MEET MY CHARACTERS BLOG HOP—Miss Lillian Holmes in a Nutshell


Is your character fictional or a historic person?

Lillian is fictional, although she’s very, very loosely based on my grandmother, who grew up in Baltimore at the turn of the last century. And of course, she has a big dose of me in her.

When and where is the story set?

Baltimore, Maryland 1899

What should we know about him/her?

Lillian is an orphan, an heiress of modest proportions. She’s neurotic, has the tendency to get lost in a fictional world of her making (she likes to think of herself as the beloved niece of Sherlock Holmes), and finds ordinary life and men rather beneath her. That is, she’s afraid. She drowns her insecurities and eccentricities in potions laced with morphine. She’s generous, kind, stubborn, brilliant, and can be a bit dense about normal daily life.

What is the main conflict? What messes up his/her life?

Lillian stumbles in “a veritable hornet’s nest of vampires” and then has to decide…well, spoilers….

What is the personal goal of the character?

To become America’s first and greatest female detective. And along the way, to find a child stolen from her when she was only  16.

Is this novel published, and where can we read more about it?

The series is published in two parts to date by Boroughs Publishing and is readily available at Amazon as well:

Lillian Holmes and the Leaping Man (August 2013)

The Devil and Lillian Holmes (September 2014)

Please go visit my friend PAULA MILLHOUSE next!!!!

The Devil and Lillian Holmes Released!


I’m so excited she’s back! I’ve been away, too, but I’m happy to be here as well.

Here’s the Amazon link!

At the cusp of the twentieth century, an heiress-turned-vampire and her maker seek her stolen daughter and find themselves caught up in a world of darkness, danger, and mystery.

She had not been a good mortal, either. Half-broken by a terrible secret, Lillian Holmes retreated into a fantasy world where the great detective Sherlock was her uncle and she could solve any mystery. Except, she had not yet found her parents. She had not yet rescued her stolen daughter. She was addicted to morphine, was still broken. And now she was bound to blood and to the caresses of the beautiful monster who sought to change for her, who had literally changed her to save her life.

But for how long had George saved her? Lillian could feel safety and sanity slipping away. Devils prowled Baltimore. Some were allies, others lustful gluttons waiting to consume every last drop of goodness. Some came from far-off lands, mercurial, unknowable, unstoppable. Others lurked closer still—in the hearts of herself and her beloved.

I Never Understood “Write What You Know” Until Lillian Holmes

I started writing about 10 years ago. I can barely believe it. I started writing what I now understand to be fan-fiction. A now (deservedly) defunct company called Triskelion published it– The Princes of Anfall. Can anyone say blonde elf? Yes, I knew a lot about Orlando Bloom in a wig.
Hey, everyone has a fantasy they wish would have stayed under the bed. I did get a lot of help with it and it became a better book with Samhain Publishing, thank God!

Then I wrote about some other things I know about. I got my doctorate in archaeology a long time ago, studying Greek prehistory and a bit of Mesoamerican stuff.
That’s the Franchthi Cave in Greece, where I lived for a year and several summers. And I spent a lot of time amongst Mayan ruins.

So I wrote a few books like this one:


I also did martial arts for a decade, and used those themes in a book called Lords of Ch’i. 208714

Getting the idea?

It gets worse…I mean better. I know a lot about baseball…no, really. So I wrote “Fish Out of Water” in which the hero is a baseball player.


And my husband and I have a yarn company, so one of my works-in-progress takes place in a yarn store. Hmnn, that does not sound very exciting, but there’s murder and mayhem galore.


So, I was dabbling in writing about things about which I know something, thinking all was good. And it was fine. But I didn’t care quite enough about the people in those books. Well, except for the dude in the Legolas wig. I’d given up writing a dozen times, taken up other hobbies. I tend to change course every decade, so this was no surprise. But I could always say “I’ve written what I know.”

Then the unthinkable happened. My dad had been gone for years, but in the space of three years, I lost my last three nuclear family members. My mom, my brother Bob, and my brother Tom. I felt like an orphan, anchorless and lost in my grief. They had been my support system, and they’d always cheered on my writing, even if it wasn’t their cup of tea. My brothers were just about sixty, give or take. That’s the sort of thing that happens later in life, right?

At the time I discovered Boroughs Publishing, I didn’t know much about anything anymore. My hometown, Baltimore, meant more to me than it ever had. My ancestors took on new life. In about 2 days I sat and wrote a short story that I subbed to Boroughs’ contest, and I won!


I actually had a ball writing this book and working on it. I didn’t know at the time that these characters would play a role in a larger series. And it put me back in my hometown, and an era I love. It also gave me the opportunity to get a manuscript in front of Chris Keeslar, an editor with an amazing reputation. What I had knocking around was a YA about the niece of Sherlock Holmes.

After my losses, that felt so hollow to me. My brother Tom and I were great Holmes fans, and he’d nag me to finish that book. He’d even come up with some of the names and given me pointers. When I read my manuscript before submitting to Chris, it became clear to me that I needed to make it very different. I needed to be the heroine. So I wrote my feelings of loss, brokenness, and longing into the book. I come from a long line of strong females who longed for something more–my mom wanted to be an archaeologist, my grandmother a businessperson, and so on.

What did I want? Adventure, love, and a chance to heal some very old wounds. Every character in this book is a member of my family; a few are combinations of family members. The Orleans brothers are my brothers. The missing mother and child are my missing mother and damaged childhood. My lost father who I never knew well. No! It’s certainly not a dreary book, for there’s adventure and sensuality, and a fair deal of fun! But the characters became real to me.

And I finally understood that “write what you know” isn’t about the city, or the time period, or the subject matter. Those are things you can research. It’s about your personal, psychological journey. So breathe some of yourself into your books. You know what pain and joy feel like. We’re waiting to read what you come up with! And in the meantime, I’ll see what Lillian and George have been up to as I write the sequel… See you back here in… set your watch…

Everything I Always Wanted to Know About Writing, but Didn’t Know Where to Ask.


church_ladyAs you’ve likely already gathered, I’m celebrating the release of Lillian Holmes and the Leaping Man. It’s not my first book, and according to my wonderful editor, Chris Keeslar, it’s not my last. In fact, it’s about the 15th book I’ve written over just shy of a decade. Not prolific by romance author standards. A lot of things have gone well and poorly for me over that decade. The worst of it I brought on myself; some of it was the result of “real life” getting in the way of writing.

If you are a new or aspiring author, you’re likely doing some of the same things, or are about to. It wasn’t really until I wrote Lillian Holmes that I actually liked what I was writing—a lot. And it wasn’t until I won Boroughs’ short story contest that I worked with an editor who seemed to like my writing a lot.


I don’t know how to sell a ton of books—if that’s the advice you need, please look elsewhere. But I know how to sabotage myself. This is about taking care of yourself through the process of writing, of navigating the online world (because, let’s face it, that is the world of publishing these days).  I hope it’s true that you’re never too old to start, to learn, to grow. I’m counting on it as I write the sequel to Lillian’s story.LillianHolmesHR

So, get out your mental pencil, and see how many of these things you are doing. If it’s more than 0, you may want to reset. Don’t give up. Unless you want to. And remember, these are all things I have done and will never do again. Until maybe next week.

  1. Spend most of your time researching agents, publishers, self-publishing, and marketing before you write the book. Finish the damned book first. Really, if you haven’t finished one manuscript, stop reading this now, log off the Internet, and go finish the book.
  2. Sub an unfinished manuscript to an agent or publisher. They really, really love that. No, really. Go for it. Ahem. They’re just sitting there waiting for your unfinished project.
  3. Find any agent, because any agent is better than no agent, right? Even the one who has never actually sold a book to a publisher or keeps sending you toxic letters about how you do everything wrong.
  4. If it’s good enough for your family, it must be publishable. There are many other places to get proper feedback—writing groups with published writers, published writers, and more published writers. Contests can be helpful. Any place where you get feedback from an editor is good. Neighbors and family…unless you are very fortunately connected…skip them.
  5. It’s a good idea to trash an author for their…personality, poor grammar, bad book, etc. (I’ve been on both sides of this; was an editor at Decadent Publishing for a bit.) You never know who will be accepting or rejecting your manuscript. Or trying to decide whether or not to buy your book.
  6. It’s an even better idea to publicly trash an editor. Don’t hold back! You know you’re right! Aren’t you?
  7. Comment on those bad reviews—all of them! Because it’s not possible that someone actually hated your book. You’ve loved every book you’ve read. And what are reviews anyway? A chance for everyone to show you love!
  8. Facebook and Twitter are great spots to vent all your loathing about publishing. Don’t worry about being professional…nothing is saved on the Internet.
  9. Spend a very large portion of your day trolling the Internet for publishing controversies, and by all means, pick a side and obsessively check if anyone insulted you. If they didn’t, find another equally inflammatory topic to weigh in on.Francis_image
  10. If it’s a big, popular, niche site with pretty ads and lots of readers, it must be a fair, unbiased place. Snort.
  11. Don’t be nice to other authors—they are the enemy. They are stealing your readers!
  12. Chase that trend! See it—it went thataway! Go after it. No, wait, there’s another one now. Make that cozy romance a YA post-apocalyptic ghost-hunting dog-sitting club book.
  13. Argue with your editor over every freaking little thing, because of course, she or he is an idiot. When your editor gets four opinions to satisfy you, conclude that all of said editors are idiots. It may be confusing to them, but a reader will understand it. Okay, I have not done this one, but as I said, I was an editor. It happens a lot. And when that second book in the series is up for grabs, every editor is suddenly on vacation…The-Stolen-Babies-eccentric-and-unique-people-13516477-300-429
  14. Use a shot of your cleavage as your avatar. Because that’s classy and sexy. (For the record, I have not done this one either.)
  15. Check Amazon every day, no, every hour, to see if anyone bought your book. Use novelrank. Bang head against wall, why don’t you?images
  16. Sign a contract that says you can’t write for any other company. Sign a contract without an audit clause.
  17. Write outside your comfort zone—whether age, sexual content, etc.
  18. Ask authors for their help or opinion and then don’t bother thanking them. (I have not done this, at least I hope not.) Better yet, yell at them electronically when you get an opinion you don’t like.
  19. Burn every bridge you see, with torches and gasoline.
  20. Make sure you get that word count in at the expense of your relationships, your health, your weight (you do have to move once in a while), your eyesight, your day job.
  21. Convince yourself that somehow you’ll crumble and not be a worthwhile person if you don’t get published. Many, many people in the world—in fact, most of them—have never been published. They aren’t bad people. You can quit, and still be a good person. An interesting, creative person. There’s a whole world out there, and writing is just one thing you can do in it. At age 56, I’m starting to realize that there are some things I want to do that might not involve writing. It’s your life—follow your heart—but make sure you’re listening carefully to what it’s telling you! Remember, these are many of the roadblocks that got in my way. They don’t need to be in yours. I’ve called in the wrecking ball. Good luck!
  22. And in the meantime, why don’t you swing by and read a great story? ;o)

Please add your tips to help other writers!

I Know What You Did This Summer Beverly Ovalle!

Ciar: What’s the best part of this summer so far and have you gone anywhere special or had a stay-cation?

Beverly: My family and I went to the Wisconsin State Fair where I had pig candy! Bacon with brown sugar and spices on a stick. Yum! We also went to our county fair where we got to listen to REO one night and Thomson Squared another. We kicked off the summer marching in our Memorial Day Parade.County fair with Chelsea and ShadiaMemorial Day Parade 5 27 2013

 Ciar: Um, seriously? Pig on a stick? I don’t think we have that in New Jersey.

Beverly: I’ve been writing and gardening and working. We actually leave in a week for California where we’ll visit my husband’s family and see our son who is stationed in Camp Pendelton. So excited!

Ciar: What’s your latest release?

Beverly: Dragons’ Mate is my only book currently out. I am under contract with Boroughs for Touched by the Sandman, another Lunchbox Romance. Secret Cravings Publishing will release Lightning Strike in November.

I submitted a short non-fiction prose piece to Three Minus One. Acceptances will be announced on October 15 so I’m patiently waiting.  It is a piece detailing how I dealt with the grief of a miscarriage.  It was therapeutic and I wrote it years and years ago. I had just been rereading it when a submission call went out. It seemed like fate, so I tossed it to my beta readers, shined it up and sent it in.

Ciar: Good luck with that submission! It’s nervewracking, always. What is your favorite place online to play? The first spot you go look at in the morning?

I check all of my emails in the morning.  I have 2 active personal emails and a shared one for our blog, Smile Somebody Loves You.  I don’t have any one online favorite.  I have two personal FB pages and two shared FB pages, two twitter accounts, tumblr, LinkedIn and Pinterest accounts.  I try to be active daily on all of them, though some days I say the heck with it and don’t even turn on the computer! Though I am addicted to Bejeweled!

Ciar: Thanks for sharing your summer with us!

Dragons Mate_finalcover

They had been searching for their mate, but when they find her she is traumatized and scared to be around strange men. They must get her to accept them before they reveal their true natures. Will their love be strong enough to break down her barriers? Could she truly be destined to love two dragons?

Today Annie’s dragons will shift and fulfill her every desire, which means a fiery threesome—and true love.

Buy Links:

Boroughs Publishing Group Amazon All Romance Smashwords Barnes & Noble

Kobo Sony Reader Store Apple ibooks

I know what you did this summer KARY RADER!

Still asking my writer friends what they’ve been doing while not visiting me! Sniff. Kary Rader is a new Boroughs Publishing author who already has some writing street cred! Welcome, Kary!

Kary Profile Pic

Ciar: What’s the best part of this summer so far and have you gone anywhere special or had a stay-cation? 

Kary: Took my three kids to their first concert—Big Time Rush and Victoria Justice. It was great fun to see my little guys dancing and singing to the songs they knew.BTR Kids1

Ciar: Okay, I’m officially old, because I’ve never heard of either of them. But the kids, cuteness overload! What’s your latest release and what are you working on? 

Kary: My latest release is a contemporary New Adult with strong romantic elements titled A Taylor-Made Life. It’s the story of my heart born out of emotions I experienced five years ago when my husband battled stage IV melanoma.


I’m working on two new adult fantasy romances just picked up by Boroughs. The first of the two, The Pirate Princess, will release sometime early next year.

 Ciar: What is your favorite place online to play? The first spot you go look at in the morning?

Kary: Usually Facebook and Goodreads.

Ciar: Wow, these are some reviews! I’ll share some with our visitors!

About A Taylor-Made Life
Five years ago while I was pregnant with my youngest child, my husband was diagnosed with Stage IV melanoma cancer. It was a difficult and emotional time in our lives. He’s now well and cancer free, but last year when a friend’s daughter was diagnosed with cancer, all those emotions came flooding back. A Taylor-Made Life is the result of those emotions. It’s a special story looking for a home in the hearts of readers. I pray you give the characters an opportunity to touch you.

“A Taylor-Made Life is one of the best books I’ve read this year and it’s not one I’ll soon forget… Taylor and Gavin stole my heart and my breath, and I wasn’t ready to let them go.” – Nikki Barrett, Storm Goddess Book Reviews 

“Beautifully written, and I would dare anyone not to cry….. Gavin and Taylor have such depth and emotion, it’s hard not to fall in love with them. These two characters will remain in my memory forever.” – Melissa Limoges, Insert Clever Quip Here Book Reviews 

“6 Stars, 2 full boxes of Kleenex…Beautiful!” – a.c. Mason, bestselling author

“Kary Rader is a wonderful new voice in New Adult fiction. Taylor-Made is a must-read.”– Jill Limber, author and editor, Boroughs Publishing Group 

They lived the life they were given; they loved the life they made.

Cheerleader Taylor Smith doesn’t want to die a virgin. Unfortunately, if the terminally-ill leukemia patient doesn’t find a lover or a stem-cell match within months, her fear will become reality. When her cancer mentor is revealed to be a hottie entrepreneur from California, it seems fate might finally be on her side.

Tech-geek Gavin Taylor has everything he ever wanted, except someone to grieve for him when he’s gone. With his melanoma cancer beyond the help of his riches, he agrees to participate in a cancer patient mentoring program where he’s matched with a dying teen from Texas. Despite his immediate attraction, the Silicon Valley whiz intends only to provide friendship and happy memories to the beautiful, young woman who is determined to win his love.

When it’s discovered that his frozen sperm and her harvested eggs could lead to a cure, Taylor’s mother offers to be a surrogate. And Gavin must decide if he can risk the heart he has never given and a child he’ll never know to a girl he just met. 

Smashwords Barnes and Noble



I Know What You Did This Summer REGAN WALKER and contest!

Regan's pic for Boroughs

I invited some friends to share a little about how their summer has been going, and what they’re up to. I hope you enjoy my chat with Regan Walker! LEAVE A COMMENT AND YOU’LL BE ENTERED TO WIN YOUR CHOICE OF A BOROUGHS LUNCHBOX ROMANCE STORY!

Ciar: What’s the best part of this summer so far and have you gone anywhere special or had a stay-cation?
Regan: In the category of moving is hell, I spent June preparing for and accomplishing a major downsize and move. Definitely not fun. However, I was committed to redeeming my time in July, so ensconced in my new digs, not far from the beach, I might add, I set nose to grindstone and finished (yes, finished!) the third in my trilogy, WIND RAVEN, an unusual Regency set in 1817 in Bermuda, the Caribbean and Baltimore with a British sea captain hero and an American heroine.
Ciar: That sounds like it’s right up my alley. And we both wrote something set in Baltimore! What’s your latest release and what are you working on?
Regain: Ok, so I told you what I’ve been working on, but my latest release is book 2 in the Agents of the Crown trilogy, AGAINST THE WIND, set in 1817 in the Midlands of England. The hero, Sir Martin Powell, is a spy for the Prince Regent and gets tangled up in a rebellion of the villagers in Derbyshire while falling in love with a dowager baroness. Very cool.
You can get it on Amazon and all those other online stores, along with the first one, RACING WITH THE WIND.
Ciar: What is your favorite place online to play? The first spot you go look at in the morning?
Regan: I’ve very pedestrian tastes. I go to Facebook and see what my “friends” have thrown up there. I’m a fan of all things Scottish and Irish so usually there’s something cool from them. An enthralling picture at least. (It’s the lack of the visual that has me limiting my time on Twitter.) And my fellow authors offer good posts, too. So I share a few and then proceed to my email. I’m on several loops. My own Regan’s Romance Reviews blog keeps me pretty busy, too. I’m sharing a picture of the new view from my writing room.
Summer view
Ciar: Now that I’m totally jealous… wow.

Author website

Twitter: @RegansReview



A new book, some reviews, and a bit in which I lay it on thick about Chris Keeslar

ImageIn terms of blatant self promotion (hey, it is my blog), I’ll highlight that reviews are coming in for Lillian Holmes and the Leaping Man, and I’m stoked about them. The newest is from Library Journal, which says: ” Cullen builds here upon the world in her previous title (The Shopgirl and the Vampire), and one hopes she’ll continue to add tales to this saga. With Lillian, Cullen has created an imperfect character to root for in both life and love and surrounded her with a ragtag band of associates. A paranormal romance packed with drama, drugs, and danger.—Kellie Tilton, Univ. of Cincinnati, Blue Ash”

So here’s the thing. I’ve never been that encouraged (or really had the confidence) to pursue a series until now. Words like Ms. Tilton’s help a great deal. Someone wants MOAR.

But the person who wants MOAR more than anyone seems to be Chris Keeslar, Editor in Chief at Boroughs Publishing. Some of you no doubt know Chris far better than I do, have met him at conferences or wrote for him at Dorchester, etc. All I have are a series of emails, but those emails mirror my book.

Lillian Holmes is a confused, wounded soul who looks to her hero, Sherlock Holmes, to bury herself in a fantasy world. She writes to Arthur Conan Doyle hoping for some insight into her heritage. What she gets back is advice. And later, a bit of interest on his part in learning more about her world (I’m writing the second book now in which that happens). Lillian treasures these communiques. I treasure mine.

Or, rather, now that I think about it, I could easily liken Chris’s “guidance” as editor of this series to Holmes himself. “Give me more! This is superficial; where is the conflict? Why does she do that? Wouldn’t it make more sense if…” You get the idea.

I offer advice to authors rarely, but I’ll offer this. You’ve heard it before. Write what feels true, what interests you, and find the best editor you can. If your editor says “wow, great, just need a few commas,” you probably need to keep looking. If your editor pokes holes in the soul of your work, makes you afraid you can never, ever do what he wants you to, makes you feel as though you’re simply not smart enough to even understand what the hell he’s talking about…well then your editor is probably Chris. Or you’re lucky to have found someone close.

Yes, I rather think I’ll fantasize that my editor IS Sherlock. He even looks a bit like him, if you squint in rather bad lighting.

“His very person and appearance were such as to strike the attention of the most
casual observer.  In height he was rather over six feet, and so excessively
lean that he seemed to be considerably taller.  His eyes were sharp and piercing,
save during those intervals of torpor to which I have alluded; and his thin, hawk-like nose gave his whole expression an air of alertness and decision.  His chin, too, had the prominence and squareness which mark the man of determination.  His hands were invariably blotted with ink and stained with chemicals, yet he was possessed of extraordinary delicacy of touch, as I frequently had occasion to observe when I watched him
manipulating his fragile philosophical instruments.”

A keen eye and gentle touch. Go forth, write the book of your dreams, and find a great editor!Chris-Keeslar
The book is available in a few spots, notably at Amazon

Lillian Holmes and the Leaping Man and Why I’ve Not Been Here in a Long Time!

LillianHolmesHR It’s been so long…what are my excuses? Nothing to say, disillusioned with writing? Sure, yes. But mostly, I was grieving a few very awful losses. And who wants to hear about those? So I dragged my arse into work, did my best, and…once in a while, I wrote a little. And a little more. And then poured myself into this book, which has become the book of my heart (fellow authors will understand that phrase, for sure). This book is autobiographical, despite the fact that I’ve never met a vampire, wasn’t born in the 1800s, and well, a whole bunch of other things. But my family, my history, is there, on every page, in every character. I hope this is the start of regular writing. With an incredible editor–Chris Keeslar–I feel inspired again. So inspired. So tell me, what have you been doing this last year? I’ve missed you!

The Shopgirl and the Vampire and a Contest!

I’m really thrilled to have won Boroughs Short Story contest “@First Sight” (okay, a bit dumbfounded, actually). The story comes out this Friday, and I adore the cover. I adored even more working with the extraordinary Chris Keeslar. Writers will know him as a fantastic editor from now-defunct Dorchester. But that description doesn’t do him justice. It’s like me saying I’m the former Editor-in-Chief at KIII communications (they used to own Seventeen and other periodicals). I am. Or the former candy counter girl at Westview Cinemas. Yup, *cough* years ago. Okay, back to Mr. Keeslar, who is the lynchpin of the exciting new Boroughs Publishing Group. He’s why I entered the contest–part of the prize was getting a full manuscript in front of him and to get a crit of it. Wow, what a great editor, honestly. He pointed out the fundamental weakness and gave awesome counsel for fixing it… just so much fun!

But this story has a very personal backstory of its own. It’s my story. And my mom’s and my whole family’s as far back as I can remember. I started this story shortly after my dear brother, Tom Schneider, passed away in March. My grief, so intense, made me think I couldn’t possibly write. But I did, and I wrote my sadness onto the page. I wrote about my mother, Kitty, who was an incredible painter, but had a somewhat depressed life. I wrote about both my brothers (who became “good” and “bad” vampires–no, I don’t dislike either of them–one is redeemed in the full length novel I’m now writing). Mostly, I wrote about myself. About feeling that the urge to write didn’t die with my brother. That there was some light at the end of the tunnel. That I could still have a “happy ever after.” That’s a lot of stuff to put in 10,000 words. I’ve never written anything so quickly. But oh, those edits! :o)

So thanks for listening, and as a real thank you, I want to offer you a chance to win your choice of the first three Lunchbox Romances coming this Friday! Three people will win their choice.

All you need to do is leave your name and a way to contact you. And don’t forget to stop by Friday to see if you’re a winner!