Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Another Lesson In Perspective

This past weekend we lost my mother-in-law. She was terminally ill with lung cancer, but she wasn't deathly sick yet and we didn't expect her to go for another few months. I was at a continuing ed course for massage therapy all day Saturday, but that night we hosted my hubby's family for my father-in-law's birthday/Father's Day dinner. The whole crew came into town for it (all of us only get together a handful of times each year), and everyone went up to see her in the hospital, including all six grandkids. She was tired after seeing everyone, but she'd improved enough over the previous two weeks that the doctor was thinking of sending her home in a few days.

When I got home from the course that eveing the whole gang was there; six kids, nine adults and one dog. We had a lovely BBQ dinner prepared by my hubby, then watched the boys play soccer and badminton with the kids in the backyard. After everyone left, my father-in-law and sister-in-law went back up to the hospital (a forty minute drive) to bring Mom a piece of cake. A nurse told them she'd been just about to call them because Mom had suddenly taken a nosedive. When my relatives walked in, they found her panicked and struggling to get air. My hubby got the call to come up to the hospital, and he took off immediately. Since his brothers just happened to be in town, they were able to go up as well, so at least everyone was together. For three hours they sat with her and watched her slowly suffocate to death. My husband is traumatized by witnessing that, and I'm glad I wasn't there to see it.

Needless to say, things have been hectic and my priority is making sure I'm there for my hubby. His mom made him responsible for her funeral arrangements, and he's been swamped with taking care of all the details.

Long story short, I'm not exactly in the mood for writing right now. The only thing I've accomplished with writing over the past two weeks is critiquing over 250 pages for other people, and doing light edits on my new novella. I've got other projects sitting there waiting for my attention, but I really couldn't care less about them right now. And it looks like Mom's funeral will be held either the day when Relentless comes out, or a couple days afterward. Not sure I'll feel much like hitting the promotion trail right around then either.

Right now I feel the need to take stock of all my blessings: my kids, my hubby, my family and friends, my health. The rest seems to pale in comparison will all of that. Maybe it's Mom's way of making me get my priorities straight and putting everything in perspective. It's not a bad lesson to be reminded of.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Interview With Autumn Jordon

Please welcome the talented Autumn Jordon, here to talk about her Golden Heart finalist book just released by The Wild Rose Press.

Autumn, tell us about Evil's Witness. Where did the idea come from?

First, Kaylea, thank you for inviting me here today. I’m thrilled.

The idea for Evil’s Witness came about because of an incident that occurred at my family’s trucking company. Tractor trailers are high-jacked more often than you might imagine, and we’d hauled loads of currency for the U.S. Treasury. I simply put the two together and then thought what would happen if the robbery was witnessed by a small town woman. If the heists were conducted by the mafia, how would she get away from them, save her children? Where would she hide?

Excerpt of Evil’s Witness:
Rapid gunfire and cries pelted the air, coming closer. Stephanie didn’t look back. She had to escape. She had to live for Bobby’s and Em’s sake.

What sort of research did you have to do for the book?

I already knew about the trucking industry so the basis of the plot was a no-brainer. I’m also from a small town, so it was the setting and many other elements was at hand. I did however interview local and state police concerning their parts in working with other law enforcement agencies. I also interviewed an FBI agent concerning his job and the witness protection program. He also confirmed a plot point of the story to actually have had happened within his own agency. To make contacts, all you need to do is pick up the phone and say I’m a writer. Would you mind answering a few questions? You’ll be surprised how easy it is.

A bit of advice however, have your questions written down with the most important ones first. You are taking up the interviewees time and you don’t how much of it you will have.

Excerpt of Evil’s Witness:
Bean counter. Morse’s words haunted Randall, along with the memory of the dead Sheriff’s stare.
The phone he held rang relentlessly.
No answer. Randall hit the off button and slammed the phone down. Like a wild beast, he paced his office, waiting to be executed.

How did you find out about TWRP?

One of my critique partners is also published by TWRP. In fact, while brainstorming for another Wayback story for her to write, Sylvie suggested I write one. I did in two months. Obsessed By Wildfire. The story has done very well for me.

Excerpt of Evil’s Witness:
…she scanned the cars. Had he been in the backseat of one of them? Had one of the local girls already run him down and claimed him?
“So what do you have in mind with that whip?” He broke her musing.
“Whip?” She’d forgotten she still had it in her grasp, and the reason why.

When did you start writing novels and how many books had you completed before EW?

I’m by no means an over-night success. In fact, I had a long road to publication. I started to seriously study the craft in 1997 while going through a divorce. I decided it was time to work on my dream. I finished my first novel two years later. Before EW, I wrote three other novels. I recently had a request to revise and resubmit my first novel. I’ll be working on doing so this summer.

What was it like when you were notified that you were a Golden Heart finalist?

Totally unexpected and totally awesome. Would you like to hear the whole story? I’ll never forget the moment. Here’s how it went down:

March 25, 2009 9:02 A.M I’m late for work. Well, not really. I work for my family’s business. I don’t punch a time clock. I’m on call 24/7/365, but I’m usually in the office by 8:55 A.M. However, the night before my Irish Setter’s stomach decided it didn’t like what he ate and took its revenge out on the living room carpet. It was March. We’re in the Northeast, heating oil was still high, so opening windows was not a option.
The phone rings.
With my curling iron tangled in my hair, I scrabbled for the phone. “Yes.”
“Good morning. I’m calling for, Autumn Jordon.”
Oh, God. Just what I need. A telemarketer. Deep breath. She’s only doing her job. Be nice. I conjured up my own customer service voice and said, “I’m she. How can I help you?”
“This is so and so…”
I’m really not listening anymore because, one, I’m just waiting for the opportunity to respond, “Oh gosh, you should’ve called me last week. My husband just bought me one. Or I already gave to this organization. A Horace Grainger called. Do you know Horace?” And two, I’m trying to get my curling iron out of my hair. And three, I’m giving my dog the evil eye because he’s now lying on our bed.
“... from Romance Writers of America.”
Okay. This is where she got my attention. The date. It’s March 25th. The Golden Heart calls go out. Holy sh*#! “No, way!”
Laughter from Ms. RWA representative. (To this day, I don’t recall the name of the woman who called me. I wish she’d identify herself to me so I could thank her in non-babble gibberish) “You are a 2009 Golden Heart Finalist. Are you planning to come to Washington D.C.?”
“Are you kidding? I’m packing tonight.”
And so it began…

I love that story! And now that you're an acclaimed author, what advice would you give aspiring romantic suspense authors in terms of plotting and pacing in that genre?

I’m not much of a plotter. I write by the seat of my pants. But I will caution writers to watch for plot holes. What are plot holes? Questions that are raised and never answered. Or, characters who disappear without an exit.

As far as pacing, most of a RS novel needs to be fast paced. I say most because you do need those sequels that let your reader’s heart rest.

You can speed up the pace in a number of ways; by using only small amounts of internal dialogue, very trim dialogue, active nouns and verbs that show without explanation and short, choppy sentences.

Excerpt of Evil’s Witness:
“I have to make arrangements to get Ms. Boyd and her children to a safe house.”
“You think they’ll come after her and the kids?”
“Wouldn’t you?”
Ben pulled the cigar from his mouth. “If my life depended on it.”
“Theirs does.”
“Yeah. Let’s see if you still feel the same way when you come face to face with them.”
“Then I’m on your team?”
“Is there a way I can stop you?”
“Hell no.”

What things can an author do to accurately/vividly write their hero's POV?

I actually ask them to lunch or coffee and interview them. Listening to their voices, I make note of their unique speech patterns and what type of words they use. Then when I write I use first person POV. Really get into the character’s frame of mind. After a scene is complete, I’ll go back and tweak it in third person and add layers of the characters’ traits and mannerisms.

How do you create your characters?

Before I write a word of a new book, I’ll scan my character picture file. I’m always on the lookout for interesting faces. I’ve bought magazines just for the pictures of certain models. This was the case with the hero in my first novel. I’ll never forget the moment I found Clay. We were in an ice cream parlor in State College, PA. I was in love at first sight. I might tweak the picture with a scar, a mole, or even a disability. So, before I start, I have a great visual of my characters. Then, as I stated above, I interview them and learn their GMC, voice, etc.

What advice can you give us about dialogue?

Read only your dialogue out loud when reviewing. Does it sound natural or stilted? Make each character’s voice unique. Listen to them.

That's a great tip. What advice would you give new authors about writing or the publishing industry?

Read. Study. Write every day. Remember you can learn something from everyone.

What's next for you and what are you working on now?

I’ve just finished my next romantic suspense. Readers are reviewing it. And I have two others started.

Where can readers find you?

You can each me through my website I also have a blog And, I’m on Facebook, Myspace and Twitter.

Once again thank you for hosting me today.

You're welcome, Autumn! You're a great interview :)

(No part of this interview may be used without the express permission of the author Autumn Jordon.)

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Absolution Release Date

Well, now I've got one less thing to wait for. Absolution has just been given a December 10th release date, which is perfect because I think this book is my best and it would make a great Christmas gift for any romance fan on your list. Now, back to my writing cave...

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Gotta stop counting the days...

Like a lot of authors I know, I'm playing the waiting game right now. Actually, I'm waiting for news on just about everything, lol. I'm so desperate for some good news (any good writing news!) that I went out yesterday and bought myself a silk rose to commemorate my first sale. I never got one from my RWA chapter for Out of Her League, because I joined them after I'd made the sale. My new rose is now sitting on top of my armoire with the others, forming a nice little bouquet. I'd like to make the bouquet much larger, if you know what I mean.

My six year old watched me select the yellow-and-peach rose yesterday while he held a basket of crafts and activity books for him and his brother. "Hm," he said, studying it seriously. "I like that color. And maybe if you put it in the garden, the black vine weevils will try to eat it and get sick and die."

*g* Now why didn't I think of that? By the way, I put some really strong pesticide down that another local gardener recommended to me, but the bugs are still out there. There are fewer of them, but that might be because I've picked most of them off the plants by now. Hard to say who's winning the war just yet, but I'm still determined to stop them!

So all of you out there, please send some good vibes my way and hopefully I'll have news of another sale soon. In the meantime, I've got another story to write!

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Texas Trip Ranch Highlights

My trip to the Silver Spur Guest Ranch in Bandera, TX, was a hoot. Even though I'm deathly afraid of flying. Editor-in-chief of TWRP, Rhonda Penders, drove me to the ranch from Austin with her hubby and youngest son, CJ. By the way, her son is not only the shipping and receiving officer for TWRP, but he's a Civil War buff and reenactor! What an awesome guy. That alone would have made the trip worthwhile, but there were more great things in store for me at the ranch. The best part was meeting my own editor for the Crimson Rose line, Johanna Melaragno. I spotted her right away in the main lodge and got a big hug, and I think I ate pretty much every meal with her. There she is on the left, with Bella the ranch dog.

Before the trip, Johanna promised me a trail ride, so we signed up for one first thing Friday morning and I wrangled Rhonda's hubby and son CJ to come with us. I told CJ we could pretend to be Yankee cavalry out on reconnaissance duty. (Hey, it was cool to us.) When we headed out that morning right after breakfast, it was overcast and drizzling. The weather gods must have known I was from Vancouver, and that my lily white skin couldn't take the heat :) Here's a shot of the chief wrangler, tall David. Does he look like he stepped out of a western movie or what?They paired me with a horse named Diesel, and he was a sweetheart. Jo's horse's name was Willie, and he was not a sweetheart. In fact, he kept biting poor Diesel's rump throughout the hour long ride. (I think Jo secretly made him do it.)

The area was much greener than I had anticipated, and the cool weather made it more enjoyable than being out in 90 degree heat plus humidity. We saw jackrabbits and listened to the cooing of Morning Doves as our wrangler, not-so-tall David, told us all about his various war wounds from his past as a bronc buster. I just have to say that as an RMT, I was appalled by the list of the man's injuries. He's lucky to be alive, let alone walking, and I'm sure by the time he hits sixty, he'll feel every one of those broken bones all over again. Think real cowboys are tough? They are. Not-so-tall David rarely went to the hospital for treatment unless his injuries were life threatening. Enough said, right?

We rode up over the hills and through some scrub brush, and lo and behold came across some Longhorns hanging out in a mesquite thicket. The ranch owner keeps them as pets, and they're as tame as lap dogs. Barely blinked at us as we rode past.

Here I am with two of my roomies from the Butch Cassidy cabin, Mina Khan and Elizabeth Pina. We slept on the squeakiest bunk beds ever, but it was still a fun weekend.

On the Saturday morning, the owner loaded all of us into a flatbed wagon and towed us with his pickup out to a spot where the staff had set up a cowboy breakfast at the edge of a pasture.

On the way we passed a herd of "Texas harleys" as I called them (I said it in fun the once, but the name stuck with our group). They came right over to our wagon when the ranch owner took out some treats for them.

Here's my editor, Johanna, with me and "she-who-shall-not-be-named" (who's obviously camera shy), full of huevos rancheros prepared over an open-flame grill. We're all currently working on a secret project for TWRP Scarlet line. Yee-haw! I'll let you know if it gets contracted.

Right after breakfast, a professional roper came out to do an act for us.

Since it was Rhonda's birthday (and TWRP's 4th birthday, by the way), she got chosen for the demonstration. Here she is posing for a trick where the roper uses a bullwhip to break a piece of uncooked spaghetti she's holding in her mouth. Pretty brave, huh? But we expected nothing less from our fearless leader.

Here's me and the Boss Lady. Rhonda was a total sweetheart, and I'm so glad I got to meet her and her family.

And finally, here's the end of the roping demonstration. The horse's name was Chief, and I swear he was almost asleep the entire show. The thing barely twitched while Kevin stood up and jumped on the saddle. I was impressed. The horse I owned as a kid would have left me as a smear on the nearest tree if I'd tried anything like this! Anyway, you'll see RJ there with the denim shirt. Who knew Snarky isn't so scary after all? She's got an incredibly lively sense of humor in person (just not via e-mail), and man is her wit sharp! But I agree with Rhonda--don't mess with her :)

Snarky drove myself and another author to the San Antonio airport on the Sunday morning, so she got to know me a bit. All in all, a great trip. I'm so glad I sucked it up and got on that plane!

Friday, June 4, 2010

Friday Contest

I'm over at Naughty Author Chicks today, talking about some of the research I did for No Turning Back. If you've never been by this blog before, come take a look. It's full of interesting articles by a group of talented erotic romance authors :)

Hope everyone has a great weekend!
Kaylea :)

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Guest Blogging

I'm over at Autumn Jordon's blog today, talking about the research that went into No Turning Back. The geography of northeastern Afghanistan, various branches of the military and even an interview with a neurosurgeon to find out about the latest treatments for Traumatic Brain Injury patients. Come say hello and leave a comment for a chance to win a copy of this latest release.