Friday, August 19, 2011

WHAT CAME FIRST… the Author or the Egg?

It's my pleasure to welcome author, Jerri Corgiat, to OVER COFFEE. Jerri is the author of Love Finds A Home series which she originally wrote and published through Penguin Signet and is now available in ebook format from Istoria Books.

As readers we fall in love with authors and the worlds they create. Some of these authors influence what we write. Jerri shares some who have influenced her and why.

So the other day, my epublisher, Istoria Books, asked me if there were any books in the public domain by authors who had influenced my writing. I took a gander at Project Gutenberg (link at end) and turns out there is. Louisa May Alcott.

This got me thinking about books I’ve read, public domain or not, that have influenced what I write. Louisa May Alcott’s Little Women and Little Men and Jo’s Boys. All the books by Janet Lambert. And Georgette Heyer.

Louise May Alcott needs no introduction. Who doesn’t know Little Women, right? To my mind, the much less famous Janet Lambert, a prolific young adult writer from 1941 to 1969, should need none, either.
What they have in common is they wrote—and wrote well—about families. Big families. They also wrote series. Little Women was the most famous of a trilogy.

And Janet Lambert… fifty-four books, most interrelated.  In 1941, in Star-Spangled Summer, she gave readers Penny Parrish, daughter of an Army officer… and for the next twenty-eight years, she doled out books about Penny’s siblings and Penny’s children and Penny’s friends and people who spun off from those books and by the time she was done, Penny was a forty-something actress… what a body of work.

Whether it was Orchard House or an army post in Fort Riley, Kansas, these authors created a world.

As an adolescent in the late 1960s, I stumbled into these worlds. I visited them time and time again. And, in an example of imitation as the best form of flattery, I wrote the Love Finds a Home series, creating, I hoped, a contemporary world where the characters grow and change, move, age, and recover from or celebrate major life events. Even the town doesn’t stand still. To date, there’s a book for each of the three sisters, one for the sister-in-law, and then the fifth, which features the mistress so scorned in the second. And now a sixth is in the writing, starring one of the nieces—only nine when the series started and now twenty-eight. They all have a romance at their center, but family dynamics and topical issues all play a part in shaping the stories.

I’d loved what I’d read in my childhood, so I consciously set out to do something similar. In short, the authors I’ve loved dictate what I write. Or do they?

Although I acquired a stepsister when I was seventeen, I grew up an only child in a big city, a state or five away from extended family. I was introverted and shy, timid in new situations (all very hard to believe now!), and I idealized big families. I idealized small towns. I wanted to be a courageous heroine. I especially wanted to be a gutsy heroine who had the undying love of a valiant man.

So then, nature must have had the edge in determining what I write… or at least that’s what I concluded until I considered the third author I endlessly read as a young woman.
Georgette Heyer.

Readers of romance know her as the Mother of All Regency Romance Authors. She published near-fifty books, beginning in the early 1920s. The last was in 1972. She is a huge favorite of mine; I still have all of her books, dog-eared from the numerous times I’ve read them, which is saying a lot as I’ve shed hundreds of others over the years. I have rarely met an author who could draw a character better than, or even as well as, Georgette Heyer. She illustrated not by telling, but by gesture and action and speech and with such a delightful and subtle, sly wit, I periodically pause in reading her work and want to applaud.

But unlike my aspirations to be the Janet Lambert of contemporary family-saga romance (Louisa May Alcott? I don’t even go there), I don’t want to write Regency Romance. I don’t want to live in that age, or to be bound by convention as her characters are. But I’d be thrilled if I could create one who lives and breathes the way hers do.

Personal predilection likely drew me to reading and writing about big families in little worlds and the intrepid heroine at the center.

And Louisa May Alcott, Janet Lambert…and Georgette Heyer…showed me the best way to do it.

  • I’d love to hear who your favorite authors were when you were young. And, if you’re also a writer, which were the most influential on your work?

Sing Me Home, book one-Love Finds a Home series Jerri Corgiat

Lilac O'Malley Ryan doesn't even recognize country music star Jonathan Van Castle when he bursts into her store. And she's bewildered by what seem like tongue-tied attempts at charm. She just wants to make a sale-and get him out the door. But it turns out to be a lot harder getting that to-die-for smile out of her mind...

And once they put their rocky start behind them, Jon and Lil will discover what happens when two unlikely lovers hit the perfect note... Excerpt (you will find the excerpts to all her series in her website sidebar)

When you’re ready to leave here (but not before!), here are some fun sites to visit: So much fun to browse among favorite stories for girls published from the 1930s through the 1960s. Gave me warm fuzzies! Lots of enjoyment for Heyer fans or simply if you’re interested in the Regency era. Original book covers, quizzes, bio, tone of information on the era, a fan listserv, suggested books. Tour the rooms of Orchard House where Louisa May Alcott lived, wrote, and set her stories. books (in the public domain) for download.


Jerri Corgiat’s five romances in the Love Finds a Home series (Sing Me Home, Follow Me Home, Home at Last, Home by Starlight, and Take Me Home) were originally published by Penguin are now available as ebooks through Istoria Books  Visit Jerri website  or on Facebook 


Wednesday, August 17, 2011


Please welcome romance author, Tawna Fenske, to OVER COFFEE. 

We all face adversities and in our lives which can truly impact on not only our life but our writing careers. I’ve always maintained that attitude is half the battle in solving the problems life throws at you, another quarter of it is a heavy-duty catchers mitt and a strong arm to either wrestle it into submission or throw it back. Tawna has perfected the cliché, when life hands you lemons, make lemonade. I’m thinking she might want to follow the advice from gutsy Maxine, and add a bit of salt and tequila gold, too. 

Tawna shares how a comedy romance writer faces trouble. 

My thirty-second birthday left something to be desired. My cat died, my former publisher canceled the line scheduled to release my debut action/adventure novel, and my employer threatened to fire me for disobeying the company’s hosiery policy.

It’s OK if you laughed just now. I laughed, too, even while facing potential unemployment, a derailed writing career, and the challenge of burying a cat whose pronounced rigor mortis required me to dig a grave large enough for an NFL linebacker.

The fact that I could see the humor in what was arguably one of the lousiest days in my life is what nudged me toward writing romantic comedy. Well, that and a lot of wine.

What I didn’t realize at the time was that my ability to keep laughing was going to be tested again. And again. And again.

It took nearly three-and-a-half years after that point before my amazing agent landed me my current three-book deal with Sourcebooks for my romantic comedies. During that long and bumpy period before the deal happened, there were a lot of moments when my laughter was prompted mostly by the thrill of poking push-pins into the groin of my editor voodoo doll.

But after the book deal came through with Sourcebooks, my life was sure to be an endless stream of carefree laughter and cupcakes and puppies that never piddle on your flip-flops, right?


Over the course of the next twelve months, my marriage of thirteen years began a long, slow, painful swirl around the drain before finally being sucked into the crapper.

Ironic, really, to think I was finally making a name for myself as an up-and-coming romantic comedy author while enduring the least funny, least romantic year of my life.

But I couldn’t spend much time mulling that irony or stopping to wallow in my misery. I had a blog that sometimes saw 1,000 unique visitors a day, most of whom were expecting me to be hilarious and entertaining. I suspected daily recaps of my marriage counseling sessions might miss the mark in both categories.

I also had a new novel to write – the third in my three-book contract. I cringe now to recall how terribly melancholy the early drafts must have been. If you write morose literary fiction, it’s high praise when a critique partner says a scene moved her to tears.

If you write romantic comedy, it’s a sign you need to print out your manuscript, douse it with lighter fluid, and set fire to it in the front yard.

But I persevered, and I learned a helluva lot about my own capacity to take whatever life throws and me and keep going. Those blog readers showing up to see me crack jokes every day turned out to love me just as much when I finally shared news of the divorce.

Their support – along with support from close friends, family, critique partners, beta readers, my agent, editor, and random strangers who offered tissues and penis jokes – helped keep me laughing and plowing forward even on days when I thought I might win an award for being the least funny romantic comedy author on the planet.

I’d like to tell you I’m through the worst of it, but I’m pretty sure that would result in a piano falling on my head or a pack of rabid wolverines tearing through my bedroom door and chewing off my eyelids while I sleep.

But the one thing I know for sure is that I can take it – whatever the hell life throws at me, I’m ready.

And you can be damn sure I’ll dance on the carcass of whatever bad luck has befallen me and I will laugh my fool head off.

That’s a promise.


She always wanted to belong… Just not to a dysfunctional pirate crew… 

Juli has trouble fitting in, though she’d prefer to keep the reasons to herself. But when she mistakenly stows away on a ship of misfit corporate castoffs, her own secrets become the least of her concerns…

He knows plotting a diamond heist may be considered unusual behavior… 

But Alex isn’t feeling very normal when his unscrupulous boss kicks him to the curb. Meeting Juli doesn’t do much to restore normalcy to Alex’s life either, but it sure is exhilarating!As Alex and Juli bare their secrets—and a whole lot more—they find that while normal is nice, weird can be wonderful…Excerpt

BUY: Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Powells Books 
Available in print or eBook

Tawna Fenske traveled a career path that took her from newspaper reporter to English teacher in Venezuela to marketing geek. An avid globetrotter with a fondness for the sea, she shares her heroine’s violent allergy to seasickness medication (though, sadly, has never stowed away on a pirate ship).Tawna is the author of the popular daily blog “Don’t Pet Me, I’m Writing” and lives in Central Oregon, where she is working on her next novel, Believe It or Not, in stores March 2012. For more information, please visit or follower her on Twitter @tawnafenske.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Author Stalking: The Roguish Donna MacMeans

Kat Sheridan

My guest blogger, and I hope future contributor, is Kat Sheridan. She's a good friend (and writer) who recently attended a book signing at Barnes and Noble for Donna MacMeans--another very cool writer. Kat shares her thoughts on Donna's latest book and her experience at Barnes and Noble with us.

Let me preface this by saying that over the past year or so, Donna MacMeans and I have become friends, first via her (fabulous!) books and an online chat group for historical romance writers (waving madly at the MR Debutantes!) and then in real life. Those intelligent heroines and deliciously roguish heroes that she writes about? They all have a (more than a little) bit of Donna in them.

In her latest work, Redeeming the Rogue, the central plot is summed up nicely by the hero’s best friend (and intriguing, mysterious, delicious sidekick) Phineas Connor: “Have you considered the absurdity of it all, Rafe? That you, a son of Ireland, are traveling to America to impersonate a British minister in order to catch a fellow Irishman?”

In Redeeming the Rogue, Michael (Rafe) Rafferty is an Irishman working as an agent for the Crown to develop a peaceful, political solution to the question of Irish Home Rule. Ranged against Rafferty are the Home Rule League and the Fenians, who killed his parents and believe violence is the only way to achieve Irish independence. Rafferty, with his network of street urchin spies, is more at home in the rough alleys and taverns of London than in its ballrooms. Unfortunately, the new role he’s been asked to play requires more polish.

It also requires someone to play his hostess. And that “someone” would best be a wife.

Lady Arianne Chambers, the daughter and sister of a duke, has lived her whole life in diplomatic circles. Polish, politics, and protocol are in her blood. But like Rafferty, there are secrets in her past and she has very good reasons for wanting to escape London and head to Washington DC with her reluctant, recalcitrant, delightfully roguish protégé. 

I loved that this sensual, sexy, and slyly funny romance included a solid mystery and interesting plot to drive the story. The historical scaffolding on which Donna builds the romance doesn’t overwhelm the central love story, but provides a solid framework for it. Rafferty and Lady Arianne feel like real people. My heart broke right along with Lady Arianne’s (yes, 2:00 in the morning, I’m flipping pages as fast I can and crying my eyes out). Just as she did, I fell in love with Rafferty. And of course, because this is romance, the ending made my heart go pitty-pat. Le sigh.

I had the great fortune of attending my first ever book signing to get my autographed copy of Redeeming the Rogue. Donna’s logo/motif/signature is a peacock feather. She stamps one in every book she signs, and gives you a real one. Since I was a book signing virgin, I’d emailed her to ask what the protocol was. Donna was the Lady Arianne to my rough and unready Rafferty.  I asked Donna: “Will there be readings? Is this a white tie affair? Should I wear my tiara? Is it BYOB? Most importantly, will there be cupcakes?”

No, there weren’t readings (although I understand she thought her fellow co-signer, the delightful Susan Gee Heino would be good at that). Casual attire was fine, but since Donna is well known for her to-die-for feather Victorian hat, we decided the tiara would be fine (have you ever worn a tiara in a crowded Barnes & Noble on a Saturday afternoon? The trick is to act with aplomb, as if it’s perfectly normal, and NOT as if one is on a day pass from a nearby “facility” for the off-kilter).

We did discuss if the final “B” in BYOB stood for books (it’s tacky to bring your own from home—support your bookstore and buy your copy there), or if it stood for bourbon (sadly, liquid refreshments are frowned on in bookstores). Also sadly, the “B” did not stand for “baked goods”, in spite of my fervent hope there would be cupcakes. Because Donna always strives to please her fans, she did add a pink cupcake stamp alongside her usual green peacock feather, just for me!

I hope you grab your copy of Redeeming the Rogue by Donna Macmeans and settle in for a read that will have you cheering and crying and smiling and falling in love (best served with an icy Manhattan. And cupcakes).

Have you ever been to a book signing, either as an author or (slightly rabid) fan? What was it like? Most importantly, were there cupcakes?

Kat Sheridan is an aspiring author, fond of shiny things and bourbon.