February 20, 2012

An Interview with Vonnie Davis

Storm's Interlude.
Vonnie, welcome to Romance Lives Forever. Tell us about your latest book, including its genre. Does it cross over to other genres? If so, what are they?
Storm’s Interlude is a contemporary romance set in the hill country of Texas. Rachel is a home care nurse who’s incorporated holistic healing practices with traditional. She travels to Texas to help a single mother prepare for a second round of chemo. The patient has an overly protective brother who’s not too keen on this holistic mumbo-jumbo so he plans on keeping a close eye on Nurse Rachel. He just has no clue keeping a close eye on her is easier than keeping his eyes—and hands and lips—off her. There is a strong element of suspense in the last half of the book when Rachel’s maniacal ex-fiancĂ© abducts her. Yet the turmoil he provides to the story does not qualify it for a strong romantic suspense.

How do you come up with ideas?
A snippet of a scene flashes in my mind and sparks the beginning of an idea. My current release, Storm’s Interlude, began with the visual of a naked man cresting a hill wearing nothing but a cowboy hat, a pair of boots and a go-to-hell sneer. What’s happened to his clothes? The answering starts the story.
A novella, Those Violet Eyes, began with a visual of a guy getting off his Harley and adjusting his stance to accommodate his prosthesis. I could see discomfort and a sense of agony in his eyes. Why does he wear a prosthesis? What saddens him so? Did he loose part of a leg in Iraq? His pain bothered me, and I had to find out.
Mona Lisa’s Room, a romantic suspense set in Paris, began with a scene that ended up in chapter two. My young government agent calls a lady he’s protecting, “Mrs.” Alyson, my heroine, tells him one does not call a woman, who’s divorced her cheating husband, “Mrs.” He replies, “Yes ma’am.” Her agitation growing, she informs him one does not call a lady “ma’am” when she’s two days shy of turning forty and none too happy about it. I saw him open a hotel room door, gun in hand, peer up and down the hall, and glance back over his shoulder at her. “We can leave now. The coast is clear.” He quirks a dark eyebrow and quips, “Unless you’ve got something else to teach me, Aly.” And she’s pissed because he has the audacity to make up a nickname for her.
A World War II soldier whispered to me in bed for two nights last week about his special girlfriend back home in Pennsylvania—Pearl. She sends him rose-scented letters. This, too, along with other flashes of a scene or whispered requests, will become stories one day.

What is the single most important part of writing for you?
Drawing my reader so deep into the story they feel and react with the main characters. If my characters are walking through a cold creek while fully dressed, I want my reader to feel the cold water soaking up their clothes and gunk getting in their shoes.

What do you enjoy most about writing?
Developing the attraction between the heroine and hero; I enjoy writing sexual tension. I love it when the heroine drives the hero to distraction. I write about Alpha males with soft, chewy centers and the strong women who knock their lives off kilter.

What did you learn from writing your first book? 
To write what I read, not what I think others want me to write. I like my romances with heat ratings between the levels of hot to flame-throwers. I’m also from a very straight-laced religious family, plus I’m a gentle, jovial grandma. So to please my family, my first romance was sweet. No sex, no sensuality, no spark, but my brother, the preacher, loved it. See, even ladies in their sixties can succumb to peer pressure. When no publisher liked it, I decided it was time I put on my big girl writing thong and write the type of story I’d enjoy reading. Once I broke through that personal barrier, I was free to write something I truly enjoyed. Write what pleases you.

Would you consider self publishing?
I ask myself this question from time to time. I might when I feel I’ve conquered more of my bad habits. I’ve eliminated those amateur words: that, just, only, had, was, to name a few. My agent is a stickler for removing all “said tags” and passive verbage, so I’ve conquered those bad habits. I still struggle with one person’s dialogue followed by another person’s reaction within the same paragraph. For me, it sounds right. Not so with my agent and editor. (Oh, to train them to my way of thinking. ) I’m still learning, folks, so I need that trained eye to help give my readers a quality story. They say the learning curve of a writer is continual. For now, I’m going the traditional route: agent and a publisher that produces both print and eBook (The Wild Rose Press). I’m being treated very well at TWRP; they are a fabulous publisher to work with.

How many hours a day to you spend writing?
I’m retired with a husband who also writes, so he understands my devotion to craft. I do emails and self-promotion all morning. Blogging, too. I write all afternoon and off and on in the evening until around one in the morning.

Is your muse demanding?

Oh yes, the hussy. As soon as I email my finished book to my agent, I’m typing “Chapter One” again—and the excitement begins anew.

What do you hope readers take with them after reading your work?
That women are the stronger species. We’ve been beaten, battered, debased in some instances, and tossed aside, but we are never broken. We survive. We eventually re-invent ourselves. We are a rock of hard-times chiseled granite…and we are beautiful.

If money were not an object, where would you most like to live?
Paris, most definitely.

What song would best describe your life?
“At Last”

As a child, what was your favorite thing about school?
Writing term papers. Yeah, I was weird that way.

If you came with a warning label, what would it say?
Warning: Do not treat me as if I’m stupid or you will self-destruct in sixty seconds.”

Storm’s Interlude

Books Coming Soon

Those Violet Eyes
Mona Lisa’s Room

Contests –

My debut book, Storm’s Interlude, is in the running for “Book of the Year” at Long and Short Reviews. For those of you who hop over to http://www.longandshortreviews.com/promo.htm and vote (ain’t I sneaky?) and leave the percentage amount in your comments, you’ll be entered to win one of three copies I’m giving away of Storm’s Interlude. Don’t forget to leave your email address so I can contact you should you win.
Fill in the Blanks
I love pizza with lots of cheese.
I'm always ready for a hug from one of my 6 grandkids.
When I'm alone, I crawl in bed and read.
You'd never be able to tell, but I was once quite skinny.
If I had a halo it would be cherry red.
If I could travel for a year I'd tour Europe.
Find Me Here

February 18, 2012

Interview with Kindlegraph Founder Evan Jacobs

The Kindlegraph Widget.
[Readers - want an autograph for your Kindle books? Click the white Kindlegraph link on the right side of this blog to see how to get one.]
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Evan, before I begin, I want to thank you for creating Kindlegraph.com It's a great concept and a wonderful way to connect authors and readers. I know you'll be changing the format of this venture, and hope you'll be able to tell us a bit about that.

Let's start by talking about Kindlegraph. How does the program work?

Kindlegraph enables readers to receive digital inscriptions from their favorite authors. Yes, authors can sign your e-books! An author can get started using Kindlegraph by first "claiming" her books that are listed on Amazon. Then, readers can request a Kindlegraph from any author and simply enter where they'd like their Kindlegraphs to be delivered (i.e., either directly to a Kindle device or via email).

How did you come up with the idea for Kindlegraph?

The idea for Kindlegraph occurred to me while I was at an author reading. After the author finished talking about his book, it was time for everyone to come up and have their book signed. I felt really awkward since I had the author's book on my Kindle and therefore didn't have anything for the author to sign. I ended up just leaving instead of meeting the author.
Evan Jacobs and a Kindlegraph
I built the first version of Kindlegraph during a two-day software development contest. These events are sometimes called "hackathons" from the term "hack" which means to build something quickly by leveraging open-source software (note: this is the exact opposite of the malicious activity portrayed in the media when they use the term "hacker").

What advice would you give authors for making the most of Kindlegraph?

I tell authors to really let their Kindlegraphs reflect their personalities. My favorite Kindlegraphs are those where the author has taken time to write a personal message or draw a little doodle next to her signature.

Now, please tell readers (all authors are readers) how to get the most out of this service.

Currently Kindlegraph is optimized for readers to connect with authors whom they are already familiar. That is, most readers learn about Kindlegraph via a link from an author they already follow on Twitter or Facebook. These readers have the opportunity to leave a short message for an author when requesting a Kindlegraph.
Soon, however, Kindlegraph will become a better place for readers to discover new authors. I have several really exciting ideas for this and I'm looking forward to revealing these new features in the near future.

What is your background as it pertains to software and books?

I'm a software developer by profession and before I embarked on this entrepreneurial adventure I spent most of my career at Amazon.com. I worked on several different teams during my 10 years there although strangely enough I never worked on the Books or Kindle teams.

When you decided to create your own company, what were some of your reasons for doing so?

I loved working at Amazon. There are so many very smart people there and I was able to work on really challenging problems. However, I also had ideas of my own that I was never able to pursue inside of a large company. Once I left Amazon I spent about six months experimenting with different ideas in a range of different domains before I came across the idea for Kindlegraph.

What other types of tools do you hope to create?

As more readers have access to more books by more authors I think that it becomes increasingly important to help these readers discover the works that they'll most enjoy. I think it's also still too difficult for authors to promote their books and I'd like to help with this as well.

What advice would you give authors for using Amazon's sales ranking tools?   

The best way to think about Amazon's sales rank is simply as a baseline. In other words, sales rank can be a measurement of an author's "success" but you can't improve your sales rank by obsessing about your sales rank. The only real way to improve sales is (like everything else in life) through persistence and hard work.
Also, be careful of anyone who claims to be able to boost your sales rank overnight through some expensive scheme.

What are some of your goals for 2012?

Currently, I rely on income from my consulting work in order to bootstrap Kindlegraph. My main goal for 2012 is to be in a position where I can devote 100% of my time to Kindlegraph.

List two authors we might find you reading.

Evan Jacobs
I enjoy a wide range of genres but I'm currently reading mostly science fiction and biographies. My two favorite authors right now are Neal Stephenson and Matt Ruff. I'm particularly excited to read Mr. Ruff's new book "The Mirage."

Do you ever plan to join the ranks of published authors? If so, what would you like to write?

Great question! Yes, I'd love to become a published author at some point. I currently write about technical and entrepreneurial topics on my blog and perhaps I'll pull these posts together into some sort of collection which I'll publish. I'd also keen to gain first-hand experience in all of the various tools and publishing platforms that authors are currently using.

What is the future of technology and writing? Should authors be scared or excited about the future?

Authors have always embraced technology since advancements in technology have allowed authors to make their work available to more people. As more books become available to more people, some authors start to worry about "information overload." In other words, when readers have instant access to every book ever written, how can authors stand out and get noticed? I think this is actually a good problem to have and it will be the challenge of the next several years. I'm excited to be able to help authors solve this problem.

If money were not an object, where would you most like to live?

I'd love to live on the Italian Riviera.

What song would best describe your life?

"I'm That Man" by West Valley Highway

If you were a tool, what would people use you to do?

I'd probably be some sort of descrambler that would help people make sense of something that was otherwise a mixed-up jumble.
Fill in the Blanks
I love pizza with my kids.
I'm always ready for new challenges.
When I'm alone, I like to read, write, or program.
You'd never be able to tell, but I'm actually quite introverted.
If I had a halo it would be in need of some polishing.
If I could stop time I'd catch up on my reading backlog.
I can never give up because it's not in my nature.
Find Me Here
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Added 2/17/12: Evan has created a Kindlegraph widget that authors will be able to upload to their blogs or websites. Mine is shown at the top of this article. For more info, keep watching the Kindlegraph website. Other features to help authors promote are on their way.

February 16, 2012

Three Cheers for Four-Legged Matchmakers

Three Cheers for Four-Legged Matchmakers...
or Why My Books Feature Canine Cupids
by Marcia James

February is all about romance, thanks to Valentine's Day, but it's also Responsible Pet Owner's Month. So what better time to discuss Canine Cupids? Don't you just love it when an animal character brings together the hero and heroine in a romance novel? I'm not talking about werewolves or other shape-shifters. Just every-day, garden-variety matchmaking cats and dogs. Of course, Smokey, my Chinese crested hairless dog mascot, would object to being called a garden-variety anything. He's very proud of the fact that, in my books, he and his cousins continue to work their magic when it comes to introducing or reuniting soul mates.

Every novel or novella I write includes a Chinese crested hairless dog (or "crestie"), along with other pets. I especially love pairing a big Alpha hero with a tiny crestie sidekick. Sex & the Single Therapist (S&ST), the first in my "Dr. Ally Skye, Sex Therapist" comic romantic mystery series, features a crestie, two mellow cats, and a mixed-breed canine shedding machine named Marty, who plays an important role in the mystery plot.

Fictional heroes and heroines show their softer sides around their pets — a humanizing characterization device Hollywood scriptwriters call "petting the dog." A fine example of this is the movie, As Good As It Gets, in which the curmudgeon (Jack Nicholson) falls for the little dog. In S&ST, the hero (Detective Zack Crawford) is gruff and all-business until we see him open his heart and his home to Marty. Like Marty, all of my fictional animal characters are homeless — rescued from the streets or adopted from shelters — and their owners spay or neuter them, as responsible pet owners should.

Animal adoption is such an important cause, especially when so many animals are homeless due to the economy and house foreclosures. In 2009, I contributed an animal-themed story, "Rescue Me," to author Lori Foster's benefit anthology, Tails of Love. So far, this book has raised over $10,000 for Animal Adoption Foundation (AAF), a no-kill animal shelter in Ohio. This popular anthology, which Berkley reissued in December 2011, offers ten romantic tales featuring four-legged matchmakers. The author advances and royalties for Lori's as-yet-untitled, June 2012 benefit anthology will also support AAF.

In my Tails of Love story (and the majority of the others), the matchmaking four-legged characters don't have their own POV (point-of-view). Readers don't get to see what the animals are thinking; the POVs are saved for the two-legged characters. However, several of the stories do feature animals whose "internal dialogue" is on the page, bringing the reader into the animal's POV. We can see why the dog or cat is doing what it's doing.

From the anthology's reviews and reader feedback, I learned that people either love or really dislike animal characters who have their own POVs. There doesn't seem to be a middle ground. It's an interesting phenomenon. Personally, I've always enjoyed mysteries and romances with thinking and sometimes talking animals. For example, quite a few cozy mysteries feature feline amateur sleuths, such as the "Midnight Louie" series by Carole Nelson Douglas. And I love Spencer Quinn's "Chet & Bernie" mysteries, which are told 100% from the point-of-view of Chet, a very amusing canine detective.

Speaking of talking animals, one of my favorite funny YouTube videos features a chatty dog being teased by his owner. Here's the link, if you'd like to check it out: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nGeKSiCQkPw

So, do you enjoy books, movies, or television shows with animal POVs? Do you like hearing Fido's and Kitty's thoughts? If you do, what books, etc do you recommend featuring animals' internal dialogue?

I'll pick several people randomly from the comments on today's guest blog to receive a free e-book of my first comic romantic suspense, At Her Command -- featuring none other than Smokey himself!

Happy Reading!
-- Marcia James
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