Blog by VONNIE DAVIS -- International, Award-Winning Romance Author: Adventurous...Humorous...Amorous.

Thursday, August 27, 2015

Two Months Until Book Three Releases!

Bearing It All, book three of my Highlander's Beloved Series, releases two months from today. I've tried very hard to make each book different, yet keep the Matheson family and Effie alike. You can read each as a stand alone or in order as a set. Will there be more? My editor says she'd like to see books four and five, depending on the sales of book three. Although, the editorial team isn't sure how they want me to write those future books--more romantic, more paranormal, or more historical.

The whole series has been a hoot for me. I used to say, "I write all sub-genres of romance except paranormal. I don't have the mind for that."

SO WHY BEARS?
 
 

Creativity attacks us all differently. Musicians scribble lyrics on napkins or envelopes. Artists often draw on any flat surface. Writers, who write by the seat of their pants, rely on inspiration. Mine comes to me in the form of handsome males, typically at night just as I’m drifting off to sleep. They tell me about themselves, their loves, and ask me to write their stories.

Roughly three years ago, I had surgery to remove a cancerous cyst from my saliva gland, a rather involved four-hour surgery that’s left part of my left cheek and ear numb. About a month post-surgery, two golden spots appeared at the back of my mind. These round spots glowed, and I freaked—OMG brain cancer. The surgeon didn’t get it all and it’s spread to my brain. So I googled brain cancer like a mad woman, reading all I could on symptoms and nowhere did it state patients complained of seeing glowing spots in the backs of their minds.

I hated to call my cancer doctor, knowing he’d put me through a battery of tests only to prove what I already knew. I had brain cancer. I picked up the phone to call and the golden orbs blinked. Blinked, mind you! Eyes? These are eyes? And they blinked again.  Well shoot, I didn’t need a cancer doctor. I needed a shrink! I’ve got freakin’ eyes in the back of my head, glowing and blinking  and watching.

So, for a month, they waited and willed me to speak to them. Well, my darlings, I might be half-crazed, but I know enough not to speak to something that shouldn’t be there in the first place.

Then one night, when I was almost asleep, these eyes left my head and floated to the foot of our bed into a large bear. Now, I often think characters search for the right author to tell their stories. So I said, “I’m sorry, but I don’t write children’s books.” He shook his head. “Oh, you’re not that kind of bear?” He shook his head again and shifted into this dark-haired, muscled, kilt-wearing Scot. He sauntered toward my side of the bed and I reached for my glasses. I mean, wouldn’t you? Would you want to miss one gorgeous inch of this guy?

Again, I apologized. “Hon, you’re still in the wrong writer’s house. I don’t write paranormal.”

He sat on the edge of the bed and I scooted over to make sure his fine kilted behind had plenty of room. “Aye, lassie, but ye will. Me name is Creighton Matheson. In Scottish, mathe means bear and I am laird of sons of bears. Have ye ever heard how bears came to be extinct in Scotland?” I shook my head. I mean, how could I talk with a mouthful of drool? He told me this fantastical story of how the Vikings killed off the male bears and imprisoned the sow and baby bears in a cave along the coastline.

The next morning I googled “Are bears extinct in Scotland?” Chills slithered up my spine. They were. Sources claimed the extinction was due to over-hunting and the government was trying to reintroduce them into the Highlands. But I had a better story; one from a bear-shifter, himself.

Now bears can be determined creatures and mine would have no rest until I started his book. So I set aside my work in progress for a month and wrote a few chapters to quiet the bear. By then I was in love with my bear-shifter, this sexy man with a duality that both wounded my soul and charmed me. I needed…needed…for him to have his HEA.

I was also plagued with a huge problem: I didn’t know the paranormal romance genre. I felt like a fake for even trying to write one. So, I read Terry Spear and her wolf-shifters and Eve Langlais and her Furry United Coalition.

Still, the question remains: Why bears? From my research, bears are a healing totem, one that requires you to rest (hibernation) and to find your strength. Mine certainly helped me through my six months of recovery and to strengthen my writing.

I used it as my play story. Whenever I hit a wall in whatever book I was writing, I’d hop over to my bear story for a week and play. There’s a relaxation in writing something you know no one else will ever read. It gives your mind a chance to work through the corner you'd written yourself into in your WIP. My agent, at the time, knew about it, because I’d told her I was taking a break from this book or that to work through a problem by playing with my bears.

An editor at Random House Loveswept read something I’d written and called my agent to ask if I had anything not yet contracted. Dawn replied I didn’t, but I did have this bear-shifter story I worked on from time to time. “Send me the first three chapters,” the editor commanded.

I was not happy. I told my agent I wasn’t writing this for anyone to read. It was a relaxation tool for me. We argued. I sent in the chapters (I’m such a wuss). Two days later, the editor asked how soon I could have the book done and three were contracted. Maybe I should play more often.
You can pre-order at http://amzn.com/B00TCI2A5E
 

Sunday, August 23, 2015

Re-Birthing My First-Born

Roughly five years ago, my first book STORM'S INTERLUDE was published. I'd just turned sixty-two a couple weeks before I held the first copy in my hands and cried like a baby. Since then, I've gotten the rights back and tucked them away, going over possibilities of what I'd do with it to make it sell better. Odd a book that won two awards just slept away on Amazon's shelves, but it did. Still, no one knew who I was. Heck, some days I still don't know who I am.

Kelly Moran, an author friend, approached a few of us and asked if we'd like to join her in putting together a bundle for February. I said the only thing I could contribute would be my first book. Several others, who also have busy writing schedules, jumped on that idea, too. Just to make sure I could do this, I contacted legal at Random House since I'm writing exclusively for them now. They were very co-operative and told me the clause in my contract only applied to new material. I could self-publish previously published works with no problems from them. I was good to go.

Kelly made me a new cover, since I wasn't allowed to use the one from TWRP.


Isn't it pretty? Imagine, next year I'll join the ranks of hybrid authors. Whoot!

Before I began reworking the manuscript, I read all my reviews to see what things readers did not like. I made a point of correcting those issues as well as updating things like cell phones that opened and closed. And, of course, my writing has improved slightly since then. Newbie goofs needed corrected. Working on my first-born book took longer than I'd expected. Once finished, I set it aside while I attended RWA, came home, and wrote and rewrote the first two chapters of my wounded warrior series. Now I'm ready to give STORM'S INTERLUDE one final read through. I'm thinking I was a little heavy on the male internal thought. Men just don't think and rethink things like we women do. Sometimes we wonder if they think at all, but they do...just in a different manner.

Here's a picture of our bundle cover. See any other names and titles you recognize?

Sunday, August 16, 2015

NYC Got the Best of Me!

Everyone who writes romance knows the big RWA convention was in NYC a couple weeks ago. Since I'd never been to the Big Apple, we decided to go a few days early and stay on for a couple days afterward. We reserved rooms in the Marriot Marquee where the convention was held, in case one of us got sick we could reach the other quickly.

I bought the train tickets so we could take the Amtrak up and back, and our plans were complete. We had a straight shot from Lynchburg to NYC--an eight-hour ride. All my writing projects were done for the moment, and I wasn't due for another retina injection until the day after we got home. So, it was a time for me to relax.

Then I crawled into a taxi.

Now, a couple things need explained. Taxi drivers don't need to know how to count since they're driving five and six abreast in a four-lane street. Speaking English is not encouraged. All the cab has to have is a loud horn and strong brakes. All you, the passenger, need are blindfolds, a bottle of strong nervy-dervies, and a wad of twenties since everywhere we went seemed to cost us $20, plus tip. When we left a meet-and-greet at Penguin Random House, I was in a dress and heels, feet swollen from the heat. The taxi we hailed was an SUV. I was having trouble getting in, the driver got out, cupped my ass and all but tossed me into the back seat, and then had nerve enough to charge us an extra $1.50 for "extra handling."


But I'm getting ahead of myself. I'm still steamed over that man copping a feel.

The hotel's registration desk was on the eighth floor since a theatre and another business occupied the lower floors. After you registered, you went to a bank of elevators, pushed a button for the floor your room was on and an alphabetical letter from A to N appeared for the elevator you were to rush to take. Sometimes you had to dash to the elevator since the doors were already open and at others you had to stand and wait. Thank goodness the rooms were decent once you reached them, although still not worth the price. I suppose the old adage: location, location, location is true.

On our pre-conference days, we saw the Statue of Liberty and the new tower, in the center of the photo, and the memorial reflection pool. Ate ice cream and stepped into tourist shops to escape some of the heat since a heat advisory was on.



Random House had us to their building twice for meetings and meals. The first was the meet-and-greet. I was tickled to see my cover for "Bearing It All" on the poster in the reception area. Top row, second from the left.


All walls of the lobby of Penguin Random House and the hallways leading to it are lined with shelves of books--old, new, and famous.


We were taken through the offices of the Loveswept team, introduced to each employee, and told what they did for us and our books. Then we went into the conference room for wine and cheese and lots of talking and planning. All this was followed by champagne and strawberries as we got to know eachother even more.

Meanwhile, my homemade Effie baffies were waiting back at our hotel room...Baffies are Scottish for bedroom slippers.

 
Loveswept is an ebook line, but for RWA they printed thirty copies of our books for us to sign and give away. How would I, practically a nobody, stand out among the BIG names? I'd channel Effie. After all, I have to be the only romance author to write a romantic series where the pink-haired grandmother gets more fan mail, more mention in reviews, and more attention than the heroine and hero. Even though the hero is clad in a kilt. 
 
As I schlepped in my baffies by the line of women, waiting outside the ballroom, I heard squeals of "Effie! OMG, it's Effie!" I wasn't prepared for the women who dashed toward me, arms outstretched.
 

 
 
Women, who had never read my Highlander's Beloved Series, came over to see what kind of books a woman crazy enough to dress like I was would write. My books were soon gone.
 
I attended some workshops, but not all I'd planned. I was just too tired. I got to meet Mackenzie Crowne, Kelly Moran, and Lisa Olech and we talked late into the night. What fun! Calvin enjoyed his time with the ladies, too.
 
On our second trip back to Penguin Random House, we sat and chatted with other writers as we ate. Each department head spoke of future plans to keep their authors happy. Some authors also came onstage to talk about how they meet their schedules and increased their sales. My editor, marketing person, and digital designer cornered me and talked about the future and their ideas for my series. How to grow my exposure, etc. I was so nervous, I couldn't speak. I just kept sipping the champagne and nodding. Lord knows what all I said "yes" to.
By the time our train was due to leave for points South, we were both ready to see home. A few days later, I was in the doctor's office. Two days after that, I was back. Tests were run. All came back negative. I'd evidently picked up a bug while in NYC or perhaps drank too much of the water. I'm doing better now. I get another retina injection this week. I have bleeding behind my left retina and they insert a needle to withdrawal the blood. But that's nothing compared to crawling in and out of those yellow taxis. Unless my publisher insists I come, I don't think I'll need to see the Big Apple ever again.
 

Sunday, May 31, 2015

I Retired So I Could Go To Work and Write

In my other life, I held many jobs but retired as a technical writer after working twenty-five years in a machine shop environment. Think Mack Trucks. I manufactured parts that went into their engines and transmissions. I worked ten to twelve hour days, especially when the boys were in college and my ex was hit and miss with child support payments--more miss than hit.

I eventually remarried a man already retired from teaching. He wanted me to retire early so we could do things together. He was writing and encouraged me to pursue my dream. Little did we know...

I'd retired early so I could go to work fulltime and write.
 
Starting out was easy enough. I'd write a book, at leisure, and turn it into my agent to sell to smaller epublishers. They were great. Still, I wondered. Could I ever sell to a large publisher? A couple years later, I allowed her to submit to the larger pubs. Things kinda went amuck. I got contracts from Harper Impulse and Random House Loveswept. Neither my agent, nor I kept track of my due dates in both contracts. A huge lesson learned. One time I had thirteen days between turning in books to the two publishers. This last round, I had to turn a book into each house on the SAME day!


 
 
Imagine my shock when I took the time to plot out my writing and release schedule for this past year! I've written six books in twelve months and what few operational brain cells I had are fried. I have a final book with Harper to edit and promote its release. Then my contract with them will be up.


 
 
Meanwhile, I've just signed a contract with Random House Loveswept for three more books with a smaller word count and a longer space between turn-in dates. I'll feel like I'm on vacation. This will be a wounded warrior series. Here's a prelude to the EAGLE RIDGE RANCH SERIES ...
 
In the Hill Country of Texas, a small town developed around an old Apache legend—wounded warrior falls. Myth or truth, the story was handed down generation to generation that the rocks in Warrior Falls carried magical healing properties. Wounded Apaches would stand or be carried beneath the waterfall for the healing-infused water to flow over them.
The small town, Warrior Falls, has a population nearing 6,000. Its few streets boast shops, restaurants, and supply stores kept afloat by the townsfolk and nearby ranchers. Many of these businesses are owned and operated by quirky characters to add humor to the series. There are a few lovely “Texan roses” working in the town too.
Not far from Warrior Falls is a ranch owned by ex-SEAL Warrant Officer Zane Quinlan, known to his crew and Texan neighbors as ZQ. Eagle Ridge Ranch has been in his family for generations, and he’s retired here from his deployments to Afghanistan to find some solace and healing of his own. Before long, an injured member of his old team rolls in on his modified Harley, looking for a place of quiet to acclimate to live in the world again.
Seeing the need for a healing ranch for his old SEAL teams, he and his hired hands convert part of the ranch to accommodate wounded warriors for short-term or longer stays to heal both physical and emotional wounds. This 22,000 acre ranch becomes a hub of healing for the men and women who wore the Trident, the emblem of the SEALs.
~~Coming in 2016~~



Saturday, April 18, 2015

Will Three Title Changes Be the Charm?

I started my Highland bear-shifter stories with different titles, and I admit to being bad with titles. Book three was initially A HIGHLANDER'S SANCTUARY since most of the story takes place in Ronan's little log cabin hidden farther into the Highlands. A place where he likes to go to get away from what he considers crowds at the Matheson Lodge. There he can shift and let his inner bear run wild without fear of detection. This is his home. A place he built mainly himself.

 
Soon after I'd submitted my first manuscript with a title I no longer recall, my editor thought we should change all the titles and have them similar, focusing more on the romantic end than the paranormal. Fine with me. What do I know about what types of titles sell? So, all three books got new names: A HIGHLANDER'S OBSESSION, A HIGHLANDER'S PASSION and A HIGHLANDER'S HEART.
 

A meeting was held in New York this week about changing the focus more toward the paranormal aspect of the series. The title for book three, due out in October, has been changed to BEARING IT ALL. The cover will focus more on the paranormal part of the story. I don't have the cover yet, but I'm dying to see it.
 
My editor is currently reading the manuscript and I'm beyond eager to hear her reaction for it's a bit different than the previous two. But different is one thing I do best. I deal in unique.