Saturday, December 28, 2013

Are you afraid of spiders? Out of Place real time sneak peek by Christine Locke

I've received my ms copies from beta readers, and I'm hard at work today.  Here's a peek at today's efforts:

Chapter Twelve
December 28, 2012

            Christina opened her eyes.  She must have been drugged, for she could not wake until after they shoved her into this place.  The walls and floor smelled of mold.  The air grew increasingly cold, but warmth flowed in generously under the door.  Christina tried to see through the crack against the floor without success.  There was very little light in her space or in the living space beyond the door.  No one came to bother her, although Christina heard someone moving.  After a while she dozed again, awakening when heated air was not the only thing filtering under the door--she heard conversation.  Once Christina started listening, she could not stop.
            “Your mother owed me.  When will you make good on her debt?”  It was a sneering voice, jagged with tobacco’s effects.  It was the voice of a man who liked being paid but loved being owed. Christina shivered in recognition.  She knew the words of the man who took her.
Although she could not stop shaking, Christina opened her eyes and tried to shift her position against the floor to see.  Making no noise, she slid herself over, coiling her elegant legs backward to press her face against the crack.  Now there was a little light at the other end of a long room.  The two men were just visible in the light of a single lamp suspended over an old table.  The other speaker was young, maybe even Christina’s age.  He had not been in the car.
“First,” his words were cool and unconcerned, as if he filed his nails while giving orders, “you must collect the items.”  He said nothing more while he busied himself with objects on the table.  Christina could see only the outline of a slim, attractive form in tailored clothing leaning forward on his palms.  His nose was straight and his face clean-shaven.  His blond hair fell away in neatly styled waves.  After a few moments, the hulking, slouching shape of the one who drove the car began to shift.  He planned to leave, but the younger man called him back.  The slender figure’s eyes flickered upward in the light, and Christina spied a flash of cold, brilliant blue.
“Oh, and Ned?”
            “Yeah?”  “Ned” sounded disgruntled.  The younger man had him played.  Even from her moldy closet, Christina heard the resentment in his voice and understood the dynamic between them.  “Ned” might wish for an “in” with his smooth-voiced, handsome employer, but Ned would never receive what he thought he was owed.
            “Don’t take the gun.”
            Gun?  Christina’s already pounding heart clenched in panic.  She remembered the gun.  Of course: Ned held it in the car when…when….
            Christina tried to sit up, but her dizziness and returning memory made her swoon.  Her head rolled back against side of the closet.  Still slumped to the floor, Christina rolled over, but her eyes flickered in surprise when she discovered the reason her closet was so cold.  A gap let light in through the wall opposite the door.  The air was icy, and Christina felt her breath as pain in her lungs.  Her exhales formed clouds against the floorboards.  She heard stomps coming around the corner of the house…or whatever this was.   The stomps belonged to Ned’s booted feet.  She recognized the brown, low-heeled, filthy footwear that kicked her away when she tried to fight.  Christina did not want to think about that.  She tried to focus on the car Ned approached now.  Maybe she could memorize a license plate.
            There was not enough light to make out letters and numbers, but Christina saw something fall to the ground when the familiar car’s door opened with a sickening screech and the dome light flickered.  The item fell with a heavy thud against the ice.  Ned bent to retrieve it, tucking it into the back of his filthy jeans for the trip.
            It was the gun.
            Ned fell into the driver’s seat and sped off after his unsteady tires whirled against accumulating ice.  Christina lay on her back and stared up into the smelly dark.  She tried not to imagine where Ned went or to fear the young man just outside the door.  Rubbing her eyes did not help allay the drug’s effects.  Fighting her own terror, Christina wondered: was she still dreaming, or did she actually see the spiders?
            The dim light of the closet filtered in only through cracks in the walls and under the door.  Christina was surprised she could make out the webs at all, let alone the frail legs constructing them.  And, yet, a dozen or more of the weavers hung suspended just above where her head would have rested against the wall when she awoke.  Christina tried to run her hand over her hair but missed.  Her knuckles struck the wall behind her.
            Christina groaned.  She could see nothing clearly, and she could not stand up in this place—not with all the spiders.  Examining the space above her, Christina hoped to decide whether or not the webs were real.
            There were old ones, she decided, hanging tattered and dusty in the corners of the ceiling—if you could call it a ceiling.  Below them, delicate threads drooped, leading to newer webs built across the space.  Below that, Christina saw more single threads, then more webs from wall to wall, then more single threads again.  It was a pattern leading lower and lower.
            Christina watched, dazed but horrified, too, as tiny eight-legged figures that were little more than shadows spun new homes above her.  Were they the creators of the now wrecked webs above them, or descendants of those weavers?  Spiders should stop spinning once a web was done.  They should sit in the web’s center in a darkened place like this closet, waiting.  Why did these spiders continue to weave?  Why were they coming closer?  When would they stop?
            Drugged or not, Christina observed with unusual calm.  Spiders did not terrify her, but no one had ever locked her up with them before.  Christina thought she should be more nervous; yet she lay on the floor, growing colder, watching the work of her tiny arachnid captors.  The threads glowed like icicles in the scant light.  Was the closet filling with smoke, or was that Christina’s own breath?  Almost more than she longed for freedom, Christina wished she could know how much of this was real.
            Christina drew her injured hand down over her shoulder and onto her chest.  Her fingers touched her throat where her necklace should be.  Until now, Christina did not know the ring and its chain had vanished along with the protection charm giving her mother comfort.  Christina hoped her mother did not know the necklace was missing.
Once again, Christina struggled with the memory of the car.  It had been very large and rusty: a car from her parents’ teen years, perhaps.  On the street in front of Mallace Mansion, she and Paul thought nothing of it.  But then the door popped and creaked as it opened and a man stepped out.
            Christina fought to remember the night’s details.  After an explosion, her father fell to the ground.  Why had her father been there?  Christina’s memory could not seem to arrange events in the right order.  What she did recall, though, was how a large gold ring made its way onto her finger.  Paul wrestled the man—Ned--and held onto her at the same time.  Ned twisted away from Paul as Christina’s arms slipped through Paul’s grasp.  Christina remembered a pop—the clasp of her necklace caught on something?  As Paul’s hands struggled to hold onto hers, an object slipped from one of his fingers.  It was his school ring, and Christina knew he loved it.
            Had Christina tried to keep the ring from falling?  Did she reach to catch it?  Is that why she let go of Paul’s hand?
            On her thumb now, the large ring glinted in the half-light.  Christina twirled it there.  Paul screamed her name when she let go, and the ring slipped easily onto her thumb as Christina struggled upward to see through the window.  The old car doors groaned shut, and she fought in vain to find the handle.  Paul yelled and banged against those doors as the car sped away.
            Tears slipped down her cheeks now as Christina remembered that someone else had been there, sprinting toward them down the long drive of Mallace Mansion.  When had that happened?  The memory was out of place.  She had looked through the dusty window at her home speeding away, but by then her father was already on the ground.
            Her father lay on the walk, and something had thrown him to the ground.  How had that happened?  Ned was in the car with her.  The explosion: Christina never heard a gunshot before, let alone up close.  Now, holding Paul’s ring, she understood what the noise had been and why her father fell.  She remembered Paul yelling at her father as Ned scrambled into his seat.  From the back, Christina grabbed at him.
            That was when he kicked her.  The man—Ned—did not reach for her with his hands: one of those was on the steering wheel and the other grasped the gun.  He did not point the gun at her, either.  Impossibly, Ned reached his right leg up over the seat and kicked her.  For his age and bulk, Ned was spry.
            Memories and dreams and images of spinning spiders wove together in Christina’s mind, and she could not tell what was real.  Christina began to give up on that.  Maybe she was sick, and she dreamt nightmares in her own bed.  Maybe her mother sat nearby with a bowl of hot soup.  But Christina knew that if this were so, she would feel the presence of Carin Mallace.  Wherever she was and whatever was happening, one thing Christina understood for certain: her mother was not with her.
            In the growing darkness, Christina’s eyes squinted.  The spiders finished their web…did they begin a new one?  Fresh webs formed beneath the completed structure.  The spiders lowered themselves closer to the girl on the floor.
            Christina grasped Paul’s ring with her other hand.  She spun it round and round on her finger, thinking of him, thinking of the last words he said to her as he struggled and she slipped away.

            “I can find you.  I will find you.”

Friday, December 6, 2013

10 Things You Need to Know About Noveling in a Post-Google World by Christine Locke

When I started my first novel in 1990-something, magazines were thick and heavy and Barnes and
Noble was our newly-crowned book king.  There are a few things I wish I could go back and tell that budding novelist--like, "Upload your manuscripts to amazon in 2010! No matter what anyone tells you, it's a GOOD idea!"
Well, it's too late for that to be helpful, but here are a few things I wish I'd known when I first got started as a serious novelist in January 2012.  (Why, yes, it was a New Year's resolution, thanks for asking.)  These items are listed in no particular order.  I'm sure I can come up with more than ten, but here's a start:

1.  Do build your social media following even if you're not selling books there.
Which segues easily into...
2.  Social media is not really for selling books.  If you think social media is for selling books, it's OK.  Most newbies make that mistake.  If you tweet links to your book and try to sell your book on your personal Facebook page, friends will shake their heads and forgive you.  You'll learn, they're thinking.  But if you keep doing it for more than a month or so, they will most likely unfollow and unfriend you.
Social media is for professional and social networking and also to put yourself out there.  What does it mean to put yourself out there?  You're letting people get to know you.  What do you like?  How do you think?  Because it's internet content, everything you put on your pages and sites stays there.  That's a good thing.  If someone (an agent, an editor, a reader) is thinking about working with/buying from you, they can check out your history in one of these places and get a sense of who you are.
3.  Blog.  I see you rolling your eyes!  You've got to blog.  About what?  Blog about your writing philosophy, progress, what you learn, your research for your books, etc. And share pictures: people love pictures, and they make your blog posts look better in feeds.
4.  BUY your pictures. I use Shutterstock.  Yes, it costs money, but Google search images are not just free for you to use any way you wish.  And the "free" images from "free" image sites will sometimes have code in them that turns your Facebook author page into a porn site.  Don't ask me how I know that.  Ever.
5.  No money for Shutterstock?  Take your own pictures but dress them up.  You will soon learn why your teen thinks Instagram is awesome.  She/He might even help you figure out how to use it.
6.  Reciprocate.  In the world of social media networking, it's all about reciprocation.  You get a feel for this by doing it.  In general, if someone mentions you, you do not have to mention them right back.  Don't be too literal about this reciprocation thing.  You do not have to retweet me just because I retweeted you.  This results in an infinite courtesy RT loop--which can be fun if your partner is a comedian.  Otherwise, it's rather tedious for all your OTHER followers.  It's really pretty simple: as a general rule, if someone gives you exposure, acknowledge them.  You can favorite tweets that mention you.  You can tweet a genuine thanks that also lets your other followers know why they ought to follow this person.  The biggest rule in social media: reciprocation should be genuine.  And the biggest twitter rule: do unto your followers as you would have them do unto you.  Spam and endless spam retweets?  No, not so much.
7.  write, write, write, write, write...basically I wish I'd written a lot more in the last twenty years.
8.  read, read, read, read, read...I read enough, but it's never enough.
9.  Blog about what you read.  Nowadays, that's called a book review.  Post that content to goodreads, amazon, and library thing.  Any book review you write needs to go on all three of these sites after you blog it.  I had no idea how much I actually read until I started doing this.  I've read 38 books this year other than the reading I do online and for my kids' homeschooling.  That's a lot more than I thought.
10.  Querying bookbloggers is great practice for querying agents.  If you don't know how to query a bookblogger, I will be blogging about that soon :)

photo credit: Inacio Pires/Shutterstock

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Check Out the New Novel by Michelle Kemper Brownlow: On Solid Ground

Here it is, everyone!  Michelle follows up with the latest in the Gracie & Jake story!
You can get your very own copy right here.
Did you miss my review of In Too Deep?  Check that out here.

Congratulations, Michelle, on the sequel to her important debut!

Monday, November 25, 2013

How do you NaNo? by Christine Locke

We are almost there!!!

If you, too, are tormented by NaNoWriMo, you know exactly what I'm talking about.  This year my project is unusual; I'm not really sharing word counts on social media because these are words I wrote a long time ago.  Then I had some babies, got divorced, fried the laptop, lost the files....  Yeah, a LONG time ago.

A good friend expressed regret that I'd lost my first manuscript--she liked it (!!!).  She was one of maybe three people who actually read the book.  I, however, became convinced that it was horrible, so I did not think much of it until she remembered the story fondly after .... years.  No, I'm not going to tell you that.  No.

So, a few weeks later, I found the files.  Synchronicity and I are old, old friends, so I was regretting that the computer fell casualty to my divorce (long, boring, pre-storage-cloud story) when I found the box between my desk and the wall.  It was an old, dusty box...with my first novel in it.  Huh.  I printed out copies.  How did I forget that?

But the novel is in terrible shape.  At some point I decided to re-order the chapters, and there appear to be multiple drafts involved.  Also, my early attempts at editing resemble angry-red scribble doodles.  It's a mess.  So there you have it, my NaNoWriMo project for 2013: recover the first novel I ever wrote.

Hey, nobody said NaNo was for sane people.

I didn't even know that the NaNo site would ask us for a cover image when I made this one a few months ago.  There's just one problem: the character named in my title.  He's not exactly a good guy, and several years ago I named my son Alexander.  Hmmm.

So, how do you NaNo?

photo credits:
headline: Ambientideas/Shutterstock
book cover: Carlchick/Shutterstock

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Writers on Wednesday: Please Welcome Deshae Lott, Ph.D.

At least twice in recent interviews, I've been asked about my mentors.  I've mentioned a few, but the first person to come to mind is always my friend and spiritual mentor of almost twenty years, Deshae Lott.  While Deshae does not write fiction, I can say without qualification that no single person has had a greater influence on my personal philosophy.  Since my fiction, though never religious, is heavily informed by my spiritual beliefs, I do consider Deshae an important mentor to my creative work.

I first met Deshae Lott when we were graduate students together at Texas A&M University's Department of English.  Deshae received her Ph.D. in English from Texas A&M in 1999 and has been a faculty member at Louisiana State University in Shreveport since 2001.  I smiled to read Deshae's answer to my question about her inspiration, since she mentions a mutual influence, Professor John. J. McDermott.  Deshae and I had the pleasure of sharing many evenings in Dr. McDermott's philosophy seminars, and I remember well his warning to convert experience to nutrition.  I just remember it a little differently, something like, "You won't know anything until life has knocked you on your ass a time or two, and even then you won't know a damn thing unless you learn to eat your experiences before they eat you!"  Life did knock me on my ass a time or two in the twenty years since, and I did my best to remember Dr. McDermott's warning.  Below, I've linked to Dr. McDermott's list of works available on amazon, in case you want to check that out.  You should.

Deshae with her husband, Jeffrey D. Sadow, Ph.D.

Deshae sent me two statements in response to my question, What inspires you as a writer?  The first details her scholarly interests and is quoted from the LSUS website:

"Deshae Lott's primary research interest involves the intersections of literary works, social practices, and American religious cultures, especially those which are mystical and syncretic in nature.

Deshae Lott sees her scholarship and civic service in the field of disability studies as akin to her studies of American religion and literature. A mixture of syncretism and individualism appears in mysticism, and the mystics whom she prefers to study strive to avoid allowing their difference to prevent their engagement in a larger community; instead, they endeavor to contribute constructively to their communities. Through her contributions to disability studies, Deshae Lott also demonstrates ways that difference can strengthen both the individual and the community and proposes approaches for understanding and responding to such differences."

Deshae's garden in spring

Deshae's second statement describes what she most enjoys reading:

"I gravitate toward narratives, fiction or non-fiction, poetry or prose, of amelioration born from both increasing understanding and personal fortitude.  That is, I prefer writings that showcase beautiful individual choices -- particularly when facing complex challenges.  Such narratives do not depict flawless personas or circumstances but rather a character's or mind's receptivity and commitment to expressing as a spiritual being (and to learning more about what that means as one goes) as one undergoes experiences.  In John J. McDermott's language, I value the mind that "converts experience into nutrition."  And while that is largely an internal process, one's inner life influences the lives of others.  So it becomes not just about one person's inner landscape but also her outer legacy." 

Here is a brief article in Signature about how meditation informs Deshae's writing and her favorite books on creative writing.

You can reach Deshae Lott at her website, the website of her charity, A Path to Higher Consciousness, CMMS Deshae Lott Ministries, on Facebook at her personal page and her charity page.  You can also find Deshae on LinkedIn

Deshae is an award-winning essayist.  You can learn more about Deshae's philosophy and work by purchasing her book of essays, Lemonade for Sale.  

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Writers on Wednesday: Please Welcome Sasha Cottman

I'm delighted to bring back my Writers on Wednesday feature with Sasha Cottman, author of Letter from a Rake.  I ask writers to tell me what inspires them, and Sasha was willing to share her most recent conference experience.  For lots of fun, read on!  My head is still spinning at imagining the writing material one would amass while visiting 55 countries!

About the Author
Born in England, but raised in Australia, Sasha has a love for both countries. Having her heart in two places has created a love for travel, which at last count was to over 55 countries. A travel guide is always on her pile of new books to read.

Five years ago, Sasha accidentally enrolled in a romance writing course. Other than Pride and Prejudice, she had never read a romance book before. She soon discovered that the world of historical romance allowed her to combine her love of history with the passion of romance writing.
Sasha has an MBA as well as post graduate qualifications in electronic media. Having worked as an accountant in a media group for many years, she now finds herself in the unique position of having seen both the business and creative sides of publishing.
Sasha lives in Melbourne with her husband, teenage daughter and a cat who thinks sitting on the keyboard is being helpful. Her family have managed to find all but one of her secret chocolate hiding places.
When not writing, she is busy working full time as a Chartered Accountant. On the weekends Sasha loves walking on the beach while devising new ways to torture her characters.

Letter From A Rake description from amazon

The unconventional Miss Millie Ashton, recently arrived from India, finds England a cold and dismal place. The fashionable ladies of London society look down their noses at her and it isn't long before Millie is planning her return to the country she considers home.

When Millie befriends the high-spirited Lucy Radley, she also meets Lucy's handsome brother, 'Alex the Great' and things take a turn for the better. Alex, the Marquess of Brooke, is considered the most eligible bachelor in London, yet he appears fascinated by the independent Millie.

Against the odds, their unlikely friendship deepens. But Alex has a secret and when a love letter goes astray, it threatens to destroy all their happiness...

Can Millie and Alex overcome the obstacles in their path to find true love? Or will one miscommunication ruin everything? 

You have just returned from the Romance Writers of Australia annual conference.  Can you tell us about the experience?

I think the first thing that I have to mention is how tiring conferences can be for attendees. The week following the 4 day conference is usually a complete blur; and I know from talking to my friends who recently attended the RWA America conference in Atlanta it was the same exhausting experience. Fun, but a 4 day rollercoaster ride.

This year the conference was held in Perth. For those of you not familiar with Australia, the vast majority of people live on the East Coast in Melbourne, Sydney or Brisbane while Perth is a 4 hour flight across the continent. Perth is considered to be the world’s most isolated city. It has a population of around 1.7 million people and it is currently the center of a major mining boom.

The two hour time difference also tends to cause problems when you try to ring home to Melbourne late at night. When my daughter sent me a text early one morning it was only 4.30 am in Perth.

What did you enjoy the most about the conference?

The Friday writer’s workshop this year was presented by Kim Hudson, author of The Virgin’s Promise. Previous all day workshops have been run by Bob Meyer (I abandoned my first manuscript on the middle of his Melbourne workshop. He said your first manuscript is for learning how to write. You should put it away and leave it alone. A completely radical thought, but I had wasted 2 ½ years on that particular book and the sense of relief I felt when I gave up on it was astonishing.
Within a year I had completed another manuscript and submitted it to a publisher. That second manuscript became my first novel Letter from a Rake.
Debra Dixon did the Friday session a couple of years ago and her Goal, Motivation, Conflict book is still at the top of my constantly reread pile.
Kim Hudson’s workshop dealt with archetypes and the Virgin’s Journey (as opposed to the Hero’s Journey). There is nothing better than sitting in a writer’s session having the light bulbs go off in your head. I had raced out of the session and bought her book within the hour. I read the book the whole way home on the plane, which is something I never do.
When I got home I cut 8000 words from my current manuscript. Fortunately my editing style is that of a pirate with a knife held between her teeth. If your words do not drive the story forward or are just fluffy, then they have to go. The ultimate goal is a better book.
Books, Books and Books.
I must admit I enjoy watching first time conference attendees squeal with delight when they see how many free books they are given. The final day of the conference is then spent trying to get all those lovely books into your suitcase. Some clever people bring prepaid post satchels and post their books home. I actually gave away quite a few books to a friend in Perth who was thrilled, but I still was crack on the weight limit at the airport.
For the first time this year a number of publishing houses were giving books away on USB data sticks, which is a fantastic idea as a lot of my reading is now eBooks.
Every year I promise myself I won’t pack as many clothes as the previous year, but with all those party costumes, gowns, pitch outfits etc. I usually take too much. The laptop always comes in the onboard luggage, having nearly lost it on a trip to Vanuatu, I make certain never to let it out of my sight.


One of the biggest problems with writer’s conferences is the amount of food you find yourself having eaten. All those morning teas, lunches and big award dinners soon add up. Please don’t ask me how much champagne and wine I drank over the 4 days, but suffice to say I slept well each night. Comfortable clothes are an essential, as is trying to get out of the hotel each day for even a short walk.

The food was great, but I think whomever thought that soft cooked egg and bacon muffins was a good idea needs to go back to the drawing board. As soon as you bit into the muffin the egg dripped down your hand or down your favorite shirt.

Chocolate. One of the ongoing sponsors of the RWA conference is Baci chocolates. I think I personally hold the record for how many of them I can stuff into my suitcase to bring home. Needless to say I do get frisked as soon as I get in the door. The desserts at the awards night were amazing, fortunately I stayed up until the early hours to dance off all those calories. I am still apologizing for my rendition of ‘I want to rock and roll all night’ at 1.30am. Kiss Rocks is all I can say in my defense.

Other things from the conference.

I think a lot of what you do at a writer’s conference depends on where you are at in your writer’s journey. This year was the first conference I have attended at a published author. I was so pleased not to be pitching a manuscript to an editor or agent, it allowed me time to feed my writing muse. Then again I was fielding questions for advice from aspiring authors, which was a huge transition from where I was only a year ago.
Sarah Wendell from Smart Bitches Trashy Books was another guest speaker. Her sessions on blogging, Facebook and social media were fantastic. The takeaway from those sessions is that authors need a website, a Facebook Author page (Facebook is where romance readers are most active) and a lively regular blog. She noted that Twitter was useful if you are comfortable with it, but not to use to continually send out ‘Buy my book, Buy my book’ messages. Twitter is, like Facebook, about relationships but just in 140 characters.
Pinterest doesn’t sell books, it is an aspirational site where we put up pictures of how we would like to live. I found that a really interesting point of view as other writers have been pushing me to get on Pinterest. Social media is great, but a major time trap for writers.
Julia Quinn was keynote speaker, and yes I am not ashamed to say I had a fan girl moment when I met her. I love her Regency books. She talked about how messy her office is and that the only To Do List she prepares is one she can achieve. i.e. Pick up the dry cleaning, have a coffee. I liked the way she thought.
Laura Bradford from the Bradford Literary Agency gave a great talk about being professional on social media. Basically she said, what you put out on the internet will eventually come back to you. If you say horrible things about people it always comes back to bit you. I am big believer in Karma, so I whole heartedly agreed with her sentiments.  Social media is not the place to pick fights.
Sorry if this is a little bit of a ramble, but one thing you do find at writer’s conferences is that you become a giant sponge absorbing everything which is happening around you and your mind works at a hundred miles an hour. I always carry a pen and note pad to take notes. Some of the most useful pieces of information are picked up over a coffee and donut at the session breaks.

Tell me about Letter from a Rake

 The unconventional Miss Millie Ashton, recently arrived from India, finds England a cold and dismal place. The fashionable ladies of London society look down their noses at her and it isn't long before Millie is planning her return to the country she considers home. 

When Millie befriends the high-spirited Lucy Radley, she also meets Lucy's handsome brother, 'Alex the Great' and things take a turn for the better. Alex, the Marquess of Brooke, is considered the most eligible bachelor in London, yet he appears fascinated by the independent Millie.  Against the odds, their unlikely friendship deepens. But Alex has a secret and when a love letter goes astray, it threatens to destroy all their happiness...

It’s a bit of a fish out of water, a stranger come to town theme.  Millie was born in India to an English family, and now finds herself half way around the world in Regency London. She is not a conventional beauty and would never imagine that someone like Alex Radley could possibly fall for her. The best way to describe Alex would be the Brad Pitt of his time.  Rich, handsome and a future duke. He still does manage to make a complete mess of things with Millie which I found quite endearing. While he is your typical Rake, he has times when he fails as an Alpha Hero.

How did you come up with the title?

The original title was The Blue Sapphire, (because Millie the heroine is from India and has deep blue eyes) but my publisher said it needed to be more Regency, especially as it was being released as an eBook.
We kicked around a few ideas, but I am pleased to say I came up with Letter from a Rake and they were happy to go with it. I am hoping to keep the ‘Rake’ theme with the sequel which I am currently writing.

What’s Next?

If you read Letter from a Rake, the sequel is set up in the final epilogue. I love reading romance series, and so I had always planned to write the Radley family as more than one book. The next book is David and Clarice’s story.

Where can readers obtain a copy of Letter from a Rake?

Letter from a Rake is Sasha’s debut book.
You can find Letter from a Rake here:
Also available at Google Play, Readcloud, Angus & Robertson and

You can follow Sasha and find out more about her and her books on her website:
Follow her on Twitter

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Revisionist History by Christine Locke

I don't think I've ever done this before: I'm revising two different manuscripts at the same time.  Can't say I would want to do it again, either!  But it's got me thinking: What's your most effective revision strategy?

Here's mine in a nutshell:

The first time I read through a story, I read for plot holes and glaring errors.  I may also edit as I go, but it's not my primary concern.  Ok, I'm a little compulsive, so I DO edit as I go.  But I don't get bogged down--I want to know if the story WORKS, so I can't fiddle with the language much at this point.

Then, I repair the plot holes I find.  This makes me feel like I'm repairing potholes in a road, making the story journey more pleasant.

The second time I read , I'm looking for tension.  Do I need to keep turning the page?  If not, what can I do to give the story urgency?  Again, I'm going to do a little editing, but it's not my primary concern.  I want to see if the story makes me want to read

Time go go back through with my notes and add tension, or spread tension out, to make the pace of the story feel great.  This is like regulating the speed limit on my story "road."

Ok, NOW it's time to get down to editing.  At this point, the editing will not be too depressing or overwhelming because I know I've patched the plot holes and regulated tension, so now I'm just fixing grammar, spelling, and punctuation.

I edit two or three times.

I'll tell you a little secret.  I was on my last run-through (maybe the fourth editing pass?) of the novel Open Door when I found a glaring error.  Mallace Mansion has no electricity.  It's a rather significant part of the plot, and I make a big deal out of the lack of electricity at the mansion.  In the final scene, when Carin serves tea to her mother and friends on the veranda, I had electric ceiling fans twirling overhead!!  I could not believe it.  How many times had I read that description without realizing what I had done??  I had a good laugh and fixed it.  Then I did another edit before I sent my novel to beta readers.

Beta readers get to read the novel.  That's right.  They don't get to read it until I have done all this.  It's true.  And then, yes, they find errors, or they tell me the introductory chapter is not quite right, or they tell me a certain interaction is inauthentic.  Beta readers always find things I was too close to spot.  They and the time they give to reading my stories are invaluable.

Go back and fix the errors my beta readers find.  Now, I might not agree with everything they tell me.  I might not make every change they want.  But, if I don't want to do what they say, I'd better have a darn good reason.

Now, other than a final editing pass through by yours truly, that's been my strategy.  I publish after the betas.  However, I'm strongly considering a professional editor next time.  What do you think?  What has been your experience with professional editing?

It's back to the editing desk for me...Out of Place, the final chapter in Carin's story, is coming soon....

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

COVER REVEAL: Michelle Kemper Brownlow's ON SOLID GROUND

I'm happy to announce the cover reveal and on-sale date for On Solid Ground, the sequel to In Too Deep (my review of that here)!!
ON SOLID GROUND, by Michelle Kemper Brownlow
Gracie survived an emotionally abusive relationship that wrecked her. Her ex, Noah, systematically chipped away at her self-esteem through intimidation, humiliation and infidelity which left Gracie unable to trust her own perception of his intentions. But after falling head over heels for Jake, her best friend and the man who stood by her through it all, she is ready to experience life in the way it was meant to be lived.  However, Gracie may find it impossible to simultaneously heal from the trauma of abuse while navigating a relationship with Jake. Can she put her heart on hold in order to heal her soul?
The sequel to the five-star debut novel, In Too Deep, chronicles Gracie’s steps toward recovery as she discovers new interests, reaches out for help, deals with the return of unexpected exes, struggles through setbacks and reacquaints herself with a sensual and talented soul from her past all in hopes of finding herself on solid ground.
On Solid Ground will be available December 3, 2013--just in time for Christmas stockings!!!
Don't forget: the In Too Deep e-book is on sale for $1.99, but today is the last day! Get your copy here.
You can connect with Michelle on her blog, on twitter or facebook, and on goodreads. Now go grab that sale copy of In Too Deep & be ready for December 3!

Friday, August 9, 2013

Friday Reads: Summer Reviews by Christine Locke

First I must take a moment to absorb the oddity of the mixture of books I'm reviewing for you today.
Ok, done with that.  And, no, I'm not going to force some connection between them and foist it upon you as if I had some magic theme in mind.

I just love to read.  I love stories.  I love to write them, read them, and talk to people about them--mostly because in talking about them I end up hearing a new story: the story of why someone else liked/hated the narrative, too.

So, here you go, three more books for my end-of-summer reading.  If you loved them, too, comment!  If not, comment!  The discussions that stem from reading stories are the most interesting stories of all.

Joyland by Stephen King

I've got a soft spot for stories in which a middle aged or older character writes about what it is to be young.  I don't know why.  I just do.  I've also just finished writing one (sort of), so that's part of it.  But when you take a writer who does character so beautifully, and you get a reminiscence novel from them, well, that's a special thing indeed.
Also, I don't know if it's just practice, or that brush with death (ok, it was more than a "brush," much more), or what.  I used to love Stephen King's novels and characters, but I hated his endings.  I just hated them.  Either I saw them coming (The Shining) or they just made no stupid sense to me (It).  But something has changed.  I watched "Bag of Bones" thinking I'd love the characters and hate the ending: wrong.  I read 11/22/63 expecting same: wrong.  So I started Joyland without expectations.  I don't know how to say this about a "hard case" crime/horror novel, but, geez, this book is beautiful.  The story inspires love and longing of all the best kinds.  And I didn't see the ending coming until very late in the book and then I wasn't sure and I didn't WANT to see it coming because, like the young man our narrator once was, I had grown to love the characters.  How did he DO that?

Illuminations by Mary Sharratt
My dear friend and mentor of spirit, Deshae Lott, Ph.D., first introduced me to Hildegard's writings when we were in grad school together.  That was almost twenty years ago.  Unlike my friend, I never became a Hildegard expert.  I recently watched a non-English movie about Hildegard in which her life events were quite different from those portrayed in Sharratt's novel.  I don't know enough about the famous mystic to assert who was right or wrong.  But here's what I can tell you: this book is elegantly written.  I first found Sharratt while researching modern magic realism authors; she was one someone's list.  And I smiled when I saw Sharratt had written a book about Hildegard.  Christian mysticism could fit quite nicely into the magic realism genre, I realized, and I wondered how I'd never really thought of that before.  
Here's a taste of what I mean by elegant writing: 

"...a wild mourning dove flew down to peck the morsels from my hand, her feathers fanning my wrists.  Part of me flew with her as she winged away into the forest."
"Someone must guide them, protect them, mother them, save them from despair and the specter of Jutta's long and languorous dance with her true bridegroom, who was not Christ but Death.  The tears spilling from my eyes blinded me to my brother's imploring...."
The story is a good, one, yes, but I'm most compelled by the representation of faith and purpose in what first seems pointless, the freedom in the "magic" of Hildegard's visions despite a very cruel, dark, limited existence. Hildegard's faith in her inner voice, her courage to write down what she knew to be Truth even though it could have cost her life: the beauty of Sharrat's representations will make you weep.  In a good way.

"Sweet Torture," by Kira Saito

When I find a writer I love, it's fun to go back and see what they wrote in the past.  It gives me a sense of how they became the writer they are.  It fascinates me that the writer often wrote something completely different from what I've come to expect.  And, yet, there will be fun-to-spot similarities to their more recent work.
I've blogged about Saito's Southern gothic work, and I've reviewed a couple of her books. "Sweet Torture," unlike her Arelia LaRue series, is not southern, not gothic, not about magic or witches.  Well, there's a little magic and a voodoo queen, 'cause, you know, Saito, BUT the queen's a side character who basically teaches the MC the power of positive thinking--and helps her get a little revenge while she's at it.
In the end, it's a teen revenge story, love story, self-awareness story.  But the character development has the same sparse effectiveness of Saito's novels, and that's fun to see in any genre.  Give it a read: it's quick, it's fun, it's got CHOCOLATE!

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Back to the "day job..." by Christine Locke

Good morning, everyone.  I'm up to my neck in curriculum planning for another year of classical home education with my children, but I want to share an interview appearing on Arkansas Authors.  It's been a wonderful experience working with them, and I'm delighted to be featured.

I'll also be posting an update to "Not Beauty's Sleep" on Wattpad today.  Stop by--I'd love to connect with you there.

And then it's back to curriculum for me, so have a wonderful week.  I'll check in soon.

You can buy me this mug at, BTW :)

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Not Beauty's Sleep - Wattpad

I'm experimenting today.  Taking pieces of a short story/fairytale retelling from a couple of years ago, I started a Wattpad account.  I'd love for you to stop by!
If you are already there, let me know.  I'd love to follow your writing.

Not Beauty's Sleep - Wattpad

Friday, July 26, 2013

Heather Sutherlin's Seen Series, Review by Christine Locke

I'm delighted to take part in the Book Release Blast for Heather Sutherlin's Wandering, the latest book in her "Seen" Series.
Here is where you can find my brief but delighted review of Heather's first novel for this series, Seen.

Today, I get to tell you about Wandering, the second book in this fantasy series that might also be described as Young Adult romance.

Here's the amazon description of Wandering:

When you’ve traveled between worlds, there’s nowhere left to go but home. Rory has never been so cold in her life. But the biting wind only reminds her of another pain that grows more intense with each passing day. Each night Jaron’s beautiful voice sings in her dreams, and each day her footsteps draw her closer to his side. Danger and intrigue at every turn, no distance is too far when you’re returning for true love. Rin has spent the last five years searching for Rory across two worlds. Now a series of visions have him convinced he’s growing closer to finding her. But when Rory slips through another portal, taking his visions with her, he finds himself back at square one. To find her now he’ll need the help of an old friend and a little otherworldly magic. This time he intends to bring The Wanderer home for good.

I'm going to give Wandering 5 stars, because I loved the second half. I did not find the ending confusing.  Perhaps another review felt that it ended abruptly or that the flash forward at the end (so we can see main characters at a later point in time, when certain events reach resolution) was disconcerting.  I can understand that.  However, I like the flash forward.  I like the closure it offered.

I also continued to enjoy the lush and detailed (even when they're not so lush) settings described in this series.  I do recommend these all-age appropriate books for the younger Young Adult crowd.

Also, I do think it's important to note, again, that Sutherlin's ebooks are professionally edited and formatted.  At a time when anyone can take a draft and publish it as an ebook, it's hard for readers to know when a manuscript has been released only because it is ready, and when it's just been thrown out there.   Sutherlin's books are quality products.  You can purchase them with confidence.