Between the Lines with… Kate McKinley!

Kate writes Historical and Fantasy Romance. When she’s not dreaming up sexy heroes and feisty heroines, she’s reading, gardening or tending to her menagerie of pets.


Marine biologist Morgan Johansson doesn’t believe in fairy tales, so when rumors of a sexy male siren surface, she sets out on her boat to prove them wrong. But when she’s tossed overboard by her ex, she comes face to face with a strong, virile siren who’s undeniably real and promises to awaken her every erotic fantasy.

Racing to save his people, Erik, heir to the siren kingdom, must find the one woman destined to be his queen. When Morgan hits the water, he feels her presence and knows instantly she’s the one.  Now he must convince her to abandon her strict scientific beliefs and submit to the powerful desire that grips them both. But one question remains to be answered…

Will Morgan return to the surface, or will she surrender to the Siren Prince?


Kate is not only a very talented writer, but also my critique partner and dear friend.  I’m so thrilled to be able to feature her this month as her first publication, the novella SURRENDER TO THE SIREN PRINCE is available as of June 1st from the Wild Rose Press.

Amazon | nook | Sony

How long have you been writing and what are your preferred genres? 

I started writing seriously for publication about 5 years ago, and I love the allure of a different place or time, so fantasy and Regency are my favorites to write.

 Who are your favorite authors to read?  Whose writing style do you most admire? 

Oh, man, there are so many fantastic authors. Anne Stuart will always be one of my favorites. She writes sinfully delicious heroes who are bad to the bone, but oh-so-yummy.

What was your reasoning behind selecting the novella format for your first published work? 

The novella length just seemed to fit well with the story I wanted to tell.  It allowed me to keep the focus on the romance, which is the best part of any book for me.

Tell us about the Siren world of your novella.  What was your inspiration and how did you do your world building? 

The book takes place in alternate world, deep beneath the sea, where the Greek gods still have power and influence. Since I was very young, I’ve always been fascinated with mythology—magic, love, betrayal, redemption, what’s not to love? So when I decided I was going to write fantasy, it was only natural that I reach for the Greek myths for inspiration.

World building is always a tricky, especially in the novella length. I tried hard to give the reader a sense of time and place without overwhelming the story with too much detail. It’s a tricky balance, but I hope I pulled it off.

What projects are you working on now?  Any longer fiction in your future?

I’m currently working on a short, novella length Regency and a full length Regency.

What advice would you give an aspiring author?

Write. It’s really as simple as that. Write, write, then write some more.

 Find out more about this rising star at her website.

Between the Lines with… Charlotte Carter

 A multi-published author of more than fifty romance, cozy mystery and inspirational titles, Charlotte Carter lives in Southern California with her husband of forty-nine years and their cat Mittens—an equal opportunity lap cat. They have two married daughters and five grandchildren. When she’s not writing, Charlotte does a little stand-up comedy—G-Rated Humor for Grownups—and teaches workshops on the craft of writing.


Q. You’ve written SO many books. How do you keep yourself motivated to write?

I’m compulsive! Maybe it’s because I started late in this writing business, but writing, discovering a story, soothes me (when it’s going well, of course). And there’s always another story to tell lurking somewhere in the back of my mind. So little time, so many stories……

Q. You’ve written in several different subgenres. Do you stick with one genre at a time or do you switch it up and change from book to book to keep it interesting?

The vast majority of my books have been romance novels. Now, however, I’m writing for two publishers: inspirational romance for Love Inspired  and cozy mystery continuities for Guideposts Books. I try to alternate between publishers, which is somewhat dependent on my schedule for the Guideposts books in whatever series is current.

Q. What is your writing process like? Linear or dot-to-dot? Planner or pantser? Do you write long hand or on the computer? etc.

I’m definitely linear and a planner, although the characters have been known to give me a surprise now and then. I start off plotting with a pen and college-lined notebook paper. (You can tell  how high-tech I am – Not!)  I establish who the characters are and their goals, diagram a W plot and  work through the hero’s journey.  At that point I can usually write a synopsis, which I do on the computer as well as the rest of the manuscript.

Q. What is your most reliable “go to” tool when you realize your story is broken and needs fixing?

For many years, my favorite “go to” tool was Mindy Neff and Susan Phillips, my critique partners. More recently I’ve been whining to Karen Leabo (aka Kara Lennox), who is great with the ‘black moment.’ If they aren’t handy, I may take a second look at Save the Cat by Blake Synder, do Debbie Macomber’s list of 20, or let my subconscious solve the problem while I sleep. I will say, by chapter 3 I pretty well can tell if the story is going to work.

Q. How have you managed to brand yourself, given the different genres you have written in?

I’ve never quite understood this ‘branding’ business, but I do have a motto and a promise that I make to readers: Books that leave you smiling….by Charlotte Carter.  When I was writing for Harlequin American (as Charlotte Maclay) I wrote warm, family stories. Now, with Love Inspired (w/a Charlotte Carter) I’m writing warm, family stories but with a more emotional tone and characters who are dealing with serious problems — a heart transplant recipient, loss of family members, and in my current book, Big Sky Family, a hero who is paraplegic.

Q. You have a wonderful sense of humor that serves you well when speaking publicly. How does your humor serve you in your writing career?

I wish I could say my sense of humor allows me to laugh at copy editors, but that would be a lie. In my writing, humor tends to worm it’s way into the story via children, who are always unpredictable, or by creating a ‘fish out of water’ story for the hero or heroine. Often it’s the reaction of a ‘straight’ character to a humorous situation that can make a reader smile.

Q. What authors and genres do you like to read?

I most often read suspense and romantic suspense, single title romance, legal thrillers, and the like. I’ve recently read James Patterson (Alex Cross story), John Grisham, Iris Johansen, and Rachel Lee books. And to my delight, our own Deb Mullins and Tessa Dare (Eve Ortega) have brought me back to historical romance, my first love.

Q. What piece of advice do you consider most important sharing with an aspiring author?

Write! Write! And write some more. I was very fortunate when I joined OCC and RWA that I could come home from a meeting and immediately use whatever information I’d gleaned  in my work-in-progress.. It’s impossible, in my view, to learn to write without having somehow finished a story.  My various critique groups have also been invaluable. (My technique is to be the dumbest one in the group so I can learn the most; so far I’ve achieved that goal..) I continue to learn by attending workshops and taking online classes in the hope of improving my craft. As Susan Macias said at our October Birthday Bash, “The only guarantee that you won’t sell is if you quit writing.”

Single mom Ellie James has returned to Montanafor a fresh start and a new job at a local school. She sure could use the support of hometown rancher Arnie O’Brien, especially when she faces the opportunity to step up as director. But this cowboy still holds a grudge from when Ellie left him behind eight years ago. Can Arnie trust God’s plan and take a second chance on the girl who got away? He and Ellie will have to put aside the past to face the future together.

Find more information about Charlotteand her books at:

Between the Lines with… Tessa Dare!

UPDATE: Winners for the give-away are announced in the comments.  Please contact me with your address (if you would like the mass-market paperback) or your Kindle email address if you prefer the Kindle edition.  Email is BrennaAubrey at gmail dot com

In honor of my special guest, Tessa Dare, I will be hosting my first giveaway on this blog!!  I have 2 copies of A Night To Surrender, either paperback or Kindle version, available to give away.  Post a comment on this blog by midnight PST on Tuesday, September 6 and you will be eligible.  In the meantime, sit back and enjoy some of Ms. Dare’s famous wit:

Tessa Dare is the award-winning author of seven historical romance novels and one novella. She has twice been awarded the RT Book Reviews Reviewer’s Choice Award, and has twice been a finalist for Romance Writers of America’s prestigious RITA® award. Recently, Booklist magazine named her one of the “new stars of historical romance.”

Mixing wit, sensuality, and emotion, Tessa strives to write Regency-set romance novels that feel relatable to modern readers. With her new “Spindle Cove” series, she’s had great fun creating a fictional seaside community populated by women who defy the conventions of their time—engaging in such unladylike pursuits as medicine, geology, and artillery. And she’s had even more fun dreaming up the strong-willed, unsuspecting men who’ll find their hearts ensnared by these “spinster” heroines.

Tessa makes her home inSouthern California, where she shares a cozy, cluttered bungalow with her husband, their two children, and a big brown dog.


Welcome to Spindle Cove, where ladies with delicate constitutions come for the sea air, and men in their prime are…nowhere to be found.

Or are they?

Spindle Cove is the destination of choice for certain types of well-bred young ladies: the painfully shy, young wives disenchanted with matrimony, and young girls too enchanted with the wrong men. It is a haven for those who live there.

Victor Bramwell, the new Earl of Rycliff, knows he doesn’t belong here. So far as he can tell, there’s nothing in this place but spinsters…and sheep. But he has no choice, he has orders to gather a militia. It’s a simple mission, made complicated by the spirited, exquisite Susanna Finch–a woman who is determined to save her personal utopia from the invasion of Bram’s makeshift army.

Susanna has no use for aggravating men; Bram has sworn off interfering women. The scene is set for an epic battle…but who can be named the winner when both have so much to lose?

A Night to Surrender will be available August 30, 2011 (Avon Books).


Your new trilogy centers around an invented setting.  What gave you the idea for Spindle Cove and how did you develop that idea into a viable setting?

Like so many of my writing ideas, the seed came from Jane Austen.  I was thinking about the way the Bennet sisters and all Meryton were worked into a fervor by the encampment of the militia nearby.  Then I had the thought, “What if a hero were charged with raising a militia in a town where there were virtually no men?”  I saw a lot of possibility there, and that’s where the idea for Spindle Cove originated.  From there, it was a matter of researching and selecting an approximate location, and envisioning just why and how this village would come to be dominated by clever young women.

Is there a real place or places on which you based Spindle Cove?  What elements did you borrow from the real world to develop this place?

Last August I went toEngland, to research the real locations that would inspire the Spindle Cove setting.  I spent about a week exploring theSussexcoast and downlands, and when I came back and started to build the village in my mind, I took all my favorite bits and pieces–church, tea shop, houses, castle–and squashed them into one fictional place.

Many writers state the importance of making setting a character in your novel.  Since setting is so important in SURRENDER, how did you go about make it a supporting character?

 My goal was to create a place that readers would want to re-visit, so I tried to make it an appealing little village.  But like any small town, it has plenty of quirks.  The primary plot of the book is a battle of the sexes between Bram, the hero working to raise a militia, and Susanna, the leader of this progressive, ladies-only enclave.  So I let some parts of the village become “bones” that they could tug at from both sides.   For example, there’s no tavern in Spindle Cove.  There used to be one, but now it’s become a ladies’ tea shop called The Blushing Pansy.  Bram and his men find this utterly unacceptable, so they stage a tavern takeover one night and rename the place The Rutting Bull.  By the end of the book, the men and women in town are working together – and the tea shop/tavern is renamed The Bull and Blossom as a compromise.  That’s just one example of letting the setting tell part of the story.

What are your methods for novel planning?  Do you draw maps, complete character charts or any of those “planning” activities?

Not…really.  Usually, the more of that I try to do, the more confused I get!  But I do get a notebook and just ramble in it freeform, jotting down everything that occurs to me. Character background, scraps of dialogue, setting, and so forth.  I find I’m very linear, when it comes to writing.  I don’t have anything against charts and diagrams, but they just don’t click for me.

What is your one “go to” writing tool that gets you over a block or dead end while you are writing? 

I go out to coffee with a good friend (*cough*The Interviewer*cough*) and talk it through!  Or sometimes, I get on video chat with one or two of my long-distance critique partners.

Your books are always very well researched.  Sometimes beginning authors find it hard to leave the research phase and begin writing.  In your opinion, what is the point between not enough research and too much research?  Do you research before you even write or as you go along?

Why, thank you.  Among historicals, I don’t think my books are exactly known for their richly faceted historical detail, but I do actually do a lot of research.   I’m a librarian, so I enjoy it.  I don’t know that I can pinpoint an ideal medium between “not enough” and “too much” — I think each writer has to find that for herself.  Sometimes the story drives the research, and sometimes the research drives the story. I will say this: The hardest thing about research is resisting the urge to use all of it.

Another thing you have become known for is your amusing book trailers using your children’s toys.  How did that idea develop?

Well, that was one of those “work with what you’ve got” things.  In 2010, I wanted to do a book video, but didn’t want to spend a lot of money on it.  And I wanted it to be fun to make and fun to watch.  I can’t remember exactly where the idea to use the toys came from, but when the idea came to me, I couldn’t stop giggling.  That seemed like a good sign. So I made the thing, and I figured, if no one watched it it wouldn’t be a big loss of time and investment.  But it actually ended up doing really well.  For a while, I think I was getting more fan mail about the video than the books!   This year, I offered up a video for a charity auction – Maya Banks bid a lot of money to win it, and I had so much fun making her video.

Last one: What one piece of advice do you give a beginning romance author?

When beginning writers email me and ask for advice, I always encourage them to join RWA and find a local chapter.  Supportive friends I’ve made through OCC were just invaluable to me as I wrote A Night to Surrender, in particular, and I’ve learned so much through RWA as a whole.

Interview with 2 Authors: Debra Mullins & Debra Holland

 I have the task of contributing this column, “Between the Lines,” to the chapter newsletter of my local RWA chapter.  I have permission to publish these interviews here as well.


Two Debras, Two Golden Hearts: Two very different paths to publishing

Between the Lines with Debra Mullins & Debra Holland

Debra Mullins is the award-winning author of over a dozen historical romances from pirates to cowboys to Regency England to the Victorian period. Born and raised in the New York area, she moved west as an adult and loves old swashbuckler movies, Star Trek and cats.

You are a previous finalist of the Golden Heart award for unpublished authors.  How did that recognition set the course for your career as an author?

Being a finalist gave me a great way to approach editors to pitch my manuscript. I was a finalist in 1996, pitched my book to an editor at RWA in July 1997 and had an offer in hand by January 1998.

You sold several books without an agent at the beginning.  Would you do it again?  Why or why not?

At the time, I had decided it would be easier to find an editor than an agent. Agents might love your work but turn you down for representation because they are unsure if they can sell it. Editors can buy work if they like it. So yes, I would do it again, though I have been agented consistently for the past 12 years or so. As a first sale author, you have a limited amount of say in what can be changed in a contract because you have no sales numbers to back up your requests. As an established author, the game changes and there is more than can be negotiated, so I prefer having an agent at this stage in my career.

What attracted you to Regency Historical fiction?  Will you / Have you ever tried your hand at any other subgenre?  Would you like to sometime?

My first book was a pirate adventure, my next two were Westerns. At that point Westerns were dying, so my editor requested I switch to England or Scotland. I’ve always enjoyed Regency romances, so that was the time period I picked. My current series, however, is Victorian, and I am also contracted for contemporary paranormal trilogy for Tor.

Can you describe your writing process—plot device first? or character first?

I am without a doubt a character writer. I start with characters and the internal conflict and theme, then have to find stuff for my characters to do for 300-plus pages (plot).

 How do you develop a character arc for your hero/heroine?

I usually know what kind of internal conflict they have and where they need to end up, then work from there. A lot of what I do is gut instinct. If it feels right, it goes in, everything from the character’s name to his/her deepest internal issues.

What do you do to keep your ideas fresh and unique?

Keep up with current events. Technology may be changing, but people are essentially the same all through history. People today care about the same things people in past centuries cared about: survival, family, love, respect, etc. You can make that work in any sub-genre, and it resonates with the reader.

How did you develop your writing discipline?  What keeps you making deadlines when you have a job and family?

Necessity. In order to meet my contractual obligations, I have to schedule things. I put my kids and day job first, then my writing. It has to be that way so I can keep my household afloat. This means I don’t have much of a social life outside of the writing community, which is probably why I met my husband at work. <G> My goal is to someday become a full time writer.

And last but not least, the one I ask everybody : )  What one piece of advice would you give a struggling unpublished writer?

I would say get feedback on your work, but don’t try and incorporate every suggestion given to you, and don’t ask twenty people when three will do. This is something that I see time and time again. Beginning writers get advice from too many people, then try and apply every suggestion. The result is a book that has lost its spark and doesn’t sound like yours anymore. Take the feedback and try to drill down to the underlying meaning. Example: Let’s say several different people tell you your hero shouldn’t be a prince because he is coming across as too wimpy, that he should be an FBI agent or an assassin or a vampire. The real feedback here is not that your hero has the wrong job, but that he is coming across as too weak. Your beta readers can probably point out areas that made them feel this way, and by making the hero stronger, you resolve the problem while still keeping your prince.

Debra’s Latest, Too Wicked to Love is available now.

For more information on Debra Mullins, visit her website 


Debra Holland wears several hats when it comes to writing. As a psychotherapist, she writes nonfiction books. The Essential Guide to Grief and Grieving is her first nonfiction book.  Debra also writes fiction–Historical Western Romance, Contemporary Romance, Fantasy Romance, and Science Fiction. She currently has her award winning Historical Western Romance Series, The Montana Sky Series, on Kindle.

Debra publishes all her work under her own name. She lives in Southern California, with two dogs, two cats, and a boyfriend. She’s a second degree blackbelt and teaches martial arts. She also is a corporate crisis/grief counselor.

You are a former winner of the Golden Heart award for unpublished authors.  Can you tell us a little bit about that experience?

 I owe it all to the feedback I received from the Orange Rose Contest that year–2001. I revised the beginning of Wild Montana Sky because I had two judges tell me the hero and heroine met too late. In November, I entered it in the Golden Heart contest, and NEVER THOUGHT OF IT AGAIN! I didn’t know when calls went out–it never crossed my mind that I would final. The call was the BIGGEST surprise ever! I think I screamed because my boyfriend came running to see what was going on. He wasn’t sure if it was a happy scream or a bad scream.

 Carol Prescott told me that being a GH finalist was like being on the Prom Court in high school. And she was right. It was my first conference,New Orleans, and I was also giving a workshop, “Understanding Men.”  I had a BLAST.  The friendships you can make with the other GH finalists are priceless. I’m especially close with the GH finalists from 2003, but that’s another book and another story.

 I had several other finalists tell me they were not going to prepare an acceptance speech because they didn’t want to “jinx” winning. Since I’m a believer in positive, not negative, thinking, a few hours before the ceremony, I decided I’d better put something together. I was ironing my gown, thinking about what I might say, when I had this strong feeling sweep over me that I was going to win. I stopped ironing and went looking for a piece of paper, saying to myself, “I WILL be giving this speech. I’d better write everyone’s names down to thank so I don’t forget anyone.”

 So many people told me that selling was the next step to winning, but it wasn’t for me.

 Your book, however, languished unpublished for a decade due to marketing concerns for the genre you wrote in (i.e. Sweet Western).  What gave you the impetus to self-publish?

 By the time I’d finished the Wild Montana Sky (WMS) the historical market, especially Westerns, had tanked. Winning the GH led me to my first agent, and he couldn’t sell the book. Neither could the second, even though the historical market came back. The market is for sexy, not “sweet” books, that aren’t inspirationals. I was reluctant to sell to a small press because I didn’t like the covers on most small press books. (That has changed a lot in this last year or so.) I wrote another book in the Montana Sky series, Starry Montana Sky (SMS), which took second place in the Orange Rose contest. 

 In the meantime, I switched to writing fantasy, then, in the last couple of years, focused on nonfiction. While I was in “deadline hell,” writing The Essential Guide to Grief and Grieving, a couple of my friends from the Wet Noodle Posse (GH finalists 2003) began publishing their backlist and unsold books on Kindle, Nook, and Smashwords and were doing very well. When I saw their success, I decided to self-publish WMS and SMS, but had to wait until I’d turned the grief book in. Because of my friends, I knew what to do (and what not to do.) We are sharing everything we know and learn about self-publishing with each other.

 Can you describe the steps you took to publish the books in ebook form?

I’d had the books edited years ago, but did another read through of both. I went to the Bowker site to buy ISBN numbers. (You don’t need them for Kindle or Nook, but you do for Smashwords, so you might as well do it). My friends assured me that converting to ebook formatting might be time-consuming and tedious, but doable. Just follow the steps in the Smashwords guidebook. Not for me. I got stuck early on. I contacted one of the formatters suggested by Smashwords and paid him the outrageous sum of $20.00 per book. (Couldn’t believe he didn’t charge more.  Would have paid $100 not to have to do it myself! ) Once he was finished, I uploaded the books on the Kindle site myself, as well as the others. All the sites are all similar. If I can do it, anyone can. Each took about 15 minutes, but a less tech challenged person could probably do it faster.

 Who designed those lovely covers?  What was that process like?

 Delle Jacobs, one of my Wet Noodle Posse friends, and the first of us to self-publish her books. Delle won numerous Golden Hearts, but could never sell toNew York, although she did sell to some small presses. Now she has her rights back. She’s doing VERY well. 

 I’ve looked at covers for years, trying to figure out what I’d want on my covers if the books ever sold. (Not that I’d have any say in the matter.) I never found one. Then, a couple of weeks before publishing, while looking through a catalogue of science fiction and fantasy books, I saw a cover for a fantasy novel, and thought–this is what I want–clouds opening up to the sky. I showed the cover to Delle, then described a big white house, a rainbow in the sky, and the couple looking at the rainbow.  For SMS, I wanted a night sky, stars, a moon, a horse, and a smaller house. She did a marvelous job.

 Now a question about pricing.  You had this finished product in your hands… how did you go about deciding how to price them and how was that a factor in the success of the books?

 I read a couple of blogs, but mostly followed Delle’s advice. She’s had fantastic success at selling a book or two at an introductory price of .99, then having readers go back and buy the rest at higher prices.

 Self-publishing percentages are 35% for books priced below 2.99 and 70% between 2.99 and 9.99. Obviously, I make way more money on Starry at 2.99. However, I’m an unknown author. Why should people take a risk on my book? That’s why WMS is .99. However, if you’re already published and have a following, I’d suggest 2.99. WMS is outselling SMS at about 4 or 5 to 1. Because of the low price, WMS has also made some of the Amazon top 100 lists, both Historical and Historical Romance. (Making the list was a wonderful surprise!)

In your opinion, what is the single most effective marketing tool you used to promote your books?

 I actually haven’t promoted it that much, just posted it on Facebook and Twitter.  Just this last week, I’ve done a few blogs. I’ve had friends post on Facebook and Tweet, too. I have more blogs lined up. Reviewers, too.

 One thing we can all do for each other is post 5 star reviews on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Smashwords, whichever you buy your books from. Positive reviews make a big difference to any book, but especially self-published ones. For each review, my sales have risen a little to another level. I must confess that I’ve never posted a review until the last couple of months, but now I do every time I read a book I like.

 And last but not least (I save this question for everyone!)  What is the most important piece of advice you could share with an unpublished author?

 Don’t give up! Trust that there is a publishing path for you, although you don’t know what it will look like or how (or when) it will come. Keep honing your craft. Keep writing. 

 Not selling Wild Montana Sky was very discouraging.  It won the GH TEN years ago! Those first rejections hurt. Eventually, it happened enough that I shrugged them off when I got them. Now I’m SO glad I didn’t sell the books before. I guess there was a different plan for them, and I’m so grateful! 

Wild Montana Sky is currently available.

For more information on Debra Holland, visit her website

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