Monday, December 26, 2016

Creating a great villain

The Beauty of the Beast
One of paranormal fiction’s special challenges is building supernatural characters that are relatable. Readers are hooked by the fantastic, but the creatures they remember most are rooted in the human.

We all know the rules for our heroes and heroines. As multi-dimensional beings, they must have strengths and weaknesses, even as they cast spells, shapeshift and crave human blood. They need a back story and believable motivations and goals. Some quirkiness adds texture and interest. Would Mercy Thompson be as interesting if Patricia Briggs hadn’t made her a mechanic? We think not.
A deeper challenge is applying those rules to our villains. We’re tempted to cloak them in absolute evil. Randomly bloodthirsty beasts and apocalyptic monsters are fun to create. Giving them reasons for their despicable actions is more difficult.
Let’s say upfront that we consider Patricia Briggs a master of characterization. While she has developed her share of bad-to-bone nasties, we remain most haunted by those that are more complex.
In Blood Bound, Mercy Thompson and the Columbia Basin wolf pack grapple with a vampire who is also a sorcerer and is attached to a demon. This is one seriously wretched villain. He kills with abandon, most notably in a horrific motel murder that an innocent human is blamed for. Make no mistake, readers hate this guy.
But this vampire’s name is Corey. Yes, Corey–like the two young actors from that 1980’s classic, The Lost Boys. Corey conjures visions of the boy next door. When you learn more about him, you find he didn’t ask to become a vicious killer. He did seek the thrill of being a sorcerer, however, which makes him a truly bad vampire. You can’t help but have a little sympathy for Corey even as you root for Mercy to kick his ass.
The river monster in Briggs’ River Marked is equally complicated. The creature’s insatiable appetite is fed by taking over minds and guiding humans willingly to their deaths. Yeah, it’s sick. But you can relate on some level when you find out the legend Native American legend about She Who Watches, the beast who’s always hungry for humans. She’s so powerful and so persuasive, especially when she’s trying to make deals with Mercy.
Some tips for building the perfect beast include:
The unexpected. Vampires have most often been beautiful people, and they’re usually very sexually adept, but again, Briggs comes through with a member of the local vampire seethe who is an older woman with the mind of a child. She’s a virtuoso on the piano but has to be watched constantly because she acts without thought.
The tragic. The villain in Awakening Magic, which features the Connelly witches of New Mourne, is the Woman in White. She’s the ghost of a young woman who had everything she loved taken from her by someone who should have been trusted. As a result, she’s still haunting the small North Georgia town inhabited by the Connelly coven and a variety of other supernatural beings. Because she was grief stricken, she demanded a tribute when the Connellys first came to New Mourne in the 1700s—the life of one of the young witches. This has continued for centuries, but as the story progresses, you begin to understand the Woman in White’s grief, especially when the demon shows up.
The one rule to keep in mind when creating your characters is remembering everyone’s goal is to move the story forward. You have to create three-dimensional, believable characters but only you may know much of their backstory. Sometimes it’s especially easy to get caught up in the story of these peripheral characters—just let them impact the story as necessary. In searching for Corey, Mercy found her own supernatural powers increased. In our book, the young witch, Brenna must fully embrace her magic before she can help her family.
Nora Roberts is superb at dealing with secondary characters. There may be a romance going on with them or a completely different story line, but it will be subtle and all of it will support what’s happening with the two main characters.
Whatever type of fiction you’re writing, world building is at the core. All characters matter and what motivates the villain to do evil matters too. It’s all part of the story.
Neely Powell

Saturday, December 24, 2016


Since 1968 I’ve sent out a dutiful Christmas letter each December that had three major intentions. Touching base with friends and family was always a given, but exercising my writing skill and incorporating a historical timeline were ulterior motives. Each of our children will someday benefit from a Christmas binder of letters that includes a parallel view of the family in changing times, along with some family photos and greeting cards through the years.

     When the nest thinned out, we opted to take Christmas photos of hub and I with one or more of the animals left in our domestic “zoo.” In my Pride and Prejudice phase, we rented costumes and posed as Darcy and Elizabeth with our favorite white Arabian. Another year, we posed in bathing suits on a snow-covered patio, enjoying summer drinks. “Greetings from tropical Minnesota” topped that year’s newsletter.

     Keeping the letter witty, cheerful and held to one or two sides of a single page was often a challenge. Running an impromptu wildlife preserve on our woodsy Minnesota acreage the last few decades, however, provided a wealth of material. (I count four children and even their children among “wildlife” which included horses, deer, turkeys, dogs, cats, rabbits, squirrels, birds, snakes, rodents and even a pygmy goat and a pelican.)

After the holidays, I always regretted time constraints that squelched focus on more than the occasional article or feature for a local paper or magazine. Somewhere deep inside those spurts of creativity the Great American Novel fluttered impatient wings. When I did carve out time in my busy life to freelance—that demanding novel raged and pouted over the put-off. Things began to pop when I joined a few National Writing Associations and began to attend their writer conferences.

     After placing in a short story competition , the judge wrote a letter begging me to continue the story. An agent at a Las Vegas Writers Conference suggested I write a novella first, then pursue the longer novel I finally got around to pitching. I took their collective advice and my debut novel, “The Accidental Wife,” was scooped up by Wild Rose Press and released in 2015 to good reviews and several awards. Confidence surged into motivation. With an empty nest and only one dog left in our menagerie, I had no more excuses!

     I write full time now, churning out ideas once suppressed by time. The vanity license plate on my hot little red car expresses it all. “Novel CJ” is finally in gear. Book Two, “The Accidental Stranger” will be released January 6th in my “Accidental” series. The annual Christmas letter is morphing into a newsletter put out bi-monthly for fans. It is no accident; there is never a time-stamp on creativity or new careers. Never too late to promote delayed dreams! And to think…it all began with one of those much maligned, dutiful Christmas letters.

Cj Fosdick

Friday, December 23, 2016

Moonlight On The Shenandoah

My new release Moonlight On The Shenandoah is a ghost story packed with eerie experiences, adventure, and love. What inspired me to write this book? It tumbled around in my head for years while I wrote other stories, tended to my dying mom, and tended numerous grandchildren.

We live on several acres of land adjoining the Shenandoah National Park and we have a wonderful view of the Shenandoah Valley from our porch and decks where the two forks of the Shenandoah River run through the valley below. There is also a Civil War-era grave on our property that was part of the inspiration for this book. All the "what ifs" came into play in my mind. Along with the wonderful spooky mists that descend upon us in these deciduous wooded mountains and the strong Civil War history in the area, the setting was perfect for a ghost story. I spent hours researching this county just for the love of history. I learned a lot of interesting details, some that made it into my book. The ghost's story began rather different from what it evolved into. Once I got to know my characters, they more or less grabbed the story and ran. I just followed in pursuit of a wonderful tale.

I hope y'all can enjoy this intricate love story that brings together lost souls and unearths old wounds to heal them. Azure and Benjamin find friendship in the company of Jesse, a hundred and fifty-year-old ghost. His death was unexpected and his body never found, two things he wants to set right when he first approaches Azure for help.

Christine Poe

Thursday, December 22, 2016

Tittle, Tattle by Trish Sugarek

The actor ( Eddie Redmayne) and the director (Tom Hooper) treated this film with such elegance. Redmayne, as eddie-1 o-eddie-redmayne-570The Danish Girl, was so delicate in all of his movement; especially with his hands, that I was shocked to learn that he is a straight man with a wife and family.  I want to gush about this story and this film!  Set in Europe, in the 1930’s, when gender identity was considered a mental illness, the Danish Girl tries to resist her gender conflict..... More>>

Friday, December 09, 2016

A Closer Examination of Herald Angels

On the surface, Herald Angels is a romance that has rural Virginia competing with New York City as the heroine struggles with her past, future, and various family issues. Chief among those issues are ones with her sister.

The differences between the two cities are pronounced. Manhattan is famous for its holiday decorations. After visiting during the Christmas season, I knew I would use its décor in a novel one day: the tree in Rockefeller Center, toy soldiers marching across Radio City Music Hall’s marquee, the over-sized bulbs and balls grouped in busy complexes, the window displays along 5th Avenue.

My favorite turned out to be the staircase leading to and from Rockefeller Center where white-wire angels herald the season with trumpets aloft. At its base is a simple bench which seemed to be overlooked by most passersby. From that vantage point, I could see 5th Avenue above, or the enormous tree being reflected in the ice skating rink below.

For a more simple setting I chose rural southwestern Virginia’s small town of Bland. Named for Virginia Statesman Richard Bland—a cousin to Thomas Jefferson—it borders The Jefferson National Forest. There are no stop lights in this small town, which makes the night sky inky dark and perfect for stargazing.

The majority of income in Bland, Virginia is derived from farming, and most holiday decorations are quite simple and lovely in a sparse nature. My favorite of these are the evergreen wreaths with red bows attaching them to cattle gates, weathered barns, front doors on log cabins.

Big, oversized light displays are necessary when the backdrop is dotted with skyscrapers, but would overpower the rolling hills and green meadows dotted with cattle. Though totally different, both towns have their own intrinsic beauty.

The same can be said for people. Some of us are more like New York City—vibrant, active, always on the move. Others might be natured more like Bland—quiet, reserved, peaceful, and happy to stay at home. This doesn’t mean one is right and the other wrong, just that we are all a little different.

While writing this novel, I juxtaposed the relationship of two sisters and that of two cities in much the same way. The real lesson lies in learning not to judge, but to accept each as they are.

Of course, a budding romance is driving the story. At its helm is the conflicted heroine who is also being taught a few lesson in overcoming her tendency to judge by occupation as well. Will she fall in love with a minister? Career choices, family relationships, New York’s homeless population, forgiving others and asking for it in return; complete the backstory.

Whether you prefer simple country celebrations, or flashy and bright Christmas in the city, this is the novel for you. I hope you enjoy it and the holidays!

Renee Canter Johnson

Renee Johnson is the author of Herald Angels, Acquisition, and The Haunting of William Gray. She is currently working on a Young Adult novel, while editing a suspense novel which has international flair–an homage to her love of travel and foreign food. She lives on a farm in North Carolina with her husband, Tony Johnson, and two very spoiled German shepherds named Hansel and Gretel.

Thursday, December 08, 2016

Writing the story Love in the Shadows by Linda H. Bost

I wrote the story of my dream. I’m not kidding. It literally happened. The entire story Love in the Shadows
Fear swathed me and worry danced in the fringes of my mind at some of the decisions they made. The characters, my friends trooped through my mind at my will or on their own accord over several months. I created my own dreams about them. I was intrigued by their story of loving others unconditionally, being tolerant and acceptant of others. I was moved by their warning about choosing a lifelong mate based upon physical attributes. The story and how it came to me took my breath away.
unfolded before me in a dream. I was transported to another place and time into the lives of living breathing people that I became emotionally involved with. At first, I was an observer, watching the people carry out their daily routines. Then as the emotional attachment grew, I became part of them. I could smell the herbs in the upstairs room and the aroma of mint tea whirling in my nostrils. I heard their conversations. I recognized their voices and I felt their joy, their pain, and anxieties.

Linda H. Bost
Available at the Wild Rose Press
and other online retailers

Wednesday, December 07, 2016

The Diary Writers of My Traveling Man by DeeDee Lane

Writing My Traveling Man got me thinking about times in my life when I kept a diary. As a young girl I was enthralled by the notion of having a small pink covered book, latched by golden clasp, and opened with a miniature skeleton key. Yes, I was enticed but never owned one of these super-secret thought holders. Looking back I’m sure I suspected in my family of six privacy was not a given, I’d most likely lose the key, and what thoughts were so precious I had to record it thus?

 As a college student I took longhand notes and this practice morphed into 6 X 9 ½ inch notebooks where I recorded my thoughts. But my journey as a diarist started in earnest when I began to travel as a young adult. Usually I was on my own and the journal became a place to share with a “friend,” record the daily news, and remember the important events of my trip.

Like many others I read Julia Cameron’s The Artist’s Way and faithfully wrote my morning pages for a good stretch of time. This daily action inspired me to read Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain by Betty Edwards so my morning pages became morning drawings.
Because a diary is so central to the story of My Traveling Man I wondered if we ever write our journals with the expectation they may be read by others. In this novella I set out to celebrate the journal writers, diarists, and note takers who traveled the Oregon Trail between 1846 and 1869. Their thoughts and notes provide the everyday person’s mindset of pioneer’s traveling this arduous trail. Additionally, they give us an idea of natural landmarks used to mark the passing of miles. For example, an experienced wagon master believed he must get his train to a certain large rock by the fourth of July to be ahead of winter snows. The rock became known as Independence Rock and you can still see many emigrants’ names carved in it if you travel the trail in Wyoming. Some of the diaries published today are actually packets of letters sent back to family in the east as the pioneer traveled west.
Though I do not believe my diaries should or will become public, I do believe in this note taking communing with self. At this stage my diary is a large notebook, not pink and no key. In it I write small passages but more often tape photos, ticket stubs, love notes from my husband, letters from my friends, or small mementos. I don’t suspect it will be an historical document one day but the action of writing, taping, and remembering gives me pleasure. In this I feel a bond with the diarist of the trail.
DeeDee Lane

Tuesday, December 06, 2016

My dysfunctional Family novel by Dee Gatrell

When I finished writing Sweet Sunset, my husband read it. He decided he knew who my characters really were. I told him no, he
did not. So okay, one gal is an enabler, like one of our daughters. One gal got punched in the eye and was married to a crazy man, but nothing else is like her. My one son always had the habit of picking the wrong women, but now is married. I truly think he had a neon sign that lit up and read, “if you are crazy, I’m sure I’ll love you.” Well at least for a while.

I think when you write a novel people you know sort of pop out of you. Like my mom who had dementia. She was asked to move out of the senior’s apartments. She blew up cans in the microwave, she burned food and she did break handles off ceramic cups. We never did figure that one out.

As for Zack, he’s a total figment of my imagination. My cousin Betty, who is widowed, wants the real him. The gay boy was once a friend of my granddaughter’s. I have no idea what happened to him once he grew up, but I wanted him to be happy.

Life has happy times, and sad times. I like putting humor in my stories and hope they make people laugh. We all need to laugh to keep us going. A friend of mine told me about her mom being upset with her stepmom and told her how evil she was, spilling her soda on the table. And of course, June in the episode of the moms going to lunch, I had to tell the story about her “yankee” neighbors, because the real June was a Southern lady who told us tales like that.

I do hope if you have a chance to read Sweet Sunset you’ll enjoy spending time with Myrtle Sue and her dysfunctional family.

Sweet Sunset
Dee Gatrell

Monday, December 05, 2016

Drawing Inspiration From Real Life

I'm frequently asked where I get my story ideas. In the case of my holiday novella, Love's In The Cards, it was an actual job experience. For a year before I moved to Ohio, I worked for a well-known greeting card company store, which also had a considerable amount of gift merchandise in addition to greeting cards and ornaments. There were two six-foot plastic nutcrackers that we had to maneuver outside each morning from mid-November through Christmas, and bring them in each night. Some of the teenage girls made a game of it, pretending they were dancing with the nutcrackers. We worked hard, but had a lot of fun. My favorite thing to do was to straighten the cards as I watched them dwindle in quantity each day. When I moved to Ohio, I got a job as a merchandiser, going into big and little stores and putting out new card displays for another well-known card company. It wasn't as much fun, but I still got to straighten out cards and make them look pretty again. I quit this job several years ago, but to this day, if I find myself in the card department of a store, I have to straighten out the cards.

And as for the other story line in Love's In The Cards, I had my own Del in my life. Back when we were in kindergarten, we had nap time after lunch, where we laid on towels or blankets for twenty minutes or so. This little boy would always lay at my feet and draw on the soles of my sparkling white shoes with a purple crayon. My mother got so angry every night when I come home with purple crayon on my shoes, and never bought the explanation that it wasn't my fault. I take some consolation in the fact my Del became a high school art teacher, and pride myself on my contribution to his success, but I've never quite forgiven him.

Becky Lower
Love's In The Cards

Available from the Wild Rose Press
and other online retailers

Saturday, December 03, 2016


You'll be hearing a great deal about this new author!

I was given an ARC of Haunting Highland House for an honest opinion and review, and I am so thankful I was because Kathryn Hills' debut novel is definitely a winner.

Set in New England in the present--and 100+ years prior-- this is a story of a love that survives the vestiges of time, war, death, and change.

When Samantha Merrill arrives at Highland House as the new event manager, she feels a tiny sense of familiarity and a little niggle of uncertainty. Has she been here before? Things look familiar, but they...don't and aren't. An orphan raised by two much older adoptive parents, Sam knows nothing of her life before the age of 4. Pretty soon she starts to doubt her sanity when she's confronted with what she thinks is the ghost of Robert Pennington, the original owner of the now historic museum. But he's not a ghost. He's a living, breathing, powerful man. And he wants Samantha; almost-- if not more than-- she wants him.

Sam's life quickly spins out of control, traveling back and forth through time to meet with Robert, his family and friends. When she discovers a terrible event will befall his family, she wrestles with telling him and potentially changing the future, or allowing events to proceed as they already have.

I don't like spoilers so I leave the plot line there, but this book utterly captivated me from page 1 until the very last page. And what a last page!!!!! I'm usually fairly good at knowing how a book ( or TV show!) ends, but Ms Hills' ending totally blew my mind! And in a great, great way.

Mark my words, you 'll be hearing a lot about this wonderful author from now on.
Haunting Highland House gets 5 well deserved stars from me!
submitted by Peggy Jaeger

Available from The Wild Rose Press
and other online retailers

Friday, December 02, 2016

In Defense of "Fluff" by Katherine McDermott

A friend recently shared a devotion with me from Deeper Walk. The October 17, 2016 page was written by a romance author (unnamed) who said, "Many people viewed her scratchings as 'fluff.'" But the author defended her writing by concluding after prayer and Bible study that God is a romantic! When he saw how lonely Adam was he created Eve. "Then the Lord God said: 'It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper as his complement'"(Genesis 2:18).

I would add that God was interested in finding Isaac the "right" girl and indicated that she would be the one who offerred to water his camels which is exactly what Rebecca did. Jacob, later called Israel, was so in love with Rachel that he worked a total of 14 years for her father, who first tricked him into marrying Leah, but later gave him Rachel as well. And what about the patriarch Abraham. His wife Sarah's name meant princess. No one can argue that Song of Solomon is not one of the most romantic and poetic books in the Bible. And Jesus uses the analogy of the groom returning for his beloved bride to describe his second coming.

If you feel called to write Christian romance, do not be ashamed that you are not writing deep theology or delving into erudite explication of Scripture. Write from a basis of knowledge of God's word, experience, and heartfelt emotion.

Katherine McDermott

Thursday, December 01, 2016

Murder He Wrote by Joe Cosentino

I’ve watched every episode of Murder She Wrote, The Hardy Boys, The Nancy Drew Mysteries, Miami Vice, Hart to Hart, Moonlighting, and Alfred Hitchcock Presents. There’s nothing more fun than being faced with a murder, a group of suspects, a puzzle, and a time limit to guess whodunit and why. It sharpens the little gray cells and makes me feel warm and cozy. Add in exotic locations, romance, humor, and snappy dialogue and I’m in heaven.

So the next Jana Lane mystery, RAG DOLL, takes place in 1985 with Miami Vice and Murder She Wrote being all the rage on television. Jana stars in a new television mystery series, The Detective’s Wife, opposite Chris Bove, the hunky detective who got away in Satin Doll. Guest starring on the show is young ingénue Christa Bianca, a rags to riches story who has flooded the press. Life imitates television as Christa’s loved ones are murdered, and Christa and Jana could be next. Once again it’s up to Jana to use her knowledge from her days as America’s most famous child star and save the day before the lights fade to black.

Jana’s amazingly resilient, old world Hollywood, incredibly funny, and loyal agent, Simon Huckby, is back. The other suspects include Jason, the young prop man with a secret; bit players Karen and makeup girl Cindi who have their eyes on Christa’s guest starring role; two couples in supporting roles who have a conflict with Christa and Christa’s husband/manager, the domineering Andrew Bianca; Christa’s calculating agent Stu, and her Uncle Nick, trying to stay in show business on Christa’s coattails.
Christa is a beautiful, talented young woman who escaped her impoverished small town life and embarked on a successful film and television career. As one reviewer wrote, I used my knowledge of show business to devilish ends. Actually, I used my background in each of the Jana Lane novels, since I know the ins and outs on a movie set, television set, and theatre stage. Thankfully nobody was murdered on my shows. I’ve been told the television shooting sequences in RAG DOLL are realistic, exciting, and fun to read. I’m sure that’s because I know my way around a real television set, and I tried hard to incorporate that knowledge into those scenes.

Though Jana and Brian are happily married, you can’t blame Jana for being attracted to handsome, muscular, smart, food-addict Bove, starring opposite her in The Detective’s Wife. After what they’ve gone through together in Satin Doll, they can be totally honest with one another. Their banter is very funny but also warm and precious. Since Jana is not available, their attraction for each other needs to stay at bay, which is quite difficult for both of them at times. I think they put that frustrated energy into solving the case.

Once again as an actor in film, television, and theatre, working opposite stars like Bruce Willis, Nathan Lane, Rosie O’Donnell, Holland Taylor, and Jason Robards; I used my knowledge and experiences to write RAG DOLL. Again as an avid mystery buff myself, RAG DOLL is a page-turning mystery with clever plot twists, engaging characters, romance, and lots of clues leading to a surprising conclusion. Since coming from a funny Italian-American family, humor also plays role in the novel.

So settle back on the sofa, get the remote and popcorn, and turn on the television for the next Jana Lane mystery! BTW, I want to play Simon Huckby in the TV series!

 RAG DOLL, a Jana Lane mystery, published by The Wild Rose Press
by Joe Cosentino