Fiction Writing and Other Oddities

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Plotting a Mystery When You're Not a Plotter

Guest Blogger: Karen McCullough
I an absolutely thrilled to have mystery writer Karen McCullough on my blog today as I adore mysteries. I'm anxious to read what she has to say about plotting mysteries, so I won't waste any more time...

Plotting a Mystery When You’re Not a Plotter

When it comes to writing a novel, writers tend to divide into two camps, the plotters and the pantsers. The plotters generally outline the story in some detail, from beginning to end, and do character charts or plot diagrams before they start writing. Pantsers get a good idea and sit down to start writing. Hence the term “pantsers.” They write by the seat of their pants.

Of course those are two extremes and most writers actually tend toward one side or the other but not necessarily all the way. Not all plotters do extensive character charts and not all pantsers fly into the mist without a clue about the story line.

It seems like a given that mystery novels benefit from the plotter approach. Don’t you have to know the answer to the puzzle to plant all the right clues in the right places?

My personal answer is yes—sort of. I generally describe myself as a pantser. I prefer not to know too much about a story when I start writing it. I’ll generally have a good idea of how it starts and how it ends, with a few ideas about what comes in between. I usually know enough to be able to write an outline for my editor, but just the bare bones of the structure. I once wrote a long, detailed outline for a story, but by the time I finished it, I’d lost all interest in actually writing the novel.

But mysteries do require careful construction. You do have to place the clues carefully, interspersed with an appropriate bunch of red herrings. The characters have to be right for the story and behave in believable ways. How can you do that when you don’t start with knowing all the intricacies?

No two writers do things exactly the same way, but I’ve developed a technique that works for me. I start with a general idea of how the story begins, usually the finding of a body or setting up the conflict that will result in a crime. I usually have a pretty good idea who the guilty party will turn out to be. And I know who my detective will be, and why he or she has an important stake in the solving of the mystery.

But I don’t always know how it was done or why or even which clues will turn out to be important for the solution.

I write around that problem by creating what I think of as a rich environment in the story. I create a set of character who might all have a motive to commit the crime. I show a number of events that might have a bearing on the crime. I offer a lot of details that circle around the crime, some of which could provide evidence or suggestions.

My decision to set my new mystery series at a trade show almost automatically provides a gushing well of possibilities to use in stories. So many things go on at trade shows, so many cross-currents of cooperation, jealousy, spying, bad-mouthing, back-stabbing, love affairs, and friendships develop.

Obviously not all of the things I show will turn out to be relevant. Some characters, events and objects will provide interesting and possibly related subplots, like the question of one character’s motivation for the help he provides my detective heroine in A GIFT FOR MURDER. And some things are there mostly to test the resolve of the detective and develop her character, like the whole popcorn machine subplot in the same book.

In truth I can’t really tell you how or why it actually comes together in the end. There’s a bit of trust involved in my investment in writing a mystery novel. But it seems like it always happens that somewhere about one half to two-thirds of the way through the story I have an “Aha” moment where I realize what my subconscious has been telling me throughout the writing. I know who did it and can show the chain of clues that led to that conclusion.

And, yes, it does sometimes mean that I have to go back and rewrite earlier chapters to plant a new clue here or there, put a new slant on an event or make subtle changes to the characters. But it comes together, sometimes in ways that even I find surprising. And that’s the real joy of writing for me, and why plotting too deeply ahead of time doesn’t work for me.

I want to learn the answer to the puzzle right along with the characters I’m writing about.

Thank you so much, Karen! That was a fascinating look at how a mystery writer tackles the creative process.
I hope folks will leave comments for Karen and visit her at her website at: 

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Winners of the Blog Tour...

Wild Rose Blog Tour
The Wild Rose Blog Tour has come to an end and I hope everyone enjoyed reading about our holiday traditions as much as I did. As promised, for my portion of the tour, I've awarded the following ladies prizes. The grand prize is an herbal bath and de-stressing kit just in time for the holidays, while the two "runners up" can select one of any of my e-books!

Grand Prize: Bianca Swan - please contact me so we can arrange for your gift to be sent to you!
Runners Up: Liz Flaherty and Mona Risk - please contact me and I'll send your ebook winging its way to you! (Mona already got her copy of The Bricklayer's Helper and I hope she enjoys it!)

Approaching Holidays
With the holidays almost upon us, I'm dashing through the snow (er, sleet) to finish all those last minute things. Today, I'm printing out our holiday letter and stuffing envelopes (which I'm pretty good at since the first job I ever had was stuffing envelopes for a small business in our neighborhood). With luck, our holiday cards will all be in the mail tomorrow.

Thankfully, many of our friends have sent us the best gifts such as boxes of fruits, most of which we've already devoured. In fact, if it wasn't for the bratwursts, pears, and other delights we've received over the last couple of days, we might not have had any dinner last night! Sadly, we've already finished off all the pears and almost all the apples--both my husband and I are fiends for fruit so it doesn't last long around here.

As for writing--I'm now on the final edits (YAY!) of my second paranormal romance. Still not sure what title to use for it when I submit it to my publisher in January. Maybe Vampire Negotiator to "go along with" my first paranormal, Vampire Protector. At one point, I'd also use the working title of Quicksilver, but in the end, we'll see what my editor says.

If I can get that manuscript to the publisher soon, I'll also try to finish writing a short historical romance with a Christmas theme (although not the ooey-gooey normal Christmas theme, but the older spookier Christmas theme of ghost stories). My publisher gave us a deadline of March if we want something out in time for next Christmas and I'm not sure I can manage that. If not, well, there's always the year after!

After that, I've got drafts of four manuscripts (3 historical, 1 contemporary mystery) and I'll have to decide which one to concentrate on. Decisions, decisions, decisions.

Speaking of manuscripts...

Archer Family Series
The first three books of the Archer family series are finally all out, so you can read them in order if you have a hankering to do so. The series is loosely connected through a minor character, John Archer, who appears in the books with the seemingly sole purpose of wrecking havoc in the lives of other members of his family.

You see, John Archer, the irrepressible rogue and senior member of the family, is saddled with two problems: a love of adventure and far too many unmarried neices and nephews. As you might expect, John finds ways to indulge his adventurous spirit by playing matchmaker and thereby getting his family members in deep trouble. Sadly, his masterful efforts to make the lives of those around him more exciting are rarely, if ever, truly appreciated!

So here are the books (in order) that are now available in both print and ebook forms.

The Necklace - a young woman, a scoundrel, and a family heirloom that might possibly be cursed!

When Oriana's uncle, John Archer, brings home a wounded friend for her to nurse, she can't help but wonder what sort of scoundrel he might be. Her uncle has a long and sad history of befriending miscreants of the worst sort. Then, she finds a necklace thought lost and her worries only increase. The necklace bears a curse promising a hideous death to anyone who posses it, and it starts coming true when she's blamed for the murder of a stranger when the necklace is found on the body.

It's up to her uncle's friend, Chilton Dacy, to prove her innocence and save her from an overly personal encounter with the hangman's noose!

For more info and buy links:

I Bid One American - an American heiress nobody wants, a duke every woman desires, and a murder no one expects!

When Nathaniel, Duke of Peckham, meets American heiress Charlotte, he's suspicious of her indifference. Too many women have sought--and failed--to catch is attention. But Charlotte seems more interested in dead Pharaohs than English dukes, despite what her guardian, John Archer, says.

Unfortunately, when a debutante seeking to entrap Nathaniel is murdeered, his reputation as a misogynist focuses suspicion on him! On impulse, Charlotte comes to his aide, unaware that her actions place her in harm's way.

Danger mounts when a highwayman interested in rich heiresses turns his attention to Charlotte and another debutante is found dead in Nathaniel's carriage...

For more info and buy links:

The Bricklayer's Helper - a masquerade turns deadly when a murderer discovers one of his victims survived...

After her family perishes in a suspicious fire, Sarah hides her identity by working as a bricklayer's helper. But her disguise can't keep her safe when someone discovers she survived and follows her to London. Alone and terrified, Sarah pins her hopes on William Trenchard, an inquiry agent with Second Sons. William, however, seems far too attractive for Sarah's peace of mind, and she soon fears that involving him may be her final--and fatal--mistake.

Could John Archer really be the villian of the piece, or is he only trying to keep Sarah alive?

For more info and buy links:

Happy Holidays and Good Reading!

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Christmas Traditions - Rae Summers

This is the final week of the Wild Rose Press Authors Blog Tour! This week, I'm hosting Rae Summers and she's talking about her favorite Christmas Traditions. Hope you enjoyed the blog tour and will leave a lot of comments. Don't forget that folks who comment will be entered to win some exciting prizes just in time for the holidays!

Week 4: My favourite Christmas Tradition

There are a lot of great things about having a German heritage, but the best is Christmas. Weihnachten is a big deal for Germans, and for me the best part is the fact that it starts weeks before. And I’m not just talking about when the promotional Christmas stuff appears on the supermarket shelves (currently around mid-October!)

The Germans celebrate Advent, which runs for the four Sundays before Christmas. It was a great deal more fun when I was a kid, before the family diaspora, when Sunday evenings were an excuse for all the extended family to get together, dozens of cousins squabbling over the special Christmas biscuits. We’d sing Christmas carols, each getting a turn to choose our favourite, starting with the youngest and ending with my Omi. Looking back, when we were all together she didn’t get much choice. There are only so many Christmas carols, even when you sing them in two languages!

These days, with the cousins scattered across the planet rather than all living in the same seaside town, the gatherings are smaller and a lot less noisy. But the important elements remain: the candles on the real pine wreath, music, family … and special Christmas biscuits.

My characters in Let’s Misbehave are very English and would have celebrated Christmas a little differently, but the great thing about writing of a period before microwave ovens, plastic Christmas trees and flashing lights is that I know the things they’d treasure about Christmas would be a lot like mine!

* * *

I’m running a contest over on my blog at where two winners will each win traditional Christmas tree ornaments. In order to enter you need to become a follower of my blog or my fan page, or re-tweet my posts – and don’t forget to leave me a comment letting me know you’ve entered!

Let’s Misbehave Blurb

Gabrielle is the quintessential Flapper, a wild child who turns her back on home and a resentful and unloving mother to become a nightclub singer. She wants nothing more from life than freedom and pleasure.

Sebastian is a dutiful son, following in his father’s footsteps and on the verge of marrying a suitable bride. But as the Twenties roar to their conclusion, he finds himself torn between duty and the urge to indulge his adventurous streak.

From the moment Gabrielle and Sebastian meet, the tension between them simmers. When he rescues her from a boorish suitor, Gabrielle discovers a kindred spirit beneath Sebastian’s serious demeanour, and she sets out to seduce him into one last passionate fling before he settles for a loveless marriage.

But the fire that burns between them threatens to consume her. Will Gabrielle survive falling in love with the one man she cannot have?

Buy Links

The Wild Rose Press:


All Romance Ebooks:

Thanks Rae, I really enjoyed having you here and your book sounds fantastic! I love that era--my mom was a child during the flapper days so they really fascinate me.

Happy Holidays to everyone!
Amy Corwin

Saturday, December 11, 2010

So You Want To Be A Writer?

Happy Holidays!

Heads up! Starting with the New Year, I'll be writing monthly blogs on writing fiction. Sure, lots of folks are already doing that, but each of us has a different "take" on publishing and the publishing industry. There are some things I've learned (the hard way) that I haven't seen mentioned, or at least only seem to be glossed over when they appear to me to deserve more attention.

Why blog about it? Well, while there is a certain amount of altruism involved, it's really more about making sure I don't forget things that are important. If you want to really learn and remember something, try teaching it to others. LOL

So in the coming months, I hope to cover things like writing fiction for publication (as opposed to writing for yourself or your family); grammar; promotion; and the craft of writing. There's no set syllabus. I'll pretty much cover topics as the ideas hit me.

And, as I mentioned, there really are a lot of other blogs out there on the art and craft of writing. Here are a few to get you started:
JA Konrath's "A Newbie's Guide to Publishing"
Crusie and Mayer's "He Wrote, She Wrote" (these are blog archives, but worth looking at)
Writer Unboxed
Evil Editor

That's not a lot of links, but it's a start. Blogs come and go. LOL

So, on to...CONTESTS!
Don't forget that Night Owl Reviews has one more month of web hunts--it ends December 31! I'm giving away a gorgeous necklace in honor of my new Regency romantic mystery, The Necklace, so be sure to join the hunt. It's not difficult and you may find a few new authors to get to know. Join the NOR Winter Hunt!

Several Wild Rose Press authors are having a blog tour, complete with prizes! It ends on Dec 15, so be sure to check it out. I'm giving away a holiday de-stresser kit and there are a lot of other lovely gifts. Here's the main link for the Wild Rose Press Blog Tour.

Finally, I'm so thrilled to see my latest book released on FictionWise and Smashwords from Highland Press.

The Necklace
When Oriana's uncle brings home a wounded associate, Mr. Chilton Dacy, to nurse, she can't help but wonder what sort of scoundrel he might be. Her uncle has a long and sad history of befriending miscreants of the worst sort. Then she finds a long lost necklace and her worries only increase. The necklace bears a curse promising a hideous death to anyone who possesses it, and it seems as if it might come true when she's blamed for the murder of a virtual stranger.

Can Chilton prove her innocence, or is Oriana destined for a personal relationship with the hangman's noose?


In this scene, Chilton is angry to find that his valet has kissed Oriana, when Chilton very much wants to do so, himself...

She laughed at his outraged expression. “He knew I wouldn’t get upset. Quite the contrary. I had two garter snakes for several years, named Emily and Heloise. They were lovely and quite friendly. Unfortunately, they got out one day and were very naughty.” She peeked at him through her lashes, her eyes glimmering with golden laughter. “It seems they developed a liking for beds, probably due to having been placed in mine so many times by Joshua. So they crawled into one. Unfortunately, the bed they selected belonged to my mamma. She was not as fond of them as I was.”

He could only imagine the uproar. “And they forbade you to have any more?”
“Oh, yes. I was very upset for several months afterwards. My parents utterly forbade us from having any creatures of any sort. They were very specific. No frogs, toads, polliwogs, butterflies, caterpillars, or snakes. Joshua was forced to use extreme measures when he wished to disconcert me. In fact, I blame his inability to bring any of the aforementioned creatures into the house for his kiss.”

“He kissed you? Joshua?” Chilton asked, appalled and angry at the same time. His valet had kissed Miss Archer?

“I was seven or eight, I suppose. It was indeed dreadful.”

“Oh. You were children.” This information should have amused him, but he found it profoundly irritating.

“Yes, we often played together, Andrew, Joshua and I.”

“I see.”

She gave him a stern glance. “It was quite proper. The Archers are a very distinguished and proper family. And Helen and I do have a maid, you know.” The return of the bland expression to her face let him know she had forgiven him enough to adopt a teasing tone.

An answering grin pulled at the corners of his mouth.

Have a wonderful holiday season!
Amy Corwin

Wednesday, December 08, 2010

Maya's Holiday Traditions

We have another Wild Rose Press author, Maya Blake, joining us to talk about Holiday Traditions. I hope you'll welcome her!

Hi, I’m Maya Blake, I’m a thirty-something romance writer whose life-long dream of writing finally came to true last year when my debut novel was published by The Wild Rose Press. I’m the fourth of five siblings and I live in Kent, England with my husband and two (sometimes, lol) adorable kids.

Christmas at home tends to be like most, I expect. There’s the excitement of Christmas morning when the kids dance around the presents with eager anticipation of opening them after lunch. Then there's getting the bird ready for the oven, the madness of lunch, the opening of presents...then of course, the semi-comatose vegging on the sofa afterwards.

That’s when the TV/DVD comes on. Anyone who watches TV in England knows without fail there’s a James Bond movie played on one channel or the other on Christmas Day. I especially LOVE the pre-digital ones featuring Roger Moore or Sean Connery because of the humour angle (my mother-in-law’s post mulled wine cackle when she hears the name Pussy Galore has become a Christmas tradition).

After James Bond comes another firm family favourite – anything featuring the Stargate series. Yes, we’re unashamed die-hard sci-fi fans and really there’s nothing better to eat mince pies with than an episode or two of Stargate SG-1 or Stargate Atlantis!

And then to top it all off, we watch Last Of The Summer Wine. This happens to be the longest running comedy series in the world which unfortunately came to an end this year. The antics of Compo, Norman and Nora Batty never fails to bring hilarity! I’d love to hear what your family favourite movie or book is.

Happy holidays!

A Little Bit About Maya's book, Hostage to Love...
Crushed by betrayal, Belle Winkworth-Jones flees the shambles of her short-lived marriage, only to be kidnapped by a vicious rebel soldier determined to keep her for himself. Nick Andreakos mounts a ruthless rescue to save the wife who walked away from him, even though he's resentful Belle could dismiss their marriage so easily.

On Althea, their private Greek island where Belle recuperates, passion ignites, taking hold with relentless force. But in the shadows, danger lurks. The rebel soldier is determined to recapture Belle.

Can Belle and Nick set aside their differences in time to fight this threat and save their love, or will it be too late…?

Excerpt from Hostage to Love

Belle jerked awake as a loud blast ripped through the cave, her eyes unprepared for the blinding, strobe flashes of light that lit up the dark cavern a second later. Squinting, she saw the flashes continue intermittently for several seconds, then stop. She lurched from her position propped up against the wall and wondered for a moment if she was still dreaming.

The screams from a few feet away told her she wasn’t.

She’d stayed awake long after the rebel leader retired behind his curtain, unable to sleep for fear he might vent his anger on Father Tom.

She’d also contemplated what she would do after nature ran its course. She’d bought them three days, four at the most. What would happen after that? Could she willingly to let the loathsome man touch her for the sake of keeping one or all of them alive? And what guarantee did she have that he wouldn’t harm Father Tom?

The idea that perhaps they could overpower two of the soldiers, steal their weapons and make a run for it, she immediately discarded as foolish, and dangerous. She’d slumped, dejected, against the wall of the cave. That’s when she must’ve fallen asleep.

Dizzy and momentarily blinded by the flashes, she jumped as Edda screamed again. What was happening? Had the rebel leader decided they weren’t worth keeping and blasted the cave, burying them alive? Curiously though, the walls of the cave remained intact. She blinked a few times to dispel the blindness. Nothing happened.

A staccato burst of muffled gunfire sounded close by. But the gunfire was inside the cave, not outside. Which meant the rebels were still inside. Something brushed against her and she bit back a scream.

‘It’s all right lass, it’s me,’ Father Tom whispered close to her. ‘I told yer we’d be rescued today.’

Rescued! Why hadn’t she thought of that? Her spirits soared. Then plummeted.

Who would rescue them? Only Liz knew where she was, and she knew her friend wouldn’t give up her whereabouts lightly. Besides, she wasn’t due to make her weekly phone call to her best friend until Monday, so she wouldn’t guess Belle might be in trouble until after she failed to make the call. As for Father Tom, having lived and run the mission in Nawaka for the last seventeen years, he wouldn’t be missed back in his native Scotland. The same went for Edda and Hendrik, who’d been travelling around Africa for the past two years. As for the Nawakan government, it had enough on its plate with its fight to prevent the gold and diamond mines from being looted to mount rescue operations of kidnapped foreigners.

So rescue was not an option.

The only other conclusion she could reach was that another rebel faction had caught wind of Captain Mwana’s bounty and intended to claim them. It wasn’t unheard of for one rebel group to seize another’s hostages if they could profit from it. Sometimes rebels within the same group rose up against each other. Was that what was happening here? Had Mwana’s subordinates staged a coup against him?

If so, they had to take advantage of the gunfight.

‘Father, I don’t think we’re being rescued, but I still think we should make a run for it. This may be our only chance.’ God, she prayed she was right.

He gave a nervous chuckle. ‘I’m with you, lass, but unfortunately, these old eyes cannot see a thing at the moment. I think I’m blind.’

She stopped herself from telling him she suffered the same ailment, although she could just about make out shadowy images in her periphery. ‘It’s all right Father. Just hold onto my hand and I’ll guide you. Keep your head down. Hendrik, Edda, are you okay?’

‘Yes,’ Hendrik responded.

She took a deep breath and edged forward, her hand clamped around Father Tom’s. They’d travelled only a few feet when a bullet slapped the cave wall beside her. Small rocks struck her cheek and she cried out. Fear strangling her, she crouched down, eyes shut, beside Father Tom.

‘We have to keep moving,’ Hendrik urged from behind her.

She opened her eyes and thankfully, most of her vision had been restored. But what little she saw stilled her heart. Since whoever was attacking the rebels was doing so from outside the cave whilst the guerrillas defended themselves from inside, there’d be no way to escape without being caught in the crossfire.

Another bullet whizzed past her and struck a lantern on the far side of the cave, igniting it. A huge plume of acrid smoke bellowed up towards the craggy ceiling of the cave.

Their situation had just worsened a hundred-fold.

She knew they only had a matter of minutes to live. Because if the bullets didn’t get them, the smoke and fire would. There was enough bedding, ammunition and lamps to set the place ablaze in seconds.

Just then the gunfire ceased.

‘Come on,’ she whispered desperately to Father Tom. She grabbed his arm and pulled him towards the entrance of the cave, trying not to let the sight of the bloodied bodies disturb her. She focused on the discarded guns instead. If they could arm themselves, they’d increase their chances considerably.

But as she reached for the nearest rifle, she heard the crunch of feet approaching.

Another burst of gunfire. Then silence.

Through the smoky light she saw a figure, tall and male, enter the cave, followed by two more. In silence, the men advanced towards them. Belle’s throat closed up, fear completely seizing her. She turned to Father Tom. Her hand gripped his and she tried to shield him with her body.

Someone crouched behind her. She squeezed her eyes shut.

This is it. This is it.

‘Hello, Tinkerbelle,’ a deep voice purred in her ear.

Wednesday, December 01, 2010

Sally's Favorite Holiday Recipe

Sally Clements, author of Catch Me a Catch, is here to share a wonderful holiday recipe. In fact, it sounds so yummy that I'm thinking about making it for New Years! So please welcome Sally!

Hello Amy, thank you so much for hosting me on your blog today as part of the Wild Rose Blog Tour! It’s very cold with snow on the ground here today in Ireland, very Christmassy! And I’m here today to share one of my favourite Christmas recipes – Spiced Beef.

Spiced beef is a real local speciality here (I live about 14 miles from Dublin) and you can buy it ready to cook in all the supermarkets, but I always spice the beef myself with this recipe passed down from my mother. The suggested marinade time of 15 days can be modified, I often only marinade for 9 days, and it takes just as wonderful.

So, Take 5 ½ lbs of corned beef (also called ‘silverside’ here) and put it in a large plastic bowl. Rub it with 4oz of soft brown sugar cover the bowl with a tea towel, and put it in the bottom of the fridge for 24 hours.

In a pestle and mortar, crush:
1 ½ oz black peppercorns
¾ oz allspice berries
½ cloves
½ oz cardamom seeds

And mix these in a bowl with 6 oz sea salt and 2 crumbled bay leaves.

Pat this dry mixture all over the beef, cover with the tea towel, and put in the bottom of the fridge. Turn the beef every 2 days.

The day before you want to serve the spice beef, remove it from the bowl, place it in a giant saucepan, and cover with cold water. Simmer gently until cooked (usually around 2 hours).

Then remove the beef from the cooking liquid, wrap in greaseproof paper, and put it on a plate and flatten with the heaviest weights you’ve got, and leave it in the fridge.

The next day, serve the spiced beef in wafer thin slices cold. It is wonderful with baked potatoes and Christmas vegetables!

In order to be in with a chance to win my prize of a Swarovski necklace and matching earrings in either festive red or holly green (you choose!), please do follow my blog here I have Caroline Clemmons guesting on my blog today – so do pop in and read her recipe too!

Sally Clements – Catch Me A Catch

Book Blurb:

She had the perfect life - and all she wanted was to escape it.

Artisan chocolatier and reluctant matchmaker Annie Devine wants to survive the annual Durna Matchmaking Festival without messing up. She's useless at relationships, and the whole village know it. They've known ever since the day she was left at the altar in her wedding dress.

When Jack Miller, charismatic head of Miller Advertising is forced to make an emergency stop on his transatlantic crossing, she mistakes him for a love-lorn bachelor, and sparks fly.

Jack's in Ireland to discover his roots, while Annie's desperate to escape hers. Annie longs to win the coveted Chocolate Oscar competition, and claim the ultimate prize, her own shop in Dublin. But with the deadline for Jack's return to New York looming, is she making the right choice?

Blog Link:

Thanks you so much for having me here today, Amy.

You're welcome and I have to say, both your book and recipe sound fantastic!

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

What is on Lilly Gayle's Holiday "To Be Read" Pile?

Happy Holidays!
It's the holiday season and the start of The Wild Rose Press authors' Holiday Blog Tour! I'm so pleased to have Lilly Gayle as my first guest author. She and I are old and dear friends, having met at a local writers group and struggled through years of writing, editing and polishing manuscripts. Lilly is an incredibly talented, multi-faceted woman and a terrific author, so I hope you'll welcome her and enjoy hearing about her "To Be Read" pile of books.

Lilly Gayle's TBR Books
Man, I can remember a time when I used to read one or two books a week. That was before I left the State system and went back to working ten hour shifts in a hospital. It was also before I became a published author.

I still love to read but most of my “free” time—I know what a joke!—is spent writing blogs, doing promo, editing, or working on my WIP. When I do read, it’s usually unpublished work from one of my two critique partners. But despite the hustle and bustle of the holiday season, I plan to get in some reading time. It’s part of my holiday tradition.

I’m currently reading Joan Beth Erickson’s Rainbow’s End, a romantic suspense set in Hawaii. I’ve never read a book set in Hawaii or one where the main character was Polynesian. And I’m loving it. This is a unique, well written story, and Ms. Erickson has done a fabulous job describing Hawaii. So well in fact, I can actually visualize the scenery in my head as I read.

And that’s what makes a good story for me. If the author can transport me to another time or place and I can “see” the story in my head, then I’m hooked. There are a lot of authors who do that for me, so I have a very long TBR list.

I know you’ve released your first paranormal, Amy, and although Vampire Protector is one of those unpublished books I read in the past, I’m dying to read the finished product. I can’t wait to see what you and your editor have done with it.

I’d also like to start Virginia Kantra’s Children of the Sea series. I love Ms. Kantra’s romantic suspense novels and can’t wait to read one of her paranormals. Then there’s Beth Trissel, an author I met in cyber space through The Wild Rose Press. She has a list of historical romances I’m dying to read. Caroline Clemmons’ The Texan’s Irish Bride is on my list too and after seeing all the wonderful releases the authors of this tour have out, I’m going to be adding a lot more to my TBR list.

My biggest problem is finding time to read and then deciding what to read. I have eclectic taste and read everything from paranormal to inspirational. And since becoming a Wild Rose Press author, I’m constantly finding new stories and new authors.

So, this holiday season, I plan to load up my Nook and sit under the Christmas tree reading as many books as I can.

Anyone have any suggestions for some sensational books I can add to my list? It’s always growing!

The Skinny on Lilly
Lilly's Book: Out of the Darkness

Lilly Gayle’s bio:

Lilly Gayle lives in North Carolina with her husband of thirty years, her youngest daughter who's still in college, a dog, a cat, and various critters both dead and alive the cat occasionally drags through the doggie door. When not writing or working as a mammogapher, she spends time with her husband at the beach. Out of the Darkness, a paranormal romance is her first published novel. A historical, Slightly Tarnished should be released sometime next year.

Blurb for Out of the Darkness:
Out of the Darkness- a paranormal vampire romance.

Here research could cure his dark hunger if a covert government agent doesn't get to her first.

Vincent Maxwell is a vampire with a conscience seeking a cure to his dark hunger. But when a scientist looking to create vampire soldiers captures and kills a fellow vampire, Vincent seeks out Dr. Megan Harper, a research scientist who discovered a link between a genetic light sensitivity disorder and vampirism. Dr. Harper could hold a key to a cure and the answers to Gerard’s death. But getting close to the beautiful scientist could endanger both their lives.

When Megan meets Vincent she believes he suffers from xeroderma pigmentosum, the genetic disease that killed her sister. Sensing a deep loneliness within the handsome man, she offers friendship and access to her research files. But she and Vincent soon become more than friends and Megan learns the horrifying truth. She's entered the dark and unseen world of vampires and Vincent is her only hope of survival.

Excerpt for Out of the Darkness:

Vincent didn’t spare her a second glance as he opened the basement door and stepped down.

The sound of his boot heel striking wood echoed up the steps as he disappeared into the darkness.

“But—” Megan switched on the light and hurried after him.

“The first thing you need down here is a table and some chairs,” he said when he saw the stacks of unorganized data and reams of paper scattered across the floor. “Do you mind if I bring the ones down from the kitchen?”

“No.” She turned back toward the stairs. “I’ll help you bring them down.” It would give her something to do while she sorted through the confused thoughts and emotions tumbling around inside her head.

Vincent touched her arm and heat shot straight to her belly, turning her insides all warm and fuzzy.

Warm and fuzzy was not good.

Warm and fuzzy made her think of more than just heated sex. It made her think of cozy evenings snuggled up under a blanket and shared feelings. It made her long for an emotional connection she couldn’t risk. Not with Vincent.

Not with a man who could potentially die a slow, lingering death.

“I’ll get it.” He let go of her arm and stepped back. “You start going through those papers and find that report you wrote comparing XP to vampire myths and legends. I’d be interested in seeing if you still have it.”

He turned to go back up the stairs and Megan shivered. Why had Steve mentioned the vampire report to Vincent? And why was Vincent so interested in seeing it?

Vincent the Vampire.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Make Me Buy Your Book

Make Me Buy Your Book

Starting Jan 20, 2011, I’ll be posting a blog challenging ebook authors to make me buy your book. I’ll post a general description for the kind of books I’m looking for, and you can comment with 500 words or less of information about your book, geared toward making me (and other readers) buy it.

It’s a free form of advertising for you, the author. More importantly, I’m hoping it will let me find the kinds of books I love to read and which are sometimes difficult to locate. Oddly enough, I’ve noticed that the stories I like best are those by new authors or at least authors who are not the ones who pop up on bestseller lists or suggested lists from Amazon. So finding them can be a challenge.

I’m also hoping that other readers who hanker for the same kinds of books will find this to be a valuable resource, as well, if for no other reason than to browse through what I’m sure will be interesting blurbs and descriptions.

The blogs will run on the 20th of every month, and I’ll publish a schedule so you know what’s coming up. If you really think you’re special and want me to include your book cover in the body of that month’s blog as an extra enticement for readers, then you can drop me a line at Please note, however, that I’m really not interested in extremely sensual or erotic material. Besides, there are so many promo opportunities for very spicy books that I feel I can suit my own more conventional tastes in this area.

When I describe the categories in the blogs themselves, I’ll include even more detail on what I like/don’t like to help “shape the comments” and get me to my goal of finding those books I really do want to buy. Keep in mind that this helps other potential readers, as well, because they’ll also be able to determine if these books are their cup-o-tea or material for the compost heap (figuratively speaking since we’re talking strictly ebooks).

As a “heads up,” here is the initial list. Be sure to bookmark this blog so you can participate and add your blurbs, teeny-tiny excerpts, or anything else that floats your boat and you believe will make potential readers buy your ebook.

Jan 20 - Ghosts & shivery horror (No Gore Fests, please)

Feb 20 – Historical Mysteries

March 20 – Contemporary Mysteries

April 20 – Paranormal Mysteries/Suspense

May 20 – Suspense

June 20 – Historicals & Regencies

July 20 – Crime & Crime Noir

Aug 20 – Humor & Satire

Sep 20 – Science Fiction & Fantasy

Oct 20 – Cozy Mysteries

Nov 20 – Chick Lit, Hen Lit & their Red-Headed Step-Children

Dec 20 – Paranormal (Romance, suspense, etc)

That's it! Be thinking about it and prepare your comments. I'll be waiting to hear from you with my Kindle turned on and in my hand!
Amy Corwin

Wednesday, November 03, 2010

Just Chatting

Today's blog is more of a "Chatty Cathy" item about all the news that's fit (or unfit) to print! There's a heck of a lot going on, too!

While I'm awaiting word from the Acquisitions Committee about my cozy mystery, Whacked!, (and please make it good news!) I'm frantically writing another mystery as part of National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo). In order to win, I only have to write 50,000 words during the month of November (are you completely insane?) which will nicely finish off the first draft of the book. Assuming I can do that.

Not only am I writing serious chunks of new material each evening, I'm also a sponsoring author for Night Owl's Autumn Harvest Web Hunt. I'm giving away a gorgeous heart necklace to one lucky entrant, but there are dozens of other great prizes so be sure to join the hunt!

And if you need more contests to enter and blogs to read, you can join me and my fellow Wild Rose Press Authors for our Wilder Roses blog tour. We will be blogging on holiday themes starting November 24. Each Wednesday, we'll post new blogs with participating authors, for the following dates and themes:
November 24 ~ Our holiday "To Be Read" Books
December 1 ~ Favorite holiday recipes
December 8 ~ Favorite holiday stories or movies
December 15 ~ Favorite holiday tradition

I'm giving away a soothing herbal bath kit to a randomly selected person who leaves comments on my blog, so be sure to stay tuned! The more comments you make, the more "entries" this will make to the bucket of names and the higher your chances are of winning. The runners-up will also be randomly selected and will receive my ebook, I Bid One American.

And speaking of ebooks, for the holiday season, I'm offering a free traditional ghost story. It's a short story I wrote on Halloween to limber up for NaNoWriMo and if you like spooky short stories, you may enjoy it. It's called Silence is Concurrence and you can click on the previous link or download it from the freebies section on my website.

My paranormal romance, Vampire Protector, is already available as a paperback from my publisher, The Wild Rose Press, or as a pre-order from The ebook version will be available soon, including on the Kindle. I'm really excited about this book and hope folks enjoy it. There's nothing like a good vampire story, complete with a haunted house and a mystery that may claim the lives of Gwen and her vampire protector.

I don't have a release date, yet, for the next historical romantic mystery in the Archer family series, The Necklace. However, I'm hoping it will be released in late November or December. The cover is already up on Highland Press's Coming Soon page, so it shouldn't be too long to wait! They did an absolutely fabulous job on the cover. I really love it.

Finally, I wanted to mention that I've started another brief series of blogs on my favorite topic of characterization. The blogs are featured on ...Voices of the Heart, which is another blog I participate in. In addition, I'm being featured on a variety of other blogs and book review sites, so be sure to watch the calendar of events on the right side of this blog. Busy, busy, busy.

On my blog, interspersed with interviews from other interesting authors and information about what I'm up to, I plan to begin a small series on tips for authors who are just starting out. I'll include things I've learned along the way, grammar, the mechanics of writing, links to other Internet sources of information on writing, and I'll bust a few common myths. With luck, writers and readers alike will find things of interest to them.

So sit back and enjoy the holiday season...and grab a good spooky story to read in front of the fire! You deserve a few harmless shivers!


Sunday, October 31, 2010

An Interview With Lilly Gayle

Interview with Lilly Gayle

Today we welcome Lilly Gayle, the author of the phenomenally popular paranormal, Out of the Darkness, and a very good friend. I’m so privileged and happy to host this interview. I’ve known Lilly for many, many years and she is a valued critique partner and talented writer. So without further ado, here is Lilly Gayle!

Amy: I’m so pleased to interview you today, Lilly. Can you tell us a little something about what inspired you to become a writer?

Lilly: I guess it started in the 8th grade. My teacher, Miss Black had us use our spelling words in a short story. My story filled a spiral notebook. I was hooked on writing until I started college and life got in the way. I didn’t get the writing bug again until after my two girls were born. I began by writing stories for them. And I mentioned to my husband that I’d once wanted to be a writer. I must have mentioned it more times than I realized because in 1995, he bought me my first computer and told me to stop dreaming and start writing. My first attempts were half-hearted and aimed at children’s literature. But I realized I had to write what I loved to read. I completed my first novel in 1997 and it was so horrible, not a single copy exists today. But after 13 years of pursing publication, The Wild Rose Press released Out of the Darkness in May of this year. And it would never have happened without your valuable input and critiques or your suggesting I submit to TWRP. So, Thank you Amy!

Amy: What made you write about vampires? Is there anything about that myth that particularly resonates with you?

Lilly: When I was little, I loved Dark Shadows. I remember thinking Barnabas Collins wasn’t such a bad guy. He was just miserable and all he wanted was to be human again. After Dark Shadows, most other vampire movies were about evil vampires. Except Blade, but Wesley Snipes wasn’t really a vampire. He was a damphyr. Then there was the TV series, Angel. Angel was a vampire with a conscience but he still had a dark side. Cool premise. And it didn’t hurt that David Boreanaz is HOT. But I didn’t decide to write about vampires until the genre became popular And Barnabas kept whispering in my ear that he wanted to be human. Eventually, I listened to Barnabas and created Vincent Maxwell.

Amy: If you had to give one piece of advice to someone thinking about writing, what would that be?

Lilly: In the words of Jason Nesmith, aka Peter Quincy Taggart, aka Tim Alan from the movie, Galaxy Quest; “Never give up. Never surrender.” In the writing business, it isn’t always about talent. Sometimes, good stories never get published because the market is flooded with similar stories or the genre isn’t “hot” at the moment. Timing really is everything and timing and luck are co-conspirators. The only way to make it in this business is to keep writing and keep submitting and never stop learning the tools of your craft.

Amy: I love Out of the Darkness. How did you ever get the idea for that story?

Lilly: I have to credit author Dean Koontz. I loved his character Chris Snow in the Moonlight Bay trilogy. Chris has XP (xeroderma pigmentosum) a disease I knew nothing about until I read Mr. Koontz’s book. Then the Twilight series came out and everyone wanted to read about vampires. I put the two together and came up with Dr. Megan Harper, a woman seeking a cure for XP, the genetic light sensitivity disease that killed her sister and Vincent Maxwell, a vampire with conscience seeking a cure to his dark hunger. Then throw in my love affair with old movies and that movie Universal Soldier with Jean-Claude Van Damme and Dolph Lundgren where the government used dead Vietnam vets to create the perfect soldier, and you get Out of the Darkness.

Amy: Tell us about your writing process. Are you plot or character driven?

Lilly: Definitely plot driven. In fact, my trouble with characterization is the main reason I was rejected so many times before I was finally published. It took me some time to figure out that I couldn’t just make something happen to a character and then have the character react, I had to show (and not tell) why the character reacted the way he/she did. GMC. Goals, motivation, and conflict. I didn’t even know what that was when I first started writing.

Amy: If there’s one thing you hope readers will “take away” from your books, what would that be?

Lilly: That humans are fallible and imperfect and those who hold grudges carry an impossible burden. And that faith, hope and love can overcome just about any obstacle.

Amy: If this isn’t too personal, do you think your battle with cancer has changed you, or changed the type of story you choose to write?

Lilly: It definitely changed me. I used to have a bad temper. I never carried a grudge but if I was pissed, everyone knew it. I still have a tempter, but I’m slower to blow hot than I once was. And I forgive more easily than I did before. Life is too short to be angry or miserable. But I don’t think my battle with cancer changed the stories I write. It just made it easier for me to get into my character’s heads.

Amy: What are your working on, now?

Lilly: Into the Light, the sequel to Out of the Darkness.

Amy: Can you give us a brief taste of Out of the Darkness?

Lilly: Vincent Maxwell is a vampire with a conscience searching for a cure to his dark hunger. But when a scientist looking to create vampire soldiers captures and kills a fellow vampire, Vincent seeks out Dr. Megan Harper, a researcher seeking a cure for xeroderma pigmentosum, the light sensitivity disease that killed her sister.

When Megan meets Vincent, she believes he suffers from XP. Sensing a deep loneliness within the handsome man, Megan offers friendship and access to her research files. But they soon become more than friends and Megan learns she's entered the dark and unseen world of vampires and Vincent is her only hope of survival.

Here’s an excerpt.

EXCERPT From Out of the Darkness
“It’s been a long night,” she said. “I’d ask you to stay, but...” she glanced nervously up the stairs.

The knot in his gut loosened. He stepped closer. Her shoulder pressed into his arm just above his elbow. She tensed but didn’t move. “But you knew I couldn’t accept?” he asked softly.


“Yeah. Something like that.” She glanced nervously upward, finally meeting his eyes. She
looked wary. Afraid.

And oh so vulnerable.

He leaned in, his arm snaking around her waist, pulling her closer. Her muscles strained, but she didn’t resist as he drew her in and slowly lowered his head. “And would you have put me in your sister’s bed?” He raised a finger to trace the outline of her mouth.

She trembled, her breath escaping her parted lips in a breathy sigh. Warm air brushed his fingertips, stirring his senses. Heating his blood.

“I don’t know.” Her breasts rose and fell with each shuddering breath she took, her soft curves brushing the hard wall of his chest.

She pulled her plump bottom lip between her teeth and looked up with pleading eyes. Eyes that begged him to make the decision for her.

OUT OF THE DARKNESS: Available now from The Wild Rose Press-- Her research could cure his dark hunger if a covert government agent doesn't get to her first.

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A Final Note from Amy
Thanks Lilly! I loved having you here and hope we can "trade blogs" again soon.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Smelling the roses

Recently I took a two-day mini-vacation that was much needed due to heavy overtime demands, in addition to the usual, well, life events. While visiting the seashore, I was able to do a little bird and nature watching, and it occurred to me how many folks are simply unaware of their surroundings.

Or perhaps that's too harsh. It may be safer to say that often folks are so busy on their computers, cell phones, smart phones, televisions, and radios, that they've become divorced from nature. And that's too bad. It's dismal to think that the only "nature" they are involved with is that which is beamed out of their television set or computer via the Discovery or Travel channel.

But as I mentioned, my chessie, Molly, and I had the grand opportunity to get eaten alive by mosquitoes and explore North Carolina's magnificent Outer Banks. And we saw all kinds of cool and interesting stuff. I'll bet the folks who live there full time may not have even noticed some of it, so I thought I'd share.

We saw Salicornia or Saltwort in the salt marshes around Beaufort. Saltwort is normally green, but in the fall it turns a rich and vibrant red, as shown in this picture.

By one of the boat ramps, Molly and I were also surprised by a Marsh Rabbit hopping up to our car. After a few minutes it obviously decided we weren't that interesting after all and it went back into the fringe of woods by the ramp. Even Molly was too surprised to bark.

So take some time from your busy schedule and go outside, even if it's just to do some cloud gazing. You'd be amazed at "whats out there" and this time of year is vibrant with tons of color and interesting plants, animals and birds to watch.

With luck, I'll be able to cut myself loose again from work and get another mini-vacation by the sea. Even if my first chance comes in the dead of winter, it's worth it. Every season has its own beauty and surprises.


PS: on a final note, my publisher, The Wild Rose Press, just sent me my pre-release note for my paranormal, Vampire Protector, which will be out Nov 12! The paperback is already available for pre-order, so if you're looking for a spooky book for Halloween, you've come to the right place! There's a haunted house, vampires, and an old family secret that just won't stay buried...

If you're interested in watching the trailer, here is a link.

And finally, don't forget the CONTEST! You've only got one more week to enter the NOL Web Hunt. I'm offering a lovely heart necklace as one of the contest prizes, so be sure to check it out.

Good luck and spooky dreams!

Friday, October 15, 2010

Guest Blogger: Nancy Lynn Jarvis

Welcome Mystery Writer Nancy Lynn Jarvis...

Why would a Realtor turn to a life of murder and chocolate chip cookies?

I’m a real estate agent who is having so much fun killing people that I’ll probably never sell another house. I never planned to kill anyone and never intended to write anything other than enticing advertising copy for my listings, but in 2008 when the real estate market tanked and I couldn’t dispassionately tell clients their homes might not sell for what they owed on their mortgage, I decided to run away from the too-real world of foreclosures and short sales, take a time out, and pretend to be retired.

I quickly got bored and missed all the interesting people I met in real estate. Maybe because of that or maybe because my fallback mode was avoiding reality, as a purely time-filling intellectual exercise, I began to toy with the idea of writing a mystery.

The logic and careful structure of mysteries has fascinated me since the days when I sat in a wicker rocking chair at my grandmother’s house and read Agatha Christie and Dorothy Sayers, sworn to secrecy in case my mother wouldn’t approve of a young girl reading something other than Nancy Drew.

Writing a mystery would be like solving a logic puzzle—Sudoku on steroids— and if that wouldn’t be fun enough, mystery writing would give me an excuse to delve into a world of fascinating but unsettling things like decomposition, accidental mummification, and how ligature strangulation and death by hypothermia work. Researching those topics would be akin to being a four-year-old playing with rubber dinosaurs: the game would be enjoyable, and I could control what might otherwise give me nightmares.

The idea of writing mysteries kept getting more appealing. I could take my twenty-plus years of situations—that’s a polite term for all those things that happen in the world of real estate that makes agents say, “I could write a book”—and use them for background. I could create a real estate agent protagonist named Regan McHenry who could be kind of like me, only younger, thinner, and more daring, and get back in touch with my favorite agents, clients, and associates by using them as inspiration for characters.

The murders in my books are made up, but the real estate stories are real—yes, Realtors do come across bodies in the course of doing business—so a Realtor who solves mysteries isn’t as far-fetched as it might seem.

And the cookies? Well, Realtors often bake cookies at open houses to entice buyers. It’s an old trick-of- the-trade. In the first book I wrote, The Death Contingency, Regan baked homemade cookies at an almost lethal open house. In Backyard Bones she baked cookies to take as comfort food to a client accused of murder. After Regan’s cookies appeared in two books, there had to be a recipe. When people visit my website they can not only read the beginnings of the books, they can also pick up a free recipe for “Mysterious Chocolate Chip Cookies.” The cookies make a cameo appearance in Buying Murder, the third book in the series, and will be in all future books.

Nancy Lynn Jarvis
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Thanks Nancy--I'm so glad we had a chance to find out about your books. I love mysteries, especially cozy ones, and these sound just like my cup of tea!
Amy Corwin