Fiction Writing and Other Oddities

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Shameless Promo for Smuggled Rose

Call me an idiot but I just realized I've never actually plugged my own book (or soon to be—books) on my very own blog. Guess it just seemed sort of "exhibitionist" or something. So while my next blog will be about a useful tip for writers (creating your basic press sheet), this week, I'm going to be shameless and promote my own book. I figure folks might like a small sampling of what they will get if they lay down their cash on, SMUGGLED ROSE. It's a Regency—which basically means it's set in the early part of the 19th century. Oh, and it's about a Lady rose smuggler who really wants to repair her reputation but isn't sure how to go about it. To her dismay, an earl decides to take matters into his own hands and drags her off to "enjoy" a Season in London. Neither one of them expects things to go as truly wrong as they do.

So here's a small teaser (basically, the blurb off the back cover) and an excerpt. I selected the passage which my editor indicated first made her "sit up and take notice". That's got to be good, right? It's the effect you're looking for, at any rate.

See what you think.

Back Cover Blurb

A cynical earl and a rose smuggler are an unlikely pair, particularly when the smuggler is a supposedly fallen woman the earl owes for saving his brother's life.

Nonetheless, Michael, the earl of Ramsgate, is determined to repay his family's debt by presenting Margaret at Court—an action calculated to repair even the worst reputation. But Margaret has been burned before and is suspicious that Michael's intentions aren't entirely honorable…despite the certainty in her heart that she can trust him.

As the tension between them flares and Michael's feelings for Margaret strain his self-control, an old enemy bent on revenge returns to challenge Michael's iron determination…and threatens to take Margaret away from him forever.



Without thought, he bent his head to her neck. A shock ran through him at her scent. Breathing harshly, he ran his mouth over the smooth, cool skin, tasting the soft flesh laced with an echo of lavender and rain.

She turned her head away. Her body, instead of relaxing under his touch, stiffened.

Michael raised his head and smiled at her. "Mistress, I won't harm you. We can both enjoy this if you stop struggling."

In response, she kicked him on the shin and twisted her hands to break his hold. He let her go, confused, and she jerked out of his reach.

The fire and single candle did not provide sufficient illumination for him to see her expression clearly, but she seemed almost abnormally composed and chillingly cold. However, her very control made her that much more desirable.

While he hesitated, she moved further into the shadows.

He stepped around the trunk at the foot of the bed. When he approached her, she reached out and plucked what appeared to be a small penknife from a writing table.

The gesture would have been ridiculously histrionic had it not been done in such a calm and calculating manner. Michael smiled, though he knew she could not read his face. The heat of the fire seeped into his back, leaving his face in cool shadow.

"Are you intending to kill me or yourself?" he asked sardonically.

"I can't decide. If I kill you, it'll be very difficult to explain one dead and one wounded Englishman." She paused as if considering the matter carefully. "Of course, I could simply throw your body into the Channel, but that's risky and the tides uncertain. It might inconveniently wash up upon my shore. I don't have a boat, you see, and it would be dreadfully awkward to borrow the Vicar's under the circumstances." She sighed mockingly. "Then there's your brother. I can't expect him to be particularly grateful if I murder you, though he'd inherit the earldom, wouldn't he?"

Nodding, he wondered if he was quick enough to grab the knife without risking a stabbing. It was unsettling to think of Edward celebrating his untimely demise. Michael wished she had not placed the thought in his head.

His brother loved him more than the earldom. Didn't he?

"Give me the knife." Michael held out his hand.

"Do you believe he'd object if I removed you? If so, I may need to ensure he doesn't recover, either. But then, two deaths are so frightfully bad form, aren't they? Not at all bon ton, though I'm sure I needn't worry about that."

"Damn it, just give me the blade. There are many much more pleasant ways to pass the night." She was making an ass of him and he did not find it at all amusing. He sighed. Why did his brother have to get himself shot on this difficult woman's doorstep? Why not in the yard of a comfortable tavern with plenty of wine, good food and buxom serving wenches?

"Your lordship may find this hard to comprehend, but I don't appreciate your suggestions. You don't know me."

"Ah, you're wrong, Miss Lane. You have a certain reputation…"

"Reputation?" She took a firmer grip on the knife as he edged closer. "You don't know—and please discontinue creeping about in that manner! I find it very difficult to hold any sort of a meaningful conversation with you when you insist on acting in this deplorable way. Have you no manners at all?"

Her tone pulled Michael up short. She sounded precisely like his mother when he arrived late for supper. If she screamed, or cried or behaved in any other acceptably hysterical female fashion, he would have been able to laugh at her. They could have both relaxed. As it was, he just felt rather naughty.

He was an adult, not an errant five-year-old, damn it!

"For the last time, put that knife down," he repeated testily. "I don't force myself on unwilling women."

"That's not at all the impression you gave me earlier. And, not to put too fine a point on it, doesn't your set make a habit of insisting your demands be met? Since when has a woman's willingness been a consideration?"

"Damn it, Miss Lane! I don't insist on anything except some sort of regard for personal safety. Now be reasonable."

He was surprised to hear a faint laugh and was thankful she could not see his face. He felt a hot flush rise up his throat and stain his cheeks.

"When faced with unreasonable behavior, the irrational is an effective recourse."

He snorted. The situation was just aggravating enough to tickle Michael with frustration. He examined her again, though the dim light revealed precious little.

She was attractive, but not overwhelmingly so. If anything, he should have been put off by her coldness and her obvious distaste for a man's touch, but her attitude inexplicably fueled the burning within him.

Her shawl had dropped to the floor during their struggle, and though she kept the neckline of her dress closed with one hand, she could not hide the contours of her shape beneath the thin material. His mouth remembered the fine texture of her skin. It glowed pearl white against the darkness. His heart hammered in his chest.

"Miss Lane," he said, his voice harsh.

"I should get back to your brother. Please hand me my shawl."

"Let me apologize." He was acting badly and impulsively, but he could not stop.

"No. Don't apologize. Hand me my shawl and let me pass."

He picked up the material and let it slip from finger to finger as he studied her. She hadn't dropped the knife, but how resolute was she? Would she truly kill him—or herself?


That's it—that's all you get. ;-)


Monday, March 24, 2008

The Wild Rose Press author: Jenny Gilliam

It is always a privilege to help out other authors, and I am thrilled to provide a tantalizing look at a book just released on March 21, 2008. Jenny Gilliam's THE WEDDING WAR is already garnering wonderful reviews. Her book is out now as an e-book from The Wild Rose Press and Fictionwise, and will be out later this year as a paperback. And she's been gracious enough to give me a blurb and excerpt from her book.

If you are interested in finding out more about Jenny, you can visit her on at: or at her website: .

So, without further fanfare, here is just a small taste of THE WEDDING WAR. I hope you will enjoy it!

Backcover Blurb

What happens when a fairytale-believing wedding planner and a jaded hot-rod builder who thinks love is nothing more than a chemical reaction end up on opposite sides of the aisle at the wedding of her best friend and his brother? A wedding war erupts.

Jake Ryan will do just about anything to keep his brother from making the same mistake he made. He's convinced there won't be a wedding because he's out to stop it. Mia Briscoe's determined this will be the most spectacular wedding she's ever planned. And when she discovers the groom's brother is out to break up the happy couple? The battle begins.

Jake and Mia have both suffered deep emotional wounds that prevent them from making lasting connections. And both are baffled by the intense feelings they bring out in each other. Can Mia teach Jake that love is something to cherish and not loathe? And if she can, will he be strong enough to bury his past so they can have a chance at a future together?


Oh, baby. Come to mama.

Mia Briscoe had never been one for flights of fancy, but the big, bruising man sprawled out in First Class seat 2B made her want to drop to her knees and thank nature for producing such a fine specimen.

If the long, muscular legs clad in soft denim were any indication, he had to be at least two or three inches over six feet. The jeans, worn in all the right places, drew her gaze to what promised to be an impressive package. His black T-shirt hugged thick, sinewy arms roped with muscle and stretched across a pair of well-defined pecs. A ball cap hid his face, but she sensed a firm, square jaw. He stared at a magazine that lay open in his lap, as his long, masculine fingers touched the page.

Mia told herself not to stare, but damn, how could she not when the man's body was so...mouth watering? She whimpered. She actually whimpered.

She'd never been affected by a man like this before. Not even in high school, when other girls swooned over rock and movie stars. To have this reaction here, on an airplane, of all places seemed...strange. And wonderful.

It took her mind off the fact that the last time she'd boarded an airplane it'd been to sit at the deathbed of the woman who'd raised her after her parents died in a car accident. She'd been thirteen. Aunt Eva took her in, loved her and guided her to make the right choices in life. Eleven months later, her aunt's absence still felt as raw as an open wound. Don't think about it.

Mia gathered herself, realizing she stood in the middle of the aisle salivating over a piece of man-candy. She glanced down at the boarding pass in her hand. 2B. Her eyes flickered to the bulkhead.

Wait a minute. Mr. Studly is in my seat!

Wow, she must have managed to repay one hell of a karmic debt, because good fortune shone on her today.

A coiffed and polished flight attendant gave Mia a plastic smile as she passed by. Mia looked back down at Mr. Studly, still engrossed in his magazine.

She cleared her throat.

No response. She tried a more direct approach. "Excuse me. I think you're in my seat."

He finally glanced up and Mia's heart all but stopped.

Oh, my.

Blue eyes, as deep as the crystal-clear waters of the Caribbean, stared up at her, an unreadable expression on his face. Intelligence shone in those gorgeous depths, and his dark brows pulled into a frown as he gave her face and body a slow perusal. Mia felt his gaze as if he'd touched her with those tough, masculine hands. She suppressed a shiver.

She'd been right about that square jaw. At eleven in the morning it showed signs of a heavy beard. His strong chin boasted a faint cleft. She'd always had a weak spot for a man with a strong chin with a faint cleft.

He broke eye contact, returning his attention to his magazine. "I'm not moving."


"I beg your pardon?" Mia asked.

"You heard me," he said, in a deep baritone.

"But…you're in my seat." She thrust her boarding pass under his nose. "See? It says right there. Seat 2B."

"I can read, sweetheart," he said, sending Mia's blood near boiling point.

Is this guy for real? A hunk of studly man-love he might be, but he had the manners of a garden rock. Wishing he had just kept his mouth shut, she drew up to her full five feet nine inches. "Are you sure about that?" she asked sweetly.

"Lady, I'm not gonna sit here arguing with you all day. You better sit your pretty little ass down or you're gonna be in for a rude awakening when we take off."

Of all the pigheaded, misogynistic things to say! Mia's blood pressure skyrocketed as a fine red mist gathered before her eyes.

Mia wasn't one to stand by while people trampled over her in order to get their way. No, sir. She was no one's doormat. And it infuriated her that this guy expected her to toe the line simply because he said so.

She planted her feet and propped a fist on her hip. "I'm not going anywhere. You're the one who should move."

He glanced at her and smirked. Why did the colossal jerk have to be so damn gorgeous? It wasn't fair.

"Not gonna happen," he drawled.

"The hell it's not."

One black brow lifted sardonically. "What are you gonna do? Tell on me?"

"You bet your ass I am." Mia spun on her heel and smacked into the Barbie-doll flight attendant she'd seen moments ago.

"Is there a problem?" she asked Mia.

"As a matter of fact, there is. This…this person" —she infused plenty of meaning into the word so there was no mistaking what she thought of squatters, "is in my seat." She shoved the boarding pass at the flight attendant, who stared at it as though Mia handed her a smelly sock. "It's right there. 2B." She whirled back on the interloper. "He's in my seat."

While it pleased her enormously to vent her frustration, Mia realized her behavior was a tad childish. True, the man occupying her seat had started this whole mess, but as an adult she should have risen above it. She ran a successful—okay, successful was stretching it—wedding planning business, for crying out loud. She dealt with disasters worse than this on a daily basis.

"Sir?" the flight attendant asked. "May I see your boarding pass?"

He smiled, the act transforming his entire face. Mia wasn't going to fall for his charming act this time. Uh-uh. No way. However, Airline Barbie was a different story. She looked ready to climb on his lap and take him for a ride. While she perused his boarding pass, he flicked a glance at Mia. And smirked.


"Sir, it does say here you're in 2A." She seemed disappointed.

He turned that megawatt smile back on Airline Barbie. "It's just I have this thing about planes," he explained, speaking to the flight attendant as if Mia had ceased to exist. "I have a real hard time flying as it is, so it helps if I sit in the aisle. I thought I was getting an aisle seat, so I just sat here."

"That's the biggest load of crap I've ever heard. You are not seriously going to believe him, are you? He's totally playing you." Mia huffed and folded her arms under her breasts.

Airline Barbie turned on Mia. "Ma'am, you need to calm down right now or I'm going to have you removed from the aircraft."

Mia's mouth hung open. Outrage sang through her blood, but logic and reason, temporarily out to lunch, decided to make a comeback.

"If he would have said that to begin with, I would have gladly given up my seat." There. She even managed to sound the teensiest bit contrite—though she spoke through clenched teeth. "He can have the stupid seat if he's afraid of flying. Okay? It's not that big a deal."

Mia's temper often landed her in situations such as this. However, had The Jerk explained his fear of flying in a calm and rational manner when she'd first spoken to him, she would have gladly traded seats. But, nooo, he had to be a big ol' butthead about it.

Really, The Jerk deserved Mia's ire.

Airline Barbie didn't look convinced. In fact, she and The Jerk shared a commiserating glance, as if Mia had lost her mind. She knew she fought a losing battle. And the hell of it was, she had to sit next to him for the next five hours.

Her first time in First Class, paid for by her best friend, whose wedding she would be planning for the next two weeks, and it had been ruined by a misogynistic pig who, quite unfairly, resembled a dark, delicious and seriously yummy god.

Well, crap. It appeared her good fortune had turned into a curse.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

E-book Reader Contest Open a Few More Days

For those who might have missed the contest a few of the Cerridwen authors are sponsoring, we're extending it until the end of this week! Yippee! There are details on my web page at: Check out the rules so that you can send in a winning entry. The clues were distributed each day during the contest period, but to make it easier for late entrants, I'm including all the clues for the "secret words" below.

Some folks have also expressed an interest in the Cerridwen Press Authors' blog (which also contains information about the contest). You can find the blog at:

In addition to collecting the secret words, please note that we have included a tiny picture of a tree, so you will want to note all the pages where you see the small tree. We also have a correction to "tree locations": Lise Fuller's icon is on her MySpace page at

And now, for the secret word location clues…

Day 1:

Amy Corwin writes Regencies (and dabbles in other genres, coming soon) -- check her BOOKS page at for the secret word of the day!

Day 2:

Micqui Miller's home page ( sends you to her books page where a secret word is sitting right on top of her guest book -- the word could be an male animal or it could be something we'd all like a lot of! Check it out!

Day 3:

Sometimes characters have a say in their own character development.  Read how Randy, hero of Finding Sarah, helped author Terry Odell.  And it won't cost you a thing to read it. (HINT: it's FREE).

Check her web site at for details.

Day 4:

Terri Thackston always puts this person first when she thinks about her next book. Go to her blog at and find out today's clue (this was posted on March 4).

Day 5:

Vicky Burkholder hangs out with these folks and brainstorms her great plots with them.  

Go to  and find today's word!

Day 6:

Check out Eilis Flynn's website in her reviews section. Her secret word points to generosity in action!

 http://www.coffeeon 1.htm

Day 7:

You can find This 'n' That at Sharon Horton's web site, including today's word.

Check it out at

Day 8:

We've got a poet today! Go to and solve this riddle:

'tis a four-letter word with an "m" and a "t", so stop by the lighthouse, look, and see.

Day 9:

Sam Cheever's website contains lots of surprises for readers. Check it out at!

Day 10:

She never knew when she grew up that she'd be writing romance for this publisher. Check out Jenyfer Matthews' bio page at her web site ( for today's secret clue.

Day 11:

Jude Atkins writes romantic suspense. They say a picture is worth a thousand words. Maybe you'll find that's true (and her picture) if you check her web page at

Day 12:

Karen likes fantasy and mystery along with her romance, but for Christmas get her a vampire. Please! Check for today's secret word.

Day 13:

Next to Chambord and champagne, Frances likes this best. Go to to find out the answer. After all, this and champagne go together!

Day 14

Liz Jasper's UNDERDEAD is now available in print, but her 2008 EPPIE Award nomination (and WINNER!!!) was for UNDERDEAD in this green version. Look for today's word in VERY BIG PINK TYPE at Liz's website

Day 15:

Mary Ann's Secret word has to do with her FOUR-footed friends, which is a big clue right there to the Secret Word. Check it out at

Now you have all the clues!

Gather up the location of the tree icons, your list of secret words, and send your entry to:

——At some point in the future, I'm hoping to sponsor another contest, so stay tuned!

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Writing Favors

After finally passing the two Microsoft exams to upgrade my Systems Engineer certification to Windows 2003 (in preparation for the upgrade to 2008) I was thinking that I could get back to writing. Not. Well, sort of not.

You see, I often volunteer to judge writing contests. I found contests very, very useful to help hone my skills before I got published and I like to help out with them now that I am published, to sort of give back to the community. So I'm trying to get those entries read, think about them, formulate some reasonable comments, and then return them.

One of the things I'm reminded of whenever I do this is how much you can learn from reading other people's writing. In fact, you can probably learn more from reading not-quite-publishable than you can from reading published work. If a pre-published author makes mistakes, they are usually easier to find and easier to see how you might fix them. And avoid similar mistakes in your own writing. I can't tell you how much I've learned this way.

I occasionally go back through my favorite books to try to extract similar how-to information, but a lot of my favorite authors are so good, it is nearly impossible to dissect their writing. It's too smooth and unobtrusive. In fact, it's often hard to read more than a sentence without getting hooked into the story and forgetting why you were looking that the writing, anyway. That is the mark of a very skilled writer. Their writing is so unobtrusive that it does not get in the way of the story. You get sucked into the characters and plot to the point where you almost can't even see the writing.

This is something that may be more true of popular, commercial fiction than literary fiction. Literary fiction often showcases the writer's way with words or poetic voice—sometimes sacrificing story for the writing form itself. Some speculative works also do this—where it's more about the style of the vehicle than about the message it carries. And that's cool. I've been known to really enjoy fiction that is "out there" and uses weird language or a strange style. It's fun.

But if you are writing commercial fiction, then as a writer, you really need to make one critical decision before you start: Is your voice and "way with words" more important than your story?

It's okay to answer yes. But if your voice or poetic style of writing is more important to you than the story, you need to be prepared for a hard sell. You may be writing literature—not commercial fiction. And maybe someday, they'll include your books in "English 101."

Anyway, I was reminded of this issue because of some of the contest entries I've been reviewing. At least two of them had very strong, distinctive voices. One was very poetic. Lovely, really. But the voice and poetry was louder than the story, so the story failed to grip me. I was enjoying the play with words—I could not have cared less about the characters or plot. And I realized after reading the first two chapters that there was no way I would ever read more than 50 pages or so. It was too tiring. Evocative, but tiring because you never got emotionally invested in the story. It was all pretty surface with no soul.

For a story to be compelling and gripping, the reader has to forget they are reading a story. They have to sink into it. And readers can't do that if they are constantly paying attention to the writing or if they have to stop and figure out what the writer "meant".

Unobtrusive. Smooth. That's what you're looking for when someone describes your writing. Don't make the reader go, "huh?" And don't let them see your technique. If they see your technique, they're not into the story.

So, I've got to get back to the contest entries.

Good luck and sweet dreams!