Friday, January 7, 2011


My guest is the award winning paranormal romance author, Judi Fennell.

I enjoy reading Judi’s stories for the same reason I love screwball comedies—she makes me laugh and I feel good after I’ve read them.

I love the romantic comedy series of the ‘70s, like Bewitched and I Dream Of Jeanie and I was curious how her new Bottled Magic series differed from the TV series. One of the things I love about Judi’s writing is her ability to take bits the ridiculous and blend it in her stories and not only make them believable but crack me up.

I’ve been on a big blog tour to promote the release of the first book in my Bottle Magic series, I Dream of Genies, and one of the facts that inevitably comes out that, yes, it is based, loosely, on the television show, I Dream of Jeannie. The title is the same, the lead character in my story is named Eden (like Barbara Eden), and the hero’s name is Matt Ewing, which is a play on Larry Hagman’s (who played Major Anthony Nelson in the television show) character on Dallas, JR Ewing. But that’s it for the similarities. (Okay, maybe there are a few more nods to the show, but you’ll have to find them for yourself.)

That’s pretty much it for the similarities to the show, though. At this point, the story starts to resemble an Indiana Jones movie. As an homage, I have a wax figure of Indy in the Cave of Great Unknown, but what that’s doing there, well, you’re going to have to read it to find out. Wouldn’t want to give you the whole story… what incentive is there for you to read it? But there’s action, adventure, hurry-up-ness, weapons, fights, and danger. What better way to fall in love than with end-of-life scenarios cropping up all over the place and having to rely on each other?

One of the questions I’ve been asked a lot is how I came up with the idea for the series. I wish I knew. (Where is my own personal genie when I want one???)

Before I’d sold the Mermen to my editor, I was trying to market as many stories as I could with commercial appeal and didn’t want to pigeonhole myself to just one series. What if the Mers hadn’t sold and I kept writing them? Waste of my time. So I tried to come up with another paranormal being I’d like to write about that hadn’t been done all that much.

My mind went right to the sitcoms I’d loved as a child: Bewitched and I Dream of Jeannie. There are a lot of books with witches in them, be they dark or light, but there weren’t all that many genies. So that’s where I started. And that was pretty much all I had in mind, other than, for some reason, I heard the Indiana Jones theme music in my head when I’d think about it. That was my pitch to sell it: “I Dream of Jeannie meets Indiana Jones.”

Talk about the importance of an “elevator pitch.” That was mine. And that’s how I sold the series. Oh, yes, I had to do a proposal, but since I didn’t know the stories, it was more character sketches and world-building. It wasn’t until I started writing it that the story started coming together – its own kind of magic.

And then Obo showed up. I have sidekick animals in all of my stories so far. Not on purpose, but when you’re talking about otherworldly beings, why wouldn’t they be able to communicate with animals? I’ve always found it rather presumptuous, narrow-minded, and self-centered of us to think we’re the only ones on the planet who can communicate. Why wouldn’t animals be rolling their eyes at that presumptuousness?

Sia mentions my ability to make the ridiculous work in my stories; I consider it another perspective. How many of us have cats? (I’d originally written “own cats,” but as all cat lovers know, you don’t own a cat; you are grateful for the crumbs of affection they might toss you while you spend hundreds of dollars per year on keeping them healthy and fed, but that’s a whole other story.)

Anyhow, as I was saying, you know that look cats give you when you’re calling them, or trying to entice them over to you? They blink their eyes, maybe twitch their whiskers and flick their tail ever so softly… and then turn their head and tuck their paws tighter under their chest. They might not be verbal, but that says soooooooo much about what they think of us, doesn’t it?

That’s my bit of ridiculous: I get inside the cat’s head. In this story, it’s Obo. He’s on his 9th life and he has a lot of sins to atone for before he can enjoy his Afterlife. A. Lot. And he’s not happy about having to atone for them, especially when he has to keep an eye on a genie. Seriously, for Obo, there’s nothing worse than having to take direction.

So I stuck Obo, Matt, and Eden in some outlandish situations, tossed in a smidgen of reality, then made them all respond to it. Matt and Eden are attempting to avoid the evil vizier while keeping Eden free; Obo just wants to get his job over with and whatever he has to do to do that, he will. But only at the bare minimum. And with full-on disdain.

There’s a group of gargoyles playing charades and I Spy—why wouldn’t they? Think about it; they’re stuck up on the rooftops or, in this case, corbels. What else is there to do? And what happens when one falls off that corbel? Gargoyles are made of stone; hitting a marble floor is going to do some damage. To both the gargoyle and the floor. That’s the bit of reality that turns absurd in one scene.

Another one that just smacked me in the face: I try not to read anything similar to what I’m writing while I’m writing it so I don’t either use something someone else came up with or can’t use something I would have come up with because someone did. (Perfect example: I watched the movie Aquamarine just after I’d started In Over Her Head. There’s a scene where the mermaid who’d come on land picks up a seashell off the human girl’s bedroom furniture and talks to her father, the king of the sea, through it. When she “hangs up” she sees the human’s dumbstruck expression, shrugs her shoulders and says, “Shell phone.” I soooooooo would have come up with that!!! But I couldn’t use it because it wasn’t my idea. After that, I stayed away from all things Mer until I’d fleshed out the world for myself.)

Anyhow, as I was saying, I try not to take ideas from anyone, but I needed a deadly plant that people would recognize. I could have gone with hemlock or nightshade, but when I was doing research, I found out that mandragora was a real plant. Harry Potter fans will recognize it as the Mandrakes, the screaming baby-looking plants, from the first book. Obviously, I couldn’t use that plant, even though it was real.

Until I found one of the plants’ nicknames: Djinn’s eggs. Then all bets were off. JK Rowling pulled from reality; I could too. And if our reality was the same starting point, we used it differently so I wasn’t using her idea.

It’s that kind of serendipity (that the plant is known as djinn’s eggs) that sometimes smacks me in the face and I just have to use it. I probably could have made it up, but the reality of it was ridiculous enough for me. Will the reader know that while they’re reading it? Probably not. But if anyone gets interested to see why I chose the same plant as JKR checks it out, they’ll see that I actually didn’t make it up… so what else didn’t I make up in the story? It puts a whole new level to something that is meant to be read as light-hearted and breezy. That’s what I want my stories to do for people; take them on a magical journey for a few hours before coming back to face whatever reality it is they’re in.

But there’s more to the books. There’s another level. Or two. I always reference the movie Shrek when I talk about my writing. I took my kids to see it when they were little and they laughed at one level of funny while my husband and I were laughing at a whole other level. The sing-a-long at the end with Fiona impersonating Madonna? Hubs and I were roaring! That’s one example I can pull off the top of my head, but there are 2 levels of humor in that movie: one for the adults and one for the kids. As Shrek said, “Onions have layers; ogres have layers;” I’ll add in, “and my stories have layers.”

And I hope you laugh at all of them.


He needs to change his luck, and fast!

Matt Ewing would gladly hunt down a fortune in lucky pennies if he thought it would help save his business.

But for all his hoping, Matt’s clueless when his long awaited lucky charm falls in his lap in the form of a beguiling genie. He just can’t believe that this beautiful woman could be the answer to his prayers…

She’s been bottled up for far too long!

Spending 2,000 years in a bottle would make any woman go a little stir crazy. So when Matt releases Eden from her luxurious captivity, she’s thrilled to repay him by giving him the magical boost he needs…

But for all her good intentions, Eden’s magical prowess is a little rusty and her magical mistakes become more than embarrassing. And though Eden knows falling in love will end her magic and immortality, she can’t help but be drawn to the one man who wants her just for herself…Excerpt    Extra gargoyle scene

Judi, you mention wanting to find a marketable niche for your stories and I’d say you’ve been highly successful with that. All three of your Mer books have won awards this past year, haven’t they? How does it make you feel?

They've all been nominated for awards: National Readers' Choice Award, Golden Leaf, Prism, Gayle Wilson Award of Excellence, and others. I was utterly thrilled when Wild Blue Under won the Prism for Best Light Contemporary, tying with Kerrelyn Sparks. She's one of my favorite authors so I had an absolute fangirl moment when that won. Plus, it was the first book I'd written under contract and under deadline and had had some fairly extensive revisions to do, so it was such a relief to know it all worked. Catch of a Lifetime recently won the NJ Golden Leaf for Best Paranormal, and it's great validation for the teamwork of my editor, the copy editors, the cover artist and I make. The ideas come from me, but the finished product involves a lot of other people, and everyone helps get it to that winning "shape."

Don’t you have something special happening with Borders this year with your Bottled Magic series?

I was THRILLED to be interviewed on Borders TrueRomance. There are interviews with the likes of Nora Roberts, Sherilyn Kenyon, JR Ward, Roxanne St. Claire, Gena Showalter... to see me among that crowd... I'm still pinching myself! ;)

When is your next book in the Bottled Magic going to be released?

Just as I told my editor when we were discussing the Mer series, it's a big ocean/world out there. Genies and Mers... I could come up with a bunch of ideas. Right now, I'm contracted for 3 Genie books, and readers have been asking for Marianna and Pearl's stories (the two remaining Tritone siblings from the Mer series), so once I get close to finishing Leave It To Genie, we'll take a look at which direction we should head.
Judi, congratulations on a fabulous year. Thank you for taking the time to answer a few extra question and visiting with us OVER COFFE!

Sia, thanks for having me again!


Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Educate Yourself

My guest is romance author Lisa Renee Jones. I fell in love with her writing reading her hot Blaze stories (she also writes The Knights of White for Nocturne). Her heroes are strong, dangerous, and hot. They know their jobs well. They’re competent men on the job and melt you in the bedroom, or anywhere else. Lisa’s women are by no means pushovers either. They’re feisty; take charge women who know how to take charge of arrogant, too sexy for their clothes heroes. Strong characters and explosive action—my kind of book.

When I heard Lisa was doing a new series for Sourcebooks I was excited. I knew she could tell a good story and write characters I could fall in love with—strong men and women. Even better, set those characters in a believable world and take me on a dangerous journey to happily ever after. I love romance with a strong element of adventure and danger. The longer format would allow her to develop those stories more fully. Contented sigh.

Lisa was gracious enough to allow me to highlight Michael, of her new Zodius series for Sourcebooks. I didn’t even have to beg very hard. Okay, I didn’t have to beg. Since I don’t have room here on the blog to print the excerpt, you will find it on the right side bar under excerpts. Click on it and be taken away to a new and dangerous world out of Area 51.

Lisa’s topic is also one writers need to be able to negotiate safely through some potential minefields—finding an agent willing to invest in strategies to build their clients career.

Hi Everyone and Happy New Year! And thank you Sia for inviting me to her blog today. This is an exciting year for me so it’s fun to talk about it! I have my new Sourcebooks Zodius paranormal series starting in May which is about a group of hot Super Soldiers created through an Area 51 experiment. And I have releases in January, March, 2 in May, June, July, August, and November! Busy, busy, fun year!

So today we are talking about the laughter and tears, the glitches and triumphs, authors face in the pursuit of their ambition to write. Oh where to start. Often when I blog, I tend to talk about the funny side of trying to make it in this tough writing biz, but often that downplays the reality of the battle to succeed. People need to know, if they keep fighting, keep dreaming, keep working, they CAN make it! For that reason, today I’m going to talk more about the struggles and tough times. So many times authors talk about the good stuff, but we tend to leave the bad times behind, because well, bad times stink. Who doesn’t want to forget them? Often though, this makes it seem that the big, successful authors were overnight success stories and never had any struggles. There are all kinds of things I wish I’d know when I started out, and occasionally have to remind myself now. I’ll narrow the picture and talk about one big topic – agents.

Though some authors are lucky and find the great, perfect agent, right out of the gate, a huge percentage of published authors change agents at least once. The first agent we choose is often picked just because the agent said ‘yes’ to us. This isn’t a good reason to say ‘yes’ back. An agent is so critical to your career WAY beyond just making a sale. The first sale is not a career made. Ask any author who has been published for years and seemingly successful and behind closed doors, still balancing their checkbook and struggling to make their bills. How your career is managed, the strategies taken to build your career, matters in a huge way.

Also—being afraid of your agent doesn’t help your career. You are your best asset. Ultimately you are the one responsible for where your career goes. The title ‘agent’ doesn’t make the agent any more right than the weatherman. Your career decisions become an educated based on experience so make sure the agent has experience and is selling books to reputable publishing houses and that the agent knows your genre well. You want someone who really has that experience, but also has the right frame of mind to make your career. You should agree on where you are going and how to get there. Agents need to be invested in you, and motivated to make you successful. Throwing your work out there to editors, just to see what happens, is not good work by your agent, nor does it show real support of your career. Your career should not be a dice roll in Vegas. The agent has to use their tools to make the best forecast, but since it’s not a precise science, don’t you want to play a role? This is your life, your future, and your name you could end up changing if you sales tank. Right--sales. You sell your book, you publish your book with publisher, and you get great reviews. And you don’t sell enough books. This could be career ending if not handled right, or at least, name changing. This is a critical topic an agent and author should be concerned about.

So see? You need to get educated and be a partner with your agent in your career. Yes, I know, it’s intimidating and hard, and admittedly, often easier said than done. However, I think new authors need to know that agents are not Gods. They are simply people. The matchup between you and your agent is very much a marriage. Find the right match and what works for you, but know that what might not work for the other person. I could go on and on about so many subjects related to agents but I’ll leave it with this.

Believe in yourself but be humble and professional. This is a small business!

Educated yourself

And NEVER, EVER give up no matter how great the agent who turns you down is – however do stay open to feedback and guidance. Rarely do we look back to our early work and not believe it needed work, even after we are published.

I will be around to answer questions and if you pop in an comment I’ll draw one commenter’s name for a copy of High Octane my not yet release March Blaze!


The world will never be the same after a top secret government projects creates super soldiers with alien DNA injections and those soldiers divide between good and evil.

The Hero: Michael

He is sin and satisfaction, lust and damnation, a lethal weapon created from the greed of man. A human soldier injected with alien DNA, he is one of many, yet none are like him, a legend within this new race, split between good and evil. Untamable, he has walked on the dark side, returned to the light, but it matters not, for he is feared, misunderstood—lethal in all ways possible.

Women desire him, lust for the mysterious warrior, hungry for the raw passion that touches his every breath. Men envy his stature, his power; they lust to control him. But there is no controlling a creature such as he, no taming the primal fires within him. He is the past, he is the future.

He is Michael. 
EXCERPT on blog right sidebar

Available for Pre-order: Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Borders


Award winning author Lisa Renee Jones has published more than fifteen novels in several different languages, spanning multiple genres of romance: contemporary, romantic suspense, dark paranormal, and erotic fiction. Her awards include first place in theRomantic Times Aspiring Writers Contest. She currently lives in Colorado Springs, Colorado.

Available now
You can find Lisa on Twitter, Facebook, and her blog for regular updates. For information on available books: Blaze, Nocturne, etc, visit Lisa's Website