Monday, October 31, 2011

Jerrie Alexander: Persistence is The Key

What We Are Saying...
Jerrie Alexander's THE GREEN EYED DOLL will  debut  in the spring of 2012 with the Wild Rose Press  as part of its Crimson Rose line. In the meantime,  she took time for an interview with us. It's our pleasure to welcome her to our blog. Jerrie joined us for a discussion about her first book, how she got published and her life, so far, as a writer. So grab your favorite beverage, relax and read about this new writer. Don't forget to leave Jerrie a question or comment.

What Jerrie is Saying...
 Thanks for having me today. I love chatting with fellow authors. I’ve written off and on for years, with romance and suspense my genre of choice. I still have the first paper I wrote in a creative writing class years ago. But life happens, and I struck gold with my very own John Wayne husband and two wonderful children.

For a time, I set writing aside, but my characters were never far from my thoughts. Geesh, sometimes they’d wake me, insisting I share their dark, sexy stories with others. I love to write alpha males and sassy, kick-ass women with a hint of humor. My characters weave their way through death and fear to emerge stronger because of, and on occasion in spite of, their love for each other. I torture the hero and heroine, make them suffer, and if they’re strong enough, they live happily ever after.

A native Texan, I’m a member of Romance Writers of America, North Texas RWA, and Kiss of Death. She lives in Texas, loves sunshine, children’s laughter, sugar (human and granulated), and researching for her heroes and heroines.

Jerrie joined us for a discussion about her first book, how she got published and her life, so far, as a writer. So grab your favorite beverage, relax and read about this new writer.

Jerrie Alexander on Her Journey…
First Congratulations! You’ve written your first book, The Green Eyed Doll and it has been accepted for publication by The Wild Rose Press. What is this journey like for you?
My journey to publication has been wild, exciting, sometimes disappointing, and a pleasure! The Green Eyed Doll has been edited, cut, and rewritten many times, but I knew this was a good story, so I kept submitting. The journey requires perseverance and the willingness to accept rejection. I can’t tell you how exciting and validating it is to open an email and have someone who loved your book offer to publish it.

What galvanizes you to keep writing?
You’ve probably heard this a number of times, but I can’t NOT write. I love to create new stories of danger and survival. When one of my critique partners tell me something I’ve written scared the socks of them or made them cry, it’s incredibly rewarding. Makes me work even harder. It’s really hard to get my brain to shut down and go into vacation mode.

On her book and characters…
Could you share a bit about your latest book and characters?
Love to! The Green Eyed Doll is a story about a woman hiding her past. A Texas sheriff who ignites a flame she thought lost forever, and a killer who paints his victims to look like porcelain dolls. Keeping secrets will cost her dearly when the sheriff learns she killed her husband. She’s broken a bond of trust he thought they’d formed. She’ll fight for her life a second time when she’s kidnapped by the man who plans to make her his next Green Eyed Doll.
The hero and heroine have to learn to trust and forgive each other in order to make their relationship work.

If you had to choose, which scene in the book is your favorite?
That’s a tough one. There’s a point in the book where Catherine, the heroine, takes charge of her situation. She’s a survivor and quite willing to do what it takes to stay alive, but what she goes through to live and love is heroic. Also there’s a John Wayne thread running through to the ending, I think it’s different than most books.

What inspired you to write romantic suspense?
I’d have to say Nora Roberts writing as J.D. Robb. I have the entire series of In Death books. Her writing inspires me. Her writing draws you in, allowing you to live the story along with her characters. After I read one of her books, I think wow; I need to work a little harder. Dig a little deeper. I don’t want to be Nora, but I want to be the best Jerrie possible.

On her writing process…
How much research was required for your novel?
I research a lot. Asked questions and spent tons of time on Google before I started a book. If you saw the files on my hard drive, you’d think they belonged to a serial killer. I did a lot of research on both the setting and the killer.

I actually wrote the FBI with a list of questions for another work in progress. Can you imagine my surprise when my phone rang and a Special Agent was calling? He was very helpful, answered all my questions, and thanked me for trying to keep it real. And I use his information whenever possible.

You’ve had a career in logistics which involved travel to many cities. How has this background helped or hindered you in planning your books?
It helped a lot, but I can only write about warm climates! I was fortunate to not travel into colder states. Even during a trip to Oregon, it was summer. I set my background in areas where I know the weather and setting in real and believable. The setting in a book is very much one of the characters. The Green Eyed Doll is set in a small Texas county during the longest drought and hottest summer on record. While I wrote this book two years ago, the setting rings true today.

What are the challenges in developing a layered plot-driven story that rivals others in the market place.
One challenge is keeping it fresh. There are just so many ways to kill a person. It’s how you build the world around the deaths and the impact on the survivors that keep a story interesting to me. I try to layer in different struggles for the characters and not make the story strictly about suspense.

How do you give your characters the depth and detail necessary for readers to want to cheer them on without the technical aspects of your research interfering with the story?
All of us have a flaw or something we have to overcome, at least I do! My characters all have a past, something they’d rather forget because they don’t believe themselves worthy of redemption. Forcing them to come to terms with their secret allows them to grow.

What challenge or struggle do you face when you try to build emotional bonds between the characters.
I’m too quick to have them fall in love! I slap my hand, hit delete, and take my time building their relationship. They can be attracted to each other, but to build a lasting emotional bond, each character has to trust that they’ve found a safe place to fall.

How do you, then, go about addressing the part with which you struggle.
Each morning before I begin to write, I read yesterday’s work. I’ve been told you should keep writing and catch the mistakes during the edit, but that process doesn’t work for me. If I’ve moved too quickly, I’ll cut out that section and save it to use later.

Do you have specific techniques you utilize for getting into the head of your villains? Care to share them?
This, according to some, is my forte. I love writing from the villain’s point of view. I did tons of research on serial killers before starting the book. Understanding his motivation, what trigger turned him into a monster, helps make him believable.

What do you find most rewarding about your writing career so far? Most disappointing?
I love the creative part, the putting on of different hats to slip into a new life and create new experiences. Rejection is always the most disappointing. But it comes with the territory, and I had to accept the fact that everyone isn’t going to love my work.

If you could give beginning writers one small piece of advice, what would it be?
Other than don’t give up, I’d say find a support group, a critique group, a chapter of fellow writers. I learn something every time I’m around other writers.

On Her Personal Life…
What is a little known fact about yourself?
Had to think on this one. Now this is just between us...when I was in school I sang lead in a group...we were going to be rich and famous. Fun times!

What book are you reading right now?
Edge Of Sight by Roxanne St. Claire. She is one of my favorite romantic suspense authors.

If you could have a beer, coffee, or tea with a literary luminary living or dead, who would it be and why?
I’d choose a big glass of iced tea with Stephen King. After reading his book On Writing, I recommend it to all my fellow writers. Aside from being scary, he’s down to earth and logical.

What’s next for you?
I recently started submitting The Last Execution.  Hell Or High Water is a new story about human trafficking, and the research is truly heartbreaking.

Finally, where can we find you on the web? – I love getting email!

Question for Readers. What keeps you going back to a favorite author? Emotional engagement with the characters or the plot?

Friday, October 28, 2011

It Happens Every Friday

Every Friday we try to give you a sneak peak of  new books and/or interviews with authors. We have had the pleasure this week of an interview with Jeanne Guzman. Below is a blurb from her book Dragon Lover.

Dragon Lover

For eighteen years Kimball Crossley trained for the day she’d come face-to-face with the demon who murdered her parents. Nothing could’ve prepared her for the dragon who would change her life forever.

Dmitri of the Langhier Clan is one of the elite Dragon Hunters. For eighteen years he’s stood against evil, believing he’ll forever be a warrior for his people. That is, until the night he’s confronted with his future.

With whispers of war in the air, can Kimball learn to trust what she’s always hated and accept her love for the Dragon Hunter? Dmitri’s skills as a hunter are superior, but can he accept that women, particularly his woman, can be as strong in mind and body as any well-trained hunter? Can they put aside their differences long enough to save both their worlds?

Jeanne Guzman
Jeanne Guzman

Born and raised in Maryland, Jeanne got to Texas as fast as she could. Mother of 4, Mimi to 8, and Keeper of the Zoo, Jeanne and her husband/best friend enjoy life to its fullest. When they’re not traveling around Texas in their motor coach, you can find Jeanne sitting in her home office typing away at her computer.
 Stop by her web site,, to see what’s coming next.
To purchase your copy of Dragon Lover in E-book format, go to Jeanne’s web site or


Coming Next Week:
Interviews with Debut Author, Jerrie Alexander and NYT and USA bestselling Author Julia London
Come join us.~

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

5 Basic Ideas for Plot Development

By Ruby Johnson

Writers like to call themselves plotters or pantzers. Basically both types of writers start in the same place— with an idea. It's what they do with the ideas that distinguishes them from each other. Today, we'll talk about the plotter who writes down ideas and story points. Once they have the idea, they start asking themselves questions about goal, motivation, and conflict. Plot develops out of conflict such as an event, or a person and precipitates actions of the protagonist, either internal or external, which is driven by the characters's wants and needs. How that character responds determines the course of events.
 Each character has two goals, motivations and conflicts—External and Internal. In Debra Dixon's book on GMC she says every scene must have at least two of the three. It is helpful to delineate these for your characters. Almost all stories follow a pattern in which rising action propels the protagonists through a series of complications that result in a climax, followed by the falling action of the resolution. At this point, the character must learn something, grow, and accomplish a goal. But an important point to remember is you can't have your characters do something outside their comfort zone. You have to present a compelling reason for their actions.
Writer Annie Lamott created a mnemonic catechism, ABCDE, to help writers remember the basics. These are the elements:

Set the scene with an event that launches the series of events that constitutes a story. This scene should happen as early as possible, and though some writers have broken this rule, observe it  unless you have and outstanding reason not to.

Context is essential to settle your readers into the story, and it usually follows the initiating action. It is important to know your character's core belief and, thus, you must know his back story. Pay it out parsimoniously, however, and don't let your reader get ahead of your protagonist, or you'll likely lose the dramatic tension of the story.

Such tension is produced by your protagonist's impetus to achieve a goal. That goal should be specific, and, for the story to be compelling, it should be something the character can't live without. To be even more so, it shouldn't be easy for the character to satisfy that desire. The tension is produced by desire, but it is sustained by obstacles to attainment of that desire.

This element constitutes the bulk of the plot; it is the journey, and all the events and incidents along the way. These happenings should bring the protagonist ever closer to resolution of the conflict, and they should steadily escalate in import and impact to heighten the suspense and keep the reader engaged in the story. Every event that happens in your plot needs to be there for a reason. Readers feel cheated if the author suddenly drops in a convenient ploy.

The final step is further divided into a mnemonic trio: The crisis is the stage at which the protagonist must decide how to resolve the conflict, the climax is the tipping point, at which the conflict is resolved, and the consequences consist of the state of affairs that exists after the crisis and the climax—has the main character changed, or has the main character changed the world in some way? What is the outcome of all that has come before? You must make your plot tight and  tie up all loose ends. This stage in a story, also called the denouement, is the final, necessary release of dramatic tension.

A Five Step Exercise in Plot Development:
1. Describe the story you plan to write in one sentence. If  you can't say what the book is about in one sentence, you don't have a clear enough idea of what you're trying to do.
2. State what the main character wants more than anything else in life. The plot grows out of this desire.Then stick in three obstacles to prevent him from obtaining this goal.
3. Write a character description of the protagonist that includes appearance, likes, dislikes,fears, chilhood trauma, occupation, etc. Plot is behavior. The kind of experiences your characters have had determine how he behaves in the future. What he fears affect his actions. Plot grows from character.
4. Make a timeline for the events of the novel. This will give your novel anchor points.
5.Make a map that shows where the action will take place. This helps to gauge distances and figure the length of time to move your characters from one place to another.

Now all you have to do is write the novel!

Monday, October 24, 2011

Jeanne Guzman: You Can't Play Around If You Want To Write

Jeanne Guzman
 Born and raised in Maryland, Jeanne Guzman got to Texas as fast as she could. Mother of 4, Mimi to 9, and Keeper of the Zoo, Jeanne and her husband/best friend enjoy life to its fullest. When they’re not traveling around Texas in their motor coach, you can find Jeanne sitting in her home office typing away at her computer. She is here to talk about her book DRAGON LOVER , how she got published, and her intricate life as a new author. So grab a drink, relax and join in the conversation. Jeanne, thank you for joining our blog to talk about your first book, and your writing career.

Jeanne Guzman On Her Journey…

What is this journey like for you?
Honestly, Tiring, exhilarating, frustrating, and so worth the sleepless nights.

People often think of writers as having “overnight success.” How many years have you been working toward “overnight success”?
I’ve been writing now for 20 years. But it wasn’t until about 3 years ago that I finally said, “enough playing around” and got down to following my heart.

What galvanizes you to keep writing?
My family and friends. The closer I get to publication, the more supportive they are. The more supportive they are, the more I want to write.

On her Book And Characters…
Could you share a bit about your book and characters?
What can I say? Hummm, imagine a world where dragons have evolved, just as the apes, into upright walking, human looking entities with wings and the ability to breathe fire. A world where a crossbreed between human and dragon, called Sparrows, guard the identity of said dragons. Now plop them in downtown Austin Texas in the middle of tourist season and you’ll have the first in my Dragon Hunters series. Let me tell you, it’s hard to hide a dragon in flight in the capitol city, but it can be done.

What inspired you to write romantic fantasy with dragons?
Simple, my youngest daughter. I was sitting in my office, struggling with “Writers Block” and she came in and said, “Hey, mom, why don’t you write a book about demons. Or better yet, Dragons.” And the rest, as they say….

If you had to choose, which scene from Dragon Lover is your favorite?
 If I had to pick just one, it would be when Kimball (she’s a Sparrow living in Austin) and Dmitri (he’s a dragon from North Texas) have first contact. (end of chapter 4) Trust me, seeing a little thing Like Kimball flip a dragon the size of Dmitri, I laugh every time I read that part, and I wrote it.

On Her Writing Process…
As someone with a large family, how has this helped or hindered you in planning/writing your books? I’m sure this is true for most everyone, but my family always comes first. I know this, and they know this, and in the beginning they took that fact for granted, but as my writing developed and they could actually SEE that writing really is hard work, they began to learn to do for themselves. Now, instead of getting interrupted millions of times a day to help with this or that, requests for my undivided attention have dwindled. My husband has even been known to wash dishes. *gasp* I know, shocking.

You’ve written a book about dragons. How much world building is involved? Would you care to share how you do this? World building, believe it or not, I hadn’t given much thought to building that world until I’d submitted to an editor. She loved the book, but couldn’t bring the world into focus. Needless to say, I got a crash course in building my world, developing towns, (picture a city like Austin, but underground) and making the editor believe there was such a place. I now have maps, diagrams, pictures, and notebooks strewn all over my office. I keep a profile on every character, (yes, even a house can be a character) I have a Dragon-Sparrow dictionary that I’ve created. A lineage Tree (names get added as they’re introduced into the series) There is so much involved in building a believable world, in my own opinion, a person has to live there in order to write about it. So in short, I live in a world I created.

How do you give your dragon characters the depth and detail necessary for readers to want to cheer them on?
I really don’t think I can take credit for that. I’m sure I’m not the only one who has this issue, but as I start to write, my characters come to life and tell me how their story should go. If I try to make them do something they normally wouldn’t do, they tell me about it. They’ve even woke me out of a sound sleep to fix what they believe is an issue.

Was it difficult to “get into character” for heroes/heroines from another realm?
Not at all, because really, a dragon is just like anyone else, if you take away the wings, breathing fire, and flying.

What challenge or struggle do you face when you try to build emotional bonds between the characters?
That would have to be their personalities. For instance, Kimball has been hunting demons all her life, then she’s told they’re not demons, but dragons. Then she finds out that not only can she NOT kill the dragon who comes to her aid, she’s basically married to him. As you can imagine, she’s not too happy about this, and she lashes out.

How do you, then, go about addressing the part you struggle with?
I put myself in their shoes. I know where they need to be, and what their goal is, if they refuse to listen, I’ll take something away. Another for instance. Dmitri is not only a Hunter (form of law enforcement for his race of dragon) he’s also extremely protective of Kimball. Kimball is a fighter, but Dmitri tried to prevent her from fighting. Simple, I took away his status as a hunter. He’s listening better now.

On Her Personal Life As An Author...
What do you find most rewarding about your writing career?
Personal satisfaction. No more doubts that I can, because I did. Most disappointing? That I can’t answer yet. Every moment has been a learning experience for me, and I’m still learning.

If you could give writers one small piece of advice, what would it be?
Never give up on yourself. Believe in what you’re doing. If one book, one way of writing isn’t getting you the results you want, stick it in a box, store it in your closet, then get back to work on something new. You can always go back.

What is something that you often see beginning writers doing wrong?
Thinking they have all the answers. You can’t just wake up one morning and say “Hey, I think I’ll write a novel today” and honestly believe it will happen just like that. Writing is a constant learning experience. It’s work. It’s blood, sweat, tears and hours and hours sitting in front of your computer or typewriter.


What is a little known fact about you?
I can tell you, because I know my grandbabies are not going to read this, but I hide candy in my nightstand. I allow myself one a day, no more, and then no more sweets for me.

What book are you reading right now?
Ummmm, just bought a few from Borders (their final days) and haven’t decided what I’m going to read first. No, I lied. I’m about to read Treachery In Death, by J. D. Robb. (Nora Roberts for those who didn’t know)

If you could have a beer, wine, coffee, or tea with a literary luminary living or dead, who would it be and why?
It would be Nora Roberts. The woman is the goddess of writing. Through the years, I have come face to face with many a published author, but never have I been as tongue tied as when in the presence of her greatness. Just to be in the same room with her would be enough. (Okay, I got a girl-crush, I admit it freely)

What's next for you?

Book 2, The Dragon Within. I’m in the final edits before sending it off to my editor.


Where can we buy your books and find you on the web? You can find me on the web at and to buy my book, go to

Jeanne’s question for readers.

As I outline future books in my Dragon Hunters Series, what location would you, the reader, like to see most? (So far, I’ve written about Australia, Texas, Oklahoma, Southern Chili, and I’m about to take a few of my dragons to Scotland)

Don’t forget to leave a comment. I’ll be picking a winner at the end of the week who will receive a signed copy of Dragon Lover.

Friday, October 21, 2011

M. L. Lacy shares Chrysalis—The Awakening and a Giveaway

M.L. Lacy
It's our pleasure to welcome M.L. Lacy back with an excerpt of the first book in her Chrysalis series. I was in her critique group and reviewed  this book. Even if  you don't like fantasy, this is a great read. Don't forget to leave a comment for a chance at winning this book.~Ruby Johnson 

About M. L...
Born and raised in Central Indiana, M. L. Lacy settled in Texas during the late 1990′s. A military spouse for twenty years, her travels allowed her to experience and enjoy her passion for the Rocky Mountains and the American West. Those encounters are reflected in M. L. Lacy’s stories.She self-published her first novel in 2009. Chrysalis –The Awakening won Rebecca Reads 2010 Written Art Award – Science Fiction/Fantasy category, and was followed by book two, Chrysalis – Tribulations, in 2010. She accepted a publishing contract fron kNightromance Publishing and the first of her new series will be released  by them in April 2012. She has since contracted with them for the re-release of the Chrysalis series. She says her imagination allows her to create fictional worlds that push established storytelling boundaries. She and her husband are the parents of two sons, Christopher and Brent, and the proud grandparents of three lovely granddaughters.

Back Cover Copy...

Chrysalis – The Awakening
All families have secrets. At 32, Bree Campbell discovers her entire life has been a secret. A human born into a family of magicals, she begins questioning everything and everyone around her. The prophecy told at her birth speaks of a Chosen One; the last and greatest of a long line of Chosen Ones charged with saving both the human and magical worlds. Bree must face this reality and life with her new family; a clan of vampires protecting her. The sorceress, Esmeralda, will stop at nothing until this Chosen One is dead. None could then oppose her and she would be free to rid the world of all mortals. Will Bree awaken the hidden powers and find inner strength needed to save the world.
The story takes place over seven days, with one side trip to Yellowstone, in Las Vegas. Bree knows nothing of the magical realm, or who or what she is to become. She joins her grandmother on the trip under the guise of going to a reunion, but the real reason is to make her aware of who she is, and to reunite her with Steven as she begins her quest.


Chapter 1

Europe late 400’s

Samuel Woodburn stood quietly in front of the slate board and studied the scroll he held against the symbols drawn on the board. His brow creased in a concerned manner as he stepped toward the board and transferred the part of the scroll he held in his right hand to his left, picked up the dust cloth and wiped a small portion off one of the symbols. He stepped back, opened the scroll again, and reviewed the correction.

The fine-grained white limestone stick that wrote the symbols on the board floated toward that symbol and examined the change. The chalk moved back so it could scan the entire writing surface, then moved toward the beginning markings and bobbed along while it studied the writings it so meticulously drew.

Samuel glanced up and watched the chalk’s inspection. “It is fine. Mistakes happen.”

As the chalk turned toward him, a small amount of white dust spayed into the air at Samuel’s insinuation it made a mistake. From the first days of Samuel’s studies at Elbridge, the chalk drew perfect characters. Its accuracy was phenomenal, even when Samuel misspoke the ancient text, which he did a time or two in his earlier days. Now to imply it drew incorrectly was an insult and the chalk floated toward the far corner of the board to sulk.

Samuel shook his head at the momentary distraction and refocused on the scroll. It was imperative his translation was accurate. Even the slightest misplacement of a word could change the meaning and this prophecy was critical. Never did he worry over translations in the way he worried over this one and with over two thousand prophecy conversions under his sash from this planet alone—that said something. However, in the end, he knew he would get it right—he was Samuel Woodburn, the realm’s greatest linguist. He has won awards, he has been the only one of their realm to translate every dialect from every planet they have ever lived on and he was confident…worried, but confident, he would translate this prophecy correctly.

He lowered the scroll to begin his readings and glanced down the board at the chalk, ready to tell it he was ready to begin again when he saw the calcite stick, drawing stick figures on the slate, amusingly he rolled his eyes and with a wave of his hand, a soft, gray brush wiped the doodles away. A smile spread across his lips in his bid to make amends. “Your drawings are far more advanced than that, my friend. We have work to do now and I cannot do it without your help.”

The chalk, satisfied with the apology, moved into position and once again, Samuel spoke in the ancient dialect, and the chalk continued with its duty, drawing the emblems on the slate that spoke of the prophecy of the last Chosen One.

The door to the linguistics room opened, and the chalk stopped its drawings, which caused Samuel to glance up from his readings. When he spied who belonged to the footfalls, he chuckled. “Maxwell,” he said in an amiable tone. “What has brought you down here? Curiosity?”

Maxwell Stone strode to the front of the room. With one hand thrust into the pocket of the gray wool robes he wore, his other swung with his stride. “Ah, Samuel, you know me, this has always interested me. The way your group unravels the prophecies, rewrites them, so even the commoners can understand.” He picked up a book that lay on the long table and viewed the cover then returned it to its original spot. His eyes turned serious, and he motioned toward the young steward who worked to light the ancient orbs they used to illuminate the room.

Samuel called over his shoulder to his steward, “Kenneth that is fine. Go and round up the scribes. Tell them we will begin in five minutes.” He turned back toward the slate board and viewed the writings, checking them against the scroll, waiting on the door behind him to close. He ignored his friend until the sound of the soft click met his ears.

“All right, Maxwell, what is the problem?”

“No problem. I wanted to sit in on this session.”

Samuel chuckled. He rolled up the scroll, and tossed it on his desk, glanced back at his friend and shook his head in disbelief at his reason. He moved from behind his desk and walked along the long table, snapping his fingers to make the writing tablets, ink and quills appear.

“Come on, you expect me to believe you had me send my steward away so you could ask if you could sit in?” He angled his chin at his old friend. “Out with it.”

Maxwell looked at him, and a smile creased his lips. “Nervous?”

“What, over this?” Samuel huffed a laugh. “It is what I do. I am a linguist. I translate the old languages. I have twenty of the best working for me. We will get it right. This one is not any different than the ones that came before it,” he said with confidence.

“Ah, but it is important.” Maxwell drew nearer to him, the concern in his voice apparent. “All the others were simple really. We knew the stories about the twenty-four Chosen Ones being born to protect us from ourselves.” He nervously chuckle. “But this one is about the last Chosen One…it has got to have you worried. Have you translated it yet?”

Samuel exhaled slowly. “Yes, I have. The Chosen One that lives this life is going to have a very heavy task. I want my scribes to verify my findings, but if I am correct, this last Chosen One...if she lives...will be our queen. She will sit on the Elder’s throne.” He gazed toward the closed oak doors and let his thoughts wander. “We have not even found the Elder’s throne room, so...” With a shrug, he turned his attention back at his friend and continued. “Anyway, she will guide our world with her sisters—those that still exist. We know from the earlier transcriptions not all of the Chosen Ones will survive, so those that remain will help her...somehow. She will rule in a place called the Americas, and she will right the wrongs of many paths. Many attempts will be made on her life, and if she lives...” His eyes narrowed in thought before he said, “She will bond to a member of the Fourth House. She will strengthen his clan, and he will strengthen her—after she has crossed into the magical realm. I have no idea what this Fourth House is or when it will come into existence or how he, this...fellow, could even strengthen her. The prophecy says she will be more powerful than any who walked before her. She will only be allowed seven companions, and she will know them by their hue…and before your ask, I have no idea what that means.” He shook his head, shrugged, and continued with his task of placing the writing tools and tablets on the tables. “I guess being queen does not give you all the privileges, but the prophecy goes on to say she will be loved by many, she will be fair, and she will have many enemies. The writings ended with, 'to live, she must transform. To lead, she must transform. For corrupt Houses to fall, she must transform. Only then, can she be bitten’.”

Maxwell shook his head while he watched Samuel finish clicking his fingers at the last station. “What, in all of creation, are you doing? Why are you still using these archaic writing devices? Where is your imagination?” He snapped his fingers, and a sleek, futuristic machine appeared on the table. He pressed a button on the top of the machine, and the lid slowly opened, a musical tone played, and a sexy woman’s voice sounded.

“Good Morning, Maxwell.”

Maxwell grinned and flexed his eyebrows. “Work with this.”

Samuel grinned back, clapped his hands, and the machine disappear. “You know the rules. We use nothing in this world before the humans have invented it. Besides, I like to translate the old-fashioned way. I think better, and nothing has been invented in this world that beats a quill and parchment—yet!”

“I know, I know. The Alliance has kept on us to be careful. The prophecy was very clear when we could invent things here. You know, out of all the worlds we could have picked to go to, this is one of the slowest races! It is going to take forever to bring this world up to speed with all the other worlds we have lived on.”

“I remember that prophecy. It took us nearly three years to translate it all. That was the only prophecy from that seer, too, but he saw everything right so far.” Samuel laughed at his old friend. “Look, you worry about inventing things in this world and let me worry about the prophecies.” He turned toward the doors as they opened and his crew entered, and then looked back at Maxwell. “Stay a while and watch. This should be interesting.”


Samuel stood at the front of the room and greeted a few of his team while they took their seats in the front. Maxwell shuffled toward the back of the room and took a seat in the corner.

“All right, settle down everyone.” Samuel patted the air, motioning for silence. “Today, we have a very important task. This is a very ancient prophecy.” He motioned toward the slate board. “And it is very important we get it right. Therefore, instead of us breaking into groups and working on separate projects, I want us all focusing on this one. I will give you about ten minutes to look it over and form your thoughts, and then we will begin.”

“Sir?” a young woman in the back spoke up.

“Yes, ah...Rachel is it?” He frowned, not sure of her name.

“Have you translated it?” She smiled a bright smile to him.

“Ah, yes...yes, I have. I...because this is such an important prophecy, I want to ensure my findings are correct.” He looked around the room at everyone. “Any other questions?” After several shook their heads, he instructed them to begin.

Several quills dipped themselves in the ink and wrote while their owners stared at the board in deep concentration, while others wrote the old-fashioned way. With quill in hand, they dipped the tip in the ink, then gently tapped the excess off, and jotted their notes across the parchment. Some changed their minds, tore their parchment up, and started again.

After the allotted time had passed, Samuel cleared his throat. “All right, any thoughts?” He waited, his arms spread, beckoning input. “Anyone?”

The same young woman slowly raised her hand. “Sir?”

Samuel looked toward the back of the room with encouragement. “Yes, Rachel.”

“There are no rhymes to this one.”

He smiled. “Go on.”

“Well, it tells of the birth of the last Chosen One...”


Maxwell sat back and listened while the scribes worked through the process of translating the ancient words. He grinned, realizing his friend had successfully translated the old text, but his expression soon turned to concern when he heard the words of warning.

If this Chosen One failed to cross or failed in her path, the human and the magical realms would cease to exist. He sat stone still and struggled with his thoughts. Complete annihilation! The gateway that brought us here will not appear again to take us to another world! I cannot even begin to envision this! He gave a silent prayer. I hope to all that is powerful...this Chosen One, never has to be born.

Books may be purchased at Barnes and Noble and
Contact M.L Lacy at her website: and facebook fan page/ M.L.Lacy

Don't forget to leave a comment for a chance at winning a copy of Madonna's book.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Act First, Explain Later For A Compelling First Page

 by Jodie Renner

Gone are the days when fiction readers were willing to read pages of description and lead-up before being introduced to the characters and the plot. Readers, agents, and publishers today don't have the time or patience to wade through pages of backstory and description, so you need to grab their interest right from the first sentence and first paragraph of your story.

As James Scott Bell says in Revision and Self-Editing, about the opening paragraphs, “Give us a character in motion.
Something happening to a person from line one. Make that a disturbing thing, or have it presage something disturbing.”

Here are twelve dos and don’ts for making the first page of your novel more compelling:

Don't begin with a long description of the setting or with background information on your main character.
Do begin with dialogue and action; then add any necessary backstory or description in small doses, on a need-to-know basis as you progress through the story.

Don't start with a character other than your protagonist.
Do introduce your protagonist right in the first paragraph. Readers want to know right away whose story it is, which character you’re asking them to identify with.

Don't start with a description of past events.
Do jump right in with what the main character is involved in right now, and introduce some tension or conflict as soon as possible.

Don't start in a viewpoint other than the main character’s.
Do start telling the story from your protagonist’s point of view. It’s best to stay in the protagonist’s point of view for the whole first chapter, or most of it, and don’t change the point of view within a scene.

Don't delay letting your readers get to know your protagonist, or present her in a static, neutral (boring) situation.
Do develop your main character quickly by putting her in a bit of hot water and showing how she reacts to the situation, so readers can empathize and “bond” with her, and start caring enough about her to keep reading.

Don't start with your character all alone, reflecting on his life.
Do have more than one character (two is best) interacting, with action and dialogue. That’s more compelling than reading the thoughts of one person.

Don't start with your protagonist planning a trip, or traveling somewhere, in other words, as a lead-up to an important scene.
Do start in media res — jump right into the middle of the action. Present her in a meaningful scene.

Don't introduce a lot of characters in the first few pages.
Do limit the number of characters you introduce in the first few pages to three or less.

Don't leave the reader wondering what the characters look like.
Do provide a brief description of each character as they’re introduced, or as soon as you can work it in, so the readers can form a picture of him or her in their minds.

Don't have the main character looking in the mirror as a device for describing him/her.
This had been overdone. Do work in the description by relating it to his or her actions or interactions with others.

Don't wait too long to introduce the romantic interest in a romantic suspense, or the villain in a thriller.
To add intrigue, do introduce the hero (love interest) or villain within the first chapter or two.

Don't spend too long leading up to the main conflict or problem the protagonist faces.
Do introduce the main conflict (or at least some significant tension) within the first chapter.

Remember, you can always start your story wherever you want in the draft stage, if it’ll make you feel better. Then in the editing stage, you can go back and cut out the first several paragraphs or pages or even most of the first chapter, so that, in your final draft, your actual story starts after all that lead-up (some of which may appear later, in snippets here and there).
In conclusion, here’s a little rule for writing compelling fiction:

Act first, explain later.


Jodie Renner

Jodie Renner is a freelance fiction manuscript editor, specializing in thrillers, romantic suspense, and mysteries. Her services range from developmental editing to light final copyediting, as well as manuscript critiques. Check out Jodie’s website at and her blog at

Jodie is a member of International Thriller Writers (associate), Sisters in Crime (SinC), Backspace: The Writers Place, The Editorial Freelancers Association (EFA), and The Editors Association of Canada (EAC).

Jodie has traveled extensively throughout North America, Europe and the Middle East. In fact, Jodie loves traveling so much, she’s thinking of changing her tagline from “Let’s work together to enhance and empower your writing” to “Have laptop, will travel.”

Monday, October 17, 2011

M L Lacy: You Can't Have A Good Plot Without Strong Characters

ML Lacy

 It’s our pleasure to welcome Madonna Lacy, w/a  ML Lacy, to our blog. To most of us, she is a familiar face and formerly served as secretary-treasurer for Greater Fort Worth Writers. She has completed one series and the beginning of another will be released in the spring of 2012. So sit back and relax, and enjoy a visit with Madonna.

Thank you and Greater Fort Writers for having me. It’s great to be back with friends.

What is this journey like for you?

It’s exciting. I’m enjoying every aspect of it. It’s also scary. You put yourself out there in your work and waiting on the feedback can be a little nerve racking.

What keeps you going?

All the projects in my head. Honestly, if I could sit and write 10 hours a day, I would.

Could you share a bit about your book and characters?

Chrysalis – The Awakening, is the first book in a series.
Bree, is the heroine of the story. She knows nothing of the magical realm, or who or what she is to become. She joins her grandmother thinking they are attending a reunion, but the real reason is to make her aware…and reunite her with Stephen, the hero, the man who has selected her for his mate and he is one of a vampire clan that has protected her since she was a girl. The villainess of the story, Esmeralda and her henchman Thomas, will stop at nothing to keep Bree from ascending to power. Will Bree’s archenemies succeed or will she and Stephen form a powerful pair to fight Esmeralda?

What inspired you to write in the paranormal genre ?
Because you can open your mind and anything is possible. I have a vivid imagination and ghost, vampires, witches have always held my interest.

Was it difficult to get into character for witches, and dragons, and with other worldly traits?

Not for me, because I write fantasy/fiction, my worlds are my way. I don’t follow the old rules…I’ve made up new ones along the way, keeps things fresh. Plus…I think it would be so cool to be a witch…a good witch of course, but to be able to do magic, and disappear and fly, it’s easy for me to get into that frame of mind and write.

Which is more important in your stories character or plot?

They are both important. You can’t have a good plot without strong characters and characters make the plot work. Even the most ridiculous plot works if you write your characters the correct way.

I know you say you don’t outline, or plot but you’re writing a series. So how do you plan which secondary character will become the main character in the next book?

As I tried to answer this question—it dawned on me that in a way, I guess I do outline- just not the normal way. I have the entire series planned in my head and it has stayed true through all three books. I know exactly how it is going to end…what my characters are going to do along the way…who the bad people are, who her seven are and when she will know who they are.
So having said that, when I go to write each book, I decide how I’m going to keep moving forward to get to that end and those points, and by the time I sit down to write, I know how I want the book to start and end and key points needed to achieve in the story. That is all the planning I do (and I guess that’s a lot) and then I let the story unfold on its own—I can be more creative that way.

People often think of writers as having “overnight success.” How many years have you been working toward “overnight success”?
Five years of writing and 50+ years of dreaming.

What do you find most rewarding and disappointing about your writing career?

Most rewarding: When I hear how much someone enjoyed the story.
Most disappointing: When I don’t hear how much someone enjoyed the story. (lol)

If you could give writers one small piece of advice, what would it be?
Stay true to your story. Stay true to yourself. Do not let others change your voice, because that’s what makes your story yours.
I write in 1st and 3rd person. My heroine (Bree) is in 1st person, she is you…as you read it, you are saying “I...I…I” you become my main character. You get top billing in the story.

The 3rd person gives the story more depth. The plot thickens on itself. You, as the reader, can see what’s coming, but you, as the character, haven’t a clue.

What is something that you often see beginning writers doing wrong?
Trying to write like another writer. Everyone needs to find their own voice, it may take a while, but you’ll get there.


If you could have a beer, coffee, or tea with a literary luminary living or dead, who would it be and why?

I would have a beer with JK Rowling and asked to see what her first manuscript actually looked like and how many rewrites did she have to do!!! I may take more than one or two beers, but…

What’s next for you?

I have another series, Firstborn’s Destiny, scheduled for release in April 2012.

Finally, where can we find you on the web?

Books may be purchased at Barnes and Noble and

 My website is   and  facebook fan page/ M.L.Lacy

Question for readers. If you read the paranormal genre, which type characters do you like most–vampires, werewolves, shapeshifters, witches, elves, hybrids of werewolves and humans, or hybrids of werewolves and vampires, demons or dragons.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Lyndi Alexander Shares The Elf Queen with A Giveaway

Don't forget to leave your comment with an email address for a chance at winning one of Lyndi's books in the Clan Elves of Bitterroot series.

Lyndi Alexander (aka Barbara Mountjoy) has been a published writer for over 35 years, including seven years as a reporter and editor at the South Dade News Leader in Homestead, Florida. Her list of publications includes the non-fiction book 101 Little Instructions for Surviving Your Divorce, published by Impact Publishers in 1999, stories in A Cup of Comfort for Divorced Women, in December 2008, and A Cup of Comfort for Adoptive Parents, in June 2009. Her Clan Elves of the Bitterroot series (as Lyndi Alexander) is available from Dragonfly Publishing; THE ELF QUEEN and THE ELF CHILD , with THE ELF MAGE coming out in early 2012.


Jelani Marsh finds a glass slipper on the city sidewalk and tries it on for laughs. The slipper shatters, slicing her foot, and dozens of tiny men scatter from the bloody remains. A moment later, her foot is miraculously healed and they’re gone.

This is the first in a series of meetings that will unravel everything she knows. In the following weeks, the sassy barista from Missoula, Montana, will learn she is not an orphan, as she’d been taught to believe, and that her life story has been a deception, right down to the circumstances of her birth. A menace arises from her family’s past that could threaten everything she holds dear, including her own life.
Two groups help untangle the mystery: her human friends—life skills coach Iris Pallaton, computer geek and gamer extraordinaire Lane Donatelli, and “Crispy” Mendell, an agoraphobic abuse survivor—and her new-found elf companions, Daven Talvi and Astan Hawk. Can she learn about her true roots and absorb the implications of her new life in time to save her friends, her family, herself.


“Now, let’s turn that frown upside down. Cough it up. What’s bugging you?”

Jelani pulled Iris’ cell from her pocket. “You have to see this.” She held out the cell, activated the playback, then watched their warm smiles change to dead shock.

“Where’s that from? YouTube?” Lane took the cell from her, played it again.

“No! That’s on Broadway just before Higgins Street. That’s Iris’ phone. That’s my foot.”

Lane stopped, looked at the cell. “Oh. So it is.”

Crispy gasped. “Aliens!”

“What?” Jelani stared at the little man.

“Aliens! You must have been taken aboard the mothership! Maybe that other summer, remember when you disappeared for a week and—“

She tried to grab his hand, but he was too agitated. “Crispy. Crispy, listen! I didn’t disappear for a week. I told you that! I went to Mount St. Helens with the University’s ecology club.”

Lane rolled over to the Cave to start tapping on a couple of the keyboards. “Yeah, buddy, remember? She even brought you some ugly chunk of lava from the last blow.”

Crispy’s forehead furrowed, trying to recall such an event. “Yeah. Yeah, I guess.” His smile was only tentative. “Maybe they got you some other time.”

“Aliens?” Jelani bit her lip. She couldn’t rule it out. The little men did have an E.T.-kind of feel to them. But… No. No way. That would be crazy.

Lane was still moving from screen to screen, clearly searching for something. Jelani couldn’t decide if she found it comforting that he had some answer in mind. That made the whole crazy mess seem too real.

“Not aliens,” Lane finally said, after an uncomfortable silence that seemed to stretch on forever.

“Great! What then?” She walked over, watching where she stepped once she crossed the threshold of the Cave, wary of thick wires and unrecognizable bits of discarded food on the floor. He’d plugged Iris’ phone into a wire that led somewhere deep in the tangle of cables behind the nearest computer tower. The enlarged video blurred and broke up into small squares when anything moved, but there were the little naked men, fuzzy, and revealed in more detail than she’d been able to see on the tiny cell screen. They had faces, fingers, small—

She blinked as she realized they were anatomically correct.

Crispy inched closer, obviously unwilling to come within range of the webcam. “Not aliens?”

Lane shifted his bulk in the chair, rolled to a second keyboard where he brought up several pictures of other little men who resembled those running in a continuous loop on the first screen. “Homunculi. Just like the ones in Fullmetal Alchemist,” he said in admiration.

“Full Metal what? Isn’t that a Vietnam movie?” Jelani was puzzled. “They’re Asian?”

“Manga,” Crispy interjected softly.

“Oh, comic books.”

“No!” Lane growled. “Manga are not ‘comic books.’ They’re an art form! Graphic novels. Archie is a comic book.” He rolled back to the first screen, studied it. “In Fullmetal Alchemist the homunculi were artificial humans, named for the seven deadly sins, with a piece of the Philosopher’s Stone instead of a heart. Magic enemies. ”

“Magic?” Was he nuts?

“Deadly sins. I don’t like the sound of that."

 My question to you. If you like fantasy, what is your favorite fantasy movie?

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Grammar Etiquette: The Comma Chameleon

Bryan Grubbs is our in-house professor of the new Grammar Etiquette blog series, posted the second Wednesday of every month. He is an English teacher in Denton, TX.

The Comma Chameleon
1600 Chao Mein Ct., Birmingham, CA
Monday, December 17, 1997
The sentence was well thought out, well worded and, to be fair, perfect. Unfortunately, as the writer stared down at his masterpiece, he soon realized that he had no idea how to punctuate it. Sure there was a period at the end of the sentence, but how was he to know where the dreaded comma should go. This piece of punctuation, much like a chameleon, was meant to blend into its environment, unnoticed by the casual observer. Unfortunately, unlike the chameleon, its absence would not be so modestly overlooked. “Curse you Lord of Grammar,” he cried, shaking his sore, trembling fist into the air as tears began rolling down ink-stained cheeks.
It would turn out that the Lord of Grammar, a merciful yet vengeful soul, heeded to this poor man’s cry and sent to him an angel, a beacon of light in his darkest times. The man looked up to this symbol of peace and hope, eyes still damp from the liquid frustration welling in them. Not speaking a word, the figure spread its long arms out wide in an assumed gesture of acceptance. The man rose from his seat and approached the white robes, imitating the angel’s pose as he closed the distance between the two.
From nowhere, the angel’s hand moved faster than lightning, striking the man against the cheek and leaving a red impression of a perfectly sculpted palm and fingers. He crashed to the floor, spilling against the hard wood, his head rebounding from its impact with the brick like any other crumpled manuscript, of which there were many. Bending over and leaning its immaculate face close to the man’s, the lips formed words of the sweetest sound, ringing in his ears for years to come. “Bi**h, man the **ck up.”

For many of us, placement of the ever important comma can be a daunting task. Often times we neglect to put them where they truly belong, only counting on our abilities to speak the text aloud and throw in a comma where there’s a natural pause.
 Unfortunately, this method isn’t always reliable. What I am here to give to you today is the HANDFUL (that’s right, I said ‘handful’) of rules that are easy to remember, yet essential to proper punctuation placement. How easy is it? I used each and every of the comma rules, outside of proper construction, at least once in the short excerpt you just finished reading.

An Introduction If You Please…

By this, I of course mean an introductory statement. Words like Yes, However, For Instance, and Well will often set a tone for the ideas that follow, particularly if it is in contrast to the tone used previously. In this case, these words are separated from the main clause by a comma.


• However, the dress looked better on her sister.

• Well, I suppose we could return it and find something better.

• Yes, I think that is the best suggestion.

Lists, Series, Inventories, Catalogues, and Redundant Terms…

Three or more words or phrases are separated by commas. These aren’t just used for listing out nouns, but also for offering an overabundance of adjectives describing a single subject or listing out phrases such as a list of chores. The comma between the last two items on the list is not essential, but is grammatically suggested.


• It was a terrible, horrible, no-good, very-bad day.

• I need to stop by the store for bacon, ham, pork chops, and kosher pickles.

• At college I learned how to sleep walk to class, pull an all-nighter, sleep with my eyes open, negotiate grades and do my own laundry.


A clause is, more or less, an idea.

An independent clause is a complete sentence, meaning it has a minimum of a subject and a verb. In laymen’s terms, something performs an action.

The most simplistic of these is the simple statement, “I am.” In this, I is the subject and am, meaning ‘to be’, is the verb.

Two independent clauses can be combined in a single sentence with the help of a

coordinating conjunction to form what is known as a compound sentence.

There are a total of seven coordinating conjunctions, easily identified by the acronym, F.A.N.B.O.Y.S.

For, And, Nor, But, Or, Yet, So paired with a comma, these conjunctions are the glue that binds two complete sentences together.


• I am awesome, but my teacher doesn’t see it that way.

• The tickets were on sale, so we each bought two of them.

• I know that it’s perfectly legal, yet I feel so dirty when I do it.

Incomplete This…

On the darker side of the clauses exists the dependent clause.

Like that friend that’s constantly hitting you up for five bucks, these clauses have everything necessary to make a complete sentence, but still can’t stand on their own and thus are constantly hanging around the independents.

How do clauses go bad and become dependents?

Their drug of choice is something called the subordinating conjunction.

Unlike coordinating conjunctions, these little devils don’t have a clever acronym or complete list.
Subordinating conjunctions are words that attach themselves to the beginning of a clause to make it an incomplete sentence.

Words like before, while, although, after, and because suddenly alert the reader to expect more than this simple statement and combine with an independent clause to create a complex sentence.

The nasty trick here is that, if the dependent clause comes first, then a comma needs to separate the two. If the independent clause comes first, then there is no comma. Allow me to demonstrate:

Example A:

• While you’re waiting, please enjoy a complimentary foot massage.

• Please enjoy a complimentary foot massage while you’re waiting.

Example B:

• After the concert, we headed to another club.

• We headed to another club after the concert.

Example C:

• Because we failed to tighten the faucet, the basement is now flooded.

• The basement is now flooded because we failed to tighten the faucet.

So You Say…

This one is a no-brainer, or at least it should be; commas are used to separate action from dialogue. The only real rule that I constantly have to remind students of is, with only one very rare exception, punctuation goes before quotation – always, always, always. Whether you’re ending action to open dialogue or ending dialogue to introduce action, the comma will always be in front of the quotation mark.


• Bob said, “I like your tie.”

• “Thanks,” I replied.

• “If you’re not doing anything later,” Bob began, “Maybe we could go tie shopping together.”

• “Hell no!”--No action = No comma.

Butting In…
An interjection is a snippet of parenthetical information added into a sentence.

As the name suggests, parenthetical information is any additional information on a subject that you would add in parenthesis.

In this case, however, we are foregoing the parenthesis and using commas to push this information into the middle of the sentence.

The big way to know for sure if it is an interjection or not, is to take it out. If the sentence still makes sense without the extra info, then it is indeed an interjection and should be surrounded on both sides by a comma.


• I was hanging out with Cubid, a loveable little cherub, when we came across the pirate ship.

• Driving through Dallas, the city of my birth, can be a frightening thing at night.

• My favorite dish, the number seven special, was taken off the menu for health reasons.

The OTHER White Meat…
Geographical locations and dates are fairly straightforward. Commas separate words from words and numbers from numbers.

That means that street, city and state would all be separated by commas, but there wouldn’t be any between the street number and the street or the state and zip code.

It’s the same with dates. Commas go between the day and month as well as the numeric day and calendar year, but not between the month and numeric day.

Friday, July 13, 2012 – 2469 Shabangme Drive, Southlake, TX 76092 - the place to be.

The final rule, which isn’t really a well-established rule, consists of pausing a sentence to offer an opposing thought. I almost throw this in as an interjection, because it’s non-essential information, but it generally comes at the end and is rarely complimentary.

This is best observed with examples.

• He was merely ignorant, not stupid.

• The chimpanzee seemed reflective, almost human.

• You’re one of the senator’s close friends, aren’t you?

• The speaker seemed innocent, even gullible.

And now I challenge you. Go, be free, create great works of art without further troubling me with your previously misguided use of the comma.
Continued abuse of this poor punctuation piece will force me to place a call to CPS, the Comma Protective Services, and have it taken away from you. Thanks.

Bryan Grubbs is an English and Art teacher. He is also a member of Greater Fort Worth Writers and is an active member of the GFW Writers critique group. Members of the group will tell you he can pick out redundant words at forty feet and is quite willing to show what paragraphs or sentences are not compelling. He is a husband and father of three beautiful girls, enjoys writing science fiction/ urban fantasy/ horror, sketching, or playing video games in his free time.
Have a question or comment? Let Bryan know by clicking on comments and leaving your question or comments.

Monday, October 10, 2011

What It Takes To Connect With Readers

Please welcome Lyndi Alexander to our blog with a post about connecting with readers.
 Lyndi will be sharing an excerpt of her book this week and giving an ebook to one lucky person who comments today or Friday.

Thanks to Ruby and the Greater Fort Worth Writers for the chance to make a guest appearance today! I made my own appearance into this world not very far from here, at Sheppard Air Force base, in Wichita Falls, Texas. So my heart’s tied to this great state, too!

First let me say, we love readers.

Of course authors love readers—we are readers! The reason we find joy in creating these characters and situations, and putting these characters through hell to come out the other side better and beloved, is because we grew up with that book (or these days, that ereader) in our hands.

Our job as authors doesn’t stop when we put that “The End” on the last page of the story. Especially today, authors spend a lot of their time making sure their stories end up in the hands of the readers.

The advent of Facebook and Twitter gives the writer some tools to reach out to a larger community beyond their own neighborhood. We can connect with others who share our enthusiasms, learn what they like, they learn what we like, and we come together over topics we love. They aren’t always what I expect, either. I posted a picture one time of my daughter in a pink cowboy hat—and ended up talking with my blog readers about it for weeks!

As writers, we desire connection, and so it’s our job to provide quality material that readers will want to hear about and read. That’s why many of us have websites and weblogs, so we have a place to talk about ourselves and our creations, to put our products out there in the world. It’s important for writers to have a website that’s friendly, attractive and easy to navigate. But above all, we hope you like our content. And just like everyone else, we’re learning new things all the time.

One of the new promotional devices that’s come along in the past years is the book trailer. I’ve been dying to have one, but professionally done, they can cost over a thousand dollars. As much as I love my book, I also have bills and a family to care for! So that price range was out for me. But with a little help from some fellow authors and a Savvy Authors class (Thanks Kris Tualla!!) I learned how to make one, and at a small fraction of what it would have cost to have someone else do it.

The Elf Queen (2010, Dragonfly Publishing Inc.), is the first book in the Clan Elves of the Bitterroot series.   The story of this self-centered barista who discovers her whole life has been a lie continues in The Elf Child, released in 2011, and the soon to be released The Elf Mage.
The good news is, one of the readers who comments here at As We Were Saying will win a copy this week!  

Friday, October 7, 2011

Toni Anderson Shares Edge of Survival and a Giveaway!

Toni has graciously agreed to give an ebook copy of Storm Warning to one lucky commenter.

What We Are Saying...

Toni Anderson, a native of the UK, is a former marine biologist who conducted her Ph.D. at the Gatty Marine Laboratory in St. Andrews, Fife, Scotland. However, she now lives in Manitoba, Canada with her husband and children.

So what does a marine biologist do to escape the long brutal winters in the Canadian prairies? She writes romantic mystery and suspense and sets her stories in stunning locations where she's lived and worked--the blustery east coast of Scotland, the remote isolated mining communities of Northern Labrador, the rugged landscapes of the U.S. and the Red Center of Australia. Toni joined us for a discussion about her books on Monday, now she's sharing an excerpt of her new book Edge of Survival.  So grab your favorite beverage, relax and prepare to be entertained.

Back Cover Copy...

Dr. Cameran Young knew her assignment wouldn't be easy. As lead biologist on the Environment Impact Assessment team, her findings would determine the future of a large mining project in the northern Canadian bush. She expected rough conditions and hostile miners—but she didn't expect to find a dead body her first day on the job.

Former SAS Sergeant Daniel Fox forged a career as a helicopter pilot, working as far from the rest of the human race as possible. The thrill of flying makes his civilian life bearable, and he lives by his mantra: don't get involved. But when he's charged with transporting the biologist to her research vessel, he can't help but get involved in the murder investigation—and with Cameran, who awakens emotions he's desperate to suppress.

In the harsh and rugged wilderness, Daniel and Cameran must battle their intense and growing attraction while keeping ahead of a killer who will stop at nothing to silence her…


Chapter One

In Harm’s Way

USS John Paul Jones

“Hey, boys! The strippers are here!”

Guffaws of laughter hooted through the crowd as Cam dropped her backpack to the bare wooden floor and released a whoosh of air. “Yeah, yeah. Very funny.”

She leaned on the bar, adjusted her ball cap, feeling hot and lightheaded. Her hands shook, her mouth tasted of aviation fuel and dirt. Not a good way to start a twelve-week stint in the Canadian wilderness. She slipped her hand into the back pocket of her worn-out jeans and grabbed her wallet, relieved to have almost reached her destination.

“Give me a cranberry juice and a tomato juice, please,” Cam asked the bartender. On today’s four flights—so far—she’d used up half her emergency granola bars. A helicopter was supposed to pick them up here in Frenchmans Bight for the short hop to the ship where they’d be stationed for the next three months, but the pilot wasn’t here yet.

The bartender put the cranberry juice in front of her and she chugged back half the glass and left the rest on the bar. She needed a quick sugar fix. The tomato juice would stop her stomach from feeling as if her throat had been cut.

“Vikki? What do you want to drink?”

“Get me a vodka and tonic, hon, and make it a double if this ship we’re on really is dry.” The blonde made dry sound like leprous.

Vikki Salinger was a Ph.D. student in the lab where Cam was now a post-doctoral research fellow. They’d been friends as undergraduates, but the other girl had taken a break from science to earn a mint modeling. Needless to say, Cam didn’t have any catwalk in her past, present or future.

Vikki looked around the shabby room for somewhere to sit. Cam took stock of her surroundings and figured this remote Labrador mining community wouldn’t know what hit it. Every person in the bar had a Y chromosome, and testosterone lit the air like campfire smoke.

Cam paid the bartender and, drinks in hand, shoved her backpack across the floor with her foot toward the table Vikki chose. Cam left Vikki’s luggage where it sat, blocking the entrance like some oversized Barbie accessory. Yes, she was cranky. Eighteen hours of traveling had taken some of the pep out of her usually sunny demeanor.

An older guy with bushy silver eyebrows, wearing mud-caked boots and a black-and-gray plaid shirt, sidled over from the herd of men.

“So, what’re two purdy things like you doing in a roughneck joint like this?” His cheeks were ruddy, and a gold tooth winked from deep inside his mouth.

Vikki leaned back and let her eyes travel over him the way she did every man who came within touching distance. Age didn’t matter. The fact she was already screwing Cam’s boss, her own Ph.D. supervisor, didn’t matter either.

“What’s your name?” Vikki asked.

“I’m Dwight Wineberg. I’m in charge of the exploratory mining operation ’round here.” He puffed out his chest and hid the hand with his wedding band beneath the table.

Cam took a long draw of tomato juice and watched the interaction from beneath her lashes. In terms of attractiveness, Dwight turned her stomach, which, as a reaction based purely on looks, proved she was just as shallow as he was.

Vikki curved her lips into a smile, and the whole bar lit up like dry tinder in a forest fire. Cam grinned around her straw. She eyed the menu written on a chalkboard behind the bar—moose stew and caribou burgers? Ugh. Hopefully she’d get something more appetizing on the ship.

“And who are you?” Dwight asked.

“I’m Vikki, and this here is Cameran.” Vikki indicated Cam without looking at her and Dwight didn’t even pretend to glance away from the blue-eyed blonde.

Cam held her glass with both hands. “We’re part of the Environmental Impact Assessment team looking at how building a hydroelectric dam will impact Arctic char migration.” She spoke loudly because some of the guys were still looking pretty hopeful about the stripper thing.

Dwight swiveled his head and assessed her with heavy-lidded eyes. “You gonna wreck the chances for these men to earn a decent living?”

She blinked. Crap, she should have kept her mouth shut; the miners would be naturally suspicious and hostile.

Vikki raised her glass and fluttered her lashes. “Why, Dwight, what on earth do you mean?” Her voice was pitched dumb-blonde perfect. Cam wondered why men didn’t hear the steel mechanisms turning with quartz precision inside the other girl’s mind.

Dwight shot Cam a glare. “You tree-hugger types.”

Cam had never hugged a tree in her life, although some of her ex-boyfriends were a bit wooden. She snorted, pulled a pack of Life Savers from her pocket and popped one in her mouth.

Saliva glistened on Dwight’s lips. “Interfering with a man’s right to take what’s his.” He looked between her and Vikki, anger settling into his jaw. “Hunting, fishing, mining…”

If he added women to the list, Cam was going to sock him. Save her from middle-aged machismo. “Look, we’re doing a baseline study on fish migration to try and minimize the impact of the mine on wildlife. We are not trying to close you down.” Her goal was to run a before-and-after study on the effects of hydroelectric dams and mining industries on char physiology and behavior. She couldn’t do that unless they built the dam.

Dwight didn’t look convinced. Maybe if she flashed her boobs he’d be charming again? She grimaced because he gave her the creeps. A few guys were staring at them like they were fresh meat.

“Aren’t there any women in this camp?” Cam eyed the distance to the exit, a little unnerved to find herself in the middle of a Stephen King novel.

Dwight’s eyes glittered beneath those thick caterpillar brows, and a small, cruel smile played around his mouth. “Sure, there are women.” His voice carried over the low buzz of conversation, and everyone went quiet. “A secretary, a cook and a couple of camp bikes.” His washed-out brown eyes fixed on hers, waiting for her reaction.

“Bikes?” At first she didn’t get it.

“Everybody’s rode ’em.” His smile was tight and satisfied. A couple of the guys laughed as they listened to the exchange.

Cam narrowed her eyes. She was a big believer in live-and-let-live, but this guy was a piece of work. “What does that make you?” she asked him.

“What d’you mean?” He pulled back his shoulders.

“If you all rode them, by which I assume you mean had sex, then that makes you their bike too, doesn’t it?”

Vikki’s lips puckered as if holding back a laugh. Cam shot her a look, but the other girl concentrated on wiping lipstick from the edge of her glass. It pissed Cam off when men treated women badly, but that sort of talk never seemed to bother Vikki. Probably because she dissed men the same way men dissed women. And Cam hated it.

But she needed to diffuse the situation because her blood pressure was way more important than debating environmental issues or equality with fifty hulking miners who looked like they knew exactly where to dump their dead battered bodies. Surreptitiously, she slipped her medical emergency bracelet under her cuff.

She checked her watch, wondered where the hell the pilot was. On cue, a dark shadow fell across her shoulder. But the guy wasn’t looking at her. His indigo eyes were fixed on Vikki with a gleam Cam had seen a thousand times. She resisted rolling her eyes and instead used the time to study his face, the slightly bent nose, the deep cleft in his chin, the short dark hair. Good-looking for sure, but no pretty boy.

Handsome with attitude.

Vikki stared at the stranger like a cat about to lick cream from all over his naked body.

Cam caught her friend’s eye. “Stripper’s here,” she whispered, trying to summon a smile.

“About damn time,” Vikki agreed, looking back at the guy and flicking her hair across her shoulder.

“You must be the ladies I’ve been looking for.”

The accent was British and Cam didn’t like the way it stroked her James Bond fantasies. Even so, a huge bubble of relief swelled inside her. He must be their pilot and she couldn’t wait to get out of here.

“Your whole life?” Cam quipped, twisting to look over her shoulder.

“Just the last ten minutes.” His brow rose in amusement.

“I’m wounded.” She plastered a hand to her heart.

“I bet you are.” A dimple flashed, camouflaged by stubble. “Dr. Cameran Young and her able assistant, I presume?”

“You’re the helicopter pilot?”

He nodded.

Thank God. She might have hugged him if he hadn’t been so overtly male. But he got marks for maintaining eye contact when most men would have shoved her out of the way so they could hit on Vikki.

With the scrape of a chair across the floorboards, Dwight Wineberg rose to his feet, swinging the neck of his beer bottle loosely from his fingers. “You ladies watch yourselves out here. World’s a dangerous place.” And he turned and walked away, back to his cronies.

Cam didn’t know if that was a threat or a warning.

“I’m the able assistant,” Vikki held out her hand, “Vikki.”

“Daniel Fox.” He bent to kiss her hand. “Nice to meet you, Vikki.”

This time Cam did roll her eyes. She kicked back her chair and stood, knocking her shoulder into Daniel Fox’s steel-plate chest.

“Sorry.” Cam flashed her own dimples and tried to maneuver around him, but he took a half step to block her path. The bill of her cap obscured her view so she had to tilt her head way back to meet sharp, intelligent eyes. For a split second they flashed with some indefinable emotion before studiously going flat. She backed up, bumped into the table.

“Two minutes—” he glanced at the bartender, “—and we’ll be on our way.”

“I’m just going to the restroom.” Cam tried to circle around him, but he stopped her with a firm grip on her shoulder and leaned close to her ear.

“Don’t wander off.” His voice was low and hypnotic, his eyes fixed on hers. She didn’t like the heat his touch spread to parts of her body that should have been stone cold. Some of the other patrons watched them speculatively. The warm, smoke-filled bar felt suddenly claustrophobic, and Cam’s cheeks burned.

“I’m not a kid.”

But he wasn’t looking at her anymore, he was smiling at Vikki. Cam pulled out of his grasp and walked away, irritated that her friend was already laughing at something he said in that rich, smooth accent of his.

It was belittling to recognize the green-eyed monster jumping up and down like a big fat frog in her head. She headed out of the main bar and down the narrow corridor toward the washroom. Men fell for Vikki like dominoes in an earthquake, but jealous was not the sort of person Cam wanted to be. Unfortunately she wasn’t the sort of woman to settle for second best either, which left her a little short on dates lately.

A single naked bulb lit the corridor, highlighting the rough timber floor stained various shades of brown. Every time she raised her foot, the soles of her boots stuck slightly and made a noise like sticky-tape being stretched off a roll. Yuck. She didn’t want to think about the origin of those brown stains.

A corkboard on the wall covered in flyers and notices advertised everything from snowmobile and guide services to local Inuit and Innu handicrafts. Cam passed the gents’, heard the flush of a cistern and hurried because she didn’t want to meet whoever was in there when she was alone. Farther along the hallway, she pushed open the heavy door into the ladies’ room and stopped dead.

Although it was still daylight outside, it was impenetrably dark inside. She tried to hold her breath as she groped for the light switch, her hands scrambling over the cheap paneling in short frantic swipes. The floor was tacky, water hissed through pipes in the background, and the smell… Dear God. She found the switch, and the fluorescent tube flickered and spat until it finally settled on a sullen half glow. She hurried into the second cubicle, noticing the first door was shut.

When she was done, she came out of the stall, pumped soap into her hands and held them under the tap. The fine hairs on her nape vibrated with apprehension. Why is that first stall closed? There was no movement within, and chills crept over her skin. The place stank badly enough that she didn’t want to spend any longer than necessary here, but still she hesitated.

A bag was propped against the bottom of the door, suggesting someone might actually be in there. Was someone sleeping off a drinking binge? Alcohol was a huge problem in some of these remote communities.

“Hey, do you need any help?” she called, trying to make her voice bright and cheery. She ended up sounding weird.

There was no reply. What if they were sick? Alcohol poisoning? Influenza? Diabetic coma? Approaching the door, Cam rapped her knuckles on the chipboard. No response, but the door creaked slightly.

“Hello?” She raised her voice. “Do you need any help?” Still no answer. No sound at all except the hiss of pipes and wasp-like buzz of the light. Maybe there wasn’t anyone there, just a bag of stuff on the floor.

She hesitated. She should just walk away.

Unlike most public restrooms, there were no gaps between the door and the walls. Chewing her bottom lip, Cam decided to risk a swift peek beneath the door. If the person was drunk they might be a little annoyed to be spied on. If they were ill, they’d be grateful. She crouched down and peered awkwardly under the door, past the bag.

A young woman sat on the toilet, fully clothed, her head resting against the bare wooden wall, long raven hair spilling in a tangled heap around her shoulders. Mouth stretched wide, throat slit, exposing the blue-white gleam of cartilage, cuprous blood drenching the front of her sweatshirt.

Dead. Definitely dead.

Cam’s stomach coiled into a thousand snakes. She stumbled away, wanting to yell for help even though the woman was long past saving. Blindly she ran, yanking open the door then slamming into a chest that brought her up short and hard.

“Easy.” Daniel held tight to the woman who quivered in his grasp. “What’s the problem?”

The Doc wrapped her arms around his waist in a vise-grip and buried her nose next to his heart. It felt odd, holding someone like this. So odd that for a brief moment he allowed the contact and squeezed her back, experiencing a weird flutter inside his chest.

“There’s a d-d-dead woman.”

He maneuvered her back into the restroom, propped her against a sink, untangling her fingers from their death grip across his spine. He needed to assess the situation but he hesitated when he saw the expression on the Doc’s face—he’d forgotten what true innocence looked like.

Huge sea-green eyes rose to meet his. She pointed at the cubicle door. The only unknown in the room.

Whoa, that smell…blood and bowels and violent death. He checked beneath the stall, careful not to touch anything because he did not want to get on the radar of a criminal investigation. Sylvie Watson. Throat cut. Dead as a doornail. It felt like one of his more vivid flashbacks, but without the pounding heart or cold sweat.

Poor Sylvie.

Daniel swore.

He looked at the Doc. She was shaking violently, her hand covering her mouth as if fighting the urge to throw up.

“D-did you know her?” she asked.

He didn’t know anyone. Not anymore. And they didn’t know him. That was the way he liked it.

“Her name was Sylvie Watson.” He waited for some form of emotion—sadness, regret, guilt—but all he got was numbness. Death didn’t feel real anymore. Maybe the problem was that death had never felt real.

The sound of the Doc’s breathing was harsh, matching the hiss of the light strip above his head. The nearest she’d been to a dead body was probably curled up on the sofa watching CSI. Her chest hitched repeatedly as she started to hyperventilate. Shit. He wanted to turn on his heel and walk away, leave her and her friend to maneuver this minefield on their own. He didn’t want to rescue her. He didn’t save people. Not anymore.

But these women were his job, and his job was the only thing that stopped him from stepping out of an aircraft at ten thousand feet without a chute.

“We have to call the cops.” Her voice was hoarse with strain.

“We’ll radio RCMP from the aircraft.”

“We can’t just leave her here!” she shrieked.

He grabbed her shoulders and shook her hard enough that her gaze snapped to his. Close protection training kicking in after a two-year void. “She’s dead and I have no clue who killed her.” He hated the way his instincts took over. A cop would have protected the scene but he wasn’t a cop. “They could be in the bar just waiting to pick out their next victim.”

Her face lost the last vestige of color.

“Let’s get you to the ship.” He took her arm, pushed her out the door and down the corridor so fast she tripped and he had to catch her under the arms to support her. “Stay here.” He left her by the door. He didn’t want to be anywhere near Frenchmans Bight when the Mounties discovered this mess. He’d had enough notoriety to last him ten lifetimes.

The Doc clung to the doorjamb while he marched over and hoisted her rucksack onto his back.

“Time to go,” he told the blonde. He glanced around the bar, looking for anyone paying them too much attention. But no one was giving themselves away except Dwight glaring at him with his usual bulldog scowl.

Daniel had already squared his tab with the barman. He gave the guy a nod, and he knew he should tell him about Sylvie. But his priority, whether he liked it or not, was getting these two women out of harm’s way. He turned and headed to where the Doc was still hanging onto the doorframe like a drunk on a rough sea.

She was shaking uncontrollably, so he put his arm around her waist and half carried her out of the bar. She wasn’t delicate or weak, thank God. She felt strong and supple beneath his fingers, but she was in danger of slipping into a state of shock that would slow him down. He wasn’t being nice. He was being efficient.

Moving fast, he propelled her over the wooden boardwalks and scanned the nearby black spruce forest. If the killer wasn’t in the bar, he was in those woods watching the action. Awareness prickled as unseen eyes followed their progress.

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