Monday, May 26, 2014

My Writing Process--Blog Hop

I recently wrote about how my writing process is similar to building a house, and my friend Debora Dennis, challenged me to continue the story by answering four simple questions. #mywritingprocess

So here we go! 

1)     What am I working on?  Earlier this month, I turned in Book Six in my historic series about The Cotillion Ball. Then, I began writing a contemporary trilogy about three generations of women in the same family. Since I decided going in that it was going to be a series, I had to think about all three, and decide the story line for each. That kind of advance planning helps me, not only in where the story will go, but which one to start with. Since all my characters will factor into each different book as secondary characters when they're not in the spotlight, I needed to spend some time thinking about each one's problems, not to mention mannerisms and eye color, etc., for each. 
2)     How does my work differ from others of its genre? I write both historical and contemporary romances, and even though they're set in different centuries, I like to think the story elements are the same. I like to write about women overcoming the odds to make their lives truly great, regardless of which time frame we're in. My historicals are set in America before the Civil War. And my contemporaries place women in different settings from their normal routines. 

3)     Why do I write what I do?  I love history. Not the boring memorization of dates and places, but I like to take normal people living their normal lives and have them react and respond to events in history. I live in a town that was a big underground railroad stop in the decades prior to the Civil War, so I think that's been influential. Or maybe it was kismet that I moved here. Either way, the rich history of my town has worked its way into my writing to some degree. I've had the opportunity to live in a variety of places in the US, and I tend to set my contemporaries in the places I've been. And for some reason, there seems to be a body of water close by in all of them. Oceans, lakes, pools, ice skating ponds, which is odd, since I can't swim. Who knows what will be next?

4)     How does your writing process work? I am at my most creative in the morning. So, I get my coffee, let the dog out for her morning constitutional, and turn on my computer. I check emails, overnight sales, visitors to my website, the whole time thinking about the next scene. I write a flash first draft, with my own kind of shorthand, then go back through it from start to finish and add details, senses, emotions, and extra dialogue or description. Then, I go through it with my checklist, eliminating the words I tend to overuse and making certain I include the senses. I go through it several times after that's done. So, by the time I'm finished with it, I've read through it five or six times. And that's before editing! When I'm in the early stages of the story, I can usually write around 1,000 words, or one big scene, a day.

That's it for me, next week (June 2), I hope you'll visit this talented author: 

 Bio:  Rena Koontz is the author of "Love's Secret Fire" and "The Devil She Knew," both romantic suspense novels loosely based on true cases she covered as a news reporter in Pittsburgh, PA., and Cleveland, OH. Having gained an enormous respect for law enforcement personnel during her career as a journalist, cops are the good guys in all her books. Her third novel, "Thief of the Heart," releases next month.

Sunday, May 25, 2014

Meet Historical Romance Author Jessica Jefferson

I'll be the first to admit I was intrigued by Jessica Jefferson's latest release, Taming Miss Tisdale, from the moment I first heard the title. Miss Tisdale sounds like my kind of lady. I'm as interested in the woman behind the woman. Let's dig in and find out more about Jessica, shall we?

Jessica Jefferson makes her home in northern Indiana, or as she likes to think of it—almost Chicago.  She is heavily inspired by classic sweeping, historical romance novels, but aims to take those key emotional elements and inject a fresh blend of quick dialogue and comedy.  She invites you to visit her at and read more of her random romance musings.

What is your current project about?
My latest release, Taming Miss Tisdale, is about the feisty Tamsin Tisdale.  This character was introduced in my first book, Compromising Miss Tisdale, as a younger sister to the heroine and the readers really seemed to enjoy her.  This story starts after Tamsin leaves London to stay with her cousin in the country.  There she meets Mr. Winston, who’s the first man she’s ever really taken a liking to.  He’s the opposite of the stereotypical London gentleman – he’s honest and genuine.  Only, he’s not.  The story is really about his struggle to reveal the truth, and her resistance to fall in love.

Why do you write in the genre you do?
I love historical romance because for as much as it’s an escape from reality, it’s still grounded in reality.  The stories always have some sort of truth in them, no matter how far-fetched the plot maybe.  And I love the predictability of a happy ending.

Why do you write romances?
I write romance because I love to read romance.  But, when I was in college I had published a humorous essay in a college journal.  I love humor, so I always envisioned myself writing some sort of autobiography with a lot of funny content.  I’d love to be the next Erma Bombeck. For now though, I focus of regency and I’ve dabbled a bit with new adult.

Have you ever written a character based on someone you knew?
My characters usually have some element of reality.  I draw a lot of inspiration from real life interactions and experiences.  I’m developing a character now that’s kind of a hodge-podge of some women I worked with that I thought were just fabulous.

Where do you rank in the family hierarchy? First child? Only child? Somewhere in between?
I have three older siblings from my father’s first marriage, and then three siblings from his marriage to my mother.  So – in the grand scheme of things, I’m the middle child.  But at the same time, I’m the eldest of the second batch.  And anyone who knows me knows I have total middle child syndrome with first born tendencies.

What advice can you give writers who are getting started?
Learn.  Don’t assume you know too much.  Take advice.  Join RWA; participate in author groups so you can learn as much as you can about the business you’re entering.

If you could choose two people to have dinner with, from any time period, real or fictional, who would you want at the table?
First, I’d love to have Oscar Wilde with me.  I think he’d be a spectacular conversationalist.  Second, I would love to have Elizabeth Bennett because she just seems like she’d be a good time.

Dog or cat?

So, now that we know something about Jessica, let's find out more about her book. 

Miss Tamsin Tisdale believes herself to be completely unsuitable for London life. After a myriad of social mishaps, and the potential ruination of her family name, she’s shipped away to her cousin’s northern estate. Only after she accepts the type of existence Society dictates she must follow will she be welcomed home.
Marcus Winston, the Duke of Grayson, has a lackluster reputation. The last in a dying line, he’s endured a protected life—rank with privilege, but encumbered by isolation. After a brief encounter with rebellion, he learns the devastating consequences of his carelessness and willingly accepts living life from inside his gilded cage.
However, a chance meeting with the brazen Miss Tisdale gives Marc the opportunity to reinvent himself into the man he’s always dreamed of being. But when his deception comes to light, and ghosts from both their pasts threaten to unravel the intimacy they’ve come to cherish, will either of them set their fears aside long enough to embrace love? Or will Miss Tisdale’s stubbornness divide them?

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Sunday, May 18, 2014

Building A Novel

I recently had company in town for a couple of pleasant days. We went to the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in downtown Cleveland, caught a movie at the old Apollo theatre, and got wet and cold at the beautiful Brandywine Falls, which was roaring big-time, due to our record-setting rains.

While we were driving around, the topic spun around to my writing, as it always seems to do. A simple question of how I get my ideas turned into a description of how I put a story together. The approach varies from writer to writer, but my method is to do a vague outline, plotting turning points on a grid, then to write the book from start to finish in an abbreviated form. I want to make sure I have it starting in the right spot, the middle is solid and the end is complete before I go in and add details and polish it up. My friend's husband listened to what I was saying and said "It's kind of like building a house, isn't it? You start with a sound foundation, add studs and beams, put a roof on it to make sure it's water tight before you paint, wallpaper and add trim and light fixtures."

I'm surprised I'd never looked at it that way. After all, my dad was a builder and I spent the better part of my youth on one job site or another, learning how to operate tools and put things together. But my friend's husband's analogy is spot on for my style of writing. I'll worry over the details at some point, but I first want to make certain there's a story to be told, that it starts at the right place, and that the end is satisfying. It doesn't matter if the book is historic or contemporary, the procedure, at least for me, is the same each time. How about for you? What is your writing process like?

Sunday, May 11, 2014

Happy Mother's Day!

As a merchandiser for one of the major greeting card retailers in the country, I've been inundated by Mother's Day cards for over a month now. But this weekend is crunch time, so before I head out to put out the last of the cards for those who are late to the party, I thought I'd talk about mothers.

When I began thinking about writing a series of historical romances, I decided to create the perfect mother. Creating a 19th century American family meant lots of children, that much I knew. I figured anyone who could birth nine children would obviously love her babies to distraction, but I was pretty vague about anything else, except that she would be involved in her children's lives. Sometimes to their distraction.

From the first book, The Reluctant Debutante, Charlotte Fitzpatrick took on her own life. She is funny, at times clueless, loves to pull the wool over society's eyes, still flirts with her husband, and has made it her business to find good matches for her children as they get to marriageable age. I've been fortunate enough to have the same editors from the first book, and they know the characters almost as well as I do. During my last round of edits, my editor made the comment that Charlotte wouldn't say what I had her saying. The editor was right. I'd drawn my character so well, her personality is now known to all. Now, I'm thinking about a prequel to my series, about how Charlotte met George, and their family's journey began.

But that will have to wait a while. I've got three more books to write to finish up the Cotillion Ball Series. Valerian, Pepper and Saffron are each impatiently waiting for their turn in the spotlight. And you can bet, Charlotte will be in the middle of each one's story.

So Happy Mother's Day, Charlotte, and all mothers everywhere!

Sunday, May 4, 2014

Excerpt from Voice Of An Angel

I attended my chapter's conference this weekend, part of which included a book signing. My most recent release came as a surprise to my chapter mates, since it appeared on Amazon with no fanfare. There was no ARC available for review a month in advance of the publication date, so not many people got to read it before it hit Amazon. Even the release date was a nebulous factor. One day, it magically appeared. It was definitely a soft launch.

What better time than the present to include an excerpt on my blog? Since the conference took up my weekend, and I had company in town for the conference, I didn't have my usual Saturday afternoon to stare at the wall, trying to come up with some blog content. My tablemate for the book signing told me she runs excerpts of her books on her blog all the time, which was a revelation to me. It takes me awhile, sometimes, to figure things out. So, without further fanfare, here's the blurb and excerpt for Voice Of An Angel:


Max Bainbridge is an ace newspaper reporter who gets all the biggest assignments, most recently covering the fighting in Afghanistan. When he is shot on the battlefields, he is operated on and then flown home. The nurse responsible for his subsequent care is Evelyn Hammer, a 35-year-old woman who ran for her life from the musical spotlight, when she was 17 and on the cusp of fame. Her new identity has been in place, and impenetrable, ever since. Over the years, she’s found singing is a more soothing way to wake people from surgery, and they are usually so foggy they don’t realize she’s been singing to them. Until Max, that is.

Evelyn knows she’s breaking one of the cardinal rules of nursing by dating a patient, but she can’t resist Max. What begins as an innocent affair with a definite expiration date when Max leaves for his next assignment becomes a real threat to unmasking Evelyn’s hidden identity. Max can’t control his journalism instincts as one clue after another emerges and he realizes he doesn’t know the person he’s fallen in love with.

Only by uncovering Evelyn’s secret past can they move forward with their future. But her past is still there, and threatening. Some secrets are better left alone.


She stared at him. “You’re willing to go through this fiasco again?”

He leaned into her then, and kissed her lips, giving in to the urge he’d had all night. “For you, Nurse Evelyn, I’d walk through hot coals. A simple shattered coffee cup doesn’t faze me.”

She brushed her lips with her fingers.
The simplicity of her statement, and its hidden meaning, was nearly his undoing. He didn’t try to touch her again, although his fingers itched to do so. She accompanied him to the door and they stood awkwardly in the foyer for a moment. He was surprised when she reached for his forearm, her touch light as a summer breeze.

“Thank you, Max—for everything.”

Even though he told himself not to touch her again after he noticed her slight recoil, he couldn’t help himself. His hand covered hers on his arm. He craved her touch and, unless his radar was way off, she needed to feel him, too. So, they’d take this a step at a time. He leaned in again for another serving of her tempting lips. Not the kiss he longed to give her, full of possession and potential, but a gentle, sweet caress of her mouth.

“Honey, the pleasure was all mine. I’ll call you tomorrow.”