Location, Location, Location by Pepper Phillips

Do you ever wonder why authors pick a certain location for their books?

In my latest release, Unconditionally, I picked a place that we visited once.  Calico Rock, Arkansas.


Calico Rock was named that due to the cliff the town sits on.  White, brown and black rocks make up the cliff and the river bed, much like the coloration of a calico cat, it only made sense to name it that.

In this story, our heroine decides to visit her mother and step-father.  The step-father is a fly fisherman.  He ties his own flies and goes fishing almost every day, much like my dad.  There is a young boy in the story and what kid doesn’t want to go fishing?  The most dramatic scene in the book takes place in the White River while Caroline and her family are fishing.

The man we visited there had his house backed up to a National Forest.  My son and I went exploring, and while in this beautiful place, we came across a hole in the ground, big enough for a person to stand in, if they could get between the two rocks that were standing on both sides with another rock on the top.  It looked man-made, but for what purpose, I haven’t a clue.  That became another element of the story.  And yes, for awhile, I thought we were lost.  Very scary when you’re in a forest with twenty thousand acres.

There were elements that I didn’t use, like the hundred or more hummingbirds that visited his porch during the day and evening, feeding off the two gallon size feeders.  There is nothing like sitting on a porch and have a hummingbird fly right in front of your face and hover so close to your eyes.  I didn’t realize that they would fight each other for a spot at the feeder.  There were several different varieties visiting, so it was entertainment for me.  Can you imagine the energy needed to flap your wings that fast?

I enjoyed my few days spent in Calico Rock, and someone asked me about a sequel, so I might have to go back…I read that there was an underground ghost town there, and I didn’t see it.  That would be a fun trip.

Check out my latest release here.  UNCONDITIONALLY

Here’s the description:

Shouldn’t love be unconditional?  Your parents, your spouse, your children, your closest friends?  Can we count on them loving us as we love them?  Sometimes not and what happens when you discover unconditional love for the first time?

A drama following one woman’s journey to discover if she can accept being loved, with and without conditions.

The End of Summer Means More Time to Read

Now that most of the kids have returned to school and we’re settling back into a routine, it’s time to start looking for that next new book. Tori Scott has a new release, Chemical Attraction, that’s a hot and sexy office romance with a twist!

A hot office romance with a twist.

When Keara Dane succeeds in developing a love potion that actually works, she finds herself in a world of trouble. From her sexy boss who’d ordered her to drop the project, to the geeky lab assistant who embarrasses himself over her, to getting kidnapped for the formula, Keara’s world is turned upside down and inside out. In the process, she learns that maybe, just maybe, dreams do come true.

Riley Vaughn knew Keara had completed the formula against his orders when she spills some on herself and he’s overcome with lust like he’s never known before. Once the effect wears off, he’s going to give Keara a piece of his mind. Until then, he’s going to give her a weekend of passion like nothing she’s ever experienced.

Chemical Attraction is just $1.99 and is available on Amazon, B & N, and Smashwords.


“Tori Scott delivered yet another winner. The book has everything, romance, sexual attraction, a little mystery and a whole lot of chemistry. Halfway through my first thought is where do i get some of this love potion? The characters are well written, the storyline flows well. Great novella overall. I recommend this story for anyone who likes a good romance, but short on time to sit and enjoy a good book all day.”

“Another hit for Tori Scott. Keara has the hots for her boss who also has feelings for her – but neither one knows it. Her work in his lab leads them both into love and trouble. I found myself trying to figure out the whodunit and couldn’t wait to finish the book. As with all Ms. Scott’s books, she creates characters and storylines you grow part of and care about…with just enough passion to make it a bit more fun. I hope Ms. Scott keeps ’em coming.”

What Romance Readers Want (a Guess by Stephanie Queen)

Does this cover shout “Romantic Comedy Suspense” to you?

According to the best seller lists, one (meaning me) would think that readers wanted nothing but erotic romance novels of the “Shades” series ilk (commonly termed “Spank Books”). But drilling down into the data, mostly driven by my disbelief, I’m not so sure about that.

Our dear readers (you) are much more complicated. As it turns out, almost half of the Amazon reviews for Shades are rated 1 star–with the other half being 5 stars. Geesh.

Scrolling down the list past the Shades look-alike titles, the next best seller is in a category called Mature Young Adult/New Adult. Easy by Tammara Webber turns out to be the hot version of a young adult romance–thus the new category. I’m sensing a pattern. One more indication of the popularity of titillating romance. So what’s new?

Well, nothing. But what I found interesting were the OTHER novels on the romance best seller list. One of them was Stephanie Bond’s latest romantic comedy Our Husband. Interestingly, many of the readers had never read Bond’s books before. Most of the Amazon reader reviews used words like, fun, funny, LOL, great characters, great mixture of mystery romance and comedy.  I could have been reading comments for one of Janet Evanovich’s Stephanie Plum series, especially when I read the comment “would make a great movie”.  Oh, and one other thing Bond’s novel has going for it–the price is 99 cents.

Apparently price matters–even for big names. Being an unknown author doesn’t matter so much–especially for the right price and the right topic. Being exceptionally well written doesn’t always matter according to the comments for Shades, but that may be an exception.

Personally, I was thrilled to see the romantic comedy mystery genre so well received and so many other readers excited by this mix. For fun new voices in romantic comedy mystery on the rise check out Carol Devaney’s A Smoky Mountain Christmas or J.M. Griffin’s  Murder on Spyglass Lane. For romantic comedy gems I recommend Joan Reeves, Sophia Knightly and Gemma Halliday.

Since I love reading romantic comedies with a twist of suspense, it’s no wonder I write them. My series on the Scotland Yard Exchange Program started with The Throwbacks, but the world and many of the characters were introduced in Between a Rock and a Mad Woman, which is now free! The next book in this romantic comedy caper series, The Hot Shots, cover shown here, will be available next month.

What do you think? Does the cover of The Hot Shots shout romantic comedy suspense? If not, what do you see? I’m curious about your thoughts, so don’t be shy!

A different back-to-school by Mona Risk

All over the nation, children are preparing to go back to school, and exhausted mothers are counting the days with a subtle smile. Imagine if it’s a mom with two teenagers who’s preparing to go back to study for a degree. It happened to me years ago.

What prompted my decision was a medical problem: two slipped disks in my back and continuous pain due to standing in a research lab for hours and days, running analyses and developing new procedures. After spending two months lying down, taking pain killers, and wearing a brace around my hips, my doctor declared, “You can’t continue to work in a lab. You’ll have to find yourself something else to do.” I agreed with him. But the lab was my life. So I decided to go back to graduate school and prepare a Ph.D. in chemistry.

My children were ten and fourteen the day I sat again in a classroom. I was a nervous wreck. Would I be able to understand the textbooks’ jargon after so many years away? Would I have time to study with all my responsibilities as a mother and a wife to a husband who continuously traveled for business? Would I be able to pass the exams? Would I be accepted by the younger students?

I put aside my usual clothing, wore jeans, t-shirts, and sneakers to look like the others. To my husband’s horror, soon my jeans exhibited a hole on the thigh due to a drop of nitric acid. “You’re not going to wear THIS?” Sure I did.

At night, I insisted the kids turn off their radios, stereos —there was no iPod, or iPad at the time— and told them they could sit with me at the dining room table to do home work or stay in their rooms and be quiet. Before my first exam, I swallowed two aspirins to calm myself and answered correctly. Thank God I did well. I continued taking the aspirins before each exam. Is it any wonder I destroyed my stomach and got myself an incurable ulcer?

Going back to school had more fringe benefits than working full time. A mother being always a mother, I used my flexible hours wisely and attended soccer practice, baseball games, and ballet lesson, but I always had a book with me and tried to study.

During the first year, I didn’t mingle much and the students thought I was newly married. I let them believe what they wanted. Then one day, my daughter called me at school. Another student took the call. You should have seen her face when she said, “A little girl called saying she’s your daughter.” I just nodded, but eventually I answered their questions about my daughter’s age, etc…

My son remained a secret until graduation. By then I was comfortable enough in my student skin to introduce him to my friends and colleagues. During my third year, he was applying for college and adamantly refused to go to U.C. while I was still there. “What would I do if we meet on campus? Can you see me telling my friends, ‘this is my Mom’?” I didn’t see anything wrong with that, but according to my son, it was very tacky!

My husband, kids, and parents attended my graduation. My professor was very proud of his mom-student, and had me carry the graduate school banner leading the entering procession for the graduation ceremony.

Many years later, I abandoned chemistry and work, and threw myself, with the same tenacity, into the romance world, and I learned to be a romance writer.

My latest book, NEIGHBORS and MORE, is a romantic suspense, and the first book of the High Rise Series. It’s available at Amazon. http://tinyurl.com/96bjqcm

High Rises are like large families where members face love, hate, meddling, and gossiping. When the neighbor who was harassing her is found dead in the Jacuzzi, Alexa is a prime suspect. Can she count on her dear neighbors, including the delectable Italian, Dante, for help? With too many skeletons in their own closets, would they save her or incriminate her?

Close to My Heart by Carol DeVaney

Over the years many people have made a mark on my life, but none so significant as my mom. I’m sure if I polled that statement, Mom would come in first in the highest percentage of voters. Good or bad, a Mom’s decisions are usually spot-on. Whether we agree or not.

My mom turned ninety in April and still, of course, often voices her opinion. If you don’t want to hear what she has to say, don’t ask. What mother doesn’t? Seven children later she’s lived long enough to have seen it all, there were no paint by numbers resolutions for this lady. Even when she clamps down and says nothing, her expressions reveal her active mind is still at work. We’ve all seen that look. Ha! But, her heart is big and she’s fierce about taking an underdog under her wings.

Characters I bring to life in my books, must have the Mom staying power applied to their lives. Different phases of their personal history, combined with a specific goal and the outcome, is what I strive for. Do I struggle with the aspects of the story? You bet I do.

My son and I talked about an actress the other night. I asked him if he thought the lady was gorgeous or not. He admitted she was okay. It was then my grandson voiced his opinion. But not as pretty as Mom. What an honest and sincere statement. That’s a revelation from our young. No thinking about it, it just is  truth to him.

While I attempt a character that’s true to life, I think about all these things and how their comments bring about simple, yet a genuine accounting with premise.

The more I write, the more enjoyable characters become. They are you. They are me. They are Mom. They are so many personalities rolled into one.

Please visit my website to find out more about my books.

Thanks, Mr. Enright by Susan R. Hughes

Awesome hair 1989

The other day I came across my old high-school yearbook. Leafing through it, I found an inscription by my grade 12 Creative Writing teacher, Mr. Enright:

Susan, do not let time force you into non-productivity. You have a message someone needs to see in your writing. Remember me when you’re famous.

High school wasn’t easy for me. Painfully shy and awkward, I fell victim to the “mean girls” in my grade. I found refuge in music (on my Walkman) and creative writing (typed on my Atari computer). My goal was to write young adult novels; I wrote the first few chapters of quite a few but never finished any. For Creative Writing class I decided to write a novella encompassing the whole spectrum of teen angst: alcoholism, drugs, child abuse, first love, sex, none of which I’d experienced myself! It was terribly over the top, and I never did finish it. Nonetheless, I had to present it to the class—my worst nightmare.

I got through the presentation, and when I spoke to Mr. Enright about how terrifying it had been, he said: “The class was in awe. You’ve created this whole world from your imagination.” I’m not sure the class was really all that impressed, but he did sum up what I loved, and still love, about writing.

He was also right about time. After high school I got my English degree, took a publishing course, became a proofreader then an editor, married my sweetheart and started having kids. Writing went to the back burner. When I finally completed a novel, it wasn’t a teen story but an adult romance. It took over a decade but I had found my genre.

I may not be famous yet, but I will never forget the teacher who saw potential in my writing and took the time to encourage me to continue. His words mean just as much to me now as they did then.

Please visit my website to find out more about my books.


Rules of WRITE CLUB by Joan Reeves

Scents and Sensuality, a Romantic Comedy, by Joan Reeves

Scents and Sensuality, a Romantic Comedy, by Joan Reeves

Do you know the 1999 movie Fight Club? My sons – and my daughters too – love the Brad Pitt/Edward Norton film. It’s so much a part of pop culture that you see references to it in other TV shows. On NCIS, the character Anthony DiNozzo, played by Michael Weatherly had a running gag through an episode in which he recited the Rules of Fight Club.

I think writers can learn a lot from those rules – especially if I tweak the concept and rules a bit and slant them toward writers.

Readers, stick around. I think you’ll find this entertaining too as I bring you:


1st RULE of WRITE CLUB: You do not talk about writing. You write.

2nd RULE of WRITE CLUB: You DO NOT talk about writing. You write.

3rd RULE of WRITE CLUB: If someone says “stop” or goes limp, taps out, the fight is NEVER over. If you slip up, you keep writing.

4th RULE of WRITE CLUB: Only one guy to a write. That’s correct – you do it alone. Day by day. In sickness and health.

5th RULE of WRITE CLUB: One write at a time. Focus on the book at hand. Don’t be seduced by the siren call of other characters and ideas.

6th RULE of WRITE CLUB: No shirts, no shoes. No clothes. Who cares? You’re in this fight alone, writing by yourself, in the privacy of your office and your imaginary world. Wear any darn thing you want, or don’t. Who’s to know?

7th RULE of WRITE CLUB: Writes will go on as long as they have to. A book is finished when it’s finished. Only you know when that is.

(Joan Reeves writes funny, sexy Romantic Comedy. Her books are available at all major ebook sellers. In late August, you will also find them as audio books at iTunes, Amazon, and Audible. Joan publishes Writing Hacks, a free subscription newsletter for writers, and Wordplay, a free subscription newsletter for readers. For info or signup forms, visit: http://SlingWords.blogspot.com or http://www.JoanReeves.com.)

Slainte (to-your-health) and Cheers to the August Chaos.

Is anyone else out there wondering, where did the summer go? I’ve got I-want-summer-to-stay syndrome…badly.

So far this August, I’ve tried to squeeze in the state fair, the Bristol Renaissance Faire, and a whirl-wind trip to Door County, WI before my daughter goes back to college and my son back to school. Oh and guess what, tomorrow the world’s largest Celtic Festival, Irish Fest, begins at the Milwaukee Summerfest grounds! Yeah!!!

My family and I look forward to Irish Fest all year. We are in the parade, daily. We usually sponsor a team for the run/walk for arthritis research the Saturday of the Fest. This year we’re sponsoring two teams: Team East-West Connection Martial Arts and Wellness studio and Team Macski’s Highland Haggis. So much fun and so much, well, time.

I registered my son for school today, decided on haggis shirts and logo for the Labor Day Highland Games, waited for my husband’s EKG and blood work results (he’s having out-patient surgery in September) and then had an Oh Shi* moment when I realized, at 2:05pm, that it’s the third Wednesday of the month and my day to blog.

So here I am, blogging.

I really thought when I gave up going to court every day that my days would be less hectic and I’d get more done. They are. And, I do, for the most part. And then there’s August…sigh. The month where everything gets squeezed in as we try, or at least I try, to eek out every minute of family togetherness before my daughter gets all wrapped up in school and labs and the chaos every bright, overly stressed, college student experiences.

There’s also the desire to live every minute of daylight August has to offer and enjoy the cooling nights while their softness lasts. So, friends, my blog today is about that welcome chaos the end of summer brings. I love this time of year where festivals and being outside are ends in themselves, where we reap the early harvest from our gardens or the local farmer’s market, where I am reminded more particularly than any other time of year besides winter break and the Christmas season, of the importance of being with my family in every moment.

I’ve been to Irish Fest every year since it’s creation in 1981. First with my parents. Then with my husband and my parents. Then with my husband, my children and my parents. Sadly, my parents can no longer negotiate the expansive and crowded grounds, so now it’s my family and me. Some day, in the not so distant future, I will be going with my husband, our children and our grandchildren. Hopefully by then we will be living at least part of the year in Argyll and part of the year in New Mexico. No matter where we end up, for four days every August I will live with my family at Irish Fest.

Summer is important for many reasons, but the most important is the added time with my family. August in particular, because these are the days when family bonding is clear and immediate. These are the days memories are not only made, but solidified. It’s a time to reap the seeds we’ve sown from early days sent enjoying time together. I’ve enjoyed the early summer calm and even the late summer chaos. I hope I’ll be enjoying that chaos every August for the rest of my life, with my family around me.

So I raise a proverbial glass to you and whatever makes you revel in joy this August as I say: Slainte! (to your health).

My Scottish Blessing to you: In every moment of chaos may you be blessed with loving family…may the chaos flee quickly and the loving remain…may you live every day with a festival in your heart, music in your soul and a dance in your step.

What does August and the ending of summer bring to you? What summer traditions fill you with quiet pleasure or jolts of joy?

Conspiracy Theories

Have you ever felt that heaven or hell is conspiring against you? As I struggled to upload my newly released novel, The Rhyme’s Library, I knew that I had either demons sitting on my shoulder giggling gleefully at my frustration, or editor angels trying to protect me from embarrassing myself by publishing a not ready for the world novel. I still do not know if I had angels or demons possessing my computer that day…the day I did not upload my novel.

Because I try to live by the Mom Rule of work first, play (write) later, I completed all my packing, cleaning, errands that needed to be done before our family vacation. Finally, at the end of my very long day I sat down to upload my novel.

I went to Smashwords, typed in the short description, the long description, set the price, uploaded the cover, and signed all the agreements.

And it didn’t work. At the bottom of the page it read “error.” When I went to bed Smashwords was still erring.

No worries—I was bringing a laptop and could complete the uploading at the hotel. We arrived in Philadelphia safely but the computer did not. Sigh. Four jammed packed fun filled days and four states later, I sat down at the New York City Public Library. (Never been there? You have to go—it’s one of my very favorite places in the world. Pictures to follow.) Visitors are allowed 45 minutes on a computer after a rather lengthy and tedious log-in process.

I sat down to upload my novel to Smashwords. I typed in the short description, the long description, set the price, uploaded the cover, and signed all the agreements.

And the computer froze. Mouse, curser, swearing, pleading…nothing worked. I closed down the computer and waited for it to reload. I now had 20 minutes remaining, so I completed the lengthy sign in process and…

I typed in the short description, the long description, set the price, uploaded the cover, and signed all the agreements.

And with only minutes to spare, The Rhyme’s Library successfully uploaded to the Smashwords site.

At the moment I’m sitting in the basement of the hotel next to a noisy ice machine. Another day of the sights and excitement of New York City is about to begin (after my daughters get out of the shower.) While I’m doing the things that lucky people do in NYC, my novel is floating in the cyber world, waiting to show up on Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Apple.

Are editor angels moaning in despair at my stupidity or cheering for my success? Are demons giggling at my fool-hardiness or cursing my Smashwords know-how. I might not ever know. All I can be sure of is—the deed is done.

Good news! I just checked and The Rhyme’s Library is up on Amazon.

Crazy Aunt Charlotte is missing again. Blair Rhyme, Rose Arbor’s young librarian, doesn’t bother to check Charlotte’s regular haunts — the Veteran’s of Foreign Wars lodge, the Four H-Club, or the bins behind Milton’s Fish shop – because Charlotte is dead. Blair discovered her body amongst the boxes of what-nots and whatevers in the library’s basement. Unfortunately, when she returns to the library with the police Charlotte is missing. Again.

Desperate to prove that she doesn’t share her aunt’s mental illness and that Charlotte really has been murdered, Blair tangles with a former lover, a disturbingly handsome stranger and a wacky cast of Rose Arbor characters.

At first Blair tries to dismiss the skin-pricking sensation of being watched, but as small disturbances grow increasingly threatening, she must confront the enemies, real or imagined, that drove her aunt to madness and death in the Rhyme’s Library.

Book of Your Heart

You know the one I’m talking about…the book that seemed to write itself, the one you were sure was “The One” even before you started editing it. This was going to be the one to net you an agent, who would sell instantly to a publisher, in a bidding war no less, and catapult you to the bestseller lists.  When you are done laughing hysterically we will continue.

Done now? Good! Because I spent five years trying to sell the Book of My Heart. I so believed in that book that I did the unthinkable. I had an agent appointment at a conference and I said, “Of course it is finished.” Ha! Teach me to lie. They wanted the full. I went home and wrote 2/3 of a book in two weeks. 50,000 words in 14 days. I thought I would need carpal tunnel surgery by the time I was done. The words flew onto the page. The book had been in my head for years, it just wasn’t on the page yet.

Over the years I’ve had great rejection letters, but no bites. Requests for fulls and no, thank you. Just last month I got it returned from a publisher with “…the writing is fresh and strong but can you change everything about it?” Just a few years ago that book would have gone to rest on my hard drive, probably to be taken out a few times a year to edit a little, to send out a little, and to break my heart a little, as no one wanted the Book of My Heart.

Thanks to Indie publishing that book is now live. It doesn’t matter if it sells a hundred copies or a million, although I am always dreaming about a million. 🙂  It is out there and available for the world to see. Nikki and Sean are live for the readers to fall in love with as much as I love them. My husband thinks I went too far outside the box, we shall see.

Dangerous Shift by Jill James
Paranormal Romantic Suspense
Shapeshifter cops race to stop a killer virus from becoming a species extinction event.

Available on Amazon, BN.com, Smashwords, and All Romance eBooks and coming in print.