2016 Booksellers’ Best Winner

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I attended the Romance Writers of America Annual Conference last week in San Diego. What a great opportunity to meet with my agent, editors, and my friends. The highlight of the week was learning that my novel “Untrue Colors” won the 2016 Booksellers’ Best Award for Romantic Suspense.

I also did a book signing there with over 400 other authors including many of my favorites. If you are near the Orlando area next July, come on out. It’s such fun and all sales are donated to support literacy.

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Romance Writers Weekly: All in the Name of Research-Locations

Welcome to Romance Writer’s Weekly Blog Tour. A.S. Fenichel provided our topic for the week! What’s the craziest thing you’ve ever done in the name of “researching a book?”

largeI’ve been fairly active all my life. I can ride a horse, shoot a gun, ski down mountains, and have gone scuba diving with sharks. I loved sailing as a kid, prefer hiking outside to the Stairmaster at the gym, and have finished 2 triathlons. I’ve worked on a road crew, as a loader at UPS, as a waitress, at the Massachusetts Statehouse, at the United Nations in Geneva, and in tall skyscrapers for huge corporations. My experiences help me with my writing, but most of them came long before I’d decided to be a writer. I’ve never decided to climb a mountain for a book.

I’m very efficient at computer research, but when it comes to locations, I prefer visiting. There is nothing like taking in not only the sights and sounds of a foreign culture, but also the attitudes of the people. The physical push of a crowd on the Champs Elysee in Paris, the smell of spilled beer at a beer garden in Munich, the style of the people of Tokyo, and the tranquility of the Fiji Islands.

There are very few locations I’ve written about that were not described straight from my memory. One place I never visited, however, is North Korea. My novel True Deceptions has a significant amount of scenes in the countryside there. I do not have a desire to visit North Korea, especially having published a book where businessmen are executed by the North Korean military. My research came from articles, photographs, and a study of Google maps to plan my hero and heroine’s escape.

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The second location I wrote extensively about without having visited was Columbia. I set the location of the third and final novel in the True Lies series on the property of a drug cartel in the Andes Mountains. I researched the area again by Google, but I also found many documentaries about harvesting opium for heroin. The films provided some knowledge of the sights, smells, and dangers of living in such a place.

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Future locations I’d love to visit include China, Russia, and India. I can imagine entirely new environments to explore. New tastes to discover, new sights to see, and new people to understand.

Where would you go if you had the opportunity?

Travel to J.J. Devine http://definingjjdevine.weebly.com/ramblings-of-a-writer to read about her research.

Ready for 2016? It’s coming anyway.

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I accomplished many goals in 2015. First novel published, second novel published, made PAN (a professional author designation) for the Romance Writers of America, spoke at the Debut Author Breakfast at Thrillerfest, and finished my first legal/political thriller.

The pressure is on to make 2016 even better. I made a few resolutions to make sure I keep my sanity as I increase my writing goals and take on more cases with my law practice.

  1. Do one thing at a time. I do my best work when my focus is 100% on what I’m doing, so I need to make sure to stay on task to complete one goal and then move onto something else.
  2. Every complaint requires a solution. Complaining about something is never beneficial unless I am actively searching for a solution. No solution? Then I need to move on to things I can change.
  3. Meditate everyday. I’m doing this a bit differently. Instead of sitting and saying “Omm” and thinking about all the things I need to do, I’m going to walk at least a half hour after lunch. When I’ve done this in the past, my creativity and productivity have soared in the afternoon.
  4. Practice my French and Spanish. Every year I tell myself I will practice these languages. I never do. The result is that my daughters are much better than I am in French, and one of them is also taking Spanish, sure to surpass my limited ability by the end of the school year. I’m doomed if I don’t work on my linguistic skills.
  5. Realize that everyone has the right to think what they want, even if I disagree. Different politics? A bad review? Someone hates my new shoes? Let it go. I have to focus on my goals, my family, and the issues close to my heart.

I could list more resolutions about my diet, fitness, and sleep habits, but I’m a believer in keeping things simple. Have a wonderful New Year’s celebration and may next year be your best yet!

Romance Writers’ Weekly: Killing Your Darlings

Welcome back to the Romance Weekly Romance Blog Hop. The coolest romance writers in the business link together once a week to talk writing, life, and random stuff.

This week’s topic is from Carrie Elks

Stephen King famously said that it’s necessary to ‘kill your darlings’ when editing your work. Do you have anything you had to remove from a book that you’re still proud of? Or something that embarrasses you so much it will never again see the light of day? If you’re feeling really brave, share some of it with us!

Did you come from Betty Bolte’s blog www.bettybolte.com/blog.htm? If not- go back. She has so many darlings in her work- it makes me cry when she cuts them.

This is one of my favorites of hers.

I started “Untrue Colors” with a completely different set of characters in mind. Alexandra Northrop was not in control of her life. In fact, she was a drunken thug at the beginning of the original version. Henry Chilton was a pompous ass. They cracked me up.

My beta readers and ultimately my editor didn’t find them as funny. So I reworked the characters and seriously, their advice was great.

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But I still love this initial scene. Here’s a few paragraph’s of the great break in….

Henry Elliott Chilton, Earl of Ripon, a title only used by suck-ups and sycophants, sat in his favorite leather chair immersed in the darkness of an oak-paneled library. He preferred the title of Professor. He’d earned that title. He’d been born to the other.

Piles of exams to be graded rested on his desk along with three articles to be reviewed for The Journal of the Anthropological Society of Oxford. Despite his youth, only thirty-six and one of the youngest full professors in the department, Henry didn’t want to play cat and mouse with anyone, especially tonight. He wanted a brandy, a good book, and a down pillow. He had little time or patience for the three drunken students who seemed intent on stealing his brass fish head doorknocker.

Ripping the fish head off his front door had been deemed a rite of passage for the first year students of Worcester College. The beginning of spring tended to bring out the bravado in normally mild-mannered first years. Admittedly, he’d stolen it from his professor when he first arrived on campus, fresh out of Harrow, and every now and then the students attempted to repeat the feat. He should have taken it home to Ripon Manor, but that wouldn’t be fair to future generations of pranksters.

The clock chimed once, signaling Henry’s bedtime. “Simon,” he called out into the cold stone passages. “We seem to have a few visitors. Can you assist them please?” Simon’s presence alone intimidated even the most brazen students, if Simon chose to act as a security guard and not as the director of an action sequence.

“Right away, sir,” the answer boomed back.

Moonlight shone into Henry’s backyard like a searchlight illuminating two young men and one scrawny female with her long hair flying in all directions. Dressed in various forms of black leather and shredded blue jeans, they climbed over the small iron fence. From the look of them, they wouldn’t be successful in their quest. The two boys, one sporting a spiky blue Mohawk, glanced around and fidgeted from foot to foot. When artificial light radiated from the front yard, probably Simon opening the front door, they both leaped back over the fence toward the campus. Simon wouldn’t be giving chase. His efforts generally stopped at the light switch.

The girl watched them leave and then continued forward. She crouched low acting like a B movie spy. Where the hell was she going? She stumbled over herself and rolled onto her back with her knees bent and her arms stretched out to each side. Henry jumped up ready to speed down to assist her if she was hurt, but she wasn’t hurt. Her shoulders shook and he could hear her howls of laughter from two floors up. Disheveled hair hung in front of her face. She brushed it aside to reveal heavy black make-up covering her eyes and lips. She struggled to her feet and headed toward his basement window. Damn. She was going to try and enter.

The new beginning has more suspense and makes Alex and Henry a lot more sympathetic. I’m keeping this version, however, for when I want to read about characters just a bit darker around the edges.

Let’s jump to Jenna Da Sie’s blog to see what she does with her darlings. http://jennadasie.com/.

Romance Writers Weekly: My Day Job

Welcome to Romance Writers Weekly Blog Hop!

If you’ve come from Kristi Rose, welcome!! Her book is sale- just an FYI!!!!

The Girl He Knows

This week Jeanne McDonald provided the topic this week.

Outside of writing, what is your day job?

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My career as an attorney had a bumpy start. A new graduate of law school, I couldn’t find a legal based job in the middle of a recession that had a few of the largest laws firms in Boston crashing down. Instead, I volunteered at Legal Assistance and helped clients who couldn’t afford legal services. Within a year, I had opened a small law firm and also became a court appointed attorney representing parents who had lost or were at risk of losing their children for abuse or neglect. The learning curve was huge and the stakes were high. I loved it, yet the constant pressure to not mess up and ruin someone’s life hovered over me constantly.

And then I moved to a new state for my husband’s medical training and found a job with an accounting firm doing tax law. I became an international corporate tax specialist. Working with some of the wealthiest corporations in the world had amazing perks. Instead of visiting the poorest homes in the area, I was dining at the best restaurants. I received an assignment to work in the London office complete with a furnished two bedroom flat a few blocks south of Big Ben. The hours were grueling at times, but I enjoyed the challenge.

And then, almost a decade after becoming a tax attorney, I moved to a new state for my husband’s career. This time, I had two children in tow and the long hours at the office didn’t seem so satisfying. I homeschooled the kids to keep their lives more stable while we moved yet again.

When the kids went to school, I began writing and I love it. It’s the job I was meant to do, and yet something was missing. There are so many people in the world who don’t have access to decent legal assistance. I’ve seen how huge corporations spend enormous amounts of money to maneuver through regulations for their own financial gain, while people who have done nothing wrong but been born poor have to fight a system rigged against them. And I have a law degree that has value to those people.

So I’m reentering the legal profession not in the corporate world, but back to my legal assistance days. I have a part time practice that represents children and their parents in abuse and neglect cases. The pay isn’t great, but the impact is huge.

I’m currently writing a legal thriller and having my characters head into a courtroom for a murder trial. It’s been fun mixing my two lives together.

Head on over to Jami Denise and see what she does when not writing amazing books.

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Romance Writer’s Weekly: Emotion

Welcome back to Romance Writer’s Weekly. This week’s topic is from Tracey Gee.

As we all know, authors put real people and situations into their books. Let’s look at the times we’ve pushed through the pain by putting bad experiences or relationships into our works whether for therapy, or just as a way to close the door.

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When writing romance, I often resort to where I’ve been. The uncertainty of whether the person I love loves me, the fear of loss, and the joy of marrying my best friend provided me with plenty of feelings to harness for my writing. As a highly emotional person, some of these situations can take over and twist my stomach into a hundred pound knot. When I write a scene, the feelings come rushing back to me. If I didn’t feel miserable writing a break up or perhaps the death of a loved one, the scene probably lacks depth of emotion.

When writing thrillers, however, I often move into a world I want to be. So I need to step out of my shoes and place myself in the shoes of the person on the other end of a gun, or killing someone for the first time, or the hundredth time. Although years on a soccer field have made me immune to an elbow in the gut, or being pushed down by someone one hundred pounds bigger than me, I honestly couldn’t compare that experience to what soldiers and police enforcement experience in their jobs.

The emotions in these scenes are not something the average person experiences, and yet to be realistic, the reader should become a part of the action.

Which do I prefer? Both. Life is full of highs and lows for everyone. The ability to grasp a reader and bring them into the middle of the story and all the heartache, panic, and terror involved, makes the discomfort of writing the scenes worth it.

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Did you come from the amazing author Betty Bolte’s site? If not, here’s the link: www.bettybolte.com/blog.htm

Next on the tour is the wonderful Raine Balkera. http://rainebalkera.blogspot.com