Wednesday, August 24, 2011


Denise Belinda McDonald

Please welcome my friend, Denise Belinda McDonald. Denise and I met several years ago in a local chapter of Romance Writers of America.

Caroline: Readers love to get to know authors. Please tell us about growing up.

Denise: I grew up in North Texas with one bratty brother—we fought constantly, but we’re friends now. We have two younger brothers from my dad’s second marriage, but they’re more like nephews than sibs (having all brothers prepared me for my kids). I wasn’t much of a tomboy or a princess as a kid, kind of somewhere in between. I am married to my high school sweetheart. Often times he’s asked if he’s the “hero” in my stories. His line in return is, “Naw, I’m usually the dead body.” (It’s better than therapy, killing him from time to time). I’m the mother of four school-aged boys (see where the preparedness came in); being stuck between tomboy and princess has paid off in my favor. I’m not too girly having no one to share that with, but just girlie enough I don’t have to go camping with them. Whenever I get the hankering for something a little different out of life, I just write about it.

Caroline: Writing is better than therapy, isn’t it? And a lot cheaper. Sometimes we even make a couple of dollars. Who are your favorite authors and favorite genres?

Denise: I started out really getting into romantic suspense. I love La Nora. Karen Robards is always a fave. Other than those two ladies, there’s no one author or genre that I stick to (call it my ADD). I have a habit of picking a section at the bookstore or library and just going through it all.

Caroline: How many books do you read a month? What are you reading now?

Denise: In a good month I read 3 or 4, but with the four kids that’s not always conducive. I am currently reading a Georgette Heyer novel, FOOTSTEPS IN THE DARK, on my Nook and I am reading a paperback, THE BRUSH-OFF, by Laura Bradley.

Caroline: I'm always reading more than one book and can't be without one in case I have a few minutes to kill. When you’re not writing, what’s your favorite way to relax and recharge? Hobbies?

Denise: I have done just about every craft there is. I taught myself how to knit a few years ago—every relative now has a lovely scarf. I like to quilt, but that can be too time-consuming. I do enjoy baking, but I am not very good at it—I am slightly (which read to mean *very*) impatient so I tend to skip certain points in recipes and the food can come out all wonky.

Caroline: I remember when you taught yourself to knit, clever girl. Describe yourself in three or four words.

Denise: I’ve no idea, sorry 

Caroline: I’ll do it for you--good mom, fun, and loyal. Would you like to share any guilty pleasures that feed your muse?

Denise: Definitely Lifetime movies and the Food Network. They let my brain reset, which in turn makes my muse ready to go. I also watch just about every profiler/military/detective show on TV. Something about guns and things blowing up... uh, I may have revealed too much.

Caroline: Go figure--I watch them, too, and find HGTV restful. Watching is like giving my mind a vacation. Oops, what does that say about my viewing choices? How long have you been writing?

Denise: Since I could hold a pencil. Seriously. I started novel-length writing when I was 18, but really picked it up when I was pregnant with #4 child—mostly to keep sane.

Caroline: Where do you prefer to write? Do you need quiet, music, solitude? PC or laptop?

Denise: At home, I cannot write in quiet. When my youngest finally started school I would have two TVs on. I had to have Disney Channel as well as “Grown Up” TV—I was so accustomed to the sound, I needed it to keep going. I am down to one TV now, and in the other room, to keep me from “watching” while I work. I will write just about anywhere, though: sitting in the chair at the salon, waiting in line at school to pick up this kid or that, on my laptop, long hand watching TV (I wrote half a book during commercial breaks one season) or with the Alphasmart. I just write everywhere.

Caroline: Are you a plotter or a panzer?

Denise: I like to think of myself as a Plotser. I plot very little, just have the basics, not completely thought out, but a little something.

Caroline: Do you use real events or persons in your stories or as an inspiration for stories?

Denise: Maybe for the germ of the idea, but for the most part, I just have an over active “what if…”

Caroline: “What if” is the writer’s friend! Tell us about your writing schedule. I know you’ve participated in NANO and our chapter’s writing challenges. Do you set goals? Do you write daily?

Denise: My only goal is to finish my next book. I am the type of person that will buck the “it needs to be done by…” that slows my writing to a crawl. Having said that, I am very competitive. If we have a challenge in our group, I work really hard to get it done. Coming off of summer break, I have no schedule, but once the kids are settled into the school routine, I try to write 2-3 hours a day (usually smack in the middle of the day).

Denise's previous release,
also a great read
Caroline: What do you hope your writing brings to readers?

Denise: Just the happiness it brings me to write it.

Caroline: What long-term plans do you have for your career?

Denise: As most writers, the NY Times list, etc. I’d love to be able to say I bought XYZ with my earnings (and XYZ would include a cabana boy). I enjoy writing and as long as I can keep doing it, that makes me happiest. The fact that I get to share it with other people is just a huge bonus!

Caroline: Great attitude (and good luck with the cabana boy). Would you like to tell us what you’re working on now?

Denise: Truth be told, I have 3 different projects in the works. I am working on book 3 of my Paintbrush series, I am working on a romantic suspense and I am dabbling in a time travel, which is so far out of my element, but it is fun to stretch and try something new.

Caroline: You know I loved those Paintbrush, Wyoming books, but love the Texas settings like this one more. What advice would you give to unpublished authors?

Denise: Keep at it. The more you write the more you hone your skill. When I finish a book, I immediately start another one (or three). And keep reading. I find when I am not reading enough, my writing slows down.

Caroline: Mine too. Besides, reading is studying our craft, right? Tell us about your latest release.

Denise's Latest Release
Denise: RHINESTONE COWGIRL is set in fictional Rowdy, Texas (I like making up a fictional town so I can tweak them to have just the right homey feel I want). Rowdy is a small town where everyone knows everyone’s business and has an opinion in the matter. When a stranger comes to town, it’s the talk over every morning cup of coffee.

Blurb: Poppy Dumphy invades Cale Hollander’s small, west Texas town, bucking into his world like an unbroken bronc. She's abandoned her cushy, Beverly Hills lifestyle to expose a long-kept secret only to find Cale determined to keep her intentions from tearing his town apart.

“Which one?” Cale snagged Poppy’s elbow and prompted her to start walking again, but just as quickly released her, not at all happy with the little zing that ran through his hand.

“Which one what?”

“Cabin are you staying in?” He tried to keep the sigh out of his voice.

“Oh. The one on the end.”

“My old house?” He let it slip out before he could stop himself.

“I thought you lived next door. I mean, at the next ranch.” She pointed toward his spread and deviated a little too much from the path.

He grabbed her shoulders and pulled her toward him. “Watch it. You almost ran into the tiller.” She had a good foot or two clearance, but one could never be too careful near such treacherous machinery—and he’d stick to that story if anyone asked. He would never admit that he yearned to touch her again. “I left home when I was seventeen.” He let his hands linger on her shoulder then down her arm. Had he ever touched skin so soft?

“You moved out?” she asked just above a whisper.

“My dad and I weren’t getting along.”


Cale shook himself. “Never mind.”

“Sorry. I didn’t mean to pry.” She was quiet for a moment. “I guess you and… Mr. Morgan are really close.”

Great, just the opportunity he needed to show this woman he would protect his friend. “We’re very close. He’s like a father to me.”

Poppy stumbled.

“Careful.” Were his hands not still on her arm, she might have tumbled to the ground. Not for the first time, Cale wondered what really brought her to Texas. To Rowdy specifically. The woman hadn’t come prepared—hell, she’d driven halfway across the county with no AC in her car. She was up to something, and he was damn sure going to find out what.

They stopped at the little cabin at the end of the row. A small wall-mounted light did little to illuminate the woman’s face as she looked up at him, but he had a remarkable memory and could fill in what the light didn’t show.

“I uh…” A coyote yipped, and she all but jumped into his arms. “How close is that?”

* * * *

“Not too, don’t worry.” Cale’s breath ruffled the top of her hair.

Poppy could stand there all night, wrapped up in this man’s strong embrace. It had been so long since she’d had someone to support her in any way. Not that Cale actually wanted to be there, he was just doing what Gerri asked him to. If anything, it reminded her she wasn’t in Texas to find a beau. She pushed away. “I’m not worried. It just caught me off guard. Back home I ran into a mountain lion once.”

He snorted. “Really?” The small light cast an ominous shadow over his face.

“Yes. I was out walking my sister’s dog.”

“Mmm-hmm.” His eyes narrowed. “Where are you from?”

“LA. Well, Beverly Hills to be exact.”

If she wasn’t mistaken, he scoffed and said something akin to “Figures.”

“Good night.” He tipped his hat.

“Thanks.” Poppy pushed through the door. A wave of hot air wafted over her face. “Boy, it’s hot in here.”

“Turn on the AC.” He called over his shoulder.

“It was on when I left. I turned it up when I was talking to my brother.”

He sighed and turned back to her. “And you left it on?”

“It was hot when I got here. I’d driven all day without AC in the car and…” She stopped herself. She knew better than to whine.

“Do you mind if I take a look at it?” Cale stepped through the doorway.

“Please.” She turned on several lamps.

“Will you hold my hat?” He handed her the hat and went to work on the window unit. He had to duck down to remove the plastic cover.

Poppy slipped off her shoes and hopped onto the huge bed to watch. He was swift with his hands. The muscles in his arms and back rippled under his shirt. Despite the heat, a shiver ran through her. “Did I mess it up?”

"Looks like the compressor froze up.” Cale straightened up and rolled his shoulders. He looked at her and stopped for a minute and just gaped at her. “Hot.”

“Pardon me?” Her tongue darted out to wet her lips.

“It’s going to be hot. Until it’s fixed. I can’t do it tonight. It needs to thaw. I can look at it sometime tomorrow.”

“Oh. Gotcha. Okay. Thanks for trying.”

“I don’t think you understand.” He moved closer to the bed. “There’s no AC.”

Poppy fanned herself, but she wasn’t sure if it was from the stifling heat or the man standing a tad too close. “I get it. Hot. I’ll be okay.”

Cale stood there and watched her for a long moment. She’d never much thought about how sexy a man in boots and tight, tight jeans looked. Poppy’s gaze darted to his mouth. The man had sexy lips, too. For a moment, her mind flashed to what it might feel like for him to lean into her, press his hot mouth to hers.

“You need me.”

“I, uh what?” Poppy swallowed hard. She did need him, in so many ways she couldn’t even say but… how could he read her thoughts so clearly?

* * * *
“You need me.”

Cale watched her eyes widen. He wanted to laugh at the look on her face. He’d give just about anything to know what the hell she’d just been thinking.

“I do?”

“Didn’t you sign up for riding lessons?”

When she nodded, he continued, “Kib’s gonna be out of pocket for a while. I can help.” He couldn’t believe he just offered to take over. Sure, at first, it was more or less to get her reaction, but once the words were out of his mouth, he didn’t want to call them back.

Caroline: Terrific excerpt. I especially enjoyed the scene following, too. Where can readers find your books?

Caroline: Anything else you’d like readers to know?

Denise: I just want to thank Caroline for interviewing me for her blog. She is and continues to be such a wonderful friend. My writing is better for having known you.

Caroline: Wow, what a nice thing to say! How can readers learn more about you?

Caroline: Thanks for stopping by to visit with us, Denise. I wish you many sales and a place on the NYT List in the near future (cabana boy optional).


Geri said...

That is a wonderful post, Ladies!

And I'm very proud to call both of you 'friend'. I love the Paintbrush series too. Well, I like everything you both write.

Your Friend,

Paisley Kirkpatrick said...

I think I had the pleasure to have a nice chat with you in the goody room at a conference somewhere. I recognize your name because it has such a nice flow to it. It stands out in my mind.

It was so nice getting to know you today. Your life sounds hectic, but full of love and fun. Best of luck with lots of sales.

Ashley Kath-Bilsky said...

Denise - You are such a riot and I love the term "plotser"! You have such a happy, vivacious, effervescent personality with bubbly energy and unyielding imagination for stories. All of that came through loud and clear in this interview. - Ashley

Shirley Wells said...

What a lovely, fun interview!

Sympathies re the bratty brother, Denise. I had a bratty sister. Funny how we all end up friends in the end. :)

Nicole McCaffrey said...

Great blog, ladies.

Denise--when my kids were little I got used to writing with Barney or Elmo in the background, too. It was hard once they were in school a full day, LOL. Even now I'll keep the weather channel on in the background just for the company. But I still kinda miss Barney. :o(

Beth Trissel said...

Super post, ladies. Denise, I enjoyed getting to know more about you and your wonderful family, and stories.

Celia Yeary said...

DENISE--I enjoyed getting to know you. Four kids? Bless your heart. Good for you being such a good mom, even though you might omit an ingredient or two from a recipe.
I know now that there any more of us in the world than I thought--that is, those who not only read more than one books at a time, but also write more than one at a time.
Sometimes it sort of drives me crazy, because I don't do either intentionally. I guess I'm a little scattered when it comes to those things, when I'm ordinarily very organized.
Or it could be like my mother always told me--"you never want to miss a thing." Yeah, maybe that's it.
Congratulations and good luck! Celia

Nikole Baptiste said...

Loved this interview ladies! Writing as many books as Denise has and doing it while raising four boys is not an easy task. Best of luck with your new release, Denise!

Avery Michaels said...

Great post, Denise! You've accomplished so much and I'm so proud of you!

Denise McDonald said...

Geri... you're ever so biased :) And too sweet to mention.

Paisley, I absolutely remeber that! (and can't believe you remember me). Life is very hectic, but in a way that makes me smile!

Ashley, LOL my kids don't think I'm bubbly when I'm yelling at them to wash their clothes. One told me the other day he would never read my books--he just couldn't do it... I'm not gonna argue with him.

Shirley, we never spoke to each other as kids unless we were hurling insults... now, we'll talk on the phone for an hour at a time (I am not a big phone talker so that sayd something)

Denise McDonald said...

Nicole M, some of my books, I can hear their shows in the back of my mind when I re-read them. I was singing a Barney song to one of them the other day--the child rolled his eyes as I expected and it made me smile!

Beth, thanks. It's fun to do an interview with someone you know so well and Caroline is the sweetest gal!

Celia, I have found (and I don't know if it's because of the ADD or maybe it caused the ADD) but whenI am working or reading on more than one book, I can hyper-focus and I actually get more done.

Denise McDonald said...

Nikole B... it's all for sanity, I tell you! When you start trying to figure out which Wiggle is hotter, you gotta do something or go crazy!

Avery... again, you're are a wee bit biased like Miss Geri...LOL. But you know I love you gals!

Denise McDonald said...

pardon my spelling mistakes... I always see things *after* I hit the publish comment button

Thanks for the interview. I enjoyed it.