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Almost all writers have moments when the Muse goes on vacation and leaves you behind. There are many suggestions for breaking the “block.” The most important, I’ve found, is to put you posterior in the chair and write…something…anything. It depends a little on where I am in the piece I’m writing and how much time I have to dink around.
If it’s a particular scene I need to write, I reread my one-page story board to see where I thought I was going, then I read the preceding three or four chapters to get back into the flow. If that doesn’t work, I sometimes use an unconventional method. I try to think about a scene that’s similar from someone else’s book—at least similar in what it needs to accomplish. Then I just start copying that other author’s scene, filling in my characters and the situation in my book. It usually takes one or two paragraphs to break the block. Then, when I rewrite the scene in my voice, to fit my own story, there isn’t anything left of the other author’s work (and certainly no plagiarism), but it breaks the block.
2.What’s the weirdest thing you’ve ever done in the name of research?
It isn’t weird, but probably the most dangerous thing was driving by myself from Messina, Sicily, to Palermo, to the other side of the Sicily and back. This was in the mid-eighties, and I’d gone to Sicily to do more research on my historical Mafia novel. I needed to figure out how long it would take my heroine had to drive the distance in the novel, and I wanted to see what the countryside looked like in the Peloritani mountains.
My husband and I were staying with his family in Messina, but he never wants to drive anywhere, so I rented a Fiat and announced I was going alone. My husband’s family had a fit, but I went anyway. I managed to burn out a gear on the rented Fiat, traveled for a zillion hours on narrow, winding back roads, and hardly ever saw anyone. It turned out to be very remote.
This was in the “olden days” when we didn’t have cell phones, and they wouldn’t have worked in the remote mountains anyway. If something had gone wrong, I didn’t speak Italian well enough to explain, I couldn’t have made a call from a pay phone (if there were any in the villages), etc. It wasn’t until I returned to Messina three days later that I realized how dangerous it might have been. As my father would have said, “Better luck than sense.”
3. Where do you as an author draw the line on gory descriptions and/or erotic content?
It’s a hard to describe line. How gory or erotic (although I don’t write “erotica”) depends on the type of novel I’m writing. I write gory scenes for murder mysteries, but wouldn’t be too gory in a romantic suspense, even a gritty one.
A lot of an author’s “line drawing” relates to what the individual feels comfortable about writing. Writing is an emotional drain for any author because you have to experience and feel the emotions along with the characters and deal with the topics they deal with. That can be quite overwhelming, but if you don’t feel the emotions, your readers won’t either. And that is part of why readers read.
I wrote a murder mystery in which I intended to deal with sexual abuse of children. It ended up a good mystery, but I simply couldn’t bring myself to write the details or address the subject matter the way I wanted.
A last word on this. Remember that gory and erotic are two areas where less can be a whole lot more.
4. What tools do you feel are must-haves for writers?
When someone says tools for writers, I immediately think of reference books. There are many great books for writers available, and we all have our favorites. These are the ones I use consistently.
Writing the Breakout Novel by Donald Maas
The Novel Writers’ Toolkit by Bob Mayer
G.M.C.Goal, Motivation, and Conflict by Debra Dixon
Double Your Creative Power by S.L.Stebel
Fiction is Folks by Robert Newton Peck
The Power of Point of View by Alicia Rasley
Grammatically Correct by Anne Stilman
The Elements of Style by Stunk & White.
Chicago Manual of Style
Flip Dictionary by Barbara Ann Kipfer
5. Tell us about your latest book.
All For A Fist Full Of Ashes is the second novel in a romantic suspense series entitled Tour Director Extraordinaire. The lead characters are the same in each book, but the romance moves to a new level in each, while the external spy story is resolved.
● Meet Harriet Ruby, Tour Director Extraordinaire
She’s an intelligent, well-balanced but over-trusting young woman whose biggest problem is that she doesn’t have any real problems. For twenty-four years, her life has been good but predictable and ordinary. When she graduates from MIT, she wants a little out-of-the ordinary excitement before she settles down to career and family.
She takes a position as a tour director in Europe, but instead of being a trainee, she is responsible for a small group touring Spain and Morocco. Okay, she can handle that. She’s resourceful, smart, and determined to be the best tour director ever. All goes well until she and her group get lost in the medina in Tangier…and one of her tourists dies.
Will Talbot, a handsome stranger and Europol spy in disguise, offers to help her smuggle the body out of Morocco. At that moment, Harriet’s once-predictable life turns upside down and will never be the same again.
Little does she know that getting out of Morocco is only the beginning.
● Meet Will Talbot, Mysterious Spy
Tall, dark and to-die-for gorgeous, this spy and ex-Special Forces contract operative for the US government has a troubled past, huge issues with trust and guilt, and a calling to rescue innocent victims.
He’s everything perfect on the outside that a principled spy should be—intelligent, intense, self disciplined, creative and intuitive, and with a great sense of humor to boot—definitely larger than life. But vulnerable on the inside and out of touch with his emotions.
Nothing in his action-filled, dangerous existence could have prepared him for Harriet Ruby.
● Water And Fire
Harriet and Will’s intense magnetic attraction to each other creates a volatile combination. Together, they experience hilarious misadventures, great sex, and life-threatening journeys in pursuit of murderers, smugglers, terrorists, and a once-in-a-lifetime love.
● All For A Fist Full Of Ashes
In Book 2 Will and Harriet have been seeing each other for a year and have agreed to a no-strings attached, sexual relationship, but there’s no denying the feelings are far more than casual. They come together on the job in Italy.
Breathless Press Buy Link
E-book format only – 97K
A fast-paced romp through Italy with tour director, Harriet Ruby, and handsome spy, Will Talbot, in hot pursuit of a lost grave and an assassin.
I’m Harriet Ruby: Tour Director Extraordinaire. At least, I thought I was worthy of that title, until…
My first mistake: Agreeing to conduct a private tour of Italy. Fourteen Italian-Americans from New Jersey? All family, for three weeks, with four teenagers? What was I thinking? Fate responds to my engraved invitation by placing one of the family under surveillance as a suspect in an assassination plot, and who is assigned to the case? None other than my favorite drop-dead-gorgeous spy, Will Talbot.
My second mistake: Allowing Will to coax an invitation from the family matriarch to join the tour.
And that was just the beginning. The matriarch, searching for the unknown location of her mother’s grave so she can bury her brother’s cremated ashes (which have been smuggled into Italy wrapped in Cuban cigars), and her quirky family members sweep through Italy leaving chaos, hilarity, and danger in their wake.
“Did you actually meet Gianni Barbera?”
That cooled me off a bit. Oh, boy. How much should I tell him? “Yes, he sat next to me at dinner.”
“What’s your opinion?”
“It’s my opinion that we have plenty of time to talk about this later.”
Oo-kay, let’s see if I’ve learned anything about acting. “He was charming, polished, and polite but distant, which I took to mean he didn’t suspect any threat. And in my humble opinion, he’s the primary decision maker.”
Will hesitated a beat. “Okay, that fits with what I know. Now, what aren’t you telling me?”
“What makes you think I’m not telling you everything?”
He kissed me again and let his hands rove, getting me all heated up on purpose. He knew how to break down my defenses. God, he’s good.
My resistance dwindled. “Oh, well, all right. I didn’t score high marks with the fly-on-the-wall thing.” No big surprise there. I told him about my confrontation with the tablecloth.
He groaned, but didn’t say anything or criticize. Maybe I would get off easy.
Jeez. I needed to brush up on my fibbing skills. “There’s nothing else…hmm, except that I guess I flirted with him a little. But only to get information for you.”
“And what?” Didn’t this guy ever give up? I added obnoxiously persistent to my mental list of his qualities.
“Out with it. You know you’re a rotten liar.” He didn’t sound angry, merely relentless in his pursuit of knowledge.
“We-ell…he sort of looked up my skirt.”
That reaction made me all defensive. I rolled out of his arms and sat up. “It’s not like it sounds. It wasn’t in private or anything. It happened in front of everybody.”
A long heavy silence ensued. “Shit!”
I punched him lightly on the shoulder. “Will, stop it. It’s nothing like you’re implying. Everyone in the room looked up my skirt. I was trying to get off the dining table.”
He heaved a resigned sigh. “You’re way off base if you think that’s going to help. What were you doing on the table?”
“Standing, of course. And nobody could really see anything except my pantyhose and thong.”
He flopped on his back and flung his forearm over his eyes. “Lord, give me strength.”
“Do you want to hear the rest of this or not?”
“Am I going to hate it?”
“You shouldn’t. And talking about this now was your bright idea.”
I blew out an exasperated breath and told him about the argument over the burial of the ashes in the family tomb, and how I’d stopped it.
“Harriet Ruby, you are something else.” He didn’t take his arm away from his face. “I’m glad I wasn’t there. I can’t take the stress.”
“We learned a lot more this way. This spy thing is actually kind of fun.”
7. Do you have anything new in the works and can you tell us a bit about it?
I have several novels and short stories coming out in the next six months.
● Halloween in the Catacombs – Short Story 2 in the Tour Director Extraordinaire Series – A free read coming in October
● Destruction of the Great Wall – Book 3 in the Tour Director Extraordinaire Series
Coming in November
● All In The Game
Sci Fi Romance – Coming in November
● First Christmas Follies – Short Story 3 in the Tour Director Extraordinaire Series
A free read coming in late November
● All For Spilled Blood – Book 4 in the Tour Director Extraordinaire Series
Coming in February 2013
The one I’d like to tell you about is All In The Game. I’ve always loved science fiction, and this is my first Sci Fi Romance, so this coming release is exciting for me.
Shauna Evans, a romance author with problems maintaining relationships with men, promises to help a family friend of her literary agent write a video game to appeal to the women’s market. Shauna owes her agent, and it will only take a few days. She soon discovers that the friend, Donlyn Kennedy, isn’t the nerd she imagined. He’s a serious physicist and mathematician doing research for NASA, and the game is part of experiments he is conducting with new virtual reality and artificial intelligence technologies.
When Shauna and Don test the game in a simulator, they are transported physically into the imaginary game world, far in the future in a distant galaxy, where they exist as lead characters in the video game. The only way back to their reality is to work cooperatively to win the game from the inside. A daunting task when they find themselves as leaders on opposite sides of a military conflict and an alien invasion.
Shauna must battle the personality of game character, Commander Shauna, with whom she shares a body and consciousness, to keep from losing her own identify and becoming absorbed into the game character.
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Here’s the short―just give me the facts, ma’am―version. I grew up in southern California (my father was a lawyer and a State Senator), I have a degree in Architecture from UC Berkeley, and I’m retired from a 37-year career as an architect/urban land use planner (which makes me older than dirt). I’ve been married to the same man for more than 48 years (an Italian policeman from Sicily whom I met at the Fountain of Love on my first day in Rome). We have three grown children and eight grandchildren. Now, I write humorous romantic suspense novels which are published by Breathless Press and have one Mafia thriller published. Ta da!
My two passions (after sex, of course―well, you wouldn’t expect me to lie about that, would you?) are traveling the world and writing fiction. I combine those loves into novels which transport readers to exotic settings and immerse them in romance, intrigue, and foreign cultures…and make them laugh.
I live in San Diego, California with my husband (no pets anymore, but lots of gophers and wild rabbits, one which lives under the workbench in our garage) and write full time. I’ve been active in Romance Writers of America since 1985 and have served my local chapter in a variety of offices. My hobby is quilting and my favorite sport, riding quads in the desert.