RONE Awards Finalist: Karla Brandenburg

I was over-the-moon excited when my book Diamond in the Rough was announced as a finalist for the RONE award. One of the cool things about the award is that it has introduced me to new authors, so I invited some of them to share some info with my readers about their own books. Join me in welcoming Karla Brandenburg today!

In what genre did you begin writing? I was aiming for action/suspense with my first novel, but it turned into romantic suspense. I’ve always been a sucker for a good romance and I couldn’t seem to keep it out of the story.

How has your writing/genre evolved from that time? Now that I’ve embraced my genre, I take aim solidly. I write in two genres, romantic suspense and romance with paranormal subplots. My current series has ghostly supporting characters.

How long did it take from beginning to write seriously to seeing your book published? For the first book? I started writing it in 1998. I didn’t actually publish until 2002, but I also went through a divorce and then met and married my present husband during that period.

What prompted you to write for publication? It was one of those moments when you read someone else’s book and say “I can write better than that.” And then the “million dollar idea” (ok, so it wasn’t worth a million dollars, but you get the gist) struck.

Tell me about the moment when you realized you were a “real writer.” I’d say it was when I finished that first book. I’d been writing stories all my life, but I’d never put in the time and energy to organize them or do more than put pen to paper. With that first book, I dedicated the time to learning the craft, following a theme, writing and editing to make it right instead of just letting my imagination out for a walk.

What did you do with your first royalty check? Well, this goes to who I am. I’m a penny pincher, tight-fisted tightwad. I banked it.

What book (that you wrote or read) had the biggest impact on you? The one I read was Dragonfly in Amber, and then Outlander after that. Those books moved me to travel to Scotland, in spite of the cold and the icky food and all the rest of the negatives. It was a very dark period in my personal life and those books reached out to me as a means of escape from my everyday life (which I needed at that time.) Later, when I wrote Heart for Rent, with an Option, it was a way of letting go of some pent up emotions of my own. It probably isn’t my best work, but that was a book that helped me work through some personal demons.

Tell me about the inspiration for your RONE finalist book. I had so much fun writing Cookie Therapy! It is one in a series of a family of friends (the Northwest Suburbs series). In the second book in the series, I introduced two somewhat unlikeable characters. People had such a visceral response to one of them, that I knew I had to redeem in her in the third book, and because I had so much fun with her, Cookie Therapy was my attempt to redeem the other unlikeable character from that book, a cheating boyfriend. I paired him off with a klutzy victim, someone with secrets of her own.

Tell me about the moment you found out your book was chosen as a finalist for the RONE award. There must be some mistake! This is a popularity contest! Except it isn’t. I actually had to double check how I’d made the finals, and it was because of the fabulous review I’d gotten (5 stars!) that qualified me. Cookie Therapy was also nominated for the Booklife Prize for Fiction and I made the finals there, as well. Glowing with pride that I was able to create something other people enjoy reading!

What book are you the most proud of, and why? Cookie Therapy is one of my favorites, to be sure. I was able to create multilayered personalities for my main characters, and give them a worthy supporting cast. The fact that it has received critical acclaim helps, and I have another book that won an award, but yeah, Cookie Therapy is probably the one I’m most proud of.

If you could take a vacation with any of your characters, who would you choose and where would you go? A lot of my stories stem from vacations, so technically, I’ve already traveled to places with my characters, or I created them from those places. One of my favorites was Heart for Rent, strolling through a French market in Aix-en-Provence (I’d go back there in a heartbeat), and another is New Orleans. Although Jared (The Twins) isn’t from the city, he did give me a deeper appreciation for Southern Louisiana by appearing in my book.

You suddenly find out that you have an entire day free – what are you going to do? Write. Or Read. I’ve scheduled vacations just for these purposes. I also like to walk to ruminate on ideas. Then, of course, there is the “visiting” thing. I feel guilty if I don’t use free time to catch up with those people I care most about, so if I have the entire day? I’ll run out to visit people who can’t get out to see me.

Anything else you’d like to tell me about your writing? My latest book came out in July – THE MIRROR is the third in the EPITAPH series and I’m busily working on the fourth one, which will probably have a January/February release date.

Thanks so much for stopping by, Karla! I enjoyed our chat.

Readers, if you want to know more about Karla, pop over to her website: https://www.karlabrandenburg.com

And if you want to check out Cookie Therapy, you can find it at any of these retailers:

Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Cookie-Therapy-Northwest-Suburbs-Brandenburg-ebook/dp/B01CBW4J56

Barnes & Noble: https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/cookie-therapy-karla-brandenburg/1123476014

Kobo: https://www.kobo.com/us/en/ebook/cookie-therapy

iBooks: https://itunes.apple.com/us/book/cookie-therapy/id1088691848?mt=11

 

RONE Award Finalists: Debra Erfert (part 2)

I hope you enjoyed my interview with author Debra Erfert yesterday, who is also a finalist for the RONE awards. I asked her to share a little info about her book, Changes of the Heart. Read on for a blurb and excerpt:

Changes of the Heart: Buying the 1920s farmhouse south of Phoenix, where the rumors of John Dillinger’s gang hid out in the 30s, is supposed to be accident-prone Grace Evanheart’s way of escaping an old romance. When she finds an ancient diary with a map under the bedroom’s floorboard, the rumors solidify into fact. She doesn’t know who to trust with the news; Micah Stevens, the handsome deputy and the great grandson of the original landowners with whom she’s attracted, or Jerry, the young historian who seems too intent on learning about her new home?

Micah seems convinced their paths cross exactly at the right time and in the right place for them to fall in love. Now he just has to convince Grace of the same thing before suspicions of his real motive have her running again.

EXCERPT:

Strawberries slid down the stark white wall, juices dripping in thin bloody ribbons toward the broken bowl near the baseboard. If I’d aimed six inches to the left, I’d have hit my boyfriend’s head as he left.

Correction—my ex-boyfriend.
Three soft, confident taps on the door preceded my neighbor’s entrance. I knew who it was before I saw Chelsea Vanderbilt’s short, rainbow sherbet tips and blonde roots. She made my brown hair seem dreary and bland.
“Hey, Grace. I take it David’s gone.”
“He’s gone.” I followed her gaze to the newly redecorated wall. “I missed.”
Chelsea knelt down and picked up the largest chunk of ceramic bowl. “Well, lady, it’s probably a good thing you missed. He is the litigious type.”
I fell onto my hide-a-bed sofa, sighing loudly. “He told me he’s not ready to commit. That we should just be friends.”
Chelsea picked up a smaller bit of broken bowl and dropped it into the piece in her hand as she snorted. “I thought you were already friends.”
“I thought he was going to ask me to marry him. Instead, he dumped me.” I turned on my side and bumped my head on the worn-out arm of the couch. The brief pain only solidified my anger. “I’m going to be thirty next month. Alone forever! What am I doing wrong?”
“You’re not doing anything wrong,” Chelsea said, dropping the broken bowl into the trash, “except for maybe putting your trust in a man who never earned it.”
“I probably shouldn’t have dated someone younger.”
Chelsea turned and rested her skinny hip against the cabinet. “Five years isn’t that much of a difference. David’s a grown man.”
“Apparently he thought I was too old for him.”
“I don’t think your advanced age has anything to do with it.” I threw a tiny accent pillow at Chelsea’s head—and missed. Either I needed to stop throwing things or take better aim.
I stared at the many rings on Chelsea’s fingers, including the ones on her thumbs, and said, “Or I just wasn’t exciting enough.”
“Maybe now you’ll learn not to fall instantly in love with the next guy to look into your baby blues.”
“They’re green.”
“You know what I mean.”
“I wish I didn’t.”
David Sullivan had asked me out about five minutes after running into me—literally. I was out for a rare morning jog, went around a bend, and ended up in a tangle of arms and legs with a bloodied lip. That was two short years ago.
“What are you going to do now?”
I gazed around my apartment. None of the beat-up furniture was mine. I barely had room in one corner for my six-foot easel, and most of my cabinet space was taken up with my art supplies instead of dishes. I needed room. And I needed to get away and forget about David.
I sat up and put both feet on the worn-out carpet. “Start over. I know how. I’ve done it before.”

Want to read more? Grab your copy of Changes of the Heart today!

RONE Award Finalists: Debra Erfert

I was over-the-moon excited when my book Diamond in the Rough was announced as a finalist for the RONE award. One of the cool things about the award is that it has introduced me to new authors, so I invited some of them to share some info with my readers about their own books. Join me in welcoming Debra Erfert today!

When and why did you begin writing? In 2003 I watched Pirates of the Caribbean Curse of the Black Pearl about 2 dozen times—in the theater. I wanted a sequel, so I wrote one just to see if I could. I was so impressed with that novella, that I continued to write, except I wrote a full-length novel, and then another, and another.

When did you first consider yourself a writer? I actually considered myself a writer after I had my first contract with a real publisher. I was inexperienced then, and I don’t use that marker anymore. I think anyone who has the desire to write a story is a writer—period.

What inspired you to write your first book? After finishing that first novella, I think I caught the writing bug. My first book was inspired by a dream I had. The only part I can remember is one scene of a woman jumping off an outdoor staircase in Paris, trying to get away from someone chasing her. I used that feeling—that scene—and wrote an 800-page manuscript around it. I published that story in 3 parts entitled Window of Time Trilogy.

What books have most influenced your life the most? Several years ago I met a woman named Kerry Blair, who is a mystery writer. She encouraged me even though my writing was less than professional. I’ve read everything she’s written—multiple times. “This Just In”, is one of my favorites. “Ghost of a Chance”, Mummy’s the Word”, I’ve also read every Sarah M. Eden’s historical romance novels: “Seeking Persephone” plus the others in that series. A more mainstream novel that influence me into creating more complicated novels is a book called “Lucifer’s Hammer” by Larry Niven, and Jerry Pournelle. It’s a comet, end-of-civilization book.

What authors do you like to read? I read Joyce DiPastena, Donna Hatch, Sarah M. Eden, Marsha Ward, Sariah Wilson, Teya Peck, Heather (HB) Moore, Liz Adair, Donna K. Weaver, HB Moore, Dean Koontz, (some of) Steven King, and Ray Bradbury for when I want to be creeped out.

What book are you reading now? I’m reading Solstice by Jane Redd (Heather B. Moore’s pen name while writing for Kindle Press). This was a Kindle Scout winner!

Are there any new authors that have grasped your interest? I just finished See Me For Me, by Teya Peck, and Don Carey’s Into The Wind.

What are your current projects? I’m currently working on my first historical romance set first in England 1888 and then in the wild west of 1888 Nevada, US. It’s Pride and Prejudice meets Bonanza.

What was the hardest part of writing your book? The hardest part of writing Changes of the Heart was letting the characters be themselves. In it, Grace isn’t so… um, graceful. I’d have to say that she really is a lot like me. Or, I wrote myself, my life, onto the pages of this book. I’m a natural klutz. I’ve sprained my ankle, several times, and all my toes one time or another tripping over stuff, and I drop things all the time. While I may have exaggerated things just a little with Grace, it wasn’t by very much—sadly.

Did you learn anything from writing your book and what was it? One of the biggest things I learned with writing this story came while I wrote the scene about Grace having the epiphany about her mother dying. My mother died when I was only 24 years old, not much older than Grace when her mother passed. My mother had been sick with cancer since I was 6 years old. I essentially wrote about my mother’s illness and death in this story, but while I did it, I realized that all the innocent prayers of a child that I’d sent up to Heaven to heal her, they didn’t go unanswered. She’d lived—she’d lived long enough to raise her four children and see them all married before she finally died. That was my epiphany.

Do you have any advice for other writers? Write what you love! Write what you can’t get out of your head.

What book or books have had a strong influence on you or your writing? Kerry Blair’s mystery books have had a big influence on my writing. She’s kept them very clean yet so intriguing that I can’t put them down. While I like reading other books, I can’t say that they’ve influenced me, necessarily.

How many hours a day to you devote to writing? Sometimes I write for only a few minutes a day, but when I’m “on a roll” I can spend up to 12 hours at a time—if I can get away with it. My kitchen suffers for it, though. So does our diet. And the laundry…

Do you write a draft on paper or at a keyboard? I mostly write on my laptop. But there have been times when I’ve used spiral bound notebooks, like when I don’t have access to my computer and I have ideas for my story. I know better than to delay writing them down. With my memory, I sometimes forget what I walk into another room for.

What do you like to do when you’re not writing? I draw. In fact, one of my portraits I entered at our local county fair just won two ribbons: “Best of Class”, and “Outstanding”. Can’t get much better than those. Well, maybe a little better. Last time I entered a portrait, it won “Best of Show” and I received a nice check. Money is always nice. Here’s a link to my blog’s painting page: http://debraerfert.blogspot.com/p/my-paintings.html

What was one of the most surprising things you learned in creating your books? I was surprised that I could actually write a book. You know, that had a beginning, a middle, and an end, and they all fit together with a nice cohesive story arch. I surprise myself each and every time I write “The End” on a story.

How many books have you written? My first book, the one that was over 800 pages long, I overhauled and rewrote 4 times. They had the same characters in them, but they were essentially different books. In all, I’ve written 13 books. Maybe 14, not including several short stories and novellas.

Which is your favorite? My favorite book is the Window of Time Trilogy. It’s that 800-page monster that morphed into a 3-part series. Main character CIA Agent Lucy James is my alter-ego—my super-ego. I’m her in my dreams.

Do you have any suggestions to help me become a better writer? If so, what are they? We’re all still trying to become better writers—always! I’m going to writers’ workshops, and writers’ conferences, taking copious notes, and absorbing anything and everything that is involved with writing a better story. If it sounds good to me, then I take it to heart and use it. I encourage every writer to attend these conferences and workshops when they can. Even being around other writers can be good for the soul.

What was the hardest part of writing your book? The hardest part of writing my books comes after typing “The End”. That’s when the real work begins. Finding unbiased beta readers to take on the challenge of reading your manuscript, and give you good feedback. And then, and painful as it is—paying a professional editor to edit your book. AND… then, once, twice, and even three times, having good proofreaders go over the edited book to find those typos that inevitably slip by. Even after it is published, don’t take offense when a reader finds even more typos or missing words. Thank them, and, if it’s in your power, correct those mistakes.

Debra, thanks so much for stopping by!

Readers, I hope you enjoyed this chat with Debra. Stay tuned tomorrow for an excerpt and information about her newest release, Changes of the Heart.