Friday, February 27, 2009

Interview with Tracy Madison

I’d like to welcome our guest today, Tracy Madison. It’s a pleasure having you come visit us at Much Cheaper Than Therapy, where chocolate is plentiful and advice is free. So grab some chocolate and a lounge chair. Your therapy session has begun.
I understand you have a new release out called A Taste of Magic. Can you tell us a little bit about your fabulous new book?

From the back cover:

Elizabeth Stevens is one bite away from happiness.

Today is Elizabeth Stevens’s birthday, and not only is it the one-year anniversary of her husband leaving her, it’s also the day her bakery is required to make a cake—for her ex’s next wedding. If there’s a bitter taste in her mouth, no one can blame her.

But today, Liz is about to receive a gift. Her Grandma Verda isn’t just wacky; she’s a little witchy. An ancient gypsy magic has been passed through her family bloodline for generations, and it’s Liz’s turn to be empowered. Henceforth, everything she bakes will have a dash of delight and a pinch of wishes-can-come-true. From her hunky policeman neighbor, to her gorgeous personal trainer, to her bum of an ex-husband, everyone Liz knows is going to taste her power. Revenge is sweet…and it’s only the first dish to be served.

A Taste of Magic is a very interesting title. How did you arrive at that name?

Actually, my editor Chris Keeslar chose the title, and I loved it immediately. My original title – A Spoonful of Sugar…A Pinch of Magic – was too long. We considered A Pinch of Magic, as well, but we both felt that A Taste of Magic fit the book better.

What made you decide to write in this genre?

I’d been targeting Harlequin for years; therefore, all of my prior work was focused on category romance. I’d never seriously considered trying my hand at a single title, especially a paranormal romance, which was odd, because I’ve always been a fan of paranormal movies, television, and books.

One evening, out of the blue, a question popped into mind: “How would a woman feel if one year after her husband left her for another woman, she had to bake his wedding cake for his new wedding?” The question intrigued me. WHY would she have to bake his cake and why would she even agree to do it?

The idea kept simmering and in a few short weeks, I’d started to write. It quickly became apparent to me that Elizabeth’s emotions about her divorce and her ex-husband needed to be balanced with something lighter. Something fun. That’s when the missing ingredient – magic – came to me. That, along with some zany relatives, gave me the foundation I needed. The book almost wrote itself, and it was SO much fun!

Where did you get your idea for this particular book?

Like I said, a question popped into my mind and refused to leave me alone. I’m really not sure where the idea came from.

What are your favorite paranormal research books or sites, and why?

I can’t really answer this, because I didn’t use any while writing this book. The magic in the book follows a set of rules I created, so I didn’t really have a need to search out information related to the paranormal elements.

Which character did you like writing about the most, and why?

Well, obviously, I loved writing about Elizabeth. It’s her story, and her feelings/thoughts that first captured my imagination. Elizabeth’s emotions pulled at me so deeply, that even though the book is fun and lighthearted, there were a couple of times I cried. When the book opens, she still hasn’t come to terms with her divorce, or figured out who she is without being married to her ex. With the gift of the magic, everything changes, and for the first time ever, she becomes empowered. It was great fun watching Elizabeth grow.

As much as I love Elizabeth, I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention her grandmother, Verda. This is a character I adore writing about, and have been able to twice so far – first in A Taste of Magic, and then in the second book A Stroke of Magic. Grandma Verda is fun, wacky, and loves to create just a little bit of havoc (with the best intentions, of course!).

Tell us about how you develop your characters. Do you create character sheets, do interviews, that sort of thing? How does your research and/or world affect your character development?

I’m odd when it comes to characterization! I hate character sheets, interview questions, and the like. Everything I know about my characters comes to me organically, through the process of actually writing. I start with very few basic facts: name, age, family, location, and job. Then, I write myself a letter from the character’s point of view. This is free writing, and I literally write whatever comes to mind. Sometimes these letters are only a page long, but usually they’re several pages long, and at the end, I learn a lot about what makes them tick—their regrets, dreams, best friends, etc. Everything else about the character evolves as I’m writing the book. It’s what works for me, so I stick with it. J

How do you go about building your world if you use one? Do you use maps, charts or drawings?

At this point, I haven’t created an entirely new world in any of my books, but there is still world-building that needs to be done. For example, A Taste of Magic and A Stroke of Magic are set in and around Chicago. While I’ve been to Chicago several times, I still did research on the area to ascertain I didn’t make any huge mistakes.

Do you have any authors that inspired you?

Naturally! Some are authors I love to read and are on my must buy list, and others are authors in my life, my friends (whom, of course, I also love to read!). If I tried to list every author who has ever inspired me, we’d be here a very long time. But yes, there are many, many authors who have helped me grow in my writing AND continually inspire me to keep writing.

What do you feel is the most effective promotion you have done for your book?

You know, promotion is such a huge gray area. I have no real idea on what works and what doesn’t, how one book gets noticed, but an equally deserving book doesn’t. For me, I tend to focus on what I can do without going crazy or broke—which boils down to my web site, my blog, my group blog, guest blogging, a few advertisements at romance fiction web sites, and getting my book out for review. The rest is out of my hands!

What do we have to look forward next?

My next book, A Stroke of Magic, will be released on June 30, 2009. Readers are introduced to Alice in A Taste of Magic, and she gets her own story here. Writing about Alice’s journey was just as much fun as writing Elizabeth’s, and I’m already looking forward to hearing what readers think.

From the back cover:

You know how freaky it is, to expect one taste and get another? Imagine picking up a can of tepid ginger ale and taking a swig of delicious, icy cold peppermint tea. Alice Raymond did just that. And though the tea is exactly what she wants, she bought herself a soda.

No, Alice’s life isn’t exactly paint-by-numbers. After breaking things off with her lying, stealing, bum of an ex, she discovered she’s pregnant. Motherhood was definitely on her “someday” wish list, but a baby means less time for her art and no time for recent hallucinations that include this switcharoo with the tea. She has to impress her new boss, the ridiculously long-lashed, smoky-eyed Ethan Gallagher, and she has to deal with her family, who have started rambling about gypsy curses. Only a soul-deep bond with the right man can save her and her child? As if being single wasn’t pressure enough!

Thanks, Tracy!

To celebrate her book release, Tracy is offering a free autographed copy of A Taste of Magic to one lucky commenter on today's blog. She will be around all day today. I'm sure some of you have questions or comments for her, so please ask away... (Please check back Monday to see the winner)

Tracy Madison lives in Northwestern Ohio with her husband, four children, a bear-sized dog, a snobby cat, and a loud-mouthed bird. Her house is often hectic, noisy, and filled to the brim with laugh-out-loud moments. Many of these incidents fire up her imagination to create the interesting, realistic, and intrinsically funny characters that live in her stories. As a successful freelance writer, Tracy writes all day, every day. She has the most fun when she’s knee-deep into a new story, figuring out who her characters are and breathing life into them. She’s active in her local RWA chapter, reads several books a week, and is addicted to reality television.

Check out author’s website at and her group blog at
Kim Watters

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Make Time For Rudy

So, what do you all think of the photo? That’s me, in the center of the picture. Sister Belle is on the left and bro’ Buckley is on the right. We’re not really related of course, because Mom adopted us separately, but we’re as close as the real thing. Or, should I say, we were as close as the real thing. Because I’m not alive anymore. I passed to the big doghouse in the sky on January 19.

Hey, hey, hey! No cryin’! Mom’s done enough of that for all of us. I’m right here by her side whenever she writes, giving her mental suggestions and telling those lawyer jokes just like I did when I was alive. I even sneak out of doggie heaven at night sometimes and curl up next to her exactly the way I used to do. Time will pass and she’ll stop missing me so bad, as soon as she understands that I’m with her in spirit now and forever.

So it’s up to all of you to make her feel better about losing me. You have to buy that first book because her royalties from HOUNDING THE PAVEMENT—-that’s right, every freakin’ dime she earns—-is going to be donated to Best Friends in Kanab, Utah. And it’s the greatest place for a dog, cat, bird, horse, goat, or reptile to be. They take in all animals and rehab them for adoption or let them live rent free for the rest of their lives. Can’t argue with that now, can you?

HEIR OF THE DOG comes out in October, and it’s a doozy, even better than the first book, because in it I inherit enough moola to buy a couple million Dingo bones. As usual, Ellie’s going to donate all the cash to animal charities, but I don’t care. She gives her Rudy all the treats he needs.

So be a stand-up fan and buy each of her releases. She’s been writing a long time, and she’s a great story teller. She’s spent months learnin’ different ways to kill humans, and it’s been rough for her ‘cause she’s a wimp. Doesn’t believe in violence, just sees the good in everyone she meets, exactly like Ellie does.

In fact, Ellie is just like Mom, only she’s about twenty years younger, but don’t tell Mom I said that because she doesn’t want anyone to know how old she is or how much she weighs. Yeah, yeah, I know. Like Sam the doofus detective says, “Women. Go figure.”

Well, I gotta sign off now. Mom’s in Phoenix at the Chocolate Affair, so I’m going upstairs for some canine R&R. They’ve got some pretty hot bitches…er…lady dogs up here, and I’ve got a lot of time to play with ‘em all.

I’ll be back at ya’ in a couple of weeks.

And Rudy's Mom-Judi McCoy

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

I don't know about you but getting in an editor or agents slushpile is one of my worse nightmares. I've heard that Harlequin's Mills and Boons gets over 50,000 submissions a year. They might accept 1 or 2 out of that number. I guess that would be better than any lottery out there, but still I get chills thinking of those numbers. Here's a top ten list of how to get out of that slush pile.

1. Join contests. Finaling in a contest will get your novel in front of an agent's or editor's nose. (I personally I'm a contest whore)

2. Conferences. They are soooo important. Meet an agent and editor at a conference. Many times they will ask for your submission. That way you can put the golden words --- "Requested Material". I really adore that two words.

3. Network, network, network. Did I say network? Get to know other writers in your area. Join writing groups. If you can't find one near you, there's always the internet.

4. Polish your query letter, synopsis and first three chapters until the sun literally glares off those pages. Make sure the basics are perfect, like grammer, sentence structure, formatting, etc.

5. Do research. Make sure you are submitting to the right agent or editor. Check out what they are looking for and what their favorite submissions are.

6. Professionalism. Don't tell an agent or editor why they have to have you, that you're the next Nora Roberts or Stephen King. Make sure there isn't loose hair stuck on those pages or for that matter the hint of a coffee stain on any of the pages. Yuck! :)

7. Know your agent or publisher. Do not submit a blind cover/query letter by using To Whom It May Concern. That's surely going to turn off the recipient.

8. Be persistant. Don't give up. Just because you've gotten a rejection doesn't mean that you'll never get published. It's subjective. One agent or editor my hate your writing while another may drool over it.

9. Dont' give up. Okay maybe I'm repeating myself here, but this is really important. How do you know if you'll ever get published if you decide to throw in that towel? Persistance is the name. Yeah, there are people out there that have more talent, but are they PERSISTANT?

10. Lastly just use some common sense. Period. If you think you can get away with it, you probably can't.

Now got out there and get that book published!

Carol Webb

Harlequin 60th Anniversary

Cool 60th-anniversary celebration from Harlequin -- you can download any or all of the following books for free!

You can link to

The titles are available as a PDF and in all eBook formats, as a Stanza App for the iPhone and iPod Touch, and at all the online retailers like Sony, Amazon, Barnes & Noble,,, etc.

The 16 free books (one for every series) will be available throughout 2009.

The free books:
Harlequin American Romance, Once a Cowboy by Linda Warren
Harlequin Blaze, Slow Hands by Leslie Kelly
Harlequin Historical, His Lady Mistress by Elizabeth Rolls
Harlequin Intrigue, Crime Scene at Cardwell Ranch by B.J. Daniels
Harlequin Presents, Price of Passion by Susan Napier
Harlequin Romance, The Bride’s Baby by Liz Fielding
Harlequin Superromance, Snowbound by Janice Kay Johnson
Silhouette Desire, Baby Bonanza by Maureen Child
Silhouette Nocturne, Kiss Me Deadly by Michele Hauf
Silhouette Romantic Suspense, Stranded with a Spy by Merline Lovelace
Silhouette Special Edition, Dancing in the Moonlight by Raeanne Thayne
Love Inspired, A Very Special Delivery by Linda Goodnight
Love Inspired Historical, Homespun Bride by Jillian Hart
Love Inspired Suspense, Hide in Plain Sight by Marta Perry
Kimani Romance, Irresistible Forces by Brenda Jackson
Nascar, Speed Dating by Nancy Warren

Happy Reading

Kim Watters

Sunday, February 22, 2009

The Neurotic Writer and Time Management

Therapist: “Have a seat. Anything particular you want to discuss today?”

Suzie Writer: “I need to work on my time management. This is becoming a huge problem. I find I spend way too many hours on the computer messing around on anything and everything, but my writing. For example, I spent all day Thursday searching for the perfect picture of my next hero. I can’t believe what they put on the Internet these days. I think my seventh grade chemistry teacher is on a site called Science Studs. He’s holding a beaker in front―”

Therapist: “Let’s get to that time management issue.”

Suzie Writer: “Right. I decided I’m going to make myself work on my book every day no matter what. I will suffer for my art! The book comes first! I’ll unplug the TV, shove my cell phone under the pillow, and tape a Don’t Even Think of Knocking sign on my front door. I am committed to following my plan. I’m going to be a monk – no, one of those cute nuns who is devoted to her work. Sort of like Sally Field in The Flying Nun. Only without the wires dragging me through the air.”

Therapist: “Commitment is the first step to changing old patterns. This is a good start. Have you created a written plan?”

Suzie Writer: “Of course. You know me. I have my schedule all mapped out. I will eat exactly one cup of cereal with exactly a half-cup of milk at 7AM, edit my past chapter at 7:30, and begin the new chapter at 9:00. I know I need to keep the oxygen pumped into my brain cells, so I worked in 30 minutes of exercise. The VHS tape is normally an hour long, but I’m fast-forwarding Richard Simmons and jumping double-time. You know, that man needs to rethink those shorts, especially when they’re flapping at highway speeds. Anyway, after my workout, I’ll need a chocolate pick-me-up snack. At 10:00, I’ll check the mail. Then at 10:30, I’ll work on that chapter again. At 12:00, I’ll microwave lunch and eat another chocolate pick-me-up snack while I wait. Microwaves are so slow. While I eat, I’ll read books in my genre – gotta stay on top of the market. At 2:00, I’ll check my emails. At 3:00, work on my next blog post and at 4:00, I’ll stuff candy into bags for the next conference. After dinner and another chocolate pick-me-up, the evening is mine to relax or comb the Internet for more pictures of my next hero. I wonder if my high school math teacher is on Men with Big Calculators.”

Therapist: (smirking) “Sounds impressive. When are you going to put this plan into action?”

Suzie Writer: “Yesterday.”

Therapist: “How did you do?”

Suzie Writer: “I ate at 7:00.”

Next week, I'll post How to Write the Tortured Hero/Heroine.
Happy writing,
Tina LaVon

Friday, February 20, 2009

Interview with Charlotte Hughes

I’d like to welcome our guest today, Charlotte Hughes. It’s a pleasure having you come visit us at Much Cheaper Than Therapy, where chocolate is plentiful and advice is free. So grab some chocolate and a lounge chair. Your therapy session has begun.

I understand you have a new release due in bookstores Feb 24th titled NUTCASE. Can you tell us a little bit about your fabulous new book?

Hi, and thank you for inviting me to your website, Much Cheaper Than Therapy! (What a cool name, and it sort of fits with my new book.) I am always thrilled to touch base with readers and authors. Writing is a lonely life!

NUTCASE is the second book of my new CRAZY series, published by Berkley Jove. I should mention that, despite the ongoing characters, the books stand alone.

The first book of the series, WHAT LOOKS LIKE CRAZY, (published March, 2008), introduces my main character, psychologist Kate Holly, and a cast of crazy family, friends, and patients. The funny thing about Kate is that she can be as neurotic as the people she treats. When she is stressed – and believe-you-me she has good reason to be – she becomes a little obsessive-compulsive and counts things. She prefers even numbers. Odd numbers are complicated. Sort of like her life.

Although Kate is still madly in love with her firefighter husband and he with her, they separated shortly before the first book opens because Kate has a real problem with a man who purposefully runs into burning buildings. Kate’s father, also a firefighter, died in the line of duty when she was ten years old. Husband, Jay Rush, wants to work on their marriage as badly as Kate does, but not at the cost of giving up a career he loves. It is up to Kate to learn how to deal with her ongoing fears.

Although each book of the series has a mystery to solve, they are more character-driven, and the characters are hilarious. For example, Kate’s mother and aunt, Dixie and Trixie, are identical twins in their mid-fifties who still dress alike. They’ve been running a junk business for years – they’re known as the Junk Sisters. Kate describes what it’s like being the daughter of a Junk Sister and living in a house that looked like something out of “Sanford & Son.” To this day she claims it’s the reason she couldn’t get a date for the prom.

I had so much fun creating them! I’ve heard writers say one or more of their books wrote themselves, and that has been my experience with both WHAT LOOKS LIKE CRAZY and NUTCASE.

NUTCASE is a very interesting title. How did you arrive at that name?

Since the series is based on the wild and crazy life of a psychologist, I thought it would be fun to have titles that reflect my plots. I am presently working on book #3 of the series, titled HANGING BY A THREAD.

What made you decide to write in this genre?

I’ve probably been in therapy longer than my therapist has been practicing. I am also married to a clinical psychologist. Writers are constantly told “Write what you know,” so that’s exactly what I did this time around.

Are you a plotter or a pantser and how did it affect the writing of this book?

I plot all my books carefully because I need a map to guide me or I’ll just wander all over the place. I don’t always follow my outlines to the letter but not having them to lead me would feel like walking a tightrope without a net.

Did you have to do a lot of research for the book? What are your favorite research books or sites?

Yes, I have a ton of research books, and a number of them are professional manuals, like the “DSM,” the “Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders.” The scary thing for me is that I have a lot of the symptoms listed! My husband also provides professional input.

Where did you get your idea for this particular book?

I suppose the idea was born out of my own experiences in therapy. But to be honest, the characters just popped into my head one day, and they truly took me on a wild carnival ride. The thing is, even therapists and psychiatrist have issues so it was a lot of fun to create a psychologist who was OCD, among other things.

Which character did you like writing about the most, and why?

Kate was so much fun, but I loved creating her receptionist and side-kick Mona as well. Mona’s late husband was filthy rich. As Kate’s best friend, Mona has appointed herself as Kate’s PR person because she hopes one day that Kate will one day have her own TV show like Dr. Phil. Then there’s Kate’s ex-boyfriend, psychiatrist Thad Glazer, with whom Kate not only consults with but shares several patients. Thad would love to have Kate back in his life, his hot tub, and his bed, and he makes no secret about it. Each time Kate calls for advice, Thad first asks her to describe the panties she’s wearing.

Tell us about how you develop your characters. Do you create character sheets, do interviews, that sort of thing? How does your research affect your character development?

When I first started out I had extensive character sheets, mainly because I think good characterization is the most important element in any book. I knew my characters inside-out, their favorite colors, favorite foods, their fears and dreams, you name it. As time went on, I became better at developing them in my head so I scrapped the sheets.

Do you have any authors that inspired you?

That person would have to be Janet Evanovich. She was the first person to convince me to widen my scope from category romance to single titles. Co-authoring the FULL HOUSE series with her prepared me to go on and write my own series. When I was writing single titles, the most difficult thing was letting go of the characters I’d spent months and months writing about. Like I said, writing can be so isolating, and these characters actually become friends. (Yeah, I know that’s scary!) Sometimes I would get tearful saying goodbye to them.

What do you feel is the most effective promotion you have done for your book?

Online promotion is one of the best ways to connect with readers, but I think book signings are important also. They put you face-to-face with booksellers and readers alike. And it gets me out of the house!

What do we have to look forward next?

As I mentioned, I’m presently working on HANGING BY A THREAD, a continuation of Kate Holly’s wild and wacky life. I hope readers will find the series as fun as it was to write.

Thanks, Charlotte!

And again, thank you for allowing me to share with everyone my latest books. It has been my pleasure!

To celebrate her book release, Charlotte offering a free book of one of backlist to one lucky commenter on today's blog. (the winner will be announced in the comments section on Monday.)She will be around all day today. I'm sure some of you have questions or comments for her, so please ask away...


Bio. Award winning author Charlotte Hughes began her writing career publishing newspaper and magazine articles before becoming a New York Times best selling author. Charlotte makes her home in Beaufort, S. C. and has written over 40 books. This is her first series since co-authoring the FULL series with friend Janet Evanovich. Readers are invited to visit Charlotte online at, where she also blogs regularly. As part of the introduction of her newest work, NUTCASE Charlotte is doing her first virtual blog tour VIRTUALLY NUTS in February and March.

Check out author’s website at Again, NUTCASE will be available in bookstores Feb. 24th. You can also order it on Charlotte’s Website and at

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Workshop: Margie Lawson's Empowering Character's Emotions

March 2-27, 2009

A PASIC Exclusive: Margie Lawson's Empowering Characters' Emotions! This is the only time she will be teaching this four week workshop in 2009!


Cost: $30.00 non-PASIC members, $20.00 PASIC members payable by PayPal

Deadline to Register: February 26, 2009
For more information go to

By Margie Lawson

Want to learn how to hook the reader viscerally?

Want to learn the four levels of powering up emotion?

Want to learn how to write the full range of body language?

Want to think like a psychologist on the page? If so, this is the on-line course for

Margie Lawson developed innovative psychologically-anchored editing systems and techniques that teach writers how to add emotional power to create page turners.
She loads her on-line courses with fresh content. Provides writers with information they need. Information unavailable anywhere else.

The lectures for Empowering Characters’ Emotions total over 280 pages. Each lecture consists of sections where Margie addresses a deep editing point and shares how, when, where, and why to use it. She provides passages from authors, debut to multi-award-winning, to show how they added power.

Margie analyzes passages, dissects them, and shows writers what the author did that made that passage stellar. Using her deep editing techniques, she teaches writers how to create their own passages that are stellar.

Margie’s deep editing techniques keep a writer’s voice and style intact. She teaches writers how to take what they have and make it better. How to edit what’s on the page, and see what’s missing. How to make their writing soar.

Writers who take Margie’s on-line courses have an opportunity for a powerful learning experience. Whether lurking or actively participating, they learn new concepts they can apply to their Work In Progress.

In this power-packed course, Margie covers the following topics and more:
• The EDITS System
• Emotional Authenticity
• Backstory Management
• Emotional Hits
• The Four Levels of Powering Up Emotion
• Nonverbal Communication: Facial expressions, Vocal cues, Posture, Gestures, Spatial Relations
• Involuntary Visceral Responses
• Motivation Reaction Units
• Cliché-busting
• Love Signals
• Using Nonverbals to Deepen Characterization
• Carrying a Nonverbal Image Forward
• Subtext Power
• Rhythm and Cadence and Beats
• Ideomotoric shifts
• Backloading
• White Space and Creative Paragraphing
• Writing FRESH
• Projecting Emotion for a Non-POV character
• Gender Differences in Nonverbal Communication
All writers can add power to their writing with these psychologically-based techniques. Add these deep editing tools to your writing toolbox, and take your writing to a higher level.

About the Presenter:
Margie Lawson—psychotherapist, writer, and international presenter – applied her psychological expertise to dissect over a thousand novels and analyze how authors write page-turners. A former university professor, Margie taught psychology and communication courses at the undergraduate, graduate, and doctoral levels. Her resume includes clinical trainer, professor, sex therapist, Director of an Impotence Clinic, hypnotherapist, and keynote speaker. In the last four years, Margie presented full day Master Classes forty-two times. Most of her full day Master Classes sold out. In August, 2008, Margie was brought in as a guest speaker to present full day Master Classes in Melbourne, for Romance Writers of Australia, and in Auckland, for Romance Writers of New Zealand.

Margie lives at the top of a mountain west of Boulder, Colorado. For more information about her full day Master Classes, on-line courses, or Lecture Packets, please visit her website,

NOTE: This is the only time Margie Lawson will be teaching this four week EMPOWERING CHARACTERS' EMOTIONS online workshop in 2009!

Register early, space is limited!

Deadline to Register: February 26, 2009
For more information go to

PS: Kim has taken this class and highly recommends it!

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

FOR WRITERS: New market for short stories/novels

A former editor/publisher of mine contacted me about a new publishing venture he’s just starting up. They are currently accepting submissions for a short story anthology (dark fantasy theme), and they accept book-length fiction in SF/F & Romance, Mystery & Horror. Here’s the link:

He just launched the venture, so it might be a good opportunity to submit before he’s flooded with submissions.

Best Wishes,

**Permission to forward**

Sunday, February 15, 2009

What Most People Don't Know About Me

The problem with committing to a group blog is you have to come up with a topic every week. I’d like to thank Tia Dani for mentioning this one. Who knows, maybe my abnormal life will inspire a few of you to walk down memory lane. You never know which forgotten moment might turn into a great scene for your next book. I’ll have to put these into some of mine.

Most of the writers who read these posts have known me since 2002, so I’ll have to reach back in time for a story you might not have heard before. I sincerely doubt I can top fellow VOS member, Kayce Lassiter’s bra shopping post on The Butterscotch Martini Girl’s Blog, but I’ll give it a try.
(If you want some great stories, get her talking about her strange dating experiences.)

Okay, let me think…

I Was Once The Karate (Overgrown) Kid. When I was about 30, I decided to take a Karate class because the school I have been teaching at for 17 years now is in a rough neighborhood. I really wanted a single move to take a man out – hopefully not during parent-teacher conferences. I found myself enrolled in kick boxing classes. I broke a board with my foot. There’s a picture to prove it. LOL I’m glad there were no pictures of the bloody nose I received during my one and only competition. I have always been a girly-girl, so my thoughts were, “I have a bloody nose. Cool. This is NEVER happening again.” Later that night, I was talked into emceeing a professional kickboxing and boxing match. I really need to stop letting people take me by the hand, while saying, “You can do it, Tina.” I get into more trouble that way. I could not believe I was on the microphone, in a crowded room, announcing, “In the blue corner…” They kept urging me to continue talking to fill up the dead air and the boxing official almost had a heart attack. He told someone, “Make her stop!” Apparently, I was breaking a dozen or so rules.

In one of my books, she’d end up dating the official and telling him what rules HE was breaking.

I Scream When Other People Drive. In what feels like another lifetime, during my bad-boy phase, I was married to a man who carried a federal badge and a gun. In all fairness, he probably didn’t really drive as if were behind the wheel of The General Lee in a Dukes of Hazard episode, but it felt like it when I was pregnant. I remember holding onto the door, screaming, and praying. Now, whenever I’m a passenger in a car, I scream or gasp when I suddenly feel like we might crash, when in all reality, the chances are good we’re perfectly safe. I have scared Kathryne Kennedy at least a half dozen times now. She says the problem is I am usually so calm, that my sudden outbursts unnerve people. I keep telling myself to focus on the driver, not the road.

This will be a great scenario for a first date in a humorous book.

I Know How Mermaids Must Feel. When the Goofy movie came out, my daughter decided to imitate this character fishing. I saw her swing the line in a circle through the air, and before I could yell, she imbedded the hook into my calf. It had to be cut out. You know you are either brave or stupid when you let your ex-husband take a razor blade to your body. I leaned over the boat because I was too afraid to look. At one point, I felt liquid sliding down my leg. I asked if it was blood and he said, “No. It’s the sweat dripping from my forehead.” I felt better. At least he wasn’t enjoying the job.

In a book, he would dig out the hook, accidentally imbed it in his own leg, and they would both end up over the side of the boat.

I am the McGyver of Home Repairs. I’m not very good at fixing anything and I don’t always have time to wait around for a repairman, so I get creative. One time, I was putting off adjusting the length of the chain in the toilet that kept getting stuck under the thingy (LOL) that allows the water to continuously drain out. I hooked the slack in the chain to a fishing bobber and it worked perfectly. I have also camouflaged cabinet scratches with eye shadow.

Our romance hero would take one look at the Band-Aids holding up her cabinets and agree to spend the next several weeks giving her a hand – for starters.

I love F-16 Fighter Jets. My father was once stationed at Luke AFB. He knew how much I loved to watch the jets fly. During one college break, he got permission to take me out to the flight line to see an F-16. The whole time the pilot helped me into the jet and gave me the tour, (while Dad watched from below) we pretended we hadn’t met while dancing together the night before.

You know what’s going to happen with these two in a book. I don’t remember ever reading about a couple necking in a fighter jet. That would be interesting…

I Could Have Been the Pinup Girl for the Florence Prison System. Tia Dani said I needed to include this one. After my daughter was born my hair got too dark for me to handle. In my attempt to get back to my former light brown, I ended up blonde (after orange) and stayed that way for about a decade. Near the end of my blonde years, a neighbor I barely knew asked if he could borrow my daughter’s rabbit. His mother “loved that bunny.” (I didn’t buy it either.) Soon he said he wanted to violate his probation (for DUI) and go back to prison because he was tired of people telling him what to do. (Didn’t make sense to me either.) Anyway, he wanted to know if I had a picture of myself that he could take with him. NO, NO, NO.

I Don't even want to go there in a book, but I probably will.

It's no fun divulging stories unless your friends join in, so I coerced my walking partners into sharing. Writers are interesting people.

Tia Dani - During my high school years and my first marriage, I made up storylines every night to act out the next day. Unfortunately, that never worked out very well; no one followed their lines as written because they didn’t know they had lines. Realizing that this may have had something to do with my divorce, I gave it up to write romance novels. I have more control with a made-up hero and heroine, although they don't always follow the script, they never divorce me.

I played the French horn in high school. I was offered a scholarship, but turned it down because I didn't want to play the French horn. I wanted to be the lead singer in a rock and roll band.

I wanted to join the Peace Corps during the 60's to travel the world. I changed my mind after realizing that I would have to leave my mom.

The idea for our (Tia Dani is a writing team) book, Color of Dreams, came from a high school friend I hadn't seen in years. He found me while showing his boss how to find a favorite author online. While searching a romance author site, Tia Dani's name popped up and he gave her a call. We played the "what if" and that's how the hero in our book finds his high school sweetheart online. Shaun is actually looking for someone else, but Justine keeps popping up and he can't believe his luck, or bad luck.
COLOR OF DREAMS coming April 3, 2009. The Wild Rose Press

(I wouldn’t need to change anything in her stories to make great scenes in a book. She is a very interesting woman. I love talking to her while we walk.)

River Glynn, writer of paranormal romance - For decades, I have created miniature room settings and dollhouses. There is something satisfying about having total control over some environment in your life. The worlds I create in my writing are similar. Only I could create this particular story with these characters in these situations. That is highly satisfying, too.

(This could be the start of a great paranormal story – I see Stephen King meets Nora Roberts here.)

Carol Webb – A lot of people don't know that I'm Canadian, that I've delivered both the local newspaper and Domino's pizza.

I also have a book coming out by my alter ego, Lynne Logan, on May 1st called Addiction. It's an erotic novella from Red Sage Publishing.

(I can see Lynne writing about a delivery girl stuck in a mountain cabin with a hot Canadian Mountie. At least they would have something to eat. Gotta keep that energy up. LOL)

Now it’s your turn to take a memory and turn it into a great scene.

I've had requests for another episode of The Neurotic Writer. Next week we’ll see what this poor girl is doing to help manage her time more efficiently.

Happy Writing,
Tina LaVon

Friday, February 13, 2009

Interview with Celia Yeary

I’d like to welcome our guest today, Celia Yeary. It’s a pleasure having you come visit us at Much Cheaper Than Therapy, where chocolate is plentiful and advice is free. So grab some chocolate and a lounge chair. Your therapy session has begun.  

I understand you have a new release out called All My Hopes and Dreams. Can you tell us a little bit about your fabulous new book? 

This is a story about a striking Spaniard, Ricardo Romero from the far western edge of the Texas Frontier, and a prim, proper East Texas lady, Cynthia Harrington, who are strangers, yet they impulsively marry. Each has a reason for the quick wedding.

All My Hopes and Dreams is a very interesting title. How did you arrive at that name? 

The heroine, slightly spoiled by her only relative, her banker father, believes one day all her hopes and dreams will come true. All she needs to do, she thinks, is choose her beloved, and he will propose, and they will live in the East Texas town forever where she holds a coveted social position.

What made you decide to write in this genre?

I read all kinds of genres, and I especially enjoy western romances. A number of years ago, new western romance novels became fewer and fewer. The dreaded term—the western historical is dead—upset me. So, I began to play around with writing one. In two years, I had five written, but you can imagine how badly I put them together. I had a lot to learn. But, oh, I had so much fun writing about love and adventure, set within the excitement of the old west.

Where did you get your idea for this particular book? 

The first western romance I wrote was TEXAS BLUE (it’s now contracted and in final edits.) In that story, two secondary characters, Ricardo Romero and Cynthia Harrington got together behind my back while I wasn’t looking. They clamored around in my head until I agreed to write their story.

What are your favorite historical research books and why?

I hate to admit this, but I Google almost everything. However, I am a native Texan, and all my stories are set in Nineteenth Century Texas. I know Texas very well. The most commonly used books are a Texas History textbook, an American history textbook, a book about women titled Texas Tears and Texas Sunshine, a book titled Way Out Yonder, an old Life book series on the American West, and various others I find in the library. Clothing is important, so I researched websites that sell authentic clothing. I did such a good job, I wrote an article and listed all the websites and their line of historical clothing. It’s posted on my publisher’s website under The Garden for other authors to use.

Which character did you like writing about the most, and why? 

Prissy Miss Cynthia Harrington, of course. This young lady needed to be taught lessons on standing up for herself against powerful forces and adversaries, on making her husband love her, and on changing into a worthwhile individual who could make a contribution instead of believing everything would be handed to her. I did a great job redeeming her, and boy, did she need it.  

Tell us about how you develop your characters. Do you create character sheets, do interviews, that sort of thing? How does your research affect your character development?

I do none of those. Characters appear and develop as I write. It seems that every character I use vaguely resembles someone I knew sometime in my life. Real people, themselves, are the best subjects. You might call me a panster, because I usually have no idea how this story is going to move along. I don’t change it much, either, once I have the plot down.

What are some common speech terms, dress modes, transportation or housing facts that you found interesting for your time period? 

Don’t get me started. You’ll wish you hadn’t asked that question. Speech: Western men typically say ma’am and call women Miss or little lady. Dress modes are tricky, because the real costumes men wore in the 1800’s really were not attractive. So, Western romance writers dress heroes in clothing close to modern dress. I love to dress my heroine up in the fashions of the day, but sometimes she must wear men’s clothing or pass-arounds for one reason or another. Oh, and if you’re undressing the hero and heroine, you must use the proper terms. Housing? My files are full of snapshots of historic homes, inside and out, cabins, barns, etc. I photograph physical objects more than I do people. A hero or heroine is always only in my head.

Do you have any authors that inspired you? 

Absolutely. Dorothy Garlock, Janet Dailey, Linda Lael Miller, Jodi Thomas, Kathleen Eagle, LaVyrle Spencer, Maggie Osbourne—to name a few favorites.  

What do you feel is the most effective promotion you have done for your book?

I don’t know. This is new to me, and I did not do as much as most. It was overwhelming. This interview is only my third. For some reason, my book has done very well. It stayed on the Publisher’s Best Sellers list for several weeks. I actually attribute that to the fact I believe there are others out there who are looking for Western romance books, and the fact that my cover is outstanding. Who can resist a sexy cowboy, a horse, and a sunset?

What do we have to look forward next? 

Texas Blue, a novel starring Buck Cameron and Marilee Weston. Also, a Wayback, Texas series book contracted titled Showdown in Southfork (Wayback, Texas is a fictional town that features the rodeo every Saturday night—where a cowboy falls in love every eight seconds. An author must follow the guidelines of the town and premise.) I have two free reads on The Wild Rose Press: The Wedding Auction and Merry Christmas, Victoria. Look on the left side of the home page and click on FREE READS (each ten pages.)  

Thanks, Celia!

To celebrate her book release, Celia Yeary is offering a free ebook of All My Hopes and Dream to one lucky commenter on today's blog. She will be around all day today. I'm sure some of you have questions or comments for her, so please ask away...

Bio. As a fifth generation Texan, I love to read and research all aspects of the state. Even though my degrees are in science and education, I find the history, the people, and our ancestors much more interesting topics, which provide endless characters and situations to create love stories.
Although my husband and I travel, no place on earth is more precious to my heart than our home in the Texas Hill Country, surrounded by acres of live oaks and whitetail deer. Romance novels are not my only form of reading material, but they are my favorite, and I wouldn’t leave home without several tucked away in my luggage. Being a member of Romance Writers of America has provided information, encouragement, and guidelines to help me on my exciting journey. What fun it is!

Check out author’s website at . 

Buy .

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Interview with Christy Phillippe

I’d like to welcome our guest editor today, Christy Phillippe over at Medallion Press. It’s a pleasure having you come visit us at Much Cheaper Than Therapy, where chocolate is plentiful and advice is free. So grab some chocolate and a lounge chair. Your therapy session has begun.

What exciting new projects are happening over at Medallion Press?

We are excited about our upcoming nonfiction line coming out in 2010. It will feature inspirational true memoirs of people who have overcome extraordinary challenges to live life to the fullest.

Can you give us a little history about Medallion Press?

I’ll let Helen Rosburg, our president and founder, speak for herself:

Like many of you who are published authors, one of the happiest days of my life was the day I sold my first book. The elation lasted a long time. Then reality set in. Unlike the commercial for a certain drugstore chain, life is simply not perfect. Being a published author is not all it’s cracked up to be either. After my second book I found myself commiserating with fellow authors about the ups and downs of the publishing world.

As a reader I had complaints as well. Why, for instance, couldn’t a great story have a great cover? Why did that beautiful book I bought, with the exciting back blurb, turn out to be such a stinker?

A book, to me, is a treasure. Each one I buy should be a separate gem, something to read, reread, and keep on my shelf forever. In the real world, of course, this simply isn’t possible, but it didn’t stop my complaints.

After listening to myself whine and moan for a time, I decided to put my money where my mouth is. And, in June of 2003 Medallion Press, Inc. was born.

I love books. I looooooove them. I love not only to read them, but gaze at them, touch them, smell them. Books contain magic. They transport. They are light, easy to carry, generally inexpensive; in short, simply the greatest form of entertainment. My love of books is at the very heart of Medallion.

Every book Medallion produces is considered as a mini work of art. From concept to cover, it is nurtured each step of the way. Authors myself included, tend to think of their books as children. Medallion has many ‘children.’ Our goal is to have you, the reader, find the treasure you expect in every one of our books. Our mission is to have every title you buy end up on your ‘keeper’ shelf. Our greatest joy, and ultimate expectation, is not to have readers say ‘When is the next so-and-so author coming out?’ But ‘When is the next Medallion book going to be on the shelves?’

This dedication to quality is what drives Medallion Press. It is what drives its dedicated and talented staff. And it is, I hope, what will keep you all coming back for more.”

What are your top five pet peeves a new writer makes?

1. Sloppy editing

2. Not following our submission guidelines

3. Using over-description that slows down the plot line

4. Not paying attention to detail (e.g., having a woman get pregnant in January, but then she doesn’t deliver the baby until November—that’s just cruel!)

5. Here’s the bigee: Asking repeatedly for an update on the status of the manuscript. This is one of the best way to destroy your chances of getting a contract!

What are your top five pet peeves a published author makes?

1. 1. Sequels that don’t make sense

2. 22. Missing deadlines

3. 3. Assuming that one book means a contract for life

4.S4. Sloppy editing

5. 5. Unwillingness to accept an editor’s help

What old or new trend do you see in publishing at Medallion Press?

Genre-wise, in the industry itself, vampires are still a hot item, but werewolves seem to be growing in popularity. At Medallion, specifically, we have really grown our horror and thriller lines, and our romance lines are going strong. And, of course, we’re thrilled to introduce our new nonfiction line in 2010. Medallion also plans to capitalize on the unprecedented changes in the publishing industry, taking advantage of new forms of media in both publishing and marketing our books.

What catches your eye in a new writer’s work?

A fresh twist on a bankable theme, with solid writing to back it up.

For the submission process, what do you want from an author?

I cannot stress this enough: FOLLOW THE GUIDELINES.

What is your response time?

Typically between 3 and 6 months.

What new author have you recently signed?

Doug Lyle, MD, forensics expert, will publish a crime thriller with Medallion in 2010.

What new project made you grab that hidden piece of chocolate in your pencil drawer?

Plum Blossoms in Paris, by Sarah Hina, made me stop everything to keep reading. She will also be published with Medallion in 2010.

Any other chocolate nuggets you can give authors looking to break into your house?

Stick with one genre and do it well. Don’t let your plot get over-complicated. Sell me immediately in your proposal and synopsis—and please make sure there are NO TYPOS in these documents.

Thanks, Christy! Check out Medallion’s website at

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Boot Camp For Novelists Online Workshop

Boot Camp For Novelists Online presents:
A step by step online program for writing your novel

Have you always dreamed of writing a novel, but didn't quite know where to start? Have you started a novel and found you couldn't get beyond the first three chapters...or finished one but it keeps getting rejected? Are you an experienced writer and want to take your writing to the next level?

If so, we at BOOTCAMP for Novelists can help you. Between us, we have over twenty years experience teaching novel writing and have written over twenty-five novels. How did we do it? Step by step, that's how a book is written.

BOOTCAMP for Novelists Online is a step by step program that will take you from the beginning of your novel to the end.

If you're a beginner, you'll start with the BASICS (Level I). If you've been writing a while, start with the POLISH (Level II). Beginners will want to polish a basic skill before mastering the next skill and experienced writers may want to jump into a basic program to beef up a weak skill. Either way, if you follow our step by step program and do the work, you'll have the tools to write your novel and get it published.

The online courses will be delivered through Yahoo Groups by email in four week modules and are very reasonably priced.

Basic Novel Structure
A two week $10 Course beginning February 15, 2009

Regular Classes, $22 each, begin March 1, 2009.

To register or for more info on classes and instructors go to:

Saturday, February 7, 2009


Like most people, I get caught up in my own world. As adults, our “To Do” lists are long and time is in short supply. Recently, my only thoughts about Valentines had been, “Oh, great! I’m going to eat way too many of those heart-shaped candies - again.” (I’m a major sugar addict.)

What yanked me out of my little world was the realization that there were people around me with strong emotions attached to Valentines: love, resentment, and rejection. It was a jolt at first because I have no strong emotions attached to the day. I decided eons ago to give up dating until my daughter graduates college, (Mommy duty comes first.) so Valentines became the week I plan for a classroom party, smile at Roses are Red poems my second-grade students create about me in their journals, and try to avoid too many sweets.

I discovered there was an advantage to having no emotional attachment. It has allowed me to look at this topic with an open mind. I began to wonder how both men and women really feel about the day.

I’ll start with a friend from college. She is an attractive woman, who hasn’t yet found a man smart enough for her. (We both love men with high IQs.) She wears black every Valentines. She boycotts the day because she believes it makes single women feel inferior to those in relationships. Is she right?

Another friend said, “No. Every Valentines I think about the promise of a love yet to come.” Perhaps all single women should share this romantic viewpoint – and eat lots of candy in February.

Another writer, who has been married for many years, said she secretly hopes her husband will go out of his way to make the day special. Romantic scenes on TV influenced this hope, but in the end, no matter what her husband does, she is happy he came through. She isn’t the only woman I encountered who felt this way.

The writers I walk with several times a week became a great source of information. One said she always received flowers and candy. I asked if having a standard gift took the pressure off the day and she believes it did. We also agreed that receiving a single rose once a month would mean more than a dozen in February.

I have noticed the happiest women right now are the ones who know their men are taking them away for the weekend. Perhaps a yearly getaway is the secret to making the day special.

Another friend is dreading this holiday because she is in a struggling relationship. She is sure the man in her life won’t do anything to celebrate their love. That made my heart hurt. It reminded me of the men I knew who chose not get anything for their girlfriends, hoping to start an argument and set the stage for a breakup. Did these men make life more difficult for others who might honestly forget due to stressful jobs?

Pondering this thought, I suddenly realized I was glad I wasn’t a guy on Valentines. After conducting my “research,” I came to the conclusion women have it easier. We may stress for a while over what to do to show our men we love them, but in the end, if we bake a special dessert or dress up in a sexy negligee, they appear happy. It can’t be that easy for men.

I have four wonderful brothers who are a wealth of information. I turned to one to get his viewpoint on the subject.

"About Valentines Day. From a man's perspective. I think we men see it as a we remember how to be romantic? And, I'm willing to bet that it's like college all over again...we know the test is coming and we think about it, but we don't actually study for the test until the last second and hope we can pass the test before the material we studied is replaced with more important information. I think we always feel like we're on the spot for Valentines. I also think we feel like we have to compete with years past, as well. For instance, if we somehow manage to pull off the most romantic Valentines Day ever, then what happens next year? Are we supposed to top last year's idea this year? If we don't, is it OK, because we really knocked it out of the park last year or do we have to try to at least be on par with last year, at which point, some men would try to only just barely outdo last year, so as to not set the bar too high this year. So, I guess I would say that I hate it.


So, if Valentines creates so much anxiety, hard feelings, and false expectations, should we boycott the day? No. I still like those heart-shaped candies. LOL Seriously, men and women really need to start talking to each other. First, women need to stop thinking, “But if he loves me, he’ll know what I want.” Enough already - they love you, but they really are from Mars. And men, when the woman in your life asks what you want to do for Valentines, stop saying, “I don’t know.” She is giving you a gift by allowing you to make decisions before the day, thus taking the pressure off. Having this discussion might surprise you. It might also save you a lot of money. I’m willing to bet the woman in your life really just wants to spend time, alone, with you.

Friday, February 6, 2009

Interview with Helen Scott Taylor

I’d like to welcome our guest today, Helen Scott Taylor. It’s a pleasure having you come visit us at Much Cheaper Than Therapy, where chocolate is plentiful and advice is free. So grab some chocolate and a lounge chair. Your therapy session has begun.  

I understand you have a new release out called The Magic Knot. Can you tell us a little bit about your fabulous new book?

The Magic Knot is a paranormal romance about Cornish piskies and Irish Tuatha dè Danaan. The heroine visits Cornwall looking for her father. She discovers she is the Cornish piskie queen and her father is a dark druid who has imprisoned her people in portraits. The race is then on to discover the fairy lore needed to release her people before her father destroys them forever.

The Magic Knot is a very interesting title. How did you arrive at that name?

In my story The Magic Knot is a magical pendant similar to a Celtic Knot possessed by every person of fairy blood. The three linked rings symbolise mind, body, and spirit. In my story, lovers give their Magic Knot into the safekeeping of their soul mate—the ultimate demonstration of trust and commitment that binds them together in mind, body, and spirit for life. I felt the title embodied the romantic and mystical essence of the story.

What made you decide to write in this genre?

Romance and fantasy were my favorite genres, so I naturally turned to one of those when I started writing. I always enjoyed short contemporary romances and as I was very familiar with that type of story, I initially wrote one of those. My characters were too unconventional for short contemporary romance, so I tried my hand at paranormal romance and discovered a wonderful blend of my favorite genres.

Where did you get your idea for this particular book?

I initially conceived the idea for The Magic Knot to be a contemporary story of identical twin Irish brothers running a pub in Cornwall. When I changed my focus from contemporary romance to paranormal, the brothers became fairies, and then I threw in a dark druid, a vampiric winged fairy, and a fire-wielding Irish fairy queen.

What are your favorite paranormal research books or sites, and why?

I have a series of books called The Element Encyclopedias:
Some I’ve used are on Witchcraft, Magical Creatures, and Psychic World. The book I’ve used often while researching my fairy world is The Illustrated Encyclopaedia of Fairies by Ana Franklin. This is a wonderful treasure trove of everything fairy.

Which character did you like writing about the most, and why?

As well as my hero Niall O’Connor who is half leprechaun and half Tuatha Dè Danaan, and my heroine who is half human and half Cornish pisky, I have two favorite secondary characters: the hero’s identical twin brother, Michael, and a vampiric winged fairy called Nightshade. I love them all and it’s impossible to choose my favorite. Michael was probably the most fun to write as he is a rascal and likes to tease his brother.

Tell us about how you develop your characters. Do you create character sheets, do interviews, that sort of thing? How does your research and/or world affect your character development?

I ponder my main characters for a while, then write out character sheets for the hero and heroine and sometimes also for important secondary characters and villains. I always know their goals, motivations and conflicts. I like to layer the internal conflict and give the main characters a number of internal issues to trip them up. However well I know my characters before I start writing, they always evolve and change as the story progresses.

How do you go about building your world if you use one? Do you use maps, charts or drawings?

I know my characters, and start with some ideas gleaned from my research books. Then the world evolves organically as I write the story. I am always surprised by how complex the world becomes by the end of the first draft.

Do you have any authors that inspired you?

I’ve read a lot of romance and fantasy over the years. The combined influence of all these wonderful books inspired me to write paranormal romance. I enjoy reading many genres of romance and women’s fiction but I purposely don’t read much paranormal romance. I like to keep my head clear of other author’s ideas so I can develop my own stories with no outside influence.

What do you feel is the most effective promotion you have done for your book?

As yet, I don’t know. I have only been promoting for a few months prior to my book’s release and I’m not sure what is working best. I’d hazard a guess that the most effective promotion so far has been taking part in the American Title contest and appearing for five consecutive months in the Romantic Times Magazine. Unfortunately, that is not something I can repeat with my next book!

What do we have to look forward next?

The Phoenix Charm is the next in the Magic Knot Fairies series. The book features Michael O’Connor as he and fairy witch Cordelia Tink try to outwit the king of the Underworld to rescue the pisky king’s son. This will be a December 09 Dorchester release.

Thanks, Helen!

To celebrate her book release, Helen Scott Taylor is offering a signed copy of The Magic Knot to one lucky commenter on today's blog. She will be popping in to answer questions throughout the day. I'm sure some of you have questions or comments for her, so please ask away...

As a child, when Helen didn’t pay attention her teachers accused her of being away with the fairies. Things haven’t changed much! Only now, the fairies are tall and sexy and they live in her stories rather than just in her head. Helen resides in South Western England near Plymouth with her husband, two teenagers, two Shih Tzus, and a cat who rules the household with a velvet paw. With the rocky cliffs of the Atlantic to the south and the windswept expanse of Dartmoor to the west, she loves to walk in the countryside while she plots her stories. She believes deep within everyone there’s a little magic.

Check out author’s website at 


Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Sourcebooks Contest with Casablanca Authors

Foot in the Door Casablanca contest

We all know the hardest part of being published is to grab the interest of an editor. Well, here's your chance to get your foot in the door.

Break Up the Winter Doldrums With A Contest from the Casablanca Authors and our Acquiring Editor Deb Werksman!

Deb will make her monthly visit to the blog  _http://casablancaauhttp://casablanhttp_ ( on Thursday, January 29.

The Casa Authors invite you to submit a 50-word pitch for your book in the comment section of Deb's blog. If we like yours the best, Deb will request your full manuscript and provide feedback. Two runners up will be asked to submit a synopsis to Deb. As an added extra, several of the Casa Authors have offered critiques of a first chapter and synopsis (up to 50 pages) to selected runners-up!

What is Deb Looking For?

Single title romance (series/trilogies too!) in all sub-genres:




*romantic suspense

*erotic romance

minimum 90,000 words, please

*a heroine the reader can identify with

*a hero she can fall in love with

*a world is created

*a "hook" Deb can use to sell the book in 2-3 sentences

Contest Rules

--The contest will run from 12:01 a.m. on January 29 and end at noon on  January 30. All pitches must be entered into the comments section of Deb's blog by noon on Jan. 30. _http://casablancaauhttp://casablanhttp_ ( No pitches may be emailed to the blog, to individual authors or to Deb. Emailed pitches will be automatically disqualified.

--Please enter pitches ONLY for finished, polished manuscripts that are at least 90,000 words in length. No works in progress please. _lisa.acosta@lisa.acosta@lis_ ( . If the winning MS is not received by the deadline, a runner up will be chosen. Deb will respond within three to four weeks. Critique runners up will be notified as to how to proceed.

--Decisions of the judges (Deb, our publicist Danielle, and the Casa Authors) are final.

--Winning this contest does not in any way constitute a guarantee of publication or further consideration by Sourcebooks Casablanca.

Sunday, February 1, 2009

The True Value of Critique Partners

The True Value of Critique Partners

I remember the first time I walked into a meeting of The Valley of the Sun Chapter of Romance Writers of America. I didn’t know anyone, I was out of my comfort zone, and I was scared to death. Most people would be surprised because I am good at faking being tough and brave when those feelings elude me. Paula Eldridge smiled and offered to share her table. I think that moment was when I remembered to breathe. Paula became my first critique partner. Writing organizations will often assist in finding you a group or partner. Three of us began meeting every week. The other members traded out as life got in the way. I have been the one constant member since 2002. I stayed because my desire to get it right grew with each new piece of information I learned. I became a sponge, taking it all in.

So what does a critique group do? They rip up your work. I am not joking. You write a scene or chapter (whatever the group agrees upon) then either read it aloud (not me) or hand out copies to the others. They tell you what they think needs to be changed and, hopefully, what they like so you’ll get a sense of your strengths. After two years and three practice manuscripts, I finally won a contest judged solely by editors and agents. I had proof I was making progress. That was four and half years ago.

This is when my current critique partner, Deborah McTiernan, entered the scene. Deborah is a force of nature. When you first meet her, you think this is one beautiful, sophisticated, confident woman. (She fakes it just a tad bit, too.) She knew her stuff and I was intimidated. At first, I thought we couldn’t be more different. I look like the girl next door - thirty years later. When working or networking, I’m professional and diplomatic, but when I’m in a relaxed atmosphere and I get a grin on my face, you know the little devil in me is about to come out and play. (Not many people get to see this side of me.) I soon learned Deborah had the same little devil in her. We spend hours laughing.

Luckily, I didn’t have anything to turn in when Deborah first joined and I was able to observe how she worked before giving her my query letter. We still laugh about all of the red on the page. The man she was dating at the time took one look at it and said, “I hope you know this woman well.” It looked like she’d opened up a vein over my work. Deborah used to love to rewrite everything, even the endings of published novels. I knew this and learned to work around it. Every time she gives me my chapters back I ask myself, “Why did she change this sentence? What was wrong with it?” Once I identify the problem, I figure out a way to rewrite it myself so I keep my voice. As the years passed, I found less red on the page. Either I got better or she relaxed – or both. (Most partners don’t work this way. This is just our system.)

Although I try to maintain my own voice in my stories, I did keep the rewrites to a sentence she wanted added to Liquid Hypnosis. I always feel compelled to tell friends that she heavily influenced that line. It’s on page 224 and has the word charity in it. My aunts picked up on it right away because it’s shocking and doesn’t sound like me. I left the line in because it showed how evil the character was better than dialogue could have. Deborah often writes mind-bending scenes with demons and witches in them. I find I start getting carried away with my own work after reading hers. At some point during the editing stage I’ll say, “Tina, you’re a teacher, you can’t have this in here.” Then I take my own red pen and mark out all of the really hot stuff. (Too bad.)

The good part of having critique partners is you have other opinions. They can tell you when you aren’t getting your point across, your dialogue is stilted, the order is confusing, your format is off, your grammar needs improvement, you have typos, your characters are flat, your narrative is cliché, etc. Many writers have several critique partners. As members of our group dropped, we decided not to replace them. Deborah and I work well together. I taught her how to put emotion into her thrillers and she taught me how to tighten up my writing. Our strengths and weaknesses are opposite. She’s my writing soul mate. She also became my best friend - the true value of this critique partner. Like most relationships, we had our hurdles to get over. (This is a tough business.) But, we knew we had something special and we hung in there together.

I am very fortunate in the fact that I can name every person who entered or re-entered my life just before a challenging time. These people leant me their strength and a sympathetic ear. They all have a special place in my heart. I am also fortunate in the fact that I can name every good thing that has resulted from those challenging moments. Deborah is a unique friend in the respect that she was sent into my life when it was time to reflect on those moments, learn, grow, and heal. As we became closer, we started sharing information about our personal lives, layer-by-layer. We soon learned we had traveled a similar path. She gave me insight no one else could offer. She says I have done the same for her. (A wealth of information when we write about the human condition.) We both look back on the past and realize this is the happiest time of our adult lives. Even though we are well over the age of 40, I often feel as if we are really two young girls who have pulled each other through a dark cave. Sometimes she led, and sometimes I did. Together we managed to find our way out. As we walk down the path toward the comfort of our homes, the sun is shining on our faces, warming our skin, but blinding us to what the future holds. It doesn’t matter though. We aren’t afraid. We know together we can tackle anything – we already have.
Tina LaVon