The Writing Process — A Blog Hop

Bonus Post!  Welcome to all.

Today’s special posting is brought to you as a portion of a Blog Hop. I guess that means I’m following a rabbit trail to discover new footprints in my writing life.

First I want to thank Claudia Shelton for inviting me to participate. You can find Claudia’s post and more information about her soon-to-be-released romantic suspense at:

And now to the questions.

1)      What am I working on?

This month I’m polishing a synopsis for a companion story to Starr Tree Farm and doing a first draft of a story set in St. Louis.

2)      How does my work differ from others of its genre?

My work has a light tone. The hero and/or heroine faces personal danger (and I’ve often got a dead body central to the story) but that’s as deep and dark as the suspense gets. And my settings stay in the Midwest.

3)      Why do I write what I do?

My favorite books have happy, positive, or hopeful endings for characters that I’d like to meet over a cup of coffee – no matter which century they “lived” in.

4)      How does your writing process work?

On the continuum from pantser to plotter I fall near the plotter. I write a complete first draft, make major changes (I’ve been known to switch serial killers at this point) during the second draft, and then each pass adds details and smaller plot items.

Interested in other authors? Check out Barbara Binns  on March 24.

B . A. Binns writes realistic contemporary multicultural YA novels to attract and inspire young readers with stories of “Real Boys Growing Into Real Men…and the people who love them.” After all, men fall in love just as deeply as women, and their stories deserve to be told and read. She lives in Illinois and is a former RWA Golden Heart® finalist and a winner of a National Readers Choice Award, and teaches classes on writing from the male POV.

Like her on

Follow her on twitter @barbarabinns

Check out her website



A True Pioneer

Today is special for more than the usual “Hump Day” remarks.
We have a guest writer and she’s brought us a history lesson.
Sandie Grassino, co-author of two local histories — Jefferson Barracks and Sunset Hills — from the respected Arcadia Publishing brings us a tidbit of history – an accidental pioneer.
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Cathay Williams led a double life in ways that probably no one reading this could imagine.
She was born a slave in Independence, Missouri in 1844. Although her father was a freeman, Williams was a slave because her mother was a slave. While still a child, she served as a house-girl to her owner, William Johnson, a wealthy farmer. The Johnson family and their slaves uprooted to the Jefferson City, Missouri area where Johnson died shortly before the Civil War.
In the spring of 1861, Union forces tailed Claiborne Fox Jackson (Governor of Missouri) and his friend, Sterling Price (former Governor of Missouri) and their Missouri Militia across the state from Saint Louis. Fox, Price, and the militia they trained were Confederate sympathizers. The Union’s Colonel Benton was in charge of this sweep across Missouri to capture them. Cathay Williams was taken under the Union forces and made a cook and laundress for the Union officers as they continued to chase Jackson and the others. In an interview with a Saint Louis paper in 1876, Williams stated that she neither wanted to go nor knew how to cook. She next was employed by Philip Sheridan, who was, among other things, the quartermaster for Jefferson Barracks . She remained his cook for the duration of the war, as he completed assignments throughout the country. Cathay Williams returned to Jefferson Barracks before the war was over.
Jefferson Barracks was one of the military sites that formed a segregated Army regiment of African-American soldiers following the Civil War. Unable to find suitable work, Williams enlisted in that newly formed regiment, which would become known as “The Buffalo Soldiers” She enlisted as William Cathay on 15 November 1866. Evidently, the physical was somewhat lax, because she was accepted as a private in Company A, the 38th U.S. Infantry Regiment. At 5’9”, she was one of the tallest privates in her regiment.
Before the regiment deployed, she contracted small pox; and, like other soldiers at JB who also contracted the disease, William Cathay was sent to a hospital in Illinois. After her health improved, she rejoined her unit. . After two years of primarily moving on foot to new locations with her regiment, William Cathay again took ill. This time, she was in a barracks hospital in New Mexico. And this time, her secret was discovered.
She was discharged. She moved eventually to Colorado. Around 1890, again ill and in the hospital for a while, Cathay Williams applied for a military disability pension . The pension doctor did not find that she qualified for the pension, despite the fact that she had lost all of her toes to diabetes and could only walk by using a crutch. Although the exact date of her death is not known, it is believed she died sometime in 1892.
Cathay Williams holds the historical distinction of being the only documented female African-American woman to have served in the US Army prior to the 1948 law which allowed women to join . She was – whether it arose from necessity or choice – a true pioneer.

Sandi Grassino
Sandi Grassino

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Castle Gate Press

Today Writer Wednesday features tips on finding new reads from the founders of a new enterprise: Castle Gate Press.

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How do you find new books you want to read?

Somewhere out there is a new author you’ll love, you can depend on that.  But with 600,000 to one million titles published just in the U.S. every year these days, how do you find him or her?

I’ve got some ideas. There’s the obvious: we all take recommendations from people we know very seriously.

Possibly less obvious: Amazon lists books that were bought together with you are looking at. So, locate a book you like on Amazon and scroll down to “Customers who bought this item also bought…” This can be a great way to locate authors who write similar books to one you like.

You can get active on, a huge site that brings readers together and encourages us to write reviews and recommend books for each other.  Another site to check out: .

What about all those author voices on the Internet? Hundreds of thousands of authors are out to get your attention for their books. But who do you take seriously? You can locate a favorite author and follow his or her Facebook page to learn more and meet others. You may find new authors this way too.

Oftentimes, publishers will target a particular reader niche or genre. Authors who’ve been published by a third party have had their work evaluated and found good, as opposed to self-published authors who sometimes skip some editing steps. You may be able to identify a publisher who turns out the kind of books you like, and you can read a variety of authors from there with confidence. – Phyllis Wheeler


Castle Gate Press is a new independent publishing company focusing clean fiction with a touch of the fantastic. You’ll find engaging characters, twisty plots, and something odd going on: time travel, science experiments gone weird, supernatural beings, a bit of fantasy, or whatever. It’s run by a couple of homeschooling mom veterans, Suzanne Hartmann and Phyllis Wheeler, who both love reading and writing fiction with a touch of the fantastic, and who love editing too.

While Castle Gate Press’s books won’t be available until next year, you can find flash fiction, photo caption challenges, and other reader-oriented items on Fridays on its blog. Go ahead and sign up to have blog posts emailed to you, and you’ll always know the latest news!



Above the Fog

Writer Wednesday has returned!

Our guest today is Christian author Donna Benson.  As a critique partner, Donna has borne with me during those drafts that need to come out of the fog and receive a polish.

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In our recent travels, we’ve encountered fog in many areas around the country. It’s not pleasant to drive through this heavy mist because it obscures your vision. We can’t see the scenery or traffic ahead. Year after year, many are hurt in auto or truck accidents because they can’t see far enough ahead to see the dangers. So I slow down, turn on the fog lights, and pray.

As I thought about the fog, I realized many walk around in a spiritual fog. They run through life at full speed oblivious to anything going on around them. Their vision is not clear, they can’t see ahead. Many times they never see road blocks in time to stop, drive over or around them, or make quick changes in direction causing someone else to crash. There may be times our quick maneuvers work out, but more often than not it causes a crash in their life. I admit I’ve been in the fog many times, rushing along without a care in the world or only seeing a small distance, only to come to a screeching halt. I simply can’t see well enough to understand what’s truly happening.

I believe God puts fog, road blocks, or closed doors in our path to get our attention when we’re headed the wrong direction. When I’ve reached a closed door or road block, I’ve had two very different reactions. In my younger years, anger or frustration topped the list. My usual question being, ‘Why God?’ As I’ve grown older, (both in years and spiritual growth) I’ve come to understand God places fog, road blocks or closed doors for my good. They help me slow down, take notice, step back and look at the whole picture. This allows me to avoid pain, suffering, stupid decisions, or consequences I wouldn’t like.

God’s love is greater than we’ll ever know. He wants great things in our life. He wants joy and happiness to be the norm not the rare exception for each of us. Accepting the road blocks is part of accepting God’s love. It’s acknowledging He knows what’s best for us…better than we know ourselves. If we’ll follow His lead, guidance, and direction, we can rise above the fog and live in the sunshine.

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A Visit with Angie Fox

Today’s Writer Wednesday guest is New York Times bestselling author, RITA nominee, and energetic lady of many talents — Angie Fox. She writes about biker witches, demon slayers and things that go bump in the night.

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How did you come up with the idea for the Monster MASH series?

I wanted to write something different. Plus, I love writing books that are not only about the hero and heroine, but also about the community where they live. A quirky, paranormal M*A*S*H unit sounded really interesting, and fun to write. The hero is a demi-god special ops soldier and the heroine is a surgeon who saves him (in more ways than one).

 The MASH series definitely has your trademark humor. How natural is it for you to write “funny”? Is it ever a challenge to rein it in for the more serious parts?

One of the challenges – and the great joys – of writing this latest series was balancing the humor with the stark tragedy of war. Petra and her colleagues at the MASH 3063rd have been drafted until the end of the war, which is bad for Petra but even worse for people like her vampire roommate, Marius. They’re living in this quirky, ad-hock camp, trying to make the best of it while they work long hours in the OR, putting soldiers back together – knowing that they’re probably going to see them again and again – if they’re lucky.

The underlying tragedy brings the oddball personalities in the camp together. They develop ways to keep their sanity and to create the kind of relationships that offer a port in the storm. That’s where a lot of the humor comes from.

Can you go a bit more into the mythology of this world you’ve created – for instance, Petra can’t reveal to the gods that she speaks to the dead. Can you share other rules you’ve designed strictly for this world?

Yes, Petra has the ability to see the dead and to speak with them. It’s a tough ability for a doctor. She can see all too clearly what happens to the patients she loses. The soldiers she does save, she has to send back to the front lines.

Her ability has been outlawed by the gods, simply because they don’t think a mortal should have that kind of power. And the gods have a thing for strange and horrific punishments. They won’t just kill you for disobeying a law. They get all mythological. It’s like a divine version of The Godfather. Petra knows that the gods will damn her for eternity if she’s discovered. After all, these are the people that have, in the past; turned women into spiders, fastened “friends” to burning wheels for eternity; tied one of their own to some far-flung rock so he could have his liver pecked out by an eagle until the end of time. Of course she’s going to have to expose her secret if she wants to help end the war.

Where does your proclivity towards writing supernatural novels come from? Is that what you choose to write/read in your spare time? If so, what are some of your favorite novels and/or writers in this genre?

I’ve always loved paranormals. In fact, I remember discovering them back in college. In my sophomore year, there were six of us, living in this tiny place, and my roommates started talking about Interview with the Vampire. They were shocked I’d never heard of it and, like the enablers they were, they managed to put together Ann Rice’s entire vampire series, which they stacked next to my bed the next day. I picked up the first book and wow. I was always a good student, but I skipped class for the next week and read the series straight through.

Ironically, when I decided to actually try and write a book of my own, I completely ignored my love of paranormals. Because, you know, that makes sense. I decided to write mystery/suspense with lots of science and research involved. I’d outline, I’d write pages and pages of character notes, I’d force myself to do those little note cards. And I hate note cards. In retrospect, I was fighting my voice. When I was about ready to go insane, I’d sneak off and read Kerrelyn Sparks, Lynsay Sands and Katie MacAlister, just to catch a break.

It took a while for it to click and for me to realize that hmm…maybe I should write the kind of books I love to read. I had this spark of an idea about a preschool teacher who is forced to run off with a gang of geriatric biker witches and The Accidental Demon Slayer was born. Instead of a 20-page plot outline, I had a 5-page list of ideas, one of which included “but little did they know, all the Shoney’s are run by werewolves.” Instead of following the rules, I broke a few. Instead of painstakingly writing over the course of a year, I grinned my way through the book and had a complete manuscript in five months.

The opening chapters did well in contests and caught the eye of Leah Hultenschmidt, who asked to see the whole thing. Leah bought the book less than a week after I finished it. And I didn’t write one single note card. Oh, and by the way, The Accidental Demon Slayer is up for free right now on Amazon, Nook, Kobo and Apple iBooks.

How many books are you planning for the MASH series?
This is a trilogy and all of the books are out now. Immortally Yours is the first. That one was nominated for an RWA RITA award. The second book is Immortally Embraced. The third and final book, Immortally Ever After, is in bookstores now.

What’s next for you, writing wise? If you have brief description(s) / titles / release dates you can share, I’m happy to include.

Sure. The fifth Accidental Demon Slayer book, My Big Fat Demon Slayer Wedding, came out a month or two ago. The final book in the MASH series, Immortally Ever After, released last week. And right now, I’m working on the (still untitled) sixth book in the Accidental Demon Slayer series, slated to release in early 2014.

Thanks for having me!

GetAttachment[1]Visit Angie at:

Immortally Ever After
Immortally Ever After

or on Face book at:


Finding a Hero

Today Writer Wednesday is privileged to welcome Barbara Bettis. Barbara’s debut novel is Silverhawk, currently an exclusive on Amazon.

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Recently, several members of one of my writing groups were talking about how we came up with ideas for our stories. Almost everyone had different methods or at least variations on different methods. Characters came first to some, plots to others. A few envisioned scenes that spun into story lines later.

When I tried to isolate how the idea for my debut novel came along, I realized Giles and Emelin’s story combined a couple of those ways. But it all began in research.

I’d been gathering information about King Richard I (the Lionheart) because my first book began with his return to England after his release from captivity in February 1194. The name of Mercadier kept popping up as a sort of right hand man to Richard in his wars. Mercadier was a mercenary.

A mercenary usually was a knight who didn’t have land and who had to find a way to, in simple terms, make a living. He usually fought in the hope of winning land and riches and even a wife. Later in the Middle Ages, some might follow the tournament circuit in hopes of accumulating enough coin to buy property. Either way, they led hard, sometimes brutal, lives.

The ones who hired themselves out as private soldiers, so to speak, were fiercesome warriors because they had to be or they’d die. Mercenaries weren’t particularly popular men, according to many sources. There are accounts of bands of these knights that were basically outlaws—thieving, raping and murdering. Not all were like that, however. Many more were simply soldiers in an army.

When I thought about what kind of lives they led, I began to wonder: What would it be like for one who wasn’t one of the renegades? It must be a lonely life at times, avoided by regular people out of fear or mistrust.

I “saw” in my mind the figure of a mercenary knight mounted on his horse, sitting in the middle of an empty circle in at the edge of a village, while on-lookers threw him suspicious, fearful, even threatening glares, but who would have nothing to do with him.

I felt so sorry for him. He wanted to be accepted, he wanted to be loved, but because of his profession, because of his past, he knew he never would.

Sir Giles evolved from there. I made him a trusted friend and captain of Mercadier’s, and as such, trusted by the king. But then, he needed a mission—a goal, a motivation. He needed a woman who would love him and that he could love. But their romance couldn’t be too easy.

I really enjoyed working out their combined paths.

How do your story ideas come to you?

(*Caveat: The discussion here is summarized and simplified and not meant to be an exhaustive, academic study of mercenaries. By the way, according to the website, our term ‘freelance’ came from Sir Walter Scott’s use of it to refer to medieval mercenaries in his book IVANHOE (1820).)

Silverhawk No. 1 100Barb-4










About Silverhawk:

He’s everything a proper lady should never want; she’s everything a bastard mercenary can never have.

Sir Giles has come to England to kill his father, who seduced and betrayed his mother. First, however, he’ll seek sweet revenge—kidnap the old lord’s new betrothed. But when Giles uncovers a plot against King Richard, he faces a dilemma: take the lady or track the traitors. What’s a good mercenary to do? Both, of course.

Lady Emelin has had enough. Abandoned in a convent by her brother, she finally has a chance for home and family. Yet now she’s been abducted. Her kidnapper may be the image of her dream knight, but she won’t allow him to spoil this betrothal. Her only solution: escape

Rescuing the intrepid lady—while hunting traitors—is a challenge Giles couldn’t anticipate.  But the greatest challenge to Giles and Emelin is the fire blazing between them. For he’s everything a proper lady should never want, and she’s everything a bastard mercenary can never have.

The buy link for Amazon:

The book will be in wide release in November.




To Conference or Not to Conference? That is the question.

Today we welcome Michelle Sharp to Writer Wednesday. Michelle is a new voice in romantic suspense. Today she presents her thoughts about writing conferences. Note: begin saving pennies now.

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Can I really afford to go to the RWA National Convention? Being relatively new on the romance writing scene, you can bet I’ve asked myself this very question.

Let’s face it, money is tight these days and how a writer chooses to invest in their journey is a very personal decision, but I can give you a few of my thoughts as to why I went to the national convention this year, and why I’m so glad that I did.

Atlanta 2013 was my second National Convention. I’ve been a member of RWA and MORWA (Missouri Romance Writers of America) for a few years. I consider my writing career as a business I’m trying to launch. I also have a son going to college in a couple years, so yes, money matters. I think any good business owner would tell you, in order to be successful, you must invest a bit on the front end. Although not cheap, I think the RWA National Convention is a good investment for anyone seriously pursuing romance publication. Here’s why:

Number 1.  Workshops . . .workshops . . . and more workshops. Okay I’ll admit it. I’m a bit of a nerd when it comes to writing classes and workshops. I love learning anything and everything about writing, but even if I didn’t love it, I’d still go.

Why? Because we all have that first manuscript sitting around, don’t we? The disastrous one where you head hopped so much even you became confused. The nightmare where she said ended every line of dialogue. The sex scene so mechanical—insert body part A into slot B—you’d die if your critique partners got a hold of it. Okay, maybe those issues were mostly just mine, but the point is, my writing is a galaxy away from where it started. This is mostly due to workshops and classes I’ve taken through RWA.

I understand you may not be able to fix a manuscript in a one hour workshop, but you will be exposed to a huge variety of learning opportunities. If one of those opportunities happens to touch off an “ah-ha” moment on how to improve your book, (which did happen for me) then the price of the trip feels a little more palatable. Plus, if you love a presenter’s teaching style, take Margie Lawson or Michael Hague for example, often they will offer on-line classes or workshops where you can focus more deeply on a particular aspect of writing.

Number 2.  Editor and agent appointments. If you’ve completed a manuscript, maybe even finaled in some contests, and you’re ready to send your baby out into the real world, the RWA National convention is a good place to jump in. There are huge numbers of editors and agents looking for new talent. While RWA only allows an attendee to make an advanced appointment for one editor and one agent, you can often pick up more appointments by being diligent and patiently waiting for more appointments to become available. Or, you can give all the other vultures in the room the stink eye and make sure you pounce first on the poor volunteer unfortunate enough to be assigned to the editor/agent room. Either road you take, your chances of getting more appointments are good. My critique partners walked away with several requests for partials and fulls this year from a variety of agent and editors.

Number 3.  Support and inspiration. I’m not sure if the inspiration factor is as huge for everyone as it is for me, but I often weigh my need to write against the hardships it puts on my family. Spend your time working a real job with a steady paycheck, says the devil on my shoulder. Your minivan is approaching 100,000 miles… Your son is going to college in a couple years…

Many, many of us have families and financial obligations. I’m probably not the only one who hears the whisper of doubt. But for me, the national convention is like coming home after a long stay on a foreign planet. Nothing recharges my batteries or refocuses my writing goals like being surrounded by a couple thousand other writers. I’m blown away by the extraordinary group of people that come together to genuinely support each other.

I’ve always felt this support within my local MORWA chapter. We have a crazy talented and generous group of writers here in the Midwest—just sayin. But this year at nationals, inspiration was everywhere. And I’m not talking about a group of unpublished authors cheering each other on as we go for the brass ring. I’m talking about the rock stars of our industry who show up and keep encouraging those of us still trying to make it. In what other industry do you find that kind of support?

In Cathy Maxwell’s keynote speech she reminded us how important it is to have faith in ourselves, that we must believe we are good enough. At the Golden Heart and Rita Awards, Christie Craig joked about all the different types of rejection letters she has received over the years, but her message was clear: Even the best writers in our industry have wrestled with rejection—you must be persistent to persevere.

I laughed and then cried with 2,000 other writers as Kristan Higgins spoke about her journey as a writer. Her speech was just as dynamic and touching as her books. She drove home for me an important truth that I sometimes lose track of in the midst of all the workshops and critiques and rejections. People love romance stories. I love romance stories.

Perhaps our books have little impact in the grand scheme, but sometimes our stories hold an escape or an inspiration for someone in a bad place. I like the idea of entertaining, but I love the possibility of my stories helping someone.

Can you benefit from the convention without actually going? Sure. If you’re a member of RWA, log in and look through the selection of workshop recordings available. It doesn’t get any better than attending a workshop while lounging on your couch wearing your jammies.

So next year when I’m asking myself if I can really afford to go to nationals, the better question might be, can I really afford not to?


Michelle Sharp is a member of  RWA, MORWA (Missouri Romance Writers of America), and Kiss of Death Chapters. She writes romantic suspense, and recently received her first contract offer for the The Dreamer Series. For more information or to contact her, check out her website at


How Teaching is like Writing a Book

Today we welcome Chris Cannon to Writer Wednesday.  Sit down with your favorite beverage and enjoy her comparison of teaching and writing.

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For most Americans, August means back to school time.

I love the start of a new school year, because it’s a new beginning, a chance to improve on what you taught the year before. All summer long, teachers hit garage sales and craft stores picking up new treasures to share with their kids. They are sure these new or gently used toys, games, and science projects will motivate all the kids and keep them on task. And it will work, until about October when candy season kicks in which is followed by turkey coma season and culminates in Christmas cookie eating and present opening extravaganza.

Then it’s January. The no man’s land of teaching. The kids are back, but they are mourning Christmas break (and the teachers are too) and there isn’t another respite until spring. And then the gift of all gifts occurs: a snow day. Teachers and students rejoice in the day of unexpected freedom. If you are a teacher, this is a day where you stay in your pajamas, drink hot cocoa and read a good book. And you might also call your friends who chose professions that are held in higher regard and pay much more money than teaching so you can tell them how you’re spending your day.

Once winter passes, kids and teachers hold out for Spring break when they can enjoy the warm weather. Once the break is over, the marathon run until summer begins. The nicer the weather is, the harder it is for students to pay attention. Not that it’s there fault. People seem to be biologically wired to crave sunshine and fresh air.

Once May hits, the count down to freedom begins. There isn’t a teachers’ lounge across the land that doesn’t have a countdown calendar, which all the teachers stare at longingly on their lunch breaks.  When the last day hits, everyone rejoices, because it’s the culmination of a lot of hard work for both the teachers and the students.

The school year is kind of like writing a book. You start out with plans (a plot) and a grand idea of how things will turn out (the end).  Then you start working with characters and coaxing them toward a goal. Sometimes the words come easy and sometimes you have to bribe your muse with chocolate and sparkly notebooks. If you stick with it, and reach the end of the book, there is a great sense of accomplishment.

Chris Cannon’s young adult paranormal novel, Going Down In Flames comes out in January 2014. You can check out her blog at


Small Towns

This Writer Wednesday we welcome award -winning and multi-published Megan Kelly. So fill your cup with your favorite beverage and enjoy her twist on small town settings.

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Why do authors make up towns for their stories? Isn’t it easier to set a story in a real place? Yes. And no.

I set my first book in Chicago with some of the action taking place outside the city. I needed “corporate” America, a wealthy setting outside the city, and a small-town feel. My next three stories took place in a fictional town north of Kansas City, Missouri. I’m familiar with Chicago and Kansas City from visits to my family, which made researching people, customs, food, language, landmarks, etc, easier.

Being able to research in person or online is one advantage to using a real-life setting. In many instances, I can find a street map and other information from the city’s Chamber of Commerce or online. Writing about a real place can evoke memories in readers who have been to that town or area. It creates a sense of connection between the reader and the story.

Which can backfire! If I make a mistake, I’ll hear about it from readers. The town might change from their visit to my writing the story, or from the time I write the story to the time they read it.

Sometimes, if I write about a real town, readers think they know (or are!) the characters. Since the human experience is pretty much universal, events may seem similar to things people have experienced. I don’t want to be sued for my imagination.

As you might guess, I prefer a fictional setting. When the characters tell me about their lives, I also “see” where they live. My details aren’t limited by reality. I can place businesses where I need them for story events. I’m constantly surprised by what’s around the next corner.

In my Christmas stories, Santa Dear and Holly & Ivey, I created the sister cities, Stilton and Cloverdale, Illinois. You can only visit them in my books, but you can find many small towns like them in the Midwest.

This holiday season, I’ll be returning to Stilton for Micah’s story. Hope to see you there!


Santa Dear on Amazon, Nook, Apple for iPad etc

Holly & Ivey on Amazon, Nook, Apple and SmashWords

Megan Kelly is the author of six contemporary romances, all available digitally on your favorite e-readers, the first four available in print at used book stores. Visit her website for more information:


What’s In Your Suitcase?

Welcome to Writer Wednesday. Today we are treated to Claudia Shelton as she shares thoughts from summer travels.

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The past month has been filled with a couple of things every writer needs—vacation and renewal. And, my suitcase is totally confused!

First, my vacation to Sanibel Island, Florida meant swimsuits and shorts, tank tops and cover-ups, sandals and suntan lotion. What started out as a clean suitcase interior, ended up with a little sand mixed in with souvenirs and beach memories on the way back. Ahhhhh, fabulous vacation… The packing neatness I used to begin the trip succumbed to way-too-many-fun-times tiredness, so I shoved everything in and hoped the zipper held for the return.

Once home there were barely enough days to unpack, do laundry, and visit the hair dresser and manicurist before restocking the suitcase for a trip to RWA Nationals in Atlanta, Georgia. This time I needed to think about wrinkles so I layered clothes neatly: casual, business casual and evening gowns flowed into the empty space. Comfortable dressy sandals and sassy gold high heels rounded out the packing along with a full array of makeup.

After a great conference of workshops, networking and the Gala, I was ready to head home. I slipped my evening gown into its protective bag, spread it carefully in the bottom of the suitcase and smoothed the wrinkles. Ahhhhh, writing renewal… Then I did what every good traveler does when the clock says midnight and your plane leaves in a few hours—I shoved everything in (including two additional stacks of books) and hoped the zipper held till I got home!

I must admit back-to-back travel made me a little tired, but I’m also energized and ready to tackle my current work in progress. Wait till you see what my alphas and the women strong enough to love them are up to next. Of course, there’s still a little sand in the suitcase. Guess I’ll just have to save it for my next trip.

Sanibel First Night
Sanibel First Evening

How about you…what’s in your suitcase?

Claudia Shelton

Claudia Shelton writes Romantic Suspense. Look for her debut novel, RISK OF A LIFETIME from Entangled Publishing–Ignite, February 2014. In the meantime, visit her at:


Twitter – @ClaudiaShelton1

Facebook –