We never thought this day would come so soon, but after much thought and discussion, we've decided to close our doors after a short run.

Although we thoroughly enjoyed blogging, interviewing authors, and getting to know the readers, sometimes life gets in the way and we have to take a step back and shift our focus.

We want to thank everyone who has visited, followed, commented, lurked, and provided us with incredible material to share with the world. It's been a great experience and we hope that you will continue to follow us at our individual virtual homes:

Jax's Website
Jax's Blog

Nikki's Website
Nikki's Blog

Abi's Website
Abi's Blog

Thank you....

Jenius Jax, Naughty Nikki, & Amusing Abi

**UPDATE: Congratulations RKCharron for winning Laura's giveaway! We'll contact you shortly**

Writing Hooks - and Giving Away a Prize!

Thank you, Hooked on Romance, for opening your blog to me today. I love the theme “hooked,” and it immediately brought to mind an article I wrote about writing hooks into the end of each chapter of a novel.

I’ve always heard that putting a great hook at the end of the first chapter would entice that dream agent or coveted editor to want to read more. And it pertains to readers as well. I know I’ve set down books after the first chapter, and haven’t picked them up again because I wasn’t engaged, and my interest flagged.

Here’s the hook at the end of the first chapter of Secret Vegas Lives:

Valerie's forced smile slipped as she looked into Antonio's eyes. She couldn't read the meaning in his intense stare, but she couldn't look away--and neither did he.

His date broke the spell by sliding her hand into his and rubbing the side of her breast on his arm. "We should get going, Antonio."

He shook the mayor's hand and nodded to the committee in general. With one last glance at Valerie, he escorted Sherry from the restaurant.

Valerie watched them leave, feeling the aftermath of his gaze. He was angry. He knew her name. And he was obviously volatile. Damn, this wasn't turning out to be a very good day. She blinked and brought herself back to what the mayor was saying.

"That was interesting," he commented to no one in particular.

She shrugged and said the first thing that came to her mind. "He and I had…an animated discussion recently. He must still be a little worked up."

"You're quite the diplomat, Dr. Val," the mayor winked.

She smiled. Oscar had been a family friend since she was a child. He was a kind, gracious man and she liked him more every time they spoke. She couldn’t say the same for Antonio Daniato. He was an ass.

And the ass was sitting on the back bumper of her SUV when she left the restaurant a half hour later.

Oh, I love that sentence. It’s in Valerie’s point of view, and we are living the moment with her as she sees Antonio sitting on her bumper. When I first started writing, I would put a hook at the end of each chapter that was completely contrived, and in omniscient point of view. Something like, “But soon Valerie would run into Antonio again, and the results would be catastrophic.” Notice the difference between the two hook sentences?

The easy way to end your chapters with hooks, is to not intentionally write the hook, just find it in your scene. I write my whole book (and they’re over 100,000 words) without chapter breaks. I put asterisks *** between scenes and point of view changes, then I go back through my manuscript and find places where the scene’s suspense is at its peak. THAT’S where I put my chapter break.

Valerie swayed, felt her chest tighten. Oh, God, Antonio was here at Caesar’s Palace, looking for a public event to humiliate her.

Oscar grabbed her arm. "Are you alright, dear?"

She choked back the anxiety attack. "I'm sorry, Oscar, I haven't been feeling well. I think I'll find Troy and ask him to take me home."

"Of course." He gestured toward the dance floor. "I see Ryan right behind you."

She smiled, wanting to reassure him. "I'm fine. You know how it is. I've been starving myself to fit into this dress…"

He nodded. "I completely understand. You go, but call me when you feel better. I'd like to get a handle on this Antonio Daniato thing."

She leaned in for a kiss on the cheek and went to find her date.

Her brother, Ryan, stood beside the dance floor and she put her hand on his arm. "Where's Troy?"

"Monica stole your date." He nodded toward their sister and Troy dancing to Springsteen's “Born to Run.” Monica danced gracefully and Troy--she tried not to wince--did the best he could. They looked like they were having fun.

"Take me out on the dance floor. I have to talk to Troy."

"Uh-uh. I don't think I want to get near whatever he's doing. Looks dangerous. He could hurt himself and others."

"I need to talk…" Too late. She saw a face across the dance floor. Her stomach contracted. Antonio walked directly toward her. His tux fit him perfectly, his white shirt emphasizing his Mediterranean skin tone, and the gold cufflinks at his wrists catching the light. He reached into his pocket and pulled something out.

Oh, God. Her breath panted from her lungs.

His hand held a folded paper, his eyes held malice.

Ooooh, malice is always a good hook. Have you ever read those books that you just couldn’t put down? You tell yourself, “Okay, just one more chapter.” Then the end of the chapter has something so intriguing, that you just have to read on. That’s what I attempt to give my readers. The “can’t put it down” factor that an author loves to see in their book reviews.

Three days later, Antonio stood in the waiting room. Betina said, "Wish me luck," and walked into the office, closing the door behind her.

Within five minutes the door opened and Betina poked her head out. "She's not happy." She gestured. "Come on in. We'll talk her into it."

He walked into the office and closed the door behind him. Valerie sat with her legs crossed, tapping a pencil on the desktop. Her dark stare drilled into him from across the room.

As I did here, I sometimes put a chapter break at the beginning of a new scene or point of view change. It leaves us wanting to know more right away.

Another opportunity for a hook is in the blurb. A little teaser to get a reader’s attention.

Mistaken for a blackmailer, socialite Valerie Kane will do anything to keep sexy Italian crime writer Antonio Daniato from publicly exposing her, and Antonio is wickedly intent on seeing how far Valerie will go to protect her reputation.

I hope you enjoyed my mini-workshop on hooks, and if you’re an author, I encourage you to try this technique sometime. If you’re a reader, I hope you’ll find writers who keep you reading chapter after chapter, when you know you should put that bookmark in and get to sleep!

Stop by my website, LauraBreck.com, for more writing tips, excerpts from Secret Vegas Lives (available now from RedRosePublishing.com) and the second book in the series, Scandalous L.A. Desires (coming in 2010.) And check out my monthly drawing, where I give away a heart-shaped carabiner and lipstick USB drive!

I donate a portion of the proceeds of Secret Vegas Lives to The Shade Tree Shelter in Las Vegas, a shelter for women, children and their pets. Find out more about this marvelous shelter on The Shade Tree’s page on my website.

It’s a privilege to share today with you, and if you’d like, leave a comment or question and I’ll be around all day to chat. One random commenter will win a goodie bag of my promotional items.

Thank you!
Buy Secret Vegas Lives at RedRosePublishing.com


One of the primary goals of my writing is to give readers a world into which they can escape the stress of life. And a fun read for lounging on the beach or cuddling up with a blanket and a cup of tea. ~Smart Women ~Sexy Men ~Seductive Romance.

Another goal is to make a difference in the world. That is why each of my books will sponsor a community program, and a percentage of my proceeds will be donated to that organization.

I live in Saint Paul, Minnesota with my family, I’m a member of Romance Writers of America, Midwest Fiction Writers, Wisconsin Romance Writers of America, ESPAN, and Elements of RWA. I blog every Wednesday on RosesOfProse.blogspot.com
It's November, and this time of year always gets me thinking about what I've thankful for.I always feel a bit nostalgic during the holidays, but I've spent a lot of time this entire year thinking about what makes me happy. For longer than I can remember I had a habit of doing everything that suited everyone around me. If someone needed something I would drop whatever I had going for myself to help them. It didn't matter if it was for the kids, a teacher, a group I belonged to, or a friend, I put everyone else first.

Somewhere around the beginning of the year I realized I couldn't do that anymore, and I began looking for places I could change. I've taken some heat for my own changes this year from family and friends. Some people have seen what I'm doing and have understood and applauded it. Others...not so much.

Regardless, I've found a semblance of inner happiness that makes it easier to maintain. I've looked hard at myself and those around me over the last year. I've paid attention to what I respect in others and what turns me off in people. I've figured out triggers in each of my relationships and have worked at avoiding them. I mean, if you know that talking about an ex is going to cause a fight with your current man, why bring it up, right? Unless you want to fight. I don't.

I've looked hard at myself and things that I do to irritate others. Sometimes it's a matter of pushing their buttons unintentionally, but I'm working to become more aware of it. Life is too short to spend it fighting and arguing and making everyone around you miserable. Or being miserable. I still have work to do, but since the beginning of the year I've noticed a mental shift in myself and a lot of the people around me. It's made me realize something. Until I could make myself happy, I couldn't really make anyone else happy. My efforts to change myself have changed others around me from my kids, to my husband, to friends and family and coworkers.

I'm grateful to be surrounded by people who understand me and who're willing to stick by me while I figure myself out and learn where all the new parts of my life fit.

It seems the romance industry is still going strong during this economy, yet publishers are reorganizing, downsizing, dropping authors and becoming pickier than ever. And they're taking their sweet little time about it. Somehow, whether you're agented or not, the wait time is long and drawn out--often becoming a real downer for authors who are anxious to know their fate. The most interesting thing that's come out of all this is that authors who used to snub ePublishing are now seeking them out. Authors are finally getting an education on the world of ePublishing...It's about darn time!

Okay, I know that when it comes to advances, authors can see those dollar signs in their mind, but they may be disappointed because there's always a catch. Depending on the publisher, authors can get as little as $500 or anywhere in the six-figures...before you think you can quit your day job, do your homework. Although advances are great in the print world, ePublishing offers almost an instant income without having to pay back the advance before royalties kick in. There are plenty of authors who offer great insight into the publishing industry, but the most impressive is possibly Lynn Viehl who provides actual breakdowns, royalty statements, and details of the reality of being a NY Times Bestseller.

Her post really got me thinking...

Everyone chooses the path they want to go to reach publication, including me. There's really no wrong way. However, I chose ePublishing to start my writing journey and I've never regretted it one bit. In fact, I love all my publishers and I love how personable they are and I love their eagerness, their willingness to help their authors. Some ePubs may be more professional than others (like with any business) but while I'm working toward a NY contract, I'm already getting exposure and practice. I'm learning about promoting myself, connecting with my readers and building a backlist. This is the time to write the things that I've always wanted to write. I can push the envelope and I know my publishers are more than willing to take chances. Because of the low overhead, they can do just that. In my eyes, ePublishing is still a win-win.

By no means am I not working on book proposals to get my foot in the door with NY. Why else would I have gotten an agent? My dream doesn't force me to choose the two, in fact, I'm able to balance the benefits of both worlds. I know there are thousands of other authors who also dream of NY sales but this is a marathon, not a sprint. It's about persistence and forging ahead even when the going gets tough. It's about pushing yourself past your limits and never looking back. It's about believing in yourself no matter the odds. It's also about aligning yourself with the right people who will ride that wave with you during the ups and downs. It's also a good thing to have author friends, most importantly, non-author friends because you'll need them both to provide the normalcy to keep you sane.

Now for the reality check portion: New York isn't what it's cracked up to be...there are more pressures, tighter deadlines, more competition, more reasons to cry. I hear it quite frequently from my fellow NY author friends and, to be honest, I'm simply happy with my approach to this industry. I used to get that twinge of envy to hear about their NY sales but over time, I've found that comfort zone in which I'm almost glad I haven't gotten contracts in my hand. Actually, I'm taking my time and I'm content with honing my craft, acquiring more experience, and preparing myself for when "it" happens. By then I should be taking every conceivable issue in stride. For now, I'll happily listen to the nuggets of wisdom and keep the secrets in my back pocket as reference. I also plan on writing for myself. I plan on being persistent because I want to secure a place on the bookshelves for years to come, not just for the time being...


P.S. One Monday each month (if I remember) on my personal blog, I participate in Excerpt Monday where I post a snippet from a current or upcoming release. I may even post an scene from a work in progress...if I'm really brave, I may even post a piece from my proposal that I'll be sending my agent. It's a lot of fun and will give readers a taste of my writing style.

**UPDATE: Congratulations DANICA AVET for winning an autographed ARC of BPOD. If we can't find your email, Please send me your name and mailing address to jaxcassidy@gmail.com to claim your prize!**

This interview isn't just a one-on-one with another author, it's an interview a long time in the making... Five years ago I met Kelly in Los Angeles while she was participating in a screenwriting fellowship. At the time, I was working on my own screenplays and struggling to figure out what I really wanted to do with my life. Kelly and I just clicked and became fast friends. During one of our weekly outings, she told me about her desire to write a romance. In fact, she had already started one and was practically done. She urged me to try my hand at it since I already had one foot in the door with writing romantic comedy screenplays. She thought I'd be good at it and even handed me a stack of Karen Marie Moning books as research. I think I devoured those Highlander stories in a few days and that's when I made the decision to try my hand. I had read romances in my teens but it struck more of a chord in me as an adult. I began to understand how different I viewed these stories now, including the strong heroines and engaging storytelling. Kelly had thrown down the gauntlet and, of course, I wasn't one to refuse a good challenge! Starting our romance writing journey together wouldn't have been so much fun without her constant enthusiasm. Although all good things did come to an end (kinda) when she moved home, and there were some large patches of time where we didn't contact one another, but I could never thank Kelly enough for introducing me to romances. Without meeting her, I may never would have found my calling.

Yes, we've come full circle and although we took different routes to reach publication, Kelly THANK YOU for planting that seed in my head all those years ago. With that, I'm thrilled to have her visiting HoR and proud to introduce my dear friend and fellow author...

You've won the Laurie for your paranormal contemporary BED & BREAKFAST and finaled in the Golden Heart for the same manuscript, yet had you ever imagined your urban fantasy would be the genre that would launch your writing career?

Nope. B&B had gotten a lot of recognition, and for a while there, especially after it won the Laurie, finaled in the GH, and landed me an agent, I really thought this was the book, the one that'd get sold. But it never happened. That was a tough year. I watched a lot of friends sell and move on with their careers, and while I was super happy for them, it was still hard to keep my chin up and be optimistic. There was nothing else I could do but continue writing. So, I wrote a few more manuscripts -- a paranormal romance, a YA fantasy, and I revised B&B into BEDKNOBS & BROOMSTICKS. It, along with the YA, finaled in the 2008 GH. (I had also finished the urban fantasy and decided to enter it in the GH as well. It was the only one that didn't final. Little known fact there.) Figures the one that didn't final would be the one to sell. My world is so backwards! :-)

Seriously, though, once BPOD was finished, I had a very special feeling about it. It was unlike anything else I'd written. I followed my own rules, and it was the only book I had written without the market or anything else in mind. You'll hear people tell you to write what you love and not to write to the market, but you'll also hear agents and editors say how they're looking for more of this or more of that. So, for an aspiring writer (or at least for me), it was hard not to write with the market in mind, to not think "Editor X said at the panel she's dying to see more paranormal zombie romance. Maybe I should write that..." When you're constantly knocking on doors, you want to give folks what's hot, what they're looking for. But, after a lot of failed attempts, and getting so close, I finally just sat down, put the romance aside, and decided to write the dark story that had been stewing my head for a while. I love reading romance and getting to the Happy Ending, but as a writer I learned that my voice naturally gravitates toward a darker side.

BETTER PART OF DARKNESS is the first release in your urban fantasy series and it's already garnered a lot of excellent reviews, including the Fall 2009 SIBA Okra Pick. How do you feel about all the buzz and is this added pressure for you?

I feel great about the buzz! Relieved, actually. Before the book started on the review rounds, I felt a lot of pressure. My publishing house had invested time and money in me. I wanted to do well for, not only my own sanity, but for them as well. And I kept telling myself, "Just one great review, that's all I ask. I'll be okay as long as someone out there likes it." But, so far so good. I'm still prepared to get some 'meh' reviews. If there's anything I've learned through the years it's that you can't please everyone. Someone is bound to not like or 'get' your work. It's like art. It's subjective. But, yeah, it's a big relief that people are responding well to the book. The pressure has now shifted on the book selling well. And if this book does well, the pressure will no doubt move to another area -- like my second book. :-)

What have you learned most about the publishing industry since you began? How much has the economy impacted your career?

I've learned to relax, trust, and have patience. The publishing industry is one of those things that teaches you patience or demands it -- how ever you want to look at it. :-) Once you sell, decisions are taken out of your hands and you have to be okay with that. I've learned to chill out about what's going on behind the scenes and to focus on my work. This economy really drives that point home. There are no guarantees that just because I sold once, I'll keep selling. So the writing has to be stellar, and I have to leave the stress about things I can't control behind me, or it ends up affecting my work.

How tumultuous was your writing journey and where do you hope to see your career going? Any secret desire to write different genres?

It's been full of ups and downs. I'd been trying to break into 'working writer-dom' since I was in my late teens, so about fifteen years or so, first with plays and screenplays and then with fiction. It's been, quite frankly, full of frustrations, full of 'almosts' and a lot of times I wanted to give up. (Which I did a few times). But the thing that always brought me back wasn't the need to sell, sell, sell; it was the spark of an idea. I couldn't stop being a creative person, couldn't stop the scenes and story ideas from coming. It's part of me. So I decided to keep going, keep writing new material, keep putting my work out there, because that's who I was. I couldn't stop writing, and I couldn't stop wanting to share it with the world. I figured if I kept going that at some point, the planets would align, the book would be the right book at the right time on the right editor's desk, and a sale would be made. Of course, the only thing I knew for sure, though, was that I sure as hell wouldn't sell if I quit.

And, yes, there are a few genres that I'd love to write in. I've been writing young adult for a few years now, and finally have a project that I really love. Fingers crossed! I also really love historical fiction and commercial fiction with a paranormal slant. I can definitely see myself working on side projects of that nature.

Writers either work alone or with a group of other writers. Do you have a posse you write with and do they write in the same genre you do? Do you meet them for writer dates?

No. No posse. For the most part I write alone, in a vacuum. I have an excellent CP in fellow urban fantasy and YA author, Jenna Black. We typically share our work once rough drafts are done, but that's usually on new work or a new genre where we still have those the first-book uncertainties. We don't critique everything and on contracted work (sequels and such) we don't usually share unless we feel the need for a second pair of eyes or there's an issue with the story. We've known each other for several years now, and we have very similar creative minds, and we like the same kinds of stories. It's a wonderful partnership. We meet for lunch about every other week to discuss the publishing biz, our own writer neurosis, and just to eat and gab. It's a great way to connect and have some face to face time.

Tell us about your latest release BETTER PART OF DARKNESS? Would you like to share an excerpt for our readers?

THE BETTER PART OF DARKNESS started as 'what ifs'. What if our myths and traditions of heaven and hell were grounded in some obscure truth? What if the beings in these places were nothing like we had imagined, but as real and as diverse as the human race? And what would our world be like if they integrated into our society?

The story takes place in Atlanta about a decade after the Revelation (the discovery of two alternate dimensions: heaven-like Elysia and hellish Charbydon). Atlanta has become a crossroads of sorts, a thriving melting pot of human and off-world races. My heroine, Charlie Madigan, is a divorced mother of one and her job with the Integration Task Force puts her right in the middle of the off-world population. It's her job, along with her partner, Hank, a siren from Elysia, to see that everyone obeys the law, but when a new off-world drug is released in Underground, her daughter is targeted, and her ex-husband makes a fateful bargain to win her back, there's nothing in heaven or earth (or hell for that matter) that Charlie won't do to set things right.

There an excerpt of Chapter One HERE.

What is the most extreme sport you’ve ever done, or adventure you’ve ever taken, and what did you learn about yourself?

Good question! I am not one to jump out of airplanes (I can hardly get myself inside of one to travel), but I have done a few daring things in my time. I drove my little mini-bike off a cliff one time. But I was ten when I did that. I jumped into an icy river in the wintertime -- exhilarating at first, but damn painful after you realize you have to walk a half mile to get home. But I was a teen when I did that. Um.... Okay. I'm realizing that as an adult all those daring things that were just on the tip of my tongue are all in my head and not real-life. ;-) I live vicariously through my characters!

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

Hmm. Probably something like a 'Bleeding Soul'. Dramatic and serious and dark. That's a place where I spend a lot of my creative time. :-)


Kelly Gay is the author of the upcoming urban fantasy novel, THE BETTER PART OF DARKNESS. She is a three-time RWA Golden Heart finalist, and recipient of a North Carolina Arts Council fellowship grant in writing. She lives in North Carolina, where she is currently working on the sequel to her debut novel and a new Young Adult series. You can learn more about Kelly at www.kellygay.net

According to Abba in Dancing Queen, anybody could be that guy. But not any song hits the right note. You guessed it, I'm a writer that prefers music when I'm writing. Normally I have a predesignated soundtrack that I listen to the entire time I'm working on a book, but this last book was a bit different.

I had my songs prechosen to work to, but when I started writing, they just didn't work. So, I went back to my iTunes library and found some that worked for me. The next day that music would be more of a distraction so I would have to shift to a completely different mood. It was bizarre, I bounced around between stuff like Coldplay to mood CDs you would listen to during a massage or facial to Godsmack and Disturbed.

There were a few songs that stayed completely true to the story that were on that first playlist, songs that I'd planned to be sort of like Kami's theme songs. Turns out that while I had the song right, in a few cases I had the character wrong. And through it all, Abba continued to pop in with Dancing Queen. Funny thing about that song, when it doesn't match the rest of your play list and you've been sitting and writing for 2.5 hours, it's a great signal to get up and move around. Dancing around like a loon every time that song came on kept me writing until shortly after 5:00 this morning, which allowed me to finish up the story I was working on.

So, here's my playlist. Which songs do you think were for the hero and which were for the heroine?

~ Dirty Little Secret by The All-American Rejects
~ I Bruise Easily by Natasha Bedingfield
~ I'm a Believer by The Monkees
~ Somewhere I Belong by Linkin Park (not sure of his spelling)
~ Hanging By A Moment by Lifehouse
~ If I Fall by Tara MacLean

Normally the Fall brings with it cold weather, changing leaves, and a whole lot of planning for holiday events. For writers, it's about getting all your deadlines finished and sent off before the industry closes for the holidays. It's no fun having to wait three months for responses so there should be an influx of submissions going to editors about this time. That's not to say that they aren't bombarded anyway, but this time of year is notorious for last minute queries so you're added to the 'waiting' queue.

I've been busy re-writing my paranormal proposal. It is rather challenging, however, I do have a reason to celebrate. I recently sold my short contemporary to Amber Quill Press, I've already gotten a January 2010 release. So on top of priority writing deadlines, I've got to promo my butt off in order to prepare for the January release. That's just the tip of the iceberg for writers. It's a constant rotation that a writer has to expect in order to stay in the game. It certainly seems like there are a lot of writers out there, but there's room enough for everyone...well, that's what I believe, anyway.

I can't begin to tell you how frustrating it is to be on a schedule. I've been pretty lenient on myself until recently. Even authors have their bad months and mine seemed to have lasted for several--but now that I've got my head back on straight, I realized how far behind I really am. Hopefully this time next week I'll be bragging about meeting my own personal deadlines...

Hopefully you've all had a great Halloween. Mine was a quiet evening snuggled up under the blankets while watching "Ice Age 3". It was a great way to celebrate without having to weather the cold. :)

Now it's time to get back to commitments. Fun.