new releases

Now Available: “The Beltane Kiss” and “The Faerie Key”

It’s official; my novelettes The Beltane Kiss and The Faerie Key are now available on Amazon. The stories follow the McAllister sisters as they find romance and are drawn into a world of faerie magic.

More info:

THE BELTANE KISS

The Beltane Kiss fantasy romance book cover(Into the Faerie Forest: Book One)

Daisy McAllister would do anything to save her sister, Lily, plunged into an endless sleep by faerie magic. Even enter a forbidden wood.

But braving the forest means facing the “lord” of the manor—wealthy recluse Rhett Fairshadow. He sees himself as a guardian, protecting humans from the fae who inhabit his land.

When a determined Daisy meets an angry Rhett one Beltane night, sparks fly.

THE BELTANE KISS is a novelette of approximately 11,000 words.

PRAISE FOR THE BELTANE KISS:

“The magic in this story really sparkles, and the fae episodes are eerie and haunting.”— Amelia Denyven Ross

Now available at Amazon.

 

THE FAERIE KEY

The Faerie Key fantasy romance book cover(Into the Faerie Forest: Book Two)

A simple protection spell. What could go wrong?

Lily McAllister learns that spells can backfire when her magical dabbling summons a house-elf to her door—a six-foot-something, muscled house-elf with glittering green eyes.

But Neer has a history, too, and soon his past catches up with him, forcing him and Lily into the faerie forest. Together they will face the perils within.

THE FAERIE KEY is a novelette of approximately 14,000 words.

Now available at Amazon.

Enjoy!

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#ROW80 check-ins, the seasons

Summer Grillin’

Tofu GrillinLast fall, for hubby’s birthday, I bought him a grill. We moved into our house last August, so this is the first time we’ve been able to have a grill. And this summer that thing has paid off. We used it last night, when my in-laws came over for a cookout, and tonight we’re making teriyaki tofu and vegetable kabobs.

It’s just one of the many things that has changed since we became homeowners. We lived in our apartment for eight years and never grilled once, although there were a few grills and picnic areas in our complex. Now, we grill at least once a week. I think this might be the third time this week, actually.

Do you grill? If so, what are some of your favorite things to make?

ROW80 check-in…

Writing: Wrote 6,187 words in White Wolf, Red Cloak, a retelling of Little Red Riding Hood. That one is finished and I’m about to send it to my critique partners. I’m a little behind on where I want to be in terms of weekly word counts, but I’m still finishing projects, so that’s something.

Reading: Read Her Wicked Wolf by Kendra Leigh Castle, which was fantastic, and am currently reading A Little Night Muse by Jessa Slade, which I’m enjoying so far.

A Round of Words in 80 Days is the writing challenge that knows you have a life. Click here to cheer on fellow participants.

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#ROW80 check-ins, the seasons

Pumpkin Spice: Sunday #ROW80 check-in

Last night we celebrated hubby’s birthday with a dinner of roast beef and mashed potatoes followed by chocolate cake. Today we’re going to Lowe’s to buy one of his presents—a new grill. We haven’t owned a grill before, since we’ve spent most of our adult lives as apartment-dwellers, so this is exciting for us. We can finally have cook-outs!

Pumpkins, fresh from the vine...
Pumpkins, fresh from the vine…

It’s hard to believe it, but autumn is here. And that means pumpkin spice is everywhere. (Which I’m totally okay with!) And, of course, Round 3 of A Round of Words in 80 Days is almost at a close.

As for writing, I’m at that point in my story where the ideas are just flying through my head. I haven’t decided which ideas will make it in, so I’m just making a note of each idea and forging ahead. Right now I just need to get the story down.

But there are questions that need to be answered. The story is about a prince from another world who finds himself, through a spell gone awry, pulled into ours. The first draft was set one-hundred percent in our world. The second draft is heading a different direction. A good portion of the story takes place in his world now, and that means lots of world-building. I need a map of his world, a basic history, an idea of their social structure, etc. I love world-building, so answering these questions is fun. And now I’m balancing building two worlds—a fictional New England town set in our world, and a Regency-inspired fantasy world populated by ogres and filled with magic.

My ROW80 check-in…

Writing: Wrote 4,432 words in A Prince in Patience Point.

Reading: I’m still reading Eldest by Christopher Paolini. His world-building is truly inspiring and encourages me to bring that level of detail to my own work.

A Round of Words in 80 Days is the writing challenge that knows you have a life. Click here to cheer on fellow participants.

What’s your favorite part of world-building? How do you keep all the details straight? Is autumn making its presence felt where you live? What’s your favorite part of the season?

#ROW80 check-ins, writing process

Story Organization: Midweek #ROW80 check-in

How do you keep your stories organized? Over the years, I’ve developed a system, but I’m always refining it. Here’s what I have so far:

notebooks and binderFor each story or series, I start a binder. Critique notes from my CPs, beat sheets, character background info, etc. all go into the binder.

Each story/series also gets its own notebook. I divide it into two sections: one for notes I take on read-throughs, the second for a character voice journal.

And that’s it. Admittedly, it’s a simple system, but so far it works. I recently felt overwhelmed with a series I was working on, so I’m starting to realize I need some way to keep notes on a series organized. A section in the binder? I have a series outline, so that’s a start. But I know I need more; I’m just not sure what yet. Suggestions would be appreciated.

What about you? How do you keep your stories organized?

ROW80 check-in…

Writing: So far this week I’ve written 1,131 words in “A Prince in Patience Point” (formerly “Be True”). Thanks to Amelia Ross for recommending the shiny new title. 🙂 I’ve set The Cabot Sisters series aside for now because it turns out that my brain can’t handle working on a series and teaching a new class at the same time. I was changing things in one book, and then working on another and forgetting that I’d changed them, etc. So I’ve switched back to Abbey and Neal’s story for the time being.

Reading: Just finished reading “Beautiful Demons” by Sarra Cannon. Not sure what I’ll read next. A month or so ago I started reading “The 10th Kingdom” by Kathryn Wesley, so maybe I’ll finish that one.

A Round of Words in 80 Days is the writing challenge that knows you have a life. Click here to cheer on fellow participants.

What about you? What are you currently working on? Do you have any recommendations for authors working on a series to keep everything organized?

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#ROW80 check-ins, writing updates

Electric Blankets and Goblin Glamours in the midweek #ROW80 check-in

ROW80LogocopyMy mother-in-law couldn’t have gotten us a more appropriate and timely Christmas present than the electric blanket she gave us. Hubby and I have spent the past few nights curled up under it and reading—anything to ignore the record-breaking cold temps outside. We haven’t been shoveling ourselves out of the snow here in Virginia, but it has been COLD.

I reworked the first scene of “Good, Old-Fashioned Magic,” chapter two on Monday, and spent Tuesday working through some back story. This story is a novella, and I’m struggling to balance the fast-paced action the situation and format demand with time to develop the main characters’ relationship. (Thankfully, nothing brings your characters closer than running for their lives from goblins.) Spending time on back story before I write allows me to make every word and every scene count. So, while my word count for Tuesday wasn’t very high—I only added about 100 words to the actual story—I discovered plenty of interesting details. (Yes, one of those details involves a goblin using a glamour to disguise himself as a human—thus the title of today’s check-in post.)

Today and tomorrow, I’m hoping to knock out the rest of chapter two. That leaves me Friday to do some revising before I move on to chapter three next week.

I’ve also started reading Roz Morris’ “Nail Your Novel” and am reading chapter two of Julia Cameron’s “Walking in This World.” (For those of you who aren’t familiar, Cameron’s books are set up so that each chapter represents one week in a weeks-long creative journey, so I’ll be reading one chapter per week in that book.)

Since I’ve already posted once today, I’ll keep this one short and sweet.

What about you? Where do you stand with your #ROW80 goals for this week?

mash-ups, romance, sunday summary, writing updates

Growing as a Writer and a Mash-Up of Awesomeness

Sometimes, when it comes to art, getting stuck is exactly what the doctor ordered. I’ve had some issues with writer’s block this year. It’s not that I can’t write. On the contrary, I can sit in front of a blank page and write. Like most writers, I have no shortage of stories or words to tell them. But I realized that, while I can continue my current process, my current process isn’t working. It won’t get me where I want to go.

Every writers has some aspect of writing that doesn’t come easily. For me, it’s structure. I know how to write a scene, how to write chapter caps that leave readers itching to turn the page. No, right now, my biggest issue is with the flow of events. How do I get my characters from one place to another in a way that feels natural? How do I raise the stakes without writing my characters into a corner? If Character A does this in chapter X, what will happen in chapter Y? I suspect it’s not an uncommon problem, especially among pantsers.

photo from stock.xchng

I’ve realized I need a different approach. Past outlines I’ve written haven’t worked for me. The story comes out flat or the plot gets stuck. Sometimes, the characters don’t want to go into the kitchen; they don’t give a damn that the outline says it’s time to make tea and eat a scone. So how does a pantser like me–who often starts a story with an image, a character, a single scene–create a gripping plot?

Well, I’m still working on this. I don’t really want to spend years working on a single manuscript. I simply have too many stories to tell. Maybe I’m impatient, but I think it’s only practical to want to take our writing to the next level. I’m determined to smooth this issue out in my earlier drafts so my later drafts don’t need sweeping rewrites.

This week, I found a great resource: a “beat sheet” specifically for romance writers. (See the link to Jami Gold’s incredibly helpful post below.) I’ve reached a point where I need to both churn out new manuscripts and revise completed drafts. I can remain on my current pantser path, but I don’t really want to spend a couple years finishing a story, so there’s only one solution: Learn a new way. Which is exactly what I plan on doing. I have too many stories inside me not to.

What about you? Which aspect of writing have you most struggled with? How did you overcome this stumbling block?

This Week’s Mash-Up of Awesomeness

Stone circles and fairy rings: Imbue your life with a hint of magic and beauty with this post from Bealtaine Cottage.
Romancing the book: Jami Gold offers a beat sheet for writing romance.
Balancing the scenes: Kristen Lamb continues her series about structure with a discussion of scene.
Put your best blog forward: August McLaughlin discusses how and when to make changes to your blog.
Tips for NaNoWriMo: Romance author Maya Rodale, guest blogging over at Maria’s Farm Country Kitchen, dishes out a delicious portion of NaNoWriMo inspiration.

mash-ups, the seasons, writing updates

Sunday Summary: Pumpkins, Hayrides, and this Week’s Mash-up of Awesomeness

Today we had the first truly chilly day of the autumn season, and I’m breaking out the Halloween decorations. Yesterday, hubby and I enjoyed the fall foliage by taking a drive out to a local farm, where we picked out pumpkins, filled a basket full of gourds, and went on a hayride. It was a great way to spend an afternoon. Here’s a peek:

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I also recently started a new story. Tired of spinning my wheels on my current works in progress, I decided to try something fresh and new to get the creative juices flowing again. This story is not only set during the fall season but, more importantly, it’s set here in Virginia, the state I’ve called home for more than six years. It also pays homage to the Appalachian Mountains, which are as much a part of me as my stories are. Growing up in Pennsylvania, these mountains have inspired not only my stories, but also my drive to lead a sustainable lifestyle close to nature. They taught me about both nature’s fragility and its strength. I hope that through this story (spoiler: it features werewolves!) I can share some of the beauty that has inspired me.

Besides the world outside my door, the blogosphere is also full of awesomeness this week. Here are a few posts I really enjoyed.

This Week’s Mash-up of Awesomeness:

What about you? How has your week been? Any excitement, writing or otherwise?

ROW80, writing updates

A snow-covered ROW80 check-in

I’m writing to you from Southwest Virginia, where I’m currently trapped in a snow globe–I mean, uh, snowstorm. And not really trapped, since the weather has been so mild and thus, the ground is fairly warm. So, from the sort-of winter wonderland, here’s my check-in for the week.

Spent most of the week writing and combing through Chapter 2 and part of Chapter 3 of Made of Shadows. My initial rewrite of the “meet cute” for Zoe and Blake posed some problems (i.e., messed up the following parts of the plot, which were actually working just fine). Thanks to some stewing today, I’ve located the problem. Then I’m off!

I’ve been reading some of the 43 Light Street books by Rebecca York. I saw her speak at a Virginia Romance Writers meeting last year and learned a lot from her talk. Her books are really addictive and her plots are very character driven, so I’ve been reading some of her work (currently, Guarding Grace) to study how she allows the suspense element of the plot to drive the story forward, while providing plenty of space for romance. This approach actually helped me find the flaw in my meet-cute scene because I realized that’s not how a given character would react to a particular development.

My ROW80 goals:

  • I revised Chapter 2 and part of Chapter 3. I revised Chapter 2 a few times and am proud to have worked the kinks out before I move forward.
  • I’m spending more time on Twitter, taking breaks in the morning at work and before I write in the afternoon, but I haven’t carved out a space for Facebook check-ins yet.
  • Read a lot of awesome blogs this week, but always on the run, so I haven’t started doing regular “mash-ups of awesomeness” yet.
  • Need to work on bio critiques for my Team WANA1011 peeps and immerse myself in a few manuscripts I need to critique as well.

I am still looking for a place of balance, where day job, writing, social media, household management, relationships, social life, exercise/nutrition can all coexist. Looking at that list, LOL, it doesn’t look good. By year’s end, I plan to have not one but two manuscripts ready for query. I will get there. Whether I’ll find a sense of calm within the chaos…well, that remains to be seen. 🙂

Since tomorrow is President’s Day, I’m hoping to spend the day at home, doing a few random things for day job and plunging into Made of Shadows. We’ll see if my boss forces me to clean the snow off my car tomorrow.

How are your writing goals going?

author brand, publishing, the writer's journey

The perfect brand is like the perfect pair of jeans.

Last night I came across a wonderful blog post about brand. Can you, the author challenged, sum up your brand in one word? (Check it out here.)

Can we? When I come across people who are skeptical about brand, I tell them that brand isn’t the entire you; it’s a gateway to you and your work. And I don’t care if you say you loathe brand, if you refuse to fit the mold or narrow yourself into a brand. You still have one. You might as well own it.

Brand for authors can be a difficult notion because we’re creative-types, artists, and, often, nonconformists. At one point, I might have been skeptical, too, except that my path as a writer led me to a gig in public relations. Through that job, I met a wonderful group of people—fiercely creative folks who are passionate about their roles in the promotion of our university—and that part-time gig was my gateway drug to brand.

The thing about brands is that they are alive, shifting, and dynamic. Authentic brands feel alive; they writhe with passion and buzz with electricity. Just like us. At our university, we really do live our brand. And no one has to tell anyone to do it. Our brand is not a contrivance, an artifice, or a sales gimmick. It emerges naturally throughout the course of the day, because as a community, it’s who we are.

Like a pair of jeans, your brand should fit like a glove and feel perfectly comfortable.

I insist that a good brand is one that fits like the perfect pair of jeans: snug and comfy. But it’s not so much that we feel comfortable. It’s that we feel confident. We find our stride because it’s just the right fit. Trying to find that “one word” is a great exercise in identifying our brands.

Since we’re writers, I’m going to pull from Milan Kundera’s “The Unbearable Lightness of Being” for an example. Kundera postulates that it’s the things that give our lives weight that make them meaningful. If we strip away those things, life becomes, he suggests, unbearably light. Each of our lives, as individuals and writers, has moments to which we attribute a great deal of meaning: the moment we knew we loved writing, the moment we knew we had to be a writer and damn anyone or anything that stood in our way, the moment we finished our first story. And often times, a theme runs through the milestones of our lives, our stories, and our writing journeys. The moments of our lives shape who we are, personally and creatively.

My word? Soulful. I want to write books with heart, with power, with soul. I believe life and art are a search for meaning. Sometimes I get pissed off at anything that stands in the way of my search for meaning and art. Life means something; art is the search for meaning. And I’m someone with a lot of faith, even if I don’t always know in what.

My blog in many ways is still searching for its shape, its meaning. I hope it helps people, and I’m still finding a way for it to do that. And brand is a part of all that, a taste of who we are, a way to help others understand what we’re all about. Yes, we’re complicated. Much as I enjoy the search for meaning in life, I also enjoy snarky comments, geeky jokes, and the hunt for the perfect pair of shoes. But yes, soulful. The word fits. Life can be hard, lonely, scary, and unfair. It can also be funny, crazy, wonderful, and amazing. I’m all about the journey.

Now, I want to know your word. What word fits you like a comfy pair of jeans? If you were to sum up your brand in one word, what would it be, and why?

A note about an upcoming conference:

In May, I’ll be presenting a workshop called “Your Passion is Your Brand” at the first annual For the Love of Writing Conference, hosted by the Virginia Romance Writers, a wonderful group of fellow writers—some established and bestselling, others, like me, new to the biz—who have helped me find direction in the industry. It’s shaping up to be a great conference, so if you’re a romance writer, I hope you’ll attend. I’m also excited to share my insights into brand, to help fellow authors feel their way out. For many of us, brand is this new, scary thing. For some writers, it feels contrived. My workshop breaks the idea of brand into steps, helping authors create a personalized brand built on their strengths—one that feels comfortable and authentic. If you’re interested in gathering with a great, enthusiastic, and welcoming group of writers for a writing conference at the beach, here’s the link.

paranormal romance

Stop knockin’ the romance novel

So I just read this post by contemporary romance writer Jeannie Moon, which, of course, made me feel all twitchy. Why, tell me why, are people always knocking romance novels? Tell me how a romance novel is “not a real book.”

What makes a “real” book? Plot, character, description, tone? Because romance novels have all of those things. And have the people who say such things actually read a romance novel? (Or, if they have, do they just skip to the dirty parts? Tsk tsk tsk.)

I just realized I’m preaching to the choir. *steps away from pulpit*

I was already feeling mildly irate because, in a writers loop I belong to, a fellow writer said that her boss called her books “silly romance novels.” Silly? Romance novels are silly? They’re not real?

Oh, wait, excuse me while…

Sorry. I’m back.

Jeannie, who managed not to turn into the Incredible Hulk, raised some valid points to put her particular naysayer/book snob in her place:

“I set out to bury Harpy with the facts. Facts about romance’s incredible reach, profitability and the most basic of all: that if the genre were to become extinct, 1.3 billion dollars in book sales would be lost. It would decimate publishing and all those “real books” wouldn’t have anyplace to go. I talked about academic work being done at major universities studying the genre as literature and I talked about how it made people happy. And in the end, that’s all that mattered.”

So here’s my piece. Why do I think romance novels are most certainly REAL books, and not at all SILLY? Because…

Books change us; all art does. Books help us understand the human experience. The last time I checked, romance, yummy parts included, is a vital part of that experience. And we’re never more alive than when we’re in love.

I could go on. And on. And on. But I think I’ve said enough.

And this whole thing has inspired me to blog about why I chose to write romance novels. But that’s a separate post for another day.

Why do you love romance novels? Why do you think people feel this way? And how can we help them see the light? Or, if you’re a hater, why?