Award-winning author
Unusual times, remarkable places

The "Standard of Ur" from ancient Mesopotamia

The "Standard of Ur" from ancient Mesopotamia

20 October 2009

Reading-habits meme

I found this reading-habits meme recently at Charles Gramlich’s Razored Zen blog and thought I would give it a go.

Do you snack while you read? If so, what is your favorite reading snack?

Yes, I snack, usually on good chocolate and a glass of water (bottled Pellegrino if I’m treating myself; filtered water from the fridge for ordinary occasions).

Do you tend to mark your books as you read, or does the idea of writing in books horrify you?

My mother once caught me coloring in the line drawings of a poetry book my aunt gave me, and I caught holy heck. I partially got over the trauma in college and grad school, where I did mark up my textbooks. Even so, to this day, before I pick up a highlighter or pencil I consider whether I can get by with just sticky notes.

How do you keep your place while reading a book? Bookmark? Dog-ears? Laying the book flat open?

Bookmark, always, always, always. Breaking the spine or dogearing would be blasphemous.

Fiction, nonfiction, or both?

Both. I'm not fussy. I was one of those kids who read cereal boxes.

Are you a person who tends to read to the end of a chapter, or can you stop anywhere?

I prefer to stop at the end of a chapter or scene, but some authors have awfully long scenes. In that case, I’ll stop anywhere.

If you come across an unfamiliar word, do you stop and look it up right away?

Sometimes. I keep a dictionary next to my favorite reading spot for that purpose, but I don’t always read there.

What are you currently reading?
  • The Memory of Whiteness by Kim Stanley Robinson (sf novel)
  • The Frugal Book Promoter by Carolyn Howard Johnson (nonfiction)
  • The Jewel-Hinged Jaw: Notes on the Language of Science Fiction by Samuel R. Delany (literary criticism)
  • Year’s Best Fantasy 9, edited by David G. Hartwell and Kathryn Cramer (fantasy short fiction)
What is the last book you bought?

Soulless: An Alexia Tarabotti Novel by Gail Carriger. It appears to be a comedy of manners/fantasy/steampunk/horror novel about a Victorian woman who stakes vampires with her parasol.

Are you the type of person that reads one book at a time, or can you read more than one?

More than one. Usually I have going a novel, at least one short-story collection, and at least one nonfiction book. I'm also often reading something on my Kindle as well.

Do you have a favorite time/place to read?

I love to read anytime, although perhaps Sunday afternoon counts as my favorite.

My favorite place is in "my" recliner chair in our living room.

Do you prefer series books or stand alones?

Neither. If a stand-alone book is great, I get annoyed that there aren’t more like it. If a book in a series looks good, I get annoyed that I have to read so many other books to work my way up to it, especially if some of the early books are out of print. (I rarely read books out of sequence.)

Is there a specific book or author you find yourself recommending over and over?
  • Barbara Hambly (sf, fantasy, mystery, historical fiction)
  • Guy Gavriel Kay (fantasy)
  • Brandon Sanderson (fantasy)
  • Jennifer Blake (historical romance)
I also recommend my friends’ books when appropriate.

How do you organize your books? (by genre, title, author’s last name, etc.)

I put all autographed books together, and I keep all of my aunt’s books together. Otherwise I don’t have a system. Some are grouped by genre; some, by author; if I’m in a hurry I’ll stick a book anywhere there’s an open space.

12 October 2009

Interview with romance writer Liane Spicer

Continuing my series of interviews with Novel Spaces bloggers, I introduce today Liane Spicer, author of Café au Lait (Leisure Books). This romance novel, Liane’s first, is set in Trinidad and Tobago, Liane’s home.

Welcome, Liane, and congratulations on publication of Café au Lait!

Thank you, Shauna. It’s a pleasure to be here.

How did coming from a small country affect your ability to learn about the business of writing and to find an agent and a publisher?

I started learning about the business via writing magazines and articles in Writers Market, then graduated to doing most research online. My location in the Caribbean initially lengthened the querying and submission process; I had to snail mail everything and include arcane stuff such as international mailing coupons, which were something of a PITA for those on the receiving end. Now that many agents and publishers accept queries online, my location is not an issue. I found my current agent, Susan Schulman, days after I began e-mailing agent queries.

Trinidad and Tobago are such beautiful and—for some of us—exotic places to read about. Did you start Café au Lait with the setting first?

I believe I did. There was no question that my first book would be set on the islands. I pre-selected locations for pivotal scenes and when I was ready to write I sketched an outline and made character notes. The story more or less wrote itself from there on.

With such an appealing setting, did you have trouble keeping it from overwhelming the story? How did you balance the readers’ desire to vicariously enjoy these tropical islands with their desire for a satisfying romance?

It was quite a balancing act because I’m very passionate about the physical beauty of my homeland! Every reviewer to date has enthused over my handling of the setting so I think I managed to succeed in conveying the imagery without overwhelming.

How did you become interested in writing romance? What other genres are you interested in writing?

When I read about Kensington’s pioneering Arabesque imprint I decided I’d begin with a multicultural romance. I’ve also written the first draft of a memoir and several chapters of a mainstream novel. Then there’s that sci-fi short story that came out of the blue…

What writers have had the greatest influence on you?

Gerald Durrell, whose obsession with ecology and conservation helped set the naturalist in me on fire from my childhood. D.H. Lawrence for his unflinching exploration of emotion and sensuality. Ayn Rand for the power of her reasoning. Marilyn French for her focus on the female perspective. Shakespeare for his unparalleled facility with language and understanding of the human condition. Erma Bombeck and Dave Barry for showcasing the humor in the ordinary.

Are there certain themes or topics you’re drawn to write about?

Foremost are environmental themes. I’ve been reading about the so-called “eco-thriller” subgenre and that got me thinking of pioneering an “eco-romance” subgenre. Ambiguity is a theme that I enjoy exploring—all the shades of gray that continue to baffle me. Paradox, pain and pleasure, love, hatred and betrayal all wrapped in one package—these complexities continue to fascinate and perplex me, so I write about them.

What is your writing regimen? Would you recommend it to aspiring authors?

I’m really, really bad at maintaining a regimen. I used to work late at night when the household was asleep but now that I have a day job again that isn’t practical. I’ve started scheduling two hours in the evening for writing and not allowing anything to get in the way. My only recommendation to aspiring authors would be to find a routine that works for them, rather than to try and adopt anyone else’s.

Do you have any other advice for my readers who are working on their first novels?

Focus on writing your story and make it the best that it can possibly be before even thinking of sending it out. Stop talking about it; talking dissipates the energy and tension that should go into the process of creating a novel.

What are you writing now?

My agent submitted my second romance to the publisher this week, and I have to decide now whether I want to work on the memoir or the mainstream novel that are partially written or to begin a new romance.

Thanks, Liane, for talking about your work, and best wishes on your writing.

Shauna, thank you for having me. Congratulations on your brand-new release! I’m looking forward to reading Like Mayflies in a Stream.

You can learn more about Liane and Café au Lait at her combination Website and blog at Café au Lait is available at your local bookstore as well as online at, Barnes & Noble, and Borders.

05 October 2009

A book is born

Today is the official release date of Like Mayflies in a Stream, my third book and (woohoo!) first novel!

For those new to my blog, Like Mayflies in a Stream takes place in ancient Mesopotamia in the world's first city, Uruk, currently ruled by a tyrant. The protagonist, a priestess of Inanna, risks everything in her quest to save her friends and family. Mayflies was inspired by the "Epic of Gilgamesh," the world's first known story.

You can order Mayflies from your local bookstore or find it online at in hardcover and trade paperback and at Barnes & Noble in hardcover and trade paperback.

01 October 2009

Interview with romance authors Jewel Amethyst and Stefanie Worth

Three members of the Novel Spaces blog—Jewel Amethyst, Farrah Rochon, and Stefanie Worth—saw their new anthology of romance novellas debut two days ago, 29 September. Holiday Brides (Leisure Books) contains a trio of romance stories set during winter holidays. Jewel also has a new book out—her first!—called A Marriage of Convenience (Leisure Books).

I interviewed Farrah Rochon in May 2007; today, Jewel Amethyst and Stefanie Worth visit.

Jewel and Stefanie, I’m so glad you are dropping by my blog today. Congratulations on publication of Holiday Brides and A Marriage of Convenience!

JEWEL: Thanks for inviting us.

STEFANIE: Thanks for having me, Shauna.

Although a novella is shorter than a novel, some people find them harder to write. How would you compare the experiences of writing each?

JEWEL: In a novel, you have the advantage of using plots and lots of situations to develop the characters in the book. In a novella, you don’t have that luxury so you have to find more succinct ways of getting your readers to feel and fall in love with the main characters. But I enjoyed writing both.

STEFANIE: I wrote my first novella last year for The Holiday Inn anthology. Being a “pantser,” one who doesn’t outline her stories, I found that I had to be much more organized in my thinking to finish the story within the shortened deadline. This time, I needed to outline to contain the story in the allotted word count. The effect has carried over, and I’ve done a lot more pre-plotting with my current novel-in-progress than I did with the first.

Not having a particularly romantic nature, I’ve wondered why getting married during the hectic holidays is considered romantic. Do you have a theory?

JEWEL: I grew up on the Caribbean Island of St. Kitts, which is featured in “From SKB with Love,” my contribution to the Holiday Brides anthology. Most weddings on St. Kitts actually occur around the Christmas holidays, which is also the carnival season. There is a certain practicality to it. That’s when most Kittitians return to the island on vacation, so friends and family members can participate in the weddings.

On a more romantic note, I would say it is the magic of the season. The holidays take you back to a time and space when you were a kid and you were excited about the presents, the magic, the whole spirit of love and happiness. What’s happier or more magical than having your true love commit to you? People would like to spend their first Christmas together or bring in the new year committed forever to the person they love.

STEFANIE: I think getting married during the holidays is a little crazy myself. But, hey, so is love. lol

How did you become interested in writing romance?

JEWEL: I guess romance was just a natural fit for me. I write a lot of other stuff: short stories, poems. And I have outlines for novels of other genres. But I guess I’m a romantic by heart and I like happy endings. I’ve never set out to say, “Ok, I’m going to write a romance novel today.” The story ideas come to me while I’m going about my daily life, and I eventually develop them and write them. If it happens to be romance (9 out of 10 times it is), then that’s what I write.

STEFANIE: I stumbled into the genre when I was trying to sell my first book, Where Souls Collide. Although there was a relationship in the story, there wasn’t a happily ever after ending. As I began shopping the story, I learned about genres and the rules of those genres. When the book sold to Dorchester, I knew I had some tweaking to do in order to meet readers’ expectations.

Jewel, the heroine of A Marriage of Convenience has been hit hard by life, losing her money, her job, and her fiancé. She would seem a heroine many women could identify with in these financially hard times.

JEWEL: Definitely. Not every woman is extra pretty, rich, or without the constant cares of today. The average woman today has to worry about making ends meet, paying her bills on time, her appearance, and yes, many do worry about meeting Mr. Right. I wanted Tamara to be every woman. I wanted her to have the same troubles, anxieties, despair, and insecurities that present-day women experience on a regular basis. That is why I made her plus size and had her struggle with her weight, finding a job, making ends meet. For me, the impact is not in the troubles themselves, but how she eventually learns to deal with them and finds love in the process without changing her external circumstances.

What writers have had the greatest influence on you?

JEWEL: That’s a tough question. I can’t pinpoint any one who has had a direct impact on my writing, but inspiration-wise, James Patterson and his prolific writing across genres and Sydney Sheldon with his captivating plots and surprise endings have been a big influence. I think I’ve read just about every John Grisham, Robin Cook, and Dan Brown novel. In terms of romance writers, I was a long-time fan of Danielle Steele.

STEFANIE: As a child I loved fantasy stories and Nancy Drew mysteries. When I got older, I began sneaking my mother’s romantic suspense novels off her shelf while she was at work. Ultimately though, I read A LOT of Stephen King growing up—as in everything he wrote. I also love reading Toni Morrison and Maya Angelou. In later years I became a Dean Koontz fan.

Are there certain themes or topics you’re drawn to write about?

JEWEL: Not really, though I find myself writing quite a bit lately about people who experience and overcome extreme hardship.

STEFANIE: Although I was pretty ambivalent about it when I started my first novel, I now know that I am a paranormal writer. Everything I attempt to pen comes out with some crazy otherworldly twist. I think I wasn’t sure I’d be able to sustain my fantasy train of thought, but I’ve proven myself wrong. And I’m glad I did.

What is your writing regimen? Would you recommend it to aspiring authors?

JEWEL: I have none (lol). I tend to write on inspiration (bad for dedicated authors) rather than by set goals. The setback for inspiration-based writing is that it lacks discipline and you take longer to complete the work. I love writing and I’d hate to become so bogged down with a rigid regimen that it becomes tedious. What I would recommend for aspiring authors is to do what works best for you. If dedicating a number of hours each day works, do so. If writing sporadically when you get the urge works, do that.

STEFANIE: I have a full-time job and three kids, so I tend to write after most people I know are sound asleep. If you need eight hours of shut-eye a night, no, I wouldn’t recommend this approach to you. I would suggest that you try to write when you feel most creative. It’ll spare you the agony of sitting down at the keyboard when your muse has flitted off for the day.

Do you have any other advice for my readers who are working on their first novels?

JEWEL: Stick to it. And if you fail to get it published, write another and another. Many authors have their first books either unpublished or published after their second, third, or even umpteenth novel. My first full-length novel is still not published. But with persistence and a bit of luck, I got my second one published. Had I given up, “A Marriage of Convenience” and “From SKB with Love” would still be sitting on my computer (or filed away in my imagination), never to see the light of day.

STEFANIE: Join a reputable writing group. Learn the business of writing. Believe in yourself. Armed with those three tips, I think you’ll be able to ward off a lot of first-time author fumbles and spend more time enjoying yourself as a writer.

What are you writing now?

JEWEL: I currently have a work in progress, but as it’s still in its formative stage I won’t elaborate on it yet.

STEFANIE: My next novel is due to Dorchester December 31st. I’m hoping the story becomes the first in a series for me. It’s a follow-up to last year’s “Can You Believe” novella that appeared in The Holiday Inn anthology. My hero and heroine have settled into a new post-reality show life full of supernatural surprises.

Jewel and Stefanie, thanks for visiting For Love of Words, and good luck with your writing.

JEWEL AND STEFANI: Thank you for having us.

You can learn more about Stefanie at her Website at or her blog at Both Stefanie and Jewel blog twice a month at; both are also on Facebook. Holiday Brides and A Marriage of Convenience are available at bookstores and online at the links below.

Holiday Brides: Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Borders

A Marriage of Convenience: Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Borders


The winners of my birthday contest are RAE ANN PARKER, who chose Amy MacKinnon’s Tethered as her prize, and FARRAH ROCHON, who chose Carleen Brice’s Orange Mint and Honey. Congratulations!


Like Mayflies in a Stream is now available online at in hardcover and at a discount at Barnes & Noble in both hardcover and trade paperback. The official release date is 5 October.


Book release party in Southern California

I’ll be signing Like Mayflies in a Stream Sunday, 11 October, at 2 pm at Mystery & Imagination Bookshop in Glendale. Everyone is welcome to drop by for some wine, snacks, and conversation and to browse the store’s stock of mystery, sf, fantasy, and horror books.

Mystery & Imagination Bookshop

238 North Brand Boulevard
Glendale, CA 91203