Sandra is a writer of romantic fiction. Her portfolio includes historical, contemporary, and paranormal romances and she loves to blend genres and spice them up and often times will add humor as well.
After catching the writing bug at the young age of ten, she’s gone on to grow her unique writing style. She’s a regular contributor for the Paranormal Romantic’s blog and blogs bi-monthly with a great group of women at Embrace the Shadows.
When not immersed in creating new worlds and interesting characters, Sandra likes to read, bake and travel. Her favorite place to spend vacation hours is Walt Disney World. It’s where dreams come true, and that suits her just fine.
Writing is her ultimate dream job.
TELL US ABOUT YOUR LATEST BOOK.
My latest book is my first (and probably only) mystery, LOL. Why my only one? Because I really confused the heck out of myself while writing it, and it took a while to unravel. But it was great fun to write. It’s a “locked house” mystery where all the suspects are already there.
Here’s the blurb:
Dancing may be hard…but no one expected it to be murder.
When sexy tap dancer Abigail Carlton, a.k.a. Ruby Slippers, is found dead and arranged in an artistic fashion on her coffee table, it’s up to Special Agent Quentin Banks to solve her murder.
But nothing is ever as it seems. Not only is Quentin a FBI career man, he doubles as an officer for the Institute of Magical Instruction…and the dancer’s death has supernatural energy written all over it.
Quentin must find who murdered Abigail, and he only has 24 hours to do it before his superiors take over his case.
I’ve always been interested in mysteries. My bookshelves are full of cozy who-dunnits. One day I decided to try my hand at writing one, and while I had fun writing, trying to keep all the balls in the air while holding onto a story line, adding tension, etc., was a bit stressful. So, while I had a follow-up book planned, I’m not sure I’ll finish it. Of course, knowing me, that bug will come back to bite and I’ll be gripped by mystery writing again. LOL.
WHAT KIND OF RESEARCH DO YOU DO?
Not a whole lot for this book. It ties into my Holiday Magic series (the first three books out now with Lyrical Press) so I already had a good handle on the magical side of the book. The rest was getting the characters down and motivation. After that, it pretty much fell into place.
HOW LONG DID IT TAKE YOU TO GET PUBLISHED?
With this book, a few months; however, the edits took several weeks because of the details surrounding the mystery and set-up. Thank goodness for my super awesome editor (Steph Syzmanski) for her knowledge and insight into the crime solving world. Without her guidance, this book would have been one hot mess. LOL. I have a huge amount of respect for authors who write in this genre all the time. How do you keep the facts straight?
WHAT IS YOUR WRITING ROUTINE?
On a good writing day, I’ll usually begin writing around one in the afternoon. Sometimes, I’ll be gripped by an idea and will start work earlier. Most times, I use the morning hours to do promo work or busy work (filling out forms, etc). Of course, all this is subject to change depending on my personal schedule.
WHAT ARE YOU WORKING ON NEXT?
At the moment, I’m working on two books. The first is a historical romance set in 1900 Indiana. The second is a fantasy romance (which is a new genre for me).
WHAT ADVICE WOULD YOU OFFER TO ASPIRING WRITERS?
Always write. Write something everyday and don’t worry about the rules. You will learn the craft best by writing. And don’t ever give up no matter the negative you’ll come across.
IF YOU HAD A SECRET SUPERPOWER, WHAT WOULD IT BE?
I would love to be able to tell if people were telling the truth when they talked.
WHERE IS YOUR FAVORITE VACATION SITE?
Hands down, Walt Disney World. The hubby and I try to go every year for our anniversary instead of giving each other gifts.
WHERE CAN WE FIND MORE DETAILS ABOUT YOU AND YOUR BOOKS?
I’m also on Facebook and Twitter. Links to both of these sites are on the front page of my website along with blog sites I participate in and a recipe of the month.
Thank you for having me on your blog today. As a special gift, I am offering a prize pak to a lucky commenter. Please remember to leave your email address with your comment. Winner will be drawn the following morning.
As a mystery writer, I’m often asked where I get my ideas. Well, here’s one for you: how about the local newspaper? Consider this story: Celebrity actress found dead at home; no signs of foul play; pneumonia following flu-like symptoms suspected as cause of death. Within months, husband dies from possible heart attack. Strange coincidence or not?
My mystery mind goes into high gear. If I were writing this story, how would it play out? Naturally, the celebrity (and it doesn’t have to be a movie actress. It can be anybody like a famous chef or athlete or stage star) leaves a substantial estate. If someone knocks the husband out of the way, who stands to inherit? I’m not familiar with all the hangers-on of the rich and famous, so I’ll have to make up my own list of fictional suspects. Disclaimer: This is totally fiction and made up from my own devious creative mind:
The Crooked Manager, who wants to cover up that he’s been pilfering from the celebrity’s funds.
The Greedy Relative, who inherits the estate because the celebrity couple is childless.
The Jealous Best Friend, who discovered the celebrity was having an affair with her husband.
The Financial Advisor, who’s in cahoots with the manager, and who needs money to feed his gambling habit or to pay for his insurmountable medical bills for the illness he’s been hiding.
The Makeup Artist, whom no one would suspect but who was always around the couple. She hates the celebrity and is getting revenge for a past wrong.
You get the idea? Who would you add to the list and why?
We have the Motives. Now we need Means and Opportunity. How would someone kill these two to make it look like natural deaths? Poison comes to mind. It would have to be something not detectable in toxicology texts, perhaps a substance that dissipates in the body. It cannot be injected so has to be absorbed either through ingestion or the skin or even eyedrops.
I like this! If my new mystery series gets picked up, you’re looking at book number four.
I was happy to participate in a panel discussion at the Florida Library Association Convention in Orlando recently. The evening before, local MWA members met for dinner at Hot Olives in Winter Park. Located on New England Avenue, this trendy restaurant sat us outside on their shady patio amid bamboo, lit torches, and tropical trees. I tried their famous chopped olive appetizer and ordered pecan crusted salmon while chatting with fellow MWAers. We all had a great time in a relaxed atmosphere.
Early the following morning, six of us appeared at an MWA sponsored breakfast at the FLA convention. Over 150 librarians ate the sit-down meal while we introduced ourselves and answered questions from the guests. James Born, Neil Plakcy, Julie Compton, Deborah Sharp, Sharon Potts, and Moi then spoke on a panel about Florida mysteries and why we like living and writing about this vast state. We all agreed Florida has such a diverse population, ecology, and climate, not to mention kooky characters, that it’s the perfect setting for our stories.
I awoke to the news there had been a home invasion robbery and murder in my town. Although we’re a western suburb of Fort Lauderdale, our city doesn’t experience violent crime all that often. So when it does occur, it’s scary. What’s even more scary is that I just got a call from a mystery writer friend of mine, and it happened right across the street from her. I hadn’t even connected the addresses. She can see the CSI folks out her front window.
This incident brings home the fact that a random act of violence can happen to anyone. All we need is somebody to follow us home because we drive a nice car, or a nutcase to obsess on us, or else we’re just in the wrong place at the wrong time. Often these cases end badly. No wonder we want to read crime novels where the villain is caught and justice is served. I’d say this is Reason #1 why we read this genre. Stories may reflect on social ills and grapple with weighty issues, but they still reach a satisfactory conclusion, unlike real life.
An HEA ending (i.e. Happy Ever After) makes us less afraid. These stories force us to confront our fears, especially in psychological thrillers or romantic suspense. In my case, I prefer to read lighter fare, humorous mysteries where no one likes the victim and the amateur sleuth catches the crook. I accept that these are fantasies, because in reality, murder is a somber and sad business. Survivors mourn the dead. The killer may never be caught. So what do you say? Do you get your thrills from gritty crime fiction, true crime, or stories rife with forensic details? Or would you rather confine reality to the news and read a book with an HEA that leaves you with a smile?
A recent article (http://tinyurl.com/yghvnku) implies Angels are the next great thing in publishing. After vampires and werewolves come zombies, but zombies play better as evil beings. Hence the next bad boy hero: an angel who’s done something so bad he gets kicked out of heaven. What could be more appealing as a romantic hero than a man with a sullied reputation who seeks redemption? He’s dangerous, driven, and supernatural. Only the power of our heroine’s love can save him. Consider this theme as another variation on the Beauty and the Beast archetype. The alpha hero rules again, only this time he’s bigger than life, bad, and yet yearning for a second chance. Get ready: A new flood of fallen angel stories are about to descend into our literary arms.
The Fallen Angel can also be a villain, like in the Cotten Stone thrillers by Joe Moore and Lynn Sholes. (http://www.cottenstone.com) More fallen angels will be showing up in theaters and books as the trend takes off.
Who decides these trends? Is it based on reader demand? Popular movies? Do editors decide what’s coming next? Or do authors take up the slack and start submitting a slew of stories with this theme? They will now, once the pronouncement about the Next Best Thing in Publishing makes the rounds. If you were tired of vampires before, prepare for an onslaught of angels. But wait….they don’t all have to feature dark heroes. We can have comedic ones who are sent to Earth with a mission. Well-meaning guardian angels. Angels who have screwed up but are good at heart, who’ve been returned to life to make up for their mistakes. Better reserve that pair of wings for Halloween already.
What’s next? I’m waiting for a surge of mythological super beings. You know, the ancient gods from Greek, Roman, and Norse legends. My paranormal romance series is based on Norse mythology. Any publishers out there listening?
Do you keep track of the books you read? Some readers maintain elaborate spreadsheets or use software programs to catalogue their collection. I prefer to write a brief blurb on each story and to list the books I read on a monthly basis. Since I haven’t shared these with you in a while, here are the last two months of books that have kept me hooked. I’ve thrown in a film review for your pleasure.
TEMPLE OF THE WINDS by Terry Goodkind (Fantasy)
This is the fourth installment in Terry Goodkind’s Sword of Truth series. I got hooked by watching Legend of the Seeker on TV and now I can’t put the books down. As in the other volumes, a love story propels the plot, which features woodsman Richard Cipher, now known as Lord Rahl and a wizard in his own right. His powers are tested as a plague sweeps the land, decimating his people and his army. Dark magic started the disease, and only magic can stop it, but at a terrible cost to both Richard and his lady love, Kahlan the Mother Confessor. The evil Emperor Jagang is determined to defeat them. Between him and Richard’s former nemesis Darken Rahl, they force Richard and Kahlan to pay a terrible price to save their people.
THE PROPHET OF YONWOOD by Jeanne DuPrau (YA Fantasy)
Eleven year old Nickie comes to Yonwood with her aunt to sell her late great grandfather’s house. The town is in an uproar after a citizen predicts the end of the world. To save themselves, the townsfolk follow the dictates of righteous Mrs. Beeson who seeks out evil like an incarnation of a Salem witch hunter. This is the third volume in DuPrau’s Book of Ember series, but unlike the other two, it takes place before the cataclysm that destroyed civilization as we know it. Although this story deploys the author’s theme about people’s intolerance of anyone who is different, I didn’t enjoy this story as much as the first two books. The City of Ember was wonderful, with imaginative world building and engaging characters. Like Legend of the Seeker, the film City of Ember hooked me on the series. The People of Sparks, the second book, shows how conflict can build between two groups who don’t understand each other. The Prophet of Yonwood introduces this same idea about intolerance but the lesson is almost too obvious to be appealing anymore.
SHERLOCK HOLMES (Film).
Robert Downey Jr. is good in the lead role, and all the other actors are convincible as well. The period sets are very atmospheric. The villain is so evil you don’t know how Holmes will stop him, and as a detective, Holmes’s deductive reasoning is logical if a bit hard to follow. I enjoyed Holmes and Watson being more action oriented in this film. It’s gritty and dark, giving a realistic view of the era, but satisfying in its climactic resolution. You’ll want to see it again to follow the clues.
KINDRED SPIRITS by Allison Lane (Regency romance)
Colonel Jack Caldwell is plagued by nightmares after cashing in his commission and retiring to his country estate. But peace is out of reach when he meets neighbor Marianne Barnett. Marianne, an orphan, is a victim of her guardian’s greed. The man will stop at nothing to acquire her inheritance. Since she’s about to come of age, he takes drastic steps to ensure control, playing on Marianne’s fears and memory lapses from a horrific event in her past. He doesn’t count on interference from Jack, who proposes a solution. Jack marries Marianne and together they forge a tentative bond while attempting to free themselves of the emotional shackles binding them. Their histories must come to light before they can move forward and find true happiness.
LARCENY AND LACE by Annette Blair (mystery)
Vintage clothing shop owner Madeira Cutler has enough to contend with before the grand opening of her store, but finding some old bones leads her to a long ago murder. The killer is still alive, however, and determined that Maddie doesn’t get a clue about what happened. With the help of her psychic abilities and a resident ghost, she follows the threads, weaves the clues together, and gets to the cut of the crime. Cleverly magical.
THE LADY AND THE CIT by Blair Bancroft (Regency romance)
Wealthy landowner Aurelia Trevor seeks a husband who can manage her estate and get rid of her cunning uncle and his son who covet her lands before she reaches her majority. When she meets London financier Thomas Lanning, she decides he’ll suit her needs. Surprisingly, he accepts her proposition, while guarding his own agenda. He doesn’t count on his quiet wife growing into a force of her own, nor does she realize there’s more to life than her small country world. Soon their life is turned topsy turvy as more family members descend on the newlyweds and Thomas aims for a political seat. Will Aurelia support him, or will she turn him out? Despite Thomas’s apparent aloofness, he isn’t immune to his wife’s charms and soon wants a lot more from their marriage than her dutiful support.
JEWEL OF ATLANTIS by Gena Showalter (paranormal romance)
Grayson James has been sent to Atlantis to recover the famed Jewel of Dunamis. Attacked by various beasts, he accepts aid from a mysterious woman named Jewel. Gradually, he realizes she is more than she seems, but by then she’s stolen his heart. How can they ever be together when their worlds are so different? If Jewel crosses into his domain, she might die. But neither can he leave his people behind. Is there any way for them to be together?
KENSINGTON’S SOUL by Faith V. Smith (paranormal romance)
Detective by day and vampire by night, Zachary Kensington rescues Dr. Miranda James when she is attacked by a couple of thugs. Doomed to spend eternity in his unwanted immortal form, he battles against the evil vamp Gabriella who turned him. When he falls for Miranda, can he keep Gabriella away from his love, or will she become the next victim? Savannah is the charming setting for this tale of passion and redemption that will have you cheering for Zach to achieve his heart’s desire.