Saturday, September 24, 2016

Savvy Saturday: J.S. Marlo Introduces Salvaged

How do you get your ideas? Do they just pop out of your head? This is probably the question I encounter the most when I chat with someone about writing. I wish ideas could just pop out of my head upon snapping my fingers. Unfortunately, it is not quite the case. An external force needs to spark an idea before it can devour my mind. In a sense, there is an interesting story behind every single one of my stories.

Today, I will share the story behind Salvaged. While I love every story I ever wrote, Salvaged was my first literary baby and it holds a special place in my heart.

My first baby was a daughter who grew up to be an amazing woman, a marine biologist and a skilled scuba diver. Many years ago, while she was doing research on the Atlantic coast, she explored sunken ships. One night she called me after a memorable dive around a ship that sank more than two hundred years ago. The eerie description she gave me was the spark that ignited my creative mind. I had found my heroine: a young feisty scuba diver named Star Fisher.

While Star shares some attributes with my daughter, she quickly became her own person with her own career as an underwater investigator. Instead of giving Star a ship to explore, I gave her an old Model T that sank in the middle of a lake at the turn of the last century. Since I knew nothing about scuba diving, I ended up calling my daughter on a regular basis. How deep can you go? How long can you dive? How much can you see? What is that piece of equipment called? What is its purpose?

I learned that how deep and how long your second dive of the day can be depends on how deep and how long your first dive was, and how much time had elapsed between the two. I learned about ascent rate, about logbooks in which divers record every detail of every dive so they know when it is safe to dive again. I learned the air mixture in the tank is not the same depending on the depth. I learned about weight belts, regulator, octopus, drysuit, wetsuit, and so much more. When I visited her from across the country, my daughter emptied her diving bag on her living room floor and told me to gear up with all her equipment. It was an unforgettable experience.

Through all those questions and answers about Salvaged, my daughter shared her passion and her underwater world with me. Sometimes I wonder if the connection would have been that intense had it not been for Salvaged.

Writing this story has been an incredible adventure and I couldn’t resist giving my daughter a cameo appearance.

This is a short except from Salvaged. Enjoy!

Hauk left the cabin and stepped onto the twelve-foot deck. According to his watch, Arnie and Fisher had been down less than ten minutes.

The oxygen tanks lined up against the storage bin beckoned to him. He grabbed the closest one and peered at the gauge. 1,700 pounds. Enough air for a short dive. Wanting to witness what had prompted Fisher's request, he geared up and dove in.

The wetsuit didn't completely insulate his skin from the colder water he encountered fifty feet below. With darkness surrounding him, he trusted the guide rope to lead him to the site as he continued his descent. Minutes later, through the shadowy waters, Hauk spotted his two divers. Arnie floated above a lamppost, and Fisher knelt on the lakebed in front of the wreck.

An object was in Fisher's hand. He swam toward her to get a better view, but the mysterious object disappeared into her bag, and she glided away from him before he had a chance to satisfy his curiosity. A few flutter kicks behind her, Hauk stretched out his arm with the intent of tapping her shoulder. Her hand swiftly swept across her belt, and a glint of light from the lampposts reflected off her glove.

She spun around. Eyes glazed with fear, she swung her arm. Sharp reflexes allowed Hauk to deflect the blow, but they didn't prevent her other hand from sneaking past his defenses. He inhaled sharply.

A silver blade, shining in the light, pushed against his hose, ready to sever his air supply with the flick of her wrist.

Salvaged will be released on October 3, 2016

About the Author

J.S. Marlo spent her childhood in a small French Canadian town, reading and daydreaming stories. One day, she met her hero, a dashing young officer, and followed him back and forth across the country.

The "memorable" adventures she experienced with her young family fuelled her imagination and kindled the dream of one day becoming a published author. It wasn't until after her three spirited children left the nest in pursuit of their own adventures, that J.S. finally gave writing a chance.

Her first two dozen stories were for her friends' eyes only. To her surprise and delight, they enjoyed them and rewarded her with their encouragement and support. J.S. kept writing, and learning, and writing…

She finally captured her dream with her first novel Salvaged, and then carried on with her first series Duty Bound: Unscripted–Book One, Unearthed–Book Two, and Untamed–Book Three.

J.S. lives in Alberta with her amazing hubby, and when she's not visiting her children and little granddaughter, she's working on her next series under the northern lights.

Her books are available on Amazon, Kobo, Barnes & Noble, and at the Champagne Bookstore.  

Saturday, September 17, 2016

Savvy Saturday: Twitching With Keith Willis

Why Are You Twitching?

With the latest round of #pitmad just finished, I thought I’d take the opportunity to reflect back on my own experience in the world of Twitter pitch contests. I’ve told this story numerous times in workshops and at author presentations, and people normally give me odd looks when I tell them I connected with my publisher, Champagne Books by “Twitching”.

Sometimes they just nod and smile. Other times they back away slowly, as if they think it might be catching. But if you’re a writer looking to place a book with an agent or an editor, trust me—you want to catch this twitching madness. It’s like speed dating, for writers. And I have a special fondness for Brenda Drake’s #pitmad (even more than a year later I still call Brenda my Fairy Godmother), since that was the contest that resulted in my contract with Champagne to publish my debut fantasy novel Traitor Knight.

Okay, I suppose a definition is in order at this point. Twitching is the art (and science) of crafting a ‘pitch’ for your book, in less than 140 characters—yes, you read that right, not words but characters, including spaces and punctuation—in order to participate in any of a variety of ‘pitch parties’ offered on Twitter. Twitter + Pitch = Twitch. Simple, eh?

Essentially, a twitch is a query letter writ small. It should contain the same basic elements as a query:
  • The main character, by name or vivid description
  • The central conflict around which the plot is based
  • The stakes of success or failure by the MC
The whole process works like this. Writers with completed and polished manuscripts pitch those manuscripts during a Twitter contest. Agents and editors monitor the feed for the contest, which normally seem to last from 8 to 12 hours. They ‘favorite’ twitches which attract their interest, thus extending to the writer an invitation to submit per the agent/editor’s guidelines—normally a query and set amount of pages, generally ranging from 10 pages to a full manuscript.

I participated in quite a few of these pitch contests during my journey towards publication. Here’s a excellent list of most of them, courtesy of author L.M. Pierce, who has compiled (and curates) an amazing array of contests throughout the year: (used with permission).

I found #pitmad and the other contests I’ve entered to be a terrific learning experience. You pretty quickly garner a sense of what does and doesn’t work by watching what kinds of twitches end up getting requests. And you learn the art of brevity like nothing else can teach. When you only have 130 characters, including spaces, to tell about a 120k-word novel, you tend to cut to the chase.

Twitter contest are also a marvelous opportunity to make friends with other writers who are in the same boat. This is a group of hopeful authors, proud of their work and daring to put their words on the line in the hopes of capturing the interest of an agent or editor. I also find it fascinating that the writers themselves, far from trying to subvert the competition, instead encourage other contestants. I’ve met so many super folks through these Twitter contests, people I’m proud to call my (virtual) friends. Many have offered suggestions and critiques on my manuscript, my query letters and my pitches to help make them better. And I’ve tried to pay that forward, offering advice and critiques to others who may need a little help along the way. Because, as some sage so wisely said, what comes around goes around.

Even though some of my twitches in various contests received requests from several agents and editors, initially those didn’t pan out. Receiving a request through one of these contests is no guarantee of anything other than an invited opportunity to submit. While a particular twitch may engender interest on the part of an agent, it doesn’t mean that that agent is going to find the book itself exactly what they’ve been craving all these years.

The #pitmad twitch which ultimately led to my offer of a contract to publish Traitor Knight was:

Morgan risks death, dishonor & a woman's scorn when he poses as a turncoat to unmask the traitor plotting his kingdom's downfall.

I honestly didn't think it was one of my best efforts, but it caught an editor's interest. And that's what counts. It's not always adherence to the established formula (Character + Conflict + Stakes) that does the job (although in this case I pretty much did just that). But sometimes it's the voice or an intriguing story element that results in a request. In any event, I was asked to submit a full manuscript (which went out within ten minutes of that request). Not that I had premonition that this was 'the one'. I had several other full and partial manuscripts out with other agencies at the time, and this was just one more in the bunch.

You hear a lot about ‘it only takes one yes’. I had my share of rejections over the years I'd been querying Traitor Knight (to the tune of about 80 rejections). But it does just take that one time when your story resonates with an agent or editor. When they can see your vision, hear your voice. When they get it. This was that time for me.

Just to be clear, I'm by no means advocating that writers leave off the querying process and rely solely on Twitter contests. Down that path lies madness, despair, and most likely, dragons. But I am advocating the notion of adding Twitter contests as a significant part of a writer's arsenal. It's simply one more means to an end. It won't work for everyone, but there are enough stories with a 'happy ever after', mine included, to assure you that these contests can be a potentially valuable resource.

Keep querying by all means. But consider twitching once in a while too. Who knows, you might even have fun. And you may well see me there. Because even though I'm not participating, I still try to monitor the feeds and root for friends I've made along the way. One more way of paying it forward.

About the Author:

Keith W. Willis graduated (long ago) from Berry College with a degree in English Lit. He now lives in the scenic Hudson Valley/Adirondack region of NY with his wife Patty. They have one grown son, Matt, who actually thinks it’s pretty cool that Dad wrote a book.

Keith’s interests include camping, canoeing, and Scrabble. Keith began writing seriously in 2008, when the voices in his head got too annoying to ignore. When he’s not making up stories he manages a group of database content editors at a global information technology firm.

Traitor Knight is his first published novel and is available on Amazon, Kobo, Barnes & Noble, and at the Champagne Bookstore

Saturday, September 10, 2016

Savvy Saturday: Rita Bay on Her Experience with Champagne Book Group

I will always be grateful to Champagne Book Group for contracting my first book and picking up my orphaned books when another publisher folded. I was one of those writers who finished stories, then filed them away in a drawer. Why? As a successful grants writer, I feared having my stories rejected. After several years of writing with no submissions, a multi-published older author in my RWA chapter “encouraged” me to submit my stories with a valuable piece of advice. “If you don’t submit, you’ll never be rejected, but you won’t ever be published.”

That made sense, so I dusted off a couple of manuscripts and submitted the first of my “Lyons’ Tales” shapeshifter stories to Champagne. Why Champagne? Veteran author Allison Knight had signed with Champagne when they opened their doors over ten years ago. Her reasons for choosing Champagne included their successful business model, great editors, a fair contract, and their commitment to paying on time.

I was stunned when I received my first contract offer for Into the Lyons’ Den two weeks later and an offer for my Regency historical series from another publisher the following week. While I have continued to write for both publishers - even added a third for my contemporaries, I consider Champagne my home. The publishers, editors, and authors maintain a close virtual relationship. Mentors are available for novice authors. Also, while some publishers encourage authors to stick to one genre and heat level, Champagne offers the flexibility of publishing in three lines – mainstream, erotic romance, and science fiction/fantasy – and multiple heat levels.

Finally, I value Champagne’s longevity. Publisher Ellen Smith, besides having a wicked sense of humor, understands the publishing industry and has grown the company over time while others have closed their doors. Several years ago, I published three books with a new publisher I met at a conference. Despite her best efforts, the company went under in less than five years. The stress that group of authors experienced as they scrambled to find homes for their orphans was painful to watch. I am grateful that Champagne has published one orphan (The Twelfth Night Queen’s Deception) and the two-book contemporary military series (Search & Rescue and Ely’s Epiphany) is scheduled for a fall release.

I’m currently working on the final book in the “Lyons’ Tales” shapeshifter trilogy and plan to write two additional stories in my mythological erotic romance series – “Cupid’s Back in Town” for next year. I look forward to continuing to write for Champagne Book Group, as long as they will accept my submissions.

About the Author

Rita’s journey began on the Gulf Coast. Over the years, she has lived and/or traveled in the eastern US and most of western Europe. While juggling family and work, she participated in archaeological digs, earned a black belt in Shotokan karate, prospected for gold and crystals, camped across Europe, and volunteered with the American Red Cross Disaster and Education Services. Her education includes undergraduate degrees in nursing and psychology, a Master’s in Counseling, and a Doctorate in Education. Along the way, Rita has worked as a registered nurse, educator and school system administrator. Her first writing efforts included curriculum development, grant-writing, and comprehensive program planning. She retired early to expand her volunteer work and write wondrous tales of romance and adventure. She has recently moved to the beautiful mountains of North Georgia where she shares her yard with deer, bears, squirrels and chipmunks, and other critters of various sorts.

Rita has written numerous historical and paranormal novels and novellas and recently ventured into contemporary and M/M novels. Read blurbs and excerpts from her stories HERE. In addition to Rita Bay’s Blog which posts daily on, she blogs at The Writers Vineyard.

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

Excerpt from Reality

By Jenna Greene
Champagne Books:

Having defeated Nandor, Becky and Kat thought their worries on Oren were over. They were wrong. So very, very wrong.


“Those leaves are not located here,” Jamee said. “Trees bearing those leaves only grow in Lorthlin Province, where the climate is milder.”

Her heart expanding in joy, Kat exclaimed, “Lorthlin? Where is that?”

Ino scowled. “You can’t go there, Kat.”

She whirled on him. “Why not?”

Raking his hand through his hair, Ino said, “Journeying to Lorthlin is not a trifling thing. It’s dangerous.”

This argument had lasted long enough. Once everyone else had abandoned the conversation, she was left with Ino. “So?”

“You can’t go.”

Irked at his command, she flashed him a heated gaze. “You are not my guardian, Ino. You can’t tell me what to do. Or what not to do.”

Grabbing her wrist before she could stomp away, he said, “I tell you, it’s not safe.”

“Why? Am I going to have to run away from magical creatures sent by a man I’m trying to destroy?” Sarcasm dripped from her tongue. “Cuz, guess what? I’ve already done that.”

“Do you remember Nandor’s plan?” Ino asked. “Do you remember his long-term goal?”

“Of course. He was going to use the power of the Orb of Olrec to summon creatures from the distant lands of Oren and have them permanently under his control.”

“Exactly. Think of the worst creatures imaginable—and then double that.”

She clucked her tongue. “What’s your point?”

“Those creatures…are from Lorthlin.”

She paused for half a second. “I’m still going.”

Ino exhaled loudly. “Then you will die.”

Monday, September 5, 2016

New Release: Reality by Jenna Greene

This month the lovely author Jenna Greene has gifted us with a sequel to her amazing first novel, Imagine. This new novel, Reality, follows the beloved Kat and Becky as their adventures in the realm of Oren continue. Take a look, and grab your copy today!


By Jenna Greene
Fantasy YA
Champagne Books:

Three young Elementals discover they no longer have full control over their magic, a fact that is both unsettling and could put lives in peril. As a group known as the Coalition rises in power, its anti-magic sentiments spread from the small village of Sorc all the way to the kingdom of Areth. Amidst all this turmoil, Kat decides to take on a new quest, one that will affect Becky’s future. Venturing into territory more hazardous than any they’ve seen before, both girls strive toward a goal they know has little hope of success.

Saturday, September 3, 2016

Savvy Saturday: Where is the World Are Our Authors? September Edition

Where in the world are our authors? Good question, and the answer is: everywhere! You can find a Champagne Book Group author all over the US and Canada, and even some in other countries. We don't have an app to catch them all, but that doesn't mean you can't meet one. Check out these schedules to see where you can find one this September.

Jenna Greene
As well as releasing her new book, Reality, Jenna can be found wandering around the event Word on the Street in Lethbridge, Alberta, Canada on September 24th.

Veronica Helen Hart
Veronica Helen Hart can be found at the launch of Metamorphosis-From Cotton Picker to Community Leader, by James F. Daniels. The reception, open to the public, is being presented by and at The Halifax Historical Society, Beach Street, Daytona Beach, Florida on September 17th, starting at 6:30 P.M.

You can find this popular author at the Beaver County BookFest in Beaver, Pennsylvania, doing signings and selling her books on September 10th.

This prolific author will be in Artist Alley selling his novels at Wizard World in Austin, Texas September 23-25th. Siren's Song will make its debut on his table along with a flashy crystalline display.

Thursday, September 1, 2016

Tattle and Wrye column September 2016 edition



Tattle waltzes into the office, dreamy contentment etching her face. “I was thinking.”

“Then keep going because the conclusion is the part where you get tired of thinking, and you might not start up again.”

“Huh?” Shakes off Wrye’s strange humor. “As I was saying, if money did grow on trees, autumn would be the best season ever, and in this part of the world autumn in upon us! Yea!”

“Huh?” Shakes off Tattle’s odd humor. “Speaking of autumn, it is strange that a time of year when everything is so beautiful is actually the time of year everything is really drying.”

“I think our funny bones might be dying,” Tattle muttered, and then aloud, “Time for our Love of Literature Leap review.”

The two leap into the first book of Paula Kennedy’s series Angels of the Night, DISCOVERY, a supernatural, vampire romantic young adult suspense.

“Hide! Hide!” The warning bursts from Tattle with urgency as they land in Chapter One.

“Ummm, m’snooping sleuth, the characters can’t see us.” Wrye pats Tattle’s shoulder.

“But it feels so real, and the killer is so creepy and totally merciless. I think we should move along, this is way too scary.”

Ut oh!” declares Tattle, still jumpy. “I saw that.”

“What?” Wrye’s head swishes back and forth, scanning.

“Shadows. Allison Webber sees them, too. Has always seen them, and thinks she might be a bit of a freaky-deaky. But, she’s not. Sure, she is a bit depressed having broken up with her boyfriend, Darren Clark, and is a bit unsettled about it being the second day of school, annnnd is slightly unnerved about the murder/suicide on St. Joseph Island, but it’s mostly about the shadows.”

“That part of the insanity is about to be explained. Her father takes her to his secret society meeting place, rather than school, where she discovers vampires exist, and da da da daaaa, she is a mystic. Being very rare, she is one of the few who can help defeat highbinders, vicious female vamps.” Wrye makes a classic gonna-bite-your-neck face, with mouth gaping open and fingers clawed.

“She also discovers the vampires need to feed off her energy daily. Voila, hence the answer to the shadows that have been whisking in and out of her world!” 

Tattle winces. “The feeding hurts, but never have or will harm her. The Free Masons offer to make her the first female Mason, so they can protect her. But also so her assigned twin-hottie vamp bodyguards, Darcy and Thane, can siphon her energy for strength when taking out the latest vamp threat. There is a highbinder on a sadistic killing spree and it has been rumored she is hiding in plain sight at Allison’s school.”

 “Unlike the light vampires, physically different with their white blonde hair and pale complexions, the highbinders, and male counterparts, look human. The light vamps are working with the Masons in order to one day have a world where both species can co-exist peacefully.” Wrye forms a benevolent Buddha grin.

“Upon reluctantly agreeing to help, Allison finds herself drawn to Darcy and Thane, which is forbidden. To have love, she must become a vampire, but a female vamp is unable to resist the bloodlust and must be destroyed.” Mimes stabbing herself with a dagger.”

Wrye uses a nasal tone, reminiscent of a 1930’s radio newscaster. “So the questions are: Can she find the courage to help defeat the highbinder preying on humans? Can she figure out which of the brothers has her heart, and which will betray her? Or will she become the ultimate victim, leaving the vampires to starve without their mystic to feed on?” 

“Kennedy’s Angels of the Night: Discovery is a brilliantly plotted book. Though it models the legendary vampire blood sucking scenario…” Tattle slurps air as if sipping on a straw, “…Paula Kennedy adds more complex and intriguing twists, which makes one eager to follow the series. The characters are fully formulated for a young adult audience, with Allison being true to a teenager’s personality with expressive hormonal reactions, uncertainties and fears. The romance is titillating while still in the proper parameters for a Young Adult drama. At the same time, the love-triangle interplay between Darcy and Thane and Allison has a fully mature tilt, allowing us older adults to enjoy the book as much as the young. It is a sensuous, thrilling ride, I’d certainly recommend.”

“Whooeee! Vampires, secrets, murders and romance, oh my. The complexities in this story kept me reading without stop. I walked around the house holding my reader while getting a bite to eat or answering the door. I simply couldn’t put it down. There were more twists and turns than a narrow mountain road. Just when I thought I had the answer, another question would unfold. This is not a series to be ignored, especially if you are a vampire follower. The writing is snappy; the pacing quick; the characters believable. Read the books!”

Wrye and Tattle leap into BLOOD UNDER THE MIDNIGHT SUN by Steven Ure, a dramatic World War II novel.

Wrye’s voice changes to that of a 1940 radio announcer, “At the start of World War II, twenty-one year old Julie Stewart’s younger twin brothers, Adam and Adrian, enlisted in the army at only fifteen years of age. Though both Julie and her father tried to deter them, the two were incorrigible. Julie woefully suspected it was more the trend than an actual dedication toward serving the King and country. Soon enough Norway had been invaded by the Germans, and the boys went missing in action.”

Tattle follows his cue and adopts a sultry yesteryear starlet tone, “An acquaintance of her father with military contacts believes the boys are still alive, and her father plans to attempt a rescue by flying into Norway. He had told his sons, if ever compromised to go to the nearest city and blend with the inhabitants. Julie is determined to stow away on the plane.  Only, her father anticipated exactly what she would do, and had already packed a parachute for her.”

“From there the story takes off at a rapid, heart pounding pace with a heaping helping of drama and suspense and a sprinkling of romance.” Wrye pumps his chest with a fist for emphasis. “As always Steven Ure’s clear, concise writing style shines through, no clutter, no extra baggage, no nonsense.  It holds you and makes you yearn for more. Every time you think you have a handle on the plot, the plot thickens…” Bushy brows do a wiggle. “And you are tugged in a surprising direction. Although this is quite different from his other works, it has the same depth and dimension I’ve come to expect from this author.”

Settling down on settee in an obvious pondering pose, Tattle adds, “There is something very soulful with an undercurrent of darkness in the prose of this story, an innate quality that pulls you so fully into the plotline, you are the characters, you are the evil, you are the peril, you are the courage, you are the history, you are the fabric of the reality that Ure created.”

“I especially adore the heroine, Julie,” Wrye interjects. “She is indeed a character of quality and grit but with enough heart and humanity to make her genuine. Even the secondary characters that drift in and out of the storyline have dimensional appeal.”

Tattle further declares, “The historical details add an interesting backdrop especially since it investigates portions of the war that aren’t normally emphasized. Also, the ending has a startling climatic twist that makes the entire read all the more satisfying. Once again Steven Ure has provided a tale that stays with you long after you finish the book.”

It was a pleasure reading these two fabulous works by CBG’s brilliant authors. 

Until next time, keep reading!

Dona Penza Rutabaga Tattle, Esq. and Associate Wrye Balderdash
of Blather City, Wannachat

Created and written by:  Angelica Hart and Zi

Books by: Angelica Hart and Zi
Books by: Vixen Bright and Zachary Zane