Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Casey's Soul String--Guest Casey Clifford--plus GIVEAWAY!

Casey Clifford shared first sales roses with me and Helen C. Johannes at that memorable WisRWA conference in 2009. She's an amazing educator and author, and an even more amazing person. Her tag line, "Wise women. Sensitive heroes. Thoughtful stories.", shines in each and ever word of her writing. Please help me welcome Casey!

Thank you, Mary, for this opportunity to tell your readers about my latest writing project and how it came about.

Would you believe the germ of this story emerged from long solitary walks to and from campus during the years I was going to graduate school?

And that was in the 1970s!

My main character BJ Kelly was like that imaginary friend some kids develop in early childhood. But for me, she was a companion when I didn’t want to think about lectures, papers and projects.

After graduate school, I settled into my career and raising my children. Once the boys were pretty much grown and my career firmly settled, my desire to write fiction reasserted itself. I took classes and studied writing craft in my spare time. When I retired, and people kept telling me I should write a book about my life, I laughed.

I would write books and began the process of submission. Sometime, maybe after the fourth manuscript and about the 1000th time someone said “write about your life” well, BJ popped into my head.

No, I wasn’t and still aren’t ready to write my life story, fictionalized or not, but BJ was more than willing to help me tell hers. And thus Soul String was created.

All 250,000 words. Yep, way too long, especially for today’s reading world. So I cut, edited, and set the manuscript aside. Wrote a different book. Then pulled out Soul String again. Fell in love with the story and did some more cutting, revising and editing. Set the book aside again. Wrote another book. And another book.

Even finally, wonder of wonders, got published. Finally…and won the Holt Medallion for Literary Achievement for best first book and the Write Touch Readers’ Award for Best Romantic Suspense. Wrote the sequel to that book and another one after that.

When someone said to me again, “when you writing about your life?” Not happening…So I wrote another book.

But BJ kept bugging me. The publishing world was changing drastically. Readers were reading with Kindles and Nooks, on their phones or iPads. Indie publishing was becoming accepted and readers were grabbing up shorter books.

But I had this book, now more manageable at about 110,000 words and BJ was bugging the heck out of me. She wanted her story in the hands of readers!

If I knew anything at all about BJ, who now wanted to be called Brenna, was determination and achieving her goals drove her.

So I pulled out the manuscript with her whispering in my ear. “Do it. Now.”

I looked the story over, fell in love with it again, realized a needed to make a few changes but those would be easy. (You can imagine, Brenna was clapping gleefully and urging me on.) But I still struggled with the length of it.

Then I remembered how novellas seemed to be really selling well, especially digitally. Taking that idea, I re-evaluated the manuscript. I thought of the popularity of the miniseries or short season TV programs.

And made a decision to cut Brenna’s story into parts. Thus the Soul String Saga was born. Brenna overjoyed. She even leaves me along now except once a week or so, she eggs me about writing my own story. I just shake me head. Not a chance.

Soul String is the story of BJ, Brenna Kelly, a determined young woman from an Irish Catholic family. These five novellas are the story of her journey through her twenties and thirties. You all know how challenging those years can be.

Her journey starts in the early 1970s and ends in the early 1990s. Times of change and turmoil for women seeing themselves as wanting different things from what women traditionally wanted. Striving for careers and success, finding challenges in breaking the mold or following their dreams, finding love and losing it, gaining enemies and dealing with it.

I’m partial. I’ve loved BJ since she kept me company on those long walks to and from campus all those years ago. I loved the life she chose and how she lived it. I feel fortunate she’s allowed me to meet those in her life who became friends, lovers, enemies. She’s given me a rousing time creatively.

I hope readers will feel the same.

Currently, Soul String Saga is available in digital format through Kindle, Nook, KOBO, and Apple. They are Soul String, Book 1, Soul String: The Key—Book 2, and Soul String: Broken—Book 3. Book 4 should be available the day Mary posts this. Book 5 which ends the series, should hopefully be available in late April 2013. For those of you who still love print, I’m expecting the series to be in print this summer.

I hope you enjoy the blurb and excerpt below for Soul String: Passport, Book 4.

Available: Kindle Kindle
                Nook Nook

Land a contract. Have passport, will travel. Falling in love optional

The contract required a trip to London for a business meeting

Brenna knows this meeting could spell disaster for her and Kelly Worldwide. Or offer an opportunity to increase her profits and produce increased career opportunities. She doesn’t expect the immediate attraction she feels to the man she meets…

Quinn Harrington is determined to expand his family company but realizes he needs Brenna’s talents to further his plans. A widower raising a teenaged daughter he’s not prepared for the powerful impact Brenna has for him as a woman. A cautious man he offers another project to see what she can do with a complex situation.

A year in France, a complicated problem resolved and more travel convinces Brenna this kind of work really appeals to her. When Quinn offers another opportunity to travel to India, China and Japan, she agrees.

This decision changes the course of their lives

(A scene from Chapter 1)

“You’re alive, smiling, and able to talk. Your meeting must have gone well.” Nick bussed her on her cheek just before she slid into the booth opposite him.

“You were right. Quinn Harrington is a fair man.”

“But you dazzled him, right?” He poured her a glass of champagne he’d ordered before she arrived.

“How’d you know? Did he call you?” Her last was more accusation than question.

“Heck no. I’ve got faith in you, and the Brits celebrate with champagne.” He raised his glass to toast. She followed suit.

“Well, he didn’t outright agree. But the options are out there for him now.”

“And you’re still alive to drink champagne with me.”

“And eat soon, I hope. I’m starved.”

“So we’ll order and drink and you can tell me all about it.”

Brenna looked at him after she ordered. What a gorgeous man. Sexy as men came. Full of swagger and flirtation. He’d become a good friend. They’d traveled many miles since she started working with HLM. They’d shared many fun times with him. Especially since Caleb walked away.

But never once other than that first night when they danced at Debbie and Will’s wedding had she ever felt a twinge of real sexual desire for him. Sometime about a year after receiving Caleb’s letter, she decided that she must have put away all those feelings in that same little box that held his ring, letter, and the key to their Soul String Hideaway.

Because if any red-blooded male could have tempted her it should have been Nick.

Instead today, she felt that old familiar twinge when Quinn Harrington and her knees briefly touched. Since he moved away as quickly as she did and his eyes never lost that twinkle of interest, she knew.

He’d felt it too.

“Hey, boss lady, you’re a million light years away. Reliving your victory, are you? Should we be calling your meeting the Miracle on Bishopsgate?” He forked up a bit of his steak and kidney pie.

She stabbed at her shepherd’s pie. “Guess I was. Going over what I might have improved on.”

“Well don’t. We’re celebrating. You’re success. Now eat.”

When they finished which took a while since the pub wasn’t rushed, Nick ordered a single malt since he didn’t have to drive. She ordered tea while she looked over the dessert menu.

“Want to share a dessert?” she asked him. Oftentimes they shared one when they shared a meal like tonight.

“Depends on what you’re thinking of ordering.”

“Oh, something decidedly English. Not something we’d likely get in Milwaukee.” She glanced at him and chuckled. “I’m leaning toward syllabub. My dairy farmer’s daughter heritage must be asserting itself. It’s made with rich cream, sugar and wine. How could we go wrong?”

“I guess…don’t think it’ll mix well with my scotch.”

“I’m getting it. I think the name is jolly.”

“Oh, save me. She turning into a Brit,” he teased.

“Exactly why I said it that way. But I am intrigued by the name. It rolls off my tongue in a delightful way.”

“Now you’re sounding like Mary Poppins.”

“But I don’t use my bumbershoot to get around.”

The server came and set a syllabub serving set on a lovely plate in front of Brenna.

“Looks pretty bland…” Nick grumbled.

Brenna spooned up a taste. Rolled it around in her mouth as if she were tasting wine. “But it tastes yummy.”

“I think I’ll pass…” He took another sip of scotch as she took another bite.

“More for me that way.” She took another bite and shot Nick a grin. “You’re the best, fly boy. Thanks…celebrating alone wouldn’t have been nearly as much fun.”

Find out more about me, the Soul String Saga and my other books at these sites on line.

Casey's giving away an eBook copy of Soul String: Passport (or 5 if the winner already has 4, to be sent when it's available) to one lucky commenter! Through Thursday, winner picked by random number Friday. (Please leave your email if you want Casey to contact you directly if you win.)

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Spot the Cameos--Guest Eliza Daly--Plus Giveaway!

Identity Crisis

When Olivia Doyle’s father dies under suspicious circumstances, rather than inheriting a family fortune, she inherits a new identity. She learns they were placed in the Federal Witness Security Program when she was five years old. Her father was involved in an art forgery ring and testified against the mob. Brought up not to trust anyone, Olivia has a difficult time relying on U.S. Marshal Ethan Ryder to protect her, and to keep her secret. She fears her father may have continued his life of crime through her art gallery. She has little choice but to depend on Ethan when she realizes someone is now after her. Olivia’s search for the truth leads her and Ethan across country to a family and past she doesn’t remember.

At the age of ten, Ethan witnessed a brutal murder. He vowed when he grew up, he’d protect people in danger. Protecting Olivia is difficult when she won’t trust him. He soon realizes his desire to protect her goes beyond doing his job, but if his judgment becomes clouded by emotions, her safety could be jeopardized. 

Can Ethan and Olivia learn to trust each other when they uncover secrets that will change their lives forever?

Identity Crisis is available at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, iTunes, All Romance, eBooks.com, and Kobo

My Cameo Appearances in Identity Crisis

When I first started writing I was often given the advice to write what I know. I rarely followed the advice because one of my favorite aspects about writing is conducting research and learning about new places and things. Yet, my personality and quirks often sneak into a book without me realizing it. The following are several appearances I made in my romantic suspense, Identity Crisis.

The heroine Olivia’s dad’s family is Irish. Her grandma’s maiden name is Flannery, which is my mom’s maiden name. Originally, Olivia’s last name was Daly, one of my family’s Irish surnames. However, when I decided to use Daly for my pseudonym, I had to change her name. I’ve been tracing my Irish ancestry for five years and have traveled to Ireland three times with my mother to meet our rellies. Ireland will frequently pop up in my books.

My heroine Olivia’s family owns lake cottages in Wisconsin. I grew up in Central Wisconsin near a popular resort area located on several connecting lakes. This area inspired the book’s setting, including the mini-golf course and the many cottages that have been turned into restaurants and shops.

Olivia and Reed go to a cemetery located on a hill overlooking a lake. In the resort area where I grew up, the fireworks are set off over a lake and everyone spreads blankets out across the cemetery to watch the fireworks. I guess it’s a little creepy, but I’d never really thought about it since we’d always done it.

The police officer Brian Gibson is named after my good friend’s husband, who is a police officer and helped me conduct research, such as how to blast someone with pepper spray, without incapacitating yourself.

I love art and if I went back to school it would be for an art history degree. I’ve been researching art forgery and stolen art for years. Chagall is one of my favorite artists, so he played a large role in the book. He painted the dome of the The Palais Garnier—the old opera house in Paris—which is one of my favorite buildings. I refer to Monet’s Woman with a Parasol, which is one of my favorite paintings. I have a mousepad and bookmark with this painting.

I’m a huge Packers fan, and so is Olivia’s grandpa. He discusses the team with his buddy and wears Packers attire.

Thank you so much to Mary for having me here today and helping me celebrate the release of Identity Crisis. I will be giving away an e-copy of Identity Crisis to one commenter. To enter, please leave a meaningful comment or a question for me--writing related or personal. Please include your e-mail address with your comment. The winner will be announced on March 22.  Thanks for stopping by! 

Eliza Daly’s first attempt at creative writing was in fourth grade. She and her friends were huge Charlie’s Angels fans and she would sit in her bedroom at night writing scripts for them to act out at recess the following day. She was Kelly Garrett. Fast forward to the present, she’s still writing stories about beautiful women who always get their men. The journey from fourth grade script writer to published author wasn’t an easy one, but it was always an adventure and the final destination was well worth it.

When Eliza isn’t traveling for her job as an event planner, or tracing her ancestry roots through Ireland, she’s at home in Milwaukee working on her next novel, bouncing ideas off her husband Mark, and her cats Quigley, Frankie, and Sammy.

You can find Eliza on the web at Website, Facebook, Twitter and Goodreads.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

3T Writing Tidbit

Published since 2009, over the years I've accumulated various items of writing wisdom. The Third Tuesday Writing Tidbit showcases these items in no particular order. Click here to see all 3T Tidbits.

Use eye-blocking behaviors to show character faced with undesirable images (disdain, disgust, fear, seeing disdain/disgust directed toward character, etc.) Examples: hand over eyes (facepalm), turning head, closing eyes, rolling eyes, rubbing eyes. Escalate to body flight: toes turned away, feet turned away, lean away, turn body away, step away.

Two books that I use to stimulate my writing in this way are What Every BODY is Saying by Joe Navarro and The Emotion Thesaurus: A Writer's Guide to Character Expression by Becca Puglisi and Angela Ackerman (thanks to Edie Ramer for putting me onto this one).

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Night Muses and Romance--Guest Jordyn Meryl--Plus GIVEAWAY!

Fellow WisRWA author Jordyn Meryl was kind enough to agree to visit my blog and share her trio of wonderful romance stories. Welcome, Jordyn! 

The Trouble With Angels

Paige and Mark are two souls looking for love in all the wrong places. 

Enters two male angels, Sid—dark, brooding and handsome and Carmy—fair skinned and adorable, on a Never-Ending Love assignment.  

From the workplace of Wisconsin to a beach resort in Mexico, the angels chase their charges pushing them together in supernatural ways. 

The trouble with angels is they never give up.

Buy at Amazon, BN

Home Before Dark

Kyle Robbins, a rock star with a painful past, has not thought of love since his wife’s suicide.  

Taylor Monroe, a member of the lighting team for his concerts, has been a fan for years.  This is her dream job. 

When they fall in love, the past threatens to repeat itself and end a match made in heaven.

Buy at Amazon, BN

When Dreams Change

A small quaint Italian cafe on the shores of the Mediterranean was the dream for Jessica. Failing to realize her husband’s ambitions were another woman almost blew her plans apart. 

Stepping in as her bartender, Alejandro helps save her when he becomes not only her rescuer, but a man who brings out hidden feelings of desire. 

When her wayward husband returns, Jessica faces the decision of her future.

Buy at Amazon, BN

Jordyn Meryl

Once living under the guise of a passive, quiet, school librarian, books and kids were the passions which kept her mind fresh. But now it is when the night muses visit Jordyn, her spirit rises up to wrap around the stories that float in her head.  Land locked in the mid-west she dreams of days on a white sandy beach with a laptop to write all her tales.  Crossing many genres she spins chronicles of romance, paranormal and fantasy, for they are stories worth telling, even at the risk of revealing true feelings.

Jordyn's giving away either an eBook or autographed print book to one of the commenters! Through Thursday, winner picked Friday. (Please leave your email if you want Jordyn to contact you directly if you win.)

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

March 1T Olio--TRR Anniversary Bash, Name the Baby

In place of this month's giveaway, I'm taking part in The Romance Review's 2nd Anniversary bash! Through March 31. My giveaway is this week, Edie and the CEO.

Beauty Bites is in edits right now, on track for its August 27 release. Cover coming soon, and it's gorgeous!

In the meantime, be sure to vote on my Name Nixie & Julian's Baby poll, one here at the blog (right-hand column) and one on Facebook https://www.facebook.com/MaryHughesAuthor