Spotlight On, Ann Stephens

Although Ann Stephens wrote stories and (bad) poetry in her twenties, she did not focus on writing an actual book until she was in her forties. The first novel she ever attempted was bought by Kensington Publishing after an editor read the first chapter as part of a contest. Her second book, Her Scottish Groom, will be released on March 1, 2011 and is available for pre-order now.

Ann is a member of the Romance Writers of America, the Nebraska Writers’ Guild and the Nebraska Writers’ Workshop. She lives with her husband, her two beautiful daughters, two cats and a refugee gerbil.

To learn more about Ann, visit her online at:
http://www.annstephensromance.com
http://www.authorsbymoonlight.com

How long was your writing journey before you published with Kensington? Tell us about the ‘call’ and how did you feel that day?

In some ways I feel like the Dumb Luck Poster Child, in some ways it feels like it took over four decades to get published.  I started making up stories in grade school, but didn’t start writing them down until I was older. Since I would write in classes when I was bored, my attempts were not exactly encouraged, though. After putting it aside for several years as an adult, I resumed writing when I was joined my critique group.  Eventually I wanted to get some outside feedback, so I entered the first chapter of my first – uncompleted – manuscript in a contest that promised a written evaluation of every entry. It was my first serious attempt at a novel, so no way would it go anywhere, right? To my amazement it won the Historical Romance category. The final judge was Hilary Sares, who was still with Kensington at that time.

She told me she was going to call, but I didn’t want to get my hopes up until she actually offered me a contract. When she did call, in September 2008, my heart was pounding so hard it took everything I had to focus on what she was saying. Afterward, I had to sit down because I got a bit weepy.  Luckily my husband was there to pat my back and hand me tissues.  Then my youngest daughter congratulated me and asked if I could still take her shopping for a homecoming dress.

Is publishing everything you thought it would be?

Working with Kensington has been a wonderful experience.  As a very raw new author, there was a lot about the business of publishing I did not know, and my editor, Peter Senftleben, has never failed to answer my questions or offer useful suggestions if he thought I needed guidance. Hopefully it helps that I understand that I’m still a minnow in the publishing pond, although getting that contract quieted a lot of my insecurities.

Please tell us about your March release HER SCOTTISH GROOM.

HER SCOTTISH GROOM will be out March 1! It’s not the usual Highland warrior romance (although I love those) as it takes place in 1875, well after the power of the clans was broken.  By this time, although Scots still took justifiable pride in their nation, they were also citizens of the British Empire. Like the Countess in Downton Abbey, the heroine is from a wealthy American family. The hero, Kieran is educated, sophisticated and prefers women who appreciate the carnal arts and don’t demand a long-term relationship. When he is blackmailed into marrying Diantha, a dull mouse of a girl, he is furious.  He wants to marry her, leave her at his estate and forget about her.  Diantha has other plans. She is fed up with others dictating her every movement, and decides it’s time to carve a life of her own.  Kieran is drawn to the woman he discovers behind the quiet façade, but his family history has taught him that love is an illusion. Diantha’s neglected soul yearns to find peace with the emotionally damaged aristocrat she married, but winning his heart may be a lost cause.

Do you have plans to write in any other genre? What is the one genre you’d love to write but never taken the leap yet?

My favorite fiction genre after romance is science fiction/fantasy. C.J. Cherryh, Marion Zimmer Bradley, Robin McKinley and Tolkien take up a lot of space on my bookshelves. I’m looking for an agent willing to represent both genres, or at least support a sci fi/fantasy romance down the road.  A contemporary romance would also be fun to try if the right characters present themselves.

Do you think the rise of ePublishing is affecting traditional publishing? Are you worried about the changes that seem to be coming pretty fast?

Absolutely.  ePublishing may not spell the demise of the traditional publishing houses, but I think their business paradigms will change as more and more people buy readers and download books. I wouldn’t use the word ‘worried’. People still want stories; they just use different media to enjoy them. I do have concerns. For example, piracy is a noxious aspect of ePublishing that robs writers of a huge chunk of royalty income, yet no one has found a way to prevent it. I also wonder if moderately priced books are going to disappear, which would be a shame. For one thing, I look at a computer screen all day and don’t want to use another screen for leisure reading. For another, I love to read in the bathtub, and suspect it would be a bad idea to use an e-reader for that.

What do you like to do on your spare time outside of writing? How do you stay inspired?

In real life, I’m sooo boring!  I cook, I read, I watch some TV – Big Bang Theory and White Collar are two favorites. I seldom missed Saving Grace – one of the best series ever! I also take ballet, which is wonderful. It charges my batteries, and gets me moving. Learning new combinations every week is a beneficial physical and mental challenge.

What is the most difficult part of your writing journey? What is the most exciting part?

It’s intimidating to sit down in front of the computer every day, knowing that what I write might be read – and judged – by total strangers. It’s harder to pick the most exciting part! There’s the period of infatuation when you’ve just met some great new characters and can visualize the book you’re going to write about them. There’s also the thrill of holding a book in your hands and thinking, ‘Wow, I wrote this! And it has words and pages and everything!’

What advice would you give writers who are in pursuit of traditional publishing?

First, make writing a priority. Put writing time on your calendar just like you do other important activities, then spend that time on your book whether you feel ‘inspired’ then or not. Second, don’t assume you know everything about the craft just because you’re an avid reader! Take classes or workshops if you can, or look for articles and books that deal with subjects like characterization, plotting, or creating conflict. If you’re on a budget, like me, the library and internet are invaluable resources. Third, find a reliable critique group or partner. A good critique praises the best parts of your polished writing, but will also tell you where it fails. (And there is always room for improvement.) Fourth, educate yourself about the publishing business. A lot of editors and agents blog and tweet, so you can easily find out what people are looking for and what they are NOT accepting. Conferences are huge for learning about the business.  Also many Romance Writers of America chapters offer classes about publishing as well as writing.

What has been the best type of promotion for you and what hasn’t made a difference in your marketing efforts?

Ummm, yeah…that ‘on a budget’ thing is a challenge for promotion.  With my first book, TO BE SEDUCED, I lacked both money and marketing knowledge. Luckily Kensington ran an ad for their new writers, as they are for HER SCOTTISH GROOM. Keeping that in mind, my own most successful efforts have been writing a weekly blog (AnnStephensRomance.com), using Facebook (Ann Stephens Author) and Twitter (@Ann_Stephens) to connect with readers.  I think we got around a 66% sell-through with all of those things combined. I’ve educated myself a bit more since then, so I’m using a press release, targeted mailings, and promo items this time around. I’ll have to let you know how they work out!

What personal goals have you made for yourself this year?

Do yoga three times a week, drink more water, eat more fruits and vegetables. Like I said, I’m incredibly boring in real life.

Tell us one thing or habit that you have that no one knows!

I secretly wish I could be Eowyn of Rohan. One, she rides, fights and kicks Ringwraith butt. Two, she gets Faramir of Gondor. I’ve had a crush on him since I first read Lord of the Rings at age 14.

Any last words for our readers?

Thank you for stopping by! I hope you enjoyed reading this interview as much as I enjoyed answering the questions.

What will we see from you in the future?

Probably more Victorian romances, although TO BE SEDUCED is set during the Restoration of England’s King Charles II. It’s a fascinating period that is worth revisiting. (And let’s not forget my secret wish to write a science fiction or fantasy romance.)

Spotlight On, Mindy Klasky

Mindy Klasky learned to read when her parents shoved a book in her hands and told her that she could travel anywhere in the world through stories. She never forgot that advice. Mindy’s travels took her through multiple careers — lawyer, librarian, and full-time writer — and a number of literary genres. In addition to her Mira and Red Dress Ink books (the As You Wish series and the Jane Madison series), Mindy has written six traditional fantasy novels (including the award-winning, best-selling The Glasswrights’ Apprentice), short stories, and nonfiction essays. In her spare time, Mindy quilts, cooks, and tries to tame the endless to-be-read shelf in her home library. Her husband and cats do their best to fill the left-over minutes.

You can learn more about Mindy by visiting her website:
http://www.mindyklasky.com

**Mindy is giving away a copy of her current release TO WISH OR NOT TO WISH to one luck winner. If you’d like to leave a comment, you’ll be added to our random drawing. Winner will be contacted via email, so be sure to provide your email if it’s not linked to your profile.**

You’re a graduate of Princeton University and an attorney, what made you take that plunge to write romance?

I’ve always read a wide variety of books, both for serious learning and for fun. Over the years, my “fun” reading has ranged from fantasy to mysteries to romance. When I started writing, my stories were strongly tilted toward my childhood reading (mostly fantasy), but as I continued to develop stories, I found them leaning more and more toward romance. I still enjoy combining different genre elements in the novels I write!

What has been the toughest challenge in your publishing journey?

The publishing world is never steady – things are never 100% wonderful or 100% hopeless. I find it challenging to stay positive, when I don’t have a lot of control over the “hopeless” parts, and I’m constantly trying to find new pathways to the “wonderful” parts.

We love stories about “the Call”, so how exciting was yours?

My agent sent me email at the end of a workday, telling me that he had an editor at Penguin interested in my first novel (THE GLASSWRIGHTS’ APPRENTICE.) I was jumping for joy, until I realized that the date was April 1. I did not sleep that night, wondering if my agent was the cruelest man in the entire world. I was thrilled to discover that he was not, when I reached him the next morning, and he confirmed the sale!

How did you come up with the fun and quirky story ideas? Which has been your favorite book to write?

My ideas are a mix of lots of things – books that I’ve read, places that I’ve journeyed, dreams I’ve had, etc. While I start with an outline for each novel, I tweak it as I go along, especially as I discover the specific ways that each character reacts to the world around her.

It’s hard to name a favorite of all my books – they’re each my “children”, in a way. I’m especially fond of TO WISH OR NOT TO WISH, because of the way it folds together many of my recurrent themes – food (the hero runs my dream restaurant), theater (I once planned on becoming a professional stage manager), and magic (Teel the genie grants wishes.) I truly enjoyed wrapping up all those disparate threads with the great big, glittery bow of a Broadway musical based on an American classic play.

What makes a good writer/agent/editor relationship?

I find it extremely important to remember that my relationships with my editor and my agent are professional. While I am friendly with both my editor and my agent, neither is my friend. Neither is responsible for listening to my complaints about my love life, my diet struggles etc.; rather, each is a highly-skilled individual who knows the best about his/her field and how that expertise has an impact on my field of writing and publishing novels.

What is the biggest misconception you’ve come across about being a romance author?

I constantly struggle against the stereotypes – both of romance novels (as mindless drivel held together by a couple of mediocre sex scenes) and of romance readers (as ignorant lovelorn spinsters.) I love turning those misplaced expectations upside down – my Jane Madison books rely heavily on Shakespeare, and my As You Wish books regularly allude to masters of the theatrical world.

If you were a nail polish color, what would it be called and why?

Blushing Fire Engine. I’m a contrast – my basic nature is shy and retiring (the blushing part), but I enjoy making a splash in public, especially with a new book (the fire engine part.)

What would people be most surprised to learn about you?

I am actually quite shy, and I find it difficult to interact with people, especially with strangers. (Once I’m at a conference, though, I shrug on my “professional” armor, and I extrovert with the best of them!

What advice do you have for unpublished writers?

Write. And read. Know your market, and know your own skill set, constantly striving to polish your own innate abilities to match specific swaths of the market. And then, write some more. And read some more. Lather, rinse, repeat.

Any words for your readers?

I love hearing from readers! Please don’t be a stranger – comment on this post, ask me questions, and stop by regularly at my website: www.mindyklasky.com

RD speed round:

One word you don’t use enough: “love” – my characters feel it and act about it, but they don’t say it often.
One word you overuse: “And then” – I go through every manuscript to search for the phrase, before I submit the pages to my editor!
Would you spend a day out with Jane Austen’s Mr. Darcy or Helen Fielding’s Mark Darcy? Mark, please. (And I’m not just saying that because it’s my husband’s name.)
If you had a dinner date with a celeb, which actor would you choose? Jon Hamm – cute and able to have an intelligent discussion
Favorite exotic cuisine: Szechuan Chinese
Favorite mixed drink: Vodka tonic with lots of lime.
Swimming with the dolphins or a dancing on a raft during Carnivale? Dolphins. (Wild horses couldn’t get me on the raft!)
One book you’d have with you on a deserted island? War and Peace – I’ve never made the time to read it, and it should last a while!
What’s the most adventurous thing you’d ever do? Share my “most adventurous thing” with thousands of RD readers!
Brooding alpha hero or chivalrous sexy genius? Chivalrous genius, please. But I might write about the alpha guy for a book or two!

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Spotlight On, Tawny Weber

Tawny Webber is usually found dreaming up stories in her California home, surrounded by dogs, cats and kids.  When she’s not writing hot, spicy stories for Harlequin Blaze, she’s shopping for the perfect pair of boots or drooling over Johnny Depp pictures (when her husband isn’t looking, of course).  In September 2010, her eighth Blaze, RIDING THE WAVES hits the bookshelves.  Come by and visit her on the web at www.tawnyweber.com

**Tawny is giving away a book from one of her backlist. If you’d like to leave a comment, you’ll be added to our random drawing. The lucky winner will be contacted via email, so be sure to provide your email if it’s not linked to your profile.**

Most people may not know that you have a connection with Romance Divas. You’ve been a member for many years and have also graciously donated time to help our Mentor Program. We’ve seen your rise to success and becoming one of the staple authors for Harlequin. How was this journey and was it everything you thought it would be?

I love the Divas. You have such a fabulous community there! OMG I love the term rise to success 🙂  And while I’m definitely still working on that journey, I do love where I’m at. Writing for Harlequin has always been my dream and it really is as great as I’d hoped. The Harlequin team (editors, art dept, eHQ, all of it) are so nice and all seem focused on the same goal, helping authors build their careers and put out great books.

You’ve written almost a dozen (Harlequin) Blazes, how has your journey been with this publisher? Any advice for authors trying to break into category romances?

Harlequin –and Blaze especially—Rocks I consider my editor one of the best in the business. She’s not only given me opportunities to push my own writing boundaries (just yesterday I agreed to do an Online Read for November. 10k. OMG talk about focusing on character and pace, huh? I’m so excited) but she knows my writing strengths and pushes those, but also knows my weaker areas and in each book, pushes me to face and overcome them. Yep, she’s my dream editor for sure LOL.

Category romance is a fabulous place to write. But writing category isn’t just writing a shorter single title story – and I think as long as a writer understands that distinction, they’ll have an easier time trying to break in. My standard advice is to read the books. Read the lines that appeal to you and see where you might fit. Not just for a single book idea, but where you can imagine yourself writing dozens of stories. I might have a great single dark paranormal idea, and try for Nocturne, but if it sold, I’d be up a creek because I’m really not a dark para type of writer. Blaze, for me, was perfect because the focus is on strong heroines, everyday heroes (hot, sexy, incredible and hunky, still. But not necessarily fantasy heroes, although a few of them do find their way into some of the Blazes) and a sexy hook. Not sex, but a sexy hook. It’s a fine line, but the sexy hook is what carries the entire story. It’s what provides the impetus to conflict, feeds the conflict and eventually resolves the conflict.

Harlequin provides so many opportunities and options for writers to join them. eHarlequin’s forums and community, various contests and an easy submission process.

We love stories about “the Call”, do you remember what you were doing or how you felt?

LOL – oh yeah. I’ll never forget that moment. It was Memorial Day and I was asleep. Because it was a holiday, my husband was home. I slept through the ringing, but he came in, nudged me and said “Get up, the caller ID says Harlequin.” I blame my sleep-fogged state for a pathetic lack of screaming, dancing or insane glee over the news that I’d sold. I just calmly got the details, thanked the editor and hung up. I hadn’t written down any details since the hubby was hugging me the whole time (whether he was excited for me or just keeping me from falling back onto the pillows, I’m still not sure) Then I think I went into shock I tried to call friends and share the news, but tell ya what, most people party on Memorial Day. So after a dozen unconnected calls, I started seriously wondering if it’d really happened. I emailed the editor to confirm, and refused to announce the news until after I’d gotten a reply so I knew it was real. I think that was her first clue that I’m a smidge neurotic.

I’ve heard the Blaze line is changing directions and will become less erotic but still hot. The stories will be focusing more on the hero and heroine’s relationship, etc. Are you able to elaborate on this?

Blaze is, first and foremost, a romance. Sexy romance. Hot, wildly erotic and intense romance. But the romance has to be front and center. So if the characters are having sex (and they should be… quite often ) that scene is there because it moves their relationship forward.

Really, Blaze romances are emotional journeys that include a whole lot of great sex.

Please tell us a little about your current release. How did you come up with the concept?

RIDING THE WAVES is out now. It’s a forbidden fantasy story, featuring an uptight, undersexed astrophysicist heroine who decides to live out her sexy beach vacation fantasy and have a fling with a very sexy boy toy who she thinks is a surf instructor at the resort. She cuts the fling short when she realizes that she’s falling for a guy who she’s sure would have nothing to do with the ‘real her’. Back home, she gets a big surprise. Her hot, sexy boy toy is actually acclaimed astrophysicist and her new partner. She ends up learning that the ‘real her’ is actually a lot stronger, sexier and more complex, than she’d given herself credit for.

As for the concept, I started out knowing I was writing a forbidden fantasy, so I spent some time mulling what fantasies would be fun to explore. The younger man boy toy really appealed to me (maybe it was all the Robert Pattinson craziness that was going on at the time LOL). From there, I asked myself what kind of heroine would be least likely to give in to that fantasy, and Drucilla was born 🙂

What should we expect to see from you in the future?

Lots of books, I hope 😀 I have the Online Read on eHarlequin in November that ties in with the MUST HAVE BEEN THE MISTLETOE Christmas anthology in December. My story in the anthology is called BABE IN TOYLAND – only my heroines toys are of the adult nature (yet, still misfits LOL).

Next year, I have a military hero featured in BREAKING THE RULES, which is out in February, a 24 Hour blackout reunion story titled JUST FOR THE NIGHT. Later, in December 2011 and January 2012, I have connected stories about a family of con artists that I’m hoping will spark a series. Nothing like naughty characters

If you weren’t a writer what would career path would you choose?

I’m a Reiki Master and a tarot reader, as well as a certified hypnotherapist. I’d be doing something in that arena if I wasn’t writing.

What are you reading right now?

Happier by Tal Ben-Shahar because I focus on non-fiction when I’m on deadline. As soon as I turn this book in, though, I have Kristin Higgin’s ALL I EVER WANTED waiting for me.

What is the biggest misconception you’ve come across about being a romance author?

That I make tons of money. And that I’m desperate for story ideas – because I swear, as soon as someone hears I write, they just have to tell me all about their idea for a great book and how they’d let me have a cut of the money if I want to write it for them.

What would people be most surprised to learn about you?

Hmm, good question. Maybe that I’m really a quiet introvert in real life?

This month, RD will have a little fun with our authors. We’re starting a ‘getting to know you round’.

Man in uniform, or man in business suit? Uniform!
Thigh highs or au naturale? In bed? Thigh highs, of course.
Tattoos or piercings? Oh, tough choice. I’ll go with piercings since they are easier to change.
Whipped cream or ice cream? Whipped, all the way.
Naughty or nice? My books? Naughty. Me? Nice.
Coffee or tea? Tea, iced.
Cosmopolitan or beer? Cosmo if there aren’t any margaritas around.
Tropical island or mountain cabin? Sand, surf and sun!!! Tropical, for sure.
Sexy stilettos or flip flops? Again in bed? Stilettos for all occasions.
Holey Jeans or casual khakis? Holey jeans. Stilettos just don’t look right with khakis

If you were a nail polish color, what would it be called and why?
Tawny Sunset. It’d be multi-toned, changing with the turn of a hand, and look better at night.

What advice do you have for unpublished writers?

Set a career goal for yourself, one that you love. And never give up until you achieve it!

Any words for your readers?

Readers rock! I love you all!!!

Interviewed by Jax Cassidy

Spotlight On, R.G. Alexander

R.G. Alexander has lived all over the United States, studied archaeology and mythology, been a nurse and a vocalist, and now, a writer. She is happily married to a talented chef who is her best friend, her research assistant, and the love of her life.

If you would like to find out more about R.G., go to www.rgalexander.com or visit her group blog at www.smutketeers.com

**R.G. is giving away copy of POSSESS ME. If you’d like to be added to the random drawing, please post a comment and provide your email address if it is not linked to your username. For US Residents only.**

We love stories about “the Call”, so how exciting was yours? Being a Romance Diva member, how did you share this news?

Honestly it was kind of like my wedding-it all happened in a blur and its hard to remember everything. Every email or phone call was something new and exciting, including names I’d hardly dared imagine would be used in connection with mine. Harlequin Spice, Berkley etc. My one small novella suddenly became 3, and I was contracted for an actual book. I do remember being on the phone a lot with Eden Bradley as she reminded me to breathe. And that none of it felt real or complete until I’d shared it with the divas. 🙂

How has it been for you to jump from ePublishing to NY print? What are you doing to prepare yourself?

Well, there has been a lot of nail biting and hair loss–lol. No, actually its wonderful. I’m a big proponent of having my cake and my e-cake too. *wink* The biggest difference are the time lines and the control factor. With e-publishing your hand is in your book from start to finish, cover to blurb, and you have a fairly quick turn around for book releases and responses. NY print you have deadlines, and some input on cover and blurb. You get to panic for a year before it comes out, and write proposals (something I’m admittedly stinky at). But you also get to work with AMAZING people. I love love love Kate Seaver, my editor. Its a crazy process, all of it, but now that I’ve done it, I couldn’t imagine doing anything else.

What do you think is the most important thing to focus on when your first novel POSSESS ME drops on August 3rd, 2010?

My upcoming deadline August 9th. And then the one after that. 🙂 After all the promotion online, and the heeding of publicist advice, in the end there isn’t a lot you can do. Something you created is out in the world and it will sink or soar depending far more on reader’s reactions than on any creative media blitz… I do a lot of positive visualizing and my husband gives me chocolate. That helps.

Your new book focuses on the world of voodoo. How were you able to make it sexier versus the normal misconceptions of it being scary?

When I first got the idea I was truly hesitant for that very reason. Wasn’t voodoo about zombies and being buried alive? Then I thought about vampires-traditionally they are ancient corpses who live off human blood to survive. When you say it like that it doesn’t sound very sexy, does it?

And yet, vampires are some of the sexiest romance heroes out there.

Thankfully, my characters were persistent and I found out through my research that–as with every religion–voodoo has layers of light and dark. It isn’t as scary as it appears, it is actually a fascinating amalgam of tribalism, animism, catholicism and ancestor worship. And there are more similarities to old folk legends and myths we all know than most would imagine-so I stayed away from some of the more graphic rituals, and focused on that. I think it stayed sexy because Bone Daddy (the voodoo spirit, or Loa in question) can’t help but be anything but.

Can you tell us a little bit about POSSESS ME?

Well, let me give you the blurb.

In the Big Easy, there’s a legend women long for: a sexual voodoo spirit who can fulfill their darkest fantasies. And in these three steaming-hot novellas, he helps two New Orleans couples achieve the ultimate satisfaction…and may even find it himself.

In Release Me, Allegra heads down to New Orleans to heal her wounds, but she never expects to lose her heart to such a quiet, troubled man as Rousseau. She’s even less prepared for the scorching, sexual spirit within him-and what he can do to her…

In Reclaim Me, Ben has loved Michelle as long as he can remember. But his beautiful artist has a way of running away from life-and what the pair could be. Leave it to the infamous spirit to help Ben prove to Michelle where she belongs: in his embrace…

In Redeem Me, it’s All Saints’ Day, the one day the voodoo spirit can walk the world in the flesh. When he bumps into Bethany, she might just be the reincarnation of a girl he once loved. Passion ignites, but can the couple overcome past mistakes and have a real chance at love?

What should we expect to see from you in the future?

Well, I have several ongoing series with Samhain Publishing online, WICKED BAD-the sequel to WICKED SEXY-comes out in September, and MY DEMON SAINT-the sequel to MY SHIFTER SHOWMANCE comes out in November of this year. Next year I will be very busy writing in anthologies with other wonderful authors like Eden Bradley and SL Carpenter, and I should have two more books out with Berkley Heat: my Sedona anthology about three friends and THREE SINFUL WISHES, and the sequel to POSSESS ME called TEMPT ME.

Hopefully I will continue to be blessed with work for the foreseeable future.

What is the biggest misconception you’ve come across about being a romance author?

That it isn’t hard work. That it’s not real writing. That it’s not a viable career choice. You name it. No one knows until they try to write one story, and after the first keep writing, write on a deadline, write when you’re sick or your husbands sick or someone in your family is dying. No one who hasn’t tried it can understand. Is it worth it? Without a doubt. But its not easy.

We always think this gives our readers insight on the author…If you were a nail polish color, what would it be called and why?

Barely There. haha. I’m not saying I’m flighty or anything. But without my husband I would no doubt be walking around blind, shoeless and locked out of my house. I’m a little too lost in my own head. I’m more of a clear polish kind of girl anyway. Except for conference *wink*

What would people be most surprised to learn about you?

Despite my forgetfulness, I have an insane memory for song lyrics, television themes and commercial jingles. Once a song gets in my head, I usually remember it forever. I so could be on Name That Tune.

What advice do you have for unpublished writers?

Keep writing. It took 7 months for me to get a response to my first submission. A year for it to release. I am NOT a patient person. But Crystal Jordan, a fellow diva, told me to keep writing. You get faster, ideas flow, you learn-plus it helps distract you from the fun waiting around part of being a writer. I’m not sure who said it first, but I heard it from Nora Roberts. “You can’t edit a blank page.”

Also seek out readers. Other authors you can critique with. Editing yourself is like singing in the shower. You may think it sounds amazing, but before you go on American Idol, you should probably get a second opinion from someone who isn’t a blood relative.

Oh and last but not least, be persistent. Take NO in stride. If it is what you want, go after it and don’t hold back until you get that YES.

Any words for your readers?

THANK YOU. Seriously. Thank you for the emails, the support, for caring about what happens to the side characters. Thank you for letting me share my imaginary friends with you. It means more to me than you could ever know.

Interviewed by Jax Cassidy

Spotlight On, Vonna Harper

Falcon's CaptiveHaving written since dir was new, Vonna Harper knows where most of the bodies are buried. Thanks to her nearly useless sociology degree, she became a social worker but escaped her legitimate job when her first child was born and gave into her dream to write. With some 50 published stories under her belt, she’s still trying to figure out how its done. Vonna lives in beautiful Oregon with her husband and is blessed to have her sons and grandchildren in the same valley.

For more information on Vonna, visit her at: www.vonnaharper.com

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**Vonna is giving away copy of FALCON’S CAPTIVE. If you’d like to be added to the random drawing, please post a comment. Please provide your email address if it is not linked to your username. For US Residents only.**

How long did you write before you got published? What made you decide to write erotic romances?

My “writing” career began as a child when I wrote and illustrated my own comic books with the Lone Ranger’s horse as the protagonist but in reality, I’ve been in the right place at the right time at least four times. My first serious try at writing a book was a bust–forgot to include conflict. Then I cut my teeth on confessions so had learned a lot before category romance in the U.S. took off. Thanks to a friend’s nudge, I was one of the early American writers.

Do you think the erotic market is slowing down or do you feel it’s going to stay around to a little while longer?

I don’t see it slowing down but I do see a crowding of the market. Ebooks remain available forever which means current releases vie with stories that are years old for the reader’s money. Evolution is part of every genre so I’m interested in seeing what new trends might be. For me, I’m working on marrying erotica with suspense.

Can you tell us about your upcoming release? What inspired you to write it?

Falcon’s Captive which comes out July 27 was the first in my latest contract with Kensington Aphrodisia. I love that my editor lets me loose to write what turns my crank. I’ve done a lot of capture (as opposed to BDSM which I can’t wrap my mind around) and there are elements of that in FC. Because I’m drawn to wide open spaces, I settled on a remote desert area and threw in some shape shifting. Not sure what inspired me beyond wanting to explore characters with the wild in their souls. Man against nature elements.

What do you like best about the writer’s life? What do you like least?

I love, love, love when something new starts to perk, the honeymoon stage where all things are possibile, characters are becoming multi-layered and I’m diving into research. The least fav is probably when life keeps me from the computer. I get mean. 🙂

When you purchase a book, what grabs your attention the most, the cover or the blurb? Or what helps you make a decision to buy it?

Its probably a combination of cover and blurb. The cover of course makes the first hit but in a blurb I’m looking for conflict both among characters and in a strong plot.

If you were a nail polish color, what would it be called and why?

I don’t wear nail polish so that’s out of my comfort zone. I love earth tones so maybe brown.

Have you ever done anything that is out of character or impulsive? What did it teach you about yourself?

Oh yes, there’ve been several times but since I don’t want to wind up behind bars–seriously, the older I get the more comfortable I am staying with what’s true to me.

What advice would you offer to the unpublished romance writer?

Its easy to say read and write and keep on doing those things but I’ve long put knowing the business at the top of the list. Reality is that in today’s business world, there are limits to what unpublished writers can accomplish. I’m not trying to discourage anyone, just saying that I’d be mighty surprised if a new writer would break into the Big Apple publishers right out of the chute. Fortunately, there are many small hungry publishers–if the unpublished writer is professional in what she offers those publishers.

Interviewed by Jax Cassidy

Spotlight on Nicola Marsh


Nicola is giving away a copy of her latest release A TRIP WITH THE TYCOON, her UK release this month, to one lucky commenter. Winner will be chosen at random on June 18th and will be contacted via email. Please provide this info if you wish to be included in the drawing.

NICOLA MARSH, USA Today Bestselling Author

Like so many other talented romance authors, you’re proving that there shouldn’t be a stereotype associated with romance. In fact, you worked as a physiotherapist for 13 years before making the leap into romance writing, what propelled you to finally take the leap?

I’d been saying for years “I’d love to write a book one day”…so I did!  I was at work, between patients, and googled ‘romance writing in Melbourne’.  I stumbled across the Melbourne Romance Writers Guild, went along to a few meetings and it opened up a new world for me.  Talk of synopses, partials, POV…it was like they were talking another language at first but thankfully I quickly cottoned on!

Congratulations on contracting your 24th book! Writing for Harlequin is a dream for many authors, how has your experience been writing for their category romances? Any advice for writers trying to break in?

Know the market.  Harlequin has many different series, each with specific guidelines, so read widely in the series you’re targeting to get a feel for what the editors are buying.

Where do you get your ideas from?

Everywhere! Headlines in the newspaper, snippets from a magazine story but mostly in the middle of the night, when I’m just drifting off to sleep and the title, first line, first paragraph come to me fully formed. I jot it down and the next morning, off I go!

My first book, THE TYCOON’S DATING DEAL, came from a speed dating article I was reading at work one lunch time.  I thought “hmm…sounds like an interesting concept for a book” and thankfully the editors at Harlequin thought so too.

Do you have plans for writing single title romances or another genre outside of contemporary?

I’ve written 2 mainstream contemporary romances which I adore but unfortunately, in this market, those books are a hard sell.  I’d be competing against Susan Elizabeth Phillips and Rachel Gibson (so I’ve been told!) so for now, those books are on hold.

That said, I’m super excited about another mainstream novel I’ve just completed.  My agent is too, so fingers crossed!

Do you have any writing rituals you follow?

Yes, plonk my butt in the chair every day and write.

It’s as simple as that.

No matter how much I’d rather curl up with a book or watch a great TV show, writing is my job so I need to treat it as such.

The words won’t write themselves so I have to do it, every day.

Be dedicated to your craft.

What is the most extreme or spontaneous thing you’ve ever done and did it impact your life in any way?

In my late twenties I took off for the UK and Europe on my own, the first time I’d traveled alone.  The experience was liberating and taught me I could do anything if I wanted it badly enough.

What is the biggest misconception about romance authors that you’ve come across?

That we’re frustrated housewives dabbling in a hobby.  *Shudder*

What projects do you have in the future? What should we look out for?

This month I have a triple release!

In the USA, THREE TIMES A BRIDESMAID…(Harlequin Romance) hits the shelves along with OVERTIME IN THE BOSS’S BED (Harlequin Presents Extra).

In the UK, my recent Romantic Times finalist for Best Harlequin Romance 09, A TRIP WITH THE TYCOON is being re-released in an anthology DESTINATION: SUMMER WEDDINGS.

All 3 books are set in my gorgeous home city, Melbourne (though Overtime in the Boss’s Bed features Sydney and a Whitsunday Island too, while A Trip with the Tycoon is also set in India, on a luxurious train journey through Rajasthan.)

Great armchair travels!

Do you have any words of wisdom for aspiring writers?

Write, write and write some more.  No matter how uninspired or tired you are, sit down and write, even if it’s a few hundred words.  The more you write, the faster you become, the easier it is, the more habit-forming.

The way to discover your voice is by writing.  Play around, try different genres, have a ball, follow your dream.

Any last words for our readers?

I absolutely love interacting with and hearing from readers, so please drop by my blog http://www.nicolamarsh.blogspot.com And you can find me on Twitter and Facebook too!

Author Bio:

USA TODAY bestselling author Nicola Marsh writes flirty fiction with flare for Harlequin Romance and Modern Heat/Presents.

She’s had 24 books published and sold over 1.5 million copies worldwide.

She’s a Waldenbooks and Bookscan bestseller, has finalled in several awards including the HOLT, Booksellers’ Best, Golden Quill, Romantic Times Reviewer’s Choice, Laurel Wreath, More than Magic and won several CataRomance Reviewers’ Choice Awards.

A physiotherapist in a previous life, she now adores writing, raising her two little heroes, sharing fine food with family and friends, and her favorite, curling up with a good book!

For more information on Nicola, visit her at: www.nicolamarsh.com

Interviewed by Jax Cassidy

Spotlight On Cindy Gerard


Cindy is giving away two copies of her latest release to two lucky commenters. Winners will be chosen at random on May 7th and will be contacted via email. Please provide this info if you wish to be included in the drawing.

CINDY GERARD, Two time RITA winner

What’s your story? As an author who has accomplished what you have, how did you get started and where do you see yourself going?

Many moons ago (grin) I was a reader – of course I’m STILL a reader – who decided I might be able to also write a book. Four rejected manuscripts later, I made that first sale.  That’s all I wanted at the time. To write and sell a book. But of course, one book led to another until I had written around 30 category romance novels – which I LOVED writing. There came a time, however, when I realized I wanted to tell bigger stories so I ventured out onto that slippery slope of romantic suspense. That was in 2005 with the first of my Bodyguard books, TO THE EDGE. At that point, I just wanted to make a respectable showing but before long I realized I wanted what most authors want – to hit the New York Times print list. It seemed like an unattainable goal, given the talent and prowess of all the writers out there but with the help of my amazing agent, Maria Carvainis and my publishers, and most of all my readers who spent their hard earned dollars buying my books, the NYT became a reality with my 6th single title, INTO THE DARK. I’m happy to report I’m now riding a winning streak of 5 NYT best sellers and keeping my fingers crossed that my new release – RISK NO SECRETS – coming out May 18th will be number 6.

My current plans are to continue to write romantic suspense stories and hopefully make ech one more exciting, more suspenseful, and more romantic than the last. I feel a real sense of obligation, not only to my professional partners in the business, but to my readers. The very last thing I want to happen is to not meet their expectations. Like I said earlier, they pay hard earned money when they buy a book. I want the reading experience to not just meet but exceed their hopes.

You’re a two time RITA winner, how does that feel and did winning help you get more recognition?

Are you kidding me? It’s a thrill of major proportions. Having the respect and validation of your peers is humbling. I’m very appreciative for the votes of confidence and yes, the RITA is a very prestigious award which both readers and publishers recognize.

Cindy, you have an impressive list of romantic suspense, do you fear this genre is getting overexposed? Do you see yourself writing in another genre besides this one?

Great question. Interestingly enough, I was at the RT conference this past week and had a long chat with Sue Grimshaw, the Romance Buyer for Borders Books. Sue reports that Romantic Suspense is going strong and when I asked her specifically about my concern that action adventure romance featuring Spec Ops/Covert warriors was over saturating the market, she assured me that it was not.  Readers are hungry for those types of books, per Sue.  So I was very happy to hear that!!

As for writing in another genre, at this time, I’m very happy to write romantic suspense. My readers are loyal and enthusiastic and I want to continue to write for them.

What other projects do you have in the works?

I’m currently working on Book 6 of the Black Ops, Inc. series, which is Luke – Doc Holliday – Colter’s story.  I’m very excited about this book because not only do I love Doc, but also my fans have been asking me for his story. We’re looking at a big summer release in 2011 for his book, tentatively titled WITH NO REMORSE. In the meantime, I’m also very excited about DEADLY PROMISES, an October 2010 release. DP is a romantic suspense anthology headlined by Sherrilyn Kenyon. Laura Griffin will also join us in this 3 novella collection. My novella, LEAVE NO TRACE, is – you guessed it – a Black Ops story with a surprise hero that I have a feeling everyone is going to be happy to see again.

What’s the most adventurous thing you’ve ever done and did you use it in one of your books?

I led a panel at the RT conference the end of April where we discussed this very question. Hands down, my most adventurous experience was a white water rafting/camping trip in the Grand Canyon. As if the white water wasn’t enough, when our guide encouraged us to follow his lead and jump off a 40-foot cliff into the frigid Colorado River, I was one of 4 women who were brave enough (read ‘stupid’ enough) to take the plunge. One of the reasons I did it was to prove to myself that I could overcome two of my biggest fears – water and heights. Another was because I wanted to write a scene where my heroine had to jump off a cliff. And yes, I did use it in DESERT HEAT, my novella in the Rescue Me collection.

What is the hardest part of being a writer? The easiest?

Hardest – keeping disciplined and dealing with things that are beyond my control, such as where my books are placed in the stores, piracy on the web and NOT knowing if I’m striking the right chord with my readers. The easiest is getting to write at home in my jammies – as I’m doing right now :o)

What is the biggest misconception about romance authors that you’ve come across?

That we’re a bunch of vapid, bored women playing at the writer game. The writers I encounter and count as friends are intelligent, charismatic, professional, funny and warm individuals who have important points of view and amazing stories to tell. The good news is, the writing community as a whole is becoming more and more aware of the strength of our genre and if not exactly embracing it and our writers, growing to respect our creativity and business acumen. I recently returned from the RT conference in Ohio and was thrilled to see a strong and healthy contingent of male thriller writers in attendance. I also captained two panels with both women romance novelists and men thriller writers and I’m here to tell you, the men respect not only what we do but our fans who are so loyal and enthusiastic about our work. It’s a nice trend to see happening.

Do you have any words of wisdom for aspiring writers?

Finish the book! I have stated this repeatedly from the beginning of my career and I stand by it as the single most critical part of the process.  It’s fun and exciting and easy to START a book. The tough part comes when you’ve been with the project for a while and it becomes work, not fun. That’s when determination and discipline come into play.  You have to stay with it and write through to the end…even if you’re bored with it, certain it’s the worst pile of sludge ever, or disenchanted with the process. All writers feel those things during the creative process. You have to trust in your original enthusiasm for the story and finish it. Once it’s done, THEN you can revisit the story with an objective eye and sort the wheat from the chafe, but you MUST finish the book and not let that other shiny new story idea distract you. It has to wait.

Any last words for our readers?

Just many, many thanks for the support you’ve all given me over my writing career.  Without readers, we writers wouldn’t have reason to write. I’m forever grateful that I’ve been able to sustain a lengthy published career and for the wonderful feedback I receive from my fans who seem to love and believe in my characters as much as I do.

Author Bio:

New Times and USA Today Bestseller, Cindy Gerard, is a 6 time Rita finalist and is proud to display 2 RITAs in her office.   Cindy writes fast, sexy, action-adventure romantic suspense featuring former Spec Ops warriors and is proud to count many military families among her readers.  Here latest release, RISK NO SECRETS, Book 5 of her bestselling Black Ops, Inc. series will be released May 18.  Catch up on Cindy’s news at www.cindygerard.com.

Interviewed by Jax Cassidy

Spotlight On Dirty Sexy Books

Rebecca Baumann, Owner of Dirty Sexy Books

How did Dirty Sexy Books get started?

It was started in pure ignorance. When I began blogging a year ago, I had never even visited a single book blog, which strikes me as funny nowadays, because I’m addicted to at least a dozen of them. So I started out not knowing what I was doing, but just feeling the need to share my reviews, and chat about bookish topics in general. I put the cart before the horse, but luckily the poor beast learned how to push from behind.

I figured I was the perfect person to write a book blog because 1) I don’t have a ‘real’ job (I’m a full-time slave, cook, and mommy), 2) I read a book nearly every single day, and 3) I like to write.

I was in a hard-core romance phase when I started my blog, but over the past year I’ve been branching out. I’d say that I still read about 50 percent romance novels, but I’m getting into science fiction, fantasy and crime fiction more and more. I’ve even gained a new appreciation for some terrific young adult series, and I’m pleased that my tastes are always evolving. Reading the same thing over and over is a good way to kill one’s passion for books.

What do you like best about running the site?

I love blogging because it lets me meet all sorts of fellow book lovers, and not just in the U.S. either. The hardest part about starting a blog is writing post after post to an empty theater. Those first emails and comments I received gave me the biggest thrill, and to this day I still get a buzz hearing from my regular visitors, or meeting someone new. That’s pretty much what keeps me dedicated to Dirty Sexy Books.

Definitely following a close second is getting to correspond with some of my favorite authors. I’m constantly amazed at how accessible and open most writers are, and their willingness to do umpteen interviews and guest posts is akin to those psychos who hold marathons in Death Valley. I stand in awe of their dedication, while simultaneously acknowledging that I don’t have it in me. I’m frequently asked if I’m an aspiring novelist too, and my response is, Heck no! I don’t think most people realize what a hard job it is, and how there’s so much more to it than just writing the book.

Tell us how you fell in love with romance books.

Ah, that’s kind of interesting, because I was a bona fide book snob for many years. I recall the first time I set foot in the romance stacks at my local library, I was so embarrassed that I practically wore a trench coat and sun glasses (no lie). After I read a few I was quickly converted, and now I consider myself a champion for the romance genre. The first authors who really snagged me were Linda Howard and Jayne Ann Krentz, and from there I got into paranormal romances by J. R. Ward, Kresley Cole, and Sherrilyn Kenyon. Now I follow too many authors to list, but I like just about all romance sub-genres.

Since I came from a decidedly negative point of view, I’m always pushing to help change romance’s reputation. I think there’s a whole potential fan base of readers who aren’t willing to try these stories because of old stereotypes (‘they’re just bodice-rippers’), or misinformation (‘it’s porn’). Hence, the name of my blog is a tongue-in-cheek poke at the idea that romances are ‘dirty books.’ You’d be amazed how many people Google that exact phrase too, and no, most of those folks are not romance fans. I think they leave DSB pretty fast once they realize that I don’t have bare bosoms on display.

If someone is interested in having you review a book, what do they need to do?

I don’t have a hard and fast review policy. I invite authors, publishers, and publicists to email me the blurb and I’ll take a look. If it peaks my interest, I’m happy to review it, but if it doesn’t I’ll pass. I do write critical reviews from time to time, and I do my best to choose books that I think I’m going to like. Since I’m a single-person blog, I can’t accept nearly as many requests as I’d like, so I do have to say no a lot. Whenever I accept a review request I’m happy to have the author over for a guest post or interview. I love promoting good books.

What’s the last book you read or what are you reading now?

Today I just finished up “Mr. Impossible” by Loretta Chase, which is a delightful regency romance set entirely in Egypt. My only gripe is that the cover does a dismal job selling the story. I wrote in my review that I want to see pyramids, pistols and romance on the cover. It’s an action-packed adventure that closely resembles the 1999 film “The Mummy,” but minus the supernatural mummy monsters. I was enormously entertained, and Ms. Chase has a deft touch with these opposites attracting stories.

Book you’re most looking forward to?

Most of the books that have me slobbering in anticipation are installments in ongoing series. I think Gail Carriger’s second Alexia Tarrabotti novel, “Changeless,” is going to be spectacular.

My number one must-read for this year is Ilona Andrews forth coming “Magic Bleeds,” which is nominally an urban fantasy, but it features one of the hottest slow-cooker romances I’ve ever read.

I’m always eager to read another J. R. Ward novel, and “Lover Mine” features some characters near and dear to her fan’s hearts.

Lisa Kleypas has two Hathaways novels coming out this summer, and I’m going to be in heaven. I could go on and on, but that’s a sample.

What’s in store for Dirty Sexy Books’ future?

Tattoos, leather pants, and motorcycles. Okay, maybe that’s wishful thinking, but I hope to keep things kicking, and that means hot books and cool guests.

Interviewed by Kristen Painter

Rebecca Baumann, Owner of Dirty Sexy Books

Spotlight On Realms of Fantasy

This month we welcome Shawna McCarthy, Fiction Editor, and Douglas Cohen, Editor, from Realms Of Fantasy magazine.

Divider Bar Red

For those new to Realms Of Fantasy can you give us a little background on the magazine?

DC: Well, Shawna knows a lot more about the magazine’s origins than I do, because was the magazine’s founding editor and is the only person left who has been with the magazine since its first issue.  But I’ll add a few additional tidbits for those unfamiliar with us.  RoF is a full-sized bimonthly color magazine.  Besides the fiction and the nonfiction Shawna mentions, each issue also features interior illustrations accompanying the stories, an artist gallery, and a number of different review columns.  I joined the magazine back in 2005 as Assistant Editor, meaning I was Shawna’s assistant in the fiction department.  Actually, Shawna was the one who hired me.  Thanks, Shawna!  The magazine was cancelled early in 2009, but our current publisher, Warren Lapine of Tir Na Nog Press, stepped in a couple of months later, bought the magazine, and brought me and Shawna back.  I have some additional duties with the magazine thes

e days (thanks, Warren!), so everything I do now gets lumped under the title of Editor.  But in the fiction department, I remain Shawna’s assistant.  I’ll also add that our current issue is February 2010 and is available on newsstands, while subscriptions are available on our website: http://www.rofmag.com.  The April 2010 issue of the magazine is scheduled for release in early February.

SM: The magazine was launched in October 1994 after a series of meetings with Carl Gnam, then the publisher of Science Fiction Age. I had written to him suggesting that since Fantasy outsells Science Fiction by a factor of ten to one (back then—it’s probably a larger number today), that he might want to consider publishing a fantasy magazine. In addition to the fiction, I stopped to consider what sorts of non-fiction might be of interest to the fantasy reader, and I realized that as a fantasy reader I was always curious about the folkoots behind the fantasy tropes. What was Samhain, anyway, and how did you pronounce it? (I’m still not sure!). There was only one person I knew who was qualified to write such a column, and that was the remarkable Terri Windling, who stayed on as our Folkroots editor for nearly 15 years. Thanks, Terry! I also wanted to get a real eminence grise´ for the book review column, and was able to snatch Gahan Wilson (yes, that Gahan Wilson) out from under the hands of George Scithers who was at the time trying to get him as a reviewer for his magazine. Sorry, George! And of course, the fiction was the main reason for the magazine’s existence, so I contacted all of my writer friends and they came through for me. Thanks, Writer Friends. And so Realms of Fantasy was born.

What is your favorite aspect of working on the magazine?

DC: For me it’s two things.  One is finding publishable manuscripts in our general submissions pile.  I pass what I like along to Shawna and she makes the final call on what we’re taking.  It’s always fun finding the proverbial needle in the haystack, and the genuine appreciation from the authors is always a wonderful thing.  Also, I love seeing the final artwork when it’s handed in.  It’s always interesting to see a story brought to life visually.  Also, it’s fun to see the finished product before just about everyone else!

SM: I love presenting high quality fantasy fiction to an audience that appreciates it. I also love finding new writers and watching them grow into major talents.

I understand you’re starting a paranormal romance column. How did that come about? What sorts of topics will you be covering? Are you looking for contributors to that column?

DC: That came about through a conversation with Warren.  There was a book up for potential review, something in the vein of romantic fantasy.  Warren wanted to know which columnist was best suited to review the book.  We swapped a few emails about this, and then Warren made the suggestion that we create a book column dedicated to reviewing paranormal romance/urban fantasy/romantic fantasy/related areas.  I didn’t have to think about this long to realize it was a great idea.  So after figuring out the particulars to how we would handle this new column, I put out a call on my blog for interested reviewers (I would have put out a call on our website too, but it was still under construction).  Some amazing candidates applied for the position, making it a very difficult choice for me.  I suppose I should stop and explain that, with few exceptions, RoF tends to use the same group of nonfiction columnists from issue to issue.  So I would be choosing just one reviewer.  Ultimately I selected Elizabeth Bear.  She is a very talented, prolific, and respected author who has also done reviews for such venues as Washington Post Online.  She has a deep appreciation for these areas of the fantastic and her ability to deconstruct and review a story is absolutely amazing.  I have every confidence that she is going to do an amazing job.  The column will be premiering in our June 2010 issue.  We’re also planning to concurrently run some of the magazine’s nonfiction columns on our website from time to time.  Right now, there’s a very good chance we’ll be posting Elizabeth’s reviews in the June 2010 issue on the website as well.  We would of course encourage everyone to buy an issue of the magazine and give us a shot, but I know the majority of the readers on this site are big romance fans.  So if you fall into this category and you’re not sure if the magazine is for you, reading this column to help you decide might be a good starting place.

The upcoming Women of Fantasy issue has already created some buzz. Why this theme now? And I know it’s listed on the website, but can you run down submission guidelines for that issue here?

SM: I don’t think there’s ever a wrong time to present the work of talented women writers. Why now? Why not? I’ve always wanted to do themed issues but the timing never worked out in the past. Doug will provide you with the exact guidelines.

DC: Well, I think Shawna answered the question of why rather well. As to our guidelines, here is the abridged version: we’re putting out a women in fantasy issue in August 2011. This issue will address the aforementioned topic through the magazine’s fiction, art, and nonfiction. We’re currently accepting fiction submissions for this issue, which is open to women only.  Stories dealing with gender, sexism, and other topics important to feminist speculative fiction are particularly welcome, but are not required.  The stories do not necessarily need to feature a female protagonist.  Stories must be postmarked no later than November 15th, 2010.  The full guidelines can be found here:  http://www.rofmag.com/2010/01/12/women-in-fantasy-take-two/ The magazine’s general submission guidelines can be found here: http://www.rofmag.com/contact-us/

What’s the last book you read or what are you reading now?

DC: The last book I read was THE GOLDEN COMPASS by Phillip Pullman. It’s the first book in a YA (or middle-grade—I’ve seen it shelved in both areas at the bookstores!) fantasy trilogy called HIS DARK MATERIALS. People who haven’t heard of the book still might recognize the title, since there was a movie made about this one a couple of years back. Despite the fact that it was marketed to reach younger readers, the content is handled in a very mature manner and the author’s imagination is quite impressive. Adults should be able to enjoy this without a problem. And the young heroine is without a doubt the spunkiest protagonist I have ever encountered. You can’t help but root for her.

As to what I’m reading now, I’m about to pick up PARABLE OF THE TALENTS by Octavia E. Butler, one of the most talented writers science fiction has ever known.  Everything I’ve read by her to date has wowed me. PARABLE OF THE TALENTS is the sequel to PARABLE OF THE SOWER, one of the better novels I’ve read in some time. I have every expectation this too will be amazing. After this, I imagine I’ll read something entirely different. You wouldn’t know it based on my answers, but I do read outside of speculative fiction!

SM: Right now I’m reading Cutting for Stone by Abraham Vergese. It’s not fantasy or science fiction but it hold in common with those areas a very realized sense of place for a part of the world that’s utterly alien to most Americans. It makes Ethiopia sound like a sort of paradise!

Book you’re most looking forward to?

DC: Ha!  That’s an easy one for me!  The book I’m most looking forward to is A DANCE WITH DRAGONS by George R. R. Martin (yup, another fantasy).  It’s the fifth book in Martin’s epic fantasy series, A SONG OF ICE AND FIRE.  I can’t even begin to describe how much I love this series, or to even describe the series itself.  I would fail to do it any sort of justice.  I really put it on a pedestal above all other stories.  Epic fantasy is my favorite form of literature when done right.  I’ve read a lot of good epics over the years, but nothing quite like Mr. Martin’s works.  That story fills me with awe.

SM: Too many to enumerate, and too little time to read them!

What else is in store for Realms Of Fantasy’s future?

DC: Well, our website is very new, because we launched it about a month ago.  We’re still planning to do a lot more with it.  Beyond that, well, we can’t give away all of our secrets, now can we? 🙂

SM: I’m looking forward to a robust future for the magazine—we’ve got a new publisher who’s totally energized and who’s working proactively to get us back into the marketplace. I’m excited!