Friday, November 29, 2013

DIY Advent Calendars They'll LOVE--Scrappin' Saturday Post

Advent calendar with tinsel
garland and decorative bags
For this Scrappin' Saturday post, I thought I'd share with you a fun, inexpensive gift idea I use every year for my nieces and nephews. This Advent Calendar works especially well with large families, as with my cousin who has six children. It's HARD to wait until December 25 when you're little, and this helps mitigate the wait.

I shop all year in the clearance bins for small gifts to put in the advent bags. The best time to do this is AFTER the holiday--when all of the Christmas-themed stuff is 50-75% off, so you can start this year and build up your advent calendar for next year! I do 3 advent calendars--two for relatives and one for my own girls. Here's how to create an Advent Calendar they'll LOVE:

1. Buy 24 small, inexpensive gifts that are age appropriate for the children you are gifting. For me, this means finding small items that are still baby-safe for one family, and items that are appropriate for the tween and teen girls of another family. See below the picture for some ideas that I've used.

2. You can either wrap each gift (which I used to do) OR you can do yourself a favor and buy the packs of Christmas-themed paper bags and pop each gift in a bag and seal it shut. I've even used brown paper bags, which adds a nice, rustic touch to the advent calendar theme.

Advent Calendar with brown
paper bags attached with garland.
3. Number the bags from 1-24. If you are gifting more than one age group or gender, you may want to label each bag with the child's name. CAUTION: This requires some math. NOT my strong point, so if you're like me, have some extra bags handy in case you forget which number you're on as your labeling and stuffing bags!

4. Attach each bag either in reverse order to ribbon, twine or tinsel garland (with the strings ending with 1, being a Countdown to Christmas calendar) or do it in numerical order, which would correspond to the date of the month (numbers going up, ending with 24). I never do a bag for 25--that's Christmas!

5. Find a sturdy hangar. I use the old-fashioned wooden ones, because they're much sturdier than the plastic or metal ones. Print out a cute paper for the hangar, or maybe decorate it with garland or ribbons. And send it! Voila--you've just given your kiddos 24 days of happiness and anticipation!

Here are some ideas you can use by age group:
Baby-safe ball
Board book
Baby-safe Santa
Holiday Socks

Elementary Kids:
Crafts for that age group are nice to use
Silly putty
Small notebooks with tiny markers/pencils
Small books
Play jewelry
Matchbox cars
Mittens/hats/holiday socks
Etc--this age group is easy to find small things they'll love!

Middle/High School Kids:
Nail Polish
Mittens/Hats/Holiday Socks
iTunes gift cards
Magic trick kits (small ones, like magic cards, etc.)
Money always works for this age group, too!

What are your ideas for advent calendars? I'm always interested in how other people use this tradition! Be sure to stop by my page on Pinterest to check out some other advent calendar ideas I've found on the web.

Happily Scrapping My Ever After,

P.S. Want to check out my other Scrappin' projects? Click here for an easy page you can do with broken crayons as the centerpiece!

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

COWBOY SEXY--check out this HOT GIVEAWAY from author Donna Michaels!

Today, I'm thrilled to have the incredible Donna Michaels on my blog today--this multi-published author (with 15 titles out there, and counting) has mastered the art of story-telling to such a degree, she is published in multiple genres--paranormal, western romance, contemporary, time name it, she's written it!

Hi Donna! I'm so excited to have you today, and I have to say, the cover for COWBOY SEXY immediately drew me in, as well as the hot excerpt! I mean, with a hot cowboy that's also a former Navy SEAL, it's no wonder RT Magazine gave it 4-stars, and it's burning up the charts on Amazon! Can  you tell me the inspiration for the book?

Hi, Dylan, thanks for having me! I love this story. It practically wrote itself. When my editor contacted me about doing a story for their new Honky Tonk Hearts series where the Lonesome Steer Honky Tonk and it’s owner Gus needed to have an appearance in the story, I’d immediately envisioned a hero driving there to pick up a surprise from his deployed twin brother (because I love to write military heroes and cowboys). Then I thought, oh man, wouldn’t it be funny if the twins were in different branches of the service? So Finn became my Navy SEAL and his prankster twin Brett is a deployed Marine...and the ‘surprise’ is also a female Marine. And viola, Cowboy-Sexy and all sorts of fun was born.

Oh, and Alex O’Loughlin’s version of Steve McGarrett on the new Hawaii Five-0 was the inspiration to my former Navy SEAL, Lt Commander Finn Brennan. J (So he’s also the inspiration to the sequel Cowboy Payback—Brett’s story due out next year.)

Ooh, love that title! Okay, next question: what is THE most important thing writers can do for themselves to get an agent/publisher in today's market?
I don’t have an agent, so I can’t give any advice on that subject, but as for publishers, you need to know who you are submitting to and what they are looking for to make sure you’re the perfect fit. You don’t want to submit your historical to a publisher who is looking for contemporaries. You need to know their ‘wants’ are something you can fulfill.

If you could have done anything differently with your writing career so far, what would it be?
 I wish I would’ve realized that my love for writing humor, and my love for writing cowboys and military heroes were actually a good mix. I would’ve started it a few years sooner.

Who are your writing role models, and how have they influenced you?
I didn’t really have a writing role model when I first started, but just a year ago I discovered Jill Shalvis. Yeah, I know, I must’ve been living under a rock. Actually, a writing cave. lol Seriously, though, I love Jill’s books, they are exactly what I love to write so she helps me strive to write better. I want my readers to come away from reading one of my stories, like I do from reading her stories—feeling happy and satisfied and entertained. 

Do you have any upcoming releases? If so, tell us about it!
Yes, the third book in my Harland County Series, HER UNIFORM COWBOY is due out in early December. Kade is a sheriff, part owner of a horse ranch and a First Sergeant in the Texas Army National Guard. He has some lingering issues, but so does my heroine, Brandi. She has a thyroid disease and is a designer, but used to be a violinist in the philharmonic and in the Pennsylvania Army National Guard, which she keeps to herself for a bit. I like to keep my protagonists real with real issues.
HER UNIFORM COWBOY will be FREE for the first three days of release. Please keep an eye on my website to look for the download link.

I love free books! I'll keep an eye out for it. Last question: what's one fact about you that most people don't know? 
That I, in fact, have the very thyroid disease I just gave to my heroine. Hoshimoto Thyroiditis. Most of what she goes through in the story is something I’ve experienced. I hadn’t realized my fatigue and weight gain had to do with my thyroid, so I’m hoping to shed light on the disease and help people get diagnosed so they can get healthy too.

I know people will want to check you out online. Can you give us your website links and contact information?
Sure, I’m all over the web, and even have a newsletter signup on my website. Here are my links:

One lucky commenter to the blog today will win a paperback copy of Donna Michaels' incredible "Cowboy-Sexy". Just leave a comment and you’re in the running. Good luck! 

Finn Brennan was used to his brother playing practical jokes, but this time he’d gone too far--sending him a woman as a ranch hand, and not just a woman, but a Marine.

When Lt. Camilla Walker's CO asks her to help out at his family's dude ranch until he returns from deployment, she never expected to be thrust into a mistaken engagement to his sexy, cowboy twin--a former Navy SEAL who hates the Corps.

The Corps took Finn’s father, his girlfriend and threatened his naval career. He’s worked hard for another shot at getting back to active duty and won’t let his brother’s prank interfere. The last thing he needs is the temptation of a headstrong, unyielding, hot Marine getting in the way.


“Your…ah…package is in the back. I’ll tell my nephew you’re here,” Gus informed.
The man’s handle-bar mustache twitched as if he swallowed a secret dying to get out. Alarm instantly erased Finn’s doubt. Trouble was on the way. He set his shoulders and watched the owner closely.
Gus leaned into the kitchen pass-through. “Win, Finn’s here for his….ah…package.”
When the owner turned around there was more than the usual twinkle lighting his eyes.
“I’ll tell ya, my brother never sent me anything like this,” the cowboy from the end of the bar informed with a grin.
Another round of snickers echoed through the room. Just what the hell had Brett sent? Couldn’t be a camel; Gus would never keep an animal in the kitchen.
His gaze snapped to his foreman. Did Terry know? The older man sat there, mug half raised, frowning at Gus. No. He was the only one not smiling. In fact, he looked as confused as Finn felt.
“You’re one lucky man,” one of the pool players called out.
“Damn straight,” the other agreed.
“Too bad my daughter wasn’t here.” Gus winked at the woman he’d been talking to earlier.
She nodded and returned his smile. “Yes, Keira would’ve loved to see this.”
“Oh, it’s just like Christmas!” Even the elderly couple was getting in on the action.
Finn turned to find them smiling, delight sparkling in their gazes, easing the lines in their happy faces.
“We can’t wait to see what it is!”
The hinges on the kitchen door creaked behind him, and a second later Terry’s mug hit the bar, sending half his coffee over the edge.
About to ask what was wrong, the words died in Finn’s throat. His foreman’s expression changed from shock to amusement to worry as their gazes met.
Finn stiffened. He knew instinctively he was not going to like whatever Win brought out from the kitchen, and knowing his prankster brother, it could be anything. Silently cursing his twin, he slowly turned around.
He blinked, unable to stop his jaw from dropping. His brother had gone too far. Win hadn’t brought anything out. The present walked out on its own.
Standing not ten feet from him was a tall, curvy brunette with a big red bow stuck to her right shoulder. A long braid trailed down the left side of her ample chest and delicate features graced a face worthy of magazine covers. She was the most beautiful woman he’d ever seen...and the very last thing he wanted. Or needed.
The “package” sauntered closer, and his pulse responded with pin point accuracy to each individual sway of her rounded hips. She was model-beautiful, but not exactly model-thin. He noted a full bust, teasing him with a luscious line of cleavage as his gaze followed her white tank top to where it disappeared into a pair of skinny, tan cargo pants lovingly hugging a set of magnificent legs. Damn, the woman was hot.
“Happy birthday, Finn.”
His gut rippled as if punched. Of course she’d have a sexy voice to match. Too bad. He straightened his shoulders and told himself he wasn’t interested. He preferred to get his own dates. He didn’t need his brother’s charity.

Doesn't this sound amazing? Comment below for your chance to win a signed paperback copy of COWBOY SEXY, from Donna Michaels!

Happily My Ever After,

Monday, November 18, 2013

Cover REVEAL for the DEBUT novel, HURRICANE CRIMES by Chrys Fey!

Today, I am thrilled to have a REVEAL. No--not of naked men. (While that would be nice, this is a PG-13ish blog). But of a wonderful woman, and debut novelist, Chrys Fey and her brand new book, HURRICANE CRIMES, set to release on Amazon November 25!

I met Chrys through the wonderful world of G+, and was immediately charmed by her kindness and enthusiasm. I am so very proud to have her first cover reveal on my blog! She's a novelist to watch, mark my words! Check out my interview with her, and her intriguing excerpt below.

Hi Chrys! I'm so excited for your book, "Hurricane Crimes," coming out from The Wild Rose Press on November 25. Can you tell us what your inspiration was for the book?
I was reading a book about a deadly snow and ice storm, and when I finished it I thought, I live in Florida and we don’t get snow storms here, we get hurricanes. And with that thought the wonderful idea to write a story about two people stuck in a hurricane sparked in my mind. I started writing it immediately . . . on Christmas Day.

What is THE most important thing writers can do for themselves to get an agent/publisher in today's market?
I think it all comes down to research. Read book after book about publishing until it feels like the words are tattooed on your skin. Devour information from agents and editors who share what they say will get you published, and do them! Then pour yourself over books and blogs with tips that can make your manuscript shine. If a writer does all of this research, they will have a greater shot at landing an agent/publisher.

If you could have done anything differently with your writing career so far, what would it be?
Since my career is just beginning, I don’t think there is something I’d do differently at this point. The one thing I had to sacrifice though is the dream of publishing my supernatural-thriller series first, but that decision led to publishing Hurricane Crimes and I definitely would not change that for anything!

Who are your writing role models, and how have they influenced you?
My mom is definitely my biggest role model. I watched her write when I was little and I realized then that I wanted to be a writer too. When I got older, I discovered Nora Roberts. And without her even knowing it she became my mentor. Her writing made me want to aspire to be just a fraction as good as she is. I don’t know if I’m there yet, but I am working on it.

What's one fact about you that most people don't know?
Oh, there’s a lot you don’t know about me, but I’m going to keep most of it a secret. For now, anyway. One thing I can share that many people don’t know is that I have my GED, but I am a firm believer that you don’t need a special diploma to be an amazing writer.

I know people will want to check you out online. Can you give us your website links and contact information?

Of course, I love to connect with readers and writers!

Here's a taste of HURRICANE CRIMES with a blurb and excerpt:

After her car breaks down, Beth Kennedy is forced to stay in Florida, the target of Hurricane Sabrina. She stocks up supplies, boards up windows, and hunkers down to wait out the storm, but her plan unravels when she witnesses a car accident. Risking her life, she braves the winds to save the driver. Just when she believes they are safe, she finds out the man she saved could possibly be more dangerous than the severe weather.

Donovan Goldwyn only wanted to hide from the police, but the hurricane shoved his car into a tree. Now he's trapped with a beautiful woman while the evidence that can prove his innocence to a brutal crime is out there for anyone to find.

As Hurricane Sabrina wreaks havoc, Beth has no other choice but to trust Donovan to stay alive. But will she survive, or will she become another hurricane crime?


On the television set, which was fighting to stay alive, was breaking news. She caught bits and pieces of it as she emptied the bowl of blood-tainted water and threw out the cloth. It was about a high-speed chase that had occurred about a half-hour ago. Beth shook her head. Apparently, Donovan wasn’t the only idiot driving around during a hurricane.

She went back into the living room and began replacing all the medical supplies into the first-aid kit. Behind her, a reporter was explaining that the driver of the car was believed to be a murder suspect.

“The name of the—”

The lights flashed, prompting Beth to snatch up her flashlight.

“Donovan Goldwyn.”

Her fingers went cold around the plastic tube as ice frosted her veins. She straightened her spine and turned stiffly to the television, her heart wasn’t beating in her chest. On the screen was the picture of the man who was right now changing in her bedroom. Above it was a caption in bold letters that read—SUSPECT.

She gripped the flashlight in her frozen fingers. Her heart thudded fearfully. She stared into the immobilized violet eyes through the glass.
“Oh my god,” she gasped.
     She had brought a murderer into her home!

Check it out on Amazon next week (November 25) when HURRICANE CRIMES is available in e-book format. 

Good luck, Chrys--thanks for doing your big REVEAL on my blog!
Happily My Ever After,

P.S. Want to see your writing dreams become a reality? Follow Chrys' advice on research, and print out my posts for how to create a query letter that will get your novel noticed. Check out the basics for query letter writing: Anatomy of a Query Letter, and then make sure you're hitting all of the Do's and Don'ts in my Top 10 Do's and Don'ts for Query Letters here.

P.P.S. Don't miss a thing! Subscribe to my posts at the right, or sign up for my Newton Nation Newsletter--the newsletter that comes out ONLY when I have FREE things to give away! :)

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Time Travel Romance GIVEAWAY from Susan Macatee

Another one of my fellow TWRP authors, Susan Macatee, has a novella just released into paperback that I am so excited to share with you today. PLUS, one lucky commenter will get a FREE paperback copy of THOROUGHLY MODERN AMANDA signed from the author!

Hi Susan! Thanks so much for being with me today.
Your time travel romance, THOROUGHLY MODERN AMANDA, was just release in paperback--I can't wait to get my copy! Can you tell me what your inspiration was for the book?
Thoroughly Modern Amanda was inspired by my first time travel romance, Erin's Rebel. This prior book was released in 2009 and Amanda Montgomery was one of the minor characters, the small child of the hero, Will Montgomery. Erin's Rebel is set during the American Civil War and I decided to project Amanda into the future into the year 1881 where she's all grown up and ready for her own romance. The hero is from our time and is a construction worker who wants to refurbish an old Victorian home--the very home that Amanda's potential suitor is building as he hopes she'll accept his marriage proposal. Besides Erin's Rebel, I was also inspired by those lovely Victorian homes still in existence today. Always wondered what it would be like to live in one.  

I love old Victorian homes! It's my dream to have one someday...gottta keep writing to make that dream a reality!
Next question: What is THE most important thing writers can do for themselves to get an agent/publisher in today's market?
I don't have an agent, so can't answer that one, but to find a publisher, a writer has to do his or her research to learn what types of stories a publisher is looking for and angle the query to that publisher. Then write the best book you can, revise, edit and proofread before sending it off. The wait time can be excruciating, but you just have to move ahead on that next book and forget about the submission for a while.  

If you could have done anything differently with your writing career so far, what would it be?
I definitely would have gotten serious about writing at a younger age. Otherwise, the path to publication, which started with writing courses, then joining Romance Writers of America, and taking advantage of their wonderful workshops, is the only way I think I'd be where I am at this point.
Who are your writing role models, and how have they influenced you?
I've read so many books throughout my childhood, teens and into my married years as a young mother, that I can't pick one or even two writers who influenced my writing. I think it was all the writing I absorbed over the years, starting with series like 'Nancy Drew' and Cherry Ames' then on to science fiction and gothic romances. I read a lot of mysteries and thrillers, too, along the way. When I discovered time travel romances, I was hooked on that genre and those books and stories influenced my first novel-length romance, Erin's Rebel. I loved books so much that I wanted to create my own characters and settings to move readers the same way I'd been moved by all those writers who filled my life with wonder, fun and adventure over the years. 

What's one fact about you that most people don't know.
That I'm a big science fiction geek. I actually thought about writing science fiction or futuristic romance, but don't quite feel qualified to write in that genre. For now, I'm sticking to historical and time travel romances and am thinking of starting work on a contemporary baseball romance series in the near future.  

Yay! Another Sci-Fi fan! I can't wait to see "Ender's Game"--one of my personal favs! 
Okay, I know people will want to check you out online. Can you give us your website links and contact information?

Thank you again for being my blog guest today, Susan! 
Don't forget to comment below for a chance to win a signed copy of Susan Macatee's new paperback, THOROUGHLY MODERN AMANDA.

Happily My Ever After,

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Scrappin' Sunday--Zombie Prom Pictures

In today's Scrappin' Sunday post, I'm featuring a layout I did with last year's Zombie Prom pictures. (Want to throw a Zombie Prom? Click here for tips!) 

I take the most pictures at Halloween, so it's always a challenge for me to come up with a layout that incorporates 20+ pictures. And this one fits the bill, with over 26 pictures included! 

I used my favorite tool--the 2" square punch, for most of the pictures. Helps to keep everything tidy and uniform when you have a ton of pictures to display. On the left-hand page, the centerpiece is a Zombie Prom picture of my husband and I which I made into a pocket to hold a copy of the invitation we used that year. Here's a copy of the invitation that's folded in that pocket:

And...of course, I used a flip-book on the right-hand page. That's my most commonly used 'cheat' to incorporate more 4x6 shots on a layout. The cover is a rhinestone-studded spider embellishment I picked up years ago, and the book is held together at the sides by ribbon. 

Here's a detail shot--you can see I staggered the 2" square shots along the bottom of the Martha Stewart Halloween paper, and used a brad to attach the "Warning: Zombies" (one of our necklaces we gave in the goody bags that night) embellishment to the paper. 
Detail of 2" square picture border and Zombie necklace embellishment
*sigh* I just loooove Halloween!

Starting next week, I'll be featuring the Christmas projects I'm working ideas and scrapbooking combined. Stay tuned as I scrap my...
Happily My Ever After,

P.S. Love to scrapbook? Check out my use for old crayons in this adorable kid's layout here.

P.P.S. Here is my post on how YOU can throw a Zombie Prom Halloween Party on the cheap! Or check out my Pinterest page here for other Zombie Prom and Halloween Party ideas.

Friday, November 8, 2013

Mystery Novel Query Letter that Worked

I'm excited to have multi-talented, and multi-published author, Nancy Cohen as my guest today for Writers Paying It Forward Friday. Nancy has only one query letter to share...because after that, she
landed an agent who has sold her books--all 18 of them!--from that day forward. If you haven't read one of Nancy's books, I encourage you to check them out. She's a very talented writer who (IMHO) really has a grasp of the craft.

Nancy, welcome to my blog and thank you so much for sharing your Actual Query Letter that Resulted in a Contract! I know when I was first starting out, I'd have given my left nostril to see the query letter for a book I could actually buy and read, and here we have yours from your first mystery, PERMED TO DEATH.

Nancy, would you share your query letter here, and tell us why you think it got a response? What made it successful?
I’d already had a track record, and that made a difference. Plus this was the start of a new series, which agents prefer over a midlister doing the same old, same old type of work. I was changing genres so it would be a fresh start.

(Nancy Cohen's query letter for PERMED TO DEATH):
Dear Ms. Agent:
I'm a published author seeking a new agent to represent me for a mystery book proposal.  PERMED TO DEATH is a 75,000 word novel featuring beauty salon owner Marla Shore.
When one of her clients is poisoned while getting a perm, Marla becomes a prime suspect. She attends the woman’s funeral and meets her relatives and business associates, all of whom have logical motives for murder. But so does Marla, as homicide detective Dalton Vail learns during his investigation. Desperately seeking to salvage her reputation, Marla seeks to identify the killer before the next "permanent" solution is her own.
PERMED TO DEATH is the first book in a proposed series. Also available is a synopsis for the next story, HAIR RAISER. The title for the third installment is MURDER BY MANICURE.
I have four futuristic romance novels in print and am the winner of the 1995 HOLT Medallion Award in the paranormal category.  PERMED TO DEATH is my first mystery.  Would you be interested in seeing the complete proposal? An SASE is included for your reply. Please note this is a multiple submission. Thank you for your consideration.

I love how succinct your letter is, yet you hit every point in the Anatomy of a Query Letter and you follow all of the Top 10 Do's and Don'ts for Query LettersYour book synopsis was well crafted, and I love, love, love the hair puns in your titles. So clever!

What is THE most important thing writers can do for themselves to get an agent/publisher in today's market?
 Attend a writers’ conference with editor and agent appointments. Meeting them personally is the best way to get attention and to receive an offer to send your material.

If you could have done anything differently with your writing career so far, what would it be?
 I would have been more persistent in sticking to mysteries even when the cozy market took a dive. It’s refreshing to write in two genres but more difficult for branding and promotion.

Who are your writing role models, and how have they influenced you?
Marilyn Campbell advised me to write a futuristic romance back when we were in a critique group together. Circle of Light became my first published book and a HOLT Medallion winner in the paranormal category. Now I’d have to say my current critique partners are my role models. They carry on regardless of the ups and downs of life and the writing business.

I so agree with you about critique partners--having good ones can make or break you as a novelist. What's one fact about you that most people don't know?
I like watching romantic comedies on the Hallmark Channel. Happy endings are a must.

Do you have any upcoming releases? If so, tell us about it!
Hanging by a Hair, my 11th Bad Hair Day mystery, is due out from Five Star in April 2014. I’ve also submitted Warrior Lord, #3 in my paranormal Drift Lords series, to Wild Rose Press and am waiting to hear back from my editor. In my spare time (ha!), I’ve been working on an original mystery to publish myself as an experiment in self-publishing.

I know people will want to visit you online. Can you give us your website links and contact information?

Thank you so much for sharing your Actual Query Letter that Resulted in a Contract today, Nancy! It was great chatting with you, and best of luck with your upcoming releases! 

Be sure to click on "Follow Happily (my) Ever After" link on the right so you won't miss any of my upcoming writers for my Writers Paying it Forward Friday...

Happily My Ever After,

P.S. Ready to rock your query letter like Nancy Cohen did? Check out my post to get the basics of query letter writing on Anatomy of a Query Letter, then be sure to double-check you are following all the other rules in the Top 10 Do's and Don'ts for a Query Letter.

P.P.S. Want to see another query letter example? Check out mine for my first paranormal romance, DESPITE THE GHOSTS, here.

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Got them in my grubby little hands!

There's nothing like the feeling of opening a box filled with books...especially when they're the book YOU wrote! I get a huge thrill when I get my box of books from my publisher--something about holding those in your hands makes it seem real!  :)

Just wanted to share...I feel so very, very blessed to have achieved the milestone of two books published, and can't wait for my third one in 2014!! :)
Happily My Ever After,

P.S. Have you written a book? Ready to write the query letter that'll get the notice of an agent or publisher? Ready to tackle your OWN query letter? Check out my printable, helpful tips on the Anatomy of a Query Letter, as well as my Top 10 Do's and Don'ts for Query Letters. AND...tune in tomorrow when I have Nancy Cohen on my blog with her very first query letter!

P.P.S. Want to see my query letter that got results? Click here

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

GIVEAWAY from Romantic suspense author Rebecca Grace

I'm thrilled to host my fellow TWRP author, Rebecca Grace today who has a brand, spanking new paperback out for her romantic suspense, SHADOWS FROM THE PAST. Doesn't it look great?!? Check out this amazing writer, and comment below for your chance to WIN a copy of her book!

Becky, I'm thrilled to see your romantic suspense novella, SHADOWS FROM THE PAST, is now out in paperback! While I have a Kindle (and love it) I prefer to have my 'keepers' in old-fashioned paper format, so I've already ordered mine! :) Can you tell me a little about the inspiration for your book?

I came up with the idea for Shadows from the Past as a result of my enjoyment of gothic romances. Years ago I loved the romantic mysteries written by Phyllis Whitney. She always took the heroine to a strange place where she found mystery and romance. That was what I aimed for in Shadows.  I've also always loved the Northwest (having once lived in Seattle) and I love the old Victorian houses you find there. And while I love today's strong heroines, I wanted to write about someone who was kind of unsure but then discovered herself.  Putting all that together, I came up with Shadows from the Past. An old house, a tortured hero, an unsure heroine who brings everything together -- it all seemed to fall into place.
I know you are a past NaNoWriMo participant...and winner! What lessons learned did you get from winning NaNo, and would you do it again?
I really love NaNoWriMo and I have been participating every year for the past few years.  I managed to be a winner last year and the previous year. The thing I love about NaNo is the accountability.  I like watching the word count pile up and knowing that at the end of the month I need to have a certain number of words written. As a result of doing NaNo I started putting together my own monthly spreadsheet to keep track of how many words I write every month. I never come close to matching my NaNo figure, but I do see the months I am particularly active and it keeps me going stronger into the next month.  It's that time of the year again, and I have already signed up and have just the right project to begin writing. 

I feel the same about NaNoWriMo--a month of good writing habits helps me limp along the rest of hte year! Okay, next question: What do you think is THE most important thing writers can do for themselves to get an agent/publisher in today's market?
I think it has never been more important to keep a watch on the publishing trends. So much is changing so rapidly. I think writers' groups such as Romance Writers of America, or Mystery Writers, or Science Fiction Writers, are invaluable resources. If you can't afford to join them, look for local writing chapters. Get to know other writers in your area and see what they are doing or might suggest. I also suggest attending small, regional or local writing conferences. Some you can do for a day for $30 and some will have agents or editors who come in. For instance, here in Colorado our Heart of Denver and Colorado Romance Writers will have one day sessions and bring in editors. In the past year we've had people come in from Entangled Publishing, Random House, Carina Press and Musa. We also had an agent from the Donald Maas agency and all offered pitch appointments. I always say pitch when you get the chance.
If you could have done anything differently with your writing career so far, what would it be?
My writing career took years to get going and it was all my doing. I first joined Romance Writers of America right when it was getting off the ground in the early 80s.  But a couple of painful rejections from Harlequin, which I still have, stopped me cold. I gave up pursuing publishing, but kept writing. Fifteen years later a friend convinced me to try again, which I did and at that time I began taking writing classes. Looking back at those old rejections I realized they loved the stories, but the mechanics were not there. I didn't even know what Point of View was. If I'd taken the time to learn the craft then and not given up, it wouldn't have taken so long to get published.

Who are your writing role models, and how have they influenced you?
I have to say that I was always drawn to those Phyllis Whitney stories and the novels of Victoria Holt. I wanted to write that kind of suspense, but I started out writing romance. I loved Harlequin Presents and the works of Violet Winspear . In later years I discovered Stephen King and Dean Koontz.

Stephen King & Dean Koontz are also personal favs of mine. I knew there was a reason we clicked right away! :) Okay, last question: What's one fact about you that most people don't know. 

Actually I have one very bad writing habit that I doubt I'll ever be able to fix.  I love to work on several different projects at the same time. Some of my writing friends think it's crazy because right now I am working in several different time periods -- from the old west to 1900s New York to present day Los Angeles.
Wow--I can barely keep my own life facts straight, let alone so many projects at once. Good for you!
I know people will want to check you out online. Can you give us your website links and contact information?

Twitter: @RebeccaGrace55

Thanks for being my guest here today, Rebecca! 
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Happily My Ever After,