Friday, March 5, 2010

First Impressions

It's my pleasure to welcome my guest, Donna MacMeans. I had the opportunity to not only meet this wonderful historical writer this past September, but I attended a workshop she handled. She made me laugh and giggle more than once. Her workshops are very informative, well there was her fascination with numbers… :-) but other than that, I learned a lot.

Her topic today is timely, because it deals with how to make an impression with our writing, especially if we’re not published.

Let’s face it. We’re all victims of first impressions. When you first meet a stranger, you’ve already made certain assumptions about that person based on their attire, their stance, their hair, their smile. Love at first sight basically means instantaneous attraction (and let me just say, I’m a believer in love at first sight. Thirty–eight years later and I still believe.)

I contend that we do the same thing with books. Maybe we first fall in love with the cover, sometimes it’s the back cover blurb (I no longer trust those blurbs – fodder for another blog), but often it’s the first line. As an author, I have no control over the cover, very limited influence over the blurb, but the first line – yeah, that’s all me.

The first line can lead to love at first read. For an unpublished author, that first line might be the difference between getting a manuscript read by an industry professional, or not. It sets the tone, and expectations, for the rest of the book. A good first line can hook a reader and, if the book holds true to the promise of the first line, a fan.

Here’s a great one: “There are eight thousand nerve endings in the clitoris and this son-of-a-bitch couldn’t find any of them.” Don’t you love it! That’s from TAN LINES by J. J. Salem. You already have expectations for that book, right?

So I’ve been looking at first lines and here’s what I’ve found. You can often tell the gendre of a book by its first line. Big whoop, you might say. You can tell the gendre by the cover. A hunky chest and a wolf most likely means a shape-shifter paranormal, not an historical. However, if you’re unpublished, you don’t have the benefit of a cover.

But if you have a first line like these, the reader/editor/agent knows immediately this is a paranormal.

“Every night, death came slowly, painfully, and every morning Maddox awoke in bed, knowing he’d have to die again later.” Gena Showalter, THE DARKEST NIGHT

“My name is Kate Connor, and I used to be a Demon Hunter.” Julie Kenner, CARPE DEMON

How about mystery/suspense? I’ve noticed that when I ask readers for their favorite first lines, the mystery/suspense ones often foreshadow a dead body will soon make an appearance. Try these:

“Death was not taking a holiday. New York may have been decked out in its glitter and glamour, madly festooned in December 2059, but Santa Claus was dead. And a couple of his elves weren’t looking so good.” J.D. Robb, MEMORY IN DEATH

“My teacher always told me that in order to save a patient you’d have to kill him first. Not the most child-friendly way of explaining his theory of book restoration to his eight-year-old apprentice, but it worked. I grew up determined to save them all.” Kate Carlisle, HOMICIDE IN HARDCOVER (This debut went to straight to the New York Times extended list.)

Here’s a couple of favorite first lines from historicals. Notice the lyrical structure and a quick reference to something from a period. Clues that say “this is an historical”.

“Dangling a man upside down by the ankles outside a London ballroom was not how Maxwell Brooke had anticipated spending his first Thursday night as the Duke of Lyle.” Christine Wells, THE DANGEROUS DUKE

Ice hung from windowsills with a glitter that rivaled glass, and new snow turned sooty streets to rivers of milk. Looking at the city from the bell tower of Saint Germain, the Duke of Fletcher could see candles flaring in store windows, and though he couldn’t smell roasting goose, holly leaves and gleaming berries over doors signaled that all of Paris had turned its mind toward a delicious banquet of gingerbread and spice, of rich wine and sugared cakes.” Eloisa James AN AFFAIR BEFORE CHRISTMAS

And I couldn’t help including one of my own. This from my latest:

“With all the malice she could muster, Francesca Winthrop whacked the wooden croquet ball beneath her foot, sending her mother’s ball careening across the manicured lawn, over the edge of the Newport cliffs, and possibly into the blue gray waters of the Atlantic Ocean. Pity, it wasn’t her mother’s head.” Donna MacMeans, THE SEDUCTION OF A DUKE.

Now it’s your turn. What are your favorite first lines? Help me add to my list. One comment will receive a copy of THE SEDUCTION OF A DUKE.

Back Cover:

William Chambers, Duke of Bedford, ascended to the title upon his father's death, but he also inherited his father's extensive debts. Desperate to avoid scandal and ruin, he is willing to go to any lengths—including marrying, sight unseen, a reclusive American heiress known as Frosty Franny.

Not pleased to be trapped in an arranged marriage, Francesca Winthrop conspires to turn lemons into lemonade with the assistance of a courtesan's journal.


By day, a mild-mannered accountant, I transform at night to an impassioned author of romantic historical novels, paranormals, and suspense. I live outside of Columbus, Ohio with my wonderful husband of many, many years, two adult children, and my canine shadow - a mixed breed mutt named Oreo. When I'm not knee deep in tax returns as a self-employed CPA, or typing away on another manuscript, I'm active in several writing organizations. Every now and then, I break out my paints or pastels for a different creative venue, but of the two, I find writing not quite as messy. I love to cook (but hate to clean up). I have a bit of a reputation with my desserts. They always incorporate chocolate and alcohol in some intoxicating fashion.

In addition to Romance Writers of America, I'm a member and officer (you guessed it - Treasurer) of Central Ohio Fiction Writers. I also belong to The Golden Network, a chapter of Golden Heart Finalists, and Scriptscene, a chapter for scriptwriters. Hey - you never know when Hollywood will come knocking.
Donna's Website

Wednesday, March 3, 2010


My guest today is Donna Grant. Award winning author of more than twenty novels spanning multiple genres of romance – Scottish Medieval, historical, dark fantasy, time travel, paranormal and erotic.

Donna has a series called Dark Sword that I’m dying to read. The premise of the series:

A sensual historical dark fantasy series published by St. Martin's Press. In a remote Scottish castle three immortal brothers hide from the world as they battle the primeval god inside them. But another battle rages, this one for the world and an evil that will stop at nothing to have it.

I read the excerpt of Dangerous Highlander and I can tell you, I like Lucan MacLeod. This book is not only on my To Be Read List, but already ordered. I’ll let you know what I think at another time.

Donna gives us some background on the series:

I get asked a lot why I chose Druids for my new Dark Sword series. I find the legend of the Druids fascinating. There are so many conflicting accounts. Some records show the Druids to be spiritual leaders who helped heal the sick and gave counsel to kings and other leaders.

The Romans would have us believe they were the basest of humans who routinely sacrificed humans and animals in order to appease their pagan gods.

So who’s right? I don’t think we’ll ever know. We all know that whoever writes history controls history, so I think it’s safe to say Rome may have exaggerated a bit. Or maybe not. ;)

It was the knowledge that the Druids could have been a mixture of any number of things that led me into more research into them. I find their culture fascinating, especially how it continues to this day.

In DANGEROUS HIGHLANDER, there are two different sects of Druids. I have the mies, or the good Druids who keep to their pure magic. They are one with nature. They heal, share their wisdom, and protect the innocent.

Then there are the droughs. The droughs are Druids who, upon their eighteenth year, undergo a ceremony where they give their blood and soul to evil thereby forfeiting all the good inside them. The evil takes over, and in doing so gives them a more powerful magic – black magic.

So how can the mies combat the droughs if the droughs have more powerful magic? That is a good question, and one I visit with every book of this series I write.

  • I’ll be giving away a signed copy of either MUTUAL DESIRE to a commenter. Happy Reading!

  • Back Cover Blurb:


He is magnificently strong — and dangerously seductive. One of the fiercest of his clan, Lucan MacLeod is a legend among warriors, inspiring fear in man and woman alike. For three hundred years, he has locked himself away from the world, hiding the vengeful god imprisoned in his soul. But then, a young lass caught in a raging storm awakens his deepest impulses…and darkest desires.


Cara doesn’t believe the rumors about MacLeod castle—until the majestic Highland warrior appears like a fiery vision in the storm, pulling her into his powerful arms, and into his world of magic and Druids. An epic war between good and evil is brewing. And Lucan must battle his all-consuming attraction for Cara—or surrender to the flames of a reckless, impossible love that threatens to destroy them both…


You can find Donna on Facebook or explore her available books and upcoming books on her Website.


Donna Grant is the award winning author of more than twenty novels spanning multiple genres of romance – Scottish Medieval, historical, dark fantasy, time travel, paranormal and erotic.

Donna was born and raised in Texas, but loves to travel. Her adventures have taken her throughout the United States as well as to Jamaica and Mexico. Growing up on the Texas/Louisiana border, Donna's Cajun side of the family taught her the “spicy” side of life while her Texas roots gave her two-steppin' and bareback riding.

Donna’s love of the romance genre and the constant stories running through her head prompted her to sit down and write her first book. Once that book was completed, there was no turning back.

Donna sold her first book in November 2005 while displaced from Hurricane Rita, a storm that destroyed portions of the Texas Gulf Coast. Since then, Donna has sold novels and novellas to both electronic and print publishers. Her books include several complete series such as The Druid’s Glen, The Shields, The Royal Chronicles and the Sisters of Magic.

Despite the deadlines and her voracious reading, Donna still manages to keep up with her two young children, three cats and one long haired Chihuahua. She's blessed with a proud, supportive husband who's learned to cook far more than frozen chicken nuggets.

Monday, March 1, 2010

Fighting For The Dream

Debut Romance author, Jules Bennett, is my guest today. I had the opportunity to meet Jules this past September, at a writer’s conference in Columbus, Ohio. I’d say she’s perky, but she’d probably throw something at me.

Actually, she’s smart as a whip, savvy about the writing business, a hell of an emcee, has a smile that melts you and a good sense of humor. Jules is also one that could grace the cover of a romance novel.

Jules is also a mother of toddlers and has still managed to have not one, but three stories released this year. I have a lot of respect for working mothers. While I worked around my baby, he’s 15. However, I’ve been keeping my two month old grandniece, her two year old sister, and it has given me a whole
new appreciation for authors who write in between naps, play time, and every day chores as a mom and a wife. Hard working women who work at home and also write.

How did she make the dream a reality?

How did I get where I am today? So glad you asked :-)

I was relentless and didn't take no for an answer!

I went to every conference my wallet would allow; I absorbed everything published authors and industry professionals threw my way. Granted, not all of it pertained to me, but some did. And, while some information wasn't what I needed to hear at that particular time in my journey to publication, I logged it away for later.

For those who have never written and submitted a story, may not quite understand the roller coaster ride the publishing world takes writers on. Every author, published or not, has up and down days. There are days when the characters don't cooperate, times when you feel as if you're going to pull your hair out if you don't get your beloved baby into some editor/agent's powerful hands.

Trust me...we've all been there.

With each manuscript I sent out, I'd swear that if it didn't get signed, I'd quit. Yeah...right. Let's face it, this is a dream and a passion. Even if I never published, I would still write because all these people are bumping around in my head demanding to get out into the world.

Not only is your own determination a factor that will carry you to publication's door, support from family and friends is of the utmost importance.

I have to say; I certainly don't think I'd be where I am without the love of my wonderful husband and God. The two most important men in my life have helped me carry my dreams to reality's door and give a hearty knock.

My Silhouette Desire debut, Seducing the Enemy's Daughter, will be out March 16, though can be ordered now through the eHarlequin website. I absolutely love this book. It is set in Kauai, Hawaii and is centered around misunderstandings, sabotage, seduction, and of course, romance.

  • What's a favorite scene in your book and why?
My favorite scene is where the heroine has had enough of her meddling father and brother and decides to take a stand no matter what the consequences may be. This is a pivotal scene because up until then the heroine has been afraid to step out on her own.

  • What's next for you and when?

The follow up to this book will feature the hero's brother. For Business...Or Marriage? will be available on April 13. I will also have a short story in an anthology with Lori Foster and several other authors in June and I will end the year in October with another Silhouette Desire.

  • Busy schedule. So will we be seeing you at RT Conference in April or RWA Nationals?
Unfortunately, I will only be able to attend RT for a day or two, but I will be at the Romance Writers of America National Conference in Nashville, TN in July.

  • Well, that will give me a chance to get an autographed copy of your books and I will be looking for you at Nationals.

  • Any other news you want to share?

I am currently running a contest through Author Island at where I am giving away an awesome prize to help launch my debut. You can also check out my website for updates and to sign up for my newsletter and Yahoo! group.

  • Back Cover:


Brady Stone had just learned the new manager of the property he wanted was a woman… and quite desirable. Charming Samantha Donovan into giving away corporate secrets would be even sweeter considering she was the enemy’s daughter.

The business magnate had been planning his revenge for years. Now the only thing standing between Brady and victory was a beautiful, innocent pawn. His head told him to forget about any possible future with Samantha. But his heart knew that in destroying the Donovan empire he would be ruining his last chance at happiness.


Wife to her high school sweetheart, mother to two little girls, former salon owner—oh, and author—Jules Bennett isn't afraid to tackle the blessings of life head-on. Once she sets a goal in her sights, get out of her way or come along for the ride…just ask her husband.

Jules lives in the Midwest where she loves spending time with her family and making memories. Jules's love extends beyond her family and books. She's an avid shoe, hat and purse connoisseur. She feels that her font of knowledge when it comes to accessories is essential when setting a scene.

Jules participates in the Silhouette Desire Author Blog and holds launch contests through her Web site when she has a new release. Please visit her Web site, where you can sign up for her newsletter to keep up to date on everything in Jules's life.