November 24, 2012

IC Enger puts Homeland Security on Blue Ice

IC Enger lives and writes in the Seattle area. Her first book, Blue Ice, was published in July by Oak Tree Press. Blue Ice is the first of three mysteries set along the Washington/ Canadian border, involving Homeland Security Special Agent Jack Strickland and out-of-work Seattle city planner Brooke Breckenridge.
IC has lived in many different cities in the US including New York, San Francisco, Denver and Seattle, and has travelled over the world in her work. Part of her work kept her in close contact with former FBI agents and corporate security officers. “I quickly came to the understanding that although a crime might be solved outside of law enforcement by a smart, savvy civilian, it was highly unlikely. People who have been trained, who have the resources and experience, those are the people who solve mysteries.”
She currently lives in the Seattle area with her wonderful husband and two terrible cats. 

Could you please start by telling us a little about yourself?
Sure, I started writing as a child, fairy tales, really bad fairy tales with no endings. I did win a writing contest in grade school and got to select any book out of the school library as a prize. I chose a big book of myths and legends with lots of color pictures, which I still have. That was the highlight until I was a young mother with two children and tried my hand at short stories. I finished one, about a baby blackbird, and submitted it to Ranger Rick Magazine. They bought it – success! Then both kids got the measles and life accelerated from there.
I finally got back to writing after I left my lucrative management job that started with a 4:30 AM and ended at 6:00 PM. I only remember seeing my children a few times during those years, much less write anything except reports. Now I write short stories and flash stories as time permits, but the thing I love the most is becoming completely captured by the characters and events in my books. I do miss the paychecks.
I have a very understanding husband who quietly goes upstairs to work on his programming or outside to work on projects while I write. Bless him! He even does the dishes. Double bless him! We’re going to spend the Christmas holidays on the Oregon coast, and I will take my laptop with me, and work on my current work in progress.
Please tell us your latest news!
Blue Ice has just been released! I’m writing a three part series that put the spotlight on Homeland Security ICE and a couple of very interesting special agents. The first book, Blue Ice, has been published and the second book, Green Ice, is in work. I believe that writing the book was easier than coordinating the web site, blog, Facebook, book signings, and all of the other promotional activities that go along with a book launch. Why did no one tell me this? Oh, right, they did – why didn’t I listen?
Please describe your writing environment.
I live in the Seattle area where I hang out at the lake as much as possible and often write on my little netbook while sitting in the middle of a bunch of ducks. Gaggle? That, of course, is during the warm, dry days of summer, approximately two weeks. The rest of the year I write at home where I have all the conveniences and no ducks.
How much research do you do for your books? Have you found any cool tidbits in your research?
I do tons of research since it’s possible that someday, someone from Homeland Security will read one of the books. I had better get it right. I haunt the agency sites and chat sites as well as speak in person to representatives of both civil and government law enforcement agencies. My experience has been that these folks are very happy to inform me, and the readers, about the real job they do. They spend hours of their precious time talking with me and answering questions on all sorts of topics that I might need in the story.
Here’s a cool tidbit – Homeland Security Special Agents are operating all over the US, not just at the borders, and they have a wide latitude in the types of crimes they can investigate. One of the quotes from one of the sites I visit says it all, “People don’t have any idea who we are or what we do, until we get interested in them.”
More on research, my husband and I are travelling up north to Okanagan county in a week to scope out the land and lakes in the fall, as opposed to the summer. The personality of the area changes with the seasons and Green Ice takes place in September and October. My books take place on the Canadian border, just a little farther north from Seattle, and just a little different.
What main genre do you write in?
I write mystery stories with a strong law enforcement element and a bit of romance. I believe the strict lines that delineated genres of the past are morphing into new ways of telling a compelling story. Readers have become more vocal in their preference for a multi-dimensional story, and writers are freed to let a story unfold, as it needs to, without worrying overly much about crossing the lines between mystery, romance, historical fiction, fantasy, and the other established genres.
I enjoy writing mystery stories because I love to create a puzzle that the reader will try to figure out, but will still be surprised by the solution if I’ve done my job well. Of course, there is also the Sisters in Crime organization’s saying, “Every good book deserves at least one dead body.” Without the crime, there is no puzzle. Without the romance, there is no sizzle. I like to have both.
If you had to choose one person to have dinner with, who would it be? And why?
I would like to have dinner with Alexander McCall Smith, the author of The No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency books. His writing, although prose, comes closer to poetry than many poets achieve. I read his books to relax and to become completely engrossed in the worlds and the mood he creates. They force you to slow down and feel the heat of the sun. I think he must also be a gentle soul, a genuinely nice person, a person who looks for the goodness in everyone he meets. There is no other way he would be able to write as he does. He is, what I like to call, “a soft place to fall.”
Oh, and I’d like to have dinner with Tom Selleck, because – well just because he’s …. so …. darn …. sexy. Can I have two dinners? <wicked grin>
What is your writing process? Do you outline, fly by the seat of your pants or a combination of both?
I always start with an outline and good intentions. I take part, just a word or two, of that outline and grow it into a few sentences. There is no dialogue yet, just description – “They are out on the lake in a boat fishing. Jack’s phone rings.”
Those sentences are then worked into a paragraph, and at that point the story often takes off in a different direction. At the same time, I am developing a timeline, keeping the days of the week lined up with the action. By the time I get through the whole story with these descriptive paragraphs, bits of dialog have been creeping into my mind. I capture these on any piece of paper that’s handy at the time. You can imagine what the house looks like at this point.
By the time I’m ready to actually begin writing the book using my scene paragraphs as a guide, I already know what the bones of the story line are; the story goal, the villain, the red herring, the black moment, and the climax. My research is also mostly complete at this point, and I am ready to populate the story with color and personalities – this is the fun part. During this process I can be very caught up in the book to the exclusion of almost everything else, and if a story element doesn’t hold together, I change it on the fly.
I like this method, it works for me, and with it there is no such thing as writer’s block. I always know what part of the story needs to be worked on any given day, and the timeline keeps me from wandering too far afield. I think each writer has his or her own method, one that works well for him. The key is, discover what works for you. How do you know when you’ve found it? It will feel natural and the words will flow.
What do you do on a typical writing day?
I usually warm up with correspondence from my e-mail and web site, and then do any bit of research that needs to be completed for the portion of the book I am working that day. I start writing by ten or eleven o’clock and write straight through to dinner, about six o’clock. Actually, I take numerous little breaks to see what my husband is up to, look outside, wander around the house and otherwise give my brain a break. I always have music on while I write, and have it loaded onto my laptop in case I’m away from home. It helps the words flow and distracts the part of my brain that tends to censor each word or scene.
I am worthless after seven, unable to put a good sentence together. Anything I do after seven results in re-work in the morning. I usually flop on the couch after dinner and surf the TV channels looking for a Tom Selleck show.
Can you please give us a sneak peek at any of your upcoming books?
Green Ice is the next in the series, and it focuses on the US and Canadian border once again. This time the focus is on chemical terrorism and human smuggling. Interestingly, there is a large problem with human smuggling across that border, but not a lot of publicity. Most of the attention is directed at the Southwest border.
The main characters from Blue Ice will also be in this next one; Special Agent Jack Strickland, Shadow Wolf Ed Red Wind, Brooke Breckenridge and Sheriff Callahan. A new element will be the local Catholic Church with a couple of Priests and Sisters. Victims, heroes, or a bit of both? The people who are falling prey to the smuggling operation are Ukrainian women and men, so I have had to learn the customs and accent for that community. As always, the action takes place at Three Cranes Lake, and the Makkapitew mountains. The neighbors and town people from Blue Ice will also be in this next book, except for those I have killed off or sent to federal prison in the previous book. So yes, there will be some new neighbors.
What would be the best way for readers contact you? Do you have a website? Email address? MySpace site? Blog? Message Board? Group?
I have a website, which also has my blog as a selection on the site. I’m also on Facebook at and I can be e-mailed at
When did you first decide to submit your work? Please, tell us what or who encouraged you to take this big step.
I was attending a Police Writer’s Conference in Las Vegas last year, my first time attending, and I didn’t know anyone. A woman came and sat at my little table and asked me if I had written anything. I told her the story line for Blue Ice, and how it approaches bio-terrorism from a different angle. She invited another woman to sit down, introduced her as a publisher, and had me repeat the story line to her. It turns out that the first woman was Marilyn Olsen, an editor, and the second was Billie Johnson, publisher for Oak Tree Press. I submitted the story and Oak Tree agreed to publish. Whew! I call that just plain luck. I don’t win things like raffles or door prizes, and I never play the lottery, but that conference made up for all the Thanksgiving turkeys I never won.

What the agents discover at Three Cranes Lake will change how you view terrorism...forever.
A much anticipated new start for Brooke Breckenridge erupts into an explosion of murder and international intrigue when she travels from Seattle to an isolated lake on the Canadian border to find seclusion and healing. Strange and dangerous things begin to happen, soon events at the lake house attract the attention of Homeland Security Special Agent Jack Strickland and she finds herself entangled in suspicion, crime and dangerous attraction.


November 17, 2012

Tidewaters of Virginia fuel Leah St. James’ gothic romances
Leah St. James is a worrier, a self-described neurotic who tends to imagine the worst-case scenario in response to brewing troubles. She hasn’t decided if this leaning toward the dark side is what draws her to write edgy, gritty stories, or if the suspenseful mysteries and gothic romances that filled her childhood bookshelves somehow imprinted their shadows on her psyche.  Despite (or maybe because of) this propensity for infusing her writing with murder and mayhem, she still craves those happily-ever-after endings and the romance of everlasting love.
Married to her college sweetheart and the mother of two grown sons, Leah is a native of the Central Jersey Shore but now makes her home in the Tidewater area of Virginia. Her published works include Surrender to Sanctuary (2010, The Wild Rose Press; 2012 Edward Allen Publishing), novella Adrienne’s Ghost (2012, Edward Allen Publishing), and the award-winning short story Letter from Christine.
You can read more about Leah at
Connect with Leah on Facebook, Twitter, Goodreads, and Pinterest.
Could you please start by telling us a little about yourself?
First, thank you so much for giving me this opportunity to visit with you and your readers!
I didn't start writing (fiction) until my kids were well into their school-age years, and I spent years before that in all sorts of jobs – what I like to think of as author training. I've been a baker, a sewing machine operator, a sandwich-maker, a scopist/transcriptionist for court stenographers, legal secretary, administrative assistant, sales account manager…and I forget what else! I started writing at the encouragement of my husband and children, and I'm blessed that they are my biggest supporters.
A few years ago, we uprooted ourselves from my hometown at the Jersey Shore (Hey…no jokes! It's not like Jersey Shore on MTV, I promise!) and moved south to the warmer winters of southeastern Virginia. We love it here, and aside from missing New York-style pizza and bread, and our Jersey friends, we're starting to feel at home. I even almost said "y'all" instead of "you guys" the other day! But I stopped myself in mid-"y'a—," unable to finish. I guess it takes more than a change in geography to remove the "Jersey" from the "girl"!
Please tell us your latest news!
I'm really excited to tell everyone about a new book coming out this holiday season. It's called "Christmas Dance," and it's not like either of my other published books. It's a story about a man and a woman who become attracted to each other at a Christmas dance. The problem? They're married, to other people. The story explores the ups and downs of marriage and parenthood, and just why both can pose such challenges while offering the richest blessings. Ultimately it's a message of hope and love.
Do you plan all your characters out before you start a story or do they develop as you write?
I have to. To me, the characters drive the story. Until I know what my characters are going to do in any given situation, the plot is almost irrelevant. It defines what they'll say, how they'll say it, their mannerisms, their reactions…everything. The plot, to me, is the framework of the story, but the characters bring it to life.
How much research do you do for your books? Have you found any cool tidbits in your research?
The internet is a wonderful thing. Authors can go anywhere these days just by Googling a topic!  I like incorporating detail in my stories, and I try to make sure that those details in my books are accurate, at least in the context of the story. At one point I was writing a hero who owned a yacht, so I spent tons of time online looking at luxury yachts…a fun chore! My first book (Surrender to Sanctuary, 2010) is about two FBI agents who go under cover in a BDSM club to solve a murder at the Jersey Shore. For that book, I spent hours (and hours…and hours) researching online – the people who live that lifestyle, the clothing styles, the rituals, even the equipment!
I think the "tidbit" I learned from that experience is that people will share pretty much anything online these days – photos, blogs/journals, how-to manuals. If you need information, it's there for the taking.
Do you have a ritual when it comes to writing? Example….get coffee, blanket, paper, pen and a comfy place.
I'm a creature of habit, and methodical at the same time. I have to have one task complete in my head before I can move to the next. For writing, if I have a to-do list hanging in my head, I can't focus enough on the story until all my items are checked off, at least mentally. That means reading e-mail, working out, making my lunch, all before sitting down to write….which is probably why I don’t have more books written!
What main genre do you write in?
I started out writing romantic suspense because that's my favorite to read. But after a while, I felt constricted by the rules of the genre (meaning the rules imposed by publishers). I love a happy-ever-after ending, too, but sometimes it might take two or three books to reach that ending. Right now, I can't say that I write in a main genre, but most of my stories will feature romantic love in some form. I like to tackle tough subjects, too, maybe give the readers something to think about.
What is the best and worst advice you have ever received?
The best advice – Join a writers' group. I've found that writers are enormously generous with each other. They share tips and advice. They encourage and cheer. And they help boost each other up when they're feeling down. I don't get to spend face time with other writers too often, but when I do, I always leave excited and pumped about this career we've chosen.
The worst advice – Write (only) what you know.  Let's face it, fiction is fantasy, in one form or another. If George Lucas had listened to that advice, he wouldn't have written Star Wars.  
Current release details: If you could be one of your characters - Who would you be? And why?
I would love to be the heroine in my new release (Alexandra) because she's fearless (except when it comes to driving in snow – she's a southern girl living in Jersey J). She decides what she wants and she goes after it, even if she knows it could be a huge mistake. Plus she's filthy rich, and I'd love to give that a try at some point.  <grin>
When you have writer's block how do you break free?
That's an easy one! Usually writer's block strikes me over a plot point – when I can't figure out how to get from point A to point B. When that happens, I talk it out with my husband. He's one of those annoying people who guesses plots to movies and TV shows within the first five minutes. (Thankfully the kids and I have trained him now to keep his thoughts to himself, at least until the rest of us can catch up!) So when I'm stuck, a few minutes brainstorming with him usually gets me started again.
What would be the best way for readers to contact you? Do you have a website? Email address? MySpace site? Blog? Message Board? Group?
Probably the best way for readers to contact me directly is via e-mail – I always read e-mail and try to respond within a day at most. I also have a website ( and am on Facebook, Twitter, Goodreads and Leah St. James. I love meeting readers anywhere though!
The second Wednesday of every month, you can find me blogging about "Mind Games," some real-life things people do and say that are stranger than fiction, at
Alexandra Anderson has a loving husband who provides for her every need, a beautiful home in the suburbs, and money to fulfill her slightest whim.  But after a lonely childhood, what she wants more than anything is a baby, a family of her own.
Sam Herrmann is married to his college sweetheart, and together they have three healthy, boisterous boys. Sam spends his days running numbers as a government accountant, and his nights and weekends trying to keep up with the grueling family schedule set by his wife – a wife he can barely remember.
What happens when two married people take a look at the perfect lives they've created and decide it's not enough? What happens when those same two people catch the eye of a stranger, and like what they see?
Christmas Dance
A story of love and marriage.
A story of hope.
Coming Holiday 2012

November 10, 2012

Loralee Lillibridge found a cowboy for life in a Yankee

Loralee Lillibridge grew up in Texas loving cowboys and rodeos, but relocated in Michigan after her marriage to a handsome Yankee who stole her heart. She still favors country love songs, and seeing a field of Texas bluebonnets can make her cry, but she admits the West Michigan lakeshore has a beauty all its own.
Even as a child, Loralee’s love of books, combined with a vivid imagination, fueled a desire to create her own stories with characters readers could care about. Her first attempt was a neighborhood play about a pirate who rescued a princess. (Original, yes?) Needless to say, the audience only consisted of her parents and the boy next door who reluctantly played the role of the pirate.
Now she enjoys writing emotionally fulfilling stories centered on the relationship of a man and a woman and their often rocky road to love. Heart-warming stories of ordinary people and extra-ordinary love.
Loralee is former president and founding member of the Mid-Michigan Chapter of RWA. She credits her chapter and her wonderful critique partners for their unlimited support and encouragement on her roller-coaster ride to becoming a published romance author.
When not writing, Loralee enjoys reading, spending time with family and friends, and traveling.

Could you please start by telling us a little about yourself?
Thanks so much for having me here at Romancing the Heart.  I’m a native Texan who enjoys traveling when I’m not writing or reading books by my favorite authors. I’m a member of Romance Writers of America, Mid-Michigan chapter of RWA, Sisters in Crime, and Published Authors Special Interest Chapter (PASIC). I currently reside in West Michigan with my husband and am blessed with four children, nine grandchildren and three great-grandchildren.
Do you plan all your characters out before you start a story or do they develop as you write?
Usually a character will make an appearance in my mind that starts the thought process of who they are and what do they want. From there, I do a brief written character profile that leads to who they know and where they come from. The profile becomes more detailed as each character develops. From there, the story takes off (hopefully).  My first draft is a hodge-podge of dialogue and one sentence action that makes no sense to anyone but me. I change the beginning several times before I find the right “hook” and can finally move forward in the story. I’m not a fast writer, but I do try to be a clean writer and correct spelling, etc. as I write. (Probably why I write so slowly.)
How much research do you do for your books? Have you found any cool tidbits in your research?
The most interesting research I’ve done to date was at Therapeutic Horsemanship of West Michigan for my first published novel, ACCIDENTAL HERO. I was blown away by the awesome program and its importance to physically and emotionally challenged students. The director and volunteers there love what they do and the students reap the benefit of their expert riding knowledge. The results are amazing and I was thrilled to be allowed to write about the program.
What main genre do you write in?
Contemporary romance
Do you have a ritual when it comes to writing? Example…get coffee, blanket, paper, pen and a comfy place.
I start my writing day early – anywhere from 4:30 to 5:30 A.M. and always with coffee. I prefer quiet while I write and often I sit and let my thoughts sort through the scenes I want to write that particular day. Sometimes, if nothing comes to mind, I close my eyes and meditate. Thinking peaceful thoughts, envisioning pleasant places I’ve visited or counting my blessings always works.
Do you have a specific writing style?
I’d describe my writing style as small-town warmth with a touch of Texas twang.
Can you please give us a sneak peek at any of your upcoming books?
HILL COUNTRY MAN is my current contemporary romance release. 
When you have writer’s block how do you break free?
Taking a walk outside when weather permits or else walking on the treadmill. Both stimulate my thought process…but don’t ask me why!
How can readers find out more about you and your books?
Check out my Website, like me on my Facebook author page Loralee Lillibridge - Author, follow me on Twitter @LLillibridge or meet me Across The Back Fence, my blog page.
Do you belong to a critique group? If so, how does this help or hinder you?
My critique group is fantastic. They provide first reads, help with scene structure, plotting ideas, honest critiques, but most importantly, they are my support - my lifeline when things go wrong and the wind beneath my wings. I’m very fortunate to have them.
What was your first published work and when was it published?
My first published book was ACCIDENTAL HERO, a Silhouette Special Edition released in 2005 and the result of my research with equine therapy programs. A book I’m very proud to have written. 
Life is full of choices. The right ones are never easy. Rafter a painful divorce, Maggie Oliver returns to her hometown of Shade Tree, Texas, hoping the peaceful Hill Country ranch life will restore her self-esteem and help tame her rebellious fifteen-year-old daughter. When fire destroys her home and ex-rodeo star Sam Banner, now a local police officer, races back into her life, she vows to steer clear of Sam’s particular brand of trouble. The seductive Texas charm of her ex’s best man has always been a threat to her heart. . .a heart that could be broken again by the secret he’s kept from her for years. How can Maggie trust herself to make the right choice this time? Sometimes, all it takes is a leap of faith and the love of a HILL COUNTRY MAN.

Amazon / B&N


November 3, 2012

Denise Weeks knows the mathematics of writing!

Denise Weeks has been writing since she could hold a crayon. She is a graduate of Southern Methodist University, and worked as a software engineer for several years. She and her husband live happily in a northern suburb of Dallas, Texas, with their two beloved pets: a yappy Pomeranian and Denise's elderly mother. The best way to get to know her is to follow her blog/journal at Visit the Jacquidon Carroll Mystery Series blog at

Please, tell us a bit more about yourself.
No one wants to hear about anyone else's long struggle towards publication, not any more than they want to hear about someone's root canal.  Right?  So let's just hit the high points and skip those parts that people skim (at least I hope we skip those).
I'm a graduate of Southern Methodist University (many years after Laura Bush) with bachelor's degrees in mathematics and computer science (including minors in English and music) and a teaching certificate in secondary school mathematics.  Even though my high school teachers and counselors recommended that I study to become a college professor teaching English language and literature or French language and literature, my family insisted that I needed to be able to support myself in style (and send money home!  Those were the days!)  Because I have a natural aptitude for higher mathematics (inherited from my dad, who had his Ph. D. in math), I caved and managed to muddle through.  I never stopped writing, however.
For years I worked as a software engineer and software test/quality metrics engineer, but the bosses don't miss me much (partly because they always suspected I was taking notes on them in order to kill them in my next book).  I'm also a somewhat accomplished amateur pianist with paralyzing stage fright (probably because the family never wanted to hear the piano when I was young, and they would shout from other rooms telling me to stop playing because they couldn't hear the television over the sonata) and an avid trivia player.
Don and I have been happily married for over twenty years, residing in a northern suburb of Dallas with our beloved pets, including my 83-year-old mother and our perfect Pomeranian.
Do you recall how your interest in writing originated?
I've been writing since I could hold a crayon.  My first attempt, around age four, was a coloring book (made of taped-together sheets of typing paper from my dad's home office--much like an early zine) that offered sketches of our house, our car, our cat, a ladybug, the back yard, and God Himself (although He was shown behind a white cloud, with only His crown and the legs of His throne showing above and below the fluffy cumulus-ness.  I was well aware even at that age that those who gaze on the face of the Lord must die, and besides I knew He was too big to draw.  Over the years, I have often marveled at the chutzpah of a child who dares to include ALL her favorite images in a humble coloring book.)
When I was around six and home sick from first grade, my dad explained to me that books didn't just fall from the sky but were written by mortal men.  This upset me greatly at first, but then I figured out that I would be one of those who wrote the books for children in the future to marvel over.
But it took me a long time to get started seriously.  When I scribbled, nothing but juvenilia came out until I had my first job and was forced to use shorthand under the conference table during long, pointless staff meetings.  (I do wish my mother had not thrown out that blue cloth binder in which my best friend Theresa W. and I had begun our own version of a Mafia novel.  That was in fifth grade, in the late seventies, and Godfather pastiches were all the rage, then as now.  Ours was a parody, played for laughs, and I wrote while she illustrated.  I remember that her illustration of the Don behind his desk smoking a great cigar and making a pronouncement was rather excellent.  This would have been a sure-fire best-seller had we completed it.  But two cute boys started sitting at our lunch table, and all our efforts soon went to learning to put on mascara and flutter our lashes.  Alas.)  I came back to writing soon after the boys drifted off to more fertile fields because I never stopped hearing the singing of the Muses, and I'm glad I did.
What was your first published work and when was it published?
Let's not count the juvenilia, although when I was eleven I did get a letter to the TV critic published in the Dallas News TV TIMES magazine (and was invited to tour their studios as a result) and at fourteen had a short article about graphology in the old American Girl magazine in the 1970s, when it was still owned by the Girl Scouts.  Unfortunately, no one noticed that my handwriting analysis article was not from several sources but just a rephrased summary taken from the Dell mini-book on the subject (remember those?  They were sold at the cash register in supermarkets.)  When I eventually began building a freelance writing portfolio in order to enter the SMU Creative Writing Program, I went proudly back to the tearsheets of this article and found that I had saved the Dell book in the same file folder.  When I skimmed both texts, I paled at the similarities.  I had rephrased it "in my own words" and had added a few tidbits from other sources, but the discerning eye could see the problem, and it cried with shame.  It didn't strictly qualify as plagiarism, but it was obviously a summary of the longer work and not a piece of original reporting.  Needless to say, I never included that article in any portfolio.  A tough way to learn a tougher lesson!  (By the way, that article was published under my maiden name, so you'll never find it.  Bwaa-ha-ha.)
The first short story I placed in a "real" (professional) anthology was "Prom Night," in the Heaven and Hell anthology published in 2002 by Speculation Press. My story is RIGHT AFTER Jody Lynn Nye's.  Score!
My first novel _Dulcinea:  or Wizardry A-Flute (ISBN 0-7388-5388-7)_, written as Shalanna Collins, was the first runner-up in the 1996 Warner Aspect First Novel Contest and was published in 2001.  Every word mine.
Do you plan all your characters out before you start a story or do they develop as you write?
My books begin with a character.  Usually she (or sometimes he) is standing there in my mind's eye, looking a bit uncertain, about to step into some sticky situation.  Or he/she has a problem and it's about to get worse.  I know the character's name almost immediately.  I usually get the hair/eye color and height/weight vaguely, and the style of dress, but mostly it's the inner person who forms in my mind.  It's like an actor stepping onto a stage.  Something begins to happen for my intrepid hero or heroine, and I start recording.  Much of the backstory, explanation, history, plot, and so forth will develop as I reach the point where it's needed.
I have several articles on my website dealing with various aspects of plotting, revision, and motivation.  Readers can access them for free at or preview them at (for the timid).  I also often blog about writing issues. 

Is there anyone who really mentored or inspired you to keep writing until you were finally published? 

My teachers.  All through school, they encouraged me and claimed that I was ready for prime time.  Unfortunately, the industry didn't welcome me with open arms.  After I graduated from college, the praise ended.  My husband has been supportive in the sense that he never said I should stop writing, but he did stop believing that anything would come of it many years ago--and I can't blame him.
People think that a writer's family must be the most enthusiastic fans, but typically they are not.  Mostly they wish we would make money.  (LOL)  My family has never been inclined to read my books.  My mother-in-law used to read my work.  My late aunts did sometimes.  On occasion I can get my mother to read a book of mine, if I prod A LOT.  Otherwise, no.  They don't have any interest in my work for itself or because it's mine (if you know what I mean, Vern).  This hurts my feelings and is a source of angst, but after finding out from many other writers that they're in the same situation, I've resigned myself to it.
Did I ever have a mentor after getting out of school?  Not a LIVING soul.  Only my balcony people.  (Joyce Landorf defines them as those present in spirit who have gone before, watching over you, hanging over the balcony in Heaven looking down and cheering you on.)  Even my critique partners (except for two in particular) and those who saw me daily on the writing-related message boards have regularly urged me to give up on myself, because my work was not the type they saw on the best-seller lists or like the prose they heard praise for (the no-style style, the workmanlike or clunky stuff, the outlandish plots with zombies.)  I don't know how I've managed to keep Believing, but I suppose I always felt it was my destiny to teach through my writing (as well as to entertain and divert).
What are your hobbies?
I am a somewhat accomplished amateur pianist, concentrating on the classical to Romantic periods of Western art music and on pop/jazz standards (which I often play by ear).  What I listen to is fairly eclectic, though, from classic rock and jazz to Sinatra and show tunes.  I'm a licensed amateur radio operator and have done balloon chases and bunny hunts, though not for a while.  Hubby and I are both computer enthusiasts, and we geocache occasionally.  We love to travel, although we don't get many chances.  I'm also an amateur photographer and dabble in cryptography.  I cook and bake a little, if forced to.  Of course I'm an inveterate reader.  I'm never without some kind of reading material nearby.
Please tell us your latest news!
My traditional/cozy mystery NICE WORK, written under my "real" name (for some value of "real"), Denise Weeks, won the Dark Oak Novel Contest last year and has just come out from Oak Tree Press.  A traditional mystery with an edge, NICE WORK is the first book in the Jacquidon "Snoop Sisters" Carroll series.  Jacquidon Carroll could've killed her boss when he downsized her--or so the police think.  Can she and her sister find the real killer in the maze of BDSM clubs and secret societies that her (ex-)boss turns out to have been involved in before it's too late?  No explicit stuff--everything's played for laughs.  It's a romp comparable to Anne George's Southern Sisters series.
MURDER BY THE MARFA LIGHTS, the first book in the Ariadne French paranormal mystery series, is also out now from Pandora Press.  This series is darker than the other and is for those interested in fiction that takes an unusual look at the world and examines fantastical/paranormal experiences.  If you've never heard of the Marfa Mystery Lights or of the mystique that surrounds them, you should investigate.  Ariadne French went to the reading of her ex's will in Marfa, Texas, and found herself immersed in an exotic world of religious cults, a smarmily charming minister, a mystic-minded Cherokee lawyer, a secretive musician, and a piece of cryptography software that her ex wrote and possibly got himself killed over.  After enduring everything from a chase through the desert by the Marfa Mystery Lights to some very real death threats from Aaron's other erstwhile heirs, Ari must discover why Aaron was killed, and who killed him.
Over the years, I've also published a number of YA fantasy/dark urban fantasy novels under the name Shalanna Collins, the name I've always gone by on the 'net (Collins is an old family name on my mother's side, and I never liked the name Denise, so I made "Shalanna" out of "Sheila" and "Lana," two of my favorite great-aunts).  APRIL, MAYBE JUNE and two sequels have just gone under contract with Muse Harbor Press, so you'll be seeing another popular YA fantasy/adventure series taking hold soon.  These books feature a pair of precocious "genius girl" sisters who keep getting into magical scrapes.
The reason I don't use the same name on all my books is branding, and of course y'all understand about that, but my mother never has, so she's thrilled beyond measure about the mysteries.  She can finally remember who writes my books!  She also disapproves mightily of all fantasy because "it isn't real."  Nevertheless, my fantasy novels have enjoyed some success.  APRIL, MAYBE JUNE is aimed at the middle grade/young adult market, and CAMILLE'S TRAVELS is for young adults.  APRIL COME SHE WILL, the next book in April's series, is percolating even as I type.
There!  That didn't hurt, did it?  Well, hardly, anyhow.  SELLIN' IS OVER!  You can open your eyes now.  Nothin' up my sleeve!  Presto!
What would be the best way for readers to contact you? Do you have a website? Email address?
My e-mail address is dlweeks @  Feel free to write and ask advice, tell me something, or just commiserate.
I have a website at (mostly chronicling my book releases).
I'd love for you to visit one of my blogs.  They serve as my bully pulpits and as outlets for many of my musings.

©  (general official blog--book giveaways, etc.)

©  (for the Jacquidon Carroll series)

©     (personal journal--no holds barred)

©   (official Shalanna blog--quirky) 

Be sure to stop by one of my blogs to leave a comment! 

My Amazon author pages:

Can you please give us a sneak peek at any of your upcoming books?

From my upcoming paranormal romantic suspense, LOVE IS THE BRIDGE.  This is a newfangled ghost story, involving a "ghost in the machine" as well as a haunting and a hunting.  Bear in mind that this is not the opening, but a snippet from the middle of the book showing the viewpoint of the hero as well as that of the heroine.  Also, because the book is currently in the hands of the editor and publisher, this segment might be modified in (but not eliminated entirely from) the final version.  This book should be out as a Christmas release for the Kindle and in trade paper! 


Jacquidon Carroll has problems ... She’s diagnosed with diabetes and laid-off from her job the same week, but that’s nothing compared to becoming a suspect in the murder of her ex-boss… She becomes convinced that someone recruited from an Internet sex site is the real killer. To clear herself, Jacquidon and her intrepid sister Chantal steal information from the boss’s computer and a mysterious journal they find, among other (sleazier) places. The clues lead them through a network of local sex clubs and the seamy underside of the BSCM (S&M) lifestyle. By the time Jacquidon gathers the evidence they need, the murderer is on the same page—and intends to stop her the same way the boss was silenced.