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.

I love to hear from my readers! If you have a comment for me or if you'd like to submit a character for published character interview or unpublished character analysis, please use the form below or email me at cecilia (at) ceciliadominic (dot) com.

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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:
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

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

12 Days to Perfect Blog Hop preview

We're two weeks away from the release of A Perfect Man, and I'm so excited! To celebrate, I'm doing a 12 Days to Perfect blog hop starting on Friday. I'll be visiting a different blog each day and offering a prize there as well as overall blog hop prizes. To make sure you're up to date on where I'll be and what I'll be giving away, please join the Facebook event page. I'll try to update here as well, but due to having to go to a Continuing Education event and some travel, I'll be posting there first because it's a lot less complicated.

What are the grand prizes? Glad you asked.

A handcrafted leather journal:

A gorgeous necklace from WendyKay designs:

A $50 Visa gift card. Why a Visa gift card and not an Amazon one? While you can use the Visa at Amazon, you can't use the Amazon card at a local bookstore, which is where I hope you'll spend at least part of it.

And finally, an autographed copy of Beyond Heaving Bosoms: the Smart Bitches' Guide to Romance Novels. Why? Because I discovered this book at Powell's in Portland when I was about to start revising the first draft of A Perfect Man, and it helped me tremendously. Huge thanks to Sarah Wendell of the Smart Bitches, Trashy Books blog for sending this to me!

How do you enter to win one of the grand prizes? Click here to enter the Rafflecopter giveaway.

Sunday, April 26, 2015

A Perfect Man: First Chapter and Purchase Links

I'm so excited that A Perfect Man is out! 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.

A Perfect Man was released from Samhain Publishing on May 12.

Other order links include:

And anywhere else books are sold.

Here's a sneak peek at the first couple of scenes:

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?

Thanks for stopping by! If you'd like to get first peek at the cover, blurb, and excerpt from my upcoming steampunk novel, 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.

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Published Character on the Couch: A Couples' Session with Theodora and Seth

This Thursday I'm happy to welcome Theo and Seth of Catherine Butzen's The God Collector, out last month. This sounds like a fantastic book, and I got my copy from Amazon today. Of course, I'm partial to heroes named Seth these days. ;)

Their love is ancient history if they can’t catch the thief out to kill them.

Theodora Speer loves her job at the Columbian Exposition Museum designing murals, but a sense of movement—in her art and in her life—eludes her.  She meets the museum’s enigmatic donor Seth Adler while working on a new exhibit: a strange cache of shabtis, or clay funerary figurines, accompanying a prize mummy, and something sparks.

Seth Adler’s interest in the Egyptian artifacts and in Theo goes deeper than patronage, but he can’t tell her that. A series of robberies has everyone on edge and when the Columbian is hit, Theo and Seth are implicated. Someone thinks there was more to the ancient Egyptian funeral rites than meets the eye and wants the mummy and his grave goods.

Seth and Theo are forced on the run, and it may be too much movement for strict realist Theo to keep up with. But the man—and the mummy—are more than she realized. And if she can’t reconcile the past and the present, she and Seth may have no future.

Here's the interview:

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. 

Theodora Speer would willingly visit a psychologist to untangle her own personal concerns, especially following a rather ... explosive meeting with a certain man. Seth Adler would not be brought in, by Theo or anyone else, unless he was directly ordered by a presiding legal authority. Disobeying could risk exposing his false identity, and to him, personal preservation and playing the long game are everything.

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

Yes and no. The problem is that Seth is not, so to speak, what he appears to be. He has trouble figuring out how to relate to other people because he rarely wants to, and he's learned to wait out problems simply by outliving the person who's causing him the problem. Theo, on the other hand, has only one life to live, and she can't comprehend the type of mindset that would leave a country for a hundred years just to wait until an enemy has died. They clash in The God Collector, and they are likely to clash in the office.

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?

Theo hesitates before taking a seat on the couch. She sits with knees together, hands resting on the cushions beside her, fingers fidgeting with nothing. "Too much coffee," she says, trying to grin. Seth does not sit; he remains standing against the wall, remaining formal and withdrawn.

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

Theo tries to explain the situation. It doesn't go well. She mumbles something about Egypt and toys with the necklace she wears, which shows what looks like a melted ankh in silver. Seth picks up the slack somewhat: "One might say the issue is a fundamental clash of mindsets," he says. "I prefer to wait; she prefers to act. I can't object, because it's saved my life--" 

"In a manner of speaking," Theo interrupts, shaking her head bemusedly.

"And you wonder why I don't like modern people," he tells her. There's a note of teasing in his voice, though it's hard to discern past his glacial exterior. "They'll never respect you once they've got their hands on your heart--"

"In a manner of speaking," Theo repeats, grinning. The free hand on the couch cups, as if she's remembering holding something.

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

When it comes to bars, Theo goes alone. She orders a screwdriver and sits blankly, staring at the air for a few minutes while she sips. Then she takes a pen out of her purse and begins to sketch on the bar napkin. The shape that emerges under her hand is not entirely human: a twisted, liquid thing, struggling to live even while it has no body to inhabit. She crumples up the napkin and throws it away.

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)?

Interviews are definitely helpful. I studied some psychology, and I often find myself returning to my old textbooks when I'm trying to build a new character, but just sitting them down and asking "What's your problem?" is surprisingly useful to me. Sometimes I'll have two characters pick a fight with each other just to see what they shout--they've surprised me more than once!

Thank you so much for stopping by! I look forward to meeting your characters in your book.

If you're a writer who needs help with a character or an author who would like to send someone over to be interviewed, please email me at cecilia (at) ceciliadominic (dot) com

Speaking of heroes named Seth, I'll be doing a blog hop in anticipation of the release of A Perfect Man on May 12 with cool prizes overall and all along. Please join the Facebook event for more info and prize updates.

Friday, April 10, 2015

Amazon Gift Card winner!

Thank you to everyone who stopped by my signing at Hermit Woods Winery in Meredith, New Hampshire at the end of March. I had a blast meeting and chatting with everyone. And of course drinking wine. The lucky winner of the $20 Amazon gift card is Tara M. I sent the gift card earlier - please let me know if you didn't get it. Thanks, and have a great weekend!