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Today’s my birthday and I’ve spent the day doing only things I enjoy doing.  I started the day reading, and with the exception of a few phone calls from family and friends, managed to while away the entire morning lost in a book.  After a completely non-nutritious lunch, I decided the next thing I wanted to do was work on the most important thing in my life right now: Whistling Woman.

First a little backstory; Whistling Woman is a book my sister, Christy Tillery French, and I co-wrote about the life of our great aunt.  It’s part fact, part fiction, and includes a lot of the stories we grew up hearing from our dad and our great aunt Bessie when she was alive.  Christy calls it faction–love that word!–and it works but I’m not really sure what recognized genre it would fall under.  Historical fiction?  Southern literature?  Whatever, it takes place in Hot Springs, North Carolina, in the late 1800’s and there’s quite a bit of history and folklore pertaining to the mountains of western NC, as well as the family stories.

We finished the book a couple of weeks ago and since then have been trying to decide which way to go now that the manuscript is complete.  We first thought, try for an agent and hope they can sell it to one of the big publishers in NY.  But then we started thinking about the time factor.  While you could say the book was inspired by our great aunt’s life, the real inspiration is our dad.  He told us most of the stories that play such an important part of the book, and he continues to tell us the stories today–thank God!  But you see, Daddy will turn 83 years old next month, and while he’s healthy and he comes from a family that is long-lived, you just never know.  One of his oil paintings will grace the cover and it’s very important to us to be able to give him the book so…we started looking at smaller publishers and POD publishers.  Still a wait in most cases so then we started thinking of self-publishing, something both of us swore we’d never do.

Oh, how the not-so-mighty have fallen.  Yep, we’ve decided the thing to do is self-publish.  Not only does it give us more control over the book and how it’s presented, it’s a lot quicker.  As an added bonus, we wouldn’t be under contract with a publisher and any money the book makes comes back to us without anyone else taking a cut.

Can we all say Scrooge-alicious?  I can and I do because while I have been making money with my writing and I know Christy has too, this is a book from our hearts, a true labor of love, so why share the money from our hard work with someone else?

So, that’s how we came to the decision to self-publish.  And today, on my birthday, I decided to get down to business.  I sent an email off to a local printer, BP Solutions in Asheville, to a woman who comes highly recommended by a member of one of the writing groups I belong to–thanks Celia!–and less than 5 minutes after I pressed “send” I get a phone call from her.  Hmm…as Aunt Bessie would probably say, it’s a sign.  I have to say I agree with her.

I also have to say, if being a self-published author is half as fun as being a traditionally published author, it’s going to be a heck of a fun ride!  Oh, I know, it’s a big change and one that will involve a lot of hard work, but it’s a change that has me excited and looking forward to what comes next.  Not a bad 56th birthday present, if I do say so myself!

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BNTBTSBack cover blurb:

Natasha risks more than her life when she guards a defense attorney targeted by the Mafia.

Protection specialist Natasha Chamberlain thinks guarding a defense attorney from a disgruntled client should be a fairly normal job, but when she learns he’s been targeted by the mafia, she’s ready to call it quits. However, the attorney holds her to their contract and Natasha finds her own life placed in danger along with her bodyguard cohorts, Pit and Bigun. Natasha’s fiancé Jonce Striker is fit to be tied when he learns this, which only confirms to him that the bodyguard field is too dangerous for his love. After Natasha is shot trying to protect her client, Striker delivers the final ultimatum: leave the bodyguard field or lose him. Natasha makes her choice but will she live to regret it?

It’s no secret that I absolutely love this series.  I was hooked with the first book and my addiction only grows stronger with each one so instead of a review, I thought I’d share a few of the reasons why I like Ms. French’s Bodyguard series so much.

Number one—as Wilkie Collins said about cliffhanger endings, “Make ‘em cry, make ‘em laugh, make ‘em wait—exactly in that order.”  Ms. French does just that, sprinkling her books with touching moments, numerous laugh-out-loud scenes and then she ends them with a bit of a teaser that always leaves me wanting more and wondering what’s going to happen next.  The excellent writing and exciting plots are more than enough to keep me coming back, but that teasing hint of what’s coming in the next book hooks me every time.  In that respect, The Bodyguard and the Snitch doesn’t disappoint.  In fact, it just might be Ms. French’s best cliffhanger ending yet.  It seems Natasha…oh, wait, I don’t want to spoil it but you’ll know what I’m talking about when you read it.

Number two—the way the protagonist, Natasha, grows with each book, not only personally, but professionally too.   With each story, she’s a little bit more confident of herself, her job, and even though her personal relationship with Jonce Striker, the love of her life, doesn’t always run true, the reader knows through her actions and thoughts that’s she’s coming into her own there too.  Natasha is an independent young woman and though she makes mistakes, she’s determined to learn from them.  There are several places in this book where she catches herself doing something she doesn’t consider professional and makes herself stop, step back, and rethink the situation.  She doesn’t always win the battle but at least she tries.  This also happens in her relationship with Striker, both of which tell the reader the character is maturing as a professional and as a partner in love.  Ms. French obviously knows what she’s doing when it comes to developing her characters and I think she’s bringing Natasha along nicely, not rushing things, but letting her grow at a realistic pace. 

Number three—speaking of characterization, the secondary characters are fabulous.  Yes, the main characters are well-crafted, but I think Ms. French has an extraordinary talent when it comes to creating secondary characters.  Not only the ones who show up numerous times in the series, like Pit and Bigun—who I hope and pray will get their own book one day—or Stevie and Cameron—who are a delightful mishmash of trouble just waiting to happen—but Natasha’s clients in each of the books; a millionaire computer geek, a show dog, a rock star, and in this one, a defense attorney, are all characters that I’d like to see appear again in the series.  We get a little of that in this one with Roger, the computer geek, and Giki, the rock star, and I hope Ms. French continues to weave some of these fascinating secondary characters into later books.  Her characterization skills are wonderfully apt and quite multi-faceted and it often leads to some of the most humorous passages in the books.

Number four; the romantic relationship between Natasha and Striker.  I’ve always had a thing for star-crossed lovers, whether in books, movies, or TV shows; it is a plotline that I’m drawn to.  Romeo and Juliet, Othello and Desdemona, Sam and Diane, Spencer Tracy and Katherine Hepburn in almost every movie they made together, David and Maddie, even Eve and Roarke in a few of J.D. Robb’s In Death series.  I love them all and Natasha and Striker can easily be included on that list.  It’s fun watching these two alpha-personalities clash and seeing the give and take between them as they struggle to keep their relationship from crashing and burning.

Number five; humor.  Ms. French has a sly sense of humor that often takes me by surprise which only makes her books more enjoyable.  It is, of course, evident in The Bodyguard and the Snitch and I ended this one with a smile on my face…and a gasp at what’s becoming Ms. French’s trademark teaser ending, which brings us full circle, right back to number one!

With The Bodyguard and the Snitch, Ms. French has written yet another outstanding book that now rests in its pre-destined spot on my keeper shelf.  As with every one of the books in this series, the plot is compelling, the characters and dialogue are original and believable, and the ending, well, let’s just say I’m hooked and can’t wait to find out what happens when Natasha needs a bodyguard of her own.  Can you guess who it’ll be?

That’s what it says on the home page of my publisher, L&L Dreamspell.   Followed by the question; “What are you doing today to make your own dreams come true?”

Well, as it turns out, I’m not doing anything today to make my dreams come true.  I don’t have to, because L&L Dreamspell is doing it for me!

I received an email from them this morning saying they’re celebrating their one year anniversary–congrats LLD!–and letting their authors know that the website had been updated and the latest edition of the newsletter was out.

So, I checked the site and–woo-hoo!–my name and book are now listed on their author page!  Snow Shadows by Caitlyn Hunter!–I added the exclamation mark.  Hee-hee!  Then I clicked over to the newsletter and there it was again:

Snow Shadows – a red-hot romance by Caitlyn Hunter

Red hot!  Romance!  By ME!

That would have been enough to make my day, but then I opened another letter from them and um, shall we say, did a wild Snoopy dance?  Yep, I did, and that’s not all, I belted out a few choruses of “Happy Days!” at the top of my lungs!

The thing is…I’ve been with three publishers so far and LLD is without a doubt, the publisher of my dreams.  Not only are they releasing my first print book, but Lisa and Linda are…well, a dream to work with, if you’ll pardon the pun.  And, judging by that second letter, they’re willing to share the benefits of their hard work with their authors.  Wildest dream, indeed!   

So, thanks LLD, for making my dreams come true.  You really are the best and I’m convinced there’s a special place in Heaven for you! 

Oh, before I go, here’s the link for the newsletter:

http://www.lldreamspell.com/NLFebruary2008.html

Check it out!  And in case you want to learn more about them, their link is in my sidebar.  Really great books–including my sister, Christy Tillery French’s latest, The Bodyguard and the Rock Star!  And if you’re an author looking for that dream publisher, take a look at their submission guidelines.  You could be the next one to receive that special Dreamspell treatment!

My sister, Christy, and her daughter, Meghann, are coming to visit today and we’re going…shopping?  Yep, shopping.  One of my least favorite things to do.  I used to love it, but as I get older, it’s become more of a bother than anything else.  Still, we’re not shopping for me, we’re shopping for my niece…specifically, for her wedding dress!  So I’m excited and really looking forward to it.  Plus, there’s the added bonus of spending time with her and my sister–two of the people I love best in this world!

Also, my sister’s sixth–yep, sixth!–book was just released and is available at Amazon and Barnes & Noble, among other places.  I was lucky enough to read the book before it went to edits and have been privileged to share in this fantastic journey with Christy.  She’s the one who got me started writing, the one who’s always encouraged me, the one person who’s always believed in me.  She’s credited me several times with helping her through the process of writing a book and dedicated one of her books to me.  And this time the main character has my name–well, not really my name, but the nickname her son, Jonathan, gave me when he was a baby–Giki.  But, in this book, Giki is a rock star and she has quite a few quirks and character traits that I don’t have, the least of which is she can sing and I, well…can’t.  

This book, the third in her Bodyguard Series, is entitled The Bodyguard and the Rock Star.  I’m in the process of splashing the review I wrote for it anywhere I can think of to post it, so I thought I’d put it up here instead of writing another blog entry about the Cassie Edwards thing, the edits I’m doing on my book, what I’m writing at the present, the way life is treating me, etc., etc., etc.

So, here it is:

With The Bodyguard and the Rock Star, Christy Tillery French has once again taken me on an enjoyable roller coaster ride of heart-stopping thrills and rib-tickling humor.

In the third installment of Ms. French’s Bodyguard series, Natasha Chamberlain eagerly takes on her latest assignment—guarding English rock star, Giki, on a tour of the Southern United States.  Natasha is convinced this will be an easy job.  True, Giki has a wild streak, and at times she’s uncontrollable in her desire to experience every facet of being a rock star, from sex to concerts to…sweets?  Yes, Giki has a sweet tooth that is sometimes irrepressible, along with several other bad habits, and Natasha soon feels more like a babysitter than a bodyguard.  No problem, she can handle the aggravation of that, but Giki has a secret; a cyber-stalker who is willing to do whatever it takes to end the rock star’s career.  And Natasha is suddenly caught up in a job that’s far more dangerous than she first assumed.

When she’s shot at the first concert, her fiancé, Jonce Striker, shows up at the hospital, and the battle is on as single-minded alpha male clashes with strong-minded, determined woman, adding another delightful twist to the thrilling plot.  Natasha loves Striker and would do just about anything for him, but the one thing she’s not willing to do is give up her job.  She knows she can protect Giki, and she’s going to prove it to Striker once and for all.  Jonce, however, is worried and despite her protests brings in the competent, but completely adorable duo of Pit and Bigun to safeguard her.

And well, let’s just say, chaos ensues as Natasha struggles to find her balance between Striker and her chosen profession and, as she always does, manages to get her man.  No spoilers here, I’m not going to tell you which one she gets, you’ll have to read it for yourself to find out!

As with all the books in her Bodyguard Series, Ms. French has peppered this one with laugh-out-loud humor, nail-biting suspense, familiar, lovable characters as well as a few new, quirky ones, and dialogue so realistic it practically leaps off the page.  Then there’s the constant and stimulating tug-of-war between a strong man and an even-stronger woman.  Throw in a delightful tour of the cities of the South, which Ms. French writes about with obvious love and pleasure, and you have a very satisfying read that will keep you glued to the pages until the end.

Needless to say, The Bodyguard and the Rock Star is going to join the other books by Ms. French on my keeper shelf!

Now, let’s see if I can remember how to get the cover up…

The Bodyguard and the Rock Star

Hey!  It worked!  Woo-hoo!  It’s a little small, but it’s there.  Wish it was bigger so you could see the details, because there’s an image of Natasha, the main character, on there who looks amazingly like my niece, Meghann, who Natasha was modeled after.  The cover artist didn’t know that, has never met Meghann, and still she came up with that image.  Can we all hum the tune from the Twilight Zone? 

The thing is…Meghann’s getting married in August and in the next book in this series, Natasha is thinking about marrying Striker, her former boss and her true love.  Will she do it?  I don’t know.  I don’t think my sister even knows.  I do know this is Meghann’s second engagement–thank God she broke the first one off, because her fiance now, Roberto, is perfect for her and they’re so happy they glow–so maybe Natasha will have to go through some struggles of her own before she finally marries Striker.  Hmmm…I guess I’ll just have to wait and see.

Okay, I have to get dressed.  I’ve got to track down the perfect wedding dress for my wonderful niece!

Whistling Woman by CC Tillery

Winds of Fate

Storm Shadows

Snow Shadows

PMS Anthology

Romance of My Dreams