It’s in the voice

I’ve been reading romance novels since—forever and haven’t read a romance I didn’t love—well maybe one or two. Several years ago my “to read” stack of books was growing and my reading time was shrinking. A time when I was working fifty plus hours a week and free time was at a premium.

I spent the day with author Linda McLaughlin, shopping at Barnes and Noble (adding to the “to read” stack) when we found an audio cassette box set of Nora Roberts’ The Key Trilogy. Linda asked if I’d read the trilogy, and sadly I had not. In fact, I’d only read one or 9781491542071_p0_v1_s192x300two of Nora’s books. She suggested giving the box set a try. I’d only listened, or tried to listen, to one audio book before when a friend let me borrow a mystery-suspense novel. I ejected the first cassette within minutes because the narrator’s voice drove me crazy, and never tried one again. At the time, I spent a minimum of two hours a day sitting on the freeway going to and from work, and since my car had a cassette player I decided to give audio books a second chance. If this one faired better, then I would be able to read more authors—no, listen to more novels by authors I hadn’t had time to read.

I slid the first cassette to The Key of Light into the dash. Brother, what a difference a voice makes. Within minutes Susan Ericken’s wonderful voice swept me into the lives of Malory Price, Dana Steele and Zoe McCourt and the world surrounding Warrior’s Peak. When I finished The Key of Light, I immediately started book two, The Key of Knowledge and finished with the Key of Valor.

One audio book led to another and another and another. Before I knew it, I’d listened to numerous titles by Nora, including J.D. Robb. I added other authors I didn’t have time to read. Then I started listening to favorite books I’d read. My favorite historical romance is 9781469261492_p0_v2_s192x300Saving Grace by Julie Garwood. I’ve read the book several times and when I was finally able to obtain an audio version, I was in seventh heaven. Performed by Rosalyn Landor, the Highlands and the Scottish warrior Gabriel MacBain became so vivid in my mind. I remember listening to Jennifer Cruzie’s Agnes and the Hit Man and laughing out loud while driving down the freeway.

My audio library is still growing. I now have either CD’s or MP3-CD’s in both unabridged and abridged (I prefer unabridged). I have even repurchased certain audio books I originally bought in cassette format. I recently read an article that stated there has been a strong growth in audio books in companies such as Audible. Amazon’s Kindle Edition offers an audible narration with your book’s purchase. OverDrive is a digital download platform for public libraries.

Even though I no longer find myself sitting on the freeway for hours at a time, I still prefer listening to an audio book instead of a music channel. And heaven forbid if I forgot to bring an audio book along.

If you have never tried an audio book, why not give one a try? You too might find yourself falling for them as I have.

INSPIRATION…where does it come from?

I’m often asked where my ideas and inspirations come from by family members, friends and new acquaintances when they find out I’m a writer. My answer—everywhere: when I travel, just out and about, or reading travel and cooking magazines. I take pictures galore to remember settings and save articles that have piqued my interest.

Here’s an example. My professional background is in the field of real estate. Whenever I’m in a new town or city, I pick up the local real estate magazine showing homes for sale. I flip through the pages, look at the pictures and read the listings. I usually fall in love with at least one or two of the homes. One time I read the intro for a property that went something like this:

Nestled in the stately ponderosas, this 5,000 square foot cedar and redwood home weaves modern comforts with endearing rusticity. A huge stone fireplace graces the living room area, while high ceilings and glassed dining area show off breathtaking views. Five bedroom suites provide warmth and elegance, with most rooms overlooking either the lake or the forest. In addition, the 30 plus acre parcel provides a wealth of outdoor activities. This is one of the finest homes ever to come on the market. Priced to sell quickly. It won’t last long.

I can tell you my imagination went wild. I started to think about a heroine who needs a fresh start. She reads an advertisement (like the one above) on a real estate website and decides then and there to put in an offer to buy the property (sight unseen of course). When she arrives she finds that yes, it is nestled in the stately ponderosas, but the modern comforts are not endearing at all. In fact, they look to be from the 1940’s. And so the story begins.

My niece took a picture when she was in Oregon and sent it to me of train IMG_2593tracks leading into the woods. And I was off on an adventure. Might hero or heroine be returning home after running away years before??

One day I was out walking at Downtown Disney by the Disneyland Hotel and I saw a man talking on his cell phone by the gated swimming pool area. I started to think, was his wife sitting by the pool watching their children and wondering if her husband was again talking to the office or worse, his mistress? Was this the last straw?

I’m working on a new project I was inspired to write when a friend sent me a picture of a lighthouse on a charming little island. This one will have a bit of suspense and I will be blogging about it occasionally as I go through the

I wish you and yours a glorious 2016! I hope it’s filled with relaxing days reading your favorite author and a few new ones.

Jann Ryan

Take me there…with Katie Keelor

Val MilletteIf I didn’t live here, I’d want to live there.  If I didn’t live now, I’d want to live then.  If I didn’t do this, I’d want to do that.  Curiosity about history and wanting to know what happened in the past…you become a time-traveler. As a writer, add travel to historic locations only fuels the fire.  Every place I visit I want to know what it would be like to live in that era and there’s where the time-traveling takes place.  It’s such fun!

My first “real” trip took me to the legendary St. Winifred’s Well in Holywell, Wales.  Later trips found me dazzled by the Book of Kells and the famous library at Trinity College in Dublin, Ireland, swooning over the magnificent architecture of John Ryland’s Library in the industrial manufacturing city of Manchester, England and later to my grandparents’ birthplace in Blackburn, Lancashire—one of the most important cotton producers in the world and just one of the hundreds of cities, small towns and villages where the majority of the work force kept the cotton mills operating in the 1800’s.  For “fun” I traveled with a good friend on a tour of Regency-era London, Bath and Brighton and other locations in-between where the passage of time has been overlooked and history preserved.  My last “real” trip took me to never-to-be-forgotten sights of Paris and the silk weaving center of Lyon, France.

Closer to home, I love going to Sacramento.  Yes, I have family living there but you will find that our state’s capitol is such an interesting place.  Before each visit my son’s usual question to me is “What do you want to do while you’re here?”  and unless I have something special in mind, my usual answer is “Let’s do something you haven’t done yet.”

His response to a recent challenge resulted in a trip downtown to the Old Sacramento Historic Park and the “underground tour.”  Another weekend living the past during “Gold Rush Days” was all it took for me to get the idea for my current novel “Swept Away.”

Today, California is experiencing a serious drought.  Not so in the mid-1800’s.  In the winter of 1861-62, heavy snowfall and 45 days of rain inundated the city of Sacramento breaking through the levees with momentous flooding.  A fantastical idea came out of this catastrophe—in 1864 the citizens banded together to raise the streets 21 feet higher than the river’s edge, or 9 feet higher than the street level. Close your eyes.  Can you imagine watching the state’s capitol building balancing on hundreds of screw jacks being raised less than an inch a day?

I can.  Take me there…please.

Barb DeLong – Writing Magic

I didn’t start out writing paranormal romance. As a youngster, I loved all the westerns that were on TV at the time. Dating myself, I know. You’d think a western historical romance would be in my writing future, and I did devour a lot of those as a reader in later years. Horses and hunky cowboys – what’s not to like?  iOCX7EjJdTlDkbSF5Y9mWhIJ_9xkZa0jUU7XoajAWLo

Most of my romance writing life until fairly recently has been in the contemporary romance genre. A story about a big-time lawyer, burnt out and needing a change, goes to work on a Kentucky thoroughbred breeding farm. A harried widow and mother of three kids gets kicked out of her rented home along with a pregnant Afghan hound, a sweet boa constrictor and various other pets. A mushroom researcher in the Pacific Northwest, in danger of losing her grant, is aided by an undercover cop and a very rascally raccoon.

If you didn’t notice, animals of all sorts make their way into my stories. When I finally turned to paranormal romance, animals came along for the ride. I’ve read many paranormals, sci-fi’s, fantasies, and got my fill of werewolves, vampires, hybrids thereof and other weird and wonderful creations. Most of these stories were dark, serious, world-as-we-know-it threatening. When I came across the light-hearted and humorous, I loved it. One of the first books I read where I laughed out loud was Jill Barnett’s Bewitching. I loved Jill’s slightly inept witch. This is what I wanted to write–paranormals with a light-hearted touch.

I watched Hocus Pocus, The Good Witch, Practical Magic, and other iconic humorous movies about witches and how they wielded their powers for good or mischief. I read more light-hearted paranormals. I took notes, studied the craft of writing funny. Took more notes. Ideas swirled like the ether rising from a smoldering cauldron. My series, Charmed by a Witch, was born. Book One in the series, my current work-in-progress called Charm’d, is about a witch who can communicate tele-magically with animals. She has a ferret familiar with powers of her own. She can disappear and appear at will.

I find in animals a pureness of spirit, a sweet innocence and guileless honesty. They surprise and delight me. That they should follow me into my paranormals was only natural. My quirky witch and her animal entourage make putting fingers to keyboard a happy occasion.

Romance and Writing What I Know- Jill Jaynes

Jill Jaynes

A wise and wonderful Romance author, Maggie Osbourne, once said that as writers “we write the stories we are compelled to tell.” She said that most writers who look back over the books they have written will find all their stories are built on the same theme, and they often don’t even realize it. These can be themes like- second chance at love; forgiveness and redemption; healing family relationships. The list goes on.

This is because it is human nature to try to work out that kernel of a problem whose solution eludes us, or is so central to our lives it has shaped us into the people we are.

So, lucky me, as writer I have a perfect outlet for working these things out. In writing, we call it passion. I write the story that is in my heart.

Robert Frost said, “No tears in the writer, no tears in the reader,” and this is more essential for Romance authors than authors of almost any other genre.

I know I am only telling a story about fictional people, but you, my Romance reader, are along for the emotional journey. And if I’m going to provide a true, honest emotional journey that you can identify with, see yourself in, then I have to start with me.

I have to bare my soul (maybe more than a little) and share my emotional reality. When I embrace the emotion as I write the scene, feel the feelings with the character and put that bravely onto the page, I know that I can evoke these same feelings in the person reading it. If I side-step the emotion, if I’m not honest about it, you, dear reader, will not buy in. You won’t care about my character and their struggle- after all why should you, since I clearly don’t?

It takes guts to “bleed on the page,” but really, that’s what I’m here for. I love stories filled with emotion and heart, and if it means I need to start with mine, then I will take that other excellent writing advice and write what I know.

Meet Carrie Singer

Carrie Singer

I was raised by gypsies.

We moved back and forth between California and Nebraska, town to town, numerous times. My parents were on their own adventures which meant I and seven siblings were along for the ride. Growing up playing in either nearby orange groves or corn fields it was quite an journey. My father was a master storyteller. He could make my cousins and I believe anything. We still laugh about the story of him being blood brother to the Teton Sioux. One of my cousins labels his stories Truish. Because there would always be some truth in there.

Fortunately there was always a library near by and books became my friends. Tolstoy and Dickens, biographies and science fiction. But when I discovered Jane Austen the trajectory of my imagination changed. At a very early age I had started writing songs, poetry and short stories. Now my friends and I wrote stories for each other of adventure and romance reading them aloud at slumber parties.

After college I went on to work in the health care field in Radiology. I loved the technical aspect of the job with all the new medical advances. And I love talking to people to be able to hear their stories.

I loved Janet Evanovich’s Stephanie Plum novels. And decided, AH, that’s what I want to be able to emulate. Adventure and comedy. What could be better?

Romantic comedies were always my favorite movies. French Kiss is an all time favorite Showing the complex relationships men and women have. The comedy in certain situations and that love can be found through laughter. It was relatable to my own life.

Once I fell in love with romance novels the desire to write hit me. I have been a member of RWA and the Orange County Chapter for many years. I am presently working on a RomCom that travels from the Bower’s Museum in Santa Ana CA to Paris, France. Along with the help of some magic.

I live in a small town in Southern California surrounded by hills where I am devoted to my two children and am now grandma to 4 delightful grandchildren.

Jann Ryan—and happily ever after

Jann Audiss

I love reading romance novels—what more can I say? Born and raised in Orange County, California, I grew up with the smell of orange blossoms as I played outside around my home. I have to admit, I was never a bookworm. Instead of reading, I would use my imagination to create stories where I was the heroine, and the hero was from a current TV show. My friends and I would play out different scenarios, build forts in the grassy fields, climb trees and turn them into castles. My dad had a couple of wooden sawhorses that we pretended were real; I named mine Trigger, and I’d ride off into the sunset.

As life went by, my interests were those of a typical teenager. The only time you would find me reading a book was for school. I did read The Winds of War by Herman Wouk in my early twenties. I enjoyed the novel (it took forever to get to the end), but it didn’t drive me out to a book store to buy another to read. It wasn’t until I was in my mid-thirties and I stayed the weekend at my mother’s home. It was summer and the temperature was well over a hundred by noon, and we were all sequestered in the house. My son was down for a nap, and for a change I had some free time. I found a basket of paperbacks, mostly westerns, as my mom loved Larry McMurtry novels. I dug around and pulled out one that had an interesting cover—a romance. What? My mom read romance novels! I had nothing but time to waste, so I settled in on the sofa and turned to the first page. AND MY LIFE HAS NEVER BEEN THE SAME!

I took every romance she had in the basket home with me. When I finished one, I grabbed another. When I finished them all, I went to the small local bookstore in the nearby shopping mall and a whole new world opened to me. Me, the woman who didn’t like to read. There were shelves full of romance novels. I had no idea there would be so many to choose from. Historicals were my favorite from authors such as Julie Garwood, Amanda Quick, Valerie Sherwood and a host of others. Eventually I worked my way into the world of romantic suspense when I found out Amanda Quick was also Jayne Ann Krentz and Jayne Castle. It was nothing to read into the wee hours of the morning, sometimes finishing two or more novels per week.

The novels I read gave me so much enjoyment that I wondered if I could do the same for readers. First I purchased a few “how to books” about writing. But it didn’t take me long to realize that wasn’t enough. A friend, who also had a love for romance and a desire to write novels, found a local adult education novel writing class taught by Maralys Wills, and the local Orange County Chapter of Romance Writers of America®. As much as I loved historicals, I recognized that I had a contemporary voice and a love for writing romantic suspense, emphasis on the happily-ever-after ending.

It has been a wild and bumpy ride, filled with ups and downs. Sometimes I had to put my writing on hold. Currently, I’m working on a romantic suspense set in Stellar Bay, a fictitious town on the California central coast. I plan to blog as I go, so I hope you follow along.