Passionate Ink

I am so pleased to have another author visiting on our cyber tour … welcome Sharona Nelson!. Her latest release, COVER ME is out now from Amber Quill Press.


COVER ME-the story of a single mom, a single man, and a health insurance plan…

Single mom Sunny Montgomery survived a lousy childhood with hippie parents as well as a terrible marriage with the cheating Kirk Stanley (AKA Kirk the Jerk), so she figured she could deal with whatever life threw at her. In short order, however, Sunny loses her job, car, health insurance, and life’s savings.

What’s a single mother to do? Get married, of course-though not for love.

Sunny accepts a marriage-of-convenience offer from her landlord, Ben Hart, so that she and Libbie, her asthmatic daughter, will have health insurance. The only problem is, she’s falling in love with him-despite the fact she thinks he’s gay. And, while she sometimes craves more distance from the temptation known as Ben, heaven knows that good, affordable apartments in Boston are as rare as winters without snow.

Through it all, Sunny perseveres. Whether beset by estranged hippie parents, money troubles, a creepy new boss, an is-he-or-isn’t-he faux husband, or the Boston mob, Sunny sustains herself with her inner strength, her best friend Dulcie, odd-duck neighbor Ray, and lots of mac-and-cheese, hot dogs, and ice cream. Oddly enough, what Sunny’s daughter, Libbie, wants-comfort food and plenty of SpongeBob SquarePants on the tube-aren’t fundamentally different from what Sunny wants-happiness and love.

Sunny’s struggles teach us that making lemonade from life’s abundant supply of lemons isn’t too difficult, as long as we follow our hearts…

Wow, that sounds wonderful! Where did you get the idea for your latest book?
A long time ago, I was living with the man who’s now my husband. We’d never felt any special impulse to tie the knot, but when my ex said he planned to remarry, that meant I’d lose my health insurance. So, my live-in of nearly ten years and I got married. Though we do love each other, we had some fun with the wedding, including putting the initials of the health plan on the arch over the bride and groom atop the ice cream cake (ice cream cake because my daughter doesn’t like regular cake.)

I told the complete story of my wedding to someone once, and they said, “You should write a story about someone who gets married for health insurance.” The idea appealed to me, and the inspiration for COVER ME was born.

I spent most of my adult life in the Boston area, so setting the story there was a no-brainer. By the way, the information about health insurance options for the unemployed was accurate when the book went to press. But now Massachusetts has a completely different system. (Just wanted Massachusetts readers to know that yes, I do the research, but the Commonwealth changed the game on me when it was too late to revise the manuscript!)

With which character do you identify most closely?
I partially identify with the heroine, Sunny, but also equally identify with her nutty hippie mother, Daphne (“Daffy”). Because both characters have elements of me in them, COVER ME was a pure hoot to write. I was very much a hippie chick for many, many years, and still hold a lot of the same political values. I also have a grown daughter, so I know how the mother would feel about the estrangement with her daughter. But, because I’ve also dealt with difficult parental relationships in my own life, I perfectly understand why Sunny might want to keep her mother and father at arms’ length, and why she might feel pissed off at them.

What makes a hero for you? Do you see them on the street, or are they simply in your head?
Ah, heroes. They’re almost always completely in my head, though occasionally inspired by men I’ve known.

While I sometimes write those alpha he-men guys, I tend to prefer someone a bit less, um, alpha in my real life. Ben’s sort of an amalgam, a bit more beta than I normally care for. However, he reminds me of some hard-science academics I’ve known and loved.

For me, a real hero is a man who’s not afraid to take a chance and reveal his heart when it’s clear he’s fallen for the heroine. Ben was a little slow to risk it all, but in the end, he jumps off the cliff of love. He may not be Rambo, but he wants to help and protect Sunny and her child. He’s a genuine, 100% good guy. In a movie or TV show, Ben might be best played by the actor who plays Henry on “Ugly Betty” (Christopher Gorham). Gorham’s character looks very much as I imagined Ben would, and he’s got the perfect combination of awkwardness, nervousness, inexperience, and willingness to pursue the woman he loves.

What do you have planned for your next book?
I’m working on two stories. One is a novel set in Seventies Boston that, again, is inspired by parts of my own life. The book is written, but needs revisions-a lot of revisions. The working title is “Alice in Boogieland”, but I’m not wild about the title. So far, I haven’t come up with anything that’s much better. (Unless a title comes to be at the beginning of a story, my titles usually stink.)

The other novel is a contemporary story of two sisters who are like day and night, and who can’t really stand each other, but who come together to search for their third sister. But is she really their sister? The working title is “Shirley Goodness and Mercy,” and I’m told the first chapter-a funeral-is reasonably funny. The book’s not finished. It’s set partially in southern NJ, southern Delaware (where I’m from), and in the deep south-the sisters, Shirley and Mercy, were born and raised in Louisiana.

What does your writing space look like?
It looks as if a paper bomb has gone off, and I’m sitting at ground zero. I am a very messy person when I’m creating. When I have some time after finishing a project, that’s when I clean up (if then).

More concretely, I have a nice, big desk with a computer and several small items that have personal significance, along with all the paper. I spent some money on ergonomics because I have fibromyalgia, and I need my work space not to cause me any additional pain.

I have a wall lamp I rarely turn on, so I’ve draped a very colorful net-and-sequins shawl over the lampshade. It brightens up my little corner nicely. I also have a floor-to-ceiling bookshelf that holds my research books and my promotional materials, among other things. My calendars (I have two) are within eyeball distance and/or reach. I live or die by my calendars. If I don’t write something down, I’ll never, ever remember the deadline.

What advice would you give to aspiring romance writers?
Write what you love, because if you become a hit, readers are going to want more books in the same subgenre. That’s one of the best reasons not to write to market in some genre you don’t enjoy-you might end up with a career in it.

I also suggest you take the time to school yourself on the basics of grammar and story construction. It’s rare for an editor to buy a story whose mechanics aren’t the best.

Also-as they say in “Galaxy Quest” (and what a wonderful, silly movie that is)-Never give up! Never surrender!

Don’t quit trying, no matter what.

As if I haven’t asked enough personal questions … could you tell us about yourself?
I spent most of my adult life in the Boston area. (I miss the city, but not the winters. Heaven is eighty degrees and blue skies.) While in Boston, I was a jack-of-all-trades, mastering two: radio personality and technical writer/online help designer. I also worked as a taxi driver, clerical chartist for the Federal Reserve Bank, and temporary office worker for half a dozen companies. However, fiction writing is my first and longest-lived love.

The inspiration for COVER ME was my own life, though the book was heavily fictionalized, of course. I did not marry my husband for health insurance, nor is my ex a rat like Kirk the Jerk-far from it. I will admit to being a single mom for a while, and I do have a daughter, now grown, who could show a bit of Libbie’s attitude when young-and still does, on occasion…

I read widely, adoring a good story with quirky characters. Besides reading, I enjoy being around horses and cats, singing, creating new recipes, taking solitary road trips, and hanging with friends. I confess to being hopelessly addicted to the wonderfully-over-the-top television shows Boston Legal, House, Men in Trees, Ugly Betty, Desperate Housewives, and 24. I write erotic romance under the name Barrie Abalard.

My family and I currently live in one of the Middle Atlantic states, but are considering relocating someplace it’s warmer in the winter.

Thank you so much, Sharona! To learn more about Sharona and her books, please visit her web site and blog. She’d also love it if you would friend her on MySpace.

You can read an excerpt HERE or buy COVER ME at Amber Quill Press.

Today I’m happy to welcome Barrie Abalard the second guest on my Passionate Ink cyber tour. She’s here to talk about her latest release Hot to Trot from Loose-Id.

Barrie has been writing and selling erotic romance for over twelve years under the pseudonyms Barrie Abalard, Miss Lee, and Belle. As of 2008 she has sold over 80 short stories, 9 novels/novellas, and one long novel. Loose-IdAmber Quill Press, and Discipline and Desire carry her work.

When she lived in Boston, she was a jack-of-all-trades, mastering two: radio personality and technical writer/online help designer. Barrie also did short stints as a taxi driver, clerical chartist for the Federal Reserve Bank, and temporary office worker for half a dozen companies. However, fiction writing is her first and longest-lived love. (If you can say that three times fast, you, too, might have a career in radio.)

Exes Patti North and Dylan Decker adore each other. Her problem? He cheated. His problem? Her temper. Fixing things will take more than spankings and hot sex, though that’s a good start.

HOT TO TROT, set in the often funny-weird worlds of Boston high-tech and equestrian hobbyists, tells the story of two exes who still adore each other-and still annoy each other-more than any other twosome on the planet

She’s agreed to answer a few questions. (I promised her since this is her first visit to Around the Writer’s Block that I’d go easy on her. Hee hee hee!) So without further adieu:

Tell us about your hero and give us five descriptives of his personality.
Dylan Decker is complicated, arrogant (but in a good way), funny, iconoclastic, and sweet.

The odd thing about Dylan is that I had absolutely no one in mind when I first imagined him. Usually some small aspect of someone I know will inspire a character, but Dylan sprang fully-formed from the place my muses live. (Barbara Samuel calls them “the girls in the basement”, and that’s how I think of them, too.)

Dylan has a brilliant mind for software, is tall, dark and handsome, has a great sense of humor, and also has the amount of ego necessary to found a company and be one of its officers-in other words, a lot of ego. I spent many years in high tech as a technical writer, but I never met anyone quite like Dylan.

However, he has a sensitive side-he likes to wear silk undies, he adores horses, and he’s emotionally a very complicated man. That last personality aspect was borrowed from my husband. I rather like complicated men.

In which of your books is the heroine most like yourself?
It’s Patti North, the heroine of HOT TO TROT, the book we’re talking about. Patti loves horses but isn’t a graceful rider, she grew up with few financial advantages, she’s a technical writer, she’s smart, funny (a real wiseass), and loves Champagne as well as her calico cat. Most of those things are based on me.

I never owned a horse like Flash, but I did ride a horse named Flash once, and he was just as adorable as the Flash in the story. He looked the same, too. It’s a good thing horses don’t read, or I might be in trouble for basing my Flash so literally on the real Flash.

Where did you get the idea for your latest book?
I’m still trying to figure that out. HOT TO TROT was the first story I wrote that was longer than a short story-the idea came to me back in 2001. Obviously some parts of the story were inspired by my life, but the story itself just kind of appeared in my head one day, poof. It’s been a long road to publish this novel!

I’m what writers call a “pantster” (meaning, I don’t plot beforehand, I just start writing), so Patti and Dylan came to me first, along with the title. Because I was taking riding lessons at the time (and love horses), I added the horse element. And I was working a contract at a company whose products resembled the ones Patti documents in the book.

What do you like about erotic romance best?
I love that my heroines can be fully sexual and unashamedly kinky while falling in love with the man they’ve been looking for all their lives. I love that my heroes can be alpha and still enjoy pleasing a woman in bed. And I love, most of all, that I can write stories that are romantic yet very much true to life.

What does your family think about you writing erotic romance?
Both my husband and my grown daughter are very supportive of my writing career, and celebrate my successes along with me. They both bring me such joy!

The cats could care less, as long as I make enough to keep them in cat food.

If you could change one thing about your habits, what would it be? What is the one thing you’ll never change?
If I could change one thing, I’d make myself love exercise. I mean, really love it. And be a runner, so I could wear a size ten. Okay, a twelve. I’ve never been a ten in my life.

One thing I’ll never change is my refusal to compromise when the issue is important to me. I will always write what I want to write, the way I want to write it. I will always be true to myself and my muses.

I’m so pleased Barrie took time from her very busy schedule to stop by for a chat. Please feel free to ask any questions about her book or her sex um.. er… life in general. 

Barrie writes “stories of love that hurt so good”. You can learn more about Barrie and her books on her website or her blog. She’d be happy to friend you on her MySpace.