H. M. Shepherd On Writing, Romance, and her new release Just for Nice (guest interview/tour)

Standard

Just for Nice (States of Love) by H.M. Shepherd
Dreamspinner Press
Cover Artist: Tiferet Design

Buy Links:  Dreamspinner Press

Scattered Thoughts and Rogue Words is happy to host H.M. Shepherd here today on tour with her new book. Just for Nice.  Welcome!

~ Scattered Thoughts and Rogue Words Interview with H.M. Shepherd ~

How much of yourself goes into a character?

Too much, probably, and since Just For Nice was particularly personal I probably poured more of myself into the characters than I typically would. I’m a longtime Pennsylvania resident and my background contains Italian and Pennsylvania Dutch, so I drew on that quite a bit. I think Nick took on more than Sam; thinking on it now, I gave him names from my family tree, made his grandmother from the same town as my great-grandfather, and gave him a job in my field. But while he and I share similarities, he is certainly not a carbon-copy of me.

Do you feel there’s a tight line between Mary Sue or should I say Gary Stu and using your own experiences to create a character?

I don’t think so. I remember when I was reading (and writing, to my eternal embarrassment) fanfiction I became a little irritated when commenters started blurring the line between a Mary Sue fic and a self-insert fic because they aren’t necessarily the same thing. I say this because I think giving characters elements of your own personality or your own experience is a great way to for an author connect them with their settings on an emotional level without beating your readers about the head with it.

Does research play a role into choosing which genre you write?  Do you enjoy research or prefer making up your worlds and cultures?

I always end up doing at least a little bit of research even if I’m writing about a topic I know inside and out. There is always, always more to know, and even if it never makes it into the story I think it helps ground things better if the author can be authoritative about their subject. This includes fantasy settings–I’m currently working on a story that spun out of control from a retelling of the fairy tale Godfather Death. It’s set firmly in another world, and I’m still researching nomadic steppe cultures and how the government of the Holy Roman Empire was structured.

Has your choice of childhood or teenage reading genres carried into your own choices for writing?

Oh absolutely, and I think anyone who says otherwise is kidding themselves. I write the stories that I would like to read, and what I like to read hasn’t changed way too much from when I was younger. It’s just gotten more mature.

Have you ever had to put an ‘in progress’ story aside because of the emotional ties with it?  You were hurting with the characters or didn’t know how to proceed?

I have several works in progress that have been sitting around for wildly varying amounts of time because I just don’t have the means to finish them. It may be because of writer’s block, or a lack of time, or because I wasn’t in the right frame of mind. And while I hate to admit it, sometimes it’s just because of boredom. I’m a very lazy writer.

Do you like HFN or HEA? And why?

There’s a chapter in one of the earlier issues of Sandman where the narrator talks about a diner waitress and her writing. I don’t remember her being a particularly nice character, but I remember one line from her that still resonates with me: You have to know where to end a story, otherwise everything ends with death. I don’t believe in HEA; things get inevitably difficult, and tragic, and messy. Both main characters in Just For Nice have flaws that could put serious strain on a relationship and take away the HEA … but where I’ve ended things, they are definitely happy for now and have the potential to remain so if they continue to work for it. I think I prefer those endings.

Do you read romances, as a teenager and as an adult?

Funny enough, I rarely read romance, at least not those that are published by mainstream companies. I don’t find that there’s a ton of variety to them, and it’s boring to read the same story over and over and over. Now works by smaller publishers, or even work just posted online? I have and still do read it voraciously.

Who do you think is your major influence as a writer?  Now and growing up?

I hate to answer this, because I don’t want to claim that I’m anywhere near the caliber of writer that these people are. But there are definitely a few authors that I look up to. Growing up (and who am I kidding, to this day) those writers were J.K. Rowling and Garth Nix. Right now it’s probably George R. R. Martin. I’m still amazed that someone can write a series with dragons and warlocks and still make feel it so realistic.

How do you feel about the ebook format and where do you see it going?

I moved about a year ago and had to pack up my pretty substantial personal library and I have to tell you, while I still love actual books I absolutely despise moving them. I have so many books on my Kindle and on Google Play, not to mention everything I downloaded off of Gutenberg and just thinking of having to physically box up and move all of it makes my back ache.

As for where ebooks are going, I actually did a part of my undergrad thesis on this. I wrote a lot about how it would making reading a social activity and connect us on a broader scale. Mind you, this was back when I was young and too stupidly optimistic to see where social media was taking us. I still think that the ability to connect is a good thing, but I’m a little more cautious about what that could lead to. I mean, sure it’s great when you can click a link right from the book to its Goodreads page to see what other people are saying about it and recommended similar works, but what if that book was The Turner Diaries?

If you write contemporary romance, is there such a thing as making a main character too “real”?  Do you think you can bring too many faults into a character that eventually it becomes too flawed to become a love interest?

Yes, it’s possible. It’s possible in reality, too. There are some people who for reasons that may or may not be in their own control are not able to function as one half of a couple. I think it’s terrible when people romanticize the idea of one person acting as his or her significant other’s sole means of emotional/financial/psychological/social support and compensate for all of their shortcomings, while receiving none of that support in return. A relationship should be a partnership and I don’t care how unromantic and boring that sounds.

Ever drunk written a chapter and then read it the next day and still been happy with it?  Trust me there’s a whole world of us drunk writers dying to know.

Write drunk, edit sober, right? I’ve never actually written drunk, but there is a possibility that I may have hypothetically outlined a story under the influence of a substance that is not strictly legal but may be in your state (or country; looking at you, Canada). And–still hypothetically speaking, of course–I may have found that it kept my own worst critic silent for a little bit, and made my mind wander in directions it may not have if I still had those pesky boundaries and inhibitions.

If you could imagine the best possible place for you to write, where would that be and why?

I actually wrote most of Just For Nice in a diner. Once a week it was my job to pick up my sister after she was done her shift as hostess, so I’d go early so I could get dinner. It was perfect. Nice and quiet, with minimal distractions and the knowledge that sooner or later someone would be by with my coffee and eggs Benedict. She’s no longer working there, though, so I’ll have to find somewhere new.

With so much going on in the world today, do you write to explain?  To get away?  To move past?  To widen our knowledge?  Why do you write?

I write because I daydream a lot, and sometimes it does get depressing to keep dreaming about myself and the way things could turn out for me. I write because it’s nice to invent people and their stories and have a modicum of control over the way those stories turn out. I write because I read, and sometimes I think that while the choices the author made are all right, I would have preferred to see things turn a certain way and wanted to see how that would play out. I write because there are no stories that explore the worlds I want to know, or the worlds that I do know and want to share. I write because I like to play with words and see what I can make them do. I write because I can, and because sometimes I have to before I explode.

Blurb

Nick Caratelli flees the city in an attempt to escape a broken relationship and a career he never wanted. He plans to set up a bed-and-breakfast in the heart of Pennsylvania Dutch country—despite the fact he has no experience in renovating the old building. Luckily his handsome neighbor Sam approaches him with a curious proposal: he’ll help with the restoration in exchange for Nick babysitting his niece.

As they work to have the bed-and-breakfast open for business by summer’s end, their lives become interwoven without them even trying. Before he knows it, Nick is recovering from his loss and taking his place in the unconventional family that seems determined to form. But for Nick and Sam to be together in all the ways they desire, they’ll have to realize all the arguments against romance exist only in their heads….

About the Author

H. M. Shepherd is a twentysomething paralegal living in Berks County, Pennsylvania, with both parents, two dogs, a baby sister who should stop growing up, and a brother who similarly failed to launch. Contrary to the Millennial stereotype, however, she does not live in the basement—a blessing considering the size of the spiders down there. She crochets as a hobby, cooks when she can, and reads as though it were her vocation. She is also an amateur genealogist and spends entirely too much time squinting at old census records and church documents. A little spacey, she once managed to forget that her car needed an oil change until it stopped running, and regularly has milk-in-the-cupboard-cereal-in-the-fridge moments. While she is an avid writer, Just for Nice is her first and so far only professional publication.

Social Media Links:

Tumblr: http://hmshepherd-blog.tumblr.com

An Ali Release Day Review: Whiskey Business (States of Love) by Avon Gale

Standard
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
whiskey-businessRyder Waites will do anything to keep the tiny town of Gallows Grove, Kentucky, from vanishing off the map—even sell his family’s whiskey recipe to Bluegrass Bourbon in Lexington. Hopeful that the larger company can provide necessary improvements to the distillery, Ryder’s ultimate goal is to get Gallows Grove on the Bourbon Trail… and bring in much-needed tourism revenue. But to keep producing Hanged Man Bourbon in Gallows Grove, he’ll have to convince company liaison, unbearably stuffy and seriously hot Adam Keller, that he’s worth the investment.

Adam comes from an old-money family, but he’s determined to make his own way in the world. When he’s sent to Gallows Grove, he questions the life choices that led him to a rented room in a funeral home, in a town full of macabre-themed businesses. And he doesn’t know what to make of Ryder, the descendant of bootleggers who’s on a mission to save his strange town from extinction. When Adam and Ryder put aside their initial mistrust, the results are as smooth as good whiskey. But after Adam’s assignment ends, he’ll have to decide if small-town life and a future with Ryder is to his tastes.
What a fun and entertaining story this was.  I was hooked from the moment these two met.  They immediately dislike each other but are immediately physically attracted to each other and that’s a plotline that I love.  They go back and forth making each other crazy.  One minute they can’t stand each other and are bickering non-stop and then the next they’re struggling to keep from acting on their fantasies.  The sexual tension and chemistry between the two jumps off of the pages. Once they give in to each other, it alternates between sweet scenes of them falling for each other, with steamy scenes that burn up the pages.
As a back drop there is this very quirky town and it’s very quirky inhabitants.  It is so well done I could picture it all in mind.  Complete with pun filled store names.  I could also picture the creepy doll filled room and while I hate dolls, it did lead to some very entertaining scenes.
I really enjoyed this and don’t have any complaints about this book.  I thought it was really well done and a fun, low angst read.  Something I would definitely recommend.
Cover by Aaron Anderson:  I like the cover a lot.  It’s unique and it fits the plot perfectly.
Sales Links
0dbe2-dreamspinner2blogo
65a2f-waxcreative-amazon-kindle
9e7ee-all2bromance2bbutton
Book Details:
ebook, 104 pages
Expected publication: December 28th 2016 by Dreamspinner Press
ISBN 1634778995 (ISBN13: 9781634778992)
Edition LanguageEnglish
SeriesStates of Love settingKentucky (United States)

A MelanieM Release Day Review: The Unlikely Prospect (States of Love) by Lex Chase

Standard

Rating: 5 stars out of 5

the-unlikely-prospect-by-lex-chaseIn Prospect Harbor, Maine, lobsterman Harper Cook has always loved the sea. He and his two brothers work the harbor waters, in a fishing village of one thousand where everybody knows everybody else’s business and nobody wants to be different.

When it’s time for the annual Men of Maine pinup calendar, Harper’s brothers eagerly volunteer him. Harper isn’t thrilled to bare it all to raise money for an elementary school playground—until he meets out-and-proud Los Angeles out-a-statah Sean Blackburn: the highly available first-grade teacher with Hollywood heartthrob looks.

Harper has no desire to ever stand out from the crowd, but Sean persists and earns Harper’s friendship. Through Sean, Harper opens up to new possibilities. Things get steamy, but Harper still protects his heart. Though the right pressure in the right place might crack even a loner lobsterman out of his shell.

States of Love: Stories of romance that span every corner of the United States.

I flat out adored this story. The Unlikely Prospect (States of Love) by Lex Chase just blew me away, from the manner in which Chase got inside the character of lobsterman Harper Cook, introverted, gay and an amazing gift of a person just waiting for the right man to understand and appreciate him.  From his halting Maine speech, which could sound cliche’ but doesn’t, to his boisterous brothers  who only want the best for him, Harper strides off his boat and into our hearts almost from the first introduction.  And from there, Chase proceeds to peel back even more layers to reveal someone with a vivid imagination who writes stories and has a bravery to match that of the sea he loves.  Harper just continues to grow throughout this story until he’s this quiet giant of a man.

While Sean Blackburn near quite rises to the level (in my mind) that Harper does as far as character build, he’s still marvelous and a terrific complement to the quiet lobsterman.  He too has a backstory with enough depth to give him the layers needed  to make him the right man for Harper.  His strengths and needs fill the holes in Harper.  Chase has made that so clear, not only to the reader but to Harper’s brothers as well.  Its fun to watch the maneuverings and family dynamics here.  Add in this mix an engaging teacher with a thing for a certain Mr. December and it turns into one of the most heartwarming stories I’ve enjoyed in a while.

And that calendar shoot?  A sexy and fun scene all its own.  It was the start of their relationship, a place where boldness and surprise are key elements. Loved that too!  Harper and Sean’s developing romance contains its own beautiful twists and turns that made this story all the more enjoyable.

I fell so in love with Harper and Sean that I wouldn’t mind a sequel to see what happens next.  But if that never happens, I’m thrilled with their story here.  Want a story to fill your heart with romance and love?  Grab up The Unlikely Prospect (States of Love) by Lex Chase.  Its one I highly recommend.

Cover art by Reese Dante is as perfect as the book.  From the characters to the boat, its superb.

Sales Links

0dbe2-dreamspinner2blogo

7104e-waxcreative-amazon-kindle

6f71e-all2bromance2bbutton

 

Book Details:

ebook, 126 pages
Expected publication: December 7th 2016 by Dreamspinner Press
ISBN 1634778405 (ISBN13: 9781634778404)
Edition LanguageEnglish
SeriesStates of Love settingMaine (United States)

M.A. Church on Writing, Characters and her release ‘A Country Boy at Heart’ (release day guest post and excerpt)

Standard

country-boyatheart

A Country Boy at Heart (States of Love) by M.A. Church
D
reamspinner Press
Cover art by Maria Fanning

Release Date: November 9, 2016

Sales Links

0dbe2-dreamspinner2blogo

Scattered Thoughts and Rogue Words is happy to have M.A. Church here today to talk about writing and her latest release, A Country Boy at Heart. Welcome, M.A.!

~

On Planning, Plots and A Country Boy at Heart by M.A. Church

I had a plan.

Oh yes, I did… and it was mostly thrown out of the window, lol. One question I’m often asked is do I have characters who take over my writing and make the story go somewhere I didn’t originally have in mind.

*Snort* Is it hot in the South?

A better question would be when do they not?  If only I had a dollar for every time a character informed me he wasn’t interested in what I’d plotted, or I’d misunderstood his motivation, or he decided not to be the good guy because the good die young or some diva crap like that…. Gawd.

*Rolls eyes* There’s usually screaming involved.

Talk about shooting my pretty outline to hell and back, lol. On the other hand, when I try to force it, I end up wishing I hadn’t. I learned that the hard way. This happened with A Country Boy at Heart.

I started with one idea and ended up going in a totally different direction. I knew I was going to do the opposites attract trope and one guy had to be interested in hunting and fishing since the story was going to start off at Bass Pro shop in the Memphis Pyramid.

Nick was going to be my country boy, and he was going to work at a farm—a good ol’ Southern boy. I *had* planned for his love interest to be from somewhere up north. So, the two would be struggling with the whole North versus South thing, along with the heat found in the South compared to the coldness of the North. I’ve always said I could tolerate heat better than the cold. (It’s only been since I’ve reached a *certain* age that’s changed, lol.)

I was all set up ready and to go… and then Sandy, my other main character, tossed my entire plot out the window. He informed me right quick he was from South too and had gone to high school with Nick. There was something between the two of them, but because of small town attitudes—and an incident between him and Nick their senior year—things didn’t work out. Sandy also informed me that he much preferred the city to the country.

Annnnnd there went the whole North vs South thing and hello country boy vs city boy.

Needless to say, it didn’t take me long to come up with the title after that. Because this was a States of Love story for Dreamspinner, and I’d picked the state of Tennessee, I had Sandy living in Memphis.

Fortunately for me, the hubby and I lived there for ten years until we moved to a little rural town across the state line in Mississippi. Plus, we’ve gone to Bass Pro right after it opened and several times since. It helped to have been to the place I was writing and to have lived in the city Sandy lived in.

countryboyatheart%5ba%5drgb_headerbanner

About A Country Boy at Heart

Hot damn, what more could a country boy want? Bass Pro Shop is finally opening in Tennessee. Nick plans to check out all twelve indoor acres chock-full of hunting, fishing, and boating in the Memphis Pyramid on the Mississippi River.

City boy Sandy wonders yet again how he let himself get talked into attending a grand opening for a hick hunting store. His geeky heart prefers the energy of the city. Little does he know all that is going to change due to a freakishly tall glass elevator—and Nick, the high-school crush who’s suddenly taking a second look at him.

A moment of panic while trapped in the elevator leads to a spark neither expected. Getting out is the least of the challenges they’ll face if they want to try to put their differences aside and find out if love is possible between a city boy and a country boy.

Excerpt

AHHHHH WHHAAAAAHH whahhh whhhhaaaa!

“Oh my God, is that a woman screaming?”

Nick barely resisted rolling his eyes. Could the wedding guests not tell the sound came from the giant bird currently displaying his magnificent feathers as he strutted? The peacock did a little dance, squawked again, and then stopped.

Oh. Oh damn, that’s not good. It turned its head, almost as if searching for him. He swore he saw an evil gleam in its eyes. Okay, now what? He tried to sidle farther back out of the way, but the tiny woman who stood at five feet nothing even in those lethally spiked heels clamped onto his elbow.

He winced. Jesus, she’s got a grip on her. He wasn’t sure which of the two—her or the ornate wall mount—concerned him most. Yeah, right. Nick eyed the ornery bird. Mister Peacock and he had been in an ongoing battle for supremacy for the last several years.

Damn. What was the menace on two legs doing nowOh fuck, it spotted me. It made a funny sound, then shook its body. If he didn’t know better, he would’ve sworn it smiled when it spotted him. It certainly tossed its head as it… oh, shit.

Literally.

The wedding coordinator grabbed the back of Nick’s shirt and yanked, hard. What the hell did she eat for breakfast? He stumbled backward, and only sheer luck kept him from going down on his ass. The peacock squawked again—only this time it sounded like laughter.

“Your peacock just shit all over the runner! The runner that leads to the trellis! That’s where the pastor is going to marry them!” she whispered furiously.

While he thought that lovely shade of fire-engine red was an interesting color for her, he was a little concerned. He didn’t have time for yet another apocalyptic temper tantrum.

As tempted as he was to cover his ears, he was afraid that would get them boxed by Mrs. Big City Wedding Planner. Why didn’t the lady comprehend wild animals were wild and tended to shit whenever the urge hit? Although he did wonder if it did that just to spite him.

“Both Rob and I tried to explain to you that could happen, Mrs. Smith,” Nick whispered fiercely back to her. “Several times over, as a matter of fact, and in several different ways.”

Fat lot of good it did. The woman refused to budge. The bride’s colors were the same beautiful iridescent blues and greens that were in the peacock feathers, and she just had to have a peacock walking down the runner before her.

Rob, or Robert Gatlin, was actually the owner’s son. Dr. Ernie Gatlin had recently retired from his medical practice, and he and the missus planned to do some traveling, so he’d turned operations of the farm completely over to Robert.

Nick scratched his head as he stared at the steaming pile of shit on the stark white runner, as did several horrified wedding guests who’d already been seated. “What do you want me to do?”

“Go get it!” Mrs. Smith exclaimed as quietly as she could.

“Um, okay. The shi… I mean the poop, right? Ah….” Nick took a step back from the wedding planner, whose eyes were bulging. “Do you have anything I can use to—”

The sound that came out of the tiny woman next to him made his hair stand up. Which was quite a feat, considering his hair was short. Man, even the peacock hadn’t sounded that deranged.

“O-oh, okay, then. Wow.” He assumed she meant for him to get the poop, but now he wasn’t so sure. “Ah, guess not. I’m open to suggestions, just in case, you know, you got any.”

Mrs. Smith fanned her face, her eyes promising death, as she hysterically tapped the headphones she wore. “Art? Art? Are you there? Come in. Come in. Oh my God, sweetie, please answer.”

Seeing an opportunity to escape, he edged away from the wedding planner.

Mrs. Smith grabbed Nick by his shirt again and jerked him down to her level. “You listen to me, young man. Go get that runner out of there right now. That bride’s wedding gown cost ten thousand dollars, and I am not having her walk across bird shit just to get to the altar. Ten thousand dollars. Do you understand that?”

Nick gulped. Ten thousand? Who the hell spent that kind of money on a dress? Was the bride insane along with her wedding planner? No, he didn’t understand that. Not for clothing. Now, for a four-wheeler? Oh yeah, he’d drop that kind of cash on a four-wheeler in a heartbeat.

Once Mrs. Smith released him, Nick raced out there and shooed the bird out of the way. He quickly removed the runner, hissing only slightly when Mister Peacock pecked him on the ass. Damn pain-in-the-ass bird. He was going to pluck the bastard clean one day. He stood, and the peacock pranced out of his way.

Smart bird.

Art, the guy Mrs. Smith had been harping at on her headset, magically appeared right behind Nick, laying down a new runner. This runner wasn’t as spiffy as the first one, but it was missing a very important element in its design—peacock poop.

Nick pulled Mister Peacock’s favorite treat out of his pocket and held it out. Luck was on Nick’s side. The birdbrain followed Nick back to its pen. He threw the treat inside, and Mister Peacock followed after it, no problem. Of course. It preened, looking entirely too pleased with itself. Stupid bird was going to be the death of him, if he didn’t kill it first. Okay, he was joking. Sort of. Maybe.

“Blasted pain-in-the-ass bird,” he muttered as the first sounds of the wedding march drifted to him.

“Ahhhhh whhaaaaahh whahhh whhhhaaaa!”

“Right back at you, you overgrown dust buster.” Nick sincerely hoped no more birds shit on this damn event.

Springtime was their busy time for weddings. The dogwoods were in bloom all over the farm, the weather hadn’t turned melt-your-face-off hot yet, and the air carried the fragrant scent of flowers. Even though it was just the end of April, he was still sweating buckets.

The standing joke was that if you didn’t like Memphis weather, just wait thirty minutes and it would change. They’d already had a few days with the temperature pushing ninety degrees. The humidity wasn’t bad yet, but it was coming. By August the humidity would be as thick as his aunt Sally’s soup and just as deadly.

ma-church-wolf-square-banner_full-size

About the Author

M.A. Church is a true Southern belle who spent many years in the elementary education sector. Now she spends her days lost in fantasy worlds, arguing with hardheaded aliens on far-off planets, herding her numerous shifters, or trying to tempt her country boys away from their fishing poles. It’s a full time job, but hey, someone’s gotta do it!

When not writing, she’s on the back porch tending to the demanding wildlife around the pond in the backyard. The ducks are very outspoken. She’s married to her high school sweetheart, and they have two grown children.

She was a finalist in the 2013 Rainbow Awards, runner up in the 2015 Rainbow Awards, and is a member of Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America.

Links: