Karen Ranney aka Katherine Storm

When I started writing Murder by Mortgage, it was a test to see if I could. After nearly twenty years of writing historical romance, did I even have a contemporary voice anymore? The first books I wrote were contemporaries, but I put them in the closet when my historical romances sold.

I write what I like to read, which is a good rule for any writer, I think. I love mysteries, especially character driven mysteries, because people are always more important to me than plot.

One day, I was driving through an area of San Antonio renowned for its Victorian homes. I wondered about the people who lived in one particular house. As I sat at the light, Jennifer Roberts was born, and the plot to Murder by Mortgage solidified.

Jennifer was struggling to cope with life. Her daughter’s death, eight months ago, had left her feeling shattered and guilty. Her best friend, Evelyn, was a link to the world outside her house. But one horrible day, someone murdered Evelyn. Paradoxically, it was Evelyn’s death that pulled Jennifer out of the fog and introduced her to life again.

Murder by Mortgage isn’t a light and fluffy mystery, but one centering around Jennifer’s struggles to cope with life and the murder of her best friend. At the end of the book, Jennifer began to function, assert herself, and realize that she could be happy again, despite the past. (I think that’s a recurring theme in my writing.)

When I finished writing Murder by Mortgage, I realized that, in a great many ways, writing a mystery is similar to writing romance.

I love happy endings.

I love the full circle feeling of a good book. I love that the guy gets the girl, the girl gets the guy, and both of them get a happy ever after. I love the hint of possibilities. I love that people can focus on joy.

Maybe it’s the Pollyanna in me.

To my delight, I discovered that mysteries are similar in a reader’s expectations.

The bad guy has to be punished.

The good guy must be a hero.

Justice must triumph.

In other words, a happy ever after.

So, I haven’t strayed too far from my roots after all.

My alter ego name is Katherine Storm, but I’m really Karen Ranney, and I’ve been published since 1995 in historical romance, hitting the New York Times and USA Today bestseller lists.

I hope you get a chance to read Murder by Mortgage, available on Kindle, Smashwords, and Barnes & Noble, and let me know what you think.

Karen Ranney




Twitter: @karen_ranney



Lexi, thanks for sharing/celebrating your release day with Manic Readers!

I’ve read DEMON HUNTING IN DIXIE and had a large time with it…very funny, very Southern.

Have you always wanted to write?

Yes, the spoken word has always been a passion of mine.  I was the geek in elementary school with a book in her hands.  I started writing poetry in the third grade.  I continued to write poetry (badly, I might add) all the way through college.  Then I decided to go to law school and the words dried up.  I think the Rule Against Perpetuities scared them away.  I know it certainly scared me!

After law school, I got a job as a criminal appellate attorney, which means I read transcripts of criminal trials and file briefs in support of the State in the appellate courts.  I soon discovered man’s limitless capacity for doing rude things to one another, a grim business on a day to day basis.  I found my escape in romance novels, reading two or three of them a week.

When my first child was a toddler I started writing again, my first attempt at fiction, a fantasy romance about a middle-aged widow who gets sucked into another world where magic and monsters are real.   I had such fun with it. I was hooked.

I think the Rule Against Perpetuities would scare me too.

Tell us about your road to getting published, length of time, and number of rejections.  Is Demon Hunting in Dixie the same book you started with?

I started writing fiction sixteen years ago, with that fantasy romance I mentioned earlier.  I worked on that first book for more than ten years.  I had no clue what I was doing, but I loved writing.  I read books on writing, went to workshops, scoured the internet for articles and wrote and wrote and wrote.  My husband likes to say I am consumed.

Five years ago, I joined a writer’s group, which was a huge plus.  I also joined RWA and found Southern Magic, the Birmingham chapter of the RWA.  How wonderful to have people to talk to who share and understand my . . .er . . .insanity!

I started querying the fantasy romance and came face to face with a big brick wall.  No one would even look at it.  After racking up over 100 rejections in three years, I finally got a clue that the time was not right for that book, and decided to try my hand at writing a romance.  Demon Hunting in Dixie is the result.  I took me a year to write.  During that time, I entered it in several romance contests and got positive feedback.  I was psyched!

In January of 2010, I sent out queries and got a satisfying number of requests from agents.  I sent off the requested material with high hopes.  This was it!  I was on the right track!  I would, at long last, get an agent and get published.  My long time dream was coming true.

Then the rejections started pouring in—45 of them in all.  The consensus was that light paranormal doesn’t sell.  I was devastated; another series dead in the water.  I went on my local RWA loop and whined and a woman I hardly knew at the time emailed me at home.  Have you thought about querying an editor? She asked.  You should read this on-line interview with Megan Records at Kensington and shoot her a query letter.

I went on-line and read the interview.  Megan was asked, What’s hot in paranormal romance? She replied that she saw a lot of dark PN but not much funny anymore but she’d like to.

Gasp!  I write funny!

I sent her a query letter, and she requested the full.  A month later (March 11, 2010 to be exact!) I got a strange out-of-state call on my cell phone.  I thought it was a wrong number and almost didn’t answer it. Boy, am I ever glad I did!  It was Megan.  She wanted to buy Demon Hunting in Dixie and offered me a three-book deal.  Good thing I wasn’t driving at the time.  I would have run the car up a light pole!

You certainly do write funny.  I love me some dark but I really need that levity too…

What inspires you?  What gets those creative juices flowing?

I will tell you the truth.  When I first started writing, I had this vision of a writer hunched over a keyboard like Beethoven at a piano, the words flowing effortlessly from her fingertips.  I couldn’t have been more wrong.  Writing is hard and it’s work.  The days where the words come easily to me are few and far between.  Sometimes, I get those days when the muse is with me and my characters are talking and things flow smoothly.  It feels . . . effortless, or relatively so.  Most days, however, I am sitting, butt in chair, pulling the words out one by one, like weeds out of dry ground.  I do a lot of praying, and that helps!

Why demons in small town Alabama?

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard the adage to write what you know.  I had no idea what it meant until I started writing this book.  I’m from a small town, I live in a small town; this is my world.  And I thought it would be really funny to have an immortal, emotionless, badass demon hunter run smack into a Southern gal and have his leather socks knocked off.

I can testify that he does & what a hoot.  I laughed out loud throughout and annoyed my family no end..

Why paranormal & not contemporary, historical, or inspirational?

I love magic and fairy tales and mystical creatures, so paranormal appealed to me at a visceral level.  It’s fun to write.  You can let your imagination run wild and make up your own rules for your own universe.  Awesome!

How much research into demons etc is involved or are they wholly your creation in this form?

The Dalvahni are my creation.  Brand, the demon hunter in the first book, is stern and emotionless, living only for the hunt—until he meets Addy Corwin and she rocks his world.  I love the juxtaposition of the medieval alpha male demon hunter with life in a small Southern town and the sparks that fly when he meets Addy and falls in love for the first time.  Great fun to write.

And to read..

Plans for continuation?

Oh, yes, I certainly hope so!  I have six books in mind for the series, but we will have to see how the first three do.  Publishing is a business, after all, and I have to hold up my end of the bargain and that means writing books that sell.  Yikes, no pressure there!  In August, I have a novella coming out as part of a Halloween anthology from Kensington entitled So I Married A Demon Slayer. I’m thrilled to be in the anthology with bestselling authors Angie Fox and Kathy Love.  My novella is set in Hannah, the same small town as Demon Hunting in Dixie. I am hard at work on book two of the series, Demon Hunting in the Deep South, which will be released in 2012.  The third book in the series comes out the year after that.

Congrats on getting in the anthology!  I’m really looking forward to the anthology & next 2 books.  I need all the humor I can get in my life…Thanks so much for visiting today Lexi, I’ve enjoyed it heaps.  Lexi has generously offered to give 2 ARC’s away.  Meaningful comments only and the winners will be chosen at random…


Check Lexi out at her website above.  If you’re looking for LOL funny with authentic Southern flair look no further & park yourself with DEMON HUNTING IN DIXIE.  I don’t think you’ll be disappointed.

SET THE NIGHT ON FIRE with Libby Hellmann

Ms. Hellmann, thank you for making the time to visit with Manic Readers today.

Can you please tell those who aren’t familiar with them a bit about your two series?  There’s Ellie Foreman and the spin-off Georgia Davis series.

Ellie Foreman is a video producer and a single mother. She has a teen-age daughter and a senior citizen father, so she’s part of the sandwich generation. She’s also got an ex-husband who shows up at the worst times. (Don’t we all?) The books – there are 4 of them – are not cozy; in fact, they are quite suspenseful and some of them are partially historical, but Ellie does have a wry sense of humor. For that reason I call them a cross between “Desperate Housewives” and “24.”

Georgia Davis showed up in the third Ellie book, AN IMAGE OF DEATH. She was a cop, but I always knew from the time she popped onto the page that she would have her own book one day. I just had to wait for the right story. That story was my 5th novel, EASY INNOCENCE. The Georgia books are grittier and more hard-boiled than the Ellie books, but in one of them, DOUBLEBACK, Ellie joins Georgia in investigating a case. Georgia is no longer a cop, btw. She’s a Chicago PI.

You’re a former national president for Sisters in Crime. Can you tell us more about SIC?  I’ve read some of those anthologies and highly enjoyed them.

Sisters in Crime is a 3400 member organization committed to the professional development of female mystery authors. Anthologies are just one of our projects. We maintain a data base on the comparison of reviews be male vs femal authors; we advocate for a more level playing field, financially speaking, and we create and implement programs to educate our members. You do not need to be a writer to join SINC. Just someone who believes in the development of female writers.

What about the CHICAGO BLUES mystery anthology?  That sounds like a great read.

I was privileged to edit this anthology. It includes stories from the best of Chicago authors, including Sara Paretsky, Marcus Sakey, Sean Chercover, Max Allan Collins, Kevin Guilefoild, and more. It was one of those “golden” experiences where everything went right… the submissions, the quality of the stories, the money, the reviews. Everything was a pleasure on that project..

SET THE NIGHT ON FIRE is your first stand-alone.  Was there any reason in particular you felt the need to write this as opposed to another in either series?

I’m an author who likes to push myself. To try new things. See what I’m capable of doing. So this time I decided I wanted to write an adrenaline-fueled thriller. In order to find the premise, I tried to think of the most frightening thing that could possibly happen to a young woman. I concluded that, barring anything to do with children, being stalked by someone you don’t know for a reason you don’t know probably is the scariest thing I can imagine. So that’s exactly what happens to my protagonist Lila Hilliard.

I’ve read that writing STNOF exorcised the 60’s for you.  Can you expound a bit on that?

I remember the Sixties. Especially 1968. That was the turning point in my political  “coming of age.” I was in college in Philadelphia on April 4th when Martin Luther King was assassinated. I watched as riots consumed the inner cities. I was saddened and disappointed. The frustration and rage expressed through the riots was – in a way- confusing.

Two months later I understood. My college boyfriend had been tapped to head up the national “Youth for Bobby Kennedy” program. I was really excited; I planned on dropping out for a semester to work with him. For some reason I couldn’t sleep the night of June 5th and turned on my radio. Bobby had been shot just after winning the California Democratic primary. He died the next day. So much for the Youth for Kennedy campaign.

Sadness soon gave way to bitterness. The country was falling apart. Over the years some of our brightest lights had been snuffed out. Internationally our government seemed to be supporting the “bad guys.” And underlying it all was an unwinnable war that – perversely —  was escalating and risking the lives of my peers. I began to question why I should work through the system, especially when the system wasn’t working for us.

I wanted to explore what happened next. We wanted to change the world ,but we didn’t. It changed us. Why? Were we too immature? Too arrogant? Too powerless? I don’t know but going back and writing about what happened between 1968 and 1970, certainly some of the most turbulent years in our country’s history, had the perverse effect of soothing my soul. I’m not sure why, and I’m not sure what I discovered, but I can say I’m not plagued by the Sixties anymore.

Good, I’m glad it was cathartic and eased that for you….

Do you have a favorite character from all that you’ve written?

I love them all.. but certainly I have a soft spot for Ellie and Georgia.

Is your mystery writing a natural extension of your former career(s) in television and public relations?

Not at all. Writing crime fiction was something totally new to me, and it took me years to learn the craft of writing fiction to a level that was publishable. I will say, however, that I’ve always been comfortable around words, and language, and my work in broadcast news as well as PR certainly involved those as well.

Did you have a favorite book as a child?

I loved BLUEBERRIES FOR SAL… made my mother get it from the library zillions of times. Plink. Plink.

Favorite book now?


I love TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD.  It’s always on my classical recommends list.

Are you currently reading anything?
Always. I’m in the middle of 3 books right now. 2 crime fiction, and a non fiction book on meditation.

Do you have anything special you require to get the creative juices flowing?  Music, caffeine, chocolate?
Discipline. Pure and simple. I set a timer for 45 minutes. In fact, I need to get back to that.

In your blog I read “skunk killer par excellence”.  Have you been killing skunks in Chicago?

Long story, but I’ve been battling and killing skunks for several years now. Hate them. They should disappear and rot in hell.

That’s the way I feel about bats….nasty lil buggers….

What are you most proud of so far?

I still can’t quite believe that I’ve published 7 books and over 15 short stories.

Is there anything you’d like to accomplish or do that you haven’t yet?

I try not to think too far in advance.

Is there anything I may have missed that you’d like to share?

I think you were pretty thorough, Ivy. Thanks so much.

You can find Libby @ her site, fb, and twitter.


like: http://www.facebook.com/authorLibbyFischerHellmann

follow: http://twitter.com/libbyfh

I really enjoyed SET THE NIGHT ON FIRE and with what I’ve read of your series books I’m looking forward to reading those also.  They’ve been added to my list.

Thank you so much for being here today.

You can read Manic Readers review of  SET THE NIGHT ON FIRE .

LEGAL WEAPONS SERIES with Carol Stephenson


But for a tree, I might have been a genuine thrill seeker.  In my youth I lived in a neighborhood with a vast strand of pine trees.  One towering tree in particular flattened at the top into a crow’s nest, a definite lure for any kid.  My friends and I would dare each other to climb the tree.  Finally one day I accepted the challenge and made it all the way to the top.  My heart pounded as I looked at the view around me.  I thought I was on top of the whole world.

Then on the way down a branch broke and I plummeted to the ground.  Fortunately for me, I landed on a thick bed of needles and wasn’t hurt.  However, after that I chose to get my thrills via books and movies.

First up were the books by Helen MacInnes, Jane Aiken Hodges and other authors that my mother loved.  Stories of ordinary people thrust into intrigue where danger threatens the social fabric against the backdrop of international settings.  Or tales set during the Napoleonic War, Regency England, and the American Revolution, of strong, determined women who against all odds found their happily ever after.

I read so many fast-paced, mysterious stories with emotionally satisfying endings I suspect that I absorbed pacing into my very bones.

Then throw into that mix the explosion of the action adventure movies at the theatres.  I devoured ‘Star Wars’, ‘Indiana Jones’, ‘Die Hard’, ‘Lara Croft’ to name a few.  The exhilaration of the chase, the joy of movement, the heart-pounding excitement of grand events, and the thrill of brave deeds.

I knew I wanted…no…I had to write and explore worlds and lives torn apart by violence, tales of adventure where romance prevails.  To send heroines and heroes into the depths of hell to find justice and, in the words of John McClane in ‘Live or Die Hard’, to be that gal or guy in a time of crisis.

As I write, rather than acting out a scene as I’ve heard other authors describe, the action plays out like a movie in my mind’s eye.  The sights, sounds, movement, and emotional intensity.  Then, should I need moments of levity, I think of that priceless moment in the movie ‘Red’ when Helen Mirren brandishes the whopping rifle.

While I may not be able to climb that tree anymore, I love courting thrills in every creative moment of writing.

What are your favorite suspense or adventure movies?

Carol Stephenson

Award winning author Carol Stephenson lives in southeast Florida with her beloved Shih Tzu. She’s an attorney by day and author by night. She’s best known for her emotionally drawn, hard-driving romances. In her free time she indulges in travel, photography and competing on a trivia team. COURTING DISASTER and COURTING DEATH in her Legal Weapons series are 4/4/11 and 5/2/11 releases with Carina Press.; they also are/will be available in audio on audible.com. You can find Carol at Website; Facebook; Twitter


My mother has often asked me if it’s possible for me to write a story without killing someone off.  I’m sure it is, but if Mom knew just how useful these dead people were to the creative process, she might rethink that suggestion.

THE OUTLAW BRIDE is a perfect case in point for this theory. The story started with a question – What would you risk to keep a promise?

First, I had to figure out what said promise was, to whom it was made, and why. Of course, there had to be circumstances which made it impossible to argue or reason your way out of keeping the promise. The best way to do that – make the recipient of the promise a dead man. Better yet, up the ante and make it so the dead man died while trying to save your life. You’re going to feel a bit obligated now, don’t you think? No way you’re going to break that promise without a heavy dose of guilt shadowing your conscience, eating away at your mental health. And Katherine Slade has one heck of a conscience. It’s a bit epic in size really. Poor girl. There is no way she’s not going to keep her promise.

At the other end of the spectrum, I needed someone with a strong sense of responsibility, however reluctantly that sense manifested itself. I needed someone whose conscience (pesky things these consciences…) refused to let them back out of doing the right thing, no matter how much they wanted to. Something huge had to bring them back to a place they had sworn off years before and hold them there like glue to their shoes.

Again, enter dead man. Turns out Connor Langston’s brother left him with a pile of responsibility on his hands after he went and got himself killed while trying to save a mystery lady who seems to have disappeared into the ether. Given how he and his brother ended things when last they spoke, Connor’s responsibility extends beyond caring for his brother’s daughter and taking up the mantle of sheriff. It also makes him thirsty for justice. He needs to make the perpetrators pay for what they did.

And so it goes. One dead guy set up my whole story.  I will undoubtedly continue killing off my fictional people.  My mother will not be pleased…

Kelly Boyce’s writing career began at age seven when she realized the stories swirling around in her head could be put down on paper. Since then, she has never given up on her dream of being published. Her writing career has taken her down many strange paths, from wielding a broadsword, to being featured in the documentary Who’s Afraid of Happy Endings?, profiling the romance writing industry. After placing in several contests, she sold her first book to Carina Press in 2010. When not writing and despite possessing what may be one of the world’s worst senses of direction, she loves to travel and hopes to touch down everywhere in the world at least once.
Website: www.kellyboyce.com
Blog: http://lochbriar.blogspot.com
Facebook Page:  Kelly Boyce, Author (https://www.facebook.com/home.php?ref=home#!/pages/Kelly-Boyce-Author/167747449914858)
Twitter: @KellyLBoyce (http://twitter.com/#!/KellyLBoyce)
GoodReads:  http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/10842495-the-outlaw-bride

IT HAPPENED ON MAPLE STREET ~ Tara and Tim’s True Story

We’re really glad to be here at Manic Readers.  We were here last fall and liked it so much we had to come back!  For those of you who are just joining us, my husband, Tim and I are on a blog and physical tour promoting our new book, It Happened On Maple Street.  Though I write for Harlequin and MIRA (55 published titles to date with three more contracted), this book is different.  It’s our true love story.  It’s also a domestic violence survival story.  I’m speaking out about a thirty year secret for the first time – hoping to reach other women who, like me, have hidden pain with silence.  Our message is of hope, as we open our private lives to tell about the healing power of love.  I’ve been writing about this kind of love for twenty years.  I’ve always believed it existed.  And now I’m living it.

I’m also struggling to end the thirty year silence that trapped me on the outside of loving with my whole heart.  This is our second full week of an eight week tour.  Overall we’re very pleased.  I do not regret the steps we’re taking.  But the going has not been easy.  In fact, as in many things, it’s much harder than I expected.  And maybe that’s for good reason.  Had I felt the extent of the pain of coming out six months ago, I might not have agreed to tell my story.  I want to believe I would, though.  If we help even one woman with our story, then every bit of the struggle is worth the end result.

But as is also true in many situations, for every painful moment, there are wonderfully perfect moments.  I feel as though, in just two weeks time, I’ve become a better person.  A stronger person.  And I have to give much of the credit to my real life hero – the man who stays steadfastly by my side even when I’m not beautiful.  Or smart.  Or right.  Sometimes he is my mirror, one with a light that lets me see myself beyond the darkness.  And sometimes he sits with me with the lights down low, letting my less than stellar behavior slide quietly away.  And when the light comes back on, there he is, holding my hand, taking the next step in life as though nothing had happened.  But always, he lets me live.  I have to experience, to struggle, to learn to stand.  He can’t do that for me.  And he doesn’t try.  He also doesn’t let me fall too hard.

And there are other moments that are making memories.  Like last weekend when we were in an airport with a bag that was fourteen pounds over weight.  They wanted to charge us an extra sixty-seven dollars for that fourteen pounds.  And so, together, we opened our suitcase right there in the middle of the swarming airport and started pulling out our personal items.  Talk about exposing your life to the world!  One by one we weighed our belongings.  A pair of shoes is two pounds.  Men’s jeans, two pounds.  My business jackets, two pounds.  We got the suitcase down to fifty pounds.  Checked it.  And then had to fit that fourteen pounds into our four already full carry-on bags – four bags was the maximum carry on allowance.  Mind you my purse and his camera case counted as carry-on bags.  But Tim, an engineer to the core, found ways to tie things and compact things and rearrange things and we were permitted to board without problem.  And I didn’t have to wear the four jackets we’d removed from the suitcase, either, though I’d had visions of having to do so.

As we reach the two week point, I asked Tim for his thoughts, and this is what he said:  My famous saying is ‘It won’t matter in Twenty Years’, but as I have learned while writing It Happened on Maple Street, that saying may not necessarily be true.  Twenty years ago I would have thought that the things that happened between Tara and me wouldn’t have mattered, but as you know from reading the story, it did matter.  Those things that Tara and I did those many years ago were the building blocks for our lives now.  Who could have imagined that all the stuff that happened would play such a big part in our lives.  And now here we are sharing it with you.  The writing of Maple Street showed both of us how one little word could change life forever.  If I had only said ‘I love you’, if she had only said ‘I want you forever’, so much pain could have been avoided.  As we sat every night for almost 6 weeks reliving the past, we could feel all the emotions from long ago.  It felt as if we just said the words we could turn back time and erase all the bad, but as we found out, we couldn’t.  Pain is a part of life, it helps us grow and avoid making the same mistakes twice.  In some weird way, it makes us complete as humans. It rounds out our emotional well being.  The unhealthy part of pain is never talking about your pain.  None of us are lucky enough to go through life without some kind of pain.  And if you keep in, it will come out, like a tsnaumi and take everything in its path.  Many men are afraid of showing emotion, it makes them look weak, but the truth is, most men can’t handle the intensity.  If I have one thing to say at this point it’s that when pain becomes too much, don’t clam up.  Talk to someone.  Talk through the pain.  Don’t let it rob you of years of your life.

This post is brought to you as part of the It Happened On Maple Street International Blog Tour.  For a complete tour schedule visit www.tarataylorquinn.com.  All blog commenters are added to the weekly basket list.  Gift Basket given each week to one randomly drawn name on the list.

If you or someone you know is a victim of domestic violence, or if you suspect someone is, please contact www.thehotline.org, or call, toll free, 24/7, 1-800-799-7233 (SAFE) or 1-800-787-3224 (TTY).  The call can be anonymous and is always confidential.  There is not one second of life that is worth wasting.

Next tour stop, Monday, April 18, Lesa’s Book Critiques:  http://www.lesasbookcritiques.blogspot.com.

To get your copy of It Happened On Maple Street, visit your favorite bookseller, or www.maplestreetbook.com.

Don’t miss The Chapman Files!  Still available at: http://www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_sb_noss?url=search-alias%3Dstripbooks&field-keywords=Tara+Taylor+Quinn.

It Happened On Maple Street is available on Kindle and Nook, too! http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/0757315682/ref=s9_simh_gw_p14_d2_i1?pf_rd_m=ATVPDKIKX0DER&pf_rd_s=center-2&pf_rd_r=0SKJ9D86BB5XG2BPT4MV&pf_rd_t=101&pf_rd_p=470938631&pf_rd_i=507846http://search.barnesandnoble.com/It-Happened-on-Maple-Street/Tara-Taylor-Quinn/e/9780757315688/?itm=15&USRI=tara+taylor+quinn

More with Xavier


I hope that you have come back for “more” …I am continuing my exploration of the senses here at Manic Readers and am having so much fun and hope you are too!

Sight to me is not only a physical ability but also a psychological one.  We judge with sight, interpret with sight and often save ourselves from physical pain with sight but what I love most about the sense of sight is that I get to see COLOR!

Let’s talk color shall we?  I am a color lover.  I once worked for a couple who told me I was to wear only dark colors as they were incredibly chic and well known for being stylish.  When I told the woman I lived with at the time she looked at me and said, “but darling you LOVE color, how will that work?”

I knew I would eventually turn them and so I did.  At first I cut my crazy devil-lock hair and proceeded to wear the navy blues, somber grays, and jet blacks of someone who has either  just left a funeral or who is stomping the cross walks of Beverly Hills…which was where I worked.  Beverly Hills was slightly terrifying to me before I worked there but once you get the hang of it, it’s quite like entering a huge party every time you step onto the street.  Do you remember when Scarlett was thrust into the party wearing that burgundy gown?  Well that is exactly the image I would conjure when running around from this boutique to the next.  At first it was startling but once you realize it’s you or them you pound out the anxiety and turn it into confidence, it’s what Scarlett would have wanted.

As time went on and I became more confident in not only my job but my surroundings I began to incorporate more and more of my own personal style (which included color) into my appearance and no one said a word.  Now mind you I love black, gray as much as the next person (I detest Navy) so don’t think I didn’t wear giant transparent-gray sunglasses featuring some Sanrio character all over them, or didn’t don towering black platforms that made me about 6’7 because I did.  Funny thing about those glasses…every time I wore them people stopped me and asked about them, EVERYTIME!  The vintage 1940’s pair that cost an arm and a leg…not a scant comment!  The Sanrio ones cost $2.00, (this is the Murphy’s Law of fashion).  But, I digress…

I wrote the following journal entry while working for the above-mentioned couple and will wrap my two day ramblings here with said entry:

“Beyond”  3/22

I was feeling particularly color starved when I wrote this…and what better way to chase away the drabs but with yellow?

Beyond the yellow door…the violence of yellow, amarillo…the color of sun, of Post-Its

Yellow can be loud like the sound of honeybees buzzing the clover for food, for nectar, for a chance to take part in beauty.

To stay gold, all that glitters, all that shines and threatens you to be more than a hard place to land your phoenix.  Of the inferno, the yellow and gold heat of burning.  A Mayan coin buried deep in the Earth; uncovered and discovered because it sparkles gold and yellow.

Silver and…the counterpart that always gets the man, the choice cut, the precious, the desired.  Illuminating without shame or remorse.  The way a man touches his face—without gold.

Please do visit me on the web and share your tips tricks and recipes with me…if you dare!  Find my books at Silver Publishing and Seventh Window Publications.


I am featuring the 5 senses (and maybe even the elusive 6th sense) this month on my examiner.com column and I am thrilled and hope my readers will be too by what and who I have uncovered to discuss each of these gifts that many of us take for granted.  In honor of the senses, I offer you a glimpse into my journals where I often find myself writing nonsense about things that thrill me to the point where I have to write them down or burst.

I am often tricked by tastes, smells, sights and sounds…I am a fool for the sensual world and I hope you allow yourself to be fooled occasionally and find yourself in settings that make your senses reel…I hope you enjoy it…and I hope you taste, touch, smell, hear and see everything with passion!

Burgundy” 3/29

I wrote this in honor of not the color, but the word, the way it sounds when I hear it.

The word has a full body, a sumptuous roll against the tongue…against the cold of a December night, against the side of a red wine goblet.

It can taste heady and ripe with the dark passage of time that reminds one of a long journey one has made but forgotten.

It seems to me the “Burgundy” of life is like the crisp sound an apple makes when you pierce its skin and it surprises you with its tart juices.  It shocks you to life, to that moment.  Living in that moment or the “Burgundy” of it; grabbing that moment.

It makes you want to wear the ostrich feathers and be the one that makes people sing.

“Morning Rain” 3/25

One morning at work my eyes were dazzled by the wet transformation of the world.

As it is, its raining—to pour on the eves of old roofs—made new by the young, the trendy, the chic.

To cleanse and to close your eyes and rinse all of it down the drain.To unplug and remove the organic carrot tops from the sink—flushing it out, the excess, the Yin and Yang of it all.

I see it all; the overstuffed arc moving towards an unseen but known land packed like and old umbrella stuffed in its sleeve…for days like these.  I close my eyes and see, feel, touch and smell the rain.

5 senses soaked to the bone…but alive.

Please do visit me on the web and share your tips tricks and recipes with me…if you dare!  Find my books at Silver Publishing and Seventh Window Publications.


From A to Z?

“So, where do you get your ideas from?” or it’s alternate form, “Where the hell did you come up with THAT?” has been asked more than once when I describe one of my books to people. Is there an author alive who hasn’t been asked this question? How do you reply? Sometimes I think, “My brain, same as everyone else.” Others, “My fairy godmother sprinkled me with idea dust while I was sleeping.”

Yeah. I’m one of THOSE people.

Of course, what I reply tends to be a lot longer (and more polite) than above. But telling someone how your creative thought process works is like trying to explain how to get from A to Z by going through W, Pi, sixty-seven, then taking the left fork at Y.

So where DO my ideas come from? Mostly from the things I see, hear, read and play (I’m an avid RPG video game player, PC only). I listen to my children chatter about Wow Wow Wubbzy and fantasize about smooshing Pikachu every time Pokemon is brought up, same as every other parent. I watch television with my husband, especially science shows and science fiction, with a little Castle-type TV thrown in for variety. I read voraciously, and like every other book lover I haunt the websites of my favorite authors.

Then I take all of that, and let my inner demon play with it for a while till a little demonic idea pops out and begins to torture me to write it down.

For instance, when I first suggested the idea I had for Blood of the Maple, the reaction I got to Parker’s “uniqueness” was, “WTF? LOL!” (I was on Twitter, or I have the feeling the WTF would have been a LOT longer.) So I knew immediately I had to write it. But the biggest question, of course, was “How did you come up with THAT?”

It’s simple. Once upon a time, I played a role-playing game called Rolemaster. One of the player characters skipped quite a few sessions and angered the Dungeon Master (which is not nearly as kinky as it sounds, trust me). The DM, fed up, took the character and cursed him to eat nothing but green, leafy bread. Oh, there were a TON of other curses thrown in, but that was the one that stuck out with me the most. So when I started toying with the idea of a misfit vampire, this curse jumped out, and I had my “Eureka!” moment. But who could satisfy a vampire who can only drink green, leafy blood?

Why, a dryad, of course. But not just any dryad would do. No, she had to be something special to wind up with Parker. So I started researching trees, found one I loved the looks of and would thrive in the area the book is set, and named her Amara, which means eternal in Greek and tree in Sanskrit.

But I couldn’t just leave our heroine alone. No, Amara has her own unique issues that came from a long discussion with my husband on who a good match for Parker would be. Thing is, I can’t tell you what we came up with for fear of spoiling the novel. You’ll have to trust me that the trip from A to Z will be interesting, to say the least.

Now pardon me while I go brush the idea dust out of my hair. I have to write down an idea involving a space chimera and a psychic warrior…

Dana Marie Bell
Dance with an alpha in the pale moonlight…

Cynthia’s Attic with Mary Cunningham

Mary, thanks for taking the time to visit Manic Readers today.  It’s been quite a long time since I’ve read a children’s book but I can certainly see the appeal of the Cynthia’s Attic books.  I really enjoyed THE MISSING LOCKET.  It’s an engaging blend of fantasy, adventure, mystery and that smidge of independence that’s so appealing.  I would’ve eaten these up.

For those who aren’t familiar with them, could you please give us a brief overview of your Cynthia’s Attic series?

I’m glad you enjoyed The Missing Locket and that you appreciate the balance between mystery and fantasy.

Twelve-year-old best friends, Cynthia and Gus (Augusta Lee is her given name, but don’t call her that unless you want a kick in the shin!), are the main characters. The stories are seen through the eyes of Gus.

Magical costumes, disappearing stairs and a spooky attic filled with dusty antiques. What more could two, adventurous, young girls ask for.

The time-traveling duo are as different as bubble gum and broccoli. They are, however, equal in their ability to get into trouble without much effort.

In trying to escape the boring summer of 1964, the adventurous girls stumble upon a trunk in Cynthia’s attic that has been in her family for three generations. Along with perilous escapades, they make important, sometimes humorous discoveries about their ancestors, and even manage to change history—for the better—along the way.

Do you ever find it difficult to write from a younger point of view?

Since I’ve never quite grown up (lol), I find writing for children more satisfying than writing from an adult perspective. I have vivid memories of my childhood and, since the books are based on playing in the attic of my real childhood friend, Cynthia, situations and stories are fun to imagine.

Did you enjoy the time travel forward vs back that takes place in THE MAGICIANS CASTLE?

Going forward in time presented more challenge because I had to create new characters and circumstances. It is much easier drawing on situations that have already happened, and then embellish the story. To create future storylines and future relatives was a more difficult task. I did, however, have a lot of fun writing Book Four, especially when one of the girls meets her “old self” in 2014.

Do you have a personal preference for forward or back?

My heart will always prefer traveling back in time, perhaps because I regret not spending more time listening to my grandparents tell their childhood stories. I love writing about traveling back in time solving mysteries and having adventures with my ancestors, and I also have many old family pictures dating back to the late 1800s-early 1900s that I use to create my characters and settings.

Boys and girls, alike, love the time-travel element of the series, and so do I.

Is there a family historian you rely on for the family stories you incorporate or are they based on your memories of them?

Every family should have a Cousin Betty. My cousin spent weeks in Europe in the 70s researching both sides of our family tree by digging through town hall and church records. She traced the Kistler (Cynthia’s Attic: The Magician’s Castle-Book Four) side of our family back to the late 1300s. I believe that much of the information on the Internet today is a result of her painstaking research. I do remember some of the stories from my childhood, but all are enhanced by Betty’s detailed records.

Was it easier to write the series books or the stand-alone GHOST LIGHT?

Believe it or not, it’s just as difficult to write a short story as a 33,000-word chapter book! To complete a story from beginning to end in a few thousand words isn’t as easy as it sounds. All the ingredients still must be there and you have fewer words in which to develop the story and characters.

Which do you find easier, the tween mysteries or the adult one you’re working on?

I don’t find one easier than another—just different. Since I don’t “write down” to my ‘Tween audience, my writing is not all that different, especially since mothers and grandmothers also enjoy the books. Naturally, I write adult situations for adult books, but I’ve found that young readers are just as discerning, so you’d better have your story tightly written or they’ll catch you!

What inspired you to write WOOF with co-authors Diana Black and Melinda Richarz Bailey? It sounds wonderfully humorous.  I’m not there yet but it’s looming large!

We started with a small club consisting of four “WOOFers,” as we call ourselves. The purpose being to support each other, share stories and laugh at our aging minds and bodies. My husband suggested we write a newsletter, so Diana (my best friend) and I began writing short stories about a few of our funny or embarrassing experiences. We brought Melinda on board and the three of us decided to try our hands at writing and self-publishing a book in 2000. My publisher read the first edition a few years later and asked if we’d be willing to rewrite and update. The 2nd edition of WOOF: Women Only Over Fifty was published by Echelon Press in 2008.

Do you prefer to write the short stories or the books?

I prefer writing books because it allows me to fully develop multiple storylines and characters.

Do you find there are more similarities than differences between song writing and the books and stories?  For me, the best songs tell stories.  I’m definitely one of those who listens to the words.  *S*

A song is a short story put to music. At least country songs are usually structured that way. I’m not sure I’d be writing today if I hadn’t spent many years crafting song lyrics.

Is there anything you require to coax your muse?  Chocolate?  Music?  Silence?

Chocolate is a must, and I do my best writing with noise and commotion around me. I’m not one who wants closed doors and complete silence. I also like to let my characters show me where they want to go, in fact, I’ve had new characters jump, spontaneously into the middle of a story. For instance, a shape-shifting puma named SuRana appeared in Cynthia’s Attic: Curse of the Bayou and saved the day!

Is there anything, news etc., that I may have missed you’d like to share?

My series, Cynthia’s Attic, is inspired by a 20-year recurring dream about a mysterious attic. When I realized that the dream took place in the home of my childhood best friend, Cynthia, I wrote a short memoir about our friendship and the “early days.” That memoir  turned into a 4-book (soon to be 5) ‘Tween fantasy/mysteries.

Cynthia and I lost touch for years, but shortly after the first two books were published, my husband and I moved to West Georgia within 40 miles of Cynthia’s home! Our first meeting, after almost 20 years, was spent talking and laughing as if we were still sitting in her attic searching through boxes and trunks of memories. She loves the books and our friendship remains strong and true.

Thanks so much Mary for joining Manic Readers today.  I’ve enjoyed it.

Thanks, so much, for having me! I thoroughly enjoyed my visit.

Mary Cunningham Books


Cynthia’s Attic Blog



Echelon Press/Quake:

YouTube Video code: Cynthia’s Attic Series video

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YouTube Video Cynthia’s Attic Series URL: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4EtythWwg28&feature=related



Haunting Desire:  In a world gone wrong, the only way to save everything he values is to sacrifice the one woman he was meant to love.


Some might call me fickle because I fall in love each time I write a book.  After I finished writing Haunting Beauty, the first book in my Mists of Ireland Series, I feared I’d ruined myself for all other men.  My heart told me that I’d never move on from Sean Ballagh, the hero of that story.  For me, he was as compelling and sexy as any human male could be.  And then I started work on Haunting Warrior and I fell in love with Rory MacGrath.  Rory came to me as a man so damaged that he felt he was beyond saving.  Yet once I introduced him to the woman meant for him, he began to see the possibilities of his future and as he gained the courage to grasp for it, I was sunk.  From that moment on, it was Rory and only Rory for me.  Sorry, Sean, but time moves on.

And then I began to spend time with Tiarnan, the hero of Haunting Desire.  I first met Tiarnan during the writing of Haunting Warrior and from the beginning, I began to have feelings for him.  How could I not?  Tiarnan is a leader who’s lost his way.  A man who so desperately wants to do what is right that he’s crippled himself with indecision.  A man who feels that redemption cannot be had and salvation is undeserved.

Until he meets Shealy O’Leary.

Shealy has issues of her own, but she sees in Tiarnan the same heroic qualities I saw.  He tries—even when he fails time and again—he tries.  He fights odds no man could hope to win and yet he never gives up.  He takes care of those he loves and protects those who need it.  He carries the world on his shoulders and yet, he’d never think to complain.  Though Shealy’s life is in danger from the first moment to the last, she wants to help Tiarnan recognize the strong and courageous man she knows waits inside him.  She wants him to accept who and what he is.  And she wants his love…she wants it so badly she is willing to die for it if only she can do it in his arms.

Yes, I do believe Tiarnan is the new love of my life.  At least until the next book…..

Haunting Desire, book three in the Mists of Ireland Series releases April 5, 2011



Here is a short excerpt from Haunting Desire:

The heat of Tiarnan’s body blazed down Shealy’s back, silken and hot through the thin fabric of her dress. He was aroused. She felt the weight and pressure of his erection against her, knew instinctively that he held onto his self-control by a very thin thread.

They’d both almost died last night . . . or today . . . or last year, if Tiarnan could be believed—and she thought he could. On a very visceral level, she sensed that Tiarnan was a man of truth and honor. If he said the sky was yellow, then yellow it would be. But right now, he wasn’t saying anything. His breathing was strained, coming in short, hot bursts against her ear. The muscles in his arms bunched tight, but his hands were gentle where they held her, almost apolo­getic as they stroked.

Shealy didn’t let herself dwell on anything that tried to crowd into her overloaded brain. At that moment, she needed to feel. She needed to know that however terrifying this place was, she, at least, was real.

Before she could change her mind, she turned in his arms, feel­ing him resist for just an instant as he tried to hold her still. Then she pressed against him, her dress twisted at her hips, her face level with his. For a long moment they stared at one another, searching the shadows that concealed their expressions, each seeking mercy, absolution perhaps.

He spoke with a deep murmur. “I don’t think—”

“Don’t think,” she said against his mouth.

She caught a glimpse of pain in his golden brown eyes and for a panicked moment she thought he might reject her and pressed closer, letting him feel her body.

“Don’t think, Tiarnan.”

She ran her hands up his bare chest, reveling in the feel of him. He was hard, slabbed muscle beneath hot, silken skin. Every inch of him, strong and hewn. Her fingers slid up the column of his throat then back to tangle in his dark brown hair, twisting in it to bring his lips closer to hers. He made a sound in his throat that lit a fire deep inside her and then he pulled her tight against him with a groan, and that, too, fanned the inferno, as if her having him against his will made the forbidden moment that much sweeter.

His reluctance didn’t extend to his body though, and he rolled, pulling her beneath the satisfying weight of him, crushing her in a way that screamed sex through every nerve ending. One massive thigh slid between her legs and she arched up, rubbing against it, thrilling in the friction. He brushed his lips against hers, the kiss soft, and she opened to him, letting him know he was welcome wherever he might want to venture.

Doesn’t that sound marvelous?  I’ve read HAUNTING BEAUTY and HAUNTING WARRIOR.  I can’t wait to read HAUNTING DESIRE.  If you haven’t yet, you owe it to yourself to give them a go.  I don’t think you’ll regret it.

Erin has graciously offered 1 lucky commenter a copy of their choice of either HAUNTING BEAUTY or HAUNTING WARRIOR.  If you’re just starting the series I highly recommend you begin with HAUNTING BEAUTY.  Good luck & please make those comments meaningful people!!!

Winner will be announced FRIDAY, APRIL 8TH…

April Fools’ Day with Susan Charnley

Celebrating April Fools’ Day is no fooling around.

In my eyes April Fools’ Day is the single most under appreciated holiday.  The holiday is important because it celebrates laughter, and laughter is an essential ingredient for good health.  Did you realize that no one paid any attention to this celebratory occasion until the 15th century when Geoffrey Chaucer made mention of it in the Nun’s Priest’s Tale from The Canterbury Tales.  Even then the mention was only through an error of calculation.  Chaucer wrote, “Since March began thirty days and two…”  I’m certain Mr. Chaucer knew that March had thirty-one days but I bet thirty plus two made better poetry in his day, so inadvertently the Nun’s Priest’s Tale is set to begin on April Fools’ Day.  Chaucer’s is the first known mention of the holiday, but we all know that all holidays are ancient.  Why Memorial Day is… well I forgot how old it is, because when it started I wasn’t born yet.  I do know that Memorial Day is when we remember the sacrifices of our military service men and women.  April Fools’ Day is when we celebrate foolishness. Several years ago I celebrated in a way similar to Chaucer.  I wrote a story, two actually.  Without April Fools’ Day these stories wouldn’t have been written.  Sorry, to find out the connection between my books and April Fool’s Day, you’ll have to read my April Fools for Love duet The Catnapped Lover and Devil May Clare.  I give a hint in the excerpts on my website.  You can read chapter long excerpts at The Catnapped Lover and Devil May Clare.

If you’d like to purchase a copy click on the cover art below.

Want swag?  Leave a comment and tell me what your ideal April Fool’s Day celebration is along with an e-mail address where you can be reached and I’ll contact you with details about where to send a SASE.  Sorry, you must have a US postal address as return international mail is too involved for me to handle.

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