Wednesday, December 19, 2012

The Next Big Thing

The Next Big Thing (Week 29).

When Robert K. Lewis, one of the most amazing and utterly kick-butt writers I know, asked me if I'd take part in The Next Big Thing Blog Hop, I couldn't say no.  And did I mention he's got a book being released in just a few months?  Guaranteed to blow you away.  

Figured this would be a great opportunity to tell you a little more about my most current books.

1- What is the working title of your book? 
I'm currently working on A Highland Heist.  It's the third book in my series, following The Highlander's Hope and A Highland Home. 
2- Where did the idea come from for the book? 
In the first book, my main characters find these priceless jewels, so I figured it would be fun to incorporate the jewels into this third book, since my two main characters deal with security-- one builds contraptions for museums and the other does computer security.  But their personalities are completely at odds, so it makes for some fun moments.
3- What genre does your book fall under?
It's a contemporary romance with a touch of suspense.
4- Which actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie rendition?
I think Noah Huntley would be pretty close for Conall.  Not sure about Maggie-- she's Irish and really spunky.  I'm open to suggestions!
5- What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?
A long lost treasure, a smart and sexy historian and Scotland's most eligible bachelor-- what could go wrong?
6- Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?
The entire series is self published with the first in the series free!
7- How long did it take you to write the first draft of your manuscript?
I'm still working on A Highland Heist, but most my books take 3-6 months to write.
8- What else about your book might pique the reader's interest?
It's really a lot of fun, and a light read. 

Tagged for next week (Week 30) is my very talented writer friend, Jean Oram, who writes not only amazing non-fiction about keeping your kids happy and healthy, but also writes wonderfully fun romances. Check out her blog next Wednesday, December 26, when it's her turn to post answers to these same questions about her own works-in-progress!

Wednesday, November 28, 2012


So sorry I've been MIA.  But I have a good excuse!  I swear!!  : )

Back in May I decided I'd switch gears a bit with my writing, and write a contemporary romance or two or three.  Not that I don't love my steampunk/victorian romances, but I needed a bit of a break.  You've been living in the past too long when your everyday speech starts sounding odd to friends and family.

With my decision made, I buckled down and set myself some deadlines.  I wanted to have the first of two novels completed and up, with the first one free, by the holiday season.  Normally, my steampunk novels are close to 100K words, and getting two books of that length written in six months time would be close to impossible for me--especially when still juggling my biotech classes, book cover business, and lets not forget my family--but the nice thing with contemporary romances is that they're typically only 55-60K words. A far more doable prospect.  And it's been really fun if a bit crazy.

Happy to say, I reached my goal, and finally feel like I can come up for air!  Book one, The Highlander's Hope, and book two, A Highland Home, are both up now at all venues-- Amazon, B&N (though book 1 is missing its cover-- an issue I'm frantically trying to resolve), iTunes, Kobo, etc.  Oh!!  And they're written under a new pen name-- Cali MacKay.  Given that these are contemporary romances that are sweet, light and fun reads, and  rather different to my Calista Taylor stories which tend to have a darker edge, I figured it might be best to keep the two separated.  Not that the pen name's a secret-- just a way of easily distinguishing my two writing styles.  Of course, I couldn't resist my Scottish heroes, so at least that's the same.

Oh!  And my steampunk craft book is also now available!!  Yeah... a busy few months.  ; )  Promise to try and keep things updated more frequently.  Thanks for putting up with me!!  And don't forget to pick up your copy of The Highlander's Hope-- it's FREE!!

Monday, April 2, 2012

JACK-- Now Available!

I'm happy to say, JACK is now available on Amazon and Barnes & Noble!  With Jack the Ripper as a grim reaper who's gone rogue, I hope JACK offers a unique take on the murders.

I know it probably seems odd to combine a romance with the Jack the Ripper mystery and murders, but the story primarily focuses on the romance between the two reapers searching for Jack, while the murders serve as more of a backdrop-- and yet, not all is as it seems.  Though this is a story about one of the most famous serial killers, I promise it's not a gore-fest.

There were some great sites out there that chronicled the Jack the Ripper murders, but most indispensable was Casebook: Jack the Ripper.  There was also great info at and the Metropolitan Police site.

Here's a bit of a sample. I do hope you'll enjoy it!!

London, August 7, 1888
It was a pity to ruin such perfection with death, but death waited for no one and made few distinctions.  Lilly strolled through the park that beautiful sunny morning, looking for the reason she’d been drawn to the area.  It didn’t take long for her to find him, the telltale sign of golden light surrounding the handsome young man.  A perfect day and a perfect life would both soon come to an end.
She walked in his direction, the cobbles splattered with the shifting light and shadows that played through the tree branches.  Then, just within reach, she pretended to stumble.  The young gentleman, acting on reflex and instinct, caught her just as she’d anticipated. 
“Pardon me, sir.”  Still in his arms, Lilly gave him a shy smile.  A tingling warmth radiated from her hand as she marked the poor man, the golden light around him now fading to grey. 
She thanked him for his assistance and then continued down the road with a pang of regret.  With her job now complete, he would not live longer than a week.  It was always more difficult when they were young and healthy, but she did not choose who lived or died.  She only carried out Fate’s decisions. 
With her reaps complete, and no longer in the mood to be out in the city, she took her carriage home with nothing but her thoughts as company for the ride.  She had not chosen this life, but it was better than the alternative of a cold dark grave—though not by much.  Even after ten years of bringing death to unsuspecting souls, she had yet to do more than ignore the guilt that tore her up inside, and mourn all she’d left behind, her life taken away before she’d had the chance to fully live it. 
Daniel, her footman, let her in and informed her that she had company.  “He insisted on waiting for you, m’ lady.”  He handed her the man’s calling card.  “I dared not turn him away.  He’s in the sitting room.”
She needed no more than a quick glance at the card to see why.  “Some tea, if you would be so kind.”
She steeled herself with a deep breath, managed a smile, and entered the sitting room.  “Lord Archer.  What a pleasant surprise.  It’s been too long.”  She couldn’t quite keep the sarcasm from her voice or her heart from racing at the sight of him.  It nearly escaped her memory how tall and handsome the bastard was.  Not that he’d forgotten.
“Lilly, love, certainly we know each other well enough that you can call me by my given name.”  The corners of Mason’s full and pouty mouth turned up in a hint of a smile, as a dark lock fell casually past hazel eyes.  “I had not thought it possible for you to look even more beautiful than the last time we met, and yet I am mistaken.” 
Lilly was not wont to believe a single word, given that she no longer aged.  She looked no older than twenty three—the age at which she died—though her facial features had been altered just enough to give her a new identity.  It was a small protection lest she run into someone she knew from her life amongst the living.
When Mason closed the distance between them, she crossed her arms in front of her, hoping it would offer some protection from his charms.  It seemed Mason was the one man she could seldom resist for long.  No matter how hard she fought it, there was something about him that weakened her defenses.  
“What do you want, Mason?  I have no patience for your games.”
“That’s a pity, my dear, for you know how fun they can be.”   He ran a gentle finger down the line of her cheek. 
She managed a glare while cursing her body’s reaction to his touch, a tingling heat that refused to be ignored.  “I’m in no mood, and quite frankly, I’d rather be alone.”
“Did you have a difficult day?”  His eyes softened while he took her in, his touch warm as he gently cupped her cheek.
“Damn it, Mason.” She swatted his hand away, frustration getting the better of her.  “I hate it when they’re young.  They think they have their whole life ahead of them, and then I come along and cut that life short.”
“You have too kind a heart, my dear.  We do not make the decisions, even if it’s our duty to carry them out.” 
He leaned in and stole a lingering kiss—and she let him, needing to feel a part of her fleeting humanity. 
His mood then turned towards the serious.  “Unfortunately, I’m here on a difficult matter, though I’d like nothing more than for us to pick up where we left off.”
Lilly rubbed her arms to ward off a sudden chill, despite the warm summer air.  Mason was not one of the Elders, but had been around long enough to hold a position of power.  She could not imagine any of his business as chancellor would concern her, even if she was one of his reapers.  “What is it?”
“It’s Torrington.”  He searched her face as he spoke and it made her wonder why.  “Seems like he’s gotten himself in a bit of trouble and has gone missing.  I’m afraid the Elders aren’t happy in the least, and need him found.” 
Dark, brooding, Jack Torrington.  Her heart skipped a beat to hear his name.  She had hoped to find a bit of normalcy with him, yet in the end, both her past and his had been too much to overcome.
“Well, I’ve not seen him in months, and you know well enough that anything I had with Jack ended years ago.”  She held Mason’s gaze so he’d know she spoke the truth.  The last time she’d drawn the attention of the Elders, she’d barely survived it. 
He stepped to her side and wrapped an arm around her waist, bending his head towards hers.  “It may have ended, but no one’s ever been closer to him, and you were also the only one he had… relations with on this side of the veil.  I need your help, and you know him better than any of us, love.” 
What did her relations with Jack have to do with the matter?  Feeling uneasy, she stepped out of Mason’s arms and put some distance between them.  “Why are you looking for him? What sort of trouble has he gotten into?”
“I’ll explain while we take my carriage.  I’d not ask if it weren’t necessary, but there’s no way around it, I’m afraid.”
“You want to go now?”  Her mind raced through the possibilities and came up empty.  Though Jack’s dislike for being a reaper was no secret, he was not one to get himself into any sort of trouble.  Indeed the only time Jack had ever strayed from the rules the Elders set forth was in order to help her.  “Tell me what’s happened, Mason.” 
“Words cannot even describe.”

Monday, February 13, 2012

Using Story Boards for Inspiration (via Pinterest!)

I've always kept folders on my computer for pictures I'd come across that reminded me of my characters or books, BUT I recently started to do something a little bit different-- Story Boards!!

There's something about having a field of pictures laid out in front you, immersing you in a visual experience that calls to your muse.  It's even better when it's easy to attach pictures a variety of boards with just a few clicks.  My critique partner and writing buddy, Jean Oram, recently turned me on to Pinterest, and I've gotta say-- it's been revolutionary for me. 

With Pinterest, you download a small file that applies a "Pin it!" button to your browser bar, so whenever you find something to pin, you just click on the button, and you can add it to the board of your choice.  How easy is that!!  And I'll confess-- I use it for stuff other than storyboards.  It really is just an easy way to visually bookmark things.

The other nice thing about Pinterest is you can follow a picture back to people's boards where you'll find more pictures similar to the original, and also a link back to the original source.  This makes it a great way to find new sources for inspiration.

Within just a week or two, I've put together a story boards for the manuscripts I'm currently working on, in addition to boards I can use for inspiration when it comes to writing.  I'm a very visual person, so surrounding myself with amazing photos always triggers all sorts of story ideas.   The other great thing about a storyboard is it allows me to "see" all the little details in a scene, since I tend to be very sparse when it comes to including descriptions of any sort.  By looking at a picture, I can see all the little details that bring a story to life, and  I'd likely overlook.

The photos often come from "pins" others have added to their own Pinterest boards, but other great sources for pictures are Tumblr (a sort of visual blog venue), Deviantart, and Flickr.  If I'm looking for models that might match up with my characters, I like browsing for male models and for female models. For visually stunning photos, do a search (Flickr has a great collection) of HDR.  This is a photographic technique that results in photos that will blow you away.

Now for the one drawback with Pinterest.  I don't know why-- and I hope it's only a growing pains thing for them-- but their search engine, to put it mildly, sucks.  I've tried searching for friends I know are on there, but come up empty handed.  And searches for items turn up fewer results than I'd expect.  Still, for putting together a story board, quick and easy, it's been amazing, and I've still found more photos than I know what to do with.

So, I wish you happy pinning!!  And if you feel like following me or checking out my Pinterest boards, I can be found here!

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Kid's Play

Today we're taking a bit of a detour from our normal corsets and discussing the written word.  A great friend-- and my critique partner!-- has put together an awesome site about Kid's Play.  And really, if you've got young ones running underfoot, what could be better than finding a great way to keep them busy and happy, so that you might even be able to get a bit of writing done?

So without further ado, I'd like to introduce Jean Oram, creator of It's All Kid's Play. 

  • You’ve recently started promoting your blog Kid’s Play, a cool site where parents can find ideas to keep bored kids happy, occupied and active—and on a tight budget, no less.  As a writer of fiction, did you find it difficult to blog about something non-writing related or does writing fiction help with the creativity you need for the ideas in your blog? 
I think writing fiction has helped me define my voice. As for creativity, I think all fiction writers are creative by their very nature. We’ve tuned into that child inside that is constantly asking ‘why’ and ‘what happens if…” So fiction writing has definitely helped in that regard.

As for blogging about non-writing related things, anything I am interested in, inspired by, or believe in seems to be fairly easy to write about.

  • Can you tell us a little bit about Kid’s Play? 
My website,, has hundreds of activities, arts and crafts, games, party ideas, boredom busters, challenges and other great things for children and families or for people looking to try “slow parenting” (essentially the opposite of hyper-parenting). 

Basically, the premise behind the site is that screen time is taking over many childhoods because it is an easy way to engage children (that’s how TV shows, computer/video games and movies are designed). However, as experts are learning, too much screen time is not healthy for child development as what children engage in shapes their brain and screen time limits our brain’s plasticity (ability to create connections). Yikes!

On the other hand, free play (unstructured, unscheduled play) has been found to be very healthy for children. It has been found to increase problem-solving skills, self-esteem, grow personal confidence, increase communication skills, decrease depression, reduce the risk of obesity, increase resiliency, and so many other positive things. In fact, play has been recognized by the United Nations High Commission for Human Rights as the right of every child. 

So, that’s where It’s All Kid’s Play comes in. It’s a resource that is a TON of fun for families to help them beat back the boredom blues and find engaging ways to bring free play back into their lives. 

  • How do you get your ideas for your projects and activities? 
I started this project several years ago when my daughter was about a year old. I wrote down  one thing that I wanted to remember that seemed cool—she was too young to do it yet. And by the end of three days I had over 200 ideas in that notebook. It seems that one idea comes to me and soon all its friends want to come and hang out too! (I now have close to 1000.)

  • What’s one of your favorite activities? 

My favourites are definitely in the ‘tricky challenges’ section. I love the way kids get totally into things like trying to lick their elbow, touch their nose or chin with their tongue, touch their elbows behind their back, cross their eyes, wiggle their ears and/or nose. I used to turn my 4 & 5-year-old class at the library completely wild with these sorts of challenges before we’d do story time. (Why on earth they continue to agree to put me in a library, I don’t know! I’m so disruptive!) Before long we’d be doing things like trying to put our foot behind our head (ouch!) and suck on our big toe (can still do that one!). I love the energy and creativity that comes out when kids test what they can do.

  • I know you write adult fiction.  Have you thought about writing children’s books also?

I have a partially completed middle grade (for ages 7-10ish) novel that is about a boy ghost. However, life keeps interfering on completing that one. I’d like to get back to it though. It’s a fun premise.

  • It seems like you have such a knack for coming up with ideas to keep kids busy.  Did you have a very creative childhood?  Do you think it did/didn’t have an influence?

My own childhood has totally influenced my philosophy on play as well as my website It’s All Kid’s Play.

I grew up on an acreage/farm on the outskirts of a hamlet (population 100). While I was lucky to be part of a baby boom (there were 6 of us girls and 1 boy within 2 years of each other right in town), there were still periods of boredom where I didn’t know what to do and had to figure out how to entertain myself. (We didn’t have cable/satellite, internet wasn’t around, I didn’t have an Atari, and videos weren’t around particularly affordable.)

As well, us girls (and Ryan) would get bored doing the same stuff over and over again and so they’d turn to me to ‘fix’ it. So, I’d write out a list of things we could play (sounds familiar doesn’t it?) and we’d all choose something and whatever everyone didn’t mind doing, we’d do! We made some pretty awesome forts out of the junk on our farm.

  • What’s next for Kid’s Play?

Hopefully it will appear bigger, greater and even more fun in book form! <crosses fingers and prays to the gods of publishing and all things wonderful>

  • Ice cream sandwiches or cupcakes?  Finger painting or playing in the mud?  Pink polka dot elephants or purple unicorns? 
Awesome question! I can’t believe you are going to make me choose!
Okay, hands down ice cream sandwiches—one of my all time favourites!
While I’m always a sucker for playing in the mud (I make a mean mudpie with pine cone lacing), today I’m in the mood for finger painting. I love the feel of cool, smooth, wet paint between my fingers!
And finally, I’m going to go with those awesome elephants as I’ve never been a unicorn kind of gal--although I do recognize their allure.

  • Where can we find you and all your great ideas?

I’m all over the place. I must be making up for the lack of screen time during my youth. ;)

Personal website and blog:

It’s All Kid’s Play:

Twitter: writing related stuff:
Twitter: Kid’s Play activity of the day and parenting resources:

Facebook (resources, activity of the day, etc.) for It’s All Kid’s Play:

Thank you so much for having me, Calista! I appreciate it. Happy playing!