Sunday, August 31, 2008

I have to do WHAT? Blog?!?!

Blogging has become something we're all used to now- but I know not so long ago, there were some of us that hadn't the slightest inclination to write something for literally the whole world to see, and for the purpose of promoting, of all things, romance novels...

But surprisingly, blogs, author interviews, character q&a's, etc. have become an ideal, easy and CHEAP way to connect with your readers. Not only are readers given an opportunity to find out random, interesting facts about their favorite authors, but they also get to see yet another aspect of your profession of author.

I think that blogging bridges a gap that's often between readers and authors- so often as a reader, I find myself wondering about the stranger who wrote the literature I'm enjoying. The offbeat anecdotes or heartwarming mentions of family that come up in these blogs make authors seem hum- a far cry from the superhero writing machines that churn out books every season.

As your publicist, I get asked a bevy of questions, but the ones that frequently come up are concerning the blog: What do I blog about?

One rule of thumb to ALWAYS remember--whether it's for a blog post, in a comment or in an interview--THE WHOLE WORLD IS WATCHING. I don't mean to bring up ideas of civil protest, but don't forget, if it is on the Internet, chances are that one person you don't want to read it, WILL.

But on to the fun stuff: Blog ideas!

"The Call"--tell us about what happened when you found out you were on your way to becoming a published author!
Your inspiration--we've had some wonderful examples of where we find our inspiration lately on the blog. Thanks for sharing!
The Unexpected--what has happened so far that completely shocked you? Were you amazed or horrified?
Ways you De-stress--Deadlines, revisions, and oh yeah, that pesky day job. What do you do to take a minute for yourself when things get crazy?
Characters--Where did they come from? Are they based on anyone (you don't have to name names)? What made you know that this was THE character you had to talk about?
Current Events--Even for those who write paranormal or historical, current events can often play a huge part in what you write. Maybe an incident in the local news fueled your writing along and changed the course of your novel. Or maybe you read about something so insane you just have to share it!
Your Favorites--we all have favorite authors, books, movies, foods, etc. So for those days when it's a little quiet on the promotion front, tell us the ultimate indulgences you love!!

As you can see, the possibilities are endless, and you can even do a Google search of "blog topic" and you'll find lists MUCH longer than my little one!

My number rule, when it comes to all PR--HAVE FUN! If you aren't having fun, it shows and we don't want to read that (I'm being honest here!). If you're having the worst day and you realize you have to write a blog--don't sigh and roll your eyes and fret over it. There's an amazing (aka bitingly sarcastic and often snarky) group of 15 women (and bunch of readers who have yet to show their commenting support) all anticipating your contibution to our humble (aka OMG coolest ever) group blog.

I hope you all have a great Labor Day Weekend. Does this mean summer is over? Say it isn't so!! Talk to you all soon!


Saturday, August 30, 2008

The Evolution of Romeo, Romeo

Posted By Robin Kaye

I love Italian families. Having come from one, I can close my eyes and see my grandmother’s house in Brooklyn, hear my grandparents yelling at each other in Italian. And I can smell the menestra boiling on the stove.

After reading Mary Margaret Daughtridge’s exceptional blog about “Idea or Inspiration?” I thought back to the first spark of inspiration for Romeo, Romeo. I was taking an on-line class about point Of view and was supposed to write a scene in first person. I remember thinking I didn’t have time. I had a 20-quart pot of sauce on the stove, I’d just thrown in the meatballs, sausage and Brocole, and I only had ten minutes before I needed to stir the sauce.

With the smell of sauce heavy with a good Cabernet Sauvignon filling my head, and wearing my “The Trouble With Italian Food Is 3 Days Later, You’re Hungry Again” apron, I sat at my computer and pounded out a scene written in a chubby Italian daughter’s POV. Rosalie Angelina Ronaldi stormed into my brain and took up residence. It went something like this:

“Christ, Ma! Do you think you made enough food? Are you expecting a third-world nation for supper?”

My Aunt Rose smacked me upside the head as she passed my chair and set a bowl of steaming broccoli on the table.

“Rosalie Angelina Ronaldi, that’s for taking the Lord’s name in vain!” She crossed herself and mumbled a few words in Italian asking for forgiveness for her puttana of a niece.

“Puttana? A whore? That’s a nice thing to call your goddaughter.”

“You’ve been dating Joey Manetti for two years and still no wedding. That tells me he’s not buying the cow because he’s getting the milk for free. Puttana!” She spat out the word, making it sound as bad as what it meant.

My sister, Annabelle, sat her skinny little butt on the plastic-covered seat and watched the light sparkle off her one-carat solitaire. “Aunt Rose, lay off Rosalie, already. It’s not her fault she’s got the Saldatti ass.”

Leave it to Annabelle to stick up for me by putting me down. True, I have the Saldatti ass. You know the one. It starts somewhere around the back of the knee and ends in the vicinity of the waist, but its beginning and ending are debatable. It just so happens that Joey loves my ass, all of it. He’d love to be married to it——I mean me. I’m the one who’s not interested in getting married, but if I said that, I’d be breaking the eleventh commandment——Thou shalt marry a nice Catholic boy (preferably Italian) and have babies.

I squirmed in my seat and peeled my thigh off the chair. God, I hate Sunday dinners. But unless you’ve just been given last rites, you’re expected to eat with the family. A supper, mind you, guaranteed to add five pounds of fat to each thigh. I tried the Atkins Diet, then found out no Italian has ever lived on a low-carb diet. Sundays killed that for the lot of us, since supper always has at least one form of pasta. It’s one of seven courses, so not only do you gain weight, but you’re stuck sitting with your family for four hours, which then makes you crazy and, in turn, you eat more, hence the weight problem to begin with.

I pushed the Genoa salami, provolone and decadent olives to the side and ate the lettuce leaves and artichoke hearts. No Italian in her right mind can resist artichokes. What can I say, they’re green. They must be nutritious once you get past the palm oil they’re soaked in. You gotta at least give me credit for resisting the damn olives.

Mama put down a tray of manicotti, wiped her hands on her apron, then smoothed the plastic lace-look tablecloth as she sat next to Papa. “Is Joey coming? Should I keep a plate warm for him?”

Papa grumbled about kids these days, always too busy for family supper.

“I’m not sure, Ma, we didn’t talk about it last night. He might be at his Nonna’s.”

“What do you mean you didn’t talk? What did you do?”

“Oh, come on, Ma, not you too? We saw a movie. I was tired. I went home.”

Bored is more like it. Why I’ve been seeing Joey for two years is beyond me. Maybe it’s because I’m lazy. Who has the time or inclination to go out every weekend trolling for guys? I’m not eighteen anymore. Come to think of it, I didn’t have the time or inclination then, either.

Aunt Rose sidled up to the table to take her seat. She smoothed her skirt over her big butt to cover the parts that stick to plastic and scooted in to the point where her large breasts almost covered the plate. She looked down, saw that they were too close for comfort, and scooted back, allowing just enough clearance. I wondered if that’s what I was going to look like in forty years. God save me from genetics. Though maybe I should be grateful. At least I’d lost my appetite.

That was the inspiration for Romeo, Romeo--the first book in my Domestic Gods series. The scene never made it into my final manuscript, which evolved from first person to third (my second assignment in the class), but the family, the internal conflict, and the voice stayed the same. It makes me wonder about the evolution of other novels…

Friday, August 29, 2008

Digital Romance

Posted by Christina Harlin
Some of our Casa authors have recently shared their hobbies with us, so today I will share mine. I play computer games. I’ve been avidly computer gaming since 1991 when I first encountered Sierra’s Kings Quest IV: The Perils of Rosella and the raucous Leisure Suit Larry. Over the past 17 years I have played about 150 games, many until the disk was too scratched for the computer to read. Technological leaps have been amazing, but technology alone does not make a great game. Just as in the movies, greatness lies within the story.

I am not exactly in the prime demographic for computer gaming, and never really was. Mostly the games are targeted toward young men, which can easily been seen by how very little clothing most of the female characters wear on their fabulously toned bodies. But it’s not all about guns and boobs, or else I never would have stuck with it. There are strategy games, simulation games, role-playing games (my passionate favorite), adventure games (which immerse you almost as if you are playing a role in a movie) and shooters, which are cathartic if nothing else. Sex, or at least the implication of sex (guns and boobs, remember) is abundant in gaming but romance is not, which is why on the rare occasion when a game’s creators slip a real romance in, I rejoice as only a girly-girl can. So for you romance lovers, and for you computer game lovers, and for we happy few who are both, here is a list of my favorite computer game romances:

1. Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic (Aspyr 2004). It’s amazing that they could pull it off, but this is an amazing game, probably my personal favorite. Consider this: you can choose whether you play a female or male character, whether you are good or evil, and in a somewhat hidden story tree, whether you are gay or straight. Yet somehow the game is clever enough to provide a romance for your character, if you so choose, and handle that romance with tenderness, humor, great writing and good voice acting—and heartache, if it comes to that.
2. Neverwinter Nights II (Aspyr 2008) This is another one where the character you play could be one of either sex, and chosen from many races, but under the right storyline you could foster romance with one of your fellow travelers. My warrior mage was destined to be with the paladin Casavir but I have to admit to something: it was the bad boy, Bishop, who really got her attention. Oh, if only he hadn’t been so full of hurt and mistrust . . .
3. Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time (UBI Soft 2003). This romance, between the heroic Prince and the sweet, resourceful Princess Farah, is hot stuff. They begin as enemies but need each other to escape their otherworldly curse, and by the climax of the game each is willing to die for the other. The resolution? Heartbreaking, and wonderful, and perfect.
4. Indiana Jones and the Fate of Atlantis (Lucas Arts 1993). I don’t know how many people remember this nifty old Lucasarts game. This one managed to bring Indy together with yet another smart and beautiful sidekick, make their conversations witty, their flirtation believable the their kiss perfectly timed. And this was all done with text alone, no voice acting at all.
5. Vampire the Masquerade: Redemption (Activision 2000). Noble medieval crusader Christof is turned undead, but not before he falls in love with the beautiful nun who cared for him when he was wounded. Waking hundreds of years later in modern times, he discovers that, perhaps due to his own failings, his true love has also been held in stasis and he fights his way through a bajillion baddies to rescue her. Exactly what form does his rescue take? Well, that’s up to you. I truly felt Christof’s anguish as I helped him on his quest to find the woman of his dreams.

So, has anyone else played these games? Played one I forgot to mention, where the romance is memorable and fun? I’d love to know that I’m not the only one out there!

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Talk Irish To Me

posted by Loucinda McGary aka Aunty Cindy

It's certainly no secret that I love a man with an accent. Any old accent will do, but I especially love a man with a lilting brogue. A charming Irish rogue could talk me into just about anything!

The Irish have a very distinctive form of diction. For example, they often turn a statement into a question simply by inflection, or end a sentence with the word "then." I worked hard to replicate speech patterns in all my Irish characters in The Wild Sight, and make them sound distinctive from non-Irish speakers (like my American heroine).

But sometimes it's not only how an Irishman says something, it's the words used. Slang and euphemisms can be so much fun! I loved listening to all the unique turns of phrases when we were in Ireland, and I tried to recall as many as I could. Unfortunately my memory is sometimes faulty, so thank goodness for the internet! I found all kinds of great websites for things like Irish slang, Irish proverbs, and even Irish curses.

So here are some of my favorite nuggets from my research. You may or may not find them in one of my books someday.

Modern Irish Slang --

Banjaxed: A generally irreversable state of disrepair

Hames: A spectacular mistake

Neddy: A fool

Stall the Ball: Wait a Moment

Wrote off: Very drunk indeed

A few Irish curses --

May the seven terriers of hell sit on the spool of your breast and bark in at your soul-case

But may she still be alive till everyone’s sick at the sight of her

May the devil cut the head off you and make a day's work of your neck

May you be afflicted with the itch and have no nails to scratch with

And last but not least, some Irish proverbs --

Neither give cherries to pigs nor advice to a fool

You'll never plow a field by turning it over in your mind

A silent mouth is sweet to hear

It's for her own good that the cat purrs

Now it's your turn! Do you have some colorful sayings? Maybe something you remember your Grandma or Grandpa used to say? Please share them with us!

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Line of Scrimmage, Now in Stores!

By: Marie Force

Eleven months ago today, I got The Call that Sourcebooks wanted "Line of Scrimmage." Last Wednesday, I returned from vacation to find my box of author copies on the front porch. Over the weekend, my phone rang off the hook with friends and family telling me they had received their pre-ordered copies from On Monday, I saw it for the first time in stores! Yesterday, friends in Boston, Virigina, and California reported sightings in their local bookstores. It's been a very exciting week, to say the least! The best part is that because of the time of year, my husband and kids were with me the first time I saw the book and the first time I saw it on a bookstore shelf. It was nice to be able to share the excitement with them.

Here's a photo of my first visit to the book in a store:

Next time I'll be sure to take a moment to put on a little eyeliner and some lipstick! Here's a photo of the fabulous neighborhood my husband's last name put me in:

I'm thrilled to be next to Lori Foster, one of my favorite authors!

As we were waiting to pull into the bookstore partking lot, Rod Stewart's "You're In My Heart" came on the radio—Ryan and Susannah's wedding song in "Line of Scrimmage." Karma? I'd like to think so!

Come on back on Monday (Labor Day) for the "Line of Scrimmage" launch party where I'll be giving away two copies of the book as well as some Barnes & Noble gift cards to those who comment. Don't miss the fun!

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Idea or Inspiration?

"People sleep peaceably in their beds at night because rough men stand ready to do violence in their behalf."

by Mary Margret Daughtridge

Michelle talked about inspiration yesterday. It isn’t only writers who are asked where we get our ideas. As an artist, I’ve frequently been asked. The first time it happened, I was totally bollixed. Where did I get ideas for a painting? They’re there, the ground is littered with them. I stumble over them. As long as the physical world exists and I can see it, I’ll have ideas. How could a person who said they wanted to paint not have more ideas than they knew what to do with?

The same is true with writing. As long as there are people, I’ll have ideas for stories. I’m deeply fascinated by people—what makes them tick, what makes them change. To me essence of an idea for a story is to put two people in a situation that, in order for it to turn out happily, the people will have to grow. Like many writers, my ideas for stories often start with “what if?”

But to me the idea for a story isn’t the same thing as inspiration. I know how to turn on the idea generator for a story. In fact, like the magic spell in the Sorcerer’s Apprentice, it seems to always be on, churning out ideas that crowd me out of bed, distract me at the grocery store, and make me spend large amounts of time staring into space.

Inspiration is something else. Let me see if I can show you the difference.

The idea for SEALed With A Promise is one of the first that came to me, way back when I first began my research on SEALs. SEALs have extremely high standards, and a strong code of honor, but when they are operating, they are not using the same moral standards as middle America’s.

A the risk of stating the obvious, people in the military are taught to kill. SEALs are taught to be very, very good at it. They are also taught to lie, cheat and steal. Here are some of a SEAL's words to live by: Never fight fair. Never tell the truth when a lie will do as well. Winning is the objective, losing is acceptable, quitting is unthinkable. A SEAL is a guy who is willing to do whatever is necessary to get the job done.

What if, I asked myself, a man came to the SEALs already tough—a man whose only morality was expediency based on the need to care for himself and his mother. No stranger to violence or hardship, he was already good at lying, and stealing, and already experienced at doing whatever he had to do.

Do-Lord, looking a little like Matthew McConaughy with reddish hair, changeable hazel eyes, and tan over freckles skin appeared fully developed in my mind. A man temperamentally designed to be a hero, but with no model for heroic behavior until he met some SEALs. A man for whom concepts like loyalty to a group, honor, and accountability were novel. He was Jax’s best friend, hiding his near-genius IQ behind a good-natured smiles and country-boy charm.

Do-Lord stole my heart, and I don’t know if it was when, at seventeen, he found his mother dead of heart disease and thought about how pretty she looked in the red glow of the westering sun—like a mythic lady in a pre-Raphaelite painting, or if it was when, at ten, he stole an already-decorated Christmas tree from a display in a hardware store.

Oh yes, I knew who he was and where he came from. The idea generator would take care of that. I knew what kind of woman to match him with. But I didn’t have that spark that ignites an idea into flame. The root of inspire is from the Greek, to breathe, and it is the same word as spirit. My idea lacked that breath, that spirit makes an idea live. I waited. I wrote another book about another SEAL, Master Chief, Lonny Swales. (Lon is an absolute sweetheart.) Again, Do-Lord was a secondary character. I tried. I designed several perfectly good plots for him. I couldn’t get past thirty or forty pages.

One day a sentence popped into my mind:

Chief Petty Officer Caleb “Do-Lord” Dulaude always said if he ever saw Teague Calhoun again, he’d kill him. Do-Lord huffed a mirthless chuckle and shook his head. Wouldn’t you know fate would test his resolve when he had an M14 rifle in his hand?

Here’s the funny thing about inspiration. I can describe to you the stages of thought that led to Do-Lord. I have no idea where that sentence came from. But that was it. Do-Lord begins the book by making a truly moral decision for the first time in his life, and for the first time as an adult meets a situation that he can’t turn to another SEAL for help with. And that’s where Emelina Caddington, PhD, nerd extraordinaire, comes in. He has to trust her to have his back.

SEALed With A Promise will be on the shelves in the Spring of 2009.

So, is inspiration the same as idea for you? What makes a story come alive?

Monday, August 25, 2008

Mining for Gold

By Michele Ann Young
Those golden nuggets of inspiration. Where do author's find them? It is something I am quite often asked, and something I can't always explain. In fact, sometimes I get downright nervous about the question.

But I have been thinking a bit about it lately. Probably because I need to start a new book and I'm looking for inspiration.

Yes, I write about full figured heroines, and I certainly have lots of inspiration for that aspect of my writing. Women who make the most of their ample attributes and the men who love them are to be found everywhere, looking gorgeous and doing amazing things. But no matter what shape or size a woman is, something else must inspire me to write her particular story.

I often browse the newspapers looking for stories that touch my heart.

One such story stands out. A bunch of relay swimmers won a gold medal, only to realize afterwards that one of their team had not made a proper "touch" or something like that. The judge had missed it. These were only young girls, and they could quite easily have decided to "take the money and run." No one complained. There was no appeal by the other teams. But once the member of the team who knew she had missed, brought it to their attention, together they decided that they did not earn their medal. So, they handed it to the team which should have won. Pure gold.

That story, and it was well written by the reporter, brought tears to my eyes. I felt as if these young girls had affirmed something important. Given me hope for the future.

While there will never be an all girl's swim team in one of my books, I hope I can build that kind of strength into my characters and somehow make the reader feel that same emotion of hope.

Sadly, many of today's stories of issues facing women are not new. In The Lady Flees Her Lord my heroine's husband is abusive. It is an insidious kind of abuse, constant belittling about her weight and her eating habits, and the fact that she hasn't yet produced an heir. Often this is the most difficult kind of behavior for others to see or understand.

My heroine decides she ain't gonna take it no more. Much like her modern counterpart might do, she leaves.

Only there are no half way houses. No divorce. In fact, by leaving, she is breaking the law and her family can be in trouble if they help her. Worst of all, she has lost her chance at a loving relationship.

Or has she?

Well of course, that is all part of the story, and I do like a Happily Ever After ending, something with hope for the future.

So now I'm browsing the newspapers and looking for inspiration and wondering what sort of heroine will inspire me next.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Moving Nightmare--& Don't Cry Wolf Bright Spot!

I'm in the middle of the move from hell...ever have one of those?

Actually over the years I've had several. One time we were in the middle of nowhere when the U-Haul truck my dad was driving broke down. No fixing it. We had to wait at a service station for hours before U-Haul could deliver another truck as big as the one we had--the one with the storage above the cab even. My dad was one of these perfectionists. And so when we had loaded the truck, it was done perfectly. Now, in the middle of some small town at a gas station, we had to unload everything, and reload it---only with some big guys' help, and they did it the way they wanted to. All wrong. Heavy stuff needs to go into the part near the cab. Everything was loaded backwards.
Then another time, it was like the old days--Conestoga Wagon the middle of the mountains somewhere--hey, I was a kid...all I know is at that point we had a car and we were hauling a big U-Haul trailer. The engine began heating really bad, and again, we were in the middle of nowhere. Dad had seriously considered dumping furniture over the mountainside so we wouldn't be stranded without a working car in the middle of nowhere.
Unless I was moving into a beachside cottage *sigh*, I wouldn't wish this on anyone! :)
But the good news is, I finished final edits on Don't Cry Wolf and received an attachment with a beautiful cover. In the midst of the storms we've been having (which have been wonderful--breaking the draught and 110 degree heat), this is really the bright spot for me.

And I guest blogged on a site yesterday and received the nicest unsolicited review for Heart of the Wolf that absolutely made my day:
A comment regarding "Terry Spear - The Trials and Tribulations of Publication...And Those Most Devilish of Heroes—the Vampire", an entry at Between the Lines, was written at 8/22/2008 1:32:35 PM.
Author: Rosemarie BrungardHome Page:
I stumbled on Terry's book, Heart of the Wolf recently, and enjoyed every minute of the read. I found her writing fascinating, and very much to my liking. I loved the strong characters, and the way the hero and heroine tried to protect each other. The efforts were bumbling at times, but when it came right down to it, and when the heat was on high, both Bella and Devlyn are there and ready to step up to the plate.
One can easily understand Bella's fear of Volan, and it is a shame she isn't able to trust Devlyn with her secret, but when all the facts are out, the reader truly understands the difficulties Bella would have encountered, and the tremendous danger both she and Devlyn were surrounded by in that time. As young and not yet mature, their strength and cunning could never have been a match for Volan, but at least as adults, and with Devlyn in his full power, they finally have a chance to succeed.
As time goes on, I hope to be able to get more of Terry's great books. If the rest are as good as Heart of the Wolf, they will be on my keeper shelf for a long time!!!~Rose!~

Thanks to Rose and others like her, I hope to continue to write books she'll enjoy forever more! And now before I have to move some more...I'm off to work on Allure of the Wolf edits for a while!
Hope everyone is having a RESTFUL Sunday. :)
Terry Spear
Heart of the Wolf, Don't Cry Wolf (Spr '09), Betrayal of the Wolf, Allure of the Wolf

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Witchy Visual Inspiration

We have the sexy guys inspire us for our heroes and they definitely make wonderful eye candy, but we also need that inspiration for our heroines. We always need that good balance in our characters of personality and a good word picture to help the reader see what we see.

For me, it’s an artist, Molly Harrison. She draws these wonderful fantasy pictures of witches, mermaids and faeries that really reach out to me. And some of her witches were a great visual for me for Jazz. I have a lot of her pictures and intend to pick up more because I can see something for all of my witches in her artwork. At this rate my office will be covered with her pictures. As you can see it’s for a good reason. Some of the pictures have that snarky and quirky look that from the beginning I felt was pure Jazz and they all have that wonderful magick that can infuse an author’s writing.

What about you? What do you want to see to help you picture your heroine?

And if you want to see more of Molly’s work, head for You won’t be disappointed.


Friday, August 22, 2008

Cheater, Cheater?

By Malena Lott
John Edwards actually did a nice set-up for my blog entry today. Convincing the country that no matter how cute your face, eloquent your speech, big your bank account, happy you seem to be in your marriage to your smart wife, you can still screw things up for yourself - literally. Marital infidelity may well be the best example of sin immune to race, age or income bracket.

You see, in my November novel Dating da Vinci, my protagonist Ramona believes her late husband may have been unfaithful before he died – with his ex fiancée who broke his heart just before he hooked up with Ramona. That he may not have been completely “over” her. It doesn’t help that Monica is a gorgeous, powerful attorney.

Ramona decides she can’t completely move on until she knows the truth about Joel and Monica: why their engagement was broken off and if Joel cheated, since he was the architect on the new law firm where Monica was a partner and was spending a lot of time with her.

To make matters worse, Ramona stumbles on some research while finishing her dissertation on the language of love that says humans are actually not biologically built for fidelity. Only one mammal mates for life: the vole, a type of rodent. So that rat is monogamous and our men are rats? Nice.

So in the end, fidelity is a choice – which makes it even sweeter if a man or woman doesn’t give in to temptation and stray. It also explains why so many novels, magazine articles, self-help books and movies and songs cover the topic. Right now the biggest star from Oklahoma, Carrie Underwood, did pretty darn well for herself singing about it in, “Before He Cheats.” At least we like the idea of her taking a bat to the scumbag’s car a lot better than the common 1950s response – turning our pretty little coiffed heads in denial.

Some agents and editors get tired of infidelity in stories because it’s been done and done and done. But social mores are dealt with differently from culture to culture, from decade to decade, from person to person. So psychologically speaking, the same topic could be dealt with in hundreds of unique ways, producing unique story lines. Case in point: I just read (and loved) My Husband’s Sweethearts, by Bridget Asher, about a woman who meets her husband’s former mistresses and “sweethearts” while he’s on his deathbed. It’s a great story with a unique premise, and, to boot, Julia Roberts is set to star in the movie on the big screen.

And the way I did it – dealing with infidelity after the cheater-in-question is already deceased. Ultimately we want to know – what were the depths of our love, the level of commitment? And in books, we can solve a piece of that puzzle.

What books or movies have included the topic of infidelity that you especially (I hate to say it) enjoyed?

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Guest Blogger Katey Coffing, Ph.D. with Applying Velcro to the Writer's Chair

Hi everyone! I’m thrilled to turn over the blogging reins today to an amazing fellow author (not to mention my kick-butt critique partner) Katey Coffing, whom I love despite the fact that her high energy levels make me look like a slug most days. Not only is she a coach for women writers, many of whom she has shepherded on to publication, but she also writes lush, drool-worthy fantasy romance, earning herself a Golden Heart final last year with the sumptuous Kiss of Fate, which is currently out on submission to find a home of its own. Katey’s writing is one of my favorite escapes, and her advice is always spot-on, so I thought I’d have her over to talk shop today. She’ll be in to chat, so please say hello!

A novelist's goal is to create a tale that will enthrall her readers. Sometimes the process of creating the story engrosses the author, too, and the novel practically types itself. Unfortunately, most of the time it doesn't, and we have to painstakingly assemble the words. Sometimes writing feels like volunteering to get run over by a squad of bulldozers.

Most of us have figured out some tricks to keep ourselves going, even when the fun-seeking kid within us is shouting, "Noooo, I don't wanna!" In my years as a coach for women writers, I've discovered and shared many of these handy tricks, and here are a few.

Promise yourself a nice reward after sitting down and getting something done, whether that something is a scene, a page, or even a paragraph. Make the reward match the amount you get done (or how hard it was for you to do it). Rewards for different levels could include ten minutes to check your email or read blogs, half an hour of enjoying a favorite author's latest book, buying a new CD, or getting a shoulder and neck massage to soothe those typing aches. (If a massage therapist isn't in the budget, consider a mutual "massage reward" agreement with your spouse, a friend, or a critique partner.)

Write Out of Order
Who says you have to do Scene 5 before Scene 6, or even before Scene 27? If Scene 5 is driving you crazy, skip ahead to something that isn't. In the process of writing what comes before and after the problem section, you'll often discover the solution.

Deadlines Are Your Friend
Tell a critique partner or friend (or several of them) what you want to get done that day--and ask them to hold you to it. The potential embarrassment of reporting in empty-handed will get words flowing.

Timer Magic
A simple kitchen timer can do wonders for your determination. Set it and challenge yourself to write a certain number of words during that time. For more about how a timer can get your fingers cruising over the keyboard, see this:

If you dread filling a blank page, try writing the dialogue first. You'll end up with the bare bones of a scene you can flesh out afterwards. Plus, dialogue created this way is often snappier than what's produced during a slower, more thorough scene draft.

Writers, what else have you done to keep yourself going even after you just don't wanna? And those of you who aren't writers, I'm sure you've discovered favorite techniques to complete other "don't wanna" things, so please chime in.

Although I have client appointments today, I'll try to check in every couple of hours, and I look forward to having everyone share what works!

Goalmeister Katey Coffing, Ph.D. is a 2007 Golden Heart® finalist and a certified life coach who guides women writers to success. She delights in helping her clients complete and polish their manuscripts, create kick-ass queries and synopses, and get The Call from agents and editors. Discover more at

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

A Few Minutes with a Mare and a Witch

Hello again! This is Marla Elkhorn reporting from somewhere between Earth and—what did you say that planet was called?

Tisana: Terra Minor

Marla: Yes, that's it. Anyway, as promised, today I'm interviewing Tisana, a witch from the planet Utopia and her horse, Morgana who are characters in the upcoming romance novel, The Cat Star Chronicles: Warrior, which is due out October 1st. So, Tisana, tell me what your life was like on Utopia.

Tisana: As you said before, I'm a witch, but primarily I'm a healer, specializing in herbal medicine.

Marla: How fascinating! And where did you learn this?

Tisana: From my mother, mostly. We witches pass on our knowledge from mother to daughter.

Marla: What if there aren't any daughters?

Tisana: (laughing) Wouldn't happen! We witches only have one child who is always female!

Marla: Is that right? Amazing!

Tisana: Yes, and though we may take any lover we choose, the choice of the father is with the gods. Only the right one can impregnate one of us.

Marla: so you wait for the one?

Tisana: That is correct.

Marla: Found him yet?

Tisana: (smiling) Oh, yes!

Morgana: (snorting) Men!

Marla: What's that, Morgana?

Tisana: Careful what you ask her, she's feeling a bit mareish right now. . .

Marla: Mareish?

Tisana: Not met many mares, have you?'

Marla: Well, no, not really. . .

Tisana: Mares don't think much of men unless they're in season, and, um, she's not in season right now--can't you tell?

Morgana: No, but you always are, it seems!

Tisana: (in an aside to Marla) See what I mean? Very testy! If it had been up to her, I'd have left my dear Leo in a snowdrift!

Marla: In a snowdrift? How did that happen?

Morgana: Foolish male! Tried to escape in the middle of a snowstorm! They're all idiots!

Tisana: (patiently) Now, you know that isn't true, Morgana! You didn't think Sinjar was such a bad guy when you were in the mood.

Marla: Sinjar?

Tisana: He's a stallion—a total stud!—and one of the the funniest guys you'll ever meet!

Marla: Total stud, eh? Sounds really hot.

Tisana: Oh, he is, trust me. . . Morgana! Will you please stop snorting like that!

Marla: Better leave that alone I think . . . don't want to get kicked . . . So, Tisana, tell me more about Leo. We interviewed him and Gerald a while back, and we heard some very, um, interesting things about him, but we'd like to hear it from your perspective.

Tisana: (smiling) Well, you've met him, so you already know how handsome he is, but he's such a sweetie—playful, sexy, mysterious, one helluva fighter—you should see him on a horse with a sword—absolutely breathtaking!!! And then there are the multiple, effortless, overwhelming orgasms. . . .

Marla: (clearing her throat with an effort) Yes. I-I've heard you only have to taste him to do that.

Tisana: True, but he can do things with his, um, sword, that you wouldn't believe—has amazing control of it. . . . It's pretty . . . impressive, really. . . .

Marla: (choking just a bit before changing the subject) So, I hear you can communicate with animals?

Tisana: Yes, we had a rather large menagerie to help out on our adventure. In addition to Gerald, the squirrel, we had a dog, horses, vultures, and an otterell.

Marla: An otterell?

Tisana: Yes, they look like reptilian owls, but they speak in riddles. It nearly drives me crazy to talk with one of them, but I'm improving. My powers seem to have increased since I found “the one.” It's been an interesting side effect. Made it much easier to keep the dog from killing Gerald, by the way.

Marla: You were on a rescue mission, right?

Tisana: Yes. Leo and I had to find Rafe's sons.

Marla: Rafe?

Morgana: One of her former lovers, and a real horse's a—

Tisana: No one asked you, Morgana!—though you do happen to be right about that. . . .

Marla: (changing the subject again) And Leo told us you can set things on fire just by looking at them. Could you tell us more about that?

Tisana: That's another thing I seem to have gotten better at, thanks to Leo. I used to just start fires and ripen fruit, but now I can actually shoot fireballs. It's pretty cool, really.

Marla: (drawing back slightly) Uh, let's not demonstrate that right now . . .

Tisana: What? Don't want to watch me ripen a banana?

Marla: No, I mean the fire thing.

Tisana: (nodding) A little scary, isn't it? That's one reason why I don't broadcast that ability—probably shouldn't be telling you, actually.

Marla: (cringing) This isn't one of those things that now that you've told me, you have to kill me—is it?

Tisana: (patting Marla's hand) No, not really. Just don't tell anyone else.

Marla: I . . . think it's a little late for that—this interview is being posted live.

Tisana: Oh. . . wish I'd known that. . . .

Marla: Well, then, perhaps we'd better stop now before we let anymore cats out of the bag! (looking very relieved) So, there you have it, romance lovers! Join me in looking forward to reading more about this exciting romantic adventure in October! Hopefully, I'll have recovered by then. By the way, Tisana, is that “I will give you joy unlike any you have ever known,” thing just a line of Leo's or is it—

Tisana: (firmly) Absolutely and unequivocally true! Every last word of it!

Marla: (faintly) Oh, my. . . .

If the Wi-Fi at the dock works, I'll be able to reply to comments today, but, if not, we'll talk more when I get home on Friday. Have a great day!


Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Honing your Brand

by Danielle Jackson

At RWA National, in between wining and dining with you lovely ladies, I actually went to a few workshops--many of which were publicity, promotion and marketing focused. There was one constant idea that came up: your BRAND.

Now I'm not talking Cover Girl or Target or even Sourcebooks, Inc. YOU are your BRAND. Think about it this way--what's the one thing that stays the same in your books--even if you write a series? YOUR NAME. This is going to sound funny, but you are selling yourself along with these books. Readers like to know who's writing those books with shiny half naked men on the covers…

You should always think about how to market your brand—YOU! How do you want to represent yourself when your book is being promoted? There are a few things to keep in mind:

1) Brand Development and Placement

o Put your Name in front of the targeted audience

- Whether you write contemporary, paranormal or historical, there’s an audience somewhere that will read your book. Part of my job, and something I encourage EVER author to do is to find a target audience to focus on—once we’ve penetrated that market, we move into broader scopes and out-of-the-box ideas

2) Consistency

o It’s important, especially once you have a cover, to keep things consistent with your website and personal promotion materials. This was news to me—mainly because I know you all set up your own sites. Even once this is done, and you do have a cover, you should take a look at what is done and try to keep things similar.

o Now that most of you have covers, or an idea of what your new covers will look like, take a minute to think about how you can apply the look to your site. You still want your personal aesthetic to come through, but you also want a way for your readers to identify YOU with your work—hence using your name as a brand.

3) Have a Road Map and Strategies to Reach your Goal

o This sort of carries over with consistency—and something that all of you have started doing with this blog—you have a schedule of blogging and you all stick to it.

- On your personal blog, you should think about how often you want to blog—once a day? Once a week? Perhaps when you have a book currently on shelves you’ll update daily, but when things taper off, you’ll only blog weekly?

· This type of schedule will keep your readers aware of what to expect from you.
o Updating you website is also a part of this—make sure you update on a regular schedule as well. That way, your readers will know when to look for new reviews, or updates on your web tour schedule, or any other events that come up.

4) Remember your Publicist!!!!!!!!!!!

o This isn’t just a way for me to feel loved, hahaha—I like to know EVERYTHING that’s going on! Between the two of us (or 15+), a lot of scheduling will take place. So even if you set up a tiny guest blog or a q&a on a little blog, let me know about it!

- I pass information on to our Sales Department and they in turn go to their accounts. When they can go back to book buyers that one of you had a blog tour that lasted two months, that’s definitely a selling point.

- I also pass this info on to our Marketing Department that will create sell sheets and add the reviews to various web sources that feature reviews.

· There’s an entire company of people here at Sourcebooks and they all have a part in some way to the publication of your book and beyond!

- And of course, you never know—that review or reader comment might have struck you as scathing or God Awful, but I might find a way to make into a golden PR opportunity!

· You all of done the hardest part so far—getting published and I am proud to be a part of making your writing careers successful. Get out there and shamelessly self-promote!

That’s just the tip of the iceberg for most of this stuff—I think I could devote a blog to each bullet I put up there. RWA National was a great source of information, and as I hope this blog shows, I’ve got a ton of ideas. You know how I say to email me with any questions, thoughts, suggestions, concerns? Please do so! I’ll do my best to be on the blog during the day in case you have questions in the comment section, but… well, you know—I have brands to publicize! Expect the majority of my blogs to be in this vein—along with round ups of the great guest blogs, interviews and of course, those AMAZING reviews that will be coming your way.


Monday, August 18, 2008

The Writing Olympics

I’ve been watching the Olympics, and like everyone in Maryland, and probably the rest of the U.S.A., I’ve been cheering for Michael Phelps, who won a historic eight gold medals. He’s an amazing inspiration. At 23 years old, he’s probably spent almost half his life in the water to get where he is today.

I started thinking about the similarity between an Olympic athlete and a writer. Of course, writers don’t have to be in the same physical shape as Olympic athletes--thank God for small favors. Still, we work for years honing our craft, swimming along with everyone else in the hopes that someday, we’ll be chosen for the team. Unfortunately, our finish line is not so obvious, and if we think the judges made a mistake, we can’t lodge a protest.

Like Olympic athletes, our training never stops. There is always the next competition for which to train. Even after we’re published, we have to do everything we’ve always done--the classes, the conferences, the workshops, the reading of our genre as well as books on craft--because published authors still have to keep making the team. On top of that, we practice keeping all the other balls in the air that our new status has given us. Not only do we struggle to write the next gold-medal worthy novel, but we blog, we launch books, we jump from copy edits on one manuscript to writing the next, and at the same time write proposals for future projects. It’s a very different obstacle course.

Like anything in life, achieving a goal can be a double-edged sword. Only the well-rounded athlete/writer will succeed--the team player. I rely on my agent, editor, publisher, publicists, critique partners and above all, family and friends to help me achieve my goals. Without them, I’d be like Michel Phelps without his long-time coach or the rest of the U.S. swim team. He’d never have won that last gold medal and broken Mark Spitz’s record without them.

I’m very blessed to have an incredible dream-team working with me. I’m not the Michael Phelps of romance writing (I think Nora Roberts has that title), but I do my best to be a great team player. I try to do a little better every day than I did the day before while racing through the publishing obstacle course we all love.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

New Sister Sayin' Howdy!

Greetings! I figured it was time to take the plunge and introduce myself. Yes, my name is Sharon Lathan and I am a romance-aholic. Well, sort of! Truth is, I am one of the NBs – that is, ‘New Babes.’ Just coined that phrase and I think it fits, yes? Judi, Beth, agree? So I am not sure if my addiction is quite as profound and debilitating as the rest of ya’all, but I feel it coming on!

Seriously, I was blessed to all-too-briefly meet a number of the Casablanca gals at the Sourcebooks Author’s Dinner in SF during the RWA, and am still pinching myself over the experience. I cannot believe how wonderful you all were and how the experience, as short as it was for me, has opened my eyes. Those of you who have so encouraged me regarding the RWA will be pleased to know that I have printed the application and will be mailing it off this week! Go me!! I am very excited to get completely involved and learn even more.

And, I am hoping that my humble contributions to the Casablanca Authors' Blog will be a welcome addition. Thank you for the invite and trust. I will make every attempt to fit in! As for me, a very brief bio: I am, I think, the only Jane Austen-genre author on the blog, and the second (counting Michele Ann Young) of the Regency/Austen Fans part of Sourcebooks. I joined the Sourcebooks family last year and my first book, ‘Two Shall Become One ~ Mr. and Mrs. Fitzwilliam Darcy’ will be released on March 1, 2009! I shan’t bore you with more blah, blah about me or the series I write. All details can be read at my website: The Darcy Saga.

The point I shall make before I end this entry is that I have a completely new respect for the romance genre, and it is greatly due to you ladies here. I freely confess that even as I embarked on my own romantic, happily-ever-after ventures with the Darcys, I harbored the prejudiced belief that all ‘romances’ were flimsy and fluffy with no real meat, and thus pointless and largely a waste of paper. Please, don’t throw tomatoes! But it had been decades, literally, since I had read a romance and the last few – way back in college – were of the *gasp* Harlequin variety and they frankly bored me to tears. Then, about 4 years ago, I got turned on to Diana Gabaldon. I will tell you all that I was actually embarrassed to walk into the romance aisle, praying that none of my sci-fi/fantasy or literature friends would see me! Ok, go ahead and throw the tomatoes…I deserve it. I figured that it must have been some mind-boggling, she-lost-her-job error that placed Ms. Gabaldon’s story of time travel and history into the dreaded romance aisle. Right? Well, wrong. Ok, I get it now! Romance can have depth! Beat me over the head, why don’t you. Even more amazing is that as I get older – don’t ask – I have come to realize that there really isn’t anything wrong with wanting to read a fluffy, feel-good story where the lovers ride off into the sunset together. I may not be as old as my grandma, but I can now understand a bit more why she loved to immerse herself in light tales of sweet romance with maybe a bit of hot sex thrown in for the icing on the cake. I get it! An epiphany!

So, thanks again for allowing me to fully embrace my inner sap and smile proudly as I say that I am a Romance Novelist! My husband has been calling me Joan Wilder for the past 3 years, and now I am happy to identify. And, thanks for allowing me to join the sisterhood and feed my obsession….or find support for the recovery, not sure which.

Eustacia's Romance Corner

Eustacia’s Romance Corner is a column for romantic heroines of all genres, wishing to seek romantic, compassionate and practical advice for their problems. This week’s letters share a common thread, involving a couple of lucky behavioral standards for romantic heroines.

Dear Eustacia,

I'm a contemporary single woman recovering from my latest break-up with Mr. Wrong. My problem is the dead body that just turned up in my begonia patch. Yup, it's Mr. Wrong and he looks to be dead for 12-14 hours and I don't have an alibi since I was watching chick flicks and eating ice cream with my cat for the past 48 hours! Please give me some advice!

Dear Anonymous:

Naturally you are innocent; romantic heroines do not kill people except in self-defense, and very rarely in that instance. Have you told the investigators that you are a romantic heroine? Well, don’t worry. I am going to send you three phone numbers in a separate email because I don’t want these gentlemen inundated with calls. The first is for a brilliant, handsome, honest lawyer. He will take your case and defend you tooth and nail, believing completely in your innocence except for the times when his doubt will create tension for a hot sex scene. The second is for a handsome, brave but hardened detective, who broods a lot but has great passion for his job. He will investigate the case and will probably initially suspect that you are guilty, except for the times when his intuition that you are innocent will create tension for a hot sex scene. The third number is for a gardening expert I know who is not particularly handsome but can help you fix the damage to your begonias. The tension of being a murder suspect is uncomfortable, but it is an excellent playing field for finding true love and I have no doubt that you will do so.

Compassionately, romantically and practically, Eustacia

Dear Eustacia,
I am 18, and engaged to a very sweet boy who has been a neighbor all my life. I recently traveled by ship across the ocean to visit my maiden aunt and we were attacked by pirates. I was gagged, bound and held captive for several days before a sea captain rescued me. He is very handsome and makes my heart beat in a way that my fiancé never could. He wants to marry me so that my honor will not be questioned. How do I tell my intended? I don't want to hurt him. I am so confused.

Dear Anonymous:

I am relieved by the relative simplicity of your problem, which requires only my assurance rather than any practical advice. In my previous response, I reminded the writer that romantic heroines do not kill people. Nor do they break hearts. Therefore if fate has led you into the arms of this handsome sea captain, it is logically impossible for your fiancé truly to be “in love” with you. If he really is a “sweet boy,” he respects and admires you, he cares for you as a best friend and/or a sister, and he is marrying you out of the obligation he feels for promises made. When you tell him you are not going through with the marriage he will be surprised but secretly relieved, because he’s probably in love with some wallflower who will blossom under his affection, and the two of them will remain your close friends forever. If he is not actually a sweet boy and you have been duped by his ruse, he is not in love with you but is in fact trying to get his hands on your family’s land or money or a secret buried treasure somewhere on the estate, and when you break it off, he may try to kill you, the sea captain, or someone else you care about. A hostage situation may come into play, and I am sorry because I’m sure that you’re dead tired of being bound and gagged from that pirate incident. In this second case, rest assured that your pluckiness and your sea captain will prevail.

Compassionately, romantically and practically, Eustacia

If you are a romantic heroine and have a question for Eustacia, please feel free to submit it through Christina. Be sure to include your era, as advice may change depending on the century.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Love My Book, Please!

posted by Loucinda McGary aka Aunty Cindy

Waaaay back at the end of May our Casa publicist, the lovely Danielle told me she was ready to send out ARCs of The Wild Sight. When I read the list of places she planned to ask for reviews, I started to hyperventilate. Now, it feels like that happened another lifetime ago, even though technically it's only been 10 weeks.

Well, a few days ago, I learned that my first review has arrived! I'm so excited to take this significant step down my long road to publication. Yes, it is a happy day because this was a positive review! What a gratifying feeling to know that a total stranger read my story and "got" it.

Yes, I was SCARED SPITLESS (just like when I received the file of my cover) when I opened the email! And once again, I held my breath while I read it. Thank goodness it was both short and sweet. The review will appear in the August issue of Booklist magazine. This is the trade publication of the American Library Association, which is very exciting! I've had a lifelong love of libraries. Librarians read tons of books and I've always had a mountain of respect for them.

I won't copy the entire review here, but I will quote the gist of it:
"Northern Ireland's violent past combined with supernatural elements add an intriguing twist to this modern love story."

So my question for today is: Do you read reviews? And do they influence your book buying?

Friday, August 15, 2008

So What's Changed?

By: Marie Force

The books are in the warehouse! With those six words from our Casablanca publicist Danielle Jackson last week, my excitement level reached an all-time high. Just when I thought I couldn't be more pumped up for the launch of "Line of Scrimmage," something else happens! Now that the printed copies are in, they will begin shipping to Amazon, Borders, B&N and other outlets. Within the next few days, I might see a copy in my local bookstore. I'm starting to believe this is really going to happen!

As a card-carrying member of the Worst-Case Scenario Club, I own the handbook and according to my kids, I'm always anticipating disaster (they're starting to wise up to my disaster planning and like to call me on it, but that's another post). If there's something to worry about, I've got it covered. The country will suddenly run out of paper, a tornado will suck up the truck carrying my books and send it to Oz, or, worse yet, no one will like it. I'm starting to feel better about that last one. Booklist said, "Ryan has taken some hard hits on the playing field, but nothing prepared him for the break-up of his marriage. Now he’s throwing Super Bowl level energy into a reconciliation, and this is one game he’s determined to win. With its humor and endearing characters, Force’s charming novel will appeal to a broad spectrum of readers, reaching far beyond sports fans." That was nice!

Most of us spend years hoping and praying that one day the books we've slaved over will be published. We imagine all the ways our lives will change (come on, don't tell me you haven't pictured live-in help!) So what has really changed in the year since I got "the call?" Well, frankly, everything. Right up until I got the word that the books were printed and in the warehouse, this seemed like a far-off dream that might come true "someday." That day has now arrived, and I can assure you it's even more exciting than anything I ever imagined.

The last year has also brought a bevy of new friends, most of them my fellow Casablanca authors, who have supported me and pumped me up during the long year since the call. Meeting these talented, supportive, funny ladies has been a special gift that I never saw coming (the photo is many of the Casa gals in San Francisco with our editor, publisher and publicist). The sale of "Line of Scrimmage" also opened the door to RWA's Published Author Network (PAN) and allowed me to wear that oh-so-exciting First Sale ribbon at National. (Since I was also sporting a First Timer ribbon, I had to tell a few people who raised an eyebrow at the combination that "I was late coming to RWA, LOS was my seventh book, and I paid my dues! I swear!" LOL)

Finally, this last year has filled me with a sense of peace about my writing and my journey. It wasn't easy. In fact, the trip was often downright painful. But I'm so glad I never gave up. I'm so glad I didn't throw my hands up in defeat when my new career didn't take off as quickly as I wanted it to. I'm glad I didn't listen to those who would've told me that sports heroes are a no-no. I'm glad I kept writing while I waited to sell because the third book I wrote is now in line to go next. I'm glad I wrote my first book, the book of my heart, because it led me here. It led me to Ryan and Susannah. It led me to "Line of Scrimmage." It started me on a winding path full of twists and turns and adventures and new friends. The dream has come true, and everything has changed.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

How to Be a Heroine

by Mary Margret Daughtridge

A new-made friend (call her Darla) told me recently that reading romance novels changed her life. Needless to say, I invited her to tell me more.

Darla, a professional with advanced degrees, explained that she began reading romances several years ago because it was a way to unwind before bed and let go of the events of a stressful day. After a while, she began to notice that the heroine said things Darla wouldn’t say.

It made the heroine mad when men disrespected her. But unlike Darla, she didn’t slink away and nurse her wounds. If the hero tried to ignore the heroine or treat her as if her opinions didn’t matter, she took him on.

The heroine had a purpose and a goal and she was clear about them. She was smart and she used intelligence to achieve her goals. The heroine had a strong value system and would make sacrifices to preserve it.

At the beginning of the book the heroine might not know how to be an effective person who could make a difference, but by the end, she did—and she hadn’t made the change by taking a self-esteem course. She did it by acting like an effective person. She took charge of her reactions to events, even when she was afraid. When she made mistakes and everything went wrong, she kept going. She didn’t quit.

Darla started trying some of that. She started speaking up. She noticed that the problem with her love life wasn’t men. She hadn’t been treating men as if they had to respect her! She got rid of one, and raised her standards on any new ones. She began to use her brain—not only to do her job. She used it to think about what she wanted in all areas of her life, and to set goals. My friend started being the heroine in her own life story.

Danielle asked us a while ago why we write romance.

So here’s the answer Danielle. I write romance because, first of all, I like to create stories. It satisfies me, heart and soul. Second, the purpose of romance is entertainment, and I don't apologize for that. I believe giving people wholesome, enlivening entertainment is an honorable way to make money.

Finally, for many years I taught metaphysical principles that make lives work better. My students told me all the time that I should write a book that encapsulated my classes. So I did. A romance.

The medium is the message, according to Marshall McLuhan. I hope that while giving a reader a few hours of pleasure, and the only truly safe sex there is, through the medium of romance I make a little difference.

Writing What You Love

by Michele Ann Young

One of my favorite parts about writing stories set during the late Georgian period, known by most as the Regency, is that you get to write about the styles of the day, both as regard to fashion and life. Of course, we all know in our hearts it wasn't the most ideal time to have been alive unless you were one of the very few wealthy landowners.

But we can always imagine that we were.

I spend quite a lot of time going through what in those days were called fashion plates, to pick out just the right costume for the right event in my novels. In The Lady Flees Her Lord coming out in October I had a chance to use the outfit at the top of the blog.

This was an outfit designed for ladies to engage in one of the few sports they indulged in. If you guessed archery, you were right. It was probably the green that gave it away. And there is something "Robin Hood" about those dags at the hem and the slashes in the puffed sleeve. It just so happened that my story nicely lent itself to an archery contest, and although Lucinda did not have such a fancy outfit, one of the other ladies did.

And what about those lovely evening dresses? One does have to be careful, fashions changed from one end of the Regency to the other. This one is from 1811, right at the beginning of the Regency era. Only a slender woman would look good in this. Remember, stays were not the corsets of the Victorian times, so there wasn't much support for the bounteous figure.

And they had walking gowns, and morning gowns (to receive callers, although morning calls started in the afternoon) and they had undress gowns (what they wore before they got dressed in their morning gowns) and mourning gowns (for a family death) and half mourning and they had court dresses (which really were from the last century with hoops).

And last but not least there were Riding Habits. This one from 1815, the year Wellington won the battle of Waterloo.

A writer could have her heroine spend all day dressing and undressing if she wanted, because that is what they did in those days. It would be completely accurate. But not so interesting for the reader.

When I feel the need to play dress up, I use the equivalent of a paper doll on line.

We never even got to the gentlemen, all those lovely Darcy types and I've used up my space.

I know, I will save them for next time.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Writing--the Stress Reliever

I've been totally absentee lately what with getting a part-time job, teaching online writing courses, selling my house, trying to move, and much, much more. But through the stress of it all, one thing keeps me sane.


As soon as I'm back in the world I'm creating, I have to face all kinds of new adversity. But it's fiction. And it's fun. :) Are writers sadists? Forcing their characters through horrendous ordeals to see how they can muddle through and come out on top? :)

Whether I'm reading other authors' works or my own as I'm writing them, I love immersing myself in the stories, watching the characters grow and succeed. Adversity makes the story. :)

Have you ever wondered how authors can be so mean to their characters and still live with themselves at the end of the day? :)

Terry Spear

Heart of the Wolf, Don't Cry Wolf (coming Spring 09)

Monday, August 11, 2008

Maybe Hollywood

I got word during the RWA conference that a producer was very interested in pitching Jazz and friends as a TV series pilot or movie.

And now I’ve signed the contract for that producer to go ahead and create her own form of magic, hopefully finding just the right place to put Jazz on small or large screen.

No guarantees but that’s fine. I figure it’s always nice to be asked and to feel that much interest.

Although, I admit Fluff and Puff would really love to be stars. They consider it their destiny. :}


Saturday, August 9, 2008

My Guy: Leonardo da Vinci

If you like your heroes strong, creative and smart, I don't think you can get any better than Leonardo da Vinci. Which is why he gets top billing in my November release, Dating da Vinci.

I first started studying the real da Vinci in 2002 when I read a series of Genius books - How to Think Like A Genius followed by How to Think Like Leonardo da Vinci. Honestly, the Mona Lisa and Last Supper paintings were about all I knew about the guy up until then. So to discover that he was also a scientist, mathematician, engineer, inventor, anatomist, painter, sculptor, architect, astronomer and even event planner for god's sake, was a thrill. There seemed to be nothing the guy wasn't interested in. He carried around a notebook everywhere he went - much like writers do. (I have a copy; it's amazing.) He noted how people walked, how birds flew in the air. And, yeah, he even carved up cadavers when the nice docs would supply him some. Remember, he lived in the 15th century - and his curiousity made him one of great leaders of the Renaissance. (There was that guy Shakespeare, you know.) Even though the Church kept da Vinci in robes and oatmeal, he was skeptical and wanted proof. Yet he was also born tremendously gifted.

As a chick, I was also pleasantly surprised to learn that Leonardo was avid about fitness, was a vegetarian and was a skilled equestrian. Supposedely he was so strong he once stopped a galloping horse with one tug on the rope. Nice. So I made my modern da Vinci unabashedly hetero, a 25-year-old thinking hunk who makes all the girls swoon and sends my widow on a wonderful renaissance (awakening) of her own.

What do you like to see in your heroes? Whether you are reading them or writing them? Any real-life guys you think fit the bill?

From Somewhere On Route 66

Hey, everyone! Well, I seem to be blogging from some crummy motel on Route 66, en route an actual, honest-to-God vacation with my husband and kids. The bathroom is scary, everyone is grouchy, and the internet connection is iffy at best. So rather than muse about when the last time was that the shower here was cleaned, I'll just share with everyone a picture I posted over at Wickedly Romantic a while back. This would be the inspiration for my next hero, once my brain starts working again (yes, I just turned in my third manuscript...if you heard angelic choirs singing the Hallelujah Chorus late a couple of nights ago, that's why). And in case you wondered, my next hero is gonna be all demon!

Have a wonderful weekend, everyone!


Friday, August 8, 2008

The Cat Star Chronicles: Warror, A candid interview with Leo and Gerald

Hello, there! This is Marla Elkhorn, and I'm here today to interview Leo and Gerald, two characters in the upcoming sci-fi romance novel, The Cat Star Chronicles: Warrior, by Cheryl Brooks.

Marla: Nice of you both to come such a long way on such short notice! So, Leo, you're the one the title refers to, right?
Leo: Yes, I believe so.
Gerald: No, he isn't! It's me! I'm the great warrior!
Marla: Um, Gerald, not meaning to offend you in any way, but, aren't you a squirrel?
Gerald: Too right! And let me tell you, when there are battles to be fought and won, you need a squirrel on your side!
Marla: Uh . . . huh. I see. . . Well, Leo, you're a—a what?
Leo: Zetithian.
Marla: Well, I guess that explains the cat eyes, fangs, and the pointed ears—love the long hair, by the way! You were once a slave to Tisana's former lover, Rafe, is that right?
Leo: Yes, but very briefly.
Marla: So, you were a slave, but you became a warrior? Would you tell us about that?
Leo: I was a trained fighter long before I became a slave. Those skills were put to use when Rafe's children were kidnapped and Tisana and I had to track them down.
Gerald: I helped, too! It was snowing like crazy and there were bad guys, purple vultures, dogs, and horses—
Marla: Um, yes, thank you, Gerald! Leo, I hear you're an expert with a sword. You learned this on Zetith?
Leo: Yes.
Marla: Don't say much, do you?
Gerald: Aw, he's just being stubborn. He didn't want to do an interview with me—doesn't like me much. Says I'm hateful.
Marla: Are you?
Gerald: No, I'm not! I only throw nuts at Tisana for fun!
Marla: (placatingly) And I'm sure she enjoys it, too! Leo, would you tell me a little bit about Tisana?
Leo: (his eyes beginning to glow) She is the heroine in the story—a beautiful, powerful sorceress.
Marla: And what are her powers?
Leo: She is able to start fires with a glance of her lovely green eyes and can communicate telepathically with animals. She is also a highly skilled herbalist.
Marla: That's nice, but is she a good witch, or a bad witch?
Leo: (laughing) Oh, she is good—she is very, very good!
Marla: Why do I get the impression that you're not talking about her magical abilities?
Leo: (smiles, revealing his fangs) Oh, but I am! She is very . . . bewitching.
Gerald: Cchhrrgghh!
Marla: What was that?
Gerald: Those two! Mating all the time! Didn't matter where they were or what was going on. . . . Do you know that once she even—
Leo: (firmly) Gerald, we said we would not discuss personal matters in this interview!
Gerald: Well, you started it! “I will give you joy unlike any you have ever known.” Ha! What a line!
Leo: It is not a line! It is simply the truth!
Marla: (mutters) I think I've lost control here. So, Leo, tell me about your home planet, Zetith.
Leo: It was destroyed.
Marla: And why was that? Was it an accident?
Leo: It was an act of war on my people.
Marla: Folks must really hate you guys.
Gerald: Uh, that's not the real reason. . . .
Marla: Perhaps you could explain?
Gerald: It pains me to admit it, but these guys have got something no other male has.
Marla: And that would be . . . ?
Gerald: (grudgingly) Well . . . to have an orgasm, a woman only has to taste them.
Marla: (Fanning herself) Taste them?
Gerald: Uh-huh. Taste them—though that fluid they produce seems to work in other places, too—if you know what I mean.
Marla: (faintly) W-which part do you have to taste?
Gerald: (snickering) Which part do you think?
Marla: (gasping) Leo? Is that right?
Leo: (his lips curling into a smile) Yes, it is.
Gerald: And it's quite a part, if I say so myself.
Leo: (growling) Gerald!
Gerald: Ooo, and he can purr, too! Sounds very soothing—even to a squirrel.
Marla: (looking like she's about to cry) You can purr?
Leo: (nodding) Would you like me to demonstrate?
Marla: I'm not sure I can take that right now, but I think I understand why your planet was destroyed! Are there any more of you left?
Leo: Ah, that would be telling!
Marla: Well, there you have it, folks! Better stop now before we give away too much of the story! I can hardly wait until it comes out October 1st to read more! Next time, look for another interview with Tisana and her horse, Morgana!

Thursday, August 7, 2008

A Little Bit More About RWA...

by Danielle Jackson

Well, is there anything more to say about RWA? I know the blog has been quiet the past week or so, and now it seems most posts are about the national conference (but thank you to everyone who blogged while we were gone, and to those that blogged from the conference itself!). But I think we are all so excited to share the fun we had!

It being my first conference, I was nervous and excited at the same time. I had no idea how NICE everyone would be--you'd think at a place where not only a bunch of women were hanging out together, but women who technically are in competition with one another, it would be an estrogen overload and complete mayhem!

But I was pleasantly surprised--it was a support group for romance writers! A place where information, advice and stories were shared willingly and abundantly. What a great organization full of people who all know what the other is going through. I met so many amazing women--especially the Casablanca Authors that were able to attend!

One of the highlights of the trip for me was the Literacy Signing. I stood in line to have a book signed by Nora Roberts for my mom, but couldn't help having my picture taken with her :)

Between workshops about promotions, marketing and publicity (my notes will make up future blog posts to share the awesome info I learned as the Fall Season gets underway), meeting reviewers and editors, and having chats with you lovely ladies, the perfect ending to the weekend was the author dinner on Friday and the Sourcebooks Spotlight on Saturday Morning!

The author dinner was graciously hosted by our publisher Dominique Raccah and our editor Deb Werksman at a great Vietnamese restaurant, Ana Mandara. We had a blast sharing stories, brainstorming ideas for next year's conference in DC and eating delicious food! And of course, here's a group photo (and I know there are more out there--please send them to me, so one can be posted on!):

I've already got a million ideas about the things I've learned, and all the hopes I heard from the authors that were there, so trust me, a lot is going to happen over the next year! I hope next year in Washington DC to see more of you, and to continue to grow with Sourcebooks Casablanca!

My next few blog posts will focus on the presence of Romance on the Web, new PR/Marketing trends, and what we can all do to make the most of the limitless resource that is the internet. I look forward to hearing your thoughts on some of the things I found out, and some ongoing research I've been doing since I started working with all of you!

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

The Unexpected

This year at the Romance Writers of America conference, I really had no idea what to expect except terror. I was presenting the Golden Heart to the next Single Title winner and I knew I’d either stutter, mess up her name, fall, or do something equally embarrassing. Reading aloud terrifies me. I think it’s a dyslexic thing. I have no problem reading silently, but reading out loud is the stuff nightmares are made of.

I flew into San Francisco a couple of days before the RWA conference and began trying to acclimate to the time zone. The day or two before RWA has become a bit of a mental vacation for me. It’s a time I can be by myself, have my own bathroom, and not be responsible for a blessed thing except my writing and me.

This year, I was at the tail end of my deadline and was at the point where everything in the story converged. The characters, the subplots, and the tension drew together and the manuscript seemed to write itself. The first few days of jetlag were great. I awoke at an insanely early hour, which was three hours earlier than the insanely early hour I already trained myself to awaken. I’d get up and write in my pajamas until I was sure the coffee shop in the Marriott was open. By the time I got coffee, I’d already been working for four hours. My slightly bijou hotel room contained nothing but a bathroom, a bed, and a cute little upholstered chair with a swiveling desktop the perfect size for my notebook computer. Attached to the hotel was an amazing restaurant coincidentally enough named after my heroine, Annabelle. Annabelle’s had fabulous food. After a nice nap, I’d go down for a late lunch, just me and my MacBook Air, and I’d combine my two favorite activities: eating and writing.

The staff at Annabelle’s quickly got used to me camping out at my favorite table between one in the afternoon and five. Having spent more time waiting tables than I care to admit, I was always asked if they minded, tipped well, and left before the dinner crowd arrived.

Annabelle’s and my room at the Mosser Hotel were two of the most writer friendly places I’d seen in a long time. I had discovered a writing nirvana.

In the three days I’d cocooned myself in my writer’s nirvana, I’d written about 8,000 words, and when it came time to join the fun of RWA, I never expected to wish I could just go back to my room and finish my book.

The other thing I never expected was to make new friends. I usually hang around with the same crowd, and yes, I saw them as well, but I’d run into people I knew slightly from one of my writers’ groups and after one drink, we were fast friends. They were great about dragging me along with them when I wanted to go back to my room and write. And thank God—they talked me into attending the literary signing. After about an hour, I walked through the K’s and saw Romeo, Romeo in book form for the first time! My Advance Readers Copies were stacked on the table on either side of my name. I almost fainted from shock—okay, maybe that isn’t the exact truth, I think I may have screamed.

I never expected to attend the book signing at all, and especially not as a signer! I have to thank Virginia Kantra (who is with me in the picture below) and Stacy Kayne for being so welcoming and lovely to a total newbie who by a quirk of fate was shocked and sandwiched between them.

The other unexpected thing was the fun I had with all the Casa Authors. Some of us had never met before and it took all of about 30 seconds before we were bonding. Sourcebooks, Inc. whisked us away from the hotel in limos to a beautiful restaurant where we were wined and dined. The food and booze were nice but the best part of it was the camaraderie that sprung up almost instantaneously. Now we’re not just Casa Authors, we’re more like Casa Sisters. Dominique Raccah, our publisher and CEO of Sourcebooks, Deb Werksman, our editorial manager and, Danielle Jackson, our publicist were so welcoming, we were all made to feel a part of the Sourcebooks family.

Finally, the end of the conference drew near, and as my good friend Michelle always says with her wonderful British accent, I was quite knackered.

Saturday, after the rehearsal for the Awards Ceremony, I went back to my room and my husband listened to me whine about being tired. He dressed in his best suit and helped me with all the snaps and zippers on my evening gown while I peppered him with questions like “Does this dress make me look fat?” I really wasn’t nervous which defies logic and got up in front of 2,000 people and read aloud, from a Teleprompter no less. With the exception of someone gluing the winner’s card to the envelope, presenting the Golden Heart for Best Single Title Contemporary Manuscript went well. There was no stuttering, nerves, nausea, shaking, or falling--there was only me and Susan Seyfarth on that stage, Susan making her acceptance speech, and me remembering mine and the unexpected and amazing things that have happened to me this year.