Monday, December 3, 2018

An Old Italian Holiday Recipe--Honey Balls--and an Old New York Romance



Can an Italian sweatshop worker and an Irish cop fall in love on Manhattan’s Lower East Side in 1894? The answer is a big YES, and once they’re enjoying wedded bliss in their Greenwich Village brownstone, they spend their first Christmas together feasting on her Strufoli! (Italian for honey balls).

In FROM HERE TO FOURTEENTH STREET it's 1894 on New York's Lower East Side. Irish cop Tom McGlory and Italian immigrant Vita Caputo fall in love despite their different upbringings. They know their love can survive poverty, hatred, and corruption. 

Purchase FROM HERE TO FOURTEENTH STREET on Amazon


Here’s Vita’s Honey Balls recipe:

When my grandparents came from Naples and landed at Ellis Island in the early 1900s they brought many recipes with them, but only in their heads. No one brought cookbooks or recipes along with their possessions. A favorite Christmas treat is Struffoli, better known as Honey Balls. One Christmas when I was a kid, I watched my grandmother make them and scribbled down the ingredients as she sifted and mixed and baked and drizzled. Here's an accurate recipe in English!

Ingredients
Dough:
•2 cups flour, plus extra for dusting
•1 large lemon, zested (about 2 teaspoons)
•1/2 large orange, zested (about 2 teaspoons)
•3 tablespoons sugar
•1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
•1/4 teaspoon baking powder
•1/2 stick (2 ounces) unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch pieces, at room temperature
•3 large eggs
•1 tablespoon white wine, such as pinot grigio
•1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
•Canola oil, for frying
•1 cup honey
•1/2 cup sugar
•1 tablespoon lemon juice
•1 1/2 cups hazelnuts, toasted (see Cook's Note)
•Vegetable oil cooking spray
•Sugar sprinkles, for decoration
•Powdered sugar for dusting, optional

Directions

For dough: In the bowl of a food processor, pulse together 2 cups of flour, lemon zest, orange zest, sugar, salt, and baking powder. Add the butter and pulse until the mixture resembles a coarse meal. Add the eggs, wine, and vanilla. Pulse until the mixture forms into a ball. Wrap the dough in plastic wrap and refrigerate for 30 minutes.

Cut the dough into 4 equal pieces. On a lightly floured surface, roll out each piece of dough until 1/4-inch thick. Cut each piece into 1/2-inch wide strips. Cut each strip of pastry into 1/2-inch pieces. Roll each piece of dough into a small ball the size of a hazelnut. Lightly dredge the dough balls in flour, shaking off any excess. In a large heavy-bottomed saucepan, pour enough oil to fill the pan about a third of the way. 

Heat over medium heat until a deep-frying thermometer inserted in the oil reaches 375 degrees F. (If you don't have a thermometer a cube of bread will brown in about 3 minutes.). In batches, fry the dough until lightly golden, about 2 to 3 minutes. Transfer to a paper towel-lined plate to drain. (The rested and quartered dough can also be rolled on a floured work surface into 1/2-inch thick logs and cut into equal-sized 1/2-inch pieces. The dough pieces can then be rolled into small balls and fried as above).
In a large saucepan, combine the honey, sugar, and lemon juice over medium heat. Bring to a boil, stirring occasionally, until the sugar is dissolved, about 3 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat. Add the fried dough and hazelnuts and stir until coated in the honey mixture. Allow the mixture to cool in the pan for 2 minutes.

Spray the outside of a small, straight-sided water glass with vegetable oil cooking spray and place in the center of a round platter. Using a spoon or damp hands, arrange struffoli and hazelnuts around the glass to form a wreath shape. Drizzle remaining honey mixture over the struffoli. Allow to set for 2 hours (can be made 1 day in advance). Decorate with sprinkles and dust with powdered sugar.

Remove the glass from the center of the platter and serve.

Note: To toast the hazelnuts, arrange in a single layer on a baking sheet. Bake in a preheated 350 degrees F oven 8 to 10 minutes. Cool before using. 

Total Time: 4 hr 12 min
Prep: 1 hr 30 min
Yield: 8 to 10 servings


Monday, November 26, 2018

Romantic Historical Thriller SHARING HAMILTON is Free for Kindle This Week

SHARING HAMILTON, my romantic thriller co-authored with popular British mystery novelist Brian Porter, is free for Kindle this week.




Thanks, readers, for your stellar reviews. 

5 out of 5 stars A really good read. Berk Rourke: Verified Purchase

Being a history student by my initial education, and loving historical novels, this was a must read, never mind one of the co-authors, Brian L. Porter is one of my favorite authors. This tale, as one might expect with the description of a clandestine affair, especially one with such an historical figure, was a bit slow moving. The back story of a murderous doctor added a spice of a different kind as well and made one wonder whether the main ingenue would meet her fate at the hands of the notorious Doctor Severus Black. The story was very well written and the characters were presented as though they were real, and in fact they were. I thoroughly enjoyed this, my first essay into the world of Diana Rubino.

Worldwide Amazon Purchase Link

Monday, November 19, 2018

THE END OF CAMELOT, My Historical Romance Set Around the Assassination of President Kennedy--55 Years Ago November 22


The End of Camelot by Diana Rubino
November 22, 1963, a day that changed America forever. Who killed President Kennedy?

I've been a HUGE JFK assassination buff since that very day. Everyone who was alive on November 22, 1963 knew exactly where they were and what they were doing when they heard the news. I was in my first grade classroom. The teacher got a call on the classroom phone and told us ‘the president was shot.’ A collective gasp went around the room. I was 6 years old and in first grade. It was ten years before I saw the footage of Ruby shooting Oswald, on an anniversary documentary. 

          But it was my grandmother who got me interested in the biggest mystery since 'who killed the princes in the Tower?' (I'm a Ricardian; that's for another post).  She got me embroiled right along with her. 

          She listened to all the radio talk shows (those who lived in the New York area might remember Long John Nebel, on WOR, WNBC, and WMCA, all on AM radio (FM was really 'out there' at that time).

          She recorded all the radio talk shows. She bought whatever books came out over the years, along with the Warren Commission Report, which I couldn't lift at the time, it was so heavy. But my interest never waned in the 51 years that followed.

          In 2000, I began the third book of my New York Saga, set in 1963. The heroine is Vikki McGlory Ward, daughter of Billy McGlory, hero of the second book, BOOTLEG BROADWAY, set during Prohibition. This was my opportunity to write a novel showcasing all my current theories, and continue the saga. It took a minimum of research, since I remember all the 60's brands, (Bosco, Yum Berry, Mr. Bubble...), the fashions, the songs, and I even included a scene set on that unforgettable night when the Beatles first appeared on the Ed Sullivan Show, February 9, 1964.

About THE END OF CAMELOT     


The third in the New York Saga, The End of Camelot centers on Billy McGlory’s daughter Vikki, whose husband is murdered trying to prevent the assassination of John F. Kennedy. Vikki uses her detective skills to trace the conspiracy, from New York to New Orleans to Dallas, and at the same time, tricks her husband’s murderer into a confession. A romance with her bodyguard makes her life complete.
November 22, 1963: The assassination of a president devastates America. But a phone call brings even more tragic news to Vikki Ward—her TV reporter husband was found dead in his Dallas hotel room that morning.

Finding his notes, Vikki realizes her husband was embroiled in the plot to kill JFK—but his mission was to prevent it. When the Dallas police rule his death accidental, Vikki vows to find out who was behind the murders of JFK and her husband. With the help of her father and godfather, she sets out to uncover the truth.
Aldobrandi Po , the bodyguard hired to protect Vikki, falls in love with her almost as soon as he sets eyes on her. But he's engaged to be married, and she’s still mourning her husband. Can they ever hope to find happiness in the wake of all this tragedy?


Excerpt:

It was New Year’s Eve, they were alone, and he was harmless. So far. So she took the necessary two paces over to him and placed the honey ball between his custom-made choppers.
He closed his eyes, and she watched him savoring the sweetness. She didn’t dare say another word as she ran her index finger over a glob of cream on the cannoli plate, raised it to her lips and licked. “Mmmm,” she voiced, wishing she hadn’t.
Their eyes met and locked. Faster than lightning, they came together like magnets. Their lips met, sweet and sticky and hot. She didn’t want him to stop, but her inner voice screamed how wrong it was—It’s forbidden!—echoing the nuns in Saint Gustina’s. She shooed it away like an annoying fly. Leave me alone, I’m not a kid anymore. Her arms circled his neck, and his hands slid down to the curve of her back. Dare she move in closer, pelvis to pelvis, an unthinkable act three seconds ago? Her body was betraying her, betraying Jack, taking on a will of its own as she crushed herself to him. The kiss intensified. She tasted cannoli, and her fogged mind told her he’d been sampling them all day. She breathed in his cologne, so foreign it repelled her, so new it aroused her even further. Her tiara slipped off her head. She caught it just as he pulled away.
He held her at arm’s length as in a tango. “Oh, cara mia,” he growled—and if he said another word in Italian, she knew she’d explode. A passion long dormant stirred inside her.

My favorite passage from the book:

Billy came down the stairs for a nightcap and glanced into the living room. He noticed the glow in the fireplace, Vikki’s eyeglasses and the anisette bottle on the table. The couch faced the other way, but nobody was sitting on it. “Where’d they go?” Then he realized they hadn’t gone anywhere—and they were on the couch, but not sitting. Before he got out of their way, he placed a long-playing record on the phonograph. Jackie Gleason’s “For Lovers Only.”

Tuesday, November 6, 2018

A Teaser From ELIZA JUMEL BURR, VICE QUEEN OF AMERICA


ELIZA JUMEL BURR, VICE QUEEN OF AMERICA




Abandoned at childhood, Betsy Bowen finds out she’s George Washington’s daughter and escapes the streets of Providence to become Eliza Jumel Burr, New York’s richest woman. She pursued Aaron Burr, the love of her life, for decades and he finally proposed when he was 80 and she was 56. She divorced him on adultery charges, and he died two days after being served the papers. Who was her lawyer? Alexander Hamilton, Jr., the son of the man Burr killed in the famous 1804 duel.  
Eliza believed George Washington was her father. Nine months before she was born, her mother spent one night with the general and became pregnant. Eliza’s many attempts to reach her father gained her an invitation to Mount Vernon weeks before his death.

She met the love of her life, Aaron Burr, at President Washington’s inauguration. While Aaron was in the capital serving as a senator, Eliza met wealthy wine merchant Stephen Jumel, and faked her own death to get Stephen to marry her. When Stephen fell from a cart and died in Eliza’s arms, she was brought up on murder charges, which were dismissed. Aaron proposed to her and she became Mrs. Burr, her lifelong wish.





Eliza Jumel Burr

****
From Eliza Jumel Burr, Vice Queen of the United States:

July 11, 1804, a day I’ll never forget, a Wednesday, I rose early from fitful sleep. Two of my servants huddled in the kitchen, murmuring instead of cooking. They held the newspaper wide open.
When I walked in, they froze as if turned to stone, and held the paper out to me.
“What is it?” Without fresh coffee I was half-awake. But seeing the paper, I trembled. My mouth dried up. “Oh, no …” I hid my eyes with my hands, I couldn’t bear to look.
“M-Miss Eliza …” Mary stammered. “Vice President Burr shot General Hamilton in a duel.”
Too weak to stand, I grabbed a chair and sank into it. “He … shot Hamilton?” My head spun, dizzy with relief. But I still didn’t know about Aaron. “Is he all right? The vice president?”
“We don’t know, ma’am. It just says General Hamilton was mortally wounded.”
Without another word, I ran down the hall, threw open the front door, not closing it behind me, and raced to Gold Street in the gathering morning heat. Humidity soaked my clothes. I mopped sweat from my face.
I banged on his door. No answer. “Aaron, open the door, it’s me, please, we need to talk!” I banged again. Echoes answered me. He’d fled. But where? When would I see my beloved again?
Hamilton died the next day, and the city fell to its knees in mourning.
The tolling church bells and muffled drumbeats echoed through the sweltering city air.
****
   I saw Mrs Hamilton on Broad Way, head to toe in widow’s weeds. I wanted to approach her and offer my condolences, but she knew I was intimate with the vice president, so I kept my distance. Their country home, The Grange, was not far from the Morris mansion I planned to buy. We’d be neighbors someday.





Friday, November 2, 2018

For Aspiring Authors: Never Give Up--My Lesson in Persistence

A Lesson In Persistence

My story will inspire you to push on, if nothing else will. I'm probably the longest aspiring author to finally get published. My journey took 18 years. I wrote my first novel in 1982. Although my third or fourth novels came close to getting published with Harlequin, they didn't quite make it. My first published novel was actually the ninth one I'd written. Although I now have a great agent with whom I signed with her two years ago, I had 2 agents before becoming published: one retired; the other gave up. So I made my sales on my own.

I'd like to tell any aspiring authors who are frustrated because it's taking them 3, 4, 5 or more years to get that first contract, remember: I wrote for 18 years before getting the call so never give up!

My Backstory

I thought the way to publication would be to write short stories and get recognition that way, but my former journalism prof told me to forget that, and write a novel. The idea scared me to death, but he sent me titles of a bunch of how-to books, and I hunkered down and began. I quit my full time job, a bold move, and started the first draft of my first novel in 1981, at age 24.

Although I wrote and worked hard for many years, toward the very end, a year before my publication, I'd begun to realize publication wasn't my destiny, so I chose another endeavor. I started studying for a master's degree in archaeology.

Writing = Inventory

Because I kept writing through all those years of rejection, I've amassed quite an inventory. I love American history, so I've written a few books set in the U.S. – Colonial, Civil War, turn of the century, Prohibition, and the early 1960s. I've also written a few paranormals – ghost novels and time travels. My latest work is a chick lit vampire romance set on an Italian cruise ship. (I'd love to write a biography of Mayor Frank Hague of Jersey City, who was very good friends with my great grandmother in the 1930s. If only she'd kept a journal!)

Internet Intervened

I wouldn't be published if it wasn't for the internet. I met many great authors and made some wonderful friends at RWA and RT conferences, and I also increased my confidence to great levels at the editor/agent appointments.

Networking on the Internet helped me achieve my goal of publication. That's where I met my publisher, through Lisa Hamilton, another author I'd met on the CompuServe Romance Forum.

What I Learned

What surprised me most about the publishing business is that it's very hard to be recognized. You really have to work on promotion as well as writing. I've read many differing opinions on this, but I do believe you should promote as much as time allows, without taking away writing time. I have a website, a mailing list, and attend as many signings and conferences as possible.

But you have to be realistic; it's not easy to shoot up to #1. I'd had delusions of being on talk shows and seeing my name on the NYT bestseller lists after my first novel.

My Process

I take a year to finish a book, between research and writing. I've never had a deadline from a publisher, but I'd once sent an agent the first 3 chapters of my vampire romance. He said he'd like to see the entire ms., so I wrote ,5000 words a day til it was finished. He later rejected it. Oh, well. But at least I know I'm capable of turning out 5,000 words a day. My usual output is 2,500 words a day.

My Writing Advice

I never feel as if I have enough information to convey at a workshop, but I can tell aspiring authors this:

1. make the opening a grabber

2. make the characters compelling and interesting

3. make the reader care about the characters so they'll keep reading

4. make the novel well-structured so it doesn't have a sagging middle or pacing problems

5. make the stakes high and not easily achieved

6. make the secondary characters real, not mere cardboard

7. humor always helps.


My Last Advice

Keep believing, and keep the faith! And of course, keep writing, because you'll only get better. And never give up on your dream!

Wednesday, October 31, 2018

For Halloween, Book Quote Wednesday's Word is FRIGHT

For Book Quote Wednesday, the word is FRIGHT. 

From ONEY, MY ESCAPE FROM SLAVERY:


“Ona, you are in no position to refuse recapture. I shall return with orders to bring you and your child by force.” With a disdainful glance round my home, Mr. Basset's beady eyes narrowed. “Do not dare defy me, girl.” He spat out that last disparaging threat with a turn of his heel as he stomped out. 


Eyes wide in sleepless fright, I dreaded President Washington's vicious nephew’s return with an army of slave-catchers to drag me and my child from my home, never again to see my beloved husband. 


getbook.at/OneyJudge





Monday, October 29, 2018

Congratulations Red Sox 2018 World Series Champions!

Huzzah! Congratulations to the Boston Red Sox - 2018 World Series Champions! 
(Paul Revere is a Sox fan) 
Good times never seemed so good.
#LoveThatDirtyWater #DamageDone 

⚾️๐Ÿ†๐ŸŽ‰


Monday, October 22, 2018

The 13: TALES OF MACABRE by Stephanie Ayers


The 13: Tales of Macabre-
Killer watermelons, murderous jewelry boxes, centenarian sea whisperers, creatures of myth/legend, and more... 
This supernatural story collection will make you reconsider everything you thought you knew. At night you'll hover under your covers while looking over your shoulder in the day. Down, down in the depths they fell; bodies in the dark of a liquid hell.
Can you survive all 12?

From the thrilling author of Til Death Do Us Part and The 13: Tales of Illusory comes a second volume of twelve supernatural tales of ghosts, vampires, and things that go bump in the night.
Ayers Creative Concepts  is very excited to announce the publication of The 13: Tales of Macabre by Stephanie Ayers. Her words will jump from the page and haunt you once the lights go out. They will make you look over your shoulder during the day. This collection will make you question the “what if’s” in a whole new way. This second volume in The 13 series releases on Friday, October, 26th, 2018, and there will be a Facebook Halloween Party open to the public October 12-15, 2018. (link to event here).
Stephanie has crafted each one of these hair raising stories with unique characters and plots that will catch you completely off guard. These stories will have you cowering under the covers and glancing over your shoulders before you’re done. You can learn more about Stephanie Ayers and The 13 by following along with the book blog tour which is on her website.
An Excerpt from THE 13
Kay held the box on her lap the entire car ride home. She found herself unable to stop caressing it. The wood warmed underneath her fingertips. By the time they reached their house, she knew every crack and imperfection, not that there were many, on it by heart.

“So where will you put it?” Mike held the door for Kay as they entered her apartment.
“In the only spot it belongs in! Smack center on the mantle.” She moved gracefully and set the box on the shelf under the big TV. She stepped back and admired it. “See? Perfect!”
Mike didn’t have an opinion either way. Her apartment, her jewelry box, her choice. He admitted it looked perfect right where it was. “Will it open?”
Kay shared a smile and a small shrug and tried to lift the lid. It refused to open.
“Aw, darlin, I’m sorry.” Mike put an arm around her shoulders. She shrugged him off.
“It was only a dollar. Probably because she knew it wouldn’t open.”
“Probably why she closed up so fast afterwards, too.”
“That’s a good possibility. It’s still a great conversation piece on the mantel though. We’ve already stood around talking about it longer than any other object in this place.”
“That’s true.” Mike stepped closer and wrapped Kay in an embrace. “I can think of other things to discuss at this moment.” To emphasize his point, he dipped his head and nuzzled her neck.
She stepped away from his embrace. She didn’t know why but she wasn’t in the mood. She laughed to hide the awkwardness, and touched the jewelry box again. “Do you think it will play anyway?”
Mike picked it up and put it down just as quickly, shaking his hand as if he’d been shocked. “Damn!”
Kay laughed again. “What happened?”
“It- it- it bit me.”
Kay smirked. “It bit you? It’s a wooden box, Mike.” She picked it up and shook it in front of his face. “Look, no teeth.”
“I know it has no teeth, but I don’t know how else to explain it.” He examined his hand and held it up. “Look! Explain that, then.”
Kay took his hand. She turned it this way and that way. She opened his palm and flipped his hand over. Her grunt shared all the disgust she felt. “If I didn’t know better, I’d say it’s a rather nice hand. Too bad it’s attached to a brain dead body.”
Mike’s eyes widened. His mouth opened and closed again. His nostrils flared. He pointed to his wrist, “You don’t see that mark?”
She studied his hand again and then dropped it and stepped away. “No, I don’t. There’s nothing there.”
He pointed to the side of his hand where the meat sat ahead of the bone. He could see the bite marks clear as day. They were small, but they were there. “I can’t believe you can’t see them. They are right there.”

Purchase THE 13


Visit Stephanie's Author Page on Amazon

Tuesday, October 2, 2018

My Fav Halloween Recipe and Halloween Story




Orb in graveyard at York Village, Maine

I do paranormal investigations with a group near where I live, and I attended my very first ghost hunt with them a few nights before Halloween. About ten of us visited Old Dunstable Cemetery where some victims of a 1702 Indian massacre are buried. It’s the oldest cemetery in Nashua, dating back from when the land was part of Massachusetts. The earliest burial dates from 1687. Researchers had found the victims’ names, so we were able to locate their gravestones. The only equipment I had at the time were my dowsing rods and a digital camera. While others in the group made their attempts to contact spirits, I stood before a gravestone that read: this Man, with Seven more, that lies in this Grave; was Slew, All in A day, by the Indiens.

Orbs inside the schoolhouse, York Village, Maine

Holding my rods, I asked a few questions: Did you die in the massacre? Were you born here? You can only ask simple yes or no questions and ask the rods to cross for yes and separate for no. I got answers to all my questions. I then stood before another stone reading: Rev. Thomas Weld, Born June 1653, Settled as the first minister of the church in Dunstable Dec. 1685, probably massacred by the Indians while defending the settlement June 7, 1702, age 49. All the while, I felt a strong presence, and immediately began feeling dizzy and lightheaded. I found that this happens quite frequently when I ghost hunt. I’ve never seen a ghost, but have felt presences near me, and always get dizzy when I sense someone is nearby. I took several photos throughout the cemetery, and some came out with brightly colored arcs among the tombstones. I didn’t dare visit that graveyard on Halloween night!

HAPPY HALLOWEEN HEALTHY PUMPKIN CHEESECAKE

Ingredients:
3/4 cup low fat cottage cheese
2/3 cup nonfat plain Greek yogurt
1 tbsp. white whole wheat flour
2 tbsp. honey
1/4 tsp. salt
4 egg whites
2 tbsp. lemon juice
1/2 cup pumpkin puree (not pumpkin pie filling)
1/2 tsp. pumpkin pie spice, no sugar added

Directions:

Place everything in your blender and blend until smooth. Pour into a greased or parchment lined cake pan or a mini scone pan.

Bake at 350 F for 50 minutes.

Optional : When cooled, top with whipped cream 

Enjoy!

1 serving = 1/8 of the entire cake

Carbs: 13 gm

Let's Connect:






Tuesday, August 28, 2018

My Biographical Romance FOR THE LOVE OF HAWTHORNE is .99 for Kindle This Week

We all read Hawthorne's stories and books THE SCARLET LETTER and THE HOUSE OF THE SEVEN GABLES in school, but did you learn what made the handsome brooding genius tick, and what haunted him?



Here's a snippet from FOR THE LOVE OF HAWTHORNE:

(Yes, he actually did say Thoreau was 'ugly as sin' - maybe after too much Port, maybe not!)

I joined myself to him heart and spirit, but he still remained enclosed in his shell. It softened, yet I couldn’t hasten its shattering. He turned down invites from our friends—rather, my friends—Margaret Fuller, my revered Ralph Waldo, Elizabeth Hoar who’d filled the Manse with those fragrant bouquets, so I invited them to the Manse instead. When my friends Anna Chase and Sarah Shaw called, Nathaniel emerged from his study, said hello, and retreated back inside. He referred to our constant stream of visitors as “persons who venture within our sacred precincts and who have intruded into the hallowed shade.” This happened constantly, not only when he was in the throes of writing. He veiled himself from others, since he veiled himself from himself, a divine mystery, so to himself.
He seemed most companionable with the affable and witty Henry Thoreau. But after too many glasses of Port he couldn’t resist commentary: “He’s as ugly as sin, long-nosed, queer mouthed, and with uncouth and somewhat rustic, although courteous manners.”
If he’d imbibed any more Port, he’d have forgotten his courteous manners.
Did his seclusion bother me? Of course, being his polar opposite. But such was his nature, and I did not attempt to change him. His being gregarious as I would pose a bigger problem. Better that only one of us be overly sociable. Otherwise we’d hardly see each other.

Purchase FOR THE LOVE OF HAWTHORNE
.99 Worldwide for Kindle This Week

Wednesday, August 22, 2018

Book Quote Wednesday on Twitter, #BookQW

Author Mindy Klasky started Book Quote Wednesday a few years ago, and it's become very popular. Authors, contact her at @MindyKlasky on Twitter and ask her to add you to her mailing list. Every Monday she'll send you the word for Wednesday. Find that word in your book and Tweet with #BookQW.

Today's word is FAST.

This is from my biographical thriller SHARING HAMILTON. In 1791, Hamilton and his beautiful mistress Maria Reynolds engaged in a sordid affair which became the young nation's first public sex scandal, ruining his chances for the presidency.

"Hold me, Alex." My arms held him fast.
He unwrapt my arms from around his neck. "I can't, Maria. I've a wife waiting for me at home."


SHARING HAMILTON is free today for Kindle.

Monday, August 20, 2018

My Guest, Author and Editor Kaycee John Tells Us How to Catch An Editor's Eye, or Ear, or Heart


My guest Kaycee John is a Renaissance woman with many talents and a very full plate! Authors, read her advice that’s invaluable at any stage of your career. 

About Kaycee


Published author and editor Kaycee John honed her presentation skills the same way she learned most of life's lessons—the hard way.

As the director of a victim advocacy agency she often found herself standing at the front of classrooms filled with raw police recruits, women's studies and criminal justice majors, and emergency medicine providers, dispelling the myths that surround sex crimes and teaching effective techniques for dealing with victims of violence. Then came press conferences, op-ed pieces for the local papers and news bites on the nightly news. All this while raising three terrific kids and working weekends as a nursing supervisor.

These days she speaks from a different POV: as a once-fledgling author who survived the trenches of rejection and learned how to turn her stories into award winners. She knows the pain of less than encouraging comments from contest judges and acquiring editors so is determined to pay it forward and help others turn so-so submissions into contract offers.

How to Catch An Editor's Eye, or Ear, or Heart

1. Follow the rules of the publisher you are submitting to. If they ask for a double space partial, one inch margins on all four sides, written in Courier or Times New Roman font, do it. If they don't publish inspirational or erotica, do not submit the hottest, sexiest thing ever to come down the pike because it's the best thing you've ever written and all your pals think it's the bomb. If the publisher asks for a partial [usually the first three chapters not to exceed fifty pages], send the first three chapters and don't go over fifty pages. Trying an end-run doesn't work. 

2. Great characters are unique and believable, right down to the warts on their big toes. They hang with interesting people and live in cool places, real or invented. And while we're talking about where a character lives, treat the setting as another character in the book. For each lead, use their choices in food, movies/TV, reading for pleasure, sports heroes [or anti-sports] and style of underwear as a way to flesh them out. Don't be afraid to take risks. A woman who routinely dresses in severe dark colored suits, ankle breaker heels and pristine white blouses paints a picture of a no-nonsense ball-buster career woman. What if she wears sheer lingerie underneath the suit, or maybe none at all. What if that same no-nonsense professional is drawn to a man in hip-hugging jeans, wrinkled flannel shirt over a ratty t-shirt and muddy boots? To me, her tastes in men make her a three dimensional character over a woman who plays it safe by sticking to her side of the professional fence. Trust me, opposites do attract in real life and in fiction. 

3. Keep things, like the setting, simple. Draw yourself a map if you like and refer to it as often as you need in order to keep characters' actions logical and purposeful. On this map, mark in the churches, schools, laundromat, bars, post office and grocery stores. Have a working knowledge of what the area is like during each season. There's nothing worse than an author who has her characters taking a quick dip in the outdoor pool in the middle of May in Western New York. As a long-term resident of Western New York, NO ONE deliberately swims in an outdoor pool at this time of year—unless they’re certifiable or card carrying members of the local Polar Bear club. 

4. Pay attention to the voices of each character, both primary and secondary. A person with little formal education or who is still in their teens is not often going to use multi-syllabic words, unless they possess an off the scale IQ. As an editor I don't need to be reaching for a dictionary because I don't know what a word means. Likewise, don't have each character use the same vernacular. For example, the word “Aye-yuh” is a commonly used phrase in Central New York where I was raised. Perhaps in reality every adult in the small town of Fabius NY says “Aye-yuh” when trying to convey they agree or understand what the speaker is saying. As much as I don't like reaching for a dictionary; I don't like needing a score card in order to keep characters straight. 

5. Build the story around characters who have well-defined Goals, Motivation and Conflict. If a character doesn't have a logical and realistic goal, with logical and realistic motivation, I don't want to read about them. If a story doesn't have conflict, internal and external, don't send it my way. To simplify:  Hannah Heroine wants ____ [goal] because ______ [motivation] but ______ is preventing her from achieving or attaining that goal [conflict]. It works really well if Henry the Hero has goals and motivation which are in direct conflict with what Hannah wants. 

6.  I'd like to talk a bit about sexual tension. If you plan a romance or perhaps a romantic suspense, carefully and slowly work the attraction into the story. Personal interest is one thing, and is important to mention by the time page 20 has rolled around. Don't have your characters, especially those who just met five minutes ago, be thinking about what the other looks like naked. Too Much Too Soon. 

7.  Show don't tell. Don't tell me Allison, age fifty, is exhausted and leave it there. Show me her pale, pinched features; the slow drag in her gait and slumped posture. Don't tell me the meal Hannah and Henry shared was delicious. Show me the juices seeping from the cut of steak, the steam rising from Henry's baked potato, the burst of tart cranberries filling Hannah's mouth with the first bite of a fresh from the oven muffin. It might be cold as a witch's butt in Western New York in February. Show me the frost on the windows, the impassable roads and bitter bone-wracking chills that make sleep impossible.

8. Point of View. On a personal level, I prefer reading third person POV. As an editor, first person makes me sigh and ask 'why did the author do this?'. Omniscient POV—like some unseen, all knowing being floats over the action, telling the reader what each characters thinks and feels, gnashes my molars into dust. And head hopping makes me nuts. Some NYT's multi-published authors pull it off, and do it well. When you're first starting out, keep it simple. Stay in one character's head. It's safer for all concerned. 

9. Passive Voice. In the words of Stephen King: adverbs are not our friends. Please don't have a character 'jokingly ask' or 'laughingly remark'. Let them joke—straight out. Have them laugh, long, loud and deep. Keep the adverbs in the desk drawer where they belong. Make your sentences strong and active. Keep 'was' 'were' 'could' 'would' out of your prose. 

Examples: Jane could hear the fear in Dick's voice. BETTER: Jane heard fear in her lover's voice, saw angst in his furrowed brow and hunched shoulders. 
Dick was standing there, waiting impassively for the train to arrive. BETTER: Frozen in place,  Dick waited in line with the rest of the late evening commuters for the last train to arrive. 

10. Please, please, please remember: evaluation of any submission is one person's opinion. Before I am an editor, I am a reader. If a story doesn't grab me, I'm likely not going to offer a contract. Following the Wild Rose Press philosophy, as well as my own, it's my job to tell a reader why the story doesn't 'work' for me. It's not personal. But . . . if different people, such as critique partners or other editors are saying the same thing about your writing, pay attention to it. As one person, my opinion might be off the wall; three people who make the same observation make a difference. Listen. 

Lastly, here are two excellent references for authors, new and maybe not so new (click on the titles for the Amazon links):

Revision and Self Editing by James Scott Bell

Fire Up Your Fiction by Jodie Renner

Both are excellent sources.

Thanks for letting me run my mouth, Diana. It's been great. 

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Wednesday, August 8, 2018

Meet Marie Lavender and Read About Her Futuristic Paranormal Romance BLOOD INSTINCTS. Enter the Other World at Your Own Risk...

About Marie



Multi-genre author of Victorian romance, UPON YOUR RETURN, and 23 other books. Reached the Top 10 Authors list on AuthorsDB.com for the last 3 years. TOP 20 Authors of 2018 on Amy’s Bookshelf Reviews blog. DIRECTIONS OF THE HEART was nominated for the Author Academy Awards. UPON YOUR LOVE and THE MISSING PIECE placed in the TOP 10 on the 2017 P&E Readers' Poll. DIRECTIONS OF THE HEART was nominated for the 2017 Reader's Choice Awards. The I Love Romance Blog became a finalist in StartDating DK's Romance Blog Awards of 2017. ILRB landed on Feedspot’s 2017 TOP 100 Novel Blogs and TOP 100 Romance Blogs.

DIRECTIONS OF THE HEART placed in the TOP 10 Books of 2017 on Amy’s Bookshelf Reviews blog. TOP 20 Authors of 2017 on Amy’s Bookshelf Reviews blog. Mystery Blogger Award for 2017. A to Z Blog Challenge Survivor in 2016. March 2016 Empress of the Universe title - winner of the "Broken Heart" themed contest and the "I Love You" themed contest on Poetry Universe. SECOND CHANCE HEART and A LITTLE MAGICK placed in the TOP 10 on the 2015 P&E Readers' Poll. Nominated in the TRR Readers' Choice Awards for Winter 2015. Poetry winner of the 2015 PnPAuthors Contest. The Versatile Blogger Award for 2015. Honorable Mention in the 2014 BTS Red Carpet Book Awards. Finalist and Runner-up in the 2014 MARSocial's Author of the Year Competition. Honorable mention in the January 2014 Reader's Choice Award. Liebster Blogger Award for 2013, 2014 and 2016. 2013 and 2014 Amazon Bestseller Ranking for UPON YOUR RETURN. Winner of the Great One Liners Contest on the Directory of Published Authors.

Marie lives in the Midwest with her family and three cats. She has been writing for a little over twenty-five years. She has more works in progress than she can count on two hands. Since 2010, Marie has published 24 books in the genres of historical romance, contemporary romance, romantic suspense, paranormal romance, dramatic fiction, fantasy, science fiction, mystery/thriller, literary fiction and poetry. She has also contributed to several anthologies. Her current published series are The Heiresses in Love Series, The Eternal Hearts Series, The Magick Series, The Code of Endhivar Series and The Blood at First Sight Series.

About BLOOD INSTINCTS



Enter the Other World at your own risk…

What if you found out that you weren't exactly…human?

Myah Sullivan is suddenly living that nightmare. There are Others in the world, dangerous, supernatural creatures that make her mind spin and cause her to question the reality sheรข€™s always known.

Oliver King is her savior, a vampire who tries to show her the way. Through her journey she learns far more than she ever thought she would about herself, and about the past. Soon, she discovers that there is so much more to meeting Oliver than mere happenstance.

Can Myah accept her new reality, or will she retreat into that normal, safe world she once thought was her own?

Meet the hero of BLOOD INSTINCTS, Oliver King, AND Marie, in these in-depth interviews:



1. What is your occupation?  Are you any good at it?  Do you like it?

I am an artist. Working on portraits and landscapes gives me an outlet I wouldn’t have had otherwise, so yes, I enjoy it. And if my fans and manager have anything to say about it, I guess I do all right.

But I once was a Hunter in the Other World, keeping supernatural miscreants in line. I was a warrior and trainer of recruits.

2. What is your family like?

(Looks away.) They are all gone now. When they were still alive, we were very happy. My parents were usually supportive, and I had a tendency to feel protective of my little sister.

3. What did your childhood home look like?

I lived in an Antebellum estate in Leesburg, Virginia. The house was large and white with black shutters, surrounded by lush fields.

4. Do you have any hobbies? What do you enjoy doing?

Besides painting, I tackle woodworking projects in my free time. And I’m pretty good at Judo and Aikido.

5. What is your greatest dream?

My greatest dream is to have a family of my own someday, even if that only means finding a female who is an Other, like me. But vampires have a long life span, so I have a lot of time on my hands.  (He winks.)

6. What kind of person do you wish you could be? What is stopping you?

I’ve outgrown lamenting my fate as a vampire. I have accepted it. I think all of my trials made me who I am, and I’m all right with that.

7. Who was your first love?

Was…of course, I had crushes on females in the past. But no woman has really made me want more than I already have… except for Myah.

8. What's the most terrible thing that ever happened to you?

Losing my family while I was away in battle. I don’t think I’ll ever forgive myself. The only solace I have is that my sister got to live a full life.

9. What was your dream growing up? Did you achieve that dream? If so, in what ways was it not what you expected? If you never achieved the dream, why not?

Honestly, I can’t remember those early dreams. My father expected me to go into the family business; I didn’t want that, though. I guess, in a way, I achieved what I aimed for. I became something more than what he wanted for me.

10. Who is your role model?

My shifter friend Hank…he’s a good male who made his own family in this world of Normals, and somehow he has managed to protect them. To be happy. Shouldn’t we all aim for that goal?

11. Is there someone you pretend to like but really dislike?

I don’t need to pretend to like someone. It’s a waste of effort.


12. What is your deepest desire?
That Myah will give me a chance and let me in.

13. What is your greatest fear?

I suspect she won’t accept the combined beauty and peril of the Other World.

Thank you for visiting us today.

* * *

Let’s shift over and get the author’s perspective.  We have Marie on the stage today.  Hi, Marie!

We just got to talk to the hero of your story, Oliver.  Quite an interesting character.

1.   Can you tell us a little about him?

Sure! Oliver is a 207 year old vampire. He’s had a tough life. He is also a gentleman, and I can’t resister that in a male character.

2.   What are your character's greatest strengths?

Oliver is honorable, brave, and multi-talented.

3. What are his greatest weaknesses?

Myah is his greatest weakness. He wasn’t prepared for his response to her.

4. What are some of his favorite foods?

Like some, he enjoys good food and savors wine. But he tries to mainly stick to forms of red meat. He doesn’t drink blood all the time. If he eats human food, though, he needs to limit his intake or he’ll get sick.

5. What's a positive quality that your character is unaware that he has?

Oliver is more heroic than he’d ever guess.

6.   Will readers like or dislike him, and why?

They will definitely like him, especially the fact that he is patient with Myah.
Well, now that we have a real taste of  Oliver, we have a few questions for you as well as the author.

7. What first gave you the idea for Blood Instincts?

When I knew it was time to write the sequel to Second Nature, the premise that kept coming to me was…what if I found out I was something more than human? And it just snowballed from there.

8. What is your writing style like?  Are you a pantster or a plotter?

I am a hybrid actually, a bit of both. I write as many random scenes as I can, and then I write a full outline to give myself some guidance. After that, I just keep working on each section until the book is finished. Maybe it doesn’t sound too glamorous, but the process works for me.

9. I’m throwing this one in for our aspiring writers.  Did you come across any specific challenges in writing Blood Instincts or getting it published?  What would you do differently the next time?

I guess you could say time placement became an issue. Eventually, I decided to throw a lighthearted, futuristic angle on it. And the problem resolved itself. I probably wouldn’t do anything different the next time. Back when I wrote the Heiresses in Love Series, I came across the same dilemma with the time spans between each book, and that worked out all right.

Did I have trouble getting the novel published? No, I just had to submit the manuscript to my publisher, who previously handled the sequel, and soon they accepted Blood Instincts too.


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