Deep Edits and Black Bean Soup

Cleveland Immersion Class, 2017

For the last several months, I’ve been looking forward to the first week in September. I hosted an immersion master class with the incomparable Margie Lawson and eight of my NEORWA friends. We followed the immersion with Margie presenting at NEORWA’s Cleveland Rocks Romance Conference. I learned how to use power words, have memorized rhetorical devices, and can deep edit like a boss.

Now that it’s over, I’m feeling energized and ready to take on the literary world by storm. Okay, maybe not–I’m still too tired and Margie would give me a frowny face for the cliche–but I certainly now have more tools to polish my manuscript.

If you’ve never done an immersion class or attended one of Margie’s workshops or online classes, I do hope you will. And in the meantime, here’s my recipe for vegan black bean soup (we ate a lot of soup), modified from Jonathan Waxman’s original meatier version (which is divine and which you can find in his book, A Great American Cook, on page 62):

Immersion Black Bean Soup
Serves about 8 hungry writers, or 10 less hungry ones

3 cups dried black beans
1 red onion, minced
cloves from 1 head garlic, chopped
2-3 tablespoons olive oil
1 large bay leaf
1 to 2 tablespoons canned chipotle chiles in adobo, minced (remove seeds from chile if you prefer less heat)
3/4 cup fresh cilantro (including stems), chopped, reserving a couple tablespoons of the chopped leaves for garnish
8 cups vegetable broth
freshly ground pepper
Kosher salt
1-2 limes, cut into wedges
Tortilla chips
Creme fraiche or sour cream, Greek yogurt, or coconut milk yogurt

Rinse beans and soak overnight in a large pot of cold water. (You can also use the quick soak method–boil beans in a large pot of water for 1 minute, then remove from heat and let cool for an hour.) Drain.

Heat the olive oil in a large pot over medium heat.  Add the onions and garlic, and saute until onions are golden. Stir in the soaked beans, chipotle, cilantro, pepper (don’t add the salt yet!), and vegetable broth. Bring to a boil then reduce heat. Cover and simmer for 2-3 hours, or until beans are very tender. If soup is too thin, simmer uncovered for another 30 minutes. If soup is too thick, add more broth or water.

Discard the bay leaf and add salt to taste. Use an immersion blender to coarsely puree the soup (if you don’t have an immersion blender, you should get one, but in the meantime, you can puree the soup in small batches in a regular blender, then return to the pot). Reheat.

Top each serving with a dollop of yogurt or creme and the reserved cilantro. (Unless you’re me, and you forget the cilantro.) Serve with a lime wedge and tortilla chips.

 

 

 

 

 

Historical Book Blast Friday: Romance on the High Seas

It’s been awhile since I’ve done a book blast, so I am pleased to get back in the game with the new boxed set featuring my friend and NEORWA sister, Chloe Flowers. Just released, Romance on the High Seas is a fabulous collection of pirate stories by best-selling authors. Chloe will also give a pirate bandana and signed book to a randomly selected commenter. You can also win a Regal gift card so you can keep the pirate spirit alive with the new Pirates of the Caribbean movie, Dead Men Tell No Tales, which releases May 26.

ROMANCE ON THE HIGH SEAS

The Pirate’s Debt by National Best-selling Author Katherine Bone: An earl-turned pirate is ordered by his benefactor to find an adventurous young runaway and return her home.To do so, he must retrieve her without being discovered by the most ruthless pirate hunter on the seas: her brother.

Dead Man’s Kiss by Award Winning Author Jennifer Bray-Weber: Eight weeks. That’s all pirate captain Valeryn Barone has to escort a tempting naturalist untouched across the Caribbean or face the gallows. Can he resist the beauty who’s fallen for him? Does a dead man walking even have a chance?

The Black Morass by USA Today Bestselling Author Barbara Devlin: In exchange for a chance at redemption and pardons for his crew, Jean Marc Cavalier accepts a pact that could result in liberty or death, if only he can survive the terms, but at least he will be free.

Pirate Heiress by Award Winning Author Chloe Flowers: Captain Conal O’Brien has already lost control of his ship to the most unlikely band of pirates sailing the seas. If he’s not careful, he’s going to lose his heart to a notorious lady pirate determined to destroy both.

My Lady Pirate by NY Times Bestselling Author Danelle Harmon: The sea delivers a handsome castaway to Pirate Queen Maeve Merrick’s island. But her handsome prisoner harbors secrets dark enough to change the fates of nations and threatens their new found love.

Captivated by the Captain by USA Today Bestselling Author Amanda Mariel: What happens when an American shipping company heiress crosses paths with a pirate? Can two people whose life paths are at odds find common ground?

Carried Away by Kamery Solomon: After falling through time and being forced to join a pirate crew, Mark Bell falls in love with his fellow time traveler, Samantha. She’s a woman he can’t have, though. Will their presence in the past alter the future they know and love?

To learn more about any of the authors and their stories, click on their names above or check out the High Seas Facebook page. And to buy Romance on the High Seas, visit these retailers:

Amazon * B&N * iBooks Kobo 

Although I’d love to post excerpts from all of them, this post would get crazy long. Since I know Chloe the best, I’ll post this delicious excerpt from Pirate Heiress:

Stevie swallowed and gripped the pistol handle more firmly. Her arm was beginning to tire from holding it for so long, but she didn’t dare lower it. The mountain of a man in the tub looked as if he could crush her head like a grape with one hand, and her young cousin’s with the other one. More often than not, she could look an average man straight in the eye. However, with this one, she doubted her head would reach his nose.

The man in the tub cocked his brows, then his eyes narrowed before sliding down to her soft doeskin boots and back up again. She should have stayed more in the shadows; she might have appeared a bit more intimidating that way.

“Relinquish your freedom and possessions,” she said, barely able to keep the tremor from her voice. Her gaze paused at the gold ring on the man’s finger. If they were going to become pirates, she might as well start acting like one. She took a deep breath and drew her shoulders back a little.

“Beginning with your ring,” she said, holding out her hand. The man’s jaw clenched and the knuckles gripping the tub’s edge whitened. What thoughts were flying around in his head? He was contemplating his chances of overpowering her and taking her pistol; she could see that in the way his gaze shifted back and forth between her and her cousin, Remi. If he had a weapon, and if it had been a one-on-one situation instead of one against two (with guns), he likely wouldn’t have paused to contemplate it this long. He would have defended himself by attacking them. And he’d have won. Even now, she sensed he was still calculating his odds.

She eased a step back, careful to keep her pistol well within a lethal range. “Please don’ t try it,” she said. “I’ d prefer to save my shot.” She was far from her cozy little room off the kitchens of her brother’s gaming house. Uncle Bernard had given her a brief lesson on managing a pistol, but it still terrified her to hold it.

His eyes widened and his brows raised in surprise. She’ d been right in her assumptions, then. She usually was. Her intuition annoyed her brothers no small amount, and they always avoided her when they wished their thoughts to remain…theirs. Only one of them could hide from her, but he was a gambler and so it was expected, otherwise he wouldn’t be a very good gambler, would he?

The man twisted the ring from his finger and tossed it to her. She caught it and placed it on the only finger it would fit—her thumb. “Get dressed,” she said, with as much authority as she could muster.

He slowly stood with the oily movement of a cat as he reached for a linen rag. Stevie felt her eyes widen. She was wrong. Very wrong. The top of her head would barely reach his chin, let alone his nose. Wide, thick shoulders took up most of the space in the galley. The muscles across his shoulders rippled as he moved. A long scar trailed from the top of his shoulder to the middle of his rib cage. A fighting man. A very strong, very muscular, very handsome, very naked, fighting man.

 

Winter Blog Hop, Day 24 – Danielle Haas

Can you believe the Hop is almost over? It’s Christmas Eve! My son is spending hours every day just lying under the tree, staring at his presents. Most un-teenage-like behavior.

Today’s guest is Danielle Haas, a new friend from NEORWA. On her blog she’s sharing her thoughts on Christmas, so hop on over to share your own.
Best wishes to all of you for a lovely Christmas eve.

Winter Blog Hop, Day 18 – Tara Harlow

Today’s guest is the irrepressible Tara Harlow, one of my local writing friends. In addition to raising kids and writing young and new adult romance, Tara’s a movie extra!

Unlike our mutual friend Judy from yesterday, Tara’s not such a fan of the snow. Check out her blog at https://taraharlow.wordpress.com/. In addition to a very fun post, she’s offering a Starbucks gift card to a commenter.

 

Winter Blog Hop, Day 17 – Judy McDonough’s Cajun Christmas and a Giveaway!

Today’s hop guest is my friend Judy McDonough, a recent transplant to northeast Ohio from Texas. So far she seems to be taking our crazy winters in stride! Judy loves to talk, but I’m always happy to hear what she has to say, and I hope you will be too. 🙂  Comment below for a chance to win an ecopy of all three of Judy’s books, and be sure to get to the end of the post, where you’ll find a fun Cajun version of “The Night Before Christmas.”

mcdonough-23Hi there! I’m Judy McDonough and I’m the author of a southern paranormal romance series called The Bayou Secrets Saga: Deadline, Lifeline, and Flatline. It is a ghost mystery with romantic elements that takes place in the Louisiana bayou with visits to New Orleans. More on that in a bit. I’ve always been fascinated with the supernatural or paranormal phenomenons, mostly ghosts, and my series stems from an actual experience I had while living in a barracks which was a renovated WW2 Navy hospital. I am a U.S. Navy veteran, and I met my husband, Mike, when I was stationed in New Orleans. He was a civilian local who showed me that there was more to his city than the tourist traps around Bourbon Street, and introduced me to the magic, history, and overall essence of New Orleans. Little did I know that it would latch on to me and eventually become a passion of mine. I’ve always loved Parisian architecture, and New Orleans is full of the ornate French influences. While living there I fell in love with the Cajun accent and culture. It’s not like anything you’ve ever experienced anywhere else. I promise you.

laura-plantation-440345_1280-1If I could move back to any place in the Big Easy I wanted and money wasn’t an issue, you would find me on the balcony of a lovely historic home in the Garden District drinking my coffee and chicory while watching the Spanish moss draping from the oak trees sway in the warm breeze. I would have citrus and magnolia trees in my yard, a pool (especially after living in the cool North for a while), a wrought iron fence surrounding my property, and majestic white columns flanking my front door. Sweet tea in the fridge, crawfish étouffée or red beans and rice (if it’s a Monday) on the stove, and soft jazz emanating through the open windows of my home. Sounds nice, doesn’t it?

I’m new to NE Ohio. Actually, I’ve never lived above the Mason-Dixon line. I’m a southern girl, so all this beautiful white snow y’all have up here is a novelty for me. I love it. My husband got a new job with a great company up here, so we packed up and left Houston, Texas in March of 2015. Much to the dismay of my new friends and neighbors, after almost two years of living up here, I still love the snow. I play in it more than my boys (ages 7, 9, and 10) do. Well, more often, but not for quite as long. They’re young so the cold doesn’t bother them as much as it does me. After about thirty minutes I’ve had my fill and rush back to the fireplace to warm my numb piggies.

img_1904-1Last year I asked them to help me build a snowman, and all three of them said no because they wanted to stay inside and play video games. So, I built my snow man all by myself, only I gave her boobs, an hourglass figure, and put a wig and one of my stretchy dresses on her. I also put a toy rifle in her twiggy arms, a cherry Twizzlers for her red lips, and a cowgirl hat on her head. My eldest was mortified because our snow girl had cleavage, so I told him he should’ve helped me build it. I did eventually add a scarf to hide the cleavage since the bus passed right in front of our house and he was still technically a new kid, but he learned his lesson. 😉

So, about my participation in Marin’s awesome Christmas blog hop. Thanks, Marin, for the opportunity, by the way. The Bayou Secrets Saga consists of three books that follow the same three characters, Caroline, Trevor, and Cade, throughout the series. I will give you the inside scoop and avoid spoilers as much as possible.

Soon after accepting a marriage proposal from Trevor Callahan, her sexy boyfriend of two years, Caroline Fontenot has recurring crazy, realistic, and sometimes frightening dreams of the same young girl searching for something while running from a dangerous man. The details of each disturbing dream stick with Caroline, and, while she doesn’t believe in ghosts, she cannot deny the creepy, unusual things happening in her life. Persuasive Trevor, eager to finally have naïve and innocent Caroline in his bed, puts a rush order on the nuptials and insists she face the one unresolved issue in her life to clear any conflicts that may rise before their wedding. He wants her to confront her father who left her and her mother when Caroline was only a toddler, forgive him and develop a relationship so there won’t be any “Daddy issues” in their marriage. Not an unreasonable request except that she hates her dad for what he did to her mom, and has no desire to meet him, much less bond with him. But she is and has always been curious about him.

The story begins in Golden Meadow, Louisiana as Caroline pulls up in her estranged father, Eddie Fontenot’s driveway during a torrential downpour like she’s never seen before, wondering what in the world she’s supposed to say, how he’ll react, how she’ll react to his reaction, whether or not she can control her temper, and all the while hating Trevor for making her do this, and cursing her raging curiosity for not letting her just blow it off and tell Trevor no ring or nuptials were worth it.

She swallows her pride, pulls up her big girl britches, and follows through with the plan only to realize the house her father lives in is the very one from her dreams. There was more to this story that she ever imagined, crazy coincidences, goosebumps, initials scratched into the window of her room, and the tale of her great, great, great grandmother, Rachel Fontenot including her mysterious death. Caroline decides to stick around to do some research at the library and town hall, but she wasn’t prepared for the library worker to be a charming, incredibly handsome Cajun stud named Cade Beauregard. pic_8258

Cade, playful and sweet, captivates her attention, renders her speechless—not an easy feat–and challenges her. And, more importantly, their unmistakable chemistry has Caroline questioning everything she ever thought she wanted. But she made a promise to Trevor, and she never makes a promise she can’t keep.

The plot thickens when Caroline meets her conniving step mother, April, and things she’d only ever heard of in the movies start making their way into her life. Stranded spirits, voodoo, mafia threats, and attempts on her family’s lives are her new normal.

Cade does his best to convince Caroline he’s better than Trevor, but the savvy Chicago architect doesn’t bend to intimidation, nor does he appreciate some meddling redneck trying to steal his woman. He fights back and things get tense.

I won’t risk spoilers by revealing any more details, but you get the idea, and the story only gets better and deeper with each book.

Thank you for joining me today! I am randomly picking commenters for two giveaway prizes related to my Bayou Secrets Saga. Up for grabs is:

judymcdonough_bayousecretssaga3dboxset_hr1) A digital copy of the boxed set of all three full-length novels.

2) A candle tin that smells like Cade. It’s an outdoorsy blend of juniper, cedar, balsam and musk. This fragrance is the essence of a sexy, outdoorsy man, and Cade’s character fits that description. He’s also mysterious and the guy who’s always there when you need him. If you love the scent of the woods and a touch of musk, you will love this candle.

For Christmas fun, I’d like to share with you the Cajun version of The Night Before Christmas by Written by: Trosclair.

Twas the night before Christmas an’ all t’ru de house,
Dey don’t a ting pass Not even a mouse.
De chirren been nezzle good snug on de flo’,
An’ Mama pass de pepper t’ru de crack on de do’. 

De Mama in de fireplace done roas’ up de ham,
Sit up de gumbo an’ make de bake yam.
Den out on de by-you dey got such a clatter,
Make soun’ like old Boudreau done fall off his ladder. 

I run like a rabbit to got to de do’,
Trip over de dorg an’ fall on de flo’.
As I look out de do’in de light o’ de moon,
I t’ink, “Mahn, you crazy or got ol’ too soon.” 

Cux dere on de by-you w’en I stretch ma’neck stiff,
Dere’s eight alligator a pullin’ de skiff.
An’ a little fat drover wit’ a long pole-ing stick,
I know r’at away got to be ole St.Nick. 

Mo’ fas’er an’ fas’er de’ gator dey came
He whistle an’ holler an’ call dem by name:
“Ha, Gaston! Ha, Tiboy! Ha, Pierre an’ Alcee’!
Gee, Ninette! Gee, Suzette! Celeste an’Renee’! 

home-1080272_1280To de top o’ de porch to de top o’ de wall,
Make crawl, alligator, an’ be sho’ you don’ fall.”
Like Tante Flo’s cat t’ru de treetop he fly,
W’en de big ole houn’ dorg come a run hisse’s by.

Like dat up de porch dem ole ‘gator clim!
Wit’ de skiff full o’ toy an’ St. Nicklus behin’.
Den on top de porch roof it soun’ like de hail,
W’en all dem big gator, done sot down dey tail.

Den down de chimney I yell wit’ a bam,
An’ St.Nicklus fall an’ sit on de yam.
“Sacre!” he axclaim, “Ma pant got a hole
I done sot ma’se’f on dem red hot coal.”

He got on his foots an’ jump like de cat
Out to de flo’ where he lan’ wit’ a SPLAT!
He was dress in musk-rat from his head to his foot,
An’ his clothes is all dirty wit’ ashes an’ soot.

A sack full o’ playt’ing he t’row on his back,
He look like a burglar an’ dass fo’ a fack.
His eyes how dey shine his dimple, how merry!
Maybe he been drink de wine from de blackberry.

His cheek was like a rose his nose a cherry,
On secon’ t’ought maybe he lap up de sherry.
Wit’ snow-white chin whisker an’ quiverin’ belly,
He shook w’en he laugh like de stromberry jelly!

But a wink in his eye an’ a shook o’ his head,
Make my confi-dence dat I don’t got to be scared.
He don’ do no talkin’ gone strit to hi work,
Put a playt’ing in sock an’ den turn wit’ a jerk.

 He put bot’ his han’ dere on top o’ his head,
Cas’ an eye on de chimney an’ den he done said:
“Wit’ all o’ dat fire an’ dem burnin’ hot flame,
Me I ain’ goin’ back by de way dat I came.”

 So he run out de do’ an, he clim’ to de roof,
He ain’ no fool, him for to make one more goof.
He jump in his skiff an’ crack his big whip,
De’ gator move down, An don’ make one slip.

 An’ I hear him shout loud as a splashin’ he go,
“Merry Christmas to all ’til I saw you some mo’!”

For more fun with Judy, check out her website (www.Judy-McDonough.com) or find her on Facebook or Twitter.

Victorian Fashion

I am not a fashion maven. I am a jeans and t-shirt kind of girl, unless I’m wearing Chico’s Travelers Collection, which look stylish but feel like pajamas. (Need I say more?) I have one favorite pair of shoes for each season and I wear them until they fall apart, at which time I spend hours online looking for the exact same pair. I almost never wear shorts because of my pasty white Cleveland legs, but the pair I don’t mind being seen in I bought in 1998. Seriously.

Despite my embarrassing anti-fashion proclivities, I am a writer of historical romance, and in the Victorian era, women of a certain class were very concerned with fashion. And if I am to write about them, I need to care about what they wore. Or at least how to get it off them. 😉

To that end, I spent Saturday taking a field trip with my NEORWA chapter mates to the Kent State University Museum of Fashion. The most interesting exhibit, at least for me, was one called Inside Out, which featured clothing literally inside out so you could see how it was constructed. And they had Darcy’s puffy shirt! Colin Firth wasn’t even it–more’s the pity–and we were all still drooling. You can find pictures at https://insideoutksum.wordpress.com/–I can’t get WordPress to cooperate with the photos I took. 

The Victorian era lasted from 1837 to 1901, and fashions changed drastically during that timeframe.  And don’t even get me started on men’s facial hair–that is deserving of its own post.

In the 1830s, as at right, the ideal form was a long torso with a slim silhouette, so corsets were tight and movement was restricted. (Isn’t that an odd picture? The upper half seems oddly disconnected from the bottom, but I sometimes wonder if that’s how women felt…)

 

Starting in the 1840s, skirts became wider–the fuller the skirt, the more petticoats underneath, which was a sign of wealth. I love this relaxed portrait of Queen Victoria and her prince from 1841.

Illustration of cage crinoline from Punch, 1856

 

The 1850s saw the invention of bloomers, as well as the cage crinoline–a miraculous contraption that held the skirts out in lieu of a dozen petticoats, returning women to a comparative freedom of movement.

 

There is an adorable scene from Mrs. Gaskell’s Cranford in which a fancy cage from Paris is ordered for Miss Pole’s bird. Unfortunately, it’s the wrong type of cage. It’s just the first minute and again at about 3:45, but if you like BBC period programs, you have to watch the whole series–it’s delightful.

The 1860s saw skirts at their widest and waists at their narrowest–remember this scene from Gone With the Wind?

 

In the 1870s, skirts deflated quite a bit, hoops replaced by a flatter front and layers in the back, as in this painting by Pierre Auguste Renoir from 1874.

 

 

In the 1880s, the bustle was the dominant feature in women’s fashion (and the top hat for men) as seen in this 1883 painting by James Tissot.

 

 

 

The last decade of the 19th century brought big sleeves, sharply defined waists, and slimmer skirts, as in this fashion plate from 1893…

 

 

 

 

…and this John Singer Sargent painting from 1896.

 

 

The turn of the century brought us more masculine attire for women, the Gibson Girl–see the Sargent painting at right from 1903–outrageous hats, and the rise of haute couture.

Londoners in front of Harrods, 1909

There is far more to seventy years of fashion than I have the time, energy, or inclination to share here, but if you’re interested in learning more, click on the link for each decade above, and check out these sites for more information and lots more pictures:

http://www.victoriana.com/Victorian-Fashion/
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Victorian_fashion
http://www.victorianweb.org/victorian/art/costume/index.html
http://www.fashion-era.com/the_victorian_era.htm
https://www.buzzfeed.com/niaalavezos/proof-the-victorian-era-had-the-greatest-fashion
http://www.fashionlady.in/victorian-era-fashion/855
http://vintagefashionguild.org/fashion-timeline/

 

Conquering Fear

Yesterday I spent the day with writer friends from the Northeast Ohio chapter of RWA, participating in a workshop presented by Bob Mayer. He spoke about many things in his six-hour talk, including turning ideas into stories, recognizing and developing conflict (my biggest problem, perhaps), outlining and plotting, characters’ needs and flaws, and story arcs. But for some reason, the part that resonated with me most was his discussion of fear.

FullSizeRender (1)Fear, Mayer said, is “a feeling of alarm or disquiet caused by the expectation of danger, pain, or the like.” It stems from uncertainty. Since life is one long uncertainty, all of us have fears. We fear failure, rejection, criticism, loss. We fear making the wrong decision, making mistakes. I can remember three times in my life when I was truly fearful: the day I graduated from college; the day I made a commitment to start my own law firm; and the day I sent off my first manuscript to an editor who’d requested it. Every one of those marked a decision to leave the safety of the known and start on an unknown path potentially fraught with peril. Graduating from college I realized it was the first time in my life I really had no clue what I was supposed to do next. The entire world was before me, and absolutely anything could happen. Starting my own law firm, I left the security of a regular paycheck in exchange for freedom–to take the work I wanted, to get away from the backstabbing bullshit of my old firm, and to spend more time with my four-year old son. And the day I sent that manuscript was the first time I faced either real acceptance or true rejection of my writing.

That editor did reject my manuscript, which stung. I am extremely fortunate in that another editor was waiting to see it too, and when she did, she bought it, and my life as a published author began. But all three of these moments in time taught me that to act in the face of fear is, while scary as hell, worth every tear shed and every night spent tossing and turning, asking yourself whether you’ve done the right thing. Mayer said yesterday, “Heroism is taking action in the face of fear.” While I certainly don’t consider myself a hero for facing my fears, perhaps all of us who take that step into the unknown do have a bit of the hero inside us. Although you’re never going to see me jumping out of an airplane. No way.

If fear is preventing you from accomplishing your dreams, take a closer look at yourself. I’ll bet there’s a hero inside of you too.

The Middle Muddle

The Beginning

The Beginning

Every writer has his or her way of doing things.  Some writers write only one book at a time, beginning at the beginning and writing in an orderly fashion until the end. Other writers write one book at a time, but in pieces, writing a scene here and scene there and then weaving them all together.

Not me. I write several books at a time. I love, absolutely love, starting a book. The blank page is so full of possibility. Every book might be fabulous, might be a best seller. Every book has the potential to be written in an orderly fashion until I’m done.

Alas, every single book I write fails to meet that potential. Every. Single. One.

When I get to the middle–known by many writers as The Dreaded Middle–I come to a screeching halt. I have no idea where to go next. I am consumed by doubts:  This book is boring. This book is TERRIBLE. I suck at this. I’ll never write another book. 

So I fret. I try to plot a bit more, to think of situations to toss my characters into so they can get out of the mess they’re in. I re-read the outline, the synopsis, or the beat sheet I’ve prepared to get myself back on track. I stare at the last sentence I’ve written and type nothing else. I read writing books.

Then I get another idea for a book, so I plot that. I write a synopsis. I tell myself–and my writer friends, who are probably tired of hearing it–that THIS time, I will avoid the Middle Muddle. I will storm right through and take no prisoners. It will be AWESOME.

But of course it’s not. I get stuck in the middle, and the cycle starts again.

The EndWith every book, though, there comes a moment when the words flow again, where I get past the middle in a flurry of activity that sometimes causes me physical injury. I pound out the last 20 or 30 thousand words in half the time it takes to write the first 30,000.

Yesterday was such a moment. I went to a NEORWA meeting in the morning, learned about a great new writing center in the Cuyahoga County Public Library, then went to lunch with some of my chapter sisters. I bitched about the middle muddle, and when I got home, I pulled out the manuscript that’s been idle for 5 or 6 months, and started typing. I wrote 1400 words before dinner, and another 300 words before bed. I got past the middle. It felt amazing.

I have no idea why this happens. I don’t have any epiphanies, or sudden realizations about the characters or the plot that take me past it. I just start writing again.

Last night I realized that this is okay. It’s simply the way I write. Although I will continue to read writing books and talk to writer friends and plot and try to avoid the Middle Muddle, I have made my peace with it. I’m never going to write fast, never going to be like this prolific writer or that super organized one. I am my own writer, and I do things my way, even if that way is weird and confusing and occasionally demoralizing. Anyone who knows me is probably not at all surprised.

So, writer friends. How do you write? Orderly, piecemeal? One book at a time or several? Middle muddle or not?

Historical Book Blast Friday: Becky Lower

This October–my favorite month–I’m starting something new. I love historical fiction of every kind–romance, mystery, fantasy, young adult, you name it–and I want everyone else to love it too. So to introduce you to some historical authors you may not have encountered before, I’ve started a Friday Book Blast series for historical fiction. (If you’re an author interested in scheduling a Book Blast, contact me here.)

48988_1025007027_4423_nTo kick off this new series, it’s fitting that I feature an author who is a master of writing series romance: the award-winning historical romance author Becky Lower. Becky is a fellow member of NEORWA, a resident of the small college town I called home for four years, an exhaustingly prolific author, and an all around lovely person I am honored to call a friend.

Becky has two new releases this month (did I mention she was prolific?): The eighth installment in her Cotillion Ball series, and a novella about the couple who started it all.

9781440578991

A Widow’s Salvation

In 1862 America, the Civil War has raged for twelve months. Pepper Fitzpatrick Brown’s heart was broken when her husband died with the first volley at Manassas. Now she’s a widow raising three young boys and plans to honor his sacrifice by volunteering at the army hospital.

 When Colonel Elijah Williams can grab a few minutes to nap between his duties as head surgeon at MacDougall Army Hospital in the Bronx, his sleep is invaded with nightmares of the atrocities he’s seen. His life has narrowed to nothing but the bloody war … until he meets Pepper Brown. But her father is concerned Elijah doesn’t have the best intentions, and Pepper is fearful of loving and losing again.

 It’s hard to find happiness in a war-torn United States, but these two stand a fighting chance—if they can save what’s left of their hearts.

A Widow’s Salvation and all the books in the Cotillion Ball series are available from Amazon.

9781440594458An Unconventional Courtship

George Fitzpatrick had boarded the new omnibus intent on nothing more than a ride from one point to another. Until a gorgeous young blonde named Charlotte Ashcroft suddenly claims he is her chaperone. What’s an up-and-coming young banker to do but help a lady out?

This story is featured in a collection of historical romance novellas called Rogues, Rakes, and Romance. You can find it at Amazon.

For more information about Becky and her books, visit her website at www.beckylowerauthor.com.

Author Interview: AE Jones

Today I am honored to welcome NEORWA chapter sister, 2013 Golden Heart winner, and two-time 2015 RITA Finalist AE Jones. Thanks so much for visiting, AE!

Tell us a bit about you. Where do you live, and how long have you been writing?

AE JonesThanks for having me here today, Marin! I live in Northeast Ohio in a small town. I have been reading since I was able to hold a book in my hands and I have been writing since my twenties. I got serious about writing paranormal romances and urban fantasies about six years ago.

What inspired you to write your Mind Sweeper series?

Believe it or not, my Mind Sweeper series stemmed from a joke. I wanted to write about a woman who worked with supernatural and I flippantly thought to myself one day “An angel, a demon, and a vampire walked into a bar…ha, ha, ha.” But what if it wasn’t a joke? What if it really happened? How would someone deal with the aftermath? That is the first line of Mind Sweeper and that’s how my series came to be.

The humor and sarcasm interwoven in the stories are because I love, love, love the whole Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Angel universe that Joss Whedon created. To me humor makes the sad and scary parts of the story that much more. It’s a great foil.

That is the best first line. I love the Buffy universe too–I’ve been binge watching Buffy and Angel on Netflix, since I never watched it when it originally aired. 

What does your writing process look like?

I am a total pantser. Which can be difficult because I write mysteries in my stories and so there are plot threads that need to be tied up. I do normally have a general idea of the ending, but then as I write the story I’ll have these ‘OMG’ moments where something will come to me and it goes into the story. I also write my chapters out of order too. When a scene comes to me I have to write it down even if it’s at the back of the book.

What do you do when you’re not writing?

Sleep. Okay, that’s a slight exaggeration. I have a day job and then I have my writing job in the evenings. When I’m in relaxation mode I’ll usually read or go out to dinner with friends. And a special treat for me is taking a nap (and now I’ve gone full circle back to the beginning of this answer).

What are you working on now?

I am currently in edits for Sentinel Lost, the fifth book in my Mind Sweeper series. That novel should be coming out in September and I am also working on the first book of a new series that should come out late fall.

Great! I know I am looking forward to new books from you. 🙂

I tend to work through story ideas when I’m driving or in the shower, both of which are, of course, places I can’t write anything down. Do you have any strange writing habits?

I do a lot of ‘book thinking’ in the shower too! I’ve had to put a notebook by my bed since I have a tendency to come up with things as I drift to sleep or am just waking up in the morning. I think it’s because my subconscious is free to roam! I also walk two miles every day and I think through my plot and ideas when I’m walking too. Although I sometimes have to stop and type an idea in my phone so I don’t lose it!

Share a photo of your writing space.

?

Here is a picture of my office and yes, more often than not Dillon, my cat, is perched right next to my laptop. I have to stop and pet him periodically or he moves in front of the keyboard. And that is a magic wand hanging on the wall and a tiara sitting on my lamp. The magic wand is because I need all the help I can get and the tiara I wear on release days for my books. I call release days my ‘kick butt princess’ days. I usually will post a tiara picture on my blog as part of the celebration too!

LOL. Dillon looks very serious.

How do you come up with character names?

This is a hard one for me. Character names can be tricky. Oftentimes I’ll name a character and then as he or she develops I realize that the name I chose for them is not right. And since my series has somewhat of a supernatural UN vibe, I have to look for Russian names and French names and Irish names, etc. I spend a lot of time on the internet on baby name sites!

In one of my books I changed the hero’s name three times and the heroine’s name twice. Thank goodness for the find and replace feature!

novellas 3d boxset copyThe Mind Sweeper Novellas (Box Set)

Discover the Mind Sweeper series through the eyes of Jean Luc and Talia in these two novellas.

The Fledgling – A Novella

Vampire Jean Luc Delacroix has been alive for nearly four hundred years. Alive, but not really living. This changes when he meets newly turned vampire, Talia. Feisty and beautiful, Talia is the first female Jean Luc has been attracted to in centuries. But when he finds out she is also a bounty hunter who is interfering with his investigation of a supernatural serial killer, he pushes her away for her and his own good.

Bitten and thrust into the supernatural world against her will, Talia wants nothing more than to do her job. She doesn’t have time to deal with an overbearing, ridiculously sexy vampire. But Jean Luc and Talia butt heads on their single-minded crusade to stop a murderer. And unless they can set aside their troubled pasts and learn to trust each other, they may never have an opportunity to explore their true feelings. Especially when they face off with the killer.

The Pursuit – A Novella

Thirty years after their initial meeting, Jean Luc Delacroix and Talia Walker once again cross paths. After seeing Talia again, Jean Luc’s feelings reignite. This time he will do whatever it takes to make her a permanent part of his life. Talia learned everything she knows about love—and about being a vampire—from Jean Luc. And when she comes face to face with Jean Luc again, she wonders if her continued independence is as important as being with the vampire she still loves.

Before either can acknowledge their feelings, they are embroiled in a deadly case of a vampire draining humans. In the midst of an investigation that threatens the very foundation of the vampire nation, can Jean Luc and Talia finally find the courage to follow their hearts? Or will the killer destroy them first?

EXCERPT: Jean Luc is teaching Talia how to be a vampire. In this excerpt, they are just starting to explore but yet fight their attraction to each other. I like it because it is an interesting interplay of tension with a splash of humor.

It had been seven days since the killer last struck. Seven days of little to no headway. Seven days of spending every moment with Talia and her lavender essence, rich skin, and chocolate eyes. Jean Luc stared at her until she turned toward him, her eyes widening under his heated scrutiny.

After a moment, her mouth quirked and she took a step closer to him. “Can I help you with something?”

“Yes. Tell me how you would fight someone much larger than yourself.”

“I would avoid it.”

“And if you cannot?” he pushed.

“Carry a big gun?”

Buy the Mind Sweeper novella box set here: 
Amazon
iTunes
Kobo

You can find out more about AE Jones here:
Website: aejonesauthor.com
Twitter: @aejonesauthor
Facebook: www.facebook.com/aejones.author1

 

  • Archives