Spotlight on A Pretty Penny

I’m thrilled to spotlight Neva Brown’s second novel…

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Blurb

Wealthy, arrogant Clayton Brandt knows well the costs of a woman. Not until Penelope (Penny) Jones comes into his life does he know the value of a woman.

Anger at Clayton, her new boss, causes Penny to snap out of the lethargy she’s experienced after seeing her husband killed. She puts to use all her innate abilities, learned skills, and intuitiveness to cope with the overbearing Clayton and the women in his life. Penny, in time, knows she loves him, but will not become one of his women—not on his terms.

On her terms, they marry only to be parted by federal agents before they leave their wedding reception. The ensuing intrigue, danger, and antics of Clayton’s ex-wife play a part in Penny being in eminent peril. Even after their love survives all this, it is once again threatened by a letter from a vindictive woman who is dead. The letter devastates Clayton and crushes his hopes for happiness.

How Clayton and Penny find their happy-ever-after is a breath-holding adventure at times and a breathtaking love story at other times.

Excerpt

Awestruck and wondering how a rodeo producer managed to have such a grandiose personal jet, Penny jumped in surprise at the clipped, commanding voice behind her. She turned and focused on the imposing man who extended a lean, hard hand for her to shake as he towered over her.

“I presume you’re Wilma’s little friend.”

His emphasis on “little” implied so much more than the fact that she was only five foot two, one hundred five pounds. She stiffened.

“I’m Penelope Ann Jones. And, yes, Wilma and I are friends.”

“I’m Clayton Brandt, your boss.” His icy stare chilled her from head to toe.

“Are you another of her projects, or can you do a day’s work for a day’s pay?”

Her haughtiness probably added to his irritation, but she wasn’t about to cower before this arrogant tyrant.

Stretching her neatly clad body and raising her eyes from his chest to his cold, gray eyes, she answered with an indifferent tone.

“I can do the work Wilma said would be expected of me, sir.”

She bit her tongue to keep from adding that she had a master’s degree in finance, held a CPA license, and had worked as a secretary all the way through college. Just because she had been following the rodeo did not make her incapable, just besotted with love.

He curtly dismissed her. “Get buckled up. The pilot is ready to take off.”

***

His woodsy scent and the feel of his hand still lingered in her memory. From her luxurious lounger, she continued to watch. He frowned at Wilma. His words became clear enough for Penny to hear.

“I thought we got through your ‘mother hen’ phase a few years back. Where did you find this one?”

Wilma’s longsuffering look made Penny strain to hear the reply.

“The ‘mother hen’ periods as you call them passed a long time ago. Penny is different. She was Jason’s wife, but none of our family even knew they were married. They’d been married almost a year when that bull killed him.”

“Then she’s a rich young widow. Why does she need to work?”

“Things aren’t quite what they seem. Jason never got around to changing his will and never had her sign a signature card to draw on his account at the bank. Being his usual distracted self, he just gave her cash. She had money but no permanent financial security.”

“So I guess you’re paying her bills. No wonder you want to put her to work.”

“Clayton, she was my baby brother’s wife and was ‘holed up’ in that fifth wheel at a trailer park with nothing but crackers and peanut butter. She’s smart and willing to work. You know I wouldn’t ask you to hire her if I didn’t believe she could do the job.”

He scowled at Wilma as she added, “I’d bet six month’s wages she’ll do a good job.”

“You may not have six month’s wages if she messes up. I don’t suffer fools and lazy people, as you well know. Right now, she looks like both to me,” he growled.

Penny let her eyelids shut completely at the hostile sound of his voice. A surge of adrenaline made her ears ring and her muscles twitch. Her anger churned, and her thoughts raced. Just who does this aging Adonis with a Neanderthal attitude think he is? Wilma thinks he hung the moon, and he acts like she is just some inconsequential employee when, in reality, she shields him from all kinds of thorny situations every day. She’s always telling me about the mountain of work she does to smooth the way for him. What an insufferable man!

Bio

NEVA profile pic (2)Neva Brown, a retired secondary teacher/administrator, now enjoys the challenge of writing romance novels and doing editing for other romance writers.

Neva spent most of her life on West Texas ranches and uses that culture and environment in many of her stories. She and her husband now live at Rio Concho West in San Angelo, Texas. They enjoy visits from their two sons and their families, are always delighted to hear from old friends, and are amazed at how well they have adjusted to ‘city’ living.

Where to find Neva…

Website | Amazon |Facebook | Twitter | Google+

Neva loves to hear from her readers. She can be reached at joneva@suddenlink.net

Your Time to Shine

Welcome to my Second Acts Series!

Today, we have Soul Mate Author Gay Yellen sharing her extraordinary journey from high school Economics class to literary publication via Hollywood.

Here’s Gay!

gayyellen1Thanks, Joanne, for inviting me to share my Second Act, though my journey feels more like a full-on odyssey. But I’ll try to keep it to two.

First Act: I’ve always written. Dr. Seuss was an early influence, and I still write silly verse for fun. In high school I wrote my best poetry in Economics class, to the chagrin of my teacher. But my writing career didn’t begin until after I got Hollywood out of my system.

The need for change: Performing came naturally to me. After college I moved to L.A. and began an acting career. While I managed to get film and TV work, I hated the life (yes, it’s as tough as the stories you hear).

First Act, Part 2: I decided to apply to the Director’s Guild, which led to a job behind the camera as the Assistant to the Director of Production at The American Film Institute. I worked with thesis film students on their productions, helped cast actors, secure and manage location shooting, arrange with major studios to use their back lots for filming, their props, costumes, etc., and facilitated editing and post-production.

The need for change: I loved working at AFI, but the pay was meager.

Second Act, Part 1: A friend heard that a magazine needed a last-minute substitute to cover a story over the weekend. I jumped at it, even though I didn’t know a thing about the subject, or about magazines, for that matter. After I turned in the article, the magazine offered me an editing position. It paid much more than the AFI job, so I took it. In a couple of years, I moved to another magazine, where a series I wrote won a national journalism award.

Second Act, Part 2: A book! I helped write an international thriller, Five Minutes to Midnight, which was my first taste of book publishing. Soon after, I fell in love, married, and thought I was finally free to try my hand at a solo novel.

Second Act, Part 3: I’d just completed the first draft of The Body Business when my husband asked me for help with the advertising for his new national marketing firm. “Can you come up to the office this afternoon and tell me why my ads in The Wall Street Journal aren’t working?” he pleaded. “You’ve been in magazines, so you know about advertising.”

I tried to explain that editors don’t normally deal with the ad department, but he was my husband, so I went. Fifteen years later, after creating countless marketing pieces, ads, and even investment prospectuses, we sold the company, and I retired as its V.P. of client and media communications, and advertising.

Second Act, Part 4: Finally, I was free to do my own work. I dusted off the old rough draft of my book and discovered that it had become a period piece, with pay phones, typewriters and snail mail playing pivotal roles in the action. I updated it to the 21st Century, put it through a critique circle and found Soul Mate Publishing. The Body Business was published in 2014.

Where are you now?

I’m working furiously on the sequel to The Body Business, and there are other projects in queue. I’m happy to finally affirm that writing is no longer my first, second or tenth act. It’s what I do.

Affirmation

Work to be as good as you can at what you do, and believe that your time to shine will come.

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Blurb

A great career. Fantastic boyfriend. Samantha Newman has it all, until her best friend vanishes, and doubt creeps in. Forced to choose between the success she’s worked hard to achieve and the hidden truth behind it, she risks everything and discovers a dark secret that could destroy her life forever.

Where to find Gay…

Website | Amazon | Twitter | Facebook | Goodreads

Joanne here!

What a whirlwind! If you ever run out of ideas for novels, consider writing your memoirs. Thank you for an entertaining and inspiring post.

Life is for Living

Welcome to my Second Acts Series!

Today, we have author and Acquisitions Editor Katie Hamstead chatting about a very early second act.

Here’s Katie!

katie-teller-author-photo-2-3 (2)Briefly describe your early acts.

Early acts… Well, I feel like I’m still fairly early in life since I’m 27. So I guess my acts consist of school, post high school to marriage, then married life. High school days were tough, but fun. I had the bullying and isolation going on, but to be honest, I’m kind of glad I went through all of that. Not that I enjoyed it, but the bullying made me stronger, and the isolation made me understand what real friends are and the qualities in people I enjoy associating with and that uplift and strengthen me. But high school was fun, in that I could explore my talents and hobbies. Along with writing stories on scrap notebook pages, I loved singing and sports, which I don’t get much chance to do either of any more. I miss playing and performing terribly.

After high school, I kind of went into “party” mode. Finally I was free. I did a stint as an exchange student (BEST choice I ever made, I highly recommend it to anyone who has a chance) I got a job, I traveled, I moved around, I sought out higher education, and I made friends with people who really helped boost my confidence and let the real me shine out. My years from 18-22 were a blast, even though there were moments of pain and grief unlike any other period before. But with all negative experiences, I try to glean lessons from them, to help me grow.

I married at 22, so have been married for just over 5 years. When I married, I migrated to the USA from Australia. I’m an Aussie, born and raised! And my hubby is a Native American (Navajo). This act eventually led me to my writing when I a) wasn’t allowed to work due to visa restrictions and b) got pregnant right when my restrictions got lifted, so no one wanted to employ me. As a result, I found myself with lots of time on my hands, so one thing led to another and I picked up my writing again.

What triggered the need for change?

It my last act, boredom mostly. I needed something to fill the time while my hubby was at work. I’d grown tired of being homesick, so wanted to get productive. Actually, that’s kind of what triggers most of my changes. I get bored with what I’m doing with my life. That’s pretty honest, right?

Where are you now?

Now I’m in a pretty good place. I love writing, acquiring for CQ and being a wife and mother… although I am getting restless. I think we need to move or do something to shake things up a bit.

Do you have advice for anyone planning to pursue a second act?

Go ahead! Life is for living, pursuing your dreams, and growing. Why just exist? Make your life worth every breath you take.

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Blurb

Terrorists have invaded Sydney, and Allison King barely escapes her brother’s wedding reception alive. She and her siblings flee, but their parents are killed by firing squad.

Now Ali’s on the run and terrified. While searching for other survivors, she is captured by the General who leads the invasion. He’s smitten by Ali, and when she refuses to submit to his whims, he brands her for death. In a wild act of defiance, she snatches the branding rod and sears the mark onto his face. Marking not only him but also sealing her fate. Ali manages to escape and flees into the bush once more where she finds a group in hiding. Even with the scars left by the General, Ali learns to love and falls in love with the young man who found her—Damien Rogers.

But the General is hunting her. When he discovers their location, and finds her with another man—Damien—his wrath is kindled and his obsession is inflamed. Ali must put herself on the line or the General could kill her family, those who help her, and most significantly, the man she loves.

Bio

Born and raised in Australia, Katie’s early years of day dreaming in the “bush”, and having her father tell her wild bedtime stories, inspired her passion for writing.

After graduating High School, she became a foreign exchange student where she met a young man who several years later she married. Now she lives in Arizona with her husband, daughter and their dog.

She has a diploma in travel and tourism which helps inspire her writing. She currently works as an Acquisitions Editor with Curiosity Quills Press to help support her family.

Katie loves to out sing her friends and family, play sports and be a good wife and mother. She loves to write, and takes the few spare moments in her day to work on her novels.

Where to find Katie…

Blog | Facebook | Twitter | Goodreads | Amazon

Joanne here!

I am impressed by your can-do attitude and ability to deal with boredom. Thank you for sharing your journey and best of luck with all your literary endeavors.

What’s In a Name?

The topic of pseudonyms came up on a discussion board. Several writers expressed an interest in using pen names and wanted more information about the legalities involved.

I was surprised to see so much interest in the topic. I had always associated pseudonyms with female writers such as Mary Anne Evans/George Eliot, who used a male name to ensure that her work would be accepted by publishers and the public.

While researching the topic, I discovered many more reasons for using pen names.

Authors who regularly write in more than one genre use different pen names. Romance writer Nora Roberts writes erotic thrillers under the pen name J.D. Robb.

A pen name may be used if the author believes that his/her name does not suit the genre. Western novelist Pearl Gray dropped his first name and changed the spelling of his last name to become Zane Grey.

In some countries, authors use pen names to write about controversial topics that could be politically unsafe.

Writers of romance novels are often advised to use pen names to protect themselves against stalkers.

In the past, prolific authors were asked to use pen names to prevent flooding the market with too many books in one year. Stephen King published four novels under the pseudonym Richard Bachman. After critics pointed out style similarities, the books were reprinted with Stephen King’s name. One of his books, Thinner, sold twenty times more copies after the changes were made.

Some writers wish to keep their writing career separate from their everyday life. Comic book writer Stan Lee was born Stanley Lieber. He used the pen name Stan Lee because he intended to save his real name for more serious literature. His career as a novelist never materialized so he changed his name legally to Stan Lee.

A collective name or house name is used with series fiction such as the Nancy Drew, Hardy Boys, and Bobbsey Twins series. The first book in each series was written by one writer, but subsequent books were written by ghost writers.

Collaborative authors like to have their books published under one name. Alice Alfonsi and Marc Cerasini write their Coffeehouse Mystery series using the pseudonym Cleo Coyle.

Last year, J.K. Rowling was outed as the author of Cuckoo’s Calling, which she published under the pen name Robert Gailbraith. In an interview, she commented: “”I was yearning to go back to the beginning of a writing career in this new genre to work without hype or expectation to receive totally unvarnished feedback. It was a fantastic experience and I only wish it could have gone on a little longer.”

Regarding the legalities…

You don’t have to file any forms or hire a lawyer. Simply put the phrase “writing as” on your manuscript and let the publisher know your real name to ensure that you receive payment for your work.

Any other interesting pseudonym stories out there?

Oprah and Paulo Coelho

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Yesterday, Oprah welcomed bestselling author Paulo Coelho to Super Soul Sunday. Paulo is celebrating the 25th anniversary of a true phenomenon: The Alchemist. Since publication, this magical allegory about an Andalusian shepherd boy named Santiago who travels from Spain to Egypt in search of treasure has broken all records. Over 65 million copies have been sold and it is the most translated book in history.

I was fascinated by Paulo’s early history and the near-death of The Alchemist.

Born into a middle- class family in Rio de Janeiro, he was expected to follow in his father’s footsteps and become an engineer. When Paulo rebelled, his parents bribed him and, when that failed, they committed him to a mental institution from which he escaped three times before being released at the age of 20. Paulo made it clear that his parents truly loved him but were not comfortable with the idea of a son following a creative path.

thealchemistOriginally, Paulo launched The Alchemist through a small Brazilian publishing house. Initial sales were dismal and the publisher decided not to reprint. Passionate and committed to its success, Paulo found a larger publishing house and from there the book took off. Both Oprah and Paulo stressed the book reached the critical masses because of famous (Bill Clinton, Madonna, Will Smith) and more importantly, anonymous readers.

Throughout the telecast, Paulo shared wonderful observations and insights.

We all have a personal legend. And the key behind that legend is enthusiasm. We need to ask ourselves what gives us enthusiasm, keeping in mind that we betray our personal legend whenever we do something without enthusiasm.

We become fluent in the language of the world by daring, and we learn this language by paying attention and making mistakes. Omens and signs are everywhere. We need to look at everything as if we are seeing it for the first time.

Paulo believes that God will ask: “Did you love enough?” Here, Paulo is not referring to romantic love but whether we are able to open our hearts to embrace every grain of sand.

Quotable Quotes

Remember that wherever your heart is, there you will find your treasure.

The heart is like a flower. It can be very brave or easily hurt.

Always listen to your heart, even when it scares you.

Before a dream is realized, the Soul of the World tests everything that was learned along the way. It does this not because it is evil, but so that we can, in addition to realizing our dreams, master the lessons we’ve learned as we’ve moved toward that dream. That’s the point at which most people give up. It’s the point at which, as we say in the language of the desert, one “dies of thirst just when the palm trees have appeared on the horizon.”

And, when you want something, all the universe conspires in helping you get it.

Book Review: Never Too Late

As an author on my own road to reinvention, I’m always on the lookout for stories about women who boldly seek adventures that propel them into second acts. I was thrilled to discover Claire Cook’s delightful novels and read about her extraordinary journey.

Reinvention is a recurring theme in Claire’s life and novels.

nevertoolateShe wrote her first novel at age 45 in a minivan while her children were at swim practice. Five years later, she walked down the red carpet at the Hollywood premiere of Must Love Dogs, the film adaptation of her second book.

After eleven best-selling novels and numerous speaking engagements, Claire has written a nonfiction book, Never Too Late: Your Roadmap to Reinvention (without getting lost along the way).

Using her trademark humor and wit, Claire tells her own story and that of other reinventors while providing tips on finding that sweet spot, staying on track, securing a support system, building a platform, and overcoming perfectionism.

You don’t have to be a writer or midlifer to appreciate this book. It will appeal to any woman who feels stymied or dissatisfied with her present circumstances. And by the end of the book, the reader will be able to answer Claire’s thought-provoking question: “What would you like your life to be in five years and what’s getting in your way?”

Quotable Quotes

Karma is a boomerang.

You don’t have to be good at it—that takes time and hard work. But you have to love it enough to want to be good at it.

If Plan A doesn’t work, the alphabet has 25 more letters (204 if you’re in Japan!).

If failure comes with a lesson, take it. If it doesn’t, put it behind you and move on.

There were only three things standing in my way all that time: me, myself and I.

Dreams don’t have an expiration date. Not even a best by date. If it’s still your dream, it’s still your dream.

Where to find Claire…

Website | Twitter | Facebook

Romance: Bah Humbug?

Welcome to my Second Acts Series!

Today, we have June Kearns entertaining us with her take on romance and romance writing.

Here’s June!

junekearnspixFirst Act

One of my earliest memories is being under the kitchen table, hidden by fringes of the chenille cloth and listening to the chink of teacups, laughter and whispered secrets between my mum and her sisters.

They all read romances – the quest to find the one person you were destined to spend your life with, that impulse buried deep in the natural world. Apparently, when you least expected it – zing would go the strings of your heart (or something like that!)

Without fail, the heroines in these stories were head-turning, heart-stopping beauties. One look, and the hero would be smitten.

At 13, I’d already decided that no-one would ever fall in love with me. Small, sturdy and self-conscious, I had hair that frizzed in damp weather and a tendency to flush easily.

How could I ever inspire love? Because this was how the world worked, wasn’t it?

It was a terrible blow.

What triggered the need for change?

Then, I read Jane Eyre.

charlottebronteHere was a heroine as plain and self-conscious as myself (and Charlotte Bronte!) who still sparked passion in the hero. I started to believe that passionate relationships could be generated by great conversations, argument and humour.

My first writing success, after leaving teaching to have my children, was winning a national magazine competition for the first chapter of an historical romance.

‘Why romance?’ people said, often with a sniff.

Ah well, it’s such a life force, isn’t it?

Apparently, (I’ve just read this in the newspaper!) romantic love is something we only started to appreciate here, roughly 100 years after the Norman conquest of Britain. Up until the 12th century, knights had regarded biffing each other as pretty much its own reward. After that, they needed to believe that the biffing was necessary to win fair ladies – the ones dangling their hair out of castle windows. Great stuff.

Where are you now?

I’m concentrating on the sort of stories that I feel suit me best – sort of hist/fict/romcoms – with (hopefully) plenty of laughter, rat-a-tat dialogue, and cut and thrust of comic conversation – the sort they did so well in those fabulous 1930s and 40s films.

My current WIP is set in 1960s London.

Do you have advice for anyone planning to pursue a second act?

I’ve read some wonderful advice on this blog from other women.

Mine would be – don’t be afraid of just being yourself. For a long time, I didn’t believe that was good enough. (My star sign is Cancer – favourite position safely under the shell, peeping out!)

But – there’s absolutely no-one else like you!

Just follow your own instincts.

Any affirmations or quotations you wish to share?

I spend a LOT of time staring at the wall in front of my desk – it’s chock full of helpful homilies and quotations!

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Samuel Beckett’s ‘Try again. Fail again. Fail better’ – is one of my favourites. And: ‘Stop apologising. Relax. Just write the story you want to read!’

June’s Books

junekearnscowboyThe American West, 1867

After a stagecoach wreck, well-bred bookish spinster Annie Haddon, (product of mustn’t-take-off-your-hat, mustn’t-take-off-your-gloves, mustn’t-get hot-or-perspire Victorian society) is thrown into the company of cowboy Colt McCall – a man who lives by his own rules, and hates the English.

Can two people from such wildly different backgrounds learn to trust each other? Annie and McCall find out on their journey across the haunting, mystical landscape of the West.


junekearnscover1924. The English Shores after the Great War.

When her jazzing flapper of an aunt dies, Gerardina Mary Chiledexter inherits some silver-topped scent bottles, a wardrobe of love-affair clothes, and astonishingly, a half-share in a million-acre cattle ranch in south-west Texas.

Haunted by a psychic cat, and the ghost voice of that aunt, Leonie, Gerry feels driven to travel thousands of miles to see the ranch for herself.

Against a background of big sky, cattle barons and oil wells, she is soon engaged in a game of power, pride and ultimately love, with the Texan who owns he other half.

Where to find June…

Website | New Romantics4 Website | Facebook | Twitter

Joanne here!

June, thank you for sharing your journey and insights. Best of luck with all your literary endeavors.