Friday, October 9, 2015 | By: Cafe
When we long for life without difficulties, remind us that oaks grow strong in contrary winds and diamonds are made under pressure.
- Peter Marshall

Thursday, October 8, 2015 | By: Cafe

An Interview with Kathleen Bittner Roth

The Write Way Café welcomes author Kathleen Bittner Roth, who took her mothers' advice and found her calling (one of them!) writing historical romance.

Kathleen is giving away a signed copy of Josette (U.S. only).  Be sure to leave a comment for a chance to win! 

When did you first have the thought you'd like to write a book? Was that first thought related to writing romance?
     When I was quite young, I would lull my little sister to sleep at night using my vivid imagination. At about twenty-five, my mom shoved a historical romance at me and said, “You need to write these kinds of books. You’ve got the talent and you’ve always been a romantic at heart.” Smart woman.
     I went on to found a wellbeing center that kept me incredibly busy for twenty-five years. In any spare time I had, I enjoyed reading historical romance and never forgot Mom’s words. When the opportunity came for me to write, I sat down, placed my fingers on the keyboard, looked to the heavens and whispered, “I’ll be needing a little help with this.” Within moments, my fingers started flying over the keyboard and A DUKE’S WICKED KISS was born, a historical romance set mostly in India in 1857 during the sepoy uprising against the British East India Company. DUKE went on to become a Golden Heart finalist and my first sale.

What was your path to getting this book written and published? What type of research did you do?
     I had entered CELINE in am RWA chapter writing contest. Alicia Condon, Editorial Director at Kensington Publishing, was the final judge. After I took first place, she asked for the full manuscript. Once read, she then offered me a three-book contract. JOSETTE is book three in my When Hearts Dare series that chronicles the powerful Andrews family, world-wide shipping magnates from New Orleans. CELINE, book one in the series, began on a plantation upriver from New Orleans. Cameron Andrews, my hero in Josette, was a vital secondary character in book one. With JOSETTE, I wanted Cameron to return to his roots in the French Quarter after having spent years abroad (he’s French/English). As for research, I enjoy thoroughly digging into the past. I scoured the history of New Orleans in person, online, in libraries, and meeting with people who could provide information key to the story.

Where did the idea for your story come from?
     For JOSETTE, I was on Skype with a critique partner who’d worked with me on books one and two of the series. She knew Cameron Andrews inside out from the first two books and agreed with me that Cameron should return to his roots in the French Quarter. We chatted about him as if he were a living, breathing being (my characters pretty much come alive for me while I’m writing). We brainstormed about what he would do if…how he’d react if… With just that bit to go on, JOSETTE was born.

Why did you pick the setting you did?
     I picked the New Orleans area for the series because I’m enamored with the city’s sultry, mysterious and flamboyant personality. With JOSETTE, I got to explore how life in the bayou contrasted to plantation life in book one, and the luxurious Garden District where Josette ended up. Then there was delicious historical French Quarter that Cameron calls home—oh, the food alone had me hungry all the while I was writing! Josette’s mother is a voodoo priestess who raised her own and her sister’s illegitimate children in a shanty along the bayou. Josette’s two brothers are irascible, handsome rogues. Their stories, The Bayou Bad Boys, will come next, in another three-book deal.

Are your main characters completely imaginary or do they have some basis in real people? Do they reflect aspects of yourself?
     My characters are all imaginary. However, I once read that an author can’t help but slip a bit of themselves in every story. That said, I can see a bit of my humor in Josette’s brothers and in Cameron’s business mind. At seventeen, Josette escaped an impoverished life in the bayou by marrying a wealthy, older man. Widowed and living in a fabulous mansion in the Garden District, she is nonetheless rejected by society. That’s the part of her that I identified with and here’s why: My late husband and I moved to a small town in Western New York in the late ‘90’s. To our dismay, the quiet village turned out to be a closed community. We were actually told we’d have to live there twenty-five years in order to be accepted. We moved on!

Did you face any blocks while writing the book, and if so, how did you handle them? If not, what's your secret?
     No blocks. When I’m writing, my stories play in my head like a movie and won’t leave me alone until I can write “the end.” I often dream scenes or chapters along the way, so I get out of bed every day and write. No matter how I feel, I write. I believe that keeps the blocks from interfering with the progression of my stories.

What have been surprises you've encountered while writing the book and after?
     I was barely on chapter four when René and Bastien, Josette’s hot bad boy brothers, showed up. They ended up playing an integral part in the story. The big surprise after I finished JOSETTE came when my editor fell for those bad boys as well and suggested I write their stories. That’s when I got another three-book deal and the green light to continue with the series.

What did you learn? For instance, what did you learn about yourself, your process, the writing world; about ships, and about New Orleans and its’ peoples?
     I think we, as writers, grow every time we sit down to write a story. Giving myself permission to explore the gritty, poverty-stricken circumstances Josette and her brothers endured growing up with an abusive voodoo priestess for a mother really gave me more confidence to explore the darker side of life while still writing a romance with a happy ending. As for ships—oh, the glorious feelings I had while researching the magnificent China Clippers. They first appeared in CELINE, book one, for a bit, played a big part in ALANNA, book two, and were an integral part of the landscape of JOSETTE. I researched clipper ships and the China trade until I felt as though I had sailed on one.

Tell us about your writing space and how or why it works for you.
     I live in Budapest, Hungary in a grand old apartment located in the very rear of the building. My windows overlook the back yard of a villa that houses the Franz Liszt Music Academy students. My desk is a massive, ornate German antique, circa 1850. It angles in one corner of the living room nearest the window. This gives me a wide view of the apartment’s interior as well as the tall trees and mansion behind me (I’m on the third floor). I often hear classical music pouring in through the nine-foot tall windows so I don’t play anything myself when I’m working. I sometimes feel as though I’ve stepped back in time.

What are some of your favorite books and why?
     For craft themes, I have three favorites: Stephen King’s ON WRITING, Anne Lamott’s BIRD BY BIRD, and Debra Dixon’s GOAL, MOTIVATION AND CONFLICT. Both Stephen King and Anne Lamott’s words reached into my soul and gave me permission to write what I love.

What are you working on now?
     I’m working on the next book in the series, Rene’s story, and also the sequel to THE SEDUCTION OF SARAH MARKS with Entangled Publishing (I feel blessed to be able to work with two publishers).

Would you like to try your hand at writing a different genre?  Which one and why?
     It’s in the works.  I just returned from Northern France where I conducted research for a WWII story. This one will be women’s fiction.

If you were not a writer, what would your dream job be?
     I would go right back to my old job. I founded a wellbeing center years ago, worked my butt off while loving every minute of interacting with and helping people become self-empowered. I still have ties to it and conduct seminars and classes whenever I’m in Texas. Who knows what time will tell. Were I to reopen a physical address, this time around I would include rescue animals to interact with the students. But I’d keep on writing nonetheless.

What aspect of writing gives you the most trouble?
     Those last couple of chapters when I know the ending is looming and I have to keep from racing through to get to it!

Who is your favorite hero/heroine?
     If you mean in my books, they are always the stories I am currently writing.

Available at:     Amazon       Barnes & Noble.
Also available at Target and Walmart

Josette Book trailer

About Kathleen:
     Once Kathleen Bittner Roth realized that making a living was not the same as making a life, she blazed her own trail by founding a successful well-being center, walking on fire, marrying in a castle in Scotland, scuba diving in dangerous waters, and performing dressage on her Arabian horse. She has somehow managed to live in six U.S. states and several foreign countries. Currently residing in Budapest, Hungary, she keeps one boot in Texas and the other in her home state of Minnesota.
     Kathleen considers writing romance a great venue for creating characters who are forced to draw on their strength of spirit in order to overcome adversity and find unending love.
     A PAN member of Romance Writers of America®, Kathleen has been a regular guest on radio, television, and various blogs. She has won or been a finalist in numerous writing contests, including the Romance Writers of America’s prestigious Golden Heart®.
     You can find Kathleen on Facebook, Twitter, Goodreads, Pinterest, or by visiting her website at:
     Four of Kathleen’s books released in 2014: The Seduction of Sarah Marks; A Duke’s Wicked Kiss; the When Hearts Dare series: Celine and Alanna. Book three, Josette, releases this September 29th.

Website           Facebook          Twitter:  @K_BittnerRoth

Tuesday, October 6, 2015 | By: Cafe

Tuesday Special: Jami Gray and Hunted by the Past

Jami Gray

PSY-IV Teams #1

Sometimes death is the only way to out run the past…

Changing the past is impossible, a fact ex-marine, Cynthia Arden, understands all too well. Struggling with the aftermath of a botched mission, a panicked phone call brings her home to face a killer’s game. Unfortunately, the distracting Kayden Shaw returns as well, the one man she thought would stand by her, until he chose his job over her.

To survive, will Cyn risk her heart or lose the man she loves and her life?

MuseItUp Publishing         Amazon        Smashwords
Barnes & Noble                iBooks         ARe            Kobo

About Jami:  Jami Gray is the award winning, multi-published author of the Urban Fantasy series, The Kyn Kronicles, and the Paranormal Romantic Suspense series, PSY-IV Teams. She can be soothed with coffee and chocolate. Surrounded by Star Wars obsessed males and two female labs moonlighting as the Fur Minxes, she escapes by playing with the voices in her head. 

You can find Jami at: 

Black Opal Books              Muse It Up Publishing          Facebook       
Facebook Author Page       Twitter                                Goodreads          
Google+                             Amazon Author Page           Newsletter

Friday, October 2, 2015 | By: Cafe
Courage is the most important of all the virtues because without courage, you can't practice any other virtue consistently.
- Maya Angelou
Thursday, October 1, 2015 | By: Cafe

An Interview with Taryn Leigh Taylor

The Write Way Café welcomes Taryn Leigh Taylor, who shares personal challenges and how she overcomes them.

When did you first have the thought you'd like to write a book? Was that first thought related to writing romance?
     I’ve wanted to be an author since the second grade. Our librarian read Gordon Korman’s This Can’t Be Happening at MacDonald Hall to my class, and I adored it. When she told us he’d started the book in the seventh grade as an English project, and I knew that writing a book was something I wanted to do, too. I didn’t have to wait to be a grown up.
     As for romance, that was a natural progression. While my earliest works were about pencils that came to life when everyone went home after school, my later works revolved around the hunks from teen magazines. I would write stories about my friends and their latest celebrity crushes. My friend’s mom would marry the father of  the chosen celebrity crush, and  the new step-siblings would turn from enemies to boyfriend-girlfriend and *gasp* kiss. The ultimate in sixth-grade love affairs!

What was your path to getting this book written and published?
     Last year, I entered the first chapter of Kiss and Makeup in Harlequin’s SYTYCW contest and was lucky enough to make the top 25. Unfortunately, I had to withdraw from the contest but I was invited to submit my story and after a nail-biting, ulcer-inducing, three-month wait, on January 15, 2015, I got The Call. It’s been full throttle ever since, and I’m loving the ride.

Where did the idea for your story come from? 
     Because Taylor is so common, I found myself wondering how often I’m seated beside or standing in line behind someone who shared my last name without knowing it. So I saddled Ben and Chloe with the same last name and decided to see what kind of misunderstandings--and sparks!--would arise when they found out.

Why did you pick the setting you did?
     I love to travel, and planes and hotel rooms seemed like a great way to strand Ben and Chloe together. These two characters are such opposites--she’s an aspiring YouTube makeup artist, he’s a dedicated ad-exec--that their paths would never cross in their everyday lives. They just needed a little forced proximity to push them out of their comfort zones and into each other's arms...over and over again. Sometimes without clothes. *wink*

Are your main characters completely imaginary or do they have some basis in real people? Do they reflect aspects of yourself?
     I definitely draw physical inspiration from celebrities. As far as personalities are concerned, I try to give my characters a strong enough backstory that they become themselves, rather than carbon copies of people I know. And while I could ramble on about how I do that for the good of the story, truthfully, it’s mostly for self-preservation...lest any of my friends or family recognize themselves!  
     As far as the books reflecting me goes, it seems to be inevitable. I never consciously set out to put myself on the page, and yet, once the novels are finished and I’ve had some time to reflect, I suddenly see little pieces of me--from broad themes to tiny moments--showing up in the story. It’s like therapy that I didn’t even realize was happening!

Did you face any blocks while writing the book, and if so, how did you handle them? If not, what's your secret?
     I face crippling self-doubt on a regular basis! It’s the price of putting a piece of your heart onto the page, which is exactly what writing is. I’ve noticed that when I get blocked, it’s usually when I start getting ahead of myself and worrying what people will think of what I’m writing--Will people laugh at this joke? Will people respond to this character? If my parents read this sex scene, will I ever be able to sit across from them at the dinner table without blushing? (Seriously. This is a very real fear.)
    And so far the only thing I’ve found that can remove all that blockage is just to focus on the story and write like nobody’s reading. Am I an expert at doing this? Heck no! It’s a skill that I’m trying to develop one day at a time. But that’s what you do when you love work at getting a little better at it every single day.

What have been surprises you've encountered while writing the book and after?
     I’m happy to report that the biggest surprise I’ve encountered is a good one! People have been so supportive of Kiss and Makeup, and of me as a writer. It’s something that has been so private for so long, my writing, and while I’ve got a great family and a very supportive writing group, my authorial ambitions were not something I ever broadcasted far and wide. (It’s an introvert thing.) So when I found out I was going to be published, that I would actually have to put myself out there with coworkers and acquaintances and tell them about my book...let’s just say I didn’t know what to expect.
     I have been overwhelmed by how awesome people have been. People you know have never read a romance novel in their lives have given me the most lovely, most heartfelt congratulations. It’s been really amazing.
     The worst surprise? Writing is always a waiting game, whether you’re pre-published or post-published, you’re going to be biting your nails and waiting for the next email or phone call with bated breath. The waiting is part of the biz, so get used to it.

What did you learn? For instance, what did you learn about yourself, your process, the writing world; about corporate-type heroes and makeup artists?
     I learned a couple of things from this experience. First of all, I am a chronic procrastinator, and whipping up a five-page essay the night before it’s due is far different that writing a whole book. So my pre-published process--write when you feel like it--wasn’t going to cut it. The key is just to write. Every day. Even when you don’t want to. Because it never gets just have to keep practicing. That’s how books get written. 
     Plus, if you do that, you’ll never have to pull an all-nighter to finish up a submission...and then you’ll never have to learn the hard way, like I did, that energy drinks are the embodiment of evil. 
     I also learned that no matter how many YouTube videos you watch on the subject, applying cat-eye eyeliner might be a skill that always eludes you. (Please tell me I’m not the only person who struggles with this particular makeup skill...please?)

Tell us about your writing space and how or why it works for you.
     I’m actually a bit of a writing nomad, to be honest. While I have a desk at home, I can often be found haunting a number of local Starbucks locations. I also go back and forth between typing and writing long hand. I find for me that different types of scenes need different types of stimulus--from dead quiet, to idle background chatter, to awesome music. Switching from desk to coffee shop and computer to notebook lets me customize the exact right ambiance to craft the scene I’m looking to write.

What are some of your favorite books and why?
     I love Anne of Green Gables. It’s funny and heartfelt, and it speaks to my writer’s heart. Anne Shirley and I connected at a time when I needed proof that wanting to be an author was a dream worth exploring. 
I Am The Messenger, by Markus Zusak blew me away. Such an interesting exploration of narrative structure, and I get something different each time I reread. Also, the coolest concept EVER. Lord of the Flies is one my favorites for the mere fact that I thought I would hate it. I couldn’t skip out because it was assigned school reading, and it didn’t take long before I couldn’t put it down! It taught me that books can seduce you if you give them a chance.
     And for all out fun, sex, and romance and murder? The In Death series by JD Robb is still winning my love after 40+ books. And as a bonus, it’s an incredible lesson in growing a cast of characters.

What are you working on now?
     My next Blaze, Playing To Win, is about Luke Maguire, a professional hockey player, and Holly Evans, an aspiring sports reporter. These two were a blast to write, because they are in a race against time, and each other, to figure out who’s behind a sports betting scandal that could rock Luke’s team to the core. I loved giving Holly and Luke the power to destroy the other and the responsibility of deciding whether or not to pull the trigger. It made for some great sexual chemistry, too! Extra-added bonus--a hero is nothing without his team, so there could be some more hot hockey heroes in Blaze’s future!
Would you like to try your hand at writing a different genre?  Which one and why?
     I would love to write a YA novel. One’s been brewing in my head for awhile, and it’s not going to be content to rattle around in there forever. I just love how strong the genre’s been of late, how much depth of subject matter is being explored. YA has been a staple of my TBR pile, and I’m consistently impressed with the work of authors like Markus Zusak, Moira Young, and John Green, among a whole host of others. And I’d love to try my hand with some slight fantasy elements as well, really let my imagination run wild!

If you were not a writer, what would your dream job be?
     Paleontologist, no question. Dinosaurs are the best!

What aspect of writing gives you the most trouble?
     Believe it or not, the romance! I have a really bad habit of going for the joke. How’s this for an actual quote from my editor about the original ending to Kiss and Makeup: “The end is really funny...but we’re wondering if you could make it more, you know, romantic.” My first drafts sometimes come out more like buddy comedies than romance novels, but I try to trust the process and get the jokes out of my system in the first run through. Then I can focus on the really important stuff--the sexy, sultry, and emotionally satisfying stuff that turns a book into a Blaze.

Who is your favorite hero/heroine?
     I hope this isn’t a cop-out, but I can’t pick just one! The beauty of writing, and reading for that matter, is the infinite number of combinations that align to make a hero you fall for and a heroine you root for. I definitely have a type though!
     I like my heroes with a sense of humor and a hint of badass--Roarke, Dean Winchester, Kid Chaos, Jim Halpert. (Hey, putting your coworker’s stapler in Jell-O counts as badassery! I stand by that.) And let’s face it, abs don’t hurt either. *angelic grin*
     I like my heroines plucky and independent, so when they choose their man, you know it’s not because they need him as because they want him--in every sense of the word. Love me some ladies with brains and vocabularies to match, too--Eve Dallas, Veronica Mars, Elizabeth Bennett, and Anne Shirley come to mind.

A hot shade of lipstick calls for a hot, sexy guy… 

Makeup artist Chloe Masterson has a look for every occasion. Flying home for your sister's wedding and family torture? Easy. Bring out the sarcastic wit and black eyeliner. Bonus—the look catches the eye of the corporate hottie sitting beside her on the plane. Turns out Ben has the exact same last name, and everyone assumes they're married. 

When they get stuck in a hotel room together, Chloe decides to accept the gift the Fates have bestowed upon her. (Tip: a bold lip color does wonders for seduction.) But as their lies begin to snowball, Chloe and Ben find it harder and harder to distinguish between what's real and what's all just smoky eyes and mirrors.

Amazon          Book Depository          Harlequin

Taryn Leigh Taylor likes dinosaurs, bridges, and space, both personal and of the final frontier variety. She shamelessly indulges in cliches, most notably her Starbucks addiction (grande-six-pump-whole-milk-no-water chai tea latte, aka: the usual), her shoe hoard (I can stop anytime I...ooh! These are pretty!), and her penchant for falling in lust with fictional men with great abs (yum!)

She also really loves books, which is what sent her down the crazy path of writing one in the first place.

Find Taryn here:  Website       Facebook          Twitter          Instagram

Tuesday, September 29, 2015 | By: Cafe

When Everything Falls Apart

I recently read a saying that made me laugh. It went something like this: Dear Whatever-Doesn’t-Kill-You-Makes-You-Stronger, Thank you. I’m strong enough now. 

Cute! But it started my brain thinking about what people do when everything falls apart.

Options are many. There’s always the “go to bed,” option. Just drop out of the world for a bit and let everything stop. Maybe there are tears and feelings of failure or loneliness to process or not. Of course the standard grab a cup of really good coffee, tea, or liquor offers a degree of solace when relationships fail or everything you’d planned, dreamed of, and worked toward falls apart.

 In my books, Dancing with Detective Danger and Always and Forever Love, about the Private Investigator sisters, Sterling and Lacey Agar, the sisters suffered much and early. Their world, consisting of their family, crumbled away in degrees. They each found ways of soldiering on, but they also each built coping mechanisms that kept them going into adulthood. Coping mechanisms are survival tactics, but they also can become outdated and destructive.

For Sterling, the younger sister, the loss of her father and mother and family as she’d known it prompted her to build walls that would keep her safe from getting close to anyone again. When her sister’s husband was killed, the walls got stronger and she broke up with her lover and detective, Ben. Here’s an excerpt in which Ben pushes her to try love again.

     Ben dropped his hands to his sides and stepped off the elevator. Thoughtfully, he rubbed his thumb against his chin. The rasping of his thick beard stubble sounded crisply inside Sterling’s head, drawing her in like a bee to honey. 
    “We found Jerry’s fingerprints on a glass in the bathroom,” he said, eyeing her as she stepped out into the night. 
     Sterling cleared her throat. “So they were enjoying a little early morning tryst. That would explain why there was no sign of forced entry and why the dog didn’t attack the killer. The dog must have known the killer. It seems pretty open and shut, huh?” 
     “Maybe,” hedged Ben. “Maybe a little too neat?” 
     “Yeah. But then, what’s wrong with neat? Well, here’s my car,” she said, stepping several feet away from Ben. Sterling pointed her remote key toward her car and put her hand on the door handle. Her hands still trembled, despite her efforts to calm herself. Nervously, she glanced over her shoulder and saw Ben standing on the other side of the lot. 
     “You know, it seems like you’re always walking away from me,” he said, his voice low. 
     Instantly, Sterling pivoted. “Don’t do that.” She faced him with as much composure as she could muster. 
     “Don’t do what?” A few succinct broad strides and he closed the distance between them. 
     “Don’t keep referring to the past.” 
     “I can’t help it, Sterling. Maybe that’s because what we shared isn’t really in the past.” 
     Standing close, he looked down at her with such sorrow, she wished she could reach out and hold him, tell him everything would be the way he wanted it. With strong emotions seething just under her skin, it would be so easy to tell him things could be the way they used to be. 
     Instead, she backed away. 

Like her sister, Lacey’s worldview was shaped by the loss of her parents. But when her husband died, she wore the grief of his death like a heavy mantle. That is, until her dead husband, Nicholas, returned to her as an embodied spirit. With him back in her life, and visible only to her, Lacey centers her life around him, repressing any desires for more. She fears the return of the terrible grief if he leaves. But what she doesn’t know is that Nicholas has come back to help her move back into the world and develop a new relationship, without him nearby.

     Brought out of her reflection by the sound of a car horn nearby, she realized Nicholas’s remark was part of a developing pattern he’d been presenting lately, and she wanted to nip it. “Jackson Carter is a snake who comes from a long line of snakes. I want nothing to do with him.” Initially she’d felt self-conscious about talking to Nick in public, but he’d suggested that most people didn’t notice because they were busy with their own thoughts, and she’d found out he was right. She glanced at the passenger side and smiled. “How long have you been watching, Nick, my love?” 
     “Long enough. I wanted to see Tyler off. But stop changing the subject.” He set his eyes, the color of crystal blue quartz, on Lacey. “Tell me about Jackson.” 
     Her heart clenched. “I don’t want to talk about him. The only two men in my life are Tyler and you.” She wanted the traffic driving by to distract him but she suspected his attention was elsewhere. 
     “You forget, I’m dead. I’m just a ghost. I can’t even keep you warm on a cool summer evening.” The wind flowing in through the open window lifted strands of Nick’s ash- blond, wavy hair. His face turned to savor the breeze, and he looked every bit alive enough to Lacey. 
     “You make me happy. It’s as simple as that.” She reached for Nick’s hand. He took hers in his, brought her fingers to his lips, and brushed them with a kiss. She savored the feel of his lips, never taking his very solid presence for granted. 
     “You deserve more, Lacey. You’re young, you’re alive. I’m not. Not in the same sense you are.” 
     His pressure on her to consider different options than the perfectly lovely and satisfying one she had with him made her stop breathing. “Stop.” She let out her breath as she turned into the parking garage across the street from the Aegar Investigations office. “You are alive. Just not in a way anyone would get. I do. And I get you. And if that means I get you as a ghost, as you put it, I’m grateful.”

The defenses the sisters have in place are not far from what people do in real life when tough times hit and call into question how we’re going to go on. When a book project is rejected, many of us go through the routine of reassessing our ability as a writer and consider quitting. I’ve done it many times when a reviewer has rated my book anything less than a 5-star. Reassessing can be helpful. So can going to bed and grabbing a hot coffee, talking with a good friend, or really processing the sorrow.

Then what? It’s up to you. Because as Eleanor Roosevelt said, “Life is what you make it. Always has been, always will be.”

What do you do when facing a hard situation? Do you have any sayings that give you strength?

Friday, September 25, 2015 | By: Cafe
Creativity involves breaking out of established patterns in order to look at things in a different way. 
- Edward de Bono