Friday, May 20, 2016

Friday Feature: HyARTS Shanty Time!

Starting today through the weekend, I'll be hanging out at this little blue shanty overlooking the Hyannis Harbor. Yes, it's SHANTY TIME! And I'm hanging with two other really cool Cape Cod authors - Kathryn Knight and Kate Conway - both of whom write YA and paranormal and romance, oh my! Here's the graphic Kate made, highlighting all of our books...

Cross your fingers for wonderful weather, clear skies and warm ocean breezes.

And here are a few photos of how we've decorated the joint...





Don't forget to stop by to say hello!



Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Writing Wednesday: Chatting with Romance Author Jana Richards



Today I'm chatting with author Jana Richards, who writes romance for The Wild Rose Press (among other things.) I read and reviewed (and thoroughly enjoyed) her novella CHILL OUT this past winter, as part of the Candy Hearts Romance series, and invited her to come talk about writing and life.

Welcome, Jana! Tell us bit about yourself, and what kind of books you like to read and write.

I’ve tried my hand at various types of writing, everything from magazine articles and short stories to full length romantic suspense, WW2 romances and romantic comedy. I love creating characters with a sense of humor but also a serious, darker side. There’s nothing more interesting than peeling back the layers of a character to see what makes them tick.

When I’m not writing or doing housework (not my favorite thing), I’m at my part-time day job as a bookkeeper/admin assistant. I live in western Canada with my husband and my dog Lou.

As I said above, I like variety in my writing in regards to length and the romance genre. These days I’m also experimenting with series writing, which is great fun but hard work. I like to read romance, of course, in many genres, especially Regency historicals, but I also love mysteries, and many literary works.
 
What's your favorite part of being an author?

Being able to write in my pajamas all day! Seriously, although I do enjoy hanging out in my PJs, it’s not my favorite part of writing. I love being in control, creating characters with personalities and backgrounds, and putting them in tough situations to see what happens. I get to pull the strings. The act of creating my own little worlds and the people who inhabit them is my favorite part.
 
What's your approach to writing? Do you plot or go with the flow? 

I use a somewhat messy hybrid method of both plotting and writing by the seat of my pants. I need an idea of where I’m going, so before I start writing, I create a synopsis of sorts that gets the bare bones story down. As I’m writing, I’m winging it to a certain extent, definitely going with the flow. Sometimes when I get stuck, or I’m not sure which direction to take, I’ll go back to that synopsis and expand or change it so I get a better picture of where to take my characters next. My synopsis is usually a handwritten mess, with bits crossed out and arrows going in various directions. I’m probably the only one who can understand it, and even I have trouble sometimes!
 
If you could have one superpower, what would it be and why? 

If I had a superpower, I would want to be able to speed read. I’d love to be able to touch a book and absorb everything about it from start to finish. So many books, so little time!

Tell us about your latest release!

It’s not my newest or latest release, but The Girl Most Likely (ebook version) is on sale for .99 cents from May 13 to 27, 2016. Here’s the blurb:


Cara McLeod, the girl most likely to have the perfect marriage, is now divorced and, in her own words, “fat, frumpy, and over forty.” The thought of facing former classmates—and the ex-husband who dumped her—at her high school reunion terrifies her. Cajoled into attending by her kids and her best friend, Cara enlists help at the gym to lose weight and look great for the reunion. Personal Trainer Finn Cooper is more than willing to help—but does he have to be so to-die-for gorgeous?

Finn thinks Cara is perfect just the way she is. She’s everything he wants in a woman, except for one thing—she can’t get past the fact that he's eight years younger. To Finn, age and weight are just numbers. But can he convince Cara the numbers she worries about add up to only one thing for him—love?


If you prefer a print version, The Girl Most Likely is available in print from The Wild Rose Press.

Love the sound of your story! I need to grab a copy... Okay, you’re casting the movie version of your novel – who would you choose for the main characters? We’re talking dream cast.

Cara is 43 in my book, and I wanted her to be as beautiful as Michelle Pfieffer, though she’s put on a few pounds. At 35, Finn is eight years younger. Do you know British actor Aiden Turner? He plays Ross Poldark in “Poldark” on PBS. Gorgeous. I think he’d make a perfect Finn.
  
Oh yum. I'd go see that movie! Where can readers find your book and where can they find you online?

The Girl Most Likely can be found at the following on-line retailers:








I can be found around the internet at these places:

Newsletter Signup: http://www.eepurl.com/m3UnT

Thanks so much for being my guest today, Jana! Best of luck with your 99 cent sale! 
 

Monday, May 16, 2016

Monday Book Review: Winter in Sweetwater County, by Ciara Knight


Winter in Sweetwater County, by Ciara Knight
Published January 2014 by Defy the Dark Publishing

About the Book:
Lisa Mortan’s ideal life crumbles when her rich and powerful fiancĂ© demands she ends an unwanted pregnancy. With no job or social support, she flees to a small town in hopes of finding a good family for her unborn baby, but instead finds a man who is as broken as she is.

Eric Gaylord returns to his home town for a respite after a tragic loss, but when his spitfire mother takes on an unknown woman as a business partner, he is forced to face the nightmare he’d left behind or risk losing the one woman who could heal his heart.
My Take

An old-fashioned, small town sweet romance that's been updated just enough to be contemporary... but still doesn't have a contemporary romance feel. It's more like a Hallmark movie, filled with small town quirkiness, gossip and meddling neighbors, with nothing too steamy and hi-jinx that keeps pages turning while you wait for the other shoe to drop. They keep talking about those shoes dropping...

An editor once told me I had "too much ex" in my story. She said, "everyone has an ex, everyone understands the ex. Paint in broad brush and move on. Romance is about possibilities, not the past." Being the newbie author, of course I argued with her. My ex was the bad guy, so I felt it important to build him up. In the end, that particular manuscript didn't get far. (My takeaway: Newbies shouldn't argue with editors, duh. Editors tend to know what works.)

Both of the main characters in Ciara Knight's story are haunted by memories of their exes. Too much ex, and not enough focus on what's right in front of them - each other. Now, granted, one of the exes does come back into the picture as the evil nemesis, but I felt like it could've had more startling impact if it hadn't been dwelled on and telegraphed throughout the entire book.

I will admit that "sweet" is not one of my usual genres of choice, and I know this is a very successful series, so perhaps I just didn't "get" it.

All that said, it was easy to read, well written and enjoyable for a few hours of beach reading. If you like sweet, small town romances that don't tug too hard on your heart strings and have nary a naked body part to be found, this series may be a good choice to load on your Kindle for easy summer reading by the pool. (And trust me, there's something to be said for not getting caught by a stranger - or another mom - reading something steamier while supposedly watching the kids swim. Not that it's ever happened to me. Okay maybe just once...)

Sweet. Small town. Simple.




If that sounds up your alley, find a copy on Amazon.

Friday, May 13, 2016

Friday Feature: The scene I SHOULD have read to the group

Last summer, I did several events and book signings with my newly re-released Young Adult book, DESCENT, Son of a Mermaid Book One. At one pajama party event, I had to read a passage from my book to the pj-clad kids draped all over the library furniture and sprawled along the carpeted floors. There were a group of us at the event, and several other authors read first, grabbing the kids' interest and leaving everyone wanting more.

I totally panicked.

What passage of my story could I possibly read that would measure up to some of the others? I took a piece of advice from another adult and read the scene where the two protagonists first meet.

Not the goosebumps moment I could have hoped for. More like a yawn moment for the group, a bit of down time between two other riveting readers.

Wasted opportunity.

If I'd planned better, or been thinking more clearly, I could've read one of my favorite scenes - maybe the bicycle lesson between Shea and the girl he doesn't know (yet) is a mermaid, or where Shea first realizes he can't drown. I mean, up until this point, he's never even been underwater, let alone tumbling in the murky depths of the salty Herring River where the currents rush to pull him out to sea. I loved writing this, and I would've loved reading it out loud - and next time, I will.

Here's the excerpt:



Shea squinted against the glare. The bright sunshine sparkled on the river’s surface as the water rushed back from the ocean, the swift current creating streams of light out of the reflected brilliance.
“I love watching the tide come in,” Hailey said. The pair sat on the edge of the dock mesmerized by the flowing water, bare feet dangling inches above the rising surface. Fishing poles and sandals lay discarded behind them on the wooden walkway. “It’s like the river went out to play in the ocean and is now rushing home for lunch.”
He elbowed her ribs. “You think about food all of the time, you know that?”
She turned and grinned. “I’m food deprived. Have I mentioned my mom can’t cook?”
“Only forty million times. And I’ve only known you about a week!” He paused, watching a seagull wheel overhead. “Finding all those wooden lures this morning made me want to go fishing. You didn’t have to tag along.”
“I wanted to.” She turned her face upward to watch the same gull. “Fishing is a good Cape Cod experience, and it gets me out of the house. Chip has been awful to live with lately.”
“He still doesn’t like it here?”
Hailey shook her head. She stood on the dock and pulled her hot pink shirt over her head, revealing a plain, black one-piece bathing suit. “C’mon, Shea, let’s jump in.” She shimmied out of her shorts, dropped the clothes in a heap on the wooden dock, and cannonballed into the river.
He shielded his face with his arm across to block the splash. “Watch it! And no, I told you I don’t know how to swim. I’ll sit here and watch you drown.”
With an exaggerated pout, she swam toward him. “It’s no fun alone. Pull me onto the dock.” He stood and bent to help her, but she tugged his arm instead.
He toppled into the river beside her. The blue-green coolness swirled as he tumbled through the water, arms and legs flailing. He struggled to hold his breath, his cheeks puffing like a chipmunk. Somehow he managed to right himself, head over kicking feet, but still he sank into the murky depths.
Millions of air bubbles traced the path of his body, the precious oxygen escaping from his clothing and through his nose. He hadn’t been kidding when he told Hailey he couldn’t swim. Suddenly, he realized he was inside a scene from one of his nightmares, except this time it was real.
He was drowning.
Eyes wide with panic, he clawed helplessly at the water. A huge school of minnows parted down the middle to swim around him, surrounding him like walls on either side of his body. Turning his face upward, he saw Hailey’s legs kicking above him as he sank further and further under the water. He had no idea the river was this deep! How would he ever get back to the surface?
His throat and lungs burned from the effort of holding his breath. Darkness pressed hard against his eyes as he sank deeper, swirls of strange colors dancing in front of him as his whole body strained against the sudden lack of oxygen.
I need to breathe, he thought desperately, his whole body feeling like it was on fire. This isn’t a dream. I’m going to die! His flailing limbs slowed their movements when his feet thunked onto the mucky river bottom.
His eyes squeezed shut, an image of his father playing in his mind. Next to his dad, he saw the face from his dreams. The blonde woman, the one he now knew was his mother. The one who looked like a mermaid. If he opened his eyes now, would she be hovering in front of him, like in the dreams? Fear of the unknown shivered down his spine and his eyes stayed closed.
Searing pain ripped through his throat, as if his entire body would explode any second from the effort of holding his breath. Finally he opened his eyes, expecting to see her there by his side. Smiling at him. Reaching for his hand, just like his dream.
Nothing.
Nothing but swaying fronds of seaweed grabbing at him, tangling themselves around his bare shins. There was no mermaid to save him.
He was going to die.
Finally, the pain overwhelmed him. He gave up trying to fight. Shea opened his mouth to exhale the stale air pounding like a jackhammer in his lungs. Large bubbles rushed to the surface in a hurry to escape. Water gushed in, filling his mouth and lungs. He struggled to breathe, but there was no air on the river bottom, only water.
Water that somehow acted like fresh air to his exhausted body.
I can breathe under water?
He took a second deep and satisfying breath. How could it be possible?
I’m breathing water! Maybe this is how drowning feels.
His head pounded and his entire body still felt like it was on fire, burning out of control. But he was breathing. Water. He sucked big mouthfuls in and out, faster and faster, realizing he wasn’t going to die after all.
Not…going…to die…
His eyes rolled backward and he drifted into shocked unconsciousness.