Sunday, December 27, 2009

New Year's Thoughts

January is almost here, so it’s time to consider New Year’s thoughts. One of mine is that different people define the year differently. For teachers and students, fall is the start of the school year, the time for new hopes and plans, and resolutions/promises to do things better this time around. January First is a reflective pause between semesters. For fishermen, tourism staff, and other seasonal workers here in Alaska, the practical beginning of the year starts at the beginning of the season. January is the time to do some planning and dreaming, but things don’t really start until spring or summer.

For those of us who live by the seasons, Winter Solstice is important because it signals the gain of daylight. (Tielle explained it in more detail in her recent blog post.) I’m one of those people who starts counting down to Solstice early in December. That feels like a renewal or beginning to me. New Year's is a bonus.

New Year’s Eve is a good time to celebrate our hopes and wishes for ourselves and our loved ones, even if it’s not really the beginning of the year for some of us. Some years it’s felt like, whew, we made it through that rough year. Let’s hope for a better one next time. Other years it's felt more like a celebration. It is still a good time to reflect, and make plans or wishes for the new year. Most of the world seems to revolve around the calendar year now, so we might as well go with the group on this one. So I’ll take a minute as I toast my husband with the traditional champagne glass, and count my blessings and make a wish for 2010. May it be the best year ever for you and your loved ones.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Happy Solstice!

It’s Winter Solstice for those of us in the Northern Hemisphere. And every year they announce on the news that the Solstice occurs at (this) date and time. For 2009, it’s December 21, 8:47 AM Alaska Standard Time. (Alaska’s one hour behind Pacific time to calculate the solstice in your area).

I’d always thought of the solstice as the day—the longest or shortest day of the year. So what did the time mean? This year, I decided to find out. It might be common knowledge to the rest of you but I found it quite fascinating. The time indicates the exact moment when the sun’s rays hit (at a 90 degree angle) the Tropic of Capricorn. That’s the farthest south point the sun’s rays can be directly overhead. The Summer Solstice occurs when the sun’s rays are directly overhead the Tropic of Cancer.

Today is also the time when sun’s rays do not hit the Arctic Circle and they experience 24-hours of darkness.

Some ancient cultures and religions celebrate this day as the start of the New Year, the return of the Sun God.
For many areas, this day officially “starts” Winter.

For Alaskans, we’ve been experiencing “winter” for two months now and what this day means is…we start gaining sunlight. Just a little. Tomorrow we’ll probably gain about 10 seconds. Doesn’t matter. It’s more sunlight. And when you live in a dark climate, every little bit of sunlight helps!

Let the sun shine in! And Happy Christmas!

Total Side Note:
Taking Shape is being re-released on January 1, 2010. It was originally part of the Transformations Anthology. Check it out. It’s funny and sexy and I had a great time writing this story.

As a shapeshifter, Nick Conner can turn into anything or anyone he touches. Along with his brothers and sister, he uses this unique gift for private investigations. But something about their newest case doesn’t sit right. Their client isn’t being honest and their target, Tally, seems way too sweet to be a crook.

Or maybe it’s that Nick wants her to be innocent.

But now he has an even bigger challenge on his hands. He’s made love to Tally in another man’s form—how can he convince her to love the man he truly is

Friday, December 18, 2009


Each year, as New Year’s Eve approaches, my mind shifts into overdrive, and all rational reasoning flees. Somewhere in the sands of time, the law of New Year’s Resolutions is written. Somewhere deep within my genetic makeup is a primitive creature that answers to this law every year. With all sensible thought gone, I construct a “Must Do” or “Goal List” as long as the Alaskan Highway. I know as I write goal #256 on my paper that I will probably not get past tasks #15, if I’m lucky. So this year I asked myself, “Why do I do it?” I know how the course of events will unfold. I’ll be optimistic and motivated in January. By March, my suspicions that I won’t be completing all my tasks begin to creep in. And by June, I am prostrate on the ground in self-condemnation.

I was surprised to find that a mythical king of early Rome, and not a woman, created the tradition of New Year’s Resolutions. After all, resolutions seem like the type of torture a woman would heap upon herself, much like high heels and Spanx. I do want to point out that my research said a mythical king named Janus. Hello, this smacks of woman to me. It’s said he had two faces, one to look to the past, and one to look to the future. If this isn’t woman, I don’t know what is. I believe this is where the term “eyes in the back of her head” came from. Thanks King Janus for providing us with scheduled emotional baggage.

King Janus may have been the first for resolutions, but the celebration of the New Year has been raging for centuries. This year, I choose to throw off my burden of trying to achieve the unachievable. Instead I will bask in the ancient tradition of ringing in the new year with friend, food, and wine. I will embrace the belief that everything will be okay in 2010 if my linen closet isn’t organized, or I don’t get my bathroom painted, or I don’t achieve that super-model body. No, this year I am looking to other countries for their traditions. I notice I gravitate toward the ones where food and alcohol are involved.

In Norway, they make rice pudding and hide an almond inside. Guaranteed wealth goes to the person whose serving has it. I’ll take two helpings.

In Australia, they roast a suckling pig as a symbol of good luck. Often times it’s accompanied by green peppermint ice cream in the shape of a four-leaf clover. Seriously, pork and ice cream, the only thing I can think of that could make it better is to add chocolate and wine.

In Sicily, they say it’s good luck to eat lasagna. I’m going to keep this tradition going all year long.

In Haiti it’s tradition to wear new clothing and exchange gifts. I don’t know about you, but this screams “shopping” to me, and that’s always a good thing.

In Spain you eat twelve grapes when the clock strikes midnight to ring in twelve months of good luck. Good luck and a full serving of fruit, I’m feeling better already. Peruvians add a thirteenth grape to ensure good luck. If twelve is good, thirteen must be better. Kind of like doughnuts.

In Greece bread is baked with a coin buried in the dough. The first slice is for the Christ child, the second for the father of the household, and the third slice is for the house. If the third slice holds the coin, spring will come early. I particularly like this tradition. First of all, Jesus can have the heel of the bread. He’s welcome to it. Second, I live in Alaska, so any chance of bringing spring early, I’m doing it.

So King Janus, you can keep your old New Year’s Resolutions. As for me, I’m ringing in the new year with Lasagna, hot bread (minus the heel), and rice pudding. 2010 is already looking bright.

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

Monday, December 14, 2009

Doll by Juniper Bell

Hi everyone - My first book with Samhain Publishing, a red-hot contemporary erotic romance called "Doll," comes out on December 15. This book would never have seen the light of day without the AKRWA critique group. I'm so grateful for their help -- I even got great feedback from one member's husband! So here's to you all -- you know how much I love you. And now a little bit about "Doll":

Even a plaything can be pushed too far…

Chloe Barnes thought her marriage to a wealthy politician would be the stuff of fairy tales. Instead, he took advantage of her naiveté and used her as a plaything to fulfill his twisted sexual needs. Ten years is enough. She returns to Bellhaven Island to sell the summer cottage she inherited, hoping the money will buy her freedom—and custody of her daughters.

Fisherman Dustin McDougal never forgot the childhood crush he once had on the fairy-like Chloe. The woman she’s become has a haunted look that brings his feelings back, stronger than ever…with a mature edge. Along with all his protective instincts.

Their passion blows stronger than a Maine nor’easter, awakening Chloe to the joy of true love. Yet it may not be strong enough to free her from the past…

Read an excerpt here or click here to purchase "Doll" on December 15.

Thank you for letting me share my excitement about this book release! Happy Holidays!

Juniper Bell

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Fifteen Minute Epiphany

There are two parts to the writing life. The solitary pursuit of putting a story down on “paper,” and the social aspect of meeting fellow writers, putting yourself “out there” and taking classes and conference sessions on learning our craft. My theory is, the most successful writers learn to enjoy both parts of the journey.

On any given day, either part could be my favorite. I definitely love the solitary aspect of writing. I am never bored when I’m in creative mode. But we all have days, weeks, months (well, we hope not months) when we’re stuck far outside of creative mode. Those days we love our social tools: crit groups, online classes, conferences, how to-books, blogs, social networks. I love meeting new people, getting new information, finding a new perspective.

In the social writer’s world we can learn how to motivate ourselves, how to enter contests, how to edit, even how to write in the first darn place! We have every tool for success at the touch of a computer key.

But what happens when your head starts spinning with all that knowledge? What happens when you’re exiled from creative mode AND burned-out on how-to’s? That’s been my question for several weeks lately. I’m information-ed out and honestly afraid of adding any new information to my brain. (As my husband says, “There comes a point when your brain is full, and if you add something new, something old gets pushed out to make room. My brain definitely feels full these days.)

In addition, trying to assimilate all this info takes so much time. I spend whole days doing things that relate only to my writing. For example, writing. And revising and e-mailing and Facebooking and blog-hopping and plotting and cheerleading and critiquing.

The benefit I’ve reaped is that I no longer need a huge incentive to write. Believe it or not, I’ve found my motivation to write or revise something every day—not always a lot, but some.

And I’m grateful for all of this.

So why isn’t my writing life going better? Why am I still often depressed about the state of my so-called career? Sometimes even my life?

It took me a while to give the problem a name. I’m out of balance. I write. But I don’t sew. I don’t scrapbook. I don’t ride my horse. I don’t do any of the things I love that used to fill my days.

Well, I got an unexpected epiphany just yesterday that has me suddenly excited. That dumb kind of excited that makes you think you’re really going to change your life. Answer the problem of no balance. I don’t know if it’s going to work. See, this potential life-changing idea isn’t on a par with, say, marrying my husband, bringing my children home from the hospital or moving to Alaska.

This was my friend paraphrasing Creativity Coach Eric Maisel’s extremely unassuming suggestion: Start every single day with fifteen minutes of something meaningful to you. Fifteen minutes.

When she said this, I thought, “Yeah, yeah, I know. Get your writing done before anything else.” Hey, I’ve been trying to do that for five years – and all it does is frustrate me because I got to great lengths to avoid work first thing in the morning. I told my friend it was a nice idea, good advice, but I’m still working on that one. I still procrastinate. I still feel guilty.

She surprised me. She said, “I decided to start my day with reading. Your fifteen minutes could be scrapbooking or sewing.”


“But I thought writers supposed to write first thing every day.” I said.

“But, what if that doesn’t work for you? You just told me you write better at night. Doesn’t that just put you in a bad mood?”


Turns out, Maisel’s advice centers around doing something you find meaningful, that will put you in a positive mood for the rest of the day. Something that lifts you into the frame of mind to work (in our case write) happily.

I tried it this morning. I got up and I read—for twenty minutes. Before breakfast. Before checking e-mail. Reading is something I normally deny myself because even though it’s fun and its honest “research,” I’ve also convinced myself it’s wasting time. Guess what? When I did it as something meaningful to me—it worked! I’ve had a better day than I’ve had in a couple weeks – mood and energy-wise.

Tomorrow, I’m going to set up my sewing table as my something meaningful. And I’m going to find a small sewing project the next day. Fifteen minutes. There’s no need to do more if I don’t want to. And the thought that doing something other than writing isn’t wasting time is more liberating than anything I’ve heard in ages. My hope is, it will give me creative energy that spills into my writing later in the day, when I actually like to write.
Now, your meaningful thing just might be writing. Wouldn’t that be awesome? Maybe fifteen minutes of writing first thing will put you in your good mood. So, what the heck? Give it a try. Whatever your fifteen minutes brings you—the best thing might be a sense of learning what a cheerful day can do for your creativity. I’m sure ready to find out!

Monday, November 23, 2009

Gearing up to promote the new book

Sorry I haven't been around for a while. Last minute line edits and rewrites on another book have kept me from blogging and my nose to the keyboard. But it's almost over. My new book, A Neighbor's Ultimatum, releases tomorrow (fingers crossed, LOL) from Loose Id, LLC. It's a sequel to my August '08 release, Meeting A Neighbor's Needs, and finishes where the first book left off.
(Shameless plug :))

As for the rewrites, they're still going. Had hoped to have them finished this weekend, but was only able to get 2/3 of the way through them. One of these days I will learn how to write a snappy opening and keep the sexual tension and conflict going from the first page to the last. Just like my books, I'm a work in progress, so the more I practice, the more I learn, and the better my writing gets.

Other things in the works for me include a short novel centered around a ten year high school reunion, the rewrites for Diablo Blanco Club: Midnight Masquerade (Mike Halsey's and Lyssa Lawrence's book), At the Claiming Moon-my first attempt at a paranormal story (time-travel/vampire), and perhaps some rewrites to In A Lover's Silence, my serial killer in Alaska book.

I sometimes wonder if I've bitten off more than I can chew when it comes to writing and working full-time. Fortunately, after today, I'll have almost all of the week off for Thanksgiving holiday. Then only three weeks before Christmas vacation. Keep your fingers crossed that I can get most of this stuff done and out of the way before the new year.

As for now, the day job calls. Hope you all have a great Thanksgiving (if you celebrate it) enjoy the day and the week. And watch out for those crazy shoppers on Friday!!


Monday, November 16, 2009

City Life vs. Alaska Life

Unlike some of my wonderful AKRWA friends, I'm new to Alaska. I moved here almost three years ago after fleeing my high-stress Los Angeles lifestyle. A lot of people ask me what's different about life here, so I put together this side-by-side comparison.

City life versus Alaska life

Drove adorable VW convertible beetle/Drove Subaru down a ravine

Dated dysfunctional comedians/Fell in love with a sweet-hearted carpenter

Learned how to program my TiVo/ Learned how to run a chainsaw

Avoided vicious office politics/ Avoid vicious hungry bears

Never left the house without makeup/ Hoping to take a shower this week

Favorite designer: Cynthia Rowley/ Favorite accessory: duct tape

Thought fifty degrees was a cold snap/ Would kill for fifty degrees

Kept a running tally of celebrities spotted/ Saw twenty moose the other day

Big project: organize shoe closet/Big project: dig a new outhouse

Awesome view of neighbor's driveway/Awesome view of Grewingk Glacier

Two actress/models for every guy/Two bearded eccentrics for every gal

Obsessed with losing weight/Hey, that extra fat layer's for survival

I could go on and on. So many things in my life have changed, but the only really important one is number two. My sweetie. I'd live anywhere with him, and I think I'm proving that on a daily basis. (See: outhouse.)

So yes, life in Alaska can be challenging, but when you wake up to this...'s all worth it.


Friday, November 13, 2009

Stranger in a Strange Land

I like a rut as much as the next person – a comforting, familiar routine where you can accomplish a lot because you know what you’re doing. On the other hand, I hate a rut as much as the next person – living with hamster-wheel dull days and a lack of inspiration as you take the same steps over the same terrain.

So, which emotion is more powerful? For me it depends on the day or the project. If things are going well, I see no need to change the routine. However, if I’m spinning my hamster-wheel, well, it’s time to think outside my comfort zone and head for new territory.

I’ve always felt sorry for people who aren’t willing to TRY something new and different if what they’re doing isn’t working. I’m not talking about Über-Efficient people whose processes work for them all the time. (I only know about three of those people anyhow.) I’m talking about those who follow that definition of insanity: doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results.

Very very often that’s me in a nut(case) shell. So, for my next project I decided to take my squeaking hamster wheel to a strange land. Let me begin by explaining that I LOVE the world of Pantsing. I love the discovery of random conversations leading to the next situation in my story. I love an organic process where I let my characters think for me—tell me their story as I do nothing but data entry. Unfortunately, most of my characters talk just as much as I do. And they like pretty scenery just as much as I do. And the book just kind of goes on and on -- story in there somewhere.

I realized, I don’t wanna deal with editing another book where the last half contains a solid plot and the first half must be edited to fit. Not that it can’t be done-I’m living proof it can. I just don’t wanna.

So my new destination is a place called Plottingland. At first my little hamster wheel rolled down streets I sort of recognized: What Color Are Your Hero’s Eyes Avenue and How Does the Book End Lane. But then we got into the heart of the new country and my wheel tipped over after hitting a plotting board. Let’s just say, Toto, we weren’t in Pantsingworld any longer.

I looked around a landscape of precisely marked-off grids, piled with neat stacks of sticky notes and instructions carefully labeled: Character sketches, Setting sketches, Beginning, Middle, End. And three words that scared me silly: Goal Motivation and Conflict. How the heck was I supposed to navigate this neighborhood? It was Beverly Hills compared to the redneck chaos I’d come from: a place where characters pop out from somewhere in the junkyard of my imagination. How could I possibly know goal motivation and conflict before I’d written the dang story?

And then I found my first guideline. It was, horrors, a “template.” A series of who-what-where-when-how-why type questions that, when filled out, gave me a one-paragraph sketch of My Book. Amazing! Before I’d written a word. And that led to a one-page character sketch, and a full page summary and … and I’m still here in Plottingland working on figuring out my story before even writing the first line. And you know what? It’s fun!

It’s also been several weeks and I still don’t speak “Plotting” very fluently. And there are moments I search desperately for a way to fix my hamster wheel and flee back to Pantsingworld. But I haven’t. I’m planning to stay a stranger in this strange land a while longer, just to see if I can make this something different work.

Okay, this may have sounded like a pitch for that tired old writer’s subject, pantsing vs. plotting with me taking the plotting side. No way. Trust me, my right brain hates me right now. What I want to do is encourage you to try rolling away from that comfort zone when you feel stuck or are tired of the rut that keeps you safe but spinning the wheel. If you’re a pantser—follow me. If you’re a do-or-die plotter, don’t say you can’t do it any other way: set a timer for fifteen minutes and write a scene out of order. Or a chapter. Or, gasp, a character sketch. You never know—your new strange land may end up full of wonderful new friends—and books!

What have you done lately to “think outside your comfort zone?”

Liz Selvig

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Military Life-Straight from a Spouse's Mouth

Hi, all
This isn't really a traditional writing related blog, but I think the subject is important, especially as the country observes Veteran's Day. As a military spouse for the past seven years, I've often been asked questions about military life, and how civilians can show true appreciation to service members. I'll try to shed some light on both those topics today, a day when the nation remembers those who've served, and those who sacrifice every day to protect the freedoms we hold dear, .
What is military life like? . The biggest sacrifice a military family makes is stability. Not just in the sense that you can be shipped 4,000 miles away from everything you've ever known with only two months notice, like my family recently was. I'm talking about the little things...the daily sense that as an adult in a free country, you can do whatever you want, when you want to. That's just not the case for us. I haven't planned a vacation in years; after so many ruined trips, you sort of give up. Even a dinner reservation is a stretch, because the Army has a pesky way of assigning my husband to some extraneous duty on the very night I'd planned to enjoy a meal out. These are basic things that most people take for granted. I never have any assurance my husband can be with me, from doctor's appointments for our son to emergency situations, everything has to be cleared through his chain of command. It's admittedly maddening.
If it seems like I'm complaining, I am, and I've got a right. I feel the need to paint a realistic picture of what the day to day is like for us, because those outside the base gate often don't understand. There are also some good things- the sense of doing something immensely important, the health care benefits, and the sense of camaraderie with other military families. Some days the scale tips in the favor of the good things, and some days it doesn't. The point is that it doesn't matter how I feel about it, military life in unpredictable, and it's the adaptability of the military family that allows our men and women in uniform to do their jobs efficiently.
So, what can the average citizen do to make us feel appreciated? Good question. Business owners should offer a military discount whenever possible; you'd be surprised how little our spouses are paid to dodge bullets. Much like police, firefighters, and teachers, military members are among the most essential employees in this country, because what they do preserves and protects the American way of life. Lobbying to your senator/representative for improved military benefits is also a good way to show you care. Support military charities, such as the Fisher House, Armed Services YMCA, and the USO. Display your flags and yellow ribbons with pride. Offer to babysit, or do laundry for a harried military spouse. And when you see a uniformed service member, out with their spouse and children, why not offer them your heartfelt thanks to them all?
Because when Mom or Dad serves, the whole family does, too.

Kianna Alexander

Monday, November 9, 2009

Writing Historical Romance: It’s the Journey

I write sweet Alaskan historicals. I’m working on a Gold Rush series; my last manuscript was set in 1898 Skagway, and the current one is set in 1900 Nome. For me, the most fun is creating the setting and characters. To create that world, I start with a lot of research on the place and time period. I love reading books on the topic, and digging around the internet to find interesting things my characters would be doing back then. (If you’d like to see a list of books on Alaskan Gold Rush history, see my Schoolmarm’s Library at my web site, I’ve even been lucky enough to go to the places I’ve written about and do some research there. I went to Nome this summer and learned a great deal from some very generous people in town.

The hard part is deciding when I’ve done enough research and need to do some writing. Sometimes I’d like to go on and on, finding out more obscure facts and figures that might be helpful for my book. But at some point I have to admit I have a good sense of the time period and place and I’m ready to move on to the actual writing. Now the real work begins.

When I am writing, I am conscious of all the fun things I know about that setting and want to cram them all into the book. But as Jackie Ivie says in her online class on historical romance, “DO make the story a romance - above all. The emotion is what counts, not how vast your knowledge of the era, nor how spectacularly you form words for the description.” So I have to add little tidbits at a time, and try not to shortchange the characters or the plot just because I know some cool stuff about Nome in 1900. If it’s cool and useful for the story, it’ll find its way in. If not, I’ll have to keep it in my notes and see if it finds a home elsewhere. Sigh.

But along the way, I learn about interesting things and people, fall in love with a setting and its characters, and get to live life in their world for a little while. That’s why I write historicals. It’s the journey.

Friday, October 30, 2009

Bigfoot, Alien Abductions, and Jesus’ Face on a Tortilla

I had hoped to write a timely Halloween blog about the scary creatures that live among us. When I was growing up, these stories graced the front cover of The National Enquirer every week. The paper was one of the few places you could find the in-depth scoops about the unnatural and freaky events happening in our world. Even the movie Men in Black touted the papers value, holding it as some of the best journalism on the planet. Excited about doing research for my blog, I trotted off the store and bought the newest copy. What a horrible disappointment.

The first disturbing thing I noticed was the cover. It looked like every other cover that flanked it. Movie stars in bathing suits. Movie stars locked in passionate embraces of other famous people. I would not have been nearly as disappointed if one of those celebrities had turned into a zombie and had eaten its film crew. But no, these were ordinary stars doing ordinary star stuff. Where were the predictions of Nostradamus? As a young girl, I used to pour over my grandmother’s copy of The Enquirer, trying to decipher the secrets of his prophecies. The cover held no mention of the world ending, or the dead rising, or Billy Bob’s neighbor turning into a werewolf. It’s almost Halloween, for crying out loud, where’s the horror?

As I flipped the pages, I became frantic looking for headlines like; ‘I GAVE BIRTH TO BIGFOOT’S BABY’, or ‘I SAW JESUS’ FACE ON A TORTILLA SO I ATE IT AND CLEANSED MY COLON FROM SIN.’ There was nothing, not a single mention of the half shark man, time machines, or a 100-foot sandwich. I also noticed a stunning lack of alien abductions, anal probes, and crop circles. They have all been replaced by story after story of too thin movie stars, divorcing movie stars, yoga gurus dishing the dirt on movie stars, and new mom movie stars who got their bodies back within 48 hours of giving birth. Sure these articles are scary, but they're not worthy of a Halloween blog. Thankfully, The Enquirer still had over forty listings for psychic hotlines in the back, but where were the hard-hitting scoops about the Batboy, or the prehistoric dinosaur caught in a lake in Alaska, or the 700-pound ballerina? I’m sorry to say, my friends, that those days are gone. The once solid icon of sensationalized journalism has sold out to the lure of Hollywood.

So when you need to know about the cannibalistic tribes of the Serengeti, the latest sighting of the Loch Ness Monster, or when the world is going to end, don’t bother looking to The National Enquirer for answers. The only thing you will find there is how to cleanse your colon just like the stars do.

Halloween Treats for All!

It's such a busy day today, I'm not sure where to start...

Today is Day 9, and the final day to enter the Cupcake Give Away hosted by Romance in the Backseat. Lots of great items being given away in the name of Breast Cancer Awareness. Juniper Bell and I (Morgan O'Reilly) are participating, so you could win one of our books.

Today is also the Halloween Hotties Blog Hop in which Tielle St. Clare joins the fun. Hop from blog to blog, comment, and you're automatically entered to win free books! Some of the authors have more give aways on the side, so be sure to read carefully. And of course, enjoy the eye candy. Fat free goodies galore!

Morgan O'Reilly
Get Some Tonight

Friday, October 23, 2009

Of Sense and Sensibility: Writing a Series

Just having left Mr. DZ’s Dinner on Route 66, this blog comes to you from the navigator seat of our Kia Sedona as my husband and I drive through the Arizona desert toward the Grand Canyon! After twenty-five years in Alaska, I am finally taking advantage of seeing America. Thank heaven for laptops and satellite connectivity. As a full time writer, I can work from anywhere, including a van doing 75 mph on Route 66! But I digress… this blog is supposed to be about the pitfalls of writing a series, not my life on the road.

Vamp Squad; The Series began as a single book about one particular member of a group of female undercover anti-terrorist operatives for the US government. My group of hot vamps were the invention of a mind that wanted to combine strong female characters, exciting action, hot romance, and the paranormal twist of vampires. I combined all of that with the need to kick the Taliban’s butt and came up with Strange Beginnings, the first mission of the newly formed Vamp Squad. And that was fine, until I got to the end of the book and wanted more… I wanted each of my lively and individual characters to have their own love interest and mission. Hence a series was born! Like any first time mother, I had no idea what I was in for.

I knew writing one novel involved knowing your hero and heroine intimately, doing your research well and adding secondary characters as the plot and scenes developed. But writing a series, holy moley! Strange Beginnings centered around Natalia and Yuri, and rolled out of my mind in a flurry of words and key strokes. I had no idea I would need to recall all of the little details I had built into their world and the intricate facts I had established with the first book. When Susannah, my fledgling nineteen year old, began screaming about her own story in my mind, I was at a loss to squelch the urge to write her book. Then came Monique, the French vixen and the coven’s mistress, Elizabetta. Lastly, quiet, stately MorningStar, my wonderful Native vampire urged her tale. It was only the beginning!

So, what color was the Colonel’s hair? Who was Natalia’s assistant? Where was Yuri originally from? Was Develin a captain or a major? Which bad guy died and which one will come back to haunt us? Where did Monique come from? Who turned Elizabetta? I was scrambling for the details and continually re-reading my own manuscripts. After a while, it’s amazing how much you can’t remember of the stuff you created and wrote! Sense should have told me to keep track of things. The sensibility of it was glaringly apparent, later on. As Susannah’s story, book 2, unfolded and I built more specifics into the history of the Vamp Squad, I found that I needed to edit some of the first book. And I couldn’t always remember who belonged to what car and the correct names of secondary characters that popped in and out of both books. I even spelled some names a couple different ways. What I did know was that if I got it wrong, someone would let me know when they bought the book and found the mistake (readers are great at that).

Thank God for the Emerald City Writer’s conference that came along about the same time as Susannah’s incessant yowling. I attended a workshop on writing a series and within forty-five minutes, figured out how to solve alleviate my problems. It’s called Continuity Profile and comes in a file (or three-ring binder) full of tabs, forms, timelines and other very helpful notes. I learned how to create and record a character profile (everything from eye color to favorite pets and ugly childhood memories), set up a master timeline of events and keep track of special notes cataloged by book, character, event, and timeline. It was a God-send. Though it took some time to create, especially after the fact, having an easy and quick way to look up information made writing subsequent books much more efficient and I spent less time wading through previous books looking for that one little fact from Book 1 that just happened to raise it’s ugly head in Book 4! I know the colonel’s hair is sandy blonde, Natalia’s assistant is the ever-vigilant Petra, Yuri is from Petropavlovsk, Develin is a captain and the bad guys all die. Except for… well, that would be telling now, wouldn’t it?

My series is into Book 7 and my gals are happy, but some of the more interesting secondary characters have begun to talk out of turn. When will it end? Probably never! A good series with fresh plots and great characters is like a little piece of home. There may be some new faces as the family grows, the places may have a different coat of paint or take on new elements, but the series will be there when you want another taste of the new and exciting but familiar in some aspects. Just like home, only with vampires and big guns…and missions to save the world, and fabulously hot romance. How could it be anything but fabulous with the Vamp Squad?

So here’s a little piece of advice from the one who did it the hard way. If you decide to write a series, develop a Continuity Profile right off the bat. Keep it updated and handy. It will make your life much easier and writing much more fun!

Happy hunting.

Miriam Matthews

To find out more about Miriam Matthews or see a sneak preview of Vamp Squad; the Series, go to

Monday, October 19, 2009

My First Conference

My First Conference

16 Days Before the Conference:

In less than three weeks, I will be going to my first writer’s conference. I can’t wait. I’ve been to conferences with my husband, he’s an optometrist, and may I sum up that experience with one simple consonant; “ZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZ.” But, this conference is all about me, no kids, no husband, no dishes. I will be participating in a group pitch session. I hear that ‘it’s good practice.’ I understand this to mean that pitching is a painful, yet necessary right of passage in a writer’s life. Taking this to heart, I decide not to be nervous. I doubt the agent/editor will verbally flog me if they don’t like my story. I doubt I’ll be made to sit in the corner with a dunce hat on if my stories hook isn’t catchy enough, will I?

10 Days Before the Conference:
Today my focus is on my wardrobe. I’ve been an at-home-mom for a number of years and own very little in the way of ‘business casual’ dress. What I do own is nice, but over the last couple of years, I’ve stacked on a few extra pounds. I keep meaning to correct that situation, but every time I feel the impulse to exercise, my mind overrides it with the command to lie down and read a good book. I’ve tried joining a gym, where there’s nothing to lay down on, but my car is possessed. Instead of ending up at the club, I end up at Starbucks. The one near my house is inside of a grocery store. They sell doughnuts, not a good start to a workout. As the conference approaches, I must accept that I will not lose 40 lbs. within the next 10 days. I’m going to have to work with what I’ve got. I have learned that trying on clothes in my heightened state of fluffiness is like moving. I’m trying to cram all my junk into a container that can realistically only hold half the mass. Since my clothes are not going to conform to my more voluptuous figure, I’m going to have to get a bigger container.

One Week Before the Conference:
Appropriate apparel located! I tick that off my ‘To Do’ list. Now my focus moves to preparing the family for my absence. There is some innate need to make the world completely right before I exit the house. Why is this? When I’m at home the laundry is rarely caught up. You will never find precooked meals in the frig waiting to be reheated. Why do I feel the need to clean my house? Do I think it’s going to stay that way while I’m gone? I have two 8 yr. old, human tornadoes, able to destroy a room in a single pass. I will only be gone for three days. It’s not like they’re going to starve. Even if they didn’t eat the entire time I was away, they would still be alive when I got home. Heck, even the dog knows to drink out of the toilet when the water dish is dry. Maybe I’ll thaw some hot dogs.

1 Day Before the Conference:
Prior to any trip I take, I briefly entertain the thought that I will only take carry-on luggage. As I stand looking down at my big suitcase, I throw my head back and laugh. It’s filled with items to be donated for the basket raffle. This works out well since I’m quite sure I will be winning one of the baskets; donated items out, won items in. I may as well pack an extra pair of wongie-waistbands. There is nothing like putting on stretchy pants after a long day of conferencing. I cram my tennis shoes on top. Maybe the hotel has an exercise room. I pause, who am I kidding? I toss the sneakers back in the closet. I crack myself up sometimes.

The Conference and Home:
I’ve been home for five days and the conference high is wearing off. I’m exhausted and I still haven’t unpacked. Emptying my suitcase feels like the fun is over for another year. However, I have a lot to accomplish before next year’s conference rolls around. Four things have become my mantra for the next 365 days.
1. Write, write, and write. Get the story down on paper and stop obsessing. There’s always time to edit.
2. Let my voice shine through, which will happen, if I write.
3. Don’t get lost in the time suck of email, Facebook, Twitter, and a thousand other venues. Instead, turn off the internet and write.
4. Keep my butt in the chair. The refrigerator doesn’t need to be cleaned. The silverware drawer doesn’t need to be organized. I don’t need to try on all my old makeup until the pages are written. Focus on the goal. Write.
Okay, so there might be one reoccurring theme, but it’s an important one, write the book. The conference has shown me that I am capable of writing much more than I’ve required of myself thus far. Nobody is going to write my book for me. As-a-matter-of-fact, nobody but me really cares if I ever write a book. Family members still want to eat; the school still wants me to volunteer; and the dog still wants me to walk him. Nobody cares whether I sacrifice sleep in exchange for that hour of quiet writing time.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Plotting the Window

As I ponder what to write for my very first blog, I keep getting distracted by the insulation contractor thudding up and down the ramp to my addition. Construction has consumed all my energy of late, and at the moment its hard not to be resentful of the time it has taken away from my manuscripts.

But even with all the physical activity, my mind is never far from writing. Take “pantsing” versus plotting and my recent experience installing windows. Windows require framing the opening just so. If you just wing things, you might need some serious rearranging before you can actually display to the world your shiny new glass. On my addition, when I lifted the first pane into place, I discovered the opening was an inch and a half too short.

It really stinks to put in a whole lot of effort only to discover that what you created doesn’t work and has to be chopped and hacked. Think sawzalls and chisels and the awful squeak of galvanized nails coming out of boards you were just sure would be stout enough to withstand the strongest Alaskan earthquake. They probably would have, but I had to rip them out. I still used the same opening, but it was a lot of work to rearrange king studs and cripples and header boards and the OSB siding I’d already installed. And my beautiful framing is now a mess. If only I’d plotted that window beforehand!

No one will ever know I went through all this by looking at the window. The trim and siding cover up errors on the outside, while sheetrock will eventually hide all the mistakes on the inside. But much like my first novel, I wish I had saved myself the effort.

On the other hand, each window you install gets easier and better. The second window I planned better, and it went much more smoothly, with only minor bubbles in the flashing and a few bent nails in the lip. By the time I got to my fifth and largest window, I was darn proud to have it on the front of the house.

And just like those windows, my fifth manuscript, February Trust, was pretty enough to place second in the Emerald City Writer’s Conference.

So I will keep writing. I will think of it like installing windows into imaginary lives. And someday, my manuscript will be skillful enough to be a pane of shiny new glass with a publishing house.

Until then, it’s back to the addition on my own house.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Criss-Crossing Conversations

When I began to write Maxwell’s Fall and Jackson’s Rise, I knew the books were going to be connected but even I was a bit surprised how intertwined the stories became.

A little background…Jackson and Maxwell are identical twins and werewolves. In the second book of the series (Summer’s Caress) you meet the twins and I enjoyed these characters so much, I decided they needed their own stories.

The two books begin with the exact same scene, just written from a different point of view. The scene phone call between the brothers. Each brother is hiding something from the other. Being twins (and werewolves), they sense something is wrong r and individually decide on an impromptu visit to see their twin. They cross in the air, one arriving Anchorage, Alaska and the other in Las Vegas, Nevada.

I could have stopped there. They’d ended up in their respective cites and barreled into their conflict (or it barreled into them). The stories would have been good written separately. Instead, the books became wrapped around each other. They occur in the same week. And there are several phone calls…between the books. It was like dialing across manuscripts. Jackson calls Mandy, Reign calls Max. Both sides of the conversation appear, but in their respective books.

For example, in Maxwell’s Fall, after experiencing a night of incredible sex with a man she believes is Jackson, Mandy receives a voice message from the real Jackson. He apologizes for the previous night and sounds distracted. Mandy is crushed. She thinks he’s apologizing for making love to her.

In Jackson’s Rise, you get to see what he’s apologizing for and find out what (or who) is distracting him.

The books were written at the same time and when a line of dialogue changed in one book, it had to be changed in the other.

It’s not necessary to have read Maxwell’s Fall to enjoy and understand Jackson’s Rise—the stories stand completely on their own—but it was great fun as a writer to incorporate both POVs in a scene. We rarely get to live the scene from more than one person’s mind.

Moment of blatant self-promotion…Jackson’s Rise comes out from Ellora’s Cave October 7, 2009. Check it out!

Have fun,

Friday, October 2, 2009

I Heart Writers Groups

Okay, so I'm moving. You know what that means: cramming my life into boxes, giving away half my possessions, filling out change of address forms, and in my case ... ((sob)) ... leaving my writers group! Yes, I'm going to do what I can to make it to meetings, but reality is, most of my Tuesday evenings will now be bleak and lonely. No more venting about plot points and query letters and contest judges who just don't get me. No more unconditional support and offers of chocolate after a rejection. No more celebrating after a contract offer.

Sure, my sweetie does his best. But he doesn't understand what we writers go through. And I'm pretty sure my babblings would eventually drive him insane. Should I pick out a handy birch tree that won't mind listening to me? Hire a teenager to nod sympathetically? Maybe provide a script?

No, nothing can replace a good writers group. Getting together with like-minded people who GET IT is like oxygen. I still remember how nervous I was when it was time for my first critique. I kept ducking into the bathroom hoping we'd run out of time before it was my turn. But my lovely critiquers came through. They gently pointed out "head-hopping" issues, but also made me feel on top of the world with just the right amount of praise. I left inspired, motivated, humbled, relieved, and chanting the mantra, "I love this group!" And then I read their work. OMG! So talented, so amazing, so diverse.

My group helped me learn how to be a writer, how to get my work out there, how to handle the ups and downs of this crazy business. Writing has to be the loneliest job next to long-haul trucking. And truckers get to hang out at rest stops. Maybe writers groups are our rest stops. Places where we can recharge, connect with others of our kind, and exchange war stories from the road.

Would anyone else like to give a shout-out to their writers group? Let's give our groups some love. Make sure they know how much they're appreciated. I LOVE my group, but it will be from a distance now. Thank God for the Internet, and Yahoo loops. And for the fact that I'll be close enough to make the trip once a month. Hmm ... it's a long drive ... maybe I should take up long-haul trucking. ;)

Monday, September 28, 2009

The Sweet Smell of September

Effort, and
Trying your best
Each hour of the day,
Making new friends,
Being good as you can
Exciting discoveries,
Reading books with a friend."
- Boni Fulgham

This is most likely more appropriate at the beginning of the month, rather than the end, but as I was searching for inspiration, it struck me.

I always look forward to September. For me, rather than January 1, it has always seemed to be the true start of the year. Probably from associations with school. The death of summer, the start of a new school year. Tom Hanks said it well in “You’ve Got Mail” when he spoke of newly sharpened pencils. I also like to buy a candle in the scent of MacIntosh Apple for September.

For us here in the Far North, September brings leaves of red and gold and the smell of decay. You can smell the mustiness of leaves and mushrooms and the crispness of snow in the air. It’s a month of change. Flip flops are replaced by racks of snow suits in the stores. Boots and slippers go on sale. Sweaters take over the clothing racks and snow shovels push aside the grills and patio umbrellas. Halloween will be on the shelves if not this week, next for sure.

This week I’ll dig up my summer garden of weeds and scatter Arctic Lupine and Shasta Daisy seeds hoping come spring I’ll have an instant garden. Well, almost instant garden. The lemon thyme and Johnny Jump-ups should come back next year and I’ll start my Sweetpeas come March. I’ll also buy my pansy and petunia starts much, much sooner.

So until my garden can grow outside once more (inside my tomatoes are ripening one by one!) I’ll look to the last line of the poem above – Reading Books With a Friend – or three. And writing. Yeah, it’s a good time of year to hunker down and spend my time reading and writing.

What do you like about Fall? I’d love to see recipes, hear about rituals, and even see what you’ve got on your TBR pile. What makes Fall great for you?

Morgan Q. O'Reilly
Get Some Tonight
Find me on FaceBook

Monday, September 7, 2009

A Bright Hello from Qwillia

Hey there,

I'm using my pen name just in case my students decide to get sneaky and try to look up my real name on the web. LOL. Wanted to say hello and crow about the fact that my January 2009 release, Diablo Blanco Club: Unfair Advantage, went to print at the end of August. YAY!

It's available for order online from Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and Books A Million, as well as Loose Id, LLC. Links can be found on my website under the Books by Qwillia Rain page. Website address is:

I'm also feeling particularly relieved today because I just finished the first round of edits on A Neighbor's Ultimatum, the menage & M/M novella scheduled to release November 10th. It's a sequel to Meeting A Neighbor's Needs and takes up where the first book left off. And just for clarification--there won't be anymore books with these three in it.

Writing is not as easy as it looks. There are so many people out there who think it just takes an idea and a computer to become an author and it takes sooo much more than that. I can tell you, I've spent the last four days writing and re-writing the story and trying to figure out how to fix the issues raised by my editor.

But, I'm preaching to the choir. The other authors contributing to this blog know just how difficult writing can be. Getting the story onto the page is just the first stage. You have the editing, re-editing, re-writing, chopping out and plopping in of passages, details, and plot twists that make the story that much deeper.

I guess it's appropriate that I discuss the labor involved in producing a novel--considering it's Labor Day!

Hope everyone had a great weekend and you've had fun with family and friends. I'm off to relax in front of the television and work on the changes that need to be made to two other manuscripts under consideration by my publisher.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Congrats to the AK Heat Wave Winners!

First, we want to say a huge Thank You to everyone who entered!
What a fabulous turnout we had.

Our Grand Prize goes to Marilyn S. from Seattle, Washington.
She had the luck to have her name drawn to recieve all four books!

Our runner-up winners are:

Virginia C.
Juniper Bell’s The Extremist

Sandra M.
Kianna Alexander’s Skye’s the Limit

Ashley V.
Shea McMaster’s Six Foot Hero

Heather H.
Tielle St. Clare’s Maxwell’s Fall
Thanks to everyone who played along and/or purchased our books!
Stay with us as more exciting announcements are made in the coming weeks.
Also, our chapter members will blog weekly. If you have questions about life in Alaska, we'd love to hear them. Post your questions here, or email them to

Sunday, August 23, 2009

New Releases/Tummy Tremors

You probably know about the Alaska Heat Wave…we’ve got 4 authors with new releases within about 10 days. Two debut authors (Kianna Alexander and Juniper Bell) and two of us who’ve done this before (Shea McMaster and me!).

Soon it will be my turn.

Maxwell’s Fall
comes out August 26 from Ellora’s Cave (don’t you love the slick bit of shameless self-promotion I nudged in there unnoticed?). Maxwell’s Fall will be my 24th story Ellora’s Cave has published and you know, my stomach still gets in little knots on release day. For some reason, I assumed it would become old news…ho-hum, another book came out today. Hasn’t happened yet. Each time I have a new release, I sit at my computer waiting for people to write and say they bought it, read it in one sitting and loved it. (It’s my fantasy and I like to dream big!). Or, heaven forbid, they write to say “it’s not as good as _______” (insert book title here).

That’s the part that makes my stomach tremble. Okay, it hasn’t happened (yet!) but I’m an author. I think we’re insecure by nature. It’s part of the job description, right?

Which means that most authors are probably sitting at the computer on release day wondering who is buying their book and what will they think. So I guess I’ll just join the crowd…tap, tap, tapping on my keyboard waiting for the world to respond.

Don’t forget…Maxwell’s Fall comes out on Wednesday (I’m not even trying to slip that one by you). It’s a sequel to New Year’s Kiss and Summer’s Caress, m/m/f werewolf romance. You met the twins in Summer’s Caress. Max goes to Alaska to check on his brother (Jax) and winds up involved with his brother’s woman. And best friend. It’s really quite fun. Go to for more information or check it out on the Coming Soon page of Jasmine-Jade. (

And don’t forget to sign up for the Alaska Heat Wave contest. You could win a free ebook from one of the four authors. Send an email to to enter! And check out Maxwell’s Fall on Wednesday!

Have fun!

Monday, August 17, 2009

Happy Release Day!

Happy Release Day!

How hot is the Alaska Heat Wave? So hot, you might find yourself lounging on a pink sand beach, diving into turquoise water, doing naughty things with a sexy stranger! You might take a trip to beautiful Cat Island, where you encounter a mysterious man who calls himself the “Extremist.” Who is he, and why can’t you resist him? How does he manage to push your boundaries and bring out a sensual side you never knew existed?

Only one way to find out: Enter the Alaska Heat Wave contest for a chance to win The Extremist, a debut novella by Juniper Bell. Or you can visit her Web site for a blurb, excerpt and a buy link. The heat is on. Crank up the air conditioning and let the Extremist push your boundaries...

And that’s not all… What an amazing day for AKRWA. It’s also the release day for Six Foot Hero by Shea McMaster, the sweeter side of Morgan Q. O’Reilly. Sometimes a woman needs a hero. For Nicole Dahl, a vacation in Alaska brings unexpected trouble, and only one man can help her, a hero who’s six feet and smokin’ hot. You can find a blurb, excerpt and buy link here.

We’ll give you a couple days to cool off, but temps will rise again on August 20 with Kianna Alexander’s debut novel Skye’s the Limit. So enter the Alaska Heat Wave contest now and join the fun!

Sunday, August 16, 2009

New Releases Begin Tomorrow!

The heat in our Heat Wave is about to go up a few dozen degrees!

Tomorrow kicks of the first two of four new releases for AKRWA authors and we couldn't be more excited!

First up is Debut Author Juniper Bell and her novella The Extremist. Be sure to check out the excerpt on her website and then follow the link to Liquid Silver books. The Buy link will be live tomorrow, Monday August 17, 2009.

Also releasing tomorrow is the re-edited, improved, with a new publisher, Six Foot Hero by Shea McMaster, the sweeter side of Morgan Q. O'Reilly. An excerpt is now up at Lyrical Press, and the Buy link will be live tomorrow as well.

And if you want a chance to get these books and two more for free (the Grand Prize), or one of the four new releases (Four second place winners), send an email with your name to

Welcome to the hotter side of Alaska. Find out why our volcanoes like to pop off every once in a while.

Sunday, August 9, 2009


Hi, all
Thanks for coming to the grand opening of our new blog. We're glad you stopped by. We are the Alaska chapter of Romance Writers of America, a diverse group of wordsmiths who write everything from erotica, to sci-fi, to suspense and historicals. And through it all, we laugh together, crochet together, and support each other.
August is an exciting month for us, as we have four new releases coming out in a ten day span! All that toiling away at our computers paid off, and now you, the reader, can reap the benefits. Below you will find the information about our current contest. Good luck, and happy reading!

It's an Alaska Heat Wave!

Enter to win one of the four new releases!

One Grand Prize Winner will receive a copy of all four books.

Four more will win one of the four books in a random drawing.

Send your name to

You may be added to the mail lists of the four authors and AKRWA, but you may unsubscribe at anytime. Names will be drawn randomly from all entries.

Contest begins August 10 and ends August 31, 2009

Brought to you by

The Alaska Chapter

of the

Romance Writers of America

AKRWA is a non-profit organization and reaps no monetary reward from this contest

Kianna Alexander