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Christmas in August by Jann Ryan

August 2, 2019 by in category Jann says . . . tagged as , , , , ,

Jann Ryan is on vacation and while she’s away, we thought we would reprint one of her more popular interviews. Jann says she’ll be back in September with her usual column. Until then enjoy and little Christmas in August.

Love for Christmas | Jann Ryan | A Slice of Orange

Love for Christmas:

Writing a Holiday Anthology

by @jannryan

Love For Christmas | Writing Something Romantic | A Slice of Orange

Jann: We’re here today talking with five dynamic authors, Ottillia Scherschel, Jill Jaynes, Angela Shelly, Kathleen Harrington and Barb DeLong, members of the Writing Something Romantic critique group who came together to publish a collection of holiday short stories entitled Love for Christmas: A Holiday Romance Anthology.

Jann: Tell us about your critique group and how you came together?


Kathleen: Our Writing Something Romantic critique group started some years ago with a few writers who belonged to OCC. We wanted a small group to critique our romance writing. Angela Kyle, Carol Persinger, and I were original members. Shortly after we began to meet, we invited Barb DeLong, Val Millette, Jann Ryan, Ottilia Scherschel, and Jill Jaynes to join us. Ever since, we’ve met once a month to critique each other’s manuscripts. We celebrate birthdays and, of course, each others’ successes.


Jann: The anthology covers a variety of genres—a cursed whimsical witch, a woman looking for Mr. Right, a Montana suffragette, a woman on a dangerous and thrilling train ride, and an artifact hunter who finds hope and love. Was it difficult to blend these stories into the anthology?


Barb: We decided as a group to write to our strengths and particular genres with a unifying theme of Christmas time for our first anthology. Hopefully the anthology will appeal to a wide audience because of the different genres.


Jann: This question is for Ottilia Scherschel. Your novels take place in foreign countries. Your short story for the anthology, Night Train to Hong Kong, a romantic suspense which takes place on a train ride from Beijing to Hong Kong. Why did you decide choose China for your location? Are all your novels romantic suspense?


Ottilia: My mother liked to say I was born with a foot in a suitcase. I’ve always loved to travel. Growing up, Hong Kong seemed mysterious, so far away, and its history with the British fascinated me. I sought out movies set there and visited San Francisco’s Chinatown to gawk at all the finery from Hong Kong. When my husband and I were married, he presented me with pearls he had bought in Hong Kong for his future wife while he was in the Navy. Years later, when my brother started doing business in China, I decided I had a reliable source and the time had come to write about that country and its customs.

Not all my novels are romantic suspense. I also write historical fiction, but all my novels have an element of suspense and are set in foreign countries at least in part.

Jann: Jill Jaynes—your contemporary romance, The Christmas Wish, has a woman looking for Mr. Right. Your story has Allie making a wish on a magical ornament for true love. Did you ever make the same wish?


Jill: Haha! More than once, I’m sure! I think most of us wish we could get a little help finding that guy. I definitely settled for a few frogs before my true love finally swept into my life and showed me what I’d been missing all along. In my story, Allie finds out that nothing is as easy as it seems, even with a magical wish in your pocket. But hey, it’s Christmas! I’m pretty sure something good will happen…

Jann: Angela Shelley, you also write novels for children as well. Did this have anything to do with basing your story, Winter’s Warmth, on the Snow Queen myth?


Angela: Children’s stories lend themselves particularly well to myth, legend, and symbolism–all things I’ve been fascinated by as long as I can remember. (As does the fantasy genre.) This is probably why I find myself writing (and reading) mostly in those areas, even though I enjoy contemporary, scifi, mystery, historical, romance, and other genres as a reader.

Old tales, religion, psychology, and modern storytelling speak in the languages of archetypes and symbols. We use them to layer depth and glean meaning from our world. That’s why I enjoy writing stories based on myth—these old stories give me worlds in which I can explore the deeper connections that live in us all.

Jann: Barb DeLong—A Witch for Christmas, is a humorous paranormal romance, and you’re also writing a series with the same theme. What triggered your interest in witches?


Barb: I knew I wanted to write a paranormal story because I love reading them. I write humorous and absolutely loved Jill Barnett’s Bewitching. I thought whimsical witches and their magic were right up my alley. My work-in-progress is a paranormal romance series called Charmed by a Witch, with the first book being Charm’d.

Jann: Kathleen Harrington—you have published several historical romances and for your short story, you selected Montana in the 1880’s and the suffragette movement. Was it Montana, the time period or both that attracted you to use this time and place?


Kathleen: My genre has always been historical romance. I’ve written several romances set in Montana during the 1880’s, so my familiarity with the setting made for an easy choice. While doing some research on Helena, I came across a photo of a suffragette from Great Falls. She was identified as a librarian and was standing so straight and proud beside the bicycle she rode to work, I felt an instant admiration for her and all the ladies who strove to secure the women’s vote. And so, Paulette Winslow, spinster and librarian, sprang to life in my imagination. My hero came just as easily. I’ve previously written a romance set in Butte, about a wealthy mine owner. This time my hero, Brent McFarland, comes from Butte to Helena to take over the local newspaper.


About our Authors:

When Ottilia Scherschel started sixth grade, she learned her fifth language. Her immigrant parents wandered throughout Europe and Latin America, waiting for papers to enter the United States. Today, she lives in Southern California. After a successful career in international communications, she took up writing romantic suspense stories set in foreign climes.

Her first novel DARING THE DRAGON, takes place in China and her second, A KISS TOO LONG, is set in Hungary and Italy. You can read one of her short stories in ROMANCING THE PAGES, an anthology by the Orange County Chapter of the Romance Writers of America. https://writingsomethingromantic.com/

Jill Jaynes began her love affair with romance when she was a teenager growing up in Southern California, spending many a late-night under the covers with a flashlight and good romance novel.

This early addiction stuck, and she discovered one day that telling great stories was even more fun than reading them. Today she writes stories with happy endings her own way- with a dash of magic that means anything can happen.

When she’s not writing, you can find her (still in Southern California) occupied with one of the following activities: a) wine-tasting, hiking or otherwise hanging out with her hot husband, b) walking her two high-maintenance dogs, c) plotting her next story with her writer-daughter or d) working at her day job in her spare time. http://www.jilljaynes.com

Angela Shelley was twenty-two when writing became a passion. She’s been doing it in one form or another ever since. As a technical writer, she published science articles for magazines, grant proposals, software manuals, and online help systems. She won Moonbeam Children’s Book Awards for her first and second novels, Ennara and the Fallen Druid and Ennara and the Book of Shadows.

Angela Shelley is a member of Romance Writers of America and the Society for Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators. In her spare time, she makes book trailers and volunteers for her writing organizations and twins’ classroom. Visit her at http://www.angelashelley.net.

Barb DeLong, long-time member of the Orange County Chapter/Romance Writers of America, is a member of RWA’s PRO community. She has been writing one thing or another for as long as she can remember. Her stories have won and finalled in several contests, and she published a short story in the Romancing the Pages anthology. Barb is currently working on a humorous paranormal romance series called Charmed by a Witch.

She’s excited to share with you the magic of love, laughter and happily ever after! https://writingsomethingromantic.com/

Kathleen Harrington, multi-published, award-winning author, has touched the hearts of readers across the country and the world with her sparkling tales of high adventure and unending love. Her historical romances have been published in Chinese, Russian, Italian, and German. She lives in Southern California with her American Bulldog, Auron.  http://www.kathleenharringtonbooks.com/

Thank you ladies for sharing with us about your critique group and your holiday anthology, Love for Christmas.

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February 2, 2018 by in category Jann says . . . tagged as , , ,

Debra Dixon Interview | Jann Ryan | A Slice of Orange


Debra Dixon | A Slice of Orange Debra Dixon has published with major publishers, written ten books, contributed to twelve anthologies, and served as Vice President of RWA, and her popular GMC:Goal, Motivation, and Conflict workshop spawned a book that has become a how-to bible for writers.

These days, she’s better known as Publisher for BelleBooks and its imprint Bell Bridge Books, which tackles a broad spectrum of genres in both print and ebook formats. A 2011 company highlight was holding the # 1 spot on the full Paid Kindle list for more than two weeks. Their titles have been picked up in translation and by major New York publishers in subrights deals for mass market paperback, book club, audio and large print. The company has published work from NYT’s bestselling authors: Anne Bishop, Susan Addison Allen, Deborah Smith, Sharon Sala, Sabrina Jeffries, Sandra Hill, Jill Marie Landis, and Jill Barnett. As well as USA Today bestseller Kalayna Price.

Debra lives in the South with her husband and son. When she’s not working in publishing or Corporate America, she moonlights as an award-winning quilter. The current home-remodeling-project-that-will-not-end began because Debra thought it would be nice to have a quilt studio for her art.

Jann: We’re starting February out with a bang!! The phenomenal Debra Dixon, is here with us today.

Jann: Let’s take a look back. How long had you been writing before you published your first romance Tall, Dark and Lonesome? Why the romance genre?

Debra: I had written all of my life, but seriously submitting fantasy for a few years before switching to the romance genre. I read romance as well as many other genres, and I’d met someone at a dog show of all things who was going through her page proofs. I thought, ‘Gee, an everyday real person is published in romance. Maybe I should try that.’ I joined RWA, one of the few professional writing groups that allowed unpublished authors to join. Shortly after that I found an agent. Carin Rafferty came to my city and founded the River City Romance Writers. That was my signal to really invest in romance because I had a support group and an agent! I went to conferences and the rest is history or some small dark corner of history.

Jann: In 1996 you published GMC: Goal, Motivation and Conflict. This phenomenal book is on my bookshelf and is mentioned in the majority of writing workshops I’ve attended. I’ve been privileged to hear two of your workshops based on this book. What was the motivation for you to write this book (no pun intended)?

GMC | Debra Dixon | A Slice of OrangeDebra: I gave this workshop at my local chapter in a much abbreviated format when I was still an unpublished author. They’d told me they needed me to come speak about plot. Then I had to figure out the “how” of plot for me. Those writers told people, and I started getting requests for the workshop. Then a very tiny company who specialized in books for writers came to me and badgered me to write a book. I kept telling them, “No one is going to buy this book. I don’t think this is a good idea for your investment.” Well, they wouldn’t take no for an answer. They were very clear that they wanted the book to be almost a conversation. They absolutely did not want the book to be stuffy, ponderous or pedantic. I had to revise to get the tone right, but I’m so happy now that they had a clear vision for the kind of book that GMC should be.


Jann: With your writing career in full swing, you decided to open a small press with seven other authors—and BellBooks, Inc. was founded in 1999. Since then Bell Bridge Books and ImaJinn Books joined the family. In this constantly changing world of publication, what bits of wisdom can you share with today’s writers—both published and unpublished.

Debra: I’m so sorry to trot out the obvious, but “write.” Write a lot. Keep writing, improving. Building an audience is great, but if you can’t feed that audience they’ll wander off and forget you. I can’t say how many books to write a year because every writer has a different ability to output and writing a 150k word fantasy takes a little more time than a 70k word mystery, etc. But writers should think long term and plan to put out books as frequently as they can write a GOOD book. We see most successful authors today have found a way to engage with their readers in an authentic way through a variety of social media. And then read. Read a lot. Most of all I’d say there is no ONE path. Every writer has a different idea of what success looks like. Enjoying the process is always good advice. Don’t be afraid to carve out your own path that looks quite different from someone else’s.

Jann: Do you see writing another romance in the future?

Debra: I occasionally fantasize about writing the most awesome Regency historical <g> or other project, but the reality is that I have authors who are counting on me to do my job and put their books first. So, I don’t think I’m going to find the time to write anything in the near future.

Jann: As a Publisher, public speaker, and a writer your schedule must be full. Do you have time to travel? Would you share some of your favorite travel adventures.

Debra: Not much time to travel for pleasure! We do take the occasional road trip. Hubby loves to drive, and I’m fortunate to be able to read, knit, and play on the iPad in the car! My favorite story about traveling to speak, is one time before cell phones were ubiquitous. When I landed in a foreign country, no one was there to pick me up. (My designated handler was stuck in a horrible 2-hour long traffic jam unbeknownst to me or anyone else.) When I called the hotel to check on a shuttle, they didn’t have the event on their schedule. (The group had changed the venue and never told me.) So there I was—marooned in a foreign land (Canada). Okay, so they spoke English, but it was pretty funny trying to figure out where to go or what to do. I finally tracked people down at the restaurant after managing to sweet talk the phone number for the old Workshop Chairman out of the cancelled hotel. She was no longer a member of the chapter, but she gave me some phone numbers. Then those numbers led to the restaurant. They were amazed I could find them. So was I. LOL! Thank heavens for the rental car place that let me tie up their phone!

Jann: Do you have a bucket list of future destinations?

Debra: I’d like to go back to Australia and New Zealand. Maybe spend a month in Italy just eating cheese, olives, and bread! My uncle does adventure vacations to unbelievable places in the world, and every time we get a chance to sit with him and go through his slides of a trip, it’s almost like we’ve been there! He’s even been to base camp at Everest. I’m not sure I want to adventure vacation and climb mountains. I really like the traditional “sleep late, what are we eating tonight?” vacations!

Jann: Do you still find the time to quilt? Do you have any pictures you can share?

Debra: Yes, quilting is my stress relief! I quilt every day, even if it’s only ten minutes. Sometimes it’s handwork, sometimes it’s working on the machine or designing the next quilt. Never ask a quilter if they have pictures…you’ll be there all day. But I’ll limit to applique, a pieced quilt, and a bag I made to carry around my knitting.


The applique quilt with the vase of flowers is one I’m working on hand quilting now. This is an original quilt design with the exception of the vase and flowers. Those are adapted from the line drawing of another quilter—Sandra Leichner.



Next is a pieced sampler (teal & brown) that I finished sewing the binding on when my husband was in the hospital. (Yep, I even took quilting to the hospital.) And for those who really are curious, here’s a link to a little photo tour of my quilt studio.






Jann: Thanks Debra for being here with us on A Slice of Orange and sharing bits of wisdom and your lovely quilting. 

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Jann Ryan | A Slice of OrangeJann Ryan grew up with the smell of orange blossoms in Orange County in sunny Southern California, where she has lived her entire life and dreamed up stories since she was a young girl. Never an avid reader, she was in her thirties when she picked up her first romance quite by accident. She fell in love with happily ever after and has been reading romances ever since.

Wanting to put pen to paper, Jann joined of Romance Writers of America®. Currently, she is working on a romantic suspense series set in Stellar Bay, a fictitious town along the California central coast to fulfill her publishing dream. Jann is also a member of Writing Something Romantic critique group.

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