Friday, December 19, 2014 | By: Cafe
Above all, challenge yourself.  You may well surprise yourself at what strengths you have, what you can accomplish. 
– Cecile M. Springer
Thursday, December 18, 2014 | By: Cafe

The End—When is it Time to Say Goodbye to a Series?

The Write Way Café welcomes author Suzanne Johnson, who shares her thoughts on how to end a series without stranding your characters...or your readers!

In a recent interview, author Kerrelyn Sparks talked about her long-running Love at Stake series, whose sixteenth and final book is being released this month. She likened writing such a long-running series to having family members who came to visit and wouldn’t quite leave. She loved them, but she needed a break.

It made me think about my own three series that are currently being published both under this name (Sentinels of New Orleans) and as Susannah Sandlin (The Penton Legacy and The Collectors). Book four of the Penton series released this past June, Collectors No. 2 came out a couple of weeks ago, and Sentinels No. 4 and 5 come out in 2015 and 2016.

Once upon a time in the olden days—you know, about five years ago—the question “When do you end a series?” had only one answer: “When the publisher decides to stop publishing it.”

That, I’m happy to say, is no longer the case. I know readers have often felt cheated when they’ve become invested in series that just….ended. No warning. Characters hanging off cliffs. Usually, the authors bore the brunt of the blame for that, but I can pretty much guarantee that 99.9 percent of those suddenly ending series were publisher choice, not author choice.

Now, with indie publishing becoming not only more accepted but financially viable, the burden is on the author to decide when it’s time to send the relatives home. If a series is still selling well, do you push it past its intended story life, publishing on your own, and risk it dying an ignoble, obscure death (or, in contrast, hitting the bullseye, sales-wise).

And how do you know when it’s time? I love my characters and all of my series, obviously, or I wouldn’t have taken them this far. But recently, I made myself take a step back from them, look at them from both a story and a business point of view, and see where their futures lay.

The answer I finally came up with was, when the story is no longer viable. When the characters begin to feel tired to me, they will be tired to the readers. I think we can all name a series or three that has simply gone on two or three books too long, that went from “must buy and drop everything to read immediately on release day” to “put it on a wish list for later.”

I have an end set for one of my series at either six or seven books, depending on how long the story arc in my head takes to play out. It has been building for a while, is about to explode, and then will need to play out. If it plays out in book six, then it’s done. I love the characters too much to see them grow tired and stale, or venture in directions that are wrong for the series. (Yeah, we’ve all seen that happen, too!)

Another series has reached a turning point where the characters need to go really big or go home. That one, I think, needs to end and morph into a spinoff series with new blood to mix with the old blood.

The third series is new and, as my first foray into a new genre of romantic suspense, is too early to call. It’s an odd premise in the genre—the continuing characters are the bad guys rather than the romantic hero/heroine, and each book can work as a standalone. But I’ll be watching it, taking its temperature, having a talk with my characters (and, oh yeah, the publisher) and deciding.

Of course plans change, there are tons of new stories bubbling around in my brain (and in my story idea folder on my computer desktop which goes by the unfortunate name of “Brain Farts”—true story), and publishers might want to go in one direction more than another.

This thing I know for sure, however. Authors now have options, which means we should never leave our readers—or our characters, for that matter—stranded. I’ve always said that if my series get orphaned, I’ll at least put out a novella to wrap things up, just as a gift to the readers who have invested time and emotion in my stories and my characters. It’s a hard thing to do, giving up writing time when you might be earning a living in order to write something that will earn more than goodwill.

But goodwill, and the trust between and author and a reader, is vital. I love my readers, and I hope they know it. I’d never strand them.

So, what say you? Have you been disappointed when favorite series ended without a satisfactory resolution of story? Do you think authors—or their publishers—have an obligation to readers to put out a final series book that wraps up the storyline?

Leave a comment for a chance to win a copy of your choice of book in any of my series!

Deadly, Calm and Cold
by Susannah Sandlin
How far will ordinary people go to protect their secrets? The Collectors’ games are as much about manipulating lives as finding lost treasure. Everyone is expendable as the ruthless C7 pushes people into gambling with their lives in order to find priceless objects lost to history.

Samantha Crowe’s secrets could ruin her career, while Brody Parker’s could get him killed. They become pawns for two Collectors seeking Bad King John’s crown jewels, which disappeared in rural England back when Robin Hood roamed Nottingham. This time, however, the Collectors—a ruthless dotcom billionaire and a desperate London detective—might not be playing for the same team, leaving Sam and Brody trapped in the middle.

One thing’s for sure: if either hopes to survive, Sam and Brody will have to find a way to overcome their distrust—and their growing attraction—in order to succeed on this winner-take-all treasure hunt.

Find Deadly, Calm, and Cold in print, digital, and audio at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Book Depository. [Book one, Lovely, Dark, And Deep, is on sale for Kindle in December at $1.99.]

About Suzanne:  Suzanne Johnson is the author of the award-winning Sentinels of New Orleans urban fantasy series (Royal Street, River Road, Elysian Fields, Pirate’s Alley (2015) and Belle Chasse (2016), and, as Susannah Sandlin, writes the award-winning Penton Legacy paranormal romance series (Redemption, Absolution, Omega, Allegiance, and the spin-off paranormal romance Storm Force). She also writes The Collectors romantic suspense series, Lovely, Dark, and Deep, and Deadly, Calm, and Cold. She lives in Auburn, Alabama, with her elderly rescue dog Tanker and a yard full of chipmunks. You can find her at her website, on Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014 | By: Cafe

An Interview with Collette Cameron

The Write Way Café welcomes author Collette Cameron, who shares her fascination with history through the characters and settings in her books. 

When did you first have the thought you'd like to write a book? Was that first thought related to writing romance?

     I don’t actually know when the notion started about writing. Somewhere tucked into the corner of my mind had always been this niggling thought that maybe someday I’d write a book. I didn’t have a clue what kind, except I knew it wouldn’t be a romance novel.
     The idea of writing dialogue terrified me, and there were concerns about what people would think if I wrote one of those books.
     So what do I write? Historical romance novels.
     I had a scene pop into my mind one day, and I wondered if I could write an entire book around that scene. I did, and Highlander’s Hope was the result.

Where did the idea for your story come from? 
     Triumph and Treasure was birthed from my Castle Brides Series.
     There were so many fabulous secondary characters in those first three books, I knew many of them had to have their own stories. Truthfully, some of them nagged incessantly until I agreed to share their tales. Characters can be quite impatient and demanding.
     Flynn, the Marquis of Bretheridge, was a fun-loving popular fellow in that first series, and I wanted to introduce something into his life that would challenge his usual jovial attitude. I also wanted Scottish roots in one or both of my main characters.  I knew Angelina would be different than the typical Scottish Regency heroine, so I had her raised in America.

Why did you pick the setting you did?
     I love both Scotland and England. I seem to have a penchant for setting my stories in those dual locations.
     I’ve been to England twice and fell in love with the country. My hubby and I are going to Scotland in the summer of 2015, so I hope to get a bunch of research done while I’m there. That is if I don’t spend all my time exploring the castles and standing stones.
     Plus, with a name like Cameron, it’s in my blood!

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 completely imaginary, though people swear there are aspects of me in my first heroine. If there are, they were completely unintentional, and in fact, I believe she rubbed off on me, not the other way around.
     I actually deliberately try to create characters totally different than me, which can be a challenge sometimes to get inside their heads and emotions.
     After my stories are written, I’ve seen some character traits in some of my secondary characters that are very familiar, and in one case, I realized the character could, indeed, be someone I actually know.
     Maybe my subconscious was trying to tell me something.

What have been surprises you've encountered while writing the book and after?
     I’m what people have called a linear pantser or a plantster. I write beginning to end, and I have some basic plot points I want to hit on, but I don’t know my entire story in detail until it’s done.
     I love how my characters will take me a direction I didn’t see coming or how I’ll suddenly know what a secondary character’s story is going to be because of something that happened during the writing of the story.
     It surprises me how strongly some people react to the fictional people in my books.

What did you learn? For instance, what did you learn about yourself, your process, the writing world; about slave-trading, gambling, and Scottish royalty?
     As you might expect, historicals require a great deal of research.
     When I was creating the villain for Triumph and Treasure, I wanted someone involved in something despicable, so I began to research the slave trade in France. I was stunned to learn that slave traders in France were responsible for far more numbers of slaves being sold than the United States.
     Gambling was an acceptable social practice for both men and women as a form of entertainment. Though gaming was all the rage during the Regency era, many a man lost everything at the tables, and some even took their lives after losing a wager.
     The Scots are a fascinating people, and I greatly admire them.  The peerage in Scotland is similar to that of England with a few exceptions.  Flynn, the hero in Triumph and Treasure holds a British title.

Tell us about your writing space and how or why it works for you.
     I have the most beautiful writing space; at least I think so! I call it my shabby chic writing room.
     When my youngest son left home, I commandeered his bedroom. It overlooks our backyard which is also a Certified Wildlife Habitat.  I filled the room with all sorts of repainted cast-offs and everything I love the most: flowers, candles, teacups, pictures galore.
     It’s a bit busy for some people, but that’s okay. It’s not their room.  It’s my quite place and the ambiance in the room is perfect for writing.

What are you working on now?
     I’m in the middle of Heartbreak and Honor, the third book in my Highland Heather Romancing a Scot Series. December is busy month for me. The first book in the series, Triumph and Treasure, just released and I’m finishing up the second book, Virtue and Valor.
     I’m also in the final edits for Bride of Falcon, a Regency novella that will be released as part of a boxed novella set, Captivated by His Kiss, with seven other Regency authors in January. And then there’s a 2015 Valentine anthology that features my short story, Heart of a Highlander, and I have another short story releasing in January, A Kiss For Miss Kingsley.
     Many of the characters in those books have been introduced in my other books as well.

Would you like to try your hand at writing a different genre?  Which one and why?
     While historical romance will always remain my favorite genre, I have a time-travel series, a new adult series, and a contemporary series planned.
    There are historical elements to the first two series, so I guess I’m not getting away from writing historicals altogether.

What aspect of writing gives you the most trouble?
     I tend to be a wordy writer, which means I have to go back and be brutal about tightening scenes. Thank goodness I have a couple of critique partners who have no qualms about telling me to cut, cut, cut!

Triumph and Treasure
Book One in the Highlander Heather Romancing a Scot Series

A disillusioned Scottish gentlewoman.
Angelina Ellsworth once believed in love—before she discovered her husband of mere hours was a slave-trader and already married. To avoid the scandal and disgrace, she escapes to her aunt and uncle’s, the Duke and Duchess of Waterford. When Angelina learns she is with child, she vows she’ll never trust a man again.

A privileged English lord.
Flynn, Earl of Luxmoore, led an enchanted life until his father committed suicide after losing everything to Waterford in a wager. Stripped of all but his title, Flynn is thrust into the role of marquis as well as provider for his disabled sister and invalid mother. Unable to pay his father’s astronomical gambling loss, Flynn must choose between social or financial ruin.

When the duke suggests he’ll forgive the debt if Flynn marries his niece, Flynn accepts the duke’s proposal. Reluctant to wed a stranger, but willing to do anything to protect her babe and escape the clutches of the madman who still pursues her, Angelina agrees to the union.

Can Flynn and Angelina find happiness and love in a marriage neither wanted, or is the chasm between them insurmountable?

Available from Amazon   

Connect with Collette:
Website          Blue Rose Romance Blog          Twitter           Facebook     
Goodreads          LinkedIn           Google+ 
Visit her website for her email address and mailing address.

About Collette:  Award winning, multi-published historical romance author, Collette Cameron, has a BS in Liberal Studies and a Master's in Teaching.  A Pacific Northwest Native, Collette’s been married most of her life, has three amazing adult children, and five dachshunds. Collette loves a good joke, inspirational quotes, flowers, the beach, trivia, birds, shabby chic, and Cadbury Chocolate. You'll always find dogs, birds, quirky—sometimes naughty—humor, and a dash of inspiration in her novels. Her motto for life? You can’t have too much chocolate, too many hugs, or too many flowers. She’s thinking about adding shoes to that list.

Friday, December 12, 2014 | By: Cafe
If you cannot find happiness along the road, you will not find it at the end of the road. 
- Author Unknown
Thursday, December 11, 2014 | By: Cafe

An Interview with Diane Burton

The Write Way Café welcomes author Diane Burton, whose insatiable curiosity and love of writing has her writing in various genres and loving it all.

When did you first have the thought you'd like to write a book? Was that first thought related to writing romance?

My children were going off to college and I was facing the “empty nest.” After years of taking care of everyone, I thought it was time I did something for myself. That was over twenty years ago and I’ve loved every minute of it. I’d read so many romances that, of course, I had to write one. Fortunately for the reading public, those first stories will remain hidden. LOL Somehow, I couldn’t write straight romance. My stories always ended up with a mystery.

Where did the idea for your story come from? What type of research did you do?
I was a huge fan of “Remington Steele” back in the 80s, so it seemed natural when I began writing my first Alex O’Hara novel that the detective had to be a woman. Along with The Case of the Bygone Brother being my first mystery, I had another first. I wrote the second book in the series first. Then I found that instead of filtering in so much backstory I needed to write it as a separate book. I’m so glad I did.

Why did you pick the setting you did?
The Case of the Bygone Brother takes place in a small resort town on the shores of Lake Michigan. I’d always loved the west side of Michigan and had vacationed there many summers. My fictional town of Fair Haven is a combination of the towns along the coast. When I started writing the story, my husband and I lived in the middle of the state and would take “research trips” over to Holland, Grand Haven, South Haven, etc. But it wasn’t until we moved there last year that I really got the flavor of the area with its strong Dutch population.

Are your main characters completely imaginary or do they have some basis in real people?
All my characters are imaginary and not based on real people. I emphasize that because I use a lot of Dutch names—for some, including the missing brother, I used family names. From the early 1600s until the mid-1800s, my ancestors came from The Netherlands. I’ve never been happier for the genealogical research my husband and I have been doing since the first years of our marriage.

What did you learn? For instance, what did you learn about yourself, your process, the writing world; about PI’s, missing people, and resort towns?
My best friend is married to a retired police chief and professor of criminal justice. He’s my go-to person when I have questions. He gave me insight into the different type of work private investigators handle—which of course gave me ideas for future books.

I wrote the story entirely in the first person point of view, like the classic detective novels of the 30s and 40s—Dashiell Hammett, Raymond Chandler, etc. This was more difficult than I expected. Since everything is seen through Alex’s eyes, the reader only knows what she knows. No leaking clues by going into the villain’s point of view. No insight into Nick’s (her love interest) motives. I had to know them, of course. This was a real departure from romantic suspense.

Tell us about your writing space and how or why it works for you.
Years ago, my husband salvaged a huge (7 or 8 feet long and 4 feet wide) drafting tabletop from a plant that was being torn down. He used the wood to make a lovely writing desk for me. (His furniture making skills are phenomenal.) It’s in my basement office with a daylight window overlooking a pond with various wildlife, including geese (unfortunately) who come right up to the window. I love the location and my desk, but my favorite space is in my living room recliner with my laptop. It’s comfortable and I can block out all sorts of noise—except my husband’s favorite reality shows like “Alaskan State Troopers.” I think I need earplugs.

What are you working on now?
So many projects, so little time. LOL As soon as I shipped Bygone Brother off to my freelance editor, I began writing the third book in my Outer Rim Series about strong women on the frontier of space. I need to tweak the second Alex O’Hara mystery and I just wrote a short story for The Roses of Prose Holiday anthology. The Santa Tradition appeared in three installations beginning last Sunday. Here’s the link to the first part:

Would you like to try your hand at writing a different genre?  Which one and why?
Actually, this is a different genre for me. My first published book, Switched, was a science fiction romance. Since then I’ve written four more sci-fi roms and a romantic suspense. For The Case of the Bygone Brother, I returned to the contemporary time period that I cut my writing teeth on many years ago.

If you were not a writer, what would your dream job be?
Writing is my dream job. I love what I do. But if I had to choose another occupation, it would be an astronaut. I’d love to go into space. Why else would I write sci-fi romance? <grin>

Who is your favorite hero/heroine?
Nancy Drew. When I was young, I read all my mother’s books then started getting more as gifts. Although I “graduated” to adult mysteries and romances, the spunky girl detective has a special place in my heart.

The Case of the Bygone Brother by Diane Burton
A PI mystery

Alex O’Hara finally gets a case that will give her bottom line a much needed boost. She might even be able to change her diet from ramen noodles to prime rib. All she has to do is track down a man who’s been missing for over ten years. Piece of cake . . . until an old flame arrives and a mugger roughs her up with orders to back off.

Available at:
Amazon     Smashwords     iTunes     Barnes & Noble     Kobo 

     “Hello, gorgeous.”
     I whacked my head on the display shelf. 
     Well, what would you do if you were lying across the top of a four-drawer lateral file cabinet, and your arm—yardstick attached—was wedged between the wall and the cabinet, trying to retrieve the license renewal application that if you mangled, crushed or couldn’t get would mean the end of your business, and the ex-love-of-your-life stood in the doorway looking at your butt?
     The shelf shook on its braces from contact with my head. Never mind that the encounter didn’t do much for the aforementioned body part. The Fair Haven Chamber of Commerce awards rattled, and signed Detroit Tigers baseballs pelted my head, shoulders, and the back of my thigh. I dropped the yardstick and swore.
     “I thought you promised your mother you wouldn’t swear anymore.” He would remind me of that vow.
     “Relapse,” I muttered as I looked over my shoulder.
     In that loose-limbed, cocky manner I once thought scary, sexy, and so cool, Nick Palzetti stood in the doorway to the spare office. He even dressed the same in a black leather jacket, black knit shirt, and jeans that molded his hips. Lordy, he could still make my mouth go dry.
     As I wiggled back and sideways across the long cabinet, I felt my skirt ride up. Of all days to wear a skirt. With my foot, I searched for the desk chair I’d climbed to get on top of the cabinet. I’d kicked off my high heels before standing on the chair, probably the only smart thing I’d done so far.
     “Red panties, you naughty girl.”

About the Author:  Diane Burton combines her love of mystery, adventure, science fiction and romance into writing romantic fiction. Besides the science fiction romance Switched and Outer Rim series, she is the author of One Red Shoe, a romantic suspense, and The Case of the Bygone Brother, a PI mystery. She is regular contributor to The Roses of Prose and Paranormal Romantics blogsites. Diane and her husband live in Michigan. They have two children and two grandchildren. 

For more info and excerpts from her books, visit Diane’s website:
Diane can also be found here:  Blog     Twitter     Facebook     Goodreads     Pinterest

Tuesday, December 9, 2014 | By: Cafe

See the Beauty in Your Gift

It's Christmas time and I could talk about Christmas traditions, Christmas magic, Christmas spirit. The season offers a lot of opportunity for reflection.

But what I'm going to discuss is a Christmas book, The Littlest Angel, and its impact on me years ago.

According to the front page of the book, The Littlest Angel was written in 1939 at the request of Screen Guild producers, who asked Charles Tazwell to "write something" as a backup plan if one of the guild's productions fell through. The crisis that it was created to avert never happened but the story aired on a Christmas radio show. In 1946, the book was released by Childrens Press of Chicago. The story was presented in various forms over the years, from radio, to book, to magazine, to record, to a Hallmark Hall of Fame production in 1969.

A brief summary of the story:

Many, many years ago, a four-year-old boy entered heaven. From his first step into paradise he upset the heavenly peace with his behavior and fairly unangelic antics, though he tried to do what was expected of him. But mostly he missed the things on earth he had enjoyed – trees to climb, streams to fish, and caves to play in – and he longed for the sun and the rain and dark of night and light of dawn.

When he learned of the homesickness the littlest angel was suffering, the Understanding Angel sent a messenger to procure a box of the littlest angel's treasures from earth, and from then on the boy was a happy and angelic angel.

As the birth of baby Jesus approached, the heavens were excited and all angels gathered to place gifts for the holy infant at the feet of God. Even the littlest angel had found a suitable gift and placed it lovingly in the pile of gifts. But when he saw his unsightly box among the other glorious gifts, he felt embarrassed and wanted to take it back and hide it.

When God's hand moved over the selection of gifts, he stopped at the box from the littlest angel. The littlest angel was so afraid as the box was opened and everyone including God saw the gift he offered. It was nothing, he thought. It was simply a butterfly with golden wings, a sky-blue egg, two white stones, and a tooth-marked collar once worn by his dog. He was miserable. To think he'd believed these simple things would be fitting gifts for Jesus.

But God singled out his gifts as the gift that pleased Him most. And the rough, unsightly gift began to glow, rise, and shine brilliantly over the stable where the baby Jesus was born. And all men called it the shining star of Bethlehem.

The message of this book gave me a confidence boost when I was young. It came back to me as an adult, still powerful, and reminded me to be myself and not judge my writing so harshly. We writers give from our hearts and hope others enjoy the stories we create as much as we enjoy writing them. It's important to love our own stories.

I wish you all the blessing of self-actualization, free from harsh self-judgment, this holiday season. May you see the beauty in your gift.

What books have not only entertained you but given you useful insights?

Friday, December 5, 2014 | By: Cafe
When we read, we start at the beginning & continue until the end. When we write, we start in the middle & fight our way out.
- Vickie Karp