Monday, January 31, 2011

And the winner is......

Congratulations Catslady. You're the winner of Cindy's book. Please contact Kim at kwatters21 (at) hotmail. com (no spaces) to claim your prize. Thanks for stopping by and leaving a comment.

Sunday, January 30, 2011

The Neurotic Writer Turns Positive

The Neurotic Writer Turns Positive

Suzie Writer: "Hi Doc! What a beautiful day!"

Therapist: "If you like hail storms."

Suzie Writer: "I love everything about life!"

Therapist: "Is your new book about a peppy cheerleader? Is that why you've suddenly turned happy."

Suzie Writer: "No. Although that is a good idea. I can call it The Cheerleader and the Pirate. But I digress. I just found an old book called The Power of Positive Thinking. It has changed my life. I don't think I'll be needing therapy any longer."

Therapist: "Really? Are you sure you don't want to continue your sessions just in case?"

Suzie Writer: "I'm positive I won't be needing them. I am positive I am fixed. I am positive my life is awesome!"

Therapist: (Doubtful) "And that includes your love life? How has that been lately?"

Suzie Writer: "Absolutely wonderful! I know the perfect man is on his way."

Therapist: "Good. How is your agent hunt going?"

Suzie Writer: (Jaw twitches) : "Wonderful! I know that one of the 250 agents I have queried will fall in love with my books and sell all of them."

Therapist: "Good. How is your sister? You know, the one you claim your parents love more than you?"

Suzie Writer: (blinks hard) "Just great! She got a new job paying twice her former salary, her husband took her to the Bahamas for their anniversary, and her oldest child was tested into the gifted program at school at age five."

Therapist: "And how is your mother?"

Suzie Writer: (Jumps up from the couch) "Okay, my life sucks! I need therapy. Double my sessions for this week."

Therapist: "If you're positive that is what you want."

Friday, January 28, 2011

Interview with Cindy K. Green

I’d like to welcome our guest today, Cindy K. Green. It’s a pleasure having you come visit us at Much Cheaper Than Therapy, where chocolate is plentiful and advice is free. So grab some chocolate and a lounge chair. Your therapy session has begun.

I understand you have a new release out called Listen to Your Heart. Can you tell us a little bit about your fabulous new book?

Listen to Your Heart is a historical western set in 1870’s Wyoming. It’s the sequel to my best selling western, The Heart Never Lies, from Champagne Books. (But is reads great as a stand along book.) It focuses mostly on the struggles of my hero and the past he thought he’d left behind him back East. In fact, ¾ of the story takes place in Wyoming and ¼ of it in Chicago just before the Great Fire. The heat rating in lightly sensual.

Listen to Your Heart is a very interesting title. How did you arrive at that name?

Well, I wanted it to compliment the previous book in the series (The Heart Never Lies) and to describe the current book as well. And, yes, I got the title from the Roxette song.

What made you decide to write in this genre?

I haven’t been a big western reader for most of my life. It wasn’t until about six years ago that I started reading the westerns written by a friend author of mine. I found that I really love them. The strong and loyal heroes and their feisty heroines with danger only a step behind. In 2008 I decided I wanted to write one too. I did a lot of research and reading and came up with my first western which came out in 2009. The sequel released this January 2011.

Where did you get your idea for this particular book?

The plot of this one came to me in a flash. My publisher told me how well this first one was selling and I’d also heard that readers wanted to know what happened next to the hero and heroine. All of a sudden this whole other side and past of my hero came to me. I went from there and the story pretty much wrote itself.

What are your favorite historical research books and why?

It depends on what kind of historical I’m researching and where. I have a great book on Victorian etiquette. I use it in just about all my historicals. I have a degree in history and love research. I have loads of research materials.
Which character did you like writing about the most, and why?

Definitely my hero, Beau. His emotions and past really fueled the plot of this story. In the first book he appears like your typical cowboy hero but in the sequel you learn so much more about him. Who he really is, where he grew up and what he’s been running from the past several years. And at the center is the love he has for Kit.

Tell us about how you develop your characters. Do you create character sheets, do interviews, that sort of thing? How does your research affect your character development?

In my longer works I try to do some character building. I might write up character sheet and develop their motivation. For my shorts like these two westerns I don’t do much more than a few paragraphs then I get to the writing. Research for my historicals really helps put my characters together. It gets me into the head of a man or woman of the era and that really fleshes them out for me.

What are some common speech terms, dress modes, transportation or housing facts that you found interesting for your time period?

For this book, it was the fact that in the 1870’s women had the right to vote and serve on a jury in Wyoming. That was something my heroine Kit would totally have been involved in and I put that into the story.
Do you have any authors that inspired you?

Austen, Alcott and Montgomery are the authors which have inspired me since I was a teen. I still try to read them when I have the chance. Their writing prose and characters are something to which I aspire.

What do you feel is the most effective promotion you have done for your book?

Oh who knows! I suppose it is to write a good book that encourages the next sale. But I’ve tried all types of promo. It is truly more exhausting that the writing.

What do we have to look forward next?

I am working on the 2nd book in my YA Faery Guardian series. I hope to see it out this year.

Thanks, Cindy!

To celebrate her book release, Cindy is offering a free book of The Heart Never Lies to one lucky commenter on today's blog. (please check the blog Monday night to see if you won. Chances of winning determined by the number of entries.)

She will be around all day today. I'm sure some of you have questions or comments for her, so please ask away...

Cindy K. Green is a multi-published author with degrees in History and Education. Previously a middle school English & History teacher, she now homeschools her own children and writes in several genres: Inspirational, Contemporary, Suspense, Fantasy and Historical romance. No matter what she writes, she always throws in a bit of humor and fun.
Find out more about Cindy and her books at and
To join her newsletter email her at
Buy Listen to Your Heart at Champagne Books or Amazon.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Bootcamp for Novelists On-Line Classes for February

February 11 to March 11

2B - Dynamic Plotting

2P - Deepening Characterization

FEE: $28 Per Course


February 11 to March 11

How your character acts in any given situation is based on multiple variables. Here you'll learn what they are and how to use them to make your characters leap off the page.
March 18 to April 18


February 11 to March 11

Some people believe that stories come from a magical realm and simply float down to some lucky writers. But could it be possible that given a character with a goal who faces conflict that you can give them situations that makes your story sing?
FEE: $28

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Writer's Tip

Courtesy of Bootcamp for Novelists

To increase the reader's interest, deprive him of something he wants to know.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

FOR WRITERS: Saving Your Creative Spirit

Another writer shared this video on one of my loops, and I thought it would be helpful to other writers, so I'm passing it along. I think it's a neat way of looking at creativity and distancing yourself from your work. Whether you're still trying to get published and wading through rejections, or you've just finished that first book and are receiving reviews, or you're working on your next project and feeling anxious about topping your last one, this might provide some valuable insight into allowing your creativity to flow unhindered.

Monday, January 24, 2011

And the winner is...

Congratulations Jennifer Mathis. You're the winner of Jocelyn's book. Please contacy Kim @ to claim your prize. Thanks for stopping by and leaving a comment.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

The Neurotic Writer Bans Television

The Neurotic Writer Bans Television
(Just for Laughs)

Suzie Writer: (Enters room with bed sheet in hand.)
"Doc, Doc, do have a television set in here?"

Therapist: (Quirks a brow.) "No. What's wrong?"

Suzie Writer: (Sits after inspecting room)
"I came across the biggest secret ever known to mankind."

Therapist: "Oh really. Do share."

Suzie Writer: "Television sets are really two-way
communication devices. The hot shots in Hollywood don't
want you to know that because they are stealing our ideas."

Therapist: Pauses for a moment. "And you know this because..."

Suzie Writer: "It happened to me! They stole my idea!
Doc, I was watching reruns of My Stepmother is an Alien
with my sister last weekend. During the commercials, I told
her about the book I'm writing. In the black moment, the hero
must choose between the woman he loves and his three-legged
brother who is also missing an eyebrow. You are not going to
believe this, Doc, but last night I was watching my favorite
show and they had the exact same plot. They stole my idea!
I could not believe it!"

Therapist: "I can't believe it either."

Suzie Writer: "The part that they stole my idea?"

Therapist: "No. That they used that idea at all."

Suzie Writer: (studies the other woman)
"Did you just insult me? Never mind. If you did I forgive you?
You don't get paid enough. So anyways, I told my sister what
happened and that was when we figured out those Hollywood
executives were listening in our conversation through the
television. They must have heard about me and piped into
my line." (Nods knowingly)

Therapist: "Suzie, do you really believe they would go through
so much trouble to steal your ideas? Why not just hire you to
work for them?"

Suzie Writer: "They don't want to pay my price. I may be easy,
but I'm not cheap. Well, I gotta go, Doc. I have to warn all of
my writing friends. We need to ban television. Or turn it off
when we brainstorm. See ya!"

Friday, January 21, 2011

Interview with Jocelyn Modo

I’d like to welcome our guest today, Jocelyn Modo. It’s a pleasure having you come visit us at Much Cheaper Than Therapy, where chocolate is plentiful and advice is free. So grab some chocolate and a lounge chair. Your therapy session has begun.

Chocolate therapy makes me think of that infamous picture of delectable male model Matthias Streitwieser eating chocolate liquor off his fingers. Mmm mmm mmm. Talk about inspiration for an erotic romance!

I understand you have a new release out called First Heat. Can you tell us a little bit about your fabulous new book?

When shifter lioness Kissa Alassane goes into heat for the first time and she is forced to choose her mate, her life takes a thrilling and terrifying turn. With his golden eyes, mesmerizing French accent, and gloriously hard body, Venor Brun is both irresistible and unreliable. Kissa had thought he was the one until he disappeared for weeks without a word and rumors began to circulate about his infidelity.

Despite her doubts, Kissa is unable to resist Venor’s erotic pull, but the longer she stays in his arms, the more doubt creeps into her mind. Unable to fully commit herself to him, she runs. Away from Venor. Away from her pride. And into a nightmare beyond her imagination.

First Heat is a very interesting title. How did you arrive at that name?

Oh Boy! You have no idea how long I tortured myself over the title. You’d think it would be easy because the story is about a shifter lioness going into heat for the first time, but I am absolutely horrible at choosing titles. When I decided on First Heat, I was thrilled with the title, and then my publisher came back and said they had a “Heat” series and so my title was under review. Thankfully, they agreed that First Heat was the perfect title for my book and let me keep it!

What made you decide to write in this genre?

It was less a decision and more an obsession. I love fantasy. I love romance. Writing a fantasy romance is as natural as falling in love.

Where did you get your idea for this particular book?

I love shifters. And lions are my cat’s meow. *groan* (Why did I make that lame joke?) The character of Kissa came to me first, telling me about her childhood, talking about her impending heat and the mating ceremony that accompanied her official transition into adulthood. Then Venor began stalking me, crouching low in the shadows of mind, watching, waiting.

For lack of a better description, the lions cornered me and threatened to eat me alive. I had no choice but to tell their story.

What are your favorite paranormal research books or sites, and why?

For all paranormal in general I always start with myths, history, religion. For First Heat specifically I researched Egyptian myths, history, religion. The Cat in Ancient Egypt by Jaromir Malek and Divine Creatures: Animal Mummies in Ancient Egypt by Salima Ikram are two of my research books that were highlighted, dog-eared, and right beside me while I was in the planning stage for First Heat.

Which character did you like writing about the most, and why?

I loved writing about Kissa because I understood her and related to her. Even though she makes dangerous, life-threatening decisions, she has good reason. Kissa has a courageous heart, an intelligent, thoughtful outlook, and a vulnerability that made me need for her to have a happily ever after ending.
Tell us about how you develop your characters. Do you create character sheets, do interviews, that sort of thing? How does your research and/or world affect your character development?

I start off with character sheets but quickly move into interviews and free writing to develop my characters. The more I listen to them, the more smoothly the process flows.

How do you go about building your world if you use one? Do you use maps, charts or drawings?

Yes. Yes. And yes. I’m a visual person so I create maps, charts, and drawings from everything from the characters to the pride’s property, to their clothing…

Do you have any authors that inspired you?

Oh, wow! What a long list that is! I’ll name three to keep things from getting out of hand. Sherrilyn Kenyon. J.R. Ward. And Robin D. Owens. Amazing, talented, successful authors all!

What do you feel is the most effective promotion you have done for your book?

Networking with other authors.

What do we have to look forward next?

My Christmas Quickie, On Vixen, was out December 10, 2010. The story takes place in the same world as First Heat but with a different pride in Fort Collins, Colorado. I had so much fun writing this story because the characters continued to surprise up until the very end of the story.

Thanks, Jocelyn!

To celebrate her book release, Jocelyn Modo is offering a free book of First Heat to one lucky commenter on today's blog. (please check the blog Monday night to see if you won. Chances of winning determined by the number of entries.)

She will be around all day today. I'm sure some of you have questions or comments for her, so please ask away...

Jocelyn Modo may be crazy but writing keeps her from going insane. She grew up reading science fiction and fantasy and fell in love with romance when those girlie hormones kicked in. Nothing makes her day like working on her current manuscript…and nothing makes her crazy like working on her current manuscript. But all’s fair in love and war, and Jocelyn likes to put a whole lot of both in everything she writes.

Check out Jocelyn’s website at
Buy First Heat at

Thursday, January 20, 2011

WriterU On-line Classes for February

"Plotting Via Motivation"

by Laurie Schnebly Campbell

February 1-28, 2011

$30 at

Motivation is what drives your story. Any of us could write a book in which the characters set out for a three-hour tour and get shipwrecked on an uncharted desert isle. We've seen what seven such characters would do...over and over and over again. But what would YOURS do?

If you nail down any character's motivation, it doesn't matter whether the ship capsizes or lands safely three hours later. Your characters will create a plot from WHATEVER happens, because you've got their motivation built in from the very beginning. Find out how, with a workshop that covers:

* Your biggest question in motivation

* The surprising core that makes it plausible

* How deep do you go?

* The Motivation Checklist, with 14 blanks

* Difference between Goal and Motivation

* Using motivation to build your plot

Laurie Schnebly Campbell grew up in a family that talked "motivation" around the dinner table. While her day job in advertising is responsible for her synopsis skills, her Master's in Counseling works for motivating characters in her novels...including one that beat out Nora Roberts for "Best Special Edition of the Year." Check her out at

* * *

MASTER CLASS: "Law Enforcement: Making Your Cop Real"

by Margaret Taylor

February 7-18, 2011

$55 at

Prerequisite: Minimum of three chapters written about a law enforcement character.

This workshop helps writers figure out realistic actions, motivations, and responses for their law enforcement characters. Participants will shove up their sleeves, get down in the dirt and participate by posting scenarios to see what works and why. Based on actual experience from her 20+ years in the field, Margaret Taylor presents a clear perspective on developing and shaping fictional cops, making them and their contacts ring true. Along with details on who to contact for more information -- and insider tips on how to get it -- students will learn:

* Basics of everyday police routine, from patrol through investigations
* What's behind most law enforcement characters' motivations
* How your cop’s actions help define his or her character
* Creating realistic goals and responses for people in law enforcement
* What each agency is responsible for; how task forces work
* The difference between innocuous pranks and war
* Why the legendary "gray area" is a cop’s best friend

M.A. Taylor spent more twenty years in law enforcement. After seven years with the California Highway Patrol (CHP), she become a Special Agent for the California Department of Justice (DOJ), spending over a decade in Narcotics...including assignment to a Federal DEA-HIDTA Task Force. Margaret’s areas of expertise range from surveillance to wiretaps to tribal gaming, sexual predators, investigations and more.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Destination Truth: Researching the Historical Romance Novel

One of my favorite shows on TV is SyFy channel’s Destination Truth with Joshua Gates. If you’re unfamiliar with the show, it’s about a guy who travels to all sorts of exotic locations to find out the truth about monsters reportedly living there. The host, Josh Gates, is tall and adorable…brave almost to the point of insanity…has a wicked sense of humor…perfect hero material…sorry, got distracted. Anyway, Josh never seems to uncover proof of the actual monster (I’ll keep rooting for him), but his journeys are amazing, and he always discovers all kinds of other, interesting things (like a headless chicken corpse with human feet, an enormous unidentified footprint, ghostly images, disembodied voices and even scarier mundane things. Like quicksand. Alligators. Poisonous snakes…). Shivering aside, what does Destination Truth have to do with researching a historical romance novel?

The similarities are mind-boggling.

So let’s start by comparing an episode of Destination Truth with one of my historical research topics. Let’s say, Josh’s search for evidence of the Yeti with my search for historical…panties. (Trust me, it’s going to be tougher than it sounds. Victorian underwear wasn’t too difficult, but when I began researching Georgian underwear for THE ELVEN LORDS series, it had me tearing my hair out.)

Destination Truth: Search for the elusive yeti/panty

Rumors of the Yeti have reached Josh at his headquarters. A huge ape-like creature similar to the Sasquatch, living somewhere in the Himalayas. Josh packs up his crew and travels thousands of miles to the Far East. The search is on.

Rumors of corsets, stays, and chemises reach the author. But what of panties? This information is critical to the author for her love scenes. Author props up her feet next to her computer and brings up the Google screen. The search is on.

Josh interviews people, looking for reliable witnesses who have seen the Yeti, in order to determine the best place to set up an investigation. He hikes through a valley where sightings have occurred, but finds nothing more exciting than a grazing cow.

Author types in ‘Georgian Underwear’, scanning through the results, looking for reliable websites. The first one looks promising, but on further investigation author comes up empty-handed. The rest of the sites aren’t even related to author’s search.

Josh continues his search, and gets lucky. Some evidence is found of the creature, but Josh can’t determine if it’s genuine. They are frustrated in their attempts to acquire some evidence for testing from the artifact. They are told that because others believe it to be genuine, so must they.

Author expands her search to ‘Georgian Clothing’ and gets lucky. Results have turned up some reputable websites, but further investigation only leads her from one link to another, frustrating the author. She’s tempted by the Wikipedia result, but is aware that the general populace updates the site’s information.

After four days of hiking with nary a Yeti in sight, Josh and his team split up, and start hunting in earnest.

After Googling several combinations of word searches with nary a panty in sight, author decides to branch out her search to the library and bookstore.

The journey through the Himilayas is arduous but amazing, and the hunt reveals fascinating plant and animal life, with exciting discoveries and perilous adventures.

The journey through the library is arduous but amazing, with hundreds of books on Georgian costume to pour through, revealing discoveries of clocked stockings and brocade waistcoats. Although most of the books at the bookstore deal with general English social history, the author lives new adventures through historical biographies. But no mention of panties. Author goes to Amazon and searches for out-of-print books that may have an answer…and is overjoyed! She orders the Handbook of English Costume in the Eighteenth Century, a detailed look at clothing.

One of Josh’s sherpa guides finds an enormous footprint! Josh is overjoyed! His team spreads out, looking for more evidence, but unfortunately, find none. They take a plaster cast of the print and bring it back to headquarters amid much acclaim.

Author receives her Amazon order. She removes a book from the wrapping titled, Handbook of English Costume in the Seventeenth Century. They sent her the wrong book! But after searching through it, author finds no reference to panties anyway.

Josh brings the plaster castings to a professional for examination. It is estimated that a 300-400 pound creature made the prints. They are ruled out as a hoax and are called a ‘significant discovery’. Is this definitive proof of the Yeti, then? Alas, it seems to be unclear.

Author has garnered enough information by now to deduce that panties were ‘most likely’ not worn prior to the drawers of the Victorian era, but alas, she lacks definitive proof. Indeed, historians seem unclear as well, for if panties were worn, no clear evidence of them remains.

Until Next Time,

Sunday, January 16, 2011

The Neurotic Writer's New Year's Resolutions

(Suzie Writer is a character made up for the Much Cheaper Than
Therapy Blog. You can read her humorous -we hope- therapy sessions
in our older posts.)

The Neurotic Writer's New Year's Resolutions
for 2011

1. Lose Weight. Ha Ha Ha Ha! Scratch that.

2. Write at least four books. Unless of course I get caught
up in my research and then I'll only get three done. On the other hand,
I could meet a hunk who inspires me and I could whip out five. Or I
could kiss the wrong guy and catch mono and only finish two. Make that
resolution - Write one to ten books in 2011.

3. Stay out of jail. That is always a good resolution, unless your
heroine is jailbird and then its good research. Note to self - send the
guards chocolates. They were so nice the last time. Also, send that
NFL football team a nasty gram. They didn't have to toss me
in the clink for sneaking into the locker room. It was research.

4. Avoid dating any men who might be real vampires or werewolves.
(See older episodes) In fact, avoid any men who are too pale or have too
much body hair. Or who howl at night. Or have long teeth. Or don't have
reflections. Or sparkle.

5. Avoid eating excess sugar. Unless I write about a pastry chef.
Maybe I should write about a chef; just thinking about eating
less sugar is making me feel weak. Eating less sugar should be a
sin. Up there with the ten commandments. In fact, they should give
chocolate truffles instead of wafers at communion.
More people would attend church. Make that resolution -
Eat more sugar.

6. Stop breaking restraining orders. Always a good policy.
Unless you just really have to talk to that guy one more time to
finish your book. Make that resolution - Don't get caught
breaking restraining orders.

7. Have a fantastic 2011!

Friday, January 14, 2011

I’d like to welcome our guest today, Stephanie Dray. It’s a pleasure having you come visit us at Much Cheaper Than Therapy, where chocolate is plentiful and advice is free. So grab some chocolate and a lounge chair. Your therapy session has begun.

I understand you have a new release out called Lily of the Nile. Can you tell us a little bit about your fabulous new book?

With her parents dead, the daughter of Cleopatra and Mark Antony is left at the mercy of her Roman captors. Heir to one empire and prisoner of another, it falls to Princess Selene to save her brothers and reclaim what is rightfully hers…

In the aftermath of Alexandria’s tragic fall, Princess Selene is taken from Egypt, the only home she’s ever known. Along with her two surviving brothers, she’s put on display as a war trophy in Rome. Selene’s captors mock her royalty and drag her through the streets in chains, but on the brink of death, the children are spared as a favor to the emperor’s sister, who takes them to live as hostages in the so-called lamentable embassy of royal orphans…

Now trapped in a Roman court of intrigue that reviles her heritage and suspects her faith, Selene can’t hide the hieroglyphics that carve themselves into her flesh. Nor can she stop the emperor from using her for his own political ends. But faced with a new and ruthless Caesar who is obsessed with having a Cleopatra of his very own, Selene is determined honor her mother’s lost legacy. The magic of Egypt and Isis remain within her. But can she succeed where her mother failed? And what will it cost her in a political game where the only rule is win or die?

Lily of the Nile is a very interesting title. How did you arrive at that name?

The Egyptian lotus isn’t a true lotus; it’s actually a water lily. What’s more, there’s a whole mythology surrounding blue water lilies, which were very important to the Egyptians. Because the flowers were said to bloom only at night and sink beneath the water during the day, it seemed like an apt comparison for my heroine, Selene, whose namesake is the moon.
Selene spent much of her childhood as a hostage in Rome, having to curry favor with the very people who destroyed her family. My book is about her inner journey, having to hide her deepest feelings in the murky depths of her heart by day…it reminded me of that lily!

What made you decide to write in this genre?

I love history because it can tell us so much about the human condition without all the baggage of modern political disagreements. I find great inspiration from the women of history--most of whom had a much harder time of it than we do today.

Are you a plotter or a pantser and how did it affect the writing of this book?

When I started writing this book, I was a pantser. I’ve long since changed my ways, but I still remember the startling sense of shock when, in the midst of my book, Selene’s brother Helios runs away. I hadn’t planned that, but once it was down on paper, it set the stage for Selene’s transformation.

Did you have to do a lot of research for the book? What are your favorite research books or sites?

I did a tremendous amount of research for Lily of the Nile, because even though it is filled with magic and speculation, I want to be very aware of when I’m departing from the historical record. Most of the information about Selene was not actually on the internet--I’m trying to change that--but some of my favorite books are listed here in my extensive bibliography.

Where did you get your idea for this particular book?

I’ve always thought that the death of Cleopatra’s son Caesarion was a great loss of potential. Octavian made sure that the world would never know what this child of two famous lovers might have become. But the more I learned about Caesarion, the more interested I became in his sister…who survived to become the greatest queen in Augustus’ empire.

Selene’s story is one of triumph over enormous tragedy and it moved me deeply.

Which character did you like writing about the most, and why?

I admit that I thoroughly enjoyed writing Augustus as a depraved monster with an inferiority complex. I imagine it’s like those who write about Henry VIII. It’s hard not to both love and hate him at the same time. Augustus served as a marvelous villain, and a good foil for Selene to become a strong woman we can root for.

Tell us about how you develop your characters. Do you create character sheets, do interviews, that sort of thing? How does your research affect your character development?

In other books I’ve written, I do character outlines and build a character around a concept, but for Lily of the Nile, the process was totally organic. Selene just started speaking to me, and once I understood her motivations, her fears, her deepest pains, I never had to resort to a character sheet when writing about her. She is my favorite little schemer!

Do you have any authors that inspired you?

So many that I would be afraid to mention just one here. With regard to this book though, I’m going to name Beatrice Chanler whose book about Cleopatra Selene was published in the 1930s. It’s a very old and uncelebrated book filled with fascinating theories about Cleopatra’s daughter as a religious figure; I wanted to update those theories for a modern commercial audience and I am enormously indebted to her!

What do you feel is the most effective promotion you have done for your book?

Wow, now that’s a great question. It’s probably too early to tell!

What do we have to look forward next?

Lily of the Nile is just the first of the series; it will be followed later in 2011 by Song of the Nile, a book about Selene’s life as a young queen and her struggle to find herself amidst the crushing expectations of her mother’s legacy and the emperor’s obsession.

Thanks, Stephanie!

Stephanie Dray is the author of a forthcoming trilogy of historical fiction novels set in the Augustan Age, starting with Lily of the Nile: A Novel of Cleopatra's Daughter. Before she wrote novels, Stephanie was a lawyer, a game designer, and a teacher. Now she uses the transformative power of magic realism to illuminate the stories of women in history and inspire the young women of today. She remains fascinated by all things Roman or Egyptian and has–to the consternation of her devoted husband–collected a house full of cats and ancient artifacts.
She is currently sponsoring the Cleopatra Literary Contest for Young Women, the deadline for which is March 1, 2011, but join her newsletter now for updates and a chance to win a free copy of Lily of the Nile and additional prizes.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Paid Forward

Last summer, I found a wallet in the street. Being a Christian and I’d like to think, a very nice person, I tracked down the owner through a business card in his wallet and gave it back to him because that’s what we do. The early twenty-something was very grateful and tried to pay me. I didn’t accept. I figured he needed the eleven dollars in his wallet more than I did. I simply requested he pay it forward sometime and that in turn, I would have it paid forward for me.

Fast forward to December 26th. Yep, you got it. The day after Christmas sales and the day my kids wanted to trade in all their gift cards and cash because they just didn’t get enough games for their Nintendos. My ten-year-old son carries his own wallet. Hey, I’m trying to teach responsibility. Well, you guessed it. He took it out in the toy section to count his loot and put it on a shelf when he picked up a toy.

When we got home—because my seven-year-old forgot her envelope in the rush to run out the door—my son asked where his wallet was. After a few heart-stopping moments, we jumped back in the car and raced back to Target. Along the way I said a prayer to God that the wallet would still be there--believe me, I knew the chances were slim on such a busy day—but I prayed anyway. I asked him to pray as well.

“No.” My son is having issues with his belief and somehow feels God hates him-especially now that his wallet is gone. “God hates me.”

“No He doesn’t, Honey. God has bigger things to worry about than picking on you.”

“Nope. He hates me.”

“Okay Lord, I need some help here. Really need some help.” I tried again. “God loves you. Sometimes he just has a unique way of showing it. There’s got to be a gift or message in this for you from Him.”

Mentally I’m trying to count how much money was in that wallet and knew it was going to cost me at least a hundred on top of what I’d already spent for Christmas, because I refused to let the lost wallet dash his Christmas spirit. Okay, I know there’s tough love and a responsibility factor, but there’s also being a parent and protecting our children from the harsh realities of life as long as we can. It’s a scary world out there and he’ll spend more time in it than in the dreamy state of childhood.

It turns out I didn’t need to worry. My prayers worked. Rushing up to the customer service counter while my kids scrounged around the toy section, I asked if a wallet had been found.

“A black child’s wallet with no ID?” The young lady asked?

“Yes. It’s got a few Target gift cards, a Borders card and some twenties inside.”

“Yes. Tiffany has it. Some man found it in the toy section and gave it to her.”

I almost cried. I’d like to hug the man who found the wallet and realized he held a child’s Christmas inside. It would have been so easy for him to pocket it and use it himself, except he understood the contents were more than just pieces of plastic and money.

He truly was a messenger, and my son learned that God does love him. So whoever my good Samaritan was. Thank you and God Bless You.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

For Writers: There are many ways to create a story...

A couple of good ways to brainstorm a story is through plot and character. Whether plot or character comes first when composing a novel is sort of like the chicken and egg thing. It greatly depends on the author’s point of view. Plot and character are so entwined that it’s often hard to even separate the two. Like all elements of a novel—dialogue, exposition, description, pacing—plot and character are woven throughout. I think writing can be compared to weaving, where the threads are blurred within the composition of the overall pattern.

After several books I’ve found that, although there are guidelines to writing, there are no hard and fast rules. That’s why the best authors appear to break them.

For me, it's nice to know where I’m going before I create my characters, even if it’s only a general idea of the plot. Once I have my external conflict (plot) I can then create the characters who would suffer the worst internal conflict within the story. So, if I have a storyline where the heroine must leave her village to find her missing father, who is tangled up in all sorts of political intrigue, I will create a character who is not an adventuress at heart. She’d prefer a cozy, quiet life of knitting and cooking and raising babies. The last thing she would want is to leave her peaceful home and go wandering about the dangerous countryside, eventually becoming tangled up in the same intrigues that cost her father his life. Her internal conflict will be so much greater than creating a character who longs for adventure and excitement. And her growth would be much more rewarding and life-altering. And this is exactly what I did for book two in The Elven Lords series, The Lady of The Storm (releasing August 2011).

Once I create the characters, and plunk them into the story, they will take over, sometimes changing the plot drastically from what I’d first envisioned. And I let them. Because isn’t that the magic of writing, when the words aren’t coming from you, but the characters that you’ve created?

So should you try starting with plot or character? That’s all up to you, and the story you envision writing. But if you’re not quite sure, try starting with a general plot outline or idea, and create characters who would hate to be put into the situation you’ve created. Or start with a fascinating character, and create a situation that will challenge them. And see where the magic takes you.

My Magical Best,


Monday, January 10, 2011

And the winner is......

Happy New Year! Our first winner of the year is.....Rebekah E. Congratulations. You've won a copy of Cara's book. Please contact Kim at kwatters21 (at) (no spaces) to claim your prize. Thanks for stopping by and leaving a comment.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

The Neurotic Writer and The CIA

In this episode of The Neurotic Writer, Suzie takes her writing too seriously.

Suzie Writer: “Happy new year, doc!”

Therapist: “There you are! I was getting worried.

You missed your last three

sessions and you haven’t returned

any of my phone calls.”

Suzie Writer: (Plops in chair.

Big smile on her face.)

“Sorry, doc. I was under arrest. I think.”

Therapist: “What?”

Suzie Writer: “My next book is about a female

CIA agent named Sally Saltless.

Angelina Jolie will play her when

I sell the script.”

Therapist: “Let me guess.

You flew to D.C. and tried to pick

up a CIA agent

on his way out of headquarters.”

Suzie Writer: “Close. I marched up to the

security guard at the door and

asked if I could shadow an agent for a day.

They escorted me to a tiny room

and asked me a trillion questions.

I do believe they think I’m working with that

guy whose wikki is leaking.”

Therapist: “Wikkileaks?”

Suzie Writer: “Yeah. That’s it. Well, they didn’t

believe I wasn’t a spy, so they

called the local Sheriff’s office. By the way,

I’m still waiting for him to send me my pink

underwear. (She drums her fingers on her knee.)

My buddy, the sheriff, explained

that I am a writer and I take my research seriously.

Okay, that’s not exactly what he said.”

Therapist: “I can imagine. Does he still have a

restraining order out on you?”

Suzie Writer: “Nope. It expired.”

Therapist: “What happened with the CIA?”

Suzie Writer: “They said I could see the cafeteria

if I promised to shut up, go home and

never come back. How rude!”

Therapist: “Yeah... So, is that end

of your book?”

Suzie Writer: (giggles) “You know me better

than that. Is the movie RED on DVD yet?

The actors broke into CIA headquarters.

It’s sort of a ‘how to’ video.”

Therapist: (Shakes her head.)

“Let’s make up those sessions you missed

before the end of the week.”

(All characters are the creation of Tina LaVon and are just for fun.)

Friday, January 7, 2011

Interview with Cara Marsi

I’d like to welcome our guest today, Cara Marsi. It’s a pleasure having you come visit us at Much Cheaper Than Therapy, where chocolate is plentiful and advice is free. So grab some chocolate and a lounge chair. Your therapy session has begun.

I understand you have a new release out called Cursed Mates. Can you tell us a little bit about your fabulous new book?

Thank you for having me at Much Cheaper Than Therapy. I’ve just grabbed some dark chocolate and have settled into a comfortable chair, and I’m ready to talk about Cursed Mates, my dark, sensual, werewolf paranormal romance set in Maine. Cursed Mates was released Dec. 13, 2010, from Noble Romance Publishing.

Nick Radford is a reluctant werewolf who’s been fighting the Beast within for nearly 500 years. He’s never killed a human, but the Beast is gaining strength and Nick may not be able to ward off his inner demon much longer.

Kyla Yaeger is an elite were-hunter with a scarred past. Her life’s mission is to slay the werewolves who slaughtered her parents. Her quest has brought her to Maine where she's been summoned to destroy the werewolf terrorizing the quaint little village of Heavensent. The last thing she needs is to get distracted by her mysterious--not to mention hunky--new neighbor Nick Radford.

By the time Kyla learns Nick is her target, she's already fallen for him, making her task of killing him that much harder. She is torn between her love for him and her duty to kill her sworn enemy. Nick fights his forbidden love for Kyla, knowing she is duty-bound to kill him. Kyla and Nick must join together to fight an even bigger threat--one that will destroy all humanity. Only by their combined powers can they destroy the evil and bring an end to a centuries old curse.

Cursed Mates is a very interesting title. How did you arrive at that name?

The original title was Love Came Howling because the story started out as a light paranormal and gradually got darker and darker. After an editor told me Love Came Howling was “corny,” I knew I needed another title more fitting to the story. One of my critique partners came up with this title. Although the story has a witch and assorted demons, I needed a title that focused on Kyla and Nick, who are truly cursed mates.

What made you decide to write in this genre?

I love paranormal and I wanted to write one. I always write the type books I want to read, and Cursed Mates has a storyline I love. I also love wolves, real wolves, and I’m afraid of vampires, so writing about a werewolf came naturally.

Where did you get your idea for this particular book?

I’d visited Maine a few years ago and fell in love with it. I decided to set the story there because of the rocky coast and all the quaint towns. Maine’s terrain lends itself to mystery. After all, Stephen King lives there. I thought, “what if one of those quaint towns harbored a terrible evil?” There are no wolves in Maine, but what if I put one there? I wanted to do the werewolf hero and I wanted a kick-ass heroine. So why not make my heroine an elite were-hunter who’s not afraid of anything except losing control? And what if she meets a man who makes her lose control? But what if that man’s her target and she’s duty-bound to kill him? And what if something far more evil than a werewolf is terrorizing this little town? As you can see, I love playing “what if.”

What are your favorite paranormal research books or sites, and why?

Before I started writing Cursed Mates I read a lot of Harlequin Nocturnes and paranormals from a variety of publishers. I also researched werewolves and the phases of the moon online.

Which character did you like writing about the most, and why?

Nick, my hero. He’s so tortured, yet so determined never to kill a human despite his bloodlust at each full moon. He fights his inner demon, then falls in love with a woman whose job it is to kill him. But there’s something else lurking in the woods, and to save his soul and the world, Nick has to fight that too.

Tell us about how you develop your characters. Do you create character sheets, do interviews, that sort of thing? How does your research and/or world affect your character development?

I usually write out, in longhand, each main character’s background, what they think they want, what they really want, what they fear the most and what they’re willing to sacrifice to get what they need.

How do you go about building your world if you use one? Do you use maps, charts or drawings?

I build the world in my head. In the case of Cursed Mates, I drew on my memories of my visit to Maine, but embellished the setting. I also used a little of the flavor of the old Dracula and Wolfman movies. I decided to throw in some demons and witches to make things more interesting and dangerous for Kyla and Nick. And an ancient curse figures prominently in the story. I tried to put myself in Nick’s place. In 1530, he was a noble Englishman, and then one foggy, evil night he was cursed to life as an immortal werewolf. How did that make him feel? I tried to portray his frustration, anger, and despair as he feels his humanness slipping away. And Kyla, so controlled, so sure of her powers, is suddenly thrust into a world where her powers are diminished. I asked myself how that made her feel, and what would I do in the same circumstances. Also, what would I do if made a vow to kill the man I love? Would I do it, or would I try to find a way out?

Do you have any authors that inspired you?

Jude Deveraux and Heather Graham are two. I love their books. Also, a writer named Elizabeth Howard, who wrote YA romances many years ago when I was a young teen. I even wrote to her once and said I wanted to be a writer, but didn’t own a typewriter (told you it was many years ago). Ms. Howard wrote back that I didn’t need a typewriter to be an author. I wish I’d saved that letter.

What do you feel is the most effective promotion you have done for your book?

Not sure yet. You know what they say about advertising: only half of it works, but no one knows which half.

What do we have to look forward next?

My romantic suspense novella, Murder, Mi Amore, from The Wild Rose Press, was released Dec. 15, 2010. Murder, Mi Amore is set almost entirely in Rome, Italy, and tells the story of an American, Lexie Cortese, who comes to Rome to forget a hurtful breakup and finds herself involved with murder, kidnappings, terrorists, jewel thieves and a hunky, mysterious Italian named Dominic Brioni who may or may not be involved in the things happening around her.

Thanks, Cara!

To celebrate her book release, Cara is offering a free e-book of Cursed Mates to one lucky commenter on today's blog. (please check the blog Monday night to see if you won. Chances of winning determined by the number of entries.)

We're also doing something different this year and you will get an extra entry if you are a follower fo this blog.

She will be around all day today. I'm sure some of you have questions or comments for her, so please ask away...


Cara Marsi is a former corporate drone and cubicle dweller with a romantic soul. She craves books with happy endings and loves to write about strong heroes and feisty heroines. She loves to put her characters in dangerous situations and see how they’ll get out. Cara has recently gone over to the dark side with her romantic suspense, Murder, Mi Amore, set in Rome, Italy, and involving murder, jewel thieves and terrorists. And she’s gone even darker with her paranormal romance, Cursed Mates.

She credits her love of romance to the old Thirties and Forties romantic comedies she watched on late night TV growing up. Cara is published in traditional romance, romantic suspense, paranormal romance, and has published numerous short romance stories in national magzines. Cara and her husband enjoy traveling and she loves to write about the places they've visited. They share their house with a fat black diva of a cat named Killer.

Check out author’s website at
Buy Cursed Mates:

Also available on Amazon Kindle. Buy Murder, Mi Amore:

Also available on Amazon Kindle.

Watch the video trailers for both books here:

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Writer's Tip

WRITER'S TIP from Bootcamp for Novelists

Conflict, Conflict, Conflict

Novels usually begin with an immediate initial problem which keeps the reader turning pages until the core conflict develops. How well a conflict builds depends on the inescapability of the struggle. Early conflicts are rarely strong enough to carry a full book, but as the characters get to know each other, new obstacles and deeper conflicts arise.

For a strong conflict to exist, you first need a concrete, specific goal. The goal must be crucial to your protagonists' belief in himself as a human being. It may be all in his mind, but he absolutely must believe it and that he will be destroyed emotionally, psychologically or physically if he doesn't achieve it.

In classic novel structure, stories will have both an external and an internal conflict. The internal (core) conflict is the one that carries the emotional impact. That's because the core conflict is related to the characters' deep-seated values, beliefs and fears - issues such as fear of commitment, abandonment, failure of past relationships. Core conflicts are internal and emotional in nature and must contain the emotional depth to sustain the book.

In a romance novel, the core conflict is the barrier that prevents the hero and heroine from falling in love and it must be resolved before they can have a successful relationship. In any novel, a core conflict should take the protagonists' deepest fear, twist it around and make it the worst it can be. A simple example might be: If your heroine fears abandonment, make sure the hero is in a high-risk job which may mean his life is in danger more often than most.

If you take care to know everything about your hero and heroine, especially their values and beliefs, you won't be tempted to twist them to fit the plot. Your characters will show you how they'll react in each and every situation. If you do this, the conflict will be real, the plot will work and the story will be successful.

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Writing New Year's Resolutions

New Year's Resolutions

The parties are over. The new year is here.
So...did you decide to make resolutions for 2011?
Or..did you give up because you always break them?
That was me. I usually broke them by the end of the week,
sometimes by the end of the day.

For years, the Desert Rose chapter of RWA
(Romance Writers of America) brought in a writer to
help guide us through the process of writing resolutions/goals.
Tina Gerow gives a wonderful speech on New Year's Resolutions.
(She is still in the hospital. Doing better, but could still use your
positive thoughts and/or prayers.)

Each year we wrote down our goals and
then placed them in an envelope to reread the following January.
Not once did I make my goal. Although I did create a copy
for myself, it usually ended up in a drawer.
Out of sight, out of mind.

I decided to try a new approach. These
are guidelines for myself, but feel free to try them if
you think they might work for you.

1. I WILL NOT write any resolution/goal that I have failed to
achieve many years before. (So no, losing weight will not
be on the list. If it happens, it happens, but no pressure.)
I believe adding a failed past resolution means you start the year
with a sense of defeat. We want to be optimistic.

2. Goal/resolutions must be obtainable. (Tina Gerow's advice.)
Saying you will be published or make a list is not something
you have total control over, unless you are in control of the
publishing process. For example, Tina owns her own
epub company so she can make this her goal. I don't, so I won't.
I do have control over how much I write, so that can be a goal/

3. Stretch yourself a little with your goals, but not so much you
experience negative feelings just thinking about your goal.

4. Start with "I will..." so you are telling yourself that this is something you WILL accomplish.

5. Keep a copy of your resolutions/goals where you can see them each day.

My Resolutions/Goals for 2011
I will:
* Finish final edits on current manuscript
*Submit to agents
*Plot next book
*Complete draft of next manuscript

I wanted to put "final draft" on this last one, but
I got a negative, pressured feeling. Although
that is what I plan to accomplish, I am not going to write
a negative feeling goal. I feel good about what
I have above and I believe placing this list
next to my plotting boards will inspire me to
move forward with a positive attitude. A positive
attitude means further progress in my case.

If you choose to write resolutions/goals, good luck to you.
Regardless, I wish all of you a wonderful new year!

Until next week,
Happy Writing!
Tina LaVon

Saturday, January 1, 2011

History of New Year's Day

January 1st is considered New Years Day in today's society. But this is a fairly new concept because up until the time of Julius Caesar, the Romans celebrated the New Year in March because it was the first month in the Roman calendar. However, January 1 marked the time when the Romans changed their governmental figures and new consuls were inducted into office. And, they had games and feasting to help celebrate the new officials. But, they still used March 1 as their official mark of the new year and had a festival to their god, Mars (God of War).

It was Caesar who changed the Roman New Year's Day to January 1 in honor of Janus, (God of all beginnings and gate keeper of heaven and earth). Janus was always depicted with two faces: One looking back to the old year (past) and one looking ahead to the new year (future). One of the customs in the festival honoring Janus was to exchange gifts and then make resolutions to be friendly and good to one another.

When Constantine ruled the Romans and accepted Christianity as their new faith, they kept the Festival of Janus as the New Years Day ( Not March as before) and turned it into a day of prayer and fasting and not parties etc. It was a day for all good Christians to turn over a new leaf. However, the Romans may have accepted January 1 and Janus as the New Year, but many did not accept the turning over a new leaf, prayer and fasting part of it.

However, even in 1582, Great Britian and the English colonies in America still kept March for the beginning of the year. (Spring as a beginning?) It wasn't until 1752 that Britian (and it's colonies) adopted the new Gregorian calendar and January 1 as the beginning of the year. But many Puritans in New England felt Janus was an offensive pagan god and chose to simply ignore January 1 as a New Years Day. Instead they just made the entire month of January as "The First Month" of the months.

And, today no one really considers January 1 a fasting day. Ironically, for many it is a major day of feasting on junk food and watching football games on television.

How did New Year's Resolutions all begin?

Once again, we go back to the wild and crazy parties of the ancient Romans. :) They indulged themselves in alcoholic and sexual excess as a way of acting out all the chaos that they hoped a new year would get rid of. So, the New Year's festival was a way to start over. By purging yourself of all this so-called excess energy and confessing your sins, there was a hope that you would be much better in the next year ahead.

Now, the Puritans never did approve of all this New Year's hoopla. So of course they went for this religious renewal of cleanse, purge, fast, confess idea. So they encouraged young people not to waste the new year on foolish things but to use it as an opportunity to make a good change in their lives for the good. So, like some Christians, they made New Year's vows or pledges focused on overcoming their own weaknesses, to enhance their god-given talents and to make them better citizens to others.

The custom of making New Year's Resolutions came into vogue in the 20th century. But most of it was done with jest and an understanding that they would not be kept (for long anyway) since humans were naturally backsliders by nature to their naughty habits and ways.

The resolutions today are simply a secular version of the religious vows made in the past toward spiritual perfection. They are often made with good intentions and broken with a sense of humor and renewed annually.