of acronyms to learn — USARJ, USARPAC — flutter against the wall. The roars of airplane engines revving for takeoff and the rumbles of others idling after landing vibrated the office window.
            The window looked out on a field of tall grasses. Farmers with long knives chopped and bundled shanks of tall grass into sheaves. Giving Japs machetes seemed like a pretty stupid idea. Ken’s expression must have conveyed his misgivings, because the lieutenant colonel detoured from his conversation with Paderson about the army’s logistical bases in Asia and said:
“They’re harvesting sugarcane.”
“I know,” came Ken’s testy reply. Sugarcane? In Japan?
“Are you feeling sickly, son?” Topker asked. He rubbed his hands together, making a shishing noise. “I know what will bring you right around.” He switched on an electric burner and picked up a bronze bell: its peals sounded like a shower of thin coins on fine china. Within a moment a Japanese woman wearing a pleated skirt, neat blouse and straw slippers, noiselessly carried a tray into the office.
The lieutenant colonel spoke to her in Japanese. Ken looked to his dad for an explanation for this absurdity, but his father was working over a problem in his own mind. The woman nodded ever so slightly and placed a set of bamboo implements on the blue and white cloth she’d spread on the lieutenant colonel’s desk. She spent a considerable amount of time arranging and adjusting the implements and clay cups and teapot until she was satisfied. Topker watched patiently, a faint smile tickling his lips. Finally she whisked green powder and hot water into a froth. She bowed, and then turned each handleless cup with smooth, precise movements. Before he drank, Topker bowed his head and rotated his cup between his large palms. He concentrated on something submerged in the green liquid.
The captain and Ken imitated the light colonel’s motions and contemplative expression as best they could. By now, as he brought the cup to his lips, Ken was painfully thirsty. The green tea smelled like stinking water from a stagnant pond. It curled his tongue. They told the Japanese woman the tea was delicious. She bowed and departed, taking Topker’s smile out with her.
“Next time when you visit longer,” he said, “Hiroko will demonstrate the entire tea ceremony for you. She reluctantly agrees to use the electric element instead of a wood fire because she knows how much I enjoy tea in my office.
“Our mission,” Topker’s voice was official again, “is to maintain storage facilities with capability to expand the Asia Pacific base. This is increasingly important as we beef up our involvement in Vietnam. As of today the U.S. has 183,850 troops in Vietnam.” He picked up a pointer and tapped a plaque behind his desk. The gold gothic letters read: We put boots on the ground through the Asia Pacific.
Ken corralled his attention in from the cane fields where a man was sharpening his machete on a whetstone. All his life he’d listened to secondhand stories of combat. He’d been soaking up blood and glory from TV shows, movies, books and from barracks officers when they thought no one else was within listening range to intercept snippets of the epic battles they spoke of. Now he was close to the action.
“This is terribly boring for you, son,” Topker said.
“No, it’s-”
“Wait a minute.” The bell rained coins again, and again he spoke Japanese to the woman who’d appeared at the doorway within seconds. She left and returned with a Japanese child who was no older than a kindergartner, if he was old enough to go to school . . . if they had schools on this island.
“Michael,” Topker said, “this is Ken Paderson. He’s on tour with his father. We’re going to discuss business now. Show Ken your rock collection and bring him back in fifteen minutes.”
“Does he speak English?” Ken asked the light colonel.
“Ask him.”
“Do? You? Speak? English?”
“Naturally. I’ll show you around.” Michael took Ken’s hand and led him out of the office. “Okinawa is the southernmost prefecture of Japan. It has one hundred and eight islands. Did you know that?”
“I know and I don’t care,” Ken replied.
“I’ve got igneous and sedimentary rock samples in my collection. Do you want to see them? This island is made of volcanoes. Did you know that?”
Ken’s lie was preordained. “I know.” He yanked his hand free from the boy’s moist grip and followed him down a corridor, past doors where the sounds of typewriters clicking and telephones ringing trickled through heavy air.
            “What part of the United States are you from?” Michael asked.
            “Pennsylvania. Did you know the first Christmas tree ever was at the barracks where I live?” Where I lived. Past tense. He could scarcely think it, could not say it aloud because it would require acknowledging broken promises, crushed trust, a phantom life left behind.
            “You mean the first Christmas tree in America,” the kid said.
            “Any dummy knows that. Prisoners of war decorated a pine tree.” From his pocket, he started to remove the stone that he’d found in his grandpap’s garden to show it to Michael, but when they entered a room with glass-covered display cases lining the walls, he let go of the quartz. Stones representing nature’s treasure of hues and shapes were labeled with neatly typed strips of paper. Hematite. Rhodochrosite. Limonite. Galena. Mica. Granite. Jade. Gold. He pressed his thumb on a sharp point on the quartz in his pocket. “How long you been collecting rocks?”
“Ever since I was little,” Michael said. He lifted the glass top of one of the cases and pointed to the specimens, saying, “This is lava from Mount Fuji. This is a piece of columnar basalt from Scotland.”
“Gee. You were in Scotland?”
“Yes. My parents like to travel when my father is on leave.”
An image of this pipsqueak and his massive father wearing Scottish kilts appeared to him.
“What are you laughing about, Ken?”
“Nothing. You’re too young to understand.”

Lieutenant Colonel Topker motioned Ken into the seat he’d sat in before. “We’ll only be a few more minutes. Did Michael show you his rock collection?”
“Yes, sir. It’s dandy.” He cringed. What a doofuss he was turning into.
“Thank you, Michael. Bye, bye,” Topker said.
“Bye, bye.” The boy wiggled his bent fingers in a childish wave.
Topker squared his shoulders and continued briefing Paderson. “In addition to the aforementioned items there are odd lots and nonperishable foods.”
“When do I get a look at the depot I’m in charge of?” Captain Paderson asked.
“As soon as the plane arrives. You’ll be flying to the depot with a shipment of provisions.”
“I hadn’t realized Camp Zama was that large, sir.”
“Your assignment isn’t on this base.” Topker handed Paderson a manila folder.
Ken knew better than to tell his dad, in a ranking officer’s presence, not to move his lips when reading silently.
“We can’t put all our eggs in one basket,” the light colonel explained. “You’re in charge of a remote post. You’ll have staff.”
A low-flying cargo plane, judging by the timbre of the growling engines, obliterated all other sound. Ken wanted to hop on that plane right now, fly back home and start practicing for his driver’s license test. Or he’d be super-nice to his dad so he’d break down and send him home. Better yet, he’d have a word, man to man, with the light colonel. He seemed like a nice enough guy. He’d understand and send Ken home. He was too afraid to do any of these things. He prayed real hard to God, a God that he never believed cared what happened to people’s lives. He prayed that his mom would phone long distance, admit she’d made a big, big mistake, and order the captain to put him on the next plane off that god-forsaken island. Send her boy home.
“You report to Major Bellamy,” Topker was saying, “He’ll brief you today. Twelve-hundred hours. At location.”
The phone rang. The lieutenant colonel listened, the lines around his eyes tightened. Topker hung up.
“That was the Bureau of Personnel,” Topker said. “Paderson, I’m sorry to do this at this time, on your first day in Japan. I’m obligated to inform you that if any further incidents transpire like that which occurred Stateside, you’ll be requested to resign your commission.”
“I’d hoped,” Paderson said, “personnel’s legendary lethargy would be on my side, just this once.” His dad’s dispirited laughter was saddening.
“Not in this instance,” Topker said quietly.
The meaning of what was said hit Ken and caught in his throat. His dad had been reassigned because of the fight Ken and his dad’s commanding officer’s snot-nosed boy got into. One more screw up and his dad was a goner. Could the Army do that to a man? Hold him responsible for something his kid did? Ken scootched to the edge of the chair and tried to think of the right way to ask the light colonel, all polite and everything, who did he think he was threatening his daddy, but a sergeant appeared in the doorway.
“Pardon the interruption. Captain Paderson’s transport to Kyushu Island is ready and waiting, sir.”
“Dad, where’s Kyushu?” Ken pronounced the word quickly, like a sneeze.
“Between purgatory and hell.”
“Don’t be so grim.” Topker stood, making the room shrink. “One day soon you’ll learn to love this archipelago.”
“I don’t think so, sir.”
“If you change your attitude first, you’ll discover that living here can be as agreeable as living anywhere else. It’s not likely to happen the other way around.” The lieutenant colonel looked pensive and then brightening with an idea said, “This is for you.” He forced a pouch into Ken’s hands. Inside the pouch were wads of dried green stuff.
“What are they? Silk worms?”
Topker’s booming laugh competed with a prop plane’s engine coughing to a start on the runway. “Green tealeaves. The dried leaves unfurl in warm water and emit a flowery aroma.”
Obliged to, Ken held the opened pouch under his nose, inhaled and wondered why adults thought they had to tell tall tales to get a kid’s attention.
“Don’t wrinkle your nose!” Topker laughed. “You’ll acquire a taste for green tea, I guarantee it.”