Guest TONI SWEENEY talks about her exciting new release

Welcome, TONI, and tell us a little about yourself.

Well, Liz, I’m a native Georgian (that’s Georgia, USA< not Georgia, the former USSR) and I say that because the other day someone asked me that specific question.  Because of my accent, they thought I was a foreigner, they said.  I now live in the Midwest, the Great Plains, to be exact.  I’ve just moved there after being in California for a decade and wow! Is that a cultural shock!

Tell everyone about your journey to publishing a novel.

Not so much a journey as a stumble, a stagger, and a crawl.  I was in a devastating automobile accident in 1970 and my recovery would have been just as horrific if I hadn’t had books to read.  Imagine lying flat on your back and being unable to sit up for 6 months!  The aftermath was pretty dire also because I was unable to work for quite some time and there were instances, even after I had returned to the work force, when I had to choose between eating and reading.  So, I started writing books to replace the ones I couldn’t buy.  I shared the manuscripts with the ladies at work and one day one of them dared me to send one to a publisher.  I did.  They rejected it but wanted to see another.  I sent it.  It was accepted.  Ta-DAA!  A writer is born!

What do you like the most and the least about writing?

LIKE:  Reading something I’ve written but haven’t looked at in a while, and thinking, “Damn, did I write that?  It’s good!”

DISLIKE:  Having to sit in one spot long enough to write a book.

What are three things you cannot do without?

My computer, my car, and my TV.  Well, I suppose I could do without the TV and the computer, if I had to, but the car…?  Really need that out here in the wide, open spaces.

Give us a peek into your latest published work.

My latest novel is called Wizard’s Wife, released this month by Class Act Books.

There are astronomical events called Harmonic Convergences, which occur when certain planets are aligned with the sun. This happens all the time, but what was so different about the particular one in 1986 is that all the planets were lined up directly with the sun.  As usual when something like this happens, there were all kinds of dire predictions as to how this would affect the Earth, news shows, TV specials, etc, etc., and so forth.  Well, the Convergence came…and went…and nothing happened…

Or did it?

After all the brouhaha died down, I got to thinking…What if something did happen, and we just don’t know about it, because it didn’t happen here? But…it was going to have ramifications for the Earth anyway?

And Wizard’s Wife was born.  I didn’t write it immediately.  In fact, after doing an outline (the only one I’ve ever done for a novel, in fact) and the first chapter, I set it aside.  So aside that I lost it completely.  Then, two years ago, it surfaced in a box of papers, but when I moved from California to Nebraska, disappeared again.  I’ve never re-found it, so, with what little I could remember, I wrote the entire book from scratch.  I think it turned out better than the bit of first draft I have.

My hero is Tavis (David) McMuir, a faery wizard, a Lord of White Fire, sent from his own dimension of Ais Linn to protect the Earth from the evil machinations of Exeter Dubhtina, an evil wizard, a Lord of Dark Fire, who plans to take over when the Convergence happens and David’s form of magic (White Fire) is at its weakest.

David, in the meantime, has much more than just Exeter to worry about.  He’s married a mortal—going against his father’s wishes to do so–and has a halfling child on the way, and now he has to protect his wife Megan from his jealous ex-fiance (who just happens to be Exeter’s sister) as well as save the Earth.  When he returns to Ais Linn to prepare for the coming battle, Megan, who’s no shrinking violet where her husband and fae are concerned, follows, only to be captured by Exeter who uses her to force David to make a choice:  Surrender the Earth or lose your wife and unborn child.

It’s an exciting story (I think) and readers who like fantasy and knights and damsels-in-distress who can (almost) take care of themselves, should like it.

What’s next on the writing horizon for you?

A fantasy set among the pyramids, Egyptians and Hebrews, working-title Bride of the Beast.  Another fantasy.  Something a little different.

Is there anything you want to tell readers?

Yes.  Buy Wizard’s Wife.  Read it.  Enjoy it.  Then, say—“I can write that well, too,” and give in to your budding Muse and do it!

Thanks, Toni. Good luck with your new novel. The cover is gorgeous! And continued success in 2011.

Published in: on January 31, 2011 at 9:23 am  Leave a Comment  

We Have A Winner!

Congratulations MARIKA WEBER who won the romance readers love basket (well, box actually) and a free digital copy of my book MESSAGE TO LOVE!

Thanks to everyone who entered! Check back often and we’ll do this again!


Published in: on January 30, 2011 at 2:10 pm  Leave a Comment  

Finish this sentence and win!

Finish the sentence below and win a box of new romance novels. Yes, I will mail you (in the U.S.) a box of romance novels by various authors!

Here it is:

“If you don’t pull your pants…………..”

I’m waiting to draw your name out of the hat so you can get started reading!


Published in: on January 26, 2011 at 2:11 pm  Comments (31)  

JENNI HOLBROOK is our special guest today!

Please welcome today’s special guest JENNI HOLBROOK. She is an author, editor, and publisher, and I’m thrilled she’s here to share her road to publishing story.

My journey from reader to writer to publisher and beyond.

 I didn’t set out to be a writer. When I was a little girl my only goal in life was to “out do” the boys. I wanted to prove that girls could do anything boys could do…only better. I was a very active child in both activities and in imagination. If I wasn’t hiking up mountains or sailing across lakes, I was in the dance studio. If I wasn’t doing those activities, I was living inside my head, creating stories, imaginary places and finding ways to express them. I used to do one-person plays I wrote myself and invite the neighborhood (for a fee of course) to come watch me perform. My family wasn’t quite sure what to make of me. I was different and I sort of knew it. These plays would come alive inside my head like a movie. I would see scenes and conflict and actually have conversations with imaginary characters all the time. Even though I was an outdoorsy kind of kid, I was one who used the outdoors to think. I wasn’t little miss social. I preferred the social activity that I played out in my mind. I learned as I got a little older to socialize more, but still, my imagination was alive and well and very active. 

When I went to college, I majored in Business Education. It was what was expected and a good way to earn a living, so it made sense at the time. I focused on my core classes until one day I was told I had to take an English class. I took American Literature. It was fascinating until I got to the final paper. I had to write 75 pages and the topic was “compare and contrast the role and concept of the land as it is depicted in The Grapes of Wrath and Go Down Moses.” For a business major, this wasn’t going to be an easy task. When I handed in the paper I thought, “Well, there goes my 3.75 grade point average.”

The professor asked to see me about my final paper and I was a bit on the nervous side. When I went to his office, his first words were, “Have you ever thought of being a writer?” I laughed. Um, no. He told me that I had a real knack for the written word. That the way I approached the paper was incredibly creative and unique. I thanked him, but didn’t give it a second thought. However, I did fall in love with reading during that class. For the next ten years or so, I read at least a book a week, if not more.

Fast forward to 2003 and three children later. I was sitting at the lake, watching my children swim and reading a Sandra Brown novel. I set it aside and thought I could write something like that. Without telling anyone, I wrote my first book that summer. I did it long hand then typed it into the computer. What a great feeling it was to finish. So, I wrote another book. Then another. Then I Googled Romance Writers and went to my first Central New York Romance Writer’s meeting. It was there I found out I wasn’t “different”. I found out a lot of other people had imaginary characters and towns and even crazy murdering characters living inside their head. Then I went to Nationals in Reno and for the first time in my life, I felt like I fit in. Like I belonged somewhere.

I learned about the craft of writing and the business side of publishing. I entered contests. I finaled in a few and I also won The Beacon and The Molly. The movies that played constantly inside my head were finding their way to my fingertips and onto the computer screen. I was the happiest I had ever been. 

I submitted everywhere and got rejected everywhere. ePublishing was on the rise and since I did read ebooks, I submitted to a few of the ePublishers. My book was accepted by Triskelion around the same time they received RWA recognition. I was thrilled. I knew it wasn’t the big leagues, but it was a start and I was doing what I loved.

And then, Triskelion started having trouble and went bankrupt. For those of us writing for them, we could see it coming, but there wasn’t anything we could do. During this time, I had also made the decision to leave my agent. It was a very difficult decision. I think the world of my first agent and all of her clients. Many of them have gone on to great things and I am very happy for them. However, at the time, I was having some medical problems and for me, it was time to step back and take a good look at what I wanted to achieve with my writing.

This decision to evaluate my goals lead me to Bob Mayer. I had met him a few times at various conferences and I was also lucky enough to have had him critique my work. I decided to take his retreat. It was the hardest week I ever had, but at the same time, the most enlightening. I took a lot of what he taught in the workshop and applied it to my writing. But also took a lot of what he said about the business and started writing down my goals and making a plan of action. First order of business was to find a way to get a teaching position at Writers and Books of Rochester.

I also decided to publish the books I had with Triskelion with The Wild Rose Press. They are good books and I wanted them to have a home. For me, it was a great decision. I have had 4 books and 2 short stories published with them. I also got the job teaching. I was achieving goals and moving forward, but wasn’t sure what I wanted to do next. I felt like I had hit a stumbling block. Bob was working on developing his Warrior Writer program and since I had taken his Novel Writing course, I was very interested in this new workshop and decided to ask him about it. Again, he was very gracious and answered my questions.

 During one of our conversations, the concept of epublishing and backlist came up. Bob had received the rights back to many of his books and wanted to re-release them. Some of the technical aspects of file conversions and cover design he was going to have to outsource, except I knew how to do those things. Somewhere along the lines, we decided to create Who Dares Wins Publishing in January 2010. We started with his backlist and we now have 3 other authors and more in the pipelines. It’s hard to believe that we have been in business now for a little over a year. We are constantly re-evaluating our goals and looking to the future. With all the changes and uncertainty in publishing two things remain the same…readers and authors.

I’m currently working on a book titled Legacy of Lies and working with agent to hopefully get it traditionally published. I spend half my workday on my writing and the other half working on Who Dares Wins Publishing. The truth is, my journey has really just begun.

You can visit Jenni’s blog at

Thanks for such a great story, Jenni!

Published in: on January 23, 2011 at 10:28 pm  Comments (13)  

Life Imitating What You Read?

When I was deciding what to talk about today, I passed by a book on my shelves at home and picked it up. Reading the Romance, Women, Patriarchy, and Popular Literature, (The University of North Carolina Press) by Janice A. Radway was written in 1991. Radway was a professor of literature at Duke University at the time of the writing. It’s been a while since this book was written based on the author’s questionnaire of hundreds of female romance readers and things have changed.

Romance novels make up an even greater portion of the trade sales in America now compared to when this book was written, and digital sales of romances are surpassing print numbers daily. Radway provided the book as an expression of feminist and popular culture in the 70’s,  and 80’s. The author did audience research in the form of verbal and written questionnaires and presented her educated perspective on a phenomenon. It’s a deep book with a great deal of historical value to social and anthropological arenas, but as far as really comprehending why people, not just women, read romance, this book has effectively overlooked the one reason I think we read romance: hope.

This is not a review of Radway’s book. It is a discussion about why romance novels are so efficient at providing readers with a healthy dose of hope. While Radway isn’t particularly demeaning of the romance novel industry in her book, it appears to me she considers the need to experience “vicarious pleasure” as that supplied by reading romances as a failing of society.

When I say hope, I mean readers of romance need and want to experience hopeful and loving situations in order to cope with their lives. It’s no secret that romance novels are a form of entertainment which has been since Greek theatre days a means of escape. Why are we trying to get away from anything? I don’t believe we are truly wanting to escape our lives as much as we are attempting to remember and be able to recognize love, compassion, and hope when we see it so we are able to participate in those moments more fully when the opportunities arise in our own lives.

People who read romance novels have vicariously experienced good, evil, sadness, elation, honor, heroism, strength, and hope to name a few things and the more of these notions they take in from reading the more likely they are to demonstrate those feelings in everyday situations. Reading is a powerful tool. It implants ideas and images in the brain that are recalled during real life events and the reader makes a choice about how to act many, many times based on what they have imprinted on their brains from repetitive reading of romance novels.

Whether you are a new or seasoned reader of romance novels, you must have noticed that the stories are leaving messages in your brain that are coming to play in your real life. How do you feel about that? And why do you read romance novels?


Published in: on January 19, 2011 at 10:27 am  Comments (10)  

Perseverence Pays Off For Author DYANN BARR


Welcome, Dyann, and please tell us a little about yourself.

My husband says that I have to be the only tattooed, multi-pierced, belly dancing, romance writing, granny in the world. I think that’s too ambitious. I’ll settle for being Andromeda Leigh’s grandmother. Romance writing is a definite second on the list.

I live in the Midwest with my husband of over forty years and a geriatric cat named Spook. He’s the real master of the house.

 Tell everyone about your journey to publishing a novel.

I got started reading romance in college. It was one of those Sunday mornings when I didn’t feel like diving into the homework I’d put off over the rest of the weekend. My roommate gave me a Georgette Heyer book, The Talisman Ring, to read. I scoffed at the idea, but the only thing on the television was sports and televangelist. So, I thought, what the heck, I’ll read it since I didn’t have the money to buy another novel. What an eye opener. I spent most the day with my nose stuck in the book. Then it became a drug in my system.

But after a while, I got tired of the sweet romance. All the other stuff was so much drek that I thought ‘how hard could it be?’. Famous last words. I started my first book on a typewriter. Can you say disaster? I had no sense of craft. The next start was equally bad. There was no goal, motivation, or conflict, no plot, no nothing, but I still wanted to write.

My husband, Dennis, saw an article in our local newspaper about a writers group looking for members. He called my bluff and said I’d go if I really wanted to learn about writing. So I went and became one of the founding members of Heartland Romance Authors. I still didn’t know what I was doing and piddled around for years, put it aside, took it back up again. Then one day I knew I had to make a decision. Is this is what I really wanted? Once I said yes, I had to make a concerted effort to learn the craft instead of play at it. I joined a critique group with Shannon K. Butcher and Claire Ashgrove, among others. I’d say that’s a must for anyone who seriously wants a career in writing.

But how did I get published? Claire, Alicia Dean, and I went together to pitch a Christmas series to The Wild Rose Press. They liked the idea and the rest is history.

 What do you like the most and the least about writing?

I like the hours, working in my pajamas, and playing with the characters in my head. Researching facts for my stories is one of my favorite things. I’d get lost for hours if I didn’t force myself back to plotting out the story and working up my character sheets.

Discipline seems to be my weak spot. I’m easily distracted by other things that need to be done or chores and errands others want me to do. One of the things I’ve yet to master is the word ‘no’.

 What are three things you cannot do without?

1.My husband. He gives me his undying support in every way and he’s my IT guy. My computer would be at a dead stop without him.

2. Google–I love it for research.

3. My critique group. We do local and on-line critiquing. One of our dearest critique partners lives in Rome, Italy, another in Kansas, and the rest are here in Missouri. They provide valuable input and catch a lot of plot errors or grammatical mistakes.

 Give us a peek into your latest published work.

My premiere book, A Perfect Bride For Christmas, was released November 12th by The Wild Rose Press.

Alex King wants to follow the family tradition and marry his perfect bride on Christmas Eve. There’s one little hitch–Bianca dumps him at the altar. He wakes up in Vegas with a hangover, a ring on his finger, and in bed with his best friend, Zoe Hillman. She’s overweight and plain, nothing like his image of the perfect wife. So begins the shortest Vegas marriage in history.

 Zoe loved Alex from the moment he walked through the law firm’s doors. He can charm the panties off any woman, but he’s never tried it with her. The chance to grab the golden ring is within her reach until everything blows up in her face. Now, five years later, she returns to Kansas City with triplets in tow and a brand new look. Catering Alex’s next wedding should prove interesting.

 What’s next on the writing horizon for you?

 Right now I’m trying my hand at writing a paranormal series. The first book is done and ready for submission. Yes, I’m still looking for my dream agent.

 Is there anything you want to tell readers?

 I want to have fun writing and I hope that comes through in my stories. There’s nothing like having a character take me on a roller coaster ride of emotion, for them to let me inside their wants, hungers, fears, and joys. Shannon K. Butcher gave me a great piece of advice. “If you can’t make yourself cry while you’re writing, well, you just haven’t done your job.”
You can find me on facebook under Dyann Barr and at and Twitter under writergal2007 and

Wonderful interview, Dyann. Congratulations on your new book and continued success in 2011.

Published in: on January 17, 2011 at 8:34 am  Comments (3)  

What Kind of Writer Are You?

It’s refreshing to dabble in different genres from time to time and many writers produce wonderful fiction for a variety of tastes. Gone are the days when publishing houses required writers to stay in a particular area such as historical, gothic, or Regency. Now everybody can write as many different kinds of stories as they want–contemporary, paranormal, etc.–and they don’t have to worry about upsetting readers or editors. Some writers still use different names for different genres and that’s ok. But I wonder if it’s necessary. It could make it difficult for some readers to find works by their favorite authors when they aren’t aware of the pseudonyms. But, oh well.

A good writer is inspired by the challenge of writing in different categories of fiction and non-fiction as well. A writer’s brain is usually expansive with ideas and readers are generally happy to see different types of writing from their favorite authors. But what if you aren’t sure what genre you should be writing? Take this fun, short quiz to find out what kind of writing you’ll enjoy the most.

1. Are the names of the characters in your stories more like

A. “Scarlet and Butch”

B. “Diasha and Trong”

C. “Maren and Dick”

D. “Jade and Orlando”

E. “Laura and Miles”

2. Do you like to write about

A. People and relationships

B. Other worlds and magic

C. Talking animals and creatures

D. Combat and travel

E. Riddles, mazes, and puzzles

3. When you write do you mostly describe

A. the appearances and emotions of your characters

B. the details right down to the blade of grass

C. the stupid things your characters do

D. details of every swing of the sword or punch of the fist

E. just the bare minimum of descriptions

If you chose mostly  A’s, you are a romance writer at heart.

If you chose mostly B’s, you are a fantasy/science fiction writer at heart.

If you chose mostly C’s, you are a humor writer at heart.

If you chose mostly D’s, you are an action/adventure writer at heart.

If you chose mostly E’s, you are a mystery writer at heart.

If you chose a mix of responses, you are one of those multi-talented writers who can write just about anything successfully!

Personal interests of writers help determine the genre and categories they will feel the most comfortable with. It’s just a matter of trying different stories and  styles and when you are writing one and the time and the words fly by, you’ve found your niche.

Happy writing!

Published in: on January 12, 2011 at 12:01 pm  Comments (15)  

Welcome Reader JAN MAY!

Today my guest is romance reader JAN MAY.

She is an avid romance fan and the winner of my November contest where she received a romance readers basket full of goodies that included a copy of my novel MESSAGE TO LOVE.

Welcome, JAN! Tell us something interesting or unique about you then tell us the “regular stuff” (work, family, play, whatever.)  

HI, my name is Janet but I prefer Jan and I am the oldest of five kids, divorced mother of two. I am 39 years old and live in a constant state of confusion and insanity AKA North Carolina, Home of the 82nd Airborne. I became an avid reader at the tender age of 6, I read anything I could get my hands on. I read my first historical romance when I was 9, my mom wondered where they kept disappearing to….lol.  I know you are wondering how I could comprehend the big words, well, I used a dictionary and that started my love of big words. I love to write as much as I love to read. I work nights in an emergency department in the business office, I register patients and collect the insurance copays.

Hmmm, something interesting or unique about me? I am a military brat and have been to four foreign countries and I love all the travel I have done. Something unique about me would be that when I was 10 years old I wrote my very first spanking story. We were assigned to write an essay called “It Happened One Halloween”. I got a 93 on it but I was not satisfied with how the story went so I had the teenagers captured by the witch, bound to their beds and “let” the witch brainwash them into her way of thinking. Of course, there is a hero and a heroine, who fell in love and they were the first to “convert”, spankings and bondage abound, they finally defeat the witch, escape but they were never the same. 

Describe what you do when you go to a brick-and-mortar bookstore (real bookstore in the mall or whatever.)

If you come with me to a bookstore, you better have the patience of Job….lol. I will stay in there for hours (5 hours or more) wandering among the stacks looking for books that I came for and looking for new, interesting reads just waiting to be found. Yep, you can find me sitting on the dirty floor, on my hands and knees checking those bottom shelves out or sitting sideways in a chair “perusing” the book I had found…laughs.

Who are the three best authors of any genre you’ve read in the last five years?

Jet Mykles, Diana Castilleja (I am impressed with both her het and gay genre) and Laura Baumbach.

 What are the three best books of any genre you’ve read in the last five years?

Catch Me If You Can (Romano and Albright 1), Cattlemen Club series (Menage and D/s mix, gotta love it) and Black and Gold (Rock and Roll has never been hotter…lol).

Without naming the author or the book, tell us the worst reading experience you’ve ever had.

It was this book that had THE most awful cover on it, the description of the main character was nothing like the redneck on the cover and the storyline did not really do anything. Boy is abused and is found by someone who will protect ‘em. The characters were 2D, the plot barely there and I finished it because I was determined to make it to the end. It was 29+ pages too long for me.

If you could spend a day with an author of any genre, who would it be, what would you do all day, and why?

Oh my, there are so many authors that I just love. And a few that I have chatted with that I am not sure who to choose. Brannan Black, I think, because I love the span of her genre, and she is new to my reading pool. What would we do all day– lunch, shopping, dinner, chatting, me picking her brain about how she writes, where does the inspiration come from.

Do you have a favorite cover model?

Rob Ashton, Fabio, Nathan Kamp, Andrei Claude, Anthony Cantanzaro, to name a few. 

Do you dabble in writing? What do you write? Are you published?

Yes, I dabble in writing, I have been writing since I was 10 spanning from Fantasy, Sci Fi, Erotica, D/s with a historical slant, Paranormal Menage and just recently I started on a MM book (the dream would not leave me alone…lol). I am not published at this time but it is part of my New Year’s Resolution.

If you could have tea with a romance writer of your choice, what would you want to tell them and why?

About their books, the chats I have had with them because when I am feeling down a really good book can lift my spirits and take me places that I have never been and to thank them for giving  me the chance to go there. Also, may I please have a cup of cocoa? With hot milk not hot water (who wants to drink watered down chocolate?) I am a bad, bad Southerner, who does not drink tea.

 Do you have an e-reader? What kind and what do you read on it?

I have not been fortunate enough to afford one, but it would have ménage, gay, sci-fi, fantasy, thriller, suspense, paranormal.

Jan, thanks so much for visiting today and for being such a great fan of romance novels. I also wish you luck with your publishing ventures.

Published in: on January 10, 2011 at 12:01 pm  Comments (9)  

Purposeful Prologues

Prologues have gotten a bad rap. Busy editors and harried readers think, “Just tell me the story, already. Don’t waste my time with a prologue that has nothing to do with the rest of the book.” But a prologue is a great place to set character motivation in motion that will explain why a character does everything he or she does throughout the book. That’s the key. The purposeful prologue must set the motivation for not just a hero or heroine but the entire story. If you can weave points into the prologue that support the events and choices and changes your characters experience, then no one will be bothered by your prologue.

To hook a reader from the very beginning of your story it’s important to start where the action begins. Sounds simple but if the prologue happened twenty-five years before the actual story begins, what do you do? A purposeful prologue also begins with enticing action that compels the reader forward into the “future” which begins with chapter one. Here are the opening lines of the prologue for my novel Message to Love:



November 1873

Santiago de Cuba

The November midday sun bore down on the heads of the men kneeling in the Cuban prison yard. Dust from the boots of a hundred Spanish soldiers and their restless horses swirled onto the prisoners. A translucent, gold film of dirt coated their matted hair and stung their eyes. The powdery haze adhered to the blood concealing on battered faces.

Want to know more? Hope so. That’s part of the practice of purposeful prologues to inspire readers to keep going through the book. In the case of Message to Love motivation for both the hero and the heroine and the historical plotline are presented. The rest of the story explains how the events that happened in that Cuban prison yard  compelled people and countries to do and say everything years later. It explains why things happen and helps readers understand the theme of your book. Yes, all books have a theme whether you set one down before you write or not. Theme is the motivation for another day’s blog. Meanwhile, give your prologue more than one purpose and no one will complain that it’s wasting their time to read it.

Published in: on January 4, 2011 at 2:57 pm  Comments (3)