Sunday, December 29, 2013

New Beginnings

I love this time of year! It’s a time of new beginnings and fresh starts. No matter what you've done up until now, you can start over with a positive energy and hope for all the possibilities the brand new year brings.

Every year around this time, I begin planning for the next year. I start to think about what I’d like to do differently when the calendar year flips over, and I take stock of the past year, examining what worked and what didn't. I begin to make my lists. I dream big and I dream small. I broad-brush my goals, then I go back in and paint in the details by making sub-lists under those bigger topics.

After I've finished my plans, I post these goals on my office wall--yes, on an easel-sized post-it note to myself. So that all year long I can check off my progress. Usually, by the time June hits, I’m ready to re-evaluate my yearly goals, update and make new lists. Last year I found that by June, I’d accomplished everything I’d set out to accomplish for the year. So I had to plan again. Now, looking back at the list I had for myself in June, I've also accomplished the majority of those tasks and met those goals. It feels good to see a physical “track record” ... and to know that all the time and energy and sweat I exerted really did pay off in big and small ways for me.

One of those payoffs for me this year debuts later this week. My contemporary romance, Essence, will be released  on January 2, 2014 by Soul Mate Publishing. As you can imagine, I’m a little excited and a lot nervous. I have published a few Indie titles myself, but this is the first book of mine that a publisher has picked up. And it’s my first contemporary romance. The journey has been a good one. I've loved working with SMP. And I think this is a good next step for me. Okay, so I’ll squee now! All right, all right. Maybe not. I’ll wait until the pub day to do that because my control freak side worries about everything that can go wrong between now and then. Even though I really know better. It’s going to be fine.

So I’ll go back to focusing on my lists for a few more days, hammering out all those fun and exciting things I want to explore this year and the number of ways I hope to develop my writing career. Then, come January 2nd, I’ll add learning the ins and outs of marketing a book to my daily and weekly writing routine.

Yes, one of my big goals this year is to figure out how to promote a book effectively. I've already begun to promote Essence and will start a blog tour January 27th to get my name out there, and hopefully sell a few more books in the process. I’d love to see you on the virtual road! Check out my website for details on the full line-up of my blog tour toward the end of January.

So what do you do at this time of year? Do you set New Year’s Resolutions? Do you set personal goals for yourself? Do you re-evaluate and take stock of where you’ve been and where you’d like to go? I’d love to hear what you’ve found successful or helpful over the years & if you have one or two goals you’ve set for yourself, shout them out! It always motivates others to know those around them are reaching for the next rung on the ladder or the stars.

Buy your copy of Essence starting January 2, 2014 at and be sure to tell me what you think in a review on Amazon & at Goodreads. All my Indie published titles are currently available at To find me on the web, go to If you’re on Facebook, look me up at: MackenzieLucasFanPage or on Twitter at: @MacLucas_writer.

Book Giveaway:
Readers who comment on today’s blog by sharing one of their goals for the new year will be entered into a drawing for a free copy of Essence.

$50 Spa eGift Card Giveaway:
And two lucky followers who LIKE my Facebook page MackenzieLucasFanPage between today and January 15 will each win a $50 SpaWish eGift card.

So come on, let’s play! Comment, like, and share. It’s always fun to have as many participants as possible in these contests. As Misha says, join in my reindeer games. It’ll be fun!

Happy New Year and happy goal setting. Let's see what we can do in 2014!

More about Essence. More about Soul Mate Publishing.

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Happy Holidays!

From our families to yours, may your holiday season be blessed with abundance and love. And may the warmth and spirit of the season dwell in your hearts all year long. 

Happy Holidays from the R8. 

Thanks for another wonderful year! 

Sunday, December 15, 2013

All I want for Christmas is . . . a Good Holiday Story

By Hope Ramsay

I’m an avid reader.  Like most authors it was reading that lead me to this writing life.  And when it comes to pleasing me at Christmastime, all you have to do is give me a good book.  In fact, I plan most of my holiday festivities for Christmas Eve, so on Christmas day I can relax, curl up with a hot toddy, and crack a good book, hopefully one of many I’ve received from friends and family.

So, if you have an avid romance reader in your family and you’re wondering what to give her for Christmas.  Here is a rundown of some terrific holiday stories.  Many of these reads are less than $2.00 in digital format, so you could easily buy them all and load up the e-reader of the bibliophile in your life. 

Perfect by Autumn Jordon
Dylan Kincaid totally screwed up Thanksgiving and now he's faced with Christmas. Thrown into the frightening role of both mother and father while his brother and sister-in-law are off serving their country, all Dylan wants is to make Christmas perfect for his two nieces. But time is running out.

Down on her luck Charleston, S.C. restaurateur, Darcy Witherspoon is licking a wounded ego when she arrives in Black Moose, VT and meets the handsome Maple tree farmer. Wanting a happy holiday herself, she teams up with Dylan to make a perfect Christmas.

Neither is interested in a holiday affair, but the magic of Christmas has something more everlasting in store for the couple. An absolutely perfect love!

Hunk for the Holidays by Katie Lane
Always putting business before pleasure, Cassie McPherson works hard for her family's construction business. That might explain why she doesn't have a date for the company Christmas party. But it doesn't quite explain why she's crazy enough to hire an escort for the event or - crazier still - why she's dying to unwrap him like a present . . .

With whiskey-colored eyes and a killer smile, James is one gorgeous hunk who really knows how to fill out a tuxedo. He charms everyone, including Cassie. And when the night ends, the party doesn't stop. As Cassie falls, literally, into his bed, James falls head over heels in love. Now he has to figure out a way to tell her the truth: he's not an escort. He's her family's fiercest business rival. But all he wants for Christmas is her .... The digital version of this book will be on sale for $1.99 starting in mid-December.

Trouble with Christmas by Debbie Mason
Resort developer Madison Lane is about to lose the one thing she loves most in the world - her job.

Dubbed "The Grinch Who Killed Christmas," Madison spoiled a deal that would turn quaint Christmas, Colorado, into a tourist's winter wonderland. Now the citizens want her fired but the company gives her one last chance, sending Madison to the small town to restore the holiday cheer.

For Sheriff Gage McBride, no hotshot executive from New York City is going to destroy the dreams of the people he loves. But one look at this beautiful woman and it's his heart that may be broken. In just a few days, Madison causes more trouble than he's had to deal with all year. He can't decide if she's naughty or nice, but one thing is for certain- Christmas will never be the same again.. The digital version of this book will be on sale for $1.99 starting in mid-December.

Spirit of Christmas by Liz Talley

Brennan Henry doesn't have time for holly and jolly. He's been too busy boosting the bottom line for the family business. That is, until his eccentric grandfather hands over a lot of money to a stranger on the street. Some nonsense about her being the true spirit of Christmas. Yeah, right. All Brennan can see is he's now got a situation on his hands with one Mary Paige Gentry.

Then he meets Mary Paige. And no matter how deep he searches, it seems she's the real deal. Kind, compassionate and just enough sass to keep him very intrigued. The spark of attraction between them could land him on the naughty list! But his is still a dollars-and-cents world…unless she can prove there's more to the season—more to life—than money.

And if you’re looking for an anthology of shorter Christmas Stories, pick up the digital anthology A Christmas to Remember, with stories by Jill Shalvis, Kristen Ashley, Molly Cannon, Marilyn Pappano, and me. Click here.

Happy holiday reading to one and all.  

Sunday, December 8, 2013

Book Signings and Visions

Over the years, I have been to many book signings. Some have been small, some huge, some unbelievable. Back in the olden days, I worked for Crown Books. Then, authors were magical creatures. I would get a little giddy when someone came and offered to just sign her stock. Because, wow. She was an author. To me, she was a celebrity. Even if I'd never heard of her book. And back in those days, the late 80s and early 90s, publishers actually took their people on tours. From city to city. To meet their readers. O. My. Freaking. Giddy. Aunt. You mean, I said to my district manager (called the DM, or Dungeon Master), you mean I might meet... Nora Roberts?

Well, no. I didn't. She'd pop into the store in White flint. To shop. And I'd miss it. Dave from Berkeley would talk about how pleasant she was, how great she was to work with. And instead, I was stuck with Jay Leno, Brett Butler, Michael Moore, and Naomi Judd. Ok, ok. I did get my biggest absolute squeeing oh wow oh wow oh wow when our store hosted... (are you sitting down? diagnosed with vasovagal?) (Ready?) Yes. It's true. Julia Child. THE Julia Child. J.U.L.I.A. C.H.I.LD. Her. Tall. Funny. Cooks. A lot. Yeah. I met her. And it was amazing. And I have two cookbooks autographed by her. I do. Yes. Julia Child. And what struck me then, what I've kept with me always, is that the people around her, her publicists or whoever they were from the publisher, treated her exactly as they should. Like she was a National Treasure. They handled her the way I saw artifacts handled at the Smithsonian when I interned there during college. The other thing that struck me was her fans. Not the number, but the diversity. Young, old, every race and color, wealthy and modest. There was no pigeon holing a Julia Child fan. They are everyone. And they were legion. And she was gracious and kind to every single one of them.  It was a lesson for me. There is always room for graciousness when it comes to your fans and readers.

Not that I have any. Yet.

A few years ago, I attended the Literacy Signing at Romance Writers of America annual conference. It was in Orlando that year. Hot. Sticky. And you have never, ever seen the like of a book signing until you attend this one. Row after row of published authors, selling books to raise money for literacy charities in the States. It was amazing. And I nearly became legless with euphoria. Because Carole Mortimer was there. In Orlando. At RWA. Signing. I got my picture with her. I gushed. I had read her since I was 14. I could site plot lines and characters.  I mean, I'd been reading her since high school, if not junior high. And there she was. It was amazing. My reading tastes have changed, I have other authors that I read, but Carole Mortimer made me a romance reader. And she made me want to write romance. Getting the chance to meet her was like candy and pecans and champagne and creme brulee all rolled up in one.

Probably my next favorite book signing has been those for friends of mine, signing their first books. Leigh Duncan. Michelle Monkou. Heidi Betts. Kathryn Caskie. It is the greatest, proudest feeling watching them smile at a reader and ask her name. And then sign theirs.  On the title page. Awesome.

Oh, and I did get to meet Nora. Finally. At a writer event. She signed my well loved hard back copy of Honest Illusions. Funny. I don't re-read this one any more. There are other books by her that I turn to again and again - the trilogies, usually. But she was another one who taught me about graciousness. I've attended several author events at Turn the Page in Boonsboro, Maryland, the line is long. The store is packed. And she smiles and greets every reader as though she were the first person in the line. (instead of the 112th).

Tell me about your favorite book signing. Maybe you were signing a book or maybe you attended one of a favorite author? Will you go see the same author again and again? (but can't yet be construed to be a stalker?)  

Monday, December 2, 2013

Perfect Gifts for Mystery Lovers

Hi, everyone. My name is Jessica Tribble and I’m a book lover. I also happen to be Publisher at Poisoned Pen Press. Poisoned Pen Press is one of the largest publishers of hardcover mystery in the country, and as of April, we will begin publishing Young Adult Mysteries as well. I consider this a smart move, one in which we will be providing the gateway book: we need a new generation of people who are as hooked on mysteries as we are.

As mystery lovers, you know how important it is to find great new reading material. And in the holiday season, you can’t help but share your book love with your closest friends and relatives.  Or, in my case, a bunch of readers who should be my friends.  You want to be my book buddies, right? Friends don’t let friends do without scintillating readings materials.

Many of you may already be familiar with Kerry Greenwood’s Phryne Fisher series. (A series that has recently been adapted for the small screen by Australian TV). Phryne is fun, flirty, and an embodiment of 1928 culture. But not many people know about Kerry Greenwood’s other historical series that gives new life to the women of Greek myth. The Delphic Woman series, begins with Medea, story of the woman made famous by her encounter with Jason and Argonauts. Greenwood’s Medea is a beautiful, conflicted woman whose struggle reveals Greek myth and history in new light. No wonder Publishers Weekly and Library Journal both gave the novel starred reviews. I read this novel in a single sitting, despite the need for sleep and for food.

Kerry Greenwood has done for Ancient Greece what Reavis Z. Wortham has done for Texas. Wortham’s 1960s Texas, like Cormac McCarthy’s, is full of complex characters with humanity. Wortham’s In his first in the series, The Rock Hole, Wortham introduces Constable Ned Parker a man who recognizes the gravity of the recent crimes in Center Springs, Texas. This is no average criminal. This is a man who has no feelings, no boundaries, and no morals. This is a criminal who introduces evil to a community that has been shielded from the civil rights changes and even most violence. Named one of Kirkus Reviews best books for 2010, Ned Parker is a police officer worth following, and Wortham is an author worth reading as he works now on his fourth in the series.

Clearly, I love a mystery with an unusual twist or turn. I’m compelled by characters who feel real and three-dimensional. That’s why I love The Dangerous Edge of Things, by Tina Whittle. This first in a series introduces Tai Randolph new owner of a Confederate-themed gun shop she just inherited. It also introduces Trey Seaver, the man who will become her love interest, in addition to helping clear her of homicide charges. I could talk about the plot of this book (which, by the way, is great), but it’s the characters that have kept me reading as this series has continued to develop. Kirkus Reviews, Publishers Weekly, and Library Journal each awarded starred reviews to this excellent installment.

I’ve talked a lot about books in series. For me, series reading is part of why I love mysteries: I get to stay with characters over many books and adventures. In Margit Liesche’s Triptych, I get everything I love about a series in a single book:  characters with history and stories across multiple generations.  In this story about two sets of mothers and daughters,  the reader bounces from 1956 Budapest to 1986 Chicago and reveals themes about redemption, trust, and, of course, murder. Unlike anything we’ve published before, this book is sure to appeal to the history and modern mystery lover alike.

At Poisoned Pen Press we never have a shortage of books to read, and I’m excited to share some of my favorites with you. We have something for everyone. All you need to do is browse your favorite kind of mystery on our webpage. Happy holidays and happy reading!

Monday, November 25, 2013

Five Tips for Putting Out an Anthology

This month on The Rockville 8 we've had a lot of fun talking about anthologies (collections of writings by various authors, usually short stories or novellas). Evie Owens introduced us to her mistresses and shared inside info about her new release Once and Forever. And Keely Thrall discussed the things she loves about reading a good anthology.

Last year I was lucky enough to participate in a holiday-themed anthology called A Spirited Season, with my good pals Karen Cantwell and Laura Lucas. We each contributed two stories with a Christmas paranormal theme, packaged 'em up and put 'em on sale. (Side note: A Spirited Season is available on Kindle, Nook and Kobo, and all proceeds go to the Children's Miracle Network.)

So let's say you're a writer, and you want to get some work out there, but you're not sure if you're ready to publish your novel (either indie publishing or traditional publishing). Putting out an anthology is a great way to get yourself some exposure and let readers know who you are. Plus, it's fun!

If you're interested in putting together an anthology, here are a few tips to get you started:

1) Grab some friends. Well, don't literally grab them, but talk to your writing buddies and see who might want to participate. Make sure that your anthology partners are willing to help with the extraneous, administrative functions involved. (More on that in step three.)

2) Pick a theme. One of the challenges of an anthology is the differences in author writing styles. Sometimes a reader falls in love so hard with one particular author's style that it can be jarring to finish one short story and go right into another. Having a theme eases the transition and adds to the fun! For A Spirited Season, my friends and I obviously chose Christmas. While holiday themes are fun and provide a little bit of help with marketing, they do have a limited sales life, as you'll only really be able to push the marketing at a certain time of year. But whatever your theme, make it one you all love and can enjoy writing about.

3) Divide the labor. Okay, in a nutshell, here is a list of non-writing-related tasks that will need to be done to put out your anthology:
  • Cover design.
  • Conversion to e-book formats.
  • Uploading.
  • Distribution of funds.
How you divide the labor and distribute the funds is of course up to you! Each one of these tasks comes with its own need for special skills, so don't be afraid to hire a professional. Karen, Laura and I each paid for part of the work that needed to be done, then our expenses were reimbursed before the funds were distributed to charity.

4) Write, edit, proofread. Whether you hire a professional editor and proofreader, or trade off and co-edit each other's stories, make sure you're putting out your best work. Short stories give you fewer words with which to impress the reader, so make 'em count!

5) Upload and announce! Once your anthology is available for purchase, let the announcement ring from the highest mountaintop! Nothing is more fun than seeing your work in print, and nothing is more rewarding than hearing from readers who loved it. So, enjoy!

Have you ever participated in an anthology? What was your experience like?

Monday, November 18, 2013

For the Love of a Good Anthology

I am an unabashed fan of anthologies. Why do I love them? Let me count the ways...

First - Discoverability

I love sitting down with one, stomach all aflutter with anticipation. The promise of a cozy, quick immersion in the talent of one of my favorite authors makes me grin. But it's the prospect of finding a new-to-me-and-just-waiting-to-be-discovered writer that has me sinking into my reading chair, squirming into that just-right spot, ready to dive for a few hours of reading bliss.

I've "discovered" some amazing talent by taking a chance on an anthology. Linda Howard - "Lake of Dreams," anyone? Anne Stuart, Carla Kelly, Eileen Wilks, Cait London, Katherine Stone, Mary Blayney, Lori Foster, MaryJanice Davidson, Cherise Sinclair, Stacia Kane. By taking a chance - and knowing I might have to kiss some frogs along the way - I opened myself up to wonderful new worlds.

Second - Re-readability

I love to re-read stories that have touched my heart. And the absolute best thing about a story from an anthology is you can have that emotional catharsis in relatively short order.

When I want to laugh, I'll go to Cait London's "The Nine-Month Knight" in Maternity Leave.

When I want to sweet and funny and lovely, I'll head for Eileen Wilks' "The Proper Love" in All I Want for Christmas.

For flat out emotion, you just can't beat Linda Howard's "The Way Home," in A Bouquet of Babies. Tears my heart out each time I crack that story open.

Third - Craftsmanship

Okay, so this reason is less about a love of reading and more about a love of writing. Creating a world, believable characters, a strong central conflict and a happily ever after is challenging enough in a regular length story. Cutting the word count means you really need to up your game and make every word matter. Reading a tight, well-honed short story is likely immersing myself in a master class of craft. Yum.

Fourth - Themes!

The last reason I'm drawn to anthologies is that I'm a sucker for theme - and how each of us interprets a given them in our own unique ways. Chocolate (check out Lisa Cache's "Eliza's Gateau"). Christmas. Father's Day. Halloween. Kink. Bad Boys. Valentine's Day (duh!). DIY for the paranormal set.  The Rockville 8 is planning our own anthology with a moon theme tying us all together. There's no end to the themes that can tie otherwise seemingly disparate stories into one happy gift for readers.

And speaking of gifts, consider giving one of these to your nearest and dearest romance reader (and that person just may be you!).

A Spirited Season - with The Rockville 8's own Misha Crews!

If Regency Christmas is your go to theme, try this collection of Carla Kelly tales.

For folks with a sweet tooth AND a jones for Christmas, try The Sugar Cook Sweetheart Swap with three delicious stories from Donna Kaufmann, Kate Angell and Kimberly Kincaid.

And while there's no Christmas in this rich collection, it's still a fantastic read and a perfect gift of the heart: Once and Forever - a new release that introduces the R8's Evie Owens to the world!

 Friends - what about you? Fan or foe of the anthology? Do you have a favorite? One lucky commenter will receive a copy of Once and Forever!

Monday, November 11, 2013

Meet My Mistresses...

Yes, it's true. The wise and beloved Rockville 8 is my first—and for a long time, only—critique group. But a couple of years ago I took a mistress. Four mistresses, to be exact.

When the Lifesavers invited me to join them I was flattered and more than a little mystified—four of my favorite authors, inviting me to work with them! And when, almost a year ago, they suggested we should publish an anthology of novellas, I was excited and more than a little terrified. I wasn't certain I could do it. But I did! And here's proof:

Available now on Amazon: Once and Forever, by Mary Blayney, Elaine Fox, Emelle Gamble, Lavinia Kent, and Evie Owens.

One lucky commenter here will win a copy of the new anthology, because my mistresses are the best! And as a way of introducing them to you, I asked them three important and revealing questions!

1) Many writers have a soundtrack they listen to when they write, or songs that they associate with their stories. Name one song that's associated with your novella (or the writing of it) in the anthology.

Mary Blayney: I don’t listen to music when I am writing. The fewer distractions the better for me. But there is always a song I associate with a story. In Playing for Keeps it’s Holding Out for a Hero  by Bonnie Tyler. I first heard it in the movie Footloose and for certain stories of mine, Captain’s Mermaid, Lover's Kiss and If Wishers Were Horses: in the anthology Mirror Mirror, it’s in my head the whole time which is not quite as weird as it sounds. Good thing I love the song.

Elaine Fox: I used to write with music, and sometimes now I’ll turn something on (usually classical—nothing with words) to create a mood. But I always end up turning it off once I get going. Seems I need total silence for my words to start flowing—and to keep flowing. But if I were to have had a soundtrack for this novella I’m pretty sure it would have gone something like this.

Emelle Gamble: In my novella Duets Actress Molly Harper, after a terrible ambush by the paparazzi, hides out in her best friend’s truck by laying on the seat and covering her face. The radio is playing Moondance, her favorite song. But it’s not a marvelous night for anything. That Van Morrision classic is also one of my favorites. It’s all about the night, the ‘fantabulous’ night when everything is right. Duets, on the other hand, explores a whole lot of nights that are anything but perfect. As a writer, those are the nights that interest me, because I think those are the ones we all live through until, if we’re lucky, we get to the one where “…all the nights magic seems to whisper and hushAnd all the soft moonlight seems to shine in your blush…”  I guess I’m just a bittersweet kind of girl, because for me, the bitter does make the sweet sweeter.

Lavinia Kent: I can’t. I am probably the world’s most unmusical person and don’t listen to music when I write. I find it very distracting. I do occasionally listen to the Benedictine monks’ CHANT, but I can’t say that it’s what inspires my hot and heavy romance. I really wanted to make something up because I’ve always longed for some musical understanding, but my mind faltered at even attempting such a task.  Now if we were to talk movies or other books...

Evie Owens: One of my favorite places to write is the local Panera's. I can't write in silence, all alone in my room. I can't listen to music with words. So at Panera's there's stuff going on around me but it isn't my stuff, so I don't have to pay attention to any of it. I can just get lost in my story. There is a song, though, that sort of set the mood for Erin and Martin—Bloodstream, by Stateless. You Vampire Diaries fans might remember this song from one memorable Damon-Katherine kiss on the old front porch...

2) Tell us about the romantic hero in your life.

Mary Blayney: The conventional and honest answer is that my husband Paul is the romantic hero in my life. The only one for more than forty years. He is calm to my storm, steadfast to my mercurial and sometimes as annoying as he is lovable. But if we put in "fictional" romantic hero, the list is a lot more fun. My favorite heroes are those who have honor at the core of their being. On that list: Aral Vorkosigan and his son, Miles from the series by Lois McMaster Bujold; Roarke (and Eve Dallas) from JD Robb’s In Death series; Martin, the Psychic Detective from Evie Owens novella of the same name;  and Michael Garrett from my own Lover's Kiss. The list goes on but I am sure I have already exceeded the word count.

Elaine Fox: Mmmmm, my romantic hero… Well, aside from being Argentinean with a lovely Spanish accent {{sigh}}, he’s kind and he’s handsome. He’s supportive and funny, intelligent and strong. He’s also a total pain in the butt when I’m not putting my writing first and he doesn’t let the distractions that lure me away pass without comment. (But that’s a good thing, right? No really—I’m asking.) He also puts up with my moods, my problems, and my dog, and he can make me laugh at even the most unexpected times, and that is a good thing. But there are many literary romantic heroes in my life, and the ones I turn to most frequently are Jane Austen’s. Mr. Darcy and Mr. Knightley top the list, but I’m also very fond of Edward Ferrars, Col. Brandon, and Captain Wentworth. Men with strength and spine, honesty, dignity and character. There is nothing more attractive to me than a guy you can depend on!

Emelle Gamble: I could write 500 words in my sleep about my real romantic hero, ‘Phil-the-fist’ who was a love at first sight love, and continues to be. He’s real, he’s wonderful, and he’s mine. But the ‘romantic hero in my life’ that keeps me awake is that guy in my head who populates my past and present storylines. I feel like I keep re-writing him, stalking him, trying to get him as real to me as ‘Phil-the-fist’. He’s complicated. He’s quiet and watchful and you can count on him. He’s sexy and elusive and I don’t know what he’s going to do next. He needs the love of a good woman to feel complete, not be complete. The search continues…

Lavinia Kent: My husband.  Yes, I know it’s the typical, expected answer (and he also serves as my proofreader, so I don’t dare say anything else), but if you could have seen him at the moment that I first read this question you’d realize it wasn’t quite so typical.  The poor man had a cold and not a pretty one, a red drippy one. And he is not a good patient. He would rather suffer (not quietly) than walk the fifty feet to get his cold meds. Which means that I run back and forth on little errands, patting his head, making his tea and honey, telling him I am very sorry that he feels this way.  But the thing of it is, even as his nose drips and clogs at the same time he makes my heart go pitter-pat. And that is the core of romance to me. (And I should add, the fact that he’d do the same for me, is six-foot three with fabulous hazel eyes, fixes my grammar and let’s me write about him certainly doesn’t hurt.)

Evie Owens: Being single, this just seems cruel and I blame Mackenzie Lucas, because she insisted it was an important question. But if I reframe it to include fictional heroes, then I've got just two words for you: Lloyd Dobler.

And the last, but possibly the most important question of them all:
3) Robert Downey, Jr., Benedict Cumberbatch, or Jonny Lee Miller. 

Mary Blayney: Jonny Lee Miller is my favorite Sherlock Holmes. I suspect that’s because I “know” his Sherlock better than I know the others. Cumberbatch is great onscreen or TV, but I cannot stand the way he portrays Holmes, or maybe it’s the way Holmes is written in that series. Robert Downey, Jr is an actor I will watch in almost anything but I find his Holmes more irritating than sympathetic. Building sympathy (empathy?) for the character is the key in my “affection” for Holmes by Miller. Is that too intellectual? To reduce it to a more basic level: for hotness it would have to be Robert Downey Jr. 

Elaine Fox: Sherlock-wise, absolutely Benedict Cumberbatch. He’s smart, weird, intense and, IMO, very very funny. 

Emelle Gamble: Really? I’m not choosing any man who has slept with Angelina Jolie. I mean, come on. So Jonny Lee Miller, her first husband, does not make my list. Cumberbatch? Yes, love love love me some modern Sherlock, but I’m not sleeping with the dude. Have you seen his apartment? Which leaves, of course, the right answer. HA! Robert Downey Jr….bad, a little mad, and dangerous to know. Take a deep breath and lose yourself in those all-wondering and devouring eyes. I’m betting the trip would be bumpy, but worth it.

Lavinia Kent: When I first got this question it didn’t specify that the question was best Sherlock—and I didn’t quite put it all together.  My answer was a little different then—and you’ll just have to guess about that answer. [Note from Evie: Or ask her in the comments!] I did enjoy the first Robert Downey, Jr. movie.  I thought it was great fun and I LOVE Steampunk.  And if the question was, “Who’s the best shirtless Sherlock?” then Jonny Lee Miller would win in less time than it takes to blink. But for best Sherlock, I can only go with Cumberbatch. The oddness of his character rings so true to me. I find myself believing that his mind could actually work that way. And I love that I can forget that his Sherlock is set in the modern day and that, even wielding cell phones and computers, he still has the Victorian edge of the original. I love them all, but if I can only have one, Cumberbatch is my only choice.  No question.

Evie Owens: Benedict Cumberbatch. Of course.

Comment to win Once and Forever.

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Sunday, November 3, 2013

Let's Kick Some Keyboard!

Question: So, ah, if it's not too personal, what's your NaNoWriMo word count today? 

If you answered 10,000, please leave the room and don't come back.  If you answered 5,000, you can stay where you are but for God's sake be quiet. If you answered less than 5,000 (perhaps you said: zip, zero, zilch?) then I've got good news for you: 

Saturday, November 9 is Writing Marathon Day.  Woohoo!

Clear the calendar, take the kids to Grandma's, and send your husband to a sports-beer event. It's time to kick some keyboard.

How many words can you string together in 24 hours? Heck, they don't even have to make total sense! In past NaNo years, I've written stellar passages like this:

It was a dark and stormy night, (ah, can't use that, but setting should be dark, moody, dangerous). The car Camaro--red Camaro-- cruised to a halt outside the seedy bar. Electra parked and stared moodily ahead.  She had surprise on her side and the cool steel of a INSERT NAME OF GUN HERE heavy in her pocket.  Jason Bourn Jason Nourn Jason McNeil Jase would atone for his sins today or, she thought grimly, she would die trying to make that happen. In a swift movement, before she lost the little courage she had, Electra swung out of the car and walked, strode, marched, stalked …. 

Well, you get the picture. It's not supposed to be perfect or even totally coherent. A few years back, I took myself off on a writing weekend. I wrote almost every waking hour of the 2.5 days I had. The story, bundled up inside me for months, flowed out like a river of words I couldn't halt. Finally, I tried to take a break and went to a local diner, but soon was scribbling the next scene on the paper placemat under my lunch. By the end of the weekend, I knew the characters and structure of my story. I didn't know whether Electra would stride, march or walk but I knew the important stuff: the who, the what, the where, and the why.
On Saturday you can stay at home and write in your PJs all day, or hang out with like-minded writers. In the DC region, there are three in-person events planned and more may pop up as the week progresses. Click here to see the full calendar. If you can't attend an in-person event but want some company, check in with NaNo for livestreaming or join the #NaNoThon on Twitter for updates, challenges, and giveaways.

Paired with this day of writing mania is a focus on fundraising. National Novel Writing Month is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit that believes your story matters.  NaNo has set a fundraising goal of $50,000 (hmmm, that number seems familiar) and suggests you put a financial value on the length of time you're going to write and donate that amount. And, there are PRIZES!!!!

    Why donate? Well, first, hosting a month-long writing event ain't cheap. NaNoWrimo needs to raise approximately $1.2 million to put on the 2013 NaNoWriMo and other programs.  Second, when you donate to National Novel Writing Month, you help bring free creative writing programs to more than 500,000 kids and adults in approximately 100 countries, 2,000 classrooms, 600 libraries, and 500 NaNoWriMo regions every year.

    So, this November 9, put your money and your word count where your mouth is. Give to NaNoWriMo and pound those little plastic keys until they sing for you!

    We'd like to hear from you about your NaNo experience and if you're going to a Saturday event. Tell us all about it.

    Monday, October 28, 2013

    Zombie Mythos & The Culture of Fear

    The Rockville 8 is proud to host guest blogger, Nikki Hopeman, a talented new voice in mystery and horror writing. Nikki's debut novel, Habeas Corpse, will be released November 2, 2013, by Blood Bound Books, and her masterful short story "Black Bird" appears in Mistresses of the Macabre, out now by Dark Moon Books and available on Today Nikki talks to us about Zombie Mythos and The Culture of Fear.
    Ahhhh … October. Beautiful reds, golds, and yellows adorn my neighborhood and I get to look forward to all the local munchkins stopping by for a trick or a treat. The crisp scent of falling leaves hangs in the air… and the foul odor of decaying flesh hangs about my computer.

    Photo Credit: 123RF
    I’m a mystery and horror writer. I’ve written stories about such things as wrongfully accused witches, garage sales gone wrong, vengeful birds, and nerdy zombies. Theo Walker, the protagonist in my upcoming novel, Habeas Corpse, is an awkward zombie who works for the Pittsburgh Bureau of Police as a forensic technician.

    Zombies are, by far, my favorite horror trope and they are wildly popular right now. Why are they so interesting and how did the zombie mythos come about? There is no one singular origin for the zombie in popular culture, like we can trace the vampire’s appearance to Bram Stoker’s Dracula. Although there is mention of the dead rising to eat the living in the Sumerian tale, The Epic of Gilgamesh, today’s pop culture zombie is mostly a construct of Haitian religious beliefs and our own Western ideas of terror.

    Historically, zombies have existed in many cultures with names like revenant, draugr, and jiangshi. No matter the name, a zombie is a person who has returned from the dead and kills to satiate its own hunger. According to certain branches of Vodou, or voodoo, a sorcerer can revive a dead person. These "living dead" are then used as slaves, sometimes for nefarious means, and forever under control of the sorcerer. The idea of an eternity of slavery to an evil sorcerer seems unpleasant, indeed terrifying, to most people.

    Those of us who love zombies work to make them scarier, new, and fresh, more interesting than Romero’s shamblers or even the faster predators we’re familiar with from The Walking Dead. How does a writer put a spin on a time-honored trope without losing the essence of what he or she is writing?

    For horror writers, the first thing to look at is what makes the monster scary. Most monsters kill, so either their method of dealing death must be highly unusual or we have to look at something else. We are repulsed by the idea of aimless wandering, of forced slavery, and being imprisoned in our bodies. Our fascination and loathing of the modern zombie takes root in those fears of mindless subservience. Add to these fears the threat of a contagious, cannibalistic eating machine, and the horrific modern zombie is born.

    How does a writer capitalize on a known fear? Tweak an element of what makes a monster terrifying or personalize it in some way to make it relevant to the reader. In Habeas Corpse, my zombies are part of society, but they live just on this side of exclusion. My zombies desire flesh, but an intense desire not to be outcast keeps their cannibalistic yearnings in check… at a price. In order to be a part of their community, my risers must deny what they are.

    The next time something scares you (except for the little gremlins and goblins at your Halloween door) think about what it is that creates the fear… and take it one step further.

    Happy haunting!

    Nikki Hopeman loves the kind of horror that leaves her quaking in the back of the closet, the kind that won't let her close her eyes. Life before writing includes a bachelor’s degree in microbiology, a few years as a veterinary technician, floral arranger, blueberry picker, babysitter, and VW Beetle mechanic. She holds an MFA in writing popular fiction from Seton Hill University. When she’s not writing, she can be found in the tattoo chair or on her Harley Davidson. Nikki shares her home in Pittsburgh with her husband, two sons, two crazy corgis, and an angry hamster. She can be reached at or on Twitter @nikkihopeman. Her short story, "Black Bird," appears in Dark Moon Books’ Mistresses of the Macabre. Habeas Corpse, Nikki’s debut novel, will be available from Blood Bound Books on November 2.





    Sunday, October 20, 2013

    Get Inspired, Stay Inspired: 5 Ways Already with You

    If you’re working hard on this thing called publishing, you’ve probably been at it for a long time. And you know you’ll probably be at it for a long time yet to come. So, how do you stay inspired for the long haul? How do you keep creating characters, keep describing scenes, and most importantly, keep the words coming? I’ll tell you the trick that gave my writing a boost. It's a trick that was with me all along. Chances are it's with you, too. The trick is I got in touch with my five senses. And getting in touch got me inspired.
    Nic's Cherry Tree
    A season or so ago, when the cherry tree in front of my house was bursting with blooms, I almost missed it. Living in our world of look-but-don’t-touch meant I wasn’t always connected to what was going on around me. So I decided to get in touch with my five senses. I started with touch. Every time I passed that tree, I took a moment to run my fingers over its buds. I was surprised how that simple act freshened my outlook—and made the words come quicker the next time I was at the keyboard, trying to describe the texture beneath my heroine’s fingertips.
    You can get in on the act. If you typically drink your coffee with cream, take a few sips without. Really get into the bite of those brewed beans. Let yourself get the giggles when you hear the neighbor kids playing on their swing set. Don’t just stop to smell the roses. Smell the falling leaves this season as well. What will taking a few moments to connect with your senses do for your quality of life? What will it do for the quality of your writing?
    I didn't expect what it did for me. So give it a try. Getting in touch with your five senses just might refresh you in the short term—and keep your writing fresh for the long haul.
    How do you get inspired? How do you stay inspired? The Rockville 8 would love to know.

    Monday, October 14, 2013

    Put Your Money Where Your Mouth Is

    This is another installment in the series about Body Language.  This week, the focus is the mouth.  The mouth is an expressive indicator of mood and thoughts.  It is fundamental to reading body language.  Many know chewing the lip can be an indication that the individual is experiencing uncertainty, anxiety, or worry.  I find that chewing your lip is an action I see a lot in books since it is an obvious sign of distress. 

    Placing your hand over your mouth can be polite if yawning or coughing.   But it can also be a “cover” to hide your emotional reaction.  The hand might hide a smile, smirk, or disapproval—an expression that the person might otherwise be unable to stop but still not want anyone to see.            

    Smiling is one of the most complex issues to read.  There are fake smiles and genuine ones.  But how do you tell the difference? 

    The Definitive Book of Body Language by Allan and Barbara Pease describes the first recorded scientific studies into smiling performed by nineteenth century French scientist Guillaume Duchenne de Boulogne.  He used electrodiagnostics and electrical stimulation to differentiate a real smile from one that is not.  He discovered that the smile is controlled by two sets of muscles—the zygomatic major muscles and the orbicularis oculi.  The zygomatic major pull the mouth back to show the teeth and enlarge the cheeks.  The orbicularis oculi narrow the eyes and cause what’s commonly referred to as “crow’s feet.”

    Zygomatic major muscles, which run down the side of the face and are attached at the corners of the mouth, are consciously controlled.  Therefore, they are the muscles used to produce false smiles that attempt to create the appearance of being friendly or subordinate.  Conversely, the orbicularis oculi, next to the eyes, are independent and reveal a real smile.   One sign of a sincere smile are wrinkle lines beside the eyes.   This is the reason that a smile might be described in a book as “not reaching the eyes” since an insincere smile doesn’t engage the orbicularis oculi muscles. 

    The next time someone smiles at you, look at what part of the face is engaged to discover true intent.   And if they cover their mouth while doing it, beware.  It may not be the friendly conversation it appears to be on the surface.