Monday, March 28, 2011

Operation Auction

Earlier this month, Fatin Soufan, a dedicated supporter of the romance genre, lost her husband in an act of senseless violence. You can read more about the tragedy that left Fatin and her four children in mourning here. I don't personally know Fatin, and many of you may not, but I'm truly saddened by her loss.

In a show of love, friendship and support, the writing community has put together Operation Auction to raise money for Fatin and her children. The auction is now live, and everything from books, certificates, critiques by your favorite authors/agents, and much, much more is up for bid. Please stop by and check it out. It's a great cause.

I hope to see you back here next Monday for my interview with Harequin Superromance author, Amy Knupp! She'll be giving away a hot firefighter...well, okay...not an actual firefighter, but really close ;)

Monday, March 21, 2011

Interview with Ellora's Cave author Kaily Hart

Spring is officially here, and I can't think of a better way to celebrate than to have my friend, Kaily Hart, back to visit! For those of you who missed her first interview here, Kaily and I met at our very first RWA meeting in DC a couple of years ago. Last June, she published her first novella with Ellora's cave, and earlier this month she celebrated her third novella release, Play Me. On top of all that, this busy mom and IT professional is also writing fulls targeting Harlequin Blaze. You can't miss what she has to say on embracing both traditional and epublishing.

Rula, thanks so much for having me here today! I love your interviews. I know you’re always going to ask really well thought out and interesting questions.

Thanks, Kaily. It's great to have you back again with insight and advice on writing in an ebook world. Let's get started!

1. Writing comes first, but writing is also a business. How do juggle the demands of social networking along with release publicity and life in general, and still preserve your writing time?

Badly? LOL. Seriously, this is probably my biggest challenge. For me, the business side comes naturally. Business is my background, I’m very organized and it feels familiar to me. You set goals, layout a schedule and work at it bit by bit until it’s done. I have to be conscious not to let that side of things get too much priority just because it is so comfortable. I’m still learning what makes Kaily most creative and productive and when. The simple answer is I set limits. I’ve began limiting certain times in the morning for admin/online stuff. The call of the internet is strong, though. I might have to take my laptop out into the backyard periodically where my wireless can’t reach! Don’t laugh. I’ve seriously considered that. I’m also pretty addicted to Facebook LOL!

For the release of PLAY ME, I scaled back on the blogging actually from the prior 2 releases. I’ve got some paid ads going and I’ve booked a few things, but nothing like I’ve done before. I found it really sucked the creative life out of me and I couldn’t write for the longest time after. Now, I’m not willing to have that time be non-writing time! Life in general? It’s chaotic. It’s always chaotic, but that’s not going to change so I try to be as organized as I can and fit in what I need to do whenever I can. Of course, that means I’m often on the computer late at night! But hey, I love that!

2. You've written both novellas and full length manuscripts. Pacing differs greatly depending on the targeted story length. Do you approach story planning differently depending on the length?

I have a hybrid style of panster and plotter. I find with the novellas, I’m a bit more of a panster. Sometimes, I’ll start with an idea of the characters & situation and just jump right in. The way I write though means that what I’m really doing on that first ‘rough and dirty’ draft is my version of outlining. And it’s ugly. Some of it’s “written”, but some of it’s just raw dialogue, random thoughts and sometimes it’s just bullet points of what’s going to happen. If anyone saw what my WIP looks like during this time, they’d think I was a crazy person. With a novella, you have to start running from page one, be careful to limit secondary characters and make every word count!

3. With three novellas under your belt, what have you learned about the editorial/revision process? Do you now have your editor's voice in your head while writing that first draft?

That I’m getting better at it? LOL. I hope. With each book, I get a handle on something and then another ‘flaw’ will pop up. With PLAY ME, I was fortunate that I didn’t have revisions, as such. It was things like the use of italics and the correct way to punctuate them. This is very important for a book that will become an ebook because it can screw with the formatting. Of course, there’s editor review and line editor reviews to ensure nothing is mixed, but quality ultimately reflects on the author so I like to ensure I understand all of that. I also mixed up further & farther and used the word ‘big’ way too much. Imagine, using the word ‘big’ too much in erotic romance J? I gave my editor some amusement over that. They’re really very minor items that are easily fixed, but I do feel with each book I get more competent and the stories seem to be more solid. Grammar aint my strength J! When I’m writing, I do recall things from prior edit cycles. Grace (Bradley) would be pleased that she’s training me so well!

4. Any embarrassing moments as you got in the swing of working with an editor?

Well, sometimes you have to talk through the mechanics of the sex/love scenes. I remember with PICTURE THIS, Grace came back with a comment that she didn’t think my final love scene and the position was technically ‘possible’. Of course, I needed to improve my description and how I had depicted it, but it can get a little embarrassing trying to tell an editor that yes, it is possible and you know it is for a fact because, well…you just know J. Now, I don’t think I bat an eyelid over stuff like that.

5. Comparing epublishing to traditional publishing is almost like comparing a novella to a full length manuscript...the pacing of epublishing is very fast! Any time-management/deadline juggling advice to authors hoping to pursue epublishing while working on a full length submission to a traditional publisher?

Epublishing can move fast, especially when you’re an in house author. It can depend on what’s on your editor’s desk at that time and what her/his other authors are doing. My editor is incredibly responsive. I usually get something back from her on the same day, even if it’s just a ‘I got it and will get back to you xxx’. I think with epublishing timeframes are probably a lot more predictable as well. I know roughly how long it will take for the submission, edits, and from there—publication. With ‘traditional NY’ publishing it’s a bit more nebulous, but certainly much longer. I think it’s totally doable to be targeting ‘NY’ and have a healthy epublishing career. It’s just about how you plan your time. Throw self-publishing into the mix and there’s more options for authors today than ever before!

6. Although you currently write sizzling hot contemporaries, you also have your eye on paranormal romance. What do you think fans of paranormal romance find so compelling about the genre? What do you like best about it?

I do have my eye on it, but it won’t be vampires or shifters! I think readers immerse themselves in romance for the fantasy and escapism in a framework of ‘what if’. Paranormal romance is kind of the ultimate version of that. It lets you take that fantasy aspect and escapism to the next level. I’ve always been interested in the paranormal, even from a very young age and I read a lot in the genre. For me it would seem to be the perfect blend of contemporary (because I think my voice is really suited to that) and an interest I have in exploring the incredible.

7. Other than not quitting, what advice do you have for writers pursuing publication?

Educate yourself. There’s a wealth of information out on the internet on publishers, agents and the industry in general. Only with knowledge can you decide what you want to get out of your writing and position yourself properly. There is a great deal of things you can’t control in the submission process, but you can drive it so that you’re targeting the right publishers and lines and determining the best way to get your work in front of the right editor all with your longer term objectives in the forefront of your mind. Whew!

8. Looking back, is there anything you wish you'd known sooner?

A lot! Everything! But it’s kind of like when you’re pregnant for the first time and everyone says ‘get as much sleep as you can before the baby’s born’. Intellectually you know that’s the right thing to do, but do you really do it? No, right? You always hear when you submit that the best thing to do is continue writing. Forget about your submission and just focus on writing the next story. I did continue to write through my submission cycles, but I wish I’d taken that gem to heart and really written a whole heck of a lot more. Writing really is the best way to become a better writer.

9. Now for some you have a quirky writing habit? Come on. We won't laugh too hard ;)

Mmmm. I think my entire creative process is a bit quirky. I don’t write my books in order. I just can’t. For someone who’s very analytical and organized this perplexes me, but I can’t write linearly. My mind just doesn’t create a story that way. I “see” and “hear” in scenes and I write what I see and hear at that time. It does make it challenging to knit it all together at some point but somehow it all works.

10. You've got a deadline looming and it's time to crack down. What comfort snack is a must to have on hand?

Gosh, that’s probably the hardest question. I don’t really ‘snack’ as such. I know, you hate me, right? I would never go eat candy or get a cookie or anything like that. The thing I probably reach for when I really need to get serious with the writing is a Diet Coke. I just stopped to take a sip as I’m writing this J. I recently weaned myself off caffeine completely, but it snuck back in. Somehow. I’m hooked again. It seems to be a writer staple, whatever form it comes in—coffee, soda, chocolate! Pick your poison, ah…comfort snack.

Comfort snacks and comfort reads! Thanks for ringing in Spring with us, Kaily!

BLURB: Play Me

Lily Hamilton had her quiet, predictable life all mapped out, including a hot-shot attorney for a fiancé. That is until she catches him screwing around and takes off in his prized Mercedes, for once not giving a damn where she’s headed. How clichéd is that?

Gabriel Jackson is raw and disillusioned. Driving a tow truck is a far cry from the dangerous career he turned his back on, but when he finds the classy blonde in a dangerous part of LA, he’s immediately back in the role of protector.

Lily is hot and sweet and so out of his league it’s not funny, yet Gabe can’t deny the sizzling heat between them. He thinks he wants hard, fast and rough—until he gets his hands on her. He knows he should stay the hell away, but Lily makes him feel, really feel, for the first time in two years. Is she just slumming or can she see beyond the harsh, broken façade to the man beneath? A man who dreams of making her his?

Note: The following links are for adults only.

GIVEAWAY: Kaily is hosting a giveaway at her blog. The prizes are calendars featuring romance cover model, Jimmy Thomas! A couple are even signed by him. The contest runs through March 24th, midnight (eastern time) and winners will be announced at her blog on March 25th. Just leave a comment and mention that you'd like to be entered in the drawing. Check out contest details and ways to increase your chances of winning here.



Thursday, March 17, 2011

Winner of Kimberly Van Meter's Giveaway!

And the winner of a book from Kimberly's backlist and mouthwatering chocolate is...

Amanda Gardner!

Congratulations, Amanda! Just email Kimberly at:
author (at) kimberlyvanmeter (dot) com. You can also contact her through her website. Enjoy!

Monday, March 14, 2011

Interview with Harlequin Superromance and Romantic Suspense author Kimberly Van Meter

Please help me give a warm welcome to award winning Harlequin Superromance and Harlequin Romantic Suspense author Kimberly Van Meter. Kimberly published her first novel with Harlequin in 2006 and has been raking in the accolades ever since, including her recent 2010 Cataromance Reviewers Choice Award for Trusting The Body Guard. She's also springing into March with an RT Book Reviews Top Pick for the first of her new Mama Jo's Boys Superromance series, The Past Between Us. Pick up any of her books and I promise you'll be hooked.

Kimberly is giving away a book from her backlist and mouth-watering chocolate to one lucky winner! All you have to do is leave a comment. She has super insight and advice on writing, so read on. I won't hold you in suspense any longer ;).

1. As a journalist, you've covered everything from education and health to crime. What real-life story have you encountered during your journalism career that is too unbelievable to make it as a Superromance?

Well, I'm not sure if they're unbelievable in so much as they are simply inappropriate for the Superomance line. I work the crime and fire beat now and there's nothing heroic about the men and women who beat their children, wives, husbands, do drugs and thump on the grandmothers who are supporting them. I see the seedier side of the community and sometimes the stories are horrific, particularly when they involve children. It's truly sad. That's why I enjoy writing fiction, too. I get to make sure that the bad men and women get their due, because in real life as we all know, sometimes they get away with their criminal behavior.

2. I think different writing fields (technical, research, journalism, fiction etc...) are kind of like different languages. They're all language, but just because you speak/write one doesn't mean you've mastered them all. You're exceptionally talented at both journalism and romantic fiction. Was there a writing style or habit you formed as a journalist that you had to break in order to 'break' into fiction? What journalism experience helped?

Actually, yes. In journalism, unless you're using a narrative style (which is only appropriate for certain stories and sparingly) you're "telling" readers the information but as it's been told before, in good fiction, you're "showing" more than you're "telling." My journalism background comes in most handy for deadlines. I've worked in news for the past 14 years, for a daily as well as a weekly, and deadlines are just part of the job. So when I get back-to-back deadlines on my books, I don't blink an eye. I also don't sweat revisions because I've had someone looking over, critiquing and even changing my work for a long time. I think without this training ground, I might've balked at the idea of someone monkeying around with my work.

3. You wrote your first book at age 16! Definitely a turning point in your writing career. I'd love know if it was a teen romance :). I'd also love to hear about your 'Call' story.

Ah yes. My first book. I was so certain it was a masterpiece. I knew I was in trouble when my dad nearly laughed himself into a cardiac event as he started to read because, you see, it wasn't a comedy — it was a thriller! It went into the trash as soon as I could wrench it from my dad's hands. (Unbeknownst to me, he rescued it from the garbage and has since assured me that it is in his safe keeping. I asked for it back but he said he's waiting for the right moment to put it on ebay.) My call story is rather lengthy but here goes.

It was early in the morning in March 2006 and I was just heading to a staff meeting. I was holding my 6-month-old daughter (my office is pretty kid-friendly on certain days) when my cell phone rang. I didn't recognize the number so I was about to let it go to voice mail but at the last minute decided to answer. It was Johanna Raisanen from Harlequin Superromance and she wanted to buy my book! I screamed, almost dropped my daughter (thank goodness, a coworker swooped in to save the day) and started crying. It was the most amazing moment. The rest is a bit of a blur as I was too dazed to actually remember what words were being said. Thankfully, Johanna agreed to call back later in the day when my feet were back on the ground. It was really surreal, actually. I couldn't believe that I had sold my book. It was such an unreal feeling, one I’d dreamt about forever but I’d gotten to the point where I wasn't sure I was ever going to sell. In fact, two nights before I got the call, I had written in my journal that I was absolutely positive that another rejection was coming my way. Thankfully, I was wrong. My first book, The Truth About Family, was published in December 2006 and it changed my life. Now, I’m writing for both Superromance and Silhouette Romantic Suspense. To date, I've written 15 books, with my 11th book hitting the shelves this month (March).

4. The first of your Mama Jo's Boys series, The Past Between Us, hit the shelves this month. Can you tell us a bit about Mama Jo and what sparked the series?

I envisioned three foster brothers, broken by childhood tragedies yet loved by one woman who heals their hearts so they can be become these awesome men. Mama Jo materialized and I never once questioned her. It just felt right. And honestly, she's been the most engaging secondary character I've written, aside from Mary Halvorsen from my Emmett's Mill series. I'm going to miss writing her!

5. You're a magnet for outstanding Romantic Times and Cataromance reviews (amongst others). I've read both your Harlequins as well as some of your newspaper articles, and I must say that they're always emotionally gripping. As a pantser, how do you approach digging deep into the heart of the character? Is it fleshed out in your first draft or do you go back and layer it in?

I write very organically. I plow through the story, immersing myself in the skin of my characters until the voices in my head are distinctly their own and not mine. I let the characters drive the story and I go to a place in my mind that's almost scary because I lose my surroundings and let the words flow through my fingertips. A confession? I don't rewrite until revisions. What I put on the page and subsequently, goes to my editor, is my first draft. I clean up as I go but I don't rewrite because I feel the characters put those words there, not me. I hesitate to admit that because I'm the first to tell people not to worry about their first draft because invariably, they will refine as they rewrite but honestly, that doesn't seem to be my process. Maybe that's the journalism training kicking in. Most times, I don't have time for rewrites, so it has to be spot-on with the first draft. I's just how I roll. ;-)

6. In writing for two different lines, how do you ensure that contract deadlines don't overlap? Does that job fall to the writer, publisher, or agent (if there is one)?

Oh, make no mistake: deadlines do overlap and sometimes collide. I try my best to keep some semblance of order but you can't help bumping into the deadlines when you write as much as I do. My agent cringes when she sees my deadlines but she's learned to trust me. I won't lie, sometimes, the stress is, well, stressful, (LOL!) but I'm not complaining. I love my work.

7. Apart from not quitting, what's the one piece of advice you'd give aspiring writers striving toward publication?

Don't take shortcuts. The road is hard and long for a reason. Pressure — whether internal or external — creates magic. If you're ready to give up, push forward. It's the same concept for athletes as it is for aspiring writers. Pushing yourself creates a better YOU.

8. And now for some fun...what's your quirkiest writing habit and favorite deadline crunch-time snack?

Hmmm...well, I crunch pencils. I like the sound they make when my teeth sink into the wood (which is why no one lets me borrow their pencils!). But I don't really have any quirky habits (that I know of!) except extreme procrastination. I tend to push myself in ways that are probably unhealthy. LOL! As far as snacks? I don't snack when I'm writing. I'm too busy typing to eat. Although I do keep an iced tea by my side for the caffeine.

9. You're given the chance to write your future. Would it include leather or denim? Minivan or Harley? A single title romantic suspense on the NY times bestseller list (written by you of course ;)) or a screenplay (by you) that hits broadway...and you get to be the lead actress?

If I were to write my future, it would include simple things such as happiness and health. Everything else is a bonus. However, to truly answer your question, I see myself as winning a RITA (or two), landing on the NY Times best seller list, quitting my day job to write full time, and writing a screenplay my husband could direct.

Sounds wonderful :) Thanks so much for being here today, Kim! I loved interviewing you!

GIVEAWAY: Kimberly is giving away chocolate and a book from her backlist! A perfect, curl-up-on-the-sofa combo. Just leave a comment or question and you'll be included in the drawing. The winner will be announced this Thursday, which happens to be St. Patrick's Day :). May the luck be with you!

Blurb: The Past Between Us

FBI Agent Thomas Bristol has wanted Cassi Nolan since he was a kid. Now Cassi is wanted by the law and he's tracking the little thief down. The former prom queen was always wild, even when she was befriending poor foster child Tommy. But he never thought she could turn this bad: swindling destitute old ladies out of thousands, jilting men after stealing their cash.

Cassi has changed—no doubt about it. So he can't let those guileless blue eyes trick him into letting her go. Even if she does profess her innocence...and her story is starting to make sense. He made vows to follow the law to the letter. And he won't let a word like love get in the way.

Click here to read an excerpt and find out more about the next two books in the Mama Jo's Boys series, A Chance In The Night (April) and Secrets In A Small Town (May).

Click on the following links to buy The Past Between Us:
Barnes & Noble

Find Kimberly Van Meter at:

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Gluten Free/Dairy Free Pound Cake

It has been awhile since I've posted a gluten free recipe. This one isn't calorie free, but it's delicious substitute for regular pound cake or yellow sheet cakes. I'd say it's my family's favorite. I adapted it from a recipe I kept from a 1997 issue of American Baby. It went through an overhaul to accommodate our gluten, dairy, and citrus free diet. The results passed the kid test :). Enjoy!

Rula's GF/DF Pound Cake

6 large eggs, separated - put yolks in a larger bowl
1 1/2 c + 2 TBS sugar
3/4 c Earth Balance Buttery Spread melted and cooled (I use soy free. If you don't have a problem with dairy, feel free to use real butter. If it's unsalted, add a dash of salt to the recipe. Earth balance already has salt in it.)
1/4 c Bob's Red Mill ground almonds
1/2 tsp almond extract
2 c Bob's Red Mill white rice flour
1/2 c Bob's Red Mill tapioca starch/flour
2 tsp baking powder (gluten free brand)
1 c Almond milk (shake well)

-Preheat oven to 350 degrees
-Whisk egg yolks, add sugar and whisk again
-Add melted/cooled 'butter', ground almonds, and almond extract and mix
-Add mixture of white rice flour, tapioca starch, and baking powder
-Add almond milk. Batter will will thin quickly.
-In separate bowl, use an electric beater to make egg whites fluffy, but not stiff
-Fold in egg whites (you can use whisk, but not electric beater on this step)
-Pour batter into a well greased bundt pan (note batter will be thin)
-Bake 1 hour (until knife comes out clean)

Note: You can also use loaf pans or a 9 x13 baking dish to make a sheet cake. Baking time may vary. For sheet cake frosting, I melt GF/DF chocolate chips (by Enjoy Life) and spread on top. The bundt cake I made in the photo above has powdered sugar sifted on top.

I hope you like it!

I won't be posting a new blog next week. I really need the week to crank down on my writing. But be sure to pop in on Monday the 14th for an interview and giveaway with Harlequin Superromance author Kimberly Van Meter. See you then!