Fiction Writing and Other Oddities

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Getting Ready for Malice Domestic

It's time for the Malice Domestic mystery writers conference in Silver Spring, Maryland! I'm pretty excited about it, but it does mean that for a second week in a row, I'll sort of be "off 'Net". Which can be a good thing. Not to get side-tracked from my main blog, but I remember a few winters ago when we had a severe ice storm that caused us to lose electricity for about 5 days. At first, it was a bit of a hassle, but once we got the old wood stoves cranked up and the generator to run the well pump, it was sort of nice to realize that even if we didn't want to be, we were off the Internet grid. It was a bit of a relief, actually, to be disconnected.

Anyway, I thought I'd just do a quick blog before I go off into the wilds of Silver Spring.

For me, conferences are all about learning. I'm lousy at networking and although there are some wonderful friends I hope to catch up with at the conference, like mystery writer Sandra Parshall (we used to work on the local Audubon society newsletter together many eons ago--right after the earth's crust cooled and the dinosaurs turned into birds) my main goal is to attend some of the fantastic classes.

What classes have caught my beady little eye?

Here's a taste of the exotic and curious fare:
  1. Malice 101: An Introduction to all things Malice for First-Time Attendees. Well, yes, although this is not my first writers conference, it is my first Malice conference. And you get to meet a lot of nice people at these sort of intro classes.
  2. The Poison Lady Presents Elemental Murder: Death by the Periodic Table. The presenter is Luci Zahray. I have to admit as a one-time biology major with a strong interest in poisons (for my mysteries, of course!) this is right up my alley. In fact, for my first mystery, The Vital Principle, I used Agatha Christie's favorite poison, cynanide. (No, I'm not actually giving anything away as you learn that in the third chapter, anyway.)
  3. Things We Wish We Hadn't Written: Authors With Belated Second Thoughts. Yeah. This is a common problem for me. I almost always regret the titles I give my books, for one thing. And there are things that I write that make me wince when I read them a year later. It's nice to know I'm not alone. Of course, it would be just my luck to go to this and discover that I *am* actually alone in this and that the topic is something else entirely.
  4. World Building: Making the Past Come Alive. I'm one of the panel for this one, so I sort of have to attend. LOL But I'm actually interested in hearing what the others say about how to write a mystery set in another era without making it hopelessly stuffy or inaccessible to the modern reader.

  5. Tea, Scones, and Death: Murder in the English Countryside. Most of my favorite mysteries are set in England. Don't ask me why. Nonetheless, I can't resist this topic.
  6. Cold Winters, Deadly Nights: Murder in New England. After attending college in Northampton, MA, I can only ask--where else would you kill someone? In a book, of course.
Those are only a few of the offerings. I'm really, really excited and can't wait to attend the classes. Whenever I go to a conference, it's the classes that most renew my spirits and get me jazzed about writing again. Even if you don't write for a living, I really encourage folks to attend conferences. They are a wonderful way to meet writers and find out about all kinds of interesting things.

Well, I've got to run. My husband is looming over me, threatening me with a stack of unfolded laundry and I guess I really ought to pack, as well.

I'm off tomorrow! Can't wait!

Friday, April 22, 2011

Guest Author: Danielle Monsch

I'm pleased to have Danielle Monsch on my blog today, talking about one of my favorite subjects: Embracing Digital. There is a huge revolution underway and I'm glad Dani agreed to talk about it.


This is an exciting time to be an author.

Others might not use that word, and they would have a point. Other words such as uncertain or terrifying also fit nicely into that sentence, but I choose to look at the good things all this change has brought us.

With the digital revolution has come epubs, and I think that is a great development.

As both a reader and a writer, what I crave most is choice. When it comes to writing, I want to be able to tell the story that comes to my head in the best possible way I can, without worrying about story length or sometimes even subject matter.

When only print existed, this was not a possibility. Stories needed to be this length, structured like this, and in one of these settings. That is all.

As a reader, I like having hundreds of stories all in one gizmo that fits in my purse, and knowing whatever I’m in the mood for, whatever length I need it to be, I have it.

Does this mean I am unaware of the negatives. Of course not. I want to have my stories in print. I want to be able to point to a book on my shelf and tell someone, “Look at the name, that’s me!” I want to do a book signing. Like most authors, I still feel print is the brass ring, and I am so reaching for it.

But all this change is making print nervous. Fewer debut authors are being signed. Mid-list authors are getting pushed to the side. All NY money and energy is seems to be focused on the ones who are already superstars and the occasional vanity book by the latest spoiled society kid or reality TV star.

I’m not unaware of the negatives, but I refuse to look at them. It’s a choice I made when I decided that I wanted to make a career out of writing. I’m going to embrace the positives and run with them.

So I now have a story published with an epub, and I am beyond thrilled. It’s a short story, not a novel, so the only reason this story was ever able to see the light of day is due to the fact epubs exist! How cool is that? Especially as I’m rather fond of this story, and I’m really glad I can share it with people.

And all those other stories in my head that are too short and would never be able to exist in a print only world? Hopefully you all will be seeing those as well, believe me, I’m going to keep writing them!

And those novels that I would love to see in print? Well, signing fewer authors still means authors are being signed, and until the last print publisher closes its doors, I’m going to keep submitting.

What about you? Are you excited over all the change, or are you just chugging antacids daily? I’m giving a copy of my story Loving a Fairy Godmother to one random commenter, so let me know!

Danielle Monsch is a Romantic Geek Girl Writing in a Fantasy World. You can find her on the web at , ,  and email her at

Loving a Fairy Godmother is available at Liquid Silver Books at


Tiernan is one of a kind. Beyond the divine dimples, killer blue eyes, and hard muscled body, Tiernan is also the only Fairy Godfather. Most of the Fairy Godmothers have no problem with keeping Tiernan around, but Reina isn’t like most Fairy Godmothers.

Amongst Fairy Godmothers, Reina is the best. Organized, efficient, logical. So why is it when Tiernan is around, all those qualities fly out the window? Reina doesn’t like that one infuriating male makes her lose control, and just wants him gone. Circumstances arise that just might let her get her wish, though not in a way she ever wanted.

Tiernan is given an assignment and told either get a Happily Ever After or he will no longer be a Fairy Godfather. Reina is going with him to supervise, but if Tiernan gets his way, he’ll not only be supervising that luscious stubborn fairy in bed, but also get her to admit Happily Ever Afters also apply to Fairy Godmothers.


“Godfather Tiernan—”

“You can just call me Tiernan,” he interrupted.

She tried again. “Godfather Tiernan—”

“”Didn’t Sara just tell you that you had to follow my directions?”

That pushed her over the edge. “Do you truly think you are going to secure a HEA when you haven’t been able to do it yet?”

He let out a derisive snort, but immediately realized that was a huge mistake. Her face lost her usual look of annoyance crossed with bemused tolerance, leaving pure ice in its place. “This is why men should not be allowed into the Godmother program. None of you have any respect for Happily Ever Afters.”

“I never said I didn’t believe in HEAs” he began, but she cut him off.

“Every case you’ve been on tells me you don’t believe, or else you would have tried once, just once, to get one!”

His hands slammed on the table as he leaned across it, his face coming inches from hers. “I’ve never tried because I believe in love! Humans need love so much, who the hell was I to screw up two people in love to get them to HEA status? I could never forgive myself if two people in love missed out on each other because of my actions!”

All anger fled her face, and a hesitant, unsure look came over features. “What do you think a HEA is?”

He drew in a deep breath, sitting down once again. “I think happily ever after is a nice way to end a story, but in the world I remember, it’s a waste.”

Her hand was halfway towards him before she seemed to remember their roles, and she pulled it back to her side. “Love is wonderful, but only love alone is incomplete. You can love someone, but they can ultimately not be right for you. Even in love, people can still be led to believe the worst of each other, still hurt each other, still decide they are better without the other,” she began, her words hesitant, as if she was trying to define to herself what it all meant as much as to him. “But the Happily Ever After is so much more. It’s finding your perfect match, love purified, refined, to such an extent that it can never be sundered. With a Happily Ever After, men can achieve greatness, as can all the generations who follow growing up in its shadow.”

“And you think jeopardizing the surety of a love match now is worth it for only the possibility of a Happily Ever After?” he asked, his voice gentle, reverent, wanting nothing to break this intimacy their words were creating.

“I do. In your view, maybe that seems cruel, but in my view, there is no greater tragedy then two people who almost make this connection but fall short in the end.”

Such a hard exterior to cover such a tender heart. “I’m not sure if I can believe as you do,” he said after considering her words. “But I never want Sara... you... to feel as if I let you down. After we get this situation behind us, I want you proud of the job I do.”

And as his breath caught at the rare smile she bestowed upon him just then, he knew all she had to do was keep smiling at him like that, and anything she wanted, whether it be his beliefs or his blood, he would give her.

Her smile faded, and the moment ended. Reina cloaked herself in her position of authority as she handed him the file that had been sitting on her desk. It was already open to show a picture of a blond girl, pretty and vibrant with a mouth full of straight white teeth, all of which was evident even underneath the dirt. “I looked over this case earlier, before I realized what was going on,” she said. “It is a good, solid HEA case. There are several challenges to overcome, but also several sources of help for the client. It is about as perfect as a case can be for this purpose, as evenly balanced as I’ve ever seen. No one can accuse the council of favoring either side. The girl’s name is Cinderella. She lives with an abusive Stepmother and two rotten spoiled stepsisters. She is a very kind, generous girl—though a little too much of a doormat, if you ask me—but outside of that, not really any other character flaws. She is much beloved in her village, children and small animals flock to her daily. In short, we exist to give HEAs to mortals like her.”

Tiernan read the file quickly, then flipped the page and took in the photo of the male who would supply the HEA. “A prince, huh? That’s pretty standard.”

“Indeed, but for the most part, we don’t mess with the classics here.” The pointed look she gave him told him he was one of the exceptions, and she wasn’t necessarily thrilled about it. Ah yes, completely back to normal.

He returned that look with a flirty smile. “I used to serve royalty, Godmother Reina. Believe me when I say, sometimes the large crown is to compensate for something.”

“Oh really? Well, I assume we can say the same thing about your sword, eh, knight?”

Maybe not completely back to normal after all. The second those words passed her lips her eyes went saucer wide, and Tiernan couldn’t say who was more shocked, him or Reina herself. There was no way he was letting this pass. His voice coming out a low growl, he replied, “Why, Reina, I never knew you were interested in the size of my sword. Anytime you want a private viewing, I will be more than happy to oblige.”

Thanks, Dani!

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Sample Sunday: The Vital Principle

It's a lovely Sunday morning here in North Carolina and I'm offering a small sample from my latest book, a historical mystery called The Vital Principle. Just a small bit to enjoy with your Sunday coffee and muffin.

The Vital Principle is a historical mystery featuring The Second Sons Inquiry Agency. It's been released at a special introductory price of $.99.

The Vital Principle

In 1815, an inquiry agent, Mr. Knighton Gaunt, is asked by Lord Crowley to attend a séance with the express purpose of revealing the spiritualist as a fraud. When the séance ends abruptly, Lord Crowley is poisoned during the turmoil by an unseen killer.

Gaunt is now left to investigate not only fraud, but murder. Suspicion turns first to the spiritualist, Miss Prudence Barnard, but as Gaunt digs deeper into the twisted history of the guests at Rosecrest, he discovers more deadly secrets. Inevitably, long-time friends turn against one another as the tension mounts, and Gaunt is challenged to separate fact from fiction before another death at Rosecrest.

The Vital Principle is the first mystery in the Second Sons Inquiry Agency series and features coolly intellectual Mr. Knighton Gaunt, the agency’s founder. This witty, historical whodunit in the tradition of Bruce Alexander’s Blind Justice, will keep you guessing until the unexpected end.

“Murder, mystery, and a dash of romance combined with witty dialogue and unforgettable characters make The Vital Principle a book that will definitely go on my keeper shelf!” —Lilly Gayle, author of Into the Darkness and Slightly Tarnished.

In this excerpt, Miss Barnard is questioned about her possible role in the murder of her host. She's an outsider in a close group of friends and finds herself in the unfortunate position of being the easiest target.

As if aware of her scrutiny, Mr. Gaunt edged closer. He spoke in low tones no one else could hear. “You’re very composed, Miss Barnard.”

“For a murderess? Would tears avail me? Or convince anyone of my innocence?”

“They might. A woman’s tears are often most efficacious.”

“Except when the decision has already been made. A trial seems almost superfluous, doesn’t it?” Her voice was low and biting with anger. A deep feeling of ill-use made it difficult for her to remain calm.

“No one has accused you,” Mr. Gaunt replied. “And if you had a hand in this, you’ll get a fair hearing.”

“Then you do think I murdered Lord Crowley? What possible motive could I have had?”
“For one thing, you didn’t seem pleased when he requested my attendance tonight.”
“I didn’t arrange this entertainment, the dowager did. And it appears to me, the mystery should be why I murdered Lord Crowley instead of simply doing away with you. If you believe I was so upset by your presence.” Frustration and fear compressed her stomach into a cold lump.
“You knew why he asked me here,” he stated flatly.
“Really? Why? Pray enlighten me. I’m all agog to hear.”
“To prove you’re a fraud taking advantage of an elderly widow.”

“Taking advantage? By reassuring the poor dear that whatever silly misdemeanor she believes she committed before her husband died is unimportant? How is that taking advantage of her?”

“You’re better qualified to answer that particular question than I. But I’m sure it’s profitable.”
“Profitable?” She laughed bitterly. When the other men glanced at her, she put her hand over her mouth and turned her inappropriate laughter into a cough. “If you call a frusty little room and a few meals profitable. I’m a guest here, nothing more.” Then she added with a coldly sweet smile, “Guests aren’t paid. Or weren’t you aware of that?”
“So kindness was your only motivation?” His black eyes bored into hers. “How can we trust what you say when you conduct these ridiculous entertainments and pretend to speak to the dead?”
She arched a mocking eyebrow. “What makes you think I can’t?”
“Come now. You can’t expect me to believe you’re capable of communicating with the spirit world. Or that you even believe such a thing is possible.”
“I believe there are many things we don’t understand. I refuse to close my mind to the possibility simply because it’s difficult to prove,” she temporized, knowing only too well the dangers of trying to argue about spirit communications.
If there wasn’t a spirit world, then she’d be forced to acknowledge that she was a complete fraud. And even though she hadn't, yet, reached that unseen world and had used a number of tricks to suggest that she had, she always hoped that one day some apparition might answer her call. There was always the possibility.
Mr. Gaunt smiled and his expression grew even more sardonic. “Then let’s be more specific and examine what we can prove. Did you speak to the dowager’s previous husband?”
“Perhaps not this evening. However, I’m sure the words I wrote were what he would have relayed, if he could have done so.”

“So you lied—”

“No, I merely—”
“It was not the truth!” His lips thinned and anger ignited a slow burning fire in his eyes. “Her husband did not speak through you. Admit it.”

She tilted her head to one side, examining him. “Do you believe her husband did not love her?”

“I have no idea. That’s not the point.”
“Then you don’t know if it was the truth or not.” She offered, instinctively knowing the men would tear her apart like a pack of hungry dogs if she reacted emotionally. Her mind raced ahead, abnormally clear, encased in the fragile ice of logic that could shatter at any moment and leave her raging at their accusations. “And it eased the dowager’s mind. So I fail to see I did anything wrong.”
Mr. Gaunt said, “You mislead—”
“No. I told a desperately lonely woman what she needed to hear. That’s the sum of it. There are many truths. You have yours. I have mine.”
“There is only one truth.”
“Nonsense.” She folded her hands at her waist and turned partially away, unable to bear the intense scrutiny of his hard eyes. Her fingers felt stiff and icy with fear. “I refuse to discuss this any further. It’s futile. You’ll believe what you wish. If you chose not to trust me, then so be it. But regardless of what you think, I did not kill Lord Crowley.”


Thank you,


Thursday, April 14, 2011

Good News for Publishing Industry

Is it the end of publishing as we know it?

From Publishers Weekly, it appears that bookstore sales have jumped 9.3% in February (to an astounding $1.11 billion). Of course this reflects sales through college and trade bookstores, so maybe we're just seeing a lot of folks buying textbooks for the spring semester. :)

However, despite all the folks predicting the triumph of independent publishing over traditional publishing, there's still room, and a need, for both. Yes, e-publishing is growing by leaps and bounds, and writers are finding it enormously freeing to take control of their work and publish it themselves. All kinds of "cottage industries" are starting to sprout up to support this, including editing services, graphic artists (cover design), and even formatting services.

Ironically, I think the first group of publishers to feel the squeeze might not be the big traditional NY publishing houses, although they are certainly struggling to figure it out. The first casualty may be the smaller houses. If you can hire an independent editor and graphic artist, why go to a small house? The ultimate product will be priced much higher than the standard ($.99 for novellas, short stories, and the first book in a series/$2.99 for standard novels). Those books will be unable to compete since they are up against: backlist books of established authors that have the advantage of having gone through the editing process at a traditional NY publishing house; and indie author books.

The thing that smaller publishing houses can give an author, however, may be sufficient to keep them going for a while. That thing is: credibility. Someone else thinks your book is worthy of reading.

We can't entirely discredit the desire for credibility or the even more compelling desire to be able to brag that an editor thought your writing was good enough to offer a contract. For some writers, even if they never sell more than 10 copies, that's reason enough to go with a publisher--any publisher--small or large. They want credibility as an author.

That's the one thing I haven't quite been able to wrap my head around when it comes to indie publishing. Humans naturally want to be able to categorize things and people. There are a lot of psychological reasons why and I won't bore you with all of them. But it is convenient to have various strata in any industry, because it gives you a "short-hand" to kind of know what you're dealing with.

Let's compare Publishing to Acting, because a lot of folks can relate to that, and it will show you want I mean.

Publishing Arena                  Acting Arena
Indie Authors                            Indie filmmakers, actors in commercials/supermarket openings
Small Press Authors               Actors in bit parts
Mid-List w/ Trad. House         Actors in the soaps/Made-for-TV Movies
NY Times Best Seller             Movie Star
Mega-Author                           A-List Movie Star

If you remove the publishing houses from the's weird to see how it would all shake out. I mean, how can an A-List Movie Star get to be a movie star without a studio to produce the blockbuster movie.

And have Mega-Authors like Amanda Hocking come along as an indie author...and yet... She just signed a contract with a major publishing house. Just like any A-List Movie Star would.

In the end, I'm glad to see the good news from the publishing world, but I also think we don't really know how this is all going to shake out in the next several years.

Amy Corwin writes mysteries and romantic mysteries. Her latest "The Vital Principle" is available through Amazon and other online bookstores.

The Vital Principle
In 1815, an inquiry agent, Mr. Knighton Gaunt, is asked by Lord Crowley to attend a séance with the express purpose of revealing the spiritualist as a fraud. The séance ends abruptly, however, and during the turmoil, Lord Crowley dies. Gaunt is left to investigate not only fraud, but murder. Suspicion turns first to the spiritualist, Miss Prudence Barnard, but as Gaunt digs deeper into the twisted history of the guests at Rosecrest, he discovers more deadly secrets.  Inevitably, long-time friends turn against one another as the tension mounts and Gaunt is challenged to separate fact from fiction.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Guest Blog: A.J. Nuest

This week, we're lucky to have an inspirational blog by A.J. Nuest. Please welcome her!

Be Mindful of Your Promises

Thanks to Amy Corwin for hosting me on her blog today! It’s a real treat to be here!

Amy suggested I write a blog about researching my current work in progress, and since this topic is near and dear to my heart, I jumped at the chance.

Three years ago I sat down in front of my old, dilapidated laptop, determined to write a story. I braced the back of the screen with a cereal box, and soon lived and breathed this wonderful new hobby I’d discovered, happily clicking away at the keyboard. Three weeks later I sat back and realized I’d just completed my very first romance novel. How exciting! Unfortunately, I had no idea what to do with it.

So, I went to my local library and came up with a list of publishers, a sample query letter, and all the steps a new author should follow in their path to publication. I was on my way!

The story got rejected. And then it got rejected again. And then again. I was completely disheartened. So, I did something I hadn’t done in a very long time. I went into my bedroom, got down on my knees and prayed. Cliché, right? Well, just wait…it gets better. Like so many others who turn to prayer during moments of despair, I made a deal with God. Cliché, again, I know. But, I promised if God would see His way clear to granting my little story a publishing contract, I would write a story, the best story I possibly could, and dedicate it to His honor.

A few days after God and I reached this agreement, I received my first contract. Six months later, I received my second…the time had come to make good on my promise.

Now, I’m not one of those people who spends a lot of time perusing The Bible. I don’t even attend church on a regular basis. But I made a promise. And I meant to keep it. So, I started my first inspirational romance, entitled Flicker. It didn’t take long for me to realize I didn’t know enough. I mean, I’ve always been a spiritual person, was raised in a home where attending church was a Sunday ritual, but that had been years ago, and I needed to get a better grip on the whole religion issue. Since my heroine shares a deep relationship with The Almighty, I knew I would need to reference The Bible, use parables and verses so the characters would ring true. I considered this problem from a purely logical standpoint and enrolled in a Bible Study. After all, I had to actually know what I was talking about. And I wanted my story to be REAL.

In fact, making Flicker real was of significant importance. I didn’t want the story to come off as preachy, or like some syrupy-sweet romance that seemed too good to be true. I wanted the characters, the Christian characters in Flicker to be flawed individuals who sometimes made huge mistakes, faltered under daily pressures and occasionally fell terribly short of their ultimate goal. Because that’s what real life is like.

That Bible study was an eye-opening experience. Everywhere I turned, every new piece of information I learned, confirmed without a doubt I was on the right path. The similarities between Flicker (a story I started prior to the Bible study) and the things that happened to me while getting the words on paper can only be described as divine intervention. You see, I made God a promise, and was working hard to fulfill my end of the deal, but all along, I forgot what God had promised me. He not only heard my prayer, but then He gave me the means to succeed. I had in advertently stumbled onto a win-win situation.

Flicker has since won second place in a contest and been requested by an inspirational publisher in Minneapolis. I’ve had two stories published and a third is under consideration at The Wild Rose Press. But even more importantly, I learned a few things while writing Flicker. First, never underestimate the power of prayer. God is always listening. Second, read the Bible. Consider it a life guide for dummies. All the answers are there. And finally, be mindful of your promises, because chances are good God will use them to change your life.

Jezebel’s Wish Blurb:

Haunted by nightmares, tormented by guilt, Jezebel came to Redemption Ranch to escape the past—except now she's stuck in the middle of nowhere with no redemption in sight. When her mother pushes her into riding lessons with local veterinarian Matthias Saunders, Jezebel balks. Sure, the doctor is gorgeous, but he’s completely obnoxious and knows how to push every one of her buttons.

Only her deep connection with The Reverend, a gentle stallion who guards her darkest secrets, has her agreeing to spend any more time with Dr. Saunders. Caring for the stallion is the first bright spot in her life in months, and if being around the horse means she has to deal with Matthias Saunders, then so be it. Surely a city girl like her can handle one country vet—even one with disturbing blue eyes. Can't she?

Jezebel’s Wish Excerpt:

Jezzy stopped. “I thought I was having a riding lesson.”

“You are.” He nodded toward the empty paddock. “Go in.”

“Go in?” Jezzy propped a hand on her hip. “You sure you know what you’re doing? Because it was my understanding that an actual horse is needed for a riding lesson.”

“Don’t you think it would be wise at this juncture to leave the understanding up to the professionals?”

Jezzy rolled her eyes. “You’re making this way too easy. Professionals? Please. Don’t get me started.”

“Why not? Getting you started is exactly what I’m here for.”

Jezzy’s jaw dropped. She didn’t quite know how to interpret that remark.

He held out the rope. “Now go in. And take this lead line with you.” Steely blue determination glinted in his eyes. There was no way he was going to give in.

Jezzy snatched the lead line from his hand and stormed through the gate, then turned when he closed it behind her.

He put a foot on the bottom railing and rested against the gate, facing the horizon. “Take the chair to the center of the paddock and sit down.”

“And just exactly how is that supposed to teach me to ride?”

He cocked an eyebrow. “You want out of the deal?”

Jezzy’s fist clenched tight around the lead line. What she wanted was to march back to the fence and smack his face.

A Bit About AJ Nuest
AJ Nuest lives in northwest Indiana with her loving husband and two beautiful children. She is the author of two contemporary romance novels.

Visit her on the web at:
Facebook: Tattered Pages

Thank you for being on my blog!

Thursday, April 07, 2011

Guest blog: Caroline Clemmons

I'm lucky to have one of my favorite romance authors back: Caroline Clemmons. I've asked her to talk a little bit about the research she's done for her books, and she happily obliged.


Top O’ The Morning To Ye! It may not be morning where you are, but the best to you no matter what time of day you’re here. The only place I love better than the United States is Ireland. Please let me introduce you to a few facts on Ireland and Irish-Americans before I tell you about my western historical, THE TEXAN’S IRISH BRIDE.

Irish-Americans have made considerable contributions in the United States from Charles Carroll III (the only Catholic to sign the Declaration of Independence) to Andrew Jackson to Sandra Day O’Connor. My favorite is Maureen Fitzsimmons, whose name was shortened to O’Hara. (Maureen O’Hara holds dual citizenship with the United States and Ireland.) Irish-Americans fought in our wars from the American Revolution forward. In fact, John Coleman, an Irish sailor on Henry Hudson’s Half Moon was killed by Indians in 1609 at what is now Sandy Hook, New Jersey.

When the infamous potato famine struck and millions in Ireland literally starved, there was a mass immigration of Irish into the United States. Due to their poor education, they were looked down on by many. At the time, it was against the law for Irish to learn to read and write. Only the English could attend Irish schools. The Irish’s only education came from “hedgerow” schools in which someone would teach a small group of children behind a hedgerow by using a stick to draw on the ground. Anyone caught teaching Irish children to read and write was jailed.

What does this have to do with my romance novels? Thank you, I’m so glad you asked.

When I was researching for THE TEXAN’S IRISH BRIDE, I became even more enthralled with Ireland and the Irish’s role in my home state, Texas. Because of the lack of schooling, the Irish heroine Cenora Rose O’Neill (who may look suspiciously like a young Maureen O’Hara) cannot read cursive and reads only a little in print. Hero Dallas McClintock reads most evenings and values education. This difference causes only one of the many conflicts that arise in the book. (Shameless attempt to coerce you to buy this book.)

Cenora and her family had fallen in with a group of Irish Traveler. The Travelers, or tinkers, are descended from medieval minstrels and poets who traveled Ireland telling myths and stories. At that time, they were respected and learned. Travelers have their own language/cant, Sheldroo, which is linked to a medieval language. At the time of Cromwell’s English occupation, many Irish families were turned out of their homes. Homeless Irish families drifted in with the traveling minstrels and eventually became the Irish Travelers. They camped in fields. Later they acquired tents, then the colorful wagons that resemble gypsy wagons, such as the ones used in my novel. I was fortunate enough to see a couple of these wagons in museums when my husband and I were in Ireland and Scotland. The wagons are unbelievably compact, and brightly painted inside and out.

In THE TEXAN’S IRISH BRIDE, Cenora Rose O’Neill knows her father somehow arranged the trap for Dallas McClintock, but she agrees to wed the handsome stranger. She’d do anything to protect her family, and she wants to save herself from the bully Tom Williams. She believes a fine settled man like Dallas will rid himself of her soon enough, but at least she and her family will be safely away from Tom Williams.

Texas rancher Dallas McClintock has no plans to wed for several years. Right now, he’s trying to establish himself as a successful horse breeder. Severely wounded rescuing Cenora from kidnappers, Dallas is taken to her family’s wagon to be tended. He is trapped into marrying Cenora, but he is not a man who goes back on his word. His wife has a silly superstition for everything, but passion-filled nights with her make up for everything—even when her wild, eccentric family drives crazy.

Here’s an excerpt from the wedding in THE TEXAN’S IRISH BRIDE:

Dallas raised his gaze where Aoife directed. Four girls danced, but only one drew his attention. Shoulders straight and feet flying, Cenora met his glance, then broke away from the other dancers to perform only a few yards from him.

Catcalls sounded nearby. She ignored them but gave a toss of her head. Her hair had come unbound, and her act sent her fiery hair awhirl. Light from the blazing campfire cast an aura-like radiance around her. Lantern glow overhead reflected her eyes sparked with merriment, challenge, and something mysterious he couldn’t name.

No longer the delicate china doll, her wild beauty called to him, mesmerized him. He visualized her brilliant tresses spread across a pillow, her milky skin bared only for him. His body responded, and savage desire shot through him. Surprised at the depth of his reaction, he wondered if her performance in bed would parallel the unbridled nature of her dance.

Good Lord, could this glorious woman truly be his wife? And if so, heaven help him, what on earth was he to do with her?

I hope you’ll read and enjoy THE TEXAN’S IRISH BRIDE. I’ll donate a free PDF download to someone who comments here and tells me they’ve gone to my blog  to sign up for my Mostly Monthly Newsletter. The buy link for THE TEXAN’S IRISH BRIDE is . My other links are , Facebook, Goodreads, Amazon as Caroline Clemmons, and on Twitter as CarolinClemmons (no E in Caroline).

Thanks, Amy, for having me as your guest, today!

Caroline's Bio
Caroline Clemmons writes romance and adventures—although her earliest made up adventures featured her saving the West with Roy Rogers. Her career has included stay-at-home mom (her favorite job), newspaper reporter and featured columnist, assistant to the managing editor of a psychology journal, and bookkeeper. She and her husband live in rural North Central Texas with a menagerie of rescued pets. When she’s not writing, she enjoys spending time with family, reading, travel, browsing antique malls and estate sales, and genealogy/family history. Her latest contemporary and historical romance releases in print and e-book include THE TEXAN’S IRISH BRIDE, OUT OF THE BLUE, a novella in the Civil War anthology NORTHERN ROSES AND SOUTHERN BELLES, and the upcoming HOME SWEET TEXAS HOME in July. Her novella SAVE YOUR HEART FOR ME is available as a download only. Her backlist of contemporary and historical romance is now at Smashwords and Kindle. Read about her at or her blog at  She loves to hear from readers at
It was my pleasure to have you here. I really enjoyed hearing a bit about the travelers. I'd read a few books that mentioned them and it was fun to learn a little background.

Tuesday, April 05, 2011

Publishing, ePublishing and Marketing

It's not all doom-and-gloom out there for traditional publishers. After all, St. Martins just signed Amanda Hocking for a 4-book deal which will allow her to push her books into other shopping venues like traditional bookstores and mass-market outlets like Target and Wal-Mart.

In addition, revenues at Random House rose 6.1% which ain't bad. Their increased revenues were due in part to a 250% increase in e-book sales, which I consider a very good thing. Random House is one of the publishers who seem to be doing a pretty good job straddling the e-book and print markets, which gets their books into the hands of a lot more readers. For writers who sign with Random House, they have a shifting scale-rate for e-book royalties that range from 25% to 40%.

Other Press is raising it's e-book royalty rate to 50% and the change took place on April 1 (and it's not a joke, either LOL). Authors get that rate once they earn out their advance. Again, not bad.

So things are looking up in both the digital and traditional worlds of publishing and I commend authors like Amanda Hocking who are working in both independent publishing and traditional publishing arenas. Diversification has always been a key factor in success and I personally think this is an astute move on her part.

Like publishing, marketing is shifting too and astute authors have already recognized this. While much of the social scene is still "Me, first!" and "Look at ME!", marketing using "Look at ME!" strategies is simply not that effective any longer. The tide is shifting toward building an online community.

Let's think about it. What made authors like Amanda Hocking so popular? Talent? Sure--that's a given. And writing stories that resonated with readers. But beyond that, what she was able to do was to create a community of readers who shared their interest in her books.

The key was building a community.

When you build a community, you're shifting the focus away from, "What can I do to get people to notice my book?" to "What can I offer to the community?" It may seem like a subtle difference, but what is really entails is focusing on what your readers want or need, rather than what you want (i.e. to sell more books).

You need to interact with folks. Find topics to discuss that interest your readers. Tell them what you like and share your own interests. Build a community.

I'll tell you, when I stopped thinking in terms of shoving my book, The Vital Principle, in everyone's face all the time and started thinking about sharing interesting things (like the research other authors do for their books) I doubled my sales. I didn't expect to, but I did.

Talk about your positive reinforcement. Suddenly, altruism and helping other writers seemed like a great idea.

Then I read a book mentioned by Bob Mayer, We are Not Alone, The Writer's Guide to Social Media" by Kristen Lamb, and many of these notions I was starting to have fell into place.

If you haven't read that book, get it. Read it.
Do it.

Monday, April 04, 2011

Guest Blog: Angie Fox

I love dogs and mysteries so you can guess that I jumped at the chance to have Angie Fox visit my blog! Did you know that some bikers ride with their dogs? I was astounded. So let me put Angie in the driver's seat to tell us about dogs, bikes and books!

Riding with the Harley Dogs: One Author’s Adventure

I’d always known writing would be an adventure, but I never predicted my writing would put me on the back of a coal black Harley Davidson, with an Irish Setter in tow. I’d set out to write a paranormal about a straight-laced preschool teacher turned demon slayer who has to run off with a gang of geriatric biker witches. But my heroine has a smart-mouthed dog that, thanks to her new powers, can talk…and talk…and talk. And I really loved that dog. What’s a writer to do? Well, I went online and learned that there is a nationwide club of Harley bikers who ride with their dogs. So my heroine could have her pink Harley, and her Jack Russell Terrier too.

And of course I had to meet these Harley riding dog lovers. I called up a few of the members of a Biker Dogs Motorcycle Club and the adventure began. They invited me into their homes, introduced me to their dogs and, like my heroine, the bikers hoisted me up on the back of a Harley, with a dog in tow.

Things I learned right off the bat:

• After an hour on a Harley, you’ll walk like John Wayne for a week

• Helmets hurt when they are worn backwards

• Dogs love riding motorcycles

Stone, the biker who spent the most time making sure I didn’t fall off his hog, showed me how to ride, invited me to some biker rallies (note to self: don’t wear pink next time), and helped make The Last of the Demon Slayers as real as it can be (for a book about a somewhat sheltered preschool teacher turned demon slayer).

So just when I thought I was writing fiction, it seemed my made-up characters from The Last of the Demon Slayers weren’t so imaginary after all. One of the bikers I met even has a wife who is a biker witch. I’m wondering if she, like my heroine’s biker witch grandma, wears a “kiss my asphalt” t-shirt and carries Smuckers jars filled with magic. Maybe I’ll find out on my next adventure.

Want to win one of the books in Angie’s series? Just take the What’s Your Biker Witch Name? quiz. Post your results below and you’re entered to win. Good luck! The quiz link is:

You can meet Angie on the web at

Friday, April 01, 2011

Guest: Rebecca Dahlke

As a mystery writer, I was interested in Rebecca's newsletter, "All Mystery e-Newsletter" so I asked her to return and talk to us about her journey as a writer and the newsletter.

I'm glad she agreed because she also included some interesting tidbits that will be of interest to other authors trying to make a name for themselves in this increasingly competitive market.

R.P. Dahlke

You asked about my writing journey; Between work and raising a family, I’ve been writing off and on since I was a child. And then in 2004 I was thrilled to have my first mystery novel published. This first book based on my experiences running my family’s crop-dusting business south of Modesto, California in the ‘70’s was all I needed to spur me on to dig in and write!

Six months later, I was finishing my second in the Lalla Bains mystery series, when my forty year-old son died in a tragic accident flying a crop-duster. I thought I’d always write, but, as many of you who’ve also lost children already know, there is a season of purgatory for which there is no going around. It has to be dealt with. And so I did my time, stuffing my world with busy things, putting on a happy face for friends and family, but I could no longer write.

Then, five years to the day of my son’s death, I started writing again. Getting back in touch with my writing friends was wonderful, exhilarating, and a huge surprise. The magnitude of change in the publishing industry and how authors were promoting their work five, six years ago as opposed to today was like going from covered wagons to space ships. Facebook, Twitter, Blogging, and that newest, if somewhat puzzling buzzword—branding. (Sort of smacks of burning flesh from a red hot poker, doesn’t it?)

Still, I found all of it fascinating. I got a personal FACEBOOK page, gathering old friends and writers as I went. Most of my contemporaries were already miles ahead of me in this department, having a few thousand FB “friends” and writing their sixth or seventh books. Boy, how’s an author supposed to juggle all this new stuff and find the time to write books?

Then, because I needed to educate myself on Social Media for an art league I belong to, I attended a college workshop that included an introduction to Constant Contact which specializes in e-newsletter templates. I used this knowledge to wean the art association off the huge bucks we’d been spending a year for local newspaper ads, and instead, for a fraction of the cost, set them up with an e-newsletter. The organization now boasts a couple of spiffy new websites, a FACEBOOK page and, God help them… Twitter.

Because I knew I had to develop a platform and get myself some of that branding stuff, it was a natural progression to go from art league e-newsletter to what has become All Mystery! e-newsletter.

Like writing a book, I started with a premise: By now, I knew that websites can sit and gather dust in this fast-paced new world. Blog? Well, maybe. I didn’t want to review or sell books, or review or discuss books, either. I wanted to engage readers with a colorful and interactive page that came to their e-mail in-box offering them new books and new authors and a buy link to the author’s Amazon page where the reader could buy the hardcover or immediately down-load the e-book.

Out of these ideas I developed a fan based, free monthly e-newsletter that has grown from a few authors a month to ten-twelve mystery/suspense authors. I’m pleased to say that the readership is steadily growing and it’s less than a year old.

Now, although All Mystery e-newsletter is free to the authors, I do request that they forward their issue to ten or so of their fans, who can either sign up—or not. If not, they will never get another issue; so there are no worries about spamming. And, yes, this e-newsletter is also my platform developing a readership for my books, which answers the question as to whether my efforts are entirely altruistic.

Setting up All Mystery e-newsletter a year in advance of the publication of my first book has meant that I get a shot at increasing new readership of my books … just as all of the participating authors get to share in the readers that I brought to the newsletter.

A DEAD RED CADILLAC is now up on kindle and should be up on Amazon in trade paperback with that nifty “look inside” feature by the end of April. This book will be one of the featured books in the June issue of All Mystery e-newsletter Murder @ Work… and yes, it was a challenge to squeeze my books into an issue!

A DEAD RED HEART is the second in the Lalla Bains series, and it should be out on Kindle/Amazon by mid-April, then in trade paper back on Amazon with the “look inside” feature by end of May. This book will be one of the featured books in the October issue of All Mystery e-newsletter Murder @ Work

You asked where I got my idea for A DEAD RED HEART. I get my ideas from newspaper stores, and this one was a doozy: A prisoner who got a heart transplant… which led me to the question: What would you do if your loved one lost their chance at a heart transplant because the donor heart went to a convicted felon in a California prison?

There are first chapters on the website:
You can see samples of All Mystery! e-newsletter and sign up to get more at: or contact me: