Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Meet Robyn Carr and What We Find #Giveaway

Posted by Susan B James on 3:00:00 AM with 9 comments

Every time a new Robyn Carr comes out I do a happy dance. Robyn builds towns, character by character. Her writing is a wonderful blend of women's fiction and romance. I discovered Robyn's Grace Valley series in 2005. I went back and searched out every book she'd written to that point. I caught up on the Virgin River series; then pre-ordered each new title.

Her first book Chelynne, a historical romance was published in 1978. In 2011, she became an "overnight sensation" when a Virgin River Christmas hit the New York Times Best Seller list. Robyn's made a home on the list ever since.

This year she is the recipient of the Nora Roberts Lifetime Achievement Award, one of the highest honors the Romance Writers of America bestows. This award is presented to a living author in recognition of significant contributions to the romance genre. It will be presented to Robyn at the 2016 RWA National Convention in San Diego.

Robyn latest book, What We Find comes out April 5th. AND, dearest readers, I got an ARC and I’m giving it away. (Reluctantly since I will need to buy another copy to keep. But I would have bought one anyway. I keep all my Robyn Carr’s.)

What We Find
Sullivan's Crossing, a small Colorado town near the Continental Divide hiking trails is the setting for a new saga of family, loss, forgiveness and most of all, love. When successful neurosurgeon, Maggie Sullivan's personal and professional lives start falling apart, she heads back to her birth place to heal. She didn't count on being attracted to the reticent stranger who is staying at her father's campground. But when her father suffers a heart attack, Cal's the one who steps up to help.
In my eyes, Robyn can do no wrong. She's always bringing me new people to love. And what a perfect setting. When I think of how many different kinds of people take to the big trails to hike, I know Robyn's got a wealth of material and characters to draw from. I love the characters I've already met and I can't wait for book 2

EXCERPT (from chapter one)
     Maggie Sullivan sought refuge in the stairwell between the sixth and seventh floors at the far west end of the hospital, the steps least traveled by interns and residents racing from floor to floor, from emergency to emergency. She sat on the landing between two flights, feet on the stairs, arms crossed on her knees, her face buried in her arms. She didn’t understand how her heart could feel as if it was breaking every day. She thought of herself as much stronger.
     “Well now, some things never change,” a familiar voice said.
     She looked up at her closest friend, Jaycee Kent. They had gone to med school together, though residency had separated them. Jaycee was an OB and Maggie, a neurosurgeon. And… they had hidden in stairwells to cry all those years ago when med-school life was kicking their asses. Most of their fellow students and instructors were men. They refused to let the men see them cry.
     Maggie gave a wet, burbly huff of laughter. “How’d you find me?” Maggie asked.
     “How do you know you’re not in my spot?”
     “Because you’re happily married and have a beautiful daughter?”
     “And my hours suck, I’m sleep-deprived, have as many bad days as good and…” Jaycee sat down beside Maggie. “And at least my hormones are cooperating at the moment. Maggie, you’re just taking call for someone, right? Just to stay ahead of the bills?”
     “Since the practice shut down,” Maggie said. “And since the lawsuit was filed.”
     “You need a break. You’re recovering from a miscarriage and your hormones are wonky. You need to get away, especially away from the emergency room. Take some time off. Lick your wounds. Heal.”
     “He dumped me,” Maggie said.
     Jaycee was clearly shocked. “What?”
     “He broke up with me. He said he couldn’t take it anymore. My emotional behavior, my many troubles. He suggested professional help.”
     Jaycee was quiet. “I’m speechless,” she finally said. “What a huge ass.”
     “Well, I was crying all the time,” she said, sniffing some more. “If I wasn’t with him, I cried when I talked to him on the phone. I thought I was okay with the idea of no children. I’m almost thirty-seven, I work long hours, I was with a good man who was just off a bad marriage and already had a child…”
     “I’ll give you everything but the good man,” Jaycee said. “He’s a doctor, for God’s sake. Doesn’t he know that all you’ve been through can take a toll? Remove all the stress and you still had the miscarriage! People tend to treat a miscarriage like a heavy period but it’s a death. You lost your baby. You have to take time to grieve.”
     “Gospel,” Maggie said, rummaging for a tissue and giving her nose a hearty blow. “I really felt it on that level. When I found out I was pregnant, it took me about fifteen minutes to start seeing the baby, loving her. Or him.”
     “Not to beat a dead horse, but you have some hormone issues playing havoc on your emotions. Listen, shoot out some emails tonight. Tell the ones on the need-to-know list you’re taking a week or two off.”
     “No one knows about the pregnancy but you and Andrew.”
     “You don’t have to explain—everyone knows about your practice, your ex-partners, the lawsuit. Frankly, your colleagues are amazed you’re still standing. Get out of town or something. Get some rest.”
     “You might be right,” Maggie said. “These cement stairwells are killing me.”
     Jaycee put an arm around her. “Just like old times, huh?”

Thank you for being here, Robyn. I love firsts, so tell me about the moment when you found you’d made your first sale.We had just moved to CA and, as usual, my husband had to leave town so it was me with two little kids in a house filled with boxes. I didn't know anyone, didn't even know my neighbors. There was no RWA but I had a critique group back in TX. We didn't have cell phones or computers, I had no way to reach my husband and long distance was a per minute charge, something like ten cents a minute which, back in '78, was a lot of money. I didn't even have a bottle of wine in the house. I made a couple of long distance calls and then I think I unpacked boxes. But I unpacked boxes with a smile on my face. The next morning I excitedly told the pre school teacher, the only person I knew. The next day when I took my son to pre school, she gave me a cake she'd made for me in the shape of an open book. It said, "Chelynne by Robyn Carr" Her name is Janet and we're still friends to this day. 

How much of your actual life gets written into your fictional stories? Do you ever use real people as inspiration for your characters?As inspiration—yes. But as actual characters, no. Real people don’t usually come off well in fiction. I take traits and experiences and emotional reactions from people I’ve met or read about and blend them into composite characters. But experiences and bits of dialogue from my life sneak in—happily. 

As a writer, what kinds of books inspire you? Do you ever find time to read when you aren't writing your own novels?
I read every day. I work long hours, but in the evening after dinner I read—and I am inspired by everything I read, whether it’s mainstream or non-fiction or some other genre. I have a particular taste for contemporary romance and women’s fiction. My favorite authors are Susan Elizabeth Phillips, Kristan Higgins, Jill Shalvis, Susan Andersen to name a few. For my reading pleasure I enjoy intelligent, romantic, humorous, sexy novels with strong heroines.  
We have similar tastes.
Your characters have issues. All of them. And in that sense, sometimes your books feel more like women’s fiction than romance. Is that something you do purposefully?
This is what I love about women’s fiction! Every living woman has either faced those issues in her own life or she has a sister, neighbor, friend, co-worker—someone she knows or knows of—who has grappled with women’s issues. The range of women’s issues is so wide, it’s infinitesimal. Women’s issues are those issues that challenge a woman’s happiness because they’re women—everything from salaries to mothering to friendship to the more dramatic and frightening issues of domestic violence, death, assault. We've seen people who make positive changes in their lives because of these challenges just as we've seen people really blow it, make such bad choices it nearly (or even absolutely) ruins their lives.
Of course, men face all the same issues/problems. But men and women think so differently about things. Men are better at compartmentalizing—they have the job compartment, the husband compartment, the father compartment and so on. They don’t think about how their home lives affect their relationship on their bowling team or their success or problems on the job. With women, everything is connected to everything else—their jobs are connected to their relationships connected to their goals and to their fears, et cetera. And while men want a solution to one particular issue in one specific compartment, women tend to examine everything that’s going on within them and around them.

Thank you, Robyn. And congratulations on the Nora Roberts lifetime Achievement Award. I am looking forward to the next book in the Sullivan’s Crossing Series.
Beloved reader, here's your chance to win my ARC. Enter below. If you don't like Rafflecopter, just leave a comment and a way to reach you should you win. Happy Reading.

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Marcia James Write Hot and Humorous, #Giveaway

Posted by Susan B James on 3:00:00 AM with 10 comments

I met Marcia James because she has a blog page on her website which features authors with James in their name and she featured me. I asked her to be on my blog and I am delighted to welcome her here this week.
Marcia, please tell us a little about yourself.

I write hot, humorous romances featuring heroines you can root for, heroes to die for, and funny dogs. My background is in corporate video scriptwriting, advertising copywriting, and journalism. I've had a pretty eclectic career as a freelance writer, which has kept things interesting. For example, I've shot submarine training videos, organized celebrity-filled events, and had my wedding covered by People Magazine. As an author, I have a lot of experiences to pull from when writing fiction.
Wow. That is very impressive. 
I love firsts, so tell me about the moment when a publisher told you they wanted to publish your book.

I wish I could say I had a fun story about my first publication (with Ellora's Cave's non-erotic romance imprint, Cerridwen Press), but I don't. I was thrilled, however, when I was offered a chance to be in a Berkley anthology. Author Lori Foster does a wonderful benefit book each year, and I was one of ten authors who wrote novellas for TAILS OF LOVE, a pet-themed romance anthology. All of the authors' royalties go to a no-kill animal shelter in Ohio. So far, we've raised more than $10,000 for the shelter.

If it isn’t too nosy. How about the first time you kissed your true love?

My husband and I met several decades ago, and we hit it off as friends first. He has a wonderful sense of humor. Our first (amazing!) kiss was on a sunny May day, so when we were picking a wedding date, we chose May 13th, a pretty Saturday. We lived together for 13 years before we got married, which is why we asked guests to donate to charity vs. giving us a wedding present. (That's how we ended up in People Magazine.) Ever since, we've celebrated the 13th of every month as our "monthly anniversary." I love that idea.

Other than your own, who are your favorite writers in your genre?
I listen to recorded books all the time, and I enjoy predominantly romance and mystery, although I've tried authors like Simon R. Green, who writes unusual and sometimes very funny science fiction/fantasy/paranormal novels. I have many favorite romance authors, including Jill Shalvis, Susan Mallery, and Nora Roberts. I love Darynda Jone's urban fantasy series. I read cozy mysteries and PI mysteries -- including Jim Butcher's paranormal Dresden File books. I have too many favorite authors to list. Me too. I've read all the authors you mentioned.

What is your favorite pastime, other than writing?
I enjoy golfing and gambling. (My favorite casino game is triple-video poker.) I also love "retail therapy," and my husband calls me a Ninja shopper because I'm good at finding great deals. I just started doing T'ai Chi again, and I'm going to try pickleball this spring. It's a cross between tennis, volleyball, and racquetball. Well then, you would love where I am now. I am in Primm, Nevada at Buffalo Bill's Casino. I arrived at seven Sunday night and spent the next two and a half hours on the flor learning how to deal professional blackjack. Tomorrow I play a blackjack dealer in the TV Series Ray Donovan. I deal to Liev Schreiber. Tuesday I go back to Los Angeles. 

How do you motivate yourself when inspiration takes a vacation?
I do something relaxing, like reading, shopping, or watching humorous TV shows, like The Daily Show and The Tonight Show -- both of which we DVR. Also, I find that writing long-hand turns off my internal editor, since I'll be polishing the handwritten words when I input them into my manuscript. So that's motivating. And I'm a plotter, so I usually know where a story is headed.

Got a recipe you want to share?
The following is a recipe I donated to a fundraising cookbook of author recipes. It's meant to be humorous, as well as yummy.  ;-)

Avocado Body Paint & Dip


4 ripe avocados – halved & pitted
6 tablespoons of sour cream
1 teaspoon of salt
sprinkling of cayenne pepper
2 teaspoons of lemon juice


1. Put the flesh of the avocado in a food processor and pulse to roughly chop up the avocado.

2. Add the sour cream. Pulse until the mixture is the texture of yogurt.

3. Add the salt, cayenne pepper and lemon juice. Pulse until smooth.

4. The recipe makes approximately 2 cups of avocado body paint – or a couple cups of avocado dip, if you choose to serve it with chips!

NOTE: Avocados have long been considered an aphrodisiac and are, therefore, an ideal ingredient for edible body paint. The Aztecs believed avocados, hanging in pairs on the trees, resembled a man’s “family jewels.” Be forewarned, however, that using this chilled mixture on the aforementioned body part could result in unwanted shrinkage. Also, covering the bed with a plastic shower curtain liner is recommended before application!
That's great. I hope you have a scene in a book using it.

Any advice for new writers just starting out?
My background includes marketing and promotion experience, so I always urge aspiring authors to simultaneously learn the craft and business sides of fiction writing--the latter including self-promotion. Writers who wait to learn promotion until they get "The Call" are almost always stressed to the max trying to play catch-up. For example, you don't need to put up a website before you're published, but you should definitely start considering what you'd like your website to look like. And when author friends talk about promotion, take notes instead of tuning it out as something that doesn't pertain to you yet. Get to know what self-promotion works for them. Start thinking about your brand. There are a lot of things an aspiring author can do to get smart on the publication business before they're published. That is EXCELLENT advice. I wish I had had it.

What genre or genres do you write?
I write sexy, humorous contemporary romances and romantic mysteries. All of my books feature pets (especially Chinese crested hairless dogs), who have been rescued from shelters, which is why I have a dog caricature as a logo. In the last 16 months, I've been working with other authors to publish ebook box sets (aka anthologies). Several of these are Christmas-themed. These sets are a fun way to network and co-promote with other authors, and--since the sets are priced at only 99 cents--they are an inexpensive way for readers to try new-to-them authors.

Tell us about your latest releases.

My latest releases are the three novellas in my "Klein's K-9s Service Dogs" series. I've really enjoyed researching and writing this series.

The first novella is Racing Hearts:

Stock car legend, Tom "Torque" Tyler, faces a bleak future following a traumatic head injury and seizures. Determined to drag her high-school crush from his self-imposed solitude, service dog trainer, Meg Klein, and a tiny but talented seizure response dog bring Tom hope and love.

The second is 8 Hounds a-Howling

Celebrity photographer "Jax" Jackson volunteers to shoot the Klein's K-9s' dog-themed "12 Days of Christmas" fundraising calendar. His hidden agenda: Convince past love and calendar coordinator Amy Walters to give him a second chance.

The third is "Nothing But a Hound Dog", which is in the April box set, LOVE NOTES:

After a night of raucous partying, country music hunk Ryan "Rowdy" Gates is sentenced to community service at the Jenkins Animal Shelter. Cindi Landon, shelter director and his high school crush, offers Ryan something he's never had—a home and unconditional love.

I just pre-ordered this on Amazon. Love Notes will be releases April 19th,
What’s your current WIP?
I'm plotting the fourth (as yet unnamed) Klein's K-9s novella, which will be included in a Christmas-themed ebook box set this fall.

And finally, where can we find  you?
I love meeting readers in person and online! On my website, I have a page called, "The Scoop," which lists the events and booksignings I'm participating in. The following are my online links:

Amazon Author Central page: www.amazon.com/author/marciajames

Marcia, thank you so much for being here, Marcia is giving away two eBook copies of Racing Hearts  You Know the drill, dearest readers. Please enter below.

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Tuesday, March 8, 2016

Reading Regency

Posted by Susan B James on 1:13:00 AM with 2 comments
 These past twelve days I have been travelling. I had two long layovers and used the opportunity to finish Georgette Heyer's The Quiet Gentleman and dive into Charity Girl. I brought my old paperback copies with me,
Regency novels were my first dive into romance. Regency romances are a subgenre of historical romance novels set during the period of the British Regency (1811–1820) or early 19th century. Most of them  take place in London or the surrounding countryside. A few dive into the Napoleonic War.

There are lots of other genres under historical. Becky Lower has a lovely series  - The Cotillion Ball series set in the 1850's in New York.

But Regency was my first love and Georgette Heyer is still my go to read for wonderful Regency settings. I learned cant phrases, fashion, and society mores from Georgette and I love her humor.

Sex in a Heyer is limited to kissing. I don't miss the sex. It seems appropriate for what she writes. Georgette Heyer doesn't limit herself to Regency. She has some books set in earlier periods. These Old Shades is set in the 1700's and it's next on my "to reread" list. It's one of my all time favorites. (Ack! Just saw the new cover on Goodreads. Totally inappropriate!)

If you haven't read Heyer and would like to, many of her novels are free in PDF form. All libraries carry her and her books are available on Amazon. I think all of them are on my Keeper Shelves, But I decided I needed to have at least one on my iPad. I chose one of my favorites - The Grand Sophy

Modern Regency writers do have sex in their novels. There is at least one carnal encounter leading to true love. I think these novelists feel it necessary to the HEA. And it works. 
My favorite modern Regency author is Julia Quinn. For the past few weeks one of her Bridgerton Novels has been on sale per week because she has a new Bridgerton novel coming out on March 29th. 
I came in in the middle of the binge and got An Offer From A Gentleman and Romancing Mr. Bridgerton which I finished last night. Now mind you, I have these books on my shelf at home. But I am travelling and 1.99 seemed too good an offer to resist. This week When He Was Wicked is the 1.99 item.
Last week was To Sir Phillip With Love, I missed that one, but dearest reader, I happen to have a paperback copy to give away. Julia Quinn was a featured speaker at last year's RWA National conference in New York and I came away with a copy.

So if you are interested in winning, please leave a comment with some way to contact you.  Regency has been around Since Jane Austin. Do you have a favorite Regency novel?

Tuesday, March 1, 2016

Meet Best Seller Linda O.Johnston

Posted by Susan B James on 3:00:00 AM with 5 comments
Meet Linda O Johnston, author of more than 40 books in diverse genres including mystery, paranormal romance, romantic suspense and more. I am proud to say I was recently in a critique group with Linda. She just shared a chapter of her latest Barkery and Biscuits mystery and I can’t wait for the next section.
Linda, can we have a brief bio?

Photo by Dan Irvin Photography
Hi, everyone. 
            I'm Linda O. Johnston, a former lawyer who is now a full-time writer.  I currently write two mystery series for Midnight Ink: the Superstition Mysteries, where my protagonist runs a pet boutique, and the Barkery & Biscuits Mysteries, where the protagonist, a veterinary technician, also owns a barkery and a bakery. I've also written the Pet Rescue MysterySeries, a spinoff from my Kendra Ballantyne, Pet-Sitter mysteries for Berkley Prime Crime.  See a pattern here?  I'm a dogaholic!

I've also written the mystery series for Midnight Ink involving dogs, My latest releases are   CANADIAN WOLF for Nocturne and the second Superstition Mystery, KNOCK ON WOOD, are my fortieth and forty-first published novels.
I also currently write for Harlequin Romantic Suspense as well as the Alpha Force paranormal romance miniseries about shapeshifters for Harlequin Nocturne.  

I love firsts, so tell me about the moment when a publisher told you they wanted to publish your book.
      I'd already had some short stories published and had won the Robert L. Fish Memorial Award for best first mystery short story of the year.  I'd been trying for a while to get a novel published, though.
      At the time, I was an in-house attorney for Union Oil Company of California.  I was in my office one day when my phone rang--my business line, since this was before cell phones.  The editor at Dorchester Publishing to whom I'd sent my manuscript for my time travel romance A GLIMPSE OF FOREVER was on the line, and she told me they wanted to publish it.  I was thrilled!  After our call ended, I went around the office telling all my closest business associates about it.

How many books do you write in a year?

     These days I tend to write about three books a year: one each for my two mystery series, the Superstition Mysteries and the Barkery & Biscuits Mysteries, and at least one Harlequin romance.

What is your favorite pastime, other than writing?
      Obeying the commands of my Cavalier King Charles Spaniels Lexie and Mystie.  Also, anything else to do with dogs, although I unfortunately haven't had the time recently to volunteer at a rescue shelter as I used to.

How do you motivate yourself when inspiration takes a vacation?
      What does that mean?  My inspiration never takes a vacation!

Got a recipe you want to share?
      Frankly, I'm not much of a cook, but I do share recipes for dog and people treats in my Barkery & Biscuits Mysteries.

Any advice for new writers just starting out?
            Keep on writing!  And join writers' organizations, especially in the genre(s) you write in, to network and learn more about writing and publishing.

I know you have more than one book coming out soon. Could you tell us about them?
      My next book will be TO CATCH A TREAT, the second Barkery & Biscuits Mystery, to be published in May.  By the way, the first one is a finalist in the fiction category of the Dog Writers Association of America Maxwell Awards!
      After that, in August, comes COVERT ALLIANCE, a Harlequin Romantic Suspense novel.
      And then, in October, my third Superstition Mystery, UNLUCKY CHARMS, will be published.

What’s your current WIP?
      I'm currently working on the third Barkery & Biscuits Mystery.  The title hasn't been confirmed yet. 

And finally, where can we find you?
      My website is: www.lindaojohnston.com
      Please friend me on Facebook: www.facebook.com/LindaOJohnston
      I also blog every Wednesday at Killer Hobbies: http://killerhobbies.blogspot.com/
      and on the 18th of each month at Killer Characters: http://www.killercharacters.com/
      and on the first Monday of each month at InkSpot: http://midnightwriters.blogspot.com/

      and on the 6th of each month at A Slice of Orange: http://occsliceoforange.blogspot.com/
You are one busy lady! Thank you so much for being here Linda. 

Linda had graciously offered a giveaway of  a print copy of her latest Superstition Mystery KNOCK ON WOOD
Rory Chasen, now the manager of the Lucky Dog Boutique in Destiny, California, is delighted when her best friend Gemma arrives a day early for her visit. Gemma’s just broken up with her boyfriend in Los Angeles, so Rory is especially eager to cheer her up. But before they get a chance to talk, two of the town’s most eligible bachelors sidle in. Their amorous advances—and an unexpected job offer—seem to take Gemma’s mind off her ex . . . until he arrives in Destiny.
As Gemma tries to sort out what to do, one of her suitors is murdered, leaving Rory to wonder if a black cat has crossed Gemma’s path. Is Rory’s friend guilty of murder—or is she just having a run of bad luck?
Enter below. Happy reading.
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