Saturday, March 31, 2012

Weekly eBook Winners

Congratulations to the weekly ebook winners in Books We Love's annual Spring Fling Event!

This week's winner is Laura Warren.

Laura wins her choice of any two Books We Love ebooks or Spice ebooks. She also receives TEN extra entries into the Kindle Fire drawing May 31. Eleanor, please visit our website and make your two choices, then email the titles to

Remember, only subscribers to our newsletter are eligible to enter our contests, so if you're not a subscriber go here and sign up now. Find the entry form for Spring Fling there too!

Congratulations Laura!

Friday, March 30, 2012

How She Does It with Gina Rosavin

friend and fellow critique partner. A woman of many names and talents.

1. How do you create your characters? Do you have a specific process?

My characters very often are inspired not only by people I know or admire, but also by other fictional characters – a lot of times, there'll be something a specific character in a TV show or movie does or says that sparks the creative juices. Some tossed off line of dialogues, or a simple expression will spur that whole “What if?” thing in my head. It’s nothing very regimented, just sort of train-of-thought brainstorming. I’ll jot down a few ideas as to who the character is – whether it be their emotional makeup, or their physical appearance. Once I have the basics set (though they are always subject to change), then I start thinking about who would make the best partner for that character. Sometimes that character is inspired in a similar fashion, other times, it's just someone in a certain situation or with a certain problem that works well with my initial character. By this time, I’ve moved to my spreadsheet, where I use multiple worksheets to track the details such as character’s physical traits, personality traits and interests, and scene and plot ideas.

2. Do your characters come before the plot? Do you sketch out your plot or do you let the characters develop the route to the end?

Characters definitely come first. All of my ideas spring from that. But I don’t have any set routine, other than my spreadsheet. I have general ideas as to what the plot will be, but often it’s barely a sketch. While I do keep that worksheet with plot and scene ideas, often those are only bare bones, and the plot is very fluid as the story progresses. There are often surprises too – like in my current WIP, when a was working on a scene, and all of a sudden, my hero had not only a deceased wife, but a toddler son as well. I never originally planned for that, but it just fit perfectly and gave the character more depth as far as his internal goals.

3. Do you know how the story will end before you begin? In a general way or a specific one?

I usually do have some sort of idea how it should wrap up – getting to that point is a different story. But most of the time, I know exactly what the last scene should be. Sometimes it’s only a vague idea, other times, a very specific and detailed scene. I've even been known to write that scene before I actually finish the book, especially in those cases where the scene is specific. Usually, though, the final version of the scene changes as the story progresses. Sometimes, that last scene ends up being the penultimate scene or there might be several more after it. It depends on how the story has progressed. Occasionally, that ending gets tossed altogether because it doesn’t work anymore based on plot changes I make throughout the story.

4. Do you choose settings you know or do you have books of settings and plans of houses sitting around?

I like to use setting I know, but put my own personal twist on them. For instance, the Magiste books take place in New Orleans, a city I love. But I changed it up enough to make it a slightly alternate reality. Or, as in the case of The Taste of Magic, I made up my own country, but based on a real one. In my sci-fi story, we’re in a place I haven’t been in a very long time – the mountains of Pennsylvania. And other than the fact that my hero comes from another galaxy, it’s real PA, not an alternate.

5. Where do you do your research? On line or from books?

I research everywhere and every way I can – but mostly online, which can be tricky, since there is so much mis-information on the web. But I’ve found some reliable places over the years that I count as my “go-to” sites. I I find books that fit what I need to know, I buy them. I have quite an extensive library of all sorts of books. I just wish I had more bookcases so they’d be better organized! Most of them are dog-eared, or tagged for the places where I need specific information, and I've even highlighted and written in several of them. The bulk of my library consists of books on Edward I and the 12th and 13th centuries in England and Scotland, one of my favorite time periods. I also have lots of books on witchcraft, magic and fantasy. Those are fun to read because they can spur more ideas.

Last few days to Follow Us and Win!

We've extended our "Follow Us" contest for one day because we have a very special post coming on April 1st. Check back to join the fun!

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Thursday, March 29, 2012

Short, Sweet, and to the Point

 ~*~ Publisher's Corner ~*~

By Jamie Hill

"Man hates whale, man pursues whale, whale destroys man." 

Name that book in ten seconds.

Does this help?

"When Ishmael sets sail on the whaling ship Pequod one cold Christmas Day, he has no idea of the horrors awaiting him out on the vast and merciless ocean. The ship’s strange captain, Ahab, is in the grip of an obsession to hunt down the famous white whale, Moby Dick, and will stop at nothing on his quest to annihilate his nemesis."

Apparently back in the 1800's authors weren't required to write a blurb--just the book. Somehow they managed to sell a few copies anyway. Today, with more than a million different books available on Amazon, the blurb and the cover are the only things a reader might ever see about your book. 

An eye-catching cover is a given. Without that, busy readers might not even stop to give your blurb a chance.

A catchy title might get you a second look. You've drawn the reader in. Now snag him or her with your blurb!

The blurb sets up the story, but unlike a synopsis, it shouldn't give too much away. Tease the reader with the plot. Give them a hint of what the book is about, make them want to read more. 

For my novel-length romantic suspense books which show two characters' point-of-views, I like a two paragraph blurb. One about her, one about him. For example:

Family Secrets

As if stumbling over a dead body isn't enough, Crystal Cartwright finds herself playing surrogate mother to two small boys when their father--her neighbor--doesn't come home. The kids aren't much trouble, but the thieves, drug dealers and kidnappers they're about to encounter are.

Detective Jack Dunlevy, a cop down on his luck, draws the cases no one else wants. A simple investigation involving a dead homeless man quickly changes as Crystal enlists Jack's help with the children. Drawn into a mystery that none of them could have anticipated, they're faced with a situation that will change their lives forever.

and the sequel:

Family Ties

With a couple of dead bodies thrown in, Detective Brady Marshall's stolen goods case has just become a lot more interesting. His love life takes a turn for the better when he meets Gina Morris, a feisty waitress at the club where the latest victim has surfaced. A happily unattached ladies' man, Brady isn't looking to settle down. But after meeting the beautiful Italian spitfire, his thoughts are shifting in that direction.
Gina Morris doesn't date cops. Until she meets Brady, that is, and gets won over by his dogged persistence and winning smile. With things in her past that are best left unspoken, Gina hesitates to get too close, but can't resist the handsome detective's charm. When his case runs smack dab into her past life, both of them are forced to make choices they never dreamed possible in an attempt to salvage their relationship, and possibly even save their lives.

Fun factoid (okay, fun for me, anyway). The first line of each of these books mentions a dead body. So do the blurbs. So does the first line of book three, Family Honor, coming to Amazon in 2012.
That's my style. Every author should have his or her own.

A few things to remember:

Don't write one line only, or merely use a line from a review as your blurb. (Somebody else wrote that.) Come up with some thoughts of your own. It's your book, after all.

Do double check your blurb for typos and consistency. Ask anyone who proofreads your manuscript to look at the blurb and make sure it's clean and compelling. If it's ho-hum, you need to know before the book gets published.

You spent a long time writing the book. Spend a bit longer making sure the blurb is going to get your masterpiece noticed.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Meet Author Ann Cory

Ann Cory was born and raised in Oregon with an overactive imagination, and a love of words. With the loving support of her family, she’s able to devote time to her craft.

She enjoys writing sweet and spicy romance in an array of genres including paranormal, contemporary, historical, urban fantasy, ménage, and western.

BWL: How long have you been writing and in what genres?

AC: I’ve been writing for publication about eight years now, though I’ve been writing all my life. Genres I write include horror, erotica, fantasy, paranormal, western, contemporary, historical, ménage, BDSM, sensual romance, and more.

BWL: Where you do get your inspiration?

AC: Inspiration hits me often when I’m baking, decorating, or outside surrounded by nature. Inspiration can be a word or phrase, lyrics to a song, in a conversation my husband and I are having, and many times from a picture.

BWL: Tell us about your book(s).

AC: Penny Serenade: Tokens of the Heart Book One is a contemporary erotic romance that introduces us to Audrey Kessler who runs a new age gift shop – Tokens of the Heart. 

Audrey has worked hard to get where she is, and her shop has been a success with the locals. Love hasn’t been the same success. When Dominic Blume enters her shop, she wonders if he might be the one, but the first impressions are all wrong. This book also follows other characters who readers can expect to follow throughout the rest of the series.   

The shop, Tokens of the Heart, was inspired by a quaint little shop in Gleneden Beach, Oregon called The Crystal Wizard. Whenever I go there I’m immediately swept up in its magic.

BWL: What about your next book?  Will it be part of a series or a stand alone?  Can you give us a taste to whet our appetites?

AC: Currently I’m working on the sequel to Midnight’s Sweet Kiss, the telling of Olivia and Tate’s story, as well as the second and third books in the Tokens of the Heart series. Since I’m generally tackling several stories at once, along with shorter stories, I’m sure there will plenty more soon.

BWL: What are your hobbies and interests?

AC: I enjoy reading, writing poetry, dancing, going to rock concerts, baking, playing board games with the family, watching movies, and interior decorating.

BWL: What does the future hold for you?

AC: I’ll be juggling my first love, writing, with full-time classes at my local college to prepare for a job as a medical office specialist.

BWL: Where can readers find you?

BWL: Thanks Ann! 

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Follow our Inside Blog and win prizes!

Books We Love introduces our new blog

Inside Books We Love

featuring posts by our authors, cover artists, and publishers

Follow our blog on Google for a chance to win one of these sweet and savory baskets!
(Find the follow button to the right in the sidebar.)

Two lucky winners will be chosen from everyone following the blog on March 31. Winners will be announced on the blog April 1st, no foolin'!

Check back often for all new posts. Click the subscribe links in the sidebar to have blog posts sent directly to your email.

Happy Reading and Thanks for Following Inside Books We Love!

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Website Suggestion: Top 5

I’ve been asked to provide what, in my opinion, is a “Do and Don’t” list for Author Websites. I have approached them all from the positive DO point of view (although I also mention some Don’t in many of them).

By no means is this comprehensive, I only focused on what I view as the top 5 for length purposes … and please keep in mind, this is simply my opinion. Mileage can and does vary.

* * *

1. DO have a website. First and foremost, if you are an author, in today’s internet based consumer economy, you need an author website. You don’t have to be especially tech savvy or rich to have a website. True, you could pay someone to design and maintain your website. Nothing wrong with that. But if you can’t afford that option (and let’s face it starting out, who really can?), then there are other options. Go to a website provider with templates offered. Use a blog as your website. It doesn’t even have to be perfect – just functional and most of all, provide information about your books and where to find them.

2. DO have your own domain name. Even if you use a blog as your website, you should still have a domain name that is unique to you. It is very easy to redirect a domain name to wherever you want it to go.

Also … DO have YOUR NAME in your domain name (the url that goes to your website). This one is from personal experience. When I started out, I used the name of my website as my domain name, rather than my pen name. So when readers did a search, if I didn’t have my meta tags set up right, they couldn’t find me. When I started publishing, rather than writing shorts to share for free, I corrected that mistake and purchased my pen name as a domain name. Even if you have to put the word AUTHOR in the url, or even BOOKS, whatever, having your name in your domain name is a good idea.

Unfortunately, because I already had links all over the place going to my non-pen name domain, I have to keep it around as well as use my pen name domain name. So both go to the exact same website.

Now I do know authors that have their domain name set as something else, and it works for them. I just strongly suggest, especially if you are starting out and don’t already have an existing domain name going, that you consider using your pen name as your domain name.

3. DO have information about your books on your website! This one may seem simple, but you would not believe the number of author websites I have gone to which don’t even have blurbs for the books. Just an excerpt. Excerpts are nice and all, but unless I know what the book is actually about, it probably isn’t going to sell me on it. Because let’s face it, it could be the sexiest scene I have ever read, but unless I know that it isn’t a genre that I have learned by experience I generally am disappointed in, I probably still won’t make the purchase.

Yes – many times I can go to Amazon to find a blurb, but you know what? The average reader isn’t going to be that interested – and they shouldn’t have to go to that much effort. Plain and simple. You want them to follow your buy links to actually BUY the book. They shouldn’t have to follow them to find out what your book is about. It is your job as an author to provide it.

4. DO update your website. Again, it may seem simple, but I have seen websites that are sadly out of date time and time again. If you don’t have any books in the works to mention, that is one thing. But when Amazon is recommending your upcoming book to me, and I go to your website and find that you haven’t updated it in two years despite having had three books come out in the meantime, I am going to wonder what is going on. Do you not want me to visit your website and find out what you have coming out for me to buy? As a reader I shouldn't have to hunt down information on your releases – you should be providing it to me.

I know it is hard to find time to do some of these things ...

If you don’t have the time to update your website, and can’t afford to hire something to do it for you, find a friend who has the time. Pay them in free books, cookies, having your teenager mow their lawn – whatever. Just keep your website up-to-date.

5. DO keep in mind that not all readers are on cable modems and have really fast internet connections. Dial-ups do still exist. So all those really neat animations and graphics that you think are so cute? Carefully consider just which ones you simply have to have, and cut the rest. I know it is hard – I used to have all the cute little animations and images on my website. But I learned quickly to streamline it. Why? Because every image you have on your website takes time to load – and the bigger the file, the more time it takes. Some pages won’t even show until the majority of graphics have loaded, and readers are not going to wait five minutes for all the bouncing kitties and puppies to load to read your website. They will get frustrated, and close out the site. If you are lucky, they will try again later.

* * *

Well, that in a nutshell, is what I consider the Top 5 most important things on an author website.

I will post from time to time other suggestions, and I am always open to questions … so please feel free to leave any questions you may have in the comments field.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Weekly eBook Winners

Congratulations to the weekly ebook winners in Books We Love's annual Spring Fling Event!

This week's winner is Eleanor Harkins.

Eleanor wins her choice of any two Books We Love ebooks or Spice ebooks. She also receives TEN extra entries into the Kindle Fire drawing May 31. Eleanor, please visit our website and make your two choices, then email the titles to

Remember, only subscribers to our newsletter are eligible to enter our contests, so if you're not a subscriber go here and sign up now. Find the entry form for Spring Fling there too!

Congratulations Eleanor!

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

How She Does It - Jane Toombs

How I Create Stories

Janet and I approach writing so differently it’s a wonder we were able to co-author Becoming Your Own Critique Partner. But then, that was non-fiction. So maybe I should say our approach to writing fiction is quite different. Janet writes multiple drafts of her stories, whereas I do an overall synopsis for the entire book or series. I may deviate from this synopsis as I go along, but usually not radically. However, we both use the who, what. when, why, where and how method of creating.

1. How do you create your characters? Do you have a specific process?

I actually don’t know. All I can say is that they’re characters I feel will work with the plot.

2. Do your characters come before the plot? Do you sketch out your plot or do you let the characters develop the route to the end?

Plot and characters come together. As I write my synopsis, I somehow know what kind of characters will work well with this particular plot. However as I actually write the story , the characters take on life and voice, so I do deviate a bit from the synopsis, which can be as fluid as it needs to be.

3. Do you know how the story will end before you begin? In a general way or a specific one?

Pretty much--in a general way. The ending always depends on how much I deviate from the synopsis when writing the story.

4. Do you choose settings you know or do you have books of settings and plans of houses sitting around?

If I need to do research, once I settle on the setting , I do it before I start to write, because the research often leads to a change in the synopsis. Lately, though, I tend to use settings I’m familiar with or at least have visited.

5. Where do you do your research? On line or from books?

Both. If I can’t find what I need online, I know my library will have just the right book I need. Besides, I’ve been writing for so many years now that I have books about almost everything.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

What's Stopping You?

Let’s say you’ve decided on a project. You have all the tools and materials you need to complete this project. You have set aside the time needed and you’ve done your research so you can move forward. Nothing is stopping you. You’re prepared. And it’s going to be great. Ready?

It’s go time!

Wait, what happened?

Why are you stalling? What’s keeping you from completing the project? Oh…YOU are.


How many times has this happened to you? An idea comes to you and you’re psyched. You jot down the information, figure out what it’s going to take to complete, and get all pumped up to do it. Maybe you even tell other people about this fantastic project. You’ve got the visual in your mind of how it will look when it’s done. But even after all of that time and preparation, all the planning and dreaming, you aren't any closer to completion.

Don't sabotage yourself. Don't be the one standing in your own way. Be cautious of all the little signs that try and veer you off your path to success. They're bright and pretty and sparkly and sound a lot more fun than doing work ever will. We all want to have some fun in our day, and we should incorporate fun in our day, but even that has to have a limit. We owe it to ourselves to keep moving forward and working toward our goals. We owe it to ourselves to do what we're passionate about.

There will always be times when life puts up road blocks. You can’t plan for every crisis. Maybe you have health issues you have to work around. Perhaps a family member came down with a cold or the flu. Maybe your spouse gets laid off from work. Perhaps Mother Nature decides to have her say. Interruptions are a part of life. Teach yourself how to make use of the time that you have. Don't wait for the time. Make any time productive.

If you have only fifteen minutes to spend on the project a day, then make those fifteen minutes valuable. Give those fifteen minutes all of your attention. Baby that fifteen minutes. In as little as fifteen minutes a day, every day, eventually you will complete that project. If you can spend fifteen minutes on the phone, watching TV, playing a game, hitting the snooze button, reading emails, getting off track while researching, or sitting down thinking about how much you don’t want to do something…you have that time.

If you’ve been wondering how you’re going to fit in the time to write when you already have a busy schedule, then set aside smaller increments of time. If it means setting a timer and making yourself write for a minimum of fifteen minutes without distractions in order to get your writing done for the day, then set that timer and have at it. If it means getting up fifteen minutes earlier, then it may be worthwhile.

Say you can type 1,000 words in fifteen minutes. In seven days you could have 7,000 words of your story written. Over time these words add up.

Say you want to build a cabinet or clean out your closet. Don’t make the decision to try and do it all in one day. The task will seem too big and you’ll talk yourself right out of it. It’s easy to do. But by breaking it up into smaller bits of time, you may surprise yourself how much you can accomplish.

If you want something bad enough, you’ll make the time. You’ll never find time, but you can make it, and you can make it work for you.

Do you have a spare fifteen minutes in your day? What can you fill it with?

~Ann Cory

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Magic! The very word conjures images of sorcery, enchantment, bewitchment, and well, magic. Wouldn't it be nice if we could all practice magic--the good kind, that is, not dark magic. It is said that Wicca is the fastest growing religion in the United States. Most witches make a grimoire, or Book of Shadows. This is a blank book in which a witch writes down any information she thinks might be interesting or useful to her as a witch. Wiccans worship many goddesses and have many age-old traditions. Their motto is to do no harm. Here are two books that deal with magic, "The Wicca Handbook" by Eileen Holland and "Earth Mother Magic" by Judika Illes. Whether or not you believe in magic, it's enlightening to read about it.

Magic plays a part in several of my romances. In my fantasy novella, "Midnight for Morgana" a good witch helps Morgana achieve her dream of attending a fair near their village. The witch decks her out in gorgeous finery and provides her with a white horse. Prince Keir spies her at the fair and feels sure she is a princess. After all, Morgana is beautiful and is dressed so finely, she surely must be a princess. And only a princess will do as a wife for Prince Keir. But when he visits Morgana at her house, the prince is the last person Morgana wants to see. And the prince gets the surprise of his life.

"Night Secrets," a fantasy romance, also involves magic. Princess Keriam can spirit travel, an ability she fears may be mistaken for magic, should anyone discover her. Magic is forbidden in the kingdom of Avador. Should she be caught, she would be burned at the stake. Not even her father, the king, could save her. Roric, the king's courier, fears magic, certain that magic killed his wife and son years ago. He wants to love Keriam but fears she practices the craft. Radegunda is a good witch who aids Princess Keriam and the king. But she and Keriam must defeat Aradia, who practices black magic. Aradia conspires with the evil Balor to kill the king and take control of the kingdom. Can good magic overcome evil in the kingdom of Avador?

In "The Princess and the Curse" the fisherman Nolan Tremaine is charged with the task of sailing to a far distant realm and bringing back the bell of Bellarmine. A good witch enables him in his quest, and when he arrives at the far distant country, he finds that the bell is really the Belle of Bellarmine. Princess Leslie is a very unhappy woman who must marry an evil prince who has put a curse on the land. The wicked spell has made all the women barren, and only by her marriage to the evil prince will this curse be lifted.  Nolan wants to help her and take her away, but how can a humble fisherman save her from her fate? And will the good witch help him again?

I'd love for you to go to my website and read more about all of my romances.

Follow our Inside Blog and win prizes!

Books We Love introduces our new blog

Inside Books We Love

featuring posts by our authors, cover artists, and publishers

Follow our blog on Google for a chance to win one of these sweet and savory baskets!
(Find the follow button to the right in the sidebar.)

Two lucky winners will be chosen from everyone following the blog on March 31. Winners will be announced on the blog April 1st, no foolin'!

Check back often for all new posts. Click the subscribe links in the sidebar to have blog posts sent directly to your email.

Happy Reading and Thanks for Following Inside Books We Love!

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Three Irish Stories Featured at The Romance Studio Today!

Stop by The Romance Studio today for St. Patty's Day fun reader-style! Lots of new releases with excerpts and giveaways, including books and Amazon gift cards.

The Love, Lore and a Wee Bit of Larceny series is featured. I'll be posting excerpts from Irish Heat and giving away prizes! Hope to see you there!

Irish Heat is a sexy Irish tale from the “Love, Lore and a Wee Bit of Larceny” series by Amazon bestselling authors Calista Fox, Erin Quinn and Mary Leo.

On Sale Now!!


Other formats

Irish Heat by Calista Fox

Narrowly escaping with his life after infiltrating a powerful Irish mob family in Chicago, undercover detective Rourke O’Reilly finds himself in a different kind of danger when he returns to his birthplace in Ireland to return a gold coin he’d been bullied into stealing when he was just ten years old. Curses, spells and murder mar the mysterious and mystical land of Talamh an Óir, but a beautiful, russet-haired woman awaits him, ready to help Rourke reclaim everything he’s lost over the years... If she doesn’t kill him with an Irish death curse first.



Friday, March 16, 2012

Brand new Medieval series starts with Princess of Bretagne - by Vijaya Schartz

Now available in kindle for only $2.99!  CLICK HERE

This is a series I researched for several years in Europe and it is based on authentic European legends. It depicts life, love, and war in medieval times. As always I wrote strong women characters and evil villains. This series is very close to my heart. Here is what it's all about.

From history shrouded in myths, emerges a family of immortal Celtic Ladies, who roam the medieval world in search of salvation from a curse. For centuries, imbued with hereditary gifts, they hide their deadly secret, stirring passions in their wake as they fight the Viking hordes, send the first knights to the Holy Land, give birth to kings and emperors... but if the Church ever suspects what they really are, they will be hunted, tortured, and burned at the stake.


806 AD - Alba (Ancient Scotland) - As the Vikings raid the coast of Alba, Pressine of Bretagne sets out to seduce King Elinas of Dumfries, chosen by the Goddess to unite the tribes against the foreign invader. Elinas, still mourning his departed queen, has no intention to remarry. Head-strong and independent, Pressine does not expect to fall for the very attractive, wise and noble ruler... Furthermore, her Pagan nature clashes with the religious fanaticism of the king's Christian heir, who suspects her unholy ancestry and will stop at nothing to get rid of her.


Without waiting for an invitation, Elinas stormed into the bedchamber.
Pressine shuddered at the loathing in his dark brown eyes.

"Whatever made you think you could violate the apartments of my beloved queen?" Stopping short in the middle of the room, Elinas glanced around, eyes wide with disbelief.

Pressine struggled to sound casual. "Surely your gracious queen would have wanted these rooms light, warm and clean, even alive with laughter, rather than dark, sealed, and stinking of decay."

The king's jaw tightened under the short black beard as he towered over her. His hands balled into fists at his sides. "I alone decide in my castle." The low voice turned to a raucous whisper, more threatening than the shouts of any battlefield. "I shall not tolerate defiance of any kind under my roof. Restore these rooms to their previous state and leave."

Barely able to slow her heartbeat, Pressine feigned distraction, dusting her blue riding dress. "It simply cannot be done."

"You dare challenge me?" His surprise would have been comical, if not for the menacing tone.

"The old linens were burned," Pressine said with a calm she did not feel, as if lecturing a child. She rose to fetch the bundle wrapped in blue silk and handed it to him.

Elinas looked at it suspiciously. "What is it?"

"Her comb, mirror, distaff, spindle, and other keepsakes." Pressine's waved her hand, encompassing the room. "The apartments themselves will never look the way they did before." She had made certain of that.

The king's eyes, velvety brown and soft this morning at the spring, now burned with the fiery amber of a wild cat's glare. Elinas looked ready to pounce. He snatched the bundle from her arm. "Out!"

Pressine showed none of the apprehension gripping her. The king's heart, beneath the leather gear, had more mettle than she anticipated.

"Remember that I have your sword." She paused, observing the sobering effect of her words. "Only this morning, you gave it to me, swearing you would honor your oath of keeping me safe in your halls. Does a king's word count for so little in Strathclyde?"

"I curse the ill fortune that made me hear you sing, lady." Eyes tightly shut, Elinas tensed, fists at his side, obviously struggling for emotional control. "I should have known that a princess who refuses to bow to the will of men can only bring strife."

Encouraged by the spark of reason returning to the distraught Elinas, Pressine hoped he could now face his grief. "I am sorry if I offended you. I meant no disrespect."

"I have enough Vikings, Angles, Picts and Scots to give me trouble. The gods know I do not want feuds in my home." Stillness made his stare frightening.

Pressine refused to be intimidated. "Will you honor your word and protect me, then?"

"I should throw you to the wolves!" His voice boomed.

"Wolves?" Pressine repressed a chuckle. She loved wolves. "What would your people think of a king who throws a defenseless princess to the wolves?"

"Defenseless?" The king's face reddened.

"Everyone in the castle expects to see me at your side at the Beltane feast. If I do not attend, there will be questions. The rules of hospitality state that..."

"Let them ask," Elinas snapped. "The rules of hospitality do not apply to princesses who misbehave!"

"Please, my lord, do not throw me to the wolves!" Pressine dropped to her knees and grabbed his strong legs, gazing up at him. "I promise to behave like a proper lady and heed all your wishes from now on."

Elinas glanced into her eyes then averted his gaze. "Get up!" he said gruffly. "I spoke in anger. But you better behave as promised."

"Thank you, my king." Pressine rose. Her irrepressible smile broadened and she brushed her lips to his cheek. "Does this mean I may stay in these chambers?"

"I see no reason not to anymore." Elinas pursed his lips and sighed. His slow gaze perused the room. Unshed tears welled in his eyes. "My dear queen's spirit has left this place."

Moved by his emotional display, Pressine bowed humbly. "I shall do my best to please you, my lord. I promise."

Elinas glanced at her riding clothes. "I hope you plan to wear something more suitable for the feast."

"Do not fear. I will do honor to your hall." Pressine curtsied. To her surprise, when she raised her gaze Elinas remained standing, staring at her.

"I need my sword," He said curtly.

"What?" Under no circumstance could Pressine give him back his sword.

"A warrior-king cannot show himself at Beltane without a royal sword." The dark stubble of his beard twitched.

Suddenly grasping the opportunity, Pressine went to the most ornate chest in the room. "If a great sword you need, my lord, a great sword you shall have."

Opening the chest, Pressine nonchalantly furrowed among the gold and silver jewels to retrieve the wrapped Caliburn imbued with the might of the Goddess. When Pressine faced Elinas again, he stared, gaping at the riches in the open coffer.

"What is all this?" He eyed the contents suspiciously.

"My dowry." Pressine slowly unwrapped the sword empowered by the ritual in the stone circle. "From my father, King Salomon of Bretagne, and from my aunt, the Lady Morgane."

The king's gaze took in the other trunks as well. "You could supply a whole army for many years with that much silver and gold."

When Pressine unsheathed the blade, it caught the light and shone blue.

"Who did you say your aunt was?" Elinas seemed transfixed by the sight of the magnificent sword.

"Lady Morgane of the Lost Isle." Pressine presented the weapon to his touch.

"Incredible work." His hands caressed the blade. "I have never seen such flawless steel."

"Like the dowry, it will go to my husband in wedlock." Pressine sheathed the sword and handed it to him. "Would you wear Caliburn tonight, as a token of my good will?"

Elinas gave her a sharp glance as he took the sword. "Do not think this gives you license to oppose or contradict me in any way in front of my liege lords and barons. If you do, I shall have you thrown outside the ramparts in the middle of the night. And the royal Princess of Bretagne will have to contend with the wolves."

Caliburn in one hand the blue silk bundle in the other, Elinas marched out of the bedchamber. After the door closed, Pressine let out a long breath and her shoulders relaxed. Seducing this king might prove more difficult than she expected, but he was worthy, and she enjoyed a challenge.
Find other books by Vijaya at her author website HERE and also at:

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Behind The Cover Artist's Curtain

By Michelle Lee
BWL Art Director

“Pay no attention to that man behind the curtain.”
Anyone who has seen the Wizard of Oz should remember those words. As a cover artist, I often feel like the person behind the curtain – it is my job to assist the author in making their book sell, but all my work is, and should be, shrouded behind a curtain. After all, the purpose of my work is just to put a “face” on an author’s hard work. Most readers will never know my name (unless they glance at the copyright page) and are not likely to follow my work.

Which again, is at it should be. However …

The very curtain that I sit behind as a cover artist also leads to an almost air of mystery about what exactly it is that I do. Most authors never see the stages that a cover goes through from when a cover artist gets the assignment until when they receive the final cover. It’s very simple to many - they turn in a cover art form and then magically a cover appears.

I hope over the next few months to give the authors, and you the reader, a peek behind my particular curtain. Keep in mind, I can only speak for my process … mileage will vary with different publishers, and even between different artists. Still, I hope you enjoy the glimpse behind my particular curtain.

To begin, I would like to list some of the steps that I go through, and then in future posts I will start to break them all down, and if needed include sub-steps.

1. The artist fills out a cover art form which I, and sometimes the publisher, look over and start to formulate ideas as to what the cover elements will be.

2. I start to put images together to see how different elements look together.

3. I place the title and author name on the cover (often not in the color or font that I will ultimately use, but rather just a generic placeholder to start to formulate placement).

4. Then I start to play around with all the elements – the images, the font (placement, color, and effects), shifting them around until I get something that I am happy with.

5. After I get everything placed, I start in on effects of the font.

6. Lastly, I start adding in the extras – little things that just make the cover pop.

If the cover is part of a series, I also have to keep in mind what options I have for future covers in the series.
- For example, does the model I chose have other images that would work for future books.
- What extras can I add that I can tweak with future books, so that each book is unique but still has similar elements.

And then there is the X factor … the fact that I love to add little things in covers … playful things. I will of course address what I mean … but in a later post. : )

I also plan to address, to some degree, author branding.

So stay tuned.

I will also be doing a section of Ask The Artist ... so if there is something you have always wanted to know about cover art, feel free to post your question in the comments. (But for fun, make sure to sign it with a fun Dear Abby kind of feel)

'Til next time!

It's the Sprint Fling Event!

Books We Love's annual Spring Fling has arrived! Everyone entering the Spring Fling contest between March 15 and May 31 will have a chance to win Amazon's top of the line eReader, THE KINDLE FIRE.   PLUS, every week from March through May we'll be giving away TWO Books We Love eBooks.  Readers will have their choice of any two Books We Love or Spice Books We Love eBooks.  AND every winner of a weekly prize will also receive TEN additional entries into the Kindle Fire drawing.  Remember, only subscribers to our newsletter are eligible to enter our contests.   One entry per month from each contestant will be added to the Kindle Fire contest.  

Find the newsletter and contest entry form here: 

Wednesday, March 14, 2012



Everyone is creative in some way; we just differ in the ways we are creative. We aren't born with creativity; it's not in our DNA. When I was a kid, I envied my mother and other women who could knit, crochet, and embroider and do all the other needlework women used to do. After my first novel was published, I didn't envy anyone.

No matter if you are a writer, a homemaker, a lawyer, or a doctor, no doubt you have times when you need to solve a problem that's bugging you. A recent newspaper article gave examples of the means we can use to help solve these problems. Relaxation is important. That's why so many people get their inspirations while taking a shower or going for a walk. When I have writer's block, I find the best way to solve that problem is going for a walk. Watching a funny movie or TV show can help accomplish the same thing.

Blue is a color that helps relax us and so helps us in problem solving.

Here's a fancy term I learned years ago: hypnogogic time. This is the time between waking and sleeping, when we are still a bit groggy. How many times have you had a bright idea, just when you are going to sleep or waking up? Keep a tablet and pencil or a hand help recorder by your bed. You never can tell when they might come in handy.

Think like a child. Imagine you are seven years old, and you'd be surprised how you can master a different way of thinking.

Here's a suggestion my late husband always gave me: Think outside the box. Don't focus just on the immediate problem. Let your mind wander and let it take you where it will.

Carry spare pieces of paper with you, so that you'll be able to record ideas when you have them.

Have these suggestions helped? I hope so.

I'd love for you to check out my website at and check out my romances at

To Plot or Not - or Overcoming Writer's Block

At one of our chapter meetings of RWA, the speaker talked about plotting a novel and writing a synopsis before the book was written. She suggested if we had never done that to try it.
So I did.
I had an idea for a story that was taking shape in my mind. As usual, I knew how it would begin and how it would end. What happened in the middle? I didn’t have a clue. It was a much a surprise to me as it was to the reader.  Oh, I had a few ideas. I knew there was a secret about my heroine’s birth, and she’d find a dead body But I had no idea who he was (yes, I knew it was a male) or why he was killed. So I tried plotting. I came up with a few ideas about his identity and even about who murdered him and why.
I started to outline my plot, and I came up with a pretty good story line. Then, I started writing. For a while, it flowed pretty well. My heroine discovered the body.  Then I was stuck. Something didn’t feel right to me. I wasn’t sure what it was, but for some reason, I couldn’t move on. My heroine wouldn’t let me. No matter how I tried to write the next conflict, I couldn’t.
I was totally blocked. The story sat for almost two years without me typing even one word. Every time I opened it, I read it, made a few changes, and then I got to the part where I was stumped.
I stared at the computer, sometimes for hours, trying to come up with something, anything –even if it was garbage – just to get me past that hump. I couldn’t do it. So I’d move on to something else. I revised several other stories that I’d written a long time ago, and then I’d go back to it. The problem was –I was locked into the outline, I didn’t know how to make the transition to the next thing. It didn’t feel right. I couldn't get that plot outline out of my head.                                                                                 
It wasn’t until one day; I was emailing my writing buddy about my dilemma. I needed help and any suggestions she could offer would be most welcome. I wrote what I had so far, and where I wanted the story to go. For some reason, in that email, I started to ask what if, which is how I usually wrote. I threw out a couple of ideas to her and answered them myself. Finally, I was unblocked. I even created a new character and another conflict. I threw out the plot outline and went a completely different way. Once I ignored that outline, the story flowed.
That was how I usually wrote, asking what if as I wrote, coming up with new ideas. For me, outlining doesn’t work. I’ll never do it again. For others, it works fine and good for them.  I understand it’s not necessary to stick to the outline, but for me, since I wrote it, I had trouble deviating from it.  It blocked my creativity. Yes, I should have ignored it long before, but it was too fresh in my mind. It took two years and then some to forget what was on that outline so I could move on. I, for one, will never outline a plot again.

My current novels are available from Amazon at:  

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Hi, Books We Love Readers!

By way of introduction, I'm Sydell Voeller, and so far you'll find three of my titles live on Amazon, thanks to this very fine publishing company. My books are: Sandcastles of Love, The Fisherman's Daughter, and Summer Magic. I hope to have more out soon! But before I talk further about my books (most likely in my next post), I'd like to take a moment to share a little about myself and the circuitous road I took to becoming a writer. So here goes!

I grew up in Washington state, an only child, so I had plenty of time to spin stories in my head and get them down on paper. After I entered high school, I became the assistant editor of the school newspaper and editor of the creative writing magazine. I also kept a journal, which I still have and treasure.

My childhood dream, however, was to become a nurse, so writing professionally never crossed my mind. The following years, I attended a nursing school, affiliated with a nearby university, about 50 miles from my home. Sadly, though, I believed I was too busy then to keep up with my journal, so I let it go. Yet every year, when it came time to publish the nursing school annual, there I was, penning prose for the opening pages. Obviously, I just couldn't stop writing. And believe it or not, writing term papers rated high on my list of favorite assignments!

Later I married and moved to Oregon, where my husband and I've remained. We raised two wonderful sons, and in order to be home with them as much as possible, I cut back on my nursing to volunteer as a school and camp nurse. I also worked part-time at the Student Health Center at our local university, for the county public health department, and at a local family practice clinic--not all at the same time!

When our second son had barely turned 3, we discovered he had acquired a rare degenerative hip disease. The days that followed were filled with medical work-ups, hospitalizations, traction, and two major surgeries. Because I spent most of my time in the hospital with my son, I had ample opportunity to contemplate my uncertainties and fears--and my thoughts once again turned to keeping a journal. It wasn't long until I even began dreaming about getting parts of my journal published, so I sent the manuscript off to Redbook. Months later it came limping back to me with one of those notoriously "wonderful" form rejection notes.

Meanwhile, I'd been perusing writers' magazines and had come across an article about how to write teenage romances. Immediately I thought about my high school journal and realized I had in it a treasure trove of ideas.

The following summer, with my pink Smith Corona typewriter propped on the kitchen table, I crafted my first young adult romance (while my two sons popped in and out of the kitchen for any number of reasons). What an exercise in concentration!

Later, I joined a critique group and worked harder than ever. I can't begin to tell you how much I learned from the members there, most of whom were already published.

After I'd revised that first manuscript several times and began sending it out to publishing houses, I started work on my second and third. Imagine my excitement a couple of years later when I got a call from the editor at Silhouette's young adult line, offering me a contract on the first manuscript! The following December, Merry Christmas, Marcie was released--the best holiday gift I'd ever received.

Now twenty-some years later, I've published many books, articles, and short stories. I love sharing my knowledge with my approximate 100 students whom I mentor for a popular "distance learning" writing program. I've also established a great website that I'm very proud of. Please stop by and sign my guest book!

Those Darn First Pages

Since there's no post here today, I thought I'd talk about my experiences with the first 3 pages of every story I write. An editor told me once that if she wasn't interested in a mss by page three she read no further. On my own blog I just did a bit about the synopsis and hints to writing it but I've been struggling with the first three pages since I began writing in the dark ages. I figure I've re-started the first three pages on my many manuscripts enough times that I could have completed at least 20 more novels - the long ones above 80,000 words. Maybe I exaggerate but it seems that way. My last attempt in a story I'm finishing got me to chapter 3 and fizzled. So I tried the opening again and again. What finally hit me was that I'd started with the wrong chapter. Tore up all those pages. Actually deleted them and began anew. Started with the heroine and after the funeral. Wonderful thing happened. In less than four weeks I had the entire thing written. Now it's a novella but the last one I wrote took me two months. Finding the right character to open with is important. I'm about to begin another but I've no choice of character to begin the story since it's the fifth in a series and told first person so I must start with the heroine. What other things are important for the first three pages. Starting point. In the middle of the action is the best beginning. Or there is a moment before the action begins. The point where the character is thinking everything is wonderful, then a paragraph later bang. Another good point is a moment after the triggering event has happened. The character is now faced with how do I get out of this disaster. So that's the starting point. During the writing of the story, one has to look at things like what kind of story is this going to be. The tone needs to point to romance, mystery, fantasy. There's nothing that sets a reader off that to discover the story they're reading isn't what those first few pages promised. The setting needs to be established in a few short sentences. There should be hints as to what the character wants and to why they want it. This doesn't need to be spelled out in page after page. Just little hints. One thing to avoid is the backstory. I've been critiquing manuscripts of other writers for years and what always stops me cold is a long explanation of what happened to the character from birth to the present. Later in the story these facts can be woven in. What i usually say is the backstory is what the writer needs to know but the reader doesn't need all the gritty details. Since I'm about to start and tear up my first few pages a dozen or more times, I'll say good-bye and get to work.

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