Thursday, April 30, 2009

And the winner is...

Martha E.

I promised to draw another name on April 30 for A Tisket, A Tasket. And the lucky recipient of an e-copy of Spark of Magic is the lovely and, I am sure, talented Martha E.

Martha, if you email me at with your email address, I'll send you Spark of Magic. Congratulations! Thanks for participating, and good luck getting DH & DS to pick up after themselves.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Talk about amazing...

Today I'm showcasing Cate Masters who's had NINE acceptances in less than a year and a total of FIFTEEN since her run of good luck began. In addition, Cate’s short stories and flash fiction have appeared in various web zines and press sites. I’ve asked her to share a bit about her recent successes. We can all use inspiration like that!

It’s an exciting year for me. The Wild Rose Press released my sixties-era short romance, Seventh Heaven, in mid-March. On May 6, they’ll release my short fantasy, The Duende and the Muse. On July 16, they’ll release my contemporary short Going with Gravity, and last month they accepted Design for Life, a sweet contemporary. Eternal Press contracted two novellas—a contemporary women’s fiction and an urban fantasy—and both are supposed to be available sometime this summer. Wild Child Publishing contracted a short contemporary, Liberation via Pen, which should be out sometime this year. Shadowfire Press is set to release my short Halloween-themed urban fantasy, Reflections, on October 2. Freya's Bower accepted my short urban fantasy, The Lure of the Vine, last weekend. A few more stories and novels are out there circulating, and I’m hoping to have news on them soon. Anyone interested can find updates on my blog: Readers can find links to my stories, including those published in web zines (i.e., freebies), at

Such recordbreaking success didn't have come easily. You've invested years of hard work in learning your craft. When did you first dream of being a writer and what steps did you take to follow your dream?

It seems like I always wrote something. About age ten, I wrote poetry and continued until recently, when fiction drew me entirely away. In high school, I also wrote for the school newspaper. I started a novel in my twenties but found it too difficult to write while my kids were young and worked at a full-time job (and simultaneously a part-time job for many years). In my thirties I picked fiction up again more seriously and began buying how-to books and took several online workshops (Gotham Writers Workshop, Writer’s Digest, etc.), and attended local workshops and writer’s gatherings. I joined several critique groups. For a few years, my demanding day job allowed no time to write for myself, and I felt miserableexcept that it was an incredible learning experience, and taught me to evaluate each word’s weight within a sentence. This past year, pressing personal issues forced me to quit work, and I focused on my writing full-time. Joy! And it saved my sanity in a tough time.

You write in a lot of genres. Do you have a favorite and why?

I’m too ADD to have a favorite! I love to experiment. Every genre poses its unique challenges and rewards. I do love urban fantasy, but also contemporary. Not being much for history in school, I was surprised at how much I loved bringing historical characters to life. Flash and short fiction are good exercises for tightening prose, but I also love how novels allow me to explore a story in detail. I love it all!

Some of your books are set in areas where you've lived/grown up. Can you share some of your memories of those places & why they're special to you?

I was very lucky to grow up in an artsy community. Lambertville/New Hope is nationally known for its art, antiques and theater. I also had incredibly talented friends who all loved music as much as I did. Since about third grade, we wrote poetry together, sang together, drew and painted. An amazingly nourishing environment for being creative. But I also like to explore places I’ve never been through writing. The Internet makes it easy to research locations, and I’ve also sent for visitors guides to help provide setting details. Fantasy’s fun for creating new worlds.

Growing up in an artsy community has carried over to your writing. Many of your stories contain references to art and music. What arts do you have a passion for?

I couldn’t live without music. I could never pick five CDs to take with me on a deserted island. I’d need a carrier pigeon to bring me the latest releases! Although I can’t listen to music while writingI get too caught up in it. I’ve dabbled in so much (though lately, not so much)painting, photography, gardening, jewelry making, needlework. In high school, I spent a lot of time sketching. I’ve attempted to play the piano and guitar, but gave it up at the request of my family. Photography comes in handy for making book trailers, which I find lots of fun.

Speaking of trailers, your son did incredible music for them.

Thank you! My husband and I recognized our son Chris’ gift for music at about age two and tried to nurture it by keeping his instrument supply updated. He has an uncanny ability to listen to a song once and play it. He also writes his own music, and I used his songs in my first three trailers. Below is the trailer for Seventh Heaven. I took the photos of the Lambertville/New Hope area on a trip home.

He's obviously very talented, as are you. Has following your passion encouraged your other children to follow theirs?

My daughter Abbey’s a stickler for language like me (luckily, she inherited my husband’ math skills and his mechanical aptitude). My youngest, Becca, has collaborated in designing furniture with my husband, who’s a woodworker, and sketched some pretty cool fashion, too. The Wild Rose Press recently contracted Design for Life, a story I wrote for Becca, as part of their Flower Basket series. I hope I’ve inspired my kids to follow their bliss, to explore within themselves and discover the gratification of nurturing their souls.

To have written so many books and stories, you must have a wonderful imagination. Where do you get your ideas? And what do you do if your muse decides to take a vacation?

Again, it depends on the story. My imagination’s triggered by any number of things. Sometimes I hear a character’s line in my head, and the story takes off from there. Sometimes a name will evoke an entire character. My imagination’s very vivid, and I generally see the story in my head like a movie. While on vacation in Key West five years ago, we visited a maritime museum and a story vision stopped me in my tracks (no liquor was involved, I swear!). That’s the only time that’s ever happened. It was a bit scary! But I spent a day in the Key West library copying old articles and bought a few books about the area’s history. Last year, I signed up for NaNoWriMo and focused on that story, finally. That historical romance novel is now circulating with publishers.

I have a backlog of story ideas and add to it continually. If my muse wants a vacation, it’s well deserved! And I have plenty to keep me busy.

Any habits/rituals you follow to get yourself in the writing mode?

Turn on the computer and sit in front of it. I treat my writing like a day job, except I rarely get a day off!

What stumbling blocks have you encountered and how have you overcome them?

Time’s been the biggest stumbling block lately. I found it necessary to designate a certain chunk of time for email and throwing sheep at Facebook friends, then it’s back to writing. Promotion’s another time management struggle. Blogging’s fun and a great marketing tool but can suck away too much time. I also have to curb my research. It’s essential and I love it, but I can get carried away there, too.

What comes first in your writing process? A scene, characters, title? Are you a plotter?

Depends. The title’s usually last. I rarely like the titles I come up with. Initially, I was a total pantser and let the characters drive the story. Sometimes it was like herding cats. But plotting doesn’t work well for me. I find it too restricting. I settled on outlining, which helps me to know where the story’s going in general, but have the wiggle room to let my characters wander off on a tangent if they insist.

What characters in your books are most like you and why?

I suppose it’s inevitable that part of any writer’s personality ends up in the story. But again, I like to experiment and explore. I love stories that touch a nerve with people and resonate. I try to avoid making my characters like me – I’d end up writing the same character every time. Personalities are so complex, it’s easy to layer on various aspects. Sometimes I add traits to characters I wish I had!

So what's the real Cate Masters like?

I’m painfully shy. Less so than when I was young, when it actually prevented me from following my dream of becoming a journalist. I could never envision myself intruding on people’s lives efficiently enough to interview them. In my thirties, I made a conscious decision not to let it hold me back any longer. I challenged myself to try something that scared me—I freelanced for the local newspaper. It was a thrill to see my stories on the front page. And since then, I’ve realized how important it is for your personal growth to challenge yourself. Try something you think you can’t do. You’ll amaze yourself.

What do you find most challenging about being a writer?

Because I visualize my stories so vividly, sometimes it’s a challenge to translate what’s in my head to paper. Revisions were painful, early on. In the last few years, I’ve learned to respect them and give them their due. If I put something out there, I want the finished product to be my best possible work. Writing’s a high for me, especially when I manage to string together a well-constructed sentence conveying what’s actually in my head. Language is a powerful tool, and I love the feeling I’ve created something worthwhile, something even vaguely approaching art. I hope to create stories other writers recognize as being crafted with skill and care, and that take readers on a memorable journey.

Before we end the interview, do you have anything special you'd like to share with readers?

A few years ago, Ian McEwan visited our area to promote Saturday, after his success with Atonement. At his booksigning, I asked him for advice for wannabe-published authors. He said: Keep writing. At the time, I thought he just wanted to keep the long line moving, but I’ve since realized the truth of it. It’s so important to just keep at it. I’d also advise you not to be hard on yourself. Rejection’s tough to endure, but use it to improve your writing. And don’t take it personally. If a story’s rejected, polish it up and send it right back out until some editor or publisher picks it up.

I don’t believe in regrets. Sometimes what feels like the wrong path in life can actually provide something useful you’ll need on your way to where you want to go. Hmm, sounds very mystical but I believe it’s true. I’m probably living proof!

Okay, I do have one regret: that I was never in a girl band. I’m pretty sure I could’ve given the GoGos a run for their money, if I’d ever learned to sing and play guitar at the same time!

Ahh...but I'm sure her readers won't regret the time and energy you've poured into learning your craft. And who knows? With so much success already heading your way, maybe that girl band is next.

For those of you who are dying to read Cate's latest release, she has a special treat for readers:

She's giving away a PDF copy of Seventh Heaven. To enter, email her at with Seventh Heaven Contest in the subject line. If you win, she’ll respond to your email with the PDF attached. She’ll announce the winner here and on her blog tomorrow, April 23, at 9 p.m. Also, be sure to leave a comment for Cate.

That's not the only giveaway Cate's participating in. I mentioned The Wild Rose Press Sony e-reader contest in previous posts (see below). Buy a copy of Seventh Heaven by Cate Masters for a chance to win!

Saturday, April 11, 2009

And the Winner Is...

JUDY! Congratulations, Judy. You win your choice of hand-molded soaps or an e-copy of Spark of Magic. You can email me at, and let me know which you prefer. Sorry for the late announcement... I've been traveling for the holidays. Happy searching for the eggs.

Monday, April 6, 2009

Three-Second Tip for a Clutter-Free House

Hate to Houseclean? Me too! I’d rather spend my time writing. Because we’re following a spring theme for these posts, I thought I’d share one of my secrets for keeping clutter to a minimum and reducing the amount of time I need to spend cleaning.


The hardest part of cleaning usually isn’t the vacuuming or dusting, it’s fighting your way through the mountains of clutter that accumulate during the week(s) (or months?) between cleaning bouts. I can sympathize. With five children, a full time job, and many hobbies and activities; I never had enough hours in the day. Housecleaning came lowest on my list of priorities. But, people were always amazed when they dropped by my house unexpectedly.
If I heard it once, I heard it a hundred times: How do you manage to keep your house so clean with this many children? In the midst of our chaotic schedule, our house almost always looked neat (even if dust bunnies resided under the furniture and the carpet hadn’t been vacuumed recently), because of my SECRET OF THREE.

I started training our children to clean as soon as they could walk. Even toddlers aren’t too young to learn. Make it a game, and they’ll soon be doing their share to minimize clutter. And our kids reminded each other. If someone walked out of a room without following the rule, a sibling would ask, “Where are your 3?”

Here’s the simple rule: 3 items in 3 seconds

Never leave a room without grabbing 3 things to put away. Every room you walk through, pick up 3 things and return them to where they belong. It’s amazing how fast your rooms get clean by making that a habit. It only takes 3 seconds of your time. Challenge yourself to try it.

Here’s a typical day. I get up. 1) Pick up the pillow that fell on the floor & pop it on the bed. Toss 2 dirty socks in the hamper as I head to the bathroom. 2) Bathroom: Put cap back on toothpaste & put it away. Pick up dirty tissue someone left behind & toss it in trash. Throw towel on floor in hamper. 3) Kitchen—breakfast bowl into dishwasher; toss banana peel and used tea bag into trash 4) Into mud room to let out dog—pick up pair of boots & an umbrella left out to dry last night, stick them in closet; 5) Back to bedroom to dress—hang up yesterday’s outfit (2 pieces) and as I leave room, grab youngest daughter’s teddy bear to return to her room 6) Daughter’s bedroom—throw three toys into bin before leaving room; 7) Into bathroom to turn off water someone left running—put away shampoo bottle, teen’s acne cream & hairbrush 8) Pass through living room on way to car—stick 3 bills into secretary desk in corner of room. Youngest son is with me—he grabs 3 pieces of junk mail to put in shredder (his favorite job—but we have to make sure he only shreds stuff we want shredded). Middle daughter takes stack of library books to car.

How long did it take me to do all that? 3 seconds per room at most. And although I picked up some of the kids’ stuff, they also picked up some of mine. Teen daughter came in to use our mirror while her brother was in shower. She hung my bathrobe on its hook, put away the wrinkle cream I’d left on my dresser, and took her hairbrush with her when she left. Younger daughter had dropped her teddy bear in our room when she came in to snuggle in our bed early in the morning, but she put away the sneakers her dad left out after his morning run and returned her brother’s matchbox car when she passed his room.

It may be a simple habit, but it’s one that’ll pay great benefits. Try it for a week. I guarantee you’ll be hooked. Keep up the practice, and it won’t be long until your house is a clutter-free zone.

3 items in 3 seconds = 3 times less clutter

[And here’s a bonus tip: If you can’t find anything to put away in a room, do a quick 3-second chore—make a bed, swish the brush around inside the toilet, swipe a sponge across the kitchen counter, run a feather duster across a dresser. Come cleaning day, you’ll have trouble finding much to clean.]

Have a quick and simple spring cleaning tip to share? Leave a comment with a cleaning suggestion (or even your reaction to this post) to have your name entered in drawing. The winner has the choice of handmade molded soaps or a free copy of Spark of Magic. One SECRET OF THREE commenter will be chosen tomorrow and one on the last day of April, so check back both times to see who that lucky person is. If you have more than one tip, or you’d like to respond to additional posts, that’s fine too. Each comment will get you an entry in the drawing.

To hunt for those hidden eggs (hope you checked around my site for one), be sure to check out Teri Wilson’s site tomorrow at

And when you’ve found all the hidden eggs, remember to sign onto Skhye Moncrief's blog at for the winner of the huge grand prize drawing. Who knows? Maybe you’ll win both! Contest details are posted below.

And if you’d like a chance to win a Sony e-reader, check out the details about Spark of Magic below “A Tisket, A Tasket.”

To enter to win prizes from the authors donating treasures to the grand prize (see each day's post for what an author is donating to the grand prize), find the four Easter eggs in the A TISKET A TISKET, PUT ROMANCE IN YOUR BASKET blog event.

You will be searching for an egg like this one. Just visit all of the authors' websites, locate the 4 eggs, make a list of their locations by pasting the urls to the website pages in an e-mail, then send the entry to by midnight CST on May 1st, 2009. The winner will be randomly drawn and announced May 2nd at Tip #1, subscribe to to learn if you're the winner! And don't worry. If you start on the blog event late, just head back to Silver James' blog on or after April 1st at to begin your website search for the Easter eggs. Don't miss the fun! See you next to the burgundy tulips.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Win a Sony eReader !

Buy Spark of Magic for only $1.50, and your name will be entered the drawing for the giveaway. The link for the contest is below. In addition to my book, there are many other wonderful novels/stories to choose from--the list of authors is posted at the site. Buy more than one. Each time you enter, you get another chance to win.

You can find it here:

As the reviewers say, it's short & sweet. A quick read. And at a price that won't break the bank.