Tuesday, June 19, 2018

Guest post: Behind the Title (Creation of a Love Story) by Romance Author Cynthia Roberts

Welcome, readers.

Today I have a special guest post for you. I hope you enjoy it!

Behind the Title
(Creation of a Love Story)


                Creating romantic fiction has been a passion of mine, ever since I was old enough to understand the connection between the sexes. I think I was twelve, when I wrote my first love story and like most young minds; I truly thought it was a masterpiece.

            There’s another masterful connection that has been going on now for centuries, and that, is the one between music and literature. There is a full alphabet of songs that have been written retelling a work of literature as far back as the 18th century.

            “If I Die Young” by The Band Perry was based on a poem, Lady of Shallot. “Love Story” by Taylor Swift is loosely based on Romeo & Juliet. The artist Sting’s “Moon Over Bourbon Street” was based on an Anne Rice novel, Interview with a Vampire.

            More interesting though, the anatomy of a song has also within its lyrics a pretty fascinating back story as well. For more than five decades, authors have been creating fictional pieces and bringing readers deep inside the lyrics. I grew up listening to my mom’s collection of romantic ballads from the 40s, 50s, and 60s. Those lyrics have forever been embossed into my brain, I still sing along whenever I hear them. Lyrics like those back then told a story, and they were so strong, and emotional, their affect were everlasting.

            I have a library of love songs on iTunes I listen to religiously, while I write, as a source of inspiration and a tool that gets me in the mood and mindset I need to be in. It is from this list, I began to formulate a series of ideas, followed by cryptic notes on paper, and finally the creation of my Love Song Standards Series. I made a list of the songs I connected with personally, whittling it down to thirty-five. That number was quite overwhelming, and I thought virtually impossible to create that many scenarios. So, I chipped away at the songs and their lyrics, until I decided on a top ten.

            I had made a commitment to myself to finish one book a month throughout 2016, writing a chapter every day, leaving me ample time to polish and edit each one. I knew from the on-start, what I wanted my covers to look like. They had to resemble each other in a way that would tie them together, but strong enough for them to stand on their own. My designer Covers by Ramona did an exceptional job tying all my ideas together.

            After Book 6, Chances Are, was completed, my brain was fried. I took a short reprieve and switched it up a bit with a romantic suspense, A Pawn for Malice. Happily, the first two books of my series received a 5-Star Readers Favorite Award, which ended my promotion efforts. I was forced to take an extended break due to personal issues that had set me back both physically and emotionally. My focus now, is to both promote my series and finish the final four titles All The Way, It’s Impossible, Sincerely, and Unforgettable.

            If you’re a lover of contemporary romance, please do check out my Love Song Standards Series. Buy links and descriptions are available on my website at RomanceAuthorCynthiaRoberts.com. Book #1, Unchained Melody, is available at all online retailers for 99 cents.

Hugs from me to you. untitled

" This is definitely a novel that I would read again. It is going to stay on my bookshelf for a very, very long time."  —Readers' Favorite



Monday, June 18, 2018

Special guest post by Daina Jurika-Owen about refugee life stories


I have a special guest post by Daina Jurika-Owen today.

Originally from Latvia, when Daina Jurika-Owen, Ph.D., came to the U.S., her first job was at a refugee resettlement agency in Abilene, Texas. Throughout her tenure, she learned to navigate the complicated waters of the refugee process while meeting people with unique and uplifting stories of survival.

In her book, Ten Cultures, Twenty Lives: Refugee Life Stories, Daina guides us through their journeys and draws us into the world of refugees and resettlement staff, describing the passion and energy needed to help these courageous storytellers resettle in the US and the challenges they faced.

Ten Cultures, Twenty Lives: Refugee Life Stories, winner of the 2018 IPPY Silver Award, features refugee storytellers from a broad swath of cultures—Rwanda, Congo, Liberia, Cuba, Iraq, Bhutan, and more—who reveal their compelling, sometimes humorous, often bittersweet tales of resettlement in West Texas. Through their life stories, refugees share their powerful experiences about the long, hard road they took to get to the US. She says, “Their story worlds offer a deeper understanding of humanitarian causes, cultural diversity, and the complex issues faced in a variety of ways.” Each chapter contains a hand-drawn map of the respective country to serve as the entry point to each culture and life story, along with photos as representations of each ethnic group.

Six Lessons from Ten Cultures
As I reflect on all the valuable lessons I’ve learned from refugees while working on my book Ten Cultures, Twenty Lives: Refugee Life Stories, I realize they are totally different depending on which “hat” I choose to put on or which identity I assume. “Me” as “a professional resettlement worker turned writer/interviewer” learned something quite different from what I learned as “a simple human being.”

Well, let’s get done with “business identity” first. The main lesson here—in several disguises—was about assumptions:
  1. Never assume. Do not assume that refugees who speak fluent English know everything about American culture and social norms. It took me a while to figure this out, but after an English-speaking family from Kenya had decorated their sofa cushions with table mats and a young Liberian man did not show up for his first day of work simply because it was raining, I learned my first lessons.
  2. Assumptions followed me when I started interviewing refugees, as well. I took for granted that all refugees hated living in a refugee camp until I interviewed Issa, one of my Liberian storytellers, who stated openly that she liked her life in the refugee camp just fine. It did not matter to Issa that her bed was made of dirt and covered with straw. She could still enjoy her life in the camp and various activities—Friday evening dance parties and sports events where she was a cheerleader—and had good friends and neighbors and fellow students in the camp school. I had neglected to notice the impact of human connections.
  3. I also assumed that those same refugees who had happily shared their life stories with me while I was employed at the resettlement agency would want to tell those stories for my storybook. I was wrong. When I started my book project and called my refugee friends to invite them for interviews, many of them were not interested. I realized that refugees had shared stories with me because they had a reason: getting my attention as a refugee worker, looking for a special treatment. Their stories were meant for me as a social worker and not anyone else.

The other lessons were “personal lessons,” ones that touch all of us as human beings:
  1. The one I enjoyed most is this: everything tastes better with a dash of humor. If you can learn to laugh about your own mistakes and take your mishaps with a smile, you will be alright. Or even better—laugh, if you can! My Burundian storyteller Patrick has mastered this and makes us laugh with him as he tells about his mishaps during his first year in the US. So, when I feel too important, I remind myself about Patrick.
  2. Another lesson, a more serious one: learn to forgive. We all—or almost all—have one or two people in our lives who we cannot easily forgive. They were mean, hurt you, made you cry, shorted you of the deserved promotion at work, stole your boyfriend or girlfriend... We struggle with the notion of forgiveness. Rwandese storyteller Herman brings forgiveness to a different level, reflecting on his ability to forgive the people who killed his mother and siblings during the Rwandan genocide. In his case, he cannot hate all Hutus just because some Hutu extremists killed Tutsis—people from Herman’s ethnic group.
  3. And the final lesson: we are all human. “Oh, what’s new in that?” you’d say. But we forget about it so often that this reminder is quite in place. We often focus on our differences—different languages, traditional garbs of different colors, strange customs and traditions—but what we forget is that under all these differences, we all are human, storytellers and interviewers, case workers and newly arrived refugees, writers and readers. And we all want to live in peace, experience love and happiness, and follow our dreams. There’s nothing wrong with enjoying ethnic food, but that should not divide us.

You will find more about resettlement work and refugees and their lives in my book Ten Cultures, Twenty Lives: Refugee Life Stories (Amaya Books, 2018). I am sure each one of us has a lesson to learn, although it may be a different one.

About myself:
I am a former refugee resettlement professional and an academically trained folklorist. Originally from Riga, Latvia, I live in Abilene, Texas, and am a freelance writer, translator and refugee advocate. My nonfiction book, Ten Cultures, Twenty Lives: Refugee Life Stories is available on Amazon and at my own website. In April 2018, Ten Cultures, Twenty Lives: Refugee Life Stories was recognized with a silver medal in 2018 IPPY Awards.

I have authored several publications on culture, folklore, and proverbs and published a cultural cookbook.

I love diversity and hearing different languages in my office every day. My dream is to live through a hurricane season in Belize rainforests and collect people’s stories there.

Thank you for sharing part of the story with us today, Daina.

Friday, June 15, 2018

Interview with writer Maureen Paraventi


Writer Maureen Paraventi joins me today and we’re chatting about her new self-help book, The New Old Maid: Satisfied Single Women.

Bio:
Maureen Paraventi has worked as a morning radio personality, an assistant to a famous movie star, a website developer, a journalist, and as a social media manager and web content editor. She has written in many genres: fiction (Palm Tree Pipe Dreams), screen plays, stage plays and songwriting, and non-fiction, with her new book The New Old Maid: Satisfied Single Women. Maureen also acts with local theatre companies and performs as a singer/songwriter/musician in McLaughlin’s Alley, a pop-rock band she co-founded.

Welcome, Maureen. Please tell us about your current release.
The New Old Maid examines what it’s like to be a single woman in a society that relentlessly promotes marriage as the normal and only desirable way for adults to live. In stories that will strike a chord with any woman striving for independence, real-life women discuss their lives, experiences and hopes with unflinching honesty and wry self-awareness. The women in the book share the paths they took to overcome barriers and frustrations along with the exhilarating freedom that goes with being single.

The New Old Maid also takes a look at how depictions of fictional old maids in books, movies, stage plays and TV shows have evolved over time – and explains why such portrayals matter. Another section discusses well-known successful single women, from Diane Keaton and Darryl Hannah to Clara Barton and Oprah Winfrey.

The book speaks to a topic that’s trending and a demographic that is growing. The percentage of never-married women in the U.S. has been on the rise for decades, with more women identifying as single and eager to discuss what that means, especially in blogs.

What inspired you to write this book?
I am a single woman living what I think is an interesting and fulfilling life, but many people I meet can’t get past my unmarried status – and feel free to ask me to explain my choices in life. I decided to seek out other single women over 40 and find out how they feel about their lives; about relationships, intimacy, careers, loneliness, financial security, friendships, having children and more.


Excerpt from The New Old Maid: Satisfied Single Women:

Another single woman who has crafted a life that is ideal for her is Marcy, a ski bum in her late 50s. Actually, I’m being ironic. The word “bum” is hardly applicable; the hard-working Colorado resident is a five feet tall bundle of energy who talks as fast as she moves. Marcy teaches skiing every winter and works at a golf course every summer, doing a physically demanding job usually performed by teenagers. If that weren’t enough, she is also a server for a catering company, which she calls, “lots of fun.” (I did catering jobs when I was young, and “fun” wasn’t the word I would have used to describe them.)
In the spring and fall, Marcy travels, to Hawaii; Reno, Nevada; Mexico and to special events like Austin City Limits in Austin, Texas.
In spite of all the time she spends in the sun, Marcy is fair-skinned, with blue eyes, dark brown hair and what friends describe as a “force of nature” personality. “If you go skiing with her,” says one, “you have to be prepared for her to call out all of the way up the lift to all of the people she knows who are skiing below her!”
“I love to work,” Marcy says. “I couldn’t ski every day of my life. I like teaching and having free ski days, but I don’t think I could just ever not work. I love my life and I live in a beautiful place.”
When she was young, she thought she’d be the first one in her family to get married.
“So I started traveling and doing other things because I thought when I settled down and had kids and had a family, I wasn’t going to have time to do that. I think it was a little bit selfish on my part but I wanted to travel. Then I ended up never finding the right person. And I’m happy with me, just being me. I don’t need another part. I don’t want or need to get married, because I’m so independent that I think I’m selfish, in a way. I like to be able – at the drop of a hat – to travel, to do things I want to do. I love my life.”


What exciting story are you working on next?
A friend suggested an intriguing topic to me and I’m exploring it: single motherhood by choice. (I’m exploring writing about it, not doing it!) My friend reached a certain age and hadn’t met Mr. Right, so she decided to contact a sperm bank. She became pregnant and has given birth to a beautiful baby boy. There is, apparently, a large number of women who become single mothers by choice, for a variety of reasons.

When did you first consider yourself a writer?
I wrote and published a neighborhood newspaper when I was about ten years old. (It only lasted a few issues!) In college my writing efforts became more serious and focused. I wrote for the university newspaper and worked as a paid stringer for several local papers and magazines. At the same time, I was writing short stories and screenplays. Stage plays came much later. They have the advantage of allowing you to see people experience your work live.

Do you write full-time? If so, what's your work day like? If not, what do you do other than write and how do you find time to write?
Like a lot of writers, I have a “day job,” but I do manage to squeeze in as much writing time as I can. There’s no set schedule. I work out a lot of story ideas and plot points when I’m swimming, which I do for exercise. Spending time in a hot tub also seems helps move my writing along in my head.

What would you say is your interesting writing quirk?
I bring a lot of humor to my writing. It’s a natural part of my personality.

As a child, what did you want to be when you grew up?
I wanted to be an actress on Broadway and a spy.

Anything additional you want to share with the readers?
Thank you for reading this! I hope you’ll check out my book. I’ve gotten a lot of positive feedback on it. Single women enjoy having their perspective represented, and married women find it interesting to see a different lifestyle.

Links:

Thank you for being here today, Maureen!

Thursday, June 14, 2018

Interview with contemporary romance author Victoria Grant


Romance author Victoria Grant is here today and we are having fun talking about her new contemporary romance, Stranded in Love.

During her virtual book tour, Victoria will be awarding 3 signed paperback copies of the novel to 3 lucky randomly drawn winners (North America only). To be entered for a chance to win, use the form below. To increase your chances of winning, feel free to visit her other tour stops and enter there, too!

Welcome, Victoria. Please tell us a little bit about yourself.
Born in England to a Monty Python-loving dad and a Lawrence Welk-loving mum - tea drinkers all - we moved to Canada when I was seven. "Say book, say look" my new classmates would hound me just so they could have a good chuckle at my accent. But being incredibly shy, this was a great way for me to make friends.

My love of words and a creative imagination prompted English teachers to urge me to write for a living, especially after I got a letter from the Prime Minister who thanked me for writing to him! So cool for a twelve-year-old!

Through the years, I wrote while I earned a living as an Administrative Assistant in various companies; then I owned a Wedding Coordination business for six years (talk about romance!), all the while being happily married to the love of my life.

These interesting jobs plus wedded bliss gave me oodles of ideas for romantic plot lines, tall, dark and handsome heroes and feisty, beautiful heroines, and, of course, the happily ever afters.

I currently live in Mississauga and spend time with family and friends, and struggle daily with the wine and chocolate that somehow magically appear in my house...

And, amidst the endless cups of strong tea, while the dead parrot sketch and Cole Porter songs whirl around in my brain, I write. I will always write romances because I love creating fascinating characters whose lives I can make completely miserable before I give them their happily ever after.

Please share a little bit about your current release.
Stranded in Love is a contemporary romance. It’s Book #1 in the Calderone Family Romance Series, set in the beautiful city of Toronto. Laney Calderone is the heroine, who, when the story starts, is experiencing the worst day of her life. The hero of the story, Tyler Hammond, is not having his best day, either. The two get stuck together during a brutal snowstorm and do their best not to kill each other…or fall in love.

What inspired you to write this book?
I always wanted to write a romance novel and one day, as I watched the snow really come down, I decided that would be a fun place to start by putting the leading lady in a bad mood, then making things worse with the weather and other uncontrollable circumstances, then see what happens from there. Stranded in Love is the result.


Excerpt from Stranded in Love:
Tyler took Laney into his arms and pulled her close. The music changed to that unforgettable jazz melody she knew so well, and out of the corner of her eye she noticed Stephen on the balcony with the band leader, a devilish grin on his face. Up to his old tricks again.

“You look ravishing tonight, Ginger.” Tyler whispered in her ear. “Did I ever tell you red is my favourite colour?”

Laney tried to move to the rhythm except her feet would not obey. She felt clumsy and self-conscious dancing with Tyler with so many people watching, especially her family.

“You feel a little tense, my love. Relax and enjoy.”

She closed her eyes wishing she could walk away, but that wasn’t going to happen. Tyler held her tight and guided her effortlessly around the floor. The mesmerizing scent of his cologne reverberated through her senses and she surprised herself when she realized she was smiling. The Tyler Trap, she thought. You’ve gotten stuck in it again, you idiot!

With a deep sigh, she let herself surrender and leaned into him. He smiled and pulled her even closer. It didn’t matter to her anymore who saw them, who noticed they were so close; she didn’t care.

As she floated around the hall Laney became immersed in her surroundings. The Christmas tree lights twinkling, the distant chatter and laughter of the guests, the captivating tune, and the wonderful feel of this amazing man in her arms.

Laney wanted to freeze time again. This man, this music, this moment. She rested her chin on his shoulder and let him take complete control. They moved as one, oblivious to every eye on them as they soared in the clouds, leaving all the other guests back on Earth.


What exciting story are you working on next?
I’m thrilled to announce that Book #2 in the Calderone Family Romance Series, Write to Love, will be released next year. The hero is the youngest Calderone brother, Noel, the playboy of the family, and tells what happens when he meets feisty KC Dunlop, a newly published mystery author. I’m currently working on Book #6, the final book in this series, which tells the story of the parents, Eve and Boyd, and the obstacles they had to overcome to have their happily ever after.

When did you first consider yourself a writer?
When I was quite young. I started reading when I was 4 years old, thanks to my parents, and soon after I discovered writing came naturally to me. I always received the highest marks in class for my stories, they were always pinned on the “A Star is Born board” for Parent-Teacher night. And when teachers began telling me I had a real talent, especially for dialogue, I decided to take extra courses to improve and hone my skill as an author.

Do you write full-time? If so, what's your work day like? If not, what do you do other than write and how do you find time to write?
I’m fortunate to be able to write full-time and I love it! I’m an afternoon/night owl, I’ve discovered that’s when my creativity is at its peak, so I try to get all my errands and chores done in the morning, then I spend anywhere from 8-12 hours at my laptop. And if I’m on a roll and the story is evolving nicely, it can be 2 or 3am before I get to bed. One night just recently, I stayed up the entire night writing almost 12,000 words. I was exhausted the next day, but it was worth it.

What would you say is your interesting writing quirk?
After I’ve written a chapter, I read it out loud. It’s a completely different experience from just seeing the words on the laptop or on paper, and when I hear the dialogue, it helps me decide if that dialogue sounds right and fits the character. It also helps me catch grammar and punctuation issues.

As a child, what did you want to be when you grew up?
You mean besides a princess and a rock ‘n roll star? Unfortunately, when I was growing up, there didn’t seem to be nearly as many career choices available to women as there are now. I remember at one point wanting to be a stewardess (they now prefer to be called flight attendants), but that soon went by the wayside when I got sick on my first airplane trip. LOL. I also considered being a teacher, a nurse, and a secretary, which is what I eventually did for 25 years (and that title has changed too, they’re called administrative assistants now).

Anything additional you want to share with the readers?
I would love your readers to pick up Stranded in Love and immerse themselves in the wealthy, powerful world of Toronto’s Calderone Family. Tyler and Laney’s story is what romance novels are all about – there’s a snowball fight, dancing by firelight, a few heated arguments, and a richly deserved happily ever after. It’s getting fabulous reviews so I hope readers will enjoy my debut novel and look forward to reading the entire series.

Buy Links:

Thank you for being a guest on my blog!
Thank you for hosting me. I had lots of fun and hope to visit again.



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Wednesday, June 13, 2018

Interview with mystery sci-fi writer Tara Tyler


Today is the ninth interview in a series with the authors of

Tick Tock: A Stitch in Crime
An Insecure Writer’s Support Group Anthology
  

About the anthology:
The clock is ticking...

Can a dead child’s cross-stitch pendant find a missing nun? Is revenge possible in just 48 minutes? Can a killer be stopped before the rescuers are engulfed by a city ablaze? Who killed what the tide brought in? Can a soliloquizing gumshoe stay out of jail?

Exploring the facets of time, eleven authors delve into mysteries and crimes that linger in both dark corners and plain sight. Featuring the talents of Gwen Gardner, Rebecca M. Douglass, Tara Tyler, S. R. Betler, C.D. Gallant-King, Jemi Fraser, J. R. Ferguson, Yolanda RenĂ©e, C. Lee McKenzie, Christine Clemetson, and Mary Aalgaard.

Hand-picked by a panel of agents and authors, these eleven tales will take you on a thrilling ride into jeopardy and secrecy. Trail along, find the clues, and stay out of danger. Time is wasting...

“Each story is fast paced, grabbing the reader from the beginning.”
- Readers' Favorite, 5 stars

Founded by author Alex J. Cavanaugh, the Insecure Writer’s Support Group offers support for writers and authors alike. It provides an online database, articles and tips, a monthly blog posting, a Facebook and Instagram group, Twitter, and a monthly newsletter. www.insecurewriterssupportgroup.com


So far, we’ve had C.D. Gallant-King (on April 19), Gwen Gardner (on April 26), Jemi Fraser (on May 2), Christine Clemetson (on May 11), Rebecca M. Douglass (on May 15), Yolanda Renee (on May 23), J.R. Ferguson (on May 31), C. Lee McKenzie (on June 7) , and now Tara Tyler is here to chat about her sci-fi mystery short story called “Reset.”

Bio:
Tara Tyler is a math teacher by day who writes to inspire others to enjoy reading. She loves dogs, coffee, and is the lazy housewife, living in a world of boys with a yellow lab, three sons, and a coach husband. Join her for an adventure!

Welcome, Tara. What do you enjoy most about writing short stories?
My stories usually start out short, so I can usually fit a lot of action into a few words

Can you give us a little insight into a few of your short stories – perhaps some of your favorites?
One of my favorites is THE COMEBACK (it's in the Curiosity Quills anthology: CHRONOLOGY) – it's a zombie love story where a young man dies but his girlfriend finds a way to bring him back – but there are always consequences when you mess with the natural order of life and death. Another is a humorous horror story called HARRY – he's obsessed with his receding hairline and seeks a way to restore it, again watch out for dire consequences of the hairy kind!

What genre are you inspired to write in the most? Why?
I mostly write action-adventure and usually in the sci-fi/fantasy realms. I love inventing new worlds and not being limited by normalcy. And I usually include humor & sarcasm in my writing.

What exciting story are you working on next?
I usually have 2 or 3 projects going on at once. My latest novel is FARTHER ALONG, a Christian YA story about a downtrodden girl who is chosen to help change the world through her magnificent singing.

When did you first consider yourself a writer?
I realized I could write once I won a couple of contests and some of my stuff was published. It was more recently that I gave myself a chance at it. I've been writing for about 9 years now.

How do you research markets for your work, perhaps as some advice for writers?
I go out and find venues to sell my books, like writing conferences, book fairs, literary events, and since I'm a sci-fi/fantasy writer, sci-fi cons. Local bookstores are also friendly!

What would you say is your interesting writing quirk?
I write anywhere and everywhere – from my sun room or patio when it's nice out, to my sons' baseball games or restaurants or waiting rooms. Any free moment is usually dedicated to writing!

As a child, what did you want to be when you grew up?
A teacher – I teach math because it's easy for me and I want to make it easier for others to understand! Don't fear math, embrace it, then set it free (hahaha)

Anything additional you want to share with the readers?
Keep reading! And share your thoughts about books with others by reviewing them!

I enjoyed answering the questions. Thanks for having me!

My pleasure, thank you for being here.


Tick Tock links:

Purchase links: