Monthly Archives: June 2014

Pepper O’Neal Needs Some Cheering Up

Pepper is another of those wonderful writers I met through Black Opal Books In fact she helped with the cover for My Killer My Love. She’s here today to share thoughts on the emotional roller coaster we feel once the book is done and out of our lives.

Okay, Now I’m Depressed

I know a lot of authors who, when they finish a book, go out and celebrate. The months or years of intense work—writing, revising, editing, and proofing—are finally done. They’ve sold it to a publisher and those edits are done, they have their cover, and all they have to do is sit back and wait until it’s released. They should celebrate. They’ve certainly earned it!

So what’s wrong with me? When I finish a book, after all the work is done, and I’m waiting for its release, I feel a little depressed. I’ve spent the last 6 months thinking about little else but my book and its characters. I’ve been intensely involved in their lives and escapades. I’ve shaped them, molded them, cajoled them, even screamed at them on occasion, struggled—sometimes for hours—picking just the right words to describe their emotions, thoughts, and actions, and now, suddenly, they no longer need me. It’s like waking up from a trance and wondering, Where am I? I have a bad case of “empty nest” on a huge scale and no longer know what to do with myself.

My new book, Black Ops Chronicles: Dead Men Don’t , which comes out on June 28th, is Levi’s story. Levi is one of my favorite dmd-200x300characters from the first book in the series, Black Ops Chronicles: Dead Run. He’s a British black ops specialist. And he’s fun. I love his sense of humor and the way little things don’t faze him. So I really enjoyed writing his story. But now that it’s done and my days aren’t filled with the details of his life and adventures anymore, I miss him. I feel kind of like I’ve lost one of my best friends.

And when I sit down at my computer to write, I face a blank page instead of a developing story or one that just needs to be polished. Oh, I know that I’ll meet new characters in my next book and get to be involved in their lives. But I don’t know them yet, so I feel like a new student on the first day at a new school. What if nobody likes me? What if I can’t keep up? What if I’m not good enough to tell their story? What if…what if…All the doubts and insecurities, that I successfully buried to write the last book, bubble to the surface again and I have to force them back down, which is almost as hard as writing the darn book!

True, I do get a sense of accomplishment from seeing my new book on the shelf with the others. And I get a warm glow of pride if the reviews are good or one of my readers emails me that he/she loved the book and couldn’t put it down. But I know in my heart, that I’ll never leave “well-enough alone.” I have this compulsion to write fiction. And I can’t shake it. Already I can sense the characters from my next book knocking at my brain and telling me to get on with it. They want their story told, too. So now I get to face the months of intense work ahead of me to just to get the first draft done. And if that’s not bad enough, once I finally get the story to where I really like it and I’m excited and happy about it, it will be finished and, once again, I’ll be depressed. No more shaping, molding, cajoling, screaming, or struggling. My baby will stand on its own and it won’t need me anymore. Didn’t I just leave this party? Doesn’t hardly seem fair, does it?

And then I’ll get to start all over again on the next one. Is it any wonder I’m a little depressed?

NOTE: We can cheer ourselves up knowing Dead Men Don’t will be available in just a couple days…maybe even now! What a great way to spend the weekend!


PepperO'Neal_Author Badge 300x300Award-winning author, Pepper O’Neal is a researcher, a writer, and an adrenalin junkie. She has a doctorate in education and spent several years in Mexico and the Caribbean working as researcher for an educational resource firm based out of Mexico City. During that time, she met and befriended many adventurers like herself, including former CIA officers and members of organized crime. Her fiction is heavily influenced by the stories they shared with her, as well her own experiences abroad.

O’Neal attributes both her love of adventure and her compulsion to write fiction to her Irish and Cherokee ancestors. When she’s not at her computer, O’Neal spends her time taking long walks in the forests near her home or playing with her three cats. And of course, planning the next adventure.


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Jami Gray is here to talk about What Makes a Character Real?

Jami GrayOne of the best aspects of becoming a published writer is meeting other writers you would never have encountered otherwise. Even better is introducing them to my other friends. I met Jami through Black Opal Books, where we were some of the early authors. Jami has her own style, whether she’s writing kick butt heroines or wrangling husband, sons, and a very large dog.

Today she’s sharing insights into building real characters.

What Makes a Character Real?

One of the more interesting conundrums my critique group and I have pondered, is why do writers lean toward flawed characters?

Of course, me being me, I had to point out the only interesting character is one who is flawed. C’mon, no one likes reading about Perfect Polly and her Awesome, Astounding Life of Ease. Yet, can a writer hobble their character with too many flaws?

In my humble opinion, yep, we sure can. As a reader, I’ve encountered books where, when I hit the end, I needed some serious therapy. The character faced such overwhelming odds from themselves and their world that it was all I could do not to hand them a gun and just nod sadly.

As a writer, it’s a whole ‘nother set of problems. If your character doesn’t have a certain level of depth-psychologically speaking-giving them too many flaws or flaws that are not thought out, will lead you down a story path filled with frustrating dead-ends.

Our motley group of eight (because why have seven if you can do more?), has considered numerous challenges to place before our various protagonists, be it a solid box where magic can’t operate, a juice mixer that only works with certain souls, or a snowy day in New Orleans. The whole point of telling a story is to take your character, give them a few, significant hurdles, some hidden pits with stakes, and shiny pot of gold at the end of the wacky rainbow and see how they turn out. Are they better? Worse? A little more colorful or holey? It’s one of the more fun aspects of being a writer, coming up with some great challenges that utilize creative thinking to get around or under.

Yet the goal of these challenges is to shine a great, big spotlight on our character’s flaws (or give it a steroid shot). There is a fine balance a writer must navigate–creating a likable, flawed character a reader can connect with. That’s a great deal more difficult than it sounds.

As I’ve continued to develop my series and my characters, I discovered for my characters to gain a believable depth and become “real” to my readers, they must have characteristics readers can connect to. I’m not saying my readers are out there bedecked in leather and carrying sharp, pointy weapons with a commendable snarl on their faces (or maybe some of you do), but the concepts of self-doubt, trust, independence, finding your true strengths, accepting yourself, overcoming obstacles—those aspects have to ring true.

In my Kyn Kronicles, Raine McCord, my heroine in SHADOW’S EDGE and SHADOW’S SOUL, is a kick-ass, lethal woman, with quite a few hidden flaws (and some not-so- hidden). Even though she’s part of the Kyn (a collection of mythical races) and magic is a normal part of her life, she’s been forged by some very real trauma. Trauma that left some very lasting scars on who she is and how she deals with what life sends her way.

And she’s not the only character with a history. SHADOW’S MOON brings Xander, my female wolf shifter front and center. Quirky, strong and unique, she holds her own in a male dominated culture. However, underneath she faces hard learned insecurities—how to protect those you love, even when it’s not possible.

Writers write what they know so I’ve excavated my own experiences to ensure my characters become “real”. I must understand what drives my characters, what’s behind each of their decisions, and how will they handle the consequences of those decisions. If I don’t do that, I’ll end up with a very one-dimensional cast of characters.

Much like life, everything that happens to a person, every action, every reaction causes a chain reaction that echoes down the line. It may not be immediately, but it will come back and bring with it new and more demanding challenges. That’s what creating a believable world is about. You want your readers to keep reading, to find out what happens when…

I don’t have a magic formula or chart (especially since Math is not my forte) on how many flaws or how deep those flaws have to be for a character to work, but think about it. How boring is it if we aren’t challenged through out our life? Same with our characters. We’re picking up a book so we can jump into the most exciting point in a character’s life, therefore as writers, we must make sure that the challenges and flaws they must face will keep a reader hooked for the entire story. Readers (and I say this since I, too, read) want to see the main character emerge triumphant over evil and themselves at the story’s end. Or if not exactly where they should be, pretty darn close.

The only way to do that is to be true to who your characters are and how they react to others and with others.

What do you think? What about a character keeps you reading a story?

 * * * * *

Thanks Jami! Wow, lots to think about! Okay, I know you want to see how Jami puts all this into her books…show, don’t tell! And she really does show!

About Jami
Jami Gray grew up on the Arizona-Mexico border, and was adopted at the age of 14 to suddenly become the fifth eldest of 37 children. She graduated from Arizona State University with a Bachelor’s in Journalism and three minors-History, English, and Theater. (Decision-making was not her forte at the time.) Shortly after marrying her techie-geek hubby (who moonlighted as her best friend in high school) she completed a Masters in Organizational Management from University of Phoenix Oregon.

Now, years later, she’s back in the Southwest where she’s outnumbered in her own home by two Star Wars obsessed boys, one Star Wars obsessed husband, and an overly-friendly, 105-pound male lab. Delving into the wild paranormal worlds where romance collides with suspense and Urban Fantasy is queen, manages to salvage her sanity. Or so we let her believe…


Shadow’s Edge: Book 1 of the Kyn Kronicles

Shadow’s Soul: Book 2 of the Kyn Kronicles, Paranormal Romance Winner of 2012 Shooting Star

Wrapped in Shadows (.5) part of Things That Go Bump For The Holidays—A Collection of Short Stories

Shadow’s Moon: Book 3 of the Kyn Kronicles, 2013 Golden Claddagh Finalist


Coming in July 11th, 2014 from Muse It Up Publishing:
Hunted by the Past: Book 1 of the PSY-IV Teams

And Fall 2014 brings Shadow’s Curse: Book 4 of the Kyn Kronicles.



You can find all the buy links at:

Kyn Kronicles

Psy IV

Blurb for Shadow’s Edge:
Everyone fears what hunts in the shadows—especially the monsters…

It takes a monster to hunt one, and for Raine McCord, forged in the maelstrom of magic and science, she’s the one for the job. In a world where the supernatural live in a shadowy existence with the mundane, a series of disappearances and deaths threatens the secrecy of her kind and indicates someone knows the monsters are alive and kicking. Partnering up with the sexy and tantalizing Gavin Durand proves to be a challenge as dangerous as the prey she hunts.

When the trail points back to the foundation which warped Raine’s magic as a child, her torturous past raises its ugly head. Gavin and Raine sift through a maze of lies, murder and betrayal to discover not only each other, but the emerging threat to them and the entire magical community.

Blurb for    Shadow’s Soul
Some nightmares are born of love…

Raine McCord has no problem taking down the monsters of the world, it’s one of the reasons she’s so good at her job. So playing bodyguard to Cheveyo, head Magi of the Northwest, as he consults with the Southwest Kyn should be an easy assignment. Unfortunately, simple task turns into a nightmare when Cheveyo is kidnapped and Raine is left for dead by one of the Kyn’s most feared beings, a Soul Stealer.

The Stealer’s attack leaves lasting wounds, undermining Raine’s confidence as a warrior and damaging her unruly magic. Her ability to heal her mind and spirit hinges on the one man who can touch her soul, Gavin Durand. Compelled to face the emotions raging between them, they must embrace not only their stormy relationship but their evolving magic to escape the twisted threads of murder and betrayal to find Cheveyo.

As Raine and Gavin come together and begin to unravel the complex web of secrets and hidden vendettas haunting the Southwest Kyn, they discover unsettling new truths that threaten their very existence.

Blurb for Wrapped in Shadows:
The magic of the holidays can be hell…

Celebrations abound during the holidays, but this Christmas an engagement celebration goes horrifically wrong. What appears to be a simple murder/suicide hides a vicious surprise. The type of gift Raine and Gavin, elite member of the Kyn, didn’t want humans to unwrap, because revealing the monsters in the shadows isn’t the way to spread holiday cheer.

Blurb for   Shadow’s Moon
Even a wild heart can be broken…

A blonde, a brunette and a monster walk into a bar and all hell breaks loose.Shadows Moon Cover

It should have been the start of a bad joke, but days from a full moon Xander Cade, Tracker for the Northwest Motoki Pack, finds nothing funny about confronting an enraged Shifter in a crowded Portland nightclub filled with unsuspecting humans. The resulting carnage frays an already thin veil of secrecy shielding the supernatural Kyn community from public scrutiny, and ensures she can’t escape the one man she’s been determined to avoid, her Alpha and mate, Warrick Vidis. Dominating, protective and compelling, Warrick threatens her individuality like no other.

As the Northwest Alpha wolf, compromise isn’t in Warrick Vidis’s vocabulary, but when his reluctant mate, Xander Cade, refuses to leave off the hunt for a killer, he has no qualms using whoever or whatever necessary to protect her or his pack. A series of unusual deaths involving lone wolves, along with anonymous threats against him and his Pack, begin to jeopardize his normal steely control. Add in Xander’s continual reluctance to fully accept their Soul bond, and the line between intellect and instinct begins to blur, leaving him wondering if one woman’s love and acceptance will be enough to save both man and wolf.
As the danger escalates, threatening not just their Pack but those closest to them, Warrick and Xander must find a way to trust each other and accept their rare bond or risk losing everything-their pack, their friends and each other.
Blurb for Hunted by the Past:
Sometimes death is the only way to out run the past…

A reluctant psychic who can relive the past, a man well versed in keeping secrets, and a psychopathic killer enter a deadly game where the past determines the future.

Changing the past is an impossibility ex-Marine, Cynthia “Cyn” Arden, understands all too well. Struggling in the aftermath of a botched mission, which cost her two teammates, her military career, and a fledging relationship, she’s brought home by a panicked phone call. The psychic killer behind her nightmares has escaped military custody to hunt down the remaining teammates, one by one. Next on his murderous list–Cyn. Her only chance at survival is to master the psychic ability she’s spent years denying.

The killer’s game brings her face to face with the one person guaranteed to throw her off kilter—the unsettling and distracting man she left behind, Kayden Shaw. Once she believed he’d stand by her side, until he chose his job and his secrets over her. A choice that’s left the scars of the past etched deep on her mind and heart.

To survive this twisted game, Cyn must risk trusting her heart and accepting who and what she is, or lose not only her life, but the man she loves.


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A Summer Vacation That Guided My Future

When I thought about this blog, I realized my childhood summer memories were at best vague. Hey, it was a long time ago! I do remember Camp SAYSF, a vacation bible camp, while we lived in Southern Maryland. Most likely it was my mother’s vacation from three wild young kids while my father was stationed overseas. My parents bought houses near woods so we could entertain ourselves otherwise. Ah, the good old days!
Once we pass from childhood, vacations only happen with certain job choices. Not so much for dog groomers, watiresses, or stable managers. In fact when the rest of the world celebrated vacations, my work load tended to multiply. It wasn’t until I married Tom and took on more mature job choices that vacations became possible.
Our lives centered around the dogs, teachers have the summer off and wouldn’t you know it, the summer is filled with dog shows! So my adult vacations all had something to do with dogs and dog shows. The vacation that comes to mind most often was the first

A Class C motor home

A Class C motor home

year we tried renting a motor home. It was a Class C, the kind built on a van base with a compartment over the driving section. We were snuggled up there one night, when a light rain began to fall. Rain can get me into a sentimental mood but unfortunately my husband was tired out from several days of driving and showing dogs. So I contemplated what might have happened, and one of my favorite scenes from Teach Me To Forget took over my imagination. Eventually that scene grew into the entire story. Mind you it wasn’t written for several years, but I kept that rainy intimate moment in my heart.

The first time Bethany and Jonathan share that snug little compartment it’s with great caution on her part since she trusts no man…for very good reason.  They’re stuck on the side of the road on a chilly night, pouring rain, the heater is out, and the only way they’ll stay warm is by sharing body heat. All goes fairly well until the next morning

excerpt from Teach Me To Forget…Baron is Bethany’s silly Irish Setter buddy.


Bethany woke to the lack of sound. Soft early morning light filtered through the curtain. Baron leaned against the front of her knees, a note of question issuing from his throat. She felt more rested than she had in years, the half-wakened sense of euphoria so wonderful, she dreaded coming fully awake. Smiling at her insistent red dog she stretched, mentally reviewing the events of the day before to detect the source of such a feeling of well-being.
Her stretch was blocked by the solid weight of a lean thigh, snuggled against her lower body. For the first time she was aware of a hand inserted between her sweat top and undershirt, resting just below the weight of her unbound breast.
Her automatic response was one of panic. Stifling a scream, she pulled away, nearly falling out of the bunk. A move on his part to hold her brought further terror. She clawed the curtain open, scrambling until her feet were on the couch, bringing half the covers with her.


Teach Me To Forget May 2012

Teach Me To Forget
May 2012

Jonathan—snatched rudely from an erotic dream—spoke without heed, thinking with his glands rather than his mind. “For Crissakes, nothing to get into a panic about. It’s not like there’s anything to feel. You’re all wrapped up like a sack of potatoes.”
It was definitely the wrong thing to say. From blind panic and deep-rooted fear she slid straight into outright rage, obviously fueled by embarrassment at his disparagement of her feminine qualities.
“You certainly seemed eager enough to mash those potatoes a few minutes ago, Mr. Merritt. Perhaps you can find some other outlet for your energies while road service takes care of the tire. The sooner we get under way and get this farce over with, the happier I’ll be.” She let herself and her dog out into the bright morning.
“Way to go, lover boy,”Jonathan muttered to himself, falling back among the disarranged bedding and willing his body to regain a state of sanity. It was difficult to calculate how much this had increased her hostility, but he had a feeling it was to geometric proportions. He grinned ruefully, remembering what a difference blazing fury made in her appearance.
Danger to his more delicate body parts notwithstanding, he found himself preferring the outraged fire breathing Amazon to the elegant ice princess. He rubbed his palm along his now relaxed thigh, wondering how much worse it would have been if he had not, even in his sleep, been aware of her every movement.
His hand cupped again, remembering soft womanly flesh nestled in his palm. She felt so right cuddled trustingly against his body. Then he reminded himself that memories were all he would have if he didn’t get moving.


So there you have it, a book spun out of a vacation. Memories made into dreams. Right now I’m working on a loose sequel to Teach Me To Forget, but I’m having trouble with my hero’s name. I’ve been calling him Gavin but that just doesn’t help when I’m trying to write intimate scenes. No insult to the manly Gavins of the world but it’s not working for my former special forces town manager. If someone can come up with a name that works better for me, they’ll get a HUGE mention in the next book. Plus I think I’ll be writing it much faster.  Anyone have any great ideas?

Happy Summer, I hope you’re making Summer Vacation memories to cherish in the years to come



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It’s Not Always That Easy

At the recent LERA meeting (Land of Enchantment Romance Authors) Darynda Jones  was talking about dynamite openings…and who would know better? Somewhere along the way, as so often happens in our meetings, the talk turned to writing in general, in particular WRITING as a get ‘er done effort.

Celeste Bradley had some dynamite suggestions, including just writing a hundred words or maybe just fifty and letting yourself stop. More important she advised us to treat our writing like a job that needs to be done but also treat ourselves well.

Jeffe Kennedy and Robin Perini added more along the same lines.

Am I name dropping? No…well kind of. Except these remarkable writers were all in the room, and they are all LERA members. Along with a greater wealth of award winning multi published authors I haven’t named. Check out the LERA page… pretty cool, huh? Could be intimidating also since the sheer volume of talent in the room can overwhelm.

At one time or another all of them have had doubts, worries, blocks. One way or another they’ve all come through to the heights they have achieved. And they all agree on one thing.

It’s not that easy. But it is so worth the journey.


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