The Quirky Ladies is a group of eclectic (and dare I say quirky?) ladies who are passionate about writing romantic fiction. All types of romantic fiction...paranormal, fantasy, historical, erotic and contemporary. Bring it on!

Sunday, March 29, 2009

What A Difference A Year Makes

"It is with great pleasure that I offer you a contract for Sweet Inspiration. I love the story."

One year ago I pitched my Christmas-themed 55,000-word romance novel at the NECRWA conference and got shot down in a blaze of glory. What followed is a typical roller coaster ride of the romance writer.  Won first place in a contest. Crashed and burned in many other contests. Sent out about a million query letters. Accumulated a mountain of rejections. Got a few requests.  Got a couple more rejections. One day I got three rejections within an eight hour time period.  Good times. Continued attending NEC meetings, and started a new botanical murder-mystery historical romance (I like making up my own genres). Met frequently with The Quirky Ladies and discussed such topics as the existence of gay male ice hockey players, incorporating funny Jewish mother jokes into erotica, and whether or not appletinis or pomegranate martinis are better.  I also incorporated their edits into my first novel and continued sending e-queries.

Now, it's one year later and I am psyching myself up to pitch again, same bat time, same bat story.  Two days before conference I get an email from Donna Bas, The Wild Rose Press.  I stare at the email header and get a sick feeling in my stomach.  She said she would get back to me by May 5.  It's only been a couple of weeks since she got my full.  Oh Hell, here we go again.  I brace myself for that first sentence, "So sorry, but we're going to pass on Sweet Inspiration..." Instead I read the line above.  I re-read it.  I read it about ten times all the while thinking, where is the part where she says sorry not interested? After staring at the computer screen for several minutes, it finally sinks in that this is not a rejection letter.  It is THE letter. The one I've been waiting for.  I call my anesthesiologist husband at work and interrupt him while he is in the OR to tell him my news.  (Picturing the surgeon in the middle of a gall bladder operation saying, so what's the good news? and my husband sheepishly admitting, my wife is finally getting her Santa Claus romance novel published!).  After experiencing euphoria, shock, anxiety, guilt, and then some more euphoria, I have settled into a very nice place.  This is the Place of Infinite Possibilities.  I now believe Anything is Possible.  I could lose 50 pounds.  I could win the lottery.  This totally crazy goal of writing a book and getting it published is coming true.  But most importantly, my real goal is going to be realized. Which was just to have someone read my story.  It's a light-hearted, outside-of-the-box, sexy, irreverent, sometimes raunchy, mouth-watering take on the legend of Santa.  And yeah, maybe some gals don't find a big hunky master pastry chef with a beard and glasses so hot (but I do!).  My greatest wish is that someone will read it...and hopefully like it.  Get a little bit of Christmas cheer? Get a hankering for a gingerbread latte?  Look at Santa in a new light?  I know it's March, but this week I got a really rocking Christmas gift.  All hail St. Nicholas!

This post would not be possible without The Quirky Ladies.  Their support, friendship, belief in me when I questioned it myself, their sense of humor, dedication, integrity, and creativity have made this all possible.  
Dankeschon, Nina Roth Borromeo, a.k.a., Penny Watson

Friday, March 20, 2009

Post Manuscript Blues (Or why I'm thankful the NEC conference is fast approaching)

Finishing a manuscript and typing the words THE END is one fantastic high. After slaving months trying to capture your characters so readers will fall in love with them as you have, to get the plot just right while keeping story tension high, to do justice to worldbuilding, and deliver full thrust on the sensory immersion into the universe you are creating, completing that wild ride comes with a satisfaction I rarely find in other parts of my life.

Only problem is, once that floating on clouds feeling begins to wear off, finishing also comes with post project blues. Before I’ve barely gotten the story out the door to my lovely critique partners, had a chance to read through my pages again to begin the long editing process (although I actually do a lot of revision as I go along so a completed first draft is not really a first draft, more like a third) or even formulated a plan to pitch the project, I am already moving on in my head to my next story. I find the first weeks after I finish a manuscript are full of a flurry of brain activity, brainstorming and developing characters for another project. It’s unrealistic, since I must refocus my mind on tweaking and revising and polishing the completed story to make it shine. Usually the frenzied descent into my next big idea tapers away after a bit and I come down to earth and try to resist jumping into something new until I’ve done the finish work on the first manuscript. But the blahs definitely set in.

I love writing. When I’m not creating something new, I feel listless, purposeless. I find myself reading more. (Not that that’s a bad thing.) As it happens, I’m in one of those periods right now. I finished my last story a few weeks back and started making copious notes about a potential sequel. But now, I’ve hit the listless period. I need a new infusion of energy to keep me going before it’s really time to start the next project. Hence, my excitement over the NEC conference. You can find information on this conference in the left column of the Quirky blog.

Conferences are a fantastic way to create new writing energy and recharge batteries to prepare for the process of trying to sell a manuscript. At a conference I become amazed all over again how many wonderful writers are out there just as driven by their muses. Others like me who think it’s perfectly natural to be swerving all over the road while trying to jot down story ideas on a Dunkin Donuts napkin from the glove compartment of their cars. I’m embraced by a community of like-minded folks who consider it normal to hear voices in their heads. I am validated. I am stimulated. I am proud to be a writer.

So now I have to make it through the blues to March 27th when I can walk through the doors of the hotel and soak in the excitement. If you too are experiencing writing related stress, whether from let down blues or any other difficult part of this crazy writing life we’ve entered, then I suggest you find yourself a conference. There are tons out there even if you cannot consider the remarkable NEC Let Your Imagination Take Flight event.

Community is the key. Writing can be a lonely endeavor, but it doesn’t have to be. So, conference-up, cowboy. Maybe I’ll see you there (wink).

Monday, March 16, 2009

A Pitch Story

Everyone has a pitch story.  Some are good (I sold my first was a miracle!), some are bad (she hated me!), some are pathetic (I got spanked and lectured during my first pitch appointment).  That last one actually happened to me.  Since the NEC conference is fast approaching, I thought I would pen a blog about my first pitch and list the important life lessons I learned from the experience.  In March 2008, just before our NECRWA Conference, I finished my first book.  I was filled with enthusiasm.  I was filled with elation.  I was convinced that my totally unique, no-one-else-is-writing-a-romance-novel-about-Santa Claus idea was going to be received with similar enthusiasm by the agent I was pitching to. As I sat in that dreaded, tension-filled line with a group of cold, clammy writers reeking of desperation, I thought "Why am I so nervous about this?" I excelled at public speaking, I used to teach high school biology, I've given scientific lectures to hundreds of people, I think I can handle one measly agent. People emerged from the pitch room with smiles on their faces (she requested a full! she requested a partial! she is really nice!).  I felt a little bit better.  This was going to be just fine. Or not.  After reading my well-prepared statement about Santa and his sons and all the hot romance going on in the North Pole, I received a lecture about the industry. First time authors do not publish in anthologies. December is the worst month of the year for romance sales.  Needless to say, the Christmas theme was not received with warm enthusiasm. And worst of all, when she asked Which author are you like? I was caught totally unprepared.  I thought I was supposed to be pitching my uniqueness, not comparing myself to someone else. I stumbled out of the appointment completely shell-shocked.  

Lucky for me, I stumbled into a Quirky Lady who whisked me off to a quiet corner and attempted to calm me down.  She kept reiterating, "The story wasn't right for her, but that doesn't mean it isn't right for someone else." (Writer's Life Lesson #1).  She also helped me figure out a new game plan to market my book, downplaying the seasonal aspect, and emphasizing the sexy, paranormal aspect. We re-titled the story.  I was still reeling at that point, but her support was huge.  And I have since discovered that she was totally right about finding the right venue/agent/editor for my work.  There are publishers actually looking for Christmas-themed, light paranormal short novels.

I was still shaking when I ran into Quirky #2.  She whisked me off to another quiet corner and informed me that I was going right back into the viper nest to pitch again.  There were still openings for appointments, and I was not going to have my first pitch experience crush me like a small bug.  I argued.  No way was I going back into that room.  I would rather be tortured at gun point then put myself through that Hell.  God help me, she wouldn't take no for an answer. She marched me right up to the front of the line, put my name on the list for an erotic e-pub editor (never mind that my story wasn't erotic!) and then she and her friend grilled me for half an hour, polishing my pitch.  They were the voice of experience.  They were the voice of reason. They were relentless. And guess what? They were right.  I pitched to a really nice woman who actually loved my story idea and asked me questions about my manuscript.  It didn't matter that my work wasn't right for an erotic e-pub.  What mattered was that I ended the conference on a positive, upbeat note and felt good about pitching.  Life lesson #2...the support system from fellow writers is enormously important.  In fact, it never ceases to amaze me.  Total strangers cheer for you when you final in a contest.  Published authors actually give you the time of day and offer encouragement.  The camaraderie of the NEC and especially The Quirky Ladies makes this writing business all worth it.  I know there's a cheering section for me no matter what happens in the pitch room.  And probably an apple-tini, too!

And The Winners Are...

After putting all the names in a hat and drawing twice (I leave the scientific approaches to Doc Jess!):

Neringa, you have won a free copy of a FINAL PROPHECY book of your choice!

Cathryn Parry, you have won the copy of that rare mini-mag!

I will be in contact with you both privately. Thanks to all who commented and entered. We had a blast, and we hope you will stay tuned for more Quirky fun, interviews, and contests.

Huge shout out to Doc Jess, who made this and so much more possible, especially for writing the books that we love to read.

Monday, March 9, 2009

Interview with Jessica Andersen

THIS JUST IN!! Stay tuned at the end of this interview for a first-time ever post of an excerpt from Jessica Andersen's upcoming FINAL PROPHECY book, SKYKEEPERS!!

The Quirky Ladies are honored to welcome award-winning author, Dr. Jessica Andersen. It’s a little known fact that Doc Jess, as she’s affectionately known to both friends and fans, got her start with a mini-mag publisher before moving to 5-Star Publishing, Harlequin, and now NAL.

All of this has required tremendous effort and dedication, a prolific mind, and a keen grasp of the industry, including designing the best website I have ever seen. Seriously. Visit if you’ve been hiding under a rock and haven’t seen it yet. You can click on the link right here on the Quirky sight, under favorite authors.

Read on for her fabulous interview, and don’t forget to comment to be entered to win a copy of (either) DAWNKEEPERS, NIGHTKEEPERS, or a preordered copy of SKYKEEPERS, which will be available on Aug. 4, 2009! A second, very special contest has been added to the end of this interview, and you won’t want to miss out.

So, without further ado, The Quirky Ladies are proud to welcome Dr. Jessica Andersen…

Dalton Diaz (DD): Let’s start with the FINAL PROPHECY series. To tell these stories, you’ve had to build worlds that exist on three realms: What the Mayans believed happened all those years ago, a god realm that the Nightkeepers jump to (where even they don’t know what will happen), and the contemporary realm where the year 2012 is fast approaching. The research involved is mind-boggling! How long did it take before you were actually ready to begin writing? Did you ever get caught off guard by a halting detail and have to rethink your path with any characters, or use a different god?

Doc Jess (JA): Geez, nothing like jumping into the tough stuff, huh? LOL! Okay, here goes… The research that goes into these books is huge, because I want to be as consistent as I possibly can with the historical record when it comes to the Maya-based rituals, glyphs and artifacts (just check out the ‘references’ link on the website for a taste). Lucky for me, I’ve always been fascinated with ancient cultures, particularly the Maya, which means that the info-gathering part has become as much a hobby as it is work. Time-wise, the research is sort of always continuing alongside the writing… but the initial ‘let’s go build a world’ process took about eighteen months from when I first tripped over the 12/21/2012 end date (and the idea that Maya rituals were tied up in both blood sacrifice and sexual intercourse- rwowr!) to when I turned in the full manuscript for NIGHTKEEPERS.

As for getting caught off guard, it happens All The Time! In some cases, I’ll be writing in one direction, get to a turning point and realize I’ve foreshadowed things so much that I’m bored with the planned plot twist, so I sit there and ask myself, “Okay… so what else could happen?” More often, now that the characters and stories have really taken on a life of their own for me, I’ll be writing along, thinking one thing is going to happen, and the story goes in a completely different direction on me. That’s when I know the book has really come together and gone organic on me- when I’m just channeling the words onto the screen.

(DD): Which is why I'm always on the edge of my seat while reading them! Speaking of the, er, sacrificial sex, NIGHTKEEPERS introduced most of the characters, but the romance aspect focuses on Strike and Leah. DAWNKEEPERS moves us forward with the prophecy and the characters, and the romance aspect focuses on Nate and Alexis. SKYKEEPERS…? Well, you follow my train of thought, and inquiring minds want to know! If you can’t divulge who gets to call out to the gods in ecstasy, can you tell us when and where this info will be divulged?

(JA): Weeeeelllll… okay. I’ll talk. SKYKEEPERS is a little different in that it focuses on two characters we haven’t seen much of in the prior books. The hero is Michael Stone, an enigmatic loner-type who joined the Nightkeepers in the first book but has only just started coming into his own as a mage (and gets into an (imho) very sexy fight with Nate in DAWNKEEPERS). He’s very sensually motivated and has a seriously dark past. Partly seeking to atone for his sins, partly because he’s become obsessed by her photos, Michael sets off to rescue Sasha Ledbetter from the Nightkeepers’ enemies. Sasha is the daughter of a famous Mayanist who might also have been a lost Nightkeeper. She is the Nightkeepers’ only remaining hope of finding a vital cache of codices and artifacts that was hidden by her father. When she and Michael team up, sparks fly because although the gods might have meant them to be destined mates, Michael and Sasha have very different ideas!

(DD): I loved that scene! The testosterone was off the charts! Let's step back to the human world for a minute while I fan myself. You’re also still writing for the Harlequin Intrigue line, with book number 20, Snowed In with the Boss, just released this month. Congratulations! Are there more Harlequin books planned in the immediate future? You know, before 2012?

(JA): Absolutely yes! This past October, I kicked off a second miniseries set in the Bear Claw Creek crime lab, with MANHUNT IN THE WILD WEST. (Or, as I typo-ed it in an email to my editor, ‘Manhung in the Wild West’… which quickly became ‘Well Hung in the Wild West.’ LOL!) The second and third books in that miniseries are coming up, with MOUNTAIN INVESTIGATION in July 2009, and the conclusion (yet untitled, because I stink at titles and turned it in as ‘Intrigue #22’) in October 2009. There are some additional Harlequin projects being kicked around for 2010 and beyond, so stay tuned!

(DD): Now something for the writers among us. You are a huge supporter of aspiring authors. I’ve seen this firsthand at the New England Chapter conference, when you began revising pitches with anyone who asked for help. Word got out, and before you knew it, there was a line in the lobby until two a.m.! You now run a pitching clinic called Surviving the Editor/Agent Appt. at the New England Chapter Conference, and this year you are also the featured luncheon speaker. Can you tell us a little about that?

(JA): I’d love to! This will be my tenth New England Chapter Conference, and in a way they’ve marked my milestones. I went to my first one right after I finished my first manuscript; I was wearing my job interview suit and was so nervous I could barely breathe! I spent six minutes of my eight-minute pitch describing the hero in great detail, whereupon the incredibly kindhearted editor interrupted me, asked a couple of questions, and gave me her card to submit the story. She forwarded it to an editor in the appropriate line (Intrigue, as it happens), who sent me back a revise-and-resubmit letter that taught me things about romantic suspense that I still keep in mind today (e.g., keep coincidences to an absolute minimum!).

That particular story was rejected, and it took me another couple of years before I got The Call … but that, too, was because of the New England conference. In fact, in the spring of 2002 I sold three stories to three different publishers (Harlequin, Avalon and Five Star), all through pitches I had given to editors at the NEC conferences of ’01 and ’02. I was on my way! This was largely thanks to the incredible support I found through the New England Chapter, where I met some truly fabulous authors who have always been there for help and advice. When I tried to thank one of these ladies at one point, she said simply, “Pay it forward.” So that’s what I try to do.

I remember my first conference, my first pitch, my first sale… and I can’t tell you how much I love getting emails every now and then, letting me know that an author has sold a story based on a pitch we once workshopped at the NEC conference. So yep, I’ll be there, sitting in the bar on Friday night after dinner, running pitches with anyone who needs some practice. Keep an eye out for me!

And finally, yes, I have the great honor of being the luncheon speaker this year, which is one of the things that’s made me look back on (eep!) a decade of NEC conferences. (That, and the note on my to-do list that says ‘write luncheon speech’- LOL!) I’ll be following some really tough acts (Pat Grasso’s tiara comes to mind), but even if my speech isn’t the cleverest or the funniest, or if I forget myself and drop an f-bomb (entirely possible), I know that whatever I end up saying (see to-do list, above), it’ll reflect back on how much I appreciate the support of my chapter members and the opportunities provided by the conference. And the chocolate, of course. And the free books. And the… well, you get the point.

(DD): So you’ll be featured and signing at the New England Chapter Conference, March 27th – 28th. Can you tell us about any other appearances on the agenda?

(JA): Hm…. next month I’ll be in Orlando (with you, Mz. DD!) at the Romantic Times Convention. In May I’ll be up in Maine at the MERWA Retreat, and then in July, it’s RWA National in DC, where JR Ward and I will be doing our ‘stand up at the front of the room and poke fun at each other whilst discussing critique partner relationships and paranormal worldbuilding’ workshop. Actual dates and specifics are posted on my website, stickied in the Forum.

(DD): That’s it for today, folks. Well, for the interview itself, anyway. As promised, keep reading for that first time posted anywhere excerpt from SKYKEEPERS! We are also running a very special contest here on the Quirky Ladies site. Just leave a comment by midnight on Sunday, 3/15/09 (EDT-aka, NY time!), and you will not only be entered to win a FINAL PROPHECY book of choice, you will also be entered to win an autographed copy of Jessica Anderson’s very first published story, the mini-mag titled, “The Shelter of My Heart.” No, we didn’t misspell Doc Jess’s name – the publisher did! They also slapped on a Victorian-ish cover (it’s a contemporary). Leave your comment to own this rare piece of history, available for all of a month in 2001 before the publisher shut down. If they’d only known the value of the gold they held right in their hands!


Sasha awoke, blinking up into the light thrown down by an unshielded fluorescent tube. Something’s different, she thought. But a quick look around her said it wasn’t the scenery.
She was still in hell. It wasn’t the Christians’ fire-and-brimstone hell or her father’s nine-layered Mayan underworld of rivers and roads and monsters, though. No, this hell was one of cool, blank walls and a narrow cot in a ten-by-ten cell with gray walls, floor, and ceiling. This hell was being the prisoner of an enormous, green-eyed, chestnut-haired man who called himself Iago, but whom the others called “Master.”

Where is the library? his red-robed, forearm-tattooed interrogators asked her over and over again while drug-spiced smoke oozed from stone braziers carved into the shapes of screaming skulls. Each time, her muscles screamed protest at the crucified position they’d tied her in, roping her to a wooden cross that represented not the son of the Christians’ god, but the world tree of the Maya and Aztec, with its roots delving into hell, its branches reaching to the sky. Where did your father hide it? Sometimes they lashed her with stone-tipped flails that drew bloody, purple-black lines on her body. Other times they didn’t hit her at all, but rather somehow put her in agony without touching her, watching with avid eyes as she writhed and screamed.

She would’ve given anything to make the torture stop, but she couldn’t tell them what she didn’t know. She’d kept insisting that Ambrose had never told her anything about a library. They didn’t believe her, though, which meant that the cycle kept repeating over and over again—days of impotent, drugged fugue interspersed with pain and terror. She thought they might have moved her once or twice, but the details had blurred together, growing ever more distant as her mind insulated her consciousness from the reality her body was suffering. Each time the interrogators had opened the cell door, reality had receded further, her burgeoning fantasies coming clearer.

She knew the waking dreams were nothing more than illusions, constructs that her mind created for her as an escape. But she clung fiercely to the fantasies in her drugged stupor, because if her consciousness was wrapped in the dreams, she wasn’t aware of what was happening in the interrogation chamber. And that was a blessed relief.

Sometimes the fantasies brought her to a strange cave, a circular stone room that should have reminded her of the interrogation room and the horrors within it. But she wasn’t terrified in this chamber, wasn’t hurt. Instead, she was wildly aroused, wrapped around a big, powerful man with long, wavy dark hair and green eyes that reminded her of the pine forests up in Maine. In the dreams, she breathed him in, lost herself in his kiss, and felt, maybe for the first time in her life, like she was exactly where she belonged. Which was how she knew it was a fantasy, because Sasha had done many things in her life, but she’d never truly fit anywhere.

Other times the dreams brought her back to Boston, to the pretty, sun-filled studio apartment where she’d lived across the hall from a firefighter’s widow, an elderly ex–concert violinist named Ada, who’d become her friend. Sasha had cooked for her neighbor a few nights a week, gladly trading pumpkinseed dip and spicy barbecued shrimp for snippets of Bach and Mozart, and the knowledge that someone cared whether or not she made it home at night. Only she hadn’t made it home, had she? Instead she’d gone looking for Ambrose and wound up in hell, stuck there as her menstrual clock told her months passed, almost a year, while she lay dazed by drugs and hopelessness.

Except she wasn’t drugged or hopeless now. She felt sharp and energized for the first time in what seemed like forever.

Hardly daring to trust the sudden change, she sat up on her bunk and braced herself for the pain to hit. It didn’t. Instead, nerves and excitement and all sorts of other sharp, hot emotions poked through the numb confusion that had cloaked her for too long.

“What the hell is going on?” she asked, and jerked at the sound of her own voice, the alien clarity of words that weren’t drugged mumbles or throat-tearing screams.

Starting to shake now—with hope, with fear—she took stock. She was wearing the sturdy bush pants she’d had on when she’d been captured, along with a too-big navy sweatshirt she’d had for a while now, though she didn’t know who she’d gotten it from, or when. Her underwear, T-shirt, and socks were long gone to rags, her boots confiscated. All that was the same as it had been. The cuts on her palms, though, were new.

She stared at the shallow, scabbed-over slices as a hazy memory broke through. Had she dreamed of a brown-haired man bending over her with a serrated combat knife, his eyes flickering from hazel to luminous green and back again? If so, it was a new, less pleasant fantasy than the others, her imagination run amok. But no, she was positive he had been there; she had the scabs to prove it. Had he done something to neutralize the tranquilizers they’d been mixing in her food for so long? Or had the red-robes withdrawn the drugs for some reason, wanting her fully aware for whatever they had planned next?

But she wasn’t just awake; she felt damned good. Energy coursed through her, effervescent bubbles running in her veins, making her want to leap up and run, to scream with the mad exuberance of being alive. More, she was warm. Hot, even, and suddenly needy in a way she hadn’t been in a long, long time. Her heart pounded; her skin tingled. She thought of her dark-haired, green-eyed dream man, and ached for him, for the press of his flesh on hers.

Lifting her hands, she cupped her suddenly flushed cheeks, then let her fingertips drift down to skim across her collarbones and along her ribs. Surprise shuddered through her at the feel of smooth, toned flesh. Slowly, almost afraid to look, she lifted the hem of her sweatshirt so her eyes could confirm what her hands had found. Although it seemed impossible, the festering sores on her hips and shoulders had healed overnight, and the crosshatched welts, scabs and scars of the repeated whippings had faded from her skin. Her wasted flesh had been restored; her arms and legs were muscled, her butt and breasts rounded, as they had been before her captivity.
Stunned, she let the sweatshirt drop back down to cover her irrationally taut, toned stomach. Her head spun with disbelief, but not with drugs.

If she’d believed in miracles, she would’ve called it just that. How else could matching slashes on her palm cause her body to heal itself?

“Doesn’t matter,” she told herself as the embers of the strong woman she’d once been kindled to a low, guttering flame of determination. “Don’t waste whatever time you’ve got trying to figure out what’s going on. Just get your ass out of here.”

Rising from the narrow, blanketless cot, she stood for a moment, thrilling to the sense of balance and power that coursed through her, the awareness of her own body. She acutely felt the weight of her sweatshirt and pants, the press of the floor against the soles of her feet. In the back of her head there was a splash of fear that this was nothing more than another sort of torture, that Iago had given her back herself only to take the feeling away again. But on the heels of fear came determination. “If that’s your plan, you bastard, you’re going to regret it,” she said softly. “That’s a promise.”

For longer excerpts from the first two books please check out: and

Saturday, March 7, 2009

Congratulations to our Winner!

Congratulations to Dannyfiredragon for winning the copy of Joey W. Hill's new book A Vampire's Claim while visiting us on the big release day when we interviewed Joey. Thank you everyone for stopping by, and stay tuned for other wonderful author interviews coming soon.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Love Cuffs in Print!

Love Cuffs is now available in print at Amazon and Ellora's Cave.  Congrats to Dalton Diaz and Ashlyn Chase! They will be attending EC book signings from late April to June, as well as the NECRWA conference in March and the Romantic Times conference in Orlando this April.  Also on the horizon, Dalton and new author Samantha Cayto will be releasing Illegal Moves for the Ellora's Cave Moderne line sometime in 2009.

Monday, March 2, 2009


The Quirkies extend a warm welcome this morning to Joey W. Hill. Joey is one of my very favorite authors and I was thrilled when she agreed to be our kick-off interview for Quirky Ladies blogs that highlight talented writers in the romance genre. Joey writes both contemporary and paranormal erotic romance and every time I read her I get lost falling deep into her eloquent, beautiful prose.

An added bonus, today is a release day for Joey. A Vampire's Claim, the third book in your vampire series that began with The Vampire Queen's Servant comes out today. To the left you can see the cover of the new release. Joey, you have been truly blessed by the cover art gods in this series. Each of the previous two were just as wonderful. And, readers, for stopping by and visiting with us during the interview, The Quirky Ladies will send one lucky commenter a copy of the new book.

Once again, welcome Joey. And let's get on with it, as I know your fans are chomping at the bit to hear from you.

Michelle Pressma (MP): To start off, can you tell us a little about A Vampire's Claim and what inspired your expansion from contemporary into paranormal erotic romance? How did you stumble into this vampire universe?

Joey W. Hill (JH): Lady Daniela and her servant Devlin (Danny and Dev) were a pure delight. They're a little different from my recent books. While there's always a streak of darkness in my paranormals (okay, often a really broad swathe), these two had the great Australian laid back attitude about things, so they met every challenge and setback with a matter-of-fact dry humor that was really enjoyable. The book also has way more physical action--guns and explosions and chases--and that was a lot of fun.

There's a blurb and excerpt on my site of course, but in a nutshell, Dev's a WWII veteran. The book is set in 1953, in the Outback. He's an experienced bushman who's resourceful enough to get a female vampire out of any trouble she can find, and Danny fits that bill. She's returned to the Outback after a 30 year hiatus to reclaim her sheep station from the scumbag who took it over after her mother died. After she does that, she also wants to challenge the psychotic Region Master for control of the territories, despite the fact she has no Council backing and she's considered rather young and inexperienced for such big goals, at the paltry age of 200. But Danny is very independent and her own woman. She hasn't even taken a fully marked servant, shying away from that kind of commitment. But when she and Dev cross paths in an Outback pub, he's too irresistible to pass up.

I've always vacillated between paranormal and erotic, with romance being a constant for both. My first published book was an epic fantasy, and my second was a contemporary erotic romance. If I look back through my publishing history, even when I was doing more contemporary erotic romance titles, I was occasionally delving into the paranormal. For instance, If Wishes Were Horses, was about a small town police chief and the local Wiccan priest who ran a women's erotica shop, and their attempt to solve a murder with a paranormal twist. Chuckle. It's why I started out in e-publishing. The cross genre authors (not to mention erotic romance!) were anathema to New York back then, and now they can't get enough of them. Just goes to show--always write the book of your heart, and if it's meant to be, eventually someone will want it! And don't quit your day job. ;>

Anyhow, I have always loved vampires. I was a Buffy fan, but when Angel left, I followed him to his series. Apparently the romantic vampire hero was my thing, though Buffy was a great heroine. Joss (who I worship), just went a little overboard on the angst thing for her after awhile. Which, given that my books are very angsty, is the pot calling the kettle black!! I've read vampire books, but they never really explored the eroticism and power exchanges between vampires and servants that I wanted to see. I think what piqued my interest was a key scene in one of the early Anita Blake books, where Richard was climbing out of Jean Claude's bed, after JC had spent a night with him, using him as food and possibly for other things. So one day, I got the idea for a 1000 year old vampire queen who needed a new servant, and the young man sent by her previous (now deceased) servant to fit that bill. Jacob and Lyssa's love story was a very memorable one to write. I've had enough readers ask about another story for them specifically that I think they'll eventually get it--as long as the publisher continues to be happy with the series, of course!

I guess I don't think too often about the demarcation between the paranormal and contemporary, because, to be frank, the muse leads me around by the nose. If my contemporary takes a sudden dive into paranormal waters, I assume that's where it was meant to go, and vice versa. While that has worked for me thus far, it has caused me a problem at least once. I have one story, the second in that epic fantasy series, that has not caught much interest because the first half of the book is almost purely historical romance. So a publisher or reader who is expecting paranormal is understandably baffled by 200 pages of historical romance, unless they've read the first book in the series. So while I don't write to trends, I do understand sometimes, if you can't rewrite, you have to shelve a project until the time is right for it.

MP: I agree that timing can be everything in finding a market for a book. And I am more excited than ever to read Danny and Dev's story now. What a fantastic setting and quite a treat for your readers to get more of a glimpse of the Down Under. As your most recent full length book releases have been the paranormals (A Mermaid's Kiss and A Witch's Beauty), are there particular challenges to switching between writing in different genres? I know you've blogged at your own site on the issue of pacing and the difficulties you've faced monitoring pacing differences between the contemporaries and paranormals. Are there other differences that challenge your writing process?

JH: Pacing is probably the biggest challenge. Paranormal does require more set up. I'd compare it to the pilot for a great TV series versus an ongoing episode. A lot of times, the pilot leaves us a little flat because we don't know the characters, we're not familiar with the setting or the storyline, and all those things have to be set up. That's a paranormal. We have to get the reader to the part where the characters start to live, and the plot draws them in, and yet still give them all the information they need to orient them to the world of mermaids, vampires, etc. It's tricky. For me, the characterization is everything. As soon as I possibly can, I want them to be center stage, because that's where the reader is going to connect.

Subject matter can also be an issue. In contemporaries, I'm known for doing complex explorations of emotional issues between two characters. Paranormal opened up the macrocosm issues--good vs evil, fate of the world, etc. and when that layer intertwines with the emotional issues between my characters, the book has more ground to cover. I have readers who enjoy both these genres, and readers who prefer one vs the other, depending on what's their cup of tea.

I'm going to sound like a broken record, but the main thing for me is staying true to the muse while keeping an open mind to feedback from readers, CP's and editors. When you write in two genres, as noted above, you'll lose some readers in the switch between them. You'll also gain some. Reviewers who loved your contemporary work may be "blah" about your paranormal, and vice versa. So keeping your eye on the ball, not being pulled into twenty different directions of self-doubt, is probably one of the biggest challenges of writing the two genres.

The one constant between the two is that there will always be a love story and a HEA. To me, there's no point to reading a book if it's going to leave you with the message "Life sucks and nobody gets what they want." Duh, do I really need a book to tell me that life isn't always fair? What, do I live in a plastic bubble in the land of Happy Happy Joy Joy? Convince me that sometimes things do work out. Give me some incredible obstacles, and then give me hope that those obstacles can be surmounted. That's a great book.

MP: I agree with you that leaving our readers with hope is the key to satisfying stories whether you write about emotionally intense issues between characters or the more macro issues of good versus evil. Hope is what keeps us going as a species. Speaking of which, what keeps you going as a writer? And where do you see yourself moving in the future? I know you have plans to continue on with both your paranormal series and your contemporary Nature of Desire series. Any new directions beyond that in the horizon?

JH: You're right. I've always believed that while, as a species, we're pretty screwed because we're way too self-centered and self-destructive, there is something bright and shining about the human spirit. There may be hope for us yet.;>

There are two parts to my answer on what keeps me going as a writer: what makes me write and what keeps me writing. The "what makes me write" part is pretty esoteric, but that doesn't make it any less real. I can't NOT write. When I'm writing, I find an inner space where things are right and balanced, at least for that moment in time. It's a sense of completion and tranquility that would be like losing a lung to abandon. For that reason, I suspect I'd write whether I had an audience of ten readers or ten million. But that leads to "what keeps me writing." The readers. And no, I'm not just blowing smoke up the proverbial backside. Writing, the artistic endeavor, is marvelous, for the reason stated above. Writing, the business,...Holy Major Deity of Your Choice. It's constant deadlines balanced with promo work, never having a real day off, first drafts followed by edits followed by print galleys followed by industry research followed by conference preparations followed by another deadline on top of a print galley that has to be turned in, you get the picture. In some ways, it's like going away to camp--grueling, stress-filled fun. But what makes all of that worth it, beyond the unshakable need to create a story, is the reader who takes the time to email me and say "This story made a difference in my life." Whether it gave them a valuable escape time, touched them emotionally because of things in their own lives, or inspired them in some creative endeavor of their own--wow, that NEVER, NEVER gets old.

There's also a second crucial element to "what keeps me writing." My husband. If you're married, you can't do "writing the business" + "writing the art" without the support of spouse. No one would take that much neglect of the marital relationship, not to mention anything remotely close to cleaning, laundry, cooking (snort), etc, if they didn't believe 100% that writing stories was what you needed to be doing. And for that, I owe so much of my success to my husband's love.

As far as future direction, you're correct. Right now the contracted future is Mermaid's Ransom (the next in the Daughter of Arianne series) and two more books in the vampire series, as well as a contribution to the second Unlaced anthology (tentatively called Unbound). Mermaid's Ransom will be about Jonah's daughter Anna, and the vampire Dark Spawn called Dante, that you all met in A Witch's Beauty. The two vampire books will focus on secondary characters from A Vampire's Claim, which you'll meet shortly if you've pre-ordered the book, which I'm sure you've done (grin). The anthology will be Peter's story from the Knights of the Board Room series.

However, in the uncontracted, there's a lot of things. I want to do another book about Jacob and Lyssa specifically, probably revolving around her new interaction with the Fae world. I want to do Gideon's story, Jacob's brother. For the Nature of Desire series, there are 3-4 sets of characters at least that want their stories told: Brendan and Chloe, Julie, Ellen, Rory and Daralyn, and who knows how many new characters THAT will introduce. There's another mermaid adventure to offer--Marcellus and Clara, who you'll meet in Mermaid's Ransom. And the Knights of the Board Room have two more boys who've not met the love of their lives yet, Jon and Ben.

Now, outside of my ongoing series, I have another male/male erotic romance I want to write. I also want to rework the epic fantasy book I mentioned earlier, bring it up to date, and try to pitch that series again. It will have five books, and will involve everything from high fantasy to paranormal contemporary settings to vampire elements. I continue to be excited about it, so I know it is meant to be, when the time is right.

While all of the above will fall in the paranormal or contemporary romance categories, there are a couple other projects I have that could branch into other areas. I have an idea for a young adult story, though I'm not entirely sure it would be marketed as a young adult, because it has to do with a young adult dealing with an innate D/s orientation, much the same way homosexual youth have to deal with that kind of issue. I also have a women's fiction book exploring a daughter's journey, perched on the wall of her family's life, but we'll see. Even in paranormal and erotic romance, I tend to dive deep (as I said earlier), to get to the heart of what and who we are. With those two stories, I might get completely lost and never be heard from again (wink).

MP: Whoa! I'm staggered to hear what's on your plate ahead. And tickled since I know that means years worth of your wonderful stories for me to enjoy. As we wrap up today, is there any last message you'd like to send to either your readers or fellow writers out there? Words of wisdom you've learned through your process?

JH: For readers--never hesitate to let an author know how you feel about their work, good or bad. The good helps to keep us going in the right direction, gives us necessary inspiration. The bad (meaning constructive bad, not just a vague "You suck!"- laughter) draws our attention to areas we can improve. If you have an author react negatively to such feedback, that's their mistake, not yours, no worries.

For writers--I always have the same three rules for success, if success as a writer is in Destiny's cards for you:

#1 Hone your craft. Never stop learning and improving it.

#2 Know the business, and stay on top of it as much as you can.

#3 Never give up.

Those three things seem to be the key to success for every successful author I've ever met (except for those absolute freaks of nature who happened to run into an agent or editor during their grocery shopping, wow'd them in the frozen food aisle and became world famous authors overnight--but those are like the people who wear size 0 clothing. We don't think they deserve to live--laughter). I also threw in the Destiny comment because being a successful author is very much like Forrest Gump described it--some planning, some feather in the wind. None of us know how much of each is needed, so all you can do is work your ass off on the planning part, which is those three things, and hope your feather lands on the nose of the right people. Until then, as Anne Lamott says (paraphrased), love writing, because that' s the most important thing.

MP: Well, Joey, our time's up for today, but I am so thankful that you were able to join us on the big release day. And I would encourage our readers to leave a comment for you with any questions or reflections. Remember, one reader who comments will win a copy of A Vampire's Claim. If you would rather not leave a contact email with your blog comment, please send your email address off line to after responding. For everyone else who hasn't already pre-ordered the book, I'm sure you'll be visiting your favorite on-line or brick and mortar book store to pick up a copy today.

Also, I'd like to let everyone know that Joey W. Hill publishes an online monthly newsletter which includes contests for signed books and other great things, as well as occasional early peek excerpts on upcoming releases and vignettes featuring characters from her full length works. To join it, just send her an email at or go to the guestbook link on her site, You can also visit with her on her blog or Facebook page (Joey Woody Hill). Readers who want to talk with other readers about her work can join the yahoogroup

Thanks, everyone, for visiting today to read this fun interview. And let those questions for Joey roll.