In Praise of Persistence

Recently hubby and I had the honor and pleasure of attending a concert featuring Ringo Starr and his All-Starr Band. In my opinion, those gentlemen are solid examples of musical talent. From the first round of thunderous applause when they walked across the stage and took up their respective instruments and places, to the final standing ovation, I admired each musician for his talent and ability to withstand the test of time. Ringo Starr, Edgar Winter, Hamish Stuart, Billy Squier, Colin Hay, Gary Wright and Gregg Bissonette have each carved a lucrative career as a performing artist for three decades or more. Difficult and praise-worthy feats. I’ve many of the albums those guys released in past decades, and they sounded every bit as good live now as they did when recorded twenty or more years ago. How many persons involved in the creative arts can claim the same and continue earning a consistent living despite sagging economic times, various changing demographics and consumer-driven marketplace fluctuations?

When you get to the creative core, authors are no different than the folks who command a concert stage. We are faced with many of our own challenges including reader demands, the loss of independent bookstores, increased competition with our peers, market changes and so many other issues beyond our control. All we can do is write the best books we know how at any given point and keep honing our craft every day. By regularly flexing our writing muscles, we have a better chance of completing manuscripts, for without those manuscripts, we won’t have careers. Despite the popularity of a certain genre at a given time, one thing is certain—readers remain loyal to their favorite authors. The trick is consistently delivering the creative product for reader demand, but talented and tenacious authors do this time and again. And unlike coaxing notes from an instrument, we authors must coax ideas from our brains. Quite a daunting task.

From the moment I first sat down at my desk with the goal of writing toward publication, I vowed I’d learn something new and something writing-related every day. And I have. While I had no guarantee editors would embrace every story I wrote, I was determined I’d never allow rejections to hamper my course along the publication path. No creative person, no genius or prodigy, can claim they’ve achieved success with every endeavor. While there have been drastic changes in my life over the past year and a half, changes which could easily cause me to surrender my goals and dreams, I won’t let them. From this day forth, whenever life and the self-doubt demon threaten my writing schedules, or do their best at crippling my creativity, I’ll recall Ringo and his All-Starrs. The going is never easy for anyone—and if anyone ever tells me otherwise, I’ll not believe them for a nanosecond. Along with their successes, each of those All-Starrs—including their mega-famous headliner—was a part of a group that disbanded or endured a career that experienced a temporary lull. But each remained true to his love of craft and his desire to continue practicing the same. Creative passion emanated from every musician and filled the arena. Along with some of the authors who’ve been on my auto-buy list for a couple decades, those musicians are living testaments that tenacity and talent rock and rule. I’ll agree talent is subjective. What I deem talent someone else deems otherwise. Regardless, let’s give credit where credit is due. Anyone who can remain gainfully engaged in a career for twenty, thirty or more years is highly deserving of praise and serves as an inspiration. Long live Classic Rock and everyone’s creativity!

May your fondest dreams and goals become reality,

Shawna Moore
ROUGHRIDER -- Ellora's Cave
HELLE IN HEELS -- Ellora's Cave
TORMENTED -- Coming soon to Ellora's Cave
Shawna's Myspace
Helle's Myspace

The End

Why finish writing a project?

I find that every project is different for me. Some I whip through, though most I get stuck on at some point, since I'm a pantser--writing by the seat of my pants. I couldn't plan out a story if I tried. I have lots and lots of story beginnings and some I've finished that need major revisions for one reason or another.

So why finish the story? Why finish more in the same vein? Because you might sell every one of them!!! I sold Heart of the Wolf, but had started Don't Cry Wolf before I sold, but quit, worrying that if I didn't sell Heart of the Wolf, why write another? Even though it was also a stand alone title. When I sold Heart of the Wolf, my editor wanted to see Don't Cry Wolf. It wasn't done! So I finished it and she wanted to see more...and bought Betrayal of the Wolf and Allure of the Wolf. So why finish the story?

Even if you don't sell, you still have them available to sell. And to me, that's the main goal. With every book you write, you hone your skills more. Some get really good at writing the first 3 chapters for contests, but what about avoiding the sagging middle? What about learning to give a compelling end that will encourage readers to pick up the next book and the next one? By writing the whole tamale, we gain more experience. :)

And the best part? We have books to sell. :)

Terry, who is off to work some more on Allure of the Wolf--54K done, 46K to go. Downhill slide!

Heart of the Wolf, Don't Cry Wolf (cover coming soon!!!!), Betrayal of the Wolf

Fabulous Just Fabulous

I had a birthday a few weeks ago, and my age always surprises me. I feel no different, really, than when I was 20 or 30 or...whatever. I know people perceive me differently. It all started years ago when box boys at the grocery store began referring to me as "ma'am." Shocked the hell out of me. When did I become a ma'am?

We recently bought our boys an Xbox (they're probably the last kids in the universe to get a gaming system - at least that's what they told us). We bought the Guitar Hero game, and my boys think it's kinda funny that Mom has created her own band and I race them to the game so I can play my guitar before them. But I'm really not doing it for their amusement at their "wacky" mom. I really enjoy it! In fact, I'm going to buy the karaoke game too. My husband rolls his eyes because he understands, as my boys don't, that I am really into it, and I'm not playing just to connect with my kids (that's just a side benefit). LOL

That outer perception vs. the inner feeling got me thinking about male/female relationships too. I think women are much more self-conscious about how others perceive them. If older men realize that younger women think they're "old," they don't seem to care. They'll date younger women with impunity anyway! Maybe that's why we see fewer older women/younger men couples. Women are more acutely aware of how that younger man may perceive them. Which brings me to Samantha Jones, the sensual, sexually uninhibited character on Sex and the City.

I haven't seen the movie yet, but the release of the movie prompted me to start renting the series from the first season. I watched the show on HBO from the beginning, but never saw those episodes again after their original airing. I've watched Season 1 and I'm half-way through Season 2. Samantha is just as man-hungry in the early episodes as the later ones, with a little difference. In the later episodes, she makes a big deal out of sleeping with younger men...and she has no qualms about it.

So what do we really think about those May-December romances? Have you written or read any lately? Would you date a younger guy? And I'm not talking 3-5 years younger; I mean 10-15 years younger. I have my younger guy all picked out (if my husband would allow it!). He's a 20-something swimmer, who teaches swimming at our local pool - longish, chlorine-inspired blond hair and a fantastic, swimmer's body. You know something funny? He looks very much like my college boyfriend, who was a swimmer. Some things never change!

Natasha Moore brings us a Professor and a Caveman

Sorry, I couldn't resist that title. ;-) Today I'm pleased to be interviewing fellow Red Sage author Natasha Moore about her two releases in one week!

Natasha Moore fell in love with the written word as soon as she could read. As she grew up, she discovered romance and now enjoys the chance to add some extra sizzle to her stories. She writes sexy contemporary romance for Samhain and erotic romance for Ellora’s Cave and Red Sage. She lives in New York State with her real life hero who is happy to tell everyone that he’s her inspiration. They travel in their RV whenever possible. The great thing about writing is she can take it anywhere.

Nicole: Welcome Natasha! Wonderful covers!! Please tell us about your newest books!

Natasha: The Passion-Minded Professor is a contemporary romance novel. Roxy is one of my favorite heroines, a divorced diner waitress who’s trying to get control of her life. Of course, life throws her a few curves.

Here’s the blurb:
Can passion be found in a bottle?

Roxy Morgan is finally in control of her life. After working in the family diner to put her now ex-husband through law school, she’s getting her own chance at a college education. She doesn’t need any distractions in her life right now, especially men. The strong magnetic pull she feels toward chemistry professor Dr. Daniel Jennings is more than just an annoyance—it’s threatening her GPA. Yet she can’t seem to keep mind on her studies, or her hands off him.

Driven, lonely Daniel has been working to perfect an attraction elixir so he can finally find what’s been missing in his life: Passion. Sassy, outgoing Roxy wasn’t supposed to be part of his experiment. It was purely an accident. Now his elixir has given him an unexpected side effect—he’s fallen in love. But his sense of honor nags him to tell her the truth about the “love potion.”

Even if it means risking the best thing that’s ever happened to him.

To check out an excerpt or download The Passion-Minded Professor, click here.

Nicole: Sounds wonderful! I love "love potion" stories. Please also tell us about your Ellora's Cave story.

Natasha: My other release is a short story titled Sunrise, which is part of Ellora’s Cave’s Cavemen anthology, Jewels of the Nile II. This story just seemed to flow as I wrote it. I wish all my writing was like that! I had to name the hero Alan when I heard his voice in my head and he sounded just like Alan Rickman (until that moment I didn’t even know he was British!) Here’s the blurb:

Caroline has been meeting Alan at the lake, at sunset, for months. The hot sex they’ve been enjoying started out mindless and anonymous, just the way she wanted it. Little by little, however, they’ve gotten to know and care for each other. Caroline fears the changes in their relationship she can’t seem to prevent.

Alan wants Caroline in his life. He sets out to seduce her with his voice, his hands, his body. He’s no longer satisfied with sex in the shadows and he wants more. Can he make Caroline feel the same?

To read an excerpt and/or download a copy or buy a print book, check it out here.

Nicole: Sounds hot!! It's always wonderful when a story flows. What element of story creation is your favorite? Characters, settings, plots, etc.? And why?

Natasha: Ugh, not plots!! The characters are what drive my stories and I love developing them, love giving the reader little peeks at what makes these people the way they are and how they are changed because of the other person.

Nicole: I'm with you there. Wow, two releases in one week! You must be a fast writer. What inspires or motivates you?

Natasha: I’m really not all that fast. Most of what I’m writing right now are novellas, and they don’t take as much time as novels. But I love writing short stories and novellas because I can try different things with them, like Sunrise is written in first person, present tense. I probably wouldn’t have tried writing an entire novel that way, but it worked for this story. The characters inspire me. I love focusing on their relationships and finding ways to give them their happy endings.

Nicole: I love writing short stories and novellas too. When did you know you wanted to be an author?

Natasha: Yeah, I’m one of those cliché writers who say they’ve always wanted to be an author. In my case, it’s true. I love words. Love reading. Love characters and stories and adventures and as much as I loved reading them, even as a child I loved writing my own.

Nicole: Very cool! Would you like to ask blog readers a question?

Natasha: I grew up with the mysteries of Phyllis A Whitney…but I always wished there was more romance in them. What stories did you enjoy growing up? How did they affect you?

Nicole: Thanks for allowing me to interview you today, Natasha! I've enjoyed learning about your two newest stories. Everyone, please visit Natasha Moore's website:

Coming Clean About a Sentimental Journey

In the summertime, whenever I think of journeys, I think of vacations and hitting the highway for a week of fun with family and/or friends. But I took another type of journey this past week—a sentimental journey. No, this journey didn’t involve revisiting memories of a past romance or pondering photos in a family album. Instead, a trip to our basement stirred my sentimentality.

After living in a home for over twelve years, a great deal of “stuff” accumulates. I’m not a woman who holds on to everything, but I’m also not one who tosses things quickly or at the first sign they don’t hold current value or use. Most of the storage boxes, seasonal decorations and other items weren’t causing any clutter, but there was one shelf where I’d put various paperwork that required sorting and tossing. One glance at the stack showed a manila envelope resting at almost the halfway point. I worked my way down through the papers—most of which were old drafts of manuscripts I’d written years ago—until I reached the envelope. As soon as I noticed the sender’s address, I opened the clasp and sat down on a lounge chair. Tucked inside was the second manuscript I’d written back in 2001 and submitted in 2002. I’d submitted this historical romance to a New York publisher and gotten partway up the acquisitions ladder before receiving a rejection. The reason—this publisher wasn’t buying manuscripts set during or immediately prior to the Civil War. The rejection letter is somewhere in my desk files. The reason I sat there smiling and clutching the book of my heart was the rejection letter contained some compliments on my writing as well as an invitation to submit more of my work. I stared at the stack of paperwork I’d already removed for shredding but vowed I’d never part with the historical-romance manuscript or the original mailing envelope. After I gathered the results of my cleaning spree and headed up the steps, I gave the shelf a parting glance. My historical romance novel remains there. Safe from all future cleaning sprees. Heaven knows, I’d no more part with that manuscript than I’d stop writing.

Wishing you all many happy reading moments,

Shawna Moore
ROUGHRIDER -- Ellora's Cave
HELLE IN HEELS -- Ellora's Cave
TORMENTED -- Coming soon to Ellora's Cave
Shawna's Myspace
Helle's Myspace

How Do We Get Inspired When....

How do we get inspired to write when everything in our lives can be turned upside down? Turn it into a story? :)

Or, find a visual stimulant. :) This works. Hmm, just finished one of those shower scenes in Allure of the Wolf...

I've got my house up for sale, trying to keep the acre yard trimmed and the house clean, got tile guys here and painters that I decided I needed, and after the painters destroyed my privet, I'm ready for a much needed break.

So shower hunk helps.

I missed posting last Saturday. Missed posting on another blog Wednesday. Trying not to miss too many things I'm supposed to be doing, but what with the upheaval in my life, it's hard not to!

Ever do that? Two days later think, ohmigosh! I was supposed to be at that doctor's appointment Monday?

Have edits due on a YA by end of month...9 days from now, over 1/2 through with writing Allure and teaching a great group of happy hookers....yet, trying to keep up with promotions. I'll be blogging about How Much Realism in Fiction is Too Much on another site Wednesday...and all I've got to say is I'm sure staying out of trouble. Kind of.

Yep. That's the way life is right now. Perfect for a story. Conflict, conflict, and more conflict. Great to read about--that's what makes a story fun. But not real life!!!

*Sigh* One more visual stimulant for when I go back to editing the shower scene
and then it's back to work for me! Have a super Saturday, oh, and a question to ponder:

What do you do when life stresses you to the max? How do you cope? What gets you back into shower, I mean, saddle to keep on going?

Terry Spear
Heart of the Wolf
The Vampire...In My Dreams

Reclaiming Romance One Poll and Cover at a Time

Here we go again, another insulting reference to the romance genre. Or is it? Click on the following link to participate in an MSNBC poll about reading romance. Do you or don't you?

Last I checked, romance was winning. What many romance writers and fans objected to in this poll was the language, referring to romances as "bodice-rippers." I don't mind the term too much. It's certainly colorful. But I suppose it's a derogatory term for a romance, especially an historical romance, where perhaps the history isn't exactly accurate and the heroine gets ravished by the hero every ten pages or so (hence the ripped bodice). I remember I was just thrilled to be able to pronounce the word "bodice" correctly after all the historical romances I read (no small feat when you're 13-years old!).

Maybe romance writers should reclaim the term "bodice ripper" as our own. Sort of like the movement to reclaim the word "chick" and how younger women began referring to themselves as "girlz." Can't hurt you if you take the phrase and re-form it.

But I have to tell you what really bugged me recently. A few weeks ago I attended the Book Expo America at the L.A. Convention Center. It was wild and wooly and overwhelming. I walked by one table and noticed something about plain covers and romance. So I went closer to have a look and talk to the two people sitting at the table. They were selling plain covers or covers that had classics on the front. The idea was to cover your less than stellar reading material with this faux cover. Really reading Secrets Volume 21? No worries. Slap on a fake cover that proclaims to the world that you're reading A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens. Yuck! and Yikes!

Of course they were advertising their covers primarily to hide romances. So I challenged them on their little scheme, announcing that I was a romance writer and didn't appreciate people implying there was something wrong with reading romance. They back-pedaled and told me that the covers were helpful if you happened to be reading "Sex and the Single Pearl" (not really) and you had children at home and didn't want them to see the covers. Snort. My two boys (10 and 12) have seen my covers, and they just roll their eyes. I made nice with the two fake-cover-sellers and went along my merry way. But really, would you want to date some guy or be friends with someone who's PRETENDING to read something they're not? What would happen if you were participating in this ruse and someone asked you, "So do you see Sydney Carton as a Christ-like figure?" If you're actually reading A Tale of Two Titties and not A Tale of Two Cities, how are you going to respond?

Weird stuff going on... Anyway, if you love reading romance, shout it loud and proud by responding to MSNBC's poll. (This is probably the most buzz MSNBC has generated since Chris Matthews got tingles up his thighs.)

Some Meandering Thoughts from Tess

Hi Fierce Friends!

I re-read this blog and found it to be, well, strange. But I’m sick with another stomach bug or perhaps poisoned tomatoes, so I will beg you, dear reader, to overlook the weirdness and leapfroginess (new word I invented) of today’s essay. Thanks.

The “down” time between writing romance novels is a very precarious time. I need time off before I get started again, to let the brain stop sending out electric shocks every five minutes, but there’s actually no such thing as “down” time. Why? Because I never stop writing in my head. It’s always whirring around up there, going over old ideas, playing around with new ones, bouncing around like a greased ping-pong ball. I keep a notebook by the bed to jot down any brilliant ideas I get. Now if I only could find a pen in the middle of the night.

Since I finished my new book for Berkley, Highland Rebel, I’ve been contemplating writing in a different genre in-between my time travel romances. Now, a different genre could, for me, mean anything from Science-Fiction to Fantasy to a different realm of Romance, because I’m interested in all of those genres. So that means dragging out anything and everything I’ve written for the last ten years and re-examining it, at the least to get new ideas from my old ones, at the most to actually use the original idea! Some of the ideas in my archives include several YA novels, a fantasy romance that I think could be great, especially now in this era of paranormal and supernatural-based characters, and a mainstream that I am so excited about I will probably start working on it soon.

Will I sell something out of the field I’ve been writing in for so long? Who knows? The fantasy romance has a real chance, because it’s still basically in the same genre—romance. But the others—well, the truth is, selling in another genre is like starting over again in the “biz” as we writer-types call it (no we don’t) and could mean writing under a different name.

When I was first getting serious about writing, when I was younger and much more idealistic, I had several pseudonyms planned for the variety of genres I planned to write. They were:

Romance: Tess Riley
Science-Fiction and Fantasy: T. Casler Mallory
Young Adult: T. C. Mallory

But when I actually sold my first novel and ran “Tess Riley” past my new agent, she said, “Oh, no! Tess Mallory is the perfect name for a romance author!” So I listened to her and lost my chance to be sort of anonymous in this crazy roller-coaster of a business. Am I sorry? Not really. I used to wish I had remained mysterious and “behind the scenes”, but then I realized that it would have never worked. When I attend conferences or writer’s meetings, I’m usually the first to talk and share who I am, where I’m from, etc., and so I would have become “Tess Riley” or whoever anyway, but still been me, and people would have gotten to know me just as much as if I had been Tess Mallory. And that’s okay. I like to meet people.

But I digress. Where was I going with this? Oh, yeah, “down” time. There ain’t no downtime in writing is where I was going with this. Because writing is like a drug. Once you start, there’s no turning back, no cure, no rehab, no way out. You are a writer and that’s just the way it is.

Would I change that? Sometimes I think maybe I would. Writing becomes a tough taskmaster, and the rewards are hard-fought for and hard-won. But then when I get an email from a woman who is home-bound and lonely, and who was touched by something in one of my books, I think, Yeah, I’m a writer. And that’s okay.

Now, I’d better get back to that wonderful “down” time in which I will endeavor to stop my brain from whirling and actually relax and watch HGTV.

Hey—what if there was this woman who had a TV show about old houses and she went inside one, and went into the attic where she found a trunk, and in the trunk she found---

Okay, okay, where’s my notebook? Okay, now where’s a pen?

Sigh. ‘Til next time fierce friends, keep writing.


Amber Green takes us on a Backtrack

I'm happy to say Red Sage and Loose Id author Amber Green is here with us today to talk about her newest release.

Nicole North: Welcome, Amber! Congratulations and please tell us about your book.

Amber Green: Today is the debut of my new Huntsmen story, BACKTRACK, which takes place in 1984...remember 1984? Big hair; Bocephus; the awesome Commodore 64; self-correcting typewriters; shoe-sized car phones; and huntsmen losing their training grounds to the explosion of beachfront condominiums? Well, um, yeah...whether you remember it that way or not.

Three years ago, Sugar made the mistake of volunteering to testify against a druglord, Glenn Digger. Now she’s on the run, her kid is hidden in foster care, and the guy she has the hots for is supposedly only seventeen. When she finally finds out Cassio is no overgrown teenager, she wants one bed-busting, rollicking screw before she moves on to the next city, the next fake name. Cassio comes in a double helping? Bring it on!

Fort feels weighed down with responsibility. Only 22, he and his twin Cassio have been raising a dozen younger brothers, nephews, and cousins--none entirely human. As a huntsman, Fort needs to get laid regularly to maintain his humanity. He’s not charming, so he leaves the seductions to his twin, Cassio. But this time Cassio falling in love has nothing to do with heartfelt sighs or bad poetry, and everything to do with finding out who this woman really is, and why she’s using someone else’s identity. Sugar enchants Fort, but she makes him feel playful--and he can’t afford to be a clown.

When Fort learns Sugar’s secret, he has to help. Because Sugar’s young son isn’t hidden any more. Digger has him.

Sugar makes a decision. Even if the twin detectives can rescue her kid this time, she will always be running, always be hiding, until Digger is dead. The solution is obvious: First rescue Joe; then kill Digger. Then, maybe, join the twins for a lingering, sizzling affair. But they won’t want her forever. They’ll want someone their own age. Someone who doesn’t carry her scars.

Nicole: Sounds hot and full of action! Is this your first book? If not, how many other books have you had published and what type of stories are they?

Amber: With Loose Id:

The Huntsmen: Lights Out!

In a time of spies and saboteurs, the shadows hold something worse.

In a world at war, Lorie discovers an inhuman terror prowling the blacked-out nights of New York City. She joins twin huntsmen, Jack and Tommy, feeding them the sexual energies they need to hold onto their humanity while they fight to rid the night of the horrific hydes. And then Tommy disappears...

The Huntsmen: Bareback

Joe's life is perfect, except for the mysterious twins, the serial killers, and his new love being a guy...who needs sex to stay human!

Joe’s a cop, a good one. Brian’s a jinx, a bareback, an untwinned huntsman nobody in his right mind would trust. When the dark side of the cops--vigilantes gone outlaw--teams up with the dark side of the huntsmen--hydes feeding on terror in the night--Sugar’s son and Lorie’s grandson lead a strike against the root of the evil.


With Red Sage Publishing:

Hawkmoor in Secrets Volume 13

MA thought she was human, and crazy. Darien thought she would readily accept her place in the shapeshifters’ world. Lia thought she could be controlled. They were all wrong.

The Subject in Secrets Volume 20

One week, Tyler is the hottest game designer in North America, in sight of her first million and ready to sign the deal of her life. The next week, she's on the run for her life. Who can she trust? Certainly not the uber-sexy don’t-call-me-werewolf Esau, who keeps showing up right after the hoo-hah hits the fan!

Nicole: Wow, that's a lot of books, Amber! What element of story creation is your favorite and why?

Amber: Working out the characters--who they are and how they came to be like that--is the most fascinating part of the writing process. Every other detail depends on the nuances of what a character would or would not do, and why.

Nicole: I agree. I love it when characters come to life. What was the most important thing you learned (the thing that made all the difference) just before you made your first sale?

Amber: To make a story worth reading, I have to stop agonizing over what’s supposed to happen next, and how it’s supposed to work out, or even how it’s supposed to sound. I had to learn to let the story flow, in its own words and at its own pace. Editing is best left to those days when nothing wants to flow on its own.

Nicole: So true! What’s next for you?

Amber: Good question. A few stories (sf, straight historical, contemp m/m) are elbowing one another in the back of my head, but none has stepped forward to commandeer the keyboard. Yet.

Nicole: I'm sure they will very soon! Thanks for being our guest today, Amber! Everyone please visit Amber Green's website at

Click here to buy Backtrack.

Celebrating a Day for Dad

As I parted the den curtains this morning, a sunny day greeted me. Not simply any sunny day, but a perfect day to celebrate my dad. To celebrate and cherish all the times he’s been there for me over the years, how much love he and my beloved mother hold for me and I for them, and how he's never let me down. While enjoying breakfast, I let my mind wander back to many of the wonderful times we spent together as a family. The first time Dad let go of my big-girl’s bike, I pedaled down the street on my own and didn’t fall down. The day I graduated from high school, looked up into the audience assembled on the stadium bleachers and returned the smile he sent my way. There are so many fond memories from times spent with my parents, but my favorite memory surrounding my father is from a family vacation. Each summer Mom, Dad and I enjoyed visiting the shore for our warm-weather getaway. The year from which my favorite memory is culled, I was probably seven or eight. We found our place on the sand, spread out the beach towels and set down the cooler. The three of us then headed down to the water. Mom held my right hand, Dad held my left. Once we found a spot where the waves were coming in more gently, Mom and Dad provided my support as I laughed and let those waves break and splash against my legs. Afterward we returned to our beach towels and Dad located my beach bucket and shovel. For quite some time, lots of applications of sunscreen and Mom putting on my tee shirt, we toiled and fashioned an awesome sand castle. Only when Dad took a short break and brought back some delicious roast beef sandwiches and boardwalk fries cooked in peanut oil did we pause in our architectural pursuit. Eventually the sand structure lay complete and we took several photographs to preserve the memory. Dad and I ventured down to the shoreline, filled the bucket with water several times, and put the finishing touch on our summertime masterpiece.

Before today is done, I plan on finding those family photo albums and the pictures that captured our glorious sandcastle. I’ll remove one photo and place it near my writing computer as inspiration. Great things and much happiness come from the simplest pleasures in life. I was blessed with having terrific parents, and those times and memories are more precious and priceless with each passing day.

How about you, readers? What is your fondest memory this Father’s Day?

Wishing you all many happy reading moments,

Shawna Moore
ROUGHRIDER -- Ellora's Cave
HELLE IN HEELS -- Ellora's Cave
TORMENTED -- Coming soon to Ellora's Cave
Shawna's Myspace
Helle's Myspace

The cats rule the day!

Since Tess posted some of her LOLcats, I thought I would post some of my favorite ones I've found on the web.

Vampire Kitten

Nice hair. I want it!!!

This one is for 300 and Jerry Butler fans.


25 DOs & DON'Ts of a Query Letter

Hi Fierce Friends!

Today I thought I would share a little from my In A Nutshell Workshop. I get a lot of questions about writing through email and myspace, and one that crops up a lot is "How do I write a query letter?" First, what IS a Query Letter?

A Query Letter is a letter written to an editor telling him/her briefly about a completed manuscript in such a way that he or she will be enticed into asking the author for the rest of the manuscript. This ensures that the author's manuscript doesn't end up in the notorious land deadly Slush Pile and into the lovely and amazing Requested Pile. A Query Letter is essentially a sales letter. It isn't easy to write. It takes practice and it takes a deft hand. So for all you aspiring writers out there, here's my 25 DOs and DON'Ts of a Good Query Letter. I hope it helps!

25 DOs and DON'Ts of a Good Query Letter
by Tess Mallory Copyright 2008

1. DO Always present the idea in a professional way---clean, good quality paper, good printing, no typos or spelling errors, correct spelling of editor's name, the RIGHT editor's name. (Always CALL the publisher and ask the receptionist who to direct the query letter to, or do research and make that decision)
2. DO keep the query letter to 1 or 1 and 1/2 pages MAXIMUM.
3. DO Always enclose an SASE (self-addressed, stamped envelope).
4. DO Always write the letter in the correct business format, including your address, your phone number, the date, etc.
5. DO send out ten queries at a time.
6. DO realize when sending out multiple queries, that if an editor requests the next three chapters of the book, that once you have responded to their request, if other requests from other publishers are received, they will be considered simultaneous submissions. DO call the publishing houses who request the manuscript at this point, and ask if they accept simultaneous submissions. Most do not. The first publisher who requests the manuscript will likely assume they will have an exclusive look at the MS before releasing it for submission elsewhere. An unhappy fact in publishing, but it makes sense. An editor doesn’t want to put the time and energy into championing a book, only to find out once it has been approved and she informs the author that she wants to buy it, the author is already in negotiations with another publisher.
7. DO introduce the project being offered in the first sentence or two, give the approximate word count, and the publisher’s line that it is most suited for. (i.e., "I have just completed a 100,000 word romance novel, LOVE’S LOVELY LOVE for consideration for Leisure’s Lovespell line of romances".)
8. DO Hook the editor with a brief, provocative synopsis of the book--similar to a cover blurb on the back of a book.
9. DO present publishing credits in a professional way without hype or conceit.
10. DO mention if you have publishing credits, but if you don’t, DON’T say, "I've never been published, but--" And something hard to face – editors really don’t care if you had a poem published. Period.
11. DO mention anything relevant. For example, if the central character in the proposed book works for the FBI, and you happen to work for the FBI, do include this info by all means!
12. DO have some humility. Being cocky or sounding egotistical in a query is not a good idea. Remember, the writer needs the editor much more than he/she needs the writer. Sad, but true.
13. DO wait a while to call and check on the query. Wait at least two months. Publishers are notoriously slow. The name of the game in publishing is hurry up and wait, so might as well get used to it now! If there is no response within two months, wait another two weeks, then write and politely inquire if the query was received and include a postcard for them to send back that indicates Yes, they received it or No, they didn’t. Editors don’t like to be bugged. However, if there’s no response within three months, then call. Be polite, ask for the editor, sound professional. If you get to talk to her/him, say “I just wanted to check on the status of the query letter I sent to you in December, 2007.” If this is too intimidating, write a letter to the editor and ask the same question.
14. DO Always be polite. Never antagonize an editor, and NEVER antagonize whoever answers the phone at a publishing house. The ASSISTANT today may be the SENIOR EDITOR in a couple of years. And she might remember the writer who was rude to her on the phone. Also, editors in New York hang out together and TALK to each other about submissions. They also change houses pretty frequently.
15. In the query letter, DO offer to send more of the book being proposed if the editor requests it-- ("I would be happy to send you three chapters and a detailed synopsis of Nora's Nibbling Neanderthal at your request.")
16. DO Avoid sounding negative in any way.
17. DON’T presume to tell an editor what he/she will or will not like. In other words, don’t say things like, “When you read this book, I’m sure you’ll agree that it is the next Harry Potter”.
18. A query letter is a sales pitch, but that doesn’t mean to brag or hype or go for a hard sell. NEVER say something like: “This is the most incredible book ever written! If you don’t buy it you’ll be missing out on the opportunity of a lifetime!” Believe it or not, people really try this one.
19. DON’T try to get an editor's notice with tricks like pink paper or colored ink. Very occasionally, clever ruses have been known to catch an editor's attention, but there had better be an awesome query to back it up.
20. DON’T send candy in the mail. It melts.
21. DO tell the editor WHY this book will sell well. Back up claims with real facts. For instance: “The February 22 issue of Publishers Weekly states that Young Adult Fantasy novels account for 72% of all books purchased in the Young Adult genre in the last year.” Then tell how your book fits that category. (by the way, I made up that statistic)
22. DO believe in yourself and your story.
23. DO remain positive if the query is rejected. Send it to other publishers.
24. DO rework the query from time to tim, if it has been sent to several publishers and rejected. Maybe there’s a better way to present the book you want to sell.
25. DO start another project after sending out the query. NEVER sit and wait to begin another book. By the time the publisher asks for three chapters, or if you’re lucky, the entire book, you could have the synopsis of the next book written. And by the time you get an answer on the completed manuscript, you could have another book halfway finished!

Bonus Tip: DO write REQUESTED on the outside of your package when the editor asks to see the rest of the book! It moves you OUT of the Slush Pile on onto the top of her desk! KEEP WRITING!!


June Strawberry Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting

One of my unofficial hobbies is creating new recipes from old ones. I do this by thinking of a recipe idea, going online and searching for a recipe similar to what I want to make, then removing and adding ingredients. It's fun because each one is a new discovery. I have never been considered a cook but I love the creativity of this. My husband is a picky eater so it's nice when he actually loves what I bake or cook. My mother-in-law grows delicious strawberries in her garden and she gave us almost three gallons of them. I had to find inventive ways to use them. Here's my most recent recipe.

June Strawberry Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting

1/2 cup butter or margarine softened
2 cups white sugar
2 eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
3 cups all purpose flour
2 1/4 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
3 cups (1 1/4 pound) pureed strawberries (puree in blender)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Grease and flour a 9 x 13 inch cake pan. (Or two 9" round pans.)

In a large bowl, cream together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in the eggs and vanilla. Sift together the flour, baking powder, and salt. Beat in the flour mixture alternately with the strawberries. Mix well. Pour batter into pan. Bake in preheated oven for 40 to 45 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean or almost clean. (Don't overbake.) Let cool completely, then frost.

Strawberry Cream Cheese Frosting
2 (8 ounce) packages cream cheese softened (1/3 less fat okay)
10 tablespoons brown sugar
10 teaspoons strawberry puree

Blend with mixer until smooth.

Please notice in the above recipe one says tablespoons and one says teaspoons. Why this wacky way of measuring? :-) Because I started out with 2 tbls. sugar, which was not sweet enough and I kept adding until it was. Another reason for this recipe, I love brown sugar but I hate confectionary sugar which is most often used for frosting. Brown sugar leaves no grainy feeling in the frosting and the flavor is great. It was very smooth and delicious. The frosting is pinkish in color. This recipe seems to make too much frosting for a sheet cake but you can pile it on thick. Or if you decide to make a two layer cake, you'll need this extra frosting for the sides. The cake is dense and hearty (and a rich brown color) because of all the strawberries. Also it isn't too sweet which means you can eat more of it. Always a good thing right? At least until we step on the scales. LOL Hope you enjoy!

Of Bugs and Barriers

Warmer weather always finds me outdoors more, whether I’m taking long aerobic walks through the neighborhood or relaxing in a lounge chair while reading a good book. But warmer temperatures mean mosquitoes and bees. No matter how hard I try, no matter how many barriers I use against them, one or more of those buzzing creatures always finds me each late-spring or summer season.

Speaking of bugs and barriers, they also affect every author’s career. I’m not referring to the flying and/or stinging variety of winged being. Or the sprays, candles and foggers used by many to prevent them. No matter how carefully we writers plan our storylines, “bugs” find their way into our manuscripts during those rough-draft phases. More often than not, it’s during those times the mind erects mental barriers to solving plotting problems, two-dimensional characters, bland setting details, so-so prose, conflict and goals that don’t engage readers, and pithy dialogue.

Each time I’m faced with bugs and barriers my approach to solving the problem(s) varies slightly. Spring housecleaning is one of the best methods I’ve found to eradicate manuscript “bugs” and blast through creative barriers. Simply doing something that employs my left brain and logic, and gives the creative right brain time to rest and ponder a story’s snarls, carries me through. For those who would rather seek a more pleasurable activity, I’m a firm believer in the effectiveness of a home spa experience. Soaking in a garden tub filled with chocolate-scented bubbles frees my mind and lets me relax. While I’ve basked in those aromatherapeutic moments, and before I’ve thought of reaching for a plush terry bath towel, I’ve often reached over the side of the tub, grabbed my pen and notebook, and jotted the necessary story details not available earlier. Bugs and barriers be gone! If actively focusing on ridding a story and my skull of your presence doesn’t work, I’ll employ other tactics and turn you away. Exercise and pampering sessions serve as my figurative epi pens and battering rams.

Wishing you all many happy reading moments,

Shawna Moore
ROUGHRIDER -- Ellora's Cave
HELLE IN HEELS -- Ellora's Cave
TORMENTED -- Coming soon to Ellora's Cave
Shawna's Myspace
Helle's Myspace

Sexy Settings

There's something about water and bare-chested men that is just darned sexy. Bare-backed can work too. I never was much interested in fishing, but this guy would definitely change my mind! Don't you love his...uhm, waders?

I find adding water to a scene can really make it sexy! In Heart of the Wolf--it's the rain. In Don't Cry Wolf, it's the shower. In Betrayal of the Wolf, it's the beach. And in Allure of the Wolf, haven't come to that part yet. :) It's awfully cold in the Canadian Arctic! :)

What do you think? Fishing look any better from this viewpoint?

Terry Spear

Heart of the Wolf, Don't Cry Wolf

Hot Summer Reading

I can feel it in the air. I can almost taste it. Summer is right around the corner. I'm eating peaches and nectarines and strawberries. I'm wearing sandals (OK, in So Cal I can wear sandals almost any time of the year!). The kids are bringing home less and less homework. Summer also means I have more time for reading.

Hopefully, everyone else has more time for reading too, since I'll have three books out this summer. The first to arrive is my novella, Hot on Her Heels, in Secrets Volume 24 due in July. The second is my Harlequin Intrigue, A Doctor-Nurse Encounter (written as Carol Ericson), coming out on Aug. 12. And my third release is an e-story, "Sex and the Single Pearl," which will be available from eRed Sage in August as well. As the release date for each book draws closer, I'll blog about each story and give some behind-the-scenes info about each.

For what's on my summer reading list, I just picked up Susan Elizabeth Phillips' Natural Born Charmer in paperback. I'm thinking of saving that one for Maui in August (if I can wait that long). I'm also looking forward to Eloisa James' Duchess by Night, the third book in her Desperate Duchesses series, which should be out any day now. I also have a long list of e-stories to read from my fellow Red Sage authors and the authors in my online goals group.

Do you read more or less in the summer? Do family vacations and picnics and barbecues slice into your reading time? Or do you spend time at the beach or on the plane with a book? What's on your summer reading list?

Highland Rogue is out -- Highland Rebel is in!

Hey Fierce Friends!
I can't even begin to describe how tired I am. My new book, HIGHLAND ROGUE, just came out, but my next book, HIGHLAND REBEL, was due June 1st! I spent all of last week, what seemed like 24 hours a day, writing so I would finish on time. That's why I--uh--didn't show up last week to blog on Wednesday. My apologies!

I am honestly ready for a break and plan to take off at least a month before starting to work on my next book. I mean, I deserve a month off, right? (Thanks, I appreciate you understanding.) You know, one of the hardest things about being a romance author (besides coming up with words that go with 'Highland') is needing to constantly keep your name in front of the reading public, and of course, keep new books coming out twice a year. Twice a year? Oh, yeah, or more. Building a readership is important and the best way to do that is to PRODUCE! Well, I'm beet. (Okay, that was a really bad pun, but I'm tired. And whiney.)

Another thing that's hard is when your book is released and you head for your local Wal-Mart or Barnes and Noble and look for it and---oops--it isn't there. Aha. Then you are left to wonder--did they not get any books, or did they already sell all of them? My husband and I went to Wal-Mart tonight and I headed straight for the books, scouring the aisle for HIGHLAND ROGUE. It wasn't there! Oh, come on! I mean, Wal-Mart had to have gotten my book! After a few minutes, I discovered it! Hooray! 3 copies on the top shelf! But wait a minute--usually the stores order 3 copies of each author's book. So that means---NOBODY HAS BOUGHT ONE? :((( Well, you know what that means--each of you must run out tomorrow to your local Wal-Mart and buy a copy and thus balance out the ones that have not sold in San Marcos, Texas!! I also moved my copies to a lower shelf that was right at eye level. Sure, I had to move another author's books, but ask yourself this, does Nora Robers really need to sell any more books?

The next book in this series, HIGHLAND REBEL, (the one I almost killed myself finishing Sunday night) will hopefully just sell out in the first week, because, oh, I don't know, because I'm a hopeless optimist? I do think my time-travel "device" is a cool one -- a giant tri-spiral carved into the floor of an ancient cairn in Scotland that sends people back in time when they walk along the edge of it! There are three spirals (thus a tri-spiral that is joined in the middle) and each one leads to a different time period. HIGHLAND ROGUE is set in the year 1711, and HIGHLAND REBEL is set in 1734. The third book in the series, HIGHLAND SOMETHING (okay, not really Something, but I don't have the word that goes with "Highland" yet. Editors really like the word "Highland" in the title of Scottish romances) will be set either in the year 1745 or in a very ancient time in Scotland. I haven't decided which yet because, like I said, I'm taking a break.

Okay, so now it's time to get some sleep. I mean, I earned it, right? And besides, I'm not really taking a break. Writers don't take breaks. Even if I'm not actually writing on the computer, I am writing in my head, mulling over ideas, worrying about the book I just turned in, plotting the next one. I can turn off my laptop, but I wish I could turn off my brain sometimes! But I can turn it off long enough to catch up on my sleep, though when you're reading this it will be tomorrow (Wednesday) so the issue of my sleeping will be moot, because by then I'll be awake.

Gee, I'm tired.

I leave you with this question: If a writer doesn't find her book in the bookstore, does that mean it doesn't exist?

Here's a new LOLcat to help start your day with a smile! Have a great one!

And, uh, yeah, this is how I finished the book on time. I know, I know, but I was tired.


Veronica Wolff presents Sword of the Highlands

I'm so pleased we have Veronica Wolff as a guest to tell us about her latest Scottish time travel, just released. Welcome Veronica! Please tell us about Sword of the Highlands.

Veronica: It’s based on the life of the famous Scottish military hero, James Graham, the Marquis of Montrose. Art curator Magda Deacon is enthralled by a portrait of James…until the painting transports her to seventeenth-century Scotland. It’s a tumultuous time: Parliament threatens the Stuart monarchy in England, and it’s Covenanter versus Royalist in Scotland. The War of the Three Kingdoms is raging, and hanging over Magda’s head all the while is the knowledge that this legendary hero is fated to meet his death on the gallows.

Vonda: Sounds fascinating! (You got another gorgeous cover!) What inspired you to write this story?

Veronica: I saw a portrait of Graham and thought he was too handsome to ignore! Honestly, he’s one of the most extraordinary real-life heroes I’ve ever encountered. The man was appealing to start with: charismatic, charitable, smart, and gifted with sword and bow. But when I read how he transformed himself from a nobleman into one of the greatest leaders in Scottish history, his story swept me away. I literally wept when I reached the tragic end of his biography. I knew then that I needed to send a woman back in time to change his fate.

Vonda: What a wonderful idea! He does sound like an amazing hero. What do you enjoy most about writing historicals set in Scotland?

Veronica: Ooh, that’s a tough one. My gut response was first to answer the gorgeous and evocative landscape, but I think it comes down to the history itself. How the stakes were so high, and people risked everything to fight for what they loved.

Vonda: I agree! What element of story creation is your favorite?

Veronica: Characters! Honestly, this used to be my biggest weakness, and so I’ve been really focusing on it. Reminding myself over and over what a particular character’s goals are—what they want, what they fear. It’s become one of my favorite processes.

Vonda: What element of this story was the hardest for you?

Veronica: I love writing about real heroes, but truly, the hardest part is how depressing it can get. All these wonderful men—heroic, brave, noble—cut short in their prime. The hero in my third book (Warrior of the Highlands, February 2009) is another one who died young. It’s heartbreaking, immersing myself in their stories, feeling the surge of their momentary triumphs, while knowing the grim outcome.

Vonda: I've felt the same way before while immersing myself in Scottish history or traditional stories. Lots of sad endings. Would you like to ask blog readers a question?

Veronica: I’m running a poll on my site,, asking what kind of books are readers’ favorites when they’re not reading things like Scottish time travel. And NOBODY has voted for contemporaries! It’s so interesting to me, and therein lies my question: What type of book do you most enjoy when not reading your favorite genre?

By the way, please do stop by my site and introduce yourself! I’m running a contest all month, giving away a book each week to a person at random who has posted on my new Forums!

Vonda: Your forums are wonderful, Veronica! Thanks so much for being her to tell us about your latest book! I look forward to reading it!


During the summer months, there are few things I look forward to as much as reunions. Whether those reunions are with friends or family, the happy moments surrounding these events result in some of my fondest memories. Last night I attended my high-school class reunion. Reconnecting with old friends is something I consider priceless and precious. My anticipation built each day closer to the reunion. I wondered if the common bonds, backgrounds and topics that once found me friends with others would still remain or have disappeared. But those concerns were for naught once the evening got into full swing. Though years had passed since we tossed those graduation caps into the air, time hadn’t touched the friendships we easily rekindled. And before the last goodbyes were said, we promised to remain in closer contact and forbid distance from interfering with our friendships.

As a reader and writer of romance fiction, I really enjoy stories where a man and woman who were friends when younger reunite and either rekindle a romance or take their friendship from platonic to passionate. How they don’t let distance become an issue. When they dare exploring their desires, despite the possibility that the first stirrings of a romance could crash and burn and jeopardize the friendship they hold near and dear. The conflict inherent in reunion stories keeps me turning pages and pulling for the hero and heroine to overcome those obstacles and become best friends and emotionally-committed lovers.

One of my reunion stories has been published by Ellora’s Cave—ROUGHRIDER.


Rabid curiosity clashes with criminal minds and escalates the drama in a small Texas town where love and loyalties are harder won than any rodeo trophy.

Click here for more information about ROUGHRIDER

Much as Peaches and Herb once sang, these characters are reunited, and for them it feels so good.

Wishing you all many happy reading moments,

Shawna Moore
ROUGHRIDER -- Ellora's Cave
HELLE IN HEELS -- Ellora's Cave
TORMENTED -- Coming soon to Ellora's Cave
Shawna's Myspace
Helle's Myspace