"Kylie felt her cheeks heat and opened her mouth to say that her social life was none of Vincent's business, but Zach's hand landed heavily on her knee. She just barely managed not to jump, her tongue glued to the roof of her mouth." -- page 71, from The Sheriff's Runaway Bride by Arlene James.
I'm reading a lot more category romance these days, research for what I'm trying to write. The Sheriff's Runaway Bride is book two in the Rocky Mountain Heirs series from Harlequin's Love Inspired. Each book is written by a different author, and this one is by long-time LI author, the fabulous Arlene James.
Teaser Tuesdays is a weekly bookish meme, hosted by MizB of Should Be Reading. Anyone can play along! Just do the following:
Grab your current read
Open to a random page
Share two (2) “teaser” sentences from somewhere on that page (in the comments or via link to your own blog)
BE CAREFUL NOT TO INCLUDE SPOILERS! (make sure that what you share doesn’t give too much away! You don’t want to ruin the book for others!)
Share the title and author, too, so that other TT participants can add the book to their TBR Lists if they like your teasers!
Reading anything interesting? (Even if you don't post the meme, psot a comment to tell us what you're reading!)
Enter to win a copy of Susan Sleeman's Behind the Badge and a $50 Amazon gift card!
Susan Sleeman here. Behind the Badge, my second romantic suspense book for Love Inspired Suspense will release on June 6th and in honor of all of you, the readers, I am hosting a special contest on my website for the month of June.
Let’s face it. Without you, the wonderful readers, books would not exist and I wouldn’t be able to wake up looking forward to a job that is fresh and exciting each and every day. Praise God for this incredible opportunity!
Now back to the contest. All you have to do is read the excerpt below then go to my WEBSITE and answer the following question. That's it. You're entered to win.
If you'd like to sign up for my mailing list to learn of other contests in the future you can do that at the same time, too. Full contest rules are on the entry page. Remember only one entry per person.
QUESTION: What item let Russ know the bike was street legal?
SUSAN SLEEMAN is a best-selling author of romantic suspense and mystery novels. She grew up in a small Wisconsin town where she spent her summers reading Nancy Drew and developing a love of mystery and suspense books. Today, she channels this enthusiasm into writing romantic suspense and mystery novels and hosting the popular internet website TheSuspenseZone.com.
Susan currently lives in Florida, but has had the pleasure of living in nine states. Her husband is a church music director and they have two beautiful daughters, a very special son-in-law and an adorable grandson.
To learn more about Susan visit her website, Facebook , or Twitter.
"YOUR SISTER IS NEXT!"
A killer is threatening the life of rookie cop Sydney Tucker's sister-unless Sydney turns over evidence from a drug bust. But she doesn't have the evidence. Not that the thug believes her. Now she and the sibling in her care are under the watchful eye of Logan Lake police chief Russ Morgan…but will his protection be enough?
The killer is closing in, picking off the people and places that mean the most to Sydney. A list that now includes Russ. To protect her loved ones, will she pay the ultimate price-her life?
The Morgan Brothers - Bk 2
Love Inspired Suspense June 6, 2011
READ AN EXCERPT:
Gunshots split the inky darkness.
Deputy Sydney Tucker hit the cold ground, a jagged rock slashing into her forehead on the way down. She reached for her service weapon. Came up empty handed. She'd stopped after work to check on the construction of her townhouse and left her gun and cell phone in the car. Dumb, Sydney. Really dumb. Now what're you gonna do?
Inching her head above knee-high grass, she listened. The keening whistle of the wind died, leaving the air damp and heavy with tension but silence reigned.
Had she overreacted? Could be target practice. But at night? Maybe. Hunters did crazy things sometimes.
Footfalls pounded from below like someone charging through the brush. No. Two people. Maybe a chase. One person after another. A loud crash, branches snapping.
"What're you doin', man," a panicked male voice traveled through the night. "No! Don't shoot! We can work this out."
Three more gunshots rang out. A moan drifted up the hill.
Not target practice. Someone had been shot.
Sydney lurched to her feet, dizziness swirling around her. Blood dripped into her eyes. She wiped it away, blinked hard and steadied herself on a large rock while peering into the wall of darkness for the best escape route.
Heavy footfalls crunched up the gravel path.
"I know you're here, Deputy Tucker," a male voice, disguised with a high nasally pitch, called out. "We need to talk about this. C'mon out."
Yeah, right. Come out and die. Not hardly.
Praying, pleading for safety, she scrambled deeper into the scrub. Over rocks. Through grass tangling her feet. Her heart pounded in her head, drowning the prayers with fear.
"I'm losing patience, Deputy," he called again in that strange voice. "You're not like Dixon. He had it coming. You don't."
Dixon? Did he mean the man she arrested for providing alcohol to her teenage sister and for selling drugs? Was that what this was about?
Rocks skittered down the incline. The shooter was on the move again. No time to think. She had to go. Now!
Blindly she felt her way past shrubs, over uneven ground. Dried leaves crunched underfoot. Branches slapped her face and clawed at her arms, but she stifled her cries of pain.
"I hear you, Deputy."
She wrenched around to determine his location. A protruding rock caught her foot, catapulting her forward. She somersaulted through the air. Her knee slammed into the packed earth and she crashed down the hill. Wrapping arms around her head for protection, she came to a stop, breath knocked out of her chest, lying flat on her back in a thick stand of weeds.
"So you want to play it that way, do you Deputy? Fine. Just remember, you can run, but you can't hide. I will find you. This will be resolved one way or another." His disembodied laugh swirled into the night.
The darkness pressed closer. Blinding. Overwhelming. Terrifying.
She was easy prey. Even with her bulletproof vest, a few rounds fired in her direction would take her out. She had to get up.
She rose to her knees, but pain knifed into her knee, keeping her anchored to the ground. Lord, please don't let me die like this. Give me the strength to move. I need to live for Nikki. She's only seventeen. She has no one.
Sydney uncurled and came to a standing position. Taking a few halting steps, she tested the pain. Nearly unbearable. But she could-no she had to do this for her sister.
Thinking of Nikki, she gritted her teeth and set off, moving slowly, taking care not to make a sound.
Out of the darkness, a hand shot out. Clamped over her mouth.
Screams tore from her throat, but died behind fingers pressed hard against her lips.
A muscled arm jerked her against a solid chest and dragged her deep into the brush.
God, please, no. She twisted, arched her back, pushing against arms like iron bands. She dug her heels into the ground, but he was too strong. He kept going deeper into the brush before settling them both on the ground behind a large boulder.
"Relax Sydney, it's Russ Morgan," Logan Lake's Police Chief whispered, his lips close to her ear.
Russ Morgan? What was he doing here?
"Sorry about the hand." His tone said she was nothing more than a stranger instead of someone she'd known for years. "I didn't want you to alert the shooter with a scream. I'm gonna remove my hand now. Nod if you understand me."
She let all of her relief escape in a sharp jerk of her head. His fingers dropped away.
"Once the shooter rounded that curve, you would've been a goner," he whispered while still firmly holding her. "Good thing a neighbor reported gunshots."
Sydney started to shiver and breathed deep to steady her galloping pulse. Air rushed into her lungs. She was alive, but barely. No thanks to her own skills.
"You okay?" he asked, his breath stirring her hair.
"Yes." She willed her body to stop shaking and eased out a hiss of disappointment in her performance as a deputy. "How long have you been here?"
"Long enough to hear the shooter claim he's hit Dixon and is coming after you next," he whispered again, but urgency lit his voice and rekindled her fear. "This have to do with your arrest of Carl Dixon the other day?"
"I don't know," she whispered back. "I just stopped to check on the construction of my townhouse on my way home from work."
"Off duty, huh? Explains why you don't have your weapon drawn."
"I left my duty belt in my car." She waited for his reaction to not carrying, but he simply gave a quick nod as footfalls grated against gravel.
"Shh, he's about to pass us." Russ leaned forward and drew his gun with his free hand, but didn't release his hold on her.
Crunching steps came within a few feet of their location. Halted.
"Can you feel me breathing down your neck, Deputy? I'm inches from finding you." He didn't know the accuracy of his words.
She felt Russ's breathing speed up, upping her concern and washing away the brief blanket of security his arms provided. Adrenaline urged her to move. To keep from panicking, she focused on Russ's unwavering weapon.
The shooter took a few steps closer. Her heart thumped, threatening to leave her chest. Russ tightened his hold as if he knew she wanted to bolt.
The shooter spun sending gravel flying then headed up the path.
As his footsteps receded, she tried to relax taut muscles. The warmth from Russ's body helped chase out her fear and the chill of the night. Thank God Russ was here. If he hadn't come.
She refused to go there. God had watched over her. Provided rescue, just not in the form she'd have chosen.
Not only was Russ an officer from the city police force-a team often in competition with the county sheriff's department where she worked-but a man she'd had a crazy crush on in high school. A man whose rugged good looks still turned women's heads.
She let out a long sigh.
"I know this's awkward," he whispered, "but hang tight for a few more minutes. We need to wait for him to head back down the hill."
She wanted to protest and suggest they flee now, but not Russ. He thought clearly. Taking off now gave the killer the advantage of higher ground, making them moving targets. They'd have to sit like this until he passed them again.
If they made it out of here, which the approaching footfalls told her wasn't at all certain.
They pounded closer. The shooter moved at a quick clip this time as if he thought she'd gotten away and he was fleeing. Or maybe he was heading to her car to lay in wait for her.
As the footsteps receded again, she felt Russ's arm slacken.
"Time to roll," he whispered. "Stay here."
"You have a backup?" He referred to a back up gun officers often carry.
She shook her head.
"Then wait here." He gave her the hard stare that'd made him famous around town and crept toward the path.
She leaned against the boulder and wrapped her arms around the warm circle on her waist where he'd held her. Without his warmth, she couldn't quit shaking. The reality of the night froze her inner core.
She should listen to Russ. Lay low. Wait until he apprehended the killer.
That was the safe thing to do.
The easy thing to do.
The wrong thing to do.
Not for everyone, but for an officer of the law, letting a shooter escape without trying to stop him wasn't an option. Even if that shooter had her in his sights, she'd make her way to her car for her gun and help Russ stop this maniac before he hurt anyone else.
Near the ditch, Russ came to a stop and fought to catch his breath. Taillights on a mud splattered dirt bike roared up the trail. He'd warned the suspect to stop, but short of shooting him in the back, Russ couldn't stop him from fleeing into the dark.
At least he'd accomplished his primary objective. To protect Sydney and keep her alive. Now he needed to alert his men and the sheriff's office to the suspect's whereabouts.
He lifted his shoulder mic and ordered a unit from his office to stake out the end of the trail for the motorcycle and an ambulance in case Dixon survived. Then he asked dispatch to patch him through to the county sheriff's department to make sure they knew he'd taken charge of the scene so none of their hotshot deputies arrived with the hope of usurping control.
He turned on his Maglight and headed up the hill. The beam of light skipped over gravel and lush plants lining the winding path. Midway up, rustling brush stopped him cold. He'd left Sydney higher up. Nearer the lake.
Was a second shooter hoping to ambush him?
He flipped off his light and sought protection behind a tree. His breath came in little pulses in the unusually cold air for a typical Oregon fall. Adrenaline with little time to ebb away came roaring back, but even as the noise grew louder, he resisted the urge to take action.
Maybe it was Sydney. The Sydney he used to know wouldn't have listened to his directive and stayed put. She'd trounce down the hill, her chin tilted at the same insolent angle as when he told her he didn't return her crazy crush her freshman year of high school. Not that he'd wanted to send a beautiful, lively girl like her away. He could easily have dated her, but he was four years older, in college. With their age difference, it wouldn't have been right.
Bushes at the path's edge shook then parted. Slowly, like a sleek panther, Sydney slipped out. He watched until she stood tall on those incredibly long legs he'd admired since she was sixteen before lowering his gun and aiming his flashlight at her.
She jumped. Peered up at him, an impudent look planted on her face. This was the Sydney he'd known as a teen and heaven help him, in less than thirty minutes, she'd sparked his interest again.
"Care to shine that somewhere other than my face." She perched her hand over her eyes, warding off the glare.
He moved the light but not before he caught a good look at a gaping wound running from her hairline to eyebrow, covered in congealed blood. He lifted his hand to check out her injury, but stopped. He wouldn't probe a wound on one of his men's faces. As a fellow LEO-law enforcement officer-he wouldn't treat Sydney any differently.
"I told you to stay put." He infused his words with authority.
"I wanted to help. Wish I'd listened. I tripped over the body." She held out blood-covered hands. Her eyes watered as if she might cry.
Man. Don't do that. Don't fall apart. He couldn't remain detached if she started crying. He'd have to empathize, maybe give her a reassuring pat on the arm. Maybe feel her pain and resurrect all the reasons he'd left his homicide job in Portland.
He changed his focus. Nodded at the brush. "Show me the body."
As a faint whine of sirens spiraled in the distance, she limped into tall grass, a grimace of pain marring her beautiful face. He followed, illuminating the area ahead of her. About ten feet in, she suddenly stopped. He shone his light a few feet ahead of her.
Diffused rays slid over a young male lying on his back. Russ swung the beam to the man's face landing on open eyes staring into the blackness above.
Sydney gasped and swung around him. She rushed toward the main path. Even though Russ knew it was a lost cause, he bent down to check for a pulse. No question, this man hadn't made it and no question about his identity. Carl Dixon, a man every LEO in the area knew from his frequent blips onto the police radar and the most recent arrest for selling drugs.
All that ended with three gunshots to the chest at close range from what Russ could see with his flashlight. Once they thoroughly processed the scene, he'd know better. But first, they needed to vacate the area before further contaminating the scene.
He found Sydney near the path, gaze fixed in the distance, hands clasped on her hips and exhaling long breaths as if trying to expel what she'd just seen.
Haunted eyes peered at him. "He's dead, right?"
"And what about the killer?"
"Couldn't catch him. He took off on a dirt bike."
Disappointment crowded out the fear on her face. "Did you at least see him?"
"From the back. He was my height or a little taller, but lean. Wore a black stocking cap. The bike has a plate so it must be street legal. I caught the first few digits."
"That's something, then."
Russ didn't want to tell her it would do little for them in terms of searching DMV records as three digits would return thousands of bikes, but he didn't think she could take any more bad news so he kept quiet. "Let's head down to the parking lot."
He gave her the flashlight and urged her to take the lead down the steep hill. Once on solid concrete, she handed it back to him. Holding it overhead, he watched her closely for dizziness or other impairments from her fall. He saw nothing out of the ordinary, but a head injury could mean a concussion. He'd have the EMT's check her out when they got here.
He pointed at a rough-hewn bench. "Maybe you should sit down."
"I'm fine " Her voice cracked and she seemed embarrassed over reacting to the murder.
"It's okay to be upset, Syd. A horrible thing happened tonight."
"I'm fine really. I'll be back to a hundred percent by morning."
Is your online writing protected? A judge rules that reposting an entire article is "fair use". In short, the poster does not need permission from the original content owner. What?! In fact, the judge was ruling against Righthaven, a litigation factory (yes, they exist), which was a good thing, but the ruling further decimates copyright law. Bloggers and journalists may not have much recourse in the future when their work is copied.
Author Nina Badzin takes on "The Twitter Thanking Crisis" and gives pointers for how to use Twitter in a less self-aggrandizing fashion.
The 2011 Romance Writers of America conference kicks of on June 28 in New York City. Publishers Weekly takes a look at the growing popularity of romance conferences in "Romance Pros, Romance Cons: Romance 2011".
I've stumbled upon a blog that has the potential to be a complete distraction in my quest to write romance, but feeds the reader in me: Women's Fiction Writers. I won't be hanging out over there, but here's an interesting interview with women's fiction author Terri DuLong about what constitutes women's fiction and about being a late blooming writer.
For authors who have or are thinking about publishing on Kindle, do you know about Before You Go, a recently introduced feature that can be used to boost the popularity of your book?
Sure, you're writing romance or women's fiction or suspense or some other genre, but, screenwriter and novelist Alexandra Sokoloff asks, "What Type of Story Is It?" Sokoloff posits that knowing the underlying story type, which is not the same as the genre, will help you to nail the crucial story elements to make your story a winner.
Still thinking about epublishing? You have to read the epublishing story of author Erin Kern (including the comnments). No holds barred, she tells you the good, the bad and the challenging of the epublishing game.
Freelance writer Carol Tice recently asked her blog followers, most of whom are also freelancers, what's the best piece of advice they've picked up and wanted to share. Out of that blog dialogue came this post: The 20 Best Practical Tips for Freelance Writers.
The summer solstice has passed. Believe it or not, the days begin to shorten as they march toward winter. But there's still a whole lot of summer left to enjoy. This weekend, find any excuse to get outside and refresh, revive, rejuvenate yourself.
A new market is opening up for romantic short stories. There aren't many so this caught my attention.
Last week, I picked up the following announcement, sent to an audience of "romance writers, journalists, agents and publishers from one of my writing loops: Beginning in early 2012, D.W. Neal Publishing LLC will launch an electronic magazine/journal devoted solely to the art of short form romance stories. Romancezine will be available for download at a price of 99 cents on the Amazon Kindle, Barnes & Noble Nook, Apple iBook, Sony eReader, Smart phones and several other electronic retailers and formats. Each issue will contain a selection of 10-20 stories. Each story will be accompanied by a title page and appropriate graphic imagery.
The goal of the magazine is to showcase the talents of romance writers in an easily accessible and inexpensive format. Authors are encouraged to submit stories in all romance genres at lengths from 500 to 10,000 words. Authors will receive compensation on a per word basis and a small ad at the end of each story to promote the author and their other works. Romancezine will contain no advertising other than the promotion of the contributors.
Literary quality, uniqueness of story and the ability to leave the reader wanting more of the authors work will be the most important factors for story selection. Authors are encouraged to push the envelope of their genres.
There's not much up on the Romancezine website yet, but you can get more at the other website. Seems they're offering four opportunities for publication: the online Romancezine; novellas, short story collections and other pieces published in ebook format for Kindle; contests and home page stories.
I see a few possible concerns:
Editorial Support They're asking for "self-edited" works. No editing on their part means inconsistency in the product they deliver, putting neither themselves nor their authors in the best light. The site goes on to say, for novellas, short story collections and other pieces published with Amazon outside of the Romancezine, "In some cases, editing services will be provided at no-cost if we deem sufficient potential in the work."
Author Rights For the romance magazine, they say, "Publisher will retain the right to sell electronic back issues of this publication in perpetuity. Author will retain all rights." Which is it? Publisher retains this one perpetual right or author retainsall rights. I'm assuming they mean all other rights, but this could make it difficult to resell a story to other markets.
Also, for shorts, this publisher will retain "full worldwide E-Book rights to each work for a period of 5 years starting from the first date of publication. After the 5-year period, the publisher will retain non-exclusive worldwide E-Book rights for a period of 20 years." (The bold emphasis is mine.)
Promotion/Marketing "Publisher will cover all costs of publishing and promotion initiated by the publisher." Wait. Here comes the good part: "In all honesty, promotional efforts will be minimal until a work shows some promise generated by it's own merits." this could be interpreted to mean, "Unless you start making us gobs of money, we're not lifting a finger."
Payment Romancezine pays 60 days following publication, which in my mind means royalties come directly from sales.
For the Kindle-published shorts, payment is quarterly with no advances while Amazon pays monthly. Furthermore, they're offering an even split of the 70% Amazon royalty for books priced at $2.99 or more. Not a good deal for publishing with Amazon when you can clearly do better on your own. (I'm not sure how this deal compares to the royalty structure of traditional epublishers. This opportunity nets 35% of retail price, which may be on the mark.)
Now, I'm not saying this isn't a great opportunity. I'm saying it's an opportunity that requires careful consideration. This is obviously a plan to capitalize on the epublishing trend. Good for the publisher, but what's in it for you?
First, Romancezine is comparable to the old confessions magazines wherein I got my publishing start. You send in a short story, and if accepted, you are paid per word. In the confessions world, they retain all rights. Here, the publisher is yielding all rights except one (see above). Confessions mags pay $.03 per word while this publisher pays $0.05 per word, but the confessions mags, before Dorchester got into serious trouble, paid 30 days after publication. Here you have a byline; with confessions mags, you don't.
Kudos to D.W. Neal Publishing LLC for providing a new avenue for writers to get their feet wet in writing romance and in publishing. There is a host of confessions writers who are not interested in writing longer stories or novels, and simply wish to earn a little extra cash. This new market offers an open door as the confessions magazines are drying up.
What about the other publishing options? The home page option is giving your story away for free. The contest option and short story option are very similar, so let's focus on this "short" option.
One way to look at the "short" option: If you are uncertain about your ability to draw an audience for your stories and/or you have neither the time, money nor inclination to promote your own work, this might be for you. But if you wish to maximize your earnings, there's nothing here worth consideration.
If publishing directly with Amazon and other epublishers and assuming 100% of the promotional responsibility is a bigger elephant than you are ready to chew and swallow, go for it. Promotion is a lot of work. Some writers won't mind giving up 50% of their epublishing royalties to be freed up from everything but the writing. Keep in mind, however, that without self-promotion, their stories probably won't sell much.
If you're thinking about e-publication, I'd say consider the following:
Write good stories. Everyone loves a good tale.
Get your stories professionally edited, or teach yourself to edit very well. (Even then, be sure to have a someone else look over your work before you submit.)
Educate yourself about epublishing--the available markets, how and why others have succeeded or failed, and what kinds of tasks in addition to writing you'll need to perform--before making a decision.
Investigate traditional royalty-paying epublisher and compare the deals based on net to you.
If you choose to maximize your epublishing earnings by self-publishing, in addition to the steps outlined above:
Hire a professional to do quality artwork.
If the process to format and upload your work is more than you can stomach, hire someone to do that too.
Learn all you can about promotion and promote your work every chance you get. Join the Kindleboards forums and other groups that can help you learn how to maximize your epublishing opportunity, particularly on Amazon. (You should do this even if you publish with a traditional ebook publisher.)
Whatever you decide, be patient and work hard. Keep writing and publishing, building up your backlist and your readership. If you do, sales should come.
Now that's a good deal!
What do you think of this opportunity? Do you know of other short story markets? Are you thinking about epublishing?
I was going to add a tidbit to my weekend roundup about a project I'd just learned of, writers collaborating on a short story collection to aid Japan in the wake of the recent natural disasters that struck that country.
But then I thought this is a topic worthy of it's own post.
That collaboration project, Shaken: Stories for Japan, is available now for Kindle. This has to one of the most powerful uses of the changing technology and the ability to quickly publish it offers. Author Hank Phillippi Ryan shares how this anthology came about and what you can do to help.
I think I remember a similar type project to benefit Haiti, but I don't have the details.
In fact, an auction is currently underway to help raise money for Leslie. Go here to bid on everything from conference registration fees and critiques to marketing packages, book bundles and the opportunity to become a named character in a book.
A former crit partner of mine, YA author Nicole O'Dell has published seven books for teens with sixor seven more scheduled for publication. (I hope I got that right, Nicole. Hard to keep up with all her contracts!) She hosts Teen Talk Radio and has also written short stories and more than 200 devotionals for teens.
In April, her teen interactive advice novels were rereleased in 2-in-1 sets. Books 1 thru 4, and never before released books 5 & 6, which have been packaged together as Swept Away. (I've got a copy which I'm giving away at the bottom of the post.)
ABOUT THE BOOK
Swept Away consists of books 5 & 6 in the Scenarios series. In High Stakes, seniors and best friends, Amber and Brittany, are neck and neck in a good-natured com- petition for a car being given away by a local business. In Essence of Lilly, sophomore Lilly Armstrong is always looking for ways to escape the confines of her unhappy home. She “invents” youth group activities just so she can hang out with her boyfriend, Jason—the only one in Lilly’s life who makes her feel special. What happens when Amber and Lilly are faced with making difficult choices? How will they handle the risky business? Readers help Amber and Lilly make the difficult decisions and see how their choices create consequences with life-altering results.
Here's how Nicole describes herself:
I’m a mom of six–including two-year-old triplets! I’m the host of Teen Talk Radio, the author of a bunch of books and the wife of one really cool guy. I love to get out among teens and parents when I speak at conventions, churches, conferences, etc. I also love a really good and long bike ride.
You might think she'd have no time to write, but Nicole is a whirling dervish of energy. I asked Nicole if she'd be willing to answer a few short questions, to give you a peek into her books and her heart:
Nicole, you have children in several age groups. Where does your affinity for teens come from?
Well, I didn’t choose this age group for my focus—God did. Honestly, it’s difficult. It’s heartbreaking sometimes, and exhausting a lot of the time. I often ask myself if I’m too old or too out of touch to minister to teens. But then I get a letter or an email from someone who was touched by something I did or said. I’m reminded in those moments that God has called me to reach out to teens, probably because those were the years of my deepest personal spiritual battle.
In my teens, I was pulled hard to both extremes. God wanted big things for me, and satan wanted the opposite. My struggles, my failures, my pain—those things drive me to want more for today’s teens. I want to spare them from some of the heartache I endure and help them tackle the temptations and peer pressures head on, confidently, secure in their Savior’s love.
They’re the future.
How do you choose the themes for your YA novels?
They're all issue-driven stories borne from my own experiences and the choices I see teens around me making. The goal is to let them see choices and consequences played out so they can make better decisions in their own lives.
Many authors who write for the adult market (not that adult market) are now writing for teens. Do you think you’ll ever write fiction for adults?
Well, I am actually. I'm currently writing a novella for an anthology with Valerie Comer, Annalisa Doughety, and Cara Putman, called Rainbow's End. It's about geocaching in the Ozarks and will release early in 2012.
I don't plan to do much more fiction for adults right now, but I'm also writing non-fiction for parents. My Hot Buttons series has four books releasing in 2012 and more to follow. Which of the Scenarios is your favorite story and why?
Swept Away contains the never-before released Scenarios for Girls five and six: High Stakes and Essence of Lilly. (cheating, loyalty, purity, honesty)
Essence of Lilly is probably the book closest to my heart because I believe that sexual choices are the ones that stick with people throughout their lives in ways that other mistakes don't. Pre-marital sex is a life-changing event that becomes a part of a teenagers soul. I love the story of Lilly because I lived it.
What has been the single biggest thing that has propelled your writing sso quickly to where it is today?
I credit the growth I see in my writing to Valerie Comer--critique partner and friend. From very early on, she saw how much help I needed, rolled up her sleeves, and helped me. (Yay for Val, another former crit partner. These ladies are really making their mark.)
What one piece of advice do you have for aspiring authors?
Write, read, and study. I wish I knew then what I know now...truly. But, also, stay true to yourself and write what drives you.
Up next from Nicole...
Hot off the presses, Nicole and Barbour Publishing have partnered with NovoInk to release the three Scenarios 2-in1s (pictured left) as “enhanced” eBooks. Through Novo Ink, readers will be able to download the app to any eReader enabling access to the enhanced versions, which include links, polls, quizzes, video, audio, images, and more.
The Diamond Estates series deals with troubled girls in a group home. Book one, The Wishing Pearl, releases on October 1, 2011.
A devotional Q&A book, Girl Talk, with her daughters based on their Girl Talk column on Nicole’s blog. Culled from actual questions they’ve encountered on their blog, this fabulous resource offers real-life helps for girls on issues including relationships, character, body image, fashion, gossip, and more. Releasing January 2012 from Barbour Publishing.
The Drama Ensues series will appear in 2012. It has a different style—quirky, drama club, artsy—yet it’s compelling in its coverage of the hard-hitting, relevant topics of pregnancy, abortion, dating, drugs, and peer pressure. Following the real blog at http://www.dramaensues.com/ while reading the series will impact today’s teens with honest answers and information just the way they like it—to be enjoyed on their own terms and at their own pace.
The Hot Buttons series for parents. From drugs to bullying, from internet activity to dating, tough issues have saturated youth culture . . . and may have challenged your teen. This accessible, quick reference series is a practical guide for discussing these Hot Buttons with your child, before the issue becomes a problem.
Do you see why it's hard to keep up with this hot, new author! Thanks for taking time out for this interview, Nicole.
For more information about Nicole, her books, her radio show and more, check out her website: http://nicoleodell.com/
Get the 2-in-1 Scenarios for Girls books at your local bookstore or at any of these online locations:
It's almost summer. Well, almost officially summer, if you're a stickler for the summer solstice.
Me. Nah. Summer begins on the Memorial Day weekend. So for me, it is summer, and once school lets out, I'm officially on my summer vacation. Until Labor Day.
School ended last week. I'm sooooo much less of a slave to the clock during the summer,. It feels like there's enough time in the day to do everything. Every day begins with eager expectation, with no regard for homework, class trips, lunch money, sports practices, game schedules, clean uniforms, or class projects, and at night I lay down for a peaceful sleep. That's why I consider it MY summer vacation.
So far June has been an exciting month. Kindergarten graduation. Moving the kids in children's church up to the next grade level. NBA finals. Top Chef Masters and Master Chef. Sleeping an hour and a half later til 7am. Watching Hubby drop 25 lbs. (Don't even ask how I'm doing. Not quite as well as him.) Baking with the boys. Working day (and sometimes night) on a big project at work.
I don't even mind work as much as usual while I'm on my summer vacation since the sun is shining brightly on both ends of the day. I still get relax and play.
In this first month of my summer, I'm focused on two things. (Well, three if you count losing weight, but that's as neverending as toenail growth.) My focus is on writing at least 4 days a week, and daily Bible study.
I'm increasing my consistency on both fronts. ACFW's Novel Track loop where we share our monthly word count goals and progress, and encourage each other, and Twitter's #writegoal and #amwriting hashtags are big helps. It's nice to call out that you're writing and discover, hey, so are a few other folks you know. We cheer each other on, help each other out, and it keeps the writing going.
I've added nearly 7k words to my wip in the first half of the month.
I'm taking an online class taught by authors Missy Tippens and Lindi Peterson called "Cinder-Bella Theory", a course on story structure loosely based on the Hero's Journey and using both Cinderella and Stephanie Meyer's Twilight as examples. I've discovered a few crucial elements that I needed to work on in my story, we've had some great brainstorming sessions and I find getting immediate feedback from two multi-published authors invaluable, especially one who writes for one of the lines I'd like to target.
I've studied 1st and 2nd Thessalonians. Now I'm reading Amos. I like to hunt for the nuggets in books that are a bit more obscure and often overlooked.
Meanwhile, at church, we've been doing this movie-themed series. Last week's message was based on Fast Five and took me to the story of Jesus teaching in the temple. Think I'll spend some time in Luke too. Two nuggets from that message:
Everyone's life is teaching something. What something is your life teaching?
God's Word, the Bible, is not about a set of rules, but about a higher calling.
Things that make you go hmm...
The summer will fly by. It will be August and back-to-school before I know it. Back to the normal routines that can sometimes feel stifling.
Until then, I have every intention of enjoying and making the most of my summer vacation.
Throughout the month of June, on Saturdays, SORMAG is hosting an Online Bookfair. Not only are there great books to be purchased, but there are great author interviews and panel discussions, like last week's panel on Breaking Into the Christian Market. The jewels are in the comments, so be sure to read them all, and check out today's panel, "Ebooks -- Advice From the Trenches" over at SORMAG.
Seekerville continues to be one of my favorite blogs for readers and writers. Begin with the Seekers themselves, a great bunch of 15 authors, all now contracted or published, who willingly encourage, support and mentor other writers. Then there's the craft articles, the industry interviews, the contest updates and all those amazing giveaways. I caught a link over there for an interesting article, "Why Romance Novels Aren't Emotional Porn".
Now that we've resolved that, from Cindi Myers' fantastic market newsletter/blog of last week, she reports, "at the Harlequin spotlight at the Romantic Times convention last month, the editors stressed that they’re looking for new authors for all series lines. And Dianne Moggy said that even though the stated policy is that Mira and HQN accept agented authors only, they do read all queries from unagented authors. Send a one-page query only if you have a manuscript you think would be appropriate."
Black Pearls Magazine invites you to their Bookclub Appreciation and Awards Show, July 28, in Atlanta. It's a night of bookclub recognition, live author readings and networking, along with giveaways. Ticket information can be found here.
The Hampton Roads Writers Conference will take place September 22-24 at the Doubletree Hotel in Virginia Beach, VA. 15 breakout sessions, 4 free writing competitions, free agent pitch sessions and first 10-lines critiques.
Hope Amazon is able to figure out a solution for the spamming problem that could threaten it's epublishing revenues. Published authors, be sure to read this. You could be the victim of Kindle spam and not realize it.
Freelancer Kelly James-Enger has been posting a series on her blog, "A Blast from the Past", whereby she shares queries that worked (or didn't), articles that sold (or didn't), etc. As my kids would say, "Who does this?" I don't know. but I'm glad she did. Sometimes it helps to see what worked (or didn't) for someone else.
I LOVE summertime. Hot sun, beaches, picnics and barbecues, pool parties, watermelon, strawberries, more daylight... This is one season that should be longer than the calendar (or school system) allots.
This May release is the second book in the Matchmaker series by Kaye Dacus (Kaye's second contemporary romance series, her third series overall, and let me tell you, all seven releases to date are good!).
ABOUT THE BOOK
English professorCaylor Evansmoved in with her grandmother five years ago when Sassy’s eyesight became too poor to get her driver’s license renewed. Though she is now writing sweet/inspirational romance novels, Caylor still draws inspiration for her heroes from the portfolio of covers and sample images drawn/painted by Patrick Callaghan for the steamy romances she used to write (as “Melanie Mason”), and dreams of meeting a man like that cover model. After losing his teaching position and being shunned by the fine-arts community in Philadelphia, artistDylan Bradleyhas returned home to Nashville to regroup and determine the next step for his life. His grandparents offer him their guesthouse for as long as he wants it—along with plenty of opportunities to meet young women. Though it was years ago, Dylan is uncomfortable with the fact that his face—only slightly disguised—is on the covers of half a dozen steamy romance novels by Melanie Mason, the artwork he did to put himself through college under the pseudonym Patrick Callaghan. Especially after he meets Caylor Evans, a woman who has her life together in a way he only dreams of. Will Caylor and Dylan learn that the true art of romance is grounded in honesty and truth?
Hmmmm.... I didn't notice until I typed both names that they have an "yl" in the middle.
Don't mind me. Just a random, meaningless thought that popped into my head.
Caylor, granddaughter of Sassy, and Dylan, grandson of Perty, don't stand a chance. When any two of a group of Nashville friends and matchmakers put their heads together, any unmarried progeny are subject to their whims.
In The Art of Romance, Dacus pens a story in which both the hero and heroine have a secret they believe to be a main obstacle to finding love. The interesting twist is that theirs are related secrets, unbeknownst to them. Dacus also touches on issues not frequently seen in inspirational romance: a taller than average heroine, how the church is not a one-size-fits-all entity, and Christians and mental health therapy.
Because Caylor Evans, like Dacus, is a romance writer (and I believe Dacus may have teaching experience too), I found myself wondering how much of Kaye was in Caylor. Catch the name similarity there? Another one of those random thoughts that has no bearing on the story's enjoyment factor, but something I thought about as I read. Actually, knowing of the similarities enabled me to trust the details and dialogue that much more.
I've seen the matchmaking thing done by other authors and enjoyed it more. It's always a fun device, just nothing new here. I went in knowing the grandmothers would find a way to exercise their matchmaking abilities without being detected. They always do.
Still, as a whole, The Art of Romance is an enjoyable read. Dacus writes what I call "smart" romance. She never condescends to her readers. She selects unusual occupations then provides enough detail for the reader to come away more knowledgeable than she began, and does it without sidetracking the focus away from the story. Her settings come alive and are easy to visualize. Finally, her characters tend to be smart, maybe of above average intelligence, and they speak and act in that manner. No "too stupid to live" heroes or heroines here.
Interestingly enough, what piqued my curiosity most in this story was the appearance of the Bradley brothers. Led by oldest brother, Dylan, each of these four young men has a story to tell. We got Dylan's story here, but I certainly would love to see an extension of this series or a new series centered around them.
The final installment in this series, Turnabout's Fair Play--Flannery's story--is scheduled to be released in November.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Humor, Hope, and Happily Ever Afters! Kaye Dacus is the author of humorous, hope-filled contemporary and historical romances with Barbour Publishing and Harvest House Publishers. She holds a Master of Arts in Writing Popular Fiction from Seton Hill University, is a former Vice President of American Christian Fiction Writers, and currently serves as President of Middle Tennessee Christian Writers. Kaye lives in Nashville, Tennessee, and even though she writes romance novels, she is not afraid to admit that she’s never been kissed.
Romance novels were among the first books she ever read, so it was natural when she started writing as a young teen, that would be what Kaye penned.Stand-In Groom, in addition to being her master’s thesis, was her fourth complete manuscript. Kaye’s debut novel, Stand-In Groom, Book 1 of the Brides of Bonneterre series, was a finalist for the 2010 Christy Award in the contemporary romance category.
Over the years, I've collected a host of inspirational quotes from authors, coaches, editors, agents, bloggers and some completely unknown. I look at them from time to time and draw comfort, motivation, solace, a kick in the butt...whatever I need at the moment. There's something for every occasion.
I thought I'd start sharing some of them. I'll begin with a quote I just picked up from the most recent issue of the MBT Voices Ezine.
There is power in a focused life. Power in forming some kind of routine and schedule, then doing your best to stick to it. Even 50 percent success is better than nothing–and 50 percent is better than most people achieve.
A writer’s relationship with a set routine is the best relationship she’ll ever develop.
What is our responsibility for obtaining justice for those in need? Does the end always justify the means? Randy Singer examines these questions while taking his readers through twists and turns on a powerful journey in his novel False Witness. This engrossing legal thriller is a re-telling of Singer’s original novel by the same name. The new version has many substantial changes—some designed to bring about Singer’s original vision for the book inspired by his friend’s funeral.
The deceased was David O’Malley, Singer’s good friend and former client. O’Malley’s wife had asked Singer to give her husband’s eulogy. So, at the funeral, Singer talked about his friend’s generosity and big heart. Everyone there had a David O’Malley story, so heads nodded as he shared his. David’s pastor followed Singer in the pulpit. He spoke about a man named Thomas Kelly. The man was a scoundrel involved in organized crime. He turned on everyone he knew. “You don’t think you know Thomas Kelly, but you do,” the pastor explained. “David O’Malley was Thomas Kelly before he went into the witness protection program—before he came to the Lord.”
Prior to that moment, the only people that knew about David’s past were the government, his family, Singer, and his pastor. There was utter silence as the pastor concluded with a line Singer said he will never forget. “The government can give you a new identity,” he said, “but only Christ can change your life.” It was then that he decided to write this book.
But Singer also wanted to draw attention to one of his passions. He wanted to highlight the challenges of today’s church in India. He believes that most Western Christians are unaware of the persecution of the church and the miraculous things happening there.
India is a land of civil rights, in theory, but of brutal oppression, in fact—especially for the 165 million members of the Dalits, India’s lowest caste. During Singer’s first trip to India a few years ago, he saw firsthand the systemic oppression of the Dalits (formerly known as untouchables) through the Hindu caste system. Singer was astonished by the fact that the world’s largest democracy was also a breeding ground for the world’s largest human-trafficking operations, that it would allow the exploitation of 15 million children in bonded labor, that it would tolerate temple prostitution and other forms of sexual slavery, and that it would foster economic and social systems that oppress nearly 25 percent of its people.
But there is a silver lining. A bond was formed between the Dalits and Christians. The Dalits began asking the church to help educate their children. Hundreds of schools sprang up, providing thousands of Dalit children with an English-based education (critical to landing good jobs) and newfound self-respect. The Dalits responded with another invitation: “If this is the Christian faith, come start a church in our village.” The result is that millions of Dalits and other Indians are coming to Christ, drawn by a religion that believes the ground is equal at the foot of the cross.
Singer was moved by the plight of the Dalit children, struggling to throw off the yoke of oppression and replace it with real freedom and dignity, so he committed to do his part because he believes that “no child should be untouchable.” So he is donating every penny from the sale of False Witness to the Dalit Freedom Network. His novel will take readers from the streets of Las Vegas to the halls of the American justice system and the inner sanctum of the growing church in India with all the trademark twists, turns, and legal intrigue his fans have come to expect.
ABOUT THE BOOK
False Witness begins with Clark Shealy, a bail bondsman with the ultimate bounty on the line—his wife’s life. He has 48 hours to find an Indian professor in possession of the Abacus Algorithm—an equation so powerful it could crack all Internet encryption.
Four years later, law student Jamie Brock is working in legal aid when a routine case takes a vicious twist. She and two colleagues learn that their clients, members of the witness protection program, are accused of defrauding the government and have the encrypted algorithm in their possession. Now they’re on the run from federal agents and the Chinese mafia, who will do anything to get the algorithm. Caught in the middle, Jamie and her friends must protect their clients if they want to survive long enough to graduate.
In this engrossing legal thriller, Singer shows how God is a God of justice and how, in His time, justice will be served.
False Witness contains nonstop action from page one. Law students assisting clients in the free clinic. Witnesses in the government's Witness Protection Program outed. Chinese Mafia. Indian Christians aka "the Dalits". All centered around a mathematical algorithm worth a lot of money to a lot of people.
I'm fascinated by the story of his inspiration, and admire his desire to illuminate the plight of the Christians in India. Even with all that going on, I have mixed feelings about False Witness. The pacing is perfect. The plot is twisting and turning and riveting, just what readers are looking for. The characters are many and varied, and the dialogue, well, it's mostly dead on.
It's the "mostly" that ignited a fire in me. I'm sensitive to how African Americans are portrayed in literature. By sensitive, I don't mean I pick at every little thing and wear my culture on my sleeve. (I sure hope I don't.) Still, I don't think the fact that I'm African American is a secret and as such, my background and cultural experiences come to bear in everything I read. Therein lies the problem, one I've encountered before.
At one point, Singer has a Caucasian character refer to "African American time". Now the majority of his readers would probably never take note of this, but in nearly 50 years of being African American, I've never once heard what I know as "CP time", meaning "Colored People's time", modified to be so politically correct. The reference was jarring because it was so blatantly wrong.
I'd already been a bit concerned about the increasingly stereotypical characterization of one of the pivotal characters, an African American former NFL player turned law student, but unless the stereotypes are really over the top, that kind of thing rubs me the wrong way but doesn't completely put me out. I usually can suspend my ire if one AA character is stereotypical. Here again, Singer erred. Because every AA character was stereotypical, from the flashy, brash, professional inept law student to the two African American men who show up later in the story, who, simply by walking down the street, elicit a wave of terror in a nearby white character. Real, perhaps, but is this necessary?
That kind of thing makes me stop and wonder just how stereotypical the characterizations of the other ethnic characters, in particular the Asian and Indian ones, are. I confess I'm not sure, although clearly there were some Asian stereotypes I recognized, like the masterful martial arts skills of one of the Chinese bad guys. Then I start wondering whether the characterizations of the white characters are stereotypical too. Again, I confess to ignorance here.
I believe Singer was shooting for authenticity. Sadly, I feel he missed the mark, and that makes the book, although enjoyable, also disappointing. Will I read another Singer book? I might. In part because he writes well and tells a very good story. In part to see whether his characterization grows and his use of stereotypes lessens. I hope so.
I received a complimentary copy of this book for review purposes from TBBMedia and Tyndale House.