Wednesday, December 31, 2014

In the Spotlight: Melissa Snark

Today in My Writing Corner I am spotlighting multi-published author Melissa Snark and her newest book, Battle Cry. Melissa is published with The Wild Rose Press and also has several independently published books. Her latest title is part of her Loki's Wolves series and it sounds like another great book that is going on my To Be Read list.  
Here's a blurb:

Survival demands sacrifice. Healing requires forgiveness.

After losing her lover and then her mate, Victoria Storm builds a new life in Sierra Pines, California. When the Norse Fates predict the she-wolf will destroy the world to save her unborn child, her duties as Freya’s priestess conflict with her responsibilities as Odin’s Valkyrie.

Sawyer Barrett has hunted Victoria so passionately, he doesn't know whether he loves or hates her. Desperate to end the fighting, he will take chances with everything—except his heart. This hunter harbors a deadly secret he can't reveal without risking the tentative ceasefire and his father’s continued disapproval.

Men revere him; monsters fear him. Jake Barrett—the notorious Hunter King—values loyalty to family above all else. When he believes his eldest son was murdered by a wolf ally, he releases a chain reaction of violent destruction that claims the lives of both wolves and hunters.

An ancient vampire plots the destruction of wolves and hunters alike. If the embittered rivalry doesn't end quickly, there is no hope for the Hunters, Victoria's pack, or the mortal world.

As you can see, the cover is great, done by artist Farah Evers. And if that isn't enough to get your attention, here's an excerpt to whet your interest:

           Shadows enshrouded Skuld, and her voice manifested upon the air, thick and oppressive, closing in from all sides. "Your daughter will not grow to adulthood in Midgard."
           Victoria's heart slammed against her breastbone. Her breath expelled in a horrified gust. The bowl dropped from her hands which flew to protect her abdomen. "What do you mean?"
          "Your daughter will be taken from you on the eve of her third birthday," Skuld said. "The one you trust most, a member of your own pack, will give the child over to your greatest enemy."
         A growl trembled in Victoria's throat, and her entire body shook under the dual assault of fear and rage. The suggestion of betrayal from within her own pack filled her with disbelief to the core of her being. It was unthinkable. Gritting her teeth, she sought a solution, refusing to dwell on it. "How am I to prevent this?"
         "We speak of what will come to pass," Verðandi said in a sympathetic tone.
         "Your predictions are not carved in stone," Victoria said. Arguing with Fate was a foolish endeavor, but she refused to accept their prophecy.
         The old woman, Urðr, smiled with a frightening gleam in her eyes. "Predictions, carved into the trunk of the World Tree, carved into the spiritual fabric of the world."
         Stubborn determination settled over Victoria like armor. Her mother had taught her there was no absolute fate, just as there was no absolute free will. Life consisted of a wide range of possibilities between the two extremes. She refused to allow her daughter to die at three years of age. She would move worlds, alter fate, slay gods.
        Whatever it took.
        "Do you wish to save your child?" Skuld asked.
         Victoria answered without thought. "Yes. I'll do anything. Tell me. Please."
         "The final days are upon us," Verðandi said.
         Skuld took over speaking. "To save your daughter, you will side with Loki against the Aesir. You will use your enchanted dagger to cut the binding of the great wolf Fenrir. You will be responsible for freeing the beast that kills Odin."
         Victoria's stomach turned. Her head shook in automatic denial. "When the gods imprisoned Fenrir, my people pledged fealty to the Aesir. We have served them loyally ever since. Even when we were driven from the homeland, almost a millennium ago, we remained faithful. I will never cut Fenrir's bonds. To do so would end the world we live in and doom us all."
         Skuld's gaze held steady. "You will."
         Victoria snarled her denial. "No. I will never become the servant of the Trickster or willingly take part in bringing about Odin's death."
Skuld turned her head and pinned Victoria with one black eye that rolled in its socket like a liquid marble. "To save your daughter, you will."

Battle Cry is available for purchase:

Google Play

Or Add it to your Goodreads Want-to-Read

Melissa is also well known for her satirical wit and her popular blog The Snarkology.  If you'd like to reach her, here is how to contact her.

Connect with Melissa Snark:
Email: melissasnark at
Twitter: @MelissaSnark
Thanks, Melissa, for sharing your book with us today. Any comments or questions for Melissa?

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Meet Karilyn Bentley

My guest today is fantasy author, Karilyn Bentley. Welcome to My Writing Corner. Did you always want to be a writer?

I never thought about being a writer until about twelve years ago. That said, I always wrote as a child, just never thought of it as more than fun. <g> My first books were like Nancy Drew and after reading the Little House on the Prairie series I kept a running dialogue in my head so that I could write my life story in case anyone asked. Which is a clear sign I should be a writer. <g>

Your website says you write fantasy with a touch of humor. How did you decide to write that particular subgenre?
Well, I like the supernatural, be that paranormal or fantasy. And my books have some humor in them (my sense of humor, that is!). You can't be serious all the time. And I hope the brand helps the reader know that my books are a mostly lighthearted romp even if they appear a bit dark.
How did you get your first book published?

I won a contest at The Wild Rose Press for a werewolf novella in their Got Wolf anthology. I was one of the six winners. I kept hitting the refresh on the computer since winning seemed surreal. <g> After the anthology was published, I asked my editor to take a look at Magical Lover (the first book in my Draconia Tales series). She politely declined, so I countered with an offer of rewrites. After several more rewrites (yeah, it was that bad at first) she accepted it. I've been with TWRP ever since.

Tell us about your latest book, Demon Lore. The cover is fantastic.
I love this book! It's been my favorite book to write. It's an urban fantasy and features Gin Crawford, a messed up ER nurse who also happens to be an empath. She discovers a magical bracelet that gives her demon and minion fighting powers. She's not happy about this discovery. The series is her story of how she comes to accept her new gifts. Demon Lore is the first in the series.
What a great premise! What gave you the idea for this story?

Well, originally it started off as a different story entirely. I kept playing around with it and the idea popped into my head. Gin kept talking to me, so I made it her story.

Give us an idea of how you develop your characters.
They come into my head. I know all authors say that, but I really have no other way of explaining. I gain insights into their flaws and characters the more I write their story. There were several things about Gin I didn't realize until I completed the book.
Do you always know how your story is going to end?

Not always. I'm a pantser, i.e. writes by the seat of my pants. I know the opening, the characters and in general where I want the story to end. Then I write. Usually the endings change. <g>

What are you working on now?
The second book in the Demon Huntress series and edits for the fourth book in the Draconia Tales series, The Detective's Dragon.
What do you read when you are not writing?
Romance, fantasy or mysteries.
Tell us a little about your writing day – how do you make time?

I used to always write between 8-9PM. Then we got a puppy. Now I try to write whenever possible which is usually when the puppy is asleep. <g>

Give us a blurb from Demon Lore:
Gin Crawford has enough problems dealing with her empath abilities. Finding out she's the world's newest demon-slayer is the last thing she needs. Unfortunately, when she slips on a mysterious bracelet she is given no other choice. On the plus side, her new gig comes with Tall, Dark and Handsome, a mage who may or may not have her best interests at heart. Thrust into a power-play between good and evil, Gin must choose a side before she becomes the next victim in the ongoing battle.

How can readers reach you or find you online?


Buy Links:




Thanks, Karilyn for joining me today and good luck with Demon Lore and the series. Any questions or comments for Karilyn?

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Meet Louise Lyndon

 Joining me today in My Writing Corner is romance author, Louise Lyndon. Please share with us a little about your road to publication. How did you get published?

I’ve been writing for as long as I can remember. But, for a long while I didn’t actually write anything but was still calling myself a writer. I felt like a bit of a fraud. Then I turned the big FOUR OH and thought, “If I do not do this now, then I will never do it.” I pulled my finger out, finished a story I had in my head for a couple of years and submitted it. I signed a contract with TWRP a couple of weeks after my 41st birthday.
Your newest book is Of Love and Vengeance.  What a great title and what a great cover! What is it about?

It’s about a few things really. Firstly, it’s about prejudices, mainly about how we can tar an entire group by either misconceptions or by the behavior of a few. Both the hero and heroine are guilty of doing this, so we get to see how they deal with this. It’s also about acceptance, not just of each other, but of yourself as well. Laila, the heroine of, Of Love and Vengeance, has a birthmark that covers one side of her face, and she really struggles with loving herself because of it.
That is a wonderful premise. What gave you the idea for this story?

I spent 16 years living in the UK and while there I loved going to visit all the historical sites – in the UK, you’re not short on historical sites! It was while I was up in York and wondering around some medieval ruins I got to thinking about the people who walked before me all those years ago. I started thinking about their lives, what were they like…anyway, while strolling through the park in York a line of dialogue popped into my head, “Carac will be able to protect you and the babe…” That was it that was all I had. It developed from there.
How do you come up with your story ideas?

I tend to have snippets of scenes popping into my head that’ll get me thinking, ‘What happens if…” I’ll think about the scene for weeks, sometimes for months, just working stuff out in my head. Slowly, the story will develop from there.
What about your characters? How do you develop them?

Truthfully? I don’t do what is drummed in to perhaps most of us writers – that is, start off with a character sketch. I’ve tried doing them in the past and I just draw a blank. So I’ll just start writing a scene. Now, that scene could appear anywhere in the story, or nowhere at all. And the more I write, then the more I get to know the character. There is a lot of going back and forth when I write. As I discover something about the character I’ll go back and layer that in. I never start off with a totally blank character, I may know a couple of things about them, but it’s safe to say I develop them as I go along.
How do you research your stories?

I tend to research as I go along. For example, I have a birth scene in Of Love and Vengeance, so I asked myself, ‘what did they do for labor pain in medieval times?’ So I researched that snippet of information. I’m not someone that does the research first, I do the writing and then do the research to see if such and such could really happen/did happen/was possible in medieval times!
Do you always know how your story is going to end?

Yes, because I need to know where I am heading. I just don’t necessarily know what happens in the 300 plus pages prior to typing, The End!
What are you working on now?

I am working on a story tentatively titled, Of Love and Betrayal. It’s set in medieval times and takes place about fifty or so years after, Of Love and Vengeance. And it may, or may not, have some of the same characters in it!
On your website you mention falling in love with the books of Diana Gabaldon.  What touched you about them?

Oddly enough, I am not going to say Jamie Fraser! Although, after about book two he played a major role in keeping me reading the series. I like reading about strong, intelligent women who can take care of themselves, while at the same time not being so independently strong they don’t need anyone to look after them on occasion. At times, we all need a little help along the way. That doesn’t make us weak, that makes us sensible! And Claire, I feel, is all of those things. Also, I just love how DG weaves the history through her stories, without making it feel like a history lesson.
How about a blurb for Of Love and Vengeauce?

Forced to marry Lord Aymon to ensure her young nephews survival, English Lady Laila vows undying hatred for the Norman she holds responsible for the deaths of so many innocents. Discovering Aymon has committed an act of treason gives her the chance to seek vengeance he deserves.  But can Laila let Aymon die at the hands of the king once she learns the truth?

A hardened Norman warrior, Lord Aymon has lived through atrocities no man ever should. With the invasion of England over, all he wants is a quiet life and a wife who will give him heirs and obey his every command. Instead, he finds himself wed to feisty and outspoken Laila. But when she learns the truth of his treasonous act, can Aymon count on her to keep his secret?
How can readers reach you or find you online?

Buy Links:
The Wild Rose Press,
Amazon US,

Amazon AU,
All Romance eBooks,


Social media

PINTEREST: llyndon3513



 Thank you so much for being my guest, and good luck with Of Love and Vengeance. Questions or comments for Louise?







Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Meet Abigail Owen

Today's guest in My Writing Corner is Abigail Owen. Did you always want to be a fiction writer?

Always. I’ve been writing stories since childhood, but I didn’t finish my first book until about seven years ago. And I didn’t start seriously perusing the dream until about three years ago.
How did you first get published?

I started with self-publishing. My thinking was that if my first book – Blue Violet - didn’t get laughed off the face of the earth, I’d keep going. When I received positive feedback, and especially after won my first award, I decided to continue to self-publish and pursue traditional publication at the same time. The Wild Rose Press was my first YES! I happened to see an article in the RWA monthly magazine talking about new presses including TWRP. They sounded like a great fit and so I sent a query expecting yet another “no” and got a “yes” instead. I can’t begin describe how thrilling that was (as a writer, you’d think that would be easy, but nope)!
Tell us a little about your newest book, Andromeda’s Fall?

Andromeda’s Fall is centered on Andie Reynolds, a mountain lion shape shifter who has escaped her own dare (like a pride) and is seeking asylum with the Keller Dare. She has two problems though. The first is that she could still be extradited unless she marries someone in the Keller Dare. And the only person powerful enough to protect her would be Jaxon, the Alpha. Her second problem is A.J., one of the Alpha’s Protectors. He insists that he must vet her first before letting her anywhere near the Alpha. When sparks fly, Andie has to decide between her heart and her life.
That's a great cover. I understand this is the first in the Shadowcat Nation series. The series sounds fascinating. What gave you the idea for the Shadowcat nation?

Thanks! The initial idea came from a single scene. I pictured a mountain lion shifter on a cliff. She’s standing post, protecting her people. Above her is a male mountain lion, secretly observing. She has something to prove. That’s it. From there I had to figure out what she had to prove, why, what the world was like for them, and where they needed to go from there. The concept of the Shadowcat Nation world itself ended up coming from my research into mountain lions. I recently wrote a blog post about this if you want to find out more.
What are some of the stories you are working on for future Shadowcat books?

The 2nd book – Sarai’s Fortune – is in my editor’s hands now! I plan for this to be a 4-book series each with a different heroine/hero. They continue to fight the same villain(s) through the series, and to try to figure out how the Shadowcat Nation – which is a delicate and relatively new alliance of cougar shifters – works. With the books upcoming, I’ll bring other types of shifters into it more (on top of the cougars, wolves, and polar bears already in AF). I’ll also have more with the Kuharte – those few shifters who have additional supernatural powers. And we’ll continue to see the original characters throughout. Here’s to a fun ride!
How you develop your characters for this series and other books?

My characters are developed through two parts of a process. Before I write, I figure out my characters – I find a picture of an actor that fits what I’m thinking. I try to decide what personality they have. I recently did a great workshop on character development that suggested using astrological descriptions of personality to help discover your characters. I loved that idea and have started incorporating it.
So I do my “research” first. But my characters sometimes surprise me when I start writing. It’s that pantser part of me I guess. I recently had a character who I wanted to come across funny and carefree who turned out to be serious and closed off. I even tried to rewrite her scenes, but she was determined to be serious. And it worked better for the book I think.

Do you always know how your story is going to end?
I usually know exactly how it will end. The beginnings that are hardest for me. A full backstory develops in my head and I always have trouble figuring out where in that story to jump in with my readers. Then, getting my characters to the ending is always an adventure. I’m an odd mix of mostly pantser with a little bit of plotter (very high level) when I write, so the middle is where I’m most often surprised.

What would you tell writers who are just starting out that you wish you had known?
Don’t wait for praise, but do seek feedback from people you trust and use it. Don’t stop after the first try. Do keep writing, and writing, and writing. Don’t wait for that “perfect” idea before you start. Do take classes and workshops. Don’t assume someone else can tell you how to write – incorporate what works for you. Don’t think there’s only one way to do this. Do research editors/agents you’re querying. Do spend money on a good editor/beta reader. Do help other authors out – this is a great community of supportive folks!

What do you read when you are not writing?
I’m a very fast reader with lots of interests. Romance is probably 80% of what I read (paranormal and contemporary mostly but also historical) with the other 20% dividing out between fantasy, science fiction, classics, business, historical, and – these days – lots of self-help writing/publishing stuff.

How about a blurb about Andromeda’s Fall?
Andromeda Reynolds is being hunted. After witnessing her mother’s violent death at the hands of a pack of wolf shifters, Andie has devoted her life to protecting her community of cougar shifters from a similar fate. But now, a greater threat lies within her own dare, and she must run. If she stays, Kyle Carstairs will force their mating, seeking the added political power their union would provide.

Andie would rather chew off her own foot than end up with Kyle. Though, knowing him, she won’t live long either way. Andie’s only hope of survival is to mate Jaxon Keller, the Alpha of the Keller Dare with which she is seeking asylum. But before she can get to him, Andie must first go through A.J., one of the Alpha’s Protectors.
What Andie doesn’t realize is that A.J. has secrets of his own. All Andie knows is that the incredibly frustrating shifter insists on challenging her story, her skills, her trust… and her heart.

Get a peek into this new series now. Read Hannah’s Fate, my short story in the Here, Kitty Kitty anthology.
How can readers reach you or find you online?

Ah, the fun part! I love hearing from readers and other writers. I’m on most of the big social media – so it’s very easy to get in touch. Here are my links. I’d love to hear from you!
Website | Facebook Twitter Pinterest 

Thanks, Abigail and good luck with Andromeda's Fall and the Shadowcat Nation series.  


Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Winning NaNoWriMo

            On Saturday I hit the magic number – 50,000 words. That is what it takes to win at NaNoWriMo, National November Writing Month. Thousands of people around the world spend the entire month of November pounding away at their keyboards or sitting down with pen and tablet trying to write a novel of fifty thousand words.

 +           This year I won at NaNo for the fifth time. Hopefully it won’t be the last. The best part about doing a solid month of writing so much is that it means you have a good chunk of a novel done when you hit the last day of the month.  The bad part is that for me that is still only two thirds of the way and I still have a third to go to finish it, plus the editing process.

            But it can pay off. When I look back at my work over the five years I’ve taken part in NaNoWriMo, I see one book that has been published and another that is scheduled to release soon. That doesn’t even take into account two others that I am in the process of completing. And that is one of the big benefits of NaNo. Here are some of the other benefits and reasons I do it every year:

1.      You have a novel nearly completed with only editing and some additions to make. The words as there, the plot just needs to wrap up.

2.      You’re not alone. You can look at the website and see all the places around the world where people are taking part. We also have an active group writing here in Denver and there are always write-ins or writing sessions where you can go and commiserate with fellow writing addicts even late into the night.

3.      You end up with a sense of accomplishment at the end. I like that feeling I get every day when I fill in my totals and see it rise either to the bar that means I am keeping up with the daily word count you need to finish on time or go above it to give me some breathing room when I knew I couldn’t write all day.

4.      It provides a good refresher in how to keep writing fast.  There are times when I don’t write as much but when NaNoWriMo comes along, I know I will be plugging away at getting my fifty thousand words written so I have everything prepared and ready to go and just sit down and write. That is good practice for the rest of the year.

5.      It also provides a nice sense of accomplishment at the end of the month when I see what I can do if I only set my mind to it. Some days I wrote up to 4500 words, and that shows me I can do that if I have a story to tell and the will to do it.

This year my project was called Return to Redfern. It’s a follow up to my book that came out two years ago, Shadows from the Past. The big house I used in that book, Redfern Manor was one of those places I just couldn’t get out of my head. I had to go back so while my original heroine has moved on, I have someone else who is haunted by that place, and just has to go back.

In a few days I’ll be starting my edits on it, something I know I wouldn’t be doing if I hadn’t taken part in NaNoWriMo!

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

My Writing Corner goes international today as I greet South African writer, Anita Giraud, author of the new book, "Love in A New Dawn." Welcome, Anita. Did you always want to be a writer?

My earliest ambitions were to be an actress and to be a playwright. I only thought seriously about writing novels when I was doing my post PhD. I got tired of the dry research and wanted to branch out and do something that was more creative and my thing.

When did you first start writing and how did you go about it?

I started by going to the local municipal library about two, three years ago and borrowed Elizabeth George’s “Write away” This started me on my first draft of “Love in a new dawn”, only then it was called “Reckless chase”. After I sent my proposal to various agents and publishers, I decided to go to an online writing school and get some coaching. The one teacher who mentored me the most was writer Rebecca Grace. It was only after that that “Love in a New Dawn” emerged as it is today.

Thanks, Anita. I really enjoyed working with you. How did you come up with the idea for your first book?

Living in South Africa, we’re under the general African influences and the stories of Somali pirates and thug activities going on in the African states are common news. The South African characters especially have a local flavor although the English influence in Durban, where I live, is far stronger than elsewhere in south Africa and this helped me find Lord Somerford’s family.

How do you come up with your story ideas?

There are lots of things happening in the environment where I live and stories of abductions, kidnappings, drugs and crime syndicate activities abound in South Africa and make the background for my work. Of course such activities abound elsewhere in the world as well, so it’s easy to extrapolate. Romance as a genre has always been an interest of mine and having studied literature to doctoral level, I’ve been exposed to lots of different stories over time. However as I said my local environment is the strongest influence as I have a happy marriage and satisfying romantic life.

Tell us about your newest book.

“To Forever Hold” is next on the list. It is the story about the difficult love of an independent art gallery owner, Charlene de Villiers and hotel tycoon Marc Sauzier de la Tour, who, once disappointed in marriage, shuns any further commitment. Their difficulties are exacerbated by the huge Indian Ocean which separates them and how Charlene has to manage with a pregnancy, a crippled father, a nearly bankrupt family business, a spurned admirer who spiked her drink then tried to rape her and her mistrust of Marc whom she disliked heavily in the first place. Marc is at his wits end when he hears that Charlene is pregnant with his child as none of his propositions meet her approval. When both Charlene and Marc realize that they share a deep love that transcends distance, time and all other obstacles it is maybe too late ….

Give us an idea of how you develop your characters?

I use a character sketch list which I fill in but most of all I’m inspired by the many people I see, around me and on television, even passersby whom I catch a glimpse of when I go walking in public places. With the mass media, there’s plenty to go on to have a base for a character. I also socialize quite a lot and come across a wide variety of people.

How do you research your stories?

I have visited the settings in “Love in a New Dawn” and know the local South African sites well. However, I’m also quite used to doing research from my previous job as a researcher and will also research in books as there are lots of libraries available, I use the internet and discuss with the relevant people and so on.

Do you always know how your story is going to end?

I generally have a pretty good idea of what my story is going to be before I start writing it. Following the advice of Elizabeth George, I do quite a lot of preparatory work before I actually start writing the manuscript. Of course, the story has a life of its own and I allow certain steps to develop on their own along the way if those new steps are going to work in favor of the general idea.

What are you working on now?

I’m working on a follow up to “Love in a New Dawn” named “Raindrops in the sea” and have also started preparations for a new trilogy. The first of the trilogy, “To Forever Hold”, will hopefully be published in 2015. I’m also keen to have “Love in a New Dawn” turned into a film if I can find a buyer with a decent price and might consider doing the screen writing myself.

What would you tell writers who are just starting out that you wish you had known?

I would suggest having a solid idea to jot down and then look for a mentor to coach you a bit. Join writing circles and writing groups to have some support and be very disciplined and persistent in your work and in looking for a publisher.

What do you read when you are not writing?

I read a wide variety of English and French literature ranging from the classics to contemporary authors in multi genres. I’m very sorry that Mary Stewart hasn’t written any more novels as I love her work but then I also love a host of other writers as well. Tell us a little about your writing day – how do you make time? Since I had to be very disciplined with my studies and my research, I find it easy to be disciplined about everything else. When I’m writing, I prefer to write from about 8.30 a.m. until my inspiration runs dry. As I like to keep my writing fresh and inspired, I don’t believe in working like an automaton. However, due to the preparatory work I’ve done, I’m never intimidated by a blank page, because I always have something to fall back on. I generally aim to do one or two chapters a day.

How can readers reach you or find you online?

I can be found on twitter, facebook, reddit, LinkedIn, Goodreads, on my web site

  Please give us a blurb for your new book.

“Love in a New Dawn” is a contemporary romantic suspense ablaze with the flaming passion that encapsulates the clash of wills of two proud people: Lise Le Thierry the cloistered, idealistic, stubborn, beauty shrouded in mystery whose sense of moral rectitude can never be crushed –until she meets the one man whose sheltering arms made her reason fly. And Morne Louwe, the gorgeous, worldly, tall and muscular CEO of the family Louwe Diamond Mines, who rescues her, is repelled by her time and again, but who can never forget the night his soul was marked by the memory of a body ripe for love…

Where can readers buy it?
Available soon:

Thanks, Anita, and good luck with Love in A New Dawn.  Any questions or comments for Anita?

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

A Conversation with Two Legends

Normally every week I get the opportunity to chat with fellow writers to ask about their latest books, and this week I will be doing the same, but in a different way. What if you had a couple of minutes to spend with two giants of the writing world? What questions would you ask them?

Recently I had the opportunity to listen to best selling thriller authors, David Morrell and John Sandford discuss their approaches to writing at the annual Tony Hillerman Conference in Santa Fe. It is a small conference, no more than 200 people and those who attend get the opportunity to spend three days in workshops with some great writers. This year was no exception. It was my second year attending and it won’t be my last. I’m already making plans to go back next year.

The best part of attending a small conference like this one is that it provides aspiring writers the opportunity every so often for some one-on-one discussions. Imagine my surprise when I went over and approached David Morrell to tell him that I often use a conversation I had with him last year about short stories in my various classes and to thank him for his words of wisdom. Instead of simply accepting the thanks and moving on, he stopped to ask, “What did I say?”

I mentioned that he had told me and another attendee who happened to be one of my students that short stories were a great learning tool because they helped writers work on the basics of storytelling. He also said they helped teach how to be more focused because every words counts so the writing becomes sharper. He nodded and then began to expand on that old discussion, telling me how important it is to study the basics and to constantly study writing techniques. We should always be in the learning process as writers, he said. Then we began discussing first books and his beginnings as a writer. Another woman joined us and asked him about how he got the idea for his signature character, Rambo. It's a questions he's probably had many times, but instead of excusing himself and rushing off to breakfast, he took the time to stop and talk to us about how he had come up with that iconic figure.

Morrell told us he was at Penn State in the 60s, a hotbed for student unrest, and he kept seeing men coming back from the Viet Nam war with psychological problems. He recalled actor Audi Murphy who became a popular movie star after being a war hero in World War II, but Murphy had a lot of problems with rage and was always being arrested. Morrell said he began studying the problems (in those days no one had heard of PTSD) and found himself writing a story based on that. The result was Rambo.
Later that day I got a chance to pose the same sort of question to thriller author, John Sandford. I’ve been a great fan  of his and of his signature character, Detective Lucas Davenport, since I picked up Rules of Prey in the supermarket back when it first came out. I mentioned that to him and asked how he had gotten started. He was a newspaper reporter known as John Camp working in Minneapolis at the time and had just won a Pulitzer Prize. But all it got him was a minor raise. He had written two nonfiction books and dabbled in fiction and was looking for a way to increase his earnings. He had a family to raise and was looking at fiction writing as a possible way to get extra cash. Like so many writers he had always wanted to write fiction--ever since he was in junior high. He told me he spent months walking the inside walkways of downtown Minneapolis in the winter and working out the first Davenport book in his head.

What an inspirational thrill it was to hear those stories directly from both mega-successful authors. They struggled, just like the rest of us. They came up with an idea and they didn’t just sit down and bestsellers sprang from them like magic. They both stressed that they had to work at their writing and their stories. Endless hours of research and writing and re-writing were all part of the package.
Later the two sat down for a chat together for the whole group and their comments were much the same. But I got to hear it directly (and first!) But the one thing that I came away with from their main discussion was the importance of writing every day and continuing to study the craft. As a newspaper reporter, Sandford/Camp says he would write stories of at least 750 words a day. He said if you write that much every day, you should be able to get a novel done in just a few months. That struck a chord with me as a journalist. I was writing every day when I worked in television newsrooms. It might not be fiction, but it was steady writing and it had to get done. Both men agreed that is how to look at your writing. If we want to be writers, we need to constantly work at it. Bosses don't accept the excuse of not feeling like you don't want to write. As a writer you're the boss and shouldn't accept that excuse either.

Wise words from some wise men with a history of 100 books and short stories between them. It certainly made me think, and even as I finish this up, I see I have 750 words written. Now to write another 750 on my next book.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Five Things You Should Know about Emily Darling

Historical Western Romance author Andrea Downing is joining us
today in My Writing Corner. I had the pleasure of meeting Andi in person recently at the Women Writing the West Conference in Golden,  Colorado.

She likes to say that when she decided to do a Masters Degree, she made the mistake of turning left out of New York, where she was born,  instead of right to the west, and ended up in the UK.   She eventually got married there and raised a daughter.  She taught, edited a poetry magazine, and wrote travel articles and spent a short time in Nigeria before returning to New York in 2008. 

She now divides her time between the city and the shore, and often trades the canyons of New York for the wide open spaces of Wyoming.  She and her family often vacation in the West and, so far, she and her daughter have visited some 20 ranches. Her first book, Loveland,  was a finalist for Best American Historical at the 2013 RONE Awards. Lawless Love, a short story, was part of The Wild Rose Press ‘Lawmen and Outlaws’ series, was a finalist for Best Historical Novella at the RONE Awards. 

Dearest Darling, a novella, is part of The Wild Rose Press Love Letters series, and came out in October, and Dances of the Heart, another full length novel, comes out in the next few months.

Here is a blurb:

Daniel Saunders has carved out a life for himself in Wyoming—a life missing one thing: a wife. Having scrimped and saved to bring his mail-order bride from New York, he is outraged to find in her stead a runaway fraud. Even worse, the impostor is the sister of his old enemy.
But people are not always as they seem, and sometimes the heart knows more than the head.
I was already a big fan of Andrea's because of her great characters, and Emily is another strong, memorable woman. Here are five things you should know about her:

                                                 Emily Darling, Heroine of Dearest Darling
1.      Born in the city, she wants to live in the country.

2.      She’s small of stature but big of heart.
3.      She was raised as a debutante, but is willing to work as a housekeeper.
4.      Destined for an arranged marriage, she is holding out for a man of her choosing.

5.      She is strong-willed and adventurous and wants to experience EVERYTHING (and I do mean everything!)

 Dearest Darling is already getting good reviews. Here are the buy links:

Thanks, Andrea, for being today's guest, and good luck with Dearest Darling!

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

On the Writing Road

The whole month of November is poised to be one mighty writing challenge, but it is also offering some great opportunities an author shouldn’t pass up.

This morning I am off for a long and I'm certain fun filled weekend in Santa Fe, New Mexico. A trip to New Mexico is always great for research purposes, since I have set several books there and I am working on several others, including one that is set back in the 1870s. Some people dread the long stretches of road. They consider them empty and boring. But those wide open spaces make me think of the pioneers crossing the grasslands looking for a better place to live. I always keep an eye out for deer, antelope and sometimes buffalo. (Yes, real buffalo!)

But the real draw is the Tony Hillerman Conference and all that it has to offer for a writer. I attended for the first time last year and what a great experience it was. From meeting with one of my former students to spending time listening to such greats as Craig Johnson discuss characters in his Longmire series to a personal conversation with the great David Morrell about short stories, I enjoyed the conference immensely. What an outstanding experience! Talking with others about writing methods, hearing from Margaret Coel about her experiences in writing about Native Americans, I felt like every minute was worth the time. 

I also enjoyed the fact that the conference was not overwhelming. It's designed as a smaller conference, and I've always been an advocate for smaller gatherings. Look around for those types of  opportunities in your area. They often don't cost as much as the big conventions and are well worth the effort. There were only 200 or so people attending the Hillerman Conference last year. The sessions were all held in one big room so we all got an opportunity to hear from every one of the guest speakers. It also gave us the chance to pick each other’s brains at breaks, during lunch, and in the social hours. And what a great bookstore!  I went out laden with two big bags of books and there were more I wanted to get. At the time the cashier said I set the record for the biggest sale of the day. But it was early. I'm certain others beat it later.
This year should be every bit as great. Mystery author John Sandford is one of the guests and he has two new novels out in the past couple of months with two of his greatest characters, Lucas Davenport and Virgil Flowers. I’ve been hooked on both series since each started and I am looking forward to hearing what he has to say about the latest books. (I've been holding off getting them so I can buy them at the conference and ask him to sign them.) He’s presenting a keynote address with David Morrell and is part of a panel discussion on outlining.

I’ll be participating in the new author/new book breakfast on Friday and signing my book Dead Man’s Rules. That should be fun because it’s always great to meet new readers and the book is set in New Mexico.
But in addition to the conference, I’ll also be doing more research for my follow up to Dead Man with a second story called Dead Man’s Treasure. And it’s just what it sounds like. I am taking readers on a treasure hunt and believe me there are plenty of treasure tales in northern New Mexico. This trip gives me a prime opportunity to examine some of those tales first hand.

When I come back from the conference, I’ll be digging in as I have been for the past week on my writing. This year I am again participating in NaNoWriMo, the quest to write 50,000 words in one month. I’ve managed to do it for the past few years. This year I will be focusing on a cozy mystery, a follow up to my novella, Shadows from the Past, set in the mysterious Redfern Manor which was the setting of that story. I'll have more on my NaNoWriMo writing journey later this month.
 So in essence, while this is a vacation, it is also a great time to work on my writing through learning and to get more of those words onto the computer for NaNoWriMo. In the meantime, happy writing!

Thursday, October 30, 2014

The Legend of La Llorona

Yesterday I discussed my search for La Llorona, the legendary weeping woman who is supposed to seek out and drown children in the night.  When I began to research La Llorona, back in the 70s, what surprised me was how widespread the story was, even though I couldn’t find a definitive tale provided anywhere. It was all part of legend, or stories people had been told. Her legend had been passed down from generation to generation. There were a few old books that told about her, but again, it was all supposition and legend. No one had any actual record of who the woman might have been in real life or if such a woman ever existed. That is true even today. I can find a variety of references online about the legend, but whether or not she was a true historic figure cannot be determined.

The oldest story of La Llorona appears to go back to the days of the Aztecs in Mexico. In those stories, she was said to be a  beautiful  young woman who fell in love with a handsome warrior of great wealth.  She was supposedly very vain and he had to pursue her for a long time to win her love. Eventually they married and she gave birth to two children.  But after a few years he decided he didn’t want her anymore and he went looking for another wife.  In anger she drowned the two sons he loved.  
In other versions the story is much the same but the man is a Spanish Conquistador who eventually spurns her for someone else. In fact there is also a story that La Llorana was originally the woman who was interpreter for Herman Cortez, the Spanish conqueror who defeated the Aztecs.  In one version she didn’t drown her children but was so sad about losing her husband that she didn’t pay attention and the children accidentally drowned.

In later versions, the man became a rich rancher who owned many cattle and much land in the Southwest. But they all have the same tragic ending. He leaves her and her children die. Whether they were drowned by her or just fell in the river by accident differs in various stories. In some versions she must search for the children before she can enter heaven. In others she has realized what she has done and she tries to find them. But she is still a cruel woman, because the belief in many of the stories is that she drowns the real children she finds because they are not hers.
What has amazed me so much about this story is that it is so similar in so many ways in so many areas. And to think it has been spread for years, long before the days when everything was written down. It has been passed down through the years mainly by people telling their children and passing it on. Yes, it is on the internet now and was in books, but it was originally passed down by word of mouth. It was told in Mexico and yet it was also in Colorado, New Mexico and Arizona. But it was always a Mexican or Hispanic woman.   

The story was well known to both my mother and father, told to them as children, even though they grew up separately.  Both lived in the same general part of southern Colorado. However, even some of my friends in California had heard of her and the legend.
And some people have sworn that they have seen her or heard her near rivers – much like the woman who told my college friends and me the story.  She is said to moan and weep as she prowls the river banks, and that is what people say they hear or they claim to have seen a tall long haired woman in a flowing white gown.

Many people hadn’t heard of it until it became one of the “monsters of the week” on the NBC television show Grimm several years ago. In that story, the creature was a woman who was killing children at the forks of rivers, three at a time. She was eventually vanquished.
La Llorna has also appeared in movies in various forms, so the legend lives on.  

One more personal note – our family seems to have only humorous  encounters.  When my sister read yesterday’s blog, she reminded me that her own experience with the weeping woman was just as frightening  and just as silly. We lived near the Arkansas River while I was growing up and then moved to a point where the Arkansas actually meets the Purgatory River or the River of the Lost Souls.
We were living near farm land and the first week we were there she began to hear crying in the night. It was downright scary, and it wouldn’t stop. Her immediate thought, of course, was La Llorna. Our dad didn’t seem to notice or pay any attention even though he worked late at night. She was scared for a week, until he finally took her for a drive and showed her the peacock farm located down the road. To this day she hates the sound of those birds. I remember that sound and if La Llorna cried in the night, it would have resembled the call of the peacock.

So be careful near water… especially if you’re in the southwest.
I hope you’ll check out the other blogs on the Snarkology Halloween blog hop. You could win a prize!

A Writing Quest

With the cold days of winter in the rearview mirror and spring taking a firm hold, it's time to look forward to all the reading we want ...