Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Guest Author Diana Rowland

I am very pleased to welcome author Diana Rowland here to SciFiGuy.ca to talk about her writing and her forthcoming urban fantasy novel Mark of the Demon. This supernatural crime thriller debuts on June 23rd, so I encourage you to pre-order it now because it is terrific (you can see my review here) and you will not want to miss it.

Also I will be doing a draw for a copy of Mark of the Demon. All you have to do is leave a question for Diana, a comment or just say hi. Diana will be dropping by to respond to your queries, so put your thinking caps on.

Here’s a quick extract of Diana’s bio as a bit of background to lead in to her guest post.

She has worked as a bartender, a blackjack dealer, a pit boss, a street cop, a detective, a computer forensics specialist, a crime scene investigator, and a morgue assistant, which means that she's seen more than her share of what humans can do to each other and to themselves. She won the marksmanship award in her Police Academy class, has a black belt in Hapkido, has handled numerous dead bodies in various states of decomposition, and can't rollerblade to save her life. She presently lives in south Louisiana with her husband and her daughter where she is deeply grateful for the existence of air conditioning.


First off, I want to thank Doug for allowing me this chance to come here and guest blog. The release of Mark of the Demon is less than two months away and I’m at that stage of nerves where I’m practically stopping strangers in the street to tell them that I have a book coming out. So, I’m sure that random strangers everywhere will be very grateful to you for giving me this outlet!

Mark of the Demon came from two very different origins. Many years ago I wrote a short fantasy/romance-ish story about a sorceress who was working what she considered to be perfectly normal magic, when a powerful (and hot and sexy!) arcane creature appeared. I’d originally intended to submit it to a print magazine that published short romantic fiction, however, the magazine folded before I ever submitted the story, and I ended up trunking it (a good thing, too, since it really was more of a vignette than a story.)

Fast forward many years later, and I was in the process of leaving my career in police work to take a job with the local coroner’s office. However, the year before I’d placed first in the Writers of the Future contest, and in between the time I left the one job and took the other, I flew out to California to spend a week at the workshop and award ceremony. I left the workshop motivated and excited about writing, absolutely determined that I was going to work my butt off and become a professional writer. During a brutally long layover in the Atlanta airport, my husband and I discussed the fact that I should write a crime thriller--utilizing my background as a police officer, detective, and forensic specialist. We even drafted out a rough premise and outline, and as soon as I got back home I dove into working on it.

But a funny thing happened before I even finished writing the first chapter: I happened to stumble across that vignette I’d written years ago, and I suddenly began to see my main character--a homicide detective--as the “sorceress.” I scrapped what I’d written, scrapped my outline, kept the basic premise, and started over. I was still writing a crime thriller, but this time it had demons in it, and Oh My God it was fun to write!

The road to publication for Mark of the Demon was actually a fairly dull and standard one. I finished the book, revised it and revised it some more, and then spent many hours researching agents and submission guidelines. I queried thirty-three agents, and one of the first ones I queried, Matt Bialer, offered me representation after requesting the full manuscript. After that the book went through another round of revisions, then went on submission to the publishing houses. It didn’t sell in a week, it didn’t go to auction, and I didn’t get a six-figure advance right out of the gate. Instead it was six months before an offer came in, but I have to say that it was worth the wait because I’m now with a terrific publisher (Bantam) and my editor (Anne Groell) is completely made of awesome win, and helped me make this book into something that I think is really incredible and special.

So even though I didn’t originally set out to write urban fantasy, I don’t think that there’s any question that Mark of the Demon falls pretty squarely into that genre. I’m pleased about this, because I think that urban fantasy has a huge amount of life left in it, despite what many might say. (Stacia Kane wrote an excellent blog post about this subject, and since she did such a good job of it I’m just going to ditto what she said. http://stacia-kane.livejournal.com/107806.html ) Moreover, I think that urban fantasy not only has the potential to be very socially relevant, but it also has the appeal of offering an easy escape from a real world that can be full of upheaval and heartbreak and stress. This is not to say that urban fantasy can’t be complex and challenging--because it certainly can be!--but it doesn’t necessarily require as much suspension of disbelief, and it’s easier for the reader to lose themselves in the story. “Okay, so everything’s the same, except that my next door neighbor might be a werewolf/vampire/demon. I can believe that!”

I love writing and I love telling stories, and perhaps one of these days I’ll get used to the idea that I can do it for a living. A sequel--tentatively titled Blood of the Demon--is scheduled for release in February 2010, and hopefully enough people will love the books that I’ll be able to continue to write about Kara, Rhyzkahl, Ryan, and Tessa. There’s plenty of story still to be told, and I absolutely can’t wait to share it all with you!


Thank you Diana! No argument here that urban fantasy is a genre that is here to stay with a loyal and passionate fan base. OK readers here’s your chance to pose a question for Diana or just leave a comment or say hi. I’ll be leaving the draw open until Monday when I will randomly select a name from among the commenters. The prize will be sent out when the book is released. You can also visit Diana at her website or personal blog or visit her at The Magic District writers blog.

63 comments:

  1. You didn't specify in the entry, so I thought I'd check: is the contest open to everyone worldwide? If you don't mind posting to Australia, I'd love to be in the running, please :-)

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  2. sounds good. I'd love to be included on this one. Thanks for a great post, both of you.

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  3. Hi Tez Good point and yes I will send anywhere on the planet.

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  4. Ooh, the background for how you wrote this was so interesting! In some ways I found it very encouraging that you weren't one of the "lucky" few, but you got published the old fashioned way, by writing an awesome story and working your butt off!

    I can't wait for this book to come out! Sounds great, and combines my two favourite genre!

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  5. Ms. Rowland,

    I've often heard that writers tend to right what they know - you are so very fortunate to have the varied job background that you do - you can pull from so many different areas in your writing. Best wishes to you and I look forward to reading your books.

    Michelle

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  6. please include me in the contest
    thanks
    eg672@hotmail.com

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  7. Sounds like a great read! And yes, I sure hope there's a lot of life left in urban fantasy, because it's my favorite genre.

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  8. Nixy, there's definitely a certain amount of luck involved in getting published, but I've always believed that it's possible to skew the luck in your favor by doing the research, following the guidelines, and staying persistent. That way, when a lucky break does come your way, you're ready to seize the opportunity!

    But it really can be a long and sometimes demoralizing process. At about the 5 1/2 month mark, I'd actually convinced myself that Mark of the Demon wasn't going to sell, and only two weeks before the offer came in, had a long phone convo with my agent about working on an entirely different project (even though he was still convinced MOTD would sell!) And, to his credit, when it did sell, he managed to NOT say, "I told you so!" *g*

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  9. Congrats on everything Diana! I am so in agreement that UF is socially relevant.
    I have a feeling the month of June will be all yours :D

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  10. Michelle, I'm definitely VERY lucky to have a background that gives me a great deal to work with! I'm also fortunate to still have a zillion contacts in law enforcement and forensics, for those times when I'm not quite sure of a process or procedure. The pathologist I used to work with is quite accustomed to getting strange text messages from me, asking questions like, "What would decomp look like after 3 months in fresh water?" or "Body dropped from 30ft postmortem. What would injuries be?" (And yes, I credited him in the acknowledgements!)

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  11. Thanks, Katiebabs! Less than eight weeks to go. It's exciting and terrifying all at once!

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  12. Hi Ms Rowland and SciFiGuy!

    I agree that UF is here to stay as a local fan of the genre. I have many favorite genre as a varied reader, but crime and fantasy are particular favorites.

    I was wondering how your writing experience has changed? How has it developed over time?

    (SciFiGuy-I caught your interview, it was very interesting and full of insight.)

    Thanks for the great guest post and for the giveaway!

    Dottie :)

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  13. Hello Diana! What an interesting story. I love the background. I'm wondering, did you ever doubt the demon aspect (which totally rocks) or was it the case that once you had the inspiration you just went for it and never looked back?

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  14. Hi Dottie--

    My writing experience has definitely changed over the past decade. I went to the Clarion West writers workshop in 1998, and when I came out of there I did what everyone else was doing: I wrote a bunch of science fiction and fantasy short stories and then tried to sell them. However, I didn't have much luck and after a divorce and a major job change, I decided that maybe it was time to step back from the writing biz for a little while. I didn't stop writing, but I did stop writing with an eye toward selling.

    But about eight or nine years later, I started trying again, and sending stories out, and this time I had a little more success. Moreover, I had some really terrific life experiences to draw on, which changed just about everything about my writing--theme, tone, morals, you name it. The previous years of writing were certainly not wasted time, because I consider that to be when I learned the basics of the craft, but it just took me a while to find that "sweet spot" of what I really wanted to write about.

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  15. I need this book. NEED IT.

    Argh, why all the teasing so long before the release? Do y'all know how cruel that is for us nobodies who don't even get review copies?

    If I whine some more, will it increase my chances of winning? ;)

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  16. Hi Carolyn--

    When I ran across that old vignette, the demon aspect clicked into place so perfectly I knew that THIS was my story. There was definitely no looking back! I knew the relationships between the characters, I knew their secrets (and there are some big ones!!), and I knew that I wanted to tell their stories.

    (It's taking a lot of effort to hold myself back from giving hints about what's coming up in later books!)

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  17. Ms. Rowland

    One more question, did you start with shorts in your second attempt or go with a book? Just wondering what works best.

    Dottie :)

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  18. Dottie, I did go back to writing some short fiction, but I don't think my heart was really in it. While I was at the Writers of the Future workshop, I realized that I really loved the space that a novel gives a writer to explore the twists and turns and nuances of a story. :)

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  19. *waves at Diana*

    I just wanted to stop in and verify that Anne Groell is, indeed, an editor made of extreme WIN! She's a great person to have guiding us newbie authors. :)

    (and should I be worried that my verification word is "horibl"?)

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  20. I can't WAIT to read Mark of the Demon.

    Diana, you're such an inspiration to me every day and I can't thank you enough for being my mentor...so I just wanted to gush gratitude in front of all these wonderful people...and say thank you, thank you, thank you!

    I know your book is going to be a HUGE hit and I'll be first in line for the sequel too. :)

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  21. Sandra, I think right now you definitely qualify as my biggest fan.:) Thanks!

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  22. My question today is: "how do you juggle everything and still manage to find time to write?" - job, home, family, cats, etc. I know I'm suppose to treat my writing as a job, but lately I'm in jammies for dinner, which is after dark these days to get the field work done, and then I fall asleep instead of writing. How do you do it?

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  23. Bell Witch--

    That's a REALLY good question, because it's a huge challenge trying to prioritize time to do something that is very important to you, but can be seen by others as a trivial hobby. Having the support of the people around you--husband, parents, friends, etc--is incredibly vital.

    I'm a full-time writer now, but before I quit my job I would get up at 4:30am to write, I'd write on my lunch hour, I'd write in the hour between work and when I had to pick my daughter up, and I'd write in the evenings. But that's a brutal schedule to maintain, which is why, when the offer came in for my books, my husband and I agreed that time was more important than money, and it would be worth tightening our belts in order for me to have more time to write AND actually spend time with the family.

    I think it all boils down to a balance of time, money, and support. If you have lots of money, you can buy more time for yourself (e.g. hiring a housekeeper, working fewer hours.) If you have lots of support, you can trust others to pick up your slack with things like childcare, cleaning house, etc. Personally, I think the support is more valuable than the money in the long run, so I would see about getting your loved ones to understand how important the writing is to you, and trying to get them to take on more of the household stuff to give you a few more free minutes.

    Also, I found that waking up a half hour earlier to write was better than staying up later, because, as you said, I tended to fall asleep before I could write anything coherent. :)

    I hope that helped!

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  24. I should add (to clarify) that very few aspiring writers have tons of extra money to throw at housekeepers, lawn care, and nannies (I sure didn't! LOL), which is why getting the "free" help from the people around you is a more realistic option. :)

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  25. While I agree there is still plenty of room in Urban Fantasy, it sure seems like a lot of books are just rehashing plots and premises I've already seen or read.

    This book, on the other hand, looks interesting and I don't think I've seen this particular scenario before. I'm looking forward to reading it.

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  26. Thanks, Diane. I think that my book *is* something that's new and different. That being said, though, I think that every genre (including "literary") has the problem of books that simply rehash plots and premises. However, since urban fantasy is so strong and popular right now, it's just a lot more noticeable when it happens in a UF book. I've been reading a lot of terrific authors lately--Ann Aguirre, Richelle Mead, Mark Henry, Jaye Wells, Jackie Kessler, Stacie Kane, just to name a few off the top of my head--who've been writing books that are anything but rehashed tropes. So, there's lots of good stuff still out there and on its way!

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  27. I love urban fantasy. It makes me feel like I'll wake up tomorrow and I'll have a vampire or psychic for a neighbor, and that's awesome (although a slight letdown when it doesn't happen). I'm not a fan about settings that are in the past or distant future because there's a disconnect for me.

    Thanks for the link to Stacia Kane's lj. I totally agree that UF has so much more to offer. I personally like to see all of the different takes on vampire/weres/etc. My roommate and I have discussion in the car about how similar/different everyone's worlds/creatures/etc are. If there are some difference in the lore, it doesn't bother me because let's face it, a vampire that never drank blood at all or a were that never actually shapeshifted would just be weird.

    But anyway, Diana, I was wondering if you had any specific authors that inspired you or that you just really enjoy reading.

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  28. Sara--

    I grew up on the classic science fiction and fantasy, and I literally read the covers off all the books in Anne McCaffrey's Pern series. But as far as stuff I've read in the past ten years or so: I love everything Connie Willis has written, simply because she has such a great sense of how to write "funny" without being "corny", and I really enjoy the J.D. Robb In Death series, because even though the science fiction end of it is dreadful, she still writes a very compelling story. More recently I've been enjoying authors such as Charlaine Harris, Mario Acevedo, Kim Harrison, Carrie Vaughn, Jenna Black, Nail Gaiman, Julie Kenner, Daniel Abraham AKA M.L.N. Hanover, Lilith Saintcrow, Kelley Armstrong...

    I really love to read...LOL I'm sure I'm leaving some people out, but those are some of the authors that I'll rush to the store for on new release days. I could probably write three times as much if I cut back on my reading time, but I just can't bear to do that!

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  29. Diana's bio fails to mention that she is made of awesome, and I cannot freaking wait for her book. How many authors could also take you down in less than five seconds?

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  30. Thank you for hosting this contest. I've been looking forward to this book since early of this year.

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  31. Hi Diana ~ Just dropping by to show my support. Can't wait until you can pass your book around at Sola for everyone to see.


    Dawn

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  32. Hi Diana! The reviews and comments on your book keep getting better and better. I have been sooooo waiting for it's release and would obviously luuuv to get my hands on a copy ** Grin **. Fantastic interview and count me in!

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  33. Great questions so far everyone and Diana loving your participation. I have a question myself! What was the Clarion West experience like. Should aspiring writers try to get in a writing workshop like that?

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  34. Hey Dottie thanks for listening in the other night!

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  35. Hi, Diana,

    I enjoyed your interview.

    I love urban fantasy, and your book sounds awesome! Great cover too! I wish you a lot of luck with it.

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  36. SciFiGuy--

    Clarion/Clarion West are six intensive weeks of writing and critique, where you have the opportunity to be mentored by some of the biggest and brightest names in science fiction and fantasy. As a learning opportunity, it's fantastic, and I know that I came out of it with a much keener insight into storytelling and craft.

    That being said, the intensity is not for everyone and it's also not uncommon to come out of Clarion with a hefty case of burnout. But I think that for someone who's serious about writing, and has the freedom to take a six week break from their life, it's an incredibly worthwhile experience.

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  37. Wow, I never realized how similar your publication story was to mine, Diana (minus the whole police/detective/awesomeness background thing...)!

    I'm right there with you that urban fantasy has tons of kick left in it. I mean, awesome new situations to stick fantastical creature/sexy guys into? How does this ever get old?

    Also - Magic District (http://magicdistrict.wordpress.com/) shout out! What what?

    <3! Rachel

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  38. It looks like this is wrapping up for the day. Big waves and thank yous to everyone for showing up and commenting! Once again I want to thank Doug for inviting me to come and blog today. I've had a lot of fun answering questions and seeing the comments! Hopefully when the next book comes out I'll get to do it all again. :)

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  39. A huge thanks to Diana for all the thoughtful responses and thanks to all the commenters. I am sure the book is going to be a huge success and you can count on a return visit for Blood of the Demon.

    Everyone feel free to leave a comment until Monday for the giveaway when I will draw a name for a copy of Mark of the Demon.

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  40. Hi Diana :)
    The book sounds great, and I am loving that cover. I am really intrigued

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  41. Great guest post! I'll have to get my hands on a copy of that book, it sounds awesome!

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  42. I have heard a lot about your book and am really intrigued by it. I had already put it on my list but then I saw Ann Aguirre is totally in love with it so it has moved to the top of my list. I would love to win a copy and start spreading the word!

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  43. Very interesting post. I love the premise of your novel and have it on my TBR list. I also enjoy hearing about the writing life.

    Have you ever gone thru fear-of-the-blank-page syndrome?

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  44. Great read, I have been wanting to read this book for awhile. I can't wait to my hands on it.

    What is your writing process? How are you able to meet your deadline, if by chance you're having writer's block?

    Doug..huge kudos on this guest arthor and your review..

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  45. The cover is so beautiful! I love these kind of like books :)

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  46. Wow! Well you certainly have caught my attention. Love a paranormal crime thriller :)

    I hope it's okay if I ask some of the questions I asked Tate Hallaway:
    Which book have you enjoyed writing the most (so far)? Do you have any writing quirks or rituals? Tink: What are you currently reading? What do you think some of your characters may be reading?

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  47. Hi, Diana!

    I love Mark of the Demon's cover. OMG, the color yellow and gray make a surprisingly good combination. Love it!!

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  48. Patricia--

    I'm not sure if I have a fear of the blank page, but I sometimes have trouble starting a new project. I think this is because I usually go balls-to-the-wall when I'm finishing a book, so I tend to feel some post-partum letdown after it's finished. Then it takes me a week or two to get my mind in the right gear to start from the beginning again.

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  49. Tanya--

    My writing process varies according to what stage I'm at in a book. During the brainstorming/plotting phase, I tend to just write down everything that comes into my head at first, then I go through all of that and boil it down into something more coherent. Once I have a fairly good idea of what the book is about and where it's going to go, then I switch into what I call "word vomit" phase. *grin* I write 2-3K words a day until I get to the end of an incredibly crappy first draft. It's horrible, it's rough, but it gives me something to work on. Then it's edit, revise, hack, slash, and so on until it's not quite so crappy. At this point I'll pass it to critique partners, and then it's edit, revise, hack, and more slash. Eventually it's at the point where I think it's decent, and then it goes to my agent and then to my editor. (And yes, there's still more editing, revising, hacking and slashing to go!)


    I'm not sure if I believe in writer's block. That's not to say I haven't gotten stuck a time or two, but I've developed some coping mechanisms, such as getting completely away from the writing for a few hours. I also make sure to keep a small notebook or a digital recorder in my purse, so that if I do get some sort of inspiration, I can note it down before my sieve-like brain loses it.

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  50. Ladytink--

    So far, I think I enjoyed writing the sequel to Blood of the Demon the most, but I think that's because by the second book the characters had developed into real people for me. There's one scene at the end of that book that makes me cry Every Single Time I read it. (Yes, I am that sappy..LOL)

    Writing quirks or rituals: I have a DVR and I allow myself to watch one show in the morning before starting to write. That way I don't feel too deprived!

    I'm currently reading Storm Born by Richelle Mead, but Kara is a sucker for contemporary romance!

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  51. Wendy--

    I wish I could take credit for the cover, because OMG it is frickin' awesome! Seriously, I almost started crying (in a good way!) when I first saw it. The only reason I didn't was because I was in my editor's office, and it was the first time I'd ever met her in person, and I didn't want her to think I was a big gooshie weenie! LOL

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  52. I really like the cover of this book. It reminds me a bit of the House of Night novel covers. Which is a good thing, if you're wondering :P

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  53. Hey JenB I can promise that it WON'T hurt your chances :)

    Tanya thanks. Diana is just an awesome guest and her book rocks.

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  54. Thanks again everyone for all the new and excellent questions.

    A special thanks to you Diana for dropping in again today and being so generous with your time and replies.

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  55. Sounds interesting and I'm always looking for new authors.


    hdtermite (at) yahoo (dot) Com

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  56. But hey! now that you know each other, next awesome cover, you can totally cry in front of her!

    Maybe do a little dance. LOL.

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  57. I've had this on my wish list for some time. It sounds very intriguing.

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  58. Hi Diana - I'm impressed with your careers! I have been looking forward to you book, I wish you much success!

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  59. I was planning on buying this just for the cover, but the premise sounds right up my alley.

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  60. This book has been EVERYWHERE! And it doesn't hurt the author is a new member of The League of Reluctant Adults. : )

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  61. She sure has had a lot of different jobs. The book sounds wonderful. I'd love to be entered. Thanks!

    ayancey(at)dishmail(dot)net

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  62. Thanks everyone that has contributed to Diana Rowland's Guest visit. The CONTEST is now CLOSED but still feel free to leave a comments.

    WENDY is our winner!

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