Monday, December 26, 2011

My favorite holiday movie: Hugo and the Creation of a Fantastic Story World

I don’t know how many of you have seen the fantastic new movie “Hugo,” currently out in theatres. But we could learn a lot from the movie in terms of creating a fantastic story world, one that hooks you in and won’t let go.

Without giving away too much, Hugo is a little boy who lives in a giant clock in a railroad station just after World War I. His father dies and he is forced to live with his uncle (a very mean drunkard—shades of Charles Dickens.) When his uncle dies, he lives in fear of the evil train station security guard, who will whisk him off to an orphanage if he learns Hugo has lost all of his relatives. The boy finds a fabulous mechanical man, called an automaton, and tries to get him to work using his father’s special tools. (His father was an expert at fixing things). The automaton does give him a message which leads him to a fascinating old man who works at the train station selling toys, from whom he has originally stolen the mysterious metal figure. This man has a connection to the early days of moviemaking and to his father.

The story is set in a miraculous fantasy world and is shot in the best 3D I’ve ever seen. The pictures literally leap off the page. Can you make your settings and characters do that? Can you create a fantasy world that mesmerizes and amazes? Will your readers get lost in the story because of it?

Whether you’re writing a fantasy or not, you still need to create that kind of world. A special world that your characters inhabit, where evil lurks and love triumphs. One that’s above reality, one that’s special. It’s hard to do, but using our imagination can work wonders. And, of course, like Hugo’s world, there must be hope and there must be a happy ending.

What’s your favorite book or movie whose setting literally swept you away to another world—Star Wars, Harry Potter, the Twilight saga—or? Let me know!

Next week: What makes a successful blog and what’s the best day to blog?

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Do Book Trailers Really Help Sell Books?

Last week, I blogged about how to create a book trailer the easy way and I often wonder do these things help sell books? They may be a quick YouTube production or a more detailed and expensively produced one, but does it make a difference? Do they sell your books? I’m more apt to read a blurb than I am to watch a trailer, maybe because they’re still a new promo option to me. And if you go to the Wild Rose Press, Amazon or to Smashwords, potential buyers are more apt to read a description of your book and its reviews rather than watch a trailer, which is often only posted at your website.

It’s funny, we watch movie trailers all the time because it’s such a common thing and usually the main way we hear about new movies. While watching TV, a movie trailer will often pop up or we see them in the theatre (for about fifteen minutes before the actual movie we’ve paid for starts). Sometimes I even get bored with them, like enough already, let’s just start the movie. There aren’t as many for books that I’ve seen, though occasionally I do see a book ad on TV or hear one on the radio (usually for some mega best-selling author like James Patterson).

Like paid advertising, the jury’s still out on the value of book trailers, though they seem to be a necessity these days like everything else in the book marketing world. I still think the best promotional tool is the books themselves, how many you’ve written and the fan base you’ve developed over the years. That’s how I buy books. When I hear a new book is out by an author I’ve enjoyed, I rush to buy it (at a discount, of course).

What do you think?

Next week: My favorite holiday movie: Hugo and the Creation of a Fantastic Story World

Sunday, December 11, 2011

How to Make a Cheap Book Trailer Yourself

While on a recent Caribbean cruise, my boyfriend and I shot additional footage of Belize with his video camera as a promotion for my latest book, “The Montezuma Secret,” which is set in Belize. He filmed me explaining the plot of the book, and I began by saying: “Here I am, in beautiful Belize.” He also shot footage of me doing an interview with a local TV reporter and camera crew. It’s set to appear as a book trailer on my website.

So whenever you travel, either cross-country or abroad, take your video camera! It doesn’t have to be expensive to shoot a book trailer promo. You can do it yourself! Use backgrounds that look similar to your book’s setting, even while at home. It doesn’t have to be the real thing. Go to the zoo. Shoot pictures of exotic animals and call it the jungle. Go to a nearby lake, pretend it’s the ocean. Visit a forest or national park. Go to the airport, film planes taking off. Shoot a train or sailboat in miniature. Film the sky, a sunset, a rainstorm, a blizzard. And don’t forget to include a picture of your book’s cover! Movies are all about imagination. You’ve heard the term “movie magic.” That’s what it is! Get friends and family in on the act. And use your own voice to promote the book. Read your blurb. Read an excerpt. Be dramatic. Let the actor or actress in you take over. You’re an artist too, a very special one. An author. So sell it! Post it on YouTube, your website and blog. People love video. A picture speaks a thousand words!

Any video camera will do. And if you don’t have one, buy one! Cheap video flip cameras abound, all for less than $100. Even your phone has a camera option. You don’t have to have a professional videographer and expensive camera crew. So the next time you think, I’d love to do a book trailer, but I just don’t know how, think again. Keep it simple and see what you can come up with! It’s a lot of fun to star in pictures!

What is your experience with making book trailers?

Next week: Do Book Trailers Sell Books?

Sunday, December 4, 2011

How to Creatively Promote while on Vacation and During the Holidays

How Just a Little Initiative Can Make Things Happen

Case Study #1: While on a Caribbean cruise two weeks ago, we stopped at Belize, which just happens to be the site of my latest book “The Montezuma Secret.” When we went ashore, we stopped at an art gallery where a TV camera crew was filming award-winning paintings for that evening’s newscast. My boyfriend went up to the reporter and said “She wrote a book about Belize.” The reporter’s interest perked up and he came over and talked to me where I explained about how “The Montezuma Secret” had been set in Belize, was available on Amazon.com and Smashwords.com and how it had received Five Star Reviews on Goodreads and Amazon. His interest perked up further. He congratulated me on giving him a new angle for the story and agreed to interview me. We went outside, where there was a lovely backdrop of the river and sailboats behind me and he asked me about how I decided to set the book in Belize. I explained that it was a beautiful exotic place that I always wanted to visit and how I wished I had more time to stay in the country other than the short cruise ship stop. I also explained that “The Montezuma Secret” was about a search for Montezuma’s lost gold which has never been found, although rumors abounded that the gold might have been moved to neighboring Guatemala. I added that I fictionalized moving the gold to Belize because I had wanted to set a story there. The interview was set to air that night on local TV. Moral of the story: You never know when a good promotional opportunity will come along so keep your eyes open, be gutsy and be prepared!

Case Study #2: I live in a small quaint village in Wisconsin, just south of Milwaukee, which celebrates every holiday with verve and panache—thousands of tiny lights, hay rides, craft fairs, horse-drawn sleigh rides at Christmas, you name it, they’ve thought of it. All of these events are very well attended, drawing thousands of people from Milwaukee and the surrounding suburbs as well as neighboring Illinois. While visiting the downtown area this past October, I happened to notice a poster on one of the charming little shops promoting someone’s book for the upcoming annual “Hay Days” celebration. I went inside and talked to the clerk, who told me it was her book and said the owner had graciously agreed to let her promote it inside her shop during “Hay Days.” I asked her how I could participate in future events. She told me to contact the village and noted that everyone had been very helpful to local vendors, artists, and authors. I contacted the village via their website, but heard nothing back. (There were several different websites, one for the shops and business, one for the village itself and I wasn’t sure which one was the correct venue.) After two attempts and still hearing nothing back, I contacted the mayor directly. He was kind enough to give me a return phone call and advised me to contact the manager of all the local businesses, which I did. The manager told me to contact one of the shop owners to act as a sponsor for a future event: “Dickens of a Christmas,” “Valentine’s Day,” etc. I am in the process of doing that and hope to be a participant in the next Valentine’s Day event as a great tie-in for a local romance author. Moral of the story: If at first you don’t’ succeed, try, try again!
What’s your favorite promotional story?
Next week: How to Make a Cheap, Quick and Easy Book Trailer

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Happy Cyber Monday!


Simple Promo Tips in an Increasingly Complex Electronic World

Many authors (including me) are using independent distribution sites like Amazon and Smashwords to sell their books (either brand new titles, titles that weren’t picked up by traditional publishers or titles that were once published elsewhere but are no longer in print) in order to find a new audience in this wonderful Kindle, KOBO, Nook, and tablet-happy electronic world we now inhabit. It’s tough to be an indie author, but there are ways to make it easier. Here are a few tips I’ve found helpful:
Converting books for Amazon’s Kindle and Smashwords can be a chore, especially for first-timers. Here is a list I’ve found and I refer to it closely when I have to upload a new book. It’s worked wonders and saved me a ton of time. It also helps to have a new computer and a new version of Microsoft Word.

* “Save As” to create Kindle file copy
* Insert cover image on first page
* Remove blank pages
* Remove headers
* Remove footers
* Set margins to 1” all around, remove gutter
* Replace section breaks with page breaks
* Set two carriage returns before each pg break and one after each
* Insert page breaks before each chapter heading, if necessary
* Replace double spaces with single space between sentences
* Standardize body text style
* Turn off auto-hyphenate (Tools > Language > Hyphenation)
* Remove any tab or space bar indents, replace w/ ruler indents as needed
* Set line spacing to 1.5, max 6pt spacing after paragraphs
* Standardize chapter headings
* Standardize section headings
* Remove/replace special characters
* Reformat graphics as needed to 300dpi resolution & optimal size (4×6” or smaller)
* Verify images are “in line” with text
* Insert page breaks before and after full-page images
* Modify copyright page to reflect Kindle edition verbiage
* Add correct ISBN to copyright page
* Insert hyperlinked TOC (From The Indie Author Guide by April Hamilton)

Other great resources: Taleist (www.taleist.com), Kindle Boards Author Tag Exchange and Kindle’s Direct Publishing Newsletter. Also dearauthor.com, where you can list new releases as well as thebookbreeze.com. Hope Clark’s Funds for Writers at www.fundsforwriters.com, Sandra Beckwith’s Build Book Buzz, www.buildbookbuzz.com and Dana Lynn Smith’s The Savvy Book Marketer http://bookmarketingmaven.typepad.com are also wonderful resources.

Books: The Newbie’s Guide to Publishing by J.A. Konrath and Smart Self-Publishing: Becoming an Indie Author by Zoe Winters

Join the following groups for great writing and promo tips: Authors, Writers, Publishers, Editors and Writing; New Image Writer’s International Network; Reader’s Entertainment; Books and Writers; and Romantic Fiction, all on Linked In.

Post at: Long and Short Romance Reviews, Coffee Time Romance, Love Romance Café, All Romance Reviews (Put their banner on your website and get a free headline ad each month), and Twitter and Facebook, of course.

Happy Cyber Monday and I hope your sales skyrocket!

What’s your favorite free promotional tool?
Next week: How to Creatively Promote while on Vacation and during the Holidays

Saturday, November 12, 2011

What Sells Books?

Simple question: what makes books sell the MOST?
1. Plots
2. Characters
3. Title
4. Cover
5. Good Cover Blurb/Plot Synopsis
6. Price
7. Good Reviews
8. Word of Mouth
9. Established Author with multiple titles
10. Facebook/Twitter/Other Social Media
11. Successful Blog with large number of Blog Followers
12. Popularity of Genre (Vampires, Shapeshifters, Werewolves)
13. Good Publicity/Promotion Plan
14. Paid Advertising

What do you think? Personally, I think good reviews and word of mouth help the most as well as being an author with multiple titles and a good track record. What do you think?

Next Week: Help for Indie Authors

Sunday, November 6, 2011

What is Your Favorite Type of Romantic Hero to Read or Write About?

Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy…an Internet poll says these are the most popular professions of romantic heroes: (not in any particular order)

1. Doctor
2. Cowboy
3. Boss
4. Prince
5. Rancher
6. Knight
7. Surgeon
8. King
9. Bodyguard
10. Sheriff
11. Police Officer
12. Detective
13. Spy
14. Pirate

So how many have they left off the list? Vampire and shapeshifter comes to mind. How about a soldier? Another heroic possibility. Are there any others you can think of? And what’s your favorite type of romantic hero? Since I’m also fascinated with anything mysterious, I vote for spy. You never know what the guy is up to or what side he’s on. Sounds appealing. Keeps me guessing and turning the pages. James Bond…Jason Bourne, especially Jason Bourne because he doesn’t really know who he is and why everybody is chasing after him. The amnesiac spy. Even better. Bodyguard is another one of my favorites. Creates all kinds of romantic possibilities. He’s got a reason to hang around and he can’t leave the heroine’s side and when he does, all kinds of trouble follow him.

Detective also ranks high with me. Another mysterious brooding guy with a lot of psychological problems that usually get peeled off layer by layer within the book. Makes for an interesting character study. They haven’t included FBI/government official which I suppose sort of goes hand in glove with the spy category. Another they haven’t included is politician—traditionally the handsome senator or Presidential candidate in trouble, being stalked by some crazed supporter. How about reporter? A guy digging for the truth can get my vote for best hero too. Anyway, it sets your mind spinning when you start to write, which exciting romantic type to choose. That’s half the fun. But I’m sure every writer has their favorite.

What’s yours?

Next Week: What sells books?

Friday, November 4, 2011

Yes Party at The Romance Reviews

Visit the Romance Reviews site today and answer the questions for a chance to win over 200 prizes (including the Grand Prize of a $100 gift card). Other prizes include: gift cards, e-books, print books) Join in the fun! PS, Mine is Question 13 today!

The Objective!
Match up all the book covers in the Matching Covers Game you'll find at The Romance Reviews. If you complete it, that’s 1 chance. Play and complete the Matching Covers Game everyday, and that will give you a maximum of 30 chances to win any of the major prizes. Each player starts the game with 10 clicks (number of times to open the covers). Get More Clicks (chances)! Each correct Q&A you answer gives you 2 additional clicks. The more Q&A you answer, the more clicks you have to match all the covers.

If at first you don’t succeed, try and try again.
Click on the “Reset” button, and the number of clicks you earned will be restored and you can try again to complete a new Matching Covers Game.

Here's the link: http://www.theromancereviews.com/event.php Don't miss out! And go to my website www.alisonchambersromance.com to find the answer to question 13 today for a chance to win an e-copy of "The Montezuma Secret!" Five Stars on Amazon and Goodreads!

Alison Chambers
www.alisonchambersromance.com

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Trick or Treat! The Twists and Turns of the Big Surprise!

Happy Halloween! Do surprise endings really surprise? Do you love being surprised and tricked? Do you enjoy being led down a path filled with a string of puzzling red herrings and a frightening cast of characters only to discover that was not where the author was really headed? Or do you like the straightforward ending where you guessed the climax ahead of time and was really satisfied that you had figured it out correctly? You wanted the main characters to get together, you knew he or she couldn’t be the evil culprit, it was a simple but good story and you were pleased when everything played out just as you suspected.

The ‘Boo!’ I’m behind the door ending or the ‘gotcha’ moment can be great, but only if it’s well done. If it’s contrived or feels fake in any way, you’ve lost the element of surprise or diluted it so much that you probably shouldn’t have bothered. A good surprise is often one the reader did not see coming because of misdirection and because of false clues the author planted in a logical, progressive sequence.

For me, I always prefer to surprise. I like twists and turns, I like the tricks because they always turn out to be treats. When you think the book is about one thing, but it really turns out to be about another completely different thing, that’s what makes me want to read more by that particular author. When I first became interested in writing, I loved the clever puzzles of Agatha Christie and the suspenseful menace of Mary Roberts Rinehart. Rinehart wrote sixty novels and was the favorite of American presidents. Crime fascinated her. An editor once said that the key to publishing success was sex and murder. She, like other famous mystery and suspense writers did the ‘clue striptease.’ They revealed only a little at a time. I also enjoyed reading the stories of the English writer Alistair MacLean. In one of his famous stories “The Satan Bug,” you thought the villain had stolen a deadly virus merely to terrorize the English populace. But in reality, the villain only used the virus as a threat to empty the entire city of London so he could steal its most precious treasures. Surprise! This is what got me! The trick won me over and made me a fan of surprise endings for life. If I’ve surprised the reader and made him gasp (in a good way), I feel I’ve done my job.

What’s your favorite trick, your most devilish surprise ending? Fatal Attraction, when Glenn Close playing Alex Forrest shows up at the end to torment poor Anne Archer one more time and then Anne Archer shoots her or…BOO!


Next week: Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy--What is Your Favorite Type of Romantic Hero to Read or Write About?

Sunday, October 23, 2011

What is Your Heart's Desire? Leave a Comment, Win an E-Copy of “The Montezuma Secret”

Recently, I opened a fortune cookie that read "You will get your heart's desire." In romance, so much emphasis is placed on winning our heart’s desire. But what is that really? It’s not necessarily what your brain wants, but your heart. Is it finding true love, a great career, financial success, regaining our health, having a big family? In other words, it all boils down to happiness. What is happiness?

Is happiness individual prosperity or something else? Aristotle thought happiness was the goal of human activity. You could find happiness only in a life filled with virtue and just actions. President John F. Kennedy alludes to Aristotle when he defined happiness as the full use of one’s talents along the lines of excellence. He thought the Presidency afforded him the opportunity to do just that. Mick Jagger, on the other hand, reminds us that “you can’t always get what you want, and if you try sometime, you find you get what you need.”

My heart’s desire always was and is living the writer’s life with someone I love. Simple, but honest. And I’ve done that, though at times I’ve had to alter that goal to include working at other jobs, while remaining focused on what I love most: writing and romance. So sometimes, I’ve had to live the Jagger philosophy—not necessarily what I want, but enough so that I have what I need.

Romance novels are supposed to end happily, thank goodness. And they usually end with the couple getting it all: marriage, family, success in their careers. That leaves the reader (and the writer) satisfied. But in our real lives, that doesn’t always happen, no matter how hard we try. So how hard is it to attain our heart’s desire? It must be different for everyone, though basically I find we all seek out the same things—health, happiness, love, prosperity. When crimes are committed, they often are because the person lacks one of these things.

In “The Montezuma Secret,” Erica Kingsley must find her heart’s desire. She thinks money is everything, but learns it isn’t. The hard way. And while searching for her own personal truth, she realizes what matters to her the most and finds her heart’s desire.

What is your heart’s desire? EVERY commenter will win a free e-copy of “The Montezuma Secret.” Read a brief blurb and excerpt below.

Hunky Trey Zacco, gritty survivalist and host of the Miami-based Holiday Channel’s hit "Wildman" series and glitz and glamour girl, Erica Kingsley, host of the channel’s "Lap of Luxury" show, are thrown together in the steamy jungles of Belize as a publicity stunt. Erica’s father, Arthur Kingsley, the owner of the Holiday Channel, has proposed the angle, not only to boost ratings, but also as a way to toughen up his spoiled daughter. And Kingsley wants them to search for Montezuma’s lost gold, presumably moved to Belize from the Guatemalan jungle. Zacco cannot hide his resentment at having to share the spotlight with the flighty fashionista Erica, and he locks horns with her every step of the way even as both try to ignore the strong physical attraction growing between them.
But when Arthur Kingsley’s plane crashes in the jungle on his way to film the opening of the show, Trey and Erica launch a desperate search to find him. And when, one by one, members of the camera crew are killed and the equipment sabotaged, Trey and Erica find themselves stranded in the middle of the jungle with sultry producer Morgana Montez, Trey's ex-lover, where no rescue crew can reach them.

Excerpt: “The Montezuma Secret”
Five Stars on Amazon.com and Goodreads

Reappearing ten minutes later, dressed in a tiny gold lame bikini with a fresh layer of lip gloss applied, Erica stopped short at the sight of a half-naked Trey astride his Harley, a pair of sleek wraparound Rayban sunglasses perched atop his head.
Without his shirt and his shoulders buffed to a bronzy glow, he looked like a young Adonis. He fixed her with a mesmerizing gaze, his peacock blue eyes piercing hers, an obvious sexual come-on, she was sure of it. A shock of thick wiry hair flopped forward onto his forehead, adding a charming touch of boyishness that only added to his alluring all-male appeal.
And the way he ogled her in that bikini, she knew he liked what he saw. It hugged every curve, accentuated her ample cleavage and made her legs look as long as an Amazon’s. She felt like one too, brazen, aggressive and totally lacking in inhibitions.
She got on the motorcycle behind him, riding it sidesaddle. This time she needed no encouragement. Her arms flew around his naked waist and she let her long legs dangle so they made contact with his thigh. She leaned forward so her breasts caressed his bare back and when the photographer turned on the wind machine, her long hair flew behind her in the breeze. His body heat and strong muscles acted like an instant aphrodisiac.
The photographer handed them each a glass of champagne in tall crystal flutes and began snapping. Trey could not keep his eyes off her legs, she noted with pride, as the photographer had to keep reminding him to stare into the camera. Finally, he asked them to clink glasses and stare into each other’s eyes. She knew she had him then. She’d apologize to her father later for reneging on her promise not to fall prey to Trey’s charms again.
After a few more shots, the photographer motioned them off the cycle, then removed the vehicle and the backdrop, leaving them awkwardly standing next to one another, half-dressed, champagne glasses still clutched in their hands.
Trey broke the stalemate first and grinned mischievously before downing his champagne in one gulp. Erica copied him and they both laughed. Trey walked over to the food cart next, slathered some caviar on a cracker and popped it into his mouth before pouring himself more champagne and re-filling Erica’s glass.
Suddenly feeling wanton and not the least bit self-conscious, Erica picked up one of the sinfully rich pastries loaded with whipped cream and fed it to him. When some of the cream landed on the corners of his mouth, she wiped off the excess with her index finger and made him lick it off. She watched his tongue slowly swirl off the cream and take her finger in his mouth until he stopped at her knuckle.
“Mmmm,” she purred in approval.
“All right, you two. I don’t want to get out the fire hose,” the photographer joked.
He’d changed the scenery again. An oversized wing chair, one big enough for giants, sat where the motorcycle once stood. The Paris skyline, complete with the Eiffel Tower and the Arc de Triomphe, now served as the new backdrop.
“All right, Trey. Climb up into that chair and Erica, you sit on his lap. Get it? ‘Lap of Luxury.’ And fill those glasses again.”
After pouring them more champagne, Trey clambered up onto the huge chair while Erica held the glasses for him. He gave Erica a careful boost so as not to spill any of the champagne and then she maneuvered herself onto his lap, throwing an arm around his bare shoulder. The liquor had loosened his inhibitions and that was just the way she wanted it. Getting him back again was going to be easier than she’d planned.
Standing on a ladder, the photographer prepared to film some additional promotional spots, this time using a hand-held video camera.
“Feel free to ad lib some dialogue, guys,” he instructed, zeroing in on both of them with his lens. “So far, it’s looking great.”
“Contrary to public opinion,” Erica began, a little giddy, as she downed another glass of champagne, “Trey and I do get along. Even though we’re from opposite sides of the program guide. As a matter of fact, I like wild things and I think wild things like me. Tune in to see the fur fly.”
Trey laughed uproariously at the pun.
“Cut!” the photographer yelled.
Erica inched up higher on his lap, feeling Trey’s swelling erection poking her bottom.
“Do you like it wild, Trey?”
He shifted uncomfortably, suddenly eager to remove her from his lap. He shimmied off the chair, leaving her sitting alone and feeling foolish perched atop the gargantuan thing, still wearing the tiny bikini. She wondered what she’d done to cause such a strange transformation.
Straining to see what was behind Trey’s agitation, she scooted off the chair seat and leapt down, then followed him to the doorway, her high heels clacking on the slick hardwood floor.
Morgana Montez, Trey’s beautiful producer and his most recent ex, stood in the door way. And behind her lurked the threatening hulk of Gordon Gosich.

Next week: Who is your favorite romantic hero type to write about and why?

Friday, October 14, 2011

Stand In for a Dead Man: My Newest Release

Available Now on Amazon and Smashwords

Gunfire erupts on a Chicago sidewalk and controversial secretary of State Henry Landis lies bleeding from an assassin’s bullet. But who really pulled the trigger? GLOBAL magazine reporter Stephanie Bosworth Thornton, the Deputy Secretary of State’s estranged daughter, fears the worst when her dying father tells her the President was actually responsible. She threads her way through a labyrinth of mystery, danger and romance searching for the truth in an attempt to exorcise her own demons of guilt and betrayal. On the way, she meets handsome Danny Flint. But is he only using her to cover up his own involvement in the crime? And as her suspicions mount, her editor and former fiancé, Nick Orlan, warns her to stay away from Flint. But she wonders about Nick’s true motives and still has feelings for him, even though he has a new girlfriend in tow. Stonewalled by government officials, pursued cross-country by unknown assailants, threatened by renegade CIA agents, and even the President himself, Stephanie is caught up in a dangerous web of intrigue that spirals out of control as the story hurtles to its startling conclusion, one almost everyone nearly overlooked.

Excerpt:
A horseshoe of humanity began forming around the main entrance to Chicago's famed Blake-Warren hotel. The double doors were still closed, the soft yellow carpeted lobby barely visible through the rain-spotted glass. Metal posts with thick purple ropes stretched in front of Stephanie, where she stood waiting with the rest of the media. Some reporters had TV cameras sitting atop shoulders, others had microphones, muffled from the rain, and pocket tape recorders at the ready, should they catch sight of the controversial Secretary of State, Henry Wadsworth Landis. Electrical cables curled everywhere under her feet, like black snakes on the wet concrete, heavy insulation tape shielding them from the moisture.
She didn't want to be here, but events beyond her control had dictated otherwise. It wasn't the Secretary of State she dreaded interviewing. It was the Deputy Secretary, her father, Jennings Bosworth. Things hadn't been right between them for years, ever since her mother Lois had died. Stephanie blamed him for her suicide and he knew it.
Anticipation assumed a heavy presence of its own, adding to the damp autumn smell and sharp chill hanging in the air. Feverish whispers flew through the crowd like wildfire, in response to Landis' latest bombshell, his questionable call for a worldwide U.S. defense policy. Klieg lights forged a strange daylight glow flashing on and off and the buzzing of the voices around her intensified. Rain dappled the oversized glasses Stephanie wore as she squeezed next to her ex-fiancée and former editor, Nicholas Orlan, and the GLOBAL magazine photographer, Earl Taber.
"Well Radar, what are you going to ask?" Nick asked, huddled inside his customary rumpled khaki raincoat, stained at the cuffs and spotted with rain.
Stephanie flinched at the sound of the familiar nickname he’d given her. Radar. Because she’d always been able to read his mind. She didn’t know if she could do that anymore. "Why is he so confident the President's response will be favorable--"
"And?"
"And does he feel it's the function of the Secretary of State to make policy without consulting the President?"
"Won't Jennings Bosworth be surprised when he sees who's asking the questions!" Nick teased, but Stephanie ignored him.
She twisted her head to study the twenty floors of the white concrete and smoked glass façade of the newly remodeled hotel, wondering when her father would emerge. Her heart skipped a beat as her gaze returned to street level. The doors swung open and Secret Service agents dressed in bland gray and blue suits wrapped themselves around Landis and her father like a blanket so that only the tops of their heads were visible. She caught a glimpse of Nick's brother, Peter, one of the hotel's security guards, bringing up the rear. Agents continued shielding them when suddenly a mass of bodies surged behind Stephanie, threatening to squeeze her out of position. Flashbulbs popped like lightning and the TV cameras rolled, bathing the scene in a surreal yellow glow.
"Secretary Landis, " Stephanie shouted, holding up her tape recorder, and elbowed her way to the front of the pack with a vicious shove. He glared at her and suddenly her father's face emerged over Landis' shoulder. A split second later, a dozen others drowned out her voice. Her father's eyes widened, registering shock, but raised arms soon blocked her view. Across the street, hordes of spectators booed and applauded, hoisting protest placards and chanting peace slogans. Reporters' questions were lost in the madness of what Stephanie feared might soon turn into an ugly and dangerous mob scene. On an impulse, Stephanie threw her tape recorder in her purse and reached in her pocket for a digital camera, thinking she might have a better angle than Earl Taber.
Landis was smiling and looking down when it happened, the right arm raised, acknowledging the crowd, the other clutching a leather portfolio. Three gunshots exploded like cheap firecrackers, slamming into his body, hurling him backward. Landis' arm dropped to his side, his portfolio flew out of his hand and splashed down into a puddle. Blood spurted from his stomach and head.
Still instinctively snapping pictures, Stephanie zeroed in on Landis until Nick yanked her to the ground and her legs flipped out from underneath her. She landed painfully on her tailbone, but kept a tight grip on her camera, her fingers depressing the shutter repeatedly. A blonde woman on her left tumbled across her lap, screaming. Stephanie strained her eyes for another view of her father amid more screams and piles of shuffling, scrambling bodies, her mind numb with shock, her body paralyzed with fear.
"Over here, over here, over here!" someone yelled, sharp and staccato.
Stephanie scrabbled up on one knee, pushing the woman aside, and watched a mound of struggling police restraining someone. Nick grasped her arm again and flung her backward on top of him. However, the image of the bloodstained suit of Landis and two other crumpled figures lying around him near the street still blazed in her brain. Nausea welled up in her throat, preventing her from screaming.
She fought to stand again and managed to peer above the crowd. A distraught Secret Service man shielded the body of one of the other victims, who lay twitching beneath him, blood dribbling from his mouth. She struggled to her feet for a closer look, her stockings bloodied, wet and torn from scraping the sidewalk. A wall of bodies still blocked her path and she began shouting her father's name. A reporter was standing over Landis snapping pictures. Stephanie pocketed her camera, unwilling to capture any more of the gruesome scene. Another Secret Service agent placed a towel beneath Landis’ head, applying pressure to the gaping wound on his left temple. A dazed group of strangers circled the other victim curled at his feet.
Her father.
Next week: What is your heart's desire and a giveaway of "The Montezuma Secret"

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Baaaaaad Reviews: Teaching Perseverance

Many blogs and groups bemoan the presence of bad reviews. And they are terrible. I got a one star on Goodreads once and was devastated. However, we can learn from them (at least, some of them) and learn to rise above them. For example, one reviewer said I referred to the heroine’s pulsing Adam’s Apple, pointing out women don’t have Adam’s Apples. I checked this out. They do have Adam’s Apples, they just aren’t as prominent as men’s. And it was only mentioned twice in the whole book. But I do know not to use that comparison anymore. And I am learning to make the heroine as likeable as possible, based on what a few reviewers said, even though she may have a few flaws.
And for fun, I checked out the reviews for one of my favorite books, Nora Roberts’ “The Reef.” There were plenty of negative reviews. I thought how could there be? This book was excellent. Yet there they were. Almost thirty three, two and one star reviews—one person even called it the worst book they had ever read, another said it was disappointing and yet another said the story didn’t go anywhere! It just goes to show you everyone sees things differently, has a different opinion, just like taste buds, and there is nothing you can do about it, except move on and not let any of it get to you. And don’t take it personally, unless there are some despicable ad hominem attacks, which are uncalled for and can be removed from the review sites, upon request.
When we put a book out there, it’s in the public eye, whether we like it or not, kind of like running for office. And all of our good points and our bad are up for inspection. Most people tend to concentrate on the good things and offer constructive criticism, but some wish to only focus on the negative. They may be motivated by a variety of things. Maybe they’ve wanted to write a book and couldn’t or maybe they’ve just had a bad day. The important thing is to keep your “eyes on the prize” and don’t let anyone deter you from your goals. It’s amazing to read the biographies of famous actors who have been rejected hundreds of times but keep going or if they finally do get a part, they describe the dozens of bombs they’ve appeared on, either on stage or in the movies. The same is true of writers. Jack London collected 266 rejection slips. When HG Wells wrote “War of the Worlds,” some described it as “horrid.” The first “Chicken Soup” book was rejected 140 times until it finally found an independent publisher.
We can’t erase very bad review, no matter how much we want to. We can cry, yell, pound our fists, flail our arms, and swear like a sailor. But we should never, ever stop writing and doing what we love. If there is any valuable constructive criticism in the review, we can learn from it. I will never stop writing, no matter what. I love putting myself in the main character’s role too much. I love slugging it out with the bad guys and the good guys, putting my heroine in jungles and snake pits, and enjoy writing the sexy love scenes. So stay strong and persevere, no matter what anybody says!
What’s the worst review you’ve ever got? You don’t need to mention the book. And what is it that they hated the most? Or if that’s too painful, I understand. How about describing your reaction and what you did in response? Did you learn anything?
Next week: What is your Heart’s Desire?
Also: Book Giveaway of “The Montezuma Secret.”
Five Stars on Amazon and Goodreads

Sunday, September 25, 2011

New Release: Dangerous Charade by Elizabeth Means!

Thanks, Alison, for having me as a guest on your blog! Today I’m going to talk a little bit about how and where I come up with story ideas. The short answer is…I get my ideas everywhere. My “writer’s antennae” is up all the time. Every juicy bit of news, gossip, current event, personal drama , interesting historical reference, natural disaster, etc., etc. that the antennae picks up eventually ends up in the writing corner of my mind. There it gets filtered and sorted into one of three categories: A. Yes! This would make a great stand-alone story hook. B. Meh, this could make a great kernel or sub-plot to weave into a different story. C. Junk, mental delete.
I write down the ones I want to keep on an index card and put them in what I’ve come to refer to as my idea box. It’s an old, oval-shaped wooden box that sits on a shelf. I’ve been doing this for years and the box is currently overflowing with ideas. It would take me multiple lifetimes to flesh them all out into finished stories.
Sometimes when the mood strikes me I’ll get the box out and play mad scientist with the ideas. I’ll take one idea and see what would happen if I added an element of another. Or two others. Or somehow turn the idea on its head. A word of caution, though, this method could lead to a super-story discovery that will have you up writing for nights because you’re too excited about the idea to sleep. On the other hand, it may lead straight to a horrific “Franken-story.” Beware!
This is partly how I came up with my idea for “Dangerous Charade.” I love James Bond stories. The idea of an elite, larger-than-life, (and oh-so-sexy) agent working for a mysterious boss named “M” to solve a mystery, catch a bad guy and not get killed at the same time draws me in every time. Plus, he gets to use high-tech, top-secret weapons and gadgets and go toe-to-toe with some of the world’s worst criminal minds.
But what if James Bond was a young female? Living in England in the 1880’s? What if instead of wearing a fashionable watch that’s also a Geiger counter this female James Bond carries a fashionable black-fringed parasol that’s also a gun? It’s been a lot of fun dreaming up gadgets for my Victorian era heroine.
I hope my idea process has inspired you. I find the initial, conceptual phase of a writing project to be the one that makes me the giddiest with excitement and anticipation of what’s to come. I strive to enjoy it to the fullest because after it comes the business of writing. Then re-writing. And that’s a completely different animal!

BLURB: Dangerous Charade
To escape an arranged marriage Gabrielle Broussard flees her home to become an undercover investigator with an elite, all-female investigative agency. Her first assignment, as governess at Westford castle to investigate the suspicious death of the Countess of Westford, quickly becomes complicated when she finds herself attracted to her number one suspect.
Lord Julian Blackwell is a survivor. After his father’s bankruptcy, he becomes a self-made man in Victorian England’s booming industrial era. Trapped into a loveless marriage, he has survived the shock of his wife’s sudden death. But now he must survive rumors and outright accusations. Hiring a private agency to investigate and prove his innocence seems like a good idea…until desire threatens to compromise both the case and the life of the investigator.

EXCERPT: Dangerous Charade
Gabrielle raced across the lawn toward a side entrance most often used by the servants at Westford. Dawn was breaking and she needed to move fast. If anyone saw her, she would be hard-pressed to explain why she was returning from a ride at this time of day, in the dark. And carrying a fancy parasol, no less.
She’d almost reached the door when Julian’s voice cut through the still morning air like a knife.
“Gabrielle.”
“Oh!” Her free hand flew to her mouth as she whirled toward the sound of his voice. He stood close to the building, hidden in the shadows. “My lord, you nearly scared me to death! I didn’t see you there.”
“Clearly.”
“Just what are you doing out here, lurking about in the shadows?” she demanded, adrenaline pumping.
“What am I doing?” He stared at her incredulously. “Not that I owe you any explanation for my actions while on my own estate, but I came out to watch the sunrise. What the devil are you doing?”
“I was…checking on Buttercup. I’m told she’s been acting strangely.” Gabrielle took a few more steps toward the building. “But—good news—it appears she’s doing fine.”
In a flash Julian was between her and the door. He regarded her closely. “That doesn’t explain why you’re lugging a parasol around in the dark.”
Gabrielle swallowed hard. She saw his green eyes narrow. “One never knows what one might encounter lurking about in the shadows. I may have needed it to defend myself from something. Or someone,” she added pointedly.
Julian stepped closer to her; they were less than an arm’s length apart. “Do you think you need it now?” The suggestive tone in his voice was unmistakable.
Her breathing quickened, and she averted her gaze. “What I think is that you are most unnerving.”
Julian reached out and tilted her chin up with his fingers. “What kind of game are you playing, Gabrielle?”
She didn’t answer. And he didn’t ask again. Instead he brought his head down very slowly and claimed her mouth with his own.

Author Website:
www.elizabeth-means.com
Buy Link: Now available from the Wild Rose Press!
http://www.thewildrosepress.com/index.php?main_page=product_info&cPath=176_138&products_id=4629

Good luck with your new release Elizabeth, sounds very exciting. PS, I love your 'what-if?' It sounds like a winner! Writers take note: turning an idea on its head is a great gateway to success!
Next week: The Importance of Bad Reviews

Monday, September 19, 2011

What Makes a Best-Seller: The Masses or the Media?

What Makes a Best-Seller, The Masses or the Media?
Suddenly a book or movie catapults to life, seemingly out of nowhere, an instant success. What fueled this sudden rise to prominence? The media posting good reviews, the author or its stars appearing on talk shows touting its excellence? Or is the success independent of its reviews? Are the people flocking to it first or are they only flocking to it because the media told them to? Which came first: the masses or the media? From Jacqueline Mitchard’s Deep End of the Ocean, getting a huge boost from Oprah’s endorsement or more recently, the critics heaping praise on Like Water for Elephants and The Help, these books became tremendously successful at both the box office and the bookstore because of a positive media spin.

While I’m not sure, all I can say is that they all came to my attention because of what I’d read in the news media first. My first thought is ‘well it must be good, it’s getting good reviews. I have to read it or I have to see it.” Sometimes the praise is justified, some not. And conversely, some books and movies that are a huge hit with audiences are a flop with critics. National Treasure and The DaVinci Code are two examples that come to mind.

Like with any good or bad review, ‘caveat emptor,’ the buyer needs to be beware. In the case of Deep End of the Ocean, I didn’t think the praise was warranted, but that’s just me. I don’t care for those type of stories and I didn’t think it was terribly original, kind of a paper tiger at the end. Too much inner angst. Not my thing, just like Jodi Picault or Joyce Carol Oates. Too maudlin and too sad. But that’s my opinion. Other people love it. I don’t like vampire stories either. Other people eat them up, pardon the pun. Then again, I loved The Help and thought Like Water for Elephants was good, but not great. So reviews must be in the eye of the beholder. Everybody sees things differently. And that’s OK. But does the media have too much power in making or breaking an artist’s work? Are we slaves to what they like and don’t like? Or can we rise above it and make our own choices, come what may? I think we can and do, whether it comes to the arts or choosing a political candidate. Public opinion can be a very powerful force. But who shapes it: the masses or the media?
Next week: Elizabeth Means is my Guest

Monday, September 12, 2011

Bending the Romantic Template: The Eternal Triangle, A No-No in Romance?

One hero, one heroine. Once the hero meets the heroine and vice-versa, he/she can’t look at, drool, or otherwise be attracted to anyone else, much less make love with anyone else. The Romantic Template. Can we break, bend, tweak, or fiddle with or if we do, do we do so at our own peril? The romance novel is a highly successful genre. Is it heresy to deviate from this established tried and true formula? Would it be a fatal mistake to introduce a third party to compete for the hero or heroine’s attention? I think the addition of a third party, known as the eternal triangle, adds the possibility of vengeance and my favorite—jealousy—to the equation. Both aspects can heighten conflict, spice up suspense, add mystery and sexual tension, etc. Who is the villain, which one is the knight in shining armor? Isn’t that what we do in our everyday lives when we date people and choose which one to marry? Plus it could even evoke sympathy for the main character. Nothing is more heartbreaking than watching the hero or heroine think that the love of his/her life has just been lost to a romantic rival. It pulls at my heartstrings every time. And when the tide turns and he/she gets him/her back, nothing makes me happier when I reach the ending of the story. Justice has been done!

The eternal triangle has been around for centuries, playing a central role in both real and fictional life. Many wars have been fought for love. Think Lancelot and King Arthur. Helen of Troy. Many crimes have been committed in the heat of passion, all because of a third party’s unwelcome intrusion. In my stories, I like to either have two women lusting after the hero or two men chasing after the heroine. Their motives can either be good or bad. The trick is to guess which one is doing what and a mystery unfolds as to who the real hero is. I’m not suggesting anything illicit, just good old-fashioned competition. In The Secret Sentinel, Savannah Rutledge is kidnapped by the mysterious Antonio Desada, but still carries a torch for Eric Gale. In The Montezuma Secret, TV star Erica Kingsley is still in love with handsome survivalist Trey Zacco, but must compete for his attentions with his lovely producer, Morgana Montez. One of my favorite authors, Sandra Brown, writes in Envy about a book editor who is married, but has a strange attraction to a mysterious writer. In Brown’s Chill Factor, the main character has an ex-husband who wants her back, but instead falls for a guy who might or might not be a serial killer. It’s so much fun to figure out who she’ll end up with and why.

I remember reading once that romances are usually about “two dogs fighting over the same bone.” Kind of an unattractive analogy, but true. The two main characters are usually squabbling over something they both desperately want: the family business, the ranch, the country estate, a treasure, etc. as well as fighting for each other’s love. The end, we know, will be a happy one. Thank goodness! They get what they want in love and resolve their ultimate quest. And doesn’t it add something spicy and complicate things if they’re also competing with a third party to win the love of their life?

Here's an excerpt from my latest book The Montezuma Secret:

Reappearing ten minutes later, dressed in a tiny gold lame bikini with a fresh layer of lip gloss applied, Erica stopped short at the sight of a half-naked Trey astride his Harley, a pair of sleek wraparound Rayban sunglasses perched atop his head.
Without his shirt and his shoulders buffed to a bronzy glow, he looked like a young Adonis. He fixed her with a mesmerizing gaze, his peacock blue eyes piercing hers, an obvious sexual come-on, she was sure of it. A shock of thick wiry hair flopped forward onto his forehead, adding a charming touch of boyishness that only added to his alluring all-male appeal.
And the way he ogled her in that bikini, she knew he liked what he saw. It hugged every curve, accentuated her ample cleavage and made her legs look as long as an Amazon’s. She felt like one too, brazen, aggressive and totally lacking in inhibitions.
She got on the motorcycle behind him, riding it sidesaddle. This time she needed no encouragement. Her arms flew around his naked waist and she let her long legs dangle so they made contact with his thigh. She leaned forward so her breasts caressed his bare back and when the photographer turned on the wind machine, her long hair flew behind her in the breeze. His body heat and strong muscles acted like an instant aphrodisiac.
The photographer handed them each a glass of champagne in tall crystal flutes and began snapping. Trey could not keep his eyes off her legs, she noted with pride, as the photographer had to keep reminding him to stare into the camera. Finally, he asked them to clink glasses and stare into each other’s eyes. She knew she had him then. She’d apologize to her father later for reneging on her promise not to fall prey to Trey’s charms again.
After a few more shots, the photographer motioned them off the cycle, then removed the vehicle and the backdrop, leaving them awkwardly standing next to one another, half-dressed, champagne glasses still clutched in their hands.
Trey broke the stalemate first and grinned mischievously before downing his champagne in one gulp. Erica copied him and they both laughed. Trey walked over to the food cart next, slathered some caviar on a cracker and popped it into his mouth before pouring himself more champagne and re-filling Erica’s glass.
Suddenly feeling wanton and not the least bit self-conscious, Erica picked up one of the sinfully rich pastries loaded with whipped cream and fed it to him. When some of the cream landed on the corners of his mouth, she wiped off the excess with her index finger and made him lick it off. She watched his tongue slowly swirl off the cream and take her finger in his mouth until he stopped at her knuckle.
“Mmmm,” she purred in approval.
“All right, you two. I don’t want to get out the fire hose,” the photographer joked.
He’d changed the scenery again. An oversized wing chair, one big enough for giants, sat where the motorcycle once stood. The Paris skyline, complete with the Eiffel Tower and the Arc de Triomphe, now served as the new backdrop.
“All right, Trey. Climb up into that chair and Erica, you sit on his lap. Get it? ‘Lap of Luxury.’ And fill those glasses again.”
After pouring them more champagne, Trey clambered up onto the huge chair while Erica held the glasses for him. He gave Erica a careful boost so as not to spill any of the champagne and then she maneuvered herself onto his lap, throwing an arm around his bare shoulder. The liquor had loosened his inhibitions and that was just the way she wanted it. Getting him back again was going to be easier than she’d planned.
“Feel free to ad lib some dialogue, guys,” the photographer instructed, zeroing in on both of them with his lens. “So far, it’s looking great.”
“Contrary to public opinion,” Erica began, a little giddy, as she downed another glass of champagne, “Trey and I do get along. Even though we’re from opposite sides of the program guide. As a matter of fact, I like wild things and I think wild things like me. Tune in to see the fur fly.”
Trey laughed uproariously at the pun.
“Cut!” the photographer yelled.
Erica inched up higher on his lap, feeling Trey’s swelling erection poking her bottom.
“Do you like it wild, Trey?”
He shifted uncomfortably, suddenly eager to remove her from his lap. He shimmied off the chair, leaving her sitting alone and feeling foolish perched atop the gargantuan thing, still wearing the tiny bikini. She wondered what she’d done to cause such a strange transformation.
Straining to see what was behind Trey’s agitation, she scooted off the chair seat and leapt down, then followed him to the doorway, her high heels clacking on the slick hardwood floor.
Morgana Montez, Trey’s beautiful producer and his most recent ex, stood in the door way. And behind her lurked the threatening hulk of Gordon Gosich.

The Montezuma Secret available from Amazon.com
Click on the cover at right to purchase.
Also available on Smashwords
FIVE STARS on Amazon and Goodreads
Next Week: Who makes the bestsellers? You and me or the news media?

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Welcome Marie Tuhart and Saddle Up!

Thanks for having me Alison.

My current release Quick Silver Ranch: Saddle Up wasn't a book I had planned to write. I'm sure you're all wonder how it happened. Well, I had turned in Quick Silver Ranch, which later turned out to be titled Quick Silver Ranch: Roped & Ready, my editor sent me an email and asked me if I was willing to write the secondary characters book and we could put out the two books as a series keeping Quick Silver Ranch.

I sat at my desk reading the email going back between yes and no, yes and no, but I wasn't going to let opportunity pass me by, I told my editor yes. And two seconds after I sent the email my head hit the desk. What was I thinking? I had no plot, no conflict, no idea of who these characters were or what I was going to do with them.

Luckily for me, my critique partner met me on Sunday for lunch and we brainstormed the book and the following week I started writing it. I had done 15,000 works when I realized, my hero Jared was a very different person than how I was trying to write him. Head hits desk again.

Back to the beginning, but this time, I knew my hero, I just started writing. Six weeks later I had a rough draft, another month after that I had a polished manuscript and I sent it to my editor praying she would like it.

She did and she bought it. So this was the book that I never thought I write, but it was a great experience to write it and learn from writing it. I've learned never to say never to anything, and just when you don't expect opportunity is dropped into your lap.

So have you ever had an opportunity drop into your lap? Did you take advantage of it or not? I want to hear, it can be about anything.


Quick Silver Ranch: Saddle Up

Angie Davidson finds herself at loose ends after
her best friend's wedding and in need of a vacation,
so when sexy yet aloof co-owner of the Quick Silver
Ranch, Jared Turner, insists she stay to explore
their sexual attraction, she agrees. Though she loves
being a submissive in the bedroom, Jared's distant
air after lovemaking brings back bad memories. Can
she show this strong sexy man he has nothing to
fear from her, or will he abandon her like everyone
else in her life has?

Sexy yet aloof Jared, co-owner of the Quick
Silver Ranch is eager to explore Angie's submissive
side with two weeks of toys and other naughty play.
However, the last time he was this attracted to a
woman—mentally and phyiscally—she wasn't able
to put up with his Dominant streak. Can Angie see
that her vacation with him can be the perfect way of
life?

Except:

Angie drank in the feeling of his body against hers. His hardness to her softness, and part of her wanted to melt in a puddle at his feet, another part wanted to be bold and daring.

“Becca mentioned that you're closing down the ranch for a while.” Maybe a little flirting would work.

“Two weeks. There needs to be some renovations done, and the staff needs some downtime. It was a good time to do it with Tyler gone.”

“How much can be done in two weeks?” She thought back to when they were renovating the offices she now worked in, it seemed like it took months and with every little problem the workmen came to her.

“A lot, if you know how to motivate people.”

“Really?” Angie tilted her head up and fluttered her eyelashes. “And how would you do that?”

The corners of Jared's lips tilted up. “Lots of money.”

Okay, subtle flirting wasn't working with him. Her fingers trailed over his broad shoulder, to his neck, where she stroked his dark brown hair. His hand tightened on her lower back, bringing their hips together. And Angie swore she could feel his hard erection. Good, he wasn't immune to her.

She let her fingers skim from his neck, down over his shoulder blade, down his spine, over his well-defined ass, until she could rest her palm over his butt cheek. Then she squeezed it.

“Behave.” His breath brushed her ear and he swatted her ass.

“You hit me.” She couldn't believe it; he actually smacked her on the ass. Not that it hurt, but heat flowed through her body making her nipples grow harder. She’d never realized a little swat could make her so hot.

“I'll do worse if you don't behave yourself, Angie.”

“Promise?” The word was out of her mouth before she even realized it. The music ended, Jared escorted her back to the table and pulled out her chair.

His palms cupped her cheeks, tilting her face up to his. “We'll talk later.” He dropped a hard brief kiss on her lips before striding away.

Angie's heart skipped several beats while she observed Jared cross the room. She put her fingers to her lips and sank down onto the chair with her core pulsing with need and her panties wet. If he met her later, they wouldn't be talking if she had anything to say about it.

You can buy Quick Silver Ranch at any of your favorite e-tailers (Amazon, B&N, Bookstrand, Fictionwise) Or you can buy directly from The Wild Rose Press http://tinyurl.com/6jcwda5

You can find Marie at number of places:

Website: www.marietuhart.com
Facebook: Marie Tuhart – I'm the only one
Twitter: @marietuhart
Blog: www.escapetoaneroticfantasy.blogspot.com
Group blog: www.wildandwickedcowboys.wordpress.com

Thanks, Marie. Hot excerpt and hot cover. Good thing you didn't pass up this opportunity and good luck with these two exciting books!

Next week: Bending the Romantic Template: The Eternal Triangle, a No- No in Romance?

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Welcome Amber Leigh Williams & the Importance of Good Research!

I’ve always had a keen interest in how things work and the history or stories behind them. That may be why I spent no less than a year researching my first romance novel, a historical set in the Italian countryside. Though I don’t spend nearly as much time researching my current novels, the research process still fascinates me to such a degree that I have to limit myself or I get carried away. As beautiful as Veneto, Italy is, no one wants to read a two-page description of the panorama. In the first draft of this book, the heroine (daughter of a winemaker) takes the hero on a tour of her family’s winery, explaining every detail of what happens to the grapes once they are harvested. This segment, eventually cut, was ten pages long. Thankfully, I now know how to pick and choose what readers want to know. It never hurts though to know how something works because it might just add a scene or element you didn’t expect to the storyline. Here’s a list of some of my all-time favorite research topics….

Winemaking – This research was for Forever Amore, my historical based in Italy, which was eventually published after several revisions. Before I wrote Forever Amore, I didn’t drink wine. During the research, however, it became inevitable and I eventually grew to love it. There’s so much history in winemaking. I find the organic process – especially that which was utilized in the early twentieth century – fascinating in itself. I watched many videos, printed out many pictures, and read many books that revolved around vineyards and winemaking. My favorite part of the winemaking research (besides the tastings) was the vineyard work. I even made my hero a worker in the heroine’s vineyard to better help him blend with the people around him and avoid capture. A lot of work goes into a vineyard, but there’s something romantic about it. In spring, when the buds begin to burst on the vines and the vines have grown tall enough to conceal the hero and heroine in a sunset stroll, romance was simply inherent!

Italian – While researching Forever Amore and reading books based in Italy, it became pretty clear that some knowledge of the Italian language was necessary. The plot revealed that the heroine would have to teach the hero Italian if he were to journey through the Italian countryside safely in disguise. I enjoyed learning French in school so I took to teaching myself rudimentary Italian. It came pretty easily, all except for distinguishing between the different greetings people use at different parts of the day. I transferred this confusion to the hero, Charles, in one of his first conversations with the heroine, Lucille….
“I already know a bit Italian,” he said in earnest as he followed her from the room that he would share with Roberto indefinitely.

“Really? How do you say ‘good morning’?”

He frowned. “Ciao?”

With a sigh, she descended the stairs ahead of him. “We have far to go.”

Rodeo – I joined the ranks of western romance authors with relish by signing up to write a novella in the Wayback, Texas series for The Wild Rose Press. And I dove into researching cowboys like a fish into water. For those who aren’t familiar with the series, Wayback is a rodeo town. I love cowboys. I love western animals. Research was no chore, especially when I was invited to a local rodeo and got to experience the whole thing firsthand. In other words, I was the eager wannabe cowgirl in pigtails and blue-jean skirt taking diligent notes in the first row. I uncovered those notes the other day and found both the name of the bull the hero of the first book in my Wayback trilogy rides as well as the hero’s first name. Somewhere in the world a bull named Jack the Ripper and a rodeo cowboy named Judd have been immortalized forever :)
Taj Mahal – This research was for my romantic suspense, Denied Origin, in which the hero and heroine are taken on a fast-paced scavenger hunt around the globe to uncover her true identity. One of the locations the scavenger hunt leads them to is India, the town of Agra, and the beautiful Taj Mahal. There is a wealth of fascinating information surrounding this monument both historically and architecturally. It is a shrine, first and foremost, to love and devotion. I needed an element of danger, however, to add to my story so I focused my research on the Taj Mahal’s water system, which during the period the Taj Mahal was built were way of their time. With its canals, fountains, and the river flowing beside it, I created a frightening scene involving water tunnels beneath the Taj Mahal. Despite its scary elements, it’s one of my favorite scenes of the book.

Mythology – Currently, I’m working on research for a paranormal concept that involves a great deal of Greek mythology. I love mythology – it’s my storyteller paradise! At the moment, I’m learning a great deal about the god of war as well as the origins of mermaids of folklore – sirens! Sparta is another key area of research. It’s all too easy to get carried away. However, one of the best parts of research is uncovering new passions or indulging old ones. I’ve always loved Greek mythology and wanted to include it in some aspect of my writing. Now that I’ve found the perfect opportunity, my job just got a lot more fun!

Today I’m including an excerpt from Denied Origin, a romantic suspense available in paperback and ebook from The Wild Rose Press….

He knew all about the Taj Mahal’s tragic history. He knew it wasn’t the only great temple in India, but it was the most cherished, a very fitting tribute to beauty, a shrine of love and devotion. He knew it’d taken over two decades to complete and had been built by a Mughal emperor in honor of his beloved wife who’d died in childbirth.
Mark wondered how love such as that of the Mughal emperor and his Muslim princess could still exist now in a time defined by its greedy and power-hungry society. In a world where terror and fear reigned, Mark found it hard to believe a love like that was still a reality.
He glanced at Valentina and realized he was living that reality. He was full proof of it. He turned away from her, tried to convince himself he had no choice. But even with his mind determinedly set against it, this feeling was digging a home in his core, refusing to be stemmed or ignored.
As the train pulled into the station, Valentina stirred. It was midmorning and the sun was out, bright and full. She squinted out the window at Agra. “Are we getting off?”
Mark nodded as he rose to get their luggage. He threw the duffel over his shoulder before helping her to her feet. He tucked an arm around her shoulders. “Don’t leave my side,” he whispered as they wandered into the station.
He kept his eyes sharp. A sniper could be perched just out of view, a knife could be held just out of sight. His eyes passed over every face, studied them, judged them. He checked over his shoulder many times to make sure no one was following them. “We’ll go straight there.”
“Good,” she muttered. He knew she was also watching the crowd. “The sooner we leave this place the better.”
He didn’t relax, but slowly began to take in the sights as they walked quickly through the city streets. They walked through a large bazaar where the smell of spices was so strong he could almost feel them filtering through his lungs as he breathed deep to admit them. There weren’t many cars. There was the occasional elephant, more than a few horse-drawn carts, and various bicyclists.
All the people were tan with exotic eyes and peasant dress though they had a carefree air, a sense of peace and gratification. They’d been walking for some time when they came to a crowded iron bridge.
“Are we close?” She pressed close to Mark’s side as they squeezed into the traffic on the bridge.
He nodded, his eyes darting every which way, searching for the glare of a weapon. “This is the Yamuna River. The Taj is just across the bridge.”
After wriggling their way through the suffocating crowd, they broke out into the sunlight again. As soon as she saw the monument in the distance, she let out a surprised gasp. “Oh, Mark…”
He couldn’t help but grin at her surprise. “It’s even better up close and personal, huh?”
Her gasp melded fluidly into an awestruck sigh. “Oh, it’s gorgeous—more than I imagined.”
“We have to go through the south entrance,” Mark advised, guiding her onward. “Not much further.”

Find out more about Denied Origin, Forever Amore, and my western romance trilogy at my website: www.amberleighwilliams.com! Thank you for hosting me, Alison! I enjoyed talking about my favorite research topics.

Readers, what people, places or things do you most like learning about through your TBR list?

Thanks, Amber! Great advice and information! Denied Origin sounds like my kind of scavenger hunt and who can resist a title like Forever Amore!

Next week: Marie Tuhart

Monday, August 22, 2011

Welcome Ilona Fridl's Dangerous Times Series!

Now, with the release of Bronze Skies this past July, the Dangerous Times series is complete. I'd like to take a look at all three, which are available online at The Wild Rose Press, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and many sites that sell ebooks.

The first is Silver Screen Heroes and it takes place in 1920 at a silent movie studio in Hollywood, California. This was my suspense historical. We meet Addy Garcia and Zeke Shafer, who work at Majestic Studio that has been sold to a crime family. Addy gets sucked into the intrigue, because her cousin, Muriel Carter, elopes with the boss' son.

Excerpt:

“I’m happy you could come to the party tonight.”
“Thank you for inviting me.”
He maneuvered a turn toward a quiet hallway.
“I want to talk to you about a problem that’s causing
me a lot of trouble. I think you can help me. Seeing
that I gave you a little leverage to advance at the
studio, maybe you can do something for me.”
Addy felt her face burn. What did he want?
Surely he couldn’t be going to make advances toward
her, too. It would be so awkward, with him being
Muriel’s father-in-law, but she would fight him just
as she had Mr. Abrams and John. “What is it?”
“The master ledger for the studio has been
missing for a while.” He tightened his grip on her. “I
think you know where it is.”

The second, Golden North, takes place in 1921 in Juneau, Alaska Territory in a theater/restaurant called Golden North. Addy and Zeke have married and fled the wrath of the crime family to help Zeke's brother, Josh Shafer, restore and operate an old opera house and bar. Muriel follows her cousin north. She is a widow with a small daughter, whom the crime family wants. This is my murder mystery.

Excerpt:

Muriel’s heart went out to Josh.
He had put his head in his hands and leaned his
elbows on the desk as Muriel told him what
happened at Millie’s, and now he looked the picture
of despair. He slowly raised his head. “Well, that’s it,
isn’t it? Muriel, I’m sorry you had to come into this.
You seem to have traded one problem for another.”
Muriel caressed his shoulders. “I’m sure Sarah
and Amos can find out what really happened. When
they do, the townspeople will come around.”
“We may not be here by that time.” He
straightened and threw his hands up. “I really
wanted to prove to myself that my father was wrong,
that I could make something of my life. Well―” One
hand slammed down on the ledger.
Muriel’s chest tightened. He could be right
about having to leave. She didn’t want to think it,
but her eyes swam with tears. How could he blame
himself, though? He had worked so hard.
Josh looked at her through the mist in his own
eyes. He stood and took her in a gentle embrace,
then pulled back quickly. “I’m―I didn’t mean to―”
Muriel put her fingers on his lips. “Don’t
apologize.” She drew him toward her again, and they
gazed at each other for a moment before she put her
hand on the back of his neck and kissed him.


The third book, Bronze Skies, takes place in the 1940s in Alaska Territory during World War II. This is the war story. Lt. Tom Shafer is the son of Addy and Zeke, who is in the Army Air Corps. We see the conflict through his eyes and the home front through the eyes of his girl, Pam Wright, who lives in Juneau.

Excerpt:

“Will you tell me where Vic Houston is?”
Jake nodded toward an old blue Oldsmobile.
“He’s working under the hood over there.”
“Thanks, Jake.” The smell of gas, grease, and
rubber hit Tom's nose as he made his way to the
Olds. He saw Vic with a wrench, tightening
something in the engine. Tom leaned against the
fender. “Vic, do you have a moment?”
Vic looked surprised, and Tom noticed his
grease-grimed hand clench the wrench tighter.
“What do you want, Shafer?” His voice was rough.
“I didn’t come here to fight you, but before I
leave to go back to base, I have something to say. If I
hear you’ve hurt Pam in any way, I will find you.”
Vic's fingers bunched the dirty cloth that
covered the radiator grill. “I don’t plan to hurt Pam,
but that doesn’t mean I won’t try to date her. And
the big-time flyboy didn’t bring any charges against
me. Are you too chicken?” He spit on the floor by
Tom’s feet.

I want to thank Alison for hosting me today and giving me a chance to celebrate my series. My web site is http://www.ilonafridl.com I'm also on Facebook and Goodreads.

Thanks, Ilona. This sounds like a wonderful series!
Next Week: Amber Leigh Williams







Monday, August 15, 2011

Welcome Amie Louellen & Brodie's Bride!

What You See Is What You Get

I recently read a book that was very different from what I normally read. But I had committed myself to reading it, so I did. And I enjoyed it. I’m glad I read it. When I finished the last few words of story and turned the page, I found a Book Club Guide.

Now, I enjoy a good book as much as the next person, and I love to sit around with my friends and/or family and talk about something we’ve all read. But my goal as an author is to never-ever write a book that needs a guide to help readers and their friends and/or family talk about it. I write what I consider to be mid-length romantic fiction with a great deal of comedic moments. Light-hearted, fun. And you won’t need a reader’s guide to enjoy it. Or “get” it. It is what it is.

Not to say that having a reader’s guide is a bad thing. There are a lot of books that have such subtle issues and changes with the characters that a reader almost *needs* the guide to define what they have read.
Not my goal.

So here’s a peek at Brodie’s Bride. Summer beach read or whatever you want to call it one thing is certain—
What you see is what you get.
Enjoy! Amie
Amie Louellen--Brodie's Bride
Available now from the Wild Rose Press
www.thewildrosepress.com

Amie Louellen loves nothing more than a good book. Except for her family…and maybe homemade tacos…and shoes. But reading and writing are definitely high on the list. When she's not creating quirky characters and happy endings she enjoys going to little league baseball games and boy scout meetings. Born and bred in Mississippi, Amie is a transplanted Southern Belle who now lives in Oklahoma with her deputy husband, their genius son, a spoiled cat, and one very hyper beagle.

Amie Louellen--author FaceBook
www.amielouellen.com
http://amielouellen.wordpress.com/
www.twitter.com/AmieLouellen
email amielouellen@gmail.com

Blurb--Waking up next to a beautiful golden-haired stranger isn’t the worst thing that has ever happened to Brodie Harper, but staying in a fake marriage in order to gain a new construction contract could very well be.

Savanna Morgan just wanted a way out of an engagement to a man she didn’t love. Marrying Brodie seemed liked the perfect answer at the time. Less perfect the next morning when she finds herself disowned by her father and flat broke. Now she must make it through the weekend. Monday they can get it all annulled and forget it ever happened.

The real problem may be keeping their hands off each other until then.

Excerpt—
“On Monday, after our appointment, you’re leaving.”
“I have to go home,” she said quietly, turning away from him to stare into the postage-stamp sized back yard.
“But we have an agreement for the weekend. I think we should have some ground rules.”
“Good idea.” Savanna clapped her hands, then rubbed them together as if she were ready to get down to business. “Like what?”
“We only have two working bedrooms here,” Brodie said. “Mine and Nan’s. Do you mind sharing a room with me?”
Her pupils dilated, and he knew she was thinking about the scarlet room they had shared last night.
“My room has two beds,” he continued. “We can be like Lucy and Ricky.”
She smiled. “If it was good enough for the Ricardos, I’m sure I can handle it for a few days.”
“We may not so lucky at the Sullivan’s.”
Sobering, she nodded. “If there’s only one bed there, we can just take turns sleeping in it.”
“Fair enough.” Brodie said. “Now, as a married couple—especially at the ranch—we’ll be expected to act like a married couple.”
“Okay. But only around others. When we’re alone, we can act like we’re not married.”
“Correct. But sometimes…” He took a step closer to where she leaned against the porch railing. “Sometimes married people hold hands.”
He reached out and took her fingers into his own. Her skin was velvet soft and smelled so sweet, like the mountains after a rain.
“I—I don’t have a problem with that.”
“Sometimes married couples put their arms around each other.” He placed her hands behind his neck, then slid his arms around her waist.
“That’s okay,” she whispered. He watched as she swallowed hard.
“And sometimes married people kiss. Just a peck here and a peck there. Are you going to have a problem with that?”
“Huh-uh.” She shook her head.
“Maybe we should practice,” he rasped, bending his head close to hers.
“Maybe,” she repeated before he brushed his lips across hers once, then twice.
His intent had been the small, nearly chaste kiss of old married couple, but once he got close to Savanna, once he could smell her sweetness and taste her heady essence, he couldn’t stop himself.
He pulled her close to him, gathering handfuls of her tank top, securing her to him. Over and over he slanted his mouth across hers. Over and over, deeper and deeper, until her whimper brought him back.
He released her, his breath rasping in and out of his lungs in hard painful gasps.
She grasped the edge of the porch railing, looking as disturbed as he felt.
With demonstrations like that, they may not ever convince Blair and Nan their marriage was an accidental twist of fate, but they would surely convince Red Sullivan their passion was for real.
Brodie ran his fingers through his hair, just one more gesture to keep from reaching for Savanna again.
“There,” he managed to croak. “That wasn’t so bad, now was it?”

Thanks, Amie, great read and I couldn't agree with you more about Book Club Guides! Just finished reading a bunch of old Sandra Brown books. "Slow Heat in Heaven," "Mirror Image," "Best Kept Secrets." Boy, you sure don't need a Book Guide for those! Whew! Steamy and great! Best of luck with "Brodie's Bride!"
Next week: Ilona Fridl

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Are Independent Bookstores Dead--Not Yet!


An interesting article appeared in yesterday's Milwaukee Journal, explaining how a few independent bookstores are surviving in today's digital age. The local stores profiled say their principal concern is no longer the huge brick and mortar stores--of which Barnes and Noble is the only one left standing--but the Internet. It's so much easier to go online to buy something and have it instantly downloaded. Case in point, yesterday I went to Barnes and Noble to check out the new releases and the bargain books. I always enjoy Holocaust literature and found a new hardcover called "The Warsaw Anagrams." It was priced at $25.95. I made a note to check out the e-book price when I got home. I went on www.kobobooks.com (I have a Libre e-reader, which is compatible with Kobo rather than Kindle) and found the e-book priced at only $2.79. I bought it and downloaded it in a few seconds. Amazing savings!

Independent booksellers in the Milwaukee and surrounding area (most are in the suburbs) say they survive by holding book club meetings, having book signings with best selling authors and offering discounted books to students. They depend on local community support and loyalty. They have also added cards and other non-book items to their inventory. Stuffed animals sit next to the children's books. Some even sell e-books on their websites.

Another interesting note. The only brick and mortar store that has expanded in recent years is Half Price Books, one of my favorites, since you can also find so many out of print books there as well as on Amazon. My problem with Barnes and Noble (besides the high prices) is the fact that they only stock current stuff and few items from indie publishers.

Even those bookstores that are thriving say they could make more money doing something else and cite concerns about the future.

For the complete article visit:
http://www.jsonline.com/business/127152613.html

Next Week: Amie Louellen

Monday, August 1, 2011

Welcome Vonnie Davis and Storm's Interlude!

Sandra, many thanks for having me here today. Since the release of my debut novel, Storm’s Interlude, I’ve morphed from a fulltime writer into a blogging and promotional fool with little, if any, time for writing. Thank you for making me one more degree the fool.

Frankly it would be easier for me to fly a propeller airplane with a banner trailing from the back like you see at the seashore. “Eat at Joe’s…dial 1-800- TOMAINE” Only mine would say, “Beach read hot enough to melt sunscreen!”

Silly me, I thought all I had to do was write a book, find an agent and get published. My books would be in bookstores everywhere, and the publisher would promote me.

So, here I am blogging, posting on facebook, tweeting and keeping my fingers crossed that someone will buy my book.

I read somewhere that the best way to sell books is to write a good story. Now, we’re talking! Don’t we all love a romance? One populated with people who charm us, shock us and, at times, irritate us. A couple who fuss and fight on their way to happily-ever-after. Don’t you just love a good lovers’ spat? Followed by some mighty fine making up, of course.
Here’s an excerpt from Storm’s Interlude. Rachel is in a major snit after seeing Storm talking to his ex-fiancée. Not that she’s the jealous type, but she saw Storm tuck the lady’s hair behind her ear and stroke his knuckles down the side of her face. Once they get home, the fireworks escalate.

When Storm pulled in front of the ranch house, Rachel was the first one to barrel out of the SUV. Before she’d made it a dozen steps, Storm grabbed her and threw her over his shoulder like a bag of grain. “Put me down, you lunatic!”
“Like hell.” He stormed into the house, his boots echoing off the hardwood floors of the large foyer. “We’re going to have this out right now. I’m tired of your peeling my hide with your accusations.”
Jackson rushed out of the den into the large hallway. “Storm? What the hell?”
Storm had one hand on the doorknob to his office. “You got all the security measures in place? Anything that demands my immediate attention?”
“Put me down this instant, you…you caveman cowboy!” He smacked her bottom. She yelped. Once he put her down, she was going to tear him apart, limb by cheating limb.
Jackson had a hand over his mouth to hide his laughter. “Have at it, buddy. I’ve done my job.” He took a sleeping Sawyer from Noella. “Sunny and I will put tiger here to bed.”
Storm opened the door to his office, waiting until the couple had the sleeping boy upstairs before he yelled his announcement so the entire first floor could hear: “Anyone who knocks on this door before Rachel and I have worked things out takes their life in their hands. Is that clear?” He slammed the door shut behind them and turned the lock before setting Rachel down on the floor.
She was so incensed, so humiliated, so livid she couldn’t speak. She kicked him in the shin with her sneakered foot. Storm winced before stalking over to the liquor cabinet.
He poured himself two fingers of whiskey, neat, and downed it. He poured another and downed it, too. He hung his head, his hands fisted on the cabinet. “You can make me so damned mad I can’t see straight. No one has ever pushed me over the edge the way you do.”
She fisted her hands on her hips, hiked her chin and glared at him. “Yeah, well, I’d like to slap you into next week, you lying, cheating, poor excuse of a man. You told me things. You told me you loved me. I surrendered to you. I had sex with you.”
“Would you just listen to me for five damn minutes?” He turned to face her and ran both hands through his hair, a sign of frustration.
She folded her arms under her chest. “Okay, but this better be good.”


Buy Links for Storm’s Interlude:

http://amzn.to/pkkcLq -- Amazon.
http://bit.ly/pb9DQd -- B & N. – Nook only
http://bit.ly/rcCIMa -- The Wild Rose Press

Thanks, Vonnie for the hot, hot, cowboy story and thanks for being such a great guest!
Next Week: Gloria Marlow