Sunday, May 29, 2011

Special Offer Today: Free Words

In honor of Memorial Day, I'm not going to review Laura Hillenbrand's book, Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience and Redemption.
In case you've been living under a rock, Unbroken has been discussed, reviewed, awarded and broadcasted all over the net. Words like "staggering", "mesmerizing" and "page-turner" are standard fare for this masterpiece.
The reviews lie.
The book is beyond all that. It's a must-read, in the truest sense of the phrase. Louis Zamperini's story is the story of a generation who, because of their sacrifice, I can write anything I want to on this post. Under the comments, you can write anything you want to without being afraid that you'll be censored, fined, or imprisoned. As readers and writers, we cherish essays, poetry, stories, novels--anything composed of words, we love. Today, I remind myself that because of their sacrifice, the freedom to write is mine.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Interview With Alice Duncan: Author/Editor

Interview with Author/Editor Alice Duncan

by Jacqueline Seewald

Alice Duncan is a much published, award-winning author who also happens to edit romance and mystery novels for Tekno, the book packager for Five Star/Gale. I’ve personally had the pleasure of working with Alice who has edited all five of my Five Star/Gale novels.

Like me, Alice has a new mystery coming out from Five Star/Gale this month called
Fallen Angels. You can check it out in the book catalog on the Five Star site:

You can also find ordering information on Amazon:
as well as Barnes and Noble online and Borders Books.

Hi, Alice, thanks so much for joining us today at the Author Expressions blog. Congratulations on your many excellent reviews of Fallen Angels!

Question: Could you tell us a little bit about Mercy Allcutt, the heroine of Fallen Angels?

Mercy Allcutt was actually a consolation prize for me. I’d written two stories in a series set in the 1920s, featuring a phony spiritualist named Daisy Gumm Majesty. When I thought the Daisy books were dead, I decided to write a historical cozy mystery series set in the 1920s, and gave the books another heroine, Mercy. Mercy’s a privileged young woman from Boston who moves to Los Angeles, lives with her sister Chloe and Chloe’s movie-mogul husband. She gets a job (which horrifies her Brahmin mother) as secretary to a private investigator, Ernie Templeton. She loves her job! You see, Mercy wants to become a writer of gritty detective fiction, and she figures she can’t do that since she’s always lived in an ivory tower. Her Boston relations are horrified, but Mercy doesn’t care. Much.

Question: I know that this novel is part of a mystery series because I’ve read and very much enjoyed the previous Angel novels. Could you tell us about the series? How did it originate? What inspired the series?

Whoops! I guess I already answered this question. I was so bummed about not writing Daisy books any longer, I decided to write another series set in the Roaring Twenties and set in Southern California. So I moved from Pasadena (the Daisy books) to Los Angeles (the Angels books) and gave Mercy a P.I. for a boss.

Here’s a blurb for FALLEN ANGELS:

“Transplanted Boston Brahmin, Mercy Allcutt, has had some very exciting times as secretary to private investigator, Ernie Templeton. While it’s true she’s been in what she considers a wee bit of trouble (and Ernie considers out-and-out danger) a time or two, she’s determined to continue learning the ways of the “real” world.

However, when she sets out to find her wandering boss, Ernie, one hot September afternoon, she not only discovers a corpse, but she also finds Ernie, bound and gagged. Worse, when the police arrive to investigate the crime, they peg Ernie as the killer.

Well, Mercy isn’t about to let them get away with that, no matter how many times Ernie tells her to butt out of the police inquiry. The only question is whether she’ll survive her investigatorial efforts once again, or if she’ll become one more “Fallen Angel.”

Question: How does the relationship between Mercy and her private investigator boss Ernie Templeton change through the novels? Is there a glimmer of romance?

There’s a glimmer. I don’t want to pull a “Moonlighting” (if anyone remembers that TV series. Once Cybill Shepherd and Bruce Willis got together, all the tension died). However, Mercy and Ernie are clearly attracted to each other, even though neither one will admit it. They pretty much always drive each other nuts.

Question: Can you tell us about some of your other published novels? I know there are quite a few and that many are now available as e-books at a reasonable price.

Oh, my goodness. There are, literally, dozens of them. I’ve written historical romances under my name (Alice Duncan), Emma Craig, Rachel Wilson and Anne Robins. I also wrote a couple of westerns in the “Trailsman” series under the pseudonym Jon Sharpe, but the less said about them, the better. My very first book, ONE BRIGHT MORNING, came about because I used to get migraine headaches. They were terrible. I got to wondering what a young widow woman with a baby and a ghastly migraine would do if she lived in the 1880s in New Mexico Territory, and a gunshot stranger showed up at her door. My second book, TEXAS LONESOME, contains dachshunds. I attract dachshunds kind of like a magnet attracts steel shavings. I think it’s a curse. Daisy Majesty gave her husband a dachshund named Spike, and Mercy Allcutt has an apricot toy poodle named Buttercup. I love dogs J Anyhow, I’ve had something over forty books published under a whole bunch of names, and nobody’s ever heard of any of them. Well, that might be a bit of an understatement, but not by much.

Anyhow, all my out-of-print backlist, and some of my in-print books, and a short story, which is part of my Pecos Valley series (another cozy mystery series set in the twenties, only this one in New Mexico in 1923) are available on Kindle and Smashwords. You can read all about them here:

Question: Did you always want to be a writer? What made you start writing?

Yes. I’ve always wanted to be a writer. From the time I could listen to stories, I knew I wanted to write them. Life got in the way (as it has a habit of doing), and I didn’t begin writing books until the nineteen-nineties. I tell you, life was *hard*. Sometimes I hear people say (generally disparagingly about those people who say they want to write but don’t have time) that “writers write.” That may well be true, but writers also have to live, rear children, and earn livings.

Question: As an acquisitions editor for Tekno Books, the book packager for Five Star/Gale, how do you suggest writers contact your company?

Actually, I don’t acquire for Tekno. I only recommend books I like J. Here’s the web site for Five Star, which will show you what kinds of books they like:

Question: What advice would you offer to those who have novels they would like to submit for consideration?

Here are the specific submission guidelines for people who want to submit to Five Star:

For previously published Five Star authors, please submit your queries directly to:

Rosalind Greenberg, Senior Acquisitions EditorTekno

For authors new to Five Star, published or unpublished, please submit your queries directly to:

Deni Dietz, Associate Editor
Tekno Books

Please send a query email letter requesting the Five Star submission guidelines.
*Remember to include your name, address, and sub-genre
*Rosalind Greenberg or Deni Dietz will send you all the information and forms that you will need to submit your manuscript properly.
*Please be aware that the volume of submissions we receive is enormous. Because of this, we do not accept simultaneous submissions, hardcopy submissions, or partial manuscripts, but we will respond to you as quickly as possible.

So there you have the complete submission guidelines. Read ‘em, and follow ‘em, if you want anybody to pay attention to your submission (not that I want to sound harsh or anything, but it really is important to follow directions). As for me, don’t forget to visit my own web site:

Alice, thanks so much for being our guest today. I’m looking forward to reading Fallen Angels. I love your unique, original style of writing and clever sense of humor.

Those of you who have comments, please know that they are very welcome. So feel free to join the conversation!

Monday, May 9, 2011

History of Debutante Balls

In doing research for my current novel, I happened upon a bit of nostalgia worth mentioning. During the 19th century, upper class European families presented their marriageable daughters at formal events called debutante balls (from French d├ębutante, meaning “female beginner”). Such events had various names, depending on the geographic location of the ball. They were called debut balls or coming-out parties. Traditionally, the debutante invited the man (sometimes two) to escort her to the dance. She was escorted to the front of the ballroom by her father, where she was greeted by her escort(s), eligible bachelors whose social rank matched that of the debutante.

If the coming-out was at the English court, a girl would be expected to wear white or a light pastel gown. After presentation to the reigning monarch, they entered the social season by attending numerous events such as teas and more balls. In 1958, Queen Elizabeth II abolished the ceremony.

In the U.S., during the fifties in the South, it was common for even middle-class families to send their sons and daughters to Cotillions, where they learned dance steps, to be used later at debutante balls. In various parts of the U.S., debut balls have morphed into charity events, with attendees buying tickets and the money going to a designated charity.

Friday, May 6, 2011

A Book is like an Elephant

I'm excited about my new release, WHERE DANGER HIDES. Technically, the release date is May 18th, but since stores don't stock the book, that date represents when the publisher will start filling orders. Also, the book has been available for pre-order at Amazon and Barnes & Noble for some time.

Marketing for this system is a different game. It's not a matter of trying to get people into the bookstore on release day. The reality is, the publisher sells to libraries. Everything else is gravy.
Not to say it's not exciting to find that carton of author copies on your doorstep. I got mine last Saturday, and it's a thrill like no other to see the fruition of what amounts to close to two years of gestation and labor--much like an elephant. And, I confess, I don't even want to open the book for fear I'll find that I might have missed a typo, or that the publisher didn't fix everything I requested. It's a done deal, and the baby is mine, warts and all.

With sales targeting the library market, it's reviews that help sell the books. And not the reader reviews on Amazon or other web-based review sites with "volunteer" reviewers. Libraries prefer sites and publications with professional reviewers, and often the lack of a review in one of those means your book won't be considered.

Normally, I don't like posting pure promo here, but since I won't have another new book from Five Star for another year, I decided to go for it. If you want to get some glimpses of how the book came to be, and see parts that never made it past the first draft of the first chapters, I've put them up on my website, under the 'behind the scenes' tab and 'from the cutting room floor.'

Needless to say, I was delighted to get a positive review from one of the biggies—Publishers Weekly.

Odell follows 2010's When Dangers Calls with this sizzling suspense tale. Dalton, "just Dalton," is a sweet-talking Texas black ops contractor equipped with a sharp mind, big muscles, an intriguing background tragedy that makes him cry over babies, and boatloads of sex appeal. Miri Chambers, manager of a shelter for wayward teens, is just his type: "proud, strong, intelligent, compassionate, and one hundred percent female," with a past she'd rather not reveal. … the real action is in Miri and Dalton's passionate mutual attraction, and not even his cold showers and her idealistic do-gooding can douse its uncontrollable flames. Romance fans will drool over Dalton and his fellow camo-clad helicopter-riding commandos as they look for runaways and love.

I've also had positive feedback from several other reviewers, so I'm pleased that people like my baby—warts and all.

The ARC calls it Contemporary Romance. With all due deference to the press's editors, that's incorrect. Sure, there are some hot romance scenes and some highly emotional connections come and go and arrive again, but there's a gritty, powerful pulse-pounding narrative platform here that drives the novel plainly into the thriller category …With little time out for deep breathing, the plot quickly picks up a palpable sense of menace and slackening of control. Readers will be swept along to a final breathless conclusion that is eminently satisfying. Carl Brookins

Talented author Terry Odell quickly grabs our attention in her suspenseful romance, WHERE DANGER HIDES, the much awaited second novel in her Blackthorne, Inc series. The hero, Dalton, is the kind of man that any reader could easily fall for: strong, confident, and yet compassionate and sexy. His perfect match is the heroine, Miri, who is loyal, nurturing and resourceful. Ms. Odell builds the sexual tension between these two characters as skillfully as she ramps up the anticipation in her story. Readers hang on every word reaching for the climax to WHERE DANGER HIDES and are not left disappointed but eager to learn more about the fascinating group of Blackthorne, Inc. men. Thrills, romance, danger and mystery fill the pages of WHERE DANGER HIDES and thoroughly entertains. Donna, Single Titles

Odell provides a lot of sexual tension and enough hot sex to please avid romance readers. It takes front and center in the novel, but eventually the mystery of the missing people leads to a major crime operation. An exciting climax should satisfy the most demanding thriller readers. Mel Jacob, Gumshoe Reviews

For more information Terry, visit her website. She can also be found at Terry's Place blogging about writing and life in general.