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Initial attraction

In most romance stories, the first meeting sets the tone for the relationship. But many authors rely on looks to bring the hero and heroine together. The sexy way she looks in a dress or bikini. The way his tux fits his shoulders or jeans hug his butt. What are some other ways to pique the interest of another?

  1. At the stuffy cotillion or fundraiser with the upper crust of society, he’s the one wearing a big red rubber nose entertaining a toddler who is bored to tears.
  2. She knows the Klingon words for “bite me.”
  3. They meet at a tattoo parlor that specializes in covering up tattoos gone wrong.
  4. He can say the alphabet backwards.
  5. She can multiply any combination of numbers in her head.
  6. He meets her in the women’s department where she’s buying 7 of the same shirt in different colors.
  7. They meet on a honeymoon cruise as the only two singles mistakenly booked on the wrong ship.


What’s a unique way you bring your two characters together?

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Tag! You’re it!

I have been tagged by Gerri Bowen  to play along with this Q&A, so here goes!!

Rules: Thank the blogger who tagged you.
Thank you, Gerri. It’s been great seeing you again!

Answer the ten questions you were given by that blogger. Nominate ten people, give them ten new questions, and let them know they were tagged.

The questions I received were:

1. Is there a particular theme or themes to your books?

I love reunion stories. The only thing better, to me, than new love is a love that is rekindled.

2. Anything about you that people would be surprised to learn?

I set a state record for the 100m backstroke when I was 11.

3. Where in the world do you live? What do you like best about that place? Least?

I currently reside in the Pocono Mountains of Pennsylvania. The colors of autumn have been my favorite so far and make up for the long periods of gray skies.

4. You can have dinner with anyone from the past or the present. Who is that person? Why that person? Which one of you asks the most questions?

Helen Keller. She has experienced a discovery of the world that most of us could never understand. I hope we’d be equally curious about each other.

5. Do you believe there is something you were born to do? Have you achieved this goal?

Definitely win the Powerball lottery.

6. Social media. Love it or hate it? Any links you’d like to share? Where can people find you?

I love the connection it gives us to every corner of the world. I hate that people would rather interact that way than in person. I’m on Facebook and Twitter (@maggie_preston), of course.

7. Do you have a favorite book you go back to re-read? The name? Or has this changed with time?

I have two books that I’ve read many, many times over the years. A Place to Call Home by Deborah Smith and Morning Glory by LaVyrle Spencer. I’m also a HUGE fan of Darynda Jones and her Charley Davidson series. Reyes…need I say more?

8. Is there a book you want to write but you can’t get it right?

I struggle with my YA story the most. I think it’ll be a love it or hate it kind of book.

9. Any rituals you follow before you begin writing? Or do you just sit and write wherever and whenever you want?

I’m OCD enough that I have to have a ritual. I light some candles, put on a certain track on my “writing sounds” playlist and get comfy at the keyboard.

10. Has your writing subject changed through the years? If so, in what way? Why do you think that is so?

I started writing historicals, then moved to contemporary and romantic suspense, have added in erotica and YA…and I’m back to historicals. Guess I’ve come full circle.


Thank you for joining in!

Now my potential nominees have been notified. You may post your answers here in the comments or create your own blog post, as I have done.

If I’ve misspelled a name or messed up your author information site, please let me know! I’ll fix it.

There is no time limit on this Q&A Blog Tag. Please do not feel rushed or even obligated to take part, I know we all have a lot of projects to complete and life stuff to do!

Your questions are:

  1. What’s your favorite quote? Why?
  2.  What’s your strangest writing habit?
  3. What would your 12-year-old self think of you now?
  4. What song best captures your life?
  5. What’s the first book you remember falling in love with? Wanting to read over and over again? Why?
  6. Do you use fictional or real settings for your novel? Why?
  7. If you had to move to a foreign country, which one and why?
  8. On a scale of one to ten, how organized are you? Does it help or hurt with your writing?
  9. What’s your most memorable date?
  10. Coffee or tea? Coke or Pepsi? Vanilla or Chocolate?


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Spotlight on…Amanda Uhl

I’m excited to welcome Amanda Uhl, fellow author and member of Northeast Ohio RWA, mug shotto the spotlight today. Amanda has always had a fascination with the mystical. Having drawn her first breath in a century home rumored to be haunted, you might say she was “born” into it. After a brief stint in college as a paid psychic, Amanda graduated with a bachelor of fine arts in theatre and a master’s degree in marketing. Over the past twenty years, she has worked as an admissions representative and graphic designer, owned her own freelance writing company, and managed communications for several Fortune 500 companies, most recently specializing in cyber security. Amanda is an avid reader and writes fast-paced, paranormal romantic suspense and humorous contemporary romance from her home in Cleveland, Ohio. When she’s not reading or writing, you can find Amanda with her husband and three children, gathering beach glass on the Lake Erie shoreline or biking in Cuyahoga Valley National Park. Today she’s celebrating the upcoming release of her romantic comedy, Charmed By Charlie, from Boroughs Publishing Group.

Welcome Amanda! You have quite an amazing birth story for your newest project. Tell us more!

Charmed By Charlie was born out of frustration. I had been shopping my first novel, Mind Waves, to editors and agents, and receiving rejection after rejection. My 13-year-old daughter and I were watching Gilmore Girls reruns, but I was having trouble concentrating as I stewed over what I could do to stand out in the pack. Then it hit me: Why not write a book in the style of Gilmore Girls – you know that witty bantering back and forth between characters? I started writing and before I knew it, I had ten chapters written. Then I was offered a contract for Mind Waves from The Wild Rose Press. Shortly after, another great publisher, Boroughs Publishing Group, came calling. They wanted Mind Waves, and I had to tell them it was already under contract. “What else do you have?” they asked. I showed them the first couple of chapters of Charmed By Charlie, and they offered a contract on the spot. This is why I tell new writers to never give up. A rejection one day could result in a contract on another.

You are so right about the rejection angle. It’s a tough pill to swallow but as you prove, today’s rejection is tomorrow’s contract. What else inspired you to write Charmed By Charlie?

In addition to Gilmore Girls, Charmed By Charlie was inspired by a roof coating and caulking company I used to work for years ago. It was one of those places where everyone knew everyone else and was involved in everyone else’s business, too. I imagined the characters first and analyzed their goals, motivations and conflict. Then I just put them together in various scenes and the rest of the story wrote itself.

A little art imitating life. I like it! Did anything in particular present a challenge for you with writing this book? It’s very different than your first.

In general, this books was so much easier to write than my first book, Mind Waves. However, when I turned in the manuscript, my editor pointed out that she didn’t like the hero, Charlie, as much in the second half of the book because he seemed so secretive. One touch that I added in in the final editing stage was to have Val keep a Rubik’s Cube on her desk. I thought this illustrated her affinity for math and wanting everything to add up. It also foreshadowed the hero’s future impact on her – in the first chapter he picks up the cube and messes with it, just like he messes with her equilibrium throughout the story.

I remember the Rubik’s cubes so well. I think I was about 12 when they first hit the market. I still can’t solve that puzzle! What would your 12-year-old self think about where you are today?

She would not believe it. My younger self wanted nothing to do with writing. She was going to be an actress. I went to Kent State on a scholarship to study acting and directing. I never made it to Hollywood, but I did star in many productions while there. But the time I graduated, I made an important discovery: while I enjoyed the creativity of telling a story, I didn’t want to be the one acting out the story. It was about that time I seriously began considering my marketable skills. I had always been a good writer in school. Why not look for a job that involves writing? I landed a position as a communications writer for a Fortune 500 company and have been doing that kind of work ever since.

You were definitely lucky to be able to transition your interests into a skill set that gave you a career. College, I hear, gave you another great story. Care to share?

Meeting my husband. We met in college in a theatre class. It was auditorium seating and I had to ask him to move his umbrella so I could slip by. He said he memorized my name from the attendance list but was too shy to ask me out then. We met again two years later on campus, and he finally dug up the courage to ask for my phone number. Sometimes even now, we talk about our first meeting. We call them “Fundy 1 Flashbacks” (the class was called Fundamentals of Theatre). This is usually followed by pondering: “If someone would have told you that’s the girl you would marry, would you have believed them?” I wrote about this incident on my blog —
And now you show us life imitating art! I love first meetings that are memorable, but also ones that lead to the happily ever after we romance writers and readers adore. Now speaking of stories we adore, can you share with us more about Charmed By Charlie? What’s the story about?

Creative gcoverenius Charlie Solanger has it all: good looks, money, intelligence, charm. And when he swoops in to save Reynolds Paint Company with a brilliant marketing campaign, he has all the ladies in the office vying for his attention. Everyone except math whiz Valerie Wilson.

Val’s not happy Charlie stole her promotion. Worse, his brand of flirtatious charm is reminiscent of her cheating ex-fiancé. So, how come she can’t get him out of her head? The more she challenges him, the more interested—and interesting—he becomes. What secrets is Charlie hiding, and who or what is behind the sudden mysterious drain on their company’s funds? The only way to find out is to join forces. Then it will be a battle of wills…and a triumph of hearts.

Excellent! When can we read more about Charlies and Val?

Charmed By Charlie can be purchased as an ebook and in paperback at any of these retailers on April 18, 2017.

Thanks for being at A Writer’s House today, Amanda!

Amanda will be out and about in the Cleveland area. Come and learn about her writing journey and what inspired Charmed By Charlie. Get your book signed, too!

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The Power of the Unempowered?

I’m a people watcher. I get this from my MawMaw. She used to take the bus from Mississippi to visit us in Louisiana and always had such tales of the people she would see on the ride. If we’d go shopping, she’d like to sit somewhere central and observe those around her. I do the same thing, using the people I see in my books.

As a writer, I’m cognizant of how fiction imitates real life at times. When I first started reading romance, heroines were virginal twenty-somethings falling for the experienced and often uber-wealthy thirty-somethings. To some degree, this reflected our society. Women were expected to be chaste and always young, waiting for their groom and a Calgon moment. Men could be whatever they wanted.

Fast forward past the ERA, Billie Jean King and Mary Tyler Moore. Burning bras and the push for women to go to college only to get an MRS degree. The women of romance became empowered. No longer content to wait for their man to bring home the bacon, women brought it home, fried it up and fought their way to be CEO of Yahoo and IBM or Prime Minister of England or Germany.

Now it’s a double edged sword. Women have the same choices men have enjoyed for… well, forever. Career. Family. Both. Neither. So I find it almost comical that the most popular show on HBO right now is about women who spend more time cat-fighting like the Kardashians than they do focused on career, family or anything else.

I know. I know. It’s HBO. TV is not (necessarily) reality. But does the interest of the viewers reflect either what society is, or what society thinks reflects what women are?

And if either of those is true, I’m not sure how I feel about that or what it means for romance.

There are nuances to the show that give it depth. Celeste’s troubled marriage. Jane’s troubled past. Madeline…oy…Madeline. The sword of Damocles with the dead body interspersed throughout the cat-fighting. There are serious topics introduced. Teens and sex, bullying and blended families. But rather than see the women working together, we seem them putting each other down in almost every conceivable way.

It’s just handled in such a soap opera manner. I fully expect Marlena to levitate while channeling Satan. So I have to ask myself: is that what society wants? Or is that how they see romance and marriage? Or worse, how they see women? Maybe like romance, this is just a slice of life.

Romance handles the nitty gritty of relationships in too-sanitized a way. We rarely see our hero farting in front of his love interest or get the mid-period granny-panties day of our heroine. That’s real life too. But would our readers want to experience that in print as much as the too-good-to-be-true sex?

Fiction is about the highlights, not the lowlights. Romance is also about the beginning of a relationship and they don’t call it the honeymoon period for nothing. These relationships in this show are more middle-aged. To me, that means comfort as much as challenge. Or maybe it’s because TV focuses more on the lowlights. Like the evening news. We’re looking for the different side of life, even if it’s not pleasant, as a form of entertainment.

The series ended this weekend and I’ll admit, it ended mostly how I expected though it did throw one surprise into the mix for me. I liked that. I don’t want to be able to follow a formula to an ending. That’s what I’m taking away from the whole thing. Surprise your readers and they’ll not only keep turning the pages, they’ll come back for more.


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Spotlight on…Susan Kelley

A Writer’s House turns over the controls today to guest blogger Susan Kelley.

Thanks for having me on your blog, Kathleen. I’m excited to have wrapped up my third space opera romance series recently. Every time I talk about my series, someone asks me to explain what space opera is.

RebelLady1_largeWell, it’s not about singing. Think of it more like a soap opera that takes place in space. Some fan favorite movies and shows that fall into the space opera category would Firefly, Star Trek, Stargate and of course, Star Wars. They are all science fiction stories that focus on the characters rather than the science and tech. In Firefly, the crew of Serenity is what makes the show. They’re flawed, and they love each other. What would Star Trek be without the bromance of Kirk, Spock, and McCoy? We love those shows because we love the characters.

Space opera romance is a romance set in space. The same social issues as our present day can be used to raise the conflict between the protagonists. In my third series, The Galactic Outlaws, social class differences divide people and government officials are always good villains no matter the setting. In one of my other series, The Warriors of Gaviron, aliens of the good and evil variety, bring the conflict. My first space opera series, The Recon Marines, involves genetically engineered soldiers and the question of whether men created in a lab are actually human.

So why has space opera romance been so popular recently? I believe the popularity of WarriorandtheBiologistSMrecent movie releases like the rebirth of the Star Wars saga and the great Star Trek remakes led to that success. Also, space travel is sexy. Shipboard romances have been beloved since the first pirate ship romance in historical fiction. You can also create locales and landscapes as exotic as your thoughts can manage.

Writing space opera doesn’t require you to be a NASA engineer. Even if you only know a
little science, you can mix it in with your invented science and not offend most readers. Readers are expecting hard science fiction where you spend four pages describing the size of the ship’s engines. It’s all about the characters for readers.

Could you fall in love with a genetically engineered soldier who has zero social skills? How would you relate to an alien who looks human but has been raised on another world? Would you side with the rebels, like the Browncoats in Firefly, and take down a corrupt government?

Marine seriesIs space opera a new term for you? Have you read any or watched some on the big screen. Which is your favorite?

Susan Kelley has been published in romance for over ten years with sixteen published romances. She also writes epic fantasy under the name Susan Gourley and has four published fantasy novels. You can find her books on her publisher’s site and at all other eBook retail outlets.

Susan Kelley/Gourley at New Concepts Publishing                             Susan Kelley on Amazon

Susan Kelley’s Blog                 Susan Kelley on Twitter                     Susan Gourley on Facebook



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Spotlight on….D.R. Grady

D.R. Grady photo

Welcome to another Spotlight. Today I’m excited to introduce D.R. Grady.

I love sharing new authors and new stories with readers. While D.R. is new to me, she’s well established on the bookshelves. Here’s a peek at her latest release, The Trouble with Nerds. (Isn’t that a fabulous title??)

Odd things keep happening to Dr. Sara Newton. She’s a soon-to-be-unemployed pediatrician with an alleged stalker, a hot cop on her heels breathing dire warnings, and way too much student debt.

It doesn’t help that the hot cop is Clay Morrison, her best friend’s older brother. The man has made her heart pound and her palms sweaty since puberty. The trouble is, he only interacts with her when he’s expounding on new security measures. He sees threats everywhere.The Trouble With Nerds cover

Clay Morrison is frustrated. He hates his new job, misses his Army Ranger days, loves his well-meaning, pushy family—and when did sweet Sara Newton grow up? She won’t admit she has a stalker, and she won’t keep out of his thoughts. He can only protect someone in denial for so long. No matter how attractive she is…

Clay and Sara are circling each other, trying to meet in the middle. Then a brand new threat sends them in a completely different direction.

Pick up your copy of The Trouble with Nerds from Amazon today.

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Spotlight on….Misty Simon!

We’re proud to welcome Misty Simon to A Writer’s House this week. for-web-misty-simon2

Misty Simon loves a good story and decided one day that she would try her hand at it. Eventually she got it right. There’s nothing better in the world than making someone laugh, and she hopes everyone at least snickers in the right places when reading her books. She lives with her husband, daughter and three insane dogs in Central Pennsylvania where she is hard at work on her next novel or three. She loves to hear from readers, so drop her a line at

Thank you for being with us Misty. I can’t wait to hear what you have up your sleeve. Tell me about your latest release.

This is the last Ivy Morris Mystery in the series. Box Six ties it all up. I’ve loved writing Ivy throughout the years and am sad to see her go, but she’s grown into the woman I always knew she could be and it’s time for both of us to move on to new adventures.

Readers have enjoyed watching Ivy grow up as well. What’s next for our intrepid sleuth?

I loved the idea of a tomato tournament with Ben trying his hand out at growing and cooking. And it seemed perfect that one of the judges would die for reasons unknown to anyone. I always love to complicate Ivy’s life.

Was there anything that complicated your life in writing this particular book?

It was one of the hardest books I’ve ever written, knowing that it was the end. I had to tell myself over and over again that I wanted to do her justice and see this through. It took a while but I finally did.

You certainly did! I know how exciting it is to finish a book. I can’t imagine putting “the end” on a series. That’s quite an accomplishment. What’s a favorite milestone in your career so far?

 Anytime I have a new book in my hands! Also the fact that I have now signed with a traditional publisher for a new mystery series which will be my very first mass-market paperback!

That’s incredible! Congratulations, Misty! Tell me more.

Tallie Graver will be starring in her own new mystery series starting in November and coming out from Kensington Publishing.

I know I can’t wait to read the new series and I’m sure your readers will feel the same. So leave us with some last, best words of wisdom that keep you going when things are tough.

First, think. Second, believe. Third, dream. And finally, dare. Walt Disney. This speaks to me because before anything else you have to believe in yourself. There are going to be days where you might be the only one who does, but your dreams are important and you are the only one who can give yourself the time, the space and the love to make them come true.

Thank you so much for being here today, Misty. And best of luck on the new series with Kensington. Now, let’s take a quick look at your latest release, Hoedown Showdown available from The Wild Rose Press.

HoedownShowdown_w11268_med “I’m so sorry, Mr. McIntyre,” Myrt said with her face close to his, her hand patting his chest. There was a crinkling noise, but she was still talking. “So very sorry. When Irma died last year in her sleep after winning her forty-ninth straight tournament, I thought I finally had a chance, and now I hit you, and I’m so very, very sorry, and I can’t believe I mistook you for a burglar.” She twisted her hands together like she was wringing out a dishtowel. And she was going to draw blood if she continued biting her lip in between babbling some more.

I had few choices right now. I have to admit here that I had no desire whatsoever to call the police. I didn’t want to be involved in things. I had plans this week. This was not going to keep me from swinging from the freaking chandelier if I could.

Of course, I could go across the street and call from the house, or have Ben call and then remove myself from the situation altogether. But that would be completely unfair to Mrs. Crandall.

I couldn’t help myself. I let out a scream that would have brought down an opera house, something between frustration and fright because, at that moment, something furry ran against my leg before shooting into the bushes.

In the end, the decision of what to do was taken out of my hands because the police came tearing up in the one marked car in town, screeching to a halt at the curb. A man in uniform was out of the car before I could blink again. And I’m glad I didn’t blink because I would have missed the way he jumped from the car and then did a forward roll across the front lawn as if he was in some crazy-assed shootout.

Misty’s Website                         Misty’s Facebook                          Misty’s Twitter


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