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And our next virgin is…(drumroll)…SUSAN M. BOYER!

Susan has been making up stories her whole life. She tags along with her husband on business trips whenever she can because hotels are great places to write: fresh coffee all day and cookies at 4 p.m. They have a home in Greenville, SC, which they occasionally visit. Susan’s short fiction has appeared in moonShine Review, Spinetingler Magazine, Relief Journal, The Petigru Review, and Catfish Stew. Her debut novel, Lowcountry Boil, is a 2012 RWA Golden Heart® Finalist and a 2012 Daphne du Maurier finalist.

Susan is generously giving away one copy of her award-winning debut to one lucky commenter—in the format of the winner’s choice: Kindle, Nook, or Trade Paperback. So please come on by, read her wonderful post about her journey to publication, then go check out her mystery—Lowcountry Boil. It sounds like a wonderful read: here’s a taste…

Private Investigator Liz Talbot is a modern Southern belle: she blesses hearts and takes names. She carries her Sig 9 in her Kate Spade handbag, and her golden retriever, Rhett, rides shotgun in her hybrid Escape. When her grandmother is murdered, Liz high-tails it back to her South Carolina island home to find the killer. She’s fit to be tied when her police-chief brother shuts her out of the investigation, so she opens her own. Then her long-dead best friend pops in and things really get complicated. When more folks start turning up dead in this small seaside town, Liz must use more than just her wits and charm to keep her family safe, chase down clues from the hereafter, and catch a psychopath before he catches her.

Doesn’t that sound like a great read? Now go check out her post, then answer the question about how song lyrics trigger our imaginations, and maybe you’ll win a copy! And thank you so much, Susan, for dropping by today—and good luck with your debut!

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Susan M. BoyerKaki, thank you so much for having me here on Virgin No More! I’m so excited to share with y’all how I lost it.

I’ll give y’all the abbreviated version of the backstory. I was that child who tried to get the school librarian to let her check out six books when the limit was two per week. I started college as an English major, but plenty of people were happy to tell me the odds against ever making a living as a writer.

Four major changes later, I took a long detour through corporate America, which came to an abrupt halt in 2004, when the company I worked for went out of business. My husband, who knew how long I’d dreamed of writing, looked at me and said, “Why don’t you give the writing thing a try.” So I did.

We had lived in the old village area of Mt. Pleasant, SC, for eighteen months while my husband was working on a contract in the area. Mt. Pleasant is just across the Cooper River from Charleston. Cross the Intracoastal Waterway on Ben Sawyer Bridge and you’re on Sullivan’s Island. I used to ride my bike across that bridge and down the beach every morning.

I loved living in the lowcountry. It spoke to me. And I probably ate my weight in lowcountry boil, a regional dish of shrimp, sausage, corn, potatoes, and whateverLowcountry Boil else the cook wants to boil in beer and spices. Moving back to Greenville when my husband’s contract was up was one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to do. Sidebar: Greenville is awesome in her own right, but this isn’t Greenville’s story.

One day, shortly after we’d decided I was going to live my writing dream, I was listening to that old Eagles song, “Last Resort,” on the radio. The ending of the song is, “They call it paradise. I don’t know why. You call someplace paradise, kiss it goodbye.” (Don Henley) Anyway, the word “paradise” sent me back to the lowcountry, and a story started percolating in the back corner of my brain.

Several drafts, a few conferences, a critique group, several rounds of “revise and resubmit” with agents that didn’t work out, and another pass of edits later, I started querying agents in earnest. After forty-nine queries, and maybe fifteen requests for the full manuscript, I signed with an agent.

But, just as she started submitting, she fell ill and went on medical leave. Thankfully, I had signed with a well-known, reputable agency. They re-assigned me to another agent, and I am convinced that he did his best to sell my manuscript to several New York editors. Most of the rejections I was getting sounded like great reviews until you got to that last sentence that said something like, “Unfortunately I’m just not passionate enough about it to make it a must-have for our list at this time.”

I started thinking about small presses about the same time someone I knew from a writers’ group decided to start her own. For many, this would be a risky venture, but I knew things about this lady that maybe everyone didn’t—like she was a successful entrepreneur in another business, and had been a freelance editor and cover designer for years.

Lowcountry Boil CoverI signed my contract in late March, and Lowcountry Boil has just been released. This was the right path for me. I’m absolutely thrilled to be with Henery Press. It’s small enough to be nimble. We hope to have the second book in the series out in spring. I have forward momentum, which was necessary for my continued grip on sanity.

Thanks again for having me, Kaki! Y’all please come see me when you can. I hang out in all the usual places—my website, Amazon, B&N, & Fiction Addiction

Hey, before I go, I was wondering, do song lyrics ever inspire stories for y’all? Even if you’re not a writer and never wanted to be, do you sometimes start imagining what happens next to the people in the song?

VIRGIN TIME!   Please welcome our next debut author, Beth Yarnall!

 Beth Yarnall headshot

Beth writes romantic suspense, mysteries, and the occasional hilarious blog post. A storyteller since her playground days, she published her first piece in high school with a spoof of soap operas for the school’s newspaper. She hasn’t stopped writing since.  Now living in California with her husband, two sons, and their dog, she’s hard at work on her next novel.  After you read her guest blog here on how important a name is, pop over to her website, www.bethyarnall.com, and learn more about this fabulous new author and her book, RUSH, which hit the shelves yesterday! 

RUSH cover

RUSH, book 1 in the Please at Home Series

Someone is stalking Miyuki Price-Jones.

As the host of a very successful home shopping TV show that sells adult toys, Mi has become the object of an ex-con’s obsession, requiring the services of ex-Navy SEAL turned bodyguard, Lucas Vega. As the attraction between Lucas and Mi grows, Lucas has a difficult time keeping his feelings for Mi separate from his mission to keep her safe. A mission that is more challenging than anyone could have predicted.

Damaged by their pasts, Lucas and Mi find more in common then they could have imagined and secrets they thought would tear them apart could be the ties that bind them together forever. But with the stalker growing bolder, Lucas and Mi must learn to trust each other or risk losing more than their hearts.

One of them could lose their life.

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What’s In a Name?

Your name says a lot about your family, the era you were born in, your nationality, and who you are as a person. It marks you. If you’re a parent you understand the importance of choosing just the right name for your bundle of joy. I imagine there are some who wish they had a different moniker than the one on their birth certificate. And then there are those who have taken it a step further by legally changing their name to something they feel better suits them.

Names are important.

Heck, it took forever for my family to settle on just the right name for our dog.

Naming a character for a novel can be just as stressful to come up with, just as vital to the story as the setting and conflict. A character’s name says something about them sometimes before they even appear on the page. One of my favorite authors, Janet Evanovich, had this to say about naming characters in her book on writing HOW I WRITE~

‘Whenever possible a character’s name should suggest certain traits, like the character’s social or ethnic background or something unusual about that character. When I started writing the Stephanie Plum series, I searched for a long time to find the perfect name for my heroine. I wanted something that was kind of voluptuous and juicy—like a plum!

All character’s names are important, not just the main characters’. And once you hit on it, you’ll know it.’

When I first imagined the heroine for my debut romantic suspense novel, RUSH, I knew she would be of mixed Japanese heritage and that her name should start with an M. I’d been searching for the right name with no luck when I decided to ask my Facebook friends for suggestions. Miyuki was one of the suggestions. I loved the way it sounded when I said it (Mee-yew-kee) as will as the shortened version- Mi (My).

Miyuki, was named after her paternal grandmother and she needed a last name that would reflect her mixed heritage. I liked the idea of her having a hyphenated last name, Price-Jones. Her life is complicated and I felt her name should exhibit that. Miyuki Price-Jones has a lyrical sound to it that worked for me.

My hero, Lucas, as he does in the book, revealed himself to me slowly. I knew he’d be an unusually large man of Hispanic heritage. He’d been in the military, but was now at a crossroads in his life. He needed a strong name with hard and soft sounds. I tried out several until I found what I though was the right combination, Lucas Joaquin Vega. Lucas was also named after a grandparent, his maternal grandfather.

Miyuki’s and Lucas’s names became very important to the story. For one of them, their name gives them a sense of belonging and family. It ties them to a past they wish they could revisit. For the other, their name is a heavy burden and a reminder of events that continue to impact and haunt their life.

What does your name say about you? Have you ever wished for a different name and if so, what name would you choose?

WINNER!  Congrats to Christi Corbett, the lucky winner of Moriah Densley’s debut, SONG FOR SOPHIA.  Thanks, everybody, for your wonderful comments and for showing the love to our newest virgin.  Her book sounds amazing, and I hope to see more from her in the near future.  Thanks for participating!

Welcome Virgin Moriah!
My next virgin is a lady after my own heart. Moriah Densley sees nothing odd at all about keeping both a violin case and a range bag stuffed with pistols in the back seat of her car. They hold up the stack of books in the middle, of course. She enjoys writing about Victorians, assassins, and geeks. Her muses are summoned by the smell of chocolate, usually at odd hours of the night. By day her alter ego is your friendly neighborhood music teacher. Moriah lives in Las Vegas with her husband and four children. And her book, Songs for Sophia, sounds fascinating. I can’t wait to read it. Read on and you’ll see why…Welcome, Moriah!
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Finding My Niche, or, Getting Away With Murder
I had trouble finding a home for my ill-tempered, OCD, borderline alcoholic, hallucinating, pianist, mathematics genius, former assassin, possibly gay, autistic savant hero. I wondered why.

Moriah Densley

Moriah Densley

My hero, Wilhelm Montegue, was inspired by autistic savants in real life and in fiction. I loved the idea of a person blessed with extraordinary talent yet also impaired by some emotional limitation. Laura Kinsale, Jennifer Ashley, and Lisa Kleypas, to name a few, wrote beautiful stories featuring heroes with some sort of mental disorder. I couldn’t get enough of this kind of tortured hero.
I’d spent weeks researching savant syndrome and found more information than I knew what to do with. You wouldn’t believe how generous and candid the autism community is. Daniel Tammet, a savant with mathematical synaethesthia, described how he “experiences numbers”. “Five is like a clap on a front door, the sound of a wave against a rock. Six is small, the hardest for me to experience. It’s like a black hole, a chasm.” Daniel “sees” every number from 0 past 10,000 in colors and textures. He holds the European record for reciting pi from memory: 22,514 digits in five hours, nine minutes.
Kim Peek, an autistic megasavant known as “The Real Rain Man,” memorized nine encyclopedia volumes at age four. A capable reader finishes two pages in about three minutes. Kim Peek would read the same text in eight seconds, his left eye reading the right page while his right eye read the right page, and he recalled 98% of the text. However, the simplicity of choosing clothes to wear was beyond his ability; he couldn’t fasten buttons. I found the contrast of his talent and limitations fascinating. Modern scientists and doctors admit they understand little about the condition.
Over and over I heard similar stories from savants – astounding genius paired with seemingly random disabilities. Prodigy musicians, chess champions, architects – who couldn’t tell you how to fry an egg, or who don’t comprehend sarcasm.
Next I dove into the historical aspects of savant syndrome, and found, unsurprisingly, most savants were misunderstood. Stripped of property and rights, many were committed to asylums, where they finally did go insane, committed suicide, or were victims of cruel experiments.
I wondered, what about a fictional character whose freedom would be at stake should the antagonist want to prove him unsound? It wouldn’t be difficult to do; the savant would convict himself. He would lose everything, if not for the loved ones who fight to protect him.
Song for SophiaI was jazzed about creating Wilhelm Montegue, Lord Devon. He reads four books a night and can recite the complete text the next morning. He returns from an opera debut and transcribes his favorite aria without flaw. The heroine’s personal favorite: after a romantic night in his bedchamber, inspiration strikes in the form of “mathematical erotica.”
Sound charming? Only on a good day. His “illness” (Victorian society’s label, not mine) also inhibits his social radar. He quotes Newton to insult the vicar. He breaks furniture when he loses his temper. He is prone to “trances,” long episodes of staring into oblivion, regardless of the social awkwardness.
During the Crimean War his talent was exploited by the army; he worked as a spy and assassin before being captured and tortured by the Russians. Wilhelm drinks to escape the “ghosts” who haunt him, the “ghosts” being his perfect recollection of every soul he killed in the war. He fears venereal disease and despises the duplicity he observes in women, so avoids them altogether. Thus the rumors of his insanity and “unnatural proclivities.”
Wilhelm is a mess. You might wonder who could be his match? Meet Anne-Sophia Duncombe, the lousiest housemaid in all England. She’s hiding from her abusive father, and her only other choice is taking her vows in a Spanish convent. She has her own scars, has been to hell and back and emerged made of fire and steel. She distrusts men, having never met an honorable one. In the middle of the night she stumbles (literally) over Wilhelm in a garden, and the fun begins.
I adore these characters. Social misfits. Damaged. Academic, artistic, passionate. Snarky. I thought I had something really unique. Too unique, as it turned out. I have an email folder full of rejection letters. Their declines range from the likes of “You weirdo. Good luck selling this to anyone outside a psych ward,” to “I loved it, but ain’t no way I could sell this to the committee.”
I got the message: I’m not writing mainstream romance. My choice: tone down the controversial elements, or strike out on my own and self-publish. Neither appealed to me; artistic reasons for the former and my own limitations for the latter.
So I queried smaller publishers. I turned down a contract; the editor got my title wrong in the offer letter (wrong, as in, a different book altogether), which made me wonder if she’d even read it. The terms of the contract from another small press concerned me (always read the fine print, friends!) and though embarrassed, I declined. I was nearly prepared to give up when I read about Crimson Romance, the new imprint from Adams / F+W Media. I queried Jennifer Lawler. She has no acquisitions committee – the buck stops with her, and she liked my story. I was in business! Most importantly, she let me keep my controversial characters. I’m literarily getting away with murder.
Then, imagine my surprise on March 26th to hear from THE Julia London, saying I was a Golden Heart finalist. Really? My beat-up, politically incorrect characters? I couldn’t believe it. I was delighted and honored.
Most of all, I’m starting to hope my unconventional characters might find their niche. They might be unusual, but the theme – Love Conquers All – is one all romance readers relate to. I hope readers will like it, but I’m also putting on my thick skin. My fantasy? Fan mail. I don’t need much to be happy, but if I ever see a note or two from readers who get Wilhelm, I will be thrilled!
Do you like unconventional romance? What makes it work, or not? How is a flawed character redeemed? Feel free to join the discussion! One lucky commenter will be randomly selected on June 14th to win a copy of “Song for Sophia,” a 2012 Golden Heart finalist in historical romance published by Crimson Romance.
Visit moriahdensley.com for teasers and sample chapters, and humorous blog articles on life as a writer. See reader reviews on Goodreads.com. Connect on Facebook, Twitter, or Pinterest. I love hearing from readers!

Two chances to win my latest release, Bride of the High Country! Visit Romcon.com to join the discussion and enter to win your copy.

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WINNER!

CONGRATULATIONS to Quilt Lady who has won a copy of Theresa Romain’s debut regency, SEASON FOR TEMPTATION. Please send your mailing address to kaki@kakiwarner.com and we’ll get your book out ASAP. And thanks everybody for participating.

Hey folks, help me welcome today’s virgin, Theresa Romain, here to pimp her regency romance debut, Season For Temptation, which was published in October 2011. The sequel, Season For Surrender, will be published in October 2012.

Like me, Theresa pursued an impractical education that allowed her to read everything she could get her hands on. Unlike me, she put it to use by going on to work for universities and libraries, where she got to read even more. Eventually she started writing, too. She now lives with her family in the Midwest and lives online at http://theresaromain.com. You can also find her on Facebook, Twitter, and Goodreads.

Here’s a taste of her fabulous debut:

TWO SISTERS…

Julia Herington is overjoyed when her stepsister, Louisa, becomes engaged—to a viscount, no less. Louisa’s only hesitation is living a life under the ton’s critical gaze. But with his wry wit and unconventional ideas, Julia feels James is perfect for Louisa. She can only hope to find a man like him for herself. Exactly like him, in fact…

ONE CHOICE…

As the new Viscount Matheson, James wished to marry quickly and secure his title. Kind, intelligent Louisa seemed a suitable bride… Until he met her stepsister. Julia is impetuous—and irresistible. Pledged to one sister, yet captivated by another, what is he to do? As Christmas and the whirl of the London season approach, James may be caught in a most scandalous conundrum, one that only true love, a bit of spiritous punch—and a twist of fate—will solve…

Take it away, Theresa!

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Theresa Romain

Theresa Romain

You Can’t Do It Alone

Just like the title says: you can’t do it alone. That goes for most firsts, whether…ahem…or a job you get on a tip from a friend, or a scarf you* knit once your aunt shows you how to hold the needles.

Writing is no different. We often think of it as a solitary act, but it takes a lot of support to get that time alone with our writing implements. Charles Dickens had ten children, and I can guarantee you they weren’t underfoot while he was writing the Victorian era’s most popular novels. Thoreau, that ultimate get-away-from-it-all fellow who wrote Walden in a tiny house near a beautiful lake, was living on land that belonged to his good friend Emerson.

What do I have in common with Dickens and Thoreau? Well, we all have vowels in our names. We all have (or had, in their cases) dark hair. And we couldn’t be writers without help from others.

Allow me to elaborate.

I’ve been in the habit of writing nonfiction for a while, but while I was pregnant with my daughter, I developed a strange new craving. Not for pickles in peanut butter, but for fiction. I gorged on novels like never before, and I eventually decided I had to try writing one. Being a history lover, and a love lover, naturally I turned my hand to historical romance. I wrote approximately half a novel, and then…

Then I had the baby. So there was this baby to take care of all the time. I still had a job to go to every day, and laundry every evening, and the ceaseless needs of an infant at every point in between. When could I possibly write?Season For Temptation

I posed this question to my husband as an information-seeking endeavor. I’m not sure what I expected him to say. “Get up earlier,” maybe, or “Write on your lunch hour.” (I did try those things. They were more successful than wishing for the words to appear by magic, but not by much.) But he surprised me, because what he actually said was, “I’ll put the baby to bed every night, and you can write during that time.”

That sounded pretty good to me. So with Mr. R’s support, an evening at a time, that half-novel became a whole one. Then it became revised. Then it became revised again and again. Then it became my historical romance debut, SEASON FOR TEMPTATION, and several other projects followed it. The baby stopped being a baby quite a while ago, but this is (approximately) still our family routine.

I write by myself, but I couldn’t do it alone.

*And I do mean you. Not me. I have been found by a panel of experts to be incapable of learning to knit.

What’s something you tried to do alone and realized you needed help with? Do you ask for help, or take it when it’s offered? Whether you seek out support or like to be a lone wolf, let us know. I’ll give a signed copy of SEASON FOR TEMPTATION to one random commenter!

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