Saturday, March 22, 2014

Jude Mason Interviews Jenna Byrnes

From Jude Mason's Blog: Welcome Jenna Byrnes

This week I'm very pleased to welcome my co-author and good friend, Jenna Byrnes to my blog. Jenna is special people and I hope you give her a warm welcome.  

1.  How long have you been writing? What inspired you to pick the pen up one day and create characters that capture the imagination? 

I started writing when I was about ten, because I loved to read and loved to make up stories. Those first scribblings were really awful, but I'm sure they helped hone my skills as far as who I am today. I began writing seriously about twenty years ago and five years ago actually got my first stories published.

2.  What genre would you like to try that you haven’t yet?

I've been tempted to try young adult (under another name, of course!) There just aren’t enough hours in a day.

3.  Most people envision an author’s life as being really glamorous. What’s your take on this? Can you tell us something unglamorous you did within the last week or so?

Scrubbing toilets? Waxing my eyebrows? Authors are regular people, we hop up in the air and put our pants on both legs at the same time just like everybody else.

4.  Plotter or pantzer?

Speaking of pants, I'd have to say pantzer. I try to plot but usually end up flying by the seat of my you-know-whats. Except when I co-author with Jude Mason- plotting is a must when writing together. She only slaps me occasionally when I don't stick to the plan!

5.  What do you do when you’re suffering writers block?

Whine and moan to whoever will listen *cough* Jude *cough*  then go work on my website or do some other kind of busy work. The writing eventually comes back. Not always as quickly as I hope, and not always the story I had in mind. But it eventually works out.

6.  What would you like to share with new writers? Any suggestions or advice?

Be patient. Nothing happens quickly in this business. Learn the rules of the publishing house you're submitting to. Follow those rules to the T. Polish, polish, polish. Have someone else read your book before sending it in. When you've shined and polished that first book and sent it off, write another one. Never stop writing. The best way to sell a book is to write another one. Promotion is important, but there are too many things online that can become a time suck. Make sure you allow plenty of time for writing.

7.  What do you enjoy doing with your spare time, your non-writing time? 

I wish I could say taking long walks or another form of exercise, but I'm a classic couch potato. I love watching all types of movies and crime drama TV shows.

8.  If you found that, for one reason or another, you couldn’t write anymore, what would you like to do instead?

Something in the business. Publish, edit, review. . .anything to be around books and writers.

9.  What kind of comfort food do you like best?

Italian food comes to mind. Pizza, pasta, lasagna—anything cheesy, gooey, and yummy! Followed by something chocolate, of course.

10.  What do you hope to achieve in life and when will you know that you have been a success?

I have some pretty wonderful kids and a great husband, plus a nice collection of books with my name in the author spot. I'm very comfortable with what I've achieved and definitely consider myself a success!

An Excerpt from the Boxed Set Hot Under the Collar by Jenna Byrnes
Heads or Tails

Jeff Roberts' life is all planned out for him. He's engaged to the boss's daughter, and eventually he'll run the construction/real estate company he works for. It'll be the perfect life.

When Kurt Lacey joins the construction crew, Jeff is suddenly fighting urges he'd forced himself to repress. There were male lovers in his past, but deciding that wasn't what he wanted, Jeff proceeded to 'go straight'. Kurt has other ideas, and one night together has Jeff rethinking his life. Does he want to be secure, responsible and boring? Wild, exciting and nontraditional seems like lots more fun. It all comes down to the flip of a coin—and whether Jeff chooses Heads or Tails. (m/m erotic contemporary romance)

Chapter One

It wasn't the best sex he'd ever had, but it was decent. Any sex is good sex, his friends would say, and Jeff Roberts tended to agree. But lately, something was different. He rolled away from his fiancée, pretending to be asleep.
When he heard her steady, rhythmic breathing, he rolled back over. Lana Birdwell looked peaceful in slumber, and much quieter than she ever was when she was awake. Long, blond curls framed her face, giving her a deceivingly angelic appearance. He bit back a chuckle at the thought—no one who knew Lana would ever confuse her with an angel.
A 'bubbly personality' was how her father described her, and that was putting it mildly in Jeff's estimation. She was an outgoing, opinionated girl who liked to hear her own voice. Her slight stature might indicate frailty or shyness, but he knew she was tough as nails—a real saleswoman without a shy bone in her body.
But what a body, he thought, glancing at her round, perfectly formed breasts. They sat high atop her slender torso, which also sported bikini-worthy abs. Her legs were long and shapely, converging at a neatly trimmed apex of soft blond hair. Jeff looked at the V-shaped patch of fuzz and wondered why the sight didn't arouse him as much as it used to.
With a flick of his wrist, he tossed the sheet and covered her body. Lana sighed and snuggled into her pillow without waking. Jeff rolled over and tugged the sheet up to his neck, willing sleep to overtake him.
"Rise and shine," Lana murmured in his ear, planting a kiss on his temple.
Jeff opened his eyes, unsure of when he actually fell asleep. The last time he noticed the clock it was three a.m. He'd tossed and turned half the night, and now felt like hell. "Ugh," he grunted.
"Didn't sleep well?" She stood, fastening a large earring on her left lobe. "Seemed like you were up a lot."
"Yeah." He threw one arm across his forehead.
She went to the dresser and picked up her other earring. Looking in the bureau mirror, she put the hoop on and glanced at him. "You always stress out about month's end. Running all the paperwork, making sure everything balances—which it always does, by the way. I don't know why you worry so much."
He started to say it wasn't month's end bothering him, but then she'd want to know what was. Jeff wasn't sure he could answer that question, so it was better to let her believe it was work. "Yeah," he answered noncommittally.
Lana double-checked her appearance in the mirror one last time before turning to face him. "I've got to go. I have a seven-thirty appointment to go over some real estate listings, and I want to pick up coffee and rolls first."
"See you later." He waved one hand in the air, and she grabbed it and squeezed.
"You bet you will. Want a bearclaw? I can leave it on your desk."
"Sure." Jeff tried to muster enthusiasm he didn't feel.

Copyright © 2011 Jenna Byrnes

Jenna's Bio:  Jenna Byrnes could use more cabinet space and more hours in a day. She’d fill the kitchen with gadgets her husband purchases off TV and let him cook for her to his heart’s content. She’d breeze through the days adding hours of sleep, and more time for writing the hot, erotic romance she loves to read.

Jenna thinks everyone deserves a happy ending, and loves to provide as many of those as possible to her gay, lesbian and hetero characters. Her favorite quote, from a pro-gay billboard, is “Be careful who you hate. It may be someone you love.”

For the latest news, visit Jenna’s website at

and find her Books We Love Boxed Sets here:


Monday, March 17, 2014

The Importance of Critiques by Ginger Simpson

Being a member of a critique group can be both a blessing and a pain the arse.  You have to make a time commitment to critique the work of others, and depending upon which stage of writing the author has achieved, you might be looking at a lot of effort on your part.  Similarly, others may consider your work time-consuming despite you feeling you're nearly a master.  Personally, I don't know how anyone could ever feel they've mastered writing as the rules change daily, and house-to-house. The challenge is deciding if the rules are right or merely something being passed along by an editor who learned at the knee of another publisher.  Critiquing is a tricky business.

The hardest part of being in a group for me is deciding which suggestions to take to heart and which to ignore.  Trust me, you'll get lots of friendly recommendations, but bear in mind that here again, people are at various stages in writing and may pass along their bad traits.  You have to be careful to pick and choose those comments which apply to your writing, enhance the story and flow, but don't change your voice.  There is something unique about all of us, and we don't want to lose that.  If you happen to be in a critique group with authors who dwell in England, you'll be surprised at how differently they write...lots of "to phrases" and all those extra "u" spellings, such as colour, favour, etc.  You have to keep in mind that writing styles do vary from country to country and what you think is true may not be elsewhere.

I cannot express my appreciation enough to the members of my past and current groups.  They have given me suggestions for improving the story flow, corrected errors, and asked questions that make me stop and think about how better to word something.  One author, in particular keeps me mindful that taste, touch, hear, and smell are just as important as seeing. The senses play an vital  role in “showing” a reader your novel  So put the reader in the character’s shoes even if the story takes place next to a water treatment plant. *smile*

There is one thing you should do before you join a critique group.  Develop a thick skin.
If you plan to submit your chapters for dissection, then expect they will be.  Critique groups aren’t in place to hold you hand, tell you lies about your work, or hurt your feeling, and you do want the truth, no matter how hard it is to take at times..  Honestly can sometimes be painful, and you may just discover that your manuscript needs more honing than you expected.  As said above, the task falls to the author to determine which suggestions to follow and which to ignore.  You'll often get conflicting critiques, so if the “tip” works use it, if it doesn’t, ignore it.

Not everyone critiques in the same manner. I, for one, do a line-by-line because that’s the only way I know to share what I’ve learned in the writing process.  Some skim the chapter, looking for missing commas and misspellings, and others just comment that your story is lovely.  There are some who obviously don’t want to rock anyone’s world with a negative comment. But that’s okay…these types are helpful, too.

Time is important in our industry, so if, after doing a few chapters, I notice the person is not taking note of my suggestions, then I cease offering my help. I don’t mean to infer that I know more than anyone else, but experiences have taught me much more than I knew before.  A good rule of thumb…if more than one person zeroes in on something, then you’d best listen.  Of course it seems like new rules crop up weekly. The ones I share are the ones that make the most sense to me.

My pet peeves are word echoes, redundancy, and chapters that do nothing to propel the story forward and are filled with wasted information and copious descriptions.  And nothing is more annoying than unneeded tags to identify two people in a room having a dialogue.  Continued use of “he said, John said, Mary said, she said,” drives me nuts.  Readers are pretty smart.  They can easily keep track of the speaker with a minimal of hints.  Still feel the need for a tag?  Use action…a phrase that identifies the speaker by something they’re doing.  “It’s rather cold out today,” John said.  might be better read, “It’s rather cold out today.”  John moved to the fireplace and warmed his hands over the crackling flames.  Besides just telling the reader about the coldness, you're showing them a warm and crackling fireplace.

The hardest question is how do you relay those peevish habits to an author without making an enemy?  There is never a need to be cold and cruel, but sometimes even a hint of negativity will send a newbie fleeing from the site.  You have to be prepared to get as good as you give, and that’s the truth.  I’ve never been very good at candy-coating, and I doubt I’m going to start now.  I don’t always like the critiques I get back, but I consider each and every one of them and I’d say I use 90% of the recommendations.  I’m still constantly amazed at the minor issues overlooked by so many pairs of eyes.  I don’t think it’s possible to ever have a “perfect” manuscript...I’ve never seen one, at least.

I hope my post has inspired some of you to form or join a group.  Critiquing can be one of the most helpful tools around, but only it you use the opportunity wisely and honestly. I just rejoined my Historical Critique Group to help me with Yellow Moon.  I just submitted the first chapter today, so we'll see what comments I get back.

Titillating preview by J.C. Kavanagh

WINNER Best Young Adult Book 2016, The Twisted Climb I've been prepping for Autumn book signings and excited to meet new and...