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Thursday, September 27, 2012

Meet Lynn Cahoon

Today, I’d like to introduce you to St. Louis author Lynn Cahoon. I met Lynn through an amazing group called Authors Helping Authors. As many of you know, I seriously rooted for the Cardinals last year for two reasons—my mom was from St. Louis and they beat the Rangers in the playoffs against the Detroit Tigers. Yay, St. Louis.

Lynn, please tell us about yourself.

The official version? Lynn Cahoon is a contemporary romance author with a love of hot, sexy men, real and imagined. Her alpha heroes range from rogue witch hunters to modern cowboys. And her heroines all have one thing in common, their strong need for independence. Or at least that’s what they think they want. 

Other than that, I work a day job, listen to books on cd on an hour commute – best invention ever! – and play wife to my husband of four years when I’m not attached to my computer.  I’m the mom of a born-to-love-Seattle son and two Pomeranians who believe my role in life is to take them for a walk. And buy the dog food.

When did you first realize you wanted to be a writer?

I’ve always been a storyteller, but I only told the stories to myself. I’d imagine what if… and by the time I was done, I’d slayed the dragon, found the treasures, and won the heart of the prince.

What is your work schedule like when you’re writing?

When I’m writing? I’m always writing. I have so many books started, waiting for me to get time to schedule them in. I heard Shannon Butcher talk once and she mentioned she knows what she’s writing for the next two years. I can see how you’d get there. I’m doing a third (at least) book in both of my series that debuted this year. The second books are already written and The Bull Rider’s Manger is sold. My other editor is reading Return of the Fae, the second in the A Member of the Council series. Currently, I’m writing a cozy mystery I started at the beginning of the year before I sold the two romances.

So, back to the question – I try to (and yes, Yoda, there is a try…) write first thing in the am before I drive to work. Then again at night until I reached 1000 words. If I wasn’t working on a self-imposed deadline (I want to enter the cozy into a mystery contest October 15th), my word count goal would be lower – 500 words. Weekends I double that.

Great output, even if you didn’t have a full-time day job. What do you like to do when you’re not writing?

See answer above. Honestly, I spend way too much time on the computer. Both at work or at home writing, reading, marketing, tweeting… all that stuff. But I have a five year plan. At the end of that, I hope to be writing full time which will allow me to do other things with my ‘free’ time.

What does your family think of your writing?

Again, see answer above.

Just kidding. My husband is very supportive, even jabbing me when I’ve been slacking a bit and not writing. He sees my success as a way to fish full time. My adult son has been amazingly supportive. And I’ve gotten a lot of support from more distant relatives. However I still get the comments about writing a ‘real’ book.

Can’t please everyone! LOL

Isn’t that the truth. How do you come up with ideas?

Ideas are everywhere. My accountability partner says I have Bright and Shiny Disease, I’m always talking about how this or that would be a great story. When my husband and I went to Cincinnati for a baseball game, we walked through Fountain Square. In the middle is this big fountain (duh) but a woman is perched high on the top of the fountain, her arms outstretched with water flowing out of her open hands.

At the time, I was plotting the second book in my magic series – A Member of the Council. I knew a few things. I knew the two main characters were going on a quest to seek out Coven X and Parris’ family. I knew the bad guy would fall in love with a minor character and get her pregnant. But I didn’t know what they were looking for, where they would go, or why. So I kept bouncing ideas off my husband. When I saw the statue, I knew she’d be part of the story. When I got home, I started writing. My editor’s reading the book right now. I hope she loves it as much as I do.

The city hall building will be in a book somewhere, sometime.

I love that term “Bright and Shiny Disease”. I think I have it, too. LOL What is the single most important part of writing for you?

Remembering it’s my story, even through all the revision processes. I let my characters take me on their journey, good or bad, they run the show. And I know, others are going to say, You’re the writer, not your characters, but when a scene isn’t working for me, usually it’s because I wanted something to happen and my characters either aren’t there yet, or don’t want to do it.

A few days ago, while I walked at my morning break, I thought about my WIP and the young woman (Christina) who’s staying with Mia, my main character. Christina’s got a secret and I thought I’d revealed it during a late night conversation in the last chapter. I thought maybe I needed to go back and fix that, since I’m only on chapter six. While I walked, I realized that the reveal was a lie. Christina isn’t talking to her estranged mom, she’s been sent there on a quest from her brother – Mia’s ex.

Are your stories driven by plot or character?

Definitely character. I’ll start with a character or a setting and think, who is this person? Why is she showing up in my head? What’s her story? Sometimes they even tell me.

How do you balance a life outside of writing with deadlines and writing muses?

Can I say not well? I’m driven. So I work until I burn out and then I sit and eat potato chips and watch Tivo’d shows until I bore myself back to my own stories. Mostly I just try to keep going and doing a little at a time – that gives me momentum.

Tell us about your latest book.

I’m writing a cozy mystery set in a small mountain town in Idaho next to the famous Sun Valley. I love writing about home as well as mixing in history of an area to give readers a taste of the glamour years when all the stars visited for ski vacations. And, my main character loves to cook. So I get my foodie on while I’m writing. Of course there’s a touch of romance mixed in, just because everyone deserves the chance at a happy ever after. My characters are a lot like me in that way, when they are working out a problem in their heads, they keep their hands busy, creating a new version of a treat. A few days ago, I made spicy sausage potato soup for dinner, mostly because my writing was giving me fits.

Here’s the blurb about Lynn’s current book, The Bull Rider’s Brother:

On a girl's night out, Lizzie Hudson finds herself comparing her life as a single mom with her best friend's successful career when James Sullivan, the cowboy who got away, walks his Justin Ropers back into her life.

Seeing him shakes Lizzie's world but James is in for an even more eventful weekend: he learns he has a son. James has enough on his plate trying to manage his brother's bull riding career. Can he learn to redefine family and become part of Lizzie's life before she gives up on him and marries another?

And a teaser excerpt from The Bull Rider’s Brother

“I’ll be there in a minute.” James knelt down next to the kid. He had a new straw hat. Staring at the sheep, James picked up a piece of straw and put it in his mouth like a toothpick.
The kid watched James and mirrored his actions. He, too, picked up a piece of straw and started chewing.
James grinned. “You riding tonight?”
“First time?”
“Yep. Gramps bought me a new hat. He says I’m big enough.”
“I rode at your age.” James laid his arms on the rails of the pen.
“You did?” The boy cast a glance downward and away, kicking the dirt with his toe before he asked, “Were you scared?”
“Heck, yeah. I worried I’d fall. Then I was scared I’d make a fool of myself and bawl my eyes out.” James peered at the barn toward where his brother stood talking to group of men. “I didn’t want my brother to tease me.”
“My mom doesn’t know. Gramps said it was our secret.” The kid bent his head towards one of the men talking to Jesse. “Do you think it’s okay to have a secret from your mom?”
“As long as it’s a good secret. Is she coming to the rodeo? Will she be here to watch you?”
“Yep. Gramps says she’ll shit a brick when she sees me.” The boy grinned.
“She probably will.” James laughed and held out his hand. “I’m James.”
“I’m JR.” The boy shook his hand, stood up from his crouch and headed toward the men near Jesse. Turning around, he called, “Are you going to the parade?”
“Wouldn’t miss it.”
“I’ll see you then. They throw lots of candy and you even get an ice cream cone at the end.” He waved and took off at a run. When he reached the crowd around Jesse, he grabbed an older man by the knees.
       Now that’s love.

Love the excerpt. What a guy! Thanks so much, Lynn, for being here today. Before you go, where can readers find you?

My website and blog –A Fairy Tale Life- at www.lynncahoon.wordpress.com

Monday, September 24, 2012

Dialogue vs. Description

Which is better? Dialogue or description. Okay, they aren’t really opponents. Each has its function. Without dialogue, we would have endless pages of description. Remember the “classics” we had to read in school? The ones from the 1800s, where paragraphs went on for over a page—complete description, little dialogue. Bo-ring, right? On the other hand, without description, we would have talking heads. No idea where the characters are or what they are doing. Disconcerting.

So, how do we achieve a balance? Perhaps the better question is what is the reader’s expectation? In an action-adventure novel, the reader expects action. Short, punchy sentences. Brief dialogue. Short paragraphs. In a contemplative novel, one expects longer, more in-depth descriptions. Now, that doesn’t mean you can’t do both in the same novel. All action leaves the reader breathless. Even action heroes need downtime. Romance novels require the characters to talk to each other, along with mood-setting descriptions. I cannot imagine a fantasy novel, with all its glorious descriptions of a magical place, not having characters who speak.

Last week, in my post on Autumn, I mentioned that descriptions in a good part of Switched were fairly easy to write. Fall in Michigan bombards the senses. Sights, sounds, smells, tastes, touch. When we incorporate the senses in stories, readers are grounded in reality. Because they have had similar experiences, they can identify with the characters, plunging them deeper into the story.

So, how many of you have ridden in a starship? Well, neither have I. No surprise there. The trick with writing science fiction, sci-fi romance or fantasy is in the details. It’s the little things that count applies to writing as much as it does to a good marriage. We build this fantastical world out of our imagination, but it has similarities to our real world. By hitting on those similarities, we make our world believable. The starship in the Switched series has a gray-carpeted hall. We all recognize industrial carpeting from offices, banks, businesses. Throughout the ship, there’s a continuous hum from the engines that the crew is so used to they don’t hear it. Riding in a car or plane is a close match. We hear when something is amiss, as Jessie does in Switched, but if the engine is running smoothly we take it for granted.

As I’ve mentioned in every interview, I’m a pantser—I write by the seat of the pants—not a plotter. An idea comes and I run with it. The story plays out like a movie in my head. Since I like action-adventure movies, my stories usually begin with action. Switched, Too begins “Emergency Alert!” Boom. Throws the reader right into the middle of a crisis. Or, I’ll begin with provocative dialogue. Switched 3 (no title yet) begins “I want to meet my mother.” Doesn’t that beg a question? Whichever way a story begins, the point is to hook the reader whether s/he picks the book up off the shelf and reads the first page or clicks on “Look inside” for a preview on Amazon.

Dialogue is easier for me to write than descriptions because I hear the characters speak. (Sure hope my kids aren’t reading this. They’ll put me in a home for sure.) As the story unfolds, I concentrate more on what the characters say and do, not where they are exactly. My first draft is pretty bare bones. Dialogue and stage directions, some internal dialogue. Then, I go back and layer in descriptions. Actually, I do a lot of back and forth writing. I’ve heard it called circular writing—write for a while, go back and add, write more, go back, etc. Those writers who plot first are probably groaning at what they consider wasted time. I say, whatever works.

Let me rephrase my original question. Which do you prefer to read/write—dialogue or description? Or does it matter?

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Meet Jennifer Lowery

I am so pleased to introduce you to Michigan author Jennifer Lowery.

Jennifer grew up reading romance novels in the back of her math book and on the bus to school, and never wanted to be anything but a writer. Her summers were spent sitting at the kitchen table with her sisters spinning tales of romance and intrigue and always with a tall glass of ice tea at their side.

Today, Jennifer is living that dream and she couldn’t be happier to share her passion with her readers. She loves everything there is about romance. Her stories feature alpha heroes who meet their match with strong, independent heroines. She believes that happily ever after is only the beginning of her stories. And the road to that happy ending is paved with action, adventure, and romance. As her characters find out when they face danger, overcome fears, and are forced to look deep within themselves to discover love.

Jennifer lives in Michigan with her husband and three children. When she isn’t writing she enjoys reading and spending time with her family.

The best part of hosting authors on this blog is when they're here to talk about their debut book. It reminds me so much of how I felt when I sold my first novel.

Welcome, Jennifer Lowery.

Make Your Dreams Happen

Hello readers! Thank you so much for stopping by! And thank you, Diane, for inviting me to your wonderful blog. I’m so happy to be here.

If there was one job in this world you would love to do, what would it be? Ooh, I can hear you shouting your answers right now! Fabulous!

For me, my dream job was to be a writer. For as long as I can remember that is all I ever wanted to be. I grew up reading and writing. I love it! I love the heroes, the heroines, the settings, the adventure and romance, the tension and conflict. Everything there is about romance. I knew from the first time I picked up a Harlequin I wanted to write romance. Never a doubt in my mind. The happily ever after was the be all end all for me. That moment when I read the last page and sighed because the hero and heroine had overcome all odds and fallen in love. I’ve found my fit writing action adventure romance with alpha, military heroes and strong, independent heroines.

But, my journey to publication wasn’t what I dreamed it would be. I didn’t sit down, write a story, send it out and get it published. No, that was the fairy tale! In truth, it took me ten years to sign my first publishing contract. And thank goodness for it because I had much to learn!

I am here to tell you that it is possible to publish your earlier writings. I just signed a contract for my second book, titled Murphy’s Law, a 2006 Golden Heart finalist, and the second manuscript I ever completed. Yep. You read that right. It was one of those awful, what-was-I-thinking, horrible first drafts that needed many revisions before it was even readable, lol! But, even after many revisions and finaling in the GH, it still wasn’t ready for publication. Six years later, I found a fabulous critique group (boy, do I wish I had found this group years ago!!) where I met my incredible critique partner, and sent it through for critique. Wow! What a difference that made. I learned soooo much from the critiques I received and cut 7,000 words out of Murphy’s Law. All fluff, passive voice, repeats. So, my advice to you is find a critique group if you don’t have one. Find one that fits you. It is an invaluable tool in a writer’s toolbox, in my opinion.

This same critique group helped me refine and revise manuscript #1, Hard Core, which is available in print on Amazon right now! Squee! And coming to e-readers on my official release date of October 8!

But, to backtrack a bit. During those ten years I wrote eight novels and submitted five to agents, editors, and publishers. The rejections I received could wallpaper a room!! I entered writing contests and didn’t final. I entered the Golden Heart and did final. I entered a local RWA (Romance Writers of America) chapter contest and finaled, then placed fourth, but tied for third. I entered the Golden Heart again last year with Hard Core, did not final even with one perfect score and one nearly perfect score, but received a publishing contract.  

I got partial requests from Silhouette when they were still Silhouette Intimate Moments on two different manuscripts. Murphy’s Law being one of them. Then requests for a full on both. Then got rejected on both. I submitted another manuscript to Harlequin Intrigue and was asked for a partial, then a full, and finally was rejected. I found an agent, who was interested in my work, but she led me in the wrong direction with one of my manuscripts and we parted ways before I signed with her.

I love my rejections! They represent all the work I’ve done to reach my goal. Written proof that I did it! I put myself out there and took the chance. I made it happen. This is my advice to anyone who has a dream. Embrace the rejections! Be proud of the hard work you’ve done. Get out there and make your dreams happen! If you have a dream, go get it!! It took me ten years, many, many rejections, hurts and joys, ups and downs, insecurities and failures, but I did it! And I am so happy I did because just yesterday I was able to hold a copy of my book in my hand.

Thank you for joining me today! If it weren’t for you, my readers, I wouldn’t be here. My hope is to one day meet each and every one of you so I can personally thank you for your support and generosity!

All my best,

See what I mean? Jennifer's enthusiasm made me smile the first time I read her article and I'm still smiling as I put this up on my blog.

Now that you've read her story, here's more about Hard Core, a romantic suspense:

He takes lives. She saves them.

A supposedly hassle-free job for mercenary Cristian Slade becomes a mission of mercy when he saves a life instead of taking one. Slade's new mission might be his most dangerous yet, because the danger is to his heart.

Tragedy has sent esteemed surgeon Alana O'Grady to a remote a remote Nicaraguan island where she immerses herself in the lives of a native American tribe, using her talents for goodwill instead of wealth and prestige. But life turns upside down when her work requires she protect a rugged mercenary who commands her attention when she's awake and dominates her dreams while she sleeps.

Doctoring Christian puts her entire tribe in danger from the man who's hunting him. Is it her professional oath or her unprofessional attraction to him keeping her from sending him away to heal on his own? Alana's fire warms Christian's heart, but he's a hardened assassin and has no business falling for someone like her. Can they fight hard enough to keep what they might have together?

Content Warning: Sexual content.

Prepared to start an IV, she picked up a needle. She had it in position when his other arm shot out and he clamped her wrist in a bone-crushing grip. Startled, she met his panicked gaze.
“I said no needles.”
Her heart banged against her ribcage as she let the needle slip out of her hand. It hit the floor with a small ting. Alana opened her hands in surrender, her patient’s fingers digging into her flesh. For a man half-dead, he had amazing strength.
“Okay,” she said to placate him. “Relax, I don’t have it anymore. It’s your choice, but I recommend you let me start an IV for meds.”
“No. Just fix me.”
Alana pinned him with a no nonsense stare. “I’m not impressed with Superman heroics.”
Face pale and drawn, he said gruffly, “I’m not Superman. Learned not to trust people with needles.”
Her fingers were going numb. “If I remove the bullet without pain medication or anesthetic, you’re going to be sorry.”
He studied her. “You’re really a doctor?”
Alana bristled. “Technically, yes.”
She didn’t have time to explain herself with the amount of blood seeping from his gunshot wound. “I went to med school. You can let go of my arm now. I won’t use any needles.”
He looked down and immediately released his grip. She rubbed her wrist to soothe away the ache. “Can I get to work now, or do you want to question me more about my credentials while you bleed to death? I don’t have a blood bank, so you’re screwed if you lose too much.”
Her blunt statement received a curt nod. She normally didn’t talk to her patients like that. Her patients didn’t normally countermand her either.
“Do it,” he said.
“Without anesthetics?”
“I don’t need them. Just get it over with.”
Stubborn, stupid, or both? Insane, yes, but there wasn’t time to argue with him.
“Okay. The offer stands if you change your mind.”
“I won’t.”
She doubted that, but didn’t comment. Instead, wiped her forehead with her forearm, and picked up gauze pads to clean the wound.
“Here goes,” she warned and dabbed his skin.
Her patient didn’t move or even wince as she cleaned the angry wound. Either he had a will of steel or he’d passed out again. Hopefully, the latter. Sweat rolled down her back as she finished cleansing the area around the bullet entry. Red flesh puckered with the first signs of infection. In this environment infection was guaranteed.
With a steady hand that would have made her father proud, she picked up her instruments and took a deep breath.
“You still with me?”
He murmured a response, turning his head slightly so he could see her. The stark beauty of his profile, despite the bruises, struck her again. The lines of his face were chiseled, unforgiving. The kind of man she’d glance at twice if she passed him on the street.
A man associated with a criminal.
“Still here, Doc. What are you waiting for?” Husky with pain, his deep voice brought her out of her thoughts.
She gave herself a mental shake. “Want something to bite down on?”
A small, wry smile touched his lips and his lids closed. “You won’t hear a peep out of me. Just fix me, Doc.”
“I can hit you so you’ll sleep through it,” she muttered.
That drew a low chuckle from him. She didn’t expect him to have a sense of humor. He seemed too…hard. His chuckle turned into a grunt of pain. “You probably hit like a girl.”
Alana grinned. “Yes, I do. Rest assured it won’t feel like it.”
“Appreciate the offer, but, no.” His words slurred together, his muscles tense as he fought his body’s demands.
“You got a name, Superman?”
His head rolled to the side, his chest rose and fell slowly. She thought he was out but he murmured, “Cristian.”
“Nice to meet you, Cristian.”
Then she dug into the wound for the bullet.

Thanks for stopping by, Jennifer. I'm so glad you shared your story and a little about your debut novel, Hard Core, which is available in paperback at: http://amzn.com/1616503823

Readers can find Jennifer at: