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Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Research + The American Civil War = Romance?

Please welcome guest blogger Nancy Lee Badger

How does an author come up with off-the-wall ideas? Research. Today, I will explain why I set one of my signature paranormal dragon romances in Charleston, South Carolina, on the eve of the American Civil War.  

Many readers know I love to write about dragons. I usually base these stories in Scotland. I set DRAGON’S CURSE on the real Scottish island of Staffa.  I set DRAGON IN THE MIST on Loch Ness. Since I have not yet been fortunate enough to visit Scotland, I read books, travel magazines, and clicked all over the internet to discover all I could about the locations I decided to use in those novels.
Before SOUTHERN FRIED DRAGON was even a glimmer of an idea, I went on a trip to Charleston, South Carolina to commemorate the 150th Anniversary of the beginning of the American Civil War. I had ancestors that fought in the war. A couple of them died. Fort Sumter, in the Charleston Harbor, is where it all began. Imagine the thrill of discovering that we lived within hours of this historical site. (See links below)

Research started when I decided to take a trip for personal reasons, and went to the internet to research the island and its museum. Again, this was before I thought about using Charleston and the area as a setting for a book. The busy city is steeped in history. Once I arrived at the on-land museum, the informative storyboards and articles from the battle sparked ideas. Even the ferry ride proved inspiring…the water, the birds, and the distant walls of the fort all came together to form a story. I quickly started jotting notes.

On the island itself, I used my trusty camera to record photos of everything. Ideas sprang like rain through the holes in the fort’s upper defenses. What a rush! Back home, I set myself down and transcribed the notes I’d scribbled. I looked over the photos I’d taken. How could I use this trip to create a story with dragons, cannons, soldiers, and romance?

I imagined the men firing on the Fort Sumter soldiers from land-based forts that, up until the War Between the States began, were all Federal outposts. Wouldn’t one of these Fort Sumter soldiers make a great hero? But, how could I use the Civil War Sesquicentennial in a story with dragons?  

This is where imagination took over. Writing fiction allows the author a freedom to twist a character’s life to fit the story. I kept some of the history intact, using historical facts to flesh out my plot. I learned all I could about the cannons used, the men who fought there, and the outcome of the first battle of the Civil War.

The story I came up with quickly morphed into SOUTHERN FRIED DRAGON. I even had my husband, a history buff, read my manuscript before I sent it out to my editors. I was fortunate to have visited an important American national monument, but remember…research is available all around once an author takes the time to look.  

For more information on Fort Sumter and Charleston:

Fort Sumter National Monument http://www.nps.gov/fosu/index.htm
Ferry Service to Fort Sumter http://www.spiritlinecruises.com/sumter_overview.asp
Charleston, SC Welcome Center http://www.charlestoncvb.com/
South Carolina Aquarium  http://scaquarium.org/default.aspx

Nancy loves chocolate-chip shortbread, wool plaids wrapped around the trim waist of a Scottish Highlander, the clang of dirks and broadswords, and the sound of bagpipes in the air. Nancy lives the dream. After growing up in Huntington, New York, and raising two handsome sons in New Hampshire, Nancy moved to North Carolina where she writes full-time. She and her family continue to volunteer at the New Hampshire Highland Games each fall. Nancy is a member of RWA, Heart of Carolina Romance Writers, Sisters In Crime, FF&P Romance Writers, and the Celtic Heart Romance Writers. Nancy is a proud Army Mom, and she also writes romantic suspense as Nancy Lennea.

Check out my website www.nancyleebadger.com
And my blog www.RescuingRomance.nancyleebadger.com.
Twitter @NLBadger
Facebook http://on.fb.me/scmtx5

Southern Fried Dragon

Amid cannon fire, and the threat of Civil War, love and trust will find a way.  

Dru Little flew away from her home in a cave beneath a Scottish Island to end her lonely existence and find companionship across the sea. Her journey in late 1860 has led her to the modern American city of Charleston, South Carolina. Hiding her true self, she takes over the life of a serving girl and enjoys the hard life working in a tavern near the wharves. She has no idea that her life will turn upside down in a dark alley the moment a handsome soldier saves her life.

Lieutenant Shaw Stenhouse has his own worries. Southern secessionists are talking up a storm in Charleston. His fellow Federal soldiers are suddenly at risk from the community they are here to protect. The possibility of civil war takes a backseat when he saves a comely lass from drunken sailors. A good deed and a stolen kiss put a smile on his face until the threat of war becomes a reality. Their instant attraction proves disastrous when Dru spots her former lover, the Black Dragon, working for General Beauregard and the southern troops. As the clandestine group plans their attack on Fort Sumter, and Shaw’s soldiers, she takes to the sky.

Dru fights against the threat of detection, while she fears losing Shaw’s love. What will he do when he finds out that she is a powerful Scottish dragon Hell-bent on carrying him to safety? When Shaw discovers her hiding inside the heavily guarded fortress, thoughts of espionage—and worse—catapult the two lovers into danger from many sides.

When her former lover threatens Shaw, Dru must decide which is more important: protecting another of her kind, now nearly extinct, or protecting the human male, the man she has come to love.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Rediscover Your Work/Life Rhythm

Please welcome guest blogger Berinn Rae

If we lived in a perfect world, we’d have a nice work/life balance. Instead, we live in the work-till-we-drop era. We have writing deadlines, demanding bosses, kids with school assignments, and so on. When it comes down to it, we don’t have much control over the balance in our lives. But we can control our work/life rhythm.

Think of rhythm as a combination of rest and labor. You have those hectic times when everything needs done all at once. Other times, you can sit back and inhale. The Seed’s author, Jon Gordon, calls these different times seasons. The art of work/life rhythm is simply knowing which time—or season—you are living in and savor that moment.

To rediscover your rhythm, follow three easy steps: reflect, rediscover, and readjust.

  1. Reflect on your life over the past several months. Why did you surrender to the various demands on your time? Did you say “yes” because you have a hard time saying “no”? Or, did you surrender simply to keep the peace? When were you most (and least) busy? When you begin to look at things this way, you’ll start to see a pattern—a rhythm—to your life.
  1. Rediscover your rhythm. Make a list of demands, starting with what’s most important, all the way down to what should be cut. I imagine writing is pretty high on your list (as it is on mine), which means that other demands—even attending your neighbor’s upcoming jewelry party—may have to be dropped or rethought. Be sure to give yourself the authority to take breaks so you don’t burn out. Your body has a natural rhythm (I’m a mid-morning person): make the most of your best hours. Everyone’s rhythm is a little different, but when you find the right one for you and your life, you’ll be able to achieve a lot more in less time.
  1. Readjust your work-life rhythm with daily reinforcement. Just like starting an exercise program, it takes time and focus to readjust both your and others expectations (note: your family’s expectations may be the hardest to readjust!). Control the demands on your time; don’t let them control you. Don’t feel guilty when you’re at work and not at home. Likewise, don’t check your email at the dinner table. It’s not about the amount of time we spend. It’s about how engaged we are during that time.

I’ll wrap up with a bit of advice from the great philosopher George Carlin, “change is inevitable, except from a vending machine.” No matter how prepared you are life will bring you plenty of new adventures. It’s how you take on these adventures and meld them with your own rhythm to not merely survive but thrive in the modern world.

Now go take a break and rediscover your rhythm. You deserve it!

Berinn Rae writes romantic science fiction/fantasy about extraordinary women who always get their guy and still manage to save the world. Her Guardians of the Seven Seals series follows mythical creatures we believed in as children, only to be forgotten as we aged. When not writing, she can be found flying old airplanes, watching SciFi movies, playing RPGs, and pampering an incredibly spoiled sixty-pound lap dog.


Everyone has monsters under the bed…

Orion Benandanti isn’t just a hellhound. He is the Alpha of all hellhounds and host to the Third Seal. Thanks to the Guardians, the Dominion has splintered, and he takes a much-needed break in the Midwest United States. But the world still isn’t safe. One night, Orion is attacked by a pack of monstrous hellhounds. If hunting a rogue alpha wasn’t enough, Orion also has to deal with his growing attraction to the newcomer in his territory, a female hellhound in the form of a beautiful yet stubborn pragmatist.

But what if you’re one of them?

In one night, Lana Wolfe’s life was destroyed and she was reborn a walking nightmare. A year later, she dedicates her life to destroying others like her. That is, until she discovers Orion Benandanti, the Alpha of all hellhounds and host to the Third Seal. But when the hunter becomes the hunted and Orion’s Seal is put at risk, the only way to survive is for Lana to trust the man who very well may destroy her soul. Will she let him claim her—for the Seal’s protection and for a passion forged in hell’s hottest fires?

Thursday, February 16, 2012

The Tiny Art of Elevator Pitches

Please welcome guest blogger Carrie Lofty

The blog post could also be called “How I Became the Pitch Witch.” I’m obsessed with pitches and how to teach them to other writers. Something about the challenge of narrowing an idea to its key elements feels like a puzzle.  My brain actually likes the process. Weird, I know, but everyone has skills! (Just don’t ask me to write a synopsis. Please.)

I started down this path in 2007 when I attended my first National conference. I was pitching (my first time!) to the editor who eventually bought my medieval debut, WHAT A SCOUNDREL WANTS.  For the pitch, she was running late. Other people were nervously doing the deed with their agent or editor. I could only watch the clock, supremely aware that there were no rain checks!  

To kill time, I fished out my business card and placed it on the editor’s side of the table. On it I had printed the elevator pitch that took me three days to craft. Three agonizing days. Here it is (and I’m typing this by heart—it’s that much a part of my psyche now!):  

Robin Hood’s estranged nephew rescues an alchemist who can clear him of murder, but she’s blind, obsessed with fire, and sister to the woman he helped kidnapped.

The editor arrived with four minutes to spare, read the pitch, and asked for the full. I’ve been a true believer ever since.

I’ll argue, however, that although I rather enjoy the puzzle—after years of trial and error—I am not actually a witch with paranormal gifts. The ability to create a catchy, enticing, lucid elevator pitch is humanly possible. Here are just three of the hundred-plus I’ve helped shape in the past.  

(By the way, I’m happy to say that all three pitches landed publishing contracts, with Berkley, Samhain, and Carina Press, respectively.)

When a sorceress learns of her family’s secret genocidal crimes, she must convince an unlikely ally to help punish them: the sexy human mercenary who has taken her hostage.

A prohibition officer battles a notorious crime boss, corrupt New York politicians, and his own desire to take down the fiery speakeasy owner who makes him forget he’s a cop.

A reporter reunites with her first lover—brother to the man who raped her—to protect her daughter from the killer who’s slaughtering his competition for the family fortune.  

So join me! I’ll make the process as painless as possible, and show you all the brilliant ways you can use these little treasures.  

In the meantime, pick up a copy of FLAWLESS [link: http://carrielofty.com/Flawless.html], my latest historical romance from Pocket. What’s it about? Glad you asked…

A suave viscount and his estranged wife, ordered to make a South African diamond business profitable or else forfeit her inheritance, battle old hurts and an ambitious entrepreneur to reveal the true heart of their marriage.  

For more about me, please visit my website. I’d rattle off my bio, but I’d rather you check out my books page! You can also find me on Twitter. See you soon!

The Tiny Art of Elevator Pitches: How to Craft Them & How to Use Them, presented by Carrie Lofty, runs from March 5, 2012 through March 25, 2012.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

2012 Fantasy on the Bayou - What's New?

Prepare to spend March 2-4 with your fellow genre writers and fans of all things fantasy, futuristic and paranormal in the immortal city of New Orleans.

Hosted at the beautiful New Orleans Marriott Hotel, the conference features 25+ workshops along with pitch sessions and book signings. Whether you're drawn to the wonder of steampunk or determined to learn how to craft a solid pitch, the 2012 Fantasy on the Bayou FF&P Conference has workshops covering those topics and others, including the latest on the future of publishing, what editors want, nurturing an audience, and crime scene forensics.

A trip to New Orleans wouldn't be complete without a party! Attendees will be treated to an awards dinner/banquet where we'll present awards, pin some PROs, and celebrate the greatness that stems from our PAN authors. There's also a strong chance for some night-time strolls through the city to feed your muse for your next novel!

NEW! Maggie Shayne will be the Keynote Speaker. For more details, check out this conference blog post.

NEW! Vampire and Ghost Tour! Check out the details here.

NEW! Wanna Pitch? Check out the agents and editors available here, and how to sign up here.


Tuesday, February 7, 2012


Please welcome guest blogger Cynthia Eden

When you first start a novel, you’re often filled with excitement and eagerness. There are so many possibilities before you. You can do anything that you’d like with this story. Your characters have no limits. The plot can twist and it can turn and it can be awesome.

There is no greater thrill for you as you begin to type.  No. Greater. Thrill.

Then you type. One page becomes five. Five pages become twenty. Twenty pages become one hundred.  And you may start to notice something…your fingers don’t type as quickly. You don’t seem quite as eager when you sit down in your chair. Instead of writing, you find yourself on Facebook. On Twitter. Doing laundry. Doing almost *anything* but writing.

Your motivation is just plain GONE.

Why does this happen?  I’ve heard some authors call it the mid-book slump.  Get  100 or 200 pages into your book, and the motivation can vanish.  Maybe it’s because you still have so much to write. Maybe it’s because other stories are already teasing in the back of your mind. Maybe you just don’t love the story that you’re writing any longer. No matter what the reason, writing is becoming a struggle.

But you know what?  It doesn’t have to be a struggle.  You can recapture that thrill.  You can find your motivation again.  You just have to know where to look for said motivation.

Here are some tips:
  1. Is the book slumping for you?  Do you feel like the characters just aren’t going anyplace? Then throw a twist in the story. Surprise yourself. Surprise your readers. When I write, I try to put a twist in my plot every 100 pages.  These twists keep me on my toes, and they keep my pacing fresh.
  1. Set the mood!  If you’re having trouble actually get in the writing mind-set, then set your mood.  Use music to help.  Depending on the type of scene that you are writing, allow yourself five minutes of music time before you write. If you’re going to be penning an action scene, then listen to some hard, driving tunes. If it’s an emotional scene, then go for a ballad.  The right music can motivate you so well.
  1. Don’t write alone.  Don’t.  When I need to get words on those pages, when I need my motivation, I turn to other writers.  On Twitter, you can pretty much always find someone doing a #1k1hr (writing 1000 words in an hour).  Take part in one of these writing events. Hold yourself accountable.  When you start pushing yourself—and pushing hard—you’ll be amazed at the things you can do.
And if you have any motivational tips that you’d like to share, please do! I would love to hear them.

Best of luck to you!

Cynthia Eden
ANGEL OF DARKNESS—Available now from Kensington Brava

Cynthia Eden is a national best-selling author of paranormal romance and romantic suspense novels. Her books have received starred reviews from Publishers Weekly, and her novel, DEADLY FEAR, was named a RITA® finalist for best romantic suspense.  

Cynthia is a southern girl who loves horror movies, chocolate, and happy endings.  She has always wanted to write (don't most authors say that?), and particularly enjoys creating stories about monsters-vampires, werewolves, and even the real-life monsters that populate her romantic suspense stories.

What's the price of sin? 

Human Paige Sloan once loved werewolf Drake Wyler more than life, but then that life was taken away from her. Attacked by vampires, Paige was bitten, and, on a cold, dark night, the life she'd known ended. She was reborn as a vampire--a werewolf's deadliest enemy.  

Paige ran from the vampires who attacked her, and she ran away from her lover. She didn't want Drake to know what she'd become, and she didn't want to face the fury of his pack. But a girl can only run for so long until the past catches up with her. 

Some sins mark your soul. 

When Paige learns that Drake is being targeted for death, she knows that she can't hide in the shadows any longer. She has to return to him, and she will do anything—anything—in order to make sure that he keeps living. The vampires might have destroyed her chance to live and love Drake, but they won't take him. Not over her undead body. She'll slay them all...and maybe, just maybe...she'll even have the chance to sin--one more time--with the werewolf who'd marked her as his mate. 

Some sins are worth dying for...

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Bang-Up Beginnings

Please welcome guest blogger Rebecca York

Writing a novel is hard work.  It takes a lot of skills.  You have to create characters the reader cares about, a fantastic plot, conflict, pacing, setting, dialogue.  You probably have to research some aspects of your story.  And you’ve got to make sure your grammar and punctuation don’t distract.

But of prime importance is getting the reader into the story–which means a fantastic first sentence, a great first paragraph and a first chapter that will suck the reader in.

I have a friend who says too many authors indulge in “throat clearing.” Remember in Amadeus when Salieri accuses Mozart of using “too many notes.” It was meant as a joke in the movie.  Not so funny in a novel. I’ve made up a name for “too many words.” I call it wundeling. And I also use the term to describe  scenes where the hero or heroine is endlessly thinking the same thing over and over.

One of my favorite metaphors is-- start with a dead horse in the living room--plunge the reader into the middle of a situation.  Don’t confront the reader with an information dump.  Give her just enough details so she can follow along.  You will have ample opportunity to fill in the background later.

I’m most likely to open with the hero or the heroine, as in CHAINED, my new Decorah Security novella.  In the first scene, the heroine arrives home from work to find two thugs hiding in the house. They are there to murder her, and her immediate problem is to escape.

If you have trouble deciding how much background to put into the first scene or the first chapter, ask yourself, “Does the reader need to know this now?  Or can I work in these details later?”

Here’s how CHAINED begins:

Chapter One

Isabella Flores pulled open the kitchen door and stopped in her tracks.  The house felt wrong.  Come to that, it smelled wrong. The familiar scents of the empanadas she’d cooked the night before and the cleaning solution she used on the floor still hung in the air.  But they were over laid by the smell of sweat and stealth.

Moments ago she’d been prepared to fall into bed and sleep for the next eight hours, after an exhausting shift on the surgical floor at Phoenix General Hospital.

Instead, she backed out the door and started running, not toward the car she’d just left in the driveway but into the alley.

A blast of noise followed her, and she felt a bullet whiz past her head.

Christo. Don’t let her get away,” a harsh voice shouted.

Two hombres.  Waiting in the dark for her.

She’d hoped she was safe living in this quite, middle-class neighborhood, but she’d always been prepared for the worst.  She kept two bags packed, one in the trunk of her car and the other in an SUV, hidden down the block.

She leaped the waist-high chain link fence of a neighbor’s yard on the other side of the alley, rolled into a flower bed, and lay with her heart pounding, praying that the men hadn’t seen her vanish into the shadows.

As two sets of heavy footsteps pounded toward her then sprinted past, she let out the breath she’d been holding.  But she couldn’t stay here.  When they didn’t find her, they’d double back.  Which meant she had only minutes to make her escape.

If the first scene starts with the hero or heroine, you must make the reader like your character.  Or have a darn good reason why we think this person is a jerk.  If the heroine is doing something mean and petty at the beginning of the story, probably the reader’s going to be turned off.

In the beginning of CHAINED, I haven’t “told” you a lot, but I think you have a pretty good picture of what Isabella is like.

If you’re writing romance, you want the hero and heroine to meet as soon as possible.  It's not a must, but in a romance you can't delay the meeting too long because the reader wants to follow the development of their relationship.

Another way to “get them together” at the beginning of the story is to alternate scenes from each point of view.  These two people are not together, but you know they will be.

In a romance, the h/h are drawn to each other.  But you must set up conflicts that will keep them from working out their differences until the end of the story.

In CHAINED, Isabella hides out at her father’s old ranch.  And the hero’s there.  Or is he?  She thinks he died five years ago.  Is his ghost haunting the ranch?  Or is something else going on?  Isabella and Matt were in love with each other but neither of them could act on the attraction.  Now she’s alone with his ghost, and all the sexual longing comes bubbling to the surface.  But how can she have a relationship with him? And is there a way to “bring him back to life?”

At the beginning of your story, you must give the reader  some idea what these people look like, but it’s more important to have an interior picture of the main characters. What motivates them?  What are their values? How do they react under stress?  Don’t tell us.  Illustrate these traits through their actions and reactions.

If your first chapter has the h/h interacting with secondary characters, don’t let the secondaries take over.  The primary focus should be on the main characters.

Try to end the first chapter with a cliffhanger.  A tantalizing last line that will have the reader wanting to turn the page and find out about the rest of the story.

Here’s how I ended the first chapter of CHAINED:

Although she saw nothing, she felt the force of the wind like a solid wave that would have knocked her off her feet, except that it held her fast.  It felt like giant hands were on her, one clamping her shoulder.  The other locked around her neck, choking off her breath so that she couldn’t even scream.

The unseen attacker lifted her off her feet, pressing her backwards, moving in a rush of chilled air toward the stable in back of her.

My beginnings tend to be action scenes where something dangerous is happening, usually to the hero or heroine.  If I don’t think I can have a dynamic opening using the hero and or heroine, I might turn to a secondary character.

In my Decorah Security novel, DARK MOON, I start with a scene where a woman is being kidnapped.  You don’t know much about her.  But you know she’s in trouble. She’s not the heroine.  She’s the victim that the hero and heroine are sent to rescue. But I started with her so the reader would understand the urgency and danger of the situation.

You could also give the villain the first scene.  One of the most impressive examples of this is in THE KEY TO REBECCA, by Ken Follett.  It has that famous first line, “The last camel died at noon.”  In the scene, a Nazi spy is sneaking into World War II Cairo across the desert, and he almost loses his life in the attempt.  Almost, but not quite. He survives to give the hero and heroine big problems.

Let me add a warning.  Don’t promise the reader something you’re not going to deliver.  You can’t write a fantastic first scene that will have nothing to do with the rest of the book. (Like in those old James Bond movies, where the opening was a set piece with no connection to the rest of the movie.)  The initial action must tie into the story and start the character development that continues throughout the story along with your plot.

On the other hand, I never truly know my characters until I’ve written the first few chapters of my novel.  I have ideas about what they’re like, but I can’t fully know them until they start reacting to the situations my plot creates.    

And here’s a piece of good news.  What you write isn’t set in stone just because the words are on the screen.  You can always edit yourself later. My goal is often to “get it down” so I have something to work with.  I can always make improvements later. And usually my second thoughts are a significant part of the finished product.

If you comment on my post, you can win a small stuffed wolf and one of my favorite Harlequin Intrigues.

Ever since she can remember, Rebecca York has loved making up stories full of adventure, romance, and suspense. As a child she corralled her friends into adventure games or acted out romantic suspense stories with a cast of dolls. But she never assumed she could be an author because she couldn't spell. Her life changed dramatically with the invention of the word processor and spelling checker--and the help of her husband, Norman Glick, who spots spelling errors from fifty paces away.

A New York Times, USA Today, and Publishers Weekly best-selling and award-winning author, Rebecca has written over 125 books and novellas. In 2011 she became the dozenth author to receive the Romance Writers of America Centennial Award for having written 100 romantic novels.  Her Killing Moon was a launch title for Berkley’s Sensation imprint in June 2003. Five more books in the series have followed.

Rebecca has authored or co-authored over 65 romantic thrillers, many for Harlequin Intrigue's very popular 43 Light Street series, set in Baltimore, and many with paranormal elements.  


When death is stalking, only a phantom can save her- and love her.

Fleeing to her father’s abandoned Arizona ranch to hide from political assassins, Isabella Flores is attacked by a ghost haunting the property. He’s Decorah Security agent Matthew Houseman, killed in the line of duty. Still, passion blooms between Isabella and Matthew, and as their relationship turns more physical, Matthew becomes more real to himself and to her.

After the ranch is attacked and Matthew helps save Isabella’s life, she learns a startling secret. There may be hope of bringing her ghost lover back–if she dares to risk everything.