Monday, July 27, 2009

Interview with Joanna Waugh

Welcome Joanna Waugh, author of BLIND FORTUNE from Cerridwen Press! She's here for a lovely interview for you all to enjoy.

Hi Nicole! Thanks so much for inviting me in to chat. It’s always a pleasure to visit with a fellow Classic Romance Revival author.

Tell us about yourself.

I live in Northwest Indiana, just a stone’s throw from the shores of Lake Michigan and the beautiful Indiana Dunes. When not writing, I collect Russian nesting dolls. My debut Regency romance, BLIND FORTUNE, was published in trade paperback by Cerridwen Press in February, 2009. It’s also available in ebook format.

Here’s the blurb:

They say love is blind, but Lady Fortuna Morley doesn’t believe it. Sightless since birth, she can think of only one reason a gentleman would wed her—for the dowry and three thousand pounds a year her father will provide. She’s in London the spring of 1814 to help launch her younger cousin into society, but prefers living quietly in country with her music. The last thing Fortuna wishes is to cross swords with the arrogant Marquess of Granville.

Charles Lowden, Lord Granville, has decided to take a wife. The bride he’s chosen is thirteen years his junior, but meets all criteria. What he won’t abide is interference from the girl’s impertinent cousin, the outspoken and opinionated Lady Fortuna Morley. The woman is determined to thwart the match. Charles is just as determined to charm Fortuna out of her disdain for him.

What neither expects in this battle of wills is to fall in love.

Sounds like a wonderful story! When did you start writing and why?

The need to write has been in me as far back as I can remember. I was (still am) asthmatic and, as a child, spent a lot of time indoors. Reading became my favorite pastime. A natural outgrowth of this was entertaining myself with my own stories.
I wrote my first romance in junior high school, about the doomed love between an American girl and a British officer during the American Revolution. But I got away from fiction in my late twenties. For the next two decades I wrote articles for specialty newsletters, did political op-eds and white papers. Then I woke up one morning with a full-blown book in my head and it was back to romantic fiction!

What inspires your writing, in particular, your current book?

My late husband lost his eyesight because of diabetes. One of the disconcerting side effects of his blindness was how differently we interpreted conversations. Because he couldn’t see a speaker’s expression or body language, he often misunderstood what was said. We had some very interesting disagreements as a result, especially when he misconstrued things I said! I found this situation so intriguing, I decided to write a book in which that kind of misunderstanding lies at the heart of the romance.

I love romances that deal with emotions. Oftentimes, we allow our emotions and feelings to color our outlook on our own lives and those of the people we love. Sometimes we don't see ourselves the same way that others do. In three words, how would you describe yourself?

Outgoing. Stubborn. Opinionated but able to see the other side of an argument. A take-charge kind of person. Reliable. A strong sense of duty.

Oops. That’s more than three words! Well, I am a writer!

That's ok, I'll allow you more than just three words, just this once. Now for a couple of fun questions. If you could be a superhero, what would your superpowers be?

I don’t know if there’s a specific superhero that covers this, but I’d love to be able to time travel. History is so fascinating. I often get lost in research! If I could just whisk back to learn the truth first hand… But I suppose if I was able to do that, my family seldom would see me and I’d never get any writing done!

I love history too. Time travel as a superpower, that sounds wonderful! I would opt for the Middle Ages. That was a time period rife with superstition about creatures. If you could be a paranormal creature, which would you be?

A wizard in the Druid tradition. I love all that one-with-nature stuff, but especially the idea of keeper of ancient knowledge, custodian of the tribal memory. I’d love to command the elements and weave magic around the human soul.

Hmmm. Sound a lot like a writer, doesn’t it?

Great choice! Druids do have their secrets and worlds of knowledge. Speaking of knowledge, do you have any advice for writers?

It’s okay to follow the trends, but write what’s in your heart. I’ve watched too many authors bounce around genres trying to find the magic bullet until they were so discouraged they gave up. Write to please yourself as a reader first.

And DO IT NOW. Had I known how hard it is to get published in fiction, I would have started the process sooner. Don’t put your writing on hold, don’t let life get in the way. And never, never, NEVER give up! Believe in your abilities.

An excerpt from BLIND FORTUNE. This scene won the 2008 Midnight Seductions Endless Romance Contest:

“Are you familiar with Herr Beethoven?”

Fortuna shook her head and, like a puff of smoke, the emotional tension between them dissipated.

Charles felt a twinge of regret at its passing. Out loud, he said, “His Quasi una fantasia—Almost a fantasy—is just as somber but much more full-bodied. I’d be honored to play it for you.”

Rising from the piano, she stood aside so he could take it.

Charles shot her an assessing look as he stepped forward. “I have an idea, something that might enhance your enjoyment of the piece.”

He crooked one arm around her waist, then bent to hook the other behind her knees. She squeaked a protest as he lifted her against his chest. Flexing his fingers in the flimsy material along her rib cage, he savored the warm supple body beneath his hands.

Striding down the side of the piano, he swung Fortuna onto its lid. Seated upright with her legs stretched out, she wore a dumbfounded expression.

Charles tucked her nightgown around her limbs and stepped back. “Lie down, with your head toward the music stand.”

He then returned to the piano stool. Releasing the buttons of his jacket, he sat and ran through a set of scales to limber his fingers.

As the notes reverberated through the mahogany lid, Fortuna uttered a small cry of surprise and turned her wide, cat’s eyes his direction.

He grinned. “They say Beethoven was out one evening for a walk when he passed a cobbler’s shop and heard someone practicing one of his compositions.
He went inside and found a blind girl struggling with the piece.”

Tentatively, Fortuna scooted forward and laid down on her back with her arms at her sides. Bronze curls snaked through the music stand to hang over the keys. Spellbound, Charles stared at them. Then, swallowing hard, he cleared his throat and continued.

“Herr Beethoven offered to demonstrate how the piece was meant to be played. He became so caught up in the beauty of the moonlight falling through the open window on the blind girl that he went home and composed this sonata.”

With that, he began to play.

As Charles’ fingers flew over the keys, he let his gaze rest on the copper froth dangling just above his hands. He tried to imagine the sensations Fortuna was experiencing. How each keystroke pulsed through her body and sent vibrations quivering along her limbs. Especially when he came to the fast-paced, accentuated finale.

He ended the movement in one abrupt crashing stroke. Hands suspended above the keyboard, Charles waited for the last note to reverberate through the music room.

“Fortuna?” he quietly breathed.

She lay still, as thought she hadn’t heard him. At last it registered that the piece had ended. With a heartfelt sigh, she pulled herself upright.

Charles leaped to his feet. In two swift steps, he was beside the piano.

Fortuna swiveled toward him on her bottom, until her legs hung over the lid’s edge. She wore a dazed expression, like that of a well-loved, satiated woman.

Desire spiked through Charles. Deliberately, he pressed his chest against her knees, then slid the palms of both hands up over each rounded hip until he clasped her slender waist. Lifting her off the piano, he stepped away and let her slippers slowly slide to the floor.

Her legs seemed incapable of support. “That was…so…” she whispered breathlessly.


Fire burned a trail straight to his groin. Charles barely managed to stifle a groan. Unable to resist the sexual pull between them and accepting the inevitability of his actions, he lowered his head and captured Fortuna’s rosy mouth with his own.

To read more excerpts from BLIND FORTUNE, click here.

Thanks for having me in today, Nicole!

No, thank you, Joanna!

Thursday, July 16, 2009

5 smacks review for Woman of Honor!!

Woman of Honor received a wonderful 5 smack review from Ruby Lee of Mistress Bella Reviews. Here is what Ruby Lee had to say:

I found this story a compelling, magical read. It took to me to a place I had never been before. The details and descriptions of the scenery, characters and plot were so vivid and so easy to follow and understand. I truly felt as though I had gone stepped into a fairytale. Nicole Zoltack has an excellent writing style and I know we are going to see great things from her to come. I cannot wait to see what else she has in store for her readers…consider me your number one fan!

I'm thrilled. Thank you so much, Ruby Lee, for your kind words!

Here is the link to the review.

Friday, July 10, 2009

Interview with Michelle Sutton

Welcome a new guest blogger! Michelle Sutton is a fellow DBP author and is here with us today to talk about her August 1st release, Danger at the Door. Now for the interview!

Tell us about yourself.

I am the author of more than 11 books but for now that is the number I have contracted for publication. I started writing in August of 2003 and joined a writer's group in 2004, signed on with an agent in 2005 and sold my first book in 2007. I am also a part-time website designer and am Editor-in-Chief of an online magazine called Christian Fiction Online Magazine. I've been married 19 years (in August) and have two teenage boys.

Wow, 11 books. That's wonderful! Let's talk more about your writing. When did you start? And why?

I wrote my first full-length novel in 2003. In fact, it has been retitled and will be sold by Desert Breeze in January 2010. It was originally about 80,000 words and I cut it back to 20,000 words for a novella collection that didn't happen (with three other multi-pubbed authors) so I left it in the hard drive all this time and pulled it out again to polish when my husband kept nagging me about tweaking that book for sale. I'm glad I listened. It's a cool story.

Aargh, I know all about writing a story for an anthology or collection and then getting the rejection letter. But that's great that you were able to find another home for it! That's inspiring news for other authors to read about. And speaking of inspiring, what inspires your writing? In particular, you current book, Danger at the Door.

What inspires my writing is my faith and the fact that many Christian novels leave out the physical side of life and the sensuality in romance. I want to read more fiction with real life temptation and struggles so I write about that myself. And in Danger at the Door, I wanted a character who struggled with the English language and American culture and didn't speak something easy like Spanish, so I picked a language with an obscure alphabet and difficult words, like Macedonian. My hero is pretty hot. :) The accent definitely helps.

We all face temptations so why shouldn't our characters? And I love characters with accents. I also love the title. How did you come up with it?

For Danger at the Door? I brainstormed it with friends as the original title didn't sound very suspenseful. Same with First Impressions (releasing in January). It used to be called "For the Love of James" and then "The Shady Lady" and then "The Shy Captain" and now this.

Most authors are also readers. What book are you currently reading?

I'm in the middle of reading about five books right now. As long as they are in different genres I don't have trouble keeping them straight. Love's Pursuit by Siri Mitchell is currently on the top of my list of books I'm reading for review.

That sounds like me, my nose is always in a book or two or five! *laughs* Do you have advice for writers?

Don't be a one book wonder. Write like crazy until something sells.

Excellent advice. And now for a couple of fun questions. How would you describe yourself in two words?

Energizer Bunny

And if you could be a superhero, what would you want your superpowers to be?

The ability to make 24 hour days longer and to not need sleep so I can be on top of the game all of the time and not get behind in my reading. If I couldn't accomplish that I'd like to be a speed reader who has great comprehension skills.

What a wonderful superpower that would be! Thank you so much for interviewing with me today, Michelle. I'm looking forward for your August release. You can learn more and read an excerpt from Danger at the Door here

As a closing, here is the blurb to Danger at the Door:

Upon her fiancé's death, Laney became a recluse who only left her home for emergencies. She managed to survive - barely - on food delivery service and her work-at-home job. When she tries to move on from her grief, the commemorative meal she orders is ruined. However, it leads to an unlikely friendship with an attractive man, Bojan, who speaks little English.

As he befriends Laney he continually says the wrong things, but he doesn't give up trying to win her trust. Meanwhile, she has this strange feeling of being watched and wonders if she's losing her mind.

Complicating things further, every time she leaves her house something bad happens, confirming that she is safer at home. Can Bojan convince Laney she'll be safe with him, or will his presence put her in further danger? Will he be able to protect the woman he loves before it's too late?

Friday, July 3, 2009

How to Write Realistic Dialogue

Well written, realistic dialogue is one of the most useful tools at an author’s disposable. Nothing else can pull a reader from a story than unbelievable dialogue. Imagine a character like Mandy Moore’s in A Walk to Remember. Now picture that character cursing. In context, it might work, if given the right situation but most likely, a goody-two-shoes like that would never swear. A bum on the streets won’t use large, obscure words. Neither would a small child unless they are precocious. Here are some tips for including authentic dialogue in your novels:

1. Go to the mall or other places where lots of people go. Sit on a bench and eavesdrop. It’s amazing how much you can learn just by listening. As an added bonus, you might even come up with new story ideas!

2. Create a character sketch. In order for your character’s dialogue to be true to the character, it must reflect the character’s flaws, weaknesses, strengths, and personality. A smoker character will not rant about the evils of the big bad tobacco companies. An animal activist will yell at someone for killing a fly.

3. Large blocks of dialogue, similar to large blocks of description, are boring. Pepper some action throughout dialogue scenes. Maybe your hero and heroine are dancing. Or they’re on a long car trip. People often talk with hand gestures. Include movements and other actions.

4. As I hinted at earlier, use swear words sparingly unless the character demands it. Some people hide behind them or use them for release. Other characters may only use them under highly stressful situations. And if you are writing a historical piece, look up the curse words of that time period. In Woman of Honor, a medieval fantasy romance novel, my characters sometimes yell, “God’s Teeth!” or “God’s Wounds!” It lends an authentic feel to the piece.

5. While using words appropriate to locale (some regions say soda, others pop), try to avoid dating your piece with slang. Unless you are rewriting West Side Story and need gang dialogue.

6. If you are going to use accents, make certain that they are constant throughout the novel but not overbearing. Reread Huckleberry Finn, Twain was the master at this.

7. Once you write a dialogue scene, read it aloud. Have your boyfriend/wife/sibling/someone reading a character and you read another. Does it flow well? Does it make sense? Does it further the story and add details to the plot? If you answered no to any of the questions, your dialogue needs a tune up.

Woman of Honor tells the tale of young Aislinn, who desires to become a knight to take her fallen brother’s place. The king grants her a two year probationary period during which Aislinn proves herself time and again. Once the two years are over, the king says that she may now beginning her training as a first year page. Infuriated, Aislinn has an argument with Prince Caelan in this never shared before excerpt that shows how powerful and emotional dialogue can be:

Aislinn hurried outside the castle. The walls loomed oppressive and overbearing. She quickly strode around the courtyard, letting her long steps eat up the earth. The scent of flowers reached her nose but she couldn’t process the sweet smells. She attempted to calm down but her thoughts ran around at such a lightening quick speed that she couldn’t concentrate, couldn’t think, couldn’t breathe. Eventually, she forced herself back inside the castle and returned to her room. Regardless of what choice she decided, whether to redo the last two years of her life or not, she would have to return at some point. The whole situation is absurd! To think that at ten years old, when I am at the same level as the other two year pages, that I should be forced to be on the same level as the new pages! Seven year olds! And to think that I was humiliated when I told everyone I was eight.

She opened her door, and stopped short. Her room wasn’t empty. Prince Caelan, heir to the throne, rose from the single chair in the room.

“Caelan,” she managed to say through clenched teeth. She looked at him and saw his father, saw her king, and relived her humiliation all over again in one heartbeat.

“Aislinn, I’m sorry,” he said, swiftly coming out of the seat. He took a step toward her, one hand held out. “I fought for you, I told my father you deserved a chance. You must know that.”

His words mean nothing to me. He means nothing to me!

She said nothing and stomped over to the bureau, yanking the drawers open. She pulled her few possessions and clothing, holding them to her chest as she slammed the drawers shut. Caelan stepped closer, hovering near her shoulder, but he refrained from touching her and said nothing. Her hands shook with rage and the clothes wrinkled. She took them to her narrow bed and refolded them, her movements crisp and precise. When she finished, she returned to the bureau and caught a glimpse of herself in the mirror. The reflection startled her. She wore an emotionless face but her eyes contained so much hurt and pain that she barely recognized herself.

Caelan spoke again, his voice rougher and deeper.

“I know you would do anything for my father. If he asked you to leave this country and to spy on the Speicans, you would. You would lead a raid into their country if he merely hinted at it. You would lay your life down for him just because he is the leader of this country.” Here, the prince paused. “One day, I shall take his place and I shall be king. Yet I don’t know if you would follow me as willingly as you would my father.”

“Why do you say that, your Highness?” she asked, the formal title more a stinging retort than a sign of respect.

“I don’t know,” he answered honestly. His hand rested in the bend of her arm, but she didn’t turn to face him. “I have done nothing but fight for you.”

“Why?” Aislinn asked. She thought of the three W’s, how the prince had wanted to help her but she had been too proud to ask for it, how he had helped anyhow. Even before that, warning her to learn how to swim. He urged Geoffrey to be her mentor, even though Geoffrey denied that Caelan had made him.

Caelan pulled on her arm enough to make her turn and she faced him, keeping her hands clenched at her side. The prince grinned slowly, a reckless and daring smile that spread to his eyes. Aislinn drew in a breath as sudden heat spread over her. His whole face had lit up with his grin and his eyes glowed, like two dark sapphires.

“Why doesn’t matter,” he eventually answered in a voice so low it barely carried across the space between them and Aislinn realized the truth of his words. It didn’t matter.

But he was wrong to question her. Aislinn served the king because he was king. One day, Caelan would be king, and she would serve him just as fiercely and just as honorably.

“I would obey you like I would any king,” she told him, finally finding enough control to keep the edge from her voice. She swallowed. “I would die to protect you.”

“Good,” Caelan said, his eyes still slightly wild as his grin widened a small degree. “Then you know what you must do, Aislinn.”

Aislinn stared up at him, her heart breaking. She clenched her fists harder. “But I have to redo the last two years of my life all over again. Everything up to this point had been for naught! For nothing!”

“You have two choices.” His voice was calm, a sharp contrast to the anger and frustration waging in Aislinn’s chest. “Either do as my father says and begin again. Or leave and the last two years will truly be for naught.”

“No, there has to be another way.” She shook her head sharply.

Caelan’s hand slid from her elbow to wrap around her fist. Without thinking, she unfurled her fingers and he held her hand in his. “Aislinn, I can’t persuade my father. He shall not bend.”

“But he isn’t being fair!”

“Fair or not, he is king.”

Aislinn frowned. Protests welled in her throat but she refused to voice them and slowly an idea formed. “Perchance…” she started.

“Perchance?” Caelan prompted, taking a step closer to her.

Aislinn shook her head, refusing to say her thoughts. “I gave him my services. I gave him my life for two years. Two years! I can’t forgive him for this.”

He released her hand, taking a step back, his expression hardening. “You must,” he said, his tone now cold and distant.

Aislinn tightened her jaw and stared at the floor. He stepped back from her and walked away. She didn’t bother to look up when the door slammed as the prince left the room.

She slowly whistled her breath out before quickly packing her belongings and leaving the room without a backward glance.

You can purchase Woman of Honor here.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

My winner of the summer treasure hunt...

The summer treasure hunt is now over, and I'm pleased to announce that the winner of a PDF copy of Woman of Honor is Cindy Sampson Fleet of Canada! I hope you enjoy it, Cindy!