Wednesday, August 20, 2014

THE ARMCHAIR ROMANTIC - by Kathy Ivan

I'm an anomaly.  I freely admit it.  Unlike everyone else I know, I rarely travel.  Vacations?  What is that?  Exotic places around the globe have never been graced with my esteemed presence.  Other than an occasional writer's conference, you will rarely see my eyeballs outside of the town where I live. 

But writers write about places other than where they live, right?  If I only wrote about the town where I live, trust me, most of you would be bored out of your minds.  There's not a whole lot shaking around here. 


I'm a voracious armchair traveler, though.  Through the magic of books, I've visited many places around the world.  I've been to some of the most exotic locales on earth without leaving the comforts of home.

I've walked on the beaches in Hawaii, my toes curling in the black sands while the crystal blue waters lap gently, each wave curls against the shore.  The trade winds blow a soothing breeze, and the scent of hibiscus and plumeria fill the air. 

I've strolled along the Champs-Elysees in Paris, smelled the freshly baked bread and pastries.  Jumped back as reckless drivers sped through the streets and dined at sidewalk cafes across from my love on a romantic getaway for two, while sipping champagne and sharing intimate moments.


I've visited the pyramids in Egypt.  Slalomed down the Alps.  Gone deep sea fishing off the Florida Keys. 

Good writers transport me (and hopefully you, too) to places we might otherwise never see through the magic of their words.  They bring alive the sounds, scents and tastes of every element, so much so that if you were to close your eyes for just a moment, you'd find yourself transported deep within the pages of the story—feel as though you are right there with the hero and heroine—experiencing every nuance of their surroundings.


This is what I try to bring to life when I'm writing.  My romantic suspense books are set in and around New Orleans, Louisiana.  The French Quarter.  The Big Easy.  Just hearing the name of the place evokes preconceived notions of what it's like.  I want you to hear the Cajun and Creole dialect in the words.  Feel the energy of the crowds on Bourbon Street at night.  Experience the joy and excitement of Mardi Gras.  Smell the spicy jambalaya so hot and fresh it makes your mouth water for the first bite. 

So, the next time wanderlust strikes and you can't physically get away on some tropical escape—step within the pages of a book and fly away. 

Kathy Ivan is busy writing her next New Orleans based romantic suspense, and wishing she was there.  Her current release, Connor's Gamble, is on sale for the next two days for $.099 at most e-book retailers. 


Sunday, August 17, 2014

MEMORIES.


 
As I consider writing a ‘Vintage’ (50s-70s) romantic suspense, I make notes of memories and last week spoke to others about their recollections. Everything from funny to stupid, to bitter sweet was mentioned. As I reviewed my notes, I wondered what children and teens of this day and age would have to recall as memories. Sitting next to one another texting? Sexting?  TGP’ing and or egging a house is a no-no for this generation of pranksters. “Not good for the environment,” I was told by a self-assured teenager sipping from a water bottle. No, these days it’s hacking into a teacher’s computer to get a test or change grades.

Do you remember riding a bike with no helmet, arm and knee pads? I swear I never knew anyone who got more than road rash from a bike crash. I think we must have peddled five to ten miles a day in summer. Never alone but in ‘gangs’. LOL! I played in the swamp, chased gators, (relax, nothing over five feet long) was chased by wild pigs. Climbed trees and coquina cliffs without a safety rope or net. The only time I can remember falling was when I went to sleep in the crook of an old oak and woke up falling. I hid silently in stickery bushes peering into windows to watch the only TV on the island. Now, children of that age seem distraught if there is no video display equipment of some kind in every room, if not their hand. Will they remember the time they visited their dotty g-ma who had no cell or wi-fi service and they had to, gasp, talk to one another? Will they reminisce about the early days of facebook and pinterest?

I drank palm berry moonshine that, when strained, was sometimes used as fuel in the tank of a car. Had to wear a girdle, white gloves and stockings to church. Stop laughing it was the 50s and 60s. Thank gawd for the burn your bra movement. Which I immediately joined.    

I survived relatively unscathed. I do occasionally twitch a bit. Can’t decide if it is from the moonshine or the girdle. I can show you a couple of scars but will not tell the story unless you’re sitting there with me.    

What becomes the head scratcher for me is, can you imagine what will the future that the days of 2014 will be considered the good old days?  And… when authors are writing a vintage story about 2014 what will they include?

 
Are your memories, pressed between the pages of your mind.  Sweetened thru the ages just like wine. Do you dream of the old days when life was beautiful and you knew what happiness was. Or, was all the crazy shit you did last night the best memories

Rita writes about military heroines. Extraordinary women and the men they love. You can get
Point of No Return
Under Fire:The Admiral
Under Fire
where ever fine ebooks are sold.
 
Coming soon Hunter’s Heart

Friday, August 15, 2014

Moving House - and moving a new release?

I originally planned to post this piece earlier this summer when a friend said she was “moving house.” While it’s not what we’d call it – we’d simply say “moving” - the term stuck with me since we’re literally moving a house. Well, it’s an old log cabin, but let’s not get too technical.

When we bought our property in the mountains, it came with an assortment of fallen or tumbling down barns, sheds and cabins. Thousands of pounds of debris later, we’re close personal friends with all the people who work at the dump.

We’re down to the last barn standing. Snow banked against the lower tier has made at least one log rot, so the building lists precariously. Having grown up in the South, I was used to older buildings and loved the charm of Charleston where the building age has crossed the 300-year threshold. (Okay, those of you in Europe quit laughing. Three hundred is old over here.) It was a shock to find that out here in the west, a building that’s a hundred is a rarity. So we wanted to preserve the cabin if we could.

Unfortunately the cabin occupied the prime high ground (big surprise, right?) where we wanted to build our house. We’d learned with some of the other buildings we’d constructed that anything over 200 square feet required a permit. Off we went to chat with the building department about what moving the cabin would require.

Here’s the gist of that conversation(s):

Us: We’d like to salvage this historic old barn but weren’t sure about the building requirements.
Building dept: If you take it apart (and treat the logs so they are less likely to rot) and move it, you have to bring it up to code. 
Us: It’s a barn. Like stacked Lincoln logs. 
BD: Yes. 
Us: So what does code mean? (How in the hell do you bring a stack of logs to code and who wrote code for them in the first place???)
BD: You have to have engineered trusses and …
Us: Whoa, whoa, whoa. What would we put the trusses on?
BD: You’d have to build a structure to carry the beams and trusses and you’d need an engineering analysis that the roof can support the snow load. 
Us: It’s been standing for over 100 years. Apparently it can handle the snow load. 
BD: But it MIGHT collapse. So you’d have to bring it up to code.
Us: Wait, you said “if” we take it apart. Is there an alternative?
BD: If you pick it up intact, you can move the barn, but you have to have a building permit to put it down. An analysis of the foundation and footings. And to issue the building permit, we really need an engineering analysis of the foundation and whether the roof…
Us: What if it falls apart when we try to pick up a stack of logs?
BD: Then you’d have to apply for a building permit to put it back together. Bringing it up to code.

Head. Desk.

It took forever to find anyone who’d even consider taking a small, off the wall, structural engineering project. While we searched, we went ahead and disassembled the cabin and treated the logs.

Finally, a friend of a friend agreed to write it up after my engineer husband drew up a discreet structure that carries the trusses and that we can bolt the logs to (making the new part nearly invisible). The balance will be hidden by salvaged wood from other long gone buildings. The frame will also support a new sliding barn door (easier to open when there’s several feet of snow).

Several months and several checks later, we had the analysis and hubby once more visited the building department. 

BD: Ah, this design might work and I see you have the engineering analysis. Yes, I could approve this. 
Us: Great! So you’ll issue the building permit?
BD: Oh, no. This just approves the engineering analysis. We need this (ream of paper) for the building permit. 
Us: Pause…consideration…do we really want to save this (ridiculously expensive) bit of history?

Yes.

Picks up papers and shuffles back to car.


The building department did issue a permit and we’re working on the foundation, so hopefully soon I can report back that the cabin is securely stationed in its new position on the farm.


What does any of this have to do with a new release? Nothing that I can think of…unless you talk about structure of a story. Foundations. Perseverance.

Nah.


CYPHER released this week. An early reviewer called it a twisty mystery with a compelling romance, which describes it well.

When a hit-man kills the wrong person, a Greenville, SC detective confronts hidden agendas and conflicting motives in a powerful local family, while trying to control his attraction to the intended victim—a woman who should be dead, but instead is hell-bent on saving the remnants of her family.

Unwilling to stand by while her family and world are destroyed, she rips apart the secrets surrounding Cypher, the company her father built—and will take any measures to defend.



Available at the following online retail sites:
Amazon      Barnes & Noble      Kobo                 


Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Shark Week and Romantic Suspense

There is so much hype for Shark Week that I'm not even sure when it really is. Sharknado was on a couple of weeks ago, but I believe that this is the actual Shark Week

Humor me for a moment as I talk about Sharknado. (Yes, I hear you all groaning!) I might be divulging spoilers if you haven't seen the movie...but somehow I don't think that is going to disappoint you... :)


I have to tell you, the cameos in the second movie were worth the torture of watching it. They dug up (probably literally from the grave) Robert Hayes from the original AIRPLANE as the pilot of the 747.  They had Jared from Subway sitting on a bench...in the subway! Judd Hirsch from Taxi drove a cab!  


Another plot phenom was to have Daymond John from Shark Tank (LOL -- Shark Tank) get run over by the Statue of Liberty's head as it tumbled down a New York Street.  

In all this brain cell-killing madness I found a certain beauty. This is why I never believe in 1-star reviews on books. No matter how bad you think a book or movie is, someone, somewhere exhausted a lot of thought to craft these absurd scenes. Is there not a perverted sense of brilliance in having a woman's hand bit off in mid-air by a tornado-flying shark...only to later have that very same shark land on top of the Empire State building next to the hero and this very same woman, so that he can pull her severed hand out of its mouth and extract the engagement ring to propose to her again? I'm going to just go ahead and confess that I could never come up with that plot twist!


Okay, back to sharks and romantic suspense. How many shark-themed romantic suspense novels are you aware of?  I read STRANDED WITH HER EX by Jill Sorrenson. It was very good. I'm sure there are many others that I'm missing. I know our very own Toni Anderson finds an eloquent way to weave marine life into romantic suspense in SEA OF SUSPICION.

What is it about sharks that fascinates us? Do you think they can live in harmony with romantic suspense?


Brought to you from the very eccentric, Maureen A. Miller.





Monday, August 11, 2014

Timing is Everything

You know how sometimes life works in mysterious ways? Sometimes, there's a synchronicity in the things we do or say or with the people we meet and totally unassociated things can become extremely associated. I don't know about you, but I find those times very random and very surreal.

Or a person can deal with any type of issue or emotion and something in life might happen that could snap them in another direction. Hopefully a better direction, although sometimes that may not be the case.

In Imminent Danger, Abbey Washington has been living her life, but just barely. She works hard at her job, but she keeps to herself. She's reserved and shy except when she's dancing. Dancing is the only time when she has control and she needs the music like she needs air to breathe. Dancing helps her cope, helps her deal with life. So what turns Abbey around? A couple of things actually. Witnessing a crime is one, but potentially being a victim for a second time in her life is the other. It takes a scary situation for her to come out of her shell, to learn to trust, to begin to grow. Her bad timing might actually be the best thing that could've happened to her. (Here's the cover since I can't seem to get enough of it. <G>)


It's like the saying my mom to used all the time: Everything happens for a reason. Sometimes I think that's the theme of all my books. (Now granted, some things shouldn't ever happen, but they do. The trick is to learn from it.)

I'm curious if any of you have experienced bad timing that turned out to be a good thing.

And, in case you're interested, I thought I'd post a quick excerpt from Imminent Danger.


“You’re in a good mood,” Abbey said, coming out of her bedroom.
Blake turned and nearly dropped to the ground in supplication. It took a concerted effort to keep his jaw from hitting the floor.
Abbey canted her head. “What?”
What? Was she kidding? What was that in thirty minutes she’d transformed herself from stunning girl to absolute Miss Universe perfection. He didn’t often see her wearing makeup and the effect it had on her already smooth skin and clear green eyes nearly brought him to his knees. Her dirty blond hair hung smooth and long around her shoulders, and the form-fitting strappy neon pink top and black leggings with a matching pink stripe down the side showed off her toned dancer’s body. He pegged her at five foot eight and she was all legs. The girl had legs to her neck. Legs he wanted wrapped around his waist as he pushed inside of her and sent them both—
“Hello.” Abbey snapped her fingers in the air. “Blake. Yo.”
He snapped out of his daydream.
“What’s got you on another planet?” She headed to the sofa and left the smell of citrus in her wake. She rifled through her bag for something.  
“Uh…nothing.” He backed up toward the door. “You ready to go?” If he stayed in her apartment much longer, she might end up out of those clothes she wore. Man, he could imagine stripping everything off her. Slowly and surely exposing every inch of smooth, soft skin.
“I don’t know.” She put a hand on her hip and cocked a stance. “You ready to stop looking at me like I’m your next meal?”
His gaze flashed to hers and he smiled. “Was I doing that?”
She nodded with one eyebrow arched high.
“Sorry. I couldn’t help myself. I’ll work on it.”
“Good. You need to.” She swung a large bag over her shoulder. “C’mon. I don’t want to be late,” she said, passing him to open the front door.

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Is Nothing Sacred?


Am I the only person who’s tired of settling down to watch evening TV and being faced with ads naddering on about erectile disfunction?  Take this, take that--when the moment is right.  Until then, sit in two bathtubs and look at the ocean.  But, and this is a big but, if you have an erection lasting more than four hours, call your physician.  Four hours!  I guess I’ve led a sheltered life.

My point being, is nothing sacred?  Sex with the partner of your choice is glorious, but do we have to hear about sexual malfunction over our nightly ice cream (sometimes with a brownie)?

            The tampon ads aren’t too much fun either.  Laxative ads are on that list, also.  Diet pills are a little better, except when I’m polishing off the ice cream.  Give me a good lite beer ad any time, maybe with a studly athlete touting the brew.  I love hearing about all those hops.

Maybe my antipathy for life’s grungier moments shows in my writing.  Now don’t get me wrong.  My murder mysteries (the Murders by Design Mystery Series, thank you very much) have shooting scenes--people get plugged right between the eyes--chase scenes, muggings, fights In a story I’m currently revising, there’s a harrowing birth scene, a poisoning, a stabbing, so I’m not avoiding the dark side of existence.  Not at all.  But those dark scenes are dynamic, life-changing events that are important to the plot.  In them, my heroes are always ready to perform, there are no scatological references (well, only one ladies room stalking scene in Rooms To Die For), nobody’s constantly constipated, or ever for that matter, and the heroine never has her period at a critical point in the plot.

Why not, you ask?  Because fiction imitates life only up to a point.  It doesn’t duplicate every aspect of it. That theory can be opposed, of course, and there are works out there to prove it.  However, in IMHO, fiction’s deepest reality is a fantasy that cherry picks its truths. Which means an author doesn’t necessarily have to emphasize what we all, on some level, would probably rather not read about.  E. D. no.  E. F. yes!  Comments welcome.

Jean Harrington’s latest Naples-set murder mystery, Rooms To Die For, is currently available on Amazon.  The next book in this tongue-in-cheek series, The Design is Murder, is due for release on November 17th.  You’re cordially invited to check out excerpts at www.jeanharrington.com.

  

Monday, August 4, 2014

Hosting a Murder


I am a huge fan of Clue, both the game and the movie. I saw the movie in the theater on my 16th birthday and when I heard about the murder mystery dinner party games where one could host (and solve) a murder, I was dead set on being part of one someday. Umpty-ump years later, I finally hosted one when my family got together for a summer vacation at a villa in Santa Barbara. It was the perfect setting for murder.

There is also an entertainment portion of these parties—in addition to the murder mystery, that is. Because our theme was tropical (Hawaiian), the recommended food and drink menu included plenty of fabulous fruity drinks and food. We grilled pineapple, steak, and fish and had tropical adult beverages on hand.

By the way, the game we played was the “Lethal Luau” theme, and here is the linkI played Nadia, the international swimsuit model. (I know, I know. You can laugh.... Okay, that's enough. LOL) There were eight of us in all, each portraying an interesting character whose personalities (and motives for murder!) were unveiled during each round of questioning.

Why is murder so fun? I found myself contemplating why I was so excited about finding out which of my siblings, their spouses, or my father had killed someone. It was the puzzle. I love solving a good riddle, puzzle, or conundrum. What made it even more fun was how everyone got into character, some even adopting surfer or Hawaiian chief lingo and accents to go along with the characters. And costumes. I've been banned from posting the pictures here (mostly by myself), but trust me, we were in character.

I highly recommend adding a little murder to your next gathering. There are a lot of different themes available. Everything from Mardi Gras to "honky tonk homicide" to a wine party. But since we were going to be by the ocean and the murder victim in this one was the birthday boy (and my husband happened to be celebrating his birthday), I thought it would be perfect.

Next year, though my family doesn't know it yet, more murder is on the menu. Once we pick the location of our next annual vacation, I'll find a theme to match and mayhem will ensue. I can’t wait!


Friday, August 1, 2014

History Mystery



My latest series, "The Emperors of London," contains a historical mystery. One that could have happened, and could have been kept secret. Because writing fiction is all about the “could”s, especially historical romance.
Each book has a different couple at its centre, but they can be read as standalones. I don’t want to give it all away, particularly since the mystery unfolds through the series, but it’s about Jacobites and Hanoverians. And a family feud, with separate mysteries at the centre of each.
As well as being romances, of course.
My fictional families, the Emperors of London (so called because of their outlandish names) and the Dankworths, are ranged against each other on either side of the Jacobite/Hanoverian fight. I set the stories in the 1750’s, when the fighting was underground and dirty. Anything could have happened in that time. The Jacobites could have won with subterfuge and spying what they’d lost on the battlefield at Culloden. Since they stood to win the ultimate prize—the British throne—the fighting became nasty.
So I inserted a bit more wickedness to stir the pot a bit, and the new series is about how it is resolved. Or at least, neutralised.
This is a world without instant news, without internet, or even where time is synchronised over distance. That didn’t come until the railway engine. It’s a world where the law is very different to the way it is today, when even adversarial trials are only just coming to be regarded as the way to judge someone. When magistrates had more power, the power to arrest and to have their favourites, where you could get off a charge by reading a section of the Bible. But only once. On the other hand, you could be hanged for stealing a loaf, or made a hero because you robbed people on the King’s highway, but you had a flamboyant personality.
However some things remain the same. The power of love, hate, and all the basic human emotions, for instance. And the love of gossip. Recently I picked up a few of them and read my way avidly through accounts of runaway brides, poor men turned into millionaires, and collectors of vast wealth who built houses just to put their treasures in. I don’t have to make much up after reading those.
There were persistent rumours all through the 1750’s of the Young Pretender’s visits to London. The authorities decided to keep an eye on him, instead of arresting him and making a martyr of him, although his supporters made great play of calling the Prince a hero, and comparing him to the German buffoons, who were in fact making a good job of monarchy. But what if the Pretender was looking for something in particular? And what if two other factions were hunting it down, too? Who would find it first, and what would they do with it when they did?
You’ll just have to read the books to find out!
“Rogue in Red Velvet” is out on August 4th from Kensington Publishing and all good outlets.

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

My RWA National Conference ~ San Antonio 2014

Not Your Usual Suspects! Anne Marie Becker, Sandy Parks, Julie Moffett, Toni Anderson, Dee J. Adams, Sharon Calvin.
Last week, the Romance Writers of America's National Conference was held in San Antonio, Texas. I hadn't planned to go but then I miraculously finaled in the RITA contest (a big deal in the romance community) so decided I couldn't miss the opportunity. It was truly amazing how many people noticed my little green RITA finalist ribbon. I'm short-sighted and can only read the text on those things by peering closely at other attendees' chests (which gets embarrassing) so I'm generally oblivious to ribbons. Other writers pay way more attention than me, obviously. 
Death by Chocolate
I arrived Monday and spent the afternoon stuffing gift bags for the Death by Chocolate party that Kiss of Death (the Mystery/Romantic Suspense Chapter of RWA) hold every year when they announce the Daphne du Maurier Award of Excellence results. 

Tuesday, KODers visited Lackland Airforce Base, and the Fort Sam Houston Army Base, seeing how combat medics were trained. If you write Romantic Suspense or Mystery I highly recommend the KOD for pre-conference tour alone. 
Military Working Dog Teams National Monument
Wednesday. 
Oh, boy. The week before the conference Amazon Publishing asked me to take part in a video interview to go with an interview about how three romance authors use their professional careers in their writing. It was a lot of fun, but I'm not a natural in front of the camera. Catherine Bybee and Dr. Debra Holland were life savers :)
Dr. Debra Holland, Nurse Catherine Bybee, Dr. Toni Anderson, and Laura (I forgot the camera guys' names, sorry).
Later that day was the literacy signing where authors and publishers sell books to raise money to promote literacy and reading. Great cause, lots of fun (assuming anyone comes to your table ;))
I spent an awesome few days with my critique partner, Kathy Altman. We've been together for more than a decade and only met up once before, on a day trip to the Spy Museum in DC. I'd have gone to Texas just to see her.
I also caught up with my Dangerous Attraction box set pals, Lori Ryan, Rebecca York and Jill Sanders (below). Wonderful ladies :)

What else? There was a panel I sat on for KDP and Createspace (I hope it was useful to some people), lots of amazing workshops on everything from craft, research, industry and self publishing (which is also industry), lots of agent and publisher parties/appointments, and a great general buzz of catching up with old friends, online peeps, and making new friends (yes, that was a run-on sentence, sorry). In a profession as solitary as writing, the conference is a great way to connect. On Friday we were also given our RITA certificates...
Nancy Herkness and me, receiving our RITA certificates.
And I met Eric Spindler...


And Karen Rose...
And I was awed by their grace.
Saturday night was the RITA ceremony. I didn't win. As I sat in my seat with my heart thumping scarily hard in my chest, I wasn't too disappointed when the lovely Carolyn Crane took the Romantic Suspense award instead (and gave a lovely speech). She's the first author to win a RITA with a self published book. Very proud of her. I spent the evening with friends and had a ball!!
Me, Loreth Anne White, Kathy Altman, Kathryn Jane, Olivia Gates
The next day I finally got to see a little bit of Texas--The Alamo. Very beautiful and peaceful, except for all those people ;) Interesting to be in a spot I've heard of my whole life and yet never expected to visit. I do love history :)





My brain is almost recovered (she lied!) and I hope you enjoyed some of my pictures and just a small taste of RWA 2014. The people of Texas were so incredibly friendly and polite. I had my own bellhop, Mike, who walked to the other hotel across the street to help me with my luggage. An older guy in the mall food court got up and gave me his seat--he was packing a nice big hat and a nice big sidearm. They were all charming. 
I, for one, will never forget the Alamo :)