09-29 Maggie Lynch - Sweetwater Canyon series

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Writing My Way Home

by M. L. Buchman

"Write what you know!"

How many kajillion times have you heard that? It's a rule I've lived by...or maybe not. I started in post-apocalyptic science fiction. I wandered into thrillers set at a national TV food channel's studio (and dozens of others exotic locations I've never been to). Then I wandered into military romances (though I never served and they're set in places I've never been).

So, I've always pushed back on: "Write what you know!" with: "Write what you're passionate about!"

I wrote post-apoc SF because I am fascinated by the power of the people who find a way to stand up and try to save/rebuild the future. I write military romance because a) I love a good love story, and b) the more I research the military, the more amazing they become to me. Those who choose to serve, not as a job but as a career, are making an astonishing choice that took me a long time to understand. The more I understand, the more I am knocked back by these amazing men and women. They have driven me to do my best to show who they are.

I don't write the grittiness of war (not much, and certainly not the blood and grime), but I do everything I can to get their stories right. Why they are there. Why they choose to stay and why they miss it so much when they go.

My writing career has been a constant struggle to get it right. I typically research an hour for every three hours of writing. Still, despite over thirty military romances (not counting short stories).

This year I decided that I would write my second contemporary romance series. I have mentioned it from time to time over these last months, but it is the difference in the storytelling that I'm looking at today.

My Eagle Cove series is at the very center of "Write what you know." It is set in a small town on the Oregon Coast. My first visit to the Oregon Coast was over twenty-five years ago. I took a catered bicycling trip down the coast with a dozen others from all over the country. I was actually the most "local" of them all, only coming three hundred miles down from Seattle. We spent a week staying in nice B&Bs, eating great food, and bicycling the rugged hills and gorgeous beaches of the coast.

A few years later, I would travel this same route on a fully-loaded touring bike as the beginning of my solo, eighteen-month, bicycle tour around the world.

Fifteen years ago I was back, this time as a writer, for a two-week, deep-immersion class on the coast. Since that moment, the Oregon Coast has been an integral part of my life. I've come down for workshops, vacations, family trips, and, finally, to live. I'm now a full-time writer living in a small Oregon town.

The central coast, my favorite stretch of it, is 150 miles of beaches, wild forest, and small towns. The monster is barely ten thousand people (if you don't count the tens of thousands of tourists who descend every weekend).

So, I created the small fictitious town of Eagle Cove, which is drawn from a dozen different places along the stretch.

I have to pause here and say just HOW MUCH I love my job. I love the writing and the storytelling. I've fallen in love with enough of my characters that I don't understand how my wife isn't screamingly jealous (maybe it's because they aren't real...at least not to her!). As much as I enjoy writing the fast-paced romantic suspense... As much fun as it is to streak across the sky with the Night Stalkers and the Firehawks, or to slip in and out of dangerous locales with Delta Force... I was completely charmed by the easy days and friendly folk of Eagle Cove.

A contemporary romance has a pace about it that is as comfortable as a favorite chair by the fire on a cold, wet day. Really, it's the best analogy I can come up with. It's true for the writing process as well as the reading. By "Writing what I know" I managed to slip deeper into the stories. Unlike a romantic suspense, a contemporary romance hangs entirely on the characters. I'm not saying the former doesn't require great characters, but there's a razzle-dazzle there that doesn't exist in contemporary. It was a simple joy to write, rather than a challenge.

Even unlike my Angelo's Hearth contemporary series set in Seattle's Pike Place Market, Eagle Cove is a slice of life in a town that is slow-paced and quiet...except to the characters living there. To them, their small town is a whorl of events and emotions, some small...some as big as falling in love for the rest of your life.

My joy is writing romantic suspense...but this year I discovered that my heart dances down the beaches in Eagle Cove.

Want a taste of Eagle Cove? This story was the monthly free story on my website for a week in July. Now I'm making it exclusively free to readers of Romancing the Genres for one week more.

Just click HERE to download a free copy from BookFunnel.com. Do it now! This link expires in 7 days.

And if you never want to miss one of my monthly free stories, just sign up for my newsletter.

Enjoy the trip...I certainly did.

M. L. Buchman has over 50 novels and 30 short stories in print. His military romantic suspense books have been named Barnes & Noble and NPR “Top 5 of the year” and twice Booklist “Top 10 of the Year,” placing two titles on their “Top 101 Romances of the Last 10 Years” list. He has been nominated for the Reviewer’s Choice Award for “Top 10 Romantic Suspense of the Year” by RT Book Reviews and was a 2016 RWA RITA finalist. 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, and designed and built two houses. Somewhere along the way he also bicycled solo around the world.

He is now making his living as a full-time writer on the Oregon Coast with his beloved wife and is constantly amazed at what you can do with a degree in Geophysics. You may keep up with his writing and receive exclusive content by subscribing to his newsletter at:

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Celebrating Romance When Life Goes to Hell By Sarah Raplee

First published May 28, 2013
As a writer, I learned early on the value of celebrating romance when life goes to hell. During introductions at my first local chapter meeting of Romance Writers of America in West Des Moines, Iowa, a young woman’s story gave me a new perspective and pride in my newly-chosen career. I've heard similar stories over and over.

 “Reading romance helped me through my father dying of cancer. That’s why I decided to write romance novels. I want to do the same for other people,” she said. For that horrible year, romance stories were a great escape from the pain and grief that was her daily life. And the experience of finding love and happiness in the darkest of circumstances that reading romance offered gave her hope—which is always worth celebrating. Laughing through light-hearted romantic comedies lifted her spirits and offered a respite in which to renew her strength.

As a reader, I experienced the power of celebrating romance when my husband went from healthy and strong to the brink of death in twelve short hours. We were in the process of moving to a new home when our timid, neurotic housecat, Jasper, transformed into murderous Demon Spawn. 

In an effort to calm Jasper, we decided to put the confused and frightened fifteen-pound orange tabby into his cat carrier. To avoid getting scratched and clawed, Chuck made the mistake of grasping the cat’s front legs in one hand and his hind legs in the other and picking him up. Jasper just wasn’t the sort of cat you find on the television show, My Cat from Hell. That our cuddly pet would bite him never occurred to my husband.

But Jasper acted on pure animal instinct, defending himself from what seemed like attack with the deadly tools God had given him. He bit my husband’s hands and arms multiple times, going all the way through the ring finger on his left hand. Later, the ER doctor had to cut his gold wedding band in to places in order to remove the ring. 

Despite the cat’s efforts, Chuck got him into the cat carrier. Blood streamed from his wounds, but being a man, he refused to go to the emergency room. In spite of my protests, he insisted on washing the wounds himself with soap and water, pouring peroxide over them, stopping the bleeding, and then helping my sons finish loading the moving van. 

By the time the truck was unloaded and turned into the rental place, it was 11:30 pm and we were exhausted. His hands and arms hurt like the devil, but he was sure that was from being bit and moving things. We went to bed.

The next morning, he had a fever and two wide red streaks running up to his armpits. His fingers were swollen like sausages and he felt dizzy. He was too weak to fight going to the ER.

Turns out that, according to the hand surgeon who was called into the ER, 90% of cat bites get infected. For comparison, only 5% of dog bites do. Feline mouths harbor a nasty strain of bacteria. Anyone bitten by a cat should make a beeline for the nearest urgent care center or emergency room.
Chuck’s severe bite wounds were infused with millions of potentially-lethal bacteria who had multiplied overnight until the infections had spread almost to his heart. Reaching his heart would have been fatal. 

Microsurgery was performed on Chuck’s hand. Years later he still has no feeling in part of that finger. He spent five days in the hospital with IV antibiotics being pumped directly into his heart. He left the hospital on Christmas Eve with a portable pump and the IV still in him. I spent those five days on a bedside vigil alternating between praying and reading a romance novel. 

My faith gave me the strength to function. Celebrating romance kept me sane. 

Has celebrating romance helped you through a hellish situation?

Monday, September 26, 2016

Creating the Masks...and Taking Them Off

By Courtney Pierce

Whether verb, noun, metaphor, or backstory, writers love masks. When our characters wear them, either literally or figuratively, they create interesting layers that peel back to reveal their inner dimensions. Hidden agendas steel under the cloaks of our antagonists. Trauma damage prickles beneath the skin of our heroines. What lurks behind their expressions and nervous ticks drives tension and suspense, and even humor.

In my current trilogy series about the middle-age Dushane sisters, my protagonist is a romance writer. After thirty-two years of marriage, she suffered the loss of her husband from a hit-and-run accident. Olivia Novak smiles in public, shakes hands, and greets readers like a pro, but then obsessively hunts down white Suburbans to find the culprit. She hounds the police to report the description of every vehicle she finds and records the license number. She cleans like fiend and talks to her cat to ease the shrapnel of her loss and loneliness. Her two sisters, Lauren and Danny, have Olivia's number, the only ones allowed a peek behind her mask.

Digging below the surface of our characters is a hoot for both writers and readers. The page fills with secret information that drives us to write more, want more. That’s why I love trilogies. I can burrow into my characters’ motivations, wishes, and wants. I can’t go that deep in a mere three hundred pages.

By the third book (I’m finishing Indigo Legacy now), I get to sit back like a therapist with pad of paper in hand. I talk to the sisters, ask questions, and take notes for their file. And darned if they don’t spill their secrets to me as I write. I raise an eyebrow in surprise as they blurt out the ridiculous. I scowl when they teeter over the line of morality. These complex characters come alive, like real people I know.

I peer over my glasses. “Why did you say that to Lauren in that way, Olivia?”

“I don’t know. I just did,” she says to me and sniffs.

“Double-down on that, Olivia. You didn’t want your sister to know how insecure you feel, but you need to have all the answers.”

Olivia pulls her gaze from mine in a moment of silence. “Maybe. But Lauren needs to stand on her own two feet. I’ve been alone for five years.” She glances back at me, her expression defiant. “I don’t have a man at my side taking care of me. Everything I do, I have to do for myself.”

“Your sister’s alone too,” I say.

Olivia stares at her lap and twists the wedding band she still wears. “I know.”

“You should apologize.”

“I will. But not yet.”

And so it goes . . .

Gestures and glances. Fiddling with jewelry with whispered responses. Heart food for writers when we write these scenes, like a shot of CoQ-10. I live to bore under my characters’ skins, because I’m boring into mine. Masks are removed with these small moments that deserve a whole paragraph.

Relationships have masks too. Characters might keep the peace on the surface while churning with self-doubt or fear. Fear of being alone, of dying alone, and reaching beyond their comfort limits to make sure that doesn’t happen. Past hurts toxify their ability to be trustful and open, preventing them from risking rejection. They shrink back at a seemingly benign comment, triggering an ingrained reaction like Pavlov’s dog. Readers understand and empathize, and root for my heroine to conquer her demons.

These are the little things that make characters interesting and relatable. They keep readers turning the page. And I, as their creator, feel triumphant when I get my characters over the hump to unmask who they really are.

Courtney Pierce is a fiction writer living in Milwaukie, Oregon. She writes for baby boomers. By day, Courtney is an executive in the entertainment industry and uses her time in a theater seat to create stories that are filled with heart, humor and mystery. She has studied craft and storytelling at the Attic Institute and has completed the Hawthorne Fellows Program for writing and publishing. Active in the writing community, she is a board member of the Northwest Independent Writers Association and on the Advisory Council of the Independent Publishing Resource Center. She is a member of Willamette Writers, Pacific Northwest Writers Association, She Writes, and Sisters in Crime. The Executrix received the Library Journal Self-E recommendation seal. 

Check out all of Courtney's books at:
courtney-pierce.com and windtreepress.com. Both print and E-books are available through most major online retailers, including Amazon.com

The Dushane Sisters are back in Indigo LakeMore laughs, more tears...and more trouble. Protecting Mom's reputation might get the sisters killed―or give one of them the story she's been dying to live.

New York Times best-selling author Karen Karbo says, "Courtney Pierce spins a madcap tale of family grudges, sisterly love, unexpected romance, mysterious mobsters and dog love. Reading Indigo Lake is like drinking champagne with a chaser of Mountain Dew. Pure Delight."

Colorful characters come alive in Courtney's trilogy about the Dushane sisters. Beginning with The Executrixthree middle-age sisters find a manuscript for a murder mystery in their mother's safe after her death. Mom’s book gives them a whole new view of their mother and their future. Is it fiction . . . or truth? 

Get out the popcorn as the Dushane Sisters Trilogy comes to a scrumptious conclusion with Indigo Legacy. Due out in early 2017.

Saturday, September 24, 2016

The Way We Were.... Romance has Changed!

 By: Marcia King-Gamble

Like me on Facebook  http://bit.ly/1MlnrIS

 In the background are Locks of Love ...lovers names are engraved and the keys thrown into the ocean!

As a writer of contemporary romance, I’m amazed at just how far we’ve come. I grew up for the most part on St. Vincent; a  small British island, that back then, few people even heard of. We had two book stores on the island, so if you were a reader you read whatever was on those shelves.

At age six, I read Mills and Boon novels and hid them under my mattress. I was an early reader, thanks to my school teacher mom. She would later tell everyone she didn’t even know I was able to read. She’d take me with her to classes and apparently I was catching on. But back to the subject matter at hand.

Contemporary romance at that time consisted of a boy meet girl scenario, some kind of conflict ,(usually a third person vying for the hero’s attention,) and the only hint of  lust were a few chaste kisses. These kisses increased the woman’s heartbeat and made the guy’s manhood throb.

Flash forward several years, and here I am writing the stories that I grew up with, except, oh, my, how much these stories have changed.  Now there is sex! And not implied either.

My first publishing opportunity came with the launching of the multi-cultural market.  Prior to that, few people who looked like me were even on the covers. With the nineties things changed. Kensington Publishing launched their Arabesque and Encanto lines and held their breaths. Other publishing houses quickly followed suit when they realized there was money to be made and the market couldn’t get enough.  They were shortsighted in that, they only marketed these books to the  African American and Latino community, not realizing that a good book is a good book, whether the faces on the cover are yellow, white or black. 

Back then Erotic or Erotica novels were something you did not read in public, or if you did, the book jacket was covered. I remember when books like Lolita and Lady Chatterley’s Lover were considered scandalous and only a 'harlot' read them in private or public.  Now today’s heat level would make even an exotic dancer blush. 

Today’s readers want it hot, hot. Readers for the most part want their sex, raw and explicit, although there has to be some romance driving that sex.  Readers want to read about both parties enjoying sex not women being taken, as had often been portrayed in the romances of the sixties, seventies and even eighties. Readers want to explore and maybe learn about something other than the missionary position.    Look at the success of Fifty Shades of Grey.

Contemporary romance also has hero and heroine meeting in unusual ways, just like people meet today….online... in coffee bars and in Internet cafes.  Heroines also have a multitude of careers. Gone are the days when the heroine was usually a nurse or nanny. Today she is the CEO and the hero might just be working for her. In Come Fall, one of my less known books, the heroine is accused by a subordinate of sexual harassment. How’s that for a flip?

Long gone are the romance novels that are completely vanilla, although the Inspirational Market, which is hugely popular, and very faith based, prefers sex not to happen without benefit of marriage.  But boy still meets girl and conflict happens. 

Romance today can take place on an alternate universe and love can happen between vampires, werewolves and shapeshifters. There are elements of suspense in romances and gruesome mysteries to be solved.  But the one thing that has not changed is that a satisfying ending must happen, and true love will prevail.

Contemporary romance has changed for the better.      

Friday, September 23, 2016

A Mask for Meetings?

By Linda Lovely

I need a mask.

I haven’t worn one since grade school when we went Halloween trick-or-treating, making sure to hit Mrs. Bradley’s house early before she ran out of homemade caramels.

No, I don’t want a mask for Halloween 2016. I need one to wear at certain meetings I force myself to attend—meetings that often leave me too irritated to sleep. 

After contemplating this month’s blog topic—masks—I realized one might come in very handy for mandatory attendance events that force me to interact with (or at least listen to) people I believe to be total hypocrites, bullies, or arrogant buttheads.

My problem is I tend to show exactly what I think in such encounters. I know folks who can smile sweetly while face-to-face with someone they despise and then ridicule or curse that person the minute she’s out of hearing range. Other people can appear as serene and blank-faced as a Buddha while listening to someone tell lies or exaggerate to  make their point.

Not me. I’ve tried. Even when I know it’s in my best interests to mask my feelings, I typically fail. Maybe I’m missing some mystery gene that would let me command my facial muscles to smile when my heart and gut are telling me to narrow my eyes and glare.

For better or worse, one look at my face usually tells people everything they want (or don’t want) to know about my mood—joyful, angry, sad, excited, bored, disgusted. Of course, I do have a neutral expression. It usually indicates I’m napping.

My inability to mask my own feelings leads me to be fascinated by the chameleons I encounter who can change their colors at will and react in whatever manner they think will gain them the best advantage with any audience or situation. I study these individuals in real life for a very good reason—they make exceptional villains in fiction.

Guess that’s another reason to attend those meetings I dread. Great research for characters.

Can you mask your feelings? If so, what’s your secret? 

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Masks and Victorian Attitudes

All month, Genre-istas have written about masks: insights, motivations, purposes, self-disclosures, cultural elements, and so much more. I've enjoyed broadening my horizons through the eyes of each contributor.

Several of my fellow Genre-istas mentioned masks as a self-protection of an emotional kind. Masks that safeguard and protect, hide the emotional and internal upheavals that are too private to announce. After all, so many of us have been trained from childhood to politely ask "How are you?"--and also taught that 99%+ of those who ask don't really want to know.

As I considered what, if anything, I might add to this well-developed conversation, I looked at the subject of masks through my own ever-present lens: Victorian Era. I'm forever researching nineteenth century attitudes, prevailing societal norms, etc. to ensure my fiction set in the Victorian American West is accurate. Because I write sweet romance, nineteenth century (American) courtship expectations are an ideal focus. I wasn't all that surprised to see human nature really hasn't changed--nor has the American outlook on proper length of getting-to-know-you before tying the knot. Most of all, we recognize dating/courting couples have a mask of sorts--the "dating face", "putting our best foot forward", on our best behavior and all that good stuff, to ensure we don't sabotage a new relationship before it begins.

The following true-to-history excerpt comes from Marriage and the Duties of the Marriage relations, in a Series of Six Lectures, addressed to Youth, and the Young in Married Life by George W. Quinby, published in 1852.
Beware of hasty engagements and hasty marriages... Many a young man and young woman may appear well outwardly; yea, exceedingly beautiful and captivating--especially on a slight acquaintance--while inwardly they are all rottenness and deception.
When young persons--utter strangers--are thrown together as I have described--fall in love--are hastily engaged and hastily married--how can they reasonably expect to know any thing concerning the real character and disposition of each other? Instead of this, every thing is unfavorable to such knowledge. Their courtship is brief and quite all deception. They present only the favorable side in each other's presence. They listen only to the most captivating tones--to "sweet words of undying affection;" for these only are spoken. Every look and every movement is artificial. Thus is the real character of each hidden from the other--not designedly, perhaps--and the parties are deceived.
...in nearly every instance of marriage under similar circumstances, the match proves unfortunate and very unhappy. The parties become sensible they were deceived--criminations and recriminations pass between them--quarrels ensue, and alienation and wretchedness are the consequences.
Another precaution which must be exercised by both parties, in the choice of a companion, that a correct judgement be formed, is not to rely on ball room and other deceptive appearances.
...A prettily painted "piece of artificial workmanship," elegantly dressed and moving with the grace of a sylph in the merry dance, is very fascinating... but let him be cautious. When he marries he should connect himself with a wife; this is what he needs--not a ball room automaton.
Could he follow this charming creature to the place of her abode, hear her coarse words of complaint if vexed, and witness her in the morning with disheveled hair, disordered dress, and pale, haggard, dissatisfied countenance, the golden hues of his thoughts would vanish, the palpitations of his heart cease, and every idea of matrimony be driven from his head.
The entire text is available online:
  1. Archive.org
  2. Forgotten Books
  3. Google
  4. National Public Library
  5. Amazon

Hi! I'm Kristin Holt.
I write frequent articles (or view recent posts easily on my Home Page, scroll down) about the nineteenth century American west–every subject of possible interest to readers, amateur historians, authors…as all of these tidbits surfaced while researching for my books. I also blog monthly at Sweet Americana Sweethearts (first Friday of each month) and Romancing the Genres (third Tuesday of each Month).

I love to hear from readers! Please drop me a note. Or find me on Facebook.

Copyright © 2016 Kristin Holt LC

Monday, September 19, 2016

The Writer And Her Mask

by Michelle Monkou

God hath given you one face, and you make yourselves another. - Hamlet, Shakespeare.

How true is this quote on this day and life of anyone on social media, especially for us, authors. You see, in addition to writing books, we have the marketing side to our business that requires significant amount of time on the Internet, and on just about every major social media site.

We learn to navigate through digital streams of information with the public in a way that fulfills the likability factor but still maintains a level of privacy. At the Romance Book Summit held this summer in San Diego, one of the workshops shared that the reasons for purchases are led by (1) liking the author, (2) then by topic or subject, (3) then for series reading.

Getting readers to like us takes work. And for the introverts like me it's a monumental commitment to  open up. But then here is where the mask becomes a tool to bridge the discomfort. And so for any given day, I'm neutral on most subjects. I'm cheery with my support for authors and their books or endeavors. And I aim for upbeat and hopeful for my writing or personal posts. Occasionally I may have a rant about a mundane topic, but I have no emotional investment to escalate my sarcasm.

It takes effort to keep that mask of likability in place. Doesn't take much for the mask to slip off and then those moments become the viral hit because the less than stellar behavior of an author is revealed. But most of us are generally charming and approachable keeping any crankiness away from public eye.

Thankfully, I can keep my wits together and stay along the center of the lane.

In the world of fiction, I can play with the motif of the mask. In To Charm A Billionaire, Damien--the hero--wears his mask to hide his vulnerability. That need to keep parts of him a secret has consequences and not to his benefit. Taking off the mask sometimes takes courage to trust that the real you will be accepted or faith that eventually you will be accepted. Part of Damien's journey is not to rely on that mask--quite the learning process.

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