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Sunday, February 28, 2016

Consider Catnip--Cats Do

catnipCatnip is hugely popular in this house, mostly because of the cats, but I like it too. It's so hardy, I pick sprigs from the base of the plant even in winter and bring them inside to the delight of the kitties. (I'm writing this with three cats and a small dog snuggled beside me). Back to catnip, it's easy to grow and flowers cheerily for much of the growing season. The herb will take over the garden if you let it, but the scent is appealing, and the plant, though kind of weedy, is pretty in full flower.The blossoms attract bees and beneficial insects and repel bad ones, so it makes a good companion plant. In the Shenandoah Valley, tea brewed with catnip is imbibed for congestion and to sooth the stomach, at least, among the country and mountain people. I like it mixed with mint leaves. (Image of catnip in our garden)

During the Middle Ages, the herb was used in the treatment of nervous complaints, for colds, to sooth upset stomachs, and as a sleep aid. Catnip was rubbed on meats before cooking (possibly to disguise the flavor if it had gone off) and the leaves were added to salad. Early colonists took catnip to the New World, and it spread from there. 

In The Family Herbal,  English botanist John Hill says, “Catmint (another name for catnip) is common about our hedges, but of very great virtues.” He recommends it, “Be gathered just when the flowers are opening, and dried. It is an excellent woman’s medicine; an infusion of it is good against hysteric complaints, vapours, and fits, and it moderately promotes the menses.”
In Colonial America: A tea brewed from the leaves was used to treat stomach ache and head colds. Catnip was also steeped in wine and imbibed that way. If a woman wanted to increase her fertility she might soak in a catnip sitz bath. 

Pavel: Siamese tabby mixOur cats, particularly our Siamese tabby mix, Pavel, love catnip. He rolls in it and chews on the leaves. Even if Pavel is upstairs, he appears in seconds when I get out the catnip. I'm not sure why cats are so besotted by it, just that many are. Though not all. Our curmudgeonly tabby, Percy, doesn't care one way or the other. Our youngest kitties, Peaches and Cream, are also fans now. This past summer, daughter Elise and I gathered seeds of various plants to save, including catnip. We put them in an envelope and left it on the counter, only to discover the contents scattered and Pavel's mouth suspiciously covered with the leaves of catnip that had accompanied the seed gathering. He claimed to know nothing about it, with that innocence felines can conjure. 

I've used references to many herbs in my stories, including catnip. With spring around the corner, it's an apt time to consider what herbs you might want to plant this year. 

For more on me, visit my blog:

Friday, February 26, 2016

Give Me a Different Font and a Partial Face on My Cover by Vonnie Davis

I'm continuing the discussion Brenda started on book covers. Do they make or break sales? Do we expect the cover to closely match what's inside? I do. I don't want a blonde woman on the cover and a redheaded heroine within the story. It strikes me odd to see spring flowers on the cover and have the story take place in the fall.

I write eBooks and read books only on my Kindle. Some people enjoy the feel and smell of a paper book. I like the lightweight convenience of having over eight-hundred books on my eReader, including my own paltry fourteen stories.

Authors do care about their covers. We have a vision of how we want our story or characters portrayed. Do we always get what we want? No. Heaven's no! But we can politely suggest once the team for our books sends three or four prototypes for our covers what suggestions we'd like and why. I write for Penguin Random House's romance eBook line--Loveswept.

Let's talk about my Highlander's Beloved series. Book one was A Highlander's Obsession and book two, A Highlander's Passion. I wrote book three as A Highlander's Heart, but the team wanted something leaning more toward the paranormal side of the series, so they changed my title to Bearing It All. These were romances about bear-shifters. The team thought a change of title would improve my sales.

They emailed me 3 cover concepts. The one I liked had a font I thought was hard to read. I asked for the same font used in books one and two. I also wanted the bear larger than they had him since he played a larger roll in the book. He was quite the lovable bear, impetuous, and a nervous eater--and not prone to obey the shifting rules. Here's what they gave me...
I'm writing a series now about wounded warriors, former SEALs, who form a covert ops team stationed in the hill country of Texas on Eagle Ridge Ranch. The team--editor, editor-in-chief, online marketing, advertising, graphic artists--chose all three of the books' titles for me.  My hero has an amputee below his one knee and deals with PTSD. He had short dark hair and a square chin.
The first concepts they sent me ranged from a man in military-style clothes and a plaid ball cap--plaid, I tell you!--to a skinny armed guy to a young kid. My hero had been in the SEALs for ten years so the kid shot was out. A person with a leg amputee would exercise his upper body to build up muscles to overcome the change to his lower mobility. With that thought in mind, the skinny armed man was out. That left the plaid hat man. I asked to have his hat removed, showing only his chin. The font they used was grey. I wanted colors that popped out. I asked for a few changes and this is what I got.
I'm not shy about stating what I want. I give them example pictures and links to covers I like AND dislike. I'm polite, but insistent. Do I always win. No, but we usually come to a happy compromise and that's all I ask.

Wednesday, February 24, 2016


Have you ever bought a book because of the cover?  Have you ever rejected a book because of the cover? Deciding on the perfect cover for your book can make or break your sales. I know traditionally published authors rarely get to choose their covers and I've seen some strange choices.

One of my favorite authors had a few titles reissued. It was a medieval historical romance set in Scotland. So why were Texas bluebonnets gracing the cover? If I hadn't already been familiar with the book, I would have thought it was a western.

Another well known author did have a contemporary western set on a ranch outside Houston. Some editor, probably in New York, designed a cover of a cowboy riding his horse down a dirt road along side a ranch house with beautiful mountains in the distance. Huh?  The nearest mountains are over six hundred miles west in Big Bend. These were obviously somewhere in Colorado.

I have to admit, I've put down a book because of cover models who look like teenagers. Who wants a hero who looks like he's fifteen? Even the guy who is prettier than the female model turns me off. Yeah, I know, everyone has their preference.

The sad thing, is, these authors had little or no say in these disastrous covers. I hope it didn't affect their sales, but prolific readers know what's right and what isn't.

With e-publishing, you at least have a little control.  Of course, a professional cover can cost quite a bit. Is it worth it? Readers are quirky. Many do judge a book by its cover.

Choose wisely, ask friends and critique partners, the hope for the best.

Monday, February 22, 2016

Bound for the Hills-- coming in March

When I have finished a rough draft, my mind is still into the story. But, immediately I must transition to figuring out promotions for when it comes out. Those are required if I want anybody but me to see it. So I write a blurb, some promotional material, and research various ad sites (so far haven’t done ads, but I try to get informed on what worked or did not for other authors *hint hint*). 

Bound for the Hills is set in central and southern Arizona and is seventh in the Arizona historical romance series. It is also the third involving the Taggert brothers, er make that the surviving Taggert brothers-- Vince, Cole, and Jesse.  

Vince was the hero in Echoes from the Past; Jesse in Lands of Fire. Cole appeared as a secondary character in the first and in the epilogue for the second, where his sisters-in-law wonder what he's been doing, but even more hope to get him a match, so that he'll be around more. Their reasoning is that when a man gets married, he is more interested in family. With their own families growing, they are into nest building.  

For the third Taggert book, the challenge, as a writer, was finding a woman who would attract a man who doesn't want much to do with family and most especially avoids the kind of woman with whom he might fall in love. Cole had too many years of doing for others. He's now experiencing freedom. No way does he want a wife. What kind of woman would change his mind? I found her in Willy, my first author heroine. 

In a way I am surprised, after twenty-five books, that Willy is the first writer, but despite having heroines in the arts-- sculptors, painters, photojournalists, musicians, I hadn't had an author. A writer heroine enabled me to play around with literature and the question of what makes some books considered literary while others are regarded as pulp.

Then I had to decide where the story would have most of its action. An Arizona historical romance has a lot of possibilities. I had set most of the Arizona series around Tucson but had delved south to the border and north to the White Mountains. This one ended up between Tucson and the Mazatzals.

For my writing, settings for my books are characters in the story. They will always be where I have been and know the scents on the air, what would be in the small, dark places, the energy of the earth, the trees, the water. My desire, to stick to places where I have spent time, may come from my early love of Zane Grey's books where he always made the land come to life. I don't go for lengthy descriptive passages. I am not writing a travelogue, but I want the reader to know how the land will impact the characters, how its energy permeates their lives. Arizona is perfect for that sort of writing.

Some don't know that it was not until February 14, 1912, that Arizona became the last state in the continental United States. It wanted to be a state much earlier, but those already in the Union didn't want it admitted. After all, it was a place of feuds, unruliness, violence, and law breakers. As an author, those elements of danger, added to its diverse cultural history, are what make it such a great place to set a romance.

The new book trailer is at: I don't know that trailers ever help a reader decide to buy a book, but I enjoy creating them. I like mixing up the characters, landscape, words, and music to add a more physical element to the words I just wrote.

Bound for the Hills will be out early in March, not sure of the exact date yet as it needs one more edit. Then I will be writing a few shorter, contemporary, Tucson-based, suspense romances (still trying to come up with a title for the series). I have had over a year of writing long books (Bound for the Hills is 110,000 words). I also want a change from historicals to something in my own era. The next books will all be set in Tucson and probably Barrio Viejo (wish I could use that for the series name, but I fear readers would assume it's primarily about Spanish speaking peoples, and it's not).

Friday, February 19, 2016

Where Did You Get That Idea?

By Sandy Nachlinger

Like most authors, I’ve been asked where I come up with ideas for short stories and books. Here’s how I.O.U. SEX came to be.


Sandra Allen and I met at age 13 (back when the earth was still cooling) in Mr. Herman's homeroom class at L. V. Stockard Junior High, then continued together through Justin F. Kimball High School in Dallas, Texas. I’m Sandy; she’s Sandra. Over the years, we went to college, married, had careers, raised children, moved around the country, and retired. But we have always stayed in touch – always remained the best of friends. Through snail-mail letters and in-person visits, then through email, we’ve been an important part of each other’s daily lives for decades. Now one of us lives in Texas; the other, in Washington State.

CALL 911

A few years ago we got together in Texas on New Year's Eve. To escape the chaos of a daughter’s slumber party, we decided to go out to dinner and spend the night in a nearby hotel. The evening's entertainment? Reading my diary from our high school years. We laughed our way through the pages, reading the entries aloud to each other. Each memory made us laugh even harder.

Sandra said, “Call 911. I’m gonna die laughing.”
I said, “I’m about to pee my pants.”


Cruising the Dairy Queen, football games, pep rallies, and dates at drive-in movies – each diary entry brought back more memories of people and places. We were both good Southern girls from the Baby Boomer era – makeout sessions with our boyfriends went only so far before we called a halt. Terms like “making out” and “necking” described the limits of our exploits. While reading the diary, Sandra and I talked about our former steadies, speculated about what they’re doing these days, and joked about the sexual disappointment we surely caused them back then. We wondered how their lives turned out.


Both avid readers, we threw around the idea that a search for old boyfriends would make a good plot for a novel. The next day we continued our discussion, giving names to our characters, discussing plot, just teasing about actually writing a book together. The idea grew. Could we actually do it? I’d taken writing classes for years and had short stories published here and there, and Sandra was an English major and teacher, but the thought of writing a novel was daunting. Finally we decided - why not try? After my visit was over, I returned to the Pacific Northwest and started writing, and I roped Sandra into joining in.

Over the next few days, months, weeks, and years, we fleshed out our characters (Baby Boomers June, Peggy, and Kiki), added settings (North Dallas, Oak Cliff, a mythical Oklahoma town), and plot – with Sandra in Texas and me in Washington state. We communicated via email, sending chapters back and forth, and spent a lot of late nights on the phone, discussing ideas, changes, concerns about our growing creation. We laughed a lot and learned a lot along the way! And eventually we combined the stories of three women and created an actual book.

So you never know where an idea will come from. We both had a great time writing I.O.U. SEX and hope our readers have as much fun reading it as we did writing it. By the way, we never did track down our old boyfriends though we'll both admit to doing a little bit of sleuthing on the Internet.

FYI: I have since written a second book, Bluebonnets for Elly, set in North Texas. Unfortunately, my publisher went out of business, and I am in the process of re-releasing Bluebonnets for Elly. I’ll make a big announcement when it’s available.

Thursday, February 18, 2016

Women's Work or Finding a Job for My Latest Heroine

Last month I talked about authors choosing a location for their books. This month's topic is along the same lines, except this time I want to talk a little bit about choosing a profession or line of work for our characters. My next book is set in Dallas (Present day) and Galveston (1900). Yes, I’m finally going to write that Time-Travel that’s been rolling about in my head for many years.

The job selections for the heroine, which I’m talking about here, can be varied or somewhat limited depending on the era in which the story takes place. A woman living in the early twentieth century or before could be a housewife, a seamstress, washer-woman, or possibly a stenographer. Nowadays, there are a plethora (love this word and wanted to use it) of choices. A woman today, as we know, can pretty much choose any career path she wishes to follow.

Most of the time, whether the characters go back in time or come forward, we portray them as a fish out of water. Since I’d used that premise with my last book, Laurel: Bride of Arkansas, where a mail order bride from Philadelphia society married a widower living on an Arkansas farm, I didn’t want to use it again this soon.

Inspiration for Faith Daniels

My heroine, Faith Daniels, needs to have a career she loves in the twenty-first century that she can draw on when she travels back in time.
Inspiration for Faith - 1900

Lately I’ve been thoroughly enjoying the home remodeling and do-it-yourself shows on certain channels. One in particular holds me captive each week, where the star of the show rehabs old homes to their former/original glory. Sooooooo, one day the “lightbulb” came on over my head and stirred the what-ifs. Aha! By jiminy, that’s it. 
Faith is a modern-day house rehabber living in Dallas. Her friend, Alice, travels with her to Galveston to see and work on the turn-of-the-century house she’s bought in a blind auction.

Inspiration for house Faith buys in auction.

Now, if you know me, you know that isn’t all Faith is going to go through. It seems to me there was a little storm passed through Galveston in 1900. She’s going to meet a special, tortured gentleman, Joe Benning, and I wonder if they’ll get together. Will she stay in the twentieth century or will she come back home to Dallas? The working title for this time-travel is, The Texan’s Redeeming Faith.
I’ll keep you posted on all the goings on just in case you’re interested. Do you like time-travel stories? Let me know.


Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Do You Like Holiday Romance Novels by Joan Reeves

Perfume Designer clueless about men!
Do you like romance novels that revolve around holidays? I have mixed feelings about the matter.

When one says, "holiday romance," the holiday in question is usually Christmas. I like Christmas romance in books and movies. I mean Hallmark must make a gazillion dollars with its Christmas movies. Right?

Christmas Romance Only At Christmas?

I like reading a Christmas romance, but the shelf life of that kind of novel is usually from early November to late January. After that, conventional wisdom is that Christmas romances languish on the shelves until November rolls around again.

Do you think that's true or do you enjoy reading a Christmas romance in July?

Valentine Romance

Valentine Romance novels are fewer because there's not as long a "shelf life" I suppose. I think that's why I didn't strongly link my romantic comedy Scents and Sensuality to Valentine's Day even though the "flowers and candy" holiday figures prominently in the story.

You see, the heroine, a perfumer by trade, is desperate to have a date for her cousin's wedding which is scheduled for, you guessed it, Valentine's Day. Even the last scene in the book takes place on Valentine's Day, at night, after all the hoopla is over.

Yet, I hesitated to brand it a Valentine romance because it sells nicely through the year, and I didn't want to change that. I did have a big promotion planned for it, but I ended up being out of town for several days and missed the romantic holiday completely. Like the song says, "That's life!"

On Sale Now

Scents and Sensuality is on sale this week for only 99cents at all ebook sellers. I'll go one even better. Leave a comment with your email address. Tell me what you think about romance novels linked to holidays. You'll be entered to win a free ebook copy of Scents and Sensuality as well as a free audio edition of the book. (Contest open until February 19. Winner chosen by random draw.)

Add to Your Library Now

If you want the book now (only 99cents through Thursday at 8pm), you'll find it at: All Romance Ebooks * Amazon Kindle * iBooks * Kobo * Nook * Smashwords.

Post Script

Joan Reeves is a NY Times and USA Today bestselling author of Contemporary Romance. Available as ebooks, audiobooks, and print books, her romance novels all have the same underlying theme: “It’s never too late to live happily ever after.” Joan lives her happily ever after with her hero, her husband, in the Lone Star State. Sign up for WordPlay, Joan's email list/newsletter for readers and receive a free book.

Friday, February 12, 2016

Introvert Author Manipulates Characters to her Will by Paty Jager #MontanaSkyKW #WesternRomance #IndieAuthor

Last summer I was asked to write a book in another author's world. I was a bit leery. I not only had to gather information about that author's world, I still had to meet other deadlines. Could I do this and stay sane?

Several of my author friends told me I'd be crazy to pass up this opportunity to get my writing in front of another author's readers. With these friends urging me on, I signed on to be one of 14 authors writing in Debra Holland's Montana Sky World.

Debra graciously said we could put our characters from our series into her world. I had just came up with the idea of a new series and started brainstorming how I could incorporate my new Letters of Fate series into a book set in Sweetwater Springs and Morgan's Crossing, Montana. I needed a letter to arrive to someone in Morgan's Crossing that would change his or her life.

Upon several conversations with Debra and reading her book Prudence, which was her first book set in Morgan's Crossing, I learned there were many miners and only ten women in the town. So I needed to bring a woman to Morgan's Crossing. Debra had mentioned mine guards. Visiting more with her I decided to make my hero be one of the mine guards. He nurses the heroine's father when he becomes ill and eventually dies. The hero, Isaac, sends a letter and the man's last wages to the family believing he was done with that. He receives a letter from the man's oldest child and daughter saying she is coming to fetch her father's things. Isaac isn't happy. The man had two sets of clothes. The ones he had on when he became sick were filthy and he burned them. He'd sent the only thing of value to the family and was angry he had to lose four days work to travel to Sweetwater Springs and hand over the battered and filthy clothes to the woman, who'd set his hackles up with her tone in her letter.

I passed this scenario by Debra, she gave it an enthusiastic thumbs up and I started researching and writing Isaac: Letters of Fate, part of Debra's Montana Sky World.

While working on this project I enjoyed the back and forth between myself , Debra, and the other authors who wrote a book in this world, but I learned a lot about myself. I like to have complete control over my characters and the world they play in. My introvert self, came out in my story, sending my characters away from Morgan's Crossing and off on their own. This gave me more freedom to write without worrying about keeping true to someone else's world or characters.

This project taught me a lot about myself and my writing process.   

Isaac: Letters of Fate

 Historical western filled with steamy romance and the rawness of a growing country.

Alamayda Wagner’s life has left her cynical, but also vigilant, and that’s what propels her to Morgan’s Crossing, Montana in order to uncover the secrets her father took to his grave. She quickly discovers her only hope includes trusting Isaac Corum. That soon proves to be expensive, and not just financially. 

The last thing Isaac Corum needs or wants is a snooty woman telling him he didn’t do enough to save her father, which is what her letter implied. He’d helped the man more than most people would have, and swears he won’t go out of his way like that again. He’ll meet her at the Sweetwater Springs train station, deliver her father’s belongings, and send her back the way she came.

But, dang it all, the woman doesn’t do a single blasted thing she’s told, and Isaac can’t just sit back and let her go traipsing off into the mountains alone…