Thursday, August 27, 2009

Here Come the PJs

Here they are: the Pararescue Jumpers. These guys are part of the Air Force Special Operations Command, and talk about amazing. They're half commando/half paramedics who go deep behind enemy lines to rescue downed air crews or other wounded and extract them. You've already seen them in action if you've watched The Perfect Storm or Blackhawk Down. They're the guys putting their lives on the line to protect the wounded until they can be evacuated. Their creed says it all:
It is my duty as a Pararescueman to save life and to aid the injured. I will be prepared at all times to perform my assigned duties quickly and efficiently, placing these duties before personal desires and comforts. These things I do, that others may live.

I'm feverishly working out the plot for a series of five books (though probably novella length this time), and at least two of the heroes will be PJs. I'll write another post later on highlighting the training and skill set these amazing warriors have, but if you're interested you can check out this Pararescue website for more information. It's tough to find good information on PJs because there's not a lot out there, but I managed to find a book listed on Amazon that received good reviews from former PJs. Must be okay, right? This new series will be set at Bagram Air Base in Afghanistan. Aside from PJs, it will feature female aviators and Emergency Flight Nurses, plus a few Night Stalker pilots. Can't wait for everything to start falling into place!

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Strike Three

Well, it looks like softball is out of the Olympics, and not just for the 2012 Games. As of now, the possibility of it coming back is bleak. A lot of people are upset over this, and even more are surprised considering softball was widely regarded as having the best shot of being reinstated. Instead, the IOC is voting between golf and rugby for the 2016 Summer Games.

They may try and bring it back as an additional (i.e. "new") sport for 2020, but don't hold your breath on that count. It's interesting to note that the IOC is now unable to throw out a sport once it's been voted in. In the wake of softball and baseball being axed from the Olympic roster, that legislation was brought in right quick by the other sports programs so that it wouldn't happen to them. Smart thinking. Too bad it didn't happen before we got cut.

Still, my fingers are crossed that someone will do the right thing and vote softball back in for the 2020 Games. There are so many talented fastpitch players that deserve their time in the sun on the world athletic stage. Here's hoping!

Monday, August 17, 2009

Parting Is Such Sweet Sorrow

Well, it's over. I've submitted Luke and Emily's book (Absolution), and it's time to say goodbye to my beloved cast of characters. I'll still get to visit them in the last two books as I go through the edits and galleys, but it won't be the same. Apart from feeling relief that this first series is over, it's left me a bit on the blue side. Luke is my favorite of all the characters, which is why I chose to write his book last, and I miss him already. I seem to identify most strongly with my heroes for some reason, and have an easier time getting into their head space.

On the plus side, this is the fastest I've ever completed a book. For Absolution, I sat down and plotted out the entire thing before starting the draft. This took a lot of discipline for me, as I was totally revved and ready to rock once I finished book four. But I knew darn well if I jumped in without planning out the details that I'd wind up stuck partway through and then spin my wheels for weeks trying to slog through the plot line. So I mapped out every important plot point and decided what order they should come in, then wrote a detailed outline. Not only did this make the drafting phase faster (I whipped the 93k words off in less than three months, which is darn near miraculous with my two little guys around all day), I also had the bones for a synopsis already written out. All I had to do once I gave the MS a final polish was go back and tighten the outline down to the most important turning points, etc, and voila--I had a finished MS with a synopsis. Now that's the way to write a book! I knew I'd figure it out sooner or later. Granted it was the fifth and final book, but still.

Writing with a full outline streamlined the entire process and made that painful first draft much more bearable. For me, a first draft is kind of like hacking my way through a jungle with a machete. It's hard, grueling work and you just have to put your head down and do it. I know most writers discourage this, but I like to go back and re-read the most recent scene I've written before I go on to something else, just so it's smoothed out. Otherwise I go nuts having something that raw on the page. The initial effort at getting the story down is always the worst. Going back and tweaking/fixing it is always easier, which is probably why I love revisions so much. The story and the writing get stronger with each pass.

Now that I've said goodbye to Luke, Emily, Bryn, Dec, Rhys, Neveah, Ben, Sam, Rayne and Christa, I'm off onto another series. This one's going to feature some female aviators and their male special operations counterparts. I'm doing some initial research right now and trying to figure out how to tie the romance plot lines and suspense together.

And the gang from the first series? I might come back for a short visit somewhere along the way if I miss them too much and write a short story I've got in mind. We'll see. But for now, I've got to figure out exactly where I'm going with this next book and write out a detailed outline. It might seem hard at the time, but I know it's going to save me a lot of headaches down the road.

Any great ideas you guys have for plotting/outlining that you want to share?

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Interview With Katie Reus

Today (Friday August 14th) I have the distinct pleasure of interviewing the fabulously talented Katie Reus about her latest book release. Finding Hope is her third romantic suspense with The Wild Rose Press. She has graciously agreed to give away a digital copy to one commenter, but even if you aren’t the lucky winner, I hope you’ll check out some of her work. Katie always delivers a great read, and the best part is, you can feel good about supporting her because she’s such a sweetheart!

Without further delay, from the Sunshine State, here’s Katie.

Kaylea Cross: How did you come up with the story line for Finding Hope?

Katie Reus: Looks always seem to play a prevalent part in romances, which makes sense because people are visual creatures and attraction is a very important part of a developing relationship, but I wanted to write a hero who fell for the heroine almost despite her looks. Hope, my heroine, is attractive but she also looks exactly like someone he knows and has no attraction whatsoever for. When he falls for her, it has nothing to do with her face.

KC: Did you have to do any special research before writing the manuscript?

KR: I’ve spent a lot of time in The Keys and Miami so I didn’t have to do a lot of research about those areas. However, there’s a scene where Luke and Hope travel to Cuba so I had to do some research on international travel laws. Since some scenes take place on various boats/yachts, I had to brush up on my nautical terms. Luckily, I have my dad for that. I also had some questions about certain government protocols (really small stuff) that I contacted one of my friends about. And lastly, I had to research different Florida laws concerning the statute of limitations for kidnapping and sexual assault. Overall it wasn’t a lot, but it was time consuming.

KC: Ooh, great connections to have! You know, I first found out about you through The Wild Rose Press and your first release with them, City of Secrets. I was hooked from the first page by your voice and the quality of your writing. Was that your first novel? Tell us a bit about the process of writing that one and submitting it, and why you chose TWRP.

KR: No, that wasn’t my first book. That one is still gathering dust but hopefully one day it will see the light of day. The reason I chose TWRP was actually kind of random. After agent hunting with my first manuscript, I hadn’t had any luck so I put that one away and finished another manuscript. I was still in the process of editing it and I had just joined Central Florida Romance Writers. I think it was my second or third meeting and Rhonda Penders (editor in chief) was speaking. One of the members encouraged me to pitch to Rhonda and since I’d just finaled in a contest with COS, I decided to give it a shot. She invited me to submit to them and since I didn’t know much about epublishing at the time, I did some research first. After I submitted to Rhonda she forwarded my manuscript to one of the crimson line editors and not long after, I signed with Jill Williamson (though she’s no longer with the Crimson line).

KC: Your hubby served with the Marines. Does he help you with weapons/tactical questions?

KR: He’s very helpful but to be honest, I didn’t use him too much for my first two books and I really wish I had. Now I ask him any little thing that has to do with weapons or the military or anything I think he might know (he’s seriously like MacGyver). I also ask his friends who were in the Marines or Navy for research help.

KC: Okay, now I’m just jealous. Tell us about your writing process. You churn stories out so fast--how do you make that happen?

KR: I just write every day. Once I start writing a story, it’s like a sickness that I can’t stop. The need to get the words onto paper sometimes overwhelms me to the point I forget to do laundry or dishes. Or at least that’s what I tell my husband. Basically, I make the time to write. It’s not an afterthought or hobby for me. It’s one of the biggest parts of my life and one day I want writing to be a full time career so even if I don’t feel like writing, I plant myself in front of the computer and make myself do it. That doesn’t happen very often though because I enjoy what I do.

KC: I tend to get a little…carried away when I write, too (so my family tells me). Do you plot everything out in an outline before starting the first draft? Or do you know the bones and then dive in?

KR: I envy people who can plot everything out. I’ve only done that once and it was the smoothest time I’ve ever had writing a story (Running From the Past). For everything else, I basically know the bare bones, the characters, the first three chapters, and the ending. However, the ending usually changes by the time I get there.

KC: What do you do when you get stuck during the first draft? Please tell me you get stuck sometimes.

KR: I definitely get stuck and I seriously hate plotting. I love fleshing out my characters but the whole plotting thing isn’t my favorite thing to do. I meet with one of my critique partners (who lives seconds from my house) once every two weeks and we bounce ideas off each other. It keeps me sane!

KC: Yes, good critique partners are a godsend (wink). You also write under the name Savannah Stuart. Can you tell us about your latest/upcoming releases with Ellora's Cave?

KR: I recently decided to separate my erotic romance persona from my romantic suspense persona so even though I have a couple things under consideration with my editor at EC, I only have one release out under that name. It’s Adrianna’s Cowboy, a ‘Quickie’, that I had a lot of fun writing. It’s the first contemporary with no suspense that I’ve written so I’m hoping it’s just as well received as my other releases.

KC: And you've recently signed with Jill Marsal of the Marsal-Lyon Agency. Can you tell us about your reaction when you got "the call" and what sort of projects she will be representing you on?

KR: I was on vacation with my husband at the time so I really wasn’t even thinking about writing and I almost didn’t answer the phone because I didn’t recognize the number. When we first started talking Jill was talking about how I’d need to do some revisions, etc. for some reason it didn’t compute that she was offering me a contract. When it finally sunk in, I managed to act like a normal human being until I got off the phone. That night I celebrated with too many cocktails! She’s representing all my future work except for my sales to Ellora’s Cave. Right now that’s just romantic suspense but I also plan to write paranormals in the future.

KC: Go, Katie! What do you know now that you wish you'd known before you embarked on a writing career?

KR: I’d need a lot more patience.

KC: Oh, yeah (rolls eyes). This business is a killer for uh…type A personalities. So other than joining RWA and finding a critique group, what advice would you offer to aspiring writers?

KR: Don’t get so caught up in writing and the quest to be published that you forget to do other things you enjoy. It’s a mistake I made when I first started writing. I pushed aside what I loved, namely reading, and my love of reading is what pushed me to write in the first place.

KC: I love reading too, especially when I know the author. It makes a book even more special.
Thanks so much for your time, Katie!

For all of you out there, please leave a comment to enter the contest, and feel free to check out Katie’s website and blog. If you're in the mood for a good romantic suspense, try some of her other work. You won't be disappointed! And now that you know her, keep your eyes peeled because her work will be hitting a store shelf near you very soon.

Happy reading!
Kaylea :)

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

I Spoke Too Soon

Given my last post, you'd think I'd be super excited to get back on the ball field to play mixed slo-pitch with my hubby. And I kind of was. I even got to play on diamond one at Softball City where I set several scenes in Out of Her League. And like Christa, I got to play catcher. I know the position of catcher in slo-pitch is totally benign, but still. I haven't seen a ball hit at me in anger in years, so that was the safest place for me. After last night? Not so much. Ah, the irony...

You see this dog here? He's wearing the same expression I had on my face after the game. He'd have played better than I did last night. Certainly would have had a better arm. I've got all sorts of excuses. It's been over 18 months since I touched a ball. Seven years since I've played a full season. We haven't had a practice. The ball was wet. Slo-pitch is a stupid game anyway.

Do I sound bitter? Thought so. But damn it, I expect better from myself when I hit the field. I don't care that I was a fastpitch pitcher. I had a damn good arm in my day. And hitting a slo-pitch? Please. The thing hangs up there for half an hour before it comes down. Surely go God I can smoke the thing into the outfield. But no. I went one for three with a weak line drive into center field. Behind the plate, I was pathetic. I mean, Christa would be cringing in horror. You'd think I'd never thrown a ball in my life. Couldn't even get it back to the pitcher consistently, and he's six two with an arm span almost as wide. Kind of a bit target to miss, if you catch my drift. But I managed. Fielding a bunt, I promptly launched it over my first baseman's head into right field. Two runs scored.

Rusty? Not even near strong enough an adjective. I sucked *ss. Seriously. After the game on the way home I patted my hubby's knee and told him to find another lady to replace me. His eyebrows went up. "It's your first game in forever. You just need to get back into it." Yeah, yeah. Blah, blah, blah.

So I stewed most of the night. Stupid, stupid game. I'm still so embarrassed! I was on the Canada Games Team for crying out loud! Yeah, it was a long time ago, but still. I can't stand playing if I don't perform well.

Okay, deep breath. I'm giving it one more game, and if things don't improve, I'm done. It will drive me insane to go out there and humiliate myself repeatedly. I'd rather be home working on my next book :)

On a much happier note, I will be interviewing author Katie Reus on Friday August 14th. One lucky commenter will win a digital copy of her latest romantic suspense release, Finding Hope. See you then!