Meet Author Connie Cockrell

A 20-year Air Force career, time as a manager at a computer operations company, wife, mother, sister, and volunteer, provides a rich background for Connie Cockrell’s story-telling.

Cockrell grew up in upstate NY, just outside of Gloversville, NY before she joined the military at age 18. Having lived in Europe, Great Britain, and several places around the United States, she now lives in Payson, AZ with her husband: hiking, gardening, and playing Bunko. She writes about whatever comes into her head so her books could be in any genre.

She’s published sixteen books so far, has been included in five different anthologies and been published on EveryDayStories.com and FrontierTales.com.

Connie’s always on the lookout for a good story idea. Beware, you may be the next one.

Let’s get to know Connie. 

What literary pilgrimages have you gone on?

Only one and that was accidental. My husband and I were driving across country from visiting my family in New York. We came through New Mexico and stopped in Santa Rosa for the night. I set my western hero’s hometown there so I thought, this is great. I can actually see the place instead of googling it. I chose the town because it has the Santa Rosa river running through it. It turns out it’s nothing like I imagined. And it has this Big Blue Hole, which never came up in my searches. And the river is about thirty inches wide, though a lot of water does run through it. So, the descriptions in my story aren’t blown out of the water, pun intended. But if I do reference the town in future stories, I’ll have a better idea of what I’m talking about.

What is the first book that made you cry?

Gone with the Wind. I was 12 when I first read it and the description of Scarlett going hungry every night was just more than my pre-teen brain could handle.

Did you every consider writing under a pseudonym?

I did. My first book was drafted as a challenge from my daughter in 2011 for the National Novel Writing Month. During the challenge, I made contact with the Arizona Elsewhere monitor and she invited me to her on-line writing group, Forward Motion. One of the topics on the years old feed was whether or not to have a pen name. After reading all the pros and cons, I decided, no. Not unless I start writing erotica, LOL! I figure if James Patterson can write everything under one pen name, so can I.

Do you want each book to stand on its own, or are you trying to build a body of work with connections between each book?

Each of my books can stand alone but my series stories do link to each other in a sequence. (Hint! Hint! Start with book one in each series.) It seems a natural way to write, for me, so that’s the way I roll.

What was an early experience where you learned that language had power?

I’m old enough to remember the televised speech by John F. Kennedy’s inaugural address in 1961 where he asked of American citizens, “…ask not what your country can do for you—ask what you can do for your country.” I still get chills when I hear or read that speech. You can find the whole address at http://www.ushistory.org/documents/ask-not.htm.

What do you owe the real people upon whom you base your characters?

A debt of gratitude. Not that I’ve fashioned a character from a whole person. A character is generally based, for me at least, on bits and pieces of many others. Except myself. I put a lot of myself in my female protagonists. After all, we’re supposed to write what we know, right?

How many unpublished and half-finished books do you have?

Oh my! Like many authors, I’ve started works that have petered out in the middle. Two, in particular, come to mind because I’ve made the protagonists too perfect. That’s never a good thing and they both need to be re-written to correct that defect. LOL! Others are half plotted or no more than story ideas jotted down that I haven’t had time to start yet. There have to be at least six or seven of those, including a noir series set in WWII. I have a whole series planned with the first book drafted (a coming of age/YA series I call All About Bob, with mainly male protagonists) but I don’t want to start a new series right now because I have three already in progress (two SciFi and one cozy mystery). It’s a writer’s burden I fear.

What kind of research do you do, and how long do you spend researching before beginning a book?

Good question. It depends on the series or book. For example, that story I mentioned earlier with the protagonist from Santa Rosa, I didn’t research until I began the story. It’s a western set in central Arizona. So once I decided the location, there was some work to do to discover what was going on in that area at the end of the Civil War. Then research into firearms men would carry, even how to curry a horse, because I didn’t grow up with horses. My SciFi series Gulliver’s Station, I chatted with an aerospace engineer on how big to make a space station that could provide for 10,000 full-time residents, taking into consideration crop growth on the station, air production of various kinds and even what to do with the deceased! The noir I’m planning is going to take a lot of research before I start. Fashions for men and women, what men were exempt from serving and for what reasons, social mores of the time in both rural areas and in New York City, all kinds of things. The research is the fun stuff for sure.

What was your hardest scene to write?

In my very first book, I killed off the grand-daughter of my female protagonist. It had to be done but I cried all the way through the first and subsequent drafts. When my mom read it, she yelled at me for killing off the girl. I’ve had other hard scenes to write since then, but that was my first.

How long, on average, does it take you to write a book?

Generally, a month. A couple of thousand words per day will get the job done, especially if I’ve taken some time to write out some scene cards. What do I mean? A scene card for me is a sentence describing what I want to have happened in the scene. Sometimes I use 4X6 index cards, sometimes I just write or type them out on a page. The sentence will cover who’s the protagonist, antagonist, location, conflict and what the twist is at the end that will lead me to the next scene. If I have enough of these done for the book, say 60+ I can rock on through the book in no time. If, because of what I’ve already written a scene is no longer valid, I toss it out as irrelevant. Fun times. I don’t like to micro-plan, so the scene sentence gives me a direction, keeping me pointed at the ending I want, without cutting into my creativity. There have been books where I didn’t know what the ending was. Those are a wild ride!

What about my newest book?

Mystery at the Book Festival is the third book in my Jean Hays series, my only cozy mystery set so far. Jean is a retired Air Force Master Sergeant Project Manager, divorced after she and her AF husband, also a project manager, retired. She has an adult son with his own family who live in California. It turns out that Jean is a magnet for dead bodies in her little town of Greyson, AZ. She’s in constant conflict with the Chief of Police, Nick White and is best friends with her fellow amateur sleuth, Karen Carver. Karen is a native resident of Greyson and knows just about everything about everyone in town. They are friends with Liz Toscano, hard-bitten reported for the twice weekly town paper. In Mystery at the Book Festival, Karen and Jean find a body in the local community college store room still dripping blood. As the third body in a year and a half, the mayor wants Nick to put Jean behind bars or lose his job! So it’s up to Jean to find the real killer fast for both her sake and Nick’s.

Read an excerpt: Mystery at the Book Festival

She can be found at www.conniesrandomthoughts.com

Facebook:  ConniesRandomThoughts

Twitter: @ConnieCockrell or

Amazon Author:  Connie Cockrell

 

Author interview: Rosanna Leo

Today I’m hosting multi-published romance author, Rosanna Leo. Winner of the 12957 (167x250)Reader’s Choice 2015 in Paranormal Romance at The Romance Reviews, Rosanna draws on her love of mythology for her books on Greek gods, selkies and shape shifters.  A library employee by day, she is honored to be a member of the league of naughty librarians who also happen to write romance. Star-crossed loves are her specialty.

 

Rosanna, what do you think people would be the most surprised to learn about you?

I’ve been watching the British soap opera Coronation Street for over 20 twenty years now. It’s a lot different from American soaps, less flashy with regular people, and over-the-top in the drama department. Sometimes I cringe when I watch but it’s become like a sickness, an addiction. If I don’t watch, I wonder. However, it’s the sort of show where you can miss a week and easily return to it. Much of the time, it serves as background noise while I fold my laundry.  

unrealitytv.co.uk

unrealitytv.co.uk

Although I’ve never heard of this one, I love the kind of show you can have on while you run around the house and get stuff done. It feels less like work that way. 

What do you enjoy most in your free time?

Reading is a big thing for me, as I suspect it is for so many writers. I never grow tired of finding new authors. However, I also love hiking and being in nature. I’m a gardener at heart, although I’m sad to report my thumb isn’t very green and I don’t often have success. Traveling is another biggie. My husband and I both love discovering new places to visit. Our favorite places are England and Mexico but we hope to roam elsewhere as well.

These are photos from Rosanna’s London trip!

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London skyline

Hampton Court in London

Hampton Court in London

 

 

 

 

 

 

Other than a computer, what modern convenience could you never live without?

I probably wouldn’t do too well in this life without a microwave. Unfortunately, I’m not the best of cooks so I often have to resort to nuking food. It’s not unusual for me to BBQ something, turn off the BBQ, and realize the meat is under cooked. Hello, microwave.

Every author has a process—what works for them when they write. What does your writing process look like from first scribbles to finished manuscript?

The first thing I do is tackle character sketches for the main characters. What are their wounds, their goals? What do they look like and what are their histories? Then I set to work on an outline, but I leave it somewhat fluid so I can make changes. At that point, I really need to start writing. I don’t like to spend days outlining because I tend to make alterations as I go.

What is your all time favorite book and why?

I think it will always be the Narnia Chronicles by C.S. Lewis. Those books were my childhood favorites and I still love the sense of magic and mystery and even the underlying faith. Plus Aslan struck me as hot. I think he might be behind my decision to write about shape shifter heroes.      

neversaybook.blogspot.com

neversaybook.blogspot.com

Project research, love it or hate it?

Love it! I studied history and literature at university, as well as classical singing, so research was always a big part of my education. I can sit in a library for hours and never get bored. I do believe a writer can possibly reach a moment when it’s time to “let go” of the research and start writing, however. Make sure you know what you’re talking about and then write what you need to write.

Is there a specific author who inspires you?

Boy, anyone who sticks around in this business inspires me. It isn’t always easy. I really look up to authors like Meg Cabot and Susan Mallery. They’ve endured and always manage to write something new.

How long did it take you to write your first book?    Your latest book?

The first book I ever wrote was the one that eventually became Night Lover, one of my paranormal romances. That one originated years ago but the story was very different back then. It went through many changes and it took me years (on and off) to complete. My latest book, a currently unpublished contemporary romance called A Good Man, took a few months from start to finish. I know what I want to convey now so I don’t allow myself to agonize for years. At some point, you have to write “The End.”

Is there a genre you haven’t written but are thinking about trying?

To be honest, romance floats my boat. It’s what I’ve always loved and I can’t imagine writing a story that doesn’t have romance at its heart. I may write in various subgenres of romance, but I don’t think you’ll ever see me writing sci-fi or biographies or mysteries. I need that chemistry, that sizzle.

You write romance in various sub-genres, which is your favorite to write? 

I write in both contemporary and paranormal romance and enjoy them both. As I go forward, I will likely continue writing in each of these sub-genres. I love the humanity inherent in contemporary romance. As for PNR, well, I love the fact that characters and conflicts are something other than human.

Which is your favorite to read?

I love most types of romance. For the most part, I gravitate to contemporary or paranormal, but I enjoy a bit of historical and fantasy romance as well. As long as the characters are compelling and sympathetic, I will stick around.

As a multi-published author, do you have any words of advice for aspiring writers?

Work toward your dreams but make sure you do your homework first. A lot of people out there have the perception that they can crack off a book whenever they like and get it published. The reality is different. There is a lot of rejection and a lot of self-doubt to be overcome. If you want to write in a genre, make sure you love it. If it’s not your passion, it’ll show. If you decide writing really is for you, learn the craft and be ready to make it your business as well as your hobby.

What other projects are you working on? 

I just finished a contemporary romance, A Good Man, and it’ll be the start of a whole new series featuring a sexy trio of contractor brothers. Set in Toronto, my home town, it is fun and flirty but will also touch on some deep issues like PTSD. I’m also hard at work on book 3 of my Orkney Selkies and am about to embark on the final book of my Gemini Island Shifters series. 

How did you come up with the title for your latest book?

My last book was Predator’s Rescue, Gemini Island Shifters 7. It wasn’t hard to come up with the title because all the books in this shape shifter romance series begin with “Predator’s” and end with a term that reflects the characters or conflicts. In Predator’s Rescue, both my hero, my heroine, and to some extent a couple of secondary characters needed rescuing. In fact, the actual setting needed a bit of TLC, but I won’t give away too much. 

Tell us a little about Predator’s Rescue.

Predator’s Rescue is the seventh book in my shape shifter series. It’s an important addition to the series because some big conflicts get resolved. The series began as rather light and fun but took a darker turn around book 5. New villains were introduced and a plotline in which many characters were threatened, both physically and emotionally. In this book, our hero Jani is one of the good guys from the Ursa Resort, my shape shifter sanctuary. The heroine, Fleur, is a reformed bad girl. She used to be part of the vicious cult of shape shifters who attacked the Ursa Resort, the Alpha Brethren. However, Jani always knew there was something good in Fleur. In this book, we see her transformation and redemption.

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The official blurb: 

Tiger shifter Jani Fodor should have washed his hands of Fleur Bissette long ago. However, when she disappears from the shape shifter sanctuary on Gemini Island, he can’t forget her, and launches a fraught two-week search to find her. He thinks she’ll be grateful but the petulant she-wolf resents his intrusion in her life.

Jani recently liberated Fleur from a vicious cult of shape shifters, where she was brainwashed by the sadistic August Crane. The wolf shifter terrorized their friends at the Ursa Fishing Lodge and Resort on Gemini Island. Labeled a “bad girl” all her life, Fleur knows she’ll never fit in with the good guys at the Ursa, no matter how much Jani tries to convince her of their regard. Besides, she can’t stay with Jani. Although he’s the closest thing she’s ever had to a friend, their chemistry is explosive in the worst way.

When a new menace arises, in the form of a vicious drug dealer with a grudge, Jani is adamant Fleur accept his help to rehabilitate her addict mother and remove her from the influence of her dealer. Fleur accepts Jani’s assistance but as they work together, friendship erupts into passion. Neither can deny their lust-struck spirit animals and before long, they realize their connection runs deeper than they ever expected.

Despite the threats posed by the drug dealer, the worst danger of all dwells inside Fleur. Haunted by the spirit of August Crane, Fleur is inundated by visions that torment her. She is consumed by guilt and plagued by old hostilities. Can this bad girl make good? And is Jani’s love enough to save her from her demons?

Want more?  Click here to read an excerpt:   Predator’s Rescue

To catch up with this popular author follow her blog:

http://www.rosannaleoauthor.wordpress.com

Cover teaser

 

 

Hey, what do you have against happy endings?

Is that why you won’t read romance? Or, are you one of those people who automatically dismiss the notion of reading a romance novel because you think they’re trashy or ill written? Think again.

To categorically dismiss the popular genre on such prejudice is not only nearsighted but also kind of…well, to be honest…snobbish. As someone who writes in that genre, I take offense to that. Granted, most romance reads aren’t going to compare to great scholarly works, but come on, we don’t read them to increase our word power or to expand our knowledge. They are first and foremost for sheer entertainment, a fun distraction and escape from whatever crap in our lives we don’t want to be thinking about in the moment.

Yes, there are some poorly written romance books, but this is true of every genre across the board. I’ve seen bloated highbrow works, self-absorbed memoirs that are snooze-worthy, and with a market saturated with indulgent self-pub’s, you can’t blame all the hackneyed writing on romance.

How does reading romance differ from watching popular TV shows like Downton Abby or Scandal, both of which have strong romance storyline threads? Why would you watch these but not pick up a romance novel? Is it the cover art? The truth is, most people who shun the romance novel based on the provocative cover, or graphic blurb, have never actually read one. Now that’s a pity.

Romance books are not just bodice ripping mommy-porn! Yes, there is sometimes sex in our books, sometimes lots of it. But that, too, is life. A book filled with intimate love scenes instead of the weighty words of fine literature can define an emotional experience that genre fans live for and can establish a connection to them personally. Let’s face it, those sexy bits are exciting! They’ll get you through the lonely times, put a spark back in your marriage, and even teach you a thing or two—so they’re educational, as well (wink).

I think most people would be surprised to know that romance writers, just like those of other genres, are committed to producing a quality product. We want to capture the flaws and stumbling blocks our characters face, drawing from real life and all its complexities. We are observers of human nature, and strong writers in our own right and hopefully we make our readers laugh, cry, and feel a sense of triumph in the end. We relate to those characters. We watch them screw up their lives, wallow in total chaos and then crawl out of the manure heap smelling, once again, like a rose.

A good romance will proclaim that women deserve love, respect and pleasure. Whether it’s an affirmation of self or a promise of love, the romance novel delivers a satisfying ending. In fact, it’s a requirement by publishing standards.

Today, with sub-genres of suspense, historical, fantasy, paranormal, YA, and crime, ménage, there’s something for everyone. This billion-dollar industry screams (or should I say, pants and gasps) success as the largely female managed business of authors, bloggers, and readers are fueling new and exciting versions of romance.

Those are financial facts you can’t argue against. That same writer community is filled with smart women (and men) from all walks of life, professionals with impressive educational pedigrees who are penning great reads, some as they hold down a full-time day job and raise a family.

So if it’s been awhile, or if you’ve never picked up a romance novel…give it a try. Who knows, you might just get hooked.