• authors,  writers,  writing life

    Remembering Mama

    I remember the book Mama by Terry McMillan very well and can’t believe it was well over 20 years ago that I read and loved it. It was one of those books that really spoke to me in both its style and emotion. With all I’m going through as a writer right now I think I need to revisit it. Check out this interview with the amazing author.


  • authors,  Books,  interviews,  writers,  writing life

    Sinning with a Scoundrel and a Giveaway!

    So are you snowed in? Raise your hands if you are?

    Lucky me! The mail gods and ARC gods have been smiling and in a recent book shipment I received a copy of To Sin With A Scoundrel by Cara Elliot, the first book in the Circle of Sin series. Now once again I was duped buy the old author name change switcharoo. I was like, “where have I heard that name before.” You all know me. Between the Teen Twins and Jack I can’t remember two days ago and surely not when a friend goes and writes under a pseudonym. Foul!

    Cara got me with this on twitter too. I was like, “who is this Cara all over the place.” Turns out it’s my friend and bestselling author, Andrea. Duh! I really gotta get it together. Maybe ginkgo biloba, but I do vaguely remember hearing about a study saying that that doesn’t even work. Sigh. Oh well, back to today’s joy…

    I got To Sin With A Scoundrel, read it, totally enjoyed it and then saw the lovely Cara/Andrea at Lady Jane’s Salon recently and she ever so kindly agreed to do a short interview with me (even though I’m a ninny that can’t remember her very famous pseudonym).

    Now onto the interview:

    Hello Cara thanks so much for taking some time out of your busy schedule to pop over her for a bit at Kwana Writes!

    Thanks for inviting me, Kwana. You’re such a wonderful voice for the romance genre—it’s an honor to be here!

    First off can you tell us a little about your background? Have you always wanted to be a romance writer or is this something that you happened on later? Do you have some fab story of “overnight success”?

    Actually, I wrote my first book when I was five years old. It was a Western, complete with meticulously colored pictures of horses and cowboys. (I’ve since moved on to Regency England . . . I must have a thing for Men in Boots!) So I guess that storytelling has always been a passion of mine. However, I also loved art and ended up majoring in graphic design, which took me on a different career path for a number of years, So to make a long story short, I remained an avid reader, but didn’t return to writing until later in life. One day, about ten years ago, I decided to plunk my derriere in a chair and try my hand at writing again. And that was it—I was hooked, though I hadn’t the first clue on what I was going to do with the finished manuscript.

    Getting published was a serendipitous quirk of fate. A friend introduced me to an agent and I pitched him a contemporary thriller I had written. (It’s still in a desk drawer for good reason.) He nodded politely throughout the interview and said he would take a look at it. Then, as we got up, I mentioned as an afterthought,” Oh, I also have a Regency romance, but that probably doesn’t interest you.” Well, at that his eyes lit up, and he said,” Oh, the people at the Signet Regency line are good friends. Let me show it to them.” Three days later I got the call that they had bought my book!

    What’s your writing process like? Are you a plotter or a pantser? What’s a typical writing day like for you?

    Oh, total set-of-the-panser! I can’t tell you how many times I finish a chapter and sit back saying, “Whoa, I didn’t know they were going to do that!”
    I’m also a slow writer. On my writing days, I get up early and pretty much keep at it for 10 or12 hours (Okay, okay, with bathroom and chocolate breaks. Chocolate is an essential item on a writer’s desk. One never knows when The Muse might need a little bribe!) If I end up with 8 or 10 pages, that’s a very good day. The good news is, they are pretty clean pages. I’m not someone who writes three or four drafts.

    Now I know your schedule is extremely busy since you are currently teaching a class at Yale (yes folks, that Yale) called “Reading the Historical Romance Novel” along with New York Times bestselling author Lauren Willing. Can you tell me a little on how this came about?

    Mix two romance writers with several glasses of chardonnay . . .
    Lauren and I are both Yale grads, and one evening at Lady Jane’s Salon in NYC we started talking about how romance should be treated as a serious genre of literature, and how we would structure a class. Laughing, we both said, “Oh, wouldn’t it be fun to teach a seminar at Yale on the subject.” But the laughter quickly died away as a simultaneous spark lit in our eyes . . and so we decided to submit a proposal. After months of drafting a detailed syllabus, complete with critical readings, and being interviewed by a committee of students and professors in New Haven, our idea was accepted! We started teaching in January, and are really enjoying the experience.

    It’s actually great to see that we are part of a growing movement to focus attention on the fact that great authors are writing great stories in the romance genre. Now, we readers have always known that, but it’s heartening to see the rest of the literary world, as well as the academic community, start to sit up and take notice!

    Now onto To Sin With A Scoundrel which as I said I thoroughly enjoyed. Lady Ciara Sheffield is not your typical Regency heroine. She’s been married and has a child and is an intellectual. What made you decide on this type of heroine and the Circle of Sin as an idea for a series?

    I’ve always liked creating unconventional heroines . . . maybe because I’ve always been a little quirky myself. So I tend to write stories with characters who dare to be different and who challenge the rules of their Society. It allows me to explore an emotional complexity, which I feel allows me to add depth and texture.

    The Circle of Sin is a group of brilliant, beautiful female scholars who meet each week to share their knowledge and their friendship. They are all scientists—now, don’t ask me why! I was absolutely hopeless in math or science in school. (But hey, that’s part of the fun of fiction, and I did do my homework studying up on the basics so as not to make a fool of myself.) That said, I really enjoyed playing with the “chemistry” of pairing each of the three brainy heroines with heroes who were, on the surface, their opposites. Lady Ciara Sheffield, who stars in the first book of the new trilogy, is wary of men, however she has no choice but to accept help from a rakish rogue in order to save herself from scandal . . . and they both learn some unexpected lessons on love.

    What was your inspiration for the dashing and sexy Lord Hadley?

    Oh, I have a real soft spot for Lucas, who is one of my favorite heroes. He’s a charming rake who cheerfully admits to having no interest in anything but sybaritic pleasure. But at heart, he’s far more sensitive than he cares to admit, and as his best friend Jack says, he simply needs a challenge to bring out his better nature. As for inspiration, well, don’t we all dream of turning our scoundrels into noble heroes!

    I can’t wait for the next book To Surrender A Rogue and Alessandra and Jack’s story. The sparks fly with these two from page one. Tell us a bit about them.

    Oh yes, things get a little hot between Alessandra and Jack in To Sin With A Scoundrel. Having been burned in the past, she’s mistrustful of the handsome devil who tries to ride to her rescue—especially when Jack ends up tying her young daughter to a tree. (Note: he has an excellent reason for doing it, but still, what mother would not be a tad upset at such heavy-handed measures!)
    So in To Surrender To A Rogue, when they find themselves working at the same archeological excavation of Roman ruins in Bath, they are none too happy about it. But when fellow member of the expedition threatens to dig up a dark secret from Alessandra’s past, she finds herself in desperate need of a hero . . . I hope you enjoy their story! (Oh, and then there’s free-spirited Kate, the botany expert, whose story will be told in To Tempt A Rake.)

    Thanks so much for being here today. I can’t wait to see you at the next Lady Jane’s.

    Thanks for having me, Kwana! See you at the Salon in March.

    Folks you can check out Cara’s website here
    And if you are in New York on Monday March 1st don’t miss Lady Jane’s Salon where Cara will be reading from To Sin With A Scoundrel. Check out the site here.
    Oh and one lucky commenter will win a signed ARC (advanced reader copy) of To Sin With A Scoundrel from Cara. So please leave your comments. The only rule is you must be a follower of ye old blog kwanawrites. Oh and please leave your email so I can get back to ya and enter by midnight Thursday. Thanks.


  • authors,  book launch,  Books,  reviews

    An Interview, A Giveaway and a Scandal

    Oh fun! Today my interview with Amanda McCabe is up over at the Risky Regencies blog to launch her new book Countess of Scandal as Laurel McKee. She’s giving away a copy of her book to a lucky commenter so please stop on by and check out the interview here.

    And it just so happens that my review of Countess of Scandal is up on Booksquawk so later you can stop on by there and check that out. You’ll see I really enjoyed all the scandal. It was a great read.
    Once again. Happy Saturday!
  • authors,  blogs,  Books,  Lady Jane's Salon

    Smart Women Reading

    What’s Jack up to? The Jackster is chilling still recuperating after a busy Halloween weekend. Spending much of his time under the bed or lazing about in the couch. For Halloween he just about barked himself out with the ringing doorbell. My favorite was him trying to push through the glass door and my little neighbor girl dressed as a very annoyed nun holding it shut with one hand and looking at him with reproach and he bounced up and down just tuckering his self out.
    Last night I did my monthly escape to Lady Jane’s Salon. New York’s only romance reading series and once again had a fine time.
    This month the featured guests were:
    New York Times and USA today Bestselling Author Caridad Pineiro.

    Caridad read from her newest book Sins of the Flesh. A sexy paranormal suspense novel that at times can hit a little to close to home. You can check out Caridad here.

    Also reading was Joanne Rendell who did a mock play of sorts with excerpts from her book Crossing Washington Square with the help of a hilariously funny cast of helpers.
    It’s the story of two strong willed university professors and the tensions between them. Check out Joanne, her musings and her first release here.

    Lastly, helping to MC the night was Elizabeth Kerri Mahon of the Scandalous Women blog who was celebrating her birthday while dressed as Marie Antoinette who shares the same birthday! Happy Birthday again Elizabeth. You looked wonderful. You can check out Elizabeth’s scandalous blog here.

    Please remember to vote today. Thanks.

  • authors,  book launch,  Books,  jack

    Christmas time- La la la…

    What’s Jack up to? Well, Jack is full of happiness and energy lately. I think he knows he has a birthday coming up. It’s Sunday. The dear twins are getting all a twitter over it. I think I’d better get some sort of plan together. Hmm…

    Congrats to my good friend Marley Gibson on her newest release Christmas Miracles co-authored with Cecil “Cec” Murphey. Today Marley is guest posting with an interview of Cecil here. Welcome Marley and Cecil!

    Interview with Cecil “Cec” Murphey
    by Marley Gibson

    I am extremely privileged to have the opportunity today to talk to my friend and co-author, Cecil “Cec” Murphey, and to chat about our book, Christmas Miracles.

    Marley: Cec, thanks for spending some time with me today.

    Cec: Marley, it’s great that you could take time away from important things like making a living to spend a little time with me.

    Marley: I’m so jazzed about our Christmas Miracles book that’s coming out soon. I’ve had a lot of questions from folks wanting to know how we met, what brought us together, etc. So, I thought we’d do a back and forth on how it all came to be. Of course, I have to give props to our amazing agent and friend, Deidre Knight, for bringing us together. For those of you who don’t know, Cec co-authored the runaway New York Times bestselling hit 90 Minutes in Heaven with Don Piper.

    Cec: I have to say thanks to Deidre Knight as well. Between Deidre and my assistant, Twila Belk, I’ve been able to sell quite a few books. 90 Minutes in Heaven has been my big book. I’m also proud of a book I wrote in 1990 called Gifted Hands: The Ben Carson Story. The book has never been out of print and has hit close to four million in sales. Early this year, Cuba Gooding Jr. starred in the made-for-TV film version.

    Marley: That’s amazing! You are truly prophetic and definitely “the man behind the words.” Now, people ask how we teamed up. Sadly, there was a personal tragedy that brought Cec and me together as friends.

    Cec: True. In early 2007, our house burned and our son-in-law died. Aside from the grief over Alan, we lost everything. Deidre and Jan, my-then-assistant, sent the word out of our tragedy without telling me. I’m immensely grateful for every gift people sent, but I probably wouldn’t have admitted I needed help and wouldn’t have asked. They taught me how much we need other people.

    Marley: Deidre put out a call to other clients of The Knight Agency, to help Cec and his family out in any way in their time of need. At the time, my company was moving and we were cleaning house. We had a ton of office supplies that we were either going to throw away or give to some of the charities the company worked with. I got my boss’ permission to send a large care package to Cec…full of office supplies for him to re-stock his writer’s office. You name it…post-its, staples, paper clips, pens, pencils, markers, white out, ruler, scissors, paper, notebooks, notepads, envelopes, a laptop case, tape, glue, folders, binder clips…etc. A veritable potpourri of office delights. I was hoping that it would help Cec have a sense of getting his office back so he could keep working.

    Cec: Marley’s gift was the most unexpected I received. We hadn’t met, although Deidre Knight had spoken of her many times and kept telling me she was wonderful. I wonder if you can imagine what it was like for me to open that box from someone I didn’t know. I saw all those practical things for my office and yelled for my wife. I felt as if I were reading a first-grade book. “Look! Look and see! Oh, look!” I was overwhelmed by the gift and even more to receive it from a stranger. Those supplies were the most practical gift anyone could have given me. I’m still using black paper clips and red folders from Marley.

    Marley: Awww…thanks, Cec! I didn’t have to think twice about doing it. Writing is such a solitary “sport,” but the writing community always astounds me with how they help their own. Not long after that, over plates of spinach and Gouda omelets, Deidre introduced me to Cec in person and I was thrilled to finally meet the man behind the words. Deidre knew we needed to work on a project together and thus began our brainstorming. What did you think of that first meeting, Cec, and cooking up the idea to work together?

    Cec: Deidre and I had already spoken about a Christmas book and I had some idea about what it should contain, but nothing had come together. One day Deidre told me that Marley was coming to visit her and she wanted us to work together on a Christmas project. Marley and I talked before we ate and again during the meal. Everything felt right to me. I knew my strengths and Marley knew hers (and Deidre knew both of us). Everything clicked. Marley, a far better networker than I am, immediately sent out the word for submissions. Within days she had almost four times more than we could use. (She read every one of them!)

    Marley: I was truly impressed with the submissions we received and it was hard narrowing it down to the ones we chose for the book. We’re fortunate to have such a go-getter agent in Deidre Knight. Cec, can you share how the whole idea of Christmas Miracles came about and what you thought of the project originally?

    Cec: For me, it actually started while I was on the rapid-rail train from the Atlanta airport when I listened to teens talk about Christmas and it was mostly about gifts. I had the idea then, but nothing really came together. Months later when Deidre I and had a meeting, she brought up the idea of a compilation and mentioned my working with Marley. I’ve been Deidre Knight’s client since 1997 and I’ve learned to listen carefully when she comes up with an idea. I said yes before she gave me all the information.

    Marley: That’s the truth about Deidre! Getting back to those submissions, I want to say we got more than two hundred submissions for Christmas Miracles. So many wonderful stories to read through and select for the book. It was a challenge to pick and choose which ones were right for the book, but I loved every minute of it. After I chose the entries that would go into the book, Cec toiled long hours editing the works for a unified voice. What was the biggest challenge you found in the editing process, Cec?

    Cec: I’ve been a ghostwriter and collaborator for twenty-plus years and this was a switch to give the book a unified voice—which was mine. It would have been easier to stay with each writer’s voice, but the book—like many compilations—would have been uneven in tone and quality. When I discussed this via email with our delightful editor, Rose Hilliard, she was (to my surprise) familiar with my work. She told me she liked the warm tone of my writing and that I don’t waste words. “That’s the voice we want,” she said. It still wasn’t easy, but it was an exciting challenge. After Marley and I agreed on the stories and gave them that unified voice, our editor pulled six contributions. Although different, Rose felt they were too similar to other stories.

    Marley: Can you give our readers a preview of the book? A favorite story perhaps…or one that moved you to tears? (I have to say the little boy who wished for nothing but to be able to read a book all the way through because of his stutter had me bawling when I read the submission.)

    Cec: That’s not fair! I liked them all. The one that touched me most, however, is the last story in the book, “Sean’s Question.” We had almost finished the book and I was teaching at a conference in Florida. I felt we needed one strong story at the end. Despite all the good ones, I didn’t feel fully satisfied to conclude the book. On the last day of the conference, I met a conferee named Sara Zinn for a consultation. As we talked, I mentioned Christmas Miracles and that I still needed one more story. “I have a Christmas story,” she said and told me about Sean. As I listened, tears filled my eyes—but, being the macho type I am, I was sure it was an allergy. Sara wrote the story, and it became the one I sought.

    Marley: Oh yes…that one is an emotional one all right. It was meant to be in the book because of how you met at the conference. Now, you and I have both had challenges in our lives that others might have found too much to take, but we are both very strong in our faith and our relationship with God. How do you think Christmas Miracles is going to help others feel closer to God and experience His miracles in their own lives?

    Cec: Awareness and appreciation are the two things I want readers to grasp. Awareness means for them to realize that they’re never totally alone in life. Those unexpected, out-of-the-ordinary events remind us of that. Appreciation means to be thankful for what we already have. Too often, and especially at Christmas, we focus on what we’d like or what is supposed to make us happy. Christmas Miracles gently reminds readers of both.

    Marley: In this day and age when our country is fighting two wars, unemployment is high, and a lot of people have a lack of hope and faith for their future, what do you want readers of the book to take away from Christmas Miracles and how can the stories in our book help provide comfort to those struggling?

    I want readers to see that miracles do happen—sometimes simple, unexpected blessings or those that involve the supernatural (as in one of Marley’s stories). I call myself a serious Christian. For me, the world’s greatest miracle began with the birth of Jesus. Regardless of a person’s religion, this book encourages readers to think about life during the Christmas season and see that life as more than gifts and celebrations. It’s also a reminder that God loves us and hears our needy cries.

    Marley: Beautifully put, Cec, and I couldn’t agree with you more. Can we share what’s next after Christmas Miracles? J

    Cec: Why it’s the Cec and Marley show, of course. Because of our go-getter agent and our enthusiastic editor, we’ve already received thumbs up for The Christmas Spirit. This will be stories of people who express the true spirit of Christmas by acts of love and kindness, for release in the fall of 2011.

    Marley: And I can’t wait to start working on that project! Thank you so much for your time, Cec, and answering my questions. It was a privilege and honor to work with you and I look forward to our future projects together. You’ve helped me along during a trying time and I appreciate your friendship and support.

    I liked this project because Marley had to send out the word, collect submissions, read them, and discard the weaker ones. I get to see only the better-written stories. (Don’t tell her that I have the better job.) Although I mentioned only one story, all of those in the book touched me because of the poignancy of their situations and the miraculous answers. I won’t say the stories increased my faith, but they increased my appreciation for the delightful mix of human need and divine intervention.

    Marley: Thanks again, Cec! God Bless! And to our readers, please be sure to pick up a copy of CHRISTMAS MIRACLES, out Now from St. Martin’s Press. It’s a great stocking stuffer or gift basket filler. We hope you, too, will discover your own Christmas Miracles in your life.

    Enjoy and think about the miracles in your own life. You can pick up Christmas Miracles here. It makes a great stocking stuffer for friends and family. Hey, it’s never to early to start to think about this around the corner holiday.

    Thanks for being here Marley and Cecil. Wishing you all Happy Christmas in October!
    Now to decorate for Halloween…



  • authors,  inspiration,  videos

    Passion makes Perfect

    A friend of mine (thanks PIC) recently reminded me of my love of TED so I stopped on by ted.com and watched this video with the amazing novelist Isabel Allende talking about passion.
    We women can make all the difference.

    Oh, Happy October!


  • authors,  book launch,  Books

    Strangely Beautiful

    What’s Jack up to? Please be forewarned. Gross out here.
    Grrr… Oh that Jack. That sweet little cutie Jack. What a face. How could he do me wrong? Well, he did. That little stinker did. In the worst, maybe not the worst, but pretty bad, possible way. What did he do? He tinkled in my tub. Da-da-da-daaaaa! I know, right! Good thing I looked before I ran a bath.
    Now onto a much nicer subject.
    Yesterday I had the honor of hanging with debut author and friend Leanna Renee Heiber as she traveled around my neck of the woods to sign stock on her first book:
    The Strangely Beautiful Tale Of Miss Percy Parker

    I’m so proud of Leanna and happy for her. I also got to see our friend and fellow writer Stacy and meet her sweet dad.
    The staff in the bookstores were all so gracious when meeting us and happy to have Leanna sign. Turns out the afternoon was a joy.

    You can buy Leanna’s book here.


  • authors,  Books,  contests

    Have You Read Victoria?

    Well why not? I know, probably the same reason as me. The TBR pile is too big. Well, I plan on having her skip a few books after

    1. hearing about her cool blog contest and

    2. reading the best and funniest review ever of her book The Wicked West and

    3. becoming a twitter friend with her and seeing that she really is smart and funny so I know I’ll enjoy her writing as much as Publishers weekly.

    “Dahl delivers a fun, feisty and relentlessly sexy adventure.”- Publishers Weekly

    Check her out at her website VictoriaDahl.com here.


  • authors,  Book Expo,  Books

    I Haz Books!

    What’s Jack up to? Jack’s been a funny one. Honing his skills at owner training. He’s getting really good at getting us up and out and doing what he wants. Hanging around the kitchen at the perfect time to con the right individual out of a little morsel of something special. We are failing terribly. All the while he’s just as wild as ever. Barking like mad at whoever dares walks by our house let alone darken our door. Oh Jack.

    I had quite a few questions as to what books I got from Book Expo o9. Now some of my friends were not the book slut I was and did not get much of any at all. And in all honestly I didn’t actively seek out that many books. The moment I walked in a sweet young woman handed me a book on money. I couldn’t say no, could I? And of course I was with Katie from Babbling About Books and that woman can get a book. Lucky me.
    I guess I was in the right places at the right times. So here’s my haul:
    DD is in book Heaven too.
    Gotta remember to check my horoscope. Wonder if the DH and I are compatible? Kinda late all these years later.

    And then the comics. My comic loving neighbor is very happy.

    Do you see my Pride and Prejudice and the pretty Wizard of Oz?

    Check out this great book. It’s already been decided that Jack’s somewhere between a Red and a Yellow. We have a lot of work to do. Sigh.


  • authors,  Books,  jack

    Books Galore

    What’s Jack up to? This morning Jack has all the energy I don’t. He’s up bright and early doing his shoving on the bed thing, making sure we’re all up and doing what we have to on this Monday morning. Specifically, taking him out and getting him food. Good job, Jack.

    Well this weekend had the great opportunity to attend my first Book Expo America at the Javits Center. It was massive, overwhelming and so much fun.

    I sent out a Tweet that I was on the way and checked out who else would be there since I knew I would be lost. The fist person I found was Katie from Babbling About Books over by the grand landmark of the giant Clifford The Big Red Dog. It was like meeting a long lost friend.

    Here are Kate and Leanna Renee Heiber over at the Harlequin booth.

    I had so much fun running with Stacy, Kris, Marissa and Maria and grabbing books galore. My shoulders my never recover. There were my many books being given away. Tons of YA. My children, DD especially are very happy.

    Here is Gena Showalter signing her newest YA Intertwined.

    Check out the signing of The Diamonds of Welboure Manor with Diane Gaston and

    Amanda McCabe. Shout out to Deb who could not be there.

    Speaking of Diane and Amanda, how much do I love them? I crashed with them most of the weekend. Parking my books at their hotel before going out for drinks in Soho. Then meeting then on Sunday to head to The Strand for more book and some history and then dinner with the PIC. Thanks guys!!

    Drinks in Soho organized by the lovely Elizabeth Mahon. Here is Elizabeth with Diane

    and Amanda.

    And me, Diane, Fab author and friend Hope Tarr and Amanda.

    Also hanging with us: The Fabulous authors Jennifer St. Giles, Jacquie D’Alessandro

    and Wendy Etherington. We had the best time with the ladies.

    Check out Jacquie’s Christian Lacroix’s shoes. Hot!

    It was such a fun weekend. I’ll have more later in the week and tonight is Lady Jane’s Salon at Madam X where Diane and Amanda will be reading along with Wendy Corsi Staub and Marjorie M Liu. If you’re in town stop on by. Details here.

    Shout out to the DH for all the rides and holding down the fort while I had fun and learned a lot from my writer friends. H09!