Wednesday, December 18, 2013

#GuestPost Boots on the Ground in Australia for KNOWING VERA #writing #research #travel

My first two contemporary novels, Broken Build (Book 1) and HiddenUnder Her Heart (Book 2), were set in the San Francisco Bay Area. Since I live here, it was easy for me to take field trips to research scenery and location. However, Knowing Vera presented a challenge. Even though it starts and ends on the Golden Gate Bridge, the main action takes place half-way around the world in Australia.

Australia has always been an land of enchantment for me. The romance began with Crocodile Dundee and the Crocodile Hunter. What girl hasn’t fantasized about rugged men with dirt on their faces and a knife between his teeth wrestling crocodiles or fighting sharks while talking with that sexy, husky accent?

I began writing my contemporary romantic suspense novels by setting them in the San Francisco Bay Area where I live. Fact checking and research were fun and easy. I had only to drive or take the BART to where I wanted to go, take pictures and notes and talk to people and I was done. I spent an entire day on the Golden Gate Bridge looking over the edge to see how wide the little catwalk was and whether someone could hang on and fight. I also took day trips to Santa Cruz, Pescadero State Beach, and Half Moon Bay to scout locations. [click here and here for posts]

View of the Golden Gate Bridge from San Francisco Side.
But Australia hung on my mind, or rather Aussie men, specifically Zach Spencer. He popped onto the scene in Hidden Under Her Heart as the swoonworthy training partner of Lucas Knight, the biracial triathlete who was the hero of the book. Initially, he was supposed to be South African. But a quick fact check that South Africa had been banned from the 1984 Olympics had me looking for another location, namely Australia.

I settled on Melbourne when I met my friend, Rebecca Berto, who is from the Melbourne area. She agreed to help me fact check everything, from the location of the gas and brake pedal of a vehicle to the level of humidity in Melbourne as opposed to Sydney. I also met some Australians on the Golden Gate Bridge and  pumped them for information, such as west side Sydney being the not so nice area as opposed to the East. So opposite to Los Angeles where I grew up.

Google was my friend for most of my research. I’d zoom into Sydney airport and map out the routes Zach and Vera took to leave the airport. I traveled through the tunnel and out many boring miles of traffic. Fortunately, I hired an Australian editor, Lauren McKellar from Sydney, and she quickly pointed out there was no shuttle bus from the terminal to the car rentals. She said you walk to the car park.

She also corrected some of my Aussie slang and modernized them from the ones I picked up in teh 1980's. As my adventurers took a detour onto Maroondah Highway, Lauren reminded me that the road signs would not say “Melbourne” anymore.

Once in the wine country, I took liberty and made up the entire Ping Crest Winery. Since I’ve been to Napa, I figured things couldn’t be too much different. I also transplanted the architecture of Mr. Ping’s house from California and used my imagination while looking at water fountains in Spanish Town along the drive to Half Moon Bay to fill in the garden area.

The Central Business District and Flinders Street Station are well documented by Google Street View, so I had no problem walking Vera along the plaza and putting her fingers on the water walls. I made up the electro dance club and description of the neighborhood by looking at pictures of Revolver Underground.

When I wanted to have Vera feed the cockatoos at Grant’s Picnic Ground in the Dandenongs, I got some unexpected help from Gina Dragone, a critique partner. She and her husband actually drove through there and walked around the trails. They didn’t go in, but reported about the fenced off area and having to purchase tickets and buy seeds from the gift shop. If I had gone entirely by blog reports or youtube videos I would have missed this, since it was a new development. In the past, people brought their own seeds and fed the birds in the parking lot.

I surely missed the natural beauty of the Dandenongs and Maroondah Highway, as well as the Yarrow Valley, the Mornington Peninsula and Port Phillip Bay. But having boots on the ground friends made all the difference in the details and I hope someday to visit Australia and see everything for myself. In the meantime, if anyone wants me to fact check San Francisco, Berkeley and Silicon Valley, just give me a holler.

Thanks Melburnians, here’s a link for you. “You’re not a Melburnian until…”

Australian tree taken from the Berkeley Botanical Gardens.
Thank You, Rebecca, Lauren, and Gina for being my boots on the ground in Australia.

Monday, December 16, 2013

b00kr3vi3ws #FirstRead Challenge - 2014

Once again, awesome book blogger Debdatta Dasgupta Sahay has opened up a Reading Challenge for 2014. This time it is to read as many books from authors I have NOT read before. I already have hordes of unread authors on my kindle thanks to impulse buys and freebies so I'll have no problem knocking down my TBR list with "unknown-to-me" authors.

I will be going for the "Lover" level: 26-50 new reads. Here are a few books to start the challenge.

1. The Sleeping Doll, Jeffrey Deaver
2. Encrypted, Carolyn McCray
3. King of Swords, Russell Blake
4. Gifts of the Peramangk, Dean Mayes
5. Almost, Anne Eliot
6. Wake, Amanda Hocking
7. Red Rock Rises, Taylor Lee
8. Progressive Deadly Dinner, Elizabeth Spann Craig
9. Welcome to Envy Park, Mina Esguerra
10. Equinox, H. M. Jadav

Saturday, December 14, 2013

#AuthorInterview Agay Llanera VINTAGE LOVE #filipiniana #chicklit #ebook #giveaway @agayskey

Lately, I've been enjoying stories about young women dealing with family, careers, and finding love, written in a light-hearted humorous manner. Vintage Love was one of the best. It was a fun and delightful story about Chrissy Lopez, whose life is in dire need of a makeover. Who would have known that inheriting a roomful of vintage clothes would change her life?

Naturally, after giving the book a 5-star review, I contacted the author to see if she had plans for more books. Agay Llanera was gracious enough to answer some of my questions. Read the interview and enter a giveaway for your own copy of Vintage Love [and $5 cash]. I guarantee you'll be entertained.

Tell us a bit about yourself. You are a writer and producer of children's TV programs?

Currently, I'm a freelance writer for TV, but I used to be a segment producer for children's programs. I've always loved watching children's shows even as an adult, so working for one (though it was a lot of work) felt like play. It's fun to work with kids and it's fun to get paid to think like one!  I also have three children's books out (Sol, The Gathering, and The Song of the Ifugao). I'd say writing for kids is my first love.

What made you decide to write about Chrissy? Is she a lot like you?

I wanted to write about a person who's too hung up about work to give love a second chance. And since I work in TV, I immediately put Crissy in that line of work just so I wouldn't need to do extra research.  I'm like her in the sense that I used to be so steeped in work that I'd forget about everything else (health, love, family.) Now that I have a family, I'm so much more relaxed about working. Crissy is a combination of my friends who work in the TV industry.

Tell us about the class you took with Mina Esguerra? Can you share some of the things she taught you?

I actually wrote Vintage Love before joining Mina Esguerra's class, but yes, she was instrumental in giving me that extra push to self-publish it.  I also revised the story based on her and my beta-reader's comments. Until now, she continues to be a driving force in marketing the book, along with the other books produced by my romance class-mates.  She basically spearheaded the chicklit self-publishing scene here in the country, and we're forever grateful for her support.

Are you working on something new? What has you excited for the upcoming year?

Yes, I'm working on something new, this time with a college senior heroine, but I also have ideas for (hopefully) my next children's book. Since I have an active toddler and I work from home, it's quite a challenge to carve out some free time and actually write. For now, I'd much rather take a nap. :-P

Anything else you'd like your readers to know?

I just want to encourage readers who want to be writers to go ahead and take that leap of faith. Write, revise, self-publish, and be read! It's a good feeling to create something that others can relate to.

Thanks so much for being on Rachelle's Window. I wish you lots of good fortune and look forward to your next story.

Thanks for the interview, Clare!  I have yet to read your books :-) Will do soon!  

Book Description:
26-year-old Crissy Lopez’s life is in dire need of a makeover. Her wardrobe revolves around ratty shirts and beat-up sneaks; her grueling schedule as a TV Executive leaves no room for a social life; and worst of all, she’s still hung up on the Evil Ex who left her five years ago.

When her fashionable grand-aunt passes away and leaves behind a roomful of vintage stuff, the Shy Stylista inside Crissy gradually resurfaces. Soon, she feels like she's making progress -- with a budding lovelife to boot! But the grim ghost of her past catches up with her, threatening to push her back into depression. To finally move on, Crissy learns that walking away is not enough. This time, she needs to take a leap of faith.

About the Author:
Agay Llanera is a freelance writer for television and video, and a published writer of children’s books. She is a member of KUTING, a private, non-stock, non-profit organization, which aims to be the Philippines’ foremost writers’ organization for children. Email her at and visit her blog at


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Saturday, December 7, 2013

#BookChat RESOLUTIONS by Teri Riggs #thriller #romanticsuspense

DEA agent Eve Taylor has had her fill of alpha males. When Resolutions’ operative and former lover, Dillon “Mac” McKenna, threatened her hard-earned independence, she ran. On a mission to gather evidence against a Colombian drug-lord, Eve discovers the drug-lord is helping terrorists plan an attack on American soil. Before she can escape with the vital information, she’s captured and comes face to face with her mortality…

As a teen, Mac watched his family fall apart after his mother died doing dangerous U.N. work. The possibility of losing Eve to a mission ignited an overwhelming need to protect her. When he forced her to choose him or her job, she walked away. Two years later, it seems all his nightmares have come true and he’s tasked with rescuing her from a Colombian prison. Mac has never stopped loving Eve, but does he dare risk his heart when he’s so terrified of losing…

On the run, Mac and Eve must learn to trust each other again in order to stay alive.

* * * * * * * * * *

Note: Resolutions is a private black ops agency specializing in the near-impossible extractions of kidnap victims, hostages, and all forms of intelligence other agencies have failed to retrieve.

*This book contains explicit violence*


Teri Riggs was destined to be a writer. As a small girl she didn’t read bedtime stories, she made up her own. Who needed Little Red Riding Hood or The Three Little Pigs when there were so many great tales bouncing around in her head? When she grew up and became a mother to three little girls, she continued the tradition of making up bedtime stories. On the occasions she chose to tell conventional fairytales, Teri usually gave them a bit of tweaking here and there or added a new ending. Her girls loved it.

After her daughters had the nerve to actually grow up and leave home, Teri discovered she had a passion for writing and jumped right in. It came as no surprise she chose to write mysteries and happily-ever-after’s since that’s the genres she loves to read.

Teri lives in Marietta, Georgia with her husband, one of her daughters and two dogs that seem to think they rule the world. And some days Teri thinks maybe they do.