Monday, December 28, 2015

Unlikable Characters: My Take on Craig Mazin's Take

I recently subscribed to yet another podcast, Scriptnotes, which describes itself as a podcast about screenwriting and things that are interesting to screenwriters.

If you've followed me on social media or here on my blog for any amount of time, you know that I'm not a screenwriter. (The screenplay I wrote with my high school friend Sam doesn't count, but it sure was fun and a great learning experience.) I'm a fiction writer. I primarily write novels and novellas. Yet I love this podcast and recommend it to writers of all kinds.

Scriptnotes is hosted by Hollywood screenwriters John August and Craig Mazin. After listening to a few episodes, you can't help but like these guys, even if Craig is full of umbrage (and disdain for religion).

Episode 223, from November 10, had a section about the least helpful notes screenwriters get. Turns out that Craig's least favorite (read: most despised) note is to be told that his characters aren't likable.

Craig argues that movies are filled with characters we don't like, and that characters are supposed to change anyway, so it's okay if we don't like them at first. Plus, we like curmudgeons! Unlikable quirks can make a character more interesting anyway. So stop telling us to make our characters more likable! (Totally paraphrasing here. Listen to his rant; your mileage may vary.)

And he has a point . . . to a point.

He's right that flawed and/or curmudgeonly characters are interesting. We enjoy watching characters like that, while characters who seem too perfect feel flat or fake. Even if we don't like a character, we'll hang on to watch more because we're entertained. We often start liking them as the movie progresses.

Besides, a movie is only a couple of hours long, and chances are, you paid to see this show, so you'll probably stick it out to the closing credits to see how it all turns out anyway.

In other words, Craig's advice clearly works for screenwriting.

Alas, that wisdom doesn't carry over into formats like the novel. I've learned this the hard way. Over and over and over again.

Consider this: A novel takes much longer to read than a movie takes to watch. While some people can devour a novel in a day, most readers read a chapter or two here or there, often before bed. They end up spending days if not weeks or more with the same book.

As the author, you don't have the luxury of assuming the reader will hang on until the character is sympathetic, or that the reader will trust you at all to go beyond the first page or two, that eventually, they'll see that they were in good hands all along. (An exception exists for really big names, who can pretty much break every rule and still sell millions because their name is a trusted brand before word one.)

With novels, readers may well toss a book aside if they hate the characters after a few minutes of reading. Not so with a few minutes of a movie. Readers simply won't devote hours and hours (or days) of their lives to your story. No way. They'd rather re-watch their most hated movie and get it over with in two hours or so.

That said, readers don't want perfect characters either. They want flaws and they want growth, just like moviegoers do. (Two groups with a ton of crossover, of course.)

The result is that fiction writers face a double challenge: Create characters who are human and flawed but still likable enough for the reader to hang on and care enough to keep reading, and make all of that happen on page one.

Oh, and be sure to open at precisely the right moment. Starting a even a few minutes (or, heck, seconds) earlier or later in story time could kill the opening.

No pressure or anything.

If you've hooked your readers with the opening, they'll likely turn the page. If you've managed to carry them to the 25% mark, they've invested enough time that you've got a good shot at carrying them to the end even if the characters start making really unlikable choices. Which they often do, of course.

To get to the point where you've earned a reader's trust, you must somehow get them pretty far into the story. And you get a page or two to hook them initially. That's it.

For me, one of the biggest challenges I've faced is beta readers and critique group members telling me that they hate the main character because she's acting so mean or hateful or whatever. And then I sit back and wonder where they got that from, because in most cases, that's not how I meant to write the character at all. I unravel what made it to the page compared to what was in my head in an effort to figure out what's missing and how to get it to the page.

But in some cases, I did mean to show the main character in a harsher light, although I still hoped the reader would sympathize. In one case in particular, the main character has been through a lot of raw, bitter stuff. The book opens with her being angry and upset. She has open emotional wounds. To make a long story short, I needed to open the book at a certain point in her life, show X, Y, and Z, and then get out of that situation, all by the end of chapter one.

Turns out that "wounded" is really hard to write without coming across as witchy (keeping the blog family friendly . . ). I must have rewritten that chapter fifteen times. In each version, she felt weaker and weaker to me because I had to keep softening her edges. But readers were slowly starting to connect with her.

Even though I wanted to show her realistically angry and pissed off in chapter one, I couldn't. Readers had no way of knowing enough about her at that point to have any kind of sympathy for her. You read vitriol and assume the character is a pretty awful person. So anger and even depression in that context only made her look bad.

My theory is that closing a book after two pages and tossing it to the side is far easier than standing up and walking out of a movie theater two minutes into a film, when you haven't even seen the opening credits. No one walks out that early, and few people walk out ever.

Lots and lots of people give up on books, though.

I could have left the chapter as it was, I suppose, but I can guarantee that by doing so, I would have lost a lot of readers in short order. They wouldn't have held on until they sympathized or even empathized with her.

I've been writing for a very long time (writing seriously for over two decades now), so when I first heard Craig saying that this particular note was pure crap, I wanted to cheer. Oh, how I wanted to. But I couldn't, because for a fiction writer, his opinion doesn't apply. (I wish!)

Sometimes I think I've learned how to write a flawed yet likable character who works from word one, yet far more often than I want to admit, I get the rug pulled out from under me yet again. Betas (had-picked readers I trust) point out why the character isn't working. After initially pulling on my hair and muttering things under my breath, I return to the keyboard and revise yet again. Because when everyone is saying the same thing, they're probably right.

I suppose in some ways, reading about a character in a new book is a lot like meeting someone in real life. You don't tell a new acquaintance about every skeleton in your closet, every bump in your road, every emotional injury. Rather, we get to know people a little at a time, and their personalities and characters are revealed gradually through actions and words. The same goes for characters, even those we've got a tight POV on.

Watching a movie is more like people watching; it's easy in real life to watch completely awful people interact and be nasty. We don't walk away from boredom. (Heck, we'll probably pull out our phones and start taking a video so we can entertain our friends.)

I'll continue working on making my characters just likable enough in the beginning for readers to agree to go on the ride.

But I confess that I'll forever envy Craig Mazin and his fellow screenwriters for their ability to ignore that note, even if the note drives them nuts.

Thursday, December 17, 2015

Arm Yourself Against Data Loss

They say there are two types of writers: 

1) Those who have lost work


2) those who will. 

That's the truth. And that's why I'm writing this post, as a plea to protect your work. I'm writing this now because in the last six months, I've had three friends who are professional writers and/or publishing professional s lose or almost lose huge amounts of data because they didn't have the proper safeguards in place. 

In one case, everything the writer had worked on for decades was on his laptop. He needed some kind of service on it requiring the hard drive to be wiped, so he backed up the entire thing on an external hard drive. So far, so good. But the backup failed. The data wasn't retrievable after all. He was absolutely sick over losing his life's work until a tech support person was able to dig deep enough to realize that this writer had installed a backup service, and that it was backing up his entire computer remotely all along without the writer being aware of it. He ended up losing only a week or so of work instead of decades's worth. 

In another case, the writer did make occasional backups, but it's easy to forget and put off doing a backup, from a day to a week, to months. And that's the situation she found herself in when her laptop was stolen at an airport. She lost a year's worth of work (hundreds of thousands of words) as well as priceless and irreplaceable family photos. 

The third case also involved a robbery, this time when thieves broke into her home, taking her laptop along with many other items. The other things can be replaced. Her personal creative work cannot. 

Each time I heard the news of a friend losing data, I ached inside. Having your creative work taken from you forever is soul-crushing. 

It's even worse when you know that you could have done something to prevent it. 

I know of what I speak of. I'm not talking about losing a page of two if the power goes out or the time when my son was a baby and he crawled over to the computer tower, turned it off, and I lost a chapter or so.

I've experienced worse, and I refuse to ever again. Think you're immune? You're not. 

As a preteen, I wrote a fantasy novel. Rather, I wrote most of a fantasy novel, and I typed it as in, on an actual typewriter. Because I'm that old. Writing that book was my happy place. 

The fall I entered 8th grade, Dad ended up helping a tech company with a side job using his linguistics background, and as part of that, a computer entered our house for the first time. 

Recognizing the future when I saw it, I promptly started transferring my (still unfinished, but sizable) fantasy novel into the computer. In the process, I revised and expanded what was on the page. Day after day after, I came home from the misery of junior high and slipped into the zone of my happy place. 

As I finished typing up each page of my original typewriter draft, I happily threw it away, an act that felt like an accomplishment in some way. 

Shortly after I finished getting it all written and saved in digital format, and before I finished the story, someone suggested that I get a backup copy of the file because you never knew. It was always a good idea to have a backup, just in case. 

Dad agreed, and he promised to get a floppy disk (again, yes, I'm that old), and we'd make a copy. He came home from work one day with the promised floppy disk. But my file had somehow become corrupted. Out of probably 60,000 words, I had 14 measly lines left. 


I stared at the screen. That couldn't be right. Murphy isn't that cruel with his stupid law, is he?

The techie guy working on my dad's project thought he might be able to find the rest of the file or figure out what had happened. He tried. He failed. 

And then the reality sank in. What amounted to my life's work (at the age of almost 14) was gone. Erased. Wiped out of existence. I hadn't even saved the typed rough draft pages. How could I not have at least saved the pages until I got the file onto a floppy disk? 

Ever since, I've been almost maniacal about having backup copies. I used to print out hard copies of all of my manuscripts too, just in case. 

Marrying a computer scientist turned out to be particularly helpful in my quest to never lose large amounts of work ever again. This is the man who got me an e-mail address before I really grasped what the Internet was, when I asked, "Why will I ever want this?" to which he replied, "Trust me." (He was right, of course.) 

He kept me well stocked with floppy disks, followed by zip drives and other backups as technology developed. 

Today I have a external hard drive that's a copy of an old computer, but what I rely on most is an off-site backup service. 

External hard drives can be helpful, but they can also fail. If your house burns down, or there's flooding, an external drive will do you absolutely no good. 

Thumb drives are notorious for failing. They're great for transferring files from place to place. I use them a lot when speaking at conferences in case my laptop won't connect to a projector. I can always plug the thumb drive into another laptop. But I won't rely on one of those things as my primary backup. No way. 

Here Are Four Ways to Cover Your Bases:

Have your computer automatically back up every few minutes. 
You can tell Word and Scrivener how often to do that; in Scrivener, you can make it a matter of every few seconds. 

Use E-mail as a Backup.
I know many writers who e-mail themselves their own files; some do so after each work day, some less often. Either way, your files are in a safe place in your computer fails. 

Use a Cloud Service.
You've probably heard of Dropbox, OneDrive, and Google Drive. They (and others) offer free accounts with a limited amount of space (but plenty of room for text documents, if you're a writer). In many cases, you can work offline, and the file syncs next time you're online. They're a great FREE resource with an easy user interface, and even if you fill up your space, you can pay a small amount for more. 

Have an Automated Backup System. 
As long as your computer is connected to the Internet, these systems will make a copy of any change in your computer, and do so daily without your ever having to remember to do it. They keep a month's worth of copies, so you can drill down to any version of a file you need form the last 30 days to find the exact one you're looking for. If your laptop is stolen, dies with a gasp, gets taken over by a virus, or whatever, you can download everything to a brand new laptop, including your programs and directories. At most, you'll only ever lose changes since the last backup, which is always within the last 24 hours. (Another reason why using e-mail or something like Dropbox is a good idea on top of this.)

Because these services are so thorough, the first backup can take days, but it works in the background, and you can still use your computer like you would any other day. After that, a backup is quick and again, always in the background. 

We used Mozy for years and recently switched to Backblaze, which we found to be more intuitive and more affordable. They have backup systems of their own, so your data is pretty darn safe.

I never worry anymore that I've lost data because I haven't. It's always retrievable. And I know that because I've had to retrieve files from the backups, several times. 

My Plea

Whatever you do, don't rely entirely on your own computer's internal backup or on an external drive. 

With so many cloud services, including free ones, and with free e-mail services, you have no excuse to not have backups of your work. 

I guarantee that the ones and zeroes that make up your writing are incredibly fragile. Something will happen to them at some point, whether that's a virus or something else. You will lose some work. We can hope it'll be a only a few hundred words, but what if it's an entire novel? 

When you lose data (because you will), be sure you can restore it. 

And in the meantime, you can rest (and write) easy, knowing that even if hardware fails, even if thieves ruin your day, even if you get a Trojan horse, you'll always be able to get your work back. 


An Unexpected Proposal, my first novella to ever come out with the Timeless Romance Anthology series, is now available as a single for 99 cents. 

And my second novella, Chasing Tess, from the TRA Spring Collection, is up for pre-order as a single, also for only 99 cents. Order it now, and it'll download to your device on Christmas day! 

I have other novellas that will be going live soon, plus a really fun project coming in January that you'll want to keep your eyes open for! 

Wednesday, November 04, 2015

Holiday Sale with a $200 Cash Prize!

The authors of Echo Ridge decided to organize a multi-author sale during release week and invite our favorite authors to join us. All the books featured on this sale are only $.99 and they are all amazing!

Don't forget to enter the Rafflecopter giveaway for $200 in Christmas Cash.

Happy book shopping!

Christmas Kisses: An Echo Ridge Anthology
Christmas Kisses is a collection from five bestselling and award-winning authors. Set in the snowy town of Echo Ridge in upstate New York, these inspirational romances are sure to delight while you sip cocoa by the fire and listen to Christmas carols.
Amazon * iTunes * Barnes & Noble * Smashwords * Kobo * Goodreads

Brownies & Betrayal by Heather Justesen

Pastry chef Tess Crawford thought moving from Chicago to quiet Silver Springs, Arizona would simplify her life. That was before she found the body of a woman with whom she had traded heated words the previous night, left her fingerprints on the murder weapon, and came under attack for trying to clear her name. When her cheating ex-fiance shows up, intent on convincing her to come back to work for him, Tess—armed with an extra batch of éclairs—decides to take control and solve the mystery herself, with the help of friends and frenemies alike.

But will that be enough to save her when she gets too close and the killer decides it’s safer to get her out of the way?

Simplify & Savor the Season by Connie E. Sokol

Ready to enjoy the holidays again? Use this two-part holiday organizer to help you savor the celebrations. In the first half of the book, brainstorm the Big Four; then, detail the To Dos including menu, gift-planning, etc. with success tips on how to eliminate the unnecessary and focus on the essential. Wrap up with "5 Holiday Juicers" to make life joyful. Keep your notes handy in the companion Simplify & Savor Take-along Planner.

With the second half of the book. curl up with a cup of cocoa and read "Savory Suggestions and Stories," a collection of laugh-out-loud anecdotal stories including "Let Go of the Cookie Cutter Christmas" and "Thankful for Turkey Warbling". Make this holiday season one you remember and enjoy!

Diamond Rings are Deadly Things by Rachelle J. Christensen

Adrielle Pyper knows how to plan a wedding, and she's especially good at pleasing bridezillas. But when her biggest client and best friend is murdered just three days before the wedding, Adri's world falls apart. She moves to the resort town of Sun Valley, Idaho, and starts from scratch. Thanks to Adri's impeccable taste and unique style, she lands two celebrity clients, and her business seems headed for success—until someone vandalizes the specialty wedding dresses she imported from overseas. Adri must race to uncover the secret hidden within the yards of satin and lace before she becomes the next victim.

With a delightful blend of mystery, toe-curling kisses, humor, and spine-tingling thrills, Diamond Rings are Deadly Things will keep you turning pages long into the night. 

A Baker's Dozen by Lucy McConnell
Tempt your sweet tooth with 13 delicious, easy, and beautiful dessert recipes. Each recipe has been time-tested and found irresistible. You’ll horde the Lemon Brownies but you might be willing to share the Rock and Roll Cake—with a good friend.

Recipes include: Chocolate Chunk Peanut Butter Cookies, Pumpkin Bunt Cake, S’mores Cheesecake, No-Fail Lemon Bars.

Impress your coworkers, family, friends, and even the guys at the car repair shop with these recipes. They’re sure to become favorites in your recipe box, lunch box, and ice box. 

An Unexpected Proposal by Annette Lyon

While working at a wood camp in the Logan canyon during the winter of 1880, Caroline Simpson is forced to thwart the aggressive advances of Mr. Butch Larson, and in the process discovers that her long-time friend James has genuine affection for her. But as stubborn as Caroline is, she minimizes the emotions James has awakened in her, and it takes almost losing him to admit her true feelings.

An Unexpected Proposal was introduced in the first volume of the bestselling and award-winning Timeless Romance Anthology series Winter Collection, which was Amazon #1 Bestselling *New Release* in Clean Romance, Top 10 in Regency Romance, Top 5 in Victorian Romance.

Amazon Barnes & Noble *iTunes *Kobo * Smashwords

The Colony by Cami Checketts
To protect her sons from the mistakes of her past, Brinlee Trapper escapes to a secluded mountain home. But there are dangers lurking in the mountains she has never encountered. The little family is saved from injury by Jed, a mysterious hunter. Brinlee is drawn to him, but she worries about his involvement with a peaceful commune hidden deep in the mountains behind her property.

Lance, Brinlee's attentive neighbor, has his own troubled history. Between his obvious attraction to Brinlee and his developing love for her children, Brinlee finds it more than difficult to guard her heart against this tender intrusion.
While Jed offers a life of excitement and freedom, Lance holds the key to the family Brinlee always wanted. When it comes time to choose, she learns that both men have secrets that could shatter her fledgling trust in men and the wrong decision could leave more than her heart exposed to danger.

Torn Canvas by Donna K. Weaver
Modern-day pirates took more than Jori Virtanen’s friends; they stole his face. Not only does the twenty-four-year-old former model have to confront months of reconstructive surgery, he discovers his previous life was as superficial as his looks. Up-and-coming talk show host Olivia Howard wants an interview. She, like the rest of the press, expects a hero, but Jori knows the truth. His beauty masks a beast.

In seclusion and evading the press, Jori struggles to make a new life as an artist. But he can’t hide from himself; more than his face is damaged. How can Jori possibly make amends for all that he’s broken? When Olivia finally tracks him down, he must decide if he can trust her. Could this unlikely woman be a key to freeing his heart and healing the beast?
The audio book is only $1.99 with the purchase of the e-book.

Son of War Daughter of Chaos by Janette Rallison
Aislynn is accustomed to watching for the enemy. Her parents instructed her from the time she was young to look for people with the signs: greater than normal strength, eyes that can glow green, and the ability to jump long distances. Over the years, Aislynn has come to view her parents' fears as quirks-things that get in the way of having a normal high school life. When Aislynn's mother dies under suspicious conditions, her father doubles his restrictions. But all his precautions can't stop the boy with glowing green eyes from finding Aislynn. She realizes too late she's been drafted into an ancient Egyptian war, whether she's prepared or not.

Vocal Crush by Lisa Swinton
Can you ever out run a broken heart?
Lexi Court spent seven years traveling the world, living the nomadic Broadway life, in an attempt to outrun the broken heart Nick Rivers gave her. Now, there’s nowhere left to go.

When she accepted a position as a high school drama teacher in Las Vegas, Lexi hoped to get over Nick, find a nice guy, and settle down. But what should be a quiet summer gets turned upside down when Lexi's best friend, Taffy, drafts her to be an emergency replacement coach on a televised vocal competition.

Feeling out of her league among the other three celebrity coaches, Lexi fights for the most promising contestants to be on her team. One note from a single voice shatters her summer. Nick unexpectedly auditions and joins Lexi's team. With her vocal crush on him raging as strong as ever, she has nowhere to run from Nick’s dreamy looks or siren voice.

Lexi has no doubt that Nick can win the competition. The question is does he want to win her heart as well or will he damage it beyond repair?

Think television reality show The Voice meets Jane Austen’s Persuasion.

Picture Perfect by U.S.A. Today Bestseller Heather B. Moore

Gemma has never done anything out of the ordinary, until her boyfriend Randy starts to ignore her. But even cutting and dyeing her hair doesn’t get his attention. She decides to join her old high school friends for spring vacation, only to be faced with Drew, her best friend who suddenly seems interested in her as more than a friend. Gemma must determine if her heart is on the rebound or if it’s finally met its true match.

Endless Modern Cinderella by Jaclyn Weist
Sydney lives her nightmares every night. While other teenagers are dreaming of boys or traveling to exotic places, she must run a staircase with no beginning or no end, or a terrible debt will never be paid.

Just before her seventeenth birthday, the dreams change. She is no longer alone.

But her nightmares don’t end when she wakes up. Her stepmother and stepsisters threaten to ruin everything she holds dear. She must protect the secret that both she and her father have magic or they will use it to their advantage.

As Sydney learns to control her magic, what seemed impossible before—escaping her stepmother and those ever-present stairs—is now at her fingertips. When she learns the ultimate plan of her evil captor, Sydney must stop her at all costs, or she will forever be trapped inside her nightmares. 

Cookie Girl Christmas by Christene Houston

Molly Hayes has one more job before Christmas and then she can put her plans for a storefront bakery of her own in motion. What she doesn't bargain for is the handsome young Scrooge who insults her cookies and makes her blood boil. Toss in a heaping helping of snowstorm and a pinch of romantic old Inn and you've got yourself the perfect recipe for a not-so-silent-night.

And Something Blue by Paige Timothy

Bridal consultant Laurie Fletcher spends all her time helping others prepare for the most special day of their lives. Logan Reese is easily the most irritating man on the planet, and for some reason, he's made annoying Laurie his mission in life. Will true love ever come Laurie's way, or is she doomed to watch others get their happily ever after while she sits on the sidelines?

Six Days of Christmas by Kaylee Baldwin

When Natalie goes home with her best friend for Christmas, she expects plenty of quiet time to work on a winning ad so she can turn her dream internship into her dream job. Instead, she gets time-consuming Christmas festivities, a house full of children who seem to be multiplying, and Jimmy, her best friend’s brother—someone who makes her question everything she’s always thought she wanted. 

Ring Around the Rosie by Julie Coulter Bellon
As the ex-wife of a law enforcement officer, Sarah Reed has known loneliness and loss. In order to cope, she makes a life for herself that's full of routine while building a wall of ice around her heart. Everything about her is as predictable as she can make it until a tiny detour for her ex-husband, Ron, changes her life forever. Caught in a bomb crisis, Sarah is taken hostage by a man who wants Ron and everyone around him to suffer—and his idea of suffering is more terrible than Sarah had ever dreamed.

Captain Ron Reed has seen the worst of humanity in his job with the Hostage Negotiation Team, but he never expected his past to come back with a vengeance—literally. Aaron Starks, a criminal explosives expert, has stolen next-gen bomb technology. He uses it to force Ron to bargain for the lives of his team and his ex-wife, Sarah, the woman he still loves. But the situation escalates when Ron discovers that Starks has an even bigger objective in mind—using the bomb to show how vulnerable America and her people truly are.

Ron is willing to risk everything to save his country and those he loves, but when negotiations break down, will his sacrifice be too little too late?

Yesterday by Amanda Tru
Her yesterday was five years ago. What will her tomorrow bring? 
When Hannah Kraeger saves a family injured in a car accident, she has no idea she has changed events in the past. Waking the next morning, Hannah discovers her yesterday was really five years ago.

Each trip Hannah takes through time changes the timeline and her own life. With help from Dr. Seth McAllister, Hannah must unravel the mystery of why she time travels and who she actually is before the strange ability costs her future, the man she loves, and even her life. 

YESTERDAY is a thrilling Christian Romantic Suspense filled with unexpected twists, mystery, and romance. 

My One and Only by Shannon Guymon
Meredith Jensen has seen her share of ups and downs. She’s found love twice already and lost it in spectacularly traumatic ways. Now? She just wants a peaceful life, free from love and drama. Meredith’s plans for the future center around planning other people’s weddings and her new online dating website. Just because she works to help other people find love doesn’t mean she wants any part of it though. Unfortunately for Meredith’s plans, Asher Murphy is determined to get her to give love another chance. But then again, so is Pule Matafeo. Meredith has never denied that she’s stubborn and feisty so it might take the combined forces of all their friends in Fircrest to get her heart back on track in time for Valentine’s Day. 

Stealing Adda by Tamara Leigh
WRITER’S BLOCK, NIBBLED NAILS, PLAGIARISM, OH MY! AND DID I MENTION ROMANCE? Life for Adda Sinclaire, New York Times best-selling author and historical romance writer extraordinaire, reads more like a country song than a breathless, bodice-bursting affair. For starters, she has no romance in her own life. That might have something to do with the fact that her husband—correction, ex-husband—ran off with Stick Woman, whom everyone knew would never be more than a mid-list author anyway. To add insult to injury (and another verse to the country song), her ex not only took their dog but gave it to Stick Woman. If that isn't enough, Adda has come down with a horrible case of writer's block, finds herself gifted with a Bible that is determined to speak to her, and is the unwitting target of a romance cover model's misdirected advances. Just when she catches her breath—and quite possibly the eye of a certain fabulously good-looking man (ahem…her new editor)—her arch-nemesis gives the pot one final stir.

Spy by Night by Jordan McCollum

After watching her parents’ marriage crash and burn, CIA operative Talia Reynolds doesn’t believe in “happily ever afters.” Besides, her job entails eighty-hour weeks, juggling a dozen covers and disguises, and tracking down a dangerous Russian spy ring. She hardly has time for romantic entanglements, even if she could let her guard down enough to get close to anyone.But all the rules she lives by could be broken when she meets aerospace engineer Danny Fluker.

Danny moved to Canada for a great job — and a chance to start over after a bad breakup. Dating definitely isn’t in his plans . . . until beautiful and enigmatic Talia throws a perfect storm right in his flight path. When he catches a glimpse of the real woman behind her façade, he has to get to know her better.

Talia has to find a Russian spymaster before he figures out she’s not who she claims, and failing to keep her two lives separate in the process could mean the death of more than just her budding relationship. Danny has to decide if a future with Talia — and facing the past — is worth the risk of getting hurt again. If they can break through the barriers keeping them apart (and avoid a major international catastrophe), they just might have a chance at being happy together.

Saving Grace by Michele Paige Holmes
From #2 Amazon Bestselling Historical Romance Author and Whitney Award Winner, Michele Paige Holmes, comes SAVING GRACE, a regency romance from the Hearthfire Romance series: 

After the death of her grandfather, the Duke of Salisbury, Grace Thatcher wants nothing more than to live quietly in the country with her younger siblings. Her father’s debts thwart those plans, and to protect her sister, Helen, Grace must marry a man of her father’s choosing. 

As each suitor proves less than desirable, Grace comes up with clever schemes, causing each to reject her. While staying at the mysterious Sutherland Hall, a middle-of-the-night mishap sends Grace into the arms of a stranger, Nicholas Sutherland—and provides inspiration for her grandest plan yet—one that will leave her reputation in tatters yet free both her and Helen from all possibility of marriage. 

Too late Grace regrets her rash actions when her father’s last choice, Mr. Samuel Preston, proves to be a gentleman and a friend. But Samuel is the sworn enemy of Nicholas Sutherland, the man responsible for her “ruin.” Now instead of being free, Grace is caught between two men—each with his own agenda.


Paris Cravings by Amazon #1 Best Selling Author for Clean Romance, Kimberley Montpetit

Can life really turn on a dime, a missed bus—or a stuck pastry shop door?
Chloe Dillard's life has always been complicated. Her mother is a neurotic romance novelist and her boyfriend, Mathew, has been pressuring her to go "all the way."

But after The Worst Night of Her Life, Chloe escapes on her Senior Class trip to the swoon-worthy city of Paris which takes her mind off her troubles—temporarily. On the final leg of her dream trip, Chloe squeezes in one final run for a last-minute box of decadent pastries. Add a broken shop door, subtract a broken four-inch heel from her cute strappy sandals, and Chloe ends up one stuck girl on the bakery shop floor with a sprained ankle.

Rescued by the shop owner’s dreamy son with chocolate-syrup eyes, the beautiful city of Paris suddenly becomes Chloe’s personal secret adventure. And even though Jean-Paul, the oh-so-kind La Patisserie shop boy is the gentlemanly guy Chloe has always dreamed of, even he has a girlfriend.
The police are tracking her down as a run-away, Mom’s having a nervous breakdown over her daughter’s “disappearance”, and Chloe’s just trying to have a Happily-Ever-After even as her dreams with Matt are swirling down the drain.

What’s a girl to do in the most romantic city in the world?
Easy Pastry Recipe in the back of the book!


Monday, September 28, 2015

Chills, Thrills, Dinner, a Show, & Authors!

Historic Northampton House, built 1903, which appears in
"It's You," my novella from the All Hallows' Eve Collection.
I'm SO excited to share some exciting news that's been brewing for a few months. It began with a research trip I took around town, which led to my ghost story in the latest Timeless Romance Anthology collection, All Hallows' Eve.

My story in that collection, "It's You," was inspired by a building I drive by regularly: the Northampton House reception center. (If you're a Studio C fan, you may have seen it featured in their "Deal Breaker" music video.)

Several months ago, before I'd come up with my All Hallows' Eve story, I drove past the building at night and noticed an arched window lit up above the west-side door. I'd never noticed that particular window, even though I've driven past the building hundreds, if not thousands, of times. 

As I drove into the darkness, my imagination drifted into that magical place where ideas s how up, and I wondered: What if the light in that window wasn't from electricity, but from a GHOST?

Ooooh, the possibilities! 

The arched window where a ghost appears in "It's You."
I was graciously given a tour of the building, and sure enough, a significant part of my story ended up taking place inside. The window is part of the story, as is the room once used as a chapel. It has beautiful stained glass windows that show up in the story too. 

Stained glass window from inside the Somerset room.

Here's where things get really cool: 

Northampton House is throwing a murder-mystery dinner, and we want you to join us! 

Murder-Mystery Dinner 
at historic 
Northampton House
Tuesday, October 20
198 W 300 N American Fork, Utah

Guest Authors: 
Annette Lyon
Heather B. Moore
Sarah M. Eden
Jordan McCollum
Lisa Mangum
Josi S. Kilpack

6:00 PM 
Doors open to the public (FREE! NO TICKET required!)
Bookstore and author reception in the Somerset room, which is featured in "It's You."

7:00 PM
Delicious plated dinner and murder-mystery to solve, all in the Courtyard room, used for most of the Studio C video. 
Ticket required. Link below.

***Additional book signing to follow after the dinner & show.*** 

For the first time ever, the **paperback** of 
All Hallows' Eve will be available!

Come get yours and have it signed by the authors! 

Snag other books by the guest authors and even bring along any of their books you already own to get them signed as well.  

Look over the delicious menu options 
and get your tickets HERE.

Join us!

Eighties costumes welcome but not required.

(This is a change from the previous theme of 1920s.)

Sale Alert: A PORTRAIT FOR TONI is on sale for a few more days 
for only 99 cents, down for $3.99. Grab your copy by clicking the button below. 

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Big E-book Sale!

Who doesn't love a sale, right? Please pass this on to your friends who might be interested. 

Help us share it on Facebook and Twitter! 


Imperfect Love, by Rebecca Talley 

Regular Price: $3.99
SALE Price: $.99  

Lauren Wilson is well on her way to her happily-ever-after. She’s passionate about her career as a middle school English teacher, she adores her handsome, hard-working husband, and with a baby finally on the way, her perfect life is within her grasp.

But then a devastating test result changes everything.

Forced to choose between her baby and her husband, Lauren makes the only decision she can live with, and she returns to her small hometown in hopes of rebuilding her shattered life.

Ethan Campbell is a gifted photographer who travels the world and has no desire to settle down. When his mother dies, he must go home to settle her estate. Then it’s back to exciting adventures across the globe.

When Lauren crosses paths with Ethan, her teenage crush, old feelings resurface—feelings she’s not prepared to face. Will Lauren have the courage to trust again or will she spend her life alone? Imperfect Love is a story about sacrifice, healing, second chances, and discovering that although love isn’t always perfect, sometimes it’s the imperfect love that’s the sweetest of all.

A Change of Plans, by Donna K. Weaver

Regular Price: $3.99
SALE Price: $.99

Audio Book (If you own the e-book, the audio book is only $1.99)

When Lyn sets off on her supposedly uncomplicated and unromantic cruise, she never dreams it will include pirates. All the 25-year-old Colorado high school teacher wants is to forget that her dead fiancé was a cheating scumbag. What she plans is a vacation diversion; what fate provides is Braedon, an intriguing surgeon. She finds herself drawn to him: his gentle humor, his love of music, and even his willingness to let her take him down during morning karate practices. Against the backdrop of the ship’s make-believe world and its temporary friendships, her emotions come alive.

However, fear is an emotion, too. Unaware of the sensitive waters he navigates, Braedon moves to take their relationship beyond friendship—on the very anniversary Lyn came on the cruise to forget. But Lyn’s painful memories are too powerful, and she runs off in a panic.

Things are bad enough when the pair finds themselves on one of the cruise’s snorkeling excursions in American Samoa. However, paradise turns to piracy when their party is kidnapped. Lyn’s fear of a fairytale turns grim. Now she must fight alongside the man she rejected, first for their freedom and then against storms, sharks, and shipwreck.

Salem Witch Haunt, by Theresa Sneed

Regular Price: $4.99
SALE Price: $2.99

When she finds herself thrust back in time, 17 year old Bess Martin, a senior at Danvers High, sets out on a mission to save her 11th great-grandmother from the gallows-tree. With a near-perfect knowledge of the historical events about to unfold, Bess knows the untimely fate of many. 

The problem is that Bess has inherited her grandmother’s sharp tongue—a tongue that caused her grandmother to be tried and hanged as a witch in Salem Village, 1692. 

Can Bess stop the hangings and change the course of history, or will she share her grandmother’s fate? 

Felicity: A Sparrow's Tale, by Loralee Evans

Regular Price: $2.99
SALE Price: $.99

Tales of adventure and danger have thrilled Felicity since Augustus, her ivory-billed woodpecker friend, taught her to read as a little nestling. She adores the tales of heroes and heroines who forge ahead in spite of all odds, and who always seem to succeed no matter what. More than anything, Felicity wants to be brave and selfless like them. 

But adventures are in short supply, especially for someone who’s just an ordinary sparrow. 

Until the day an unexpected visitor shows up at her tree with an unusual request…

Newbie, by Jo Noelle

Regular Price: $3.99
SALE Price: $.99

The housing market is crashing, and Sophie’s life is crashing with it. At twenty-four, her successful real estate career evaporates. She’s broke, can’t find a job, or pay her bills, leaving Sophie wondering how her successful lifestyle became so fragile.

At the urging of her roommate, Sophie accepts a job in her fallback career—teaching six-year-olds. She hopes it’s temporary. After all, how long can a tanking economy last anyway? The best part of the new job is Liam, another employee at Rio Grande Elementary. The worst part of the new job is, well, teaching.

Sophie has a surprise real estate closing from a contract she wrote months ago, leading her to a niche in the real estate market and to a new partner, Kevin. Sophie must choose between Liam or Kevin and between a lucrative career or recess duty.

Lost Without You, by Annette Lyon

Regular price: $2.99
SALE Price: $0.99

For months, Christopher Morris has been Brooke's idea of the perfect man—attractive, charming, and fun to be around. But lately he's begun acting strangely, becoming possessive, controlling, and moody. Brooke feels she has no choice but to break up with him, but Christopher doesn't take it well. He drives her wildly back home and gets into a car accident. 

That's when Brooke first meets police officer Greg Stevens. After she keeps meeting him—at the worst possible times—they begin dating. Greg confesses he's a widower and that Brooke is the first woman he has so much as looked at in years. 

But as Brooke agonizes over whether Greg will ever be able to truly love her, Christopher makes a dangerous return into her life, deciding that if he can't have her, no one can.

The Man from Shenandoah, by Marsha Ward

Regular Price: $2.99
SALE Price: $.99

When young cavalryman Carl Owen returns from the Civil War, he finds the family farm destroyed, his favorite brother dead, food scarce, and his father planning to leave the Shenandoah Valley to start a cattle operation in Colorado Territory.
But Pa does a bit more: he also chooses a suitable mate for both Carl and his younger brother, James.

With no one else in mind, Carl is agreeable to marrying the delightfully flirtatious Ida Hilbrands somewhere along the trail, but James is devastated. Ellen Bates isn't the girl he loves and must leave behind.

Making their way across the vast continent, the Owen family and their friends battle a prairie fire, internal strife, a band of vicious outlaws, and the land itself to try to achieve their goals, but before that can happen, the two brothers are fighting over the hand of one girl—and only one of them can win!

Dangerous Favor, by Joyce DiPastena

Regular Price: $3.99
SALE Price: $.99

Mathilde needs a champion.

Her father has been accused of stealing from the king, an allegation that has reduced her family to poverty. She has one chance to find and marry a man who can help her prove her father's innocence. Lord Therri, heir to a rich barony, has the wealth and connections Mathilde needs to delve into the mysteries of her father's past. Furthermore, Therri embodies all her romantic dreams.

Etienne, the younger son of a disgraced family, has neither wealth nor connections, but is smitten with Mathilde at a glance. She finds the knight intriguing, but believes he is only out to seduce her. While she seeks for a way to win Therri's attention, Etienne tricks her into granting him her favor, an embroidered white ribbon, for a tournament, setting in motion a dangerous chain reaction of events. 

Can Etienne save Mathilde from a nightmare from her past and prove himself the true hero of her dreams?

With No Regrets, by Julie N. Ford

Regular Price: $4.99
SALE Price: $.99


Living with no regrets is harder than it seems.

Finley isn’t exactly sure when her life began to feel unfamiliar. She suspects the transformation started long before she caught her husband and fellow garden club member doing the white-trash-two-step on her new Bernhardt sofa. Now free from the shackles of a loveless marriage, and with her children off to college, she’s finally able to go searching for the missing pieces of her heart.

Finley’s best friend, Cathyanne, is already working hard to ensure that Finley finds true love this time around. But when Finley is unwittingly tossed into the arms of two men—their sexy trainer and her neighbor, a popular country star—Cathyanne fears finding the right guy will be more complicated than she ever could have imagined.

For Finley, building a new life feels as impossible as flying a paper airplane to the moon. But maybe, just maybe, with the right help, she will find her whole heart—even if it’s in the very last place she thinks to look.

This Very Moment, by Rachel Ann Nunes

Regular Price: 4.99
SALE Price: $.99 

A Compelling Story of Heartbreaking Loss, Inspiring Faith, and a Newfound Love Strong Enough to Heal All Wounds.

Bill Dubrey is a sought-after plastic surgeon for LA’s prestigious and wealthy, and an equally sought-after bachelor. On the surface it appears he has it all—money, respect, and fame. Yet behind his aloof exterior lurks a tragic past that prevents him from finding lasting happiness.

All that changes on the day Kylee Stewart reenters his life. She alone knows Bill’s secret agony, and she is determined to help him face his past. During the years they’ve been apart, Kylee’s own life has been far from easy, but unlike Bill, she has turned to God in her need, finding a faith to which she desperately clings.

The tentative friendship they begin has Bill rethinking his stark future, yet he keeps his heart in check—afraid to commit, afraid to lose again. During Kylee’s darkest moment, when she needs him most, will he be there for her? 

Shooting Stars, by Philip Carroll

Regular Price: $3.99
SALE Price: FREE Sept 15-19

Chuck McWilliams is fourteen years old and had just started high school in Washington State when his father lost his job and moved them to the hot, dry, valley of Central California. Starting his freshman hear six weeks after the rest of the students, Chuck is insecure about finding his way, making new friends and overcoming bullying from members of the cross country team. 

When he is invited to the Homecoming Dance by a strange girl in his English class, Kelsey Llewellyn, he can't think of any reason to say no. Later that day Dahlia Chand, an attractive girl on the cross country team, asks him to the dance, he wonders if he has made a mistake. 

How a secretive student, Doug Le Roux, avoids the notice of the rest of the students, yet stands out so clearly to Chuck makes him wonder if something extraordinary is going on at this high school. 

Chuck will become entwined in an ages old battle with werewolves, vampires and elves that most of humankind is unaware of in their midst. Remarkably, he will find the most enchanting magic comes from romance.

Ideal High, by Valerie Ipson

Regular Price: $4.99
SALE Price: $1.99

There’s no way I’m taking Blake’s place as president of the student body. As soon as the memorial for him and six of our friends is over, I’m resigning as VP. Really.

Except people say the fire was no accident. (I say it’s way too easy to blame someone who’s dead.)

When I read the writing on the wall, literally, the bathroom wall, I know what it means. To get to the truth I have to come out from under my paisley comforter.

But, seriously, what stage of grief says I have to be the one to fix what’s wrong at Ideal High? Maybe I’m the one who’s broken.

First Love Second Choice, by Lindzee Armstrong

Regular Price: $.99

When wedding planner Keslee gets asked on a date by her long-lost high school crush, Bryce, everything should be perfect. But Bryce mistakes Keslee for her deceased twin sister, Jadyn. And Keslee doesn’t correct him. Talk about awkward. To make matters worse, she learns they’ll be seeing a lot more of each other because Bryce is the marketing director at the venue where Keslee’s new client has chosen to get married. Keslee knows the charade can’t last much longer, and fears she’ll lose Bryce forever when she tells him the truth.

Emerine's Nightmare, by Anna del C. Dye

Price: $2.99

What would you do if one night, life as you know it changes and you are left alone in despair? That is how Emerine’s nightmare starts and now all he does is run.

His family lived at the edge of the forest until dark shadows killed them all. Now they want him, and so does a magic tree. He has never seen dark shadows or enchanted trees before. Emerine has to get to the heart of Red Forest, to the fairy people. Only then he will be safe. Safe? He has never heard of fairies before and once he gets there what?

Cassandra Jones, by Tamara Hart Heiner

Regular Price: $3.99
SALE Price: FREE Sept 16-17

What's special about Cassandra? Absolutely nothing. She's as ordinary as any other fifth grader. And yet her ordinary life is riddled with hilarious and sometimes heart-breaking mishaps as she guides herself through the world of pre-teens on the brink of adulthood. 

Cassandra Jones is the new girl at school. She's been uprooted from her beloved state of Texas and relocated to the hillbilly Ozarks of Springdale, Arkansas. She wonders if she will like her teacher or if she will have any friends. She can only hope school won't be harder than it was back home. 

She doesn't expect to have two close friends, and even worse, two friends that don't like each other. As she tries to make a spot for herself, will she keep her friendships intact? 


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