Cover Art, New Releases, Romance, Writing Process

UKLGBTChat Knocked Me Up!


How does a single lesbian become impregnated without a sperm donor, sperm bank or Divine Intervention? All it takes is one Twitter chat: #UKLGBTChat. For me, it was the May 31, 2015 episode, which focused on books. That and I was fertile and took no precautions.


That fateful evening, I happened into #UKLGBTChat when it had just begun trending. When I learned the topic and heard some of the convo, I felt like I was among kindred spirits bearing compatible DNA: LGBT readers, reviewers and authors who wanted more LGBT in their gay and mainstream books. They shared reading lists for different countries, stating that US authors were doing fairly well at writing diverse books, including LGBT characters of various ages and abilities and genres beyond coming out stories, such as scifi. UK authors still needed to work at it. I forgot to mention my friend LJ Cohen did very nicely at LGBT and racial diversity in composing her YA space opera, DERELICT. But it was when I heard participants say they wanted to see more age and situation diversity, as well as disabilities in their LGBT characters that I felt that first spark of life.


Once the chat was over much too quickly, like many copulations, my book pregnancy – set in my hometown of Lake Charles, LA – sucked up my attention, time and energy. Ordinary daily tasks, like housecleaning, greenskeeping and grocery shopping, suddenly became secondary to the importance of nurturing this new life inside me. I even had difficulty sleeping and suffered from indigestion, from my baby demanding to be written. There was also a lot of loneliness as a hormonal single pregnant mom. Sex scenes, need I say more?

(OK, I will add that neither of my main characters is pregnant – yet. Who knows what will happen in future books?)

When I sat down to make out a grocery list, characters, settings, situations and plotlines sprouted on the pages, like ultrasounds. As I began writing from my notes, the story flourished. Each day its features grew more defined. Being a romance fan and a member of several award-winning authors’ street teams, it was no surprise to me that my book baby was a love child, too. What might surprise some is her complexion and full genre identity: lesbian interracial romance, yet another request from that prophetic episode of #UKLGBTChat.


As babies tend to do, mine decided when it wanted to be born, regardless of recommendations against premature birth. Thankfully, I had assembled my own street team, beginning with those same award-winning authors – now my midwives – to support me through the perilous labor and delivery process. Mackenzie Crowne administered tips on opening paragraphs as the pains began. Mac, Melanie James, Sarah Grimm,  Vonnie Davis, Marie Lavender, Devika Fernando, AJ Nuest, Dyane Forde, Alison Bliss and Betty Olsen were my Lamaze coaches as the cover art, in the form of a guitar pic by Sarah Bromage, began to crown and had to be turned.

As I shared with her about #UKLGBTChat, Marie introduced me to LGBT authors Dianne and Young. It was rather odd to meet new people in the delivery room, but these are two writers you don’t want to pass up, so I was immensely grateful.

S.A. Hunt, D.W. Metz, Paul Bucalo, Air Force historian Shawn Bohannon, and Bronx Pride’s Peter C. Equality Frank gowned up and gave their feedback and encouragement near the final push.

Alas, she got hung up in the birth canal and I had to stop pushing for a bit for Catherine Ryan Howard to coach me through ebook formatting for Amazon, et al. That was sheer torture!!! Thanks to her, I at last held my beautiful new book baby, Blues in the Night, safely in my arms.

So, to all the above and the members of #UKLGBTChat: Host Faye, Nichola, Jess, Marion, Antonia, Julianne, Liz, Vanessa, Debbie, Nina, Queer YA, Sophie, David, Kam, Michelle, L.D., Keren, Chouett, Sara, the Paisley Piranhas and George, a heartfelt and resounding THANK YOU!!! for knocking me up and seeing me and my book baby through this incredible pregnancy! Let me know when you’re ready to get together again. My next book baby’s already a twinkle in my eye. 😉

P.S. As I was writing the wedding proposal scene, set in New Orleans, I wondered how much longer it would take for same-sex marriage to become legal in Louisiana. At last, after Blues in the Night was born in the wee hours of June 15, 2015, eleven days later, the United States Supreme Court ruled that same-sex marriages MUST be recognized throughout the country! #LoveWins



Nita Nunez was going to hell. As she and Jo basically had sex in front of the whole church, Nita wondered if it was good for Jo, too. As they joined the band of seasoned bluesmen in performing “Learned How to Lean” for the morning worship service, Nita and Jo were getting into it, acting out the song by angling themselves against each other, sparks flying as their heads and shoulders brushed. “What a fellowship, what a joy divine,” thought Nita as their eyes rested in one another a few beats too long before returning to the congregation.

It was all she could do to keep from plucking the neck of her top and fanning herself as they finished the verse, Jo’s body rocking, her face squinching up as she unleashed her power gospel voice. Certainly everybody could see Nita’s nostrils flaring as she wondered if the handsome black woman in the Sunday go to meeting dress and pumps beside her was gay or not. “I found out if I trust Him, He will provide.” Nita sure hoped so, her mind racing as she tried to figure out how to ask Jo about her sexual preferences over Sunday dinner in the fellowship hall, surrounded by people Nita still barely knew.

That “Nobody Knows I’m a Lesbian” t-shirt would come in real handy right about now, she thought…

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ABOUT the Author

Belinda Y. Hughes is the Louisiana lesbian author of the lesbian interracial romance Blues in the Night, Living Proof and Confessions of a Red Hot Veggie Lover 2, a lacto ovo vegetarian cookbook. She enjoys reading, writing, beading, baking and hiking in the woods with her old dog. Belinda is eager to write more LGBT books in a variety of genres.

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Cover Art, Free Books, Giveaways, Guest Posts, New Releases, Paranormal, Thriller, Uncategorized, Writing Technique

Guest Post: The Writing Life Broken Down (Rochelle Campbell)

Today’s guest blogger is Rochelle Campbell, author of Fury From Hell, a paranormal thriller about good versus evil. She’s worked for the New York Times and been published in Bartleby Snopes and Lit Art magazines. Rochelle is excited to reveal the cover of her upcoming third novel in this post, as well as sharing her personal insights on the writing process, mentoring writers and how to become a successful author. I have long admired Rochelle’s writing posts on Twitter, so if you want to see how irresistible, engaging tweets are done, be sure to follow her there, at her writing blog and at Goodreads. In addition, Rochelle is graciously doing a giveaway – 7 FREE copies of Fury From Hell, the first installment in the From Hell series! Be sure to enter and share this post with all your book friends. – Belinda


What’s your writing process?

My writing process leans towards the left brain once the idea for the story is formed.  However, the initial inspiration for a story is as it should be – very right-brained.

I tend to like a very detailed outline that uses six points.  They are:


            Introduction of Conflict

            Complication of Conflict


            Resolution of Conflict



I flesh out each of the six points with at least a paragraph, or two.  Then, I add a major dramatic question (MDQ) for the story and/or the main character.  This is what the book spins on.  In other words, the theme, or underlying current running beneath the story.  The MDQ addition was something I learned at the Gotham Writers Course I took this past spring.  My instructor, Michael Davis, eloquently taught us that we must give our characters strong enough reasons and inner conflicts to engage them and the reader.

After the crucial portion is written down I focus on the characters, their names and relations to each other within the story world.  This step will often dictate the setting and/or the environment that the story will take place in.

With all of this information, I then feel comfortable enough to begin writing.  With this method, even though I know a lot about the story going in, the story and the characters still move, ebb and flow all on their own, making the writing of the story fascinating.

Have you ever considered anyone a mentor?

My writing mentor is Jacqueline Lichtenberg a phenom in the world of scifi fan fiction.  Ms. Lichtenberg is a Hugo Award Winner for Best Fan Writer (1974), a Locus Award Winner for Best Science Fiction Novel (First Channel, 1981), she coined the term Intimate Adventure and is a Galaxy Award Winner Spirituality in Science Fiction for her second novel, Unto Zeor Forever.  I could go on and on including that Ms. Lichtenberg is the main author of Star Trek Lives! And she is the creator of the Sime~Gen Universe, a large vibrant fanfic community.


Are you reading any interesting books at the moment?

I just completed reading Deborah Harkness’ Book of Life, the 3rd book in the All Souls series.  It is a paranormal romantic thriller with aspects of horror.  To set the stage, imagine the world is inhabited by humans, of course, but in and among us are other creatures that blend in – or try to – witches, daemons and vampires.  There’s a Covenant the governs how these creatures can and should behave with humans and with human affairs.  This series explores what happens when the Covenant is disregarded because of greed, personal gain, jealousy and power.

Currently, I am reading a friend’s children’s chapter book called, “Grandma You’re Dead!”  It is the funniest premise – a 13-year-old girl is visited by her deceased grandmother who needs her grandaughter’s help to solve a 15-year-old mystery.  The catch?  The teenager cannot tell her mother anything, or ask anyone for help!  It is already shaping up to be a sweet read.


What are some of the best tools available today for writers, especially those just starting out?

There are a myriad of tools, software, books, journals and periodicals for writers.  For me, one of the best software packages for the creation of stories, and for help in structuring the story is Literature and Latte’s Scrivener.  You can create a story from start to finish using this program and brainstorm ideas with it as well.

The other ‘tools’ I find most helpful are the writer’s chosen writing implements: iPad, computer, pen and paper, laptop, etc.  Yes, I’m being facetious but a writer…writes.  The truly important tool is to find a supportive group of writers who can provide feedback on your work during all stages.  This group can help the new writer develop his/her voice and writing style while allowing the writer to express him/herself without prejudice.

Some great sites for a community of writers who can offer critique of your work are:

A writer generally develops more quickly when s/he has direct communication and connection with people of like mind.


What do you believe contributes to making a writer successful?

A writer is successful because s/he does not stop writing.  It’s as simple as that.  If you love writing, the act of writing, the thought of writing and all of the editing, formatting, grammar rules, punctuation and style usage best practices are all you think about then you are a successful writer.  You cannot call yourself a writer if you do not write or, if you do not read.  I suppose that is the philosophical answer.

The practical answer of what it takes to become a successful writer, in terms of dollars and cents (not, sense J) is a lot of work to develop your social platform.  These days, if you seek literary representation, you will be asked if you have a social media platform and how large it is.  While this may not be  a deal-breaker for most agents, it is a major factor.

On another note, if you are an indie writer and then decide to try to publish the traditional route, your indie book sales will be reviewed and taken into consideration of whether the agent, or the publishing company will want to take you on as a client.  If you book did not sell well, they know they have an uphill battle of creating a platform for you so you can sell books for them.

You can see ‘success’ can mean different things as a writer.  Ultimately, you have to define what you want, set your goals and then judge your success for yourself based upon what you wanted not what someone else wanted for you.


What do you love about independent publishing?

As an independent (Indie) author I have the freedom to tell the story I want to tell without having to worry overly much about fitting into a genre, or category.  I also get to choose which book covers will grace the front of my books.  For me, this alone is worth the extra work of creating a book worth reading!   (I hope! J)

Do you have any advice for other writers?

The only advice I can share would be to write the things that bubble out of you and slide through your fingers onto the page, or the screen.


Do not second-guess yourself.  Get that first-draft pulled together without any editing from your mind.  Once you have a full first draft, put it away and let it ‘rest’ for about 3 – 4 weeks.  Read other books, watch movies, go on vacation; do whatever but don’t look at your manuscript.


Once you’ve let the book rest, read through it with a red pen (or whatever color you’d like).  Adjust the story as you see fit and hen begin working on editing and revising.  Give to your writing group, or writing partner for critique before sending to an agent, or publisher.


FFH Author Pic2_Aug 2014


You’ve told us about your writing process, we touched on indie publishing and resources for writers but we don’t know who you are as a writer.  Can you tell us a bit about you?


I have been writing on and off for over 20 years.  To date, the off-writing portion seems to have provided fodder for the writing phase of my career as I currently have, five novel-length works in progress.  Early in my career, I did legwork for The New York Times and freelanced for a number of local and regional newspapers and magazines.  However, my calling – fiction writing – became apparent after my two-year writers’ mentoring course with Jacqueline Lichtenberg in the early 2000’s.  From that course, several short stories emerged that readers and fellow writers urged me to develop into longer works.

After a quiescent decade, story ideas abounded and are being developed and scheduled for bringing into fully fleshed out written form.

Along the way, two short stories have been published by literary journals.  They are


Chambray Curtains Blowing in the Wind

[] and,


How Charlie Ray Saved My Life



Fury From Hell is technically my third full-length novel.  I have read that a writer’s first novel (the very very very first one written on parchment paper because you were in the kitchen cooking when the idea struck…) is rarely ever publishable.  You generally catch on by the 3/4/5th book!  That is, unless you have help.



Book Blurb:

Fury From Hell is a paranormal thriller about good vs. evil.  Here, the good is in the form of Detective Jennifer Holden, a homicide cop that is haunted by her own personal demons of a murder she committed when she was just a teenager.  The trauma she suffered at the hands of social agency after agency hardened Jennifer into a staunch atheist making her gun and her bank account the only things she truly believes in.

We meet Detective Holden, shortly before she begins working on her first solo murder case.  The victim is Kyma Barnes who was brutally raped and killed. As Kyma’s soul leaves her body, a demon being called by a coven of dark witches at nearby Prospect Park, is drawn to the dying woman by her death throes.  Fury Abatu offers to avenge Kyma’s death.  The price?  The dying woman’s soul.  Kyma gives it gladly to ensure the man who killed her pays dearly.

At the crime scene, Jennifer becomes possessed by Fury Abatu.  Hosts usually die a violent death within weeks of the initial possession.  Detective Holden does not know she is possessed…

With her own demise on the line, Jennifer must fight for her life and her very soul – something she’s not sure she even believes in – to rid herself of the dark force surrounding her and her friends.

Can Jennifer be saved from the demon?  Will she be able to find the faith to believe in something greater than herself and her material things?

Read this first installment of the From Hell series to find out!


Where can readers find you?








Where can readers purchase Fury From Hell?





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Guest Posts, Uncategorized, Writing Technique

Guest Post: Why Research Is Important and How to Do It (Marie Lavender)

Impreial Federation c maps bpl org

Image credit

When my friend Belinda suggested the topic of how to do your homework when writing historical romances, I thought I’d take it a step further since I have done all kinds of research in my writing career.  Research is a dual-edged sword.  It can be a total blast if you’re into learning about new things.  On the other hand, it can be a real pain when it’s difficult to find the right information.  No matter what stage of writing you’re at, you will, at some point, need to look something up.

First of all, let me get the big question out of the way, the one I was arrogant enough to ask myself so many years ago.  This coming from someone who wasn’t a fan of history class, but loved reading historical romance.  Cue the irony.

“Why is research so important?”

Indeed!  Why should we go to all that trouble?  For a number of reasons, of course. I suppose we should do it to avoid appearing ignorant with regards to the topic we’re writing about.  You can’t know everything.  It doesn’t matter what your background is.  During the course of writing, while you’re planning a novel or even in the midst of writing a scene, you are going to (gasp!) come across something you need to research.  If you don’t realize it, then someone else is going to point it out.  Hopefully, it’s a critique partner, beta reader or editor.  God forbid it be a reader after you’ve published.  So, let’s just avoid that little trip into Humiliation Land, shall we?

Why else should you do it?  If you’re unsure at all about something you wrote, isn’t it better to check, just to be sure it’s right?  You can avoid a lot of headaches later.  For example, let’s say you wanted to set your story in a specific location.  Your character goes walking along and stumbles across a strangle-looking plant.  The next day he ends up with a bizarre rash.  Well, what was it?  Are you sure you want to call it (insert name of plant here), if it does exist?


Image credit judgmentalist

Image credit judgmentalist


“But, Marie, don’t I have creative license?”

  1. Yes and no.  It depends on the genre of your story.  Are you writing a fantasy?  Is your story contingent upon this bizarre species of plant no one has heard of?  Is there a science angle to your story?  Then maybe you can create a plant name!  Did you answer ‘no’ to the previous questions?  Maybe you should at least consider authenticity.  If the town/city does exist on a map, what is the likelihood that you’ll get a reader from that area who decides to read your book?  Do you want them leaving a review that says, ‘I am native to that area and I know it doesn’t grow there!’?  Do you really want to take that chance?  I don’t.  I know you probably think it’s trivial, but this is just an example off the top of my head.  What if the issue in question was more detailed than that?  At least consider finding out the right information.  Besides, you might learn something new in the process (Shock!).

“Marie, don’t you think you’re being a little harsh?”

Am I?  I’m just telling it like it is.  Look, this is kind of a universal thing for writers.  It’s one those “rules” we can’t skirt around in the industry.  Some publishers will even state it in their submission guidelines. They want something that has not only been edited enough, but has also been researched. For the most part, it’s just common sense.  Even if you don’t go for a traditional publisher, do you want readers avoiding your book because of all of the mistakes?

Well, I think I’ve made my point.  If I haven’t convinced you by now how important research is, then I guess I won’t, and you can look at one of my other articles about writing instead.  If, however, you’re still with me after that spiel, then I can tell you how you can go about this nutty thing called “research.”

Now is about the point in my writing project where I dread that word.  Research.  Why?  I enjoy the process.  I like learning new things.  I don’t mind exploring new places and figuring out what way the characters will do something.  It’s all part of the writing process, and I do love it.  It can appear overwhelming at first, though.  Just like with any problem in life, if you inflate it or lump a bunch of things together, it’s bound to make you crazy.  So, what is my solution?

Break it up.

That’s right.  Break it into tiny, manageable pieces.  Suddenly, what seemed impossible is something you can knock out in the span of twenty minutes to an hour, depending on what that small task is.

“How do I get there, though?  How do I break it up?”

Well, I approach it in one of two ways.  I am both a pantster and a plotter, so this is the point where I have to break down and plot.  I have to be stern and make myself do it.


Image credit Marie Lavender


  • Write an outline for your story or novel, a detailed one. Be as detailed as you possibly can.  Sometimes I do a basic one, then go back and do a detailed outline after that.  This detailed outline should then give you an idea of what topics you need to start researching. Put them in the form of questions, if you have to.


“What did sailors wear during this time period?” or “What exactly does an accountant do other than the obvious?”


  • If you are a pantster (which isn’t unheard of, so just relax), you can also do research as you go along. Somewhere in the middle of a scene of chapter, your writer’s instinct is going to say, “But, I don’t know what that thing is called!  And how do I describe it?”  Don’t panic.  Take a break, save your work and do some research.  Find out the answer to that question or you’ll probably drive yourself crazy.


Some writers hate to interrupt their train of thought, so they make a note somewhere, sometimes directly in the text, to go back and research it later.  But, sometimes not knowing the answer effectively halts your creativity and you may be doing yourself a favor by looking for the answer, after all.  Once you come back to the story, you’ll not only have fresh eyes, you’ll be energized that you learned this tidbit of information.  It can be quite exciting!

Let’s see…  What haven’t we covered?  Ah, yes, the most essential question.

“How do I do research?  What techniques or resources can I use?”

All good questions.  Ultimately, you should go with what makes you comfortable.  Here are some options to help you get started.

  1. Some people prefer to go the traditional route and use libraries for information.  They are a good resource, and should not be overlooked.  You can look in books (fiction or non-fiction), newspapers or archives to find information.

Other books.

“Uh, what does that mean, Marie?”

Well, I have found a ton of resources on Amazon, just by looking up certain keywords.  Whether the books are about writing or they cover topics specific to your story, there are a lot of non-fiction books out there that can help.  Some writers will buy up a lot of them.  You wouldn’t believe how long my research Wishlist is.

“But, Marie, I am a starving artist.  I can’t afford a bunch of books all at once.”

Well, I understand.  I’ve been there.  And how would you know which one was the best book, even if you could afford one or two?  That would be a hard choice, and there’s a risk in any purchase.  Not to worry, though.  Libraries are free.  And here’s another option.

Use what’s at your fingertips.  You know that genre you’ve been reading, the thing you’ve been training yourself to write for a long time?  Read it!  Some of those books have great facts in them.  The author has done his research.  Should you take everything at face value?  No. Definitely double check things, but it’s not a bad place to get some random facts.  And don’t be afraid to get creative.  That actually leads me to my next point.


Image credit Mr.TinDC

Image credit Mr.TinDC


Unusual places.

“Huh?  Marie, are you smoking that funny stuff again?”

Nope!  Take an inventory of the weird, old books you have lying around.  The covers are worn, the pages are yellowed, and they probably smell old and musty.  Maybe you can glean something of interest there.  Don’t forget to check your relatives’ places too.  Call them up and ask if they have a box of old hand-me-down books they want to get rid of.

After my grandparents’ deaths, we went through the house.  Something began to bleed through my grief, however.  The writer, the constant observer in me, was awake.  I found it interesting, the kind of reading material my grandmother kept (she never parted with anything).  I mean, there were such a variety of topics.  And, if I ever wanted to know what a proper housewife in the 40s or 50s did to raise her family, keep her house clean and still entertain dinner guests, well, there was a book for it.  It just goes to show that you never know what you’ll find.

Did you just move into an old house?  Look in the attic.  Check the nooks and crannies.  There is a good chance you’ll find some interesting things.


Image credit umjanedoan

Image credit umjanedoan


And don’t discount using physical items in your research.  Pay attention to the texture.  What does it make you feel?  What comes to mind when you look at a Victrola?  Or a mid-20th Century vinyl record player?  Do you have memories tied to music?  Use life as your research.  How you feel about something can be translated into how the character might have felt in a certain time period, or even in the present.  As Frank pulled the wallet from his pocket, the smell of new leather permeated his senses.  He recalled the reins on his favorite horse Thunder, back on the old farm, the smell of fresh hay in his nostrils as he brushed the stallion.  That leads me to my next topic.

  1. Both old pictures and new photos can be used for research. In my historical research, I often use this technique to get a sense of place for that time period.  I use my impressions.  I try to imagine how it was and I paint the picture.  You can do the same with contemporary locations.  Of course, some writers travel and that’s useful.  If you can’t travel to the location in which your novel is set, use photos to put yourself there.  Found the place in a National Geographic article?  Great.  Use those pictures well.  Give your impressions.  Feel the dust in the air and the smells around you.  Imagine it and picture it the way the photographer did.  Sometimes you can find photos on Wikipedia or Chamber of Commerce sites, even on official regional tourist sites, Lonely Planet, and travel blogs.  Don’t dismiss points of interest, like restaurants and other businesses, and events and Off the Beaten Path sections on travel booking sites.  They ground a reader in a time and place.

Writing about a hotel?  Use the ‘photos’ or ‘gallery’ section of their website.  It’s even better if they have a 360 degree view option.  This gives a basis to start from.  Remember:  creative license can be used, but you want some of it to be authentic.  Did you create the hotel in your mind?  Even the name?  Great!  But if you don’t know much about hotels, you’ll still want to do a little research.  Who knows?  By doing that, you could make that imaginary hotel come alive with certain amenities and sensory details.  I use Google Images a lot.  Don’t know anything about evening gowns?  Get inspired!  Look at pictures, tons of them.  Find out what color and type you want.  You can do the same with cars.  I just love looking at pictures.

Remember:  detail is everything.  It’s not just a tree.  What kind of tree is it?  An elm?  A maple?  How are the leaves shaped?  What color and texture are they in the season your scene takes place in?  Describe it to the reader and make it real.  Those details will really help and pictures will, too.  Of course, nothing is a substitute for the real thing.  If you can touch it, smell it and taste it, that’s even better.  And your readers will experience it with you.


Image credit ladyb

Image credit ladyb


The internet.

Ah, the big topic.  Yeah, the internet is overrun with quite a bit of unnecessary stuff these days.  However, there are still some good sources.  Wikipedia is a good source in many aspects, but you may want to back up some of the information by using additional sources.  Can’t travel to the location you’re writing about?  Don’t hesitate to use Expedia or whatever the latest travel site is to check out places to stay.

  1. Maps are your go-to resource for a location. You will need to know the layout of a city, so that natives to the area don’t give you the eyebrow.  You also might want to pay attention to the culture, sayings or customs used there, but that’s not exactly related to maps, is it?

“Marie, you’re bouncing around again.”

Sorry!  I got excited.  So, maps are a wonderful resource.  Google Maps, in particular, has been my friend for a long time.

“Why?  There are other resources.”

For the street view, of course!  Nothing gives me a better idea of the layout of a town or city block than looking at ‘street view.’  It’s almost like being right there.  This tool has saved me in a lot of situations.  Recently, I did a lot of research on Baltimore for a work in progress, and that really came in handy.  However, if you’re doing historical fiction, you may need to find old maps.  Why?  Because some town names have changed.  So have entry points.  It’s not going to make sense if a lot has changed in the area.

If I am doing historical research, I try to keep everything period specific, even down to the year, if I can.  You may wonder why.  When I wrote Upon Your Honor, my latest release, it was the difference of a year.  Fencing was outlawed in New Orleans in 1890, but the book was set in 1891.  In short, I had to make careful use of this fact in order to make it seem authentic, another reason why research can pay off.  Also, during edits with my publisher, my editor pointed out a minor flaw in one location.  So, I ended up changing that.

Did she notice anything else?  No, because I did my research.  Editors won’t catch everything, however, and you can sure as hell make their jobs easier by doing yours.

Where was I?  Oh, yes.  Other sites to use.  It really depends on what you’re researching.  My advice with historical fiction is to stick to historical sources.  Old newspaper clippings, even ads, are very helpful.  Make sure it’s from the area where your book is set.


Full Moon c Andy Rogers


Sometimes a basic internet search can unearth the best possible sources.  In everything you choose, be as authentic as possible and evaluate your sources.  If you see the same fact mentioned in various locations, it is most likely true.  I used this technique with Magick & Moonlight when I researched the Wiccan religion.  As with any kind of research, you can’t be 100% accurate, but you can do your best.

“Okay, Marie.  But, what do I do if I have trouble finding a specific thing?”

If you have exhausted all of your options, my advice is to go straight to the source.  Can’t find out how a police procedure works?  Contact your local police department and see if they will let you talk to someone.  Want to know how criminal investigation works?  Maybe they’ll let you pick the brain of a detective.  If your subject is related to history and you still can’t find what you’re looking for, there is one other option.  There are history forums in which history experts will try to help you.  Granted they are usually for students struggling with a class, but I don’t see why they wouldn’t be willing to help you with your research.

“Where do I put everything, Marie?”

Make a file and put it all in one place.  I use OneNote.  It’s a fantastic little tool to organize everything.  If you want, you can even go old school, as I used to do, and keep it all in a physical file folder, as well as various notebooks.  Whatever keeps you organized.  Who knows?  You may want to back to that research for another book.  It’s likely you’ll still have a lot of information stored that you didn’t get to use.

If you’re still here, clearly you see the value of research.  The fact that you bothered to do your research at all tells the publisher and your reader that you not only care about the story and the characters, but you also care how it’s received.  And if someone mentions how well-researched your book is, you can only thank yourself for all the hard work you put into it.

Curious about some of my research on various projects?  Here are some related articles I’ve written.  I hope I’ve helped you here today.  Good luck on your projects, and happy researching!

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***Be sure to visit Marie’s Writing Process Blog Tour post and this May 2014 interview,

featuring three excerpts from Upon Your Honor.***



Bestselling author of UPON YOUR RETURN and 18 other books. Finalist and Runner-up in the MARSocial’s Author of the Year Competition. Honorable mention in the January 2014 Reader’s Choice Award. Liebster Blogger Award for 2013 and 2014. Top 50 Authors on Winner of the Great One Liners Contest on the Directory of Published Authors.

Marie Lavender lives in the Midwest with her family and three cats. She has been writing for over twenty years. She has more works in progress than she can count on two hands. In college, she published two works in a university publication, and was a copy editor on the staff of an online student journal. Marie has published nineteen books in the genres of historical romance, contemporary romance, romantic suspense, paranormal romance, mystery/thriller, literary fiction and poetry. Feel free to visit her website at for further information about her work and her life. She is also on Facebook, Twitter, Google+ and LinkedIn.

A list of her books and pen names:

Marie Lavender: Upon Your Return; Magick & Moonlight; Upon Your Honor

Erica Sutherhome: Hard to Get; Memories; A Hint of Scandal; Without You; Strange Heat; Terror in the Night; Haunted; Pursuit; Perfect Game; A Touch of Dawn; Ransom; Leather and Lace

Kathryn Layne: A Misplaced Life

Heather Crouse: Express Café and Other Ramblings; Ramblings, Musings and Other Things; Soulful Ramblings and Other Worldly Things

 Upon Your Honor

Please connect with Marie on your favorite social media channels. Thanks again for joining us, Marie Lavender, to discuss the whys and hows of research for writers. We look forward to seeing you again soon.


Author Interviews

Author Interview: Marie Lavender (Upon Your Honor)



Leaving had proven to be very difficult. Chloe had no allies in the house. All of the servants worked for Lamonte now, so she couldn’t enlist the help of any maids. Her own nursemaid, Veronica, had quickly become controlled by her fiancé after her father’s bout of pneumonia. He made it clear that it was better to be loyal to him than to Chloe. Therefore, when she began planning her escape, she did it alone. She had to wait until Veronica had gone to her own quarters and everyone else in the house was asleep as well. Of course, as she’d assumed, Lamonte would be preoccupied with his own pleasures and so he wouldn’t notice her leaving.

She gathered what she could and wrapped it in a makeshift sack that she slung over her shoulder on a pole. She had retrieved the items while observing the gardeners a few days before. That was also when she had discovered the extra men’s clothing lying about. They were clean and simple, but they would do. She hid everything under the bed so that a maid wouldn’t find them. She had left the house tonight and had taken one of the spare horses to the docks. Luckily, the boy who guarded the stable was asleep.

Chloe chose a ship called La Voyageur. It was large enough and it appeared to be a cargo ship of some kind, but she could not be sure. She figured she could hide easily enough among the shipments or pretend she was a sailor at least for a while until she could find a way off.

Now, on the ship, she tried to look busy or move out of the way of the sailors moving crates around. She ducked her head to avoid eye contact with any of the men. She feared that if enough attention was drawn to her, they would notice she was not who she claimed.

Chloe moved towards the back of the ship and went down the companionway below only to shrink back when a massive form came into view. His dark auburn hair was rakishly drawn in waves over his head and he had the darkest eyes she’d ever seen. Her heart raced, and her breath came in small gasps. Stunned, she tried to get control of herself, but she came to the realization that she wanted to drown in that gaze.


Today I’m interviewing Marie Lavender, about her new release, Upon Your Honor. We’re going to cruise back into the New York City and New Orleans of the late 1800s. Please be sure to check out Upon Your Return, another fine work in this historical romance series. Marie is a dear writing friend of mine from G+. She is also a prolific, best-selling and award-winning multi-genre author and blogger. I highly recommend subscribing to her writing blog and keeping up with her books, if you want to see how a professional author does her job, while carrying on a real life with a family and job outside the home. Welcome, Marie.



Please introduce us to your latest romance, Upon Your Honor. What inspired the concept for this particular book?

I guess you could say that one day the first scene of the first chapter came to me.  Chloe Waverly, in non-descript costume, goes aboard La Voyageur, the ship that was also mentioned in the previous book.  Suddenly, I knew that I wanted to write sequels to Upon Your Return.

How did you choose the period and location settings?   

I had to do some math to figure out what date I wanted it set in, a date that would coincide well with Chloe’s introduction into the series.  As for locations, I did some research to figure out possible routes the ship might take and I explored everything I could about the ports in that time period.

What gave rise to the characters? 

As aforementioned, Chloe’s character automatically came to me.  More of the facets of her personality and background came out as the book progressed.  I did have to explore Gabriel Hill, the hero, a little more.  He was introduced in the first book, as were other characters.  Some new characters came along in Upon Your Honor as well, and it was fun to create names for them and go into more detail about who they were.



She thought it was morning when she woke for the light streamed bright through the porthole, casting sunrays over the bed. She sighed and turned over only to squeal. Gabriel Hill was sitting beside her on the bed. “What are you doing? Are you mad?” For a moment, she was reminded of Lamonte and how he’d entered her bedchamber once or twice without permission. And she did not know this man. What if he was just as bad? Good Lord, he’d nearly seen her unclothed, hadn’t he? Of course, he had sworn it was platonic, but some men were prone to lying. Her heart raced erratically, and her cheeks grew warm under his steady gaze.

He chuckled. “No, chére. Just concerned about you.”

She took a deep breath. “Well, your concern could have knocked, you know.”

Gabriel laughed at her, amused for some reason. “Perhaps you’re right. It might be remiss of me, however, if you were lying here unconscious and no one knew.”

“And if I were not decent? How would you explain yourself?”

“The benefits would outweigh the consequences, of course.”

“Pardon me?”

His eyes narrowed. “Saving your life would be more important than your maiden’s sensibilities, I assure you.”

Chloe was miffed by his comments, but tried to calm down. He meant well, she supposed. “I am well enough. You may leave.”

He cocked his head, as if he didn’t think she had the authority to dismiss him. Well, she had usurped him. It was his cabin. But, it was hardly proper to allow him that kind of behavior.

“How can I be sure? Perhaps you are just saying that to be rid of me. Perhaps you are not well at all.”

She frowned. “I am not foolish either.”

“Did I say that? I am simply saying that you might be gravely injured, yet you wish to save me from the truth.”

“Don’t be daft. If I was truly unwell, you would know.” Was the temperature in the room warmer now? Perhaps she did have a fever after all.

“Would I? I’m not so sure, Chloe Waverly. You are a mysterious lady.”

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Marie, how long have you been writing now?

I’ve been writing for over twenty years.  I started when I was nine years old.

What is your writing space like and how do you settle into it when you’re ready?

I try to get as comfortable I can, but it is not out of the ordinary for someone to find me sprawled across my bed or hunched over a notebook when I’m sitting somewhere.  When the moment comes, when I am in the “zone”, there’s no stopping it.

Why do you favor the romance genre?

I love “love”!  There is something completely appealing to me about romance.  I love watching the characters fall in love in books and movies.  As a child, I was fairly obsessed with it.  Even my childhood fantasies included princesses being whisked away by knights.  I think it’s even better to find out that it’s not all pretend, that there are actually good men out there, though they are hard to find.  I found one of them, and he has been very inspiring to me.  I wrote love stories way before I met him, but truly loving a man has helped me to understand romance better.



How do you juggle your outside job, home and family with your writing life?

Good question.  It is very hard to do.  Sometimes I feel like I’m going crazy.  I guess I just try to make time to get everything done.  If I know I can’t do a task right then because something else has taken priority, I write a note to myself as I reminder.  It is not out of ordinary for me to have post-its everywhere.  Also, if I am working on a writing project, I try to keep myself organized with major outlines or notes on what sections I need to work on next.  That tells me if I need to tackle research first or just start writing.  I do run three blogs, and I moderate different groups on Facebook and LinkedIn.  Would I like to write full-time?  Of course.  But, that’s not feasible right now so I just do what I can.  Sometimes tasks get put off until the next day, but as long as it’s not something with a deadline, you do what you have to do to get it all accomplished.  A virtual assistant would be nice though!  LOL.

Do you have a dedicated time and place that you regularly set aside for your writing career?

Two or three locations stick out to me.  I write in a journal before I go to bed, I compose on my computer or I write in a notebook while sitting on the couch.  The couch is a really dangerous place because my cats get curious and want to sit on my papers.  LOL.  As for time of day, anytime I can is good.  Some of my best writing comes at night as I’m settling in bed, however.  I have to write to get my mind to shut off sometimes.  I also love to write outdoors when I can.

Emma the Instigator and Cutie Pie

Emma the Instigator and Cutie Pie

How do your cats relate to your writing activities?  Help you access your Muse?

Their names are Emma, Smokey, and Katerina (or Kit Kat for short). I have written about cats occasionally in my stories, but as for how they relate, I would say that they like to keep me from writing by being dramatic or causing trouble.  Emma likes to start fights with the others to draw me away from what I’m doing.  Or, she will climb in my lap and act her cutest, which sometimes tears me away from writing.  If I am really in the writing zone, I will sit her on a pillow next to me so that she feels comfortable being close to me, but won’t distract me too much. 

Do they help paper come out of the printer?  Play with discarded crumpled pages?

You asked about the printer; that’s funny.  Yes, Emma will sit on the printer and mess with the buttons.  There have been many times where she forces a print or copy of something.  If paper comes out, it usually scares her and she runs away.  Yes, they love discarded pages.  I have one cat who likes to bat paper balls around.  She also lays across my desk and takes up the space so I can’t use it. She also enjoys knocking my speakers over.

Keep you company once the house is quiet?

If the house is quiet though, they are very comforting.  Actually, I would have to say that a cat is a great companion.  When you don’t feel well, they want to be near you to make you feel better.  It is very calming to have a pet.


Magick and Moonlight


Chloe was charmed further when Gabriel stopped her beneath a tree, bent to pluck a lavender flower and placed it into her rarely pinned up hair. “Thank you,” she murmured.

“How can anyone resist such a picture?” he said in accented English. There was a bright quality to his eyes that she wondered about, but he reached his hand out to her.

She took his offered hand. Her breath caught when he lifted her hand to his lips in the ancient gesture of respect. Even through the fine material of the glove, she could feel the brush of his lips over the surface of her hand. His eyes were trained on hers, and she could not look away. There was no denying the man had done it well. But, what was more compelling was the fact that his steady gaze made her want to press her lips to his. She briefly entertained it, despite the fact that it was so wrong of her. How much that would shock him. He was utterly proper most of the time. But, she sensed an untamed quality to Gabriel as well, that perhaps he was not driven by propriety always, that he might be compelled by something else at times.

She imagined leaning forward, raising her mouth in invitation, waiting for him to kiss her. Would he do that? She could not be sure. In her dreams he would lower his mouth to hers, move his lips moderately over hers until she opened to him. He would band his arm around her back to draw her closer, so close that she couldn’t remember who she was. There was only Gabriel.

Chloe leaned forward without meaning to, and Gabriel’s gaze dropped to her mouth. His eyes became very dark, and the rapid thud of her heart against her chest was unnerving. And it happened so swiftly she had no time to react. He drew her to him and set his lips to hers. On a confused breath, she opened her mouth. Their tongues danced gently. His kiss was so compelling and she blinked when he quickly drew away.

“Forgive me,” he whispered. “You did not ask.”

She opened her mouth to protest, then thought better of it. He had no idea how wanton her thoughts had been. Perhaps it was better not to voice it. She nodded. “No harm done. Shall we go to dinner?” she asked, noting that the park had grown a bit dark.

“Of course.” He led her back to the hansom cab, where he handed her in.





Who does your editing and cover art?  How did you find them?

With my self-published books, I did my own editing and cover art.  I purchased royalty-free images and gave credit to each photographer.  I used sites like Stock Xchng, Pixabay, Fotolia, MorgueFile, 123RF and others.  As for my traditional books, released through Solstice Publishing, the publisher hired editors and cover artists to handle the work.  Kayden McLeod did the cover art on Upon Your Return.  Select-o-Grafix did the cover for Magick & Moonlight.  Deborah Melanie was the cover artist for Upon Your Honor.  The editor for Upon Your Return was Shawna K. Williams; she also did the editing for the Discreet Gentleman series by Kris Tualla (I totally recommend that series if you love historical romance).  And my other editors were Cynthia Ley (for Magick & Moonlight) and Kathy Collier (for Upon Your Honor).  I also had numerous critique partners and beta readers for all three of those books; I found them on Yahoo! Groups, Facebook and LinkedIn.


Exactly how do you work with them to accomplish these optimum results?

In most cases, the results were achieved by suggestions.  With the manuscripts, the editors made suggestions and I corrected them.  If there were occasional typos, I fixed that.  If there was something that needed more description, I fixed that as well.  With the cover art, most of the covers came from a simple method.  I put out my initial thoughts of what I might like, the artist came up with something and I approved it based on what I knew the characters should look like or the theme I wanted to convey.

Do you have any favorite authors or fellow authors you look up to?

I have a lot of favorite authors:  Catherine Coulter, Nora Roberts, J.R. Ward, P.C. Cast, Kerrelyn Sparks, Chloe Neill and Kris Tualla.  The list goes on.  As for anyone I look up to, I admire any writer out there who has made it through the tough publishing journey and come out a success.  Some such writers I have met on my journey, just to name a few, are Linda Lee Williams, Aubrey Brown and CJ Heck.

What are you presently working on?

Right now, I am working on a paranormal romance about a woman who stumbles into the world of vampires.  In the process of falling for one of them, she learns more about herself.


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Bestselling author of UPON YOUR RETURN and 18 other books. Finalist and Runner-up in the MARSocial’s Author of the Year Competition. Honorable mention in the January 2014 Reader’s Choice Award. Liebster Blogger Award for 2013 and 2014. Top 50 Authors on Winner of the Great One Liners Contest on the Directory of Published Authors.

Marie Lavender lives in the Midwest with her family and three cats. She
has been writing for over twenty years. She has more works in progress
than she can count on two hands. In college, she published two works in a
university publication, and was a copy editor on the staff of an online
student journal. Marie has published nineteen books in the genres of historical romance, contemporary romance, romantic suspense, paranormal romance, mystery/thriller, literary fiction and poetry. Feel free to visit her website at for further information about her work and her life. She is also on Facebook, Twitter, Google+ and LinkedIn.

A list of her books and pen names:

Marie Lavender: Upon Your Return; Magick & Moonlight; Upon Your Honor

Erica Sutherhome: Hard to Get; Memories; A Hint of Scandal; Without You; Strange Heat; Terror in the Night; Haunted; Pursuit; Perfect Game; A Touch of Dawn; Ransom; Leather and Lace

Kathryn Layne: A Misplaced Life

Heather Crouse: Express Café and Other Ramblings; Ramblings, Musings and Other Things; Soulful Ramblings and Other Worldly Things


Please connect with Marie on your favorite social media channels. Thanks again for joining us, Marie Lavender, to discuss Upon Your Honor. We look forward to seeing you again when you get the chance.


Author Interviews

Author Interview: R.J. Blain

When Allison is asked to play Cinderella-turned-Fiancee at a Halloween ball, the last thing she expected was to be accused of murder on the same night. She has to find the killer and quick, or she’ll be put to death for the crimes she didn’t commit. To make matters worse, the victims are all werewolves.

On the short list of potential victims, Allison has to act fast, or the killer will have one more body to add to his little black book of corpses.

There’s only one problem: One of the deaths has struck too close to home, and Allison’s desire for self-preservation may very well transform into a quest for vengeance…

Inquisitor by R.J. Blain

Image credit R.J. Blain

Image credit R.J. Blain


Today I’m interviewing R.J. Blain, author of the upcoming witch and wolf novel, Inquisitor.

When she’s not pounding out thousands of words in writing marathons at all hours, she slips down into her Developmental Editing dungeon, where she whips WIPs into shape. The minute I read the excerpts, I couldn’t wait to get her on here to talk about her third published novel.

Follow R.J. Blain at G+ and Amazon.

Image credit R.J. Blain

 Image credit RJ Blain


What inspired you to write Inquisitor? How long did it take? Why witches and werewolves?


I don’t remember what made me fall in love with the idea of witches and werewolves – and wizards. I think it was in part inspired by The Dresden Files, part inspired by Patricia Briggs, and part inspired by wanting to try something new. I’ve always enjoyed a good werewolf romp, but there is a dire shortage of really good stories out there – stories that made me want to really wonder what is out there that we don’t know about.


The Dresden Files took me quite a bit to get into, honestly – I wasn’t a huge fan of the first one. The others, though? The glorious others!


I’ve always liked wolves, though. I’ve always loved their majestic pride, their cunning, and their beauty.


It was easy chasing after the wildness of the wolf, once I decided to start going.


As for witches and wizards, I wanted to create a magic system based on the superstitions of people. Magic is a multi-tiered system in the Witch & Wolf world. Witches have access to certain types of magic. Shamans have access to a different type of magic. Then there are the taboo types of magic, rare forms that are hunted down and controlled or eliminated.


Wizards are the rarest, as well as the most dangerous. I loved the idea of working with so many layers, and I hope I can bring these varying aspects to life through the characters as they live their lives.


Both as a writer and reader, what excites you about the science fiction and fantasy genres?


Everything, honestly – I love asking questions. What if this happened in the world? What if werewolves were real? How would they survive? Would they go extinct? Who would hunt these ultimate hunters? What could kill a werewolf?


What would a werewolf fear?


What would a witch fear?


What would happen if no one ever died? Questions form the base for science fiction and fantasy novels, and I have always loved asking questions, much to my mother’s disgust.


I like trying to see the world in a different light – it might not be real. . .


. . . but it could be. Who knows? Not I.


That’s why I love these genres. Science fiction is a bit more realistic than fantasy, I’ll grant that – but the best science fiction looks past the stars to what could be, not what is.



Image credit RJ Blain

  “The Leaning Tower of Booksa”


For each of your works, you handwrite in decorative journals and create story bibles. How did those come into play for Inquisitor? May we see them?


I wrote a very tentative story bible for Inquisitor. I haven’t completed it yet. Half of what is written in there is complete and total garbage. It didn’t make it into the book.


I will create the story bible and plot arc references for this novel when editorial is completely finished. While it’s a standalone, I will be creating other Witch and Wolf novels – Winter Wolf will be releasing this year as well. Ironically, Winter Wolf takes place before Inquisitor – those who read Inquisitor will find a spoiler for Winter Wolf within the pages.


As for being able to see them, why yes you can! Enjoy seeing how I set up to start writing Inquisitor before November 2013.


Foximus Maximus got left at my Mother-in-Laws over Christmas, though. I’m both horrified and relieved.


His squinty eyes terrified me into working. I need a new fox plushie though. And a new wolf plushie. My little wolf given to me by an ex-boyfriend in high school is so worn. Poor little wolfie.


The actual draft of Inquisitor was written in two moleskine journals – the first journal is purple. The second is a limited-edition Hobbit 2014 journal.

Image credit RJ Blain

 Purple  journal

Excerpt #1


“I can’t believe you brought me to New York on today of all days.” I nodded my head at the park, but taking in the entirety of the city in a single gesture. Even in the relative peace of the park, I could hear the bustle, the honk of horns, and the noise of the restless cityscape. Atlanta wasn’t much different downtown, but at least it was home.

“Oh, come off it, Allison. You like Halloween.”

I wrinkled my nose. “Maybe a little. I still can’t believe you brought me here, though.”

“Anyway, you owe me,” he said before clucking his tongue.

I winced. He had me dead to rights, and I knew it. Mark gathered favors and cashed them in like currency. Resisting was futile. “Rub it in my face, why don’t you?”

“Of course I will. Another time. I’m enjoying myself way too much right now. You’re mine for three whole days, like it or not.”

“I’m doomed,” I groaned.

He laughed.

I didn’t have the courage to tell him I meant it. It was bad enough it was Samhain. The full moon would reach its zenith after nightfall.

If I wasn’t careful, I was going to pop a tail for real. That’d surprise him. It’d also get me killed. I doubted the NYPD would appreciate a wolf running loose in the center of their city.

“Seriously, Mark. What’s so important that you had to fly me in from Atlanta? I do have a job, you know. I’d even like to keep it.”

“You’re owed three weeks, and at the rate you’re going, they’re probably getting ready to force you to take the time off. The way I see it, I’ve done you a favor.”

“Mark,” I growled.

“Okay, fine. It’s my mom. I told her I had a girlfriend so she’d shut up about me getting married for a while. She wants to meet her. To meet you.”

I broke into a brisk walk, cutting across the grass towards one of the other paths through the park. With luck, he’d get grass stains on his pretty, blue business suit. “You brought me to New York to dress up as your girlfriend for Halloween?”

I guess it really was going to be a night for wearing masks and pretending to be the impossible.

If I had a mother, I’m sure she would’ve been proud. I didn’t cuss, scream, or pitch a fit. I did keep walking without checking if Mark kept pace with me.

He did. “Come on, Allison. I’ll make it up to you, I swear.”

“A Halloween party with your mother, Mark? Have you lost your mind? She’s never going to believe we’re a couple, for one. Two, you live in New York City. I live in Atlanta. You know, that place you flew me in from? She’s got no reason to believe us.”

“I might have told her that you are an old college friend, and we’d been seeing each other on and off since we got our degrees. It’s even true! Just not for the reasons she thinks. Come on, Allison. It’s only for one night. And you’ll save me from marrying a woman I’ve never met.”

I sighed. “Seriously? Did your mother have you betrothed or something? That’s so two hundred years ago. At least you had the decency to book me into a good hotel. How did you manage a room at the Plaza on such short notice?” Using my brown bangs as a shield, I stared at my friend. He was grinning wolfishly.

“Who said it was on short notice? I had our room booked six months ago.”

I tripped over my own feet. A startled cry worked its way out of my throat. Mark’s arm slapped against my chest as he caught me. With a low grunt, he hauled me upright.


My face burned. “Sorry.” I drew a deep breath. Killing Mark in Central Park wouldn’t work — not during the daytime. There’d be too many witnesses. “Our room?”

“We’re twenty five. We’re young, healthy adults. There’s no way my mom will believe we’re a couple if we don’t share a room,” he replied.

“You have a perfectly nice condo, Mark. I’ve seen it. Why not invite me there instead of booking us a room in one of New York’s more expensive hotels?”

“Wait until you see the room,” Mark said. Then he leered at me.

Oh God. I closed my eyes, stood straight, and once again shoved my hands into my back pockets. No tail. That was a start. I counted to ten. Then I counted to ten again.

When that didn’t calm me down enough, I systematically considered all of Mark’s banking accounts I could probably hack my way into, calculating how much I could siphon off without him noticing. I wouldn’t do it, but the figure made me feel warm and fuzzy inside.

When I managed to quell my urge to throttle my friend, I opened my eyes and glared at him. “You got a honeymoon suite, didn’t you?”

“Do try to act surprised when I propose. At least you have an easy line. Don’t worry, we’ll call off the engagement in a month or two.”


“Yes, dear?”

“Give me a reason I shouldn’t kill you in your sleep tonight.”

“I’m too good looking to kill.”


“I pay you exceptionally well for your accounting skills.”

“True, but no.”

“You like me?” His voice wavered, and I had to work to smother my grin.

“You sound so confident,” I murmured. “Fine. I like you. A little. I’ll do it, but you, dear Mark, will owe me.”

Mark’s Adam’s apple bobbed as he swallowed. “You wouldn’t really try to kill me, would you?”

I grabbed hold of his tie and yanked down so I could look him in the eye. A smile tugged at the corners of my mouth. “I wouldn’t bet your life on it, if I were you.”

The little color he did have fled from his face. I let him go and resumed walking across the park, whistling a merry tune.


Image credit RJ Blain

2014 Hobbit Limited Edition Moleskine® Journal


Cover Art

Tell us about the cover art for Inquisitor. Who is the artist and how did you find them? How did you work together to emerge with the ideal cover?


Chris Howard  is my cover artist for all of my novels. Inquisitor’s cover features the main character as she takes her fate into her own hands. I won’t spoil, but the cover features one of my favorite scenes in the novel.


I found Chris Howard through one of my editorial clients, Lisa Cohen. I loved the cover for her upcoming novel, Derelict. She hooked us up, and I’ve been working with him ever since.


Working with Chris is easy. I send him descriptions of what I think might make an attractive cover and he works his magic on it. Inquisitor went through two different covers – the first one was redone because of many reasons – and he went above and beyond with the new version. I do push Chris to his limits though, because I do like a lot more detail than some of his other clients do.


I love his blend of photorealism and pure painted art. He does his art digitally, but it never fails to look like an oil or acrylic painting too.


How do you pay for cover art? Do you crowdfund or just use your editorial and sales revenues?


I crowdfunded my first two novels, The Eye of God and Storm Without End. I did put a crowdfund for Inquisitor and the other novels I released this year, but I used it as a preorder mechanism for those who wanted epubs. I got some sales, but not a lot – many people wanted to just buy the book from amazon.


I pay for my author costs with my editorial fees I charge my clients. I also reinvest my royalties into my novel-writing career.


Have you ever tried doing your own cover art? What advice do you have for authors considering that path?


No – just no. Don’t, if you can help it. Cover art is so, so important. It is the first thing a reader sees about your novel.


I have had fans tell me that they bought my book because of the cover – no other reason. They loved the cover, so they bought the book. Then they liked the book too. But covers sell books. Bad covers prevent books from selling.


Unless you’re good at photo manipulation, I really don’t recommend working on your own cover. There are really cheap cover art services out there and template covers – you won’t have a unique cover with these services, but you’ll at least have a quality cover.


I’ve turned away from many books that just had poor covers. It doesn’t have to be fancy – it just needs to look professional. Unless you can produce a professional cover, I recommend gathering your every spare penny and hiring someone who can create a cover for you.


Covers are just so, so important.


Excerpt #2


It was well enough our ‘relationship’ was nothing more than make-believe. Our friendship wasn’t much better off, either. Unfortunately, Mark didn’t know that. I shook my head to clear it, staring down at my watch.

3:59 pm.

I glanced eastward, at the glass-lined wall of the jewelry store I was in. Shoppers hurried about their business in the broad mall hallways, chatting to each other or talking on their too-expensive cell phones. Beyond the walls of the building, I could already feel the moon calling to me, birthing shivers under my skin. In a little over an hour, it would start to rise. I made a thoughtful sound, turning my attention back to the glass case in front of me.

It was a full moon on Halloween. Some people would don masks, confident in their superiority as a human, never realizing how close they’d tread to a very violent and bloody end. Others would remove the masks they normally hid behind, rejoicing in their one night of freedom.

A sad few would have no idea what horrors they had sowed come morning.

I was in a lot of trouble. My fellow boogeymen didn’t frighten me all that much. It was Mark who worried me. Mark, as well as the other humans he’d subject me to before the night was done. I hadn’t lost control in years — I doubted Mark’s mother had been born since the last time it’d happened.

But that didn’t change the fact that it could happen.

Old or not, I was still a bitch. Without pack or mate, it was only a matter of time before I lost control.

Mark wouldn’t stand a chance, and when I finally lost my grip on sanity, I wouldn’t even remember killing him. Why hadn’t I said no? Why had I agreed to travel to New York on Halloween? What had I been thinking?

I hadn’t been, and that was a big problem.

“Is there something I can help you with, miss?” A woman asked from beside me. I about jumped out of my skin.

Shit. I swallowed back my heart and improvised. Without really seeing the jewelry beneath the glass, I pointed at something shiny, and hoped it was a necklace. “May I see that please?”

“That’s a very expensive piece, ma’am.”

I glanced at the woman out of the corner of my eye. A pastel pink blazer was matched with a pencil skirt that showed off thin legs and knee-high black boots. Glittering bracelets clung to her wrists. “Is that so,” I murmured, focusing my attention on the piece I pointed at.

Rubies and diamonds winked at me, woven together in a Celtic knot trapped in the center of a web of delicate diamond-encrusted chains. My cheek twitched.

No wonder the woman was skeptical and eying me suspiciously. Here I was, in some luxury jewelry store poking around to waste time, dressed in a beat-up leather coat, a baggy sweater, and worn jeans, complete with mud splatter from my walk in Central park. As my luck had it, I pointed out a necklace worth more than any car or house I’d ever seen in person, let alone owned.

I felt the eyes of every customer in the store settle on me. Great. Just what I needed. An audience.

Maybe I should’ve acted more indignant. Maybe I should’ve walked away. Instead, I took out my wallet, pulled out my black platinum Amex card, and tossed it on the counter. “May I see that please?”

The sales woman stared at the card and then at me, her eyes narrowing. “Do you really think I’m going to believe this is your card?”

Half of the customers in the store cleared out in the time it took the sales woman to pick up my card.

“Is there a problem?” A man dressed in a business suit stepped forward. His blue eyes took in my clothes before settling on the black credit card in his coworker’s hand.

The woman glared down her nose at me, her gaze settling on my beat-up jacket. “I do believe we have a stolen credit card here, sir.”

The manager snatched my credit card. “Is this true, miss?”

Oh hell no. I felt my cheek twitch again. “It’s not. I’ll just take my card to a different store, then.”

“I think this can be resolved quickly and easily, miss,” the man replied. He frowned at me. “Can I see your ID please?”

I showed him my license. The manager winced. “I’m sorry, there have been a lot of theft of valuable jewelry lately by those with fraudulent credit cards and out of state driver’s licenses. This will only take a few minutes as I verify this is a real card.”

Well, at least he wasn’t going to call the police on me right away. I sighed. “Since when hasn’t my driver’s license been sufficient proof? What is this? LA?”


Image credit RJ Blain

Vice President of Purrmotions at R.J. Blain 


What led to your first two books being published last year?


This is such a hard, hard question for me to answer. I’m ashamed at how long it took me to get truly serious about writing. It wasn’t until I met Tad Williams and his wife, Deborah Beale, that I realized how much of a fake I was. I was faking my desire to be a professional.


I will never forget the advice that Deborah Beale gave me. It made me transform a lackluster novel into Storm Without End. It took me a couple of tries – six, really. It took a lot of crying and heartache, but without her advice, without her blunt honesty, I wouldn’t have ever seen the truth.


Because of them, I understand how important it is for me to work hard at learning – and to never stop learning.


I will be eternally grateful.


From the time I spoke to Deborah and Tad, it took me three additional years and seven drafts of novels to get to a standard I was comfortable with publishing. The road doesn’t stop there, either. Each novel, I struggle write better and better.


I don’t want people just to read my novels. I want them to experience them.


Without Deborah and Tad, I don’t think I would have come to that conclusion.


It took ten years from the first draft of a novel I ever completed to finishing and publishing The Eye of God. Storm Without End followed several months later.


I wasted so much time because I was lazy. I’ll make up for that – and more.


What are your thoughts on indie and traditional publishing?


Every author must choose for themselves what path is the correct path – but traditional publication is hard. It’s as hard, if not harder, than self-publishing. It’s a difficult road, no matter what anyone says. There is no easy choice. You either have to invest the money in yourself, or you have to let someone invest money in your efforts.

Either way, you’re investing money – but for the traditional route, you have to play by their rules. But they do bring a lot to the table. There is no denying that. Some traditional publishers are better than others, however, and it’s important that you never forget that.


Every author must do what is right for them.


Right now, independent publishing is what is right for me.


Do you envision Inquisitor as a play, TV series or film? Would you DIY, hire or submit to an indie production company or go traditional?


This never crossed my mind. I don’t watch TV. I don’t watch many movies.


I would definitely hire someone to do it for me, because I know nothing about making a quality show or movie. It isn’t up my alley.


Books are my movies and television shows.


Very likely, I’d have to be pitched by someone to create a series – I don’t know I’d ever have the motivation to do it on my own, unless fans really wanted it – and if I had enough fans to generate the royalties needed to pay for such a venture, why not?


I don’t mind letting someone creative, someone passionate about my stories, turn them into visual art.


But I’m not counting eggs that haven’t been laid yet. If it happens, great!


If it doesn’t, I hope my writing is enough to make memorable moments and imagery for my readers.


Excerpt #3


Caroline was either the best actress I’d ever seen, or she was really dead. I crouched next to her, torn between touching her neck to feel for a pulse and running away before the sweet scent of a fresh kill overwhelmed my restraint.

A clock chimed ten. The power of the full moon slammed into me, tugging at my heart, and tightening my chest. The need to embrace my inner beast and become one with the night quickened my breath.

Scents flooded my nose. Strong perfumes mingled with cologne, and the sweat of hot, living bodies stirred my hunger. I licked my lips, and for one brief moment, imagined the salty sweetness of fresh blood on my tongue.

There was another hunter in the room with me, and they taunted me with their kill. Their prey was either dead or left to die. It was a challenge to the scavengers, to the hunters, and a warning to the prey.

“What do you think?” Mark’s mother asked.

“I think she’s an amazing actress,” I replied, careful to keep my tone light. I rose to my feet. If I grew a tail, I could only hope my gown would hide it long enough for me to slip from the party and find a place to gain control over myself.

Or complete the change and go on a rampage.

Another minute passed in silence. I shook my head. “This would be why I’m not a police officer.”

The Wicked Witch of the West giggled. I shivered at the sound. “I see. Very well, Cinderella. Shall we mingle with the other guests and learn about this terrible, terrible deed?”

“I thought this was when Mark was supposed to come rescue me from a fate worse than death,” I muttered.

Oops. So much for keeping civil. I guess it was inevitable. Bodies brought out the worst in me. Especially when the body wasn’t one of my making. To make matters worse, I couldn’t exactly raise the alarm.

If I did, I’d reveal to those who knew the truth about werewolves and witches that I wasn’t just some human girl after a wealthy boy. Then the Inquisition would find silver old enough to kill me or reduce me to ashes to make certain they purged the world of one more rogue werewolf.

“Why can’t you be wealthy?” Mrs. Livingston lamented.

The old woman’s question caught me by surprise. Had she heard me? Did she think it an amusing quip?

Was it possible the woman actually liked me? Confused at the question, I answered honestly. “Ma’am, who says I’m not? I’m your son’s accountant. Do you really think he’d trust someone who didn’t have access to at least some money with his money?” I glared at the old woman. At least the brewing fight between us distracted me from Caroline’s body a little. “Don’t forget I know exactly how much he makes a year, where he transfers his funds, who owes him how much, and whom he owes. I know how much he’s paid in taxes, and I know how much I saved him last tax season.”

The witch’s mouth dropped open. “Just what—”

“I paid more in taxes than he did last year. I’ll let you do the math. Unless, of course, he learned how to count from you.” I pivoted on a heel and stalked my way towards the refreshment stand.


Follow R.J. Blain at G+ and Amazon.


Image credit RJ Blain

Executive Director of Talent Supurrvision at R.J. Blain


When will Inquisitor be released? Where will we be able to buy it?


Inquisitor releases on May 16, 2014!


It will be available on amazon and in print through amazon and createspace. I am on the fence over distribution to bookstores. It depends on how much the title costs – it could be up to $16 for the print version if I distribute via amazon. It is something I’ll decide soon, though.


You can follow my author page on Amazon and click the sign up for E-mail notifications link in order to be notified as soon as the book launches!


As a tip, there will be a soft launch before the official launch, although I’d love to make Inquisitor a bestseller – if it can get enough sales on its release date.


Will it be ebook only or hard copy also? How can we get autographed copies and Inquisitor merchandise?


The only way to get an autographed copy of Inquisitor right now is to sign up for the goodreads giveaway. There will be two signed copies available!


As for Inquisitor merchandise, I may do a limited print run of the cover art. Follow me on Google+ to see if that becomes a reality.


Will you be doing appearances and readings IRL, as well as online? Where and when?


Real life readings and appearances aren’t on the schedule right now – I have so much writing to do this year that I can’t dedicate the time touring. Maybe next year…


… but for now, I figure the best thing for me and my readers is if I stay home and write so there are more books!





Any final thoughts?


Thank you for having me – this has been a truly fun interview. Now, I have to get back to writing, because these words won’t make themselves appear on the page for some strange reason. . .


Thanks so much for joining us today to discuss Inquisitor, R.J. We look forward to your return.

Image credit R.J. Blain

Image credit R.J. Blain


Author Bio

RJ Blain suffers from a Moleskine journal obsession, a pen fixation, and a terrible tendency to pun without warning.

When she isn’t playing pretend, she likes to think she’s a cartographer and a sumi-e painter. In reality, she herds cats and a husband. She also has a tendency to play MMOs and other computer games.

In her spare time, she daydreams about being a spy. Should that fail, her contingency plan involves tying her best of enemies to spinning wheels and quoting James Bond villains until she is satisfied.

Follow R.J. Blain at G+ and Amazon.


Blog Tours

Writing Process Blog Tour


Image credit Keith Williamson

Marie Lavender, who so graciously hosted me on her blog for a feature and an interview, sent me the opportunity to join the Writing Process Blog Tour. What writer can resist talking about writing? So here goes.

My tour questions:

What am I working on?

I’ve been mulling over the next edition of my vegetarian cookbook, a new erotica short, a romantic comedy mystery and some fresh poetry. It would be nice to do some more guest blogging and get published in literary journals again.

How does my work differ from others of the same genre?

Mainly that it’s my work, so it’s coming from my own life experiences, choices and curiosities.

Why do I write what I do?

I write about everything, because I see no reason for a good writer to limit oneself. Life is happening all around you, so you live and write about it.

My primary topics at the moment are food, gardening, country life, travel, poetry and writing. Besides the necessity for eating and the romance and simplicity of cooking at home, I enjoy eating healthy. Even in restaurants, I always look at what’s in it for me, what nutritional value will I get from something, before ordering. Also, I’m concerned about the different health crises in the modern world, and honestly believe that plant-based nutrition plays a critical role in healing ourselves and the planet. Not only that, we also need to learn what’s in our food, how it affects us, empower kids to cook healthy and be more accommodating of special diet needs at home, school, work and social gatherings. That’s why I write my food blog and cookbook.

The garden and country life writing are the direct result of growing up with farm-raised relatives and finally living the life of my dreams. As a child, I watched my German great-grandmother digging potatoes and my Choctaw grandmother maintaining a compost pile. Those memories never left me, they just got temporarily drowned out by post-war Modernism. Now I wake up breathing fresh air each morning and take my old lab with me to feed the birds, squirrels and rabbits outside our window. In the afternoons, we play in the soil, keep an eye out for pests and diseases, count blossoms and fruits and hike on a dirt road at sunset. In between and in the evening, I do chores, cook and write. Monday nights are reserved for #gardenchat.

I love travel and researching distant places and sharing my passion for local spots I know and love. There’s tons of content on travel sites that you’ll never see my name on, but it paid the bills and was fun to do. I’ve got four personal experience U.S. travel articles looking for a home right now, and I’d like to complete my series on U.S. food tours.

How does your writing process work?

That depends on the situation. If it’s for a content site, like Textbroker or ContentCurrent, I’ll browse the available jobs on the board, pick one, then usually have to do some research. That could involve viewing existing content of similar nature on the client’s site, researching their products under the desired topic and/or researching the topic in general, such as Renaissance LARP costumes for adults and children, budget decorating for special events, new luxury car designs, U.S. airports’ amenities, Off the Beaten Path attractions in Southeast Asia and Things To Do in Europe. Last of all, I proof, add in the SEO keywords and check my word count.

For a guest blog post, I read a sample guest post or two, get a suggested topic from the blog owner, research the topic as needed, digest that, take a break, draft and proof. With guest blogging, there’s usually more time available to really polish the piece, unlike digital content sites, which demand quick turnarounds. Word counts and other policies change from blog to blog. Guest blogging for others is a fairly recent development for me, and I’m having a great time.

My poetry process varies. It might just come to me or I might have something specific in mind, like trying a new form or exploring a particular topic. For instance, when my dad went to Tanzania on business, I had just discovered the cinquain poetic form. So I read up on Tanzanian wildlife and natural resources and ended up with ten Tanzanian cinquains. On another occasion, my writing community issued a poetry challenge on food personification. Out came a pineapple turned into Eartha Kitt.

Still other times, there’s just something inside me that needs to come out. Maybe I’m fantasizing about a past or dream lover. Next thing I know, there’s an erotica story churning around in my head. Perhaps I’ll read a paperback and think I can do better. Sometimes, a piece will start as the result of a conversation or moments spent observing people, looking out the window or reading the news. I love spontaneous pieces as much as I love coming across fascinating facts in research.

Visit Regina Puckett’s blog to see where this whole Writing Process Blog Tour got started and check out more authors.

What are you working on?


Author Bio

Belinda Y. Hughes is the author of Confessions of a Red Hot Veggie Lover 2: Lacto-Ovo Vegetarian Recipes and Living Proof. Her blog, Café Belinda, specializes in dairy free, gluten free, sugar free, Kosher, vegan and vegetarian recipes. When she’s not refilling her wildlife buffet, covered in compost or out hiking with her old labradachs, she is available for author interviews and guest blogging opportunities.




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