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April 25 - Linda Lovely

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Saturday, April 25, 2015

Small Town Settings-Big Author Challenges

By Linda Lovely

I write romantic suspense and mysteries with romantic elements. My choice of setting—large city or small town—plays a large part in shaping each of my novels. Of the five books I’ve published to date, all but one feature small towns—well, actually small communities, which is slightly different.

My decision about setting is driven by two factors—familiarity and plot. Since I’ve lived in smaller communities most of my life, I have a good grasp of their social fabric and how things work, including who has power/clout and how it can be used for good or evil. This helps me construct credible plots that are intimate and personal.

In big-city thrillers, the villains (and heroines) tend to be individuals we’re unlikely to meet face-to-face. I find plots far more compelling if the villains could be signing my paycheck or passing the collection plate at church. I’m also more passionate about rooting for heroines and heroes who sound a lot like next-door neighbors who share my everyday joys and troubles.

That’s not to say there aren’t problems writing small-town fiction. Here are three biggies:
  • Accuracy & Research. If your fiction is set current day in a “real” small town, you’d better be committed to doing solid research. You also have to expect disconnects between your research and readers’ experiences. The trendy restaurant where your heroine hangs out may have gone belly up by the time your reader visits it on the written page. The woods where you have a crucial chase scene may be leveled to make way for a used car dealership. Streets may be renamed. Courthouses may be moved. The list is endless.
  • Permission If you plan to include real institutions and commercial entities in your book, seek written permission if there’s any chance someone might think the mentions put them in an unflattering light. An example? Saying your heroine is poisoned at her favorite restaurant—even if the villain (who has no association with the eatery) slips in the poison while your heroine visits the ladies’ room. Still most restauranteurs would not want “poison” and their business name coupled in the same paragraph. 
  • Unintended Slurs. Okay, we’re talking fiction, but that doesn’t mean “real” police officers, sheriff’s deputies, bankers, preachers, developers, university presidents, or entrepreneurs who reside in your real burg won’t see the depiction of any unsavory characters in their professions or institutions as being a potential slap in the face.  


So, how can an author solve these problems? Here’s what I’ve done on a book-by-book basis.

DEAR KILLER: I lived on a barrier island outside Beaufort, South Carolina, for a dozen years. I wanted to capture the special flavor of the Lowcountry and life in a small residential/resort community. However, I didn’t want to use any real island since the plot included less than admirable characters in the island’s power structure. My solution? Fictional Dear Island, a composite of several islands. I located it near Beaufort, but in a fictional adjacent county. This compromise allows my characters to visit many favorite tourist spots in Beaufort, Hilton Head, and Charleston without the risk of accidentally impugning anyone’s reputation.  

NO WAKE ZONE: My second Marley Clark mystery is set in Spirit Lake/Lake Okoboji, Iowa. I love this real community, having spent many wonderful summers there with my aunt, uncle and cousins. There’s a statue of my late cousin Steve Kennedy on the waterfront, honoring his contributions to the area. I collaborated on the history of the area with Steve. After he died, I asked for special permission to include the Queen II excursion boat, the Iowa Great Lakes Maritime Museum, and Arnolds Park, a century-plus old amusement park, in the plot. It’s worked out beautifully.
DEAD HUNT: This is the second romantic thriller in my “Smart Women, Dumb Luck” series. I now live in Upstate South Carolina, and wanted to incorporate real and very special Foothills wilderness locations and state parks in this plot. However, I once again decided on a fictional town and county. In this case, the heroine is head of security for a private university, and I didn’t want to associate threats with any real university so I created fictional Blue Ridge University.  

LIES:  Unlike my prior novels, this romantic suspense is not set current day. It takes place in 1938 in a real Mississippi River town, Keokuk, Iowa (my hometown). While I did considerable research to make things as accurate as possible, I also asked two librarian/historians to review the manuscript for accuracy. While I attempted to get most things “right,” I did create a fictional bank to avoid maligning the history of any current institutions. At the suggestion of one of the reviewers, I’ve also changed the names of a couple of my fictional characters to avoid any possibility of offense. For example, I had no idea that the name I picked for one of my characters was the owner of a bank in 1938 and his relatives still live in the town. LIES is set for release this summer.

If you’d like to know more about my settings or my writing process, please visit my website— www.lindalovely.com —or add in any comment here that you’d like to receive my newsletter. Don’t worry, you won’t be inundated. I tend to send an average of one newsletter a year!  


Friday, April 24, 2015

HOPE CAN BE A SLIPPERY LITTLE DEVIL

By Linda Lovely

“There is a crack in everything.
That's how the light gets in.” 
 
Leonard Cohen, Selected Poems, 1956-1968

This month’s blog theme is hope—a slippery little devil that seems hardest to grasp when we need its restorative powers most. I must admit I’ve all but abandoned hope of finding an amicable solution to a controversy that has me sleeping too little and worrying too much. In this instance, hope eludes me because so many elements are beyond my control.

So what does that say about hope? Let’s pretend my fondest hope is that a leopard will change its spots. Not going to happen. About the only folks who might realistically expect that hope to come to fruition are brave beauticians armed with stun guns and hair dye or, perhaps, geneticists willing to play with DNA in order to alter spots in future generations of leopards.  

This scenario relates directly to both my personal frustration and the turmoil and troubles my heroine encounters in my newest—soon-to-be-released—romantic suspense novel. I think we all need hope. So once it appears a given situation—or at least one aspect of it—is hopeless, I simply transfer my hope elsewhere. I look for a crack in the gloom, a place where a sliver of light can let a new hope take root, a place where there’s a possibility, however slim, that my actions can influence the outcome.

It’s no surprise my fictional heroines react the same way I do when all hope seems lost. They search for those cracks where even a trickle of light shines through. My new suspense novel is set in 1938 Keokuk, Iowa. While I grew up in Keokuk, I’m happy to say the story unfolds long before I was born. Because the book is set during the Great Depression, a number of editors have told me it runs the risk of getting labeled as “depressing” before anyone read page one. That would be a shame since the exact opposite is true. This romantic suspense is uplifting because the heroine doesn’t lose hope for a better tomorrow. She finds ways to live, laugh, and love despite seemingly insurmountable obstacles and dangers she is powerless to change—economic hardships and a few other tiny problems like a police chief determined to frame her for her estranged husband’s death and a faceless foe who wants to kill her and her two-year-old son. Of course, you’ll have to read the book to find out where she finds cracks in the gloom and how she pins her hopes on things she can influence with her own talents and determination.
  

I think this is my best novel, my favorite so far. Will it become one of your favorites, too? I guess I can say I “hope” so, since I’ve already done all I can to make that outcome a reality. The title is LIES. Release date will be early summer.

Thursday, April 23, 2015

STORIES THE HISTORY BOOKS NEVER TOLD - WW1 CENTENARY - MARGARET TANNER

WORLD WAR 1 CENTENARY - MARGARET TANNER
As this is the Centenary of WW1, I thought this would be appropriate.

In a few days time, it will be April 25th. April the 25th is ANZAC Day, commemorated in Australia and New Zealand.

On the 25th April 1915, Australian and New Zealand Forces (later to be known as ANZACS) Landed on the beaches of Gallipoli in Turkey. It was our baptism of fire, but no-one could have envisaged the sheer carnage, the bravery, or that this place would be embedded in the minds of Australians and New Zealanders for a hundred years. Without exaggeration, ANZAC Day is one of our truly sacred days. It is said we won our nationhood on the bloody beaches of Gallipoli, where the Aegean Sea turned red with our blood.

A few years ago my husband and I also visited Gallipoli, a place I have always wanted to see, and I wasn’t disappointed. ANZAC Cove was different to what I expected, much smaller. At the Lone Pine memorial we found the name of one of my Dad’s relatives, as this boy has no known grave.  It is really quite a sad story. He came out to Australia from England with his two older brothers in about 1910. When the war broke out, he wanted to enlist but was under age. His older brother refused to give his consent, so he approached his other brother who signed the consent papers for him. A few months later he was dead. How sad is that? It tore the family apart, the older brother blaming the other brother for signing the consent papers which turned out to be a death warrant.

We also visited the battlefields and cemeteries on the Western front with our son.

Our pilgrimage commenced in Amiens where we were met by our guide Colin who runs tours of the French and Belgium battlefields. Colin is an Englishman, who with his wife also run a B & B situated on the battlefields at Pozieres. We stayed there for 2 nights, while we told him what we wanted to see.  He was virtually our private guide.

It was an eerie feeling sleeping on the battlefields. I didn’t see any ghosts but I am sure there were some restless spirits floating around.

Colin had a wealth of knowledge regarding the battlefields. You would have to say he was obsessed with it. Using war time trench maps, and the information we gave him, he was able to point to within a hundred yards or so, where my grandfather’s cousin (on my mother’s side), was wounded, on The Somme battlefield in April 1917. Chills ran down my spine, I felt as if a hand was gripping me from the grave.

After being wounded this soldier was picked up by a field ambulance unit, taken to a Casualty Clearing station, and then put on an ambulance train and finally he was admitted to a large military hospital in Rouen where sadly he died a few days later.

We made our own way up to Rouen and found our relative’s grave. He left behind a wife and two small children. And here is a really sad thing, in about 1920, his little girl was killed in an accident. I mean, how could that woman bear so much? Husband killed in the war, and her child dying a few years later?

These are the stories that the history books never tell so they are all the more poignant in my opinion.

Margaret Tanner writes historical war time fiction as well as historical romance.
 
THE LOVES WE LEFT BEHIND – SPECIAL WORLD WAR 1 CENTENARY EDITION
 A three novel collection, depicting the tragedy and triumph of three different women during World War 1.
A hundred years ago, from the far flung corners of the British Empire, young men rushed to fight for Mother England. They left their wives and sweethearts behind. Many of these brave women waited in vain for their men folk to return. How did they cope with the loss and heartache? Could they ever hope to find happiness with another man? Three full novels, each telling a brave young woman’s story of triumph over tragedy and adversity. Allison’s War, Daring Masquerade and Lauren’s Dilemma.

 
 



 

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Giving Back - military romance style

by M. L. Buchman

Sometimes you get a chance to give back and sometimes you get a chance to pay forward. I think it is an interesting difference.

Years ago I asked my writing mentor, a very successful writer with over a hundred novels in print and many appearances on many lists, what could I possibly do for him in thanks for all he had done for me?

"Nothing."

"Uh..."

"What you can do is pay forward. Help a writer who is anywhere on the path behind you." And I have done my best to pay forward whenever the opportunity arises.

It is also one of the reasons I tell the kind of stories that I do, whether in my military romantic suspense Night Stalkers series or in a whole different genre like my Dead Chef thrillers. The single unifying theme of all my writing is to Champion the Human Spirit. I always seek to write stories that uplift us and show some of the wonderful things I see in the world. One of the strongest themes for me has become honoring those who choose to serve in the U.S. Armed Forces. I make no judgment as to what they are sent to do, but in turn am constantly awed by what they do in that service.

However, every now and then, I get a rare opportunity to pay back as well. For my writing mentor, who has long since become my friend, it is typically help with a particularly odd piece of software (I was a computer geek for many years).

But how could I ever pay back those who serve to protect our country and keep what peace is possible? The opportunity came up when I was invited into an anthology to help benefit the Wounded Warrior Project. Eight authors and the publisher Sourcebooks have collaborated on an anthology and all proceeds are being donated to the WWP.

The Way of the Warrior is filled with a brand new Night Stalkers tale by myself, a Troubleshooters, Inc. tale by Suzanne Brockmann, and more by Julie Ann Walker, Catherine Mann, and others. Stories of survival, of teamwork, and always of finding true love. Please, buy a copy (8 novellas in 472pp also equals a great investment in reading pleasure as well) or donate directly to the WWP, I know of no worthier cause and am thrilled at this opportunity to pay back.

Available for pre-order now (May 5th release).

M. L. Buchman has over 35 novels in print. His military romantic suspense books have been named Barnes & Noble and NPR “Top 5 of the year” and Booklist “Top 10 of the Year.” He has been nominated for the Reviewer’s Choice Award for “Top 10 Romantic Suspense of 2014” by RT Book Reviews. In addition to romance, he also writes thrillers, fantasy, and science fiction.


In among his career as a corporate project manager he has: rebuilt and single-handed a fifty-foot sailboat, both flown and jumped out of airplanes, designed and built two houses, and bicycled solo around the world. He is now making his living as a full-time writer on the Oregon Coast with his beloved wife. He is constantly amazed at what you can do with a degree in Geophysics. You may keep up with his writing by subscribing to his newsletter at www.mlbuchman.com.

Monday, April 20, 2015

Hope By Any Other Name

Our blog theme this month is hope, and my fellow Genre-istas have already posted a lot of great thoughts and insights on this topic.

For me, hope is among the defining qualities of life. In fact, the meaning of my name – Nadine, derived from the Russian Nadezhda – means hope, and there couldn't be a better way to explain my way of looking at life. But when I think about my personal definition of hope, it goes beyond simply wishing for a certain outcome. The best description I can think of is confidence/trust.

Whenever I hope for something, I find I have this basic, unshakable trust that, in the end, everything will somehow work out. That there will always be better times around the corner, and that, even if things didn't turn out as I wished them to, something good will still come of it all. No matter how hard life knocks me down, after granting myself a brief moment of wallowing in misery, I always bounce back up, filled with this trusting hope that things will get better.

It is this faith that is at the foundation of all romance novels, too. Fellow Genre-ista Kris Tualla made a case earlier this month that romance authors are the champions of hope, and I couldn't agree more. I guess this is what drew me to the genre and keeps me picking up new romances time after time. Especially in moments when my own hope/confidence/trust may be bruised by life for a short while.

I am proud to write books that are based on hope, to give readers out there a shot of confidence/trust with the stories I tell. My upcoming novel, Blood, Pain, and Pleasure (available May 28), has the heroine Merle searching for her abducted sister against staggering odds. Through it all, she never loses hope/confidence/trust that, in the end, she will succeed and save her sister's life. While falling in love with the demon helping her find her sister, she also carries hope for the impossible – that she can keep the man she loves, even if everything points to the opposite.


When seduction weaves a spell more powerful than magic...

Desperate to save her demon-abducted sister, witch Merle MacKenna breaks the law of her Elders. As a last resort to track down the kidnapper, she unleashes another demon, Rhun, from the magical prison of the Shadows. Determined to bind him again after he helps her, Merle vows to keep him tightly controlled. Easier said than done when her own personal demon is hellbent on charming his way into her pants – and her heart.

After twenty years in the Shadows, bound for a crime he didn’t commit, Rhun is past caring about anyone but himself. The plan: Seduce the sexy witch, steal her powers, break the magical leash to her, and then be on his merry way. But when a heinous betrayal in the ranks of the witches forces Merle and Rhun to work even closer together, Rhun’s plan backfires – and the witch he meant to play gets under his skin. With his unbidden feelings for Merle vying with his need for freedom, he struggles with a bitter realization: Being a selfish bastard is a lot harder when love is involved.

Stop by my website for more information on Blood, Pain, and Pleasure, pre-order and newsletter signup.

Saturday, April 18, 2015

The Lure of Small Towns by Kate Curran and A GIVEAWAY!

What intrigues me about small towns? For starters, I’m a fourth-generation small-town girl, born and bred.
Living in the boondocks has its advantages. Small towns are intimate. The clerks in the grocery store, post office, and florist know you by name. You know your neighbor and probably grew up with them.
Where I live, there are four stoplights and the first didn't arrive until the 1990s. Murders are rare, schools are small and gossip is a given.
But, there are definitely tradeoffs to living in the sticks. Shopping amounts to a dollar store and grocery store. Choices for dining out are: Mexican, pizza or burgers. Entertainment is slim to none. Everything else including movies, is a thirty minute drive.
You don’t need a smartphone to broadcast everyone’s business. You only have to walk into the local coffee house or beauty parlor to hear the latest scoop. If you’ve lived in a small town long enough there will always be someone to retell your most embarrassing moment and embellish it in far greater detail than any YouTube video.
On the plus side, people are there for you when life turns sour and celebrate with you when everything is coming up daisies. They are your tribe, your community, your merry band of brothers and sisters.
I find places like Cicely, Alaska, and Stars Hollow, Connecticut, in Gilmore Girls very appealing. There is a charm, a bit of magic, and a sense of time moving slower in these places—a nirvana of sorts—that leaves a permanent stamp in my memory. A place where problems, for the most part, are solved within the constraints of a sixty-minute television show. Real life, in comparison, isn’t so tidy. 
Feeling connected to a small town lures me in. I can’t resist the temptation to pedal my bicycle down a tree-shaded lane, or to stroll down Main Street lined with wrought iron street lamps and brick sidewalks. I’m overwhelmed by the urge to grab a mocha at the cozy coffee house on the corner, sit at the umbrella-topped table and soak in sunshine on a warm spring afternoon.
KATE CURRAN

What about you? Do you have a favorite small town?
The first three to leave a comment about your favorite small town from television, books or real life wins a copy of Falling For You...Again, set in the small northern Idaho town of Paradise Falls. 
***Be sure to include your email address in your comment!
Book two of the Falling in Love series will be out in 2016.
Kate’s newest release, Leave Me Breathless, is set in Conspiracy, a small northern California coastal town.
Kate loves and writes contemporary fiction set in small towns that are deeply emotional, feel good stories, finding inspiration from movies, songs or her very own happily-ever-after.

Friday, April 17, 2015

Hope Isn't Enough

Hello! I'm Pippa Jay, author of scifi and the supernatural with a romantic soul. And this month I had to think up a blog post on hope. Hmm...

I hope for a lot of things in life. I hope that my books will do well and people will buy and like them. I hope my family will live long and prosper, and that we never have to face heartbreaking decisions or great tragedies. I hope somebody will read this blog post!

But hope isn't enough. If there are things you want, you also have to work for them. I believe in luck and fate, but I also know you can't just sit back and wait for things to happen - you have to put some effort into them and hope that good things will follow (because no matter how hard you work, sometimes it just doesn't pay off). After 2014 got off to a really bad start for me on both the personal and publishing side, I was almost ready to quit the whole writing/publishing thing. I didn't. For one thing I'm too stubborn (and being stubborn, or perhaps determined is a better word, is one key characteristic you need to make it as a published author). One quote I always use when asked what advice I'd give an aspiring author is from the comic scifi film Galaxy Quest, used by Commander Quincy Taggart: "Never give up, never surrender!" Sometimes that's the only thing that has kept me going when things were tough.

So rather than pinning my hopes on...well, hope..., I do what I can to ensure my hopes become reality. I write the best books that I can, and pay out for good editing and cover art on those I self publish. I make sure my family eat healthily, get some exercise and fresh air, and see the doctor whenever something doesn't seem right. We have back up plans and a bit of money put aside in case of emergencies. Aside from that, you can only hope because we can't control everything in life. But I don't rely on it to fulfill all my dreams.

What do you hope for?

In the meantime, I hope you'll check out my books at my website - psst, I have a new release on the 22nd, my YA dystopia Zombie Girl: Dead Awakened - and my EPIC finalist YA scifi adventure Gethyon is 25% off at CoffeeTimeRomance for the whole of April. Enjoy!