Welcome to my blog!

I'm so excited that my lifelong dream of becoming a published author has come true. If you'd like to go straight to excerpts, descriptions, and buy links for my books, click on the covers below on the right.

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Thursday, June 25, 2015

Secret Worlds blog tour stop

Today I'm excited to be a stop on the Secret Worlds blog tour. Two of my author colleagues from the Georgia Romance Writers, Debbie Herbert and Linsey Hall are included in this set. My review of Debbie's book is below, as is a Character on the Couch interview of her hero Keelan. I'm super excited about this set, and I'm also happy to bring you the opportunity to find out more about it and enter to win a Kindle!



Review of Debbie Herbert's Changeling:

Whenever I get one of Debbie's books, I always make the mistake of saying I'll just take a little peek and then getting sucked in for much longer than I intended. Changeling was no different. Herbert does a great job of tackling the new adult genre with her two characters Skye and Keelan, both of whom are struggling to find their place in the world and are seeking to assume their true identity, whatever that may be. 

Skye is a witch who isn't very good at it. Keelan is a changeling who is trapped working for the fairies, which seems like it would make a good reality show if it wasn't so awful for him. Although I figured out one major twist pretty quickly, I did find the story to be well-paced and extremely entertaining, and I loved the characters. I don't want to give away too much of the plot, but let's just say that all those dreams I have about flying? I'd be extra nervous about them now if I wasn't as old as I am. Plus, my feelings about absinthe indicate I have no fairy blood in me whatsoever, so I'm probably safe.

Overall, this is a really fun book, and I enthusiastically give it five stars.

And now, meet Keelan, who is a Changeling and my character on the couch this week:

1. If your character were to go to a psychologist – willingly or unwillingly – what would bring them in? 

It would take a court order for sure! Kheelan knows himself and is very clear on his life's goal: escape from the Fae realm at all costs. He's also clear on what prevents him from achieving this goal: the Fae want to keep him enslaved to assist them in their petty wars with one another and to do menial errands for them. If you asked Kheelan about seeing a psychologist his response would be: "You want to analyze someone? Try talking to one of the sociopath fairies I have to deal with everyday."

2. Is the presenting problem one of the main internal or external conflicts in your book? If so, how does it present itself? 

It's a combination of both. Kheelan meets the heroine Skye and quickly realizes he can use her to gain his coveted escape. The only problem? He's falling in love with the quirky witch. 

3. It's always interesting to see how people act when they first enter my office. Do they immediately go for my chair, hesitate before sitting anywhere, flop on the couch, etc.? What would your character do?

Kheelan would walk around the room and take a peek out the window to assess if any nosy fairies were about. 

4. Does your character talk to the therapist? How open/revealing will your character be?

He wouldn't be open a bit unless he thought you could help him in his quest for freedom. If he told you the truth, you would think he was crazy anyway!

5. Your character walks into the bar down the street after his/her first therapy session. What does he/she order? What happens next? 

He wouldn't have more than one Irish whiskey. Irish whiskey because most of his guardian fairies are of Celtic descent and this is their drink of choice when they shape-shift to human form. Kheelan would only drink one because he needs to keep his wits about him or the Fae could trick or punish him for a trangression.

6. When you're building characters, do you have any tricks you use to really get into their psyches, like a character interview or personality system (e.g., Myers-Briggs types)?

I probably do less than most writers. I figure out what their life goal is, what their strengths and weaknesses are, and what's the conflict that keeps them from preventing their goal? How will they have to grow or change to reach their goal. And since I write romance, I'll choose a mate that is the exact opposite, one that will challenge him and force him to change and grow.

Thank you so much for bringing Keelan by, Debbie!


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Giveaway Announcement!

We have 70 Prizes up for grabs at our Facebook Party, including multiple gift cards ranging from $5-$100 or a Kindle Fire! And the prizes just keep coming! Be sure to Join the Party for your chance to win and learn more about the additional prizes we have coming down the pipeline!

Join the scavenger hunt in our Facebook Party for a chance to win free ebooks!

Find the link to the entry form for today's scavenger hunt secrets in our Facebook Party and enter the following author secrets. Each day two people will be selected to win a free ebook! Follow our blog tour in the party and enter each day's secrets for more chances to win. At the end of the blog tour, three grand prize winners will receive a collection of 6 ebooks!

Today's author secrets:

— Susan Stec’s Author Secret —
I made G-strings and fancy outfits for strippers at a bar called the Booby Trap in Winter Park, Florida. Going inside, stepping into the bowels of the dressing rooms was exhilarating and I secretly wished I had the guts to claim a pole, join the girls, tease and titillate. I loved the seedy environment, and smoky atmosphere, laced with seduction and desire.

– Catherine Stine's Author Secret –
One thing I don’t tell a lot of people is that I’m a bit of a music groupie. It’s embarrassing somehow. I mean, I’m no stalker... I just truly admire musicians, and feel, as a writer, a keen artistic kinship with them. Okay, the confession: I’ve gone backstage and partied with Buddy Guy (the great blues man), John McLaughlin (fusion rock), John Mellencamp, The Hooters, Jamar Rogers (on the Voice), and most recently, the entire troupe from American Idol 2014. Don’t believe me? I have photos!

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Thursday, June 4, 2015

Character on the Couch: Markhat, Steampunk Detective

Happy Thursday! Today I'm happy to welcome Markhat, who is the creation of Frank Tuttle, who would probably be an interesting character himself. He has a steampunk series with my publisher and even shares my editor.



Here's the blurb for the latest book in the Markhat series, The Darker Carnival:

When Dark’s Diverse Delights arrives by night to set up shows and rides that promise fun and excitement for one and all, the outskirts of Rannit begin to look disturbingly like the nightmares that plague Markhat’s sleep.

Mama Hog has sent him a new client, a cattle rancher with a missing daughter. Markhat’s search reveals genuine terrors lurking amidst the carnival’s tawdry sideshows, where Death itself takes the main stage every evening, just past midnight.

The orchestrator of the murderous, monstrous mayhem is the mysterious carnival master, Ubel Thorkel. And after Buttercup the Banshee is threatened, Markhat is in a race against time to find the carnival’s dark heart and strike it down once and for all—or die trying.

And now I present Markhat and his creator, Frank Tuttle:

1. If your character were to go to a psychologist – willingly or unwillingly – what would bring them in? Yes, a court order is a valid  answer.

I can think of two instances which might prompt Markhat to seek out the services of a psychologist. One would be gentle prompting from his wife Darla; if she expressed genuine concern over his mental state and asked him to seek help, he would. The only other coercion Markhat would likely respond to would be Mama Hog's incessant nagging. Mama Hog, for all her feigned ignorance and backcountry speech, is a brilliant and perceptive woman who knows exactly which of Markhat's buttons to push.

2. Is the presenting problem one of the main internal or external conflicts in your book? If so, how does it present itself?

Markhat is a war vet. He spent his hitch in the Army as a dog handler, working to locate and root out hidden pockets of Troll troops deep underground. He survived, but suffers from what his people call 'war madness' and we call PTSD. Through the books, he's drifted deeper and deeper into the darkness, and his actions are sometimes influenced by the trauma of the war.

3. It's always interesting to see how people act when they first enter my office. Do they immediately go for my chair, hesitate before sitting anywhere, flop on the couch, etc.? What would your character do?

I know precisely what Markhat would do. He's a smart-ass, with a deep distrust for authority figures.

Markhat's world is one in which magic is rapidly being overshadowed by gunpowder and steam. Whereas magic is expensive and notoriously unreliable, the emerging technologies are proving deadly and efficient. Markhat carries a vampire-built revolver. Gas-lamps light Rannit's streets. Gangsters use repeating rifles. Iron bridges and tall buildings are going up all over. There are newspapers and restaurants.

So I'll just assume he knows what a psychologist is, and he is also aware of the familiar cliches -- the couch, the notebooks, all that.

He would walk in smiling, hat in hand. If you offered to shake his hand, he would do so, neither too hard or too soft. He'd be cordial and direct.

Then he would walk right to the couch, lie down upon it, lay his hat on his chest, and say "It all started with my mother. Better get two pencils. I had a long childhood."

CD: LOL. I actually find it to be somewhat diagnostic when someone flops on the couch rather than sitting.

4. Does your character talk to the therapist? How open/revealing will your character be?

Getting Markhat to talk wouldn't be the problem.

Getting him to talk about what's really bothering him would. He would evade. Deflect with humor or sarcasm. Change the subject. Intentionally misdirect.

Markhat's way of handling his issues is to ignore them. To redirect his energies. To dive into someone else's problem. Deep down, he doesn't believe he can be fixed, and that the best he can do is make sure Darla never finds out just how deep the damage runs.

Also, there are things he can't tell anyone without placing them in danger. Markhat's activities have left him tainted with a dark form of sorcery, and if Rannit's rabidly insane sorcerers ever learn his secret, it will doom him and anyone else who knows what he knows.

 5. Your character walks into the bar down the street after his/her first therapy session. What does he/she order? What happens next?

That's easy. There's a bar called One-Eyed Eddie's. Markhat would find his usual stool. Eddie would, without a word, bring Markhat a tall glass of dark beer (Upland Dark). Markhat would slide a coin across the stained bartop and it would vanish into Eddie's apron and that would the extent of the conversation.

Eddie is a vet too. Both Markhat and Eddie appreciate the silence. Markhat would drink a beer, maybe two. Maybe have a sandwich, because Eddie doesn't skimp on the ham. There might be a hello or a goodbye exchanged between the regulars as they come and go, but, on the whole, One-Eyed Eddie's is a quiet place in a loud, rude world.

Now, before Markhat met Darla, he might have stayed for a third or a sixth or a ninth beer. But not anymore.

6. When you're building characters, do you have any tricks you use to really get into their psyches, like a character interview or personality
 system (e.g., Myers-Briggs types)?

Nothing so formal. I just picture them, imagine them doing whatever it is they do. I use aspects of real people I've known -- Mama Hog, for instance, is based my paternal grandmother. Markhat is a combination of every film noir tough guy detective I know, with a lot of me mixed in.

CD: I would never have guessed.  ;-)

I do have extensive histories built for all my characters. Most of the details never make it into the books, which is fine, as long as I know and understand how each will likely react to a particular situation. Dark, damp places make Markhat's heart pound. Darla hates the sound of trumpets. Mama Hog loathes priests to the point of outright homicide. It's important to not only give characters a history, but to bring it to life, even in small things.

For me, speech is the most telling aspect of a person's true nature. I'm a shameless eavesdropper. I listen to strangers, watch how they say what they say. Then I usually imagine their motives and inner struggles until the waiter taps me on the shoulder and says the people at Table Six have complained that I am staring.

Thank you so much for stopping by! This was fun. Both you and your character have very entertaining voices.



Frank Tuttle first began writing under the woefully mistaken impression doing so would release him from the burden of ever doing honest work. “It turns out writing is hard,” said Frank as he pulled out great handfuls of hair. “That was never mentioned in Strunk and White’s Elements of Style.” Frank’s first published works appeared in print magazines such as Weird Tales and Marion Zimmer Bradley’s Fantasy Magazine in the late 1990s. Since then, Frank has published nine Markhat novels and a variety of shorter works. Frank rarely resorts to hair-pulling these days, preferring to weep inconsolably while affixing his toupee. Frank invites you to visit his website www.franktuttle.com.

CD: And if you'd like to get first peek at the cover, blurb, and excerpt from my upcoming steampunk, please sign up for my monthly(ish) newsletter. I'll also talk about the best devices for reading at night to minimize impact on sleep and my current favorite summer wine.

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Published Characters on the Couch: Evangeline and Remiel

Woo hoo! It's couch character Thursday. That sounds like a cocktail special, doesn't it?



Today I'm excited to welcome Nancee Cain and her characters Evangeline and Remiel. Here's the blurb for their story:

Evangeline is the town pariah. Everyone knows she’s crazy and was responsible for the death of her last boyfriend. Even her mother left her and moved cross-country. Lonely and desperate, Evie decides to end her life.

Rogue angel Remiel longs to return to earth, but there’s just one problem. He tends to invite trouble and hasn’t been allowed back since Woodstock. The Boss sends him to save Evangeline, but there’s a catch: he can’t reveal his angelic nature, and he must complete the task as Father Remiel Blackson.

Forced together on a cross-country trip, a forbidden romance ignites and love unfolds. A host of heavenly messengers tries to intervene, but Remiel and Evangeline are headed on a collision course to disaster. Will his love save her, or will they both be lost forever?

Saving Evangeline was just released on Tuesday. Woo hoo! Congratulations to Nancee and welcome to all, er, three of you.

1. If your characters were to go to a psychologist – willingly or unwillingly – what would bring them in? Yes, a court order is a valid answer.

NANCEE: Hello, thank you for seeing us. I hope this session will be beneficial for my star-crossed lovers. I’ve brought them with me.

Evangeline throws herself on the couch, shrugging out of Remiel’s grasp, crossing her arms in front of her chest, glaring.

REMIEL: wearing his clericals, grins and holds out his hand: What’s up, Doc?

Evangeline: Oh, that’s original. How many times a day do you think she hears that one?

REMIEL: I’m here willingly—

Evangeline: Speak for yourself.

REMIEL: We’re here to explore Evie’s idiotic, selfish ideas about suicide. So, the way I see this going down, we can kind of tag team her. You give her the official medical mumbo jumbo, and then I’ll throw in a little spirituality about the sanctity of life. I have to tow the company line. *runs a finger around his collar and glances toward the ceiling*

Evangeline: I’ve seen and talked to therapists since I was in grade school. Been there, done that, got the stupid t-shirt. I’m just here because they insisted I come, otherwise, you’d have to court order my ass.

2. Is the presenting problem one of the main internal or external conflicts in your book? If so, how does it present itself?

NANCEE: I’d say—

REMIEL: Exernal. Crazy Girl here wants to off herself. It’s my job to save her. Cut and dry.

EVANGELINE:  Would you please tell him that calling me crazy might not be in the best interest of my mental health?

REMIEL: Just keepin' it real, sweetness. It’s called reality therapy, right, Doc?

EVANGELINE: Well I disagree, I think there are underlying internal issues. I’m not the only one unhappy with my current situation...

*Nancee and Evangeline both give Remiel a pointed look*

REMIEL: Next question, please.

NANCEE: May I add—

EVANGELINE and REMIEL: No!

Cecilia: LOL, I love how feisty they are.

3. It's always interesting to see how people act when they first enter my office. Do they immediately go for my chair, hesitate before sitting anywhere, flop on the couch, etc.? What would your character do?

EVANGELINE: If I’d been court ordered to come alone, I would’ve wandered around the room, getting my bearings and remain standing, ready to leave at any moment.

REMIEL: I’d act no differently alone. What you see is, what you get. Do you have an ashtray? *takes out a cigarette*

EVANGELINE: Ha! What you see is not what you get where you’re concerned...

NANCEE: Put that cigarette away, you can’t smoke in here.

4. Do your characters talk to the therapist? How open/revealing will your character be?

EVANGELINE:: Not if I can help it. Or, I might tell you what I think you want to hear. No one ever believes me anyway.

REMIEL: No one?

EVANGELINE: *smiles* Well, except Remi. He does listen to me; I’ll give him that. *takes his hand in hers*

REMIEL: I, uh, can’t say much about myself. I’m bound by certain constraints from the Boss. If you think HIPPA is bad, you should see His rules...

Nancee nods in agreement.

5. Your character walks into the bar down the street after his/her first therapy session. What does he/she order? What happens next?

EVANGELINE: I’ll order whatever someone is buying. I may or may not go home with the buyer, depends on my mood.

REMIEL: *frowns and flames flicker in his pupils* No one else is ordering you anything, and I’m certainly not going to just stand there and watch you leave with some loser who doesn’t appreciate you...

EVANGELINE:: *Grins* I love to crank his tractor.

REMIEL: Don’t do that to me. I need a cigarette. And a beer. Let’s go find that bar.

6. When you're building characters, do you have any tricks you use to really get into their psyches, like a character interview or personality system (e.g., Myers-Briggs types)?

NANCEE: I do like Myers-Briggs, but don’t adhere 100% to it. Evangeline and Remiel made it plain they were going to become involved, no matter the consequences. Music is key for me getting into their psyche. I have a playlist and I plot best when driving. I listen to the playlist over and over. Sometimes one line from a song can influence an entire chapter. However, when I write, it has to be silent.

REMIEL: What the heck are you talking about? Tell her about my playlist. I made it special, just for Evie.

NANCEE: Remiel, please don’t get her started...

EVANGELINE: Jerk. He has an entire playlist he listens to all the time. Every song has the word crazy in it. She was talking about that test Nancee had us take; you know, the one with all those stupid questions. You were an ENFP, The Inspirer.

REMIEL: What does that stand for?

NANCEE: Extrovert, Intuitive, Feelings and Perceiving

EVANGELINE: *snickering* I think it should stand for Evie’s Naughty F’n Priest

REMIEL: *grins and waggles his eyebrows * That sounds about right. Which one were you?

EVANGELINE: ISFP, The Artist. Introvert, Sensing, Feeling and Perceiving. It basically means I’m intense and a loner, you’re idealistic and an over the top. Not the perfect match, but... *shrugs*

REMIEL: *smiles and kisses her hand* I think yours should be Insatiable, Sweet, Freaky, Pervert, just my kind of girl. I don’t care what those tests say; you’re perfect for me. We’re a match made in heaven, Crazy Girl.

EVANGELINE: *face softens before standing abruptly, tugging on Remiel’s hand* Yeah, I think we are, too. Let’s get out of here. I’m tired of true confessions.

REMIEL: Yeah, I need a smoke.

NANCEE: I’m sorry. Thank you for trying. I’m afraid those two are headstrong and determined to do things their own way, no matter what.

Cecilia:  No worries. They were quite entertaining, and I can't wait to read the book. Thank you so much for bringing them by!
 
Author Bio:

During the day, Nancee works as a nurse in the field of addiction to support her coffee and reading habit. Nights are spent writing paranormal and contemporary romances with a serrated edge. Authors are her rock stars, and she’s been known to stalk a few for an autograph, but not in a scary, Stephen King way. Her husband swears her To-Be-Read list on her e-reader qualifies her as a certifiable book hoarder. Always looking to try something new, she dreams of being an extra in a Bollywood film, or a tattoo artist. (Her lack of rhythm and artistic ability may put a damper on both of these dreams.) Her ultimate book hero will always be Atticus Finch.

You can find her at the following links:

Website
Blog
Facebook
Twitter 
Goodreads
Pinterest

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

RT Debriefing, Upcoming Events, and Rafflecopter Winners


I survived my first RT convention last week in Dallas. It was intense but also a lot of fun to talk with other authors and - best of all - readers. Here's what I learned:

1. There are a lot of authors. It's a common lament that now that anyone can get a book published, the market is flooded. What's not stated enough is how supportive authors are of each other. Even the famous ones were friendly, and it was great to meet people face to face whom I've only interacted  with online.

2. It seems like most people read (and write) more than one genre. This made me very happy since I've now gotten contracts in three but can only handle one pen name, so I feel like I'm up against a branding challenge. It's really nice to know others are in the same or a similar situation.

3. My strategy of not sharing a room at conferences is the correct one for me, even if it does make attending more expensive. I didn't do a lot of the evening activities and am still exhausted even though I've had two days to recover. I call it an introvert hangover.

I'm much better today, though, so here are a couple of events I'm hoping some of y'all in the Atlanta area will join me for:


Tomorrow evening I'm leading a discussion of The Mountain's Shadow at Avondale Estates' Little Wine Shop. They'll have munchies and wine, and tickets are $15 apiece. I'll also have swag to give away. All you have to do is have already read (or read if you're really fast) The Mountain's Shadow and be female. Yep, it's the Wine, Women, & Words book club. You can RSVP here.


This coming Thursday, May 21, I'm having my belated release party for A Perfect Man at JavaMonkey in downtown Decatur. There will also be wine and munchies (see the theme?) as well as giveaways. All genders are welcome. How many genders are there? It is Decatur, after all. No RSVP necessary, but if you really want to let me know you're coming, please respond to my Facebook event.

Finally, I've tried to get in touch with the winners of the Rafflecopter giveaway for the $50 Visa Gift card, leather-bound journal, and autographed book. I did hear back from the necklace winner but haven't from the others. If you did enter the 12 Days to Perfect raffle, please check your spam folders. The first names and last initials of the winners are:

Gift card: Karrie M. (followed me on Twitter)
Journal: Rosie R. D. (liked my Facebook page)
Autographed BHB book: Wendy B. (liked my Facebook page, knows me irl)

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Release Day! A Perfect Man has arrived.

Look who's here!
 I'm so excited to announce that A Perfect Man has been released. Thanks to all of you who have participated in the 12 Days to Perfect blog hop - it's been a lot of fun. Thank you especially to the blog hop hosts.

For those who are curious as to what it's about, here's the blurb:

How far will she go to find her perfect man? How far will he go to be one?

When Karen Hardeman sets foot on the Foothills University campus, it’s her first step toward proving her abusive ex wrong. Just her luck, her first writing assignment in Intro to Romance sends her in search of the perfect hero—a quest she’s never managed to conquer.

Worse, her professor forces her to collaborate with the most overconfident, annoying guy in the class.

Seth Sayers is also at Foothills to find new direction—preferably one that takes him far away from the family drama that’s followed him since his father’s death. He didn’t mean to humiliate Karen by rewriting her manuscript from the hero’s point of view. He blames the painkillers the ER doctor gave him after stitching up a wine-induced cut on his hand.

As their collaboration progresses, Karen begins to trust Seth with her manuscript, then maybe a little piece of her heart. But Seth’s half-brother resurrects Seth’s suspicions about his father’s death. Until he finds the truth, he can’t be the hero in anyone’s life. Even his own.

Warning: Some alcohol consumption. Okay, writer amounts of alcohol consumption. There are also some adult situations, but nothing too explicit. It is a romance-writing class, after all.

At the time this blog was posted, it was on sale for $3.85 ebook and $11.89 trade paper from the Samhain Publishing Site.

Other order links include:


And anywhere else books are sold. The first couple of scenes are below if you'd like to check it out.

The Rafflecopter giveaway for some cool grand prizes will be active until tonight. If you'd like to know what the grand prizes are, click here.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Oh, and what's up with the Texas waffle? I'll be at the Romantic Times convention in Dallas over the weekend. Come say howdy!

Chapter One:

Karen Hardeman walked onto the campus of Foothills University, into her new life, and straight into her ex-boyfriend.

She was mentally counting the total number of steps from the Graduate Parking Lot entrance to the Student Center Annex, site of her first class, which had been intimidatingly dubbed a “seminar”, when she saw him. This was supposed to be a new beginning, a fresh start, a personal renaissance. But there he was, unmistakable with his hipster goatee, round tortoiseshell glasses, and hair just a little too long.

The thought, he probably needs to get new jacket photos done, spiked her brain simultaneously with a shot of triple-espresso-strength adrenaline straight from her gut to her heart. Both sent her scrambling behind a magnolia tree as he approached on the sidewalk. Luckily he was looking at his phone, so maybe he hadn’t seen her. Although his average-at-best appearance hadn’t changed much, he exuded his customary attitude of I’m a bestselling author, and I will do what I want.

Karen wondered if he’d forgiven her for telling him she had a surprise for him for his thirty-fifth birthday and moving out while he was away for the afternoon at a writing retreat. Probably not. He’d certainly been surprised, though.

“Hello, Karen.”

She looked up from her phone, which she’d been studying with all the logic of a cat who doesn’t think you can see it if it can’t see you. “Oh hi, Marius.” She tried to pull her lips into the ice-queen smile she’d practiced for just such an occasion, but all she could manage was convenience-store-slushie duchess.

“Lovely day here in the mountains, isn’t it?” He grinned like he’d just caught her sneaking buttercream icing out of the fridge—that had only happened a few times, and she’d justified it as a better coping mechanism than alcohol—and she leaned against the tree to preempt her spirit’s fetal-position reaction to his inevitable insult.

“Well,” he continued with that huge gotcha grin, “I was just visiting my good friend and former editor Sue Ellen Forrester-Schmidt. Maybe you’ve heard of her? She started the new MFA program in genre literature here. I just wanted to wish her luck on her first day.”

Karen reacquainted her upper molars with her lower ones so her mouth wouldn’t fall open. Of all the rotten, stinking luck!

“Yes,” he continued with a smug smirk, “my agent, Artie—you remember Artie, right?—introduced me to her at a party last year, and we hit it off. I heard she came here when Southern Lyon Books got bought and laid her off, so I was just checking in to see how she’s settling in.”

“How nice of you.” Karen sagged against the tree, its smooth bark solid under her arm and its steadiness supporting her, because life had become unfair once again.

“So what are you doing here? I wondered where you went.”

He wondered where she went, like she’d just left for a walk one day and hadn’t come back, not moved out of their little apartment and their life of almost a decade together.

“I decided to go back to school.” She tried to access her inner ninja and feinted left, then tried to pass him on the right, but he blocked her. He always blocked her.

“What program?”

“It’s a master’s program.”

“In what?”

Karen straightened to her full five and a half feet, almost as tall as him—which had always driven him crazy—and said, “It’s none of your business, Marius.”

He stepped aside and held a hand out for her to pass him, which she did. He waited until she was almost ten feet away before calling after her, “Tell Sue Ellen I said hello. Oh, and Karen? Surprise!”

She clenched her fists. Of course he knew. He always did. So instead of walking into her first class full of confidence and hope, she just knew the professor would hate her.

It was hard to move forward when the past kept biting her in the ass and dragging her back.


The cool of the Student Center Annex welcomed Karen like a polite hug—come on in, honey, but let’s not get too close. She checked the schedule and found the room. Thankfully, the professor hadn’t arrived yet, so she had time to compose herself.

Eyes down, she slunk to the only empty desk in the circle of six and slid in. The seat snagged the back of her thigh, and she was sure she’d just gotten a huge splinter. The encounter with Marius had left her confidence shriveled at the bottom of her gut, like a tequila worm burned by the immersion in his intoxicating but deadly ego. The burn stayed with her, reddening her cheeks, and she barely noticed as her classmates’ glances brushed over her. Each felt weighted with judgment—too fat, too frizzy, too cowardly, imposter.

She almost ran a hand through her dark curls but remembered she should leave them alone or else they’d turn her into a frizz monster, which would make her look even lovelier on top of the sunburn she’d acquired when she moved in the previous weekend. She could almost feel the freckles blooming on her skin. Sophisticated writer, that’s me.

This morning just got better and better, and now she was going to have to sit through an hour lecture on the romance genre. Hell, she needed Romance 101—the life course, not the writing course. What did she know about romance? Would she have to bare her soul and write sex scenes for strangers? What if they laughed at her like Marius had?

“Face it, babe.” His words from earlier that year echoed in her mind. “You can try this writing thing, but you just don’t have what it takes.”

The skin at the back of Karen’s neck tightened, and she knew Doctor Forrester-Schmidt had walked in and probably checked for her first, after talking with Marius. Oh God, what did he tell her? How screwed am I?

Karen had liked Doctor Forrester-Schmidt well enough at the program interview. Now, when the professor came in, she looked at each of the students intently, but her face didn’t reveal whether Marius had mentioned Karen. Not even a blink when their eyes met. Even now, at the end of August, the former editor in chief for Southern Lyon Books wore her signature long black skirt and suit jacket but seemed unfazed by the heat.

Is the woman even human?

“Welcome, class,” she said and surveyed them with a catlike half smile. “I’m glad to see the inaugural class for the genre literature program has such a range of backgrounds and ages. Let’s go around and introduce ourselves, shall we?”

Karen’s heart gave a little squeeze when Forrester-Schmidt’s cold, gray eyes passed over her, but the professor’s javelin gaze speared the guy next to Karen. She hadn’t paid much attention to him, aside from noting he doodled spaceships in the margins of his yellow pad. His shaggy, light-brown hair hung in his hazel eyes and made hers itch by looking at them, but he had sweet dimples and nice-looking lips. The vintage men’s shirt he wore showed off his biceps and the breadth of his chest nicely, and Karen wished she’d at least said hi when she sat.

“Why don’t you get us started, Seth?” the professor asked.

The young man next to Karen cleared his throat. “I’m a programmer who wants to put his computer knowledge to good use by writing and editing science fiction.”

“And does he always speak in the third person?”

“Um, no,” he mumbled, “I was just trying to be grammatically correct.”

“And although you succeeded grammatically, you failed stylistically. Karen, tell us about you, but please don’t use the royal I.”

Karen felt for the poor guy. Marius had liked catching her out like that, especially when she tried hard to impress someone. With an apologetic glance his way, she said, “Hi, I’m Karen. I most recently lived in Atlanta, but I grew up in Birmingham and went to school in Arkansas. I was a front-office manager for a medical practice, but I couldn’t take the politics and left to pursue my first love of writing. I was actually just there to support my writing habit.”

She waited for the chuckle, which didn’t come. Now Seth sent her a sympathetic glance.

She shifted in her seat and straightened. She didn’t need another guy’s pity, not today. “And, um, I’m not sure where I want to specialize. I’m just open to learning new things right now.”

“Thank you.” The professor looked around the room. “If you’re already tied to a specific genre, then you will be miserable during parts of this program because we expose you to all of them. Whether you go on to be a published author or have other plans for joining the publishing industry, the best thing we can do for you is give you an idea of what genre fiction has to offer. Who knows?” She smiled at Karen. “You might find something you didn’t realize you love right under your nose. You never know until you try.”

The knot of tension loosened in her chest, but then the panic returned when she wondered if Forrester-Schmidt meant she, the professor, had feelings for Marius.

Oh God, oh God.

Karen’s mind bounced the possibilities around, and she missed the other four class members’ introductions, aside from snippets.

“Now,” Doctor Forrester-Schmidt said and handed out the syllabus, “this is the first part of the program: Romance. This genre sells thousands of new titles per year, making it the most popular fiction category. We’ll also cover related genres like chick lit and women’s fiction, which are fair game for your semester projects. And while these areas seem to be the stronghold of women, men’s voices are also needed.” She raised an eyebrow at one of the other students, a redheaded guy who had rolled his eyes. “Even those who were raised in semirural Georgia and like to wear all black on their first day in school.”

The guy blushed like a redhead.

“While we will be reading plenty of excerpts, as well as writing a novella, your first assignment is to go to the bookstore and pick out what you think is a ‘typical’ romance novel.”

Karen flipped through the syllabus as the professor discussed what the “typical” romance novel might be. She would only consider buying one author for this assignment—Delilah Phillips. She wrote lighthearted contemporary and had been Karen’s savior during her darkest times with Marius.

“Ms. Hardeman?”

She looked up.

“If you will please rejoin us on this plane of existence. You may make your travels during speculative fiction, but writing romance, like love itself, requires your full presence and attention.”

This time the heat in Karen’s face wasn’t sunburn. “Sorry.”

Doctor Forrester-Schmidt towered over Karen’s desk and looked at the page she’d been reading. “Ah yes, our semester project. As an added bonus, I’ve booked one of my former authors to come into the class to speak toward the end of the semester. The student who has written the best project will go to dinner with this author and myself.” She looked around. “It’s someone who writes in the genre, but who has a more, shall we say, modern slant on it. The student with the best project, which will be judged by me and this author, will be able to spend an entire evening with…” she paused, “…Delilah Phillips.”

If it were possible to be simultaneously rooted to the ground and buoyant with joy, that was how Karen felt. She almost blurted out Delilah was her favorite author, but she didn’t want to seem an eager beaver trying to tip the odds in her favor.

She did a better job of looking like she paid attention during the second half of class, but her mind wandered to Ms. Phillips’s characters. She couldn’t wait to ask questions—like how did she come up with her heroines? Were they based on her life? What about the heroes? How did she come up with such flawed but utterly loveable men?



And did she have any advice on how Karen could find one for herself?



Monday, May 4, 2015

In Progress: 12 Days to Perfect Blog Hop


So here we are about a week before A Perfect Man comes out, and I'm so excited! I'm currently doing a 12 Days to Perfect Blog Hop, and here's where I've been so far:

5/1/15 Magic City Writing blog:  Meet the adorable kitten Timothy Mouse (aka the intern, see photo to the right) as he spills about his mom's writing process and how he takes revenge on his humans for putting him in time out.

5/2/15: Paperbacks & Papercuts blog: M.V. Freeman dug around in my writerly brain with a fun author interview.

5/3/15: Linda Joyce's blog: Meet Karen, the heroine of A Perfect Man, as she comes in for an initial therapy session.

5/4/15: Debbie Herbert's blog. Debbie posted my first Goodreads review and also has the blurb and first couple of scenes up on her blog.

5/5/15: Suzanne Johnson's blog: another fun author interview including what I'm currently reading and some of my favorite books.

5/6/15: Tricia Drameh's Authors to Watch blog: come meet hero Seth and comment on your perfect dessert

5/7/15:  Sally Kilpatrick's Super Writer Mom blog: a guest post on why we love beta heroes (like Seth!), comment on your favorite album for a chance to win a $10 iTunes gift card. Yes, $10!

5/8/15: Samantha March's Chick Lit Plus blog: a review! Come comment on your perfect season.

5/9/15: Suzy Turner's Fiction Dreams blog: a guest post on how writing A Perfect Man was my way of sneaking back into graduate school

5/10/15: Ms. Nose in a Book blog:  a review and discussion of perfect pets. Giveaway extended through 5/11.

5/11/15: Jencey Gortney's Writer's Corner: why I love writing in the South.

Each day's post has a giveaway, so be sure to check out and comment on today's!

I got exciting news this weekend via Google - A Perfect Man has been deemed one of 10 Must-Read Romance Novels for May 2015 by about.com. Woo hoo!

There's also a  Rafflecopter giveaway for some nifty grand prizes. If you'd like to know what they are, click here.
a Rafflecopter giveaway
Stay tuned to learn more about my characters, the book, and me as well as see reviews. Thanks for joining in!

Thursday, April 30, 2015

Published Character on the Couch: Xander & Mina from Illumination

Today I'm pleased to welcome author M.V. Freeman and her characters Xander and Mina to my couch. If you've read her debut novel Incandescent, you've already had the pleasure of meeting these characters, and I'm delighted they get their own book, especially Mina.



MVF: It’s a pleasure to be here—today I am introducing Xander and Mina, my hero and heroine from my newest book Illumination. I hope you enjoy them! They are going to join me in answering these questions.

A quick blurb of ILLUMINATION: In an effort to stop a war Mina started one. Fleeing her own kind, who wants her dead, she turns to Xander, her people’s mortal enemy for help. He faces a choice—help her and lose everything, betray her and regain it all.

If your character were to go to a psychologist – willingly or unwillingly – what would bring them in? Yes, a court order is a valid answer. 

Mina: It would be fun, would they have Cheetos or Cheese puffs?

Xander:  You and your cheese puffs. I’d need a court order—I don’t like talking to people.

Mina: You like to talk. You talk to me.

Xander: *rolls his eyes.*

Mina: *loud whisper*  He really loves me, just has a hard time showing it.

MVF: They totally need therapy….

Is the presenting problem one of the main internal or external conflicts in your book? If so, how does it present itself?

MVF:  It is a combination of both internal and external. There is war going on between the Mage race where Xander is from, and the Dark race where Mina is.

Mina: I disagree—the whole problem is Xander can’t admit he loves me.

Xander: It has nothing to do with love, but having my whole life ripped to shreds because I agreed to help you.

Mina: See, he does love me.

MVF: They can’t get out of their own way sometimes. But their conflict exists immediately.

It's always interesting to see how people act when they first enter my office. Do they immediately go for my chair, hesitate before sitting anywhere, flop on the couch, etc.? What would your character do?

MVF:  I’d know what I’d do—but them….

Mina: Oh, I’d explore—those pictures, you have to tell me who they are. Are those books over there what to you read? *wanders around the room*

Xander: Do I have to answer this? Fine. I’d take the chair.

Does your character talk to the therapist? How open/revealing will your character be?

MVF: I’m not sure they’d have the opportunity to talk to one.

Xander: No, I don’t talk to one. I bet my mother does.

Mina: It would be fun. Maybe we can talk about the time my brother was murdered. No, that’s too depressing. I’d rather talk about why people dye their hair. Maybe I should try that? I think purple.

MVF: and some people, like my characters, would miss the point…

Your character walks into the bar down the street after his/her first therapy session. What does he/she order? What happens next?

Mina: oooh, could I try one of those fruity drinks? I like the umbrellas on them…maybe I’d even pluck a few emotions, there is always such a plethora of anger, happiness, a touch of depression, and lust.  Delicious.

Xander: Scotch. I’d probably end up having to fight those who try touch or insult Mina.

Mina: *pats Xander on the arm* That’s all right…the blood would be good for you.

MVF: *shakes head*  I’d go home personally….

6. When you're building characters, do you have any tricks you use to really get into their psyches, like a character interview or personality system (e.g., Myers-Briggs types)?

Xander: *looks at MVF*  There are no tricks are there?

Mina: *grins showing serrated teeth* We’re open books.

MVF:  Those two….  Sigh.   There are two things—I  use; music and video to shape the characters emotionally. (Video is harder) for Illumination; I found a small clip from Mad Men, when Peggy (I think her name is)—she was his “protégé” quits—and Don Draper falls apart in a controlled manner. I watched this every time I would write a scene with Xander and Mina. It just had the emotional “Sense” that I appreciated—and helped focus me.

But when I was writing expressly Mina’s POV, I would play in the background  “A Taste of Poison” by Halestorm. Because for me, this song held the emotional impact of what drove Mina. A mix of agony and pain.

I’ve tried using some of the personality Myers-Briggs, but they frustrate me. I admit at times I will write questions and see how they respond—but mostly it’s constantly thinking about them.

As you can see—I have lots of fun with them. Thank you very much for having in the blog—it was a pleasure, and fun to bring my characters!

Now, I’m off for another cup of coffee—my favorite drink—what is yours?

CD: I've just had an iced mocha and am looking forward to wine this evening. Thanks so much for stopping by!

Author Bio: M.V. Freeman lives in North Alabama. A nurse by day, at night she enjoys creating and exploring alternate worlds within our own. She gravitates toward stories of determined heroines and anti-heroes who push the boundaries as they both fight to find their light in the dark.

M.V. is represented by Victoria Lea from The Aponte Literary Agency. Her award-winning and best-selling debut novel INCANDESCENT is the first in the Hidden Races Series. Currently she is working on the third book in the series, while plotting others. When not writing, she can be found reading, cooking, throwing around kettle bells, or making coffee.

If you want to learn about new release and other news; please sign up for the Newsletter on her Website.

Other places to find her:
Twitter
Facebook
S&S (her author page on her publisher's website)

If you're a published author and would like one or more of your characters to be interviewed, or if you're a writer having trouble with a character and would like some help from a psychologist, please email me at cecilia (at) ceciliadominic (dot) com