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barbcaffrey_authorpixBarb Caffrey is a writer, editor, and musician who holds two degrees in Music.
She has a particular fondness for the clarinet, lived in Nebraska for the better part of three years, and appreciated the ability to combine both her loves with the writing of Changing Faces.

Her other books are An Elfy on the Loose and A Little Elfy in Big Trouble (otherwise known as the Elfy duology), while her short stories have appeared in a number of places (most recently in Realms of Darkover). She’s also the co-writer of the Joey Maverick series of stories (with late husband Michael B. Caffrey), so the next story you might see from her could be military science fiction—or better yet, military science fiction with romance.

She lives in Wisconsin.

Barb Caffrey’s Elfyverse: https://elfyverse.wordpress.com

Link to book: http://www.twilighttimesbooks.com/ChangingFaces_ch1.html

Amazon (US): https://www.amazon.com/dp/B01N3CQKWJ

INTERVIEW:

Q: Congratulations on the release of your latest book, Changing Faces. To begin with, can you give us a brief summary of what the story is about and what compelled you to write it?
A: Thanks for having me! I appreciate it.

Changing Faces is about the importance of love regardless of form, and takes place in present-day Nebraska. Clarinetists and graduate students Allen Bridgeway and Elaine Foster love each other deeply and passionately, but Elaine is hiding a big secret. From early life, she has identified as transgender, and has a great deal of gender-fluidity in her makeup, besides. Allen only knows that Elaine is bisexual, not this other stuff, and when it comes out, it throws him for a loop. He’s willing to keep trying with her; he just doesn’t understand why Elaine, who is a feminist scholar who will always see herself as female whether she becomes male outwardly or not – she admits this to him, even – wants to become a man. And when things come to head, she decides to leave him rather than talk it out.

You’d think this is it, right? (Well, not if you’ve read many romances of whatever type, but I digress.) But it’s not. There are two angels involved also, who want Allen and Elaine to be happy together. And they only way they see toward doing this is changing Allen and Elaine’s faces…which happens because Allen prays, “I will do anything, absolutely anything, if Elaine doesn’t leave me.” And the angels take Allen at his word.

portrait in gardenNow, Allen is in Elaine’s body, unable to tell anyone he’s Allen. And Elaine is in his, in a coma, talking with one of the angels. If she can just wake up, they’ll have a second chance at love…but it’s not going to be easy, and poor Allen in particular is going to get put through the wringer.

Q: What do you think makes a good fantasy-romance? Could you narrow it down to the three most important elements? Is it even possible to narrow it down?
A: I think honesty is important. A story that matters is also important. And a willingness to explore that story wherever it goes is also important.

Ultimately, it’s these three things that make – or break – any book, but most especially a fantasy-romance, in my opinion.

Q: How did you go about plotting your story? Or did you discover it as you worked on the book?
A: The story came to me over fifteen years ago. I knew that Allen and Elaine were in a car accident and that she ended up in his body, talking to an angel about what went wrong and why she needs to be with Allen again, even if they’re both in the wrong bodies.

At the time, I had no idea what gender-fluidity was about, though I did know something about transgender issues because I had a few transgender friends. Elaine insisting she was always female regardless of her outward body threw me, at first, but I kept after it, and after five major revisions (including a late-round revision just last year in 2016), CHANGING FACES is finally ready.

So I guess it’s half and half. I knew right away what the story was on Elaine’s side, but I discovered Allen’s as I wrote it.

Q: Tell us something interesting about your protagonist and how you developed him or her. Did you do any character interviews or sketches prior to the actual writing?
A: There are two protagonists here, but I’ll choose Allen for ease of reference. Allen has always been confident in his body. He’s not handsome, knows it, but is centered, down-to-Earth, and is desperately in love with Elaine. But he did not realize what his prayer was going to do to him; all of a sudden, he wakes up in Elaine’s body – the body of a beautiful woman – and doesn’t know what to do.

As for how I developed Allen? I understood him right away. Here’s a guy who will always be male, but is in a female body and no one else realizes it but him. (As Elaine is still in a coma at this point, and can’t help him.) So it was more a matter of putting Allen in situations where he’d be confronted by his own assumptions as a male, and then see how someone ostensibly female was treated.

I didn’t do any character interviews with Allen, mind. I did do a few, down the line, with Elaine, as she was far more complex than Allen in certain respects and I wanted to do justice to her complexity.

Q: In the same light, how did you create your antagonist or villain? What steps did you take to make him or her realistic?
A: In this case, the villain is Elaine herself (in a way). She’s going to sacrifice everything because she’s so uncomfortable with admitting who she is.

But the reason she’s uncomfortable – and it’s why I said “in a way,” above – is because she was gang-raped at fifteen. So the villains who made her uncomfortable in her own body were those five rapists. And we do see a little of them in this novel, and how she manages to overcome that to form a good love-relationship with the only person who’s ever truly mattered to her, that being Allen.

As for making the villainy realistic? People sabotage themselves all the time, sometimes for what seems like good reasons. That’s what is realistic about what Elaine does.

In addition, I don’t know how anyone would deal with being gang-raped when you already know you’re transgender at the tender age of fifteen. So for Elaine to still be confused years later is not altogether a surprise.

Q: How did you keep your narrative exciting throughout the novel? Could you offer some practical, specific tips?
A: I wish I knew how to give practical, specific tips. The only thing I can tell you is that both Allen and Elaine had to confront a lot of deep, dark things – most of them being in Elaine’s past – to get to be able to have that second chance. And to accept the fact that the second chance would not be easy, would entail them both being in the wrong bodies for the rest of their lives, was also not an easy thing for either one of them.

The only practical tip I’ve ever seen that worked for me, as stated by renowned author Lois McMaster Bujold in various places, is this: “What’s the worst thing I can do this guy? Then do it.”

I think that’s what happened here, at least with regards to Allen. (And Elaine’s journey is far from easy, either, as you’ll see.)

Q: Setting is also quite important and in many cases it becomes like a character itself. What tools of the trade did you use in your writing to bring the setting to life?
A: I lived in Nebraska for three years when I went to graduate school. I felt the heat, I saw the vivid colors of the sunsets and sunrises, I felt the scorching cold, and I knew exactly how to describe it.

It’s hard to explain, otherwise, but I’ll do my best.

If you’ve experienced something, that helps you to describe it. And I experienced Nebraska. I even met some LGBT people in Lincoln, when I lived there; there weren’t many, but there were some, and most of them, at the time (this being the late 1990s/early 2000s) did not want to call attention to themselves. The goal at that point was for civil unions to be accepted in various churches, and there were many disagreements about this.

So, it was important to me to set this story in Nebraska. These are two people who could live anywhere. They have talent in music, they are creative, they are honest, they love each other. But one of them is transgender and gender-fluid, and yet their love is like anyone else’s, and their communication problems are like anyone else’s, too.

It’s important that society as a whole comes to realize that people are people, and regardless of gender expression or sexuality, they are deserving of love and happiness and care. Whatever form that love and happiness takes (providing it’s consensual, preferably monogamous, and with people who are adult so they can make their own choices and take their own risks) ultimately does not matter.

Only the love matters. And that’s why I set this story in Nebraska in the first place, because it showcases just how much times have changed…and yet, remained the same.

Q: Did you know the theme(s) of your novel from the start or is this something you discovered after completing the first draft? Is this theme(s) recurrent in your other work?
A: Oh, I knew the themes right away. Could I describe them right away, though? No, probably not. I just saw that the Allen and Elaine were good people, and that their outsides were not important. What was important were their souls, and how they loved each other, and how they were going to go on despite this radical change in their outward circumstances.

And no, this is not a recurrent theme in my work, at least not in this way. In my two previous novels, AN ELFY ON THE LOOSE and A LITTLE ELFY IN BIG TROUBLE, my main characters Bruno the Elfy and Sarah, his mostly-human girlfriend, are also in love and have a cross-species romance. But they are both straight. So it’s not as hard in some respects for them, though in others it probably isn’t easy because Bruno doesn’t come from this Earth at all.

Q: Where does craft end and art begin? Do you think editing can destroy the initial creative thrust of an author?
A: I think editing helps authors. There are sometimes mismatches between editors and authors, sure. But a good editor helps you clarify your thoughts. I was very fortunate that I had Katharine Eliska Kimbriel on my side as my editor for CHANGING FACES, because she helped me enormously. I also had a good copy-editor, Janne Kafka, who gave some late suggestions that I implemented. Without them, CHANGING FACES wouldn’t be half as good.

As far as craft and art goes? I think we have to put in many hours of thought and effort to do good work. Whether someone sees it as craft or art is up to the eye of the beholder; I won’t make that decision for them. But do I want them to see it as an interesting work of art and craft, both? Yes, I do. (Does that answer your question? It’s a tough one!)

Q: What three things, in your opinion, make a successful novelist?
A: Persistence, hard work, and a willingness to tell your story no matter where it leads.

Q: A famous writer once wrote that being an author is like having to do homework for the rest of your life. Thoughts?
A: In a way, that’s true. Authors do research settings, we do think a great deal about what we’re doing, and we spend an inordinate amount of time on our work.

But I like to think of it as an expression of my own creativity as much as it is “homework,” because thinking of it as homework takes some of the fun out of it. (Picture my big, evil grin here.)

Q: Are there any resources, books, workshops or sites about craft that you’ve found helpful during your writing career?
A: Yes, there are a number of them.

First, the Forward Motion Writers Group online is an incredibly valuable resource. They talk craft, they talk about marketing sometimes, they have writing prompts, and the community of writers there is second to none.

Second, I recommend Anne Lamott’s BIRD BY BIRD and Ralph Keyes’ THE COURAGE TO WRITE as helpful books when you get stalled. Lamont’s book reminded me that other authors also struggle through various revisions, while Keyes’ book told me that we all struggle to be honest and give our best effort as writers. I find them both useful references.

Third, if you want to share your work as a new writer but are worried it’s not that great and need critiques that will help you, I recommend Critters.org along with the Forward Motion community (as notated above). Note that you will get some very strong and pungent critiques there, so you had best have a thick skin…but you will get help if you are willing to work at it and can check your ego at the door.

And finally, I strongly recommend the group Marketing for Romance Writers. Like Forward Motion, like Critters, Marketing for Romance Writers is absolutely free of charge, and there are many wonderful writers there; you do not have to be a romance writer to become a member, either.

Q: Is there anything else you’d like to share with my readers about the craft of writing?
A: Just tell your stories. No one else’s. That’s all you can do. Be honest, tell stories that matter to you, and readers will respond to that.

Keep trying, keep working, do not give up, and continue to believe that what you are doing matters whether anyone else sees it or not. That’s the only way to succeed in this business.

Anything else is just window dressing, in my not-so-humble opinion.

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jane-jordanJane was born in England, and grew up exploring the history and culture of London and surrounding counties.  After some time spent in Germany in the 1990’s she immigrated to Detroit, USA, eventually settling in South West Florida. She returned to England after a fifteen-year absence, to spend six years in the South West of England living on Exmoor.  Here, inspired by the atmosphere, beautiful scenery and the ancient history of the place, she began writing.

Jane is a trained horticulturist, and also spent time working and volunteering for Britain’s National Trust at Exmoor’s 1000-year-old Dunster Castle.  Gaining more insight into the history and mysteries surrounding these ancient places, and having always been intrigued by the supernatural, inspiration came for her fourth novel, The Beekeeper’s Daughter, a supernatural thriller.

Jane Returned to Florida in 2013, and lives in Sarasota.

Q: Congratulations on the release of your latest book, The Beekeeper’s Daughter. To begin with, can you give us a brief summary of what the story is about and what compelled you to write it?

 

A: The Beekeeper’s Daughter is a historical dark romance primarily set in the Victorian Era.  It combines the lives of the cottagers, blacksmiths and wealthy landowners in a story that is full of intrigue.

 

Annabel Taylor is The Beekeeper’s Daughter, she also has the ability to charm bees.  She has grown up on wild Exmoor, which lies in the South West of England.  When she meets Jevan, the blacksmith son, her life dramatically changes, they form an unbreakable bond, until they are forced apart when Jevan leaves for London.  Annabel is heartbroken, and believes her life is over.  By chance she meets Alex, the heir to vast estate lands and the foreboding Gothelstone manor house.

 

Socially they are worlds apart, even though Annabel is inexplicably drawn to him, she feels that Alex’s attention is merely a distraction from her true love.  Alex has other ideas.  When Jevan eventually returns, Annabel realizes just how precarious her situation has become.  When Jevan’s life is threatened, she has to make a heartbreaking choice that could mean Jevan will hate her forever.

 

But darker forces are at play. Alex and Annabel are merely pawns in someone else’s sinister plan.  Annabel must use her inherent ability to stop a diabolical plan coming to fruition, and destroy a powerful witch.

 

Q: What do you think makes a good Dark Romance? Could you narrow it down to the three most important elements? Is it even possible to narrow it down?

 

A: I would say three is a limited number, Dark Romance can have so many components to it.

 

cover-artAn important element is the central characters that have a love interest, which is often conflicted, a story that can enter the realm of horror, but still engage the reader.

 

Attention to detail, and dialogue is important.  Characters have to been portrayed as believable, if my characters are in love I want readers to feel that, if they hate each other, then, I want readers to feel the animosity and the conflict.

 

Dark Romance should be about anticipation, longing and hope. Questions should be raised. Are these people good and bad in equal measures?  Are they corrupt?  I like to explore these ideas, and this genre explores a world that is dark and mysterious, but it still has to have an attainable light in that darkness.

 

Dark romance is frequently linked to gothic fiction, and I do enjoy the gothic element.  For me, it’s as much about the mood of a place as the setting, which brings the whole story to life. The atmosphere sets the mood and gives an anchor to the story.  The mood can be anything that inspires your imagination from mist covered moors, a foreboding old house with secret rooms, to the presence of a raven suggesting an omen of bad luck.

 

The supernatural is often associated with dark romance and the classic gothic tale, and by weaving this through a story it gives the writer the potential to send a shiver up their reader’s spine.

 

Q: How did you go about plotting your story? Or did you discover it as you worked on the book?

 

A: I had the basic idea.  I wanted to write something of the Victorian period, and I completed a lot of research so that all the historical elements could be accurately portrayed.

 

I had the beginning for a long time, but Jevan’s character would not come until I had the right name for him.  As strange as that sounds, not only do I have to visualize the details, but the name has to be right or I can’t imagine that person, in turn the character then has to live up to the name.

 

There are so many different factors to this book, the love triangle, the bees and Annabel’s supernatural power over them, witchcraft, a Victorian asylum, the moors, and the city of Bath as well as society life, which made it a complex undertaking.

 

I found it useful to write and work to a timeline.  It changed several times, but it helped me tell the story and know how everything would happen, which was especially important, since the story started centuries before the Victorian times.  Ultimately, knowing the order of things and how they progress helped me see the bigger picture, and where to conclude the book.

 

Q: Tell us something interesting about your protagonist and how you developed him or her. Did you do any character interviews or sketches prior to the actual writing?

 

A: Annabel is the protagonist in The Beekeepers Daughter.  I knew what I needed to accomplish in the story and for that role, she had to be confident, a little hot headed and unafraid as well as beautiful.  There had to be an underlying darkness to her character, because of her own heritage.  Even though, she is a complex character she was easy to write.

 

I like strong women, and their characters to be of substance.  Annabel had to be somewhat fearless given the adversity she has to conquer, but I do show her vulnerable side. Like many women, when it comes to romance, she still has a profound weakness for the man she loves.

 

Q: In the same light, how did you create your antagonist or villain? What steps did you take to make him or her realistic?

 

A: Cerberus Saltonstall is the antagonist in The Beekeeper’s Daughter.  He was interesting to develop.  Darker and more wicked characters are complex on so many levels.  I portray him as evil, but evil is a point of view.

 

If Cerberus was asked why he behaves in this manner, he would answer: everything he does is borne out of love for a woman that has died.  The darkness manifests in Cerberus because he cannot accept that fact.  It is clear that he is driven by his own demons and dabbling in the dark arts has caused further corruption. His grasp on reality has become obscure, and part of the thriller of this novel is unravelling Cerberus’s evil plan.

 

I drip feed just enough information throughout the book to let readers realize that he has another agenda, but his scheme does not become clear until the appropriate time

 

Q: How did you keep your narrative exciting throughout the novel? Could you offer some practical, specific tips?

 

A: I keep paragraphs and chapters relatively short. I don’t pad out my story with useless information, if I write it, then, it’s there for a reason.

 

One of the worst things when reading a novel is to become bored and skip pages. Some writers take two or three pages to write what could of actually be said on a single page, so I try to keep my story moving at a good pace.

 

When I worked with my first editor a few years ago, he cut 10,000 words from my manuscript, and I was horrified.  As a writer you invest so much time and energy into each and every word.  To my mind they were all needed and were all significant.  But that editor taught me so much by explaining why he cut the words.  He made me see how to write the same thing with less words and by doing so, have more impact.  So when I read through the story, I could see how much sharper and polished it had become.

 

The lesson learned was if you can say it in six words, don’t use twenty.

 

Although, there is always an exception to the rule, and some scenes just need a long descriptive, especially if you are trying to portray a place or setting you know your reader will have difficulty imagining. Even so, most everyday things can be simplified.  For example, I may want my reader to know that a character ate a sandwich, but I don’t need to describe the contents in detail, tell them if the bread was white or brown, or how big it was–too much information.

 

I try to write dynamic dialogue and have to immerse myself in the character of the people I am writing about.  One of the best ways to check your writing, is to read aloud to yourself.  Hearing what you have written has a way of telling you when something is not right.

 

Q: Setting is also quite important and in many cases it becomes like a character itself. What tools of the trade did you use in your writing to bring the setting to life?

 

A:  As this book is set on Exmoor, and there is a scene in the city of Bath.  I could draw on actual experience of these places.  I have walked around the city of Bath, and taken inspiration from the famous Georgian architecture.  I studied old pictures to see how it would have been without cars and buses in a time when there were only carriage and horses for transport.  I researched Victorian dress and fashionable clothes ladies used to wear when they walked around the Royal Crescent, or what it was like to be invited to balls or go to take the waters at the famous Pump Room.

 

I have lived and worked on Exmoor, so I know the places I write about well.  Exmoor is a land of extremes it has the highest coastline on the British mainland.  It is dramatically barren with heather covered moorland, and breathtakingly beautiful with deep wooded valleys.  It is a place where artists, writers and poets have been inspired to produce a myriad of work.

 

Gothelstone Manor house was an amalgamation of several different stately homes that I have visited, and the Victorian asylum was constructed from researching several of those harrowing establishments.

 

Q: Did you know the theme(s) of your novel from the start or is this something you discovered after completing the first draft? Is this theme(s) recurrent in your other work?

 

A: I knew my theme would be a darkly romantic tale with a mysterious gothic element, there would be supernatural and some horror.  My characters would be complex because of their connections to each other.

 

This theme does occur in my other work, primarily because I have used the moors as a setting before, but also London, because any city has a dark and dangerous aspect.  Scotland too is full of mystery and so I like to draw on all those aspects when I write

 

Q: Where does craft end and art begin? Do you think editing can destroy the initial creative thrust of an author?

 

A:  Not if it is done correctly. Editing strips away the nonsense, and the repetition.  When you have written 120,000 words it’s hard not to say the same thing twice or even more, so editing highlights these repetitions.

 

Writing a substantial novel, takes a long time.  I don’t believe many authors start at the beginning, work through till the end, and finish.  It is more a matter of going back and revisiting chapters.  Writing a book is mostly about editing and re-editing, until you get it as perfect as you can.

 

I have been writing for long enough now that I can edit my own work, but I would always want a professional editor to look it over, no-one is infallible and I often find that I have misspelt something or my spell checker has changed a word.

 

My current editor did not change my story at all, she only corrected spelling mistakes and some grammar issues.  If you work with a good editor, then, you should be able to see that your editor’s suggestions make your work read better.

 

Q: What three things, in your opinion, make a successful novelist?

 

A:  1.  The ability to tell a story through written words that makes readers engage with the story concept, so that they become engrossed and don’t want to put the book down.

 

  1. The confidence to believe in your story and the idea’s, however obscure that go along with it. The confidence to put different or unusual things together and still come up a believable and interesting story.

 

I always marry different themes or places together. In my first book, I explored the idea of a vampire existing on Exmoor, I took my reader to London and to Stonehenge, I incorporated a love story and a few paragraphs about the Chinese opium wars and smuggling in the 19th century on the southwest coast of England.

 

In my second novel, I began on Exmoor, and then my readers discovered the hidden underground tunnels in London, then, India at the time of the British Raj, while exploring the roots of Italian witchcraft and the very beginnings of vampirism.  As well as writing about a significant train derailment, and the famous Brookwood cemetery in London.

 

In my third novel, I started in Scotland, and explored clairvoyance and tea leaf reading, the famous Green Lady ghost of Stirling Castle, a London opera house, a ballerina and a gothic stately home with its resident vampire and heartbroken ghost.

 

  1. The persistence to see it through, even when you hit a roadblock and cannot figure a way around it, but you have to keep going. Sooner or later you will know how to overcome the obstacle.  Some chapters are harder to write than others, they may take patience and passion in equal measure to make everything come together

 

Q: A famous writer once wrote that being an author is like having to do homework for the rest of your life. What do you think about that?

 

A:  Yes that’s probably true.  I am always learning new things. I constantly research ideas or themes, which can be very time consuming, but the upside is that you find out interesting or obscure facts that the majority of people don’t know about, which makes for interesting conversation pieces at the very least.

 

Q: Are there any resources, books, workshops or sites about craft that you’ve found helpful during your writing career?

 

A: The internet of course is an inexhaustible supply of research of both fact and fiction, as well as myths and legends from around the world.  I have read dozens of books in my pursuit of research, everything from period costumes to bee-keeping.

 

I don’t visit writing sites, as I believe that every writer is different, what works for one will not work for another.  It’s best just to find your own way of doing things. I am more interested in talking to other authors in person when I get the opportunity.

 

Q:  Is there anything else you’d like to share with my readers about the craft of writing?

 

A: No book or website can tell you how to write.  They can improve your grammar and give you a formula to follow, but writing is so much more than that.

 

The driving force behind every good writer is that they have a story that needs to be told, and they have the passion and perseverance to see it through.

 

I believe that most people are capable of writing a story, but a novel is a completely different undertaking.  It requires a lot of emotional input and hard work to craft a story of 80,000 words or more that is capable of captivating an audience.

 

I also think that too many people write in a genre because of a current bestseller, instead of writing in a genre that they have a true understanding or connection with. The trouble with doing this, is by the time the novel is finished, the publishing industry will have moved on.

 

It’s far better to be true to yourself and to where your personal interests lie. Your writing will be so much better because of it.

 

 

 

 

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amsden_AuthorLarge (1)Christine is the award-winning author of the Cassie Scot series, the story of the only ungifted scion of a family of powerful sorcerers. Her latest novel, Kaitlin’s Tale, follows the trials of Cassie’s best friend as she falls in love with Cassie’s arch-nemesis. Christine’s other titles include The Immortality Virus, Touch of Fate, and Madison’s Song.

When she isn’t writing, Christine is often editing or coaching other authors. In recent years, freelance editing has become almost as great a passion as writing itself. Plus, it supports her writing habit. Christine is a wife, a mom, and a foster mom. She lives in Olathe, Kansas, just outside Kansas City.

Q: Congratulations on the release of your latest book, Kaitlin’s Tale. To begin with, can you gives us a brief summary of what the story is about and what compelled you to write it?  

A: Kaitlin’s Tale tells the story of an unlikely couple – a telepathic mind mage and a woman immune to mind magic. The inspiration for this tale is far, far from the work of a moment. Kaitlin came to me six years ago as I wrote Cassie Scot: ParaNormal Detective, the first of a four-book urban fantasy series about the only ungifted scion of a family of powerful sorcerers. At the time, she was the sidekick, never meant to have a story of her own, but she soon grew too big to be a footnote in someone else’s story. Matthew, meanwhile, came to me in Mind Games, book 3 of the Cassie Scot series, as the villain of the piece. I don’t like two-dimensional villains, and the more I learned about why he did what he did to Cassie, the more I realized that he would make someone very happy – just not Cassie.

Q: What do you think makes a good urban fantasy/paranormal romance? Could you narrow it down to the three most important elements? Is it even possible to narrow it down?

A: Characters. Characters. Characters.

Look, the world building for most urban fantasy and paranormal romance is stock. I appreciate clever twists on the old tropes, fresh angles, and a few surprises, but a world isn’t going to win me over.

My favorite urban fantasies and paranormal romances pop because of character. It’s a certain tone and voice, an attitude and outlook on life. It works best when the author puts a little piece of him or herself into the book.

Q: How did you go about plotting your story? Or did you discover it as you worked on the book?

KaitlinsTale-cover-front72.jpgA: I outline, write, reoutline, rewrite, reoutline, rewrite, rewrite, rewrite, rewrite … Actually, for this particular book I went through more drafts than usual. It’s a complex story, with three main plots that intertwine, and getting the timing right, especially on the romance, was tricky. Luckily, I’m a firm believer in “Great books aren’t written, they are rewritten.”

Q: Tell us something interesting about your protagonist and how you developed him or her. Did you do any character interviews or sketches prior to the actual writing?

A: Kaitlin reads a ton of romance, but she doesn’t identify well with the heroine of the stories. She more easily identifies with the woman who “knows the score” and is cast aside in favor of the true heroine. There’s a world of hurt in Kaitlin’s past, hurt she wouldn’t even tell her best friend about. I had trouble getting it out of her! (And yes, I did interviews and first person journals.) Matthew, who can read her mind, is really a great fit for her.

Q: In the same light, how did you create your antagonist or villain? What steps did you take to make him or her realistic?

A: There are several antagonists in this piece, including Alexander DuPris, the would-be leader of the magical world. It’s important to know that he has good intentions. Most of my heroes have good intentions. It’s just that the road to hell and all …

Other villains of the piece include Xavier and Jason, the vampires hunting down Kaitlin. They were tougher to get to know because I don’t do sparkly vampires. Or even misunderstood humans. Mine are alien, with alien motives. But this wasn’t enough to drive a story, so I had to chip away at their motivations until I found something relatable. In the end, I created a conflict between Xavier and Jason to help make their desires more understandable (by contrast to one another).

Q: How did you keep your narrative exciting throughout the novel? Could you offer some practical, specific tips?

A: I try to keep my characters on their toes throughout the book! I’m not a formulaic plotter, but when I outline a book, I do split it into quarters and make sure there is a major plot point near the end of each quarter. For example, in Cassie Scot: ParaNormal Detective, there is a major family fight at the first quarter, a vampire attack at the second (also the midpoint), a family blowout at the third quarter, and I’ll leave the climax in suspense. Since I always have main plots and important subplots, such as a mystery, a romance, and family tension, it keeps me busy. Even outside the quarter points (which I only use as a general guideline) there is always something to do. Each chapter has to accomplish something. Each scene.

I have been told that my books cause insomnia. I think that means I’m doing okay. 🙂

Q: Setting is also quite important and in many cases it becomes like a character itself. What tools of the trade did you use in your writing to bring the setting to life?

A: Relevance. It’s my sonic screwdriver; I use it for just about everything. Setting comes to life when it matters to the people interacting with it and at no other time. Which isn’t to say that you should stick to the bare bones because the flipside of this is that when it matters, color it in! During one scene in Kaitlin’s Tale I had Kaitlin go to a magical nightclub with a friend. The place was crazy when she walked in! I know she couldn’t relate all of it to the reader, but I let her eyes drift around the room and I had fun with it … people dancing on air, a drunk man stumbling through another and starting a bar fight, some techno-mages messing with the laser lights for the fun of it … just a bit of this and that.

Q: Did you know the theme(s) of your novel from the start or is this something you discovered after completing the first draft? Is this theme(s) recurrent in your other work?

A: There is a recurring theme in my Cassie Scot novels and the spin-offs: Love yourself. I knew this theme going in, because it is as important to Kaitlin as it is to her friends. Maybe more so. There did end up being another theme in the book that I recognized partway through: Don’t judge a book by its cover. Matthew, in particular, was misunderstood when he first appeared in the series. There’s more to him.

 

Q: Where does craft end and art begin? Do you think editing can destroy the initial creative thrust of an author?

A: The answer to this question depends entirely on which stage of the creative process the author is in. There are four:

  1. Unconscious incompetence – in which you aren’t very good and don’t even know it.
  2. Conscious incompetence – in which you aren’t very good, but are coming to realize this fact and begin to work to improve.
  3. Conscious competence – in which you have begun to become a good writer, with a great deal of thought and work involved at every step in the process.
  4. Unconscious competence – in which your ability to write flows as naturally as breathing and you no longer have to think so hard about everything you do.

Let’s disregard stages one and two as part of the creative awakening process. You’re not really publishable until stage three, at which point over-editing definitely takes a toll on the sparkle of the original work.

But once you reach stage four, I think art and craft are inseparable. At this point, revision is rarely about scrutinizing your word choice anyway, and fresh revisions tend to improve the underlying plot.

Q: What three things, in your opinion, make a successful novelist?

A: Ego, humility, and insanity. (Not necessarily in that order.)

Q: A famous writer once wrote that being an author is like having to do homework for the rest of your life. What do you think about that?

A: I don’t agree. My homework was never this fun.

Q: Are there any resources, books, workshops or sites about craft that you’ve found helpful during your writing career?

A: Yes. And as the Internet is always changing, so too have the sites. But check out Savvy Authors. And The Elements of Fiction Series (except the one on dialog).

Q:  Is there anything else you’d like to share with my readers about the craft of writing?

A: Only write because you love it. No, you won’t love it every second of every day, but you should love the process and take personal pride in the results. If you’re in it for fame or fortune, you’re in for a serious disappointment.

Title: Kaitlin’s Tale

Genre: urban fantasy/paranormal romance

Author: Christine Amsden

Websitehttp://www.christineamsden.com

Publisher: Twilight Times Books

Trailerhttps://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UcNgx7SoWy8&feature=youtu.be

Amazon / OmniLit

About the Book:

Kaitlin Mayer is on the run from the father of her baby – a vampire who wants her to join him in deadly eternity. Terrified for her young son, she seeks sanctuary from the hunters guild. But they have their own plans for her son, and her hopes of safety are soon shattered.

When she runs into Matthew Blair, an old nemesis with an agenda of his own, she dares to hope for a new escape. But Matthew is a telepath, and Kaitlin’s past is full of dark secrets she never intended to reveal.

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The_Asset_High ResTrying to survive from a deadly past that torments her, Lia Stewart is hiding in a small Rocky Mountain town until, one day, a wounded warrior with a dog shows on her doorstep; a gravely injured SEAL with a heart and soul just as tortured as hers. Against her best judgment, she decides to help him – a kind act that may cost her life.

The Asset by Anna del Mar is an emotionally compelling and sizzling romance, has two protagonists to die for, a well-thought out plot with carefully-timed, revealing twists, mounting tension, and thrills that will keep you turning pages.

From the beginning, I was hooked with the story and mystery. I was also impressed with the quality of the writing and the emotionally compelling aspect of the romance as it evolved between Lia and Ash. The backstory was deftly handled by this promising author. Bits and pieces of information about the characters and their stories bring one to light as the story progresses. Each new revelation seems to be more important then the previous one and adds to the novel’s sense of impending danger as it approaches the climax.

Aside from the lead characters there is also a lethal antagonist and an adorable German shepherd in the mix. While the former is of course important to the plot line, the latter gives the story, and readers, needed breaks from the tension.

Anna del Mar is an exciting new name in the steamy romance genre and I look forward to reading more from her. If you love romance, especially military romance, this is a must read!

Read my interview with the author on Blogcritics.

Cover art credit: Carina Press/HarperCollins. Published with permission from the author. 

My review was originally published in Blogcritics.

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Anna del Mar writes hot, smart romances that soothe the soul, challenge the mind, and satisfy the heart. Her stories focus on strong heroines struggling to find their place in the world and the brave, sexy, kickass, military heroes who defy the limits of their broken bodies to protect the women they love. She is the author of The Asset (Carina Press), the first novel of her Wounded Warrior series and three other novels scheduled for release during 2016.

A Georgetown University graduate, Anna enjoys traveling, hiking, skiing, and the sea. Writing is her addiction, her drug of choice, and what she wants to do all the time. The extraordinary men and women she met during her years as a Navy wife inspire the fabulous heroes and heroines at the center of her stories. When she stays put—which doesn’t happen very often—she lives in Florida with her indulgent husband and two very opinionated cats.

The_Asset_High Res.jpgQ: Congratulations on the release of your latest book, The Asset. To begin with, can you gives us a brief summary of what the story is about and what compelled you to write it?

A: Sure! The Asset is a contemporary romance about a woman, fleeing from her sinister past, who must defy her fears and risk her life to care for a wounded warrior, a SEAL, running away from his uncertain future. Together they learn that fear can give way to courage and love is a healing journey. The Asset is the first novel of my Wounded Warrior series, a collection of novels that feature strong, self-reliant heroines trying to find their place in the world and the brave, sexy military heroes who will lay down their lives to protect the women they love.

I was inspired to write both the novel and the series by the amazing people I met while my husband was in the Navy and we lived as part of the military community. I wish that everybody in the world got to meet these brave souls. More specifically, my heroes and heroines are inspired by the wounded warriors coming back from the wars abroad and the incredible resilience they show every day.

Q: What do you think makes a good romance? Could you narrow it down to the three most important elements? Is it even possible to narrow it down?

A: A romance is a novel that aims to discover the mysteries of the human heart, the forces that bring us together, the prejudices that pull us apart. I don’t know that you can ever narrow down the elements that define a good romance, but I think most romance writers would agree that strong, vivid, authentic and evolving characters make a difference, as does a well-constructed plot and a rich, interesting setting. The relationship is always at the center of the story and our ability to connect to those characters is key. But the ultimate measure of a good romance has always been and will continue to be the story’s ability to touch the reader’s heart.

Q: How did you go about plotting your story? Or did you discover it as you worked on the book?

A: I usually have a broad idea of what the plot will entail and how it will flow. I might even have a loose outline that I use as an overall guide to check my progress. But the best plot twists are those that surprise not only the reader, but the writer as well. I love it when that happens! So I’m always open to see where the story and the characters will lead me. I’m always thrilled to be surprised.

Q: Tell us something interesting about your protagonist and how you developed him or her. Did you do any character interviews or sketches prior to the actual writing?

A: Some of these characters have been living in my mind for quite some time. Take Lia, for example, The Asset’s heroine. She’s fleeing from a drug lord who has terrorized her existence. Her early life mirrors some of my experiences growing up in Latin America and the perils of a world riddled with conflict and violence.

Likewise, Ash, The Asset’s hero, is a Colorado native, born and bred. I’ve spend a lot of time in the Rocky Mountains and I think that my vision of that part of the country shapes Ash as a person and as a hero. I don’t usually do character interviews of sketches prior to writing, but sometimes I keep a list to clarify the traits that feel strong to my writer’s heart.

Q: In the same light, how did you create your antagonist or villain? What steps did you take to make him or her realistic?

A: As I mentioned above, I grew up in Latin America. The villain in this story is someone who by definition is familiar to the reader, someone who by virtue of his power and money is a ranking member of the global society, despite being ruthless, violent and cruel.

In The Asset, Ramon Ruiz Rojas—Red—is the ambitious, brutal head of the Rojas cartel, the most powerful drug lord in the States. I won’t give up any spoilers, but suffice it to say that he’s after Lia with a vengeance. After stalking her for years, he’s now on her heels and, this time around, he intends to snare her for good.

Q: How did you keep your narrative exciting throughout the novel? Could you offer some practical, specific tips?

A: Pace is very important to keep the story rolling, focusing on the key aspects of the mysteries at the heart of the novel. The flow of information is another vital element that helps keep up the suspense, when a character knows what and why. It’s also important to eliminate any aspects of the narrative that don’t contribute to advancing the story. If it’s not necessary, chop it off and move on to keep the narrative exciting.

Q: Setting is also quite important and in many cases it becomes like a character itself. What tools of the trade did you use in your writing to bring the setting to life?

A: I’m huge on experiential research and observation. As a writer, I like to put myself in situations that are similar to those that my characters are experiencing. Research goes a long way to add resources to the writer’s toolkit and helps build authentic stories with realistic details. But there’s nothing like being there to create rich settings.

Q: Did you know the theme(s) of your novel from the start or is this something you discovered after completing the first draft? Is this theme(s) recurrent in your other work?

A: I knew the theme and yes, the theme is recurrent in the Wounded Warrior Series. The series is not really about physical injuries. It’s about the wounds we all carry deep inside, the pain we all experience as human beings, the courage that it takes to face and overcome the challenges life throws at us. Above all, the series is about hope, love’s extraordinary healing power and the joy that comes from the journey.

Q: Where does craft end and art begin? Do you think editing can destroy the initial creative thrust of an author?

A: In my view, writing is an art, but technical proficiency helps the artist convey her gifts. Editing is an art too. Sure, an editor has to be technically proficient to do her job, but without a feel for the story, the editing process can become a misadventure. Romance requires an editor able to connect with the story at a gut level, who can feel through the narrative, understand the characters and evaluate their authenticity. Moreover, you want someone who brings practical applications to the editing process. If you’re writing romance and you’re interested in publishing your work, you need to have an editor who knows the genre, the romance community, and the romance publishing industry.

Q: What three things, in your opinion, make a successful novelist?

A: A passion for writing, a personal and professional commitment to storytelling, and perseverance to see the journey through.

Q: A famous writer once wrote that being an author is like having to do homework for the rest of your life. What do you think about that?

A: I guess it would depend if you like doing homework or not!  I wouldn’t want to devote my life to doing something I hate. On the contrary. Life is too short to for that. To me writing feels as if I’d won the lottery. I get to sit down every day of my life and write my stories? And I get paid for that? I’m the luckiest girl on earth.

Q: Are there any resources, books, workshops or sites about craft that you’ve found helpful during your writing career?

A: The best investment I’ve ever made in my career was working with my private editor. A good editor teaches, encourages and guides in addition to everything else. She or he provides personalized learning opportunities that save you time and effort as an author. A good editor can be the difference between publishing or not.

One other resource that I think it’s important, and it’s free for the most part. Your writer friends are a great source of support, knowledge, information and perspective. Find them and stick with them. You’ll be happy for the company along the way.

Q: Is there anything else you’d like to share with my readers about the craft of writing?

A: I’ve been saying this a lot lately: Writing is an act of love.

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SONY DSC

I was born and raised in Chicago. My father was a history professor and my mother was, and is, a voracious reader. I grew up with a love of history and books. My parents also love traveling, a passion they passed onto me. I wanted to see the places I read about, see the land and monuments from the time periods that fascinated me. I’ve had the good fortune to travel extensively throughout Europe, the Near East, and North Africa. I am a retired police detective. I spent twenty-five years in law enforcement with two different agencies. My desire to write came in my early teens. After I retired, I decided to pursue that dream. I write three different series. My paranormal romance series is called, Knights in Time. My romantic thriller series is Dangerous Waters. The newest is The Bloodstone Series. Each series has a different setting and some cross time periods, which I find fun to write.I currently live in the Pacific Northwest with my husband and four wild and crazy rescue dogs. 

Q: Congratulations on the release of your latest book, In Time For You. To begin with, can you gives us a brief summary of what the story is about and what compelled you to write it? 

Sisters, Electra and Emily are horseback riding in the English countryside with Electra’s fiancé, Roger. The sisters go off to collect flowers and find themselves caught in a time warp. When no clue to their vanishing turns up, Roger, learns a disturbing truth about the specific area the women disappeared from: that there has been past incidents of a time passage opening and there’s a link to specific place and time. He realizes what has occurred. What neither sister knew, was Roger is a time traveler himself. He was brought forward in time from a medieval battle he was engaged in.

He knows he must go back and search for the sisters who face grave dangers in the medieval world they’ve been transported to. Complicating his search is the fact that they are in a time that England was a war with France and Roger is French. He was fighting the English when he was transported. If he is caught while searching for the sisters, he will face death as an enemy on English soil or imprisonment as a prisoner of war.

It’s the story of how the two sisters use their intellect and resourcefulness to survive and adjust to a very alien world. It’s about how in the craziest and most frightening of circumstances, love can make its way into our hearts.

*Roger was the antagonist in my previous book in this series, Knight Blindness. Although he was the antagonist, he was not a villain. He was a French nobleman fighting for his king and country. I liked Roger as a person and a character and at the end of Knight Blindness decided to give him a story of his own. Electra and Emily the two female heroines in In Time For You are sisters to the heroine in Knight Blindness.

In Time for YouQ: What do you think makes a good romance? Could you narrow it down to the three most important elements? Is it even possible to narrow it down?

For any genre, I’d say compelling characters. The author must be passionate about creating well-rounded fulfilling characters in order for the reader to be and that includes the antagonists. For romance, the story must show a genuine relationship between the hero and heroine. To me, it can’t be he’s so handsome and she’s so beautiful and the two are carried away by just the sight of the other. The two need to laugh and respect each other, more than making love in the story. Those scenes are a lovely addition but the story must show the love grow and develop. Third, I’d say a good romance has a well-rounded world for the characters to occupy. Whether it’s terrible or beautiful or both, they have friends and family and enemies, all sorts of people they come into contact with. They shouldn’t function in a vacuum, so to speak. I love giving a story a variety of characters. I also like to use setting as a character at times.

Q: How did you go about plotting your story? Or did you discover it as you worked on the book?

I start with an outline. I’m not married to it. I usually veer far from what I originally put down and will let a storyline take me to a natural progression. I like being surprised by my characters and how they react. They don’t always do what I thought they would at the start.

Q: Tell us something interesting about your protagonist and how you developed him or her. Did you do any character interviews or sketches prior to the actual writing?

I have four protagonists in this story, which is unusual I know. Originally, I planned on the story surrounding Electra and Roger. I didn’t have to do much on them prior, especially on Roger, as he had a great deal of page time in Knight Blindness and a lot was known about him. Electra had several scenes in it as well. What I found was I couldn’t ignore or downplay Emily. I had not done a lot with her prior to the book, in fact, almost nothing. She grew in personality as I wrote. I needed to give her a hero and I gave her Simon. Simon was the best friend to Stephen, the English knight who came forward in time with Roger, in Knight Blindness. Simon is seen a great deal in Journey in Time. He became the perfect hero for Emily. They were the unlikely couple. Simon wasn’t always very nice in Journey in Time and he’s a bit of a tough customer. Emily is the youngest sister and is rather naïve and sweet natured compared to Electra. They both have a steep character arc, which I enjoyed giving them.

Roger and Electra are powerful characters from the start. For her, I was able to show how someone in her position (a modern woman) might handle being dropped in such an alien world. Medieval times were not kind to women. With Roger, I used the situation to show his intellect and resourcefulness.

Q: In the same light, how did you create your antagonist or villain? What steps did you take to make him or her realistic?

In Time For You hasn’t a antagonist/villain per se. It is the time and place that are the enemy of the hero and heroine. When I’ve written villains in the past, I generally don’t write a straight up evil person with no likeable features. I think the most interesting villains are those we occasionally find ourselves liking, men like Tony Soprano come to mind.  I like to give the villains a setting as well. They have associates, likes and dislikes, often they are men and women of great taste-think of the James Bond villains.

I will mention odd quirks they might have. In my book, Silk, the killer couldn’t stand to be around people when they were eating. The sound of people eating drove him bananas. In Golden Chariot, I named some of the music the villain listened to and the heroine, to her disgust, discovered she listened to some of it as well. I also gave him a surprise scene where, even though he’s a brutal killer, he shows extreme kindness to a down and out war veteran of his country who is begging.

In Knight Blindness, where Roger, the hero from In Time For You was the antagonist, I wanted to present a man who believed in his cause. He saw the hero as his country’s enemy and it was his originally intention to kill him.

Q: How did you keep your narrative exciting throughout the novel? Could you offer some practical, specific tips?

The first thing I do when I start a chapter is decide what event is going to happen that in some way changes the story, it has to change the character(s) in some way or change the world around them. That is a great way to keep up the pace as they, the characters, must react.

Second thing I do is ask whether a scene is really needed. What am I accomplishing? Not every scene will be action packed but again this plays to number one, if the two people or more are interacting then there must be a reason. If idle talk must be used, then it is only while I’m moving them from one point to another. That said, I try to limit those moments. Those are good places to add a line of humor or a romantic observation, if the story is a romance.

Q: Setting is also quite important and in many cases it becomes like a character itself. What tools of the trade did you use in your writing to bring the setting to life?

As I mentioned in those same words, I see setting as a character. I like to bring in weather. With weather you get smells, sounds, feel, sight, and sometimes taste. If they’re in the woods, I use the trees: is there a canopy from the lush trees in bloom or is it winter? Does ice cover the bare branches and moonlight reflect off them or is it fall and the leaves are like an orange blanket, slippery when wet. Does the forest embrace the characters or drive them to find a clearing?

Are they on the water with a spray of salt hitting them, stinging them as they’re trying to escape somewhere? Is it making their desperation worse?

I like to bring in medieval architecture when doing time travels. The mix of natural light with torchlight, the smell of smoke from the torches and candles, the tall fireplaces with carved surrounds of mythical creatures, the imposing tapestries, this can be very intimidating to a person not used to that world. Does the room reek of body odor or smell like fresh cut grass from newly laid rushes on the floor?

Throughout my stories, I try to continually bring in the environment. I think how it affects the characters really helps bring the book to life for a reader. I want them to feel cold when the characters do and scared when the heroine is walking down a torchlight corridor of a strange castle. I want the reader to wonder along with the characters why the birds suddenly stopped chirping as they stepped from one place to another.

Q: Did you know the theme(s) of your novel from the start or is this something you discovered after completing the first draft? Is this theme(s) recurrent in your other work?

I honestly don’t think of myself as writing a “theme.” I just will have a story in my head that I want to tell and hope to do it in an entertaining way. If there’s a theme, and I’m not sure this counts, my theme is about writing heroines with great strength of character, they all have a lot of intestinal fortitude. They aren’t women who cry and sob and do nothing while they wait for rescue. They’re proactive. I like to write women who are equal to the heroes in intelligence and courage.

Q: Where does craft end and art begin? Do you think editing can destroy the initial creative thrust of an author?

Tough question. I don’t write for a major NY publishing house. I know some who do and an author friend has her stories deeply “redone” after editing. To me, and this is just me, that dances a little too close to stepping on an author’s creative process.

I’ve also seen writers who are slaves to rules. I like to follow them up to a point, but at the end of the day, to me, I think many can be broken if done well. If the reader isn’t confused and the story isn’t harmed, then I don’t see the purpose to slash and burn rules. Sometimes a sentence fragment is a creative choice! I think it’s okay to start a sentence (once in a while) with ‘and’ or ‘but’.

One of my favorite authors is a major violator of head hopping. She does it very well. I wouldn’t do it. That is one of the rules I do tend to take heed of but she’s exceptional. I believe editing her out of her stylistic approach would have her craft.

Q: What three things, in your opinion, make a successful novelist?

Commitment: be willing to sit your butt in a chair for hours and hours and write when there’s so many more fun things you might want to do.

Diligence/Learn the craft: diligence in doing research when it is needed and not just writing something off the top of your head and hoping it’s historically or otherwise correct. Diligence in learning the craft and learning what is lazy writing and what make compelling story telling.

Acceptance: accept that you must promote. Amazon has hundreds and thousands of books listed. You must promote to get your name out. Acceptance that not everyone will love your book and you will get bad reviews. Move on. Don’t lose heart.

Q: A famous writer once wrote that being an author is like having to do homework for the rest of your life. What do you think about that?

I like Oscar Wilde’s comments on writing. One of my favorites is: “I was working on the proof of one of my poems all the morning and took out a comma. In the afternoon, I put it back again.”

I also like Hemingway’s: “All writing is rewriting.”

Q: Are there any resources, books, workshops or sites about craft that you’ve found helpful during your writing career?

I like Stephen King’s “On Writing.” As far as workshops and books, Donald Maass has the best workshops IMO. I’ve been to his several times and they’re incredible. His books are available also. One is “Writing the Breakout Novel” and another is “The Fire in Fiction.” Another good workshop is taught by Bob Mayer. One of the best conferences I’ve been to if you write thrillers or mysteries etc. is Thrillerfest. They always have a great lineup of authors.

Q:  Is there anything else you’d like to share with my readers about the craft of writing?

I would strongly suggest to all that you get into a critique group. You really need to have other “eyes” see your work. Your story will often not be coming across the way you want and having the group look at it can help.

Read a lot. Definitely read books in the genre you want to write in to get a “feel” for what reader expectation is.

When you read a scene you find especially well done and compelling, dissect it. By that I mean, as a reader look at it and figure out what it is you like the most, what makes this scene special for you and keep those qualities in mind for your own stories.

Develop a tough skin. There’s a lot of rejection in this business. There’ll always be people who dislike your book and there’ll be bad reviews. It’s the nature of the beast. Let it go and move on and don’t let the negative aspects get you down.

IN TIME FOR YOU is available on:

http://www.amazon.com/Time-You-Knights-Book-ebook/dp/B019JKXR5G/ref=asap_bc?ie=UTF8

http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/in-time-for-you-chris-karlsen/1123235174?ean=9781522714033

https://store.kobobooks.com/en-us/ebook/in-time-for-you-1

https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/606238

 

 

 

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Christmas Romance 2015If you’re a fan of romantic stories and you love traveling and being transported to other countries, curl up in front of the fireplace these holidays with Christmas Romance 2015 – Places to See Series.

Now available as a box set, this uplifting collection is made of four interrelated stories about four women who encounter unexpected love during Christmas in the countries of their dreams. Friends and co-workers Aubri, Paget, Erika, and Jade work as buyers for Simon’s Department Store. Their boss and “surrogate” father, Mr. Simon, having lost his daughter and believing that life is too short, decides to send his four favorite employees on their dream trips, all expenses paid.

The collection includes:

“Kisses and Strudel: Christmas Romance – Germany,” by Jennifer Conner

“In Love with Paris: Christmas Romance – France,” by Sharon Kleve

“Christmas in Tuscany: Christmas Romance – Italy,” by Angela Ford

“Twice as Nice Christmas: Christmas Romance – Bulgaria,” by Natalie-Nicole

Four stories to warm up the hearts of romance readers, Christmas Romance – Places to See features four lovable heroines, four to-die-for heros, and last but not least, four settings that sparkle to life with all their sights and sounds. Each tale is a delicious piece of chocolate to devour in one sitting. Christmas Romance is a light, upbeat, fast read and perfect for this time of the year.

My review originally appeared in Blogcritics

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