Monday, October 31, 2011

Happy Halloween

Hope everyone is having a fun, spook-filled Halloween. Not so much for me here. Oh, I'm not one of those unfortunate folks up north with 2 feet of snow and no power on their hands. Those poor kids have got to be so bumbed to be snowbound on Halloween. No, in my neck of the woods it's just cold and rainy. Makes for not so many trick or treaters tonight to gobble down all the candy I bought. Maybe if I bring the leftovers into the diner, we can bake it into pies. Anybody got a good recipe for Milk Dud pie or Reese Cup cake?

Wishing you all a Happy Halloween from the gals at the Otherworld Diner.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Spine-Tingling Lines--Guess what movie they're from. I dare you.

Do you like to be scared?
I do. At least when it comes to Horror Flicks. I watch them all: zombies, aliens, vampires, spirits, slashers—even crazed dolls.

On the theory that you might too and that you like to play games, I’ve listed 13 of my favorite spooky lines. Can you guess what movie they’ve come from? (Feel free to check out my sources for hints.)

1. A boy’s best friend is his mother.
2. I’ve seen enough horror movies to know that any weirdo wearing a mask is never friendly.
3. Be afraid….Be very afraid.
4. They’re Heee-re.
5. I ate his liver with some fava beans and a nice Chianti.
6. Oh, yes, there will be blood!
7. Ray, when someone asks you if you’re a god, you say, “Yes”!
8. We have to convince the little housewife out there that the tomato that ate the family pet is not dangerous!
9. He-e-e-e-e-re’s Johnnie!
10. Good, bad, I’m the one with the gun. Come git some!
11. I see dead people.
12. Whatever you do, don’t fall asleep.
13. In those moments where you're not quite sure if the undead are really dead, dead, don't get all stingy with your bullets. I mean, one more clean shot to the head, and this lady could have avoided becoming a human Happy Meal. Woulda... coulda... shoulda.

Leave your guesses in the comments. I’ll check back and let you know if you’re correct. Then at the end of the day, I’ll post the answers. Thanks for playing.


Monday, October 17, 2011

Indie Author Spotlight: Kismet’s Kiss

by Cate Rowan

I’ve been doing the ‘IT’ Factor posts for over 18 months now. In the process, I’ve discovered some real gems from traditional publishers and some, well, they ended up being little more than cheap paste IMO. Now that I’m venturing down the Indie road, I feel it’s only right to take a slight detour and start reviewing some of the Indie gems out there. You know, the ones that NY in all their brilliant wisdom *cough cough* let get away. If you’re a reader of Indie books, you know by now that some are great finds while others were obviously slapped up by writers who still have quite a bit more growing to do. Even though most Indie books are much cheaper than their traditionally published cousins, it still bites to spend money on a crappy book. So from now on, I’m going to dedicate this monthly column to helping you find the diamonds in the pile of cubic zirconia.

Book Blurb:

In the desert realm of Kad, a deadly epidemic strikes the palace of Sultan Kuramos. Only a magical healer from an enemy land has the skill to save his royal household, but Kuramos never imagined the healer would be a woman.

Healer Varene finds her own surprises in Kad. She expects the sultan’s arrogance, but not his courage or his selfless care of the ill—or the possibility that the epidemic is the curse of a vengeful goddess.

Kuramos’s culture condemns Varene’s mystical talents. Her presence triggers an insurrection, yet as he and the healer toil for a cure, he loses his heart to her. She falls for him as well, but how can she relinquish her homeland and her principles—especially when he already has a harem and his family may be cursed?

KISMET’S KISS is the sequel to THE SOURCE OF MAGIC (which is a good book too). Ms. Rowan published KISS first, so I read it first. While both books take place in the same magical realm and involve some of the same characters, they each stand on their own.

Sexual Chemistry:
The first time they meet, Varene and Kuramos are instantly attracted to each other, whether they want to be or not. However, there are major hurdles in their way. In the beginning, Kuramos is appalled that he must rely on a infidel woman and her magic to save his family. He is chauvinistic and, along with just about everyone else in his kingdom, he treats her with arrogance and distain. Varene is used to being treated as an equal, as an intelligent woman and a gifted healer. They are constantly butting heads until she shows him the error of his ways. However there’s still another teensy, weensy problem…

Kuramos has 6 wives already. Count ‘em, 6! That’s unheard of in traditional romance publishing. The golden rule handed down from NY is the hero must be single (either a bachelor, widower, or divorced) and – heaven forbid -- he cannot even think of sleeping with someone else once he’s laid eyes on the heroine. I couldn’t wait to see how Rowan was going to write her way out of that one. (She does! And no, she doesn't kill off all the wives.)

Both Kuramos and Varene have them and Rowan does an excellent job of sprinkling clues throughout the story. There’s also court intrigue afoot and the cause of the strange illness afflicting Kuramos’s royal house. Is it a curse or something else? Usually I can figure these things out early on but the author kept me guessing until the end.

Gunjan, the talking bird, is a riot!

What makes this book standout:
This book was a 2007 and 2009 Romance Writers of America Golden Heart® Finalist. It is also the first Indie book I ever read. When I saw the quality of the writing and the originality of the storyline, I had to wonder how on earth this book never sold. Actually, I do know. Ms. Rowan is a rule breaker. She writes stories that don’t fit into the NY box and they’re all the better for it.

Learn more about Cate Rowan at

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Today's Special

The pie of the day is cherry, and the coffee and tea are ready. I hope you're all out there doing what needs to be done - as I have been in the past month. Again, I apologize for being gone so much - it's been a tough year.

It's October, which means Halloween is just around the corner and tales of ghosts and goblins, witches and wizards, hellcats and hexes roam the internet looking for a home. Where would be a better place to hear about such things than here at the Otherworld Diner.

I'm hoping you'll share with us your recent writings, readings or findings in the field of the paranormal, supernatural or just plain weird, or tell us a ghost story of your own.

When I was young, my sister swore the boogeyman lived in our attic, and I was always afraid to go up the stairs into the shadows where a single lightbulb swung on its chain, waiting to go out with the slightest breath. I knew there was something lurking up there, something dark and evil, waiting... always waiting. I stayed in that house alone a few times as a teen, and the scary noises from the attic always kept me next to the phone, fingers trembling and a flashlight nearby, just in case. Call me paranoid, but I'd seen and heard too many things not to have a vivid imagination.

So tell me ... what scares you?

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

October musings

While trying to think of something to write for today's post I realized we're nearly halfway done with my favorite month, so why not tell you all why it's my favorite month?

Okay... my birthday is this month, so that's reason number one. No, I'm not one of those women who hates birthdays. Hey, I've earned every not-quite-my-natural-hair-color hair on my head, okay? I don't have wrinkles so we won't discuss them. :)

It's also the month in which I was married. David and I were married on October 15, 23 years ago. We lived in Ohio then and had this unofficial holiday called Sweetest Day. It just happened to fall on our wedding anniversary that year. I was surprised to find out they didn't celebrate it everywhere, even if it is a Valentine's Day knock-off and a chance for greeting card companies to make more money. :) That October up north was a cold, blustery one, but on our wedding day we had sunshine.

And then of course there's Halloween, my second-favorite holiday. How can you not love a day when you get to dress up and people just give you candy?? When we lived in Ohio we'd decorate our house and yard, complete with dummies, scary music, and strobe lights. The last year we were there we went a bit overboard and people were actually afraid to come inside. But they did come - from outside the subdivision, even. Our house was sort of a legend in that small town.

My daughter's freshman year in high school was the last year we were there, and she was in marching band. We let her have a band Halloween party, and of course we made sure it was overdone. We decorated the basement with spooky things, filled the laundry room sink with ice and soft drinks, had movies like The Shining and Halloween playing upstairs, and kept the kids supplied with pizza. That's really all it was, and yet we had kids coming from other parties to the band party because they'd heard about Nicole's! She keeps in touch with a few friends from that town and they still talk about that party. 

Halloween isn't quite the same here in Tennessee. We tried a couple of times to decorate the yard, but it didn't go over as well. Still, I love October. Although we don't have those crisp fall nights or wicked cold winds toward the end of the month here, the trees are starting to turn golden and red - well, the maples turn red, at least. The days are steadily growing cooler, and there's a really neat Halloween store in town. I'm looking forward to having the A/C off soon, and hubby and I are going to out of town for a few days for our anniversary. We haven't been anywhere by ourselves in a long time.

Tell me what you like - or don't like about October ...

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

A Look Inside: Entangled Publishing

Ever wonder what it’s like to be published—to see your stories in print?

Rachel Firasek, whose recently published novel Piper’s Fury has made her an EPPIE finalist, has agreed to answer my questions about publishing and she may drop by to answer yours.

1. How did you get started as a writer?
I’ve almost always been a writer. In junior high I helped with the school newspaper and had my first publication with poetry. In high school, I did some extra reports on the sly, lol. But, three years ago, my husband took a position as a contract laborer in Kuwait. I had a lot of time on my hands. A lot of lonely, cold time. Writing filled that time and writing romance made me feel a little closer to him.

2. Why did you decide to send your novella The Last Rising to Entangled Publishing?
Heather Howland was the editor for Piper’s Fury and I adored her. When I found out she was leaving and heading on to Entangled, I knew that I wanted to work with her again and I really liked the platform for Entangled Publishing. Also, Liz Pelletier managed to turn Savvy Authors into an amazing tool during her first year. Anytime you can build a community for authors that quickly, you’re doing something right. I want to work with and be surrounded by those kind of people. I’m a forward thinking woman and in this unsteady world of publishing, I wanted to hook up with the press that had a bigger vision.

3. Getting the call is the moment many unpublished authors fantasize about, that moment authors here that a publisher wants her work. Can you describe your experience?
Hmmm… each one has been different. Piper’s Fury was my debut and will always be a little more special. You never quite capture that first one twice. But, that’s not to say that if I ever land an agent and make a break into NY that I won’t hop up and down. When Entangled requested my Curse of the Pheonix series, I was so honored that they wanted me. Have you seen some of the authors over there? They are absolutely amazing and that is when you get the new set of nerves--the “how am I going to keep up” nerves. Lol.

4. How long was it from the initial publisher’s request to seeing your manuscript in published form?
Well, that differs with each press. The Last Rising was contracted in late April and Published in September. Piper’s Fury was contracted in October 2010 and published March 2011. Most of them have been in the six month range, but as more authors submit and publishers take on more works, I think we’ll see the production pushed out. JMO.

5. What steps were involved to take your manuscript from a submission to a published novel?
Holy cow. Well, with Entangled Publishing it has been like this: sign contract and send it in. About a week will pass and you’ll get all kind of logins, more papers to fill out and some other basic upkeep. You’ll go through at least three passes of revisions and then on to copyedits and maybe a few other touch up passes. If your deadline is out far enough, you may have some time in between. It’s all pretty hectic. And then you go straight into marketing.

6. What surprised you most about being published?
I think it’s been the response. I’m a little nobody from Waco, TX. Seriously, why would people want to talk to me, interview me, or even read my books. But, I love it even if I don’t understand it. Please keep contacting me and reading. I love you guys!

7. What advise would you give other unpublished authors who hope to interest your publishing house in their manuscript?
Be original and come with your “A” game. Have betas and cps read for you. Find a mentor and have them help you improve to the next level. Entangled Publishing is not your average publishing house and they are looking for a way to break molds but still apply to the mass public. It’s kind of my fave thing about them.

8. What reasons would you give an unpublished author for sending his or her manuscript to Entangled Publishing? What do you particularly like about your publishers?
I think I answered most of this above, but the biggest thing I love about them is the communication. This is my third publishing house to work with and by far it has been the most informative. I’ve learned so much from this press. And when we have a question, if the publisher, marketing director or our editor doesn’t know the answer, they find it for us. It’s truly amazing.

9. How has your life changed since being published?
I don’t sleep. Nocturnal took on a whole new meaning in my house. Lol.

10. Typically, how long does it take you to write a book? What’s your writing schedule?
I can push out 30K in a month when I’m hot on a story. Sometimes even more. It just really depends on how much a story means to me.

11. How do you get ideas for your stories?
Well, Piper’s Fury started out as a Graphic Novel. Lol. Straight X-Men-ish and latex jumpsuits. But, it wasn’t working. So four re-writes later and we had Piper. I wrote a short erotica for Whiskey Creek Press after witnessing an accident on the interstate. Men in blue looked really hot at 70 miles an hour. The Last Rising was inspired from the thunderstorm that hit Orlando, FL after the RWA National Conference in 2010. Read the book, and you’ll know why.

12. What excites you about your current work in progress?
I’m working on a YA. I’ve never written in this genre and the fresh voice is a comfort and a great break from the world of PR. Oh, and it has shifters which I hear are not that hot in YA anymore, but I’m going to make it work. I have faith. ;)

13. Could you share an excerpt from your book/s?
“Why is it I can’t get you out of my mind? You say we haven’t met, but my dreams remember you.”

Oh yeah, he’d dreamt of a woman for months now. She resembled his dream woman in so many ways, but he’d never seen his fantasy lover’s face.
She struggled against his clutch. “Mr. Alcott, I assure you we haven’t met. And for your other question, I don’t know why, but you need to release me.”
Why did that quivering bottom lip make him suspect she was lying? Turner rested his forehead against the top of hers and sucked in her scent. “Please, tell me I’m not losing my mind. Tell me you don’t visit me every night and I’ll promise to leave you alone. I just need to know.”
He sounded like a crazy man but she had to tell him. She was the only one who could put a stop to his mind’s constant fantasizing, and this feeling of déjà vu every time he saw her.
Ice wriggled in his arms, her thighs chafing against his slacks. “Mr. Alcott, you need to let me go.” She glanced around his shoulder. “Brodie is probably staring out that glass window and I would hate for him to get the wrong impression.”
She was right. He needed to get ahold of himself, but he didn’t have the strength to walk away. His hands traveled up and over her shoulders, stalling on her neck. Brushing his thumbs against her jaw, he pressed her head back and stared into hard eyes—no emotion. Couldn’t she see the battle he fought?
He teased the corner of her mouth with his thumb and her breathy gasp pleased him. So, she wasn’t completely immune to him. He dropped his head until his mouth hovered over hers.
“Mr. Alcott—”
“Shhh. I just need a taste of the sunshine.”

14. Where can readers find you on the web? (Twitter, blog, facebook, website)?

All of my links can be found at I’m on twitter by @RachelFirasek

Thank you for having me on the blog today. I look forward to answer any questions your guests have.

We hope you’ve found Rachel’s interview interesting. We appreciate your questions or comments.

Monday, October 3, 2011

Indie-Publishing: Who Are the New Gatekeepers?

If you’ve been around the romance business long enough, you’ve heard the term ‘Gatekeepers’ associated with agents and the Big 6, those mega corporations with publishing houses such as Avon, Berkley, St. Martins and Harlequin to name a few. These are the people standing between the unpublished writer and the reader.

The Agent Gatekeeper

The first obstacle in a writer’s path is the Agent Gatekeeper. Most of the NY Big 6 editors won’t even look at a manuscript from an author unless it’s handed to them dipped in Godiva chocolate and wrapped in gold by a literary agent. There are about 200 agents out there who handle romance, but most of them are overloaded and only taking on new clients if the author is previously published (with a stellar track record and an existing fan base) or they have something that’s uber hot for the moment and an easy sell. As the old saying goes, all the good ones are taken. But if you can snag one of them, you're still not in because there’s yet another gate to unlock . . .

The Editor Gatekeeper

I mentioned the Big 6 earlier. Under those 6 mega corporations, there are 13 major imprints that publish romance. Harlequin has imprints within imprints for all their series books, but the trick here is each line is so specific in how its books have to be written, that if that book doesn’t sell to that line, it’s next to impossible to sell it somewhere else. So let’s talk about those other 12 romance publishers. Each has a romance department with acquiring editors. I went to the RWA website to see just how many there are.

Avon – 8 editors
Ballantine/Bantam Dell – 5 editors
Berkley – 4 editors
HQN – 1 editor
Luna – 1 editor
Mira – 7 editors
Kensington – 7 editors
NAL – 6 editors
Sourcebooks – 2 editors
St. Martins – 3 editors
Pocket – 4 editors
TOR – 1 editor

Not counting Harlequin, which averages 3 editors per series line, you’ll see that there are 49 editors who acquire single title romance. Forty-nine people sitting in an office in NY determining which books out of the hundreds if not thousands written and submitted each year will make it onto the shelves for the entire romance reading public to buy. I don’t know about you, but I don’t think those are very good odds. If your manuscript doesn’t land on the right editor’s desk, the one who will fall in love with your voice and buy you, then too bad, so sad. Each person has their own personal tastes, their likes and dislikes. I know I have some authors who are Auto-buys and Keepers, while others are so-so or wall-bangers. But you know what? Those books that are so-so or wall-banging material for me might be someone else’s Keeper. And if I were an editor in NY, I might be the very gatekeeper preventing you from finding that book just because it doesn’t float my boat. Scary thought, isn’t it?

The New Gatekeepers

The good news is that with the surge of Indie Publishing, a new Gatekeeper has come on the scene and their voices are being heard. It’s the reader. Now there’s more choice than ever for the ravenous romance reader to choose from. Sure, there’s plenty of books that are getting slapped up on Amazon with crappy covers and shoddy editing, but as the saying goes, the cream rises to the top. There are some stellar books out there that got passed over because some agent had a full client list or an editor wasn’t in the mood for a light paranormal set in WWII Pompeii. But the new Gatekeepers are finding them. They’re letting it be known what stories they want, which authors they love, and who’s putting out the good books. I say it’s about time the power was given back to the people we write our stories for. Hurray for the New Gatekeepers!