About Me

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Welcome to Heartstrings.Thanks for stopping by. I am a mother, a grandmother, and an author of historical western romance and contemporary romantic fiction. Ethan's Heart, book one of The Blackwood Brothers' series won the 2017 Maggie Award for Excellence. Book two, Escorting Darby Bloom, features Blackwood brother Isaac and will be released in December 2017. Stay tuned for more books in this series. If contemporaries are more your thing, check out Carly's Rule and Dusty's Fate. They are both Amazon Best-Sellers.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Interview with Ruth Ryan Langan aka R.C. Ryan
New York Times Bestselling author

1.  What inspired you to write your first book?

I think there is a kind of arrogance in writers that makes us believe we can do better than the work currently being sold in bookstores.  Maybe that's a small part of it.  But the bigger part is this absolute need to write.  At least in my case, it was the driving force.  I simply had to try to write down the stories playing in my head.

2.  What or who has been the biggest influence in your writing career and why?

I'd say my family is the biggest influence.  I want my children and grandchildren to be proud of the work I do.  And there's my husband, who is my biggest fan.  From the beginning, when nobody actually believed that I could live my dream, he believed and supported me emotionally when I had to face those painful rejections.  In fact, he believed in me so completely that even when I was tempted to give up the dream, I couldn't because I knew he wanted it so badly for me.

3.  You have written nearly 100 novels, both historical and contemporary.  After that many books, how do you come up with the new story lines?

Coming up with fresh stories is never a problem for me.  There are more stories in my head than there is time to write them.  So time is my enemy, but coming up with fresh story ideas is the easy part.

4.  What is your writing schedule like?  For example, do you write any time of the day, or do you prefer a specific time of day?  Do you write for a specific number of hours or pages?

I'm a morning person.  Probably because I have 5 children, and my day always started early.  It's become my internal clock.  I walk with my husband first thing in the morning--a mile or two.  Shower, breakfast, and then I get to work.  On deadline, I can work 9 to 5, with a break for lunch or to fold laundry.  I have an office in my home, and that's the only place I work.  I never take my laptop out on the deck, or try to work while on vacation.  When I'm working, I work.  When I'm playing, I don't work.

5.  What is the most difficult or challenging part of the writing process for you?

I can't think of one thing that's more difficult than any other in the writing process.  Writing is difficult, but only because it requires so much discipline.  Once I sit at my computer, I'm at work and ready to stay there.  But often, it's difficult getting there.  So many distractions and interruptions.  It's called life.  It does get in the way.

6.  Do you ever experience writer's block?  If so, how do you cope with it? 

I don't experience it, and I don't believe in writer's block.  I just write until the story is told.  I once was a guest on a TV show with Robin Cook, and when I gave this response, he agreed, saying, as a doctor, he was never allowed to complain of having surgeon's block.  Not matter how difficult the operation, he had to see it through.

7.  Are you a plotter or a panster?  If you are a plotter, do you have any plotting tips to share?

I do have to give my editor a semblance of plot before we go to contract, but I consider myself a non-plotter.  I just let the characters write their story.  That way, I'm surprised as my readers as the story progresses.  When characters become real, they have a way of taking over the story and taking it in directions I never thought of.

8.  How long does it generally take you to finish a book?

As long as it takes to get it right.  Whether it takes 4 months or 6 months or a year, I'll take as long as I need to give my readers a great story.

9.  What is your personal writing goal?

To tell stories that my readers love so much, when the book ends, they're sorry to see it end and wish the story could go on just a little longer.  That, to me, is the sign of a good book.

10.  What is your current work-in-progress, and would you summarize it in a few lines?

I'm currently completing JAKE, book 3 in my current 3-book series for Grand Central Publishing entitled Wyoming Sky.  Three brothers living on the ranch of their father and grandfather.  Three generations living and working together, facing danger and passion as they meet the women who will forever change their lives.  Jake is a veterinarian who becomes involved with Meg, a hot-shot lawyer from Washington, D.C.  Meg has returned to Wyoming to dispose of her father's estate and becomes embroiled in danger.  Someone wants to drive her away and threatens her with death before she and Jake resolve the mystery and discover love.  The other two books in the series are QUINN, available now, and JOSH, which will be released in October, 2012, with JAKE due to be released in March 2013.  All are contemporary romantic-suspense, and all written under my pseudonym R.C. Ryan.

11.   Do you always love what you write?

I can't write it unless I absolutely love it.

12.  If you could choose anywhere in the world to write, where would it be?

I'm sure a lot of people would expect me to say "some tropical island, or a villa in the South of France."  But honestly, I'm living my dream.  I'm where I want to be, spending time with the people I love and doing what I'd always dreamed of doing.

13.  Describe your writing space, that one corner of the house that's all yours.

In our current home my office was planned in the pre-building stage, so it suits me perfectly.  Windows overlooking our neighborhood, which is now a golf course but was originally an apple orchard.  Our house overlooks a pond and the ninth fairway.  We have deer, foxes, coyotes and every kind of wildlife imaginable.  Three walls of custom-cabinets for my books and supplies.  A custom desk in the center of the room, with two computers, one for the Internet, the other not connected to the Internet so that it can't be contaminated by a virus while I work.  I work in silence.  No TV.  No music.  Just my characters, playing through my mind.

14.  What are you most proud of accomplishing in you life?  

My husband and I still love each other completely.  My family and this wonderful career still gives me such pleasure.

15.  What is the strangest thing that ever happened to you as a writer?  What is the funniest?

Early in my career, my publisher arranged for me to be on Good Morning America and later Phil Donahue and sent me around the country doing 'how to write romance' workshops at various public venues.  It was scary and exciting and certainly forced me to speak in public, something I'd never done as a wife and mother of five.  But being thrust into the public eye so early in my career certainly gave me a sense of confidence I couldn't have learned on my own.

16.  What would you consider the most important advice you could give a writer?

If you truly hunger after something, you will find a way to make it happen.  It takes discipline, determination and a very thick skin to succeed, but smart people find the way to make their dreams reality.  Write every day, in order to hone your craft.  Read everything.  Join a critique group or a writers' group.  Surround yourself with like-minded, supportive people.


New York Times best-selling author Ruth Ryan Langan, who also writes as R. C. Ryan, has written more than 90 plus fiction novels, both contemporary and historical.  Quite an accomplishment for one who, after her fifth child started school, gave herself the gift of an hour a day to follow her dream to become a published author.

2012 will see two new novels by R.C. Ryan.  QUINN, Book 1 in her new Wyoming Sky series for Grand Central Publishing's Forever imprint features Quinn Conway, a rancher and naturalist who studies the life-cycle of wolves in their natural environment, meets strong-willed Cheyenne O'Brien, no stranger to tragedy.  When a series of dangerous accidents plague her, Quinn steps in to help, loses his heart.  To defeat a dangerous enemy, these two much put their cherished freedom, and their hearts, at risk.

In October, JOSH, book 2, will be released.  Josh Conway, rancher and expert climber, is asked to rescue Sierra Moor, lost somewhere in the grand Tetons.  Risking death at the hands of a dangerous adversary, these two join forces to survive, and find the greatest reward of all--love.

JAKE, Book 3, will be released March, 2013. 

Please click on the following link to visit Ruth's website:  Ruth Ryan Langan

Or visit her on facebook:  RC Ryan and Ruth Ryan Langan

Or on twitter:  Twitter

Ruth, thank you for an awesome interview!

Since this interview posted, Ruth's story, UNFORGIVEN, in the novella THE UNQUIET from Jove, is a finalist in the RWA RITA contest. Good luck, Ruth.

Friday, March 16, 2012

Interview with Cheryl Norman, Multi-published, Award-winning Romantic Suspense Author and Cookbook Author

1.  Tell us a little about yourself.

I am a happily married retiree living in the woods of North Florida, not far from the Suwannee River.  After successfully battling breast cancer in 2010, I reprioritized my life and retired from writing.  Or so I thought. Unfortunately, a writer never retires, so I still have projects.  However, I no longer sit for hours and hours at the computer.  I gave up my memberships to organizations that took up so much of my time.  But I still write when I'm not traveling in our mini-motor home.

2.  What inspired you to write your first book?

My first novel I wrote, which later became Running Scared (Medallion, 2008), began life as a story my running partner Marv Jones and I made up as we ran through the streets of Jacksonville to pass the time while we trained for a marathon ( I was younger and thinner then).  That one is the book of my heart.  Sadly, Marv passed away before he saw it in print.  I dedicated the book to his memory and gave a character his name.

3.  When you sold to an e-book publisher back in 2001, did you ever imagine then that e-readers would be as popular as they are now?

Yes, I did, but I knew it would be awhile.  It took big companies like Barnes and Noble, who bought out the online e-bookstore Fictionwise.com, and Amazon.com to standardize formats and popularize e-reading.

4.  You write romantic suspense, and you're a cookbook author.  Which is your favorite?

Romantic suspense is more fun to write.  I get to kill people!  Cookbooks are a lot of work and take months of kitchen-testing recipes.  But I enjoy both.  Currently, I am working on a new RV cookbook.

5.  Where do you come up with all your recipe ideas?

I love to watch cooking shows.  Even before there were Food Network and Cooking Channel, I watched programs about cooking and nutrition on PBS.  I never was much of a cook, but I wanted to learn and improve.  For the most part, though, these TV chefs use too much fat and sugar.  I started inventing healthier versions and soon had a cookbook's worth.

6.  Tell us about your cookbook, Recipes for Recovery?

I wrote Recipes for Recovery while recovering from chemotherapy and radiation treatments which left me weak and anemic.  So I reinvented many of my favorite recipes using convenience items to eliminate work and added ingredients to bump up the nutrition.  I self-published to keep the price down, intending it to help other patients who needed to cook for energy when they had not energy to cook.  Surprisingly, healthy people who don't want to spend time cooking healthy meals are buying the book.  So I guess I should have titled it something else, like "Cooking for Kitchen Phobics." LOL.

7.  What is your personal writing goal?

I feel a calling to write for the inspirational romantic suspense market.  I started a book during NaNoWriMo, working title Momma Cried, but have only six thousand words so far.  I need to do more plotting first.  NaNoWriMo is for people who can produce word count without editing.  That's not my preferred method of writing.  Perhaps if it were, I'd be more prolific.

8.  What is your current work-in-progress, and can you summarize it in a few lines?

Years ago and under a pen name, I wrote an erotic romance time-travel.  I'm rewriting and updating that story without the sex.  It's now called Running Out of Time and is a departure for me--no murder or sex.

When Stacy finds herself fifty years in the past, she enlists the help of a young GI, unaware that his future is tied directly to her time-jump.  Sgt. Bradley doesn't know if Stacy is a nutcase or a Soviet spy, but he does know he is in love with her.  Stacy soon discovers she must choose between her future . . . or his life.

9.  What is the strangest thing that ever happened to you while you were at a book signing or giving a presentation?  What is the funniest?

The strangest and funniest was the book signing at a historic inn, where the owner set me up in the garden a ta concrete umbrella table.  The shady garden quickly lost its charm when I was attacked by biting ants.  Huge biting ants!  Also it began to rain, but I had to stay put because the inn was locked.  The owner said she'd had a fire and couldn't let anyone inside until the renovations were complete.  That meant holding my bladder, too.  The umbrella under which I took refuge had dozens of holes.  I moved my books to the protection of my briefcase, but I got soaked.  Huge friendly cats seemed to want to sit in my lap.  I like cats, but these had dirty paws from the rain.  To add insult to injury, I didn't sell a single book!  But it made a funny story when I later shared it with my writing colleagues.

10.  Describe your writing space, that one corner of the house that's all yours.

I write in a spare bedroom that has more room now since I got rid of a thousand books.  After I converted to Kindle, I donated all but my keepers to nursing homes, libraries, and friends.  I moved in a sofa, so my space seems friendlier, too.  Beside my desk hangs a collage that my writing buddy, Judy Peters, made me one year for Christmas from photos of our various conference and writing events.

11.  What or who has been the biggest influence in your writing career and why?

Vicki Hinze
I've had so many influences, but I'd have to say Vicki Hinze.  I won a first chapter critique from her at a writing conference.  She gave me much more than my money's worth!  I credit her for helping me sell my first mass-market novel, Restore My Heart.  She gives writing instruction generously through her blogs and at conferences.  I'm a fan of her books, too.  She's a talented writer who teaches by example.

12.  What are you most proud of accomplishing?

Mastering the art of making gravy!  It's not that I had tried and failed; I'd never tried.  I just bought a jar of turkey gravy for Thanksgiving, or used condensed cream of chicken soup as chicken gravy.  Now I can whisk up gravy and sauces and I get compliments.  My mother-in-law is so impressed and tells everyone what a wonderful cook I am, all because I now can make gravy.

13.  What is the most important advice you could give another writer?

Patience.  Unless you're James Patterson or Nora Roberts, you aren't going to write a book and sell it this year with a release date in twelve months.  It takes critiques and feedback, rewrites and revisions, editing and more rewrites to polish a manuscript.  It took me seven years of writing before my first novel was released, and that's not unusual.

14.  Name 3 things you can't live without.

Things, not people, right?  I'd have to say my Vitamix® machine, my TreadClimber®, and my Kindle Fire.  The first two keep me healthy and the third keeps me happy.

Thank you, Cheryl for a great interview!  

Visit Cheryl at her Web site and the following links:  cherylnorman.com


Cheryl Norman earned a BA in English at Georgia State University in Atlanta. After a career in the telecommunications industry, she turned to fiction writing and won the 2003 EPPIE award for her contemporary romance, Last Resort.  Her debut with Medallion Press, Restore My Heart, led to a mention in Publisher's Weekly as one of ten new romance authors to watch. Running Scared, a romantic suspense set in Jacksonville, Florida, and Washington D.C., received a Perfect 10 from Romance Reviews Today. Reviewer Harriet Klausner calls her writing "Mindful of Linda Howard ... "

Cheryl has combined her passion for writing and healthful cooking by publishing three cookbooks. In addition to writing, Cheryl works with breast cancer survivors to raise awareness about early detection and treatment of the disease. She also helps writers with grammar via her Grammar Cop blog, newsletter articles, and workshops.

Her latest romantic suspense novel is Rebuild My World. The story stands alone but revisits characters from Reclaim My Life and Restore My Heart. She is currently revising a time-travel manuscript, a departure from her usual romantic suspense work.

Friday, March 9, 2012

Interview with BelleBooks/Bell Bridge Books' Debra Dixon, President/CEO and Deborah Smith, Vice President and Editorial Director.  

Meet these ladies in October at the 2012 Fiction Writers' Bootcamp sponsored by Ancient City Romance Authors.  For details, see the At The Event section of this blog site or the web address at the end of the interview.

Debra Dixon has published with major publishers, written ten books, contributed to twelve anthologies, and served as Vice President of RWA, and her popular GMC: Goal, Motivation, and Conflict workshop spawned a book that has become a how-to-bible for writers.

These days, she's better known as Publisher for BelleBooks and it's imprint Bell Bridge Books, which tackles a broad spectrum of genres in both print and ebook formats.  A 2011 company highlight was holding the #1 spot on the full Paid Kindle list for more than two weeks.  Their titles have been picked up in translation and by major New York publishers in subrights deals for mass market paperback, book club, audio and large print.  The company has published work from NYT's bestselling authors:  Anne Bishop, Susan Addison Allen, Deborah Smith, Sharon Sala, Sabrina Jeffries, Sandra Hill, Jill Marie Landis, and Jill Barnett.  As well as USA Today bestseller Kalayna Price.

Deborah Smith is the New York Times bestselling author (A Place to Call Home, 1997, Bantam Books) of more than 35 romance, fantasy, and women's fiction novels.  Her most recent success is The Crossroads Cafe, a Top 10 Amazon Kindle bestseller in ebook.  She is the winner of numerous awards including a career Achievement Award From Romantic Times Magazine.  A Place to Call Home was named one of the Top 200 Best Romance Novels of the 20th Century by Romantic Times.  More than 3 million copies of her books have been sold, worldwide.

Since 2000, Deborah Smith has been Vice President (and a founding partner of) BelleBooks (now primarily known as Bell Bridge Books.)  Based in Memphis, Tennessee, Bell Bridge Books is a successful small publishing company featuring popular fiction.  More than 25 Bell Bridge titles have been bestsellers in ebook.

1.  What is your bestselling genre right now?

We try not to lock into a "trending" mind-set.  We've seen that just about every genre can do well with the reading public.  So, we focus on finding great authors, who can write amazing books, and worrying about genre later.

2.  Is there something you don't currently have in publication that you would love to acquire?

We'd like to acquire more time in the day!

3.  Do you work with new/unpublished authors or prefer authors with a backlist?

We are primarily a publisher of original fiction.  That is our focus.  We publish original fiction every month.  But, because of the changes in the industry and the number of authors who now control their Big6 backlist, we have developed a large reprint "list."  We have a somewhat different approach to backlist management, which is why so many authors are working with us.  It's not about tossing the books up as fast as possible.  Our focus is on creating the right branding and packaging for the author as well as assessing the content for all the little fixes that might be necessary to freshen an older work.  We generally launch backlist as part of a complete publishing program, which includes originals by the author.

We have established relationships with the various ebook platforms and print distribution that most authors just can't duplicate.  That's not to say that authors can't be successful self-publishing.  This program is a different animal and well-suited to authors who like the collaboration of publishing and need to focus on creation of frontlist titles instead of managing or relaunching backlist themselves.

4.  What can an author do to impress you and set her/him apart from the rest?

Write a great book, concise query and readable synopsis.  Voice is critically important.  The voice has to be on the page from the opening.  Editors don't have time to "warm up" to an author's work.  The author has to engage us and make us sit up straight in amazement right from page one.

5.   What would you consider the most important advice or tip you could give an author on submitting to BelleBooks or Bell Bridge Books?

Be Patient.  Even though we're a small press, we gets lots of new queries every week.  It's impossible for us to respond to them immediately.  It may be 2-3 months before an author hears from us.

6.  Would you consider adding a genre or a time period that you do not currently work with and why?  (Examples:  Historical Western Romance, Victorian Romance, Colonial times, WW II, Erotic Romance.)

We never say never.  The only thing we don't actually anticipate publishing is erotica.  That has to do with erotica being a very well-served market.  A publisher our size can't be all things to all readers.  We have to pick and choose what we publish very carefully.

7.  What sets BelleBooks and Bell Bridge Books apart from other publishing houses?

Deborah Smith:  The founders and Managing Directors are all authors.  We try very hard to be more author-friendly than the bigger publishers.

Debra Dixon:  To our author-centric philosophy add our long time commitment to discoverability and the long tail.  We have author after author break into the Amazon Top 100 on the full paid list.  We're putting up great numbers for authors and finding readers.  Publishing is about building careers, building readership and we never lose sight of that fact.

8.  Once a book is accepted, how long before publication?

We operate within an 18 month window, which means that publication is usually within the same 12-18 month time frame that Big6 specifies.  Some books might publish a little faster, but most books these days are scheduled quite far out.  Books will have to go through a revision, line edit, copy edit, proofing, etc.

9.  What designates a title being selected for audio, and how many titles are selected per year?

Happily, due to our involvement with Audible.com, it is now possible for us to submit all of our titles for auditions.  The program works by connecting publishers and producers/narrators.  We sort through their auditions and, after consultation with the author, select a narrator for each book.  That producer/narrator is responsible for every aspect of recording.  The finished audio is sold via Audible, Amazon and iTunes.  As of March 2012, we have about 45 titles in production and about 10 released titles.

10.  How much say does an author have in selecting the audio reader? 

See above.  We send auditions to the authors and let them choose.

11.  What designates a title being published in hardback or large print?

We're always "working" the titles, selling into foreign translation or large print.  There is no pass/fail for whether a title gets the full court press.  We want to create as large a footprint as possible for our titles.  So we go after these types of "subrights" sales for every book.  However, in the case of an exceptionally long book, its chances at a large print deal are diminished due to the cost of producing that in large print.

12.  Do you accept submissions for short stories and anthologies?

These are invitation only, but we occasionally do short story collections.  We have one coming out in May 2012--SWEETER THAN TEA.  Some of the authors were from the open call.

13.   You have published several children's books.  Are you still acquiring?

Children's picture books and middle grade are specialized markets.  We are no longer acquiring in those categories unless we're continuing an existing series such as Bill Allen's "How To" fantasy series or Maureen Hardegree's "Haint" series.

14.  What trends do you see in publishing?  

Deborah Smith:  Continuing growth of ebooks and continuing decline of paperbacks.

Debra Dixon:  That's the big story--the rise of ebooks and the change in how readers find books.

16.  On a more personal note, what is your favorite thing to do in your spare time?

Deborah Smith:  Knitting.  Deb Dixon got me hooked last year at a conference.  Now, I'm rabid about it.

Debra Dixon:  I adore knitting and usually have a couple of projects going.  One project is always a pair of socks which is small and great for travel.  There's a waiting list for socks.  But the one thing that I must do regularly for my sanity is quilt.  I'm a rabid quilter.

17.  What is your favorite genre/type of book to read?  (Personal question, not publishing)

Debra Dixon:  Both DebS and I are very eclectic readers.  I tend to like a longer book that I can sink into versus a short breezy book.  Although it all depends on mood!

18.  Name three things you cannot live without.

Deborah Smith:  Husband Hank, our critters (two dogs, six cats, numerous goldfish) and Deb Dixon.  Seriously, we've informally adopted each other.

Deb Dixon:  She's taken my answer!  I'm very attached to my husband and son and Deb Smith.

19.  Since you are both writers, what advice can you give, one writer to another?

Deborah Smith:  Don't do it for the money.  You have to love writing and be happy doing it no matter how it pays off financially.  Publishing is a tough business.  Writers who love the craft and stick with it generally tend to achieve success.  Warning:  Writing is never going to be a get-rich-quick business, despite the "overnight success" stories that titillate writers occasionally.

Debra Dixon:  This is an amazing time to be a writer.  Success is created by "butt in chair."  Get better.  Write more.  Decide what success looks like, and spend the time to understand the business.  Writers have options, but not all options are created equal.  Getting published quickly isn't always the smart move.  Self-publishing isn't for everyone.  Big6 isn't for everyone or every book.  The "mid-major" publishers are different than small, boutique publishers.  Choices mean the author has to do some business planning and soul-searching about how to pursue this dream.

Thank you ladies for the great answers and advice.  Looking forward to meeting you both in October at the 2012 Fiction Writers' BootCamp.

If you are interested in reading more about BelleBooks and Bell Bridge Books, please click on the following link to visit the website.  www.bellebooks.com

If you are interested in meeting these awesome ladies, they will be the guest speakers and the editors for ACRA's 2012 Fiction Writers' Bootcamp.  This years' theme - "Mardi Gras on the Beach" held in St. Augustine, Florida, October 5 & 6, 2012.  Yes, it's Mardi Gras in October.   Please click on the Ancient City Romance Authors' website link for more information.   ACRARWA.COM

Don't miss this awesome opportunity to meet two of the founding members of BelleBooks/Bell Bridge Books.