Monday, January 30, 2012

Interview with Harlequin Superromance author Rogenna Brewer

From her first Superromance in 1999, Seal It With A Kiss, to her latest release, Marry Me, Marine, Rogenna Brewer's uniformed heroes and heroines have gripped the hearts of readers. A navy heroine herself, married to her very own navy hero, Rogenna masterfully draws on her experience to create characters and stories that are true to life.

But she's also skilled at giving life a twist, as you'll find in her soon-to-be-released paranormal ebook series. Read on to find out more...and to see what brides and ghosts have to do with one another ;). Leave a comment and you'll be entered in a chance to win her entire My Marine Trilogy!!! Rogenna rocks!

1. Okay, Rogenna. Down to business. I remember when my local library switched from index card catalogues to computer catalogues. I think I hyperventilated, LOL. But the computer chip was planted so-to-speak. You're not only a successful author, but an experienced bookseller, reviewer and librarian. Given your experience, what changes do you see local libraries taking on in order to survive the rise of the e-book era?

Publicly funded libraries are having to do a lot more with a lot less. I'm fortunate to live in a large metro area where libraries have adapted with online browsing, interlibrary loan, eReaders and self checkout. Gone are the dark oak shelves and stiff back chairs in favor of floor to ceiling windows and media centers with modern decor. You can even get a cappuccino in the coffee shop at my local library. 

I see the modern library as a hub of digital information.  But libraries are having a hard time convincing publishers to let them lend ebooks.  Check this out from PW:  Digital Book World: New Retail Channels, The Library e-Book Wars and Bundling      

2. Speaking of e-books, you have several anthologies coming out this spring. Your experience in the Navy has made you famous for writing true-to-life heroes and heroines in uniform. I do mean famous! Just last month, Superromance Mitzi's Marine was mentioned in the Time Magazine article: Veteran Affairs: For romance readers - a hardy man is good to find. Congratulations! Your e-books, The Bennett Brides (March 2012) and The Bennett Ghosts (April 2012), delve into the historical and paranormal genres. Have you always wanted to navigate different romance genres, or did something more recent inspire these books?

My only claim to fame is that I'm still hanging in there after a career full of ups and downs .    

The Bennett Books started with a manuscript in which the heroine inherited a wax museum, and then the wax hero collected dust while I went on to write other things. I tried to sell the story as a contemporary, but realize now it was always a paranormal. The research lead to an equally dusty historical and over time those two books became interconnected trilogies simmering at the back of my brain.

One day I realized I had more unfinished manuscripts than published books.  Ideas are easy, writing is hard.  I don't know when that switch first flipped, but trying to write with my critical left-brain is not working for me. 

Left brain thinking is good for reevaluating a writing career, however.  That's when I decided to take a step back and finish everything I'd ever started.  I miss writing for the sheer joy of it.  And my older manuscript reflect that joy. 

The Bennett Brides is an anthology of three historical novellas. Or as I like to call them, historical romps.  They're fast, they're fun and a little sexy, but not erotica. In Fall From Grace a cattleman gets tumbled for the payroll by a debutante posing as a soiled dove. Only Hope pairs a outlaw with a suffragette lady lawyer. And all bets are off in For Love of Honor when a gambler turns a gold digger (as in gold miner) into a lady. 

Fast forward to the present. In The Bennett Ghosts anthology, three siblings inherit a ghost town. In A Will of Her Own the heroine gets stuck with the wax museum, complete with a real live handsome hunk squatter and his look-a-like ghost. Meanwhile, her brother doesn't stand A Ghost of a Chance in turning the town into a gambling mecca. And the old mine becomes a time portal for her sister and a time traveling gunslinger In the Nick of Time

3. More and more print authors are publishing e-books, either through an e-publisher or on their own. In your opinion, is this wave driven by a 'jump-in-or-be-left-behind' phenomenon, financial goals, or fear of an unknown future (ie. dividing one's eggs)?

I'm always behind.  But, yes, there's that fear of being left out entirely.

For me it's just come to the point where I'm tired of hearing, no thanks. My ideas are a little off norm and that makes them hard to fit into any basket. I was writing Navy SEALs long before I sold. I was writing light paranormal while there was an explosion of dark paranormal. I'm done chasing the market for little to no money.

What if, and isn't that the basis for any good story, authors could weave their own baskets. That's what's happening here. There are opportunities for authors that didn't exist before. I designed the covers for The Bennett Brides and The Bennett Ghosts myself. I can oversee every detail of these books. 

I'm willing to take a risk that the books I want to write will find an audience. And while I'm testing the waters with The Bennetts, that doesn't mean I plan to leave my loyal Navy SEAL readers behind.  I'm also working on a new Super as we speak, and I just got the rights to use secondary characters from my first three Supers. Which means I can publish a couple of SEAL books I've been sitting on for twelve years.

4. For every future there's a past, and we'd love to hear about The Call story that started it all for you!

You mean the call that almost wasn't? It was June 1, 1998. I got an email that Friday from an editorial assistant telling me to disable call-blocking for a call from the senior editor of Harlequin Superromance on Monday. Does anyone even remember call blocking? Well, I NEVER used it after that Friday. 

As you can imagine it was the longest weekend of my life. I didn't dare get my hopes up, yet I did.  And come Monday morning, I waited and waited and waited. Because the email said the editor would be leaving for a two week vacation, I made myself call the Toronto office just before close of business, after waiting all day by the phone. 

I was a nervous wreck. Got the editorial assistant, got transferred to the senior editor, and then got disconnected. So I called again. Got the editorial assistant again. She told me Paula was on the other line trying to call me back, but not to hang up because Paula was coming to the phone. Then Paula Eykelhof came to the line and bought my book and I can't remember a  thing after that. Except, when she asked what pseudonym I'd be writing under, I said I'd be writing under my own name. And she said, "Well, we don't have one of those (Rogenna) so I guess it's okay." 

5. Would you say your experience in the Navy has influenced the way you write in terms of plotting, pantsing, discipline etc...or are you a writing rebel?

Defiantly, the Navy influenced my writing.  But in subject matter only. 

But I'm more of a panster than a plotter. I see stories in my head like movie trailers. I can rewind, but the stories are ever changing so I want to get them down on paper as soon as possible or I may not remember that bit of dialogue that sounded so perfect the first time I heard it. Sometimes I get the gift of the whole story straight through from beginning to end. While other times the story needs to gel before it comes together.

I'm disciplined when it comes to putting my butt in the chair. But I'm all over the place when it comes to writing. I've tried different plotting techniques with varying degrees of success. But I can't say I've ever written two stories using the exact same method twice. I still fell like I'm trying to figure it all out.       

6. In both of your latest Superromances, Mitzi's Marine and Marry Me Marine, your heroes suffer physical disabilities after having served their country. I love it when a wounded hero finds a way to love life, a heroine, and himself again. No doubt, the wounds suffered by these men (and all who serve) run far deeper than the physical, and I think the awareness your books bring to this issue is wonderful. What type of research, psychological or otherwise, went into these stories?

It took me years to write Mitzi's Marine. I'd read an article, right after the war started, about our wounded being shipped home in the dead of night to Andrews Air Force Base. According to the reporter this was to keep them out of the public eye and their numbers vague. Anyway, he got my attention. I'd been stationed in DC and knew the base well.
I felt a calling to write a wounded warrior, but took my time answering it. Because sometimes we write to heal ourselves. So I spent a year asking everyone I trusted if they could love an amputee hero.  Of course, they answered, yes.  But I needed more time to come around. I wrote The Marine's Baby first, while my one-legged hero stayed in the background. I started doing research, read some real-life accounts of wounded Marines, and got to know my hero a little better. And then I started to write.

There were times I felt I didn't do Bruce justice. But I really did fall in love with him in the end. Nash from Marry Me, Marine came easier. After I got the idea, I googled and even found a real-life account of a Navy SEAL who'd lost an eye in Iraq. 

7. On your website, you mentioned that your word of the year is 'remarkability'. List three ways you think a writer should use this word to inspire a successful 2012 writing year.

"Remarkability:  Do what you do so well that people can't resist telling others about you."  ~ Walt Disney

1) find your niche. 2) write to your strength. 3) you can tweet, or you can give others something to tweet about.

8. Other than not quitting, what's the one piece of advice, or perhaps the one thing you wish you'd known, that you'd like to share with aspiring authors?

I could tell you, but you wouldn't believe me :)  There's a whole journey before that first sale, remember to enjoy the ride.

9. Now for a little fun :) Do you have any quirky writing rituals? What's your favorite deadline crunch time snack?

Years ago I convinced myself I needed an electric pencil sharpener before I could write. Then I sharpened a bunch of colorful pencils, lined them up on my desk and still couldn't write. I don't really have any quirky rituals. I surround myself with quirky things, though. There's a frog that sits atop my computer. I have a bouquet of flower pens. And an oversized wine glass that say, "instant diva."

I find writing by a timer useful and reward myself with stickers.

My favorite crunch time snack is Wheat Thins and diet Dr Pepper. And that's why I have to diet after every deadline.   

10. Fill in the blank: Rogenna Brewer was voted most likely to.........

...never get published, that's for sure. I wrote the JROTC newsletter in high school and my math teacher used to find all the spelling errors and typos that made into the final edition and hand it back to me corrected. While my typing has improved some, my spelling has only improved with spell check.

LOL, Rogenna. You showed them all! And I love stickers, Dr. Pepper and frogs too :)...real frogs...but I'm assuming the one atop your computer isn't real (although it'd make a great excuse for any typos, LOL ;). Thanks so much for being here today, Rogenna.

GIVEAWAY: Everyone, Rogenna has generously offered to give her entire My Marine Trilogy (which includes The Marine's Baby, Mitzi's Marine and Marry Me, Marine) to one 'super' lucky winner! All you have to do is leave a comment and you'll be entered in the drawing. The winner will be announced here this Thursday, February 2nd.

BLURB: Marry Me, Marine

Operation marriage has to be a go….
Like any good mother, Angela Adams wants a better future for her little boy. And the one way she can provide that is to enlist with the Marines. Unfortunately, there needs to be a husband on the scene for that to happen. Fortunately, her recruiter connects her with Henry “Hatch” Miner—a wounded former Navy SEAL willing to help out a fellow soldier. Problem solved.

But marriage, even to a stranger, is complicated. Especially when beneath the gruff exterior, there’s a man with a heart of gold. It doesn’t take long for Hatch to prove he’s a good dad…and has the potential to be an even better husband. Suddenly Angela has a hard time convincing her heart this is a temporary operation!




Don't forget to comment for a chance to win her marine trilogy!

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Gluten Free/Dairy Free Pan Bread

I'm really excited about sharing this gluten free/dairy free recipe because it has become a staple in our house. Who can live without bread? Okay, okay. So I'm trying to cut carbs, but I've got a family to feed. An entirely gluten free family at that. My grocery bill and the increasing frequency of my grocery store trips has me convinced that my three boys (four including hubby) vaporize food. Have you seen the cost of a loaf of gluten free bread at the store? Need I say more?

Why pan bread? Because it's quick, versatile, easy and you don't have to wait forever on a loaf in the oven, only to discover the inside is still mushy. My boys told me that they like my pan bread better than any brand I've tried from the store. For one thing, it doesn't crumble (as many GF breads do), it's as fluffy as regular bread, it's great for dipping in olive oil, hummus, making sandwiches, as a side with stew or kabobs, or as wraps. I've even rolled it up with peanut butter.

Note that I use white rice flour. Now, I'm big on whole grain and I do incorporate it into the majority of our diet, but when it comes to bread and baked goods, I've found that white rice flour gives a more spongy, 'regular' texture. Feel free to experiment with adding a little brown rice flour if you wish.

Rula's GF/DF Pan Bread


2 TBS sugar
2 TBS yeast
2 1/2 c warm water
1 tsp white vinegar
2 eggs
3 c white rice flour (I use Bob's Red Mill)
1 c tapioca flour (same as starch...I use Bob's for this too)
2 1/2 tsp salt (adjust to taste...I keep mine flat rather than heaping or it gets too salty)
2 tsp baking powder


In a large bowl, whisk together the sugar, yeast and warm water. Wait one minute and whisk in the vinegar and eggs. (I've found that a whisk works best in this recipe)

Dump in all the dry ingredients and whisk it into a pancake-like batter. That's all there is to it!

Now, set a non-stick frying pan on medium heat (wipe on a few drops of oil if necessary at first) and pour in a ladle full of batter, tilting the pan to spread the batter slightly to about 5 inches in diameter. When it begins to bubble on top, flip it with a spatula. It should take less than a minute or so per side to get golden brown (depending on your stovetop). On to the next!

Variation: Crumble about a teaspoon of dried oregano and/or thyme into the batter for an herbed bread...perfect for olive oil dipping...just like in the italian restaurants.

Makes ten 5 inch breads. If you want to make thinner breads (for rolling up) just add a little more water to the batter.

And since these look like pancakes and I don't want to be a tease, I'll be sure to post a mouth watering GF/DF pancake recipe soon!

Monday, January 23, 2012


As a kid, if I didn't have a book in hand, then it could be found on my face. Seriously. I have the pictures my parents took to prove it. I'd fall asleep reading, and my book would settle over my face. I'm so glad that my boys inherited the reading gene. I found my youngest sound asleep once (he was five at the time) with his arms stuck straight up in the air...still holding his book. My middle child can't wake up in the mornings because he can't tear himself away from whatever story he's engrossed in at night...even if he has read it many times before (I think he has read Eragon three times already). And it's not for lack of books. It's for the love of a particular experience.

I'll confess that I'm a re-reader too. Yep. Like my boys, I've read books where I love the characters and their experience...their emotional much that I'll go back and read it again (and sometimes again). Just because I don't re-read a particular story doesn't mean it's not fantastic or memorable. There are simply some stories that make me feel good in a way that's...well...addicting. Call them chocolate stories, if you would ;). Sometimes it's the setting that pulls me back for an escape. Sometimes it's a delicious, mouth watering hero. Sometimes it's a heroine I can identify with. But often, it's a mixture of indefinable qualities that tap into an inner me. Simply put. I want to be there. So I go...again and again. Nora Roberts is probably at the top of the list of books I've re-read, along with Debbie Macomber, Susan Wiggs, and many others (including shorter, category stories).

Confession number two: I'll watch a movie many times over for the same reasons. I think movies are easier to re-watch just because of time constraints. I can multi-task with movies (ie. crochet, sew, brush the dog...). I've watched my favorite romances, as well as Star Wars and Star Trek movies, too many times to count. I've lost track of how many times my boys have watched the Harry Potter movies (I did make them read the books first ;).

To me, re-reading and re-watching are calorie free comforts. They're vacation escapes without the cost of airfare or lodging. What about you? What's the greatest number of times you've read a particular book or watched a particular movie? Which book or movie was it? Or are you a one time only person?

P.S. Coming soon...three weeks in a row of brain picking author interviews starting next Monday! Check out the right side bar for the schedule. I'll bring coffee :)

Monday, January 9, 2012

Word association

Our subconcious mind is a mighty thing. It can both empower and weaken any individual. In my opinion, it's at least partially responsible for luring even the strongest, most experienced writers into the dark world of 'clichedom' (let your mind add the accent). It can also make the difference between an individual gravitating towards a certain book title...or not. Think about it (or not). Our subconcious mind rules word association.

The idea behind getting the first draft of a manuscript out of your head and into print is to write without self-editing. Let the words flow. Get the story out...and revise it later. Well, when you write the first thing that comes to mind, it often includes a cliche. We've heard certain expressions, analogies, and actions so often that they're the first thing our mind goes for when we're trying to grasp for 'the right words'. Hence, the need to tackle the 'twist' during revisions.

What about book titles? Are there any words that turn you away because they have a negative association for you? I don't know the process publishers go through to choose book titles, but what do you want to bet that they've run stats on which key words sell? Which key words a reader associates with the feeling/experience they want to get out of a book? Subconcious marketing...a mighty thing ;).

So how about some fun with all this? You know the game. I say (list) a word and you have to respond with the very first word that pops in your head (keep in mind that I don't have content warnings on this site ;). I'm interested in seeing if the ten words I've listed result in similar responses for those of you who are writers, and perhaps different responses for those who are (non-writer) readers. Note: I've included some prefixes. Here it goes...


After listing your first responses, give yourself a minute to think. Did any of your word association answers change?

Monday, January 2, 2012

Happy New Year!

May 2012 bring all of you the best in books, publishing, writing and reading.

I'm a 'list' person, but if I make vague resolution lists I'll end up jinxing my goals. It's like saying you're going to start a diet. It never lasts. I make 'To Do' lists throughout the year...both for writing and household/family activities...but they're very specific, concrete things that need to be accomplished. Each task is a step towards fulfilling a larger goal...kind of like word counts.

One of the smaller steps I take towards becoming a better writer (and eventually a published one ;) is to read craft books. I know not everyone likes to read craft books, but I'm a huge fan. I agree that simply reading a craft book doesn't make a person a great writer, but I do think that the information eventually embeds itself deep enough in one's mind that the benefits and changes will come through in their writing. It's a solid step towards a larger goal.

My favorite craft books are listed in the left margin, and I believe I once pointed out how much I loved James Scott Bell's Plot and Structure. Well, the first craft book I'll be reading in 2012 is his latest called Elements of Fiction Writing - Conflict and Suspense. I want lots of great conflict in 2012, but only in stories LOL!

I've also heard tons of good things about Scrivener (for PC in my case). I'm as much of a note card girl as I am a list girl. Sticky notes count too, but I can't live (or write effectively) without my 4X6 lined note cards. I use them for everything, including one for each beat on Blake Snyder's 'Beat Sheet' from Save the Cat. I don't know how I ever wrote without you, Blake. Back on track....check out the link for Scrivener. The pictures are amazing and it looks like any note card/OCD girl's dream to organizing, plotting, and revising a manuscript. I'm not a natural at computer programs, but I do love efficiency. I'm dying to dabble with this and see if I can use it for my next manuscript.

So have any of you used Scrivener? Are there any new craft books you're planning to read in 2012? What concrete steps are you taking towards larger goals (writing or otherwise)?