Friday, July 22, 2016

Cowboys, Babies, and Brides

Once upon a time, I was an aspiring romance author. I had a brilliant idea to write a book about a pop star and the publicist assigned to go on tour with him. I was a PR consultant at the time, so I had that knowledge...and I figured Hollywood-style books were huge in the 80s. It was the 90s, so how much could have changed since these days?



As it turns out, a lot. I joined Romance Writers of America and learned very quickly that books set in the entertainment industry don't sell. Publishing houses were all too eager to tell writers that, as well.



"I read romances set in the entertainment industry all the time," you'll say. This was before self-publishing (which we called e-publishing when it first came up just before the turn of the century). There weren't a billion small presses willing to take on your book. There were big romance publishers and category romance (Harlequin, Silhouette, and Bantam Loveswept). And all of those publishers knew what sold and stuck strictly to it.

"What sold?" you ask.

These:



These:



And these:



To be more specific, cowboys, babies, and brides, which translated as cowboys, pregnant heroines, and marriages of convenience. For the next few years, I wrote books focusing on pregnant women marrying tycoons. I wasn't too into the whole cowboy thing.

Then came chick lit. Which was funnnn. And nobody said you had to write about pregnant women marrying cowboys. The trend lasted about a minute.



Of course, all along I wanted to write fun YA like the books I read as a kid. These...



...aren't the type of YA most publishers want, though. My voice was a little too "Sweet Valley High" for their taste...which meant by 2000s standards, it was more "Sweet Valley Middle School."



While there are more alternatives to traditional publishing today, cowboys, marriages of conveniences, and pregnant heroines are still popular with readers. Which is fine...but the action-adventure thing has taken off in romance, as well, giving writers many more options.

What are your favorite types of heroes and heroines in fiction?

I'm guest posting on different blogs throughout the month of August to celebrate the release of my new series. Let me know if you want to help out!


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Wednesday, July 20, 2016

My Favorite Children's Books

There aren't very many children's writers who read my blog, but we all were children at one point. We pass the books we loved as kids along to our children and grandchildren. Today, blogger Lori L. McLaughlin is here to tell us about her favorite children's books. She's also announcing the release of her own latest book, so be sure to scroll down to learn more about it.

My Favorite Children's Books
by Lori L MacLaughlin

I've loved books for as long as I can remember. I have my parents to thank for that. When I was little, they would read to me all the time. I loved hearing the words and looking at the pictures, seeing the stories in my imagination. And when I'd say, "Read it again! Read it again!", they would. Multiple times. So many times, in fact, that it wouldn't surprise me if they recited the stories in their sleep.

Even after all these years, I still love those old stories. These are some of the ones I remember the most:

1. The Large and Growly Bear by Gertrude Crampton

"Once there was a large and growly bear. One spring morning he woke up with nothing to do."

2. The Poky Little Puppy by Janette Sebring Lowrey

"Five little puppies dug a hole under the fence and went for a walk in the wide, wide world."



3. The Little Engine That Could by Watty Piper

"I think I can — I think I can..."

4. Curious George by Margaret and H. A. Rey

"This is George. He lived in Africa. He was a good little monkey and always very curious."

5. Runaway Bunny by Margaret Wise Brown

"If you run away, I will run after you. For you are my little bunny."



6. Mike Mulligan and His Steam Shovel by Virginia Lee Burton

"Mike Mulligan had a steam shovel, a beautiful red steam shovel. Her name was Mary Anne."

7. The Story of Ferdinand by Munro Leaf

"Once upon a time in Spain there was a little bull and his name was Ferdinand."



8. Farm ABC by Patricia Lynn

"A is for acres, our farm has many. Meet Dad, Mom, and Johnny - and my name is Penny."

9. Caps For Sale: A Tale of a Peddler, Some Monkeys and Their Monkey Business by Esphyr Slobodkina

"Once there was a peddler who sold caps. But he was not like an ordinary peddler carrying his

wares on his back. He carried them on top of his head."

10. A Child's Garden of Verses by Robert Louis Stevenson

"Where shall we adventure, to-day that we're afloat,
Wary of the weather and steering by a star?
Shall it be to Africa, a-steering of the boat,
To Providence, or Babylon, or off to Malabar?"

What children's books did you grow up with?




Blurb:

Tara Triannon is no stranger to trouble. She's yet to find an enemy her skill with a sword couldn't dispatch. But how can she fight one that attacks through her dreams?

With her nightmares worsening, Tara seeks answers but finds only more questions. Then her sister, Laraina, reveals a stunning secret that forces Tara to go to the one place Tara's sworn never to return to. Her troubles multiply when Jovan Trevillion, the secretive soldier of fortune who stole her heart, is mentally tortured by an ancient Being intent on bending him to its will. And worst of all, the Butcher — the terrifying wolf-like assassin she thought she'd killed — survived their duel and is hunting her again.

Hounded by enemies, Tara sets out on a harrowing quest to discover the true nature of who she is, to come to grips with the new volatility of her magic, and to defeat the evil locked in a centuries-old trap that will stop at nothing to control her magic and escape through her nightmares.


Buy Links:


Bio:

Lori L. MacLaughlin traces her love of fantasy adventure to Tolkien and Terry Brooks, finding The Lord of the Rings and The Sword of Shannara particularly inspirational. She's been writing stories in her head since she was old enough to run wild through the forests on the farm on which she grew up.

She has been many things over the years – tree climber, dairy farmer, clothing salesperson, kids' shoe fitter, retail manager, medical transcriptionist, journalist, private pilot, traveler, wife and mother, Red Sox and New York Giants fan, muscle car enthusiast and NASCAR fan, and a lover of all things Scottish and Irish.

When she's not writing (or working), she can be found curled up somewhere dreaming up more story ideas, taking long walks in the countryside, or spending time with her kids. She lives with her family in northern Vermont.

Links:

I'm guest posting on different blogs throughout the month of August to celebrate the release of my new series. Let me know if you want to help out!


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Monday, July 18, 2016

Rodents and Your Car: A Recipe For Disaster

Today I'm welcoming a very special guest to my blog. Tamara Narayan is a fellow blogger with a book of heart-stopping short stories out. Today she's here to tell us a little about rodents.

Rodents and Your Car: A Recipe For Disaster
by Tamara Narayan

After coming home from Christmas vacation one year, the heater in our Toyota Camry sounded strange—like it was stuffed with paper. And it stank. Inside the hood, we found birdseed. Oh-no. Some little critter had set up house in our car over winter break. 


Source: Bryant Olsen; cactus mouse up to no good

Why do mice, rats, chipmunks, and squirrels love our cars? First, the car provides shelter from the cold, the rain or snow, and from predators. Second, it's full of nesting material like air filters, carpeting, and seats. 




And that’s not all. Rodent teeth grow continuously. They must gnaw things to keep those choppers in check. Cars are full of rodent gum chewy wiring, tubing, and plastic.

And finally, there’s food. The trail mix of smashed Cheerios, Goldfish crackers, and Craisins your kids dropped on the floor and under their car seats makes primo snacks, and those McDonald’s fries desiccating under the driver’s seat? Yummy. But that’s just the appetizer menu, baby.

"Going green” is supposed to be a good thing, right? Humans are way too dependent on petroleum-based products, and that certainly goes for cars. But the replacements auto manufacturers have come up with sound like a smorgasbord to these toothsome car invaders.

Since the 1990’s, soy products like milk, nutrition bars, and tofu have become familiar to the public, but did you know that soy is also used in cars for making wiring harness covers, wire insulation, seat cushion foam, and carpeting?

Here is an advertisement featuring the tasty sustainable 2013 Ford Fusion.


Source: Inhabitat: The Interior of Ford’s All-New 2013 Fusion is Made of Recycled Bottles and Cotton

To expand the amount of green material in cars, Toyota is developing an “Eco Plastic” made from sugar cane or corn. Sounds delicious. Toyota is also working on a green alternative for rubber hosing made of Twizzlers plant-derived bio-materials. (Source)

The potential problem with edible wires and hosing goes beyond spending hundreds to thousands of dollars on repairs. Imagine the wires to an airbag being damaged so it can’t deploy in a crash. Or chewed-up brake lines leaving someone speeding down a highway with no way to stop.

This is where normal people think “lawsuit” and writers think, “Cool! I could totally use this in a story!”

And that’s what I did for Monitor, one of four tales in Heart Stopper and Other Stories.




Blurb:

Peppermint, mice, and a cold-as- winter voice 
A mother must make a desperate choice. 
Heeding her instincts to save the child 
What’s lost instead, the pain won’t be mild.

Monitor: Perched on a mountain with a view to die for, Laura and Paul Alderson have it all: new home, new baby, and new challenges. It’s the American dream, but when the baby monitor whispers urgent warnings to Laura about the garage and the safety of her infant son, her new life takes a nightmarish turn. 

Want to know if you're driving an especially tasty car? Check out this excellent article from Synlube.com: Incredible Edible Car.


Bio:

Tamara Narayan modeled her career trajectory after the title of the Monty Python film, And Now For Something Completely Different. She began with one the best minimum wage jobs a person could hope for: doling out overpriced popcorn to moviegoers. The perks included unlimited popcorn, sodas, and movies all for free.

After getting a B.S. in Biology from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, she decided working with animals would be a hoot, especially in the birdhouse of the Riverbanks Zoo in Columbia, SC. There she hand raised half a dozen African penguins, had her car keys munched by a scarlet macaw, and was vomited upon by a black vulture.

Next came a return to school, this time the University of South Carolina, where she graduated in 2001 with a Ph.D. in Mathematics. After spending three years as an assistant professor, one at Armstrong Atlantic State University in Savannah, GA and the other two at the Rochester Institute of Technology in upstate NY, she turned in her dry erase markers for diapers.

Shorty after baby number two turned one, Tamara decided to write. Besides the Heart Stopper collection, she has another called Ursa Major and Other Stories. The IWSG anthology, Parallels, Felix Was Here contains her story Scrying the Plane. Her blog can be found at www.tamaranarayan.com.

Links:

I'm guest posting on different blogs throughout the month of August to celebrate the release of my new series. Let me know if you want to help out!


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