Join Sarah and her guests for conversations on everything from the art of writing to where we find our inspiration.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Writer Wednesday with Debra St. John

Music has always been a big part of my life. I listen to music all the time. Country is my genre of choice. Inevitably, music became a big part of my writing as well.

Sometimes it acts as white noise to cover whatever else is going on around me so I can concentrate. For this I usually choose classical or scores from movies. Something without lyrics. If I’m deep into a scene, music with lyrics is fine, but if I’m in editing mode, the lyrics are usually more distracting that whatever other noise I’m trying to cover!

Sometimes music acts as muse. I’ve gotten several story ideas from songs. Sometimes it’s the idea for an entire story. Sometimes it’s just a line or two that adds to the storyline or helps me to develop something about my characters. A Christmas to Remember was inspired by the song of the same title sung by Kenny Rogers and Dolly Parton. Mistletoe and Folly was inspired by one of my favorite Toby Keith Christmas songs: “Blame it on the Mistletoe”. Jessica’s (from This Can’t Be Love) butterfly tattoo was inspired by a line from Brad Paisley’s “Ticks”. Joe’s (from An Unexpected Blessing) preference for mustard on his fries came from a line in Eric Church’s “I Love Your Love the Most”.

Here’s the moment I created around the simple line:

     An easy silence fell as they readied their burgers. Katy doused hers with ketchup, added a small amount of mustard, and a generous dollop of mayo when it arrived. After topping it with pickles and lettuce, she settled the bun on top, and then took a bite. She caught the trickle of juice at the corner of her mouth with a napkin. The way his gaze lingered on her lips made her go warm from the inside out. 
     “Mmmmn.” She fought for a casual tone. “This place really does have the best burgers in town.” 
     Joe grinned. “This place has the only burgers in town.”
     Katy laughed, once again appreciating the way a simple smile lit up his face. “True.” She glanced at his plate. “You put mustard on your fries?” 
     “No other way to eat them.” 

I have to thank many songs for the setting in This Time for Always: it’s modeled after the country bar where my husband and I met. It closed a few years ago, but I like to think that the memories made there live on in my story. Sometimes I accumulate a playlist for a story.

This happened with my latest release, An Unexpected Blessing. The idea for this story wasn’t inspired by any particular song, but some I came across seemed to fit it well. It was fun to come up with my own mini-soundtrack for Joe and Katy’s story.

“Like Jesus Does” – Eric Church, Chief
“He Didn’t Have to Be” – Brad Paisley, Who Needs Pictures
“Til My Last Day” – Justin Moore, Outlaws Like Me
“Outlaws Like Me” – Justin Moore, Outlaws Like Me

Someday I’d like to write a story featuring a country rock star. For now, the specific ideas are still gelling, but I know they’ll come together someday! I just have to keep my ears open to find the right song to inspire me!

Debra St. John writes spicy romance with sexy heroes and spunky heroines for The Wild Rose Press. An Unexpected Blessing is her fifth release. Although she’s a country girl at heart, she lives in a suburb of Chicago with her husband, who is her real life hero. You can find her at www.debrastjohnromance.com or blogging at http://acmeauthorslink.blogspot.com, http://heroineswithhearts.blogspot.com, or www.authorsbymoonlight.com

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Breaking Out of Writer’s Block by Linda Carroll-Bradd

After being laid off from a job I’d held for six and a half years, I initially thought—great, I’ll have all day to write. The search for employment dragged from weeks to months, and my creative spirit took a hard hit. If employers didn’t want to hire me, then readers can’t want to buy my stories. This bad thinking became a downward spiral that basically killed my love for writing for almost two years. Sure, I revised old stuff but new stories weren’t bubbling up inside me. 

A major life change and relocation halfway across the US this year allowed me to write full-time. I had one simple goal: get a story accepted and published in 2012. To accomplish that, I knew I had to write short and I turned to publisher calls for submissions. I love these because they have a specific word count (ranging from 5-15K, some longer), a theme and (best of all) a deadline. Sometimes, the theme is only a holiday or a one-line statement but that’s enough to jump start my plotting. 

My first two shorts were rejected but I knew when I submitted the competition would be tough for this well-known publisher. These were the stories that broke my creative block, and I will revise, expand and resubmit those in the future. Now, the field was wide open and I spent several hours compiling a folder of these calls. I wrote a Thanksgiving story set in a small Texas town, a Christmas story set in a different small Texas town, a Christmas story set in 1884 Aspen, and a contemporary summer story set in a small California town. Stories from a historical western anthology published several years ago are now being released as singles—this is a story set in 1871 Wyoming Territory. So within the span of two months, I signed five contracts. 

I also write under a pen name and I had luck with my short erotic romance stories too. I sold two shorts (one had been rejected by one publisher but I sent it right out to another). 

I wrote a rodeo story for a publisher’s call. By the time I was offered a contract, I’d realized that getting established with three new publishers involved more non-writing time than I thought. I declined that offer and now have a completed story to submit to one of my new publishers, as soon as I catch my breath with promo, blogs, website updates, edits, revisions, etc. 

I credit these calls for submissions from various publishers with providing the structure and impetus for me to again get serious about writing and to break my creative block. 

My Thanksgiving story, On With The Show, releases today from The Wild Rose Press

ISBN 978-1-61217-746-5


Monday, November 19, 2012

Too Dependent

So I get up this morning to an email from Sarah entitled, "No Internet". In this email she tells me how she hasn't been on in almost a week because she didn't have internet access. I hadn't noticed because I've been without my laptop for almost as long.

Which made me think--How dependent is too dependent on the technology that we have these days?

My answer? Yes.

How can we not be reliant on these items that make our lives so much easier, even though depending on them can be a strain.

Case and point: my little man's birthday. I didn't take the camera to school with the birthday cupcakes because I had my phone. (And the laptop was in the shop.) It would be so much easier to post the pictures to Facebook from my phone instead of the desktop. Well, the phone was dead and there are no pictures of the cupcakes. This was perhaps my last chance at supreme motherhood seeing as next year is middle school and it will be utterly uncool to have your mother bring cupcakes to share with your class on your birthday when you're thirteen. (Besides that, the regulations state that all shared foods much be professionally made and the dang cupcakes cost me $30! )

Yesterday--because the laptop is MIA--I spent the day on my Nook. Reading the next greatest thing? Nope. Playing Mahjong. In fact I played it dead, then walked around the house like I had nothing to do.

What is it that you can't live without? The one thing that you'd have to have if no other was available  Like say you were stranded on a desert island with electricity to power only one device?

I'm thinking the laptop, but I'd have to make sure I had an internet connection so I could email and well, then I guess I wouldn't be stranded for long! LOL

As the holidays approach and I prepare for company, am I counting the days till Christmas. Nope. Just the ones until I get my laptop back. Sorry, Mom.

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Character Quickie: Niko Reynard

20 quickie facts about Niko Reynard:

Birthday? May 23, 1982
Favorite color? Red
Nickname? Aly’s given me two. James-momma’s-boy-Bond and Stud Muffin. Why are you smiling?
Birthmark or scars? Scars from too many gun fights
Siblings? Four older sisters: Margo, Renee, Allegra and Simone
City of residence? Paris, France
If you were a jelly bean flavor, what flavor would you be? French Vanilla
Occupation? Second in command of the French Counterterrorism Unit.
Hobbies? Reading books on philosophy
Favorite song? Ne Me Quitte Pas (Don’t Leave Me)
Name one item in your refrigerator right now? Wine
Your greatest fear? Losing people I love to The Red Hand.
Most treasured possession? Porsche 911 Carrera
Special talent? Being able to understand how terrorists think, what their next move will be.
Cat or dog? Dog
Pet peeve? Adults who abuse children.
Unforgettable moment? The day Aly tossed me some of her attitude.
Spicy or not? Spicy
Favorite guilty pleasure? Having Aly blindfold me during……next question, please. 
If you could ask your author one question, what would it be? When are you coming back to Paris?

Niko Reynard is the hero in Vonnie Davis' new release, MONA LISA’S ROOM, available now at The Wild Rose Press and Amazon.

To learn more about Vonnie Davis and her writing, please visit her BLOG.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Writer Wednesday: Visualizing Characters

One of the things I’m repeatedly asked is whether or not I base my characters’ physical attributes on real people, and if so, who they look like? Honestly, I never do. When my characters first begin talking to me, I come up with the details – hair color, eye color, height, and skin tone – and an image of my hero and heroine takes shape in my head. I have problems with my characters looking “just like INSERT MOVIE STAR NAME HERE” because they aren’t that movie star. In my head, they are Justin, Paige, Isabeau and Noah.

However, as a reader, I can understand the interest in who a character might most closely resemble to the author who created him or her. So a while back I went in search of images, specific photos of people, who best represented the visuals I have in my head.

Let’s start with the hero of After Midnight, singer/front man for the rock band Black Phoenix, Noah Clark.

Gorgeous isn’t he? Okay, so this isn’t really Noah Clark, he’s actually Gabriel Aubry. I admit to knowing absolutely nothing about this guy beyond the fact that he is a very close representation of Noah Clark. The closest I’ve found for any of my characters.

And this is how I imagine my heroine, child prodigy pianist turned bar owner, Isabeau Montgomery. I found this photograph while searching iStockPhoto for pictures for my trailer. The moment I saw this model I knew she was the closest I was going to get. She’s got Izzy’s mouth, and beautiful ebony hair.

Now here’s a look at how they meet:

 Isabeau Montgomery sat in the dimly lit bar and shook like an amateur before her first recital. Her gaze, blurred by the sudden threat of tears, settled on the keys before her. Her stomach cramped painfully, yet the need was too great to ignore.

With ability as natural to her as the color of her skin, she began to play. The waterfall of music filled the air, washed over her, completed her in a way nothing or no one else ever had. Against the razor sharp sting of memories, she fought…

She was young, vibrant, and born with a raw talent rarely seen. Classical, jazz, or rock and roll, she played it all. Loved all the genres—loved to create. All that mattered was her joy, her love for the instrument beneath her fingers and the music she was so skilled at creating.

For a good ninety seconds, joy returned, the rush of adrenaline and, conversely, the sense of belonging. In those seconds, time slowed, the lines between the past and the present blurred, and she was a child again. There was no longer pressure to be something she couldn’t be, no fear of what her future would hold.

And with the innocence of youth, no idea that everything she held dear could be lost in the blink of an eye.

The song built to a crescendo then quickly faded as pain, her old friend, returned with enough force to quash her joy. Her stomach roiled. Her breath caught.

Tears gathered in her eyes, and she dashed them away. Isabeau ran her hands up and over her face, pushing her long mass of ebony hair away from her forehead. She struggled to pull herself back together. Her fingers were chilled, cooler than normal, yet perspiration pooled at the small of her back. She closed her eyes, took a deep, slow breath.

“I didn’t expect that old thing to be in tune.”

Sweet Jesus.

She jumped at the deep baritone voice, slamming her knees into the piano. The key cover abruptly closed, and she startled again. Heart racing, she rose and faced the double doors she’d obviously forgotten to lock.

She swept her gaze around the bar’s dim interior until she spotted a dark, male frame. “The bar is closed.”

Her tone was sharp, curt, and left no room for argument. Under different circumstances, she wouldn’t inflict such rudeness on a customer, but he intruded on her privacy, her pain. Her emotions were too close to the surface for niceties.

His voice rang with a clipped British accent and the tone of someone unaccustomed to being questioned. “I was here earlier.”

She remembered the voice and didn’t need him to step out of the shadows to recognize him, which he did anyway. She’d served him a few hours ago—dark lager, no glass—and shared with him a smile as powerful as it was sexy. “We were open earlier. Now, we’re closed.”

His eyebrow shot up. His mouth shaped itself into an ironic curve. “So you have said.”

“Then perhaps you should leave.” Hands unsteady, she bussed the table closest to her and carried the glasses to the bar. His words stopped her cold.

“You’re very talented. How long have you played the piano?”

No, no, no. This wasn’t happening. She closed her eyes on a wave of emotion, doing her best to will him away. But even then she knew. The man at her back was not going away.


Sarah Grimm
where dangerously sexy & happily-ever-after collide 
Blog / Website

Monday, November 12, 2012

Monday Musings

It's cold and rainy this morning as the warm front that moved through our little lakeshore community over the weekend passes and we settle back into weather more normal for us at this time of year. I'm going to miss the warm weather, but there's something to be said for curling up in the recliner with a dog or two (or three) on my lap.

Sasha refusing to relinquish the lap.

I had a pretty busy weekend. Not writing the five blog posts I needed to do, or working on Midnight Heat as I wanted to do, but cleaning, organizing, and (yawn) doing the grocery shopping. My husband and I also winterized the hot tub -- something we usually don't do, but we decided against the higher energy bill this winter. I really need to get to writing, but first I have to drop 17yo son at school, put in a few hours at the day job, take my grandmother to an appointment and call the insurance company about my reimbursement for my eye exam.

What about you? How does your Monday look?

Sarah Grimm
where dangerously sexy & happily-ever-after collide 
Blog / Website

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Character Quickie: Lexie Covington

20 quickie facts about Lexie Covington (Mega bitchy villain) from Secrets of the Sapphires:

Birthday? Age is only a number.
Favorite color? Is ‘sparkle’ a color?
Nickname? None to repeat in polite society.
Birthmark or scars? Inside.
Siblings? None…that I’ve allowed to live.
City of residence? Springfield, MO for now.
If you were a jelly bean flavor, what flavor would you be? Cinnamon.
Occupation? Administrative Assistant in the CIA
Hobbies? Making my enemies miserable.
Favorite song? Sam The Sham And The Pharaohs’ LI'L RED RIDING HOOD
Name one item in your refrigerator right now? I don’t bother.
Your greatest fear? My beauty fading.
Most treasured possession? My beauty, of course.
Special talent? Please refer to my hobbies.
Cat or dog? With the right sauce, either is fine.
Pet peeve? Nia Brooks
Unforgettable moment? My first kiss with Garrett Van Deren.
Spicy or not? Caliente, baby!
Favorite guilty pleasure? My hobbies would fit here, too.
If you could ask your author one question, what would it be? WHY did you even create Nia?

Lexie Covington is the villain in T. Sue VerSteeg's novel, SECRETS OF THE SAPPHIRES, available now at The Wild Rose Press

To learn more about T. Sue VerSteeg and her writing please visit her WEBSITE

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Write What You Love

I was twelve when I fell in love for the first time. The lucky man was a romance hero, the star of one of the countless ‘white cover ‘Harlequins that I devoured each evening after my homework was complete. I read the books by the grocery sack full. A friend brought them to school, I read them, then passed them to my grandmother. She would read them, we might even talk about them, and back they went to my friend. Not long after, my faithful friend would bring in another sack full, and the process would begin all over again. Harlequin Presents, Silhouette Romance, Kismet. I read them all. And I loved them.

The older I got, the Harlequins gave way to single title romances, fabulous historicals. Books set in the Highlands of Scotland, the ton of England, pirates on the high seas. Even the rebellious colonies called the Americas. Then one of my favorite authors published a contemporary, and I was off running again. These books were like none other. They were about millionaires and nannies, women trying to make it in a man’s world, and professional football players. Corporate raiders, lawyers, doctors, and cowboys. And I fell in love all over again.

When I started writing, I naturally gravitated toward romance. I had well-meaning family members encourage me to write all sorts of genres. “Write something like Stephen King. He sells a lot of books.” I was told to write a mystery, to ‘write chick lit’, and almost every other kind of genre known to man. But I love romance. And I have for a very long time. It’s my favorite reading material. One man, one woman, falling in love. To me there’s nothing better.

I can say with great conviction that I will never write a horror story, a murder mystery, or anything remotely like a suspense. It's not that they aren't worthy to me. They just aren't what I love. 

Monday, November 5, 2012

You Can't Make This Sh%* Up!

Funny story. Some of you may know that my father passed away recently. (This is not the funny part. Just bear with me.) You may also know that I was raised in the *country* and my daddy was a big hunter. He didn't want a funeral service (he's just that kind of 'Simple Man') but we knew that we would need to do something for us to help us accept that he was gone. The decision was made to cremate his body and spread his remains at his two favorite hunting sites. (Still not funny, I know; I'm getting there.) So my family and a few close friends got together to take his ashes into the woods. While there my sister was stung by a bee. I've been told my entire life the best thing to do for a bee sting is to place tobacco on it to draw out the poison. Now at this redneck service there was--of course--chewing tobacco. Remarkably enough, no one in the group actually had it in their mouth, so they wet it with a beer. Yeah, no one had a water, but there was beer. My sister was having trouble keeping the tobacco in place on her hand. So someone kindly offered to secure it--with duct tape! Yes, folks, they duct taped beer-saturated chewing tobacco to my sister's hand during what was essentially our father's funeral. I have only one thing to say: Dad would have been so proud! 

Friday, November 2, 2012

Weekly Dose of Inspiration

I’m inspired by everything around me, from a conversation overheard at the grocery store, to an article in the newspaper. Song lyrics inspire me all the time! I’m inspired by my family and my relationship with friends. I’m inspired by people who struggle through cancer, loss of loved ones, and more recently – loss of home and security. Other authors inspire me, too, which is why I spend a fortune on books!

What inspires you?

Sarah Grimm
where dangerously sexy & happily-ever-after collide 
Blog / Website