Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Today's Special - - Donna MacMeans

It's my pleasure to welcome award-winning author Donna MacMeans to the Dish today. Hailing from Central Ohio, Donna is a Certified Public Accountant who spends the first part of every year keeping her clients out of trouble with the IRS and the rest of the year creating romance novels we love to read. She's active in many writing organizations, including Romance Writers of America where she currently serves as treasurer for the national chapter and received a 2013 service award for her work with local chapter treasurers. Donna joins us today to talk about her newest book, Charming the Professor. 

Welcome, Donna!


Thank you, PJ, for allowing me to share my latest book with your followers and fans.  I truly appreciate it.
                     
Hi all!  This story has been a long time in the making and I thought I’d share its inspiration with you.  I believe it was back in July of 2004, I attended an RWA conference in New Orleans.  I wasn’t interested so much in the conference as I was the location.  Things were a bit wonky with two of my roommates, so the remaining roommate and I took off and played hookey quite a bit. J  We had just gone to visit a fortune teller at Bottom of the Cup on Royal Rue, when we decided to have a late lunch.  A sign beckoned us across the street.  It said “The Court of Two Sisters.”

“I’ve heard of that place,” I said.  “Let’s give it a try.”  We entered a hallway, not terribly long, but
terribly bare.  It was mostly exposed brick with splashes of plaster, and had the feel of someplace you really shouldn’t be.  In New Orleans, you sort of listen to how your body reacts to strange surroundings, but a Ma├«tre d' waved us forward through the glass door at the end of the hallway, so we continued on.



At the end of the hallway, right before the glass door with pretty lace curtains, stood an ornate set of iron gates.  A sign hung on the wall near the gates that proclaimed the gates “The Charm Gates” along with the announcement that Queen Isabella had blessed the gates to give charm to all who touched them.  I have a picture somewhere of me holding those gates with both hands to prove to my husband that I am indeed charming J.

Once we passed through the glass door, we were led to a beautiful courtyard with a triple fountain and tables placed beneath a huge wisteria vine.  The food was excellent, the experience wonderful.  But the memory of those gates never left me.

After I was home, I listened to a taped workshop by Barbara Mason that told the workshop participants that there was something in what they saw, heard, or read in New Orleans that they, as writers, were meant to experience and use in a story.  For me, I knew it was the Charm Gates, so I concocted a story premise whereby after touching the gates, a lawyer channeled Queen Isabella and was forced to be charming.  After researching, I found two problems with the premise.  One – Queen Isabella II was not charming at all.  She was mean, not very attractive, and very unpopular.  Two – a movie came out later that year called Liar, Liar that sort of did the same thing.  Curses.  L  Back to the drawling room…

But what if someone truly charming was assigned to work with the Queen to tactfully instruct her how to deal with foreign dignitaries and what if the Queen absolutely hated her for it.  What if the Queen found a way to imprison the charm teacher in the iron gates that were to be shipped off to New Orleans.  Her blessing would then have a secret tongue-in-cheek meaning. Ohhh….great idea!

I had only managed to write the prologue and the first chapter when Hurricane Katrinia hit New Orleans and so much damage occurred. I just couldn’t write because my heart hurt watching the reports on televison.  I did enter the first chapter in a contest and won first place, but another story I’d written earlier called The Education of Mrs. Brimley won the Golden Heart that year and my writing career took off writing historicals.

But I never forgot this story.  Especially as I used to imagine as a child what it would be like to have a “secret friend” from the past century who came forward into current time.  I’d have to explain things like cars and electricity and things.  I imagined the sort of things that would scare and frighten my new friend.

So when circumstances allowed me to finish the story, I did.  My agent challenged me to plot out a sequel (which I hadn’t intended), so I did that too. I now have three books somewhat plotted in this series.  An opportunity to write a short story, led to the creation of “The Moor’s Tear” which is a sort of prequel to Charming the Professor.  That story didn’t sell as intended so I published it myself.  See – all the fates aligned so I could bring this book to you. J  Here’s the blurb:


The Charm Gates have stood at The Court of Two Sisters for more than a century with no one guessing the secret they hold. A jealous vindictive queen and a blackmailed alchemist have encased French “charm teacher” Madeline Charlebois’s essence inside the gates, at least until a grieving professor touches them during a storm and Madeline tumbles out, not in her own 19th century Spain, but in 21st century New Orleans.

Quantum physics Professor Grant Stewart has mourned his wife’s death for the last three years.  But he must move on for his young daughter’s sake, the child who delights in terrorizing babysitters.  Grant needs adequate childcare to pursue tenure at Tulane.  What he doesn’t need is a French beauty believing nonsense like time-travel and voodoo, and whose very being is melting his heart.

Maddie may be without resources but she’s good at making new friends, even if they are on the quirky side. She believes Professor Stewart can return her home, but first she must earn his trust to win his cooperation.  Babysitting his daughter gives her both proximity, and love for the child. Will Grant be the key to returning to her time? Or will she, in turn, unlock his frozen heart? All they need is time and maybe a little voodoo…

Did I forget to mention voodoo?  Well, that’s a different blog (grin).  I hope you give Charming the Professor a try.


So tell me, have you ever visited New Orleans?  Did you go to The Court of Two Sisters?  What impressed you the most about the city?  Have you ever had a fantasy that someone from the past came forward to meet you in the current age?  Let’s talk FUN!  I’m happy to give a digital copy of Charming The Professor to someone leaving a comment.

37 comments:

  1. I finally got toNew Orleans about 5 years ago. It was on my list of places I wanted to visit, but my husband wasn't interested, especially after Katrina. I finally decided not to ask anymore. I made reservations and gave the trip to my husband for a birthday present. We had a wonderful time and went back again to spend another week. He is actually talking about going again. He loves the WWII Museum and would like to see the new additions. We went to 2 plantations and would like to visit a few more. The Civil War Museum is near the WWII Museum and very interesting. We walked by Three Sisters but have not yet stopped. I will have to insist we go there on our next trip. We stayed in the GardenDistrict the first time and in the French Quarter the second. With the trolley system it is easy and enjoyable to get around.
    I enjoy time travel books, but have never really thought about encountering someone visiting from another time.

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    1. Hi Librarypat!

      The first time I went to New Orleans, it was with my husband for one of his conventions. They had a "spouse package" that had a day trip to visit several plantations. It was great! Now that I've been, I recognize Twelve Oaks plantation shown on a lot of movies and tv shos. It's the plantation with the long path to the levee with old live oaks lining the way. Absolutely beautiful! I learned a lot on that trip. Of course, that was thirty years ago. I'd learn alot more if I went today because I never dreamed of being a writer back then. LOL

      Good on you for giving your husband of going to where you wanted to go :-) I did something similar with a trip to Scotland, but that's another story. Didn't realize there was a Civil War Museum in New Orleans, but that's the perfect place for it (grin). I'll have to check it out the next time I'm there. I hope you give CHARMING THE PROFESSOR a try. It's a fun book and a story that will stick with you. :)

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  2. I have New Orleans on my travel wish list. Fingers crossed, one day!!

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    1. Hi Mary! Great to see you here! I have a long, long wish list of places I want to travel. That would be my dream, traveling from one romantic city to another. :-) However, now, everytime I go to New Orleans, we must go to the Court of Two Sisters to visit the charm gates. I love that piece of inspiration. I even have a Christmas ornament of the Royal St. entrance to the restaurant. LOL. That's dedication. Let me know when you go and I'll try to be there at the same time. We'll have a mimosa together!

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  3. I've been in New Orleans once for the Beta Club National Convention just after I graduated from high school. That was many, many years ago.

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    1. Hi Glenda!
      Now I used to belong to Beta Gama Sigma, the Accounting Honors Fraternity, but I bet the Beta Club isn't quite the same thing (grin). The city has changed since I first went there thirty years ago. I remember a big department store on Canal St. that gave a pressed cardboard platter to visitors to the city. It had a picture of a big platter of steamed crawfish or "mud bugs" as they call them on it. Darn! I should have remembered that earlier. I would have worked it into the story. See that's the thing when you write a book, it's really, really hard sometimes to just let it go. There's always something to tweak or change..

      I hope you give CHARMING THE PROFESSOR a try. You won't forget the story for some time. :-)

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  4. I've been in New Orleans once for the Beta Club National Convention just after I graduated from high school. That was many, many years ago.

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    1. Hello again! :)

      I do that repetition thing all the time. I value your persistence. :-)

      I used to belong in the Honor Society in high school. You had to have good grades to join so it was a bit of an honor, but then you had to do service projects...like clean up under the stadium seats after a football game. Is the Beta Club like that? It has to be a great club if you get the opportunity to go to New Orleans.

      Thanks for stopping by, Glenda!

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  5. Not yet, but sure would be nice!

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    1. Hi Laney!
      Hey - it's winter! It's cold up where you live. Come on down and Laissez le bon temps rouler! (Let the good temps roll). There's some places you should check out besides the ones mentioned in the book. One of the hotels in the French Quarter has a carousel for a bar. You can see it through the windows from the street if you don't want to go it, but the bar rotates, just like a carousel. There's also a very cool Haunted New Orleans tour. Lots of stories there. It's best to go on that one at night. Telling you - you'd love it (grin).

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  6. Hi Donna! Welcome! I'm out of town but I'll pop in when I can today.

    I've been to New Orleans once, on a family vacation when I was 18. I loved it! We had dinner one night at the Court of Two Sisters and my romantic imagination when into overdrive. I had reservations (along with a group of girlfriends) to return to NOLA in October 2005. Obviously, that trip didn't happen. (Katrina hit a few weeks before our planned trip) I'll make it back there one of these days.

    Looking forward to reading CHARMING THE PROFESSOR!

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    1. Hi PJ! Thank you again for inviting me to blog today. Did you see the charm gates when you first went to New Orleans? I know they were easily overlooked the first time I visited - just tucked away in a corner. Now they have christmas lights strung on them. It's just not the same--but the courtyard and the restaurant are (grin). Maybe RWA or RT will revisit and you and I can share a drink. That would be worth a trip.

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    2. I don't remember seeing the charm gates, Donna. Doesn't mean that I didn't but I don't remember them.

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    3. LOL - Read my book and you'll certainly remember them the next time. Hehehe...

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    4. It's first up in my tbr when I'm back home! Being 18, I fear I was more interested in the food and the "big girl" drink I could legally order (21 being the legal age in Michigan) than the charm gates. ;-)

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  7. Oh, I have to go get this one. This sounds hilarious!! And this is the sort of "paranormal" I love! Can't wait to read it!

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    1. And YES, I have had the fantasy of someone coming forward in time to meet me. I've plotted, written on stories based exactly on that premise. Usually Highlanders who don't do well with modern technology.

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    2. Hi MsHellion!

      Yes. I definitely fall on the side of lighter paranormal. I'm good with time travel, magic, and the occasional invisible heroine. LOL. Hope you give it a try.

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    3. LOL. Love the concept of a highlander confronted with technology. Very Cool!!!

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    4. I bought it. Amazon has it for $3.99 and I've been loving reading on my phone at lunch!

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    5. Thank you MsHellion ❤️-
      I've heard that more and more people read on their phones. I think it's changing how books are presented as far as white space, shorter paragraphs, that sort of thing. Let me know if you like it and again - Thanks!

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  8. I grew up an hour south-southwest of New Orleans, so I've been there many times. I've always loved the amalgam of historical sites in and around NO--antebellum homes, the Battle of New Orleans site, St. Louis Cathedral at Jackson Square, the Cabildo and Presbytere, the Wax Museum and the Civil War Museum. And don't forget the food--oh, the beignets and gumbo! NO is a great blend of French, Spanish, German and African cultures and cuisines. It's good to hear you've set a book there. On the TBR list it goes!

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    1. I must have forgotten to hit reply to properly place my response, but you can see it right below my response to Kim. Sorry about that!

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  9. I've never been to New Orleans, but I know they're famous for their beignets.

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    1. Hi Kim!
      I did include beignets in the book�� , Actually they were responsible for a little "love potion #9" action. Hope you give CHARMING THE PROFESSOR a try.

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  10. Hi LSUreader!
    LOL - My book is set in your backyard! I hope you like it. Let me know AND llet me know if I can use your New Orleans experience for future books in the series. I did so many things while there, the riverboat,eating fried oysters (which I love), the Voodoo tour, that never made the book. Sigh. Love that city's!

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  11. My husband went there to attend a National Middle School Conference. I wasn't able to go due to work schedules. But he lovedddddddd it!!!

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    1. Hi girlygirlhoosier!

      Well, that's not fair! Tell him he owes you and plan to celebrate your next anniversary there. But first, read CHARMING THE PROFESSOR so you'll know where to find the charm gates �� . I bet you'll love it!

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  12. I'm dyyyyying to visit NOA :) I think it sounds like such a fun, history filled place. Definitely on my bucket list. Thanks for sharing!

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    1. Hi erin!
      You must go, because it is exactly that (grin) - plus they know how to cook in New Orleans! Ever tried alligator tail? LOL. We did at Commandore's Palace. Everytime I've gone I've tried, seen, something new. AND when you go, you must visit the Charm Gates at the Court of Two Sisters. It's funny the number of people who've been to New Orleans but had no idea the charm gates were there. I hope you give CHARMING THE PROFESSOR a try in the meantime. Thanks for stopping by!

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  13. In May we are going to Thibodaux, LA to do some ancestry research on my husband's side of the family. We will be 1 1/2 hours away from New Orleans. He has been to New Orleans but I've never been. I am looking forward to visiting.

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  14. Hi Pamela!
    How neat to be able to visit a place important to your husband's ancestry. I've been to my father's birth place in Wisconsin, but I'd have to travel to Ireland to research my maternal roots. I'd love to do that if I knew how. However, if you're going to be that close to New Orleans, you really should go. Your husband's ancestors probably did (grin). If you can convince him to drop down for dinner and a visit to Bourbon street, you might be able to get him to commit to The Court of Two Sisters--they do an excellent dinner there-- then you can check out the Charm gates. I hope you give CHARMING THE PROFESSOR a try. It will help give you resolve to push the idea when you're so close. Good Luck!

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  15. Sadly, I've never been to New Orleans but I've always wanted to go. Funny things is that I want to visit the old houses and the cemeteries. I have a thing for all things Gothic and when I go that will be the first place I visit ;)

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    1. MsAwesome - what a cool name! (grin)

      You will feel right at home. The carriage ride in the French Quarter includes a stop at the cemetary where Marie LaVeau, the famed voodoo queen, is buried. She's just around the corner from the edifice Nicholas Cage built to house his remains. There's another old cemetary out in the Garden District which is more peaceful IMO. It's close to the house that Anne Rice lives (lived?) in which has a gothic appeal. Lots to see and do in New Orleans no matter where your interests might run. Can't say that I included much of a gothic element in CHARMING THE PROFESSOR. It's more on the light and fun side. No crazies in the attic (LOL), but if you're interested in Gothic romance, you might want to try Kat Sheridan's book ECHOES IN STONE. Love her cover.

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  16. Hi, Donna! I have never been, but my son and DIL went last spring and found it interesting and "mystical".
    Congrats on your book(s); I enjoy reading your stories, mixed with charm and fun.

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    1. Hi Deb!

      Not sure about the "mystical" but both thumbs up on the interesting (grin). I was sitting in a corner cafe, having a good bowl of gumbo, and saw this devil - he was covered in body paint with horns and a tail - strolling up the street. I whipped out my camera to take a pic and he stuck his head in the window and made a face then held his hand out. I laughed and he left. It wasn't until later that I realized he was asking for a tip! LOL. Thank you for the book love. Sending hugs right back (grin).

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  17. Thanks for visiting with us, Donna! I'm excited to read Charming the Professor!

    Readers, I'll post the winner of the giveaway tonight.

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