Saturday, February 28, 2009

United We Stand!

In praise of wolves and their fantasy counterpart, werewolves, here's a family of wolves howling for unity, for a pack gathering, for hunting, or comraderie.

In Destiny of the Wolf, I wanted to show a pack together, just like the old rallying words, united we stand, divided we fall. And for wolf packs, they must work together to survive. The same with werewolf packs if they are to remain anynomous.

So in Destiny of the Wolf, the gray wolf pack actually runs a town, although the human inhabitants don't know about the true nature of those who are in charge. In Heart of the Wolf, the werewolves lived amongst the humans, running their own businesses, but humans run the cities and towns. So I wanted to show what would happen if a lupus garou pack was in charge.

Darien Silver is getting over the loss of his mate, when her near clone arrives on the scene, looking to find some answers as to why her sister died. One little red wolf's appearance turns Darien's life and his pack dynamics upside down. Silver Town will never be the same.

In my wolf tales, I try to show how real wolves will act, and based on this, how werewolves would also. Normally, wolves only take one mate, except if their mate dies, and then often they won't take another. But in a couple of rare instances, I found information on an alpha male who actually had two mates at the same time. With my werewolves, it's not acceptable. Just like with humans, it's unacceptable to have two wives at the same time, at least in the States. So what happens when a werewolf breaks the rules?

Find out in Destiny of the Wolf, where a little red wolf shakes up a well-established pack, and teaches a brooding gray alpha a thing or two.
My question then is, how would you feel if you could have two alpha males at your beck and call, reversing this two females per alpha male kind of scenario???

On cold days, my werewolves like a great hot meal just like the rest of us! Maybe their meat is a little on the rarer side. And maybe deserts aren’t as much of a draw as the heroine or hero in their sights. But all in all, tasty, nutritious hot meals on a cold day with the mate of their choice is only the beginning of a romantic night.

A long while ago, I read a book where the romance author included a southern recipe in the beginning of each chapter of her book. Recently, I saw one where the author included a mixed drink recipe. We all have to mention something about what our characters eat sometime in the book, even if they’re in a rush so I thought it would be fun to include a recipe for one of the meals my characters would eat.

At one time, I had included beef stroganoff as a meal Tessa Anderson prepares for Hunter Greymere on a cold wintry day in Temptation of the Wolf, debuting in September, but then opted for a hotter, spicier recipe I’ve always loved. I’ll share that later.

But here’s the background to my introduction to this delightful beef stroganoff dish initially. You know, every story has a story.

The first time I'd ever had beef stroganoff, my brother-in-law made it. He was a consummate chef in making fine dishes. From then on, I was hooked! But I didn't have his recipe so created my own that I've been making for years now.

The researcher in me at first wanted to know the origin of the meal before I shared it with everyone, thinking that it originally began in Sweden. So where did beef stroganoff truly originate?

And here’s the fun of research:

Some say that Russian Count Paul Stroganoff developed the dish in the 1800's. But others say, the French chef Charles Briere created it. The English served it much later, and the Americans even later than that. But much earlier in the 15th Century, the dish was served to King Matthias of Transylvania that sounded very similar to the beef stroganoff I make today with sour cream and beef strips. So, although I couldn’t relate it early on to my Scottish historical book, it looks as though I ought to include it in my vampire books! :)

However, werewolves and others will delight in it too.

For Cold Nights and Hot Dates--Mouth Watering Beef Stroganoff
by Terry Spear

4 oz fresh mushrooms
1 large onion
1 1/2 pounds beef round steak
(I use sirloin)
1 c water
1 tablespoon instant beef bouillon granules
1 tsp dry mustard
1/8 tsp pepper
1/2 tsp salt
2 tbsp cornstarch
1/4 c water
1 c sour cream

Cut up onion, steak, and mushrooms. Add to 1 c water in large frying pan. Add beef bouillon granules (can substitute 2 beef bouillon cubes) and the rest of the seasonings. Cook until meat, onions and mushrooms are tender.

Mix cornstarch with 1/4 cup water and once it's a liquid paste, add to the stroganoff mix. Cook over low until the sauce begins to thicken, then add sour cream. Once the sour cream is heated, serve over hot wide, curly noodles.

For a more healthy diet, use whole grain noodles. Also, a 1/4 cup of red wine can be added for a little different taste.

The best thing is it's quick, a great meal all in one, and leftovers are as delicious as the original meal!

Makes 4 (3/4 cup) servings

So, do you have a favorite special meal you like to serve on cold wintry nights for that special someone?

Terry Spear

Friday, February 27, 2009

Too Hot To Handle

My first book, Romeo, Romeo ended with a wedding but as you might remember, Nick and Rosalie, the happy couple, weren't the ones who planned to be married on that day. So when I wrote the second book in my Domestic Gods Series, naturally, I thought the poor, recently disengaged, Annabelle Ronalid.

In Too Hot To Handle we find out that Annabelle Ronaldi doesn't have luck with men or marriage. Her first fiancé died and the second was almost murdered. Okay, so that’s a bit of an exaggeration, though if Annabelle had attempted to kill him, no jury of her peers would have convicted her. After all, she did catch her fiancé, Johnny the mortician, with the make-up lady’s skirt up doing the nasty next to the dead body of Mrs. Nunzio, God rest her soul. As you can imagine, Annabelle realized Johnny wasn’t much of a loss and probably would have thanked him if she hadn’t so busy putting a curse on a particularly small and soon-to-be useless body part.

Everything worked out for the best, after all. Rosalie, Annabelle’s sister had met her real-life Romeo and wanted a short engagement and was more than happy to order-up new invitations and take over the wedding that Annabelle had spent a year planning.

For Rosalie, this was the perfect situation. She’d never planned to marry and had no interest in menus, listening to wedding bands or choosing bridesmaids dresses. Hell, she didn’t want bridesmaids. Rosalie cared more about her business deal than her wedding so being handed a turnkey wedding day was a God send.

But what about Annabelle? It wasn’t as if Annabelle wasn’t happy for Nick and Rosalie, she was, but she couldn’t help but be a little resentful too. Every aspect of the day was planned according to Annabelle’s Happily Ever After Wedding Day Dream Book she’d bought with her allowance on the very same day she purchased her first Wedding Day Barbie.

Could you imagine how you’d feel if your sister, no matter how much you loved her, found her Prince Charming and even though she never wasted a minute of her life thinking about her own wedding, took every one of the plans you had for yours?

I think you most would understand why it might cause a girl to drink too much champagne at the wedding. After all, it would give her courage necessary to face everyone who knew that she was supposed to have been the one walking down the aisle. Little did Annabelle know there were more consequences to too much champagne than just a nasty hangover. One of those consequences, she found out the next morning, was just Too Hot To Handle. It took her a while for her to discover that’s not necessarily a bad thing.

So, were you like Annabelle? Did you dream of your wedding since you were a little girl? Or, were you more like Rosalie and avoid marriage at all cost until the man of your dreams sweapt you off your feet? All I have to say on the subject is that my husband is a true Domestic God, he knows how to handle a broom.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Chumley Masticar’s 10 Rules for Dating

Hello, everyone!

You may remember me (and how could you possibly forget me, I ask you) from my previous post where I introduced Reel and Erica from Judi Fennell’s debut novel, In Over Her Head, which is soon to hit stores and is available for pre-order with all fine internet vendors.

I’ve been asked (by whom shall remain confidential) to share my tips on Mer dating. Specifically male Mer dating, or as you Humans like to call them: mermen. (Psst! They prefer Mer men. And birds are now asking to be called avians, of all things. Sheesh. Just don’t call me Late For Dinner and I’m a happy swimmer.)

But I digress.

Below I’ve listed my Top 10 Rules for dating. Learn them, live them, love them.

1) Stick to your own species. I’m not saying race, but s-p-e-c-i-e-s. That means, if you’ve got a dorsal fin, she better have a dorsal fin. If she’s got eight tentacles, you should at least be in the ballpark with six. Same thing for a Mer with legs. Being that there aren’t that many of you, go for a Human. Same species, different race, works well together.

2) First dates should NOT consist of life-threatening adventures—unless you’ve got a trident up your sleeve. Problem is, if you’re Mer, you don’t have sleeves. So adventures are a bad idea.

3) Nudity is not optional. It’s flat-out prohibited. All sorts of interesting things can happen if you show up nude. Just ask Erica about her and Reel’s first grown-up meeting.

4) Do not feed your American Human date Ulva lactuca. Sea lettuce may be a delicacy in some Human countries, but the US isn’t one of them. Snails are also an acquired taste.

5) Teach your starfish manners when having a Human guest in your home. Rudeness is not to be tolerated.

6) If you’re going to take your Human home to meet the family, you might want to give everyone a heads-up on acceptable behavior. Badgering the date is never a good idea. Insults aren’t so good either. Shrimp cocktail? Very good idea.

7) Introducing your Human date to a jealous sea monstress is not a good idea. Forget whatever it is anyone tells you about it being a good idea; it’s not. All sorts of things can happen: indecent proposals, jail time, loss of body parts… just ick.

8) Old myths have been around forever for a reason. Remember the old “don’t believe it until you see it”? Sometimes, given the circumstances, you might want to believe it before you see it.

9) Chivalry is not dead. It might cause you to end up dead, but it, itself, is not. Remember that.

10) And, finally, if you find yourself on a deserted island, with the perfect weather, abundant food and all the privacy you want, I say, “Go for it!”

This has been a Public Service Announcement and is intended solely as a dating guide for sea creatures. You Humans have enough issues as it is; I don’t intend to add to them.

Oh, and take a look at In Over Her Head where you’ll see how well Reel followed these rules. (Hint: not very.)

Wednesday, February 25, 2009


By: Deb Werksman, Casablanca Acquiring Editor

Hello, everyone. The pitch contest was FANTASTIC, I loved it! Thank you to all who participated and all who didn't.

An extended list of winners was posted, so if you didn't see your name on the short list, please go back and check again (I believe the extended list was posted on 2/17).

Of course, I have an open submissions policy, so if you're not on any winner's list, you can still submit to me (and some of you already have!)

However, the value of the contest is to see:
*which pitches caught my eye
*which ones didn't

For the most part, the ones that did had something unusual that grabbed me (think "HOOK!!!!!!!") and the ones that didn't either weren't clear, sharp and fresh in the writing, or seemed like something I've read before.

Here's a quick update on the state of the category, subgenre by subgenre, very subjective in some ways, but hopefully informative.

PARANORMAL: still the hottest subgenre in the category, but it's harder and harder to debut in this subgenre, especially with vampires. They've been done so many ways that unless you've got something new/fresh/different/hot, it's probably been done before. I'm still digging werewolves, got a mermaid trilogy that's incredibly hot (and unusual--look for fantastic world-building) and a light para series that's funny and growing (think vicious bunny slippers). Psychics, ghosts, etc. are tough to sell, but give me something new and different, and I'll be all over it!

HISTORICAL: strong, strong, strong. Best periods are English Georgian, Regency, Victorian or Scottish any time. Other periods really tough to sell, alas, but don't hesitate to try me--something truly new/fresh could be a break out winner. We've got two trilogies coming (one with a suspense element, one magnificent Regencies with the most appealing nobleman rogues for heroes...) also a Scottish that's got one of the most flawed, amazing heroes I've ever read..we sigh his name around the office from time to time when we need a pick-me-up.

CONTEMPORARY: straight contemporary tough in the marketplace right now; without a great hook, there's simply too much competition. Cowboys work (yeehaw!), Navy SEALs work (yes sir!), other military types can work, and we have an author who does love triangles like nobody's business, which I think is going to work as her readership builds. I say romantic comedy is going to rise soon and rise fast (I may be the lonely voice in the wilderness, but our series with the nurturing heroes is getting great kudos and as this recession deepens/widens, I think people are going to want to laugh). See also below, for the contemporary Jane Austen sequels, which are really working as well.

ROMANTIC SUSPENSE: I wish I had more of this on my list (I've got some Irish suspense with paranormal elements that's unbelievable!), but it's tough to find. Two big issues that come up over and over are:
*world-building--I'm not getting the world of the story--I'm seeing lots of FBI agent/cop heroes/heroines, but without a sense that the author really knows what that life is like--it's kind of second-hand experience
*plausibility--there's a lot of murder/mayhem, but it's plot devices that aren't at all fresh (the murdered/kidnapped twin sister she didn't know she had, the murdered parents, etc.). These things just don't happen that often in real life, so it's hard to relate. The characters need motivations that the reader can relate to.

Romantic Suspense was the #2 subgenre before the economic crash, but since then all escape fiction is up EXCEPT mystery/thriller, so I don't know what's going to happen to this subgenre. People are hurting, they may not want to be scared for fun.

EROTIC ROMANCE: I haven't gotten into this subgenre yet, and I expect to, but I'm not seeing stories that are (once again) fresh and interesting. I'm seeing a lot that I feel like I've read already.

YA ROMANCE: Bring it on! We're bringing out our first YA fiction this fall, and this is a subgenre we're eager to build into, so this is my first official call for submissions.

WOMEN'S FICTION: Must have a really unusual premise to work on my list--not seeing much that's new/fresh here.

HISTORICAL FICTION: PW recently named Sourcebooks the leader in Jane Austen sequels--keep 'em coming (including YA)--readers can't get enough! We just launched a new series that's the sweetest, most romantic sequels ever done and they're flying out of Target--other series include hilarious takes, American cousins, minor characters developing in amazing directions, unexpected variations, and altogether something fresh and new in the genre. We've also got contemporary JA sequels that re-tell the Pride and Prejudice story with modern characters--these are really hot and fun. It's a formula created over 200 years ago, and you know what! It works!

Check out my specific romance fiction guidelines at

Remember my criteria:
*Single title only (90K words) also series and trilogies in this length
*Heroine the reader can relate to
*Hero she can fall in love with
*A world gets created
*I can sell it in 2 sentences (or 50 words!)

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

The Supreme Joy of Writing

There are at least a dozen reasons I could think of right off the top of my head for why I so love writing. And, more specifically, why I love writing this particular story: my saga of happily-ever-after revolving around the Darcys and their friends. I love the adventure of crafting words into paragraphs into chapters. I love the research into history. I love the thrill of inspiration and epiphany as scenes appear by magic into my head. I love the rush of pride when I read those scenes perfectly conveyed on paper. I love the challenge of overcoming the hurdles. I love dwelling with these characters I have created and given life. I love what they teach me about love and life and history. I love the professional accolades and confirmation for a job well done. And that is just scratching the surface.

Yet, for me there is no doubt that the best part is when my written words touch someone. When I hear from a reader and they relate to me with great thankfulness how my story brought them joy or laughter or merely a smile, I swell with uncontainable happiness. I never set out to change the world, win Pulitzers, write the next mega-blockbuster, or be on Oprah. I only desire to entertain, to bring warmth and light into a ofttimes dreary world. Nothing fancy. So even when the response is just: “I liked your book. Thanks.” I am overjoyed. Then there are the ones who LOVE it, who use CAPITOL letters and lots of exclamation points!!! And once in a while there is the truly profound email from someone who was blown away or given hope through a difficult situation. I would like to share some recent letters with you. These are all real, (although I will not use the person’s name), and for me make any difficulty or stress worth it.

“Your books are what got me through the last few months, it sounds weird, but reading about such a couple and learning about that type of relationship in another way helped me realize that there was hope that there was something better out there…. your books helped me get through some of the last months of my marriage. I re-read your books often, praying that my relationship with what I thought was my Mr. Darcy, could be fixed or evolve into something different. Your books give me hope for the future. I always felt that Austen's books were the ultimate love stories, full of misunderstanding and winding pathways, but that love ultimately conquered… create a world, where one can forget their problems and have a glimpse into a world and a life that we all wished we possessed in some way or another.”

“As both a Jane Austin and Pride and Prejudice fan, I was curious to read your novel. I couldn't put it down! I absolutely fell in love with Mr. Darcy. I am re-reading it again a second time and cannot wait till your next novel comes out.”

“Loved the book! I am so mad; I want the next one now! I can't wait until it comes out. Of all the continuations that I have read, this BY FAR has been my favorite. I have all my girlfriends (teachers) around the lunch table running out to get a copy! It was a fun and wonderfully romantic book, and we Darcy lovers can't get enough!” from a history and English teacher

“I was diagnosed with an autoimmune disease 4 years again and since have just been trying to get through life not enjoy it. I used to love to read, but no longer had any interest and hardly felt good enough anyway. Your book pulled it back into my life. I could not put it down once I picked it up. I have already read it twice. I loved how you stayed honest to the characters but at the same time took it to your style of writing. I just want to say that I loved the book and was actually disappointed when I found out the book had only been published this year because that means I have to wait that much longer for the next one. Based off the excerpt in the book, I will love it just as much as I loved this one. Thanks for the book and bringing some joy back to me!!!” from a 17 year old fan

“Awesome! Finally someone has taken on this wonderful task of 'what happens to the Darcy's after the marriage'. Thank you. The book jumped out at me while I was shopping at Target--and yes everything else I needed to shop for no longer mattered. I rushed home to read it--and stayed up until 4AM reading. I did not want to put it down.”

“I have just finished this wonderful book! I have to tell you and I absolutely.... love... love.... LOVED it!!!! I love the way you wrote it and brought out the Lizzy and Mr. Darcy I have in my head. I cried, I laughed and thoroughly enjoyed every minute of it.”

“Four years ago I lost my beloved husband of 36 wonderful happy years. I was 19 when we married and I was never happier than when we were in the same room, space, bed, car, get the idea. Each page of your novels made me stop and remember my ___. It made me both happy and sad. But I also smiled as I said to myself, “This is how it was for me and I got to feel all those emotions again.” THANK YOU! You see some people just don't understand true deep love. YOU DO... IN YOUR OWN LIFE AND IN YOUR WRITING and you are sharing and giving.”

“I found it to be outstanding! It was written beautifully, and it had me hooked right from the first chapter. You are a wonderful author who has truly inspired many around the world with your inspirational story about the marital life of the Darcys. I have absolutely no negative views toward your novel! It was absolutely enjoyable from start to finish. I found it very hard to come home from school to do my math work, because I so greatly wanted to read your book. I literally had to put it away where I could not see it just so I could focus properly on my homework! It truly has bewitched me!”

Can it get any better than that? I am blessed to have literally hundreds of positive messages between my forum, mail inbox, and review places to encourage me when the negativity rears. These are the people I write for. I am writing for the average lover of Austen, romance, or period dramas who appreciates a well-written story of hope, minimal angst, humor, and happiness. I thank each one of them for stepping forward to cheer me on. I thank the silent readers who hearten me by buying the book. And I thank Dominique, Deb, Danielle, and everyone else at Sourcebooks who is sticking firm in the resolve to get my novels out there so that more people can be touched.

Mr. and Mrs. Fitzwilliam Darcy ~ Two Shall Become One is, for all intents and purposes, available now. Officially it is released on March 1, but can be found at some Targets, B&N, and online. With that date in mind, I am currently hosting a week long Launch Fete over at my website: The Darcy Saga. Daily offerings of fun and games focused on the Regency, Austen, Pride and Prejudice 2005, and my novel will culminate in a signed book giveaway. Come on over for the fun! I’ll be back here on March 2 to share the release with my Casablanca sisters and our followers with another signed book to be given away.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Dancing Queen

You know the advice to never save your china for special occasions? And to not wait until your house is clean to have a party? And the one about not waiting 'til tomorrow to do what can be done today?

Yeah...I'm workin' on that. As many of you know, I've been working on a Create Your Own Renaissance series over on my blog at The whole gist is that we'll not wait for great things to happen to us - we'll go for it. NO TIME LIKE THE PRESENT.  So that got me to thinking about the lil things in life that I love to do, but don't do enough. Like dancing. Anytime, any place. And apparently, any music. My kids have started attending one of those big, high-tech, non-denom churches with the Christian rock music, big screens, donuts and prizes for things like learning your Bible verse. A far cry from the shhhh, let's be quiet and not shake your foot in church I grew up in. Thing is, I LET MY KIDS PICK THEIR CHURCH. In my own spiritual evolution, which I often write about to figure things out, I decided they are old enough to know what resonates with their spirit. 

As I've said before, I could sit in the back yard and stare at a tree and feel God's presence. Or even, say, my gorgeous Mac computer. So, my point is, I asked a friend to go with me to the "experience" (they don't call it church service) and even though I've never enjoyed Christian rock on the radio, I was really digging the live band. You feel like you're in a concert hall. And what did I find myself doing? Dancing. Not obnoxious, mind you, and I'm not one to raise my hands and shake them all around (remember, no shaking growing up!). But I was sort of swaying back and forth and feelin' the beat.

I've also started dancing with my kids. Since they are tweens, we like the same music now. And I LOVE that they love music as much as I do. So there you go. I'm a dancing queen. What are you?

Also, I'm the featured author over at all week, so please pop over and ask me some questions! No registration necessary. 

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Happy Birthday, Mom!

My mom's birthday is always a special day in the Castle family. It should be, considering the number of years she spent making her three kids eat vegetables, driving us to various school activities in lousy weather, taking her life into her hands to wake me up on school days, and generally taking excellent care of her unruly brood. That includes Dad, by the way:-) I wanted to share her day with all of you today, though, not only because she's an awesome person who deserves it, but because I probably wouldn't be writing what I do if it weren't for her. See, my mom is the Original Romance Junkie. And I don't only owe her my existence...I probably owe her my career. Oh my God, I can already her her gloating out there somewhere. Yeah Mom, you were right. You always said I should write a book. Annoying, but you were right:-)

My house was chock full o' romance for as long as I can remember. I know I've already told the story of my early reading revelation around here, so I won't repeat myself. But with a kid who could read like that at age three in the house, it was only a matter of time before Karen Castle's eldest child's interest was piqued by the multiple paperbacks scattered around the house. And they were so pretty...all those bare-chested warriors and gorgeous women trying desperately not to wear their flowing dresses. I believe, though, that I first became interested in romance because of the monthly boxes.

What boxes, you may ask? Actually, a lot of you can probably guess. See, mom belonged to the Harlequin book club, and every month, the new releases from the lines she preferred were sent to the house along with a free gift. What was the gift? Well, every month, Harlequin also sent along a new wine glass. It took me a lot of years to figure out that this was really pretty funny. After all, it plays into the stereotype of the romance reader...though I'll tell you what, those glasses survived longer than most of the other ones in the house did (my dad is a notorious glass-breaker), and I have several in my possession even now. I cherish them, simply because of the memories they bring back. Every month was a surprise, and mom gamely let me rummage through what she'd gotten. At some point, there was a book about some sort of mer-man, kind of different than the rest. That one, I read. My first Harlequin. And she and I both enjoyed it.

I didn't realize, way back then, how cool it was that my mother was allowing me to read romance. It didn't seem out of the ordinary to me, just a nice thing that Mom and I had in common, an interest we could share. I see now that she was quite open-minded about the whole thing. And rather than hiding those wonderful stories away, almost ashamed, the way some people still are about their reading preference (as if it were embarrassing not to be reading something with more, I don't know, gravitas or something), Mom decided to open up a whole new world for me, the natural extension of the fairy tales I had loved as a child. "That's a good one," she'd tell me, tossing me the latest Johanna Lindsey or Julie Garwood. I'd read it. We'd discuss. And I have to say, I don't ever remember her taste being off. She knew her stuff. Still does, in fact:-) It was great day for me when I recommended someone she hadn't tried yet.

Years have gone by, many things have changed; the boxes quit coming long ago, and Fabio appears to have found other career options to pursue. But some things are eternal, it seems. Those Harlequin glasses, for one. And the piles of books, scattered around her house, tucked into every nook and cranny. "How's this one?" I always ask, waving an intriguing-looking paperback in her direction. If she tells me it's a good one, I take it as gospel.

She tells me mine fall into that category. I couldn't be prouder. Happy birthday, Mom...and thanks for being not only a great parent, but a generous reader, and now, a treasured friend.

And thanks, everyone, for letting me share Mom's 56th with you. Uh-oh, I can hear her yowling somewhere...I meant 26th, Mom, sorry!

So now it's time for the question of the day: how did all of you get introduced to reading romance? Did someone share, or did you find it all on your own?


P.S. That cute (and passed out) kid in the picture is my middle baby, Connor, when he was just a little smaller. He's gotten a little taller, but he still hangs on his Gramma like that.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

My third novel is out???? Really???

Yep, there they are on the shelf at the Barnes & Noble in Fresno. Never been to Fresno, but my friend Sharon Lathan sent me this picture. She was amazed that I'd never taken a picture myself, but it's true. I never have.

It isn't that I didn't have the opportunity; I just never thought of it. One of my favorite pictures of Marie Force is the one of her grinning from ear to ear next to Line of Scrimmage, so you'd think I'd have one of my own, but I don't.

Perhaps it's because the idea of my books being on the shelf with all the others is still something I haven't quite grasped yet. I know they're there; I've seen them, signed them--even bought them--but it still seems like something that is happening to someone else.

My friends are all great for publicity, which is a good thing, because I'm not much use as a self-promoter. By the time we left Nashville this past Wednesday morning, salesladies, guitar pickers, hotel employees, and a waiter or two had been given the news: "My friend Cheryl Brooks has not one, but THREE books published!" I didn't have to say a word. They're very proud of me and say they're living the life of a famous writer vicariously through me. But I don't feel famous--perhaps because I'm not.

Rogue might be the one that does it, though. Someone told me (I think it was our dear Danielle!) that the third and fourth books are the ones that can make or break a series, and if so, early reviews are foreshadowing success. Outcast, the fourth book will be different from the others because it's written in third person, but Rogue is different because for the first time, my heroine has two hot Zetithians, Tychar and Trag, to choose from. She can have one, or the other, or both, but you'll have to read the book to find out what Kyra Aramis, a timid piano teacher from Upper Sandusky, Ohio, will do.

Marie recently asked if you'd ever had to choose between the tried and true and the one who really tickles your fancy, but what if they were both irresistible, and what if you didn't have to choose? These two slave boys haven't had sex in tweny years and have virtually no chance of ever doing so again unless Kyra is willing. What would you do? Choose one and deny the other, refuse them both, or take them both? Inquiring minds want to know. . . .

Friday, February 20, 2009

Internetiquette Part Two

by Danielle Jackson

So before I begin, I just want to say I have recently become OBSESSED with American ad artist JC Leyendecker. He’s often called “America’s Other Artist,” because he did many of the covers for the Saturday Evening Post, of which most associate with Normal Rockwell. Anyway, expect to see his art popping up in my posts for a bit.

Now on with the post:

A HUMONGOUS part of posting things to the internet included comments—whether it’s in a blog’s designate comment section, through a forum, a chatroom or in an email, comments is the most direct way that you, the authors, interact with us, the readers. Any guest blogs end with open ended questions for this purpose, and it is important to check back in on the guest blogs, to see what readers are saying, if they’ve asked any questions, and really, it’s a courteous and polite way to create relationships around the book blogging/reviewing community.

However, what do you do when someone posts a negative review? Or even posts a mostly positive review, but points out some negative things? It’s important to remember that just because I send them a book, that doesn’t guarantee that a positive review is going to follow—the beauty (and sometimes burden) of reviewers is that they are being asked for their opinion, and they are all eager to give it! You all know I don’t send you the bad reviews when I find them (Very rarely do reviewers actually send me a negative review directly), but I know you’re all quite clever and have found them on your own. And as for those positive but sort of pointed out the negative posts? A thank you will do just fine!

My advice is when you feel yourself getting defensive or that you need to overly explain a reaction, you shouldn’t post anything. Someone else’s blog or website isn’t the place to pick a bone about a negative review, and really, it’s better to avoid a potential conflict that could get blown out of proportion and spawn a negative comment chain. Remember, when you post something on the internet: IT NEVER GOES AWAY. Like I always say, THINK ABOUT what you are posting before you do it. Yes, often times you can hit delete, but I wouldn’t take any chances! And you never know who is reading/watching (aka ME)…

Now, I know I haven’t given you step-by-step instructions about commenting, but I think you guys should get the idea. This doesn’t mean question ever comma or stop posting all together. With the heavy onset of the Spring Season in our midst, think of this as a refresher about how to act. When you guest blog, you’re putting on your very pretty, very witty author outfits—and I read most of them—you look/sound nice, ACT LIKE IT. Respond nicely, be funny, and HAVE FUN! When you see your guest blog, think of it like making a grand entrance down a gorgeous staircase-everyone is waiting for you to arrive, now make it worth their while.

(I'll be in a meeting all day today, so when we get a break, I'll be sure to come back and see you all!)

Thursday, February 19, 2009

More Turkish Delight

posted by Loucinda McGary aka Aunty Cindy

Back in November, just before I left on my vacation to Turkey, I posted a picture of the hot springs at Pamukkale and promised to give an update when I returned. Well, the picture I found on the web didn't begin to give an impression of how vast and beautiful this site is! Here's one of the many picture's I took.

Over thousands of years, the mineral content in the hot springs (large amounts of calcium) have left the entire mountainside covered in a sparkling white crust many feet thick. From a distance it looks like snow, or salt, or cotton. Pamukkale means "cotton castle" in Turkish.

The hot springs have been used for thousands of years. The foundations of the ruined city now on the site were built by the Greeks in the time of Alexander the Great. The last city was Roman and constructed around 135 AD. The extensive baths those Romans built are still there and still in use today! Here's a piccie of Aunty standing by one of them, and you can see two or three tourists swimming in the water behind me.

I don't know about the "curative" power of those waters, but our hotel had water piped in from those same hot springs. After I washed my hair, it was incredibly soft and curly, so who knows if I'd stayed around and drank a little more of the water what might have happened!

Like so many of the other ruined cities we visited on this trip (Troy, Ephesus, Cannakale), the Roman city at Pamukkale was destroyed by earthquakes. Our guide told us that throughout the long history of this region, three chief things destroyed cities and civilizations: fire, foes, and earthquakes.

The incredible history and wonderful sights I saw and experienced on this trip left a lasting impression on me! Quite a few people (including our editor) have asked if I'm going to set my next book in Turkey. While I don't have any current plans, I would never rule it out.

My next release is scheduled for September and the story is set in Venice. It's been almost ten years since I visited that unique and beautiful city, but it too left a lasting impression. As soon as I pulled out my (admittedly poor quality) snapshots and travel journals, I was transported back to La Serenissima (Venice's long-time nickname). So you never know what setting may show up in one of my novels someday.

Would you read a book set in Turkey? What are your favorite settings for the books you read? Are there any settings you'd like to see?

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Breaking the Rules

By: Marie Force

One of the things I wanted to do with Love at First Flight was to give the expected romance formula a gentle shake. In the early chapters, you will see my hero and heroine with *gasp* other people. When I say with, I mean with. Are you with me? Good. ;-)

When Michael and Juliana meet in the airport on their way to a weekend in Florida, he's engaged to Paige, and Juliana has been living with Jeremy for four of the ten years they've been together. Michael and Juliana are in committed relationships that they expect will go the distance. Neither can imagine on that Friday night how dramatically their lives are about to change. Over the course of the weekend, both relationships hit major speed bumps. So when Michael and Juliana meet up again on the flight back to Baltimore on Sunday evening, both are reeling and trying to process what's happened.

As I was writing the book, I thought it was important that the two existing relationships end not because Michael and Juliana had met each other, but because they had run their course. That's an important distinction. I don't think I would've liked Michael as much if, after he met Juliana and had an immediate reaction to her, he went to Paige and said, "I can't marry you." It doesn't happen like that at all. In fact, what does happen is so explosive and so devastating to him that Michael is forced to make a very big decision at a very bad time...

Likewise, that which drives a rift between Jeremy and Juliana is not something even I saw coming until it actually happened (one of the very BEST parts of being a pantser). It would've been far too easy for her to discover he'd been cheating on her during their long separation. What does happen might actually make you feel some empathy for Jeremy. He tries to be honest with Juliana, and it blows up in his face. Big time.

So, readers of Love at First Flight are in for something a little different. Expect three romances, a hero and heroine who are heavily involved with other people when they meet, and a new love that grows from a friendship that begins under the most unusual of circumstances. Toss in a murder trial that descends into mayhem, and you'll be taken on a wild flight that culminates in one of the most romantic chapters I've ever written.

Love at First Flight is now available for pre-order at Amazon. Yesterday, I saw an advance review copy, which looks just like the real book. I was skipping all around, so delighted to finally hold in my hands a book I finished nearly three years ago. And I can now attest that it's every bit as exciting the second time around as it was the first.

Let me ask you, what do you think about a romance in which you see your hero and heroine with other people before they get together? Have you ever had to make a choice between the one you've been with forever and the one who makes your heart race? If so, which one did you choose and why?

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

I've been SEALed

by Mary Margret Daughtridge

When I'm asked how I came to write SEALed With a Promise, I have to admit the first person who got “SEALed” with a promise was me.

Like a true bad-boy hero, Caleb aka “Do-Lord” Dulaude did not behave well in our first encounters. He was only supposed to be Jax’s perceptive sidekick. Instead, he took SEALed With a Kiss hostage, and wouldn’t give it back!— until I wrote down the story of what he was before he was a SEAL. A trailer-trash kid who faked his IQ down, hid out in libraries between bootleg deliveries, and had only one moral yardstick—whatever took care of his mother.

It took two weeks but when I was done, he still wouldn’t let me finish Jax’s story—not until I promised this SEAL his own HEA.

Promising wasn’t hard. Do-Lord had touched my heart. Delivering on the promise was.

I understood why he longed for a relationship like Jax had found, but a sweet-to-the-bone heroine like Pickett would be a disaster. I had in mind someone bright, sassy, savvy, and super-confident—-anyone else he’d run circles around, and be bored with in less than a week.

I was designing the perfect woman when in butted Emelina Caddington, PhD. She demanded his covert operations help with her cockamamie scheme for a wedding cake heist.

Emmie had the “bright” qualification, in fact she was a brilliant, out-of-the-box thinker—hence the cake caper. The rest? Not so much.

She tended to freeze up around what she called jocks, and really, Miami Dolphins, Navy SEALs—-what was the difference? She recognized the type.

She was clueless about hair, clothes and makeup, and despite all her brain power, a little naïve about man-woman relationships.

I didn’t see this ending well—and then it got worse. Do-Lord discovered Emmie was a family friend of Senator Teague Calhoun. "What’s wrong with that?" you ask. Let me show you the first sentence of SEALed With A Promise.
Chief Petty Officer Caleb “Do-Lord” Dulaude always said if he ever saw Teague Calhoun again, he’d kill him.

So what's your challenge with bad-boy heroes?

In My Judgement

by Mary Margret Daughtridge

As the other Casababes and I have already discussed in this blog, the need to pitch, and pitch well, doesn’t go away once you’re published. In fact, it intensifies. It behooves us all to keep polishing our skills. As soon as she's approved one manuscript for publication, do you know what Deb wants? A pitch and synopsis for another book. Thank God she doesn't demand I cram it into 50 words or less, but trust me, she'll judge it by exactly the same standards as she judged the Casablanca Pitch contest.

All my life I've been a teacher of one kind or another. I tend to view every experience as a lesson. I saw the contest as a wonderful teaching/learning opportunity for myself and everyone involved. I don't know about you, but I learn best by studying examples. Everyone got to see every entry, form their own opinion about how successful it was, and then to see which ones Deb picked.

And for those of a competitive nature (and I’ll be the first to confess there’s more than a touch of it in me) it was a chance to see and measure oneself against the others in the game.

So gather around class. Let's see what can we learn. Let’s look at Kelsey Browning’s In the Red.
Briefs. He writes them. She sells them. When Roxanne retains Jamie as her lawyer and lover, his partnership dream implodes. His firm thinks a woman peddling panties and prophylactics is no match for an up-and-coming attorney. Too bad because Jamie’s already tangled up in her lawsuit, her life…and her lingerie.

The hardest part of writing a pitch is deciding what details to put in and what to leave out.

What’s there: the names of the hero and heroine, a sense of what they do, and Jamie’s conflict. With every word doing double and triple duty, we see the primary ingredients of a romance plot—what will bring them together, and what will keep them apart. The conflict is universal. Liberal standards versus conservative ones. We understand the problem at a glance. Jamie’s internal conflict is equally clear. He’s caught between ambition and love.

What details are not there? Setting. Where or how Roxanne sells underwear. What the lawsuit is about. Is she the defendant? We don’t know, and it doesn’t matter.

What’s also there. Witty writing. Lots of it. Starting with the pun on briefs and ending with the alliteration and more puns in the last sentence. For all its simplicity, and utter clarity, the pitch isn’t dumb and it doesn’t assume the reader is.

All right. I did one. You be the judge now. You pick a pitch and tell us what, specifically, in your judgement makes it work.

Here are the pitches. I don't know if this link will work. You might have to copy and paste.

You can find the list of all the people whose pitch caught Deb's attention in yesterday's blog.

Ground rules: comment only those pitches which Deb selected. Don’t settle for saying “I liked it.” That’s easy. Point to a specific quality, word choice, plot ingredient, or other element that makes it effective. Feel free to add to and comment on other comments.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Pitch Perfect!

Hi everyone and happy President’s Day! First, congratulations to the author of IN THE RED, Kelsey Browning, for winning the critique by Deb, and to the authors of DECODING DECEPTION (Julie J.) and HELLION’S HIGHLANDER (Renee) for their full requests from Deb. Please send your synopsis and full manuscript to

Because the contest rules said Deb would pick three, three names were announced, BUT, Deb couldn’t stop there. She was THRILLED with the pitches—so much that she wants to do this again—and she’d like to see MORE from the pitches we got. Yes, more!! We are thrilled for all our visitors who worked so hard to get their pitches down to 50 words and have won the chance to have their stories looked at.

Deb would like a synopsis and full manuscript from the following people as well (send to

She would also like the following people to send a synopsis and full manuscript to Lisa at

PERSONAL ASSETS, Kelsey Browning
ALEX, Judythe Morgan
EXTREME LOVE, Esmerelda Bishop
FAIRY CURSES: KISSED 1 & 2, Renee Field
ANGELS AT ALMACK'S, Catherine Scott
BAD KARMA, Kristi Ahlers
TEMPTED, Melinda Leigh

Congratulations again for a fabulous job and we wish all of you the very best of luck!

Check back on the blog for announcements of future contests!

From Deb (who’s on vacation):
THANK YOU ALL SO MUCH for the fantastic pitches. This was a lot of fun for me and also really tough! Almost impossible to choose just one! So, I didn't! I did choose one for the contest winner, but there are so many that I want to see more of.

If your pitch didn't get chosen, it was most often because the premise was something I've seen before (sometimes a whole lot of times before). So take a look--is your premise unique? Do you really have something fresh to offer in this overcrowded category? If you do, and I just didn't see it, feel free to pitch me again.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Horace Sits Down With Stasi

Horace – “I really should be the one interviewed here because I’m totally hot. Oh yeah, who’s the gargoyle?” Sighs heavily and throws up his claws when more than one set of eyes glare at him. “Okay, okay.” The eight-inch gargoyle coughed into his claw and waved off the sheaf of papers held out to him. “I’ll just wing it.”

Stasi – “Horace.”

He ignored her warning. “Who’s the interviewer and who’s the interviewee here?” He looked around, frowned at the lack of cameras and returned to Stasi who lounged in a chair across from him. “Stasi, my love. We all know you’re one of the thirteen witches expelled from the Witches Academy in 1313 and now you own a lingerie boutique that also features romance novels.” He raised a stony eyebrow. “Very nice reading on those long winter nights, I might add. But you’re also in the middle of a lawsuit filed in Wizards Court and we all know those guys have no sense of humor. What are you going to do about that?”

“What can I do but fight it?” Stasi groaned. “Carrie’s a human, but it didn’t stop her from finding a wizard attorney and accuse me of hexing a sachet to make sure her husband didn’t come back to her. So now I’m dealing with Trevor Barnes and red hearts over our heads.”

“Yeah, what’s with them?” He stared at the red hearts dancing the Macarena over her head. “That’s just …” he clearly didn’t have words to describe the sight. “Anyway, the town’s not too happy with you. And considering you’re the sweetest witch of the bunch, something’s seriously wrong.”

“Tell me about it! Look at Moonstone Lake. It’s been tainted by an unknown magick and I have flashbacks to Olde Salem.” Stasi reminded him with a shudder. “All you want is a wonderful fall celebration and everything goes wrong.”

“But you got Trev out of the deal,” he reminded her.

Stasi’s smile brightened like the noonday sun. “Yes, I did.”

Horace twisted around rooting into an unseen pocket before pulling out a cigar. One warning look from Stasi had him putting it back. “So what do you think we can do with all this turmoil going on around here?”

We? More like what I’ll do and I’ll do what I do best. Magick.” She wiggled her fingers, allowing her power to sparkle around them.

Horace grinned. “Sounds good to me.”

Saturday, February 14, 2009

My Funny Valentine

By Robin Kaye

I’m a romance writer. I live, eat and breathe romance—especially when I’m on deadline. But in my life, I can’t say that Valentine’s Day has been anything but anti-climactical. (Is that a word? If it’s not, I choose to make it one. That’s one of the perks of being a writer.)

When I was single, Valentine’s Day was the equivalent of a ticking time bomb. I felt extreme pressure to get a date, a boyfriend, and/or a love life. Once I did get one of the above, then I felt pressure to buy just the right gift and/or card. This was always tricky because it was dependent upon what stage the relationship was in on February 14th. Now, I don’t know about you, but my relationship stage knowledge was invariably flawed. Should I buy a card with the ‘L’ word on it? Should I get one about sex? Friendship? Or just go with the funny card to be safe? Then there was the whole gift question. How would he feel about a pair of white silk boxers with red lips all over them? Would he like flowers? Chocolate? Or should I just go, depending on the stage of the relationship, buy myself a sexy nighty and call it good? Quantum physics seemed like playing shoots and ladders compared to buying a Valentine’s Day present for the man in my life.

Did Valentine’s Day get easier after marriage? Yes, probably because my husband and I look at it the same way. We figure that if you have to go all out one day a year to prove you love the person you’re sharing your life with, then you’re not doing your job the other 364 days of the year.

I’m very lucky. I have everything I’ve ever wanted. I have a loving husband, a comfortable home, three amazing children and a career I adore. I try never to leave my husband and children without a hug, a kiss and an I Love You. I’d much rather my husband come home with flowers on any other day of the year just because he thought I’d like them. I’d rather he bring me coffee every morning and wake me with a kiss then buy me a three-karat diamond for Valentine’s Day and not treat me like a treasure every other day of the year. But since he does treat me like a treasure and there’s nothing wrong with dreaming, if he had a lot of extra cash and picked up a nice diamond because he thought I’d like it, I wouldn’t ask him to return it—even if it was on Valentine’s Day.

My wish for you is that every day is Valentine’s Day. If that were true, the world would be a much better place.

What do you want for Valentine’s Day?

Friday, February 13, 2009

It's My Party and I'll Laugh If I Want To

Today’s a special day for me. It’s my birthday. And for those who know me, you know that my birthday takes on National Holiday status. I start celebrating it a week in advance. I’ll tell anyone how old I am (44). I plan special things, like the mani/pedi just for me this morning and the Chinese food I’m having tonight for dinner. It’s all about me.

But it’s not a selfish, look-at-me thing, though I do tend to pretend it is. I’ve always liked celebrating my birthday, in the days before the big 2-9. Back then you want to celebrate it – you’re young, probably haven’t had kids do a number on your figure yet, still have the rest of your life ahead of you.

Then 2-9 hits, which is, of course, the precursor to The Big 3-0. All in caps. Everyone dreads 30. Why? I don’t know. I loved turning 30 – as much as I loved turning 15. And 22. And 44.

Here’s why.

Fourteen years ago a very good friend of mine who I worked with was diagnosed with lung cancer. She never smoked a day in her life, didn’t live with smokers… no clue how she got it. Getting the diagnosis started off with, “I hope it’s not TB.” Then that got ruled out and they were looking at MS. So of course, we went with, “I hope it’s not MS.” All these acronyms.

Eventually, her options dwindled and it came down to the big “C.” And how we prayed. Then we prayed some more when it was cancer. Then we prayed it was survivable.

It wasn’t. She was 34, had two little girls and her whole life ahead of her.

So we cried. We got angry. We wrote her obituary. We planned her funeral.

“What?” you ask.

Yes. We did. Together.

Because Kathy was the one who gave me my favorite book EVAH. Jill Barnett’s Bewitching. It’s adorable and funny, and a perfect feel-good book. Kathy loved romance novels. She read them by the dozens and would pass them on to me. She helped me re-discover my love of the genre in a time of babies, and pregnancies and work… and her mortality.

I have to tell this story so you’ll understand how truly funny she is, and how she shaped my world view to allow me to write funny. When she came to my house after speaking with the funeral director she told me that she’d picked out her urn. Kinda morbid, I know, but you either have to cry or laugh. She chose to laugh.

So, I learned from her that the human body can be cremated to fit in either a six-pound urn or a ten-pound urn. She told the funeral director, (and this is verbatim) “I don’t care if you have to throw out a leg, I WILL get in a six-pound urn.”

I’m laughing as I write this, because I still remember how we ended up crying ourselves silly with laughter, the big belly-hurting kind of laugh. Tears rolling down our cheeks, breaths impossible to catch. It was so morbidly hysterical.

When you read the acknowledgements in my first (EVAH) romance novel, In Over Her Head, you’ll know who the KB is. Who my guardian angel is looking down on me. She’d be so thrilled to see Jill Barnett’s quote on my website about me. She’d be ecstatic to see the picture of Fabio hugging me. (She and I went to see him at a local book signing all those years ago.) She’d be thrilled to hold my book in her hands and be the first one in line for a signature.

She’d be thrilled to be turning 44.

So, yes, today is my birthday and I’m going to sing it from the rooftops. Okay, maybe not because I have a range of about three notes. But still, you get the idea. I always say that I don’t mind another candle on my cake… because it means I’ve been here another year.

When I eat my Chinese food tonight, I’ll have my favorite beverage (EVAH) along with it—champagne. And I’ll raise a toast to Kath and remember how I sat in the pew at her funeral, shoulders shaking, tears running down my face so much I had to hunch over so others wouldn’t see.

I wasn’t crying. I was laughing. She got in that six-pound urn.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Things A Romance Needs

posted by Loucinda McGary aka Aunty Cindy

My local branch of the California Writers' Club (an organization founded in 1909 by Jack London) has asked me to speak at their February meeting. My topic? Why, writing a romance novel, of course!

So as I was working on my presentation, I knew I'd need to distill a lot of information into a short timeframe for this group who write non-fiction and fiction in all lengths and genres. They want me to give them guidelines or a recipe for what to include in a romance novel. So here is my list of ingredients, things a romance novel needs:

  • Three dimensional characters with believable goals and motivations. Not everyone has to be beautiful/handsome (in spite of what most covers show). Many romance novels have a less-than-perfect hero or heroine with any number of “undesirable” traits, and this can actually be a good thing. The reader needs to identify with the characters, feel sympathy/empathy for them, which might not be so easy for someone who appears perfect.
  • Conflict, again believable within the context of the story. Conflict can be internal, external or a combination of both. But the stakes need to be high and they need to escalate as the story progresses.
  • Accuracy. This doesn’t just apply to historical romances. It is crucial to get facts correct. For example, my heroine in The Wild Sight doesn’t need to worry about running into a snake in the fens because there are no snakes in Ireland, or alligators, or wolves. Even in a fantasy setting, things that happen must make sense within the context of the world created. So if there’s been no previous mention of flying horses, one better not swoop in and save our hero and heroine during the black moment!
  • Compelling or unique plot or storyline. ‘Boy meets girl. Boy loses girl. Boy gets girl back’ is not going to cut it. This is where our editor's favorite subject, "the hook" comes into play. If the boy or girl is a shape-shifter, a psychic, or an alien, lots of unique storylines present themselves. Just about anything goes in current romance novels, so don't suppress your imagination!
  • Love, hope, and the promise of happiness. Don’t we all need and want those?

Do you have any 'needs' to add to my list? What are some of your favorite ingredients in romance novels? And don't forget to check back here on Saturday when we announce the WINNERS of our pitch contest!

EXCITING P.S. I just found out that my debut The Wild Sight is the 3rd place winner in the Houston RWA "Judge A Book By Its Cover" contest! THANK YOU, Sourcebooks Art Department for creating my beautiful cover!

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

My Real-life Hero

by Malena Lott

I'll admit I've always been in love with love. Crushes. First dates. First kisses. I love you's. What not to love about love, however fleeting? 

I've been blessed in real-life with a really romantic guy. When we met at the University of Oklahoma, he was shy and charming and I was really caught up in my social life - particularly all that my sorority had to offer. My heart had been broken many, many times, which is an unfortunate side effect of dating a lot and falling in love probably too easily. When Rod and I became an item at the end of my junior year in college, I wasn't ready to settle down, but I was hopeful. When two guys from my past called me for a 4th of July dates that summer, I was thrilled I could tell them that I was dating someone new - someone I really liked. 

We went to the Grand Canyon that summer and slept in a tent, something we haven't done since. But it was a great test of our relationship - all those hours in the car together and just us against the world. Would we fit? Could we last? 

This summer marks our fifteenth wedding anniversary. The good news is I'm still very in love with him, and we both work at keeping each other happy. He brings me little gifts. We write each other lovey text messages. We don't have a regular date night, though I'd love to start that, but we do treasure spending time away from our little darlings. 

In my writing, I do get a rich fantasy life. I do fall in love with my characters and get to experience whole new worlds with them. For anyone reading this, try writing a love story instead of having an affair. I think it will be more rewarding and less damaging. 

This Valentine's Day I'm wishing you all deep and lasting love, the kind that sweeps you off your feet, even for just a night - hopefully between the covers, too. And you can always get more of that great high of falling in love between the pages of a great book.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Unforgettable Characters

We've all met a few of them along the way: those characters who live on in our thoughts long after the story has ended, prompting us to wonder, however irrationally, what happened to them. As a reader, I've encountered a number, and going back to read their tales is like meeting up with old friends. For instance, I'm re-reading Stephen King's masterpiece The Stand right now, a book I've revisited every couple of years since discovering it in the sixth grade. His particular gift as an author, and one that has always inspired me, is to create characters who leap off the page and truly breathe. I have wondered about the eventual fates of Frannie, Stu Redman, and Tom Cullen for a long time, wishing I could check in on them. There's no way to know, of course. Stephen King himself probably doesn't even know. So I re-read their story and try to content myself with revisiting the places I, and they, have already been. And "Don't Fear the Reaper" is always playing in my head as I do it:-) Um, to appreciate that, you'd have to have seen the mini-series. It's the perfect song for that book, though.

There are other characters I carry with me too, of course. In romance, I've never let go of Lisa Kleypas' lovely and resourceful Wallflowers, or of Nora Roberts' three witches from her Three Sisters Island trilogy. The kingdom of Dream, and Morpheus, from Neil Gaiman's Sandman, recently caught my imagination as nothing had in a long time and have often crept into my thoughts. Never thought I would fall into a graphic novel that way, honestly, but it was utterly captivating. J.K. Rowling's motley cast of characters are ones I know I'll never let go of, no matter how hard it was to accept some of their fates. And the list goes on.

Unforgettable characters are the ultimate gift an author can give a reader. It's not a perfect science (I have, on occasion, loved a character while not caring at all for the story they apppeared in), but as a writer, making my characters live and breathe on the page is a goal pretty high on my list. All of my creations, hero and heroine, villain and supporting character, stay with me and are not forgotten (that would be both rude, since I invented them, and also a pretty lousy recommendation for my own work), but even among them, there have been a few standouts who have not wanted to let me go. The nice thing is that I can write their stories if they nag at me for an extended period of time. And, being that I wrote a trilogy (the final book, Wild Highland Magic, comes out in May...gotta get the plug in there!), I was able to give readers a little more of the story of each character, even the ones living their Happily Ever Afters. And believe me, I probably enjoyed checking in on them more than anyone!

So who would I peg as my own most unforgettable character, one who emerged from my own frantic and jumbled imagination? Well, anyone who is aware of my bad boy fetish won't be at all surprised. Though it's a close contest, I'd have to say that Lucien, the tortured, sharp-tongued dragon prince from Dark Highland Fire has left the most lasting mark on me. True, he was the villain in that book. But I was pleased to see that a lot of readers saw his potential for redemption, and wanted to know what happens next. I'm happy to say they'll find out in the upcoming Wild Highland Magic. Lucien wouldn't let me alone, so he got a very large supporting role in the story of how Rowan's cursed brother gets his life back...finding his own way in the process. But though he may have found his destiny, Lucien Andrakkar is just one of those characters whose story will never quite seem as though it should be finished, who I'll always wonder about. And that's just fine with me:-)

So now it's your turn: who are some of your favorite, most unforgettable characters? Whether you've read them or written them, what characters came to life on the page for you?


Monday, February 9, 2009

The Cat Star Chronicles: Rogue!

It's no secret now that the March releases have been released in February, and since I received my author's copies at about the same time, many of my friends are now in possession of a signed copy of Rogue. When my friend Natalie got hers, she read through half of it in one night, and last night, another quiet one in the ICU, she finished the other half. She was a big fan of Slave, but had a little trouble getting into Warrior, but this one, she really enjoyed. That's the odd thing about this series, when books are written in first person, either you like that person's voice and personality or you don't. My sisters both preferred Warrior to Slave, while other readers have devoured every installment.

While this is just one more example of the old axiom that you can't please 'em all, Rogue offers something a bit more risky than that initial foray into erotic science fiction romance; it has a threesome. Only one scene, but while some people absolutely love the idea, others are appalled by it. Our editor isn't a big fan of multiple partners, but after she read it, she told me, and I quote: "I wouldn't change a word of it." So, with that recommendation, I think it's probably safe for most romance novel enthusiasts to read. In fact, one reviewer has stated that she wished I would have taken it even further, while another was so afraid I wouldn't "go there" and was very pleased that I did.

But now that you've been warned--or dared!--here's a little more about the actual story.

Rogue is the tale of two Zetithian brothers, Trag and Tychar, alien warriors who were captured and sold into slavery near the end of the war that resulted in the near extinction of their kind. They have been the pampered pets of a Darconian queen for the past twenty years, and though their lives haven't been hard, being the lone humanoid males on a planet populated by lizards hasn't allowed them much in the way of sexual gratification. However, the progressive Queen Scalia has hired a human female, Kyra Aramis, to give piano lessons to her daughter.

Alone on a world filled with intelligent, but fearsome dinosaurs, Kyra is understandably nervous, and the discovery that she is not the only humanoid on the planet offers only a brief comfort. When Tychar is assigned to be Kyra's personal attendant, and though he and Trag are both irresistible, there are two of them, and worst of all, they are slaves to the Queen. What's a girl to do?

Just when things get interesting, rumors of unrest begin flying, and the peaceful planet of Darconia undergoes a major political upheaval, with the offworlders caught in the middle.

In the previous books in this series, the heroes had both endured a life of harsh slavery. However, in Rogue, I took a different tack, giving them to an owner who not only treated them well, but cherished them for their beauty and individuality. The two brothers are similar in appearance, but Tychar is a charming rogue, brought up on his homeworld of Zetith, while his brother, Trag, is a restless renegade who was raised offworld by his uncle, the captain of a space freighter. I wanted to explore the different personalities in an effort to demonstrate that even though Zetithian males all exude sexuality, there are still differences, and even when two of them are hers for the taking, a girl can still make a choice.

Just as my heroes are different, so is my heroine. In Slave, Jacinth was tough, space savvy, and never at a loss in difficult situations. Warrior's heroine, Tisana, was a powerful witch with a sharp tongue and a dry wit. Kyra, however, is a musician, and her tendency to be a bit timid makes her decision to take up a teaching post on a distant world surprising to her friends and family alike. But like all good heroines, she gets the chance to grow in strength as a person and as a woman in love.

Many of the supporting characters are aliens. Some are from Darconia, while others are slaves from distant worlds, and each of them have their own peculiar characteristics and personalities. There were plenty of opportunities for humor, from the Darconian guard who is smitten with Kyra, to the piano-playing youngest son of the Queen. There are new characters who have some spin-off potential, as well as a surprise visit from some old friends.

This being the third in the series, it also marks the last to be written in first person. The next book, Outcast, which is due out in June, will be the first I have published in third person. I've heard the full gambit of opinions on which POV is best, and though first person has served me well, many readers have been disappointed that they couldn't get into my hero's heads. Well, from now on, they will, and in the meantime, I'm finding it a very fascinating place to be. . . .

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Note from Deb Werksman

For a few months now, I've been telling authors that I wasn't sure what the future will be of the Jane Austen sequel phenomenon. Therefore, I have been acquiring more carefully.

While this is still true, it has come to my attention that people believe I think the phenomenon is ending, and it is absolutely NOT ending. I am still acquiring Jane Austen sequels, with great excitement. Please, if you have one and have been hesitating to send it to me, SEND IT! And, if you know someone who has one, same thing! Spread the word!

Thank you!

What I Do...

Believe it or not, sometimes people do not believe I do what I do for a living. This is a subject I know I’ve brought up before with similar convo outlines:

So what do you do?
I’m a publicist for an independent book publisher… Actually I focus on romance novels.
Like the ones at the grocery store?
Or Borders and Barnes & Noble.
Really? But what do you actually do?

It’s always sort of a struggle when I get to this point in the conversation because it sounds kind of weird to say “I email people all day seeing if they want to review a book I’m the lead publicist for. And I also spend a good portion of my day researching new websites, new pitching ideas. Oh and I also schedule some interviews. And I also email back and forth with many of the authors all day—usually it has nothing to do with their books. Oh, and sometimes, I blog.” I could go on about all the things I do.

Don’t even get me started about when people ask about the types of books I publicize. Take a recent convo I had with a boy I’m going to refer to as Z (and yes, you giggly, nosy ladies, this is the same boy I had the cheese conversation with and yes, for those out of the dating game and wanting to live vicariously: we’re kind-of-sort-of-basically a “couple”):

Z: so these romance novels, what are they about?
D: Well, we’ve got this one series about witches… and 2 different series about werewolves…and there’s also one that deals with these cat-like aliens with intense sexual prowress…
Z: With what?
D: Sexual Prowess. It’s in our descriptions of the novels! (blushes)
Z: are all your books crazy? (he’s a boy and just doesn’t get it, so humor me…)
D: No, there are contemporaries and historicals, too.
Z: Bodice-rippers? (I was impressed that he knew that term!)
D: We don’t like to call them that.
Z: So have you learned anything, um, interesting from these romance novels? (insert devious smile)
D:……………(blushes, yet again)

Nonetheless, it’s interesting—what I do with your books. I really don’t know that there are many publicists that 1) work so hand in hand with authors (other than the other publicists at Sourcebooks) or 2) take the same hands on approach—after going to my first RWA National last year in San Francisco, I spoke to a lot of authors, new and experienced, who were very surprised to see a publicist at RWA and to find out about what exactly I do. Maybe it’s because the way I do things just automatically seemed logical to me, but I wonder: what do other publicist do with their romance novels?

So, it is with EXTREME excitement that I get to share with all of you some very awesome news: last year at RWA, Michelle Buonfiglio of Romance B(u)y The Book (a wonderful and lovely supporter of Sourcebooks Casabalnca) asked me if I would be interested in doing a workshop with her about online promotion. Michelle’s site has been one of the pioneering review/interview romance sites, and as you all know very well, the internet has been integral in building the buzz about your books. Together with NYT bestselling author LORI FOSTER (I’m probably going to be awestruck) and JENNA PETERSEN (a very web-savvy author, who runs The Passionate Pen, a great resource for aspiring authors) will be giving a workshop entitled Online Promotion B(u)y the Book!

This is a chance to showcase the hard work we’ve all been doing over the past year or so since I became the lead Casablanca publicist. I’m not sure about the date and time just yet, but once we know, I’ll let you all know. We’re all very excited about it, and with different perspectives on the romance online community, it should be a great success! Let’s face it, I wouldn’t be on this panel if it weren’t for the work, and now the romance “circuit” I’ve created while publicizing your books. I think this Spring season will be the one that will run smoothly and show a direct correlation between the stuff we’ve got buzzing on the web and sales in stores.

So I guess now, I’m going to have to figure out how to talk about what I do in a new coherent manner… What has been the most surprising thing for you since becoming a published author—has doing a lot of online promo surprised you? I know I’ve learned A LOT about organization, and the great thing about the web is that if we find someone who doesn’t like your book, chances are there’s someone else out there who will LOVE it. The opportunities are endless… oh, and nothing ever goes away once you post it… hmmmm… Perhaps I should stop mentioning dates.

PS Alas--I am away this weekend. I will comment as soon as I return on Sunday :-)

Saturday, February 7, 2009

Romance in the Regency

Valentine’s Day and the celebration of lovers inherent within has been in existence in some form or another since the mid-1300s. I wrote an extensive research essay on the Saint and his ‘holiday’ on my website and here is the link if interested in dazzling someone with your superior intelligence: Who was St. Valentine? Valentine’s Day is so popular now that it is hard to imagine it wasn’t always around, but the truth is that the Victorians of the mid-1800s deserve the credit for launching a full-fledged card holiday. Therefore, since I write in the Regency Era, I didn’t make a big deal out of special romance between Darcy and Lizzy in February – at least not as reference to an obscure Catholic saint! But, since romance is fairly rampant throughout my historical novel, it wasn’t difficult to find a passage that was appropriately sentimental for the occasion. So, here is a small sample of how I approach the relationship between the Darcys……

Two days later Lizzy was awoken by the sensation of something velvety with a lovely aroma brushing across her face. She opened her eyes to see her husband’s handsome face hovering over her. His jubilantly dimpled smile, sparkling blue eyes, and disheveled hair were enough to instantly set her heart racing. It took her a moment to realize that he held a pink rose in his hands and it was this with which he was gently tickling her face.

“Happy anniversary, my precious wife,” he declared in his rich, musical voice. “Elizabeth my love … my light … my heart … my pearl … my lover … my Lizzy.” He unceasingly grazed her face, neck, and shoulders with the rose, sprinkling kisses between his endearments. “One week ago today, you made me the happiest of men, Mrs. Darcy, my beloved.” He kissed her deeply then, pulling her body onto his, caressing her back with his hand and the flower.

“My husband, I note you are wearing your trousers. Under the present circumstances, is this not a ludicrous encumbrance?” she tantalized, planting nibbles to his neck.

“Nothing that cannot be easily rectified, my love.” He laughed. “I did not think it wise of me to traipse to the conservatory unclothed. The staff has been shocked enough lately at my lack of modesty and propriety.”

“You went to the conservatory this morning?” she asked with slight alarm.

“I needed to pick this for you,” he touched her adorable nose with the rose, “and those as well.” He waved his hand about the room and the five vases of varied flowers scattered about the chamber.

Lizzy sat up in bed, unconscious of the heavenly sight she presented to her husband, and smiled radiantly at the array of blooms. She turned her smile onto Darcy, devastating him further with love and desire, and teased, “You are doing it again, Mr. Darcy. Being entirely too fabulous, spoiling me beyond endurance, and setting the standard so high that you may exhaust yourself in an effort to reach higher than the previous pinnacle!”

He rose and kissed her quickly on the cheek. “Let me worry about that,” he responded, and then left the bed before her beguiling charms drove further thought away. He returned from his dressing room swiftly with an enormous box, which he placed on the bed in front of her.

“William, you must cease buying me gifts! I do not require such gestures.”

“Whether you require them or not is irrelevant, Mrs. Darcy. I will shower you with presents because I am entirely egocentric and I extract pleasure from admiring your happy face! Humor me, if nothing else.”

She pretended a scowl, but could not maintain it for long. She opened the box and gasped in shock. She pulled out an ankle-length pelisse of russet wool, lined and edged with sable. It was by far the most exquisite garment she had ever owned. With a squeal of glee, she robustly hugged her husband and then stood up on the bed, wrapping herself in the lush softness of the coat. The luxuriant contact of the fur on her bare skin was positively vivifying. She pranced seductively about the bed, making Darcy smile and laugh aloud.

“You see,” he gushed, “the pleasure is wholly mine. I am selfishly overcome with joy.” He clutched her legs and drew her onto his lap. “Now let me see what other self-serving indulgences I can secure.”

Ready for more? Check out Target NOW! Or pre-order from Amazon and mark your calendar for March 1!!