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Debut Author Barb DeLong–writing the magic of love and laughter and happily ever after!

February 2, 2023 by in category Jann says . . . tagged as , ,

Barb loves reading, writing and animals, not necessarily in that order. She writes contemporary and paranormal stories of love, laughter and magic, and you’re going to know there’ll be a feature creature in there somewhere. Her short stories appear in several anthologies, including Secrets of Moonlight Cove, Love for Christmas, The Truth That Can’t Be Told, and The Truth That Can’t Be Told 2. She is currently working on a paranormal romance series called Keepers of Magic, about a society of witches desperate to keep their existence a secret. The first in the series, The Witch Whisperer, is currently under contract with The Wild Rose Press. A transplant from the Canadian cold, she enjoys sunny Mission Viejo, California, with her husband and a pampered, blue-eyed, ragdoll cat.

Today is a day I’ve been waiting for—to interview my close friend, author Barb DeLong, about her debut novel. So, let’s get started.

Jann: When did you decide that you wanted to be a writer? Barb: I loved creative writing classes in elementary and high school and won a few writing contests. I was in ninth grade when the writing bug really bit. My favorite TV shows were westerns, so I decided I’d write a historical western. It wasn’t until years later that I realized it was a romance. I still have those pages, typed on an old typewriter with a faulty ribbon that tinted the bottom of all the letters red. I’ve been writing one thing or another ever since (my letters are all black now).

Jann: Tell us about your journey to publication.

Barb: I’m self-published with short stories in a number of anthologies, but my dream was to sell or contract one of my books to a publisher. I’ve started and abandoned many stories, some of which I pitched to editors at conferences in years past but never submitted. Lost opportunities. Had a bite from Harlequin on an early completed novel. My stories have won or finaled in several contests. I decided in 2019 that it was now or never to fulfill my dream, so I knuckled down during NaNoWriMo that year and by May 2020, completed a rough draft of my first fantasy romance, The Witch Whisperer. Since one of my problems is letting go of my work, I took way too many months editing and revising. Finally, by early March 2022, I put a pin in it and sent out my first round of query letters with the first three chapters to publishers that didn’t need you to be agented. Within a week, The Wild Rose Press, a small but popular e-publisher, asked for the full manuscript. By April I had my first publishing contract. I was over the moon! My editor is anxious to see book 2 in my series, which I’m more than half way through.

Jann: Is Fantasy/Paranormal your preferred genre to write?

Barb:  I’m romance through and through, whether it’s contemporary romance or fantasy/paranormal, I love to write both.

Jann: Why Witches?

Barb: Out of all the paranormal/fantasy beings, like vampires, shifters, fairies and the like, witches appealed to me more with their magical powers, and the fact that people who were believed to be witches were persecuted through the ages. Visit Salem, Massachusetts today to see the modern appeal of witches.

Jann: January 30th your first novel, The Witch Whisperer, book one in the Keepers of Magic series made its debut. How exciting for you! What inspired you to write this novel and series?

Barb: I’d been writing paranormal romance for a few years, witches in particular, trying to get a handle on the genre while reading extensively. Oddly enough, the title came to me after rewatching The Horse Whisperer. I thought, huh, The Witch Whisperer. Just the title. No plot. I usually let an idea (in this case, a title) roll around in my brain for weeks, even months before putting much down on paper. Then I started jotting copious notes while still editing a story that was proving difficult. Finally, the story of the Witch Whisperer became my focus. Difficult story went in the drawer. Soon into The WW, I recognized it was more fantasy than paranormal, and that I’d have to make it a series. Fantasy series sell better than standalones, I was told. Yikes! Three books. I named the series Keepers of Magic. Book two, The Keeper’s Code, is a work in progress.

Jann: What sort of research did you do for the book?

Barb: I read a lot of fantasy and paranormal romance. I researched conventional witch lore and covens and wiccans. I decided that my secret, pacifist witch society, having come from another realm to this modern world, would worship a goddess of nature and have their own form of governance and ritual. I did keep some conventions, like magical powers, elemental magic, herbs and potions, and other details. No magic wands. I took world building and fantasy workshops, read every blog I came across about writing fantasy and series writing. I have a giant book of spells that I refer to frequently. I went down so many rabbit holes. Ended up in Wonderland a few times.

Jann: Your main characters, Willow Gladstone and Never Ravenwood are fabulous. What challenges did you set for them to overcome? Will they achieve their HEA?

Barb: Willow seeks perfection in all things, especially herself. She already feels flawed because she has weak magical powers, so not in keeping with her magically Elite, over-achieving and judgmental family. When her already weak magic becomes glitchy, she must seek a cure or risk incarceration in the secret witch society’s dreaded Haven. The legendary Witch Whisperer, the one person she’d like to avoid, is her only other option. He’s messy, undisciplined, frustrating and way too sexy.

Never Ravenwood, The Witch Whisperer, likes his solitary existence. He’s happy to live out his sentence for past misdeeds on a secluded estate while treating witches with magic problems through his on-line forum. Then along comes beautiful Willow for a rehab residency to disrupt, beguile and baffle him. She forces him to confront his greatest fears, and to question a guilt so heavy that living without love seems an apt penance.

As for achieving their HEA? The Witch Whisperer is first and foremost, a romance, so…

Jann: Did anything about your characters surprise you when you were writing?

Barb: Yes. I began to realize during the editing stage how much I identified with Willow and her need for perfection, to never feeling good enough. I became quite attached to her. Never Ravenwood’s love for his blood brother Blaise became much deeper than I’d first imagined. Nev demanded I add emphasis to their relationship throughout the story.

Jann: When starting this series, did you think of character, plot or theme first?

Barb: As I mentioned above, the title came to me first, then the character Never Ravenwood as the WW himself. I did extensive character analyses in One Stop for Writers’ Character Builder on the main characters and major secondary characters. Once I had an idea of their goals, motivations, and conflicts, I could work on an outline to achieve their character arcs and story ending. Theme is almost always something I discover after a first draft.

Jann:  How many books do you have planned for this series? Are you working on Book Two? Can you tell us about the characters and their story?

 Barb: I mentioned that I’ve planned three books in the Keepers of Magic series. I’m working on the first draft of book two, The Keeper’s Code. I took a secondary character from the WW, powerful witch Ash Hunter, and made him the protagonist of book two. He’s a Keeper of magic in their secret witch society that is desperate to remain secret, an ever-more difficult task in this contemporary world of cameras on every corner, cell phones, and social media. He’s adept at lying, can mesmerize with a touch, and wipe memories. Who to pair him with? Why not a beautiful Reg (a person with no magic—think Muggle), who’s an award-winning investigative journalist with major trust issues and a killer witch stalking her.

Jann: What do you hope readers will take away from this series?

Barb: I hope they will be entertained, chuckle here and there, and wonder if that weird next-door neighbor is actually a witch. Seriously, books one and two have underlying themes, like perfection is unattainable (accept yourself for who you are), and something like learning to trust and trust in love. Still working on that one for book two.

Jann: Do you plan to stay with fantasy/paranormal genre?

Barb: For the foreseeable future. I need to finish the Keepers of Magic series in some kind of timely manner because I have so many other witchy stories I want to write.

Jann: The Great Leaving is an origin short story you wrote for the Keepers of Magic series. What is it about? Is it available to purchase?

Barb: I wanted to tell the emotional tale of the witch society’s forced abandonment of their homeland, the fantasy realm of Tae-wen, back in our time of 1690. For this snapshot in time, I chose the point of view of immortal witch Aris, whose adopted name in our world is Elizabeth Trowbridge. In The Witch Whisperer, she’s still alive, living in the society’s Haven and the owner of Trowbridge House, the secluded estate where The Witch Whisperer is incarcerated, and where Willow comes to have her broken magic fixed. She plays a much bigger role in book 2. I plan to use the short story The Great Leaving, a small e-booklet that is available through BookFunnel, as a free promo item at various events and for an eventual sign-up bonus when I start my newsletter.

Jann: I see that you have also written several short stories that are published in several anthologies. Would you share a bit about those stories?

Barb: I like writing short stories in between longer novels. Secrets of Moonlight Cove anthology was a fun one because all the authors got together and mapped out a fictional coastal town and set up a Google doc so we could share the details of our stories. In our own stories, we referenced characters in other stories and their businesses. Mine was a contemporary romance called Maggie’s Mystery Man.

Love for Christmas anthology was a labor of love with my critique group. I wrote a paranormal romance called Love for Christmas, about a cursed witch with a Christmas deadline.

In both volumes of The Truth That Can’t Be Told anthologies, I wrote a darker fantasy in two parts about cursed witches, plus a couple of contemporary pieces. All are available on Amazon.

Jann: Barb—Wishing you all the best on your debut novel, The Witch Whisperer and the Keepers of Magic series.

Barb’s Books

(Hover over the cover for buy links. Click on the cover for more information.)

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Featuring Kidd Wadsworth, Author of the Month

February 1, 2023 by in category Featured Author of the Month tagged as ,

Kidd Wadsworth writes to bring to life our magical, fire-breathing world. She believes we are super heroes. It’s time we put on our capes.

You can read Kidd’s monthly column, Infused with Meaning, here on the 25th of every month. More information about Kidd is found on her website, make sure you take the time to read her “about me” section.


A selection of books that include Kidd’s short stories.


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**Book Alert** Totally Folked is only 99 Pennies

January 31, 2023 by in category Apples & Oranges by Marianne H. Donley, Spotlight tagged as , , , , ,

Totally Folked, a standalone friends to lovers celebrity romance from New York Times bestselling author Penny Reid, is only 99 PENNIES for just a short while on Amazon US and Canada.

Have you checked out Penny’s Green Valley spinoff series? Now is the perfect time.

★★⁣⁣Grab your copy TODAY!★★⁣⁣

Amazon US: https://amzn.to/35yF77N

Amazon CA: https://amzn.to/3oHrMRT

One unforgettable night leads to an unlikely shared connection, and unlikely connections never go unnoticed by the good folks in Green Valley, Tennessee. . .

★★⁣⁣Blurb★★⁣⁣

Jackson James follows the rules. He has to. He’s a sheriff’s deputy in a super small town with a super big personality. However, strict adherence to the law during the day has been enjoyably balanced by rakish rules at night. Jackson, typically happy to protect and serve (and serve, and serve), starts questioning the value of wayward evenings when getting laid starts to feel more like being waylaid. Could it be that Green Valley’s most eligible—and notorious—bachelor longs for something (and someone) real?

Mega movie star Raquel Ezra follows only one rule: always leave them wanting more. Studio execs, reporters, audiences, fans, lovers—no one can get enough of the smart, savvy, and sexy bombshell. But when “generous offers” begin to feel more like excessive demands, years of always leaving has the elusive starlet longing for something (and perhaps someone) lasting.

When Raquel abruptly returns to the quirky Tennessee hamlet, her path crosses with the delectable deputy with whom she spent one unforgettable night. Unfortunately, scandal and intrigue soon follow. Raquel and Jackson must decide which is more important: following their rules? Or, at long last, finding something real.

TOTALLY FOLKED is a standalone, contemporary romantic comedy novel and book #1 in the Good Folk: Modern Folktales series.

★★⁣⁣Grab your copy TODAY!★★⁣⁣

Amazon US: https://amzn.to/35yF77N

Amazon CA: https://amzn.to/3oHrMRT⁣⁣

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The Birthday Song(s)

January 30, 2023 by in category Quill and Moss by Dianna Sinovic, Writing tagged as , ,

I often listen to music while I’m writing, and it’s nearly always to one of my two favorite college radio stations: WPRB in Princeton, NJ, or KVCU in Boulder, CO. No Spotify or Pandora for me. 

The other day the DJ Dana K from WPRB decided to celebrate her birthday by playing during her two-hour show songs only from the year she was born. What a cool idea, I thought. I’d never looked back at songs that way. And since this post is the closest to my birthday month—I won’t be posting in February because my slot falls on the 30th of the month—I am going to do that look-back here.

To give the range more breadth than Dana K did, I expanded my research (thank you, Google) beyond my birth year to all years that are decades for it—so, all years that end in the same digit. I discovered, though, that, like any best-of list, what’s “best” is in the eye of the beholder. Since I don’t currently listen to top-40 radio, those that floated to the top of the online lists were not often ones I would choose to play (or remember fondly).

I did see some favorites, but many other popular hits did not register high on my interest gauge. 

I was delighted to find that both “Hooked on a Feeling” by Blue Suede and “Come and Get Your Love” by Redbone were on the list. I am a big fan of the film Guardians of the Galaxy, and those two songs are part of the much-played soundtrack. “Jolene” by Dolly Parton is on the list; I also love Jack White’s version of the song, which came out 30 years later, on the White Stripes’ Under Blackpool Lights.

“Beeswing” by Richard Thompson was not a top-40 hit on the lists, but it’s a stunning song-story on Mirror Blue by one of my favorite singer-songwriters. “Crown of Love,” from the debut album by Arcade Fire, is another on the timeline that swept me away. And I was happy to discover that “Say It Ain’t So” on Weezer‘s Blue Album fit my time parameter; the song speaks to a topic that’s personal for me. 

There are many other songs I could mention. Instead, I’ll just slip on my ear buds, crank up the volume, and get back to writing my next story.

Some of Dianna’s Books

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Trash Day by Kidd Wadsworth

January 29, 2023 by in category Infused with Meaning by Kidd Wadsworth tagged as , , , ,
The following story is a repeat of Kidd Wadsworth’s from October 2019. We hope you enjoy it as much now as we did then.

My neighbor, Sterling, complains. It seems I don’t bring my trash cans up promptly. But hey, I’ve got a life, and they’re TRASH CANS!


I’ve got a big brain, too. One morning as I watched Sterling take his trash to the curb and leave for work, I got an idea, a how-the-Grinch-stole-Christmas-idea. I grinned and patted my little dog on the head.


As the garbage truck rounded the corner, I ran down to the curb and drug my neighbor’s still-full garbage cans back up his driveway. When the truck had passed by, I drug them down again.


That evening, eager to see Sterling’s expression, I left work early and returned to find him standing at the curb gazing bewildered at the trash still in his trash cans while mine, and everyone else’s, were clearly empty. The next week, he put his heaping cans at the curb. Quickly, I once again hauled them back up his driveway, returning them to the curb when the garbage truck had passed.


That night, his shouting rocked the neighborhood. “No, they’re not picking up my trash! It’s been two weeks! 110 Paxinosa Avenue!” I felt sorry for the trash guys. Well—almost.


The next week, he had two cans full of trash and three extra bags. It was a trash party! I crossed my fingers, praying he wouldn’t wait around for the truck. He paced on the sidewalk, but after several glances at his cell phone, he got in his light blue Prius, and drove away. I’d barely gotten the trash up his driveway when I heard the truck pull around the corner. On a hunch, I stowed the cans inside his garage and snuck out the back gate.


Wow, talk about dedicated. Those garbage guys actually walked up his driveway and looked around for the cans. They clearly had a note in their hands. They checked his address. Knocked on his door. All this for trash. Impressive.


When they left, I put the cans and the bags at the curb. Took two trips. That night, a volcano erupted next door. I felt a little guilty—not a lot guilty—but a little guilty. I mean, I felt guilty in between giggles.


On trash day eve, nightmares of my neighbor assaulting me with a garbage can lid and a turkey bone rocked my sleep. I woke bleary eyed, to see my neighbor standing at the curb, surrounded by trash. I decided it was time I fessed up. About then, the garbage guys arrived. I ducked behind my window curtains. It was ugly! The shouting, the claims of innocence, “There was no trash!” Shall I speak of the birds shot in the air, the words beginning with … well you get the picture.


About a week later, my neighbor had a backyard barbeque. I brought beer. There were four of us neighbors (right, left and across the street), beers in hand, feet on Sterling’s brick retaining wall, when Sterling told the story.


“No?”


“Really?”


I thought no one knew. But everyone has windows facing the street. When Sterling went inside for more chips, Frank winked at me. Mark held out his hand. “Fifty, or I tell him now.”


I paid.

*


Occasionally, I try humor. Let me know if I got it right.

You can find some of Kidd’s stories in the following anthologies.

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