Writer Wednesday: Meet Rebecca Heflin

RebHefWahoo! It’s Writer Wednesday! That most marvelous day of the week in which a fellow author shares tiny teasers into her/his life, and the day on which your TBR pile grows even larger.

Today I bring you Rebecca Heflin, contemporary romance author. I met Rebecca via the fantastic, week-long Romance Writers Gone Wild party she organized on Facebook in May. She’s amazing, y’all – not to mention her books! (Plus, she liked the cookies I baked and sent to her, so clearly she has good taste.)

Settle in with your favorite drink (and maybe a cookie or two) and learn more about Rebecca and her latest work.

Dyslexia word formed with wooden blocks. Reading difficulties concept. Cross processed image with shallow depth of fieldName one interesting thing you learned in researching/writing your last book:

Among other things, I learned that there are special fonts to assist dyslexics with reading. The font makes certain letters more easily recognizable to individuals with the reading disability. The hero in my last book, Dreams of Her Own, is dyslexic, but runs his own business, and must use a computer on a regular basis.


Ballet DanceName two things people don’t know about you.

  • I used to be a ballet dancer
  • According to my DNA, this White Anglo-Saxon Protestant (WASP) author is in reality an Ashkenazi Jew.


What fellow romance author do you recommend reading, and why?

Brenda Novak. I’m reading her Whiskey Creek series. She hits you with the characters’ conflicts from the first page, and keeps tightening the screws. I’ve learned a lot about how to “make the reader worry.” She certainly does a great job of doing just that.


austenWhat’s your favorite romance novel of all time, and why?

That’s an easy one: Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice. Even today, 203 years after it was first published, it still resonates with readers. It’s the perfect novel, with, to my mind, the perfect [sexy, brooding] hero, Fitzwilliam Darcy.


dreamsofherownA Bit On Dreams of Her Own

If the Guinness Book of World Records had a category for the world’s most boring life, Millie Stephens knows she would hold the record. After the plain, strait-laced personal assistant is saved by a total stranger from becoming New York City’s latest traffic fatality, she has a disheartening epiphany: her life’s highlight reel was nonexistent. Determined to step out of the shadows and take a walk on the wild side, she starts Millie-style—by making a list.

That total stranger, bad boy Ian Brand, could help Millie with one very important item on her list: sex. But Ian is more than the sum of his parts—and he’s got some really great parts. Beneath that sexy, tattooed exterior is a man with a painful past who’s desperate to both hide and overcome his disability in the pursuit of his dreams.

Will Millie and Ian look beneath the surface and see there’s more to each other than meets the eye?

Buy link: http://amzn.to/29Fy6pP

writingA Bit on Rebecca:

Rebecca Heflin is an award-winning author who has dreamed of writing romantic fiction since she was fifteen and her older sister snuck a copy of Kathleen Woodiwiss’ Shanna to her and told her to read it. Rebecca writes women’s fiction and contemporary romance. When not passionately pursuing her dream, Rebecca is busy with her day-job as a practicing attorney.

Want to connect further with Rebecca? Find her here:

Website | Facebook | Twitter | Pinterest | GoodReads

Thanks so much for being here today, Rebecca! You’re always so delightful! 

In Depth With #YAFantasy Author Tamara Shoemaker: Talking Shadows of Uprising

Tamara ShoemakerYou know what’s fun about being friends with really cool authors? Everything.

You know what’s fun about being an author with really cool author friends? The chance to tell others about them on your blog!

We have marvelous #YAFantasy author Tamara Shoemaker in the house (virtually speaking, that is), and she gives us insight into her writing life, AND into her new release, Shadows of Uprising, Book 2 in the fantastic Guardians of the Vale trilogy (think Last Airbender meets Harry Potter).

What’s the biggest challenge in writing a trilogy?


That ridiculous middle book. I feel like it’s the day after Good Friday and the day before Easter Sunday. It’s so easy to fall into the feeling of waiting. The beginning dilemmas are described, the characters are evolved, the ending battles have yet to be fought. I think there’s an actual term for it: “the middle book syndrome.”

I try very hard to avoid falling into the middle book syndrome. Each of my books in a trilogy has a story arc within itself. I set up the central plot conflict, create a climax, weave together some satisfying falling action, and pull together a brilliant resolution. But all of that has to be pertinent to the overarching “trilogy plot.”

One of my happiest moments was when I’d handed my manuscript of Shadows of Uprising to my editor, and we’d gone over the developmental edits. We were preparing for line edits when she sent me this note: “Middle book syndrome successfully avoided.” That absolutely made my year.

kindletheflameHow do you keep these two different worlds straight? (In other words, are you crazy for writing two YA fantasy series at once?)

Haha! It does border on insanity, it’s true. Sometimes, I have so many characters in my head that I get them mixed up on the page. Ayden from my Heart of a Dragon trilogy keeps showing up in place of Daymon in my Guardian of the Vale trilogy, and vice versa. My pinky finger constantly hovers over the backspace key. It’s inevitable that the wrong name leaves my fingers before I can blink once.

To write two different worlds simultaneously, I have to create distinctive breaks. After breakfast = Editing Guardian of the Vale. After lunch = editing Heart of the Dragon. After the kids are in bed = freelance editing for clients. Somewhere in there, I’ve got three kids to help with homework and a husband who occasionally appreciates a home-cooked meal. 😉

In spite of the breaks, it’s still a struggle to write multiple worlds at the same time. I keep telling myself—after these trilogies are out, I’m slowing down to ONE book at a time. But I doubt I’ll listen to myself. I have too many stories in my head that are desperate to come out. 🙂

mo4How do you feel when people react strongly to your characters, whether positively or especially negatively? (I know some people aren’t keen on Kyle. I name no names, though. *whistle*)

To each his own. I’m not too keen on dear Kyle, either, although I perhaps lend him a bit more grace than the average reader, mostly because he’s my own creation. But I love the fact that people react, no matter what they say. It shows they have gotten so into the story that they care what happens to my characters.

My favorite message I received just the other day from a reader: “What is Alayne DOING? And why is she DOING IT?” (Capitals included in original message). Said reader went on to vent for a while, but when she finished the book, she sent me another message telling me how much she loved it. I thoroughly enjoy hearing my readers’ reactions to the characters, both positive and negative; it makes me feel like I’ve done a great job of pulling them into the story.

Vintage TypewriterDescribe your typical process in writing a story: plotter? Pantser? Write every day? Write in fits and spurts?

I go through stages. When I’m in the book-creation stage, I write every day, occasionally giving myself a day’s break if the storyline isn’t coming as easily as I’d wish. When I’m in the editing stage, I edit every day, but I don’t spend any time writing new material (unless I’m revamping a chapter or something).

I try at all costs to avoid writing in fits and spurts. I’m notoriously undisciplined in various parts of my life (Mt. Laundry, I’m looking at you), and I refuse to allow myself to lose control of my career. So, with rigid discipline, then, I sit down nearly every day in front of my laptop, even if I can’t think of what I want to write, even if the characters refuse to cooperate. If I don’t, if I let the manuscript sit, it grows more rebellious with time. I have to tackle it every day to keep it morphing and changing into what I want it to become.

Business concept. keyboard and crumpled paper on table.Pantser or plotter? A little of both. I like to know where the story starts and where it ends and a few major happenings in the middle before I begin to write. My basic outline usually looks like this: Mega-exciting opening incident, throw in romantic interlude here, toss in suspenseful incident there, sprinkle in a climax where all characters fall apart, write a satisfying conclusion where all characters that make it through the climax pull it together. A few pages of world-building notes, and then I’m writing. Generally, the outcome of the book looks NOTHING like what I’ve jotted on paper at the beginning, but it’s the start that keeps me going.

Is there anything in the plot you wish you could change, now that you’re this far in?

With my Guardian of the Vale trilogy? No. I love all of it. I have no regrets. I love how the characters have morphed throughout, how they’ve grown and how it all comes together in the end. I absolutely would keep it the same if I could write it again tomorrow. My Heart of the Dragon trilogy has been a little more difficult to write, perhaps because I published the first book before the second one was written (all three books in the Guardian of the Vale trilogy were already written before the first one was published). So I have found a plot-snag or two that comes back to haunt me from Kindle the Flame. Thus far, I’ve been able to work my way around the snags, but if I would have written all three of the books first before publication, those plot-snags would have hit the scrap pile.

If you could have dinner with any 3 authors, whom would you choose and why?

Oh, how fun! Authors are my favorite kinds of people—worlds of imagination around a dinner table! Hmm, I imagine I’m fairly predictable with some of these answers, because most people who know me know my great literary loves. But here they are:

  • JK Rowling (None of my books would be what they are without my imagination having been lit by her brilliant wizarding world.)
  • austenJane Austen (Reading about the power of soul-deep love always stirs me to my core, and Austen not only creates the best love stories, but she mocks the foibles of society while she’s at it. I can’t get enough.)
  • David of the Bible (Anyone who writes “Deep cries to deep in the roar of your waterfalls; all your waves and breakers have swept over me,” echoes the heights and depths and breadths of emotion that create the innermost part of me. I would love to talk with such a poet’s soul.)

I feel like these three authors would create a nice cross-section of what I identify with the most: fantasy, true love, and a person’s interaction with his creator.

If you could have dinner with any three of your characters, who would you choose and why?

Wow, you wore me out with the last question!

  • I think I’d have to go first with Professor Manderly Manders. The guy fascinates me. He’s a dusty, middle-aged professor of Elemental History at Clayborne Training Facility, and yet there’s an undercurrent of kick-tushie, rock-hard awesomeness about him that I can’t quite erase. I’ve posted pictures before of who I imagine when I write about them. To me, Professor Manders would be played in a screen-adaptation by Robert Downey, Jr.
  • Second, I’d go with Marysa, possibly to cover any stilted silences, because the girl’s tongue is hinged in the middle, but also, you won’t find a sweeter or a wiser friend. She’s not marshmallow fluff, either; girl’s got steel underneath somewhere. I have thoroughly enjoyed developing her character from what it was at the beginning of Mark of Four to what it is at the end of Guardian of the Vale.
  • And third, of course I have to choose Daymon,
    a) because he’s crazy hot, and
    b.) he’s not your normal person who appears on your hero-of-the-day toilet paper.
    (ML says: What? There’s Hero-Of-The-Day toilet paper? Where do I get some of THAT?)He comes from a dark past, and instead of succumbing to the pressures of what he’s had to face, he finds ways to overcome. He’s stronger than most because of his experiences.

Only three? Honestly, ALL of my characters fascinate me, and who wants to throw such a small dinner party? I’m pretty sure I’d have to rent out the largest banquet hall and invite every last one of my characters. We’ll have a great time, between the Dragons that keep scorching the walls and the Elementals that throw water and fire around like it’s no big deal.

Y’all probably want an invitation, too. I’ll get right on that. 😉

SoUShadows of Uprising

Alayne Worth possesses the Vale, an object of mysterious power coveted by other Elementals. Danger shadows her every step when this secret spreads. As she grieves the sudden death of her boyfriend at the hands of the notorious Shadow-Caster, Simeon Malachi, Alayne unravels the mysteries of the Vale and her past.

When she returns to Clayborne to pursue her Elemental training, Alayne is plagued by disturbing visions that predict a dark future. As an ominous Alliance of pure-blood Elementals spreads intolerance across the Continent, Alayne’s visions show evidence of the truth–and reveal a deadly danger to her loved ones. Alayne must conquer her fears and use her power to muster an uprising that will obliterate the only way of life she’s ever known.

Find Shadows of Uprising on Amazon!

Tamara Shoemaker lives in the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia with her husband, three children, a few jars of Nutella, and a never-ending carafe of coffee. She authored the Amazon best-selling Shadows in the Nursery Christian mystery series and Soul Survivor, another Christian mystery. Her fantasy books include the beginning of the Heart of a Dragon trilogy: Kindle the Flame, as well as Mark of Four and Shadows of Uprising, the first two books in the Guardian of the Vale trilogy. In her spare time, she freelances as an editor for other works of fiction.

Follow Tamara on social media:

Twitter: @TamaraShoemaker
Website: www.tamarashoemaker.org
Facebook: www.facebook.com/tshoebooks

Writer Wednesday: Meet Ann Alexandra!

AnnAHoly cow, people – I have an editing deadline tomorrow, and have been so buried in my own words, I nearly forgot to put up Writer Wednesday! *collective gasp*

Luckily large amounts of chocolate knocked some sense (or at least some energy) back into me, just in time to bring you fellow Virginia Romance WriterAnn Alexandra. I’m so delighted she’s here! Romance writers rock, people.

So settle in (with your own chocolate; I’m not sharing mine) to get better acquainted with Ann Alexandra, and hear about her book, Secret Lives, which won Second Place  in the 2015 Book Buyers Best Award, and Fourth Place (“Outstanding Novel”) in the 2015 People’s Choice Award! 

clotheslinebooksWhat inspires you to write?

I have loved reading all of my life.  It lets you experience so many different aspects of life that you might not otherwise have the opportunity to experience.  And it offers the opportunity of both escape and entertainment.  Creating a new story, putting together all the disparate pieces and characters, and producing something that I hope will give the pleasure of reading to others, is so much fun!

sunset in heart handsName one interesting thing you learned in researching/writing your last book:

What fascinates me is how the details of the story line develop through the actions of the different characters, as a result of their personalities–what drives them–and how they pursue their individual goals.  I set the general storyline, and context/framework, of the novel at the beginning, but I let the specifics of the story evolve through what feels like the natural behavior of the different characters as they try to achieve their objectives.  A key, for me, to the evolution of the romance is how each person ‘discovers’ the character/appeal of the other over time.  I believe that an abiding love needs to be based on admiration and respect for the qualities of someone, not only on sexual tension. 

secretsistersWhat fellow romance author do you recommend reading and why?

I love the novels of Jayne Ann Krentz, who also writes historical romance under the name of Amanda Quick.  Her leading women are strong, and creative, and fearless.  And in the telling of her story, she captures a perfectly appealing evolution of the relationship between the hero and heroine.  And her narrative style lets you get lost in the story.

What one piece of advice do you wish you’d had when first starting out?

Today, the primary responsibility for promotion lies with the author, especially if you are Indie publishing your novel, as I did.  It would have been great to find guidance on which specific promotion outlets need submission/notification in ADVANCE of publication.

austenWhat’s your favorite romance novel of all time?

That’s easy!  Pride and Prejudice, by Jane Austen.  Austen drew real, and powerful, characters across a broad range of personalities.  In telling her story, she reveals how the motivations and foibles of individuals impact, intentionally or not, the lives of those around them.  And it’s the story of an abiding love that survived the many jostling and disruptive effects of family and friends, and some of the shallow strictures of society.  I never tire of re-reading it!

secret livesA Bit On Secret Lives:

The Romance they never expected… 

The Love that binds their souls…

The Danger that threatens to destroy them both…

Ace negotiator Jillian Harper can’t understand why she’s been shipped off to Miami for a cultural convention, just as hemisphere-wide negotiations to fight drug trafficking reach a critical climax. The mystery deepens when her quaint taxi driver delivers her–not to the hotel where the convention will be held–but to the estate of prominent financier Blake Crawford. It takes all her diplomatic skills–and courage–to navigate the tumultuous events that follow when Blake introduces Jillian as his fiancée, announcing they will be married in ten days. Jillian, knowing she has never met Blake, soon learns that the “Secret Lives” of others, including Blake, will determine if she lives or dies–and to live, she must embrace a secret life of her own. As she navigates these uncharted waters, can Jillian survive an earth-shattering betrayal of trust–and the discovery of a deep, and powerful, love that may ask her to sacrifice her own life to protect the man she loves?

Find Secret Lives on Amazon and Books-A-Million


A Bit on Ann Alexandra:

Born and raised in Boston, Ann Alexandra has been a long-time resident of Northern Virginia.  She loves animals, in general, and dotes on her four cats.  She loves music, and all related activities such as dancing and singing.  Most importantly, she is passionate about reading.  “Growing up, I made weekly visits to the city library.  I believe I read, over the years, just about every mystery and romance–as well as many of the classics–on the shelves of what was a rather large public library!” she explained.  “My mother introduced me to the joys of reading–she would tell me how, growing up during the height of the Depression, she could explore the world and embark on all kinds of adventures—just by opening a book!”  Ms. Alexandra dedicated her first novel, Secret Lives, to her Mother, ‘In Loving Memory’, whom she describes as her “best friend” for all of her life.

Ann Alexandra received her Bachelor’s Degree, summa cum laude, in Political Science, and a Master’s Degree in International Relations.  She worked in the Legislative side of government at both the state and federal levels, researching and writing analyses of laws and government programs.  She is a member of RWA, VRW, VWC, The Writer’s Center, and Write by the Rails.

You can find Ann Alexandra’s author page on Facebook at www.facebook.com/AnnAlexandraAuthor

Thanks for joining us, Ann! I hope the rest of your day is filled with as much chocolate as mine shall be. And writing, of course. 

Writer Wednesday: Meet Elizabeth Johns

Welcome to Writer Wednesday, in which you’ll meet a different romance writer each week and learn a little (just a little) about them.

Writer Elizabeth Johns
Elizabeth Johns

This week I’m glad to welcome Elizabeth Johns, whom I met at the recent Love Between the Covers romance conference in DC. She was sitting directly ahead of me, and while we were waiting for the conference panels to begin, we chatted a bit, discovering along the way that she also writes Regency romance, and uses the same editor (Tessa Shapcott) as I. Is that kismet or what?

Here Elizabeth shares with us answers to three (plus a bonus!) questions, and then reveals a bit about her latest novel.

Elizabeth Johns Surrender The PastWhat inspires you to write?

I wrote my first book out of a personal need to share a traumatic experience and how I finally learned to overcome it. The subsequent books were spawned from that, but I try to have some type of good message included—with an HEA of course!

Name one interesting thing you learned in researching/writing your last book.

I think I have a much better appreciation for what the conditions of war were like. The battle scene of Waterloo was only one chapter in the book, but getting into the weeds while researching made it more real. I cannot fathom living out in the open, walking miles upon miles to fight and then having to endure the poor medical care in the field.

Elizabeth Johns Seasons of Change

What fellow romance author do you recommend reading, and why?

Other than Austen (naturally), I adore Georgette Heyer. Her witty dialogue blows me away, and she transports me back in time while creating realistic characters.

What one piece of advice do you wish you’d had when first starting out?

Don’t be afraid to reach out to the community and be involved. I have been overwhelmed by the kindness and help from readers and authors alike.

Tell us about your latest release…

Elizabeth Johns Seeking RedemptionBook 3 in the Loring-Abbott Series, Seeking Redemption

At nineteen, Lady Lydia Markham was beautiful, bookish and naïve. Her sheltered, loveless upbringing had not educated her in the ways of the beau monde, or the men who inhabited it. So when she met Nathaniel, Lord Fairmont, it was all too easy to be swept away by his rakish charm and good looks. She was devastated when he did not propose marriage, but joined Wellington’s army instead.

Six years of battle has changed Nathaniel: older, wiser, the conqueror of the addictions that drove his misspent youth, he’s avowed to start afresh. But a chance meeting with Lydia unnerves him; she is so very keen to speak to him, yet he cannot fathom why. Has she waited for him all these years? He is unfit for her and is focused on making amends for another’s life that he ruined, and he urges her to forget him.

Nathaniel’s indifference leaves Lydia heartbroken, but she reaffirms her vow to begin anew. Unfortunately, she needs Nathaniel’s assistance. If ensuring his aid means following him to the Continent, where he’s gone to fight Napoleon with the Household Guards, then so be it. But will he help once he knows her secret?

Find Seeking Redemption here: Kobo, Barnes and Noble, iTunes, amazon.com, and amazon UK.

Want to connect with Elizabeth? Find her on her website, or on Facebook. Check out her Amazon page for links to Surrender the Past and Seasons of Change.

Thanks so much, Elizabeth!