"A Candle Loses Nothing By Lighting Another Candle" - Father James Keller

Friday, August 21, 2009

And the winner of the Amazon gift certificate is...

Debra St. John!!! Congratulations!

I'll send the gift cetificate to you via email, Debra, so please email me at dawnoliveri@aol.com
and I'll send it to you asap :-)

Again, thank you all for joining Donna and I this week. We had a great time.



Thursday, August 20, 2009

Pulling from our writing libraries...

Well, it’s our last day here on Authors By Authors. Thanks again to Kiki for having us. We’ve so enjoyed participating in the blog. Later this evening, we’ll draw a winner from all the people who commented for a $20.00 Amazon Gift Certificate. Check in after 10:00 pm EST.

Since this is a blog site for authors, we decided to spend our last day talking about books that have helped us with our writing careers.

Books from Donna’ s shelf:

I have quite a few books on writing craft. One I find myself going back to time and again is Debra Dixon’s GOAL, MOTIVATION & CONFLICT. Sometimes I know something’s wrong with what I’ve written, but I just can’t put my finger on it. A quick run through of Dixon’s GMC will usually point out my problem. Most times, my character is acting out of character. Go figure.

Another book I find useful when plotting a new story is Christopher Vogler’s THE WRITER’S JOURNEY. It contains a roadmap the story should follow in order to be successful. I use this as a guide to plot my beginning, middle, and end and the scenes in-between. It’s a tough concept to grasp, but after you work with it a while, it’ll become second nature.

After I’ve drafted a bare bones outline of my story, I’ll use Jack Bickam’s SCENE & STRUCTURE to flesh out the first draft. Bickham breaks story parts into Scene and Sequel. A scene contains a Goal – what the POV character wants, Conflict – what keeps the POV character from achieving that goal, and Disaster – what complicates the POV character’s situation. I actually create an outline that details each of these parts. I ask myself – what is my POV character’s goal for this immediate scene that will help propel him/her toward the story goal (story goal is created with Dixon’s GMC. See how this all ties in together?) I then think of problems/conflicts to the scene goal and finally a disaster. I color the Heroine’s POV parts in pink and the Hero’s in blue. That also helps me see if I’ve relied too heavily on one POV or the other. Then there’s the Sequel which follows the scene. This is also broken into three parts, Emotion – The POV character’s first reaction to the Disaster, Dilemma – the POV character’s review of options to the disaster, and Decision – the POV’s character arrives at a decision to get back to the overall story Goal.

So there it is. Donna Dalton’s method of getting story from idea to paper. I hope you’ll find these books as useful as I have.

Books from Shara's shelf:

I have a library of craft books that I often don’t finish, because I am a “pantser” (someone who just writes before figuring it all out) and reading too much about craft when I’m writing just makes me want to quit writing. I do find myself reading a lot of books about inspiration, writer’s block, and “finishing the damn novel.” Things don’t hang me up on what’s wrong with the novel, they help me push forward with it instead.

To this end I find this piece of advice from Revision by David Michael Kaplan very helpful. “You’re pages into the story and discover that your main character or characters are the wrong age, or sex, or occupation or whatever… Don’t worry about going back and changing everything to match up with their new sex, age, occupation, diction, whatever. You’ll do that in the next draft.” This book doesn’t focus on punctuation, grammar, passive vs. active—other books do that. It’s when I really have to revise content that I turn to this book.

But to learn, check, and fix grammar and punctuation, as well as sentence structure, active voice, etc. grab a copy of The Elements of Style by Strunk and White and hold on to it. Do not lend it out. I’ve had to re-buy this book many times after realizing it wasn't going to be returned.

Write Away by Elizabeth George is a sink-your-teeth-into-it kind of book (and I love her Inspector Lynley novels). “All suspense actually is is that state of wanting to know what’s going to happen to the characters and how it’s going to happen to them… But if a novelist is doing her job, no matter what kind of novel she’s writing, it contains suspense because it contains characters readers care about.”

Okay, this book—Passionate Ink by Angela Knight—features erotic romance, but it presents the basics (brainstorming, the story question, GMC) in a bold and interesting way. “The external conflict is a sort of anti-romance that makes the romance shine brighter by contrast. The villain’s brutality and selfishness emphasizes the heroes’ love and self-sacrifice….By standing up to him, the heroes show they’re heroes.”--I hadn't thought of it this way before. And this is one I always try to keep in mind when ending a story: “For a satisfying climax, the hero must be directly involved in whacking the villain.” And “whoever the villain hurt the most should have a role in killing him.” More than once I've realized that I have the wrong person as hero or the wrong backstory or focus (which is just plain aggravating).

So this is our last post for the week, other than choosing the winner of the Amazon gift card. Thank you for joining us. I hope you had fun—we certainly did.

Check back tonight for the winner!



Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Kissing for the First Time

In the two previous posts, Shara and I talked about our writing careers and the books we’ve written. Thanks so much for all the wonderful comments. Please, continue posting your comments so you can have your name placed in a virtual hat for a drawing for a $20.00 Amazon Gift Certificate.

Today, we’re going to share an excerpt from one of our Works In Progress. We hope you enjoy these samplings of the “First Kiss” between Hero and Heroine.

Excerpt from HER RODEO MAN by Donna Dalton:

My WIP is a contemporary story set in a small Texas rodeo town. The heroine, Rose McAllister needs a place to hide. Somewhere her abusive ex-boyfriend can’t find her. A nursing position at the trauma center in an out-of-the-way rodeo town seems to be the perfect solution. Until she meets Bass Newcomb. The rodeo clown’s wit and charm threaten her plan to remain secluded. She can’t get involved with anyone. An emotional tie would make picking up and leaving risky and painful.


Emotionally drained after a double-shift and the incident at the bar, Rose let her head rest on his chest. The beat of his heart thudded in her ear, strong and comforting, and just what she needed. She splayed her fingers over his rock-hard pecs. He could do as he pleased with her, and she wouldn’t be able to stop him. Yet, he sat perfectly still, holding her, making her feel safe and protected.

She lifted her head. “Why are you doing this?”

“Doing what?”

“Helping me. Comforting me. You barely know me.”

He chucked her chin with a finger. “Reckon, I got a soft spot for sweet-smelling roses.”

“Hmmph. I’m more wilted than sweet-smelling.”

“Not even close, darlin’.” He pressed gently on her chin and tilted her head back.

His hungry gaze devoured her, then he lowered his head and firm lips covered hers. His kiss was warm and tender, like a gentle, morning rain. She opened her mouth, drinking from him as though slaking an unquenchable thirst.

His tongue slid over her lips, leaving a teasing trail of fire. Heat surged inside her, and she couldn’t stop a moan of pleasure. If this was heaven, she never wanted to come back to earth.

As though agreeing with her thoughts, he pulled her closer and plunged his tongue between her lips. Her bones turned to mush. She’d once pooh-poohed the notion of toe-curling kisses. Not any more.

Her hands moved upward of their own accord, fingers finding and running through the hair at the nape of his neck. So soft and silky. It was the only soft spot on his granite-hard body.

He groaned deep in his throat and pressed her back onto the sofa cushions. His body fused with hers, scorching her through the material of her clothes. She arched against him, wanting more. It’d been eons since she’d felt the pleasure of a man’s touch.

She skimmed her fingers down his spine past the hollow at the dip in his back to denim-clad buttocks. A thick, padded bulge reminded her of the clinic and his injury. She stiffened. She was doing it again. Getting involved with a patient. Just like with Rafe.

Would she ever learn?

She tore her mouth away. “Stop.”


“Please.” She pushed against his chest, more to stop herself than him. “I’m sorry, Bass. I can’t do this.”

He rolled upright, taking his heat with him. “No. I’m the one who should be apologizing.” He ran a hand through his hair. “You’re scared and vulnerable, and I took advantage.”

His miserable tone jabbed at her. She cupped his elbow in a reassuring grip. “You didn’t take advantage. Under any other circumstances, I’d welcome your kisses. But you’re a patient. Clinic rules forbid me to get involved with you.”

“Technically, I’m no longer a patient.”


“Fine. If that’s the way you want it...” He snagged his hat from the end of the sofa and stood. “But I’m gonna hold you to your promise.”


“To have dinner with me. In payment for hauling you around.”

He was persistent, she’d give him that. “I said I would.”

“Good.” He slid on his hat. “I’ll see you Wednesday night.”

With a heavy heart, she watched him leave. No matter how much she wanted to explore her feelings for the handsome bullfighter, it was best if they kept their relationship on a friendly basis. She couldn’t have any emotional ties to Elling. She needed to be able to pick up and run. Without hesitation.

Hesitating could cost her, and anyone around her, their lives.

Excerpt from Heaven and Earth by Shara Lanel:

Cara hires Reggie to investigate the paranormal happenings in her newly inherited house. His web site, his experience, and his Ph.D impresses her, so she’s shocked to discover he’s afraid of ghosts, temporarily at least. They mess with his “worldview,” which doesn’t allow for anything that can’t be explained scientifically, including love. In all his years as a “debunker” he’s never encountered something truly paranormal, until Wilma materializes in the wine cellar in front of him. This scene is after the first full night of their investigation.


“Um, I put fresh towels in the bathroom. The water pressure isn’t the best. Sorry,” That’s why Cara now took baths, and this bathroom had a claw footed tub with a showerhead mounted above it. A beige shower curtain circled around it and a line of half-melted candles sat on the small ledge nearby. Would he realize this was where she washed? She’d learned the hard way that the other bath had a leak in the pipes that ran through the floor. It had taken seven buckets on the floor below to mitigate the damage. But this tub was large and her body fit perfectly in its gentle curve. She pictured Reggie with soapy water up to his chest on the other end from her, looking at her with burning eyes while their legs twined under the water.

Reggie cleared his throat and Cara blushed again. “And you’re fine with me staying until we get to the bottom of this?”


When they’d first spoken on the phone, he’d estimated one night, but then he’d expected to easily figure out her game, hadn’t he? But Wilma wasn’t so easy to figure out. What had she said… “Oh, kiss her already.” The statement had dripped with sarcasm, but had Reggie been looking like he’d wanted to kiss her? He’d stepped away quick enough. Cara needed to tamp down these fantasies before she gave Reggie the power to hurt her when he left without a backward glance.

Again Reggie broke into her thoughts with a gruff voice. “I’m not really sure where to take the investigation next, but I do think visiting that address and the library are good steps.”

Cara nodded. Her mind had turned to breakfast and how awkward it would be with a man in the house, how intimate, even if he came down fully dressed rather than topless with a pair of pajama bottoms low on his waist. It had been a long long time since someone had spent the night. Her brother didn’t count. When William was around they relaxed back into their childhood roles, goofing on each other.

She realized there was no more reason to linger. “So you have everything you need? You’re welcome to anything in the kitchen if you get hungry or thirsty.” Why was she focusing on his lips again? She’d already embarrassed herself once. Seriously bad idea.

“Um, I’m fine, thanks.” But he seemed to be looking at her lips too.

“Towels are in the bathroom.”

“You mentioned the towels,” he said with a fleeting smile. But his fiery eyes focused on her mouth, which prompted her to nibble her lower lip self-consciously.

“Oh,” she murmured, completely forgetting what she’d planned to say.

Reggie leaned toward Cara. “This is a bad idea, but…” And brushed his mouth across hers. So soft. Cara wove her fingers through his hair before he could pull away and kissed him back. Nervous like she was in grade school, she opened her mouth. It felt like the most natural thing in the world. She pushed Reggie’s “bad idea” comment to the back of her mind. It probably was a bad idea, but she was glad to have a man around, glad for help with this haunting thing, and really glad he was such a good kisser. She lingered, tasting wine and chocolate and warmth. His hands skimmed her arms and settled on her shoulders, drawing her body closer with just a magnetic inch between them. Nerve endings in various parts of her body sprung to life, vibrating with heat.

Oh yeah, no sleep tonight. The kiss seemed like it would never end.

Until something pushed between them and tossed Reggie across the bedroom at a high velocity.

“Dammit, Wilma! We were in the middle of something!” Cara stomped her foot and looked around for the specter. She hadn’t materialized, but her laughter hung in the air. “Dammit,” Cara said again, more to herself, because her lips had already cooled and she wanted Reggie’s scorching heat against them again. She wanted to close that one-inch gap so she could press her breasts against his chest and meet him thigh to thigh. The thought made her smile.

But when Reggie stood up and brushed off his butt, there was something different about him. He moved stiffly and his eyes hardened. Suddenly the room felt chilly, as Reggie stalked into the bathroom without a word and slammed the door. Well, damn.

I hope you enjoyed our kissing scenes! Tomorrow is our last day at Authors by Authors blog and we hope you all come visit us one more time!

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Role Reversal: Shara's characters interview her

Following Donna’s lead (yesterday’s post) I asked the characters of my books if one of them would like to interview me. Unfortunately, several came forward, so I let them have their way. First up is Helena Terra from THE MEN ON MARS. She’s exiled from Earth because of her secret past and now she wants to get home by any means necessary.

Helena: So tell me a bit about your home on Earth. I really miss it.

Shara: Helena, I don’t know how it is on Mars, but here in Richmond, VA, it’s hot! We have air conditioners rather than biodomes, and my herbs are starting to look mighty brown. They always recover in the fall, though, so I can make sun tea. My son, age 11, doesn’t seem to mind the heat, but my dog looks like he’s going to melt every time we go out for a walk.

Helena: How did you decide I would meet Nate on Mars in the first place?

Shara: I was inspired as I re-watched the entire DVD set of Firefly in one week. A show that should never have been canceled. But I started writing The Men on Mars as a freebie for my newsletter—it was supposed to be nice and short, but your story, Helena, needed more space to be told.

Helena: Yeah, I had a lot to get over. Thanks for creating Nate for me.

Shara: You’re welcome. By the way, folks can sign up for my newsletter loop here to keep up with my upcoming releases and events.

Haden: {stepping in front of Helena} I have a bone to pick with you, Shara.

[Haden Blackwood is the hot werewolf from BLAME IT ON THE MOON. He’s wanted for murder but determined to prove his innocence.]

Shara: Oh?

Haden: What kind of irresponsible writer has a werewolf adopted by a human couple? I could have killed them!

Shara: You’re stronger than that, Haden.

Haden: And what’s the deal with hooking me up with a mind reader? I have secrets to keep, you know!

Shara: Ah, but Kitty has secrets, too, and she’s confident enough to handle a relationship with a werewolf.

Haden: Will I ever meet my birth parents?

Shara: We’ll see. I’m working on the sequel to Blame It on the Moon currently. I think you’re going to be surprised at what you discover when you start your search for them.

Haden: Well, hurry up and write, woman.

Heath: {quietly moves forward} I found Sylvia in the depths of a Mexican jungle. How do you choose your settings and how do you research them?

[Heath Williams from PRIMITIVE PASSION has a chronic phobia that makes him an unlikely and unwilling rescuer for Sylvia, who’s stranded deep in the jungle.]

Shara: I set most of my stories here in Richmond—writing what I know—but I still spend time visiting the areas I plan to use in my plots, taking pictures, and observing the people and architecture. But I’ve visited Mexico twice, the first time when I was an impressionable sixteen-year-old, so it’s always be in my heart. For Primitive Passion, I did a lot of research on Chiapas and the Lacandon Jungle, particularly the wildlife (ie. snakes).

Heath: Yeah, I’m sure Sylvia thanks you for that one. {wry smile} So you did research on agoraphobia as well?

Shara: Yes. I think the common perception is the afflicted person can’t leave his home, but that doesn’t have to be the case. It’s an anxiety disorder that involves avoiding places from which you can’t easily escape, like crowds, or places that may trigger a panic attack. For you, the surrounding jungle feels safe and familiar, but you don’t go into town and definitely not on a plane.

Kerry: Hey, let me be last. I want to know how you started writing in the first place and what it took to get Enlightened Love, your first baby, to publication.

[Last is Kerry Reynolds from my first book, ENLIGHTENED LOVE. She’s the homeless heroine on the run from a fiancĂ©-gone-bad and in need of ex-Buddhist monk Rick’s help.]

Shara: Well, I’ve been writing my whole life, but I determined to write a novel when I was pregnant with my son. What I finished then was not fit to see the light of day, but then I started taking writing workshops and became a member of Virginia Romance Writers, a chapter of Romance Writers of America. I’ve learned so much from VRW and the folks in the chapter, like Carolyn Greene who taught me how to actually plot a book. Her Plot Doctor class helped me finish Enlightened Love, and another friend from VRW told me to submit to Liquid Silver Books. The process didn’t end with acceptance. My editor and I went through the book at least six more times before it was ready to go.

Kerry: And we all {gestures to all the other interviewers} want you to tell readers how to find us.

Shara: Of course. Visit http://www.SharaLanel.com for excerpts and links to Amazon, Loose Id, and Liquid Silver Books—all of which carry my books. I’m so glad I got to chat with you all. Brought back memories. Thanks so much!

Monday, August 17, 2009

Callie from THE CAVALRY WIFE interviews Donna

Shara and I thought we’d try something a little different. We’re going to be interviewed by one of our own characters. Callie Grant, the heroine from my historical western THE CAVALRY WIFE, volunteered to conduct my interview. She’s well-educated, married, and adores her new husband .

Callie: It’s a pleasure to meet you Mrs. Dalton. I noticed your bookshelves are stocked with dozens of books on the War Between the States. Are you a big follower of that time period in American History?

Donna: Very much so. Being from Virginia, I’m surrounded by memorials of the Civil War - statues, battlefields, museums. It was such a tumultuous time in U.S. history. Yet through all the turmoil, the American Spirit remained steady and strong. I can’t help but admire the men and women who survived.

Callie: THE CAVALRY WIFE revolves around the Tenth Cavalry and its troopers. Are you in the military?

Donna: No, but my husband is – was – He retired a year and a half ago. I sure do miss seeing him all decked out in his dress blues. So you might say I’ve been around the military for nearly half of my life (Yeah, I’ve been married that long). I’m drawn to the silent, brave men in uniform.

Callie: Dalton. Is your husband any kin to the Daltons in Coffeyville, Kansas? They have five lovely boys, Frank, Grat, Bob, Emmett and Bill.

Donna: Not that I’m aware of, but the gang those boys formed when they got older would sure be great fodder for a story.

Callie: I’m certain it would. Speaking of new stories, do you have any books in the works?

Donna: I do. I’m working on a Civil War period story about a Virginia Rebel on her way to the Federal prison in Maryland to free her imprisoned brother. She meets up with a well-educated Yankee journalist and enlists his aid. Being dyslexic, she sees everything in a distorted light, while he, being a man of words, sees everything in black and white. As you can imagine, sparks fly between the two.

Callie: Oh my, that does sound intriguing. How much research do you put into your books?

Donna: I do basic research beforehand, just to get ideas for story scenes. Then, as I start writing, I do more specific, in-depth research, and not all of it from books. My wonderful husband chauffeured me to Point Lookout, Maryland so I could get a feel for the place. It was located at the tip end of the state, on a small strip of land surrounded by water. I took in the salty smell of the air, the crash of waves on the surf. Great sensual aids for empowering my writing. Yet, it was eerie walking over the same ground where thousands of men had been imprisoned and where many died. My arms crawled with gooseflesh.

Callie: I’ve never been to Maryland, but I’ve read about “The Old Line” state. I love to read. Do you have any favorite books or authors?

Donna: I enjoy action/adventure stories laced with lots of historical figures. Diana Gabaldon and her Outlander series is one of my all-time favorites. I want to write like her when I grow up.

Callie: You sound a lot like one of the troopers in my husband’s command. He could sure spin a tale. Do you consider yourself a storyteller?

Donna: If a storyteller is someone who constantly has characters and plots invading in her head, then yes, I’m one. I can’t rest until I’ve gotten the stories out of my head and onto paper so I can share them with others. I hope my readers will enjoy the books I have written and those that are to come and will come back for more. Visit my website at www.donnadalton.net to read more about my books.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Hiya from Donna Dalton and Shara Lanel!

Hey there,

I’m Shara Lanel, and I’m here with fellow author Donna Dalton. We’ll be here all week—thanks, Kiki, for inviting us!—talking about movies, books, and writing.

But, before I get into all that, I want to let you know about a special contest we’re running, just for those of you hanging out with us on the Authors by Authors this week. We’re giving away a $20 Amazon gift certificate to one of you, readers, just for commenting on our topics this week. Comment once, and you’ll have one virtual raffle ticket in the hat. Comment all 5 days, then you’ll have 5 entries for us to draw from. Really easy, right? [TECHNICAL DIFFICULTIES: solved! Thanks, Kiki! So leave us some comments--we want to hear from you.]

So let me tell you a bit about myself. I write hot—one might say, erotic—romances with a lot of humor, a lot of suspense, and a lot of sex! I have nine novels and novellas published with Loose Id and Liquid Silver Books. My most recent print release is a steamy, cozy mystery called Finding Mr. Right is Murder. Leanne Aimes finds a dead man in the freezer and a very alive PI in her sleeping bag. Reviewers say: “Fun, fun, fun from start to finish…”

Then there’s my werewolf book, Blame It on the Moon. Kitty Lazarus can’t help reading the new pub owner’s mind—that’s her gift—but his thoughts always involve stripping her naked and doing…things to her, except for that one time where she “sees” him sprouting fur and fangs. Reviewers say: “The sex was spicy to begin with but when you add all the wicked thoughts floating around, the book positively sizzled.” Check out excerpts at www.SharaLanel.com.

Thanks for joining us this week! --Shara

Here’s Donna…

Hi everyone, Donna Dalton here - I’m the other half blogging at Authors By Authors this week. Thanks to Kiki for having us.

I write spicy historical romances set in America circa 1860 to 1880. I have three books published with The Wild Rose Press. THE CAVALRY WIFE was my baby, my first completed manuscript. It’s the story of a dedicated Cavalry Captain forced into a shotgun wedding after he’s caught in bed with President Grant’s cousin. Readers who like a bit of history along with familiar historical figures woven throughout will enjoy this adventurous tale. My other two books are IRISH DESTINY and its sequel IRISH CHARM. In IRISH DESTINY, an Irish Barrister has come to Boston seeking revenge for the death of his brother. He doesn’t count on a lovely golden-haired obstacle bent on stopping him. IRISH CHARM is the story of a rival detectives searching for clues to a murder. You can visit my website www.donnadalton.net to read more about my books and see the wonderful reviews they have garnered.

I have always loved writing, but only became serious about my vocation after my two boys moved out. Empty Nest. Woohoo! That's when I joined the Virginia Romance Writers, a subchapter of the Romance Writers of America ®. I've been dabbling in a few contemporary stories which I'll debut later this week.

I hope you’ll check in each day as Shara and I have a week of fun-filled events planned. –Donna

And here’s a conversation starter—let’s talk about movies and TV. Anyone addicted to True Blood? Who’s your fave? I must say, I’m liking Godric and Lafayette quite a bit right now. And what’s the last movie you've seen? For myself, it was the 6th Harry Potter.

Monday, August 3, 2009

Review of Spell of Appalachia by Molly Wens - Reviewed by Kiki Howell

When I first began reading Spell of Appalachia, I was caught first by the tone of the story—a unique mixing of foreboding, magic and peace which was heightened by Molly Wens ability to delineate with her adept pairings of words. For example, The cavernous void that prevailed echoed with the screams of that inner voice that silently cried out for something unnamed. The aching chaos of it warred with the reverberant, whispery stillness of the mountains that surrounded her sanctuary.

The story was earthy and ethereal at the same time making the unbelievable easily believable. I believe this is a talent held by only the best writers. I personally read for escape, to be sucked into another’s world. In this primitive, supernatural read, I not only escaped but was cured right along with the main character making this story a brief solace from the tragedies of life. I became, as Molly wrote, one of those who knew that torment could only hope for something, for some place that would offer them solace and give rest to their disillusioned minds.

Sometimes when we are at our loneliest, someone comes to us, as if summoned by our troubled souls… I loved this line, and it leads me to Molly’s use of secondary characters who bring so much to the story and provide for the fullness of her characters. For example, Del, who is a glorious mixture of sympathetic and prying, gives the reader a wealth of information about the heroine, Onida Burk.

I could not read this story fast enough with so many questions being conjured in my mind as to what was happening in those mountain mists and what the magic of the mountains would bring about for the hero and heroine. I will even admit that with less than fifteen pages left to go in the rapturous world they created together when my reading time was interrupted, it was maddening! I became one of those have-a-bowl-of-cereal-if-you-are-hungry moms in my rush to get back to my book.

I urge you on August 24th, to get caught up in the unanswerable magic of the Spell of Appalachia.


In accordance with the new FTC Guidelines for blogging and endorsements, Kiki Howell of An Author's Musings, would like to advise that in addition to purchasing my own books to review, I also receive books, and/or promotional materials, free of charge in return for an honest review, as do any guest reviewers.