Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Interview With Judi Fennell, Author of Catch Of A Lifetime

Author: Judi Fennell

Book 3 of the Tritone Trilogy
February, 2010
Publisher: Sourcebooks

Mass Market Paperback: 384 pages


Back Cover Blurb:

She’s on a mission to save the planet…

Mermaid Angel Tritone has been researching humans from afar, hoping to find a way to convince them to stop polluting. When she jumps into a boat to escape a shark attack, it’s her chance to pursue her mission, but she has to keep her identity a total secret…

When he finds out what she really is, they’re both in mortal danger…

For Logan Hardington, finding a beautiful woman on his boat is surely not a problem—until he discovers she’s a mermaid, and suddenly his life is on the line.

Judi, it’s always a pleasure to have you here Over Coffee especially to talk about your wonderful books—which I’ve loved, by the way.

Aw, thanks, Sia. It never gets old that people love what you’ve written.

You just had a birthday a few days ago. You were almost a Valentines baby. Did you do anything special?

Actually, I did. I spent it with some of my favorite people – and, no, I don’t mean my family. (We’ve had umpteen snow days it seems like; I’ve spent enough time with them. LOL). I spent it with my fellow Valley Forge Romance Writer chaptermates. It was our monthly meeting and I was giving a presentation. Then we went out to lunch and then I had a book signing. Yes, it was a working day for me, but I love what I do and am feeling a bit shut in since the last event I went to was back in October. Maybe that’s why I’ve registered for 13 events so far in 2010.

Now, Let’s go back in time a bit.

Will you tell us briefly how you became an author?

I’ve always written, but it wasn’t until that fateful day when my youngest was in kindergarten and I woke up and thought, “I wonder what room I should clean today,” that I took a hard look at where I was in life. I love being a stay-at-home mom, but I did not like to clean. It was time to go back to being Judi – which is different from being Mom and Wife. I like all those parts but the “me” wasn’t getting out.

So I got a part time job AND I decided to get to work on getting published. Someone should have told me to do one or the other; but I probably wouldn’t have listened. I loved my part time job, but I love writing even more.

How difficult was it for you to get published?

As for how difficult, well, rejection is never easy. And I’ve had my share. I’ve also had my share of higher-profile exposure to feedback, in that I did three online contests, pre-publication, in the vein of American Idol-like contests. Talk about getting a thick skin quickly. Not everyone got my humor, or liked it. But others did.

Those contests gave me visibility and a writing resume. Other contests and critique groups helped with craft and story. And I went to a lot of writing conferences and workshops. Networking is as important in this career as in any other.

Four years after I joined Romance Writers of America, lightning struck and the perfect manuscript met the perfect editor at the perfect time.

I’ve heard you refer to the first in this series, In Over Her Head, as your talking fish story. How did you come up with this idea?

Originally, In Over Her Head, was part of another series – twists on fairy tales. I’d written Cinda Bella, Beauty and The Best, Fairest of Them All, and decided to “twist” The Little Mermaid. The easiest way to do that was to make him the Mer, and voila! In Over Her Head was born.

I’d finalled and won several contests with those stories;
Beauty and The Best was in the third American Title contest sponsored by Dorchester Publishing and Romantic Times Magazine, as well as being the only romance to make the Top 20 finalists of the & Schuster First Chapters Contest, but it hadn’t sold. Came pretty close once but then the editor I’d been working with left, and well, c’est la vie.

So, it wasn't your original thought to make In Over Her Head a Mer series?

No, it was only when In Over Her Head made the Top 5 of the Books First Chapters Romance Contest, I knew I wanted to focus on the Mer world I’d built and I came up with blurbs for two more stories in the series. That determined the direction of the series.

So, I’d written the first story with an eye toward one series, but then
adjusted my focus according to the market. And the Mer series was the one that sold.

Catch of a Lifetime, features Angel Tritone. She’s not the typical Tritone. Tell me a bit about Angel and who she is? Was it her plan to find a human of her own to love?

Angel is the classic middle child. She’s stuck amid over-achievers and is feeling the need to make a name for herself. Humans have always fascinated her and she’s become a scientist in Humanology.

When her brother, Rod, the High Councilman, sets out to create a Mer-Human Coalition to facilitate interaction between the species in hopes of working toward bettering the planet, Angel sees a job description built just for her. Sadly, Rod won’t even let her apply.

But that doesn’t stop Angel. She wants to be somebody and she’s damn-well going to get the chance to do it.

She’d never planned to fall in love with a Human; she wasn’t planning on falling in love for a long time. She wanted to make her mark first. So when Logan comes into the picture, you could say she was feeling a bit like she’d been caught up in a whirlpool.

Which scene do you like the best in your story?

Are you really going to make me pick? I can’t. Each one has its highs and lows. Some were harder to write than others. Some have so much emotion that it makes me catch my breath, or makes me smile with happiness. And then there are the scenes that make me flat-out laugh out loud.

Nope, I can’t pick. Just like I can’t pick which character is my favorite, or which book is my favorite. Or which of my kids.

What was the hardest thing for you to write in this book or this series?

In this book, the story actually veered down a path that I hadn’t wanted it to go. There’s a young boy—Logan’s son Michael—who ended up being kidnapped by a man named Curtis. I write comedy; I couldn’t come up with any way to make that kidnapping humorous. And I’m a parent; inherently I shy away from thinking that situation could be humorous at all.

I had to reevaluate the story that I’d originally envisioned. Oh, I hadn’t thought of including a kidnapping, but the antagonist kept heading toward that no matter how many times I re-wrote it.

So, I ended up getting rid of him and finding another antagonist. This one a shark. Who, yes, does lure Michael into the ocean, but not with the intent to kidnap him like the original villain had done.

I have to say, it was an angst-y time, reworking the story, but I’m much happier with it in the end. And I had a heck of a good time with A.C., the shark.

You’re very involved with RWA. You are president of your Chapter and do quite a bit of travel. This year you’re doing some special things at the conferences, aren’t you?

I’ve been invited to speak at the first Velocicon conference in March, I’m doing a presentation at the Liberty States Fiction Writers Conference and my research workshop with authors Stephanie Julian and Melissa Mayhue has been selected for RWA National Conference.

This will be my busiest year yet with conferences. At present, I’m registered for 13 events. And looking forward to each one! There will be some meet-ups with long-time online friends, and catching up with those I only see at conferences. Plus all the writerly and readerly interactions. I love this job!

You’re wife, mother, a chapter president, and author. Good god, when do you have time to write?

It’s my job. I don’t get in the car and commute to an office, but I do go to my office. And I put earphones in. If a kid comes in, there better be blood trailing from some appendage. Otherwise, I’ll talk to them when they come home from school, but then I go back to work.

I also have the most supportive husband who tells me to head to my favorite bookstore when deadlines hit and I’m in my one-track mind mode. I’ll head there for 13 hours at a pop and he’ll handle the house and kids.

I couldn’t do this without him.

Given your writing schedule and deadlines, what do you do to relax and recharge?

I vegetate in front of reality television. It’s my guilty pleasure and I make no apologies for it. I need to watch something that I don’t have to concentrate on a story. I have a group of girlfriends who have been watching Survivor ever since the ending of the second season. We get together almost every Thursday night, even when the show is on hiatus. It keeps us sane.

You have a new series coming out about a society of Genies. I love how you write about mythical creatures co-existing with us. When will this series debut?

I Dream of Genies comes out January 2011. It was a blast to write and I could never have seen where that story would take me. I’ve pulled elements of Middle Eastern and Egyptian mythology in and combined with the pop culture references of I Dream of Jeannie. It was a lot of fun.

You've been a busy lady. I'd love to bottle your energy and drive, I'd make a fortune on the market. LOL

I will say, from what I've read of Genies, we're in for a treat. I love the premise and damn, you sure know how to tell an entetaining story.

I'm thinking, if I believed in reincarnation, Judi must be Queen Scheherazade, and I, like the King of old, am eagerly looking forward to her thousand and one tales of magic and adventure.

Thank you, Judi, for taking time out of your busy schedule to chat with me.

  • I have two copies of Catch Of A Lifetime to give out to two commenters today.

~ * ~ * ~ * ~

Judi Fennell is an award-winning author. Her romance novels have been finalists in’s First Chapters and First Chapters Romance contests, as well as the third American Title contest. She spends family vacations at the Jersey Shore, the setting for some of her paranormal romance series. She lives in suburban Philadelphia, PA.

Find Judi Fennell on her website, on twitter, on Facebook, on Goodreads

Sunday, February 14, 2010

To Tommy, With Love

My guest today is, Charlee Boyett-Compo, the creator of the Reapers™, badass Alpha male shapeshifters with black hair and amber eyes that turn blood red when they are angry. Handsome, deadly men with tortured souls and the only thing that can tame them is the female destined to be their mate. Only she can save her warrior from himself.

  • Reapers™ can be found in several series: DemonWind™ (futuristic assassins), WesternWind™ (whip-wielding, six-gun shooting lawmen of the Old West), WindVerse™ (intergalatic warriors), and BlackWind™ (contemporary fighters of evil). The WesternWind™ werewolf Reaper™ series has been Charlee's bestselling series since 2005.

Her stories are of love and passion and happy ever after endings--but the characters work hard for the HEA. In my opinion, to write believable love and passion, once must first experience it.

I'm honored Charlee was willing to share her own love story with me. This blog's Valentine's dedication is to Tommy, the love of her life.

I am the proud and humble owner of five large scrapbooks, the first of which was started in December of 1965. On the first page of that first scrapbook is a Christmas card from that year. Each page of those scrapbooks holds Valentine’s Day, Easter, Mother’s Day, Birthday, Anniversary and Christmas cards. There are 252 such cards plus dozens of others. There was never a year missed. There was never an occasion missed. The other cards are Get Well, Congratulations, or simply a verse that was appropriate when the card was given. In all, there are over 300 colorful cards. The last card, however, can’t be placed in the scrapbook because it’s a musical card and it holds a very special place in my heart.

On April 18, 2009 I became a widow. My husband of 43 years…my most precious Tommy whom my readers knew as Buddha Belly…passed away quietly after a brief two month devastation caused by lung cancer. Not a smoker, the cause of his death was determined officially by the Veterans Administration as a direct result of exposure to Agent Orange when he served duty in Vietnam. No matter the cause, he was gone and with him my life changed with that one last breath he drew into his embattled lungs.

Out of the blue, the illness had struck. They doctors tell me he was dying before he even knew he was sick. That’s the brutality of cancer. He was diagnosed on February 18th. As I sat in our bedroom that afternoon…crying, terrified, numb…I looked at the Valentine’s Day card he’d given me a few days earlier. It would be the last gift he ever gave me.

It was a musical card. On the front is says: “If I had nothing else but our love”… On the inside, it finishes with “I would still have everything I need”. As you open the card, the song plays: “I would give you my heart until the end of time. You’re all I need: my love, my valentine”. He signed it as he had every card he’d ever given me: “With all my love, Tompe” and the date February 14, 2009. He had no way of knowing that his end of time was rushing out to take him.

Tom was a staunch supporter of my writing. He encouraged me from the very beginning. He had faith in me when I had no faith in myself. He cajoled me to query time after time after time…even when it seemed no one would ever take a chance on me. He was the first to read each and every thing I wrote. He bragged about me to anyone who would listen…and some who really didn’t want to. He carried my business cards, promotional postcards, and bookmarks with him everywhere he went. He handed them to his clients, to anyone he saw reading a book. He was there for me at every book signing I ever had. He went to every convention. He was my self-proclaimed agent and promoter. His pride in me could be seen in his beautiful hazel eyes…the corneas from which were the only things salvageable at his death. It makes me proud that those gleaming eyes now help others to see, to read.

Since his death, I have been in a state of flux. Depressed, moody, unable to concentrate for long at a time, I start a project but quickly lose interest. There’s no one to share it with now so it’s not as important as it once was. A new review holds no thrill because I can’t show it to the love of my life, my soul mate.

For the longest time I couldn’t make myself sit still long enough to put words to screen. I turned down requests to review my books. I turned down interview requests and opportunities to be on internet radio. I shrugged off promotion of any kind. Basically, I was shooting myself in the foot professionally but I really didn’t care.

How does a writer write with a broken heart? When there is only numbness and aching depression and the direction has gone from her life, what road looks interesting enough to venture down? From what well can she bring up the waters of creation when she fears her very soul has withered on the vine?

Having a pushy editor didn’t help. If anything, her goading only made me dig my heels deeper into the mud of my own disinterest. I know she meant well but her opinion in the grand scheme of things was nothing more than a single drop into that murky well of emotions I was experiencing. I ignored her as I ignored everything else around me.

So how do you deal with a tragic event that stops cold the ability with which you were graced? How do you go from apathy to engrossing interest when all you want to do is curl into a fetal position and whimper?

I can tell you it isn’t easy. It gives you an entirely different perception of the term writer’s block.

For years I’ve always answered the question of whether or not I believed in writer’s block by maintaining that it was nothing more than an interruption in the natural flow of creativity. Writer’s block is the ringing of the doorbell, the trill of the telephone, the dog wanting in/the cat wanting out, the demand of a significant other or a parent or a child to be cared for. Such interruptions take the writer out of the here and now of invention. It knocks them off course.

It took me eight months before I finally sat down at the computer and called up the book I’d been working on when Tommy got sick. I read through the 80+ pages, saw they needed a little extra oomph to them. So I took one chapter at a time and added a clarification here, a little dialogue there. I went back over that same chapter four or five more times until it ‘spoke’ to me in the voice I was so accustomed to hearing when I wrote. When I was satisfied that chapter was the best it could be, as well edited as was possible for me to make it, I moved on to the next chapter.

By the time I finished with the last chapter I had written, the fire was once again in my soul and the story was beginning to unfold in my mind’s eye. I felt the difference within me. I was writing again. I was doing what Tommy always said I was born to do. I was creating characters and dialogue, building onto the world I had created in the nine other books of that series. I was fleshing out my hero and adding depth to my villainess. I was making my heroine a strong, sexy woman who was not too stupid to live.

As my fingers flew over the keyboard, I swear to you I could hear Tommy cheering me on in the background. He is the reason I returned to writing. He would have expected no less of me and so for him….

I write.

Everything is for him.

What do you do to get back on track with writing or with life after emotional upheavals?

Charlee Boyett-Comp is a prolific author of over 60 full length books in her Reapers series. The first Reaper™ novel, BLOODWIND, was written in 1996 and was released by Dark Star Publications in 1998. Prime Reaper Kamerone Cree, the black-clad warrior known as the Iceman, started a franchise for me and my Reapers™ can be found in several series: DemonWind™ (futuristic assassins), WesternWind™ (whip-wielding, six-gun shooting lawmen of the Old West), WindVerse™ (intergalatic warriors), and BlackWind™ (contemporary fighters of evil). The WesternWind™ werewolf Reaper™ series has been her bestselling series since 2005.

"I hope you'll try one of my signature Reaper™ novels soon."

You can visit with Charlee on her website. She has several background pages on each series.