Wednesday, April 23, 2014

"T" is for That Genre Otherwise Known As Young Adult

As we wend our way through the alphabet in the A-Z Challenge, today's letter is "T", for "Teen", a.k.a Young Adult. Our special guest is author Natalie D. Richards to tell us about the joys and challenges of writing for the Young Adult!

And some quick blog business: The winner of Susan Gee Heino's book from our "R is for Regency" blog post is Natalie Aguirre. Please contact Susan at:

Now, take it away Natalie!

Oh, you write for teens, huh?  How come?  I hear this question at least once a week. And I always have the same reaction—a brief deer-in-the-headlights pause before I suck in a breath and explain my passion is and always has been teen literature. That The Greats doesn’t make me think of Jane Austen and Charles Dickens (though I’m a fan of both) but rather of Judy Blume, John Green, Laurie Halse Anderson, and my newest love, Rainbow Rowell. In short…I can’t imagine why anyone wouldn’t want to write Young Adult.

But…you’re not a teenager! Despite the fact that I wear Chucks, suck down girly faux-coffee drinks at Starbucks, and talk as quickly as humanly possible all the time, I am definitely on the wrong side of thirty to be passing as a high-schooler. So, yes, it’s true, I’m not a teen. I’ve been found out!

The truth is, teenager or not, I’m profoundly moved by the teenage experience. I’m convinced there’s no more amazing time in a person’s life, where we begin to really shape who we are, what we want, and what kind of mark we will leave on this crazy world. I couldn’t fathom writing for an audience I love more.

So while it’s been done before, I figure I’ll do my shot today at busting three myths about Young Adult fiction.

MYTH:  Teen books need to be simple because your readers are younger. The quality isn’t the same as it is in adult books.

FACT: Horse poop! My readers are studying literature in school on a nearly daily basis, are you? Also many teens are voracious readers. I know teens who read three to five books a week. A WEEK!

As for the quality question, I have a quick assignment. Go read 13 Reasons Why by Jay Asher. Or Wintergirls by Laurie Halse Anderson. Or Eleanor and Park by Rainbow Rowell. If you still have questions about the quality of Young Adult fiction, I’ll be very happy to discuss them.

MYTH:  Teen books are chock full of all that fandangled modern-day music and slang. I can’t keep up!

FACT: Actually, most of us avoid it. In truth, by the time a book releases, we’re already on to the next phone, tablet, band, song, TV show, etc. Pop culture can be a part of teen literature, but it’s generally used sparingly.

MYTH:  Teen books are easy to write.

FACT: There are no easy books to write. From picture books to romance novels to literary masterpieces—they’re all hard for different reasons. And yes, as much as I love writing my books, it certainly hasn’t been a walk in the park!
Kat and Sia, thank you both SO much for having me today. I can’t wait to hear from some of your visitors!!

Let's chat: Natalie says: So how about you guys? Have you read any teen fiction? Do you have a favorite? Or maybe you want a recommendation? Hit me up!
Natalie D. Richards is the 2014 YALSA Teen Top Ten Nominated author of Six Months Later, a YA thriller about a girl who falls asleep in Study Hall and wakes up six months later to a suddenly perfect life that’s anything but.
Natalie was born and raised in central Ohio (Go Bucks! Go Jackets!) where she lives with her husband, three children, and a seventy pound dust-mop who swears he’s the family dog. Six Months Later, her debut novel with Sourcebooks Fire, is available in bookstores now! Her second book, Gone Too Far, is due to be released in January of 2015.
The "T" book list:
Daniel Tammet: Much like Dustin Hoffman in Rain Man, Tammet has savant syndrome (autistic savant). His books are a beautiful look inside his extraordinary mind.
Travis McGee: Noir-ish knight-errant, salavager, beach bum, finder of lost things created by John D. MacDonald.
The Trade: by Colby Marshall. Reporter McKenzie McClendon is on the trail of a serial killer stealing unborn babies from women's wombs. Suspense thriller.


Monday, April 21, 2014

R is for Regency and a REWARD!

UPDATE: The winner of one of Susan's books is Natalie Aguirre!! Congrats Natalie! Please contact Susan as soon as possible via her website, 

Our guest today on the monthlong A-Z Challenge is Susan Gee Heino, discussing all the Reasons "R" is for Regency! And quick note, the winner of Donna MacMeans' book from our P is for Paranormal day is Chrys Frey. Chrys, please contact Donna via her web site at . And now, on to Susan!
Colin Firth as Mr. Darcy

Thanks so much for having me here today! I hear we're doing a run-through of the alphabet, so today's blog is brought to you by the Letter "R". Yes, it's an awesome letter. I love it. Why? Because "R" is for Regency!
I'm a little bit passionate about the Regency time period, and especially for historical romances set in that time period. Basically, the English Regency was a short little span of years, 1811 through 1820. The king was suffering from an ailment that made him, well, completely off his rocker. While he was out of commission--locked in a tower, really--his son became Prince Regent to look after things in his stead. That's where the term "Regency" comes from.
So what makes romance novels set in this time period so very special? Well, I'm glad that you asked! Let me give you a whole list of What I Love About Regency Romance. You might even notice, they all start with the handy little Letter "R".

Rules:  Society of the time had some very strict rules and regulations for respectable behavior. Our heroes and heroines have to tread very carefully on that thin line between risk and ruin, destruction or bliss. It makes for a very entertaining dance!

Romance:  History, nobility, love, longing and beautiful dresses. Who could want more?

Rescues:  The era was still a time when women had few opportunities in life. My heroines often feel trapped, hopeless, confused. Sometimes they need a little help, but once they learn who they really are they find a way out.

Risk:  The course of true love never does run smooth. Sometimes you just have to be willing to lose it all in order to gain everything.

Rogues and Rakes:  Oh yes, what would a Regency Romance be without the hero and his checkered past? We love to read about the hard-hearted duke who's sworn never to love; the cynical earl with emotional scars, the dashing lord who can't be snagged--but then is. By the end of the book you can sum these ruffians up in one fabulous word:  Reformed.

Rollicks and Romps:  Witty banter, quirky characters, boisterous ballrooms, mistaken identities, compromising situations, and all manner of clever misadventures. Yes, this is what sets Regency Romance apart from the crowd, if you ask me. Love love love these rambunctious elements of fun.
One lucky commenter will win their choice of either a sexy (hot) or a mild (sweet) Regency romance! The winner will be announced on this post on Wednesday, as well as on the regular Wednesday post. So join the conversation!

Let's chat: "R" you a reader of Regency Romance?  Recite, relate or reiterate what you enjoy most. If you've got a favorite author or a recent read or even a pet peeve about Regency Romance, tell me about it. Even if it doesn't start with the Resilient letter "R".


Want to get a taste of Susan's hilarious Regency?
When Miss Mariah Langley inherited beautiful Renford Hall she planned to stay there forever. Now the Earl of Dovington has shown up to evict her! With guests arriving and tempers flaring, the spinster and the earl engage in a battle of wits and wooing! The Earl's Passionate Plot novella is available for only 99 cents on Amazon!
Susan Gee Heino's lighthearted Regency Romances are full of quirky heroines, wicked banter, and dashing cravat-wearing heroes. Adventures ensue, hilarity happens, but the hero always ends up with his lady. And vice versa. Ms. Heino lives in rural Ohio with her non-cravat-inclined husband, two very remarkable children, and an accidental collection of critters. She loves to hear from readers so please visit her at or connect on social media.
The "R" book list:
James Rollins: Action adventure blending science and history
M.J. Rose: Thrillers that blend mystery and magic
Raven Morris: Scorching hot erotic romance



Friday, April 18, 2014

P is for Paranormal and a PRIZE!


 The winner of the original version of The Trouble with Moonlight is CHRYS FEY!!!

Congratulations, Chrys! Please contact Donna via her website at

I hope you enjoy the book (I did!)

Today's letter in the monthlong A-Z Challenge is "P". Our guest is Donna MacMeans, talking about Paranomal romance. And one lucky commenter will win a prize! YAY!!

I love paranormal stories. As a child, my favorite fiction book was the Dragons of Blueland - does anyone remember that book?  Unlike the dragons in Game of Thrones (aren’t they cool?), the friendly Blueland dragons had yellow stripes and polkadots. Nothing threatening about that. My older brother read his way through Edgar Rice Burrough’s Barsoom series and as soon as he laid down a book, I’d pick it up. I devoured the stories of an earth man flying across the Martian landscape with a green woman/princess in his airship. I always thought the Nancy Drew books would be improved with a witch or a dragon, or maybe a mystery full of magic. So I come by my love of paranormal naturally.

My very first publishing credit was a paranormal story in the Dream Quest anthology. Smoke and Mirrors dealt with magic and mystery. If my historical story, The Education of Mrs. Brimley, hadn’t changed the direction of my publishing career, I’d be writing paranormals still.

Which is why I’m so thrilled to be able to announce that one of my paranormal stories will be released on Amazon next week. Bound By Moonlight is actually a reissue of an earlier release that won the critic’s choice award in Historical Love and Laughter from the reviewers at Romantic Times. Here’s the blurb:

A woman of extraordinary talents...

Lusinda Havershaw turns invisible in moonlight. Just her - not her clothes. She can’t help it, it just happens. A descendent of a rare race, her ancestors have been burned as witches, persecuted and tormented as the devil’s children. She must be careful to avoid detection. However as her family has no other means of support, she must reluctantly shed her petticoats and corset during a full moon to prowl the gas lit streets of London, stark naked, as a thief.

A man with a dangerous mission...

The only tools British spy and master safecracker James Locke needs are his hands and his brains. But when a hand tremor threatens his mission to secure a list of agents for the Crown, the accidental discovery of a lady thief with an extraordinary secret may just be his salvation. However, as James and Lusinda discover, there’s more than one kind of trouble to be found in the moonlight. The kind that begins with blackmail and ends with a kiss...

Be warned, this is a sexy book in a way that only a story with a naked invisible heroine can be. The hero discovers that just knowing the woman before him is stark naked is more intoxicating than if he could actually see her. I hope you give it a try and if you do, let me know what you think. The lovely thing about releasing this book on Amazon is that I’m free to write a sequel. You’ll have to stay tuned for details.

So tell me, what’s your favorite paranormal romance? I’ll choose someone leaving a comment to receive a copy of THE TROUBLE WITH MOONLIGHT, the original version of my Bound By Moonlight story.

Please check back on Sunday, April 20th, to see if you're the lucky winner of one of Donna's wonderful romances!

For the first four months of the year, Donna is a mild-mannered certified public accountant with a small tax practice. But come April 16th, she rips off the green eyeshade and transform into an impassioned writer of sexy historical romance novels, paranormals and romantic suspense. 
The "P" Book List:
Louise Penny: Canadian-set police procedural series featuring Chief Inspector Gamache
Steven Pressfield: The War of Art. Every writer or artist should have this guide to defeating resistance and creating a plan for success.
J.F. Penn: Crime thrillers with a supernatural edge.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

N is for Noir and Neon-Lit Nights...

The letter in today’s A-Z Challenge is “N”. I’m talking about one my favorite genres, noir fiction. ~Kat Sheridan

Dead men are heavier than broken hearts. Raymond Chandler, The Big Sleep

I like my fiction the way I like my coffee: dark, a little bitter, and best served on a cold, rainy night. Noir, French for “black,” is a literary genre that features a man (always a man), usually a detective, solving a mystery against a backdrop of violence and corruption.

The staple of early pulp fiction, the idea of the hard-boiled detective hero began in the 1920s, during prohibition, with Caroll John Daly’s creation, Race Williams. More followed in his footsteps, most notably Dashiell Hammett with his private detective, Sam Spade, and Raymond Chandler with Philip Marlowe.

The argument can be made that there’s a difference between hard-boiled detective fiction and true noir, but they overlap so much, that most folks, including me, tend to think of them as the same. If a distinction is to be made, it might be in the personality of the detective himself.

John D. MacDonald’s Travis McGee or Micky Spillane’s Mike Hammer are hard-boiled seekers of justice, but they have relationships. They have sidekicks and trusted friends, and relationships with women, even if they’re only temporary or unfulfilled.

But men like Sam Spade and Philip Marlowe are loners. They’re paladins, cynical, tilting at windmills, strangely romantic, morally ambiguous, and with a more self-destructive personality. The women in their lives either end up dead or betraying them. Same with their friends.

My personal preference is for Raymond Chandler. Both Hammett and Chandler were American-born, but Chandler was raised in England, in “public” schools (what American’s call private schools), and his prose has an elegance and richness that is distinctly different from Hammett’s more terse style. But you couldn’t go wrong with either one.

And of course, there are the noir films, with Humphrey Bogart playing both Sam Spade and Philip Marlowe, or Sunset Boulevard, so brilliantly spoofed by Carol Burnett.

I leave you today with a link to my favorite album of classic movie noir music, White Heat: Film Noir. Perfect for a rainy night, a glass of scotch, and lonely detective under the wet neon lights of the mean streets… 

Let’s chat: Are you a fan of crime fiction?  Who’s your favorite detective?

The “N” book list:
Naked Came the Manatee: Thirteen of Florida’s best writers come together (along with their famous characters) to create a hilarious send-up of the noir/crime novel. Like a game of literary telephone, each chapter is written by a different author. Dave Barry kicks it off with a manatee named Booger, and is joined by the likes of John D. MacDonald, Carl Hiaasen, Elmore Leonard, and Edna Buchanan.
San Diego Noir: Fifteen of the area’s best writers (including blog friend Lisa Brackmann) come together in this darkly delicious short-story anthology.
Katherine Neville: Complex post-modern thrillers
Image of Humphrey Bogart: By Warner Bros Art (Own work) via Wikimedia Commons


Monday, April 14, 2014

L is for L'Amour: In Praise of French Romance Novels

Today's letter in the A-Z Challenge is "L". Our guest today is Libby McCord, discussing her passion for French-set historical romances. Ooo, la la, l'amour!

I cut my romance reading teeth on a series you may never have heard of:  the Angélique stories by husband and wife writing team Sergeanne Golon, set mostly in France during the mid-17th century. The first, Angélique, the Marquise of the Angels, published in 1956, introduced a beautiful young girl who, over the course of 13 volumes (10 translated into English), experiences more passion and adventures than any other romance heroine I can think of. So I chose “L” to stand for l’amour, the French word for love, and to encourage you to seek out historical love stories set in France. “France?” you say. “No one wants to read historical romance set in France.”

To which I say au contraire my friend. France provides the quintessential setting for stirring passion and intrigue, even if your historical understanding doesn’t go much beyond vague ideas of Versailles and the guillotine. Diana Gabaldon understood this draw—in Dragonfly in Amber, Claire Randall and Jamie Fraser end up at Versailles mid-18th century, and no one quarrels with that setting or its reliance on challenging political history.

Given Gabaldon’s success, why aren’t the Angélique novels better known today?  Well, even though Anne Golon (now a widow) continues to write without husband Serge, many readers simply don’t know about the books. The English translations are out of print, and the stories can be rambling affairs, at times, overwritten by today’s conventions.

So where does one turn?  Fortunately, we have a bestselling romance author who loves complicated historical France and believes it an ideal setting for love stories that transcend impossible odds:  Joanna Bourne. In her Spymaster series, three of the four books are set partly in France (The Spymaster’s Lady, The Forbidden Rose, and The Black Hawk). Reading them, you are plucked from your safe, comfortable couch or coffee shop and dropped squarely into a volatile France where politically star-crossed lovers spy in the shadows as the old societies crumble around them.

When I first discovered Bourne’s books, I devoured each one, just as I had the old Angélique novels. Her first heroine’s name is Annique. I wondered, had Jo Bourne loved those stories, too?  So I asked her.

I loved Angélique,” she told me. “Back in the day, I read them all. A couple are still on my (very small) keeper shelf. I admired the 'historical heft' to these books. The Angélique world is constructed of fierce authenticity—large realities like the intrigues at the palace of Versailles and the wars wrangling across the French countryside. Small realities like the act of lifting a kettle of hot water from the hook over the hearth to set it on the floor with a single, practiced twist of the hand. The solidity is crafted in the detail. It's as if the reader could reach into the book and lay hold of a wine bottle or an apple.”

Constructed of fierce authenticity. Historical heft. I love that. What about you?

By the way, Bourne will have a new book out in November, Rogue Spy. It’s set in London, like her second My Lord and Spymaster, but with plenty of French connections, and, I’m sure, the requisite stirring passion and historical heft.

Let's chat: Do you need more than a soupçon of setting or modicum of manners for your love stories? Do you appreciate a heroine and hero who must navigate perilous political waters where failure means certain death? Do you relish a romance with historical heft?

Libby McCord lives in Cincinnati, Ohio, and has had a long-standing love affair with all things French, barbershop singing, and Labradors Retrievers. Her story The Spy on the Orléans Road (in progress), pits a Huguenot heroine against the King’s spy in mid-17th century France. Whenever she's not writing or singing, Libby practices law.

The "L" book list: 

Aimee Leduc: quirky, intense private investigator featured in a crime series set in Paris, by author Cara Black. So descriptive, you can almost smell the baguettes and taste the vin rouge.

Elizabeth Loupas: historical fiction. She weaves fictional characters so skillfully with real people, it's hard to tell which is which. From Mary, Queen of Scots to the Medicis, I love her prose.

Paul Levine: His character of lawyer Jake Lassiter is a worthy successor to John D. MacDonald's Travis McGee, but a whole lot funnier.

Versaille Image courtesy of Vichaya Kiatying-Angsulee /

Friday, April 11, 2014

J is for Just a Number

Today is "J" day in the monthlong A-Z Challenge. Our guest today is author Janie Mason talking about why, when it comes to love, age is Just a number.

Thanks Kat for the invitation. I’m thrilled to be visiting.

Almost everyone’s heard the saying, Love Is Ageless, right? Perhaps whoever brought it into everyday use was referring more to an epoch or era, but I believe it also applies to couples. And I’ll say up front, I’m talking about the emotion of love. There have been stories on the internet about elderly couples so devoted that they pass away within days of each other. And every Sunday in my local newspaper there are photos of couples celebrating milestone wedding anniversaries. Fifty, sixty, even seventy years of loving one another.

I’ve heard it said numerous times that women who read romance often put themselves in the place of the story’s heroine. I’ve done it. And yes, I’d rather imagine myself a twenty-three year old who wears a size four. (After all it’s fiction) But I’m not ashamed to say that I’m into my fifth decade and yet my husband and I are just as much in love as we were in our twenties. Correct that; more so.

My latest release, Worth the Wait, features a middle-aged hero and heroine (not the most flattering descriptor, I admit). Looking back, I didn’t intentionally set out to write about a couple closer to my own age. The hero simply appeared on the page organically, as a secondary character in Redhead Blitz. But the deeper I went into that story, the more I knew his relationship with the love of his life would encompass the last story in The Greenville Girls series.

And Sia, I hope you’re feeling better and stronger each day.
Let's chat: So, what do you think? Are you only interested in romance novels featuring twenty-somethings or are you open to reading romances about heroes and heroines who need two boxes of candles for their birthday cakes?

Janie enjoys her retro convertible Mustang and brand new motor scooter in Central Ohio, along with her very supportive husband, two college-aged kids, and a big loveable fuzzball of a dog named Bonnie.
High-school athletic director Al Matthews is as alpha as they come. But when his administrative assistant, widow Annie Marcum, confesses that she's in love with him, then quits and disappears, he'll do anything to track her down and win back her heart. The books in The Greenville Girls series are:  Servicing Rafferty, Redhead Blitz ,and Worth the Wait. For more information’s about Janie, check out her web site at
The "J" book list:
Josiah's Treasure by Nancy Herriman: Inspirational (clean) romance set in 1882 San Francisco. I also loved her other book, also an inspy, The Irish Healer.
John D. MacDonald: prolific writer of pulp fiction. Though his novels are noir-ish in tone, his best known hero, Travis McGee, is too much of a solid good guy to be an actual noir hero. Still, his novels are addictive.
Jayne Castle: Futuristic romances set in a near-Earth look alike, with sci-fi/paranormal elements. Also writes as Jayne Ann Krentz (contemporary romance) and Amanda Quick (historical romance).
Jennifer Ashley: The Madness of Lord Ian MacKenzie. Historical romance. Gotta love a hero who's spent time in an insane asylum.
Image courtesy of Boians Cho Joo Young /

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

H is for Harlequin and a BONUS Manuscript Submission Opportunity!

Every avid romance reader at one time or another has read Harlequin, the grande dame of the romance genre. With dozens of categories, they’ve been the launch pad for hundreds of today’s biggest romance writers. Our guest today is Robin Gianna, talking about her own debut with Harlequin’s Medical Romance line. BONUS: Want to write for Harlequin? We also have exciting news about a manuscript submission opportunity for you!

Hello, All! I’m happy to say I’m a newbie Harlequin author. My first Harlequin Mills & Boon Medical Romance came out in January, and my second one was released this month. It’s been a thrilling, crazy ride! 

If you’ve been submitting to Harlequin, wanting to break into one of their series lines, you know it’s very competitive out there! I decided to take advantage of one of the events periodically held inviting submissions, and I also decided to increase my odds by focusing on a line I knew was actively looking for new authors.

If you don’t have a medical background, it might never have occurred to you to look at the medical romance line. Admittedly, my hubby is a doctor, so I do have a built in consultant! But to be honest, I have asked questions of others as much as I have him, and I’ve also found great stuff online. The stories still focus on the romance and development of the characters through the story, they’re just set in a medical background, which can be anything and anywhere. My first two books both take place in fictional mission hospitals in West Africa. I decided on that setting because I wanted to stand out from the crowd of submissions, but chose a traditional romance trope—the secret baby—so it wouldn’t be too ‘out there.’ I guess it worked, because I sold from that submission! And that January release is still selling in the top twenty of medical romances right now.

 And now, the BONUS!!!

Harlequin Mills & Boon is again conducting an author search, and this one is even faster than the ‘fast track’ I sold through!  Here’s a link to the event, which goes on through April 24th.

You can read about me and other new authors who have sold through prior fast track events at

If writing for Harlequin is something you want, I so hope it happens for you! Think about the medical line. And if you have any questions, you can contact me via email: or Facebook, or my website 

Let's chat:

Which of the Harlequin series lines are your favorites to read? Have you ever read a medical romance? Which lines have you submitted to in the past, and why?

The Last Temptation of Dr. Dalton

When cool, collected hospital director Charlotte Edwards throws caution to the wind for one hot, reckless night with Dr. Trent Dalton she has no idea it’s going to backfire on her so spectacularly—because the next morning she has to bury her pride and ask for his help!

Trent shouldn’t mix business with please...again!  But Charlotte is a delicious temptation he just can’t resist.  Yet when Trent finds out she’s been keeping him around under false pretenses he might just have to teach this little minx a passion!

After completing a degree in journalism, working in the advertising industry, then becoming a stay-at-home mom, Robin Gianna had what she likes to call her ‘awakening’, deciding to write the romance novels she'd loved since her teens. Robin loves pushing her characters toward their own happily-ever-afters! When she's not writing, Robin's life is filled with a happily messy kitchen, a needy garden, a wonderful husband, three great kids, a drooling bulldog and one grouchy Siamese cat.


The "H" list of Books
Kay Hooper: psychological detective investigation/suspense with a horror twist. You'll be sleeping with the lights on for a few days.
Karen Harper: romance in every flavor, from Amish to well-researched historical fiction.
Harry Potter: hero of the famed boy wizard series. I devoured the series like it was Skittles.
Dashiell Hammet: hard-boiled detective noir. You'll be hearing more about my love for this author on the 16th when I write about "N is for Noir".
Heartbeat Image courtesy of digitalart /