Friday, December 31, 2010

An Interview with Award-Winning Author Lois Winston

Award-winning author Lois Winston writes the Anastasia Pollack Crafting Mysteries series featuring magazine crafts editor and reluctant amateur sleuth Anastasia Pollack. Assault With a Deadly Glue Gun, a January 2011 release, is the first book in the series and has received starred reviews from both Publishers Weekly and Booklist. Kirkus Reviews dubbed it, “North Jersey’s more mature answer to Stephanie Plum.” Lois is also published in women’s fiction, romantic suspense, and non-fiction as well as being an award-winning crafts and needlework designer and an associate of the Ashley Grayson Literary Agency (read on to learn how she juggles all three careers.) You can visit her at her website: and visit Anastasia at her blog:
Cassy: You have a wonderfully varied background. Your craft work has won awards right along with your writing. Both are truly creative endeavors, but use different skills. Can you fill us in on how you have switched between those worlds?

Lois: It helps to be totally right brained. Just don’t ask me anything about algorithms or quadratic equations. I really don’t have trouble moving back and forth from designing to writing. They’re both creative endeavors. I’ll often design in the morning and write in the afternoon. What really gives me trouble is moving from designing cross stitch to designing needlepoint. Unless you’re familiar with both, you’ll have no idea what I’m talking about, though. You’ll just have to trust me on this one. It pretty much fries my brain.

Cassy: Do you still keep up with your handwork? I used to do a lot of knitting. It's really time consuming. I'm not sure I could balance both that and my writing at this point. Do you have a secret?
Lois: I sure do have a secret: I don’t actually execute the pieces I design. I employ several women who stitch models for me. Besides that, many of the publishers and companies I design for have their own stitchers.

Cassy: Anastasia Pollack hits the streets in January with Assault with the Deadly Glue Gun. I have a confession to make here, Pollack is my maiden name and my eyes "glued" right onto that! Well, back to the questions. Trouble attacks Anastasia right from the start. You have a wonderful sense of humor. Can you tell us about where Anastasia came from (idea-wise I'm talking here)?
Lois: Cassy, we’ll have to compare your family tree with Anastasia’s. You could be distant relatives.You know the Greek myth about Athena springing full grown from the forehead of Zeus? That’s pretty much how Anastasia was born. Only Zeus had nothing to do with it. Several years ago an editor told my agent that she was looking for a crafting mystery. My agent figured, who better to write a crafting mystery than one of her clients who’s also a crafts designer? So she called me. Anastasia sprang to mind almost instantly. Unfortunately, shortly after we submitted the manuscript, the editor moved on to another house and was no longer buying mysteries. So although conception was nearly instantaneous, labor lasted several years before the book sold.

Cassy: Anastasia strikes me as someone who might be with us for a while. Is she planned to show up again in a sequel, or even better than that in a series?
Lois: Definitely a series. I’ve already turned in the second book, Mop Doll Murders, which will be out in January 2012. There’s an excerpt at the end of Assault With a Deadly Glue Gun. And I’m contracted for a third book with an option for a fourth. I’m hoping Anastasia sticks around for a very long time.

Cassy: How does Assault with a Deadly Glue Gun differ from your other books? And, while you're answering that, would you talk a little about the different genres you have written?
Lois: Talk Gertie To Me, a humorous women’s fiction book about a daughter severing the apron strings and her mother’s reaction to empty nest syndrome, was the first book I sold. In many ways the voice and humor in that book are similar to the voice and humor in Assault With a Deadly Glue Gun. My second published book was Love, Lies and d Double Shot of Deception, a romantic suspense. It was actually the first book I ever wrote and is much darker and more emotional in both the themes and the writing.I find I have both a light, humorous side to my writing and a darker, edgier side. However, right now I think the world needs to laugh more. I know I do. There’s too much dark, edgy stuff going on in real life. So for now I’m concentrating on Anastasia and her quirky relatives.
Cassy: We all want to ask about how you write. Could you give us a description of your day? Your name appears on just about every blog/loop/list I belong to. How do you get so much done?
Lois: It’s all in the cloning technology, Cassy. I wish I could bottle it and sell it. I’d make a fortune. Unfortunately, I’m not at liberty to do that until we get FDA approval, and the red tape has been a nightmare. (It also helps that my kids are grown, so I’m beyond the carpooling stage of my life.)

Cassy: What comes next????
Lois: As I mentioned above, I have more Anastasia Pollack mysteries to write. I also have proposals written for several other amateur sleuth series and a few stand-alone books.

Cassy: Lois, please add anything you want: family, pets, hobbies, and so on. Our readers LOVE that. Also please add anything about writing, style, editing, and so on. I hate putting those type of topics into questions for they sound stilted and forced. But, do have at it if it works for you.
Lois: Writing: I used to be a “pantser,” but I’m now a reluctant “plotter.” The good news is that once you sell a book, you usually don’t have to finish the next manuscript before you sell it. You can submit on proposal. The bad news is that the proposal includes a synopsis, so you have to know exactly how your story is going to unfold and have all your little duckies lined up. This saves a lot of time in that if editors aren’t interested in a particular story, you haven’t wasted months and months working on it. However, it does take some of the magic out of the writing process for me. If I already know what’s going to happen, the actual writing of the story becomes more work and less play.I’ve also found that writing humorous books is a lot harder than writing emotional books because I never know if readers will “get” the funny parts. Humor is very subjective. It’s a lot easier to tug on a reader’s heart strings. What makes one person laugh out loud will often leave another person totally cold.
Family/pets/hobbies: I have two sons who are grown. If I told you how old they are, you’d be able to figure out my age, so I’m not going to do that. Publishing is too youth-obsessed as it is! As for pets, do dust bunnies count? My favorite thing to do when I’m not working is to go to the theater. We’re “bridge and tunnel” New Yorkers, and there’s always something worth seeing on Broadway. Unfortunately, even with the ability to buy half-priced tickets, I haven’t been indulging my theater addiction as much as I used to or would like to, thanks to this damn recession, but if sales of Assault With a Deadly Glue Gun are good (sending up a prayer here to the publishing gods,) I’m definitely treating myself and my husband to tickets to see Sister Act when it arrives in the spring.
So what else do I want to tell all of you? Indulge me as I mention Killer Crafts & Crafty Killers, Anastasia’s blog. It’s set up as the online companion to the magazine where Anastasia works. Every day a different “editor” blogs with crafts projects, recipes, decorating tips, etc. Book Club Fridays feature guest authors, most of whom give away copies of their books. To enter the weekly drawings, all you have to do is post a comment to the blog at any point during the week. You can find Killer Crafts & Crafty Killers at
Thank for inviting me to blog here at Mysteries and Margaritas today, Cassy!
In celebration of the release of Assault With a Deadly Glue Gun, Lois is doing a blog tour beginning today and lasting through January. You can find the schedule on her website,, and at Anastasia’s blog, Everyone who posts a comment to any of the blogs over the course of the tour will be entered into a drawing to receive one of 5 copies of Assault With a Deadly Glue Gun. (If your email isn’t included in your comment, email Lois privately at to let her know you’ve entered. In addition, she’ll also be giving away an assortment of crafts books on various blogs, so look for those if as well.

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Christmas Recipe Week - White Turkey Chili

I hope everyone is having a lovely holiday. I posted this on my Garden blog after Thanksgiving, so this is a re-post.

I experimented with the left over turkey on Thanksgiving. 100% Success! I love when that happens. Especially when it's low calorie. Score even more, I'm sharing, I hope you enjoy. If you don't like a kick you may need to tone down the chili powder and jalapeno's. Here you go:

White Turkey Chili 17 - one cup servings
1 1lb. bag Great Northern Beans
2 Quarts Fat-Free Half & Half
1 lb Shredded Turkey
1 4oz Can Diced Jalapeno
2 Fresh Jalapeno Chopped (Seeds optional -Seeds make it hotter)
1 cup chopped onion
1 cup red bell pepper chopped
1 cup green bell pepper chopped
1 Tbsp chopped garlic
2/3 cup chopped celery
1 Tbsp Ground Pepper
1 1/2 tsp Sea Salt
1 tsp Tarragon
1 tsp Sage
1 tsp Cumin
1 tsp chili Powder (optional- or to taste)

Put all in the crock pot and slow cook. High 6 -7 hours, low 9 to 10 hours. Serve with rolls and to compliment the spice a dry white Riesling is a nice addition.

Serving 1 cup, 202 calories, 2g Fat, 1g Saturated Fat, 18mg Cholesterol, 247mg Sodium, 31g Carbohydrates, 6g Dietary Fiber, 10g Sugars, 15g Protein, Vit. A 17%, Vit. C 38%, Calcium 21%, Iron 13%

This is a keeper, anyway my husband said he wants be to make it again. I repeat... If you don't like hot/spicy foods you probably want to leave the chili powder out and do not use the seeds in the jalapeno's.


Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Special K Bars

Cassy posted on Tuesday which was great because I am in Florida and forgot, so I'm posting my recipe today instead. So here it is, folks. Hope you enjoy :-)

Special K Bars

1 cup karo syrup
1 cup sugar
1 1/2 cups peanut butter
6 cups special K cereal
1 bag chocolat chips

Melt 1 bag chocolat chips double boiler style
Mix 1 cup karo syrup with 1 cup sugar and bring just to a boil
Remove from stove and stir in 1 1/2 cups peanut butter until melted
Stir in 6 cups special k cereal
Press mixture into a 9 x 13 inch dish
Pour melted chips over mixture and refridgerate until hardened
Cut into bars

Have a wonderful holiday season and enjoy1


Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Cassy's Corner- Ribolitta

Since I'm in Tuscany right now, it only seems proper to contribute a classic Tuscan recipe to our holiday recipe collection. Ribolitta can be found in almost any small family restaurant throughout this region of Italy. There have been times I wonder what happens to all the left-overs on the plates sent back to the kitchen. Having said that, this is a soup that fits right in with the chilly winter and with trying to use up the bits and pieces we all accumulate in our fridges. Ribolitta translates to reboiled. It's not an appealing name, but one soup I make at home more often than my kids would like. I could live on this stuff.

The trick to the soup is to not take it seriously or make it precious. Just go for it. I'm leaving out the quantities; add as much as you want based on the number of people you are serving. Yes, I know that is indefinite, but it's how it's made.


Garlic cloves
Beans, you can use dried beans soaked until soft or canned white beans or, go for it, whatever
Any other vegetables you want to add such as zucchini, green beans, or a bit of cabbage
Tomato paste
Canned peeled tomatoes
The Italians also use some form of a cured pork- pancetta, lardo, pork rind. This is optional or you could use a bacon if you want that type of flavor
Olive oil
Water or broth
Stale Italian or French bread
Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese- grated

Chop all of the vegetables into small pieces. Saute the celery, carrots, onion, and garlic in the olive oil until they are soft. If you are using pancetta or one of the pork choices, add that and let the flavors meld. Add the tomato paste, stirring until the mixture has great aroma- don't burn or brown it.

Add any of the other vegetables you are using (cabbage, zucchini, green beans, canned tomatoes) to the mixture. Next add the dried beans you have either plumped in water or drained from cans. Stir and then add enough broth or water to cover. Taste the soup and correct the seasoning with salt, pepper and any other herbs you are inclined to use.

Before serving, add cubes of the stale bread to the soup. Let them become quite soft.

Ladle the soup into bowls and pass the grated Parmigiano cheese at the table for people to sprinkle on top.

I know this sounds like you've cleaned out the vegetable drawer of your fridge (and you have), but it's a great soup and found everywhere in this area. The trick is to make it go in whatever direction you want, both in terms of flavor and with what you have on hand.

Tanti auguri e buon anno nuovo

Monday, December 27, 2010

Christmas Recipe Week - Monday Appetizers

This week on Mysteries and Margaritas, we decided to do something different. Since a lot of you will still be enjoying family and the holidays instead of surfing the Internet and reading blogs, we're going to save our words of wisdom and print recipes all week and hope you'll join in and post your favorite ones.

Today's offering is Appetizers, and mine will be Jalapeno Poppers. I have to admit this came from my friend, Jane, but as everyone who knows me can attest to, once I have a recipe in my hands, it becomes mine and fabulous to boot. So this one is called:


2 (8 ounces) cream cheese softened
1 cup of Mayo (not Miracle Whip)
1 cup of Mexican blend grated cheese
2 (4 ounces) chopped green chilies
2 (4 ounces) chopped jalapeno peppers (I only used one)
1 cup grated Parmesan cheese (in bag not can)

4 Tablespoons butter, melted
1 cup Panko bread crumbs
½ cup grated Parmesan cheese

Mix first six ingredients in a food processor
Pour into 9X13 baking dish

Mix the melted butter with the other two ingredients and spread on top the batter.

Bake at 375 degrees for 30-45 minutes until cheese is bubbly. Eat with crackers or tortilla chips.

This is so yummy! Now let me hear about your favorites.

Friday, December 24, 2010

Merry Christmas!

On Friday's we usually have a guest. However, since it is Christmas Eve I knew many people would be too busy with family to read their regular blogs. Thank you, Marie for agreeing to be our guest yesterday.

I hope all our many followers, who support us by reading our varied posts and in my case, rants, have a wonderful Christmas holiday. Or if you do not celebrate, I hope you have a wonderful weekend.

Happy Holidays!

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Mary's Rants - Guest Blogger: Marie Higgins

Good Morning everyone, I invited, Marie Higgins, to be our guest today. She's going to give us a bit of wisdom on writing and changing genre's. 
Write What You Know

For years the phrase write what you know has been drilled into my head, and for many years I couldn’t figure out what it meant. Write what I know? Really? And this is supposed to make my romances come alive? Hmm… I just couldn’t see that happening. After all, my life is boring! Well, except for the time when my 16 yr old daughter got pregnant, married a wife-beater, then he took her and my grandson away to another state without letting us talk to her or even know where they were staying. Other than that, my life has been boring. For many years I worked, came home, fixed dinner, took care of the kids, and took them to school activities. I tried to do my best at the terrible day job, tried to be a good mother and wife, and attended church regularly and fulfilled my church duties. What could I possibly write about that would keep people interested?

So for years I wrote what I didn’t know… I wrote sensual romance. I created worlds with yummy heroes bent on seducing the heroine. I wrote lusty heroines who although put up a good front, they really wanted the hero to seduce them. And, all this time, I used a pen name because I didn’t want my extended family and church family to know what kind of stories I wrote. Heaven forbid someone in my church would read one of my stories! I didn’t want to be responsible for giving someone a heart attack. For years I tried to catch an agent’s interest. I wanted to show her how my writing was different from the other thousands of sensual romance writers out there. I was rejected time and time again.

Then the first of this year (2010) I decided to try Christian romance. It was a light bulb moment for me because then I realized THIS IS WHAT I KNOW!!! I was born a Christian and I’ve been going to church every day and believing in God, praying, etc. I also realized I wouldn’t be competing with thousands of other writers because the number of Christian writers are not as high as the number of sensual writers.

After making it a goal to get a Christian romance published, I took one of my previously published sensual romances and…converted my characters. Yup, I took out the sexual tension (and sex scenes) and I added in faith promoting ideas. The first publisher I submitted to rejected my story but told me they liked my writing but my characters were just a little bit too sensual. (Really? Where did that come from? lol) So I went through my story again and cleaned it up. This particular publisher wanted snail mail submissions, and it just so happened that I didn’t have any paper to print and I was out of ink, so I couldn’t send my story back to them until payday. During that wait, I found another Christian publisher who took email submissions. The editor read the first chapter of my story and was hooked – and they contracted me within three weeks!!

Making the journey from one genre to another (sensual to inspirational) wasn’t a hard one for me to make, only because I was finally writing what I knew. Do I miss writing the other way? Nope! Not one bit. My stories still have action, adventure, mystery, and humor…and especially a love story with three or four twists throughout. My publisher, Walnut Springs Press, has told me they’re very happy with the sales of my two books – Winning Mr. Wrong (romantic comedy), and Heart Of A Hero (historical), and we already have the next three stories for next year scheduled. The next one to grace the bookstores will be a paranormal mystery. I thought it would be fun to write my heroine as a ghost from 1912. We’re still deciding on title, but what for it’s release in February 2011.

Thanks, Marie, I've heard the same thing, I guess now I need to find out what "I know" so I can write about it.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Cassy’s Corner- Getting Ready for the Holidays

Well, this post started out hours ago. Many many hours ago. Remember, I'm six hours ahead of east coast time. Then, the high winds came in and the power went out. It's become a joke that when I'm here the weather takes over. The electricity has just come back on. My husband is disappointed because he really liked all the candles I had around the house. But, lordy, I was beginning to worry about the food in the fridge, not being able to charge my phone, and of course, getting my post up and running. So, with no more delay, here are my ramblings.

I am out of the country for this holiday. Our grown children, one with a husband and one with a dear friend are arriving in the next few days. This is the second time we’ve had the Christmas holiday in Italy. It has been both a freeing and challenging experience. It has led me to think about traditions, about what “has” to be, and what is really okay.

In my family we have only a few traditions, but they somehow stand tall and immobile. A particular breakfast pastry, we call horns, is mandatory. The recipe has been passed from my mother to me. Given that I have a sister and a brother who could clearly be the makers of the horns seems slightly irrelevant. As in every family, there are jobs. Mine has been making of the horns. I have shipped horns in tin containers across many state lines, just to be sure that stale or not, horns are on the table.

Not this year. It was very hard to let go. Very hard to not have the guilt creep in along the edges. Very hard to not feel as though I was letting my family down. But, it also was the year to say, “The horns are wonderful, but I just can’t drive myself crazy.” Phew, big step for me.

I have also let go of many of my other “musts.” Usually under the tree is a pile of gifts that is staggering. I have some odd desire to watch my children and husband strip away the wrapping paper as they enjoy the bounty. Nope. Not this year. There are plenty of goodies for everyone, but not an overstatement.

I worried about immigration and customs, worried about traveling with bags (we only do carry-on), worried about encumbering folks with the bits and pieces they don’t really need to own. And, I made a decision.

This year it would be simple. We handled the travel for all of us and made that the major gift. We will feed people. We will house people. We will sit around the fire snuggled under blankets. We will cram into a car not really made for six people and hope there is no issue with the winding roads and dark nights as we head out for a hearty dinner in a trattoria that doesn’t have a menu. We will share the meal preparations (vegetarian for some, heavy duty meat for others).

I have decided this might just be the best Christmas ever. A time together without the requirements that grow over the years.

I wish each of you a healthy and happy holiday. May your New Year bring all that you hope.

With blessings, Cassy

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Tuesday Tidbits with Kari: To Speak or not to speak, that is the Question

First of all...Happy Holidays to everyone! Hope you all have a merry time and a fabulous new year!

Last time I was on I talked about giving a book signing. This time I'm going to talk about speaking engagements.

To speak or not to speak...that is the question.

Recently I was asked to speak at a library as well as in a school. I am a certified teacher (even though I haven't taught in a looong time!) so speaking in a school should come naturally to me. And I have given writing workshops at both my local chapter as well as RWA nationals so speaking in front of adults and teens at a library shouldn't be a problem for me either, right?


It's still terrifying because I'm not talking about some random subject, I'm talking about my books. What if they don't like my books? What if I bore them? Or in the case of the library, what if no one shows up, or even worse, what if they walk out in the middle of my presentation?

There's so much that goes into a speaking engagement that I reached out for advice and here's what other authors offered up as tips.

How much to charge?
*Some speak for free at libraries and schools, but most libraries and schools have a budget for speaking engagements and insist you charge.
*Charge a fair fee after considering several factors: how far you have to drive, if you had to hire a babysitter, how many hours you will work, etc. After all it does take away from an author's writing time?
*Many schools and libraries have a standard fee they pay for one or two hour slots or all day events, so just ask them.

What to speak about?
*You want to give them their money's worth.
*When speaking at schools, you want to make your presentation interactive. You can still speak about your road to publication, but make sure you also get the students involved and actually come up with writing activities that are fun and related to your book.
*When speaking in libraries, there will probably be fellow authors there as well as kids. In this case you can still make it interactive, but you'll probably do more speaking than writing activities. Speak about your road to publication, but also the writing process and the making of a book from what happens after a "first sale," including titles and covers and edits, etc, right up to release day.
*In either case, be sure talk to your publisher or a local bookseller and have them agree to sell books at your event so you can sign. And with schools, have the schools send out a pre-order form ahead of time so you'll know how many books you need. It's also a great way to sell more books if they are pre-ordered and paid for ahead of time.

Finally, there are a lot of author websites that cover speaking engagements and fees they charge, etc. As well as some websites with tips such as as well as

Anyone else have any great tips they'd like to add? I'd love to hear about your advice since I'm still seeking help myself :-)

Monday, December 20, 2010

I want to welcome my friend, Dale Mayer, back for the third time. Why, you ask? Well, Dale recently became a finalist in Brava’s Writing with the Stars contest, and after two rounds of challenges and voting, she’s still in! This round of voting is on the best back cover copy and she needs your help once more. The winner gets a contract with Kensington. So, show her some M & M love and go vote at Writing
With The Stars contest.

Once again a huge thank you to Liz for the invitation to join you here today! She’s been such a wonderful supporter, I can’t thank her enough.

Seven tongue-in-cheek reasons why I’m still in the Writing with the stars contest – I think…

This is another humorous look at this six past month voyage into the world of public opinion.

Five months ago, around the 12th of July, I actually entered my ms Tuesday’s Child into the Brava Writing with the Stars contest – only a couple of days before the contest closed. Less than a month later I received that crazy phone call from Megan Records that set my calm, peaceful orderly life on its butt and things haven’t been the same since. So far there have been two rounds completed with the third round of voting in progress. There are only six finalists left and two more will go soon after the polls close on January 2nd. Things were fun when we started. It was new and different. Now that I’m still in the running, things have gotten scarier.

I care more – before it didn’t seem real and the goal too far off in the future to be really understood. We’ve been through three months of this already and I’ve struggled to come up with a reason why I’m still here!

So these seven potential reasons are my way of lightening the stress and nail biting moments that have multiplied in astronomical proportions in the five months since hitting that ‘submit’ button way back in July.
Let’s take a look!

1. People feel sorry for me because I couldn’t think up a name for my manuscript so just used the day I started the book.

2. Voters looked at my picture, realized I was blonde and needed extra help

3. Voters realized the last judge didn’t like my character descriptions so voted to help me out – if so could those voters come back and visit again, please? This judge REALLY hates my entry.

4. My voters all hate paranormal/contemporary and historical romances – that only left mine. Don’t anyone tell these voters that psychics make my entry a light paranormal too!

5. Voters played ‘we love her, we love her not’ and ended up on my name. If they played eenie meenie minie mo – they ended up below me – so obviously no one was playing that game!

6. People following me on my social networking perils have decided I need a little longer in the game to get it right – Yep that was me trying to figure out how to do anything BUT retweet on twitter!

7. The people reading the computer generated results were into a little liquid Christmas cheer and couldn’t read the results correctly – no, I have no idea who would have sent out a bottle of bubbly so early!

And there you have it. It’s so close to Christmas, I wanted to make sure you all have a smile on your face at least once today as you move through a crazy schedule of deadlines, line-ups at stores, gift wrapping and running out of tape, baking where you forgot to add the pecans to butter tarts and everything else that can go wrong!

Okay, this is me talking now. Did I mention Dale was a good friend? What a nice belated Christmas present it would be for her to sign on the dotted line. So, hop over to the website above and vote.

In the meantime, I thought it would be nice to let her know of any experiences y'all have had with contests. I'll start it off with my comment.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Guest - Krissee VanderWerff

Today I have Krissee VanderWerff with us at the Mysteries and Margaritas blog. Krissee is new to the industry and will be giving us her insight on how she is approaching her career.

Mary: First, Krissee, can you tell us a bit about yourself? Your background?

Krissee:  As a teenager I spent my summer months blowing through romance novels. I had big dreams about writing a novel of my own, but when college hit I lost my confidence under the weight of financial debt and security. I decided to try for something I knew I could do—first nursing, then computers. I landed a great job right out of the gate, but now with home life a little more secure I can finally take a chance at my dreams. So I write whenever I have spare time. Sneaking away during lunch break, I stay up late after the kids go to bed, and when they nap on the weekends. It only amounts to a few hours a day, but every little bit adds up, right?

Mary: What genre do you write? Why?

Krissee:  Romance is in my blood, and I look to that first. Those great relationship stories that triumph with happy endings will always have a place my writing. I loved Paranormal though, ever since I picked up my first Anne Rice.  But instead of writing vampires, I like the challenge of creating new creatures all my own.

Mary: What is the one thing, when you meet a successful author you ask them? Or what would you like to as someone if you met them?

Krissee: The first thought that runs through my head is “Oh, good you’re normal. A human!” Then I can get my tongue working long enough to ask them how they did it. How they made that first big step. I’ve heard so many stories about authors that were so close to failure, yet hung in there just a few seconds longer and sold! We never know just how close we might be and that always gives me inspiration.

Mary: As an unpublished author, what are your goals for the future? Do you have a business plan?

I want to make enough money with my own words to rival my current income. I want the ability to write full time. This year I’m working to finish two manuscripts. I might someday go as high as four, but I don’t think even my own children would recognize me if that happened. All frazzled and crazy-eyed. I want to have fun too, and never forget the reason why I love to write. That’s why I started my blog. –to give praise to all the awesome moments we find in life and literature.
I haven’t built a website yet though. I’m a little neurotic when it comes to pen names. I can never decide on just one.

I know you’re a member of Romance Writers of America, are you a member of any other writing organization? Do you find them helpful in your pursuit of your career?

Krissee: I’ve been a bit of a writing group slut over the past year, always trying to find other sources I can glean information from. There’s always something new to learn no matter where I aim, but the URWA has been my most valuable resource.

Mary: Do you have your families support? How about your friends?

Krissee: My seven-year-old has been a major source of inspiration over the last year, always wandering around the house with a pad of paper and a pencil. writing little stories in her diary or for her baby sister. She makes me want to be a better writer and to not lose sight of my dream, because it’s her dream now too. She wants to become a writer like her mom, and I want to show her that the dream is possible. She shouldn’t have to settle for what she knows will get her by. I want to give her the courage to pursue her dream without the threat of failure.

Mary: What do you do for motivation when you feel as if you’ve hit a snag and want to give up?

Krissee: I try a number of things. I make a list of twenty possibilities, and usually have a good one to work with before I finish the list. I bounce ideas off my critique partners. I carry my laptop through the house, and sometimes I can find new inspiration in a different location.  I also listen to writing conference tapes on the way to work. By the way, Mary, you did a fabulous job moderating at RWA nationals in ‘09. 

Have you found the road to publication hard? What is the one thing you wish someone would have told you before you started out in this crazy industry?

Krissee: The most difficult part is the emotional ups and downs. I have pretty tough skin when it comes to critiques, but it’s the rejections that hurt the most. I wish someone would have told me how to take those rejections from the beginning—with a grain of salt. Not everyone will like your query, or your writing style, or even your story if you get that far. I worry about the number of first time writers that mass send their work out into the universe and give up at the first sign of defeat. This is a tough field to break in to, and I don’t think anyone gets in easy.

Thank you for joining us today, Krissee, it was nice to get to know you better!

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Mary's Rants - Life changes

All of us have heard the term 'life change' and know what it means. Psychologist state these events are one of the highest stress factors in life. This year I've had many, not just one. And as a result of one of these changes I've had to get a 'day' job. I thought writing was my day job, but since it doesn't bring in a steady pay check--yet, I was forced to seek something that did.

Now I'm in training to learn my new job. The biggest adjustment so far, is that it's full time and I can't drop everything at the drop of a hat to run to the computer and write a blurb I just thought of. Or say 'yes' when the kids need me to watch the grandbabies. Go to the store in the middle of the afternoon.

You get my drift. The hardest part of all though is not being able to play with my characters when they want to play. I need to re-learn how to put them to sleep during the 8 hours I work--9 if you count my lunch. It's hard to get all settled into write in only 40 -50 minutes, since I do have to have lunch during that time.

And it's not that I think I can't do it. I wrote my first 4 manuscripts working for the devil place (which will remain nameless, since I really don't want them to say I publicly dissed them) and most of the time that was working with 2 hours mandatory OT a day. I did mention I called it the devil place, correct?

So, please everyone out there who has a full time day job, and I know there are many, many writers who have one--HELP. Tell me what I must remember in order to whip my characters into being good and talking when I can listen. What are your tricks? Are there any?

I hope all of you are having a wonderful season!

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Cassy's Corner

Cassy's Corner- The Unexpected

I arrived in Italy on Sunday. As I have said before, it's one of my all time favorite places. We have a house here, so coming and going is reasonably simple. Or so I thought until last night.
I haven't made it to the grocery store yet, which translates to very little food on hand. Jet lagged and a little foggy in the brain, I decided that I'd go up the hill to a tiny trattoria I enjoy. Mensano is a town that maybe, just maybe has 150 people living there. There is one tiny restaurant (don't try and buy bread or milk anywhere in town- doesn't exist). But, the restaurant has a wonderful vegetable soup, perfect for a chilly December evening. They are open seven days a week, except for when they are closed. Last night, no lights were on.

Not a problem, I thought. I know of another spot about 20 minutes away that would be great. After all, I am here alone and always ready for an adventure. Plus a bowl of soup was really what I wanted.

I drove to my next destination. Another local spot that is always open. Again, all the lights were off. Ready to give up on soup and settle for a scrambled egg, I turned the car around in the gravel parking lot. This is a very rural area. No street lights. Few cars passing by. Though, there is the occasional wild animal. And, there is a ditch. A ditch large enough to swallow the front end of my car.

So, create the picture of a tired woman now saying words that no one should be allowed to hear with nearly half of her car nose forward. There was nothing I could do. Before I had time to become even more frustrated with myself a man was knocking on the passenger's window. He quickly stood back when he saw how startled I was, then motioned for me to trust him. Within minutes there were five men surrounding the car.

They pushed, pulled, and shoved my little vehicle but to no avail. I was stuck. In Italy nothing is done without a lot of conversation. I'm not sure if one could accomplish anything without first arguing, discussing and convincing another why your approach is truly the best. My situation was no different. I had five elderly men smoking, yelling, and telling each other how to get my car out of the ditch. Remember all of this is in Italian. My Italian is passable, but wasn't up for this situation. So now add in a lot of gesturing.

One man stomped off, returning with his car and a giant cord. He attached the cord to his car and then argued for a good five minutes as to where it should be tied to my car. Three of the men stood on my car to pull the rear end down. One man pushed from the front. The fifth man drove his car with the cord stretched. I put my car in reverse. "Slowly, slowly," they all yelled, probably fearing that I'd be successful and they'd topple from my roof.

My car screamed as it came out of the ditch. All the men, no one under the age of 70, jumped up and down with pleasure at their success. After we had finished congratulating each other I reached for my wallet. After all they had done, it was the least I could do.
They adamantly refused my offer. The five men were lined up grinning at my car. Hugging is a national past time in this country. So, I thanked each man individually with a hug. The last man gave my cheek a kiss.

In the pitch black with no help in sight, I have no idea where these men came from. They just appeared. I am not sure how they got me out of that ditch. But they did. And I have no way to thank them other than sharing the story and hoping they know how much they mean to me.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Tuesday Tidbits With Kari...First Book Signing Ever & New Cover!!!

First off, I just have to say that I LOVE my new cover for book one in my cozy mystery series TEMPEST IN THE TEA LEAVES: A Fortune Teller Mystery that comes out in August 2011!!! They included all the elements I really wanted: the ancient Victorian house with chipped paint, the sign Sunny's Sanctuary, the tea set, the old fashioned street lamp, and the immortal cat Morty! It's a painting, and it's just so appealing, I'm in heaven :-)) The people at Berkley Prime Crime really know what they are doing, and my editor Faith Black rocks!

Second, I had my first book signing ever! Talk about exciting and scary at the same time. The day started off insane as always (hence the life of a mom of four!) and I barely made it to Barnes and Noble by 1:00 PM which is when I was supposed to start.
So I go flying inside, dragging my poor 8 year old daughter with me. She was to be my helper...Oyyyy...more about that later :-)
The store is packed!!! A school was having their book fair that day, so it was perfect timing. And they put me right in the children's section, which was fantastic.
Only, I see a microphone up on a stage with a bunch of chairs in front of it. Right beside my table and stack of books!
I said, um, do I have to speak??? I have nothing prepared. Now everyone who knows me knows I have no trouble speaking. But....I really do get nervous about "public" speaking, especially when I'm not prepared.
Turns out the microphone was for the session after me...Phew! But I did answer questions one on one and talk to a lot of kids and adults.

My publicist sent a bunch of signs of different sizes that Barnes and Noble displayed throughout the store. They gave me one to take home (yay).
Yeah yeah, I know. It says 2011.....ha ha.....that was me. I added the date when I got home so I wouldn't forget. No worries, I fixed it :-)
The woman in charge of my signing introduced me to the librarian in charge of the book fair. The woman is the guru of librarians in our area, so it was awesome. She is putting me in the library system so all the other libraries will order my books. And she wants me to speak in her school. She also introduced me to other librarians and teachers who took my bookmarks for their classrooms and also want me to speak in their schools.
All in was a very productive day!
I saw several people I know come out and support me. You all know who you are, and you guys rock. It helped make me a lot less nervous with you guys around.
And of course my very special longtime CP Barbie Jo Mahoney was there! I can't wait to do a signing with her next November when her first book and my third come at the same time.
Oh boy, look out people....Thelma and Louise will be hitting the road on a signing tour and having the time of our lives.

CNYRW chapter mates and fellow authors Nicki Greenwood and Susan St. Thomas were there as well.
As well as Carol Lombardo and Laurie Bumpus, but I didn't get pictures of them, darnit :-)

My darling diva is the child on the right who is supposed to be helping out! Okay, okay, so she DID help out a lot, but she also played with the microphone, ate half the treats, kept getting bored and bailing on me to scout out more books, giggled and laughed and talked even more than I do....what can I say...she's just like me!

Turns out I have fans!!!
These kids were sooo stinking cute. I had really young, and tweens and even a few teens. As well as plenty of grownups.
And the best part was that I brought along postcards of my adult cozy mystery and stuck those in my book so the "moms" could see what else I write and when it comes out :-)
I've already gotten a couple pre-orders on that one, so something must be working!
Or maybe it was just the cookies and candy canes I brought along. Hey, whatever works! All I can say is I had a fabulous time and a big thanks to all who helped make it happen.
So my question for all of you out there is what do you do to help make your book signings a success?

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Running on Empty

Here I go with my whining again. Line up to smack me if you want. I'll start.

What am I whining about now, you ask? Same old. Same old.

I'm on deadline and I'm stuck.

I've confessed that I don't write a lot of introspection or descriptions. I wish I did because I sure could use the words. I like to write action, multiple plots, and a lot of dialogue. The problem is..that leaves me worrying about word count in every single book I've written.

Some people complain about having to cut out 5000 or more words to get their word count down. I seriously want to hurt them!

Back to my whining. Here I am living out my dream with a three book contract writing about characters I absolutely adore. Did I mention my editor loves them, too?
So what's the problem?

First off, let me say I've discussed this with a friend who is also a debut author writing book 2 of the series. And I got this absolutely giddy feeling when she said she is experiencing the same kind of problems. Misery does love company. Anyway, you'd think the sequel would be easier to write than the first book since I have character profiles and know the players like the back of my hand. My clueless-in-the-kitchen main character who is addicted to Hostess HoHos is already so adorable that no reader will walk away without feeling like they know her personally.

And therein lies the problem!

A big chunk of book one went into molding all my characters and fine-tuning their personalities so they would be memorable. Now how am I supposed to make them different?

While I watched my Cowboys lose to the Eagles tonight, I thought about this... even researched it and this is what I discovered. Once an avid reader finds an author they love they will probably buy the whole backlist and then wait expectantly for the next book.

Sheesh! Like I'm not already under enough pressure!

Okay, I think I've got it. Each book must be able to stand alone. The protagonist must be recognizable throughout all the books yet somehow change for each one. Is that right?

How many Hostess HoHos can one girl eat?

That brings me to my next point. You can't bore the reader with repetitive details of earlier events.

That's what I'm fussing about! How do you keep your characters fresh from book to book?

I'm beginning to believe you have to approach each book as a different episode of your favorite TV show. The characters are the same, but the situations change. Everyone knows it's a series so you can't kill off any of the main characters, but you still have to build suspense to keep them turning the pages. Adding new characters can help do that.

I feel better about this already.

With that problem solved, I've come to another unhappy conclusion about myself. I am a plotter in trouble. I'm going to have to do what I did in book 1 and that's jump to the scenes that I know will be coming. I can always go back and write the connector chapters later, but I have to get words on the page. The deadline, remember?

I came across this cute little video about Shakespeare and writer's block. Check it out.

I'm waiting for my characters to show me what they want to do next. In the meantime, any suggestions on how to make that happen?

Friday, December 10, 2010

Guest: Kerrigan Byrne

Good Morning, today we have author Kerrigan Byrne. She has yet to be published, but she is on her way.

Mary: Welcome to the Mysteries and Margarita’s blog today. Can you tell us a bit about you?

Kerrigan:   Thank you for having me.  Mysteries and Margarita’s are two of my very favorite things.  You’ve combined two absolute goods!  Let see, about me.  I’m 27, married to a romance novel hero for going on 7 years; I have 3 lovely step daughters.  Aside from my job, I belly dance with Desert Gypsy Dance Company and teach tribal fusion in my town on Wednesday nights. And when I have a moment to sit down I write my little heart out. 

Mary: What genre do you write? And why?

Kerrigan:   I mostly write Paranormal Historical Romantic fiction, I suppose.  I’m working now on a series project I call “Origins”.  I think that over the course of my life, I’ve seen a lot of things that are pretty real.  In fact, people always ask me why I don’t write mysteries or thrillers.  I tell them, “It’s the same reason I don’t watch Law and Order.”  Aside from the fact that Jerry Orbach isn’t on it anymore, I just get enough of that in my life.  I like to escape to a world where I can bend the rules and so can my characters. 

You have an interesting job. A lot of us who write mystery or suspense would love to have the material you must have access too. Can you tell us a little about what types of things you encounter?

Kerrigan:  Well, I’ve worked in the legal field for the last 8 years.  First as a Legal Secretary for a private firm where I learned to file divorces, pay taxes, run a business and a trust account.  Then, I moved on to getting a seemingly innocuous secretary job at the County Attorney’s Office in the Special Investigations Unit.  I was the youngest secretary there at 21.  District Attorney Investigators take care of the crimes that city and county investigators can’t, namely, Officer Involved Shootings, political corruption, internal affairs and high profile investigations, and white collar crime.  Needless to say, my duties were ridiculously varied.  I started just doing bank charts and financial analysis on some high profile white collar crime cases.   Not surprisingly, Utah is the white collar fraud capital of the states.  The only polygrapher in Utah County worked in my office and I got to understand, firsthand, the science behind the polygraph and I find it fascinating.  I had access to Federal, state, and local information data bases and I could pretty much find out any information about anyone’s background I wanted.  It really is scary how much the government knows about you and how much information they can collect. 

Due to budget cuts, the County Attorney’s Office decided that the Investigation Secretaries should also be the Evidence Technicians.  I saw my first dead body at 23 and since then, I’ve worked 3 shooting scenes (two with casualties) and 4 separate autopsies, two murder search warrants, and countless white collar search warrants.  They even used me in one undercover operation where they were after a Surgeon who was swapping prescription drugs for sexual favors.  I’ve testified in a jury trial, and filed a lot of court paperwork, so I understand the system nominally well.  I’m not trying to toot my own horn here, but I’m letting you know that you can use me as a resource if you need me. 

Because of my family and my want to write, I decided to get a less stressful and demanding job with the county.  Last year, I moved to the County Jail to run their Medical Office.  I enjoy the job quite a bit and the hours are much better. 

Mary: I know you write Paranormal but do you ever use something you’ve heard or seen at work?

Kerrigan:    I sometimes use tactile sensation when it comes to describing dead bodies.  Also, we’ve had to do extensive research on combat psychology, reflexes and what constitutes a “righteous kill” in a Democratic nation.  That research has been very helpful to me in my writing.  Also, working with a bunch of cops gives me some GREAT perspective into the mail psyche.  It’s great research working with a bunch of alpha males in uniform.  ;)

What do you find the hardest with writing? Do you have a five year plan or something?

Kerrigan: The hardest thing about writing, for me, would be finding the time.  I have to say, I did struggle with some of the technical aspects of the craft, at first.  I kind of approached it thinking ‘Hey, I have a story, write it down, how hard can it be?’  So, I got a wake up call very quickly.

Mary: Are your family and friends supportive of your writing?

Kerrigan:  My husband is extremely supportive of my writing.  Most of my closest friends are also writers.  However, I do get heckled by some “intellectual” friends or extended family about how I should write “real” books instead of romances.  I ignore that kind of nonsense.

I know you belong to Romance Writers of America. Do you belong to any other writing organization? What do you find helpful with RWA?

Kerrigan:  I don’t belong to other organizations.  RWA is the best I’ve found so far.  The ladies are amazing and there’s such a variety that I learn new things every day.  I’ve found it to be the best resource. 

Mary: What would you like to have been told or advised of before you started on this crazy writing journey? And do you think it would have altered your decision to write?

Kerrigan:  I would like to have been warned about how harrowing the publishing process is.  I’m not the best at networking and I find it rather terrifying.  However, it’s part of the game and I’m determined to learn it. 

Thank you, Kerrigan, it has been a blast getting to know you. Drop by again to the Mysteries and Margarita’s blog.

Thank you for having me here!  I am a M&M reader for life.  Best of luck to you, and I can’t wait to read your scintillating mysteries.  Please contact me any time with legal questions or research you may need done at, and I’ll see what I can do for you!

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Mary's Rants: Guest blogger--Lindsay Downs

Mary, thank you for inviting me to guest blog today. I’d also like to wish everyone a Happy Holiday.

With the new year fast approaching, I’m sure we’ve all made new year resolutions and determined come heck or high water to keep them. Well, years ago I made one and have kept it ever since-not to make any more resolutions.

Over the past several years I’ve, instead, made lists of things I want to try to accomplish over the coming year. Some items remain from year to year, not that I didn’t meet them but because I want to make sure I continue to. So, without further ado, here’s my top 10 list for 2011.

10-Have a roof over my head and food on the table.
    This is always on the list. A reminder of tough times in the past.
9-Figure out what Kebi is thinking about.
    For those of us with pets, cats and/or dog isn’t this one of the great mysteries of the universe. The best I’ve come up with is when he’s sleeping and his paws are moving like he’s running. Probably chasing some squirrel.
8-Get a tattoo.
    I never had a midlife crisis, at least I don’t think I did so, instead, I’m having a late life crisis.
7-Figure out how not to have a sagging middle.
    This one isn’t just for the author in me. If my middle gets any bigger I won’t be able to see my toes. As for the author part of me-I might have found the solution.
6-Write a 95,000 word book in 6 months.
    Target Identified took about 18 months start to finish. Of course I had to rewrite the first 30,000 words several times. Then, there was the writer block periods which didn’t help.
5-Get the opening to the book right the first time.
    This one sort of goes along with the one before. A darn near impossibility.
4-Figure out which works better-plotter, panster or a combination of both.
    Target Identified was a panster work. In some cases I had no idea where the book was going from one scene to another. Which made it difficult to keep track of the previous action. AWOL, the current WIP is being plotted. Maybe over plotted at times. What I may end up doing is replot but only the major points, not even scenes. Then let the chips fall as they may.
3-Figure out the perfect murder.
    I’ve got a few ideas.
2-Go to England.
    It’s been about 40 years since I’ve been there and want to revisit the country. I’m hoping to have several books set in southern England around the Devon, Cornwall area.
And the Number 1 thing I want to accomplish in 2011-
1-Get a three book deal.
    I might settle for a single book deal. And I’m not talking short story or novella length either.

So these are ten of the more important thing I want to maintain or accomplish during the coming year.

What is your top ten list for the new year? The person who comes up with the best list will receive an e-copy of the anthology Operation: LOVE.
Decision of the judge(s) is final.

Thanks Lindsay, what fun! Okay everyone you heard him, what's your top ten? Good luck!

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Cassy's Corner- The Holidays

It is a bit trite to talk about the holidays, family traditions, remembering all that is important and taking stock. Why do we do that only at certain times of the year? It seems almost maudlin to do that in March, for instance. Yet, we do find times throughout the year, using what almost seem like excuses. You know, it's New Year's now for the resolutions. It's Easter, let's make sure we say our blessings and appreciate those who have made a sacrifice for others. It's Memorial Day and we must honor those who have served. It's the Fourth of July.... Okay, you understand.

All of those dates and memories are important. They should not go away or in way be minimalized. But, I do take another position. I don't like being told when the "day" is special. So, I've started two relatively new habits. First, when I am thinking of someone, I contact that person--be it email, a note card, a quick voice mail. I often say nothing more than "I am thinking of you and wanted you to know." How else would anyone know he or she is on my mind? Okay, you'll be getting your email soon.

Second, and this is just a "private for me and no one else" kind of thing, I try and find something I have never seen before. As I drive to town I look, as much as is safe, into the woods around me, to the left, to the right--I play a game. What have I never seen before? I have driven the same route thousands of times- what now is different? It is surprising how many barns I never noticed. How many silly decorations people put on their houses. How many signals of connection my neighbors use to reach out, if only we take the time to "read" what the messages are.

An elderly neighbor, about a quarter of a mile from me, balances tiny tiny pumpkins on her fence posts- must be thirty of them. Who goes out and finds thirty baby pumpkins (think really tiny) and then lines them up on her fence rails? I'm not sure I have the dexterity to pull that off. Another neighbor (he) makes homemade maple syrup candy and leaves it out for anyone who wants a taste or two- they are even in the shape of a maple leaf. I have one lady who lives somewhere nearby (not really sure where) and she stops every day to give a good belly rub to my Golden Retrievers along with a dog treat. They sit patiently on the stoop and wait for her--every day. Then there is the man who reminds us to change the oil in our cars, the man who saves chicken bones for my soup, the fish store man who lets me know when he has what he knows I really want, and, and, and.

What does all this mean? On one hand it means there is a community of folks who look out for each other- a certain kindness that can't be created, rather just is. On another hand it means I have great characters living within inches of my house who might appear on my pages before they know it. Okay, kidding, sort of. But really, it means that we care for each other. Caring is something that doesn't come easily for many. I am now glancing at an incredible pointsetta plant my wood man brought me. It's taken me 10 years to get him used to giving me a hug. This grumpy guy with a heart of gold brought me some of that maple candy and we talked about his grandson who lost his leg in Iraq (and will be now jumping out of an airplane with his artificial leg in place). Yup, I got a hug. It's one of my gifts this year-- that hug.

I wish all of you many hugs and many insights. I know mine happen each day. I have so much to learn and to appreciate. Why though does it take the holidays to start this train of thought? Join me. Let us make this our daily adventure. May your lives be as rich and be as fun as you wish. And, if you want any of that maple candy- gosh, we have too much.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Tuesdays Tidbits with Kari: Featuring author Allison Chase

First of all, thank you so much, ladies, for having me as your guest today. It's especially exciting for me because it's officially release day for OUTRAGEOUSLY YOURS, book 2 in my Victorian series, Her Majesty's Secret Servants!

Kari - I see you like to do archery as a hobby. That's something I've alws wanted to try. Is it difficult? From how far away have you hit a target?

Allison - William Tell I'm not, lol. Since we live in the suburbs we're confined to our backyard, what you'd call space-challenged. I actually just ran out back and measured off the average distance, which is about 14 paces, or 35-40 feet. What made the difference for me in terms of accuracy wasn't necessarily developing a greater skill level, but having good equipment. Hubby and I both have lovely, Italian-made bows strung to a 20lb resistance, which is pretty standard for someone who isn't a professional archer (are there professional archers out there?). And our arrows are graphite, not wood, so they fly faster and straighter. The cats in the neighborhood are grateful for that. :)

Kari - You also collect period costumes. Have you ever worn them to any event? What's the most intrigueing costume you've collected?

Allison - You bet I've worn them! We attend our local Renaissance Festival every year in costume. I dress either as a wench or a lady pirate (Grace O'Malley!) in a laced bodice, off-the-shoulder chemise and a voluminous skirt, or as a Celtic lady in my Irish leine with its wide bag sleeves. My husband wears his kilt which I help him pleat, wrap, drape, belt and pin in the traditional way. One exciting find was a Regency drop-front day gown made to authentic specs. It even includes the lacings inside that attach the dress to the corset, to prevent the garment from moving and rumpling. This I've gotten to wear at Halloween - I carried a feather quill and a leather volume of Pride and Prejudice. Guess who I was?

Kari - You've explored castle ruins, ancient abbeys, and rambling gardens of old country manors. That sounds so exciting. I bet it takes you right back in time. What are some of the favorite places you've explored and what was it like?

Allison - By far the most dramatic castle we've ever visited was Tantallon in Scotland. It hovers literally on the edge of a cliff overlooking the Firth of Forth, and with its boulder-strewn earthen works, imposing gatehouse, and high, sheer battlements, it presents quite the formidable prospect as you approach. We were there in the off-season so we had the place to ourselves and were able to climb the towers and explore the ruins to our hearts' content. Another favorite place was Muckross Abbey in Kilarney, Ireland. Again, we had the place to ourselves, and while walking through the ancient cloisters I could all but feel the spirits of the monks hovering at my shoulder, telling me what a hard and lonely life they led there centuries ago. It was haunting and very poignant to view the lush Irish landscape from their perspective through the arrow slits carved into those thick walls.

Kari - You write about the elegance and intrigue of Victorian England in your newest series Her Majesty's Secret Servants. I love that the royal person is a queen and that her secret servants are her best friends. How did you come up with the idea for that?

Allison - This idea came directly from what I read about Victoria as a child. I hadn't known previously how lonely she was growing up, or how restricted and controlled she was by her mother and a man named John Conroy, who hoped to rise to power through her. The poor child had no friends to speak of, no one to confide in other than her governess, the German-born Louise Lehzen. My heart absolutely went out to her, and I thought, oh, she needs some friends! So I created ties between the Sutherland sisters's father and Victoria's father and uncle through their military service, which would be kept up for awhile even after the Duke of Kent's death when Victoria was a baby. MOST EAGERLY YOURS begins with an eleven-year-old Victoria telling the Sutherlands of her newly discovered revelation that she'll someday be queen. Her fears break their hearts, and even as they realize her fate will take her in directions they can't follow, they pledge to always be her friends, and her secret servants if ever she needs them.

Kari - Can you tell us about your book that's coming out in December called Outrageously Yours?

Allison - OUTRAGEOUSLY YOURS takes second sister Ivy Sutherland to Cambridge University, where she must find an unusual stone that has been stolen from Her Majesty. Now, because women were not yet allowed to pursue a higher education, Ivy has to crop her hair, wear breeches and boots, smear a little coal dust on her chin (fledgling whiskers) and take on the identity of Ned, a promising young science student. Ivy is perfect for the job, having been raised by an uncle with an extensive library, where she was able to study and satisfy her own scientific curiosity. At Cambridge she meets Simon de Burgh, Marquess of Harrow and a scientist in his own right, and together they create sparks that follow them from the laboratory to the bedroom. Amid their simmering passion, there is the mystery of the stolen stone, Simon's missing sister, and a path of murdered students that leads Simon and Ivy into great peril as well as into each other's arms. At times the story strays from the factual science of the day into Sci Fi - because this closet Trekkie couldn't resist a little fun! But that's for the reader to discover.

Kari - Your books have a mystery element in them with them secrets that are revealed. Do you enjoy mysteries and would you ever write a full blown mystery?

Allison - Aside from being a closet Trekkie, I'm also a closet mystery writer! So yes, I can definitely envision myself someday writing a mystery, but I don't think I'd be able to resist including a romantic thread. You can't take the romance out of the romance writer, lol! It would probably be a historical mystery, although I've also toyed with an idea for a series set in my husband's home town in Rhode Island. He'd provide a wealth of information for me, and the history of the place along with the present-day social atmosphere would inspire a ton of ideas.

Kari - What's next on the horizon after this series?

Allison - I'd be very, very happy to continue with a new historical romance series, especially one set in Victorian times. I love the emerging technologies, along with the changing social attitudes that led to the modern world we live in today. I'm not a planner though, at least not far in advance, so once this series is completed I'll turn my attentions to my next project. No matter what I write, my heart will always be invested in some form of history, and I think that'll be evident even if I try a contemporary story. I'd probably write about a historian or museum director, or maybe an archeologist. But I'm not adverse to suggestions!

Readers, what time periods do you most love to read about? Or what themes most attract you to a story? Share your favorites and be entered to win a copy of OUTRAGEOUSLY YOURS!

For more about me and my books, you can visit, and from there you'll find my blog, MySpace and Facebook pages (under my bio).

Also, I'm running a contest this month for a fabulous Victorian Science-inspired necklace. The details should be up by now, so check that out! And don't forget to leave a comment here for a chance to win a signed book!


Sunday, December 5, 2010

Sisters and Sangria

As you are reading this, I am already in Las Vegas celebrating my birthday. If the gods of the one-armed bandits smile on me, I will have a nice Christmas. But I’m not holding my breath. I don’t gamble big so I don’t win or lose big, but the lure of a free room beckons, and hubby and I go to the city that never sleeps about three times a year. The voodoo doll was made by my dear friend, Sylvia Rochester, an amazing artist and talented author.

Enough about that. Bet you’re wondering why in the world this blog is named Sisters and Sangria.

You’ll have to wait as I have lots of things to say before I tell you. Since the year 2010 is ending, I wanted to reflect on everything that has happened to me in the last twelve months. It has been an amazing year, and frankly I don’t want it to end. But Christmas is only three weeks away, and 2011 will follow quickly behind.

Let’s start with December 17th, 2009. I answered the phone call from my agent. “This is the call,” she said.

“The call?”

“Yes, the call.”

Then I screamed and Dan came running in from the other room. I held up three fingers. “They’re buying three books,” I told him.

And that was the beginning of one of the most hectic and best years of my life. So much has happened since that phone call, it’s hard to remember everything, but I’ll try.

As soon as I hung up with Christine, I began to panic. Faith, my editor at Berkley had bought three books on three chapters and a synopsis. Holy crap! How could I write a book she liked? I spent the next four to five months wallowing in self doubt. The standing joke around my house was, "Did you write today?” I’d shake my head and hubby would say, “Don’t cash the check yet!!

It was just the kick in the butt I needed. My deadline was July 1st and I was finished a few weeks before. Since Faith was so busy at Berkley and since my book isn’t coming out until October, she just finished reading it Thanksgiving week…and she loved it. After only a few hours of editing, the book is in Production.

OMG! I will have a book with my name on it.

Still wondering about the Sisters and Sangria? Hold your horses. I’m windy!!

Anyway, my journey to publication wasn’t a lonely one. I had gads of friends and loved ones who were cheerleaders, psychiatrists when I was sure my writing sucked, and task masters when I wanted so much to procrastinate and go back to being a “write when I wanted” author.

So, I've decided to dedicate this blog to all the people who have helped me on the way…at least all the people whose pictures I have. So here goes:

Today, we went to an Ice show at the Gaylord Hotel in Dallas with kids and grandkids. It was truly amazing. My family has been so supportive, and I live for these kids. Here I am with my two grandsons.

Me and three grandkids.

My family:

My critique partners who can testify to my windiness.

Christine Witthohn and some of the Book Cents Clients who are the best.

My real live siblings who give me so much joy.

And now I’m going to tell you why this bog is named Sisters and Sangria. I have mentioned before that I have an amazing group of women with whom I have been playing Bunko for over 25 years. We vacation together every year, we’ve been through divorces, deaths of spouses, cancer, joy and just about every emotion you can think of with each other. They have always been my biggest supporters when it comes to my writing and read every story I have.

Friday night we had our annual Christmas party where we always take a group photo.

Just when I though they couldn’t ever surprise me since I know them all so well, they did it. They snuck around behind my back and came up with this ridiculous idea about having another picture made. Seems they are a bit jealous that I have my Mystery and Margarita sisters and that awesome picture on the top of the blog.

So, they decided they wanted to be in the blog as Sisters and Sangria, costumes and all. Here we are, most of us grannies looking a lot like geriatric Annie Oakleys!!!

Make that HOT geriatric Annies!! Check out the cleavage!!

You gotta love it.