PSA: Houston and Harvey

To all the folks in Houston, my heart goes out to you. This includes my brother and his family, and my niece and her family. They are safe for the moment, but… Please, I ask you to keep them, and all the people of that area, in your thoughts.

So why didn’t they leave, you ask? The areas where they live are considered “safe”. Other people were actually being evacuated to their areas. But who ever heard of getting over four feet of rain in just a couple of days? Yes, they are dry for the moment, but the water keeps rising and now… there’s no way out. All the roads are flooded. So they sit. And wait. Knowing there is nothing they can do to stop it.

For the rest of us, we sit and watch. But there is something we can do. We can donate to those organizations who will help these people. They will provide food, shelter, comfort, and, eventually, help rebuild. I urge everyone to donate what they can to these organizations. BUT BEFORE YOU DO… make sure it is a legitimate organization. Do your homework. There are leeches out there who prey on the woes of others. They will take your money and do nothing. Below are just a few places where you can donate and it will do some good:

The Mennonite Disaster Service: http://www.mds.mennonite.net

National Organizations

The American Red Cross is accepting donations on its website. You can also text HARVEY to 90999 to donate $10.

AmeriCares takes medicine and supplies to survivors.

Catholic Charities provides food, clothing, shelter and support services to those from all religious backgrounds.

Donations to the Salvation Army can be made online, by calling 1-800-SAL-ARMY (1-800-725-2769) or texting STORM to 51555.

Local Organizations

The Hurricane Harvey Relief Fund of Houston’s mayor, Sylvester Turner, which is administered by the Greater Houston Community Foundation.

Houston Food Bank and the Food Bank of Corpus Christi are asking for donations.

Carter BloodCare covers hospitals in north, central and east Texas. To donate, call 877-571-1000 or text DONATE4LIFE to 444-999.

To help animals suffering from the disaster, visit the Houston Humane Society or the San Antonio Humane Society.

The Texas Diaper Bank in San Antonio is asking for diapers and wipes, which can be dropped off in person or mailed to 5415 Bandera Road, Suite 504, San Antonio, Tex., 78238.

Check out this article by the New York Times: https://www.nytimes.com/2017/08/28/us/donate-harvey-charities-scams.html?mcubz=1

And this one by Business Insider: http://www.businessinsider.com/best-charities-hurricane-harvey-2017-8

Thank you.

Advertisements

Guest Promo: Charity Parkerson

When the cover model who’s every man’s fantasy…

By most people standards, Ryker is considered odd. As the only child of a notorious conman, he understandably has a few trust issues. Most men are willing to overlook his parentage and strange personality since these days he’s better known as one of the hottest cover models around. Ryker knows his appearance pays the bills, but it’s also brought grief, stalkers, and one gorgeous cop into his life. There’s one tiny problem with his new-found obsession, Grady—other than being a part of organized law enforcement—he also happens to be straight.

Meets a cop who’s unlike any other man…

Grady knows exactly what he wants in life. He has the career he’s always dreamed of, and plays the field, catching every woman he sets his sights on. That is until he meets Ryker. Something about the more-damaged-than-not cover model brings out Grady’s protective side. Ryker also does something else to Grady. He makes him burn. The last thing Grady expected was to fall for another man, but no one makes him feel the way Ryker does. He can’t get enough. Unfortunately, he’s not the only one.

Their passion will blow everyone away.

When Ryker’s ex threatens their newfound love, Grady will stop at nothing to hang onto the man he never knew he wanted, and the bond he’d die to keep.

 

The Ups and Downs of Writing

Last week I decided my files needed some organization. In actuality, as any good writer knows, I was avoiding working on a difficult passage in my current work in progress. So, I opened my file cabinet and, in the process, gave myself a good case of depression.

One of the thickest files in the drawer contained rejections. The earliest one I kept goes back to 1984. Yes, you read that right. I’ve been collecting rejections for over thirty years. I looked at that date and the thick pile and started feeling really sorry for myself and asking the cosmos why I continue to do this if I’m never going to get anywhere with it. I slammed the drawer shut and wallowed in self-pity for most of the day.

Later in the day, knowing the mess that the drawer contained and being – according to my family – obsessively organized, I re-opened the drawer. And it’s a good thing I did. For within the dark confines of that evil drawer, was a Pandora’s box that contained a kernel of hope.

I found a file containing the reviews I’d published in a well-read magazine. There were almost a hundred of them from the decade I’d spent with that publication. Those reviews led to the articles I did for my local newspaper and the ones I do now for various newsletters and magazines.

In addition, there were notes on the hundreds of novels and the college textbooks I’ve edited or copy-edited over the years – some of which went on to win awards of various types. And that doesn’t include the more than 200 documents I’ve worked on as a technical writer nor my own novels, two of which have won awards. Then there was my local RWA newsletter, for which I was the editor and that I slaved over each month as I attempted to present a valuable resource for the group-and that also won awards on the national level.

I looked at my past writing and realized how far I have come since those first weak attempts. I’ve grown and learned and applied those skills to my work and it shows. I can hold my head up and know that my writing has improved immensely over what it once was.

I looked at that pile of accomplishments and compared it to my much smaller heap of rejections and came to a realization: Yes, I’m sad that my novels haven’t been picked up by a major publisher, but I’ve been published – many times. And I know that someday all my work will pay off. But if it doesn’t, I still have something to be proud of. I’ve accomplished an awful lot and most of it while working full or part-time and raising a large family.

So go away, depressing thoughts. I’ve writing to do.

Guest Post: Brynn Stein

Thanks Vicki, for hosting me today.

I can’t believe it’s been four years since my first book was published. On July 17, 2013, Haunted was released by Dreamspinner Press. July seems to be a popular month for my books to be released, as it turns out, because Living Again was published on July 21, 2014, and What No One Else Can Hear followed suit on July 27, 2015.

To celebrate these anniversaries, Dreamspinner has agreed to put these three books on sale for $1 each, from July 17 to July 21.

Haunted

hauntedWhen Lenard Blake is forced to leave his wife, he divorces not just her but her influential family, who makes it impossible for him to keep his job as a Denver police officer, never mind to find another one anywhere in Colorado. But a rural police force in Virginia has an opening, and the move could be just the change he needs, so Lenard buys a house based on an Internet ad. But when he arrives, he finds that the house looks nothing like the ad… and it’s haunted as well.

Lenard doesn’t believe in the supernatural, but he decides to research his supposed ghost anyway. Soon he learns that fifteen years ago, Jason Miller was murdered in the house, and his entire family died under suspicious circumstances. As he makes friends with his ghostly companion, they join forces to try to solve the old murders. Along the way, they find there are some things that conquer even death.

Cover Artist: Paul Richmond

https://www.dreamspinnerpress.com/books/haunted-by-brynn-stein-1346-b

 

Living AgainLiving Again

Daniel Larson has walled himself off from any possibility of romance since his lover died violently five years ago in Afghanistan. The same bomb that ended his partner’s life took the lower part of Daniel’s left leg. The only support Daniel has, his Uncle Lawrence, is dead-set against anything homosexual, including Daniel.

Now, a popular language teacher at the local university, Daniel’s suffering from a car accident that broke his one good leg. His uncle, who is much better at throwing money at things than offering emotional support, provides a rented power chair and a private in-home nurse. Unbeknownst to his uncle, the nurse comes in the form of a man named Jonah Thacker.

Instantly attracted, Daniel and Jonah fight their mutual feelings in favor of professionalism. They become friends anyway, and Jonah shares his life with Daniel, including his handicapped son, Ethan. As Jonah and Daniel grow closer, Daniel becomes more involved in Jonah and his son’s lives, even being there for Ethan when his medical conditions worsen. But when Daniel’s uncle finds out the nurse he’s hired is male, he uses all of his resources to keep Jonah and Daniel apart.

Cover Artist: Bree Archer

https://www.dreamspinnerpress.com/books/living-again-by-brynn-stein-3782-b

 

What No One Else Can Hear

WNOECHYoung Stevie Liston is diagnosed with autism, but is really an overwhelmed empath who mentally called out for help. Jesse McKinnon heard him in a dream from clear across the country, and that dream sent him on a six-year search to find Stevie. Once they meet, they think everything will work out and Jesse will help Stevie cope.

Stevie does improve immensely, but a disgruntled coworker of Jesse’s conspires with Stevie’s estranged but politically powerful father to keep Stevie and Jesse apart with trumped-up legal charges claiming Jesse sexually abused the boy. Jesse must watch helplessly as Stevie loses all the advances he’s made.

If it wasn’t for his growing relationship with his coworker Drew Ferguson, Jesse knows he wouldn’t have the strength to fight for his rights and Stevie’s future. Drew just might be the real thing, but with the very real possibility of serving jail time for a crime he didn’t commit, Jesse’s hopes for a future with Drew might be doomed.

Cover Artist: Reese Dante

https://www.dreamspinnerpress.com/books/what-no-one-else-can-hear-by-brynn-stein-477-b

About the Author

logoBrynn has always loved to write about strong male characters and their close friendships. When she found the world of m/m fiction, she fell in love. Finally, a way to bring those strong male characters together and let those emotional connections spill over into deeper relationships. Sometimes her characters go through the emotional wringer, but they always have each other. Brynn lives in Virginia near her two grown daughters who support her writing and sometimes act as proof readers. Both of her daughters are also aspiring writers and hopefully it’ll just be a matter of time before they have their own author’s biography. Brynn was a teacher by profession for thirty year, because writing doesn’t quite pay the bills . She worked in special education with children with emotional disabilities. She has recently changed careers and is now working as a mental health counselor to this same population and their families. When she is not working or writing, she loves to draw and paint. She also gets outside as often as she can, reads anything that doesn’t move out of the way, and is always looking for her next story.

https://www.dreamspinnerpress.com/authors/brynn-stein-94

https://www.amazon.com/Brynn-Stein/e/B00MTKYYDS/ref=sr_ntt_srch_lnk_1?qid=1500132294&sr=8-1

https://brynnstein2.wordpress.com/

https://www.facebook.com/brynn.stein

Life is what happens…

Do you know who originated that quote? Not made it famous, but originated it? Writer and cartoonist Allen Saunders. A variation of the quote, “Life is what happens to us while we are making other plans,” was published in Reader’s Digest in January 1957. John Lennon just made it famous.

And that’s what’s been happening with me of late. Life. I’ve been incredibly busy with work, repairs to our house (AC died yesterday on hottest day of the year so far), writing (several new stories I’m working on) and getting my notes together for a class I’m teaching the first week of July to my local RWA group (a class on editing your work before submission).

Life. It’s a wonderful thing, but sometimes it can overwhelm you. When that happens, you need to take a step back and look at things to see what you can change for the better. For me, that was holding off on the 15 minute challenges for a bit. Although they’re short, they do take me a lot of time to come up with since I check to make sure I’m not repeating something–it happens, but I try not to let it happen too often.

Anyway, I will get back to them eventually, but for now… I need to make other things my priority. Please bear with me while I live my life.

And I hope you go out and live yours to the fullest.

Guest Author: Susan V. Vaughn

Romance Author, Susan V. Vaughn understood the meaning of sarcasm before she could walk.  Her childhood in the suburbs of Detroit was spent mainly trying to outwit her six creative siblings.  When she wasn’t working on the next soul crushing jab, she sharpened her imagination on romantic literature and day dreamed about her knight in shining armor.

It didn’t take long for this hairdresser by trade to turn her passion for reading romances into writing her own unique love stories. Susan lives her life finding laughter in all situations, and delights in marrying sarcasm with romance to create realistic falling-in-love stories in the unlikeliest of scenarios.

Susan lives on the shores of Lake Huron with her real life knight in shining armor and enjoys watching their three children learn the art of sarcasm and wit.

UndeniableLove.v1-Amazon

 

Shane Reed won’t be swayed by love. He’s a city boy with a passion for tattoos and melting women’s hearts. Until he finds his bachelor status threatened by a beautiful news reporter he just can’t seem to forget.

Josie Brooks won’t let anything get in her way. She’s in Chicago to make her weather correspondent dreams come true. But when a dashing stranger comes crashing into her life, can she really ignore her heart’s desire to save her career?

 

When two paths entangle…resolves can be broken, hearts can be stolen, and a love can become undeniable.

EXCERPT FROM UNDENIABLE LOVE

“Shane.” She sighed, hating herself for enjoying this man. For allowing his touch. “You are so completely full of it.”

“Full of it? I’m telling the truth.”

Even if Megan hadn’t told her about the bet, the man was such an obvious player. He was used to getting his way with women. Too bad for him she wasn’t an easy target. “If this is your sad attempt at flirting with me, then I’m here to let you know that it’s not working.”

“Is that so?” He pulled her fingers to his lips and kissed the tips. “I’m sorry to disappoint you so much, my dear. I guess I just lack that southern gentleman charm.”

“That’s true. The men in the South definitely know how to treat a lady.”

“How’s that?”

“Where I come from, if a man likes a woman, he uses flattery instead of teasing.” She pulled her fingers from his clutches. “What are we? In grade school, Shane? If you like me, just say so.”

“I said you were beautiful, didn’t I?”

She blushed. “In a teasing way.”

“No, I said, the most beautiful woman I have ever seen.” His eyes deepened with intensity, capturing her own. “And I meant every word.”

Oh, damn. Her heart seemed to stop with the world around her. Suddenly, it was just Shane, with his intense brown eyes and sincere, handsome face.

ISBN (ebook): 978-1-945910-19-7

(Print): 978-1-945910-20-3

Buy Links:

Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B071HP12PZ/

Kobo: https://www.kobo.com/us/en/ebook/undeniable-love-1

Guest Post: One Sentence Anthology

THE FIRST SENTENCE

A Collection of Romance Novellas

a collection of romance novellasThe premise: That if 5 authors start with the same sentence, they will all write vastly different stories. The results: made of awesome. From contemporary to futuristic, these novellas have a little bit of everything, but most especially—love-filled happy endings.

Rebound by Allison B. Hanson
After wallowing in agony for weeks after a bad break-up, Reese is set up on a blind date. Reluctantly, he goes and meets the girl of his dreams. The only problem? He was at the wrong place and met the wrong girl. Now, desperate to find her, he scours the campus as fate weaves an impossible journey.

Lost and Found by Misty Simon
When Mike Emory sees his ex’s post on social media that she’s looking for her lost dog, he’s out the door in a flash. Their break-up was not amicable, but he loved that dog and can’t imagine him on his own. Elsie Hews has been scouring the streets for hours when she runs into the last person she wants helping her—the guy who never seemed to think she was capable of doing anything herself. This is her dog, though, her baby, and she’ll accept Mike’s help to find him, then say goodbye again. Or that’s the plan, at least…

Frozen Dreams by Victoria Smith
When a dangerous weather anomaly strikes, Jane will do whatever it takes to travel to be with her family. Even if it means getting stuck with her husband, Adam. Instead of talking to him about how they will never have a family, she took the chicken route and left, despite being deeply in love with him. Now they must face the storm and their emotions.

Through the Void by Natalie J. Damschroder
There’s only one thing Vix can do when she finds out about the secret life that has led to her husband’s coma—make that life hers. When she goes on her first mission through the void, however, she finds not only a new self-purpose, but her lost husband, as well. She did the impossible once. Can she do it again, and bring him home?

A Real Boy by Vicky Burkholder
Jillian Night is on the hunt for inter-planetary kidnappers. Her bosses demand she have a partner, but Jillian has had enough of human ones. She prefers to work alone so Fleet assigns her one of the new androids. Zeus is a little too real for Jillian’s comfort and she finds herself attracted to him—until she meets the real man pulling the strings. Maybe having a real, live partner wouldn’t be so bad after all.

Download for Free Now (universal link) or at the following vendors:

Amazon
Nook
iBooks
Kobo
Smashwords
Google Play
24 Symbols
Sribd

Goodreads

Free Anthology: The First Sentence

A Collection of Romance Novellas

a collection of romance novellasThe premise: That if 5 authors start with the same sentence, they will all write vastly different stories. The results: made of awesome. From contemporary to futuristic, these novellas have a little bit of everything, but most especially—love-filled happy endings.

Rebound by Allison B. Hanson
After wallowing in agony for weeks after a bad break-up, Reese is set up on a blind date. Reluctantly, he goes and meets the girl of his dreams. The only problem? He was at the wrong place and met the wrong girl. Now, desperate to find her, he scours the campus as fate weaves an impossible journey.

Lost and Found by Misty Simon
When Mike Emory sees his ex’s post on social media that she’s looking for her lost dog, he’s out the door in a flash. Their break-up was not amicable, but he loved that dog and can’t imagine him on his own. Elsie Hews has been scouring the streets for hours when she runs into the last person she wants helping her—the guy who never seemed to think she was capable of doing anything herself. This is her dog, though, her baby, and she’ll accept Mike’s help to find him, then say goodbye again. Or that’s the plan, at least…

Frozen Dreams by Victoria Smith
When a dangerous weather anomaly strikes, Jane will do whatever it takes to travel to be with her family. Even if it means getting stuck with her husband, Adam. Instead of talking to him about how they will never have a family, she took the chicken route and left, despite being deeply in love with him. Now they must face the storm and their emotions.

Through the Void by Natalie J. Damschroder
There’s only one thing Vix can do when she finds out about the secret life that has led to her husband’s coma—make that life hers. When she goes on her first mission through the void, however, she finds not only a new self-purpose, but her lost husband, as well. She did the impossible once. Can she do it again, and bring him home?

A Real Boy by Vicky Burkholder
Jillian Night is on the hunt for inter-planetary kidnappers. Her bosses demand she have a partner, but Jillian has had enough of human ones. She prefers to work alone so Fleet assigns her one of the new androids. Zeus is a little too real for Jillian’s comfort and she finds herself attracted to him—until she meets the real man pulling the strings. Maybe having a real, live partner wouldn’t be so bad after all.

Download for Free Now (universal link) or at the following vendors:

Amazon
Nook
iBooks
Kobo
Smashwords
Google Play
24 Symbols
Sribd

Goodreads

Guest Post: Carolyn Hill

Bio: (a short bio about yourself)

I was born and raised in the heart of Silicon Valley, which stamped me with a sense of wonder and a fondness for heroic geeks. I entered university a chemistry major intending to become an astronaut who would rocket into a brave new future, and I ended up with a job teaching writing at the University of California, Berkeley. Hey, life happens.

My body may be earthbound, but my writing is free to cross boundaries. My novels combine science fiction, romance, and folklore: science fiction because I’m a frustrated wanna-be astronaut, romance because what’s life without love, and folklore because at age eleven I inhaled all of Andrew Lang’s colorful fairy books and nearly two decades later finished writing my dissertation on James Frazer’s twelve-volume encyclopedia of magic, science, and religion. Happily imprinted, I am! My favorite tale is Beauty and the Beast, in all its variants around the world, and my romantic science fiction novels focus on the alien, the metaphorical beast in every man, even in the handiest of techno-geeks.

When I’m not writing, teaching, or reading, I’m quilting, playing boardgames, or throwing heavy objects into the air above my head. Or I’m sitting on the couch, eating almond M&Ms and daydreaming about life amongst the stars.

What made you decide to become a writer?

I didn’t decide to be a writer. I just was. Some of my earliest, most vivid memories are of telling myself stories: arranging plastic horses in thundering herds across the couch, imagining myself living alone in an apple tree, and describing to myself over and over in excruciating detail a dress that I imagined a princess wearing. I made stuff up willy nilly, or if I really loved something I’d read or seen on TV, I’d revise the story in my head, changing the ending or inserting myself into it as one of the characters or as an entirely new character I made up. When I was in fifth grade my father gave me a manual typewriter, which I pounded gleefully, churning out “newspapers” and “spy manuals” for friends. By high school, I was writing full-on stories and parts of novels. A teacher told me then that I’d grow up to be a writer; I told him no, I was going to be an astronaut. (Yep. You’ve already heard how well that plan turned out.)

At university I didn’t have time to write fiction—too many academic papers to finish. But I kept reading science fiction and fantasy; every school break, I’d hit The Other Change of Hobbit (the local speculative fiction store) for a hefty stack of novels to inhale. And the first thing I did after I got my undergraduate degree was clear out the academic muck in my brain by writing a bizarre science fiction novel about aliens that look like people-sized rats. And then I kept on writing fiction. My short stories tend to be fantasy or magical realism, inspired by a dream or an image or a writing exercise. My novels tend to be science fiction, often with a strong romantic component (inspired by binge-reading romance novels, whose pleasures I discovered shortly after writing the alien rat novel).

Writing fiction simply felt good. It felt right. It felt as if writing was what I was meant to do. Not to put money on the table, but to feel … whole. So I joined a science fiction and fantasy writers group that I connected with at a local science fiction and fantasy convention, attended Romance Writers of America meetings, and soaked up everything I could to be a better writer.

What genre do you write in and why?

I write in three genres—science fiction, fantasy, and romance—because those genres are what I read. When I write romance, it is strictly SFR (science fiction romance or romantic science fiction or paranormal romance or whatever is the current jargon).

Science fiction and romance combine naturally for me, because both give me hope. Science fiction gives me hope that humanity will survive, expand, explore, learn, love—that we will evolve and will continue the great journey of life beyond the bounds of this Earth. Romance gives me hope that love will conquer pain, death, isolation, the small and great indignities of life—that it will elevate us beyond selfish solitude.

Hope, and a lot of hard work: that’s what it takes to move forward in life and in love. And moving forward interests me.

Do you do an outline or just start writing?

For novels, I don’t outline; but I do have an idea of what the main conflict is, how the setting affects the characters, and a sense of the emotional impact of a few key scenes. I don’t usually know the ending, because that develops from where the characters go on whatever journey they’ve decided to take—which isn’t always the journey I thought they’d go on. Writing my novels is a process of discovery, of working things out that I might not have been aware of when I began.

For short stories, I just start writing. Something will have inspired me: a writing exercise, a request from an editor for a story that fits a themed anthology, a dream, an image that pops into my head. I usually write with the story’s ending in mind, and the characters don’t surprise me as much because they have less space and time to diverge from my original inspiration.

What do you do for fun when you are not writing?

I quilt—art quilts as well as bed quilts and lap quilts. I mess around in my garden—argue with the roses, talk to the squirrels, dig in the dirt. I exercise—swim, lift weights, do cardio. I read—science fiction, fantasy, romance. And I hang out with friends who also quilt, exercise, read, write, and laugh at lizards on the lawn.

Do you write full-time or part-time?

I wish I could write full-time! To pay the bills, I teach at the University of California, Berkeley. I enjoying teaching; I learn important and interesting things from my students. But it’s hard to focus on my own writing when I spend so much of every day focusing on other people’s needs. (Whine, whine. Sorry.)

Please list website or blog site if you have them.

My website and my blog are both on carolynhill.com .

So, what is your new book about?

Blurb:

The ten great families of the “solaratti” hold such influence that even the galactic government hesitates to act openly against them, a power that has gained them unimaginable riches and allowed them to shape the fate of worlds.

Aleta Graham is a healer and empath, abilities that make her a useful pawn for the ruthless Dagarro family, who have addicted her to the drug known as Sand in order to keep her submissive. But Aleta is determined to overcome the influence of the drug, and make a desperate bid for freedom — even knowing that the penalty for disloyalty to the family is death.

Riven is a shapechanger, a computer genius, a spy sent by the government to destroy the power of the Dagarro. His ability to take on multiple identities allows him to infiltrate to the heart of their stronghold. But his rapidly growing feelings for Aleta, and hers for him, become a threat to his mission and put them both into deadly danger.

Link to buy on Amazon:

Can you share an interesting behind the scenes tidbit about your latest story?

Beneath the Skin is a romance, of course, and love is at the center. But the novel also explores identity — directly, in Riven’s ability to shapechange into people, and indirectly, in Aleta’s struggle to decide who she is once she is no longer drugged. And as I wrote it, it became an unexpected meditation on how to deal with cataclysmic problems in my own life: run away and protect myself? shelter in place? actively resist?

At the very beginning of the writing process, while I was contemplating the tangled intersections of power and family and identity and love, one image came strongly to mind: Marlon Brando in the opening scene of Godfather, when Bonasera comes to Vita Corleone during Connie’s wedding to ask for justice for his daughter. I pay conscious tribute to that image during the first chapter of Beneath the Skin.

Where is it set? Fictional or real?

The universe in which Beneath the Skin takes place is one in which I’ve set several other novels, including a young adult space opera. That universe grew in my mind organically over the decades, morphing and changing with my interests, but it’s rooted in concerns about the environment that I developed during a decade as a Girl Scout and concerns about social injustice that were sown in my years at UC Berkeley.

I was surprised when people told me that the setting of Beneath the Skin is dystopian. I thought I was just writing about things that I see in society today—bad things that I would like us to change, yes, but not a full-blown dystopia. If the novel’s universe is dystopian, then does that make the world we live in today a dystopia?

Perhaps I don’t think of the BTS universe as dystopian because circumstances in the other novels aren’t as dire. No one dies in my YA soap opera, and the other two novels in the BTS shapeshifter series aren’t as broad in political scope; the action in those two occurs on a single planet, the shapeshifters’ homeworld. The first book tells the story of how Verilyn Beau Astra (who appears in BTS as a sympathetic character) crash-landed on that world, met her husband, and came to protect the shapeshifters’ secret existence. The third book, which is still in progress, tells the story of Verilyn’s daughter, Cera Felice (another minor character in BTS), who falls in love with a most difficult object of affection.

Who are your main characters and what are they like?

Aleta doesn’t know who she is at first; she has been robbed of the adolescence during which most of us begin sorting out who we are and who we want to be. But even though she doesn’t know herself, I knew her, so it was relatively easy to write from her viewpoint. She is a person with a remarkable power: to heal empathically, but also to kill by the same means. She has been kept drugged and biddable to the machinations of her murderous, drug-running captors, and now she is searching for ways to free herself without becoming as evil as they are.

Riven was harder to write. I didn’t initially know what makes him tick, but it was clear to me that he knows who he is—that keeping track of himself is essential because, as a shapeshifter, he can be absolutely anyone and needs to hold onto the core of himself in order not to be overwhelmed by whatever guise he adopts. When he loses that clear sense of himself late in the novel – when his attraction to Aleta chips away at that sense – the conflict between reality and illusion, between lies and truth, became quite interesting.

My way into characters is usually through conflict. The more complicated the conflict, the more interesting the characters become to me. Who are you, at the end of the day, if you can read anyone’s emotions? Who are you, at the end of the day, if you can wear anyone’s face?

What is your favorite part of the story writing process?

The first draft stage of actual writing is one of my favorite parts. When I sit down and put my fingers to the keyboard and start typing, I feel as if all the parts of my brain are talking to one another, as if I am whole and complete and in touch with myself in a way I’m not at other times of my life. I discover as I write – stuff comes alive, things I don’t intend occur, comparisons and contrasts I didn’t consciously plan become apparent. My subconscious gets to speak.

The revision stage is also good. That’s when I consider what my subconscious has said and done, when I corral and shape the material, and when I set my conscious mind to making clear what I have discovered in the first draft stage.

Writing can be such an isolated enterprise. Yet, I’m sure there are people who have helped or guided or inspired you along the way to becoming a published author. Could you tell us about one of them and how they helped you?

You are absolutely right: many people have guided and inspired me along the way, and I am grateful. But there is one person I can point to and say with absolute certainty, “If it had not been for Teresa Edgerton, Beneath the Skin would not be published.”

Since graduating from university, I’ve written several novels and many short stories, but after the first decade of rejections, I stopped sending my work to publishers. I kept writing, kept gathering feedback from writers groups, kept polishing my craft – but when a novel or short story collection was finished, I self-published it rather than submitted it anywhere. The only reason Beneath the Skin is now published by an independent press is that the editor, Teresa Edgerton, read it long ago in a writers group, remembered it fondly, and contacted me because she felt it is ideal for Venus Ascending, her new line of romantic science fiction and romantic fantasy novels.

After Teresa contacted me, I took a fresh look at the book and decided it needed a different ending, which required a few changes to earlier scenes. Teresa agreed and encouraged me to make those changes, so I did, and with her incisive input, I turbo-charged the last several chapters. The book is better for it!

So, three cheers for Teresa Edgerton, editor extraordinaire —who, I am pleased to mention, is the author of many excellent fantasy novels published by traditional presses.

Now for the S.A.T. portion of the interview:  Fill in the blank –

If I were a villain, I would have nail salon workers for minions to deliver my wrath because I am jealous of people who don’t bite their fingernails like I do. Those salon workers could use their painful grinding machines to mess up everyone else’s nails. Bwaa ha haha ha!

May 23

Today is Lucky Penny Day and the birthday of: John Howard Payne, Thomas Hood, Margaret Fuller, Scott O’Dell, Margaret Wise Brown

Tip: Make a list of other writers your work is similar to. This is something a lot of readers often want to know – especially when you become famous. (I read all your books. Until the next one comes out, can you recommend someone like you?)

Thought: “I can’t write five words but that I change seven.” – Dorothy Parker

Teaser: What is the most boring job you can think of? What if you had that job? What could you do to make it more exciting? Put your character in that job and give us his or her thoughts.