Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Launch Party Extravaganza! Part 1

posted by Loucinda McGary aka Aunty Cindy and Cheryl Brooks

Yes, it's true! We have FIVE great books being released in October! So many that it will take us TWO FULL DAYS to properly launch them all!

Of course there will be TONS OF FUN! Lots of prizes! Silly and serious moments as our authors share blurbs, reviews and intriguing tidbits of their new releases.

So without further adieu, LET'S GET THIS PARTY STARTED!

The Wild Sight: An Irish tale of deadly deeds and forbidden love by Loucinda McGary

Aunty Cindy: My debut novel is a romantic suspense with paranormal elements. I'm tickled pink that it is the first romantic suspense in the Casablanca line and I'm even more thrilled that it is getting rave reviews, including a starred review from Publishers Weekly!

Here's the blurb from my website (http://www.loucindamcgary.com):

Since he was a wee lad, Donovan O'Shea possessed a gift of clairvoyance that allowed him to see and hear people and things that others could not. Viewing his ability as a curse he could not control, Donovan fled to America, but now after fifteen years, he has been forced to return to the family homestead in Northern Ireland to handle his ill father's affairs. Decades earlier, Donovan's mother disappeared into the encroaching fens and was never seen again. Now the same fens are offering up secrets, both ancient and recent, and restoring a terrible legacy that just may drive him mad. And if this is not trouble enough, a beautiful woman walks into his life, claiming to be his half-sister.

Rylie Powell never knew her real father. Her mother would only say he was a charming Irishman who seduced her, married her, and then abandoned her and his baby daughter. But after her mother's death, Rylie finds tantalizing clues about her father that send her off to Northern Ireland and an archeological site on Dermot O'Shea's property, the man listed on her birth certificate as her father.

  • Did Dermot O'Shea father both Donovan and Rylie?
  • What is Donovan's connection to the Celtic High King Niall of the Nine Hostages?
  • And what secret do the fens hold that invites murder?
Here are a couple of things Publishers Weekly said about The Wild Sight:

"McGary brings elements of the supernatural into this smashing romantic suspense novel... [she] never shortchanges the sizzling romance between Rylie and Donovan as she weaves in ancient legend and recent murders, building to a dramatic, memorable conclusion."

From Cheryl Brooks:

I'm really excited about the second book in my series, The Cat Star Chronicles: Warrior! It's gotten some pretty good reviews, including
four stars from Romantic Times!

"This second in Brooks' Cat Star series once again presents a sexy and fascinating hero. It also introduces a strong heroine with some interesting psychic powers. The animals lend a light and humorous tone, and the ending is nicely blood free. It certainly leaves the reader eager for the next story featuring these captivating aliens."

And from the press release:

Warrior will ignite passion and tempt readers to follow Tisana, a legendary healer and witch with the power to control fire and communicate with animals, as she finds herself suddenly caring for a beaten slave, owned by her former lover, Rafe. Alone in the middle of winter, this mysteriously gorgeous being warms her heart—and her bed.

Instantly attracted to this independent and intriguing witch, Leo decides to show her what the warriors of Zetith are famous for. Their passion is indescribably palpable from the very beginning!

With an exciting adventure to help Rafe find his kidnapped children, Tisana and Leo continue to explore their deepening sexual attraction and growing love. An amusing cast of animal characters that only Tisana can speak to, Brooks takes readers on an amazing ride of humor, swordfights and the best sex in the galaxy…


What starts out so innocently as a healer/patient scenario quickly turns into an inferno of lust with the most exotic description of Leo's attributes that I have had the pleasure of reading about in any male species. The old adage, "If it smells like a rose it must be a rose", well that's perfectly true here and let's just say, "Damn.........I need a bib"!

Our author has given us a sci-fi tale of true love, hot sex and even hotter orgasms. A magical story of hope, love and devotion so deep that to lose that which you love so much would mean the snuffing out of your own life like the wind blowing out a candle. Kudo's for the Snap, Snap, Sizzle, Sizzle that will leave you panting for more.

I think that's my favorite one so far!

So, join in the fun! Post a comment and win a book! I'll pick my favorite comment and award a copy of Slave and Warrior to the most eloquent writer out there!

And Aunty will bring out her handy dandy random number generator and pick a winner for a copy of The Wild Sight!

Don't be shy! Join us as we celebrate the launch of our GREAT OCTOBER RELEASES! Tell us what you think makes for a great party.

Monday, September 29, 2008

"Fan Fiction" Appeal

by Danielle Jackson

Ok, ok, worst blog title EVER, but I wanted to let everyone know about a fun new contest Dominique, Linda and I came up with after a discussion at RWA.

Some might think we’re crazy for voluntarily offering up characters to a fan fiction contest, but fan fiction is quickly becoming a growing “industry” of its own in publishing. I think the best example we have of it happens to be one of Sourcebooks claim to fame—Jane Austen Sequels. As the #1 Austen Sequel Publisher in the country, fan fiction, in almost every form, has become a great new genre that Sourcebooks is proud to excel in!

Below you’ll find the guidelines and contest information—tell all your friends! Even if they don’t submit, I think this is a very commendable new way to promote a book (just LOOK at what the grand prize winner gets!), and you know I’ll let you all know how it goes!

Until Next Time,


Give us your best HEX!

A Fan Fiction Contest with Linda Wisdom

Ever wondered why Jazz and Nick argue so much? Have you imagined a hilarious scenario with Irma? And I’m sure you’ve thought up a ton of escapades with Fluff and Puff! Why not write your very own Hex Fan Fiction piece?

Linda Wisdom and Sourcebooks Casablanca are pleased to present an exciting contest—Tell us your own short story starring the characters from 50 Ways to Hex Your Lover and October 1 release, Hex Appeal!

Rules (follow them or we might kick you out of the Witches Academy!)

  1. Choose any character you like and give them an original story!
  2. 1500 words maximum, sent in a Word Document or in the body of the email

Erotica is ok, but nothing too scary (no bestiality, necrophilia, pedophilia; no slander of public people; no black magic; no Wiccan or black magic spells, cursing in the regular sense is okay—we just want to have as much fun as possible!).

  1. Send your story to Linda’s publicist, Danielle Jackson, at danielle.jackson@sourcebooks.com, no later than 5:00pm CST on October 25, 2008. (All stories submitted will become the property of Sourcebooks, Inc. to avoid copyright complications. Please email Danielle with any questions about this.)
  2. The Winner, chosen by Linda, will be announced on her Myspace page the morning of Halloween!

So what do you get if you win? 2 runners up with received autographed copies of the first two books in the series, 50 Ways to Hex Your Lover and Hex Appeal.

The Grand Prize Winner will also receive the autographed copies, AND the winner’s name will be used as a character in the fourth book in Linda’s Hexy series, out in October 2009!

We look forward to your stories! Good Luck!

Sunday, September 28, 2008

A Chat With A Real Character

By Robin Kaye

Hi, I’m Robin Kaye, author of Romeo, Romeo, coming out November 1 from Sourcebooks, Casablanca, and Too Hot To Handle, due out in the spring of 2009. I thought it would be fun to visit my favorite restaurant, in my favorite place, Brooklyn, NY, and talk to one of my favorite characters. Believe me when I say Vinny DiNicola is a real character.

When I arrived, I was shown to the back dining room of the restaurant. It was 2:15, after the lunch rush but well before the diner crowd would show. I waited for the owner of Park Slope’s best Italian restaurant--DiNicola’s.

Vinny DiNicola rushed in carrying coffee and a plate of biscotti. His son must have told him of my weakness for biscotti and espresso. I’m just glad he didn’t come bearing cannoli – that would have been my downfall.

Vinny: I’m sorry I took so long. I had to finish… (he waved his hand as if swatting away the rest of the sentence) I’m here now. What can I do for you?

Robin: I want to talk to you about Nick and Rosalie.

Vinny: (His unibrow rose) Why you interested in them?

Robin: I wrote a book about them a while ago called Romeo, Romeo and I just wanted to get your take on their relationship.

Vinny: A book? Like you get in a library?

Robin: Or a book store. But yes, I wrote a romance.

Vinny: About Nick and Rosalie? Who else is in it?

Robin: Pretty much everyone Nick and Rosalie are close to.

Vinny: (Smiling widely) You put me in that book?

Robin: Of course I did. You gave some great advice to Nick in Romeo, Romeo and even Mike in my next book, Too Hot To Handle. You were a real player in both their relationships. What I want to know is how you got so good at all this.

Vinny: You sayin’ I ain’t real smart?

Robin: No, not at all.

Vinny: (He puffed out his rather large chest) It don’t take an Einstein to figure out a few things about women. I’ve been studying them all my life…especially Italian women. They’re a breed all their own.

Robin: You seemed to know Nick and Mike were in love long before they did. How?

Vinny: I know my boys. I’ve known Nick all his life. He’s my cousin. And I knew Mike since before he could shave. Not much gets by me. Besides, there were all the typical signs.

Robin: For instance?

Vinny: You askin’ me for an example? Okay, one day Nick found out Rosalie was workin’ late, and it sounded like she’d had a really crappy day, so he came here to get her a nice dinner. Rosalie loves my food. But usually, if some chick he was datin’ had a bad day, he was either the reason for the bad day, or he was runnin’ like hell in the opposite direction. He sure as hell wasn’t gonna spend time trying to make her feel better."

Robin: Are you telling me that Nick was-

Vinny: A prick? No. Well, not unless you were one of his bimbo girlfriends. Then, yeah, I guess he was. See, Nick likes women--he just always went for the kind of women you don’t marry. Until he met Rosalie.

Robin: What was so different about Rosalie?

Vinny: First thing was, she didn’t seem to like him much. (He sat back, crossed his arms and smiled) ’Course, she didn’t recognize him either. She thought he was one of his mechanics, and he let her think that. (Vinny shook his head in disbelief.) He actually thought she fell for it. I told him no nice Italian girl sleeps with a guy without knowin’ his first, middle and last name – at least not more than once.

Robin: He lied to her.

Vinny: Maybe Father Francis would say so, but is it really a lie if you don’t correct someone’s false assumption?

Robin: Yes.

Vinny: (Shrugged) Yeah, that’s Father Francis’ take on it, too.

Robin: Back to what was different about Rosalie.

Vinny: (Slicked back his thinning hair) Yeah, okay. She didn’t want to get married and she gave him the first date talk. Right here at this very table in fact.

Robin: The first date talk?

Vinny: You don’t know much about this, do you? I hope your book doesn’t suck. I mean, shouldn’t you know this shit since you wrote it and everything? No offense.

Robin: (I almost spit out my coffee when I started laughing. Vinny just watched me the way a little boy does when he can’t figure out if he’s going to get a swat upside the head or a pat on the back) No offense taken. I know what happened, I just want you to tell everyone in your own words.

Vinny: Oh, sure. (He smiled his cocky grin, sat a little straighter, and puffed out his chest while holding in his gut. If he were a peacock, he’d be strutting with his feathers fanned for the world to see.) Oh yeah, she told him in no uncertain terms that she liked being single, she liked havin’ her own place, she liked doin’ what she wanted to do when she wanted to do it, and she didn’t need a man to tell her how to live her life. In other words, she gave Nick the same speech he’d givin’ women for years. But she did it better. Nick told me if he hadn’t been so shocked, he’d have taken notes. Her style was ingenious.

Robin: When did you know things had gotten serious?

Mona DiNicola entered the dining room and gave me the once over. She brought an espresso pot over and refilled our cups.

Mona: I can answer that one. I suspected when Nick brought her to dinner. He never brought his women here. Not since he was a kid. It’d be like bringing a girlfriend to meet your family. Which we are. (Mona sat on Vinny’s lap and wrapped her arm around his neck) Family, that is. (She fluffed her bleached-blonde hair with her other hand, and then inspected her nails) I knew for sure the day Nick called us from the hospital when Rosalie had pneumonia. He asked me to go grocery shopping and bring food to Rosalie’s apartment. He stayed to take care of her. Nick never cared for anyone but his family. I knew then.

Vinny: (Laughing) Yeah, but he was such a putz, it took him a couple months to figure out. It wasn’t until she dumped him that he knew, maybe even longer. He’s a stubborn son-of-a-bitch.

Robin: How did they get back together?

Vinny: I taught him how to grovel.

Mona: (Mona rubbed Vinny’s back and kissed him on the cheek) He’s real good at groveling. Aren’t you, Vin?

Vinny: Shit, Mona do you gotta tell the whole world? (He wrapped his beefy arm more tightly around her and if I’m not mistaken, gave her a pinch. I didn’t see exactly where his hand went, I just noticed she jumped a little on his lap. Vinny, obviously pleased with the result, smiled) I gotta say, Nick must have done somethin’ right, since he got Rosalie back. Considerin’ how bull headed they both are, I must be a feakin’ genius of a teacher.

Mona: Or you’re just the leading authority on groveling, and you imparted your knowledge to your favorite cousin.

Vinny: (Winked at his wife and waggled his unibrow.) Eh, you been happy all these years, and it ain’t just because I know how to grovel. Matter of fact…(he checked his watch)…we got somewhere we need to be. Don’t we, Mona?

Mona: Yeah, we sure do. (Her voice was breathless) If you don’t need anything else from us, we’d better take off.

Robin: (Shaking her head. It’s not often you find people married for almost 20 years and still be so obviously in love) Thank you for all your help, and have a nice afternoon.

Vinny and Mona: We will. (In stereo)

I gathered my bag and left them canoodling at the table. Obviously, Vinny imparted a few more pearls of wisdom to Nick. Mona and Rosalie both look at their man the same way. As if they’re looking for an excuse to drag him into a private place just to get their hands on him. I found myself walking briskly back to the hotel where my very own Domestic God waited for me. We had plans to go to DiNicola’s for dinner…I planned to make it a late one.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Silly Saturday Fun

Posted by Christina Harlin

Sexy Scene Mad Lib

Oh, it’s a lazy Saturday, and I can’t think of a single fascinating thing to say. So we’re going to play a game! Everyone knows how to do a Mad Lib, right?

Write down an answer for each of the following word types requested.

Then, go to the comments section and copy and paste my skeleton text from the first comment box into your own word processor.

Fill in the corresponding numbered blanks with your answers.

No fair peeking at the skeleton text first! It’s not a real Mad Lib unless you don’t know what’s coming.

This is not homework, so don’t feel pressured. If you decide to play and come up with a good entry, please do share by posting your personal rendition in the comments section! I have posted one already that was completed by a friend of mine, and I thought it turned out pretty well.

Here is the list of words for filling in the blanks:

(1) A room in your house
(2) A piece of furniture
(3) Sexy adjective
(4) Type of shoe
(5) Number
(6) Color
(7) Clothing accessory
(8) Plural body part
(9) Sexy adjective
(10) Article of clothing
(11) A piece of furniture
(12) Body part
(13) Past-tense verb
(14) Plural measure of time
(15) A public place
(16) Outdoor activity
(17) Adjective
(18) Luxury item
(19) Non-luxury item
(20) Sexy adjective
(21) Sexy adjective
(22) Sexy adjective
(23) Shared activity
(24) A different shared activity
(25) A state of emotion
(26) Adjective
(27) Body part
(28) A group of people (such as a book club)
(29) Body part
(30) Sexy adjective
(31) Plural measure of time
(32) Body part
(33) Body part

Friday, September 26, 2008

The Wild Sight Excerpt

posted by Loucinda McGary aka Aunty Cindy

I'm in the midst of a blog tour to promote the release of The Wild Sight, and I've noticed that a preponderance of questions and comments center around my hero. Okay, I get it. He's a tall, dark and handsome hunk with an adorable Irish accent. What's not to love?

But to be fair, my heroine has a certain charming appeal too, and she's definitely a match for my hunky hero. Here's a brief excerpt from Chapter 1 when my heroine first comes on the scene:

P.S. And before you ask, yes, an Irishman (and most all Europeans) can pick out an American with one look at their clothes (the tennis shoes are a total giveaway).
Rylie Powell parked her rented car in front of a store with a chipped sign that proclaimed “Dry Goods and Hardware.”

She stared across the street at the window illuminated by two neon signs. The yellow one featured a stylized Irish harp with the word “Harp” written below. The dark blue one simply said “Guinness.” No other distinguishing signs hung on the door or window, but none was needed.

The manager of her B&B in Dungannon hadn’t been kidding when she said the village of Ballyneagh was small. The long wooden structures on either side of the badly paved road were divided into four businesses. The pub was one of the center stores across the street, situated between a nameless barbershop and Brigit’s Bakery. She had passed a scattering of a dozen stone cottages right before the line of shops, and through the growing twilight, she could see four more houses beyond the bakery.

Snagging her purse off the floor in front of the passenger’s seat, Rylie shoved the car key into one purse pocket and pulled her lipstick from another. Three weeks ago, she’d never heard of this place, never guessed that it existed. Two days ago, she’d flown across an entire continent and an ocean to get here. Then yesterday, she’d struggled to drive on the wrong side of the roadway over endless wet miles of country lanes in search of this little scrap of a burg and its no-name pub. All this effort so she could confront the man who had walked away from her and her mother almost twenty-five years ago.

The owner of the pub, her father, Dermot O’Shea.

She peered into the rearview mirror to apply her lipstick and gave an inward sigh. Why the hell was she worried about how she looked? She wasn’t here to seek his approval. More like, to rub his nose in the fact that by shirking his responsibilities as a father, he’d missed out. But that wasn’t really the reason either.

For as long as Rylie could remember, there had been a gap in her identity that went far beyond using her stepfather’s last name. In the six months since losing her mother to cancer, she had become consumed with unraveling the riddles of who she really was and where her roots lay. Riddles she grew convinced only her biological father could answer. Ghosts only he could put to rest.

At least the rain had dissipated to a drizzle. She flipped up the hood of her neon yellow windbreaker, the one she wore when jogging, and got out of the car. Dashing across the two-lane road, she pulled open the heavy door and stepped inside the pub. She folded back her hood and pulled her long hair free while her eyes adjusted to the dim interior.

Slowly, the large room came into focus. A long, gleaming wooden bar hugged the wall closest to the front door and a dartboard hung in the far corner. The opposite wall had four high-backed booths built into it, three of them currently occupied. A half dozen round tables were arranged in the center of the room, all empty at the moment. Unlike the bars Rylie had ventured into in California, this place had a surprisingly homey atmosphere in spite of a lingering odor of cigarette smoke.

Eyes now accustomed to the gloom, she consciously straightened into her “walking tall” posture, though at five-foot two-and-a-half inches tall was a relative term. She approached the bar. The two elderly men lounging against the polished wood, glasses of dark brew in hand, gave her openly appreciative looks, which she patently ignored.

The bartender bustled over, a gap-toothed grin on his ruddy face. “What’ll it be, darlin’?”

Rylie studied his middle-aged countenance for a moment before she answered, “A Coke.” Then, when he picked up a glass she added, “With ice.”

“To be sure,” the man said in the musical brogue that Rylie’s ears were still not quite attuned to. “’Tis how all you Yanks like it. Right enough?” He didn’t wait for her reply, but continued with a steady stream of talk that most everyone she had encountered in the past two days seemed adept at doing. “So what part of the States are you from, luv?”

Rylie could feel every eye in the place staring as the bartender plunked the fizzy beverage in front of her.

“And what would bring a pretty wan such as you to the middle of bloody nowhere such as this?”

The bartender chuckled at his own wit while Rylie sipped through the thin red straw and studied him. Short and paunchy, with thinning red hair faded to gray around his temples, he looked nothing like the few aged snapshots she had of her father.

“I’m from California,” she said, taking another sip of soda. “And I’m looking for someone.”

“I’d have guessed California.” The bartender spoke the name in five syllables, his blue eyes sparkling flirtatiously. “For you look just like a movie star, don’t ya know. And as for lookin’ for someone, you’ve come to the right man. I know everybody round these parts.”

“I’m not a movie star,” Rylie demurred. The skycap at the Belfast airport had said the same thing. She hadn’t cut him any slack either, and he was much younger and better looking than the bartender. “And I’m looking for the owner of this place.”

“Well, then, ‘tis indeed my lucky day!” The chunky man exclaimed. “For I’m the owner of this fine establishment.” He made a courtly little bow. “Gerry Partlan at your service.”

A panicky spurt of disappointment shot through Rylie’s veins. “I thought Dermot O’Shea owned this bar.”

Gerry Partlan’s smile dimmed just a little. “Yes, Dermot did own the place until a couple of months ago, though he’d taken sick back in June. When it came clear that he couldn’t work any more, his son and daughter and I took over as partners. We did a fair amount of sprucin’ the place up, and we’ve only just reopened at the start of this month.”

The glut of information made Rylie’s head spin, but when the man paused for breath, she jumped in with the first question she could form. “Dermot O’Shea’s son and daughter live here?”

Her interruption of his narrative brought a small crease between Gerry Partlan’s bushy red eyebrows. “Not exactly, no. His daughter, Doreen lives over in Armagh City, and Donovan claims to be here only long enough to settle Dermot’s affairs, though it’s taken him all the summer and now most of the fall. That’s himself sittin’ over in the corner just there.”

Aware that she continued to be the center of attention, Rylie shifted her gaze in the direction the bartender indicated. In the far corner at a table she hadn’t noticed before, a figure sat shrouded in shadows.

“Ho, Donovan, ya’ lucky stiff!” Gerry Partlan called out before Rylie could stop him. “This lovely lady wants a word with you.”

Taking his time, the man rose and walked toward them. Rylie’s first shock was at his height, probably a foot taller than she was. But the second and far bigger shock was his age. He was no boy, and appeared to be in his early thirties, several years older than her. She had expected to learn that she had more half-siblings, but she assumed they would be younger like her two teenaged half-brothers, Jamie and Justin Powell. That her father might have had children before he met her mother had never entered Rylie’s realm of possibilities.

Neither had the prospect that her half-brother would be so good-looking. Her eyes bulged and her mouth went cottony at the tall man’s approach. Black jeans and a dark blue sweater emphasized his lean physique. His closely trimmed dark hair and sculpted black brows framed sapphire blue eyes. He had a straight nose and defined cheekbones. A five o’clock shadow darkened his squarish jaw and the lower half of his face. While Rylie gaped, he extended a long-fingered hand with neatly clipped nails.

“I’m Donovan O’Shea.” His deep voice contained only the slightest hint of a brogue, the third shock in less than a minute. “Do we know each other?”

“I--You’re American?” Rylie gasped.

When Donovan O’Shea smiled down at her, twin lines ran from the middle of his cheeks to each side of his chin and made him look even more appealing.
“Yes, naturalized eight years ago, though I’ve lived there for fifteen.” Smile fading, he dropped his hand back to his side. “I’m sorry, but if we’ve met before, I’m afraid I don’t remember.”

“Oh, no!” Rylie felt a blush rising up her neck toward her face. “We haven’t met. I’m Rylie Powell.” Self-consciously, she stuck out her own hand.

“Charmed.” Donovan O’Shea smiled again, his teeth even and white.

He clasped Rylie’s hand in his much larger one and gave a single firm shake. Even that brief contact spiked Rylie’s awareness and intensified her blush. Not good. Seriously not good. Such things weren’t supposed to happen between siblings, but then brothers weren’t supposed to have such killer smiles.

“I--Can we talk, Mr. O’Shea?” Her voice squeaked in spite of her efforts to control it.
Who are some of your favorite romance heroines and why? Please share with us in the comments! And if you'd like to read more excerpts from The Wild Sight while you wait for your own copy, please join my Yahoo Newsletter:

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Thursday, September 25, 2008

Ready to Take a Risk?

By: Marie Force
I just got back from a conference in Phoenix put on by the company I work for by day, a membership organization a lot like RWA only we support government finance professionals rather than romance writers. Our conference was on internal control & fraud—not how to do it but how to find it and stop it. I enjoy this annual conference because I find the stupid schemes people try to pull off and think they'll get away with to be endlessly entertaining. Anyway, I met a guy named Greg from Atlanta who said something that really got me thinking. After the conference, Greg and his girlfriend were heading to Sedona for a few days. One of the things they planned to do there was a hot air balloon ride. Greg had never done this before and wasn't sure he really wanted to. "I'm not opposed to the height," he said. "I'm opposed to the risk." Spoken like a true auditor!

However, his comical comment got me thinking about all the risks each of us had to take to get to the place we're at today—with either books on the shelves or books working their way to publication over the next year. For many of us, just sitting down to write the book in the first place was a big gamble. Can I? Can't I? If I do, will anyone like it? Will it ever sell? It was a big risk to put ourselves and our work out there for consideration by industry professionals. Do you remember sending that first query and hoping you'd be one of the lucky ones snapped up by the first agent you queried? Most of knew we were in for a lot of rejection, but we took the risk anyway. How does one ever prepare for the sheer volume of rejection we face in this business? Just like no one can adequately prepare you for the impact of having a child, rejection is something you have to live through to fully appreciate.

I'm amazed by how many people are afraid to take any of these risks. They say they've always wanted to be a writer, but haven't actually tried it. I ask why not? Unlike medicine or law, you don't need an advanced degree. A pen and a pad of paper works just as well as a computer if that's all you have handy. I've also been amazed by people who ask me how to get published. My first question is usually, what do you write? To which the answer is most often, I haven't written anything yet. Hmm, well, it's hard to publish something that doesn't exist. Nora Roberts says it best: You can't edit a blank page. Amen.

I took the risk. My Casa sisters took the risk. We committed parts and pieces of ourselves to stories that we then put forth so they could be rejected and reviewed. We thickened our skin and refused to give up. We wrote new things and took new risks. I took a risk by writing a book about a subject outside my comfort zone—football—and that book turned out to be my ticket into the club.

Unlike my auditor friend, I'm okay with the risk. I'm not, however, all that wild about heights. How about you?

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

How To Write a Romance

by Mary Margret Daughtridge

The other day an invitation came to participate in a writer’s conference. Me. I’m still getting used to being a writer, and suddenly they want me to tell aspiring writers how to do it.

I’ll never forget the day I decided to write a romance. I had read a million of them, but I had no idea where to start so I typed into my browser: How to write a romance. No, scratch that. The story goes back further than that.

I have a little voice that talks to me in my head. Which is different from the voice with which I talk to myself in my head, if you know what I mean. I was reading a romance—happily, I don't remember what it was—and the little voice said, I could write a better book than this.

I snorted. “Lots of people say that kind of thing, but I never expected to hear such hubris from you. You’ve done enough writing to know it isn’t easy.”

In that unemphatic tone it uses, the little voice countered, I didn’t say it was easy. I said I could do it.


Time passed. A week, a month, a year—I don’t know.

One day I was on my way to the kitchen to fix a cup of tea. I was in the doorway between the dining room and kitchen. In my hands I carried a romance that was so good I literally couldn’t put it down, and my little voice matter-of-factly observed, I could do this.

“Do what?”

I could write a book like this.

I looked down at the book in my hands. I had one of those moments of preternatural clarity. I still remember the hot yellow puddle of sunlight on the white kitchen counter, and the jingle of the tags on the dog’s collar, and the fast-elevator-drop of my stomach. The thick linseed oil smell of this painting drying on the easel.

In my experience, most of life’s turning points seem to be visible only in the rearview mirror of our lives. We recognize the fateful moments of choice only once they have passed. But in that particular instant of clarity, I knew. I knew I could refuse to listen, and my life would go on pretty much as it had. And the little voice would not mention writing romances again. Later if I tried to change my mind, it would be too late. The boat would have sailed without me.

I’m not trying to say until that moment I had never considered writing fiction. I had. I had wished over and over that I could, and in my spare time I entertained myself by filling yellow legal pad after legal pad with character sketches, and descriptions, snippets of dialogue, short stories, musings about suppose a person had this problem and they met a person who… But writing fiction wasn’t even anything as legitimate as a hobby—it was more like a secret vice.

And I had written in my professional life. Reams and reams of utterly forgettable stuff, that any time I injected one iota of humor or personality, or said what I thought the way I actually thought it, someone would point out the lack of “professional tone.”

But in that space between one room and the next, between ticks of the clock, my voice stopped me, and said, I can do this. I understood it meant I could write my funny run-on sentences and my twisty compound words and my relishment (my dictionary says there is no such word as relishment) of human foibles and my love of seeing events through the eyes of the dogs as well as the humans—I could do it all—I could write my way and it would work.

I described the moment to another writer friend and he said, “Oh. You found your Voice.”

It was more like I finally listened to my Voice. But I'm no pushover. I said, “Okay. Now prove it.”

And that’s how come I sat down at the computer one day and typed into the browser: how to write a romance.

There's more to the story about how I wrote my first novel. Tune into my next blog. In the meantime, has there been a turning point in your life? A moment when you knew...?

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Coming To Your Local Bookstore

by Michele Ann Young
Some people say the number thirteen is unlucky. But it is thirteen more days to October 1st, the day my novel, The Lady Flees Her Lord, is on the shelves. So I like the number thirteen.

With the release just around the corner, I thought you might like a sneak peek. I had a bit of trouble picking an excerpt, so I hope you like this one. You will also find part of the opening chapter on Amazon, where you can pre-order, should you feel inclined. Or you can wait until it is in your local bookstore

Yankee Romance Reviews had this to say about The Lady Flees Her Lord...

Our emotions are played like a violin with endearing words, breath taking scenes and a virtuous sense of right and wrong. The authors writing style is highly comparable with Jane Austin but with more of today's romance mentality. Lush and loving, heart wrenching beautiful, one could only hope to have a Lord Hugo Wanstead to desire us so truly and deeply.

To be compared to Jane Austen is quite an honor, I must say. And I can only say.. thank you.

Excerpt: (After a dinner with mutual friends, Hugo offers Lucinda a drive home in his rather disreputable gig, unlike the spiffy equippage pictured here.)

He must have sent word to the stables before setting out on her trail. Clearly a man of strategy. If she had realized he would follow, she would have tried to avoid him. To refuse his escort in an open gig now would seem distrustful, especially for a woman alone at night. He assisted her into his vehicle, his hand firm in the hollow of her waist, his height and strength reinforced by the ease with which he helped her up, as if she weighed no more than the tiny Miss Dawson.

She forced herself to ignore the attendant trickle of heat in her veins, the pleasurable shimmer of awareness accompanied by shortness of breath. Her nervousness was a perfectly reasonable reaction to a man who a few short days ago had glared at her in anger.

She settled her skirts and straightened her spine, keeping close to her side of the seat.

He leaped up beside her. “I hope you will forgive old Bob, here,” he said, setting the horse into a steady plod with a flick of his whip.

“It might be faster to walk.”

She felt him shift. Her stomach sank. Denbigh hated the swift banter she’d engaged in with her brothers.

“It might be faster if I got between the traces,” he said, his voice amused, not tight or fierce or any of those other warning signs of temper. “But I don’t want to insult Old Bob, even if he does look as if he’d prefer to ride. It is, after all, a fine evening for a leisurely drive.”

“I appreciate your thoughtful offer,” she lied.

“If not the means of carrying it out?” He gave a crack of a laugh. “Don’t answer that, Mrs. Graham, if you please. My sensibilities cannot stand another of your set-downs.”

Was he teasing her? The trickle of heat turned into a river of fire. Her insides tightened and pulsed in a most alarming manner. She shut her eyes, seeking an inner source of calm only to discover her mind churning like an ocean in a storm. Inhaling a quick breath, she caught the scent of his cologne, bay and the faintest hint of lemon and deeper tones of the man himself. She clutched the side of the carriage like a lifeline and tried to ignore the warm mountain of man at her side. “I would not dream of criticizing your conveyance, my lord, since I have none myself.”

“Forgive my levity. A widow, living on an army pension with a young child must not have an easy time of it.”

His quiet murmur sounded sincere, caring. Her heart seemed to still. She squeezed her eyes shut for a brief moment, gathering strength. The man was a menace, a wolf in bear’s clothing. “I manage. There are many worse off. Take the children infesting London’s streets, for example.”

His head turned toward her, but she could not make out his expression in the dark. “We are back to that, are we?”

She clenched her hands, caution advising her to subside into silence, to admit defeat the way she had with Denbigh, yet knowing she would not forgive herself if she did.

“Why won’t you let the vicar hold the fête on your lands? Annie Dunning tells me that your grandfather always did so.”

“Now you mention it, I recall something of the sort.” He sounded surprised. “I haven’t recalled it for years. My mother didn’t like the fuss and bother after my grandfather’s death. She wasn’t well, you understand,” he added quickly. “I do remember having a splendid time as a small lad, though.”

“It would be a wonderful way to begin your tenure as earl. With your support, we are sure to get a good turnout. No doubt all the gentry in the county will also want to welcome you.”

“Kind of you to think of my welfare, Mrs. Graham.” He heaved a sigh. “Before I know it, they will be parading their eligible daughters under my nose.”

A smile forced its way to her lips at his gloomy tone. “A daunting prospect indeed.”

“Terrifying. I’d sooner face Marshal Ney.” He chuckled, a warm deep sound in the dark.

With studied nonchalance, she leaned against the seat back, ignoring a tingle of awareness that seemed to raise the hairs on her arms and the back of her neck. Awareness of him as a man. Of his heat dashing against her side in waves, of his interest in her as a female. She couldn’t remember a time when she felt quite so alive, or so much a woman. Sadly, her body lied.

I hope I managed to tickle your curiosity with this little glimpse.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Life is Just Getting in the Way!!!

I'm so sorry I'm so late in posting, and that I haven't been commenting on posts, but life is just impossible right now. I took my mother in for surgery Wednesday, finally got her home yesterday afternoon, and she's so sick I may have to take her back to the hospital. I've spent all morning on the phone trying to get her something to take to stop the nausea, and I'm afraid, playing catch up, I'm behind on everything.

Course, that's when I get bear orders, and everything else. Still not half unpacked, and well, everything is turned upside down as usual.

Working on getting endorsements for Don't Cry Wolf and it's coming out March 1st!!! So that's the highlight in my life! Don't you love the cover???

Hopefully October things will begin to settle down! Hope everyone is having a pleasant Monday!!! :)

Terry, the Overwhelmed
Heart of the Wolf, Don't Cry Wolf (Mar 1), Betrayal of the Wolf, Allure of the Wolf

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Hex Appeal Excerpt

Hex Appeal will be out in 10 days! Fluff and Puff in trouble big time where they're even in danger of being destroyed for eating a carnie. Namely a Were carnie. Will they go to Bunny Slipper prison? Will they be brought before the Witches Council, or even worse, the Ruling Council? Can Jazz find out the truth in time? Stay tuned. Namely, buy the book. :}

Jazz was relieved it was still early enough that it seemed no one was stirring on the boardwalk. With the slipper bunnies non grata in the carnival area, she had to make sure not to be seen by the boardwalk manager, who made ogres look like sweet pussycats.

“What the hell do you think you’re doing bringing them here?”

Jazz froze. “Five steps,” she muttered, staring at the parking lot that was so near yet so far. “Just five lousy steps.” She turned around. “Well, aren’t we up early!” She used her perkiest witch voice. “How are you, Rex?”

Rex (no one ever learned his last name) was a horror filmmaker’s dream—if he wanted someone who looked like a nightmarish thug. Six-foot-four with a square-shaped body built like a Sherman tank, the man looked as if he’d been a former professional boxer. The misshapen nose, cauliflower ears, and slight droop to the left side of his mouth, along with arms the size of tree trunks and the stance of a long-time fighter, showed he wasn’t your everyday human. He looked as if one deep breath would split his plaid cotton shirt a la the Incredible Hulk. Standing stoically in front of her, he glared at her feet. Fluff and Puff took one look at him and squeaked in alarm.

“Cowards,” she muttered.

“I told you if I ever caught you bringing those damn garbage disposals on the boardwalk again you’d be banned for life,” he snarled. “Your life.”

“They’re not doing anything,” she argued, and then realized he shouldn’t have seen them at all. She’d had a bad night and no coffee yet, so by now she was feeling pretty snarky. “They have rights too.”

“Not here they don’t.” He stabbed a sausage-shaped finger in the direction of a sign posted off the walkway. “No pets allowed on the boardwalk and they were banned from here last year.”
Jazz hid her grin at the sound of the slippers’ shrieks of outrage at being considered pets. “Now that’s just insulting them.”

He leaned in, exhaling air that reeked of a serious lack of Listerine. “Insulting them is the least of their problems. Those fuzzy chompers were out on the boardwalk doing the only thing they know how to do. I oughta feed them to a wood chipper.”

She thought better of getting back in his face. Her olfactory senses could only take so much. The gross breath was bad enough, but his body odor was beyond nasty. She’d need to inhale bleach to get the stench out of her nostrils. “They’re magickal. You can’t touch them and you know it.” Smug sounds from Fluff and Puff backed up her haughty claim.
He scowled. “Don’t be so sure about that. I’ve got a carnie missing and those damn slippers were seen in the vicinity.”

Jazz felt the cold stealing through her bones. “No way. You tried that accusation before and it didn’t work. Besides, contrary to legend, they haven’t eaten a human in centuries.”

Rex shoved his face into hers, forcing her to rear back. “There’s no accusation this time. Only fact. Those things have fallen off the wagon, because Willie is missing.”

“You’re accusing them of eating Willie? Give me a break, Rex! There’s no way they’d touch him even if he was smothered with Grey Poupon. They don’t like anything with Were-blood and I don’t care what you say, Wereweasel blood is the worst.” She privately thought the Ferris wheel operator was the perfect picture of his ancestry. Willie’s sharp features mirrored the animal he turned into once a month. “So you’ll have to look elsewhere for a patsy, because no way am I letting you accuse them of something we both know they didn’t do.”

At that precise moment, Fluff began coughing and stretching his neck until he hacked loudly. A large black button popped from his mouth. As they say, timing is everything.
Jazz and Rex stared at the boardwalk’s logo stamped on the button. She felt a hitch in her stomach that had nothing to do with indigestion. While it didn’t look good, she wasn’t about to back down.

“He’s always picking up things,” she said swiftly.

Rex crouched and gently touched the button with his beefy forefinger. “It’s Willie’s.”

Jazz couldn’t argue with his statement, since Rex could easily sense any essence belonging to the creatures that worked for him, whether they were members of his pack or not.

He straightened up and jabbed his finger at her. “It ate Willie!”

“And I say he didn’t,” she argued. “I told you. They don’t like Weres.”

His heavily scarred face transformed into something even viler. “They’re coming with me.”

“You can’t touch them,” she stated, ignoring her slippers’ squeaks of dismay. “They’re mine by right. I rescued them from Dyfynnog’s castle.”

“And they ate a living being,” Rex reiterated. “That gives me the right to take them into custody. You’re not the only one with witchy connections, missy, so don’t give me any shit that just because you rescued their furry asses you can protect them.”

Missy? What was it with men reverting to their chauvinistic ways? “They were with me all night.” She ignored her gargoyle’s voice reminding her that the slippers had come into the room when she called them.

“They need to be taken before the Witches’ Council and destroyed for their actions.”

Jazz felt her balance teeter as Fluff and Puff practically hopped off her feet in their agitation at Rex’s words.

“They’re not going anywhere until there’s rock hard proof that they ate Willie,” she said with a bravado she didn’t feel inside. The Witches’ Council wasn’t her favorite place and she wasn’t their favorite witch. She was on 100-year probation as it was.

“I have one of Willie’s shoes with his blood on it and tufts of fur. Plus, I have this.” He held up the button.

“That’s not saying it’s his blood or their fur. I have the right to investigate the matter.” She felt the hole she was rapidly digging for herself. If the slippers ate Willie, she was going to throw them in a wood chipper herself! She had enough trouble with the Witches’ Council without the slippers adding to the mix.

Rex paused.

“You know I have the right to invoke protection for them until the truth is discovered,” Jazz pushed.

“All right,” he said grudgingly. “You have two weeks.”

“The usual time is thirty days.”

“Two weeks and be grateful for it. All you’re going to find out is that your things ate Willie. And make sure they don’t go anywhere.” He turned and walked away.

Jazz’s hand started to rise up, her fingers outstretched. “May you …” She abruptly snapped her mouth shut. “Oh no, you are so not going to be the cause of more banishment time for me.” She glared at Fluff and Puff, who’d been giggling and blowing raspberries at the retreating Rex. “You’ve really done it now,” she scolded. “Just wait until we get home.” She ignored their continued grumbles as she made her way to the parking lot. At the moment, all that mattered to her was that she’d had a few hours of good sleep and that her destination would offer her coffee and, with luck, a muffin.

It took Jazz all of ten minutes of scanning the empty parking lot to realize she had walked over to the boardwalk instead of driving.

Fear and anger still mingled inside her and her neck hurt like hell, even if she couldn’t feel any wounds or find any sign of blood. Considering the sensation of feeling Nick literally rip her throat open, she should be able to see something. And her neck wouldn’t be hurting if he hadn’t done something there.

And Nick. Why hadn’t he gotten sick when he took her blood? At the very least, he should have suffered from one hell of a case of heartburn, since a witch’s blood is poisonous to a vampire.
“It doesn’t make sense.” Her whisper hung in the air, creating questions she had no answers for.
Needing to think things out, Jazz took a circuitous route home, stopping at a twenty-four hour Starbucks for a venti white chocolate mocha for herself and ignoring Fluff and Puff’s pleas for a cinnamon roll. With the charges Rex wanted to level against the slippers, she knew he had the right to demand they be taken into custody. But that didn’t mean she didn’t have more than her share of doubts about Willie’s sudden disappearance. Were-carnies tended to wander more than mortal carnies did. If she wanted success she knew she’d have to start looking for the Wereweasel before he ended up states away.


Saturday, September 20, 2008

Dive into Romance with Me!

Since this is my first post as a Casa Author, I thought I should tell you a little about me. Oh, you can get the basics on my website, where I say that I grew up on Bewitched and I Dream of Jeannie. That two of my favorite books are Bewitching by Jill Barnett and A Knight in Shining Armor by Jude Devereaux. What I don’t go into and will here is how these shows made me the writer I am today.

I studied Spanish in college. Actually, I studied it from 7th grade on and lived in Spain for a semester. I have a “thing” for languages. I love words. I love manipulating words and, like my heroine Erica in In Over Her Head, am a sucker for puns. I love double entendre and playing with meanings and alliteration and taking clichés and twisting them to a whole new meaning.

Combine a love of language with a love of the paranormal, throw in Disney--with an attitude (because I love those princesses), add in some Indiana Jones action (and the hot heroes naturally follow), stir in some of my favorite romantic comedies (Failure to Launch was an inspiration for In Over Her Head) and you get my stories.

When I told my critique group way-back-when that I was writing a Mer man story with a talking fish named Chum they rolled their eyes and said, “Only you, Judi,” but come on--a fish named Chum? I couldn’t resist. The hero’s name is Reel--you KNOW he has to have a twin brother named Rod. Rod gets his story in book 2, Whale of a Tail, which also has some language manipulation in it that has me both chuckling and pulling my hair out trying to make it work in some places. Not quite sure yet what I envision for book 3 (Catch of a Lifetime), but the characters are already tugging at my heartstrings.

The picture is from artist, Emerald de Leeuw, who kindly allowed me to use this image in one of the online contests I was in for In Over Her Head. She does beautiful work and I'm happy to report that she earned a few cover art commissions from her generosity. Please check out her other works.

I’m looking forward to sharing these stories with all of you next summer when you can “dive into romance” with me!

Friday, September 19, 2008

Hi, everyone! I'm Beth Cornelison, one of the new members of the Casablanca blog. I sold my contemporary romance, SECOND CHANCES, to Sourcebooks at the end of July, just in time to meet all the other Casablanca authors and editors at the RWA conference in San Francisco. While I'm new to Casablanca, I'm not new to publishing. I've had books out with three other publishers (Silhouette, Five Star and Samhain) since 2005. But I have to say, the people involved with Casablanca have been among the most welcoming and have made me feel like part of a special family.
I'm in the process now of finishing up a few edits on SECOND CHANCES, so this seemed like a good time to tell you more about this book and whet your appetite for the release coming in the fall of 2009.
In SECOND CHANCES, readers will meet the Morgan men, father Bart, and his two grown sons, Aaron and Luke. The Morgans run a snorkeling and deep sea fishing tours business in Destin, Florida. The three bachelors lead a charmed life until an accident on their tour boat leaves Luke injured and the whole family grappling with the changes in their lives.
Enter Abby Stanford, an occupational therapist from Texas on vacation by herself after breaking her engagement with her philandering fiancé. When Abby arrives at the snorkeling office and has a run-in with a surly Luke, Aaron swoops in to save face for the family business, and, ladies' man that he is, Aaron snags a date with Abby. Aaron quickly realizes the rapport Abby has with his brother, and he and Bart offer Abby an unconventional job– a multi-purpose assistant to the family. Among other duties at the snorkeling office, Abby's goal is to motivate Luke, help with his therapy, and guide the family through the troubled waters they face.
Needing a distraction from her own painful break up and feeling a connection to the Morgan men, Abby accepts the position and takes a leave of absence from her job in Texas. In the weeks that follow, Abby becomes part of the Morgan family, sharing their heartaches and triumphs as she guides Luke through his recovery and rehabilitation. With the Morgan men, Abby finds healing for her own wounded heart, and when friendship and a sizzling attraction flare with Luke, she discovers a second chance for true love.
I had a great time writing about the Morgan men and Abby's unorthodox methods for healing family bonds and goading Luke along the path to spiritual and physical recovery. I had a much more reserved and demure character in mind when I started writing Abby, and she spoke up quickly and told me just who she really was! She was all about spunk and tenacity and optimism and fire. She was going to meet the strong-willed Morgan men head-on and win them over with her passion and unique insight.
And what about the three bachelor Morgans? Well, be still my heart! All three were hot hunks with wounded spirits and hearts of gold. I fell in love with them all! The family dynamic intrigued me as it unfolded, and I learned more about how the desertion of their wife and mother years before affected them all.
I can't wait to share SECOND CHANCES with all of you next fall, and I look forward to sharing more writing insights, reflections and random musings here on the Casablanca blog in the months to come. FMI about my other books vist www.bethcornelison.com.
Happy Friday!

Thursday, September 18, 2008

A Day in the Life of an Editor

By: Deb Werksman

Today we had our weekly editorial meeting, and I spent most of the day doing acquisitions activities, so I thought I'd share with you what that part of the process looks like for me.

Acquiring is my favorite part of my job and rejection letters are my least favorite part.

To put the quantities in perspective, I get about 100-150 submissions each month, and will publish about 50-55 books for Fall 09 (that equates to 50-55 books out of roughly 800 submissions).

The lovely and brilliant Lisa Acosta works with me to keep submissions organized and moving through, so today she and I put our heads together and came up with:

31 submissions to send to readers. Unfortunately, we only had 23 reader slots open (we send them in batches so as not to overwhelm) so 23 got assigned and 8 got put back in the files to await the next round.

14 submissions were sent to other editors whose list is more appropriate for them.

6 submissions went to Lisa's PRIORITY reading.

4 went to my PRIORITY reading (to join the 18 that were already there).

13 submissions flagged for rejection.

What gets a submission to stand out and get assigned to PRIORITY reading? A variety of things, including:
• it's written by one of my existing authors
• it came back from one or two readers with strong positive recommendations
• it has an unusually strong title*, premise* or author platform
• the project is aging, we're on the fence, and a decision needs to be made
• the project is with me on exclusive
• the project was referred to me by another editor or by our publisher

The projects that go into any given week's editorial meeting may have been read and researched already, in which case they get prepped for the meeting by being entered into our Acquisitions database and having excerpts, synopses and market research ready for others to review before the meeting.

And now, the asterisk (*)--strong title, unusual premise--does this remind you of my FAVORITE thing to talk about--the HOOK!!! Yes, here it is again!

So, as you pitch/title your book, ask yourself:
• does this clearly communicate what it is? (I get a lot of titles that don't sound like romance fiction...)
• does it stand out from everything else that's out there?
• can Deb turn around and sell this in one or two sentences?

Finally, here's a refresher on what I'm looking for:
• Single title romance fiction (including single title series', trilogies, etc.) in all subgenres--paranormal, time travel, historical, romantic suspense, contemporary, erotic romance
• minimum 90,000 words
• a heroine the reader can relate to
• a hero she can fall in love with
• a world gets created
• a great "hook" that allows me to sell the book in one or two sentences

More details at www.sourcebooks.com

Reminder: we're in the entertainment business!

Ok, that's my rant for today! Bring on the questions (about anything and everything!). I love to hear from YOU!!!

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Vocabulary Rocks!

by Sharon Lathan

I love words! I always have. Even during my decades as a reader, before the writing bug bit me, I delighted in discovering new words as I devoured the text. It was not uncommon for me to stop where I was, grab down the enormous dictionary that goes with my encyclopedia set, and look up the unfamiliar word. If I was really absorbed in the novel I may just jot it down on a scrap of paper for later investigation, but eventually I had to find out what the strange word meant. In school I was an excellent student, but honestly could care less about grammar. Whether a particle was dangling or a phrase was prepositional did not fascinate me all that much, but man I was a terrific speller! And vocabulary was a passion.

Enter the past few years as a writer. I did not pick to write in the bygone days of folks getting a superior education and using flowery prose on purpose, but it was an added bonus that I grabbed onto with glee. That Cambridge graduate Mr. Darcy and well-read Elizabeth Bennet would possess a vocabulary way better than even Tim Gunn was a given. And I love it! I very quickly learned that my limited knowledge of Regency Era phrases and nouns was inadequate for the job. So, after retrieving my old, ratty crossword puzzle dictionary and dashing out to Barnes and Noble to buy a thesaurus, I then began scouring the internet for research facts to help me ‘get it right.’ Along the way I discovered a couple interesting realities.

First, the internet is replete with reference material and historical information. Yeah, you all probably knew that AGES ago! But I was never much of a web-surfing junkie. Other than taking an active part in one Lord of the Rings discussion board and occasionally buying something off Amazon, the internet was not my friend. I barely knew what Google and Yahoo were! I rapidly learned that there are veritable seas of dictionaries and thesauruses out there that put my bound copy to shame…and are way easier to utilize. Now I have over a dozen bookmarked links to the OED, word etymology, grammar and punctuation, etc. My links to historical websites is probably ten times longer. I frequently get so lost while rifling through the thesaurus or endless Google searches that I forget what I was looking for in the first place! Of course, along the way I have many times stumbled across a mega-cool word that I just have to use, or have learned about some past activity that I just have to write in. Whole chapters have evolved based on something I accidentally discovered while looking for something else. So, questions #1 and 2 are: What great reference websites have you discovered? How often has your research led you down a path you never dreamed of previously?

The second discovery I made was that writing in a long ago, English era presented unique obstacles that this 21st century American had not foreseen. Yes, I could flagrantly go crazy with my vocabulary since my characters would not have looked stupid for using the word ‘flagrant.’ I could toss in fancy words with numerous syllables without blinking. Let my readers run for the dictionary! It is good for them to be better educated, I reason, so I am actually performing a public service! But, I also had to learn a wealth of words that just do not roll off the modern day tongue too easy. Cravat, barouche, valet, flintlock, quadrille, nankeen, just to name a very few. Luckily I adore history even more than I love vocabulary, so it has never been painful. However, the challenge is terrific. If I call something by a wrong name, believe me, some Austen/Regency expert will point it out in the most scathing way! On top of that, I have to be veeerrryyy careful about word etymology. I simply cannot, under any circumstances, have Mr. Darcy utter a word that did not exist 200 years ago! Talk about a challenge of epic proportions!

Now, to be truthful, I believe the average reader would have no idea about most words and their etymology. Unless it is grossly modern (and those are usually easy to avoid) most readers are probably not savvy and/or do not care. Some folks will, of course, but my personal opinion is that if they get freaked out over a word used in Darcy-Standard-Time zone that did not first appear until ten or fifteen years later, they are probably missing the point of the story and would have hated it anyway! But that is just my opinion and to appease the various editors, I have changed many words along the editing process. Did you know that ‘surreal’ did not exist until 1935?! Yet, ‘psychology’ dates from the 1650s. Weird. Word etymology is fascinating, at least to nerdy me, but it is a trap that one can fall into and never escape from. Searching down each and every word simple cannot be done or I would never get anything written, so a certain amount of latitude and liberties must be allowed, IMHO. So, last questions: How has word definition, etymology, or era-specific verbiage hindered you? Or set you free? Have you avoided writing in past eras just for this reason? Or do you just say ‘What the hell’ and throw them in there anyway?

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

I'm A Writer

by Malena Lott
We live in a society of labels, so it's no surprise one of the first questions people ask upon introduction is, "What do you do?" Over the years I've "been" many things. Eckhart Tolle (A New Earth, The Power of Now) says he usually answers, "I'm a writer," because, "I Am" just doesn't cut it for most people.
Unlike a lot of answers, I suppose, "I'm a writer," typically gets a raised brow. A humph. Or an oooh/aaah reply. "Really? That's cool. What do you write?"
I usually start with the biggie. "Novels." Then add, "fiction," because there are still a lot of people that don't know that a novelist is an author of fiction.
I'd say 9 out of 10 times, the person goes on to say, "I could never write a book. Wouldn't even know where to begin." Everyone knows what a daunting task undertaking a novel can be. Especially those in the thick of it.
Then there's that 10% who say, "I've got a book idea," then goes on to tell you the whole plotless mess of it. No matter, I smile and tell them, they should, "just do it." It's not my job to tell them what a long hard road it can be. I believe if a person has a story in them, they should pluck it out. I keep the chuckle to myself when they say they want to write to "make a lot of money." Again, let them dream. What if they are one of the breakout successes?
Being a writer in a day and age when technology rules supreme and everybody who has a computer can be a "blogger," makes the occupation/hobby/passion a bit less glamorous than years past. With book readers overall diminishing and the harsh realities of the publishing world, it's harder than ever to write and get paid handsomely for it. Read this very long, very dramatic piece about the end of book publishing in New York magazine if you have a half hour to spare.
The bottom line is: the storytelling industry will constantly evolve. My guess is every newspaper/magazine/TV show/movie/book will merge more into a multimedia format. We want what we want when we want it, and if that happens to be on our iPhone or laptop or big screen at home, then that's where we'll get it. Eventually. I think fewer authors will be published in print and the quality of ebooks (and its authors) will improve because the public will demand it. Print on demand will probably become more the order of the day, which environmentally and economically, will save a lot of waste of book shredding when a book has run its course. Of course, I could be wrong. There are publishing pundits and insiders who probably know a lot more than I do.
What I know and care about at the end of the day is this: I'm a writer. I prefer to write fiction, and stories about women's journeys and relationships, but I'll write non-fiction, too. I write articles and TV and radio commercials and web copy and yes, blogs, too. I'd write for any format, so it doesn't matter if my "book idea" morphed into TV or movie or whatever the next "big thing" happens to be, but there's something very special and unique about the book.
I still believe in the book industry, in the power of a great story and the beauty of the written word. I don't believe books are dead, and the publishing industry will find its way. While advances or royalties or the structure changes, what won't change is that it all begins with the writer and the words.
NOTE: Photo is Sourcebooks publicist Danielle Jackson with author Malena Lott.
If you're a writer, what's your favorite part of the writing process? If you're a reader, how has your entertainment consumption changed with advancements in technology?

Monday, September 15, 2008

Vampire Strippers Save the Day

Talk about good timing.
I was just begining to recover from finishing up some fairly extensive edits at the end of this past week (like, "my brain currently has all the retentive ability of swiss cheese" extensive) when a wonderful email showed up from Ms. Danielle. Contained within was an absolutely awesome review for my upcoming release, Dark Highland Fire, and it said all the things I would want someone to say about the book after reading it...which is to say that the piece in its entirety inspired a shuffling, semi-zombiefied happy dance from She Who Stays Up Too Late Working (aka ME). Kinda like being a Thriller extra, but happier. And I can't moonwalk. But anyway, I think that one of the best compliments was that the reviewer really enjoyed my heroine being "a little bit different." It was something I had been just a little bit worried about.
After all, there aren't that many books where the heroine is a blood-drinking stripper.
So why did I make Rowan an Morgaine a stripper? Interesting question. It's not in the realm of usual heroine professions, that's for sure, though I've seen it done (and very well) a couple of times. In fact, it was those couple of examples that I clung to when Rowan showed up in hot pants, a corset, and death-defying heels and refused to budge from her position that she was an exiled demigoddess who now moonlighted at a Reno dive called The Pretty Kitty. I was worried. Were readers going to be okay with this? Could I pull off opening with one of Rowan's performances without eliciting cringes? And then there was my mom, who read a draft of that opening scene and kind of shuddered about any would-be heroine wrapping herself around a pole and having money tucked in her g-string as a means of introduction to the reader. The problem, though, was that I had a heroine on my hands who was as stubborn as the day is long. I tried to make her a cocktail waitress. She refused. I tried to make her a bartender. She quit speaking to me. Finally, I caved and let her back up on the stage. And I'm glad I did, because while Rowan's job might be unconventional, I began to realize that she was too.
Rowan is the next in line to lead her tribe of otherworld demigoddesses, the Dyadd Morgaine. They're a powerful, all-female group who must drink blood to retain their magic...and they have plenty of men throwing themselves at their feet to volunteer, since not only are the Dyadd powerful, but they're famed for their physical beauty. Rowan herself has the gift of Fire, and her personality is just as fiery. Sharp-tongued and hot-tempered, she finds herself on the run from a dragon prince who will stop at nothing to have her, and her world-jumping brother manages to hide her, you guessed it, right here on Earth. They find themselves expected to earn their keep after falling in with a nest of vampires in Reno, Nevada, months before the story really begins. And since she has no money, no connections, and no degree, Rowan's options are seriously limited.
Still...a stripper?
And yet as I toyed with the idea (and thought grouchy things at my obstinate heroine), it started to make perfect sense. Our heroines professions reveal something about them, even if they happen to just stumble into those professions, and this case was no exception. Rowan isn't human, so her attitudes aren't either. Her people have always been revered for their beauty, and their dancing ability is known far and wide. She's incredibly comfortable in her own skin, and not at all bothered by nudity, so long as her space is respected. So a job as an exotic dancer, I realized, would look like an easy few bucks to her. To me, it was an excellent illustration of Rowan's confidence that she could do a job like that and be nothing more than bored and irritated most of the time. Still, the difficulties she had with stripping revealed a lot about her too. She's used to being respected, even revered by men, and the lack of it on Earth gets to her. She hisses at the customers when they get too close (and has flat-out refused to do lap dances). And the smoky, dirty atmosphere in the club makes her long for the forests of her home, so much that she's become depressed with the work. Rowan reminded me of a princess in hiding, forced to do drudge work but still obviously too regal by half for it. Of course, there's nothing regal about Rowan's mouth, but her attitude made the whole stint as a stripper, and her eventual relationship with a certain slacker ladykiller of a werewolf, far more interesting. I liked not knowing whether she might not just incinerate anyone who ticked her off. And I honestly loved how fearless she was, how supremely confident. The stripping served to illustrate that nicely, I think, even though I was reluctant at first. But after the fun I had with her, and that lovely review, I believe I'll be a lot less reluctant when the next unconventional heroine shows up on my doorstep!
So what about you? What's the most unconventional heroine you've ever written or read? And did you love her or hate her? I'd love to hear!

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Cat and Leo talk!

Hi there! This is Marla Elkhorn reporting. Due to popular demand, I’m interviewing Cat, the hero of Slave, and Leo, the hero of Warrior, this week.

Marla: Cat, Slave has been out since April, and is doing well, I’ve heard. How do you feel about Jacinth writing such an intimate account of your adventures?

Cat: (smiling wickedly) I enjoyed reading the book almost as much as I enjoyed living it.

Marla: Ahem, I think I know what you mean. . . There have been questions from some readers as to

your feelings since Slave was written purely from Jacinth’s point of view. Care to comment on that?

Cat: I believe that my feelings toward Jacinth were very . . . obvious.

Marla: Yes, being either naked or dressed in Statzeelian garb doesn’t give a guy much chance to hide his, um, reaction, does it?

Cat: (purring) No, it does not.

Marla: Y-You’re purring. Does that mean anything?

Cat: Only that you are making me think about the first time I was alone with my Jacinth.

Marla: And you . . . ?

Cat: I could not resist her. I knew she would be my mate from the very beginning.

Marla: Oh, surely not!

Leo: It was the same for me when I met Tisana. The attraction was immediate and complete.

Marla: But without the scent of a woman’s desire, you guys can’t, um, do it, can you?

Leo: (with a smirk) That has never been a problem where Jacinth and Tisana are concerned.

Cat: Unlike Zetithian females, Terran women smell good all the time.

Leo: To us, that is.

Marla: What about me? Are you getting anything?

Cat: (Smiling slyly) We both have mates.

Marla: No comment then?

Leo: I believe that would be wise. Jacinth carries a weapon at all times, and, as you know, my Tisana could blast you into oblivion with a fireball.

Marla: Um, yes, perhaps we should change the subject! So, tell me, how long have you two known each other?

Leo: Since before the war. We fought in the same unit and were captured together along with several others.

Marla: Have you been in contact with any of them?

Cat: Yes, but we will let them tell their own stories. Though I will say this: all of those sold into slavery have survived.

Marla: Think there’s any chance the Zetithian species can be saved?

Leo: We’re doing our very best to make that happen.

Marla: (dryly) I’ll just bet you are! And your offspring always look like you guys?

Cat: So far. And they are born in litters of three.

Marla: Always? You mean anyone having your children would have triplets?

Cat: So it would seem.

Marla: Great way to increase your numbers! Any danger that those who destroyed your planet in the first place might try to stop that from happening?

Leo: Yes, we have to be . . . cautious.

Marla: Zetith was destroyed by the Nedwuts—which is something Cat saw in a vision—but it’s been suggested that the Nedwuts aren’t smart enough to do something like that without help. Any idea who was ultimately responsible?

Cat: (Laughing) If we knew that, Jacinth would have hunted them down by now! As it is, she is very unforgiving when it comes to dealing with the Nedwuts!

Leo: As is Tisana. They both can be very fiercely protective.

Marla: (hastily) Well, then, I guess I shouldn’t spend any more time on this interview! Wouldn’t want them to get jealous or anything. . . . So, there you have it, Cat Star Chronicles fans, straight from the Zetithian’s mouths! If you want to know more, you’ll have to read the books! Warrior is due out in . . .?

Leo: October.

Cat: And Slave is available now.

Marla: And we’re out of time! Thanks for dropping by. If you have any questions for Cat or Leo, just post a comment, and they’ll respond as soon as possible!

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Out-of-the-Box Marketing and Promotional Opportunities

by Danielle Jackson

One of the hardest things I do as a publicist is try to think of new ways to promote your books. For romance, the web is by far the biggest way to make a significant impact on readers, and of course there’s always the old stand by—print reviews. However, as more and more romance novels (and really, books in general) are released every year, sometimes, you have to do something a little weird to get people to take notice of what you’re doing.

One of the best workshops I went to at RWA was called Self-Promotion: It Isn’t Rocket Science given by author Kelley St. John and her agent, Caren Johnson. They addressed this very same issue—what can you do to make your promotional efforts really pop? Kelley herself has worked out giving away vacations (in exchange with the resorts/hotels/restaurants/etc. their names are added to ALL promotional materials, they are linked to on her site, etc.) as a contest on her website. This worked to her advantage on many levels, but two major points were made

1) This generated more interest in being on her newsletter list—a great way to reach readers and let them know what have going on!
2) She received extra attention and media coverage because of not only the response, but the amazing new way she decided to promote her book.

These things also worked in ways to help readers remember that book and author—I mean, who’s going to forget someone giving away a vacation? And the perfect book to take with!

Now, this is just an amazing example of out-of-the-box promotion—the opportunities are endless! I suggest thinking about what makes your book different. We have everything from aliens to guys who like to clean; so there’s a hook in there somewhere just begging to be explored and taken to the next level with promotional efforts. Anything from writing articles and then shopping them around to magazines (which, let me tell you, our magazine database is quite extensive!) to hosting a tea party where you teach regency dances to figuring out a crazy way to get a celebrity to read your book (or at least pose for a photo)…the list goes on!

So, here’s a little project for you authors out there (I feel like a teacher haha): even if it is the most INSANE idea in the world, what would be a fun out-of-the-box promotional opportunity for YOUR book? I know that some of you have already let me know about them…share with your Casa sisters! Let’s generate some ideas, and hopefully start to put them into motion. I’ll be the first to admit that with the out-of-the-box stuff, I’ll need your help!!

I will not be able to check in quite so frequently today! But I expect many many MANY ideas to be in the comments so I can respond on Sunday!!