Wednesday 27 March 2013

Jill Hughey Shares the Wealth

Please welcome Jill Hughey to my blog today. Tell us a little about yourself, Jill.
My name is Jill Hughey and I write historical romance when I can squeeze it in between being a wife, mother of two teenaged boys, and a part-time job as an administrative assistant for the MacIntosh consulting company my husband and I own.

Sounds like you've got your plate full! Do you have other talents?  
My other talent is as a soprano. I started taking voice lessons seven years ago, as an adult, after singing for a few years in a community chorus. I had been involved in instrumental music in my youth so had a bit of a head start with reading music, breath control, and phrasing. Right now I am working on Lascia ch’io pianga by Handel, and another piece by Mozart, though I stray into Broadway musicals also.

What a wonderful talent to have! I've always wished I had a good singing voice. Tell us about your current series.
I have just completed the third book in my Evolution Series. I chose Charlemagne’s empire as the setting, during the rule of his son, Louis, because it offered the backdrop of political upheaval and some of the societal structure that romance readers like while being completely separate from England or Scotland, which have been pretty well covered in the genre. Each title in the series describes the hero. I know titles can be hard for authors to choose, but these were easy.
The first book, Unbidden, begins in 831 when Louis has just regained his throne. That turmoil sets the stage for the relationship between Rochelle, a noblewoman who resists the betrothal arranged by the emperor to David, a Bavarian soldier and second son of a nobleman.
Redeemed, features the villain of the first story, Doeg, David’s brother. Doeg, a withdrawn, tortured man, strives to become more principled. He seeks a wife only for her housekeeping skills, but the quiet widow he chooses wants more in return than he ever expected to give.
Vain is set in 839. The male lead is David’s best friend, Theophilus (usually shortened to Theo). He is a nobleman in the thick of the political intrigue. He finds himself responsible for a talented female tailor. They discover a mutual interest in fine cloth and interesting garments while trying to ignore a physical attraction that neither intends to act on.

I've read Unbidden and enjoyed it a lot. I've tried to wander away from England and Scotland too in some of my books. What is your favorite part of writing? 
This will sound like a dumb answer but my favorite part of writing is…wait for it…writing. I love hammering out that first draft when characters are growing in my head, sentences are being molded into what I want them to be, I solidify the details of locations, and anything is possible. 

Good one! What is your least favorite part of writing?
I do my own formatting, and even with the list of tasks and tips I've made for myself, it makes me absolutely crazy. The other less concrete thing I don’t like about being a writer is that I can’t turn off my internal editor when I read other people’s books. Even with a story I’m loving, I am analyzing what the author did to make it so spectacular.
All self-pubbed books are rumored to be shoddily edited. What do you say to that? 
Some are. I've read a few traditionally published books that are pretty sloppy too. I can usually tell from the book’s description if I will like a writer’s style. Even with that vetting, I sometimes stumble on a book that is too painful to read so I stop, delete it from my ereader, and move on. I don’t really understand why some authors get so indignant that such books exist. If you hear garbage on the radio, you change the station and get on with your life, you don’t rail against new artists who are destroying the musicality of the world and worry that all listeners everywhere will turn their radios off forever. A reader who gets a bad book will request a refund, know to never download anything from that author again, and go find a book with its sentences properly cobbled together.

Couldn't have said it better myself! How likely are people you meet to end up in your next book?
Not at all. My experiences certainly color my stories, but I definitely do not pick people out of real life to plug them into my books like paper dolls.

Do you have a view in your writing space? What does your space look like?
I work at my kitchen table with a nice view across a stone bench in our landscaping to a pretty blue atlas cedar and beautyberry bush all backed by the forest of the Pennsylvania gamelands. Very peaceful.

Sounds lovely! Give us an elevator pitch for your book Vain
A tailor’s abandoned daughter fashions a vain nobleman’s tunic, finding passion between the neckline and hem as misfortune forces her into his precarious aristocratic world.

Tell us more about your hero. 
The hero in Vain is Theophilus, Lord of Ribeauville. He is incredibly compassionate but he is vain, hence the title. I think of him as a medieval metrosexual, though my husband warns me about using that term because he says I will confuse readers. Metrosexual is a modern term for a man who is heterosexual, meticulous about his looks and willing to spend his money on his appearance. Anyway, Theo’s compassion leads him to help Lily whose skill with and interest in clothing meshes with his vanity, thus beginning an unexpected companionship.

What about your heroine? 
Lily’s strength is her ability to become immersed in her passion, which is designing and creating clothing. When her father abandons her, the work is her only escape from utter despair. She clings too much to the past, though. That weakness makes it difficult for her to accept the changes being forced on her.

How much time do you spend promoting your books? What works best for you?
Well, I’m not sure if I spend too much time promoting or not enough. I’m still searching for the magic formula to reach readers who can’t wait to share my books with all their friends! Hopefully my visit today will inspire your visitors to find Vain on the sites below and then tell everyone they know.

Vain is available from Amazon (kindle and print), Barnes and Noble, Kobo, and most other online book vendors. 
Thank you, Anna, for letting me visit with you today!

Thanks so much for sharing your insights and experiences, Jill. 
If readers would like to keep in touch with Jill, she writes a blog, has a page on Facebook, and tweets @jillhughey.

Wednesday 20 March 2013

Smell and The Science of Sex Appeal

I am very pleased to welcome Joan Reeves as a guest blogger today. 
Thanks, Anna. Great to be here.
In my most recent romantic comedy, Scents and Sensuality, my heroine Amanda is a perfumer. In the book, she has the opportunity to inform the hero Harrison about the fascinating research being done in the Science of Smell and Sex Appeal as well as the history of perfume.
The hero, owns a computer company, so there's a little bit of computer history and computer languages too. A perfumer and a computer geek! Sounds like a mismatched couple, doesn't it? But that's what I like to write about: two people who are made for each other, but they just don't know it. Yet.
Weaving Research Into Sexy Romance
In the book, Amanda tells Harrison about smell and the science of sex appeal, but it's always in sexually-charged scenes. She talks about the subject because she's nervous. He encourages her to tell him all about smell, the most primitive of all our senses, because he realizes she drops her guard when she talks about something she knows so well. 
Studies have been done as close at home to me as the University of Texas at Austin and in many laboratories around the world. From anecdotal evidence to double-blind tests, studies have shown that women are drawn to a man by his scent. I don't mean his aftershave or shampoo. It's his androstenone, the male pheromone that is consciously undetectable.
Smell and Sex Appeal
Androstenone is in a man's sweat, and a woman's pheromone receptors in her nose pick that up. A simplified explanation is that what her pheromone receptors tell her brain, determines how sexually attractive he is to her. The more pleasing his androstenone to her particular pheromone receptors; the more likely she is to want him sexually.
Guess what? The same thing works in reverse. A woman's copulence, the pheromone she sends out which peaks when she is ovulating, is picked up by the man's pheromone receptors. That determines how attractive he finds her. With men, visual stimulation is first and foremast. The way a woman looks - and there are specific, identifiable female characteristics that a man instinctively looks for - is what draws a man to a woman first. But what his pheromone receptors tell him about how she smells determines his interest in having sex with her.
In research studies, men rate women with higher levels of copulence as being more attractive - even when, to the eye, they may not appear that way at all. It's all a fascinating field of study, and it's easy to see why perfume manufacturers spend millions in trying to develop fragrances that "speak" to a man or woman's pheromones.
Contemporary Contradictions
Ironically, the way men and women in western culture deodorize themselves and denude their bodies of hair, reduces their respective pheromones which actually reduces their sexual attractiveness to the opposite sex. Birth control pills also decrease a woman's copulence dramatically since that medication mimics pregnancy which biologically reduces copulence - no ovulation, remember? - and lessens her sexual attraction, at least to other men.
Suffice it to say that Amanda and Harrison's pheromones communicate quite well! When she explains smell and the science of sex appeal to her Mr. Right, I hope you'll find it as hilarious - and sexy - as I thought it was when I wrote Scents and Sensuality, available now at all major ebook sellers.

Post Script
To celebrate Scents and Sensuality - watch the blurb about the book on YouTube:
I'm giving away a free copy. Leave a comment with your email address (write it this way: EmailAddy at whatever dot com - so your addy won't get harvested and spammed). I'll randomly draw for the winner.

Thank you Joan for this article that I know will be of great interest to every romance author!
Here is Joan's bio: Joan Reeves writes Sassy, Sexy Romantic Comedy. She is multi-published in print and ebooks. Her books are available at all major ebook sellers with audio editions available at Amazon, Audible, and iTunes. Joan writes and publishes Writing Hacks, a free subscription newsletter for writers; Wordplay, a free subscription newsletter for readers; and the long-running blog SlingWords.
Find Joan Online
Writing Hacks
Twitter: @JoanReeves

Friday 15 March 2013

My Irish Grandmother

Welcome to the Lucky in Love Blog Hop! Thanks for stopping by my blog. Fingers crossed you are lucky enough to win one of the fabulous prizes available to commenters. You can enter on each blog in the hop (over 200 times)
1st Grand Prize: A $100 Amazon or B&N Gift Card
2nd Grand Prize: A Swag Pack that contains paperbacks, ebooks, 50+ bookmarks, cover flats, magnets, pens, coffee cozies, and more! (this prize unavailable for overseas entrants)

I have always had a soft spot in my heart for the month of March, maybe because it’s the month I celebrate my birthday!
I also have two granddaughters who were born in March, though sad to say they are not Aries!
Perhaps my fondness for the month is why I enjoy St. Patrick’s Day.
My only connection to Ireland is a great, great grandmother, Susannah Moore, who left the Emerald Isle around 1840 to settle in England. She was born about 1822 and died in 1865. The only other thing I know  is that her father’s name was Matthew, but I do not know what part of Ireland she came from.
It’s rather ironic that we associate luck with the Irish, given their turbulent and often tragic history. I suspect life for Susannah was not easy in 19th century Lancashire. Prejudice against the Irish ran deep.
She married James Monks, whose early employment, like so many in Lancashire at that time, began in the cotton mills. It was dangerous and dirty work.

But James seems to have broken the mould. He became an innkeeper, the proprietor of a public house in Bolton, Lancashire. His elderly mother came to live with James and Susannah and unfortunately died after falling down the stairs at the pub! The mind boggles!
Later in life James became a hay and straw dealer! After Susannah’s death he married again.
Did James and Susannah love each other? Did he fall for her Irish eyes? Or her brogue? No way of knowing! But we can cross our fingers and hope they did know love in a harsh time.
In celebration of St. Patrick’s Day I have a new release, Dark Irish Knight.
Ronan MacLachlainn is an Irish nobleman bent on vengeance for the murder of his wife and unborn child, and the loss of his estates. Nothing can stand in his way. Not even love. 
For those readers familiar with my cast of characters, this is the love story of Rhoni de Montbryce, the babe born in the mountain fortress in Conquering Passion.
Dark Irish Knight is available from Amazon and Smashwords in all digital formats. I will give away a FREE digital copy to one lucky commenter on this blog. Make sure you include your email address.
Happy St. Patrick's Day! On to the next blog!

Wednesday 13 March 2013

Cynthia Woolf Shares The Wealth

It's a great pleasure to welcome Cynthia Woolf to my blog today. To kick off the interview, tell us about yourself.
Thanks for having me as your guest, Anna. I was born in Denver, Colorado and raised in the mountains west of Golden. I spent my early years running wild around the mountain side with my friends.
Our closest neighbor was one quarter of a mile away, so my little brother was my playmate and best friend. That fierce friendship lasted until his death in 2006.
I was and still am an avid reader. My mother was a librarian and brought new books home each week. This is where I first got the storytelling bug. I wrote my first story at the age of ten. A romance about a little boy I liked at the time!
I worked my way through college and went to work full time straight after graduation and there was little time to write. Then in 1990 I and two friends started a round robin writing a story about pirates. I found that I missed the writing and kept on with other stories. In 1992 I joined Colorado Romance Writers and Romance Writers of America. In 2001, I saw an ad in the paper for a writers' conference being put on by CRW and decided I would attend. One of my favorite authors, Catherine Coulter, was the keynote speaker. I was lucky enough to have a seat at Ms. Coulter's table at the luncheon and after talking with her, decided I needed to get back to writing.
I credit my wonderfully supportive husband Jim and the great friends I've made at CRW for saving my sanity and allowing me to explore my creativity.

Sounds like it was meant to be. If you could live anywhere in the world where would it be? 
Hawaii. We love Hawaii. The beach, the slow pace. I’d love to have a little bungalow on the beach where I could swim every morning and watch the sunrise every day.

Paradise! Have you had other careers before becoming a writer? I've been a sales and use tax accountant, a property tax accountant, a real estate appraiser, a waitress, a bookmobile page, a janitor, a statistician, a deputy assessor, and a tax manager.

Wow! You've worn many hats. Are you a full time writer now or do you have a “day job”? I’m currently a full time writer. I was lucky enough to be in a place financially that when I was laid off from my “day job” I could become a full time writer. I wouldn't change it for the world. I work much longer hours, about 18 hours a day between writing, promo, email etc. but it’s the best job ever.

I agree. How did you get started writing? I started writing as an adult in about 1990. I was going through a really rough patch in my life and needed an outlet. Writing gave me that. I loved it. I kept trying to get traditionally published and getting rejected. It’s probably one of the best things that happened to me. Now as an indie author, I can write what I want, how I want and at what pace I want. I’m only limited by myself.

What genre do you write in? I write historical westerns and sci-fi romance. I started out writing a western, inspired by my parents’ love story. Then I started writing a sci-fi based on a dream I had where I was a princess from Alpha Centauri and my people would be coming to take me back. Isn't that what all teenagers dream? That they are really adopted and their real family will come get them, because the family they are in is just too weird?

LOL. How many books have you written? Do you have a favorite? I've currently got out 10 books. Four westerns and six sci-fi, in four different series. My favorite is the first western I wrote. My mother, who is gone now, liked that book, except for the sex, and since it was inspired by the meeting and subsequent marriage of my parents, it enjoys a soft spot in my heart.

Tell us about your current series. My current series is the Matchmaker & Co. series about several mail order brides. It’s a historical western series and so far has been very successful.

What a great theme. What inspired you to choose it? The last book in my first western series was called Tame A Wild Bride and was about a mail order bride. I had a great time writing it and it became the best seller of that series so I thought I’d take it farther and write a whole series about mail order brides.

What is your next project and when will it be released? The next project I have is the second book in the Matchmaker & Co. series. It is called Heiress Bride. I’m hoping that by the time this blog is published that the book is done. It may not be published but at least I hope I’ll be finished writing it. After that is Fiery Bride, which may or may not be the last in the series.

What was the deciding factor in self-publishing your books? Did you decide on ebook or print only or both? As soon as I found out I could self-publish my books and not pay to have someone do it (vanity publishing), it was a no brainer. Why would I want someone else to publish me and I get only 8% of the gross, if I’m lucky, when I can make 70%? I decided to do both ebook and print, even though I sell almost no print books, because there is nothing like having that book in your hand with your name on it. I use my print books for giveaways and for reviewers mostly.

Thanks for sharing the wealth of your experience with us, Cynthia. Here is an excerpt from the first book in the Matchmaker and Co. Series, Capital Bride.

New York City April 10, 1867
   On the other side of the door was her last resort. Either this or prostitution and prostitution was not a choice. She couldn't raise MaryAnn in that environment, nor if truth be told, could she lower herself to live like that. At least this way there would be some stability in her little girl’s life. 
   Sarah took a deep breath, turned the knob, and walked through the door to a better future for her daughter and, if she were lucky, for herself. 
   The office was small and precisely kept. A single desk with a straight, high backed wooden chair, one in front and one behind, sat in the middle of the room. She’d noticed the flowered curtains were open on the way in, curtains tied to the side. The small area was flooded with dazzling afternoon light. The walls were whitewashed and the desk well organized. There were several tables with neat piles of files along one wall. The other wall held several rows of pictures of women and men. None smiling, as that was the way pictures were taken, but all appeared to be wedding pictures. Below each picture was a small brass place with the names of the bride and groom and the date of the wedding. 
   A small, woman in her late thirties with fiery red hair, sat behind the desk. When Sarah got closer she saw gorgeous dark blue eyes behind the wire rimmed glasses perched on the end of her nose. Her eyes were so dark a blue they could almost be called violet. They were striking and clear, honesty shone from them along with a “no nonsense” attitude. 
   “May I help you?” the woman asked. 
   “Um. Yes. My name is Sarah Johnson. I saw your advertisement for mail order brides.”
   The woman looked Sarah over, taking in her clothes, her hands clasped in front of her and ending at her face.
   “First, let me introduce myself. I’m Margaret Selby and I own Matchmaker & Company. Please, sit down. You’re older than the women we usually have. You’re also better dressed and don’t appear to be hungry. What would bring someone like you to my door?”
   “I've been living with my great aunt. She passed away suddenly two weeks ago and the lawyer says I need to find other lodgings. My cousin, William, has inherited everything except a small stipend she left for me. William is selling everything. MaryAnn and I have nowhere else to go.”
   “My daughter.”
   “So, you are a widow?”
   Now was not the time to be less than truthful, if she wanted this woman’s help. “No.”
   “I see. How old are you, Miss Johnson?”
   “I’m twenty-eight.”
   “And your daughter?”
   “MaryAnn is five.”
   “Tell me, Miss Johnson, how did you come to find yourself with child at age twenty-two without being married? Surely you knew how those things happened by that age.”
   “My fiancĂ© was killed at Bull Run.”
   “I understand. Many fine men were killed there and throughout the war.”
   “Yes, they were. Lee and I planned on marrying before he left. He still had two weeks before he was supposed to go back. He was sure the war wouldn't last long,” she sniffled and blew her nose into her handkerchief. “They called him back early, and then he was killed.”
   “No need to go into further detail, Miss Johnson. Let’s get down to business, shall we?”
   Sarah sat straight in the chair. “Yes, of course.”
   She was more nervous now than she had been showing up on Aunt Gertrude’s doorstep six years ago, pregnant and unwed. They’d planned on putting out the story that Lee was her husband but one of the servants overheard and passed the information on to other servants, some of them in the homes of her Aunt’s friends.
   Aunt Gertrude took it all in stride. She actually handled it far better than Sarah had. She’d cried for days until Gertrude shook her and said to get under control and stop feeling sorry for herself. So she’d had her beautiful MaryAnn and was raising her with Aunt Gertrude’s help. She would be missed for so many reasons.
   “Miss Johnson? Miss Johnson.” Margaret snapped her fingers bringing Sarah back from her memories.
   “Yes, Miss Selby. I’m sorry.”
   “It’s Mrs. Selby. Now, please pay attention. I have several candidates that might work for you. Two farmers in Kansas and a rancher in the Colorado Territory.”
   “Do you have a recommendation?”
  “Well, neither farmer has children, though they are not unwilling to consider a woman with children. It would be awfully lonely for your MaryAnn with only you and her new stepfather for company. The rancher, on the other hand, also has a daughter, who is seven, I believe. They would be able to keep each other occupied while you attend to the work you’ll need to do. Can you cook?”
   “Yes. Our cook taught me the basics. If I have a recipe, I can follow it.”
   “Then, I suggest you write down all of your cook’s recipes. You’ll need them no matter which man you choose.”
   “I’ve already got the ones I want. I’d hoped to put them together in a book one day. These men you’re talking about, how old are they?”
   “Raymond Jacobsen, farmer in Kansas, is thirty-two. Robert Kline, also a farmer in Kansas, is twenty-nine, and last is John Atwood, a cattle rancher in the Colorado Territory. He’s a widower, thirty-seven and has a daughter who is seven. I think he would be the best match for you.”
   “Have you checked out these men?”
   “Of course. I’m very thorough, Miss Johnson. I have an associate who travels for me and talks at length to each of our bachelors. We don’t have any brutes or other disreputable types with this agency. You can put your mind at rest.”

Capital Bride is available from Amazon or Barnes and Noble

Wednesday 6 March 2013

Jennifer Zane Shares The Wealth

Please welcome Jennifer Zane to my blog today. Tell us, Jennifer, are you a full time writer or do you have a 'day job'? 
Oh boy! I have a 'day job' and a 'day job'. The first one is just what you think: good old-fashioned work. My other 'day job' is Director of HEA for RomCon. I'm the webmistress, one of several blog divas, cover designer and everything in-between. RomCon keeps me busy all year! Between those two 'day jobs' I squeeze in my writing...somewhere!

What genre do you write in?
I write contemporary romance because I base my Gnome Novel Series on the time I lived in Montana. I wanted to write from life experience because there's enough antics, crazy characters and strange happenings in present day for me to skip going back in time, leaping into the future or even making my characters part vampire.

So true! Tell us about your current series/WIP.
I write the Gnome Novel Series. So far there are three books (2.5 really because the third book is a short little teaser for the holidays). There are similar characters seen in the books, but the main hero and heroine change in each one. Goldie West, although not the heroine, plays a pivotal role in all of the books as a meddling matchmaker. She's not your typical meddler; she runs the town's adult store and gives boxes full of adult toys to the heroes and heroines to help their 'relationships' along. If you've ever been victim to matchmaking, you'll relate to this!

What went into the process of producing your books?  Can you share your ups and downs and how you went about it?
My least favorite part of the writing process is editing. Ugh. I truly think little gnomes get into your computer while you're sleeping and put typos in to mess with you. I'm a graphic designer so I design my own covers. For me, that's the easy part and I love to make a book have a special 'feel' just by the cover art. Self-publishing is great because you really have the control over your work and can promote yourself just as you want. The books are yours, so make them just the way you want them (hopefully without typos!)

It's amazing isn't it, how many times you can edit  a manuscript and miss errors. Do you have critique partners? 
I do have critique partners. Four of them and we've been together for over ten years. These ladies know things about me that others don't. I think there's a special bond that's formed in this type of creative outlet. You're really putting your heart out there and it's great to know they are there for you—crazy gnomes and all!

Sounds like a great team. How likely are people you meet to end up in your next book?
My books? Highly likely. In Gnome On The Range, Bobby and Zach are based on my own two boys and their antics living in Montana. I swear they watered every tree in the yard (and I don't mean with a hose!) My older son really did get his arm stuck in a patio umbrella stand (don't know what I'm talking about? Read Gnome On The Range). Goldie is based on two neighbors combined (a great woman who likes everyone's business and a man who really does run the adult store in town). It may not be the actual people themselves in the stories but things people say, their strange life experiences, etc. In book 4 (coming out in June-yay!), the uncle is a Civil War re-enactor. I love going to Civil War reenactments back East in the summer and think this would be great to do, so I decided to live vicariously through this character.

Do you write under a pen name? 
Yes, I write under a pen name. Since I stated further up, I have a 'day job' that wouldn't mix well with my other 'day job' or my writing. So I'm like Wonder Woman and no one can tell who I am! On top of it all, it's kind of fun, having an alter ego. How did I choose it? I wanted something close to my real name (ok, my real name is Jennifer) and if you know me, you'd have to admit, I'm a little zany. My books definitely are!

Give us an elevator pitch for your book.
Book 1, Gnome On The Range- Jane and Ty- Jane and her boys buy garden gnomes at a garage sale that are worth more than they expected. In a very strange way. Someone wants them back and wants Jane dead. It's a very light mystery (it's not Agatha Christie!) and lots of romance. Throw in a meddling mother-in-law and lots of insanity.

Book 2, Gnomeless- Veronica and Jack- A plumber, a stalker and a very cold winter.

Book 3 (or 2.5), Gnome For The Holidays- Emma and Sam- A holiday short where Goldie meddles with the mistletoe. 

Book 4, Gnome, Alaska- COMING IN JUNE- Violet and Mike- Alaska, pretend girlfriend, Civil War re-enactor, martial arts mother, polyamorous French twins, a desperate thief.

The burning question—Where's the gnome throughout? For your readers of this blog, I'll share a secret- He's what brings all of the couples together. They kiss for the first time in the presence of the gnome. I know, weird, but READ THEM ALL!