SUCH a Good Book!

I’ve been…oh dear,what’s the word?

Oh, yeah, now I remember. Lazy.

Judy Fogarty bookSo today, I made a Very Serious To Do List because I did not want another 24 hours to go by without sharing a great summer read with you. The title is Breaking and Holding which, once you read the book, you’ll see is a very clever title. But for now, I’ll add that tennis plays a big part in the story and isn’t it serendipitous that Wimbledon’s going on?

Judy Fogarty is the lovely author and I met her when I was down at the beach. She came out for an afternoon chat and I learned all about her publisher (Lake Union Publishing, in the Amazon family), her writing group (a hard-working and well-published bunch!) and all about her journey to publication (a long road with a nicely successful ending).

I hadn’t quite finished the book when we met, but I’d read enough to know how much I liked it. Judy calls it a romance at heart–and it is–but it’s so much more.

Breaking and Holding is a beautifully written novel, a compelling literary debut. Whether on the South Carolina resort beaches or the high-rise advertising boardrooms of New York, you’ll be lost in this story of love and passion, deceptions and truths, of control and breaking free.

It’s a delightful bonus that the story takes place in the 1970s, a golden age of tennis, and a time when Mister Man and I played–and watched–a ton of tennis. I felt 20-something again, and I’m not going to lie: that’s quite a feat!

And it’s quite a feat to keep a reader like me, who’s not exactly a fan of romance, turning the pages. I think the book is classified as women’s fiction, but I hope you don’t let a label keep you from grabbing up this book. Because whatever it’s called–romance, women’s fiction, contemporary adult–it’s a thrilling ride with an authentic cast of well-developed characters. And a perfectly wonderful novel, guaranteed to jumpstart your summer reading.

Especially if you’ve been…oh, what’s that word again?

Yeah. You know what I’m talking about.

Five Questions With Debut Romance Author, Lisa Ricard Claro

LBTL-Final-188x300On Tuesdays, I usually toot my horn for Cathy C. Hall but not this Tuesday. This Tuesday, I’m celebrating my friend and debut romance author, Lisa Ricard Claro!

(Honestly, I wanted to put at least ten more exclamation points there, but that might embarrass Lovely Lisa.)

Lisa has written Love Built To Last and…you know what? I’m going to just zip over and grab my review from Goodreads for you ’cause a. I kinda like my review, and b. it sums up the novel nicely!

Another man might be put off to find that a pretty, young widow believes her dead husband still communicates with her. But not Caleb Walker, the handsome and hunky carpenter that Maddie Kinkaid hires to renovate her kitchen. He’s a widow, too, and though he’s protective of his son, he’s not quite able to protect his heart from Maddie’s charms. But Maddie’s torn between the new feelings stirred up by Caleb and the comfortable feelings she carries still for Jack, the man she lost. And just when Maddie thinks this new romance might work out, catastrophe strikes. Is Maddie’s dead husband, Jack, keeping them apart?

Or is it Maddie?

In Lisa Ricard Claro’s debut romance, LOVE BUILT TO LAST, the author deftly crafts a sweetly Southern story of holding on and letting go. And you’ll want to hold on to Maddie and Caleb, plus the whole cast of characters, including the charming rescue pooch, Pirate, long after the last page. (Good thing it’s the first in the Fireflies series!)

And now, on to the five questions! (Don’t worry, there are no spoilers, just juicy tidbits and writerly tips!)

I know that LOVE BUILT TO LAST was originally a short story—a story that garnered a first place award!—but still. How did you take 2,000 words and grow them into a 90,000 word novel?

First, thank you for inviting me to your blog!

You know how your best ideas come to you in the shower, Cath? For me, it’s immediately upon waking. I’m an early riser—4:00-5:00 a.m. whether I want to or not. I’ve found that after I wake up, if I snuggle back down and think about my stories and characters, the ideas roll freely. Whole scenes and dialogue play like a movie. One scene leads to another and the next thing I know I’ve got some great key scenes, and I’m ready to outline and flesh it all out. My only complaint is that sometimes I’ll play out great dialogue in my head, but then I can’t remember it later. *sigh*

(Well, duh, it’s FIVE IN THE MORNING, LISA.)

So, one of the bigger plot points revolves around your female protagonist’s belief that her dead husband communicates with her. Is this mostly fictional, or do you believe that loved ones will always find a way to communicate with us?

Both. I do believe that our loved ones don’t completely leave us. I want to believe that they will communicate with us if they can, though I’ve never experienced it myself. I wrote a blog post about this recently, and a few commenters mentioned dreams. I hadn’t really thought of dreams as being part of that communication, but after thinking about it, I have had some dreams involving my parents that I’d like to believe were gentle visits.

In Love Built to Last, as in the two books that follow, I carried that element through as part of the theme. In each case I tried to present it in such a way that it is left up to the reader to decide if Jack—the deceased—is really communicating, or if it’s wishful thinking by the characters. I’ve asked a few readers what their take was, and the split is about 50/50.

Lisa-Ricard-Claro-pic-2sm-247x300You also have a rescue animal (I love Pirate!) that plays a major role in the story. Did it just happen as you wrote the story or did your own love of animals guarantee that you’d somehow get a rescue in there?

I have a huge heart for rescues and animal companions are natural characters in my world. I believe that in fiction, as in life, you can tell a lot about people/characters by how they treat animals. So, yes, I made the decision to incorporate rescued pets in every book. In Love Built to Last, the rescue of the mutt, Pirate, figures prominently, but in the third book, Love to Win, Pavarotti the cat is already in his forever home. His rescue is mentioned, but only as backstory.

Your three-book series is with Black Opal Books. Can you share a little about this publisher and how you came to connect with them?

I learned about Black Opal Books on the RWA (Romance Writers of America) PRO forum. Black Opal is a small publisher, has been around about seven years. Before signing with them I contacted a number of authors who had published with them—a few who were in the midst of working with them, and a few who had published books with them but had moved on to other publishers. In all instances I received only positive feedback. Now that they’ve published my first book and I’ve been through the process with them from start to finish, I can honestly say they’ve been professional, cooperative, and quick to respond to questions and/or concerns.

Thanks for the insider info, Lisa! Speaking of those three books, I’m sure it was a challenge to get your first contract and end up with a series! How have you managed this challenge, and would you do things differently next time around?

To say I was surprised to be offered a three book contract is an understatement. In many ways it took the pressure off. Even though I was then committed to writing two more books in relatively quick succession, I felt a certain freedom with them. I didn’t have to worry and wonder if I would ever be published again. I knew going in that these three books had found a publishing home, and I could focus on the writing without stressing over the query/submission aspect.

As far as what I’d do differently, that’s an easy question to answer. I’d spend less time stressing and more time enjoying the process. When book two releases this fall, and then book three in early 2016, I’m not going to worry about things I can’t control. Instead, I will open a nice bottle of wine and celebrate!

(And I, as one of your closest and dearest friends, will join you. Um…you might need one of those BIG bottles.)

Big thank you to Lisa for sharing all her writer wisdom and behind-the-scenes info! Now, often, I give away books I’ve read. But I’m sorry, y’all, I can’t give away Lisa’s book. It’s on my Friends-Who’ve-Written-Books Shelf, and it’s waiting to be signed. But I know where you can get your own swell copy of Love Built to Last!

To purchase your copy of Love Built to Last in eBook or print, go to AmazonBarnes & NobleBlack Opal BooksKobo, or AllRomance.

I hear that romance is good for your heart, and it sure makes my heart feel pretty darn good to see Lisa Ricard Claro’s book out there. And honestly, you’re going to love her book, too!!! (So I added a few more exclamation points–Lisa’s probably blushing, but I’m okay with that.)

A Wednesday’s What NOT To Do, Courtesy of Chuck (And Wheee! Romance!)

ImageApparently, I am not the only writer who employs the “What Not To Do” construct. Apparently, Chuck Sambuchino thought it was a fine idea as well. He used it over at Writer Unboxed (where he’s one of the monthly contributors) to present his article, What NOT To Do When Beginning Your Novel: Advice From Literary Agents.

Okay, fine. I suppose great  minds think alike and all that. And it’s a fine article, too, that also proves that many agents think alike when it comes to novel beginnings. Certain openings come up again and again–and that, my writer friends, is not a good thing. You want an agent to read page one and find something different and engaging. So if your novel opens with an agent’s pet peeve, I’d strongly recommend that you revise.

Of course, there are exceptions. And maybe you’ve written the exceptional trite beginning that works. Submit at your own risk, friends.

Which brings me to my next topic. When I read Lovely Lisa’s post today about romance, it reminded me that I’d come across a romance opportunity that might appeal to my readers/writers who haven’t written novels but who have (or could whip out) a romantic short story.

Crimson Romance (an imprint from F & W Media) is looking for stories in the 5,000 to 10,000 word range on holiday themes and sports themes. I know a couple writers who were published in the romance anthology, Fifty Shades of Santa. But for those of you whose stories weren’t accepted, here’s a great opportunity to try again for publication.

Or maybe you want to try your hand at romance-writing for the very first time. A short story is a good place to start. Just don’t start with one of those bad beginnings that agents don’t like.

I mean, it’s not called Wednesday’s What NOT To Do for nothing.

Flush Fiction For the Reader on the Go

So, finally, I can come clean. I’ve been sitting on this news for quite some time, and I refuse to waste another minute– I have a story in the just released Uncle John’s Bathroom Reader Presents Flush Fiction!

Whew. That felt good. It’s been so hard, keeping that in! But there’s more. The amazing folks at Uncle John’s Bathroom Reader have agreed to give away a copy of Flush Fiction to one of my lucky commenters! Isn’t that swell?

But of course, you want to know more about this quick fiction on the go! This collection of 88 short-short stories covers just about everything: mystery, horror, sci-fi, humor, romance, and adventure. The editors scoured the country for some of the best fiction writers around and stuffed them all into this one BIG book. Um…the stories, not the writers.

It’s a mystery what I’m doing in this book with such a group of esteemed writers.  But just like that eternal unanswerable question, “Who forgot to flush?” I suppose we’ll never know. We will, however, know who will win the copy of Uncle John’s Bathroom Reader Presents Flush Fiction in exactly seven days. That’s when I’ll pluck a winner from the mess of names floating around in the comments. (Sorry, folks, you must be in the United States in order to win.)

And you might want to follow Uncle John’s Bathroom Reader on Twitter or Facebook for more info dumps.

(Okay, that went too far, didn’t it? But I seem to be on a roll and can’t stop.)

(Oops.)