Author Speed Dating – Diana Stout

I love discovering new authors, so I wanted my blog to be a place where readers and my author pals could come together. Only we like to do this Speed-Dating style. Check out a new author and her work here every Wednesday, and if the spark is there, you’ll have a match.

This week’s guest: Diana Stout

 

16 Questions

1. If you celebrate, name a holiday food you would eat your weight in if you could do it guilt-free.

 Halloween candy pumpkins.

2. Give the title of the first manuscript you ever wrote. How many years ago did you pen this masterpiece, and whatever happened to it?

“Choose for Happiness,” a non-fiction how-to article that I wrote and sold in 1979 for $52.

3. If you could keep only the possessions that would fit in one suitcase, and you were limited to two books – one you wrote and one by someone else – which titles would you tuck inside your bag? Explain your choices.

GRENDEL’S MOTHER (I wrote) and POWER VS. FORCE, written by David Hawkins.  GRENDEL’S MOTHER because it’s a book about survival and being true to yourself. POWER VS. FORCE because it shows why one needs to live in peace without stress; example, “Force is arrogance; power is characterized by humility….Power serves others…force is self-serving.”

4. In the winter, would you rather be zipping through powdery snow on skis or a snowmobile or escaping to a sandy beach? Now how do you really spend most of your winter?

Snowmobile, only because I hate the heat and I don’t ski, don’t want to.  In truth, I’m a house plant in all seasons. I’m writing, reading, or watching movies.

5. Which character in “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer” is your favorite, and what does that say about you?

The narrator snowman, Burl Ives. I loved his roles.

6. In which genres and sub-genres are you published, and which others do you plan to add to the list in the next two years?

Contemporary romance (novel, novella, short story & play).  Epic fantasy (GRENDEL’S MOTHER).  I’ll be adding screenplays of romance/suspense, family/Christmas romance (definitely a Hallmark movie!), and romance/comedy.

7. If you could visit the studio and hang out with any visual artist, past or present, whose creative space would you be invading? Why?

Claude Monet for landscapes or Norman Rockwell for the stories told.

8. Do you listen to music when you’re writing? If so, name some of the artists whose work you use to get you creative juices flowing.

Sometimes. Movie soundtracks, nature sounds, Dean Martin, Lionel Ritchie, Barbra Streisand, Lou Christie, plus I have a playlist I put together of various favorite singles that include the Barry Manilow, Bee Gees, Bing Crosby, The [Canadian] Tenors, Il Divo, Chad & Jeremy, Jefferson Airplane, Rod McKuen, Shania Twain, and Kenny G.

9. What are you reading now, and what is the best book you’ve read in a long time?

Best book in a long time, hands down was THE MARTIAN, by Andy Weir. Read in a single sitting. I rarely finish books unless they’re really good. Currently reading Dan Brown’s, ORIGIN, and THE HIDDEN LIFE OF TREES by Peter Wohlleben (nonfiction).  Plus a couple more. I’m always reading several books at the same time.

10. What is your strategy for writing over the holidays?

Because my girls and their families spend time with in-laws or other relatives, I’m home alone…writing, reading, going to a movie theater or watching on TV. People feel sorry for me, but I enjoy it! Usually eat pizza or some other fun food.

11. Name three things that are in your purse or pockets right now.

Kleenex tissues, money, lip gloss.

12. Do you write a synopsis before you write a book, and, if so, does your finished product look anything like that road map?

I’m a plotter. I create an outline that’s anywhere from 5-25 pages long. Yes, my book generally follows that road map. I do a lot of character journal writing while I’m plotting. By the time I’m done, I know a lot about my characters that has nothing to do with physicality and everything to do with wounds, secrets, and emotions.

13. Are you a fan of reality TV, or could the current Bachelor marry every contestant on Cake Boss and then sing his lungs out on The Voice for all you care?

Do survivors lose weight? Huge fan of reality TV. I so wish they’d do a Bachelor or Bachelorette for seniors!!!!  I don’t dare list all the shows I watch.

14. What is your biggest dream for your writing career? The New York Times bestseller list? A movie deal? Your own island in the Caribbean? All of the above?

To win an Oscar for best original screenplay. To have Hollywood producers and actors beating down my door wanting me to write for them.

15. What is your biggest hope for a reader when she opens one of your books?

That they can’t put it down and that they didn’t want it to end. I do hear it, and I never get tired of hearing that.

16. Are you more a Times Square-ringing-in-the-New Year-type on New Year’s Eve, or will we find you at home, tucked into bed by nine o’clock?

I don’t like large crowds, so it’ll be the latter. Even though I’m up late, I rarely see the ball drop. I’m usually watching a movie or catching up on my DVR recordings.

 

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Grendel’s Mother

By Diana Stout

 

All journeys begin with a single step. I could say my journey began when I was made dead, a no-name ghost in the woods. Or when I first met the dragon when I was too young to be afraid. Or maybe my journey began when the pains started, soon after the last thread of light disappeared in a horizontal sliver crushed between dark ominous clouds fast filling the sky and the earthly boundaries of both my chains and comfort as deemed by the gods:  the raw wilderness. Was it only less than a year ago that I was a naïve child, believing that the life ahead of me was mine to choose? So innocent. So lost in my own little world of supposed freedom.  Self-centered as only a child knows at the time. What a difference a year makes.

At the moment, I am working within my wilderness, attempting to catch a wild pig. The temperature has dropped, with late, major winter storm clouds moving in too quickly. I need major sustenance for the next couple days, if not weeks, and this yearling can satisfy that need. My spear is ready. I hold my breath, waiting. Now all I need is for the pig to turn parallel to me, so that I have a broader target, where I can hit a major organ.

I’m cold and don’t relish hunting in the dark but I have no choice. I let go of my discomfort. Up until now, I’ve been able to ignore the pains, the tightening of my mid-section. Thankfully, the clouds aren’t covering the full moon high in the sky…yet. The moon provides enough light for me to hunt. My hands, face, and any other exposed skin are blackened with mud, and I wear enough fur that I smell like the forest and the animals within.

The pig turns. I throw my spear. It hits right where I aimed—its heart. It squeals loudly, takes a couple steps, and drops. I get up from my kneeling position, where I was hidden in the tall grass, moving far slower than I want. My huge belly makes me awkward and slower than I like. I gasp as my belly tightens, again. Mentally, I count. Finally, the muscles relax. I need to hurry.

***

GRENDEL’S MOTHER, an epic fantasy, can be purchased through Amazon. To learn about its creation, read Part I – Grendel’s Mother: Its Genesis and Development and then Part II.

 

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About Diana

An award-winning writer, Diana Stout has written in multiple genres, fiction long & short, non-fiction for adults & children, as a playwright, columnist, blogger, author, and screenwriter. She’s served as an academic reviewer, contest judge for multiple writing organizations, and is a former English professor. Today, she’s returned to her creative writing roots and invites you to learn more through her Sharpened Pencils Productions website. Current projects include romance novellas, reprints of novel romances, publishing screenplays (thriller/suspense, Christmas, and drama), a writing how-to series of books, and a historical based on a true story. Learn more about Diana through her blogs –  Only for the Brave writing blogInto the Core intuitive blog and Behind the Scenes  – and connect with her on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Goodreads and Instagram. Subscribe to her newsletter here.

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A Note from Diana

Thanks for much for asking me to speed date with you, Dana! Happy Holidays to everyone and a prosperous new year.

Author Speed Dating – Katharine Ashe

I love discovering new authors, so I wanted my blog to be a place where readers and my author pals could come together. Only we like to do this Speed-Dating style. Check out a new author and her work here every Wednesday, and if the spark is there, you’ll have a match.

This week’s guest: Katharine Ashe

 

 

 

16 Questions

1. If you celebrate, name a holiday food you would eat your weight in if you could do it guilt-free.

Homemade ginger bread (with hot chocolate on the side!).

2. Give the title of the first manuscript you ever wrote. How many years ago did you pen this masterpiece, and whatever happened to it?

Teen Girl Lusts After Hot Landscaping Guy Who Turns Out to Be Heir to a Fortune. Seriously! I don’t remember the actual title, but that was the gist of it. Eventually I started writing historical romance, but I still write hot heroes with secret identities.

3. If you could keep only the possessions that would fit in one suitcase, and you were limited to two books – one you wrote and one by someone else – which titles would you tuck inside your bag? Explain your choices.

I CAN’T!!! I love too many books to choose one, so here’s my latest favorite, which I found doing research for my next novel: THE LOVE OF STRANGERS: WHAT SIX MUSLIMS STUDENTS LEARNED IN JANE AUSTEN’S LONDON by Nile Green. It’s a look at English Regency-era history that most of us lovers of historical romance have never seen, and it’s all about friendship and love. I adored it. Among my novels, I would tuck THE EARL  in the suitcase. Enemies from childhood, the hero and heroine are fleeing together through the Scottish countryside from an angry mob, and they have turn to each other for survival. I adored writing how the scales fell from their eyes as they learned and grew and fell in love. And it makes me laugh.

4. In the winter, would you rather be zipping through powdery snow on skis or a snowmobile or escaping to a sandy beach? Now how do you really spend most of your winter?

Always the beach! But I love snow too. 🙂 My fave winter treat is curling up on the couch before a crackling fire and reading or writing.

5. Which character in Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer is your favorite, and what does that say about you?

Rudolph! I’ve never really fit in. That said, I have yet to pull a sleigh — but, you know, I’m hopeful someday… 😉

6. In which genres and sub-genres are you published, and which others do you plan to add to the list in the next two years?

I mostly write big, epic, emotional love stories set in the early nineteenth-century British Empire. I’ve written a time-travel novella, a Regency ghost novel, and a contemporary novella too, and I have a series set in the Regency period with a special fantasy twist to each novel.

7. If you could visit the studio and hang out with any visual artist, past or present, whose creative space would you be invading? Why?

Oh oh oh, please!!! Sir Thomas Lawrence, the brilliant British portrait artist. The hero I’m writing now (in THE PRINCE) is a portraitist, and I’ve modeled his style on Lawrence’s.

8. Do you listen to music when you’re writing? If so, name some of the artists whose work you use to get you creative juices flowing.

Not usually while I’m writing. But for each book I do make a playlist—my own personal soundtracks that inspire characters and scenes, and that I play when I’m driving, walking the dog, running, or doing errands. Depending on the novel, the music runs the gamut from Taylor Swift and Avril Lavigne to The Heyday and Breaking Benjamin. The soundtrack for my latest novel, THE DUKE, includes a lot of Scottish traditional music and epic movie soundtracks.

9. What are you reading now, and what is the best book you’ve read in a long time?

Today I read two fascinating history articles: one on Mary Shelley’s revolutionary novels and the other on medieval smugglers between Spain and North Africa—and both of them gave me ten different ideas for novels! I love history. It’s full of fantastic story ideas. 🙂 For best book, see #3 above. And I also just read Kate Claybourn’s debut contemporary romance BEGINNER’S LUCK, which was pure adorable small town pleasure.

10. What is your strategy for writing over the holidays?

Revise revise revise! I have a January 2nd book deadline. 🙂

11. Name three things that are in your purse or pockets right now.

A Sharpie pen (for signing books), a little notebook bound in Black Watch tartan, and a tiny Advent daily prayer book.

12. Do you write a synopsis before you write a book, and, if so, does your finished product look anything like that road map?

I don’t write a synopsis. I usually plot on a big whiteboard (using Alexandra Sokoloff’s totally brilliant system). Sometimes the novel even comes out looking like what’s on the whiteboard! 🙂

13. Are you a fan of reality TV, or could the current Bachelor marry every contestant on Cake Boss and then sing his lungs out on The Voice for all you care?

Binge watcher here. I tend to like historical mysteries, love stories, light modern comedy, and Superhero® shows. So, not a reality TV fan, but I never say never. 🙂

14. What is your biggest dream for your writing career? The New York Times bestseller list? A movie deal? Your own island in the Caribbean? All of the above?

Honestly, to make enough money each year to be able to keep doing this for a living. I simply adore writing love stories and sharing them. That’s my dream. (Although, you know, an amazing sports car and a neat little flat in—say—Verona, Italy, would be swell too.)

15. What is your biggest hope for a reader when she opens one of your books?

That she will laugh and sigh and cry and fall in love and read the final page with a big happy smile of pure joy and satisfaction.

16. Are you more a Times Square-ringing-in-the-New Year-type on New Year’s Eve, or will we find you at home, tucked into bed by nine o’clock?

Tucked in bed (after eating every flaky pastry appetizer available in my grocery store freezer section, natch).

 

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The Duke

By Katharine Ashe

 

“You do not frighten me.” She snipped the syllables to hide the quaver.

His gaze that was black in the dim light scanned her face—her cheeks and hair and lips and chin.

“Then you are unique among women,” he rumbled. “Now remove that key from your bodice and open the door.”

“Why won’t you speak with me?” This was frankly terrifying. She had not anticipated this or planned for any scenario like this. She had imagined that when she finally cornered him he would act like a regular person and converse. Unwisely, she realized belatedly. He had never been anything like a regular person, after all.

“Five and a half years, yet not even a little small talk?” she said. “Come now. Let us give it a try. I will start. I hear you have become a duke. And an abductor of innocent maidens. And possibly a practitioner of the dark arts. How do you find all of that?”

“Lass.” The word was a warning shift of tectonic plates. “Open the door now or I’ll be taking that key.”

“You cannot deter me, Urisk.” Now her words quivered quite obviously. “Either you will sit down here now and answer my questions until I have asked them all, or you will in fact be obliged to take the key from me.”

In the darkness, the gleam in his eyes was like a knife’s blade.

“As you wish,” he said as though he whispered in her ear.

Her heart slammed into her lungs.

His hand surrounded her hip.

She gasped.

He was not smiling. Large and strong, his five fingers and broad palm took complete possession of her flesh.

“The key now,” he said very deeply. His fingers moved on her. Not painfully. Rather, stroking, kneading as though she were bread dough.

She swallowed over the shock clogging her throat.

“No,” she croaked.

He bent his head and in the murky silence in which the gay music of the ball was only a distant echo, she could hear his breathing, each inhale and exhale a perfectly controlled statement of composure.

“You are certain?” he said as calmly as though he were asking if she preferred tea to coffee.

“Yes.”

His hand slid up her side and wrapped around her waist.

“What are you doing?” she rasped.

His thumb stroked along the ridge of her lowest rib and a cascade of pleasure descended.

“Getting closer to that key,” he said.

***

THE DUKE, a Devil’s Duke novel and a September 2017 release from Avon Romance, may be purchased from these and other retailers: Amazon, Barnes & Noble and Books-A-Million.

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About Katharine

Katharine Ashe is the USA Today bestselling author of historical romances that reviewers call “intensely lush” and “sensationally intelligent,” including her latest novel, THE DUKE, which won starred reviews from Publishers Weekly, Booklist, and Kirkus, and an RT Book Reviews Top Pick!, and is on Amazon’s list of the Best Romances of 2017. Katharine lives in the wonderfully warm Southeast with her beloved husband, son, dog, and a garden she likes to call romantic rather than unkempt. A professor of history, she writes romance because she thinks modern readers deserve grand adventures and breathtaking sensuality too. For more about Katharine’s books, please visit www.KatharineAshe.com.

Katharine is also Dr. Katharine Brophy Dubois, Lecturing Fellow in the departments of History and Religious Studies at Duke University where she teaches courses on history and popular culture, and organizes the UNSUITABLE Speakers Series about women, fiction and popular culture.

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A Note From Katharine

Thanks for inviting me to speed date, Dana! Happy New Year’s, everybody! xoxo