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In the Authors Mind | Every Hero Should Have...

Every author should have...find out how some of your favorite authors answered Kindle Most Wanted's latest fill in the blank question.


Guest Post: Jessie Humphries, Author of the Ruby Rose Series

Ruby_roseJessie Humphries, author of the Ruby Rose series, shares her picks for the most memorable books of 2014.

As precocious little girls—whenever my sister and I were feeling especially cantankerous—we would tease each other with “You’re such a cow face.” You see, somewhere along the way, someone told us that there are two shapes of faces: a roundish cow face or a longish horse face. We decided we’d rather have the latter, probably since My Little Pony toys were all the jazz.

Later on, we learned that it’s okay to have a long or round or whatever shape face we happened to have at the time (depending upon freshman-fifteens, breakups, babies, etcetera). Actually we learned that this information was a bunch of horse sh*! (or cow sh*! depending on your view), but it’s managed to stay with me all these years just the same.

Well, it turns out that 2014 is the Chinese Year of the Horse…and my birth year is also Year of the Horse…and I’m writing this post just after a trip to Chinatown in San Francisco where I bought a Year of the Horse calendar…so I’ve claimed 2014 as my year. (You see my line of thinking is a lot like Lombard St.—the windiest street in San Fran and the world.)

And you know what? So far, so good. Not only has 2014 turned out to be the year I debuted as an author, but it’s also a year full of amazing reads. Here are some of them:

Gilded by Christina Farley The stunning first book in the contemporary fantasy series. (Book two, Silvern, which also released in 2014, is equally beautiful.) This series has it all. Gorgeous cover: check. Fascinating mythology: check. Main character that knows how to fight: check. Rich Korean culture: check. Hot boys/hotter immortals: check.

Remake by Ilima Todd A dystopian book unlike any you’ve ever read. In a society where children are raised androgynously, they are forced to choose once they’re seventeen years old. This book is controversial, emotional, provoking, and powerful—all things I happen to love.

The Eighth Guardian by Meredith McCardle A time travel novel to blow your mind. It’s like a history lesson wrapped in bacon, dipped in chocolate, and deep-fried in sweet donut batter. (The bacon being the sizzling storyline, the chocolate being the rich historical detail, and the deep-fried batter being the twists and turns that make your blood pressure skyrocket…and then leave you wanting more.)

Elevated by Elana Johnson A contemporary novel set in an elevator and written in verse. I acknowledge that the idea of an entire book being written in poetry is scary. Scary-boring or scary-intellectual. Maybe even scary-bad. This book defies all those concerns you may have had.

Push Girl by Jessica Love and Chelsie Hill An inspiring and real contemporary novel about how life can change in an instant, based on the life of Chelsie Hill, one of the stars of the Sundance Channel’s unscripted series "Push Girls." 

Gates of Thread and Stone by Lori M. Lee A fantasy full of magic, mythology, and intrigue. This is the kind of story that begs to be made into an HBO series. I’d love to see some director take on the challenge of visually creating the world Miss Lee built with words alone.

Beware the Wild by Natalie C. Parker A supernatural story set in the swamps of the Deep South. The atmosphere in this book is so pervasive that I can feel the sticky atmosphere lingering in my soul as I type these words. We got gators, we got strange happenins, and we got secrets. Eerie and beautiful, this gothic fairytale story will haunt you long after you read the last page. Excuse me while I go round myself up some moonshine or mead and read it again.

Guest Post by Lisa Jackson and Nancy Bush, Authors of "Wicked Ways"

WickedWaysLisa Jackson and Nancy Bush, New York Times bestselling authors of “Wicked Ways,” discuss the book and give us their top binge worthy series.

Nancy Bush:  Fans have been clamoring for Wicked Ways, the fourth book in the Colony Series which we write together. What do you think makes the series so popular?

Lisa Jackson:  The  Colony Series is just fun. There’s a lot of mystery, a bit of romance and a hint of paranormal running through all the stories. Each of the heroines in the books has a special gift, and a bit of some kind of ESP which is a blessing as well as a curse. These gifts help her find love, solve mysteries and get into a whole lot of trouble. Come on, who doesn’t love a story about a secretive cult?

NB:  In Wicked Ways, the action moves from the Oregon coast to Southern California. Do you think the series still retains its creep factor?

LJ:  Oh, yes. Even though the setting is different, the climate changes from the foggy forests of coastal Oregon, the mood is still creepy. There’s a mystery to be solved and explanations needed for the unexplained. Wicked Ways is definitely another thrill ride.

NB:  You’ve written a number of series: The New Orleans series with Bentz and Montoya, the Montana series with Pescoli and Alvarez, and the Savannah series with Gillette and Reed. There’s also the Colony series that we write together, and we’ve got a second Wyoming ranch story coming out after last year’s Sinister which you and I wrote with our friend, Rosalind Noonan. Sheesh. How do you keep them all straight?

LJ:  I have help, of course. Not only do you and another person read the books, but my editor knows them inside out as I’ve worked with him for a couple of decades. There are also my cheat sheets, actually character/place/event rosters that keep me on the straight and narrow. These rosters actually refer to book and page number so I can reread passages if I’m a little muddy. It’s complicated, but it’s fun!

NB: Do you prefer writing series books or stand-alone novels?

LJ:  I like is to mix it up a bit. I love the familiar characters and settings of my series. I, like my readers, want to know what’s next for my heroes and heroines. Right now, I’m working on Never Die Alone, the next in the Detectives Montoya/Bentz New Orleans series; it’s great to catch up with the guys. I like to pepper in a stand-alone novels now and again so I can meet new characters, create new back stories, and visit new places. It keeps the  creative juices flowing.  (Always a good thing for a writer!)

NB:  Wicked Ways was a lot of fun to put together. What do you think?  Will the series go to book five?

LJ:   That’s a good question.  We’re thinking of taking a break from the series, at least for a while. As you know, we’ve got a couple of ideas percolating that require a new setting and characters, but I never say never because I’ve learned the hard way it’s a bad idea.


Nancy Bush's favorite “binge-worthy” series/books are…

  1. Sue Grafton’s “alphabet series” is one my favorites. I love a good whodunit. I’ve read C Is For Corpse multiple times. 
  2. I’ve torn through all of George R.R. Martin’s A Song of Fire and Ice books several times as well as watched the HBO series even though I neve thought I was a big  fan of fantasy. Turns out, he’s made me a believer.
  3. Of course I love my sister’s books, and I have a tendency to think my favorite series is the one which I’ve most recently read! With that in mind, I’m looking forward to the book she’s writing now, Never Die Alone, the next installment in the New Orleans series with Bentz and Montoya, due out next summer.  


Lisa Jackson's favorite “binge-worthy” series/books are…

  1. I’m a big fan of Michael Connelly so I’ve kept up with Harry Bosch and Mickey Haller of The Lincoln Lawyer fame.
  2. My editor introduced me to books by Linwood Barclay, and although they aren’t exactly a series, a lot of them are set in the same fictitious town of Promise Falls, where familiar characters pop-up into different books.
  3. I’ve also read a lot of Kathy Reichs and her Temperance Brennan series, I love forensic investigations.
  4. It goes without saying I read Nancy Bush. I love the “Nowhere” series! The fact some of the characters connect to our Wicked/Colony series doesn’t hurt a bit.


Melinda Leigh: My Book in 15 Seconds

 Melinda Leigh shares an overview of her new book Hour of Need in 15 seconds. 


Suzanne Enoch's Favorite Romantic Heroes

New York Times best-selling romance author Suzanne Enoch shares the inspiration for her latest hero, and gives us a list of the leading men of romance who set her pulse racing. Her latest work can be found in the holiday anthology "Christmas Brides," available on Kindle now.

Christmas BridesAt this very moment I have a photo of Joe Manganiello pinned on my desktop, as the physical inspiration for the hero I’m currently writing. I get to spend all day referring to his dark, unruly hair and his fine physique, and in my mind he also has a hot Scottish accent. Yep, it’s rough being a romance writer.

A romance hunk doesn’t always start out being a hero, of course. Sure, he has to have at least one redeeming quality, something that keeps the reader both interested in reading more about him and rooting for him to become a better man. He can be perfectly handsome from the beginning, but if on page one he’s a perfect character, that’s just boring. Maybe he’s selfish, or careless, or distrustful, abandoned, or wounded, vampiric, or werewolfian. What incentive, then, does this handsome lad have to improve himself? Ah, that would be the heroine. He has to see something special about her, something that calls to the best part of himself.

The male protagonist of a historical romance, which is the genre I write, has a fair number of employment (or lack thereof) possibilities from where he can begin his transformation into hunky hero – he can be the younger son of an earl, a soldier of fortune, a gambler, a duke, or a down-on-his-luck adventurer, among many other things.

And then there are princes, especially tall, black-haired, green-eyed princes like Prince Wulfiniski from Karen Hawkins's How to Pursue a Princess. That man has it all - broad shoulders, smoldering green eyes, and a wicked sense of humor that threw the poor heroine - and me! - into a flutter every time he walked into the room. All that and he's a prince to boot. What's not to love?

I never could resist a knight in shining armor, either, and Sir Gareth of Caerleon in Teresa Medeiros's Shadows and Lace is particularly irresistible. When the deliciously dark and brooding Gareth wins the fair Lady Rowena in a dice game with her deadbeat dad, he has to decide if his lust for revenge or his lust for Rowena will win out. This one has all of the humor, passion and charm you'd expect from a Teresa Medeiros romance and Gareth is a hero for all ages!

Oh, and then there's something about an American hero in Victorian England – especially when he's as smart as he is handsome, a self-made man with an eye toward the future and a wicked sense of humor that's impossible to resist. Even if the very proper heroine in Victoria Alexander's The Scandalous Adventures of the Sister of the Bride is determined to do just that. Come on. We've met him. She doesn't stand a chance.

In my Rogue with a Brogue, Arran MacLawry is the heir apparent to the leader of clan MacLawry in the Scottish Highlands. He’s suspicious of the English, and even more so of any Campbells, the long-time enemies of his own clan. The last person he would ever intend to fall in love with is Mary Campbell, then, but that’s just what he does. And she falls for him as well, because he’s a Scottish laird’s brother and tall and broad-shouldered, with black hair that falls over his brow in the breeze, eyes bluer than a Highlands summer morning sky, and he dances a fair waltz. Yes, he’s drop-dead gorgeous – and he’s fair minded and witty and honorable even if he does like to fight and tends to kiss young ladies in public. You know, a hunk. A hero.

Do you have a favorite romance hero? Did you like him from page one, or did he grow on you during the course of the novel?

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Guest Post by Iris Johansen, Author of "The Perfect Witness"

IrisJohansenIris Johansen, New York Times bestselling author of "The Perfect Witness," shares with us her top five favorite mystery and thriller reads.

KILLER by Jonathan Kellerman.  For psychological suspense, you can't go wrong with Kellerman's Alex Delaware, a brilliant psychologist who frequently consults with the Los Angeles Police Department.  In "Killer", a bitter child custody battle between two sisters escalates in a most lethal and surprising way.

DIRTY MARTINI by J.A. Konrath. Chicago police detective Jacqueline "Jack" Daniels will keep you laughing even as you navigate the twists and turns of her homicide  investigations.

"Dirty Martini" finds her on the trail of a psychopath who's poisoning the city's food supply.

BAD LUCK AND TROUBLE by Lee Child.  I'm a huge fan of Child's Jack Reacher series, which follows the adventures of a former military police officer who now lives off the grid, drifting from town to town.  He's tough as nails, but appealingly sympathetic.  In this book he squares off against a killer who is targeting members of his former elite military unit.

THE COVE by Catherine Coulter.  It seems like everyone now reads the Catherine Coulter's riveting FBI series, but this is where it all began.  Sally Brainerd is hiding from her father's killers in a small Oregon town, but when FBI agent James Quinlan arrived to try and bring her in, sparks fly and people start dropping dead.  Romantic Suspense at its best.

BEYOND BELIEF by Roy Johansen.  You didn't think I'd leave my son off this list, did you?  Roy was an Edgar Award-winning mystery writer long before we started writing the Kendra Michaels books together. BEYOND BELIEF introduces paranormal debunker Joe Bailey, a police detective (and former magician) who exposes phony spiritualists and fortune tellers. But he begins to question his skeptical beliefs when he investigates a murder caused by possibly-supernatural means.





Alan Russell: My Book in 15 Seconds

Alan Russell shares an overview of his book St. Nick in 15 seconds. 


Richard Farr's Recommended Reading

Fire_seekersThe Fire Seekers author shares some science fiction and fantasy favorites.

New worlds! Quirky people! Above all, unsettling ideas! The stories I love best are the ones that ask big questions—the ones that leave me feeling as if someone just stomped in, wearing heavy boots, and rearranged the furniture inside my head.

If you like that feeling too, try Arthur C. Clarke’s sci-fi classics 2001: A Space Odyssey and Childhood's End. Old-fashioned? In fact, 2001 brilliantly confronts us with—and refuses to solve—a terrifying enigma that’s only now about to become real. When we first produce a machine like HAL, which seems to have beliefs and desires all of its own... will it have them? Or just seem to have them? And how will we know? (Philip K. Dick’s Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? is another classic on similar themes that also, like 2001, became the basis of a great movie.)

My big fantasy recommendation (new, quirky, and unsettling all at once) is always the first big fantasy novel I read, aged 15 or so. While my friends were falling in love with Tolkein, I preferred reading Mervyn Peake's Gormenghast trilogy. It's not an easy book; the language is dense and odd. And maybe calling it fantasy is odd, too: there’s no magic, not a single orc or talking tree, no wizards or demons. Just "ordinary" human beings (about half of them insane) in a castle. But that castle is a world so rich and colorful (yet so bleak, and weird, and weirdly familiar) that it’s like seeing our world from the viewpoint of a Martian. And it’s hard not to like a book in which the homicidal cook is named Swelter, the mad medic is Dr. Prunesquallor, and you also get one of literature’s great creeps, the ruthless, stop-at-nothing anti-hero, Steerpike.

I always admire good SFF books that —like these— beg to be read by teens and young adults even though they’re not “supposed” to be “YA.” (A pet peeve of mine—in any genre—is the phrase “age appropriate.” I think you should read every good book you can read.) To see what I mean, get your hands on these three: James Gurney’s fantasy adventure picture book Dinotopia (yay: there are many more books in the series). David Almond’s so-called "middle grader," Skellig, which everyone from 10 to 110 should read. And finally, a grown-up, gritty detective novel that’s really something else entirely, China Miéville’s The City & the City (Hint: Beszel and Ul Qoma are such different places. But they’re in the same place.). Is this sci-fi? I’m not sure and I don’t care—it’s brilliant. 

Miéville is serious stuff, but I also like my SFF seriously funny. Read anything, anything by Sir Terry Pratchett, but especially The Wee Free Men—preferably aloud, in a bad Glaswegian accent. Also Douglas Adam’s The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy series, and Jonathan Stroud’s Bartimaeus trilogy. Oh, yes, and Eoin Colfer’s Artemis Fowl books. A 12-year-old criminal mastermind searching for Irish fairy gold… only, the fairies have unreliable atomic-powered wing-backpacks, and one of them smokes vile-smelling cigars and says “D’Arvit!” all the time—a word the author helpfully explains as a fairy swear-word “too rude to translate.” Hilarious.

I have to finish by recommending Philip Pullman's His Dark Materials, my favorite SFF book by any living author. And especially book two, The Subtle Knife, not just because it's great writing that makes you think about Big Stuff (stomp, clomp: sounds of furniture being rearranged), but because it's such a great metaphor. A magic knife? With which you can cut a gap in this universe? And step through into a different universe? Oh, right... that's what a story is.

Three Shifts in Thinking to Make Ideas Happen

513KW+5AaNLAs editor in Chief and director of 99U, Jocelyn K. Glei leads its mission to provide the missing curriculum on making ideas happen. In this post, she discusses key concepts from her latest book, Make Your Mark.

Shift 1: Defining your purpose is more important than defining your business model.

The notion that you can lay out your business model in advance, and then meticulously follow it like a yellow brick road to success, is completely outmoded. With the rapid-fire evolution of technology, no one knows what the future will look like in 5 years or even next year. As a result, more and more companies are letting their business models unfold over time.

And that’s where purpose comes in. Let’s take Google as an example. Google’s purpose is to organize the world’s information. That’s not a business model, that’s a mission. And it allows them to evolve and innovate quickly. Google started as a search engine, but who knew 10 years ago that their purpose would evolve to encompass mapping the world? Or email? Or self-driving cars? Maybe search will die as a business someday but Google could still continue to thrive because they are constantly exploring and reinventing what it means to fulfill their purpose.

In other words, purpose acts as a flexible moral compass for where your company can and should go next, while a business model acts like a straitjacket.

Shift 2: Acting like a human is more important than acting flawlessly.

The rise of e-commerce and the social web has made finding customers for your product or service easier than ever. That said, it’s also made it easier than ever for your customers to talk back. Whereas brands used to push their products and messages out in what was essentially a one-way conversation, the social web has transformed it into a two-way conversation.

What that means is that brands — as companies or solo-entrepreneurs — need to be more authentic and more improvisational. Finding your voice, participating in the conversation on an ongoing basis, and being able to respond honestly when you mess up are all essential skills.

In my interview with Neil Blumenthal, one of the co-founders and CEOs at Warby Parker, he talks about how consumers have extremely sensitive “bullshit detectors” these days. We’ve been so inundated with advertisements that we know immediately when a brand is being fake and when they’re being sincere. Honesty, humanity, and empathy are becoming competitive advantages.

Shift #3: Embracing ambiguity is more important than sticking with “what works.”

Research has shown that creatives aren’t often given the opportunity to lead because there’s an unconscious bias against them. People associate creativity with nonconformity and unconventionality. And when they think about an effective leader, they think about someone who brings order. Obviously if you believe that a leader’s role is to bring order, you wouldn’t want a creative to lead. (Of course, this has nothing to do with whether creatives actually can lead, it’s just an unconscious bias many of us have.)

What’s interesting is that these qualities that have typically biased folks against creatives as leaders — that they’re unconventional, unorthodox, and full of un-tested new ideas about the way things should be done — are actually turning into assets when we look at today’s work and business landscape and how it’s evolving.

Adaptability and agility are at a premium. You need to constantly be innovating. You need to be making new bets and taking risks every day. You need to be trying to reinvent yourself, and your business, on an ongoing basis. And these needs line up perfectly with creatives’ skillsets.

In my interview with John Maeda, formerly the president of RISD and now a design partner at KPCB, he points out that creatives are in the perfect position to lead right now. Because they’re okay with uncertainty – not knowing what the future holds – and they’re okay with failure and they like nothing more than to innovate.

This post is based on the research in Make Your Mark: The Creative’s Guide to Building a Business with Impact. It features contributions from the designers and entrepreneurs behind companies like Google X, Facebook, Warby Parker, O’Reilly Media, Fog Creek, and many more. Learn more.

Love is a Funny Thing for Tawna Fenske

Romance author Tawna Fenske gives us a hilarious look at how her everyday life experiences inspire her to write about the funny side of romance. Her latest novel, Fiancee for Hire, is on sale now.

TawnafenskeTen minutes ago, I was sitting at my desk giving thoughtful consideration to a topic for this blog post.

Okay, that’s a lie. I was actually googling photos of nudist weddings. It’s for a book, I swear.

In any case, I was nibbling frozen peas as I’m wont to do when I’m deep in thought on a writing project. One of the little guys slipped through my fingers and tumbled down the front of my shirt, wedging itself in my cleavage.

Naturally, that’s when my husband walked in the room. “Why is your hand in your bra?”

“I dropped a frozen pea.”

“Is this like last week when I found you licking your keyboard?”

“No, that’s totally different,” I insisted. “What else am I supposed to do when I spill yogurt on it?”

He walked out of the room shaking his head. “Remind me to stop asking questions when you’re writing.”

I share that exchange with you not because I had a fervent desire to fit the words “cleavage,” “yogurt,” and “nudist weddings” into one blog post (though for the record, that’s a worthy goal). It’s more [as] an illustration of my answer to one of the most common questions I get in interviews, which is this:

Why do you write romantic comedy?

As you might have gathered by now, I write romantic comedy because I would be abysmally bad at crafting serious tomes on existentialism.

I write romantic comedy because I once waxed off my own eyebrow and mistakenly used a green eyeliner to draw it back on. I write romantic comedy because I attended a fancy luncheon where I spit gristle into a linen napkin, fumbled it into the purse of the woman next to me, and got caught trying to retrieve it. I write romantic comedy because I unintentionally texted a boob pic to my realtor. Twice.

The great thing about being a magnet for ridiculousness is that I’m pretty much guaranteed to never run out of fodder for my books. Even more fortuitous is that Entangled Publishing has a home for my love-tinged absurdities with their Lovestruck line.

Lovestruck novels are all centered around witty dialogue, meet-cutes, and twists on classic tropes. Throw in a few heaping handfuls of sexytimes, and you’ve got yourself a fabulous beach read. I love writing them almost as much as I love reading them. 

Thanks to Lovestruck, readers of Marine for Hire have gotten to meet Sam, the Marine sniper turned undercover nanny who confuses the steps for changing diapers with the steps for disassembling a M-16 rifle (and learns they’re actually not that different).

Thanks to Lovestruck, readers of Protector for Hire (coming Dec. 2014) can meet Anna, a woman who makes a living planning weird weddings that include things like paintball wars or ceremonies in which everyone dresses festively in their birthday suits.

See? I told you it was for a book.

Readers can also meet their respective love matches and see how they set the sheets ablaze (hey, there’s an idea for a candlelit love scene gone awry…)

Now if I could just get that damn pea out of my bra.

 Interested in romance? Sign up for Romance Delivers, a weekly email featuring the best in romance each week - from weekly booklists to deals and exclusive content from authors.