Monday, September 13, 2021

Of Love and Honor

 As we move into the colder days of Fall, it's time to warm things up in My Writing Corner. My guest today is Katherine Grey who writes sexy sweet contemporary romances with a hint of the paranormal. She and her family live in upstate New York. She says that when she’s not writing, she can be found up to her elbows in flour trying out new bread and cookie recipes. That sounds like we should all stop by for a visit!

Welcome, Katherine, please tell us about your road to publication.

I started writing seriously with an eye toward publication in 2008. I joined a local writing group and absorbed as much information as possible. My first novel, a Regency set historical, was published in 2010 by the Wild Rose Press. A novella and a second book also set in the Regency period were published in 2012 (also by the Wild Rose Press).  I was working on my next book when the tumult of life threw me for a loop.   


It was quite a few years before characters began to talk to me again. I started jotting down the bits of dialogue and snippets of scenes that popped into my head, but really didn’t do anything with them except stick them in a folder. I finally sat down in 2019, took out that folder, and wrote a complete book, the first one since 2012. 


That book, Honor Bound, is the first book in a paranormal romance series about a military unit consisting of men with unusual abilities. I had planned on releasing it in 2020, then the pandemic hit and well, you know what they say about the best laid plans.


What do you find is the most challenging part of being an author? 


For me, the most challenging part of being an author is the marketing aspect of it. Whether you are published by a major publisher, a small press, or self-publish, marketing has become an important part of being an author. It’s almost as important as writing the next book. I try to schedule time to do marketing every week because I like connecting with new readers along with my current readers but I have to admit I don’t take advantage of every marketing option available.  For example, the new thing for marketing is to get on TikTok.  Personally, I don’t think TikTok is for me so I don’t have any plans join. 

What advice do you have for beginning writers?

My advice for beginning writers is to write on a regular basis. I’m not saying write every day, though I do, because I realize not everyone’s schedule is conducive to being able to set aside time to write every day, but try to write at least a few times a week. The more you write, the easier your story will flow from your fingers on to your computer/laptop screen. 


My second piece of advice is not to compare yourself and your writing journey to anyone else’s. I know it’s easier said than done. I still struggle with it at times. We all have different responsibilities that affect our ability to get words on the page. Just because you see Author A announce she’s publishing a new book every month and you only publish a new book a year doesn’t mean she’s a better writer than you are.  


What is your latest book and how did you come up with the idea to write it?


Honor Bound is the first book in the Echo Company series. I’m not sure how I came up with the idea as I collected bits and pieces of the story and the series in general over a number of years while I wasn’t actively writing. 

Let's get a blurb:

When honor meets temptation…

California “Callie” St. John learned the hard way just how much one night of rebellion can cost. Determined not to repeat past mistakes, she tries to be the perfect daughter by volunteering with various charities and keeping everyone at arm's length. After narrowly escaping a car bombing, she is forced to accept help from the one man who can get past her defenses, making her long for the impossible -- letting him into her life...and her heart.

 

 Lieutenant James “Hawk” Hawkins, a member of a Special Ops unit of soldiers with unusual abilities, is known for keeping his cool in any situation. Acting as a bodyguard to the daughter of one of DC’s mover and shakers is just one more mission like any other. When an enemy from his past targets the spoiled socialite, Hawk realizes she is more than she seems.

 

With his reputation on the line, he’s willing to risk everything to keep her safe. But succumbing to temptation isn’t an option…no matter how much he wants to give in.


What’s your next project?


The second book in the Echo Company series, Promises To Keep, was released in July so I’m currently writing the third book in the series. I don’t have a title for it yet. I don’t usually come up with a title until after the first draft is written. 


Here are Katherine's social contacts to learn more about her and her buy link:


Buy Link: Amazon - Honor Bound

Social Media Links:  Facebook    Bookbub   Goodreads


Thank you Katherine for being my featured guest on My Writing Corner and introducing us to the first book in your Echo Company Series, Honor Bound!  Does anyone have any questions or comments for Katherine?

Monday, September 6, 2021

An Explosive Tale

Don't we all love the real-life stories that come from authors? Today's Writing Corner guest, Susan Furlong's stories began even before she was born.  She tells us that she was born in the middle of a spring snowstorm at the University of Michigan so her mother had to walk across campus in the snow to the hospital while she was in labor. What a beginning! 

Susan says she doesn’t remember any of this auspicious beginning, but it always makes for a good story! And haven't we come to love her stories?

She says as a child her family moved across the country six times to various big cities before the age of fourteen because of her father’s career in women’s ready-to-wear clothing. She met and married the love of her life in college and moved to his small hometown in southern Ohio. That put an end to her travelling. She says now you can’t get her out of there with a crowbar! She taught first grade and fourth grade and raised her children who did not have to change schools even once.

Creating stories started early in life—as is typical of most writers—even before she could actually write. Then came handwritten pages stuffed in her underwear drawer, followed by stories created on a manual typewriter. Her first computer—a Commodore 64—was replaced by a series of computers and laptops, which her husband promised she could never fill up the storage space, but she always did. At age 32 she performed in her first community theater play—Guys and Dolls—where she quickly realized that she wanted to play ALL the parts, which is exactly what a writer does. She writes and/or directs church-related plays and sketches and also performs and sings with a music and drama ministry, LightReaders.

Her love of history led her to wanting to write two plays about her now hometown, and they were presented in reader’s theater style by local citizens. That was followed by two non-fiction books about local history published by Arcadia Publishing. She says she loves to do the research even though old books and documents make her cough and sneeze! Susan first discovered romance novels when she won a copy of Velvet Song by Jude Deveraux at the local bookstore. She still reads all varieties of books, but historical romance is forever her first choice.

Her books Steadfast Will I Be and By Promise Made were published by The Wild Rose Press in 2019 and 2020 respectively. By Promise Made won the NEST – National Excellence in Story Telling – for Historical Romance for 2021.

Her third book – Keeper of My Dreams – a continuation of the Cullane family adventures -- is being officially released today!

Susan, please tell us about your road to publication.

Me at age 9 in my kimono

Creating stories started early in life—as is typical of most writers. At nine-years-old I wrote, directed, and starred in my first play, inspired by Japanese kimonos sent to us by a family friend. This was followed by handwritten pages stuffed in my underwear drawer, then stories created on a manual typewriter which I wrote while cooking dinner or after the kids were in bed. I then filled up the disc storage on my early computers, and today I have dozens of flash drives to save my work. 

I wrote my first paid story for a children’s magazine, followed by numerous published short stories for children and articles for adults in various national magazines. The busy life as a working mother (a teacher and writing coach) slowed down my own writing, but in 1997, I co-wrote a full-length play about the Last Supper, “The Twelve Seats at the Table,” published by Eldridge Publishing and has been presented at over 100 venues across the country. In 2007 and 2008 I wrote two plays about the history of my hometown and a local cast presented them to the community. This led to writing two books for Arcadia Publishing about this same local history and people. In 2018 I sent a historical/adventure romance novel to be professionally edited, and this editor suggested I send it to The Wild Rose Press. Steadfast Will I Be was accepted and published in 2019, followed by By Promise Made in 2020, and now Keeper of My Dreams. 

What do you find is the most challenging part of being an author


The most challenging thing for me is the actual time it takes to sit at the computer and type out the words. Stories and plots are always floating around in my head, and I often work them out while doing other things. I can shut out TV commercials or take a break from reading with the book still in my lap or go for a walk, but I tend to be restless (As anyone who has to sit beside me in church will tell you!) so sitting for extended periods of time at the computer is hard for me. Still, when I get excited about a story, I can find myself at my desk for hours.


How do you come up with your plots?


I love history, not the dates or places, but how the people lived. I love to do research, even though old books and historical materials make me sneeze and cough (The Internet has been a godsend for my dust allergies!) It continually astounds me how many unbelievable/seemingly ridiculous events actually happened. This usually sets me off thinking about how I could drop my characters inside that situation and see how they survive. 


My first book, Steadfast Will I Be, was inspired by the fact that King James V was held prisoner by his step-father until he escaped at age sixteen and regained his throne. The second book, By Promise Made, started when I learned that King Henry VIII waged war against Scotland, killing thousands of people, because four-year-old Mary, Queen of Scots, would not marry his nine-year-old son. The seed for my most recent book, Keeper of My Dreams, grew when I learned that the Chinese first intended gunpowder to be a life extending elixir until it exploded and burned down their houses. You can’t make this stuff up, but you can write about it!


What advice do you have for beginning writers?


Write, write, write whatever speaks to your heart. Write about people and places you love, even if you have to research them until you fall in love with them. Write what pleases you. If you try to please others, such as publishers or unknown readers, you take the joy out of the creation process, and if you write to follow the latest trend in books, it’s a waste of time unless that trend stirs you. If it doesn’t stir you, it won’t stir anyone else.


Don’t be discouraged when after a publisher accepts your work or you self-publish it, you get it back to make dozens of corrections. Proofreading and editing are very important, so never neglect them, but your writing life is in the creation of characters, worlds, and adventures while the editor’s job is fixing mistakes, crossing the t’s, and using the commas. While both worlds have their place, your joy comes from the story, not the spelling. Although, no one can understand the world you’ve created if you don’t cross the t’s and use the commas! 


The scariest part of being a writer is showing your work to other people, but do it. Sometimes criticism is based on their own shortcomings, not yours, but if you see value in what others say, use it to improve your work. I’ve listened and I’ve learned, and I couldn’t have been more thrilled when my historical fiction book, By Promise Made, received 5 star reviews from InD’Tale magazine and N.N. Light’s Heaven Books, and then won the NEST (National Excellence in Story Telling) award for historical fiction. Yes, I’m bragging, but that is the joy bursting out of me!


I have so many stories/novels sitting in my closet that will never be officially published, but I still remember them fondly and all the pleasure I had in writing them. Some of them I even cannibalized for a new book. Nothing goes to waste.


Be a writer because you MUST write. Be a writer because your soul would be missing a piece that can only be filled with whatever you put on paper. Your stories must find a place in YOUR world first, and if they find a place in other people’s worlds, all the better. 


What is your latest book and how did you come up with the idea to write it?


My latest book is Keeper of My Dreams. In doing research for an earlier book I found references to the development of weapons in England and how England’s advanced use of gunpowder defeated the Scots who preferred hand-to-hand warfare. During the same era, pirates freely roamed the seas with the support and authority of the government. Leaps of imagination led me to Reid, the gunsmith, who designed an advanced handgun and to the pirate who wanted it. To balance these two strong men, came Leena, the daughter of the Cullane family featured in my first two books.


Gunpowder and love, both explosive.

  Reid Haliburton, a skilled gunsmith, wants to control who uses his revolutionary handgun until a vicious pirate decides the gun will be his. The price of refusing is Reid’s life and those of his three young sons. Reid’s only chance to save his sons is to send them away and face the pirate’s wrath alone.

Leena Cullane Adair is stunned to find three lads hiding in her cart, and, although she only met their father a week ago, he holds her heart and her dreams, and she will do whatever it takes to keep him and his sons alive.


That sounds like a fun read!  What’s your next project?

I have two books in my “next pile.” One is at my publisher, The Wild Rose Press, for review and edits, and is tentatively entitled “Desperate Hope.” It takes place during the American Revolution and highlights George Washington’s secret spies who eventually turned the tide in the patriots’ favor. My hero and heroine think they are fighting on opposite sides until they discover the truth.


My next book is still in the plotting/research and writing stage and is about the Glencoe Massacre in Scotland in 1692. This tragedy is often an example of clan warfare, but in reality was a plan by the government to suppress opposition to its policies. My hero is a soldier ordered to carry out the massacre, and the woman he loves is about to be one of the victims. They must find a way to stay alive and together. 

Thank you, Susan for being my guest, and good luck on your new book. Here are the Contact and Social Media links if you would like to follow her books.

Monday, August 30, 2021

A Cozy Delight

As someone who fell in love with reading and writing stories at a young age, today's guest in My Writing Corner grabbed my attention immediately. 

Born in the Big Apple, Susie Black now calls sunny Southern California home. Like the protagonist in her Holly Swimsuit Mystery Series, Susie is a successful apparel sales executive. Susie says she began telling stories as soon as she learned to talk. Now she’s telling all the stories from her garment industry experiences in humorous mysteries. 


She reads, writes, and speaks Spanish, albeit with an accent that sounds like Mildred from Michigan went on a Mexican vacation and is trying to fit in with the locals. Since life without pizza and ice cream as her core food groups wouldn’t be worth living, she says she’s a dedicated walker to keep her girlish figure. A voracious reader, she’s also an avid stamp collector. Susie lives with a highly intelligent man and has one incredibly brainy but smart-aleck adult son who inexplicably blames his sarcasm on an inherited genetic defect. 


Welcome, Susie! Please tell us about your road to publication.

No matter what stage an author’s writing career is at, one thing that is constantly drilled into their head is to only write what you know. If you don’t know it, either do the research and learn it or don’t you dare write it. If you don’t have the creds for what you write, you are toast because readers can spot a phony by the second paragraph and never finish reading your book. This concept is one I never lose sight of and is the reason I write about the subjects I do.  

Like the protagonist in my Holly Swimsuit Mystery Series, I am a ladies’ swimwear sales exec in the greater Los Angeles area. From the beginning of my career, I have kept a daily journal chronicling the interesting, quirky, and sometimes quite challenging people I have encountered as well as the crazy situations I’ve gotten myself into and out of. My daily journal entries are the foundation of everything I write. I came to write in the cozy mystery genre because I love solving puzzles. My parents would certainly confirm I have always asked a lot of questions, and I am naturally curious (some narrow-minded people say I am nosy…go figure…LOL). So, writing mysteries was the natural next step for me to take. it is also the genre I read, am comfortable in, and enjoy the most. The bonus is that it was an excellent way to knock off some people on paper who I would have loved to eliminate in real life and still not end up in prison. Extremely therapeutic. I highly recommend it. 

As a female who has succeeded in a historically male-dominated industry, it was important to me to write about the apparel business from a woman’s point of view. All of my characters are based on real people, and the central characters are all strong, successful women who have beaten the odds and broken the glass ceiling.

My Nana was perhaps the biggest influence in my life and while I didn’t realize it at the time, it was she who taught me how to navigate on my road to publication:

Nana the letter writer:  When they were first invented, telephones were difficult to use, often unreliable, and expensive to own. Not every family, including mine, could afford the luxury of having one. Like many families, once my Nana’s siblings grew up and left home, they scattered across the country. Nana knew the importance of keeping her family together no matter how many miles separated them. Since a phone was not an option, as the oldest child, Nana was chosen to write letters to family members living far from home. With the same level of dedication as the postman; come rain, sleet, or snow, war or peace, prosperous times or the depths of a national depression, my blind-as-a bat without her coke bottle-thick glasses Nana sat every Monday night at her dining room table and wrote a letter to each of her siblings. Her letters sewed the thread that kept our close-knit tribe connected. 

When I was in my sophomore year of college my family moved from Los Angeles to Miami. Despite their valiant attempts to persuade me to join them, I wasn’t interested in relocating to “God’s waiting room,” and remained out west. The good news was that Nana added me to her list of weekly letter-writing recipients. Lonesome for my family, Nana’s weekly letter was an eagerly-anticipated lifeline to my family’s heart and soul. For all of us, that letter was the glue that kept our family bound together no matter how far from home one of us wandered. 


The designated town crier, Nana’s letters were more like a newsletter. A date with her friends at the movies? After reading her letter, I was in the seat next to her. She reported who went, what they wore, if they were late or early; where they sat, if they had a snack, what the snack was, editorials on how much the snacks and the movie tickets cost, and every detail of the movie that was so complete, the recipient of her letter could write a decent review based on Nana’s commentary. If she described what an attendee was wearing, I could close my eyes and picture the outfit perfectly. Her descriptions were so detailed and rich, that if she was describing a meal, I could smell the wafting aroma and taste the food. 

Out of sentimentality or maybe a sixth sense that someday I’d need them, I kept every one of those letters. Like Nana, they were strong-willed and hearty; surviving dogs, a child, countless moves,  several major earthquakes and a devastating house fire. I had no formal creative writing training when I decided to write my first manuscript. I had a journal to draw experiences from, and a story to tell, but no clue how to tell it. I instinctively pulled the carefully wrapped packets of letters out of the storage box and re-read every one of them. I could picture Nana at the dining room table writing the letters. I  heard her voice inside my head speaking to me. My long-gone, full-service Nana had given me all the tools I needed. I re-packed the letters, started to write, and thanks to Nana, I never stopped. 

In a detached society that values cheaper and faster, we are insulated from direct contact with one another more each day. E-mail and texting replaced a phone call, and Zoom is the new version of a face to face meeting. We don’t need brick and mortar to build walls anymore. Modern technology has certainly had an impact on society mores and improved many aspects of our lives. Regrettably, technology was also a death knell for several means of personalized communication. Nana would have been horrified that a quaint, old fashioned skill like letter-writing disappeared. Thanks to Nana, my story has been told in a distinctive voice that comes through loud and clear. 

Nana the Story-teller: If there is an inheritable gene for story-telling,  mine  came from my mother’s mother. My nana should have been a writer. No one could tell a story like her. She was the eldest of six children of a modest immigrant family from Eastern Europe that settled in Boston at the turn of the century. My great-grandfather was a tailor who managed to clothe, feed, and shelter his children,  but there was precious little left over for extravagances like a day at the cinema for one child, let alone for six. Nana had a cousin Jenny who played piano at the local silent-movie house and she was able to get a pass for relatives. Nana and her next oldest sibling traded off weeks going to the serialized show every Saturday afternoon and then came home to tell the story to all the other kids. 

The other kids hated it when it was my great-aunt’s turn, because she gave a short synopsis and called it a day. They were thrilled when it was Nana’s turn. She set up two rows of chairs in the parlor like in the movie house, served popcorn, dimmed the lights and played background music as she recounted the episode of the serial. Nana would take her time, slowly build up to the cliffhanger and stop talking right before the finale. Nana would wait until my  great uncle Murray would yell, “Go on Rae, go on!” before she’d finish telling the story. Talk about pacing and how to build tension to the finale? Nana had it down pat. I kept Nana’s story-telling skills in mind while writing Death by Sample Size. Somewhere in the great beyond, Nana is smiling her approval. 

What is your latest book and how did you come up with the idea to write it?

My latest, actually my debut book, Death by Sample Size takes place in downtown Los Angeles in the heart of the garment center. I came up with the idea based on a situation I experienced with an unscrupulous buyer and then took the incident fictionally to the next level.  The premise behind the story in Death by Sample Size is what if a buying office big shot in the apparel industry so universally disliked that when she was murdered, there were so many potential suspects that it wasn’t a question of who wanted her dead, it was a question of who didn’t. 

Ah, the garment center! As someone who spent many hours there when I once lived in Los Angeles, this book makes me long to re-visit! Let's get a blurb:

“The last thing swimwear sales exec Holly Schlivnik expected was to discover ruthless buying office big wig Bunny Frank’s corpse trussed up like a Thanksgiving turkey with a bikini stuffed down her throat. When Holly’s colleague is arrested for Bunny’s murder, the wise-cracking, irreverent amateur sleuth jumps into action to find the real killer.  Nothing turns out the way Holly thinks it will as she matches wits with a wily killer hellbent on revenge. Get ready to laugh out loud as Susie Black’s Death by Sample Size takes you on a rollicking adventure ride through the Los Angeles apparel industry.”

Everyone wanted her dead…but who actually killed her?

What’s your next project?  What are you working on now?


Right now, I am working on completing the hard editing of Death by Pins & Needles, the second book in the Holly Swimsuit Mystery series. My next project is to complete the manuscript for Death by Surfboard, the third book in the series. The manuscript is almost complete, but I am adding a new character, a love interest for the protagonist, and am considering adding a dog. 

What do you enjoy about being an author?

I enjoy letting my imagination go where it will and seeing where it takes me. 

When that game plan goes right, then a reader says I was up way past my bedtime because I couldn’t put your book down. It just does not get better than that. 

What do you find is the most challenging part of being an author?

I have two: Writing the middle of the story is sometimes a challenge. I have remedied this by allowing the characters to drive the plot from the middle to the end of the story. 


The most challenging part of being an author is marketing. This is without any doubt the most daunting and least enjoyable part of being an author. 

What advice do you have for beginning writers?

I will pass along the sage advice that was given to me by best-selling author Harlan Coben: Keep writing, no matter what, keep writing. Trust your gut, believe in yourself, never let anyone crush your dream, and never stop asking what if? 


Ah, yes, one of my favorites! I've heard him say that too, and it always keeps me moving forward. Thank you, Susie, for being my guest today, sharing your story and introducing your new book. Here are Susie's social contacts to learn more about her and her book buy links:



Any questions or comments for Susie?


Monday, August 23, 2021

A Story to Tell

In these final hot days of summer, this is a good time to get in those books we've been wanting to read, but haven't found the time. August was always one of my favorite months to spend time at the library with those books I read for enjoyment before having to again hit the school books.

Today's guest in My Writing Corner presents us with what sounds like one of those pleasurable types of books. Author Colleen Donnelly has been my guest previously, but I always enjoy finding new or different books from authors I enjoy. 

To re-introduce Colleen, she was born and raised in the Midwest and pursued a career in the science field. Her work allowed her to explore the US, but she was also a big fan of literature. As a reader and writer, she enjoys tales that involve a moral dilemma or a choice. Like so many writers she is always on the lookout for the next great story to tell. 

Today she brings us her book Mine to Tell, her first book that has become favorite among her readers. Mine to Tell is categorized as Historical Romance though it might be better described as a love story buried within a mystery.

What heroine Annabelle Crouse doesn’t know when she sets out to prove false the accusations that her great-grandmother was an immoral woman, is if what she finds will in the end condemn both of them, or set them free.  Let's get a blurb:

Annabelle Crouse is determined to reopen her great-grandmother’s boarded up house—and her shunned life. Many years earlier, after an unexplained absence, Julianne was relegated to a separate home by a rigidly unforgiving husband, and the Crouse women have suffered the disgrace of her assumed guilt ever since. Despite her family’s strong disapproval, Annabelle is driven to pursue her mission through cobwebs and dust, finding the clues and the coded story left behind by her great-grandmother—Why did she go? And why did she return? Annabelle has to know.

Only one person, a man she grew up with but never noticed, stands with Annabelle as she discovers the parallels between her story and her great-grandmother’s—two women, generations apart, experiencing what love truly is.

Want to find out more? Let's read an excerpt:

“Mine to tell,” Kyle said suddenly. It was a jolt. I was yanked from my mental tumble into a pit of unredemption. Alex looked up too, a quizzical expression on his face. “Julianne left a story behind,” Kyle continued. “Some of it speculation and rumors by people who don’t know, and the rest of it by her own hand. It was a love story. One that was countered with suffering.”

We were all quiet. I looked at him, my heart melting as I heard his masculine voice speak of love and suffering. I wanted to lean across the table and hug him, but I was too afraid.

Alex leaned back in his chair. “What my father went through didn’t feel like love when we were little.”

“But maybe it was,” Kyle persisted, his tone smooth and even. “Does love always turn out the way we want it to?” Then he looked at me. “Julianne Crouse was a fine woman. We haven’t finished her story, but she suffered, and she was fine indeed.”

Tears came to my eyes. “Thank you,” I squeaked. Kyle stood and walked around the table to me. He helped me stand as he thanked them for their time. He retrieved Julianne’s picture, took my hand, and together we went to the door, Alex and his wife following us.

“I hope you’re right,” Alex said, running his hand through his thin, brittle hair as we stepped outside. “My father had some things to come to terms with, but he was a good man. A better man later in life, when he told us he was sorry. I never knew for what.”


Here are the links to buy Mine to Tell or to learn more about Colleen's other books.


Bookbub:  https://bit.ly/2FhBGYG


Thank you Colleen for being my guest again and sharing another great book with us.  Any questions or comments for Colleen?

Of Love and Honor

 As we move into the colder days of Fall, it's time to warm things up in My Writing Corne r. My guest today is K atherine Grey who write...