Guest Feature: Cheryl Alldredge & Giveaway

One of the best things about being a romance writer is that you have the opportunity to meet all kinds of great people, interesting women (and a few men!) who genuinely love what they do and bring that joy to their work and to their friendships with other writers.  Today I’m hosting one of my favorite writer pals:  Cheryl Alldredge, who I met when I joined the Jacksonville, Florida chapter of the Romance Writers of America.  Not only is Cheryl smart and kind, she’s a talented writer who has recently released her contemporary romance, Ladybugs and Fireflies, which is set in her home state of Florida.

Now, lots of people visit Florida and come away thinking they know all there is to know about that state.  But that’s only the Florida of ocean resorts and tourist playgrounds.  The Florida that Cheryl uses for the settings of her stories is quite different from Miama, or Disneyworld, or Tampa, or all those other places where tourists flock for vacation.  I’m going to turn the blog over to Cheryl now, and let her tell you about the Florida she loves and uses for the settings of her books:

When I was younger I used to like to say I was a California girl. It’s true that I was born in California, but we moved away when I was a tot. My desire to claim the state probably had more to do with that old Beach Boys song than any sentimental feelings. I actually grew up in Florida. Not the part with the beaches. My Florida was more about swamps and gators and rednecks, oh my! I didn’t realize how much Florida had shaped me until other people started reading my writing. One of my trunk novels (as in tossed in a trunk and all but forgotten) was accused of sounding like a Florida travelogue. A more tactful beta reader said I made Florida a character in my book. The no-nonsense comment came from a ‘Yankee’ friend and the gentler comment came from a southern gentleman. If that’s not cliché come to life I don’t know what is!

So how did Florida shape me? I suppose it taught me not to be too vain. If you wear too much make-up in the summer, it’ll just drip right off when you walk out the door. It also taught me that fun is never far away—we do have a lot of theme parks around here. I think fun is mostly a state of mind, one theme parks have learned how to tap into and turn on at will. It also taught me to tread carefully to avoid snakes on the ground and to look more deeply at things. Florida may be all glitz, beaches, and theme parks in the brochures but it also home to wondrous natural beauty. We have springs so clear you can watch the fish frolic in the river-bottom grasses and oak trees so big they look like old giants with their mossy gray beards scrapping the ground.

In my short novel, Ladybugs and Fireflies, Callie Roberts and Taylor Powers meet when Taylor returns to his home state of Florida after establishing his career in the North.  Taylor is a high powered attorney and Callie is a small fry investigator on the opposite side of a case. It’s an impossible relationship on the surface. To find love they will have to look deeper and see who they are in their hearts.  Florida is very much a part of this story, but hopefully not in a travelogue-ish way.

I’d love to hear how your home has shaped you!

Vanessa, here.  Doesn’t Ladybugs and Fireflies sound great?  I love stories with characters who return to their hometown after life in the big city, especially in romance novels.  Coming home, rediscovering a life that seemed gone forever, is one of my favorite themes and Cheryl does a great job with it.  It’s a lovely story and a perfect summer read.  Ladybugs and Fireflies is available on Amazon, and at a number of other retailers.  Get all the details and read an excerpt on Cheryl’s website.

Cheryl also has two short stories available in e-book and anthology formats, which you can check out on her website.  She also blogs about books, life, and Florida on her Cheryl Alldredge blog, and about all things SciFi on her Smart Girls Love Sci Fi blog.  I really love this blog, which covers Sci Fi from all different angles, including books, movies, TV, and Sci Fi geekery!

On my blog today, Cheryl will be giving away a copy of Ladybugs and Fireflies, in either e-format or print book.  Let’s answer her question, which I think is a great one:  how has your hometown or state shaped your life?  One person who comments will win a copy of Ladybugs and Fireflies.

Gift Baskets Galore!

I normally try to blog three days a week, on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday.  Despite my best intentions I didn’t manage to do that yesterday, because I was too busy making up fabulous gift baskets for the First Coast Romance Writers mini-conference that’s happening this Saturday, March 12, in Jacksonville, Florida.

Okay, I have a confession to make.  I didn’t really make up those baskets; my uber-talented stepmother did.  I did buy all the candy and treats for the baskets, though, and made sure my stepmom was well supplied with high-test coffee while she worked.  As you can tell by the pictures, she does do great work.

Here’s the basket that contains a whole mess of books from Kensington Publishing.  My editor, John Scognamigio, very kindly contributed a box of books to the conference, and other generous Kensington authors like Kate Douglas, Susan Fox, Marilyn Brant, Diane Whiteside, and Elizabeth Amber all sent books.

It will be a lucky pup who wins that basket, I can tell you!

And here are the two baskets I’m contributing.

The basket on the left contains books donated by friends and some of my favorite authors, like Eloisa James and Courtney Milan.  The basket on the right contains my books, including Mastering The Marquess, Sex And The Single Earl, An Invitation To Sin, and also contains an Advanced Reader’s Copy of my upcoming May release, My Favorite Countess.

How do get your hands on one of these lovelies?  Easy!  Just go to the First Coast Romance Writers website and sign up for our mini-conference on Saturday.  Our featured speaker is the fabulous CL Wilson, and we’re also hosting pitches with Avon editor Tessa Woodward and literary agent Emmanuelle Morgen.  It’s going to be a great day!

And Now For This Public Service Announcement

Do you love to write as well as read romance?  Do you long to spend the day with a group of similarly introverted yet brilliant people who spend way too much time talking to imaginary people?  Then have I got the event for you!

I belong to the First Coast Romance Writers chapter of the Romance Writers of America, and we’re sponsoring a really terrific one-day writers conference on March 12.  If you live anywhere in the vicinity of Jacksonville, Florida, you’ll want to know about the Annual Southern Lights Conference.

The conference theme this year is Light Up Your Career and, boy howdy, can we help you do that!  Check out our keynote speaker, the fabulous C.L. Wilson, New York Times bestselling author of the fantasy books, the Novels of the Fading Lands. We’ll also be featuring local writers Renee Ryan, an award-winning author for Harlequin Romance, and Vic DiGenti, the acclaimed author of the Windrusher Adventurers.  Vic is also the regional director of the Florida Writers Association, so he’ll have lots to tell us about the business of publishing.

Hey, wait!  It gets better.  We’re also featuring Emmanuelle Morgen, an agent with the prestigious Judith Erlich Literary Management.  We’re also very happy to have Tessa Woodward, an editor with romance powerhouse, Avon Publishing.  Both Emmanuelle and Tessa will be taking pitches at the conference and speaking on an industry panel.

And did I mention that we’ll be holding the event at the lovely Marriott Hotel in Jacksonville, and also including lunch?  Then there are all the editor, author, and agent critiques up for raffle, as well as some really swell gift baskets to give away. Really, you don’t want to miss this!

For more info and to register, just click here.

We now return you to your regularly scheduled programming, and thank you for listening!