Category Archives: Guest Post

Writing with your best friend

I guess most people think of authors as solitary creatures. That to write a book, you’d have to lock yourself away somewhere quiet and uninterrupted. Well not Genie Davis and Linda Marr. These two friends decided to write a novel together:

Genie & Linda promo pic

“Don’t tell me you were writing in that office all day long,” Linda’s husband remarked as we finished up work one Saturday and dumped our practically scraped-clean lunch dishes onto the counter that separates her family room and kitchen.

“I could hear you laughing in here,” he continued somewhat accusingly,  “You were laughing a lot.”

Well… hmm… yes, we suppose that’s true.

            We do laugh a lot.

And ironically, that helps us work a lot. You see, first and foremost we’re best friends. Then we’re also two writers who have already been successful in our own careers for a number of years. But along the way, both of us felt that something was missing in all those hours we spent getting to do something as cool writing for a living. Something like – dare we say it? – fun.

            It’s not like we don’t like writing by ourselves. Genie has already published a number of different books including several award winning romantic suspense novels and a mystery. Linda comes from the world of television where she’s worked on everything from comedy to reality to news. And we both know a thing or two about romance, or at least we like to think we do. Romance certainly factored into a lot of our conversations. So for two best friend writers who like to talk romance it was just a small – albeit relatively work intensive — step to actually writing about it.

A romantic suspense novel, to be exact.

The way we figured, with all the differences in the way men and women think, there’s bound to be a little suspense to any romance. We just wanted to push the envelope a little — to situations, and love interests, that might be way beyond what could happen to us in our every day lives. It was just a simple matter of finding the right story. That, and figuring out what we wanted to eat for lunch.

Seriously.

Two good girlfriends, food, and making up our own romantic rules where, in the end, everything comes out all right. Meaning, of course, the way we want it to. As women and writers, what could be better?

Many of our friends and a few total strangers have asked us why we wanted to write together, all lunches aside. After all, doesn’t writing conjure up images of sitting alone in a room, an intense internal struggle raging inside a writer’s head?

Well, we do struggle. We just do it loudly. Together. If Linda’s husband didn’t actually have to work, he’d hear us go at it quite a bit as we discuss story and characters. In fact, it can seem like we’re having a bad time when actually we love the exchange, talking about ideas, about what romance means to us, what sizzles, or what keeps us in suspense.

We also love that when one of us is a little off, the other one can step in. Basically, what we’re doing is telling each other stories. About our own past, about our hopes and dreams, about other people’s lives whose emotions reflect our own experiences. And we also get to dish on the juicy stuff, like favorite romantic getaways, how we like the men in our lives to treat us, what turns us on. Okay, that means we are essentially gossiping, but its all in the service of telling a good story.                                               

            And isn’t telling a good story and sharing feelings what friendship’s all about? Whether we were writing together or not, we’d be sharing together.

            As Anais Nin famously said “Each friend represents a world in us, a world possibly not born until they arrive, and it is only by this meeting that a new world is born.” When we’re writing together, we do just that.

The way we see it, friends take the ride that is life together– including the hard work and the discouragements; they don’t just wait for the accolades to come streaming in. No matter what, friendship rekindles the enthusiasm and joy. That’s what writing together means to us. And that’s what we hope shines through to our readers.

            All in all, the combination of writing with a good friend and just being with a friend is pretty much unbeatable. Then of course, there’s lunch.

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And here’s the fruits of their lunches, erm labours . . .

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BetweenTheSheets500-1.

Between The Sheets

Romance writer Jenna Brooks lives an ordinary life in a quiet Oregon town, putting her sensual heart into her fiction rather than her everyday life. But suddenly, Jenna finds herself drawn into her own stories, literally. When the seductive, mysterious Riley Stone rescues her from an attempted hit and run, she’s plunged into a reckless, wild relationship unlike anything she’s ever experienced — except on paper.

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Genie Davis is a multi-published novelist and produced screen and television writer. Recent releases: mystery thriller: Marathon,  romantic suspense: Executive Impulse, The Model Man, and Five O’Clock Shadow, literary fiction: Dreamtown. Her erotic romance Rodeo Man won an RWA Passionate Plume award.

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Linda Marr is a producer/writer on America Now. She’s also co-writer of the comedy book Dear Neighbor. Her many television projects include the NBC comedy The Mommies, HGTV’s House Hunters and Design on a Dime, a Nickelodeon skateboarding special, and some of the most successful infomercials on the air.

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Best and worst things about being a writer

We love this funny and insightful guest post from Scott Cramer about the highs and lows of being a writer:

writerBest and worst things about being a writer:

Best – Not having a boss.

Worst – Not having a boss! Once in a while it’s good to be told what to do.

Best – Being selected by a sixth-grade reader to be their “author” in their school author fair.  Thank you, Katie.

Best – Naming a tropical storm, ‘Katie’, in my next book, and naming a hurricane (which plays a very big role), ‘David’.  David’s Mom is a YA book blogger from Chicago and David pitches in to write reviews every now and then.

Best – Having a reader write to say they are well beyond the young adult years (72 years old) and they loved the book.

Worst – Trying to come up with tweets and facebook posts when I have nothing to say.

Worst – The psychic torment/the pain in the soul/the gut wrenching sense of imbalance that I find myself experiencing during a first draft, which can last for months and months.

Best – Surviving the above.

Worst – You tell someone you have written a book. They immediately respond that they like to read and then tell you about the book they are reading.

Best – Getting to know people from Bulgaria (my cover designer), Portugal, Sweden, UK, and the US (beta readers) and bloggers from everywhere.

Worst – Reading the work of so many talented authors and thinking, wow, incredible, what command they have of the craft… and then realizing there is no way I can do that; it is simply a talent gap that exists.

Best – Realizing that I have something to offer that nobody else does… I can be me, with a unique point of view, and if I really stay true to who I am and how I think and speak and view the world,  then talent doesn’t matter as much.

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Book 1 in Scott’s fantastic YA sci fi Toucan Trilogy is currently FREE, so I’d definitely bag yourself a copy. It’s a great read!

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Espionage, Thrillers and Women – Guest Post from Libby Fischer Hellman

Libby-HellmannWith ten novels and twenty short stories published, Libby Fischer Hellmann writes compulsively readable thrillers, suspense mysteries, historicals, PI novels, amateur sleuth, police procedurals, and even a cozy mystery. At the core of all her stories, however, is a crime or the possibility of one.

Today, Libby is sharing some of her thoughts and recommendations on spy thrillers both in literature and on the screen. As well as a look at where women fit into the genre. Enjoy!

I started reading spy thrillers around the time of Watergate (Hmm… think there’s a connection?). The first two I read were The Wind Chill Factor by Thomas Gifford and The Eye of the Needle by Ken Follett, and I was blown away by them both.

spy 1The Wind Chill Factor – Thomas Gifford

I love this political thriller with a difference, centered around a group of Nazi survivors who viewed their WW2 defeat as a temporary setback rather than the end. They have plans. They have people waiting to spring into action in powerful corporations and capital cities across the world. And the world will soon be theirs… unless someone can stop them. Enter John Cooper, who holds a secret too explosive to be kept as he races against time to redress the balance of good against evil. Classic political suspense from an excellent storyteller.

Eye of the Needle – Ken Follett

Eye of the Needle is a spy thriller without equal. It’s set during WW2 again, this time the story of an enemy spy who knows about the Allies’ greatest secret, a ruthless aristocratic assassin called The Needle, who holds the key to Nazi success. One Englishwoman stands in his way, and she’s in danger of falling for the killer who has entered her life. Suspense, intrigue, love and danger… what else could a nice girl who does noir girl want?

All the L’s

Inspired by these two novels, I worked my way through most of the good old household name standards like John Le Carre, Robert Ludlum and Len Deighton… whom I call the “L’s”. Unsurprisingly, all the authors I read were men except for the marvelous Helen MacInnes (who is definitely not an “L”).

After a steady diet of these authors, though, they all started to sound the same: the world was about to blow up, the hero saved the world from blowing up, then he walked into the sunset with his girlfriend. Looking back now, after publishing ten books of my own, the writing—except for Le Carre—wasn’t especially gripping, either.

So I stopped reading them, and broadened my reading to include mysteries.

But that was then.

Episode 312Things have changed. Like the TV show “Homeland,” thriller authors have learned to appeal to women in their stories. It’s about time—we make up 80% of the reading market.  As a result, the espionage authors I enjoy most today feature strong women as protagonists and/or major characters. These protagonists do everything (and more) that men do, and there is often a complicated romantic thread that makes the stories even more compelling. Here are just a few of the authors I’m loving now.

Daniel Silva

I’ve mentioned him before, but Daniel Silva is so good it’s worth repeating. If you’ve read all his excellent Gabriel Allon books, we’re on the same page. But have you checked out his earlier novels featuring Michael Osbourne and his lawyer wife Elizabeth? They’re a bit wordier, but still excellent stories. And since the introduction of Chiarra and Dina, his women characters play more prominent roles. Frankly, he still has a way to go on that score. But his plots are grounded in reality, his prose is elegant and easy, and Gabriel Allon is a hero we can admire. His novels tend to come out in July (can you tell I’m ready now?). Here’s a link to Silva’s books on Amazon.

Christopher Reich

Christopher Reich is new to me, but he’s a seriously good New York Times best-selling writer who creates top notch stories. I’ve only read two of his so far, The Prince of Risk and Rules of Betrayal—yes, I know I read out of order—so I’m excited to dive into the rest.  His pacing is excellent, his prose as well, and I enjoy the twists and switchbacks in his plotting.  Most of all, though, I am fascinated by his female characters. His “Rules” series is practically a role-reversal, as you can see in Amazon’s synopsis of Rules of Deception:

“Doctor Jonathan Ransom thought he knew everything about his wife Emma until she was killed in a tragic skiing accident in the Swiss Alps. They had been married for eight years, eight blissful years in which they had travelled the world together. But the day after her death a mysterious letter addressed to her arrives at their hotel. When he opens it, his beliefs begin to unravel — fast. .

In the envelope is a railway baggage check to a suitcase that reveals an Emma far removed from the down-to-earth nurse who has been his constant and loyal companion all those years. In it he discovers the clues to a double life. Was she having an affair? When is your wife not your wife? And when she is not your wife, who is she?

In The Prince of Risk, his latest novel, a female FBI agent takes center stage. Talk about difficult to put down! Here’s a link to Christopher Reich books on Amazon.

Jason Matthews

Jason Matthews wrote the superb novel Red Sparrow, his first so far, and it has just been nominated for an Edgar. Like Reich, Matthews gives us both a male and female protagonist who, of course, become lovers. But just to throw in a major obstacle, the man is a CIA agent, but the woman is a Russian spy, who may or may not be a double agent by the end of the story. Can you say “suspense?”

Here’s what Goodreads says about it:

The two young intelligence officers, trained in their respective spy schools, collide in a charged atmosphere of tradecraft, deception, and inevitably, a forbidden spiral of carnal attraction that threatens their careers and the security of America’s valuable mole in Moscow. Seeking revenge against her soulless masters, Dominika begins a fatal double life, recruited by the CIA to ferret out a high-level traitor in Washington; hunt down a Russian illegal buried deep in the U.S. military and, against all odds, to return to Moscow as the new-generation penetration of Putin’s intelligence service.”

But where are the female thriller writers?

Even though women are featured more prominently, there’s still a problem. As you have undoubtedly noticed, all the authors I’ve mentioned are male. So where are the female thriller writers? And are they writing strong female characters?

There’s Gale Lynds, who fell cracked the genre’s mostly-male bias when the female president of a New York publishing house agreed to buy her debut spy thriller, Masquerade, then changed her mind because “No woman could have written this novel”. This was despite the fact that Lynds used to work at a Government think-tank and had Top Secret security clearance. She eventually found another publisher for Masquerade, which became an instant bestseller. Here’s a list of her books:

  • The Book of Spies (2010)
  • The Last Spymaster (2006)
  • The Coil (2004)
  • Mesmerized (2001)
  • Mosaic (1998)
  • Masquerade (1996)

There’s Stella Rimington, the first ever Director General of MI5 who worked there between 1992 and ’96 and based her books on her experiences. And how about Leslie Silbert, a Harvard graduate whose debut novel The Intelligencer connects Christopher Marlowe’s 1500s spying with an international conspiracy set today? She works as a private investigator in New York, guided by a former CIA officer mentor. Like Lynds, she walks the walk as well as talking the talk.

Sure, there are female thriller authors like Jamie Freveletti, Zoe Sharp, and yours truly, but it says something that I’m having trouble finding female authors who write spy novels. And it’s even more interesting that the three women I did mention have all worked in the field, living the life before writing about it.

 Your turn

What about your favorite espionage or spy novels?  Especially those who feature women in key roles? I know I’ve missed some.

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Libby’s own award-winning Georgia Davis PI series is showcased on eBookSoda today, where, for a limited time, you can get the boxed set of 3 for just $1.99.

 

 

Here’s where you can find Libby online:

Website    Goodreads    Facebook

Writing paranormal romance: Harlequin Nocturne author Debbie Herbert

177_authorphotoToday we’re lucky enough to have Harlequin Nocturne author, Debbie Herbert visit our blog, talking about why she writes paranormal romance. Debbie’s also giving away two Kindle copies of her fabulous otherworldly romance Siren’s Secret.

Why I write Paranormal Romance

Upon learning I write paranormal romance, people often look perplexed and one of the first questions they ask is – ‘Why’?

My short answer is a shrug and a cryptic remark that ‘it’s fun.’ The longer answer can be found in my tagline that describes the kind of books I write:  “Where love, like magic, casts its own spell of enchantment.”

I’ve never outgrown my love of fairy tales and mythology. One of my fondest memories in Girl Scouts was reading about the housekeeping elves in the official Brownie’s Handbook.

It’s the possibility of magic that tingles my creative drive and curiosity, the speculation that there is more to reality than we can perceive through our senses.

My debut novel, Siren’s Secret, is the first book in a trilogy about a secret clan of shapeshifting mermaids living in a Southern Bayou. Do I really believe that half-fish, half-human creatures populate deep waters that no man has yet traveled down? No. But who knows what really exists in the depths of the oceans or beyond our galaxies where humans have yet to explore. The human brain is a marvelous organism that by its very nature loves to seek answers and pioneer new ideas and concepts.My debut novel, Siren’s Secret, is the first book in a trilogy about a secret clan of shapeshifting mermaids living in a Southern Bayou. Do I really believe that half-fish, half-human creatures populate deep waters that no man has yet traveled down? No. But who knows what really exists in the depths of the oceans or beyond our galaxies where humans have yet to explore. The human brain is a marvelous organism that by its very nature loves to seek answers and pioneer new ideas and concepts.

And as far as the romance part of the writing equation – I’ve always been a sucker for love stories. As a teenager, Harlequin books lined my bookshelves and I devoured them like candy. The very first book I ever wrote, at age twenty, was a Harlequin romance. I was newly married and we lived pretty much paycheck-to-paycheck so there was no money in the budget for a typewriter. (Yes, I am dating myself here!) My husband promised that if I actually wrote a book, we could purchase a manual typewriter. I wrote that romance longhand on legal pads and he held up his end of the bargain.  (I don’t think he believed that I’d really finish it.) With a bottle of white-out by my side, I laboriously typed up the manuscript and submitted it to Harlequin, sure of a brilliant success.

Weeks later, my manuscript was returned with an editorial comment that blasted my book’s premise that a thirty year-old man would really fall for a teen-aged girl. Yeah, looking back now I realize that was more than a little creepy!  I still have that truly awful manuscript in a desk drawer.  Every now and then I pull it out and read the first page which poetically describes the changing color of leaves in autumn. Hardly mesmerizing material. So often I’ve vowed to throw it away, yet my hands pull back from the trashcan and back it goes into the bottom desk drawer.

Fast forward to the present . . .  after retirement, I took up my old dream of writing. How fitting that my first publishing contract is with Harlequin. Life can be mysteriously circular at times.

I would love to hear why you read romances or paranormal romances.  What draws you to them as a reader? Have you ever had something mysterious or eerily coincidental happen to you? Let me know, I’m always hunting new stories and you may end up in one of my books!

You can find Debbie and her books in the following places:

Twitter ~ Facebook ~ Pinterest ~ Goodreads ~ Amazon ~ Website

~THIS GIVEAWAY IS NOW CLOSED~

WIN A KINDLE COPY OF SIREN’S SECRET! Just leave us a comment below saying why you like to read paranormal romance, or tell us of an eerie or mysterious event that’s happened to you.

Good luck!