Monday, November 19, 2012

Going Dark for Thanksgiving, and Possibly Through the Holidays

So it's time to be more diligent with my edits. And with querying. And with drafting new material. All that writerly stuff.

I'm going to pack up the blog for a bit (perhaps through the holidays, another hectic undertaking all its own), but will be sure to tweet the next post whenever that comes. I'm thinking of doing something on why all aspiring writers should see Wreck-It-Ralph--not only a great way to do a pitch (see teaser trailer below) but also a great way to study character motivation and how it drives plot.

Merry Holidays to everyone!

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

365 Days of the Query: What Keeps You Going?

A few weeks back, I discussed what might stand in your way when it comes to writing. At last, the follow-up: What keeps you going? (I also did a very similar post last spring.)

Here are some things in my arsenal when the climb gets steeper:

My writing
Even if I hit a rough patch of rejections, or edits aren't going the way I plan, inevitably, I always have a new story that I can come back to. As of right now, I'm knee-deep in editing two different projects, and meanwhile, the second book of the series I mentioned last post is screaming to get written (and it's tons of fun). When you get pummeled, remember why you started writing in the first place.

My husband
At the end of the day, when I believe that I'm the last person on Earth who can accomplish what I strive for, my husband is always the first to say that I can do anything. Or, we can just relax together so I can recharge my batteries (as I have a habit of overworking myself). Do what you can to find a person like this in your life. It doesn't have to a be a husband or wife. It can be anyone who is an anchor, an ally, someone you can trust to stick around when the going gets tough.

My network of writer friends
Another necessary group of people you should find however you can. Not only are writers the best group of people ever, they get it. The insanity of writing. The frustrations. The drive to create. They understand what it's like to fix a beginning fifty times (or more!). They have wonderful advice, and offer insighful critiques. Plus, you can often meet up together to write. After I met a librarian-writer friend at a conference in 2008, we've been meeting online at least once a week, give or take, for the last four years. Even when I'm exhausted and spent, meeting her helps me keep accountable and gets me writing even when my energy is nill.

My network of non-writer friends
A good friend of mine recently suffered through a very tough loss. She was able to get most of the way by, and she knows the tools necessary to more forward. Recently, she mailed me two bracelets that had two-sided inscriptions. They were as follows:

Bracelet 1:  Life is tough: but I am tougher
Bracelet 2: The biggest risk in life: is the one you don't take

Again. Find those anchors. People you can trust. People you can be yourself with. People who can pull you back from the brink.

When it feels like you're going against the grain without much payback, try to look for opportunties to get yourself out of the fray. Enter some contests. Find a critique partner. Keep trying. I've usually found when I'm going through a rough patch, a smoother one is right around the corner.

So what about you? What keeps you going?

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

The Next Big Thing

I'm excited to announce that I'm a part of The Next Big Thing Blog Hop. Lots of aspiring writers (and some published authors) are doing this--the idea is to answer ten questions about a work in progress or newly published novel, then pass it on to five more authors the following week. Two weeks ago, I was tagged by Eliza Green. Since I'm a bit late to the party on this, I will be passing my baton to two aspiring authors instead of five.

I'm excited to feature my completed novel, TRISKELEON, especially now that it's a finalist in the MARA Contest.

What is the working title of your book?
Triskeleon. It's derived from the Triskele symbol found in ancient Irish relics.

Where did the idea come from for the book?
My protagonist, Marnie, existed long before the idea for the book did. In my early twenties, she came to me in a dream, fully formed: a fifteen-year-old redhead with curly hair, braces, and glasses. A few years later, I pictured her getting whisked into a story book. That idea had already been done, so I adapted it and made it my own. A few years after that, I stumbled upon a photograph of a bracelet with Triskele designs inside a book on Celtic Mythology, and the rest of the book and world-building ideas came like wildfire--there were so many that I've managed to stretch them into two sequels (Stolen Sieve, and Erased Enclave, respectively).

What genre does your book fall under?
YA sci-fi/fantasy with some romantic elements.

Which actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie rendition?
Not sure about the first book--I think David Hyde Pierce would make a good Weatherby (the mentor warlock), and perhaps Sean Connery would make a good soothsayer. As for the love interest, Quinn, I'm thinking a younger version of Aaron Paul. And for the second book, there's a character I hope Peter Dinklage would play.

What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?
When a Triskeleon bracelet transports Marnie to the magical land of Anderli, she must use her Momentan powers (abilities to manipulate time and space) to save Anderli before surrounding worlds begin to unravel.

Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?
The hope is for an agency. I'm currently querying.

How long did it take you to write the first draft of your manuscript?
April 2008-December 2009 (I got married inbetween there, which cut into the time considerably). Subsequent drafts were ironed out from 2009 to the present.

What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?
I'd categorize it as a YA version of Outlander mixed with A Wrinkle in Time. I'd also add a sprinkle of Inkheart.

Who or What inspired you to write this book?
My friend Brittany--an excellent writer in her own right.

What else about your book might pique the reader’s interest?
Main themes include magic and chaos vs. logic, as well as how awkwardness is an advantage rather than a detriment (particuarly for teen girls).

So who's next? Stay tuned for posts from:


Sera Rivers

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

The Healing Wars Trilogy by Janice Hardy, and Happy Halloween!

Last post, I mentioned my upcoming "What Keeps You Going" post to supplement my post on "What Stands in Your Way." But it will probably have wait until next week, so please stay tuned for that.

In the meantime, I'm super excited to feature one of my favorite authors on Halloween.

Janice Hardy, as well as being the author of the awesome Healing Wars Trilogy, also writes a blog called The Other Side of the Story, which is necessary reading for aspiring authors. I wish I'd found Janice's blog sooner--it gave me a much better idea on how to construct my first novel. Seriously, if you haven't put this blog into your RSS feed yet, do it. You'll thank yourself later.

I also read THE SHIFTER, which is the first in the Healing Wars series, and it's the most exciting YA fantasy I've read in a while. I had it finished in no time. See for yourself:

Nya is an orphan struggling for survival in a city crippled by war. She is also a Taker—with her touch, she can heal injuries, pulling pain from another person into her own body. But unlike her sister, Tali, and the other Takers who become Healers' League apprentices, Nya's skill is flawed: She can't push that pain into pynvium, the enchanted metal used to store it. All she can do is shift it into another person, a dangerous skill that she must keep hidden from forces occupying her city. If discovered, she'd be used as a human weapon against her own people.

Rumors of another war make Nya's life harder, forcing her to take desperate risks just to find work and food. She pushes her luck too far and exposes her secret to a pain merchant eager to use her shifting ability for his own sinister purposes. At first Nya refuses, but when Tali and other League Healers mysteriously disappear, she's faced with some difficult choices. As her father used to say, principles are a bargain at any price; but how many will Nya have to sell to get Tali back alive?

Part fugitive, part hero, fifteen-year-old Nya is barely staying ahead of the Duke of Baseer’s trackers. Wanted for a crime she didn’t mean to commit, she risks capture to protect every Taker she can find, determined to prevent the Duke from using them in his fiendish experiments. But resolve isn’t enough to protect any of them, and Nya soon realizes that the only way to keep them all out of the Duke’s clutches is to flee Geveg. Unfortunately, the Duke’s best tracker has other ideas.

Nya finds herself trapped in the last place she ever wanted to be, forced to trust the last people she ever thought she could. More is at stake than just the people of Geveg, and the closer she gets to uncovering the Duke’s plan, the more she discovers how critical she is to his victory. To save Geveg, she just might have to save Baseer—if she doesn’t destroy it first.

War has come.

Nya’s the one who brought it. And the people love her for it.

With Baseer in shambles and Geveg now an impenetrable military stronghold, Nya and the Underground have fled to a safer location—without Tali. Nya is guilt-ridden over leaving her sister behind and vows to find her, but with the rebellion in full swing and refugees flooding the Three Territories, she fears she never will.

The Duke, desperate to reclaim the throne as his own, has rallied his powerful army. And they are on the move, destroying anyone who gets in the way.

To save her sister, her family, and her people, Nya needs to stay ahead of the Duke’s army and find a way to build one of her own. Past hurts must be healed, past wrongs must be righted, and Nya must decide: Is she merely a pawn in the rebellion, a symbol of hope—or is she ready to be a hero?

And finally, Janice was extremely kind to answer some questions:

On your website, you mention "the difficult transition from writer to author." What was this transition like for you, and what advice do you have for those working through the same process?

When I was just writing, it was all about the fun and the excitement of the story and the dream of one day getting published. I set personal goals, but if I missed one it didn't matter. But once I sold a novel, I had editors and deadlines and readers and all kinds of pressures and expectations. I was a writing professional, with all those professional responsibilities. It's hard to juggle at times.

What helps me get through it is prioritizing.  I know when I write best and I set aside that time for writing. I also carve out time for promotional and marketing tasks, answering emails, keeping up my blog, etc. All of the non-writing things can take over your life and you discover you're doing more social media and blogging than actual writing. It's important to remind yourself it's the books that matter and they get priority. (after family of course) Setting aside specific times to do certain tasks is a lifesaver. I actually get more done because I'm not pulled in so many different directions, or constantly interrupted throughout the day.

Excellent time-saving advice--definitely worth trying! The Healing Wars trilogy has an excellent premise. Where did the idea for the series come from, and what do you want readers to take away when they're finished reading it?

Thanks! The idea hit me at a time when I was playing around with common fantasy tropes. I went to see the first X-Men movie, which includes a character named Rogue (my favorite superhero). Her superpower is that she accidentally steals your powers if she touches you. I left the movie wondering what would happen if someone could heal like that. They'd bump into a random stranger and heal them. That mixed well with my trope playing, and I realized that you rarely saw a downside to healing magic. I wondered how I could make something so inherently good used for evil. Could healing have terrible consequences? The pain shifting developed from there.

I hope readers take away a sense of satisfaction at reading a great story. That's my goal as a writer--to tell a compelling story and entertain my reader while they're in my world. Anything beyond that is a bonus. That said, I do love playing with moral gray areas, so I hope readers wonder what they'd do in the same situation.

You've definitely managed to tell a great story with a compelling premise. Both THE SHIFTER and its sequel, BLUE FIRE, have superb openings. What advice do you have for aspiring writers trying to tweak their beginnings? Is there a good way to tell when an opening resonates the way it's supposed to?

I spent a long time on those openings, so thanks! The opening line for THE SHIFTER took me a month to get right. (I'm weird in that I can't start a book until I have a great first line) Openings are all about grabbing the reader. If they like what they read they keep reading. That's usually a character they care about and a situation that makes them curious to see how it turns out, but you can hook them with a great voice and character as well.

What hooks a reader will vary by genre, which makes it that much harder. A thriller, for example, might open with a scene setting up the major problem the hero has to solve and pique reader curiosity. A young adult romance might start with the main character in a rough situation that gains reader sympathy. However it starts, something is happening. It's not just setup to explain why what's going on matters.

That's probably a good test for a beginning. Are you explaining things to the reader or showing a dramatic scene? And by dramatic I mean things happening, not "drama." If you find a lot of description or backstory or any type of explanation, odds are you're setting it up and you're not to your story yet. That's probably going to bore your reader. But if things are moving and there's a character in the process of doing something, you probably have a decent opening.  It's not quite that simple, but it's a good start.

Great tips, especially for those challenging beginnings! You write an awesome blog, "The Other Side of the Story," which provides excellent writing tips and examples. Is it difficult to keep the content new and fresh? How do you balance the blog with other writerly tasks?

With over 1000 posts now, it can be hard to come up with things to blog about. Writing is a finite topic and there's only so much out there. To keep it fresh, I pay attention to what I do when I write and look for tips and techniques that might help other writers. How I do something, why I do it, a trick I use to get around a common snag. I also get inspiration from my Real Life Diagnostics column (where writers submit snippets of their own work for me to critique on the blog). These show me the things folks are struggling with. I've discovered the more specific a topic is, the better the chance that I haven't written about it before, and there aren't already a dozen blogs posts out there on the same topic.

It's tough to balance the blog and the writing. The blog is immediate, so I feel like I've accomplished something when I work on it (which makes me want to work on it). The writing can feel like it takes forever if a scene isn't going well or a book takes longer than expected. What finally worked for me was to designate when I work on each. Weekday mornings (7-11am) are for novels, and Saturday mornings are for the blog. I also make notes or write down ideas for the blog during the week so I'm not staring at a blank page come Saturday. I have times of the day set aside for certain tasks as well (like reading other blogs and scheduling my writing link tweets).

Thank you for the Real Life Diagnostics column--it really helped me with internalization. Your website bio also states that your favorite holiday is Halloween (Happy Halloween!). What makes it your favorite, and has it influenced your writing in any way?

I've always loved monsters and scary things. Creature Feature was my favorite show when I was a kid. Halloween is about fun and embracing the things that scare us, and it's the one night of the year when we can be anything we want. I guess embracing the darkness shows up in my writing. I'm not afraid to do terrible things to my characters (that's my favorite part). The things that scare us also thrill us, and that thrill makes a great story. If I can make a reader feel that, I've done my job.

A big thank you to Janice for a wonderful interview! To buy her wonderful series for yourself, click on the links below:

Friday, October 26, 2012

365 Days of the Query: What Stands in Your Way?

 I've had trouble keeping my momentum going lately, mostly because I feel pulled in a lot of directions at once, especially when it comes to my writing. So I thought it might be helpful to explore some of the things that are standing in my way, to examine what they're doing there, and why.

What stands in my way:
  • Myself.
I am my most formidable foe. I am always the first to say I'm not good enough or that I can't do something, especially when it comes to my writing. I've been knee-deep in edits lately, and it wasn't until I gave myself a break from hyper-analyzing the text that I actually started to make some headway. To be more satisfied with my work.

A great quote in this blog post from Mike Martin also helped: “Your job is not to get the book perfect. Your job is to get the book done.” Fellow perfectionists, take note.

  • Time.
Time management, mostly. I'll be the first to admit that I don't use my time in the best way that I could. There's a great book, Getting Things Done: The Art of Stress-Free Productivity by David Allen. Have I read it yet? Of course not. It's on my laptop, waiting on my Kindle App. Have I made time to break out my laptop? Of course not. The barrier here? See above.

Facebook is also a very large time-suck. It's one of those things that holds a great amount of novelty, so I find myself clicking into there much more often than I should. The ironic part is this novelty usually wears out in the space of 5-10 minutes. And then I'm left, staring at the screen, drool hanging out of my mouth, and wondering why I'm so dissatisfied. I cancelled my cable to focus more on my writing. But I need a way to cancel my internet too. There's a great program for the Mac called Freedom, that turns off your internet temporarily, offering more chances for productivity. But I have a PC--does anyone know of similar programs that are PC friendly? Until I find something, will-power and determination will have to win out.

  • Stress.
By nature, writers are empathetic people. Librarians can be too. I'm both, which can make for a heap of anxietywhen those inevitable daily stressors come my way. Imagine a raft whipping in the ocean breeze during a storm. It's like I don't have a filter--no way to diffuse the heaps of crap as they fall down on my head.

Consciously, I know that everyone carries crap. All the time. And I know there are many that carry even more than I do. But even with this knowledge, my body still reacts when external factors upset my center of calm. I even got a skin rash this past week because of it.

Am I going to have to get over this to be a successful writer? Absolutely--and I've heard that the process of getting published is one of the most stressful things there is. So I'm looking for ways to deal--and finding them wherever I can.

  • Not saying no.
A friend recently told me, "For every yes there should be a no." This is very wise advice, and something I haven't yet consciously thought of when agreeing to things.

Saying yes too often turns into a prioritization problem. What commitment to do first, and who will be let down if you don't do something right away? What matters, and what doesn't?

Saying yes to everyone doesn't do you a service, and if anything, it makes you more likely to let down the people you're trying to please in the first place. But still, for some odd reason, it's hard to say no. I know, because I still struggle with it.

Ultimately, it's a lesson in putting yourself first. Try saying yes to yourself more often than saying yes to others. And I'll try, too.

What about you? What are some things that stand in your way? Feel free to post below. And stay tuned for, "What keeps you going?"

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Blogging Once a Week, Paying it Forward, and the Benefits of an Online Presence

So you've probably noticed my posts have gotten a lot less frequent of late. Belated apologies--I know how frustrating it can be to follow a blog that doesn't update all that often.

But my reasons are sound:
  •  Librarian duties are compounded during fall semester, particularly at my institution--leaving much less time and energy in the evenings to blog. But, my efforts haven't been in vain--I got the following feedback from a faculty member yesterday (from an email sent to my supervisor that I was copied on):
 "Karen's presentation not only clarified a few steps students could take on their own, but her approach to a diverse set of majors (the course is interdisciplinary) set an expectation that my students are now responding to. Karen's enthusiasm and focus has persuaded students to give research an earnest try." 
  • Secondly, after some tremendous feedback from some lovely beta readers (you know who you are), I've been spending evenings that I usually reserve for blogging revising two of my manuscripts to make them top-notch--and the developments have been really exciting. I got the following feedback from a beta reader earlier this week:
"Marnie is definitely likable, and her story is compelling. And I especially like how quickly you get to the "meat" of the story. I read a different version of this opening last year, and in this version Marnie really 'pops.'  I like it."
 To sum up, things are busy, and I'm pretty tired--but I'm still trying to pay it forward in any way I can, particularly when it comes to my beta readers--those who helped me get Marnie to where she needed to be. I even sent a couple of them thank you cards this week. (To find out more about Marnie, you can visit my website to read a blurb and excerpt:
I am also trying to get in enough author interviews to fit in with my schedule--because the best way to help promote great books is to talk about them with readers. If you'd like to be interviewed, please email me at (info (at) kbmccoy (dot) com).
Some people (including published authors) have told me that if a blog doesn't help promote you and your writing, or if it takes too much time away from your writing, or if it doesn't make money, then it isn't worth putting a lot of blood, sweat and tears into. And there is some truth to this--which is why, at least for the remainder of the fall and through the holidays, I'll probably limit my blogging to once a week at most. This way I can keep my novel writing at the high priority it needs to be.

I thought about going dark completely over the next few months, particularly while I'm honing my skills and my craft--but I'd still like to put out updates as often as I can, especially if they might prove helpful to others. Janice Hardy does this best on her blog--and I'll be featuring her in an interview in coming weeks. Her entry on internalization also helped me in my most recent revisions. Another good post, "The Biggest Mistake Writers Make"  helped me a ton and can be found here.

So if you're a blogger, even if you aren't yet published, keep at it, particularly if you have content that's interesting and helpful to your readers. Just don't do it at the expense of your writing. 

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Book Review: KISSING UNDER THE MISTLETOE by Marina Adair

I recently had the immense privilege of reading Marina Adair’s upcoming novel, KISSING UNDER THE MISTLETOE. It takes place in the small town where I grew up, and Marina was interested in my take on the story. So here goes:


After six years of fall-out from a misguided affair with a married man named Richard, Regan Martin wants a fresh start in the Napa Valley and a perfect Christmas for her daughter Holly. But Gabe DeLuca, her new boss, will stop at nothing to drive her out of town to protect his sister, Abigail, who also happens to be Richard’s ex-wife. But the more time Gabe spends with Regan and her daughter, the more he starts to assess his familial priorities—and his growing attraction to Regan. But Regan has to decide how much she’s going to put on the line for Holly—and if a relationship with Gabe is really worth the trouble.

I was immediately drawn into the warm, small-town holiday setting that Marina created (especially since it was based on my home town). Her details were exquisite, and they even inspired me to purchase plane tickets home for Thanksgiving.

As a writer, I like to study how characters are presented, and Marina did a great job of creating three-dimensional people that jumped right off the page—especially Regan, who was an extremely relatable heroine. Another favorite of mine was ChiChi, a quirky grandmotherly type with a lot of spunk. Writers looking to buck up on character development should definitely take note to see what Marina is doing in her books.
Because it was an uncorrected proof, some parts may need to be revised upon publication. But the  story is a unique one, and it develops well. Marina definitely included enough intrigue to keep me turning pages.

Overall, readers looking for a feel-good holiday story with an erotic, romantic spice will love this book. Thanks, Marina, for letting me read!

For those looking to purchase KISSING UNDER THE MISTLETOE, feel free to click on the button below.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

And the winner of THE NIGHT BEAT is....

...Kelly Anderson! Woo hoo!

The question was: How would you enforce Prosaic City's night beat?

Here was Kelly's answer:
I don't know that I would be any good at protecting either world. I would probably run screaming into the night if something nasty came 'sliding' over to my side. Unless he was incredibly hot, then I might run screaming at him...haha.

I liked this answer a lot because it incorporated the suspense and romance that are always so prevalent in Gini's books. Here are a few runners up (weapons seemed to be a recurring theme):

"With all the weapons I could carry."

"With a whole lot of snark and helpful friends on speed dial. In addition to a smart partner (any species) and weapons :)"

"Don't know if I would be able to juggle both , but if I did I would be very tired and get lack of sleep am pretty sure people would think am crazy. Hopefully I'll have a kick ass team to help me out. :)"

Thanks, everyone for participating! If you want to snag your own copy of Gini Koch's THE NIGHT BEAT, click on the link below:

Tuesday, September 25, 2012


The wonderful Gini Koch (known for her Alien series ) has an intriguing new series, Necropolis Enforcement Files, debuting with THE NIGHT BEAT. To enter to win a free e-book copy of this fabulous new book, answer the following question in the comments section: How would you enforce Prosaic City's night beat?  I'll pick my favorite answer and announce the winner next week.

Take it away, Gini!

Thanks for stopping by on the Necropolis Enforcement Blog Tour of
2012! If you haven't read the first chapter of The Night Beat, hit
Deathless Prose over at my website
( and check it out. Then,
hit each stop along the way to get more of the story. Missed a stop?
Check the website for the Tour Page and get caught up.
And don't forget to get entered to win a copy of The Night Beat at
EVERY blog tour stop along the way! Plus, follow the Tour 'til the end
and get entered for a mega-prize! So, grab your badge -- it's time to
join Necropolis Enforcement!


  The majority of Prosaic City's residents don't know that their town exists on top of another place -- Necropolis, City of the Undead. For the most part, the two planes of existence manage to remain separate. And when they don't, Necropolis Enforcement has beings in place to ensure the general human population remains blithely clueless.

 Victoria Wolfe is more than just a policewoman. She's an undercover werewolf assigned by Necropolis Enforcement to work Prosaic City Police's Night Beat.

 Victoria's comfortable working the shift where all the weird comes out to play, especially since her partner is also her perfect man.Or would be, if Victoria could ever work up the nerve to tell him she isn't like other girls.

It's hard enough being a werewolf in disguise, but when a creature
 from the Depths of Hell shows up in an alley preferred by junkies,
 bums, and hookers, it's going to take more than just Victoria's
 special gun and werewolf skills to subdue the ancient Sumerian demon.

Especially when the demon is merely the start of what appears to be a
 major takeover attempt by the Prince of Darkness.

 Soon all of Necropolis Enforcement's Undead Brigade is involved in the
fight to stop the Prince's Major Minions from taking over Prosaic City
and the rest of the human plane. But it's Victoria who has to face the
 Adversary and figure out what intricate plan Lucifer has up his wings
 before everyone she cares about is destroyed.

  In other words, it's just another day on the Night Beat.

         Prosaic City was one of the country's older inhabited burgs. In the
course of its existence it's been rebuilt several times. Because it was built
on top of Necropolis. Which was a bad move by the old-time Prosaic City
Planning Council, but everyone makes mistakes, right? Just because no
one else had settled on the pretty spot next to the water didn't mean
anything, they reasoned, they'd just gotten there first.
         Actually, they'd gotten there last.
         There are points in the world where the occult pull is particularly
strong.Where the ley lines, longitude, latitude, winds, weather, and general
force of both nature and the occult combine with placement in the cosmos and
an entity is formed that shouldn't be able to exist in reality.
         I've heard them called hell mouths, portals, doorways, entryways, and a
variety of other terms. But those aren't really accurate.
        What forms isn't a door. What forms is a city. A city that exists both
in this plane of reality and all the others at the same time. A place that
wasn't built but can never be removed, a power created by everything and
nothing at the same time, something that wasn't born but can never die.
        What my kind call an Undead City.
        In the American hemisphere, that city is Necropolis.
        Necropolis was here first, but most of its residents immigrated over
       The pull from an Undead City is strong. The power in one is even
        Prosaic City was built right on top of Necropolis. This made things hard
for the Necropolites and weird for the Prosaics. Due to the way an Undead
City worked, the humans could and did put their buildings and roads and such
on top of things of ours that were already there. So, City Hall and the
city courthouse was right on top of what was considered Necropolis'
Red Light District, which, as the Count said, made poetic sense.
        All the undead can see into at least two planes of existence, and most
can see into more. Vampires and liches can see almost as many planes as a
        Werewolves aren't quite as powerful magically, so we have limits. Which
was okay with me. I had enough fun keeping Necropolis separated from Prosaic
City on a nightly basis.
        Not that I wasn't good at it. I was considered one of the best, if not
the best, at cross-existence. But it had taken me years to hone the skill to
perfection, and that much focus on one skill meant others weren't quite
as sharp. Then again, I never found not being able to look into one of the
levels of Hell without trying to be a hardship. I didn't care for Hell
and never wanted to go there. That I had reasons to go there made it worse.
        We call moving back and forth between the human and undead planes
         Everyone has to learn it, it's not natural to any being. Some humans did
it as easily as undeads. They were usually mentally unstable -- not before
the slide, but after. It's hard for a human to see myths and legends and
worse in real life and know it's real. Most minds can't take it if they aren't
        However, the younger, the better. That's the main reason changelings
exist.Not to steal babies but to save them. Children who can see the undead
normally have a lifetime of pain and torment ahead of them, unless we
get them first.
        Undeads, by our nature, don't have the same issues. We know the human
plane exists -- at least two-thirds of us were human before we undied. But
seeing the human world superimposed over the undead one was always good for a
headache if your concentration faltered.

Gini Koch lives in Hell's Orientation Area (aka Phoenix, AZ), works her butt
off (sadly, not literally) by day, and writes by night with the rest of
the beautiful people. She writes the fast, fresh and funny Alien/Katherine
"Kitty" Katt series for DAW Books, the Necropolis Enforcement Files
series,and the Martian Alliance Chronicles series for Musa Publishing. As G.J.
Koch she writes the Alexander Outland series for Night Shade Books. She also
writes under a variety of other pen names (including Anita Ensal, Jemma
Chase, A.E. Stanton, and J.C. Koch), listens to rock music 24/7, and is
a proud comics geek-girl willing to discuss at any time why Wolverine is
the best superhero ever (even if Deadpool does get all the best lines). She
speaks frequently on what it takes to become a successful author and
otheraspects of writing and the publishing business. She can be reached
through her website at

So--how would you enforce Prosaic City's night beat? Leave your answer in the comments section below to enter to win a free e-book copy of THE NIGHT BEAT!


Amazon Paperback


Barnes and Noble

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

THE BOOK WAITRESS, by Deena Remiel

Before I feature this week's author, I wanted to briefly talk about a guest post I did for Caris Roane's Wicked Writing Skills blog about revision, which can be viewed here. I've really been grappling with revisions lately, and not many writers talk about it, so I thought I'd compile some things I've learned. So there's that.

But on to Deena Remiel, who I was fortunate enough to meet at some conferences last spring. Deena writes paranormal romance and poetry, and her newest book is THE BOOK WAITRESS, which debuted August 24 and is available on the Kindle. What I love about this book is the protagonist is a librarian! Woo hoo!

Camille Dutton learned early in life Satan was not to be trifled with. Escaping his evil clutches as a child, he's come back with a vengeance for her now.
Derek Galloway's inquisitive nature has led him to be an award-winning investigative reporter and straight into the path of pure evil.

When a child vanishes from a sleepy island town, Camille, its subdued librarian, becomes embroiled in Derek's investigation. A satanic cult has plans for the child, while Satan has plans for Camille and the rest of the world. Amidst evil of the most supernatural and human kind, Derek and Camille find a shred of light and goodness in the form of their budding relationship.

First in the Book Waitress Series, the portal between Hell and Earth will be torn asunder, and it will take everything Camille and Derek have and then some to close it. Satan won't go down easy, but nothing worth everything comes without a price.

Here are Deena's answers to my questions:

Your website bio states that you are a member of RWA National and Desert Rose RWA. How has your involvement in these organizations benefited your career and can you tell us more about your journey as a writer?
Being a part of a writer's group accomplishes many things. First, it keeps me aware that I'm not an island. I have many "sisters" who are doing the same as I am and experiencing the same things I am. They are a source of friendship, support, comfort, and laughter. Every meeting I go to I learn something new about the business or the craft of writing.
I've been writing for a few years now, a minute amount of time in the scheme of things, and it's been a rocket ship straight up the learning curve. Gaining a publisher was a dream of mine. Accomplished that. Self-publishing was another challenge. I've done it, three times now. I enjoy straddling the fence of the publishing industry. I feel like I get the best of both worlds.
I know what you mean about those "sisters"-- I'm very lucky to have found some as well, and they're some of the most awesome people I know!
I love the premise for THE BOOK WAITRESS. Can you tell us more about what inspired the idea? What you want your readers to take away from the story?
I adore engaging in thinking about all the "what ifs" of the endless battle between Good and Evil. So I wondered what if, rather than angels or God appearing before us duing a near death experience, SATAN came. Gives me the shivers just thinking about it now. My readers know that whenever I write a story, no matter how dire, no matter how insidious evil is, the good remain sovereign by the end. So, too, in The Book Waitress. But this series is like a TV show on paper. The Book Waitress is a 13-episode show, so to speak. Thirteen novellas, grouped in threes for a full-length novel experience with extras, is what this series promises. I'm thrilled to be able to present it to everyone.
Very interesting approach! As you've said, THE BOOK WAITRESS is the first in a series. Is there anything you'd like us to know about the subsequent books?
The next two books have titles! Book #2 - Devil Du Jour Book#3- Demon A La Mode. I'm writing fiercely to get these great continuing stories written!
Sounds like you've planned ahead, too! Is there anything you've learned in your writing career that you wish you'd known sooner?
I think all things happen for a reason, so I knew what I knew when I should have. I've learned what I've needed to when I was ready. Things change rapidly in this business, so it's wise to keep up to speed on the ever-changing terrain.

You've definitely done a great job of keeping up! If you were stuck on a desert island, which five books would you take with you?
Empty Journal- to write in!
Nora Roberts- Irish Born Trilogy (I have it all in one book!)
Sherrilyn Kenyon- Acheron
Complete works of Shakespeare
A poetry book

Thanks, Deena! For those who want to sang a copy of THE BOOK WAITRESS, click on the link below:

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

STORM and SPARK, Two Great YA Novels by Brigid Kemmerer

I found out about Brigid Kemmerer through a critique partner--and when I went to her website and read excerpts of her books, I was absolutely blown away by her writing. The more I've learned about her Elemental Series, the more I want to get my hands on it. The first book is called STORM, and sequel, SPARK came out on August 28.

Becca Chandler is suddenly getting all the guys all the ones she doesn't want. Ever since her ex-boyfriend spread those lies about her. Then she saves Chris Merrick from a beating in the school parking lot. Chris is different. Way different: he can control water just like his brothers can control fire, wind, and earth. They're powerful. Dangerous. Marked for death.

And now that she knows the truth, so is Becca.

Secrets are hard to keep when your life's at stake. When Hunter, the mysterious new kid around school, turns up with a talent for being in the wrong place at the right time, Becca thinks she can trust him. But then Hunter goes head-to-head with Chris, and Becca wonders who's hiding the most dangerous truth of all.
The storm is coming.

Gabriel Merrick plays with fire. Literally.Sometimes he can even control it. And sometimes he can’t. Like the fire that killed his parents.

Gabriel has always had his brothers to rely on, especially his twin, Nick. But when an arsonist starts wreaking havoc on their town, all the signs point to Gabriel. Only he’s not doing it.

The fuse is lit…

Here are Brigid's answers to some of my questions:

Your website bio states that you've had the four brothers in the Elemental Series inside your head since you first wrote them in high school. How have they stayed so prevalent in your mind since then, and can you tell us more about how STORM came to be?

The first novel I wrote in high school was about four vampire brothers, named Michael, Nicholas, Gabriel, and Christopher. It was a silly story, but I still have most of it on paper. In my twenties, when I really began to take writing seriously, I wrote a few books but was unable tofind a literary agent or a publisher. I couldn’t get those four brothers out of my head – but I didn’t want to do vampires again. I started tossing around ideas that would work with the number four. Four horsemen of the apocalypse. Four leaf clovers. Four, four, four. The fourelements of earth, air, fire, and water seemed to work best—and I had a lot of ideas how I could make it fun. What teenagers wouldn’t want to be able to control the elements?

The best stories definitely come from intriguing concepts, and yours are no exception.The opening of STORM is probably one of the best I've ever read. How do you approach beginnings, and how do you know when a beginning is as good as it can possibly get?

Wow, thank you! I'm a firm believer of putting conflict on every page, and that includes the opening. One of the things I always say during school visits is, "If everyone is getting along, you're doing it wrong." A bit tongue-in-cheek, but it always helps me move through difficult scenes. If everyone in a scene is acting in accord, it's boring, and you can probably leave it out. And this doesn't mean fists need to be swinging. Internal conflict works, too. One of my favorite scenes in Spark is all about Gabriel and a math test.

But you asked about beginnings. I try to open with a character at a point of conflict in his/her life, and the conflict has to relate to the main plot somehow. Sometimes I think people try to open with conflict, but they just start with a scenario that never ties back to anything. ("Hey, writing books say I need to start with action, so let's start with a shootout!") If the action isn't relevant to the plot, what's the point? So that's basically it for me: Conflict + plot in the first chapter. If you can set up both, you're golden.

Fantastic advice--especially for aspiring writers! What do you wish you had known before you became published? Is there anything you would have done differently?

Nothing! I've loved the experience so far.

SPARK is the most recent book in the Elemental Series. What can readers expect from this newest installment?

Gabriel Merrick controls fire, and he is as unpredictable and volatile as the element itself. He's fighting with his family, then caught cheating at school, and struggles with who he is. One night he follows a fire truck and ends up saving someone's life -- only to find himself in the middle of an arson investigation. No one believes him, until he meets Layne, a shy girl with secrets of her own...

Great hook--and you've really captured both the external and internal conflicts really well. What are some other projects you're currently working on?

Right now I'm working on a new project that's more fantasy based. I'm really excited about it, but that's about all I can say right now...

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

GLAMOUR IN GLASS, by Mary Robinette Kowal

This week's featured author is Hugo-award winner Mary Robinette Kowal. I was immediately drawn to the premise of her fantasy book, GLAMOUR IN GLASS, the second in the Glamourist Histories series:


Mary Robinette Kowal stunned readers with her charming first novel Shades of Milk and Honey, a loving tribute to the works of Jane Austen, set in a world where magic is an everyday occurrence. This magic comes in the form of glamour, which allows talented users to form practically any illusion they can imagine. Shades went on to earn great acclaim, became a finalist for the prestigious Nebula and Locus Awards, and left readers eagerly awaiting its sequel, Glamour in Glass, which continues to follow the lives of beloved main characters Jane and Vincent, with a deeper vein of drama and intrigue.

In the tumultuous months after Napoleon abdicates his throne, Jane and Vincent go to France for their honeymoon. While there, the deposed emperor escapes his exile in Elba, throwing the continent into turmoil. With no easy way back to England, they struggle to escape. But when Vincent is captured, Jane is left use her glamour to rescue her husband from prison… and hopefully prevent her newly built marriage from getting stranded on the shoals of another country’s war.

Here are Mary's answers to my questions:

Your website states that you are a both an award-winning author and an award-winning puppeteer. How do you divide time between both professions and has puppeteering played an active influence on your writing life (or vice-versa)?

Since I've spent most of my life free-lancing, I treat each project like another freelance gig, which is essentially what they are. It sometimes involves a fair bit of structured procrastination as I move from puppetry to writing and back. In other words, the one that is due soonest, usually gets priority.

 Puppetry has had a very clear influence on my writing in the way I approach characters and use blocking to convey emotional stakes. Also, frankly, twenty-years of live theater teaches you a lot about the way audiences respond.

Very well put! GLAMOUR IN GLASS is a sequel to your first novel, SHADES OF MILK AND HONEY. How is writing a sequel different, and what have you learned in the process?

To my surprise, it was easier. I already knew the characters and the world, so there's less invention required, which lets me just dive into the story. But I also wanted to write a book that didn't require reading the first one so I deliberately wrote Glamour in Glass so that you could go back and read Shades of Milk and Honey as a prequel. This allowed me to avoid the massive info-dump that so many sequels have that the beginning. I just treated everything like backstory and only brought it up when it was necessary to the plot of the new book.

What an excellent strategy to avoid info-dump--and it sounds like it worked well, especially since the series has such a great premise! What do you want readers to take away after they finish your books?

I'm writing books that I want to read, so I want my readers to have the same sort of experience that I love in books. I like books that make me cry, at least once, and preferably tears of happiness. So I want them to believe my characters and to be happy for them.

Very perceptive-- and it sounds like you really know how to get into the mind of your audience. You also make some of your writing available on your website—a great idea! What led to this decision and how has it benefited you and your readers?

I'm following in the lead of writers before me on that. It gives people an opportunity to sample my work and decide if they want to take a chance on something longer. Where the idea really took off was when I was nominated for the Campbell Award for Best New Writer. I was the only short story writer in the category that year and realized that it was going to be very difficult for people to find my work since it was all in magazines. I put up a sampler packet of my published work and the response was amazing.

Definitely a smart way to get your work out there.  What other projects are you currently working on? Will GLAMOUR IN GLASS have a sequel?

I'm currently working on Valour and Vanity, which is book 4 in The Glamourist Histories. I pitched it as "Jane Austen writes Ocean's Eleven" and sometimes regret that. Heists are hard. I recently turned in book 3, Without a Summer, which is book 3 and comes out April 2, 2013.
To snag your own copies of SHADES OF MILK AND HONEY and GLAMOUR IN GLASS, click the buttons below:

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

EMBRACE THE DARK and "Remember the Romantic Journey" by Caris Roane

This week's spotlight is on Caris Roane, author of EMBRACE THE DARK, ASCENSION, and a whole slew of other awesome books.  Here's her bio:

Caris Roane has published over fifty Regency romance novels and novellas under the pen name, Valerie King.  In 2005, Romantic Times gave her a Career Achievement award in Regency Romance.  Having had a long-time love affair with vampires, Caris tackled the paranormal genre and built a unique vampire world based on ascending dimensional earths.  Her series is called Guardians of Ascension. 
Her most recent self-published project, The Blood Rose Novella Series, launched in May of 2012 with the first title:  Embrace the Dark.  The second novella, Embrace the Magic, will release in the summer of 2012. Caris lives in Phoenix, Arizona, with her two cats, Sebastien and Gizzy.


Enter a world of blood-starved mastyr vampires and the rare women who can satisfy their deepest needs…

How can he resist his blood rose…
Gerrod, mastyr vampire of the Merhaine Realm, never thought to have his blood-needs satisfied by a mere human. But Abigail is no ordinary woman. She stuns him with her telepathy as well as the richness of her blood. However, her human DNA makes her an unacceptable mate. Yet how can Gerrod turn her away when she alone has satisfied his blood-starvation for the first time in a hundred-and-fifty-years?

Will she fall to temptation and give herself to a vampire…
When the dreaded enemy of all realm-folk, the Invictus, attacks at a fae wedding, Abigail’s simple human life gets turned upside down. She doesn’t know if she has the courage to pursue a path that means giving herself body and soul to a mastyr vampire. Will she return to her normal existence in Flagstaff, Arizona? Or will she embrace the dark…

Embrace the Dark is the first in The Blood Rose Series.

In lieu of an interview, Caris wrote a beautiful piece entitled, "Remember the Romantic Journey." It fits nicely with my last post, so I thought this week would be a good time to feature it.

Remember the Romantic Journey, by Caris Roane

             I was knee deep in my latest novella, EMBRACE THE DARK, working the elements of the story so hard, that I lost sight of the ultimate goal.  Yes, I was hammering away at developing my characters, and theme, and adding brushstrokes to setting, all good things.  But when I pulled back from this work, I had the startling realization that somehow in my writing efforts I’d forgotten the heart of the matter:  the romantic journey.

I still laugh when I think about this because it’s one of those ‘duh’ moments.  What good is it, for instance, to get every sentence right, to have every paragraph polished to a shine, to have interesting characters who might even have a fascinating goal to accomplish, but to have forgotten that, oh, yeah, these great people are actually supposed to be falling in love?

Writing is real nose-to-the grindstone work, but sometimes the nose just gets too close and stays too close and the real purpose of the work can get lost.

Now I try to take a moment, no matter what project I’m working on, and remember that I was originally inspired by the romantic journey, by all the excitement of falling in love.

Once I remembered the real goal, I made sure that the hero and heroine of EMBRACE THE DARK, my most beloved Gerrod and Abigail, even after all the conflicts were resolved, took some time to savor the love that had come to them, that had found them in a miraculous way. 

Take pleasure in your writing.

And always remember the romantic journey.


To find out more about Caris, you can vist the following places:
To snag your own copy of EMBRACE THE DARK, click the button below:

Monday, August 27, 2012

Being a Writer and Trying to "Have it All"

I've been thinking a lot lately about being a librarian and being a writer, work/life balance, and "having it all." Oh, and let's not forget family. And kids.

So when is it safe to say "I have it all"? And when does "having it all" become too much? 

Apparently I'm not alone in these questions, as this great article from Mark Morford points out. He says, "You cannot really work like a maniac and build a lauded career without sacrificing some level of health and family (and sanity)." Which means, working like crazy doesn't equate to "having it all." A lot gets lost in the process.

I'm very lucky that I have a good job and a loving husband who supports my endeavors.This allows me to revise my novels, send out queries, and do the whole writer thing, which I love.

But even though we're not in a place where we want children yet, there will be a point where we'll have to face that decision. And I'm pretty sure I'm going to have a hard time being a librarian, a writer, and a mother all rolled into one. 

So I've come to terms with the fact that I'll probably have to give up something eventually. But knowing the downfall of working myself to death, I feel a bit more prepared to cross that bridge when I come to it.

Because let's face it--there's only so much that can get done in a day, and in a lifetime--and we cannot lose sight of what's really important. As Morford says, "[Having it all] means being in true alignment. It means being so deeply present, so connected, so alive, so pulsing and breathing and awake in the moment you are in that no matter what your job status, kid status, celebrity status, no matter where you live or to whom you are married, life is already full to bursting."

So by this definition, even though you may not be published yet, or even if your books are published but not yet selling, or even if you're a successful author who feels completely burned out--you can still have it all--if you enjoy the journey, accept accomplishments as they come, and appreciate where your life is now.

Don't get lost in the prospects of "having it all." Instead, take satisfaction in the fact that you are pursuing what you want--and in that, you already have everything you need.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

ONLY FEAR and AVENGING ANGEL by Anne Marie Becker

This week's author is Anne Marie Becker, who is not only a great writer, but a wonderful person. She writes in a great genre--romantic suspense. Her debut novel, ONLY FEAR, won the RWA Golden Heart, and her book AVENGING ANGEL was released a few weeks ago.

After a violent incident with a patient leaves scars on both her mind and body, psychiatrist Dr. Maggie Levine craves isolation. A radio talk show host seems to be the perfect profession, a job where she can help people from a distance while staying safe. When a strange caller begins stalking her on the air and murdering people to get her attention, Maggie realizes she can no longer close herself off from the outside world.
A personal security expert, former Secret Service Agent Ethan Townsend is no stranger to tracking down the most violent monsters of society and bringing them to justice. Still, it will take all of Ethan's skills to protect his new assignment, the irresistible Maggie, from a man intent on teaching her the ultimate lesson in fear….

Grains of sand glistened in the moonlight, bright against the backdrop of her wet hair. Her blue lips were parted slightly, as if she could take in that last breath she'd been gasping for. She was, in a word, perfection.

When his friend's niece is murdered, Detective Noah Crandall vows to track down the killer. Since the victim worked in an art gallery with the well-connected and well-heeled Vanessa Knight, Noah questions her first. Despite the chemistry between them, Noah tells himself a relationship would be impossible. He's a loner and their backgrounds are worlds apart.

Drawn to Noah and horrified by the death of her intern, Vanessa shares her insights into the New York City art world. As they work together on the case, she's tempted to explore the possibility of a real relationship with the sexy outsider who ignites her desire. But what Vanessa doesn't realize is that in order to complete his gruesome series of paintings, the killer has targeted her to become his next victim.

Here are some of Anne's answers to my questions:

You finished quite a few novels before getting published. How did this help your writing grow, and can you tell us more about your journey toward publication?

            Someone once said you have to write half a million words before you know your voice and have a grasp of the craft of writing. That was certainly true for me. It was my fifth manuscript that sold. It’s been a long, slow journey since I started writing in 2000, but it’s been the right journey for me. In fact, it wasn’t until 2005 that I really got serious about writing and made it a priority despite having two kids under the age of two at the time. That was also about the time I joined Romance Writers of America® and found a local chapter. The support and information there has been invaluable in growing my writing career.

Writers' organizations are so key, not just for the support you mentioned, but also in helping people grow as writers. I'm very glad I joined our chapter!
ONLY FEAR won the RWA Golden Heart for Best Romantic Suspense. Congratulations! What inspired the story and what do you want readers to take away when they're finished reading it?

            Thank you! When I started Only Fear, I knew it was more “high concept” than my previous manuscripts, and I had a good feeling about the story. It’s the first in a series –The Mindhunters – and the common factor is SSAM. SSAM (The Society for the Study of the Aberrant Mind) is an agency that employs various experts who hunt criminals and bring them to justice. The acronym also reflects the founder – Damian Manchester – whose daughter Sam was a victim of a serial killer. Having a fictional private agency gives me a lot of leeway in how they pursue criminals, as well as a broader scope of expertise to draw from when I create my strong, intelligent heroes and heroines.
            SSAM was inspired by a documentary I happened to catch on TV one afternoon about theVidocq Society. This group of over a hundred professionals, all experts in various fields of criminology, comes together once a month to discuss cases over lunch. The idea enthralled me (I’d love to be a fly on that wall!). So, I invented my own society for aiding law enforcement in hunting criminals and solving the particularly tough cases. As I researched serial killers, I came across JohnDouglas’ books. He was integral to the early years of the Behavioral Sciences Unit (which is now the Behavioral Analysis Unit) for the FBI.
            And I should mention that I write romantic suspense, so in addition to the danger and suspense element, my stories always have a happy ending. My themes tend to revolve around love conquering all, and how hope is powerful, strong enough to overcome fear.

Great premise--and I love the parallels between the organization and what happened to the founder's daughter!
In addition to writing full time, you are the current president of NARWA (Northern Arizona Romance Writers of America). How has this helped your writing career and what do you recommend to writers who want to get more involved in writers' associations?

            I became president of NARWA in 2009, and my reign ends late this year. I’ve also served in my online chapter (Kiss of Death – which focuses on romantic suspense) as a judge coordinator for their annual contest. Looking back, my career has grown by leaps and bounds since volunteering my time to these organizations.
I absolutely encourage writers to join a well-respected organization. The support and knowledge I’ve gained through Romance Writers of America and its chapters have been invaluable.

I'd have to agree! AVENGING ANGEL, the next book in the "Mindhunters" series, was released this July 30.  What can readers expect from this newest installment? 

            AVENGING ANGEL follows a secondary character from ONLY FEAR, Detective Noah Crandall. SSAM is, of course, involved in tracking the killer.

I love that you're able to expand on characters you introduced in the first book. What are some other current projects that you're working on? Will there be more books in the "Mindhunters" series?

            Yes, I definitely plan to write more Mindhunters books. There are so many employees at SSAM who deserve their happy endings, and I hope to bring closure to Damian Manchester at the end. He’s the man who founded SSAM after his daughter was the victim of a serial killer, a killer who was never brought to justice. I’m finishing book three, currently titled DEADLY BONDS.
            I’m also developing a different series and hope to complete the first book early in the new year.
            I’ve always got ideas popping up, usually at the most inconvenient times when I’m on deadline for a different project. I’d like to write a screenplay someday, and I’ve got 30,000 words of a contemporary romance (no suspense) that’s part of a four-book series. I certainly have a lot of ideas and not enough time, but that’s part of the fun of being a writer —I’m never bored.

Thanks, Anne! To get your own copies of ONLY FEAR and AVENGING ANGEL, be sure to click the buttons below:


Wednesday, August 15, 2012

TUCKER'S CROSSING, by Marina Adair

I connected with Marina through someone at the Desert Dreams Conference back in April. Not only is she busy promoting TUCKER'S CROSSING, which debuted August 1, she also has two more books slated for publication later this year. I was also delighted to learn that Marina used to live in my (very small) hometown, and will be basing one of her novels there!

From Goodreads:

Sweet Plains, Texas, wasn’t so sweet to Cody, Noah, and Beau Tucker. But now the Tucker boys are men, ready to take on the questions that have haunted them since they left home…

Cody Tucker shook the dust of his two-bit hometown off his boots ten years ago—right about the time his college sweetheart, Shelby Lynn Harris, married his so-called best friend. But when his dad dies, Cody finds himself home again and knee deep in the past. Except now his rowdy beer buddy is the sheriff, his housekeeper is a blue-ribbon chili chef, and the family ranch is in the red. The only thing that hasn’t changed is Shelby Lynn…

Shelby Lynn has gone through a lot of heartache thanks to Cody. But that’s all over now. She just wants a chance to live the life she’s made for herself in peace. The trouble is, the Sweet Plains chili cook off is heating up, the Ladies of Sweet are as riled as hornets, and as soon as Cody gets near, she’s forgets all about peace. Cody is pure temptation—and she knows just how good it feels to give in…

 Here are some questions I asked Marina:

Your website bio says that the New Kids on the Block (NKOTB) first drew you to romance writing. What other facets led to your interest in romance, and can you tell us more about your journey toward becoming a writer?

Oh, New Kids on the Block . . . *dreamy sigh*

My teen-self was convinced that she would meet Jordan Knight after a concert, they would fall madly in love, marry immediately, honeymoon on his tour bus, and their true-love would Hang Tough throughout the ages.

Regretfully, I met Jordan Knight and he was not my Prince Charming, but that crush led to two years of swapping binder-paper-length stories back and forth with my high school friends during algebra class. (I have been told—okay threatened— that those notes still exist.)  

It wasn’t until New Kids became a “Where are they now” story on Biography Channel, and my daughter started kindergarten, that I actually got serious about writing. I began in LA, writing screenplays on spec—because everyone there has Oscar-worthy pages in their back pocket—and I got a lucky break that, three years of my life and a Costco sized flat of Kleenex later, lead to the producers deciding to take my screenplay in different direction. Different meaning: we love your concept, we love you, but we love the concept better without you.

It took me two years to get the courage to write again. When I did I wrote a novel, something I had never considered because I’m dyslexic and, for me, writing is a difficult process. But a brilliant screenwriter and mentor, Barnaby Dallas, reminded me, “The only thing you have to do to become a writer is write.”

So I did.

Five years ago I wrote my first novel, a paranormal YA. It was difficult, problematic, a complete disaster, and slow going—it took me three years to finish—and it was also one of my proudest moments as a writer because I finished it—all eleven drafts. Since then I have completed six more novels, the first three never sold but the last four did . . . all within five month of each other.

The secret Barnaby was trying to share? Sit you butt in the chair and write. So that’s what I do now, every day.

I remember NKOTB! I dialed their hotline (remember hotlines?) on a dare back in the fourth grade! Awesome writing advice, too! 
SPEAK NOW placed third in the GOTCHA contest before being published. Congratulations! What makes the story unique, and what do you want readers to take away when they’re finished with it?

SPEAK NOW was a unique project because, although it is the third novel I wrote, it was my first in so many other ways: my first romance novel (my other two were YA), the first book I pitched to an editor, and, most importantly, it was the first time in my writing that I found little bits of ME. I stopped trying to be the next __________ fill in the blank with your favorite bestselling author, and wrote people and situations and families that resonated within me. I never took my eye off the market, what was selling, what elements belonged in each subgenre of romance, but I quit trying to be someone else and allowed myself to be heard.

SPEAK NOW never sold, but it did snag me my dream agent Jill Marsal and created the foundation for who I was to become as a writer.

Definitely goes to show that being true to yourself is necessary in writing! KISSING UNDER THE MISTLETOE is the first in your St. Helena Vineyard series—I grew up in St. Helena! Did you visit the area, and how did you draw inspiration for the story?

Go Saints! (Woo hoo!)

I actually lived in St. Helena for a few years when I was a newlywed. Our house was on 12 acres, surrounded by cabernet grapes, perched in the hills overlooking the Napa Valley. By far, one of the most romantic places that I have ever lived, so I was excited to spend time there again, even if it was in fiction-land.

I was drawn to place a story in St. Helena because I love the collision of old world traditions with the virgin vintners (mainly dot comers and Hollywood expats when I lived there). It is a small town that values community pride, Friday night football games, and deep roots—yes, pun intended. Yet there is an underlying social hierarchy that separates the workers from the owners, the owners from the rich, and the rich from the elite. Add in miles of vines, five-star eateries, a high school that looks like a castle, and a lamppost lined downtown—it’s the ideal backdrop for a small town romance with the perfect blend of elegance, sizzle, and drama.

I can't wait to read it! I still get homesick for St. Helena quite a bit. You have at least one or two books slated for publication later this year—how do you juggle promotion for books that are released at similar times, and can you tell us more about other projects you’re currently working on?

One word: organization.

At the beginning of 2012 I was an aspiring author looking for a publishing house to call my own. Mid-January I sold my first novel, TUCKER’S CROSSING, to Kensington Books. In April the ST. HELENA VINEYARD SERIES sold to Montlake Romance, and in May Grand Central picked up THE SUGAR SERIES. I went from zero sold to 7 books at three different houses in 5 months.  

Immediately following, I had a what-if attack. How was I going to write multiple series at the same time? And what if they suck? Worse, what if they are successful and I have to write more and can’t? What if, just like Jordan Knight, my hero turns out to have stage fright, he marries the wrong woman, and my HEA ends up on pieces of binder-paper in a shoebox stowed in my friend’s attic?

The what-if’s were paralyzing, so I did what any professional would do: I cried. To my husband, my friends, my cats, the guy who takes the bus with me and smells like Gouda and Apple Jacks . . . anyone who would listen. Then I wiped off the snot, pulled on the big girl panties and called my agent. Agents rock! We made a schedule, color coded with clear goals and deadlines for each project, and all the what-if’s disappeared. Because I learned there is no time for what-if’s when you sit your butt in the chair and write!

And next month, on August 16th, my first novel finally releases. TUCKER’S CROSSING takes place in Sweet Plains, Texas, where the only thing bigger than the hair, attitudes, and sexy cowboys is the most competitive chili cook off this side of the Mississippi. But at its heart TUCKER’S CROSSING is about family, forgiveness and two lovers who have to heal their past if they stand a chance at a future together.

My second novel, the first in the ST. HELENA VINEYARD SERIES, KISSING UNDER THE MISTLETOE releases October 16, 2012. This was a fun one to write because what’s more entertaining than two sworn enemies who can’t keep their hands off of each other. Especially when one is a single-mom looking for a fresh start and the other is a smooth talking vintner who is determined to run her out of his town . . . or into his bed. Being a man, he can’t seem to make up his mind.

Right now I am working on the second book in the ST. HELENA VINEYARD SERIES, A SUMMER IN THE VINEYARDS, where my hero and heroine are not only fighting the need to get naked every time they see each other, they are also fighting against their past—Alexis’s cheat of an ex-husband just so happens to be Marc DeLuca’s childhood best friend. So finding a good reason that will allow Marc to break man-law and fall for his best-bro’s ex has been entertaining.

Great advice! Organization is definitely key, and something I'm still trying to hone in juggling the writing irons I currently have in the fire. 
Finally--if you were stuck on a desert island and could only bring five books, what would they be? 

Jane Eyre

The complete works of Jane Austin.

The complete works of Julie Garwood (Yes, she is on that level of brilliance and deserves her own collection . . . it isn’t my fault that they haven’t made one yet.)

Christmas in Lucky Harbor by Jill Shalvis (2 sizzling books in one . . . is that cheating?)

The Mediator Series by Meg Cabot (Yeah, I know, 6 books, totally cheating but we are also talking a deserted island and you let me have the Julie Garwood thing.)

Falling for Mr. Dark and Dangerous by Donna Alward because after I read this book I looked at my husband and said, “I want to write books that make other people feel exactly what I’m feeling right now.” The next day I started SPEAK NOW.

 Thanks Marina, for a fantastic interview! Readers, keep on the lookout for KISSING UNDER THE MISTLETOE, and click the button below to purchase a copy of TUCKER'S CROSSING!