Friday, May 31, 2013

WIP It Good Blogfest

Sometimes a blogfest comes around that is just too good to pass up. DL's W(h)IP It Good is one of those. Check this link out Cruising Altitude 2.0
"Our idea is that on Friday, May 31st, we will provide a forum to allow anyone interested a chance to tell the blogosphere about their most recent [W]ork [I]n [P]rogress. We’ll guide you by providing a few prompts to answer in your own post, and even give you the opportunity to solicit CP’s (partners who exchange material for detail critique – usually chapter by chapter) or Beta Readers (test readers who read entire manuscripts and offer broad opinions) if you’re looking for that."
Here's my answers to the prompts. What about you? What is your WIP about?

Here are the prompts we would like you to follow:


Word Count (projected/actual so far): 100k/106k (I need room to edit ; )

Genre: Women’s Fiction

How long have you been working on it?: Since March 2008

Elevator Pitch (if you came across an agent in an elevator ride, what couple of lines would you use to summarize your book):

Our deepest wounds come from those who should be our strongest support. The families of Cherry Hill, GA know this truth all too well.

Brief Synopsis (250 words or less):
Laura Grace Chandler knows the look of a child who needs a mother. All it takes is one look at Samantha Smith, an abused foster child, to make Laura Grace want to dive into the breach.

The only problem is, Laura Grace isn’t a mother, never has been. But she is a retired teacher who is recently widowed and needs to find a reason to keep going.
But Samantha Smith isn’t the only person in need of Laura Grace’s help to heal. Abuse is all around her and even right under her nose.

Are you looking for a Critique Partner?: Not at this time. My online community at Book and Writers Forum is filling this job.

Are you looking for a Beta Reader?: I already have several lined up for when I get a draft ready.

Monday, May 27, 2013

Writing Strong Women Characters

I found a link through the Women's Fiction Writers Association loops this week that I wanted, no needed, to share with you all.

Kameron Hurley takes on the usual stereotypes of women characters as mothers, sisters, daughters, and victims in a what that is beyond amazing. I do hope you enjoy this link.

We Have Always Fought

On the renovation front, the kitchen is nearly done. I'll be thrilled and delighted. I'm happy to say that I've gotten back to work this week on FRIENDLY FIRE after the busy lull of April and May. Cross your fingers that I can find the work ethic I had in January, February, and March... ; )

(The cherry trees have small ripened cherries among the leaves now. The birds love them, but they are only about a quarter inch in diameter. The focal image is of edible cherries in honor of them. ; )

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Author Interview: Amy Sue Nathan and Her Debut Novel--The Glass Wives

I met Amy Sue Nathan in the blogsphere when someone who knows I write women’s fiction suggested I check out Amy’s blog—Women’s FictionWriters. The blog is a wonderful celebration of women’s fiction authors, and a discussion of various writing topics, and updates on Amy’s journey to the publication with The Glass Wives, published (May 14, 2013). Also check out her website Amy Sue Nathan.

Evie and Nicole Glass share a last name. They also shared a husband.

When a tragic car accident ends the life of Richard Glass, it also upends the lives of Evie and Nicole, and their children. There’s no love lost between the widow and the ex. In fact, Evie sees a silver lining in all this heartache—the chance to rid herself of Nicole once and for all. But Evie wasn’t counting on her children’s bond with their baby half-brother, and she wasn’t counting on Nicole’s desperate need to hang on to the threads of family, no matter how frayed. Strapped for cash, Evie cautiously agrees to share living expenses—and her home—with Nicole and the baby. But when Evie suspects that Nicole is determined to rearrange more than her kitchen, Evie must decide who she can trust. More than that, she must ask: what makes a family?

ZM: The Glass Wives is a sensitive and truthful story of ex-wives, widows, and single mothers—and the children who share their lives. Amy Sue Nathan has a voice that will sweep you into its embrace.
It’s been said that all debut novels have autobiographical elements. Do you think that’s true?

Amy:  I can’t speak for anyone but me, but there is part of me in The Glass Wives. My ex-husband died suddenly after we divorced, so that was the springboard for the novel. What does that mean? It’s not based on a true story, but I got the idea from that tragic event. I promise, I do not have a young widow living in my basement (I just checked).

ZM: Tell us about The Glass Wives’ journey from first idea to publication.

Amy:  Okay, sit a spell! I started writing in 2007, queried 116 agents in 2010 and signed with Jason Yarn in October 2010, sold to St. Martin’s in October 2011. Now it’s May 2013 and my book is on shelves in stores and ereaders!

ZM: 116! Wow, you've got patience!
Amy, you’ve done so much to promote women’s fiction writers on your blog. One of your standard interview questions s, “What’s your definition of women’s fiction?” I thought I’d turn the tables on you. What’s your definition? ; )

Amy: I’m smiling, Zan Marie. Ha, you got me! To me, women’s fiction is simply an encompassing label for books that probably appeal most to women and are not about romance. I also like the term book club fiction because books that are character driven and laden with issues give book clubs some meaty pages to talk about.  I can’t believe I’m quoting myself, but here goes: Women’s fiction is a book where the main character saves herself.
ZM:  I know you’ve been on the ground floor of the new Women’s Fiction Writers Association. What’s the latest news about WFWA?

Amy: I know that the founding team is getting closer to having the legalities worked out so the site can be launched. I can’t wait!
ZM: What’s next? Do you have a new book in the works?

Amy:  I do! Right now the title is FALLING INTO PLACE and it’s about a single mom blogger who lies about having a boyfriend, she achieves internet fame based on these lies, and then is offered a job on a popular website as a relationship expert even though in real life she doesn’t date at all—and she takes it. It’s a book about the big and small lies people tell, and what has to happen for someone to come clean and face the consequences. It’s also about how our lives online can sometimes overshadow our real lives.

ZM: Many craft books stress that writers must read and read a lot. Who is your favorite author, or what is your favorite genre? What draws you to a book you read for enjoyment?

Amy: I don’t have a favorite author, but I do gravitate to women’s fiction and literary fiction, that is something I know. I dabble in reading chick lit, the occasional thriller, some memoir. But mostly I read what I like to write.

ZM: Finally, what question do you wish interviewers would ask, but they never do?

Amy: Oh wow. I guess it would be fun to talk about how exhausting launch week is so that authors who come after me can rest up now!!

AMY SUE NATHAN lives and writes near Chicago where she hosts the popular blog, Women's Fiction Writers. She has published articles in Huffington Post, Chicago Tribune and New York Times Online among many others.  Amy is the proud mom of a son and a daughter in college, and a willing servant to two rambunctious rescued dogs.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Amara Royce and Her Debut Novel—Never Too Late (And a book give away!)

I met Amara Royce at the Books and Writers Forum, of course. ; ) There’s no better place to meet new authors and trade critiques and tips on craft. Amara’s wonderful debut novel Never Too Late was published May 2 and I read it in less than two days. It’s a great read and I’m thrilled to post an interview with Amara. Check out her website at

(Amara's publisher will be giving away a of the ebook to a random commenter. Be sure to read to the end for details. ; )

Expect the unexpected, especially in a room filled with books…

Honoria Duchamp is well aware that men often consider widows easy prey for the role of mistress. What else could explain the attentions of handsome Lord Devin, and his visits to her bookshop? The much younger Viscount has even shown interest in the printing press with which she creates pamphlets on London’s basest injustices. Yet his chief interest appears to be in her…

Coerced to investigate Nora’s controversial pamphlets, Devin expected to find a bookish matron. Instead, he is taken with Nora’s womanly beauty, sharp intellect, and quick wit. Soon, what begins as an unwelcome task becomes a pleasure, and Devin’s job becomes more dangerous—for them both. For Nora has no idea of the vicious element she’s crossed. Now Devin will risk his reputation to protect her—and much more to win her love…

Never Too Late is a rousing romance with a big heart for the social ills of Victorian England. Add a wonderful flip of the usual older hero/younger heroine and it moves into welcome new territory for romances.

ZM—What draws you to the Victorian Era?
Amara—First, THANK YOU so much, Zan Marie, for this opportunity and for your kind words about NEVER TOO LATE! It’s a pleasure to be here and chat with you about my work! 

I’ve been interested in the Victorian Era since I was an undergraduate in college. If I had to guess, I’d say it was sparked by my first British Literature II class, although can’t remember the assigned readings anymore. The catalyst was most likely Charlotte Bronte’s Jane Eyre, which is so atmospheric and dramatic. And yet, my appreciation and understanding of Victorian literature is so much deeper now than it was back then. The literature and the time were so complex, so multivalent, and so contradictory in many ways. There were some sharp cultural shifts going on that made the Victorians challenge their beliefs and values and even their understanding of reality. For instance, Darwin’s work and other Victorian scientific discoveries really destabilized what people knew about how the world works. Ultimately, so much of what we “know” today and perhaps even accept as “tradition” really comes out of the Victorian age.

ZM—Where did the idea for the “Evans Principles” come from? They fit each chapter perfectly, enlightening and titillating at the same time.

Amara—Thanks! I’ve seen such chapter starters used by other historical romance novelists, and I love how they use the technique to hint at the chapter’s events and to tie the novel together! For example, Julia Quinn used Mrs. Whistledown articles to start chapters throughout her Bridgerton series, and Sarah Maclean used a similar technique in her Rules trilogy. As for the “Evans Principles” themselves, well, those were pure fiction, based on what kind of advice I thought a concerned and doting father would leave to his daughter when passing along the family business. Sometimes, a principle popped into my head and I constructed a chapter around it; other times, the chapter came first and I figured out the rule afterward.  I’m glad they worked for you!

ZM—Your heroine is older than the hero and I love that. What’s been the reaction to that flip of the usual romance pattern?

Amara—So far, it’s been really positive, at least as far as I can tell. Even as I drafted the story, I wondered how the unusual coupling (no pun intended!) would be received. But that’s how the characters came out.  And I would understand if some potential readers decide the older heroine/younger hero trope isn’t for them—we all have our personal likes and dislikes. Overall, I think people are intrigued and interested in historical romances that feature women over age 28, in part because such heroines are relatively rare. Perhaps it will be a new trend! J

ZM—Tell us about your journey from draft to publication. How did you like working with Kensington Books?

Amara—I started writing Never Too Late at a pivotal time in my life, a time when I seriously doubted my writing ability. I started out writing literary fiction, and it was going poorly. I went through a very long dry spell, and it seemed like every word I put on the page was tortured and inadequate. I was on the verge of giving up writing entirely.

So, as a last-ditch effort, I gave myself permission to write whatever felt like fun. Silencing my inner critic, I gave myself permission to be outrageous and exploratory. And suddenly I produced more writing in two months than I had in the previous two years! It was completely rejuvenating.

As for the path to publication, I still feel like I’m going to wake up from an impossible dream any minute now. I started querying agents in June, 2012, and received some requests for material, which in itself was a very pleasant surprise. But querying doesn’t generally go very quickly. As I waited for responses (and collected rejections too), I got impatient and queried a few publishers that don’t require agented submissions. When I got The Call from my now-editor John Scognamiglio at Kensington, I was so shocked I probably sounded like a blithering idiot. So I ended up getting an agent with Kensington’s book offer in hand—and Jessica Alvarez of BookEnds is a dream agent! (Seriously, I started querying in June and had both a book contract and an agent in early September.  This just doesn’t happen, right? I just *know* someone will pinch me soon and I’ll go back to real life.)

Working with Kensington is wonderful. Everyone is very responsive and helpful and supportive! I’m looking forward to working with them for Book 2 (and possibly more)!

ZM—I loved your release party! Would you do it that way again?

Amara—Yes! I got the idea from fellow BookEnds authors, Melissa Cutler and Sharla Lovelace. They’ve hosted two “write-in” days on Facebook, one in December and another in April, where BookEnds authors and other writers spent the day doing writing sprints and cheering each other on. During breaks between sprints, BookEnds authors gave out virtual party favors, such as book swag, free books, and gift cards. I had so much fun with those “write-ins” that it made sense to use the same sort of format for my own book release party. 

I might tweak a few things next time, like scheduling the party for a shorter time period. I also definitely hope that my next release party isn’t scheduled during such a chaotic and demanding time in my academic calendar! Still, I had a great time, and I hope everyone who joined me did too!
ZM—What’s next for you? Do you have a new book in the wings? (I hope…; )

Amara—Thank you! I’m currently working on Book 2 for Kensington, tentatively entitled ALWAYS A STRANGER. It’s set in the same world as NEVER TOO LATE and will feature cameos by several NTL characters. AAS focuses on a Japanese performer in the Great Exhibition of 1851, whose “troupe” turns out to be a front for sex-trafficking. Her employer plans to sell her to the highest bidder. The hero is a member of the Royal Commission of the Great Exhibition, who has been charged with confirming that all the performers at the Exhibition are properly contracted and beyond reproach. As he slowly uncovers the truth about the Asian troupe, he becomes enamored of the Japanese performer and is determined to save her from a fate worse than death. She isn’t the only one at risk, though. And even if she and her companions can be freed, there’s no guarantee she’ll be accepted into his life legitimately.

ZM—Many craft books stress that writers must read and read a lot. Who is your favorite author, or what is your favorite genre? What draws you to a book you read for enjoyment?

Amara—This isn’t an easy answer for me. How much time do you have? J I have multiple favorite genres and therefore favorite authors within those genres. I suppose my “go to” genre is literary fiction, especially classics…mostly classics from the Victorian era. So, in that area, one of my favorite authors is George Eliot/Mary Ann Evans. In contemporary fiction, I’m also a big fan of A.S. Byatt and Haruki Murakami and Diana Gabaldon. But I also love historical romance and have lots and lots of favorite authors in that genre…and it seems more favorites pop up every day!

As for what draws me to a book I read for enjoyment, honestly this varies widely for me too.  I suppose I’m most drawn to books that incorporate history, do interesting and unusual things with literary techniques (like voice and figurative language and structure), and are basically mind-blowing.
ZM—Finally, what question do you wish interviewers would ask, but they never do?

Amara—Ooh, what a great question. Keep in mind that I’m very new to this and haven’t had many interviews! Plus, I’m virtually incapable of providing quick and easy responses. So here are a few interview questions I’d enjoy responding to: How would you respond to people who categorize romance as “mommy porn”? What’s been most surprising to you in the publishing process? What tips would you have for other aspiring writers?

Amara Royce writes historical romances that combine her passion for 19th-century literature and history with her addiction to happily ever afters.

She earned a PhD in English, specializing in 19th-century British literature, from Lehigh University and a Master's degree in English from Villanova University, and she now teaches English literature and composition at a community college in Pennsylvania.

When she isn't writing, she's either grading papers or reveling in her own happily ever after with her remarkably patient family.

Interested in a copy of Amara's wonderful Never Too Late? Include your email in the comment and I'll pick a winner by random. Amara will email you the details for how to pick up your copy. ; )

Thursday, May 9, 2013


If you wondered where I was on Tuesday...
My modem died on Sunday night. We were contemplating changing service providers, so we went ahead and did it. I'm up and running now.

Tuesday May 14, I'll bring you another Author Interview with Amara Royce and we'll tell you all about her new book, Never Too Late. I promise you'll enjoy it! ; )