Saturday, November 24, 2012

Scenery and Imagination

  Sometimes I wish I could work at my kitchen sink. I like the view, and I can imagine all sorts of things when I look out the window.
   But would I sit and daydream? Probably. The coffee pot sits right there, so I wouldn't have to get up much.
   Warm, happy scenes or possibly adventures could take place in the autumn when the colors are bright.
   Soon, though, the view will turn bleak. What few leaves remain will be brown and dead, although the firs and some shrubs will be green. And the birds and squirrels will still come. They're always interesting.

   Yesterday dawn brought a lovely sky, and I took this from the deck.
   Do you use photographs to take you places? I do that. I take pictures of houses for my characters to live in, find photos of the characters, and refer to them.
   Are you influenced by the view and the season? Or do you live in your imagination?

Monday, November 19, 2012

Man's Best Friend

My best friend

Dogs are truly man’s best friend. Nothing else gives you the same unconditional love or accepts you as you are—tall/short, fat/thin, ugly/amazing—nothing matters if you care about the dog. That’s all he asks. I’m a dog lover, always have been, always will be.
From childhood I’ve had wonderful dogs. They’ve shared everything with me—my bed, my Brussels sprouts, and my heart. They licked away my tears, lay by my side when I was sick, and stole my lollipops. They were my best friends, and I grieved for each one when their time on earth was up.
I’m also fond of heroes. So when I found Kevin Hanrahan’s blog about Military Working Dogs (MWDs), it seemed perfect. He has wonderful true stories about these heroic dogs and the work they do in Afghanistan, Iran, and other areas. They’ve saved many lives and, just as our military men and women do, often give their lives. Many suffer from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).  For many years, they were euthanized after their service was over. President Clinton made them eligible for adoption, at least those with the right temperament.
Kate, Muffet, Misty
On Kevin’s blog, I read about a soldier named Marc and his dog Anax. You can read their story at 
At the same time, I was having trouble bringing one of my characters to life. As soon as I read about Anax, Jax sprang into my heart. He became Connor Moran’s dog in my new book, Time of Death, giving life to both of them. Jax is a hero in his own right, one of my favorite characters.
I have pictures of most of my characters, and I wanted one for Jax.  His real name is Zakhar, but he’s my Jax. I fell for the alert, caring look on his face.
Here’s Jax’s history as told by Connor, from Time of Death.
“Were you in the Middle East?”
Afghanistan. Jax and his handler were assigned to my unit. Jax alerted on the wall of a house we were searching. It had a thin stucco surface, clearly a new addition. We figured, judging by Jax’s behavior, it hid weapons or explosives. We backed off to wait for the bomb squad to do their thing, but a little kid ran out and fired directly into the wall. The whole thing exploded, and the unit came under heavy fire. Jax’s handler was hit. When the insurgents swarmed us, Jax stood over him, protecting him. They killed his handler and shot Jax. It cost him a leg and he had to retire. I only had a few months left, so I adopted him.”
How about you? Do you have dogs or memories of your best friend from childhood? 

Friday, November 16, 2012

Free Books-First Impressions

FREE for Kindle 11/16-18: Haunting Refrain is suspense with a little romance and a bit of woo-woo.
First impressions matter. I like picturing characters through another character’s eyes. What do they see? Here are some excerpts from the book.
This is John’s first impression of Kate.
John studied her quietly while she fussed at Ashburton. Something about her seemed familiar, tweaked at his memory. Surely he’d remember someone so . . . vivid. He couldn’t think of a better word. On top of her head, a precarious knot of hair appeared to be held in place by a single pencil. It wasn't very effective, judging by the amount of hair that had already escaped.
As the two women moved closer, he could see the broken point on the blue pencil. It matched the rest of her clothes—a man's blue work shirt that came almost to the knees of her faded jeans, and a pair of worn running shoes. He’d be willing to bet the counter where she worked came to just above her waist—evidenced by a horizontal streak of brownish stains across the front of the shirt.
In this one, Kate runs into a troublemaker with a strong dislike of psychics.
When Kate left the parking lot, she saw that a crowd had spilled into the street in front of the building where Martin Carver had an office. The road was blocked by two police cars. Kate slowed and rolled down her window, waving to a police officer. “What’s wrong? Can I get through here?”
“It’s the Prophet from the Mountains, Ma’am,” he said as if she should know the name. “He’s here because of the—”
“The sinner shall die.” A deep voice rolled over the officer’s words. A tall figure in a long, dirty robe strode out of the crowd, came toward Kate. “Thou shalt not hearken unto the dreamer of dreams: for the Lord your God will smite you with thunder and stones.” He stopped a few feet from her car and raised a long wooden walking stick in the air. His dark eyes stared into hers, his face contorted in anger.
Kate meets the roommate of the murdered woman.
The door opened so quickly that Kate jumped. A large, muscular woman with chopped-off brown hair glared down at her. A baseball bat hung from her hand.
“Whatever it is, I'm not interested, and the answer is no,” the Amazon barked, slamming the door.
For a second, Kate stood speechless. She almost left, then decided she wouldn't be put off so easily. She knocked again.
“Are you deaf, dumb, or both?” Josephine yelled, jerking the door back and waving the bat.
“My name is—” Kate stopped short as the door swung toward her again. She needed to get Josephine’s attention, fast. She flung her purse at the woman. “Listen, dammit. I need to talk to you.”
If this appeals to you, hop on over and get a copy while it’s free.

Monday, November 12, 2012

Fantasy and Imagination at Work

At Amazon
I’m interviewing romantic suspense author Maureen Miller, who has now added a SciFi YA, BEYOND, to her list. She’s an interesting woman.

Hi, Maureen. Who inspires you and why?
My inspiration doesn't necessarily come from a single individual or even a handful. I am inspired by other authors, by readers, by personal events in life, and by the news. Inspiration comes in unique packages for everyone. Watching a Praying Mantis move across a fence post inspires me. There is beauty and grace there, where others may see a bug. :)
Do you ever have qualms about giving the bad guys information or ideas? How much technical or tactical information do you or are you willing to include?
In my most recent novel, BEYOND, the book takes place mostly in outer space and the entire world is fictional. My technical information was restricted to the scope of my imagination. :)
What do you think of people who reveal confidential information, such as the SEAL who wrote the book about getting Bin Laden, or Princess Diana’s bodyguard? Right or wrong?
It is not something I would do, but I can't judge others. I am one of those 'loyal to a fault' type of people. I'm afraid to share a friend's recipe without getting written permission first! :)
When and how often do you write?
Not as often as I would like, but I reckon we all probably say that! I'm an early morning writer. I can solve world peace between the hours of 6-8am. By 3pm the eyelids grow heavier.
What inspired you to begin writing?
Long airport layovers! I used to travel for a living and spent way too much time in airports. Some people pass the time reading. Some pass it in the airport bar.  Initially, I read. But then I started wanting control of the paths of characters so I turned to writing. I used to reduce my Microsoft Word screen to 2x2 inches so that the people sitting around me couldn't see what I was writing. LOL
At Amazon
I see that Endless Night is set on the Maine coast during a nor’easter. Have you experienced one or is it imagination?
I have family in Florida so I'm actually more used to hurricanes. But weather has always fascinated me.
How did you research the Guatemalan jungle for Jungle of Deceit?
Traditional internet research, plus I had friends who had traveled there for Habitat For Humanity. I'll admit, I was not too keen on the snake research. Thank God I was not crawling around in the jungle looking to dig some up! :)
Do you have a favorite book (of your own) or character?
I think my favorite character to date has to be from the new book, BEYOND. His name is JOH. He is a computer and he cracks me up. I had so much fun with him.
Which comes first, characters or plot?
Tough question. More often than not, the plot. For example, JUNGLE OF DECEIT was born from a simple paragraph I read in the news about a shipment of Guatemalan artifacts that were unearthed in the cellars of the World Trade Center…and the path those artifacts took to get there.
For BEYOND the plot was driven by a childhood fantasy I had to be whisked away from my backyard into space by Starbuck from Battlestar Gallactica! :)
Plotter, pantser, or in between?
I used to be a blatant panster. Now I call myself a skeleton writer. I will write an entire skeleton of a book, and then go back and fill in the flesh. :)
What’s the perfect atmosphere for your writing?
Quiet. I like the stillness of early morning. I can't listen to music as I write or else I'll stop and sing along. LOL
Describe the sort of people you like to write about.
In Romantic Suspense I like my characters to be a little desperate and out of their element due to whatever situation they have been thrown into. And in the gravest of moments I like my men to retain a sense of humor to put the heroines at ease.
Titles—hard or easy? Where did you get this one/most current/favorite?
The titles just come to me, and they have to come to me early because I need something to name the file I'm saving! You don't always have control of your titles though. For example, ENDLESS NIGHT was originally called VICTORY COVE but the publisher renamed it. I do like their thought process though, in that it tied in with a line from the book when Megan says, “That night was endless. It still hasn't ended.”
Thank you so much for having me here, Ellis!
Where to find Maureen A. Miller
Maureen's illustrious writing career began in the fourth grade with the blockbuster hit, Super Watermelon Man. Many years later, she evolved into a full-fledged Romantic Suspense author with her first novel, WIDOW'S TALE, which was nominated for a Golden Heart by the Romance Writers of America. A fan of the old Gothic romances, Maureen enjoys the formula of danger, romance, dark cliffs, and sinister houses. All these elements can be found in her romantic thriller, ENDLESS NIGHT. Maureen has now branched out into the Young Adult genre with her Science Fiction Romance, BEYOND.

Friday, November 9, 2012

The Next Big Thing

Exciting new author Jerrie Alexander tagged me in this interview game. Her new novel is GREEN-EYED DOLL, due out December 7, 2012. You can check her out at  .

I tagged some other authors at the bottom, so be sure to check out their answers and their books too.

Amazon eBook and Print
Q. What is the title of your book? 

A. TIME OF DEATH. It's available now from Amazon.

Q. Where did the idea come from for the book?

A. Psychic phenomena have always interested me, and I love Charleston and the coast. Art is another interest, so when the three things came together in my head, it seemed like a natural. I love the characters too. 

Q. What genre does your book fall under?

A. Suspense with a little romance.

Q. Which actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie rendition?

A. Teri Hatcher is Isobel, maybe Jason O’Mara for Connor, and the cover model, whoever she is, for Alex. Her face, especially the eyes, is perfect.

Q. What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?
A.  Artist Alex Jenrette draws scenes of violence with uncanny accuracy, but will anyone believe she never saw them happen?

Q. Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?

A. Self-published, my choice for the foreseeable future.

Q. How long did it take you to write the first draft of your manuscript?

A. Of and on for more than a year.
Q. What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?

A. Maybe a bit like Nora Roberts's Carolina Moon. May I mention my own? Haunting Refrain, which will be free Nov 14-18. J

Q. Who or what inspired you to write this book?

A. My grandmother, who had a psychic ability much like Rosalind’s in the book. It really does run in the family, but I didn't get the fuzzy gene. 

Q. What else about your book might pique the reader’s interest?

A. The bad guys. I could see them so clearly, and one made me cry.

Okay, for all you authors out there…here are the rules:
 •Give credit to the person/blog that tagged you
 •Post the rules for this hop
 •Answer these ten questions about your Next Big Thing on your blog
 •Tag two or more writers/bloggers and add their links so we can hop over and meet them.

I tagged these two wonderful authors. Check them out!

Magdalen Braden at

Monday, November 5, 2012

The Fallout from Writing Edgy

At Amazon
My guest this week is Polly Iyer, author of the new suspense-thriller, Goddess of the Moon, featuring psychic Diana Racine.
A lot has been said lately about reviews. Who’s writing them? Who’s trading them? How honest are they? Let’s put aside that writers have writer friends, and for the most part, we support each other. There’s nothing wrong with that; we are a supportive group. Are we more generous when reviewing our friends? If I’m being honest, I’d say yes. Rarely will a writer with any ethics flip off a one-star review, because we know how hard it is to write a book. A writer’s subject matter and how she portrays her characters have consequences when it comes to the judgment of her readers, and in turn their reviews. How offended is a reader when the storyline conflicts with their respective beliefs or when a character does something they find personally reprehensible?
My books have darker subject matters and characters who often cross ethical lines. Romances take the hardest hits. Readers become invested in the relationship between the hero and heroine, and they want the story to turn out the way they want. If it doesn’t, watch out. Mysteries and thrillers have a little more leeway, but here again, there are limits.
At Amazon
HOOKED has received a slew of two-star reviews, mostly on Goodreads, where people can drop a one or two star bomb without explanation. (No, Polly, you can’t please everyone.) Tawny Dell, the heroine, is a high-class call girl who decides she wants out. Does she ever apologize for choosing that lifestyle? No. She’s smart, with a PhD in art history—come on, this is fiction after all—and she doesn’t consider herself a victim because she never was. There was no kumbaya moment where she regrets her former profession, no epiphany where she “sees the light.” There’s a graphic prison scene in MURDER DÉJÀ VU that’s not for the feint of heart. I could have implied it, but I described it instead because it was important to the character of my hero. One of my characters—I won’t mention which book—murders someone in cold blood. I made it look a little like self-defense, but he would have done the dirty whether or not I fudged the scene, and the reader knows that. In MIND GAMES, the first in the Diana Racine Psychic Suspense series, Diana admits to being a fraud. She is and she isn’t. Does that make her unethical? Well, yeah. The way she’s devised her act definitely puts her in the questionable column. I had written the N word in that book, more than once. A critique partner flashed red flags all over the place, and I took them out, except for a less offensive variation, if there is such a thing. Diana’s father is a racist, and it’s a word he’d use. I got around it. The reader knows what he’s going to say it before she stops him. This one time, I gave in to political correctness, and I hated that I did. I didn’t feel true to myself or the story. In my newest book, GODDESS OF THE MOON, there’s a whole bunch of possible reader turn-offs, and I’m waiting for the reactions from my first readers.
So back to my original question―Do you try not to alienate readers by tweaking a book to make it more acceptable, or do you write the story the way you know in your heart it has to be, pitfalls included? If you write edgy storylines, are you ready for the fallout―those one and two star reviews that zap your confidence just a little? If you do, relax. You’ll get used to them.
Then, of course, there’s always the possibility that a reader thinks your book just sucks. There’ll be a few of those too.

Polly Iyer was born on the coast of Massachusetts. After studying at Massachusetts College of Art and Design in Boston, she lived in Italy, Atlanta, and now resides in the beautiful Piedmont region of South Carolina in an empty nest house with her husband and a drooling mutt named Max. Writing novels turned into her passion after careers in fashion, art, and business. Now she spends her time being quite the hermit in comfortable clothes she wouldn't be caught dead wearing on the outside, while she devises ways for life to be complicated for her characters. Better them than her.
Read more about Polly and her books at

Friday, November 2, 2012

IT'S FIRST FRIDAY! Delaney. Eckhart. Hurricane Sandy

The Photo

This is where I give three authors one photograph, and in 150 words, they write what they see in it. The difference in imagination and voice is fascinating. This month one of the authors, Marc vun Kannon, lost power to Hurricane Sandy and didn't make it. Maybe he'll be back sometime. 
I sit here, in my father’s study, waiting. Soon the candle will go out and the birthday party for my cousin, Cassie, and my beautiful sister, Alice, will be over.
Today, they are sixteen. Alice, whom I love so, wants only to be with Cassie. No longer does she read with me, play games or share secrets. She only smiles on her way to giggle with Cassie under the elm tree. They fall silent when they see me coming.
I helped Cook frost their individual birthday cakes, though. Chocolate for Cassie, lemon for Alice. It is a tradition.
My mother is screaming, my aunt sobbing, the wail of an ambulance falls silent as the front door opens. I smile as I blow out the candle.
Someone stands at the open door. Alice? No, Cassie. She sobs as she holds up a small birthday cake. It is lemon.
 We traded, she says.
The loud overweight lady with bad breath would be right in. But that was an hour ago, when her mother left. So she didn’t move even though the sharp edge of the metal framed chair poked the small of her back. They’d practiced for hours last week. Sit straight, shoulders back, even though she longed to skid on her bum across the room. But that she could never do, because her mother expected her to be perfect—to win. Nothing less would do.
Her face itched from the makeup. Her hair was curled and fastened just like a princess—a princess she never wanted to be. She tried to ignore the pinch between her shoulder blades, but agony worsened as she waited for the agent to appear, promising fame for the children and fortune to the parents. And not once had anyone asked nine year old Lily, what she wanted.
At Amazon
Kathleen Delaney writes the Ellen McKenzie mystery series. Dying For A Change, the first in the series, introduces us to Ellen who has returned to her as a real estate agent. Finding a dead body in the closet of the first house you show is a hard way to start. Life doesn’t get any easier for Ellen in the next three books, Give First Place to Murder, And Murder For Dessert, and Murder For Dessert. She has just finished the fifth in this series, Murder by Syllabub. She lives in South Carolina in a one hundred year old house with a dog and cat and often a couple of her eight grandchildren who love to visit. Or is it the pumpkin/cranberry bread they like?

At Amazon
Lorhainne Eckhart began her writing career five years ago. A lifelong love for stories inspired her to start writing. She read everything and naturally had the ability to create vivid characters, drawing on the experiences of friends, family and acquaintances around her. When her children started school she sat down to write her first novel. The story unfolded and four years later The Wild Rose Press published her first novel, 'The Captain's Lady.'  Lorhainne has a passion for the outdoors, her extensive gardens and preserving nature. Lorhainne Eckhart and her family live in the peaceful countryside on Vancouver Island.